What Can be Done about Women and Healthcare

The State of  Women’s Health in the U.S.

Have you ever looked hard in the mirror and started to wonder to yourself, “How did I let myself go this much?” Have you ever been uncomfortably called out about a recent failure but are so overwhelmed at the prospect of correcting that mistake that you weren’t even aware of making? It seems a habitual pattern with United States policies that range from the national obesity crisis to nutrition. And women’s health is just as unflattering.  The United States ranks 11th out of the top ten list of women’s health in the world after the United States tried to compare other countries to wealthy nations. Oof.

So, how did we get there, what can we do to fix it, and what sort of pattern can we recognize in order to improve our women’s health situation?

women's healthHealthcare Costs and Nationwide Chronic Conditions

In a not so surprising twist of an answer, the rise in healthcare costs, as well as what women have to pay for out of pocket are detrimental to women all over the US.  According to the same data, both women in the US and Switzerland needed to pay on average $2000 out of pocket costs for any sort of care.

In the United States, “More than one-third of women report skipping needed medical care because of costs, a far higher rate than the other countries included in the study.”

This creates an ugly cycle. Because health care costs too much money, women largely avoid going to the doctor. And when they avoid getting care, the increased risk of chronic conditions, cancers, and other healthcare issues increases. The problem gets bigger, so it costs more money to take care of. And so on, and so forth.

High Maternal Mortality and Poor Health Care for Women

Those chronic conditions do not only cause poor health for women, as a constant source of stress, but it also affects their children. Lack of prenatal care, because again, it has to come out of pocket, combined with chronic conditions that are common in US women, and you get a flurry of low birth rates, birth defects, lack of prenatal care nationwide, and a higher infant/maternal mortality rate.

But that hardly holds a candle to how the healthcare systems treat women as a whole. Thanks to a variety of stereotypes about women and emotion, most

According to the statistics, 24% of US women rate their care as excellent or very good. That is almost half as much as Norway’s and Sweden’s rating.  The specific factors vary but all point to an unspoken bias in healthcare. Women’s chronic conditions are often downplayed as “stress” or “all in their head”. It is the reason why we under-report our own heart attacks. We think that is just “an overreaction”. And its that kind of downplaying that increases the chance of mortality.

Human Bias

However, bias does not always mean that the healthcare system is actively sabotaging the women under its care. It’s more of a common human error.

Human beings are truly amazing. When we put our minds to it, we can recognize patterns, figure out cause and effect, and ultimately learn from our mistakes.  We are all very much limited with our own initial worldview, and it makes sense that we do so. After all, we first learn ourselves and our place in the world before we learn from the perspective of others. So, when it comes to a system that is supposed to benefit a variety of people, it can be problematic. What exactly do I mean? Well, nutrition, healthcare, etc for all intents and purposes is not a one size fits all sort of thing.

women's health

What Can We Do About It?

There are a number of things that we could start that can get the ball rolling on how we look at women’s health. For starters, look at what everyone is complaining about. Why is it so costly?  Is it justified, Is there anything available for prenatal or overall preventative care for chronic conditions for women?  What can we do to help more women get regular access to decent healthcare?

Another thing is for doctors, and healthcare providers to actually LISTEN to the health concerns of women. It should be a common conscious practice to eliminate bias as a healthcare provider for a better success and satisfaction rating. You want to keep people from feeling afraid to speak up.

 If you like reading stuff like this, read more about how generations view health click here.


Nutrition and Brain Health

Nutrition and Brain Health

There is an old common adage, “You are what you eat.” While it is a visual gag for comic strip artists, the idea behind the quote is different. If you eat healthily, you become healthy. I, for one, am glad it is not a literal interpretation. We do not need to run on the assumption of people either have eaten other people or are turning into food items literally.  Our diets shape our physical outcomes. That much is certain. But what about your brain? Can nutrition help or hurt it, or is it something that is less influenced by diet?

nutrition, brain foodHow Our Bodies Work

For starters, anyone well versed in nutrition, or anatomy will tell you that not all of your anatomical parts are a vacuum. Each organ, blood vessel, muscle, and bone are all connected to create various working systems.  We need out bloodstream to carry nutrients from one place to another. Muscles, bone, and organs also require blood sources to stay healthy and alive. And all of them require the brain to function at all.

So, if you think about it, the human body is a very complicated network of multiple systems. All of which are interdependent with one another.

That would mean that the brain will most likely require nutrition. Especially, if it is technically an organ in your body.  But what sort of nutrition is required for your brain? Can a lack of it hinder its own performance?

This is Your Brain on Nutrition

In Barcelona, Spain, there was research conducted by a study group of 2oo older participants who were split into two groups. For four years, some of them had a low-fat diet, while others were on the Mediterranian Diet.  When compared against a low-fat diet, subjects who had participated in a Mediterranian Diet had better cognitive functions and memory recollection.

The only difference between the two diets was the supplement of olive oil and nuts, both of which have healthy fats. So, in a way, our brains need healthy fats, as well as fruits and vegetables to stay healthy.

This discovery was enough for hospitals and nutritionists to create the perfect diet for Alzheimer’s patients, The MIND diet. It gets its name from the acronym Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and most of it relies on common sense strategy.

There is a list of foods that people are supposed to eat and avoid on this diet. Most of which stress the importance of antioxidants as well as healthy fats.

So, what is permissible as proper brain food?nutrition, brain food

Nutrition and Brain Food

What to eat, what to skip

Creators of the MIND diet suggest 10 brain-healthy foods and five cut back on.

Help yourself:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Other vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Berries
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Olive oil
  • Red Wine

Try to limit:

  • Red meats
  • Butter and stick margarine
  • Cheese
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Fried or fast food

But why is this the case? What makes these approved foods work, and what doesn’t? Harvard has the answer to that one.

“Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, which is lined with a hundred million nerve cells,  it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.

What’s more, the function of these neurons — and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin — is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome.

These bacteria protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria; they limit inflammation; they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food, and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.”

So not only does it affect our brains on a purely functional level, but it also shifts how we feel about things. That is amazing!

Conclusion: Eat Clean, and Get Smarter

We are certainly what we eat, but on a level that we could hardly comprehend until now. Nutrition has a surprisingly high impact in our lives and is a driving force that determines our overall health. Food is medicine for the body, so it is only right that we should give it the stuff that we need.

If you feel like you need nutritional help, feel free to contact us! Click on the pop up at the beginning of www. beksbites.com

The Myth of Tryptophan

The Myth of Tryptophan Turkey Making You Tired

The Thanksgiving traditions are certainly odd when you examine them with a critical eye. It is a holiday in which we poorly re-enact a romanticized feast that symbolizes a failed treaty between two peoples. However, that is something most people in America often overlook in favor of just having an excuse to pig out. So, we celebrate via parades, long cooking times, and watching football. But what inevitably happens at the end of the day is everyone groaning and holding their bellies. Then everyone will want to sleep it off. Immediately, someone, whether it is that know it all uncle or parent who read one too many urban legends on the internet, declares “Its all because of tryptophan. That is what is making us sleepy!”

Not only is this a terrible misconception, but it is one that refuses to die every year. So, in the name of spreading accurate nutrition information and making Thanksgiving a little less miserable, we are going to address the whole tryptophan rumor once and for all. tryptophan, turkey

Tryptophan Is an Essential Nutrient

First, we need to address what tryptophan even is. According to Medline Plus, “Tryptophan is an amino acid people need for normal growth in infants and for nitrogen balance in adults. It is an essential amino acid. This means your body cannot produce it, so you must get it from your diet.”

So far, tryptophan is something that we need for nutritional balance. But what does it do? “The body uses tryptophan to help make niacin, melatonin, and serotonin. Serotonin is thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood.”

The previous statement could be what causes people to arrive at the misconception in the first place.  However, while they are related to the production of serotonin, their main contribution is towards the creation of niacin. Without niacin, our bodies would not be able to balance out their own cholesterol levels.

Not only that but we eat it every day. Way more often than we think we do.

Tryptophan is in Everyday Foodstryptophan

You see, because we need niacin in our daily diet, we get it from foods. Usually, tryptophan is in foods that have protein in it. So, if you ever eat eggs, cheese, chicken, nuts, fish, and tofu, then congratulations, you are eating tryptophan.  In fact, some of these things, like chicken, have even higher levels of tryptophan overall.

So, unless you are falling asleep left and right after eating lunch or dinner, then you are probably not getting drowsy from this amino acid.

However, it still does have a link to sleep regulation, but in an entirely different way.

How Tryptophan Works

According to Sleep.org, “Eating tryptophan doesn’t immediately impact serotonin levels. Tryptophan is just one of many different amino acids that are in foods like turkey. And all of those amino acids compete to get transported to the brain. Tryptophan is one of the least represented amino acids in those foods, which means that it gets shoved out of the way by the others.

That’s where this last piece to the puzzle comes in. There’s one thing that allows tryptophan to easily enter the brain: eating carbohydrates. Carbohydrates cause your body to release insulin, which removes all amino acids—except tryptophan—from your blood. That means that tryptophan has no competition and can enter the brain easily, boosting serotonin levels. So eating a snack that’s all carbohydrates will react with stored tryptophan in your body and give you a much bigger increase of serotonin. You can actually use this to your advantage by eating a light carbohydrate-centric snack before bedtime.”

So, it is part of what makes you fall asleep but needs carbohydrates to activate at all. This just leaves one question, “What makes you sleepy at the Thanksgiving Feast?”


What makes you sleepy at Thanksgiving is more times than not is a combination of a few things. According to healthline.com, “However, turkey doesn’t contain a high level of tryptophan when compared to many other common foods. Post-Thanksgiving dinner sleepiness is more likely related to other factors, such as the volume of food or the quantity of alcohol or simple carbohydrates consumed.”

So, when you start to feel a little bit sleepy around this holiday season, don’t blame the turkey. Instead, just look at it as another terrifying Thanksgiving tradition that did not age well.

If you are looking for a nutritionist in Huntsville, AL, feel free to click the pop up at www.beksbites.com.

Thanksgiving Wellness & Nutrition Tips

Thanksgiving Wellness & Nutrition Tips

Its that time of the year again, folks. Football, parades, family get-togethers and food, it is the holiday season. With Thanksgiving coming up and the obstacles that come with the holidays, it sounds almost outright impossible to stay the course with your diet. However, there are several things that you can do to make your thanksgiving meals have more nutrition and your holiday season happier.  We mentioned a few in the past, but this year, we are offering a fresh take on this year’s Thanksgiving Season!

thanksgiving, nutrition

Incorporate Real Traditional Dishes for Better Nutrition

While we certainly cemented traditional food into the mix, these classic foods hold a secret. Alot of them werent available for the first Thanksgiving feast.  According to Mental Floss,

“You may be surprised to learn that some of the foods that are traditional Thanksgiving fare were not available for the Pilgrim’s celebration. They may have had cranberries, but they didn’t have sugar to make sauce. Sweet potatoes or yams were not common to the area, much less white potatoes. Pumpkin pie recipes did not exist at the time, and there were no proper ovens to bake pastries, anyway. Any milk or cheese had to have come from goats, as the Pilgrims did not bring cows with them from England.”

If anything the Pilgrims relied on various meats, vegetables, and nuts for that feast. There were a variety of fowl, shellfish, nuts and berries that were part of the feast. The closest thing they had that was sweet was cornbread pudding.

While you can’t replicate everything, considering swaping out a starchy side or two with another type of meat, or a combination of dried fruit and nuts. This might not only be a better dietary decision for the thanksgiving feast, but is also an opprotunity for an educational experience.

 Ingredient Substitution

Maybe you and your family can’t do without your famous recipes. That is a-ok! After all, we have our favorites for a reason. Another way to help you and your family stick to your diet, is to substitute ingredients.

For instance if  a mashed potato recipe call for sour cream, butter, and mayo, you could swap one or all three out with their low caloric counterparts. Hardly any one can tell the difference and you can still have the dish that you and your family love.

If you or your family are used to doing things instant, you might want to reconsider swapping it out with a homemade recipe. The preservation process that is involved in instant meals bombards the ingredients with excess salts and sugars. Not only that, but usually they are lacking in nutrition and for the most part wind up tasteless.

Even if you are making your dishes days ahead, or you ask other people to help you, the pay off is not only more healthy, it is also an all around better Thanksgiving experience.

nutrition, exercise, fitness

Plan a Physical Family Activity

While it is all too tempting to eat your weight in turkey and sleep it off, it can rob you and your family of some time that you can spend together. Instead, plan an activity that encourages people to move around. Maybe everyone can walk outside after dinner? You could set the yard up for football,  Or you guys can book a session of laser tag. As long as it encourages some physical activity, some of those excess calories are getting worked off.

If you cant do that immediately after, you can certainly plan something for the day after, or the day before. Just get a fun family activity that falls under the category of a workout.

At least, you and your family are likely to feel less guilty about the feast.

Also, don’t let anyone pull that tryptophan excuse. Not only is that amino acid an essential part of the human diet, it doesnt even control feelings of sleepiness. If anything the act of overeating is what causes the drowsiness.


Nutrition doesnt have to be drudgery, nor does it have to be painful. In fact, it can be painlessly incorporated into the holiday feast with a little ingenuity and positive attitude.  This is the season for happiness and a thankful attiude, not beating yourself up. So, don’t sweat about your dietary needs clashing with your holiday wants. As long as you are willing to put in a little work and creativity, you can even get the whole family in on a happier and healthier holiday season.

If you want to learn more about nutrition in Huntsville, AL , feel free to contact us at www.beksbites.com

Nutrition and Positive Thinking

Nutrition and Positive Thinking

Have you ever heard talk from friends, family, and loved ones that comes across self-deprecating? “I’m dumb. ” “I’m ugly.” “I’m so lazy”. When it gets right down to it, we can be brutal to ourselves. Having a negative inner voice can become natural. Especially if we see it often in others. We try to use it to push us and other people to do better.  But just how effective is using shame when it comes to our health? Does it push us to do better with nutrition or does it do damage? Does it even deter unwanted behavior, or motivate people to change?

The Mechanics of Shame and Self Deprecation

First of all, how do we shame ourselves and others? And does it serve a purpose at all? Shaming or the act of engaging in social negativity ,is objectively a tool that people use as a barometer of social approval. Whether it comes from ourselves or other people, shame serves to point out our flaws in an attempt to recognize and correct a problem in a social context.

According to Melissa Kirk, a blogger for Psychology Today, “We are probably wired to feel shame because it keeps us in line with the rules of our society. When we break or flaunt the rules, we may be ostracized. Which could mean death or at the very least, disconnection, which can feel worse than death. So, the reason that shame works so well is that we’re wired to connect to and to seek acceptance from others, and shame effectively withdraws that acceptance and connection. ”

People are motivated by shame, because if we do not correct our behavior, we will feel a detachment from our social circle, which we need in order to survive.

However, how likely are people going to correct their behavior in response to shame? Does it actually work in the way that is intended? Is there a chance that it could lead to someone over correcting, or avoiding certain behaviors in an extreme way?

What Excess Negativity Does to your Health

While shaming does work to some degree as a behavior deterrent, if it is over done, the consequences aren’t what people expect. Usually, when people engage in negative self talk, it tends to embed itself. Whether its origins come from an outside source, or the behavior has been modeled by others, it can spiral into a dangerous habit.

Enough negativity can actually decrease our motivation to do better. It also increasese our chances of depression. Also, it can cause enough emotional distress to the point of people trying to supress the emotion with binging behavior.

“Those who find themselves frequently engaging in negative self-talk tend to be more stressed. This is in large part due to the fact that their reality becomes an experience where they feel like they don’t have the ability to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves. This is both due to a lowered ability to see opportunities around them as well as a decreased tendency to capitalize on these opportunities. This means that the heightened perception of stress is due both to mere perception and the changes in behavior that come from them. ”

It not only makes us feel bad, it decreases our chances of actually succeeding in weight loss goals. It does not encourage good habits. Instead, it backfires into doing the exact opposite of the intent.

So, when someone is shamed for being”fat” or “lazy”, the people who are participating in shaming are actually more likely to doom their target into a self fufilling prophecy. And act of tough love becomes outright cruelty.positive thinking


Foster Good Nutrition and Positive Thinking

So, if you want to lose weight or focus on good nutrition, what can we do?  If we can’t discourage bad behavior, what would be a way to get beneficial results? Easy, you do the opposite.  According to a nutrition expert who was interviewed for the Seattle Times had this to say, ”

People with high self-compassion are more likely to practice behaviors that support health. Because, self-care is their motivator.

If you suspect your internal voice is far from kind, what can you do?

First, listen. To quiet that critical voice, you need to be fully aware of what it’s saying, and when and how often it’s saying it. This can feel icky, and it’s easy to become self-critical about just how self-critical we are, so try to stay judgment-free — you’re gathering important information about yourself.

Then, when you notice that voice popping up, gently shift to a more compassionate voice, like one you would use with a dear friend, or a family member who’s struggling.

Finally, be patient — this change may take time, but it’s worth it.”

If you are looking for a nutritionist in Huntsville Al, feel free to click on the pop up at www. beksbites.com.

Nutrition Talk: The Effects of Starvation

Nutrition Talk: What are the Effects of Starvation?

When there is such an obesity crisis in the United States, a lot of specialists, nutritionists, and other experts tend to lose focus on other issues. Not because those issues are unimportant. Far from it. The truth of the matter is that people often overlook the “wheel that doesn’t squeak the loudest.” So, when someone thinks about talking to a nutritionist, most of the time people associate it with weightloss.  But a nutritionist, by definition deals with the whole of nutrition, not just weight loss. And the opposite end of that spectrum of what they handle is the effects of malnutrition or starvation.

What does it do to the body, and at what point can it kill a person?  What can you do to combat it and what is the right way to handle food deprivation?

Your Body on Starvation

Most adults who pay attention to health segments in middle or high school, as children, know that our bodies consist of billions of very small organisms, called cells.  These cells require the consumption of nutrients and glucose to obtain enough energy to function for things like self repair, distributing water through osmosis, and replicating themselves and just outright existing.

These cells have short shelf lives, depending on what type they are, and they last long enough to feed, replicate a few generations before dying naturally and becoming waste.

Well, when a person starves themselves, you are not just making yourself go very hungry. You are killing your cells. When you put yourself through “cell-death” you are putting your body through a process call apoptosis.

There is a further mention explination of this topic by a recent publication in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Nutrition, Starvation, and Cell Death

According to it’s lead author,  Dr. Cristina Muñoz-Pinedo, “The death of cells in case of starvation may be similar to the effects of cell-death treatments such as chemotherapy where the mitochondrial pathway is activated. In case of starvation, the cells activate certain ‘death receptors’ on their membrane . In a normal scenario, this happens when lymphocytes of the immune system fight and kill infectious cells.”

cell death, starvation, nutritionSo, the more you are skipping meals, the more likely you are going to put your body through apoptosis, making it much harder for your immune system to function at all.

In more extreme scenarios that have been observed, “Prolonged starvation can cause permanent damage to your organs. A starvation diet results in a great loss in muscle mass and water weight because of dehydration. This can slow down your metabolic rate and you are likely to feel more hungry and end up overeating or suffering deficiencies that can affect your day to day life. So, starvation is never the solution. ”

And it doesn’t only literally kill your body’s cells. We have yet to mention what starvation can do to your brain.

Your Brain on Starvation

Your brain, just like your body, consists of cells. These cells are arguably the most important because it is what controls not only the other processes in the body, but is responsible for how we respond to situations that require our intelligence.

A study on the subject was performed on the closest thing in structure to brain cells during early stage development. In lieu of using embryonic brain cells, they used and observed tadpoles.

tadpole, cell death, starvation, nutritionAnd something interesting happened when they observed tadpoles that had no food. “Their neural progenitor cells stopped dividing and their body growth decreased. However, the animals remained alive and their behavior appeared normal. Surprisingly, if tadpoles were able to access food within about nine days, neural progenitor cells in the brain start dividing again. Eventually, the tadpoles wera able to catch up to their normal growth state if food had always been available.”

Our brain cells not only require nutrition to survive, but when you starve yourself, they are the first to go in your body. It brings a whole new level of understanding just how important it is  for our bodies to recieve adequate nutrition.  Thankfully, if you give a person who is starving themselves food, their brains are going to quickly bounce back.

But what does that say about our intelligence when we skip breakfast every morning? Or about a person that makes a poor decision or can’t retain information because they haven’t eaten that day?


When you are starving yourself, you are literally killing your body on a cellular level, shutting down every process starting withyour intelligence first. Weight loss from pure starvation is not a solution.  Talking to someone who knows about nutrition and can help is.



Ask A Nutritionist: What are the Healthiest Cooking Methods?

Ask A Nutritionist: What are the Healthiest Cooking Methods?

When it comes to preparing a meal, no two techniques are alike. After all, there are schools dedicated to the discipline and method of cooking. Cooking is something that has been a necessity since our ancestors came to understand fire. It is something that we evolved as we came to learn how to experiment with it. And it is still evolving today. But what do we know about how healthy some cooking methods are?

Just like how some types of food are better for you more than others, the same logic can apply to cooking methods.  What is the best cooking technique? What preserves most vitamins, nutrients, and fiber? Are there different techniques better for special diets? How much of it is a cultural thing, and how much is it just good for you? The only way to find out is to compare and contrast cooking techniques. Let’s see what works best, according to nutritionists.

Basic Human Digestion

The consensus among most scientists and nutritionists is that you need a combination of things that are both hard and easy to digest. Both things help keep your body regular. There is also the importance of making sure you have a variety of vitamins and minerals that helps keep your body functioning.

How Cooking and Heat Works on Vegetables and Meatscooking, roast

Cooking, as a process, works to break down the muscle and fibers of meats. This makes it easier for people to chew and digest meats and vegetables. And almost every single type of cooking technique, aside from fermentation, requires something to work. Heat.

The heat usually comes from different sources and each cooking technique depends on other variables such as water, the presence of oils,  access to air, and even space limitation. These elements, depending on the choices we make, can change the properties of the food in both a positive or negative way.

Unhealthy Cooking Can Destroy Vital Nutrients and Increase Calorie Count

Some cooking techniques can warp food in ways that it is almost unrecognizable and too unhealthy.

According to Harvard evolutionary biologist, Rachel Carmody “Cooked items are often listed as having fewer calories than raw items, yet the process of cooking meat gelatinizes the collagen protein in meat, making it easier to chew and digest—so cooked meat has more calories than raw. Heat also denatures(breaks down) the proteins in vegetables such as sweet potatoes.”

Over boiling, charring, or deep-frying foods can break down or destroy vitamins and nutrients in meats and vegetables.  If you want to eat healthier overall, you should avoid doing what is listed down below.

Excess Grease: If there is too much grease in the cooking process, then the food will absorb that extra grease. That extra grease will increase the calorie count of the food.

Charring: It can cause the formation of acrylamides (potential cancer-causing chemicals). This is especially carcinogenic in potatoes.

Overcooking/Boiling: Too much water when boiling your vegetables can cook the nutrients right out of the vegetables. Add that to keeping the lid off a pan and you are letting all of the nutritious parts of the veggies escape.

cookingHealthy Cooking Methods can Enhance Nutrients and Vitamins

Some of these techniques enhance the flavor and nutrients of the food.

A dietician, Sharon Palmer,  pointed this out when someone asked about roasting food. ” The fact is that all forms of cooking can destroy some of the nutrients (such as vitamin C and B vitamins) in vegetables. However, some nutrients become more bioavailable when vegetables are cooked. Cooking helps release the nutrients from the cell walls of the plant. These include nutrients in the carotenoid family, such as lycopene (found in tomatoes and red peppers) and beta-carotene (in carrots, spinach, and kale).”

There are other techniques aside from roasting that can enhance the flavor and nutrients of both vegetables and meats.

These techniques include:

  • Blanching vegetables. Blanching is a technique in which a food item is lowered into a pot of boiling water for a short time. The short cooking time and the high heat is enough to activate and seal the nutrients with minimal loss.
  • Pressure cooking for both meats and vegetables is ideal because the cooking times are shorter and the temperatures are higher.
  • Sometimes leaving the veggies raw is a good way to get fiber in your system. It also gives your body access to a lot more vitamins and nutrients that might be lost in the cooking process otherwise.


If you are looking for a nutritionist in Huntsville, Al, feel free to click on the pop up at www.beksbites.com


What is Caloric Density?

Ask a Nutritionist: What is Caloric Density?

One of the most annoying things about starting a new diet or changing your lifestyle is the counting of things. Whether it is how many miles you walked, or how many calories are in that salad, it can get overwhelming. Especially if you are not a numbers person, or have a hard time reading tiny labels. So, is there some sort of system in place that can appeal to common nutritional sense, and help you make better food choices overall? Luckily, there was something that exists to help you generally get in the right mindset without having to overcalculate. The measurement of caloric density.

The Nature of Calories

What is caloric density?  First, before we introduce the concept, you want to understand the very nature of calories.

We know that calories are a unit of energy that we get from food. And we do need them to survive because we naturally burn them to a degree. However, there is only so much that we can naturally burn off. Our bodies for the most part, when they reach physical maturity need about 2,000 calories for sustainability. Any more than that and we store it in our bodies as auxiliary energy for times of starvation, aka fat. Any less and our bodies will lose mass through starvation.

So, where does caloric density come in?  It comes in when you try to balance getting enough nutrients, feeling full, and not adding unnecessary calories to the mix.

Aside: Higher Caloric Density means Less Satiety

Not only does it add unnecessary units of energy away that get stored as fat, but it also decreases the chances of satiety. Because not only are foods with a higher density have a higher calorie count, they are not usually filling. High-calorie counts attach themselves the most to oils and sugars. Things with a higher fiber count and are harder to digest often offer little in the way of caloric density.

Since when have you ever heard of a person feeling full after eating a chocolate bar? You wouldn’t.

The Density Scale

caloric density scale

When something is dense, we usually picture something that is thick or super heavy. Like a metal block that is so tightly packed it’s hard to pick up. This is because density is a scientific word related to the measurement of weight and volume.  So when you put the words together and try to relate it to food, you realize that the term “caloric density” is the amount of volume in a serving of food.

When the density is on the higher end of the scale, that means there are more calories in a serving of food. When the density is on the lower end of the scale, then there are a lot fewer calories on the scale per serving.

The scale itself is more simple and possibly effective compared to calorie counting when it comes to weight management. It is also can help people eat more filling portions overall, while still decreasing caloric intake.  This is the science that often is behind the “points” system of weight watchers.

And it is effective. According to healthline.comSeveral studies have shown that individuals who consume low-calorie-density diets also eat fewer total calories per day. This is linked to lower body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. ”

But caloric density is not just limited to the type of food that exists.

Cooking Processes and Caloric Density

Calories are not just a byproduct of food content. They also change by the cooking process.  For instance, according to a nutritionist article, “Frying a food increases its caloric density 3.5 times more. One serving of boiled potato contains only 0.87 calories per gram but one serving of french fries contains 3.07 calories per gram.”

And this isn’t just limited to frying, “Dehydrating fruit is a good way to increase its density by almost 5 times more! Raisins contain 5 times more calories per serving than grapes (and they are the same fruit).”

Cooking methods can not only change the composition of vitamins and minerals in a food item but can also add to the caloric density into a type of food.  It is why fried foods triple the caloric density of the food. It is also why many a nutritionist, scientists, and people who understand how it works talk about how bad fast food is for you.

Rules of Thumb for Caloric Density

The fact is, we could easily reverse our country’s exploding health care budget if we threw out all the calorie counters and followed a simple calorie density chart. There are just three key rules:

    1. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the better.
    2. For at least 90 percent of your daily diet, stick Vegetables, Fruits, Whole Grains, Legumes, and Nonfat Dairy
    3. Pick one food from the meat category(seafood, lean poultry, lean red meat) – and no more than 4 ounces a day – to keep your arteries in good shape.

Are you looking for a nutritionist in the Huntsville, AL area? Feel free to click on the pop-up and contact Bekah at www.beksbites.com.

Ube – The Purple Yam of the Philippines

What are Purple Yams?

There are a variety of interesting if not outright exotic fruits and vegetables in the world. For instance, most schools in America teach that carrots are yellow or orange, not blue. But blue carrots indeed exist. We know that sweet potatoes have a variety of colors, as well as corn and various other fruits and vegetables.  However, have you heard of a purple yam?  Well, I didn’t until today. What makes them purple? Do they have extra nutritional benefits compared to other tubers? What is a good comparison for it? Let’s take a look at them.

Ube – The Purple Yam of the Philippines

When people talk about purple yams, they are often referring to Dioscorea alata. This is a staple crop in Austronesian cultures, specifically the islands of Southeast Asia. According to Wikipedia, “Based on archaeological evidence of early farming plots and plant remains in the Kuk Swamp site, authors have suggested that it was first domesticated in the highlands of New Guinea from around 10,000 BP and spread into Island Southeast Asia via the Lapita culture at around c. 4,000 BP. ”

It is not that much different from sweet potatoes or taro. It is easy to confuse them for the variety of purple yam that is also found in Okinawa, Japan. The difference lies in the color of the flesh. The flesh color of an Okinawa variety is white, while the Philippino variety, or Ube,  has purple flesh that matches the insides.

It is still the most important crop in Southeastern Asia, today. Specifically the Philippines, where it is the main ingredient for modern desserts.

Purple yams are edible ‘tubers’ with a mildly sweet/earthy and nutty taste. According to chefs, who have worked with this as an ingredient, “Larger yams are generally much sweeter than smaller versions, and if a yam has wintered over properly, the starches break down into sugars making the sweet vanilla flavor much more pronounced.” They are often converted into jams and pastes called halaya and are put in bread and even can be a flavor in ice cream.

But that barely scratches the surface of what it can do. This is thanks to the nutrition it offers as a whole.

purple yamPurple Yam Nutrition

The purple yam (Ube) is a starchy root vegetable that’s a great source of carbs, potassium, and vitamin C.

One cup (100 grams) of cooked Ube provides the following :

  • Calories: 140
  • Carbs: 27 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0.1 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Sodium: 0.83% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Potassium: 13.5% of the DV
  • Calcium: 2% of the DV
  • Iron: 4% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 40% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 4% of the DV

They are also rich in powerful plant compounds and antioxidants. Including anthocyanins, which give them their vibrant hue.  This is the same type of pigmentation we have seen in red cabbages, blueberries, and flower petals.

But that isn’t all they do. They can help promote gut health overall.

The amount of fiber and resistant starches that are common in purple yams are beneficial enough to help the digestive system. This is common for most starchy fruits and vegetables. But what makes ube unique was that it increased the level of beneficial bacteria in the gut. One test-tube study showed that resistant starch from purple yams increased the number of Bifidobacteria, a type of beneficial gut bacteria, in a simulated large bowel environment. That is a pretty powerful vegetable.

Why it is Trending Now

We understand that it is beneficial for our health, but why is the word about this ultraviolet tuber just now reaching the US? For starters, native-born Philippine chefs and business owners are introducing this into their culinary profile. The advantage that the uniqueness of an exotic fruit or vegetable can bring is not lost on people trying to make their way through a culinary career.  Another thing that is bringing its attention is the paleo diet movement. The idea of eating things that would have most likely existed in the Paleolithic era is why there is a paleo diet, and this tuber would technically qualify.

Another reasoning behind why this is getting popular in the United States is the new trend of “unicorn” fad. Foods included, there has been an uptick in a unicorn trend with the use of vibrant colors, glitters and pastels. So, it would make sense to use the natural purple pigment of the ube to make magical food. Either way, its making the rounds as a very useful and popular yam.

Ask a Nutritionist: Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Ask a Nutritionist: Anti-Inflammatory Foods

It is not easy to deal with a chronic condition. Whether you come upon it from old age or poor past nutrition, it can be frustrating to live with. Arthritis, IBS, asthma, hepatitis, and all other inflammatory diseases can sap your energy, reduce your quality of life, and just cause a lot of frustration. However, while there is not always a cure for chronic conditions, there are ways that they can be managed. A healthy diet will at the very least decrease inflammation issues down the road and will give you more good days than bad ones. So, what can you do to at least give yourself more good days than bad ones? Here are some foods that nutritionists say has anti-inflammatory properties that can help.


Foods with Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Olive and Flaxseed Oil

Not a lot of people talk about the difference between oils that are good for you, and those that are not. Most people tend to write off fat or oils as something bad for you and tend to leave it at that. But not all oils are the same.  It all boils down to the type of fat that resides in the oil. In the case of olive oil and flaxseed oil, both contain omega 3 fatty acids. These are essential to heart health.  In fact, they are associated with reduced inflammation, improved heart health and protection for the brain against aging.

Olive oil also has something called oleic acid. This specifically reduces inflammation. There have also been studies involving beneficial effects against certain cancers.

If you can, add olive oil in your cooking, this might help in the fight against chronic inflammation.

Salmon and other Fatty Fish

The reason this is good for anti-inflammatory diets is the same as the reasons for olive oils. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna have the same omega -3 fatty acids. They also have the added benefit of protein and can even decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke.

While there is a potential risk of mercury from some fish, it is minimal if you are careful about where you get them from.  If you limit your intake of fish to 3.5 ounces to at least twice a week and eat a variety of types, you are much less likely to get mercury intake issues.

Five of the most commonly eaten fish or shellfish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

Green, Leafy, Vegetables

anti-inflammatory foods

While this is a no brainer where a healthy diet is concerned, not many people realize why it is good anti-inflammatory food. Not only do they include fiber to keep you regular, but they also have folate and vitamin K. The vitamin and mineral combination is enough to decrease the rate of cognitive decline. With only 1-2 servings a day! So if you are worried about Alzheimer’s or any other inflammation issues that affect brain functions.  According to the studies,” The consumption of green leafy vegetables, including spinach, kale, collards, and lettuce, had the strongest association with slowed cognitive decline. ”

So, add leafy greens to your diet if you want their anti-aging properties.

Herbs and Spices

Not only are they good for making bland dishes more exciting but a lot of them have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric and Ginger, for example. They are proven from studies to be anti-inflammatory.  There are quite a few herbs and spices that are common in most cooking that also have anti-inflammatory properties. Garlic, a commonly known one, has glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that helps drive down the inflammation in the body.

Another is oregano. Oregano has antioxidants and a micronutrient called carvacrol. Carvacrol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.  The list of spices that have anti-inflammatory properties is a mile long. These include cinnamon, cumin, chili peppers, clove, rosemary, and sage. Any nutritionist would recommend adding these to your daily diet.


An anti-inflammatory diet is not hard to follow, and there are plenty of foods that can give you the benefits you need. While it might require some changes, such as limiting sugar, salt, and refined carbohydrates from the daily diet, the results can work wonders.  If you have any questions or are just unfamiliar with coming up with a long-term nutrition plan, feel free to contact us! An involved nutritionist will not only help you find what you are looking for but will walk with you every step of the way.