healthy eating

Omega 3 vs. Omega 6 – What’s the deal?

Omega Fatty Acids:

We often hear about the benefits of Omega-3’s through fish oil, flax/chia/hemp seeds, walnuts and more. But why? Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential fats meaning our bodies cannot create them and we must consume them through food (or supplements). Our bodies use these fats to create other fats that have crucial functions in the body. However it is the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acids consumed that nutrition experts are most concerned about.

What is the proper ratio?

For quite some time, it was suggested we ate a ratio of 1:1 (Omega-6: Omega-3). However in today’s world where a sizeable proportion of calories are derived from processed foods rich in vegetable oils and animal-derived fats (namely grain-fed cattle) the ratio has shifted for most people to consuming 10-15:1! This all has created the need to move closer to the 1:1 by increasing Omega-3 consumption and reducing Omega-6 consumption to reduce arthritis inflammation, lower cardiac risk, and reduce brain inflammation (ie Alzheimer’s, mental illness).

In general, most organizations suggest around 500 mg/day of EPA/DHA, however The Institute of Medicine has gone a step further and encourages a daily intake of 1.6 g and 1.1 g per day for adult males and females, respectively.

What foods are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

First, it’s important to know that there are three main types:

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

The first one – ALA – is found in many commonly consumed foods that also have Omega-6 Fatty Acids, hence there is less of a push for people to up their intake of ALA. Some foods with the highest ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 are fish and seafood, followed by beans (mung beans/black lentils), Peppermint and Spearmint herbs, green vegetables, tropical fruits, seeds, and mixed green salad.

The only true food source rich in DHA/EPA is fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon. If you are vegan, or do not consume fatty fish or fish oil, you may need to consider using an algal oil (or perilla oil) supplement. Current and limited research shows it could produce a similar effect to marine oils.

*It’s worth noting that current ocean pollution raises possible concerns regarding the safety of fish in general.

OMEGA FATTY ACID SIDE NOTES: You can still have too much of a good thing. While generally not problematic, excessive consumption of fish oil can increase your risk of bleeding and may suppress your immune response. If you take fish oil supplements, be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendation on dosage. Also double-check with your doctor, before taking a fish oil supplement, if you are on blood pressure medication as it has been shown to reduce blood pressure.

Now check out this list of Omega-3 rich foods to add to your shopping list!

Keep it simple with grilled salmon over veggies or try out this delicious recipe with arugula and veggie salad!

Save Time, Money and Headache with Batch Cooking!

Who has time to create delicious, fresh, home-cooked meals day after day from scratch? Do yourself a favor and set aside one day a week for batch cooking and make your life easier!

Cook and Store

Try cooking up a few pounds of chicken at once for instance. Cut into cubes and flash freeze (spread out on a parchment lined cookie sheet); place in the freezer just until the outside is frozen enough not to stick to other pieces. Once flash frozen, store in an airtight container or bag that way you can grab a handful to throw in the skillet with some veggies and spice and voila!

Label and date your finished product safety!

Freeze in Recipe-Sized Portions

Freeze in single serve, family, or recipe size portions, because let’s be honest: the easier you make your process, the better the chance you’ll stick with cooking and eating healthy. Try creating shake ready bags of frozen fruit for example. ½ banana, ½ cup of strawberries, and frozen spinach can be tossed in your blender with almond milk and some vanilla protein powder for a quick post workout shake!

Plan Ingredients Ahead

If you plan your meals throughout the week ahead, look for similar ingredients. Instead of chopping tomatoes, onions, and peppers for 1 recipe, you can chop several of each and have for a couple different recipes. Store in a sealed bag in the fridge, so you can grab and cook quickly!

Keep Your Staples on Hand

When you use up a “staple” in your pantry, be sure to put on your shopping list immediately and replace the next time you go to the store. Meals go smoothest when the basics are on hand. Think chicken broth, onions, garlic, canned beans or tomatoes – these types of things keep pretty long and can make or break your decision to cook instead of ordering out!

Cook in Bulk? Shop in Bulk!

Plan what you are going to prepare and shop at your nearest warehouse store (Costco, Sam’s, etc). During the summer, shop bulk produce from your farmer’s markets and CSA’s! Think bulk tomatoes, fruit, beans, corn, etc to have local produce all year long. Apples or potatoes for instance when stored correctly can last a really long time!

Print Physical Recipes

Keep a printed/pinterested/photocopy of recipes that are favorites, quick, or go-to’s! When you are in a rut, pull out a few and use for the coming week. Many people save recipes on websites or think they will go back through social media and find things etc, and then they just never get around to it. When you find something you or the family enjoy, get a physical copy of it and store them somewhere in the kitchen for quick reference!

Health Education Week: Heart Health

In honor of Health Education Week we are bringing you some discussion on tips, reminders and education on heart health and diet! Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among all adult populations in this country, and although there is a genetic element to it, it’s been demonstrated that lifestyle is far more significant!

Below we will talk about some of the most common dietary choices out there that lead to cardiovascular disease:

Trans Fats

The vast majority of us have heard one way or another that Trans Fats are bad. Consuming them tends to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol AND lower HDL (good) cholesterol – a double whammy! Honestly though, you may have to scour the grocery store to find any products that list it on the label. So why are we still talking about it?

Deep Fried Foods are one common source of trans fats for many people out there. We get it: it is tough to beat french fries! And over here in Wisconsin you may be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t occasionally drooled over some deep fried cheese curds.

IMPORTANT: Pay attention to the temperature suggestion on your cooking oil! Over-heating oil (generally it will start smoking when this occurs) actually turns it into Trans Fat! Many are unaware of this, and it is a large part of the reason that deep fried foods is particularly culpable.

Margarine is another common Trans Fat consumed by many people out there. It was once thought that because margarine is plant-derived and lower in saturated fat than butter that it was a preferable substitute, but research shows that the partially-hydrogenated oils that make up margarine are significantly more detrimental to your health!

Baked Goods such as donuts, cakes, cookies, pies, etc. tend to contain high volumes of Saturated and Trans Fat.

What Can I Do About It?

Craving Deep Fried Food?

Try making your own by cutting up potatoes or sweet potatoes, adding olive oil and bake away! Haven’t tried Delicata Squash yet? Here’s another chance to try! Slice in 1/3” moon shaped pieces, toss with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for a French fry feel!

Too Deeply Biased Against Butter?

Moderation and a natural choice would be my go-to suggestion, BUT I know that many people have taken butter out of their diet for so long that there is no going back. Or perhaps you are intolerant of dairy or have chosen to go 100% plant based? Find a spread that does NOT contain partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, and little saturated fat.

Snack Time?

Choose a healthier option by making your own healthy “treats” at home or eating fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth! Try a simple granola bar recipe and make it your own. Click here for an EASY and KID-TESTED Grab-and-Go Granola Bar recipe.

Processed Meat

Bacon, sausage, pepperoni, salami, cold cuts and cured meats. These processed meats tend to include a lot of added salt and preservatives. In addition, the n-nitroso, formed from sodium nitrite, in processed meat are linked to various forms of cancer. (Why do they add this to processed meat? To preserve the red/pink color of the meat, to improve flavor by inhibiting fat oxidation, and prevent the growth of bacteria). Try limiting processed meats to once a week or less as well as choosing fish, poultry, or lean red meat as an alternative.

The daily recommendation for sodium intake is 2,300mg max. The average U.S. adult consumes over 4,000mg PER DAY! Added salt can be found in packaged foods including chips, crackers, breads, canned products, condiments, and almost anything you see that is packaged in the stores. Try to avoid too many processed foods (whole foods have 0 added salt for the record!) and/or try to use other flavor enhancing techniques such as using natural spices, lemon juice, herbs, and more!

If processed meats are a staple in your home? Seek out nitrate/nitrite free lunch meats, bacon, sausage etc and keep an eye the sodium levels!

Added Sugar

When you “drink your calories” with sugar sweetened drinks your brain is not able to process the sugar intake as quickly, limiting the brain’s ability to say “You’re full – please stop!”

A high-sugar diet may also stimulate the liver to dump more harmful fats into the bloodstream. This leads to over-consumption, increased risk of inflammation, elevated blood glucose levels, and increased risk of heart disease.

Choose water whenever possible or at least an unsweetened beverage. You can also add fruit, cucumber, or herbs like mint to your water to change up the flavor if you struggle with plain ol’ life-giving, magical H20

Fall Harvest Breakdown! (read before Fall Farmer’s Markets!)

Fall is starting to show its face and so is the fall vegetable harvest!

“Winter Squash” is designated by a hard outer skin, unlike summer squashes like zucchini and yellow squash. Winter squash varieties include spaghetti, butternut, kabocha, delicata, acorn and more! Boost your immunity and health with winter squashes because they are high in fiber and vitamin C content! Just 1 cup of squash provides about half the daily recommendation! This week we’re hooking you up with some of the easiest ways to include squash into your weekly cooking regimen and prep.

Spaghetti squash can be prepared as simply as slicing it in half, cleaning out the seeds, and placing it face down on a lined baking sheet in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes. It’s done when you can poke a fork into the skin. Allow to cool slightly, fork your spaghetti like strands right out and chow down! You may not even need to dirty a dish ? Get a little fancy by brushing on some olive oil and sprinkling salt/pepper on before baking or serve your spaghetti strands with a little marinara, parmesan, or this writer’s favorite – chili!

Delicata squash (del-eh-ca-ta) is a little less intimidating in size compared with other squash, and these are known for making delicious baked squash “rings”. There are many who have missed out on this delicious squash because it is not widely carried in supermarkets and they just don’t recognize it at the farmer’s market. Simply cut the squash into 1/2” rings (the skin is edible!) and scoop the seedy center out. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay rings on a metal (lined is ok) pan and bake at 425 for approximately 10 minutes per side. Keep flipping as needed. You’ll finish with browned/caramelized rings that are reminiscent of sweet potato fries but even better! If you haven’t seen, heard, or tried delicata squash yet, definitely ask at your local farmer’s market!

Butternut squash is known for its creamy roasted taste and variable use as a puree. Since the aim this week is to make eating winter squash as simple as possible, toss your whole butternut squash into the slow cooker and cook for 4-5 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. When done, you’ll be able to cut right through the skin, scoop out the seeded middle, and have cooked squash ready to puree, add to soup, or incorporated into a pasta dish! If you are a little more adventurous, peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, core the center, and cube it up (toss with olive oil and salt/pepper) for roasting in the oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. So delicious even on it’s own! Butternut squash lends well to a variety of flavors from cinnamon and nutmeg to cardamom and/or curry spices to Mexican spices!

Kabocha squash. Wait, kombucha now kabocha? Green kabocha have a nutty, earthy flavor while the red kabocha tend to be a bit sweeter. Cut the squash in 1” wedges like you might do for a cantaloupe (the skin is edible when cooked), toss with olive oil/salt/pepper and roast 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Jazz up your roast with infused olive oils if you like! Once roasted the squash can be eaten as is or used for purees. If your kabocha is a little too tough to cut raw? Try this method: http://sweetsimplevegan.com/2017/02/how-to-roast-kabocha-squash/
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Now if you are part of a CSA or just prefer to grab whatever type of produce is on sale that week, it’s important to note that these different types of squash are often interchangeable in recipes! The main differences in squash come down to water content, sweetness, and texture. Don’t fret, just do a quick online search. One easy way to incorporate squash, for even the pickiest of eaters, is to find muffin, pancake, and quickbread recipes that use squash! Nobody will be any the wiser 😉

Identify your squash here! http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/a-visual-guide-to-winter-squash-varieties-article