It has been way too long. Let’s catch up!

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Hey old friends! Wow. What can I say…. Not much I suppose, except that it has been way too long since I wrote and I am pretty embarrassed. I love writing and I love hearing from you all. But so much … Continue reading

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Iron

My last post (“I’ve Come To Suck Your Blood…”) was about my experience giving blood and some helpful tips on what to do before and after donating.  Today’s post is about iron, which is a necessary component of healthy blood.

heme groups

To start, here’s a bit of science for you.  On a molecular level, a red blood cell is made of hemoglobin which consists of 4 chains of amino acids called “globulin chains – alpha and beta.”  Each chain contains a “heme group” containing iron attached at the center (pictured in red). It is here that oxygen can bind forming oxyhemoglobin.  Carrying oxygen is iron’s main function.  I could keep going but I won’t bore you with more except that blood is made in red bone marrow which is found in the flat bones of adults, such as the scapula (the shoulder wing), the ilium (the top portion of the hip bone) and the sternum.  To help the red bone marrow inside these bones make good blood rich in iron foods rich in iron should be consumed regularly, or iron supplements can be taken if instructed by a doctor or nutritionist/Registered Dietitian.  If iron gets low in the blood, it can’t carry enough oxygen.

The night before I gave blood we had two good friends over for dinner, one of which gave blood with me.  I did a little research for our meal and found some interesting information about iron in food.

  • Iron comes from both plant and animal sources.
  • Animal sources are considered “heme iron” and plant sources are considered “nonheme iron.”  The distinguishing factor has to do with the way the iron is carried in the food.  For example, heme iron in animal sources comes from the animal tissue with similar hemoglobin to humans.
  • Unfortunately, iron is not easy to absorb and many factors affect absorption.  These factors can include how much iron is already in your system, other nutrients that can enhance or cancel out the iron ingested, and what form (heme or nonheme) is consumed.
  • Heme iron is more easily absorbed but nonheme iron can be absorbed more easily if consumed with vitamin C.  Also, for carnivores, the absorption of nonheme iron can be boosted if eaten with some heme iron.
  • Cooking in an iron skillet helps iron absorption (I found this most interesting).

According to the American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (which you can find on my Book List) foods rich in heme iron include (starting with the greatest number of iron): beef liver (I know), sirloin, ground beef, skinless dark and white meat chicken, pork and salmon.  Sources of nonheme iron include: fortified breakfast cereal, pumpkin seeds, soybean nuts, spinach, red kidney beans, prunes and prune juice, lima beans, whole-wheat bread, eggs, etc.  The list goes on.

There you have it.  Everything you may or may not have wanted to know about iron. ;)  Feel free to ask any questions.  Oh, and if you’re interested, I roasted a chicken and paired it with green beans and red potatoes cooked with caramelized onions.  For dessert we ate mango popsicles.  Happy Monday everyone!

Food Adventure Series: Bok Choy

Howdy everyone!  How is the week going so far?  I started my cleanse and so far so good, but more on that later.  Today’s post in our food adventure series is about bok choy.  If you missed the last (and first) food adventure series, check out last week’s vegan brownies and the nutritional data on white, milk and dark chocolate.  Also, if you’re confused on what the food adventure series is, take a look at this post where I explain my idea.  And don’t forget to send me your food adventure series ideas. :)

So, back to bok choy.  My inspiration came from a beautiful bunch I found at our grocery store a few weeks ago.  I love bok choy and couldn’t resist.  Spoiler alert: my next post will be a recipe for bok choy soup.  Be sure to check back!

Picture from vegbox-recipes.co.uk

Bok choy, baby bok choy, chinese cabbage, snow cabbage are all the same.  It is a vegetable native to China and popular for centuries.  The stem, crunchy in texture (if consumed raw) is usually white but a few varieties can be found with a light green stem.   It opens up to beautiful long, flowing green leaves, slightly resembling cabbage.  Baby bok choy stands about 6 inches tall and other varieties can grow twice as high.

Any vegetable that has dark leafy greens is going to be good for you and your body.  Just like kale or spinach, bok choy is a good source of beta-carotene, calcium and vitamins A and C.  Here’s a brief breakdown of these nutrients:

  • Beta-carotene: A carotenoid (sounds like carrot, right?) and phytonutrient is most popularly found in fruits and vegetables with a red, yellow or orange color.  But it is also found in dark, leafy greens because the yellow/orange color of the carotene is hidden by the chlorophyll in the leaves.  It acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that harm cells that could eventually lead to cancer or other age-related diseases.
  • Vitamin A: Carotenoids form Vitamin A.  It helps vision, both day and at night as well as growth and health of cells and tissues in the body, protects from infection and regulates the immune system.  Intake, from the age of 14 and up should be about 900 micrograms (about 0.9 milligrams) for men and about 700 micrograms (0.7 milligrams) for women daily.  If you are breastfeeding, you should be ingesting about 1200 micrograms of vitamin A daily.
  • Calcium: Yes, calcium can be found in foods other than dairy!  If you eat your greens, you will be eating a good amount of calcium.  Calcium helps to make and keep bones strong, helps muscles to contract and helps to regulate the heart beat.  It also aids in clotting the blood when necessary.  Adults through 50 years of age should consume about 1000 milligrams of calcium per day and after 50 years, 1200 milligrams per day.
  • Vitamin C:  Is the most popular vitamin.  It is good for an immune system boost, it also works as an antioxidant, but did you know it’s good for collagen production in the body?  It also helps to keep the capillary and blood vessel walls firm and protects us from bruising.  Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron and folate, keeps gums healthy and helps to heal cuts, scrapes and wounds.  If you are an adult male, you should be ingesting about 90 milligrams of vitamin C daily and 75 milligrams if you are female.  A little more is necessary during pregnancy and 115-120 milligrams is necessary while breast feeding.  Also, if you’re a smoker, increase your consumption of vitamin C by 35 milligrams because it is necessary to counteract the oxidative damage done by nicotine.

There you have it, all the good stuff bok choy compacts into a beautiful little vegetable.  I actually think the baby ones are cute.  Phil was joking that I should dress up like a bok choy for Halloween this year….maybe I will… ;)

If you’re tired of spinach and kale and want to switch up to another leafy green, try bok choy.  It’s great in juice, salad, soup and great steamed and served on it’s own as well.

Have a happy day!  Love to you all.

Sources:
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia; Rebecca Wood; 2010
ADA Complete Food and Nutrition Guide; Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD, FADA, CFCS; 3rd Ed.; 2006

What’s the Deal with Dried Fruit?

A friend recently tweeted me asking if dried strawberries counted as a fruit.  It’s a great question and I quickly responded with a short “no” because dried fruit is missing many of the nutritive properties that fresh fruit provides and it doesn’t really count as a serving of fruit.  But dried fruit is good and it’s certainly not an empty-calorie food.  I wanted to elaborate more on this subject but being on Twitter, it was difficult.  So here’s the deal with dried fruit versus fresh fruit:

Dehydration: when fruits go through the drying process, which usually involves air, heat or both, they lose water, vitamins and minerals.  Vitamin C is largely lost in the dehydration process.  A few diminished minerals such as potassium, stay behind.  So, this is a better reason to eat dried fruit than picking up some artificial fruit snacks or a candy bar when looking for something sweet.

Equality: something to remember is that 1 cup of fresh fruit does not equal one cup of dried fruit.  One cup of dried fruit is an amount greater than fresh.  When snacking on dried fruit one can wind up eating more leading to a greater calorie intake, a possible higher sugar intake (see below) etc.

Sugar: speaking of higher sugar intake, many times, dried cranberries have extra sugar added during the drying process.  That unnecessary sugar is something to keep an eye out for.

Calories: dried fruit is higher in calories.  For example, three fresh apricots are about 50 calories.  Six dried apricots (obviously smaller in physical size) can be about 90 calories.  Taking into account the equality factor above, one has to eat more of the dried fruit to obtain the level of satisfaction that fresh fruit provides, therefore you ingest more calories.  The water in fresh fruit decreases the calories and also helps to make us feel more full and satisfied.

Fiber: the fiber in dried fruit is pretty high considering the loss of almost everything else.  If you need to add more fiber to your diet, dried fruits may be a way to go about it.  A half cup of dried apricots is about 5 grams of fiber.  Of course, fresh fruit is also a good source of fiber.

I hope this clears up any questions regarding dried fruit and fresh fruit.  After all this, dried fruit is a decent, healthier snack, in moderation (stick to the serving size or less) but doesn’t compare nutritively (I think I just made that word up?) to a whole, fresh fruit and it doesn’t count as a serving of fruit.  If the whole fruit is available, go for it.  Dried fruit is yummy and will provide some nutrition and regardless, it’s better than sitting and eating a bag of artificial fruit snacks or potato chips.  It also travels easier than fresh fruit.

What are your favorite recipes that call for dried fruit?  (I love dried fruit with almonds and some dark chocolate.)

References:
www.livestrong.com
www.lifescript.com
The World’s Healthiest Foods
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood

Book List

Hi everyone!

Today I want to direct your attention to a new page on my blog. :)

Sound the trumpets and the drums! ….dum da dum….

I give you my BOOK LIST located up above and next to the “About The Food Yogipage.  It’s an easily accessible listing of recommended reading, books I am currently reading, and books I have on my shelf, cued up to be read.

I am excited to share these with you all! Quite often, I write about what I am reading and learning from these books and this gives a better chance to put a face with a name (so to speak).  The page will be updated as I move on to new and interesting reads, so check back often.  But of course, I will also be blogging and sharing that information with you all too.

On the Book List page you will find pictures of the covers of the listed books.  Each cover is a link to each book’s Amazon page.  If you’re interested and would like to read more, click the cover and you can preview the book there, order yourself a copy, or download to your Kindle. Easy peasy!

Oh!  And feel free to leave comments with any good reading recommendations.  Nutrition, foodie-stuff, yoga, health, wellness, fun fiction…all are welcome.  Thanks!

Have a wonderful day and happy reading! :)

An Evening with Dr. David Agus

Recently I had the opportunity to hear doctor and author David B. Agus speak about his new book The End of Illness at the 92nd Street Y. He was interviewed by Connie Chung.  It was an evening full of brilliance, insight, and inspiration.

David B. Agus, MD is an oncologist and professor of medicine and engineering at USC, Keck School of Medicine and Viterbi School of Engineering.  He is also the head of USC’s Westside Cancer Center and the Center for Applied Molecular Medicine.  In 2009 he received GQ’s Rock Star of Science Award.  ….yeah, he’s a pretty cool guy. :-)  Being an oncologist, he has had to face cancer patients with the lamentable news of little or no treatment left and so, his book, The End of Illness, is about prevention and hope. In a perfect world, Dr. Agus would like the population to bypass illness in our older ages.  He would prefer us to take charge of our bodies and do what is right for our personal health.  Who wouldn’t agree with that?

Dr. Agus is creating a movement away from the typical treatment of cancer, heart disease, obesity, Alzheimers, etc., and is reevaluating how western society treats these diseases.  Being an oncologist (though The End of Illness is not just a book about cancer) Dr. Agus equates the current treatments of cancer with bacterial or viral infections.  When we get a sinus infection, for example, we take an antibiotic which targets bacteria and clears up the infection.  In the case of cancer, we’ve been targeting cancers through treatments, like antibiotics for an infection.  But, research has shown that typical cancer treatments are not “good for the goose, good for the gander” scenarios.  It’s wonderful that people can be cured by certain treatments but what works for you may not necessarily work for me.

How do we find out what specific treatment will work specifically for our bodies, you might ask?  Well, Dr. Agus has figured a way to test our genetics.  This will show us what diseases we may be predisposed to developing and what medications and dosages would be the best for our bodies.  I might only need a low dosage of a medication, or a combination of this and that, to help me fight a disease.  Your body may need something different with a higher dosage.  Many times medication will work to fight a disease but it may be harming another part of your body.  You will wind up becoming healthy after fighting an ailment or a disease from the medication you took, but you may have to deal with another medical issue because the medication you just took negatively affected another part of your body.

Dr. Agus wrote an abundance of facts and simple steps to follow in your every-day life to decrease the risk for the western diseases that afflict our country.  One is to avoid bodily inflammation (which is the common source for all major illness) by making a few simple changes to your daily habits: wear comfortable shoes; get a flu shot; if you’re an older person, take an 82 mg aspirin or Lipitor (a statin – talk to your doctor first).  There’s much more, so you’ll have to read the book. :-)

Another point Dr. Agus stresses is to eat right!  Yay for nutritionists!  Having a healthy, whole, well-rounded diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Dr. Agus even quoted Michael Pollan’s Food Rules.  We should be eating whole foods that come from the earth; foods that our grandparents or great-grandparents would recognize as food, and if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

With the changing U.S. health care system and food-related illnesses on the rampage, the best health care is prevention.  With Dr. Agus, we need to stay on this path and bring the full population into better awareness of what health and disease prevention truly is.  The End of Illness is a brilliant, in depth look into our future in medical practices that I strongly encourage everyone to read.