protein

Stranded on a Desert Island

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If you only had three foods to eat to stay alive, for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Beans? Eggs? Brown rice? Milk? Spinach? Salmon? Blueberries? Or maybe you would choose the top three in the super foods list.

Now, if I were trapped on a DESSERT island, I would surely be packing the dark chocolate bars, double chocolate brownie ice cream, and peeps. My peeps would keep me company and I would name one Wilson.

peep
^^Wilson^^

You’re just a peep, but let me tell you what I would choose and why.

Each food serves a purpose and a diet full of variety is what keeps one healthy. People often ask me: “what are the very best foods I can eat?”  I sigh and tell them all whole and natural foods on this earth are good for you!  Of course moderation is key.  But Wilson, three foods!  Just think!  If you had just three foods to sustain life, what would you pick?  What three foods would give you the best proportion of essential protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals to meet all the nutrition requirements the body needs to survive?

To start, I would choose a food that has all the essential amino acids, or building blocks of protein.  Essential amino acids (phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine) cannot be made in the body and must come from the diet.  A complete protein contains these nine essential amino acids in the correct proportion.  While most foods contain all the essential amino acids, they do not necessarily have them in the correct proportions our bodies need.  Animal sources like eggs, milk, poultry, meats, and fish are examples of complete proteins.  Plant sources tend to have a lower amount of one or more essential amino acids and therefore need to be paired with a food that can compensate.  For example, combining beans and rice is a popular way to achieve a complete protein.

That being said, I would choose milk to be my source of complete protein.  It has a high protein digestibility score plus it is higher in calcium, magnesium, and B-12 than a serving of egg.  (And I would be so bored on the island I would learn how to make yogurt and cheese.)

Then, it would hit me that I’m on this island alone; I will need a lot of energy to build myself a home and arrange logs to spell out “help.”  Therefore, I need a high-energy food like a starch that will build up my glycogen stores as well as provide immediate energy.  At first one might think potato.  But I’m going to delegate a sweet potato to be my source of energy and added goodies like potassium, Vitamins A, C, and B-6, and fiber.  (I’m totally making sweet potato fries over the fire.  Wilson, you’re next!  You delectable puffy golden brown s’more, you!)

peep smore

Ok, now for my last choice.  (Big puff of air through small opening of mouth.) Man, this is tough.  I have many nutrient holes to fill such as Vitamins E and K, some of the B vitamin family, iron, and the list goes on.

The first food that comes to mind to fill these holes is spinach.  Spinach is high in Vitamins C, A, and K, and folate, and is a good source of calcium, iron, and Vitamins E, B2 and B6.  But even a 10-ounce package of spinach, a half-gallon of milk, and five cups of sweet potatoes, providing a total of 2137 calories, would leave me deficient in Vitamin E, iron, and zinc, and exceeding the safe upper limit for magnesium and calcium, and extremely exceeding the upper limit for Vitamin A.

Really Wilson, I hope this helps you realize you really can’t live off of just three foods and achieve all your daily requirements of every vitamin and mineral.  It would be extremely hard.  But what do you know about hard; you’re a marshmallow.

 

Please, don’t let Wilson and I carry on this ridiculous dialogue alone.  Leave your comments below.  What three foods would YOU take with you on this desert island?

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Eggsalad Easter

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The hunt is over. You pat yourself on the back because you just found 25 spectacularly colored hard-boiled eggs! What a champ! So you neatly display them like a trophy in your fridge so that every time you open the door you see beautiful colors splattered across an eggshell canvas. Who would want to eat such beautiful works of art? But finally, if you’re like me, a couple days pass and you begin to get hungry and brainstorm ways to use all these eggs. My search led to a few tasty and creative ideas; but first, let’s spend a little time talking about the nutrition that makes these eggs so golden.

Eggs are kind of a big deal. They are cheap, delicious, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. This goodness is found in both the yolk and the whites, so eat it all up, people! Research shows that eating whole eggs actually increases HDL cholesterol (the good guy who prevents cardiovascular disease) and a growing number of studies show that dietary cholesterol does not impact blood level of cholesterol.

The yolk contains one of the richest dietary sources of choline, which helps with inflammation and neurological function. Lutein and zeaxanthin fight for your vision while sulfur aids in Vitamin B absorption, liver function, and the growth of hair, nails, and skin. Let’s not leave the whites out, though. The whites are a great protein source and top-notch quality as the essential amino acids are easy to digest.

And there you have it: nutrition in an eggshell!

Enough with the nutrition lesson, let’s get cookin’! Here are some eggcellent ways to use up hard-boiled eggs:

  1. Scotch Eggs
  1. On top of Wedge Salad
  1. Garam Masala Deviled Eggs
  1. In a Breakfast Burrito
  1. Smoked Salmon and Egg Canapes
  1. Campanelle Salad
  1. English Muffin Egg Pizzas
  1. Pan Bagnat
  2. Salad Niçoise Lettuce Cups
  3. Eggs Mimosa

 

Food safety tip: hard-boiled eggs kept in the fridge should be eaten within one week and keep the shell on until you are ready to use them.

 

Your Ticket to the Gun Show

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arnold1

Protein. Protein. Protein.  These days it’s allllll about protein.  Want to lose weight?  Eat protein + buy protein shakes.  Want to train for a marathon?  Eat even more protein + get those protein shakes in.  Want to look shredded?  Eat a ridiculous amount of protein + supplement with protein powder.  Want to visit your grandma more?  Eat protein all day and bring her 3 protein shakes!

Wait, slow your roll, buddy!  While protein is very important in your diet, it should be balanced and come from the best nutritious sources: food.  Your ticket to the gun show doesn’t need to cost you a fortune in protein supplements.  Let me tell you why:

The average person needs about 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight.  The average endurance athlete needs about 1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight.  If you are a strength athlete trying to increase skeletal muscle mass, your goal would be around 1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight.  Not only does this protein level range with specific activities, but it also varies greatly with weight.  If you are a female endurance runner weighing 120 lbs, your protein goal will be about 65 g.  However, if you are a male football player training for the upcoming season weighing 240 lbs, you may need 185 g of protein.

Let’s convert these gram numbers to real food.  In order for our 120 lb runner to get adequate protein for the day, she could eat a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 1 cup Greek yogurt (14 g), and ½ cup of black beans (20) = 66 grams of protein.

Our football player could eat 1 cup of quinoa (24 g), 6 oz chicken (42), a four egg omelet (24 g), 1 cup almonds (20), 1 cup lentils (18 g), a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 3 glasses of milk (24 g), and 2 cups broccoli (6 g) = 190 grams of protein.

The recommended range is 10-35% of calories from protein.  It is important to provide your training and healing body with the necessary amount of protein.  However, exceeding this range may be detrimental to health.  There are few studies done on long-term protein intake and therefore we can only forecast that constant high protein intake could be harmful to your kidneys.

I hope I didn’t distract you with too many numbers and ranges.  My main point was to show you that sufficient protein intake can be achieved through food.  No supplements required.   I don’t think protein supplements are the devil; I just think more often than not, they are unnecessary for the average athlete or individual at the gym.*

When you are determining your protein choices, it is important to choose proteins that are easily digested and rich in essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.  These foods include fish, lean meats, eggs, and milk.  Other healthy sources of protein are found in legumes and other plant proteins like spinach, nuts, and seeds.

Remember, your ticket to your very own gun show can be earned by eating some deliciously nutritious plant and animal protein sources.   And if it gets you to visit grandma more, maybe you can bring a couple protein shakes to enjoy together.

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*Note:  Vegetarian, vegan, and extreme intensity athletes may need to supplement.  It is best to seek professional attention or a sports dietitian to go over specific dietary needs as well as the added caloric demands of exercising.