Beware: Natural Doesn't Mean Healthy!

January 29, 2012

Lately I discovered that there is some misunderstanding on food labeled as “Natural”. The uncertainty comes from the presumption people makes that a natural food is also an healthy food.
I actually had a big discussion about this last night in my apartment as one of my roommates was fairly convinced that a box of cereals she just bought, because labeled as “naturally made” were also healthy.
That’s when I jumped in and said: “Stop right there, “natural” is a word with such a broad meaning that food makers now use it to ingenerate in consumers the belief that what their selling is also healthy, but that might not be the case.” A long discussion followed (which I’m not gonna report here) until we looked at the ingredients list on the box and well, that was the end of the controversy.
Why? Because the “all natural” cereals contained the following ingredients: “Yellow corn meal with added corn bran, Unshulphured molasses, Whole oat flour, Expeller pressed high oleic oil (canola and/or sunflower), Salt, Cinnamon, Natural Flavour, Baking soda, [...].”
I’m not questioning that the aforementioned ingredients are all natural but if you believe, like me, that ultra-processed foods are not “that healthy”, well there you go, you can do the math. I mean that “Expeller pressed high oleic oil” sounds a but shady to me.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the manufacturer is claiming that the cereals are healthy, but by labeling them as natural, it does make them sound as they are in some way “made according to nature” and/or “hearty” and/or “good”; that was at least my impression (and also my roommates one).

Craving Sugars? Learn How To Control It

January 28, 2012

Cravings: we encounter them daily, several times throughout a day. Some are very strong and we cannot resist them, others just go away in a couple of minutes.
Have you ever wondered what a craving is? IT's pretty simple, a
craving is your body's way of telling you you're lacking something.
Among all cravings, sugary ones can be particularly hard to handle. 
Craving a glazed donut, a chocolate sundae or a red velvet cupcake doesn't mean you should eat any those.
Why? Because munching a sugary snack will soon make you crave for more sugary things. Simple/refined carbs satisfies hunger and give the body a short-term energy boost, but they as quickly leave you famished again, craving for more.
So how to control them? Here's a breakdown of what your sugar cravings really are and how to get a hang of them.

Stevia: Good Or Bad?

January 25, 2012

I discovered Stevia extract not a long time ago through Anthony at RawModel. He mentioned it as a healthy and natural sweetener that he uses in his smoothies, juices and oatmeal. I’m always on the hunt for healthier alternatives to sugar (provided that artificial sweeteners are a no-go for me), thus whenever something new arises on the "sweeteners horizon" well, I have to give it a try. In addition, stevia has virtually no calories: not bad huh!
If you’re familiar with this blog, you probably know that before eating something I want to know exactly what it is, where it comes from, and, above all, if it’s good or bad for my health. Basically, I need to know everything about it.

I did my fair share of research, and this is what I discovered. Hoping that you’ll find it useful too.

Stevia In The Raw

The Best Protein Sources (Other Than Meat, Fish, Dairy and Eggs)

January 22, 2012

Lately I’ve decided to try to cut my overall intake of meat (I’ve cut out pork completely for that matter). I’ve never been a big meat eater, but chicken and turkey have always been a main part of my diet. I was (and I am still) convinced that there’s nothing like meat to get your protein intake, but I’m also more conscious that eating too much meat (even if organic lean meat) is not ideal for your health. That's why I I decided to resort to other plant sources of protein.
Also, during one of my triathlons last year I met two vegan triathletes and one of them - to put it mildly - just “beat the crap” out of me during the race.  He was almost faster than me in the swimming segment (which for me is a big deal ) and when we jumped on the bike well, there was no match.
I was really impressed by this guy because he seemed to have some kind of secret source of energy that made him almost fly throughout the race.
Then I thought to myself: this guy is vegan and he’s an amazing triathlete, how does he feeds his muscles? Because let’s not forget that a vegan doesn’t eat meat, fish, dairy products or eggs. Hence, it can get quite tricky to get your proteins. I have many vegan friends, some of them are amazing yoga teachers, others are good athletes but none of them is even close to being a triathlete.
Training for triathlons (and triathlon races themselves) requires a lot of energy and the post-training/race recovery can become quite problematic if you can’t rely on readily available protein sources (such as whey protein, egg whites or chicken).
I asked him for some guidance on his diet and he replied that he relied heavily on quinoa, organic soy (including soy protein powder), hemp, legumes and brown rice.
All in all he made me realize that there are so many other sources of protein other than standard meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
Let’s dig more into this!

Bread Is (Always) An Ultra-Processed Food

January 18, 2012

Yesterday we talked about the classification of foods between unprocessed, lightly processed and ultra-processed. Today, with that knowledge in mind we are going to put on trial what is possibly the most popular food in the world. One that man has made for thousand of years, refining the techniques for baking it and one that you can find in almost all households around the world (except mine): bread.
An all time favorite that you use for making your favorite sandwiches, to spread peanut-butter and jelly, to accompany all of your meals and so on.
And why it is on trial today? Because beside being the most common food, it is also an ultra-processed food. No matter if you make it at home from whole ingredients or if you buy the “industrial” Wonder Bread at the supermarket, it's still ultra-processed food.

Do You Know The Difference Between Unprocessed, Lightly-Processed And Ultra-Processed Food?

January 17, 2012

Nowadays we hear a lot of times the term “processed” when it comes to food. And you probably have also heard that we should be eating more unprocessed foods and less processed foods.
But do you know what exactly is processed food or unprocessed food, for that matter?
Yes, I mean, everybody can tell that an apple or a banana are unprocessed and that an Oreo cookie is processed but what about flour, olive oil or yogurt? Can you tell if those are processed or unprocessed?

If you’re interested in this topic you’re probably going to be happy that nutritionists have created a system of categorization to differentiate between different kinds of food.
It’s also pretty simple and you’ll be amazed how
this will change your point of view when you’ll be at the supermarket picking up groceries.
I found a really interesting paper authored by Prof. Carlos Monteiro that with exceptional simplicity provides clear-cut classification of processed foods.
If you’re interested in reading the whole paper you can download it for free at here I will just briefly sum-up the main ideas of his writing.

Nuggets and fries: a classic example of ultra-processed food

Crunches v. Planks: What's The Best For Your Abs?

January 11, 2012

R.I.P. Crunches, you have been a very good friend but it is time to let you go once and for all!
this is more or less the message that Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove convey in the recently published book “The New Rules of Lifting for Abs” (Avery, 2010). A very interesting one if you’re looking for an entertaining reading.
Schuler, an award-winning fitness journalist and one of the authors of the book, confessed that he hasn’t done a single crunch in at least ten years "The idea of doing crunches and sit-ups is to make the abdominal muscles bigger," he told.
"But we all have muscles there. My son had a six-pack for most of his childhood, without doing a single sit-up. He was just a skinny, active kid."
We all know that diet is far more important than exercise if you want a six (or even eight) pack. Most guys also probably don't realize that the most effective moves for chiseling the belly aren't crunches or sit-ups (which can actually do more harm than good). In fact, the best exercise to target your gut does the exact opposite of a crunch, and that is a plank!