3 Ways to Be Confident in Your Food Choices

According to the 12th Annual Food and Health Survey released by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), 78-percent of Americans encounter a lot of conflicting info about what to eat and what foods to avoid. More than 50-percent of those polled say that this conflicting info makes them doubt their food choices. Here are 5 ways you can be confident in the food decisions you make.

Stop Making Assumptions

The survey also found that many consumers are making incorrect assumptions about certain foods, including fresh verses frozen and canned. Consumers are almost five times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than canned and four times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than frozen.

Take fresh fruits and vegetables, for example. They’re a healthy part of a well-balanced diet, but canned and frozen are just as healthy. Some studies say that they may even be healthier because canned and frozen produce are packed at their peak of ripeness.

You can feel confident when you buy fresh produce, but also be aware that canned and frozen are just as good for you. The only thing you want to pay attention to is that no butter or cream sauce was added to frozen veggies or sugar to frozen fruit, and that the sodium is low is canned food (or rinse it off before eating).

Feel Good About Your Choices

The survey found that 56-percent of women care about food being produced in a sustainable way, verses 42-percent of men. I myself am “pro-choice,” meaning you should be proud of whatever food choices you make, whether that means local,  organic or conventional. Nobody can dictate if you should choose organic, or grass-fed, or GMO-free. Everyone has their own reasons for purchasing certain foods. What you do what to make sure is that you’re choosing healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.

Look for Credentials

Most folks rely heavily on information from their friends and family, including nutrition information. About 77-percent of survey participants said they rely on friends and family at least a little for this type of information. The survey also found that 59-percent of participants rated friends and family as their top influencers for what they choose to eat or the diet they choose to follow.

To get reputable information, seek the recommendations of a credentialed individual. Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) have been specially trained in food and nutrition. You may also find someone who has a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, or a diet technician (DTR)- all who can provide science-based information and recommendations.

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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 Trend Alert: the Urban Farm-to-Table Movement

Vertical aeroponic gardening at Tower Gardens.

 

Farms aren’t just in the country anymore. Rooftop gardens supply dozens of Chicago restaurants with just-picked veggies. In the lobby of Vin de Set restaurant in St. Louis, diners are greeted by tall white towers growing kale for salads that night. At New York’s Bell Book & Candle, the menu is set by herbs like chervil, Opal basil and sage, all grown several stories above the dining room. Today, chefs and consumers are tasting veggies picked mere hours beforehand from restaurant rooftops, and from the abandoned parking lot turned urban farm next door.

 

Aeroponic Farming

Jeff Seibel’s official title is Farm Manager, but his unofficial title is “Urban Farmer” in St. Louis. He oversees a commercial greenhouse that supplies all of the Bibb lettuce, Romaine, kale, arugula, kohlrabi, fennel, mustard and other greens for five Hamilton Hospitality restaurants. From March to December, restaurant owners Paul and Wendy Hamilton do not order a single green leaf for their growing restaurants. “We’ve even switched up our menus to add more greens to our dishes, including green-topped pizzas, braised greens pastas and creative salads. It’s a good dilemma, to have so much just-picked produce,” said Wendy.

To make the most of crowded city spaces, Seibel grows produce for the Hamilton’s restaurants in white vertical Tower Gardens. Last year over 10,000 pounds of produce was grown in just a ¼ acre plot of land. The Tower system is known as aeroponic farming and according to some calculations, farmers can grow 30% more food up to three times faster than traditional farming methods, using 98% less water and 90% less space.

 

Hydroponic Gardens

In New York City, students at the Food and Finance High School (FFHS) in collaboration with NYC Cornell University Coop Extension (CUCE) tend hydroponic gardens —soil-free plots that grow plants in nutrient-rich water. Students learn that the liquid nutrient solution requirements needed for young plants is different from that needed for mature plants, and that a controlled environment is needed to produce healthy vegetables and herbs.

Once harvested, produce like kale and Chinese cabbages are prepared by students in the school’s cafeteria, and in the culinary arts and catering programs. “Graduates of our programs are skilled in every aspect of growing plants hydroponically to marketing the mature vegetables in retail settings,” explains Professor Philson Warner, Founding Director of CUCE Hydroponics, Aquaculture, Aquaponics, Sustainable Agriculture Applied Research Teaching Labs.

 

Rooftop gardens

Over 10 million heads of leafy greens and herbs are grown year-round on the south side of Chicago at the Gotham Greens 75,000 square foot rooftop farm. It claims to be the world’s largest and most productive greenhouse. Not only can chefs get bok choy and Windy City Crunch lettuce blend, but consumers can find these greens at their local Jewel supermarket. Gotham Greens also partners with the Greater Chicago Food Depository food bank.

Baseball fans seated on the third base side of Fenway Park in Boston can view the Fenway Farms garden from which the kale on their Kale Caesar was harvested. Tomatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts and other veggies grown in the rooftop garden are served at Red Sox EMC Club restaurant, for special events, and in concession stand favorites.

 

Tips for Finding Urban Farms in your City

Keep your eyes peeled for greens grown right in your own city above restaurants, at schools, in stadiums. Or search online for: urban farm, hydroponic, rooftop garden. Here are a few specific examples:

 

Colleges

University of Southern California

Lindsey Pine, a Registered Dietitian at USC Hospitality, notes: “Students may see the lettuce they will have for lunch as they walk to class.” With 88 Tower Gardens, there’s a good chance if you eat at a restaurant, catered event, or dining hall on campus, you’re eating greens that are only a few hours old.

Bowdoin University

Even in Maine’s short growing season, vegetables, fruits and herbs from the Bowdoin Organic Garden are served in the school’s cafeteria.

 

Community Programs

Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture

This organization in Columbia, Missouri, is like gardening training wheels. Chefs, pharmacists and wannabe home gardeners can learn skills in gardens around the city.

Little Free Garden Project

In Moorhead, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota, you and your neighbors can share the fun of gardening together.

 

Supermarkets and Farmers Markets

Gotham Greens

Originating in New York City, their greens are in hundreds of NYC restaurants and at grocery stores around New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Rising Pheasant Farms

Farmers market shoppers in Detroit can pick up asparagus, sage and sunflower shoots grown on the East Side.

 

Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Photo courtesy of Tower Gardens

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The 6 Nutrients Vegetarians and Vegan Diets May Be Missing

Incorporating more meatless meals into your diet is a great way to boost health. Research shows that eating more plant-based foods and less animal products can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. However, whether you choose to eat this way part-time or all of the time, there are a few nutrients that need more planning to ensure you are getting enough. Luckily, there many whole food sources, fortified foods, and supplements to ensure you are meeting the daily nutrient requirements. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or plan on switching any time soon, be mindful of these 6 nutrients.

 

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B12, found primarily in animal products, is needed for production of DNA and maintaining nerve cells. A deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia and nerve damage, among other problems. Therefore, a reliable source of B-12 is essential, especially for vegans, in order to prevent deficiency. Since fortified foods vary greatly in the amount of B12 they supply, a daily supplement is recommended instead.

 

Calcium

Calcium needs can be easily met without animal products since calcium-rich foods are found in all food groups. Vegan sources include leafy greens, calcium-set tofu, soybeans, tempeh, dried figs, almonds, tahini, broccoli and chickpeas, as well as fortified foods.

 

Vitamin D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, this is one nutrient that we don’t need to obtain directly from our diets during summer months. When the sun’s UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that triggers skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. You don’t need much, as fair-skinned individuals can produce up to 10,000 IU’s of the vitamin with just 10 minutes of exposure. However, depending on your skin tone, where you live and the time of year, this amount can be harder to obtain directly from sunlight. Plant-based sources of vitamin D include fortified plant-based milks, tofu, some mushrooms, fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice with calcium.

 

Iron

Iron is found in two forms, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron, found predominately in meat, poultry, and fish, is well absorbed. Non-heme iron, found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts is less well absorbed. As plant-based diets only contain non-heme iron, vegans especially should include foods that are high in iron and include techniques that can promote iron absorption. These include sprouting, soaking, and fermenting as well as including a Vitamin-C rich food source. Plant-based sources of iron include chickpeas, lentils, tofu, whole and enriched grain products, raisins, figs, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds and broccoli.

 

Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids provide the building blocks for the brain, nervous system, and cell membranes. Vegetarians and vegan may have difficulty balancing the amount of essential fatty acids and intake of omega-3 fats. Unlike omega-6 fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids are less common in food, making it easy to be deficient in this important nutrient. Good sources of omega-3 ALA’s are found flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, leafy greens, soybeans, and wheat germ. If these are not included regularly, supplementing with an algae-derived DHA/EPA supplement is encouraged.

 

Zinc

The main sources of zinc in the diet are usually animal products, followed by fortified cereals. However, many plant foods do contain zinc. Being mindful of incorporating these foods into your diet is important, especially since phytates in plant-foods can inhibit some of their absorption. However, the effects of phytates can be lowered through fermentation, soaking, and boiling root vegetables. Good sources of zinc include tofu, tempeh, pumpkin, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, oatmeal, tahini and cashews.

 

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.” 

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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4 Smart Food Pairings to Boost Your Health

What you eat is important, but so is how you eat it. Turns out you can pair certain foods together to increase how many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you absorb — and, in some case, to reduce risk of disease. Give these four pairings a try!

 

Broccoli + citrus juice

Squeeze lemon juice onto steamed broccoli, or mix a little orange juice into a sautéed broccoli dish. The vitamin C in the citrus will help your body absorb more of the plant-based (aka non-heme) iron in the spinach. This also works with other sources of plant-based iron, such as broccoli, beans and tofu.

 Recipe to try: Lemon Broccoli (pictured above)

Eggs + veggies

Eggs are a nutrition powerhouse on their own, with one large egg offering 6 grams of high-quality protein,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. “Pairing them with veggies like spinach can provide you with even more nutritional gains.” Case in point: A study in The Journal of Nutrition found that adding whole eggs to a raw vegetable salad may help you better absorb vitamin E, a powerful health-promoting antioxidant.

Recipe to try: Skillet Spring Greens Asparagus Frittata (pictured above)

Rice + beans

Foods like eggs, chicken, and beef are complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids your body needs to create muscle, collagen, and other proteins. Your body can’t make these essential amino acids on its own, so they must come from food sources — otherwise, your body’s cells will take part their own proteins to get the missing amino acids. When a food is missing some essential amino acids, it’s important to pair it with another food containing those amino acids. “Although both rice and beans are healthy choices, separately they do not provide all the amino acids you need,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. “However, once you pair them together, the amino acids found in rice complements those found in beans, making the combination a high-quality protein.”

Recipe to try: Rice and Bean Salad (pictured above)

 

Grilled meat + rosemary

“Grilling meat can create carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs),” say Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT, co-authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “Adding spices like rosemary to the meat, as well as marinating it first, may cut the HCAs by as much as 70 percent.” Marinating meat can prevent formation of the carcinogens, and the antioxidants in rosemary are thought to have a HCA-reducing effect.

Recipe to try: Red Wine-Rosemary Grilled Flank Steak

 

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. She’s a regular contributor to many publications, including ReadersDigest.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Dr. Oz the Good Life, Runner’s World, and more—as well as WeightWatchers.com, where she was a longtime editor. She also pens a recipe-focused blog, Amy’s Eat List.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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5 Foods That May Help You Get Clear Skin and Rid Acne

While the relationship between diet and acne has long been regarded as a myth, emerging scientific evidence is now alluding to how certain foods may help reduce acne. Even the American Academy of Dermatology is taking notice. If you’re fed up with acne despite your efforts, examining your diet for shortfalls is worth considering.

 

Low-glycemic load foods

Perhaps one of the best-studied areas of acne as it pertains to diet is the glycemic index. According to the “Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris” published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, high glycemic index diets may be associated with acne. The glycemic load takes into account how quantities of foods each impact blood sugar. In a number of clinical studies with control groups, low-glycemic load and high-protein diets affected the hormone markers that influence inflammation and acne, resulting in significantly fewer acne lesions within 10 weeks.

 

One of the best things you can do to manage the glycemic load from your diet, is by eating protein, fat, and unrefined carbs with fiber at every meal and snack. That’s because carbs like white rice, fluffy white bread, boxed cereals made with refined grains, instant oats, pastries, and candy exert the biggest impact on your blood sugars if eaten alone or with little other protein and fat.

 

Whole-food carbs are beneficial and good for you, including legumes, sweet potatoes, whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, and whole fruit. These foods also contribute antioxidants, which can help fight inflammation.

 

Fermented foods

The microbiome has been a huge topic in the nutrition and microbiology world for the past few years, with the theory that probiotics (the “good” bacteria) benefit digestion and immunity. Now researchers are looking at how these healthy bugs may help your skin. In one notable clinical study, women who took probiotic supplements for 12 weeks while on oral acne antibiotics ended up with significantly fewer acne lesions compared to the groups who only took antibiotics or probiotics.

 

In most recent news, a study comparing the types of skin bacteria on people with clear skin versus those with acne suggested that rather than wiping out all skin bacteria with antibiotics, a better approach may be balancing the bacteria. The P. acnes bacteria on people with clear skin were higher in number compared to those with acne. Clear skin contained compounds that supported healthy conditions, while people with acne had skin bacteria that promoted inflammation. The researcher hypothesized that one way to balance the bacteria may be through probiotics.

 

Foods that contain probiotics include those with live, active strains of good bacteria, like yogurt, kimchi (fermented cabbage), sauerkraut, kombucha (fermented tea), and kefir. These days, manufacturers add probiotics to a variety of health foods. But don’t cook the final product, since high heat can kill the beneficial bacteria.

 

Oily fish  

While omega-3s fatty acids are essential for good overall health, there is preliminary evidence suggesting it may help rid acne. EPA, a certain type of omega-3, has been found in some studies to have an anti-inflammatory effect on acne. AAD points to one promising study where acne improved in 8 of the 13 individuals who supplemented with 930 milligrams of EPA daily for 12 weeks. While the results were not considered statistically significant, researchers did deem the fish oil theory as worthy of more studies.

 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 500 milligrams EPA and DHA (an omega-3) per day, while the USDA recommends two servings of seafood per week as part of a balanced diet. Eating two to three 3-ounce servings of oily fish per week can bring you to that amount. Some of the richest sources of EPA include salmon, rainbow trout, halibut, anchovies, and sardines. Typically the oilier fish, the better.

 

If you don’t eat seafood, 10 percent of plant-based ALA (another omega-3) converts to DHA and EPA in the body.

 

Oysters, beef, and crab

According to the National Institutes of Health, research suggests that people with acne have lower levels of zinc in the blood and skin and that taking zinc orally appears to help treat acne.

 

In one study, 48 patients with mild to moderate acne who took a zinc-complex with antioxidants three times a day for three months experienced a significant improvement in acne count at eight weeks.

 

While a zinc deficiency is uncommon in the United States, healthy populations can still fall prey to falling short in zinc, like pregnant and lactating women entering gestation with marginal zinc status. Vegetarians may require as much as 50 percent more of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for zinc, since vegetarians’ higher legume and whole grain intake contains phytates that bind zinc and block absorption. Oysters contain a crazy amount of zinc—493% of the Daily Value! Other excellent sources of zinc include beef, crab, lobster, pork, baked beans, dark meat chicken, yogurt, and cashews.

 

Green tea

Studies suggest that green tea may improve acne due to its EGCG content, a polyphenol antioxidant known as having anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects.

 

In one study, randomly assigned women with moderate to severe acne who were supplemented with decaffeinated green tea extract (containing 856 milligrams EGCG) for 4 weeks experienced significantly fewer acne lesions on the nose, chin, and around the mouth compared to the placebo group.

 

Getting a large amount of EGCG isn’t as easy as cracking open a bottle of iced tea. Freshly brewed tea is the way to go, since the bottled stuff only contains a fraction of the amount of beneficial compounds.

 

One cup of green tea provides 25 to 106 milligrams of EGCG, by comparison, making decaffeinated tea a more suitable go-to for someone drinking larger quantities of green tea to minimize caffeine’s side effects.

 

If you’re looking for more bang for your sipping pleasure, try matcha green tea, comprised of high-quality green tea leaves that are gently steamed and ground into a powder that is consumed in the tea. One study found that matcha contains 137 times more EGCG than China Green Tips green tea, and is at least three times higher than the largest amount of EGCG found in studies for other green teas. Another study found that matcha green tea extracted three times more EGCG from the tea compared to leaf tea.

 

Michelle Dudash is a registered dietitian nutritionist, Cordon Bleu-certified chef consultant and the author of Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes with Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Shopping the Farmer’s Market with Chef Tom Colicchio

Healthy Eats was excited when we scored an invite to shop the farmers market alongside chef Tom Colicchio. After all, the influential chef and restauranteur’s name is synonymous with gorgeous produce picked at the height of its season. (Decades before “farm-to-table” was an official movement, he scouted the Union Square Farmers Market for just-picked garden gems to cook at Gramercy Tavern and Craft.)

 

And there’s no better place than the farmers market for Chef Colicchio to help promote Naked Juice’s new line of delicious cold-pressed juices made with botanicals like lemongrass and lavender. As we peruse the stalls, Colicchio points out some of his late-spring favorites, including asparagus, pea shoots, morel mushrooms, ramps and bright yellow broccoli rabe flowers, which he uses to add hits of color and spice to salads and vegetable or grain dishes.

 

When I tell chef Colicchio it doesn’t feel like spring until I make bucatini with pancetta and ramps, I score a pro tip: “Do you know what would take that dish to the next level? Shave a little bottarga overtop.”

 

He also shares one more tip: his recipe for Fish Tacos with Charred Pineapple Relish and Pickled Cucumber Salad (created to complement Naked Pressed Cool Pineapple), a light, fresh and healthy dish that’s the perfect way to celebrate the start of grilling season.

Fish Tacos with Charred Pineapple Relish and Pickled Cucumber Salad Continue reading “Shopping the Farmer’s Market with Chef Tom Colicchio”

Clearing Up the Confusion About Salt

We consumers may find ourselves all shook up when it comes to salt — unsure about how to absorb the latest research, which can seem to conflict. One minute we are warned to be super-careful about our salt intake or hazard increasing our risk of a host of health woes, including high blood pressure — and are further cautioned that high sodium consumption could be raising our children’s risk of heart attack and stroke. The next minute we’re told our efforts to cut down on salt intake by easing up on our salt shakers is not going to help much — and that, in fact, consuming less sodium might not do much to lower blood pressure after all.

 

A recent New York Times headline seemed to sum up the current don’t-know-what-to-thinkness of it all: “Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong.” Oof. The Times article beneath the headlined filled us in on two new studies of Russian cosmonauts that found that salt may not make us more thirsty, as is widely believed, but actually less so — yet it may make us hungrier. Further research determined that mice burned more calories — and ate more — when they consumed more salt.

 

The studies contradict “much of the conventional wisdom about how the body handles salt and suggests that high levels may play a role in weight loss,” the Times reported. Still, one expert suggested to the paper, the studies results may not mean the conventional wisdom about sodium and blood pressure is wrong, but rather that we may be right about “the adverse effects of high sodium intake … for all the wrong reasons.”

 

Why is it all so confusing? “The biggest issues are that the general public doesn’t know all the places salt is hiding, plus when they see a value for salt content they don’t know when it’s too much,” says Dana Angelo White MS RD ATC, Healthy Eats contributor and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc.

 

Most Americans take in the majority of our sodium through processed convenience foods and restaurant foods, so if we eat a lot of these foods, we are probably consuming more salt than we should be, White says. “The daily recommendation is 2,400 milligrams per day, but many Americans take in far more than that,” she notes.

 

White advises consumers to check labels carefully to make sure we are aware of the sodium content of the foods we eat and to cut down when necessary. And those who cook at home, she says, ought to season the food as they go, adjusting to taste, so as to avoid going overboard.

 

We all need salt, which is a vital electrolyte, White says. However, she cautions, our bodies need only 1,500 milligrams per day, so most of us should at least aim to keep our consumption under 2,400 milligrams per day, an allowance White calls “generous.”

 

“Those with high blood pressure may need to be more conservative” with their salt intake, she says, “while athletes that sweat and lose more salt need to take in a bit more.”

 

And no, sweating out the calculations to figure out how much salt you’ve consumed probably doesn’t count.

 

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Glamour and Marie Claire, as well as Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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