What is Vinegar?

Filed under :Uncategorized

This post is dedicated to a special person that is confused over vinegar … 😉

Vinegar is prepared by the process of fermentation to cause sugars to break down into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.  During a second fermentation, bacteria assist the alcohol to react with oxygen in the air to form acetic acid (which is the vinegar).  Vinegars range from different percentages of acetic acid (4-9%).  This level of acidity makes vinegar useful in preserving food, as bacteria cannot grow in such strong acid.  The acidity also enhances the flavor of food.  The most popular vinegars are made form grapes, apples, barley, maize, and rice.

Vinegar has no nutritional or caloric values.  Therefore often it is associated with weight loss and dieting.  Some studies even suggest that it can influence satiety! One study looked at the consumption of wheat bread served with vinegar vs. wheat bread served without vinegar by 15 healthy subjects.  The wheat bread with vinegar resulted in significantly higher satiety than the wheat bread meal without vinegar.  This may be explained by increased digestion after ingestion of the bread (Nutritional Journal, 2008). Another study indicates vinegar has the potential of reducing responses of blood glucose and insulin, and increasing the subjective rating of satiety (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005). In conclusion, consuming vinegar with food may increases satiety and reduces the amount of food consumed, hence help in weight loss.

Vinegar does not have any side effects, if consumed in reasonable amounts.  As indicated above it could help in weight management, and possibly help lower blood glucose (treatment for diabetics?).  Due to its acidity it can be used as a preservative, as well as an antibacterial solution.


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!


Energy Demands of Muscles During Exercise!

Filed under :Exercise

All forms of exercise require the activation of skeletal muscles.  To contract muscle fibers require many physiological conditions, such as energy, oxygen, and removal of lactic acid.

For very brief periods, the energy for muscle contraction can be provided by the energy stored within the muscle itself in molecules such as ATP, creatine phosphate (you may have heard of the supplement Creatine), glucose, and glycogen (storage form of glucose).

More prolonged activity requires increased delivery of oxygen and metabolic fuels (such as glucose and fatty acids) to the muscle from other sources.

Contracting muscle cells produce heat and metabolites, including lactic acid and carbon dioxide, which must be carried away in order for the muscle to continue functioning.  If these metabolites are not removed, muscle pain and fatigue can result.

The proportional use of fuels (carbohydrate, fat, and even protein) during exercise depends on the intensity and duration of the activity.  This means that mix fuels used at the beginning is different than the mix used later on (notice I say “mix fuels” because many have the assumption that during exercise we use either glucose, or fat as energy, in reality we use both but at different proportions depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise).

In a very high intensity, short durations, exercise such as sprints the main source of energy is ATP and glucose these are two sources of energy that can be called on quickly-that is, it does not require oxygen.  With longer durations of exercise a greater proportion of ATP is generated through the breakdown of fat (fatty acids)-involves oxygen.

If you are trying to burn more fat when exercising it is usually recommended to do aerobic activities longer than one hour in a moderate intensity.  The reason behind this is if the intensity is too high you will be using a greater proportion of glucose (from blood, muscle, or liver) rather than fatty acids.  In moderate intensity you will be using greater proportion of fatty acids, sparing glucose.  You should do cardio longer than one hour because the longer you work out the greater will be the switch from using glucose as energy to fatty acids.

After a prolonged aerobic activity you should always consume a high glycemic food (refer to my previous post “Sugar Rush”) to recover glycogen stores in the muscles.  By doing so, you will decrease muscle fatigue, as well as you will have more energy for the next time you exercise!


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!