Friday, July 24, 2009

Access to fresh fruits and vegetables the key to fighting obesity

With ready access to fresh fruits and vegetables, you're more apt to meet the USDA's daily fruit and vegetable recommendation of consuming 7-9 services a day.

But as Americans we do have incredible access to fresh produce. Our grocery stores are a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables from around the world. But if you go to the grocery store only once a week, your fruits and vegetables may not be as fresh as you'd like by the end of the week.

Produce is highly perishable mostly because they are 80% water; it's what gives fresh vegetables and fruits their characteristic crunchy or juicy texture.

Canned fruits and vegetables should be a last ditch choice since they are often high in salt or lower in nutrients.

Per calorie, fruits and vegetables are more filling and deliver the most in nutrients than anything found across the food pyramid.

Eating fruits and vegetables deliver nature's best bang for your food consumption satisfaction. It's the natural diet food. The next time someone tells you the number of calories in a banana, start listing all the nutrients this slender fruit delivers. The calories are worth it; better to forgo the cafe latte.

The solution
Where do Americans go more frequently than the grocery store? The gas station. Let's pack the gas station's convenience stores with produce. Don't laugh.

The once notoriously non-obese Europeans bought their produce within walking distance of their homes. They would buy produce on a daily basis, as a part of their daily regimen. This shopping habit is undergoing a change.

In the last decade, supermarkets have built their big box structures in the suburbs requiring driving and driving the small businesses selling produce in the neighborhood toward extinction. Recent studies show that this trend has kick-started a European obesity problem. This problem is nowhere near the American problem, but nonetheless the study shows an increase in European weight.

The French government, seeing the problem, has come to the conclusion that access to fresh fruit is vital to their countrymen's health. The government has given gas stations incentives to carry fresh produce. It's something Americans should think about.

Friday, July 17, 2009

SlimCado salsa deliciously topping a baked potato

My mantra is 'eat fruits and veggies and eat healthy.'

So anticipating a nice baked potato for dinner, I was determined to forgo the butter or sour cream and add some produce to the spud's top.

What made this salsa - and maybe any salsa - my now number one topping for a baked potato is adding it to the potato in the last minute of its baking. Yes stop the microwave, take the potato out, cut and squish, then top with the salsa. It's tops.

SlimCado salsa to dance for
tops 4 baked potatoes

-1/3 SlimCado avocado (they're big so there's a lot to go around)
-1/2 tomato
-1/4 cup red onion
- 1 lime
- 1 Tbsp cilantro
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, chopped fine
- salt and pepper as desired
- 4 baking potatoes

Chopped to small cubes the SlimCado, tomato, red onion. Put 12 chunks of SlimCado to the side. Combine in a bowl and squirt the juice of one lime over the mixture. Add cilantro, garlic, and Scotch bonnet pepper. Marinate 2 hours or more.

Put the potatoes in the microwave and cook. Stop during the last minute and add the salsa as toppings. Resume cooking. Serve with a couple of chunks of nice and cold SlimCado avocados on top.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SlimCado Avocado Succotash

Succotash defined here loosely as a dish with corn and other ingredients. Avocado makes a terrific 'other' ingredient to combine with corn.

When selecting an avocado, look for one that's almost ready for the guacamole, still able to keep its overall shape yet a little mushy. It's that little avocado and the juice from the cut-up tomatoes that gets distributed everywhere in the salad, making salad dressing unnecessary.

SlimCado Avocado Succotash
Serves 4

1 SlimCado Avocado, cut into cubes
1 lime
1/2 cup kernels of corn
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
4 leaves of lettuce, your choice
1/8 cup coconut flakes

Sprinkle the SlimCado Avocado cubes with the juice of one lime. Then gently combine the avocado and lime juice with the corn, onions and grape tomatoes. Can be eaten immediately or left to marinate in the refrigerator. Serve on a lettuce leaf sprinkled with coconut flakes.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bad girl at Weight Watchers

I lost, didn't gain. Unfortunately, I didn't keep my mouth shut.

Weight Watchers gives out nutritional advice. Usually the organization gives great advice. My problem is their total endorsement of the new federal guidelines for eating, the new food pyramid. I can't fault the organization, you should be able to trust the USDA.

The new calcium requirements list 1,000 mgs* a day. Weight Watchers stresses that you should have 24oz of milk or approximately 1/8th of what you eat or drink. That's a lot of one thing to have to drink/eat every single day.

Every meeting for the last couple of months, the leader has delved into this. At first I thought they were trying to get us hooked on their $9 a box smoothie mix that you make with milk. This last week, I realized it was more.

The meeting's leader was going thru the 9 guidelines to healthy eating and doing so by writing on the board a sample day's menu. After writing on the board a couple of fruit names and a couple of vegetable names, she announced the 'milk' category, not dairy not calcium but the 'milk' category. She proceeded to list skim milk, yogurt and pudding made with milk. Ounce per ounce, drinking more milk than you would eat fruit or equal amounts milk and vegetables?

It sounded not like a sales pitch for expensive smoothies but a regurgitation of the new food pyramid. I voiced my opinion that you can and should get calcium plus a heck of a lot of other nutrients from fruits and vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach.

There was no discussion, the WW leader went on to tell us that you can't just eat one container of yogurt and think it's one portion because the container is only 6 oz.

Another gal chimed in saying she was also having trouble with the new food pyramid. For a class assignment, she had to fill-out the Mypyramid menu planner with a low calorie day's worth of meals. She had trouble pulling together a menu that met all the requirements and still be under 2,000 calories a day. Her best efforts usually netted 2400 calories. At size 16, I could maintain 2400 calories a day. Size 16 is not where any woman wants to be. I don't plan on returning there either.

The WW leader was nonplussed, she went on to describe how she prefers vanilla pudding over chocolate. I seriously doubt any person in the room was going to try the pudding in any flavor.

It's not that I don't like milk. It's okay. But I prefer getting my nutrients as much as possible from fruits and vegetables. Calcium's important to me so I take a 600 mg supplement with vitamin D every day. Every day I eat oatmeal (100 mg of calcium), at least two portions of dark green vegetables (70 mg of calcium), and with the other fruits and vegetables I eat there's easily another 70 mg. I felt pretty good about my calcium intake.

But am I wrong? I went home that night and did some research.

The new food pyramid

At first sight, the pyramid doesn't tell you anything except some cartoon character is running up the side of your food. Unlike the old food pyramid which showed a large base of whole grains (eat generously), then a layer split in two showing fruits and vegetables (eat liberally), then a layer split in two that showed dairy products and meats (eat moderately), then at the top sugary sweets and oils (eat sparingly), the new food pyramid has flipped the 'milk' category with the 'fruits' category.**

The guidelines for the 'milk' category are a head scratcher. 3 cups a day, regardless of age (unless you're a children then it's 2 cups). 3 cups will give you the required 1,000+* mg of calcium a day.

Calcium, important
You need calcium for strong bones. Before 30, calcium builds bones. After 30, you need calcium so your body doesn't take the calcium it needs from your bones leaving you with brittle bones that easily break. According to a recent article by the Harvard School of Public Health, osteoporosis or the weakening of bones can be avoided by:

  • Getting regular exercise

  • Getting adequate vitamin D, (through food, exposure to sunshine, or supplements)

  • Consuming enough calcium

  • Consuming adequate vitamin K, found in green, leafy vegetables.

  • Not getting too much preformed vitamin A.

So feed your body calcium with foods containing the mineral and/or take a supplement (with a vitamin D kicker). And yes, dairy products have the highest concentration per serving of highly absorbable calcium. Not too far behind are dark leafy greens and dried beans.

But how much calcium?

However, the healthiest or safest amount of dietary calcium hasn't yet been established. Different scientific approaches have yielded different estimates, so it's important to consider all the evidence. Article by the Harvard School of Public Health

My first thought was to find a way to take 1300 mg of calcium a day, just to be safe. Wrong, do it and you may be contributing to problems such as heart disease or cancer (ovarian or prostate). Some scientists don't even think calcium helps prevents breaks or fractures. Take time to read the above article.

Three groups of people have low rates of bone loss: the Japanese, the Indians (Asian), and Peruvians. On average they eat 300 mg. of calcium a day. What they do, on the whole, that we Americans don't do, on the whole, is exercise and apparently get more sunshine.

I exercise, I limit my caffeine intake, my diet is well balanced. From a calcium requirements perspective, I'm more Japanese than American. I'm going to stay the course I've already set for myself with calcium. If I stop exercising, or start drinking more Diet Coke (my only source of caffeine), I'll have to increase my calcium intake.

Further supporting my thoughts, the British committee that suggest dietary guidelines for the UK, looked at the same data and recommended just 700 mg of calcium for people over 19.

Makes you wonder the role of the American Dairy Association in putting together the US guidelines.

I'll leave you with this last quote from the Harvard School of Public Health article.

Currently, there's no good evidence that consuming more than one serving of milk per day in addition to a reasonable diet (which typically provides about 300 milligrams of calcium per day from nondairy sources) will reduce fracture risk. Because of unresolved concerns about the risk of ovarian and prostate cancer, it may be prudent to avoid higher intakes of dairy products.

*The website says 3 cups (1000 mg), dig deeper and it varies by gender and age. For example a woman over 50 needs 1300 mg according to this web site.

**How presents the 'meat' category, again 'meat' not 'protein', is also problematic but not covered here.