Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mmmmmmmmm Grain

Ok ladies this week we are going to switch it up. While many of you may find it easiest to diet if you eat the same thing every day I’m going to ask you to step out of your comfort zone and a tiny bit of experimenting this week.

I’m sure you can guess that if you eat the same breakfast, lunch and dinner day in and day out you get the same nutrients and might be missing out on other important ones.

So what am I going to encourage you to try? GRAINS!

In our hurried and busy world- white bread has become the norm, while whole grains have been relegated to the back of the health food store. Refined grains are milled, a process that strips out both the bran and germ to give them a finer texture and extend their shelf life. The refining process also strips them of flavor, nutrients, and life -- leaving behind just the bland byproducts that have little value. If you asked my children what saying I most often quoted when they were growing up they would probably reply “The Whiter the Bread the sooner you’re dead.” Yes I am a whole grain advocate!

As the Whole Grains Council explains, whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. Even if the grain has been processed (like cracked, crushed, rolled, or extruded), the product should deliver approximately the same balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain.
(Note: Amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat are not official members of the grain family, but these "pseudo-grains" are included because their nutritional profile, preparation, and use are very similar.)
And so here are a few grains you might like to try! Note the listed links will take you to recipes on the Whole Grains Council Website

1. Amaranth
Health benefits: Amaranth contains more than three times the average amount of calcium and is also high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s the only grain confirmed to contain Vitamin C. Its protein content of 13-14% makes it higher than most other grains—and it’s a “complete” protein because it contains lysine, an amino acid that not many other grains contain.
Good for: Salads, baking, porridge, soups. And you can pop it, too!
Tips: Remains slightly crunchy, use at least 6 cups of water for every one cup of amaranth, cooks in 15-20 minutes.

2. Barley
Health benefits: Barley has the highest fiber content of all the grains, with common varieties ringing up about 17% fiber. It's high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Good for: Side dishes, barley bread, porridge, barley flour for baking.
Tips: Pearl barley is missing some or all of its bran layer, so look for hulled barley or hulless barley, both of which retain their nourishment. Whole grain barley can take 50-60 minutes to cook -- so cook a big batch then refrigerate it or freeze.

3. Brown Rice
Health benefits: Unlike white rice, brown rice provides vitamin E and is high in fiber. It also contains generous amounts of manganese, magnesium, and selenium, as well as tryptophan.
Good for: Replacing white rice in any recipe -- soups, stews, puddings, and pilafs

4. Buckwheat
Health benefits: Buckwheat contains higher levels of zinc, copper, and manganese than most grains -- it also provides a very high amount of protein (second highest only to oats). It is rich in lysine, and its amino acid score is 100, which is one of the highest amino acid scores among plant sources!
Good for: Soba noodles, crepes, blinis, kasha, pancakes.

5. Bulgur
Health benefits: Bulgar is whole wheat berries that have been boiled, dried, and cracked. It has more fiber than quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat or corn. It is commonly made from durum wheat, but almost any wheat, hard or soft, red or white, can be used.
Good for: Tabbouleh, side dishes, pilafs, salads.
Tips: Because bulgur has been precooked, it only needs to be boiled for 10 minutes or so.

6. Millet
Health benefits: Not just for the birds, millet is actually the main staple grain in India, and is popular in China, South America, Russia and the Himalayas. Millet is high in antioxidant activity, and especially high in magnesium. Research shows that millet is helpful in controlling diabetes and inflammation.
Good for: Indian roti, porridge
Tips: Millet has a mild flavor and is often mixed with other grains or toasted before cooking, to bring out the full extent of its delicate flavor. Its tiny grain can be white, gray, yellow or red. Most sources recommend cooking millet with about 2 ½ cups of liquid for each cup of millet grain.

7. Oats
Health benefits: Like barley, oats offer a unique kind of fiber known as beta-glucan, which is powerful in lowering cholesterol. Studies also show that oats also have a special antioxidant, avenanthramides, that helps protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol.
Good for: Oatmeal, cookies, veggie burgers, baked fruit topping.
Tips: Most oats in the U.S. are steamed and flattened to make regular (rolled) oats, quick oats, and instant oats. The more oats are flattened and steamed, the quicker they cook – and the softer they become. Look for the chewier, nuttier texture of steel-cut oats (also called Irish or Scottish oats) which have the entire oat kernel which are sliced into smaller pieces for easier cooking.

8. Quinoa
Health benefits: Quinoa is a "pseudo-cereal" (it is actually related to beets, chard and spinach), but that doesn't make us love it any less. This superfood promotes super good health as it is one of the only plant foods that's a complete protein, offering all the essential amino acids. Not only is the protein complete, but quinoa grains have an usually high ratio of protein to carbohydrate, since the germ makes up about 60% of the grain. Quinoa is also highest of all the whole grains in potassium, which helps control blood pressure.
Good for: Pilafs, soups, porridge, risotto, puddings, salads, side dishes.
   Blueberry maple quinoa (pictured top)

9. Rye
Health benefits: Rye's not just for diner toast with eggs, rye berries are a rich source of fiber, particularly arabinoxylan, which is also known for its high antioxidant activity. Rye grain contains phenolic acids, lignans, alkylresorcinos and many other salubrious compounds.
Good for: Side dishes, pilafs, soup, salads.

10. Spelt
Health benefits: Spelt is higher in protein than common wheat. It is an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of protein, copper, and zinc. It is high in fiber, and contain notably more protein than wheat. Spelt is also higher in B complex vitamins, and both simple and complex carbohydrates.
Good for: Use spelt flour in place of regular four; spelt berries are good for side dishes, salads and cereal.
Tips: Spelt can be found in both whole and refined form in our food supply – so look for the words whole spelt.

12. Teff
Health benefits: Teff leads all the grains – by a long shot – in its calcium content, with a cup of cooked teff offering 123 mg, about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient not commonly found in grains.
Good for: Teff is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians, who use it for their signature, spongy injera flatbread. Also used for porridge, baked goods, “teff polenta.”
Tips: Teff grains are Lilliputian – just 1/150 the size of wheat kernels. White or ivory teff is the mildest in flavor, with darker varities having more of a nutty, earthy taste. Many, having only eaten teff in injera, think it has a sour taste, but that's because it's fermented in that recipe -- in general, teff has a light, sweet flavor.

So while I would love to challenge you to eat ONLY whole grains this week or to cook something with a new grain every day I’m going to go a bit easier on you. Please do your best to try some new whole  grains (there are many others I haven’t listed here- Black rice is my favorite rice) and to substitute whole grain products wherever possible for their less nutritious refined grain substitutes.


Note: I would prefer you cook your grain at home from scratch but if you opt instead to buy a prepared whole grain product you will be able to make sure it is whole grain by looking for this label certifying the product! (Don't be fooled by the basic stamp that looks similar. Find the stamp with 100% whole grain as pictured below)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Week #3 Challenge- Do Your Best To Get Enough Sleep

"Sleep well and stay slim." Sad but true and backed up by a U.S. study looking at sleep, metabolism and eating habits of 16 men and women. Researchers at the University of Colorado found that when subjects came up short on sleep, they experienced almost immediate weight gain. As reported by the The New York Times reports, the study, published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found fast weight gain among the sleep-deprived regardless of gender.
              In the abstract, researchers note, "Our findings suggest that increased food intake during insufficient sleep is a physiological adaptation to provide energy needed to sustain additional wakefulness; yet when food is easily accessible, intake surpasses that needed."Wright suggested part of those extra pounds was a product of behavioral changes.
       “We found that when people weren’t getting enough sleep they overate carbohydrates,” he said.He added that  part of the change was behavioral. Staying up late and skimping on sleep led to not only more eating, but a shift in the type of foods a person consumed.
       Night owls managed to consume 6 per cent more calories. But once they started sleeping more, they began eating more healthfully, consuming fewer carbohydrates and fats.
       I think a lot of it can be caused when we are confused by our body signals. We are sleepy or cranky or worn out so we reach for a comfort food for a quick dose of energy. Later (feeling low energy from lack of sleep and nutritionless carbohydrates) we skip the gym and pick up takeout for dinner-- no time to cook.
       Additional problems are explained by Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Arizona, “It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly.”
       The two hormones that are key in this process are ghrelin and leptin. “Ghrelin is the ‘go’ hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you are sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin,” Breus says. “Leptin is the hormone that tells you to stop eating, and when you are sleep deprived, you have less leptin.” More ghrelin plus less leptin equals weight gain. “You are eating more, plus your metabolism is slower when you are sleep-deprived,” Breus says.
Ackk so what does all of this news have to do with our challenge for this week?

For every day you do at least 3 things to contribute to getting a good night’s sleep you can claim your 5 points from the Weekly Challenge. (They can be the same 3 things each day- find what works for you) Ideas would include:

1. Clean your bedroom. Fresh linens, a beautifully made bed, a tidy end table, a cleared off dresser top, adorned with a favorite photo or fresh flowers- All of these help your bedroom to be a lovely and peaceful place that invites relaxation that contributes to sleep.

2. Cut out the Caffeine- Caffeine (found in tea, coffee, sodas and some over the counter medications) can stay in your system as long as 14 hours, increases the number of times you awaken at night and decreases the total amount of sleep time. This may subsequently affect daytime anxiety and performance

3. Avoid working, eating, and discussing emotional issues in bed (I have a rule for my hubby that nothing stressful can be spoken of after 9:00 pm) The bed should be used for sleep and sex only. If not, we can associate the bed with other activities and it often becomes difficult to fall asleep.

4. Minimize noise, light, and temperature extremes during sleep with ear plugs, window blinds, or an electric blanket or air conditioner. Even the slightest nighttime noises or luminescent lights can disrupt the quality of your sleep. I can’t tell you how getting blackout curtains and shutters have increased the time I am able to stay asleep. I even have electrical tape over the small lights on my bedside modem.

5. Try not to drink fluids after 8 p.m. This may reduce awakenings due to urination. (This one is a huge problem for me).

6. Avoid naps, but if you do nap, make it no more than about 25 minutes. If you have problems falling asleep, then no naps for you.

7. Do not expose yourself to bright light if you do need to get up at night. Use a small night-light instead. I bought a motion activated night-light (on amazon) that turns on if I do need to walk in the bathroom at night and it is much calmer and more subtle than switching on the full overhead lights.

8. Avoid the light of televisions and computers late at night. My son has been using a program that dims the light emitted from his computer in the evening hours so as not to interfere with sleep. It’s a free program available at   Also your i-pad can be read with white letters on black instead of black on white (to switch it go to preferences then general then accessibility then choose white on black)

9. Consider some natural help aids. Certain herbal teas can help you relax and fall asleep. Chamomile is a popular tea that slows the nervous system and promotes relaxation. A new tea I’ve discovered is Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime tea - yum.  Other liquids, such as a small glass of warm milk, may also help. Melatonin (my favorite is Source Naturals Melatonin 1 mg. peppermint flavored sublingual also available o amazon helps many people (though it can cause vivid and sometimes scary dreams). Essential oils can also have great power to aid your sleep. I love Lavender on my pillowcase, Doterra’s Serenity rubbed on the back of my neck and a drop of Clary Sage (Also Doterra) on my tongue. ZZZZZZZZZZ!! As always check with your health professional before trying natural remedies.

10. Take control of your worries. Most of us lead very stressful lives. Stress, surprises, and changes can take a toll on our sleep habits. I often find myself going over, over and over the same worries somehow thinking if I think about it long enough, an easy solution is going to somehow pop up. One way to decrease this endless cycle of worry before bed is to write down your concerns in a journal and close the book on the day. You might even want to note a specific time the following day that you will worry about those things you have listed.

10. If you must get up make it as quick and stress free as possible- I know some of you are young mothers with children that you still may need to get up with during the night. If you are getting up to change a diaper and give hugs and reassurance make sure the diaper and wipes and anything else needed are set out and ready. If you are getting up to nurse or give a bottle likewise have things as ready as possible. Set your favorite cozy blanket in your favorite cozy chair. Have diapering items set out. If you want a cup of tea while nursing have the tea bag and cup set out and the tea pot full of water ready to switch on. Make your night time chores as quick, easy and relaxing as possible.

11. Create a bedtime ritual. It is calming to do the same things each night to signal your body it's time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. I have found great calming by listening to meditation CD’s and particularly like those guided by Stin Hansen. She shares several free ones at

12. Get comfortable. Sleeping clothes should be loose and comfortable and sheets should be fresh and clean. Your mattress and pillows should be those you find the coziest and most comfortable. Do you need any sleeping upgrades?