Category Archives: Nutrition Nerds Only

How to Build a Better Cookie

Have you ever tried to make your grandma’s favorite cookie recipe substituting whole Gingerbread-Cookiesgrain flours and less refined sweeteners?  Or changing out butter for other fats.  As well-intentioned as this is, the results can be disappointing – sometimes the cookies are better as hockey pucks, other times they fall apart as you scrape them from the cookie sheet.  Here are some tips that might help next time you attempt a cookie conversion.

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Curbing Your Enthusiasm for Sugar

Have you been considering cutting back, way back, on your sugar consumption?  As a lifelong sugar addict (picture an 8 year old stealing candy from the neighbors, the grocery store, out of my mom’s purse; then refusing to eat any dinner)I empathize with the uphill battle this type of commitment can entail.  Scientists have been attempting to point out how diabolical sugar can be for decades.  We have blithely turned our back and reached for another mini cupcake as the sugar intake in our country has gone through the roof. Continue reading

Why You Should Keep Eating Grains


There’s a lot of grain-bashing going on these days. Is it true that not all grains are created equal? Yes. Should we be thoughtful about which grains we consume? Yes. But, we should not be frightened into banishing all grains from our lives forever just because some of them aren’t up to par. Grains, when chosen carefully, have a world of greatness to offer the human body. Not convinced? Keep reading to find out why some grains are worthy of grubbin’ on.

  • Whole grains eaten as whole grains are better than whole grains eaten as their pulverized friend, flour. When grains are reduced to flour, their surface area expands significantly–and this is true for all flours, no matter if they came from a whole grain initially. This expanded surface area makes it much easier for digestive enzymes to reach the starch inside the whole grain, which speeds up the starch to sugar conversion. Flour products, then, have a higher glycemic index than the whole grain itself.You can be pretty sure you’re eating a natural, whole grain with a low glycemic index if you have to chew it (or if you can see grain pieces in the food). When it comes to grains, the more work your jaw has to do, the better.  Kasha, not cake.  Quinoa instead of muffins.  RIght?
  • Eating homemade sourdough toast isn’t the same thing as eating a fried doughnut. The oily and sugar-laden doughnut is made from refined flour and is arguably nutritionally void. It’ll give you a blood sugar spike, and then a crash, leave you hungry and craving more sugar, and will likely upset your tummy. Homemade sourdough, on the other hand, is as nutritionally dense as it gets. It’s full of vitamins and minerals, won’t spike your blood sugar, and is easy on the digestive system. Read more sourdough greatness here, and allow yourself to eat some (or another fresh, whole grain bread) without telling yourself you may as well have just eaten a doughnut.
  • Sprouted grains are like whole grains on nutrition steroids, and that’s a good thing. The concentration of protein, vitamins, and minerals is much greater in sprouts than in mature grains.The science of sprouts is much like that of sourdough–easier digestion and more bioavailability of nutrients. Sprouts are also an excellent choice for vegetarians. Read more here, and be on the look out for sprouted whole grain products. You can feel good about eating them.
  • Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates. Bodies NEED complex carbohydrates. Bodies CRAVE complex carbohydrates, because they are their main source of energy and fuel. The brain depends exclusively on carbohydrates for fuel, and muscles need their fair share, too. Muscle-building requires energy, and again: complex carbohydrates = energy. In terms of calories and energy for muscles, whole grains are the most economical part of a meal. Nutrient density (the nutrient to calorie ratio) is a thing! And whole grains have got it goin’ on. The energy punch they pack is incomparable to fruits or vegetables. What does this mean for you? Whole grains are good for muscles.

See? Grains are not evil doers. In fact, they are a whole lot of good. And you needn’t shun them, or feel terrible about yourself for fueling your body with the quality ones. When it comes to grains, quality and form is key. The rest of the goodness will follow naturally.

Fermented & cultured foods: the surprising health benefits

probiotic_illustration_350Sound Consumer | March 2013

by Cynthia Lair

Some call them bacteria or bugs but the nice name for this lively population is “flora.” More than 500 different species make up the flora in our bodies, weighing in at between 2 and 5 pounds.

This colony of microbes doesn’t just coexist within us. Our health is dependent upon their ability to stay healthy and report for work each day. Here’s why.

Five ways bacteria help

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The Power Nine: Secrets of long life from the world’s healthiest humans

NAPA-CABBAGE-400-2A follow up from last week’s article, here are Dan Buettner’s  recent conclusions to the study that brought hara hachi bu to light.  He knows a little something about longevity. Not only is he the holder of three separate Guinness World Records for distance biking: a 15,500-mile ride from Alaska to Argentina in 1987, when he was 27; a 12,888-mile journey across the Soviet Union in 1990; and a 12,172-mile jaunt through Africa completed in 1992, but his research on longevity first published in National Geographic established his bona fides on the subject. The Minnesota native traveled to four countries to study the world’s heartiest humans. In Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica, and Loma Linda, California, Buettner partnered with scientists to examine anomalous pockets where the number of centenarians vastly exceeded the statistical average. These areas became the subject of his book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (National Geographic).   You might want to read this interesting Q and A from Dan which concludes with his “Power Nine” which I have reprinted below.

1. Move: Find ways to stay active

2. Plan de Vida: Discover your purpose in life

3. Downshift: Take a break

4. 80% Rule: Don’t overeat

5. Plant Power: Choose greens

6. Red Wine: A glass a day

7. Belong: Stay social

8. Beliefs: Get ritualistic

9. Your Tribe: Family matters

Are You Practicing Hara Hachi Bu?

A few years ago in preparing for a lecture on diet and aging I ran across a study in National Geographic.  In it the researchers analyzed the diet and life style of three different populations where the people not only live longer lives, but longer, healthier lives.  The Italian Sardinia population, the southern Californian Seventh Day Adventist and the citizens from the Japanese island of Okinawa, who all have a large population of healthy centenarians, were part of the study.  So what common factors made these three seemingly unrelated groups connect?  All three reported putting family first (yea!), being physically active every day (good idea), staying socially engaged and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  Amen to that. Continue reading

Should You Eat Gluten Free?

Christina wrote us a note and asked “why someone would eat gluten free other than to relieve celiac sprue?”.  She asked if I might address this on our blog.   For me, this could be a trick question, with a tricky answer.  There seems to be some benefit to eating less flour and I’ve always been a fan of rotating grains (not just eating wheat and corn).  There’s no doubt in my mind that some individuals feel better with less carbohydrates in their diet while others gain energy keeping protein (particularly animal protein) to a minimum.  No one-size-fits-all healing diet exists.  Gluten-free eating is no exception.

That said, there are a growing number of people with Celiac Sprue Disease.  These folks must completely avoid gluten to be healthy and stay nourished.  There has been a huge increase of Celiac patients: –  1 out of every 5,000 people in the 1950’s to 1:133 today.  Predictions agree these numbers will continue to rise.  The cause for the rise is unclear.

But diagnosed Celiacs only account for a small fraction of the current demand for gluten-free products. Continue reading

Nine Fun Flours for Wheat-Free Baking

flourDon’t you just love working with different kinds of flours?  I do.  Each grain expresses different flavors and textures. Ta da!  The best  flours to use when you need to avoid wheat.

I’ve divided the nine into wheat-free flours – for those of you who like to have the variation but who don’t necessarily need to make gluten-free baked goods – and gluten free wheat-free flours. Continue reading

Vegan Cheese Harmless?

One of my whole foods lectures at Bastyr University centers around de-mystifying how fats and oils are processed and refined for human consumption.  Learning how palm oil is produced, so I could bring this information to my classes, was distressing.

Many food processors, seeking to eliminate trans-fat, which comes from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, have switched to using palm oil.  Continue reading