What Is a Superfood, and What Do I Do With It?

By Josette Curtis, UCCS Nutrition Senior

 

One of today’s hottest nutrition buzzwords is “superfood.”  Dr. Oz loves to talk about superfoods.  Self-styled nutrition experts love to talk about superfoods.  And food marketers REALLY love to talk about superfoods.  Want to sell something, or sound like you’ve discovered the next great cure-all?  Mention superfoods! 

Let’s go back a few steps and start by defining this term.  A superfood is any natural food with large quantities of phytochemicals and benefits beyond regular nutrition.[1]  For example, citrus fruits contain high quantities of vitamin C.  But the little-known camu berry, which resembles a cherry and grows on shrubs native to the Amazon, contains 200 times more vitamin C than a banana and 50-60 times more than an orange.  As such, the camu berry can be considered a vitamin C superfood.  Another example is cacao powder.  We are increasingly realizing that most Americans are deficient in magnesium, and dark chocolate is touted as an excellent (and tasty!) way to boost daily magnesium intake.  But raw cacao powder – unsweetened, unprocessed – is one of the highest sources of magnesium available and can be considered a magnesium superfood.

Because many superfoods are not native to the United States, they tend to be costlier than everyday fruits and vegetables.  In my estimation, the best / most cost-effective way to add superfoods to your diet is to purchase them in powdered form.  They last longest this way, and because drying also concentrates the nutrients, a very small amount is all you need to reap the benefits.  Some excellent websites for purchasing superfood powders include amazon.com, thrivemarket.com, and vitacost.com.  Several of these offer discounts if you purchase regularly using their auto-ship programs.

Now that you’ve picked a few superfood supplements to try and they’ve arrived at your front door, what do you actually DO with them?  My favorite way is to incorporate them in superfood smoothies.  Take a regular smoothie – liquid base, some greens, some fruit – add a few sprinkles of your favorite superfood supplement, and voilá!  You’ve boosted your nutrition intake exponentially for just a few extra cents per serving. 

Here’s a list of some wonderful superfoods to try, what nutrient(s) they contain, and which flavors they pair best with.

 

 

 

 

To get you started, here are two of my favorite smoothie recipes (both adapted from Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris).  Just blend all ingredients together in a large blender jar.  Each makes one generous serving (but can easily be shared!).

 

 

                    Peaches & Cream                                                     Red Velvet

                    1 ½ cups frozen sliced peaches                                     ¼ cup roasted beets

                    ½ frozen banana                                                          2 Tbsp dried white mulberries

                    1 ½ tsp goji berries                                                      1 ½ tsp cacao powder

                    1 cup milk of choice                                                   ½ cup milk of choice

                    1 ½ tsp lemon juice                                                     1 cup ice

                    ¼ tsp vanilla extract                                                    1 ½ tsp maple syrup (as needed)

 

The above superfood list is by no means exhaustive – there are many more superfoods out there, just waiting for you to discover and add to your smoothie routine.  The beauty of smoothies is that you can’t really mess them up.  Use this guide as a starting point to inspire your creativity.  Turn smoothie making into a game – see how many hard-to-find nutrients you can fit into one delicious, good-for-you beverage, and drink to your health!

For additional information on all the different types of superfoods, read more at superfoods-for-superhealth.com.

 

[1] Dr. Margaret Harris, Fall 2016 Herbal and Dietary Supplements course, “Superfoods” lecture.

[2] Chlorella and spirulina are the two most common algae supplements.  Because they are ocean algae, they can have a very pronounced “ocean” flavor – start with very small quantities until you acclimate to the taste!

Fad Diets: The Military Diet

By: Kathleen Onate, UCCS Nutrition Senior

 

For anyone who would like to know what “The Military Diet” is all about, the 3-day meal plan and schedule have been provided for your convenience. Let’s set the stage: I am at a surfing the web trying to figure out how to fit into that dress I want to wear for my sister’s wedding next week. I come across The Military Diet with a new way to lose 10 pounds in just three days! YES! Tell me more! This plan is cheap, easy to follow, and does not require a lengthy lifestyle change. So, what is the catch? As I am being reeled into deeper waters, I read through the meal plan and schedule.


The 3-Day Meal Plan & Schedule

Breakfast – 7:30, Lunch – 13:00, Dinner – 18:30 (Please note that this timetable serves just as an example. Remember that the magic is not in when you eat but in how much calories you eat per day.)

Day 1: ~1400 calories

  • Breakfast -1/2 Grapefruit, 1 Slice of Toast, 2 Tablespoons of Peanut Butter, and Coffee or Tea
  • Lunch -1/2 Cup of Tuna, 1 Slice of Toast, and Coffee or Tea
  • Dinner -3 ounces of any type of meat, 1 Cup of Green Beans, 1/2 Banana, 1 Small Apple, and 1 Cup of Vanilla Ice Cream

Day 2: ~1200 calories

  • Breakfast -1 egg, 1 Slice of Toast, and 1/2 Banana
  • Lunch -1 Cup of Cottage Cheese, 1 Hard Boiled Egg, and 5 Saltine Crackers
  • Dinner -2 Hot Dogs, 1 Cup of Broccoli, 1/2 Cup of Carrots, 1/2 Banana, and 1/2 Cup of Vanilla Ice Cream

Day 3: ~1100 calories

  • Breakfast -5 Saltine Crackers, 1 Slice of Cheddar Cheese, and 1 Small Apple
  • Lunch -1 Hard-Boiled Egg, and 1 Slice of Toast
  • Dinner -1 Cup of Tuna, 1/2 of a Banana, and 1 Cup of Vanilla Ice Cream

The Ultimate Guide to 3-Day Military Diet


 After the diet is discussed, the pillars are introduced, along with their rationale:

  • Pillar One: This is a low-calorie method. Its followers will take in less than 1000 calories for 3 days every week. This level of calories is sure to result in getting skinnier as you are eating fewer calories than you burn off in these days. It is that simple.
  • Pillar Two: The 3-day on and 4-off structure mimics a fasting regime. And fasting has been proven to increase metabolism. Training your body to burn off calories more quickly is a great way to increase chances of getting slim.
  • Pillar Three: The specific foods were chosen so because they increase your body’s metabolic rate. Apples, for example, have lots of pectin – and pectin limits the amount of fat that your body stores. Grapefruit has been shown to work within the liver to boost the burning of fat.

The military diet embraces the idea that if you follow this regimen for three days and then eat regularly for four days, you will lose weight, most of which being fat. Yet the information is contradictory (you will take in less than 1000 calories a day) when the calorie counts posted for the three days ranges between 1100-1400 calories a day.  The diet is very rudimentary when it comes to nutrition. There are carbohydrates available (fruits and breads), protein (meat, eggs, or peanut butter), fat (vanilla ice-cream), and a stimulant (caffeine from coffee or tea). The user of this diet would likely lose weight if they followed this low calorie, high protein diet, but at what risk? The diet discusses how this rotational schedule of three days on and four days off “signals the body into a fasting regime to increase metabolism”. It is also mentioned that the three days on the diet will shrink the stomach so that the fourth day when returning to the normal diet, your stomach will not be able to hold as much further reducing calorie intake. There is no scientific evidence supporting this fact and when searched, only other commentaries were found. Although this is explained in a way that makes you scratch your head and think, “Hmmm, does that really work?”, nutrition is much more complicated requiring specific enzymes, metabolic pathways, macronutrients, and micronutrients for the body to function and determine its needs.

In all reality, this is just a calorie restricted diet. Yes, it will work but if you fail to maintain the reduction of total intake, the weight will come back. Unfortunately, the pounds that return may likely be fat to replace the fat AND muscle that the dieter lost. So, is that dress worth gaining more fat? If this is not the answer, then what should someone wanting/needing to lose weight do? Following a well-balanced diet that incorporates physical activity will be the most successful, long-term, weight loss regime. Reducing ~500 calories a day will usually suffice. This does not have to only come from cutting calories but also from work-outs. Equations to find resting metabolic rate (RMR) can be calculated to find the number of calories needed in the day to keep the body functioning (ex: breathing or digesting food). For example, the RMR equation for a female is: 655.1 + (4.35*wt in lbs.) + (4.7*ht in inches) – (4.7*age) and for men: 66+ (6.2*wt) + (12.7*ht) – (6.76*age). Then multiply this number by an activity factor (sedentary: 1.3, moderately active: 1.4, very active: 1.5). This gives an estimated total energy expenditure or TEE. From there, take 500 kcals from the estimated total to find the number of daily calories needed to lose weight. To make it a little easier to follow and to see how I could healthily lose weight to fit into that new dress, my TEE is currently 2100 kcal/day. To lose weight, I would recommend to myself to reduce caloric intake to 1800 kcal/day. This would be 300 calories removed from my normal day and could look like baking chicken instead of frying it and not having that extra piece of garlic bread. The other 200 calories remaining can be covered by exercise (jogging or rowing for 20 minutes).

The take away is that weight loss should be slow, intentional, and calculated. This is how clients and/or patients need to lose weight, unless under extreme circumstances (then surgery may become an option).  To reduce the signs of negative effects, the diet recommends eating normally for the four-day period (increasing carbohydrates). Like other trending diets, this claims to help you lose weight fast (10 pounds in 3 days!!), but usually when something sounds too good to be true, it is. Another claim is that this method is inexpensive, a true point when considering monetary costs, but paying with your health does not seem like a viable option. Overall, I would say take this diet with a grain of salt. The method might work but it is only temporary. To achieve long-term goals including a healthier lifestyle, lose weight the right way. Take care of your body and know that with trending diet fads, there is always a gimmick. The next time I see that blinking ad flashing “CLICK ME, CLICK ME”, I will keep browsing and search for websites that are more credible and reputable sources with .org or .edu at the end. So to wrap things up (and no pun intended towards another fad such as waist trainers) the dress will fit but it will take longer than 3 days to get there.  And stay there.

 

Managing Multiple Food Allergies in a Busy Household

 

Written by Casey Hayes, UCCS Nutrition Senior

Have you heard the popular phrase, “Not my monkeys…Not my circus”? Well, unfortunately, I wish I could state this phrase. You see, I am a non-traditional full-time student at UCCS; a senior Nutrition major. And I work a job. And I’m married. And I have 4 kids. And, I have to deal with food allergies/intolerances/diagnoses in my family. *SIGH* “These are my monkeys…This is my circus!”

But…I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You see, the pressures and stresses we experience in our past, shape and refine us into usable people of the present. Akin to the analogy of grains and beans, as they are virtually unusable until they are broken, ground, soaked, or fermented until they are useable to add health to those that consume them; similarly, my life has had some pressures and stresses in my 20 years as an adult, breaking me down, but all of them refined me into the usable person I am today. You see, the first time around I went to college for a production/operations management -business degree. But after being married to a chef for 13 years, decorating cakes for 20 years, and having 3 kids, I found myself as a stay-at-home single-mom wondering if I was of any value to the employable world? I had my fill of making food for everybody else, yet I didn’t feel satiated with all the physical labor involved, only to have it instantly consumed. This food wasn’t helping people be healthy, it seemed only to exasperate their unhealthiness.

 
 

I started doing research about my own obesity and newly diagnosed PCOS and insulin resistance by the endocrinologist, because nobody had ever really taught me what to do with this diagnosis. However, it was all going over my head. Then I realized that nutritional interventions made a world of difference not just for me but for my son (thought to have ADHD and minor autism spectrum). 

Scratch Test

Scratch Test

 

So I consumed every bit of information I could get my hands on. Research produced knowledge, knowledge produced curiosity, curiosity produced experiments, and finally I realized he may be allergic to wheat. As a result, a scratch test revealed he was allergic to everything that grows in spring, summer, and fall…including wheat. Within a week of removing wheat from his diet he was a new 10-year-old child; his anxiety was greatly reduced, he was participating at school, and he began looking people in the eye. He no longer needed the ADHD and autism diagnosis. (2 years later we found out he actually had auditory dyslexia/dysgraphia.) So I started to transform all my family recipes to gluten-free versions. I researched gluten free baking and how to use xanthan gum to leaven quick breads. I also learned all the foods that wheat tends to hide in like: taco seasoning (spices in general), canned soups, salad dressings, soy sauce, oatmeal, condiments, and candy. I had to coordinate with the district dietitian for school lunches, with the teachers for class parties, and with the church for youth group and camp. At birthday parties he had to take his own pizza and cupcake. Almost everywhere he went, I had to make sure he had a bag packed with food he could eat.

 If necessity is the mother of invention, then I needed to invent a way to juggle being a single mom of 3 kids, working a job, and starting college again. I needed a way to make food when I had time, because the rest of the week I didn’t have time. Well, 5 years prior, I had catered meals to busy people with food allergies, and I marketed them in a way that I could prepare them in parts and freeze them, so all my clients needed to do was thaw out the parts, construct the meal, and bake it. I decided to do this on a grander scale. I would buy food in bulk, construct entrees (x 4 when I did cook), and freeze them flat in freezer bags. I just needed to pull one out each night and it would be thawed for cooking the following night, or dumped in a crock pot for cooking. This worked really well for gluten free versions of: lasagna, enchiladas, soups, stews, banana bread, and pancakes! In spite of my picture below taken from my deep freeze, not everyone needs to own a deep freeze. You can actually get 30 days of frozen food in a regular refrigerator/freezer. Some websites boast cooking for 30 days in 1, however that isn’t plausible for everyone. Some people like you and I can just double or triple their nightly meals, eat 1 and freeze 2. Here are some great websites to learn the technique, then incorporate your own healthier or allergy free menus:

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-freezer-meals-can-make-your-day-193964

https://www.menus4moms.com/work-week-menus-how-to-make-it-easier-time-savers-for-cooking/

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/freezer-cooking/

 
 
Picture from my main deep freeze where I store my premade entrees that are frozen flat.

Picture from my main deep freeze where I store my premade entrees that are frozen flat.

 
under youtube.jpg

At the same time, I was learning the gluten free diet, I was refining my own diet.  I was learning how insulin resistance affects my blood sugar, and the need for less refined carbohydrates and more protein. I lost 60 pounds in 6 months and my blood work was astoundingly improved.

 
 

The caveat to my new success was that it required fresher foods and salads that I couldn’t freeze. How could I bulk generate fresher foods? After much research, I found the answer to my question: Salad-in-a-jar! This isn’t as simple as stuffing salads in multiple jars. The trick is to put the dressing in the bottom of the jar, place your cherry tomatoes (or more hearty veggies with thick skins) in the dressing, then layer the veggies from hearty to more delicate, ending with any seeds, proteins, or cheeses at the top. When you are ready to eat them, you turn them over and shake them a bit. Either eat them in the jar in layers, or dump it into a bowl. (I recommend always using wide mouth jars.) I can make 5 salads on Sunday and have lunch provided for the week for approximately $2 a day! For more information on this or actual recipes see: 

http://hurrythefoodup.com/how-to-pack-a-salad-in-a-jar/     

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRemVme-3wU

Then the most exciting part of my life happened! I met someone. Someone interested in me. This someone was not only contented with the fact that I was a mom of three, I worked full-time, I was a student full-time, had a gluten-free son, and I was insulin resistant, but loved me so much that he wanted to join my circus and be one of my monkeys! The catch was he too had food issues consisting of a Crohn’s-like diagnosis. The only thing he had found to manage his symptoms was eliminating corn products. Without any research in corn free diets, I said “I DO”. I figured what doesn’t kill me will just make me stronger. It will be a powerhouse of knowledge. Well, let’s see… I have now learned that most gluten free products contain corn, because most sources of xanthan gum are corn based. Some other sources for hidden corn are: dextrose, malto-dextrose, glucose syrup, popcorn, corn starch, corn syrup, corn meal, corn solids, high fructose corn syrup, baking powder, powdered sugar, pre-shredded cheese (with undeclared cellulose), deli meats, yogurt, grain fed beef, chicken, eggs, vitamins, supplements, sugar alternatives (except stevia), boxed mixes, bottled condiments, frozen foods, broths, and soups... The joke at our house is anything in a bag, bottle, or box.

So let’s recap, we can’t cook with conventional breads, bread coatings, spice mixes, prepackaged foods, anything from a bag, bottle, or box, and we have to limit carbohydrates including processed sugars, and not many sugar alternatives.

WOW, let’s just say we don’t eat out much. It is too much work! Instead we cook in bulk, freeze the extra meals and portions, and we tend to take our own food wherever we go. We buy half a cow, pig, and sheep grain fed from a Colorado farmer for our second deep-freeze and we get pastured chicken eggs from a local homestead. We also eat a plethora of fruits and vegetables, and when we eat grains it tends to be quinoa, rice, millet, oats, or varieties of starches like tapioca, rice flour, bean starches, potato starch, or arrowroot. Or most of us can eat those cook-your-own fresh tortillas that are purchased at Costco or the grocery store. Even most loaf breads contain a corn derivative or corn as a whole grain. We make homemade kefir because my daughter is lactose intolerant and it replenishes the flora in my husband’s damaged gut. I make kombucha regularly and my teens guzzle it since I don’t buy soda. We make our own dressings from kefir or oil. We shred our own cheese from the block, and we smoke our own meat. We cook down our meats/bones and make our own broths. (Just typing all this homemade food makes me hungry and tired.) We tend to make meals that are friendly to all of us like soups, stews, salads, or stir-fry’s. Or we make meals with exchangeable parts like burrito-night where the taco seasoning is gf/corn free and then tortillas and corn chips are both offered.

 
 
My second deep-freeze with ½ grass fed cow, ½ range pig, and a sheep.

My second deep-freeze with ½ grass fed cow, ½ range pig, and a sheep.

 
 

Our new little food allergy family was so happy together that 2 years ago we decided to add a 6th member. And as we decided to wean him to food, he started showing signs of food intolerances. So we eliminated corn and wheat, and made him his own baby food. There are very few baby and toddler snacks that don’t have corn or wheat in them-- I guess we were prepared! As you can see below, we have taken him for allergy testing of the main 8 allergens, and all of them came back negative. He is reacting less and less as he matures, but he still has random rashes in weird places. Speaking of family allergies, did I mention also that for holidays my parents can’t eat wheat…or soy?!

 
Homemade baby food!

Homemade baby food!

 
 

So the moral of this whole story is this…

If I had not learned to cook gluten free, corn free, low glycemic, for obesity, and for babies, would I have the knowledge base and interests in nutritional health I need to truly be effective as a dietitian someday? Would I be able to not only empathize with my clients and patients, but also sympathize with their budget constraints, lack of motivation, lack of time, and motherly demands? Would I have the understanding of how juggling family, marriage, school, homework, profession, extra-curricular, faith, and volunteerism plays into cortisol levels and lack of sleep? Yes. YES. YES. What I have been through has not only affected me, but shaped me into a person that has a hunger and desire to know more about healthy food practices and how we are what we eat. I desire to help others with the knowledge that will help them become a better person, and possibly THRIVE.

Yes, these are my monkeys. This is my circus.