By Frances Largeman-Roth, RD
From Health magazine
Agave, Salba, stevia—oh my! Having trouble telling which new finds in the health-food aisle are actually good for you? Our helpful guide can point you in the right direction.
What it is: A syrup made from the Mexican agave plant, which is used as a sweetener and to make mescal—a distilled spirit. (Tequila is a kind of mescal.)
Where you’ll find it: In the baking aisle, near the other sweeteners.
What it’s good for: The syrup is roughly 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, without being cloying, and it works well in drinks and baked goods. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar, so it doesn’t cause blood sugar levels to spike as sharply. And agave is a natural source of inulin, a fiber additive that promotes the growth of stomach-protecting probiotics.
Worth a try? If you’re looking for a less-processed sweetener, agave is a good choice. But it’s not calorie-free: 1 tablespoon has 60 calories. You’ll pay more, too: a 23.5-ounce bottle of organic agave is $8, while a 5-pound bag of sugar (which has more servings) costs about $4.
What it is: A caffeine-free South African plant that is brewed as a tea; also known as red tea.
Where you’ll find it: In the tea and spice aisles, and where bottled iced tea is sold. You can even get a rooibos latte at Starbucks.
What it’s good for: Rooibos is naturally sweet, so it’s perfect iced with a little fresh mint or lemon for a low-calorie drink, and it delivers a nice hit of antioxidants. Rooibos also has been used for centuries to combat allergies and skin problems, although these benefits have not been documented.
Worth a try? If you enjoy the flavor of this tea, sure.
What it is: A sweetener made from the South American stevia plant.
Where you’ll find it: In packets as Truvia and PureVia brands, and in beverages and other foods. SoBe LifeWater is sweetened with PureVia; some Odwalla drinks and Breyers’ YoCrunch 100 Calorie Packs include Truvia. Expect to see more stevia-sweetened products soon.
What it’s good for: It’s nearly carb-free, so stevia may be a smart choice for diabetics and other carb counters. If you’re watching your weight, you could also benefit: pure stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories.
Worth a try? It has a purer flavor than calorie-free artificial-sugar substitutes. But some people complain that stevia has a bitter aftertaste.
What it is: Ever have a Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Pet? Salba seeds are a strain of chia seeds, which have been eaten for centuries in Mexico and Guatemala.
Where you’ll find it: In the nuts-and-seeds section or supplement aisle. Salba is now in energy bars, salsa, and more.
What it’s good for: Use these nutty seeds the way you’d eat flaxseed—mixed into yogurt, tossed with cereal, or sprinkled over salads.
Worth a try? Yep. The seeds contain a very rich form of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory benefits. They are also high in fiber, gluten-free, non-allergenic, and a good source of protein. There’s some debate over whether Salba seeds are just white chia seeds with fancy branding: The Salba brand sells a 16-ounce jar of whole seeds for $27 plus shipping (SalbaStore.com), while the same amount of regular white chia seeds can be found for $12 (Amazon.com). Either way, they’re both good for you.
What it is: A berry from palm trees in Central and South America.
Where you’ll find it: In the freezer section and the supplement aisle, and in juices, nutrition bars, and cereals.
What it’s good for: These berries are rich in antioxidants and healthy fats. Frozen açaí pulp is great in smoothies (try our Sunrise Smoothie Parfait) and has a flavor between blueberries and dark chocolate.
Worth a try? Products made with açaí can be pricey, so don’t feel you have to load your cart with everything açaí. A better bet: sample açaí—and these other “It” foods—and work what you love into a well-balanced diet.
And what the heck is gluten-free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten-free foods are often rice- or corn-based. While some people avoid gluten for medical reasons, others do so to lose weight. If you don’t have celiac disease, the benefits of going gluten-free are unclear, and it can be expensive.
Monthly Archives: March 2010
It’s marketed as “liquid Viagra” with the “perfect concentration of electrolytes,” and you’ll find many celebrities (like Madonna or Matthew McConaughey) sipping it after Bikram yoga. But coconut water’s appeal may be the allure of the Hollywood elite who drink it, rather than any real health advantage.
Sold in 11-ounce packages, coconut water provides about 60 calories and 3–4 teaspoons of natural sugars per container. It is relatively low in sodium and extremely high in blood-pressure-lowering potassium, providing well over 100% of the required daily intake for the electrolyte.
Though it is often advertised as a natural sports drink, you can probably get the same post-workout benefit from drinking water and eating raisins, PowerBar gels, or other energy boosters.
There are no scientific published studies to back up the claims of being a libido lifter, hangover helper, or great hydrator, but it is lower in calories and sugar than sodas or fruit-flavored beverages. Some of the blended coconut waters that have essence of mango or passion fruit improve the flavor too. I’m in the camp that they are all, well, an acquired taste.
If you want a beverage that gives you a punch of potassium without overloading calories or sodium, give one of the coconut waters a try and be sure to tell me what you think.
|Product (per 11 ounces)||Calories||Carbs (g)||Sodium (mg)||Potassium|
|Harvest Bay Original Coconut Water||65||16||35||660|
|Naked Juice Coconut Water||60||14||20||650|
|O.N.E 100% Coconut Water||60||14||60||670|
|Vita Coco 100% Pure Coconut Water||60||14||40||680|
|Zico Pure Coconut Water||60||14||60||670|