7 Health Benefits of Avocado

7 Health Benefits of Avocados 

Avocados have grown in popularity in past decade and with good reason. These green, creamy, delicious fruits make a great addition to almost any food or dish. Not only are avocados incredibly versatile, but they are loaded with an array of nutrients to help support your health!

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1. Good Source Fiber. Avocados are about 7% fiber by weight. Most people don’t come near meeting the recommended daily intake for fiber.  Avocados contain both soluble and insoluble fiber to support digestion and health. Eating 1/2 of a medium sized avocado provides 5 grams of fiber!

2. Rich in Monounsaturated Fat. Monounsaturated fatty acids offer valuable health benefits including  lowering “bad” cholesterol and reducing risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Just a single 1 oz serving of an avocado provides about 3 grams of this healthy fat while a whole avocado has nearly 15 grams!

3. Great Source of Potassium. Potassium is a critical mineral that the body needs to function normally. It’s especially important to help the heart, kidneys and other organs work. Did you know an avocado provides more potassium than a banana? Just one half of an avocado provides approximately 345 mg of potassium.

4. Fight Inflammation. Avocados contain various antioxidants including carotenoids, Vitamin E and Vitamin C as well as anti-inflammatory compounds such as catechins and procyanidins. Catechines can increase plasma antioxidant activity and also help prevent oxidation. 

5. Support Eye Health. Avocados are a good source of the two carotenoidslutein and zeaxanthin which are important carotenoids found in the eye. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in these two compounds can help reduce risk of developing mascular degeneration. One half of an avocado contains about 185 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin

6. Support Healthy Blood Pressure and Cholesterol. In addition to being a good source of potassium which supports healthy blood pressure in the body, magnesium and antioxidants in avocados can help dilate blood vessels. Furthermore, those who consume avocados regularly have higher HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) and lower LDL and triglyceride levels. 

7. Increases Absorption of Carotenoid-Rich Foods. Carotenoid-rich foods such as carrots and spinach are better absorbed with some healthy fat. Because avocados naturally contain healthy fat, not only is the absorption of beta-carotene increased, the conversion to it’s active form, Vitamin A, is also increased. Try adding avocado to your salad to increase the bioavailability of the nutrients found in the dark leafy greens and other vegetables!

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7 Ways to Incorporate Avocado Into Your Diet

  1.  Slice and top on a salad (the healthy fat will help absorb all of these good nutrients in the veggies)
  2.  Use as a spread on a sandwich in place of mayonnaise.
  3. Add ripe avocado to a breakfast smoothie. 
  4. Slice and drizzle with olive oil, and a small dash of salt and pepper
  5. Blend with olive oil and herbs to create a creamy pasta sauce.
  6. Combine with a ripe banana and cocoa powder to create a creamy chocolate pudding.
  7. Make a refreshing avocado sorbet

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5 Reasons To Choose Plain, Full-Fat, Grass-fed Yogurt

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1.More nutrients. Grass-fed yogurt is made from cows (or goats) who have grazed in pastures year round. These animals are not fed processed grains, soy and corn like most conventionally raised cows are fed today. Because the cows are eating their natural diet, the quality and nutrition of the yogurt is greatly improved. Grass-fed yogurt provides a wide range of nutrients including all of the b-vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin D and various minerals and amino acids. It’s also typically high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). Many of these nutrients come from the naturally occurring fat!

2. Improved digestion. The health benefits of probiotoics is actually quite remarkable. In addition to supporting a healthy immune system, these live bacteria can help improve digestion by helping to regulate the steadiness of food passage through our digestive tract and supporting the break down and absorption of food  through increased metabolism by healthy gut bacteria. A good quality yogurt should generally contain at least 1,000,000 live active cultures per gram.

3. Additive free. Most health professionals would probably agree that sugar is the biggest problem in our food supply today. Most conventional yogurts are loaded with added sugar and artificial sweeteners! Fat adds flavor so when it is removed, sugar is often added in its place to enhance taste. In addition to sugar, artificial flavors and colors, thickeners are also added to add volume when fat is removed. Maybe think twice next time you’re reaching for that fat-free, Key Lime Pie yogurt. If you want a little flavor or sweetness, add some fresh or frozen berries.

4. Stable blood sugar. Carbohydrates, especially those in the form of simple sugars,  increase blood sugar, whereas fat has little to NO effect on blood sugar. A small amount of fat combined with carbohydrates will help decrease the response of blood glucose. In addition to some fat, the protein and active live cultures present in yogurt also provided blood sugar support.

5. Fat does NOT make you fat! As mentioned above, when fat is removed it’s often replaced with refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Carbohydrates are converted to sugar as soon as they hit the blood stream, which causes the body to release insulin, a fat-storing hormone. Excess blood sugar is also stored by the body. Glucagon, which is our “fat-burning hormone” will work when our blood sugar levels are not elevated. This means the fewer carbohydrates we are consuming, especially simple carbs, the more glucagon we should have available to break down or “burn” fat.

             Last but not least…

Not only is this kind of yogurt better for you, it’s also better for the animal and the environment. Cows are meant to be roaming free in pastures, not confided to small indoor quarters their entire lives where they are raised inhumanely. Check out a few of my favorite yogurts here, here and here!

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Grain-Free Banana Bread Muffins

Banana Bread Muffins (Yields 12)

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Ingredients

  • 4 medium ripe bananas 
  • 4 free-range organic eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 4 tablespoons grass-fed butter, melted (may substitute coconut oil)
  • 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder                                                                                   
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4  teaspoon sea salt

Directions image21

  1. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Chop bananas and combine with all remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  4. Pulse or blend on medium speed until all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared muffin pan, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top. 
  7. Remove from oven and let cool. 
  8. Store in sealed container at room temperature or in refrigerator.

        Enjoy!

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The Farmer’s Market

                                               “Know your farmer, know your food.”

There’s no better place to buy fresh fruits and veggies than a local farmer’s market, especially during the summer. The flavor of locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables cannot be compared to those found in most supermarkets. In addition to the freshness and quality of the produce, you’re also supporting small farmers who must compete with the industrial scale agricultural. Most farmer’s markets in the northeast run May through October when most produce is in season.  In season produce not only offers the best flavor, but the best value as well!  I’ve listed below some of the most popular seasonal summer fruits and vegetables. Head to your local farmer’s market to enjoy some of the freshest and tastiest produce around!

image4image7Apricots 
Blueberries
Blackberries
Cantaloupe
Cherries
Figs
Nectarines                           
Peaches
Plums
Raspberries
Strawberries  
Watermelon       

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Asparagus599605855768453983_n    Beets 
Broccoli
Carrots
Cucumbers
Green beans
Kale
Peas
Radishes
Spinach
Tomato
Zucchini                                                                                                                                                                                            


Tasty Summer Salads

Summer is the perfect time to experiment with different salads thanks to the large selection of fresh, in season produce available. Summer fruits in particular are ripe, inexpensive and bursting with favor. I love salads because they make a quick and easy meal requiring little planning and preparation. On a hot summer day, a nice cool and refreshing salad sure beats cooking over a stove.

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Instead of your basic house salad with carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes which may become boring, try mixing it up! Fruit makes an easy sweet and tasty addition to those greens. Spinach topped with fresh berries and goat cheese is my favorite summer salad creation. Berries are packed full of fiber and antioxidants. Antioxidants can decrease the risk of many diseases. The phytochemical called anthocyanin is what gives blueberries & blackberries their dark  blue color and strawberries their red color. In addition to anthocyanin, strawberries also contain other compounds including flavonoids, ellagitannins and ellagic acid which all have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. Watermelon is high in carotenoid-phytochemicals. In fact, one serving of watermelon has three times the amount of lycopene than a raw tomato! Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and watermelon are also all an EXCELLENT source of Vitamin C! 

                 

 Summer Berry Salad with Homemade Strawberry Vinaigrette Dressing

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        Salad

  • 1 cup of raw spinach
  • 1/4 cup of diced watermelon
  • 1/4 cup of fresh blackberries or blueberries
  • 1/4 cup of chopped pecans
  • goat cheese

          Dressing

  • Fresh strawberries
  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Olive oil

To make dressing, wash and chop a handful of fresh strawberries. In a blender, combine strawberries with about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinaigrette and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add seasonings if desired.

 

hommade strawberry dressing

 

Read more about the benefits of tasty summer fruit here.

A Few of My Favorite Things

As a Nutritionist,  I probably enjoy grocery shopping more than the average person. I love food and exploring new products and markets! I feel very lucky to be surrounded by so many stores that offer a great selection of minimally processed, whole real and organic foods. I want to share some of my favorite products and finds! I always seek out whole, natural foods as much as possible that are free of additives and chemicals!

Yogurt

I look for plain, organic full-fat grass-fed yogurt. If you can’t find grass-fed or full-fat at your local store, that’s okay. You should still be able to find plain, organic yogurt which would be the best option. Yogurt should be simple with only two ingredients: pasteurized milk and live active cultures.. nothing else! (No gums, sugars, dyes, artificial flavors, etc.) Here are a few of my favorite yogurts. The last one is actually from a local dairy farm!

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Hummus

It’s hard to find a good hummus free from one of the highly refined vegetable oils at your conventional grocery store. My ideal hummus does not contain GMO canola oil. Hummus should contain only natural ingredients which include chickpeas, tahini, real herbs, spices, vegetables and maybe some olive oil. Two brands that use only these ingredients I like to buy are shown below. The Farm At Red Hill, which is based out of Virginiacan be found at Whole Foods. Helen’s Pure Foods hummus is local to Philadelphia. Check your grocery store and Farmer’s Market for locally made hummus brands, which likely are organic and only use natural ingredients 🙂

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Almond Milk

I love almond milk but being able to always make my own is not realistic for me.  Almond milk has grown with popularity but it’s still important to stick to those that contain the least amount of additives!  When buying almond milk, first look for unsweetened milk to eliminate unnecessary added sugars. Second, check the ingredient list and try and find one that does not contain carrageenan. Carrageenan is a popular thickener used for nondairy milks. Although derived from seaweed, some studies suggest it may be linked to intestinal inflammation. Both Whole Food’s and Trader Joe’s brand of regular unsweetened almond milk do not contain carrageenan.

almond milk

Coconut Oil

If you haven’t heard by now, coconut oil is a great healthy fat! After olive oil, it’s my next favorite oil to use in cooking. I love coconut oil for many reasons, but will just name a few. Coconut oil is a good source of cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid and also contains a type of  medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid, which converts into energy more quickly and easily than other types of fat. Because coconut oil is becoming widely popular, it is likely popping up in stores near you. If shopping for coconut oil, choose organic, unrefined also known as “pure” or “virgin” coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil has not been bleached or deodorized and does not contain additives. It also retains the natural taste and smell of coconut! I really like the brands Nutiva and Spectrum.

Coconutoil

“Granola” Bars 

It’s no secret that most conventional granola bars contain a lot of added sugars among other ingredients we’d be better off without. Once again, it’s important to go right to the ingredient list when making your selections. The shorter the ingredient list, the better! You should be able to recognize all of the ingredients. Crazy right? Here are a few of my selections for real food bars when on-the-go and  traveling.

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Nut and Seed Butters 

Peanut butter has a lot of competition these days.  Today there are so many and seed butters available! My latest discovery was pumpkin seed butter. Dastony makes a variety of organic nut and butters that are delicious. My current favorite nut butters are almond and cashew butter. Other nut and seed butters available include walnut, pecan, macadamia and sunflower butter. When looking for any nut or seed butter, the only ingredient should be that nut or seed. Remember, keep it simple. Some stores now even offer grinding your own fresh nut butter!

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Other great finds!

Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips. These are probably the only store bought chip I’d recommend. They only use real organic potatoes baked in coconut oil! I dare you to find any other chip that does not use some kind of highly processed and polyunsaturated vegetable oils. These are definitely dietitian approved!

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Juisi’s chocolate almond milk. This raw, cold pressed drink is made from raw almonds with raw cacao, dates, vanilla & cinnamon. No cow’s milk or added sugar!

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Happy Shopping!