micronutrients

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!

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What’s on the Menu – Let’s Talk Turkey

I may be guilty of propagating a myth about one of our nation’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. In the Instagram post (link) promoting this week’s menu spotlight, I suggested that the wild turkey was in a race with the bald eagle to be on our nation’s seal.

I recall hearing that historical tidbit from a reliable source and when I went to find supporting research, I found a source that seemed to confirm my statement. Upon further research, it appears the idea of Franklin championing for the wild turkey to be our nation’s symbol way back in the 18th century isn’t entirely true.

According to excerpts from a letter authored by Franklin, he did believe that the wild turkey was a “bird of courage” more likely to chase off an intruder than the bald eagle, but did NOT suggest that the turkey should be a part of our nation’s seal. It appears that Franklin was somewhat apathetic to the idea of having a bird on our nation’s seal altogether (source). Regardless of the turkey’s moral character, the fact that it provides both significant macro & micronutrients is 100% accurate.

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You won’t find these types of turkeys at your grocery store

The turkey you pick up at the grocery store looks very different from the turkeys Benjamin Franklin was talking about. They may look different but their macronutrient content is very similar. Three ounces of turkey breast, without skin, contain 2 grams (g) of fat, 0 g of carbs and 26 g of protein (source). Not a great source of healthy fat or carbs, but a definite protein powerhouse. No surprise that you find turkey on a lot of meal plans for individuals looking to put on muscle.

Much like other animal-based protein sources, turkey is high in B vitamins, B3 & B6 in particular. B3, also known as niacin, is critical for the conversion of dietary macronutrients into usable energy including the production of glycogen. For those unfamiliar with glycogen, it is an animal starch stored in our muscles as fuel for future physical activity (source). This particular function of B3 is most likely why bodybuilders ingest supplemental forms of it to help them maintain their rigorous workout schedule.

Turkey also contains a significant amount of important dietary minerals. Zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and iron are several minerals you’ll absorb eating turkey, but the mineral most abundant in turkey is selenium. A 4oz serving of turkey contains 62% of our DV of selenium, which is known to be a powerful antioxidant. With that said, it should come as no surprise that the consumption of turkey, and other poultry, has been shown to reduce the risk conditions/syndromes caused by oxidative stress like pancreatic cancer (source).

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Turkey doesn’t contain the amount of fat I normally prefer in my animal protein, but that’s an easy problem to fix. Shannon and I love using ground turkey (which does have added fat) to make burgers and I throw a couple slices of avocado on them to up their fat content. The combination of the protein from the turkey and the fat from the avocado makes for one satiating meal.

If you have a go-to turkey recipe that you think trumps my turkey burgers, please feel free to share it on our social media channels (FacebookInstagram or Twitter). You can also email it to us at elementaltampa@gmail.com.

Email is the best way to find out more about Elemental Training Tampa’s online training program. Get that personal training you’ve always wanted at a price that you can afford.

What’s On The Menu – Pasture Raised Chicken: Is It Worth It?

I, like many of you, am faced with a variety of chicken choices when I go to the grocery store each week. Do I buy organic, free-range, pasture raised or conventionally raised? The choices seem to be growing by the year, but is one superior to the other?

Much like beef, I believe that chickens raised in a way that closely resembles the lives their wild ancestors live (e.g. 24/7 access to open pastures & ability to forge for insects and other food sources) provides a better animal welfare situation than that of birds caged in confined quarters.

When looking into potential environmental impacts of pasture raised chickens, the research is mixed. Some individuals contend that pasture raised chickens take more resources to produce (source) while other cite the facts that these chickens eliminate the need for fertilizer and their food sources don’t require any herbicides to produce (source).

Those aspects are important to consider when purchasing your chicken, but the main goal of this week’s menu spotlight is to determine if pasture raised chicken is nutritionally superiority to its conventional counterpart.

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Let’s take a quick look at the macronutrients contained in both pasture & conventionally raised chicken. One cup of a roasted chicken breast contains 231 calories, 43 grams (g) of protein, 5 g of fat and 0 g of carbs. It should be noted that different parts of the chicken, skin-on or skin-off, contain different nutritional values. No matter what part of the chicken you prefer, they all contain a substantial amount of protein.

To determine which one is nutritional superior, were going to have to look at their respective micronutrients. Luckily, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) performed a study in 2013 comparing the micronutritional difference between pasture raised and non-pasture raised chickens. The results of their study showed that pasture raised chickens were higher in vitamin D3 and E, both of which are important to mitigating auto immune diseases.

The APPPA study also discovered that the pasture raised chicken contained an omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio of 5:1 while the standard 6:3 ratio for conventionally raised chicken is 15:1 (source). This is important because recent research suggest that foods containing large amounts of omega 6’s (e.g. vegetable oils & fast food) could lead to inflammatory disease like cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and more (source).

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After looking at the preliminary evidence, I have reached a verdict: pasture raised chicken is nutritional superior. Yes, a pasture raised chicken from the store or a local farmer could cost 2-3 times more than a conventionally raised chicken, but like the old saying goes “You get what you pay for.” If chicken is one of your primary protein sources, and you are interested in optimizing your nutrition, you may want to think about forking over the extra dough.

If you’re a regular consumer of pasture raised chicken, I’d love to hear some of your go to recipes. One of my favorite recipes that uses chicken, pasture raised or not, is chicken pot pie soup (recipe link). I skip the pie crust and do my best to use gluten-free ingredients, but I highly recommed you do yourself a favor and make it tonight! Feel free to send a pic of your delicious chicken 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – Looks like Popeye was Right

I had a stout aversion to any green vegetables growing up. I don’t know if it’s a phase all kids go through, but the idea of eating peas, broccoli or kale made me physically ill. My parents gave up trying to incorporate green veggies into my diet after an unfortunate “messy” situation at the kitchen table. Those scarring experiences are probably why my parents, and other relatives, are still astonished when they see me pile green veggies on my plate nowadays.

One such green veggie that seems to make it into my diet on a daily basis is spinach. To be honest with you, I actually have to limit how much spinach I eat. It’s not because I’m prone to kidney stones, which the oxalates in spinach can contribute to, it’s because Shannon and I eat so much that we’d have to buy a new container multiple times a week. If you listened to this week’s Addicted to Fitness (episode link) you’d know that we buy it organically grown since the conventionally grown version contains high pesticide levels. I’d hate to go broke over spinach, but its health benefits are so prolific that its worth spending a little extra cash.

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I’m sure you’ve heard some of the major health benefits that spinach provides: high in numerous water & fat soluble vitamins (K, A, B6, Folate), minerals (magnesium, copper, iron) and fiber. What you may not be aware of are the potential health benefits of its “lesser” known micronutrients.

Spinach happens to be one of the richest sources of chlorophyll (substance that makes it green) on the planet, which means it’s also one of the richest sources of thylakoids. Recent research using spinach extract containing high levels of thylakoids has been shown to delay stomach emptying, decrease levels of hunger-related hormones and increase levels of satiety-related hormones. This research suggests that spinach extracts may be a viable treatment method for obesity and type 2 diabetes (source). In addition to its numerous health benefits, the mild taste of spinach makes it a welcome addition to a variety of dishes.

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Naturally I incorporate spinach into any salad I make, but the one meal that I always add spinach to that may come as a surprise to some is my homemade smoothie. Vegetable and fruit smoothies are a great way to add more dark leafy greens into your diet. My go-to recipe includes:

  • A big handful of spinach
  • 1/3 cup of blueberries
  • 1/3 cup of strawberries
  • 3 tbsp of Collagen Hydrolysate protein powder
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon & turmeric

I don’t think I’ve found a dish that I wouldn’t add spinach too. Even though I haven’t tried it in a dessert, I’m certain I wouldn’t turn down a bowl of spinach ice cream. Please feel free to share your favorite spinach recipe in the comment section below or email them to us at elementaltampa@gmail.com. You can also share pics of your delicious spinach meals on our Facebook page. Click here and post away!