food

What’s on the Menu – Get’em while their fresh

Today’s menu spotlight is asparagus, which is why I want to address the stinky elephant in the room right off the bat. Yes, most people experience some unpleasant odors when they visit the restroom after eating asparagus. The reason why is a chemical contained exclusively in asparagus known as asparagusic acid.

Clever name right?

When digested, this chemical produces foul-smelling sulfur-containing compounds. As unpleasant as this olfactory side effect may be, it pales in comparison to the health benefits eating asparagus can provide (source).

Asparagus is full of healthy micronutrients but the one that is most prominent is vitamin K. One cup of asparagus contains over 100% of our daily value (DV) for vitamin K. This vitamin is essentially necessary for blood clotting. Studies have also found that the vitamin K in asparagus could help increase bone density, while decrease fracture rates among individuals with osteoporosis (source). The health benefits of vitamin K are extremely important, but asparagus contains a large amount of a another nutrient that I’m much more interested in, especially at this point in my life.

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The day this blog is posted, my wife Shannon will be 27 weeks pregnant. Anyone that has gone through this process knows that proper nutrition is a HUGE part of a healthy pregnancy. One component of pregnancy nutrition is making sure the woman receives an adequate amount of certain nutrients. Folate happens to be one of those nutrients and asparagus contains over 60% of our DV per cup. Folate aids in several functions critical to a developing fetus like preventing neural-tube defects, red blood cell formation and DNA construction (source).

Which is why it’s safe to assume that I’ve been essentially force feeding Shannon anything high in folate over the last six months. We’ll have to cross asparagus off that list soon because its peak growing season has nearly ended and freshness definitely affects the plant’s nutrient density.

Asparagus is a spring time crop. Yes you can buy canned and frozen asparagus year round, but the plant’s biology drastically reduces its available nutrients once it’s harvested. You may not know this but plants don’t instantly “die” once they’re picked. Metabolic functions continue to occur and in asparagus, these functions occur at a very rapid rate. In fact, asparagus’ post harvest “metabolism” is approximately 5 times greater than onions and potatoes stored at room temperature. This fact is why the George Mateljan Foundation recommends eating asparagus within 48 hours of purchasing (source).

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Hopefully this post inspires you to grab some fresh asparagus if you see it at the grocery store or farmer’s market this weekend. It may be your last opportunity! If you do grab an asparagus bunch during your next shopping trip, please let us know. Feel free to snap a pic and tweet it to us or post it on our Facebook page (FacebookInstagram or Twitter). We want to know if you were able to enjoy fresh asparagus before the season ends this year.

In addition to your asparagus pics, you can also contact us at elementaltampa@gmail.com to take advantage of the complimentary fitness consultations we’re currently offering. Whether you need advice on nutrition or just want workout tips, I’d be happy to set up an appointment with you to discuss how you can improve your fitness.

What’s on the menu – Celiac disease or not, this gluten free item is a must

I do my best to avoid anything made with refined wheat flour. Over the past decade, I’ve heard that the overconsumption of this item can contribute to detrimental health issues like type 2 diabetes, obesity and “gastric distress” (all listeners of the podcast know what that means). BUT, I’d be lying if I said I never touched the stuff. Fortunately for me, I don’t have a pronounced sensitivity to gluten, but there are those individuals who can’t even look at fresh-baked bread without getting a stomach ache.

Individuals who suffer from celiac disease have an inflammatory response whenever they ingest the gluten protein from wheat, rye, barley and other related items. This inflammatory response can result in several side effects ranging from bloating and gas to anemia and/or osteoporosis (source).

Author and podcaster Anna Vocino described her trials and tribulations with celiac disease on a past episode of Addicted to Fitness (episode link). Living with this disease forced her develop numerous gluten free and grain free recipes which ultimately lead to the creation of her cookbook Eat Happy (link). The pantry item that Anna and other celiac sufferers seem to use as their preferred wheat flour substitute is the menu item we’ll be highlighting today.

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Almond flour is made up of exactly what you think: ground up almonds. Usually the almonds are blanched, skins removed then finely ground.

One ingredient and minimally processed.

If that’s not enticing enough, almond flour’s nutrition facts essentially mirrors that of blanched almonds. One ounce contains 14 g of fat, 6 g of protein & carbs and significant amounts of important vitamins and minerals. Enriched (nutrients added) wheat flour on the other hand contains 0 g of fat, 3 g of protein and 21 g of carbs in the same serving size.

In addition to being gluten free, a single ounce of almond flour contains over 30% of our daily value (DV) for both Vitamin E and manganese. Both nutrients can boost insulin sensitivity which is extremely important to individuals that have problems controlling their blood sugar. Almond flour is also a good source of magnesium, which studies have shown can help decrease blood pressure (source).

I feel that it is important to mention that there is also a product known as almond meal which is made from almonds that still have their skin and is not as finely ground. I mention this because many of the sources I gathered my almond info from suggested that the skin of the almond contains many of its beneficial antioxidants (source). However, the terms “flour” and “meal” are often used interchangeably. A tell-tale sign that you’re buying almond meal is the tiny pieces of brown skin in the mixture (see below).

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Whether you use almond meal or flour, the point is you are using a product that will have less of a damaging effect on your body than regular wheat flour. Both Shannon and I have a preferred use of both products: Shannon loves using blanched almond flour to make paleo “friendly” almond cookies, while I like using almond meal to coat baked chicken or fish.

If you haven’t tried almond flour or meal yet, give it a shot. Its mild flavor won’t overwhelm any dish you use it in. If this post inspired you to give it a try, we’d love to hear what you think of it. If you are already an almond flour user & lover, please feel free to send your favorite recipe our way. You can email them to elementaltampa@gmail.com or post them to our social media pages (FacebookInstagram or Twitter). I also encourage everyone to check out our friend Anna’s book Eat Happy for more healthy recipes.

What’s on the Menu – The epitome of finger licking good

You all know that I hold nutrition in higher regard than taste. I don’t mind choking something down if I know it’s good for me. Sardines, raw garlic or ground turmeric in my veggie & fruit smoothie are just a few examples. I will literally punish my taste buds if I believe what I’m eating will benefit me in some capacity. I assume that certain people think that today’s menu spotlight may be one of those “less than appetizing” foods, but I can assure you that it’s not.

I believe it’s safe for me to assume that you know the main ingredient of chicken liver pate is chicken liver. I can’t attest to the flavor of chicken liver by itself, but I know that when’s its used in pate, it’s delicious. If you take a look at the recipe from the New York Times (link) cooking section it’s not hard to imagine why I’m such a fan

  1. Melt butter in pan
  2. Soften onions
  3. Add chicken livers to pan; cook till brown on the outside
  4. Add contents of pan + spices to food processor
  5. Puree till smooth
  6. Store in fridge for few hours till set

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Sounds great right? Well I can testify that it is, and the fact that the main ingredient is chicken liver makes it both delicious and nutritious. Three ounces of chicken liver contains 21 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and significant amounts of important vitamins and nutrients. The same serving size contains 280% of our daily value (DV) of vitamin A & B12. It also contains 160% and 40% of our DVs for folate and iron respectively, both of which are extremely important to fetal development (source). We’ll discuss if expectant mothers should eat chicken liver a little later on in this post.

It’s clear that chicken liver is nutitrious, but what about chicken liver pate? According to the MyFitnessPal website, 2 ounces of my preferred store bought chicken liver pate (pictured below) contains 19 grams of fat (6 grams saturated) and only 5 grams of protein.

It’s a downright switch-a-roo of the macros compared to chicken liver by itself. The pate also contains 30% DV of vitamin A and 10% DV of iron (source). Plenty of fat, which you know I’m a fan of, but a little lacking in the protein department. Still a nutritious snack, in my opinion, but I’d definitely be better off just eating liver. Another aspect I need to factor in for the pate is source of the liver.

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As we’ve discussed in previous menu spotlights, where and how an animal was raised affects its nutrition. My Trader Joe’s chicken liver pate was produced in the U.S. and inspected by the Dept of Agriculture, but it is very possible that it didn’t live the most optimal life. Now that I know how easy pate is to make, I should acquire chicken livers from my local farmers and just make my own. Stay tuned for that future post!

Before we wrap up today’s post I just want to address two issues. First, I’m happy to inform you that livers are NOT a storage facility for “toxins.” The liver’s job is to send the toxins to the systems responsible for expelling them or storing them. Also, certain studies suggest that pregnant women can eat liver without worry of vitamin A toxicity affecting their fetus (source). ONCE AGAIN, I’m not a doctor, just a reporter of data. If you are pregnant, I’d consult a health professional before eating liver.

I may not be a doctor, but I am a lover a feedback. Which is why you should feel free to send any feedback, liver related or not, to elementaltampa@gmail.com. We love pics, recipes and even videos of you doing something fitness related. Don’t forget to connect with us on social media (Facebook, Instagram or Twitter). We’d love to know if you’ve tasted the yummy goodness of chicken liver pate.

 

What’s on the Menu – We may be getting a bit nutty

I believe the first time I heard about the benefits of coconut oil was when I heard Dave Asprey (creator of Bulletproof coffee) talk about it on Joe Rogan’s podcast back in 2012. Asprey described how his bulletproof coffee, which contained an ingredient prominent in coconut oil, helped him lose weight, have more energy and be sharper mentally. Even though I wasn’t quite prepared to start downing his bulletproof coffee, I began hearing more and more individuals I consider experts in nutrition and/or medicine talk about the benefits of coconut oil.  People like Vinnie Tortorich, Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Mark Sisson were signing its praises, which in my mind gave me the greenlight to start incorporating it into my diet anyway possible.

I know I’ve talked about my love for coconut oil many times on this blog. Heck, I think Shannon and I have done at least two Addicted to Fitness episodes where we taste tested a coffee + coconut oil concoction (click here to listen). However, I recently learned that my LDL cholesterol is extremely high. I believe the primary culprit for this is my genes, but I’m also analyzing items in my diet that may drive up “bad” cholesterol. Which is why I’m gonna take a closer look at a few of the pros & cons associated with coconut oil consumption.

Pros

  • Contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which unlike long chain triglycerides can be easily accessed by the body as an energy source and are less likely to be stored as fat (source)
  • Contains high concentrations of lauric acid, which has been shown to aid in the treatment of viral, bacterial and fungal infections (source)
  • The consumption of MCTs may increase “good” HDL cholesterol (source)
  • The consumption of MCTs has also been linked to improved cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients (source)

Cons

  • Coconut oil is ~50% lauric acid which some researchers believe acts as a long chain triglyceride, which could raise “bad” LDL cholesterol (source)
  • Coconut oil only contains 10-15% MCTs (if you subtract lauric acid), which greatly reduces its ability to boost metabolism (source)
  • Certain commercially sold coconut oils can be highly refined & processed which greatly reduces its health benefits (source)

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My preliminary research leads me to believe that there is much more upside to using unrefined, virgin coconut oil than downside. However, for someone like myself, who is genetic predisposed to have high LDL cholesterol, it may be wise to use it sparingly. Although, I’ve recently learned that not all LDL cholesterol is “bad” and I plan on getting more blood tests done to determine the makeup of my levels. Until then, I’ll limit my coconut oil use to cooking, instead of throwing it into smoothies & my morning coffee.

Just because I’m cutting down on my coconut oil use, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear how you use it. Whether it’s for cooking, skin care or cold remedy, please feel free to send your coconut oil uses to elementaltampa@gmail.com. We’d also really enjoy it if you send us a pic on our various social channels (Facebook, Instagram or Twitter).

What’s on the Menu – The one soft drink that doesn’t make me sick to my stomach

Yes. There is an actual difference between ginger ale and ginger beer, at least in theory. Traditional ginger beers, use fermentation to create the carbonation & usually yield a stronger ginger flavor. Ginger beer can contain alcohol, but most available nowadays do not. Ginger ale on the other hand is sweetened soda water with added ginger flavor (source). Even though I believe soft drinks can cause serious health problems, these two ginger sodas do offer moderate health benefits, but it’s certainly not because of their sugar content.

There is a reason why they offer you a ginger ale on the plane if you’re feeling nauseous. Studies performed in the last 10 years suggest that ginger can not only help with your run of the mill upset stomach, but it can also alleviate the nausea associated with sea sickness, chemotherapy and pregnancy. It’s important to know that they did not use ginger ale in these research studies. They actually determined that 1-1.5 g of ginger (raw or powdered) could alleviate symptoms associated with these various types of nausea (source). The medicinal effects of ginger don’t stop there.

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Ginger also contains a powerful anti-inflammatory compound known as gingerol (clever name).  This compound has been linked to the reduction of certain side effects of chronic health conditions like osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes and cancer. In fact, several recent studies have determined that gingerols “may be effective chemopreventive and/or chemotherapeutic agents” in the treatment of colorectal and ovarian cancers (source). The relief of day-to-day muscle pain provided by gingerol is another beneficial aspect.

In 2010, a small study conducted at the University of Georgia suggested that regular ginger supplementation could reduce exercise-induced muscle pain (source). As someone who essentially lives at the gym, this quality alone makes throwing a couple hunks of ginger in my smoothie or afternoon tea worth the spicy kick.

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Much like garlic, I’ve eaten whole hunks of ginger root. However, the intense flavor can be a little much. Which is why I love cooking with it instead of swallowing it whole. I’m a big fan of sauteing up minced ginger in a pan before I toss in vegetables and shrimp for a delicious stir fry. I know it’s a big component of Asian cooking, but I’ve found that it can provide a whole new flavor to a variety of dishes.

I’d love to hear your preferred method of consuming ginger. As long as the recipe doesn’t contain the words “Canada Dry” feel free to send them to elementaltampa@gmail.com or just tweet us a picture the next time you cook with it. Our Twitter and Instagram handle is @ettampa. Let’s connect!

What’s on the Menu – I can see clearly now

None of us are getting any younger. I know that’s not exactly breaking news, but I recently reached the point in my life where I’m beginning to feel the effects of aging. I cruised through my 20s with little concern every time my birthday rolled around. Now, as I inch closer to 34, I’m starting to experience issues that would have never affected me 5 years ago.

My muscles take a little longer to recover from a tough workout. It’s hard for me to be energetic the day after a poor night’s sleep and if I decide to forgo “clean eating” for a night, my digestive system is in turmoil for at least 24 hours. Fortunately, there is one bodily function that has yet to be touched by the hands of father time and I believe that has a lot to do with today’s menu spotlight.

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Whether it be in a salad I packed for lunch or Shannon’s delicious Saucy Tomato Eggs (clink link for recipe), bell peppers frequently make their way into many of our meals. Unlike their spicy cousins, bell peppers do not contain capsaicin, which is why they’re often referred to as sweet peppers. True to their name, bell peppers provide a sweet flavor and a tremendous crunch to any recipe. Even though they lack the beneficial capsaicin compound, bell peppers provide a host of beneficial nutrients that can help manage several different health conditions, including poor eye sight.

One medium sized red bell pepper contains approximately 75% of our recommended daily value of vitamin A. Research has shown that the vitamin A contained in vegetables like bell peppers not only protects the surface of the eye, but also decreases the inflammation created by specific eye conditions (source). In addition to vitamin A, bell peppers also contain high levels of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to be effective in the treatment of age-related vision loss (source). Believe it or not, the bell pepper’s health benefits don’t stop there.

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Bell peppers also contain a significant amount of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate and numerous antioxidants. This nutrient dense fruit/veggie improves immunity, reduces inflammation, promotes healthy pregnancies and stimulates collagen production. It’s important to remember that a lot of the vitamins bell peppers possess are fat soluble vitamins. Which means you need to prepare them with a fat source. Sauteing them up in olive oil or butter should do the trick (source).

I know I included the link already, but do yourself a favor and check out Shannon’s saucy tomato eggs recipe. If I had to pick only one meal that contained bell peppers to eat for the rest of my life, it would be that one.

No doubt about it.

If you have a recipe that features bell peppers that you can’t live without, please let me know about it. You can email your recipes to elementaltampa@gmail.com or post a pic of your favorite bell pepper recipe on one of our various social media channels. It’s going to be hard to beat Shannon’s recipe, but you can try.

What’s on the Menu – Grass vs. Grain

Today’s menu spotlight will focus on the nutritional differences of grass fed and grain fed beef. Before I get into the nutritional research I gathered, I want to quickly touch on the environmental & animal welfare aspects of both types of beef. Even though the production of both types of cattle can vary widely based on current regulations, I feel comfortable stating a few generalities about both. Grain fed cattle tend to live the duration of their lives in indoor feed lots and consume grain products like corn and soy. Grass fed cattle live the majority of their lives in pastures feeding on the grass available to them. Based on these points, the lives of grass fed cattle are more similar to that of their wild ancestors than grain fed cattle.

I want to reiterate that these are generalities. The USDA has not yet set a standard that all grass fed beef producers must follow (hear more about that here), which means the conditions grass fed cattle are subjected to can vary from one producer to the next.  If you choose to buy grass fed beef, research the producer. The more you know about the beef your buying, the better. Alright, on to the nutritional comparison.

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Image courtesy of American Grassfed Association (link)

Can food and environment actually affect the nutrient composition of a species? You bet it can!

A 2010 study determined that grass fed beef can have up to 5 times more omega 3 fatty acids than grain fed beef. This is important because omega 3’s reduce inflammation and lower the chance of us acquiring insidious health conditions like heart disease and dementia (source).

In addition to fatty acids, grass fed also contains a different saturated fat composition than grain fed. While the amount of saturated fat in both types of beef is relatively similar, grass fed contains a higher proportion of stearic acid than grain fed. This component of saturated fat has been determined NOT to raise blood cholesterol levels, meaning that grass fed can have less of an effect on your cholesterol than grain fed (source).

Grass fed also contains more vitamin E and beta-carotene than grain fed. Our body uses these nutrients to help prevent the production of free radicals, which have the ability to create damaging health conditions like arthritis and cancer. These particular antioxidants also work together to prevent nutrient degradation during the beef’s journey from farm to table (source).

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Even though I’m a big grass fed cheerleader, weird visual, both types of beef are highly nutritious in regards to macronutrients. Three ounces of 85/15 (lean meat to fat ratio) ground beef contains 13g of fat, 22g of protein and no carbs. But when you factor in the environmental impact and animal welfare differences, along with its micronutrient superiority, spending a extra cash on grass fed seems like a no brainer. Plus, your purchases can help revitalize the small farm industry, which I believe is key to changing our current industrialized food system.

I know cost is one reason why people choose not to buy grass fed beef, but I’d like to hear if there are any other reasons. Feel free to send us an email at elementaltampa@gmail.com or contact us on social media.

All you grass fed lovers can hit us up too! Send us a pic of your favorite meal featuring grass fed beef. We’d also love to see pics of the local farm you pick up your beef from.

What’s on the Menu – How to avoid the common cold & vampire bites

Some of you may know what #WCW means. If by chance you’re not privy to the seemingly endless amount of social media hashtags there are nowadays, WCW is an acronym that stands for “woman crush Wednesday.” Apparently, men and women use this hashtag to let their social media followers know which lady “caught their fancy” that week. I’ve yet to participate in the WCW trend, but if I had to pick someone (other than my wife Shannon of course) I’d go with Dr. Rhonda Patrick (site link).

I’ve professed my platonic love for Dr. Rhonda Patrick numerous times in this blog and on the Addicted to Fitness podcast. Her recall for scientific facts and data is ASTOUNDING! I’ve listened to her on multiple podcasts, including her own (link), and it’s damn near impossible to remember all the information she rattles off. One particular piece of information that stuck with me involved the benefits garlic can offer to combating infections.

The majority of research on the antimicrobial benefits of garlic have yet to produce substantial results, but that may be due to the fact that those studies used garlic supplements instead of raw garlic. Dr. Rhonda Patrick described mitigating the effects of a MRSA infection she experienced by eating raw cloves of garlic & taking megadoses of vitamin C. In addition to her anecdotal evidence, a recent 2016 study demonstrated that eating raw garlic significantly reduced the amount of a specific pathogenic stomach bacteria (source). As unappealing as eating raw garlic sounds, there is a scientific reason to why it may be healthier for you than cooked garlic.

One of the numerous sulfur compounds contained in garlic is alliin. Once a garlic clove is crushed or chopped, the alliin converts to allicin. Allicin is believed to be the compound contained in garlic that provides the majority of its antimicrobial, anticancer and anti-inflammatory benefits. What’s interesting is that more alliin is converted to allicin the longer the crushed clove goes uncooked or uneaten (source). This means that in order to receive the maximum amount of health benefits from garlic, you should eat it raw. However, if you’re not prepared to take that leap, simply crush it and let it sit on your cutting board for 10-15 minutes before cooking it. You’ll still enjoy a certain amount of the health benefits without having to endure the bad breath.

Garlic - ADOS

Shannon and I are absolute garlic FIENDS! I don’t remeber the last meal we prepared that didn’t include garlic and/or shallots, which also contain allicin. We’ll chop up a few cloves and toss them in everything from veggies to meatloaf. I’ve also eaten cloves of raw garlic on the rare occasions that I felt a bit under the weather. I’m not sure if I have that ritual to thank for not being sick in a long time, but research suggest that it definitely doesn’t hurt.

If you are one of the brave souls who has eaten raw garlic or if you just enjoy throwing a few cloves in with your sautéed veggies, let us know! Send your favorite recipe that features garlic to elementaltampa@gmail.com or reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  We love to interact!