Sweet Potato Bliss

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What’s easy to prepare, super delicious, and packed with nutrition? Sweet potatoes!

Most people know that these tasty tubers contain skyrocketing amounts of vitamin A, according to the Cleveland Clinic, as much as 400% of your daily requirement. This is due to the beta-carotene, which is found in foods that are red, orange, or yellow in color. Beta-carotene easily converts to vitamin A and has many benefits including functioning as an antioxidant which protects cells from harmful damage. Vitamin A is also important for eye health, cell growth, and bone growth. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C, another antioxidant, and vitamin B6.

The minerals found in a sweet potato are potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and manganese. These help with blood pressure, blood cells, wound healing, and also promote healthy bones.

Don’t forget about that fiber! Sweet potatoes are excellent sources of fiber as it is found in the flesh and skin of the potato. Did you know that you could actually eat the skin? It’s surprisingly really good. If you try it once and don’t like it, try preparing the sweet potato a different way. The skin is what makes the oven baked sweet potato fry so perfect. So eat the skin next time!

Sweet potatoes are found in a variety of colors. Besides the traditional yellow/orange fleshed sweet potatoes there are white, yellow, dark orange, and even purple-fleshed sweet potatoes. Not only do the many varieties look different, they all have their own unique flavor. My personal favorites are the yellow-fleshed Japanese sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes.

Fall is when sweet potatoes are in season so keep an eye out for new-to-you varieties and don’t hesitate to stock up. Sweet potatoes store very well, just make sure they are kept in a cool and dark place.

Sweet potatoes are so simple to bake, making them a great choice for a quick meal. The fastest way is to cook it in the microwave. Simply poke it with a knife a few times, wrap it in a damp paper towel, and place it in the microwave for about 5 minutes. If it is not done, place it back in the microwave and add a couple more minutes.

Using the oven is the more traditional way to bake a sweet potato, especially if you have more time or want to make several at once. Poke a few holes in the potatoes with a knife and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Unless you want to clean your oven, do not forget the cookie sheet! 400 degrees for about an hour should fully cook a medium size sweet potato. Gently squeeze the potato and if it is still firm, bake for several more minutes.

Sweet potato “fries” can be made by cutting sweet potatoes into whatever shape you enjoy; shoestrings, thick-cut, cubes, coins, the possibilities are endless! Try to keep the thickness/size consistent to ensure even baking. Grab a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and evenly spread out the sweet potatoes. This is the time to add spices. Keep them plain or branch out and try a sprinkle of chili powder for a savory potato or stick with the sweet theme and add cinnamon. Place the sheet in a 400-degree oven and be sure to keep an eye on the potatoes. Cooking time varies depending on the thickness, just be sure to flip them halfway through the cooking process. I’ve found that most people who think they don’t like sweet potatoes actually enjoy them in “fry” form, especially if they are slightly burnt and crispy!

Now that you know that sweet potatoes are extremely nutrient dense, do your body a favor and eat more sweet potatoes!






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The holidays are almost over and it’s time to settle in to a brand new year. Before we move into 2015, make sure you end 2014 on a good note. The months leading up to the holidays can often be hectic and leave you feeling stressed and worn out. Don’t let it get you down! Take these last few days of the year and do something special for yourself. You deserve it!

Curl up with a good book. Pick up an interesting book from the bookstore, your local library, a friend, or download one to your tablet. Instead of vowing to finish a book in a certain amount of time, start slow. Even reading for just a few minutes a day can help you relax. Right before bed is the perfect time to snag a few minutes.

In my opinion, no day is complete without a cup of tea. Steamy and comforting, tea can be enjoyed plain or with a splash of your favorite plant-based milk. Take advantage of the seasonal flavors, as they’re often the most delicious. Just make sure the tea is decaffeinated or herbal.

Bake! Baking really does make you feel better. In fact, it has even been used as a means to help with depression! I love to bake, but sometimes having so many treats in the house can be a little too tempting. Whip up something special and give it to someone in need, a friend, a neighbor, or all three. Not only will receiving a gift make them feel good, but you will too!

Boost your mood with a bit of exercise. Endorphins are chemicals released by your body when you exercise that naturally make you feel good. Who doesn’t want that? Incorporate some activity into your day by heading to the gym, taking a walk, or doing an exercise video on YouTube. Just a little bit every day makes a difference!

Restorative yoga poses are an excellent way to wrap up a busy day. Legs Up The Wall Pose is a personal favorite and it feels amazing especially if your job requires you to be on your feet all day. Simply find a space on the wall, lie down, scoot your bottom close to the wall and extend your feet up towards the ceiling. Stay in this pose as long as you can, you’ll love it.


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Soy: Friend or Foe?

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Over the years, you have heard all of the controversial statements regarding soy and soy products:
“Soy products contain phytoestrogens and they will negatively effect my hormone levels!”
“I’m a guy and if I eat soy my pecks will turn in to breasts!”
“Eating soy will increase your risk of cancer!”

The list of accusations goes on and on…

Here’s the truth: soy can be consumed in the form of a soybean, also known as edamame, as well as tofu, miso, tempeh, soymilk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and even soy “meat” and dairy substitutes. Soy is super versatile and can be used in cooking and baking, it can even be used to make a delicious cake icing – have you tried the Adonis cake!? In general, it is always best to consume the most minimally processed foods because they retain the most nutrients.  Since soy is a widely consumed plant food, people often wonder just how beneficial soy is for your health. So, is soy your friend or your foe?

When it comes to male hormones, cancer prevention, fertility, thyroid health, and fibrosis, there is a lot to be said about soy. Studies show that soy products have NO negative effects on men’s health, and may even help to prevent cancer in men. Research recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that an increased consumption of soy resulted in a 25% reduction of prostate cancer risk in men. A 30% risk reduction was recorded when non-fermented soy products, such as tofu and soymilk, were consumed. Men consuming soy products have been found to have lower overall risks of prostate cancer and better rates of prostate cancer survival. Soy products are made up of “weak” plant estrogens, called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens inhibit the natural estrogen produced in the body from attaching to cells. Natural estrogen typically latches on to receptor proteins in cells that allow for alterations in the chemistry of cells. So, research suggests that when phytoestrogens are present in cells, estrogen is not. These phytoestrogens have not been found to effect hormone levels, fertility or development in men and boys.

The presence of soy in the diet has been known to reduce the risk of prostate, colon and breast cancers. A California-based study conducted in 2008 found that women consuming one cup of soymilk or one-half cup of tofu per day have a 30% lower risk of developing breast cancer compared with women who consume little to no soy. In women who have already been diagnosed with breast cancer, consuming soy products proves to be a great advantage. By doing so, those affected have shown to reduce their risk of cancer reoccurrence by half! Studies cited in the Journal of the American Medical Association, as well as at Kaiser Permanente have yielded similar results.

When it comes to questions about fertility and reproduction, soy does not harm reproductive health. In addition, studies show that adults who were fed soy formula as infants do not differentiate in reproductive health than adults who were fed cow’s milk formula.

Clinical studies show that consuming soy products cannot cause hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone, which is responsible for metabolism regulation. While the soy isoflavones do take up small amounts of the iodine used by the body to make thyroid hormone, the same can be said of fiber supplements and certain medications. However, iodine is found in an abundance of plant foods, especially seaweed.

Consumption of soy products have also shown to reduce the risk of fibrosis, a condition that occurs when balls of muscle tissue form within the thin muscular layers underneath the uterine lining. In a study consisting of Japanese women, results show that the more soy consumed, the less likely it was to need a hysterectomy, showing that fibrosis was less prevalent. Compared to a study conducted in Washington, soy did not provide negative or positive effects, because the levels of consumption are much lower in the Standard American Diet than in the Japanese diet. Researchers have also found that most beneficial phytoestrogens, called lignans, are found in flaxseed and whole grains. The women consuming adequate amounts of lignans recorded less than half the risk of fibrosis, compared to women who typically did not consume these foods. So, while in this case the benefits of phytoestrogens to combat fibrosis comes from plant foods other than soy, the effects of phytoestrogens are widely beneficial, and counter the effects of women’s naturally produced estrogen.

While the plant-based diet is largely anti-inflammatory, a study published in Shanghai Women’s Health, consisting of over one thousand middle-aged Chinese women, shows that the more soy consumed directly correlated to the less inflammation and inflammatory pain experienced. The presence of inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes. Soy products are known to reduce low-density lipoprotein (“bad”) cholesterol, as well as the risk of hip fractures related to osteoporosis. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study stating that women who consumed at least one-fourth cup tofu (less than one-half block) per day reduced their fracture risk by 30%!

Overall, the benefits of soy products are extensive and yield very positive results. However, these results are related to the consumption of traditional soy products, as opposed to concentrated, processed, soy proteins, powders and supplements. Stick to the good stuff, like tempeh, miso, tofu, edamame and soymilk. Soy is palatable, versatile and delicious, and will soon become your best friend. And guys, it’s good for you, too! Check out some of the great recipes featuring tofu and soy products in My Beef With Meat, Forks Over Knives, and Engine 2 Diet!





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Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: The Myth of Moderation Pt 1: Do All Foods Really Fit?


The Myth of Moderation Pt 1: Do All Foods Really Fit?

Jeff Novick, MS, RD

You know what they say when it comes to what to eat,”everything in moderation.”     Whether it is chocolate, wine, red meat, dessert, etc.  Nothing is bad, in and of itself, as long as we just don’t consume too much of it.

But, how do we would define “too much” and how do we know if we have surpassed this?

Let’s start at the beginning.

Our current concept of “everything in moderation” comes from ancient Greece, where at the temple of Apollo at Delphi there was the inscription, “Meden Agan” or  “Nothing in Excess.”    From this, we got the concept of doing something “in moderation” which means, not doing it excessively.    Therefore, someone who moderates their food consumption may choose to eat food from all food groups, but will limit their intake of those foods that may cause deleterious effects to harmless levels.

So, how are we doing in this area?

The items we know that are causing harm to Americans right now are the excess consumption of added sugars, refined grains, sodium, fat, and saturated fat.

So, how much does the average American consume of these?

Added Sugars – 242% over the recommended upper limit.

Refined Grains – 200% over the recommended upper limit.

Sodium – 229% over the recommended upper limit.

Saturated fats – 158% over the recommended upper limit.

Solid fats – 281% over the recommended upper limit.

Read the rest here. 

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Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: The Calorie Paradox

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Over the years, I have worked with many people who have told me their diet was vegetable based. However, on closer examination, it was anything but. Most often, they were getting most of their calories from either nuts, fruits, or starches (starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans).

Here is why.

The basis of a diet is what compromises most of it. In the world of nutrition, the deciding factor in dietary intake is calories and not the weight, or volume or servings of food consumed. Hence, the food or food group or type of food that contributes the largest percentage of calories to the total calorie intake will form the basis of that diet. This is the accepted standard in the world of nutrition.

These days we hear a lot about plant based diets. What this refers to is that most of the calories in the diet, comes from plants.

In the plant based diet world, we also hear terms like “starch” based, “nut” based, “fruit” based and “vegetable” based. A starch based diet is one where the majority of the calories will come from starches (whole grains, starchy vegetables and legumes).  As such, if someone is on a nut based diet, then the majority of their calories will come from nuts.

In addition, if someone was on a “vegetable” based diet, the majority of the calories will come from vegetables. However, because the calorie density of vegetables is so low, many who think they are following a vegetable based diet aren’t and are actually following something completely different. Most often, they are actually following a fruit based, nut based or even a starch based diet, without even realizing it.

Read more here. 

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Tuesdays with Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: The Healthy Eating Placemat: A Visual Guide To Healthy Eating

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QUESTION: Right now we are all bombarded with every kind of vegan or plant-based diet in the world. How would you capsulize Jeff Novick’s recommendations?

I have really been thinking about that lately and how best to describe the principles of a healthy diet, and I think, plant-centered, minimally processed, calorie dilute, low SOS & variety, really sums it all up. It’s not just vegan, vegetarian or plant-based because one could have a pretty bad vegan, vegetarian or plant-based diet. So I like to say “plant- centered” but I also add that it should be minimally processed. I don’t say “whole” or “unprocessed” as not all processing is bad. Processing per se isn’t what’s hurtful, it’s processing that either detracts from the value of the food (i.e., refining) or adds something that is potentially harmful, (i.e., salt, sugar, etc.). So plant-centered, minimally processed, and then calorie dilute, because so much food has become so calorie dense which is a major contributing factor for obesity and many other diseases. The fourth principle is a diet low in SOS, which is salt, oil/fat and sugar. Even if you have a plant-centered, minimally processed, calorie-dilute diet and you cover it with salt, sugar, and oil, it is not healthy. I’m not going to say none, but low, as it isn’t all or nothing.  Last but not least, variety.  We want a variety of foods, over time, from each food group. It does not have to be at every meal.  People get caught up in the Super-Food concept and the only vegetable they will eat is kale, or the only fruit they will eat is blueberries, etc., etc. However, the best way to insure nutritional adequacy is to consume a variety of foods in each of the food groups.

Read the rest of the article and get Jeff’s Health Eating Placemat! 

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Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: Reflecting on the Paleo Diet


Q: I have read Loren Cordain’s book about the Paleo diet.  What is your opinion of the Paleo regimen and what it is promoting – no grains, no/limited dairy, etc etc. It seems that the rationale is fairly reasonable in that most foods we eat today weren’t even available a few hundred years ago especially the grains and the sugars.

A: Thanks for the question.

Cordain’s work is interesting and deserves some consideration but it is mostly all anecdotal and theoretical, which, while of some value, is not the same level of credibility of the many l/t studies we have that are based on outcome data. There was one controlled study on the Paleo that came out comparing a PALEO to a MED style diet but they only looked at satiety. A more recent study concluded, “the diet does fall short of meeting the daily recommended intakes for certain micronutrients. A 9.3% increase in income is needed to consume a Paleolithic diet that meets all daily recommended intakes except for calcium.”

While it is true that there was less chronic disease back then, their lifespans were also much shorter and many lifestyle related chronic diseases to not show up till later in life. Several small isolated groups alive today who still follow a Paleo style diet also have much shorter lifespans.

Read more… 

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Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: Meal Frequency and Eating Between Meals


QUESTION;  I was wondering if there is any evidence as to whether the traditional three meals per day is better than, for example, one or two meals per day.  Or is it better to eat several meals per day? If you are not hungry and wanting to lose weight, is there any drawback to skipping a meal (assuming that you don’t overdo on the next meal)?  

There is really little to any well-done credible science to support the theory that there is a difference between eating 3-5 meals per day, 1-2 meals per day or just consuming regular small snacks all day.  Likewise, the time of day that you consume your food, does not matter either.

While you often here of the advantages of several small meals over less larger meals, as long as total calories are restricted, there is not really a big difference and some recent studies in animals have shown that less frequent meals may have some advantages. There are studies being done where the animal are fed every other day (EOD) or once a day.

Continue reading here. 

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Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: Does Dieting Lead to an Eating Disorder?


QUESTION: I have been trying to follow this program and discussed it with my local RD.  She said that any program like this (i.e., a plant based, vegetarian, vegan diet, etc.) that restricts certain foods or food groups can trigger binge eating and overeating and even lead to an eating disorder.  Is this true?

Thanks for the question.   I have heard the same thing many times over the years, dieting, and especially any form of restrictive dieting, can lead to an eating disorder.  I was even told by a colleague during a similar discussion several years ago, that she has several clients who developed eating disorders from their stays at a renowned health center

In fact, this topic just came up (again) in a recent discussion amongst my professional colleagues.  Upon requesting support information for the above statement, I was sent a brief description of the famous Ancel Keys starvation study which was done at the University of Minnesota in the 1940′s and was told by one of my colleagues that in the Keys study, ”Some (of the men) engaged in bizarre food rituals and eventually cycles of binge eating and some purging.”

Keyes A, Brozek , Henschel A, et al.  The biology of human starvation. Vols 1 and 2. Minneapolis: University Press, 1950

In addition, I was sent this quote and reference,

“Starvation and self-imposed dieting appear to result in eating binges once food is available and in psychological manifestations such as preoccupation with food and eating, increased emotional responsiveness and dysphoria, and distractibility.  Caution is thus advised in counseling clients to restrict their eating and diet to lose weight, as the negative sequelae may outweigh the benefits of restraining one’s eating.

Psychological Consequences of Food Restriction. J AM Dietetic Assoc. 1996: 96:589-592

So, is this true?  Can “dieting” and focusing on improving ones eating result in an eating disorder?


But let me clarify this important issue.

Continue reading “Does Dieting Lead to an Eating Disorder” 

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Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: Which has more protein: 100 calories of broccoli, steak, romaine or kale?


QUESTION:  “Thanks for the chart on the percentage of calories from protein. I was glad to see some accurate numbers.  However, right afterwards, I saw another chart on Facebook listing the nutritional breakdown of broccoli, steak, romaine and kale showing the vegetables had more protein per 100 calories than the steak. Is this really true?

I have seen the same charts and no, they are not accurate. To clarify the issue, I created the following chart, which is based on the latest values from USDA Standard Reference Release 26, which is the most up-to-date values.  I have listed the specific NDB# I used for the calculation as different forms (raw, cooked, frozen) of the food and different varieties (choice, select, trimmed, etc) will come up with slightly different numbers.

As you can see, the steak clearly wins on protein.  However, remember, a plant based diet based predominately on a variety of minimally-processed lower-fat plant foods low in SOS, is more then adequate in protein and all the essential amino acids and that is the main point in regard to protein.  Such a diet is also void of cholesterol, lower in fat, saturated fat, and rich in fiber and nutrients, including phytochemicals, and has been proven to prevent and even reverse disease, even in those seriously ill.

For more information on the protein issue, read the 5 articles linked below the chart.

You can download a PDF of the chart here which will be easier to see.


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