You can have your weight loss and eat cupcakes, too.
Every so often I hear someone say that a eating a certain food makes you fat, and I cringe. No one food, no one moment of eating makes anyone fat. It doesn’t. If you love something, you can eat it. (But if you love something too much, you should probably set it free…)
I don’t cringe because people restrict themselves—I have my share of personal restrictions, too. I cringe because pop nutrition, and even hard science nutrition, has been so misguided and outright wrong that people don’t know the truth from the lies. It’s no wonder people still believe eating cholesterol raises blood cholesterol (the experts still don’t know but I suspect some sort of sugar) and that fat rather than sugar is enemy numero uno when it comes to weight loss.
Also, it makes me sad that people avoid eating some of my favorite foods. It’s all fine and dandy if you like your kale steamed, but if you haven’t tried it sautéed in butter, you’re missing out. I ate butter all the damn time and lost fifteen pounds, okay? You’re missing out for no real reason.
Here are 10 Foods You Think You Can’t Eat When Trying to Lose Weight.
Wheat Thins: Lots of butter, some flour, salt
Like I said, I ate butter all the time while I was losing weight. I don’t mean I put a dab here and a dab there, especially when it comes to potatoes. I cook most of my vegetables in butter and add butter to dishes I’m cooking to deepen the flavor. I add additional butter to anything I feel like. I make butter crackers. I slather non-flour bread with butter and grill me some cheese sandwich. Did I mention I keep losing weight?
2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
I make dry salad wet, hardy-har-har.
If I’m not cooking with butter, I’m cooking with EVOO. Sometimes a food is more suited to it, and sometimes I don’t want that buttery feel in my mouth. I also make my own salad dressings with EVOO. I don’t measure or concern myself with the amount of oil I’m consuming. The fat is necessary and healthy.
Let’s just be clear that I put cheese on almost everything I eat except Asian-type food. I do that because that is where cheese belongs (on everything). I find it really annoying when people say something is “fattening” because it has cheese on it. Seriously, have fun with that. Meanwhile, I’m going to snack on some more cheese and lose weight.
4. Fatty, Cured Meat
Meat is a touchy subject (especially in the food blog world). Seems like everyone and their mother goes vegetarian. To each their own, I suppose. I think it’s a rather restrictive way of living and that a lot of vegetarians end up eating a ton of processed, unhealthy food to make up for what their diet lacks.
However, I am a vegetable cheerleader. Eat your vegetables! Try centering a meal around vegetables! Go vegetarian for a day! Anything that helps you increase your intake of vegetables is a good thing.
With that out of the way, I need y’all to know something: I love bacon. And prosciutto. And salami. I do. I love it. And while I don’t eat these foods day-to-day, I do eat them several times a month in good heart health and with continual weight loss. Bacon, Tempeh, avocado and cheese sandwich? Don’t mind if I do.
I am a vegetarian blasphemy.
Oh-my-effing-goodness, potatoes do not make you fat! Eating potatoes, grain-fed beef, white bread, high-fructose corn syrup added to seasoning mixes and white rice all in once meal, now that makes you fat. Stop that. Buy a nice grass fed steak and enjoy your potato (Did I mention you can add butter and bacon?)
Dripping with butter
I eat sweet potatoes. Most of the time I eat the good ol’ American ones with the orange centers because I like the starch level of them. I started eating a sweet potato almost every night as part of a sugar addict program that I’ll share in a future post, and I also add sweet potato to breakfast or lunch when I’m in the mood. After covering the potato in EVOO and salt & pepper and baking, I slather the insides with butter. “You lost fifteen pounds doing this?”
Yes. And I keep losing. So stop talking smack about my beloved potato.
6. Nuts, Seeds, Peanut Butter, Etc.
Most nuts have a really healthful fat in them that counteract the dangers of our modern diet. Peanuts—which aren’t really nuts—as well as sunflower seeds do not have this type of fat. In any case, nuts, seeds, and peanut-y things are tiny foods that are super-packed with protein and fat. They keep you going for a long time and really satisfy and satiate.
If the fat in nuts, seeds and peanut butter made ya’ fat, I’d be a gigantic overweight wreck of a person by now. I practically live on the butters of almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds, and I add almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, or [lately] chia seeds to most foods. While you erroneously think about your waist line, I’m supplying my body with a much-needed energy source that keeps on slimming.
Avocado is not optional.
If you dare try to tell me you can’t eat avocado because it’s “fattening”, I am just going to bite my tongue and move on my merry way. The way I see it, there aren’t enough avocados in this world and if you don’t want any, I can be assured there will be enough for me.
Actually, there are plenty of avocados. And you’re wrong.
8. Coconut (Meat, Cream, Oil, Milk, Spread)
Notice how I didn’t include coconut water in this list? Yeah, all the bloggers and yogis and health nuts like that stuff. To me it seems like it can be a healthier replacement to Gatorade, which should really only be consumed when you have dehydration concerns (intense workout, intense heat, sickness). It’s a sugar water, and it’s not something I recommend for weight loss because it’s essentially a fruit juice (fiber-stripped and sugar-concentrated).
Some people don’t believe the “hype” around coconut, but as you know, I ate coconut “spread” (which is just coconut) all of the time and lost weight. I also like to experiment with coconut oil as an alternative to EVOO or as the “vegetable oil” in baked goods.
While I’m not quite sure if coconut oil is the miracle food of all miracle foods, I can say a properly-processed coconut product or fresh coconut foods are safe to eat while trying to lose weight. Heck, they probably even promote weight loss.
I saved the best for almost-last because it’s on everyone’s mind and I like to tease complete strangers. Yes, I ate chocolate. Sometimes I ate it everyday because my body screams: “EAT CHOCOLATE, EAT CHOCOLATE, EAT CHOCOLATE!” and only gets louder when I try to ignore it. To be safe, I chose darker varieties of chocolate most often because I was less likely to abuse it. Or I bought weird chocolates like chocolate-covered ginger for the same reason.
Though I do recall two desperate PMS’s when I grabbed a Heath bar and that time there was a leftover bag of toffee pieces from a toffee cheesecake I baked, which I consumed in two days with a spoon, I avoided eating chocolate toffee candy. There’s nothing wrong with toffee, or caramel, or whatever chocolate treat you love. It’s when that love takes over and you can’t seem to stop spooning bits of toffee into your mouth with a spoon that you have to face your own facts, know what I mean?
10. Ice Cream, FroYo and Toppings, Cake, Pie, Cookies, Brownies, Doughnuts, Cupcakes, Gelato, Candy… Shall I go on?
Treats for the fam
What I really want to stress is that I didn’t have to give up anything in order to lose weight because I really, really didn’t. When I wanted a cupcake, I had a cupcake, savoring every last bit of it. When I wanted FroYo, I had some FroYo with candy and fruit (except toffee). When I wanted whatever treats were circulating the office (as they so often were), I let myself have a treat.
The thing about these types of foods is that I said no more and more. I set limits on how much I was going to eat and I knew exactly how much I would eat before putting anything to my lips. I also contemplated exactly what I wanted instead of settling for a free chocolate chip cookie (I don’t care about chocolate chip cookies) when what I really wanted was a brownie. A treat is supposed to be special, so I stopped abusing the idea and I stopped wasting the moment.
There was a bigger picture for me—I was facing my sugar addiction. You might not care for cupcakes and candy but really love fried chicken, French fries and white pasta. Whatever it is for you, you can still have it as long as you feel you have control over it. That’s how I rolled at least. And guess what? I lost a bunch of weight and still keep losing.
In the last six months, I’ve lost fifteen pounds and ten percent of my body weight. Not only have I never been able to lose such a significant amount of weight on my 5’0 frame, I never believed I could do it in a healthy way, keep it off, and know just how to lose more if I wanted.
Now I know I can do anything I put my mind to. What’s my secret? After admitting I have a sugar addiction, I searched for that infamous road less traveled. Instead of hopping on yet another diet bandwagon, I used my overwhelming collection of dieting knowledge to create plans that worked for me rather than against me. I also made a conscious decision to stop expecting to take on the whole world in one fell swoop.
Because I can now count on myself to lose another fifteen pounds before the end of 2012, and because I no longer have any anxiety about announcing such an endeavor (I know I will succeed), I want to share some of my methods, techniques, tools and habits for real weight loss. This is what worked for me. If you struggle with the same issues I struggled with, you’ll find concrete help in my new series. If your issues differ from mine, you’ll find inspiration to design a lifestyle and way of eating that works for you.
To get started, I offer you 7 foods that can replace unhealthy sweet-snacking habits.
1.Trader Joes’ Sunflower Seed Butter
When I tasted TJ’s Sunflower Seed Butter, I nearly died. I went through at least a jar a week and swore up and down I would never go back to peanut butter. It tastes that good. Oh, the things we say… PB and I are still best friends forever.
Sunflower Seed Butter from Trader Joes
Sunflower Seed Butter has added sugar, not unlike peanut butter–and that’s okay. In fact, part of developing a healthy relationship with sugar is finding ways to live with it. At 7 carbs (3 grams of which are sugar) for every two tablespoons, it would take quite a lot of this stuff to match the amount of sugar consumed in a single serving of ice cream or candy. Plus, it’s protein- and fat-heavy, so consuming the entire 98-carb-jar isn’t possible. It’s just not.
Why this worked for me:
I needed a sugary option. I needed to know I could go home at night, crawl under my covers, and eat without having to think about how much. The fat and protein made me full long before I had a chance to binge on the butter. It was confusing at first. I would try eating more because I wanted more sugar and my body would say: “Stoppppp! I’m soooo full!”
Something I understand now that I didn’t understand six months ago was that I could be successful and make changes in my life if I stopped trying to change everything all at once. So I didn’t beat myself up for eating in bed at night, even though I wanted to stop doing that just as much as I wanted to stop eating sugar. (And, really, what’s more important? That I get healthy or I get ‘pretty’?)
2. Coconut Cream / Coconut Spread
Growing up in Florida, I knocked down many a’coconut, cracked the hard shell, and enjoyed the fruit (and sweet water) of my labor. I still love eating fresh coconut or adding coconut oil to leftover chicken before heating, just for that coconut taste.
Wilderness Family Naturals Coconut Spread
When I went on a hunt for an extra virgin coconut oil made in a way that preserves the nutrients of the oil, I found Wilderness Family Naturals and their wonderful Coconut Spread. It’s pure coconut, nothing added. In cooler climates, it stays really hard in the jar, and you have to scrape it with a spoon. That is exactly how I like it.
Why this worked for me:
Coconut is high in [very good for you] fat so I can’t really eat much of it. It became another option of healthy treats to keep on hand.
3. Carob-covered Almonds
I used to buy these treats at the co-op down the street from me in Maryland (Miss you, Glut!). They look like chocolate-covered almonds and they have the same mouth feel, but are by no means a chocolate candy.
We do not disappoint.
Why this worked for me:
Often I had cravings for chocolate that I was sure could not be treated by dumping unsweetened cocoa powder onto my tongue. I am weary of a craving that seems intrinsically tied to sugar. Carob-covered almonds were a way for me to separate my chocolate addiction from my sugar addiction but still eat a seemingly-chocolate-covered food. Add in that these have almonds (fat and protein) and I could only eat so many! Are you seeing a pattern?
4. Trader Joes Almond Butter with Flax Seeds
With crunchy bits of flax seeds and chopped almond
Why this worked for me:
This worked for the same reason sunflower seed butter worked, except it is much less sweet and has a delightful crunch to it. Sometimes creamy just doesn’t cut it!
5. Vegetable Chips
There’s a big difference between this or this and real vegetable chips. “Veggie crisps” can be yummy, too, but they are an over-processed version of the real thing. If it doesn’t resemble it’s original self, it is most likely cooked in an unhealthy way with unnecessary additives.
Real vegetables and real avocado make real girls happy
I used to buy these in bulk for cheap at Glut.
Why this worked for me:
My sugar addiction wasn’t always about eating dessert. Sometimes I just wanted to eat cereal, crackers or bread. Vegetable chips were not only transportation for hummus, but a nutrient-rich, natural-sugar replacement for crackers. You know what I never seem to need to do with vegetable chips? Binge. Yep, it’s true.
6. Dried Pears and Cheese
Dried pears were another wonderful food I bought at Glut. They were made without anything added to them, a quality I find necessary in dried fruits.
Dried pears and Dubliner cheese
Why this worked for me:
Pairing cheese (fat and protein again) with the natural sugars present in pears is what makes this work. And there’s something about a dried pear that seems to fill me up better than any Craisin ever could.
7. Single Serving Packets of Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter
This is the newest weapon in my arsenal against sugar addiction. I was at the store comparing the price of a jar of this stuff to the price of the single serving packets, and I knew the jar was a way better deal. One week I decided I would get the jar, even though my gut was telling me it wasn’t a good idea. It’s not. Because I am talking about chocolate, sugar and almond butter here, I don’t end up getting a better deal by purchasing the jar. I know I will–and I do–eat more than the single serving amount. I do it mindlessly, which is why I had to do the math on the sunflower seed butter in the first place.
Hi Justin, Love your butters. XOXO Dolci
Why this worked for me:
It’s pre-portioned, plain and simple. It’s fun to eat out of the packet; and I take my time because I can feel in my hands exactly how much I have available.
Do you have any healthful treats that satisfy your sweet cravings while keeping you thin? Please share in the comments!
Sweet, spicy, crunchy protein.
My mom and I disagree about a lot when it comes to food. She sweetens her foods with Splenda and often chooses low-fat and fat-free packaged, over-produced foods over whole, natural foods. I used to beg her to stop drinking diet soda (awful, awful aspartame!) and argue that the artificial sweeteners she was choosing to assist with weight loss were actually causing her body to store fat and demand more calories.
Then I grew up a tiny bit and realized I can’t live anyone’s life but mine. I can’t fret or worry about the choices other people make because fretting and worrying don’t inspire change. You know what does?
It’s a little thing called inspiration. When we have the courage to do what we do and be who we are, we can become our most vibrant selves. It’s easy to look at another person’s life and find the cracks…and think you know just the glue to fix ‘em. It’s much more challenging to face your own problems and actively, openly work on them. Am I right?
This past month has been all about examining my own life and taking accountability for some of the loose ends I’ve let run loose too long. Thinking about money, sleeping better, developing routines, planning better–it’s about time I get my sh– together. You know what I did the last two days? I developed a meal plan for the whole week (twenty-one MFing meals!), acquired the goods, and spent hours preparing as much as I could for the days ahead.
I start my new job Tuesday, and I plan on finding some additional weekend work so I can put more money toward my debt. I am going to get organized and use my time wisely. I am not going to keep struggling with the same things over and over and over again.
Anyway, even though I actively avoid most of the things my mom puts in her body, I get really excited when she’s eating something I consider healthy. Why? Because she does what she does and she be who she be–and that works.
The tongue is delighted by this mix of sweet, crunchy and spicy. A snack that can be eaten on-the-go, Mom’s Wasabi Peas Trail Mix is high in protein and the perfect way to get a dose of anti-inflammatory walnuts.
Mom’s Wasabi Peas Trail Mix
14 Servings, 1/4 cup each
2 c Wasabi peas
1 c walnuts
1 1/4 c raisins
This fudge recipe is from Averie @loveveggiesandyoga. It’s super easy and takes two minutes. You could even throw all four ingredients–agave nectar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and coconut oil–into the microwave at once to cut down on steps.
I really, really love fudge. It’s one of those things that just isn’t around often so when I finally get it, it still feels as special as it did when I was a child. When I saw how simple this fudge recipe was, I knew I had to try it. Rich coconut oil and fruity agave replace dairy and white sugar, while maintaining the mouth-feel and taste of fudge. It has a coffee-like undertone to it similar to the way brown sugar darkens the flavor of a cookie.
Her recipe did not yield as large a result for me as shown in her pictures, which is why I cut it up into those tiny squares. I tripled the recipe when I made it the second time and still got a very small batch, but good enough to share among a few people.
This fudge is sweetened with agave nectar, which comes from a Mexico-grown succulent (think cactus or aloe). The sap of the plant is extracted, filtered and heated to produce the syrup. In the health food world, agave is either considered a healthy alternative to sugar or more dangerous than High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Whaaat? That’s a large gap.
What do the sellers say?
- A top raw food retailer in the UK, The Fresh Network is no longer selling agave because of concerns for its high-fructose content.
- An organic Texas-based company, Wholesome Sweeteners still sells agave, explaining that the fructose is “naturally occurring fructose available in the agave inulin rather than being a highly manufactured food ingredient made from genetically modified corn syrup”.
- Another organic company, Coconut Bliss checked for quality control to ensure their agave production was minimal and as natural as possible. They continue to sell agave: “What we have found, so far, in the studies we have seen, is that fructose is only problematic in excess, but causes no difficulties, for most people, in moderate amounts (up to 50-60 grams per day).”
You can easily find a lot of articles out there saying agave will cause insulin resistance or high triglycerides, with the research being supported by what is known as ‘meta-analysis’. Basically related studies (none of which actually use agave) are combined to support a hypothesis. For some intelligent inquiry on these articles, please read Debra Lynn Dadd’s informative discussion on agave.
Until I have a definitive answer about agave, I remind myself there is no “miracle sweetener” I can eat to excess without any consequence to my body and enjoy some fudge now and then.
I have the tendency to get caught up in a goal, losing sight of the process it takes to get there. Years ago when I was learning how to cook, I didn’t understand how anyone could take a taste from a boiling pot of tortilla soup and know it needs more jalapeno. I surely didn’t get why I could follow a recipe to a tee and still come up short in flavor, texture, or structure. I can’t explain it, but I expected myself to already know how to cook when I had done so little of it in my life.
Like all skills I’ve acquired, learning how to cook developed over time with diligent practice. At some point, things just clicked. I could taste the value of individual ingredients and their pairings. I had picked up little tricks along the way, improving exponentially with each mistake. That’s when recipes went from a set of rules to a set of suggestions that could be contemplated and tweaked to my preference.
Ultimately it came down to me and my ego in the kitchen. I triumphed over thinking I needed to be the best cook ever long enough to become a pretty darn good one.
Like cooking, yoga is a constant battle to put aside the ego. When I’m practicing around others, I have to remind myself not to look at them. Or, if I do, to not compare myself. Even alone, I have to remember to be present right now. There is no “what I could do yesterday” just as surely as there can be no expectation of what I should be able to do today. The ego is not welcome on the mat, though it certainly shows up, and, unlike cooking, the ego prevents the mindfulness needed to practice yoga safely.
Because I forgot to exhale. Because I wanted perfect alignment and perfect transition. Because I wasn’t listening to my body. Because I was focused on the goal. Because I simply was not paying attention and locked my knees and…bam! I injured my knees doing yoga.
Not all lessons require limping, hopping, icing, heating, and–worst of all–abstaining from practice. But this one did, and my ego did not like it one bit.
Thank goodness for great cinema.
Some of my greatest joys are breakfast, lunch and dinner. I depend on those moments. Day after day, I am greeted with the opportunity to seize life – “Carpe cibum,” I say. Seize the MFin’ meal.
Three times a day, I am welcomed to do something special. I can create something new in the kitchen or reach for comfort in an old favorite. I can gather with friends and family to share over the delight that is food. I can be surprised and pampered and indulged and spoiled. So, why would I skip meals?
Broccoli bits post-tooth-operation
When I am overwhelmed, this is how it manifests at my dinner table. While I load too much on my metaphorical plate, I place too little on my literal plate. Maybe I’ve been going without breakfast most mornings, too? It’s not clear.
The answer isn’t all that complicated. Life gets hectic. The heart breaks and aches. It’s completely normal to forgo earthly pleasures like food. I slow down, take it all in, and then I’m full.
I accept I need a little help. Instead of expecting myself to prepare a meal when I’m not feeling hungry, I pick up one of those Annie’s breakfast burritos for tomorrow morning. I stay up late and watch something that nurtures (A Little Help was so, so good). I honor what I can and feel grateful for what I have ’cause I’m downright fortunate and tomorrow is always another day.
“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” –Luciano Pavarotti
Is this "Whole Grain?"
Have you caught the new commercial from Orville Redenbacher for Whole Grain popcorn? It goes like this: A hand scans the kitchen cabinet for something healthy, passing boxes and bags of crackers, chips, and cereal labeled “Whole Grain,” finally arriving at the familiar red box of Orville Redenbacher popcorn. “One hundred percent whole grain 40 years before it was cool,” the commercial sells us.
You might think: “Oh, that’s great! Whole Grain popcorn seems like a healthy snack.”
I wouldn’t blame you. For starters, if you’re not obsessed with food and agriculture, or seed banks and gardening, you probably wouldn’t question the absurdity of popcorn not being Whole Grain. How are you supposed to know that all popcorn comes from a corn kernel, that corn is a grain, and that a kernel of corn is, well, a whole grain?
Now you know. You’re welcome.
More over, Orville Redenbacher’s states on their website that this Whole Grain popcorn comes from “an exclusive kernel hybrid that pops up lighter and fluffier than ordinary popcorn.”
So, it’s Whole Grain. A bag of corn kernels. But, those kernels may or may not have been genetically modified (i.e. hybrid) to produce a certain type of popcorn. Does this really embody the word “whole” in Whole Grain? What is the nutrient profile and immunity-protection of this new, hybridized kernel? Has the DNA been broken in such a way that might make it dangerous to ingest?
What about this qualifies it as a healthy snack? What do you think about the ad campaign?
Island-style ice cream
When I began openly discussing my behavior toward sugar, I had no idea anything would change. With the help of two women, I examined the ins and outs of my eating habits, triggers, reasons, feelings, etc. Still, I felt addicted.
I don’t want to minimize the meaning of that word. There’s quite a difference between losing control with food and losing control with drugs and/or alcohol. If you want to read about the validity of sugar addiction, check out this article.
Kale & collard greens, broccoli, brown rice
I believe talking to someone(s) about my problem gave me a new perspective. Why was I eating ice cream every single day? Why couldn’t I eat a third of that brownie instead of the whole thing? Why couldn’t I skip it just this once? Getting feedback and still coming up short brought me to three days ago, when I realized: “I’m addicted to sugar.”
Whether or not I really am “addicted” to sugar doesn’t matter. I became empowered by using the same methods addicts have been using for decades. I admitted I was powerless, and I consequently took the first step toward recovery. Something clicked. I made a decision to avoid ice cream that night (and any other sugary replacement)…and I succeeded. The next day, I succeeded again.
Beans, brown rice, avocado
Two days may not seem like much to you – but I feel like I’ve just climbed Mt. Everest, twice. And, I am going to try again today, convinced I can accomplish the task. I mean, who the heck can climb a mountain twice but not three times? That’s all it took: I admitted my problem, and I started taking it one day at a time.
Clams from Trader Joes
Recently, one of my co-workers has realized I am a resource when it comes to food and nutrition. She often asks me this very interesting question: “Is it healthy?”
There are too many answers to this! In the future, we can discuss proper food combinations (including fat with your veggies, for example), nutrient levels in organic foods, pesticides, local harvesting, etc. For now, let’s stick to four principles:
1. Portion Control
There’s probably a general number, between 3-6 ounces, that we could use to determine our portions. Though, we don’t have to settle for a one-size-fits-all number! It makes more sense to consider stomach size and tailor to your specific needs.
A neat trick is to buy a container of cottage (or something similar you like), spend a good twenty minutes eating it on an empty stomach, then weigh the container when you feel full. After subtracting that number from the weight of the package when filled, you’ll be left with a number of ounces that more-than satisfies your needs. What do the Chinese recommend? Eat until you’re 80% full?.
Once you have that number, you can use one of the many portion guides on the internet to learn how to see portions for different foods.
I'll have two fingers of cheese, please!
2. Macronutrient Balance
So you’ve got your number, and you’re ready to fill it with real-world examples. Those real-world examples will be the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Once you understand portion control for each food, you can use the plate method to balance the items.
The plate method is simple.
Your starches should be whole grains (whole wheat, kamut, quinoa and the like) or potatoes. Your protein can be meats, dairy, and beans. See that half a plate? That’s for your damn vegetables! Eat them, childrens. Eat them all.
3. What chemicals are added to it? How is it cooked?
Does the meal your eating contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), phenylalanine, saccharin, chlorine, monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrites, nitrates, food dyes, or any other additives to make it taste “better” than natural, keep it fresh longer, or make it appear more colorful? Has it been cooked in a way that creates trans-fatty acids, such as when fried in unstable oil? Has sugar been added unnecessarily? The meal is less healthy for every time you answer “Yes.”
4. Glycemic Index
I know everyone is determined to place emphasis on the outdated calorie-count approach, but here are the facts. Our bodies do not process a hundred calories of chicken the same way as it processes a hundred calories of spinach or a hundred calories of cereal. One of the very complex systems that affect the way our bodies burn and store fat is blood glucose-insulin regulation. When our blood glucose spikes, it is basically a notification to our bodies to store fat.
The Glycemic Index (GI) provides a number between zero and one hundred that identifies the affect a food has on our blood glucose. The higher the number, the higher our blood glucose will rise. We want to consider high GI foods as treats.
What are your methods for distinguishing healthy meals from unhealthy meals?
Hummus salad and tofu with soy sauce
There are a lot of issues surrounding soy cultivation, such as:
- Soy being used to feed animals food they weren’t designed to eat in the first place
- Genetically modified crops grown for abundance instead of nutritional value and immunity protection
- The mass industrialized production that clears rainforests and disrupts the lives of native people and their land
Deforestation in Brazil by Leo Freitas
The ethics of eating soy can be complicated, okay? Let’s pretend we’re only eating non-GMO soy grown to be eaten by people only and on diverse land that benefits the people of that land. Then and only then can we move onto a more empowering topic: Eating choices and their effects on our health.
What are the benefits of including soy in my diet?
Well, take soybeans for instance.
They are a great source of protein, trytophan (a precursor to serotonin, the feel good chemical involved in mood, sleep and appetite regulation), and Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3′s (and the ratio between Omega-3 and Omega-6) is so important to our health that people will take fish oil (ick) just to get them!
Healthful sources of soy can be found in various foods including edamame, tofu, Tempeh, and soy milk, all of which serve as vegetarian alternatives to those who avoid animal products or want to eat less of them.
But I heard soy is a hormone disruptor?
The answer to this question is easy: Yes, soy activates an estrogen receptor that can “counteract many of the cancer-causing activities” (Is Soy Safe?). This means, contrary to popular science, soy can actually prevent cancer in healthy individuals.
There is more to consider in individuals with compromised health. The research is divided as to whether or not it is safe to consume soy once cancerous cells have developed. Further, those with thyroid issues need to be careful about the way soy interacts with iodine and the popular medication, Synthroid.
Is soy a good source of vitamins and minerals?
Yes and no.
Soy contains phytates — which can also be found in health celebrities such as almonds and brown rice — and are said to interfere with the absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Live Fit Guy gives a generous breakdown on phytates here.
Calcium-fortified soy such as tofu and soy milk are good sources of calcium; iron, too, is absorbed despite the presence of phytates. More research on phytates is necessary to end this discord. In the meantime, a healthful diet can not be achieved by relying on a single source for any one nutrient.
Why is tofu white?
Soybeans children are green; adult soybeans range from white to brown.
What is this Tempeh thing you mentioned?
The easiest way to understand Tempeh (pronounced “temp-aye”) is to consider it the cheese of soy. Tempeh is made by fermenting partially cooked soybeans with a starter fungus (similar to the way Swiss cheese is made) with or without a whole grain or bean. Like many fermented foods, Tempeh has a sour/strong taste. This can be minimized by steaming Tempeh before cooking.
The texture is an awesome crumbly, slightly crunchy whole bean cake that can be ground like taco meat, sliced for sandwiches, or cubed for stir-fry. Fermented foods are really good for you if you can adjust to the taste!
What about Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), soy protein powders and other processed soy products?
Just say no. Really. These are examples of taking a perfectly natural health food and butchering it until it barely resembles its original self. Same goes for packaged, frozen, fake meat alternatives that contain tofu. Why does anyone even eat those? Why would you want to convince yourself you were eating someone you were consciously choosing not to eat? Just eat the real thing!