Peanut Talk: Is there something about the peanut that makes it better than other nuts?

As I have mentioned before, I am a nut fiend, so when the topic of nuts came up during a recent ladies brunch, intrigue and joy tingled through my veins. No I am not kidding, I was really that excited about it, and it sparked my curiosity to learn more about this nut. Almonds, walnuts and cashews get a lot of attention. They are clearly the more prestigious of the nuts, but maybe the little peanut should get more recognition.

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Three interesting “I heard” topics were brought to the table. First was, “I heard peanuts somehow increase lifespan.” Second was, “I heard that recently they discovered eating peanuts during pregnancy can prevent nut allergies in children.” And third was, “I heard that peanut butter (and probably peanuts) help relieve IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms.”

So is what we “heard” true? Turns out there is some truth to all three statements. But, before I speak to this, the first thing I learned is that the peanut is actually not a nut! Whaaaatttt???? Yes, I was just as taken aback as you probably are. Unlike other nuts, peanuts come from the ground, so they are actually in the legume or bean family. In short, it’s a ground nut versus a tree nut. Now that we have that squared away, let’s move on to the first of the “I heard” topics.

1) Will you live longer if you eat peanuts? Maybe. I am less clear about this one, but I think the longevity connection is a result of the phytochemical resveratrol. Resveratrol was first discovered in wine and touted as the “fountain of youth.” I remember watching a 60 minutes segment about this years ago. This little bugger has been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer (sort of a big deal), AND in concentrated amounts resveratrol can slow down the aging process — by almost a decade! It can be found in peanuts, as well as other foods. So, if you aren’t a fan of wine or peanuts/peanut butter, then you can also get it from red grapes (with the skin), dark chocolate, and blueberries. Actually, the combination of some of these sounds delicious. I may just treat myself to some melted dark chocolate, combined with peanut butter, topped with blueberries, and accompanied with a glass of wine on the side (I prefer my grapes in fermented, liquid form).

2) Now, on to peanuts and pregnancy. To eat or not to eat? Current research says you should eat them. Recently, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reversed their position regarding nut intake while pregnant from avoiding to consuming them. Turns out, when women ate MORE NUTS during their pregnancies, their child was LESS LIKELY to be allergic. What does this mean? Ladies, you are free to eat nuts while bearing! It’s no liquor, but still exciting news…well until new research comes out that is.

3) Finally, do peanuts help prevent IBS symptoms? Yes and No. This one could go both ways because IBS symptoms are individual-based. Peanuts may be an IBS trigger food for some, but not for others. Also, in reading, I found that peanut butter (as well as other nut butters) is recommended versus consuming the nut in whole form. Not sure what that’s about, but my advice would be to try peanuts or peanut butter and see how your body reacts. All that said, I believe there is something in the peanut that helps with IBS. I’ll explain my logic…the number one way to help IBS through food is through diet, especially fiber because fiber improves the way the intestines work. This site provides more detail, but the following sentence, particularly the bolded words, stuck out to me: “Soluble fiber found in foods such as dried beans and other legumes, oats, barley, and berries may help diarrhea by slowing down the passage of food from the stomach to the intestines and by giving stool form.” Based on what we know about the peanut (i.e., it’s actually a legume/bean), this would lead me to believe it can be beneficial for IBS. Make sense? It does to me, but I am willing to admit I may be wrong, although I’m probably not.

There are many more health benefits with respect to the peanut and other nuts (which I will definitely write about in the near future), but that’s all I got for now. I love peanuts and am fortunately not allergic, so I’m off to crack myself some…

And I’m out,
Peace sign
Ida

Should I go for the Apple or the Orange?

Are certain fruits better for the morning, afternoon, evening? Probably. What fruit should you eat in the morning? I’m sure there are several options, and the impact or benefit you desire from eating a particular fruit in the morning will provide the answer.

This morning, after finding out my flight was cancelled I did what any normal person would do, and thought about what fruit I should have for breakfast. I encountered two choices…the apple (what I normally go for), and the orange. Did I want something crunchy, juicy, and slightly sour (green apple), or did I want something soft, extremely juicy, and tangy (naval orange)? I went for the orange.

But, let’s say I was choosing based on nutritional information or health benefits. What do I get from each fruit? And which one is better for my health?

Let me provide an example to illustrate one way to go about making this taxing decision… Paul prefers apples and Martha oranges, at least in the morning. Furthermore, Paul is at high risk of heart and blood problems, and Martha has inflammation and respiratory problems. Guess which fruit is best for each of their respective ailments? Basically, Paul and Martha should switch their fruit in the morning. After reading a few studies and researching the WWW (aka the Web), the chart below (click to enlarge) is a summarized version of what I discovered.

Apple and Orange Chart

So which one should I choose? I could probably go for either, as I currently do not have any serious illnesses that would induce me to choose one over the other. But, if I had to choose, I would go for the apple. Why? I love the taste and crunch, and the ease of finding, storing, and eating them apples (especially when I am running around all day), AND they fill me up and keep my metabolism high, AND I found a really cool study that ties an antioxidant called quercetin to improved nuerological health and dementia prevention – I could always use a bit of help with enhancing my brain 🙂

And I’m out,
Peace sign
Ida

Do you know your Dosha? How to eat, exercise and live for your Dosha.

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My Dosha is Pitta-Kapha…holllaaa to all my PK’s out there. Don’t worry, one Dosha is not better than the other, but Pitta-Kapha is of course the best ;). Although there are three primary doshas, they can be combined to arrive at ten different body and behavioral types. So you may have one prominent dosha, or two, or you may be what they call a tri-doshi. Mine is a two-dosha type (Pitta + Kapha).

Okay, at this point I expect you to be royally confused. So please continue reading and take a moment to take the test. Yippee a Quiz! There are a few quizzes out there, but I found this one to be the most accurate.

What on earth is a Dosha? Think of it as your mind and body personality type. For those of you who are familiar with personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), this is sort of like that, but it’s about your medicinal type. According to Ayurvedic medicine an individual is determined by a combination of the three Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha – which informs one’s health, propensity for certain diseases, cure for any disease, and other fascinating health insights. It is the combination of these three doshas that makes a person different and peculiar from others. Yeah, it may sounds a bit kooky and out there for some, but it’s always interesting to know a bit more about your self in order to find what fits you best from a health and lifestyle perspective.

Let’s say I was interested in this whole dosha thing, why should I be? Aside from sounding really cool when you walk up to someone and tell them your dosha, here are a few other reasons:

  • Helps you know your body and its requirements
  • Helps you maintain optimal health
  • Helps you maintain a good and balanced personal, family and professional life
  • Helps you to plan your lifestyle according to the requirements of your body
  • Helps you plan a balanced diet
  • Helps you to know how an imbalance is likely to occur in yourself (and take steps to prevent or mitigate it)

I actually found my assessment results to be quite interesting and accurate. I learned why certain things I currently do make me feel anxious, tired or unfocused at times. I also learned why some things I practice in my life (e.g., eating my largest meal in the early afternoon versus in the early morning) work for me, while not for others.

Another thing I like about doshas is the tie to one’s taste buds. I have always found certain tastes more palatable than others (such as bitter and astringent foods), and also find certain foods make me feel calmer and more energetic. The foods tied to my dosha turn out to be the foods I tend to desire and that make me feel good on the inside and out. Coincidence? I think not. Read about the six tastes, and see which ones you have the greatest preference for, and whether they tie to your dosha. If they don’t, maybe it’s time to change things up, and introduce some new foods and tastes into your life.

Speaking of change…if you are interested in determining whether your current lifestyle sustains and nurtures a balanced mind-body state, and potentially making modifications, then I recommend this website and test.

Enjoy, and let me know what dosha type you get please! Especially if you get Pitta-Kapha 🙂

And I’m out,
Peace sign
Ida

Saturday runversation with Dad: Is wheat a grain? Yes.

Saturday run with the pop – one of my favorite things to do when I’m in town and our schedules align. What I love most about our runs are the unexpected and interesting topics that come up. The topic of runversation this Saturday was about potatoes and wheat. It all started with me telling him about what I ate the evening before, which included potatoes. He looked at me and said, “You eat potatoes?” Valid question. I told him I don’t love potatoes, but ate all of them at dinner because I needed a carb of some sort, and ended with: “plus, potatoes aren’t bad for you, especially compared to bread.” Wait, why would a potato be better than bread? To me this question was ridiculous. To him, potato versus bread made no difference. In no time, we were in a full-fledged potato vs. bread debate. A bit comical, but led to some interesting insights and banter.

Dad! You don’t know this by now? Potatoes are better than bread because they are plant-based, your body can more easily digest the food, and they contain natural nutrients such as potassium (even more than a banana!) and calcium. The high potassium got his attention, but he didn’t really get it. He reasoned that bread is made of wheat, and wheat is good for you, and you have to cook a potato to eat it, just as you must cook wheat and water to make bread, and thus bread is made of natural ingredients and is good too. At that point, I felt it was a hopeless case, but was determined to make him understand. It was quite the challenge, and admittedly I didn’t do the greatest job at arguing my stance. It was because I didn’t know enough to truly break it down for him. So, when I got home, I did some research.

The first question I had for Google was, “is wheat good for you”? Before I could answer the potato versus bread question, I needed to better understand the ingredients in bread. Within seconds I was confused, trying to decipher between the terms wheat, grain, whole wheat, whole grain, and multigrain. I had a miGRAIN!

The first ah ha moment was that wheat is a grain! The second was learning the definition of a grain and that there are two categories you can bucket grains into: whole grains and refined grains. I knew that whole grains went through less processing, provided more fiber and nutrients, and were easier for the body to digest. All of this is true, but why? It comes down to one main reason, and it’s the refining. Refining actually causes a lot of problems. More than I realized. Turns out it strips away vital nutrients, makes foods harder for the body to process, and causes further health issues (i.e., sparks in blood sugar). Also, refined bread has less fiber (unless it has been unnaturally added), making it easier to eat more without realizing.

What happens in the grain refining process? After doing some reading, I remembered by using the acronym BEGBran (think fiber), Endosperm (think starch), Germ (think beneficial nutrients). Grains come in a three-part “whole” kernel. Refined grains only use one of the three-part kernel. In other words, you lose the B & G, leaving you with nothing but E. E contains some essential nutrients, but the good stuff is in the B & G, which are now kaput. Here’s a lovely photo for those of you who are more visual.

556px-Wheat-kernel_nutrition

So, what should you do? Remember the acronym BEG, and seek out products that are “whole.” If you don’t see the word “whole” on the package or in the ingredients list you will need to dig further or assume that the grain you are consuming has gone through some refining, a process that strips the food of B & G.

Now that we have grains squared away, back to the potato versus bread question. As you may have guessed, the answer is complex, and really needs its own explanation and post. I’m not going to go in depth right now, but I won’t leave you hanging. There are healthy breads out there, but if we are comparing white bread to white potatoes, unlike white bread, the starch in potatoes has not been refined to deplete nutrients.

What would I do? When in doubt, I’m still going for the potato versus the bread. Why? This article can provide you with wonderful facts and more details, but when it comes down to it, you are getting more bang for your buck with the potato. More nutrients, more vitamins, fuller faster and for longer, more stable blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, better brain function, and easy digestion.

In conclusion, dad may know best, but in this case, daughter was right.

And I’m out,
Peace sign
Ida

Salad for breakfast? That’s just crazy! Or is it?

fruit salad

I know it’s not the “traditional” breakfast food, but if you can eat an omelet for lunch or dinner, why can’t you eat a salad for breakfast? Filled with veggies and lean protein. I wanted it, so I went for it. I typically eat unconventional foods for breakfast. I care less about what mealtime category the food falls in and more about the nutrition in the food I am eating.

Maybe, try something new or different for breakfast tomorrow?

And I’m out,
Peace sign
Ida

Oh so true…the psychology of weight loss

I woke up this morning, browsing YouTube. I love the “recommended” videos the site provides…yeah I’m a dork. I clicked on one and was hooked after hearing Alisa Anokhina’s (the speaker) facetious remark: “Losing weight is really easy; you eat less and exercise more!”

Wait, are you telling me it isn’t really that easy??? DUH! Come on people, clearly if it were this simple, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic, and hundreds of new fad diets and pills emerging every other day. My belief is that each new diet/pill/idea (whether they work or not) further highlights the difficulty and complexity of weight loss or maintenance. I like Alisa’s talk because she explains how often we ignore the psychology of eating, and how internalizing wrong beliefs cause people to fail in losing weight. Her talk is interesting, and I agree with many of the things she says, but not everything.

Agree: Eliminate the diet/food deprivation strategy. I may have a particular diet or nutrition regimen, but I do NOT diet. In fact, I hate dieting, and honestly don’t know if I could commit to a diet for longer than a day. I suppose I could if I tried, but it’s tough and I’d rather not diet, EVER. I rarely deprive myself, because I do in fact feel like I am punishing myself or “on a diet.”

Agree: Self-control is limited. Often I hear, “well you eat well because you have more willpower than I do and you are extremely disciplined. I can’t do that.” I guess I have special powers then? Ummmm noooo…I will admit that it is easier for me because I’ve eaten this way for several years, and thus I crave and desire more healthful foods. However, I have bad habits and cravings too (i.e., food quantity is not my strong suite). I can effortlessly pound 1K calories in one sitting. I try to avoid doing this of course, but regulating my portions is not easy, in fact it’s really hard for me.

Agree: “Just don’t think about it” – easier said than done. As soon as someone tells me I can’t have something, I want it even more, and think about it even more too! The only way I find not eating a certain food or quantity of food works is by, ironically, eating-out, or by keeping very busy, preferably outside of the home. If I am out at a restaurant, over a long period of time, chatting with friends, then even if I want something I get over it. For me, keeping busy and taking myself out of trigger situations (i.e., the environment that easily allows you to consume what you want) are key!

Don’t Agree: Eat-in and cook what you consume. I don’t love cooking, and some days, weeks, months (especially as someone who is always on the-go) this is neither realistic nor something that works for me. When I eat at home, 9 times out of 10, I overeat. I just can’t cook or order-in and expect to eat a small portion of something…no way! Not happening. Eating outside of the home works better for me. I definitely indulge, and enjoy doing so on some days – Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday after all – and when I do overeat, I don’t kill myself. Instead, I get up and MOVE, and remind myself to be more conscious and careful next time. I go out for a walk and do something (dance?), so that the food doesn’t just sit and fester. Here’s me caught in the act by one of my besties, circa 2008.

MOVE 2.jpg

Semi-Agree: Write down the number of calories you consume. This one works, but I don’t see it as practical and sustainable long-term, which is why I only semi-agree. I have a sense of my caloric intake, but I never count exact calories. I figure it all balances it out by the end of the week. I care more about nutrient intake than caloric intake. Also, researching and writing down the exact # of calories takes a lot of time, and sometimes, honestly I just don’t want to know. That said, I must admit it does work when I do it, and for some people it is not a painful activity, so food journaling can be a good tactic.

What do successful dieters do? Everyone wants the magical solution and answer to this question, and here it is folks…ready, set…and the answer is: “we don’t know.” Alisa goes on to say that there are strategies you can follow, and I happen to agree with the two primary ones she highlights. Now that I think about it, I suppose this is why I have been able to maintain my weight and healthy living lifestyle for so long. Oh shoot, now I’ve probably jinxed myself.

What does she emphasize? First is, do not diet or deprive yourself of foods you want. That is, don’t conceptualize your eating choices by thinking it’s a “diet” (this is the psychological aspect of things). I don’t diet and don’t feel as if I am depriving myself either. To onlookers it may seem as if I am, because they do not crave or desire the foods that I do, bringing us to the second strategy, take a personalized approach, meaning “HEAT” the way you like (HEAT is my term for healthy eating), exercise at times that work for you, for your schedule, your preferences, your commitments, etc. When I hear people say: “well ‘they’ do this, and it worked for ‘them’” – my first question is…who is this infamous “they,” because what “they” do may not be what works for you and your life. Just as personalities are different, food preferences are too. What tastes good to one may or may not taste good to another. Do not follow what others are doing, or the latest diet craze simply because. That’s just lazy. Hear what others are doing, experiment a little, and then tailor things to what works well for you.

What’s my strategy? Eat less of course…only kidding! It’s as Alisa says, I don’t diet and I found an approach that works for me.

Final thoughts. Even with seemingly simple strategies, weight loss/maintenance is DIFFICULT. If you’re looking for a fast, easy fix, good-luck and let me know how that works out. Mindset, patience, commitment, and perseverance are fundamental. It’s like the old adage goes, if something seems too good to be true, well then it is in fact too good to be true. Be skeptical, and remember to find what fits YOU, not “they.”

And I’m out,
Peace sign
Ida

Enjoy a delicious cup of “white” mulberry tea: Good for the heart <3

whitemulberry

I grew up eating dried white mulberry, which I refer to as toot. I didn’t know other colors existed (white, red, and black) until l saw the Dr. Oz show where he features the berry and speaks to its powerful health benefits. What are those magical powers? Well, the most interesting one to me (and scientists) is that the WHITE mulberry LEAVES can help prevent diabetes by inhibiting sugar digestion through a compound called 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ) so that most sugar is not absorbed into the bloodstream and is instead excreted. Interesting, so what does that mean? Unfortunately, it means you cannot simply munch on the dried fruit and obtain the DNJ benefits; you need the leaves for that. BUT, YOU CANNOT SIMPLY EAT THE RAW LEAVES EITHER! So what’s a person to do? Answer = tea.

May I have it in tea form please? Why yes, yes you may. It’s hard to find at a typical market or grocery (unless you are in Iran of course), but specialty health food and tea stores are sure to carry it. I decided to try the white mulberry tea, which I got from a place called David’s Tea near my home. Wasn’t sure how it would taste, but I fell in love! It was sooo good. As I was buying the tea, the lady behind the counter asked me why it’s good for you, which inspired me to write this post 🙂 Thanks David’s Tea lady!

Why do I love this fruit? For one, it tastes good, even in tea form as I recently discovered. As a kid it was both the taste and texture that kept me coming back for more and more. Mulberries are so fun to chew! People compare the consistency to that of raisins, but the texture is slightly different. It’s a bit gummier in my opinion. I still love the texture, but I also really like that the fruit is lower in sugar compared to other dried fruits, and high in fiber and protein. Why is high fiber good for you? High fiber helps regulate cholesterol and digestion. I think digestion is self-explanatory, but for those of you curious as to the importance of cholesterol, here’s why: High cholesterol increases your chances of getting heart disease (i.e., heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes), so you want to keep it low.

For those of you thinking: ”Type 2?!?! I didn’t even know there was a type 1!”… Type 1 is primarily genetic, acquired from birth, and not really preventable. The more treatable or preventable diabetes is type 2. Type 2 is what you commonly hear about on the news when people speak to increased rates of obesity, lack of physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, stress, urbanization, and so forth.

I sort of want to top my greek yogurt with dried white mulberry, with some cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa powder sprinkled on top, WITH a side of mulberry tea!

And I’m out,
Peace sign
Ida