In this week’s episode of the Nutrition Diva podcast, I reviewed the nutritional benefits of watermelon seed flour in comparison to other gluten- and grain-free flours. You can listen to the episode here and below is a chart showing the nutritional values for several of the most common types.
There’s a certain amount of a genetic variation in dairy cows, just the way there is with people. That’s why some of us are left-handed and some of us have red hair! And for Dairy cattle, one of those genetic variations leads to tiny differences in the proteins in their milk.
Beta-casein is the main protein in cow’s milk. And most of the dairy cattle here in the U.S. produce milk that contains two forms of beta casein…the A1 form and the A2 forms. But some cattle produce milk that contains only the A2 form of beta casein.
The milk looks and tastes exactly the same. It has the same nutritional profile—same amount of protein, calcium, same amount of lactose.
About 25% of the Western population experiences some degree of digestive discomfort after consuming cow’s milk…things like gas, bloating, or loose stools. We’re not talking about a milk allergy…that’s far less common and potentially more serious. These digestive symptoms are relatively harmless and temporary but they can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. And they are thought to be due to an inability to breakdown lactose, which is sugar in milk.
There are a few things you can do: You can avoid dairy products. You can take a lactase supplement when you eat dairy products, that’s an enzyme that helps break down the lactose so that it doesn’t cause problems. Or you can buy dairy products that have the lactose removed or reduced.
And there are now a handful of studies showing that for people with known lactose intolerance or who suspect they are lactose intolerant, drinking A2 milk, which only contains the A2 form of beta casein protein, may cause fewer digestive symptoms.
I think this is something that individuals will need to try for themselves to see whether or not it makes a difference for them. And if it doesn’t, there are other options for people who have trouble with dairy, such as the lactase supplements and lactose free milk.
It’s important to note that at this time there no other known benefits to consuming only the A2 protein and no other known risks of consuming the A1 form.
“Virtually everyone says to cut down on processed foods. It’s one of the few things everyone from different camps generally agrees on. Yet a large number of nutrition “influencers” recommend smoothies that include protein pea powder, or “beef powder”. How the heck are those not processed food?”
You’re right: Pea protein and beef powder (yuck) would both be considered processed foods. As would soy or almond milk, yogurt, or frozen strawberries.
Virtually everything we eat is processed to some degree. Perhaps it’s helpful more to think of processing on a spectrum. A grape still on the vine would be at one end and a grape-flavored jelly bean on the other. Somewhere in between those extremes would be raisins, grape juice, and grape jelly.
The goal is not to completely eliminate processed foods (which wouldn’t even be possible). It’s more realistic to think about choosing foods that are closer to the less processed end of the spectrum as often as we can.
What’s the purpose of the processing?
Rather than painting all processed foods with the same brush, it’s also worth considering what the purpose of the processing is. Is it to concentrate the sugar, increase the intensity of the flavor, or otherwise create a product that hyper-stimulates the reward centers of the brain? Is it to increase the profit margin of a cheap ingredient?
Or does it serve to extend shelf life, increase the nutritional value of a food, improve its digestibility, or make a nutritious food safer or more convenient to prepare?
Obviously, the processing required to turn peas or whey into protein powder serves a different purpose than the processing required to turn an ear of corn into a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.
If you enjoy smoothies, you can consider whether the benefit of the additional protein justifies the use of a somewhat processed ingredient like protein powder. Your answer might depend on how easy it is for you to meet your protein needs from other foods in your diet.
Either way, though, even though it is somewhat processed, a smoothie would be closer to the less processed end of the spectrum than a strawberry-flavored McFrosty.
I received the following email from a frustrated user of the Nutrition GPA app. I’m posting it here, along with my response, in case other app users might find it useful as well.
“I have been somewhat frustrated with the scores I’ve been getting on the Nutrition GPA app. I know I definitely do not eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables some days. But I think my diet is very good otherwise–just not in ways the app measures!
“For instance, I don’t eat any meat, I eat no dairy on an average day, I rarely eat eggs, I obsess over sodium, I rarely eat baked goods–and when I do, they’re homemade, low sugar, low sodium, dairy-free, etc., and the only white flour I eat is in baguettes, Portuguese rolls, or occasional pasta. Nevertheless, I’m getting Cs and even a D!”
How does the Nutrition GPA assess your diet?
The questions in the Nutrition GPA quiz represent the foods most strongly associated with overall diet quality, risk factors, and health outcomes. If your grade is not as high as you think it should be, perhaps aspects of your diet that you think are “not so bad” or “occasional” are having more of an impact than you realize.
Conversely, aspects of your diet that you think of as “very good” may not have as much impact (or be as consistent) as you think.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the details you mentioned:
If you don’t eat any meat, then you are always getting points on Q9. So that’s certainly not responsible for your low grade!
Avoiding diary and eggs is not associated with improved diet quality or reduced health risks. So they don’t impact your grade one way or the other.
If you have high blood pressure and are sensitive to the effects of sodium, then that might be an important thing for you to watch. But for the majority of the population, avoiding sodium does not improve their health or their risks. So it’s not monitored in the Nutrition GPA.
Baked goods that contain white flour will impact your grade–even when they are homemade, low sugar, low sodium, and dairy-free! If you’re only eating them occasionally, it shouldn’t affect your GPA too much. But research shows that replacing white flour with whole grain flour (or avoiding it altogether) improves health and nutrition. And that’s why you get a higher grade on days when you don’t eat things made with white flour.
There are also a few things that you DIDN’T mention. But if you are frequently having more than one alcoholic drink, more than 25 grams of added sugar, eating fried foods and/or you rarely eat fish, legumes, and nuts, this will drag down your Nutrition GPA.
All of which is to say that the whole point of the Nutrition GPA is to shine a light on those areas of our diet that could stand improving. And sometimes it reveals things that we may have over or under-estimated. In which case, it’s working exactly as designed–and presents a great opportunity to improve your nutrition!
Q. I buy wild blueberries because I assume they are not treated with pesticides. Am I correct about this?
A. Not necessarily. It’s possible that growers may cultivate “wild” blueberries for the commercial market and they may apply pesticides to reduce weeds or insects. (Here, for example, is some information from the Maine Extension for farmers who want to improve the yield of their wild blueberry crops.
For that matter, wild blueberries growing next to a farm could potentially be exposed to pesticides used on other crops.
Wild blueberries that are certified organic should be free of all but organic-approved pesticides. But either way, I don’t think that pesticides on blueberries poses a concern for your health.
According to the pesticide residue calculator at Safe Fruits and Veggies, you could consume over 13,000 servings of blueberries in a day without being exposed to a harmful amount of pesticide reside, even if the blueberries had the highest level of pesticides residue ever measured by the USDA.
Socca is a flatbread made from chickpea flour and is one of our favorite weekday suppers. Grain and gluten free and rich in protein and fiber. You can top it however you like or just eat it plain. Here’s a quick video tutorial. (Instructions below.)
Combine 1 cup chickpea flour, 1 cup water, 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 teaspoon each salt and fresh ground pepper. Whisk until blended and let sit for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, slice 1-2 onions, toss with olive oil and and place in a cast iron or ovenproof skillet. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Pour the batter over the onions, turn up the oven to 500 degrees and return the pan to the oven. Bake for around 15 minutes, or until it’s starting to brown at the edges.
Slide the socca onto a cutting board and gently flip it over. At that point, you can cut into pieces and serve as an appetizer or with soup or salad. Or, slide it back onto the pan, top with veggies and cheese and run it under the broiler to melt the cheese.