Sea Salt: Is It Worth Emptying Your Wallet?

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. Bolivian Rose Sea Salt. Dead Sea Salt. Celtic Sea Salt. Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt. Organic and Natural Sea Salt.

Sea Salts are marketed to us as a more natural and healthy alternative.  But are they any different than table salt?

Yes and No.

What is Sea Salt, anyway?

Sea Salt is produced through evaporation of seawater.  Depending on the region, the seawater imparts trace minerals and elements in the salt, giving it a distinct color and texture.

For example, Himalayan Pink Sea Salt typically contains a bit of iron oxide, which gives it a pinkish huge.  Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt gets it’s brownish-pink color from a Hawaiian clay called ‘alaea, which again is rich in iron oxide.  Black Sea Salt actually has activated charcoal added to it primarily for the visual effects.

But aren’t the minerals and trace elements in these salts good for me?

Unfortunately, only less than 2% of most sea salts contains minerals and trace elements.  Which means that if we’re only supposed to consume 1 teaspoon of salt total per day (which equals about 2,300 mg), you’d have to eat around a quarter of a cup of sea salt a day to get enough of the trace elements to make an impact on your health.

Ooph.  Talk about high blood pressure!

The other 98% of sea salt is made of NaCl, or sodium chloride.  Which is chemically identical to table salt.

Myth:  Sea Salt does not have less sodium than table salt. Gram for gram, sea salt has the same amount of sodium as table salt.  However, because the salt crystals are bigger, less of it can fit in a teaspoon. So per teaspoon, sea salt has less sodium.

(This is similar to whipped butter.  It’s still plain ol’ butter, but since there’s more air, less butter fits in a teaspoon – and therefore less calories).

** A Note on Purity:  Sea Salts are in the lime light as being healthful, but the fact is that they can contain pollutants.  Years ago the seas may have been relatively clean, but nowadays they’re increasingly dirty from oil spills, water traffic, garbage, and other pollutants.  Because sea salt is harvested on coastlines, potential pollution from the land is also a concern.  Be sure to read the label carefully to ensure that you’re getting what you want.

Table Salt Basics

Table salt is mined from either underground salt deposits (from old seas), or from dried salt lake, such as out in Utah.  Table salt a bit more processed to eliminate extra minerals and usually contains an additive to help prevent clumping of the small crystals.

Most table salt also has added iodine.  In 1924, manufacturers began adding this mineral to salt because iodine deficiency was once a persistent problem in some parts of the United States.  Currently, the majority or Americans no longer suffer from this deficiency, however, it continues to be a serious problem in Africa and some parts of Asia.

One last difference:  

Sea salt is much higher in price than table salt.

Verdict:  

Using sea salt over table salt is a matter of preference, not healthfulness.

Adding salt while cooking can enhance the flavors, making them more well-rounded and adding depth and complexity. But be aware that you may only need a pinch to jazz up your meal.  Consuming too much during the day may lead to high blood pressure, so experiment with herbs, spices, and citrus zest to help add a delicious zing to your food.

~ Rachel G

Read Full Story

Healthify Your Comfort Food

As the colder months roll in and slowly envelop us in frigid air, our food choices start to change.  Our penchant for salad goes by the wayside and we start craving more comforting foods: warm, creamy soups; toasty, gooey casseroles; and oodles of noodles.  All the delicious foods that, if eaten with abandon, help create the lovely padding around our midsection– a thermal layer that keeps up warm through these chilly months.

But as an athlete, training and performance are always in the back of your mind.  And though your season is just over, you’ll soon start building back up.  Your A Race is waiting.  The New Year brings with it new challenges, new training blocks, new goal times.  So stuffing ourselves with all these delicious foods may not be moving us towards these aspirations. 

I would be remiss in telling you that you should not eat these foods, after all they are mighty delicious and we only live once.  I will say, however, that there is a way to have the best of both worlds; a way of ‘healthifying’ these foods to keep their delectable flavor and yet offer better nutrition in preparation for your season.  Healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad (I promise!).

Below is a recipe for a healthier version of stuffed shells using blended reduced fat cottage cheese instead of full fat ricotta.   If you’re really adventurous, you could try replacing the cottage cheese with 1 block of firm tofu plus 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast (which imparts a great cheesy flavor!).  I know, it sounds strange… but don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Creamy Stuffed Shells with Spinach – Healthified!

Ingredients:

  • 12oz box jumbo shells
  • 2 cups 2% cottage cheese
  • 4oz (1/3 less fat) cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 packages (9-10oz) fresh baby spinach (or 1 box frozen, defrosted and drained)
  • 3 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1/3 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt

Directions:

{Makes about 30 stuffed shells}

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook shells according to the package.  Cook until al dente, not fully done (about 10 minutes).   Gently drain and set on a plate in a single layer to prevent them from sticking together.
  3. In a food processor, blend together cottage cheese, cream cheese, egg, and spices. Set aside.
  4. In a large sauté pan, sauté onions, garlic, and olive oil over medium heat.  Cook until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, stir and let wilt – about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  5. Stir together the cottage cheese and spinach mixture, adding the panko crumbs until combined.
  6. Spray a large rectangular casserole dish with olive oil, then spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce on the bottom.  Spoon about 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of the filing into each shell and place them in a single layer in the casserole dish. 
  7. Once all are filled, drizzle the remaining 2 cups of spaghetti sauce on top and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes – or until sauce is bubbling.

Enjoy!!

Read Full Story

Leucine: Improving Muscle Gain & Maintenance

As a triathlete, you work your tail off throughout the season to perform your best in that A race.  The first part of your season consists of building a solid base; gaining strength in the gym that will transition to power on the bike and in the run.  The second half of your season is devoted to speed and continued aerobic improvement.

For some athletes, performing their best means losing fat mass to get to a lean, healthy race weight.  Yet without proper nutrition, not only will fat be lost, but muscle mass as well.  This could lead to substandard performance via decreased strength and aerobic capacity.  Not ideal. 

Read Full Story

Ten Nutrition Tips for the Traveling Triathlete

It’s Monday afternoon and your boss has just informed you, that despite your best efforts to excuse yourself from business travel plans, you’re going anyway.  Before you know it, you’re booked on the 6am flight across the country.  Panic sets in.  My workouts! How am I going to get those key workouts in?  Frantically, you call your coach and somehow, you manage to work out the details. Ok, run a while I’m there, before meetings, after meetings, try to work in a swim, find the local YMCA, got it.  We’re covered. 

Crisis… averted?  What about nutrition?  Oh yeah, got that covered too – grab a snack in the airport, mini bar in the hotel room, the conference must have lunch, and if all else fails – room service.  You work hard to devise a “plan B” training configuration, but no preemptive planning goes into nutrition.  Why should nutrition take the back seat? 

Read Full Story

Food Logging: Is it a stress worth taking?

Logging your intake. I can’t tell you how important it is. The number one piece of advice I give to my athletes, regardless of if they are just starting out, or a seasoned triathlon veteran, is to start keeping track of what they eat! Even if you have (or think you have) control over nutrition, logging intake is a great learning tool. Besides tracking calories, one can monitor grams of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber. All of which can make or break your training session, or race!

So here is a list of five things one can learn by keeping a detailed nutrition log (even for just a short period of time):

Read Full Story

The Triathlon Fueling Window

I continue to get asked by athletes and coaches about taking a lower carbohydrate approach to fueling long course events. This concept sounds great on the surface, like Total Immersion-style swimming in triathlon, but as you dig deeper, you discover its pitfalls. I’ll sum this concept up as “Metabolic Efficiency Training – By Nutrition Modification” (low carb approach). I add the nutrition modification piece, as training via proper intensity ranges provides “Metabolic Efficiency” without tinkering with nutrition and is a proven concept. In my mind, there are two major components to the low carb approach: training nutrition modification/impacts and race day modification/impact. The first I discussed in pretty good detail here as “Starvation Workouts” – and the second I’ll discuss in more detail here. I’ll preface this discussion with the experience QT2 has with race fueling. Each year we do about 300-400 detailed race fueling plans for athletes from around the world of all levels. We’ve been doing this for about seven years. I have personally done fueling plans for over 40 PROs (many of whom I don’t coach).

Read Full Story

Detoxing Your Holiday Toxins Away

As we spend the last day of 2013, I bet many people are pondering about the changes they will make in 2014, and they will surely include some sort of health goal. For some, it can be easy to wake up tomorrow and start off on the right foot. But for others, it can be daunting to take that big leap.
Although one of the big reasons the Core Diet is so successful (besides the fact that we focus on real, nutrient dense foods) is that it is realistic. We allow “windows” for those foods that are not on the top of the “eat this” list, as well as a non-Core meal every once in a while (determined by your RD). However, some individuals can go a bit overboard during the holidays!

Read Full Story

Running In Cold Weather: Why You Need To Do This

It’s hard for me to think about bundling up in layers for a run when its still in the 80’s down here in South Florida. But as I pack for my upcoming New England trip, I am reminded of the weather reports in the rest of the country. Snow is trickling down on branches, and runners are seeing their breath before the words “hello” come out of their mouths as they pass a local running buddy. It’s also hard for many to imagine that sweat loss is going to occur when you are about to endure a run in 35-degree weather. But guess what? You still need to hydrate!

Read Full Story

Spooky & Spicy Carrot Salad

Dress up your Autumn dish with this antioxidant packed vegetable! Last week I suggested a new seasonal dish if you were getting bored with your day to day meals, and this colorful salad can do the same thing! Many of us don’t enough raw veggies in our diet, and carrot sticks dipped in hummus can get very old… Try this as a snack or with any lunch or dinner!  It's perfect for this Halloween season! 

Read Full Story

Autumn Fun Recipe

Bring on the pumpkins, Autumn is officially here! Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler, many of you have not yet reached the end of your triathlon season. At this point in the game, you might be a bit tired of your day-to-day foods. This is the perfect time to bring out those “hearty” meals that are still packed with good nutrients to ensure your body stays in peak condition.



Read Full Story

Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. Bolivian Rose Sea Salt. Dead Sea Salt. Celtic Sea Salt. Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt. Organic and Natural Sea Salt.

Sea Salts are marketed to us as a more natural and healthy alternative.  But are they any different than table salt?

Yes and No.

What is Sea Salt, anyway?

Sea Salt is produced through evaporation of seawater.  Depending on the region, the seawater imparts trace minerals and elements in the salt, giving it a distinct color and texture.

For example, Himalayan Pink Sea Salt typically contains a bit of iron oxide, which gives it a pinkish huge.  Hawaiian Alaea Sea Salt gets it’s brownish-pink color from a Hawaiian clay called ‘alaea, which again is rich in iron oxide.  Black Sea Salt actually has activated charcoal added to it primarily for the visual effects.

But aren’t the minerals and trace elements in these salts good for me?

Unfortunately, only less than 2% of most sea salts contains minerals and trace elements.  Which means that if we’re only supposed to consume 1 teaspoon of salt total per day (which equals about 2,300 mg), you’d have to eat around a quarter of a cup of sea salt a day to get enough of the trace elements to make an impact on your health.

Ooph.  Talk about high blood pressure!

The other 98% of sea salt is made of NaCl, or sodium chloride.  Which is chemically identical to table salt.

Myth:  Sea Salt does not have less sodium than table salt. Gram for gram, sea salt has the same amount of sodium as table salt.  However, because the salt crystals are bigger, less of it can fit in a teaspoon. So per teaspoon, sea salt has less sodium.

(This is similar to whipped butter.  It’s still plain ol’ butter, but since there’s more air, less butter fits in a teaspoon – and therefore less calories).

** A Note on Purity:  Sea Salts are in the lime light as being healthful, but the fact is that they can contain pollutants.  Years ago the seas may have been relatively clean, but nowadays they’re increasingly dirty from oil spills, water traffic, garbage, and other pollutants.  Because sea salt is harvested on coastlines, potential pollution from the land is also a concern.  Be sure to read the label carefully to ensure that you’re getting what you want.

Table Salt Basics

Table salt is mined from either underground salt deposits (from old seas), or from dried salt lake, such as out in Utah.  Table salt a bit more processed to eliminate extra minerals and usually contains an additive to help prevent clumping of the small crystals.

Most table salt also has added iodine.  In 1924, manufacturers began adding this mineral to salt because iodine deficiency was once a persistent problem in some parts of the United States.  Currently, the majority or Americans no longer suffer from this deficiency, however, it continues to be a serious problem in Africa and some parts of Asia.

One last difference:  

Sea salt is much higher in price than table salt.

Verdict:  

Using sea salt over table salt is a matter of preference, not healthfulness.

Adding salt while cooking can enhance the flavors, making them more well-rounded and adding depth and complexity. But be aware that you may only need a pinch to jazz up your meal.  Consuming too much during the day may lead to high blood pressure, so experiment with herbs, spices, and citrus zest to help add a delicious zing to your food.

~ Rachel G

As the colder months roll in and slowly envelop us in frigid air, our food choices start to change.  Our penchant for salad goes by the wayside and we start craving more comforting foods: warm, creamy soups; toasty, gooey casseroles; and oodles of noodles.  All the delicious foods that, if eaten with abandon, help create the lovely padding around our midsection– a thermal layer that keeps up warm through these chilly months.

But as an athlete, training and performance are always in the back of your mind.  And though your season is just over, you’ll soon start building back up.  Your A Race is waiting.  The New Year brings with it new challenges, new training blocks, new goal times.  So stuffing ourselves with all these delicious foods may not be moving us towards these aspirations. 

I would be remiss in telling you that you should not eat these foods, after all they are mighty delicious and we only live once.  I will say, however, that there is a way to have the best of both worlds; a way of ‘healthifying’ these foods to keep their delectable flavor and yet offer better nutrition in preparation for your season.  Healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad (I promise!).

Below is a recipe for a healthier version of stuffed shells using blended reduced fat cottage cheese instead of full fat ricotta.   If you’re really adventurous, you could try replacing the cottage cheese with 1 block of firm tofu plus 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast (which imparts a great cheesy flavor!).  I know, it sounds strange… but don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Creamy Stuffed Shells with Spinach – Healthified!

Ingredients:

  • 12oz box jumbo shells
  • 2 cups 2% cottage cheese
  • 4oz (1/3 less fat) cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 packages (9-10oz) fresh baby spinach (or 1 box frozen, defrosted and drained)
  • 3 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1/3 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt

Directions:

{Makes about 30 stuffed shells}

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook shells according to the package.  Cook until al dente, not fully done (about 10 minutes).   Gently drain and set on a plate in a single layer to prevent them from sticking together.
  3. In a food processor, blend together cottage cheese, cream cheese, egg, and spices. Set aside.
  4. In a large sauté pan, sauté onions, garlic, and olive oil over medium heat.  Cook until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, stir and let wilt – about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  5. Stir together the cottage cheese and spinach mixture, adding the panko crumbs until combined.
  6. Spray a large rectangular casserole dish with olive oil, then spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce on the bottom.  Spoon about 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of the filing into each shell and place them in a single layer in the casserole dish. 
  7. Once all are filled, drizzle the remaining 2 cups of spaghetti sauce on top and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes – or until sauce is bubbling.

Enjoy!!

As a triathlete, you work your tail off throughout the season to perform your best in that A race.  The first part of your season consists of building a solid base; gaining strength in the gym that will transition to power on the bike and in the run.  The second half of your season is devoted to speed and continued aerobic improvement.

For some athletes, performing their best means losing fat mass to get to a lean, healthy race weight.  Yet without proper nutrition, not only will fat be lost, but muscle mass as well.  This could lead to substandard performance via decreased strength and aerobic capacity.  Not ideal. 

It’s Monday afternoon and your boss has just informed you, that despite your best efforts to excuse yourself from business travel plans, you’re going anyway.  Before you know it, you’re booked on the 6am flight across the country.  Panic sets in.  My workouts! How am I going to get those key workouts in?  Frantically, you call your coach and somehow, you manage to work out the details. Ok, run a while I’m there, before meetings, after meetings, try to work in a swim, find the local YMCA, got it.  We’re covered. 

Crisis… averted?  What about nutrition?  Oh yeah, got that covered too – grab a snack in the airport, mini bar in the hotel room, the conference must have lunch, and if all else fails – room service.  You work hard to devise a “plan B” training configuration, but no preemptive planning goes into nutrition.  Why should nutrition take the back seat? 

Logging your intake. I can’t tell you how important it is. The number one piece of advice I give to my athletes, regardless of if they are just starting out, or a seasoned triathlon veteran, is to start keeping track of what they eat! Even if you have (or think you have) control over nutrition, logging intake is a great learning tool. Besides tracking calories, one can monitor grams of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber. All of which can make or break your training session, or race!

So here is a list of five things one can learn by keeping a detailed nutrition log (even for just a short period of time):

I continue to get asked by athletes and coaches about taking a lower carbohydrate approach to fueling long course events. This concept sounds great on the surface, like Total Immersion-style swimming in triathlon, but as you dig deeper, you discover its pitfalls. I’ll sum this concept up as “Metabolic Efficiency Training – By Nutrition Modification” (low carb approach). I add the nutrition modification piece, as training via proper intensity ranges provides “Metabolic Efficiency” without tinkering with nutrition and is a proven concept. In my mind, there are two major components to the low carb approach: training nutrition modification/impacts and race day modification/impact. The first I discussed in pretty good detail here as “Starvation Workouts” – and the second I’ll discuss in more detail here. I’ll preface this discussion with the experience QT2 has with race fueling. Each year we do about 300-400 detailed race fueling plans for athletes from around the world of all levels. We’ve been doing this for about seven years. I have personally done fueling plans for over 40 PROs (many of whom I don’t coach).

As we spend the last day of 2013, I bet many people are pondering about the changes they will make in 2014, and they will surely include some sort of health goal. For some, it can be easy to wake up tomorrow and start off on the right foot. But for others, it can be daunting to take that big leap.
Although one of the big reasons the Core Diet is so successful (besides the fact that we focus on real, nutrient dense foods) is that it is realistic. We allow “windows” for those foods that are not on the top of the “eat this” list, as well as a non-Core meal every once in a while (determined by your RD). However, some individuals can go a bit overboard during the holidays!

It’s hard for me to think about bundling up in layers for a run when its still in the 80’s down here in South Florida. But as I pack for my upcoming New England trip, I am reminded of the weather reports in the rest of the country. Snow is trickling down on branches, and runners are seeing their breath before the words “hello” come out of their mouths as they pass a local running buddy. It’s also hard for many to imagine that sweat loss is going to occur when you are about to endure a run in 35-degree weather. But guess what? You still need to hydrate!

Dress up your Autumn dish with this antioxidant packed vegetable! Last week I suggested a new seasonal dish if you were getting bored with your day to day meals, and this colorful salad can do the same thing! Many of us don’t enough raw veggies in our diet, and carrot sticks dipped in hummus can get very old… Try this as a snack or with any lunch or dinner!  It's perfect for this Halloween season! 

Bring on the pumpkins, Autumn is officially here! Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler, many of you have not yet reached the end of your triathlon season. At this point in the game, you might be a bit tired of your day-to-day foods. This is the perfect time to bring out those “hearty” meals that are still packed with good nutrients to ensure your body stays in peak condition.



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