We’ve all heard that potassium is an important mineral for our health, but most people don’t know why. We’re about to fix that.
Potassium is an electrolyte as well as the third most abundant mineral in the body. Its electrolyte properties make it perfect for functions like regulating fluids, sending signals to nerves, and regulating muscle and heart contractions. Basically anything that involves sending electrical impulses in the human body involves potassium.
Your body can’t produce potassium on its own, so it has to be consumed. The good news is, it’s easy to get enough potassium if you eat a balanced diet. Ideal amounts fall between 3,500-4,700mg per day. Here are some foods that are high in potassium followed by the amount of potassium in a 3.5oz serving:
• Beet greens, cooked: 909 mg
• Yams, baked: 670 mg
• Pinto beans, cooked: 646 mg
• White potatoes, baked: 544 mg
• Portobello mushrooms, grilled: 521 mg
• Avocado: 485 mg
• Sweet potato, baked: 475 mg
• Spinach, cooked: 466 mg
• Kale: 447 mg
• Salmon, cooked: 414 mg
• Bananas: 358 mg
• Peas, cooked: 271 mg
Most foods make sense being kept in the refrigerator. It slows down their breakdown, and is thought to keep foods fresher for longer. It isn’t always what you’d think though. Here’s a list of eight foods that are better off being kept outside the fridge to avoid gross texture changes or loss of flavor:
1) Bread: It’ll dry out in the fridge. Extra can be frozen, but avoid the fridge.
2) Garlic: The cold air can make garlic sprout and it’ll get rubbery and may mold.
3) Whole Onions: Moisture in the fridge will make the onions mushy and moldy. After being cut they can be stored in the fridge in a sealed bag for a few days.
4) Tomatoes: Chilled tomatoes lose their flavor and get a granulated texture.
5) Coffee: Coffee can condensate in the fridge and its flavor can change dramatically.
6) Honey: Honey will keep for a very long time out of the fridge as long as it’s sealed. Chilled honey crystallizes and is hard to use.
7) Potatoes: Potatoes in the fridge will turn gritty and sweet from the starches breaking down.
8) Whole Melons: Keep melons on the counter until you’re ready to use them. Once cut, they can be kept in the fridge for a few days, but will quickly soften.
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Kombucha is a hugely popular fermented tea drink. While it’s getting a boost in popularity currently, kombucha has been around for a couple thousand years and was first enjoyed in China. It’s made from either green or black tea with added fermenting culture (called “scoby” which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) and sugar to feed the fermentation. The taste can vary but most varieties can be described as tart, fruity, vinegary, and sometimes sweet/sour with an effervescent sparkle that makes it refreshing.
Now that we know what it is, why drink it? There are few studies that have been done on humans, but animal studies show many promising effects and kombucha’s fans will attest to them.
Here are some benefits of kombucha:
• Probiotics for gut health
• Contains the benefits of green tea such as boosting metabolism, improving cholesterol levels, and controlling blood sugar
• Provides antioxidants
• Antimicrobial properties similar to antibiotics
Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in our bodies, yet it’s estimated that half of the US population isn’t getting enough of it. It’s involved in over 300 bodily processes such as blood sugar control, nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and muscle building. Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include insomnia, inability to manage stress, high blood pressure, and muscle cramps. In severe deficiency cases, it can be a factor in things like diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. It’s recommended that you consume 3mg of magnesium per pound of body weight per day (540mg for a 180 pound person for example). Here are 10 of the most magnesium-rich foods that can help get you there:
1) Swiss Chard ½ cup=75mg
2) Almonds 1oz=76mg
3) Cashews 1oz=77mg
4) Spinach ½ cup=79mg
5) Amaranth (ancient grain high in fiber and a complete protein) ½ cup=80mg
6) Mackerel fish 3oz=83mg
7) Sesame Seeds 1oz=100mg
8) Salmon 3oz=104mg
9) Brazil Nuts 1oz=106mg
10) Pumpkin Seeds 1oz=156mg
Note that fertilizers and pesticides interfere with the amount of magnesium available in your greens and buying organic will help.
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In some nutrition circles, the sweet potato is hailed as far superior to the villainized white potato. It was said that the sweet potato was healthy and white potatoes are starchy and will make you gain weight. So is one really better than the other? Let’s find out!
In their basic form, the nutritional values of white potatoes and sweet potatoes are very similar. Calories, carbs, protein, and fat, are the same for each type or within 5-10 points of each other. Sweet potatoes have slightly more fiber and Vitamin A, but white potatoes have slightly higher amounts of iron, magnesium, and potassium.
Another argument for sweet potatoes that gets thrown around is that it has a lower glycemic index (GI) than white potatoes, meaning it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as much. This is true, but the GI can be changed by how the potatoes are prepared. Baking increases the GI for foods since the high heat turns the starches into sugars. A baked sweet potato can have a higher GI than a boiled white potato. Fiber, fat, and protein all help to lower the GI too, so eating the skin of the potato or adding a little light sour cream or cheese can help head-off the spike.
So, what’s the verdict? It’s a draw! Each type has its pros and cons and you should alternate between eating both. When eaten with minimal additions like butter, bacon, or sugar, white and sweet potatoes can be part of a healthy diet.
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Last week we gave you an intro to amino acids. Today we’re going to look at a specific type of amino acid - BCAAs or branched-chain amino acids. BCAAs are different from other amino acids in that their unique chained structure allows them to go directly from the liver to the bloodstream. Other amino acids go through a much more lengthy metabolic process. BCAAs perform a variety of functions, but they are more closely involved with muscle growth than all the other amino acids.
Given this specialization in muscles, they’ve become a hot topic in the nutrition world. They’re known for providing energy and stamina for workouts, maintaining a healthy weight, helping to preserve muscle tissue while in a caloric deficit, and stimulating the growth of new muscle tissue after strenuous training. BCAAs can be taken as a supplement, but there are also many foods that can provide you with them. Most sources of protein are good sources of BCAAs, but some are better than others. Other than the eggs, below are the BCAAs in a 6oz serving of:
• Roasted peanuts: 6.8g
• Chicken breast: 6.6g
• 95% Lean beef: 6.2g
• Salmon/Tilapia/Canned tuna: 5.9g/5.9g/5.6g
• Black beans: 2.6g
• 1 Egg: 1.3g
• 1 Egg white: 0.8g
Amino acids are organic compounds that act as the building blocks of proteins in your body and aid in muscle growth and repair. There are 20 different amino acids that all serve different functions for a healthy person, but only 9 of these are considered essential. “Essential” means your body isn’t capable of producing the acids and they must be consumed.
Foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids are called “complete proteins”. Here are some sources of complete proteins:
• lean red meat
• dairy products
Note that beans and nuts are considered incomplete, but eating a variety of each can help ensure you’re getting a combo of all essentials if you’re on a plant-based diet.
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A 3oz serving of lean beef (about the size of a deck of cards) can provide you with 10 essential nutrients as well as 26g of protein for around 150 calories. For a cut of beef to be considered “lean” it must have:
- Less than 10 grams of total fat
- 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat
- Less than 95 mg of cholesterol
Keep an eye out for the words “round” or “loin” in the name of a cut, as that’s a sign that it’s considered lean. Here are 4 popular lean beef options:
1) 95% (or higher) lean ground beef - versatile, lean, but still rich in flavor
2) Tenderloin steak (filet mignon) - the most tender of all steaks
3) Strip steak (top loin steak) - tender and a popular choice at restaurants or for grilling
4) Top Sirloin steak - a juicy cut that can be served as a steak or cubed for kabobs
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Cruising down the meat department on your grocery runs, you may have noticed beef that’s labeled “grass-fed” and others that say “grass-finished”. If you’ve always wondered what the difference is, you’re in luck!
Grass-fed means that the cows started on grass but didn’t eat grass exclusively their entire lives. This is sometimes referred to as “grain-finished”. Typically, they’re brought indoors and fed grains (soy and corn) for the last 3 months of their lives before slaughter. The two reasons for doing this are 1) grass may not grow year-round in the region the livestock live and 2) feeding grains makes the cows gain more weight faster, which means more money for farmers. The grain feed may contain GMOs.
Grass-finished means that the cows ate nothing but grass their entire lives. There isn’t a lot of room for this type of process in North America, so you may find that grass-finished beef is sourced from Australia or New Zealand where grass is more plentiful and grows all year. Grass-finished beef takes longer to produce and yields less, so it’s usually priced higher that other options. There are some key differences to grass-finished beef though. Grass-finished is:
• Higher in Omega-3 fatty acids than other types of beef
• Higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which may have cancer-fighting properties
• 3.5% higher in Vitamin E than grass-fed beef
• Known for having a distinctly different taste
All this being said, grass-fed and grass-finished still offer more vitamins and fatty acids than standard grain-fed beef and contain less fat. And all beef contains natural sources of essential nutrients such as iron, protein, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
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