All Things Avocado: Peak Season Produce

3 Jun

All Things Avocado: Peak Season Produce

California Avocado season is in full swing! California produces more than 90% of the US avocado crop, and more than half of that is grown right here in sunny San Diego.

As a nutrition spokesperson for the California Avocado Commission, I love talking about (and eating) the delicious and nutritious fruit that is the avocado.

Here’s a few of my favorite avo tips:

How to Pick the Perfect Avocado

  • The best way to tell if a California avocado is ripe and ready for immediate use is to gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand
  • Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm but still yield to gentle pressure
  • To expedite ripening, place the avocado in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana; the ethylene gas from the fruits speeds up the ripening process

 Avocado Nutrition Knowhow

  • Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients and act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients in foods that eaten with the fruit
  • Use the nick & peel method as the safest and most effective way to cut an avocado
  • Be sure to peel your avocado carefully as the greatest concentration of beneficial phytonutrients is found in the flesh closest to the peel

Going Beyond Guacamole

  • Avocados make a great addition to any meal or snack and you can also use avocado as a 1:1 fat replacer in baking
  • For breakfast, add avocados to egg dishes, bake into bran muffins, or power up your morning meal with a healthy dose of avocado’s good fat in your smoothie
  • Find some really unique ways to use avocados in meals, snacks, and desserts at http://www.californiaavocado.com/recipes

For more info about California Avocados, check out my segment on San Diego Living for All Things Avocado.

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Cereal Fiber Beats Back Diabetes Risk

2 Jun

Cereal Fiber Beats Back Diabetes Risk

If you need yet another reason to get your fiber on – a new study shows cereal fiber can help keep diabetes at bay.

A study published last week in the journal Diabetologia showed that not only does dietary fiber help fight type 2 diabetes risk, but it also helps lower Body  Mass Index (BMI) and keeps weight down.

The study was a meta-analysis which looked at data from over 350,000 subjects from 18 countries followed for over 10 years. Results showed that participants who ate 26 grams of fiber per day were 18 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who ate 19 or less grams of fiber per day.

To put that in perspective, the typical American only eats 16 grams of fiber per day, so 26 grams is a pretty fierce fiber bump.

In this particular study, cereal fiber was shown to be particularly effective, more so than fruit or vegetable fiber.

One of the best ways to get cereal fiber is to consume whole grains.

And while you’re at it, focus on your ABC’s: amaranth, buckwheat or barley, and corn – some great whole grain options that can easily work their way into your morning meal.

For more tips on getting your whole grains, check out these recipes from the Whole Grain Council.

2 Ingredients: Is That It?!

1 Jun

2 Ingredients: Is That It?!

When it comes to ingredient lists: less is more. And turns out, you can find short, real food ingredient lists in packaged foods.

Wait, packaged foods?!

Yep, that’s right, it’s ok to occasionally break out of your real food cocoon and eat a bar or two. (And while you’re at it – check out “Why We Need to Stop Calling All Unhealthy Foods ‘Processed‘” with great input from Registered Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner).

But back to the bars.

I recently sampled That’s It fruit bars. That’s right: a bar called That’s It. Why? Because all it contains is fruit. And that’s it.

I happened upon That’s It at Starbucks, not a place known for simple, wholesome snacks. Regardless, I was fiending for some fiber and the flavor I found was Apple Blueberry.

The ingredient list says it all: Apples & Blueberries (or, if you want to get specific: it’s 1 apple and 20 blueberries. But really, that’s it).

To be fair, the bar is small – but it packs 4 grams of fiber in 100 calories, a significant fiber find that more than easily fits Harvard’s 10:1 ratio recommendation for 10 grams of carbohydrate for at least every 1 gram of fiber (which works for whole grains but also fruit foods).

Now, don’t go freaking out about 19 grams of sugar per bar, because if you’re eating real fruit, guess what? It’s pure, good old fashioned carbohydrate, aka fructose, the naturally occurring sugar in fruit that also brings with it valuable vitamins and phytochemicals.

I think it’s a fiber faux pas that some other mainstream bars are foregoing fruit because consumers don’t understand natural vs. added sugars. But I also think a 2 ingredient snack is a great addition to the overly saturated barrage of bars on market shelves these days.

Although it’s pretty perfect and a dietitian’s dream snack, if I had to pick a bone with That’s It, it would be because of some of the bunk nutrition information on their blog.

Alkalizing fruits and flat belly foods? Come on! A product with a pure ingredient list should be touting its benefits rather than hiding behind sham science.

At the end of the day, you get a nutrition expert to clean up that feed and this high fiber snack is good as gold! You can procure this product at Starbucks, the That’s It online store, or in your local area by using their store finder.

 

 

Nutrient Boosting the Way Better Way

5 May

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am compensated for my work as a nutrition ambassador with Way Better Snacks; thoughts contained in this post are my own.

When it comes to nutrient packed snacks, Way Better is doing it way better!

As a nutrition ambassador for Way Better Snacks, I was delighted to receive a recent sample package of their new line of sprouted barley crackers.

 

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Barley is unbeatable when it comes to whole grain fiber finds. Barley helps promote satiety, and in some studies it has been shown to aid in blood glucose management and blood pressure control.

The Way Better Snacks sprouted barley crackers all have 2-3 grams of fiber per serving and some very unique flavor combinations. My personal favorite was the mustard & cheddar variety. I’m a huge fan of Indian and Nepalese food (where mustard seeds and mustard oil are abundant) and you don’t usually find this nutrition powerhouse in domestic snack products.

There are 4 flavors of Way Better Snacks sprouted barley crackers available:

  • Mustard & Cheddar Way Better
  • Back in Black Bean & Salsa
  • Beyond the Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper
  • Rosemarry Me & Olive Oil

So, now, why would you want your crackers to be sprouted?

Sprouting is a nutrient boosting process that increases the bioavailability of the nutrients and makes them easier for your body to absorb. Some research even suggests that sprouting can increase the fiber content of whole grains and make them less allergenic.

If you’re looking for a nutrient boost, I’m definitely a fiber fan of the Way Better Snacks sprouted barley crackers. They make the grade when it comes to nutrient profile and flavor combinations: fiber friendly and tasty to boot!

Grain Bashing Takes a Back Seat

20 Apr

Grain Bashing Takes a Back Seat

Carbs are destroying your brain,” crows the Grain Brain diet book.  While “Wheat is why you’re sick,” screams the Wheat Belly diet book.

Despite a recent spate of grain bashing, new research indicates that eating grains has a more positive health impact than refraining from them.

The Grain Foods Foundation (who, granted, is in the business of getting you to buy grains) partnered with nutrition consulting firm Nutrition Impact to assess grain foods consumption and health and presented their findings recently at the annual Experimental Biology conference.

The research looked at existing government data sets: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), USDA’s What We Eat in America, and the USDA food categories.

Researchers found:

  • Adults who eat yeast breads and rolls have lower total sugar intake compared to adults who eat no grains
  • Adults who eat certain grain food patterns (cereals, pasta, rice, crackers, salty snacks, pancakes, waffles, and quick breads) have lower saturated fat intake and more dietary fiber in their diets
  • Even in a 2,000 calorie diet that only has 1 serving of whole grains and 5 servings of refined grains, positive health and nutrition end points can still be realized
  • Grain foods get you bang for your buck: yielding dietary fiber, protein, folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, niacin and thiamin for relatively low cost

While grain foods may be associated with better health in this particular analysis, too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Eating too many grains – regardless of where they come from – can lead to excess calorie intake and unwanted weight gain.

At the end of the day though, grains are probably not the evil food group sensational diet books make them out to be. It may, in fact, be finally time to give the grain bashing a break.