The Truth about Lemon Water

By Claire Benoist, Healthy Aggies Nutrition Peer Counselor

Spend any amount of time scrolling through nutrition videos online and you’ll probably stumble across at least a few that rave about the many health benefits of drinking lemon water in the morning. Lemon water seems to be the magic ingredient for everything from detox to weight loss. But are these claims based on facts or fiction? Let’s explore a few of the most common claims on lemon water. 

The vitamin C content

Yes, lemons do contain vitamin C. About 83mg to be exact. But that’s in the entire lemon (including the peel). The more commonly consumed part of the lemon contains about 18mg of vitamin C. Keep in mind that the recommendation of daily vitamin C intake for adults is 75-130mg. So, contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, lemons aren’t the holy grail of vitamin C sources. This common misbelief is likely due to the fact that lemons and other citrus fruits were used to treat scurvy (vitamin C deficiency disease) in sailors a few hundred years ago. However, we now know that there are many foods higher in vitamin C than lemons. Bell peppers (130mg/ ½ cup), strawberries (89mg/cup), kale (80mg/cup), kiwis (71mg/kiwi), and broccoli (50mg/ ½ cup) are just a few examples. Not trying to rain on lemon’s parade completely here, it’s a fine source of vitamin C. All I’m trying to say is, you’ve got options! 

The weight loss benefits

I’d like to start this section by saying that I don’t personally believe weight loss should be a selling point of foods. Flavor? Yes. Health benefits? Absolutely. Weight loss power? No. Nevertheless, let’s explore this common claim. This belief seems to be mostly based on the fact that lemons contain pectin, a soluble fiber. If you remember from our article on beans, soluble fiber forms a gel during digestion which, among other things, helps slow down digestion, making you feel fuller longer after a meal. However, the pectin in lemons is mainly found in the skin (peel) of the lemon. I don’t know about you but I don’t typically eat lemons whole. Lemons also contain certain antioxidants that have been shown to reduce weight gain in overfed mice.  However, they have not yet been studied in humans, so we don’t truly know their effects in our bodies yet. One way that lemon water might help with weight loss is if it replaces a high sugar drink like soda or store-bought juice. However, this has more to do with the fact that you’re reducing your sugar intake and less to do with the actual lemons. 

Lemon as a detoxing agent

There is no such thing as needing to detox your body. Your body has its own mechanisms for “detoxing” through the formation of urine, feces and sweat. Consuming enough water and fiber is all you need to do to support those mechanisms. Some will claim that it’s lemon’s pH levels that contribute to its detoxifying power. However, let’s remember that all the food you consume goes through the stomach (pH ~1-2), which will acidify all the food that it receives in order to break it down and kill any pathogens that may have been ingested. The acidic mush that results from this trip through the stomach is then released into the small intestines where it is met with bile salts that will neutralize it. So, the acidity level of lemon, or any food, is not going to be part of its health benefits. The acidity of lemons can also be harsh on your pearly whites, so make sure to rinse your mouth with plain water after you drink lemon water and wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth to prevent damage to your enamel. 

Lemon water keeps you hydrated

If lemon water helps you drink more water, then yes, lemon water can help keep you hydrated. But it’s not the lemon that keeps you hydrated, it’s the water. So, if you don’t like it, don’t sweat it, there are plenty of other ways to increase your water consumption if that’s your goal. For inspiration, check out our 5 ways to remember to drink water tips and tricks!

The very cool chemical you’re probably not getting in lemon water

In addition to containing the bulk of the vitamin C found in lemons and other citrus fruits, the peel also contains a chemical known as limonene. Limonene serves as a natural predator deterrent when the fruit is still on the tree, but once it’s in our bodies, it is thought to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-stress, and maybe even disease-preventing properties. It’s important to keep in mind that most studies so far have been done on animals. So even though so far the research points towards positive results, more research needs to be done to confirm these health benefits in humans. Limonene is commonly used in insect repellants and some pesticides as well as perfumes, essential oils, soaps, and air fresheners because of its pleasant aroma.

The bottom line

Lemons aren’t the magic fairy dust of health that influencers and celebrities are making them out to be. Lemon water can, however, still be a great addition to your daily routine if you enjoy it. If plain water isn’t your thing, adding lemon to your water can make staying hydrated more delicious and enjoyable. Among other things, proper hydration helps support a healthy digestive system which allows us to absorb the nutrients we need and get rid of the waste we don’t need. Also keep in mind that some of the nutrients available in lemons are found in the peel so don’t be scared to get adventurous and add some citrus zest into your baking and things like stirfrys or marinades. As a last thought, if nothing else, developing the habit to drink a set amount of water first thing in the morning (with or without lemon) can help increase your overall water consumption and support your daily hydration goals.

The Truth about Carbs

By Brandy Carrillo, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Have you heard any of these phrases before?

Carbs cause weight gain

Fruit is bad because it’s high in carbs

Only “white” refined grains contain carbs

Within the diet world, carbohydrates have acquired a bad reputation and there are a plethora of misconceptions surrounding their role in a balanced diet. Certain diets call for a tight restriction on the amount of carbohydrates you consume, with claims that this can help your body burn fat and speed up your metabolism. I’m here to debunk all of these claims and prove to you that carbohydrates aren’t actually as bad as you may think.

All carbohydrates essentially do the same thing- they are converted into glucose for our body to use as a fuel source and in the process, raise our blood sugar levels. These sugars are extremely important for proper body functioning and are a crucial fuel source for your brain (which isn’t easily able to use other sources of energy, like protein or fat). When you limit your carbohydrate intake, you’re essentially depriving your body of its main source of fuel.

The difference in carbohydrate quality stems from how quickly these foods increase our blood sugar which all depends on the food’s fiber content. Fiber not only protects your gut health and digestion but also helps regulate glucose levels in the blood. Foods with higher amounts of fiber take longer to be digested and in turn, slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream. Because of this, refined carbs, which are stripped of this fiber and other nutrients, are digested a lot faster and can increase glucose levels very rapidly in comparison to whole grain foods.

The most important thing when eating carbs is not the amount but more so the type of carbohydrates you’re consuming. Carbohydrates are found in so many different foods (both “healthy” and “unhealthy”)

Foods that contain carbohydrates include:

  • Grains: pasta, rice, bread, crackers
  • Fruits and Vegetables: apples, oranges, broccoli, potatoes
  • Dairy: milk, yogurt
  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils
  • Snack foods and desserts
  • Juices, sodas, energy drinks

While carbs are in almost all foods, it’s important to eat a balance between unprocessed whole foods high in fiber and other nutrients and the occasional more processed cookie or cereal.

So if all this true… then why do so many fad diets promote low carb?

While it’s true that a low carb diet can potentially lead to weight loss, this weight loss is usually not sustainable and can actually hurt more than help. When your body isn’t getting enough carbohydrates it’s forced to rely on fat and protein for energy. These types of diets are difficult to uphold in the long-term and can be detrimental if not done safely or without prior consultation from a dietitian.

Carbohydrates are a super important part of a healthy balanced diet. They are our body’s primary fuel source and can provide us with a variety of important nutrients. Even if your goal includes weight loss, they should be incorporated into your meal plan. Carbs should not be feared, they should be celebrated! How do you celebrate carbs?

Good Food? Bad Food?

By Wenjun Liu, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

When we talk about food, we sometimes use absolutes. But, are there “good” or “bad” foods?  Spinach is good for you. Milk is bad for you. Quinoa is good for you. Gluten is bad for you. Could it possibly be this simple or are we missing something when we talk about food? According to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 75% of American women claim that they experience unhealthy thoughts, feelings, or behaviors related to food. Food can be a source of pleasure, joy and can help bring people together. It can also be turned into a place of shame and guilt.

Dividing food into good and bad is a massive simplification. It is like putting a green or red checkmark mark on the food. When we place a value on food and discuss if the food is good or bad, right or wrong, it is a set up for food anxiety. In fact, our health is not made up of one meal or one bite. We want you to be healthy not only physically but also mentally, and enjoy every single bite of the variety of food you eat.

Takeaway#1: Ditch the Guilt

Food should not be a guilty pleasure, instead, it is an essential pleasure! If you do not always stick to your planned foods, it is fine and it is not the end of the world. Acknowledge that you really enjoy the delicious food you eat and be equally motivated to enjoy the healthy choices as often as you enjoy something less nutrient dense.

Takeaway #2: Balance is the KEY

All kinds of foods should be enjoyed in moderation. One thing to remember is that foods are mostly made up of proteins, fats, and/or carbohydrates. These macronutrients are basic needs for our bodies. Vitamins and minerals are equally important as they are needed for bodies to function properly. Restricting major food groups just because you think they are “bad” not only leads to nutrient deficiencies but may also make you hungry and increases the desire to binge eat.

Takeaway #3: It is just Carbohydrates

Social media nowadays makes you want to believe that some food choices are better than others. The fact is that our digestive systems break everything down into molecules that look the same and carry out the same functions. For example, the notion of “good” and “bad” carbohydrates is purely based on how the body absorbs them. Their scientific names would be “complex” and “simple” carbohydrates. It is true some carbohydrates get digested more rapidly, prompting a rapid increase in blood sugar and insulin secretion. Such a response in our bodies can result in a sudden drop in blood sugar leading to hunger and cravings, which is what people are afraid of. But most people eat combinations of foods. And so the effects of different kinds of carbohydrates on blood sugar are not as extreme as they are sometimes portrayed.

Takeaway #4:  Sensible self-centered eating habits

Be mindful when eating; you can chew slowly to enjoy the textures and flavors of your food. Try to avoid watching TV or working on things on your laptop while you are eating, because these could slow down your brains’ responses to fullness.

Please remember how lucky you are to have access to different types of food, where others in the world may not. Honoring your food in this way may just stop you from thinking about “good” or “bad” and enjoy the pleasures of a healthy eating pattern.  How do you enjoy balance in the foods you eat?  Let us know!

Healthy Eating for the Earth and Yourself!

By: Meigan Freeman, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Nutrition Peer Counselor

            As climate change rears its ugly head and California burns, you may be wondering what you, personally, can do to help our planet. Luckily, eating for the Earth and eating healthfully are often one and the same! I am going to lay out some easy tips you can take to eat for a healthy Earth and a healthier you, all at once. Remember, change is about small, personal, and realistic steps. Take what tips you can, and leave what doesn’t work for another day.

Tip #1 Buy in season. In these modern times where we produce year round, we are removed from the farming aspect of our food. Purchasing food out of season in your area often has a higher impact on Earth’s limited resources and buying in season has many perks. Often in-season produce is less expensive, has more nutrients, and better flavor! Purchasing fruits and veggies in season increases the likelihood that the produce is coming from a local farmer which decreases the carbon footprint to get to your grocery store. In-season produce in California right now (autumn) includes apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, grapes, lemons, and more! Check out this resource to see what other food is in season all year round. Favorite fruit or vegetable not in season? Consider buying frozen for a less expensive alternative to produce that is trucked in from away.

Tip #2 Buy your kitchen utensils and tools from thrift shops. Have you visited your local thrift stores yet? Buying used items is a great way to reduce waste, reuse items, and it is budget friendly! I have found cute tea kettles, cups, plates, and silverware at thrift shops and the mismatch of items makes my kitchen eclectic.

Tip #3 Use your leftovers and kitchen scraps. Many of us living in apartment complexes do not have the option to compost, but we can still use our kitchen scraps for another meal. Consider saving potato peels, garlic and onion skins, mushrooms, carrot tops, and whatever else you use in a jar in the freezer. Once the jar is full, boil the scraps in water for an hour and strain out the veggie bits. The liquid you have left is a tasty homemade veggie broth, a perfect base for beans, soup, and any recipe that calls for broth!

Tip #4 Grow your own herbs. Growing herbs is so fun and satisfying. You can grow these near a window, in an old yogurt container or pot. You can buy herbs from most hardware or garden stores as seeds or full plants. As a bonus, the plant will look adorable on your window sill or table. Use the fresh herbs in anything you cook for extra flavor and you won’t need to buy expensive dried herbs as often.

Tip #5 Save your jars and plastic containers. Buying Tupperware is not necessary; have you noticed that almost everything we buy already comes in nice glass and plastic containers? Rather than throw them in recycling bins, wash and save them for your leftovers! You can also use them to store baking supplies, grains, and other ingredients.

These sustainable tips are hard to beat with their benefits to your health, by buying more nutritious in-season veggies; wallet by purchasing used appliances; and the Earth, by saving plastic and kitchen scraps for reuse. I hope these ideas have helped you think more about sustainable eating. Let us know in the comments what your favorite sustainable tip is!

Beans, beans, the magical fruit.

By Claire Benoist, Healthy Aggies Nutrition Peer Counselor

Ok so I know that’s not how it goes, and beans aren’t actually a fruit. But beans really are a magical food. Let me explain. Foods are usually put into a single food group: broccoli is a vegetable, rice is a grain, fish is protein, etc. But beans are so cool, they can be considered a protein AND a vegetable! Beans not only contain comparable amounts of protein, zinc and iron to meat, chicken or fish landing them in the protein food group, but they are also packed with fiber, potassium and folate which puts them in the vegetable food group as well!

Though most beans are an incomplete source of protein (the exception being soybeans), they can easily be combined with other foods such as grains, nuts or seeds to make a complete protein profile. And because beans are a plant food, they are lower in saturated fats than animal proteins. Beans also pack a punch when it comes to fiber. The recommended daily intake of fiber is about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, and just a half a cup of beans packs a whopping 14 grams of fiber! You’ve probably heard about fiber being good for a healthy and regular bowel, but did you know that fiber also feeds the good gut bacteria which help support healthy immune function? Not sold yet? Fiber can also help to stabilize and lower blood sugar levels. Without fiber slowing it down, sugar is digested and absorbed in the blood stream very quickly. This can lead to a blood sugar spike and the ever-dreaded sugar crash very soon after. Fiber helps to slow down the digestion of sugar which help prevent that issue. Preventing sugar spikes is also important for diabetics. If that’s not enough, fiber also helps people feel fuller longer after a meal. The fiber found in beans is referred to as soluble fiber. As opposed to insoluble fiber, soluble fiber dissolves in water and other liquids found in the digestive tract to form a gel. As soluble fiber is digested in the stomach, this gel starts forming and expanding which helps to slow down gastric (stomach) emptying. This is what makes you feel full longer. Keep in mind that since soluble fiber absorbs water, it is important to increase your water intake as you increase soluble fiber to make sure your body is getting the water it needs to do all the other amazing and important things it needs to do. So keep that Hydroflask handy and check out some of our tips for staying hydrated here.

Not only are beans good for us, they’re good for the planet too! It takes a lot less water to grow beans than it does to farm animals for meat production and because beans are sold in canned, dry or frozen form, they result in less food waste than other common proteins and vegetables.

All that power in one tiny little package. Now do you believe me when I say beans are magic?

Versatile, affordable, and widely available, beans are easy to incorporate into your diet. As an omnivore myself, I am not suggesting you should completely eradicate meat from your diet, buy a ton of beans and never look back. But there are tons of sneaky ways to add beans to your diet:

  1. Chilis, stews, and soups

Fall is the perfect time to try eating more beans as you can easily add black, pinto or kidney beans to any of your favorite cold weather comfort foods, whether that be in addition to or as a replacement for meat. Check out my fall chili recipe at the end; it’s a Benoist family favorite!

  • Minced or ground meat dishes

Replace some of the meat in your favorite meatball or hamburger patty recipe with mashed up beans. You’ll still get the texture and flavor of the meat, but with added bean benefits!

  • Salads

Add some beany heartiness and texture to a fall salad by adding chickpeas or lentils to some mixed greens, roasted squash, and sunflower seeds with a simple vinaigrette. Yum!

  • Smoothies

I know this one sounds a little weird but I told you beans were magical remember? If blended up completely with some yummy fruits like bananas and berries, you won’t even know they’re there! This is a more natural alternative to protein powder and will make your smoothies thick and filling.

  • Black bean brownies

I know, I know. I already freaked you out with the smoothies and now I’m telling you to add beans to brownies? But stay with me here. Remember, the fiber in the beans will help with the digestion of the sugar and you’ll be getting extra protein while eating dessert! And there’s chocolate involved so it can’t be too bad an idea, right? There are a ton of recipes online to try. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Now, to address the title again, yes beans certainly can be a bit…musical. So I wouldn’t recommend going from 0 to 100 with bean consumption as that can certainly cause a good bit of discomfort. Start slow and see how you feel. After all, since we’re taking our classes at home anyway, this is the perfect time to experiment!

Claire’s Hearty Fall Chili:

For the shopping:
1lb ground turkey (replace with 1 more can of beans to make it Meatless Monday approved!)
1 onion (diced)
2 bell peppers (diced)
1 acorn squash
1 jalapeño or serrano (optional)
1 15oz can of beans (red kidney beans are my fav here)
1 15oz can of corn
½ jar tomato sauce
Cumin (to taste)
Paprika (to taste)
Cayenne pepper (to taste…I don’t measure my spices sorry!)

For the cooking:
1. Start by roasting your squash. I like acorn squash because it’s not too big but you can use any squash you’d like or even a sweet potato if you prefer. Cut your squash in half (carefully!) and put each half cut-side down on a baking sheet. Put it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Might take a little more/less time depending on the size of your squash. You can tell your squash is done when the skin/outer shell is soft. Once ready, take it out of the oven, and set it aside to cool.

2. While your squash is cooling down, start dicing your onion, bell peppers, and spicy peppers if you’re using them. Add these to a pot over medium heat with a bit of your cooking oil of choice.

3. Once your vegetables are tender, add the ground turkey and cook until no longer pink.

4. While the ground turkey is cooking, you can cut the squash. Start by cutting each half of the squash in half (to make quarters) and then use a spoon to separate the skin from the flesh. Dispose of the skin and cut your squash in cubes.

5. Add your squash to the pot along with the tomato sauce, beans, corn and spices.

6. Simmer on low heat until you’re ready for a warm bowl of hearty fall chili goodness.

Sprinkle Some Extra Health into Your Day

By Brandy Carrillo, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Peer Counselor

With everything going on in the world right now, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can seem very overwhelming and out of reach. Healthy living isn’t confined to how many hours you worked out this week or eating salad for every single meal, it’s composed of simple small things we can do daily to improve overall wellness.

Today I’ll be honing in on the nutritional component of healthy living and sharing 5 tips and tricks to help boost the nutritional value of our food and improve your overall health.

Tip #1: Hydration is Key

We all know that it’s super important for you to enough water throughout the day, but it’s even better to start off your day with a full glass of water. As we sleep, our bodies can lose a fair amount of water through breathing, sweating, etc., so when get up each morning, we’re essentially waking up from 8 hours of dehydration. Hydrating first thing in the morning before any food can help curb any pseudo-hunger, aid your digestion and rehydrate your skin.

Tip #2: Incorporate Some Super Seeds

Seeds are the starting point for complex adult plants, so it makes a lot of sense that they’re extremely healthy and nutritious. Seeds are little pockets packed with fiber, unsaturated fats, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Incorporating seeds is super simple and easy and can help improve the nutritional value of your meal! You can add any of these to a salad, oatmeal, smoothie, cereal… the possibilities are endless!

  • Flax seeds are a great source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids! (But make sure to grind them first because of their fibrous outer shell)
  •  Pumpkin seeds are a really good source of minerals like phosphorous and manganese, unsaturated fats, and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Hemp seeds are great source of plant based protein and are one of the few plant foods that are a complete protein (they contain all the essential amino acids)

Tip #3: Use Veggies as Your Food Foundation

When cooking a meal, a good rule of thumb is to fill up half your plate vegetables. But to take this tip to another level, you can use vegetables as the focal point and build the rest of your meal from there. This not only increases your vegetable intake, but also helps with portion control and intuitive eating. Some of my favorites include using spiraled zucchini, spaghetti squash, and cauliflower rice. Doing this for one of your meals will definitely help you achieve the daily recommended intake of 2 to 3 cups of veggies for the average adult.

Tip #4: Vitamin C and Iron are Best Friends

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the U.S. Iron is crucial to your body’s ability to transport oxygen throughout your body and a deficiency  can eventually result in anemia. One tip I have is to pair vitamin C rich foods with iron rich foods as vitamin C helps improve our body’s absorption of iron.

Some foods high in vitamin C include:

  • Strawberry
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Bell pepper

Foods high in iron include:

  • Spinach
  • Legumes
  • Beef
  • Shellfish
  • Quinoa

Tip #5: Chew Your Food

I know this tip may seem a bit silly and obvious… but hear me out. Something as simple as taking the extra time to chew your food for a bit longer can maximize the nutritional value of your food and aid digestion. Chewing more thoroughly essentially helps increase your food’s surface area and makes it easier for the enzymes in your body to break down your food and absorb those nutrients a lot more effectively. It also improves digestion since we’re not eating large chunks of food and eating quickly.

Healthy eating isn’t about swearing off specific foods but more so about incorporating smaller steps into your usual eating habits to create a healthier eating pattern over a period of time. You can definitely tweak a few things here and there in your typical eating habits that will build up your nutritional health in the long run.  What things have you tried lately?

Out With the Smoke, In With the New

By Rebecca Rinck, Healthy Aggies Intern

About a week ago, I got up early, got my coffee, and did my usual morning routine intending to have a relaxing but productive day. I had just moved into my new apartment in Davis, so I wanted to take a long walk outside and do some exploring, and maybe even visit the campus cows! However, much to my dismay, the familiar smell of wildfire smoke instantly hit me as soon as I stepped outside. While I have previously dealt with the side effects of smoke inhalation from wildfires living in California all my life, they were never in the volume, length, or intensity of these past few months. The unprecedented blaze of wildfires rolling through the west coast, plus the existing COVID-19 pandemic, brings about an urgency to protect our lungs!

The common effects of smoke inhalation include coughing, wheezing, dry throat, irritated sinuses, and headaches. I don’t know about you, but feeling ill is the last thing I want right now with school just starting. And while it is ideal to stay inside away from any possible contamination, this is unfortunately not realistic. So, while these do not claim to “cure” any side effect from smoke inhalation, here are some at-home treatments that helped me feel a bit better:

Wear a Mask – Start with prevention.

But not just any mask, as they do not filter out the small particles that are found in wildfire smoke. Instead, it is recommended to wear a particulate respiratory mask or an N95 mask, if available. I was thankful to have saved some for use during the pandemic.

Drink Water

I know this is what everyone tells you, but trust me, they’re right. The dryer your throat gets, the worse it feels. Drink plenty of water or use a cough-drop to help soothe your throat! Staying hydrated can also aid sinus irritation by keeping your nasal passages moist. Additionally, smoke inhalation can cause particles to get trapped in your lungs, and water helps flush them out.

Use a Humidifier or Vaporizer

I originally bought a humidifier to use for my houseplants, but it has been life-changing for my dry throat during the fire season. Breathing steam can also help moisten your throat and nasal passages. Additionally, putting the essential oils in thyme and eucalyptus into your diffuser or humidifier can help loosen phlegm so you can naturally cough them out. Don’t have a humidifier? Stovetop steaming is also an easy method to nourish the lungs. Fill a large pot with water and your preferred herbs, then boil!

Eat Extra Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits have immune-boosting vitamin C, and Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant! These fruits also contain bioflavonoids that have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties that may help calm airways back down after irritation. Good thing I already have a stock of Cuties tangerines!


Ginger appears to have natural detoxifying properties; it can be prepared in numerous ways but my favorite is as tea or eaten as a ginger chew. It is a favorite in my family for just about anything because of its immune system boosting properties. My grandma always made me ginger tea, and my aunt still carries ginger chews in her purse!

Using any of the ideas above may help with the short-term effects and the long-term effects of wildfire smoke inhalation and also help with irritations that wintery air can bring! Let us know if you have your own for us to try!

Feel Comfort from “Comfort Foods” Without the Guilt


By Rebecca Rinck, Healthy Aggies Intern

As we all continue spending more time at home you may struggle with wanting to be productive, but also crave immersion into more fun projects. Creative or soothing projects allow us to forget the pandemic and allow stress to sit off to the side. Cooking and baking have been especially popular, and are clinically proven to provide comfort, allowing for de-stressing. I, for one, have lost count of how many baked goods I have made during my time at home. And with decreased movement from staying-at-home, I have a desire to feel the comfort from “comfort foods” without the guilt.

The ingredients that make comfort foods so inviting are usually high in saturated fats, such as red meat, butter, cheese, and cream. The USDA advises to limit intake of saturated fats to reduce risk of heart disease and decrease levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.  Additionally, comfort foods typically contain rice, pasta, and noodles, all refined carbohydrates. While they are tasty, they may lead to quickly elevated glucose levels and a shortened feeling of satiety. Don’t be alarmed, limit does not mean eliminate! The idea is to be cognizant of the amount of these types of foods you’re consuming and making substitutions when possible, while combining them with protein rich foods.

Things to try:

  1. Try using whole wheat pasta or brown rice, or even replace them with vegetable versions like riced cauliflower or zucchini noodles. Maybe do half whole wheat, to start. Whole grains and whole-grain flours take longer to digest, have more nutrients, and will leave you feeling full for longer.
  2. Replace highly saturated fats with alternatives such as nonfat Greek yogurt, low-fat cheeses, or even vegan dairy products. Using vegetable oils to replace butter can provide essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and also improve levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Another example – when you make brownies, play around with using a healthy fat, such as avocado, instead of butter.
  3. If Grandma’s recipe for Mac N’ Cheese is too good to change, reduce your serving amount and pair it with plenty of greens. The USDA recommends consuming 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day to help reduce intake of fatty foods and keep you feeling full for longer.

If you’re like me, you’ve been finding yourself reaching for a second serving of mashed potatoes, but then maybe remembered you skipped your morning workout and decided against it. Wait, why did I do that? Why did I feel so guilty? Maybe those mashed potatoes aren’t the most nutritionally beneficial for me, but I think it would have made me feel good. Food plays many roles and comfort is one of them.  Don’t feel guilty for trying to make yourself feel better in times of extreme stress and unknown.  Recognize your feelings and cravings.  Allow yourself one or two snacks. Make adjustments where you can, and look to other activities such as meditation to help reduce the temptation to stress-eat.

Do you have a favorite comfort food?  Let us know!

Nutritional Benefits of Summer Fruit


nutr benefits summer

By Marisa Morales, Nutrition Peer Counselor, UC Davis Healthy Aggies

It is an undeniable fact of life that fruit is one of nature’s greatest gifts. This deliciously sweet, and at times sour, product can be used in a variety of dishes from smoothies to oatmeal to water to salad to much more. While some fruits are available year-round, other fruits have a prime season in which they are tastier, fresher, and cheaper. Look below at some of the fruits Summer has to offer and their many nutritional benefits!

  • Blackberries– This rich purple berry is the perfect addition to a bowl of yogurt or oatmeal. It is packed full of antioxidants to help prevent or slow damage to our cells, vitamin C to stimulate collagen production, and vitamin K to aid in blood clotting for wound healing. Blackberries are best between mid-May and late June but be sure not to rinse them until right before you eat to prevent them from getting soggy and moldy too soon.
  • Cherries– From yellow-red to very dark red, this small stone fruit contains very beneficial nutrients. Anthocyanin, a compound in cherries that gives its red pigmentation, is an antioxidant protecting us from damaging free radicals. They are also loaded with anti-inflammatory molecules and potassium, an electrolyte vital for water balance. Interestingly, cherries naturally contain melatonin -a hormone that aids in sleep. Make sure to grab a fresh bundle of cherries between the beginning of May and late June!
  • Mangos– There is no doubt that this tropical fruit tastes phenomenal, but it also does plenty for our body. Mangos are a great source of fiber (aids in digestion), vitamin A (aids in immune and eye function), and vitamin C. Plus, mangos have an abundance of potassium, even more than bananas! Now, most of the time we are able to tell when a fruit is ripe just based on sight, but there is not a way to determine the ripeness of mangos based on color -you can only tell by softness and a fruity aroma. Be sure to keep this in mind during their peak season (April through mid-July)!
  • Peaches/nectarines– These two stone fruits are often confused for one another and although they are genetically similar, peaches have fuzz on their peel while nectarines are smooth. Depending on how you like them, you can eat them while they are hard if you like the ‘crunch’ or you can wait until they get soft if you prefer them juicy. Whichever way you choose to eat them, they are still an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants to protect against skin damage from that Summer sun. Be sure to snag a couple of these between mid-June to early September!
  • Strawberries– Did you know that strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside! Their beautiful bright red color is due to the phytonutrients and flavonoids which also act as powerful antioxidants. Additionally, strawberries are a plentiful source of vitamin C and manganese, a key activator of many enzymes used in metabolism. Stop by your local farmers market between April and late June for a delicious package of strawberries!
  • Watermelons– Last, but not least, we have the most popular Summer fruit! Watermelons are extremely popular during this season because it helps keep us cool and hydrated; one single bite contains roughly 92% water and 6% sugar. This melon contains enough vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. It can be tricky trying to pick a ripe watermelon for the family. Here is a tip that may help: look for a white-yellow spot on the underside of the watermelon. This is where the melon laid on the ground in the sun while it ripened. A sound check is another way to determine ripeness: a deep, hollow sound after knocking on the watermelon means it is ripe.

As you can see, most of the fruit are full of antioxidants, vitamins A & C, potassium, and much more. Try adding a side of fruit to every meal for that extra helping of nutrients! Which is your favorite?

Quarantine and Snacking


By Hannah Squire, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Intern

As I was typing my essay in the late hours of the evening, I couldn’t help but think to myself…  “hmm tortilla chips sound so good right now.” Even though I already had dinner and wasn’t physically hungry, I simply wanted to snack. Usually, these thoughts always target those salty and sweet treats in the pantry and rarely run towards fruits and veggies. This urge to snack happens in the best times, let alone with the lack of usual routine.  Increased stress and boredom levels, and simply more access to our kitchen cupboards while being in quarantine, makes it more likely that we give in. Here are some tips and tricks to mindfully snack during these uncertain times:

  1. Mindful Eating

Being mindful around eating sounds complicated, but the idea is a lot simpler than it seems. When thinking about what to snack on while typing that essay, lecture zooming, or binging Tiger King on Netflix, first take a minute to notice a few things… first a quick self-assessment.  Think to yourself, how am I feeling right now? Am I physically hungry or emotionally hungry? By thinking of a number from 1-10 that represents your physical hunger, 1 being starving – and 10 being completely stuffed, you can then determine how much you need to make a trip to the kitchen.  Second, hold off for a couple of minutes…acknowledge the urge as that, an urge, then continue what you’re doing.  See if it persists, then make a decision to move forward.

  1. Create an Eating Routine

Quarantining at home has uprooted a lot of structured routines that have, in turn, affected eating patterns. It is important to find ways that work in our personal schedules to carve out specific meal times in order to prevent skipping meals, or just indulging in snacks for the day. Some examples of creating structure are:

  • Getting full 8 hours of sleep at night to prevent late-night snacking
  • Setting 10, 30, 60, or even 90 minutes to move and sweat once a day to maintain metabolism and appetite
  • Plan meals with housemates and family in your home….or sharing meals on zoom can create accountability to not skip meals or overeat
  • Create time for hobbies. This could involve morning walks, trying a new exercise video on youtube, or my favorite … puzzles! These can all keep the brain occupied before/instead of opting for processed snacks.
  1. Focus on what you’re Eating

Have you noticed that eating just a bowl of cereal, plain toast, or a piece of fruit leaves you hungry within the hour? Carbohydrate-rich foods are our body’s immediate source of energy, but result in an unsatiated feeling soon after a meal. This can be prevented by pairing carbs with fat or protein to feel full longer and avoid snacking soon after. Here are some examples of carbs + high protein/fat snacks to leave you satisfied for hours:

  • Peanut butter and apple
  • Carrots and hummus
  • Dark chocolate with almonds
  1. Let’s face it, snacking is inevitable as well as enjoyable!

Snacking in moderation is completely okay, there is no need for guilt to get involved. A pro-tip for regulating snacking is portion sizing. When getting your next snack, put it into a separate container to isolate the specific quantity you plan to eat.  Another tip could entail mixing your favorite salty or sweet processed craving with nutrient-rich foods such as berries, nuts, or carrots.

Bottom line: Indulge in your favorite foods by using mindfulness, implementing eating routines, having balanced meals, and watching portion sizes.  These practices are much more kind than restriction or feeling guilty about eating when quarantining at home.

How do you handle snacking during all the at home time?

Good sources to check out: