Category Archives: Phil’s Nutrition

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese has long been known as one of the most popular products that come from milk and has played an essential role in the human diet for centuries. The ancient Mesopotamians made a type of salty, sour cheese – very similar to cottage cheese – that dates back to the 3rd Century B.C. Legend has it that it was invented by accident when a desert traveler filled his sheep stomach saddle bags with milk prior to beginning his journey. As the traveler and his camel traversed the hot environment, the sloshing of the warming milk inside the bags mixed with the natural rennet from the sheep stomach and produced tasty cheese curds that eventually became very popular in the region. Rennet is a cocktail of enzymes that, among other things, curdles the casein in milk and is found naturally in the stomachs of ruminant mammals.

It is generally believed that the “cottage” descriptor comes from early American settlers to identify a type of simple cheese that was regularly made in small country homes, often called “cottages”. In these homesteads, cooks set older, slightly soured milk – left over from butter making – near a fire or other warm place. Bacteria thrived in the warming milk, and after a day or two, it would transform the liquid milk into soft, lumpy white cheese. Some cooks would further treat the curd by cooking it dry and washing it with cold water, producing what is sometimes called pot cheese; others would mix in a bit of cream to add richness to the final product; while others would strain and press the curd, producing farmer’s cheese.

The first known documented use of the term “cottage cheese” appears in July of 1831 in “Godey’s Lady Book” a Philadelphia based magazine published by Louis Antoine Godey. Intended to entertain, inform and educate the women of America, Volume 3 of the publication included an article titled “Country Lodgings, A Sketch, by Miss Leslie”, in which reference is made to “a small glass dish of that preparation of curds, which in vulgar language is called smear-case, but whose nom de guerre is cottage-cheese”. Given that the author of the piece seemed to think the audience wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with the name “cottage cheese”, we can deduce that it was either a relatively new name or a regional one that the Lady’s Book’s wider readership might not be familiar.

Today, there are four types of commonly available milkfat cottage cheese products: nonfat, 1%, 2%, and regular (4%).

  • Nonfat: While known and labeled as fat free or 0% cottage cheese, it can actually have up to 0.5% total fat and still be considered nonfat by the USDA. There are approximately 80 calories in a 1/2 cup.
  • 1%: Often referred to as low-fat on the container, this cottage cheese contains 1% milkfat, 90 calories per 1/2 cup, a fat content of 1-1.5 grams.
  • 2%: Is typically billed as reduced-fat cottage cheese with 2% milkfat, 100 calories per 1/2 cup and about 2.5 grams of fat.
  • Regular (4%): Made from a minimum of 4% milkfat, regular cottage cheese is sometimes called creamed cottage cheese because of the cream that is added at the end of processing. This creamy concoction has about 110 calories in a 1/2 cup and at least 5 grams of fat.

There is an amazing number of health benefits associated with cottage cheese:

  • It’s a good source of protein that, like many other dairy products, is high in dietary protein, and is associated with improved fat loss, muscle gain, recovery and athletic performance. 100g of cottage cheese (a relatively small portion) contains approximately 11-12g of protein and is approximately 20% of the average person’s daily requirements.
  • It’s a good fat source whose profile is a good mix of high-quality saturated and unsaturated fats.
  • Cottage cheese supports proper immune function and the health of skin and other tissues with 7% of our daily allowance of Vitamin A per 100g,
  • It’s a calcium rich food that offers benefits including bone strengthening and weight loss, preventing osteoporosis and colon cancer, and helping the nervous system in sending nerve impulses.
  • It reduces the risk of breast cancer with its high levels of calcium and vitamin D.
  • It’s rich in B-complex vitamins which are helpful in various metabolic activities in our body including muscle building, fat loss, immune function and blood health. They include vitamin B12 (which is needed for proper brain functioning and iron absorption), riboflavin (for converting carbohydrates into energy), pantothenic acid (that acts as a synthesizer in forming proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and amino acids in our body), thiamin (for converting sugars into energy in the pyruvate dehydrogenase system), niacin (for its role in digestion, energy production, and cholesterol reduction), and folate (to help in fetal development in pregnant women, producing red blood cells, and keeping the heart healthy).
  • It reduces cell damage and risks of prostate cancer with its abundance of selenium – a trace element which has profound antioxidant effects and may reduce the chances of developing cancers generally and cancer of the prostate, specifically.
  • It’s a great source of magnesium that, in the human body acts as a catalyst in promoting biochemical reactions, activating various enzymes in the body, maintaining muscle and nerve functioning, supporting the immune system, assists in maintaining blood sugar levels and prevents heart attacks, constipation, psychiatric disorders, migraine, and collagen.
  • It contains potassium which is an important component in neural activities of the muscle and brain. Intake of potassium on a regular basis prevents stroke risk (by lowering blood pressure and the contraction of vessels), decreases stress and anxiety levels, and relieves muscle cramps.
  • Its level of zinc (a trace element found in the human brain, muscles, bones, kidneys, liver, prostate, and eyes) helps in the metabolism of DNA and RNA, improves the immune system and digestion, controls diabetes, relieves stress and anxiety, cures night blindness, improving ocular health, preventing appetite loss and prostate disorder, and fights various infections.
  • It also contains phosphorus, which plays a major role in the formation of DNA and RNA, is a major component in forming bones along with calcium, helps in digestion and excretion, and in the production and extraction of energy in the cells.
  • Cottage cheese has antioxidant properties thanks to the trace element selenium that is found in cottage cheese. Required by the body in only very small quantities (50 mcg to 70 mcg in adults), selenium is an antioxidant that protects cells and DNA from damage, reduces the risk of prostate cancer and may slightly extend the lives of people diagnosed with colon cancer.

A few delicious ways to enjoy cottage cheese:

  • Serve it with fruit – a perennial favorite.
  • Mix it with apple butter, nut butter, or … wait for it, peanut butter. Stir a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter into a half cup of cottage cheese.
  • Stuff celery or dip a dollop onto whole grain toast or crackers.
  • Add it to smoothies.
  • Add it to pancake batter to make Cottage Cheese Pancakes, which are much higher in protein than regular ones and taste even more delicious.
  • Make cheesecake muffins by stirring cottage cheese into muffin batter.
  • Stir it into pasta. The cottage cheese gets warm and creamy and is especially good with lots of freshly ground pepper. Or, use it instead of ricotta cheese in lasagna, baked pasta, or baked ziti.
  • Serve it on a baked potato with salsa.
  • Fill up a hollowed-out beefsteak or Roma tomato. Or put some in a spooned-out melon.
  • Spread it on toast or a bagel.
  • Spread it on slices of apple or pears.
  • Add a spoonful to your scrambled eggs for an amazing cheesy flavor with an extra dose of protein. Or, add some to your omelet or quiche.
  • Use blended cottage cheese as a substitute for sour cream based dips.
  • Season a bowl full with your favorite spice blend or some pesto.

25 Ways To Eat Your Water

Over the years, I’ve often used the phrase “eat your water” to help explain to people that staying sufficiently hydrated for whole body health isn’t restricted to drinking glass after glass of water.

But what does “eat your water” really mean?

Water is one of the most basic elements of life and everything in your body relies on hydration for proper functioning.  Water helps move oxygen and nutrients through the blood to your cells; it helps maintain energy levels, regulate body temperature, metabolism, and breathing; lowers stress on your heart; prevents muscle cramping; lubricates joints; flushes toxins from your body; keeps you regular; and helps prevent kidney stones.

Dehydration occurs when too much water lost, not enough water is taken in, or most commonly, a combination of the two. The body’s initial responses to dehydration are thirst (to increase water intake), and decreased urine output (to try to reduce water loss). As the level of water loss increases, more symptoms can become apparent including dry mouth, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, and general weakness.

This is why drinking substantial amounts water has been so strongly recommended by healthcare professionals for decades. Most of us grew up thinking that, to be healthy, we needed to drink eight (eight ounce) glasses of water each day. But the latest recommendations say that we no longer need to worry about drinking specific amounts of water. As it turns out, there really was no scientific evidence for the 64-ounce daily recommendation.

Of course, drinking a clean, refreshing, calorie-free glass of water is a great way to hydrate; and I’m certainly not saying that you should stop drinking water altogether.  But recent studies have shown that consuming too much water can actually cause a loss of vitamins and minerals as they get flushed out as the body voids excess fluids. The key is to strategically hydrate by eating your water throughout the day so that your body has a steady stream of hydration and nutrients to keep it energized and working optimally. By eating more water-rich foods, we absorb water more slowly because it is trapped in the structure of these foods. That slow absorption means that water in food stays in our bodies longer, with a multitude of additional benefits.

A cucumber is a great example of this. Because cucumbers are 96% water, eating a three-ounce cucumber is almost the same as drinking three ounces of water, but better. Besides being full of hydrating H2O, raw fruits, vegetables and other key water-rich foods contain nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber that can improve your health, develop your immune system, strengthen your muscles and boost your athletic performance.

Here’s my list of 25 foods that clock in with a high water content and will effectively work in tandem with your water bottle to help you stay hydrated and nourished. These fruits and vegetables must be eaten raw in order to get their full water content.

  • Iceberg Lettuce: 96% water
  • Cucumber: 96% water
  • Zucchini: 95% water
  • Celery: 95% water
  • Radish: 95% water
  • Red Tomato: 95% water
  • Green Cabbage: 93% water
  • Grape: 92% water
  • Sweet Pepper: 92% water
  • Cauliflower: 92% water
  • Spinach: 92% water
  • Strawberry – Raspberry – Blueberry: 92% water
  • Watermelon: 92% water
  • Grapefruit: 91% water
  • Broccoli: 91% water
  • Carrot: 90% water
  • Cantaloupe: 90% water
  • Jicama: 90% water
  • Eggplant: 89% water
  • Peach: 88% water
  • Pineapple: 87% water
  • Cranberry: 87% water
  • Orange: 87% water
  • Kiwi: 85% water
  • Red Potato: 80% water



Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and albacore tuna are excellent sources of protein, low in saturated fat and contain the most Omega-3 fatty acids of all the gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals.

Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids decrease triglyceride levels, slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaque, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk and reduce arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).

The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least two times per week.




What Is The Healthiest Way To Cook Meat?

From a health standpoint, the best ways to cook meat are slow cooking, pressure cooking and sous vide.

Slow-cooking is a low-temperature cooking method that utilizes moist heat for an extended period of time.

Pressure cooking uses moist heat and steam pressure inside a sealed pot to cook food faster.

Sous vide, or low temperature cooking, is a process of cooking food in a sealed package immersed in a water bath at a very tightly controlled temperature.




Bagels

Who among us doesn’t love a bagel for breakfast? Unfortunately, bagels are an exceptionally calorie and carb-dense morning treat. Do you know how many slices of bread actually equal a single bagel? The correct answer is six.

Now that I have your attention, here are a few bagel facts that you should keep in mind before you plan your next bread-based breakfast. A modest, medium-sized plain (white bread) bagel (about 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter) contains about 300 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. But the bagels that you buy at your local bakery or bagel shop are much larger and usually weigh in at 500 to 600 calories a pop. And when you slather on a healthy dollop of regular cream cheese (at 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per tablespoon), you’ve polished off more than a third of an average 2,000-calories-a-day diet.

As is usually the case, portion size is most important. Opt for smaller bagels and stick to just a half. A single-ounce portion of a bagel (about the size of one of those mini-bagels) has 80 calories. Instead of globs of full-fat cream cheese, use the light version and cut the calories and fat by almost 50%. Better yet, choose other high-protein toppings such as peanut butter, smoked salmon, hummus or a scrambled egg.




Phil’s Fish Favorites

Fish is a very healthy, high-protein, low-fat, easy to digest food that provides an impressive range of health benefits. White-fleshed fish, in particular, is lower in fat than any other source of animal protein, and oily fish are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, or the “good” fats. Since the human body can’t make significant amounts of these essential nutrients, fish are an important part of our diet.

Wild Salmon

Packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, wild salmon delivers a boat load of nutrients with a very low caloric impact: one fillet (143 grams) of wild salmon contains 281 calories whereas its farm-raised cousin swims in with 412. Both varieties have the same amount of protein, but wild salmon has less fat (13 grams versus 27 grams), and almost three times the amount of saturated fat found in farm salmon.

Halibut

A great source of B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, halibut is a low-calorie/high-protein salt water treat. One 3-ounce serving contains only 94 calories and over 18 grams of protein.

Mackerel

With health benefits ranging from improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure to brain and nerve development, mackerel is one of the most highly recommended oily fish for a healthy diet. A protein rich fish found in deep temperate and tropical waters, mackerel is a nutrient powerhouse with high levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, the antioxidant Coenzyme Q10, vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and K, and the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, selenium, zinc and copper.

Trout

Trout is one of the healthiest fish that you can include in your diet. A cooked 3-ounce serving of farm raised rainbow trout contains a whopping 981 milligrams of the Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) – which far exceeds the recommended minimum of 250 milligram per day – 21 grams of protein, and only 6 grams of total fat.

Perch

A 3-ounce serving of perch is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and delivers 16 grams of protein for just 75 calories.

Tuna

Tuna is one of the most widely consumed fish around the world, and has a range of health benefits that cannot be denied or underestimated. Tuna provides you with more than 80% of your daily value of vitamin B12, 30% of vitamin B6, 100% of niacin, and decent amounts of vitamins A and E. Tuna is also packed with tons of minerals including large amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium to name just a few. And when it comes to calories, a 6-ounce can of tuna contains only 191 calories; a 6-ounce tuna steak contains only 180 calories, and both average 41 grams of protein.

Anchovies

Low in saturated fat, anchovies are loaded with protein, vitamin A, and Omega-3 fatty acids. 100 grams of this salt-water forage fish contains 131 calories, zero carbs, 4.84 grams of fat, and 20.35 grams of protein.

Shrimp

Four ounces of boiled or steamed shrimp contains just 112 calories, no carbohydrates, nearly 24 grams of protein and 1.2 grams of fat – only 0.3 grams of which is saturated. Shrimp are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, the essential amino acid tryptophan, vitamin B12, and also provides more than 60 percent of your daily needs for the trace mineral selenium, which enhances immunity, thyroid function and reproduction.

Haddock

A 3-ounce serving of haddock contains only 95 calories, over 25 grams of protein, and less than 1 grams of total fat. This saltwater fish also contains healthy amounts of vitamins B12 and B6, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, sodium and zinc.

Cod

Cod is a low fat flaky white meat fish that is an excellent source of protein, phosphorus, niacin, and Vitamin B-12. A 3-ounce cooked portion of cod has less than 90 calories, one gram of fat, and 15 to 20 grams of protein.

Sardines

Named after the Italian island of Sardinia, Napoleon popularized sardines by making them the first fish ever to be canned. Although still usually found in those flat metal cans, this humble little fish is surprisingly nutritious. Sardines are a prime source of protein (3 grams per can with only 25 calories), vitamin B12, and high levels of tryptophan. They are also chock-full of selenium, vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and phosphorus.




What Is IIFYM?

IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is a nutritional concept that simply means eating foods that meet your macronutrient needs.

Appealing to many because of its flexibility in food choices and seemingly lax eating patterns, the IIFYM theory is adaptable to formal diet plans or can be followed on its own.

IIFYM is based on the proposition that calorie counts are the decisive factor in determining body weight changes, and macronutrient manipulation decides how many calories we ingest. If this sounds somewhat familiar to you, it should. The roots of IIFYM are planted firmly in the Calories In – Calories Out theory. The premise of this simplistic theory states that in order to maintain a specific bodyweight, an individual must ingest an amount of food calories equal to the amount of calories burned each day. Should that individual begin eating fewer calories per day than he or she burns, weight loss will occur due to a caloric deficit. Conversely, if the individual starts to eat more, the result will be a caloric surplus and eventual weight gain.

IIFYM expands on the theory by adding macronutrient ratios to the equation. Here’s how it works:

  • You begin by accepting that regardless of whether an individual is looking to lose fat or gain muscle, the amount of protein that they consume each day must be sufficient enough to preserve and/or build muscle.
  • Protein, along with fats and carbohydrates, comprise the three macronutrient groups.
  • For an individual to meet his or her total calorie intake for a particular day – while ensuring that their protein intake for that day is sufficient – that individual must manipulate the fat and carbohydrate amounts they ingest to compensate for the increased protein intake. Not doing so will result in the consumption of too many calories.
  • An individual may choose any food that he or she wants to consume in order to reach their calorie total for the day, but the combination of those foods must meet the required macronutrient ratio. In other words, if an individual follows a 40/40/20 nutrition plan, 80% of his or her diet will evenly consist of proteins and carbohydrates, and 20% will consist of fats. That means 1000 calories should come from protein, 1000 calories should come from carbs, and 500 calories should come from fats. IIFYM says that what foods the individual eats to achieve those macronutrient totals is irrelevant, as long as they are reached.

This macronutrient manipulation is important to the theory because each macronutrient has varying calorie amounts. Proteins and carbs have 4 calories per gram, while fats have 9 calories per gram. If an individual has 50 grams of fats in a given meal, as opposed to someone who has 50 grams of carbohydrates, the former will intake 200 more calories than the latter. This variance illustrates how food choices will guide IIFYM users towards food selections that will promote fat loss, weight maintenance, or muscle gain.

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What Are Macronutrients & Micronutrients?

Nutrients are environmental substances used for energy, growth, and bodily functions by living organisms. Depending on the nutrient, these substances are needed in small amounts or large amounts.

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Macronutrients provide calories or energy to the human body in the form of calories, and are required in large amounts. There are three classifications of macronutrients: carbohydrates, lipids (fats), and proteins.

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Micronutrients are commonly referred to as vitamins and minerals, and include minerals like sodium, copper and zinc, and vitamins such as C, A, D and E.

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Your body needs only very small quantities of micronutrients for survival. However, because micronutrients are vital to the proper functioning of all of your body’s systems, failure to get the small quantities that it requires can result in serious health problems.




Cranberry Sauce

Who doesn’t enjoy cranberry sauce as a part of a traditional Thanksgiving holiday spread? After all, cranberries are really good for you … right?

Yes they are. In fact, an impressive number of studies have shown that the regular consumption of raw cranberries have numerous potential health benefits including protection against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, bacterial infections, cardiovascular disease, the formation of alkaline stones inside the urinary tract, and plaque formation on tooth enamel.

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One cup (110 grams) of raw cranberries contains only 51 calories, zero fat, zero cholesterol, only 2 milligrams of sodium, and 5 grams of dietary fiber.

But what about cranberry sauce?

One cup (227 grams) of cranberry sauce packs 418 calories – 3 calories from fat – 80 milligrams of sodium, 108 grams of carbohydrates, 105 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of dietary fiber.

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As far as the good stuff in cranberry sauce goes, it does have 1 gram of protein, as well as significant amounts of vitamins A, C, E and K and other essential vitamins and minerals that the body needs to stay healthy. But most of this good stuff is coming from the natural cranberry itself, and not the sugary sweet, secret family recipe, thick gelatin drenching that these innocent berries receive each and every holiday season.