Nutrition

With Nutritional Sciences as my major, I feel it is my duty to share what I have learned so far in university (as well as my daily life) with you.  As I continue to learn, I will update this page.
 

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Hunger vs. Appetite

Hunger:  physical drive to find and eat food (stimulated by a lack of nutrients, empty GI tract, the brain…)

vs.

Appetite:  psychological desire to eat certain foods (provoked by social events, location, stress, boredom…)

… are you hungry, or do you just have an appetite?

 

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What Your Body Fears:  Starvation

By storing fat.  Your body can store unlimited amounts of it, as a method for survival.  Fat provides long-lasting energy compared to carbohydrate and protein, so if there was a day without food, your body can be somewhat prepared for it  (but that does not mean fasting is recommended for fat loss:  fasting slows down the body’s metabolism, and the weight lost is mostly water weight and lean muscle mass, not fat.  However, healthy eating and taking some classes at the gym is recommended!).  So, what are some ways the body can store fat?
The “Dangerous Three.”  You know what I’m talking about!  Sugarsalt and fat*!  In my opinion, the combination of those 3 things is the number one cause for weight gain, more so than boredom and emotional eating put together.  The “dangerous three” are flavor enhancers, they are not foods you eat by themselves.
No one eats a bowl of granulated white sugar for breakfast, no one can swallow a palm full of sea salt, and surely, no one eats a couple sticks of butter for dinner (and if they did, I would be worried!).  The human body evolved to favor these three enhancers because they are the easiest (and most of the time, tastiest) ways to get a person to eat too much, or, consume too many calories and therefore store the extras as fat.  The body was designed to gain fat, not lose it.  Because that is what your body wants, those three things are extremely addicting… you will always want more.  I discovered this with a jar of Skippy’s natural peanut butter (ingredients:  roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil and salt).  After finishing a decadently filled PB&J sandwich, I would never be satisfied…  I always wanted another sandwich (okay, maybe just a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter…  but still!).  No one can have just one Oreo, no one can take one Doritos chip, and no one can eat only one roasted walnut covered in a sugary maple glaze!  It is amazing how much sugar is added into the foods we eat.  From salsas to deli meats, from ketchup to mustard, and from pasta sauces to Boyardee’s canned ravioli!  It’s crazy how much salt can be added to something, and the same with fat.
*Don’t get me wrong, healthy fats are not bad or dangerous.  In fact, healthy fats are beneficial to the human body and for countless reasons!  It’s the bad fats (trans fats, hydrogenated oils, GMO canola oil) that are harmful to your arteries, organs and overall health.
               

 

My Experience with “The Dangerous Three”

After New Year’s Day from 2010-2011, I changed my life around.  I started exercising, eating healthy, and maintaining a positive self-image.  I cut out added sugars (white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.), and ate whole foods rather than processed foods. It helped to be prepared for what’s ahead. If I was about to have a busy day running errands, I would take healthy snacks with me so I didn’t have to go to vending machines or fast food restaurants.  For a long day of classes, I would take a few homemade protein bars with me to sustain my energy levels.  I would schedule times to go to the gym on my calendar to stay healthy and motivated.  I was tired of living an unhealthy lifestyle deprived of nutrition and energy — chocolate bars only made me happy for a shot while!

Clean, whole foods made eating an entirely new experience.  It opened up a new world that I wasn’t even aware existed!  Sure, things taste different without added sugar, but we just need to work around that.  If there was a deep pothole in front of your car on the road, would you shut off the engine and sit there?  No! You drive around it and get to your destination.

One food I “gave up” first was conventional peanut butter made with hydrogenated oils, sugar and salt. I discovered natural peanut butter made with 100% peanuts — no sugar, salt or oil added.  The texture took some getting used to, but it was still mighty tasty!  And there was another thing… I didn’t feel like licking the entire jar clean after one spoonful, just like how the conventional PB made me feel.  I realized it was because the natural peanut butter didn’t have all the excess sugar, fat and salt — “The Dangerous Three”

The second type of food I “gave up” were baked goods. The banana bread slices sold on campus, the chocolate chip muffins I used to buy everyday, etc.  I started baking at home because I stopped buying the storebought baked goods. And that’s why I started blogging!  I was circumventing that “pothole” mentioned earlier. Not only is it easy, but it’s FUN and 100% gratifying!

 

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Cravings and Snacking

Reason #1:  You snack because you are unusually hungry:

Have you ever experienced a day or two where you were unusually hungry?  Where you couldn’t stop snacking, and food was on your mind all day?  There may be a reason for it!  The next time you experience that feeling, ask yourself these questions when looking over the past couple of days:

  1. Did I eat enough?
  2. Did I consume enough fat, carbohydrate or protein?
  3. Did I have any nutrient-filled foods?
     To answer the first question, Did I eat enough, I mean, was your calorie intake (calories in the food you ate) equal to your calorie expenditure (how many calories you burned that day)?  It’s easy to forget to eat on those busy days on the go — you might wake up late and skip breakfast, have plans all the way to dinner, so that lunch is diminished to a snack bar and bottle of juice.  You are beat by dinnertime, and just heat up a frozen Lean Cuisine.  Today, your calorie intake is far below your calorie expenditure (don’t think this is a good thing because you will lose weight!  It is a bad thing, because the weight lost was most likely not fat, but rather water weight and lean muscle mass) — With a calorie deficit, your brain will make you “feel hungrier” than usual for the next couple of days, where every food looks irresistible!  That “hunger mechanism” is just your body’s way of protecting itself against another day with too little food, it is a way of getting you to eat more than you need for the next couple of days and to store the extra calories that you don’t burn as fat:  it’s the human body’s method for survival!
     To answer the second question, Did I consume enough fat, carbohydrate or protein, I mean, was the ratio of the calories you consumed balanced?  25% – 35% of your daily calories should come from healthy fats, while 45% – 65% should come from carbohydrates–45% if inactive/no exercise, 65% if very active/lots of exercise–and 10% – 30% of your daily calories should come from lean protein.  Let’s say that yesterday, you ran a couple miles on the treadmill but all you ate that day consisted of fats and protein… for the next couple of days (if not the same day) you will most likely crave of breads, pastas and sugary confections.  Don’t worry though, it’s not because your cravings are taunting you, it’s just your body telling you that it needs more carbs!
     To answer the third question, Did I have any nutrient-filled foods, I’m talking about those “off-days” where nothing you eat seems to be healthy or beneficial at all and also those busy days (as mentioned above answering Question #1).  When you don’t obtain enough nutrients from your food, your brain will most likely tell you to eat more food (in hope that the food you choose contains vitamins and minerals).  Too little food means too little nutrients!  It is impossible to get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs with a snack bar, juice and frozen meal.
Tip:  Whenever you get that overwhelming feeling of hunger, ask yourself the three questions above.  Did I eat enough?  Did I consume enough fat, carbohydrate or protein?  Did I have any nutrient-filled foods?  If you realize that maybe you didn’t have enough fat yesterday, make yourself an sandwich with some avocado, or a slice of toast with peanut butter.  Don’t grab the nearest chocolate cake you find.  It takes a few hours for that feeling to die down even after the sandwich or toast, but just be patient.  During that time, do something you love!  Read, write, relax, walk on the treadmill, run some errands.  Just don’t give in when your body is telling you, “Eat the whole peanut butter jar!”


Reason #2:  You snack because you are constantly hungry:
     My friend once told me that she was always hungry and always needed to munch on something.  Although constant snacking is usually from boredom or stress, it can also be from what you are eating.  When she told me what she ate, everything consisted of carbohydrates and nothing else–no fat, no fiber and no protein: the three things that fill you up!  Out of the three macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates and protein), carbohydrates digest the fastest.  No wonder my friend was always hungry!
     Tip:  Eat low glycemic foods, or foods that contain healthy fats, complex carbs, fiber and protein (many of my recipes are low glycemic!)  Some food products are starting to put “low glycemic” on their labels so try and look for that.

 

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Beware: Fat-Free & Sugar-Free Products

Something we need to watch out for these days, are foods advertising that they are “fat-free” or “sugar-free.”  These terms are not metaphors for “healthy.”  Healthy fats are needed in the daily diet to sustain life and regular bodily functions, like providing cell membrane structure, protecting organs and regulating body temperature.  Fat-free foods generally tend to be high in sugars, which is a diet-backlash–sugars are carbohydrates, and too many carbohydrates are easily converted into fat in the body.  In the end, that fat-free snack equals more sugar (aka, more carbs), which packs on the body fat.  A balanced meal with fat, fiber and protein is the way to go, even if the fat level is low.

As for the sugar-free products, they tend to contain sucralose and other sugar alternatives.  It’s hard to say what these ingredients can do longterm, as they are new to the food industry and there has not been enough time to show the effects of longterm use.  Aspartame, another additive, on the other hand has been shown to have detrimental effects on the human body.  If you are trying to cut added sugars, don’t keep making the foods you used to eat with Splenda or Sweet n Low, but instead, incorporate fruits into your diet (like pineapples and grapes) or use coconut sugardate sugarpure maple sugar, honey, brown rice syrup, molasses or stevia extract instead of granulated white sugar or brown sugar.

 

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Beware:  Food Fads

Vegan!  Gluten Free!  Paleo!  Low Carb!  Ahhh!

These terms might reel you in (maybe not the “ahhh” but the other ones might!) but they do not necessarily mean HEALTHY!  In fact it could mean the opposite.  On a regular basis I find recipes that prove this — I see recipes that shout VEGAN from the rooftops but are filled with refined sugar, pounds of margarine or butter substitutes and bleached flour…  that’s what I call not healthy.  I see gluten free recipes comprised of starches and sugar rather than whole grain flours so we are sent into a tailspin (sugar crashes from the high glycemic ingredients, constipation from the lack of fiber, etc)…  also what I call not healthy.

Next time you hear about a fad, just think:  will cutting out all animal products (vegan), all gluten (gluten free), all grains (paleo), all fruit (low carb), etc be beneficial for my muscles, my brain chemistry, my hormones, my feelings, and my body as a whole?  Probably not.  Health is about balance and moderation, not extreme dieting and cutting out foods for good.

 

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Seek:  Balance

Like I said above, health is about balance.  Moderation is key in discovering health and wellness, there isn’t anything extreme about it.  With food (and life) my goal is to reach and maintain balance (in science verbiage, “homeostasis“).  Speaking of food, that means a balance of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, fiber and complete proteins — a meal is not balanced without one of those things.

Typical desserts are most often never balanced as they are comprised of fats and refined carbohydrates, no fiber or protein in sight!  I aim to make all of my recipes high in fiber and protein because dessert should be a balanced meal, so now we can eat it on a daily basis!  How great does that sound?

My Peanut Butter & Chocolate Krispy Treats could easily be made up of only fats and carbohydrates but that combination isn’t nearly as satisfying as the version I made with a kick of protein!  Protein lowers the glycemic index of a food so it takes a longer time to digest (keeps you fuller for longer and provides a constant and steady stream of energy — no one likes sugar rushes and sugar crashes!)

It takes time for our bodies to digest real food (especially with the balance of fats, carbs, fiber and protein) so we can live our lives without constant hunger pangs.  When we consume unnatural, refined foods (like high fructose corn syrups, bleached sugar and flours stripped of their nutrients), our bodies digest the food at a rapid rate causing spikes in blood sugar, our capacity for fat storage and sometimes even food addictions and chemical imbalances.

If we consume disproportionate, irregular things then we will feel disproportionate and irregular.

If we strive for balance, we can acquire balance.

 

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Why You Should…

Eat:
  • More Omega-3’s:
    • Omega-3’s can be found in walnuts, salmon, tuna, flax, Barlean’s Omega Swirls (I like the lemon and mango peach flavors)
    • Helps you burn fat when you’re asleep
  • More Protein:
    • Curbs your appetite
    • Increases your metabolic rate when awake and asleep (of the calories you consume from protein, your body can burn up to 30% of it just from digesting it!)
  • Spinach:
    • It is a superfood full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which can will keep you healthy as you age!
    • It is a low-calorie veggie that can help us reach our recommended vegetable intake as well as help us lose weight
Drink:
  • Green Tea:
    • Raises metabolism (increases heart rate throughout the day, which increases fat burn)
  • Green Monsters:
    • When spinach is consumed with other fruits high in Vitamin C (like in Green Monsters) the body can absorb the iron in the spinach, whereas spinach by itself cannot release its iron
    • They are tasty (and you can’t taste the spinach!)
    • They can help us reach our recommended fruit and veggie intake (7 servings a day)
  • More Water:
    • The body is 50%-70% water, and helps dissolve substances like sugars, minerals and vitamins as well as regulate body temperature and flush out toxins
    • Not enough water causes dehydration and possibly heat stroke if in a hot, humid environment
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Click Here for a helpful and comprehensive Sweetener Comparison Guide (compares sweetness, nutrition and more)!

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Comments (11)

  1. Angee: February 9, 2013

    So helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this up and make the information not only available but easy to digest for those of us not pursuing a degree in dietetics, haha! Love your page, keep it up! :)

  2. Anonymous: February 9, 2013

    This is so helpful! I’m a 15 year old high school student with a passion for healthy eating and exercise. I also plan to do a degree in nutrition. Your blog is amazing!

  3. Anonymous: February 9, 2013

    So many awesome helpful info here! THANK YOU :D You might want to check… I’m pretty sure spinach has some of it’s own vitamin C, which of course helps with iron absorption. Another (the best) source of vitamin B is in nutritional yeast flakes, available at any health food store. Lucky it’s water soluble because with just a pinch of it in my smoothies every morning my B vitamins sky rocket! My doctor couldn’t believe I’m vegan haha (there isn’t much B12 in many vegan foods)
    Thanks again xx Kotty
    http://www.facebook.com/beahappieryou

  4. Anonymous: February 9, 2013

    *much haha

  5. Spinach has vitamin C but there needs to be another source to help with iron absorption (like a squeeze of orange or lemon over a salad) Oh yeah, nutritional yeast is great! I’m so glad you incorporate that food into your diet, so many people don’t know about it :(

  6. tllel: February 10, 2013

    I am curious of your opinion and what research you have done into the types of sweeteners you use. I am also a university student studying science (behavioral neuroscience and human physiology to be exact) and from what I have seen there is much conflicting research over new sweeteners such as stevia and erythritol. I am sure you have done extensive research into this since you use them so much. Have you found any negative, confirmed side effects of eating these sweeteners. Or do you believe they to be significantly healthier than regular granulated sugar? Thank you! When I have time/money to stock my pantry like yours I will definitely start to use some of your recipes :)

  7. I have done quite a bit of research regarding stevia and erythritol, and I have not found one credible study that has obtained negative/concrete evidence on the sweeteners. I do believe erythritol and stevia to be MUCH healthier than white sugar, because they do not have a large effect on blood sugar levels (helpful for diabetics), do not contribute to obesity (as they are basically calorie-free), and are not refined to the point white sugar is.

    White sugar is not only high glycemic and causes blood sugar levels to spike (and subsequently crash), but it has no nutritional value, is mass produced, increases fat gain, and is a toxin. Here is a good video to watch:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7403942n&tag=api&fb_action_ids=3894495795152&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%223894495795152%22:10150930807873146%7D&action_type_map=%7B%223894495795152%22:%22og.recommends%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

    If you don’t feel comfortable consuming these products, you don’t have to :) Erythritol can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio with other granulated sweeteners (preferably natural and unrefined ones, like sucanat, date sugar, maple sugar, etc). Good luck in your studies!

    -Jess

  8. Jules: April 4, 2014

    Hi Jessica ~

    I love this section as it is very informative. What are your thoughts on brown sugar or Sugar In The Raw?

    Can you please provide the link for this section:

    “Aspartame, another additive, on the other hand has been shown to have detrimental effects on the human body (read more about it here)”

  9. dessertswithbenefits: April 4, 2014

    Jules-
    Oops! I don’t know why the link was removed in that section. I don’t recall which study I referred to when I wrote that, but I found quite a few scientific studies on aspartame and its (negative) side effects just now. Here are a couple:
    -http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dailys/03/jan03/012203/02p-0317_emc-000199.txt
    -http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20886530

    The first thing I should mention is that people with Phenylketonuria (PKU) MUST avoid aspartame.

    I also want to mention that everyone has the freedom and opportunity to make their own choices and consume what they want. I choose to avoid aspartame while others may not. I don’t want to force anyone into making any decisions, I just want people to make educated choices :)
    We must also be cognizant of studies showing extreme favor for aspartame — they were most likely endorsed by an aspartame-using company (such as this one: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12180494 … which was authored by NutraSweet)! Such a shame :(

    As for brown sugar, I’m not gonna lie, I’m really not a fan. It’s actually more processed than white sugar (white sugar is stripped of its natural molasses, then it’s added back in later after more processing). I would recommend using sucanat, date sugar or coconut sugar instead :)

    Sugar in the Raw is less processed than white sugar, but it is still processed. Again, I would recommend sucanat, date sugar or coconut sugar. Sucanat is the most unrefined sugar on the market (it’s actually tan in color from the molasses and comes in slightly larger “chunks”). Date sugar pretty much tastes like dates (I don’t really like dates, but the sugar is really good in cakes, cookies and oatmeal). Coconut sugar was strange to me at first, but now I like it. I try to use it in recipes with chocolate and PB because it tastes kind of like caramel :)

    The sugar and chocolate industries promote slavery in less fortunate countries around the world, so please try to purchase fair-trade! I wish I knew this when I used to eat Hershey’s by the box :(

    Hope this helps! :)

    -Jess

  10. Susan: December 18, 2014

    Hi Jessica!
    Just got your DIY cookbook for Christmas from a friend and am so looking forward to testing out some recipes. I want to delve into nutrition and the basis behind it to learn a little bit more about the importance and effects it has on our bodies physiologically. Is there a text or book you recommend as a basic nutritional supplementation?
    Thanks

  11. Susan-
    YAY that makes me so happy!! I’m glad you got the book, I hope you LOVE it :)
    As for the nutrition textbook, I can recommend the one I got as a freshman in university. It was fun to read and easy to understand (or at least, it was for me)! They update it every year so it will be a little different than the one I read, but here is a link to it:
    http://www.amazon.com/Nutrition-You-Concepts-MyPlate-Edition/dp/0321897234
    I hope this helps! I really liked this book :)
    -Jess

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