The Silly Nutrition Undergrad

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

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!

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

What’s so great about cauliflower? It belongs to the cruciferous family which includes broccoli, cabbage, bok choy and kale. Many researches have indicated that consumption of cruciferous vegetables can help to reduce the risks of developing cancer. Sulphur-containing compounds, in particular sulforaphane, have been suggested to have a potent ability to trigger liver to produce detoxifying substances. These substances inhibit enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents in the body and enhance the activities of other enzymes involved in disabling and eliminating carcinogens.. For a more in-depth discussion of cauliflower’s health benefits,  visit The World’s Healthiest Food.

To me, cauliflower has always seemed to be a boring food. It doesn’t have a distinct flavour and so it’s never good eaten alone.

Until one day when I was flipping through Ellie Kreiger’s amazing cookbook, The Food You Crave, I bumped into a recipe for roasted cauliflower. Tempted by Ellie’s promise that roasting will breath new life into cauliflower, I adopted her recipe for making roasted cauliflower and tweaked it slightly to my liking.

The end result? A light and delicious healthy vegetable side dish to complement my homemade cheese pizza on Saturday night (post on the pizza dinner coming soon)!

Roasted Cauliflower with Mustard-Mayo Sauce

Adopted from Roasted Nutmeg Cauliflower by Ellie Kreiger (my tweaks)

Ingredients

    • 1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into small florets
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 good long spray with my olive oil mister)
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 -2 tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise (can be substituted with regular mayonnaise)

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F (since I was using a toaster oven, I set the temperature higher, 400F).
    2. Place cauliflower into a large baking dish (ideally the cauliflower should fit snugly on a single layer). Toss (or spray) with the oil, and sprinkle with nutmeg and salt.
    3. Cover the dish and roast for 30 minutes.
    4. Remove the cover, give the cauliflower a good stir. If it looks dry, give it another good spray with the oil. Then, roast another 30 – 45 minutes uncovered, until the cauliflower is tender and nicely browned. Make sure to stir occasionally to ensure even browning.
    5. In a separate bowl, mix together the Dijon mustard and Japanese mayonnaise.
    6. When done, remove from the oven and mix in the mustard-mayo dressing. Serve hot!
  1. Roasted Cauliflower by Laurel Fan

    Photo by Laurel Fan — I forgot to take a picture so I borrowed one from Flickr…

The recipe is very simple and requires little ingredients. First try the cauliflower without adding in the dressing and see how you like it. When I tried it, I found it to be lacking a special kick and so I got creative and added on the dressing!

The sharp mustard was balanced out by the mild Japanese mayo and the end result was delicious! The mustard added just the special kick I wanted, and the dressing really enhanced the flavour and the dish felt much more full-bodied and fulfilling. Yum!

Try this dish out! The key step of this dish is really to make sure the cauliflower browns nicely. When that is done right, the cauliflower will taste good no matter what spices or what dressing you add to it!

The next time I make this, I think I’m going to give it an Oriental taste by adding in turmeric, curry powder, and cumin seeds.

How do you like to eat cauliflower? Share your recipe here!