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Is Durum Wheat Semolina a Whole Grain?

In the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade program, players earn points by choosing whole grain foods instead of refined grain foods. But distinguishing one from the other can sometimes require an advanced degree in label reading! As one of my Upgraders recently posted in our private Facebook group:

“Labels on food can be confusing. Pasta labels are especially confusing – one says ‘durum wheat semolina’ and another says ‘enriched durum wheat semolina’. I know enriched means refined but if it doesn’t say enriched does that mean it’s whole grain?”

Let’s break down some of this terminology:

Durum” is a strain of wheat that is used mostly for pasta, due to its higher protein content. (Think of “Durum” as its first name and “Wheat” as its family name.) But unless it says “whole grain” you can assume that it is refined, which means that the nutritious germ and fibrous bran have been removed.

The word “Semolina,” on the other hand, refers to the fact that the durum wheat is coarsely ground–again, in order to produce good pasta texture. The word “semolina” is sort of like the designation “Esquire” after a lawyers name; it’s not part of the lawyer’s identity like her first or last name but an indication of her preparation and function.)

The word “enriched” almost always signals a refined grain. Refined grains are often enriched in an effort to replace the nutrients that are lost to refining. You will virtually never see “enriched whole wheat,” because it would be unnecessary to replace nutrients that have not been removed.  However, the absence of the word “enriched” doesn’t mean that it is not refined.

You can save yourself a lot of label reading by looking for the 100% whole grain stamp. When you see this (or the words “100% whole grain”) on the front of the package, you don’t even need to flip the package over to see the ingredient list….that’s the golden ticket right there.

 

2 Minutes a Day = Better Eating Habits

Think you don’t have time to get your diet under control?

What if you could improve your eating habits in just 2 minutes a day?

The Nutrition GPA™ app (recently named by the New York Times as one of 4 Best Food Tracking apps) asks you ten yes-or-no questions about what you ate that day and then gives you a grade for that day’s nutrition. Not happy with your grade? You’ll know exactly what to do differently tomorrow.

It’s a fun and easy way to create awareness of how your choices impact your nutrition and health.  And it’s not just about cutting things out of your diet! It’s also about adding more healthy foods to your day.

The daily quiz takes less than two minutes a day (a lot less time than logging everything you eat into a food tracker!) and gives you an accurate picture of how your choices stacked up nutritionally. But the real power is in taking the quiz every day, because your daily scores are averaged to reveal your customized Nutrition Grade Point Average (GPA).

And here’s the good news: Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be healthy! A Nutrition GPA of B or better means you have a healthy diet, but still leaves room for some treats and indulgences.

READY TO ADD THE JET FUEL?

Knowing is one thing. Doing another. And that’s where the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade™ program comes in. This online group challenge combines the awareness and accountability of the Nutrition GPA with the power of community and expert coaching to create positive momentum that will last far longer than 30 days.

One recent participant wrote:

“This has been a really, really great experience. I’ve wanted to eat healthier for a long time and always got overwhelmed and confused not really knowing where to start. This has been a super easy, accessible way to start. I’m very grateful!”

Another said:

“This program is really helping me fix my attitude towards food. Previously, if I had a “bad” meal, I would write off the rest of the day (or week!). Last night I had Chinese takeout for dinner. Because I’d had such healthful meals earlier in the day, I still scored a B. After I’d eaten, rather than feeling guilty or wallowing all evening, I got up and prepped breakfast and lunch for today so I’m on track for my A. One meal does not a whole diet make (or break!).”

The next round of the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade starts Friday October 19 and I’d love for you to join us!

In a live one-hour kickoff, I’ll explain the research and nutritional science behind the app, how the questions were designed, and why it works. Then, you’ll have daily access to hundreds of current Upgraders and alumni who will cheer you on, plus a direct line to me with your thorniest diet and nutrition questions!

Over the course of these 30 days, you’ll experience how small, sustainable changes can fit into any lifestyle–and will have a positive impact for years to come.

Come join us! Can’t wait to see you there.

The Good Enough Diet: A Drama-Free Approach to Better Nutrition

How many times have you given up on a diet or a detox because you ate one off-plan food?

I already screwed up, you might think, so it doesn’t matter now! And maybe you go from having one extra drink at happy hour to a whole weekend of indulgent food and drinks.

Or maybe you don’t even want to try eating a healthier diet, because you know you can’t live up to that stringent vegan/paleo/no-added-sugar diet your sister or friend or co-worker is touting.

This kind of black-or-white thinking drives me crazy! Continue reading “The Good Enough Diet: A Drama-Free Approach to Better Nutrition” >

Healthy Sources of Omega 3 and 6

This week’s Nutrition Diva podcast talks about the recommended intake of omega 6 fats.  How much is enough? How much is too much?

Here’s a guide to the omega-6 and omega-3 content of a variety of healthy foods. Click on any column to sort the list by that value.

Want a food added to the table? Add your request in the comment section and I’ll do my best to add it.

FoodServingGramsTotal Fat (g)Total PUFA (g)O-6O-3
Brazilnuts1/4 cup3322770
Canola oil1 Tbsp1414431
Chia seeds1 Tbsp103212
Corn oil1 Tbsp1414770
Flaxseeds1 Tbsp11430.52.5
Grapeseed oil1 Tbsp141410100
Hemp hearts1 Tbsp105431
Peanut butter2 Tbsp3216440
Pecans1/4 cup2518550
Pinenuts1/4 cup342311110
Pumpkin seeds1 Tbsp3216770
Rice bran oil1 Tbsp1414550
Salmon, cooked3 oz85730.52
Sesame seeds1 Tbsp96220
Sunflower seeds1 Tbsp3619820
Tofu, firm3 oz855220
Tuna, white3 oz853101
Walnuts1/4 cup302014113

 

 

Can we all calm down about coconut oil?

I’ve gotten several emails from readers asking me to respond to a viral video in which a Harvard (Harvard!) professor asserts that coconut oil is “pure poison.”

It’s hard to imagine how someone with such a prestigious pedigree could make such as silly and sensational statement in public. Presumably she was pushed over the edge by the ridiculous claims that some people have been making about coconut oil lately.

Can we all just calm down about coconut oil?

Coconut oil is not pure poison. On the other hand, it’s also not going to make you smarter, thinner, younger, or fold your laundry for you.

Proponents of coconut oil make a big deal out of the fact that coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). But, as I discussed in my podcast episode on MCTs, claims for these specialty fats tend to be exaggerated or unproven.

Coconut oil haters such as this Harvard (!) professor mostly object to the fact that coconut is is almost 100% saturated fat. But, as I discussed in my recent podcast episode on butter, saturated fat in moderation may even have some heart health benefits.

Despite saturated fat’s rehabilitated reputation, I still think it makes sense to limit saturated fat intake to around 10-15% of calories, if for no other reason than to leave room in the diet for other healthy fats. But if you want to spend your sat fat allowance on coconut oil, I see no reason to call in Poison Control.

Surprising Link Between Diet and Brain Power

Every week seems to bring another study on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet–on heart health, longevity, cancer risk, you name it. But this study caught my eye due to a surprising connection between diet and academic performance.

The study involved a couple hundred high-school aged kids from Spain. The researchers found that those who more closely followed a Mediterranean diet pattern did better in school, getting higher grades in math, language and having higher grade point averages.

That’s not all that surprising. Previous research has found a link between Mediterranean diet and cognitive function in adults. All those healthy fats and antioxidants–and a minimum of added sugars and processed foods–appear to be good for the brain.

But the Spanish researchers found another potential explanation: The kids whose diets were most aligned with the Mediterreanean diet pattern also slept longer and better–and that this appeared to mediate the effect on academic performance. Previous studies have found that older adults who follow this dietary pattern also tend to sleep better.

But why would the Mediterranean diet lead to better sleep?  Researchers have proposed a couple of possibilities.

We know that the Mediterranean diet tends to be anti-inflammatory and there appears to be a relationship between inflammation and sleep.  When people get less sleep, their inflammation markers tend to go up.  But may also be true that higher inflammation has a negative impact on sleep quality. So it could be that the anti-inflammatory effects of the Mediterranean Diet help you sleep better.

Some of the foods that are prominent in the Mediterranean diet, including olives, olive oil, grapes, and wine, are good dietary sources of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the circadian sleep-wake cycle.  Perhaps the higher melatonin content of the Mediterranean diet has a beneficial effect on sleep rhythms.

Food for….zzzzzz

 

 

Should You Eat a Less Varied Diet?

“Eat a varied diet” is a fairly standard piece of advice. The idea is that by eating a greater variety of foods, you’ll be more likely to check off all the nutritional boxes.  But a new report suggests that the enormous amount of variety in our diet may be leading us astray.

When we have lots of different foods on our plates (or on a buffet line), we tend to eat more.  You’ve no doubt experienced this countless times. After eating a bowl of chili, we might feel no desire to continue eating…until a piece of cheesecake appears. Suddenly, we have a little more room.

But we can use this effect to our advantage, by limiting the variety of snacks and sweets that we keep around and increasing the variety of fresh vegetables, for example.

Just for fun, why not take an inventory of what’s in your house right now? How many different types of crackers, salted nuts, chips or other snack foods are on hand? How many different kinds cookies, cereal, muffins, granola bars, ice cream, chocolate, or other sweet treats?  How many types of bread, rolls, tortillas, and other starchy foods?

Now open up that crisper drawer. How many different kinds of vegetables and fruits are in there, ready to eat?  How many different sources of lean protein?

How does the variety (or lack thereof) of various categories of food correlate to your consumption patterns?

If you want to cut down on snacking, try keeping fewer snack foods around. If you want to eat more vegetables, surround yourself with more different kinds of produce.

Protein density of foods

In this week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I talked about the concept of protein density and why it matters.

Plant-based sources of protein like legumes or nuts often contain a lot of additional calories in the form or carbohydrates and/or fats. It can be challenging to to increase your protein intake using plant-based sources without taking in more calories than you need. This is where the concept of protein density can help. 

We can calculate the protein density of a food by dividing the protein by the calories and multiplying by 100.  Foods with a higher protein density provide more protein per calorie. For example, black beans have a protein density score of 6.6, meaning that 100 calories worth of black beans contains 6.6 grams of protein. Edamame, on the other hand, has protein density of around 10. You get 50% more protein from the same number of calories.  (Although the calories and protein will change with the serving size, the protein density will always remain the same.)

Here is a table of some common foods and their protein density. You can sort this list by any column by clicking on the column header.

FoodAmountWeight (g)Protein (g)CaloriesProtein density
Egg white1 large333.601721.2
Chicken breast3 oz8526.0014018.6
Cottage cheese, lowfat1/2 cup11314.008117.3
Steak, sirloin, broiled3 oz8525.7516016.1
Tuna, white, canned3 oz8522.5515814.3
Bok choi, cooked1 cup1702.652013.3
Hamburger, 90% lean, broiled3 oz8522.1918412.1
Tofu, firm1/2 cup12621.7618112.0
Mushrooms, grilled1 cup1213.973511.3
Pork loin, broiled3 oz8523.2220611.3
Turnip greens, cooked1 cup1444.003611.1
Salmon, baked3 oz8519.0017510.9
Asparagus, cooked1 cup1804.324010.8
Broccoli, cooked1 cup1564.384110.7
Edamame1 cup11813.2412910.3
Bean sprouts1 cup1242.52269.7
Cauliflower, raw1 cup641.89209.5
Kale, cooked1 cup671.78199.4
Egg , whole1 large506.28728.7
Yogurt, plain, low fat1 container (6 oz)1708.931078.3
Collards, cooked1 cup1905.15638.2
Mozzarella, part skim1 oz286.67838.1
Lentils, cooked1 cup198182307.8
Brussels sprouts, raw1 cup882.97387.8
Zucchini, cooked1 cup1802.05277.6
Provolone cheese1 oz287.19997.3
Swiss cheese1 oz287.571107.3
Snow peas1 cup982.74416.7
Black beans, cooked1 cup24014.472186.6
Artichoke, cooked1 medium1203.5615.73
Yogurt, plain, whole milk1 container (6 oz)1705.901045.7
Cheddar, cheese1 oz286.421135.7
Lima beans, cooked1 cup17011.582095.5
Cheese, feta1 oz283.99745.4
Green beans, cooked1 cup1352.01385.3
Pumpkin seeds, roasted1 oz288.381615.2
Milk, whole1 cup2448.001565.1
Tomatoes, canned1 cup2401.90385.0
Bread, whole wheat1 slice324.00814.9
Vegetable juice, canned1 cup2532.35564.2
Peanuts, roasted1 oz286.841654.1
Pasta, whole wheat, cooked1 cup1177.001744.0
Amaranth, cooked 1 cup2469.352513.7
Pasta, cooked1 cup1247.191963.7
Quinoa, cooked1 cup1858.002223.6
Almonds, roasted1 oz285.901683.5
Corn, yellow1 cup1364.111203.4
Egg noodles, cooked1 cup1607.262213.3
Baked potato1 potato2997.862842.8
Sunflower seeds, roasted1 oz284.801732.8
Rice, brown, cooked1 cup2025.532482.2
Butternut squash, backed1 cup2051.84822.2
Sweet potato, baked1 potato1142.291032.2
Rice, white, cooked1 cup1584.252052.1