In this week’s nutrition news: another reason to eat chocolate; acid reflux doctor cautions against late-night eating; and nutrition labels are poised for a major makeover.
We all get cravings, but when they come in the form of high-sugar and calorie-dense foods, it’s our waistlines that suffer the consequences. But understanding the messages behind cravings can make it easier to resist the siren call of certain foods.
Why We Crave
One theory as to why we crave specific foods so intensely is that the body is deficient in a nutrient that food contains. For example, we desperately crave potato chips because our body is in need of salt. This theory, unfortunately, lacks scientific evidence to back it up.
One sure way to avoid the highly processed add-ins found in many protein bars is to turn out a batch using your own ingredients and a boost of protein powder. A word on that front: You’ll want a protein powder low in added and artificial sweeteners. Whey, which is dairy-based, is one good option, but there are multiple types of powders on the market (some decent, some less than — so it’s wise to take a close look at ingredients).
Banana Chocolate-Chip Protein Bars
Makes 12 bars
Refreshing, ice-cold and perfectly sweet, this drink is actually more like a shake than a smoothie. Made with nut milk and coconut ice cream, it has all of the components of a classic shake but without the dairy — although the coconut ice cream is so rich and creamy, you would never know.
Get Me a Spatula, Stat!
Last weekend,the Napa Valley branch of the Culinary Institute of America hosted hundreds of physicians for a medical meeting involving kitchen aprons, not lab coats. The draw was the Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives conference, co-sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and part of a quickly growing trend of culinary-medical cross-pollination. Come May, for example, Tulane University will debut the country’s first teaching kitchen affiliated with a medical school. In New York, meanwhile, celebrity chefs David Bouley and Seamus Mullen have been working with doctors Mark Hyman and Frank Lipman, respectively, to develop menu items and eating philosophies representing a drool-worthy intersection of pantry and pharmacy. (Wild mushrooms with white truffle, sweet garlic, grilled toro and coconut foam, anyone?) Fueling the trend is some pretty delicious research: In one recent study of a nonprofit program, patients whose doctors wrote them “prescriptions” to redeem at local farmers markets saw their BMI drop by an average of 37.8% in a single year.
True, true — honesty is the most important part of any relationship. But what’s a little white lie here and there? Or what about a dark, chocolate-smothered lie? It sounds sinful, but here’s the deal: All of these Valentine’s Day chocolate desserts are — wait for it — secretly healthy. They are also all suspiciously delicious, so who’s to know?
Score One More for Chocolate?
A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating more foods containing flavonoids may offer protection against type 2 diabetes. Researchers analyzed close to 2,000 questionnaires completed by women between the ages of 18 and 76 and found that those who ate the most anthocyanins and flavones — varieties of flavonoids found in berries, red grapes and yes, chocolate and wine — had the lowest insulin resistance. England’s National Health Service website was quick to point out the study’s limitations and warn everyone not to go overboard on chocolate and red wine just yet. (Fair enough.)
It’s hard to beat the decadence of chocolate truffles, but they’re not always as sinful as they might seem. These homemade ones have about 50 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat and 5 grams of sugar apiece. Best of all, the chocolate treats are far easier to create than you might think, making them an ideal last-minute gift.
When I was a little girl, chocolate-covered matzo was a prized dessert. With 5 siblings and a dad who all love chocolate, it was tough to get a piece! As a mom, instead of purchasing store-bought for my family I make my own and jazz it up with some fun kosher-for-Passover flavors.
Food Safety Note
These rum balls have been modified from the version my mom made when I was younger. The original version calls for a raw egg (the batter isn’t cooked). To make these rum balls kid-friendly and adhere to prevent salmonella, I use a pasteurized whole egg and swapped in rum extract for the real stuff. This means the egg was heat treated to kill pathogens, though it looks like any other raw egg. Many markets carry them—look for the word “pasteurized” on the label.