Welcome to A Better Bag of Groceries, the official blog of the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System. We rate foods on a scale of 1-100, based on their nutrition. The higher the score, the more nutritious the food. There are more than 1,600 supermarkets across the country that use NuVal Scores, and these are seen by millions of shoppers each week.
Throughout this blog, we’ll be making references to the NuVal System and how you can use it to find better foods for you and your family.
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While some of the writers of this blog are registered dietitians, the advice given on this blog should not replace that of a trained physician. NuVal is a system designed to lead customers to the most nutritious food choices. It is not a diet or weight-loss plan. Before starting a diet, you should always consult your personal physician. The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the writers and not necessarily the opinions of NuVal LLC.
The concept of berries being used as a way of preventing cancer started in the 1980’s when Professor Gary Stoner found out that the ellagic acid located in produce prevented the formation of tumors. Plenty of research has been done in the past 30 years since the discovery by Gary Stoner focusing on berries and cancer prevention. Blueberries in particular have been shown to minimize and fix the harm that has been done to the body by inflammation and oxidative stress.
Blueberries include a wealth of nutrients and phytochemicals including, but not limited to fiber, vitamin C, anthocyanins and ellagic acid that help to decrease the risk of a variety of cancers including breast, prostate, mouth and colon cancers. Blueberries also work well with the body’s natural killer cell counts. The natural killer cell counts are part of the immune system’s attack on cancer cells, removing the cells through death receptors. Each person has approximately 2 billion natural killer cells in the blood, but one study showed that eating a cup and a half of blueberries a day for six weeks doubled the number of natural killer cells to over 4 billion!!! These findings were based on one study and a small sample size. Although more research needs to be done, these findings look very promising.
The anti-cancerous benefits of blueberries can be found in fresh and frozen varieties. Freezing is a great method to buy and store your berries as the nutrient quality is the same when compared to fresh berries. They also tend to be a little cheaper. If you are interested in maximizing the nutrient quality of the blueberries you eat, look for organic options. Research shows organic options tend to be higher in phenol and anthocyanin antioxidants.
Cruciferous…. Sounds like a period of Earth’s timeline doesn’t it? Mesozoic, Cretaceous, Cruciferous… Or like a vegetable the T-Rex would eat…..Dinosaurs need fiber too! Okay, i digress… these vegetables are alive and well today and you can find them right down the street at your local grocery store!
Turnips and greens
This family is known for its health benefits pretty far and wide. Your mom always yelled at you to eat your broccoli right? Well, here’s why!
These vegetables are packed with all sorts of carotenoids (like beta carotene and lutein), vitamins and minerals (like folate, vitamin C and vitamin K especially) and being vegetables, they are of course a fantastic source of fiber! So what’s so great about all these nutrients you ask? Well for one, your body needs them to run efficiently and effectively. They also help to protect your eyes, protect against damage to your cells, as well as boost the immune system along with many other benefits. Fiber helps keep you feeling full so you don’t overeat and aids in regular digestion.
You also may be wondering what the cause is of the sometimes strong aroma and bitter taste? Cruciferous vegetables have sulphur containing compounds in them called glucosinolates. These little guys are what cause that. But in my opinion it’s well worth it! When the glucosinolates are broken down by digestion they form active compounds called indoles, isothicyanates and several others. These even littler guys are what are thought to give the cruciferous vegetables their especially anti-cancerous properties! They are like tiny magic ninjas kicking butt on compounds and processes that want to turn your cells cancerous!
Okay so you’d love to eat more of these cruciferous vegetables but you can’t get past the taste. Am I correct? Submerging the vegetable in boiling water for about 2 minutes and then draining (a process called blanching) before cooking will usually do the trick. The heat releases some of the bitter compounds and draining the water lets them go down the drain instead of to your taste buds. Give it a try and let us know if it works for you. Be aware though that some people are genetically predisposed to have more sensitive taste buds and experience these compounds much more strongly.
However, I would like to point out that eating a handful of broccoli a day is not going to allow you to eat fried food for every meal…. Sorry. Cruciferous vegetables still should be consumed as part of a well-balanced healthy lifestyle as most researchers believe this is where the best results occur. As often is the case with healthy compounds, they tend to bring healthy friends with them to the party, like the fiber, vitamins and minerals we talked about in the beginning. So give these misunderstood vegetable a second chance! Because broccoli and kale are so overdone, here are a few great ways to give kohlrabi a try! http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/09/discovering-kohlrabi-its-a-vegetable/?_r=0
“You’ve got a cold? Drink a glass of OJ and you’re good to go.” We’ve all heard this at one point in our lives, especially the colder months. Humans are one of the few species in the world that does not produce its own Vitamin C. This nutrient is essential for immune health, especially when it comes to preventing cancer. That’s why it’s SUPER important to seek out foods that are high in Vitamin C.
Our immediate go-to is citrus, and that’s a great place to start! You could go with a classic: the orange.
But you can also spread your sweet and sour horizons into blood orange, tangerines, clementines, and the sourest of them all, the grapefruit. Lemons and limes are awesome too, so adding a splash of lime or lemon on your dishes (or a nice tall glass of lemonade – watch the sugar!) can be a simple way to grab a small amount of Vitamin C.
Another fruit that I love is one that I ate when I lived down in Puerto Rico – the guava. I was lucky enough to have a couple of guava trees in my backyard. This fruit is like a soft, sweet small apple, with hard seeds that you can eat but should watch out as they are a choking hazard. These fruits were my favorite part about living on a tropical island, and the best part is how nutritious they are!
Momma always told me that sweet potatoes are one of the most complete vegetables, so you bet they have Vitamin C! I’m a big fan of baked sweet potato fries, but a sweet potato mash with cinnamon is another healthy way (as long as you’re light on the butter and cream) to eat this root vegetable.
If you like spicy food, you’ll be happy to know that hot peppers have a high amount of Vitamin C in them. I personally love Asian soups, like Tom Yum and pho, and they both contain a level of heat, so I was excited to hear about how nutritious peppers are. Another way to integrate heat is in your favorite atypical salad, like this unique bean salad. Spice up your diet with a little Vitamin C!
As you can see there are plenty of everyday ways you can get the necessary amount of Vitamin C. And fighting cancer takes eating nutritiously and making sure you get enough of this nutrient. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out those recipes and let us know what you think! How do you like to use Vitamin-C rich foods?
When I started looking for my second recipe to try for this column “Cooking with Catherine Katz”, I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Did I want another dinner? Maybe I should try breakfast? I was a lost puppy, looking for a home…. I then stumbled upon the dessert section, and wow! Did she have a lot to choose from…even for me! – Catherine does a great job of having food available for everyone to eat! – And I knew I at least had a direction! However, I knew I was going to have to travel for work, and am going through the struggles of trying to find a new roommate, so I needed something I could handle easily in my hectic life this month….. Enter: Almond Chocolate chip cookies! Only 4 ingredients and I can eat all of them! No Gluten, no dairy, no eggs….Are you kidding me!?!?!
So admittedly, as a baker myself…. I was skeptical! How do they stay together? Will they taste good? No leavening agent? MADNESS! (below is my skeptical face)
Here’s Catherine’s youtube video so you can see for yourself that I had no reason to doubt: it really IS that easy!!
Side Note: When i told Catherine I was planning to do this recipe, she told me that this recipe was the MOST popular recipe shared when she did the blog the first time around! Coincidence that i picked it too? I think not! The popularity speaks for itself.
So I proceeded to get all the ingredients…. This time at Market Basket, instead of Whole Foods… im not made of money! I bought the allergy friendly chocolate chips, but you can buy whatever brand of dark chocolate you like. Had I had more time I probably would have bought my favorite chocolate by Endangered Species (that also scores higher) and broke the bar up into shavings. Mmmmm! I also chose safflower oil over canola because canola bothers my stomach.
Here are their NuVal Scores:
Almond meal: 84 (same as a regular almonds)
Canola oil: 32 (Catherine gives safflower oil as an alternative for those who prefer it, but it scores lower because it has a lower omega 3 content)
Agave Syrup: 1 (its still sugar after all)
Chocolate chips: 8
Nutritionally, these cookies are a powerhouse! As they are mostly almond meal, you get all those naturally amazing benefits of the almonds. Almonds are full of healthy UNsaturated fats, fiber, and protein. These nutrients help you to feel full longer, so you dont overeat (and lets face it, this is essential with cookies!). As well as protecting your heart health, building muscle and fostering healthy weight. The canola oil is also packed with Omega 3 fatty acids! Also, with just 6 Tbsp of agave syrup, these cookies have very little added sugar compared to typical commercially available AND homemade cookies. Agave syrup is naturally about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so you need LESS of it to have the same effect! (However for those that are sensitive to fructose, be careful, as agave syrup is about 50% fructose.) Cookies are still cookies though, so everything in moderation!
Okay, off I went! I put everything in my trusty lime green mixing bowl and set to work! A minute later I was done…The laboring baker in me thought I had done something incorrectly… was I missing anything? Nope. It really is THAT EASY to whip them up!
I will say though, that you SHOULD follow Catherine’s recommendation to use a little ice cream scooper (she shows you in her fun video clip). I don’t have one, so trying to work warm dough into balls wasn’t easy! But I overcame and here is the result! I also had to bake them for about 13 minutes in my 350 degree oven (not 8 mins) for them to brown. But I like my cookies really golden brown and every oven is different. As you can see from the before and after pictures below, the cookies dont change much in the oven, so the size you scoop out is the size they’ll be.
So, the verdict?? Delicious! But in a different way…. not in the traditional crunchy outside, chewy inside way your standard wheat flour based cookie is. I tend to like a crunchier on the outside cookie so they weren’t my personal favorite, but still very good! My roommate – who is not a dietitian or a health nut – thought they were great also! Her exact words “Actually, they’re really good!”.. haha! I then brought them to work to share with the group. My colleague Tara likened them to cookie dough balls you find in ice cream. I have to say i agree with this analogy. So if you’re someone that LOVES cookie dough, this is right up your alley (and you don’t have to worry about unpasteurized eggs!) They went over very well and they were super easy to make! Give them a try! I think you’ll like them too!
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The NuVal Nutritional Scoring System gives nutritional guidance to consumers frustrated with complicated nutrition labels and misleading packaging promises. Under NuVal, all foods and beverages are rated on a scale between 1 to 100. The higher the score, the higher the overall nutrition.