Make friends with monounsaturated fats

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Fats get bad media! Yes, it’s true that you should reduce the amount of saturated fats and trans fats that you get in your diet, but you absolutely need unsaturated fats for your brain and your heart.

In this entry I want to give a shout out to monounsaturated fats. Did you know that monounsaturated fats can help lower your LDL cholesterol, which will reduce your risk of having a stroke or heart attack? These awesome fats also usually contain vitamin E, which most people need more of.

The best sources of monounsaturated fat are: olive oil, sesame oil, and safflower oil. Monounsaturated fats are also found in most nuts and seeds.

So befriend these healthy fats. One easy way to do so is by making your own salad dressings. Here are a few that use olive oil.

Very Basic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Italian Vinaigrette

Add ½ teaspoon minced garlic, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes to the Very Basic recipe.

Honey Mustard Recipe

Add 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 teaspoons of raw honey to the Basic recipe (it may help to melt the honey first in the microwave for 20 seconds).

Lemon Heaven Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic

Enjoy these dressings!! Your heart will thank you! Homemade salad dressings make salads so much more exciting!

 

 

 

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Peanut Butter and Honey Power Muffins for National Peanut Butter Day

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Peanut Butter lovers everywhere, rejoice! Yesterday was National Peanut Butter Day!

But, but, but? Isn’t peanut butter bad for you? Peanut butter is absolutely, positively, by no means, BAD for you. Well, to be fair, eating half a jar of peanut butter wouldn’t exactly be the best thing for you, but a healthy serving size once a day provides so many health benefits.

Let’s break it down. Peanut butter comes, of course, from peanuts. Natural peanut butter (emphasis on the NATURAL) is made up of one ingredient and that’s peanuts. In case you didn’t know, peanuts aren’t even actually a nut. They’re a legume and they grow in the ground. The peanuts are roasted and ground into a paste to make the spread.

Composed primarily of fat, a serving of peanuts also packs in about 8 grams of protein, so it’s a great plant-based protein source. Keep in mind that the fat in peanut butter is monounsaturated, a good fat that can help lower your LDL cholesterol and benefit the heart in numerous ways.

Just so you don’t get too carried away, a typical serving of peanut butter consists of two tablespoons. For two tablespoons of peanut butter you’ll get about 180 calories, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein, and 7 grams of carbs.

This is the breakdown for natural peanut butter. Now some of you may have been raised on named brand peanut butters that were packed full of sugar and other hydrogenated oils, but today, even many named brands have natural options with just the one ingredient of peanuts!

You may have seen my blog a few months ago about the benefits of peanuts (to read, click here). All of those same benefits apply to peanut butter of course. I’ll recap some of the main points:

  • Filled with monounsaturated fats that help to lower LDL cholesterol levels and raises HDL levels
  • Decreases chances of heart attack and stroke
  • Curb appetite
  • Promote weight loss
  • Packed with Fiber

The big takeaway here is that peanut butter is filled with healthy fats. Healthy fats are essential to a healthy diet. So make sure you watch out the “reduced fat” label. In these products, where the fat is taken out, sugar and other additives are added to replace it. Natural, natural, natural, I can’t say it enough!

While peanut butter can be good on toasted whole grain bread…yuuummm, there are so many other ways to use it. Be sure to try this breakfast or snack favorite of mine that I made yesterday for the celebration!

Peanut Butter and Honey Power Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups whole wheat (or gluten free all purpose) flour
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix the dry ingredients (excluding the oats) in a bowl.
  3. Melt peanut butter and honey together in microwave at 30 seconds intervals, stirring until completely combined.
  4. Allow mixture to cool before adding the rest of the wet ingredients.
  5. Once cooled, add in the rest of the wet ingredients and mix to combine
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until well combined
  7. Spray muffin tin and add mixture to tin. Each cup should be about ¾ full
  8. Sprinkle oats over top of muffins (makes them look extra yummy)
  9. Cook for 12-15  minutes or until a fork comes out clean

 

Weighing in on Weight-Loss: Healthy Fats

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I have a lot of clients who are on a weight-loss journey and so many of them have a “fat” phobia. They think if they eat fat, they will get fat, but that is not the case my friends when it comes to healthy fats. Let me clear up the conclusion.

Why You Need Fat:

Dietary fat provides you with energy, builds healthy cells, and regulates your hormones. Your brain needs fat in order to function properly—in fact, did you know that your brain is 60 percent fat? Studies have linked lack of dietary fat in one’s diet to depression as well as cognitive decline.

The Good Fats

Monounsaturated Fats: Known as MUFAs (Monounsaturated Fatty Acids), these fats actually help prevent belly fat. Even better, they help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. Good monounsaturated fats include: olive oil, cashews almonds or peanuts (this includes almond butter and peanut butter). I would recommend a quarter cup of the nut choices, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a dressing, or 2 Tablespoons of a nut butter on whole grain bread to get a nice daily serving of these good-for-you fats.

Polyunsaturated Fats: Like MUFAs, polyunsaturated fats(PUFAS) lower your LDL. And PUFAS are the specific fats that have shown amazing benefits to your brain from mood improvement to boosting brain function. In particular it is the Omega-3 form of polyunsaturated fats that your body needs most. Omega-3s are broken down into DHA, which is amazingly beneficial to your brain and EPA, which is known for its benefits you joint health and your skin. Both forms are excellent for heart health.

Omega-3s are found in fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring, as well as flaxseed and walnuts. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish a week. I would add that ground flaxseed in oatmeal is delicious (try it—a couple tablespoons a couple times a week). Like all nuts, a good serving of walnuts is one-quarter cup.

Omega-6s are also polyunsaturated fats that are found in oils like sesame oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, and safflower oil. Omega-6s benefits include the reduction of nerve pain, possibly helpful with ADHD, and they may ease Rheumatoid arthritis pain. However, too much Omega-6 compared to Omega-3 can cause inflammation and the Standard American Diet is inundated with Omega-6s because of the use of Omega-6 oils in processed food. If you reduce the amount of processed food that you consume, the safer you will be!

The Bad Fats

Saturated Fat: A high consumption of saturated fats will result in weight gain, not to mention that they raise your LDL cholesterol and can increase heart-disease risk. Saturated fat is found in most meat and in full-fat dairy like butter, milk, cream, cheese, etc. I recommend eating lean meat like chicken or turkey breast or leaner cuts of beef like sirloin. I also recommend eating low-fat cheese and drinking skim milk.

Trans Fat: Trans fat has gotten a lot of media attention the past decade ever since food companies were required to list the amount of trans fat in their foods starting in 2006. Trans fats are generally oils (partially hydrogenated soybean oil for example) that extend the shelf life of food. They raise your LDL, lower your HDL, and cause inflammation throughout the body, including weight gain.

The bottom line here is to read nutrition labels and look for 0 grams of trans fat and avoid fried food as much as possible because the majority of fried food has trans fat.

Now that you are clear on fat, make sure to include some good fats on your weight-loss journey.

 

 

Celebrate World Pistachio Day with Me

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Happy World Pistachio Day! Yes, that’s right, today is a day to celebrate pistachios. Let me give me a little Pistachio 101 lesson on this little powerhouse. Related botanically to cashews and mangoes, pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees, and are one of the only two nuts mentioned in the Bible. Americans started enjoying pistachios in the 1800s, but the first commercial crop wasn’t harvested until 1976. Today, California produces 300 million pounds of pistachios a year. They are also produced in Syria, Greece, Italy, and Turkey.

These little green nuts. are packed with amazing nutrients, such as B-complex, healthy mono-unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, vitamin E, copper and other minerals. Studies show that daily consumption of nuts, like pistachios, may reduce the risk of heart disease and may lower blood pressure. Emerging research shows that pistachios can help manage blood-sugar levels even when consumed with a high-carbohydrate meal. Now, that’s powerful!

Here are some more fun facts about pistachios:

  • One serving of pistachios is 49 nuts! No deprivation here!
  • New research shows that your serum antioxidant levels rise when you at pistachios.
  • New research also shows that your LDL (BAD!) cholesterol levels can lower when you eat pistachios.
  • Here’s my favorite! Pistachios can make you happy! These little green nuts are actually referred to as the smiling nut in Iran and the happy nut in China.

I enjoy many of the pistachio products made by Setton Farms. Pistachio Chewy  Bites are awesome and handy little snacks to take with me when I travel. They are so simple and natural and yummy-a pistachio cranberry combo. If you are a chocolaholic, you will love their Dark Chocolate Pistachios. If you like things to be spiced up a little, try their flavored pistachios. Setton’s flavored pistachios are available in five different flavors. Consumers can choose from Chipotle BBQ, Chili-Limon, Garlic Onion, Jalapeno and Salt & Pepper.

Did you know there were so many fun ways to enjoy pistachios? Try any of these—you will thank me!

 

Let’s Talk About Fat

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These are GOOD fats!

 

Fat is often deemed the enemy; people fear that the fat they consume will end up on their midsection.  However, the truth is that not all fats are bad. In fact, we all need fat for survival; it is essential for brain, nerve, and skin cells to function properly and grow.

Did you know that you also need fat to surround your organs as a protective layer that insulates and holds them in place? Without this surrounding fat, you experience more pain and discomfort and you may develop other health issues. Also, fat is used to regulate your overall body temperature. This is something that most people don’t really think about, but your body is focused on keeping you alive and healthy; fats help you in this process.  And fat is responsible for giving you energy as well! You need to simply become aware of what types of fat are good for you and what fats are bad for you.

You want to avoid saturated fats and trans fats. These two fats are solid at room temperature. Butter is an example of saturated fat. Most people have butter sitting on their counter all day and night, year-round. Notice how the shape of the butter stays the same no matter how long it stays out of the refrigerator. Crisco is an example of trans fat. Many people use this in baking; it stays solid in their cupboard for years.  Consuming these types of fat will raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol levels. In doing this, your chances of having a stroke or developing heart decrease greatly increase.

The two types of fats we need in our diets to survive are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These two types of fats are liquid at room temperature. Olive oil and canola oil are examples of these beneficial fats. The good fats increase your good levels of cholesterol and lower your bad levels of cholesterol, lowering your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. Some other helpful examples of good fats are avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish like tuna or salmon.

Don’t be afraid to eat some fat in your everyday lives. Become aware of the type of fats in your go-to snacks and meals and see if you can mix it up to be healthier! Try making your eggs with olive oil instead of butter. Look to nuts and dried fruit for a snack instead of cookies and candy, which are often laden with saturated fat and trans fat. Once you become aware and knowledgeable about what you are putting in your mouth, the rest will fall into place!