Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Powers of Pesto

Of all the pasta sauces to chose from, I always stick with my favorite - PESTO! I used to be concerned that I was adding too much fat to my pasta dishes, but then I learned of all the health benefits of this delicious basil sauce. The majority of fat in pesto is monounsaturated (the good kind) and ALL of its ingredients have many health benefits!

* Lowers blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol
* Prevents atherosclerosis
* Reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke
* Serves as an antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory
* Acts as a potent antibiotic
* Fights cancer
* Protects against the side effects of diabetes
* Helps prevent weight gain
* Provides antioxidant protection

Olive Oil
* Contains monounsaturated fatty acids
* Contains antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, and Vitamin E
* Reduces the risk of atherosclerosis
* Increases HDL (good) cholesterol
* Helps fight against colon cancer and heart disease
* Reduces inflammation.

* Contains flavonoids that protect cells from radiation and oxidative damage
* Wards off unwanted bacteria
* Has anti-inflammatory properties
* Serves as a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A

Parmesan Cheese
* Serves as a good source of calcium and protein
* Easy to digest
* Helps maintain healthy bones and teeth
* Helps prevents osteoporosis
* Supports normal cardiovascular, thyroid, and muscular functioning
* Consuming 1,500 mg of calcium a day makes the cells less likely to store fat

Pine Nuts
* Contain high concentration of monounsaturated fat
* Improve CV system
* Contain Vitamins A, D and C
* Improve body's ability to absorb calcium
* Strengthen bones and teeth
* Sharpen vision
* Boost the immune system

* In NY, pesto is pretty expensive, and it ends up being much cheaper to make your own. Check out the recipe page for a quick and easy pesto recipe!

** For store bought pesto, make sure you check the label and try to avoid any added ingredients.

*** Stay tuned for a post on the many health benefits of tomato sauce!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


After watching the Oscars, I'm sure you all have a giant list of movies to watch. So, before you run out to catch them in the theater, let me warn you - movie theater popcorn is consistently listed on the Top Ten Worst Food List. Movie popcorn is typically popped in Coconut oil, which is an unhealthy choice because of its high levels of saturated fat.

Here is the fat and calorie breakdown of the different sizes offered at AMC, United Artists, and Cineplex Odeon theaters:
Kid size serving: 14-22 grams saturated fat out of 20-37 grams total fat; 300-472 cal
Small popcorn: 19-29 grams of saturated fat out of 27-50 grams total fat; 398-632 cal
Medium popcorn: 31-56 grams of saturated fat out of 43-97 grams total fat; 647-1,221 cal
Large bucket: 55-73 grams of saturated fat out of 77-126 grams total fat; 1,161- 1,642 cal

Keep in mind, for a typical 2,000 calorie daily diet, your total fat intake should be below 65 grams, of which, saturated fat should be less than 20 grams. Only the kid size popcorn would keep you in these limits if it is all the fat you ate that day.

Out of all the theaters, AMC serves the smallest servings that have slightly less fat and calories. Some AMC theaters pop their popcorn in Canola Shortening which has only 361 calories for a small with 7 grams saturated fat out of 22 grams total fat; 627 calories for a medium with 12 grams saturated fat out of 38 grams total fat; and their large is 850 calories with 16 grams saturated fat out of 52 grams total fat. While this is the best option, it is still not a healthy choice. But, if you cannot resist the temptation, at least avoid adding the extra butter topping which can add 10-18 grams saturated fat to your bucket.

*As an alternative, try sneaking in a healthier snack, going out to eat before, or chewing gum. If you can't walk by the concession stand empty handed, grab yourself an unnecessarily large and expensive diet coke instead.

**For watching movies at home, try air popping your popcorn! Microwaveable popcorn may contain carcinogens.

***Popcorn is a whole grain snack that is a good source of fiber and antioxidants if you do not bury it in butter. Try experimenting with your spices to find an alternative to butter-flavored popcorn. See the recipe link for new ideas!