Good nutrition news: coffee

white ceramic mug with coffee
Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Good news about coffee everyone.

Coffee has no sugar, fat, calories, carbohydrates, sodium, gluten or dairy

All that stuff everyone is worried about these days? Coffee doesn’t have it. No need to worry.

(Coffee has a tiny amount of calories and sodium but one 8-oz cup of black coffee will have at the most 5 calories and 5mg sodium which is honestly not even worth counting)

Coffee contains antioxidants

Why are antioxidants good? All the time, molecules in our cells are becoming damaged through oxidation from our own metabolic processes, radiation, the sun, various chemicals. This damage (when it is accumulated) can lead to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, aging, etc. Antioxidants protect against this damage.

(This study here provides lots of information about the types, amounts, and possible actions of various antioxidants in coffee).

Coffee has been studied a lot and the consensus is it’s mostly fine and might actually be good.

There are some studies showing that people who drink coffee have certain diseases more often, but there are way more studies showing that people who drink coffee have no more risk of disease than people who don’t drink coffee, and some studies that show that people who drink coffee have a lower chance of getting certain diseases (like type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease)

It’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. These studies were done in people who all had different lifestyles, family histories, diets, smoking and exercise habits, etc., so while researchers try to make sure they are only looking at the effect of coffee, they can’t say for sure that coffee was the thing making the difference in who got diseases and who didn’t.

This review does a great job of summarizing research on coffee intake

Depending on how you take your coffee, it might enhance your nutrition

If you add milk (or a fortified alternative milk) to your coffee, you will get some calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A! And depending on what type of milk it is, some protein, fat, and carbs – not enough for a meal of course, but maybe enough for a snack.

This of course can be a double-edged sword. If your preferred regular coffee format includes a lot of sugar and high fat ingredients, the benefits of drinking a lot of coffee might be outweighed by the drawbacks of drinking a lot of sugar and fat. Not that you shouldn’t enjoy cream, sugar, or flavored syrup in your coffee, just take the nutrition they provide into account.

Some nuance about coffee

Like anything, too much coffee can be harmful, and just drinking a ton of coffee will not magically make you super healthy. There are some people who should be cautious with coffee (e.g. pregnant women) and I mean, definitely don’t drink it if it makes you feel bad or interferes with your sleep or makes you anxious.

Many of the harmful effects were associated with more extreme amounts of coffee. Coffee made as espresso, French press, or boiled can slightly raise cholesterol when drunk in large amounts.

brewing coffee and a bowl of granola
This is how I take my coffee and it makes my mornings.

The bottom line: coffee, in moderation, is pretty harmless and might have benefits.

If you don’t like coffee, don’t feel like you need to start drinking it for the health benefits.

If you do like coffee, enjoy it and feel good about it!

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

Good nutrition news: canned pumpkin (and pumpkin pie)

photo of pumpkins
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today we’re talking canned pumpkin puree (and then pumpkin pie).

The type of pumpkin that is usually used to make pumpkin pie and other pumpkin goodies. (Note that this is about plain canned pumpkin, not canned pie filling. There’s nothing wrong with canned pie filling, it’s just not the same nutritionally as it already has sugars and spices mixed in)

First of all, pumpkin is a vegetable.

No one would argue about butternut squash being a vegetable, right? Pumpkin is very close nutritionally to butternut squash. It goes in the red-orange vegetable group with carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. You can totally count pumpkin as part of your vegetable intake for the day. Now, the general amount of vegetables that the USDA recommends eating per day is 2 1/2 cups, so unless you’re sitting down to eat a big can of pumpkin, it won’t take care of all of your veggie intake, but it can certainly be part of it.

myplate diagram

Pumpkin provides some impressive nutrition

The way canned pumpkin is processed means that some of the water has been taken out (via cooking) so its nutrients are concentrated!

1/2 cup of cooked pumpkin has:

  • 3.5g of fiber (10% of the recommended daily amount for men and nearly 15% of the daily recommendation for women) – helps manage cholesterol and blood sugar, feeds good bacteria in our intestines, promotes regular bowel movements, helps us feel full
  • nearly 10% of the daily recommended amount of iron – vital for oxygenation of the blood
  • 25% of the recommended amount of vitamin K – important for blood clotting
  • over 350% recommended daily amount of vitamin A (no, that is not a typo, it is super high in vitamin A) – acts as an antioxidant, important for skin and immune health, important for healthy vision

Nutrition data from: https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2918/2

Canned pumpkin in context: pumpkin pie

Most of us probably will not just sit down and eat 1/2 cup of plain canned pumpkin by itself. So how much of that good nutrition will you get in a slice of pumpkin pie? Well, of course it depends on the the recipe and the size of the slice.

Let’s take Libby’s recipe for example (that’s the recipe on the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can). And we’ll say that we cut the pie into 8 slices because that’s easy math. In each slice, there will be about 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin (half the amount we calculated before), so it will have:

  • 1.8g fiber (about 5% of the recommended daily amount for men and 7% for women)
  • Nearly 5% of the daily recommended amount of iron
  • Over 10% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K
  • and 190% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A

Some of those amounts might seem small, but realistically, this is the way most people get nutrients from food. Small amounts from different foods that add up during the day. For comparison’s sake, one serving of Benefiber Original has 3 g of fiber, which is about 8% of the recommended daily value for men and 12% of the recommended daily value for women.

And it certainly has more vitamin A, iron, and fiber than many other desserts, like angel food cake or brownies.

Now of course, we must acknowledge that eating a slice of pumpkin pie (with ice cream or whipped cream perhaps too) also comes with more sugar, salt, and fats than just plain pumpkin, so if these are nutrients that you need to limit for a health condition, take those into account.

(and regardless, probably don’t make pumpkin pie the only way you eat vegetables)

However, a pumpkin pie having fats, sugar, and salt, doesn’t mean that you won’t get benefit from the fiber, iron, vitamin K, or massive amounts of vitamin A. You may also get extra calcium if the pie is made with evaporated milk, and extra fiber and/or B-vitamins if the crust is made with whole wheat flour

The bottom line: If you like pumpkin pie, enjoy it! (And know you’re getting a decent amount of fiber, iron, vitamin K, and a super amount of vitamin A!)

Want to try some savory pumpkin recipes?

Here’s some suggestions:

Pumpkin Soup from two peas & their pod

Creamy Pumpkin Marinara from Cookie + Kate

Healthy Pumpkin Chili from All the healthy things

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

Also links go to third-party sites, I’m not responsible for those sites or the ads they display, so go at your own risk.

Good nutrition news: apple crisp

Who loves apple crisp? The cinnamony-syrup covered apples, topped with bites of buttery, crunchy oats. Mmmm. I have been known to eat apple crisp for breakfast or dinner as well as dessert. And after this post, you might consider an apple crisp breakfast too!

close up of apple crisp in a glass dish

Here’s some good nutrition news about apple crisp:

Apple crisp can totally count as a serving of fruit

Right off the bat, if you’re eating an apple crisp (or any type of fruit crisp) you’re eating some fruit! Recommendations for daily fruit intake vary from 1 cup to 2 1/2 cups. Even a small serving of crisp will probably have at least 1/2 cup of fruit, which will give you a good portion of your recommended fruit intake regardless of whether you’re aiming for 1 cup or 2 and a half!

Apple crisp can be a source of whole grains

Most apple crisp recipes I am familiar with include oats (quick or rolled) as part of the delicious crumbly topping. Both of those forms of oats are whole grains, which compared to refined grains, have higher fiber and more protein. The USDA recommends at least 1/2 of your daily grains be whole grains. So there you go, by eating apple crisp, you’re moving toward that goal!

Now that you’ve got fruit and whole grains, all you need to make a meal is some protein, maybe some vegetables or calcium

  • For breakfast, serve with some scrambled eggs or a scoop of yogurt for protein
  • Apple crisp + slice of sharp cheddar cheese is a classic combination that provides protein + calcium and you should try it if you haven’t
  • For a vegetarian/vegan breakfast option, serve alongside a handful of nuts and a calcium-fortified beverage
  • Serve the above options in the evening for a breakfast-for-dinner option
  • Pork + apples is a winning combination. Some pork chops + steamed or roasted vegetables + this crisp …*chef’s kiss*
  • Serve alongside your favorite sausage and a green salad

Ways to make your apple crisp even more nutritious:

  • Use whole wheat flour as the flour portion in the recipe for even more whole grains
  • Don’t peel your apples. A large part of the fiber in an apple is in the skin. (Plus, this way you don’t have to spend all that time peeling apples)
  • If you want to replace some of the saturated fat with unsaturated fats, replace the butter with a plant-based substitute like Smart Balance which has more unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids

Now, I just want to say that apple crisp is a magical food that will solve all of your problems or that you can eat as much as you want because it can do no wrong. Like any food, balance is key.

The main thing I want you to take away is that this cozy dessert has plenty to be happy about. So next time you’re enjoying some cinnamonny, crumbly, apple-y goodness, rejoice in the ways it is nourishing you!

If you are inspired and want to make your own, here’s the recipe I usually use. And if you need a gluten-free option, here is a gluten-free apple crisp recipe from Cookie and Kate.

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.