diet

Thanksgiving Edition What’s on the Menu & Weekend Workout

Earlier this year I wrote about the recent rise in popularity of the sweet potato. I attributed the 80% increase in consumption of sweet potatoes in the U.S. between 2000 – 2014 (source) to the emergence of the Paleo Diet. Before the Paleo diet even made it into modern-day vernacular, sweet potatoes were a regular Thanksgiving Day staple, even though they were often referred to by another name.

Multiple varieties of sweet potatoes have been grown in the United States since colonial times. In order to differentiate the different types, farmers used the term “yam” which was derived from the name of a root vegetable native to Africa that closely resembled the sweet potato. This was the start of the culinary name game and eventually led to the USDA including “sweet potato” on the label of yams sold in the US (source).

If you really want to include yams in your Thanksgiving, you’ll have to hit up the international supermarkets. It may be worth the trip because real yams do have some nutritional advantages over their starchy doppelgänger.

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When compared to 1/2 cup of peeled and boiled sweet potatoes, yams contain:

  • Less sugars but more carbs
  • More fiber but less sodium
  • More potassium but FAR less vitamin A (source)

Ultimately, if you’re looking for foods lower on the glycemic index, you’ll want to seek out true yams. That may be a good idea on Thanksgiving considering Americans consume an average of 3000 calories during Thanksgiving dinner alone (source).

A few tricks you can utilize to avoid holiday binge eating include chewing your food more thoroughly, putting your fork down between bites, not going back for seconds and completing the following workout before sitting down for your Turkey day feast.

11-18 ETT weekend workout

This workout focuses on your core, which is another reason you’ll want to complete it BEFORE you eat dinner on Thanksgiving. I recommend performing the following exercises in superset format, which requires you to complete a desired number of repetitions for 3 separate exercises in succession.

Supersets allow you to up the intensity of your workout in a shorter period of time. A shorter, more intense workout will give you more time to spend with friends and family. Just make sure you warmup and modify the workout to match your fitness level.

Let us know in the comment section below if you completed this or any pre-holiday workout. ENJOY & HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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What’s On The Menu is this Weekend’s Workout

I didn’t get my weekly “What’s on the Menu” post done for its normal Thursday post date, but I still wanted to share it with you. Read about my experience with intermittent fasting then enjoy another effective weekend workout.

I was first introduced to the idea of fasting during my formative years in Catholic elementary school. Every Friday during Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter), all Catholics were encouraged to fast during the day and then finish the day with a “meatless” dinner. Thankfully the Bible didn’t consider seafood meat, which meant I enjoyed a lot of McDonald’s fish sandwiches and pizza for dinner during Lent.

I’ll admit that my dedication to daylight fasting during Lent was spotty at best and, as devoted to Catholicism as my parents were and still are, they didn’t send my brother and I to school without lunches.  I was extremely grateful to them at the time, but with what I know now, periodic fasting could have been extremely beneficial.

The origins of fasting date back to ancient Greece and it’s inclusion in numerous religious doctrine make it one of the oldest weight loss/control methods. Even though its been used for several millennia, the extent of fasting’s metabolic benefits are just starting to be discovered (source).

One of my go-to sources for the latest health research, Dr. Rhoda Patrick, has been promoting the benefits of intermittent fasting, which she refers to as time restricted eating, for some time now. The basic concept is that you have an eating window everyday that syncs up to your natural circadian rhythm. The research suggests that the most metabolic benefits occur with a eating window of no more than 12 hours and, unlike my Lenten fasts, occurs during the day (source).

Studies have shown that adherence to this way of eating may save you from a number of the leading causes of death. Several recent discoveries about the death-defying benefits of intermittent fasting include:

  • Every other day fasting found to reduce obesity and insulin resistance by changing gut bacteria (source)
  • An 11-hour eating window associated with a significant reduction in breast cancer risk & reduction in recurrence (source)
  • Frequent fasting has been shown to reduce the insulin-like grown factor 1 (IGF1) which has been show to proliferate the growth of cancer cells (source)

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I’ve been partaking in time restricted eating for the past 3 weeks and I’ll admit it’s pretty tough for someone like me. I have a very active job and some days I leave the house before 7am and don’t return till 8pm. Thankfully I’ve been very good at packing a lunch full of nutritious and satiating foods that help me get enough fuel in during my eating window.

Even though I started my current intermittent fasting plan with no desire to lose weight, I’ve lost nearly 5 lbs in 3 weeks. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but when you’re 5’11” and 160, losing 5 lbs without really trying is pretty significant. As great as the weight loss is, I’m more excited by the possibility that this way of eating can help me prolong my life.

Another way to prolong your life is with regular exercise, which is why you should try the weekend workout featured below. This workout includes several variations of one of the most beneficial exercise there is, the squat.

Squats are considered a compound exercise, which means they are multi-joint movements that require the use of various muscle groups. Try to knockout these various forms of the squat and make sure you let us know in the comment section below or on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter) how you feel the next day. Don’t forget to warmup and modify the workout to match your fitness level. ENJOY!

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What’s On The Menu – How To Make A Sustainable Cup of Joe

Besides nutrition and exercise, coffee has to be the most popular subject matter on elementaltampa.com. I took a quick look and I’ve written 3 blog posts and recorded 3 Addicted to Fitness podcasts that discuss the benefits of my favorite beverage. This week’s menu spotlight will be yet another ode to one of my beloved coffee beverages.

If you listen to this week’s ATF podcast (episode link) you would have heard that we’ve been fortunate enough to partner with an awesome company called The Hemp & Coffee Exchange. THC_exchange produces a

Super coffee blend of intelligently sourced hemp seeds, hearts, and green coffee beans.

If that product description sounds familiar to our longtime followers, it’s because we interviewed the creators of The Hemp & Coffee Exchange earlier this year for an episode of ATF, which I encourage you all to go back and listen to (episode link). I learned from that interview that their hemp-coffee blend is not only delicious but offers more nutritional & environmental benefits than the coffee you can buy at the grocery store.

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Jeremy & Brett, creators of The Hemp & Coffee Exchange

The health benefits of coffee have been mentioned numerous times on this blog, but I think they always deserve repeating. Several of the positive health benefits associated with coffee consumption include:

  • Two or more cups of coffee could prevent alcohol induced cirrhosis by up to 66% (source)
  • Studies have shown that drinking coffee can result in a significant reduction in prostate cancer (source)
  • Studies have shown that the caffeine in coffee can improve performance in endurance events (source) FUN FACT: caffeine was considered a performance enhancing drug by the Olympic drug testing agency until 2004
  • Studies have linked coffee consumption to the reduction in the development of both Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (source)

THC_exchange uses high quality coffee beans, which they roast themselves, to produce their product, but the health benefits of this “sustainable super coffee blend” don’t stop there. The incorporation of hemp provides numerous important water-soluble nutrients like omega 3 & 6 fatty acids (specifically gamma-linolenic acid), amino acids and several important vitamins and minerals (source). The use of hemp is also important to another tenet held by the creators of THC_exchange, sustainability.

During our interview, THC_exchange creators told us that they believed that hemp could revitalize the United States agricultural industry. Not only is it a phenomenal cover crop, but it also re-introduces nutrients to the soil, takes minimal water & resources to maintain and has numerous industrial uses (e.g. livestock feed, textiles, building materials, etc.). Unfortunately mass production of non-psychoactive hemp is currently illegal in the United States, but products like THC_exchange coffee demonstrate its benefits and importance.

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All these nutritional & environmental benefits aren’t even the main reason why I love this hemp-coffee blend so much. I can say without hesitation that it is one of the most flavorful ground coffees I’ve ever had. You all know how much I love coffee. I post a coffee pic on social media almost every day!

If THC_exchange’s coffee tasted crappy, no amount of health or environmental benefits could make me drink it, let along recommend it to others. Both varieties of their hemp-coffee blends have unique flavor profiles and they even offer a no hemp, whole bean option for those who aren’t ready to add a little hemp to their morning coffee.

I encourage you to head to THC_exchange’s website (link) to learn more about their values and products. If this post has compelled you to try one of their hemp-coffee blends, please use the code “ATF” at checkout to get a 20% discount. Let me know what you think and please feel free to share a pic of your cup of THC_exchange coffee with us on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).

What’s on the Menu – How Fat Can Be Your Friend

When celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich came on the Addicted to Fitness podcast (click here to listen to entire episode) last year, he made a statement that really resonated with me. He said

The worse thing about dietary fat is that it’s called FAT!

That one statement inspired me to look into the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) lifestyle to determine if it suited me better than the not so low carb lifestyle I was participating in at the time. After subtracting certain items that contain refined carbs from my diet and adding more items that were high in healthy fats, I started feeling fuller, longer and was no longer hangry two hours after a meal.

There is one particular “fatty” food item that has been a part of my diet well before my shift to LCHF. I’ve been hearing about its health benefits for well over a decade and its versatility has made it a staple in Shannon and I’s kitchen. It can be used as a cooking oil, salad dressing, finishing sauce and even a skin care product. The multi-talented food item I’m referring to is olive oil and it’s this week’s menu spotlight.

Olive oil is a broad category of oil made from pressed olives. I realize that isn’t “breaking news,” but I wanted to mention that because the different types of olive oils at the supermarket can be quite overwhelming. If you’re looking for the variety that provides the most health benefits, you’ll want to stick with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Any other variety may use solvents to extract the oil or partially consist of cheaper, inflammatory oils.

Even though EVOO, purchased from a reputable producer, doesn’t contain any protein or carbs, it’s still highly nutritious. One hundred grams, which is about 7 tablespoons, of EVOO contains 72% of our recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin E and 75% of our RDA for Vitamin K (source), both of which can contribute to preventing cardiovascular disease. The micronutrients contained in olive oil are impressive but it’s the type of fat it contains that really sets it apart from other cooking oils.

EVOO consists primarily of monounsaturated fat. This type of fat is more heat-resistant, which means it is less likely to oxidize when used in cooking applications. This is one aspect of EVOO that makes it superior to other cooking oils like canola or even flax-seed, which consist primarily of polyunsaturated fat. Less oxidation means less free radical production, which can cause inflammation that may researchers believe is responsible for chronic health conditions like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Oh, and EVOO contains a ton of anti-inflammatory phenols and polyphenols to further combat those previously mention conditions (source).

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As you can imagine, I frequently use EVOO to saute veggies and as my go-to salad dressing (2 parts EVOO + 1 part vinegar). I also use it to make my baked sweet potatoes fries nice & crispy, add extra flavor to my fried eggs and add even more monounsaturated fat to my daily avocado snack.

I mentioned it quickly earlier in this post, but it is very important that you purchase your EVOO from a reputable producer to get the optimum amount of health benefits. There are two great books, Extra Virginity Real Food / Fake Food, that describe some of the deception associated with olive oil.

A couple quite tips I’ll give you in regards to purchasing EVOO are buy imported and make sure the container it comes in is NOT clear (light can cause oxidation over time). If you have a brand of EVOO that you swear by, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share it with us via email (elementaltampa@gmail.com) or snap a pic of the bottle and share it on our social channels (FacebookInstagram or Twitter) and don’t forget FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT!

What’s on the Menu – The Best Smelling Health Food There Is

Most foods produce a distinct smell while cooking, but there is only a select few that elicit the “that smells awesome’ response from me while being prepared. The items that bring my olfactory senses to their figurative knees include:

  • Bacon: I know vegans that even enjoy the smell of cured pork bellies.
  • Coffee: Shannon didn’t drink caffeinated coffee while pregnant, but she loved smelling the beans.
  • Bread: We have a Cuban bakery in our neighborhood that makes me want to go on a carb binge every time I drive by.
  • Shallots: Doesn’t matter what meal is being prepared. If shallots are being used, I’m salivating and THAT’S one of the reasons why they are today’s menu spotlight.

Shallots belong to the Allium genus of vegetables, which also includes onions, leeks, garlic, etc. I’ve already declared my love for garlic in a previous menu spotlight (click here to check it out), and I often cook garlic & shallots together to double up on the mouth-watering aroma. As much as I would like Yankee Candle to carry a shallot scented candle, its perfume isn’t the main reason I love it so much.

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By weight, shallots contain more vitamins and minerals than its larger cousin the onion. Approximately one cup of shallots contains a significant amount of our recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, copper and iron. They also contain more antioxidants, by weight, than any other Allium vegetable (source). Research suggests that one particular antioxidant possessed by shallots can mitigate the damaging effects of several chronic health conditions.

When you chop or crush a shallot, you cause an enzymatic reaction that produces the sulfur containing antioxidant known as allicin. In specific scientific studies (source), this antioxidant has been shown to:

  • Reduce cholesterol.
  • Combat viral, bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Protect against certain forms of cancer.
  • Regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Who would have thought that the onion mini-me would possess so many health benefits. Honestly, shallots taste & smell so good that I’d still use them even if they didn’t have all the health benefits.

Shallot pic

One recipe I frequently add shallots to is my breakfast bowl (pictured above). Besides shallots, the breakfast bowl includes dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.), mushrooms, mini sweet peppers, several eggs and diced tomatoes. I make sure to chop my shallots first because more allicin is produced the longer a chopped/crushed shallot goes uncooked. Next, I saute the mushrooms and peppers till soft (3-5 minutes), chop up a few tomatoes in the meantime, then throw in the greens & shallots for about a minute till the greens wilt.

Using the same pan I cooked the veggies, I fry up several over easy eggs in coconut oil. After the eggs are done, I slid them onto the cooked veggies, add the tomatoes & crushed red pepper and VOILA! Breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions.

If you’re a frequent shallot user, I’d love to hear about which dishes you add them to. Send your favorite recipe that features shallots to elementaltampa@gmail.com or reach out to us on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).  I don’t think it will be better than my breakfast bowl, but there’s no shame in being runner-up.

 

What’s On The Menu – Eating Whole Foods On The Go

I’m a man who likes structure. I love scheduling out all my appointments, meetings, training sessions and so on. Hell, I even like scheduling out what food I’ll eat on a daily basis. Unfortunately life doesn’t always allow that to happen.

Regular readers of the blog know that Shannon and I’s schedule the last few weeks was completely rearranged by Hurricane Irma. After I heard Tampa was in the path of potentially one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the U.S., I disregarded any healthy eating habits and focused primarily on fortifying our house. Thankfully, Irma caused minimal damage and allowed us to return to our normal routine rather quickly.

Then, 2 weeks later, Shannon went into labor.

Shannon labor

These two epic life events forced us to eat a lot of prepackaged foods on the go. Fortunately for us, there are some legit prepackaged whole foods available nowadays. Below is a list of several of my favorite whole food items that you can eat on the go:

  • Epic Bars: these “meat bars” are made with high quality protein from sources like buffalo, venison, salmon, wild boar and many more. They also focus on using other whole ingredients that are low in sugar and free of gluten, grain, soy and dairy. The sriracha chicken bar pictured below contains 4 g of fat, 15 g of protein and only 1 g of carbs (click here for more nutritional info).
  • Trail Mix Packs: individual serving packs of raw and/or lightly roasted & salted almonds, cashews, walnuts and even peanuts are a great source of dietary fat, protein and fiber. Just beware of the sugar content of any trail mix packets that are filled with lots of candy or dried fruit. The Go Raw Trek Mix packets from Trader Joe’s contain 14 g of fat, 7 g of protein and 3 g of fiber.
  • Parmesan Crisps: these crispy chip substitutes are so flavorful that you won’t even remember the word Doritos after having them. I usually grab a $3-4 container from Whole Foods when I’m out and about, but you could easily make these at home. According to the Whole Foods website, 4 crisps contain 6 g of fat, 9 g of protein and 1 g of carbs (source).
  • Upgraded coffee: I don’t leave home without my homemade coffee concoction – 12 oz of coffee, 3 tbsp of Great Lakes Collagen and 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream or canned coconut milk. This creation contains approximately 12 g of fat, 18 g of protein and <1 g of carbs. Click here to read more about Great Lakes Collagen.

Whole Foods Togo

That’s my abbreviated list of whole foods you can eat on the go. If you’ve got an item that you believe fits the criteria please let me know. Drop us a line, and by that I mean email us at elementaltampa@gmail.com or give us a shout on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).

I believe that the moumental life events are done for the time being. Now Shannon and I are mainly focused on rearing our young, which means we’ll hopefully have time to make some home cooked meals. If you have any ideas for big batch dishes we can munch on during our maternity/paternity leave, feel free to send them our way.

 

What’s on the Menu – A Review of Arbonne Protein Shake Mix

I always promote the theory that a huge component of healthy eating is the utilization of whole ingredients. Whether it be fruits, vegetables, nuts or meat, I believe that the more wholesome you can be with your diet, the better.

However, I know that our go-go society makes eating whole foods somewhat difficult. Being a personal trainer that caters to clients in multiple locations requires me to frequently eat on the go. Unfortunately, whole foods aren’t always the most travel friendly.

I regularly bring tupperware containers full of whole foods with me whenever I can, but sometimes situations arise where having a portable meal replacement option available can be a godsend. I believe that’s one of the main reasons why protein shake mixes and meal replacement bars have risen in popularity over the past 5 years (source). Unfortunately, this rise in popularity has also led to market saturation, in my opinion.

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Ate this “breakfast” in the bank parking lot

The number of meal replacement bars & shakes you have to choose from nowadays is almost overwhelming. Also, most of these items are marketed as “health foods” while certain ones are no better than items you can get at a fast food restaurant (source).  These are the reasons why I love sharing my reviews of “meal replacement” options whenever I try them.

I was recently asked by a friend to try out a protein shake mix from a company called Arbonne (website). Arbonne is based out of Switzerland and it distributes a wide range of beauty & health products. According to their catalog, all their nutrition products are vegan, gluten-free and free of artifical sweeteners & flavors. I want to state that I am not a Arbonne distributor and currently have no plans to be one in the future. Right now, I’m just a taste tester.

Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, here’s my review of Arbonne’s vanilla protein shake mix:

  • Nutrition stats: 1 packet (~1/4 cup) contains 160 calories, 3 g of fat, 14 g of carbs and 20 g of protein; contains numerous vitamins & minerals, most noteably vitamin B12 (17% RDA) & vitamin E (16% RDA). Click here for more nutritional info on this product.
  • Taste: mixed half the packet with just water – dissolved well, not gritty or chunky – good vanilla flavor & not overtly sweet but I definitely got the stevia aftertaste; mixed remaining powder in a blender with frozen spinach & blueberries – created a super creamy smoothie, but I preferred it with just water.

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Overall, I was pretty impressed by the protein shake mix from Arbonne. The ability for it to dissolve completely in water is a huge bonus and the single serving packets are easy to transport. Sugar cane is the second most abundant ingredient according to the label, which I’m not thrilled about, but it wasn’t super sweet. I would probably add a little full fat coconut milk to my water to get a more satiating “meal”. Either way, if I were in the market for a vegan protein powder, I’d definitely consider Arbonne.

As previously mentioned, I’m not an Arbonne distributor, but if you’re interested in their products, I can connect you with someone who is. You can always contact me via email, elementaltampa@gmail.com, or give us a shout on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter). If you do reach out, and I hope you do, make sure to include any suggestions on the next product you’d like me to review.

What’s On The Menu – It’s More Pea Than Nut, But I’m OK With That

Some of you may have guessed from the title what food I’ll be discussing in today’s menu spotlight, but for those who are still trying to figure it out, I’ll give you a hint: it taste DELICIOUS! I’m sure that’s all you needed to realize that I’ll be analyzing the nutrition of peanut butter in today’s post.

My love for peanut butter is borderline extreme. I don’t know if I’ve tasted a peanut butter product I didn’t like. My dedication to this faux-nut runs so deep that I mandated that Shannon eat at least a tablespoon a day while she’s pregnant with the hope that our child won’t be born with a peanut allergy. As silly as that may sound, a recent study suggested that exposing infants, that are at least 4 months old, to peanut products could make them less likely to develop peanut allergies (source). It’s probably a longshot but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the same logic extends to babies in utero.

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Peanut butter is a derivative of peanuts, DUH, which belong to the Fabaceae family, better known as the legume family. Even though peanuts are often used in the same culinary applications as true tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, etc.) they are actually related to peas and beans (source).

Unlike green beans or snap peas, peanuts actually grown underground. This is extremely beneficial to the agricultural process because they can create their own nitrogen, which helps them grow. Then when they die, they release that nitrogen into the soil for other plants to use. This reduces the amount of additional nitrogen in the form of fertilizer the farmer has to use (source).

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But this post isn’t about the agricultural benefits of peanuts. It’s about its buttered version’s nutritional pros and cons. Check out the list below and make up your mind on whether or not peanut butter should be on YOUR menu:

PROS

  • Contains a significant amount of all 3 macronutrients: 100 grams (g) consists of 50 g of fat, 25 g of protein and 20 g of carbs. Also contains 5 g of the pseudo macro fiber (source).
  • Contains a significant amount of micronutrients: 73% RDA of Manganese, 67% RDA of Vitamin B3 and 45% RDA of Vitamin E just to name a few (source).
  • Contains cancer fighting antioxidants: peanut butter contains p-coumaric acid which research suggests could help prevent colon cancer (source).

CONS

  • Peanuts contain aflatoxins, which have been linked to cancer & childhood development issues. It should be noted that the process of turning peanuts into peanut butter eliminates approximately 90% of the aflatoxins (source).
  • Contains a large amount of omega 6 fatty acids. Research suggests that frequent consumption of foods high in omega 6’s can increase inflammation and create a greater risk for cardiovascular disease (source).
  • It doesn’t contain as much as roasted peanuts, but peanut butter does contain oxalate, which can contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones (source).

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After a cursory look at the nutritional data on peanut butter, I can say with all honesty that I’m still a huge fan. I don’t advocate pigging out on it, but it can be a macronutrient dense addition to your diet. Just make sure there is no one in your household that is allergic.

As you can see from the photos above, I’m a big fan of adding a smear of peanut butter to fruits and vegetables. I’d love to hear about which food vehicles you use to get your dose of PB. Please email your go-to recipes/meals to elementaltampa@gmail.com. You an also post your PB creations on any of our social media channels (FacebookInstagram or Twitter). Let’s all show our love & appreciation for this nut butter imposter!