Have your (carrot) cake and eat it too, but without all the calories and fat found in a traditional sugary slice. These no-bake protein balls are sweet, nutty, and soft, and they're cake-like without a drop of flour. Made with raw cashews, pecans, dates, raw carrot, rolled oats, and unsweetened coconut, each 88-calorie snack offers 3.3 grams of protein.
Carrot Cake Protein Balls
1 cup raw cashews 3/4 cup rolled oats 1/2 cup dates 4 ounces unsweetened applesauce 1 serving vanilla plant-based protein powder (about 35 grams) 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon cloves 1 carrot, grated 1/2 cup pecans (or walnuts) 1/3 cup rolled in unsweetened coconut
1. Add the cashews, oats, dates, applesauce, protein powder, and spices to the food processor. Turn on until a choppy dough forms, several minutes.
2. Add the grated carrot and pecans until thoroughly mixed. The dough will appear slightly sticky.
3. Pour unsweetened shredded coconut into a bowl.
4. Roll dough into balls, roll each one in the coconut, and place on a clean cookie sheet.
5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set. Store uneaten balls in an airtight container in the fridge.
Category Snacks Yield 18 balls Cook Time 20 minutes
Calories per serving 88
(recipe from fitsugar.com)
RESEARCH & STUDIES
Omega-3s Could Combat Negative Effects of the Western Diet
While no dietitian or nutrition expert would ever tell you that any supplement, or combination of supplements, could ever make up for a poor diet, a new study suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, may be more valuable than most, particularly when it comes to combatting some of the negative effects of a typical Western diet. In fact, the study suggests that these compounds may have an even wider range of biological impacts than previously considered, and suggests they could be of significant value in the prevention of fatty liver disease.
The research, done by scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) and several other institutions, was one of the first of its type to use “metabolomics,” an analysis of metabolites that reflect the many biological effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the liver. It also explored the challenges this organ faces from the Western diet, which increasingly is linked to liver inflammation, fibrosis, cirrhosis and even liver failure.
The American Liver Foundation has estimated that about 25 percent of the nation’s population, and 75 percent of those who are obese, have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. This can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, cirrhosis and cancer.
Supplements of DHA, used at levels that are sometimes prescribed to reduce blood triglycerides, appeared to have many unanticipated effects. There were observable changes in vitamin and carbohydrate metabolism, protein and amino acid function, as well as lipid metabolism.
Supplementation with DHA partially or totally prevented metabolic damage through those pathways often linked to the Western diet—excessive consumption of red meat, sugar, saturated fat and processed grains.
The findings were published last month in PLOS One, an online professional journal.
“We were shocked to find so many biological pathways being affected by omega-3 fatty acids,” says Donald Jump, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “Most studies on these nutrients find effects on lipid metabolism and inflammation.
“Our metabolomics analysis indicates that the effects of omega-3 fatty acids extend beyond that, and include carbohydrate, amino acid and vitamin metabolism,” he added.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been the subject of much recent research, often with conflicting results and claims. Possible reasons for contradictory findings, researchers say, are the amount of supplements used and the relative abundance of two common omega-3s: DHA and EPA. Previous studies have concluded that DHA has far more ability than EPA to prevent the formation of harmful metabolites. In one study, it was found that DHA supplementation reduced the proteins involved in liver fibrosis by more than 65 percent.
Where to Find Your Omega-3s
DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in egg yolks (amounts vary depending on the chicken feed), as well as in cold-water fish and shellfish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, cod, crab, shrimp, and oysters. ALA is prevalent in many plant oils.
These research efforts, done with laboratory animals, used a level of DHA supplementation that would equate to about 2 to 4 grams per day for an average person. In the diet, the most common source of DHA is fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel or sardines.
The most recent research is beginning to break down the specific processes by which these metabolic changes take place. If anything, the results suggest that DHA may have even more health value than previously thought.
“A lot of work has been done on fatty liver disease, and we are just beginning to explore the potential for DHA in preventing or slowing disease progression,” says Jump, who is also a principal investigator in OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute.
“Fish oils, a common supplement used to provide omega-3, are also not prescribed to regulate blood glucose levels in diabetic patients,” he says. “But our studies suggest that DHA may reduce the formation of harmful glucose metabolites linked to diabetic complications.”
Both diabetes and liver disease are increasing steadily in the United States.
This study established that the main target of DHA in the liver is the control of inflammation, oxidative stress and fibrosis, which are the characteristics of more progressively serious liver problems. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to keep cells from responding to and being damaged by whatever is causing inflammation.
How to Apply the Research
The benefits of DHA (as well as ALA and EPA, which are other forms of the omega-3 fatty acids) are pronounced and extend beyond the findings of this study, says Dr. Natalie Digate Muth, Healthcare Solutions Director for the American Council on Exercise. “Overall,” explains Digate Muth, “omega-3s reduce blood clotting, dilate blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and act to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They are important for eye and brain development and are especially important for a growing fetus in the late stages of pregnancy. Omega-3s may also help to preserve brain function and reduce the risk of mental illness and attention deficit.”
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) considers 1.1 grams per day of ALA to be the minimal amount necessary for normal growth and neural development. The IOM suggests that 10% of the needed ALA could come from EPA or DHA, which suggests a daily intake of about 100 milligrams per day. This amount could be obtained by consuming one serving of canned tuna. Some expert panels have recommended much higher intakes of 250 and 500 milligrams per day due to the significant health benefits.
Notably, most Americans tend not to consume enough omega-3 fatty acids, although this recommendation can be met through the consumption of approximately 8 ounces of a fatty fish per week. Though natural food sources are best, people who do not meet this recommendation or do not like fish may benefit from supplementation or from fortified foods.
Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad With Mango Balsamic Vinaigrette
For the salad:
1 small sweet potato, unpeeled, diced into bite-sized pieces 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup quinoa 1/2 cup black beans 1/4 red pepper, diced 2 cups greens (you choose) 1 tablespoon dried cranberries 1 tablespoon salted sunflower seeds
For the dressing:
1/4 cup mango, fresh or frozen 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 1/2 tablespoons water
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
2. Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl, add oil, and stir to coat. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a pan, and roast for 20 or so minutes, stirring a couple times, until the potatoes are soft.
3. Place the quinoa and half a cup of water in a covered pot on high. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid is all soaked up and the quinoa is tender.
4. Puree the mango with the balsamic vinegar and water, and set aside.
5. Allow the roasted potatoes and quinoa to cool to room temperature.
6. Start layering the salad in the jar beginning with the black beans. Add the cooked quinoa, and pour the mango balsamic vinaigrette on top.
7. Top with diced red pepper, greens, roasted sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds.
8. Screw top on securely, and store in the fridge.
When you're ready to eat, give the jar a good shake to mix everything up and enjoy!
Low-Sugar, High-Protein Lemon Raspberry Muffins
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups white whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
Each muffin contains 3.2 grams of fiber and 5.4 grams of protein!
Calories per serving
5 Common Fitness Saboteurs and How to Defeat Them
Ever have those days when you feel like the universe is conspiring to keep you from reaching your fitness goals? Even the most committed fitness enthusiasts face challenges to staying active. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves. Other times, life interferes with our exercise plans.
Check out this list of common fitness saboteurs and learn how to combat them with practical strategies that really work:
1. Stress—When you’re up against a work deadline or the kids are sick, you may feel you can’t handle one more thing, including exercise. But taking time out to go for a brisk walk or workout is one of the best things you can do during times of intense stress. Exercise helps alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression and helps boost your mood, enabling you to cope with whatever you’re facing. Even a short workout is better than nothing.
2. Unrealistic Expectations—Novice exercisers get frustrated when they expect big results too soon after starting a fitness program. Because they haven’t lost a huge amount of weight or developed six-pack abs after only a week or two of exercise, they throw in the towel. To avoid this mistake, set realistic goals and practice extreme patience. You can’t undo 10 years of a sedentary lifestyle in a week of walking. If you stick with a regimen, your body will respond to exercise. It takes at least six weeks of regular exercise and sometimes more for physiological changes to kick in.
It’s called the training effect. You’ll know it’s happening when your workouts start feeling easier; when you can tolerate longer, harder exercise sessions; and when you can do housework, yard work, or climb stairs with less effort.
3. Overtraining—Demanding daily workouts without scheduled rest won’t help you reach your goals faster. Instead, it’ll undermine your progress. Overtraining occurs when the exercise load is excessive related to the amount of time allowed for recovery. Overtaxing the body’s systems leads to decreased performance. A day or two off from vigorous exercise each week is recommended for rest and recovery. This can be done through a combination of scheduling rest days into your fitness plan and alternating hard and easy workouts. For example, cross-training, swapping out a few runs for swimming or bicycling, is another effective way to avoid overtraining, but scheduled recovery days are still recommended.
4. The Unexpected—You were going to walk after work, but now you’ve been asked to work late. Or perhaps you planned to swim, but then you find out that the pool is closed for maintenance. Life happens, and you can either throw up your hands and say, “forget it,” or accept it and roll with it. Resilience is your ability to bounce back quickly from life’s surprises and setbacks. This can be improved with practice. Strategies include practicing good self-care, such as eating right, sleeping well, and exercising regularly, along with cultivating good relationships, practicing optimism, taking decisive action, etc. As you become more resilient, you’re less likely to ditch your workout when something comes up. Instead, you’ll be able to quickly modify your plans and move forward.
5. Negative Self-Talk—“I’m so lazy, I’ll never be fit;” “I didn’t even exercise once this week;” “I’m such a loser.” Would you talk to a friend or loved one this way? Listening to negative self-talk isn’t motivating, so what’s the point? Negative self-talk only destroys your confidence and motivation to the point where you can’t visualize success. But you don’t have to put up with it. The next time you recognize a critical thought, stop it and replace it with a positive thought, like this: “I’m so proud of myself for walking at lunch time today. It took a lot of effort, but I did it.” Behavior change is hard. Give yourself some credit for every step you take toward your fitness goals. Practice intentionally giving yourself positive feedback and watch your motivation soar.
Sheena Temple has been a certified personal trainer for over four years and is the owner of High Desert Fitness. It's her vision to provide a comfortable environment for clients to train and improve their overall health and wellness.