Quick Guide to Complementary Protein Sources

In this week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I talk with protein researcher Douglas Paddon Jones about whether or not there’s any benefit to combining complementary plant-based protein sources at the same meal. Contrary to a lot of the conventional wisdom, which claims that it’s sufficient to get all of the essential amino acids over the course of a single day, Dr. Paddon Jones argues  that a meal-based approach to protein nutrition will enhance the ability to build and maintain lean muscle tissue.

This doesn’t mean you have to tally up and micro-manage each individual amino acid. The following chart shows how to choose meal components that will ensure complete proteins at a meal.

If you consume only plant-based proteins, you may also want to increase your total protein intake by 10-20% to compensate for the lower digestibility of these plant-based protein. 

The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is 0.8 g per kg of body weight (or 0.36 g per pound). Strict vegetarians may want to aim for a minimum of 1 g per kg (or 0.45 g per pound).

These are these are minimum recommended intakes. Research suggests that there may be benefits to higher protein diets, especially for athletes, the elderly, those recovering from surgery or illness, or during weight loss. If you’re in any of these groups, you might want to aim for something closer to twice the recommended minimum.

 

What are the best and worst kinds of fruit?

In this week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I debunked the myth that you should avoid certain types of fruit, either because they are higher in sugar or higher in fructose.   All fruit can be part of a healthy diet–especially if you are eating fruit in place of other less healthy choices. 

But if you’re curious to see how various types of fruit stack up in terms of total sugar content as well as fructose and glucose content, here’s a chart of some common fruits. You can click on any column to sort by that value.

Fruit (1 cup serving)Total Sugars (g)Fructose (g)Glucose (g)
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Raisins1085750
Dates, medjool864244
Figs, dried713437
Apricots, dried691643
Plums, dried (prunes)662244
Bananas281111
Grapes231211
Mangos2383
Tangerines2154
Cherries1879
Plums1658
Pineapple1643
Kiwi1687
Grapefruit1644
Blueberries1577
Apricots, fresh1414
Oranges1443
Cantaloupe1433
Honeydew1455
Pears1494
Peaches1323
Papaya1156
Apples1162
Nectarines1122
Watermelon1052
Strawberries743
Blackberries733
Raspberries532
Cranberries514

 

Which Appliances are Worth the Counter Space?

In my house, kitchen appliances live in one of two places: in the kitchen or in the basement. The ones in the kitchen are the ones that I use constantly. The ones in the basement are the ones that only come out once in a while.

My Constant Favorites

Blender

This lives right on the kitchen counter because I use it almost every day. I have a Vitamix which is no small investment, but this workhorse has served me well for years. I’m actually on my second Vitamix. After 15 years, I decided to retire my original, and Vitamix has a trade-in program that gave me a discount on my new purchase. There are less expensive options, such as the NutriBullet Blender–and the Vitamix is more power than you’d need for smoothies. However, its heavy duty parts and high powered motor can also turn whole wheat into flour, nuts into nut butter, and other tasks that might cause a lesser motor to wheeze.

 

Instant Pot Electronic Pressure Cooker


I hesitated before jumping on this particular bandwagon because I’d never used a pressure cooker before and didn’t particularly miss it. Turns out that was just because I didn’t know what I was missing. Instant Pot fans tend to be a bit cult-like, but I’ve totally drunk the Koolaid. I use it to hard-boil eggs (perfect every time!), make stock in 30 minutes instead of two hours, cook hard beans and steel cut oats to tender (but not mushy) perfection in 15 minutes, and countless soups, stews, and one-pot meals. There are many sites, cookbooks, and Instagram feeds dedicated to Instant Pot recipes, so inspiration and instruction is never more than a click away. Easily the best kitchen purchase I’ve made in ten years.

Listen to my podcast episode: 4 Reasons You Need a Pressure Cooker. Continue reading “Which Appliances are Worth the Counter Space?” >

This Probiotic Cereal Doesn’t Make Me Happy Inside

Probiotic foods continue to be one of the hottest food and nutrition trends. And now Kellogg’s has jumped on the bandwagon with a new probiotic cereal called Happy Inside. While this new offering is certainly on trend, I think they’ve missed the mark in a number of ways:

1. “Yogurty probiotic pieces” that are neither yogurty nor probiotic.

Don’t be fooled by the mention of “yogurt,” these are pieces of candy. They’re made of unnecessary ingredients like sugar, palm kernel oil, and Greek Yogurt Powder (which is heat-treated, killing any beneficial bacteria.)

2. Four kinds of added sugar, totaling 9 grams per serving

I’ve certainly seen worse, but it reminds me of General Mill’s “healthy” fail a few years ago with their high protein Cheerios, which added only a modest amount of protein but a whole lot of sugar. (What were they thinking?)

3. A single strain of probiotic bacteria

When it comes to live and active cultures, it’s just one lonely strain (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019) with a limited amount of research to back it up. Although HN019 may enhance immune function in the elderly, the strain otherwise has a small portfolio of effectiveness.

4. Plenty of marketing gloss

The cereal calls itself a 3-in-1 product because it contains fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics.  However, “prebiotic” and “fiber” are just two ways of saying the same thing.   (See also: What are prebiotics?)

The Bottom Line on Happy Inside

Rather than spending big bucks on this highly processed food, you can get more pre- and probiotic benefit at a lower cost with higher nutritional value.  For example, stir 1/3 cup of Swiss Muesli (I like this no-added-sugar brand from Familla) into 2/3 cup unsweetened kefir and refrigerate overnight for a gut-friendly breakfast without all the junk.

 

Thinking of cooking that romaine? Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Lettuce soup recipe on Epicurious.com

Like many of you, when the CDC issued the warning about romaine lettuce last week, I had a package of romaine hearts in my fridge. Even though I had already eaten one, with no ill effects, the CDC is very clear that the rest should be discarded–just in case.

For reasons explained by food safety expert Dr. Robert Brackett in this episode of the Nutrition Diva podcast, washing the lettuce is not enough to remove E. coli..  The only way to kill those bugs is to heat them up to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and hold them there for a while.

But, like you, I hate to waste food. And I remembered being intrigued last winter by some lettuce soup recipes. Wouldn’t cooking the lettuce thoroughly in a soup be a way to safely avoid throwing this (probably perfectly fine) lettuce away? And a chance to try a new recipe to boot?

When I sat down this morning to write this post, I intended to propose just that: Make soup from whatever romaine lettuce got stranded in your crisper drawer last week.  Fortunately, I decided to run that advice by an expert before publishing it. And I’m glad I did.

Dr. Brackett has once more come to our rescue, explaining why this might not be good advice:

“While it is true that ‘thorough’ cooking should kill E. coli…it depends on the physiological state the bug is in (i.e. phase of growth, individual cells versus “clumps”, etc) as well as where the cells are physically located (internalized in the lettuce, in the middle of a clump of leaves, etc). One would really need to validate the lethality of heating romaine before one could say it was ‘thorough’.

However, another reason why CDC recommends simply discarding all romaine, is that…one could be potentially be bringing E. coli into the kitchen and creating a cross-contamination situation (counters, refrigerator, utensils, etc), or even contaminating one’s hands (and perhaps inadvertently to mouth) and risk illness if they are handling the lettuce. “

If you do have some lettuce on hand, throwing it away really is the better part of wisdom. It’s also not a bad idea to give that crisper drawer a thorough cleaning. (Let’s be honest: this is probably long past due…). Finish up with a proper hand-washing and toss the dishtowel in the laundry. (Most of us don’t do that nearly often enough either.)

Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake that the source is identified quickly. Those sickened by the bug are not the only victims here. Outbreaks like this can have a devastating–and lasting–financial impact on growers and farm workers as well.

In next week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I’ll be talking about a not-so-new technology that could potentially prevent the next outbreak.

Healthy is Better Than Perfect: 5 Must-Know Insights

Healthy is better than perfect

Ever feel like you have to do something dramatic to turn your diet around or get a grip on your eating habits? Like put a lock on your pantry or only drink green juice?

Well, let me tell you, the drama isn’t necessary. And the participants in my most recent 30 Day Nutrition Upgrade program are proof: eating healthy doesn’t mean restricting yourself or being anywhere close to “perfect.”

Here are 5 takeaways participants had (along with extra resources) to help you bring balance into your own diet:

1. Perfection isn’t the goal. Awareness is.

“I weighed myself for the first time since doing the 30-Day Nutrition Challenge and was down 8.5 lbs, all because I was more aware of the type of food I was eating.”

A little awareness can go a long way. A lot further than a set of arbitrary rules which, once you break them, ultimately lead to giving up. If mindful eating sounds like a drag or a bore, check out this article on How We Get Mindful Eating Wrong.  Also, check out these Four Ways to Eat More Mindfully. 

2. You can stay on track without logging everything you eat.

“This approach keeps me mindful of what I’m eating without all the logging.”

Keeping a record of everything you eatcan be a very effective tool for improving your eating habits. Most people start to drift away from the habit after a week or two–often, when they have a day they’d just as soon be “off the record.” And the benefits of that increased awareness and accountability gradually slip way.

The Nutrition GPA app was developed as a solution to this dilemma–a way to get the benefits of awareness and accountability without the burden of logging every bit of food every day.

3. Adding foods is more fun than subtracting.

“It hasn’t seemed like the ‘I can’t wait until this is over’ diet plan.” 

Improving your nutrition isn’t just about eliminating unhealthy foods. It’s also about adding healthy ones!

4. Bad days don’t have to mean reaching for Ben and Jerry’s.

“I’m far less likely to succumb to bad choices in weak moments.” 

Strict dieting rules often lead to an all-or-nothing attitude. One moment of weakness derails the entire project. Not so in the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade. Although we use the Nutrition GPA app as a way to get feedback on our daily choices, perfection is not the goal. Cultivating consistent healthy habits means there’s room for a little indulgence too.

But if your sweet tooth is your weakness, here’s something that can help keep those sugar cravings from getting the better of you.

5. Remember: it’s a lifestyle, not a sprint.

“This is a lifestyle I intend to keep up.”

And when it comes to healthy habits, the ones we can sustain long term are the only ones that really make a difference. I’d rather see you cut your added sugar intake by 25% forever than to go 30 days without any added sugar at all…and then go back to your old habits. Remember: it’s not your best days or your worst days but your typical day that ultimately determines the quality of your diet and your results!

Congratulations to all the recent Upgraders.  If you’d like to participate in the next one, sign up  here and I’ll be sure to notify you when registration opens.