The Pulse on Pulses

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about pulses – that they’re the new “it” food of 2016. I’ve heard that they provide ample health benefits and are replacing things like quinoa, kale, and other exotic-sounding foods (that are bound to be hard to find and expensive) as the new life-changing power food. The word itself is ugly, and reminds me of a beating heart, and something that I definitely do not want to eat. I will be the first to admit that I actually had no idea what a pulse is. Have you heard of them? I was additionally reluctant to research them to find another nutrition fad that seems utterly ridiculous to me (sorry, Bulletproof coffee fans). But, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised to learn what pulses actually are, and to find that I’ve actually been eating them fairly regularly throughout my entire adult life.

What is a pulse?

A pulse is the dried seed portion of a legume. A legume is a plant whose fruit is enclosed inside a pod. Common legumes include soy, peanuts, and peas. Therefore, examples of a pulses are basically dried legumes. The most common types of pulses include dry lentils, chickpeas, dried peas, and dried beans.

What are the nutritional benefits?

Pulses are a filling part of any meal due to their high fiber and protein content. They are also very low in fat, so they’re a good choice to incorporate into your daily life if you’re looking to lose weight. The high fiber content helps protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels. High fiber also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels by preventing spikes in blood sugar (which will later cause you to crash). Pulses contain a lot of protein for a plant source. For instance ½ cup of lentils contains approximately 9 grams of protein – more than an egg, which contains only 6 grams. Pulses are also nutritionally dense; they pack in a lot of different vitamins and minerals that are essential for energy production and metabolism in a very small package and for not a lot of calories. Pulses deliver a high amount of B-vitamins, folate, thiamin, and niacin, which are all important for neurological function and for energy fuel. The one downside to pulses? They may cause some gastrointestinal discomfort when eaten in large amounts, or if you’re not used to eating them all of the time. If you want to increase your pulse intake, add them into your diet slowly, and make sure to drink plenty of water to help things move through your digestive system smoothly.

How can I eat more pulses?

If you don’t feel like eating straight up beans, you can incorporate more pulses into your diet by eating foods that already contain them! Good sources include hummus, bean spreads, chili with beans, lentil soups, and dips. If you don’t care to be adventurous, you can add lentils, peas, and beans straight into your salad in place of higher-fat meat toppings. I personally love making a baked sweet potato and topping it with black beans, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese, and salsa for a cheap and SUPER filling dinner.

So, there you have the new, fabulous, exotic, and trendy food of 2016. As you can see, they’re really not so scary! Do you normally eat pulses? What’s your favorite way to get in these nutrition superstars?

source.

Advertisements

Oats

Like avocados, oats are another amazing super food that I just can’t seem to like. OR, maybe it’s just that I’ve been eating them wrong my whole life. I’m part of the minority that loves oatmeal cookies, however I CAN’T STAND the taste or texture of oatmeal. Again, like the avocado, something about the mushiness really puts me off. Which is a shame, because oats are an amazing food that have a lot to offer.

Oats are high in soluble and insoluble fiber, which together increase satiety or fullness; reduce blood cholesterol levels; and protect against obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. One cup of oats yields a surprising amount of protein: 10g to be exact, which is a little bit more than an egg. Oats are additionally good sources of potassium, iron, and magnesium. The two most popular varieties are steel cut oats and rolled oats, or old fashioned oats. Steel cut oats are less processed, and therefore sit lower on the glycemic index (how high a person’s blood sugar spikes after consumption) than rolled oats, however both foods are otherwise nutritionally similar. I tend to buy the rolled oats, as they stay fresher longer.

And fortunately for me, there are many ways to enjoy the super nutritional benefits of oats that don’t involve mixing them with water to turn out a gooey, mushy product. For instance, they can be mixed with nut butters to make delicious, portable, and convenient energy bites, or they can be combined with a few ingredients to make a quick cookie. My favorite way to enjoy oats, however, is via smoothie. I found this recipe on Instagram (@immaeatthat – sidenote: this girl has multiple recipes that use oats, and they all look phenomenal. Check out her blog here.) and adapted it to my own tastes by adding a dash of maple syrup and using pumpkin spice instead of pure cinnamon. This smoothie is super quick, easy, satisfying, and most importantly, DELICIOUS. 

Oatmeal Cookie Smoothie

Yields: 1 smoothie, or 1 serving

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 dash vanilla extract
  • 1 dash lite maple syrup
  • 1 dash pumpkin spice, or cinnamon

1. Put all of the ingredients into a blender, blend until smooth.

2. Top with cereal, additional spices, or whatever you like.

3. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts per smoothie: Calories: 275; Total fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 35 mg; Sodium: 191 mg; Total Carb: 52g; Dietary Fiber: 6g; Protein: 18g

Do you have a non-conventional way to enjoy oats? Share in the comments!

GREEK YOGURT SOS!!!

I really want to go to Greece. The plate smashing, the bright blue waters, the history, and of course, the Greek yogurt. There’s no snack that I find more versatile and delicious. Greek yogurt is more extensively strained than regular yogurt, removing much of the liquid, whey, and lactose, leading to the thicker texture that we all know (and hopefully love). Greek yogurt serves up more protein per ounce than regular yogurt, rendering it a healthful and powerful snack that keeps you fuller for longer.

HOWEVER, when perusing the dairy aisles for a good Greek yogurt, I’ve noticed that there is now A TON of different options. It’s hard to sit in the aisle looking at all the different labels to determine which one is the best, so I went ahead and did it for you!

I researched 3 (of probably the most, at least in my opinion) popular Greek yogurt companies and compared their strawberry non-fat Greek yogurts. I also threw in a new company on the rise, which technically isn’t a Greek yogurt but is considered an Icelandic Skyr (thicker than Greek yogurt, if you can imagine, but very comparable flavor and nutrition-wise).*

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 9.39.56 PM

*Note: I typically buy the 2% or full fat versions of these yogurts just for taste and mouth-feel purposes, and used 0% fat (or fat free) here in order to make sure I’m comparing apples to apples.

The bottom line: Do you notice how when you take away the flavor and go for the plain yogurt, the sugar drops (the only sugar in plain yogurt is the naturally-occurring lactose, or milk sugar) and the protein shoots up? Of the flavored yogurts, Chobani has the most amount of protein, but also the most amount of sugar, 23 g is NO joke. 1 teaspoon of sugar = about 4g, so just imagine dumping 5 spoonful’s of sugar into the little yogurt container, it’s a lot! Siggi’s has the least amount of sugar with a still impressive amount of protein. The Fage and the Yoplait are pretty much comparable in sugar and protein content.

In my opinion, the best option is to go with the plain Fage (only 10 more calories as the Chobani, but with 3 more grams of protein, which I think outweighs the fact that it has a little bit more sugar considering the serving size for the Fage is 6oz, compared to the Chobani which is 5.3 oz), and dress it up on your own accoutrements, such as real fruit, nuts, granola, berries, and sweeteners like honey. For instance, one of my favorite breakfasts to bring to work is plain Greek yogurt, frozen tropical fruit, and salted roasted cashews with a ½ packet of Splenda. If you must go with a flavored yogurt, buy the Fage or a Chobani “fruit at the bottom” variety where you can control how much of the fruit/sugar mixture you actually mix in, and try to only eat half of the entire flavoring.

So hopefully this helps the next time you’re stuck blocking up the dairy aisle with a blank stare on your face (we’ve all been there, right? No? Just me? OK then). Happy eating!

Brace Yourself, the Pumpkins are Coming

Linus from Charlie Brown was on to something when he sat around for hours on Halloween waiting for the Great Pumpkin. In fact, his obsession with the pumpkin has made me think that he was quite the trendsetter. Seeing that we are well into my favorite season of Fall, I’ve noticed that everyone has officially gone off their rocker, and pumpkin is cropping up in everything. EVERYTHING. So far I’ve seen the likes of pumpkin spiced lattes (of course), lip gloss, yogurt, Pringles, even hummus.

But, I deplore you to stay away from these pumpkin-themed foods (yes, even the latte). For the most part, the flavor in these products comes from chemicals and artificial flavoring, and are not the real deal.

Enter one of my favorite supermarket buys in the fall and winter months: a can of pumpkin puree. A brand that I trust is Libby’s and the ingredients list reads: PUMPKIN. And that’s it. To compare, the ingredients in Pumpkin Spice flavoring syrup used in Starbucks reads as: “SUGAR, CONDENSED NONFAT MILK, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, ANNATO (FOR COLOR), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, CARAMEL COLOR, SALT, POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVATIVE),” and can be found here.

Real pumpkin offers so many health benefits, and all of these pumpkin-flavored imitators offer none of them. That’s why I choose to skip the imposters and buy the pumpkin puree, which is versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes. Like applesauce and other fruit purees, pumpkin can substitute butter and oil in baking recipes to provide that wonderful fall flavor while upping the nutrient value. Click here to learn how to substitute butter and oil with pumpkin in your favorite baking recipes.

More importantly, the bright orange color, as seen in the sweet potato, is enough to tell you that the pumpkin is bursting with nutrients. Pumpkins are a great source of potassium and magnesium, which help to lower blood pressure; vitamin C, to boost immunity and to fight those winter colds; and fiber, which not only keeps you super full but also improves GI health, lowers blood cholesterol, and prevents blood sugar spikes. Not to mention there is only 1g of sugar and 0g of fat in a 1/2 cup serving of pumpkin puree, so it’s truly good for your waistline (unlike the Pumpkin Spice Latte syrup mentioned above, which is seriously just pure sugar and empty calories).

My favorite, and probably also the easiest, way to eat pumpkin is in a smoothie. This recipe is great for breakfast, after a workout, or even dessert, and, it’s made even better when topped with this yogurt dip that I’m now obsessed with made by Something Swanky (find her original recipe and post here). 

Pumpkin Spiced Cinnamon Shake

Servings: 1, Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 0 minutes.

Ingredients

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 banana, frozen

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 scoop vanilla whey protein

1 T honey

1/2 tsp pumpkin spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and mix until silky smooth. Best when eaten with a spoon and/or slurped with a straw (depending on the thickness and your mood on that given day).

Demolished.

Nutrition Information (for shake only, excluding the yogurt dip): Calories: 309, Total Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 45g, Total Carb: 55g, Dietary Fiber: 8g, Protein: 22g. *

*This recipe meets 158% of your Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin A, 19% DV of potassium, 20% DV of Vitamin C, 38% DV of Calcium, and 14% of Iron, woo!

How do you like to cook with pumpkin? Have you seen any other bizarre foods that have been pumpkin spice-ified? Sound off in the comments!