antioxidant

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.

What’s On The Menu – More Than Just The Freshmaker

How did mint become the go-to car air freshener scent? Was it good marketing? Did people like how that green leaf looked hanging from their rear view mirror?

It’s visual appeal could be a possible reason but I think it has more to do with how the scent affects our biology. A study performed in the early 2000s found that the smell of peppermint actually affected the amount of anxiety, fatigue and physical demand experienced by drivers on prolonged trips in the car. The study suggested that “periodic administration of (peppermint) odors over long-term driving may prove beneficial in maintaining alertness and decreasing highway accidents and fatalities” (source). Cognitive benefits are just the start to the positive health benefits of this refreshing herb.

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I constantly tell you about the high antioxidant content of certain fruits and vegetables, but I don’t seem to give as much recognition to herbs. Shame on me because mint, which is a broad term for 15-20 different species, contains one of the highest antioxidant capacity of any food. One particular antioxidant contained in mint, rosmarinic acid, has been shown to be an effective natural treatment for seasonal allergies. Also, if you already have the sniffles due to the common cold, menthol contained within mint plants has been long regarded as a natural decongestant because of its ability to break up phlegm and mucus (source).

The benefits of mint not only alleviate cold like symptoms, they can also help prevent you from getting a cold or some other type of infection. Peppermint oil has been shown to stop the growth of certain types of fungus and bacteria including the nasty MRSA. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, which can help improve the performance of our immune system (source). Speaking of performance, mint may be the PED all athletes can use without fear of getting busted.

I already mentioned one study that demonstrated how peppermint enhanced the performance of drivers, but can it do the same for athletes? A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine in 2013 discovered that individuals that ingested a minute amount of peppermint essential oil displayed improvements in exercise performance, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and several other related categories. The researchers believe that these improvements were due to the herb’s ability to relax bronchial smooth muscles, increase ventilation & brain oxygen concentrations and decrease blood lactate levels (source). That means that if you can run and chew gum at the same time, you may have a leg up on your competition.

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I always try to chew gum while working out, except for disciplines that require me to wear a mouthpiece (e.g. kickboxing, grappling, etc.). I’m sure it helps me concentrate but I use it mainly to prevent dry mouth. I use the crappy sugar-free stuff you get at the grocery store, which is peppermint flavored but I doubt has any real peppermint in it. Maybe I’ll perform a little experiment on yours truly to see if ingesting peppermint essential oil has a beneficial effect on my workout performance. Stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you like to incorporate mint into your diet. I enjoy throwing a handful of mint leaves into a tall glass of club soda with lime, essentially making a non-alcoholic mojito. Please feel free to share your minty fresh recipes with us on our social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter) or email them to elementaltampa@gmail.com.

You can also take advantage of the free fitness consultations I’m currently offering by emailing me.

Last but not least, we’d really appreciate it if you vote for Addicted to Fitness for the “best local podcast” in the Creative Loafing Best of the Bay contest. Click the following link to cast your vote. Thanks!

 

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 – Not So Sweet Potato

I really think the sweet potato should thank the Paleo movement for its recent rise in popularity. I grew up on a farm and the only time I recall seeing and/or eating sweet potatoes was in pie form at Thanksgiving. But then the paleo diet started to gain popularity in the early 2000s and BOOM! Sweet potatoes were in vogue.

I should mention that there is some debate amongst paleo diet followers if sweet potatoes are “paleo” or not. Regardless, I think sweet potato farmers should thank Robb Wolf and Dr. Loren Cordain for the 80% increase in consumption of their product in the U.S. between 2000 – 2014 (source). Shannon and I have certainly done our part to contribute to that increase as sweet potatoes frequently make their way into our weekly meal plans, and why not! They provide significant amounts of essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin C & B6 and manganese. They also provide more of the antioxidant beta-carotene than any other whole food on the planet (source). But what about their sugar content? Well, the actual truth of their sweetness may surprise you.

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The glycemic index (GI) & glycemic load (GL) chart is a good tool to use when you’re trying to determine your body’s blood sugar & insulin response to certain foods (click here to see chart).  If you check out the chart you’ll see that sweet potatoes have a lower GI and GL than russet potatoes. If you’re trying to maintain a strict diet that contains only low GI & GL foods, a baked sweet potato may not be an option. Luckily there is a certain way to prepare sweet potatoes that will significantly lower their GI & GL.

While a baked sweet potato contains a relatively high GL of 22, a boiled sweet potato contains a GL of only 11 (source). This is great news! Wanna know why? Because in order to absorb more of those awesome nutrients contained in the sweet potato, you need to add fat to them. See where I’m going with this? That’s right, mashed sweet potatoes with butter and heavy cream may be the healthiest way to enjoy this multipurpose starch. You can also toss the steamed sweet potatoes in olive oil if you’re lactose intolerant.

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Sweet Tater Chips – One of my fav preparation methods

Above you’ll see a pic of my sweet potato “chips” before they head into the oven. No, they’re not exactly low carb, but they are covered in butter and olive oil. If you’re interested in indulging in these every once in a while, you’ll need a stainless steel vegetable slicer to CAREFULLY cut the sweet potato nice and thin. Coat them and a foil lined baking sheet in butter and/or olive oil and bake them at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Take’em out, flip’em, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. You can broil them for a few minutes at the end if you want to crisp them up.

Now that I’ve share one of my favorite sweet potato recipes, it’s time for you to return the favor. Feel free to send your recipes, complete with pictures, to us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. You can also email them to us at elementaltampa@gmail.com. We appreciate all feedback, especially the tasty kind.

What’s on the Menu – Dark Chocolate: Brain Candy

If you’ve checked out the “About” section of elementaltampa.com you would know that I wasn’t always as health conscious as I am right now. There was a point in my life where I didn’t care about a food’s nutritional content, calories and/or ingredients. My taste buds determined what I ate and that usually meant refined grains and sugar. Pasta, crackers, chips, fast food and of course CANDY! I was fortunate enough to pull up from the nutritional tailspin that I was in and now my cravings for “treats” has evolved.

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I discovered that once I kicked processed foods out of my diet, my taste buds started being more appreciative of the flavor of whole foods, especially sweet items. This epiphany marks the point when my love for dark chocolate really began. I always liked chocolate, but it was mainly milk chocolate that consisted of more sugar than actual cacao. Once I modified my diet, I started gravitating more to dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao. I now enjoy Ghirardelli’s 86% cacao dark chocolate, which contains less than 2 grams of sugar per 1×1 inch square. I’m trying to condition my taste buds to enjoy the highest cacao content possible not just because it contains no sugar, but because of its numerous health benefits.

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Much like the previous menu “spotlights” in this blog, dark chocolate with high cacao %’s contain extremely high levels of antioxidants. These antioxidants reduce the presence of free radicals, which can be responsible for chronic diseases/syndromes like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and even cancer. In addition to its antioxidantive properties, dark chocolate may be one of the world’s most powerful “brainfoods” (source).

A 2009 study documented an improvement in the cognitive function (e.g. problem solving, memory recall, perception, etc.) of elderly adults that consumed foods rich in flavonoids like dark chocolate. The flavonoids in dark chocolate also promote cerebral blood flow which could help individuals who suffer from dementia or strokes (source). Hopefully these health benefits will motivate you to add a few pieces of dark chocolate to those Easter baskets you may be putting together in a few weeks.

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If you have a killer recipe that features dark chocolate, please send it our way. You can post it in the comment section below or email it to us at elementaltampa@gmail.com. Also, please share these blog posts with a friend. Help us spread the good word of proper nutrition.

What’s on the Menu – Superfoods in my Backyard

The Florida Strawberry festival takes place every year in the small, rustic town of Plant City. The event has been going strong for over 80 years, and it continues to grow each year with the addition of rides, livestock contests and popular music acts like Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts and Elle King (one of Shannon’s personal fav’s). The vast majority of the food at the festival is typical fair food; deep-fried and/or covered in sugar. However, the festival’s namesake is readily available and it when it comes to nutrient rich foods, it’s hard to beat strawberries, or any berries for that matter.

Strawberry shortcake

I consider myself pretty lucky to live in an area that has access to substantial berry crops every year. The farms in my area plant over 10,000 acres of strawberries annually, along with other berries like blueberries and blackberries (source). You best believe that when berry season rolls around, Shannon and I stock up on a weekly basis.  Not only do they taste delicious, but they’re often considered a superfood because of their nutritional benefits.

Possible health benefits associated with eating berries include reduced disease susceptibility, increased insulin sensitivity and improved arterial function. They are also high in essential nutrients (ones our bodies can’t make) like vitamin C, K, manganese and folate (source). I’m a huge berry fan, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention strawberry’s regular appearance on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen List.

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Organic berries from Florida’s Wish Farms

Since 2004, the EWG has been creating lists of the dirtiest and cleanest produce in regards to pesticide contamination. Strawberries often find themselves at the top of the “dirty” list, most likely due to year round production brought on by high demand. According to EWG’s website, Americans individually eat an average of 8 pounds of strawberries a year. Even though we’re still discovering what negative side effects eating foods containing pesticides can have on our health, the EWG recommends that you buy organically grown strawberries whenever possible. If you like to check out what other produce made it onto EWG’s lists, head on over to their website.

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I believe the reporting of high contamination levels in produce like strawberries will help increase the demand for organically grown produce. The overuse of pesticides and the negative effect its had on our agricultural industry is a discussion for another day.

Whether you buy organic or conventional berries, I want to hear how you prefer to enjoy them. Do you throw them into a smoothie, add them to yogurt, or just eat them by the handful like I do? However you enjoy them, please feel free to let us know by leaving a response in the comment section below or emailing it to us at elementaltampa@gmail.com.

What’s on the Menu – Efficiency Nut

I don’t know who the PR person for walnuts is, but I feel like they’re doing a pretty lackluster job. Pistachios has Richard Sherman and a giant cartoon elephant, voiced by John Cena, telling me to pick up a bag. California almonds have SportsCenter anchors pushing them and it seems like Mr.Peanut as been telling us to eat peanuts, which aren’t nuts, before the TV was even invented. All these nuts are getting positive press, but the walnut is still waiting for its big break.

I think I may have an idea of why walnuts aren’t getting promoted as much as they should. The outside of a shelled walnut is covered in a thin, paper-like “skin” that some people attest to having a bitter taste. The flavor of the skin can be off-putting to certain folks, but much like an apple, there are a ton of nutrients in the skin of a walnut.  It’s believed that 90% of the walnuts beneficial organic compounds are contained in the skin.

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The beneficial compounds contained in walnuts include a special form of vitamin E, hard to find antioxidants and the highest alpha linolenic acid (omega-3) concentration of any nut (source). The positive health aspects of walnuts prompted the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Loma Linda University to conduct a study on the daily consumption of walnuts. Preliminary results of the study suggest that daily consumption of 1.5 oz of walnuts can reduce LDL cholesterol & inflammation which can lower your chance of developing heart disease (source).

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If all these health benefits aren’t enough to make you run out to buy a bag of walnuts, the fact that they are one of the cheaper nuts should be all the convincing you need. Raw nuts, which is what you should buy if you want the maximum health benefits, can be a bit pricey. However, compared to cashews, almonds or the luxurious macadamia nut, walnuts are at least $1 cheaper per pound (according to my research).

Walnuts: the nut with the highest ROI. It’s no “get crackin'” but I think it has potential. Let me know if you have any suggestions on what walnuts’ promotional catch phrase should be. You can connect with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter or email us at elementaltampa@gmail.com.

What’s on the Menu – Kombucha: Legit Elixir or Placebo Soda?

I truly believe that we can heal ourselves of common ailments (colds, acne, obesity, etc.) with proper diet and exercise. That doesn’t mean that I think all prescription medication is poison. There are certain conditions that require a trip to a medical professional and a necessary prescription. However, the over prescription of certain drugs can and has led to further health concerns like antibiotic resistant bacteria. That’s why we need to learn about possible natural remedies that allow us to heal ourselves, instead of always relying on our pharmacist. One particular natural remedy has been receiving a lot of pub lately about its numerous health benefits, but conflicting reports make me wonder if it’s really the “miracle drink” people claim it is.

Kombucha is a fermented beverage often referred to as “living tea.” It is made by combining sugar and tea leaves with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast known as SCOBY. The final product is a slightly fizzy, sour beverage that claims to boost your immune system, help with digestion, provide energy and even mitigate serious health conditions like cancer.

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Mother Kombucha is available throughout Florida

I’m a big proponent of probiotics. I guess you could say I’m pro-pro (rim shot). The benefits of probiotics range from better gut health to improved mood (source link). The fact that kombucha is full of these probiotics, along with other beneficial micronutrients, is why advocates believe it will cure what ails you. There has been some recent scientific studies that backup certain health benefits of kombucha like its antidiabetic (source link) and antioxidant (source link) effect, but almost all these studies were performed on non-human subjects. Critics have stated that a lack of research on human subjects negate a lot of kombucha’s supposed health benefits. They also state that kombucha prepared in unsanitary conditions could result in the consumption of deadly bacteria (source link).

I researched “deaths due to kombucha consumption” and was unable to find any cases in which drinking kombucha was directly responsible and only one case where it was believed to be a contributing factor (source link). It’s true due to the presence of active bacteria cultures, drinking kombucha does present some level of risk, but so does buying bagged spinach. Foodborne illnesses are an issue we need to be aware of. However, it shouldn’t prevent us from consuming items that provide certain health benefits. Kombucha has been consumed for centuries for a reason. I believe that the “living tea” does provide certain health benefits, but it should be enjoyed in moderation and by those with non-compromised immune systems. Also, if you do buy it, makes sure you research the producer. I’m sure where and how the kombucha is made can have an effect on its purity.

Are you a kombucha fan? If so, let us know about your favorite brand. Feel free to send pics of you drinking your favorite kombucha to elementaltampa@gmail.com. We’d also happily accept any feedback from any kombucha naysayers.