An Unexpected Journey

"Health is the condition of wisdom, and the sign is cheerfulness — an open and noble temper." – Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Food Focus: The Mighty Peanut Butter

There are certain foods I could eat every day if I was allowed. Pizza, roast pork buns, Chinese egg custards…okay, you get the point. However, there are some foods that I love (and could eat every day) and one of them is: Peanut Butter! Wait, what? Isn’t that stuff full of sugar and totally fatty (and therefore a diet no no?). Not so!

First off, there are many brands of peanut butter on the market now that don’t use sugar (or a natural substitute) as part of their recipe. Some even remove the oily portion, distilling it down to its flavor with less calories. My “go to” brand for peanut butter spread right now is Smuckers Creamy Natural which has two basic ingredients: peanut butter and salt. The powdered peanut butter I use in my workout shakes is Betty Lou’s “Just Great Stuff” Powdered Peanut butter which does have a sweetener, but it’s coconut sugar which has a lower glycemic index than regular ol’ cane sugar. I highly recommend looking for items like these for your peanut butter needs.

But what about that pesky saturated fat? Well, it’s not great for you of course, but according to Harvard Health Publications “Saturated fat isn’t the deadly toxin it is sometimes made out to be. The body’s response to saturated fat in food is to increase the amounts of both harmful LDL and protective HDL in circulation. In moderation, some saturated fat is okay.”

Even better, an article from Brigham and Women’s Hospital talks about the benefits of this food, “The typical supermarket brand of peanut butter, while high in overall fat content, is low in saturated fat—and high in protein and fiber.”

There’s one more awesome benefit for those trying to watch how much they eat. Eating peanut butter (or peanuts in general) may even make you feel fuller longer! One study performed by Professor Richard Mattes from Purdue University showed peanuts and peanut butter have all sorts of features that make them an ideal part of a healthy diet. According to Professor Mattes: “Peanuts have a great mix of features, such as high protein, high fiber, and a crunchy texture, which enhance satiety,”

Add all this up and peanut butter is really a powerful food to add to your diet arsenal. It’s delicious, filling, good for you and it’s quite versatile (just check out Food Network’s search results for ‘peanut butter).  Just don’t go eating an entire jar every day, everything in moderation after all!


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The Creamy Awesomeness of the Avocado

I was standing in Subway the other day watching my sandwich get put together.  When the time came for the gent to ask what spread I wanted, I asked for avocado (which they have available in a mushed up form).  Whenever possible, I make this substitution as it’s a wonderful way to get the creaminess and texture normally associated with mayo, but without all the bad-for-you cholesterol and saturated fat.

The Avocado (a corruption of the Spanish word aguacate) is a fruit native to Central Mexico.  Over the years California has developed a robust industry around the fruit.  Once the food of royalty, getting one now is as easy as going to your local supermarket.

When I begin my weight loss journey, one of the first things I did was read up on what foods were good for you and which were not.  That led to figuring out what could be substituted for certain items and avocado came up again and again for various uses, most often as a spread to substitute for less fatty foods.  But don’t take my word for it.  Directly from the California Avocado Nutrition page:

“Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.”

Great stuff eh?  Nowadays I don’t use avocado as a “substitute” so much as I truly enjoy its flavor and texture.  As a snack I’ve eaten them right out of the skin with just some salt and pepper spread on.  Now and then if I’m entertaining, I like to make a guacamole that includes:

  • Garlic and onion puree
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cotija Cheese
  • Cilantro
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Salt
  • Lime Juice

Other great uses for the avocado include salads, omelettes and even sweet drinks!  To get more ideas, check out this recipe page.

With its healthy properties, rich texture, mild flavor and multiple applications, the avocado is a great “secret weapon” to have in your nutrition plan!

Avocado picture borrowed from The California Avocado Commission web site