coffee

What’s in your coffee shop beverage?

Australians love their coffee, although not as much as several Nordic and European countries (we didn’t make the list of top 20 coffee drinking countries in 2017). Australia is also a big consumer of tea, ranking #13 according to the same source. From the results of the latest Australian Health Survey (2011-12), 53.6% of women and 38.9% of men 19+ years old drink tea; 57.5% of women and 57.0% of men (19+ years old) drink coffee or coffee substitutes (1). If you fall in these groups, do you know what’s in your coffee shop beverage?

Caffeine

The main reason people drink coffee is caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate, etc. Caffeine affects people in different ways, mainly due to the individual metabolism variability.

Current recommended caffeine intake is less than 600 mg per day for the general adult population and less than 200 mg per day if you are stressed or pregnant (2).

The following graphs are based on data from the Australian Health Survey 2011-12 (1). See graph below for average caffeine content in coffee shop drinks (assuming an average regular coffee is 250ml, an average espresso is 30ml and an average macchiato is 40ml).

Fluid

Coffee and tea are liquids, and as such, do count toward your daily consumption of fluid. Some people think they shouldn’t because they “are diuretic” but under normal circumstances, the net contribution of these beverages is positive fluid.

Milk

According to The 2017 Square Australian Coffee Report, these are the most popular beverages ordered at cafes:

  • Latte (39%)
  • Flat white (24%)
  • Cappuccino (16%)
  • Long black (8%)
  • Hot chocolate (4%)
  • Mocha (4%)
  • Iced drinks (3%)
  • Chai (2%)

Below is the flat white vs latte consumption per state from the same source:

Energy

Note that the vast majority of beverages sold at coffee shops are milk-based. Milk is a nutritious food, but, as mentioned above, it can make a huge difference in energy intake, particularly if you drink full-fat milk. Every gram of fat contributes 37.7 kilojoules (~9 Calories).

See graph below for average energy content and energy from fat in coffee shop drinks. Note that energy will vary with size, type of milk, added sugar and added syrups/toppings.

Carbohydrates

Milk also contains carbohydrates, which contribute 16.7 kilojoules (~4 Calories) per gram. Most of the carbohydrates in unsweetened milk-based beverages come from sugars such as lactose in the case of cow’s milk and anything from plain cane sugar to maltodextrin in the case of non-dairy milks.

See graph below for average carbohydrate (in grams) and sugar (in teaspoons) in coffees/teas. Note that these figures do not include any added sugars.

Protein

The protein in milk-based beverages comes from whey and casein in the case of cow’s milk, soy protein in the case of soy milk, etc. Protein contributes 16.7 kilojoules (~4 Calories) per gram. If you are either looking to limit or increase protein, be mindful of your beverage choice (black vs milk-based) or milk choice (you can always order half, 3/4 or extra milk in most cafes if need be).

Calcium

Cow’s milk and enriched soy milk contain calcium, which is important for bone health, neuromuscular and cardiac function, blood clotting and hormone release. Note that the calcium content in other non-dairy milks, such as almond milk, is likely to be significantly lower.

See graph below for average protein and calcium content (in general, directly proportional) in coffee shop drinks. Note that I’ve only included drinks made with full-fat and skim cow’s milk and regular soy milk.

Coffee and health

A 2017 umbrella review of studies summarised coffee effects on all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, cancer, metabolic disease, as well as liver, gastrointestinal, renal, musculoskeletal, neurological, gynaecological and antenatal outcomes. The authors concluded “Overall, there is no consistent evidence of harmful associations between coffee consumption and health outcomes, except for those related to pregnancy and for risk of fracture in women” (3).

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 43640DO004_20112012 Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011–12 – Australia. 2014.
  2. Centre for Population Health. Caffeine 2013 [updated 11 July 2013. Available from: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/aod/resources/Pages/caffeine.aspx.
  3. Poole R, Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J. Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ. 2017;359.

Recipe: Double chocolate, adzuki and black sesame bliss balls

Double chocolate, that’s all you need to know. Don’t worry about the hippie stuff 🙂 Ok, ok, as you can gather from the recipe name, these balls have beans in them. Beans are a great source of fibre, low GI carbohydrate and a decent source of protein. They can cause gastrointestinal discomfort to some people, which can be minimised by preparation steps such as soaking, sprouting and fermenting.

This recipe came about because I had rescued some adzuki beans from going in the bin. Since these beans are commonly used in desserts, I thought I’d make myself a healthy treat with them. I though I would continue with the Asian theme by adding black sesame seeds (in the form of tahini) and added chocolate to the mix for good measure. You can use other beans (such as black or red kidney) and regular tahini or nut butter instead. Also feel free to use chocolate with a different cacao percentage depending on your taste.

These balls taste great at food temperature, but I prefer them chilled or even frozen. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and raw. Enjoy!

Double chocolate, adzuki and black sesame bliss balls

  • Servings: about 20
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Ingredients

  • 1 cups cooked adzuki beans (you can use canned)
  • 50 g dark chocolate (I used 78%)
  • 2 tbsp black tahini
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 25 g prunes or Medjool dates
  • 1-2 teaspoons white sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Break chocolate in pieces and place in a bowl on top of boiling water until melted.
  2. Place beans, melted chocolate, tahini, cacao powder and prunes/dates in a food processor and process until well combined.
  3. Add white sesame seeds, mix well and roll into balls.
  4. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 19.2g
Servings Per Container

Amount Per Serving
Calories 50.4 Calories from Fat 24.3
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2.7g 4%
Saturated Fat 0.9g 5%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 6.0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 4.2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1.1g 4%
Sugars 1.2g
Protein 1.8g 4%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
SunRice rice cups

Product review: SunRice rice cups

SunRice rice cups are made by one of the main brands rice available in Australia. Back in the day rice used to be just rice, and people would have whatever rice was common in their place of origin. For example, medium grain rice is the norm in Perú, and we use it for most things – savoury and sweet. Brown rice became popular as people got more interested in health and other types of rice started appearing on shelves as consumers got interested in trying other cuisines (e.g. basmati for Indian curries, glutinous rice for sushi, arborio for risotto, bomba for paella).

Similarly, a greater interest in consuming other grains considered highly nutritious, has created a market for blends of grains which can be used as a substitute for plain rice. In parallel, the convenience factor has driven a market of microwaveable foods which, as you will see, doesn’t necessarily mean hyper-processed unhealthy junk.

The cups

SunRice cups contain blends of rice and other grains that have been precooked and are ready to be reheated. I got the following samples at a conference:

  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Tri Blend Cup with brown rice, red rice and quinoa
  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Super Duo Cup with brown rice and riceberry rice
  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Multigrain Blend Cup with brown rice, red rice, buckwheat, quinoa and chia

Pros

  • Convenience
  • Good portion size, particularly for people who have problems regulating their servings
  • Higher in protein and fibre than plain rice
  • More interesting flavour and texture than plain rice
  • All cups are gluten-free

Cons

  • Plastic. No matter what the manufacturer says, I don’t like to heat plastic in the microwave. Also more packaging that goes to landfill.
  • It can be too big of a portion size for people who need to regulate their carb intake, and the cup can’t be re-sealed when opened. If that’s the case, you might be better off eating cauliflower rice or mixing a small amount of rice with lupin flakes instead.
  • Higher in protein and fibre than plain rice
  • Apart from the cooked grains, the cups contain sunflower oil and stabiliser (471), presumably to improve the texture of the final product, but I find it gives the rice a chalky mouthfeel. Also, some people with food chemical intolerance can be sensitive to the stabiliser.

Nutrition

See the panels below for 2 of the SunRice rice cups that I tried:

Super Duo:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 125g
Servings Per Container 2

Amount Per Serving
Calories 214 Calories from Fat 38.7
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4.3g 7%
Saturated Fat 1.0g 5%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol mg 0%
Sodium 18mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 39.9g 13%
Dietary Fiber 2.6g 10%
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 4.1g 8%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Multigrain Blend:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 125g
Servings Per Container 2

Amount Per Serving
Calories 220 Calories from Fat 35.1
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.9g 6%
Saturated Fat 0.8g 4%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol mg 0%
Sodium 16mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 41.5g 14%
Dietary Fiber 3.1g 12%
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 4.8g 10%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The verdict

I think SunRice rice cups are good to have in hand if you absolutely have zero time to cook. If you are somewhat organised and have some spare minutes, you can batch-cook your own blend of grains, portion them up and freeze for later.

More info

Head to SunRice’s website to learn more about their steamed rice (and other) products:

food photos

Food photos: the good, the bad, the ugly

No, this is not an article about good/bad/ugly photos on social media. Rather, it’s a brief analysis of potential pros and cons of what’s happening with food photos in social media.

My food photography story

I was born in the pre-digital camera era. My first camera was a black and white film Kodak. I was 8 or 9 and would take photos of me and my sisters, the dog, etc. Back then, it didn’t even occur to me about taking pictures of meals, even though I’ve always loved food. In retrospect, that’s a good thing, considering what I used to eat until well into my 20s.

My first blog, which started in Feb 2006, was in Spanish and had a decent amount of articles about food. However, there were not many photos; taking pictures of your meals was not a thing yet, at least not in Perú. See screenshot below of a post about coriander in which I mention 15 different dishes and a restaurant without a single photo. Even when I started my food blog Lateral Eating in 2009, taking photos of food in public was not always socially acceptable.

And then Instagram happened. Soon after its launch in October 2010, more and more people started taking and posting pictures of their food. In the beginning, some (most?) restaurant owner/managers were not very keen on people taking photos of their meals. Some claimed it was annoying to other diners, but I think it was more of a fear of exposing the actual plated meals to public scrutiny.

For a percentage of the population, Instagram is just an instrument of procrastination. Yes, they look at food pictures which might make them hungry or crave a burger, but they don’t engage at a deeper level with the images. Likewise if they are the ones posting the photos: they snap it, don’t filter it, post it and forget about it. The rest of Instagram users might experiment some sort of effect, either positive or negative, after posting or seeing food photos.

Food photos – the good

As a dietitian, I take diet histories all the time. Some people are pretty good at remembering what they ate, some people need a bit of help, some people just lie. I once saw a young Asian guy in hospital who had a procedure earlier that day and couldn’t remember his meals. FOrtunately, he had snapped a photo of his tray, so writing down his diet history was a piece of cake. Similarly, there are a number of diet tracking apps that allow you to attach photos of your meals to your logs so that your dietitian can see what you actually ate. This is super useful.

A small study (convenience sample of 16 females) summarised all the things that are great about posting food photos, specifically on Instagram (1):

  • You can keep track of your food intake and how it relates to your goals
  • You can connect socially with people who share the same interests
  • You can motivate other people to cook, eat healthy, etc.
  • You can share information, such as recipes
  • You can use it as an accountability tool for yourself and others

Food photos – the bad

Once you realise that posting a photo on social media means that it’s out there for the entire world to see, posting pictures of your meals can get stressful in a few different ways:

  • You might feel bad if you have not posted any photos in the last X amount of time
  • You might feel guilty if you haven’t had anything healthy to eat and therefore you decide not to post a photo of what you actually ate
  • You might feel disappointed because your food photos don’t look as good as someone else’s
  • You might annoy/embarrass your dining companions by taking photos of your meal in public
  • You might miss out on quality time with your loved ones because you were focusing on taking the perfect shot

Food photos – the ugly

A larger study (convenience sample of 680 females) explored the relationship between social media and othorexia nervosa, an unhealthy obsession with “clean eating”. The prevalence of this condition (note: it is not recognised as an official diagnosis yet) is estimated to be less than 1%. Participants answered a questionnaire about social media use and eating habits, to determine their tendency towards othorexia nervosa. The researchers found that this tendency was greater in people who had higher Instagram use. In addition, other studies have found associations between social media use and depression, negative social comparison and isolation (2).

Parting thoughts

Given the rapid growth of social media users (as an example, see chart below), it is concerning that the percentage of people who are negatively affected by food photography on will grow in a similar pattern.

Our best bet is to keep our eyes and ears peeled for potential signs of emotional distress and/or obsessive behaviours in ourselves and people around us.

References

  1. Chung CF et al. When Personal Tracking Becomes Social: Examining the Use of Instagram for Healthy Eating. Proc SIGCHI Conf Hum Factor Comput Syst. 2017 May 2; 2017: 1674–1687.
  2. Turner PG and Lefevre CE. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Eat Weight Disord (2017) 22:277–284.

Recipe: Salmon with roasted Brussel sprouts, fennel and pesto

This is an easy recipe that combines some of my favourite things: crispy skin salmon, Brussel sprouts and pesto. This is a meal packed with healthy fats, including omega-3 from the salmon and monounsaturated fats from the extra-virgin olive oil. This dish is gluten-free and low in carbs. Feel free to swap the vegetables for your favourite ones or whatever you have available.

I used Pecorino cheese (made from sheep’s milk) instead of Parmigiano Reggiano because I prefer its sharp taste, but you can use regular Parmesan. I also left out the garlic – I prefer using roasted garlic instead of raw in sauces but wanted to keep this recipe as simple as possible. You will have leftover pesto to enjoy with your morning eggs.

Salmon with roasted Brussel sprouts, fennel and pesto

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Salmon and vegetables

  • 3 salmon fillets
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 600 gr Brussel sprouts
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pesto

  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 30g grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced).
  2. Trim and halve Brussel sprouts, trim and slice fennel. Place vegetables on a tray and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  3. While the vegetables cook, place washed basil leaves, pine nuts, cheese, lemon juice and olive oil in a food processor. Process to desired texture. Check seasoning, add salt if needed and several grinds of black pepper.
  4. Heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Place the salmon fillets skin side down, season flesh with salt and pepper. Let cook for 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness.
  5. Flip fillets using a spatula and cook for another 2-3 minutes, depending on thickness.
  6. Serve fillets skin side up to preserve crispness or skin side down with a dollop of pesto on top for colour contrast. Serve roasted vegetables on the side, seasoned with salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

collagen supplements

Collagen supplements

Collagen is a main structural protein in connective tissues of bone (1, 2), skin (1, 3, 2), tendons, ligaments (4, 2) and cartilage (2). Collagen forms a matrix which is responsible for the elasticity, firmness (4) and structural integrity (3) of those tissues.

The peptides in collagen contain large amounts of the amino acids hydroxyproline, glycine and proline (3).

Types of collagen supplements

Collagen supplements are usually sold as hydrolysed collagen (a.k.a. collagen hydrolysate or collagen peptides. As its name implies, the peptides in the collagen have been broken down for easier absorption. They come in liquid, powder and capsule form. These supplements are easily digested and have good bioavailability (5, 2, 4). A common dose is 10gr per day (5, 2).

Collagen can also be found as UC-II, a product that contains a patented form of undenatured type II collagen.

Sources of collagen supplements

Collagen supplements are commonly derived from bovine, porcine and fish tissues, such as skin, bones and scales (in the case of fish (1, 3).

Joint health

UC-II collagen and collagen hydrolysate have shown improvements in joint range of motion and pain (6, 5, 4, 2). Thus, collagen supplements may be useful for athletes and patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Bone health

Some studies suggest that intake of collagen may improve bone density, especially in subjects with calcium deficiency (5).

Skin health

Collagen hydrolysate may help reverse UV-B damage on skin. It can also improve skin qualities such as hydration, elasticity and density (5). Marine collagen, in particular, may help prevent skin ageing and wrinkling, presumably due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (1). Collagen supplements have also been reported to improve the appearance of cellulite (7).

It is important to note there is no strong evidence supporting the use of collagen supplements for skin health (3).

Musculoskeletal pain

Collagen supplementation may help alleviate musculoskeletal pain, such as the one experienced by fibromyalgia patients (5).

Muscle mass

Collagen peptides may help preserve muscle mass in individuals with poor protein intake and low muscle mass, such as elderly people (5).

Mechanisms

On one hand, collagen breaks down into amino acids and peptides, which are used for tissue collagen synthesis. In addition, the presence of these amino acids and peptides stimulate collagen synthesis (5, 4). In the skeleton, collagen stimulates the production of osteoblasts, the cells that build bone (1).

Besides supplementation the body also requires loading of the connective tissue (via acute exercise) to stimulate collagen synthesis to occur (4, 2).

Finally, vitamin C may act as a cofactor to increase collagen production (2).

How to take collagen

Collagen can be dissolved in any liquid, from water to smoothies or tea. It can be also added to yoghurt, soups or stews. I recommend buying the unflavoured powder version. Popular brands are Great Lakes, Vital Proteins and Sports Research (we use this brand). You can find them in my collagen list at iHerb.com.

There are also some protein bars (such as Primal Kitchen and Bulletproof) that include collagen and some bone broths are a decent source of collagen.

References

  1. Venkatesan J et al. Marine Fish Proteins and Peptides for Cosmeceuticals: A Review. Mar Drugs. 2017 May 18;15(5). pii: E143.
  2. Shaw G et al. Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105:136–43.
  3. Spiro A, Lockyer S. Nutraceuticals and skin appearance: Is there any evidence to support this growing trend? Nutrition Bulletin. 2018;43(1):10-45.
  4. Dressler P et al. Improvement of Functional Ankle Properties Following Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides in Athletes with Chronic Ankle Instability. J Sports Sci Med. 2018 Jun; 17(2): 298–304.
  5. Figueres Juher T and Basés Pérez E. Revisión de los efectos beneficiosos de la ingesta de colágeno hidrolizado sobre la salud osteoarticular y el envejecimiento dérmico. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(Supl. 1):62-66.
  6. Lugo et al. Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II®) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Oct 24;10(1):48.
  7. Schunck M et al. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. J Med Food. 2015 Dec;18(12):1340-8.
news headlines

Why you shouldn’t get your information from news headlines

Publications (newspapers, magazines, and the like) make the bulk of their revenue from advertising. For advertisers to pay premium fees for exposure, journalists work hard in writing headlines that are catchy enough for people to buy the publication/subscription or click on them, depending on the format. That’s the main reason why you shouldn’t get your information from news headlines, or in other words, believe everything you read.

I’ve chosen a recent piece of scientific literature that has had a significant impact in the past week or so. The full-text paper is available online (see references) and is entitled “Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis.”. In a cohort study, researchers measure the extent of exposure of the subjects to whatever is being studied (in this case, carbohydrate) and the outcome is measured later. Cohort studies are NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) level III-2 when rating quality of evidence (levels I is the best level of evidence), so no great for establishing clear causality but may give an indication that something is going on. Meta-analysis means that the researchers compared their study with similar studies to determine if their results were congruent.

The problem with news headlines

My main issue with news headlines is that most of them do not do a good job at communicating what the scientists reported. In this particular case…

Here’s how the authors reported their findings:

“low carbohydrate (<40% of energy from carbohydrate) and high carbohydrate (>70% of energy from carbohydrate) consumption were associated with increased mortality risk and shorter residual lifespan, with minimum risk observed with 50–55% of energy from carbohydrate.” (1)

Here’s how the media reported the article:

“A Low-Carb Diet Could Cut 4 Years Off Your Life, So Just Eat the Damn Pasta” (Esquire)

“Eat PASTA to live longer! Cutting carbs ‘increases risk of early death’, experts warn” (New York Post)

“More potatoes may be healthy after all” (The Times)

In contrast, the following (less sexy) news headlines, do summarise what the research concluded:

“Eating carbs in moderation lowers your risk of early death” (Daily Mail)

“Low and high carb diets increase risk of early death, study finds” (fox5sandiego.com)

“‘Right’ Amount of Carbs May Help You Live Longer” (WebMD)

See the difference? It looks like moderation does not only works for carbs but also for good journalism!

I went ahead and collected 124 news headlines reporting the aforementioned article. Turns out that 57.3% only mentioned the low-carb side of the findings, while 41.1% either mentioned that both low- and high-carb were associated with the increased mortality or that a moderate intake was associated with decreased mortality.

12.9% of headlines mentioned better health as opposed to all-cause mortality as the outcome, which is inaccurate. To illustrate this point, one could live a healthy life and die at 25 in a car crash. 4.8% of the headlines used the word “paleo” or “keto” and 2.4% used the word “pasta”

Other examples of misleading headlines are:

“Carbs aren’t the enemy! Eating carbohydrates can EXTEND your lifespan, study reveals” (Mirror Online). This makes it sound as if carbohydrate intake could add years to one’s life expectancy, which is certainly not what the researchers concluded.

“Harvard study reveals healthiest way to consume carbohydrates” (Deccan Chronicle). No, they did not talk about health outcomes related to carbohydrate consumption, type of carbohydrate, time of consumption, glycemic index, etc.

“Carbs are good for you, Harvard study finds” (The New Zealand Herald). No, they didn’t find that.

Paper findings

In the cohort analysed by the scientists, “a percentage of 50–55% energy from carbohydrate was associated with the lowest risk of mortality. In the meta-analysis of all cohorts (432 179 participants), both low carbohydrate consumption (<40%) and high carbohydrate consumption (>70%) conferred greater mortality risk than did moderate intake… mortality increased when carbohydrates were exchanged for animal-derived fat or protein… and mortality decreased when the substitutions were plant-based.

Figure 3: U-shaped association between percentage of energy from carbohydrate and all-cause mortality in
the ARIC and PURE cohort studies (1)

Paper issues

The main limitation of this study is the way carbohydrate intake was assessed. The cohort analysed in this study were 15 428 middle-aged participants (45-64 years old) from the US. Their dietary intake was assessed by food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) at baseline (i.e. during the initial visit, between 1987 and 1989) and 6 years later. FFQs are not very reliable because they don’t produce reliable estimates of intake quantity, depend on the respondent’s memory and questionnaire design (there is often lack of detail about foods, limited food list, limited portion sizes). In addition, people tend to under-report when answering to FFQs.

In other words, participants completed a FFQ at baseline (with error margin #1) and then another FFQ at 6 years (with error margin #2, presumably higher because they were 6 years older). From year 6 to 25, the carbohydrate intake was assumed to be the mean of the 2 measurements (!) except for subjects who developed heart disease, diabetes or stroke before year 6, in which case baseline was considered constant (!!).

I won’t continue writing about issues with the actual paper because my point was to critique the news headlines, not the article per se. There are a few good analyses out there highlighting its flaws.

Takeaway message

By now it should be clear that you shouldn’t draw conclusions from news headlines, even from reputable sources. The catchiest headlines are often the most misleading. If you have access to the original paper, go ahead and read it. If you don’t know how to read a scientific article, see the links below:

Regarding the whole carbohydrate conundrum, I hope it’s clear that science has not determined that eating more carbs “is healthier” or “extends your life” full stop. Quality of food, type of carbohydrate and individual tolerance are important factors to keep in mind.

References

  1. Seidelmann SB, Claggett B, Cheng S, Henglin M, Shah A, Steffen LM, et al. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30135-X
  2. [Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash]

portable breakfast

Portable breakfast ideas

I was recently motivated to come up with some portable breakfast ideas. Based on recommendations by Dr Valter Longo and others, I’ve been aiming to keep my food intake within a 12 hour window every day. The main reason I’ve struggled to comply with this rule is that sometimes I get home pretty late (8pm or later) after working out.

The solution

To solve this, I’ve adjusted my breakfast time to ~8am, which means I now eat breakfast at work. This means my breakfast has to be: a) portable and b) not too weird (okay, maybe just a little).

The breakfast ideas

Below is the nutritional breakdown of several combos that work for me. Keep in mind that I eat low(er) carb in the morning and high(er) carb at night because that’s what works for my work/training schedule. Also, the nutrition information is taken from generic foods rather than specific products (except for the soups)

Breakfast Energy (kJ) Protein (g) Fat (g) Carbs (g) Calcium (mg)
Yoghurt + peanut butter 2067 21.8 35.3 20.2 341.5
Yoghurt + peanut butter + collagen peptides 2251 32.8 35.3 20.2 341.5
3 boiled eggs + 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil mayonnaise + greens 1480 18.44 30.4 1.2 70.1
3 boiled eggs + 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil mayonnaise + kimchi 1469 18.1 30.4 1.3 63.1
1/2 avocado + 2 eggs + kimchi 1494 13.8 32.3 1.1 55.7
1/2 avocado + 2 eggs + 1 tsp fish roe 1504 14.2 32.5 0.4 51.2
1/2 avocado + small can of tuna in springwater 1307 19.8 25.2 0.4 19.0
1/2 avocado + small can of salmon in springwater 1533 20.6 30.9 0.4 205.3
1/2 avocado + can of sardines in springwater 1225 10.6 27.2 0.4 230.0
Macadamias + coffee (long black) 1822 5.8 44.4 3.0 37.2
Cup soup (Pho) + 1 boiled egg 395 8.5 5.4 3.6 18.3
Miso soup + 1 boiled egg 287 5.9 4.5 0.9 18.8

Notes

When buying foods that come with labels, always read the ingredients list at the minimum and the full nutritional panel if you’re more invested in managing your nutrient intake. More natural and less sugar is generally better. For example:

  • Yoghurt: choose Greek or natural, with no sugar or thickeners. Rokeby Farms and YoPro are brands I tend to buy because they’re higher in protein.
  • Peanut (or other nut butter): choose those made with nuts +/- salt, no sugar or oil. I like Mayver’s.
  • Nuts: choose raw or dry roasted
  • Canned fish: choose fish in brine, springwater or 100% extra virgin olive oil (evoo) if you can find it (I haven’t been able to find canned tuna in evoo lately – sardines are still available). When buying canned salmon, make sure it has the skin and bones because that’s where the vitamin D and calcium come from.
  • Mayonnaise: make it at home with egg yolks, evoo, lemon juice and mustard or use a high quality product such as Primal Kitchen avocado oil mayonnaise. If you’re afraid of mayo, use plain evoo or some homemade pesto.

Beyond breakfast

Despite the old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal” and studies that show that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, it is possible that skipping breakfast (ala 16:8 diet) works for you.

Four Sigmatic

Product review: Four Sigmatic

Four Sigmatic is a brand of mushroom-based beverage blends. The company was born in Finland and now operates from the US. Their beverage blends are highly regarded in the biohacker community and are endorsed by influencers such as Tim Ferris, Ben Greenfield and Emily Schromm.

What are functional mushrooms

Mushrooms have been used for their nutritional and medicinal properties for centuries in several cultures (1, 2, 3). Thus, many mushrooms can be considered “functional”.

Nutrients in mushrooms

Mushrooms contain:

  • carbohydrates, mainly polysaccharides (i.e. many sugars) which act as dietary fibre and prebiotics (i.e. food for gut bacteria), etc. (3, 4)
  • amino acids (3, 4)
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids (3)
  • other molecules such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids, tocopherols (3), triterpenoids, nucleosides, phenolics, and flavonoids (4)
  • vitamin D, especially mushrooms that have been irradiated with UV-B and UV-C light

Benefits of mushrooms

There is evidence that mushrooms do or may have the following benefits:

  • antioxidant (1, 2, 3, 4), antimicrobial (1, 3, 4), anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties (3, 4)
  • help relieve fatigue in the muscular system, body antioxidant system, cardiovascular system, hormone system, and immune system (4)
  • protect the intestinal mucous membranes, support the immune system and help regulate blood lipids (3)

It’s important to note that most experiments have been carried out in animal models (4) and that not all mushrooms have the composition or properties.

Four Sigmatic beverages

The sample pack that I bought contains the following beverages:

Beverage Benefit(s) Ingredients
Reishi Sleep & stress Reishi mushroom dual-extract (1,500 mg), rose hips, tulsi, field mint
Chaga Antioxidant properties Chaga mushroom dual extract (Inonotus obliquus, 30% polysaccharides, 2% triterpenes) (50%), Siberian gingseng (750mg), mint, rose hip
Cordyceps Energy & performance Cordyceps mushroom dual extract (Ohiocordyceps sinensis, 40% polysaccharides) (50%), mint, rose hip, gingseng (200mg), liquorice root, sweetener (steviol glycosides)
Lion’s mane Brain & nervous system Dual-extracted lion’s mane mushroom (1500mg), field mint, rose hips (300 mg), rhodiola (200 mg), stevia (50mg)
Mushroom coffee mix with lion’s mane & chaga Productivity Instant coffee powder, lion’s mane dual-extract, wildcrafted chaga dual-extract, wildcrafted rhodiola root extract
Mushroom coffee mix with cordyceps & chaga Performance Organic arabica coffee, organic cordyceps mushroom (150 mg), wildcrafted Siberian chaga mushroom (350 mg), organic eleuthero extract (100 mg)
Mushroom hot cacao mix with reishi Relax Cacao powder, coconut palm sugar, reishi dual-extract, cinnamon powder, cardamom extract, Reb A (stevia extract)
Mushroom hot cacao mix with cordyceps Energize Organic cacao powder, organic coconut palm sugar, organic cordyceps extract, organic chili extract

Four Sigmatic mushroom beverages

Taste test

I like the taste of all of the beverages taken with hot water. The mushroom coffee tastes like regular instant coffee to me; having said that, I have a pretty good tolerance to bitter flavours. A friend of mine tried the coffee with water but had to add milk to make it palatable.

The hot chocolates do contain sugar (coconut sugar is sugar), so they’re belong in the treat category for me. They are pretty good with hot water or unsweetened almond milk and, optionally, collagen peptides.

Functional test

I have bought a few boxes of Four Sigmatic products but I don’t take them consistently. Having said that, I must admit I have not felt any sort of supernatural powers after using them. However, I don’t discard the possibility of these products having beneficial effects on health, potentially upon regular consumption.

More information

To find more about Four Sigmatic and their products and/or to shop online, visit the links below:

US website
International website
On Facebook
On Instagram
Shop @ iHerb.com
Shop @ optimoz.com.au

References

  1. Pennerman KK et al. Health Effects of Small Volatile Compounds from East Asian Medicinal Mushrooms. Mycobiology. 2015 Mar;43(1):9-13.
  2. Sánchez C. Reactive oxygen species and antioxidant properties from mushrooms. Synth Syst Biotechnol. 2016 Dec 24;2(1):13-22.
  3. Muszyńska B et al. Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review. Food Chem. 2018 Mar 15;243:373-381.
  4. Geng P et al. Antifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of
    Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9648496.

Recipe: Supercharged Bolognese

This Supercharged Bolognese might look like a regular Bolognese but it’s got a secret ingredient to make it extra nutritious: Feather and Bone’s organic beef mince with organs. You can use your own mince + organ meat blend, of course.

Flavour comes, mostly, from the speck (also from Feather and Bone – you can use bacon instead), classic soffritto veggies (onion, garlic, celery and carrot) and red wine (you can use beef broth instead). The other flavour booster most Bolognese recipes don’t include is dried porcini, which adds to the umaminess of the dish. In Perú, ragú-style dishes are always made with dried mushrooms because they are included by default in the bay leaves bags that can be found at the herbs & spices section of the supermarket (this is called hongos y laurel). Finding dried mushrooms can be a bit more challenging in Australia but not impossible! – they’re available in most superkmarkets (and certainly specialty food stores), you just need to be patient to find them.

Most people serve Bolognese with spaghetti, but I prefer to serve it with vegetables for extra nutrition. I served them on top of sautéed Russian kale.

Supercharged Bolognese

Other suggestions include:

  • Higher carb:
    • roasted root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swedes, celeriac, pumpkin
    • vegetable “noodles” made from parsnip, celeriac, sweet potato, pumpkin
    • mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, celeriac, swedes or a combination
    • polenta
    • rice, quinoa or a combination (pro tip: add lupin flakes for extra fibre and protein)
  • Lower carb:
    • roasted or steamed broccoli and/or cauliflower
    • sautéed kale or cabbage
    • roasted Brussel sprouts
    • roasted zucchini, eggplant and capsicum
    • vegetable “noodles” made from zucchini
    • kelp or shirataki noodles

Finally, I prefer using Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan (or Parmigiano Reggiano) but you can use whichever hard cheese you prefer.

Supercharged Bolognese

  • Servings: 4 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Bolognese

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500gr beef mince with organs
  • 200gr speck or bacon, cut in stripes
  • 10gr dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white part finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine or beef broth
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • small handful of basil leaves, thinly sliced

To serve

  • your choice of vegetables or regular pasta substitute (see suggestions above)
  • freshly grated Pecorino Romano or other hard cheese

Directions

  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot or pan. Brown mince and speck/bacon.
  2. While meat cooks, place mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with hot water. When soft (5-8 minutes), drain but don’t discard the water. Chop mushrooms finely.
  3. Once meat is cooked, add onion, garlic, carrot, celery and leek. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add wine/broth and stir until almost fully evaporated.
  5. Add mushrooms and their water, tomatoes, bay leaf, season with 1 tsp salt and greshly ground pepper. Lower heat and cover cooking vessel. Cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat, check seasoning and stir in basil.
  7. Serve sauce over vegetables with freshly grated cheese on top.