Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Veggie Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite American holidays.  The table is spilling over with scrumptious dishes, family and good friends surround me, and who doesn’t love a couple days off from work?  I’d say the only thing missing from this almost-perfect holiday is a green vegetable (don’t get me started on green bean casserole).   I’m referring to real, whole, un-canned vegetable goodness.  I know a lot of people who are always struggling with the vegetable component of their meals.  This explains why I was put in charge of the vegetable side dishes for the last holiday I spent at my parents.  Vegetables are supposed to make up half of our plate as depicted in this plate:

Unfortunately, most thanksgiving meals look like this instead:

This holiday, let’s try to get some more nutrition on our tables!  Here are some easy recipes for yummy healthy veggies. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Roasted green and white Asparagus with Dill Sauce
·   1 bunch green asparagus
·   1 bunch white asparagus
·   1 tsp garlic powder
·   salt and pepper to taste
·   extra virgin olive oil

Arrange all asparagus on baking pan and drizzle oil over them.  Then sprinkle with seasoning.  Roast for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees.

I serve the DILL SAUCE on the side as an optional addition or you can drizzle it on top for a nice contrast to the white asparagus:

·   2 T White Wine Vinegar
·   1 T Fresh Lemon Juice
·   1 T Minced Shallot
·   4 T Chopped Fresh Dill
·   1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
·   1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
·   1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cider Cinnamon Brussels Sprouts
·      1 T olive oil
·      2 cups brussel sprouts, halved
·      1 large apple, diced
·      1 large pear, diced
·      1 cup apple cider
·      1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large pan over medium heat, heat oil. Cook brussel sprouts cut side down, flipping once, until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add apple and pear; cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add cider and cinnamon; simmer, stirring, until all liquid cooks away.
Credit to epicurious.com

Savory Green Bean Sauté
  ·      1 T olive oil
  ·      3 cloves garlic, crushed
  ·      1 large onion, sliced
  ·      4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  ·      1 tsp garlic powder
  ·      1 tsp onion powder
  ·      salt and pepper to taste
  ·      2 lbs green beans, trimmed (I prefer pre-trimmed/washed)
  ·      2 T soy sauce

In a large pan over medium heat, heat oil.  Sauté garlic, onion and mushrooms until light brown.  Add salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder. 
Steam green beans separately (I put pre-trimmed green bean bag in microwave according to instructions).
Add green beans to sauté pan with soy sauce and toss with sautéed veggies.

***Please 'Like' me on facebook!***

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lovin Lentils

 I decided to change the name of my blog to "A Slice of Nutrition" since I think it better represents the essence of my blog.  I want to teach nutrition tidbits to my readers that are backed by nutritional science.  I'm also going to start incorporating more recipes into my posts.  I hope you like my new logo!  Without further ado, here is my latest topic...

Red Lentil Soup with 12-Grain Cheesy Toast
Lentils are a nutritious legume that provide the following benefits:
1.     Good source of vegetarian protein (9 grams per ½ cup)
2.     Very good source of fiber (8 grams per ½ cup)- fills you up, not out!
3.     Rich in essential nutrients such as folate, manganese, and iron
4.     Quick to prepare- no need to soak overnight like beans
5.     Available year round!
6.     Best of all: they’re dirt cheap

So it’s no wonder Esau was so willing to trade away his birthright.  He must have known all the health benefits of lentils!  Lentils come in different colors: red, brown, and green.  Brown and green hold their shape well when cooked and add a great texture.  Red pretty much disintegrates in soup acting like a thickening agent while still providing all the vital nutrition. 

I love making soup for dinner when the weather starts getting cooler.  This past week I made a red lentil soup, a mirpoix-based (onion, carrot, celery) soup with red lentils and wild rice.  It has been a staple at our dinner table for years. The final product was so creamy since the lentils completely dissolved.

Red Lentil Soup
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Vidalia or sweet onions, halved and sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed (I use 3 frozen crushed garlic cubes)
Salt and pepper to taste
1tsp Garlic powder
1tsp Onion powder
8 c Water + 2 Tbsp consommé
1 c Dry red lentils, rinsed
¾ c Pearl barley, rinsed
1 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 Tbsp Red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar

1.     In a large stockpot sauté onion, celery, and carrots in oil on medium-low heat until onions start turning light brown. 
2.     Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder on onions and celery while cooking. 
3.     Once vegetables appear soft, pour in water + consommé.  Raise heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil.
4.     Once boiled, add lentils and barley and bring back to a boil.  Once boiling, bring to a simmer and cover.
5.     1 hour into simmering, add lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and brown sugar
6.     Simmer for another 30 min-1 hr (total 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally)
7.     Enjoy with some rustic bread!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Organic Defined

What exactly does Organic mean in regards to produce and animal products?  Are these foods more nutritious or are they just safer?  Should I make the switch to organic foods?  These are some questions I have been asked over the years.  Usually I rattle off a vague answer about how we don’t fully understand the effects of non-organic on our bodies since it’s a relatively new trend and there aren’t enough long-term studies.  It’s amusing because a lot of the people who ask these questions have bigger “fish to fry” than pesticide content on their plates.  For example, a mother of a patient with Newly diagnosed Kidney Failure wanted to know if she should make organic a priority in her son’s new diet.  The Renal diet involves a long list of forbidden foods so following those guidelines should be her main priority.  Once one fully understands their special diet, I’d be happy to talk about organic.  That’s why I’ve always given vague answers- the population with whom I was working didn’t need to know about this stuff.  Now that I’m blogging about nutrition for the common man, organic seems like a pretty good topic to discuss.

What does Organic mean in regards to produce and animal products?
In order for produce to receive organic certification, it must be grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetic modification, or ionizing radiation.  Animal products can’t be given antibiotics or growth hormones.  The USDA governs organic labeling in which there are 3 categories:
  • 100% Organic
  • Organic: made with at least 95% organic ingredients
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: made with at least 70% organic ingredients and no genetic modifications
Is organic more nutritious?
Some recently published studies have shown organic tomatoes to have higher phytochemical and vitamin C levels than their non-organic counterparts. However, there aren’t enough studies to make this conclusive evidence yet.  Since a lot of non-organic produce is genetically modified to grow faster or ripen slower, their flavors and nutrient content may be compromised.  The faster an orange grows, the less time it has to absorb all the valuable nutrients from the soil leaving the consumer with an inferior product.  Many gourmet chefs are insisting on cooking with organic foods now because they believe they provide a superior taste and quality.  Keep in mind that processed organic foods are not necessarily healthier.  They may still be high in sugar, fat, or sodium.

Is organic safer?
Conventional foods use chemical pesticides to protect their crops and a lot of them retain pesticide residue.  Organic produce has much less pesticide residues so eating organic will limit your pesticide exposure.  However, all produce must abide by government safety limits so nothing in the supermarket will have toxic levels of pesticide.  One of the best guarantees with organic produce is that there are no additives, preservatives, artificial colorings, or MSG.

What are some cons to buying organic?
  • Cost: this is due to higher costs of farming and no subsidies from the government
  • Shelf-life: produce tends to spoil faster due to the lack of preservatives or genetic modification

If you can afford an organic lifestyle than that’s great.  For the rest of us (myself included), the Environmental Working Group has created a list of produce with the highest levels of pesticide residue.  I recommend  using this convenient wallet card to determine which produce is more important to buy organic:

Wallet Card for Easy Shopping

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Color Your Plate Today

The term “Limey,” an old slang nickname referring to sailors, is believed to originate from the practice of giving lime juice to British sailors to prevent scurvy.  In a sense, this was the first functional food claim.  Although functional foods have no legal meaning in the United States since it is a marketing phrase and not a regulatory phrase, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) have defined it as foods which provide additional health benefits which may help reduce disease risk and/or promote optimal health.

What are the different types of functional foods?  Functional foods can be broken up into four categories: conventional foods, modified foods, medical foods, and foods for special dietary use.  Today I will discuss conventional foods: the simplest form of functional foods.  This category is composed of foods in their original state such as fruits and vegetables.  Some examples are garlic, nuts, tomatoes, and berries.  These foods are rich in nutritional components that may help boost the immune system and reduce the risk of cancer.

The color of your fruits and vegetables signify the nutrient you are consuming.  The chart below exhibits some of the most common nutrients found in specific colors. 

Ellagic Acid
1.    Reduce the risk of prostate cancer
2.    Lowers blood pressure
3.     Antioxidant (fights harmful free radicals)
Vitamin C

1.    Reduce the risk of prostate cancer
2.    Reduce age-related vision issues
3.    Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
4.    Antioxidant
5.    Promotes healthy joints

Vitamin C
1.    Reduce cancer risks
2.    Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
3.    Help with digestion
4.    Antioxidant
5.     Boost immunity
Vitamin C
Ellagic acid
1.    Support retinal health
2.    Lowers cholesterol
3.    Boost immunity
4.    Help with digestion
5.    Improve mineral absorption
6.    Fight inflammation
7.     Reduce tumor growth
EGCG (antioxidant)
1.    Boost immunity
2.    Reduce cancer risks
3.    Balance hormone levels
4.     Antioxidant

By eating a variety of colors, you are guaranteed a diverse amount of essential vitamins and minerals.  Try to eat a different color every day!  Use the list below to get ideas of colorful produce to incorporate into your meals.  Then, go to the supermarket and pick out 1 veggie or fruit from each color.  Remember, don’t rule out frozen fruits and veggies (as long as there are no added ingredients).  If you have kids, take them with you to help pick out the weekly colors.  This can be a fun activity for kids and will help keep them interested in healthy foods.

Today, food is not just seen as a way to get carbohydrate, protein, and fats into the body.  Rather, food is seen as a route to the best possible wellness.  Consumers are constantly on the prowl for the next trend in nutritional health but it can become confusing to determine which foods will provide an additional physiological benefit beyond that of meeting basic nutritional needs.  The research being done on functional foods is continuously expanding and it is a very exciting time to get on the functional food bandwagon!

Here are some pictures of colorful dishes my family and I have cooked recently:
Roast chicken with yellow squash and quinoa


Pan-fried Tilapia with corn and roasted brussel sprouts

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Cola Conundrum

It’s no secret that the United States has a notable problem with obesity (see this article).  Blame it on fast food, large portions, or sedentary lifestyle but I think the real culprit is the beverage.  When people come to me for “easy” weight loss tips, the first thing I ask them is “What do you drink?”.  9 times out of 10 I get a sheepish look and I already know what they are going to say.  Here are a few facts about sugary beverages:
  • Provides 21% of calories in the American diet and Americans are drinking more caloric beverages than ever before
  • People who drink sugary drinks consume more total calories than people who don’t
  • Regular soda contributes to dental decay and osteoporosis
  • Dark colas have been shown to lead to kidney stones
  • 1 or 2 cans of soda can negatively affect a child’s mood and increase anxiety
  • sports drinks can contain around 150 calories for 12 ounces (oz)
  • A 12 oz beer has the same number of calories as a 12 oz soda
  • Specialty coffee drinks can be loaded with calories.  A frappuccino can have 320 calories

As an alternative to drinking regular soda, the masses have turned to diet beverages.  But can too much diet soda be harmful?  Let’s look at some data about artificial sweeteners:
  • Examples include saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (Equal), Sucralose (Splenda), Stevia (Truvia, PureVia): all FDA approved
  • Provides a sugar substitute for Diabetics
  • They are significantly sweeter than sugar so you need much less of them to match the sweetness of sugar

Some studies show that people who consume high quantities of “fake sugar” wind up eating more calories for the day.  They tend to overcompensate with salty or fatty treats thus making it hard to maintain a healthy body weight.  Since the artificial sweeteners on the market are FDA approved (for now), we can’t say they will cause cancer but who knows what studies will find 100 years from now.  Currently we know that sugary drinks DO cause weight gain and tooth decay thus diet beverages are clearly the lesser of the two evils.  The best choices, however, are water, seltzer, milk, tea and plain soy milk.   If you drink more diet beverages than the healthy choices, try reversing your habits.  Start by replacing one bottle of diet soda with a healthy beverage.  Just remember, everything in moderation!

Special thanks goes to Yoni Wilbur for suggesting the topic of artificial sweeteners.  If you have a nutrition, food science, or culinary topic you would like to know more about, send your idea to avitalgreenbaum@gmail.com and your suggestion may be featured next!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Vitamin Debate: Pro (Part 2)

Part 2 of the debate will discuss why vitamin supplements can be beneficial to certain demographics.  Some examples include pregnant woman, the elderly, vegans, and people who don’t get enough sunlight. There are several reasons why certain people should take a daily supplement.  If you fit into one of the following groups, I would recommend a daily supplement:

  • Vegans: Supplementation is especially important for vegans, as vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products
  • Pregnant: Pregnant women need to take a daily prenatal vitamin to ensure their folic acid needs are met in order to reduce the chance of birth defects
  • Elderly: As we age, our bodies require extra Calcium and vitamin D to prevent frail bones and osteoporosis. It’s easier for the elderly to fill these vitamin/mineral needs with a pill, especially if their appetite has decreased so they aren’t eating enough.  Additionally, the body doesn’t absorb vitamin B12 as well thus requiring B12 injections to meet daily requirements. 
  • Inadequate sun: Some people have a hard time getting enough vitamin D from food sources and the sun. In the winter, it's impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to enter the atmosphere.  Also, dark-skinned individuals don’t absorb vitamin D from the sun well.
  • Alcoholic: Long-term alcoholics have a hard time absorbing a number of nutrients due to decreased digestive enzymes and damage to stomach and intestinal cells so they are advised to take thiamine, folate, and a B-complex vitamin.  Also, they tend to have poor diets since they usually choose alcohol more than fruits and vegetables. 

The Bottom Line
A patient once asked me if he could survive on a multivitamin alone because his body will break down his meals into vitamins anyways.  I explained that a MVI is made up of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), while food provides macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) that fuel the body.  Additionally, vitamins are useless without macronutrients to shuttle them around: think of fats as the subway commute for vitamin E.  This story emphasizes the importance of food vs supplements.  A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low fat dairy, and lean meat will provide the needed macro and micronutrients. Supplements can’t take the place of a balanced healthful diet but they can ensure that you are receiving basic nutrition: think of a MVI as added insurance that you are meeting your nutrition needs.  If you are susceptible to vitamin deficiencies (see list above), vitamin supplementation is recommended.  If you are an average healthy person, your first priority should be to maintain a healthy diet and use a MVI to fill in the holes.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...