SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

Small Bites

Issue 4, May 2007

Don’t judge a nutrient by its name! Fat is not only necessary for good health -- it’s also a weight management VIP.
Such a diet would also be pretty impossible to pull off since fat isn’t just in “fatty” foods. For example, apart from fruit -- which is pure carbohydrate – everything has some amount of fat. A cup of peppers, for example, provides 0.3 grams. Practically nothing, but it goes to show just how important and prevalent a nutrient it is. Fat is calorically dense, meaning it provides concentrated calories (a high number in a small amount). Unlike protein and carbohydrates, which clock in at four calories per gram (FYI, one gram is approximately equal to 28 ounces), fat provides nine calories per gram. THE FAT FAMILY The fats we eat can be classified into five categories: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans, and cholesterol. Our blood also contains a fat known as triglycerides. What’s with all the saturation references? Simply put, a fat’s degree of saturation tells us a little bit about its chemical composition. Saturated fats are completely surrounded by hydrogen atoms, whereas
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The Fat Of The Matter

WHAT IS FAT? A controversial and often misunderstood nutrient, fat is absolutely necessary in our diets. Many hormones -- including testosterone and estrogen -- need fat in order to be produced, and the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K would not be possible without this nutrient. Attempting a diet without a single gram of fat would result in serious health consequences, including vitamin deficiencies.

SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

strokes, high total and bad cholesterol, breast unsaturated one contain less. Let’s take a look at what each of these fats mean for your health.
SATURATED FAT MONOUNSATURATED FAT

cancer, hypertension, and, recent studies are suggesting, even Crohn’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

The least healthy of fats, it’s found mostly -- and in substantial amounts -- in animal products, ranging from meat to whole milk dairy to butter.

Monounsaturated fats have one (“mono”) double bond in their chemical composition and are excellent for maintaining good cardiovascular health. Sources include avocados, nuts, and olive and peanut oils. When reading a food label, this is one fat you actually want to see higher amounts of!
TRANS FAT

Trans fats are the only artificial man-made fat, produced by taking an unsaturated fat and partially hydrogenating it (adding more hydrogens, but not so many to make it a fully saturated fat). What’s the point? Trans fats are a food company’s dream, since they slow down spoilage and, therefore, can keep a box of cookies at room temperature safe to eat for 12 months.

High intakes of this type of fat have been linked to increased levels of bad and total cholesterol as well as an increased risk of developing hard plaque formations in our artery walls.
POLYUNSATURATED FAT

Polyunsaturated fats have many (“poly”) double bonds in their chemical structure. Omega 3 fats – the hot new “it” nutrient found in fish, flaxseed, and walnuts-- are a type of polyunsaturated fat. To be clear, all Omega 3’s are polyunsaturated, but not all polyunsaturated fats are Omega 3’s (some are Omega 6’s). You might have seen or heard Omega 3’s referred to as EFA’s (essential fatty acids). Remember, in nutrition ‘essential’ means our bodies are unable to produce that nutrient, so we need to get it from food. Omega 3’s are an excellent way of reducing our risk of developing atherosclerosis, heart attacks,
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Frying oils not withstanding, pastries and commercially packaged sweets sitting on box shelves are the biggest culprits behind trans-fat consumption.

SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

Starting in January of 2006, all food labels had to display the amount of trans fats in their product. This scared many companies, who, fearing tumbling stock shares, pretty much changed their food formulas overnight to do away with their use of trans fats. This does not mean we are in a trans fat-free world. You need to always be a smart shopper. If you see a food label that lists 0 grams of trans fat but somewhere on the ingredient list you see the words “partially hydrogenated oil”, your “Small Bites” radar should go off. Turns out the law mandates that if a product has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the manufacturer can get away with stating there are ZERO grams of trans fat in that serving. Half a gram of trans fat may seem like nothing, but we shouldn’t be consuming more than 2 grams of these artificial monsters a day. So, 3 servings of a food containing .4 grams of trans fat per serving adds up to 1.2 grams, despite the label’s “zero grams of trans fat” claims. Remember, ALWAYS READ FOOD LABELS. What’s so bad about trans fats? A quick glance at countless clinical research trails reveals an unquestionable link between high trans fat consumption and high bad and total cholesterol, clogging of arteries, and significant increase in the risk of developing strokes, heart attacks, and certain cancers.
CHOLESTEROL

There are four types of cholesterol, but the two you want to think about are low density (LDL) and high density (HDL). The four variations combined make up what is known as your total cholesterol. LDL is the bad (or "lame") cholesterol. What's so bad about it? Well, the higher your LDL cholesterol, the higher your risk of strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots. Why is this? LDL cholesterol ends up being deposited on the walls of our arteries, where it turns into hard plaque and restricts blood flow.

Our livers and cells produce about 80% of our body's cholesterol, a precursor to hormones like estrogen and testosterone and necessary for producing vitamin D out of the sunlight that hits our skin. That being said, cholesterol is not essential (meaning it is not necessary to get additional amounts from our diet).
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HDL is the good (or "healthy") cholesterol that helps prevent plaque deposits by taking them to the liver for processing and removal when it spots them. If your body were a town, LDL would be the litterbugs and HDL would be the sanitation workers. Now, it is true that genes play a somewhat significant role in this. Some people -- no matter how healthy they eat -- have high levels of LDL, while others

SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

can go through life eating junk and still boast high HDL numbers.

Back to the nutrition factor. Going low-fat is NOT the answer to lowering your cholesterol. Rather, you want to go smart-fat. Monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, avocados, and flaxseed) are helpful at maintaining our good cholesterol levels (a low-fat diet can actually lower it). Remember, the goal isn't just to lower bad cholesterol, but to increase the good one, too. When it comes to total cholesterol, you ideally want a number below 200. If you are between the 200 and 240 mark, you are in the "caution" zone. Anything above 240 is cause for concern. When it comes to HDL (the "good cholesterol" that takes extra cholesterol lingering around in places

Although the drug companies would love for all us to be on statins (cholesterol-lowering medication) like Lipitor, the majority of us can alter our cholesterol profiles with food.

where it shouldn't be back to the liver for processing), you want as high a number as possible. Anything below 40 is low (and indicates a higher risk of developing heart disease), whereas a number between 40 and 60 is OK. For maximum heart-healthy benefits, though, you want a number above 60. Onto the "bad cholesterol" (LDL). You definitely want this low, since high numbers up the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Less than 100? Perfection! Between 100 and 130? You're still in safe territory. If you are between 130 and 160, consider yourself warned. If between 160 and 190, you are just a few numbers away from real trouble. If your LDL is above 190, this is a threat to your cardiovascular health that needs to be addressed.
TRIGLYCERIDES

Let's get this straight once and for all. It is not cholesterol in foods that raises our bad cholesterol, but saturated fat, found only in animal products (except those that are non-fat). So, when a package of bread boasts a "cholesterol-free" label on it, you can reply back, "well, duh!" and dismiss it as semidishonest marketing rather than groundbreaking nutritional information. So how do you lower cholesterol? Physical activity is a must, but when it comes to food, your best weapon is soluble fiber (found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oatmeal), which bundles up and flushes out excess cholesterol. (Note: physical activity does not have to mean a busy gym or loud spinning class. Simply increasing the distance you walk every day is enough to have an effect on your cholesterol levels).
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A type of fat found in our bloodstream, high triglyceride levels have been linked with the hardening -- and narrowing -- of arteries. Let’s quickly review what this means.

SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

The harder and narrower our arteries, the more restricted our bloodflow. The more restricted our bloodflow, the higher our blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. The higher our risk of blood clots, the higher our risk of heart attacks and strokes. Despite what many people -- even professionals in the medical field -- say, triglyceride levels are only affected by refined carbohydrate intake. In other words, it’s not so much butter that is to blame for high triglycerides, but those two slices of refined white-flour bread you are putting the butter on. HOW MUCH FAT SHOULD YOU BE GETTING? The 30 percent rule is a good standard to go by. Take the amount of calories you need each day (i.e.: 2,400) and calculate no more than 30% of those calories coming from fat. Let’s do the math together. 30% of 2,400 calories = 800 calories. “OK, but how much fat is that?” some of you might be asking. This is how you figure it out. 800 calories divided by 9 calories per gram of fat = 89 grams of fat. There is your recommended maximum daily intake. We aren’t done yet, though. The second good rule to have in mind is that OF these 89 grams, no more than 10% should come from saturated fats. That means that someone taking in 2,400 calories a day should be getting no more than 9 grams of saturated fat 89 grams divided by 10 = 8.9).

Knowing these numbers is important, as it enables you to have a reference point.

When you realize that a large order of fries at McDonald’s sets you back 30 grams of fat, of which six are saturated, you might instead opt for the small size, which provides 13 grams of fat, of which 2.6 are saturated. Better yet, if you share a small size with someone, you’re only getting 6.5 grams of fat and 1.3 grams of saturated fat! As mentioned above, trans fat consumption should not exceed 2 grams a day, no matter how many calories you are taking in. That being said, our bodies do not need trans fats, so you can go without them for the rest of your life without a single problem. SMART FAT CHOICES So how do you go about your day making sure you get the necessary amount of dietary fat to keep your body running while making choices that are also heart healthy? Take a look at these examples.
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SMALL BITES
GREEN LIGHT

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007
RED LIGHT

Grilled chicken breast (4 ounces) 3.8 grams fat, 1.1 grams saturated fat Accompany it with brown rice, steamed veggies, or a salad to keep your saturated fat total low.
RED LIGHT

Venti Latte (Whole Milk) 18 g fat, 11g saturated fat I understand some people don’t like the taste of skim milk with their coffee. If that describes your situation, order a tall whole milk latte instead. You’ll save yourself 7.2 grams of fat and 4.4 grams of fat of saturated fat!

McDonald’s Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat Getting medium fries with that? Ok, add on: 20 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 5.4 g trans fats * * * *

GREEN LIGHT

Guacamole (2 tablespoons) 3.8 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat
RED LIGHT

Salsa con Queso dip (2 tablespoons) 4 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat Some of you might look at these figures and think, “wow, the cheese isn’t THAT much more bad than the guacamole”. However, consider that while 2 tablespoons of guacamole give you 3.2 grams of unsaturated (healthy) fat, the cheese dip provides 25% less heart-friendly fats and 150% more arteryclogging saturated fat. * * * *

You’re also better off holding off on a pastry to accompany that coffee. A Starbucks blueberry muffin adds on 16 grams of fat, of which 10 are saturated!

That means a Venti whole milk latte and a blueberry muffin add up to 34 grams of fat and 21 grams of saturated fat (more than a Big Mac!) * * * *

GREEN LIGHT

GREEN LIGHT

Starbucks Venti Latte (Nonfat Milk) 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat
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Vegetarian (kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans) chili (1 cup) 1.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat

SMALL BITES
RED LIGHT

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007
RED LIGHT

Beef chili (1 cup) 11.3 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat * * * *

Alfredo sauce (½ cup) 22 g fat, 10 g saturated fat * * * *

GREEN LIGHT

RED LIGHT

Olive oil (2 tablespoons) 24 g fat, 3.7 g saturated fat
RED LIGHT

Chipotle chicken and bean burrito without standard sour cream (2 ounces) and cheese (1 ounce) amounts 27 g fat, 6.5 g saturated fat

Butter (2 tablespoons) 24 g fat, 14.6 saturated fat

EVEN REDDER LIGHT!!

This is why it’s so important to know about -- and understand -- the different types of fats. Although both offer the same grams of total fat (and thus the same amount of calories), the olive oil contains much less of the saturated kind. * * * *

GREEN LIGHT

Salmon cucumber sushi roll (6 pieces) 5.8 g fat, .8 g saturated fat
RED LIGHT

Shrimp Tempura roll (6 pieces) 13 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat * * * *

Chipotle chicken and bean burrito with sour cream and cheese: 46 g fat, 19.5 g saturated fat
THE OMEGA FACTOR Omega 3’s are the new whole grains. It seems like every day more and more products boast the addition of “Omega 3 fatty acids”.

GREEN LIGHT

Marinara sauce (½ cup) 5g fat, 1g saturated fat

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SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

Although most people think that just taking in more Omega 3’s is sufficient to improve cardiovascular health, it’s not that simple.

and seaweed, whereas Omega-6’s are abundant in corn oil, soybean oil, sesame oil, sunflower seeds, whole grains, peanuts, wheat germ, etc. Too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 can cause a variety of problems, including high blood pressure and a higher risk of forming blood clots. So, rather than just making the goal of eating more Omega 3’s, think more along the lines of replacing (ie: add flaxseed, rather than wheat germ to cereals and smoothies, replace some of the almonds in homemade trail mix with walnuts and pumpkin seeds, etc). Some interesting current research suggests replacing some Omega-6 fats with small amounts of saturated fats in order to lower the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. For instance, say you hate walnuts, but you are still looking to reduce your Omega 6 intake. One solution would be to replace soybeans or sunflower seeds in your trail mix with an ounce of chocolate in order to reduce the Omega 6’s. MAKING SENSE OF SALMON Salmon is often touted as one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, mainly because it contains some of the best quality omega 3’s (there is no such thing as a “bad” omega 3, but fish oils are the superior type of Omega 3). Here’s how it works though. Sea creatures aren’t just naturally born with lots of Omega-3 fatty acids. Rather, they produce them by eating sea plants. Or, in the case of larger fish, by eating smaller species that eat sea plants. This is why fish is the only meat that provides Omega-3. Cows, chickens, and turkeys are certainly not eating seaweed or any other bottom of the sea flora!
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In order for the Omega 3’s in foods like salmon and olive oil to do their heart-protective work, you need to simultaneously lower your Omega 6 intake. If we have too much Omega 6 in our diets, Omega 3 is unable to do its duties. In fact, research has shown that the ideal Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio should be 1 to 5. The average ratio of an adult in the United State? 1 to 25! The sad part is that 100 hundred years ago, we were at a 1 to 3 ratio, but drastic changes in our diets have turned that figure on upside down. How is this so? Our diets are abundant in Omega 6’s – most of the cooking and oils we consume are high in Omega 6’s. Remember, omega 3’s are found in high quantities in olive oil as well as fish (tuna, salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, etc), flaxseed, hemp oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, spinach, broccoli, kale,

SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

Here is the problem. There are different types of salmon. On the one hand, you have the wild kind, which is caught in the ocean, where these salmon produce Omega 3’s by eating the plant life under the sea. You also have farmed salmon, wherein hundreds of these fish are crowded into aquatic feedlots. Guess what? They aren’t being given sea plants to eat. Rather, they are fed grain (to fatten them up) and antibiotics (they are in such close quarters that they are very likely to get sick, so farmers throw antibiotics in the water as ‘insurance’). Hence, they aren’t a source of Omega 3 fatty acids. It gets worse, I’m afraid. Wild salmon gets its beautiful pink hue from its diet. Farmed salmon? From pellets! There is actually a patented chart called a “salmo fan” (pictured below), which displays a variety of shades of pink. The farmer chooses the color he would like his salmon to have, drops some pellets into the water and voila, his salmon take on that color! They are essentially eating dye.

This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to know the source of your seafood. Farmed seafood is very different from its wild counterpart. Don’t get me wrong – salmon is still a great source of protein and certain minerals whether it’s farmed or not. However, when it comes to the impressive Omega 3 profile of salmon (and other seafood), you can forget about it if your dinner is coming from a feedlot and not the ocean itself. Luckily, there are laws and regulations requiring that seafood sold at supermarkets be labeled with country of origin and whether or not it is wild or farmed, so you a least have a say. OLIVE OIL’S DARK SECRET Olive oil is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. However, much like with salmon, all olive oil is not created equal. The research is solid – olive oil is a great fat, especially because it contains Omega 3’s. Here is the catch. The large majority of those studies have been done on freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil. “Extra virgin” is the highest quality olive oil, since it is the product of the first press of the olives. To get this qualification, actually, olive oil has to adhere to certain chemical traits (including a certain level of acidity). Most of the olive oil available in supermarkets, though, was pressed 12 to 18 months ago. It just so happens that, with time, the heart-healthy properties in olive oil start to dissipate. Bright light makes them dissipate even more. So, when you’re buying olive oil at the supermarket, you are talking about something that has been bottled for about a year and a half and has spent most of that time under bright fluorescent lights. These two factors are nutrient zappers!
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SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

So what can you do? A few things. First of all, buy olive oil in metal containers, where it is shielded from light. This will be a big step towards maintaining its health properties for longer periods of time.

on Sunday and having enough to last you a few days of the week. 2 cans of diced tomatoes (I prefer petite-cut, lowsodium with added jalapeno peppers) 8 garlic cloved, finely chopped 1 small red onion, finely chopped 1 red pepper, cut into small chunks 1 green pepper, cut into small chunks 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 can low-sodium chickpeas 1 can low-sodium kidney beans 1 cup frozen corn Salt-free chili powder (to taste) Hot/spicy paprika (to taste) OPTIONAL: crumbled soy meat

Secondly, look for a “harvest date” on your olive oil bottle. The more recent, the better. Similarly, keep an eye out for an expiration date. The later it expires, the more recent the oil. Be mindful that exposure to air also negatively affects olive oil. So, if you have a few tablespoons’ worth left over in a large bottle, pour the contents into a small container.

RECIPE OF THE MONTH
VEGETARIAN CHILI (Serves 4) I created this recipe last year and it has become one of my staples (and most requested dishes). It is extremely easy to make and does very well as a reheated dish, so I recommend making a large batch
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Heat the olive oil over low heat in a medium pot. Add the chopped garlic and onions and simmer on for a few minutes. Add diced tomatoes, stir, and let sit for 5 minutes. Add peppers, beans, corn, and soymeat. Stir well and cook at high heat for 10 minutes. Add spices to taste. Enjoy! Recommended side dishes: whole wheat cous cous, brown rice, or quinoa.

SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

FAD DIET OF THE MONTH
LOW-FAT DIETS
One of my biggest pet-peeves is when all types of fat are blindly thrown into into the “bad for you” bag. As you now know, some types are beneficial and help keep our heart and cardiovascular systems in tip-top shape. However, millions of people have bought into the “fat equals bad” belief , thinking that in order to keep the pounds off, all you have to do is avoid it. This was the dominant theory in the 1990s, which resulted in the production of Snackwell’s low-fat cookies. Presented with the option of low-fat seets and treats, people thought, “I can eat half the box if it’s low fat!”, forgetting that low-fat does not necessarily mean low calories. Without the fat, people didn’t feel full as quickly as they did the regular fatty versions of these sweets. Next thing they knew, they had downed more calories than they would have had those cookies been richer.

salad, or throwing in some walnuts or avocado, is a great thing! A low-fat diet might call for absolutely no added fat to a salad and fat-free dressing. Again, though, just because something is fat-free does NOT make it calorie-free. Fat-free dressings still have carbohydrates, which contain calories. Thus, low-fat diets often result in eating calories that do not help fill you up. An hour later, you are still hungry. In fact, studies have shown that people who regularly consume nuts (high in protein, fiber, and fat) end up having an easier time losing and keeping weight off because they feel satisfied for hours. Many people also erroneously think low-fat diets are great ways to improve their blood lipid profile. However, as you just read, certain fats actually HELP lower bad cholesterol. And, as far as triglycerides go, despite being a type of blood fat, it is refined carbohydrates (added sugars and processed flours) that raise their levels. Thus, avoiding salmon and instead having white rice and vegetables for dinner every night will have the opposite effect of what many people desire! I think a low-fat diet makes sense in two contexts. First, if you have been placed on a low-fat diet by a medical professional due to a health condition, you must follow it. Second, if you are looking to shed two or three pounds for a wedding or party, I wouldn’t have a problem with a low-fat, low-calorie diet that lasts just a week, as long as it includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, non fat dairy, and whole gains.

Remember, fat is one of three components that help us feel full (protein and fiber being the other two). This is why drizzling some olive oil over a
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SMALL BITES

ANDY.BELLATTI@GMAIL.COM

ISSUE 4, MAY 2007

In conclusion, long-term low-fat diets are a Small Bites No-No.

Small Bites is a monthly nutrition newsletter delivering accessible information without sponsors to please, advertisers to promote, or hidden agendas. Please share your thoughts, opinions, questions, and feedback with me so I can provide you with an excellent publication month after month. Be sure to check out the Small Bites blog: http://smallbitesnutrition.blogspot.com Thank you and see you next month!

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