3 News Articles

I know I reviewed a news article just last week, but this week I wanted to try something new and discuss multiple articles at once.

My hope is to provide more information at a time. Reviewing multiple articles also means I won’t get into the same level of detail – but this may make my postings easier to get through (I know not everyone is as interested in the scientific details and mechanisms).

The first article is about the updated F.D.A. guidelines recommending women that are pregnant or breast-feeding consume at least 8 ounces, or half a pound, of fish a week. This is a major shift in our nation’s guidelines.

Some fish, such as albacore tuna, have high levels of mercury that can be dangerous to women and infants. However, sardines and salmon (that happen to have the highest omega-3 content), will have much lower mercury because they simply do not live as long. As previously mentioned, mercury binds with selenium (found in high amounts in fish) so our bodies will not absorb the mercury.

An interesting thing I learned back in college: in the U.S., we recommend women avoid alcohol and eat vegetables while they are pregnant. However, in France, pregnant women used to be told to consume wine and to avoid certain vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.

As with everything, our knowledge is constantly changing and food producers are powerful enough to influence health recommendations.

Just consume the foods humans were meant to eat, in the quantity that is realistic in nature, and be aware of food sources. This way you will know if it contains more of something (mercury) or less of another (magnesium) than it once did.

The next article goes along with the typical understanding we are slowly coming around to – that saturated fat has no correlation with heart disease.

By now, we know that the science to vilify saturated fat and cholesterol was falsified:

“But as Tiecholz and other critics point out, Keys cherry-picked the seven countries he visited: the United States, the Netherlands, Finland, Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece and Japan.
Noticeably absent? Countries well known for their rich fatty foods but without high rates of heart disease, like Switzerland, Sweden and West Germany.
Based on his study, Keys promoted the Mediterranean diet: a diet high in fruits and vegetables, along with bread, pasta, olive oil, fish and dairy. But Teicholz pointed out that Keys visited Greece during Lent, a time when people abstain from eating meat, which in turn skewed his data.”

But, I also wanted to share this article for another quote:

“Take the 30-year follow-up to the landmark Framingham Heart Study, for example. It is one of the largest epidemiological studies evaluating the roots of heart disease in our country.
In the follow-up, scientists found that half the people who had heart attacks had below-average cholesterol levels. In fact, scientists concluded that “for each 1% mg/dL drop of cholesterol, there was an 11% increase in coronary and total mortality.””

This shows that lower total cholesterol levels increases ones risk of death!

I still think triglycerides, carried by oxidized (small and dense) LDL particles, can be a good predictor of inflammation and cardiovascular risk. However, high total cholesterol, with high HDL and fluffy and benign LDL, is actually protective for the body.

And, finally, the last article I’ll share with you today is comparing the sugar content of fruit juice and sugar.

Sound familiar? Scroll back a few months on my blog and you’ll see a post I had detailing how drinking orange juice is the same as drinking a coke, taking a fiber pill, and a multivitamin. Well, now the mainstream is coming around!

I always stay open to new information, and love to learn when I’m wrong, because it means I’m learning something new…but I do have to pat myself (and my “nutrition guru” peers) on the back occasionally.

Not that staying more up-to-date on research and delving into biological and chemical mechanisms more often than CNN, New York Times, and NPR is any amazing feet – things only make the news when there’s a catchy headline, photo, or agenda!

Well, I hope these 3 articles were interesting and helped provide just a few more reasons to move away from a diet based on processed foods and towards a lifestyle based around nature.

See you next week!

The Most Nutritious Foods

As many of you know by now, I try to consume the most nutritious foods possible. However, I’ve never listed exactly what foods provide the most nutrients per serving.

Advertisements claim that certain foods are important nutritionally. Markets assign numbered scores to various products. Most of these rating systems, such as NuVal and ANDI, are inaccurate for a number of reasons.

First, they look at nutrients that are not essential for life, and conversely, overlook nutrients that are necessary for life. Second, they draw from disproved nutritional norms, such as dietary cholesterol and saturated fat being “bad”. Thirdly, they are designed by agricultural companies or individuals with a bias.

Scientists, such as Loren Cordain and Mat Lalonde, have done extensive work in the last few decades to redesign nutrient rating systems. They set aside non-essential nutrients in food and focused purely on what the body must consume from outside sources.

The body cannot produce the following:

Fatty Acids: Omega 3 and Omega 6

Amino Acids: isoleucine; leucine; lysine; methionine; phenylalanine; threonine; tryptophan; valine; histidine

Vitamins: A; Bp (choline); B1 (thiamine); B2 (riboflavin); B3 (niacin); B5 (pantothenic acid); B6; B7 (biotin); B9 (folic acid); B12; C; D; E; K

Minerals: calcium; chloride; chromium; cobalt; copper; iodide; iron; magnesium; manganese; molybdenum; nickel; phosphorus; potassium; selenium; sodium; sulfur; zinc

These nutrients were plugged into the following formula to determine nutrient density:

(sum of essential nutrients per serving) ÷ (weight per serving)

I’d like to make a few points before posting Mat’s nutrient density list.

First, the database he drew from did not have complete data for certain nutrients.

The database did not differentiate between preformed vitamins and their final form. Vitamin A, “beta-carotene”, in sweet potatoes and carrots, must be converted to “retinol”, found in egg yolks and liver. Vitamin K1, found in green leafy vegetables, requires conversion to K2, found in grass-fed dairy.

There was no way to account for bioavailability of nutrients. Most grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds contain high levels of phytates which prevent absorption of nutrients and minerals.

Finally, and most importantly, the diet, age, and lifestyle of animals were not specified. Grass-fed beef, raised on open pastures, is much healthier than corn-fed beef, raised in stalls that restrict movement. Also, mature ducks having more nutritional value than baby ducks.

Taking this unavailable data into consideration, we can assume that most animal products would move up a few spots. This is because most plants have limited amino acids and fatty acids, and the vitamins found in vegetables must be converted or activated.

Without further ado, the ranking of nutrient density averages for the food groups:

1.) Organ Meats and Oils
2.) Herbs and Spices
3.) Nuts and Seeds
4.) Cacao
5.) Fish and Seafood
6.) Pork
7.) Beef
8.) Eggs & Dairy
9.) Vegetables (raw & unprepared)
10.) Lamb, Veal, and Wild Game
11.) Poultry
12.) Legumes
13.) Processed Meat
14.) Vegetables (cooked, canned, blanched, pickled)
15.) Plant Fats and Oils
16.) Fruit
17.) Animal Skin and Feet
18.) Grains and Pseudocereals (cooked)
19.) Refined and Processed Fats and Oils
20.) Grains (canned)
21.) Processed Fruit

Many people will be surprised by how low grains appear on the list. The nutrient value of raw grains would place them in the top 5. However, our bodies cannot digest raw grains. Taking nutrient loss during cooking and expansion of grains (1/4 cup raw rice = 1 cup cooked rice) into account, their value decreases dramatically.

I was quite surprised to see herbs, spices, and cacao near the top of the list. I always considered these foods to be enjoyable additions to a healthy diet, but not the most valuable sources of nutrients.

Two final notes regarding this list:

It is not a requirement to eat the most nutritious foods all the time. Certain nutrients, such as activated vitamin A (retinol) and selenium (abundant in Brazil nuts) are actually toxic in high doses.

Second, as previously mentioned, this rating system only looks at essential nutrients. Many vegetables contain antioxidants and fiber that can improve health, even though they are non-essential for life.

I would recommend consuming foods higher on this list and keeping your meals full of vegetables.
For Mat Lalonde’s complete presentation, follow this link to YouTube.

Matheiu Lalonde has a PhD in Organic Chemistry and a postdoctoral degree in Inorganic Chemistry from Harvard. He teaches, lectures, and is the Science Safety Officer at Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. I have to give him credit for the motivation behind, and information in, this post.

I hope this sets aside all confusion of what is best to eat.

Keep in mind that human-run studies can be flawed, correlations from epidemiological studies can be weak, and research can be conducted to prove a point, rather than discover the truth, but the actual make-up of foods cannot be disputed!

Salmon on Asparagus

I received such positive responses from the steamed mussels’ recipe that I decided to post another recipe – this time for smoked salmon!

The best thing about salmon is that it has the highest Omega 3 content of almost any food in the world…however, make sure you buy wild-caught!

Food producers feed corn to farm-raised salmon, thus increasing the omega 6 content while decreasing omega 3 content. This is to say nothing of other negative outcomes from feeding a species a food they can’t properly digest.

I am aware that high-quality wild-caught salmon can be quite expensive, sometimes over $20/pound. For this reason, I would again urge everyone to check the pre-packaged, frozen seafood section. I know the store near me has frozen, wild- and sustainably-caught salmon for $5/pound…this is after a buy-one-get-one or half-price sale that seems to be permanent.

I like to cook my salmon on a bed of asparagus but honestly, the asparagus can end up being as expensive as the salmon so feel free to substitute another vegetable!

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Salmon in Parchment Paper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut two sheets of parchment paper about 1 foot by 1 foot

Fold both in half and cut the edges to form a half circle

After unfolding each, you should have 2 circles, equal in size

Line asparagus in middle of one sheet and place salmon on top

Add olive tapenade or coconut oil on salmon

Place the second circle over everything so the edges of parchment papers line up

Going around the outside of the circles, fold the edges over, sealing the sheets

Place on an oven tray and cook for 12 minutes

Remove from oven, cut open parchment, and allow to cool

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One important detail of this recipe is the use of parchment paper. This will protect the salmon from direct heat, resulting in a steaming affect, protecting the omega 3’s and other nutrients from oxidization.

Chopped olives or coconut goes well with this, but avocado or sweet potato would work too. Basically, you want to make sure you pair an energy source, a carb if you’re active or a fat if you’re sedentary, with this complete protein.

Like last time, I have to indulge my nerdy side and list the impressive nutritional profile of salmon:

Just 3 ounces contains the following:

22 grams of complete protein

2200mg Omega 3 and only 190mg Omega 6

40-60% daily needs of Selenium, Vitamin B12 & B6, and Niacin

20-25% of Riboflavin and Phosphorus

10-15% of Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium, and Copper

It also contains trace amounts of activated Vitamin A (retinol), Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Sodium, Zinc, and Manganese.

While on the subject of salmon’s nutrient content, it is worth discussing the value of salmons’ high selenium content.

Our oceans have very high levels of mercury which could be quite dangerous, particularly for smaller people and pregnant women. Some sources even recommend limiting fish intake for this reason. While this may be a good idea for larger fish that don’t have as many minerals and nutrients, such as tuna, limiting consumption of salmon would be a terrible idea.

Chemically, selenium binds with mercury, thereby removing it from the body and eliminating any danger. The one downside of this process however, is that much of the selenium content of fish is not absorbed. For this reason, you may want to make sure you are getting enough selenium from other sources (just one or two Brazil nuts will give you all you need for the day).

And with that, you now have two amazingly beneficial, and hopefully tasty, recipes. Both should amount to about $5 per serving or less and provide a great deal of your nutrient needs for the day.  Also, considering both are seafood dishes, they would be perfect additions to a vegetarian diet.

Enjoy!

Steamed Mussels

steamed mussels

Let’s try a new topic for today’s post – a quick and simple recipe for one of the most nutritious and tasty meals you can eat – steamed mussels!

Two of the biggest barriers to healthy eating are cost and time. With this meal, neither of those should be an issue.

Mussels are one of the few creatures that can be “farm-raised” without any major detriment to their life and resulting nutritional quality. Farm-raised fish are fed diets of soy and corn or forced to grow in overpopulated areas. However, mussels attach to a surface and filter their food from the water so there is little need for producers to manipulate their development.  For this reason, you will be able to find affordable frozen bags of mussels in the pre-packaged seafood section of your market. One market near me always has 3 lbs for $5.99.

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Now, to the kitchen:

Pour mussels directly into large empty pot

Cover and cook on high for 10-15 minutes

Once mussels have opened, uncover and remove from heat

While they cool, melt a few tablespoons of grass-fed butter in frying pan

Add crushed garlic, chopped shallots, Italian seasonings, cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper

Separate soft edible parts of mussels from shell and toss in butter and seasonings for a minute

Turn off heat and place spinach or other green leafy vegetables on top of mussels and cover

Let sit for 5 minutes as greens cook down

Optional: Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and vinegar before serving

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Counting prep time, this should take less than 30 minutes. I made these over the weekend and portioned them out as my lunches for Tuesday and Thursday. They have been amazing!

Now, to the lab:

Haha, I crack myself up. But in all seriousness, I did want to share the unbelievable nutrient quality of mussels. Just 3 ounces of mussels, maybe half a serving, contains the following:

700mg Omega 3 and 20g protein

15 – 30 % of Vitamin C; Thiamin; Riboflavin; Folate; Niacin; Zinc; Iron; and Phosphorus needs for the day

100% Selenium; 300% Manganese; and 340% Vitamin B12

Selenium, Manganese, and Vitamin B deficiencies are extremely common in the United States. Also, considering their high-quality protein and omega-3 content, they are the perfect food to round out a pesco-vegetarian diet.

For these nutritional reasons, as well as the rich buttery taste, I prepare a couple dishes of mussels every month or two.

I hope this post, albeit shorter, proves to be even more practical. Like everything else: experiment! If it tastes good to you, that’s all that matters!

Enjoy!