The Building Blocks of Life

Are you getting enough protein?  As a vegetarian I get asked that question almost every day.  It seems as if protein is this magical food that when you eat it your life is just better, maybe that is why our society seems to be adding protein to every single meal.  However according to the DRI established by the USDA only 10-35% of our calories should come from protein.  Protein is the basic building block for growth, when you consume protein it goes through a digestion process where it is broken down into amino acids.  These amino acids are then reassembled into muscle, nerves, hormones, enzymes, and neurochemicals.  Proteins can also be converted into glucose to use for energy, but it is not as efficient as carbohydrates and fats.

So are you getting enough protein?  It is recommend we eat at least 1-2 gm per Kilogram of body weight (Kilogram = pounds divided by 2.2). For example, a 150 lb person weighs 68 kg. This means they should consume at least 68-136 gm of protein per day.  It is important that you do eat enough protein in your diet because protein is involved in:

  • Growth (especially important for children, teens, and pregnant women)
  • Tissue repair
  • Immune function
  • Making essential hormones and enzymes
  • Energy source
  • Preserving lean muscle mass

Where do you get protein?  Protein comes from meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes, and can be found in smaller amounts in starchy foods and vegetables. Protein that comes from an animal source however contains all the essential amino acids (essential amino acids are ones that we need to get from our diet), while most plant protein sources needed to be combined properly to get all the essential amino acids.

Overall, protein is a very important part of our diet, but it is not the only part (or even the largest part).  A healthy balanced diet is a combination of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

Stop Running Away From Fat

Everyone seems to hate fat.  They try to lose it, they want everything “low-fat” or “fat-free” (even though fat free and low fat just means added sugar, which is the actual thing making you gain weight), but fat is actually essential for you and your body.

Fat is essential for normal growth and development, it is a great source off energy, it allows your body to absorb vitamins, it provides cushioning for your organs, and helps maintain cell membranes! There are three different types of fats including unsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat.

Unsaturated fats fall into two categories: polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated. The polyunsaturated are your Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids which are good for your heart!  Monounsaturated fats are oils, avocados, peanuts, tree nuts, etc and they lower your LDL level and increase HDL levels!

Saturated fats have been given a bad reputation, however they are safe to consume. Saturated fats are found in red meats, whole milks, cheeses, coconut oil, and many baked goods.  However, many foods have a combination of unsaturated and saturated fats!

The ONLY type of fat that you need to be running away from is trans fats since trans fats are industry created fats used to give processed foods a longer shelf life. In fact the FDA is banning the use of trans fats in products (obviously it must do some damage if the FDA will actually ban it), it will be a slow process to completely eliminate them in the USA’s food supply, however you can eliminate them in your own home now!

So your diet no longer needs to be “fat-free” or “low-fat” because fat is essential for your body to function properly and is an important macro-nutrient in a balanced diet.  So don’t continue to run away from the fat, embrace it!  Just stay away from trans fats…


Carbohydrates- They Aren’t The Bad Guys

Carbohydrates seem to have a rather bad reputation these days, however carbohydrates play a key role in our body! Here is a list of 5 reasons you shouldn’t be hating on Carbohydrates:

  1. Carbohydrates are easily used by the body for energy.
  2. All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose, which comes from carbohydrates for energy.
  3. Carbohydrates are needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, the muscles (including the heart) to function properly.
  4. Carbohydrates can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy.
  5. Carbohydrates are important in intestinal health and waste elimination.

Carbohydrates are mainly found in starchy foods (like grain and potatoes), fruits, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in lesser amounts.  Carbohydrates also include fiber which is essential in getting rid of waste in our bodies.  Fiber is any carbohydrate that our body can’t digest.   There are two types of fibers: soluble fiber which is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barely, and psyllium while insoluble fiber can be found in nuts, beans, vegetables, and whole-grains.  Both offer many amazing benefits such as lowering blood cholesterol levels and glucose levels and help those that struggle with constipation.

Overall carbohydrates are very important in a healthy diet, but not all carbohydrates are the same, stay away from highly processed carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, cookies, soft drinks, etc..  These items are what people tend to think of when we mention  carbs, that is why I think carbohydrates have this negative reputation, however there are many good carbs out there.  Carbohydrates aren’t the bad guys, processed foods are.



The Basics Behind “Counting Calories”

We count calories everyday, but do we actually know where our calories are coming from?  Calories come from Macro-nutrients, which are substances that provide us with energy and are needed for growth, metabolism, and other body functions.  There are three types of Macro-nutrients including carbohydrates, fat, and proteins.

  • Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram
    • If the nutrition label of a product says you have 10 grams of carbs you would take that number and multiply it by 4 to get the amount of calories that comes from carbs, which in this case would be 40
  • Fat provides 9 calories per gram
    • If the nutrition label of a product says you have 3 grams of fat you would take the 3 grams and multiple it by 9 ending up with 27 calories from fat
  • Proteins provide 4 calories per gram
    • If the nutrition label of a product says you have 6 grams of protein you could then take the 6 grams and multiple it by 4 and find that it has 24 calories from protein

Your calorie intake should consist of 45-65% carbohydrates, 20-35% fat, and 10-35% protein.  The only other source of calories comes from alcohol which provides you with 7 calories per gram, however it is not considered a Macro-nutrient since it isn’t needed for survival, however some people may disagree with that statement. Cheers!

How to Avoid GMOs

Genetically Modified Organisms are organisms whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not naturally found there.  GMOs were suppose to be an answer to world hunger by allowing for an increase in crop yield, however GMOs haven’t fulfilled their promises, but instead has lead to many adverse effects such as an increase in potential toxins, allergens, carcinogens, new diseases, antibiotic resistant diseases, and nutritional problems. The FDA does not require companies to label whether or not their products contain GMOs making it hard for the consumers to feel confident about what they are buying.  Here is a list of 4 simple ways to become a more confident consumer:

  1. Avoid foods that contain corn or soybeans.corn soybeans1
    • Corn and soybeans are two of the most genetically modified crops in the United States.  Many of our products we consume have a form of corn or soybean in it so being aware of what foods you are eating that contain these ingredients could help you limit the amount of genetically modified foods you are consuming.
  2. Look at the labeling codes for fruits and vegetables.PLU.jpg
    •   If it is a four digit code the food was conventionally produced and could be non GMO or not.  If the first number in the code is a 9 then it is organic and has a high chance of being non GMO. If it has a 5 digit code starting with an 8 it means it is genetically modified.  Sadly this coding is also voluntary, but can be helpful in search for organic.
  3. Use a food app or Website.non-gmo-project-logo.jpg
    • The Non-GMO project has a list of verified products that are Non-GMO.  It is a great source to become more educated on different products.
  4. Shop locally.

    • This allows you to know exactly where your food is coming from and how it is grown. Also it is great for families with children because you raise your kids to become more aware of where their food comes from.

Since GMOs aren’t labeled in the United States it can be hard to know what is genetically modified and what is not.  By taking a few precautions you can limit your intake of GMOs. Your body and mind will thank you.

Reduce Inflammation & Improve Your Digestion with Easy To Make Bone Broth

Remember how soothing chicken soup is whenever you have a cold? Well it turns out that broth, and especially bone broth (made from simmering bones and cartilage) really do have medicinal properties. I’m always on the lookout for foods that both nourish and heal your body, and while studying at the Institute of Integrative Health and Nutrition I was turned on to bone broth as a way of improving digestive symptoms such as bloating and pain.

Bone broth is experiencing a revolution right now, and for good reason. It can reduce joint pain and inflammation through chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, proline, arginine, and glycine which all have anti-inflammatory effects. It promotes strong, healthy bones through high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and additional nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation, and promotes healthy hair and nail growth thanks to the gelatin in the broth. It may even help you sleep better due to the calming effects of glycine. Wow. No wonder superstar Kobe Bryant is drinking it daily and it’s even gained a cult following in NYC!

Another important component of both broths are that they are rich in Humic + Fulvic minerals! What are those you ask and why should I want them?
Research is just beginning to show us the important role that fulvic minerals play and the information is amazing! These minerals like others support the body in a variety of ways including cellular health, brain health and digestion by helping the body absorb nutrients from food.
In a perfect world, our food would naturally contain high levels of minerals from the soil, but this is not usually the case with our modern food supply.

Ready to try this out? You can make bone broth at home (recipe below!) by simmering chicken, beef, or pretty much any type of bones in water for 6+ hours. At Intelligent Gourmet we use this recipe as a base in most of our stocks and it’s just plain delicious! No single theory of health is right for everyone, but we’ve seen bone broth work well for some people and not cause adverse symptoms for anyone, therefore we feel it’s safe to approve as a food that promotes digestive health.
Intelligent Gourmet’s Bone Broth Recipe


4-5.5 lbs. of Beef or Chicken bones (including joints, knuckles, necks etc.)
2 gallons Cold Water or enough to cover your bones (Why cold water? On a chemical level, it actually promotes the extraction of protein, helping to up the nutrient quotient of the stock.)
1 large Onion, coarsely chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 stalks of Celery, coarsely chopped
4 cloves of Garlic, peeled
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tbsp of Vinegar* (such as Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar)
1 bunch of fresh Parsley
Optional: Thyme + Rosemary (I like to add thyme, bay leaf, and whole peppercorns, with maybe a sprig or two of rosemary. If you’re adding herbs and veggies to the broth, be sure to add them toward the end of cooking, especially if you’re doing a marathon stock making session.)

*A Note on Vinegar: This is not an optional ingredient. Not only is it ideal to combine fats with acids like vinegar, when it comes to making broth the goal is to extract as many minerals as possible out of the bones into the broth water and vinegar really helps to leech all those valuable minerals out of the bones. Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar is a good choice as it’s unfiltered and unpasteurized.


In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to-low and simmer for 6 to 24 hours (the longer you simmer it, the more intense the flavor). Add water as needed to keep ingredients submerged. Strain stock into a clean pot or heatproof plastic container and discard solid ingredients. Let cool and refrigerate overnight. Leave the solidified fat on the top while storing as the fat acts as a protective layer and delays the formation of bacteria. Immediately prior to use, bring the bone broth to a gentle boil. Makes about 12 cups.

You can use this broth as a base for soups like we do at Intelligent Gourmet, or you can drink it straight as a restorative concoction.

Interested in learning more about foods that promote healthy digestion? Here are a few I can recommend:

While all fruits and vegetables are generally good for digestion, bananas in particular are great because they don’t irritate the stomach. That’s why they’re part of the “BRAT Diet” (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, dry Toast), which has been suggested for folks suffering from vomiting or diarrhea.

Water (which most people do not drink enough of) is excellent for the digestive process as it helps move things through the intestines. Drink an extra glass of water in the morning and evening, or carry a refillable water bottle that you can sip from throughout the day.

Ginger, Turmeric, Peppermint
Spices and herbs like ginger, turmeric and peppermint are great for settling an upset stomach. Try drinking ginger or peppermint tea, or sucking on a peppermint lozenge.

Yogurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi
Probiotic-containing foods like yogurt are good for the digestive system because they contain good bacteria that crowds out any bad bacteria that you may have in your gut. You want to look specifically for foods that contain live bacteria, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.

Asparagus, Oats, Onions, Lentils, Whole Grains
Prebiotic foods like asparagus contain a type of fiber that probiotics feed off of to multiply, so it’s good food for your good bacteria. Prebiotics are found in foods such as asparagus, onions, lentils and whole grains.


Is Your Healthy Food More Hype than Health?

You order a sandwich on whole wheat bread with turkey, Applewood-smoked bacon, tomatoes and avocado. It looks delicious. It tastes delicious. And you savor every crumb, confident that you’ve just done something good for your body.

After all, you didn’t pick up this sandwich at any old fast food restaurant.

This restaurant’s website has an entire tab explaining their beliefs, which include a commitment to “Clean Ingredients.”

So why does your sandwich include sorbitan monostearate, microcrystalline cellulose, sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, potassium sorbate and calcium disodium, and the mysterious moniker “natural flavor”?

Chances are, if you don’t know what an ingredient is, you wouldn’t recognize it as real food if it was served on a plate.

  • Sorbitan monostearate is an emulsifier that keeps water and oils mixed, and is also referred to as synthetic wax. Not so yummy.
  • Microcrystalline cellulose is wood pulp. It’s used as a texturizer and anti-caking agent, fat substitute and emulsifier. It’s also probably in your vitamin supplements.
  • Sodium phosphates act as preservatives, change texture of foods, keep processed meats moist, and are common food additives in processed foods. Food companies aren’t even required to list phosphate levels on “Nutrition Facts” labels, even though they have been linked to increased risk for kidney disease and heart disease. They’re also thought to accelerate the aging process, and they interfere with how your body processes and activates vitamin D.
  • Sodium erythorbate sounds terrible, but it’s actually taken from vitamin C and is used to keep foods fresh by inhibiting the oxidation of food. However, eating too much sodium erythorbate has been linked to causing kidney stones.
  • Sodium nitrite is used to cure meats like ham, bacon and hot dogs, and has been linked to cancer.
  • Potassium sorbate is another preservative that is used so frequently, in nearly every processed and canned food, that it’s shockingly easy to be overexposed which can lead to long-term health risks. It’s not only in processed foods – it’s also in cosmetic products and wine.
  • Calcium disodium prevents air from spoiling food and cosmetics. It’s also used to treat lead poisoning and mercury poisoning. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? What you may not know is that it robs your body of nutrients by making it more difficult for your body to use vitamin C, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and potassium.
  • Natural flavor is taken from an original ingredient found in nature that has been purified, extracted, and added back into the food. For example, “natural flavor” in a blueberry muffin actually means a chemical derived from blueberries that was enhanced in a lab.

In a Life by Daily Burn article, a scientist at the Environmental Working Group articulates why “natural flavor” is the fourth most common ingredient listed on labels: “The goal is to make a short intense flavor that quickly dissipates so you come back for more.”

What, exactly, is “clean” about this sandwich?

And, it’s not just the restaurant chains
This is what terrifies me about the hype we’ve created around health food. Companies can so easily take advantage of terms like “clean ingredients” without delivering on those promises. They fool our eyes and our tongues, but they can’t fool our bodies – these will ultimately pay the price.
I also see this in pre-packaged juices and “juice cleanses” where there may not be nitrites and phosphates, but in which so much sugar has been added that any nutritional benefit is offset.
The healthiest-seeming foods are often the worst culprits. An acai bowl, for example, uses frozen pureed acai (freezing kills acai’s superfood nutrients), and then adds berries, bananas, yogurt, granola with coconut on top. The result is a 600+ calorie, dairy inflammatory sugar bomb with more sugar in it than a slice of chocolate cake.
What you can do? 
Every dollar you spend is a vote for health and against hype. I know we can’t all cook whole foods for ourselves every day, but if we take the time to look closely at what we eat and only buy from trustworthy sources, perhaps the larger food corporations will add substance to their claims.
I look forward to a world in which a sandwich is just a sandwich, don’t you?
Until then, there’s Intelligent Gourmet.

Sandwich for blog

Swap This for That, Simple Ingredient Swaps to make your Kitchen Creations Healthier

It is hard to imagine a question that is harder to understand than what should I be eating now. We live in a world with a ton of options and a bunch of diet theories in fact there are over 200 different dietary theories and at the institute of integrative health and nutrition we were required to study them all. From Paleo to veganism, south beach to weight watchers the market has exploded by even having all these choices hasn’t made things easier.

The bottom line and the most radical thing you can do for health and your healthy bottom is to eat real food. It needs to be made with real ingredients and organic when possible.

Eat a good breakfast
Starting your morning off on the right food will jump start your metabolism, but beware what you choose to eat, you know you are breaking your Fast from the night so what you put in your body is very important. The proverbially Breakfast smoothies may not be all they’re cracked up to be.
Although the ingredients are healthy and delicious, two bananas, cold-pressed orange juice, strawberries, coconut water and bee pollen will add up to quite a high calorie content, although all are natural. Swap it for this 2 eggs with some sautéed veggies and either a piece of sprouted toast or a little sweet potato. You might find you will feel fuller longer and have more energy. eggs with herbs for breakfast

Knowing your Grains
Glycemic index and glycemic load offer information about how foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The lower a food’s glycemic index or glycemic load, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels. Here is a chart to some common foods. Grains should be a part of your diet but you should learn which ones are the best for you or you may be unwittingly overloading your body with the wrong things
Swap it: If a recipe you are making calls for rice, try doing half quinoa and half rice I’ve done it with excellent results.
Quinoa is high in protein but low in carbohydrates, making it a great grain alternative. Basmati is the lowest GI of the white rice range. Brown is slightly higher in GI but much higher in nutrients. So if a recipe is best with white, go for basmati; otherwise stick to brown.
We always add vegetables and beans to our rice base try adding onion, garlic, dried beans to the water with your rice and then tossing in carrot, celery, and bell peppers in the last 5 minutes then cover and steep.Grains.

Fun Swaps to try:

  1. Mashed Avocado for butter or oil in baking: Not all fats are bad for you, like we have discussed in the past. Plant based oils like olive, nuts and avocados are rich is monounsaturated fats which are actually good for you. They may actually help to maintain healthy cholesterol level. When subbing avocado in baking it is best to use a pretty ripe avocado that will mash easily. We also put avocado in coconut milk for a rich and delicious snack.
  2. Greek Yogurt for mayo or sour cream, by making this trade you are adding and extra bit of protein you find only in Greek yogurt. Have a go at adding seasonings, like garlic, chipotle peppers or dill. Add chopped cucumbers and mint to make a a healthier
  3. Pureed White Bean, swap for cream to thicken soups Instead of thickening soups with cream or milk, use a can of organic white bean like great northern or cannellini beans and puree in a high speed blender until smooth and creamy add them in to your soup for a wonderful creamy texture. Way less fat this way and more potassium wonderful for your cardio vascular system.
  4. Nuts, use nuts in salads or on yogurt instead of higher calorie granola. Walnuts and Almonds are two of the heart healthiest types you can choose, make sure you are grabbing un salted variety. Try toasting them as well and sprinkling with cinnamon and or a bit of cayenne for a kicked up salad or yogurt.
  5. Applesauce for oil butter or sugar. Pop 3 small apples cored but not peeled in a pan with a little water, cover and steam on low until soft. Cool slightly and add to blender. Using this in place of butter in a recipe will cut your calories by more than 1/2 and you have the added benefit of fiber in your baking. This is delicious on it’s own sprinkled with a little Saigon cinnamon the added bonus this cinnamon is insulin enhancing and anti- inflammatory.
  6. Zoodles or spaghetti Squash instead of pasta. Zoodles aka Zucchini noodles are terrific baked, Sautéd or Eaten Raw, it only takes only a moment to spiral up and you have the added benefits of only good carbs.
  7. Soda Water instead of Tonic, next time your out with friends and sipping your favorite cocktail remember tonic is high in sugar while soda has none.

Additional Swaps to consider:
Instead of: Granola
Swap this: Oatmeal

Instead of: Egg sandwich
Swap this: Scrambled eggs with veggies

Instead of: Fruit at the bottom yogurt
Swap this: Greek yogurt with fresh fruit

Instead of: Cream based soups
Swap this: Broth-based minestrone

Instead of: Standard steak
Eat this: Grass-fed steak

Instead of: Mashed potatoes
Swap this: Mashed cauliflower or at least do 50/50

Instead of: Hummus and chips
Swap this: Hummus and red pepper, or any veggies you like

Instead of: Potato chips
Swap this: Kale chips, email us if you would like a recipe

Intelligent Pantry Items:

Yerba Mate : anti oxidant, metabolism boosting tea that is loaded with amino acid, and offers stimulation without the drop you get from other caffeinated beverages.
Liquid Amino: Bragg’s formulated soy protein is from non-GMO certified soybeans and purified water.
Nutritional Yeast : Makes a healthy delicious seasoning when sprinkled on most foods, especially salads, vegetables, potatoes, rice, pasta and even popcorn, use it as a cheese substitute in sauces and dressings.
Coconut Oil : Coconut oil can be taken as a dietary supplement, used for cooking or used for skin & hair care.
Organic GF Oats: For breading as a binder, in your breakfast, terrific source of fiber.
Chia Seeds: Sprinkle into smoothies, oatmeal, granola, cereal or yogurt or use as a thickener. Chia is a vegetarian source of omega fatty acids, protein, calcium, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and soluble fiber. We use it thicken over night oats as well.
Stevia Liquid: Finally a calorie, carb free sweetener without chemicals all plant based. Non-Bitter Certified Organic A Dietary Supplement Vegetarian Product Stevia rebaudiana is a natural herb that grows in Asia and South America
Plant Based Protein: 22 grams of protein in each scoop, easy-to-digest, energy-boosting protein. Rich in omega 3-6-9 essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A balanced, complete source of vegan protein that does not contain any artificial ingredients or preservatives.