Category Archives: Nutrients

Lengthen the Life of Your Produce | Frig 101

Fresh produce in grocery bag

You just returned from the Farmer’s Market, arms overflowing with fresh, seasonal produce that need to go in the frig fast. Do you randomly stash them in the produce drawer? That is, do you put them wherever they fit… only to find that a few days later your greens are wimpy, berries are moldy, and your cucumbers are shriveling? If this sounds familiar, here’s how to store your bounty to maintain their optimal freshness.

humidity-drawerThose drawers in your refrigerator, a.k.a. humidity drawers or produce crispers, actually have a purpose. Notice the humidity controls ranging from low to high on each drawer. Do you know what they mean?

These settings aren’t anything fancy. They simply open or close a window in the drawer. For the low humidity setting, the window is completely open; for the high humidity setting, it is completely closed. And here’s why…

The Gassy Offender

Ethylene gas is produced naturally and released by many fruits and veggies. It causes:

  • Cells to degrade
  • Fruit to ripen (become softer and sweeter)
  • Leaves to go limp
  • Seeds or buds to sprout

Knowing which items are ethylene-gas producers and which are sensitive to the gas, you’ll never toss your apples in with your lettuce again. It’s all about the gas!

What Goes in the Low-Humidity Drawer (“Low Rot”)

Apples, pears and grapes

1. Produce that IS NOT sensitive to moisture loss.
2. Produce that emits ethylene gas. When the window is open, the gases escape, and fruits and vegetables won’t spoil prematurely.

Here are some common fruits and vegetables to keep in the low-humidity drawer (window open):    Continue reading

Whole Grains for Your Heart? Use the 5 to 1 Fiber Rule

Grain and cereal food selection in heart shaped porcelain bowls over lokta paper background. Green freekeh wheat in large dish with ears.

Ever since your doctor told you to start eating more fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes (beans, split peas, chick peas, and lentils), you switched to eating whole wheat bread. You congratulated yourself on trading in (reluctantly) your soft white “wonder” for a 21-grain brick, but your new kind of loaf may not be as healthy and whole as you might think.

Why You Need More Dietary Fiber

There is accumulating evidence that eating more dietary fiber reduces your risk for:

• Type 2 diabetes
• Cardiovascular disease
• Certain cancers
• Weight gain
• Obesity
• Diverticular disease
• Functional constipation

According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, as your fiber intake goes up, your risk of metabolic syndrome goes down resulting in less inflammation and a drop in obesity risk. It was concluded that greater dietary fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease. (See ‘”Inflammation / Foods that Heal and Harm“)

It’s no surprise that another study concluded that for every additional 7 grams of fiber consumed, heart disease risk decreased by 9%. Seven grams of fiber really doesn’t equate to that much food. You can get 7 grams through a serving of whole grains plus beans or lentils (e.g., rice and beans), or a few servings of fruits and vegetables.

How Dietary Fiber Benefits Your Heart

The cardiovascular benefits of dietary fiber include:

  • Helps get rid of excess bile (reduces LDL “bad” cholesterol)
  • Reduces cholesterol production
  • Feeds our “good” bacteria
  • Changes our gut hormones
  • Promotes eating low-calorie-density foods
  • Increases satiety
  • Delays gastric emptying

These effects collectively help control your cholesterol, body weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure which all reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Also, per a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dietary fiber has been shown to reduce inflammation, specifically, C-reactive protein, a sensitive inflammatory marker that can predict chronic disease.

Eat More Whole Plant Foods

Consuming more dietary fiber means eating lots of whole plant foods, such as:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Soluble fiber acts like a “cholesterol sponge”. Sources include:

  • Oats
  • Nuts
  • Seeds (especially flaxseeds)
  • Legumes
  • Most fruits

Sources of insoluble fiber, a.k.a. “Nature’s Broom”, help prevent constipation and include:

  • Whole wheat
  • Wheat bran
  • Brown rice
  • Other whole grains
  • Most vegetables

When shopping for “packaged” grain products, such as bread, crackers and ready-to-eat cereals, the first word in the ingredients list should be “whole”. However, the remaining ingredients might look like a bunch of chemicals, so how do you choose?

The “Five to One Fiber Rule”   

A more reliable strategy to identify a healthy whole grain food product is to   Continue reading

Is Your Diet Causing Your Wrinkles?

concept of aging and skin care. face of young woman and an old woman with wrinkles isolated

Concerned about aging and looking older than you really are? Then don’t eat white sugar. Why? Because processed sugar binds to and eventually weakens the collagen in your skin. Save your money if you’re buying expensive skin creams, but eating processed sugar — the number-one ingredient to avoid if you want firm, resilient and radiant skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and one of the most revealing places where aging occurs.  Over time, your skin may lose its original ‘snug fit’ and begin to wrinkle and sag due in part to your collagen cells breaking down. Collagen is the main structural protein in connective tissue that provides strength to the skin. It’s abundant in blood vessels, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bone as well.

The sugar-collagen reaction can lead to premature wrinkles and sagging. Sweet Tooth = Wrinkles. All those sugary donuts, Danishes and cookies may be hard to resist despite knowing they could end up settling on your hips and waistline, but perhaps thinking about them showing up as wrinkles on your face and neck or as ‘crepey’, loose skin may help strengthen your will to resist them.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Remember… sugar speeds up the aging process. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits every day to get the essential components for healthy skin – AND a strong heart! Eat 8-10 total servings daily of fruits and vegetables. That is, 5 or more vegetable servings + 3 fruit servings. Get Real Food! Coming soon… why your heart needs collagen too! 

VIDEOS: Watch Karen’s videos on what to eat for healthy skin. Get science-based info on skin nutrition in less than 3 minutes.

Top Anti-Aging Foods: Part 1 | Best Diet for Your Skin (02:53)
The skin needs essential vitamins to function and look its best.
Discover which ones you need and where to get them. Karen Owoc, The
Health Reporter, provides an overview of the foods to eat to get the key
vitamins necessary for healthy, youthful and glowing skin.

Top Anti-Aging Foods: Part 2 | Best Diet for Your Skin (02:36)
Healthy skin needs essential minerals and fats to do its job and to look its best. Find out which ones you need and where to get them. Karen Owoc, The Health Reporter, identifies the essential fatty acids and minerals that keep your skin smooth and radiant.

Fit Find | Super Seed Crackers

Mary's Gone Crackers Super Seed CrackersIf you’re looking for a healthy edible platform for your NuttZo™ Seven Nut & Seed Butter or savory wild salmon salad, try Mary’s Gone Crackers® Super Seed Cracker! I like them dunked in fresh guacamole, but you can try them with your favorite salsa or dipped in some melted dark chocolate. Mmmm! But don’t get me wrong, they’re great naked right out of the box too!

I consider most crackers as bits of baked flour, butter or hydrogenated fat, and salt — pretty empty of any noteworthy nutrients. But these crispy Super Seed Crackers were a nice surprise. They’re made with real whole ingredients and are organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.

Ingredients: Whole grain brown rice, whole grain quinoa, seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, brown flax, and brown sesame), filtered water, sea salt, sea weed, black pepper, herbs. No added sugar or oil.

One serving (13 crackers) contains:

  • 160 calories
  • 200 mg sodium (a little over the 1:1 ratio of calories to sodium, but pretty close)
  • 3 grams of dietary fiber
  • 1 gram of saturated fat

NOTE: On our last Superfood Friday (featuring broccoli) in cardiac rehab, these crackers got the thumbs up when sampled with the ‘broccamole‘ that I made. So, the next time you roll out your favorite dip, give these crackers a try. Let me know what you think! 😀

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: This just in… One of my cardiac patients told me that he bought a box of Super Seed Crackers at Costco after reading this post. He paid $7.99 for a 20-oz. box. I bought my 5.5 oz box at Sprouts for $4.99. Thanks for the tip, Dirk!

Fit Find | Ground Chia Seeds

Ground Chia SeedChia seeds? If you’re having sudden flashbacks of your old Chia Pet® from the 1980’s and you’re impulsively singing “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” right now, you’re probably not alone. Believe it or not, we’re talking about the same ‘chia’ but… instead of watching the seeds sprout into “animal fur”, we’re eating them!

Chia seeds, like flax seeds, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (2.3 grams ALA per two tablespoons). These omega-3’s increase the production of anti-inflammatory substances that help prevent “cell adhesion molecules” from causing plaque buildup in your arteries.

These little seeds also pack in a good amount of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. They’re small (little ovals) and typically black in color. To receive the benefits of the fatty acids, they need to be hydrated before eating them. These seeds can soak up to 12 times their weight in liquid and when soaked, they form a gelatinous texture which make them an excellent binding agent in baking.

chia-seed-smoothie_adobestock_77942716_croppedThese nutritious seeds now come finely ground to a powder which make them easy to blend in your yogurt, cereal, smoothies, salads, and soups. And like ground flaxseeds, they’re great in baked goods too. Spectrum® Ground Chia Seeds have been cold milled. Since Omega-3 fats are sensitive to heat, the cold milling process is a plus. On that note, be sure to store your seeds in the freezer or refrigerator to extend their shelf life because these seeds are also sensitive to oxygen (air) and light. Oxidation will affect the nutritional value of the healthy fats as well as cause them to go rancid.

*I especially like the Spectrum brand for chia and flaxseeds. They are packed in a light protective pouch and sealed airtight which is probably why they contain more omega-3’s than other brands. NEVER buy your seeds from self-serve bins or barrels in the grocery store!

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: You can substitute ground chia seeds (or ground flaxseeds) for eggs in recipes if you’re a vegan — or like me, sometimes you’re just out of eggs! Simply mix 3 tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of ground chia seeds (3:1 ratio) for every large egg. After stirring together, let the mixture sit for five minutes, then add it to your recipe.

Why Vitamin D is Measured in “IU”

Vitamin DYou see it on your bottle of vitamin D… 2,000 IU. You see IU on food labels too. What’s an IU anyway? And why IU instead of mg like vitamin C and calcium supplements?

What’s the Difference?

Gram (gm), milligrams (mg), and micrograms (mcg) are units of weight. To visually represent the relationship between the three units, think of a microgram as a miniscule grain of rice, a milligram as a small bite of rice, and a gram as the whole bowl of rice.

  • 1 gm  = 1,000 mg
  • 1,000 mg = 1,000,000 mcg (µg is the short unit symbol for microgram)

International Unit (IU) is a unit of measurement but NOT a measure of weight. It’s the quantity of a specific biologically active substance that produces a particular biological effect. IU is most commonly used for medications, vaccines and some vitamins. However, converting an IU to a unit of weight isn’t a simple equation. That’s because an International Unit is based on the potency or concentration of the substance which varies from substance to substance.

Vitamin D: Converting Biological Activity to Weight

Vitamin D exists in a couple of different forms — cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). There are common vitamin mass equivalents for vitamin A, C, D, and E with each vitamin having a different biological equivalent. See Vitamin Conversion Chart. To get the equivalents of other substances, you would need to ask a pharmacist.

One IU of vitamin D* is the biological equivalent of 0.025 mcg cholecalciferol or ergocalciferol.

How Many IU of Vitamin D Do You Need?   

supplement capsule

Continue reading

Do Your Statin Drugs Cause Muscle Pain?

Myalgia or muscle pain is a common complaint made by patients on cholesterol-lowering “statin” drugs. Oftentimes the muscle pain, cramps, weakness, and tenderness become intolerable and patients must discontinue statin drug therapy.

Consequences of Low Vitamin D

A study of over 5,500 patients averaging 56 years old found a correlation between vitamin D deficiency, statin* use, and the development of statin-induced myalgia (SIM). Vitamin D blood levels of 30-40 ng/mL are considered ideal. When patients had low vitamin D levels  (≤15 ng/mL) at the time they started on the statin drug, SIM was accurately predicted.

*60% of the patients used Atorvastatin, a.k.a. Lipitor®
 29% of the patients used Simvastatin, a.k.a. Zocor®

In another study presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Sessions, the following results were presented:

  • 81.3% had SIM when vitamin D levels <30 ng/mL
  • 17.6% had SIM when vitamin D levels >30 ng/mL
  • 62.1% had SIM when vitamin D levels <20 ng/mL
  • Four-fold higher rate of statin-induced myalgias occurred when vitamin D levels <20 ng/mL

They found low vitamin D is common in patients with hyperlipidemia
(abnormal lipid levels) — i.e., high cholesterol, high LDLs, low HDLs, high triglycerides.

Treatment for Statin Intolerance

Consult with your physician about your intolerance to your prescribed statin medication. Statin-induced myalgias are often treated by:     Continue reading

How to Build a Better Salad

I love this infographic created by the Cleveland Clinic! Colorful guide on how to build a salad with lots of healthy layers…

how to build a better salad_cleveland clinic_cropped

Continue reading

Fit Find | Aunt Patty’s® Date “Sugar”

Date sugarAunt Patty’s® Date Sugar is a tasty way to sweeten your food naturally. It’s made entirely from certified organic dates that have been dehydrated and finely ground. There’s nothing else in it but pure dried fruit –no artificial colors, flavors, additives, or preservatives.

Dates are high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble) and antioxidants, and are an excellent source of potassium. But don’t expect to get a significant dose of these nutrients in a one-teaspoon serving or by dusting it lightly over your food.

The 11-oz. shaker bottle makes the date sugar much easier to sprinkle on an individual bowl of oatmeal or yogurt. But to sweeten your baked goodies, you can buy it by the pound. Be sure to refrigerate after opening.

Date sugar has a texture similar to brown sugar and has a rich, caramel-like flavor. You can use it in:   Continue reading

How to Store Your Groceries

How to Store Your Groceries

Save money! The most expensive food you can buy is the food that spoils and gets thrown away. This list tells you where to store, how to store and how long the following will keep:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Herbs
  • Meat, Fish and Eggs
  • Bread and Dairy

For the complete list: https://www.pinterest.com/karenowoc/50-fit-tips-to-eat-fresh/