Top 10 Most Overrated Health Foods

by | Mar 3, 2014

Photo by Paul Holloway

Like it or not, we tend to believe whatever we are exposed to in the media and in advertisements. In nutrition this usually means that as a society we all follow the same diet fads, glorifying some foods over others in the quest for better health. (It’s okay, I love salmon and coconut water as much as you do).

Problem is though, more often than not the news or the health claims made by food manufacturers vastly overstate any potential health benefits, because it makes a more compelling story and sells more products. Our own confirmation biases tend to make us believe what we’re told, we confidently share our insight with our friends, and suddenly our grocery stores are filled with health foods that really aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

Here are my 10 picks for the most overrated health foods.
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12 Ways to Upgrade Mom’s Kitchen Skills and Help Her Eat Better

by | May 1, 2013

Photo by x-ray delta one

Moms are wonderful. But as Mother’s Day approaches, I am reminded once again that my parents’ generation didn’t do the greatest job of equipping us to feed ourselves healthy foods.

Of course this isn’t exactly their fault. The food industry tried their best to ensure that we all became dependent on frozen foods and ready-made meals. Fortunately we now know enough to reverse a lot of these trends, but developing new habits can be more difficult as we get older.

The good news is that it isn’t too late for Mom. This year let one of your Mother’s Day gifts be to help make her life easier and improve her nutrition by sharing some of these kitchen upgrades. And if you’re really serious about this stuff, a copy of Foodist makes a wonderful Mother’s Day gift as well (wink, wink).
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8 Reason Breakfast Makes Your Life Better

by | Jul 20, 2011

Yogurt, muesli and blueberries

I should admit right now that I’m a born again breakfast eater. In the past I always told myself that skipping breakfast meant one less meal adding calories to my day, and I was proud to have eliminated this annoyance from my life.

For the last several years, however, I have grown to love breakfast and am something of an evangelist. Breakfast may seem like an odd thing to try to covert people to, but once you see my reasons you may become a believer yourself.

8 Reasons Breakfast Makes Your Life Better

  • It’s easy. Breakfast doesn’t take much time or energy to prepare; I’m half asleep when I pour my cereal, rinse my fruit and boil my coffee every day. It also requires minimal planning. Just buy everything you need every week or two and you are good to go. What’s your excuse?
  • Health wins. We all must deal with the internal struggle between eating healthy and eating not-so-healthy. Throughout the day breakfast is by far the easiest battle in which health can triumph, since there is no outside social pressure and unhealthy options are harder to attain. I recommend taking winning odds whenever they are presented.
  • Hunger check. If you eat a satisfying breakfast before heading into work you are less likely to be tempted by the junk food that haunts most office environments. Likewise, you will have better self-control when it comes time to decide what to eat for lunch.
  • Whole grains. For my own healthstyle, intact whole grains are the most difficult to get in my diet. Unsweetened oats, plain brown rice and quinoa aren’t exactly staples on American restaurant menus. But without grains I feel constantly hungry and my workouts suffer. If I eat them at breakfast I am guaranteed at least that one serving during the day. (For tips to get more whole grains at dinner, check out my easy frozen brown rice balls).
  • Higher metabolism. Eating healthy food has a positive effect on your metabolism. Not only does what you eat for breakfast affect how your body reacts to different foods for the rest of the day, it also influences your metabolic rate in the long term. Be careful though, highly processed and easily digested foods have a negative effect.
  • Healthy habits. Healthy behavior begets more healthy behavior. According to some studies, this is especially true of breakfast eaters. Waking up and eating a healthy breakfast encourages you to pack a healthy lunch and plan your day around wholesome food. It feels really good to do healthy things, but we easily forget this when presented with free donuts on an empty stomach during a mid-morning meeting. Build your healthy habits when it is easy and help them stick around for the long haul.
  • Self-esteem. I think it is important to reiterate how good it feels to do healthy things for your body, and as a bonus it extends to how we feel about ourselves. Most of us feel proud and confident when we know we are doing the right thing. Why not start out each morning on the right foot?
  • Deliciousness. Of all the reasons I just listed, this one probably has the biggest sway with me personally. My breakfasts are absolutely delicious and I adore waking up and eating such yummy food. It is worth going out of your way to find healthy foods you enjoy eating, that way good food has as much pull on you as the less healthy junk. This will make your food decision making a whole lot easier.

Once you have convinced yourself that eating breakfast is important and worthwhile, it helps to know what constitutes a healthy one. I have written about breakfast before, focusing on the difference between fake “whole grains” as sold to us by processed food manufacturers and real intact whole grains.

Recently I have switched to a new favorite breakfast: plain yogurt, muesli and fruit.

I love this new combo for a few reasons

  1. I tried yogurt because I was having digestive issues for a few weeks and was hoping the probiotics in the yogurt (I eat even more probiotic foods now) might help. It totally did, and I’m sold on this method for improved digestion (despite my mild lactose intolerance).
  2. Coarse and chewy muesli is perfect on yogurt and I was able to completely cut out the fake whole grain flakes that bothered me about my old breakfast. Woohoo!
  3. The added protein and fat from the lowfat plain yogurt helps me feel satisfied longer in the day and adds a creamy luxury to my morning.

Be sure that when you are choosing your healthy breakfast you find foods with no added sugar. For example, fruit and vanilla yogurts are notorious for having obscene amounts of sugar (especially vanilla) putting it more on par with ice cream than health food. Likewise, most store bought granolas are loaded with sugar, molasses, honey, agave, concentrated fruit juice and other sweeteners. This is why I prefer muesli–completely unsweetened grains with bits of dried fruits, nuts and seeds.

When choosing plain yogurt I recommend lowfat instead of nonfat yogurt, because it is much more palatable and satisfying. Nonfat plain yogurt tends to be too tangy for me. Also, you need the fat to help with nutrient absorption and satiation.

My breakfast

  • 1 c. Plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1/4 c. Dorset muesli
  • 1/4 c. fresh fruit

What is your favorite healthy breakfast?

Originally published August 17, 2009

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Probiotics & Fermented Foods – Episode 6 – Summer Tomato Live [video]

by | May 10, 2011

Thanks to those of you who participated in last week’s show on Probiotics & Fermented Foods, it was a great discussion. You can find the show notes below.

The next episode is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24 @ 6:30pm PST. We’ll be discussing Weight Loss Tips & Tricks. If you’d like to participate, sign up by this Friday, May 13, to receive the first month of Tomato Slice for free.

May 1, 2011 | What is the scientific evidence behind eating fermented foods or pre- and probiotics, and what are the best sources?

Tune in today at 1pm PST to join our live discussion about probiotics.

Live participation is only available to subscribers of the newsletter Tomato Slice. You can sign up at any time, even during the show, and the password for participation will be emailed to you immediately.

Click here to sign up and get the password

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

Show notes:

In an attempt to answer Aisha’s question about whether sauerkraut (or kimchi) goes bad I’ve done a bit of reading and haven’t found much. Most evidence suggests that unopened and submerged in brine it is good almost indefinitely. However, once it is open I haven’t seen much evidence that it goes “bad,” but it might not be as pleasant.

Because it is fermented it is unlikely to experience much rot, so I would judge by color, smell and your own personal comfort level. Obviously anything with a physical growth or mold should be tossed.

If anyone else has any insight please share.

References:

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Summer Tomato Live – Episode #2 – Darya’s Healthstyle

by | Mar 10, 2011

Thanks to all of you who participated in the latest episode of Summer Tomato Live, your questions were great and I had a blast.

The recording of the show is above, and you’ll notice quickly that I had to re-record the audio since I had some trouble during the recording. Sorry about that, I’ll get this technical stuff right eventually.

We still have samples of Zürsun cranberry beans as well as a free Foodzie Tasting Boxes ($20 value) for the first 150 people that sign up for Tomato Slice by March 15. For more info about the show and newsletter read this. US shipments only.

Subscribe to Summer Tomato Live ($3.99/mo)

The next live show is scheduled for Wednesday, March 16, at 6:30pm PST, and the topic is Habit forming and habit breaking. The following episode will be about healthy vegetarian and vegan diets, which I’ll try to make interesting for omnivores as well.

The episode will also be available soon on iTunes.

Today’s show notes:

Sponsors:

My go-to recipes:

My tricks for cooking without pasta:

Time saving tricks:

Exercise tips & alternatives:

How to:

Recommended healthstyle gear:

Let me know if there are any other links you’d like me to include.

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For The Love of Food

by | May 15, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome back to For The Love of Food. Thanks to everyone who sent me articles this week, I couldn’t have done it without you. We have a ton of great stuff here. I particularly love the Cheerios story, the fake “local” food from Frito-Lay and the video clip of Michael Pollan on The Colbert Report.

If you would like to see more of my favorite articles each week or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page.

Submissions of your own best food and health articles are also welcome, just drop me an email using the contact form.

For The Love of Food

  • When ‘Local’ Makes It Big << OH SNAP! New York Times calls out Frito-Lay and other food industry giants for pretending to sell local food. But I know you guys won’t be fooled. I love this movement because it supports the exact opposite of selling out. Big Ag would love to package, cheapen and sell “local” like they have with organic, but this time they can’t do it without looking like fools. Funny to watch them try though.
  • It really does help <<Great advice on how to stay inspired to cook yourself dinner when you lack motivation, from Orangette.
  • Michael Pollan on The Colbert Report


.The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Pollan
colbertnation.com
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Let us know what you think!


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10 Common Groceries I Never Buy

by | Mar 7, 2009

In general I would say I eat pretty normal food. Admittedly the fruits and vegetables I buy are extraordinary (thank you San Francisco), but they are still just plants that grow out of the dirt in California. I realized recently that what is truly unusual about my diet are the groceries I do not buy.

10 Groceries I Never Buy

(and why I think there are better things to spend my money on)

  1. Sliced bread. Sure my grandparents think it is the greatest invention of all time (literally), but I would argue that the fluffy loaves that come in plastic bags at the market can barely be considered food. Don’t believe me? Check the ingredients list. If you don’t fall asleep by the time you get to the bottom, try pronouncing some of those words in the middle. Exthoxylated…wuh?
  2. Fruit yogurts. It is generally accepted without question that yogurt is good for you. That may be the case for old-fashioned plain yogurt (though I am still not convinced), but I guarantee you those sugary yogurts that take up the bulk of the dairy case do not qualify as health food. 15 grams of sugar is my cut off before a food transitions to dessert. Look before you eat.
  3. Iceberg or romaine lettuce. Besides being colorless and flavorless, these boring greens add little (zero?) nutrition to your life. Instead I buy the colorful, loose spring mixes that come in bags, boxes or bulk bins at the grocery store and farmers market. If you prefer to stick with one kind of salad green at a time, try green or red leafed lettuce. Mix it up occasionally with cabbage or radicchio.
  4. Corn-fed beef. As I have explained before, I love beef (even though I don’t eat much of it). When I decide it is worth the indulgence, I go straight for the gourmet grass-fed kind. Why? Cows were never meant to eat corn (industrial cows have been bred to do it), and those that do are sicker and less nutritious than cows that are pastured. Moreover, the factories that process this sub-par beef are likely to be huge, unsanitary and foster E. Coli outbreaks. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
  5. Soda. There was a time in my life when I drank quarts of Diet Coke a day. But since I started focusing on my health I gave it up and never looked back. Even natural sodas add very little to your quality of life. And if they contain full sugar, your life may even be shortened. When I’m thirsty I drink water.
  6. Pancake or brownie mixes. I am not immune from the occasional pancake or brownie craving (and sometimes my friends demand these of me!). So if it is a special occasion, why bother with the boxed stuff? Both these goodies are easy to make from scratch and worth a little extra time in the kitchen to make them spectacular! Isn’t that what indulgence is all about?
  7. Winter tomatoes. Need I say more? There is no room in my life (usually) for an inadequate tomato. Canned tomatoes are a better option during the spring and winter.
  8. Juice. Even 100% fresh squeezed juice is dangerous for your blood sugar and insulin levels (not to mention your BMI). If I decide to try some, I consume less than 8 oz. You can probably guess what I think about the phony 10% juice products from concentrate (see point #5).
  9. Deli meats. On the surface these purportedly lean meats seem to be healthy. But under the surface they are packed with salts, sugars and nitrates. For a quick protein fix, try canned salmon (boneless, skinless), sardines or lox.
  10. Cheese that comes in plastic. Similar to beef, I indulge in cheese so infrequently that I prefer to go straight to Cowgirl Creamery for the good stuff! My recent favorite is called Midnight Moon.
  • What popular items don’t you buy?
  • Have any questions about other common items in your shopping cart?
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