Peanut Butter Goodness…

Filed under :Food Hypes, Health promoting

A food paste or spread made by grinding roasted peanuts (as the dictionary defines it). It is know to have a relatively high level of fat and consequently is a high calorie food. It’s important to remember though that it provides protein, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and other micronutrients!

I believe that every person has one food obsession (some may have more than one ;)) Peanut butter is my little secret. When I heard that one of my favorite trainers also has a small affair with this creamy (or chunky) treat, I had to dedicate a post to it.  In our workouts my trainer would tell us her stories and encounters with peanut butter which I find to be very amusing…

Even though it’s high content of saturated fats, peanut butter is considered to be a relatively healthy food.  There has been some research done on peanuts and peanut butter which I found to be very interesting and would like to share some of the information with you.

Numerous clinical trials suggest that nut consumption promotes little or no weight gain.  This has been replicated with peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. This may be due to its strong satiety properties, and evoke strong energy compensation.

One study showed that there is limited bio-accessibility of the peanuts due to inefficient mastication and digestion.  This loss of energy likely contributes to the less than predicted effect of nut consumption on body weight (International Journal of Obesity, 2008).

Peanut butter contains fiber that helps regulate blood sugars levels (It is a low glycemic food), proteins are present in relatively high amounts (about 24% in weight), together with very important micro-nutrients such as Vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin B3 – helps in recovery of cell DNA damage, magnesium, and potassium.  Now about its fat content…Over 80% of the fat in peanut butter is unsaturated, which is heart healthy and, as with all plant foods, peanut butter contains no cholesterol!

The peanut butter that I’m talking about is the natural kind.  When you buy peanut butter at the grocery store look at the ingredients.  If it contains more than 2-3 ingredients you should rule it out. The more natural the peanut butter the more nutrients you will get out of it.  To get the most natural peanut butter I would suggest buying it in whole foods, or even making it at home.  All you need is peanuts and a food processor.

As with every food obsession, it is hard to control its consumption – It takes willpower for me to put away the container.  The recommended serving size for peanut butter is 2 tablespoons.  As with any other food, consuming too much is not “ok” because it’s considered a healthy food.  Moderating will give you a small indulgence with a lot of benefits!


The misconception of the B-complex vitamins and energy!

Filed under :Exercise, Food Hypes

The B-complex vitamins are very often associated with energy.  Any supplement or sports drink that contains the B-complex vitamins promises an increase in energy and performance, this is not quite true though!

The truth about the B vitamins is that they are cofactors in various enzymes in the metabolic pathways that produce energy from protein, carbohydrates, and/or fat.  That is the B vitamins are required by the body for the metabolism of these macronutrients for the body’s utilization for cell function.

This is why it is often mistaken (combined with the false claim on the bottles) as a supplement for energy!

Theoretically, exercise may increase or alter the need for B-complex vitamins in several ways.  Exercise stresses many of the metabolic pathways that require these micronutrients.  Exercise training may result in muscle biochemical adaptation that increase micronutrient need.  Exercise may also increase the turnover of these micronutrients, increasing their loss from the body.  Finally, higher intakes of micronutrients may be required to cover increased needs for the repair and maintenance of lean tissue.

So… do active people have higher need for the B-complex vitamins?

Exercise may slightly increase the need for some of the B-complex vitamins by one to two times the current RDA, but this increase need can generally be met by the higher energy intake required to maintain body weight!

Combining dieting for weight loss and exercise may increase the need for these vitamins.  Vitamins supplementation is recommended for active people who consume low energy diets or diets high in processed foods, or who restrict dietary intake of fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.

Currently there is no data available to support improved exercise performance in people who supplement with B-complex vitamins!

If you are trying to get more energy or improve your exercise performance, you should eat a well balanced diet and get lots of sleep!


The “Soy Scare”

Filed under :Food Hypes

You may love it, hate it, or be scared of it.  I will try to make some sense out of this product to make it more clear for all the people out there that enjoy it, or would love to try it, feeling safe doing it.

When you search the web with the keyword “soy” in your search engine you will get numerous articles, forums, and recipes.  Many of these articles may say that soy is one of those super foods, while others will disappoint you with their negativity and bad reputation of soy.

The truth is that soy is not horrible; instead it is a great product.  Some soy products that you may be familiar with are: soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, edamame. It may be also added to many other foods.

One of the biggest assumptions of soy products is that they contain molecules that mimic the female hormone, and therefore men may be scared of it (“may grow breasts”) while women feel like it will disrupt their menstrual cycles.

Estrogen is one of the female sex hormones.  Isoflavones are compounds found in plants that act like estrogens.  Soy is one of those plants that contain isoflavones.  In one study conducted on 34 healthy women (median age 36) the portions were randomized to 40mg or 140mg isoflavones daily for each woman through one menstrual cycle. The result of this study was that they didn’t find any estrogenic effect (Nutrition & cancer, 2009).  The bottom line is that if you occasionally eat soy products (not in a very concentrated form) they will most likely not alter your menstrual cycle and men will not start growing breast tissue.

Due to its high protein and low cholesterol content, soy can be used as a meal replacement or dietary component in weight loss.  There are many studies that support the association of soy consumption and lower body weight.  One study assessed lifetime soy consumption and body mass index (BMI) among 1,418 women.  This 5 year study concluded that higher soy consumption in adulthood was related to lower BMI (European Journal of Nutrition, 2007). It is not clear though whether the source of dietary protein plays a role in the regulation of food intake and body weight, or other potential mechanisms (reduction of appetite, increase in satiety, or glycemic control).

There are actually international soy conferences in which scientists from around the world come together to review their research and new finding about soy.  Some clinical evidence for the health benefits of soy that they mention are: helps lower cholesterol (now a well known fact), cognitive function, anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory effects, as well as many other benefits.

When you do your web search you may find all kinds of posts about soy, much of it warnings about its horrible consequences for the thyroid, the brain – you name it. What you won’t find is much of anything resembling solid proof for these claims. There may be some negative aspects to soy, such as allergies (as can be with many other foods) or other compounds that may play a small role on the body, but working some of it into your diet is probably okay, particularly if it’s replacing red meat. Swapping soy-based foods for meat means trading a source of saturated fat and cholesterol for one with polyunsaturated fat, fiber, and some healthful vitamins and minerals almost always a good nutrition deal.  But as with anything, you should not over do it, always remember to keep a well balanced diet, with a variety of foods!


Dietary supplements-Vitamins and minerals…

Filed under :Food Hypes, Health promoting

Dietary supplements – a very confusing and mysterious subject for many.  People might use supplements for a number of different reasons.  Some top reasons may be to: improve overall health, prevent/cure a disease, or because they heard about it from family/friend/media, etc. Majority of people believes that even if they are not using dietary supplements now they should start using them. The reason behind this is that people think that supplements are a part of a healthy lifestyle, or are necessary to maintain good health. However, this kind of philosophy is not very accurate.

The following are some reasons why you should be using dietary supplements: if you are trying to conceive, are pregnant, have a food restriction (e.g. vegetarian, don’t eat milk products, restricting calorie intake, etc), or are an elderly person. For healthy adults who eat a healthy diet with a variety of foods there should be no need to be consuming dietary supplements. I personally see it as a pure waste of money.

As an example, let’s look at vitamin C.  Did you know you can get your daily recommended dosage of vitamin C from eating just one orange (as well as many other fruits or veggies)?  Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin; therefore any extra that your body doesn’t need it will dispose of through urine (the same applies to the B-complex vitamins). Too much vitamin C (over 10,000mg in one serving) can actually be toxic to the body and have a free radical-like effect.

The dietary supplements are not evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – therefore, there is basically no regulation of the manufacturing and the claims that are made on the supplements.  If you decide to use a dietary supplement after all, always choose one that has been at least tested by a “Third Party Evaluation” (independent testing to evaluate quality control issues such as: labeling accuracy, purity, strength, and ability to dissolve). Here are some reliable links to “Third Party Evaluation” (much of the information found online is misleading and incorrect, however these are authoritative sources).

If your body is deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral it will have a tendency to absorb it even better (from the food you eat).  If you are already getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals that your body needs (from food) it will usually decrease absorption of these substances.  Therefore, by taking extra vitamins and minerals in the form of dietary supplements there is a great chance that your body will not absorb all those exaggerated quantities. As a side note, when these supplements are made in factories the manufacturers try to compress as much as possible into one pill to make it as small as possible in order to make it easier for a consumer to swallow. This compression decreases the likelihood that the pill will dissolve in the stomach and get absorbed in the intestine. Alternatively, consuming vitamins and minerals from natural sources will result in better absorption by your body.

In conclusion, you should really focus on eating a healthy diet, including all the “food groups” and trying to get at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day (different colors will give you diverse nutrients).  You should only start supplementing your diet if your health care provider or dietitian suggested you to do so. If you still choose to use supplements, use ones that have been evaluated by a third party and never think that you can substitute a good, healthy diet with supplements. Good diet, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise – are still your best sources for optimal health!

This was just a very general supplement discussion, if you have a question about a specific vitamin, mineral, ergogenic aid, or supplement – please let me know and I will be happy to discuss it.


Recover with Chocolate Milk!

Filed under :Exercise, Food Hypes

Prolonged exercise causes muscle glycogen depletion(Glycogen = the storage form of carbohydrates in the body). Therefore it is very important to consume carbohydrates immediately after the exercise.  Consuming protein in addition to carbohydrates has been shown to positively affect glycogen storage. The protein also helps repair muscle tissue following the exercise.

Many people believe that protein is the only critical nutrient for sport and exercise, and that they need to consume huge amounts of it following an exercise session.  However, protein is not the only nutrient needed in sports.  Athletes do need more protein than lesser active people or people with sedentary lifestyles – although, the difference in recommended protein portions for each is much smaller then what most believe it to be.

The timing of protein and carbohydrate intake may be more important than the total amount of protein consumed. Consuming several small doses of protein within the 2 hours of postexercise is more beneficial for building muscle mass.

Chocolate milk has both carbohydrates and protein, and it could potentially be used as a post exercise recovery aid.  It seems to have just the right ratio of carbohydrates to protein for recovery.  The proper ratio of carbohydrates to protein is what’s going to make your recovery ideal.

Recently, there have been several research studies of consuming chocolate milk post exercise. Chocolate milk was compared to sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade, PowerAde, etc), energy drinks (i.e. Red Bull, Monster, etc), and protein shakes.  Chocolate milk was shown to serve as the quickest and best recovery drink, without spending a fortune on all of the commercially available sports/performance drink products.

I think it tastes the best too!


Salt, Sodium, and Electrolytes?

Filed under :Exercise, Food Hypes, Health promoting

This post is a follow up to my previous post about the adequate consumption of water.  It was brought up that salt is also necessary for fluid balance.  In this post I would like to clear the confusion over the salt, sodium, and electrolytes – and fluid balance.

Salt, sodium, and electrolytes – all basically mean the same thing.  Salt consists of sodium and chloride ions connected in a bond (sodium chloride), when dissolved in water they separate into sodium and chloride ions.  Electrolytes are basically ions in a liquid.  Sodium is a type of an electrolyte. Potassium, chloride, and calcium ions are other examples of electrolytes.  Salt/sodium/electrolytes are necessary to maintain a variety of critical functions in the body.  Overconsumption of salt (sodium or electrolytes) can increase the risk of health problems, such as high blood pressure.

To maintain fluid balance, the body needs more than just water.  Electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium ions (as well as other small molecules) all play an important role in fluid balance.  We must consume electrolytes in food and beverages in order to maintain fluid balance on a daily basis.

Exercise increases the loss of water and electrolytes from the body, especially sodium (the loss of the other electrolytes is very low).  The goal of drinking fluids during exercise is to: maintain plasma and electrolyte volume, prevent abnormal elevation in heart rate and core body temperature, as well as to provide “fuel” to the working muscles.

During an endurance exercise, fluid intake should match or exceed sweat loss (especially in hot environments). During an exercise lasting longer than one hour fluids containing both carbohydrates and electrolytes should be consumed.  The carbohydrates provide energy during exercise, while the sodium replaces lost electrolytes.

After an exercise, the goal of rehydration is to replace the water and electrolytes lost that occurred during the exercise.  In general, athletes can replace water and electrolytes by consuming adequate water and food throughout the recovery period.

Sodium improves fluid retention in the body, while carbohydrates enhance intestinal uptake of sodium and water and help replace muscle glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in the body).

One way to increase sodium and fluid intakes is to use a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink before, during, and after exercise.  These beverages provide low amounts of sodium, increase total fluid intake, and provide additional energy in the form of carbohydrates.

I hope I was able to make the “salt/sodium/electrolyte” functionality more clear, as well as explain how it relates to fluid balance.  If you have any further comments or questions, please let me know! 🙂


8 Cups of Water a Day? Says Who?

Filed under :Food Hypes

Everybody knows that you are supposed to drink 8 cups of water a day, but nobody seems to know where this disclaimer came from.  It turns out that there is not a specific source, or research done to prove that indeed the correct recommendation for the amount of water that you should drink in one day is 8 cups (64oz.).

The recommendation may differ based on the individual.  The body has an intricate way of regulating body water-through the stimulation of thirst and through regulation of fluid losses through the kidneys.

In hot environments the water consumption should almost double, while in strenuous work or during exercise the fluid intake should triple.  Therefore, it is incorrect to suggest for everyone to drink 8 cups of water per day.  You many need less or more, depending on the circumstances.

The best way to determine the amount of water that you need is to listen to your own body and its thirst mechanism.  You should also monitor your fluid output (e.g. volume of urine).  When exercising, you can weigh yourself before and after and the difference on the scale will be mainly the water that you lost.

You should always learn to listen to your body – it is the best determinant and not just some health claim without a source.


“Vitamin D” milk?

Filed under :Food Hypes

Did you ever buy Whole milk because it says on the package that it has vitamin D? Some people may  even call it Vitamin D milk.

If you look closely at the food labels of the “vitamin D” milk comparing it with a food label of the 2%,1%, or 0% fat milks, you many notice that all contain the same amount of Vitamin D, which is about 25%.

Well, many will argue that because there is no fat in the skim milk, you will not be able to absorb the vitamin D.  This is also incorrect, because vitamin D is mainly bound to protein (which is the same in all types of milk).  This is how vitamin D is transported in the blood, via vitamin D-binding proteins.

This is simply a HYPE… a marketing strategy… this is why its so important to look at food labels, when deciding what to buy in the grocery store.

If you enjoy drinking whole milk, that’s great! If you are trying to cut down on fat, or calories, you may want to switch to a lower fat, or fat free milk.  The important point here is that you do not have to compromise your nutritional intake of vitamin D, as well as most of the other nutrients, and proteins.