In Love with Peanut Butter? Me Too

Well here it goes. I like to eat peanut butter. And almond butter. ALOT.

Growing up, I used to eat Skippy peanut butter. That was until I started to learn about nutrition. Not the kind of nutrition where you focus on the calories, but the kind of nutrition where you look at the ingredients before you look at the label.

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Here is what you will find in Skippy peanut butter:

Roasted peanuts, corn syrup solids, sugar, soy protein, hydrogenated vegetable oils (cotton seed, soybean and rapeseed) plus some fortified vitamins and minerals………

WOAH thats a lot of processed ingredients in one jar. If you eat peanut butter every day, like I do, it is important to make sure that you are choosing a peanut butter brand with good quality ingredients.

The good news is that you don’t have to give up your love for peanut butter. There are plenty of other options to choose from. Say goodbye to your childhood friends skippy and jiffy. I promise, you will be better off.

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Guidelines to a healthy peanut butter

  1. Ingredients should ONLY list: “Peanuts” *
  2. Oil should be floating on top of the butter. The should be separated**

*If you are not brave enough to go unsalted for your first jar of healthy peanut butter, then gradually change your peanut butter. Make sure to avoid added sugars AND palm oil/ safflower oil/ sunflower oil.

** If the oil and butter are separated it means that there are no artificial ingredients or binders in the peanut butter. When you open the peanut butter, stir it with a knife until the oil and butter are well-incorporated. Then put the jar in the fridge and then the butter and oil will stay combined.

My peanut butter of choice is the organic unsalted creamy peanut butter from Whole Foods. It is about $4.99 and even though it says unsalted, it still has a salty flavor. The other option is the unsalted creamy peanut butter from Trader Joes for $2.79. Or, if you are in San Diego, you can check out the options for quality peanut butters at Jimbo’s….Naturally!

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Peanut Butter goes well with just about everything. Here are my favorites:

  • Apple and peanut butter
  • Peanut butter in a smoothie… YUM!
  • Peanut butter stuffed dates
  • Peanut butter on a spoon (yes, I do this from time to time)

Nutrient Density vs Calorie Counting

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Whether your goal is to loose weight, put on weight, gain muscle mass or to get lean muscle tone, this nutrition concept will get you to where you want to be. What exactly is nutrient density? This term refers to the amount of nutrients per bite. The more nutrients that you can fit into each bite, the more efficiently your body can digest, absorb and use that food for energy.

We are so used to the concept of “calorie counting” in order to gain or loose weight that we have forgotten the fundamental aspects of eating REAL FOOD. If there is one motto that I wish we could re-instill in this country is “EAT REAL FOOD.” This means, eat foods that are produced by nature rather than being produced by machines. Eat ingredients that your body can use for energy rather than ingredients that slow us down and hold us back from achieving optimal health.

Real Foods include:

  • Whole grains- 100% whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, oats
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Legumes- adzuki beans, lentils, white beans, chickpeas, garbanzo beans
  • Organic eggs, grass-fed beef, organic free-range chicken, wild fish varieties

Someone who is eating very few calories of poor quality food-with the goal of losing weight- is truly harming their health. On the same note, someone who is eating large amounts of calories of poor quality food-in hopes of putting on weight- is also harming their health. The solution is to eat moderate amounts of good quality foods. Depending on your own personal goal, you will have to play around with the amounts and percentage of carbohydrates to protein to healthy fats. You will go beyond your goal by choosing to eat real food because your body will be able to process the food much more efficiently.

It’s enough of counting calories. We are all tired of it. Look at the ingredient list instead! That is where the important information can be found.

Natural Chef’s Opinion on Protein Powder & Other Supplements

As an athlete in high school and college, I was always trying to get adequate amounts of protein. The quickest and easiest way to get protein was through protein powders and protein bars. Once I began learning more about nutrition from a natural/holistic approach, I started to understand more about a “whole foods diet.” This idea simply entails eating foods that nature creates rather than food that is created by machines. It also encourages eating unprocessed foods that are either stripped of their natural nutrients or that have unnatural ingredients added to them. I am a strong believer in eating “clean” and natural foods as the main platform for achieving optimal health. However, there are several situations in which I believe supplementation is an appropriate option:

1. When an honest attempt at a whole-food diet still doesn’t reverse the deficiency

2. When a person has several food allergies, lending to a very limiting nutrient intake

3. When a person has made the decision to go vegan or vegetarian and are deficient in certain nutrients

In these cases, I believe that supplementation should be ‘supplementary’ to an already existing conscious diet as opposed to simply a replacement for a whole nutrient group. For example, consuming protein powder as the main source of protein in your diet as opposed to vegetarian or animal protein sources. There are some supplements that can be used as a bridge to get to a more stable level of health.

Before choosing supplements, I recommend meeting with someone who is educated in nutrition to make sure that you are making sound supplement choices. Taking supplements that are not required for the enhancement of your health is a waste of time and money. Many supplements today are packed with harmful additives which can actually send you in the completely opposite direction of health. Be sure to do your research and/or work with a professional to choose the supplements that will lead improve your health.

Natural Sweeteners

Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you find it hard to stay away from sugar? Well, you are not alone. As humans, we are naturally inclined to be attracted to sweet flavors. The problem is that we are consuming low-quality, highly-processed sweeteners rather than quality whole ingredients that provide nutritional benefits.

Sugar is hidden in many different packaged-food products using different alias names such as:

Sucrose, Glucose, Fructose, Sorbitol, Mannitol, Corn Syrup, High fructose corn syrup, Saccharin, Aspartame, Sucraloe, Aceulfame potassium, Neotame

Agave is another controversial sweetener that is made out to seem like it is healthy. When an ingredient is overly controversial, I choose to use an alternative ingredient.

It is not necessary to deprive yourself from sweets and desserts all together. If you do so, you are setting yourself up for stong-cravings and failure. The point is to choose high-quality sweeteners as opposed to poor quality products. You are SO much more worth it than to slump down to low-quality sweeteners. One parallel example that I have heard is “choosing low quality standard sweeteners is like lowering your standards for your intimate relationships. It may be easy and feel good at the time but later on you are bound to regret it.” 

Rather than buying food products that have harmful sweeteners in them, you can buy the unsweetened version and add your own natural sweetener.

Natural sweeteners

  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Raw Honey
  • Maple Syrup (grade B)
  • Blackstrap Molasses
  • Fresh or Dried Dates
  • Fresh or Dried Figs
  • Berries and other fresh fruits

Set your standards high. Start living with more energy and less mood swings.

Sea Salt vs. Table Salt

There is a common misunderstanding that “salt is bad for you.” The truth is that anything in excess is bad for you. Especially if the ingredients that you are consuming are poor-quality ingredients. Most of the salt that is consumed in the U.S. today comes from packaged and frozen food products. These products use low-quality grades of salt and a lot of it.

Table salt is a poor-quality ingredient. During the manufacturing process, it is stripped of quality trace minerals that our body needs including: magnesium, potassium and calcium.

Sea salt is a natural product. It contains several trace minerals. It also tastes much better than table salt.

Remember that both Table salt and Sea salt contain sodium. Sodium in moderation is good for the human body. The problem is that we are over-consuming sodium.

If you are eating a whole foods diet, adding sea salt for flavor is not only going to make your food taste better but it is also going to provide nutritional benefits. On a whole foods diet, you wouldn’t be eating packaged products so you don’t have to be overly concerned with high sodium intake.

My favorite Sea salt product to use while cooking is Celtic Sea Salt.

What To Look For When Buying Beef Products

What to look for when buying beef products

Step 1: Make sure your beef is organic

“When you see the green USDA organic label-you know the food is going to be free of pesticide residues-synthetic hormones- antibiotics-and genetically modified grain.”

Step 2: Make sure that the cattle was grass-fed as opposed to grain-fed.

Since cattle are naturally meant to eat grain, they have a difficult time breaking down the grain in their bellies. This leads to lower immune systems which require farmers to add antibiotics to the grain feed. Grass fed cattle have proven to produce meat and dairy products that are higher in nutrients. There is also less chance of food-borne illness such as E. coli when consuming grass-fed beef. To find out more refer to www.eatwild.com and www.themeatrix.com

Healthy Fats & Cooking Oils

Contrary to popular belief, fats are good for you. They are not only good for you, they are an essential component of your diet. Fats protect vital organs and hold them in place. In addition, they are necessary for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins; A,D,E and K.

Here is a list of healthy fats to incorporate into your diet:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Fat from quality animal products: cheese, butter, milk, yogurt, eggs, omega-3 fats from salmon, fish-oil and cod-liver oil
  • Healthy cooking oils (see list below)

In order to understand the difference between a healthy fat and an unhealthy fat, it is important to understand factors that can ruin a fat molecule. Namely, heat, air and/or light. For this reason, it is best to store fats in a sealed container either in your refrigerator or in a dark space that is at or below room temperature.

Fat that is found in packaged food products has been exposed to extreme heat temperatures thus, making it very dangerous to consume. Consuming damaged fat molecules is very dangerous for one’s health because the body is unable to identify the fat molecule. A great example is the result of filling up your car with vegetable oil instead of gasoline. You are bound to experience some complications and your car won’t function the way it is supposed to.

Many health problems can be related to excessive and poor-quality fat intake including heart disease and cancer. Traditional fats that were used for cooking provided health benefits whereas fats that are used today in packaged products lead to health diseases.

Cooking oils: Oil is the liquid form of fat. The healthiest fats to cook with are solid at room temperature. These include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Butter or ghee (clarified butter)
  • Palm oil
  • Tea seed oil
  • Sesame oil: okay to use for stir-fry

It is best to use olive oil as a dressing or a finishing oil rather than a cooking oil.

Vegetable oils such as canola oil and sunflower oil are low quality oils that are best to avoid.

Remember, education is powerful. Resources to learn more:

  • Fats the Heal Fats that Kill by Udo Erasmus
  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
  • Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford
  • Research by Weston A Price Foundation: http://www.westonaprice.org/

Got any questions? Please comment!