Sweet Potatoes vs. White Potatoes

Happy weekend! It’s Friday night and you could not be more ready for dinner out with some friends after a long work week! After perusing the restaurant menu for a few minutes you order the juiciest, most delicious looking burger you’ve ever seen. Then the waitress asks what kind of potato you’d like for your side dish. Decisions, decisions, decisions! You choose to go the “healthier” route and substitute sweet potato fries for the regular fries. Why? Well you figure that because sweet potatoes are orange, that means they are healthier…right?

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In the above scenario, neither option is really that healthy because they are both fried. It doesn’t matter what colour the potato is, a fried potato is a fried potato – BAD!!

All fried things aside, let’s take a look at the nutritional difference between sweet potatoes and white potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes:

  • High in beta-carotene, a mineral that helps our eyesight and is responsible for the orange color of sweet potatoes and carrots.
  • Slightly higher in vitamin C, which helps our immune system as well as fights heart disease and complications of diabetes.
  • Higher in Calcium, which helps in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.
  • High in Vitamin A, which supports growth and development, eye health and our immune system
  • Roughly 7 times higher in sugar than white potatoes

White Potatoes:

  • Slightly higher in calories
  • Lower in sugar
  • Slightly higher in carbs than a sweet potato
  • Higher in essential minerals such as magnesium, iron and potassium
  • High in fibre especially when eaten with the skin on (e.g. baked potato)
  • More versatile in cooking and cheaper than sweet potatoes

The Verdict?

Both sweet potatoes and white potatoes can be a healthy choice! Both leave us satiated (full) after eating and are good sources of energy, vitamins and minerals.

The real issue is the form in which you consume the potato. White potatoes usually end up slathered in things like cheese, sour cream, butter, bacon or gravy, and sweet potatoes in brown sugar and marshmallows. Or they are fried and then piled with fatty toppings!

No matter what colour of potato you choose, baking, boiling or roasting are the healthier methods of cooking potatoes!

What kind of potatoes do you like?

Did You Know?

Yams and sweet potatoes are both sweet, tuberous roots, but they are actually NOT the same thing! Both tubers can be found in different colors, shapes and sizes but true yams have a more tough, hairy and darker skin while true sweet potatoes have a more smooth and orange skin. Sweet potatoes also contain more Vitamin A and C than yams, while yams contain more sugar than sweet potatoes. Yams are also toxic if eaten raw and therefore need to be cooked before eating. Who knew!?!

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References:

Kale Caesar Salad

“Mom, can we make this our regular salad from now on?”

That was my brother’s request after I made this salad for my family. Big deal, you say. Well, considering he is generally the non-vegetable-loving type, him saying that actually was a pretty big deal. So much so that my mom asked him if he was feeling okay! Ha! The salad must be good! ;)

As part of an assignment last semester, we had to get together with a group of our classmates and have a potluck dinner. One of the other girls brought this salad, and I, who had never tried kale before but was very eager to, happily helped myself to some to try. And then very happily helped myself to seconds. And would have had thirds had it not been all gone. Oh. My. YUM. It was so stinkin’ good!

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*This is definitely not the best picture to represent the deliciousness that is this salad. It looks like there is melted better all over the kale – yuck (It’s actually shredded Parmesan). I guess I will just have to make it again to get a better one. Oh shucks. :D

Kale Caesar Salad

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 8 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 7-8 cups of kale leaves (centre stalks removed)

Combine the first four ingredients in a blender; purée until smooth. With machine running, slowly add oil, drop by drop, to make a creamy dressing. Transfer dressing to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Cover and chill.

Toss kale and dressing in a large bowl to coat. Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and eggs.

Yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum yum YUM!

I think using kale for a salad is a really nice change. I find it much more filling than romaine or other greens, and the taste really isn’t all that different from spinach. It also looks so neat with its curly leaves!

What’s your favourite way to eat kale? I have heard amazing things about kale chips but have yet to try them. Soon!!

Fibre

No doubt you’ve seen products that boast the nutritional claim “high in fibre”. What exactly is fibre? And why are high amounts good for you?

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Fibre is the name given to the indigestible parts of food that pass through our body. Fibre is what gives shape and texture to our food, like the crunch of an apple or the chewiness of whole grain bread. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble Fibre

  • Absorbs water
  • Slows movement of food through intestine and provides bulk to the stool (so we don’t have diarrhea all the time)
  • E.g. oats, barley, legumes, nuts, psyllium, fruits (apples, bananas, oranges)

Insoluble Fibre

  • Attracts, but does not absorb water
  • It is the tough, fibrous structure of fruit, veggies and grains
  • Speeds up movement through the intestine and helps with stool elimination (so we are not constipated all the time!)
  • E.g. wheat bran, whole grains, flaxseed, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, skins of fruits and root vegetables

As you can see, it is important to have a mix of BOTH soluble and insoluble fibre. We don’t want to have diarrhea all the time but we don’t want to be permanently constipated either!

Besides keeping our digestive system going, dietary fibre is important in other ways:

  • May reduce the risk of heart disease by delaying or physically blocking the absorption of dietary cholesterol into the bloodstream. Fibre also contributes small amounts of fatty acids that may lower the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to healthful levels in our bodies
  • Helps control blood sugar. Along with slowing the movement of food, soluble fibre also slows the release of glucose into the blood, improving the body’s regulation of insulin production and blood glucose levels.
  • Reduces the risk of diverticulosis, a condition that is caused in part by trying to eliminate small, hard stools.
  • Helps in the maintenance of a healthy body weight because foods that are high in fibre often make us feel fuller for longer

Where does fibre come from?

  • Skin on fruits (apples, pears)
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Bran
  • Whole grains like oats, barley, rye and wheat  (*Make sure it says “whole” before grain!)
  • Dates, prunes
  • Ground flaxseed (contains both soluble and insoluble fibre!)
  • Chia seeds

How much fibre should we be eating?

The recommended adequate intake of fibre is 25g/day for women and 38g/day for men. Most Canadians consume less than HALF of this amount. Not good!

An example menu for a daily intake of ~30g of fibre includes:

  • High fibre cereal for breakfast with a piece of fresh fruit
  • Sandwich made with whole grain bread for lunch plus fresh raw vegetables with hummus dip
  • Snack of low-fat yogurt with slivered nuts and dried fruit
  • Spaghetti made with whole-wheat pasta and a garden salad for dinner
  • Fresh fruit for dessert

Other tips on fibre:

  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables as a snack more frequently
  • When choosing foods like bread or breakfast cereal, select those that have at least 2-3g of fibre per serving
  • Eat foods like potatoes, apples and pears with the skin on
  • Use hummus as a dip for raw veggies (tons of fibre in chickpeas!)
  • Eat legumes frequently. Canned or fresh beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Sprinkle wheat germ, bran, or ground flaxseeds on yogurt, cereal, or add to smoothies.
  • Add nuts, seeds or dried fruit to yogurt and salads

Every little bit helps!

Super Size Me

Let me start by saying that I am not a fast-food eater and never really have been. As a kid I occasionally ate out at places like McDonald’s or Tim Hortons (those darn playgrounds at McDonald’s, so inviting for kids!), but it was extremely occasional. The most fast-food I eat now is a light salad or something similar if I’m on a road trip and have no other option, but other than that I don’t ever eat fast-food. I’ve never even been to a Harvey’s, Burger King, A&W or Taco Bell!

The last time I ate at McDonald’s was in grade 12. I went on a school trip to New York City and part of the trip was to Chinatown for dinner. My friends and I, being the non-Chinese-food-loving type, ended up at the only non-Chinese food place in Chinatown – McDonald’s. I was so reluctant to eat there because the thought of their fatty, processed, prepackaged food really disgusted me but I was starving and knew that it was my one and only chance to eat something before breakfast the next day. So I tried to play it safe and got a chicken snack wrap (or something like that. I can’t quite remember). Turned out even that wasn’t safe. I felt so sick that night that I swore I would never eat at McDonald’s again even if it was the last food-service place on Earth. I have not eaten there since.

I have heard a lot of talk about this movie in the past and being a Nutrition student, I decided it was probably time that I watched it.

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All I can say is WOW.

If you eat fast-food, you have to watch this movie. If you are looking to cut down your fast-food intake, you have to watch this movie. If you are looking for some healthy-eating inspiration, you have to watch this movie. If you are looking for a movie about food to boggle your mind, you HAVE to watch this movie. Seriously. My jaw was on the floor 5 minutes in.

Morgan Spurlock is your average, healthy, fit American. He wants to do an experiment on himself to create awareness about the current obesity epidemic in the United States. He decides that for one month, he will eat only food from McDonald’s.

Fast forward fourteen months and Morgan is finally back to his pre-experiment health. That’s right, FOURTEEN months of healing for one month of damage. I knew before watching this movie that places like McDonald’s were not healthy for you and could cause health problems but I didn’t know exactly how drastic those problems could be. It is seriously frightening.

Now, this movie is primarily focused on McDonald’s, but that doesn’t mean that other fast-food joints any healthier or fine to eat at regularly. Nuh uh. It is the processed, already-prepared, pre-packaged food they all serve that is the problem. Of course it’s “fast” food, it was cooked three weeks ago and loaded with additives and preservatives to keep it that way until you go to Mickey D’s and order your Big Mac!

There are many other stories about people eating off the “healthy” menu at McDonald’s for a length of time and losing weight, or doing something similar at Starbucks or Subway. In my opinion it doesn’t matter what kind of “healthy” menu a fast-food place has, it’s still “fast” food and fast-food is complete and utter garbage.

When was the last time YOU ate fast-food? How did you feel afterwards?

Good Food In Your Fridge = Good Food In Your Stomach

People often ask me how I manage to eat so healthy and avoid junk food so easily. Simple…I just don’t buy it! If that kind of food is not around my house for me to eat, then I can’t eat it! Plus if there is already perfectly good food in my fridge, I can’t seem to justify going out and spending unnecessary money on unhealthy food. If you keep good food in your fridge/cupboards, then you will eat good food!

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The Gluten Summit

Way back in November I signed up for “The Gluten Summit,” a free, week-long webinar series that talked about all things gluten. I was so excited! Each day you were sent a link to 3-5 videos featuring interviews with health professionals talking about everything from Gluten & Your Brain, Gluten & Cardiac Health, Celiac Disease, Gluten & Children, Gluten & Eating Out, GMOs & Gluten and so much more. Naturally it ended up being THE busiest week of the school semester and the videos were only available for 24 hours unless you bought a package, so I wasn’t able to watch all the featured videos. However, the few I did watch were so interesting, I thought I would do a little review on The Gluten Summit.

(Coincidentally, they are actually doing a “part two” of sorts starting NEXT WEEK! Details below!)

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Here are the videos I watched and the main points I took away from them:

Modern Wheat: It’s More Than Wheat – Dr. William Davis (author of The Wheat Belly)

  • Believes wheat consumptions is a wide-spread societal problem causing illness, obesity and suffering
  • If you don’t control blood sugar, you will lose control of cardiovascular risk and coronary plaque and you WILL have heart issues (heart attack, stints, etc.)
  • What does blood sugar have to do with wheat? The glycemic index (how high your blood sugar goes 90 minutes after eating) of wheat is among the highest of all foods!
  • 50% of all human calories consumed worldwide now come from grains (*I guess this is why people freak out so much when the idea of eating gluten-free is presented. That’s a significant food group to cut out!)
  • High blood sugar levels lead to formation of LDLs, which linger in the bloodstream for at least a week. For example, if you eat a slice of bread on Sunday, you have increased cardiovascular risk for a week! (*Yiiiikes!)
  • Is a gluten-free diet bad for you? No, but a “bad” gluten-free diet IS bad for you! Remember, you can follow a gluten-free diet without every buying specialty products!
  • Corn starch, rice flour, tapioca starch and potato starch increase blood sugar MORE than wheat (*Gluten-free foods are often full of these things in place of regular flour, which is why I try and avoid gluten-free foods. There would be no point in avoiding wheat and its effects on blood sugar if I was just going to eat all these starches instead!)
  • The protein in corn can be problematic for some people (*This is interesting as I know a few people who have gluten sensitivity and also corn sensitivity). 
  • Majority of your diet should be based on lots of vegetables, quality proteins and healthy fats

The Reality of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) and Its Many Manifestations – Umberto Volta, MD

  • Still no biomarkers or diagnostic tests available for NCGS
  • Causes inflammation in the small intestinal mucosa, which leads to malabsorption of nutrients
  • Extraintestinal symptoms = fatigue, headache, foggy mind, skin rash, nutritional deficiencies, iron-deficiency anemia, osteoporosis
  • Most frequent associated disorder is lactose intolerance (*This is also interesting as I know people with gluten sensitivity who also are lactose intolerant). 
  • FODMAPS (short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine) may play a role in NCGS. Present in dairy, legumes, onions and other foods. (*An answer at last! Last semester I was having awful side effects from something I was eating and after reading this I realized it was onion. We eat little to no onion at home but where I am living this year they put onion in absolutely everything and turns out my body does not enjoy it. Crazy what seemingly normal things can negatively affect your body!)
  • A naturally gluten-free diet includes meats, rice, corn, veggies, eggs, gluten-free pasta and gluten-free flours.

How the Right Diet Can Address Symptoms Throughout The Body – Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN, CHN

  • 2/3 of our immune system is in our digestive system, therefore it is extra important to take good care of our digestive system!
  • The average American east 130-145lbs of sugar each year as table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (*That’s roughly like eating your own body weight in sugar. Gross!)
  • Sugar contains no nutrients, yet requires many nutrients to metabolize (*This is why it is called “empty calories”)
  • “If we had medicines that were as powerful as foods, they would be the #1 selling medicines of all time.” (*I love this! It reminds me of this quote – so powerful!)
  • Diets that avoid grains and carbs seem to be the most gut-healing long-term. 
  • We should frequently enjoy foods that encourage good gut bacteria (e.g. yogurt with live probiotic bacteria, fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, miso soup, olives, pickles)
  • We produce more neurotransmitters in our intestine than in our brain. It is a viscious cycle of mental state impacting gut and gut health impacting brain. (*Interesting thought. Perhaps this is why certain health issues like depression and anxiety have been associated with gluten?)
  • Recommend a “real food diet” for optimal intestinal health: fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, oils, nuts, seeds and beans

How Sensitivity To Gluten Can Impact Your Heart & Cardiovascular System – Mark Houston, MD

  • Two predominant factors in the epidemic of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease: (1) poor nutrition – not enough fruits and veggies, too many fast foods and frozen foods and (2) lack of exercise. These two factors alone could decrease the risk for ALL disease by up to 70% in the USA alone (*WOW!)
  • Idiopathic cardiomyopathy (swelling of the heart) decreases on a gluten-free diet as does risk for other heart related issues.
  • Believes gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are going to become predominant as a measurable risk factor for cardiovascular disease (*Serious stuff!)
  • Blood antibodies don’t stop being produced the day the patient stops consuming gluten. They have a life of 2-3 months and it takes 1-2 months to stop the production of new antibodies. This means that dinner roll you had the other night is going to stick around causing havoc in your blood/cholesterol/cardiovascular system for up to 3 months! (*Certainly makes you think twice about “cheating” now, doesn’t it? Wow!)

Is your head spinning? Mine is. Definitely a lot of food for thought! I found it really interesting how each expert had a different idea about what kind of diet is the “right” diet. I think it just goes to show how this field is constantly evolving. We may never know which way is the absolute “right” way!

As I mentioned above, the same folks who ran The Gluten Summit are now doing a follow-up webinar that is running January 30th to February 2nd called “Now That You Know, Where Do You Go?” You can register for free here!

I’ve also found another webinar similar to The Gluten Summit but all about Paleo! Featuring over 25 renowned experts from best selling authors, nutritionists and renowned chefs to Olympic athletes and everybody in-between, they are sharing all things Paleo including Paleo myths, implementing a Paleo diet, easy Paleo recipes and more. This webinar is also free and starts January 27th. You can register for PaleoCon here! I am really looking forward to this series!

If that isn’t enough for you, there is another webinar series called “The Future of Nutrition” also running next week, from the 27th to the 31st. There are over 50 health professionals sharing information on topics such as The Animal Free Diet, The Addictive Brain, The Ancestral Approach, The Power Of Your Gut Microbiome, Food Allergies, Eating & Exercise, Nutrition & Immunity, Food & The Brain, Dieting & Metabolism, Raw & Wild Foods, Eating for Longevity, The Future of Supplements and more. I am SUPER excited for this one! You can register for The Future of Nutrition Conference here.

Talk about amazing resources! Who needs school when you can watch super informative videos all day?! ;)