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

Mark's Daily Apple

23 Mar

How Low Can You Go?

Recently, the low-carb folks over at Go Lower asked Mark’s Daily Apple to review their low-carbohydrate snack bars. Though I’m not a proponent of processed foods, no matter how healthy – and I emphasize that – I do think there ought to be wiggle room in everyone’s diet. Personally, I enjoy a light beer now and then, and my wife knows it’s never a good idea to keep genuine black licorice in the house (the real stuff, not those pitiful strands that don’t actually contain licorice).

I also think that if you’re trying to lose weight, or simply get better at managing your weight, things like shakes, snack bars and treats that help you do it sensibly can be a real benefit.

The big problem with most low-carb snacks is the dreaded “mockalate” factor. Usually, low-sugar snacks are low on fiber, high on chemicals and artificially-manufactured ingredients, and contain enough alcohol sugars to swell you up like a blimp. If you have ever eaten one too many servings of faux chocolate, you know what I’m talking about, Apples.

I’ll say it again: I’m no big fan of processed foods, even ostensibly healthy ones. Usually, they aren’t healthy at all – low sugar is far from synonymous with health. But I was surprisingly impressed by the Go Lower line. All of the flavors – more on that in a minute – contain visible whole ingredients. There are no artificial flavors, chemicals, or fillers of any kind. Period. The chocolate raspberry bar contains real raspberries. The nut bars look like something any backyard bird would gladly fly into a window for.

You MDA frequent flyers know I’m a huge fan of fiber, and that’s why I can endorse the low-GI Go Lower line. They have, “bar” none, the highest amount of fiber I’ve seen in so-called low-carb snacks (between 7 and 10 grams a bar, easily triple that of most breakfast cereal servings). They aren’t made with faux ingredients or fake sugars. The secret: Go Lower’s makers rely on oligofructose, a fiber-rich, non-GI impact insoluble fructose that doesn’t get digested by your upper G.I. Heard of inulin? This is similar, safe, and natural.

Honestly, I don’t really dig the taste, but to be fair, I’m just not a snack bar kind of guy. They do taste better than most of the other bars I’ve had the displeasure of chomping into.

Here’s what the gang thought:

Chocolate Creme Bar (120 calories)

Elliott: pretty good, but still has that not-quite-real flavor. A lot better than Power Bars, though.

Sara: I’m a die-hard dark chocolate dork. But this is edible.

Aaron: I like it. It’s sweet, but not that sickening fake sweet. There’s no bad aftertaste like you get with aspartame.

Raspberry Creme (116 calories)

Jen: okay, this is amazing! Seriously, you will love these. Really fruity and not too sweet.

Aaron: I agree, amazing flavor. And only 5 grams of sugar.

Casey: It’s got my vote. I think this is the best of them. The fruit is real and the chocolate isn’t chemical-tasting. It’s real cocoa – 47%.

Coconut Nut Bar (143 calories)

Elliott: I don’t taste the coconut. But I like strong flavors and sharp spices. If you like subtle flavoring, it’s pretty good. The one thing I’m not crazy about is the soy in these – that’s a processed ingredient I don’t recommend. But, in general, the ingredients are excellent – good fat, nuts, real chocolate, no sugar.

Sara: sorry, but this tastes like what I imagine licking the forest floor would be like. I am all for nuts, but this is really bland. I am impressed that every single one of these bars lists fiber as the first ingredient, though! That’s a big improvement over corn syrup, corn oil, or refined flours.

Aaron: I think it’s great! Really dense and satisfying. For only 143 calories, this is a really filling snack – and the fiber is incredibly high – about 10 grams! This easily beats any other snack bar or candy. Lots of good fat, fiber, and protein.

Raspberry Nut Bar (141 calories)

Jen: this is a lot better than the coconut, in my opinion. I love the mix of naturally salty seeds with the tartness of the raspberry. I think the raspberry-nut combination they have really works.

Sara: this is excellent. The linseeds, nuts and raspberries are a really satisfying, fresh combination. Awesome!

Casey: I like this. I’d buy them. Tastes like real food – like trail mix without all the salt and sugar.

Aaron: All the raspberry bars are really incredible. This proves there’s no reason why healthy can’t be tasty.

To see the detailed nutritional information, check out Go Lower’s site. My homeboy Jimmy Moore also enthusiastically reviewed these smart snack bars a while back, and you can check out his review, too. Thanks to Kevin and Hannah for letting us try out the Go Lower line! If you like the occasional snack bar, and you don’t want artificial ingredients and sugar, give Go Lower bars a try!

golower

Technorati tags: Go Lower, bar, nuts, low carb, low sugar, glycemic index, chocolate

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23 Mar

Smart Fuel

This week’s Smart Fuel:

Plants.

That’s right: plants.

It seems that marketers are on an eternal quest for the ultimate “superfood” with which to ply health-obsessed consumers. First there was margarine. Then bran. Then low-fat milk. Then soy. (None of which, by the way, have anything remotely “super” about them: trans fat, sugar, more sugar, and chemicals. They are also all highly-processed “foods”. I’m not sure they should even be referred to as food.)

What makes plants such a smart fuel?

- Plants are the lowest-calorie food on the planet next to rice cakes..and air.

- Plants have almost no fat. What little fat they do have is excellent for your skin, organs, brain and digestive tract.

- Plants contain a wealth of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.

- Plants, being made of plant cells, contain cellulose, an indigestible cell lining that we often call “fiber”. “Fiber” removes waste, toxins, and other harmful substances from your body. “Fiber” is linked to reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even reduces stress. “Fiber” is found in plants.

- The benefits continue: not only are plants the healthiest, tastiest, most nutritious foods on earth, they are also the cheapest. The myth persists that fresh food is expensive, but the truth is that processed snacks, meals and treats are far more costly than plants.

Plants have been around longer than humans and even rodents, and that’s saying something.

Plants come in some 36,000+ edible varieties for your gustatory pleasure. Plants grow everywhere. The theory that plants help one reduce body weight, body fat, major disease risk and even one’s “case of the Mondays” is compelling. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of studies have presented a convincing case in favor of plant consumption.

For those unfamiliar with plants (men of all ages; children aged 3-7; Uncle Ned), allow me to quell your apprehension: plants are completely edible.

Plants are also known as “greens”, “veggies”, “rabbit food”, and “vegetables”, a word derived from the Latin vegetal (or something like that). Plants are not addictive.

Here are a few pictures of plants that many humans now enjoy. You can find them in most stores:

mint

Mint. An herb, which is a type of plant.

arts

Artichoke. A delicious type of plant.

cabbagebetter

Cabbage. A very fibrous plant.

crispycones

Crispy cone. Not a plant.

Technorati tags: vegetables, veggies, healthy food, plants, nutrition

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22 Mar

What’s Shakin’?

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

We’ve got great news for you to check out today – and fried vegetarians, too. Yes.

Now That’s Rare: FDA Gets Tough

Well played, FDA, well played. As everyone and their goldfish knows by now, the FDA is no stranger to bribery and corruption. Various moves (a new chief, a new pyramid) haven’t yielded much improvement.

Alas, in an effort to stop annoying us, a meaningful measure has just been announced.

Something’s Fishy? Good!

A well-conducted little study shows that fish oil pills are the way to go, especially for those concerned about their blood sugar. Fish oil beats fish, but make sure you buy a good one so you don’t get those awful fish burps. (Yeah, we’re biased.)

Other ways to get those beneficial fatty acids into your body? These days, there’s hardly a thing that isn’t Omega-3 enhanced. It’s actually getting pretty difficult to find non-good-fat products.

A quick tip: Look for eggs, butter, mayonnaise and nut butters with added EPA (eicosapentenoic acid) or DHA (docosahexanoic acid). These are the two best types of Omega-3 fat. The other kind, ALA (alpha linoleic acid), is often used in vegetable spreads and vegetarian products, but your body has to work pretty hard to utilize this type. It’s still good, just not great.

The cool thing? Chickens fed flaxseed (an ALA source) do all the converting for you, so scope out the enhanced, free-range eggs in your dairy case.

egg

News to Go Nuts Over

Megnut is a nutty blogger you should definitely check out. While we don’t condone cookies, we’re so glad we stumbled onto this savvy, smart blog. Case in point: Finally, someone’s doing something about those torturous mama pig gestation crates. Whether you eat pork or not, this is a really humane step in the right direction, and it’s worth reading about. Be sure to scroll down to read Meg’s other enjoyable snippets on Starbucks’ milk, Wal-Mart and nutritional slow-pokes. (Why does everything “take years” with these big companies and organizations? Come on! Years?)

The Real Reason We’re All Too Chubby

doublebypass

This picture is from the Heart Attack Grill, an actual place that serves this actual burger behemoth.

As promised…

Fried Vegetarians

22 Mar

Healthy Mac ‘n Cheese

If you must have mac ‘n cheese, this is a really smart, good-fat, whole-grain version courtesy of Kerflop that manages to taste really scrumptious without sending your pancreas into the stratosphere of panic. And, we dig any blogger who’s not afraid of fat and not afraid to say it! The picture is actually from Martha, but Kerflop was nice enough to modify the recipe for the glycemically enlightened.

Mark adds: toss in some frozen broccoli and frozen artichoke hearts for extra fiber, vitamins and antioxidants – and reduce the pasta amount a little.

Sara adds: um, don’t forget about peas!

I add: hey, just whose post is this???
mac

22 Mar

For Longevity’s Sake

Here’s a question for you: what do we really mean when we talk about anti-aging?

Anti-aging supplements, hormones and tools are some of the hottest things going right now. Everywhere you look, people are talking about “brain health”. Sudoku is enjoying a popularity only rivaled by high school prom queens. Botox is big, everyone dyes their hair, and if you’re not taking antioxidants, well, it’s time to get with the program. And let’s not even get started on the youth-worship in prime time TV and magazines. We don’t really have to: anti-aging has taken over health, too.

Which is fine by me. Who wouldn’t want to get more out of life? But here’s the issue: are we talking about living longer, or living better?

At best, if you do everything, and I mean everything, right – don’t smoke or drink, exercise, eat well, sleep, control stress, maintain healthy, loving relationships, enjoy meaningful work, avoid sugar and carcinogens, breathe fresh air, take vacations, stay positive, stretch your mind, save your pennies (getting tired yet?) – there’s still ultimately a limit.

At best, doing everything perfectly, you can expect to make it to 80 or 90 – perhaps 100 if you’re really, really doing something right. (Then again, we all know the stories about the guy who ate bacon and had a flask of whiskey glued to his hip at breakfast yet managed to live to 110.)

So what do we really want? The current model doesn’t look too appealing. It appears to me that we’re all aiming for a place in the longevity race. Getting a few wrinkles? No problem – slice ‘em away! Diseased and overweight from years of neglect and poor choices? There’s a pill and a surgery to fix it! So we’ve got a whole barrel of surgeries and drugs to make up for mistakes. Which is fine, but is this really living well?

Personally, I’d rather not see the inside of 100 if it means I’m hobbling along thanks to a slew of surgery and drugs. I think most of us want energy, vitality, and more bang for the buck – yet our diet, our medical system, and our approach to health don’t reflect this at all. Most health treatments seem to be patching the leaks, rather than preventing the leaks to begin with. Yet I think most of us would choose living well over living a long time. So, how do we align our choices with our goals?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. (Click “Ask Anything!” to send me an email, or visit the forum to leave me a message.)

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