Monday, June 29, 2015

Info Fiend Find: Make Sure You Get Complete Proteins

tofu dish

Going Vegan or Vegetarian? How to Make Sure You Get Complete Proteins 

by: Melania Lizano
Whether you've become a vegan or vegetarian for environmental, animal rights, or health reasons, one of your primary concerns might be how to avoid nutritional deficiencies and find the protein sources needed for a healthy body.

The Complete Scoop on Complete Proteins

Proteins, which form up to 20 percent of the human body, control almost all cellular processes in our bodies. They build muscles, repair body tissue, break down food, catalyze chemical reactions, are needed to form hormones and enzymes, and have a crucial role in metabolism and growth.
Proteins are composed of chains of smaller structures called amino acids; these are like the building blocks of all biologic molecules.
Of the 21 amino acids needed in our body, humans can produce only 11; the other 10 must come from the food we eat. Amino acids that depend on diet are called essential amino acids, mostly because they are necessary for the body to function properly.
A high-quality or complete protein is one which contains all 10 essential amino acids. An incomplete protein is one that does not have all of the essential amino acids because it lacks one or two. Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete proteins that when eaten together provide all the essential amino acids. For example, rice has nine essential amino acids, but lacks lysine. Chickpeas have also nine of them, but don’t have methionine, so when eaten together they make a great source of a complete protein.
Getting a daily supply of protein is crucial because your body doesn’t store amino acids. Meat, fish, and poultry are the most common and complete sources of high-quality animal-based protein. Eggs and dairy, although they have less protein content than mean, are also a good source of complete protein.

Vegetarian-Friendly Protein Sources

If you choose to become a vegetarian, you can still get protein from eggs and dairy products. Just avoid using eggs as your only source of daily protein. Egg yolks, while packed with protein and nutrients, are high in cholesterol. Be aware of this, especially if your cholesterol levels are high. If you eat only egg whites, you will be limiting the amount of protein by 40 percent.
Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt also contain a complete protein. Although it’s significantly lower in saturated fat, the protein content in reduced fat and nonfat milk are comparable to that of whole milk.

Vegan-Friendly Protein Sources

Today, more people choose to have a vegan diet and lifestyle. Finding an excellent source of daily protein is not a problem, and if you’re worried you’re not getting enough, you can visit a nutritionist or health care provider to review your specific nutrition needs. Recommended daily amounts of protein vary depending on age, gender, physical activity, and health status. Plant-based proteins may be digested differently from animal proteins; it's possible you'll need to adjust the amount you eat.
Here’s a list of the best plant-based protein sources, great for the vegan diet:
  1. Veggies: Vegetables contain incomplete proteins, so it’s important to remember to combine them with whole grains to form a complete protein. Legumes like lentils and chickpeas, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are among the veggies with higher protein content.
  2. Nondairy beverages: Nondairy milk provides different amounts of protein, depending on the type. Protein in soymilk is similar in quantity and quality to that provided by dairy milk Almond milk has a very high nutritional value, but has a much lower protein content. Coconut milk is also a great source of protein. Make sure to look out for organic and GMO-free soy and nut milks.
  3. Hemp: Hemp powder, milk, oil, or seeds can be eaten raw in smoothies or salads. Even though hemp is made from the Cannabis plant, it lacks the psychoactive ingredient, so it's safe to consume. Hemp has a high quality or complete protein content.
  4. Quinoa: Apart from its high content in antioxidants, carbohydrates, and minerals, this whole grain cereal contains an excellent amount of high-quality protein with all essential amino acids. Other grains may contain good amounts of incomplete protein.
  5. Tofu: The amount of protein in tofu is comparable to the protein content in meat and milk, and being a derivative of soy, it also has a complete protein content.
  6. Tempeh: This is also a food made from soybeans; it's less popular, but has three times the amount of protein than tofu, and is a great source of fiber and vitamins.
  7. Seeds and grains: Some nuts and seeds like almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and pistachios, and grains like oats, wheat and rye, have an adequate amount of protein. Seeds have an adequate amount of a highly digestible incomplete protein, so be sure to combine them with other whole grains or veggies.
Before going vegan, remember to be well informed of the nutritional changes that you‘ll have to make. For instance, some vital nutrients like vitamin B12 are only found in animal products and you may need a supplement.
You can find good plant-based protein sources, but be aware of the fact that digestibility, nutrient absorption, and amount of daily intake may vary. As soy intake is still controversial, you may want to be aware of the amount you take on a daily basis. Choosing from a variety of protein sources is always the best option.
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Info Fiend Find: High Sugar Diet Can Impair Learning and Memory

High-Sugar Diet Can Impair Learning And Memory By Altering Gut Bacteria


The typical American diet is loaded with fat and sugar, and it may be hurting not only our physical health, but also our ability to think clearly.

New research from Oregon State University finds a high-sugar, high-fat diet causes changes in gut bacteria that seem to lead to significant losses in cognitive flexibility, a measurement of the brain's ability to switch between thinking about one concept to another, and to adapt to changes in the environment.

The study, which was conducted on mice and published this week in the journal Neuroscience, found that a high-sugar diet was particularly detrimental to brain function, leading not only to decreased cognitive flexibility but also to impairments in short- and long-term memory.

“We’ve known for a while that too much fat and sugar are not good for you,” Dr. Kathy Magnusson, a biomedical scientist at the university and the study's lead author, said in a statement. “This work suggests that fat and sugar are altering your healthy bacterial systems, and that’s one of the reasons those foods aren’t good for you. It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes.”

As Magnusson suggests, the findings aren't entirely surprising. They're the latest to join a growing body of research that has shown that the trillions of bacteria living in the gut can have a major influence on brain function and mental health. The upshot? Diet could play an important role in neurological and mental health, both for better and for worse.

The Experiment

For the study, the researchers fed groups of mice a high-fat diet, a high-sugar diet or a normal diet, and gave them tests measuring various physical and mental functions. To assess changes to the gut microbiome -- the community of trillions of bacteria living in the gut -- the researchers also analyzed fecal samples prior to the implementation of the diet and again five weeks after adopting the diet.

What did they find? After just four weeks on the high-fat or high-sugar diet, the mice performed worse on a series of mental and physical tests, compared to the mice on a normal diet. The mice on both diets performed particularly poorly on the test of cognitive flexibility, in which they were expected to find a new escape route from their cages.

The mice on the high-sugar diet also performed poorly on tests on working memory and long-term memory.

The microbiome analysis revealed that higher percentages of "bad" gut bacteria and lower amounts of healthy bacteria among the high-sugar and high-fat groups were directly correlated with worse performance on the tests of cognitive flexibility.

In humans, poor cognitive flexibility can manifest in difficulty understanding new concepts or adapting to new experiences.

“Think about driving home on a route that’s very familiar to you, something you’re used to doing," Magnussion explained in a statement. "Then one day that road is closed and you suddenly have to find a new way home.”

A person with high levels of cognitive flexibility would be quick to find an alternative route, while someone with lower cognitive flexibility would be more likely to struggle to find a new way home.

How does it work? Scientists aren't yet sure, but there are a number of possible mechanisms by which gut bacteria can "talk" to the brain. For one, these bacteria can activate an inflammatory response of the immune system.

"There's also evidence that the bacteria can release chemicals that are used as transmitters in the brain," Magnusson said in an email to The Huffington Post. "So they're producing things like serotonin, and we have receptors in our brain that will react to serotonin."

Your Brain On Sugar

The findings join a growing body of research that warns of the possible negative effects of excessive sugar consumption on brain health.

The mounting evidence has even led some scientists to refer to Alzheimer's disease as "Type 3 diabetes," because of the association with chronically elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance with cognitive decline.

There's an important caveat here. Cutting back on sugar doesn't mean that it's a good idea to switch to artificial sweeteners. Recently, scientists found that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners can have a devastating effect on the microbiome, and can lead to metabolic disorders and obesity.

"Artificial sweeteners are likely even worse [than sugar] because they have a huge effect on changing the microbiome," neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life, told The Huffington Post. "Your risk of diabetes is twice as great if you’re consuming diet drinks, which is far greater than if you’re drinking sugar-sweetened beverages."

But the good news is that a balanced diet that's relatively low in sugar, artificial sweeteners and unhealthy fats -- and high in probiotics, the "good" bacteria that support digestion, immune health and even mental health -- can support the health of both the gut and the brain.

"A brain-healthy diet is one that’s very low in sugar and carbohydrates that welcomes fat back to the table, but only good fat -- not trans fats, not the modified fats," said Perlmutter. "It’s mostly vegetables on the plate -- colorful, nutrient-dense vegetables that are rich in fiber."

Sunday, June 7, 2015

OMG I Didn't Die!

Last weekend was A's birthday and we decided to head to Portland to celebrate. We always talk about going, yet manage to watch months/years pass by before we make it down there. We manage a beach trip around my birthday at least once a year to Old Orchard, typically only stopping in Whole Foods, right off 295, for our coffees and snacks for the 3 hour ride home.

This time we went to Portland to do Portland proper. We stayed right in town, biting the bullet and paying the extra $100-ish to be within walking distance of everything, and have a water view! Oooo snazzy, right?! A man only turns 36 once!

A and I had not been to Portland in the proper-do-it-up-Portland-way since the food scene really burst. If you do not know, or have not heard (do you live in a cave?) Portland is food heaven. I want enough time, money and a-not-give-a-shit-attitude to get gargantuan fat on all the deliciousness that Portland has to offer. And in all my attempts to hit the best rated places and stay up to date with mutual foodie drooling friends, I always manage to be somewhat behind the newest gotta-go-there-place. Le sigh! If only someone wanted to fund my gluttonous happy growth into obesity. Any takers?

It is probably good we don't live in Portland. All income would go to food and booze. We love trying new food, seeing new restaurants. We love people watching with good cocktails and the options in Portland are endless.

There are my go-to favs that I had not had the chance to take A to yet. Like I said we are normally passing through, so either it is convenience over waiting in line, say at Duckfat (Drool! He STILL doesn't know what he is missing. I have tried to make him stand in the around-the-block-line 3 times now, each time he complains and doesn't want to wait....if ONLY he knew!!! How can anything ever not be worth a wait when it is fried/grilled in duck fat? Duck fat?! And Belgium fries, with sauces you want to slather all over your body and a cold brew...I can't! But apparently A can't wait in line long enough to get to the point of drooling, which inevitably happens when the name is even mentioned. If only he knew! And if only he would wait in the damn line!)

Duckfat deliciousness. Photo courtesy of

So although we didn't make it to Duckfat yet again, we made it our mission to gallivant around, try a drink and a nibble, at the places I wanted to take him to or those that caught our eye along the way. We were fat (in a reasonable, still gluttonous, but not protruding sort of a way. I realize gargantuan doesn't happen in one night (try as I might).) and well boozed by the end of the night. 
Walter's calamari

It was SO much fun. Everything, as always, was amazing. Walter's calamari - oh yeah - "best calamari [he's] ever had!" Zapoteca's habanero watermelon margaritas, die! Salsas, so different and cool. Guac! ::drooly face:: Local 188 is always a great venue, great for people watching, awesome, quirky bartenders, AHmazing drinks (and food, which we didn't have this time). We visited so many other places they're starting to blend together. Mmmmm.
Zapoteca quac
Oh and PS Portland has food trucks now, after last call, more gluttonous gluttony available all hours of the night. But I had one place in mind to fill the late night munchies - Otto's pizza. Drool. Sigh. Let me pause while I wipe my chin. I haven't been to Otto's since I went gluten free 4 years ago and even then, there was a lull between the cutting out of gluten and eating a slice of Otto's. If I had planned better, I would have gorged myself on a whole pie, probably died from suffocation or constipation, or both, but man I would have died happy. 

Otto's pizza is my idea of a perfect slice, to which they serve into the wee hours of the night, after boozy people flood the streets of Portland. It is cracker thin crust, with just enough chew that you gotta pull, the dough is slightly sour, the toppings range from typical to amazeballs. Every slice I have ever had is delicious. We hoofed it up to Otto's just as bars we pushing people out and A ordered 4 slices as I audibly sighed and moaned, bitterly living vicariously through him. I watched as he bit into his slices, cheese squish noises emanating with each bite, a dribble of grease down his chin, crispy pepperoni......I. Was. Dieing. It was torture watching him. All night long I watched him eat things I couldn't. Things I knew how good they tasted, because since the first time I ever tried them, all I wanted to do was take A so he could enjoy in all my food salivating glory. And here we were doing exactly what I wanted to experience with him as I sent death rays into his forehead as he ate my delicious, my lovable, MY amazing Otto's pizza! How. Dare. He. What the F was I thinking??

OOOOhhh AND to top it all off he didn't like the potato, bacon, scallion pizza!!! WHHAAAaa!!?? I don't like you! (I actually think I said that to him.) Sure bacon, garlic mashed potato and scallion pizza sounds weird (I had the same initial thoughts) but no, it is truly amazing! It is all I ever want whenever we pass Otto's. And he didn't like it!! Enough was enough, the torture was killing me and the dagger to my heart that "those ingredients don't belong on a pizza" BS I ripped it out of his hands and took 2 very large, perfectly greasy, potato-y, bacon-y, cheese-yum bites and closed my eyes. It was just as delicious as I had remembered. Only better. It took everything in my mind to not eat the whole damn slice. I was horrified and slightly concerned I might keel over and die right outside Otto's. I took one last bite, knowing full well I was going to be hating myself within the next few hours, if not definitely by morning.

But here is the thing.....I didn't die! I didn't even have breathing problems. Or a lump in my throat. Nor was I constipated in the morning. I ate gluten and I didn't die!?! Holy crap! I don't know if it was the booze that buffered my typical reaction. Or the fact that is was the pizza of the gods. Or all the walking, who the hell knows?? Either way the inevitable doom I anticipated never came.

The famous Otto's bacon, scallion, potato pizza.

That by no means means I started shoveling gluten down my throat left and right (thank god we left Portland the next morning). But I took my non-reaction as a sign from the Otto's pizza gods that I was supposed to eat 3 bites of their pizza, so all would be right in the world again. And also so the potato, bacon, scallion pizza would not be insulted by A's lame "it doesn't belong on pizza" comment! Shhh, Otto's pizza I still love you (queue petting motion). You don't know until you know and apparently A just doesn't get it.

The reality is I didn't die probably because I have not had gluten in 4 years. My villi are happy. My gut is happy. By bowels like me (most of the time) and the experts say every once in a while, when your gut flora and GI tract are super healthy, even for extremely gluten sensitive people, a wee bit of gluten won't hurt you. And by wee I mean probably no more than the 3 bites I had. I cannot tell you how desperately I wanted to eat the whole slice. But even through my boozy haze I knew better and my strong will stuck by me as I put down the slice of amazingness, still glaring at A due to his sheer stupidity. But at least he had Otto's amazing pizza and got to enjoy the glory of Portland food heaven with me in all proper birthday gluttony (even though I secretly resented him most of the night). Love you dear, happy 36th!

Zapoteca watermelon habanero rita. Ole!