Posts Tagged ‘sweet potato’

Hereditary Eating

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013



When did YOU first start eating healthy? Some people started in adulthood when coming to terms with health concerns such as weight
or heart health. Consider for a moment how healthy eating was introduced to you. Growing up did your parents or caregivers indulge you with sweets and junk food, or was your house the “uncool” one that the other kids didn’t want to visit because your family didn’t have any of that junk? Or were (or still are) you one of those picky eaters who doesn’t seem to like much of anything?

Whatever the case may be, your eating habits may have some basis in what you were brought up eating. Researchers are now even finding that the nature of our eating habits has a genetic basis.

According to a study conducted by professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Myles Faith, a fear of new foods may be inherited through the genes passed down to us,   ”Over the last 10 years, there’s been more and more interest in this question of nature and nurture with food.” Dr. Faith’s study concerned 66 pairs of identical twins four to seven years of age. The study concluded that 72% of a child’s aversion to certain foods is due to genetic predisposition with the remainder being influenced by other environmental factors. (1)

Ok, so we are 72% predisposed genetically to like some foods and not others; but just because it’s in our genes doesn’t mean we automatically should eat cake for breakfast every day because we like it better than oatmeal. We are still equipped with an amazing brain that can make the decision to eat in a healthier way because it allows our bodies to function in an optimal manner. Furthermore, we do have control over environmental factors pertaining to wholesome food choice habits. These environmental factors that influence such eating habits include:


    • Turn off the TV. As adults we tend to over eat when  watching the boob-tube (probably a partial result from the bombardment of ads for super unhealthy foods!). The same is true for kids. Research has also shown that kids of all ages who watch TV during mealtime are less likely to try new, healthy foods. (2)
    • The Family That Eats Together…. Eating a wide range of healthy fare while sitting down for family meals together models the example of good eating habits for kids. Kids witnessing parents, older siblings and even grandparents eating green leafy kale or quinoa salad are likely to model their families’ behavior. This sticks with children as they grow up into adults mindful of their food choices.
    • Don’t offer a dessert as reward for eating veggies. Did your Mom promise that you’d get that ice cream in exchange for two more bites of broccoli? Have you noticed that now when you’ve eaten something healthy or do an extra intense workout that you reward yourself with some Ben and Jerry’s? This habit is super hard to break, but can be overcome with mindful eating and willpower. Encourage your own kids to eat their broccoli without promise of Cherry Garcia… maybe one less chore this week would work better!
    • It’s All About Appearances! Kids tend to be more willing to try foods that are presented well. Check out these fun ways to make ordinary healthy foods more appealing for kids!  And it’s not just true for the kiddos… get some gorgeous dessert plates and use them as dinner plates. It’s a great way to keep your portion control in check and make your food look more appetizing…

Our own trainer, Jill Knipp, admitted that as a kid she was surprised to see the junk the other kids got to eat as her mother didn’t allow such food in her house. When she became a mom herself, she remembers how her kids’ friends never wanted to hang out at their house because she didn’t have any junk food either! Jill’s example really goes to show that parents (and Uncles’ & Aunties!) that set the example of healthy eating have kids who grow up to be healthy eaters.

What was your experience of healthy eating growing up? Were you taught to choose veggies from an early age? Were you regularly given soda? How did this affect your eating habits now as an adult? Here at Perfect Fit, we’d love to hear more about your healthy eating journey! Share your story with us on Facebook!




  1. Bindley, Katherine. “Is Picky Eating Genetic? Heredity Mostly Responsible for Children’s Narrow Food Choices, Study Shows.”
  2. Nazario, Brunhilda, MD., Ed. “What You Didn’t Know About Picky Eaters”.
















The good news is that if it work

Boosting Those Love Chemicals!

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Valentine’s Day is here and love is in the air! Did you ever notice the initial giddiness that comes when we’re falling in love?  Your heart races, you blush at the thought of your special someone, your palms get sweaty.

 Researchers say this is due to the dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin we’re releasing. Scientific research over the last several decades has led to the revolutionary discovery of these opiate-like chemicals in the body that associate with opiate specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord. There are three neurotransmitters responsible for the euphoria:

• Dopamine is thought to be the “pleasure chemical,” producing a feeling of bliss.
• Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline and produces the racing heart and excitement.
 Serotonin is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Neurotransmitters are extremely important, since they carry impulses between nerve cells. The substance that processes the neurotransmitter serotonin is the amino acid tryptophan. It increases the amount of serotonin made by the brain. According to Helen Fisher, anthropologist and well-known love researcher from Rutgers University, together these chemicals produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and focused attention. She also says,

“The human body releases the cocktail of love rapture only when certain conditions are met and … men more readily produce it than women, because of their more visual nature.” (1)

Serotonin is synthesized in serotonergic neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) where it has numerous functions such as the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction, and some cognitive functions including memory and learning. About 80 to 90 percent of the human body’s total serotonin is located in the enterochromaffin cells in the gut; there it is used to regulate intestinal movements. (2)

Serotonin is made inside the body from the amino acid, tryptophan which is found in various food sources, and high amounts are found in carbohydrates, chocolate and other sweets. When a person ingests chocolate, the body converts tryptophan, the building block into serotonin. That’s why people often find sugar as addictive as drugs and alcohol! A lack of serotonin leads to strong carbohydrate cravings that can lead to weight gain due to the overconsumption of calories.

Optimum levels of serotonin ensure healthy gut-brain communication and appetite control via the delivery of accurate satiety messages from the digestive tract to the brain. Besides there are certain conditions such as stress, PMS, and seasonal depression decrease your brain’s ability to manufacture serotonin.  Lifestyle variables such as diet and physical activity also determine the amount of serotonin your body would be able produce.

There are medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) that act as anti-depressants and help to boost serotonin levels. However, they do come with side effects and can cause potentially dangerously high serotonin levels in the brain.

Falling in love is just one way these neurotransmitters are released in the body. There are other natural ways to enhance serotonin level in the body:

Getting adequate exposure to sunlight on a daily basis. Studies have proven that being exposed to light helps with depression and stimulates serotonin production by counteracting the production of melatonin—a hormone created by darkness that induces sleep.


(Hint, Hint! Get busy with those Deadlifts!)

Daily exercise.  Thirty- forty minutes a day will boost serotonin levels and support weight loss. What’s more is that as people engage in regular exercise they also naturally increase the growth of the hippocampus in the brain, which positively effects emotion and makes you feel good. You don’t need to perform these 30 minutes of exercise all at once, however. You can split them up into two groups of 15 minutes or three groups of 10 minutes if you’re short on time and produce the same effect on your brain. 

Ensuring enough vitamin B6 in your diet. B6 helps to convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin. Try to eat a diet that is full of fish, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts as well as has low amounts of sugar and alcohol. An example would be a Mediterranean diet which is high in folates and B6.  Both are helpful nutrients that stimulate serotonin conversion in the body.

Avoid refined, processed foods and EAT YOUR VEGGIES! Processed foods are either low in fiber or completely devoid of it. These foods hike insulin levels, thereby disturbing body’s hormonal balance. Also, such foods are high in macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and protein) but low on micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (FOUND IN YOUR VEGGIES!), which signal the brain to send messages. Foods rich in fiber and micronutrients (create feelings of satiety, thereby decreasing hunger and appetite. The state of optimum nourishment also removes the desire to overeat. You end up being trim, healthy, and happy.

Highest Fiber Vegetables
Brussels sprouts
Chick Peas/Garbanzo Beans
Greens — collards, kale, turnip greens
Lima beans
Potato with skin
Pumpkin, canned
Peas — black-eyed peas, green peas
Sweet Potatoes

A whole foods dietary approach in conjunction with a regular exercise routine initiates and supports detoxification, a vital, life-sustaining metabolic process that triggers weight loss, strengthens immunity, promotes healing, and improves moods and mental functions.


(1) Obringer, Lee Ann.  “How Love Works”  12 February 2005. <>  01 February 2012.
((2) “Boosting Seratonin the Natural Way”.
((3) Shomon, Mary. “Highest Fiber Vegetables, Fruits and Foods”. Guide: Thyroid Disease. 30 Aug 2006.


Sweet Potatoes: What They Are & How to Cook ‘Em

Monday, November 21st, 2011

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re sure that you’ve been busy deciding what to prepare, how to prepare, and wondering how you can make it all healthy. Sweet potatoes are one of the most wholesome veggies you can put on your table this holiday season. According to CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), the sweet potato ranks #1 in nutrition compared to other vegetables. (1)

So you’ve seen Trader Joe’s bag of sweet potatoes and you’ve seen the traditional canned yams in pretty much every store out there. The real question is just what’s the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?

Experts from the fields of botany, archeology, genetics and linguistics will all give different answers because the sweet potato / yam has been called by different names at different times in history. Here in the USA, we call ‘em sweet potatoes with yams being another kind of sweet potato. The key to the difference lies in the potatoes themselves.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are yellow to cream-colored inside, drier than yams, with a mild, nutty taste. They make excellent alternatives to standard Irish potatoes, and can be a nice change of pace in recipes that traditionally call for yams. Varieties include Golden Sweets, Hanna Golds and O’Henrys.




Golden Sweet Potatoes
Light brown skins surround cream-colored insides in this mild, nutty sweet potato. Golden Sweets are perfect in casseroles and side dishes, or simply baked and served as you would an Irish potato.




Oriental/Japanese or Murasaki Sweet Potatoes
Dark purple outside and dry and white inside, this sweet potato, known as either an Oriental or Japanese Sweet, have a full, nutty flavor. They are an exotic alternative to traditional sweet potatoes, and an eye-opening alternative to Irish potatoes.






Yams are moist and sweet and orange when you cut them open. Varieties include Covingtongs, Jewels, Bienvilles, and the most popular Beauregard.



Beauregard Yams
The Beauregard is bright orange inside, copper-colored outside, and moist and sweet to taste. They are excellent for baking, roasting or in casseroles. When consumers think of a yam, they think of the Beauregard.



Red or Ruby Yams
Extra-moist and flavorful, with orange insides and a red-copper to plum-colored skin. Red yam varieties include the Diane, Maryland Red and Garnet.




Sweet potatoes pack a nutritious punch!

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and E – the antioxidants that can help prevent heart disease and cancer, bolster the immune system and even slow aging by promoting good vision and healthy skin. One medium sweet potato is an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, copper, folate (one of the B vitamins), and fiber.

Sweet potatoes are low in sodium, relatively low in calories, and are fat and cholesterol free. When eaten with the skin, they have more fiber than oatmeal. Sweet potatoes offer many essential nutrients including potassium,iron and Vitamin B-6. Potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body cells, as well as normal heart function and blood pressure. All this for about 130 calories per medium sweet potato.


Cooking Tips

  • Be Creative!
    The sweet potatoe and yam are a versatile food that can be used in most recipes calling for potatoes, pumpkin, squash and even bananas when use in breads, cakes and cookies.


  • To Steam: In a steamer, bring 1 ½ inches if water to a boil. Place whole, unpeeled sweet potatoes in steamer basket, cooking and steam for 40 to 50 minutes or until tender. To shorten  cooking time to 30 minutes, peel and cut into 1- inch cubes.


  • To Boil: Cook unpeeled sweet potatoes, covered, in small amount of boiling salted water 20 to 30 minutes or until desired doneness. For use in salads where covered or sliced, cook until just barely tender. Peel and cut into sticks and serve with your favorite dip, or grate and toss in a salad.. To prevent cut sweet potatoes from turning brown, immediately rinse pieces in cold water. Place cut sweet potatoes in ice water or in a plastic bag with ice and refrigerate until ready to serve. They will remain  crisp for up to four days.


  • To Saute: Peel sweet potatoes first then cut into ¼ to ½ – inch thick slices or 1 – inch cubes. Place pieces and 2  tablespoons butter or oil in a large skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over  medium-high heat until tender.


  • To Bake: Place in 350 F. oven and  bake 45 to 50 minutes or until tender.


  • To Fry: Boil for 10 minutes. Peel and  cut into lengthwise strips about ¼ – to ½ inch thick. Place in oil that has been  heated to 365 degrees F. Fry until brown and tender. Remove from oil and drain  on paper towels.


  • To Charcoal Broil: Wrap medium-size sweet potatoes individually in heavy-duty aluminum fill. Place on grill, about 5  inches from coals. Cook for about 45 minutes or until tender. To hasten, boil 10 minutes before wrapping in foil and bury in coals.


  • To Grill: Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise into ¼ – inch thick slices. Place on grill. Turn once. Remove when tender.


  • To Pan Roast: Boil for 10 minutes. Drain, peel and add to pan one hour before meat is done, basting 4 or 5 times.


  • Microwave: For best results, choose sweet potatoes that do not vary in width from center to ends. Pierce washed sweet potatoes. Cook on low, turning each potato 1/2 turn halfway through cooking time. From 5-8 minutes.


  • Baked Potato: Rub a little oil over clean and dry sweet potatoes for uniform size. Place on baking sheet and bake at 400 * F. 30 to 50 minutes, depending on size. Sweet potatoes that are greased before baking peel easily.


  • Boiled Sweet Potatoes: Drop clean sweet potatoes into enough boiling water to cover them, Cover the pan and return water to boiling as quickly as possible. Lower heat and cook until tender. Drain at once. Peel at once. Peel and season with butter and salt to taste. Use 1
    medium sweet potato per person. Boiled sweet potatoes can be used for pies, cookies, and casseroles, glazed, candied or frozen.


  • French Fried Sweet Potatoes: Boil sweet potatoes for 10 minutes. Peel, if desired, and cut into ½ -inch strips. Heat oil to 365 F., cook until golden. Drain and sprinkle with salt, brown sugar or ground nutmeg.


  • Sweet Potatoes on the Grill: Wrap medium-b size sweet potatoes individually in heavy duty aluminum foil. Lace on grill, about 5 inches from coals. Cook for approximately 45 minutes or until tender. To hasten, boil 10 minutes before wrapping in foil a burying in coals.


  • Skillet Sweet Potatoes: In a large deep skillet, heat 1-1/2 inch deep vegetable oil to 365 F. Add sweet potato strips to cover bottom of skillet. Fry 5 minutes or until brown and tender. Remove from hot oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt or powdered


Cranberry Glazed Sweet Potatoes


8 medium Sweet Potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced lengthwise

1-1/2 cups Whole Cranberry Sauce

4 tbsp. Orange Juice

2 tbsp. Lemon Juice

1 cup Light Corn Syrup

2 tbsp. Melted Butter


Place sweet potatoes in a shallow baking pan. Mix cranberry sauce and juices and spoon over the sweet potatoes. Blend corn syrup and melted butter and pour over the mixture. Bake at350 degrees F. for 25 minutes, basting occasionally.

Jalapeno Sweet Potato Chowder


2 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 small
onion, 1/4-inch diced
1 quart or less chicken- or vegetable stock
2 cups
cooked chicken, cubed
1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn
2 teaspoons jalapenos,
minced (or more to taste)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
scallions for garnish


Bake sweet potatoes at 350 degrees F until softened. Scoop out flesh; discard skin. Purée sweet potatoes. In a soup pot, sauté onion in butter until softened. Add puréed sweet potato and desired amount of stock. Bring to boil, reducing liquid slightly. Add chicken, corn, jalapenos, heavy cream and salt. Simmer soup for 10 minutes. Serve with chopped scallions for garnish.

(1) Source:

Grains and the American Diet

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Today’s American diet has grains in everything. Our typical side dishes include rice, bread, wheat pasta, or corn. The crops that go into these products are not necessarily that healthy and most people are sensitive to one of these grains, if not all of them and may not know it. The fact of the matter is that our gut is where our health starts and poor digestion can cause all kinds of disease over time.

I am going to give some good healthy choices to use instead of bread, rice, wheat pasta, or russet potato (high sugar). That’s right, these turn into sugar in our bodies which we need for fuel but today it is way over done and that is why our society is overweight, if not obese.

So let’s starts with a sandwich. Why not use some leafy green lettuce to wrap that meat around and the beloved hamburger could have grilled portabella mushrooms for the bun.

Spaghetti: I have used spaghetti squash it is wonderful! Buy it at your local market, just cut it open, scrape seeds out and steam it. After it is cooked you scrape the inside out and it comes out like noodles. With a good red sauce and meat, it is just great.

Side dishes for dinner can be a small sweet potato or yam.  They are very good for you and low in sugar and full of vitamins.

I also enjoy green beans steamed with sea salt and olive oil with a nice grilled chicken or any good quality meat you choose.

It’s summer so try some of the summer squashes, also a carbohydrate, but a good healthy one, and don’t forget your fat on the top of these great veggies.  A little butter or the olive oil is healthy and very good!

By Renee Woods, CPT, RKC