top food questions

With so many resources available to us in the Information Age, simply typing “food advice” into a search bar is a lost cause. It’s getting increasingly complicated to know what’s up or down when it comes to nutrition, so we asked Darling friend Mikaela Reuben to step in and simplify things for both us AND you. 

Mikaela holds a BSc, is a Certified Raw Food Chef, Holistic Nutrition Counselor CHHC, AADP, and was mentored by renowned celebrity Chef Wayne Forman for over 10 years. Working for the likes of Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, Mikaela’s passion is to inspire people to make better health, lifestyle, and food decisions. Below she’s sharing the answers to her most frequently asked food questions, and we hope they help streamline and simplify some of the confusion* that’s out there.

Q: Whole wheat flour vs. white flour: Is there really a difference?

A: Whole wheat flour is composed of the germ, the endosperm (the inner core) and the bran (the outer layer). All three parts contribute and provide various nutrients, such as B-vitamins, manganese, magnesium, antioxidants and much more. When white flour is processed, the germ and the bran are removed. This is where most of these nutrients reside, decreasing immensely the availability of B-vitamins, fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, copper and so forth.

Whole wheat flour also contains a high amount of fiber. This helps to control insulin resistance, allowing blood sugar levels to stabilize more effectively and aiding the body in proper elimination and detoxification. When white flour is consumed, its high sugar content spikes blood sugar levels, causing one to gain an increase in energy once first consumed only to crash a few hours later. Processed white flour can create weight gain, feelings of tiredness/sluggishness, bloating, indigestion and much more.

When given the option between the two, it’s most recommended to stick to a whole wheat source, however be careful when purchasing as you always want to choose the least processed. If you can opt to buy freshly baked, whole wheat goods from a local baker or from a reputable, certified organic source, this would be most advised.

Q: Why is it bad to eat before bed?

A: When food is consumed before bed it causes blood sugar to spike whilst sleeping, leading to a list of catabolic processes. After spiking, blood sugar will naturally crash raising cortisol, a stress hormone that is produced from the adrenal glands. Cortisol works to inflame the body, weakening the digestive system, decreasing immune function and lowering the amount of human growth hormone whilst sleeping.

The rise of cortisol also interferes with the production of the hormone norepinephrine, which is in charge of the production melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep cycles. If you are going to eat before bed, then it’s most recommended to consume some source of light protein or fat, as these macro nutrients are more gentle on blood sugar management than a carbohydrate would be. A handful of unsalted nuts, half an avocado with sea salt, salmon nuggets, hemp heart milk with vanilla (unsweetened) or even a scoop of almond butter are some good options to try.

food answers

Q: What are considered “healthy fats” and “unhealthy fats”?

A: Healthy fats are classified as “unsaturated fats,” and more specifically they’re categorized into polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats stay liquid at room temperature, so this would include: olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, as well avocado and various nut oils. Polyunsaturated fats are rich in both omega-3 and omega-6, which are classified as essential fats due the fact that our body cannot create them on its own, but we need them to survive. Salmon, mackerel, flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, sunflower/safflower oils are all types of polyunsaturated fats that help to stabilize inflammation, provide muscle movement and create cellular membranes, which support healthy nerve signaling and mental stamina.

Unhealthy fats are known as “trans fats.” These create inflammation in the body, which can lead to various illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis and they also work to increase bad LDL cholesterol, which causes plaque build up in the arteries, blocking the passage way for blood to flow optimally. Vegetable shortening, margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils and high amounts of dairy and meat products are all sources of these fats. Ensure you read a product’s ingredients carefully, as most labeling will identify these fats as “partially hydrogenated oil.” Currently, there are no studies that state any benefits to trans fats and they are highly unrecommended for consumption.

Last but not least, “saturated fats.” These can include fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, coconut oil, palm oil and many processed foods. If taken in high amounts, then these fats can also contribute to a rise in LDL cholesterol, increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Coconut oil, however, is a special type of saturated fat in that it does raise LDL cholesterol levels, but at the same time it also works to raise levels of the good cholesterol, HDL. Coconut oil is therefore deemed a very good source of fat in lowering the risk of heart disease. There have been contrasting studies recently as to how much coconut oil to consume, but my recommendation would be to use it in moderation, as with most foods.

Your Top Food Questions Answered: Part I | DARLING

Q: Are certain vegetables more beneficial for you when cooked?

A: Raw diets and cooked diets are both hotly debated these days. I believe it is most important to first understand that not every diet and every way we consume food will work for every person. We’re all unique with our own digestive systems that require different needs to thrive.

That being said, there are a few key foods I would recommend to lightly cook to gain a higher dose of the nutrients they hold. In raw food diets the antioxidant lycopene is found to be very low, as you gain this antioxidant primarily through foods that have been cooked, for example, tomatoes. Peppers, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, carrots and cabbage are all additional foods that are recommended to serve slightly cooked, as this provides a higher dose of available antioxidants such as carotenoids and ferulic acid. Lightly steaming or boiling these vegetables is advised rather than frying or baking, as it preserves the nutrients more effectively and provides the body with the most optimal benefits.

Q: What are nightshade vegetables and why are they considered bad for some people?

A: Nightshade vegetables belong a family called Solanaceae, which contains up to 2000 different species of vegetables. Most commonly identified in this family would be foods such as tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, all types of peppers and even the famous superfood — goji berries! These foods can powerfully contribute to one’s pain and inflammation found throughout the body, causing irritation in the gut, joint pain (arthritis), skin health and so forth. A recommendation to see if nightshades may be something that is adding to your pain would be to cut them out from your diet for three months and see how you feel. This allows time for your body to heal and restore, giving you the opportunity to notice a difference, if apparent.

*This information is educational only and not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Please consult with your medical professional before making any lifestyle or health-related decisions. 

Have a food or dietary question? Ask in the comments and we’ll plan to answer in an upcoming post!

Images via Esther Lee

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