Today's Kitchen Cuts features an infographic with seven 5-minute meals that are balanced and healthy. They aren't exactly gourmet, but if you want balance with the quickness, you can't go wrong. Enjoy!
By Kelene Blake M.Ed.
Reblogged from keleneblake.com/blog
Fat has become a bad word when referring to both food and our bodies. Fat is treated as something we need to avoid at all costs, but when we really understand fat as a nutrient, as having a function in our bodies, we are able to take back some of the power we have given to that word and conscript that power into making healthy decisions for ourselves. Knowledge is power. It’s cliché because it’s true.
Fats are our bodies’ long-term storage system for energy. Fats and lipids (the molecules that make up fats) are also used in important body structures and functions such as making cell membranes and hormones, keeping us from losing too much heat from our bodies on cold days or keeping our skin healthy. Fats also store vitamins A, D, E and K in our bodies.
The fat we eat is broken down and used for all of this, and as energy to fuel our body’s function or physical activity. Any extra is stored for future use in case of starvation or long periods without food. Our bodies also make fats from extra carbohydrates and proteins that we take in beyond our immediate daily needs. There are some components of fats our bodies cannot make for itself and so we do need to eat some fat in our meals. Most times we don’t even have to try to get enough fat because typical eating habits provide all the fats we need plus a lot more.
As mentioned in All About Those Carbs, our bodies are evolved to expect and survive periods of starvation, and fat is our major energy storage system. It would seem we are evolved to particularly enjoy the taste of fatty foods (much like we particularly like sweet foods) because in times of food insecurity, such foods provide a concentrated kick of energy our bodies can digest, use and store for later. However, in cases where food is plentiful, this natural inclination towards fatty foods can do more harm than good when we end up mostly eating processed, nutrient poor foods with more fat packed in than our bodies know how to handle. Being mindful of what we eat, and in what amounts, can help us balance our needs and our instinctive desires in ways that keep us both healthy and happy. We do not need to (and should not) completely avoid fats, but we do need to be mindful of how much and what kinds of fats we consume.
The fat we eat can come in solid or liquid forms. Butter, lard, or the whitish yellowish sections of raw bacon and other meats are solid fats. Cooking oil and fats from plants are generally liquid fats. Some solid fats, like bacon fat, will turn to liquid in an oven when the temperature is very hot, but bacon grease, will go back to solid when it comes out of the oven and cools back down to room temperature. Whether a fat is solid or liquid at room temperature (defined as around 25oC or 77oF) lets you know if it is a saturated (solid) fat or an unsaturated (liquid) one. This is important to know because you want to eat less saturated fats and more unsaturated fats. Fats you get from plant foods like nuts and avocado, as well as fats and oils from fish are the types you want to get more of. When it comes to food, it is important to be smart about eating fats and about choosing the best kinds of fats to use in our meals.
Aiming for more unsaturated fats than saturated is the best nutritional advice known right now. There are a lot of subtle details about fat consumption and the types of fats you get from different kinds of foods and oils which can get confusing. But start with this basic one – limit the amount of solid/saturated fats you eat in food (no need to cut butter out completely, just don’t use a lot or often). Also, stick to natural sources of fats and stay far away from hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Hydrogenated oils/trans fats came about as a replacement for saturated fats when scientists discovered that saturated fats have unhealthy effects. To make these, the food industry took oils – which you remember are the healthier unsaturated fats – and manipulated them so they can mimic saturated fats, i.e. be solid at room temperature, thinking that was a healthy replacement for those dangerous saturated fats. The problem is, our bodies don’t know how to process these trans fats and they do more harm than good.
So understanding fats and how they work in and for your body is important in understanding how best to consume them. How much and what kinds of fats you eat depends on your needs, with the general rule being to eat less saturated fats, and more unsaturated fats while completely staying away from trans fats. Understanding that your body is also making its own fats out of other nutrients like extra carbohydrates and proteins is also something to be aware of in your decision making of what and how much you need to eat. The energy you take in needs to be balanced with the energy your body uses in daily life and through physical activity. Being mindful and intelligent in your food choices, eating with moderation and balance remain the keys in giving your body healthy nutrition while enjoying your food.
This week's Kitchen Cuts post is a mix and match infographic with great ideas on making delicious and healthy salads along with some easy recipes. Try it out!
By Kelene Blake
Reblogged from keleneblake.com/blog
Carbohydrates are molecules made up of sugars. So let’s start there. Sugars are substances that often taste sweet in their simplest forms and our bodies use them as fuel to make energy. Without energy we can’t move, our muscles won’t work, our brains won’t work and our organs cannot function. So we need some sugar for our bodies to work just like we need gas for a car to work. Our body’s premium fuel is glucose, the simplest carbohydrate. We break it down and convert it into our body’s specific energy packets which are called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
Plants need energy to survive as well. Even though it doesn’t look like they’re doing much, they are growing, respiring, making seeds and flowers and all sorts of things that require energy. They make their own energy by using sunshine to make glucose which they then use to make other sugars or ATP energy for immediate use. ATP cannot be stored, but glucose can be stored. Plants connect many many glucose molecules together and make larger carbohydrates for storage purposes. One great example of a food that is mostly carbohydrate or stored glucose is a regular potato. But potatoes aren’t sweet right! That’s because our taste buds can only recognize the sweet taste of sugars when they’re in really small simple molecules like what we find in sweet table sugar. So anyway, plants store their glucose as carbohydrates so they can have energy for the future… and then we eat them.
When humans and animals eat the plants and get our carbohydrates from them, our bodies break the carbohydrates back down into glucose so we can use it to make our own ATP energy to move around and live our lives. And that’s the story of carbohydrates. It’s clear we get most of our carbohydrates from plant based foods, starchy plants like potatoes or rice, sweet fleshy fruits, foods made with flour and sugar such as bread, cakes, cookies, and so many other things we eat regularly. As our bodies process the carbohydrates we eat, we break them down into smaller sugars and then finally into glucose. We then use that to fuel most of what we do.
So here’s the thing, just because our body needs it doesn’t mean we have to eat lots and lots of it. We just need enough to meet our needs, and for the most part we get more than enough thorough our regular eating habits. But what happens when we take in more fuel than we use?
Simple; we store it. We aren’t plants though, so our storage system is different. If we’ve eaten a lot of carbohydrates, more than we actually use, we have all this extra glucose hanging around. Since the human body is developed to survive under difficult conditions like starvation, our bodies are reluctant to just waste all this valuable extra energy-producing glucose just in case we can’t find more food to fuel us for a while.
It first stores a short term supply that gets us to our next meal by converting the glucose to glycogen which it stores in our liver and muscles, so even if we don’t eat more glucose for a few hours we still have a constant supply of energy that we can pull from. We can only store a limited amount of glycogen before our glycogen reserves get full. But if after that there is still more left-over glucose, rather than waste it, our bodies place it into our long-term storage system by breaking it down and reassembling it into Fat. If we can’t find any food for a few days or weeks, our bodies will break down the energy stored as fat and keep us going for some time until we can find more food and refuel with carbohydrates.
Nowadays, for many of us, we don’t go very long without food, so there aren’t that many opportunities for us to use our stored fat energy. If we’re eating too many carbohydrates and our bodies are not using it for energy to live or move around, we just keep storing it as fat. There’s nothing wrong with some fat, our bodies need fat to be healthy as we will see in our next “Health Talk!” post, but too much fat combined with not enough physical activity can be cumbersome and start affecting how the body functions, making you less healthy. The solution, eat the right amount of carbohydrates that will let your body do everything it needs to do AND do more physical activity so you can use out some of the extra carbohydrate energy you have left.
So can we just skip the carbs? Nope. Although most of your body can break down fat and use it for energy, our brains, nervous system and heart rely on energy from glucose to fuel them. So our bodies do need carbohydrates. Not a super large amount, but enough to keep us fueled and functioning every day. The best way to get your carbohydrates is from their natural sources – plants. Get them from fruits like citrus, berries, bananas, melons, or vegetables, like carrots, beets, potatoes, yucca/cassava, yams, sweet potatoes and many others. There are lots of options for natural sources. Processed foods, especially those made with flour and sugar or sweet drinks with lots of added sugar or high fructose corn syrup, can push you into the excess-carbohydrates-that-need-to-be-stored situation really quickly. This is why you don’t necessarily have to eat fatty foods to get excess fat in your body. However, like I said in the last “Health Talk!” eating with moderation and balance allows you to fit most foods into your diet. So if you love cookies (like I do), eat them in moderation and balance them with other more nutrient dense foods during the day and you’ll be fine. That’s it for today’s “Health Talk!” on Niella Catering. Check back in two weeks when I’ll talk about fats and oils.
Welcome to "Kitchen Cuts," Our bi-weekly blog where we post useful information and shortcuts for you to use in the kitchen. Today we have a fun infographic guide on How to Build the Perfect Smoothie. Have fun trying it out this week!
By Kelene Blake MEd
Reblogged from keleneblake.com
There is so much “Nutrition” information out there in the media, on the interwebs, and practically everywhere you look. It can be really overwhelming. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of wrong or misunderstood information and many useless and sometimes harmful fads. This is the first in a series focused on helping everyone understand the basics of nutrition so we have some sort of framework for us to sort all the nutrition information and claims that are out there.
First things first, we need a basic understanding of our bodies. If you never thought about it, it may be hard to picture your body from a scientific perspective, but we do understand that our bodies are the sum of many parts. We are skin, bone, blood, muscle, organs, nerves, eyes, brain, fingers, toes etc. So much like a building, we are made of different materials that make one useful, incredible whole that is the body you live in. Take a house. In the structure of a house you may find bricks and stone make up the foundation, wood or metal posts make up the structures around which the walls are built, walls built with concrete or wood or drywall. Then there will be tiles in the bathroom and maybe marble counter tops in the kitchen. There are all sorts of different materials being used. And then if you want to get more specific, there are different types of materials like iron or aluminum or steel are all metals, and there are different types of wood like cedar or hickory or maple. At the end of the day the quality of the materials and the way they are used will determine the sturdiness, appearance and quality of the house.
It’s the same with the body. We have bones which are made of proteins and minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Our muscles which are attached to the bones and make them move are made of a lot of protein, some lipids/fats, carbohydrates and minerals. Our brains are mostly water with some carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins along with mineral salts. So our bodies are made of a lot of really common organic and inorganic substances (When I say organic here I am using the scientific meaning of carbon based molecules, and not the grocery store meaning of grown without insecticides, although I do hope you were grown without insecticides.). Like a house, because our bodies are constantly in use they can get worn down and we need to replace or maintain its parts to keep it in good condition. Yet our bodies get worn down much faster than a house and we don’t buy our new parts at the hardware store. Instead, we replace all the substances daily with the foods we eat. Yes, we literally are what we eat. There is truth in the cliché.
Fortunately, animals and plants are made of much of the same organic and inorganic matter as we are, so everything we need to keep our bodies either comes directly from what we eat and digest or can be made in our bodies from the raw materials in our food. These raw materials are called nutrients and there are 6 or 7 major ones that we must get daily to sustain our precious body houses. These nutrients are:
Fats and oils (lipids)
We will discuss each of these nutrients so you can understand how they are used in your body, how much you need and how to get them. It may seem like a lot of different components to think about if all you’re trying to do is eat something, but once you get used to recognizing and enjoying nutrient dense foods eating healthily becomes easier. Nutrient density refers to how much of those above nutrients are present in a meal/snack. If a food is nutrient dense it has a lot more nutritional “bang for its buck” because there is a variety of healthy nutrients that make it up compared to the calories it provides. If a food is nutrient poor it does not have ingredients that provide a variety of nutrients and does not give your body much useful material to work with when you digest it. Nutrient poor foods are also often energy dense which means they provide a lot of calories and not much else. If you use the above list of necessary nutrients as a checklist, and you look at the meal in front of you, the more different nutrients you can identify in the foods of your plate the more energy dense that meal is.
For example, think of these two sandwiches, a.) a bacon cheese melt on a white bread roll vs. b.) a whole wheat sandwich with avocado, tomatoes and cheese. They both look and sound delicious. Which one is more nutrient dense, A or B? The answer is B since that sandwich would have more fiber and protein along with carbohydrates in the whole wheat bread, more vitamins and minerals in the avocado and tomato, cheese provides protein and fat along with the avocado. Sandwich A is mostly carbohydrates from the bun, fats and protein from the cheese and bacon. Fewer nutrients, more calories.
For today, the main tips for healthy eating I’d like to leave with you are Variety, Moderation and Balance.
The other day I saw someone post a recipe for a zero carb pizza on Facebook as if having zero carbs is what made it healthy. Of course the result was that it was almost all fat and protein, nothing else, but no carbs though! So “healthy”! Like magic! (Sarcasm.) My aim over the next few weeks is to give you sound and balanced information so you don’t sound completely ignorant on social networks. Our bodies are not some unknowable magical thing; the more we understand them the better we can do to keep them healthy. Next “Health Talk” we will take an in-depth look at carbohydrates (aka the dreaded CARBS). Look out for it in two weeks.