Nutrition

Superfood Friday: Farro vs Quinoa

Super Food Quinoa Farro Comparison Better

Now that we’ve seen the benefits of opting for farro at your next burrito spot, we now need to know who wins in the nutrition department in our “super grain” food competition. Quinoa or our new fav ancient grain farro? Check out the nutritional comparison below. And for those who deal with any sort of wheat intolerance, it's important to note that farro is not a gluten-free grain.

Quinoa Farro Comparison Better

As we see above, the answer is that both foods offer roughly the same nutritional benefits. And while quinoa and farro are both high in fiber and protein, farro has slightly more carbs but also offers more calcium than quinoa. So reach for whatever super grain you prefer, but keep in mind that both far exceed the nutritional benefits of eating white rice.

Eat This, Not That: Farro

Farro Dos Toros

I recently went to Dos Toro for the first time and was offered farro as a substitute for rice. Being that the farro was brown and looked closer to a whole grain, I opted for the farro.

But What Exactly is Farro?

Farro is an ancient wheat grain. Contrary to popular belief, farro does not refer to one type of grain. Rather, it's Italian for "ancient wheat grain" and often used to describe three different grains.

The kind that's most commonly found in the US and Europe is emmer wheat. It's sold dry and prepared by cooking it in water until it's soft and chewy.

Before it's cooked it looks similar to wheat berries, but afterward it looks similar to barley. It's a small, light-brown grain with a noticeable outer layer of bran.

It can be eaten alone or as an ingredient in dishes like stews, salads and soups. It can also be mixed with fruit and cream and eaten in a similar style to granola or muesli.

Without further ado, here are the top health benefits of farro.

1. Farro is Rich in Fiber

One cup of farro contains 12 grams of fiber, so depending on your gender, you’ll be either a third or halfway to getting your daily allotment of fiber with a single cup of this super grain. That’s the fiber equivalent of eating four medium-sized bananas.

2. Farro Provides 28 grams of Protein

Protein is a macronutrient that’s considered to be the primary building block of the human body as it helps build muscle, tissue, and cells. While protein shouldn’t compose the majority of your daily nutrition intake, it’s true that it’s essential to good health. Eating foods packed with protein like farro will help you stay healthy, gain strength, and lose weight. One cup of farro provides 28 grams of protein, which is equivalent to a 3-ounce portion of sirloin steak.

3. Full of Antioxidants

Farro, like other whole grains, can be an important source of the antioxidants that protect you from harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals can cause cell damage that is thought to result in certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke. If you’ve been trying to eat a few bars of dark chocolate a day or blending up some Goji berry smoothies, you now have another option for an antioxidant fix.

4. Low Calorie & Low Fat

Some varieties of farro are fat free – yes, you can get all those antioxidants, fibers, and proteins, without any fat grams. And if you’re counting calories, farro will be a go-to ingredient for you.

5. Farro is Loaded With Nutrients & Vitamins

Farro is an excellent source of nutrients like magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins.

So next time you’re given the option, think about opting for the farro — a much healthier alternative to white rice or other refined grains.

Our Favorite Smoothie Recipe

Blue and Green Smoothie

Here’s one of our favorite smoothie recipes to try for a nutritious boost. 

Blue and green smoothie

This blueberry and spinach smoothie whips up quickly and comes in at under 300 calories. It also has a good mix of macronutrients. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (plain, full fat)

  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries

  • 1/3 cup almond milk (unsweetened)

  • 1 cup loosely packed spinach

  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder

  • 1/3 cup ice

Blend after adding every two ingredients. Add ice last. Serve cold. Enjoy with friends.

6 Reasons to Drink More Water

Drink More Water

1. Perform Better

Hydration is directly linked to athletic performance. So, if you’re looking to improve your time on the track or take your soccer game to the next level, make sure you’re drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Don’t forget 75% of our muscles are made of water. 

2. Eat Healthier

Often times when we’re in that after-school lull and we’re craving a slice of pizza or a quick burger, we can actually quench that craving with a few glasses of water. Making a conscious effort to drink a glass of water before you raid the pizza stand can help you avoid bad food choices before dinner.

3. Be Less Cranky

Dehydration can affect your entire day, especially because dehydration can cause you to feel sick. Drinking more water will help you think more clearly and even improve your mood!

4. Prevent Headaches

One of the most common symptoms of dehydration is a headache. Next time you have a headache, instead of reaching for the Advil, drink a couple of glasses of water and see how you feel. If you feel better without medicine, this is a good way to know that you can prevent at least some headaches by drinking water before turning to the medicine cabinet.

5. Naturally Cleanse

What if I told you that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a store-bought cleanse? That’s because water has naturally detoxifying benefits. Add a little lemon and you’re good to go! Bacteria and waste can live in our stomach and intestines and this is exactly why the digestive system needs water to function and clear you out.

6. Help Your Skin Glow

Water helps the skin rebuild cells more successfully. Not only does proper hydration make your skin more healthy; hydration can also make your skin glow. Skin is our largest organ, so isn’t it about time we take better care of it?

4 Ways to Improve Your Smoothie

Healthy Smoothie

Smoothies are an everyday part of life for most of us, but they can quickly become sugar bombs loaded with empty calories if you’re not careful. Below are our top 4 ways to make sure your smoothie stays a positive part of your diet!

Choose fruit that has a lower sugar content

Fruit is absolutely good for you, but too much of anything can have a negative impact. If you’re gonna load up on fruit, make sure you’re not also loading up on calories. Most berries, such as blackberries, raspberries, and even strawberries, are low in sugar. So are grapefruit, cantaloupe, and papaya, so stick with these smoothie fruit friends.

Avoid store-bought juice

Often the juice we buy in the store is loaded with added sweeteners. Instead, juice your own fruit, or use another liquid. You can try water or coconut water. The liquid from young coconuts is quite sweet. Unsweetened almond milk, flax milk, soy milk, and hemp milk are great nondairy substitutes. Regular milk can work, too. Just be mindful of the additional calories.

Go Green

Green smoothies are all the rage for a reason. A few handfuls of spinach, kale, or Swiss chard make your smoothie look virtuous without negatively impacting the taste. The blended flavor of these greens is very mild and usually masked well by the taste of the fruits you add. Plus, you’re getting the benefit of less sugar and lots of antioxidants, fiber, and other essential nutrients. If you decide to add more greens, tartness from fresh lemon or lime juice can help mask the bitterness without relying on sugar.

Sweeten Wisely

It doesn’t make any sense to choose low-sugar fruits and then dump in spoonfuls of honey or table sugar. Use a very light hand when adding sweeteners, or try using spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or a dash of vanilla extract. You can also use a high-quality, flavored protein powder.

Hydrogenated Oils: What Are They and How to Avoid Them

Hydrogenated Oil

Food companies began use hydrogenated oil to help increase shelf life and save costs. Hydrogenation is a process in which a liquid unsaturated fat (e.g. olive or peanut oil) is turned into a solid fat by adding hydrogen. During this processing, a type of fat called trans fat is made.

While small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in some foods, most trans fats in the diet come from these processed hydrogenated fats.

Partially hydrogenated oils can affect heart health because they increase “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol. On the other hand, a fully hydrogenated oil contains very little trans fat, mostly saturated fat, and doesn’t carry the same health risks as trans fat.

Still, food manufacturers continue to use partially hydrogenated oils to save money, extend shelf life, add texture and increase stability.

5 Easy + Healthy After-School Snacks

5 Easy and Healthy After-School Snacks

The hours between the end of school and dinner can be tough for healthy eating. Pizza, Chipotle and subway are all easy after-school options that are loaded with calories and processed carbohydrates. Below are VarCity’s favorite quick and healthy after-school snacks.

1. Hard-Boiled Eggs

Eggs are one of the healthiest and most weight loss-friendly foods you can eat.

They contain protein, vitamin K2 and B12, to name a few.

Although their high cholesterol content gave them a bad reputation for years, new studies show that eggs don't have any effect on your risk of heart disease.

Two large, hard-boiled eggs contain about 140 calories and 13 grams of protein.

2. Turkey Roll-Ups

Turkey roll-ups are delicious and nutritious.

Turkey contains high-quality protein, which helps you feel satisfied, preserves muscle mass and burns more calories during digestion than fat or carbs.

3. Healthy Beef Jerky or Beef Sticks

Beef jerky or beef sticks make great high-protein, portable snacks. But make sure you choose the right type.

Some jerkies are loaded with sugar and preservatives. Beef sticks generally don't contain sugar, but many aren't made from high-quality meat and may contain other questionable ingredients.

Look for jerky and beef sticks made from grass-fed beef and salt, with as few ingredients as possible. Grass-fed beef contains more healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef.

Most beef jerkies and sticks contain about 7 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams).

4. A Piece of Fruit

Healthy snacks don't need to be complicated. Just a single piece of fruit can be incredibly satisfying.

Examples of fruit that are portable and can be eaten with almost no preparation include bananas, apples, pears, grapes, grapefruit and oranges.

5. Mixed Nuts

Nuts are an ideal nutritious snack.

They've been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and may help prevent certain cancers, depression and other diseases.

Despite being relatively high in fat, they are very filling. Several studies suggest that eating nuts in moderation can help you lose weight.

Nuts contain the perfect balance of healthy fat, protein and fiber. They contain about 180 calories in a 1 oz (28 grams) serving, on average.

They also taste great and don't require refrigeration, so they're perfect for carrying with you when away from home.

Keep an Eye out for Added Sugars: Part II

Added Sugar

While there are times that it’s clear that we’re consuming added sugar, such as the teaspoon of sugar in your bowl of cereal, there are numerous other ways added makes its way into our diet.

For example, starting off your day with something like low-fat yogurt, fruit juice, cereal, or a granola bar may sound like a smart choice, but these healthy sounding foods can pack loads of hidden sugars. A 6-ounce container of Dannon All Natural Plain Lowfat Yogurt contains 12 grams of sugar while an 8-ounce glass of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice contains 22 grams of sugar.

Below are a few names to look out for on your nutrition label when trying to avoid a diet loaded with added sugar.

Other Names for Added Sugar

Think Twice Before that Morning Juice

Sugar Juice

Starting your morning with fruit juice is often perceived as a healthy way to start  your day.  That's understandable, given that it is natural and has the word "fruit" in it.

However, what many people fail to realize is that fruit juice is also loaded with sugar.  In fact, fruit juice contains just as much sugar and calories as a sugary soft drink... and sometimes even more.

Even if juice is labelled as "100% pure" and "not from concentrate”,  after being squeezed from the fruit -- the juice is usually stored in massive oxygen-depleted holding tanks for up to a year before it is packaged.

The main problem with this method is that it tends to remove most of the flavor, so the manufacturers need to add so-called "flavor packs" to the juice, to bring back the flavor that was lost during processing.

So even if you're buying the highest quality juices at the supermarket, they're still far from their original state.  Some of the lowest quality ones don't even resemble fresh-squeezed fruit juice at all...they are basically just fruit-flavored sugar water.

BOTTOM LINE:
Fruit juice isn't always what it seems, even the higher quality types have gone through processing methods that remove the flavor, making it necessary to add "flavor packs” (whatever those are!) to bring them back to their original state.

What is a Microbiome and Why Is It Important?

The human body carries trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other tiny microbes.  Think of your body as a living/breathing rain forest.  Scientists call these resident bugs and all of their genes the “human microbiome.”

Some of these microbes can be harmful, but most have lived and evolved with humans for thousands of years.  They help train our immune systems to attack only foreign invaders, not our own joints and organs, and they pull essential nutrients out of the food we eat.

Today, people in the Western world have far fewer kinds of these helpful bacteria than their cousins in developing countries and that might be connected to rising rates of autoimmune diseases, such as asthma, and metabolic ones, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.  

Throughout our lives, we help shape our own microbiomes — plus they adapt to changes in our environment. For example, the foods you eat, how you sleep, the amount of bacteria you’re exposed to on a daily basis and the level of stress you live with all help establish the state of your microbiota.

Microbiome
Microbiome