vitamins

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 – 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 – The Whole Food That Gets Invited to Every Party

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

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

A: Because he’s a FUN-GI!

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

Let me know when you stop laughing?

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Image courtesy of suttons.co.uk

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

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

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

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

That’s a call back people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How bout a little thing called summer break.

I rest my case.

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

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

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

I mean it is summer after all.

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

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

Hope to hear from you soon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also take advantage of the complimentary fitness consultations we’re currently offering by emailing us. Whether you need advice on nutrition or just want workout tips, I’d be happy to set up an appointment with you to discuss how you can improve your fitness.

What’s on the Menu – 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.