Nutrition comparison of gluten-free flours

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.

1/4 cupCaloriesProtein (g)Fat (g)Sat fat (g)Carb (g)Fiber (g)Calcium (mg)Potassium (mg)
Watermelon seed flour17891535017207
Almond flour16061206472210
Coconut flour12063218106600
Cassava flour13000031220106
Gluten-free baking flour130200301459
Paleo baking flour110440.513327160
White pastry flour12030.50261658
Whole wheat pastry flour11040.502337111

What’s the latest on A2 milk?

[Transcript]

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.

Related listening

Is protein powder too processed to be healthy?

Catherine writes:

“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.

My diet is super healthy. Why isn’t my Nutrition GPA higher?

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!

 

Are wild blueberries pesticide free?

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.

Is collagen protein safe and effective?

Naomi writes:

When opening a new container of Vital Proteins Collagen I saw a warning about possible lead content. Should I change my choice of collagen or stop using it altogether?  I am 65 and thought it would be beneficial for my hair and skin.

It’s hard to know for sure without a chemical analysis, but this warning may just be a corporate cover-your-hiney thing. I don’t think you necessarily need to throw away your new (and probably fairly pricey) container of collagen protein. But I’m also skeptical about its benefits for joints, skin, hair, or nails. Continue reading “Is collagen protein safe and effective?” >

Should you throw out your nonstick pans?

 

I’ve been getting lots of questions relating to the documentary Dark Waters.

For example, Dannette wrote:

“I just  watched the movie “Dark Waters” which makes the case against Teflon.  I immediately threw away my nonstick pans. I’m concerned about ALL nonstick surfaces now. I’m not sure if I need to be. I’d love it if you watched it and then let me know what you think. I love having a good nonstick pan, but it isn’t worth my family’s long term health. I just want to figure out what my best options are for being completely safe cooking for my family.”

7/5/20 UPDATE: In my original response (posted here on June 25th), I disclosed that I had not seen the movie Dark Waters.  Unfortunately, that did not keep me from making some false assumptions about it.   In response to valid criticisms, I’ve removed my original comments about the movie Dark Waters, which included some inaccuracies.  (See the comments for several thoughtful descriptions of the movie).

This doesn’t change my answer to Dannette’s question. Although I don’t personally use it, I don’t think users of modern nonstick cookware need to be concerned about chemicals leaching into their food.  But let me add some additional context:

Although PFOA persists in the environment,  it is no longer used in nonstick cookware.  And even when it was used in Teflon cookware, the primary threat was not due to exposure from use of the pans but from industrial dumping of the chemical into the water supply.

Although I’m not afraid of poisoning myself or my family by using nonstick cookware,I prefer to use stainless steel, cast iron, glass, and silicone. I use a little oil or cooking spray when necessary.  I sometimes have to clean a pan.

But the choices that we make individually about which products we use do not necessarily protect us from industrial chemicals that may be harmful to the environment in which we all live.

There are ongoing, legitimate concerns about the process by which industrial chemicals are tested and approved for safety and impact on the environment, including downstream effects on wildlife and human life.

Thank you to all who helped clarify this issue.