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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Vitamin K has been shown to keep your bones strong and help with proper blood clotting. It’s also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and heart health, as well as reducing the risk of cancer. The vitamin is split up into two groups: K1 and K2. K1 is responsible for the clotting factor in your blood and comes mostly from plant sources. K2 activates inactive proteins in the body to keep your all of your systems healthy. Sources of K2 are mainly from animal sources and fermented foods. The recommended daily amount of Vitamin K for females is 90mcg and for males it’s 120mcg.
Vitamin K1 amounts from a one cup serving:
Kale: 1,062 mcg
Collard greens: 1,059 mcg
Spinach: 889 mcg
Turnip greens: 529 mcg
Broccoli: 220 mcg
Brussels sprouts: 218 mcg
Vitamin K2 amounts from a one cup serving:
Nattō (Japanese fermented soybeans): 1,062 mcg
Pork sausage: 383 mcg
Hard cheeses: 76 mcg
Pork chop (with bone): 75 mcg
Chicken (leg/thigh): 60 mcg
Soft cheeses: 57 mcg
Egg yolk: 32 mcg
A few days ago we told you about why we love kale and how good it is for your body. Most kale you’ll come across is a variety called “curly kale” which is mild and works well in many different dishes. Forget any horror stories you’ve heard about it being bitter and tough. We’ve got some tips for how to prep the leafy green goodness:
• Remove the leaves from the stem: You’ll want to remove the leaves from the crunchy stem so simply tear the leaves away from the stem until they’re all removed. You can then tear the leaves into smaller pieces or roll the leaves up and cut into thin ribbons.
• Massage kale to soften it: If you’re going to eat it raw, the key to kale that’s not tough, is massaging it. Pour some olive oil, salt, and pepper over your kale leaves and begin to knead them with your hands. The leaves will turn a darker green and begin to get smaller as the plant fibers break down. Adding something acidic such as lemon juice or a vinaigrette will help break down the roughness of the kale even more.
• Cooked kale is even easier: If you’re going to cook the kale, massaging isn’t necessary. You can roast kale in the oven to make crunchy chips. You can throw it into a skillet if your meal needs some greenery. For most dishes, you can prepare them as usual then add the kale at the end. Several minutes of heat mixed in with the rest of the dish is usually all it needs to be ready to serve.
• Add into soups instead of spinach: If a soup recipe calls for spinach but you don’t like how the spinach tends to get thin and break down, then add kale instead. It’ll hold up better and even leftovers will have a little bit of firmness.
• Avoid blanching: Blanching is when you place a fruit or vegetable into boiling water for an amount of time then remove it and place in cold water to stop the cooking process. Doing this with kale robs it of some of its nutrients, as they get left behind in the water.
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You probably already know this by now, but kale is one of the healthiest and most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. It comes in several different varieties and is easy to add to your meals. We’re going to share six reasons why kale has a reputation as a nutritional powerhouse:
• High in iron - Depending on the variety, kale can have as much iron as beef (sometimes more) but also contains vitamin C, which helps with absorption.
• High in vitamins - One cup of kale contains 684% of your vitamin K daily value, 206% of vitamin A, and 134% of your daily vitamin C.
• Anti-inflammatory - One cup contains 10% of your daily value of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help fight arthritis, asthma, and autoimmune disorders.
• Antioxidant - Kale is rich in antioxidants like quercetin, kaempferol, and beta-carotene. These have numerous health benefits, such as protecting your heart and lowering blood pressure just to name a couple.
• Helps Lower Cholesterol - There’s a substance in kale called bile acid sequestrants that help increase good cholesterol and reduce bad cholesterol.
• Eye health - Two nutrients known for promoting eye health, lutein and zeaxanthin, can be found in kale. These can help lower your risk for macular degeneration and cataracts.
Iron is an essential mineral that mainly serves to create red blood cells and carry oxygen throughout your body. It must be acquired through food, as your body can’t produce it on its own. Deficiencies can make you feel fatigued or lead to anemia if amounts are very low. Luckily there are plenty of options for iron-rich foods.
Below are ten of them as well as the percentage of your recommended daily intake (RDI) they provide for a 100 gram serving:
1) Clams: 132% RDI
2) Pumpkin Seeds: 83% RDI
3) Dark Chocolate: 66% RDI
4) Organ Meats (liver, kidney, heart, brain): 36% RDI
5) Spinach: 20% RDI
6) Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas): 19% RDI
7) Red Meat: 15% RDI
8) Tofu: 15% RDI
9) Dark Turkey Meat: 13% RDI
10) Quinoa: 8% RDI
Taking a few minutes for yourself to stretch at work can help regain your focus, reinvigorate you, and help prevent injuries.
Here are 3 quick and low-key stretches you can do at your desk and then get back to work:
1) Trunk Rotation
While still seated, sit tall and straighten your back. Gently rotate your core and shoulders to one side as you grab the knee of the side you’re turning towards. Hold, then repeat with the opposite side.
2) Shoulder Stretch
Sit up straight with your hands on your thighs. Roll your shoulders forward and then up into a shrug and hold for a couple seconds. Release the shrug as you move your shoulders back down and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
3) Neck Rotations
Sit up straight and tilt your head back towards the ceiling. Rotate your head clockwise and drop your chin towards your chest at the halfway point. Continue until you’ve done a full rotation. Then reverse direction and repeat.