Boost Your Metabolism

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Every time we eat or drink, we can thank our metabolism for converting all those calories into energy. Our size, gender, and age all factor into our metabolic rate, but there are also ways to independently control its speed. And the faster our metabolism, the more calories we burn off. From early AM workouts to food choices, you can give your metabolism an extra push without too much effort.

Here are a few simple and science-backed ways to get your metabolism pumping in no time:

Eat Breakfast!

To keep your metabolism running at full capacity, you need to eat regular, frequent meals. Come breakfast time, the body has already been fasting for hours during sleep and is in need of energy. The prolonged fasting that occurs when you skip breakfast can increase your body’s insulin response, which in turn increases fat storage and weight gain. A healthy breakfast also refuels your body and replenishes the glycogen stores that supply your muscles with immediate energy for the day.

Get Moving in the Morning.

Debating whether to get a workout in or keep hitting the snooze button? An early morning sweat-session will get your metabolism up and running and therefore burning more calories for the rest of the day. Studies show that the type of workout also matters, and in this case slow and steady may not always win the race. While any workout will get blood pumping through your body, firing up your digestive system, interval training is shown to have the most benefits. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of training in which low to moderate intensity intervals are alternated with high intensity intervals. A study Laval University in Canada discovered that the HIIT subjects’ muscle fibers had significantly higher markers for fat oxidation (fat-burning) than those in the steady-state exercise group. HIIT can be applied to running, swimming, or to bodyweight exercises such as squatting and jumping.

Spice Things Up.

Adding certain spices to your diet can help increase metabolism. Cinnamon actually helps move glucose into cells, thereby curbing insulin (the fat-storage hormone) surges after a meal. Nutmeg is high in eugenol, a phytochemical also found in cloves and allspice. New research suggests eugenol may inhibit enzymes involved in glucose metabolism, thereby encouraging fat breakdown. Ginger is loaded with capsaicin, the same compound that puts the heat in hot chilies and peppers. Studies have found that capsaicin may temporarily kick the metabolism into high gear, resulting in increased calorie burn. A close relative to ginger is tumeric. This spice’s yellow pigment comes from curcumin, a phytochemical that directly counteracts inflammation in the body. Curbing inflammation improves the body’s receptiveness to leptin, a key metabolism-signaling hormone.

Drink More Water!

Drinking enough water is a simple way to speed up digestion. Water is required by a majority of the digestive processes taking place in our bodies. If you’re even just a tad thirsty (or dehydrated) you run the risk of slowing your metabolism. Drinking cold water actually sparks your metabolism because your body has to work harder to heat it up to its natural temperature. If you want to hydrate with something more exciting than plain water, studies show that green tea bumps up the metabolic rate. Drinking water infused with fruit or herbs (available daily at the UC Davis Dining Commons!) is another way to mix it up when it comes to staying hydrated.

An easy way to calculate how much water you need:

  1. Take your body weight in kilograms (divide your weight in pounds by 2.2)
  2. Multiply by 30, this is how many milliliters of water you need each day.

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Photo: BKR bottles, made in San Francisco

Eat foods labeled “Whole Grain”

Complex carbs and fiber-rich foods help to speed up your metabolism. A study mentioned in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggested that eating whole foods as opposed to refined foods can significantly increase thermogenesis and thus burn about 50% more calories compared to when you consume refined foods. Whole food requires more work to break it down when compared to refined foods because whole food maintains a higher nutrient density. This includes higher protein, B vitamin, mineral, fiber and phytochemical content. Not only do these characteristics of the whole grain result in increased calorie burn, but it also provides several disease fighting, weight controlling, and hunger combating benefits.

Eat More, Smaller Meals.

Didn’t think you’d see the phrase “eat more” on this list did you? According to Ryann Miller, Registered Dietitian at UC Davis Health and Counseling Services, if you divide your day up into thirds and try to eat an even amount in every third throughout the day, your metabolism won’t have a chance to take a break. Another useful tip is to try to eat smaller bites throughout the day instead of a few large meals. A great way to do this is to incorporate some healthy snacks into your diet. This helps you decrease portion size. Spacing out food intake means you won’t be starving at any point in the day, and less likely to make that fast food run on the way home.

Will you try any of these tips? Like this post and leave a comment below!

The Benefits of Chocolate

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February marks “American Heart Month”, sponsored by the American Heart Association in order to raise awareness about heart disease and how people can prevent it — both at home and in the community. With February also comes Valentine’s Day, when Americans will purchase around 58 million pounds of chocolate during the days leading up to the 14th (a small fraction of the reported 3 billion pounds per year), and we shell out somewhere around $345 million to satisfy our Valentine’s sweet tooth.

The good news about chocolate is that some studies prove that dark chocolate—sweet, rich, and delicious—is good for more than curing a broken heart. It has even been dubbed a superfood. The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, which provides chocolate with its distinct, bitter taste.

Read on to discover all that chocolate has to offer.

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Chocolate, Cocoa… and Cacao

As it may seem that these three terms are interchangeable it is important to know the difference between them. Though they are all derived from the Theobroma Cacao tree, each one differs in both their nutritional value and processing steps.

  • Cacao generally refers to the raw cacao bean. This means it is in its most pure form with minimal processing, if any. In this state, cacao provides you with the highest quality of nutritional benefits.
  • Cocoa is the term used for cacao beans that have been roasted. In this form, there is minimal cocoa butter- the oil extracted from cacao bean. Nutritional benefits of cocoa vary depending on how long it has been roasted. Can you guess what type of cocoa is most healthful?
  • Chocolate candy is typically the mixture of cocoa with sugar, vanilla, milk and cocoa butter. Eating chocolate in this form often means consuming extra fat and added sugar, so exercise moderation.

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Health Benefits

Now that you know these differences, let’s take a glance at the health benefits cacao gives us!

Cacao beans are very rich in the antioxidant – flavonoid. Flavanols are the main type of flavonoids found in cacao and have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Additionally, it helps supports heart health by lowering blood pressure, LDL cholesterol levels, and regulating blood sugar (not so much chocolate).

Theobromine not only refers to the cacao tree but also to the chemical found in cacao beans. This chemical is a mild, non-addictive stimulant that activates the brain to produce more anandamide. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that gives us that euphoric feeling when we consume chocolate.

Lastly, cacao contains several beneficial vitamins such as magnesium, iron, and chromium. Magnesium works against acid build up and aids in calming nerves. Iron works together with the oxygen carrying protein hemoglobin, promoting healthy blood flow. Chromium aids in detoxifying our blood as well as our liver from alcohols.

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Healthy Ways to Enjoy Chocolate

As you may have already guessed, you will obtain the most nutritional benefits from cacao when it is in its most pure & raw form or as close to this as possible. Try cacao nibs, which are fantastic sprinkled on a salad of mild greens, strawberries and goat cheese with balsamic vinaigrette. For a breakfast treat, put them on top of oatmeal along with nuts and raisins. The adventurous can make a green smoothie (use your favorite recipe) with cacao nibs and a pinch of cayenne. For a way to satisfy your sweet tooth, try these Sunbutter Cacao Nib Rice Krispie Treats. Another healthy option is unsweetened cacao powder. Here are a few delicious ways to add cacao powder to your diet.

If you are looking for a new chocolate brand to try, Joy & Taylor’s Raw Chocolate is hand made locally in Davis.

Let us know your favorite chocolate recipes in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!

By Janelle Manzano, Clinical Nutrition Student

Protein Puzzle: How Much Is Enough?

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What is protein?

Protein, in the scientific sense, consists of large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids. It is an essential part of all living organisms. Protein has many important functions in the body, including muscle maintenance and building, repairing all cells, immunity cell production, and maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails.

How much do we need?

Determining how much protein is appropriate for an individual varies based on genetics, height and weight, body composition, and activity level. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowanceestimates 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight is fine, but studies show this can lead to negative nitrogen balance in some individuals. Negative nitrogen balance means that the body is losing more nitrogen and therefore losing muscle mass, which is rich in nitrogen-containing amino acids.

Here are the recommendations that the literature point to as the current best guess:

  • People engaging in strength training: 1.6 to 1.8 grams of protein per kg body weight daily. .
  • People engaging in endurance training: 1.2 – 1.6 grams per kg body weight daily.
  • Non-exercising maintenance (inactive or taking an extended break from exercise): 1.2 grams per kg body weight daily.

How to determine what these ranges mean for you:

Take your weight in pounds and convert it to kilograms (multiply by 0.453). Then, multiply that number by the low- and high-end factors in the bullets above to see what your daily intake range is.

What are good sources of protein?

Examples of high protein foods include fish, seafood, poultry, lamb, beef, chicken, pork, cheese, egg white, tofu, beans, lentils, yogurt, milk, nuts, and seeds. Fun fact: Eating protein with a meal can improve satiety and slow carbohydrate absorption, preventing spikes in blood glucose.

Portion sizes:

  • A palm size of chicken, fish, beef, or pork has about 25 grams of protein.
  • One egg has 7 grams of protein.
  • 1 cup low fat yogurt has 120 calories, 10 g protein, 15 g carbs as sugar
  • 1 cup cottage cheese has about 15 g protein.
  • 1 cup cooked lentils has 220 calories and 18 g protein, 40g carbs.
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas has 270 calories and 15 g protein, 45 g carbs.
  • ½ cup tofu has 10 g protein and 100 calories.

How should I time my protein intake on days that I exercise?

  • Before weight training and interval training, it is best to get a small portion of carbohydrate in at least an hour beforehand. This will provide glycogen/glucose substrate for a better workout, as these more intense workouts tend to burn more glycogen (stored carbohydrate) than fat during the exercise session itself (and more fat in the hours following).
  • As far as protein timing, protein before a work out is fine, as it will still be digested during and after the workout. The key is to get enough protein each day, regardless of timing.
  • There is some minor benefit to getting protein in within the 30 minute window after a workout, especially if your goal is to gain muscle.
  • Protein powders are processed and are utilized more quickly than whole foods, so they are best used during or after workouts rather than before. Studies on supplements are pretty inconclusive or unconvincing, so they probably are not needed.

Tips for vegetarians and vegans:

  • It is difficult for vegetarians to meet the protein requirements sometimes, especially if they don’t eat dairy. Try dividing protein intake up between three meals.
  • Healthy plant-based sources of protein include legumes, soy products, whole grains, and nuts. Legumes, such as black beans and lentils, are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals and low in fat.
  • Though it is preferred to get protein through whole foods, vegetarians or vegans might consider a protein shake with hemp, whey, or soy protein powder to help meet protein needs.
  • Soy products, such as tofu or tempeh, are some of the most versatile vegetarian protein sources. Tofu can be incorporated into soups or stir-fries, and tempeh can be marinated or grilled to be included in salad or sandwich.

Do you have a favorite healthy high protein snack? Share with us in the comments below!

The College Cook: Guide to Meal Prepping

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If there is one thing that college has taught me, it is time management. If you’re like me, you are probably living life hustlin’ and bustlin’: Biking (or walking, whichever floats your boat) to class, work/internships, the ARC, a variety of club meetings, study groups, etc.

Some days, it can be hard to grab a bite or cook up a good meal in between a busy schedule. Something I have found to be crazy helpful in this situation is Meal Prepping. “What is this and how do I do it?” you may ask.

Here is a simple guide to get you started!

Meal prepping is just what it sounds like: preparing about a week’s worth of meals       ahead of time to save time. Also, it ensures you a tasty meal waiting for you after a busy day of life.

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First and foremost: pick a day where you have at least an hour or two to spend some quality time with your kitchen. (I personally like to do this the same day I go grocery shopping.)

Second, plan your meal to include the essentials: protein + starch + veggies.

(The following are some options that are generally quick/easy to cook)

 Protein: chicken breast, eggs, ground beef/turkey, fish filets, and shrimp

 Starch: brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potato

 Veggies: basically whatever your heat desires! – fFor me, I like anything I can stick

Third, you will need containers, enough to pack the amount of food you want to store in your fridge. Typically, this could be a week’s worth of lunches and/or dinners.

Lastly, get cooking! I tend to put together a meal as simple as salmon filet + steamed veggies + quinoa.

But here are a couple of other awesome meal prep methods you could try!

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  • Crockpot it! Prepare these meals as usual & stick them in the freezer. They then only take about 45 minutes to cook, leaving you plenty of time for other activities

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  • Smoothies. You can even meal prep these tasty treasures. Here are some fun combinations to blend up for a quick breakfast or snack?

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  • Who doesn’t love to eat out of a Mason Jar? Pack these “layered lunches” to-go as you head out for another busy day.

Do have a favorite dish that you like to prepare in advance when you know you have a busy week? Share it in the comments below!

By Janelle Manzano, Nutrition Intern

The Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics

Did you know that there “good” bacteria that are part of the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies? Probiotics are living microorganisms that have the capacity to positively impact our health. Different strains have different benefits for different parts of your body. For example, one type of probiotic has been shown to support the immune system and to help food move through the gut, while another may help relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Scientists are still sorting out exactly how probiotics work. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, they may:

  • Boost your immune system by enhancing the production of antibodies to certain vaccines.
  • Produce substances that prevent infection.
  • Prevent harmful bacteria from attaching to the gut lining and growing there.
  • Send signals to your cells to strengthen the mucus in your intestine to help it act as a barrier against infection.
  • Inhibit or destroy toxins released by certain “bad” bacteria that can make you sick.
  • Produce B vitamins necessary for metabolizing the food you eat, warding off anemia caused by deficiencies in B6 and B12, and maintaining healthy skin and a healthy nervous system.

Products containing probiotics have become more popular in recent years, as more people seek natural or non-drug ways to maintain their health. Here are some probiotic containing foods and drinks that will help to keep your gut biome in tip-top shape:

Kefir

If you’re a big fan of yogurt, try probiotic-rich kefir, which can be described as a drinkable yogurt. One delicious way to enjoy the beverage is to make a kefir parfait as you would yogurt and top with nuts and seeds, oats, dried or fresh fruit, cinnamon, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

Fermented cheese

Not all cheeses are good sources of probiotics, but certain soft fermented cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and particularly Gouda contain bacteria that can survive the journey through your GI tract to benefit your health. Some cottage cheeses that list “live active cultures” on the label also contain probiotics. Work an ounce of soft cheese or a ½ cup of cottage cheese into snacks and meals for an added protein and calcium boost.

Miso

This fermented soybean-based product is made by aging and fermenting soybeans, a process that produces probiotics. One tablespoon contains only 40 calories but can be very salty, supplying nearly a third of your daily sodium limit—so use sparingly. You might find this served with your sushi in the form of a hot soup at a Japanese restaurant. There are also miso soup kits you can buy to make it at home.

Kombucha

Made from sweetened tea that’s been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, this bottled or canned tea can be found in the refrigerated section of natural food stores and grocery chains. This drink has a pleasant natural fizz, with 50% fewer calories and a fourth of the amount of sugar of soda. If you are feeling ambitious, here is a guide to brewing your own strawberry basil kombucha.

Kimchi

A spicy side dish made from cabbage and found in Korean cuisine, kimchi is a staple of the culture and is often cited as the reason for low rates of digestive disorders. You can find kimchi available in some supermarkets, and in any Asian food mart in the refrigerated section.

Tempeh

Tempeh, a food made from fermented soybeans, is often featured in vegan and vegetarian cuisine. Replacing meat and dairy with tempeh and other soy products lowers our total cholesterol intake by about 125 milligrams per day and our saturated fat by about 2.5 grams per day. Soy foods typically contain a wide variety of phytonutrients. In the case of fermented soy foods like tempeh, these phytonutrients can become more concentrated and more bioavailable.

The Wonders of Whole Grains

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So, before we jump right into it, what are grains exactly?

Grains are the fruits and seeds of cereal grasses. There are 2 types of grains you can find at the market: whole grains & refined grains.

Whole grains include the entire seed: germ + endosperm + bran. Refined grains are processed to only include the endosperm. Thus, stripping away much of its nutritional value.

Grains provide us with fiber, B Vitamins, and minerals. Fiber helps keep a healthy bowel and aids constipation. B Vitamins aid the body in releasing energy from carbs, proteins, and fats. Minerals commonly found in grains include iron, selenium, and magnesium. Wheat, rice, oats, & corn are probably some grains you already incorporate in your diet.

Here are several “up and coming” grains you’d probably like to try next!

Quinoa

Quinoa

Pronounced as “keen-wah,” this grain is better classified as a “pseudo –grain.” It is actually a seed, but falls under the grain category because of its similar nutritional content and how it is prepared in meals.

While most other grains are considered low in amino acids, quinoa is one of the exceptions. It is considered to be a complete protein source, meaning it provides all 9 of the essential amino acids. One cup of quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein, about 15% of our Daily Value.

Spelt

Spelt

This plump grain often substitutes wheat in a variety of ways.

Some health benefits to switching your wheat for spelt include its richness in B-Vitamin, niacin. Niacin assists our nervous system, regulating stress hormones. Additionally, niacin is great at maintaining efficient blood circulation. Spelt also contains high levels of potassium and low levels of sodium, keeping blood pressure levels at a steady level.

Freekah

Freekah

Freekeh (pronounced as “free-kah”) is an ancient roasted grain. It is simply wheat harvested at an earlier age, providing optimum nutritional value. The young grains are then roasted to give it a rich smoky and nutty flavor.

This ancient grain is abundant in carotenoid antioxidants that have been studied to be beneficial towards eye and skin health. Lastly, freekeh functions as a prebiotic inducing “healthy” bacterium in our digestive tract.

Eating in Season: Winter Edition

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Winter has a lot going for it: trips to the snow, cozy blankets, and rich hot chocolate. Fresh produce, however, isn’t usually first on this list. Here in Northern California, we are lucky enough to have a variety of produce available year-round; check out all of the options with these seasonality charts here.

Eating locally through the winter can be challenging. The good news is that every meal doesn’t have to revolve around potatoes and onions, regardless of where you spend your winter. With a bit of advanced planning and creativity, it’s possible to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that contain plenty of nutrients and flavor. Aiming for five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day can also prevent illness and keep you happy and healthy all winter long.

Here are some of the unexpected vitamin-rich cold-weather foods you should stock up on right now:

Citrus Fruit

Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C and flavonoids, which may reduce the risk of cancer. Citrus consumption has also been linked to lower risk of a laundry list of ailments including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cholera, gingivitis, cataracts, and Crohn’s disease. Stock up on Meyer lemons, oranges, grapefruit, kumquats, blood oranges, and mandarin oranges to get your citrus fix this season. Citrus fruits are grown in warm climates and are ripe for picking between late October and March. These fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or at room temperature for up to four days.

 How to eat it: Enjoy citrus fruits as a side of breakfast or tossed into a salad for lunch or dinner.

 Beets

Sweet, earthy and deep red, beets are pretty unique in the vegetable aisle. Beets contain antioxidants called betalains, which can help fight cancer and other degenerative diseases. They’re also rich in vitamins A, B, C as well as potassium and folate. Beet roots can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.

How to eat it: Beet salad with goat cheese green apples and honey

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprout, a relative of cabbage, boasts some of the same health benefits as cabbage. Like other cruciferous veggies, Brussels sprouts have high levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants that can protect DNA from oxidative damage. Peak season for Brussels sprouts is late fall through early winter (September through February). Brussels sprouts can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks. The outer leaves will shrivel, so remove them just before cooking your sprouts.

 How to eat it: Toss halved sprouts with olive oil and roast until crispy and brown. Top with a light coating of brown butter and sage for a side dish.

 Carrots

This vegetable is loaded with the antioxidant beta-carotene, a compound that converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for a strong immune system and healthy eyes, skin and mucus membranes. The orange veggies are also loaded with vitamin C, cyanidins, and lutein, which are all antioxidants. Some studies show that eating carrots can reduce risk of cancer and even prevent cardiovascular disease. Carrots are available through late fall, although some varieties are harvested through the winter. Like many root vegetables, carrots will last for a few weeks if kept in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

How to eat it: Gingery carrot soup

Escarole

This uncommon green is slightly bitter, but adds freshness to late-winter cooking. It’s a bit crunchy, like lettuce, and wilts easily, like spinach. It’s a member of the chicory family, so it is related to endive, radicchio, kale, and chard. Like other greens, escarole is high in folic acid, fiber, and vitamins A and K. Escarole grows through fall and early winter in warmer climates. This green is a bit delicate, so eat it quickly. Wrapped in paper towels and stored in an open plastic bag, escarole can be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days.

 How to eat it: Salmon with escarole and lemon

Radicchio

Radicchio is a member of the chicory family along with endive and escarole. Its red and white, slightly spicy and bitter leaves are loaded with vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K. There are three main varieties of radicchio available in the U.S.: Chiogga, Treviso, and Tardivo. Tardivo radicchio is available throughout the winter. Keep it in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic for up to three weeks.

 How to eat it: Tuscan chopped salad with radicchio and kale

Cauliflower

Fresh cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C; 100 g provides about 48.2 mg or 80% of daily recommended value. Vitamin-C is a proven antioxidant helps fight against harmful free radicals, boosts immunity, and prevents infections and cancers.

Its florets also contain about 2 g of dietary fiber per 100 g, providing about 5% of the recommended value. It contains good amounts of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as folates, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3) as well as vitamin K. These vitamins is essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish and required for fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

How to eat it: Penne with crispy cauiflower

Pears

A medium-sized pear supplies 212 milligrams of potassium. Potassium is a mineral that helps your heart beat normally and keeps your muscles working the way they are supposed to. The same pear contains about 10 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin C. Pears also supply a good dose of vitamin K to help clot your blood, as well as vitamin A for your eyes.

How to eat it: Winter pear salad with meyer lemon viniagrette

Do you enjoy cooking with fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables? Do you have a recipe that features seasonal fruits and veggies you think fellow Aggies would enjoy cooking? Submit your recipe today to Aria at awexler@ucdavis.edu for a chance to be published! Chosen recipes will be featured in a special edition Aggie Seasonal Recipes cookbook. Recipes must be submitted before 2/27/15.