Feeling Fat?

Fat. What is it? Should we avoid it? Why do we need it?

So many things to consider when standing in the aisles of the grocery store staring blankly at all of the “healthy” options in front of us. Now that summer is here and we are outside and more active (hopefully) and trying to shed our winter flab, I thought I’d help to demystify what are GOOD fats and what are BAD fats.

Basically, there are two type of main fats: Saturated and Unsaturated.

Saturated Fats: When the molecule in the saturated fat molecule is packed with hydrogen atoms leaving no more empty spaces for additional molecules to attach.

So basically, this fat is so dense that it  makes it very difficult for your body to break down. It’s not a good idea to consume this often (i.e. by eating lots of fast food, processed foods, etc.). Like everything in life, enjoy in moderation.

How do we obtain it? Two ways – animal and plant sources.

Animal Sources: red meat, pork, dairy fats, butter and cheese

Plant Sources: Tropical oils –> coconut oil, palm kernal oil and cocoa butter.

Using these tropical oils to cook with is a better bet than say olive oil because since they are high density fats, the nutrients in the oils will not break down. And yes, there are plenty of health benefits to the plant sourced saturated fats – but, like I said, everything in moderation! I’ll get into more of these benefits later on. Isn’t it better to get your fats from whole foods rather than chemically produced foods? That way, you know that what you are consuming has nutrients in it.

I usually scoop a  tablespoon of organic extra virgin coconut oil into my frying pan when I make a stir fry or fry up some chicken. A little goes a long way.

The second type are unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated Fats: These fat molecules have empty spaces that are not taken up by hydrogen molecules, therefore, our bodies can break these fats down much easier.  There are two types: Mono-unsaturated and Poly-unsaturated fats. In order for them to maintain their nutrients, it’s best to only heat them slightly or not at all (i.e. serve as part of a salad dressing, more on that in a minute!).

What’s the difference between Mono and Poly?

Mono-unsaturated fats: This is when the the fat molecule has one bond and two empty spaces not taken up by hydrogen molecules. That empty space is what helps absorb other nutrients that consume alongside the fat. This oil should only be heated slightly.

Sources include mainly vegetable and nut oils such as: almond, olive, peanut and canola.

Poly-unsaturated fats: This when the fat molecule has many spaces not taken up by hydrogen molecules (even more nutrients can be absorbed and this fat is even easier to break down in our bodies). Because this fat is unstable, its sources should never be heated, otherwise, it would lose all of its nutritional properties. Not good for business and really, quite pointless since you’ve spent the money and time preparing your food just to have it be devoid of any health benefits. Cooking fail.

There are 2 types of poly-unsaturated fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6 known as Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs.

Why are poly-unsaturated fats amazing? Well, among a whole slew of health benefits, one of the main things that they do is help control your cholesterol. They increase the “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins aka HDL). HDL is responsible for carrying the cholesterol from the tissues to the liver and thus, flushing it out.  On the flip side, poly-unsaturated fats lowers your “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins aka LDL). Seems like a good trade-off.

Omega-3: This little guy  slows down the formation of blood clots in the arteries and controls your blood pressure, increases your energy, improves your learning, decreases your risk of heart disease and assists in weight loss.

Omega-6: This is one of the components in all cell membranes. In humans, it’s found in the brain and nerves. Omega-6 is needed for healthy skin, proper function of the reproductive system, to regulate blood pressure, and to promote blood clotting.

Here are some great food sources for Omega-3 and Omega-6: flax seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, walnuts, avocados, pumpkin seeds, green leafy veggies, tofu, soy beans, eggs and cold-water fish.

Now that it’s summer and you probably don’t feel like standing in front of a stove, plus you probably would rather be taking advantage of the sunshine (you know, for those 3 months we get it) then why not eat more salads? They are quick, easy and there are so many ways to get creative so that they never get dull.

Usually, for lunch, I’ll have a spinach salad with fried tofu, tuna or a hard boiled egg, some avocado, seeds, and veggies (tomatoes, carrots, cucumber or whatever else is in my fridge). Rather than buying commercial salad dressing, I make my own. This is a really simple recipe that takes me less than 3 minutes to make and it costs pennies to make.

I had this salad the other day for lunch: spinach, sprouts, quinoa, red onion, fried tofu, orange bell pepper and cucumber. Sprinkled some oregano and black pepper on it and then mixed in the dressing. Yum! So refreshing!

Ingredients:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar (organic if possible): 2 tbsps
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (organic if possible): 2 tbsps
  • Agave or Honey: 1 tsp
  • 1 clove garlic – minced (optional)

Method:

In a small bowl or dish mix all of the ingredients and stir. Done! This serves two.

Enjoy!

Next time, I will discuss our enemy, hydrogenated fats.

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Recipe: Asaparagus with Lemon and Garlic

What a busy week! Between work, exercising, errands, cooking, writing, socializing, cleaning, commuting, reading and sleeping, I’m spent by Friday. I’m tired just writing this!

If your weeks are anything like mine and even if they’re not (who am I kidding?) you’ll be excited for this recipe. It’s easy and ready within 20 minutes – a fantastic side to any sort of meat dish, too!

Asparagus is great, especially when you buy it fresh. According to this website, here are 8 benefits:

  1. can detoxify our system
  2. has anti-aging functions
  3. is considered an aphrodisiac
  4. can protect against cancer
  5. reduces pain and inflammation
  6. can prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
  7. reduces the risk of heart disease
  8. can help prevent birth defects

Not too shabby, eh? Since it’s an aphrodisiac, why not load up on this super food with someone special and reap the benefits together. I have to say, asparagus combined with garlic will be the newest power couple in the veggie world. Not only will this make one excellent dish but it’s good for your health, too!

Ingredients:

  • Asparagus (cut ends off and then cut in half)
  • 2 tbsp of butter (organic, unsalted) – melted
  • 1 clove garlic – chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • Chili powder to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Wash and cut the asparagus (make sure you cut those ends off and discard).

Place in a medium-sized baking dish.

In  small bowl, mix the lemon juice, melted butter, spices and garlic (use a whisk if you have one or a fork if you don’t).

Drizzle over the asparagus and cover the dish with tinfoil (shiny side down).

Bake for 15 minutes.

At the half way mark, turn the asparagus using tongs.

Serve as a side dish!

I served mine with coconut chicken (inspired from Thursday’s recipe) mixed with quinoa.

TIP! Combine this GLORIOUS juice with some cornstarch (just add a little at a time until it thickens) in a separate bowl and drizzle over your asparagus.

Serves 2

Cooking time:

Prep: 5 minutes

Baking: 15

Enjoy!

Stay tuned for my next post where I talk about ginger!

Recipe: Quinoa Patties

Looking for a way to add other grains into your diet? If you’re getting bored of rice, mix things up with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH).

Some quick facts about this super grain:

  • An amino acid-rich protein (a complete protein suitable for vegans) considered to be a grain but actually part of the the leafy green family, like spinach or swiss chard (WHO KNEW?)
  • Contains the high levels of the amino lysine, essential for tissue growth and repair. Lysine is also used to treat cold sores.
  • Great source of maganese, magnesium, folate and phosporus making it useful in combatting migrains, diabetes and atherosclerosis

Did you know that you can purchase quinoa all year round? Find it at either at your local health food store or in the health food section of your grocery store.

This week, I wanted to make something different but not too complicated. With a little digging on the interwebs, I found this recipe.

This was simple enough and one of the only quinoa patty recipes I’ve found that doesn’t require me to purchase a dehydrator (more on that later).

*** I made mine bite sized. Though it took a little bit more time to cook, it was TOTALLY worth it.

I really like their ideas on what to pair it with.  Another treat would be goat cheese, with sliced roasted beets on top. Or avocado with a slice of tomato and some salt and pepper. Or, have it with salad and/or soup. That’s usually my fail safe option. Or you can cut up the patty and put directly on your salad or in a pita or tortilla.  I had a couple for breakfast this morning with my Vega shake. So many options!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (organic if possible)
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour (I like to use rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying (olive, coconut, saffoil, grapeseed…)
* I also added some chili powder to spice it up a bit. Feel free to add any spices that you prefer!

Method

Simmer the quinoa in the water for approximately 15 minutes. By then , the liquid should be absorbed and the quinoa should be tender. When it has finsihed cooking, let it cool for a bit.

Mix the cooked quinoa with the eggs, onion, garlic, flour, parmesan, salt and pepper, adding more flour if required.

Here's the quinoa mixed with all of the ingredients.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

Spoon the mixture into the pan and form patties of any size that you desire and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.

The bite sized patties frying in the pan...they smelled SO good!

Set aside on paper towels to drain.

The first few that I made...I must have ate about 5 of them, you know...to make sure they came out alright 😉

 
 
 
 
Here they are, the finished product, served on top of my spinach salad!
 
 
 
 
 

___________________

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Enjoy!

_________

Tell us, how do you prepare your quinoa? What is your favourite dish?

Up next…spicing it up with spices!

Recipe: Veggie Stir Fry with Whole Grain Rice

In keeping with my theme of Whole Grains, I’ve decided to share a simple recipe for a veggie stir fry. Stir fries have been featured quite a bit on this blog mainly because they are so easy to make and … Continue reading

Recipe: Rice Pasta with Goat Cheese and Broccoli

The final Product!

One of the things that I had time giving up, and this may sound disgusting to some, was the Canadian classic, Kraft Dinner. Even just talking about it makes me want to bust open a pack of KD and throw in some butter, some whole milk and then, after it’s been cooked and that powdery “cheese” goodness has been lovingly mixed in with those enriched yet bleached wheat noodles, I’d drench it in ketchup (and maybe add some hot dogs to it).

Now that I know better – that sounds like a recipe for disaster – even though my stomach is growling at the thought.

I’ve had to come up with other creative ways to include my love for pasta and my love for gooey cheese in a nutritious dish.

This, my friends, has become an oldy but a goody!

NOTE: If you don’t like broccoli, I won’t hold it against it you. You can always substitute it for spinach or even roasted green or red peppers or even zucchini – actually, any veggie that you think would be delicious. But I wanted to keep this somewhat simple, so I went with broccoli.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of brown rice pasta (spirals, penne, whatever you prefer, just not spaghetti – doesn’t bode well).
  • 1/2 head of broccoli
  • 1/2 of a large portabello mushroom or 3 baby bellas – chopped
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1/3 large red onion – finely chopped
  • 1 cup of goat mozerella cheese – shredded
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp of 0regano
  • Garlic (2 cloves, minced)

Method:

Boil water and cook the rice pasta. TIP: Add a table spoon of olive oil to the water so that the pasta doesn’t stick together.

While the pasta is cooking, steam the broccoli (should take about 10 to 20 minutes, but keep an eye on it). When it’s tender, it’s ready!

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

In the meantime, in a medium frying pan, heat 1 table spoon of olive oil and add your spices. Let them simmer for about a minute or until fragrant. Then add your onions and stir until they become soft.

Then add the mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and garlic. Let this simmer for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Layer so that the rice pasta goes in first, then the veggies, then the cheese.

When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and add it to the frying pan. Same goes with the broccoli. TIP: Once the broccoli florets have been steamed, cut them into smaller pieces or in half.

Mix all ingredients together. Let the flavour soak in for a couple minutes then transfer to a medium sized baking dish. Add the shredded goat mozerrella cheese on top and bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese starts bubbling.

Remove from oven and let cool for  a few minutes before serving.

Serves between 2 and 3.  Serve with some chicken or fish and salad or on it’s own – why not?

Cook time: 30 to 40 mins

Enjoy!

Carob: A great sugar alternative! (when life isn’t sweet enough)

One of the many challenges of staving off Candida is finding healthy alternatives to sugar, including, chocolate. Sugar in general is bad for your health. It contributes to:

According to Rheumatic.org , here are the top 10 reasons why you should be avoiding sugar, mainly, refined sugar:

  1. Sugar can suppress the immune system.
  2. Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in the body.
  3. Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.
  4. Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
  5. Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases).
  6. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function, the more sugar you eat the more elasticity and function you lose.
  7. Sugar reduces high density lipoproteins.
  8. Sugar leads to chromium deficiency.
  9. Sugar leads to cancer of the ovaries.
  10. Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose.

 

Pretty scary stuff.

 

Regarding Candida, sugar causes yeast in your intestine and gut to grow and multiply. So I avoid that sucker at all costs.

I’ve discover healthy alternatives to sugar and to add a little treat to my diet such as organic honey, agave, unsweetened shredded coconut, dates, raisins, and recently, carob and carob powder.

I found some really good info on the Bulk Barn website:

  • Unlike chocolate, it’s not full of fat, butter and sugar.
  • Naturally caffeine free
  • A natural source of sugar: can serve as a replacement for baking (such as bread, waffles, cakes, pies, muffins, etc)
  • Can be enjoyed by those who are allergic to or have chocolate sensitivities
  • Naturally sweet, high in carbs and very low in fat content

One easy way to incorporate carob into your diet is by adding a teaspoon or two into your smoothies.

Here’s an easy smoothie recipe that I like to make, nearly every day:

  • Frozen or fresh strawberries
  • Frozen mangoes
  • Coconut water
  • No sugar added soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons of carob powder
  • 1 tablespoon of protein powder* (optional)

*Because of wheat and sugar sensitivities, I opt for a whey protein isolate, called Inbalance (http://www.inbalancenutrition.ca/ ).

Question:

  • Do you face any dietary challenges?
  • How do you overcome them?

Challenge:

  • Is there an ingredient in your diet that you could substitute for a more healthy alternative?
  • If so, what is it?
  • Try it for a week and see if you notice a difference!

Enjoy!

What Happens in Vega, Stays in Vega….

Ben Franklin said it best, “Lost time is never found again.”.

Have you ever woke up in the morning and thought, “If I could just sleep 10 more minutes, I’d feel so more refreshed?” But then, 10 minutes turns into 20 and before you know it, you’re scrambling to get out the door and get to work and you haven’t even had a bite to eat at breakfast (and no, a latte does NOT count).

This leads me to today’s post. I’d like to share with you a product that was recently recommended to me by a friend of mine. At first, I was sceptical, well, cynical, that this was worth the money.  But, after using it every day for 2 weeks, I have to say – this is a winner! If my name was Oprah Winfrey, I would definitely have this as one of my favourite things. But I’m not. So, I will just have to blog about it instead.

The product that I am gushing about is called Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer. I think the name says it all. But I’d like to go over what it is, the benefits and where to buy it.

Vega - Whole Food Health Optimizer (15 servings of goodness!)

Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals, fibre, Omega 3 and 6, EFAs, antioxidants, probiotics, enzymes , ChlorEssence and MacaSure.

It comes in four flavours: Vanilla Chai (my favourite), Chocolate, Berry and Natural Flavour.

It’s free of any allergens and toxic additives such as: animal products, dairy, gluten, soy, sugar, wheat, yeast, artificial sweeteners, GMOs and pesticides.

Additionally, it’s a clean product and alkaline forming. In short, a tall glass of heaven.

It was created by Brendan Brazier, a vegan and a professional iron man athlete. He wanted to create a formula and a line of nutritional products that would aid him to train and recover in the most efficient way.

Here is his story .

He recently developed a new and improved version of the Whole Food Health Optimizer called One.

I just purchased a bunch of the old stuff since it was on sale, so eventually when I run out, I’ll be looking forward to trying this out!

Why do I like this product so much that I would want to share it with you? Here is a quick list of why I think this product is great:

    1. Convenient. This is SUPER easy to make. All you really need is a cup, a measuring cup and some water. But if you want to be fancy like me, get your trusty blender out and add a couple of ice cubes and 300ml of water and blend. It makes a bit of a slushy and is delicious! It’s also super easy for when you travel. Just pre-measure the amount you will need depending on the number of days you’re gone and pack it along with the scoop that is provided in the tub. I have a plastic cup with a lid that I bring with me, so all I need to do is put 2 scoops of the powder in the cup along with enough water, put that lid on TIGHT and shake until the mix is dissolved. Then I chug that baby down and I’m done. Believe it or not, it keeps you full for about 3 or 4 hours. Starting to see why I’m loving this so much?

    2. Save time in the mornings cooking breakfast. No more waking up and wondering what to make. No more wasting so much money on overpriced breakfast cereals (that are generally laden with sugars). Simply wake up, shake, drink and go. Even if you don’t have time at home, you can always bring and keep some at work to prepare at the office. If you LOOOOVE breakfast, this also makes a great meal replacement for lunch, especially if you have all day meetings or no time to grab lunch. Or you could have half of a serving as a snack!

    3. Save money vitamins. Since this product contains 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins, you won’t need to shell out money on supplements and multivitamins.  Yes, please!

    4. More energy and knowing that you’re doing something great for your health. I’ve definitely noticed that I have more energy and just feel good since taking this product. Digestion is better and I have more clarity and focus.

    5. Gluten, dairy, wheat, soy, sugar, chemical free product‘nough said!

    6. Good for the environment. I thought this was clever:

      I thought this was interesting.

So, where does one purchase this fine product? It can be found at any health food store such as Noah’s or in the health food store section of your grocery store.

This site also sells it http://shopca.sequelnaturals.com/ and will also indicate where Vega products are sold http://myvega.com/find-a-store .

It costs anywhere from $60 to $80 depending on the store.

Like I said, I’ve been seeing it on sale since there will be a new version launched soon. But it’s totally worth the cost considering the money you spend each month on vitamins and breakfast. Plus, aren’t you worth it?

If you’ve read this and thought that this sounds amazing and would really benefit you then I suggest that you buy some (you can buy a smaller tub for about $45) and try it out for a week and see how you like it. Why not?

I hope at the very least, I’ve given you some good information and something different to think about.

Enjoy!

Curried Veggie Chickpea Stew

The one thing that I’ve come to enjoy about cooking is the creativity aspect of it. I love having a whole bunch of ingredients in front of me and trying to come up with something healthy and delicious to make.  Last night, I had some tomatoes to clean up so I decided to make a tomato-based curried stew.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of spices, which is funny because I grew up in a household where paprika was considered exotic.

When I went to India, last year (I can’t believe it’s been almost a year already!) I felt right at home with their food – the spicier the better! The people I was staying with were amazed that a white girl could handle all the spices and chilli. Honestly, I was a bit amazed too until the end of my trip when my stomach began to revolt against me.  Needless to say, it took me a few months to recover and to be able to eat curry again.

How could I ever stop, though?! Which leads me to today’s leftovers – Curried Veggie Chickpea Stew.

Here it is in the bowl, ready to eat for dinner!

Chickpeas are a Godsend and are a super healthy alternative to eating meat.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 chilli flakes
  • 1/4 garam masala
  • 1/2 curry powder
  •  1/4 paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  •  1 and 1/2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1/2 head broccoli steamed (this was left over from the other day)
  • 1/2 carrot peeled and chopped
  •  1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 small potato, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas (drained)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup of brown rice

Method:

  1. Cook the rice as directed.
  2. In the meantime, in a large sauce pan or pot, heat the olive oil then add the spices. Stir in the oil until fragrant.
  3. Add the onions and stir so that the spices mix in with the onions and let simmer for a few minutes, then add the garlic and stir. Let simmer for another minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, red peppers, and carrots. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  5. Add the water, chickpeas and broccoli. Stir all contents together and cover for 10 minutes. Cook until the tomatoes have “melted” and until it is lightly boiling.

Serve over brown rice.

This was definitely amazing as a left over meal. It’s nice and light yet filling and I don’t feel sleepy or sluggish after lunch. I will definitely be making this again! Next time, I’d like to try it with water chestnuts or even some small apple pieces to add some sweetness.

What will you experiment with?

Enjoy!