nutrients

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 – 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 – 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 – The Raw Bar May Have What You Need to Live a Happier Life

Before I became immersed in health & fitness, I spent a significant amount of time working in bivalve aquaculture.

For all of you who are wondering what bivalve aquaculture is, it’s essentially the captive breeding of shellfish like clams, oysters and/or scallops for either species restoration or commercial purposes. Sounds a lot like agriculture right? Well that’s because it is.

Aquaculturists create “seeds” by spawning mature animals, caring for and feeding the immature “seeds” until they are big enough to be “planted” in a body of water, where they can further develop. This prior experience taught me the importance of shellfish, not only to our environment, but also to our health.

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Shellfish are truly some of the most nutritious foods on the planet. I’ve been lucky enough to have access to a lot of fresh shellfish in my life, but temporal and geographic limitations can make that an impossibility for many people.

That’s why canned shellfish, like whole cherrystone clams from Trader Joe’s, are a godsend. I enjoyed the canned clams in a salad but you could always to do a low-carb version of linguine and clams by using zucchini noodles.

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The can pictured above contains 1g of fat, 2g of carbs and 12g of protein. These canned clams also contain almost 40% of our recommended daily allowance of iron, a significant amount of vitamin B12 and several other hard to get minerals.

According to a prominent nutrition specialist (who I’ll get into more about in a minute), these nutritional benefits can also prevent several chronic health conditions that are affecting more and more people each year.

Functional medicine practitioner and ancestral nutrition expert Chris Kresser outlined in a recent episode of his podcast (link) that nutrients in clams and oysters, particularly zinc and several B vitamins, can help prevent health conditions like anxiety and depression. He even suggests that those on mostly plant-based diets should consider having two servings of shellfish like clams and oysters a week because their diets are usually deficient in the previously mentioned nutrients.

Even though I agree with this recommendation based on potential health benefits and bivalves perceived inability to suffer (no brain or central nervous system), I’m not going to tell people what they should and should not eat. I want people to be as a healthy as possible, but individuals’ dietary choices are their own. I’m simply here to provide you with knowledge about certain foods that you may not have been aware of. What you do with that knowledge is your decision.

If you are someone that incorporates animal protein into your diet, consider adding canned clams or oysters to your grocery list. If you are already a fan these shellfish feel free to send your favorite recipes to elementaltampa@gmail.com. If there is anyone out there with a oyster Rockefeller recipe, please send it my way!

What’s on the Menu – They’re Not Just For Dipping

I don’t know why but it seems like every casual dining restaurant has the same six appetizers. Doesn’t matter if you are at an Applebee’s, Bennigans, or TGIFriday’s, the “starters” portion of the menu usually contains wings, mozzarella sticks, chips & salsa and one particular item that contains today’s menu spotlight. I highly doubt they know that the artichoke dip they sell contains one of the most powerful cancer fighting foods on the planet.

Even though artichoke’s presence on casual dining menus is most likely a happy accident, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the nutritional benefits of this vegetable. One medium size artichoke (about 120g) contains nearly 25% of our recommended daily allowance (RDA) for fiber. It is also contains a significant amount of folate and vitamin K which are especially important to expectant mothers (source). All these nutrients are great, but the purpose of this blog is to highlight the cancer fighting properties of artichokes.

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One of the reasons why cancer cells propagate is due to oxidation which is caused by a build up of free radicals in our body. In order to reduce the negative effects of oxidation, our body produces antioxidants and we acquire them from the food & drinks we consume. Artichokes just happen to contain some of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet. Cynarin, rutin and the other antioxidants from artichokes have been shown to reduce the cell growth of certain forms of cancer in clinical studies (source). You should put THAT fun fact on your menu Cheddar’s!

I doubt that if you combine artichokes with cheese and mayo like those restaurant appetizers do that you’ll get the same health benefits as just grilling them. Shannon and I have used them recently to make a delicious Tuscan Chicken Skillet meal, that I contend wouldn’t be the same without the artichokes. Send us your go to artichoke recipes and don’t forget to include pictures. You can always reach us on social media or send us an email at elementaltampa@gmail.com.

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What’s on the Menu

This week’s menu highlight features another one of my wife’s awesome culinary creations. The dish below combines shrimp, spinach, mushrooms and spaghetti squash in an olive oil, butter sauce to produce a fantastic weekday dinner. Not only does this meal’s caloric breakdown match my desired macronutrient intake (60% fat, 25% carbs, 15% protein), the spaghetti squash produces far less of an insulin response than its similarly named refined carb doppelgänger. I’m not really into counting calories but if you are, spaghetti squash has 20 calories per cup compared to pasta’s 100. It also contains 24 less grams of carbohydrates than pasta and is full of important vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, B and folate (source). It may take a little longer to prepare than pasta, but the end product is much more flavorful and better for you. Even though these fruits, yes they’re fruits, are harvested in the fall, you can still get them at the grocery store into winter and early spring. Grab one on your next trip to the grocery store and send us some pics of your spaghetti squash creations.

How to prepare spaghetti squash

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Cut spaghetti squash lengthwise
  • Scoop out seeds
  • Drizzle with cut side with olive oil & salt
  • Place cut side down on baking sheet
  • Cook for approximately 45 minutes

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What’s on the Menu

There is a food craze going on that may seem new, but is in fact as old as time. This particular food item can be found in high end restaurants AND in the middle of the Serengeti. Celebrity chef, TV host and all-around badass Anthony Bourdin calls it “God’s Butter.” Shannon likes to call it “meat jelly.” I just call it DELICIOUS! If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about bone marrow. This often overlooked culinary delight can be found inside the bones of ruminants (cow, deer, etc.) and for the longest time was discarded by most Americans in the late 20th century & early 21st century. It seems like we’ve finally discovered the richness, in both nutrition and taste, of this somewhat forgotten food item. One ounce of beef bone marrow contains nearly 15g of fat (mostly monounsaturated), 2g of protein and 140 calories. It also contains important sources of fat soluble vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron (source). The exact amounts of these nutrients is hard to find but it’s believed that consuming bone marrow can improve gut health and even help treat individuals with cancer (source). I’m not quite prepared to call bone marrow the next miracle treatment for cancer, but I am willing to order it every time I see it on the menu.

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Bone Marrow starter from Edison Food+Drink Lab