The Nutritarian

Healthy Eating Insight

Cholesterol: What is keeping your levels elevated? Could you be your own worst enemy?

Written By: The Nutritarian - Oct• 31•12

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Today more than ever, Americans are realizing that preventative health care is a smart habit and are taking initiative to eat better, exercise more regularly, and keep current on physician check-ins.

When it comes to health, it is vital to rise above feelings of invincibility or fear. These negative emotions hinder us from taking proper care, and instead create an overwhelming sense of paralysis. Thoughts like, “I can ignore this pain, it will eventually go away” or “they’ve got a pill for that…” Let us move away from these degenerative thoughts that are holding us back.

Carpe Diem! Seize the day! It’s time to take charge of your own health by understanding cholesterol – the good, the bad, and what it means to overall health.  Get ready to find out how easy it is to incorporate small, manageable changes into your daily life to put you on track for preventing heart disease.


LDL vs. HDL: What is Bad and What is Good?

LDL is the lousy form of cholesterol. It circulates in the blood when there are excess amounts of fat and cholesterol.  This can form thick hard deposits that narrow arteries and cause clot formation, not allowing for proper blood flow through the body, which can eventually result in heart attack or stroke.

HDL is the healthy cholesterol that can protect against heart attack. It removes excess cholesterol from arteries, carrying it back to the liver where it is passed out of the system.

HDL numbers lower than 40 mg for men and 50mg for women are considered risk factors for coronary artery disease. Desirable HDL numbers are 60 mg or more, which can help to lower the risk of heart disease. Optimal LDL numbers should be under 100 mg.

Total Cholesterol Level

Less than 200 Desirable
200-239 Borderline high
240 and above High

LDL Cholesterol Level

Less than 100 Optimal
100-129 Near optimal/above optimal
130-159 Borderline high
160-189 High
190 and above Very high

Source: The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP). Your Cholesterol Goal, 2012


To put things in perspective, below is a chart of high, moderate and low cholesterol foods.



Butter 250
Oysters 206
Lobster 200
Crabmeat 127
Shrimp 125
Cream Cheese 110



Yellow Cheese 108
Whipped Cream 86
Beef 72
Pork, Fish 70
Chicken 64
Ice Cream 47



Cottage Cheese 15
Skim milk 4
Egg whites 0.3
Fruits, nuts, veggies, & grains 0
Soy, almond, or rice milk 0

The data is always a bit heavy, but the point is, if your numbers aren’t where you or your doctor would like them, you can make your food work for your body! I’ve listed some smart, health-conscious choices, including readily available products and recipes to help you immediately practice making a difference in your cholesterol through the way you eat.The acceptable daily-recommended intake, according to the USDA, is 300 mg of cholesterol.  A 100g serving of protein is about the size of a deck of cards, or the palm of your hand.  Eat three large shrimp and you’ve consumed more than a third of the recommended limit.  This example also assumes you were eating cocktail shrimp that weren’t sautéed in butter.  According to research from a Cholesterol Content article, people with higher cardiovascular disease risk should keep their intake to less than 200 mg a day.

The Mayo Clinic writes about the top 5 foods to lower cholesterol numbers as being; fish, nuts, oatmeal, olive oil* (especially EVO), and foods with plant sterols or stanols.  According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, credible institutions, nutritionists, dieticians, and doctors, we need to focus much more on how we eat.  Choosing more Super Foods in our daily diets can work wonders while alleviating feelings of deprivation.

8 Super Foods to Incorporate Daily: 

  • Oatmeal
  • Beans
  • Barley
  • Okra

All rich in soluble fiber, which helps your body eliminate cholesterol.

  • Soy

Reduces liver’s tendency to produce cholesterol.

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds

Naturally occurring sterols in nuts reduce cholesterol.

  • Tomatoes

High in the “red” antioxidant Lycopene linked to lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.

My Favorite Fast Tomato, After the Vine

Carmelina ‘e..San Marzano® Italian Tomatoes are one of the cleanest and easiest to cook with products I’ve found for fast cooking.  They taste great plain, like tomatoes straight off the vine, and are less acidic than any other plum variety I’ve tried.  I love making sauces, stews and soups.  Unlike most every other tomato brand I’ve inspected at the grocery, Carmelina ‘e…San Marzano® doesn’t add any preservatives (citric acid, calcium chloride, salt, or sugars).  Check out the ingredients list, it’s straight up, all-natural tomatoes, and that is all.

Don’t Wait!

So what are you waiting for? According to a study published by The American Journal of Nutrition, patients who avoided animal products and added these Super foods daily had a 30 percent drop in LDL in just four weeks.  That’s no time at all! Come on, try it – we only have wellness to gain!

Super foods, moderate carbohydrate intake, and regular exercise (which heightens HDL, healthy cholesterol), leaves no room for high cholesterol.  You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to take care by avoiding illness and disease.  Making good food choices now will allow for avoidance of costly drugs, medical procedures, or worries for your family later on down the road.

Source: Neal D. Barnard, MD, President of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and author of 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve your Health.  From: Vegetarian Times, Oct. 2012.

Budgeting for Organic Produce

Written By: The Nutritarian - Oct• 31•12

To Be or Not to Be Organic? That is Still the Question

If you can’t justify or afford organics, be sure to reference the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” to find what is safest, and where to save in the conventional vs. organic decision.  I alphabetized them to make it easier to remember. 

Below is a quick guide to where you can go for affordable, quality organic.

Where can I go for Affordable, Quality Organic at the Grocery?

Whole FoodsOrganic apples are often on sale, oranges are sometimes organic.

Trader Joe’s- They have bags of organic apples and pears that are under $3.00.  Buy things that you will be eating within a few days.  Items do not last long once brought home, from organic soy milk to arugula, it doesn’t stay fresh like Whole Foods.

Aldi- No organic options, but they do have some decent produce.

Stanley’s- They have a diverse selection of produce and some organic options with very low prices.

Free Healthy Foodie Apps

Written By: The Nutritarian - Oct• 02•12

Since it isn’t always simple to find good healthy food, here are some free apps to assist:

InBloom: Now you will know where to eat organic at any time.  Allows you to search nearby restaurants and markets for sustainable, healthy meals, based on location, eco considerations, special offerings like “grass-fed beef” or “shade-grown coffee,” and dietary preference, including gluten-free, raw, paleo, and more.

HarvestMark Food Traceability: To truly know where your food comes from, use this app to scan the HarvestMark bar code or QR code on fruit, vegetables, and poultry to receive a report on where your cucumber came from.  You could also read the sticker or label.

CSPI Chemical Cuisine: If you’ve ever encountered a questionable ingredient from a food label, rest assured, The Center for Science in the Public Interest has created this app to glean light on more than 130 food additives and safety ratings.
Read more:

Best Of Dark Chocolate; A Healthy Way to Indulge?

Written By: The Nutritarian - Sep• 28•12

Dark Chocolate Indulgences 

Who doesn’t want a healthy justification for dark chocolate consumption?  Knowing that dark chocolate fights free radicals, lowers heart disease risks, and promotes healthy cholesterol (HDL) makes it that much more enjoyable.  The hard part is eating 70% dark and above, and trying best to do so in moderation.  Read more: Chocolate for Heart Health?

Here are the recommended best brands:

Dagoba Dark Chocolate chili and superfruit flavors with 74% cacao percentages were ohh so tasty. (Whole Foods)

Endangered Species Organic 72% Dark Chocolate- Cranberry & almond and blueberry were tied for best flavor. (Whole Foods) Endangered species is a public charity foundation that donates 10% of net profits to promoting global change in species and habitat preservation, and humanitarian efforts.  Another great reason to feel good about indulging.

Kpali Organics-Organic goji, cacao, mulberry, pistachio  mix

Dairy Free Dark ChocolateBoom Choco Boom, unfortunately they don’t list the percentage of cocoa.  Best for lactose free dark though.  I am sure competitors will be following suit.

Sweet tooth trip?  Visit for creative chocolate tastings: The Chocolate Room, Brooklyn, NY and Bissingers in St. Louis, MI

Super Foods: Allowing You to Live Super Well!

Written By: The Nutritarian - Sep• 25•12

Super Food:

Classifying foods based on abundance of nutrients and antioxidants.   Use this chart as a guide to ensure you’re not always deriving nutrients from the same old sources.   Try adding super foods to you diet and find out how much better you feel.  I think you will discover how much more delicious they can make recipes as well.

The following categorizes different food groups and classifies them according to nutritional density.   These classifications are best supported by the research done to provide aggregate nutritional density indexes (ANDI scores.)

ANDI scores land on a scale from 1-1000 and are figured based on evaluating micronutrients such as: vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxident capacities, and more.   The food and scores are listed below by grocery store department as developed by Whole Foods and Eat Right America.  A similar reference and a deeper understanding of why to eat like this can also be found in Dr. Joel Furhman’s book Super Immunity.

Green Vegetables

  1. Mustard/ Turnip/Collard Green…1000
  2. Kale…1000
  3. Watercress…1000
  4. Bok Choy/Baby Bok Choy…824
  5. Spinach…739
  6. Broccoli Rabe…715
  7. Chinese/ Napa Cabbage…704
  8. Brussel Sprouts…672
  9. Swiss Chard…670
  10. Arugula…559

NonGreen Vegetables

  1. Radish…554
  2. Bean Sprouts…444
  3. Red Pepper…366
  4. Radicchio…359
  5. Turnip…337
  6. Carrot…336
  7. Cauliflower…295
  8. Artichoke…244
  9. tomato…190
  10. Butternut squash…156


  1. Strawberries…212
  2. Blackberries…178
  3. Plum…157
  4. Raspberries…145
  5. Blueberries…130
  6. Papaya…118
  7. Orange…109
  8. Cantaloupe…100
  9. Kiwi…97
  10. Watermelon…91


  1. Lentils…104
  2. Red Kidney Beans…100
  3. Great Northern Beans…94
  4. Adzuki Beans…84
  5. Black Beans…83
  6. Black-Eyed Peas…82
  7. Pinto Beans…61
  8. Edamames…58
  9. Split Peas…58
  10. Chickpeas (Garbanzo)…57

Nuts and Seeds

  1. Sunflower Seeds…78
  2. Sesame Seeds…65
  3. Flax Seeds…65
  4. Pumpkin Seeds…52
  5. pistachios…48
  6. Pecans…41
  7. Almonds…38
  8. Walnuts…34
  9. Hazlenuts…32
  10. Cashews…27

Whole Grains

  1. Oats, old-fashioned…53
  2. Barley, whole grain…43
  3. Wild Brown Rice…43
  4. Brown Rice…41
  5. Barley, pearled…32
  6. Wheat Berries…25
  7. Cornmeal, whole grain…22
  8. Quinoa…21
  9. Millet…19
  10. Bulgar…17


  1. Bison, top sirloin…39
  2. Bison, chuck roast…36
  3. Pork tenderloin…34
  4. Flank Steak…27
  5. Chicken breast…27
  6. Turkey, light meat…25
  7. Turkey, dark meat…24
  8. Pork Chops…24
  9. Ground beef, 85%-90% lean…20-23
  10. Beef, top round


  1. Tuna…46
  2. Flounder…41
  3. Sole…41
  4. Salmon…39
  5. Mahi Mahi…39
  6. Shrimp…38
  7. Swordfish…38
  8. Trout…36
  9. Snapper…35
  10. Haddock…35


  1. Feta…21
  2. Cottage Cheese, low fat…18
  3. Mozzarella, part skim…16
  4. Ricotta, part skim…16
  5. Swiss…15
  6. Parmesan…15
  7. Mozzarella, whole milk..14
  8. Gouda…13
  9. Provolone…13
  10. Gruyere…13

Refrigerated Dairy Case

  1. Tofu…37
  2. Nonfat Skim Milk…36
  3. Soy Milk…33
  4. plain Nonfat Yogurt…30
  5. Egg Substitute…30
  6. Egg White…29
  7. Low fat 1% milk…28
  8. Egg…27
  9. Hemp Milk…27
  10. Tempeh…26

World’s Largest Corn Maze Run – 5k Run/Walk

Written By: The Nutritarian - Sep• 13•12

World’s Largest Corn Maze Run – 5k Run/Walk, northern McHenry County
Date – Sunday, October 14, 2012
Start time – 8:00am
Location – Richardson’s Adventure Farm- Home of the World’s Largest Corn Maze

9407 Richardson Road, Spring Grove, Illinois 60081

“This is not just any corn maze. OHHH NO, this is the “World’s Largest Corn Maze.” Yeah… you’re welcome!” -Kevin

Fast Healthy Food, Chicago

Written By: The Nutritarian - Sep• 13•12

I am always looking for healthy places to explore, especially when they are cognizant of positive environmental practices.

While I haven’t tried Pret a Manger, the food sounds great and offers vegan options!

The same reasoning applies for Hannah’s.  These sandwiches look like they can be loaded with fresh and organic goodies.  Plus, they list the nutrition information and have gluten free options.

Best Places to Try Chicago

Written By: The Nutritarian - Sep• 10•12

The best places to try in Chicago Critique is based on these factors:

Great ambiance,  how talented, flexible, and creative the chef can get may be top priority.  However, great ambiance weighs heavily.  Who isn’t looking for knowledgeable servers in a comfortable, stylish setting?  I also expect loads of fresh organic ingredients (especially veggie and vegan dishes) were talking notable, high quality, spicy fresh, without pepper.  As a nutritarian, I appreciate exotic ingredients, higher prevalence of herbs for seasoning, and less reliance on fat-dense, buttery, or oily sauces.  BYOB or great wine/drink lists are also exciting.

Here is another great reference for healthy recommendations in Chicago Fast Lane to Health: Foodie and the Fork.  Places to try, from the same author, also offers some good suggestions.

Great VeganKaren’s on Green (excellent drinks including delicious gluten free beer, ambiance is sexy although sometimes the live jazz can be too loud for conversation. Vegan sushi and pizza are so good, even as acclaimed by a beer and pizza dude, they could do better on the veggies which were pretty typical, not warm enough, and very greasy. Also recommended, but not yet tried: Blind Faith-Evanston, Chicago Diner, Green Zebra, Urban Vegan

Best Italian: Picolo Sogno, Bella Note, Tuscany (Little Italy)

Best Drinks and Dinner Date:  Uncommon Ground, Rootstock, West Town Tavern, Socca, Atwood Café

Best Higher End: Firehouse, Carnivale (great for a group/celebration, very lively atmosphere, Crofton’s on Wells, sadly it closed (atmosphere was quiet and intimate; maybe people had trouble finding a dinner partner they enjoy talking to :/).

Best Indian: Kavita’s Kitchen, Cummin

Best Brunch: Toast (best whole wheat pancakes in the city), Meli (greatest variety of veggies), Waffles, Brunch

Best Sushi: Sunda, Japonais (trendy, sexy, loud, on the river), Tatsu, Wakamono, Taiyo (brown rice rolls), Butterfly (not ambiance, BYOB), Shiso (take your shoes off, intimate group tables)

Best Straight up Nutritarian: Whole Foods.

Best French: Chez Joel (Taylor Street, Little Italy, Chicago)

Chicago Places to Try

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 25•12

Parrot Cage – Washburne Culinary Institute

Hearty - Lakeview / East Lakeview

Wishbone – West Loop, Southern, Vegan Options

Broadway Cellars - Edgewater, Contemporary America

Big Jones – Andersonville, Southern

Southport and Irving- Lakeview / East Lakeview, American

Spaghetti Salad: An Unconventional Healthy Breakfast

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 18•12

Some times you don’t want spaghetti and meatballs, it doesn’t seem like the best way to start out the day, plus not many Italian restaurants are open at 8:30am for breakfast.

Today I gazed into the fridge ready to fuel up for the day.  I found an apple, ate it; still hungry.  Next course: cracked wheat. It was boiled with cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, almond milk and sea salt.  Still craving more of an unconventional breakfast.

Second course, (remember I’m an Italian athlete, we eat a lot), I had to get a creative since I am due a trip to the grocery.  I wanted to feel full so I boiled Lundberg’s gluten free organic brown rice pasta (add salt to the water).  I also knew I wanted it to be healthy, so while waiting for the boil, I chopped fresh spinach and other mixed greens along with fresh dried basil from the garden and the two cherry tomatoes I had left as a base in my bowl.  Once the noodles were aldente (to the tooth, not overcooked mush), I drained them and poured the steaming tendrils over my greens.  I had a huge bowl filled with all the right ingredients; plenty of textures and flavors for a satisfying spaghetti salad.  Recommended wine pairing: HESS Red