Smart Health

Arsenic in Rice: What You Should Know

Heavy metals and food should not be in the same sentence. However, it is the reality that we as consumers are facing today. In recent news, arsenic has been getting much attention due to its presence in rice. Here’s what you need to know.

Rice-7

What is arsenic?

Arsenic is a natural occurring heavy metal (mineral, actually) that at high levels of exposure can be toxic and lethal. Due to contamination from industrial pollutants, mining, coal burning, agricultural chemicals, arsenic-based pesticides, animal drugs, and arsenic-laden manure, levels of arsenic in our environment, food, and water have increased significantly over the years. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and World Health Organization (WHO) have set limits of arsenic in our drinking water at 10 parts per billion (which can easily be reached with rice intake as well). Health concerns such as cancers, reproductive and developmental problems, endocrine, respiratory, immunological, neurological conditions, and infections both acute and chronic have all be associated with extreme elevated levels of arsenic.

Arsenic in Rice

This is a big concern because rice and rice-based products are a major food staple worldwide and the rice plant naturally takes up and stores arsenic to a great extent. Overall, arsenic content will vary depending on contamination levels of soil and irrigation water, region where it’s grown, method of cultivation, and the rice variety. Arsenic tends to be highest in brown whole grain rice, because it concentrates in the bran. Thus polished white rice (i.e. basmati, jasmine) and pre-cooked instant white rice will contain the least amount of arsenic. Because there is little control of where our store-bought rice is coming from or how its cultivated, it has been recommended to rinse the rice initially, soaking, and cooking in a large amount of water (6-12 times more water than rice), and then discarding the water. While vitamins and minerals may be lowered with this process, it may lower arsenic content as well.

Bottom Line

There are many questions that still remain unanswered regarding arsenic in our food. It is best to continue monitoring legislative efforts to reduce or eliminate arsenic in our food and water supply. Even so, it is always important to understand a potential health risk factor and be aware of what can be done to minimize exposure. The following recommendations have been set in place:

  • Choose white rice more often than brown rice
    • Alternative whole grains to consider include: sprouted whole wheat and barley. If gluten free, organic potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet, oats, and non-GMO corn are options to consider.
  • Rinse, soak, and cook rice in 6-12 times more water than rice and discard excess water.
  • Limit total intake of rice (reduce if other rice-based products are consumed)
    • Adults should limit to 1 ½ cups cooked rice per week
    • Children should limit just under 1 cup per week
  • Minimize or eliminate brown rice, brown syrup, rice bran soluble, and rice milk, especially for pregnant women, infants, and children.
  • Gluten free individuals should be cautious about over consuming rice-based products. Choosing other whole grain gluten free alternatives would be best.
  • Test your water.
  • Testing body levels of arsenic may be done through urine testing with a practitioner.

Here at PreviMedica we highly encourage taking steps to minimize exposure to arsenic. While changes may not happen overnight the aforementioned list prioritizes those changes that can be made one step at a time.

 


Resources:

  1. “WHO media centre.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, who.int/mediacentre/en/. Accessed 29 Aug. 2017.
  2. “Documents for SBAR Panel: National Primary Drinking Water Regulations: Arsenic and Clarifications to Compliance and New Source Contaminant Monitoring.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 8 Sept. 2016, epa.gov/reg-flex/documents-sbar-panel-national-primary-drinking-water-regulations-arsenic-and-clarifications . Accessed 29 Aug. 2017.
  3. Stanton, Bruce A., et al. “MDI Biological Laboratory Arsenic Summit: Approaches to Limiting Human Exposure to Arsenic.” SpringerLink, Springer International Publishing, 26 June 2015, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40572-015-0057-9. Accessed 29 Aug. 2017.
  4. Group, EWG – Environmental Working. “EWG’s Food Scores just took the work out of grocery shopping for me!” EWG, ewg.org/foodscores/content/arsenic-contamination-in-rice#.Wa7q0bKGOUk . Accessed 29 Aug. 2017.

Basilia Theofilou is a contributor on our blog as well as one of the nutrition advisors here at PreviMedica. You can read more about her here.

FAILSAFE 101

Today we’re discussing a trial eating plan that was originally designed to treat children with ADHD, but over recent years it has proven useful for a wide range of conditions, such as eczema, asthma, allergy-type symptoms, and severe food allergies. FAILSAFE stands for Free of Additives, Low in Salicylates, Amines, and Flavor Enhancers (glutamates).

Failsafe

This elimination plan originated by immunologists at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in the late 70’s after curiosity sparked with the contributing role of dietary substances in the cause or worsening of skin irritations and allergies. Clinical trials were done and improvements were seen in those patients with skin conditions after removing certain chemicals from their eating patterns. Further clinical observation made it evident that certain food additives and naturally occurring compounds could aggravate other symptoms besides skin issues such as migraine, irritable bowel and neuropsychiatric symptoms.

FAILSAFE is likely one the most restrictive eating plans known, so before getting rid of everything in your kitchen (literally!), it is important to keep a few things in mind. While eliminating anything processed with artificial colors, flavors, additives, and preservatives is ideal to promote optimal well-being, the other suggested exclusions are a little more challenging to live with, especially long term. Substances like salicylates, glutamates, and amines are natural components also found in wholesome foods like apples, broccoli, whole grains, and meats. A full list of foods that are included on a FAILSAFE plan can be found here.

The FAILSAFE plan suggests beginning with an elimination (that lasts from 4-12 weeks) and then adding foods back in gradually to “rechallenge” them. This is so individuals can determine which chemicals in particular may be causing symptoms and what quantity of chemicals can be managed without experiencing these symptoms.

The process of determining what makes one feel unwell is often a demanding and drawn out journey; and although eliminating certain foods from your eating pattern can definitely help, strict food elimination plans, like FAILSAFE, are only meant to be a short-term trial for diagnosing the issue.

If you feel you may benefit from the FAILSAFE plan it is always best to consult with a nutrition professional, like our experts at PreviMedica, to ensure nutrient intake is adequate. If you’d like to set up an appointment with one of our PreviMedica nutrition experts, contact us at hello@previmedica.com or by calling 855-773-8463.


Basilia Theofilou is a contributor on our blog as well as one of the nutrition advisors here at PreviMedica. You can read more about her here.

Resources:
Watkins, Tim. “History of our elimination diet – Allergy Unit – Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.” History of our elimination diet – Allergy Unit – Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. N.p., Web. 11 Apr. 2017. http://www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/rpa/allergy/resources/foodintol/development.html
Swain, Ann R. THE ROLE OF NATURAL SALICYLATES IN FOOD INTOLERANCE . Thesis. University of Sydney, 1988. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. http://www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/rpa/allergy/research/students/1988/AnneSwainPhDThesis.pdf
Clarke, Lesley, Jenny McQueen, Ann Samild, and Ann Swain. “The dietary management of food allergy and food intolerance in children and adults.” Australian Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics 53.3 (1996): 1-10. Web. 2 Mar. 2017. http://www.slhd.nsw.gov.au/rpa/allergy/research/daareview.pdf.

 

Candida 101

By now I’m sure you’ve heard something about candida. Whether it is for health reasons or because it’s the trending new “cleanse”, more and more people are looking into candida and an anti-candida eating pattern. So let’s explore the facts a little further…CAndidaWhat is candida anyway? Candida albicans is a yeast that normally inhabits the gut in small amounts. It also inhabits other mucous membranes in the body such as the skin and mouth. Levels of Candida, as well as other resident fungi, are kept in check by the “good” or friendly bacteria in the gut, such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. However, if the growth of Candida is not kept under control it can lead to an overgrowth known as candidiasis or Candida Related Complex. Candida most commonly presents itself as a vaginal infection, oral thrush, or diaper rash, but it may still exist without presenting itself in this way. If the immune system is compromised, the yeast proliferates and transforms into a harmful infection capable of causing disease that can severely compromise the immune system even further. The by-products released by Candida are then absorbed into the bloodstream and may travel to many areas of the body. As the immune system attempts to deal with these foreign molecules, it can lead to a variety of different symptoms and can be the underlying cause of many chronic and difficult to diagnose health problems.

While scientific evidence on candidiasis and its effects are quite prominent, the science is limited when it comes to determining what the best anti-Candida nutrition therapy is. Most successful eating plans have been based on clinical and anecdotal experience. Experts suggest that the goal of an anti-Candida plan is to starve the yeast by eliminating its main source of fuel – sugar. If you are already avoiding obvious sugar like soda, cupcakes, and cookies, this might sound quite simple right off the bat. However it is suggested that sugar in all forms be avoided, including naturally found sugars such as those in fruits and grains. Moreover, there are other suggested dietary approaches to prevent the proliferation of the yeast including the avoidance of individual food sensitivities, dairy, mushrooms, yeasts, and moldy foods such as peanuts, cashews, and pistachios.

A number of common symptoms such as unexplained fatigue, anxiety, joint pain, headaches, or brain fog can be associated with Candida overgrowth and likely to be alleviated after implementing a Candida-friendly eating pattern; although this is easier said than done! While cutting out obvious sugars from your eating pattern may be something you should probably be doing anyway to promote positive eating, further dietary restrictions to stay Candida-friendly are best done with the help of a nutrition expert. If you are dealing with candidiasis and would like to learn more, we encourage you to work with our nutrition and culinary experts to design a plan that is right for you!

Looking for a Candida-friendly dinner? Our Coconut Seafood Curry recipe contains coconut and garlic, both of which are powerful anti-fungal ingredients that can assist in eliminating Candida overgrowth. Check out the video below and the full recipe here.


Basilia Theofilou is a contributor on our blog as well as one of the nutrition advisors here at PreviMedica. You can read more about her here.
Resources:
Kim, Joon, and Peter Sudbery. “Candida Albicans, a Major Human Fungal Pathogen.” The Journal of Microbiology J Microbiol. 49.2 (2011): 171-77. Web. 21 Sept. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21538235
Kumamoto CA. Inflammation and gastrointestinal Candida colonization. Curr Opin Microbiol. 2011 Aug;14(4):386-91. doi: 10.1016/j.mib.2011.07.015. Epub 2011 Jul 28. Review. PubMed PMID: 21802979; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3163673. Web. 21 Sept. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3163673/
Truss, Orian. “Restoration of Immunologic Competence to Candida Albicans.” ORTHOMOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY 9 (1980): 287-301. Web. 21 Sept. 2016. http://4fnfl92psu9e3d280z3z4m8q-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/research/1980-v09n04-p287.pdf

 

10 Foods for Brain Health

Brain Health

I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve used the phrase “I have a gut feeling about this” or “I have butterflies in my stomach”. Did you ever wonder why these sayings involve our brains and our stomachs? Well as it turns out, our stomach (or gut) is really our “second brain”, and every day we are learning more about this gut-brain connection.

Not only does our gut produce hormones to help digest food, absorb nutrients, and support regular bowel function, it also produces neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that impact our psychology and brain function.

As we age, we are all at risk for brain degeneration, so it only makes sense to do everything possible to care for our brain. The foods we choose could be the most significant variable we can control to enhance health, strength, and functionality of our brain. This ultimately requires taking out less healthy choices- processed foods (sugar, trans fats, unpreferred ingredients) and putting in more healthful options- foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and good fats- the best brain foods!

Here are 10 brain foods that should be part of your kitchen and everyday eating pattern:

  1. Avocados– These are packed with monounsaturated fats, keeping blood glucose levels steady. They also contains vitamin K and folate, protecting against stroke, as well as improving memory and concentration. They are also rich in B vitamins and vitamin C, which need to be replenished daily.
  2. Blueberries– These help reduce inflammation (a culprit in nearly all brain degenerative disorders), and are packed with brain-protective antioxidants. Organic berries are preferred.
  3. Broccoli– High in vitamin C, vitamin K, and sulforophane, a chemical that aids in free radical control, lowering inflammation, and the detoxification process.
  4. Coconut Oil– Provides saturated fat, a crucial nutrient for the integrity and function of brain cell membranes. Coconut oil also has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and some antioxidant properties, improving the ability of neurons in the brain to utilize energy while reducing the production of free radicals.
  5. Egg Yolks– These are rich in choline, a precursor chemical for one of the most fundamental neurotransmitters- acetylcholine. Eggs also contain cholesterol which is an important component of brain cell membranes. Organic free-range eggs are preferred.
  6. EVOO– Extra virgin olive oil contains antioxidants known as polyphenols, which are powerful brain protective antioxidants.
  7. Salmon– Atlantic wild caught salmon (not farm raised) is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids keeping our brain running smoothly. DHA plays a critical role in not only maintaining healthy neurons (brain cells), but also aids in stimulating the growth of brain cells in the brain’s memory center!
  8. Turmeric– A super spice known for its healing properties and one that has been used throughout centuries. Turmeric has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, boosting your immune system and improving brain oxygen intake.
  9. Green Leafy Vegetables– Variety, variety, variety! Dandelion greens, kale, swiss chard, and spinach are loaded with nutrients beneficial for brain health- vitamin A, K, C, potassium, iron, folate, lutein, and prebiotic fibers that help the growth of brain supportive gut bacteria.
  10. Dark Chocolate– Rich in antioxidants and possesses anti-inflammatory properties due to its polyphenol content. This can also help improve blood flow to the brain. Before getting too excited thinking that all chocolate is the same…nope! Most of the chocolate at your local supermarket is highly processed with little to no benefits. You want to go for minimally processed chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa (or higher). The darker the chocolate the more benefits!

The list does not end there! Other foods to consider include nuts, seeds, and herbs like rosemary. The bottom line: choose whole foods, plenty of variety, and minimize your intake of unhealthy options. For added brain health support, try incorporating the foods mentioned above and work towards cultivating your best brain ever!


Basilia Theofilou is a contributor on our blog as well as one of the nutrition advisors here at PreviMedica. You can read more about her here.

Previ Point of View: Paleolithic Nutrition

Paleolithic nutritionA Paleolithic way of eating has truly become a trend in recent years, and with all trends of course, some information gets missed or “modified.” If you are considering this type of eating pattern, these are the main principles:

The Paleolithic plan (also known as Paleo, Caveman diet, Old Stone Age diet, and Primal diet) bases itself on the presumption of what our ancestors ate before the beginning of agriculture. It theorizes that our bodies, more importantly our gastrointestinal system, has not adapted to the grains, dairy, legumes, and processed foods commonly consumed today. In general, this pattern of eating emphasizes high fiber vegetables, fruits, nuts, high-quality fat, lean, grass-fed meat, organic free range eggs, chicken and turkey, and fresh wild low-mercury caught fish and shellfish. Grains, starches, legumes, dairy products, refined sugars, processed foods, processed meats, artificial sweeteners, trans- fats, and refined vegetable oils are excluded. There are different versions of the Paleolithic diet. The most restricted version eliminates all starchy and root vegetables along with ghee and grass-fed butter. In the less restricted versions, these foods are allowed.

Common Misconceptions:

  • Bacon: Processed meats are not encouraged on a Paleolithic plan; therefore bacon (sausage, deli meats) are not a suitable option. Sorry Paleo bacon lovers! If you’re staying true to the foundation of Paleolithic nutrition, our ancestors were likely not eating bacon and sausage- just saying.
  • Excess Protein, Low Carb: Another common belief is that Paleolithic is a high-protein and low- or no-carbohydrate diet. Paleo does not imply increasing your protein consumption to any higher level than what would be recommended for general health. All refined carbohydrates are discouraged, while whole vegetables are encouraged. Depending on your lifestyle, your sources of carbohydrates may need to be modified (i.e. allowing root vegetables and/or legumes).
  • Protein is Protein: Well…yes and no. The quality of your protein sources matters. Nutritionally speaking, organic grass-fed beef, organic free range poultry and eggs, and wild caught seafood strongly differ compared to their conventional counterparts that have been fed a processed diet (i.e. soy, corn) and raised unsustainably. Aside from nutritional content, the importance of choosing high quality protein sources is what you are not getting- you know all the pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals (etc., etc.) that are all toxic to our bodies.

All in all, it could be that the positive outcomes from a Paleolithic style of eating may have more to do with avoiding consumption of refined/processed foods that are known to promote inflammation in our bodies, and focusing on eating more fruits, vegetables, and quality fat and protein sources to promote anti-inflammatory benefits. At the end of the day, there is not one Paleolithic type of plan out there nor is there one “diet” that is right for everyone. Whether you are staying true to Paleo “roots” or implementing a modified version of this plan, flexibility is key.

So Paleo enthusiasts and disbelievers alike, let’s be civilized primitives and take the Paleolithic plan for what it is- one type of eating pattern that aims to optimize wellness by encouraging whole foods. Whether it is the right eating style for you or not is something that a nutrition expert can help you decipher. We encourage working with one of or PreviMedica nutritionists to ensure you are receiving adequate nutrition from your current eating pattern, while addressing your goals and health needs.


Basilia Theofilou is a contributor on our blog as well as one of the nutrition advisors here at PreviMedica. You can read more about her here.

Why Gluten Free Doesn’t Always Equal Healthy

Many people are under the assumption that leading a gluten free lifestyle is a healthy choice. While this is certainly true for some, leading a gluten free lifestyle takes a lot of research and understanding into what exactly makes any food healthy. The answer isn’t always what you think. Read on to find out why!

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A common misconception many people have is that gluten free equals healthy, but this is very far from the truth.  Think about it in terms of a side dish – which is more nutritious; a side of whole grain wheat berries or a side of white rice?  The wheat berries are of course; they are less processed and are a whole grain food that is high in fiber, protein and B vitamins.  The white rice is extremely processed and full of empty, starchy calories because it has had its husk, bran and germ removed to extend its storage life, minimize cooking times and help prevent spoilage.  Unfortunately, many gluten free products available contain white rice as their primary ingredient.  Rice flour is light and starchy, and combined with other heavier gluten free flours the blend creates a texture in baked goods similar to wheat flour.  Not to mention rice is cheap for manufacturers to get and there is no shortage of it!

So what to do?  If you follow a gluten free way of eating, try to limit eating processed foods as much as you can.  This is beneficial not only because you are eliminating empty calories, but you are also eliminating added sugar since packaged foods typically contain it.  If you do want to have some crackers, pretzels, or baked goods here and there, ALWAYS read the ingredient label!  Try to stay away from items that list white rice flour as the first ingredient.  Instead, opt for the primary ingredients to be whole grain brown rice, whole grain quinoa, sorghum, or millet.  There are also a whole host of foods that contain almond flour, coconut flour, and other grain free flours.

On the flip side, just because a product contains whole grain or grain free flours it does not mean processed foods are appropriate.  These foods are still highly processed and many of their nutrients are lost in the process.  Eating homemade whole grains is always best, but if you find yourself in a bind and you need to consume convenience foods, pay close attention to the labels and opt for the products made from whole grains with no added sugars.  Read about how to recognize sugars and the different forms they come in here.

If you take a walk through the grocery store you will see many products that are labeled, “Now, Gluten Free!”.  Of course, many of these products are newly developed and the labels are correct.  But if you look closer, these types of statements are typically marketing ploys to attract your attention.  Items such as orange juice and bacon are just a few examples. Bacon has never contained gluten and orange juice most certainly hasn’t either.  The best thing you can do is educate yourself so you don’t fall for these claims.  Manufacturers are hoping that you will buy their product because they are “Now, Gluten Free!” when in reality they always have been.

Remember, gluten free does not equal healthy.  The next time you’re at the store pulling a box of crackers off the shelf, read the ingredient label to know what you are purchasing and putting into your body.  You may find yourself making a decision to put it back on the shelf – so congratulations on being an informed consumer!

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Stefanie Gates, chef, is a regular contributor to our blog and a culinary advisor for PreviMedica. She enjoys developing recipes and creating cooking videos to share with our readers, as well as working one-on-one with our clients to teach them valuable cooking skills. You can learn more about her here.

All Things Corn

Freshly picked selection:

Corn

NOLA (186 of 314) (1)

Corn is one of the oldest known food staples, and dates back to the ancient Mayan an Aztec civilizations.

Corn is now one of the most genetically modified crops in the U.S., so it is recommended to purchase organic and GMO-free when possible.

When it’s in season:

May-September

What to look for when purchasing:

You want to buy corn as fresh as possible because, once it is picked, the corn’s sugar begins to convert to starch which makes it less sweet. Look for ears with bright green, tight-fitting husks and golden brown silk. The kernels should be plump and milky, and the rows of kernels should be packed tight.

         How to store:         

Fresh corn should be cooked and served the day it is purchased or it can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Corn can also be purchased canned or frozen.

Varieties:

There are a handful of different varieties of corn with the two most popular being white corn called Country Gentleman and yellow corn, called Golden Bantam. White corn kernels tend to be smaller and sweeter than yellow corn.

How to prepare:

Strip off husks and silk just before cooking. Corn can be cooked on the cob, boiled or grilled, or the corn can be removed from the cob and cooked in various other ways.

Nutritional Benefits:

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Recipes to try:

While most people eat corn straight from the cob, it makes a great addition to salads. Check out our recipe for a protein-packed, gluten free option.

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Corn Fritters are another great way to enjoy corn. Making Thyme for Health has a great recipe that also contains zucchini.

Zucchini Corn Fritters

In addition to corn in kernel form, you can also use this versatile ingredient in the form of cornmeal for some tasty cornbread. Make the Best of Everything has a great gluten free recipe. If you are also avoiding dairy, you can easily substitute the yogurt and milk for dairy free options.

Gluten Free Coconut Oil Cornbread

Our Chefs Say:

“For a quick salsa, I throw together a small bag of frozen organic corn, 1 can black beans, chopped tomato, cilantro, and some lime juice. This combo is great for snacking on with corn chips, to add to salads, or on top of chicken or fish.” –Megan Huard, Chef RD

References:

Herbst, Sharon Tyler. Food lover’s companion: comprehensive definitions of over 3000 food, wine, and culinary terms. 3rd ed. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 1995. Print.

Mateljan, George. The Worlds Healthiest Foods. Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007. Print.

How to Bake With Less Fat & Sugar

How can you make those sweet treats laden with butter and sugar a tad more healthy? Read on to find out the purpose of fat and sugar in a recipe, and how you can replace them with healthier options to keep those treats just as tasty.

Zucchini Bread

We all love a cookie, cupcake, or muffin but unfortunately, these tasty treats can come with a lot of added undesirable fat in the form of butter, sugar, and oil.  Knowing the basics of baking and what certain ingredients do in a recipe can open a wide variety of doors when you are looking to cut down on fat and sugar in a recipe.  Let’s go over the “culprit” ingredients to begin with and then talk about the “replacements”.

  1. Sugar has a few purposes when used in baked goods. It helps create flavor, color, tenderization, serves as a preservative, and helps the baked good rise.
  2. Fat provides flavor, color, moisture, richness, acts as a preservative, and helps to shorten gluten strands making for a more tender product.

Sounds like you really can’t do without either one, right?  Well this is not necessarily true.  When you remove one or the other you do have to replace them with something.  You will have slight changes in the final product but most people don’t mind and certainly feel better about putting healthier ingredients into their recipe for less sugar, fat, and calories.

First let’s start with fat.  When you replace oil and butter you can replace half of it with other ingredients such as applesauce, pumpkin puree, banana, or even avocado.  We don’t recommend COMPLETELY eliminating the fat in your recipe because you do need some.  With that said, opt for a healthy fat replacement such as virgin coconut oil or if you want a more neutral flavor, organic almond or avocado oil.  It will keep your product tender and retain more moisture.

Sugar can be a bit more complicated.  Of course you can always replace cane sugar with agave, honey, or maple syrup.  If you use any one of these sweeteners, you should reduce the amount you use by about a third AT LEAST.  These sweeteners are much more concentrated and you are adding more moisture to the recipe that wasn’t called for than if you were using cane sugar.

If you are looking to replace sugar, some ingredients can do double duty!  Mashed bananas are a favorite due to their inherent sweetness; and they act as a fat substitute as well by adding moisture and color.  Pumpkin and applesauce can also replace sugar due to their natural sweetness.  Banana and pumpkin tend to lend a more specific flavor profile, while applesauce is a little bit more neutral in flavor.

As you can see, fat and sugar replacements go hand in hand or can be interchangeable.  Fat and sugar have similar jobs in baking, so it makes sense that substitutes would be similar in nature.  To wrap things up, let’s look at a real recipe and how we would replace ingredients to cut back on the amount of fat and sugar.

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes·         2 cups flour

·         ½ tsp. salt

·         2 tsp. baking powder

·         ½ cup butter, softened

·         ¾ cup sugar

·         2 eggs

·         1 cup milk

·         1 tsp. vanilla

 

Healthier Vanilla Cupcakes·         2 cups flour or GF cup for cup all-purpose flour blend

·         ½ tsp. salt

·         2 tsp. baking powder

·         ¼ cup virgin coconut oil (melted)

·         ¼ cup applesauce

·         1/3 cup maple syrup

·         2 eggs

·         2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

·         1 tsp. vanilla

There are a few more ingredients in the revised recipe to the right, but overall it has much less sugar and fat.  We scaled back on the amount of liquid being added due to the liquid sweetener and replaced half of the butter with oil and half with applesauce (more neutral in flavor).

If you find when you mix up your batter that it is too thin or too thick, you can always add a little more flour or liquid to it to achieve the right consistency.  If you are using whole wheat flour, just be careful not to over stir it because this will cause the gluten to develop too much leading to more dense, tough cupcakes.

The next time you make muffins or cupcakes, give it a try.  You may be surprised with how your final product turns out!

IMG_3018Stefanie Gates, chef, is a regular contributor to our blog and is a culinary advisor for PreviMedica. She enjoys developing recipes and creating cooking videos to share with our readers, as well as working one-on-one with our clients to teach them valuable cooking skills. You can learn more about her here.

All Things Cilantro

Freshly picked selection:

Cilantro

MangoCurryChicken

Cilantro is the leaf of the coriander plant. It is widely used in Asian, Caribbean, and Latin American cooking. Most people are either cilantro lovers or cilantro haters. Those who aren’t a fan of this herb and think it tastes like soap may have genetics to blame for that one.

When it’s in season:

Year round

       What to look for when purchasing:

Choose leaves with a bright green, even color and no sign of wilting.

          How to store:         

Cilantro can be stored up to 1 week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Try adding a paper towel into the bag to absorb extra moisture. You can also store cilantro by placing the bunch, stems down in a cup of water and then covering with a plastic bag in the fridge. Be sure to change the water every 2-3 days.

Varieties:

The cilantro that most of us are familiar with is leaf cilantro. There is also Vietnamese cilantro and culantro which belongs to the same botanical family and can be used interchangeably in recipes.

How to prepare:

Just before using, be sure to wash cilantro well and pat dry with a paper towel. Both the leaves and stems of cilantro are edible so you can remove the leaves from the stems but it’s not necessary.

Nutritional Benefits:

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Recipes to try:

Cilantro adds a nice fresh flavor to pretty much any dish.

We are big fans of cilantro here at PreviMedica. Here are some of our favorite recipes containing this tasty herb.

Mango Curry Chicken

Mexican Quinoa Salad

This simple salmon recipe from Juliasalbum.com is a great way to enjoy the flavor of cilantro as well. Not a salmon fan? You can easily use the same recipe for chicken or pork.

Cilantro Lime Honey Garlic Salmon

Cilantro is one of the herbs that gives chimichurri it’s fresh taste. Check out the chimichurri recipe from smartlittlecookie.net. Chimichurri is usually eaten on top of steak but you can add it to chicken, fish, shrimp, or veggies for a flavorful sauce or marinade.

Homemade Chimichurri Sauce

Our Chefs Say:

“I’m a big cilantro fan so I put it in a lot of different dishes. I use it most often to make homemade salsa with corn, black beans, red onions, tomatoes, a little bit of lime juice, and a lot of fresh cilantro.” –Megan Huard, Chef RD

 

All Things Beets

Freshly picked selection:

Beets

healthy beet recipes

Beets are a firm, round root vegetable with leafy green tops that are also edible. Aside from being eaten as a vegetable, beets are used as a main source of sugar production around the world.

When it’s in season:

April – October

What to look for when purchasing:

Beets should be firm and have smooth skins. If the greens are still attached they should be crisp and bright.

            How to store:         

Beets can be stored in a plastic bag for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. If you purchase your beets with the green tops, it is best to remove them as soon as you bring them home and before storing them, as the tops can leach moisture from the bulb.

Varieties:

There are a handful of different varieties of beets. The beets that most of us are familiar with are the typical garden variety. In addition to the garden beet, there are spinach or leaf beets (better known as swiss chard) and the sugar beets, which is used to make sugar.

How to prepare:

Beets can be prepared multiple ways. To maintain the most amounts of nutrients, it is best to lightly steam beets for 15 minutes. You can steam beets (quartered into smaller pieces) with the skin on and peel the skin off after they are cooked. Beets are also very tasty pickled or roasted.*

*Beet juice can stain your skin so it is best to wear gloves while preparing them. If your hands become stained, you can rub them with lemon juice.

   Nutritional Benefits:

Beets

Recipes to try:

We love our beet hummus recipe for a pink spin on traditional hummus!

Beet Hummus

This simple recipe from Loveandcilantro.com is a great way to eat beets in their raw form.

Orange Beet Salad

For a sweet treat made with beets, check out this berry smoothie recipe from Emilieeats.com

Very Berry Beet Smoothie

Our Chefs Say:

“I love roasted beets! I peel the skin off and cut them into bite-sized pieces, drizzle with olive oil and rosemary, and roast them for 45 minutes. I will add in some carrots and Brussels sprouts too for some added color”.  – Megan Huard, Chef RD

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