My Take on the Red/Processed Meat–>Cancer Debate


Original Image by Kim Ahlström via Flickr
Original Image by Kim Ahlström via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Doesn’t every story always have two sides? The good news? The latest craze that bacon causes cancer is a bit of frenzy. The bad news for bacon lovers, this isn’t ‘new’ news, the American Institute for Cancer Research has declared the link between bacon and cancer for a while, yet the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) report on the link between red meats, processed meats and colorectal cancer has brought the spotlight back on to this topic. Before vegetarians get on their soap box, bacon lovers declaring they can’t eat meat ever again or disregard this report by wanting to continue to eat how much whenever, what if I told you there is a middle ground?

Yes, you can have a few pieces of processed meats once in a while is not going to be a death sentence, but understanding what types of meats may contribute to cancer and why will help all wrap their heads around the concept.

“No one food causes cancer,” said Audrey Monroe a Dietitian and Director of Nutrition for the Kansas Beef Council.

Processed meats include those that have been cured, salted, smoked or a preservation method has been used (e.g. cold cuts, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, ham, pastrami, salami and pepperoni). To put the new classification in perspective, like outdoor pollution, UV radiation, alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes, the IARC ranked processed meats as a class 1 carcinogen. The physical method of grinding or mincing of meat does not automatically make it ‘processed.’  Red meats include beef, lamb and pork, with it being ranked as class 2A campaign. Yet, liver is clumped in the ‘red meat’ category, providing all necessary vitamins and minerals.

The mechanism of why and how these meats increase colorectal cancer is not definitive. There is speculation that increased risk is due to the addition of nitrates, nitrites, heme iron in red meat, smoking process and/or high temperatures.

Suggestions on how to lower consumption and cancer risk:

Original Image by Pawel Pacholec via Flickr
Original Image by Pawel Pacholec via Flickr
  • Replace processed and red meats with fresh chicken, fish and plant based proteins (e.g. eggs, cottage cheese, hummus, beans, tofu and legumes)
  • Swap out bacon, chorizo and salami with spicy vegetarian sausage
  • Opt for lean beef and loin cuts as quality protein helps one feel satiated and fuller longer to help maintain desired weight
  • Redirect focus on how meals can provide a balance of nutrients, including whole grains, fiber, lean meats and low fat dairy products
  • Vary the type of produce used as different vegetables provide anti cancer, antioxidant properties. The phytochemicals in vegetables work synergistically together to stave off cancer.

In addition to being mindful of the ranking, it’s important to note the amount of exposure to the carcinogen. Yes, cigarettes and processed meats have been both classified as class 1 carcinogens, but many smokers expose their bodies to tobacco multifold a day, while the same measurement can not be used when assessing processed meat’s impact on someone—instead we need to consider how big the portions and frequency of intake.

If you’re as legalistic as I am, what’s a ‘moderate’ amount of processed meats? 500,000 middle aged men and women were studied, finding that consumption of 50 g of processed meat increased risk of colon cancer up to 18%. In other words, the recommendation is to consume 70 g of less of red and processed meats. Limiting consumption of red meat to once a week/18 ounces (cooked) or less per week, one should not be concerned with an increased cancer risk. In other words, 18 ounces is ~4-quarter pounders hamburgers per week. If you’re eating hot dogs three to four times a week, perhaps, cutting back to once a week is a step you would be willing to take.

As you can see, nutrition is not black and white. While these IARC declarations has sparked debate, it doesn’t mean processed meats and red meat have to be cut out completely. With regular meal planning and mindfulness, all foods can fit.  The USDA and FDA are set to share new dietary guidelines by the end of this year, so it will be interesting how and if the WHO reports affect those guidelines.

Sources: http://blog.aicr.org/#sthash.OACxTxoR.dpuf

Do Bacon, Hot Dogs and Red Meat Cause Cancer? Facts and What You Need to Know!

http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/10/26/processed-meat-and-cancer-what-you-need-to-know/

http://lancasteronline.com/healthy-choices-what-you-eat-can-reduce-cancer-risk/article_86275722-78bf-11e5-b776-37879cab8ad7.html

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/26/health/who-processed-meat-cancer-social-reaction/

Meat no more? Local health experts say not so fast

Summer Travels: Staying Trim on a Beach Vacation


Image by Drifting Like a Feather via Flickr
Image by Drifting Like a Feather via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

There used to be a time when dining out was limited to only special occasions. Fast forward to present day and families eat out because it’s Tuesday or because it is easier to grab a meal on the run. Yet, with the rise of dining out, in 1999, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a study reporting that the more frequently women dined out, the higher the intake of total calories, fat and sodium. With restaurants serving large portions, finishing all that is served and justifying frequent splurges of higher fat, calorie menu selections, moderation of such meals is needed to stay trim while enjoying vacation.

Still, making arrangements and reservations for vacation can be anything, but relaxing. Sometimes we need a vacation from a vacation as all the planning is exhausting. Rather than eliminating vacation from schedule entirely, a relaxing beach vacation where lounging and recharging are the scheduled activities can be sometimes what is most needed. Yet, before jetting off to the beach resort, make sure to use some of the below tips to stay trim while on vacation, returning much happier and relaxed!

Suggestions:

    • Instead of equating dining out as an opportunity for carte blanche, remove the concept of obtaining ‘indulgences’ solely from food and instead focus on indulging in a mystery book, massage or quality time with the family. When redirecting indulgences to other great experiences in life, it will become easier not to overindulge in calories!
    • Order half sized portions, appetizers, share entrees or opt to take leftovers home for tomorrow’s meal.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask to ‘have it your way.” Restaurants are moreaccustomed to guests requesting (easy) modifications to dishes. For example, it’s not unheard of to ask for dressings, sauces and/or gravies on the side or for part of the meal to be “doggy bagged.”

      Original Image by Daniella Segura via Flickr
      Original Image by Daniella Segura via Flickr
    • Aim to “eat in” once a day! Staying in for breakfast or eating last night’s doggy bagged meal can save calories and dollars. Bringing along some low sugar oatmeal, cereal and/or breakfast bars can do the trick too or head to the local market to keep fresh fruit on hand for breakfast and snacks.
    • Sample delectable foods in “moderation” instead of feasting. Keeping treats to once a day allows one to enjoy the “local” food while maintaining desired weight.
    • Take advantage of surroundings and go for a morning run on the beach or afternoon hike. Take every opportunity to sightsee via walking.   The friction from the sand can increase intensity if desired.
    • The mini bar in room is the start of many guilty extra snacks and drinks! Hide the key or keep the fridge closed to limit temptation and overindulgence.
    • Traveling can be dehydrating. Add a few days in the sun and water requirements increase exorbitantly. When possible, keep ice cold bottles of water stocked in r fridge and have some water on hand when out. Also, keep the triple digit calorie drinks at bay with unsweetened hot or cold tea, coffee, sparkling water, club soda or by adding some lemon or lime to ice water. Enjoying a drink or two is expected, but keep in mind each alcoholic drink can add an extra 150-450 calories and added sugar.
    • Take on the challenge of ‘5 a Day.’ Daily, make every effort to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. These efforts will aid in meeting daily fruits and vegetables quota and make one more satisfied with the added fiber.
    • Go easy on the condiments. For example, half of the fat in Arby’s Southwest Chicken Wrap or Ultimate BLT Wrap comes from the ranch sauce or mayo. Limit intake of creamy sauces or soups, opting for ketchup, marinara, mustard or BBQ sauce, which tend to be less than 25 calories per serving.
    • Take advantage of the abundant amounts of seafood from the nearby ocean! Seafood is a delectable way to get your weekly dose of fish that are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Make sure to order grilled or non buttered fishes as they are lower in fat and calories than the fried or battered dishes.

For your next beach trip, keep these tips in mind so you can have your cake and eat some fruits and vegetables too.

Sources: http://www.webmd.com/women/features/vacation-eating

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/eat-healthy-during-vacation-1747.html

http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/9-ways-to-take-your-diet-on-vacation

~Flame Up Fajitas~


By: Nikki Nies

Been craving a meal with extra kick? Grab some peppers, sriracha and chicken and you’re ready to make this fajita recipe. I’m a fan of making recipes one’s own, so please use the following recipe as guidance on the type of marinade you could make for your fajitas.

Also, you can opt to eat the fajitas in the traditional corn tortilla or make a bed of perfect rice for the peppers, onions and chicken to lie on. Whatever you choose, the blandness of the carbohydrate will pair nicely with the sriracha sprayed fajitas.

Like many of the recipes I’ve shared on this blog, my mother gave me this recipe. I remember her telling me how it easy it was to make and I concur!

Ingredients:IMG_0373

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15 oz can Rotel
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut into stripsIMG_8917

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Place chicken strips into a greased 13×9 baking dish. In a small bowl, combines oil, chili powder, cumin, garlic, oregano and salt.
  2. Drizzle spice mixture over the chicken and stir to coat. Next add the tomatoes, peppers and onions to the dish. Stir.
  3. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes until chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender.

I happened to have some salsa on hand, so I used salsa instead of Rotel for this recipe. I wasn’t sure what the consistency of the dish would be like and/or flavors would be off, but I was pleased to see the dish didn’t miss the rotel too much.  I also had yellow and orange peppers on hand instead of red and green, but that’s a minor swap.  Lastly, I noticed I had some cheddar cheese in the fridge, so I just topped the fajitas with cheddar cheese for a quick melt on top.

The best part of this recipe is that if you bake the fajitas wrapped in aluminum foil on a baking sheet the clean up is minor! What’s your take on fajitas? How do you make them their own? Any tips on how to improve this recipe?

Cauliflower Pizza Dough


IMG_3639By: Nikki Nies

I’ve written several times before how I enjoy cooking for my friends. This includes catering to their food and diet needs. I’ve been gleefully challenged by the need to make gluten free pasta, bread and most recently pizza! As we all know, for those with gluten intolerances or sensitivities, it can be a headache trying to find foods to eat.

Thankfully, this is where cauliflower can enter the picture. As a low calorie, versatile vegetable, cauliflower is a great substitute for flour! You don’t have to be gluten free to enjoy cauliflower pizza crust, if you run out of flour for home made pizza dough, homemade cauliflower pizza dough is a great alternative! Since cauliflower lacks much flavor, it absorbs the flavors that are combined with it, so add on the veggie  toppings!

My initial try at cauliflower pizza crust didn’t turn out so well! While I intended to make pizza, the concoction came out more like a casserole-not taking too much shape. Yet, my friend, Kaitlyn Brown and her family came to the rescue, experimenting with the cauliflower pizza dough idea and they’ve graciously shared their recipe with me.

Ingredients: IMG_7200

  • 1 pound cauliflower florets, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • seasoning either parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese. You can use broccoli with the cauliflower to give it more taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile chop up cauliflower until finely chopped. Place chopped cauliflower in microwave for 5 minutes or until tender.
  2. Place cauliflower in towel and squeeze out excess water so it is completely dry. In a bowl, mix egg and cauliflower until well combined. This is when you can add additional seasonings to pizza, such as parmesan cheese
  3. Once mixed, line pizza pan or baking sheet and spread cauliflower dough until it resembles a pizza round. Bake 40 minutes.
  4. Once “cauliflower” is done, top with sauce and other toppings, cook 7 more minutes until cheese and toppings have melted.

Recipe adapted from Emily Brown

I can understand why you would shy away from the concept of cauliflower in your pizza. I, myself, probably wouldn’t have tried it either if it weren’t for my friend that is gluten free, but it’s delicious and packed with an extra serving of vegetables! In addition, it’s a great twist on a family favorite! Get your kids, husband or wife in the kitchen with you and share toppings all around! Enjoy!

Food Prep Hacks


 

Thank you Ghregrich Connect for sharing this infographic!

food-hacks-final

Sources: Fix

Prebiotics


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Original Image by THOR via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Prebiotics are not synonymous with probiotics. While probiotics are the healthy bacteria found in cultured dairy foods, prebiotics are fermentable fibers that helps feed healthy bacteria in the gut. The healthy bacteria that live in the intestines use the prebiotics as a source of fuel. Prebiotics have been noted to help alleviate bouts of diarrhea, aiding in healthy bowel function and improving one’s immune system.  In addition, prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that allow probiotics to flourish.

Good sources of Prebiotics:

  • Fruits-berries and bananas
  • Vegetables: Garlic, artichokes, onions and some greens
  • Grains: flax, legumes, barley and whole grains, like oatmeal
  • Asparagus
  • Jerusalem artichokes

There are no specific guidelines as to how many grams of prebiotics we need to consume, but some research suggests between 3-8 grams per day.

Unlike probiotics, prebiotics are not influenced by heat, cold, acid or die with time. When prebiotics and probiotics are combined, they form a synbiotic. Synbiotics include yogurt and kefir, which are fermented dairy products that contain live bacteria.  Therefore, thankfully, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to obtain prebiotics in your meals! Who doesn’t love a great meal of oatmeal, berries and bananas?!

Photo Credit:eHealth101

Sources:http://www.prebiotin.com/prebiotics/prebiotics-vs-probiotics/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/consumer-health/expert-answers/probiotics/faq-20058065

http://www.prebiotic.ca/prebiotic_fibre.html

http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/naldc/download.xhtml?id=57525&content=PDF

http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/docs.htm?docid=13431

http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Research/Prebiotics-could-help-combat-meat-pathogens-says-USDA

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrition-vitamins-11/probiotics

Complementary Proteins


By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Liz Mc via Flickr
Original Image by Liz Mc via Flickr

We all know there are simple and complex carbohydrates, but how many people are familiar with the different types of proteins? Yes, not all proteins are made the same! Complement proteins, made of amino acids, are those that come together to form a higher quality protein.  There are twenty amino acids, with ten considered essential to be obtained from the body as the body can not produce them. These include valine, leucine, isoleucine, methionine, cysteine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, tryptophan, threonine and lysine. Limiting amino acids, such as cysteine, tryptophan, cysteine and methionine’s intake are monitored since if diet becomes too low in one of the amino acids, it will limit usefulness of other amino acids consumed. For example, while beans are high in lysine, they are low in methionine and cysteine.  While grains are high lysine, they are low in methionine and cysteine, making eating grains and beans at the same meal a great pairing, called complementary proteins.

A vegetarian requires complementary proteins from foods in order to obtain the complete package of essential amino acids. Vegetarians obtain their protein sources from vegetable sources, which do not always contain all the essential amino acids in adequate amounts. Besides soy protein, plant proteins are not complete protein sources.  Therefore, by pairing incomplete protein foods (i.e. beans and rice together), it forms complementary proteins and ensures one obtains enough of the limiting amino acids.

The best way to ensure you’re obtaining all necessary vitamins and minerals in your daily meals is to keep a variety of foods on hand.  Of course, protein can be found in beans, nuts, nut butters, peas and soy products.  Aside from all of the essential amino acids, people on a vegan diet also need adequate intake of iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B-12, which are found abundantly in animal foods. Leafy greens, dried fruits and fortified breakfast cereals will help you to add these important nutrients to the vegan diet.

While all animal proteins, soy and quinoa are complete proteins, other plant based proteins, such as whole grains, beans and nuts are incomplete, but when combined with other foods forms essential amino acid.  Legumes, such as peas, lentils, peanuts and beans, are great to eat when paired with whole grains. Some common combinations include black bean and corn salad with brown rice, split pea soup with barley, peanut butter on whole wheat toast and/or pinto beans in a whole wheat pita. Legumes provide an essential amino acid called lysine, which is low in many grains. Whole grains provide methionine and cysteine, which are low in legumes, or beans, peas, lentils and peanuts.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians may have an easier time pairing foods since they eat dairy and eggs, which are great sources of complete proteins. Haricot beans, lentil and rice

Suggested combinations:

  • Dairy and grains
  • Dairy and seeds
  • Dairy and legumes
  • Grains and seeds
  • Grains and legumes
  • Legumes and seeds

What food pairings work best in your life? What struggles have you found when pairing foods together?

Sources: http://www.bastyr.edu/news/health-tips/2011/09/what-are-complementary-proteins-and-how-do-we-get-them

http://www.nutrition411.com/content/complementary-proteins-origins-and-recipes

http://biology.clc.uc.edu/courses/bio104/compprot.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html

http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/dietarytherapy/a/Vegetarian.htm

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-lentils-whole-grain-rice-2159.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002222.htm

Steam Your Way to Easy, Nutrient Rich Foods


Original Image by Alpha via Flickr
Original Image by Alpha via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Certain cooking techniques (i.e. braising, poaching) can diminish the nutritional value of some foods as vitamins are heat sensitive and may break down as a result of the heat. When foods are cooked in fluids, some of the nutrients may end up leaching out of the vegetable(s) and into the liquid.  Yet, as a moist heat cooking method, steaming uses the least amount of water when cooking, limiting the number of nutrients that can escape.  Therefore, steaming is one of the best cooking methods to maintain taste and color.

When using any of the other methods, nutrients are drawn from the vegetable to the water. To get more nutrients when using other methods is to additionally consume the water. When cooking vegetables in soups, this leaching of the micronutrients isn’t a detriment since you would be consuming the soup’s nutrient rich broth. A recent study led by Chang et al., 2012 showed that boiling of some vegetables for eight minutes actually increased the carotenoid retention. Though, in terms of other nutrients, steam cooking will have the least micronutrient losses.

Yes, steaming requires cooking at a higher temperature than poaching, braising or stewing, it’s one of the more “gentle” cooking methods, limiting agitation to foods as there is no bubbling liquid. As a reminder, steaming occurs when water is converted to its vapor state at 212F degrees.  Steaming’s perfect for vegetables (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, corn, carrots), couscous, desserts, fruit, fish and other “delicate” pastas (i.e. Chinese dumplings and ravioli).

Original Image via Ron Dollete via Flickr
Original Image via Ron Dollete via Flickr

Steamers can be found in a variety of materials, yet it should be noted that bamboo steamers are meant to be stacked on top of one another-at least two to three steamers together.  If you’re feeling extra frugal, you can use a metal colander in a  large pot.

Once steamer’s set up:

  1. Pour water in the bottom of your lidded cooking vessel (wok, pot, etc)
  2. Place food to be steamed in a steamer basket/insert/improvised steamer
  3. Put the insert into the pan, cover and let the water come to a boil over medium heat.

In addition to being a cost-effective way to cook, steaming does not require fat to conduct the heat.  Since the food is cooked in a combination of convection-movement of hot vapor through food and conduction-direct contact between steam, a squirt of lemon juice is all one needs! Again, since nutrients don’t leach out into vapor, water soluable nutrients, such as vitamin C and B can be preserved up to 50% more than in other types of moist heating cooking methods.

The steaming technique has been used as far back as the Paleolithic Period and is still one of the most popular ways to make fresh, healthy meals! To this day, China, India and North African countries use this cooking technique, allowing people to cook a lot of food relative to fuel and water.  Interested in getting your hands and food steam filled? I recommend steaming some fresh broccoli or cauliflower to start yourself off. For the steaming aficionados, what tips or recommendations do you have fellow readers for the best steamed meals? Then options are endless!

Sources: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=whfkitqa&dbid=53
http://www.food.com/recipes/steam

http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/moistheatcooking/a/steaming.htm

Steaming Technique | How to Steam Food

http://www.healwithfood.org/chart/vegetable-steaming-times.php

http://www.useandcaremanuals.com/pdf/hs9040.pdf

http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101/shopping_cooking_guides/steaming_vegetables_guide

Calculating F&V Servings


FruitandVeggiesBy: Nikki Nies

T/F juice counts as a serving of fruit? How do servings work? For the most part, a cup means a cup — just measure out a cup of grapes or a cup of chopped carrots, and ta-da, you have your measurement. There are a few exceptions though.

  • When it comes to salad, a cup is not a cup. It takes 2 cups of leafy greens to equal 1 cup of vegetables.
  • Juice does count as a fruit. A cup of fruit juice does count as a serving of fruit, but nutritionists caution that you’re not getting the fiber and other good benefits of eating whole fruit.
  • When it comes to dried fruit, cut the amount in half. A half cup of dried fruit equals one cup of fresh fruit.
  • One big piece of fruit is roughly a cup. An apple, an orange, a large banana, a nectarine, a grapefruit — one piece of fruit gives you one cup.

Photo Credit: The Kitchn

Sources: http://www.thekitchn.com/10-photos-that-show-you-your-daily-recommended-servings-of-fruits-vegetables-207261?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=managed

http://www.cookinglight.com/healthy-living/healthy-habits/how-much-serving-fruits-vegetables

http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables/

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-amount.html

http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/myplate-and-what-is-a-serving-of-fruits-and-vegetables

Healthy Eaters=Attuned Eaters


attuned-eatingBy: Nikki Nies

Healthy eaters=attuned eaters=you are tuned into what your body needs and wants, choosing foods that make you feel good while you are eating them and after. You don’t eat a lot of highly processed foods, and because of that don’t have a much of a taste for them. You cook at home frequently, even if it means preparing simple meals. You tend to use fresh, whole foods but don’t shy away from lightly processed convenience foods like canned beans and frozen vegetables to make life a little easier. When dining out, you intuitively stay close to your core healthy eating habits, making nutritious choices that still appeal to your taste buds, but aren’t afraid to splurge on special occasions.

Do you consider yourself an attuned eater? What benefits do you see with being a more attuned eater? What barriers in your life and/or environment limit your ability to be best attuned to your eating habits?Say no to diets once and for all, gaining more with fewer restrictions!

Photo Credit: Your Path to Fit