Thursday, December 23, 2010

Breakfast: Cinnamon, Smoked Salmon Kale and Eggs

Cinnamon, Smoked Salmon Kale and Eggs

Breakfast worth licking the plate over.  Have you had that in awhile?  Well, here is my answer to the "You can eat eggs every day?" question: Yes.  Yes, I can.  Because they are that damned good.  And I can change them up in an infinite number of ways if I grow bored.  But I haven't yet.

Today's recipe comes from the advice of my acupuncturist to eat more dark, leafy greens to "build my blood." Whether that makes sense or not, dark, leafy greens are unquestionably good for you and nourishing, so I take that advice and run with it.  I'm on a low-carb, paleo-style diet, so it's mostly meat and veggies for me.  This breakfast fits perfectly into my life and I love it.

Why Breakfast? 

Why am I focusing on breakfast with the Holiday Season so plastered on every available venue online and abound? Because it is the simplest way to start your day right and set up your body, especially your  blood sugar, for a day that might not be as "on the diet" as you hope.  Tis the season for indulgence and this breakfast will taste like an indulgence without actually being one, which leaves more room for real indulgences worth the cheat later on.

Some others who follow a similar diet might point to intermittent fasting as a great way to start a day, indulgence later or not, and that's also valid for some.  But for me, personally, my blood sugar is temperamental and I hit low, lows if I skip breakfast.  It's so much so that I can't help but overeat for at least the rest of that day, if not a few days.  Therefore, breakfast is key, at least for me.  My advice is if you are going to eat breakfast: start your day on the right foot with nourishment as your fuel!

Why Cinnamon?

I'm addicted to cinnamon, that's why ;)  Truth be told, Ceylon Cinnamon is a more subtle, fruitier cinnamon that doesn't pose the same over-dose warnings as Cassia based cinnamon (the most common cinnamon you can find, regretfully).  Read my last treatise on the topic here: Apple of My Eye.  I found my Ceylon Cinnamon through mail order from The Spice House and just love it.  

It's hard to say if  Ceylon Cinnamon has the same benefits as Cassia-based cinnamon, but here is the World's Healthiest Food's rundown on cinnamon.  I specifically like the anti-microbial properties and blood sugar moderation.  

For this recipe, Ceylon Cinnamon just adds a great flavor that catches the sweetness of the salmon and butter.  It delights the senses and adds an earthy, wintry spark. 

A delicious Christmas gift from Aunt Kathy--thank you!

Why Smoked Salmon?

Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a national treasure and still on the Best Choice list for salmon by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch List.  Salmon is chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, B vitamins, and protein.  It's notable for promoting heart health, being anti-inflammatory, protecting against cancer, benefiting cognitive function, and more.  For more on it's incredible benefits, check out the World's Healthiest Foods: Salmon page--it's a long one!  

Try to find wild-caught, Alaskan smoked salmon without the sugars and nitrates if possible.  NOTE: you might want to reduce your high dosage omega-3 fish oil when you eat a lot of fish or else you run into the upper limit digestive tract nasties.  If you have been there, you know it isn't pretty! :)

Why Kale?

Kale is delicious and nutritious. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, CALCIUM, and over-rated fiber, this veggie is a superfood.  It is known for fighting and preventing cancer and detoxifying your body. As for blood building, it has iron, B vitamins, and folate, plus that detoxifying effect.  For more information on kale's benefits, check out this resource: World's Healthiest Foods: Kale.

And check out my previous recipes:

Why Eggs?

OMG, do you have to ask?  They are perfect little packages of everything you need from an animal food, including protein (ALL the essential aminos), fat (yes, the healthy kind), and some other beneficial stuff like vitamins, minerals, and cholesterol (Yes, that's a good thing.  If you don't know that, read this short list of cholesterol facts from the author of The Cholesterol Myths).

There are a couple potential downsides to eggs.  One is the antinutrients in the egg white.  No, not it's heart disease risk, silly.  That's an old dietician's tale.  Read this from Eat Wild:

Eating eggs does not appear to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke
Cutting back on egg consumption has been widely recommended as a way to lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent coronary heart disease. Is this valid advice? Recently, researchers took a close look at the egg-eating habits and heart health of 118,000 men and women. The scientists reported that "we found no evidence of an overall significant association between egg consumption and risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] in either men or women." In fact, they found that people who ate from 5 to 6 eggs per week had a lower risk of heart disease than those who ate less than one egg per week.
One wonders what the scientists would find if they looked at the heart health of those lucky people who eat eggs from pastured hens?
(Hu, F. B., M. J. Stampfer, et al. (1999). "A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women." JAMA 281(15): 1387-94.)
So back to the egg white.  Read The Incredible, Edible Egg for more on why eggs whites are INFERIOR to egg yolks.  So people who say they are having egg white omelets for their health are grossly misinformed to put it lightly.

And here is a counterpoint to the arachadonic acid (AA) being a "benefit." This is what Whole Health Source had to say about omega-3 eggs:

Eggs are an exceptionally nutritious food, as are all foods destined to nourish a growing animal. However, one concern lies in eggs' high concentration of arachidonic acid (AA), a long-chain omega-6 fat that is the precursor to many eicosanoids. Omega-6 derived eicosanoids are essential molecules that are involved in healing, development and defense. Some of them are inflammatory mediators that can contribute to disease when present in excess. Eggs are one of the main sources of AA in the modern diet.
Not everyone has access to pastured eggs. "Omega-3 eggs" come from hens fed an omega-3 enriched diet*. Not only do they have a much higher omega-3 content than conventional eggs, they also contain less AA [. One study found that omega-3 eggs contain 39% less AA than conventional and organic eggs. Omega-3 eggs were also rich in short- and long-chain omega-3 fats. Omega-3 eggs are certainly not nutritionally equivalent to pastured eggs, but they're a step in the right direction. 
I don't really know if the AA content of eggs is a concern. Eicosanoid biology is complex and it doesn't like to fit into simple models. I'll look forward to seeing more research on the matter. In the meantime, I'll be eating pastured eggs, and when they're not available I'll eat omega-3 eggs.
*Typically from flax seeds, but some operations also use seaweed. The hens in the paper I cited were fed flax. The hens managed to convert a substantial portion of the alpha-linolenic acid into the important animal fat DHA, and presumably EPA although it was not measured.

Ah, but the controversy isn't over!  There is also the issue of the omega-3 'enrichedness' of eggs.  Robb Wolf and other esteemed sources like the omega-3 enriched because the chickens are fed flax, algae, and/or fish oil, so their eggs are chock full of omega-3s.  The ratio of EPA, DHA, and ALA might vary by source, but you probably should be getting your omega-3s by fish and fish oil anyhow.  

However, just when I thought omega-3 enriched eggs were second only to naturally pastured, Dr. Mercola burst my bubble.  He says that omega-3 enriched eggs result from chickens fed RANCID flax, so they are LESS healthy than regular pastured eggs.  According to Dr. Mercola we should avoid omega-3 eggs because they oxidize faster and don't last as long as other eggs.  ARGH!  

So the oxidation concerns may be legit, but I couldn't find other vocal sources demonizing omega-3 eggs.  Have you? 

So, I'll take eating the whole egg of pastured chickens when I can get them, or omega-3 enriched organic, pastured, free-range, cage-free, hippie-dippie store brand when I can't.  But then, whether oxidized or not when I get them, I am no egg saint because I cook them scrambled or fried.  I KNOW, KNOW--the overcooked egg is creating free radicals that are going to kill me, but damn it, I don't like runny, wet eggs.  I'm sorry.  I'll find the best quality eggs I can and I'll take a hit on the cooking method.  Sorry.  If you want to be a better human being, don't overcook them like me :)

And looks like I am not alone.  How to cook eggs, according to Robb Wolf:
..over medium or soft boiled is likely best. Love scrambled however. Keep the flame kinda low, use plenty of olive oil (antioxidants in there) and enjoy IMO. I may be wrong but I doubt this poses a significant risk with regards to oxidized fats.
Of course, I have read contrary advice on olive oil--that it should only be used to flavor food upon serving, never used for cooking.  So the moral of the story is: you are probably going to find someone out there that disagrees with everything you do.  Suck it up and make your choices based upon as much information as you can, plus a little faith that eating a real food diet MOST of the time with meat and veggies, nuts and seeds and healthy fat, some fruit and dairy if you want it, a little starch, and no sugar will do you infinitely more good than the stress involved in splitting hairs over every detail. :)

Why Butter?

Why not?  You don't actually still believe the saturated fat myth, do you?  Mark's Daily Apple has a great summary of that argument.  

I went with Kerrygold butter today because my local source of Organic Pastures Raw Grassfed Butter just can't keep up with the demand and the stores are always out of stock (or maybe it's another reason--but I can't reliably find it anymore).  Kerrygold is pasteurized, boo, but the cows are pastured, yay.  Here is more info from The Nourishing Gourmet.  You should have seen my beaming smile when I read in Robb Wolf's book: The Paleo Solution that I could partake in butter without being a paleo rebel.  He says: 

So, what's the story with butter? It's dairy, right? Therefore on the Paleo "no fly" list? Well, butter is dairy; it can present some problems for folks with autoimmunity because of the milk protein content and lectins that are still a part of the butter. Sorry hippies, even clarified butter (ghee) is a problem. I would, however, put grass-fed butter on the "occasional" list. The fatty acid profile is better (lower in palmitic, much higher in CLA) and the antioxidant content is nothing short of impressive. Butter is mainly fat, so if we clean up the lectin problem, and push the fatty acid profile toward that of healthful grass-fed varieties, it's tough to build much of a case against grass-fed butter unless you have autoimmunity. See, I'm not a zealot after all.

The Weston Price Foundation LOVES butter too.  Read more about it here: 

Whole Health Source got me on the butter kick with its article on vitamin K2 from butter. 

So without further ado, here is the recipe!

Cinnamon, Smoked Salmon Kale and Eggs 
Butter makes this breakfast lip-smacking delicious, but the players: kale, eggs, cinnamon, and smoked salmon make this nourishing fuel.  Way to start your day!

Cooking Time: 15min start to finish including preparation

Quantity: play around with the quantities to get the desired serving size for each diner.  I usually have a couple of eggs and ounce or two or salmon.  That'll satisfy me well into the afternoon. 

  • Pastured Butter (grass-fed, raw if possible), salted or just add a pinch of salt to taste 
  • Kale to cover the bottom of the skillet for each diner such as 2-3 stalks each of curly kale and purple kale, use any variety of kale/chard as you like--as much or as little as you want, remember: it cooks down
  • Pastured eggs (or omega-3 enriched, organic, free-range, cage-free, etc.)
  • Ceylon Cinnamon (note: if you aren't a cinnamon lover, just omit this, I won't be offended ;) )


Start the skillet over medium heat and melt a pat of butter till the bubbles subside and it starts to darken.  Meanwhile, tear the kale greens into bite-sized hunks from the woodier parts of the stems and rinse in warm to hot water to start the cooking process.  Squeeze them dry and add them to the melted butter in the skillet.  Stand back and watch out for popping if your greens were wet!

Give the kale some time to wilt and then turn them.  Once you feel they are pretty tender (5min give or take), remove them from the pan.  Alternatively, you can try to spread them out to the sides of the skillet and create a well in the middle for the eggs to cook.  Start a little earlier so the greens don't overcook, if so.

Add more butter to the skillet, wait till the bubbling stops and add eggs.  Cook your eggs as you desire them and sprinkle cinnamon on them if desired.  Remove the eggs (and kale if you had it in there) and add a bit more butter, melt it, and add the salmon.  Stir until you warm the salmon.  I don't normally cook the salmon before the eggs and scramble them together because it dries out the salmon too much.  I rather just a warming in hot butter :)

Once the salmon is done, pour it on top of the eggs, making sure you get ALL of the remaining butter from the pan.  Sprinkle some more cinnamon on top if desired.  Serve 'um up--one delicious, heart-heathy, brain-healthy, fuel-for-your-body meal that'll keep you satisfied for many hours to come!

And go on, lick the plate.  I won't tell :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Slow Cookin' My Way to Delicious

I know, I know--it's been awhile. In the last recipe post I made: Broiled Bacon-Fat Smeared Broccolini, I made the case for how I eat so simply, there's no recipe required. When you are eating meals with simply a meat, a vegetable, and some fat, there's not much to blog about. The old standbys of carnitas, grass-fed beef steaks, grass-fed beef burgers, rotisserie chicken, and turkey breast are all my go-tos. And that's okay. Most of us don't live our lives with something new at every meal. If you like something, you eat it often until you get sick of it. Most people rotate their meals around just a few different varieties. And that's okay as long as you're trying to get a good variety of healthy foods on your rotation. If a recipe is good enough to keep your attention and appetite for quite some time, that's a winner!

Since I HATE cooking late in the evening when I get home after work, I've found myself relying on store bought meals too often. Sure, they can be satisfying paleo-style eats, but it gets tiresome and expensive. I was looking for something new to try when slow cookers caught my eye. I had always thought of them as a fire hazard and never dreamed of leaving something plugged in and cooking all day alone with the cats while I was out and about. But then I realized I could cook something overnight and everything changed. I went with Consumer Search reviews and bought a slow cooker.

Wow, with just a little prep at night and no fuss cooking while I'm sleeping, I have food for a good few days. And the best part--it's freakin' delicious!

My first recipe was a chicken following fellow paleo/primal blogger (who btw is awesome--check out the linked website for fantastic recipes!) The Nutty Kitchen's recipe for Crock Pot Spiced Whole Chicken. OMG it was amazing!  I loved the spice combination and the hearty stew-like sauce it made without any added liquid.  You HAVE to try this recipe!  I fell head over heels for my slow cooker :)

My second attempt was a pot roast. I was thinking of doing onion soup since the onions came out so terrific in the chicken recipe, but onions and I have a hard time getting along. I've tried glasses, contacts, and even my old chemistry goggles, but I still have a hard time cutting them or even being the house with them once they are cut.  I am streaming for the rest of the evening while dinner cooks, even if I wasn't even in the room while they were being cut.  Not fun.

So I had a defrosted Morris Grassfed chuck roast and not much else.  Time to pull something together: MacGyver-style.  Since I had recently marinated a grass-fed flank steak in cilantro and lime juice, I had some leftover limes and chopped cilantro. We always have some coconut milk lurking around the cabinets, so that was an easy pairing for a coconut curry. Thai red curry paste was hiding in the fridge and I had just enough to create a little paste. The garlic packets are now my go-to for easy garlic prep (don't hate me). I threw everything in and realized I forgot to cut the roast to get more flavor into the thick hunk of meat. So sliced it in the pot (carefully! without scratching the pot), rubbed it all around with my hands to moosh the milk and seasoning all together into all the nooks and crannies, then closed the lid.  It took all of five minutes. Yay!

I looked at the slow cooker directions for chuck roast and decided it was somewhere between beef roast (which was 4hrs on Low) and brisket (which was 8hrs on Low). Six hours was perfectly tender and cooked with an aroma that filled the house, giving the "OMG that smells so good it made me hungry" response from my husband every time he went outside and came back inside.  Cool!

That lasted us a good week having it sporadically with lunches and dinners so as not to get tired of it. The sauce was AMAZING sopped up in cilantro-lime cauliflower rice and served in a bowl with a spoon like a stew.  I even sopped it up with broiled bacon-fat smeared broccolini (I could have that every dinner)!  So we tried the recipe a second time, being more diligent with the prep and using a different, tougher cut of meat to see how it works and....perfection! The roast is outstanding once again. Try it yourself!

Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Pot Roast
Lip-smacking delicious--this is juicy, tender, shred-able beef fit for a feast!

Prep Time: 5-10min
Cooking Time: 6hrs on Low (or according to your own slow cooker's directions)

1 can of coconut milk (NOT light)
1/2 bunch of washed, chopped cilantro
1-2 limes, juiced
2T Thai red curry paste (make sure the ingredients fit the bill, I used Thai Kitchen brand)
3 packets (more or less, your choice) of garlic (or about 20+ cloves)
3-4 (or more) -lb grass-fed beef roast (sirloin and chuck have worked well), deeply scored for more surface area
NOTE: despite being a curry, this one is very mild on the spiciness--if you want to liven it up, try adding some heat yourself (more/hotter curry paste, hot peppers, cayenne, etc.).

After you have the ingredients prepped, make a paste of the curry and lime juice so you can smear it over the roast (nooks and crannies too!).  Add the garlic and insert into the deep cuts in the roast (it'll melt like but-tah--oh yeah!).  Sprinkle on the cilantro and shove some in the pockets of the roast.  Now pour on the coconut milk.  Lid.  Walk away for six hours and return to deliciousness!

Note: most slow cookers change to warm after their cook time, so it's best to make this right before you go to bed.  Then, when you wake up, you can turn it off and cool it on the counter before whacking it in the refrigerator before you leave for work.  When you return home, the sauce will have congealed a bit, but some heat will melt it all back into a savory, deliciously rich sauce and warm that meat for shred-able delight.  Serve with a spoon as a stew or over Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice (recipe below) to sop up that flavor.  Yum!

Leftovers will last covered/sealed in the refrigerator for a week.

Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice
I was trying to replicate Chipotle's cilantro-lime rice and it works--quite tasty and a great accompaniment to the roast for sopping up the delicious curry sauce!

Prep Time: 15min (or less)
Cook Time: 15min (or less)

1 lime (or more to taste)
1/2 bunch washed, chopped cilantro
1 small head of cauliflower / half a large head per diner (more or less depending upon taste)
salt to taste

For my basic recipe, check out Kristy's Cauliflower Rice.  Here is a derivative:

Wash the cauliflower and break into small florets. Food process them in small batches, looking for the cauliflower to stick to the sides and the blade to spin freely (it tells you when it's done!).  Once done with all the batches, you can either cook with the cilantro, lime, and salt in a skillet or microwave in a covered container until softer and less smelly (cauliflower smells strongly once cut--try to cook it or freeze it at once, seal it up tight, and eat it quickly or your entire house will smell pretty sulfurous). The time it takes depends on your preference for doneness and how much you are trying to cook at once, but it's usually no more than 15min max for large batches.  Stir periodically during the cooking.

Alternatively, you can pre-cook halfway and freeze until you need it.  Then, just defrost, squeeze out some accumulated water or drain, and add the seasonings and cook briefly.  Since cauliflower rice is so messy (those little bits get EVERYWHERE), I like to make a whole bunch and freeze what I don't immediately need.  Timesaver!

So there you have it--a meal that takes very little time to prepare and feeds you and your friends/family heartily or lasts you a good few dinners and lunches.  For me, a slow cooker definitely earns its keep, helping me break out of the "I don't feel like cooking" slump and reinvigorating my paleo-style meals.  I highly recommend it!

Oh and in case you haven't seen me on Facebook--please follow the link in my sidebar and friend me for updates and connecting back and forth!

I'm also included on the weekly Paleo Rodeo graciously hosted by Modern Paleo when I get my post together in time.  Check it out for some fantastic recipes and paleo/primal discussions.  Thanks for hosting, Diana!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What To Drink Part 5: Chocolate Milk for Recovery?

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
In our last installment in the What To Drink series, we discussed flavored milk and how schools are fighting a battle with the dairy industry to get added sugar out of their students' milk.  For more on the previous installments, please check them out: 

What's Wrong With Juice?
What's Wrong With Milk?  Part A 
What's Wrong With Milk?  Part B

What's Right With Milk?  Part A
What's Right With Milk?  Part B

The Flavored Milk Fiasco

Today, let's talk chocolate milk.  While we know that added sugars aren't great for anyone, especially if that added sugar is high fructose corn syrup, there are some proponents of chocolate milk.  Chocolate milk is actually used as a recovery drink after intense exercise.  Why?  It generally has a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein, which refuels the body with quick energy that opens the floodgates to bring protein into muscle cells for their replenishment and rebuilding.  

According to the study Chocolate Milk as a Post-Exercise Recovery Aid, published in 2006 in the Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, chocolate milk is just as effective as Gatorade for recovery after exhausting exercise.  Here is the summary of the study from WebMD:
In the study, nine male cyclists rode until their muscles were depleted of energy, then rested four hours and biked again until exhaustion. During the rest period, the cyclists drank low-fat chocolate milk, Gatorade, or Endurox R4. During a second round of exercise, the cyclists who drank the chocolate milk were able to bike about 50% longer than those who drank Endurox, and about as long as those who drank the Gatorade.
The findings suggest that chocolate milk has an optimal ratio of carbohydrates to protein to help refuel tired muscles, researcher Joel M. Stager, PhD, Indiana University kinesiology professor, tells WebMD.
But the most puzzling result of the study, experts say, was why Endurox -- which has the same carb-to-protein ratio as the chocolate milk -- fared so poorly. Researcher Jeanne D. Johnston, MA, tells WebMD it may have to do with the different composition of the sugars in the milk. Another theory is that the sugars in the milk may be better absorbed in the gut than those in the Endurox.
Despite the findings, there are some drawbacks:
1.  It was funded by the the Dairy and Nutrition Council, Inc.
2.  The sample size of 9 athletes is a bit small to make large conclusions.
3.  The study only looked at endurance athletes. 
4.  There was no control or placebo used to test against. 

Even taking into account these drawbacks, the researchers were on to something.  The conclusions still hold up after additional studies putting them to the test.  For example, a subsequent study along the same vein as the first was presented at the 2010 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) annual meeting.  Researchers looked at ten cyclists and included a double-blind, randomized design as well as a placebo control.  Their conclusion: 
Chocolate milk provided during recovery can improve subsequent time trial performance in trained cyclists more effectively than an isocaloric CHO [carbohydrate] supplement. This may be due to a faster rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis.
This is not an isolated case.  There have been a multitude of studies researching chocolate milk as a recovery aid.  While most still have small sample sizes and are funded by the dairy industry, the consensus is clear: chocolate milk does aid recovery at least as good as the protein-containing, high carbohydrate recovery sports drinks.  Need more evidence?  Here is some of the recent research (emphasis mine):

Chocolate Milk And Glycogen Replenishment After Endurance Exercise In Moderately Trained Males
CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that ingestion of fat-free chocolate milk following an endurance exercise bout supports glycogen replenishment to a greater extent than a non-nitrogenous, isocaloric beverage. (from 2010)
Endurance Exercise Tolerance as a Function of Fuel Replacement During Recovery
CONCLUSION: The high-calorie high-carbohydrate, cocoa containing beverages were more effective recovery aids as compared to low-carbohydrate, fluid replacement beverages and water. (from 2008) 
Effects Of Chocolate Milk Consumption On Leucine Kinetics During Recovery From Endurance Exercise 
CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest chocolate milk consumption during recovery from a moderate intensity run attenuates whole body protein breakdown compared to a carbohydrate beverage.  (from 2010)
Chocolate Milk Consumption Following Endurance Exercise Affects Skeletal Muscle Protein Fractional Synthetic Rate and Intracellular Signaling 
CONCLUSION: Chocolate milk consumption after an endurance exercise bout enhanced kinetic and translational outcomes of skeletal muscle protein synthesis during recovery. Athletes can consider fat-free chocolate milk as an economic nutritional alternative to other sports nutrition beverages to support post-endurance exercise skeletal muscle repair. (from 2010)
Effects Of Chocolate Milk Consumption On Markers Of Muscle Recovery During Intensified Soccer Training
CONCLUSIONS: Post-exercise CM [chocolate milk] consumption provided equal or possibly superior muscle recovery responses to an isocaloric, high-carbohydrate recovery beverage following a four-day period of intensified soccer training.  (from 2009)
Acute Effects Of Chocolate Milk And A Commercial Recovery Beverage On Post-exercise On Muscle Damage And Endurance Cycling Performance
CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate no difference between chocolate milk and this commercial beverage as potential recovery aids for cyclists between intense workouts. Comparatively, CHOC is more economical per serving while providing similar benefits in recovery. (from 2009)
Milk: the New Sports Drink? A Review 
There has been growing interest in the potential use of bovine milk as an exercise beverage, especially during recovery from resistance training and endurance sports. Based on the limited research, milk appears to be an effective post-resistance exercise beverage that results in favourable acute alterations in protein metabolism. Milk consumption acutely increases muscle protein synthesis, leading to an improved net muscle protein balance. Furthermore, when post-exercise milk consumption is combined with resistance training (12 weeks minimum), greater increases in muscle hypertrophy and lean mass have been observed. Although research with milk is limited, there is some evidence to suggest that milk may be an effective post-exercise beverage for endurance activities. Low-fat milk has been shown to be as effective, if not more effective, than commercially available sports drinks as a rehydration beverage. Milk represents a more nutrient dense beverage choice for individuals who partake in strength and endurance activities, compared to traditional sports drinks. Bovine low-fat fluid milk is a safe and effective post exercise beverage for most individuals, except for those who are lactose intolerant. Further research is warranted to better delineate the possible applications and efficacy of bovine milk in the field of sports nutrition. (from 2008)

Review of Chocolate Milk

Now, does chocolate milk offer THE BEST post-workout recovery?  To answer that, you need to weigh the pros and cons of chocolate milk.

  • It's an effective recovery drink after intense activity.
  • It's cheaper than sports drinks.
  • Liquid nutrition may be easier on the stomach after intense activity.
  • It's quicker to ingest and to digest. 
  • Chocolate stimulates the brain's pleasure center. 
  • Chocolate contains antioxidants and studies have shown it may promote heart health. 

  • Chocolate milk might not be necessary or as effective after ALL types of exercise.
  • It needs refrigeration.
  • It's highly processed, pasteurized and homogenized, and likely comes from cows fed an unhealthy, grain-based diet complete with hormones and antibiotics.
  • It's artificially sweetened with a quantity of sugar equivalent to a can of soda. 
  • The sugar is usually high fructose corn syrup, which leads down the road of fructose problems like fat storage, increased appetite, insulin resistance, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 
  • Dairy can bring a host of problems even to those not lactose-intolerant.  See Dr. Cordain's Paleo Diet Blog reasons for eliminating dairy. 
  • The Paleo Diet also discourages chocolate for being acidic and an allergen (perhaps not for the cocoa so much as the caffeine or additives like milk, soy, and grain-derived ingredients).  
  • One carton of chocolate milk might not be sufficient for recovery:
According to CrossFit Reno's post: Chocolate Milk: Recovery Drink??? Yes or No, a little chocolate milk may not provide enough replenishment.
According to Kristine Clark, Ph.D., R.D., director of Sports Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, the milk industry has gone to extreme efforts to convince the public, especially athletes, that chocolate milk is the "one and done" product for athletes to drink for muscle recovery. "And it's not," says Clark. 
Finally, Clark says that 8 to 12 ounces of chocolate milk will not be enough for recovery. An athlete working out for two to three hours would need more carbs and protein. In terms of protein, athletes engaging in endurance exercise typically need around 0.55 to 0.64 grams of protein per pound of body weight, while strength-training athletes may need 0.73 to 0.77 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Those doing recreational or moderate endurance and strength training only need 0.36 to 0.54 grams per pound of body weight. Clark also says that a college athletes training for two to three hours would need approximately 3 to 5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight to completely restore glycogen. While chocolate milk can contribute, it contains only 8 grams of protein and 36 grams of carbohydrates per 8 ounces.  

Real Food Instead

As an alternative, here are some post-workout recovery meal ideas:

Robb Wolf, nutrition guru and author of the newly released The Paleo Diet Solution
The Paleo Diet and Athletics, from his FAQ: 
  • For high-intensity aerobic or anaerobic sports: 4-8oz lean protein plus 50-100g paleo-friendly carbohydrates (ex. sweet potatoes, squash, fruit) within 30min after activity.
  • For sprinters and power athletes: cyclical low-carb diet of mostly lean protein, liberal fat, and low-density carbohydrates spiked with increased paleo-friendly carb sources once or twice a week. 
Also check out his posts: 
Post Workout Nutrition: High or Low Carb?
Post WO Nutrition

OPT (Optimum Performance Training)
Check out an elite CrossFitter and coach's take on pre- and post-workout fueling, from his FAQ. 
  • Have an empty stomach but drink fluids pre-workout for high-intensity, metabolic workouts and eat as you like for heavier, strength-based workouts.  
  • Similarly, if the workout was strength-based, a balanced meal of lean protein, fat, and carbohydrate after will likely suffice, but a more metabolically taxing workout needs more refueling with higher carbohydrate and lean protein the sooner after the workout, the better. 
Mark's Daily Apple
In Post-Workout Fasting, Mark Sisson author of The Primal Blueprint advocates a high protein snack within 30-60min of exercise or occasional post-workout fasting to capitalize on a rise in human growth hormone after exercise.  He also has more specific advice for those seeking to Gain Weight and Build Muscle.  In that case, he suggests eating protein and fat post-workout and high-density carbohydrate after high energy expenditure. 

The Bottom-line

In my opinion, real food trumps man-made food any day, just for the sake of being more true to nature and true to what you body expects from food.  So if you eat higher-glycemic carbohydrates (like sweet potatoes) in conjunction with some lean protein (like chicken or fish), you're likely to get the recovery you seek.  To be sure, start keeping a training log and be specific about amounts of food, type and duration of exercise, and how soon you refueled so that you can see the patterns.  If you want to give chocolate milk a try, log how you feel afterward.  Does it help you recover better, the same, or worse than other foods?  Only YOU can answer: What makes YOU feel your best? 

In a pinch, chocolate milk is great for recovery, especially if you make it yourself using quality ingredients like dark chocolate and raw, grass-fed milk (organic at the very least, and it looks like the less fat, the better when it comes to post WO milk), and perhaps eat some starchier vegetables on the side to get a greater carbohydrate kick.  While the chocolate milk definitely "works," whether or not you want to accept it and its baggage into your diet is your own choice. 

I'm interested in hearing your stories with milk and other post-workout nutrition!  What works best for you?

Keep checking back for more updates on other beverages to see how they size up with paleo-style living!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What To Drink Part 4: The Flavored Milk Fiasco

Credit to:

So back to What To Drink.  We started with juice:
What's Wrong With Juice?

Then, we covered milk, the good:
What's Right With Milk?  Part A
What's Right With Milk?  Part B

and the bad:
What's Wrong With Milk?  Part A
What's Wrong With Milk?  Part B

Today, let's take another look at milk as it relates to kids and schools.  

School Milk

Unfortunately, schools aren't likely to adopt raw milk in the near future.  There is just too much hype and fear about it.  Okay, that is a battle for another day, but what about the milk that is offered and is promoted.  What can we do about it?  

For one, we can make it organic and try to find the best sources for it as possible, i.e. healthy cows fed grass.  On Eat Wild there is a list of 100-Percent Grass-fed Dairies by state.  It would also do a world of good to support these smaller dairies and local sources!

Second, perhaps we can get the stuffing out of our government and policy maker's ears about fat.  Guess what?  Low-fat milk isn't saving kids from obesity.  In fact, the added sugar is making the problem worse.  Kids need fat and saturated fat is healthy.  Scared of increasing triglycerides that correlate with heart disease?  Stop eating all that carbohydrate because that's what's contributing to high triglycerides, NOT the saturated fat.  Not convinced?  Read the whole story at Mark's Daily Apple's Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat.  So let the kids drink WHOLE MILK.  

Third, we can offer kids real, unprocessed vegetables as part of their school meals so that kids will actually get the calcium, vitamins, and other minerals they need from their food.  Ideally, we can also downgrade their intake of grains so that they can actually absorb these vitamins and minerals from their food.  Kids can start to value real, whole foods instead of thinking food just comes from a package, carton, or can.  Here is a disturbing clip from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on how little kids know about vegetables.  Watch and cringe:

Fourth, we can fight the flavored milk campaigners who think that kids won't drink milk unless it is "flavored," otherwise known as "sugared." Yes, believe it or not, there is a campaign to keep chocolate milk in school.  This dairy industry-funded campaign, Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk, includes advertisements, petitions, and activism to raise public support.  The campaign could cost them between $500,000 to $1 million, according to their marketing group.  Unfortunately, the funds they are using come from commodity producers through a USDA-administered program.  

Will kids still drink milk if it's plain?  Yes!  Despite the doomsday studies sponsored by the dairy industry, kids will still drink milk.  It will take them some time to adjust, and sales will drop, but perhaps that is a good thing.  Kids might actually start drinking more water and have more appetite for healthy meals if we supplied them in schools.  Imagine that!  

The Flavor of Milk

Why are they pushing so hard for flavored milk?  If they were trying to get kids healthier, wouldn't they try to promote the unflavored milk?  

Here is where Big Corn comes in with the money, power, and surplus.  Guess what sweetener is most common in chocolate milk?  High fructose corn syrup?  Bingo!  Unless you live in a cave, you've probably heard how HFCS is looking worse and worse, held responsible for metabolic syndrome nasties like increasing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, to just name a few. 

Did you know that flavored milk has the same sugar as a soda?  Read this post from Consume This First and another from Chef Ann, the Renegade Lunch Lady, who is making strides revolutionizing school lunches (see more below).  Doesn't it seem a little contradictory to decry soda, when flavored milk and juice both have the same amount (if not more) of sugar?  Do they really think the vitamins and minerals can overbalance the destruction (and addiction) caused by the sugar?  The funny thing is that you can get your vitamins and minerals from real food without the sugar.  And real food trumps that which is engineered and processed any day.  

Still think the sugar isn't a big deal?  According to USDA guidelines (which are horrendous, but standards nonetheless),  only 10% or less of total calories should come from added sugars.  Just taking the added 4 teaspoons of sugar in one 8oz container of flavored milk, that's nearly half the sugar allowed in a day for children up to 9 years old.  Just think of all the other sources of added sugar in a child's day: cereal, snacks, other flavored drinks, juice, processed foods, etc.  Even on a supposedly junk food- and soda-free diet, most kids are getting WAY too much sugar!  It is no wonder that on average we are consuming twice our allotment of sugar a day!  

Think I am crazy?  Try taking an inventory of sugar in a child's foods for one day.  If you aren't reading labels, you should be!    

Who Is Making A Difference?

Jamie Oliver's revolutionary TED speech

Chef, author, and nutritional advocate Jamie Oliver is attacking the flavored milk in our schools with his campaign for school lunch reform.  His passion and astounding presentation will make you emotional.  Seriously.  

There is another TED speaker: Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper.  

Chef Ann has been a vocal proponent for school lunch reform, including the removal of flavored milk from her school districts.  She has dubbed flavored milk "soda in drag."  Her TED speech sounds remarkably similar to Jamie Oliver's.  Really makes you disgusted with school lunches and ready to take action, doesn't it?  

The Good News

With the help of prominent supporters like Oliver and Cooper pushing school lunch reform, some schools are saying enough is enough.  Think kids won't drink milk unless it is flavored?  Think again.  
  • Berkley, California, and Boulder, Colorado, took flavored milk off the menu in their school districts under the leadership of Chef Ann Cooper.  
  • Washington DC has banned the sale of flavored milk in their public schools and others may soon follow.  
  • The Florida School Board is contemplating the change too.  
  • Others school districts like those in Connecticut have put restrictions on the amount of sugar allowed in flavored milk.  While this is a step in the right direction, the allowed sugar is still too high.  From that link, just look at TruMoo 1% chocolate milk from Garelick Farms, which has 31g of sugar in 8oz of milk.  That's the same as Rockstar Energy Drink or Mountain Dew!  
  • Other school districts like those of Barrington, Illinois restrict the days flavored milk can be served by having "Flavored milk Fridays."  

For another summary on the recent debate, check out this recent (Sept. 2010) New York Times article: A School Fight Over Chocolate Milk.

Bottom line: If you are going to let kids drink milk, go full-fat, organic, grass-fed, and raw if at all possible.  Sugar does NOT need to be added to everything a child eats and drinks!  

Keep reading for more debunking of other popular drinks!  Next time let's talk chocolate milk and sports recovery.  

Next segment: What To Drink Part 5: Chocolate Milk for Recovery?