SPF: Sun Protective FOODS!

Did you know that your skin has its own sun protection factor which can be improved by some of the foods you eat!?? Yay! Even more protection! So to supplement your SPF 30 lotion (purchased fresh this year), add the following foods which may help boost your skin’s defense system:

Tomatoes: even better, cooked tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes releases more of the lycopene goodness. Its even more concentrated in tomato paste. Remember 40-40. Research shows that 40 grams of tomato paste (about 3 tbsp) could make you 40% less likely to burn. Whole wheat pasta for dinner while at the beach anyone??

Chocolate!!: dark chocolate especially. Yummy- it contains flavonoids which are super awesome antioxidants for the skin. (Need an explanation of antioxidants? See previous blog ‘don’t blow up my spot’)

Fish: fish contain the ‘good for you fat’ omega-3. Having a healthy amount of this running through your system adds a little som’in som’in to your skin’s SPF.

Remember to up the water intake and stay hydrated, especially if cocktails are in the mix. Also- some of the easiest to grab snacks such as blueberries, strawberries, or an apple are loaded with fiber and/or antioxidants, and are super refreshing when it’s hot.
Bon appetite!


The Truth About Trannies

Trans-fat topics have been all the rage these days. They have been required on nutrition labels since 2006 and, since, many states have banned them from their schools and restaurants. So what are these fats and what makes a trans-fat worse than any other fat? Well here’s a picture to help explain.
You can see that there are two carbon carbon double bonds but rather than a cis formation (where the hydrogens are on the same side) these hydrogens fall on opposite sides of the chain. Chemists love this formation because its very stable. Which is why it’s no wonder that food scientist soon adapted the formation for fats. By taking on this formation (generally through partial hydrogenation), food scientists can lengthen the shelf life of their product because the fat being used is more stable, therefore less likely to quickly spoil. The problem is that the body does not easily digest this formation because the lipase enzymes can’t quite attack it the way they can other formations. Naturally- they give up trying which makes that trans business more likely to just chill in an artery for eternity. Okay- maybe not that long… but it’s no good either way. Since ’06, though, trans awareness is on the up and up and yet still, buyer beware. A product can advertise ‘trans-fat free” and still contain trace amounts (less than 0.5g per serving) of trans fat. And if a manufacturer is super sneaky they can adjust their serving size measurements to meet this, and advertise some shady claims.
Additionally, there are some trace amounts that naturally occur in foods such as red meat and other animal products (which I love- I am in no way discouraging red meat). They can also occur naturally through the heating of some oils such as canola (typically above 350 degrees for more than 10 minutes). Your body, however, can handle trace amounts. Trouble ensues if trace amounts are found in a lot of your food choices….you do the math.
So what to look out for: packaged crackers and cookies as well as cakes and biscuts that say ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils’. The trans business can also sneak into many fast foods, bakery products and most candy bars, even my favorite peanut
M&Ms (insert whimper).
To avoid taking on more than your little enzymes and arteries can handle, just take 5 seconds to peep ingredients. If you see any of the additions listed above, put it down and hit the produce section.

Topping the Perfect Bread Time Snack

Question: Is putting butter on bread really that bad? Please say no- I love it.

Ha ha! Well lucky you- No, its not THAT bad. But it’s not that good either. Often times when choosing foods (or toppings, which is always my weakness too), its simply a matter of ‘pick your poison.’ While often times eating a certain food item isn’t THAT bad, you can typically find an equivalent that is just more nutrient dense. If calories were money, wouldn’t you rather get more for your money?? That being said, lets compare some stuff!

Butter is actually full of some nutrients that you want and need. Its high in vitamin A, and has a touch of vitamins E and K. It also has some stronium, which works with calcium and magnesium to promote bone health, and some chromium which helps your body maintain normal blood sugar levels. The bad, however, is that butter has 11 grams of fat per tbsp, and 63% of that is saturated fat which is no good.

Olive oil on the other hand is a whole other ball game. It has 14 grams of fat per tbsp, however, its a monounsaturated fat that is high in omega-3 and it is only 14% saturated fat. It too has high levels of stronium as well as lots of vitamin E and K. You can even amp this up to add even more flavor and nutrients by sprinkling in a tbsp of parmesan cheese (or another hard/grated cheese) which boosts the nutrient value of this bread business ten fold. Then you receive stronium, chromium, calcium, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, B12 and riboflavin, as well as a complete protein. Additionally, you’re likely to use less olive oil than butter because it spreads more easily.

So pick your poison, but it looks to me like you get a lot more for your money (akhem…calories) with some olive oil and cheese sprinkle, which I personally think tastes more flavorful too.

Don’t Blow Up My Spot

The question: What is an antioxidant?? I feel silly because they’ve been talked about for so long and I know they’re good for me but… what are they and WHY are they good for me??

(let me take a second to caps lock this) TOTALLY AWESOME QUESTION!!!!!!

I asked roughly 15 people upon receiving this question if they knew what an antioxidant was and why it was good for them. 100% of the people polled said they had no idea. One respondent said, “I think it boosts my immune system and is just good for health.” That, I must say, was the best (and closest to correct) answer I received. I can see, however, why people get so confused. After all when you look for a clear explanation, you tend to get a definition instead; full of terms like ‘oxidizing’ and ‘reducing’. But, unless you’ve carried your general chemistry notes with you through life, you probably don’t remember what those terms mean. Additionally, it becomes more confusing when the term is thrown around like crazy these days. My friend Craig and I recently had a convo regarding this very issue during which he pointed out to me the tendency of the term to be thrown around as a sheer marketing tool. While I agree with Craig in that this term ‘antioxidant’ is now loosely used for fun and sales- I do believe that the foods and products that hold true to the term are well worth your time… and consumption.

So to explain antioxidants Id like to reference my all time favorite professor, the UMD famous organic chem teacher, Dr. Dixon. Her coined term “electrons are where its at,”is pretty on point if one needs to understand antioxidants. Turns out she was right all along. Electrons ARE where its at- and understanding how they function in the body is the key to understanding antioxidants. Antioxidants are essentially geared to halt the activity of free radicals. If a free radical is running around in your system then that means that it has an unpaired electron in its outer most shell (in lame man terms- its lookin to hook up in a speedy way to get stabilized and will jump on anything to get its fix- one night stand style). So its very reactive in that it is likely to take electrons from other molecules- leaving THEM unstable and hazardous. This careless electron activity can do serious cell damage and, ultimately, may lead to things like cancer, or heart and neurological diseases.

So the term antioxidant means this on the bottom line (after getting through all the confusing science jargon): its a molecule that can donate an electron to stabilize the free radical yet remain stable itself so it doesn’t continue to harm any surrounding cells. So when you consume ‘antioxidants’- the idea is that they will help stabilize the free radicals roamin’ around your domain, and that’s a good thing. Great antioxidants include molecules such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and the trace mineral, selenium.

While these are super awesome additions to your health and prevention regimen, they do not trump lifestyle. So regulate your UV exposure and alcohol consumption, don’t smoke, and watch you nitrosamine intake (found in smoked foods). With a little luck, the antioxidants will assist in not damaging your precious cells.

So that’s how antioxidants work!!! Now go drink some OJ, pound some blueberries, eat a carrot, munch on vitamin E rich almonds and selenium loaded brazil nuts or just play it safe with a bunch of fruits and veggies. If you get confused fall back on the color scheme. If its orange or yellowish (a member of the carotenoid fam) or blue, red and purple-esk (the anthocyanin fam), its likely loaded with electron donation ready antioxidants. YUM YUM! Enjoy!


Regulating the Rumbles

The question: I have been …lets say… passing food quickly and uncomfortably lately and I cant get it to stop. Obviously this is not fun. What do I do??

A rumblin’ bout of uncomfortable movement could be related to either stress (emotional or just anxienty) or the presence of a foreign bacteria in the intestinal track. So for example if one were lactose intolerant they lack the enzyme lactase which cleaves the dairy sugars (glucose and galactose=lactose), so instead of entering the intestinal track as two mini sugars, it enters as one, which is ‘foreign’ to the track and as a result your tummy…rumbles. So the lining of the intestines begin to draw in lots of water in attempt to make that business hussle on through. I don’t know if your tummy is upset because of dairy but its possible. Other possible irritants are alcohol, coffee, or some food additives. There’s a diet called the BRAT diet which includes Bananas, Rice, Apples, and Toast. So, if the rumbles persists try doing that for a day or two in conjunction with running or some type of stress reliever. If you notice your tummy taming itself, go ahead and add some high protein, high fiber foods. In the mean time, rehydrate and replenish! Because your body is pulling so much water to push the foreign particles through the intestines, you need more than your usual intake. EVEN MORE if you’re consuming caffeine or alcohol, both of which could not only dehydrate you further but, as mentioned earlier, may be culprit in this mystery. Additionally, there may be a decrease in the absorption of water soluble nutrients. Because your body is being so super speedy about pushing things along, the villi and micro-villi (hair like follicles that line your track and grab nutrients as they pass by- I always think of that game hungry hungry hippo..) don’t have time to grab them. So try to supplement with a B-complex and a multi-vitamin until the coast is clear. Lastly, this bout of abnormal movement may decrease the amount of pro-biotics and good bacteria in your track. These are good because they can help synthesize some vitamins such vitamin K and also assist in the break down of some foods such as beans (gas fermenting- oops) Just replenish with some yogurt when all is said and done. If the dairy scares you, you can always buy lactose intolerant friendly yogurt or just buy the enzyme lactase which can be taken before you eat. If self regulating your diet and adding some exercise doesn’t work then you gotta call the doc since water and nutrient loss can get outta hand after too long.

Let me know how that works out.


Starch and It’s Stiff Reputation.

The question asked is a two part question: “Don’t starches break down into sugar and then turn to fat? And is their conversion to sugar the reason a diabetic can’t eat potatoes?”

Well, I’ll first address the question regarding the break down of carbohydrates. First off- the terms starch and carbohydrate are not synonymous terms (for those that may not know this). A little background on these molecules is probably required to really understand this but Ill keep it short and sweet. Carbohydrate is very much an umbrella term referring to monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides(all organic CHO molecules). Starch is a polysaccharide, the worlds most abundant one next to cellulose I believe. Both are made by plants via photosynthesis, and therefore starch molecules are found all over the place. Your body breaks down starch twice. First in the mouth by way of the salivary enzyme amylase and then again in the small intestine by use of pancreatic amylase. Since its broken down twice, it is actually a fantastic way to provide the body with sustained fuel and a glucose source. Glucose, believe it or not, is your very best friend. Not a single cell on the whole planet could live with out it. Cells are such busy busy little buggers and with out glucose they would cease to function. Some cells, however, require a escort to allow the glucose in – ENTER INSULIN. Insulin is simply a protein, as all hormones are. This one is secreted by the pancreas when it senses that the body might be getting fed. Another interesting nugget: Studies now are showing that your pancreas might get super excited when you just smell something delicious. Through your olfactory nerves, signals are shot all over the place and ultimately, your pancreas begins to prep. This is why you might suddenly become hungry when you smell food- even though you weren’t hungry before. Back to the big picture, the cells. Once the glucose has been removed from the blood and sent into the cells, it begins the real show. That’s where all the action takes place and various other molecules (such as ATP for example) are created to provide your body with energy, allow muscles to contract, energy storage takes place etc. Other cells, such as brain cells, do not require the escorting services of insulin. As I mentioned in previous blogs- your brain loooooooves glucose from easy to reach carbs and that’s how it primarily functions. So to wrap around to the point. Starches are GREAT for this reason: being a polysaccharide and having the ability to be broken down twice allows them to provide your body with more of the real yummy stuff- glucose. All of that being said, I can answer the first question. Yes- starch is broken down into glucose but that’s a good thing! Don’t necessarily think “sugar” because there are many different kinds of sugar and they are not equal. Yes if there is too much in the diet it will be stored as fat but that’s true for anything you eat! All of the macro-nutrients with the exception of water (carbs, fat, and protein) can and will be stored as fat if your body had no other use for them. Even excess proteins will be sent to fat cells for storage if their amino acids cant be recycled.

Now to address the issue regarding why a diabetic shouldn’t eat potatoes. They can actually, especially is they focus on the skin which is full of fiber and add a fat which slows the absorption of glucose into the blood. A potato is actually a complex carbohydrate but the reason they have a higher glycemic index is because their starch molecules are not tightly bound to the other molecules of the food. A potato actually has a very high percentage of water so the glucose jumps right off and enters the blood stream quickly and thats why a diabetic must be careful whenand if they consume them.

Hope that clears it up in a very round about way.


Gimme a Tater

taterWhy Do I love baked potatoes you ask? Because they are delicious and nutritious!
A 10-11 oz potato (as seen in many restaurants) can be a meal in itself yes- but what you’re getting can be a whole lotta good.
In that 2/3 pounder, you’re getting:

  • 230 vitamin and mineral full energy units (calories)
  • 6 grams of protein (incomplete)
  • 46 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0- thats right ZERO grams of fat.
  • 5,420 mg of dietary fiber (if you eat the skin) and thats a lot of something people tend to get too little of
  • a measly 20 mg of sodium (and thats a good thing)
  • 1500 mg of potassium
  • about 80% of your vitamin C
  • a healthy serving of your energy metabolizing B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin and thiamin)
  • about 20% of the hard to come by B6
  • and about 10% of your daily iron. PLUS a potato offers iron which has a greater bioavailability which means your body absorbs more of it.
  • Plus much more such as zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and folic acid.

Bring it on right! Thats a lot of nutrition at a zero grams of fat rate!

So why the bad wrap for the ever nutrient-dense taters? Because of all the crap we put on them. So here’s the skinny on how to stay skinny and still enjoy the occational tater.

  • Skip the salt. If you go out to eat, ask your server for an unsalted potato. Most likely it can be done
  • Salsa is a low to no fat, no cholesterol option with some added anti-oxidant properties. Also high in iron, B vitamins and vitamin A. I add it to every tater I eat and its delicious.
  • Skip the bacon. I mean…. Just dont get it. Next.
  • Sour cream vs butter- if you must. (and I stress- if you must) PICK ONE! And I think thats generous of me. But you really should not get both unless it is your birthday which gives you one day a year to indulge in pleasures of fattning business.

So lets compare the two. While regular sour cream has a little more (1 gram to be exact) fat per serving than butter the saturated fat is the same at about 7 grams. Sour cream has about 30 calories per Tbsp and butter has about 100 (two servings of butter and you’ve just nearly doubled the calories of the whole potato!) Sour cream has 10 mg of cholesterol compared to butter’s 30mg and 10 mg of sodium compared to butter’s 95 mg (although I am using a salted butter and unsalted is available in grocery stores. Not likely in restaurants). Lastly- sour cream has one gram of protein and butter has none. Again, they both contain saturated fat which you’d be adding a perfectly fat free potato, so I am not advising the loading of either of these substances. But if you MUST add one, sour cream wins.

Now for the grated debate: cheese. This is better than butter or sour cream. At 2.25 grams of fat, 1.25 grams of sat. fat, 7.5 mg of cholesterol, and 47.5 mg of sodium, it’s lower in the ikky stuff than butter or sour cream. And the real plus: cheese has 1.75 g of protein.*

So whats my perfect potato (and trust me I eat about 4 a week- no joke)

One potato unsalted with 2 tbsp. cheese and and 2 tbsp. scallions in it (so that the cheese can get melty- yum). On the side, two tbsp. of sour cream, and about 4 tbsp (more if needed) of salsa. This brings my potato to… Lets see:

  • Potato= 230 nutrient dense calories
  • Cheese = 55 calories
  • Scallions= about 4 calories (and so much flavor!)
  • Sour Cream= 60 calories
  • Salsa= 20 calories


  • Grand total of 369 calories. A drop in your daily bucket. And this isn’t going to leave you wanting more. You get to be a little bad so you’re not restricting yourself entirely (which we all know Im totally against) and you get a whole lot of flavor and nutrients.

* Please note that all tater toppings were obtained from my fridge and all nutrient values were calculated at 1 tbsp of said product. They include:

  • Giant brand sour cream
  • Land-O-Lakes butter
  • Sargento chef style sharp cheddar
  • Nature’s Promise Medium organic salsa (Low sodium)

**My side note: Add a 6 oz chicken breast and 5 spears of asparagus for a whole super filling super nutrtious and satisfying meal at only about 544 calories. Not hard right?? Enjoy!