food

What’s On The Menu – Let’s Ketchup on this Micronutrient Superfruit

I apologize for the brevity of this post. I had a full blog written, with funny anecdotes and informative nutrition details about this week’s menu spotlight. Bbbbbbbuttttt, when I woke up yesterday morning to do the final edit, I discovered that I didn’t save it.

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My reaction when I realize I didn’t save this week’s blog

I don’t want to leave you all hanging this week, so the following is a short summary of why you need to start incorporating more tomatoes & tomato products, besides ketchup, into your diet.

  • Tomatoes’ macronutrient content isn’t anything spectacular – 1 medium size tomato contains no fat, 1 gram (g) of protein and 5 g of carbs; its carbs consist of mainly simple sugars & insoluble fiber (source).
  • Tomatoes’ micronutrient content is what really sets them apart – they contain a significant amount of vitamins (C, K & B-complex), minerals (molybdenum, potassium & copper) and antioxidants (lycopene, rutin, beta cartoene & many more – source).
  • The consumption of the micronutrients contained in tomatoes has been shown to mitigate certain health conditions – The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants contained in tomatoes have been shown to help with the treatment of high blood pressure, heart disease, degenerative vision conditions, depression and more (source). Lycopene, which tomatoes contain a significant amount of, has been shown in epidemiological & animal studies to lower the risk of certain types of cancer (source).
  • Shannon makes the best tomato dish EVA! –  Some may say this is an opinion, but if you’ve had Shannon’s Saucy Tomato Eggs, you would know it’s a fact. Do yourself a favor and click here to check out the recipe.

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Hopefully the wizards at WordPress can work some magic and recover the previous blog. If they do, I’ll update this one with any additional info.

In the meantime, please feel free to send us your favorite tomato recipes. Doesn’t matter if you like’em raw, stewed or smashed into a paste, send those recipes to us at elementaltampa@gmail.com. You can also send us pics of your go-to tomato dishes on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).  Shannon and I will pick the most tasty looking one and repost it on all our channels.

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What’s On The Menu – The Whole Food That Gets Invited to Every Party

If you’re one of the 11 people on the planet that haven’t heard the go-to mushroom joke, here you go

Q: Why did the mushroom get invited to all the parties?

A: Because he’s a FUN-GI!

Allow me to explain why that joke is somewhat comical for those who may not understand. Even though you find mushrooms in the produce section of the grocery store, they aren’t technically vegetables. They actually belong to a group more closely related to humans than plants known as the FUNGI (pronounced fun-guy) kingdom (source).

Let me know when you stop laughing?

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Image courtesy of suttons.co.uk

Now that you’ve had your chuckles, I want to enlighten you on the serious health benefits mushrooms can provide. One cup of raw white button mushrooms (pictured above) contains ~1 gram (g) of fat, 2 g of carbs and 3 grams of protein. You should also be aware that different varieties of mushrooms can provide different amounts of micro & macronutrients. For example, while white button mushrooms only have 3 g of protein per cup, large portabella mushrooms contain 5 g per cup (source). Not a tremendous difference but definitely important to individuals who are looking for more non-animal protein sources.

Mushrooms are certainly a great low-carb addition to any meal, but I believe the real benefits lie in their micronutrients. They contain a significant amount of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and B9 (folate). B vitamins play a major role in our energy levels and red blood cell formation, but they’re also important for brain health and fetal development (source).

Mushrooms are also the only non-animal, non-fortified source of vitamin D. This is a big reason why mushrooms are a frequent component of the vegan diet. The best dietary sources of vitamin D usually come from the animal kingdom OR processed foods enriched with vitamins and minerals (source). The naturally occurring vitamin D in mushrooms is important to several bodily functions & systems, but recent research suggest that its biggest benefit may be cancer prevention.

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The results of two separate studies, one published in 2015 and the other published this year, suggested that specific varieties of mushrooms demonstrated the ability to suppress the genetic markers associated with certain types of cancer (source). I don’t care how funny they are, mushroom’s ability to fight off the Big C is a much better reason to have them at your next party.

That’s a call back people.

Speaking of calls. You should schedule a Skype call with yours truly to discuss your current health & fitness plan. I’d love to provided you with tips on exercise, nutrition or accountability. All you have to do is send me an email at elementaltampa@gmail.com. You can also email us your delicious mushroom recipes or share a pic of your favorite mushrooms dish on our social channels (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).

What’s on the Menu – The Fruit that Tells You It’s Summer

We discussed the optimum growing seasons for produce in a recent episode of the Addicted to Fitness podcast (click to listen), but we didn’t discuss which produce best REPRESENTS each season. My “season appropriate produce” list is as follows:

  • Fall – Pumpkins, squash and other gourds
  • Winter – Kale and Apples
  • Spring – Berries and Asparagus
  • Summer – Corn and Watermelon

I’m OK with people disagreeing with me on most of my choices, but for those who don’t agree that watermelon is the most summer produce there is I say FOR SHAME.

I can’t be the only one who attended summer cookouts where the giant green melon was used for the appetizer, main course and/or dessert. I’m sure if you go back and look at your family photos, they’ll be a picture of you standing next to a sprinkler with a giant wedge of watermelon in your hand. The fruit’s optimum growing season is May through September for PETE’S SAKE. Anything else go on between May and September?

How bout a little thing called summer break.

I rest my case.

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Now that I’ve established the fact the watermelon is THE summer produce, let’s discuss whether or not it’s healthy. One cup of watermelon contains less than one gram (g) of fat & protein and 11 g of carbs, 9 of those grams coming from sugar.

Not terribly uncommon for a sweet fruit, but somewhat of a departure from the items you’d usually see on this weekly blog. The relatively high sugar content translates to a rather high number on the glycemic index (GI), 76. However, unlike its GI, watermelon’s glycemic load (GL) is only 8, which is considered low. In layman’s terms, a serving of watermelon can cause a blood sugar spike but only for a short period of time, which translates to a minimal insulin response (source). With that said, if you are obese or a type 2 diabetic, I’d suggest asking your physician if it’s OK to add watermelon to your diet.

If you are fortunate enough to include watermelon in your diet, expect even more benefits than just its delicious flavor. In addition to a host of important vitamins (A, B6 & C), minerals (copper & magnesium) and amino acids, watermelon contains a significant amount of the phytonutrient lycopene. This carotenoid is not only responsible for giving watermelon its red color, it also provides the fruit’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Recent research also suggests that lycopene can be very important to our cardiovascular and skeletal systems (source). Both of which are super important when you’re 30 something year old going head first down a homemade slip & slide.

I mean it is summer after all.

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Watermelon is also one of those fruits that pairs well with a wide variety of other foods. Shannon and I are big fans of watermelon salad with feta cheese and reduced balsamic dressing. If you have any other mouthwatering dishes that feature watermelon, please share them with us on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).

Before I wrap up this menu spotlight, I want to give you a friendly reminder about ETTampa’s free fitness consultations. If you are looking for a little guidance, whether it be for exercise, nutrition or even accountability, send me an email at elementaltampa@gmail.com.

Hope to hear from you soon!

What’s on the Menu – The beneficial aspects of being bitter

I think I can count the number of sugary sodas I’ve consumed over the last 5 years on two hands and still have a few fingers to spare. I’m sorry if you feel that I’m gloating but after recent research suggested that sugar, specifically sucrose, may be more addictive than COCAINE, I’m OK tooting my horn a little bit (source). I’m not trying to alienate any individuals currently addicted to sugar because we’re learning more about how legit that dependency can be.

I get it. Water is boring. Sure, all living things need it to sustain life, but as an animal with approximately 10,000 taste buds, we enjoy our beverages with a twist of flavor. With the information about the detrimental effects of sweetened beverages coming out seemingly on a weekly basis, what options do we have left?

Thankfully, mother nature provided us with such a well know flavor enhancer that restaurants are just giving it away!

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Picture courtesy of Shannon’s blog (adashofsparkle.com)

Lemons belong to the citrus genus that include other fruits like grapefruit, oranges and limes. The beneficial aspects of citrus were first documented in the late 1700s when James Lind discovered that they effectively treated scurvy, which is caused by a Vitamin C deficiency. One lemon contains approximately 50% of our daily value (DV) of this important nutrient. Research shows that the symptoms of the common cold, anemia, asthma and ischemic stroke may be significantly reduced by the consumption of foods high in Vitamin C, but the health benefits of this nutrient don’t stop there (source).

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is needed for the creation of numerous bodily structures including bones, muscles, skin, ligaments and more. In order for our bodies to produce collagen, it requires Vitamin C. Being that Vitamin C is an essential nutrient (one we must gather from food or supplementation) consuming foods that are high in it, like lemons, may increase our collagen production. Increased collagen production could increase muscle mass, reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis and minimize skin lines and wrinkles (source).

Let’s recap – consuming more Vitamin C could allow you to gain more muscle, reduce soreness and look younger?! Let’s all go suck on a lemon.

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Ok, maybe I’m being a little bit over zealous. Sure you could eat a lemon to get that precious Vitamin C OR you could add the juice of a lemon (1 oz = 23% DV of Vit C) to salad dressing, fresh fish or that water bottle you carry around all day.

See what I did there? I brought it all back around to how we started this post. If you’re trying to kick that sugary soda habit and plain water isn’t cutting it, add a twist of lemon to your water. Better yet, add an ounce of lemon juice to soda water. You still get your carbonated beverage fix without the damaging sugar.

If you have a recipe that incorporates lemons or lemon juice, please feel free to share it with us. You can send a pic of your tart recipe to us on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter) or you can email it to elementaltampa@gmail.com.

You can also take advantage of the complimentary fitness consultations we’re currently offering by emailing us. 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 – Should we believe the hype?

Kale seems like another one of those foods that has gained a ton of popularity in recent years. I was exposed to it at a young age because my Dad grew it in our garden, but I don’t recall seeing it on restaurant menus or in grocery stores like I do today. After doing a little research, it looks like my assumption isn’t totally unfounded.

Statistics from the Department of Agriculture show that the number of farms that produced kale between 2007 and 2012 increased by 60% (source). Farm to table restaurants, veganism and “food porn” (definition) are just a few trends that surely contributed to kale’s recent popularity, but the cruciferous veggie’s superfood status is what keeps its hype train a rolling.

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Kale belongs to the Brassica genus, which includes other nutritious veggies like collard greens, cabbage and turnips. The macronutrient breakdown for kale is pretty unique as far as veggies go. One cup of raw kale contains 7 grams (g) of carbs, 3 g of protein and almost 1 g of fat. May not seem like much but kale’s 3 g of protein is three times more than spinach and 30 times more than iceberg lettuce. Also, the nearly 1 g of fat contains 121 mg of the omega 3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid, which certainly contributes to kale’s ability to improve cardiovascular health (source).

Kale’s effect on cholesterol is extremely interesting to someone like myself who has high LDL cholesterol, which is currently thought of as “bad” cholesterol¹. A 2008 study demonstrated that the daily consumption of kale juice could raise HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol. Kale also contains bile acid sequestrants which help lower the amount of total cholesterol in our bodies (source). However, the way you prepare kale can have a major effect on which of its nutrients you end up absorbing.

¹ – Recent research suggest that LDL particle number is more important to predicting heart disease than LDL cholesterol (source)

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Both raw and cooked kale contain a significant amount of micro & macronutrients, but the latter appears to allow for better absorption of those nutrients. Not only does steaming kale enhance its cholesterol lowering abilities, it also greatly reduces the oxalic acid contained in the plant. Oxalic acid can bind to important nutrients like calcium and iron rendering them useless to us and lead to kidney stones in certain individuals (source). However, I want to be clear that after researching the potential detrimental effects of eating raw kale, its beneficial aspects still out-weight any possible hazards.

You can see above that one of Shannon and I’s preferred kale preparation methods is a casserole that combines kale with sausage, butternut squash and liberal amount of shredded parmesan. If you’d like the recipe to this mouth-watering dish, feel free to email me at elementaltampa@gmail.com. We could also setup your first FREE fitness consultation. Let ETTampa help you optimize your life by improving your fitness.

What’s on the Menu – Almost everyone uses PEDs

Hi, my name is Nicholas Burch, and I’m a coffee addict.

It’s true. I really can’t live without the stuff. When I wake up every morning I look forward to the fact that I’ll soon be drinking coffee. I enjoy the ritualistic aspects it includes. I actually have fond memories of times with relatives no longer living that are based around having coffee with them. I’m sure my body looks forward to the energetic boost (more on that later) it can provide, but I truly look forward to the act of making & drinking coffee.

Thankfully, my coffee loving vice is healthy. In fact, with the scientific research I’ve gathered, I’m willing to say that coffee is the healthiest beverage on the planet. Shannon and I actually debated this very statement in a past episode of the Addicted to Fitness podcast (click here to listen). Below is several potential positive and negative impacts of coffee consumption. Take a gander and decide whether you’d put coffee in the friend or foe category.

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Coffee & protein – how I start everyday

Pros

  • Contains the powerful antioxidant chlorogenic acid, which can reduce free radicals that damage cells (source)
  • 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

Cons

  • Regular coffee consumption can have a negative affect on dental hygiene (e.g. stained teeth, bad breath)
  • Coffee consumption close to bedtime can disrupt regular sleep patterns (source)
  • Excess coffee intake has been linked to hand tremors in a small percentage of individuals (source)
  • Coffee consumption does cause an acute increase in blood pressure (source)
  • Sudden elimination or reduction in caffienated coffee consumption can induce withdrawal-like symptoms (source)

Besides water & tea, coffee provides the widest array of health benefits of any beverage. As you can see, caffienated coffee can cause problems for individuals that suffer from essential tremors or hypertension, but even the consumption of decaf coffee has favorable aspects. It is important to note that the pros & cons listed above are based on BLACK COFFEE. Once you start adding sugar, dairy or dairy substitutes to the coffee, you can seriously affect its merit.

I could go on and on about coffee, but I would rather get your feedback. Love it or hate it, please let me know what you think of. We would really love it if you sent us a pic of your favorite cup of joe on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).

In addition to your coffee feedback, 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 – 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.