Mythbusting Bacteria: Are Germs Really as Bad as You Think?

hand sanitizer

“Aah, I got nature, I got nature on my hand! [Natalie wipes off the dirt with a leaf] What are you doing? You can’t clean nature with nature!” –Adrian Monk

Germs are everywhere, and that’s natural. At some point, though, people decided they were bad. Not just bad – our mortal enemies. Our environments have thus become increasingly sterile, and our use of sanitizers has gone through the roof. However, the more research we do, the more evidence we find that some exposure to germs is actually good for us, and chemicals in sanitizers may do more harm than the good they cause by disinfecting.

Germs Are Your Friends (Sort of)

If you’re new to the medical community’s “hygiene hypothesis,” it basically states that exposure to some germs is healthy. It allows young children to practice fighting off germs, conditioning their immune system and in turn lowering their risk of developing childhood allergies such as asthma.

Studies show that in first world countries where childhood vaccines, dairy pasteurization, and filtered water are commonplace, the number of infectious diseases decline as allergies increase. While you might say that you’d rather have asthma than filariasis – (and we’d agree!) – there is still a threshold where the over-sterilization of an environment can be counterproductive to our health and wellbeing.

So Where’s the Balance?

Glad you asked. As nutritionists, we’re not here to lecture on the use of Lysol wipes or hand sanitizer. Where our knowledge truly comes in handy is in helping your body get the right nutrition to help fortify its immune system and digestive system.

Prebiotics and Probiotics and Antibiotics, Oh My

What many people don’t realize is that some forms of bacteria are actually necessary to maintain health. Our skin is actually covered with protective bacteria and our digestive tract is populated with as much bacteria as we have cells in our body!  These good bacteria, known as PRObiotics help protect us from invasive pathogens and help digest our food.

Antibiotics are veritable life savers in how they kill bad bacteria that overgrows and makes us sick. Unfortunately, they kill off the good bacteria too. So whenever you take antibiotics, it’s important to rebuild the good bacteria, lest the harmful bacteria take up residence in the void created after antibiotics kill off both the pathogens and the healthy bacteria in your gut.

There are a number of ways to promote the growth of good bacteria. Taking Probiotics in pill form is a good way to fortify your system. Nutritionally, ingesting regular amounts of fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, pickles, fermented vegetables and tempeh is another. Fiber feeds our good bacteria, so foods high in fiber are also a great way to keep our good bugs proliferating. The fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds all help promote the growth of healthy bacteria.

In Zing Bars, we actually include a specific type of fiber from chicory root.  This is known as a PREbiotic because it specifically feeds the healthy bacteria in our gut.  Other foods that include prebiotic fiber are onions, garlic, dandelion greens, leaks, asparagus and onions.  Adding these to your diet regularly will help feed those important good bacteria, improve your digestion and fortify your immune system.

Other Excellent Wellness Practices

There are plenty of things you can do to stay healthy in our world full of germs. Rather than reach for the nearest antibacterial goo, here are a few other ideas:

  • Get adequate sleep to strengthen your immune system.
  • Be active. Regular physical activity boosts immunity so you can spend less time fighting colds and other germ-based ailments. Physical activity also helps the digestive process.
  • Eat wholesome, fiber-rich foods to nourish your body and your bacteria.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.

In Summation

kids outside

With summer just around the corner, and kids excited to play outside – it’s in everybody’s best interest to let them go get dirty. Being exposed to germs with a healthy immune system gets back to the hygiene hypothesis we talked about earlier.

It’s not about avoiding germs all together, it’s about having a fine-tuned immune system that can handle them when they come our way.  Some new research even points to the importance of getting dirty because soil contains beneficial bacteria. Kids who play in the dirt actually fortify their immune system!

By eating nourishing foods, playing in nature and embracing good bacteria, you’ll have the energy and vitality to conquer whatever bad germs you encounter.

5 Spring-Cleaning Tips for Your Body and Mind

meditating

Luckily for us, spring seems to be winning its annual battle against winter for the month of March. Predictions of early spring came last month when everyone’s favorite groundhog failed to see his shadow. And while we don’t usually trust scientific projections to the whims of large rodents, we have to admit he may have been right this year.

While it’s easy to forgo nutritious habits and succumb to comfort food cravings in the depths of winter, the first warm weather days of spring have a way of re-energizing us. From wanting to get back into a workout routine to getting excited that fruits and vegetables are about to be more abundant, it’s a very empowering time of year. Unfortunately, it can be a little hard to shake off those winter blues. So without further ado, here are 5 spring-cleaning tips for your body and mind.

  1. Focus on balance

yoga

As we all know, winter has a way of seeing our workout routines slump and our healthy eating habits deteriorate. Come spring, some people feel the need to dive into a super intense daily workout and restrict their calories.

This seldom ends well.

Instead, try incorporating frequent walks as you begin to get back into your workouts and select a variety of nutritious foods as the bulk of your diet. Most meals and snacks should include a combination of less processed carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. This combination, together with controlled portions, can keep you nourished and energized.

Some examples of balanced and quick meals perfect for March weather:

  • Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Salad with greens, tuna, tangerine slices, and walnuts
  • Oatmeal with skim milk, strawberries, and a small handful of nuts
  1. Eat your vegetables

peppers

Vegetables are a mini multivitamin – packed with nutrients, high in fiber and water, and low in calories. It’s easy to start subbing in carbs when it gets cold and the varieties aren’t as plentiful in the grocery store, but now they’re coming back! To start incorporating them back into your diet, begin by eating a variety of cut up veggies (as a snack or added to lunch) 2- 3 times per week, with things like:

  • Red Peppers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  1. Allow for food indulgences

chocolate nuts

Everyone needs a break sometimes.  Try employing the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time, eat intentional meals that mix lean proteins, slow-burning carbohydrates, fiber, and plenty of nutrients.  20% of the time, treat yourself to the treats that bring you love—ice cream, your favorite dessert, a cheesy dip. Creating some allowances for yourself is good for your mind and has a place in a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Stay hydrated

water

Water is essential for every function of your body. It is natural, calorie-free, and boosts your metabolism.  Even mild dehydration can induce headaches and make you feel tired.  Carrying your favorite water bottle around can help you remember to drink often, and aim for 72 to 100 ounces per day.

There are other options if you do not like plain water. Try drinking it with fresh mint or basil leaves, or with sliced fruit such as lemon, orange, or lime wedges, or slices of strawberries or peaches added. Or, try plain sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice.

  1. Enjoy healthy snacks

dark chocolate mint

Snacks play an important role in our busy lifestyles. Healthy snacks keep hunger under control, provide essential nutrients, and support a healthy weight.  The right choices provide energy, help you focus, and keep your blood sugar in check.

Try these healthy snacking tips:

  • Focus on fruits and vegetables
  • Include some lean protein such as chicken, non-fat yogurt, or nuts and seeds
  • Watch your portions—aim for 150-200 calories
  • Keep high fiber nutrition bars on hand to overcome temptations
  • Avoid highly processed foods such as sugary cakes and cookies, refined starches such as white crackers, and fried foods

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your home. It might start with some willpower, but once you get back into a healthy routine with fresh foods and some outside activities, your vitality and energy levels will shake off winter in no time.

What’s your trick to get back into a healthy lifestyle?

 

How to Break Up with Sugar This Valentine’s Day

break up with sugar

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love. It’s a time to strengthen your intimate relationships, do something nice for your special someone, and maybe show your family and friends some appreciation, too. It’s a time for relationships to grow.

But there’s one Valentine’s Day breakup you may want to consider: your bond with sugar. When you cut back on sugar, you can feel better, look better, and even be freer to explore other relationships. Here’s why and how.

Why Break Up with Sugar?

couple in love

“Honey, does this sugar make me look fatigued?” Well, yes, it does, actually. Refined sugars – found in cookies, chips, candy and other common snacks — spike our blood sugar, leading to the dreaded drop later on. This can lead to a need to get that buzz back, so we eat more sugar, which perpetuates the cycle.

You can test this theory yourself over the next couple of hours. Sugar leads to blood sugar spikes that you may feel as a sudden burst of energy. The trouble comes when your body’s insulin response kicks in and overcompensates to lower your blood sugar levels. Within an hour or so after you eat a high-sugar snack or meal, you can feel tired or foggy-headed because of low blood sugar levels. You may think this is normal, but it’s not.

Maintaining steady energy all day is a good enough reason to break up with sugar on the spot, but there are plenty of other reasons to call it quits. According to Mayo Clinic, people who eat more sugar are at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and tooth decay. According to recent research, sugar consumption may even be linked to cancer. The World Health Organization recently lowered its recommendations for daily sugar consumption because of its dangers.

Chocolate for the Heart: Know the Best Sweet Substitutes

Don’t be fooled. Cutting back on refined sugar may be tougher than you think.

This is because the stuff is literally addictive. It affects the same parts of the brain as addictive drugs like opioids. One strategy for cutting back is to choose more nutritious sweets, such as dark chocolate and cacao.

Cacao is a great option that comes packed with healthy benefits. Loaded with minerals like Magnesium and heart-healthy fats, cacao is a raw chocolate alternative that you can add to your favorite recipes and is sure to please.

When you eat dark chocolate with healthy foods such as nuts, you can satisfy your sweet craving while preventing blood sugar spikes. This can keep you from being hungry again for hours. Bars such as Dark Chocolate Hazelnut or Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Zing Bars are organic, vegan options. Ghirardelli, Godiva, and Lindt all have versions of dark chocolate with high percentages of cocoa.

You’ll not only be cutting back on sugar, but also be supporting heart health. University of Michigan explains that dark chocolate has antioxidant polyphenols known as flavonoids. Eating chocolate regularly can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and risk for blood clots. It can also improve your mood.

Gifts That Say “I Love You”

Now back to Valentine’s Day. A box of milk chocolate truffles or other candy may be traditional on Valentine’s Day, but it may not be the best way to say, “I love you.” You can find gifts that are far more unique to show your special someone how much you care. Plus, you can find a gift that won’t leave the recipient feeling sluggish or bloated.

Here are a few gifts that will show you truly care about your sweetie’s health and wellbeing:

  • Fruit displays with fresh seasonal fruit
  • Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate
  • Peanut or almond butter, quinoa, and dark chocolate truffles instead frosted chocolate cupcakes
  • Cacao heart-shaped cookies
  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, coconut, and dark chocolate pieces

When you break up with sugar, you can feel the benefits nearly immediately in terms of more stable energy and better alertness. When you and your partner cut back on the sugar-laden fare this Valentine’s Day, you just may find that the romantic feelings last a lot longer into the night! Enjoy!

Weigh in on the sugar debate — do you agree with the research or do you think it should be taken with a grain of salt?

 

7 Simple Ways to Beat Comfort Food Cravings and Snack Healthy This Winter

snack healthy jan image

Healthy snacks can keep hunger at bay while providing essential nutrients and supporting weight control. The right ones also give us energy, keep our blood sugar balanced and help us maintain focus throughout the day.

In winter, however, when the weather is bleak and the nights are too long, the common tendency is to shelter in place with our favorite comfort foods. This is especially easy since Farmers Markets are less likely to be carrying as much fresh produce as we’re used to seeing in warmer months.

However, the healthier we eat in winter, the better we feel. The more “comfort food” we eat, the more sluggish, sleepy and hungry we tend to feel. So even though it may take a little more effort, the benefits are worth it. Below is our guide to 7 simple ways you can beat those comfort food cravings and snack healthy all winter long.

1. Turn to seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients. While summer fruits and vegetables such as peaches, watermelon, and tomatoes may not be as abundant, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables that are readily available in the winter. According to Fruits and Veggies: More Matters, fruits such as oranges, tangerines, pears, and persimmons, along with vegetables such as Belgian endive, kale, and winter squash, are in season in winter months. They may even be higher quality than in summer.

2. Combine your nutrients.

Protein, fat, and carbohydrates are the three main sources of calories. Harvard School of Public Health suggests including at least two of those nutrients at each snack. These are some ideas:

  • Bake slices of acorn squash, which is high in good carbohydrates, brushed with olive oil, which has heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • Pack hard-boiled eggs, which are high in protein, with apples, which are high in good carbohydrates.
  • Eat snack bars, such as Zing Bars, which contain healthy fat, protein, and fiber-rich carbs.

3. Pair high and low-calorie nutrient-dense foods.

Harvard School of Public Health also suggests including one low-calorie food, such as a fruit or vegetable, and one higher calorie, but still nutritious, option. Nuts, avocados, and peanuts, are high in fat and calories, but rich in nutrients such as fiber and antioxidant vitamins.

To try this high-low pairing, you could dip Belgian endive, a source of fiber and low in calories, into a vinaigrette made with herbs and flaxseed oil, a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats.Try pairing apple slices with almond or peanut butter, or dip cauliflower florets into guacamole.

4. Plan ahead.

You can prepare many snacks ahead of time so you have no need to browse the vending machine or the nearest convenience store. These are some examples of make-ahead steps you can take in advance.

  • Hard-boil eggs
  • Wash and cut fruits and vegetables
  • Cook some lean protein, such as chicken breast or shrimp

5. Always have healthy snacks on hand.

You may not have time to prepare fancy snacks, but you can always have them on hand. Zing Bars have ingredients such as cashew butter, peanuts, and dried fruit. You can stash them at work or home so you always have a healthy choice available. String cheese, yogurt, and canned or pouched tuna are other great foods to keep handy.

6. Watch your portions.

Even the healthiest of foods can cause weight gain if you eat too much. Watch portions of foods such as nuts and peanuts, which have about 200 calories per ounce. You can measure out your portions beforehand, and always avoid snacking from the bag. Satisfying snack bars like Zing Bars can help you with portion control.

7. Don’t get too hungry

When you get too hungry, you are more likely to dive for whatever is in sight, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy it may be. (We’ve all been there!) Instead of letting yourself get to the point where you are starving, eat when your hunger becomes moderate. That way, you can still have enough control to pass up the cookies and potato chips for a healthier choice.

What’s your personal trick for eating healthy during the winter? Take a peek at our flavors page and see if you can find a bar that curbs your comfort food cravings.

 

Fat: Friend — Not Foe — for Weight Loss and Health

Zing dec

Fats have been seen as the dietary enemy for years, but research is piling up against this belief. In fact, it now seems clear that choosing healthy fats and limiting unhealthy carbohydrates is a better strategy for controlling weight and improving health.

For years, nutritionists and the media touted a low-fat diet to control weight and reduce heart disease, America’s #1 cause of mortality. You may have grown up associating dietary fat with body fat and blocked arteries, but recent research has clearly disproved this nutrition myth.

It’s just a little too simplistic.  As a friend likes to say, “The idea that eating fat makes you fat is similar to saying that eating sugar turns you into sugar… it just doesn’t work like that.”

Healthy vs Unhealthy Fats

The public health message has referred to “fat” as a single nutrient for years. In reality, there are many types of fats, and some are better than others for your weight and health.

The worst fats include trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oil.  These are man-made fats found in commercially baked breads and pastries, Crisco and margarine. They have been linked directly to increased heart disease and overall mortality.

Healthy fats tend to be unsaturated, and particularly mono-unsaturated like those found in nuts, seeds, avocado and olives. These healthy fats can fight inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease.

In fact, these fats are so good for you that the Journal of the American Medical Association published an Opinion Article in June stating that the upper limit for consumption of all fats should be lifted, stating, “Based on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recent recommendations, this Viewpoint [Opinion] urges the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services to remove limits on total fat consumption in their 2015 Dietary Guideline to promote consumption of healthful fat.”

This would have been unheard of a decade ago.

Healthy Fats Over Unhealthy Carbs

According to the New York Times article we referenced in our last post, unhealthy carbs such as added sugars and refined starches are damaging to your waistline and health. Choosing healthy fats instead can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce hunger. Think avocados, nuts, peanuts, flaxseeds and olive oil, and not candy, white rice, pretzels, and sweetened beverages.

Fat is an Essential Nutrient

The truth is, you need fat in your diet. Every cell in your body is surrounded by a protective layer of fat. Your hair, teeth, nails, and skin depend on fat to be healthy. Fat allows proper brain and eye development, as well as a healthy metabolism. For optimal health and nutrition, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and USDA suggest aiming to get 20 to 35 percent of your calories from fat, or 44 to 77 grams of fat per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. And as mentioned above, current scientific evidence suggests lifting the upper limit entirely as healthy fats have so many benefits and reduce disease.

Healthy Fats Can Aid Weight Loss

It is true that fat contains 9 calories per gram, which is more than twice the calorie density of protein and carbohydrates, which each have 4 calories per gram. These stats can tempt you to minimize your fat intake, thinking you will limit your calories and lose weight. But resist the temptation.

Fat in your diet can help you control your weight for a number of reasons.

  • Healthy fats actually trigger your brain to feel full.
  • Fat lowers the glycemic index of foods that contain carbs. That makes these foods slower to digest, so your blood sugar levels are more stable. This helps keep you satisfied for much longer compared to a high-carb snack on its own.
  • Low-fat and fat-free foods can have more starches and sugars than their full-fat versions, which digest quickly and don’t keep you satisfied, leading you to eat the same, if not more calories.

Add Healthy Fats to Your Day

So if you’re sick of feeling hungry all the time and still not losing weight, sick of the emotional rollercoaster of blood sugar spikes and drops, sick of feeling drowsy mid-day and anxious at bedtime as the caffeine from your afternoon pick-me-up wears off, then you’re probably ready to stop the cycle – try incorporating healthy fats into your daily routine and see if you feel a difference.

Here are 7 delicious ways to incorporate healthy fats into your diet throughout the day.

  1. Add pecans or other nuts to your oatmeal or cold breakfast cereal.
  2. Spread peanut butter on toast instead of having it plain.
  3. Snack on gluten free protein bars. All Zing Bars are made from a nut butter or seed butter base, so they all provide a nutritious dose of heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats.
  4. Put sliced avocado in your chicken wrap at lunch.
  5. Add flaxseed or other seeds to salads and sandwiches.
  6. Drizzle olive oil when roasting vegetables.
  7. Choose salmon or another fatty fish instead of meat.

It may go against what you learned growing up, but healthy fats at meals and snacks can give you the health and weight loss results you want. This is why fat is not the enemy. In fact, it’s time to bury the hatchet with fat once and for all, and turn it into your new friend.

To learn more about healthy fats, continue reading here.

Good Carb, Bad Carb: How Well Do You Know Your Carbs?

Good carb, bad carb IMG

While reading the New York Times recently, I came across a fascinating article that explains the idea of Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs.  The media tends to bombard us with over-simplified nutrition information and it was refreshing to read Jane Brody differentiate between healthy carbs (and fats) and unhealthy ones.

Due to the low-carb craze that has swept the country over the last couple decades with trendy diets from Atkins to Paleo, there’s a deeply ingrained tendency to label all carbs as bad.

But in doing so, we forget that carbohydrates are our primary energy source.

Classifying all carbs as bad is like classifying all flowers as pink. Sure, there are a lot of pink ones, but that’s far from the whole story.

The Glycemic Index

Some carbs provide a steady source of energy and are critical to our vitality and wellbeing, while others cause metabolic havoc and result in all kinds of problems.  The basic difference is how quickly (or slowly) a carbohydrate is digested. Different types of carbs are measured and classified through a system called the Glycemic Index.

So what exactly is the Glycemic Index, you ask? Much like outer space, algebra and the Kardashians’ rise to fame, the Glycemic Index is something we’re all familiar with, but many don’t truly understand.

In 1981, the glycemic index was invented, and pure glucose was given the value of 100. Other foods were given comparative values based on the glucose response – in other words, how quickly they raised blood sugar — to determine which carbs were good (those below 55), which were neutral (55-70) and which were unhealthy (above 70).

Why Are Some Carbs Bad?

Certain carbohydrates are digested quickly in our bodies. These are the bad ones that spike blood sugars.  Table sugar, soda, candy and sweets are the classic examples.

Refined grains are another culprit.  Think “white foods” like white rice, white bread and baked goods like muffins, cupcakes, bagels, cookies, crackers and cakes.  As Dr. Hu from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explains in the aforementioned article, “highly processed grains that have been stripped of dietary fiber act more like sugar in the body. They are rapidly digested and absorbed, raising blood levels of glucose and prompting the secretion of insulin to process it.”

How Bad is “Bad”?

The effects can be wide ranging and very destructive:

  1. The excess insulin that Dr. Hu refers to turns the circulating blood sugar to fat, leading to weight gain and fatty liver
  2. The resulting low blood sugar level signals the brain to seek out more glucose, which is perceived by us as hunger and cravings for the most readily available source—sugar and refined carbs
  3. This can create a blood sugar roller coaster where we literally feel hungry all the time while we are actually gaining weight
  4. Low blood sugars not only cause cravings, but also make us tired, irritable and distracted. Most of us are now familiar with the term “hangry.”  Low blood sugar = hungry + angry

Why Are Some Carbs Good?

Our body transforms all carbs into glucose.  Our brain consumes 30% of it.  Carbs are essential to thinking and moving.

Healthy carbs are essentially those that contain fiber, digest slowly, and don’t spike blood sugars.  They are scientifically known as low-glycemic. Examples include fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains and low-glycemic sweeteners like agave.  These carbohydrates are digested slowly into glucose and provide an even, measured supply of energy to our system.  Zing bars measure between 19 and 32 on the glycemic index scale.

Quiz Time

Think you know your carbs? Take this quiz.

  1. Which of these foods are on the low (good) end of the index:
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • White Baguette
  • Russet Potatoes
  • Rice Cakes
  • E. All of the above

The answer is A. Spaghetti Squash with a Glycemic Index of 41.  Baguettes, rice cakes and especially russet potatoes (index score of 111) spike blood sugar, and can lead to cravings and weight gain.

  1. Which of these foods are on the low (good) end of the index:
  • Cornflakes
  • Gatorade
  • Grapenuts
  • Pretzels
  • None of the above

The answer is E. All of the above are relatively poor choices with scores of 93, 78, 75, and 83 respectively.

How are you doing so far? One more round awaits.

  1. Which of these foods are on the low (good) end of the index:
  • Hummus
  • Peanuts
  • Skim milk
  • Wheat tortilla
  • All of the above

Again, the answer is E, all of the above. They’re all healthy choices.

How did you do? (Tell us in the comments!)

The science behind blood sugar is a primary reason we developed Zing Bars in the first place.  It’s impossible to feel energized and focused when your blood sugars are erratic.  In addition to supplying an excellent balance of protein, carbs and fats, Zing Bars contain low-glycemic carbs that help balance blood sugars, keeping us active and engaged throughout the day.

For a more thorough discussion of the destructive effects of erratic blood sugar, go here

Snickers vs Zing Bars: The Ultimate Halloween Chocolate-Coated Comparison

zing halloween pic

Image Credit: Wiki

When the spider webs grow and the pumpkins glow, you know all Hallows Eve is approaching. It is time to ask what treat you will give the little monsters and their parents this year. Chocolate is sure to make yours the go-to house on the trick-or-treat trail, but why not think outside the cauldron to provide healthier nutrition bars. What is creamy, crunchy and dark all over?

If you said Snickers, there is a better answer.

Snickers vs Zing Table2


A brief look at the nutrition facts show some initial similarities but ultimately some stark differences. With chocolate and peanuts as key ingredients, both Snickers and Zing have about the same amount of fat.

But the similarities end there.

Zing has almost half the amount of sugar, five times the amount of fiber and more than triple the protein. In working with our clients, we always stress a minimum of 3g fiber per serving and 10g of protein. Our Chocolate Coated Zing Bar surpasses these recommendations while Snickers falls far short.

Let’s talk ingredients

When reading labels, the nutritional guidelines only tell part of the story – the ingredient list rounds out the rest.  Let’s start with the Snickers bar. We advise our clients to avoid — or at least minimize — the highlighted ingredients:

Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Chocolate, Skim Milk, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Flavor), Peanuts, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Palm Oil, Skim Milk, Lactose, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Egg Whites, and Artificial Flavor.

We strongly encourage our clients to steer clear of sugar, corn syrup, palm oil, milkfat, artificial flavors and especially partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Why are we so down on hydrogenated soybean oil, you ask?

Well, partially hydrogenated oil (also known as trans fat) has many adverse health effects. The American Heart Association explains that, “Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Zing bars, on the other hand, use the highest quality ingredients with no artificial colors, flavors, additives or fillers.  Note the list below and you’ll see what is known as “clean” label:

Organic Peanuts, Organic Agave Syrup, Dark Chocolate (Organic Cane Sugar, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter), Whey Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Hydrolysate), Chicory Root Fiber, Whey Protein Crisps (Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Tapioca Starch, Calcium Carbonate, Sunflower Lecithin), Peanut Extract, Vanilla Extract, Sea Salt and Sunflower Lecithin.

Organic Agave Nectar vs. Corn Syrup

Agave nectar is an all-natural sweetener and is low-glycemic, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar. Instead, it releases slowly — over a 2-3 hour period — into the blood stream, helping you maintain steady energy levels and avoid the dreaded “sugar crash.”

Regular sugar and corn syrup can spike blood sugars, resulting in this crash 1-2 hours after you eat something sugary. This “crash” is often associated with poor focus and fatigue, along with increased hunger and cravings as your body tries to bring the blood sugar back up. This in turn can lead to weight gain.

We designed Zing Bars to provide a steady release of energy. The added fiber, protein and healthy fats from peanuts make it a nutritional powerhouse.

Make this holiday delightfully spook-tacular by treating your tricksters big and small to a yummy snack that will make them happy and keep them healthy at the same time.

Read more about why Zing Bars are great for kids!

 

Fiber: The Unsung Hero

fiber the unsung hero

As a healthy eater you may be up on your need for protein, vitamins, and minerals, but how much do you know about dietary fiber? This nutrient has all kinds of health benefits, but most Americans don’t get nearly enough.

Here at Zing, we want to change that.

Below you’ll learn why fiber is the best nutrient you almost never hear about, how you can use fall produce to increase your intake, and one big reason why Zing Bars may be the best snack food you can add to your rotation this fall.

The Benefits of Fiber

When you think about fiber, you probably think of its role in digestive health. A well-known benefit is that it helps prevent or reduce constipation and improve regularity. But fiber does so much more:

  • Improves digestion. Not only is it a food source for healthy bacteria in our intestines, it also strengthens and conditions the muscles surrounding the stomach and intestines to move food through more easily.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels. Dietary fiber absorbs LDL (the bad) cholesterol in your digestive tract, lowering blood levels and ultimately reducing your risk for heart disease.
  • Aids in weight control. Fiber helps the brain recognize when you’re full, so you tend to eat less when you have high-fiber meals and snacks. Highly refined foods (products made from flour, sugar and white rice) have no fiber to tell the brain “enough,” so we consume far more than we need, which then gets stored as fat.

Falling Short on Fiber

The Institute of Medicine estimates that men need about 38 grams of fiber per day, while women need 25 grams. Unfortunately, we are falling far short of these recommendations, says Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, with the average adult getting only 15 grams of fiber daily.

So what can we do to change that?

Fall Finds with Fiber

You can up your fiber intake by taking advantage of seasonal fresh produce. Root vegetables are high-fiber foods to try, with pumpkin, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes each providing at least 2 to 3 grams per serving.

In addition to vegetables, the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines list fruits, nuts, legumes such as beans and peas, and whole grains as the best sources of dietary fiber. These are a few fall dishes that pack a fiber punch, plus give you a good dose of other essential nutrients and antioxidants.

  • Roasted root vegetables
  • Split pea soup made with onions, parsnips, and carrots
  • Baked apples with cinnamon and pecans
  • Pureed sweet potatoes with green onions
  • Stewed pears with ginger and parsnips
  • Spaghetti squash with fresh tomato and mushroom sauce
  • Lentil stew with root vegetables
  • Vegetarian chili with beans

Still Can’t Get Enough?

No worries if you’re still having trouble getting enough fiber in your diet. Each Zing Bar has 4 to 8 grams of fiber, or 16 to 32 percent of our daily value. Our bars are made with top fiber sources, such as almonds, peanuts, coconut, sunflower seeds, and dried blueberries, to which we also add a few grams of chicory root, a pre-biotic. Pre-biotics not only provide the many benefits above, but act as food for our good bacteria (thus “pre” biotic). Incorporating one of these high fiber bars into your daily routine may set you up for better weight control and improved health, just as they have for our clients.

Read what our customers are saying about the health benefits they’re experiencing.

 

What’s New This Fall at Zing: New Chocolate, New Look, New Recipes

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Not to steal Mother Nature’s thunder, but the leaves aren’t the only things changing this fall. Zing Bars is sporting a fresh new look and we’ve made exciting modifications to two of our recipes that we’re proud to tell you about.

Vegan Dark Chocolate

The biggest news is a small but important improvement in our chocolate coated bars.

Some of you may remember last year that we voluntarily recalled some of our chocolate coated bars because we discovered micro amounts of dairy in the dark chocolate. In sourcing a new chocolate, we found that 95% of the U.S. dark chocolate is produced on equipment that also produces milk chocolate, which means there can be very low (but detectable) remnants of milk proteins in nearly the entire U.S. dark chocolate supply. So we spent the past year sourcing and testing a new dairy-free chocolate that meets our requirements.

After what turned out to be a long and rigorous process, we’re happy to report that, with the help of a renowned chocolatier, we’ve developed a custom new chocolate that is dairy-free and now suitable for our vegan bars. This makes Zing unique among chocolate coated bars in the U.S.

New Packaging

Our next announcement is that we’ve refreshed our packaging. Much of the change is subtle, but you’ll notice we’ve moved our Gluten Free, Vegan, Kosher and Non-GMO icons to the front of the package so they can be more easily identified. We’re proud of our  protein and fiber content so we’ve highlighted them more clearly in little circles on the upper right. Most notably, we’ve replaced the white borders with platinum edges, emblematic of the platinum quality to which we aspire.

New Recipes

We’ve also made a few great changes to the line, including:

  • Our Oatmeal Chocolate Chip bar is now vegan — we replaced the whey in our recipe with rice and pea protein.
  • Our Double Nut Brownie bar now has a smoother, tastier chocolate that we know you’ll love!

As a Registered Dietitian, I am personally focused on geeky nutrition topics like healthy food, portion sizes, meal timing, the importance of breakfast, benefits of smart snacking and on and on. But also as a product developer focused on meeting customers’ desires, I rely heavily on those same customers to provide feedback and suggestions. It’s from this feedback that we’ve made these changes to our products, and all of us at Zing thank you for your help. We hope you are as thrilled with the results as we are.

We also have NEW flavors coming out this winter, so stay tuned for updates!

 

Read more about why we chose these ingredients.

 

6 Smart Snacks for Back-to-School Success

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How do you define the word “snack”? Most people associate snacks with chips, cookies and generally indulgent food choices that lead to all kinds of health issues. All the refined flour and sugar in traditional go-to items like cookies, crackers, chips, brownies and candy have given snacks a bad reputation — good for a quick boost, but leave you tired and hungry two hours later. Snacks are the enemy, right?

Wrong!

Snacks are actually essential supplements to sustained energy and vitality — and just like Joan Jett they don’t give a darn about their bad reputation. That’s because nutritious snacks or “smart snacks,” as we like to say, provide you with the energy you need to tackle your busy schedule and feel great doing it.

First, let’s take a look at the main problems both kids and adults face over the course of a work or school day:

Problem: Inability to focus, mental fog and irritability between meals due to low blood sugar

Solution: Smart snacks provide a boost of energy that keeps your blood sugar stable between meals, like in the late morning or afternoon. Stable blood sugar results in clear focus and a positive mood.

Problem: Low energy, fatigue and cravings for junk food

Solution: Smart snacks reduce cravings for sugary, refined, caffeinated foods that your body craves when your energy reserves dip below a certain level

Problem: Overeating at mealtime due to extreme hunger, with the unwelcome result of poor digestion and weight gain

Solution: Smart snacks reduce your hunger at subsequent meals so you eat less, but are more satisfied. Smaller meals mean better digestion, better utilization of the nutrients you ingest and a more synergetic relationship with food.

In short, smart snacks improve your energy, focus, mood, weight and general feeling of wellbeing.

They deliver the real Zing, a feeling of natural and enduring vitality that comes from giving your body the nutrition it needs.

As you know, we’re a company of nutritionists. In working with clients – from kids to adults – with a range of health challenges like diabetes, weight gain, digestive issues, food intolerances and fatigue (or in the case of kids, the dreaded meltdown), smart snacks became a secret weapon that help in every situation. And the science holds especially true for keeping your kids at their mental and physical best as they enter into a new school year.

Below are six ideas that are both easy and nutritious to pop in your kids’ lunchbox or take with you to work. All are gluten, soy and dairy-free, contain high quality protein, fiber, low-glycemic carbs and heart-healthy fats:

  1. Hard-boiled egg with cut up carrots, red peppers or celery
  2. Roasted chickpeas with cherry tomatoes
  3. Smoked salmon romaine wraps
  4. An apple with a small handful of raw, fresh almonds (12-15) or walnuts (8-10 halves)
  5. 1 tablespoon peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter) and a banana
  6. A Zing Bar in your favorite flavor

With adequate energy reserves we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to.  Eat less, snack more and seize the day!

 

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