While white potatoes do have health benefits, many people consider them to be more of a starch and when compared with their green vegetable friends they don’t really stand up to the nutritional punch.
They're also on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list--they are one of the vegetables that have the highest pesticide levels, which is harmful for our nervous system and especially our liver, one of the hardest-working organs.
Potatoes are part of the nightshade family, a group of vegetables that contain alkaloids, which have an impact on nerve-muscle function, joint function and digestive function. Healthier substitutes for white potatoes are sweet potatoes, mashed cauliflower and jicama.
Corn is another staple in the diet, it's grilled on the BBQ in summers, popped into bags for movies, processed into a syrup, scooped into salsas, and made into breakfast cereals.
Corn has been the subject of serious genetic modification. The problem with GMOs is that when new genes are added to corn, our bodies are then introduced to new proteins that we do not recognize, usually resulting in major sensitivities, hormonal changes and changes within the digestive tract.
Corn is also one of the most common food allergens in North America and is fed to cows in order to fatten them up and create a nice marbling affect in the meat. Imagine what it’s doing inside of our bodies. This is one I’d steer clear of completely when it’s not in its whole form.
Don't be fooled by these seemingly good-for-you snacks…granola bars contain serious amounts of sugar! Have a look at the ingredient list - even if the box says 'whole grain,' some brands list sugar as their first ingredient and those are the ones you definitely want to stay away from." Also be aware that while the yogurt topping on some bars may be made with yogurt powder, it doesn't offer the health benefits that an actual cup of yogurt would – it’ll also be mixed with a modified/hydrogenated oil in order to extend the shelf life and to prevent spoiling at room temperature. The same goes for the bars that contain "real fruit filling," which is not the same as eating a serving of fruit – this is typically more of a jam (way more sugar than fruit).
Sometimes there are products on the market that look like juice, but they're not - just because packaging says "contains real fruit juice" doesn't mean the beverage inside is good for you. Drinks labelled as "real fruit beverage," "fruit punch" or "fruit cocktail" often contain so much sugar, you might as well be drinking pop. Even 100% freshly squeezed juice is not good for you – it is essentially sugar water. Removing the fibre and skin of fruit reduces the nutritional content, as well as changes the way it impacts your body. If you’re going to have fruit, make sure it’s in the whole form (and ideally eaten after exercise – when your body is ready to use the fructose).
Fat-free salad dressings
Fat-free dressings may seem like a good choice for your salads, but these versions often have high amounts of sugar (in the form of dangerous high-fructose corn syrup), and salt in order to make them taste as good as the full-fat original versions. Fat free and low fat dressings often have flavour enhancers, thickening agents and/or chemical sweeteners which are chemically derived. Better to stay away from these altogether! Instead of dressing your salad with zero-fat options, add a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar mixed with olive oil, or add a little Dijon mustard and salt/pepper for added flavour.
Many of these frozen desserts contain a lot of sugar, which makes up for their lack of fat. That brings the calorie count of some frozen yogurts up to almost the same level as ice cream. According to the Canadian Nutrient File, which takes averages of different brands, a 1/2 cup of vanilla frozen yogurt is 124 calories and a 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream is 153 calories - that's not a huge difference, plus, it’s the sugar in the frozen yogurt that’ll make you fat – not the fat content of the dairy. If you’re going to eat ice-cream, eat ice-cream – full-fat!
Other examples include:
- Dried fruit - way too high in sugar
- Trail mix - usually contains dried fruit, or is coated in sugar/flavour seasoning
- Cereal – refined, added sugar
- Reduced fat peanut butter – added sugar & hydrogenated oils
- Muffins – basically cupcakes without the frosting
- Bread – highly refined, added sugar
- Energy bars – refined, added sugar, calorically dense
Food for thought..
Refined coconut oil
Made from dried coconut, also known as copra; the standard end product made from dried kernel (meat) is RBD oil, which stands for refined, bleached and deodorised. The reason the oil has to undergo this process is that the dried copra is not fit for consumption and the oil needs to undergo processes to filter out impurities and make it more stable; it’s a pretty common way to mass-produce coconut oil.
Because it’s refined it’s fairly tasteless and doesn’t smell like coconut; it can withstand higher cooking temperatures before it reaches its smoke point; great for deep-frying foods without the flavour of coconut. It’s not as great as the virgin, completely raw coconut oil but still has the same beneficial medium chain fatty acids; it’s very close in its nutritional value to virgin coconut oil so it’s more about the extraction method and what chemicals have been applied.
Most of the coconut oils available in stores are refined unless they specifically state otherwise; not all refined oils are created equally, so try to get good quality one refined using natural, chemical free processes. You’ll also want to make sure that the oil is non-hydrogenated. Refined oil is a good choice if you’re on a budget (as it’s usually cheaper). They’re also good for things which require lots of oil like deep-frying.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
This is the one refined coconut oil you want to stay away from as an edible oil. The small portion of unsaturated fatty acids are hydrogenated, creating some trans fats. It also keeps coconut oil solid at higher temperatures. Standard RBD coconut oil remains solid up to 76 degrees F., and the ambient air temperature is higher than that in the tropics most of the time. So to keep coconut oil solid at higher temperatures, they hydrogenate it before putting it into candies or baked goods, or making into margarines.
Liquid Coconut Oil
A new product that appeared in stores as an edible oil in 2013 was “liquid coconut oil” that is promoted as “coconut oil that stays liquid even in your refrigerator”. It may be a new label and a new item in the edible oil section, but the product is not new at all. It is “fractionated coconut oil” that has had lauric acid removed. It is also referred to as “MCT oil“. It has typically been used in the past in skin care products, and more recently as a dietary supplement. It is a refined product that is now marketed as an edible oil. It is actually a by-product from the lauric acid industry.
Lauric acid from coconut oil is a strong antimicrobial component. Because of this, it's often used as a preservative in many commercial applications. Being a saturated fatty acid, and comprising about 50% of coconut oil, once it is removed you are left with a liquid oil with a much lower melting point. So if you see this product online or in a store, just be aware that it is a highly refined product, and that it is missing coconut oil’s star component: lauric acid.
Unrefined coconut oil
If it does use copra as its starting point, it’s not really a true virgin coconut oil, but an industry standard RBD refined coconut oil with a clever label. Usually labelled as ‘virgin’ or ‘extra-virgin’, this coconut oil is made from the first pressing of fresh, raw coconut using mechanical means without the addition of any chemicals; depending on the extraction method, the flavour can be mild to very intense (more heat exposure during extraction, more coconut flavour in the oil).
Good raw, unrefined, virgin coconut oil should have a very mild coconut flavour and scent. Virgin, unrefined oil is superior to refined coconut oil. The difference between ‘virgin’ and ‘extra virgin’ seems to be the word ‘extra’- it’s more of a marketing trick to get you to pay more.
Cold-pressed, expeller-pressed or centrifuged are methods of extracting oil from dry or fresh coconut and can be used for both refined and unrefined varieties. All methods can create a good healthy oil. Expeller-pressed and cold-pressed don’t always mean ‘raw’ as sometimes these oils are heated to rather high temperatures during the extraction process, which is not a problem as coconut oil is a highly stable fat and will not go rancid…it does however mean that the coconut flavour will be stronger. If you want a more mild and delicate coconut oil, look out for a centrifuged oil which is less likely to be exposed to heat during extraction.
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of matured coconuts. It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Because of its high saturated fat content it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant to rancidification, lasting up to two years without spoiling. Plenty of populations around the world have thrived for multiple generations eating massive amounts of coconut. Coconut oil contains a lot of medium chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently and can have therapeutic effects on within the body that include:
Aids in Weight Loss
The fatty acids in coconut oil can significantly reduce appetite, which may positively affect body weight over the long term. The connection between coconut oil and weight loss is interesting. Farmers in America discovered this early last century when they tried to fatten their cattle by feeding them coconut oil. Instead of gaining weight, their cattle lost weight! So again, this is not news. Do a simple Internet search such as “benefits of coconut oil” and you will get plenty of details.
Helps keep weight balanced
Coconut fats have special fats called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). It has been shown that breaking down these types of healthy fats in the liver leads to efficient burning of energy. One 2009 study found that women who consumed 30 milliliters (about 2 tablespoons) of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks not only did not gain more weight, but actually had lowered amounts of abdominal fat, a type of fat that is difficult to lose, and contributes to more heart problems.
Reduces cholesterol Levels
The lauric acid in coconut oil has been shown to increase the good HDL cholesterol in the blood to help improve cholesterol ratio levels. Coconut oil lowers cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is a precursor to many of the hormones our bodies need. Coconut can help restore normal thyroid function, which can contribute to higher levels of bad cholesterol when not functioning optimally.
Coconut oil is also loaded with saturated fats, which actually do not harm the blood lipid profile like previously thought. Saturated fats raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and change the LDL cholesterol to a benign subtype (as discussed in last week’s blog). There are also rat studies showing that coconut oil reduces triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol, increases HDL and improves blood coagulation factors and antioxidant status. This improvement in cardiovascular risk factors should theoretically lead to a reduced risk of heart disease over the long term.
Kills viruses and Pathogens
Almost 50% of the fatty acids in coconut oil is the 12-carbon Lauric Acid which has been shown to have the ability to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi, helping to stave off infections. When coconut oil is broken down in the body, it forms a monoglyceride called monolaurin which has also been shown to kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi including Staphylococcus Aureus (a very dangerous pathogen) and the yeast Candida Albicans, a common source of yeast infections in humans.
Improves Bone and Dental Health
Coconut oil improves calcium and magnesium absorption in the body, which in turn is greatly beneficial to dental and bone health. The improved calcium absorption created by coconut oil use ceases tooth decay and aids in the development of strong teeth. The combined increased calcium and magnesium absorption are of great benefit to middle-aged women who may become afflicted with osteoporosis.
Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
This is one fat that diabetics can eat without fear. Not only does it not contribute to diabetes, but it helps regulate blood sugar, thus lessening the effects of the disease. Island people have consumed large amounts of coconut oil for many generations without ever encountering diabetes, but when they abandoned it for other foods and oils, the results were disastrous.
Check back next week for part 2 where we’ll discuss the different types of coconut oil, as well as what to look for when buying it.
Cholesterol can be both good and bad, so it's important to learn the facts about what cholesterol is, how it affects your health and how to manage your blood cholesterol levels. Most of us are aware that total cholesterol is made up of HDL (healthy cholesterol), and LDL (unhealthy cholesterol), and we also know that there is a high correlation between high LDL levels and coronary heart disease…but we don’t have the entire picture:
Two types of LDLs
LDL Cholesterol is not as bad as you think. High LDL in itself is NOT dangerous - this is because there really isn’t one LDL, there are two. It is ONLY pattern B LDL that is of concern. Here is a brief description of the two types:
The first type is called pattern A (large buoyant) LDL. Everybody knows that LDL correlates with cardiovascular disease and that’s true, but it’s not this one – pattern A LDL. These are so light they are buoyant; they float, so they get carried through the bloodstream without a chance to attach to the endothelial cells to start the plaque formation.
Pattern B LDL is also known as small dense LDL. These guys are dense and they don’t float. They are small and can easily get underneath the edge of the surface of the endothelial cells…and this starts the plaque formation. The small dense LDL is the one to watch out for.
When LDL levels in the bloodstream are measured in a lipid profile test, both pattern A and pattern B are measured together (it’s too hard to distinguish the two). So when your doctor gives you your LDL numbers, it’s a combination of the two types – the neutral one and the bad one.
So how can you tell whether your LDL is the neutral one or the bad one? Have a look at your triglyceride level in association with it. When the triglyceride are low and your HDL is high, that’s good; you want a low triglyceride, high HDL because that’s the good cholesterol. You want high good cholesterol.
If however, you have high triglyceride level and low HDL, that’s bad. That’s what you don’t want this will eventually lead to a heart attack. Triglyceride to HDL ratio actually predicts cardiovascular disease way better than LDL ever did. The main takeaway here is that when you measure LDL cholesterol, you measure both types.
Dietary fat raises your large buoyant (good) LDL.
Carbohydrate/sugars raise your small dense (bad) LDL.
This is why a high carb, low-fat diet is so dangerous, and a very good reason to stay away from all those packaged foods that are marketed as healthy and ‘low-fat’ (or calorie-wise versions of sauces and salad dressings) - low-fat processed food needs sugar in order to make it palatable….but this is a very dangerous combination, and can lead to increases in [pattern B] LDL cholesterol levels, leading to coronary heart disease.
Eggs, meat, cheese, butter and almost all saturated fats have actually been shown to improve lipid profiles. Both saturated and mono-unsaturated (olive oil, nuts, avocado) fats have been shown to increase HDL and pattern A LDL. So as far as eggs and saturated fats are concerned – eat away!