Egg labelling (What does it all mean)
My good friend Anastasia, who happens to be a great trainer and genius nutritionist, wrote about egg labelling on her blog, A Healthy Journey. It was perfect timing because I had just sent out a meal plan to a bunch of new clients that included eating a lot of eggs for breakfast every day. I normally eat eggs for breakfast every day, so I too was interested in what’s going on with the egg industry. Anastasia graciously said that I could repost her blog for my members, so here you are. Enjoy ~ Chas
“Since switching to a paleo/primal diet I’ve been eating a lot of eggs every week. They are a delicious source of protein and easy to cook. When I was following a vegan diet I discovered the horrors of how hens are treated in factory farms. After watching “Food Inc.” and “The Future of Food,” and reading “Eating Animals”, by Jonathan Safran Foer. I never looked at an egg or a chicken the same way.
I learned that hens are packed into a cage with almost no room to move and never see the light of day. They have their beaks clipped so that they don’t peck each other to death. Yikes! Do I really want to be eating eggs from stressed out hens and do I feel comfortable supporting an industry that is so inhumane?
To get a local perspective, I thought I would visit the Egg Farmers of Alberta to see what they had to say.
Indoor housing in cages provides a healthy and humane environment for the hens. It supports their natural instinct to cluster together in a comfortable group size which makes for a calm, less aggressive environment. It also protects hens from predators and shelters them from the variable and frequently harsh Canadian climate. Cages are designed to keep manure separate from the hens and the eggs. This is important for food safety because bacteria can pass through the pores of the shell into the egg. Cages ensure a high standard of food safety and egg quality.http://eggs.ab.ca/egg-industry/faq
Well, that is one way of spinning the situation.
Then I thought I better check out what The Chicken Farmers of Canada had to say.
Chickens in Canada are raised in clean, well-ventilated, climate-controlled barns, where they can roam freely. The chicken barn is heated before the chicks are placed, in order to ensure they have warm, comfortable surroundings.
Feed systems and water lines are checked daily to ensure that birds always have unrestricted access to food and water.
The main ingredient of all chicken feed (88 per cent) is grains and grain by-products, protein-producing seeds, and meal made from them such as canola or soybean meal. So, essentially, all chickens are “grain-fed.” Heating, ventilation, humidity and other environmental levels are verified constantly, often using top of the line technology, to ensure that the birds are comfortable and stress-free. http://chicken.ca/on-the-farm/from_the_farm_to_you/the-journey-of-chicken/
Okay, Canadian chickens can roam freely and are stress free? Really? Why are some cartons of eggs so cheap and others so expensive? It sounds too good to be true. Let’s dig a little deeper.
I also found another perspective on a website from the Vancouver Humane Society.
Battery cages measure approximately 20” deep by 24” wide (51cm x 61cm) with a height of 14″ (35cm). They have sloping wire floors and provide a barren floor space of between 432 cm and 483 cm squared per bird (Canadian Agrifood Research Council, 2003), with five to seven birds confined in each cage.
As a result of the intensive confinement, the birds usually have their beaks cut to control aggressive pecking among cage mates. Conditions such as osteoporosis, foot ailments, frustration, and premature death are common among battery hens. These birds spend about a year in battery cages (for a total of 16 to 18 months if they have also been reared in cages) or until their productivity declines. They are then slaughtered and used for chicken by-products or compost.http://www.chickenout.ca
What do the labels on the egg cartons really mean?
Free-Range: Hens have access to the outdoors (weather permitting). There is no legal definition inCanada for how much access they get.
Free Run: Hens can only roam indoors. Again, there is no legal definition of how much room the hens get.
Certified Organic: Free Range hens have access to roam outdoors, weather permitting and given some space to move inside. Farms are independently audited for animal welfare. Organic chicken must be raised with certified organic feed that contains no animal by-products or antibiotics and any supplements, such as vitamins, must be approved by a certification body.
SPCA Certified: Pretty much the same conditions as a free range hen but may also be restricted to roam indoors(free-run).
Hormone Free: A marketing gimmick. Hormones in the poultry industry have been banned inCanada since the 1960’s but antibiotics may still be in the feed to prevent disease.
Grain Fed: Majority of the chicken feed inCanada is 88% grain but the remaining 12% can be corn, soy. pea and animal by-products(meat and bone meal).
Vegetarian: Chickens are fed grain that doesn’t contain any animal by-products.
Omega 3 Enhanced: Ground flaxseed is added to the feed to increase the omega 3 content of the egg.
Is there a difference in nutrient content in free run versus free range eggs?
According to the Egg Farmers of Alberta the nutrient content is the same. Of course Omega 3 enriched eggs will have more omega 3 content and organic eggs will be free of antibiotic and pesticide residue.
Do healthy and happy chickens produce more nutritious eggs?
The jury is still out on this one but how could you not consider that healthy and happy hens produce more nutritious eggs?
Interesting Fact: Chickens are omnivores. This means that if they were pastured (raised outside) they would eat grass, seeds, bugs and worms. The real question is why are we feeding them grain, corn, soy and dead animal by-products?
So what are the best type of eggs to buy?
As you have probably gathered there is no easy answer. In my opinion the best eggs are the ones that come from humanely raised hens that were able to roam outside and eat feed that is free of antibiotics, pesticides and animal by-products. You have to decide what criteria are important to you.
Visit a farmer’s market and do some research of your own. Read the labels carefully but ideally you should talk to the farmer selling the eggs. Just because there isn’t a fancy label on the carton doesn’t mean anything. Get to know your farmers and ask them how the hens are housed and what they are fed.
If you find a good source of eggs, spread the words to your friends and family! Don’t keep it a secret.
There’s a couple rules to remember for doing box jumps when it comes to the FemSport competition. Check out the video, then check out some ways to train for them below.
The box is 18 inches high. If you can’t jump on one now, you will soon.
Start by building your quad muscles by doing squats, weighted squats, and then progress to squat jumps. Once you’ve mastered the form of squat jumps, move onto jumping onto a small platform, like an aerobic step on the low setting. Then you can progressively add more height to your step. Then move onto the boxes, since they tend to be narrower than steps so you’ll need to keep your feet under your hips. Get comfortable jumping on smaller boxes, then move up to the 18 inch box. I tell my clients, “don’t think, just do”. Most times it’s our minds that create fear that hold you back from jumping on the box. So don’t think, just jump!
Great! Now you’ve mastered the jump. Now keep practising to add speed to your jumps. To increase your power, try jumping on a bigger box at least once a week to make the smaller one easier.
Jump away!! Don’t forget the shin pads!
Tim Horton’s new cup sizes, Calgary personal trainer evaluates
Unless you live in a bubble, you know that Tim Horton’s has changed their cup sizes. Whether or not you care, is another story. However, as a coffee lover myself I had to do some research into these new Tim Horton’s cup sizes and their caffeine content.
As most of you know that caffeine is a stimulant. It stimulates the central nervous system, and other systems in the body as well, including the respiratory system. As it stimulates the systems of the body, it has been used as a metabolism booster or fat burner. It’s the cheap version of the marketed “fat-burners” out there.
Carla Sottovia has done some research on lipolysis, which is the release of fatty acids to be used as a fuel during endurance workouts. Normally, your body will use stored glycogen that is produced in the liver as its first fuel source during exercise. It’s a sugar that your body produces from the ingestion of sugar and carbohydrates. The problem with glycogen is that it gets used up quickly. So for your body to use fat as a fuel, it normally needs to use the glycogen first. However, with caffeine, lipolysis uses fat as a fuel instead of glycogen right from the get go. In order to get this effect, Sottovia says you need about 4-5 cups of coffee per day.
So those who are interested in losing fat, tend to gravitate towards caffeine to stimulate fat loss. However, there are a few down sides of having too much caffeine. Caffeine increases your blood pressure, which normally increases while exercising. If you have high blood pressure, that could be extremely dangerous. It also has a diruetic effect, which means that it causes you to lose water. You may know this by the frequent trips to the washroom after having a coffee. This can cause dehydration if you don’t replenish your body with the water it needs. Also, caffeine can cause loose bowels. This means that your food is not getting properly absorbed into your body. So a few negative things to think about when ingesting caffeine.
As a positive, it induces lipolysis and can increase endurance if ingested 1 hour prior to exercise. As it increases endurance, it allows you to exercise longer therefore burning more calories. But before you do this, please remember the negative side effects to keep yourself alive. Sure you might burn more fat, but die of a heart attack. Not cool.
Remember that caffeine is not just coffee. Caffeine is found in many sources, in different amounts. However, for the purpose of looking at the amount of caffeine in the new Tim Hortons cup sizes, we’ll focus on caffeine found in coffee.
So Tim Hortons is close to my house, on the way to work. Starbucks is just down from the gym, and I have 100 gift cards from there (thanks by the way). So naturally I have to compare the 2 on their caffeine content. I looked at the two websites for their nutritional info and almost fell off my chair. The new extra large Tim Hortons has 24 oz of coffee. However, only has 240 mg of caffeine in it. The large size has 200 mg of caffeine. Starbucks on the other hand, the Venti drip brewed coffee has 410 mg of caffeine, the grande has 330 mg, the teeny tiny tall cup has 260 mg which is still more than the honking huge Tim Horton’s XL. Crazy!!!
I’ll let you decide on your own which you prefer. But for the love of coffee, I’d prefer the larger Tim Hortons sizes to avoid the shakes after my usual Venti Pike, more coffee and less caffeine.
This marks my 3rd week of the Calgary Personal Trainer workout blog. I must say although it may look like I haven’t been working out that much by the consistency of my blogs, but I have been. This week I’ve made it my goal to run 5km in my new barefoot shoes. I’ve had my barefoot 5 finger Vibrams for almost 2 years now, and I LOVE them. So for Christmas, I got a pair of Nike Frees. Love them too. I find them a little easy to run in since in my head they are runners.
On Monday I put on my spinning music and ran to the spin music. So when the music was a sprinting song, I was sprinting. When it was a hill song, I was jogging on hills. Let me tell you, that’s an awesome workout. Time went by super fast on the treadmill, since it’s a little cold out for my running outside liking.
Tuesday was strength day. I turned it into Cyclone Strength day. Which means the first round was 10 reps of Clean and Presses with the sandbag, pushups, and TRX pullups. The next round was 9 reps, next 8 reps, and down till 0. Today my triceps are a little sore. But I love that sore.
Today, Wednesday, was cardio day again. So back to the treadmill to do my 5km in my Nike Frees. I honestly feel running really hard on my joints, but I’m a cardio junky so I push through it. In a couple weeks, I’ll probably end up going to the chiro to get my ankle pulled apart. But it’s totally worth the sweat.
HOWEVER, as a personal trainer, I HIGHLY recommend that when you’re body is sick or injured to listen to it. When you’re sick or hurt, it’s your body telling you to slow down and take a break. You’re body needs rest just as much as it needs to be pushed.
Tomorrow is strength day. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do. I love a challenge, so if you have any ideas, let me know by leaving a comment or replying on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/ResultsCalgary
Here’s a picture of my shoes, or similar, mine are nicer
Day 2 of watching a personal trainer beat themselves up. Today’s workout was intended to be mostly a kettlebell workout, but since my legs were pretty sore from the week’s workouts, I only did 1 round instead of 3. But then I changed my workout to chest presses, bicep curls, and shoulder presses.
Here’s a breakdown of today’s workout…
15 reps, 3 times through
Kettlebell upright rows
Kettlebell clean and presses or snatches
Kettlebell lunge with a twist
Repeat that 3 times, then…
Chest presses with 35 pound dumbells, max reps 3 sets
Bicep curls with 20 pounds, with a shoulder press and tricep extension, max reps, 3 sets.
Here’s the video to tell you all about it…
As a personal trainer, I want to show you that personal trainers in Calgary workout just as hard as you do, and we also have some of the same struggles you do. My goal for the year is to blog my progress of my exercise and nutrition. As a personal trainer, I find the exercise the easy part. It’s so easy for me to book 1 or more hours of the day to dedicate to exercise. But for me to go to a pub and not have a beer, you may as well cut off my left hand (ok, maybe not that bad). But I have to admit I like my pizza and my beers, both of which do not fall into my current meal plan that’ll help me, and you get ripped.
Here’s my workout for the day on Monday, January 9th.
Gain weight this Holiday – Calgary personal training approved
Go ahead gain weight this holiday season. This Calgary personal trainer approves it. I need more personal training clients for January. So feel free to gain weight this holiday season. haha. Read on.
Lately, all over my facebook, the internet, tv it’s all about how not to gain weight over Christmas. I have written an article about it on the 12 days of Christmas myself, but it is starting to get annoying. I really do think you are a smart person. You know what you’re not supposed to eat, you know you’re not supposed to drink, you know you should exercise before you go to your Christmas party, you know it all. But are you going to do it? Some might, some might not.
I want to know that if you go out to a Christmas party this weekend, and you go hungry because you know there’s going to be awesome food there and you end up a eating a little gravy on your mashed potatoes, don’t beat yourself up. If you don’t have a drink of water between each alcoholic drink, realize the world didn’t end (even though it might feel like it the next day). If you have a whole piece of cheesecake and not just a bite, shrug it off. It’s Christmas, it happens once a year.
What personal trainer says this? I do, because I like to think that we live our lives and that we don’t like to lock ourselves up in our house just so that we’re not tempted by the little goodies out there. Live your life. Let’s look at the holiday season over the course of the year. Is that one Christmas party going to cause you to gain 10 pounds. Nope. The scale will most likely go up because of the sodium in the food, but drink lots of water and you’ll pee it out. You can not loose 10 pounds of fat, nor can you gain 10 pounds of fat in 1 party. It’s the accumulation of bad choices that leads to weight gain and the habit of good choices that leads to real weight loss.
So let’s be smart about this holiday season. Do you really have a Christmas party 2 days a week each weekend in December? Not likely unless you work numerous jobs. But realistically, you probably have 2
formal parties to go to. No biggie. Think of the 80/20 rule that was discovered many years ago that pertains to not only weight loss, but many other aspects of life. 80% of your money comes from 20% of your clients. 80% of the time eat clean real foods that are unprocessed, made at home, nutritious foods. Then for 20%, feel free to indulge in whatever you want guilt free. So if that’s gravy on your mashed potatoes, cheesecake, or a bottle of vodka, work it into your 80/20 life for the week.
So a few things to remember this holiday season:
1.Make sure this holiday season that you’re occasional deviances from your normal diet and exercise routine only happens rarely over the course of a year. Every month doesn’t count, you will gain weight. If you look over the course of the year and the 80/20 rule, you can have 2 months that you may slip up a little more than usual. For most Calgarians, I’m going to say that’s Christmas and Stampede.
2. 80% of the week, eat clean, healthy foods. Stay within your calorie limit. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. 20%, don’t. Work your Christmas party into the 20%. Every day is not a Christmas party. Would you rather indulge at the Christmas party, or eat the box of Turtles at the office?
3. If you ruin yourself this holiday season, don’t beat yourself up. I need more personal training clients for January. hee hee. Seriously, I do have a couple new trainers who would love to help you kick start your New Years Resolutions.
12 days of Christmas: Calgary personal trainer approved for washboard abs
On December 13th, Results Fitness will be starting the 12 days of Christmas challenge. Each day will bring a new challenge for you to do. These holidays will leave you mean and lean, especially if you incorporate all at the start and carry through for 12 days.
On the First Day…Give yourself the gift of Burpees, 12 of them.
Created in the 1930′s by psychologist Royal H. Burpee, the burpee is an intense full body exercise that helps burn fat and tone muscles. A burpee is done in the following 5 steps: 1) Stand with feet shoulder width apart. 2) Drop to a squat with your hands on the ground. 3) Kick feet back while lowering into a push-up. 4) Return to squat position. 5) Jump up with arms overhead.
Now do the burpee challenge where you time yourself to see how long it takes you to do 100 burpees.
On the Second Day…Give yourself the gift of Fiber.
Stocking up on fiber will do wonders for your abs. High fiber foods are nutrient dense and low in calories. Try these high fiber favorites: raspberries, pear (with skin), artichoke, peas, apples (with skin), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and carrots.
On the Third Day…Give yourself the gift of a Medicine Ball.
The first medicine balls were created in Persia over 3,000 years ago, made with sand filled bladders and used by wrestlers as part of their conditioning. Today you can get the same rippling abs by incorporating medicine balls into your exercise routine. Do a sit-up holding a medicine ball at your chest then throw it to a partner as you raise your chest toward your knees; or hold a medicine ball with arms straight up in the air as you do crunches. No do 100 crunches of your choice.
On the Fourth Day…Give yourself the gift of Reduced Salt.
Too much salt leads to water retention—and that spells disaster for your six pack. Pay attention to the sodium content of your food. Limit salt intake by not eating packaged foods and by putting down the salt shaker.
On the Fifth Day…Give yourself the gift of Oblique V-Sits.
Who really wants a muffin top? You don’t, so incorporate Oblique V-Sits into your routine in 3 simple steps. 1) Lie on your side with legs straight and hands behind your head. 2) Raise your arms and legs simultaneously, while exhaling and squeezing your obliques. 3) Repeat on the other side 50 times each side.
On the Sixth Day…Give yourself the gift of Lean Protein.
Along with fiber, your meals should be packed with lean protein. This will help support muscle growth while controlling blood sugar – all important factors when it come to washboard abs.
On the Seventh Day…Give yourself the gift of Sprints.
The days of long slow cardio sessions are long gone. We now know that short intense bursts of cardio is the ideal way to melt fat. Run 60-90 second sprints in between resistance training sets to really kick your fat burning mechanism into high gear.
On the Eighth Day…Give yourself the gift of No Sugar.
Sure, sugar tastes good, but indulging in it causes your body to store layers of fat. Enjoy fresh fruit, rather than refined sugar. If you really want washboard abs, then say no to sugar.
On the Ninth Day…Give yourself the gift of Hanging Leg Raises.
This is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your abdominals. 1) Hang from pull-up bar with legs fully extended. 2) Exhale and drive your knees up toward your chest. 3) Inhale as you slowly lower your legs back down. 4) Repeat 50 times.
On the Tenth Day…Give yourself the gift of No Grain.
If you’re serious about that six pack then put down the bread basket. Grains are full of insulin-spiking carbohydrates—the perfect combination for fattening you up. Learn to love grain-free meals that center around lean meats and vegetables.
On the Eleventh Day…Give yourself the gift of Mountain Climbers.
Here’s another intense exercise that really targets your abs while also burning fat. 1) Get into push-up position. 2) Exhale as you alternately drive your knees in toward your chest, keeping your back flat.
On the Twelfth Day…Give yourself the gift of Washboard Abs.
Contact me about my tummy flattening programs that will get you those washboard abs that you’re wishing for. Call or email today to get started.
Tis the season to gain 10 pounds, falalalalalalalala. Is that the song you want to be singing this holiday season, or would you rather be singing the real song?
As a personal trainer in Calgary and leader in group fitness in Calgary, I’d like to share with you 3 simple steps for you to avoid the dreaded 10 pound holiday gain. (It’s actually true that the average person gains between 5-10 pounds from Halloween to New Years). So how about we take a preventative approach instead of having to work desperately hard in January to lose the weight.
1. Minimize the booze. “But Chas, it’s the staff Christmas party”, “But Chas, it’s the family Christmas party”, “But Chas, it’s the friend Christmas party”, and on and on go the excuses. Alcohol is one of the main contributers to holiday weight gain. In most cases, when you start drinking, your ability to control the foods you eat goes out the window. Have a beer, have a cheesecake. This one of the reasons why people will gain weight when they consume alcohol, the extra calories in. However, it does go deeper into the body to really see the affects that alcohol has on your metabolism. In a nutshell, alcohol goes to your liver which in a few steps with the aide of enzymes gets converted to acetates. Acetates put the breaks on fat loss because of where you’re body gets it’s fuel from. Your body will take the fuel from the acetates over fat.
The best way to enjoy your Christmas parties when it comes to booze, is to always have good healthy food in your body prior to drinking, drink water in between each alcoholic drink (this also minimizes hang overs), and set a limit on how much you plan to drink and stick to it.
2. Keep choosing healthy organic foods instead of high calorie, high fat foods. I don’t know what it is, but as soon as a group of people get together for whatever occasion, we seem to bring out the tasty high fat foods. Why can’t we eat organic whole foods instead of deep fried cheesecake balls? It’s all about your choices. If you’re going to a dinner party, volunteer to bring a healthy dish that you’d feel comfortable eating. Others might actually find that refreshing.
3. Keep up your exercise routine. Your workout routine doesn’t have to change, unless you let it. I don’t know the last time there was a Christmas party at 6:30am on a Wednesday. But maybe times have changed If you know you’ll be going out Friday night, make sure you get a workout in during the day sometime. Do some cardio and some strength training to get your metabolism turned on, then eat some protein to help your muscles recover, and also to help with alcohol absorption.
There’s so many other things I could mention, but the simpler we keep things, the greater the chance of accomplishing them.
Have fun, workout hard, see Results! Have a great holiday season! More at home workouts will follow to keep you busy at home over the holidays.
We have been hearing for years now that we shouldn’t eat refined processed flour. No white flour, no white pasta, no white rice. So now that we’ve cut out all the tasty bad stuff, most of us have shifted to whole wheat breads, pastas, and brown rice. But you can get even better. Here are some of the benefits of added alternative grains into your diet:
- More vitamins and minerals including selenium, vitamin E and magnesium.
- More phytochemicals, which wage war against disease-causing free radicals.
- More appetite-quelling, heart-protective fiber.
- A lower glycemic index, which reduces blood sugar spikes and, hence, diabetes risk.
Here’s a list of alternative grains that you can add to your diet to give you all those benefits.
Although almost always consider a grain, quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) is actually a seed gleaned from a plant related to spinach and grown almost exclusively in the South American Andes. Unlike most crops, it thrives in drought conditions at altitude. It is most often sold in its beige form, but red and black quinoa is also sporadically available.
Nutrition Advantage: The Incan empires often looked to quinoa, which they called “the mother of all grains,” as a means to keep army personnel strong and energetic. That is because they knew what we are just beginning to appreciate: quinoa is a nutrition powerhouse. Unlike most other grains, this ancient grain boasts all the essential amino acids (including lysine, which often has a poor showing in plant-based foods), making it a complete source of protein. Read: it’s ideal for post-workout recovery. A one cup serving also supplies laudable amounts of fiber, folate, zinc, iron, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium. Magnesium is a crucial component of hundreds of biochemical reactions including normal muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm regulation, bone strengthening and immune system support. US Department of Agriculture scientists reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that subjects who had poor magnesium status were more likely to be inflicted with heart arrhythmias and poor blood glucose control. It’s likely that reliance on a fast food, convenience-fare diet (not that atypical these days) would come up short in magnesium. Lacking any gluten, quinoa can be enjoyed by those who are sensitive (i.e., Celiac disease) to this protein. If it wasn’t for a lack of vitamin C, quinoa just may be the perfect shipwrecked food.
In The Kitchen: Quinoa has a nutty, palate-pleasing taste and cooks up in only 10 to 15 minutes. Much faster than brown rice. Use a 2:1 water to grain ratio and take it off the heat when the water has soaked in and the germ unfolds like a little white tail. To intensify the flavor, try toasting quinoa in a skillet for a couple minutes over medium heat till darkened prior to boiling and add spices such as turmeric or chili powder to the cooking water. It is also best to rinse quinoa well before cooking to remove any remnants of a bitter coating called saponin.
Not all of the 60 or so species of the amaranth plant are cultivated to be eaten. Certain varieties appear as weeds, while others are used for ornamental purposes and have vibrant, kaleidoscope leaves. The seeds are diminutive oval shaped with a creamy complexion. Amaranth was a dietary staple of the Aztecs, believing it possessed supernatural powers even incorporating it into religious ceremonies. In fact, the emperor Montezuma collected it as a tax. In similar vein to quinoa, Amaranth grows in poor climatic conditions such as drought.
Nutrition Advantage: Amaranth contains an unusually good quality protein for a plant source, similar to that of buckwheat and quinoa. It also dishes out worthy amounts of iron, magnesium, calcium, copper and manganese. Giving your diet the roughage treatment, this Aztec go-to whole grain has among the highest fiber levels (more than quinoa) of any of the grains, with nine grams in one half cup uncooked. It is recommended that women and men consume 25 and 38 grams of fiber daily, respectively. All indications are that most of the population is coming well short of this. Looking up, amaranth leaves are an outstanding source of vitamin K with well over a days requirement of this bone strengthening, blood clotting vitamin in just one cup of raw leaves. Like quinoa, amaranth is a gluten-free grain.
In The Kitchen: Amaranth’s earthy flavor becomes more pleasing when toasted prior to cooking. Toast in a nonstick skillet for roughly four minutes and then add one cup of grain for each two and a half cups of boiling water, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strongly consider adding aromatics to the cooking liquid such as ginger, herbs and spices. Make it into a breakfast cereal by using apple slices, cinnamon and nutmeg while cooking and topping with nuts and fresh berries. Amaranth flour is commonly available but needs to be mixed with other flours for baking yeast breads, as it contains no gluten. One part amaranth flour to three to four parts wheat or other grain flours is a good bet. For pancakes, only amaranth flour can be used.
Native to North America, wild rice is a seed of an aquatic grass traditionally harvested by Native people of the northern Midwest. These days, most wild rice is commercially grown and is also cultivated in areas of Africa, Southeast Asia and Southern China.
Nutrition Advantage: In addition to plenty of complex carbohydrates to help replenish muscle energy stores following a stiff workout, wild rice contains the most folate of the rice varieties. Folate is a B vitamin that, on top of helping prevent birth defects, lowers levels of homocysteine, a protein that has been linked to heart disease and cognitive decline. Adults with low levels of folate in their blood, according to researchers at the University of York in England, are 40 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those with normal stores of this B vitamin. Further, a 2007 study in the journal Circulation concluded that folate is effective at preventing strokes. Wild rice is a safe food for those allergic to gluten.
In the Kitchen: Cooked wild rice has a rich nutty smoky flavor and chew texture. The hand harvested, organically grown varieties possess the best, most complex flavors. It should be rinsed prior to cooking, which removes unwanted particles such as hulls or storage debris. For each one cup of wild rice, use roughly three cups of water and don’t expect quick results. It takes about 45 to 60 minutes for wild rice to fully cook (indicated by when the kernels begin to burst). Good things come to those who wait. Again, any sort of flavoring agents such as spices, walnuts and dried cranberries can be tossed with wild rice. Wild rice has a longer shelf life than most grains because it is dried and slightly fermented.
Ranking fourth behind wheat, rice and corn in terms of overall world cultivation, much of today’s barley is used for livestock feed, to make the sweetener malt syrup or fermented to produce beer. That’s too bad because as a whole food, it’s exceptionally nutritious.
Nutrition Advantage: Like oats, barely contains a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which is a non-starch polysaccharide that reduces blood sugar spikes and binds up cholesterol, preventing its absorption. Thus, many studies have demonstrated that higher intakes of beta-glucan can reduce overall and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels offering protection against heart disease. It just happens that barley contains more of this cholesterol buster than oats. Plus, it trumps other whole grains with respect to selenium. It seems selenium has the ability to fend off cancer, preserve muscle strength and prevent cognitive decline. It does all this as part of proteins known as selenoproteins, which serve many vital functions such as regulating thyroid hormone activity and acting as a defense against oxidative stress induced cellular damage.
Although most barely available commercially is pearled or pot (scotch), hulled barley has only the outer husk (hull) removed and is the most nutritious form of barley, since the bran and germ are left intact. Its superior nutrient content such as more iron, thiamin and fiber makes it worth hunting down. You can tell the difference between pearled barely and “whole” barely by its lighter color and smaller size. All barely contains a small amount of gluten, so those who are sensitive need to experiment with tolerance.
In The Kitchen: Barley is an excellent addition to soups, salads, casseroles and stews. On its own, barley cooks about as fast as a tortoise with nowhere to be. Add one cup of barely to two and a half cups of boiling water, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 50 to 100 minutes. Hulled barely will need the longest to cook thoroughly. Because of it’s drawn out cooking time, it is best to rustle up big batches at a time. My new favorite is 1 cup of barley with 2 celery stalks chopped up and a half can of tuna. Great lunch!
Buckwheat is a seed of a plant native to northern Europe and Asia that is related to rhubarb. In Japan, buckwheat is ground into flour to make very nutritious soba noodles. Bees are particularly fond of buckwheat flowers and hence buckwheat honey that is fairly common in North America. Buckwheat groats, also called kasha, is whole grain buckwheat in which only an inedible hull is removed from the kernel.
Nutrition Advantage: Like amaranth and quinoa, buckwheat is free of gluten and contains a significant amount of the amino acid lysine, making it a fairly complete protein that will help repair and build lean body mass. There are also several valuable nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, copper, manganese, selenium and phosphorus. Buckwheat is also pumped full of antioxidant phytochemicals including rutin, which is not found in other whole grains. Rutin is thought to improve circulation and prevent LDL cholesterol from clogging up blood vessels. A Canadian study found that buckwheat extract was effective at lowering blood glucose in diabetic rats. The researchers surmise that the compound chiro-inositol, which is found in substantial amounts in kasha, functions to regulate blood sugar.
In the Kitchen: With a 15 minute simmer time, buckwheat is quick-cooking and versatile. It can be used in pilafs, salads, stuffings, stir fries and soups or in replace of a portion of meat in burgers and meatloaf. If you find the taste a little too overpowering on its own, try mixing some buckwheat in with other grains like rice or quinoa when serving as a side dish. On the stovetop, add one cup of buckwheat to two cups of boiling water, cover, reduce heat and simmer for roughly 15 minutes.