Posts Tagged ‘Personal Trainer’

Fat: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall

Fat is the most dense form of energy with 9 calories per gram; this is more than twice the number of calories per gram found in carbohydrate or protein. Fat helps the body to grow and develop, absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K), and provide cushioning for organs and cells.  Fat is also a great storage space for extra energy in the body. The body is able to find all sorts of places to store fat. When tissue stores max out, the body will often begin storing fat in the organs, such as the liver. High levels of fat in the body also increase the amount of fat that is being transported throughout the bloodstream via lipoproteins, or cholesterol including low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides. Over the years, researchers have concluded that intake of specific fats can modify not only fat/cholesterol transportation levels, but also fat storage.

We have designated fats as heart healthy versus not heart healthy. Most “heart healthy” fats are those that are fluid in nature (unsaturated) whereas most rigid fats (saturated) tend to increase levels of “bad” cholesterol and thus are not heart healthy. Unsaturated fats are long carbon chains that have one or more double bonds. Mono-unsaturated fats (MUFAs) have only one double bond, whereas Poly-unsaturated fats (PUFAs) have more than one. The image portrays a triglyceride with a saturated fat at the top, followed by a MUFA and a PUFA at the bottom.

MUFAs are liquid at room temperature and become solid when chilled. Olive, canola, peanut, sunflower and sesame oils, avocadoes, nuts and seeds are all good sources of MUFAs and are quite high in the Western diet. MUFAs are considered a good alternative to saturated fats due to their fluid nature.

PUFAs are liquid at room temperature and when chilled. These essential fats are composed of:

  • Omega-9 common in animal and vegetable oils and made by the body,
  • Omega-6 from soybean, corn and safflower oils, and
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring), some nuts and sunflower seeds. Omega 3 fatty acids can be further broken down into DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid).

Americans tend to consume more omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils found in fast and processed foods, versus omega-3’s from cold water fish, nuts and seeds. It is important to note that all PUFAs play a significant role in brain function, immunity and growth, but excessive omega-6 intake may increase inflammation in the body, whereas the omega-3’s tend to put the fire out.  Omega-6 fatty acids promote hormones that increase blood clotting and cell growth/division and omega-3’s decrease blood clotting and unhealthy cellular growth/division. This oppositional relationship accentuates the importance of consuming these fats in balance, or lower omega-6 : omega-3 ratio so one function does not over-ride the other.

Saturated fats have been coined the “bad” fat since high intake of saturated fat in the West correlates nicely with cardiovascular disease and high LDL (bad) cholesterol. Saturated fats are saturated with hydrogen atoms and do not contain any double bonds. This causes them to be solid and rigid at room temperature. Animal products (meat, poultry skin, butter, cheese, cream, high fat milk, ice cream, etc) are all high in saturated fat. It was thought for some time that saturated fat was only found in animals. But, now we know that tropical oils, including palm (image to the left) and coconut, also have saturated fat. The oil from the palm fruit’s flesh is much healthier than that which is extracted from the kernel. Researchers are now beginning to distinguish the health consequences of the animal versus plant-based saturated fats, because coconut oils do not appear to have the negative effects. Many believe this difference is due to the length of the carbon chains.

According to a recent study on medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs), with 6 to 10 carbons, MCTS differ from longer chain fatty acids. MCTs are more water soluble and are absorbed at a faster rate than longer chains and thus are not as likely to be stored by the body. Additionally, dietary lifestyles high in longer chain fats versus MCTs tend to increase the risk for heart disease and insulin resistance. To make matters more confusing, animals that are grain-fed versus grass-fed tend to be lower in calories and unhealthy saturated fats and higher in omega-3’s, vitamins A and E and other antioxidants.

Trans fats were not discussed above, but it is best to keep these sources of fat minimal at less than 1 gram per day.

Current recommendations suggest that most people allot 30% of their daily calories to fat with the majority of the fat coming from Omega-3 sources (fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds), a bit coming from Omega-6 sources (other nuts and seeds, vegetable oils) and a growing percentage from MCTs (coconut, olive). The recommendation to keep saturated fat low, 7-10% of daily calories, is still a strong guideline due to the prevalence of atherogenic saturated fats in America.

It does seem that nutritional recommendations change with the direction of the wind. I consider this a good thing because it means we are continuing to research and learn what is best for our bodies and overall health. If there are issues, or questions, that you have, please do not hesitate to ask or send a message. I am happy to explore them with you!

Tactics to Avoid the Trick and Enjoy the Treat

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall

Halloween can be a scary time for more reasons than the goblins and spooky ghosts. Halloween seems to kick-off the season of treats. Many parents dread Halloween due to the amount of candy that their child drags home after a long night of trick-or-treating.  This can be unwelcomed, especially if any member of the family is attempting to manage their weight.  Let’s take a moment and spin this into a learning opportunity.

Trick-or-treating is a great time to teach kids about moderation. Remember, Halloween candy is no different than other sweets and desserts.  There is a growing body of research that encourages families to mark no food as forbidden. Ellyn Satter encourages parents to help their children to, “Learn to manage sweets and to keep sweets in proportion to the other food [they] eat.” Moderation can be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is a lesson worth learning. According to research, treat-deprived children often end up weighing more later in life due to hoarding forbidden foods, where as children who are permitted to enjoy treats regularly maintained a healthier weight. Additionally, authoritative food policies often encourage sneaking and hiding behaviors.

Brave parents may allow their children to manage their own stash of Halloween candy and possibly learn the hard way after a few belly aches. Other families may wish to combine the booty and sort through it together; allowing each member to identify the candies that they “love,” “like,” and can “do without.” Most people find it beneficial to throw out the candy that they can live without and enjoy the rest 1 piece at a time as part of a meal.

It is helpful to refer to published guidelines regarding added sugar to identify a healthy way to enjoy candy. Currently, the American Heart Association recommends a certain number of grams of sugar per day based on their age and gender. For reference, there are 4 grams of sugar in every teaspoon of sugar.

  • Men: 36 grams per day (9 teaspoons)
  • Women: 25 grams per day (6 teaspoons)
  • Pre-teen and Teenagers: 20-32 grams per day (5-8 teaspoons)
  • Children (4-8 years): (3 teaspoons)
  • Preschoolers (2-3 years): 16 grams per day (4 teaspoons)

In order to do your part and limit the extra sugar that enters your home, choose to hand-out the following candy alternatives:

Non-Food Alternatives:

  • Stickers
  • Glow sticks
  • Play dough
  • Rings
  • Toothpaste/Floss/Toothbrush
  • Pencil/Erasers
  • Post-it’s
  • Bubbles

Food Alternatives:

  • Sugar-free Gum
  • Granola Bars
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Trail mix

So, with moderation in mind may, the force be with you as we forge into the season of sweets!

Food and Money- Too Good to Waste

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall

Money may not buy love or happiness but it certainly has become a resource for better health in the present age. Many people believe that eating healthy costs more money and depending on food costs, it very well may. This is why it is vital to be strategic about how the mighty food dollar is spent and reduce waste.

A recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council stated that 40% of all food in the United States is wasted. This amounts to $165 billion every year! So, what does this look like on the individual level? The report estimates that individuals waste about 25% of everything they purchase. The average adult spent $3240 at the grocery store in 2011 (7% of their income), so this means of that they wasted food amounting to $810. The average family of four (2 adults, 2 kids) spends $13,000 annually or $250 every week. If they also toss out 25% of what they buy, they waste $63 every week.  These wasted foods and funds can be reduced through the following 3 strategies.

Take stock before you shop

Try to get down to bare bones in the cupboard, pantry, refrigerator and freezer before hitting the store. This may require a thorough clean out of the kitchen first to ensure all foods are safe for consumption. Be sure to check the expiration dates on all packaged foods. If it’s expired, feel good about tossing it out. It is important to note that not all dates on packages are expiration dates. There are also “sell by” and “best by” dates and food may last long after these dates have passed.

When grocery shopping, bring a list and try to stick to it. Impulse buys are often the items that end up in the trash. Also, be weary of bulk items. It may be a great deal, but be sure you will eat it. Often times, bulk items get eaten faster when they are in less intimidating packages. Try to take some time to pre-portion these items, such as trail mix or snack foods into home-made 100-Calorie packs. This same method can be applied to chicken breasts, ground turkey and fish.

Get creative with your cupboards

Now that you and your family have a clean slate to work with, you will begin to form the habit of working with a few odd items as you approach grocery shopping time. Pretend that you are on Top Chef: the Family edition and you’ll be having fun before you know it!

When just starting out, try to keep the following staples for quick and healthy meals on-hand:

  • Grain/Starch: Quick brown rice, pasta, potatoes, and bread
  • Protein: Canned fish, canned beans, eggs, cheese, milk, peanut butter, nuts and seeds
  • Vegetable: Canned or frozen
  • Fruit: Dried, Frozen or canned in water

Give over-ripe produce a second chance

Before tossing out squishy, mushy produce, try to give it a second life. Be sure to inspect it for mold and give it a quick sniff. If everything checks out, toss it in one of the following items:


  • Over-ripe bananas or apples are great for baking
  • Fading berries work well in jam
  • Grapes, cranberries, and other berries are great to dehydrate
  • All others can be nutrient boosters in smoothies or home-made juices


  • Sagging carrots, celery and wilted greens are perfect for soup
  • Other over-ripe vegetables can be pureed into sauces or dressings
  • Spinach, kale, cucumber, carrots, and many others are great for juicing and smoothies

It’s also important to keep a close eye on these perishable items. If you notice they are aging quicker than expected, prepare them and then store them in the freezer for a quick dish later in the week…or month.

Make food last longer by being smart about Portions

Most of the food wasted in restaurants is due to the large portions. Try to be mindful at home and follow the recommended portions for your age range. In general, the plate method featured on is an easy way to practice healthful portions at home. Just be sure to start with a 9-inch plate- no platters.

Be diligent when dining out and either order what you can eat or plan to take some home. Turn in your card to the clean plate club and remember leftovers are your friend.

The bottom line is that healthy eating may not cost more money, but does cost more time and both are too precious to waste. Try to…

  • Take stock of your staples before you shop,
  • Get creative with what is in your cupboards,
  • Give over-ripe produce a second chance, and
  • Be smart about portions to make food last longer.

Gluten: Friend or Foe

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD CD CPT

Gluten has been the target of criticism in recent months and many people have pin-pointed this grain protein as the cause of their many woes. Gluten-free diets seem to be all the rage; People avoid gluten for a variety of reasons including Celiac Disease, wheat allergy, gluten intolerance and weight loss.

Previously, celiac disease was the only valid reason to avoid gluten. Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disease where the body reacts to gliadin, a protein found in gluten, which causes intestinal damage. The finger-like projections (villi) in the small intestine are damaged by this reaction and begin to bend. Damaged villi cannot absorb nutrients and thus cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Poor enamel on teeth
  • Fatigue
  • Poor growth

The cause of the disease is attributed to an interaction of:

Genetically, celiac disease is also associated with:

Celiac disease is not an allergy to wheat, although persons with a wheat allergy may be allergic to gluten and thus follow a gluten-free diet.  A wheat allergy is an IgE-mediated response to one of the four proteins in wheat. The allergic response is similar to celiac in that the body identifies a protein as something harmful and mounts an immune response, but symptoms differ:

  • Irritation in throat or intolerable choking,
  • Rash or hives,
  • Nasal congestion,
  • Stomach pains, nausea or vomiting, or
  • Anaphylaxis.

Wheat allergies are common in children, but typically outgrown before adulthood.

Currently, 3 million Americans, or about 1%, have diagnosed celiac disease and it is true that the disease is on the rise, but why? Hypotheses include:

  • Improvement in tests for screening and diagnosis- Tests have become more sensitive and specific
  • Increased awareness- People are more aware of the disease
  • Hygiene hypothesis- Children in ultra-clean environments are not exposed to antigens while their immune systems are developing increases their risk of developing an allergy or intolerance.
  • Antibiotic use- Some believe that the use of antibiotics early in life (0-5 years) can alter the microbial ecology in our guts leading to increased risk of intolerances and digestive inflammatory diseases.

In addition, to Celiac disease, additional cases of gluten sensitivity or intolerance are also increasing and researchers believe 1 out of 20 people may have it. The increase in this new disorder is attributed to the same causes of celiac disease, as well as, the agricultural changes to wheat.  In recent years wheat has been modified to contain higher amounts of protein, including gluten, which promote higher yields. Gluten also gives wheat products (breads, pastas, waffles, etc.) their flexible structures.

Gluten sensitivity is a condition where gluten increases the activation of the innate immune effector pathways, but without damage to the intestines. This adverse reaction occurs after eating gluten resulting and has symptoms similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), candidiasis (yeast infections, athlete’s foot), but with no damage to digestive tract.  Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Head and body aches
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Blistering skin disease that forms on elbows, knees and buttocks

Typically, symptoms of gluten sensitivity only last a few hours up to a day.  If individuals suspect celiac disease or gluten sensitivity it is best to try a gluten-free diet and evaluate if the problematic symptoms improve. It is important to note, however, that if someone is going in for testing for celiac disease or sensitivities they have to be actively consuming gluten.

All in all, gluten is friendly if you…

  • Do not have Celiac Disease,
  • Do not have a Wheat allergy, and
  • Are not intolerant to Gluten.

Gluten is a foe if you…

  • Have Celiac Disease,
  • Have a Wheat allergy to gluten protein, and
  • Are intolerant to Gluten.

Many people opt for a gluten-free diet to lose weight, under the assumption that gluten-free is low-carb. Most gluten-free products are made with refined carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index, meaning they are digested very quickly. A well-balanced meal plan with regular exercise is always the best way to achieve a healthier weight. Whole grains can be quite helpful in meeting daily fiber needs but also providing rich sources of b-vitamins and minerals, which are commonly deficient in gluten-free diets.  For additional tips on increasing whole grains see:  Whole Grains Pack a Powerful Punch.

The causes of celiac disease and gluten intolerance remain muddled, but the treatment remains the same. If you have questions regarding these dietary lifestyles and whether or not a gluten-free diet is for you be sure to contact a dietitian.

Supermarket Savvy: Power Lunch

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD, CD, CPT

Taking a lunch break seems to be something of the past and many professionals brag about the years that have passed since they have “taken lunch.” Eating during the middle of the day, and for many the work day, can be just as difficult as ensuring one has breakfast before they head out of the door.  A healthful lunch requires planning, preparation and personal boundaries, as well as, strategies to overcome common barriers.

One step towards eating lunch is packing and bringing a lunch with additional snacks, which will accommodate the lack of time and/or healthful options that some people encounter. I encourage my clients to prepare their breakfast, lunch and snacks for the next day the night before while they are preparing dinner. This works well in a family setting because everyone can play a part. 

What would an RD-approved lunch look like? I’m glad you asked! Principles of a healthful meal apply to any meal of the day:

  • Choose food items from at least 3 food groups (Whole grain, lean protein, vegetable, fruit, and dairy).
  • Pack a sugar-free beverage or a water bottle.
  • Opt for foods that are nutrient-dense versus calorie-dense.
  • Prepare for the 3pm snack attack.

The most popular lunch items include sandwiches or frozen dinners. These can get mundane quite quickly for some people, and others do not mind eating the same thing everyday. For those who don’t mind a sandwich, top notch fixings include:

  • Peanut, almond or Cashew butter- Most of the “natural” products will contain only the nuts and minimal added salt.
  • Skinless chicken or turkey breast- 3 ounces, about the size of the palm of the hand, is a great lean source of protein with minimal added fat and sodium.
  • Hummus or baked Falafel- Vegetarian source of protein made from chick peas (garbanzo beans)
  • Reduced fat Cheese- A serving of cheese can pack a hefty number of calories and unhealthful fat, so be sure to choose a light cheese option, which is similar to 2% milk versus whole milk. Choose the option with less than 3 grams of Saturated Fat per serving.

The frozen dinner section can be quite cumbersome and it is easy to be steered by price versus quality. The following brands are both nutritious and delicious:

  • Amy’s Light and Lean options are frozen or canned entrees that are typically lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  • Kashi’s frozen entrees include a source of whole grain and lean protein and are usually low in saturated fat and cholesterol. These entrees tend to be higher sodium than their counterparts.

Frozen dinners are great because you can grab and go, or store them at work. Most of these entrees do not keep people full for very long, so be sure to pack a serving of fruit, low-fat dairy, and/or extra veggies.

After we select the lunch “entrée” we move on to our “filler foods.” It is best to choose side items at lunch that pack a whole bunch of nutrition without the calorie cost. It also is best to choose items that provide lasting satiety via volume and fiber versus a quick burst of energy. If you’re looking to get outside the [lunch] box, try out the options below:

  • Half cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1 tomato and 6 low-fat, wheat crackers
  • Peanut butter pita with sliced apple or banana and celery and carrot sticks
  • Quinoa grain salad with raw vegetables and dried fruit
  • Chicken or Shrimp Kebab with grilled veggies in whole wheat pita
  • Vegetable burger on wheat bun with celery and 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
  • Baked falafel in whole wheat half pita stuffed with raw cucumber with a serving of fruit on the side.
  • Yogurt parfait with light yogurt, low-fat granola and sliced berries
  • Large vegetable salad with 1 cup fresh fruit (berries, apples, pears), 2 Tablespoons nuts or seeds and 1-2 Tablespoons light dressing
  • Broth-based soup with half a turkey wrap (whole wheat tortilla with lettuce and tomato)
  • Leftovers from a nutritious and delicious dinner!

On to the middle of the afternoon! Many people report a 3pm snack attack, or a least a drop in energy that leaves them reaching for a sweet treat and perhaps a caffeinated pick-me-up. To avoid hitting the vending machines- where healthful choices may be difficult to find- I recommend packing a snack that you can be confident will keep you satisfied until dinner.  Also, many people work out before dinner and this snack can also be a time to fuel up before exercise. A healthy snack includes a source of energy (carbohydrate) with either a protein or a healthful fat, which helps to make the energy last longer. For pre-workout snacks choose a whole grain or fruit with a lean protein, which may be:

  • Light yogurt with a serving of fruit
  • Half a turkey sandwich
  • Small bowl of cereal
  • Glass of milk
  • Serving of crackers and light string cheese

Other healthful snack combinations include:

  • Dried fruit with unsalted nuts (1/4 cup serving)
  • Half a peanut butter sandwich
  • Raw veggies with low-fat yogurt dip or hummus
  • Baked chips with fresh salsa
  • Light popcorn (3 Cups)
  • Fresh fruit with 1 Tablespoon peanut butter

The recommendations above can help to provide stable energy and mental focus throughout the day, as well as, prevent over-eating during the evening hours. Planning and preparation are two essential strategies for healthy eating, but as mentioned previously personal boundaries are also important to protect lunch. Granting yourself 20-30 minutes to catch your breath, grab a bite to eat and mentally and sometimes emotionally prepare for the remainder of the day are vital to a healthy lifestyle. Please take this moment to remind yourself that you are worth it!

Supermarket Savvy: RD Approved Foods to Break the Fast!

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall

We have heard it over and over; breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Despite this fact, breakfast is commonly missed by many. Therefore, it is vital to continue to tout the many benefits of breakfast and highlight quick, easy and healthful products that can help break the fast.

Researchers have confirmed that people who eat breakfast:

  • Have stable energy levels throughout the day.
  • Have improved mental focus.
  • Manage their appetite and tend to eat appropriate portions for the remainder of the day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

The breakfast food aisle seems to be getting longer and longer and is typically overflowing with colorful boxes, goofy looking characters and the rich smell of coffee. When venturing into the inner aisles of the grocery store, it is important to have a plan to ensure you are in and out without any unwarranted items in the basket.

The following are RD-approved products that are tasty, reasonable in cost, and use simple ingredients. The links provided will bring you to the products sites for further ingredient, price and nutrition information.

Uncle Sam’s Original® Cereal was created in 1908 and is an oldie, but a goody!  It is a simple cereal made with toasted wheat berries. This choice also has whole flaxseeds for additional fiber. It would be best if the flaxseeds were ground to provide additional omega-3’s.Uncle Sam’s has only 4 ingredients: whole wheat kernels, flaxseeds, salt and barley malt. Since it is unsweetened it is recommended as a topping, but after some taste bud retraining it can make a great breakfast! There are additional varieties, which help to boost flavor, including Skinner’s Raisin Bran®, which is simply Uncle Sam’s plus raisins.

Ezekiel® Sprouted Grain Cereals with almonds or flax are another option for cold cereal. These cereals are composed of a variety of sprouted grains and lentils to provide a rich source of lean protein, fiber and a natural source of vitamins and minerals.

For persons seeking a healthful gluten-free cereal, my vote goes to Erewhon® Crispy Brown rice and Corn Flake cereals. Crispy brown rice is an alternative to traditional crisped rice cereal. Both cereals are gluten-free and only have two ingredients!

These cereal choices provide a sound whole grain source for breakfast.  Pour on organic low-fat dairy, such as 0-1% cow or goat’s milk or a low-fat kefir for lean protein and add a whole fruit and before you is a balanced breakfast that takes minimal time, but packs a whole lot of nutrition!

Smoothies are quite trendy right now and are best if made at home. It is difficult to control the sugar content when consumed commercially. A simple smoothie recipe that will provide a boost of energy in the morning is: ½ cup low-fat milk or kefir, 1 cup frozen fruit, 1 cup spinach and 1-2 Tablespoons of ground flax or chia seeds. This concoction provides 250 Calories, 6.5g healthy fat, 35g (2 servings) carbohydrate with 10g fiber and 12g protein.

Let’s not forget about the beloved toaster! Two slices of toasted bread or waffles can also be the foundation for a healthful morning meal.  Ezekiel® also makes a sprouted grain bread, which like the cereal is composed of an assortment of sprouted grains and thus is higher in protein, vitamins and minerals than other breads. However, this bread is typically more expensive and needs to be refrigerated.

Brownberry® Natural Wheat bread and Pepperidge Farm’s® Stone Ground 100% Whole Wheat breads are comparable in ingredients, nutrition and price and are great runners’ up.

The best waffle is Kashi’s Heart-to-Heart® 7-Grain waffles. Most of the ingredient list includes a variety of vitamins and minerals used to enrich and fortify the grains. These waffles provide a good source of fiber without the card-board flavor and texture.

Most do not partake in dry toast or waffles, so I encourage my clients to spread on a heart healthy fat such as almond or peanut butter and top with a whole fruit such as banana, apple, or pear.

If there are a few minutes to spare, hot cereal is another hearty option. Rolled oats provide an ideal source of whole grain, fiber and b-vitamins. Three-fourths cup of oats soaked in water with 1 tsp lemon juice over night provides another quick option for the morning. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of nuts (almonds or walnuts) and seeds (ground flax or chia) for a healthy source of fat and protein for about 400 Calories.

That concludes my simple list of quick, easy and healthful breakfast items. I would love to hear from my readers, any top-of-the-line products that are a great way to start your day? 

Stay tuned for as we head to the aisles to compose a healthy lunch!

The What, When, Where, and Why of Dephytinization

Written by Cassie Vanderwall, MS RD CD CPT

In recent entries we have addressed the implications of high phytic acid intake (Soy Conundrum). Soy is not the only plant-based food that is high in phytates. This is because phytic acid is the storage form of phosphorus in plants. In fact, whole grains, beans, legumes and nuts have often higher contents of phytic acid than soy. The issue with soy remains that it is much more difficult to decrease the phytic acid in this bean than other plant-based sources.

Despite the variety of health benefits of a plant-based diet, high intake of phytates can cause depletion in a few nutrients, including calcium, iron and zinc; this is why it has been coined an “anti-nutrient.” Persons following vegetarian, vegan and even flexitarian meal plans are at an increased risk of becoming low or deficient in these nutrients. To ensure adequacy of these nutrients in a vegetarian lifestyle it is vital to identify plant-based sources of the nutrients and address healthful cooking preparations that cause dephytinization, or the act of removing and diminishing phytates.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics currently recommends that vegetarians consume 1.8 times the recommended daily allowance of iron, but not necessarily increased intake of calcium or zinc. Heme iron sources (Iron from animal) is better absorbed than non-heme iron from plants. To prevent iron-deficiency anemia, it best to consume plant-based sources of iron (nuts, seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, raisins) with a source of vitamin C to improve absorption and utilization.

Vegetarian’s calcium levels are often not affected by high phytate intake, but it is best to continue to consume adequate calcium on a daily basis from dark green vegetables including leafy greens, spinach, broccoli, okra as well as, almonds.

Magnesium is also captured by phytates increasing an individual’s risk of neurological, muscular and bone impairments. Magnesium-rich foods include bran, leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans and lentils.

Researchers have documented that zinc deficiency is not as common as one may assume. This may be because the body is able to adapt to lower zinc intake and thus ward off deficiency, or because currently there is not a sensitive marker to ensure zinc status. Thus, it is still important to be diligent about consuming adequate zinc from whole grains and legumes.

As one can see, nature has equipped the foods that are high in phytates with the nutrients it often depletes. Researchers suggest that we can absorb about 20% more zinc and 60% more magnesium from these foods when phytates are not present. Phytic acid not only prevents the absorption of the nutrients mentioned above, but it also can stop the enzymes we need to breakdown our food, including:

It is important to take the extra step to reduce the phytic acid content of the super foods as to only increase absorption of the critical nutrients through cooking. The phytate can be decreased by soaking, sprouting, fermenting, roasting and boiling.

Soaking and sprouting activate phytase, an enzyme that helps to breakdown phytic acid, which then helps to decrease the overall phytic acid content.

Fermenting these foods with probiotics, such as lactobacilli, will decrease phytates in a similar way because these “good” bacteria can produce phytase.  One can also ferment using an acidic medium (vinegar, lemon juice). Phytase is a sensitive enzyme and can be easily inactivated by extreme temperatures (freezing) and grinding. The following will examine appropriate cooking methods for a few nutrient-rich, high phytate foods.

Wheatberries, barley, quinoa, brown rice, and their flours require soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking to reduce phytic acid content. Corn, millet, brown rice and oats are not very high in phytase and often retain phytic acid, whereas wheat and rye are high in phytase and thus nearly all of the phytic acid is destroyed after the grains are soaked or fermented. There are three methods that will remove the phytic acid in increasing amounts. Soaking and then cooking the grains will remove the least amount of phytic acid and soaking, sprouting, fermenting and then cooking the grains will remove the most. Depending on your preference and perhaps time, you can choose from the following preparation methods.

Soaking and Sprouting Grains

What you will need:

  • 1 cup whole grains
  • 2 cups warm filtered water (about 68°F)


  1. Cover the mixture and store it in a warm place for 12 to 14 hours.
  2. To sprout these grains, rinse the grains after they are soaked and replace the filtered water. Then cover the mixture and store it in a warm place for about 36-48 hours (1-2 days).

*Brown rice does not require sprouting or fermenting to remove the phytic acid.

*Oats require sprouting for 5 days followed by fermentation with an acidic medium.

Fermenting Grains

What you will need:

  • 1 cup whole grains
  • 2 cups warm filtered water
  • 2 Tablespoons yogurt, buttermilk or kefir
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice


  1. Combine the grains and water with the dairy product and/or the acid (vinegar or lemon juice). For additional cups of grains use additional amounts of the other ingredients. For example, for 2 cups of grains you would need to multiply all other ingredient quantities by 2 (4 cups water, 4 Tablespoons of probiotic and acidic mediums).
  2. Cover and store in a warm place for 7-16 hours

Cooking Grains

What you will need:

  • 1 cup Whole grains, soaked, sprouted and/or fermented
  • 2 cups warm filtered water


  1. Combine water with grains and bring to a boil.
  2. Boil grains for about 30 minutes, or until tender.

Beans, peas, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds require at least a 12-hour soak prior to cooking, however it is best to soak, germinate, sprout and then cook them. You may also wish to ferment them, especially soy beans, after cooking.

Soaking Beans, Peas, Lentils, Legumes, Nuts or Seeds

What you will need:

  • 1 cup Beans, peas, lentils, legumes, nuts or seeds
  • 4 cups filtered water


  1. Begin by rinsing the beans, peas, lentils, legumes, nuts or seeds and remove any stones or debris.
  2. Combine them with water and cover.
  3. Allow them to soak for 12-36 hours in warm environment (78°F).
  4. You may wish to drain and rinse them several times during the soaking process.

Germinating and Sprouting Beans, Peas, Lentils, Legumes, Nuts or Seeds

What you will need:

  • 1 cup Beans, peas, lentils, legumes, nuts or seeds
  • 4 cups filtered water


  1. Combine with enough water to cover them.
  2. Then, cover and allow them to soak for at least an additional 8-12 hours. Nuts and seeds will require less time than beans and peas.
  3. Drain the water and rinse them thoroughly.
  4. If you wish to sprout them, place them back into the container with enough filtered water to cover them.
  5. Cover and place the container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or until they begin to sprout. It is recommended that you drain and rinse them 1-2 times daily, in order to provide fresh water.

Dehydrating Beans, Peas, Legumes, Nuts or Seeds

What you will need:

  • Beans, peas, lentils, legumes, nuts or seeds
  • Dehydrator or oven


  1. Spread beans, peas, legumes, nuts or seeds on dehydrator tray or baking sheet.
  2. Preheat oven or set dehydrator to temperature less than 118°F.
  3. Place ingredients in the oven or dehydrator for 10-14 hours to simulate sun-drying.

Cooking Beans, Peas, Lentils

What you will need:

  • 1 cup Beans, peas, lentils
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • Optional additions: Small piece of fresh ginger or turmeric, 1 strip of kombu or kelp


  1. Combine the beans, peas or lentils with the water and bring to a boil.
  2. You may also wish to add spices or seaweed, which can help to aid digestion of the beans, peas or lentils.
  3. Boil the beans, peas or lentils for 20-60 minutes, or long enough to allow the skin to come off of the beans, peas or lentils.
  4. Remove them from the heat and drain the water from the pot.

Roasting Peas, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds

What you will need:

  • Dried Peas, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds
  • Baking sheet


  1. Heat oven to 325-350°F.
  2. Spread peas, legumes, nuts or seeds evenly on baking sheet.
  3. Place sheet in the oven for 5-15 minutes. It is important to be attentive to the roasting process.
  4. Remove sheet from the oven when peas, legumes, nuts or seeds are roasted. Peas, legumes, nuts or seeds are done roasting when you smell a nutty aroma or can see that they are a few shades darker in color than the raw form.
  5. Allow them to cool completely and store in air-tight container.

The Soy Conundrum: The Good News

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall

We have delved in the bad news regarding this soy conundrum, but have yet to investigate the benefits of soy. Soy intake in America is on the rise, whether one knows it is there or not. Many attribute this increase to Asian fare working its way into the Western world. 

Soy in its natural form as a bean/legume is composed of 50% protein, 24% carbohydrate and 24% oil. Soybean oil contains saturated fat (stearic), omega-6 unsaturated fat (linoleic) and palmitic fatty acids that have effects that resemble trans fats.

It is common knowledge in the Eastern part of the world that raw and unfermented soy bean is “indigestible.” Soy was actually not considered a food for humans until the Chinese learned how to ferment it. Asians tend to consume only about 10g of fermented forms of soy per day whereas the average American consumes primarily unfermented soy and up 75g per day- this is a big difference.

More appears to not be better.  Remember, Asians who may experience the benefits of soy only eat 10g per day versus the 75g that Westerners consume. The benefits of soy outweigh the risks when it is consumed in moderation. It is similar to alcohol in that 1-2 glasses per day are heart healthy but above and beyond is harmful.

There is an abundance of research regarding the benefits of soy. It is high in phytochemicals, specifically isoflavones and lignans. Isoflavones mimic the effects of estrogen in the body and thus may positively affect a variety of disease states. These isoflavones help to:

  • Support bone mineral density and prevent osteoporosis by increasing concentrations of osteocalcin (marker for bone growth) and inhibit, or stop, the action of osteoclasts (marker for bone breakdown). High intake of soy may decrease parathyroid hormones, which may also decrease the turnover of bone.
  • Ease symptoms in menopause, such as hot flashes, since it resembles estrogen, which naturally decreases during menopause.
  • Prevent hormonal (breast, endometrial, thyroid), prostate and lung cancers due to its anti-proliferative, anti-angiogenic and anti-oxidant activities. Additionally, the protease inhibitors and phytates discussed in the “bad” news, may actually play a role in deterring cancer cell growth.  There is a lot of controversy surrounding soy and cancer and it again involves research completed in Asian women. It is hypothesized that when fermented soy is introduced early in life it may be protective of breast cancer due to its role in cell differentiation and mammary maturation and these cells tend to be less susceptible to cancer. In regards to prostate cancer, soy’s estrogen-like effects seem to reduce natural estrogen and testosterone levels in healthy men; this does not appear to apply in men with prostate cancer.

Soy’s high fiber (lignan) content may help to control blood sugar levels in diabetes. It may also help to influence a variety of factors in the use of glucose for energy including tyrosine kinase activity and increasing insulin sensitivity. Touchi, a Chinese seasoning, may also help to lower blood sugar levels after meals, which in the end also helps to lower triglycerides.

Soy is also recommended for the management of both high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Soy protein is a lean alternative to higher fat meats and this substitution may help to reduce an individual’s LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. There is also some research to suggest that soy’s isoflavone activity may decrease total cholesterol.

Fermented tofu and soy protein are also high in tyramine. Tyramine is a natural monoamine that acts similarly to a catecholamine and releases other monoamines, including dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, which all may reduce blood pressure.  On the other hand, persons who are currently taking MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) may experience a sharp rise in blood pressure and thus tyramine-rich foods are contraindicated.

Many believe that soy’s health benefits are possible only from fermented soy and soy products.  Legumes and beans require more than soaking to breakdown the high phytate content. During fermentation, natural enzymes help to reduce the phytates to a safe level. 

My soy recommendation is to consume 10-15g of fermented soy daily. As you can see several of the products below are high in sodium, so be sure to keep that in mind.

  • Low-sodium soy sauce/Tamari (1 Tablespoon: 10 Calories, 0g Fat, 1g Carbohydrate, 1g Protein, 575mg Sodium),
  • Miso is a paste often used in soups, spreads and for pickling (2 Tablespoons: 68 Calories, 2g Fat, 9g Carbohydrate, 4g Protein, 1280mg Sodium),
  • Tempeh is often used as a meat substitute (1oz: 55 Calories, 3g Fat, 3g Carbohydrate, 5g Protein, 4mg Sodium),
  • Natto is a popular breakfast item with a powerful smell and acquired flavor (1/2 Cup: 185 Calories, 9g Fat, 12g Carbohydrate, 15g Protein, 6mg Sodium), or
  • Fermented Tofu (1oz: 32 Calories, 2g Fat, 1g Carbohydrate, 2g Protein, 804mg Sodium).

 The soy conundrum remains, but at least now we have the facts and can make an educated decision as to how we will partake in this popular bean.

The Soy Conundrum: The Bad News

Written by: Cassie Vanderwall

It was recently brought to my attention that all soy and soy-containing products are not created equal. In fact, certain types of soy may not be the healthiest alternative for vegetarians, vegans and/or those averse to dairy. This spurred the following investigation.

Soy established roots on American soil in the 1920’s when the government compensated farmers for growing this crop. Today, the United States produces almost 50% of the world’s soy beans. Most of this produce is provided to animals as feed, similar to corn. Soy farming is now worth big bucks, especially after the additional funds farmers received to help meet the bio-diesel demand. On average, soy farming is worth more than $12 billion today. 

In the 1990’s, soy and soy-based foods inherited a halo for health, based on a variety of claims, including:

  • Reduces hot flashes and night sweats,
  • Promote bone health,
  • Heart healthy and decreases risk of cardiovascular disease,
  • Complete vegetarian protein source, and
  • May have cognitive benefits

Americans began to demand this trendy super food on their plate in the 1990’s and new product development and sales sky-rocketed ($1 billion in 1996 to $4.9 billion in 2010), while the cost of soy remains relatively inexpensive. The majority of this increase can be attributed to energy bars with soy protein.

I have concluded that the problem is that most Americans are not consuming soy in the form that does provide all of these health benefits. The easiest designation is fermented versus non-fermented soy and soy products.

People currently reach for a variety of non-fermented soy products, including: soy milk, soy cheese, veggie burgers and sausage, high protein cereals, and several soy snack foods like chips, ice cream and protein bars. Soybean oil has also snuck its way into a variety of other processed foods not touted for their health benefits (chips, margarine, mayo).

Non-fermented soy products such as those mentioned above can be deemed unhealthy for the following reasons:

  • The natural soy bean contains “anti-nutrients,” specifically phytic acid, which decreases the absorption of healthful nutrients (iron, zinc). If the body is deficient in iron or zinc, it also has difficulties using calcium, magnesium and copper. It is important to note that soy has lower phytic acid content than wheat and rice. Phytic acid in these grains and beans can be decreased by soaking them prior to consumption.
  • Soy is also high in protease (trypsin) inhibitors, which as they sound stop trypsin in its tracks. This can limit digestion of these proteins when the soy is consumed raw, however when cooked/processed this effect decreases.
  • Agglutinin, a lectin protein, can bind to carbohydrate molecules and may present as antigens in the body that increase an inflammatory response. They also may reduce growth in children; however this research has been done primarily in rats.
  • Additionally, we learned about soy’s goitrogenic activity from a previous blog (Save the Thyroid).
  • Many of the health benefits are generated from soy’s phyto-estrogen content. These plant-based hormones are able to mimic the effects of estrogen and thus often disrupt normal endocrine processes and pathways. This can result in difficulties with menstruation, thyroid problems, decreased libido, female-like traits in men and may encourage breast cancer development in women who are estrogen receptor positive (ER+).
  • Processed soy proteins such as: isolated soy protein, soy lecithin, TSP, TVP,  result in glutamic acid, or the mother of MSG (monosodium glutamate). Many foods may contain 3 or more of these processed sources; Check out those labels and see:

  • Soybean oils are treated with chemical solvents (hexane) to promote efficient extraction of the oil under intense heat and pressure. This process results in rancid, hydrogenated, trans-fatty oil that acts like butter.
  • Most soy farmed today is genetically modified, which opens its own “can of worms.”

 Counter-points to many of these jabs at soy are addressed here, however it is important to consider the source as we should with all health information. So, this is the bad news but, hold on there’s some better news on the way. Soy can remain a part of the American meal plan. Stay tuned for the good news!

“Rethink your Drink”

 Written by: Cassie Vanderwall

A pillar of health is good hydration. Water is essential for life and is used to keep joints healthy, maintain the body’s temperature and blood pressure, and remove waste products. Therefore, a lack of water can lead to dehydration, a deficiency in fluid, which can have dire consequences. Dehydration can be caused by loss of water through sweating, warm temperatures, increased urination or bowel movements, breathing, fever and physical activity.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dark urine that looks like apple juice,
  • Dry mouth, eyes, nose, or skin,
  • Sleepiness, and
  • Thirst.

Try not to wait for these symptoms because often times they are hard to recognize. Drink up early and often!

In the era of “drinkcessorization” it is vital to look past the bright colors and sweet flavors of the beverage options today. Sugar-sweetened beverages, or SSB’s as we call them in the “biz” are called out as a culprit for the obesity epidemic inAmerica. In fact, many professional organizations including the American Cancer Society has encouraged the surgeon general to study the implications of these beverages. I agree that it warrants a closer look since American’s intake of SSB’s have doubled since the 1970’s.

So, why are we “hating on” these types of drinks?

5 reasons:

  1. They do not provide satiety or fullness upon consumption
  2. They do not cause a compensatory reduction in calorie intake at or between meals
  3. They provide a heavy dose of sugar with about 36g sugar or 9 tsp per 12oz can soda-pop
  4. The primary sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, has been known to increase inflammation, insulin resistance and impaired Beta cell function (check out my blog on Fructose: Poison or Pleasure).
  5. SSB’s increase our sweet threshold and desire for sweets.

Since hydration is necessary, it is best to choose drinks that are low in fat, sugar, caffeine and calories.

Use the chart below to see how 1 cup of your favorite drinks measure up.



Fat (grams)

Sugar (grams)

Sugar (tsp)

Nutrition Facts

Water 0 0 0 0 #1 Thirst Quencher
Milk, Skim 80 0 12 0 Good source of Protein, Calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Aim for 3 servings of calcium-rich foods everyday!
Milk, 1% 100 2.5 12 0
Milk, 1% Chocolate 160 2.5 25 3
Milk, 2% 120 5 12 0
Milk, Whole 150 8 12 0
Rice Milk, Plain 115 2 12 0
Soy Milk, Plain 100 4 6 0
Soy Milk, Chocolate 150 4 19 5
Sweet Tea 75 0 18 4 ½  
Sports Drink 60 0 13 3  
Orange Juice 120 0 21 5 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to limit juice to 1/2 Cup per day.
Apple Juice 110 0 24 6
Grape Juice 150 0 36 9
Fruit-Flavored Drink 120 0 28 7
Cola 90 0 22 5 ½ No Nutritional Value
Diet Soda Pop 0 0 0 0

Remember the numbers listed above are for only 1 cup of these beverages. At most fast food places the small beverage is 16oz. This would bump up the teaspoons per serving to 10 to 18 for juices, 9 for sweetened iced teas and 11 for regular colas.

In my recent interview on NBC-15 Madison, I encouraged viewers to “rethink their drinks” by:

  • Make water #1 thirst quencher by keeping it ready and available.
  • Add flavor to water by infusing-fruit (see recipe below). There are even pitchers now to help you add flavor without extra sugar.
  • Hydrate with an assortment of other sugar-free beverages, including herbal tea, sodium-free seltzer waters, fat-free milk or another low sugar dairy alternative.
  • Eat your water by striving for 5 to 9 servings of fruits and veggies everyday.
  • Retrain our thoughts about juice and freeze it as popsicles for dessert!

Recipe: “Spa Water”

½ Cucumber, peeled, sliced
1 knuckle Ginger, peeled, sliced
½ cup mint leaves or 2 mint tea bags steeped
1 lemon, juiced
1 gallon filtered water


Your One Source For Wellness Information.


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