Earlier this week, we looked at the benefits of flaxseed. Today we’re talking about another seed: chia. Yes, the same seeds that you used to grow green sprouts on your Chia Pet back in the day. Before they were used to decorate terracotta, chia seeds were treasured by the Mayans and Aztecs as a source of energy and strength. Chia is actually an ancient Mayan word that means “strength”! These seeds are currently enjoying a surge in popularity, so let’s see what they have to offer you:
Flax is a crop that has been cultivated by different civilizations for thousands of years. It’s been used for paper, clothing, rope, and animal feed. Today flaxseed can be had as whole seeds, powder, flour, oil, and capsules due to its many benefits. There’s a reason people have been using it for so long. Let’s take a look at why:
Heart disease is responsible for almost one-third of all deaths in the world. Your diet can play an important role in minimizing the risk of heart disease, among many other things. Here are eight foods that you can add to your arsenal for cardiovascular superiority:
1) Whole grains: whole wheat, brown rice, oats, barley, and quinoa just to name a few. These contain higher amounts of fiber than refined grains, which can reduce bad cholesterol in your body.
2) Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are high in antioxidants, which can protect against oxidative stress that may lead to the development of heart disease.
3) Leafy greens: You’ve heard it a million times, but spinach, kale, and collard greens are nutritional powerhouses and even help improve heart health. They’re high in Vitamin K, which protects arteries and promotes proper blood clotting.
4) Fish/Fish Oil: Specifically, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are loaded with Omega-3s that are great for heart health.
5) Beans: Again with the fiber, but beans are also contain flavonoids that can help reduce your risk for heart attacks.
6) Tomatoes: High in an antioxidant called lycopene, tomatoes can help increase levels of good cholesterol in your blood.
7) Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts (technically a legume) can greatly affect your good/bad cholesterol levels and contain many other minerals that are just good for overall health. Be sure to keep an eye on the salt and calories though, as they’re usually high for nuts.
8) Garlic: Containing a compound called allicin, garlic is capable of inhibiting platelet buildup and reducing the risk of strokes. Supplementing garlic has been used to lower blood pressure as well.
Today we’re going to answer the question: what is phenylalanine? Quite simply, it’s an essential amino acid. We mention those a lot but that means they’re used by the body as building blocks for protein synthesis and that your body can’t produce them on its own so they must be consumed.
There are two types of phenylalanine: L and D. The L-form is the one found in foods and used for protein synthesis. The D-form is synthetic and used in medical applications.
Aside from its role with proteins, phenylalanine is now being used to treat skin disorders such as vitiligo, depression due to its support of dopamine production, and even pain relief.
There is a rare genetic disorder that affects 1 in 10,000-15,000 newborns called Phenylketonuria or PKU in which the person is unable to process phenylalanine. This inability to process the acid leads to a buildup of it and complications such as seizures and brain damage. You may have even seen a warning on a diet drink about it containing phenylalanine. That’s because aspartame contains it and people with the disorder need to avoid it.
So the good news is, it’s pretty easy to get enough phenylalanine as long as you’re eating a variety of proteins. Sources of this essential amino acid include:
- Soy products
- Seeds and nuts
- Cottage cheese
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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.
Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash
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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