Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Archive for the ‘ Smart Fuel ’ Category

19 Mar

Ain’t No Thing But a Chicken Wing

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Is it possible to combine compelling, handy health information with humor? Bees agree: it ain’t no thing! Get clickin’, Apples, and then scoot over to the forum to share your thoughts!

Raising Insurance Rates Everywhere

We know young male drivers get in more auto accidents than anyone. Apparently, it’s all the video games.

Finally, Britain Is Bad at Something!

We might not eat our vegetables, but at least we don’t eat 50% too much salt. Oh, wait, we eat 200% too much. Good grief! Processed food products have got to stop! Salt is in every processed food imaginable. Why? It tastes good, it’s really cheap, and it makes poor-quality ingredients seem more appealing to the taste buds. From salad dressing to burgers, from cheese sauce to pasta, food producers of America are on a relentless mission to turn every body into a giant salt flat.


Gardawind Flickr Photo

Pork: Just Another Meat, Really

Junior Apple Greg wrote in the other day to ask if pork (and ham) is a safe protein bet. While associations of cleanliness don’t extend to our cloven, curly-tailed friends, the truth is that pigs are just as safe as any other meat and the days of pork-borne trichinosis are pretty much gone, thanks to tougher standards for factories farms. Absolute safety of pork (and meat), though, is another issue altogether.

Pork is usually really high in sodium, mainly because so much of the pork people eat comes in processed forms like bacon, sausage, ham and deli meats (and why Mark’s email to the Apples this morning recommended indulging in bacon on an infrequent basis – and make sure to find the lower-fat variety). Even pork loin is often packaged in a saline solution. If you can find organic, low-sodium pork, that’s sayin’ something.

However, the pig farmers of America want you to know that pork is great because, hey, it doesn’t have mad cow disease. Now that’s some marketing. (Imagine the possibilities: “Pork – unlike cheese, it doesn’t melt. Therefore, it’s better.” “Ham – why refill the stapler when you can make a sandwich?” Hey, this is fun! “Pork: Absolutely nothing to do with the price of tea in China. And therefore better.”) Meanwhile, scientists are attempting to clone pigs that are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. And that concludes our pork dissertation for today.


Boodoo Flickr Photo

Apples, Mark recommends sticking with organic chicken or turkey, fermented tempeh, nuts, and wild cold-water fish.

Web It Out:

Oddity 1: Scientists Create Miniature, Live Hearts
Oddity 2: Why Mark Is Canceling His Subscription to the British Medical Journal

16 Mar

Sick of Cereal?

Smart Fuel

If you’re sick of cereal, or simply want to follow a healthy diet that is low in sugar and refined grains, you’re in the right place. There are plenty of alternatives to, well, the alternative: eggs, eggs and more eggs.

1. Blueberries ‘n Cream

Why pour processed, sugary low-fat milk over dry little grain flakes when you can pour luscious cream over blueberries bursting with antioxidants and flavor? We think cereal is kind of sad (and the stuff they do to make low-fat milk is pretty unappealing). You’ll love blueberries ‘n cream if you’re getting tired of eggs for breakfast. This high-fiber treat also provides some fat (great for those sensitive morning tummies). Toss in other fruit like strawberries for additional variety.

The Pack Flickr Photo

Prep Tips:

Buy frozen blueberries – they’re inexpensive and actually work better for many recipes, including this one.

Thaw a cup of blueberries overnight in the fridge or pop them into the microwave for about 30 seconds. They’ll be cold, like cereal, but not frozen – who wants a brain freeze at 7 a.m.? Drain them carefully.

Pour about 1 ounce of cream over the fruit – not too much. Cream, while high in nutrients and fat, is also high in calories. We recommend raw or organic cream, of course!

Garnish with a little cinnamon, nutmeg or a few drops of vanilla extract for a delicious breakfast that provides more fiber than cereal, fewer carbs, and just tastes amazing! Be sure to brush your teeth afterwards, or everyone will think you’ve been nursing a blue popsicle addiction.

2. Plain Yogurt Parfait

Look for Greek, Mediterranean or “European style” yogurt. It’s so rich, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to cream cheese heaven. What can we say? We love fat around these here parts. European yogurt has less of the stuff you don’t want (chemicals, additives, sugars) and more of the stuff you do want (rich texture, flavor, and nutrients). Be sure to get the plain, unsweetened kind.

Shutterberry Flickrstream Photo

Prep Tips:

You’ll want to eat just a few tablespoons of this yummy stuff, as it’s really filling. Boost the fat and protein with some fiber by adding a half-cup of any fresh or frozen fruit of your choice.

We like frozen mango chunks (thawed) and fresh raspberries. Elliott and Sara both keep their freezers stocked with all kinds of delicious frozen fruits, so it’s easy to make a healthy breakfast even when you’re in a rush.

Next step: toss a handful of unsalted, high-quality nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, filberts, or walnuts into the mix. This little protein boost will also provide you with a great Omega-3 fatty counterpoint to the saturated fat in the yogurt. And evidence increasingly suggests that it’s the balance of saturated to unsaturated fat that is so important to good health and longevity.

You can go all out and make a true parfait if you want, by layering in a glass cup or dish. But if you don’t have that kind of time in the morning (who does?), simply scoop all the ingredients into your favorite mug or bowl and enjoy!

Need extra calories in the morning? Drizzle your parfait with a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of almond or walnut oil for a natural source of carbs and an extra boost of good fat.

3. Tomatoes ‘n Mozzarella

The beloved caprese salad – tomato slices, fresh mozzarella slices, and fresh basil leaves – also makes a really great breakfast.


SpeedM Flickr Photo

Prep Tips:

We suggest leaving out the leaves, as basil can be a little bracing first thing in the morning.

Simply slice up your favorite tomatoes, place slices of fresh mozzarella on top, and garnish with a little olive oil and coarse salt.

Note: since tomatoes aren’t too hot this time of year, you can substitute with avocado or bell pepper slices.

6 Mar

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

The Tuesday 10

It can be frustrating to stick with a healthy diet when factors like cost and kids enter into the equation. Junior Apple Kathy Lee faces a challenge many moms are familiar with: how do you provide kid-friendly fare that is both nutritious and inexpensive?

10. Switch snacks to veggies

A large part of your grocery bill can be eliminated by avoiding the processed snacks and treats kids love. Parents know that Pop Tarts and Gushers are unhealthy, but there are plenty of seemingly healthy snacks – things that promise nutrition like “nutri-grain” crackers and “vitamin-enriched” gummy treats – that really rack up the total bill. The truth is, most of these processed “healthy” items are no better than candy, so as a parent, you don’t have to feel guilty for steering clear of them and heading for carrot sticks, apple slices and celery instead. An entire bag of fresh apples costs less than a single box of crackers, and is much healthier. Make the switch from boxed snacks to fruit and vegetables.


9. Eliminate soda, sports drinks and juice

These items are expensive and unhealthy (though they almost always carry tricky health claims). Many moms are tempted to buy juice – and 100% real juice is often the most expensive of all. But even “real” juice is really just sugar water. Have the kids drink water instead. They can have juice when they go to Grandma’s.

8. Going organic?

We all think of organic food as being more healthy – and generally, that’s true. But organic products are also much more pricey. Mark recommends making a choice to save yourself cash. While organic produce is a nice idea, it’s not the end of the world if you buy the regular tomatoes. Animal products like meat and cheese, however, are better when they’re organic. If you are going to spend a little extra money, spend it on the organic animal products and don’t worry about the lettuce. If you can’t afford organic foods, look for food that is at least produced in-state. Or, try to find out if there are local farms or butchers (bonus: they are often less expensive, too!).

7. Freeze!

Frozen berries, vegetables and meats are generally much cheaper than fresh foods, and the irony is that many times, these frozen items are actually “fresher” than the fresh stuff! At least one frozen vegetable is always on sale, and they tend to rotate, so your family can eat healthy and enjoy a nice variety for just a few bucks a day! Cooking for a family day in, day out can get tiresome, so whipping up nightly stir-fries or stews with varying veggies is a simple, cheap way to keep things healthy and interesting.

6. Watch the sales

Even that expensive European salad blend goes on sale at some point. Grocery stores tend to rotate the sales on spinach, romaine and other lettuce blends. Why pay 4 dollars for a bag of mesclun when you can get 2 bags of spinach for 5 bucks? Just keep an eye on the sales, and be sure to eat the greens within a few days so you’re staying fresh.

5. Avoid the middle aisles

Anything found in the middle aisles of the market – from crackers to cookies to cereal – is generally processed and unhealthy, not to mention outrageously expensive. The trick to watch for is the marketing: you’ll see “nutri-grain” and “whole grain” and “reduces heart disease” plastered on many sugary products. Don’t fall for the hype. Save your health and your bank account by sticking to the frozen and fresh sections as much as possible.

4. Check out the farmer’s market

Many towns have farmer’s markets on Saturday or Sunday, where you can purchase fresh, local produce for pennies on the dollar. Ask around!


3. Buy bone-in meat

An easy way to save money on chicken, a great lean protein source? Buy bone-in. It’s a little less convenient but will save you quite a bit of change. Tuna fish with oil instead of water is cheaper, and ironically, much healthier than the expensive white version.

2. Buy off-label or store brand

Olive oil, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, peanut butter and other healthy staples are just as healthy in the no-name variety.

1. Give beans a chance

Legumes are an incredibly cheap protein source. Even the pickiest kids love split pea soup and chickpeas on their salads. A typical bag of beans is under a dollar, and makes a perfect base for a soup, stew or vegetable bake. And kids typically enjoy beans.

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2 Mar

Smarter Fuel?

Sara here, with some Big Moo musings for the girls. Dairy is one of those food debates that can go on ad infinitum, with plenty of good points on either side (much like vegetarianism). Raw vs. organic vs. regular vs. low-fat vs. full-fat…you get the idea.

Dairy is just not, um, a black and white issue. I have my theories. I can’t promise that my views aren’t slightly biased due to the existence of things like Humboldt Fog goat cheese (Ben Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I think you could easily switch “beer” for “cheese”.) But having experimented with different forms of veganism, vegetarianism and carniveatin’ over the years, and being interested in issues like osteoporosis, cellulite and fertility (what woman isn’t?), here are a few thoughts, subject to change and open to your criticism. Mark’s big on questioning what we think we know – so let’s have at it!

1. In a perfect world, we’d eat raw dairy.

We know raw dairy is theoretically healthier. For one thing, cows themselves can’t survive on pasteurized milk. In many parts of the world, people consume raw dairy (until recently it was next to impossible to get it here unless you happened to live on or near a farm). Many edgier health experts say raw dairy is the only kind we should eat, because it’s truly the way nature made it – full of living and beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Of course, there’s the concern about food borne illness; then again, our mechanized manufacturing standards are arguably a lot cleaner and safer than a century ago, when you had to worry about TB in your butter. (Here’s where the FDA says “Hell no it’s not safer! Pasteurize!”)

2. Go organic or, like, die.

Should we even bother eating dairy if it’s not raw, then? After all, about 3/5 of the world doesn’t even consume dairy and some cultures even consider dairy to be downright gross. We’ve all heard the phrase “cow’s milk is for baby cows.” And it’s true. We’re the only mammals that continue consuming milk after we’re weaned – the milk of another species, no less. It gets further complicated by genetics: evidently some Europeans adapted to dairy consumption around 7,000 years ago, but many people just can’t digest dairy.

So what does going organic do? Well, organic milk and cheese don’t come with antibiotics, chemicals, and added hormones. It’s also supposed to be more environmentally friendly, and I guess the cows are allegedly happier. Then again, I don’t know if any dairy cow is thrilled with being artificially inseminated in perpetuity just so I can have cheddar on my broccoli.

It gets further complicated: cows these days are fed mostly grain, a food that makes them nice and fat but isn’t so good for them – or us. Cows are meant to eat grasses, and not only does this make the cows feel better, it makes their milk taste better.

If you’re perfect, you’ll eat only grass-fed dairy. Make that grass-fed organic dairy. Make that grass-fed, organic, raw dairy. Actually, forget it – cow’s milk is for baby cows.

3. But the hormones!

Dairy does contain hormones which may or may not affect fertility. You might have seen the news circulating yesterday that women who ate ice cream and cream as opposed to lower-fat dairy were more fertile.

The reaction was no surprise: vegans and the not-milk crowd cited the hormones in milk as the cause. Health experts cautioned that no woman should rely on a pint of B&J’s as a fertility plan.

Until seeing some recent research, I’d been rather inclined to trust the hormone argument, but I’m not so sure. For one thing, hormones can be tough to measure accurately. For another, blaming certain health issues on hormones in milk is somewhat akin to debates about the mercury levels in some fish. Does dairy cause girls to develop early? Does mahi mahi cause autism? I just don’t think we can be that simplistic. (But that doesn’t mean such things aren’t very real factors in serious health issues.)

My personal theory about dairy, fat and fertility has to do with what I’ve learned about evolutionary biology (and Mark can tell you more about this than just about anyone).

Around the MDA, we’re just not afraid of fat. Fat serves an incredibly important function in our cells – even saturated fat isn’t the bad guy it’s made out to be. Though the FDA still recommends a low-fat dairy, high-grain diet, Mark believes this is nothing short of disastrous. For a refreshingly different – and incredibly logical – point of view, you should check out THINCS or simply run a Google search for the ever-brilliant rebel scientist Dr. Mary Enig (props, Mary).

Hormones in milk might affect female fertility and development; but given that this is incredibly difficult to determine, I think we should consider an idea that, to me, seems pretty darn obvious:

Fat is, nutritionally-speaking, very dense. Our bodies are designed for fat metabolism – far more than glucose. Fat is great for your brain, your skin, your level of nutrient absorption, and so on.

Doesn’t it make sense that a woman consuming adequate fat would send a signal to her body that it’s safe to reproduce? Women need between 10 and 15% more body fat than men. Fat distributed around the hips and buns is there for a reason – it’s rich in a balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats. When a woman has a baby, the body relies on some of these fat stores. Ladies, you need a little junk in the trunk.

While I wouldn’t advocate eating ice cream for good reproductive health, I get really concerned when I see women avoiding full-fat dairy like it’s death in a glass. Fat is not only not a bad thing, it’s necessary – especially for women. Moreover, most low-fat dairy products simply replace the fat with sugar. I think you can make a pretty good case that low-fat dairy, being higher in sugar, is actually worse for packing on the fat than regular old fattening butter, milk and cream. Sugar does funny things to cells, especially fat cells. It makes them bigger, it attacks them, it wears them out. Natural fat (both Omega-6 and Omega-3), on the other hand, doesn’t do any of these things. So long as you don’t exceed your total calorie requirements, and the fat you consume isn’t refined or trans fat, you’re not doing yourself any favors by choosing low-fat dairy.

Then again, you may not be doing yourself any favors choosing dairy, period.

Thoughts, Apples?

23 Feb

Smart Fuel


Did you know that this decadent little guy is actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat?


(Pál Csonka photo)

Olives are high in fat, but fortunately for us, it’s the good kind. Olives are fairly high in calories for a fruit, but you can certainly do a lot worse for snack fare (think cheese, honey-roasted nuts and processed deli meats). We love olives because they provide a rich, dense, satisfying texture and flavor – when cucumber slices just won’t do, put the cheddar down and reach for these chewy cholesterol-reducers instead.

Olives are great for your heart because they’re a “smart” fat, but they also contain high levels of antioxidant vitamin E, gut-busting fiber and important trace minerals like copper. If you want to strengthen your cardiovascular system, reach for olive tapenade instead of the cream cheese next time you’re at the grocery store.

We all know olive oil is a wonderfully healthy alternative to refined oils like canola, corn and soybean oil. Why not go right to the source? Get creative with your olives – throw them in salads, slice sour green olives right into your scrambled eggs, and bake them into your vegetable dishes.

Everything you could ever want to know about olives.

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple