Category: "Healthy Fats"

How Chia Seeds Can Benefit Your Health

February 7th, 2014 | no comments

Do you remember those silly commercials years ago featuring the chia pet? You know, those terracotta figurines in the shape of different animals that grew sprouts similar to alfalfa sprouts? Fast forward twenty years and it turns out those sprouted seeds—called none other than chia seeds—are actually little nutrition powerhouses!

One ounce of chia seeds (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals. They are a great source of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (an even better source of omega-3’s than flaxseeds). They have a mild, nutty flavor and can be added to beverages, mixed in hot cereal or cold cereal, stirred into yogurt or even added to vegetable or rice dishes.

How will eating chia seeds benefit you? Omega-3 fatty acids are important for a healthy brain and heart and fiber is essential for a healthy digestive track. Add to that the high antioxidant level of chia seeds, which can help protect you from certain cancers! Oh…one more thing– when added to liquid, the chia seed forms a high fiber gel that can help you feel full longer.

Pick up a bag of chia seeds at your local grocery store or whole foods store today and bring on the benefits!

Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars

Makes 8 bars
30 minutes or fewer
  • 1 ½ cups pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup raw unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup whole chia seeds, such as ReNew Life Ultimate ChiaLife
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract, optional
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract, optional
  • 1 cup raw slivered almonds or raw shelled pistachios
  • Oat flour for dusting, optional
  1. Place dates in bowl of food processor; purée until thick paste forms. Add cocoa powder, chia seeds, and vanilla and almond extracts, if using. Pulse until all ingredients are combined. Add almonds; pulse until nuts are finely chopped and well distributed through date mixture.
  2. Spread large sheet of wax paper on work surface, and dust with oat flour, if using. Transfer date mixture to wax paper, and use paper to press mixture into ½-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap tightly, and chill overnight.
  3. Unwrap block, and cut into 8 bars. Dust edges and sides with oat flour, if using, to prevent sticking. Rewrap each bar in wax paper.

(Source: Vegetarian Times)

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A Healthier Granola

October 13th, 2013 | no comments

 

When you think granola, do you instantly think “healthy”? Don’t be fooled. While oats and nuts are typically the base of granola, sugar (in the form of white sugar, brown sugar, honey or agave nectar) is also found in larger than necessary quantities—some brands having as much sugar as a Hershey’s candy bar! Not so healthy. This is why I stay away from store-bought granola and make my own. Below, you will find my favorite recipe!

I’ve omitted the dried fruit and reduced the sweetener to cut back on sugar and honestly…this recipe is so tasty I don’t miss either one! It’s loaded with healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, low in sodium and sugar, and rich in fiber and protein. Did I mention tasty?

Note that because it contains nuts, it’s also generous on the calories. Keep your portions small (1/4 – 1/2 cup) and you won’t have to worry!

Some of my favorite ways to use granola:

  • Eat plain as a snack (portion ¼ cup servings into snack-size baggies)
  • Mix into yogurt
  • Sprinkle over fruit or sweet potatoes
  • Add as a topping to ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Eat as a cereal
  • Make your own fruit and yogurt parfait!

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Healthy & Easy Granola
Prep Time: 10 min; Total Time: 25 min; Serves: 6

Ingredients

2 cups rolled oats
½ cup unsalted nuts, chopped (almonds, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, macadamia, or cashews)
¼ cup unsalted seeds (sunflower or pumpkin seeds)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup or honey
2 tbsp safflower oil
½ tsp vanilla extract or almond extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, tossing well to coat. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until very lightly toasted. Cool before serving or storing. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Serving size: ½ cup

Nutrition Facts per serving: Calories: 260; Total Fat: 15 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Sodium: 0 mg;
Total Carbohydrate: 27 grams; Dietary Fiber: 5 grams; Sugars: 7 grams (Average granola has 12 grams of sugar per ½ cup serving); Protein: 7 grams

Not sweet enough? Add one extra tablespoon of honey or maple syrup! Caution—this will bump up the sugar to 10 grams per serving.

 

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5 Things to do with flaxseeds

August 28th, 2013 | no comments

flaxseedFlaxseeds are tiny seeds resembling sesame seeds. They are a good source of fiber, manganese, magnesium, vitamin B1 and the essential omega 3-fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They are also rich in lignans—estrogen-like chemical compounds with antioxidant qualities.

If you’ve never tried them, you’re missing out on their many health benefits, including: protection from cancer, lowering cholesterol, preventing hot flashes and improving blood sugar.

So what do you do with them? Well, first you want to make sure you’re eating them in the ground/milled form because your body has difficulty digesting the whole seed. Your local grocery store most likely sells them in both forms. Here are some simple ways to get you eating more flax in no time:

  1. Stir into your jar of peanut butter.
    Don’t you just hate having to stir your peanut butter? The oil gets all over the place and makes a mess! Of course I’m talking natural peanut butter, where “peanuts” (and maybe salt) are the only ingredient. I found that if I mix a little ground flaxseed into the jar, it soaks up the oil! Give it a try…just be sure to refrigerate after mixing.
  2. Sprinkle over oatmeal.
    Just a couple of tablespoons will add extra fiber to your already fiber-rich oats.
  3. Blend into smoothies.
    I always like to add a little healthy fat to my smoothies for “staying power.” Sometimes I use peanut butter. Sometimes I use flaxseeds. Sometimes I use both!
  4. Use as a coating for fish or chicken.
    Just substitute for breadcrumbs and you have a healthier alternative to breading.
  5. Make banana bread!
    Have some over-ripe bananas? Bake them into a delicious Flax Banana Bread! Here’s my favorite recipe:

Flax Banana Bread

½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup low-fat buttermilk
¼ cup fat-free egg substitute
3 Tbsp canola oil
¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup ground flaxseed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup pureed ripe bananas
________________________

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a nonstick 8×4 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
2. Whisk together sugar, buttermilk, egg substitute and oil.
3. In a medium bowl, mix the flours, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Don’t over mix.
5. Stir in bananas and pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Allow the pan to cool slightly, then remove the loaf from pan.

Enjoy!

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Fat-free = Blah!

July 9th, 2013 | no comments

yuckDid you know the term “fat-free” doesn’t necessarily equal “healthy.” When fat is removed from a food, it’s often replaced with sugar or salt. The number of total calories in a fat-free product might actually be higher than in something that has fat. Not to mention the flavor of some of these foods is downright unnatural and offensive! Ever taste fat-free cheese? Yuck! Not only does it not melt, you know something’s extra-wrong when your cat (who adores cheese) won’t touch it!

Fat lends flavor and satiety (‘staying power’) to food, so if your meals are lacking it you’ll most likely feel unsatisfied. I rarely if ever look at the fat content of food. What’s more important to me is the amount of trans fat and saturated fat in the product. I try to shoot for less than 1-2 grams of saturated fat per serving when possible and NO trans fats (including no partially hydrogenated oils, hydrogenated oils or shortening in the ingredients). Of course there are certain foods that I refuse to compromise on, like cheese. And because you’re allowed a certain amount of saturated fat in your diet (no more than 16 grams per day) I save mine for some real cheese every night.

Naturally fat-free foods—fruits (except avocados), vegetables, beans and natural whole grains like brown rice,  millet and quinoa—are tasty and nutritious and contain no added salt or sugar. It’s the processed foods you’ll want to be cautious of (fat-free salad dressings, low-fat cookies, reduced-fat peanut butter, fat-free chips, etc.) Another reason to make one-ingredient foods the bulk of your diet! In other words…eat more earth foods!

Bottom line: If the low-fat/fat-free version contains no more sodium or sugar than the original version and there aren’t any added fat-replacement ingredients like emulsifiers or flavoring agents AND you don’t mind the taste difference (because there absolutely WILL be a taste difference)…then go for it!

PS: It’s worth it to go fat-free with milk and yogurt. The extra fat is literally skimmed from the product and nothing is added in its place. A large percentage of this fat is indeed saturated, so not only do you NOT need it, your heart will thank you for making the switch! If you’re having trouble switching to a lower fat milk or yogurt, buy one gallon or carton of each and mix together, gradually phasing out the higher fat version.

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Eat these fats instead of these

May 13th, 2013 | no comments

fatA diet rich in saturated fat can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol level, which can block healthy blood flow to your heart and brain, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Good cholesterol, called HDL cholesterol, acts like a broom, carrying cholesterol away from your arteries and back to your liver for disposal.

Since your body makes saturated fat, you don’t need to eat it, but it’s hard to avoid, because it’s in so many foods—even healthy ones like peanuts and walnuts. To keep your heart and brain healthy, the American Heart Association says to eat less than 7% of total calories from saturated fat—that’s 16 grams for a 2000 calorie diet. Eat 9 chicken wings and 1 slice of pepperoni pizza for dinner and you’re already there!  Two easy ways to put a limit on saturated fat is by eating less cheese and fatty cuts of beef.  Here are some other saturated fat-rich foods to eat only occasionally and healthier alternatives to enjoy instead:

healthy fat

The bottom line on saturated fat:  There’s room for saturated fat in your diet—but if your goal is to build a healthy body for life, you would be wise to watch. It’s not about restriction, but rather treating your body with the respect that it deserves. So for example, if you love real cream in your morning cup of coffee, you might want to use skim or 1% milk in your cereal instead of 2% or whole. It’s that simple!

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A Healthier alternative to butter…without sacrificing taste

December 26th, 2012 | no comments

Have you ever tried making a grilled cheese sandwich with fat free butter, or even worse…cooking spray?! It just doesn’t work. Fat plays a very important role in food. Not only does it add flavor, but it also aids in the browning process of foods.

But maybe your cholesterol is a little high and your doctor advised you to cut back on saturated fat-rich foods like fatty cuts of meat, lard, cheese, whole milk, cream and yes…butter (over half of the fat in butter is saturated.) Does this mean you have to crack open that tub of fat free butter again? Heck no!

Enter…Earth Balance Spread with Olive Oil! I stumbled upon it at my local grocery store last year and have been a fan ever since. This tasty alternative to butter will have you saving 5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon! Make no mistake about it, Earth Balance isn’t a low-fat spread— so you’ll still want to mind your portions—but you won’t sacrifice flavor or the “browning” factor. The best part…your grilled cheese will actually taste like grilled cheese!

For more information on Earth Balance products (including soymilk, mayonnaise and nut butter), visit: http://www.earthbalancenatural.com/products/

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10 Simple steps to control your cholesterol

February 14th, 2012 | no comments

Remember, it’s the simple lifestyle changes you make and repeat on a daily basis that offer the best results. If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, don’t accept it, do something about it! Here are 10 high-impact ideas to get you on the road to lower cholesterol and a healthier heart. Pick one, get started and repeat!

  1. Read food labels for trans fats! Stay away from foods with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. (Warning: Trans fats raise your LDL cholesterol (that’s the “bad” one) and lower your HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.
  2. Choose heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. For a snack, grab a small handful of peanuts instead of potato chips or snack mix.
  3. Eat omega-3 fatty acids! Include fatty fish like salmon or tuna two times per week. If you’re not a fan, include walnuts or ground flaxseeds as part of your meals and snacks. Mix walnuts in your oatmeal, sprinkle flaxseeds on your salad or mix in your yogurt.
  4. Watch high fat dairy products. To save on saturated fat, go for skim or 1% milk instead of 2% or whole. If you eat cheese, keep the portions small (1 ounce of hard cheese = 4 stacked dice).
  5. Forget fried! Replace fried chicken and other breaded and fried foods with grilled or baked ones. Don’t forget to remove the skins on meats!
  6. Eat an apple a day. Soluble fiber, found in oats, apples and beans, decreases cholesterol absorption.
  7. Go whole grain. Order your sandwich or wrap on whole grain bread or in a whole grain tortilla.
  8. Trade in your butter or margarine. Spreads like Benecol or Smart Balance contain phytosterols, groups of naturally occurring compounds found in plant cell membranes. They are similar in structure to your body’s cholesterol, so when eaten they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As you might have guessed, this action blocks cholesterol’s absorption and in return lowers your blood cholesterol levels!
  9. Eat breakfast every day…and make it oatmeal (for more soluble fiber!)
  10. Move your body! Start with just 15 minutes, three days each week and build from there.

You heard me! Pick one, get started and repeat!

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Eat fat, get lean

September 13th, 2011 | no comments

healthy fatYou can’t live fat-free. Your body and brain require fat to survive! Besides, fat is NOT the enemy…if you’re choosing the right kind.

The other day, I watched a woman at a restaurant turn her nose up at a perfectly healthy spinach salad because it had walnuts in it. “It’s too fatty”, she said. I wanted to say: “Are you kidding me? Walnuts are one of the healthiest foods you can find!” I refrained from going over to her table and giving her a nutrition lesson, but I must admit it made me a bit sad to watch her deny her body of such a good food, all because of fat.

Eating a balanced diet (with small amounts of smart, healthy fat), not only protects your heart, but also helps you eat less! This is especially important for successful, long-term weight control. To prove my point, try eating a handful of dried fruit (like raisins or apricots) by itself. Not very satisfying is it? Now, try mixing some peanuts, walnuts or almonds with that dried fruit and see how you feel. My guess is that you’ll actually feel like you ate something! That’s because fat slows digestion, so it keeps your hunger at bay a little while longer and you end up eating fewer calories overall.

Where did the fat-fearing restaurant patron go wrong? She wasn’t looking at the type of fat in the walnut, and that’s key because not all fats are created equal. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are “smart fats” . Both lower your total and LDL cholesterol and promote healthy blood flow to your heart and brain. Nuts get a special mention because they’re a good source of both mono and polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects your memory.

According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids benefit the hearts of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. They are the building blocks of your brain cells and are considered essential fatty acids. Because your body can’t make them, you have no choice but to get them from food. Fish have the most “user-friendly” omega 3 fatty acids (in the form of DHA and EPA), but if you don’t like it you can still benefit from non-seafood sources of omega 3’s (in the form of ALA) like walnuts.

“SMART FATS”:

  • Monounsaturated fats: Avocados, canola oil, nuts, olive oil, olives, peanut oil, seeds and sunflower oil

  • Polyunsaturated fats: Corn oil, most nuts and seeds, safflower oil, omega 3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA rich: herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna; ALA-rich: canola, flaxseed and soybean oils, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, tofu, walnuts, omega 3 fatty acid-enriched eggs)

Remember not all fats are created equal, so choose any of the “smart fats” from above, but just be sure to keep your portions in check. Too much of even a good thing can wreck havoc on your waistline. One portion of healthy fat is equal to:

  • 1 teaspoon of oil
  • 1/2 oz of nuts or seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of nut butter
  • 1/2 medium avocado
  • 8 large olives
  • 3 ounces of fatty fish

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Don’t fear the avocado

September 13th, 2011 | no comments

I used to avoid avocados because of their high fat content, but then I learned that the fat in an avocado is mostly monounsaturated, a type of fat that protects your heart!

A member of the fruit family, a one ounce serving of avocado (about 2-3 thin slices or 2 tablespoons mashed), contains nearly 20 vitamins and minerals and only 50 calories. Yes, it’s high in fat- 4.5 grams per serving, but only 0.5 grams of it is saturated. Compare that to:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter: 204 calories; 23 grams of fat; 15 grams of saturated fat
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream: 50 calories; 5 grams of fat; 3 grams of saturated fat
  • 1 ounce of cheddar cheese: 114 calories; 9.4 grams of fat; 6 grams of saturated fat

To seed an avocado, simply cut it lengthwise around the entire seed and rotate both halves to separate. To remove the seed, slide a spoon underneath and gently lift out. Place the cut side down and peel the skin off using a knife or your fingers.

Here are two easy ways you can start enjoying the heart healthy benefits of avocados today:

  1. Top your sandwich with a few avocados slices instead of cheese
  2. Can that chip dip and whip up a batch of homemade guacamole in less than 10 minutes!

 

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