The Silly Nutrition Undergrad

Archive for the ‘Healthful Tips’ Category

Photo by Alvin Kwan
[Stars in the photo: Whole wheat rotini, Pasta shells, Stir-fry broccoli & mushrooms, Veggie-loaded tomato sauce, and Boiled cauliflower]

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On the last few days of 2009, I went on a 4-day ski trip with my friends to Mt. Baker, WA. At first I was terribly worried that I would not be able to eat in a balanced manner but somehow, with determination and creativity, I managed to feed myself (and the Boyfriend) nutritious food most of the time.

My friends and I rented a cabin near Mt. Baker. I was so thankful that the cabin was equipped with a small kitchen. Without that I would probably have had much more difficulty in eating healthily.

On the first day before checking in, we went grocery shopping at a huge Walmart store on the way. The goal was to buy enough food so we could make home-prepared meals at the cabin and save money. In my opinion, Walmart is far from being an ideal place to buy groceries, especially fresh produce, but it was the best option we had, and I guess it sufficed. We split up and shopped separately. Unsurprisingly, the Boyfriend and I lingered at the fresh produce section for the longest time; meanwhile my friends quickly darted for the frozen entrees and junk food aisles deeper into the giant store.

While my friends were madly stocking up their carts with pre-packaged food, I chose to load my cart with as much fresh produce as possible. The produce section was small; it only occupied a small corner of the giant store (literally, the baked goods section adjacent to it was the same size, if not bigger). I was slightly disappointed to see such a small selection of fruits and vegetables, but nonetheless, I was determined to buy as much fruits and vegetables as I could to keep myself happy for the entire trip. I chose mostly vegetables that can be prepared and cooked quickly. My top choices were: tomatoes, mushrooms, lettuce, bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower. As for fruits, I picked out a huge bag of Fuji apples and a few lemons. Other items that I threw into the cart included a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette dressing, canned beans, canned corn, whole wheat pasta, canned tomato sauce, a carton of chicken stock and a small bottle of ketchup.

From the limited food selection that I picked out from Walmart, I managed to make 10 different food combinations which truly helped to keep me eating well and avoid myself from slowly sinking into the quicksand of filling up on junk food and prepackaged frozen entrees for the entire trip. Curious about what I made? Here’s the list!

1. Jarred tomato sauce + bell peppers + onions + tomatoes + mushrooms

End result: enhanced tomato pasta sauce loaded with veggies.My idea was to add extra veggies to a basic tomato sauce from a jar to add more flavour while boosting the amount of vegetables in a serving. I chose to add in diced onions and bell peppers to add sweetness and a little bit of a crunch to the sauce. In addition, I put in cubed mushrooms and tomatoes for a meaty texture. Lastly, I sprinkled in a dash of steak seasoning and squeezed in fresh lemon juice to add a little kick to the sauce (adding in steak seasoning may seem odd, but since I had no other dried herbs, it was my best option).

2. Broccoli + mushrooms

End result: delicious Asian style broccoli & mushroom stir-fry. This was a simple dish to prepare and cook. Simply blanch broccoli and mushrooms. Then to add a delicious Asian flavour, simply stir-fry them in a large pan with garlic, ginger and a generous splash of soy sauce.

3. Cauliflower +veggie-loaded tomato sauce + shredded cheese

End result: cheese and tomato sauce covered cauliflower. Cauliflower by itself is not interesting at all to me. But, I bought it anyways because it requires little preparation work (just rinse, cut and boil in water). With my greatest effort to make boiled cauliflower taste the best it possibly can to give, I served it over the tomato sauce. To upgrade it even further, I sprinkled on some shredded cheese. Not the most creative way to eat cauliflower, but definitely a simple method to spice it up (and use up the huge batch of tomato sauce that I made too).

4. Tomatoes + leftover rotini + canned corn + chicken stock

End result: comforting tomato pasta soup. While my friends toasted garlic bread and frozen eggo waffles for breakfast, I chose to make a simple tomato and pasta soup by making a soup base from mixing together chicken stock and water (1:1 ratio). I then added corn, the entire can of whole kernel corn (I love corn!) and stirred in cooked whole wheat rotini (leftover from last night’s pasta dinner). As a finishing touch, I stirred in a heaping spoonful of ketchup for a subtle sweet and sour taste.

5. Broccoli + cilantro

End result: simply vegetable additions to make a not-so-healthy meal a little more diet-friendly. After a long morning of snowboarding, I was exhausted and ravenous when I got back to the cabin. Hence, lunch was simple: instant noodles with a side of boiled broccoli and cilantro. I know, instant noodles isn’t the best option, but since I chose to supplement it with a large side dish of fresh vegetables, the meal is less detrimental and in fact, more satisfying (since I know I’m not giving in to eating solely junk food, I’m still mindfully choosing what to put into my mouth and giving it every ounce of effort to include fresh produce in my diet! Kudos to me!)

6. Canned white beans + canned corn + bell peppers + balsamic vinegrette dressing

End result: amazing tasty and satisfying bean salad. When I bought bell peppers, I planned to simply slice them up and munch on them like I would with carrots sticks. Instead I got adventurous and created a bean salad by combining diced bell peppers, canned kernel corn and canned white beans. This was a super simple salad to put together; the most time consuming part was just rinsing and chopping the peppers. Then I just simply tossed the ingredients together and dressed the bean salad with a drizzle of balsamic vinegarette dressing and a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice. This salad was delicious! I immediately devoured about half of it, and saving half of it for later.

7. Lettuce + balsamic vinaigrette dressing

End result: simple, delicious, refreshing salad. This was served on the dinner table along the fatty steaks that my friends prepared for dinner. I was really glad that I made the salad because it was the perfect light and palette-cleansing side dish to offset the richness and heaviness of the steak main course. I ended up loading a ton of the salad on my plate, pushing aside the poor less-appealing steak (half of which ended up in the BF’s belly, hehe).

8. Leftover bean salad + cremini mushrooms + leftover rotini + ketchup

End result: a hot, hearty and healthy breakfast option. For my next meal, I took out about half of the bean salad leftover and transformed it into a hot, hearty pasta dish. I also added in cremini mushrooms to try to fool the BF that this was a new dish ;).  This dish is easy to put together, takes no more than three steps; step 1: rinse and slice the mushrooms; step 2: saute them until soft in a large pan; step 3: add bean salad and cooked rotini (from day one dinner) into the pan, let it reheat and season with ketchup, salt and pepper to taste. Viola!

9. Leftover bean salad + leftover rotini + extra tomatoes + more balsamic vinaigrette dressing

End result: a variation of the previous bean salad, still equally yummy. Once again exhausted from a full day on the mountain, I was glad that I had saved half of the bean salad for lunch. Simply by tossing in diced tomatoes and drizzling in more dressing and lemon juice, my lunch was ready in no time. It was exactly what I needed, a simple and refreshing lunch.

10. Cremini mushrooms + portabella mushrooms

End result: a vegetable side dish with satisfying, bold earthy flavours in each meaty bite. Again, this dish required little prep work. Simply rinse and drain mushrooms, then saute them over medium heat until soft, and season with steak seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.

Spending time with friends (a.k.a away from family) is almost always an exciting and memorable experience. This ski trip has proven to be one of the most memorable yet because not only did I get to snowboard ’till I drop, I also got the opportunity to prove to myself that I am in control of what I eat and how I eat and as long as I am determined to eat well, I will somehow find a way to do so. And along the way, as a bonus reward, I have somewhat convinced my junk food maniac friends that eating healthy foods can be very delicious and enjoyable, nowhere near boring as they have imagined before!


Do you have any tips on how to eat healthily while on vacation?

Picture by Marco Bellucci

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The internet is a dazzling arena with a lot of information bouncing around, waiting for people to read and absorb. But there is one major flaw with having so much advice flying around: information overload. How do you know what to believe and what not to believe?


People are free to speak their own minds online. And when it comes to health and nutrition, everyone seems to have their own stance. Hence, in search of accurate health and nutrition advice, it is critical to read online information with the discriminating eye of a food critic, picking up hints to decide for yourself whether or not the information is credible or if the writing is merely nonsense.


To supercharge you to become a master food critic, here are four questions that can guide you to pinpoint out credible health and nutrition articles:

1. Which website did you find the article on?

The website that hosts the article you’re interested in is a telltale sign of how valid the information is. When the article is hosted on websites of credible health organizations, such as the Canadian Diabetes Association or Health Canada, you can be assured that the information presented will be accurate and valid. On the other hand, if you come across a health article written by some unknown individual, hosted on a personal website or blog, then you need to be more critical of what you see and read, and apply the next guideline to help you determine if you should continue reading the health article.

2. Who is the author of the article?

Considering that everyone can say whatever they want on the Internet, it is essential to pick out authors who write responsibly. It is hard to hold anyone accountable online for what they say, so it is best to learn a little bit about the author’s background and that will help you determine how credible that person is. One easy way to find out a person’s background is to look for any titles he / she may hold; look for abbreviations that identify them as health professionals, e.g. MD and RD. Having those titles identify them as experts in the health and nutrition field and tells you that they are a credible source for health and nutrition knowledge. Another way to learn more about the author is to read the “About” section (this is especially important when you read blogs!). Written by the author him/herself, the About page offers a quick glimpse of the author’s personal background and that will help you to better understand the motives and interests of the author. Based on that plus the feeling you get from the author’s writing style and tone, you will be able to get a pretty good sense of whether the author is sincere, or whether the author is just goofing around. Based on my own encounters, I find that authors who write in a sincere manner (doesn’t necessary mean formal though) genuinely cares about sharing their own knowledge and experience with the rest of the world and the information they present are often quite valuable in one way or another.

A Quick Note on Registered Dietitians (RD): Registered dietitians are health professionals that have received extensive education on food and nutrition. Dietitians know how food works in the body. They know how to enjoy food in ways that will maintain and promote health. They are also trained to provide nutrition support to enhance the recovery for those people who are ill. Ultimately, dietitians are truly the health experts who have a strong expertise in using food as their tools to promote optimal health. When it comes to food and nutrition, dietitians are really THE number one expert!

3. Does the article offer any evidence?

When reading the article, it is important to distinguish whether the author is merely expressing his/her own thoughts or is he/she is offering  solid advice supported by scientific research findings. Health articles that provide references to relevant scientific papers or include links to other credible sources will be a lot more trustworthy than an article that makes a lot of assumptions without citing any sources what so ever. Watch out for articles that has a heavy use of the word “I”, that often indicate that the author is inputting a lot of his/her personal comments.

4. When was it published?

The first three steps will help you pick out credible information sources. But even after you have narrowed down the reading list, there is still a ton of information that tries to address whatever concern you have, so it is important to prioritize your readings so you can get the most timely and most relevant information available. Always place most value on the most recent articles because they will give you the most updated recommendations based on the most current scientific research findings.


Knowing how to filter information based on credibility is only the first step.  To truly locate information that is helpful and relevant for you, you need to take one extra step. The advice available online does not work for everyone. So it is essential to go through what is available and highlight the suggestions that are most relevant to your situation. First read through the different sources to get different perspectives on the health topics that you care for. This will allow you to gain a thorough insight on the  topic. Then from those sources, pick out the advice that you think may be the best fit for you. Never try to force yourself into following recommendations that does not feel right for you. Keep in mind that you are the person who knows your body the best. Perhaps the single most important tip that I can offer you is simple give your best effort to dig out and highlight the advice that works for you, and not try to force yourself into abiding to anything and everything that are being suggested! Listen to your body, you know yourself best – let thyself be in charge of your body and not let someone else’s advice drive you!

Now that you are armed with great skills to identify and extract valid and insightful health information from online sources, I’ll like to introduce you to a few of my favourite websites that I frequently visit for trustworthy, accurate, and relevant health and nutrition information.

WebMD – This website covers a wide range of health topics. The articles are written by MD and RD and they always support their advice with recent scientific research findings. In addition to health articles, this website offers recipes, handy tools to keep your diet in check (food-o-meter and fiber-o-meter), and videos and slideshows that offer clear and simple health and nutrition tips. I especially love the visual guide to portion size. Overall WebMD is a well-rounded site with many credible and useful knowledge.

Mayo Clinic – They have a comprehensive section on Healthy Lifestyle. In particular, I really appreciate that they offer a selection of articles that gives basic knowledge and another section that provides a more in-depth discussion of the various health topics.

World’s Healthiest Foods – This website has a clear mission to identify the top 129 foods that it considers as the “world’s healthiest foods”. For each food, a detailed nutrient analysis is provided, followed by a list of proposed health benefits (with supporting evidence from different nutrition studies, of course).

NutritionData – This website hosts an extensive nutrient analysis database for almost any food you can imagine. When you search for a particular food, the accurate numerical values for the  nutrients will be listed, and there will also be a short summary of the food’s rating based on different criteria (weight loss, optimum health, weight gain) and a concise description of the pros and cons of the particular food item that you search. The website also provides a powerful search function that allows you to find foods using different filters (high in fiber, low in carbohydrates, best choice for weight loss, etc.). Additional functions are available for registered members (free to register). Members can use the website as an online food diary – record what you ate in a day and it will generate a detailed diet analysis. Members can also can input their own recipes and the website will generate a food label for that recipe. These two additional functions come in really handy when you need extra support and encourage to keep you committed to healthy living!

Everyone need to know how to find valid and accurate health information online because it can make a dramatic difference in your life.  Finding the right information and following the suitable advice will aid you to maintain and even improve your health and help you to avoid falling into the traps of misleading information that will not only not better your health, but more likely ruin your well being in the long run. Being able to distinguish the credible knowledge from silly nonsense can mean such a great deal to your health!

Do you have a favourite site that you always visit when you have a health / nutrition questions?

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To me, brown rice is craveable. I eat it everyday. Whenever I cook a dish that needs to be served over something, brown rice is my number one option. There are a lot of reasons why I enjoy brown rice and here I have boiled them down into 4 main points:

Brown rice is a whole-grain option.

As a population, we overconsume refined grains and gravely underconsume whole grains. Refined grains are highly processed food products and hence, they are stripped of virtually all nutrients (even though food manufactures will enrich their final product, the added nutrients will not completely replace what has been lost). Essentially, refined grains offer nothing but empty calories.

Whole grains, on the other hand, undergo minimal processing. Much of the nutrients are retained and they act in a synergistic manner that offers many health benefits:

Heart Health – Whole grain consumption has been shown to have strong inverse correlation with heart disease risks; the ability for whole grains to help control and lower LDL (bad cholesterol) plays a strong part in contributing to this potential effect. Brown rice is also rich in magnesium; this nutrient is involved with coordinating muscle contractions and considering that our heart is a major muscle group, magnesium will have an important role in keeping the heart going.

Diabetes management – Whole grain foods often have low Glycemic Index (GI) scores because they contain a whole lot of fiber which helps to slow down digestion and prevents rapid fluctuations in blood glucose level.

Weight management – Fiber is the major player here. The indigestible fiber bulks up the whole grain foods and make them less energy-dense. Fiber will also makes you feel fuller and more satisfied; it helps to lowers the tendency for you to nibble and stack on extra calories after your meal.

There is so many good reasons to choose brown rice more often. If you’re interested in finding out the scientific evidence about how brown rice can benefit your health, I strongly encourage you to visit WHFoods: Brown rice and to take a thorough look over at the nutritional analysis of brown rice vs white rice.

Brown rice is not just a whole-grain, it is an intact grain.

Under the new FSA guidelines, “whole grain” is defined in a more elusive manner.

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis – should be considered a whole grain food.”

To consumers, what this really means is that now when you see a food product that is labelled “whole grain”, you cannot be absolutely sure that it does contain the goodness of wholesome ingredients because the food processors could have easily broken down the whole grains, processed it in crazy ways and then just added back in components of whole grains to make their products fulfill the criteria to be called whole grain.

In this recent journal article, researchers looks at the impact of the new FSA guideline. They reviewed past studies that involved whole grains and tried to apply the FSA new definition  and see if the health claims of whole grains’ ability to reduce risks of cardiovascular diseases could still hold true. They found that most studies done in the past defined whole grains on broader terms. Based on only a handful of studies that fulfilled the FSA definition, the researchers were unable to find strong evidence to suggest whole grain consumption could reduce cardiovascular risks.

So, it would definitely seem to be wiser to choose whole grains that are wholesome and intact, rather than whole grain products that have been processed and packaged into a box.

The bottom line is choose intact grains, like brown rice, and pass on processed whole grains, like whole-grain pasta.

Brown rice is the ultimate substitute for white rice.

If you are a huge rice lover, brown rice is definitely the choice for you.

Don’t even think about white rice — it’s a refined grain and it is no different from dumping white sugar straight down your throat. Brown rice is a lot more nutritious for you (re-read the long list above!).

It’s really simple to kick the white rice habit. All you got to do is pick up a bag of brown rice from the grocery store today. Then, you just prepare it like you would with white rice (rice-cooker, stove-top or oven-baked, you name it). Just keep in mind that brown rice is chewier and so if you’re looking for a more soft, more mushy mouth-feel, just add more liquid and cook your rice longer.

Brown rice can replace white rice in any recipes. This exchange will not reduce your dining pleasure. In fact, it will most likely enhance your meal, making it taste more full-body, more satisfying and more deliciously healthy!

Brown rice taste good!

Let me repeat myself: it taste good! You have to believe me on this. I come from a Chinese background where I lived and breathed white rice my entire life. Considering that I’ve been fed white rice all my life, and now I say that brown rice is more tasty than white rice, then it definitely is! Period. No doubt about it.

If you say you’ve tried brown rice before and it just didn’t taste good, it’s probably because it wasn’t prepared in a way that brought out the goodness of it. Give it one more chance and bake it – it is the foolproof method for making brown rice sing.

When I first made the switch to brown rice, I prepared it with a rice cooker. It tasted similar to white rice, nothing extraordinary. Then, I tried the stove-top method using chicken stock instead of water; that method made brown rice more aromatic and gave it more flavour, but it also made it slightly too salty for me. Then, I tried the oven-baked method by Alton Brown. The method was easy; it required only water and salt and 1 hour unstirred and covered cooking time in the oven. And the result? Unnnnbelievably flavourful brown rice that was not too chewy nor too mushy, just right. This method is truly a 5-star method. Try it and you’ll love it.

Brown rice is seriously better tasting than white rice. If rice is a blank canvas that allows a dish’s flavour to shine, then brown rice is the top quality canvas that has the magical power to turn a ordinary dish into a good dish and turn a good dish into a remarkable dish. Trust me on this one! And if you are still not convinced, read what Siri has to say about brown rice!

Conclusion: Buy brown rice now and start cooking!

If the idea of eating more healthily has crossed your mind lately, then you should making brown rice the first thing on your to-do list for tomorrow! Adding brown rice to your diet or substituting it for white rice is only a small change in your diet, but it can really make a huge difference in your health!

As a bonus, here are two recipes that pair perfectly with brown rice: Ginger, Jalapeno & Coconut Cauliflower and Creamy Coconut Tofu Rice. YUM!

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A while ago, Craig from Gettin-Ripped asked me for my thoughts on protein and here’s my response.

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What is the first word that appears in your mind when I say “protein“? Did the word “meat” pop up in your mind instantly?

Indeed, meat is a key protein source for many people, but there are actually many other great protein options out there that have long been overlooked (or forgotten). In this post, I’ll like to introduce you to my top 5 protein food choices:

Tofu

150g tofu is roughly a serving of meat alternative under Canada’s Food Guide for Healthy Eating. Tofu is not only rich in protein, it can also a good source of iron and calcium. A serving of firm tofu contains about 11g protein, 30% of the daily value for calcium and 15% of the daily value for iron. Plus, tofu is plant-based, so you don’t have to worry about consuming too much saturated fats or cholesterol when you golf down that block of tofu (you won’t have to picture your arteries getting plugged up by blobs of floating fat in your blood vessels! Yay!) To find out more about the awesome health powers of tofu, visit WHFoods: Tofu. Miso-marinated tofu (same method as mis0-marinated eggplant) makes a delicious main dish for a simple weekday dinner, and make sure you grill extra so you have some tofu left for next day’s lunch (great on a bed of brown rice or a special spinach salad topping).

Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes is another great protein-rich meat alternative. A 3/4 cup portion size counts as one serving, which contains about 8g – 14g protein, nearly 30% of the daily value for iron, and a whole lot of fiber! A serving will give you about10 – 13g of fiber — that’s a huge boost in helping you to get the recommended daily fiber dose of 25g). Fiber has multiple health benefits. The obvious benefit of keeping you regular and helping your body to maintain good digestive health. Fiber can also help to slow down digestion and hence plays a role in regulating blood sugar level. It will keep you full for longer, help to diminish the craving for nibbling and avoid the evil sugar spike that makes you tired and sleepy. Among all beans and legumes, my favourite choice is edamame. Shelled edamame comes in convenient frozen packages. So whenever you need a protein quick-fix, you  simply take it out from the freezer and throw it into whatever you’re cooking without needing to thaw or do any preparation beforehand. How convenient! Try adding edamame to tofu oatmeal for an additional protein punch to jumpstart your morning.

Eggs

Eggs are the ultimate fuss-free, healthy and protein-rich on-the-go snack. They can be prepared within minutes and it can be incorporated into different dishes. The simplest way to enjoy eggs is to cook up a big batch of hard-boiled eggs and keep them in the fridge (they keep well for about a week). Then, when you’re hungry after a hard workout, you can easily open the fridge and get a quick protein boost by peeling some eggs. Reaching for eggs instead of going for a protein bar will satisfied your protein needs (each egg contains about 5.5g protein) and provide additional good-for-you nutrients. In particular, eggs is an excellent source of lutein, which is an important nutrient that helps to maintain eye health and  skin health. Although lutein can be found in other sources, the lutein found in eggs is much more bioavailable (a.k.a. the body can readily access the lutein in eggs, absorb it and use it). For more information on eggs, visit WHFoods: Eggs.

Yogurt

An 8oz container will give you about 10 – 14 grams of protein, and it will also count as a dairy serving, fulfilling your calcium needs for strong bones and teeth. I prefer yogurt over other dairy foods because it is a fermented dairy product that has added bacterial culture. These bacteria helps to improve the overall health of the digestive system by altering the environment of the small intestine so that it favours the growth of the “good” bacteria and makes it less desirable for the “harmful” bacteria to cultivate. To get optimal health benefits from yogurt, make sure to choose yogurt with probiotics and consume it on a regular basis to keep the digestive system healthy! To get an extra protein boost, try topping low-fat, plain probiotic yogurt with granola or nuts. To learn more about the goodness of yogurt, visit WHFoods: Yogurt.

Nuts / nut butter

I’ve written an extensive article on the goodness of nuts before — nuts are seriously that good for you that they deserve a separate post dedicated to praising them! I really enjoy tossing in a quarter cup of nuts into my salad or my morning cereal because they give an extra crunch plus an additional flavour. Nuts are also easy to carry around – I like to pack a small handful of nuts with me when I’m on the road so when I get hungry, I can munch on nuts instead of blindly rushing into a fast food store around the corner. Adding in a quarter cup of nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter is an easy way to add 4g – 5g protein to your diet. Honestly go nuts with nuts! 🙂

There you go! My top five protein choices.

At this point you may think I dislike meat? No, no, no! I enjoy meat, but I just tend to choose these foods more often because they offer a lot more than just protein.


I find that these foods will not only satisfy my protein needs, but also give a dramatic nutritional boost, making it a lot more easier for me to adopt a healthier lifestyle.Next time you dive into your huge steak thinking it’s the only way to get enough protein, look around and think again! Have a yogurt with nuts, or serve beans as a side dish — try to get protein from different sources.

Expand your diet, get healthier!

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Cashews, walnuts, almonds, peanuts — I love them all!

What’s so great about nuts?

Nuts are not only tasty, they are also a superfood that offers many health benefits:

1. Keeps the heart healthy. They are a great source of heart-healthy fats — unsaturated fats and omega-3 oil. Numerous research have indicated that unsaturated fats can help to lower LDL (bad cholesterol). High LDL is linked to increased risks of heart diseases so keeping LDL level low will have protective effect against heart issues. Omega-3 fatty acids helps to prevent blood clot,  thereby reduces the risk for strokes. Also, Diets rich in omega-3 oils have been shown to improve blood lipid profile by lowering triglycerides levels. Plus, studies have shown that nuts can help to relax blood vessels and aid in keeping blood pressure in check. All in all, the heart-healthy fats in nuts work in multiple ways to protect the heart and reduce the risks of developing heart diseases!

2. Help reduce saturated fat intake. Nuts and nut butter serve as a great meat alternative. By swapping out some of the meats in our diet with nuts, you can decrease your consumption of unhealthy saturated fats and increase the intake of heart-healthy fats at the same time (sounds like a 2 bird in 1 stone deal to me!).

3. Help to lower blood cholesterol level. Nuts contain fiber and plant sterols. Fiber may reduce blood cholesterol level. Having similar function to fiber, plant sterols, a  naturally occurring component in plants, is a potent substance that has been clinically proven to significantly reduce blood cholesterol levels.

4. Protective effects against Type 2 Diabetes. The latest studies suggest that eating nuts on a regular basis can improve insulin sensitivity, which will have a positive impact on Type 2 diabetes risk. Scientists propose that the many nutrients in nuts (fiber, healthy fats and magnesium) work in a synergistic manner to regulate and improve blood sugar levels and insulin levels.

5. Keep you full and satisfied. Packed with many nutrients and fiber, nuts will keep you full longer so you will be less likely to nibble on unhealthy snacks. Nuts make a great snack choice since it is packed with many nutrients, easy to carry around, and costs comparatively cheaper than other snack items. In addition, research has shown that including a small amount of nuts as a daily snack in a energy-restrictive diet can actually enhance weight loss. Stop loading empty calories into your body, grab a handful of nuts and nourish your body!

How to eat it?

Nuts are so versatile, you can practically add it to anything. To help you get creative as to how to enjoy nuts, here are a few of my favourite ways:

How much to enjoy?

Nuts offer a wide array of health benefits, but keep in mind that it is a high-calorie food. The key to eating nuts is to choose them instead of, not in addition to, other foods. Try to stick to a serving of nuts per day. A serving of nuts is a quarter (1/4) cup , or about an ounce (30g). Be sure to choose no-salt added variations and avoid candied nuts so you don’t get extra calories that you don’t need. When choosing nut butter, try to keep the limit to two tablespoons. Make sure to find a brand without added sugar, salt or vegetable oils (look for these keywords: “no added salt”, “natural”, “100% peanuts”). Nuts and nut butter are an excellent source of protein and according to the Canada’s Food Guide, they are considered a meat alternative — use them as a substitute for meats!

More Resources:

Do you have a favourite to enjoy nuts? Share it here!

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Grilled cheese sandwiches is the ultimate comfort food.

Yet, it isn’t the best option for an everyday lunch because a typical grilled cheese sandwich (2 slices of white bread + 3oz Cheddar Cheese + butter) will contain 27 grams of fat (18g saturated) and nearly 550 calories (enough to fuel a 60kg person to jog for 60 min).

To enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich in a healthier way, try these 3 simple modifications:

Choose cheese with lower fat content, or stronger flavour.
Choose cheese that are naturally lower in fat (ex. Mozzarella or American). You can also substitute reduced-fat cheese for regular-fat cheese. By doing so, you instantly reduce the fat content of the sandwich, and thereby cut out a big chunk of the calories. Another option is to use sharp cheeses; you will need less amount since they have a strong flavour.

Choose whole-grain bread.
Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as potassium, selenium and magnesium. The chewy texture of whole-grains will also encourage you to eat slower, allowing you to savour every bite. Whole grain breads have a lower Glycemic Index (GI) value, which makes it better option for preventing blood sugar spikes and crushes. The higher fiber content will help you stay full longer. For more nutrition information on whole grains, check out Mayo Clinic’s post on Whole Grains vs Refined Grains.

Use cooking oil spray.
Instead of generously buttering your toast before putting it on the grill, try spraying it with cooking oil and then grilling it on a dry skillet. You will still get a nicely brown, crispy toast with gooey, melted cheese centre.

These tips are just a few easy ways to lighten up your grilled cheese sandwich. To take it one step further, try making Sweet-and-Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches — by adding caramelized onions and beefsteak tomatoes, Ellie cooks up a delicious, sweet and spicy variation of the traditional grilled cheese sandwich — a 5-star recipe!

Love grilled cheese but doesn’t have the equipment or the time to make it? Try making grilled cheese sandwich this way — Grilled Cheese! With an Iron!

Do you have a favourite grilled cheese sandwich recipe? Share it here!

Whole Wheat rotini with Japanese-style Curry Sauce

Whole wheat rotini coated with a simple Japanese-style vegetable curry sauce. Super simple, very healthy, great taste!

Photo by Matthew Chung

The Silly Nutrition Undergrad has moved. Come to Juicy Fresh Bites for new content on health and nutrition!

Being a busy student, I know how difficult it is to cook healthy when you’re pressed for time. So, I like to prepare basic sauces in large batches and freeze them in individual portion sizes. Then, during the weekdays, after I come home from a long day of school, I can simply pick and choose a sauce from the freezer, reheat it, and stir it into whatever grain I choose to have that day (e.g. spaghetti, rice, rice noodles, etc.). Making sauces ahead of time allows me to prepare simple and well-balanced meals during the busy weekdays and ensure that I stay on track eating fresh foods and stay away from junk food and processed foods!

I find that sauces freezes and reheats well. And by jazzing it up with some herbs and tossing in a handful of mixed veggies, I get a very satisfying and healthy meal ready in minutes!

This week I made a simple vegetable curry sauce. Although I call it Japanese style, it really is just a mix of all curry variations – I’ve added in some garam masala (Indian), a splash of coconut milk (Chinese? Asian?) and a-half-block of Japanese curry base. In the end, I decided to call my curry sauce Japanese style because it has a hint of sweetness which is a characteristic of Japanese curry!

Beware! This curry sauce contains a lot of veggies – so it’s perfect for those who can’t seem to eat enough vegetables! From the vegetables and the legumes hidden in this recipe, it’s a fiber galore, so make sure you drink lots to help with the digestion!

Japanese-Style Vegetable Curry Sauce

Makes 4 servings.

  • 1/2 cup mung beans, rinsed and soaked in water for 20 min
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium sweet pepper, any variety, diced
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 – 4 pieces of ginger, minced
  • 2 chili peppers, deseeded
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 block of Japanese curry base (found in Asian markets)
  • Pinch of turmeric, cumin, garam masala
  • 1 piece dried bay leave
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • Coconut milk
  1. After soaking lentils for 20 minutes, pour lentils and water into small pot and let boil. When it boils, turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. In another non-stick skillet, add olive oil and sauté onions and sweet peppers until slightly softened. Add in ginger, garlic and chili peppers, continue to sauté until fragrant. Pour mixture into pot with lentils. Add in bay leave now.
  3. Reheat lentils until it boils, then let simmer until lentils become “mushy” and sauce thickens. Continue to simmer until desired consistency.
  4. Add in corn.
  5. Add in your seasonings (spices, Japanese curry base, honey) except coconut milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot!

Have it now or save it for later! You can choose to have the sauce immediately or let it cool and separate it into 4 individual serving sizes for later on. The flavour will improve if you let it sit overnight.

When to add in coconut milk? As the sauce cools, it will continue to thicken slightly. Thus, before adding it onto your rice / pasta, you can thin it out by adding in 1 – 2 tablespoons of coconut milk.

Believe it or not…According to Dietitians of Canada’s recipe analyzer, each sauce serving actually has 1.5 servings of fruits and vegetables and 0.5 serving of meats and alternatives. The onions and peppers not only add flavour to the recipe, they also greatly boost the vegetable content. The mung bean is a good source of protein and fiber, which makes it a good alternative to meat products, with the added benefit of no cholesterol!

By using a mix of spices and Japanese curry base, this sauce has really strong and complex flavour even though it does not contain any meat products.

Try this recipe! This is the no-fuss solution to squeezing in some more vegetables into your diet – you practically won’t realize that you’re eating so much vegetables (and you probably won’t even know it until you make this yourself). So what are you waiting for? Make it!