The Superfood You Need To Eat TODAY!

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Hello friends! As you know I always try to eat as healthily as I can. Lately though, I’ve been evaluating my diet and realizing that there are places in my healthy eating plan where I can substitute even healthier foods to get more nutritional bang for my buck. Last week I blogged about healthy cold and flu remedies, and I mentioned that I was experiencing viral symptoms myself. After I finished my post, I decided to make some chicken soup to aid in my healing. As I was thinking about chicken soup an idea popped into my mind. I thought that if there were a way to make chicken soup with QUINOA instead of rice, that would make it even healthier. I started searching around the internet and I found a recipe for a crockpot chicken and quinoa soup that sounded interesting. Since it was so close to dinner time, I didn’t want to use my crockpot so I changed the recipe to a stovetop soup,  adjusted some of the ingredients and cooking time- and voila! A delicious soup that is loaded with nutrition!

Now you may be wondering, why is quinoa so much better than rice or other grains? Excellent question, mi amigos, and now I’m going to tell you why. Quinoa is considered an ancient grain, along with farro, amaranth and barley, because they are almost exactly the same as they were hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Quinoa was even known as “the mother of all grains” to the Inca people when it was first cultivated over 5000 years ago. It usually comes in white, red, or black versions, I like to use a rainbow quinoa in my cooking. Of course, I also always use organic quinoa and try to use organic ingredients whenever possible.

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Consuming 2-3 servings of quinoa and other whole grain foods per day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer and obesity. Quinoa also provides a higher amount of antioxidants than other common grains used in a gluten free diet. Researchers at Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center found that the nutritional content of gluten free diets was significantly improved by adding oats or quinoa to meals and snacks.

Whole grains like quinoa provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber which help to regulate the digestive system and to keep you fuller and more satisfied. In contrast, when you eat simple carbohydrates like white pastas, white rice, and white breads, they are quickly digested but offer little else in the way of nutritional value.

Quinoa is naturally gluten free and contains iron, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It’s one of the only plant foods that is considered a complete protein and comprised of all essential amino acids. It also has a high protein to carbohydrate ratio when compared to other grain products, and it contains a healthy dose of fatty acids as well. 1/4 cup of DRY quinoa contains 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 0 cholesterol and sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 0 sugars, and 6 grams of protein. Do you need any more convincing that quinoa is the grain for you?! I hope not! Now let’s look at the soup I made with quinoa, it will make your mouth water I promise you!

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Chicken and Quinoa Soup

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 26 oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (basil, oregano, parsley)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese

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Take a large pot, add the extra virgin olive oil, and warm over medium heat. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs on both sides and then add to the pot. Brown them 5 minutes on each side or until the pink totally disappears and remove them from the pot. Put them on a plate to cool a little.

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Add the carrots, onions and celery to the pot and sauté them for 3 minutes until softened. Take the minced garlic, combine it with the vegetables and stir it for a minute.

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Cut the now cooled chicken into decent sized chunks and add it back into the pot with the vegetables.

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Mix in the rest of the ingredients including the quinoa except for the parmesan cheese, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the quinoa is soft. As the quinoa cooks it will absorb more liquid so if want a more liquidy soup make sure to take it off the heat as soon as the quinoa is soft. You can also add more chicken broth, but I didn’t need to do that.

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Grate some fresh parmesan cheese onto the top of the soup and you’re ready to eat! It’s full of healthy chicken, vegetables, and quinoa, and it’s super delicious too. It’s also very easy to make with not too many ingredients. So make sure you eat more quinoa, and replace your simple carbs with complex carbs whenever possible. Eating like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

FAT doesn’t make you fat!

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This meal WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT!

This meal WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT!

Does that surprise you, my wonderful readers?!! Well it’s true! Now that you know, you can enjoy those cheeseburgers without guilt. With one exception- it’s not the burger that makes you fat, IT’S THE BUN. And the fries, and the rice, and the pasta, and the bread, and the biscuits, and the cakes, and the cookies, and the pancakes, etc etc etc. Get my point? Fats don’t make you fat, carbs make you fat, and many people do not know this. The focus of this post is to better inform you so you can make intelligent choices knowing the truth about the food you eat.

LOL! But unfortunately, true!

LOL! But unfortunately, true!

The popular misconception is that the more fatty foods you eat, the more weight you gain. Right? We all grew up seeing images of big people eating big steaks or other big slabs of meat, and hearing that is what causes weight gain. Then, low fat everything hit the grocery stores and cutting out fat was thought by some to be “the great weight loss solution”. The thing is, that’s not true. Most fat is actually good for your body, with the exception of trans fats. Trans fats are the fats that exist in processed foods like vegetable oils, cookies, brownies, and many different types of processed foods. These fats should be avoided at all costs, which can easily happen by not purchasing processed food from the grocery store. If you must buy processed food, become an informed label reader, and if you see the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”, “trans fats”, “partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil”, or anything like that know there are healthier choices you can make.

Homemade with avocado- a healthy fat!

Homemade with avocado- a healthy fat!

Healthy fat options are: Olives and olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, butter made from organic milk, raw nuts, organic pastured egg yolks, avocados, grass-fed meats, palm oil, and unheated organic nut oils. And we need a lot more of these healthy fats per day than you think. Dr. Mercola recommends 50-70% of your diet consist of healthy fats. Most experts now agree with this recommendation.

The amazing thing about fats is this, unlike popular misconception, CUTTING fat from your diet can actually make you fat. Yes, it’s true and here’s why. There is a concept called satiety, and it’s very important for our diets. Basically, if we are satisfied by what we eat, we will eat less food than if we are not satisfied. Healthy fat foods have a high satiety rating, therefore we need to eat less of it to be satisfied. “Carby” foods have a low satiety rating, so we have to eat more of it to be satisfied. Thus, low fat diets cause us to gain weight because we have to eat more carbs to be satisfied. It’s like when I’m eating potato chips, which I love but don’t eat very often anymore, I could literally sit there and eat an entire big bag because I never feel full when I’m eating them. That’s why I don’t eat them very often anymore! However, I can’t imagine consuming a big bowl of guacamole (avocado is a healthy fat), because it doesn’t take as much to make me feel satisfied.

 

See? Told ya! ;)

See? Told ya! 😉

So if fats don’t make you fat, what is making us fat? Certainly as a nation we are getting fatter every day so there must be some cause. The answer is…. (drum roll happening in my mind now) CARBS! Actually, low fiber carbohydrates are causing our nation’s weight gain. There are good carbs and every diet needs them so I’m not advocating the elimination of all carbs, just of bad carbs. Let me differentiate: high fiber carbs provide a rich source of fiber. The best high fiber carbs are minimally processed, or unprocessed plant-based foods. The best examples of high fiber carbs are beans, whole grains like barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, rye, brown rice, wheat, millet, fruits and vegetables. These are good things your body needs, but the current recommendation if you’re not a body builder (because they need a lot of carbs) is no more than 20% of your daily nutrition in carbs, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Bad carbs are soda, candy, artificial syrups, sugar, chips, white rice, white bread, white pasta, potatoes (technically a complex carb but actually act more like simple carbs in the body), pastries and desserts.

Yes this is true, as a nation we've never been unhealthier and carbs are the reason!

Yes this is true, as a nation we’ve never been unhealthier and carbs are the reason!

Now you may be wondering, why are carbs so bad for us? Why are they making us fat? I’m going to explain that to you right now. The reason is that carbs trigger the insulin cycle. I’m no doctor so I’m going to give you a “common man” explanation. Basically, when you overconsume carbs this drives up your blood sugar. In order to prevent dangerously elevated blood levels, our bodies convert excess carbohydrates to excess body fat, primarily in the belly. The carbs turn into glycogen and there are two places glycogen is stored in our body, in our liver and muscles. Once glycogen levels are filled in the liver and muscles, the only place left for the carbs is our fatty (adipose) tissues. So, when you consume a lot of carbs, you’re sending a message to your body, via the hormone insulin, to store more fat. The bad part about this (it gets worse!) is that fewer carbs are then needed to cause fat storage, so more fat is gained over time. It’s a vicious carb cycle!

Well, this doesn’t give us all carte blanche to gorge ourselves on a 24 ounce rib eye, with the knowledge that carbs make us fat. Too many calories, even of healthy things, can still cause us to gain weight. This is why I utilize the My Fitness Pal app on my iphone to help keep track of my calories, exercise and nutrition. That way I know how much fat, protein and carbs I’m eating each day, and I make adjustments as needed. I use it to keep track of my weight too so if I start to gain weight I can go back and look at how many calories I’m eating, and what kind of food my calories are coming from, to make the necessary shifts to get back on track. I’ve been able to maintain my weight for many years so I know this is working for me.

What the My Fitness Pal app looks like! I highly recommend downloading it!

What the My Fitness Pal app looks like! I highly recommend downloading it!

In conclusion, I want my amazing readers to know that fat doesn’t make you fat, carbs do. With that in mind, try to keep your carb consumption to no more than 20% of your daily diet. I would like you to eat healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, olive oil, etc, and healthy carbs like quinoa, fruits and vegetables. Try to keep track of your calorie consumption and weight to more easily make changes in your diet. If you do these things I promise you’ll be living a life of vitality- like Valerie!