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If you’re confused over eggs you’re not alone. Once upon a time, before we really understood how diet affects blood cholesterol levels, it made sense to limit foods high in cholesterol. Since egg yolks come under that category, the advice was to limit the number of eggs you ate. Today we know that the types of fat in your diet plays a more important role in determining your blood cholesterol profile and dietary cholesterol is far less of a factor. Even if you have high blood cholesterol, the current advice is that you can happily enjoy up to 6 eggs a week - and I can't see what more would be a problem. That’s great news as eggs are a nutritional smorgasbord!
Eggs provide very high quality protein, with a near perfect balance of the amino acids the human body needs. There’s a reason why eggs have been a body-builders’ staple for many years!
The yolk is especially rich in the B group vitamins folate, vitamin B5, vitamin B12, thiamin (B1) and riboflavin (B2). The fat is important as it also contains excellent levels of the fat-soluble vitamins A and E, and one of the few foods to provide vitamin D.
Eggs are a terrific breakfast choice. Studies have shown that people who eat eggs for breakfast are less hungry later and correspondingly eat less at lunch.
There is no truth to the rumour that cooking eggs damages nutrients; in fact the reverse is true. Egg white contains a protein called avidin and this binds to the vitamin biotin tightly making it unavailable for uptake and use by the body. When you cook the egg white this denatures avidin and the problem does not occur. Actually it would only be a problem if you were eating raw egg whites every day and didn't have significant other sources of biotin in other meals - extremely rare. It has been documented in body builders following very strict diets and eating drinks with raw eggs in them repeatedly over months. Generally though it's not something we need to worry about.
Raw eggs can of course carry E Coli or other pathogenic bacteria. Pregnant women, young children and those with compromised immune systems should play safe and avoid raw eggs.
Don't throw the yolks away! Not only do they contain most of the nutrients, they are rich in two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin. These are found in high concentrations in the eye and seem to play a crucial role in eye development and ongoing eye health throughout life. Eating foods such as egg yolks that are rich in these two carotenoids reduces your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Lemon's are usually not eaten in great quantities due to their sour taste, but do dleiver a lot of taste in small quantities. This is largely due to the citric acid, comprising 5-6% of the juice. I'm not sure why I continually see references on the internet to lemons being alkalising, when lemon juice is undoubtedly acidic. The common practice of drinking hot water with lemon first thing in the morning 'to aid digestion' is without scientific rationale. All I can see this doing is eroding your tooth enamel. A very real hazard of acidic drinks.
However I do love to use lemons and they have much to offer us. The juice is rich in vitamin C, although if you cook with lemons you destroy much of the vitamin C. But you will benefit from fresh lemon juice in dressings or simply squeezed over your steamed greens.
The skin of a lemon contains a potentially beneficial phytochemical called limonene. This is terrific at dissolving oils and so if often added to natural cleansers - or simply use a fresh lemon to clean your bench top. But there is interest in what this chemical can do within our bodies that may be beneficial. At least in the lab it has been shown to block carcinogens and kill cancer cells. We need more research to know if this happens in the body. For now you might like to grate some lemon zest into your salad dressing or into your stirfry or baking.
Buckwheat has been a staple food for hundreds of years in Asia and Eastern Europe. It's not related to wheat at all, and is in fact related to rhubarb and sorrel. Where wheat is a grass, buckwheat is actually a seed, although we eat it as a grain. Nutritionally the profile is more similar to common grains. One distinct difference however is that while most grains are low on, or missing one of the essential amino acids, buckwheat contains all 8. This makes it a particularly valuable choice for vegetarians and vegans.
Buckwheat stacks up pretty impressively from a nutritional perspective. A 1/4 cup of buckwheat groats provide 32% of your recommended intake for magnesium, 23% of your niacin, 14% of your phosphorus and 14% of your zinc (girls) or 8% (guys), 11% of your riboflavin and 9% your thiamin.
Buckwheat is used in Japan to make soba noodles. Buckwheat is gluten free, but if you are strictly gluten free do double check the soba noodles you buy are 100% buckwheat. The Japanese brands are usually true to this, but sometimes a combination of buckwheat and wheat flours are used.
Buckwheat is the main source of a plant chemical called rutin. Rutin seems to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in animal and lab studies. Rutin binds free iron, preventing it from causing oxidative damage to cells around the body, and it helps to prevent blood clots that can potentially lead to a heart attack. Future research is needed to confirm these effects in humans, but the potential looks promising.
Yoghurt is simply fermented milk and it probably came about as a method of making milk last longer. In doing so there were unexpected side effects and they were beneficial. Many cultures (excuse the pun) around the world from Nepal and India to the Middle East and Europe have long considered yoghurt a medicinal food and for good reason.
Yoghurt is rich in top quality protein, an excellent source of calcium and gives you a serious boost in several B group vitamins including riboflavin, magnesium and zinc.
While many people cut out dairy foods from their diet while trying to lose weight, this is quite contradictory to what the research shows. Studies where dairy foods are included as part of an energy restricted diet show that they promote better weight loss, and most importantly they seem to help improve body composition. That means they help you to lose fat and keep your muscle. Exactly what you want for a lean and fit body. Just what it is about dairy that is responsible for this effect is not fully understood, but it seems to be a combination of the protein and in particular the amino acid leucine high in dairy including yoghurt, along with calcium.
Dairy foods can also help to reduce blood pressure and big population studies show associations with lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
But of course not all yoghurts are the same. They have different levels of fat, added sugars, may have fruit and other additions, and some are thickened with gums or have other additives. Always read the ingredients list to know exactly what you are getting. Your absolute best options are natural yoghurts with live cultures, and nothing else in the ingredients list.
If you buy yoghurt with live cultures (probiotic bacteria) these have the potential to boost the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut while minimising the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The knock on benefits to your health includes a stronger immune system with fewer coughs and colds, and a healthier gut.
The live bacteria in the yoghurt also help to break down the milk carbohydrate lactose. This means that if you are lactose intolerant, as many adults are, you might well find that while you are running to the loo after milk, you can eat yoghurt.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats – they are also only one of two fruits that are fat rich (the other being the avocado). A solid body of scientific evidence supports making these fats the major ones in your diet. They can help you to achieve a healthier blood cholesterol profile, improve your insulin sensitivity, help you to control blood glucose levels, improve a fatty liver, and even reduce the amount of fat you store around your abdomen.
The Mediterranean diet is hailed quite rightfully as one of the healthiest in the world. This diet has been associated with lower rates of heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower risk of stroke, better cognitive health, lower risk of diabetes, and lower risks of many cancers. There are many factors that may contribute to this, but one of the key characteristics is the use of olive oil as a staple food and the principal fat.
It is important to buy extra virgin olive oil however and not products labeled as “light”, “pure olive oil” or “pomace”. These are all refined products and do not contain the health promoting qualities of fresh extra virgin olive oil. Refining the oil removes many of the antioxidants, phytosterols and polyphenols present in the fresh extra virgin oil that benefit us. Oil is not like wine – it doesn’t get better with age. The fresher it is the better. Choose quality over quantity and you will reap the benefits.
It’s a myth that cooking with extra virgin olive oil destroys its benefits. Good quality extra virgin olive oil has a high smoke point of around 210°C. It can be used for stir-fries, on the BBQ, roasting foods in the oven and pan-frying. Store your oil in a cool dark place to retain the freshness and health-promoting properties. And use it regularly so that you are always consuming this year’s batch.
Fat helps deliver taste and flavour, but it is also necessary for the absorption of many antioxidants including beta-carotene, not to mention the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Drizzling extra virgin olive oil over your salad or steamed veg adds flavour (so you eat more plant food) and makes sure you can absorb more of those beneficial plant compounds.
Maple syrup is the concentrated sap of the maple tree. Be careful not to confuse maple-flavoured syrups with the real thing. These are usually just a processed glucose syrup with added flavourings to mimic the real thing. It’s much cheaper as a result.
Real maple syrup is so much tastier and since it's far sweeter than regular sugar you can use less. It contains small amounts of nutrients, including riboflavin, manganese and zinc, but let's be honest - we can get these nutrients in far greater quantities elsewhere. However it also contains a whole host of antioxidant compounds - the darker the colour the more antioxidants present. These may well be of benefit to our health.
The sugars present in maple syrup are primarily sucrose, with small amounts of glucose and fructose. It has a low GI of 54, making it a good choice for blood glucose control.
I love using maple syrup as an all natural, minimally processed sweetener and it tastes fabulous. When using maple syrup in place of table sugar, you only need about 2/3 of the amount, allowing you to cut down the total sugar level.
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