vitamins

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

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

Clever name right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One ingredient and minimally processed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s on the Menu – 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 – Expiration dates need not apply

I’m a huge Anthony Bourdain fan. I know I’ve said it before, but he is my man crush. He’s a badass chef, a killer writer and trains jiu-jitsu nonstop. Besides the decades of substance abuse, I’d definitely want to be him if I could switch bodies for a day. One of the main reason I want Bourdain’s life is he gets to travel the world and eat unique and sometimes unusual cuisine. One such trip, which was documented on this CNN show Parts Unknown, took him to Denmark and the “science bunker” of the often #1 rated restaurant in the world, Noma. There he got to taste numerous food items in various stages of fermentation. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to travel to Denmark to reap the benefits of fermented foods.

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Inside the Noma Science Bunker (pic courtesy of eater.com)

Fermented foods are all the rage nowadays. You can find them at grocery stores, farmers markets and juice bars. You can even find them at baseball stadiums. You may have several fermented foods in your fridge and not even know it. Common fermented foods include: yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, natto and kimchi, which is today’s menu spotlight.

The nutritional value of the vegetables used to make Kimchi are actually enhanced due to the fermentation process. The primary bacteria responsible for Kimchi’s fermentation, Lactobacillus plantarum, not only increases the numerous vitamins and minerals contained in the vegetables, it also increases important bioactive compounds like thiocyanate and glucosinolate. These compounds have been linked to possible treatments for various health conditions such as cancer, obesity and atherosclerosis just to name a few. Kimchi also happens to be a natural probiotic that promotes proper gut health (source). Sounds like a miracle food right? I think it is and what’s even more amazing is that you can make this miracle food at home for next to nothing.

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Making homemade kimchi is so ridiculously easy that I’m pissed at myself that I haven’t done it yet. The only supplies you’ll probably need to invest in are several glass mason jars with screw on lids. Other than that it’s just vegetables and spices. Check out the video below to see how easy it is to prepare (sorry for the commerical).

If you already make your own homemade kimchi, let us know about your recipe. We’d love to share a pic of your delicious fermented veggies on our social media channels. Feel free to send any and all feedback to elementaltampa@gmail.com or reach out to us on social media. We’re not afraid to “fanboy” over the greatness of kimchi in a public forum.

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.

Spinach smoothie

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!

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.