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Juicing: Health or Hype?

28 Jun

Juicing: Health or Hype?

Juicing is hot…but it certainly isn’t a new concept.

The juicing craze took off in the US in the 1970s, waxed and waned over the years, and came back with a vengeance after the release of the pro-juicing 2010 documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” (a fantastic movie to catch if you have not already seen it).

People ask about juicing all the time, “Is juicing good for me?”

Well, it certainly isn’t bad for you – but it also isn’t any better for you than eating intact fruits or vegetables.

My recommendation to most patients and clients is, “Eat your fruit, don’t drink it.” But that’s not to say you can’t enjoy a healthy fruit or vegetable juice every now and then.

From a fiber standpoint, blending your juice is preferred over using juice extractors. With juicers you end up throwing the pulp out, and the pulp is where the majority of your fiber lies. With blending, you blend the entire, intact fruit (with some peels and cores excluded), but you retain more of the fiber.

It is estimated that only 11% of Americans eat the amount of fruits and  vegetables they need per day, so juicing or blending may be a healthy addition for those individuals.

There are some drawbacks to juicing for certain populations:

  • If you take an anti-coagulation medication like Coumadin, adding large amounts of Vitamin K-containing dark green leafy vegetables like kale or spinach could interfere with the medication’s mechanism
  • If you have diabetes, relying on vegetable juices that may be too low in carbohydrate for you can lead to hypoglycemia, whereas fruit juices that can be very high in concentrated fruit sugars, may lead to hyperglycemia
  • If you are watching your weight, keep in mind that the calories from fruit juices add up quickly: aim for a 50-50 blend of fruit and vegetable to thin out the calorie load

When it comes to juicing, never overlook the opportunity to add in healthy fats and protein. I like to use nonfat, plain Greek yogurt and avocados as nutrient boosts in my juices.

Here is one of my favorite recipes, an Avocado and Melon Breakfast Smoothie, developed by the California Avocado Commission and Produce for  Better Health Foundation. It combines fresh fruit, healthy fats, and lean protein in a delicious and portable breakfast meal!

Avocado and Melon Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 ripe, fresh California Avocado
  • 1 cup honeydew melon chunks (about 1 slice)
  • Juice from 1/2 lime (1 1/2 tsp lime juice)
  • 1 cup (8 oz) milk, fat-free
  • 1 cup fat-free yogurt, plain
  • 1/2 cup apple juice or white grape juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey


  • Cut avocado in half, remove pit
  • Scoop out flesh, place in blender
  • Add remaining ingredients; blend well.

Serve cold. Holds well in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. If made ahead, stir gently before pouring into glasses.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories: 320, Total Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 1.5g, Protein: 13g, Carbohydrates: 46g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Dietary Fiber: 5g, Sodium: 170mg

To learn more about other ways to boost the nutrient content of your juices, check out my recent news segment “Juicing: Health or Hype?”

The 10:1 Ratio for Choosing Whole Grains

5 Apr

The 10:1 Ratio for Choosing Whole Grains

Even whole grain gurus have a tough time deciphering front of package whole grain claims.

With 34,000 new whole grain products introduced in 2012 (compared to just 264 in 2001), it has become increasingly difficult to determine just how different “made with whole grain” really is from “100% whole grain”.

Now, from the Harvard School of Public Health comes an easier way to identify a good source of whole grain: the 10:1 ratio.

The 10:1 ratio maintains that for every 10 grams of carbohydrate you eat, aim for at least 1 gram of dietary fiber.

The recommendation comes as part of a recently published paper in the journal Public Health Nutrition. The ratio’s intention is not to select the MOST healthful whole grain, but rather to give a ballpark estimation of what is a relatively good whole grain choice.

You can, of course, find benchmark foods that surpass the 10:1 ratio.

Take 100% whole wheat bread for example: 1 slice (1 oz, 90-100 calories per slice) has 15 grams carbohydrate and 3 grams fiber, giving it a 5:1 ratio, an even better choice than 10:1.

Here is a quick example of the ratio approach applied to choosing between two General Mills cereals. Ironically, both of these cereals display the same General Mills “Made with Whole Grain” check mark logo on the front, although you can see through use of the ratio, that they are remarkably different products:

  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch: 25 grams carbohydrate and 2 grams dietary fiber (12.5:1 ratio – no good)
  • Cheerios (yellow box): 20 grams carbohydrate and 3 grams dietary fiber (6.7:1 ratio – good deal)

Make it your goal to meet or beat the 10:1 ratio next time you are selecting whole grain foods.

Putting the Pressure On

18 Feb

Putting the Pressure On

Stop being scared of the pressure cooker!

That was one of my New Year’s resolutions this year, and at just over the halfway point of February, I can say it’s the one I’m glad I stuck with!

Having lived in Nepal at a time when it wasn’t unusual for Maoist insurgents to deploy pressure cooker bombs, I must defend my fear of this kitchen device as being somewhat based in reality!

But today’s pressure cookers are a far cry from their less-reliable, and more explodable predecessors. If you don’t have someone purposely rigging them to explode, you need not fear the pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers work by increasing the boiling point of liquid. Inside the tightly sealed pot, the boiling point goes from 212 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The superhot steam causes food to cook faster. What tastes like it took a full day to boil, is yours in a matter of minutes.

These instruments are great for cooking some of your favorite high-fiber foods, most notably legumes, steel cut oats, and beets.

Here are a few tips for quick cooking dried beans from The Veggie Queen, Registered Dietitian Jill Nussinow and author of the website

  • For presoaked beans, cover beans with water in a bowl and let sit for 8-12 hours, drain and then cook
  • Presoaked pinto, black, white or kidney beans take 4-6 minutes to cook at pressure
  • Garbanzo beans take 12-14 minutes to cook at pressure
  • A good ratio is 3/4 cup water for every 1 cup presoaked dry beans

For some great pressure cooker recipes, check out Jill’s book “The New Fast Food – The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes“.

To learn about selecting the best pressure cooker for you, view the Cook’s Illustrated video on pressure cookers.

Cracklin’ Crack Down

14 Jan

Cracklin’ Crack Down

As a follow-up to the “Worst Cereal Awards” post last month, an inquisitive reader wrote to ask about one of her favorite cereals, Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran:

“I’m concerned about my fiber intake and I have been eating Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran…is this a good source of fiber?” – Jamie from San Diego

Great question Jamie!

So what about this Cracklin’ Oat Bran? Should you be eating it?

A quick glance at the Nutrition Facts panel says, Thumbs Down for Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran.

Cracklin’ Oat Bran is one of those sneaky, tricky breakfast cereals that purports to be healthy:

  • It looks healthy (because it’s brown)
  • It sounds healthy (because it’s name says oat AND bran), and
  • Kellogg’s puts a lot of effort into making you think it’s healthy with their “Excellent Source of Fiber” and “Made with Whole Grain” banners splashed across the front of the box

Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran would be a great bet – if it weren’t for one thing: the sugar.

There are 14 grams of sugar in a measly 3/4-cup serving. In addition, sugar is pretty prominent in this product, as it is the second ingredient (right after whole grain oats).

Ideally, a more accurate name for this cereal would be “Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran and Sugar” cereal. So, how much sugar is in this cereal?

Well, the food label as it is currently designed makes it hard to tell. “Sugars” include naturally occurring sugars (from fruit and milk), as well as added sugars. But the thing is, the food label doesn’t have to tell you how much of which is which.

Fortunately, in Cracklin’ Oat Bran, there are no milk sugars and no fruit sugars. So you can assume that the 14 grams of sugar are all from sucrose, added table sugar.

One gram of carbohydrate (sugar) has 4 calories, so the 14 grams per 3/4 cup serving give 56 calories from sugar (almost 4 teaspoons worth). This works out to 28% of the calories in Cracklin’ Oat Bran coming from sugar.

Now I don’t know about you, but if a food I’m eating has 28% of the calories coming from sugar, I’m hoping it’s dessert – and not a breakfast cereal. A good rule of thumb is to choose cereals that have as little sugar as possible, or at least <20% of calories from sugar.

A better bet is to look for cereals that say “5 g” or less in the “Sugars” spot on the label and “3 g” or more in “Dietary fiber”.

(Now granted, Cracklin’ Oat Bran does have 6 g fiber per serving – but if you have to add 14 g sugar to make 6 g fiber taste good, that’s not worth it).

Some better bets for breakfast cereals that meet the 3 g+ for fiber and < 5 g for sugar are:

Thanks for your great question Jamie, and keep them coming!


Ezekiel Bread: The Wheat Belly Antidote

4 Jan

Ezekiel Bread: The Wheat Belly Antidote

If you have a gut – it’s trendy to be referring to it not as a gut, but rather as a “Wheat Belly”.

The Wheat Belly craze – based on the eponymous diet book – claims (erroneously) that wheat-containing and processed foods made with wheat act like opiate drugs, promoting addictive behaviors and leading ultimately to all of the ills associated there within.

While it’s certainly true that excessive amounts of refined and processed foods – including grain foods – can contribute to unwanted weight gain, the Wheat Belly diet actually advocates for a reduction in or elimination of other healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

As any savvy consumer knows, a fad diet that either demonizes or glorifies a particular food or food group is not one that is ultimately going to result in sustained weight loss or promote optimally healthy food patterning.

So, for the more evolved consumer who understands that whole grains are a part of a healthy lifestyle, what’s your best bet when it comes to bread? This dietitian says – hands down – it’s Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread.

Short of baking your own 100% whole wheat bread – Ezekiel is as about as close as you can get to pan perfection!

What sets this bread so far above the bar is its incredibly clean ingredient list, especially when it comes to sugar and salt. The bread has not only no high fructose corn syrup, but no added sugars at all. And there is just enough salt (which effects dough texture and enhances taste) to make it taste like actually bread. (If you’ve ever had salt-free bread, which isn’t bread at all, you know what I mean!)

With 80 calories per slice, 3 grams of dietary fiber and just 75 mg sodium, this is an excellent option for those looking to incorporate whole grains without the added sugars and salt usually found in conventional bread aisle bread options.

To learn where you can purchase Ezekiel – and other Food or Life Baking Company products in your area, check out the company’s store locator here.