9 Superfood Swaps for a Healthier Diet

Multitasking Foods to Add to Your Meal Plan
  — By Jen Mueller
Deciding to change your diet can be an overwhelming idea. You’ll have to clean out the pantry, remove any and all treats, stock up on rabbit food and mentally prepare to feel hungry all the time. That’s the only way to improve your diet and reach your health and weight-loss goals, right? Wrong. The truth is, the small changes you implement can add up to big results.

Rather than depriving yourself of foods you love, work to incorporate multitasking superfoods into your new healthy lifestyle instead. Superfoods benefit your body in a variety of ways. Not only do these nutritional powerhouses fuel your body, they can also fight illness and help prevent disease. Plus, they are easy to prepare and taste great, too. By making smart substitutions, you enjoy foods that are full of important nutrients without sacrificing taste. Try some of these simple diet swaps to incorporate more superfoods into your daily meal plan.

  1. Quinoa instead of brown rice. The trendy grain has more protein, fiber and iron than brown rice. It also contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants with numerous health benefits. Quinoa cooks in less than 15 minutes and can easily be substituted for rice in casseroles, side dishes, soups or salads. Discover the power of quinoa by giving one of these simple recipes a try.
  2. Oatmeal instead of cold cereal.  Oats have a good amount of fiber and protein, which will help keep you feeling fuller longer, but not all oatmeal is created equal. Opt for old-fashioned or steel-cut oats, which are minimally processed to retain their full nutritional value. Jazz up your hot bowl of oats with seasonal fruits, cinnamon or a natural nut butter and you’ll never be bored with breakfast again. If you do choose cereal, be sure to read labels to find the healthiest options.
  3. Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. With a thicker, creamier texture than traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt makes for a nice replacement for sour cream in a variety of dishes, including tacos and chili, or in baked goods. Compared to sour cream, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and B12, and also contains healthy probiotics.
  4. Dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Everyone enjoys a treat now and then, so why not get a nutritional boost at the same time? Milk chocolate is higher in fat and sugar than dark chocolate, and also contains less of the original cocoa bean. Cocoa is a good source of flavonoids, which makes dark chocolate the more nutritional choice. Next time that chocolate craving strikes, look for a bar with at least 70 percent cacao.
  5. Kale or spinach instead of romaine. Romaine lettuce is a good low-calorie option, but it doesn’t provide much added nutrition. Instead, try kale or spinach in your salad, as a sandwich wrap or in your favorite smoothie. Both are high in vitamins A, C and K, manganese and folate. Be forewarned, though, the texture and taste of kale can take some getting used to, so start small and experiment with different methods of preparation.
  6. Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Sweet potatoes have risen in popularity because of their great taste and nutritional benefits. They are high in beta-carotene and vitamins A and C, and are also lower on the glycemic index than regular potatoes, meaning sweet potatoes don’t spike blood sugar levels as much. Try them as a baked or mashed side dish, atop your next salad or as a sweet treat sprinkled with a little butter and brown sugar.
  7. Green tea instead of coffee. Before you panic about losing your daily cup of Joe, this diet swap doesn’t mean that coffee is bad. Coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of certain diseases, improved cognitive function and decreased risk of depression. That said, green tea contains flavonoids, has less caffeine than coffee and won’t stain your teeth. All this is not to say you have to give up coffee if you are a diehard fan, but is rather something to consider for variety and different health benefits.
  8. Cinnamon instead of sugar. While cinnamon has a number of unproven health benefits, it is still a better option than added sugar. Too much sugar in any diet increases the risk of obesity and other diseases, making substitution key in a healthy eating plan. Swapping cream and sugar for cinnamon in your coffee to save calories, or sprinkling cinnamon on pancakes or unsweetened applesauce to add flavor are just a few ways cinnamon can help satisfy your sweet tooth.
  9. Hummus instead of mayonnaise. A turkey sandwich with mayo tastes good, sure, but the calories and fat from even a small amount of this popular condiment can be a diet killer. Made with chickpeas and other fresh ingredients, hummus is a better source of protein, fiber, heart-healthy fat and iron compared to mayonnaise. It can be used in a variety of ways, such as in wraps, on sandwiches, in salad dressing, as a dip or even on a flatbread pizza in place of sauce.

Do you have a favorite superfood swap? 

Original Post on SprakPeople.com

Stop and Chew Your Dinner

The Benefits of Slowing Down & Chewing More
  — By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
In this era of fast-paced everything, even the act of eating a meal has become something we can do on the run. Breakfast comes in bars, lunch can be eaten while speeding down the highway, and dinner is merely an accompaniment to the evening news, squeezed in between other pressing activities. Invariably, when eating plays second string to everything else, every meal becomes “fast food,” as in eaten-very-fast food. If you find yourself wolfing down your meals in a hurry, you’re actually shortchanging yourself in more ways than you might think.

It turns out there’s a reason food tastes so good. You’re supposed to enjoy it—slow down and savor it, not just get it to your stomach as quickly as possible. Chewing your food thoroughly is actually the first step in the complex process of digestion, and if you glaze over it, just chewing the minimum amount of times necessary to get the food down your esophagus, you’re actually compromising this process. And it’s a mistake many people make.

If you try to imagine swallowing a whole piece of pizza, it’s easy to see why chewing is necessary. But besides breaking up your food into manageable chunks, there’s another good reason to put in the effort and chew. The saliva that coats your food as you chew actually contains digestive enzymes that begin to digest your food before you even swallow it. The enzymes alpha-amylase and lingual lipase begin digesting carbohydrates and fats, reducing the amount of work for which the stomach will be responsible. And it isn’t just a nice gesture. If food fragments are swallowed un-chewed, not only do nutrients remain locked in the fragments, but these fragments create an environment in the colon that is conducive to digestive distress—bacterial overgrowth, gas, and bloating. <pagebreak>

For food particles to even leave your stomach though, the “gates” of the stomach, the pyloric sphincter, must open. Conveniently, chewing also aids in this process, signaling this event. And speaking of signals, just seeing your food causes your brain to send signals to the pancreas and stomach to secrete digestive acids and enzymes that are essential to digestion. And the longer your food has contact with your taste and smell receptors—the longer you chew each bite—the stronger these signals become. Strong signals mean more digestive molecules, less indigestion, less acid reflux, and superior nutrient absorption.

Chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals more slowly has another benefit. It might shrink your waistline—and not just because you’ll have less bloating and indigestion. Eating more slowly gives your body a chance to tell your mind that it’s full, so that you stop eating before you go overboard. In a preliminary study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity’s Annual Scientific Meeting in 2004, study subjects ate less when they were instructed to eat more slowly.

Here are some practical tips for chewing more thoroughly and eating more slowly:

  • Give yourself enough time to eat—at least 20-30 minutes just to eat the meal, plus additional time to prepare it.
  • Don’t eat amidst distractions, like the TV, computer, or while driving.
  • Be fully present while you eat. Notice the smell, temperature, texture, color, and subtle flavor differences of each food you consume.
  • Take smaller portions, taking a break before refilling.
  • Put your fork down after each bite.
  • Eat mindfully, chewing each bite as many times as necessary to pulverize any texture.
  • If you’re eating in a group, be aware of the speed at which others are eating. Challenge yourself to be the last to finish.

Besides all of the physical benefits, perhaps the most pleasant benefit of all is that, if you allow yourself to slow down and chew, you’ll enjoy your food much more.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

What to Eat After You Work Out

Refuel and Recover with a Post-Workout Meal or Snack
  — By Dean Anderson, Fitness Expert
Everyone knows that athletes must plan and time their meals and snacks very carefully to reach their performance goals. But what about the rest of us? You try to squeeze in 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Do you have to be careful about what you eat before and after your workouts, too?

If you’re eating a healthy diet and getting enough calories to support your activity level, you can probably rely on your own appetite, energy levels and experience to tell you whether you need to eat anything before or after exercise and what it should be. The basic rule here is: Find out what works best for you, and do that.

There are some advantages to knowing how your body works and what it needs to perform at its best. The bottom line for healthy weight loss and fitness sounds simple: You have to eat fewer calories than you use up—but not fewer than your body needs to function at its best.

The size, timing and content of your pre- and post-exercise meals and snacks can play an important role in your energy levels during your workout, how well your body recovers and rebuilds after exercise and whether the calories you eat will be used as fuel or stored as fat. Here’s what you need to eat and drink to get the results you want.

Your Post-Exercise Fluid Needs

Most moderate exercisers will lose about one quart (four cups) of fluid per hour of exercise, so try to drink about 16-20 ounces of water shortly after your workout to aid the recovery process. If you sweat a lot or the weather is hot and/or humid, consider weighing yourself before and after exercise, and drinking an ounce of water for every ounce of weight you’ve lost. Because heavy sweating also causes loss of minerals and electrolytes, consider using a sports drink with electrolytes if you need to replace more than two or three cups of fluid.

Your Post-Exercise Meal or Snack

As long as you’re staying within your overall range for the day, you don’t need to be obsessive about matching the following calorie and nutrient ratios perfectly. Just be careful not to fall into the very common trap of thinking that it’s okay to eat anything and everything in sight because you just worked out. Many people are very hungry after a workout, making it easy to eat more than you really need or to choose foods that won’t really help your body. Eating too much of the wrong thing can cause your body to store that food as fat instead of using your post-workout meal to refuel and repair your muscles. <pagebreak>

So what does the ideal meal or snack look like?

  • Calories. Ideally, try to eat enough calories to equal 50 percent of what you burned during your workout. So if you burn about 600 calories, try to eat 300 calories after exercise.Don’t worry about undoing the calorie-burning benefits of your workout—that’s not how weight loss works. As long as you’re eating within your recommended calorie range (whether for weight loss or maintenance), you’ll be on your way to reaching your goals.
  • Carbohydrates. Roughly 60 percent of the calories you eat at this time should come from carbohydrates. Contrary to popular belief, your body needs more carbohydrates than protein after a workout, to replace depleted muscle fuel (glycogen) and to prepare for your next exercise session. Moderate exercisers need about 30-40 grams of carbohydrates after an hour of exercise, but high-intensity exercisers need around 50-60 grams for each hour they exercised.If you have some favorite high-carb foods that are lacking the whole grains and fiber that are often recommended as part of a healthy diet, this is a good time to have them. Your body can digest refined carbohydrates faster during your “refueling window,” but if you prefer whole foods, don’t force yourself to eat processed foods.
  • Protein. While carbs are essential, it’s also important to include some high-quality protein in your post-workout meal or snack. This protein will stop your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy and initiate the process of rebuilding and repairing your muscles. About 25 percent of the calories you eat after a workout should come from protein—that’s about 10-15 grams for most people.
  • Fat. Fat doesn’t play a big role in post-workout recovery, and eating too much fat after a workout won’t help your weight control or fitness endeavors. Only 15 percent (or less) of your post-workout calories should come from fat—that’s less than 10 grams.

The ideal time to eat after a workout is within 30 minutes to two hours, when your body is ready and waiting to top off its fuel tanks to prepare for your next session.

But if your appetite or schedule doesn’t allow you to eat a meal right after exercise, don’t panic. Your body can still replace your muscle fuel over the next 24 hours, as long as you’re eating enough food to support your activity level. Try to have a smaller snack that contains carbs and protein as soon after exercise as possible. Liquids like smoothies, shakes or chocolate milk, and/or energy bars, can be especially effective post-workout snacks.<pagebreak>

Here are some sample food combinations for your post exercise meal:

  • Bread, a bagel or an English muffin with cheese or peanut butter
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Cottage cheese with fruit
  • Fruit juice with cheese
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Veggie omelet with toast or roll
  • Chocolate milk
  • Cereal with milk
  • Eggs and toast
  • Turkey, ham, chicken or roast beef sandwich
  • Vegetable stir-fry with chicken, shrimp, edamame or tofu
  • Crackers with low fat cheese
  • Rice or popcorn cakes with nut butter
  • Smoothie (with milk, yogurt or added protein powder)
  • A protein or energy bar
  • A protein or energy shake
  • Pancakes and eggs
  • Any regular meal that contains lean protein, starch and vegetables

Be sure to “Pin” this graphic for future reference.

As a moderate exerciser, you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to timing your meals and choosing your foods. The most important thing is getting to know your body and how it responds to exercise, so you can give it what it needs to perform at its best. Eating the right things at the right times after you work out is essential to keeping your energy up, your workout performance high and your body in fat-burning mode.

Now that you know what to eat after, here’s how to fuel up before you start sweating!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

30 Days of Healthy Snacks

Make Better Choices, One Day at a Time
  — By Melinda Hershey, Health Educator
Do you have trouble coming up with unique and tasty snacks that are also good for you? We’ve got you covered with a new healthy snack for every day of the month! Click here for a printable PDF version to hang on your fridge for instant inspiration.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

13 Carb-Controlled Snacks

Smart Snacking Ideas for People with Diabetes
  — By Amy Poetker, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator
Eating with diabetes can be challenging at first, but a little bit of knowledge and preparation will help you get used to making smarter snack choices in no time. Here are 13 diabetes-friendly snack ideas to incorporate into your meal plan. Don’t forget to ”Pin,” ”Like,” or ”Tweet” this graphic to share with your friends and family!

Note: Before you start using this list, make sure you understand the basics of eating with diabetes. These resources will help you along your journey:

For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association’s National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.

Original Post on Spark People.com

What the Ideal Amount of Protein Looks Like

Stop Emotional Eating Before It Starts

15 Ways to Turn Off Your Emotions without Turning to Food
  — By Nicole Nichols, Health Educator
Eating is more than something we do to nourish our bodies with vital nutrients. It’s also an activity we do out of habit, like nail biting, hair twirling, or finger tapping. And sometimes, we habitually turn to food in response to certain emotions. Whether you feel angry, sad, bored—even excited—food can act as a buffer against these emotions, something 82 percent of you know all too well.

Emotional eaters know that it’s easier to stuff down our feelings with each bite. We know that the fleeting “high” we get from food blocks the pain or discomfort of dealing we might be feeling, even if only temporarily. We also know better; in the long run, we still feel bad and we know that we shouldn’t eat for purely emotional reasons. But that knowledge isn’t enough to stop what feels like an addiction to food and eating. So where do you start if you want to stop eating emotionally?

It may be cliché, but the first step is awareness, recognizing that you do eat emotionally—and WHY. Each time you reach for foods (or even feel a craving come on), ask yourself, “Am I really hungry or am I just responding to something else that is happening?” If hunger isn’t the reason, it’s not always easy to pinpoint the reason why you feel like eating. Tracking your food can help, especially if you note the times you eat and how you were feeling before, during and afterward. By tracking your food (and related notes) more regularly, you could notice trends, like a tendency to overeat on Mondays, for example, and then pinpoint your true feelings from there. Ask yourself what it is about Mondays that leads to overeating (Stress from getting the kids to school? Anger over going to a job you hate?) Notice if you tend to munch in the evenings. Is it out of boredom, loneliness, or an unhappy relationship? Journaling (or blogging), in addition to tracking your food intake, can help you examine the causes of eating episodes so you can pinpoint your feelings.

While emotional eaters soothe themselves with food to avoid feeling and examining uncomfortable emotions, that gratification is temporary—and still painful, just like the emotions you’re trying to avoid. But if you learn to recognize the emotional triggers that lead to eating, you can also learn to stop emotional eating before it starts by choose healthier ways to deal with your feelings. Here are some alternatives to eating that can help you deal with three of the most common emotions that can lead to eating.

Stress and Anger
Stress is part of our everyday lives, and it can create the same physiological responses as anger, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. If you are eating as a response to anger and/or stress, some of these activities will help you calm down and deal with the issue at hand, instead of covering it up with food.

  • Remove yourself from the stressful situation. If you’ve had an altercation with a friend or family member, take some time away from each other to calm down and get your thoughts together. Make a list of what you want to say to the person with whom you’ve had the conflict, and revisit the issue later when you’re both calm.
  • Take some deep breaths. Deep breathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure and promote feelings of calmness. Try this simple breathing activity any time you need to de-stress.
  • Exercise. It’s a known stress buster and you may even find that it helps you deal with anger. Go for a short walk outside, hit some tennis balls, or push around some heavy weights at the gym—these are all constructive ways to deal with stress and anger.
  • Listen to music. We can all think of some songs that calm us down. Make a special CD or playlist that you can turn to when you need it. Identify this as a trigger of emotional eating.
  • Prevent stress from happening again. If mornings are so busy that you’re barely able to get out the door on time, put some time-management skills into practice so that you don’t have to rush or feel stressed each morning.

Sadness and Loneliness
These two emotions often go hand in hand. Loneliness can result in sadness, and sad people can often become withdrawn. Especially if you’re dealing with grief or spending a lot of time alone, it’s easy to turn to comfort foods or soothe yourself with foods that you associate with happier memories. Instead, work to replace these uncomfortable emotions with a positive action. Learn to use alternative activities as sources of gratification. Just as you’ve learned to turn to food for a pick-me-up, you can learn to use other activities in the same way.

  • Exercise. It boosts mood, releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals in the brain), and has even been reported to be more addictive than drugs. Anything you do to get yourself moving will work. Leaving the house for a short bike ride or walk will also help you avoid food temptations at home.
  • Play with your pet; animals have unconditional love and promote health and emotional wellness, too. If you don’t have a pet, volunteer at a local shelter, which will expose you to both animals and more social interaction to combat your loneliness.
  • Write a letter to a friend. Reaching out to friends and family members, even if you haven’t talked to them in awhile, will remind you of all the wonderful people in your life who care about you. Spark up an old friendship!
  • Volunteer. People who volunteer feel better about themselves, and it’s hard to feel down on yourself when you’re helping others.
  • Post on the message boards! Even if you feel like you don’t have a friend in the world, there is always someone here at SparkPeople who can help pick you up when you are feeling down.

Boredom
We have hundreds of TV channels, phones that surf the web, online social networks, and movement-sensing video games, but when it comes down to it, we still feel bored in our lives. Eating adds another layer to our entertainment options (like popcorn at a movie) but also becomes an easy thing to do when we don’t know what else to do! After all, eating is fun and enjoyable, and it passes the time. Fortunately, many boredom-busting activities don’t involve eating.

  • Pay attention to what you consume. Make a new rule that you will not multitask while you eat. That means no chips while on the computer and no ice cream while watching your favorite TV drama. If you’re going to eat, you’re going to be present and focus on the food you’re enjoying to help avoid mindless overeating.
  • Develop a new hobby. Even without cash to spare, you can learn to knit, join a local book club, or train for a 5K race. By scheduling these activities regularly, you’ll have plenty to do—and practice! Make a list of all the things you ever wanted to learn, from cooking to speaking a new language, and start investigating how to get started.
  • Read. We don’t spend enough time reading these days, and while you may claim that you don’t have the time, everyone has a few minutes here and there. Carry your book, favorite newspaper or magazine with you and steal minutes whenever you have downtime. Set a goal to read just 15 minutes each night, and you may find that stretching longer (and keeping your mind and fingers busy enough that they won’t miss eating).
  • Play a game. Remember how fun board and card games can be? Some even take hours! Bring out a fun game for your next party or set up a game night with your best friend. If you’re by yourself, crossword puzzles are a good alternative.
  • Connect with friends and loved ones. Some might argue that we feel so bored during this digital age because we’re missing real-life interaction and friendships. After all, if you can post on your friend’s Facebook wall or text your brother anytime, why call? Make a point to write letters, send personal emails, make phone calls and meet up with the important people in your life.

With an arsenal of activities you can do besides eating, you’re on the right path to stop the emotional eating cycle. You might not be successful every time, but if you accept your mistakes and move forward, continuing to work on your issues by tracking, journaling and distracting yourself in a positive way, you’ll overcome your emotional eating problems once and for all. With so many enjoyable experiences in life, food doesn’t have to take center stage. Make sure you are taking time to enjoy all of them equally!

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

Healthy Carb, Fat and Protein Ranges

The Numbers You Need to Know
  — By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
“Help, I am way over in protein!”
“I’m not meeting my fat goal. Is this a problem?”
“How many carbohydrates should I be eating?”

Based on years of research that examined the relationship between nutrient intake and disease prevention, generally-accepted ranges have been established for carbohydrates, fat and protein intake. These healthy ranges also help to ensure that a person is getting a sufficient intake of other essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The recommendations are:

  • 45% to 65% of calories eaten should come from carbohydrates.
  • 20% to 35% of calories eaten should come from fat.
  • 10% to 35% of calories eaten should come from protein*.

The SparkDiet takes a middle-of-the-road approach with these ranges. Our specific breakdown is approximately 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 20% protein, all of which fall into the healthy ranges above. *Because our members are striving to meet weight loss goals through calorie restriction, we also recommend a minimum level of protein—at least 60 grams daily for females and 75 grams daily for males. This requirement will help prevent muscle loss and promote feelings of fullness among dieters. Both your Nutrition Tracker and the chart below reflect this recommendation.

Your intake of carbohydrates, fat and protein may be somewhat higher or lower than the SparkDiet recommendations, due to your taste preferences, cooking style, culture, fitness routine, health conditions and day-to-day changes in diet. Does that mean that your intake is bad or dangerous? No! <pagebreak>

Do your best to meet at least the minimum recommendations for calories, carbohydrates, fat and protein as outlined on your Nutrition Tracker. The table below converts these percentages into grams needed each day based on calorie intake:

Nutrient Carbohydrates Fat Protein (Women) Protein (Men)
Healthy Range 45%-65% 20%-35% 10%-35% 10%-35%
1200 calories 135-195 g 27-47 g *60-105 g N/A
1500 calories 169-244 g 33-58 g *60-131 g *75-131 g
1800 calories 203-293 g 40-70 g *60-158 g *75-158 g
2100 calories 236-341 g 47-82 g *60-184 g *75-184 g
2400 calories 270-390 g 53-93 g *60-210 g *75-210 g

Monitor your diet in these ways:

  • Eat a healthy, nutrient-packed diet.
  • Watch your calories daily and try to keep them in your recommended range.
  • Check your carbohydrate, fat and protein intake based on your SparkDiet recommendations. As long as they fall in the healthy range listed on this chart above, you will be meeting your nutrient needs.
  • Choose whole grain carbohydrates like brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, oats, and avoid refined carbohydrates like white rice and white bread.
  • Choose heart-healthy fats and avoid trans fats found in processed foods.
  • Choose high-quality protein sources such as lean meats and plant-based proteins instead of fattier cuts of meat.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

The Truth About Juicing and Health

To Juice or Not to Juice;That is the Question
  — By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian
A couple decades ago, juicing was something that only overzealously health-conscious people did.  You just knew someone was into healthy living if he or she owned a juicer or drank fresh juice regularly. Today, it’s much more popular. People are juicing to lose weight, to cleanse and to consume more nutrients. Juicers are popular sold not only via infomercials but can easily be found in department stores. Juice bars have popped up not just in hip California neighborhoods but even in the Midwest.

In the SparkPeople Community, we get questions about juicing all the time. Should I be juicing?  Will juicing improve my health?  Does juicing help with weight loss?  While you may be looking for a quick answer, it isn’t that simple.  Like many things in nutrition and weight loss, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to the topic of juicing.  Read on to find out if juicing can benefit you and your goals.

What Exactly Is Juicing, Anyway?
Juicing is the process of extracting the juice from fresh fruits and vegetables.  A small kitchen appliance known as a juicer is used to extract the juice, and these can range in price from $50-$500. Drinking the juice of fruits and vegetables means consuming their water and much of their vitamin and mineral content; however, the pulp, or fiber, which also has many health benefits, is removed. (Note: Some high-powered juicers do retain most of the pulp in the juice, thus resulting in a thicker juice.)

There are a few main types of juicers out on the market today:

”Fast” Juicers
This type of juicer is one of the most common varieties you’ll find on the market. A fast juicer (or centrifugal juicer) grinds your fruits and veggies and then pushes the extracted juice through a strainer by spinning at a very high speed. The pulp is extracted and ejected into a special compartment, usually near the back of the juicer. This type of juicer produces pulp-free juice very quickly, but it also tends to extract less juice than other types of juicers. This type of juicer also generates more heat than other types, which some experts say could compromise the nutrients in the produce.

“Slow” Juicers
This juicer produces juice in two steps, using one or two gears. First, it crushes the fruits and veggies, and then it presses out the juice. These types of juicers take longer to produce juice, and they tend to be more expensive than most centrifugal juicers. However, they are said to extract more nutrients from the produce. They yield a thick juice with more pulp, yet still produce some pulp extract in a separate compartment.

”Whole Food” Juicers
These juicers are reminiscient of blenders. Using sharp blades at high speeds, they are able to pulverize whole fruits and veggies into liquid. These do not have a separate pulp compartment.

Fresh juices should not be confused with smoothies, which are usually made in a blender, food processor, or high-powered juicer and include the fibrous pulp of the fruit and vegetable ingredients (and can often contain a blend of fruit, vegetables, juice, dairy and other ingredients).

How Juice Stacks Up against Whole Foods
Proponents of juicing like to say that juice is more nutritious than simply consuming fruits and vegetables. But does that argument really hold up? To compare the nutrition of whole fruits and vegetables to juice, it is important to compare apples to apples (no pun intended).  For accuracy, this means that one must compare them based on equal portions of weight (in grams), which is what we’ve done in the chart below. If using a juicer or blender that retains the pulp, the end result will be similar to the whole fruit.  This chart is a comparison of whole fruit vs juice that does not retain the pulp.
<pagebreak>
100 Grams of Juice vs Whole Foods

Food or Juice Calories Water content Fiber Carbs Protein Vitamin A Vitamin C Potassium
Apple, 2.5” diameter

Apple juice, 3 fl. oz.

52

46

86 g

88 g

2.4 g

0.2 g

13.8 g

11.3 g

0.3 g

0.1 g

54 IU

1.0 IU

4.6 mg

1.0 mg

107 mg

101 mg

Grapes, 20 whole

Grape juice, 3 fl. oz.

69

60

81 g

85 g

0.9 g

0.2 g

18.1 g

14.8 g

0.7 g

0.4 g

66 IU

8 IU

3.2 mg

0.1 mg

191 mg

104 mg

Orange, 2.5” diameter

Orange juice, 3 fl. oz

49

45

87 g

88 g

2.2 g

0.2 g

12.5 g

10.4 g

0.9 g

0.7 g

247 IU

200 IU

59 mg

50 mg

166 mg

20 mg

Carrots, 2 (5.5” long)

Carrot juice, 3 fl. oz.

41

41

88 g

89 g

2.8 g

0.8 g

9.6 g

9.3 g

0.9 g

0.9 g

16,706 IU

19,124 IU

5.9 mg

8.5 mg

320 mg

292 mg

Kale, 1.5 C chopped

Kale juice, 3 fl. oz.

49

40

84 g

n/a

1.7 g

0 g

8.8 g

8.0 g

4.3 g

2.5 g

9990 IU

14,750 IU

120 mg

116 mg

491 mg

428 mg

Tomato, 2.5” diameter

Tomato juice, 3 fl. oz.

18

17

94 g

94 g

1.2 g

0.4 g

4.24 g

3.89 g

0.9 g

0.7 g

833 IU

450 IU

13.7 mg

18.3 mg

237 mg

229 mg

By looking at the chart, you’ll notice:

  • Whole foods usually contain more vitamins and minerals. This is most often due to the fact that many of these nutrients are in (or very near) the skin of fruits and vegetables, which gets discarded as pulp when fruits and vegetables are juiced.
  • Whole foods always provide more fiber. As expected, fiber content is always higher in the whole produce since it is primarily found in the pulp, which is removed with the traditional juicing process. Fiber is one of the key reasons that fruits and vegetable are so good for us.
  • Gram for gram, juice is slightly lower in calories due to its slightly higher water content. The calorie content of your juice will be dependent on the combination of produce used in your given juicing recipe.  However, this is only the case if you stick to the small 3-fluid ounce portion of juice listed in this chart. Many people drink large cups of juice, which can double or triple the calories listed. Notice that fruits do have a higher calorie content than most non-starchy vegetables, primarily due to their natural sugar content.
  • Both juice and whole foods provide a lot of water. No matter which option you choose, juice, whole fruits and whole vegetables all provide needed hydration for the body.
  • Whole fruits are lower in carbs than their juices.  Both fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, but fruits contain more carbs than veggies typically do.  These carbs come primarily from the natural sugars contained in the produce, but are considered ”smart carbs” because they are nutrient dense and rich in fiber, which helps slow  blood sugar response in the body. Yet, for people following a weight-loss program or a diet to control blood sugar levels, the carbs in fruits, vegetables, and their juices should all be monitored.  When making your selections, note that fruit juices are usually higher in carbohydrates. (Learn more about making smart fruit and juice choices when you have diabetes.)

    You may think that the Glycemic Index (GI) would be a helpful tool for calculating the nutritional differences between whole produce and juice.  However, for people with diabetes, counting total carbs is the most valuable tool for regulating blood sugar.  If you are having difficulty controlling blood sugar readings, work with your health care provider to adjust your eating plan.

One other concern with juicing is the cost. It takes a lot of fruits and vegetables to make a small amount of juice, and these fresh produce items don’t come cheap. Especially if you are discarding the pulp, you’re spending a lot of money on making fresh juice when your wallet (and body) may benefit more from simply eating the fresh produce. Healthy eating does not have to cost a lot of money, but if budgetary constraints are a top concern of yours, juicing isn’t the most frugal choice when it comes to getting the most nutrition for your buck.

So Why Do People Juice? What Are the Benefits?
People who juice usually fall into one or more categories based on the reason they choose to juice.

  • The Juice Cleanser uses a juice concoction with the goal of detoxing the body and giving the gut a rest.
  • The Juice Faster is typically looking to jump-start their weight loss by using fruit and vegetable juices as their main source of nutrition for up to a few days, weeks, or even months.
  • The Juice Snacker enjoys freshly squeezed juice with a meal or snack, and occasionally replaces a meal with only juice. This juicer simply likes juice or feels that fresh juice is a healthy addition to their diet on occasion.

Does juicing help people reach any of the goals above? I’ll be the first to admit that while there is a great deal of research regarding the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables, there is very little research-based evidence regarding the juice of such produce. Yet, we can still use science and common sense to answer the most common questions about juicing. <pagebreak>

Will Juicing Improve My Health? 
Juicing is no healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables.  When comparing gram weights, juice is not more nutritious than the whole produce. In fact, it is often lower in many nutrients, and the beneficial fiber is near zero. Contrary to some claims, your body does not absorb the nutrients better in juice form.

That said, juice does contain nutrients. Many people prefer drinking juice to eating whole fruits and vegetables. So if juicing helps you increase your consumption of produce, that is generally a good thing for most people. However, you will get more health benefits from finding ways to increase your daily consumption of whole fruits and vegetables than by only drinking their juice alone, so that should be your  main goal if health is your reason for juicing.

Will Juicing Cleanse or Detox My Body? 
In a word, no. Juice will not cleanse your body. There is no scientific evidence showing that ingredients in juices help to eliminate toxins.  In fact, your body is well-equipped with its own detoxing systems (including the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems).  To keep your organs functioning at peak performance, a balanced diet consisting of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is needed. The body cannot survive on the nutrients in fruits and vegetables (or their juice) alone.  Therefore, a juicing cleanse may actually be preventing the body from functioning optimally. In addition, healthy adults have no reason to give the gut a rest from fiber intake.  In fact, for optimal intestinal function and overall health, it is best to consume nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods every day. Learn more about the truth behind common detox diet claims.

Does Juicing Help with Weight Loss? 
Maybe… but maybe not.

First, it’s important to remember that no single food causes obesity, and the inclusion or exclusion of any single food or food group will not cause weight loss. Weight loss comes down to consuming fewer calories than you burn on a regular basis. Juicing can either help or hinder this depending on how much you’re consuming (and what else you’re eating).

Doing the math, on average, an ounce of ”mixed juice” contains about 15 calories.  If you need 1,400-1,500 calories daily to achieve weekly weight loss, you could drink a whopping 96 ounces of this juice (about 12 cups) each day and still stay in that calorie range, which should result in weight loss. On this sample juicing diet, you would, however, only be getting 9 grams of fiber (36% of your need) and 25 grams of protein (41% of your need) each day, which is far from ideal.  This unbalanced nutrient intake would result in immediate muscle mass loss and an increase in hunger and food cravings. Other nutrients such as fat, vitamins and minerals would also be severely lacking.  Successful and safe long-term weight loss would not be achievable on such a plan.  When followed for a few days, this type of juice fast would probably not harm a healthy adult. However, if followed for several weeks, or if followed by people with certain medical conditions, this type of fast could lead to dangerous complications (more on that below).

Remember that the best weight-loss plan helps you achieve balance and moderation with a wide variety of foods that you enjoy and can stick with eating for the long term. Juicing may result in some weight loss, but it’s a crash diet at best.

On the flip side, if you add juice to your current diet (and continue eating other whole foods), you could easily over-consume calories and not lose weight at all. A 12-ounce glass of juice typically contains 180 calories.  Adding a couple of these glasses on top of your regular daily intake would likely put you out of your weight-loss calorie range and could result in weight gain.

Although most of us would prefer a quick fix or weight-loss boost, remember that weight loss is not so simple. Eating more of any one food likely won’t change your weight for the better.

Health Concerns with Juicing
Juicing could have potential food-medication interactions and medical complications for some people.  For example:

  • Increasing foods high in vitamin K, such as spinach and kale, may affect anti-blood clotting medication.
  • Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interact with more than 30 common medications.
  • Increasing fruit juice intake can increase carbohydrate intake and raise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
  • The higher potassium intake from fruits and vegetables may be dangerous to someone with kidney disease.

Anyone with a health condition or taking medication, especially those with kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension should consult their physician or dietitian before making significant dietary changes.

Give It a Whirl: The Right Way to Juice
While there are many reasons why one should not turn to an exclusively juicing diet, there is no need to forgo juice if you enjoy its refreshing taste and endless flavor combinations.  You just need to juice with a little common sense and know-how by practicing these tips.

  • Turn Yucky into Yummy. Juicing can be a way to incorporate produce that you normally might not eat due to flavor or texture issues.  Beets, kale, and spinach tend to be less noticeable when combined with the flavors of fruits and berries, so experiment by combining your least favorite produce items in different flavor combinations.
  • Don’t Pitch the Pulp.  You can still reap the benefits of that fiber-rich pulp by adding it to soups, stews, grain and rice dishes, pasta sauces, muffins and quick breads. Don’t let those nutrients go to waste—get creative with them in the kitchen.
  • Try a Juicy Smoothie.  Use the fresh juice you make as the liquid component in your favorite smoothie.  You can also add the discarded pulp as well.  Blend in some ground flaxseed, nut butter or avocado for healthy fats and some yogurt for protein.  You’ll end up with a complete balanced meal.
  • The Five-a-Day Challenge.  Juicing can help you meet your 5-servings-a-day minimum of fruits and vegetables; that means no more than 1 cup of juice daily, which counts as 2 produce servings.  Just make sure you are incorporating enough whole fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes and lentils to meet your 25 grams of fiber as well.  You may even surprise yourself by getting more than 5 servings!
  • Rotate and Renew. Instead of limiting your produce juicing selections to the same few every time, rotate in new offerings based on what’s fresh and locally available at your farmers market.  Incorporate a variety of colors into your juice, as each color represents a different nutrient profile.
  • Boost Flavor.  Use herbs, spices and extracts to add flavor to your juice blends and smoothies.  Think basil, mint, cilantro, cayenne, ginger, and cinnamon.
  • Remember Food Safety.  Wash your hands before touching the fruits and vegetables.  Then, be sure to thoroughly wash the produce. Make sure to properly clean the cutting board, knife and preparation area. Wash your juicing machine carefully after each use with hot soapy water according to the manufacturer’s directions. Just rinsing it out won’t do!
  • Drink Now, Not Later!  Freshly made juices and smoothies are highly perishable since no preservatives or pasteurization is used.  So drink or freeze your mixture shortly after juicing or blending. If you can’t consume it all, freeze the leftovers immediately in ice cube trays and then pop them into freezer bags. These make great additions to smoothies later!

The bottom line? When enjoyed in moderation, fresh-squeezed juice is a tasty way to obtain vitamins and minerals in liquid form. However, the best way to lose weight and promote optimal health is to eat a well-balanced diet that comprises all of the food groups.

Original Post on SparkPeople.com

10 Healthy Swaps to Save 300 Calories

10 Healthy Swaps to Save 300 Calories [Infographic]

Making some adjustments to your favorite foods to save up to 300 calories is easier than you think. In the examples below, we found common summer foods and made simple substitutions with foods that have fewer added sugars and refined carbs. Then we added whole grains, veggies or fruit to boost the nutrition. The best part? The portion sizes stayed around the same.

If you think saving 300 calories won’t have much of an effect on your waistline, think again. Cutting just 300 calories each day for two weeks equates to 4,500 calories you’ve shaved. Since science suggests one pound is equivalent to approximately 3,500 calories, that means a painless weight loss of a little more than a pound every two weeks. Not bad for weight loss that doesn’t feel like dieting.


 


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