Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cocoa Roast: Two Great Tastes in One!

I love finding great tasting snack foods that have the added bonus of being healthy. Rare is the day that I can make through the afternoon without a snack. I’ve been getting a little tired of whole grain goldfish crackers or yogurt so I was thrilled to find these cocoa covered almonds aptly named “Cocoa Roast”.  Almonds and other nuts are high in unsaturated fats – that’s the good fat that lowers the bad cholesterol in the blood. Nuts are also an excellent source of magnesium – a nutrient that many of us don’t get enough of.  Diets high in magnesium can lower blood pressure and magnesium is one of the top three minerals in your bones.

Dusting the almonds with cocoa powder adds a delicious burst of chocolate flavor and also phytochemicals called “flavonoids”. Only dark chocolate  high in cocoa content has a lot of these flavonoids - you won’t find much in milk chocolate or “white chocolate”.  Research suggests that diets high flavonoids may lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

So if you like chocolate and almonds –give Cocoa Roasts a try. But be forewarned – portion control is tough. I use the lid of the container as snack bowl to keep my serving small – and yes, sometimes, I fill it up a second time!

Beth Kitchin, MS, RD
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quick and Tasty Salmon Salad

I get a lot if requests for recipes. The problem is that I rarely cook with recipes. I just go with what looks right and tastes good. I made this salmon salad out of a desperate need to eat wild Alaskan salmon that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I’ve never been one for canned salmon – always preferring the fresh. So why not just buy farm raised salmon – which is much less expensive?

Farm raised salmon is more likely to be higher PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) which are harmful to human health in multiple ways. PCB’s were banned in the 70’s. But because of past use and disposal, they’re still part of the environment – and part of our food chain. Farm raised salmon are higher in PCBs mainly because the food they are fed is high in other ground up fish that are high in PCB’s. Wild Alaskan salmon is much lower in PCB’s because their food sources and environment are lower in the contaminant.

The problem with eating wild Alaskan salmon regularly is the cost – often upwards of $14 a pound depending on where you shop. But canned wild Alaskan salmon is inexpensive and it’s still packed with healthy omega 3 fatty acids. I was never crazy about the taste of canned salmon until I concocted this recipe. Forgive me for not giving you exact amounts – just go with what looks and tastes right!

Beth’s Quick and Tasty Salmon Salad:
  • 1 6-ounce can wild Alaskan salmon – boneless and skinless (make sure you get boneless and skinless!)
  • 2 small (or 1 large) scallions finely chopped
  • Seasoning blend to taste (I like Morton’s “Nature’s Seasoning” – it’s a nice blend of salt, pepper, garlic, celery and other nice flavors. You can also use some salt, pepper, garlic and celery powder)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of Lemonaise (I use the Ojai Cook Lemonaise but you can use any good tasting mayonnaise – the lemon flavor adds a nice zing)
Just blend it all together in a bowl and you’re ready to go. You can eat it as is or put it atop a bed of salad greens.

Enjoy! Let me know if you have any good canned salmon recipes - I need some variations on this theme!

Beth Kitchin, MS, RD
Assistant Professor
Department of Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Sunday, April 4, 2010

6 Reasons to Eat Potatoes

I love potatoes. Unfortunately, I find myself defending them to people who believe they make you gain weight. How did this rumor get started? It all goes back to the low-carb craze and glycemic index. Glycemic index tells us that some foods make the blood sugar go up more than other foods. These foods are dubbed “high glycemic index foods”. When the blood sugar goes up, the hormone insulin kicks in. Insulin escorts the blood sugar into the body’s cells and brings blood sugar back down to normal. A spike in the blood sugar could also spike insulin. Too much insulin, the hypothesis goes, can make you fat.

However, there are some problems with this line of reasoning. White potatoes may have a high glycemic index. But how often do you eat a plain potato with nothing on it and no other foods along with it? Probably not very often. The other foods that you eat change the blood sugar effects of the potato. Meat, cheese, butter, sour cream, or other vegetables will lower the overall blood sugar effects. The bottom line is this: it does not make nutritional sense to avoid low calorie, nutrient-packed foods based on glycemic index alone.
Here are six good reasons to eat potatoes. Potatoes are:

1. High in Potassium. Diets rich in potassium help lower blood sugar and the risk of stroke. Potatoes beat out bananas when it comes to potassium. A baked potato with the skin has 850 mg of potassium while a banana has 450 mg. We need 3500 mg of potassium a day so eating potatoes makes lots of sense.

2. High in Vitamin C: A baked potato with the skin gives you a third of your daily need for vitamin C at 26 mg per serving.

3. High in Fiber: A medium baked potato with the skin has 5 grams of fiber. High fiber diets may lower your risk for heart disease.

4. A Good source of Magnesium: This hard-to-get mineral helps lower blood pressure and subsequently, the risk of stroke.

5. Fat Free: Potatoes are fat free leaving room to add some fat and flavor.

6. Inexpensive and easy to cook: Potatoes are really cheap and easy to prepare. The healthiest way to make them is baked or roasted. Scrub ‘em up and pop them in a hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour or microwave them. To roast them, just cut them up in wedges; brush some olive oil on them, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Be sure to eat the skin – that’s where a fair portion of the nutrients are. Plus, peeling potatoes is also needlessly time consuming.

It is fine to add some sour cream (which is actually lower in fat and calories than butter), a bit of cheese or butter, or some seasoning salt. Just be careful not to overdo it. You can also sauté up some mushrooms, low-fat smoked sausage, onions, garlic, or other veggies to add a lot of healthy flavor.

Beth Kitchin MS RD
Assistant Professor
UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences