Whole Foods: Everyone’s doing it! (and you should too)

Whole Foods: Everyone’s doing it! (and you should too)

  A few months ago we talked a lot about what is the difference between a Whole Food and a Refined Food. We learned that when foods remain relatively intact from the time they are harvested to the time you pop ’em in your mouth, they are the most supportive to your health. The closer a food is to its original state, the more nutrients- vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fiber- are available for your body to absorb. Adequate nutrient intake helps every single process that goes on in your body– from brain function to muscle building to digestion.   Now that you have to vocab down from that last post, I thought it would be helpful to explain in more detail WHY whole foods are so important.   Benefits of consuming whole foods   Greater physical and mental energy. Whole foods often make you feel more satisfied and leave you feeling full longer. When you consume a food that is intact (i.e. it doesn’t have a part of it removed, like a refined grain), blood sugar levels become balanced, which reduces cravings and gives you more even, prolonged energy throughout the day. Strong immune system. Improved immune system function decreases the risk of degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Weight loss. A diet based on whole foods decreases obesity risk because it cuts out processed and damaged fat, added sugars, and synthetic ingredients, all of which have been show to cause weight gain. Healthy digestive system. Consuming primarily whole foods is easier on the digestive system and prevents the onset of many allergies. Fresh food has enzymes built in, which helps us...
Guest post: Snack Facts (+ bonus recipe!)

Guest post: Snack Facts (+ bonus recipe!)

18grains welcomes Patty James, Certified Natural Chef with a Masters degree in Holistic Nutrition. Patty also happens to be the Founder and Director of DirectionFive, a non-profit organization offering culinary and nutrition classes for kids. I’ve known Patty for several years and I am honored to work with her as a newly-licensed DirectionFive teacher. Here are her words of wisdom..  According to a study of 31,337 children and adolescents, snacking can contribute up to 600 calories per day, mostly from high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar foods. Three snacks per day are common and more than 27 percent of children’s daily caloric intake comes from snacks. These snack habits are eroding mealtime where healthier food is generally served. My guess is that adults aren’t too far behind in these statistics. Snacks can be a healthy part of food intake, but should be eaten only when hungry, not as habit or from boredom. Healthy snacking tips: -Choose snacks for variety and select foods from different food groups -Snack only when you are hungry. -Eat snack size portions. -Plan ahead and bring snacks with you. -Read labels for serving sizes and portion control. -Drink water.  At least 8 eight-ounce glasses are recommended each day, unless you have kidney problems. -When you are snacking be sure you are only eating.  Snacking while studying or watching TV usually means you will eat more than you intended! -Plan snacks as a part of the day’s food plan. -When shopping, let children help pick out fruits, vegetables and cheeses, they will be more interested in eating them. -Set aside a “snack spot” in the refrigerator and cupboard; keep it...
Food for your mood: The mind-body connection

Food for your mood: The mind-body connection

What you eat affects how you feel True fact: the mind-body connection is potent. You’ve probably felt an anxiety-like sugar high from eating too many Girls Scout Cookies, then crashed on the couch with a major headache and a sour attitude (me, guilty). Or don’t we all know someone who becomes a monster when they’re hungry? Stay out of the path of those experiencing low blood-sugar levels (my boyfriend, guilty). These are just some examples of the mind-body connection. Of course, the relationship between nutrition and mental health goes much deeper than this, but the bottom line is this- your thoughts affect your physical body and vise versa. Poor mental health can weaken your immune system and cause all sort of problems. Improving your energy level, mood, concentration, and happiness is not exclusively controlled by what you eat- there are underlying genetic and hereditary conditions perhaps- but it sure is important. Essential nutrients form the building blocks of our growth and development. When our bodies don’t get the required amount, we are not able to build new cells, repair tissues, or defend ourselves from invasions. 300 billion cells die in our bodies every single day, which means we are constantly rebuilding and regenerating. Poor nutrition either makes weakened and damaged cells or takes from our precious reserves, thus, depleting our stores and laying down the foundation for disease to set in- both physical and mental disease. Poor nutrition can make us experience fatigue, tiredness, sleep problems, mood swings, all of which are signs of stress. Poor emotional health can weaken our immune system, which again sets up our body for sickness...
The hydration situation, part 1

The hydration situation, part 1

I’m dedicating this post to my mom, who trained me to never leave the house without a water bottle! Water: an essential nutrient As nutritionists and nutrition students, we talk a lot about balancing macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). We ask ourselves questions like What is the correct ratio of macronutrients and micronutrients for a healthy diet? and What are the best sources of these nutrients? Often this discussion leaves out a key component of a healthy diet: water. It’s easy to forget that water is actually a macronutrient- i.e. a nutrient that our body needs in large amounts- and therefore is equally vital to our health. Some facts: We are made of 75% water: it is the most abundant molecule in our body. Water is essential and helps virtually all of our systems function at their peak potential. In our bodies, water acts as a biological solvent, a chemical reactant in biochemical reactions, and helps regulate body temperature. Water is calorie-free: it does not contain carbohydrates, protein, or fat (energy). We lose more than two cups of water a day just by breathing (interesting, no?). Health benefits There are a slew of benefits to staying hydrated and these are just a few of the things water does for us: Regulates body temperature and blood pressure – dehydration leads to an increase in heart rate and an incorrect balance of fluids in our bodies. Improves digestion – proper hydration aids the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream and the cells, and also helps prevent constipation. Improves circulation – when we drink enough water, nutrients and oxygen are transported...
Term defined: Whole Food

Term defined: Whole Food

Have I mentioned that I am in the throes of nutrition courses at Hawthorn University? I’ve been geeking out hard core this past month, as I am clearly still in the honeymoon phase. It’s been a while since I’ve been a student- six years, in fact- but I definitely don’t remember it being this enjoyable. I must be doing something right, since I get home from work and the first thing I want to do is open a text book. An added bonus with this whole getting-my-masters thing: a plethora of information at my fingertips and even more of a reason to share it with you folks. Because 18grains is devoted to promoting a diet of whole foods, I thought I would explain a few terms that I use on a regular basis. Also, I had to do this for an assignment, see how it works out? Nutrient richness: the total amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutritious properties contained in a calorie of food. Foods rich in nutrients provide many health benefits, such as preventing chronic disease. It’s all about getting more bang for your buck. Take vitamin C for example. The Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of vitamin C is 60mg, which we can get from consuming about a cup of broccoli (20 calories). We can also get vitamin C from fried onion rings, but to obtain the RDA of 60mg, we would need to eat 17,000 calories worth. This is what we mean by “empty calories.” An extreme example, yes, but you get the point: nutrient richness is the relationship between nutrients and calories. To see more examples, here...
Ingredient spotlight: Lavender salt

Ingredient spotlight: Lavender salt

Like most interesting blog posts, it started with an experiment and turned into something worth sharing with you lucky folks. Yesterday I made lavender salt in my kitchen, using a few cheap ingredients, a food processor, and a bowl. Easy, right? It yielded a pretty, unique Christmas gift in about 30 minutes. Just need some gold ribbon and a hand-written label- DONE. You’re familiar with lavender, or Lavandula, an abundant purple flower used for ornamental purposes and essential oil. Lavender is popular in aromatherapy because of its healing properties and is used for relaxation, to calm nerves, and to fight stress. It is also used in herbalism as an antiseptic and pain reliever. Some of the constituents in lavender assist in the breakdown of toxins in the liver and lymph and are known to have antifungal and anticancer effects. You can read all about its pharmacology here. Lavender is part of the mint family, along with rosemary, thyme, and sage, and can enhance the flavor of many different foods. It has great potential in both savory and sweet dishes and complements such flavors as chocolate, lemon, and ginger. DIY lavender salt I made rosemary and lavender flavored salts from the basic proportion mentioned on this website: 1/4 cup coarse grain sea salt and 1 teaspoon of dried herbs. Instead of a mortar and pestle I used a small food processor, and I added a drop of lavender essential oil per cup of salt (only one!), but is not necessary. Make sure you buy culinary lavender, which is safe for consumption and won’t have fertilizer or pesticide residues. Sprinkle some on… -Rubs for meats (lamp chops especially)...
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