Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Fats, Oils and everything about the trans

I heard that in last week's Spanish TV program Who wants to be a millionaire? a very interesting question arise among contestants and viewers too...

Question: Which fat is more caloric? 

  1. fried olive oil

  2. raw olive oil

  3. equally

Contestants' Answer:  50(fried)/50(raw)...(They didn't know... )

So today I am more than motivated to tell you all about the big F word (no, not than one...): Fat! 


First, the question: Fried or Raw?
Fat, no matter what source comes from has the same caloric content. 1g of fat= 9 kcal
Fried oil still has the same molecular components as the raw oil. Heating up the oil just affects the stability of the components and nutrients but it doesn't transform into something else with less caloric content.
So, to answer the question: Equally! They both have the same calories. 

Some would think that raw oil is less caloric than fried because it is healthier. But when we talk about healthier oil , some people believe it to be because is less fattening, which is not true. The nutritional properties are at its best when the oil is raw. 

So that said>  Lard, olive oil, saturated fat... All of them are equally caloric. 
Obviously, the nutritional properties are different.
Basically, if it is liquid at room temperature then it is a much healthier fat, if it's solid then not so good and it will have either a higher percentage of saturated fat or trans fats ( hydrogenated fats).

The most common types of fat you are likely to eat in your diet are:
  • Nuts, Oils, Butter, Lard
  • But don't forget other types of fat you will inevitably eat in certain processed foods (Read the label always):  Trans Fat. And this is for the geeks and curious: The tricks of Organic chemistry of fatty acids. The molecules can be physically in cis or trans position. The healthy unsaturated fat is CIS, by adding Hydrogen the position changes to TRANS and it becomes a saturated fat! The food industry decided to make this in vegetable oils to create the margarine with the monster trans fatty acids inside. Always Label check!

There is so much literature about this fats. But for me this a no-brainer:
Olive oil is all you need. There are many diets promoting very specific oils or fats such as coconut oil, which is another option, but it is unnecessary when olive oil is so widely available, and really, it is too good to be replaced by any other one!
One thing is important, better to buy good quality olive oil such as extra virgin from first cold pressed extraction, which means below 25C. Why? because all the other types are extracted at higher temperature and using all sorts of chemical solvents, resulting in much less quality and worse nutritional value

Nuts are almost as caloric as any other fat or oil. They are a very clever creation of nature cause this tiny nuts and seeds are pure energy, concentrated to ensure all nutrients are ready when is time to sprout up.
Not all nuts are the same either. For example:
Need some more Calcium intake? Almonds are your best allies
Need to Balance cholesterol levels? Walnuts then.

So, just a handful of mixed nuts is all you need. Don't indulge too much on them.

Animal Fats

Not all of them are bad!
  • Lard: Where is it? Well in some recipes like pies or pastries you can still find lard as primary ingredient... so again :read label or ask in the bakery before you buy it.
 It really depends on the animal and the way it was fed. A classic example> Pigs fed with corn(farmed) vs. pigs fed with acorn(for good Spanish cured ham, Jamon Serrano).The fat from acorn fed pigs is quite interesting as it contains mainly monounsaturated fat, like the olive oil!

  • Butter or Margarine? Butter has been unpopular for years due to saturated fat content, but margarine was the devil in disguise! Trans fatty acids are proven to be even worse for your health than saturated fats. Now in Spain,the food industry has agreed to replace trans fatty acids in margarine by healthier options. Many other countries are also following same procedures. A big fish like Unilever changed its margarine's fats many years ago and Flora is now even a functional food, with plant sterols that reduce cholesterol. Thumbs up!


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Do you choose the good carbohydrates? Say No to refined ones.

I started this month with the Protein post. Today, my second post of these 3 themed ones about macronutrients is dedicated to the Carbs! We love them, and hate them too(for some undesirable side effects). Carbs are everywhere, don't think in just pasta, potatoes, bread or rice. Think of fruit and root vegetables too!

So that's why I am giving you the insight of carbs, how to choose them and which ones will be more beneficial for your belly.

The majority of the carbohydrates you usually eat  will end up reduced to sugar in all its forms and will be stored to be used as energy for your whole body.

So, with that in mind, What are the best types of carbs? 

The one that takes longer to break down into sugar and doesn't alter too much too soon blood sugar levels. That is, if you are not in the middle of a marathon or practice endurance sports, in which case a sugary drink or a big pasta bowl will help.

One thing that is very noticeable when we eat carbohydrates is the need of drinking more water and somehow the feel of flabby skin and muscle. This is simply because carbohydrates need to be stored with the help of water (they are hydrated carbon molecules) and we retain water in our body.

For 1g of carbs we eat we need 3g of water.

Another not so great effect of carbs when eating too much:
Have you noticed that the day you have a typical continental breakfast, you carry on with pasta or rice dish for lunch and end up having even more carbs and snacks during the rest of the day? I have, and as a good observer I presume to be, I have to say that I have seen it in others too! This is the effect of the glycemia. Super fast sugar absorption of the tasty refined Carbs that satisfy you but then triggers the need of more later on during the day.

 It's not about not eating carbs but eating the right ones at the right amount.

All these foods contain a good amount of carbohydrates:

All kinds of legumes
Cereals and derivatives = rice, bread, pasta, corn, couscous 
Roots = potatoes, sweet potatoes
Legumes = lentils, peas, broad beans, chickpeas

Which one do you think is higher in carbohydrates? Rice! Almost 90g of 100g are coming from carbs.
But I think it is much more important to prioritize any cereal in the form of wholegrain because at least the fibre will slow down sugar absorption, plus very important vitamins are only in the husk of the grain.

Other roots such carrots and beetroots contain more sugars compared to other vegetables. Pretty obvious as the sweet taste makes us guess it. But don't stop eating them!! Better a bag of carrots than a Coke!

This picture says it all:

Courtesy of Sugarstacks, my favorite site for visually shocking images of sugar content in food:  http://www.sugarstacks.com/vegetables.htm

I would also like to include fruit, as a source of carbohydrates, specially bananas, custard apple (chirimoya), figs and  grapes. That means that even if you don't eat cereals or bread in your meal that piece of fruit will give you plenty of sugar.

Lentils , Proteins or Carbohydrates?
Well, I still like to call them carbohydrates because they belong to the type of food that makes the body release insulin as a response to sugars.  Although what is so great about lentils is that it is the best option as light carbohydrate because it is very high in protein. This is why vegetarians need to eat more pulses and less cereals derivatives in order to keep the diet more balanced.

A balanced meal contains 1/4 of your dish in the form of any carbohydrate. With this you will ensure a pretty decent calorie intake per day that will keep your body weight stable in the long term.
Also, on a regular day with almost 10 hours of it spending it seated on a chair...we sure are loaded with energy to spend.

The key: Eat legumes and whole grains with the rest of your vegetables and proteins. Remember the balanced dish! Use your hand as a measurement cup for the size of a good portion.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Good Organic Red Meat: Less is more!

I have to say that protein in the diet from animal source is still in my opinion really important. Despite the trend of protein of vegetable source like certain legumes or soya derivatives, the good meat contains so much that I hardly see myself not consuming it for weeks, especially if you are working out for a leaner and harder body, because it is easier to lose weight due to the benefits of very little body water retention (as opposed to carbohydrates) and no sugar peaks.The key is: Quality and Moderation

What are the benefits associated with a moderate consumption of good red meat 1-2 week?:

- For Amino acids: It is very rich in all the essential ones our body needs as opposed to other sources.
- For Beneficial fatty acids: healthy and rich fatty acids due to cattle fed with grass instead of manufactured animal feed.
- For Satiety : Animal Protein still the best macro nutrient that keeps you full for longer and doesn´t affect insulin levels.
- For Vitamin B6 and B12: Essential vitamins are found in meat for red blood cell production.
- For Iron: excellent source of heme iron which is better absorbed than non-heme iron from plants
- Zinc: For your immune system and nerve function.Supports reproduction
- Chromium: It controls  those sugar cravings
- Co enzyme Q10: To help energy release and well functioning of main muscles (heart included!)
- Free from toxins: Meat is a massive business and to ensure you are not eating steak with a touch of growth hormone injected in the animal to increase muscle and other toxins it is very important to buy it Organic.

As you see, it is all about the quality, not the quantity. Unfortunately meat industries are not doing us a favor for our health and all we tend to get is insipid, flabby, carcinogenic patties and drumsticks with zero nutritional value. It is irresponsible of the food industry the brutality I have seen myself in slaughterhouses so all I say is try to :

BUY LOCAL instead of buying it from the other side of the planet
FREE RANGE instead of Caged
GRASS-FED instead of Grain(Corn) Feed
These are all Organic labels from the different countries

Organic food Labels from all over the world , as you can see above, ensure us that what we buy is legally certified and controlled by the country that issues it.

There are many different labels of Quality Schemes for foods that ensure very good standards, like this one that applies to all European Union Countries. 
Spanish label: Protected designation of origin

Organic meat is not cheap, but red meat should not be eaten as regularly so instead of buying crappy meat from the Value brand get the tasty healthy meat and eat less. Less is more!

The best sources of meat protein are always the less modified ones, so I think I don´t need to go too deep into why sausages, processed meats (any) and other creations of the food industry are a big NO!
This is the best way to illustrate it: Bones, Cartilages... yummy pork luncheon meat with a happy face for kids...The wonders of mechanically reformed meat.