By Stephanie S. Saunders

As we all learned in grade school and most of us subsequently forgot, in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue looking for an alternate trade route to India. And why did he want to go to the Near East so desperately? The answer is spices, which were, at the time, one of the most valuable commodities on the trade market.

Today, those spices—cumin, turmeric, saffron, and others—are slightly easier to come by, simply by popping over to your local Indian restaurant. The cuisine has become one of the most popular choices for eating out in the world. The UK alone has over 10,000 Indian restaurants, and Indian cuisine continues to increase in popularity in the United States, with vegetarians and carnivores alike being tantalized by a vast variety of tastes. With such a heavy emphasis on vegetables, legumes, and rice, how can one go wrong with eating Indian food?

And there's the problem. Indian chefs use butter, clarified butter, oils, nuts, and full-fat cheeses to create their rich creamy sauces. Naan, a traditional flatbread that comes with most meals, is also high in calories, carbohydrates, and often fat. And rice is often used in such abundance that the caloric intake of it alone could make up an entire meal. Indian food may be accessible nowadays, but with all the hidden fats and starchy breads, as well as the sizable portions, a night out at Joe's Tandoor can make your gut expand like the Niña, your hips grow to the size of the Pinta, and your rear end stick out to Santa Maria-sized proportions.

So can the flavors of India be enjoyed without feeling "sari" for your waistline? Let's look at some options in this installment of Beachbody Restaurant Rescue.


Most Indian restaurants offer a variety of appetizers, many of which aren't so rough on the waistline. Unfortunately, in this country, the most popular offering is the samosa, which is kind of akin to a savory potato-stuffed donut. As tasty as samosas are, a small one can have up to 400 calories and 20 grams of fat. That's equivalent to a McDonald's® Quarter Pounder, which is not how most of us want to begin a meal. Branch out and try something different, such as the aloo tikki. Or, if you have the willpower, save your calories for the main course.

Here's a brief description of some popular appetizers:

A vegetable samosa is a vegetarian turnover, stuffed with potatoes, peas, spices, and herbs. A lamb samosa is the same as the vegetable version, with ground lamb mixed in. The sev puri is a crisp wheat wafer topped with onions, potatoes, and chutney, and sprinkled with chickpeas. The chicken chaat is pieces of marinated boneless chicken, tossed with a blend of spices called chaat masala. The shrimp pakora is shrimp marinated with ginger, light green chili, and cilantro. The aloo tikki is an Indian potato pancake topped with chopped onions, tamarind, and green chili chutney.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Samosa 400 20 g 29 g 356 mg 5 g
Lamb samosa 369 14 g 48 g 300 mg 12 g
Sev puri 400 6 g 35 g 400 mg 4 g
Chicken chaat 282 17 g 11 g 415 mg 12 g
Shrimp pakora 164 15 g 1 g 80 mg 7 g
Aloo tikki 51 2 g 7 g 235 mg 2 g

Soup and Salads

salads go, many establishments have very few offerings, and nothing of true Indian origin. Soups, on the other hand, come in great variety and often are fairly healthy. Remember that warm liquids expand in your stomach and will make you feel full faster, so beginning a meal with a healthy broth-based soup is always a great idea.

Many Indian restaurants offer a vegetarian soup, usually mixed vegetables and lentils with ginger, chili, tomato, and cilantro. They might also serve chicken soup made of onion, ginger, garlic, spinach, tomatoes, spices with basmati rice, and, of course, chicken. Mulligatawny soup is a lightly spiced coconut-flavored soup cooked with lentils and rice. And "Indian salad" is lettuce, cucumber, and tomato with cumin-cilantro dressing.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Vegetarian soup 188 2 g 39 g 367 mg 7 g
Chicken soup 158 2 g 9 g 431 mg 3 g
Mulligatawny soup 225 15 g 10 g 800 mg 8 g
Indian salad 50 2 g 15 g 234 mg 1 g


Welcome to vegetarian paradise, otherwise known as the vegetable section of an Indian restaurant menu. After thousands of years of the vegetarian-espousing Hindu religious influence, Indian chefs have taken vegetables to an artistic level. Unfortunately, many of the selections are so delicious because they are prepared with butter, oils, and cheeses that would do damage to almost anyone's diet. If possible, try to lean toward dishes without cheese or nuts, and remember that tomato-based sauces are probably better than most sautéed options.

Here are a few popular vegetable choices. The vegetable bhuna is vegetables sautéed with spices. The akbari kofta are potato balls stuffed with nuts in a mild sauce. The bengan aloo is eggplant and potatoes sautéed in spices. The bhartha is roasted eggplant sautéed with onion, tomato, green peas, and spices. The gobi aloo is cauliflower and potatoes sautéed in garlic and ginger, steamed in a sauce. Saag paneer is spinach cooked with homemade cheese. Channa masala is chickpeas prepared in onions and tomato sauce. And bhindi masala is okra sautéed with onions, Serrano chilies, and spices.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Vegetable bhuna 271 4 g 52 g 333 mg 10 g
Akbari kofta 188 12 g 8 g 490 mg 8 g
Bengan aloo 103 4.7 g 32 g 26 mg 1.3 g
Bharta 200 13 g 22 g 11 mg 3.5 g
Gobi aloo 206 8 g 32 g 332 mg 6 g
Saag paneer 194 11 g 19 g 183 mg 11 g
Channa masala 243 5 g 43 g 677 mg 9 g
Bhindi masala 205 17 g 10 g 900 mg 4 g

Meat Dishes

There's a fairly wide divide when it comes to how different regions of India prepare their meats. With that split comes a huge difference in how healthy it is. Meats that are tandoor grilled are usually very healthy, and considerably lower in fat than their sauce-cooked cousins because sauces add butter, oil, or cheese, blowing the fat grams through the roof. A kebab is always a safe bet, as it's a smaller portion and is usually tandoor grilled. Again, leaning toward chicken and fish and avoiding the sauce will save you the work of taking it off later.

You'll find great variety in tandoor-grilled meats. Tandoori salmon is a wild salmon marinated in spices, garlic, and ginger. Shrimp tandoori is jumbo shrimp marinated in oregano. Tandoori chicken is chicken marinated in spices. Mint chicken kebab is boneless chicken marinated in fresh mint. Shrimp bhuna is jumbo shrimp prepared in garlic, ginger, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.

If you are leaning toward a sauce-covered meat, here are some options. Chicken tikka is boneless chicken marinated in different spices than tandoor chicken, and served in a yogurt and tomato sauce. Chicken masala is boneless chicken prepared in a tomato sauce. Lamb vindaloo is lamb prepared in a tangy tomato-based sauce, with potatoes. Seekh kebab is minced lamb prepared with fresh mint, red onions, garlic and ginger.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Tandoori salmon 127 4 g < 1 g 73 mg 22 g
Shrimp tandoori 200 10 g 15 g 87 mg 20 g
Tandoori chicken 276 7 g 7 g 305 mg 45 g
Mint chicken kebab 170 3 g 4 g 114 mg 34 g
Shrimp bhuna 210 5 g 18 g 477 mg 23 g
Chicken tikka 260 16 g 2 g 497 mg 27 g
Chicken masala 297 14 g 8 g 685 mg 34 g
Lamb vindaloo 713 57 g 8 g 533 mg 44 g
Seekh kebab
336 23 g 5 g 491 mg 26 g

Rice and Bread

We spent the last decade fearful of carbohydrates, believing that one bite of bread would destroy our entire physiques. As it turns out, the breads in an Indian meal might make all of these fears a reality. And not just the result of the carbs themselves, but the overall calorie count, which skyrockets because of the higher fat content in many Indian breads. One-fourth of a regular piece of naan bread can hold up to 7 grams of fat and 200 calories. And who really eats one-fourth of a slice? Then, there's rice, which is usually white and often fried in oil, butter, or ghee. Yes, both Indian rice and bread taste amazing, but is it really worth it? Should you decide to indulge, watch your portion sizes, and avoid anything with added cheese.

Basmati rice is aromatic rice suffused with saffron. Banarasi pulao is fresh vegetables, nuts, and raisins with basmati rice. Gucchi pillau is mushrooms cooked with, yes, basmati rice. Naan is fresh tandoor-baked white bread. Cheese naan is naan stuffed with cheddar, parmesan, and cream cheeses. Garlic naan is naan topped with freshly chopped garlic. Onion kulcha is naan topped with freshly chopped onion. Paratha is whole wheat unleavened bread. Aloo paratha is whole wheat bread studded with spiced potatoes.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Basmati rice 150 < 1 g 35 g < 1 mg 3 g
Banarasi pulao 293 11 g 44 g 1,8220 mg 4 g
Gucchi pillau 700 53 g 50 g 780 mg 5 g
Naan 200 7 g 12 g 435 mg 4 g
Cheese naan 332 10 g 49 g 407 mg 16 g
Garlic naan 209 6 g 34 g 462 mg 5 g
Onion kulcha 220 7 g 15 g 334 mg 6 g
Paratha 290 9 g 42 g 178 mg 11 g
Aloo paratha 360 12 g 47 g 220 mg 8 g

India has more undernourished people than any other country in the world, and yet obesity is on the rise. Some states report a 30 percent obesity rate amongst their population, thanks to an emerging middle class. In a country where over half the toddlers are malnourished, India already has the world's largest number of diabetics at 30 million people.

It isn't only about what you eat, but about how much you eat. Indian food's use of fragrant, flavorful spices makes it a favorite all over the world, but leave it up to the United States to consume it in super-sized portions. Try ordering just one dish, preferably of a lean meat or non-cheese-laden vegetable, and discover how truly satisfying it can be. You can always order more if you are hungry, or try other dishes at a later date. The fact that most Americans have access to food 24/7 does not mean we have to eat like we do.

Test Your Healthy Fats IQ!

Friday, April 29, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Elizabeth Brion

I'm sure you're all too young to remember the 1980s; it's OK, I'll do it for you. One thing I remember is going to the gym and seeing a lot of thin, fit-looking people with dull skin and straw-like, broken-off hair. This was the byproduct of the fat-free craze; some people subsisted only on foods that were engineered to have any naturally occurring fat obliterated. Hard to see how that could go wrong. Eliminating an entire nutrient class will almost always help you lose pounds; it will also, over time, lead to a pretty major nutritional deficit. While it turned out that eating some fat was a good thing, much of the fat in the typical American diet is the wrong kind. Your best bet is to keep your fat intake reasonable and to ingest mostly healthy fats. Which fats are healthy, you ask? Let's find out!
  1. False: To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, you should increase your consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. While you do need to monitor your omega-3 intake, omega-6 is probably plentiful in your diet already. An omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 4:1 to 1:1 reduces cardiovascular disease risk. The typical American diet provides a ratio of 11:1 to 30:1.
  2. True: Peanut oil, canola oil, olive oil, and trans-fat-free margarines are excellent candidates for your healthy-fat-rich lifestyle. Consuming a variety of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils or fat spreads will provide the variety of fatty acids, antioxidants, and nutrients that your body requires.
  3. False: Canned and fresh salmon are similarly high-quality sources of omega-3. While 3 ounces of fresh salmon provides 1.9 grams of omega-3, 3 ounces of canned salmon contains only 1 gram.
  4. True: Walnuts, kale, flaxseed, and tofu are excellent vegetarian sources of omega-3. If you're a meat-eater, increasing your omega-3 intake can be as simple as eating more salmon or herring. While these veggie-friendly options may not be as widely touted as our fish friends are for this purpose, they'll do the trick.
  5. True: The risks of a diet too low in fat include hair loss; hard, curly fingernails; and dull, dry skin. If you're thinking you can rock that look, though, here are a few more potential consequences: You can lose cushioning around your internal organs; your body may lose its ability to regulate temperature; and you may find yourself hungry more often because you're missing the fats that typically slow the absorption of nutrients into your system. You'll also lose out if you suffer from depression, arthritis, or certain autoimmune diseases; essential fatty acids help with all of these conditions. I'm guessing that if you've adopted an extremely low-fat diet, these were not among your goals. Let's all pour a tiny cup of fish or flaxseed oil and toast to new, healthy habits!

By Denis Faye

One of the few foods in tier one not related to spinach, spelt is instead a grain related to wheat, but with a nuttier, sweeter flavor. It also tends to be much more nutritious. Yes, it does contain gluten, so if you have a serious condition, you might want to bump it off your personal tier one, but many people with wheat allergies or intolerance are fine with spelt.

The nutrition facts

Half a cup of cooked spelt is 123 calories, 1 gram of fat, 25 grams of carbs, 6 grams of protein (far more than wheat), and 4 grams of fiber.

You'll find a handsome 13 percent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA)* for niacin, as well as some vitamin E, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, and folate. The mineral side of things is much more impressive, with 12 percent of the RDA for magnesium, 15 percent for phosphorus, 11 percent for copper, and 56 percent for manganese. You'll also find calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and selenium.

Spelt is the poster child for whole grains as a viable source of carbohydrates. It has minerals and protein you won't find in fruits and veggies. Also, spelt and other whole grains contain their own unique set of phytonutrients, which early research indicates can take on issues such as cancer and heart disease.

How do you eat this stuff?

Spelt works exactly like wheat, so if you're a baker, cut your flour with spelt flour or replace it entirely. If you're not a baker, there are plenty of great commercial breads and pastas out there for all your "spelty" desires.

1 cup of spelt, cooked (194 g)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
246 11 g 8 g 51 g 2 g

Recipe: Avocado Tuna Salad

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | 0 comments »

From the INSANITY: THE ASYLUM nutrition plan, here's an easy-to-prepare recipe that'll take care of all your daily omega-3 needs, with healthy fats from tuna and avocados to keep you feeling full and fit.
  • 1/2 avocado, mashed
  • Juice from 2 lime wedges
  • Dash of salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 5 oz. light tuna (packed in water)
  • 1 cup mixed greens
  • 1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
  • 1 slice tomato
Place avocado, lime juice, salt, and cayenne in a mixing bowl and use a fork to mash into a paste. Drain tuna well and add to bowl; mix well. Pile mixed greens on a plate and top with tuna/avocado mixture. Finish with sprouts and tomato. (Makes 1 serving.)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving, prepared with water):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
342 39 g 7 g 13 g 16 g 2 g

By Jeanine Natale

The notion of extracting the oil from food has been around for thousands of years. Long before it even occurred to anyone that oil and vinegar are two great tastes that taste great together, people began pressing oil from fruit, seeds, legumes, and grains. What we've learned since then is that certain oils allow us to augment our diets in ways that are both healthy and delicious. The specific oils we're looking at in this article are olive, avocado, canola, sunflower, grapeseed, sesame, coconut (really!), peanut, and corn oils.

Each of these nine oils contain both mono- and polyunsaturated fats. In addition to helping to lower cholesterol and possibly helping prevent medical conditions like heart disease, they contain beneficial ingredients like vitamin E and some omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and also help other essential vitamins get to where they can do the most good for your body. Furthermore, both mono- and polyunsaturated fats have been shown to lower disease risk in general.

Some of these oils are becoming increasingly more available in a variety of different forms. You've probably heard of virgin or extra-virgin olive oil, and if you like to frequent tiny gourmet-type boutiques that offer indulgences for your tastebuds, it's likely that you've seen the words "cold-pressed" on many a fancy label. This refers to oils that have been pressed very carefully at low temperatures to ensure the most taste and the highest nutritional content. Conversely, refined versions of these oils have been derived from second or third pressings, then usually processed at a higher temperature—these will have lighter, more neutral flavors, a slightly longer shelf life, and just generally a lot less good stuff.

Here are some ways to get the best use of whichever oil you choose. Don't forget, the cold-pressed and extra-virgin varieties will be more expensive and are offered in smaller bottles, as they have shorter shelf lives. Also, lower cooking temperatures ensure more retention of the very things that make these oils good for you when used wisely. You should always avoid the smoke point, or temperature at which all oils begin to burn. (When oils reach the smoke point, this means most if not all of the beneficial elements have been burned away). Besides, it'll probably make whatever you're cooking taste terrible, not to mention how bad all that smoke is for your lungs.

As for serving sizes and or RDAs of these oils, remember that they are all fat. Always use them sparingly—a tablespoon of any of these oils is approximately 100 to 120 calories, with about 14 grams of fat.

Presenting Our Natural Nine
  1. Olive oil. High in oleic acid, olive oil has long been touted for its beneficial properties, with many studies showing that it can help to lower bad cholesterol levels and even aid in the prevention of heart disease. Use extra-virgin or cold-pressed varieties for drizzling on salads, bruschetta, or even a cool, freshly tossed tomato and basil pasta—the distinctly dramatic taste of a fine-quality olive oil pairs well with, oh, just about everything. In a "proper" Italian restaurant, it's what you'll be treated to when you're first seated, served with fresh bread and sweet balsamic vinegar. The lighter, more refined varieties are good for stir-frying, sautéing, and baking.
  2. Grapeseed oil. This light, much thinner oil is high in linoleic acid—an antioxidant that helps promote healthy skin and aids in lowering bad cholesterol levels. Easily found in any health food store, grapeseed oil has been used in Middle Eastern cooking for centuries. If your local market has a decent international foods aisle, you should be able to find grapeseed oil there. Use grapeseed oil in just about anything you want, as it takes to being heated very well; stir-frying, sautéing, and searing are all quick, easy, and delicious with grapeseed oil. However, the delicate nutty flavor of the extra-virgin and cold-pressed varieties are exquisite for dipping, drizzling over cold salads like hummus or baba ganoush, or accenting all kinds of dressings.
  3. Avocado oil. Vitamin E is spoken here. Avocado oil tends to be a bit more expensive than the other oils on this list, as it's still somewhat of a newcomer to the food scene, and you can find it mostly in those specialty/gourmet stores we mentioned earlier. Extra-virgin avocado oil has a delicious fruity, nutty flavor, perfect for dipping, drizzling, and accenting all kinds of dishes. It also happens to have, hands-down, the highest smoke point, topping out at 520° for the most refined variety. Searing, stir-frying, sautéing, baking—a touch of this light, flavorful, versatile oil will definitely do you good.
  4. Sesame oil. High in antioxidants and vitamin E, sesame oil has been studied for its role in helping to reduce high blood pressure and lower bad cholesterol levels.2 There are a wide variety of sesame oils made from toasted (dark brown oil) and untoasted (light yellow oil) seeds. All varieties take very well to high heat, which is great for searing, and (of course) excellent for stir-frying! However, it's got a very distinctive smell and flavor, so you should use it sparingly, almost as an accent flavor in any type of cooking or in uncooked dishes. Be warned: Most of the sesame oils used for stir-frying are actually soybean oil blends. Read the label carefully if you decide to explore this flavorful oil.
  5. Coconut oil. Another vitamin E powerhouse, coconut oil might just be put to better use outside your body than in it. It's the ideal oil to use in making chocolate candy, since it's solid at room temperature, but melts in the mouth.3 That being said, it's also much higher in saturated fat than any of the others we've mentioned, something many experts feel your arteries might prefer to avoid. Like sesame oil, coconut oil does have a very distinctive taste and a relatively high smoke point, which makes it great for stir-frying, searing, sautéing, and baking. Do some research, then use it wisely!
  6. Peanut oil. A common item in any food store, peanut oil has long been used for everything from salad dressings to deep-frying. It's naturally high in the antioxidants that help keep your cells functioning properly, and some commonly available varieties are fortified with vitamin E. Peanut oil is generally more highly processed and has a light taste, although there are currently some finer-quality cold-pressed peanut oils on the market. One caveat: If you 're allergic to peanuts, it's best to avoid this oil.
  7. Corn oil. Similar to peanut oil in taste and versatility, you can find corn oil pretty much anywhere, and it's a good option for those with peanut allergies. It's naturally high in omega-6 fatty acids, but there's some controversy surrounding corn oil due to the ongoing GMO (genetically modified organism) issue. There are a few specialty stores that offer a virgin corn oil made with non-GMO corn, but it's difficult to verify this claim, as regulations and quality controls vary rather widely both in the U.S. and abroad. That being said, you can use a fine-quality corn oil for anything from salad dressing to deep-frying.
  8. Sunflower oil. Vitamin E and good-for-you antioxidants are in abundance in sunflower oil. A lighter, thinner oil, sunflower oil has become increasingly popular, a choice motivated by the trend toward eliminating trans fat from use in restaurants and manufactured food products. The typical refined varieties are available anywhere, but there are also raw and cold-pressed sunflower oils available at health food stores and online.
  9. Canola oil. Naturally rich in antioxidants, specifically oleic acid, canola oil is made from the rapeseed plant, which is found mainly in Canada. Hence the name "canola"—a take on "Canadian oil, low acid" that sounds smoother and has a better ring to it than "rapeseed." This light, versatile, nearly flavorless oil has gained increasing popularity over the last decade due to its health benefits, but also because of the controversy over GMOs. Because of all this publicity, there has been considerable transparency regarding the regulation of canola oil sources and products. While canola oil is highly processed (like your basic-variety peanut, corn, and sunflower oils), it does retain its high monounsaturated fat content. Just be sure you read the labels carefully, and always go for the finer quality products.

Hell Month in THE ASYLUM

Monday, April 25, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Steve Edwards

Even if you never played football, you've probably heard the term Hell Week. This is generally the first official week of football practice, which takes place before the start of school so the coaches can put the hammer down and not have to worry about whether or not the players can walk to class when they're done. It's essentially designed to condense preseason conditioning into one week-long period. Beachbody's latest workout program, INSANITY: THE ASYLUM, follows this example. Except instead of Hell Week, you're in for Hell Month, which promises to have you ready for a season of pretty much anything.

"This is not INSANITY®," says Shaun while pushing the team through THE ASYLUM's Vertical Plyo. He uses a tone that suggests INSANITY is some form of lightweight aerobic work rather than the most intense cardio program burned to DVD thus far. And, true enough, THE ASYLUM isn't INSANITY; it's a sequel to that program, and it's designed to take things to the next level. But THE ASYLUM actually isn't harder so much as it's different. So let's take a deeper look at THE ASYLUM so you can decide whether it's the right program for you.

What if you're not an athlete?

Beachbody® is promoting INSANITY: THE ASYLUM as sports conditioning, which the guide defines as "speed, coordination, balance, agility, and power." And while these performance traits will certainly enhance your contribution to the company basketball team, they'll also help you improve in other aspects of your life. When you move better, life becomes easier. Sports are just games that highlight human function, so nonspecific athletic training is simply exercise that helps you perform various life tasks more effectively.

And if you are an athlete?

If you're an athlete, or even were just an active child, you're going to feel a bit like a kid in a candy store doing this program. For someone like me, who played a lot of different sports growing up, it brings back memories galore, often involving sports I'd forgotten I'd ever done. The entire program feels a bit like playing, or, as Shaun says, as if you're part of Team ASYLUM and all practicing together for the big game.


On one of my blog reviews of INSANITY: THE ASYLUM, I was asked the difference between sports training and sports conditioning. The simple answer is that sports training is systematic, and sports conditioning is getting in shape for your season as quickly as possible. Back on the Hell Month theme, THE ASYLUM is designed to whip you into shape fast, so it pulls from many different training systems, meshing them together to form what seems almost like a mad scientist's version of cross-training. "Frankentraining," if you will.

I'll back up and define the so-called Frankentraining a bit further. I often explain to customers, when comparing P90X® and INSANITY, that the X is like training for a season of INSANITY. The X is a longer, more systematic training approach that can be tailored a number of different ways to target strengths, weaknesses, and goals. INSANITY comes at you like a challenge and never lets up—more like a sports season.

THE ASYLUM is for when the season is about to start and you have to get ready as fast as possible—when there's no time to systematically tear you down and build you back up. It has to happen now, so you want to target strength, speed, coordination, flexibility, and stamina all at once. You heard the coach: It's Hell Month. There's no time to mess around. Let's get busy!

So what do you get?

Seven workouts, only six of which are actually part of the official program, though. However, as INSANITY grads know, the Athletic Performance Assessment (or Fit Test) isn't exactly a day off. Here's a quick breakdown of the programs that are included in INSANITY: THE ASYLUM.
  1. Speed & Agility: Shaun used to refer to this as an active recovery workout, which we changed because this is the first workout you do and we didn't want people running away scared. It's a hard workout—very hard—but Speed & Agility targets proprioceptive awareness (neuromuscular patterns) and speed instead of explosive strength, so in a technical sense, Shaun's definition of "active recovery" is accurate. As any of you who've actually been through a Hell Week will remember, there were parts of practice that were obviously for strength improvements, like where you hit each other (or sleds, or dummies) with a lot of force. Then there were parts, usually during "breaks," when you did speed and agility drills that were often more painful than hitting those tackling dummies. This workout is about those "breaks." And because its target is speed, you'll most likely feel, like me, that there's no end to how much you can improve.
  2. Back to Core: One of the most interesting core workouts you'll ever do, Back to Core targets your abs by working everything but your abs. Having nice-looking abs is a function of having a strong core, low body fat, and good posture. Does it work? Check out the pic of Shaun.
  3. Strength: A full-body strength routine that's varied and interesting. I think it's summed up pretty well on my blog:

    "Asylum Strength will get more use than any anything in my Beachbody arsenal. For someone like me who does a lot of mountain sports—or, really, any weekend warrior whose sport provides a lot of cardiovascular fitness—it's a perfect complement."
  4. Vertical Plyo: See "this is not INSANITY" above—this workout is absolutely brutal. You'll either spend most of your time in the air or on the ground doing push-ups, which is how Shaun penalizes the team when their form begins to falter.
  5. Game Day: A massive sports day, where you do sports specific movements 'til failure, from a veritable summer camp of options. If it weren't so painful, it would seem like nothing but fun.
  6. Overtime: Uh-oh, you've got another quarter to go. To be used after any workout for a bonus round. Some of the more explosive movements in the program happen here, so you have to want it—bad.
  7. Relief: A thorough stretching routine that's meant to be done when you have the time after any workout. Promises to be the best 20 minutes of your day.
Getting chiseled

As the Men's Wearhouse® guy says, "You're going to like the way you look®." A lot of people have already noticed that Shaun looks more ripped than he did during INSANITY. The thing about sports training is that body composition changes happen naturally. You're not bodybuilding, per se; you're just making your body more athletic. And the human body, in order to function well, tends to add muscle to places that look natural, balanced, and attractive. There's a reason why the most popular ancient statues are of athletes.

Are you ready?

My reviews have tended to make people nervous about starting the program. And in reality, maybe you should be. INSANITY: THE ASYLUM is clearly a graduate program. Without a good fitness base, you'll be better off using one of our introductory programs, like Power 90®, ChaLEAN Extreme®, Slim in 6®, or Hip Hop Abs®. Whichever one of these motivates you to move is going to give you better results than something you can't do well. But on the other hand, if you've completed one of these programs in style, and completed any graduate program (P90X, INSANITY, TurboFire®) at all, you're ready to get into THE ASYLUM and mix it up. It's hard. Very hard. But the difficulty isn't a world apart, either. And if you do buy it and it feels like too much, I've made a preparatory 1-month schedule on my blog.

Child's Play

Hell Week was accepted, and perhaps even enjoyed, because it was preparing you to get better at a game. And THE ASYLUM is all about the game: the game of life. The only thing that might make anyone think I need to be locked up is that it's given me a glimpse back at my youth. In closing, I'll leave you with an anecdote about "youthening," as they say in Camelot. You can tell me if I'm insane.

My summers as a kid were spent outside. My parents and pretty much the entire neighborhood would throw their kids out of the house with instructions not to come back in until dark. Without video games or money, we were pretty much left to make up stuff to do with what was in our garages. A day consisted of a football game, maybe some tennis, or some pick-up basketball. Sometimes we headed down the street to the school and jumped over hurdles or kicked field goals, or maybe we headed to the park for a swim. Afternoons would often feature a Little League® baseball game, after which I'd often stay late to work on my hitting or pitching. Summer days would end after dinner, with all of us feeling blissfully tired, doing our best to stay awake through The Brady Bunch.

My favorite moment doing THE ASYLUM so far was late in the Game Day workout where you're "playing" baseball. Baseball players haven't always been a paragon of athleticism, but on those all-sports days during my childhood, it felt plenty active. THE ASYLUM's baseball movements are decidedly tiring, and as I was delivering one of my many "pitches" in my garage during a snowstorm, I had an acute sense memory of a long-past summer evening. I felt the same warm fatigue those long days would provide. I could actually smell the grass, feel the setting sun on my shoulders, and hear my dad telling me to arch my back or keep my elbow up. So, OK, maybe that is a little insane. But that's an ASYLUM I won't mind visiting.

By Valerie Watson

Barbeque, barbecue, or BBQ—however you spell or "acronymize" it, it's dang tasty. Be it smoked or grilled, cooked slow or fast, placed close to the heat or a tad farther away, slathered in tomato-, vinegar-, mustard-, or hickory-based sauce, it all works. Many of us think of barbeque as an American gastronomic tradition, but folks the world over have found their own special ways of combining fire and food to create something truly greater than the sum of its parts. Your task? To match each geographic region with its indigenous form of meat-searing.

(A note: Ordinarily, I would end the descriptive paragraph about each quiz item with a sassy little punch line, but I haven't done that this week, BECAUSE I AM DEADLY SERIOUS ABOUT MY BARBECUED MEATS.)
  1. Argentina – Asado. Argentinean "asadors" make a fire directly on the ground or in a fire pit and roast beef and a variety of other meats over it, using sticks or metal grates suspended over the fire. No marinade is used, just a little salt.
  2. South Africa – Braai. Over the open flame of a wood fire, sausage, skewered mutton, pork chops, chicken, steak, fish, and rock lobster coated in a variety of marinades and spices are grilled until tender. Braai actually has its own holiday, celebrated by South Africans at home and throughout the world.
  3. Jamaica – Jerk. Meats, usually pork or chicken, are either marinated or dry-rubbed with hot, spicy seasoning, then cooked over pit fires, or charcoal fires in half-oil-barrels.
  4. Cuba – Taíno. Meat is slowly cooked over a grate or mesh made from intersecting wood sticks. Another traditional taíno dish is lechon—a whole pig slow-grilled over a turning spit.
  5. India – Tandoor. A charcoal or wood fire is built within the clay tandoor oven itself, which roasts the meat both directly (over coals) and indirectly (from radiant heat captured within the cylindrical clay enclosure). Chicken is frequently cooked this way, often marinated in sauce made of yogurt and spices.

By Denis Faye

This hippie grocer staple, pronounced keen-wah, or kee-noh-uh, may look like a grain and may be prepared like a grain but . . . Surprise, quinoa is not a grain! Grains come from grasses, while these little edible seeds actually come from a plant more closely related to spinach. Despite this, the Incas called it chisaya mama—the mother of all grains—and considered it sacred. Of course, the Spanish conquistadores were quick to kibosh that, forcing the Incas to grow corn instead.

The nutrition facts

Half a cup of quinoa is 111 calories, 2 grams of fat, 19 grams of carbs, 4 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber. That 4 grams of protein is a complete protein, meaning it provides all 9 essential amino acids, which is rare outside the animal product world.

The biggest vitamin hit you'll get is folate with 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)*. You'll get lesser amounts of vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6. Minerals are much more substantial with 29 percent of the RDA for manganese; 15 percent for magnesium; 14 percent for phosphorus; and smaller amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and selenium.

How do you eat this stuff?

Quinoa works in place of rice or couscous. Bring one part quinoa with two parts water to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Fluff and eat heartily!

1 cup of quinoa, cooked (185 g)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
222 8 g 5 g 39 g 4 g

By Stephanie S. Saunders

American barbecue dates back to the turn of the last century, as poverty-stricken Southerners were searching for economical food sources. What started as a fire pit covered by a tin roof where travelers could stop and enjoy a cheap and filling meal has turned into an American tradition that seems to bridge the tastes of all classes, races, and ages.

Historically, BBQ was largely dependent on pork, with marinades and seasoning that varied from region to region. Today, beef, chicken, lamb, and a plethora of tasty side dishes have made the list—all of which can potentially be as dangerous to our waistlines as pork itself. So when looking to enjoy a little piece of Southern American history, how do we know what our best choices are? Let's look at BBQ in this edition of Beachbody Restaurant Rescue.


Although appetizers obviously exist in a BBQ joint, they are often overlooked for the more substantial main dish. And as most main meals include a couple of sides and a considerable amount of food, it makes perfect sense to skip the starter. Furthermore, every appetizer offered seems to be loaded with fried fattiness, giving you more reason to avoid unhealthy starters. Should you decide that your stomach is empty enough to handle it all, the following are some popular options offered in BBQ restaurants, with some approximate nutritional breakdowns.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Potato skins, 3 slices 250 17 g 15 g 540 mg 10 g
Buffalo wings, 3 wings 150 9 g 3 g 675 mg 15 g
Artichoke dip, 3 oz. 245 16 g 17 g 475 mg 6 g
Hush puppies, 5 pieces 253 12 g 35 g 964 mg 5 g
Fried green tomatoes, 1 tomato 312 18.8 g 29.9 g 731 mg 6.7 g


Every meal is better when it begins with some greens, especially if it's not iceberg lettuce doused in blue cheese dressing. Given 2 tablespoons of blue cheese dressing contain 20 grams of fat, imagine what that nutrient-free ball of water masquerading as a vegetable, swimming in dressing, holds. Lean toward a field greens salad with light dressing, or even the carrot and raisin salad, which your eyes may thank you for. Above all, avoid mayonnaise-based coleslaw, as a tiny 3-oz. serving can add a couple hundred calories and 13 grams of fat.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Green salad, no dressing 50 < 1 g 7 g < 1 g < 1 g
Ranch dressing, 2 Tbsp. 120 12 g 1 g 110 mg < 1 g
Iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing 320 28 g 4 g 560 mg 7 g
Cole slaw, 3 oz. 232 13 g 26 g 287 mg 2 g
Carrot and raisin salad, 4 oz. 170 6 g 28 g 110 mg 1 g


Here is where BBQ can be scary. Our Southern ancestors seem to have taken the healthiest options out there, and removed all nutritional value, except saturated fat. Try to avoid anything fried, creamed, mayonnaise based, or flavored with pork. Your best possible options are a plain baked potato, corn on the cob without butter, and collard greens. If you must venture into Texas toast and potato salad, try to limit your portion size and share your choices with your companions.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Potato salad, 5 oz. 256 14 g 30 g 527 mg 2 g
Mashed potatoes, 4 oz. 120 6 g 17 g 440 mg 1 g
Texas toast, 1 slice 170 6 g 26 g 230 ,g 5 g
Collard greens, 4 oz. 60 3 g 5 g 290 mg 2 g
Baked beans, 4 oz. 190 3 g 33 g 760 mg 6 g
Corn on the cob, 6 oz. 150 1.5 g 35 g 20 mg 5 g
Corn bread, 1 slice 150 3 g 27 g 310 mg 2 g
Creamed spinach, 3 oz. 160 12 g 18 g 970 mg 4 g
Applesauce, 3 oz. 60 < 1 g 15 g 13 mg < 1 g
Baked potato 220 < 1 g 51 g 16 mg 5 g

Main Course

Mmm, meat. Consumption of vast quantities of flesh is what the country is famous for. And when is meat better than when it's covered in a sugary sauce and slowly cooked over an open flame? Chicken is generally your best choice at a BBQ establishment, and can save you several hundred calories over its red-meat counterparts (depending on your portion size and fixings, of course). And remember that with any meat choice, your body can only break down about 30 grams of protein at once, so eating 16 baby back ribs isn't the wisest choice. Try to keep your portions within reason, avoid anything fried, and resist adding extra sauce, a.k.a. sugar, if possible. The following nutritional breakdowns don't include extra barbecue sauce, since the nutritional content for barbecue sauce varies per location. You can add somewhere between 40 to 70 calories for every 2 tablespoons of sauce used.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Tri-tip, 3 oz. 213 11 g < 1 g 62 mg 26 g
Baby back ribs, 2 ribs 234 18 g < 1 g 330 mg 18 g
Chicken, 4 oz. 187 4 g < 1 g 84 mg 35 g
Beef ribs, 4 oz. 345 29 g < 1 g 62 mg 18 g
Pulled pork, 5 oz. 330 13 g 12 g 640 mg 18 g
Smoked ham, 3 oz. 210 3 g 5 g 860 mg 14 g
Blackened catfish, 7 oz. 550 39 g 20 g 1,260 mg 30 g


These desserts are in no way specific to BBQ restaurants, but you'll tend to find them there. If you can, leave the restaurant and go get some fat-free frozen yogurt. If you have to have that brownie, share it with your companion. Often, a couple of bites of something sweet are enough to satisfy a craving.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Pecan pie, 3 oz. 330 15 g 23 g 190 mg 4 g
Bread pudding, 3 oz. 216 12 g 25 g 120 mg 4 g
Apple pie, 3 oz. 290 11 g 44 g 230 mg 2 g
Brownie, 2 oz. 260 16 g 30 g 140 mg 2 g

The U.S. is still one of the most obese countries in the world, with our Southern states making up a big part of that heft. This can't be attributed to a certain type of food—certainly, BBQ was around long before this epidemic began—but we do live in a "supersize" nation where abundance is commonplace. Barbecue restaurants provide their clientele with amazingly generous portions. Try to remember that your body needs food for fuel, and that it can only break down so many calories in a single sitting. Be kind to it and remember to make liberal use of another great American contribution to restaurant culture—the doggie bag.

By Karen Tonnis

Imagine what it takes to punch, kick, and wrestle your way through three 5-minute rounds against a relentless 250-pound opponent. That’s the kind of extraordinary stamina required of an MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter. MMA uses techniques from several fighting styles, with an emphasis on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Greco-Roman wrestling, boxing, freestyle wrestling, Muay Thai, and karate. (The best fighters kick butt in all of them.)

Small wonder that the world’s fastest-growing sport is also one of the most demanding when it comes to training—training that can be beefed up with the P90X® program.

How P90X punches up MMA training.

If you’re training for competitive fighting, you’ll focus on three technical areas: standup, clinch, and ground. That means not only do you need to train like a boxer (which is killer in itself), but you also need to build power for grappling, as well as developing balance and agility for kicking. Bottom line, you’re training for overall strength and conditioning. And that’s where P90X comes in.

There’s not an athlete on earth who doesn’t benefit from cross-training. Cardiovascular conditioning, speed drills, strength training, and flexibility are all important aspects of a fighter’s training, and P90X nails it all. Twelve different routines work just about every muscle in your body, incorporating weight training, kenpo, yoga, plyometrics, and more.

“The beauty of the P90X program is, it literally improves the athlete in every way at the same time.” —Julian R., MMA assistant trainer, PKG Training Center, Los Angeles

For many fighters and trainers, the very fact that P90X doesn’t focus on one specific thing makes it that much better.

Today’s MMA athlete needs to gain strength without losing endurance, increase endurance without sacrificing speed, and so on. And P90X is structured to do just that. It’s a well-rounded routine that will give you a stronger base, improve flexibility, and build core, leg, bicep, tricep, forearm, shoulder, and back strength. All simultaneously.

Why Coach wants you to do Mary Katherine lunges. And the rest of P90X.

Look at how the program can take you up a notch:
  • Muscle building. Develops lean muscle without bulking you up. This not only helps you stay agile, it can help you keep within your weight class.
  • Strength training. Adds power to your punches and kicks. And gives you the incredible strength needed to outpower opponents on the ground.
  • Core training. Helps with kicking, punching, balance (especially when you’re in the clinch), and grappling. Works your core, an area—neglected by too many fighters—that supports and reinforces everything.
  • Yoga. Good for flexibility, focus, and breathing. Also strengthens through isometric movements.
  • Plyometrics. Creates explosiveness for punching, kicking, and shooting in or lifting for takedowns. Also helps in takedown defense and scrambles.
  • Cardio. Shocks the system and lifts you up to the next level.
Tips for serious fighters:
  • Don’t add extra lifting to P90X. This will only lead to overtraining.
  • Use P90X in the off-season or up to 2 weeks out—not right before a fight. The very nature of the program breaks a body down and rebuilds it. You need time to do this.
  • Train hard and aim to improve 1 percent each time you work out.
  • Don’t expect this to get easy or comfortable. It never does (if you’re pushing yourself the way you should.) Training will leave you sore. But remember, it will pay off.
  • If you’re going to talk trash, be able to back it up.
Eat right or why train at all?

Want lightning-quick reflexes and muscle strength that can go a full 15 minutes? The food you choose to put in your body will directly affect your training and performance. In fact, bringing the discipline of your workout regimen to your daily nutrition is essential to taking your game to the next level. And the P90X Nutrition Plan provides a structured foundation to guide you.

To keep your endurance up and fuel your body sufficiently, you’ll need a balanced diet of protein sources like meat, fish, eggs, and milk. Round this out with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And don’t forget the supplements.

There are no absolutes in MMA. A fight is totally unpredictable, requiring the fighter to be able to change in an instant. It could mean going from an explosive mode of trying to land shots and closing the distance without getting knocked stupid to being an endurance fighter, locking your opponent in a hold. Train with P90X and you can be ready for anything.

Recipe: Quinoa Salad

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 | 0 comments »

Here's one of Shaun T's favorites from his brand-new workout program, INSANITY: THE ASYLUM. Healthy and filling, this salad can help get you through your most extreme workouts. Did you know that quinoa contains all the amino acids needed to make a complete protein? It's pretty rare to see that kind of nutrient profile in a single plant-based food.
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water or broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1/4 cup sliced cucumber
  • 1 Tbsp. diced onion
  • 1 tsp. grated raw ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. julienned mint
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped pistachio nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped romaine lettuce
Combine quinoa, water or broth, salt, and turmeric in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until about half the liquid is absorbed and quinoa begins to soften, about 15 minutes. Strain quinoa in a mesh strainer, then place in a bowl. Squeeze lemon and lime over quinoa and place in refrigerator to cool. When cool, toss with remaining ingredients. Makes 1 serving.

Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving, prepared with water):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
383 14 g 7 g 64 g 9 g 1 g

By Andrew Rice

Summer's just around the corner. Soon it'll be time to take advantage of the long days and warm temperatures to break out of your winter workout habits and take it to the lake, river, or sandy beach of your choice. Summer is, after all, about having fun and enjoying time with your family and friends. But there's no reason that has to mean spending all day in a lawn chair eating barbecued pork and drinking Bud Light®. Why not cut loose and try one of these outdoor activities? They're all excellent workouts, and great fun to share with other people. Just keep in mind that whenever you're planning on spending time in both sun and water, a good waterproof sunblock is a must.

Water World

Whether you have access to an ocean, a lake, or a pool, water exercise is easy on your joints and bones while still excellent for muscle tone and aerobic conditioning. Water offers a whole different kind of resistance to a body that's accustomed to moving on land. While impact is pretty much nonexistent with water exercise, every move takes a lot more energy, and consequently burns a lot more calories. Even at a leisurely pace, you use twice as many calories swimming as you do walking.
  1. Swimming. Swimming is fun and a great workout. At ocean or lake beaches with swim buoys, try swimming out to the buoy line, then following it parallel to the beach. Alternate your pace, switching from fast to slow every other buoy. After you've swum far enough, swim back in and jog back up the beach to your towel. It's also really fun to pick a challenging distance swim and do it with a group of friends. When I was a kid, we used to swim from my grandparents' pier to an island about a quarter of a mile away. All of us, from Grandma to little kids, would take our time swimming across, then rest on the island before swimming back. You can do this at an ocean beach by swimming out to a distant buoy, around a pier, or any other point that's a workable distance away. For safety, I recommend having a friend paddle along with you on a kayak or paddleboard, both to be there if anyone poops out, and also to make your presence more obvious to boat traffic.
  2. Bodysurfing. I do a lot of ocean sports, including surfing, but bodysurfing brings me closer to my amphibious ideal than any other activity. Bodysurfing is also great because it's got a low learning curve but never ceases to be fun. There's always some new or challenging variation to enjoy. Choose a stretch of beach with waves that break cleanly, and without any big rocks or other hazards. You'll want a good pair of bodysurfing fins (most snorkeling fins are too big and tend to come off) to give you the acceleration and power to get into the waves. If you've never done it before, here are the basics:
    • Swim out to the peak—the area where the waves stand up and break.
    • Tread water to get a good view of what's coming and choose a wave that's about to break, not one that already has.
    • As it begins to roll under you, put your head down, kick like crazy and do a few crawl strokes with your arms. You'll feel your body begin to accelerate until suddenly you're flying through the water.
    • At this point, you can use your palms as a planing surface and get your head up to see where you're going. The wave will either poop out or spit you out.
    • Repeat until you've had enough fun.
  3. Backyard water polo. Next time you're at a pool party, organize a casual game of backyard water polo between friends. If you don't have an actual water polo ball, and most of us don't, a kids' rubber foursquare ball is the next best thing, or a slightly deflated volleyball. Set up goals at both ends of the pool, using patio chairs or a couple of empty coolers tipped sideways. The rules of real water polo are overly complicated, but for our purposes just think soccer in the water. You're not allowed to stand on the bottom, and once you pick up the ball with a hand you have to either pass or shoot. Between treading water and sprinting up and down the pool, your muscles and aerobic capacity will get worked much harder than just swimming a few laps. Play to 20 and switch ends when the first team gets to 10.
Sandy Land

Let's go back to the beach and look at another unfamiliar environment that offers a great workout opportunity: deep, soft sand. Whether you run, walk, or play soccer, doing any athletic activity in deep sand enormously increases your level of exertion. If you normally run 4 miles on hard ground, 2 miles of soft sand will have you panting. At my local beach in California, I work out by doing an alternating interval jog/sprint at each lifeguard tower. On this beach, they're spaced about every 200 yards. Each soft sand sprint gets my heart rate and breathing way up. The next 200-yard easy segment cools me off a bit, and my heart rate slows back down. My usual course is about a 2-mile round trip.
  1. Beach volleyball. Professional beach volleyball players all seem to be ripped, tan, and about 7 feet tall. Now I can't help you with the tall part, but play beach volleyball regularly and the ripped and tan part comes with the territory. The key here is constant dynamic motion, which builds balance and core strength, combined with vertical jumps and leaps that give your legs and glutes explosive strength. If you don't have a net handy, just volley with a friend for 15 or 20 minutes, trying to keep the ball in the air as long as possible while constantly increasing the distance between the two of you. When the ball falls, step closer together and start over again.
  2. Dune running. About 40 minutes from my house is a gorgeous sand dune that rises at least 250 feet in a steep incline behind the beach. Every time we're near it, my 5-year-old daughter insists we stop and do a little dune running. She sprints straight up the thing and waits for me at the top. Then she turns around and goes first, running down the dune at warp speed, taking giant leaping steps. It feels like flying, or like what running on the moon would feel like if you could wear surf trunks on the moon and survive. With the muscle and aerobic workout going up and the sheer joy of bounding down, there's just nothing better. We've also been known to somersault the whole way down, but for a few days afterward, you'd better be prepared to find sand in places you never imagined it would go. Oh, and you'll feel like you just rode the Scrambler® 10 times back to back. My daughter usually does about five circuits up and down. I'm only good for maybe three. What can I say? She's a lot tougher than me. Want to see how you stack up? There are dunes all over the world's coastlines and deserts—what are you waiting for?

By Jeanine Natale

So you've made the decision to go dairy free for health, diet, and/or allergy reasons. Maybe you're trying to avoid lactose. Maybe you just don't like the way the dairy industry tends to treat cows. But here's the rub: You love milk! So what are you going to do? Fear not, it's easy to avoid lactose and still get your fill of milk-like liquids. Soy, rice, coconut, almond, and even hemp "milks" have all found their way into the diets, hearts, and grocers' shelves of health-conscious people everywhere. Some, like coconut and rice milk, have been around for hundreds of years as dietary staples in many cultures around the world.

We're going to take a look at the five most widely available—and very diverse—milk substitutes, but before we start, let's quickly look at what you're leaving behind when you give up dairy. A 1-cup serving of regular skim milk has 90 calories, 125 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of protein, 30 percent of your recommended daily allowance* (RDA) of calcium, 25 percent of your RDA of vitamin D, phosphorus, and riboflavin, and 16 percent of your RDA for vitamin B12. That same cup of skim milk also contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, 11 of which are sugar.

Now let's compare the rest. Keep in mind that these are all vegetarian/vegan-friendly, gluten-free alternatives.
  1. Soy Milk. Soy milk is probably the best-known milk alternative in the Western world. It's easy to find it in a variety of flavors and options at just about any market. So how does soy milk stack up nutritionally compared to skim milk? A typical 1-cup serving has about 100 calories—slightly more than skim milk—with 7 grams of protein, 29 milligrams of sodium, 25 percent of your RDA of thiamin, 9 percent of your RDA of riboflavin, 8 percent of your RDA of iron, 15 percent of your RDA of copper, 20 percent of your RDA of manganese, and just about 35 percent of your RDA of calcium.

    Despite soy milk's popularity, there is some controversy surrounding it. The trend toward foods that are or contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is currently a cause for great concern, and more than 90 percent of all soybeans sold in the U.S. are GMOs, making it pretty difficult to find truly natural, organic soybeans or soybean milk products.

    Also, unfermented soy products like soy milk naturally contain what are known as phytoestrogens—chemicals that when introduced to the human body tend to act like estrogen. There are many studies on this subject, but unfortunately most of them tend to contradict each other: Do phytoestrogens cause or prevent cancer? Are there negative side effects to ingesting too much of the stuff if you're male? Should infants be given soy products at all? The best way to deal with the soy debate and its consequences, aside from doing a bunch of research yourself, is simply to remember the age-old adage, "All things in moderation." If you aren't going to be consuming gallons of soy milk per day, you should be just fine.

    Bottom Line: You might want to explore other choices before settling for this somewhat controversial and overprocessed milk alternative.
  2. Rice milk. If you've ever had the popular Mexican drink horchata, you've had rice milk. The popular commercial brands are enriched with calcium and other nutrients found in dairy milk, but they also (like commercial soy milk) have a variety of additives, sweeteners, and flavorings, many of which can't be considered either organic or natural.

    So how does rice milk add up nutritionally? A 1-cup serving has approximately 80 to 90 calories, but they come mostly from sugar, which you probably already get plenty of, and which you're probably trying to avoid if you're trying to consume a healthy diet. If you're a rice milk or horchata fan, great—you can mix it with all kinds of things to make it a fun, refreshing treat. But realistically speaking, rice milk doesn't have much else going for it.

    Bottom Line: Although it's relatively popular, I wouldn't settle on rice milk as a truly complete and healthy alternative to regular milk, unless I was mixing it with Shakeology®. Store-bought brands will be more nutritious, but will contain a lot of sugar.
  3. Coconut milk. Thai food, anyone? How about a piña colada? If you're a fan of either, chances are, you've had plenty of coconut milk in your lifetime. Now, don't mistake coconut milk for the watery liquid found in the center of the coconut, which is known as coconut water (the stuff you hear sloshing around inside when you shake one). Rather, we're talking about the rich, creamy stuff that's extracted from the white coconut flesh nutmeat itself. Want to do it yourself at home? You're looking at some pretty intensive labor.

    Until recently, a cup of coconut milk contained at least 500 calories, most of which was saturated fat, but now low-calorie coconut milk has begun finding its way onto grocers' shelves. A typical 1-cup serving has about 150 calories, most of which is still saturated fat. It has 3 grams protein, 45 milligrams of sodium, 50 percent of the RDA of vitamin B12, 30 percent of the RDA of vitamin D, and 10 percent of the RDA of calcium and magnesium. If you're a vegan looking to get more vitamin D in your diet, this stuff might help, but keep in mind that you won't be getting any protein from it and you'll be getting a lot of fat.

    Bottom Line: Regular coconut milk has traditionally been intended to be used in small amounts, mainly for cooking, not as a milk substitute for drinking a glass at a time. Although it's delicious and has lots of healthful benefits, it's way too rich to have as a drink by itself. And while light coconut milks may not pack the same caloric punch, they're still essentially just fat.
  4. Almond milk. This is one I can live with. Nutritionally, a 1-cup serving will have anywhere from 50 to 80 calories, depending on how much water has been added. Although it has minimal protein, it does have 25 percent of the RDA of vitamin D, 50 percent of the RDA of vitamin E, and 150 milligrams of potassium, along with some manganese, selenium, and many other trace elements.

    There are a wide variety of fortified store-bought brands that all taste pretty darn good—sweetened, unflavored, or otherwise. Along with the more mainstream commercial brands, it's also easy to find almond milk products that are raw and organic.

    Bottom Line: Almond milk is a personal favorite and quite versatile too, although keep in mind it's still low in protein. On a side note, it's fun to make from scratch. A 1-pound bag of raw almonds can get a little pricey at around $12.00, but the investment is worth it. Make your own—it's delicious!
  5. Hemp milk. Places like Trader Joe's® or Whole Foods Market® are your best bet for hemp milk. There are a couple of different brands, again, all fortified and sweetened to taste more like regular milk. And no, it doesn't get you high. Interestingly though, the U.S. is pretty much the only country in the world that doesn't allow hempseed cultivation, even though there's no drug content in it. All hempseed in the U.S. is from Canada; it's guaranteed to be organic and pesticide-free.

    Hemp milk could be a real find. Hempseeds are pretty much considered a superfood, meaning that even in very small amounts, like an ounce or two, they pack a wallop nutritionally. A 1-cup serving of hemp milk has approximately 110 calories and has 24 percent of the RDA of iron, 72 percent of the RDA of magnesium and phosphorus, 35 percent of the RDA of zinc, plus 11 grams of omega-6 fatty acids, 4.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, and 16 grams of protein. Wow.

    Bottom Line: A milk alternative that's naturally packed with nutrients. Definitely worth checking out.
If or when you decide to go with one or more of these alternatives to milk, also know that you can use them in most recipes just like regular milk. There are literally hundreds of recipes available free online, and dozens of well-informed cookbooks on the market. So experiment a little, and find out which milk substitute works best for you.

Recipe: Black Bean Salad

Sunday, April 17, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Team Beachbody

Black beans are a delicious staple of Central and South American cuisine—they fill you up without filling you out. This black bean salad with a decidedly Southwestern flair is quick and easy to make, high in protein and fiber, low in fat and calories, and tasty as all get-out.
  • 2 15-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups freshly cooked black beans)
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • The juice of 2 medium limes (about 1/4 cup)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl and enjoy! Makes 6 servings.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
174 12 g 12 g 37 g 1 g 0 g

4 Smelly Superfoods

Saturday, April 16, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Jeanine Natale

Were you one of those kids who hated "stinky" veggies like broccoli and cabbage? Did serving you a spoonful of cod liver oil mean a battle royale for your parents? "But it's good for you!" they'd coax, as if that mattered one bit to you. For some of us, if a food stinks, no amount of vitamins and minerals will cause us to force it down.

If that's the case, maybe some perspective might help. Truth is, none of those foods actually smelled that bad (except maybe the fish oil). You want to know about some real stinky foods? We've got four right here that are guaranteed to make you scrunch up your face, spit them out, and head for the (sweeter-smelling) hills. Yet they're all allegedly supposed to be incredibly good for you. Are they all worth the gag factor? Let's check out these four super-smelly "superfoods."
  1. Kombucha. Yeast. Bacteria. Delicious.

    My favorite massage therapist recently told me about a fermented tea known as kombucha. Having never heard of it before, I was soon intrigued by the many Web sites and blogs dedicated to the stuff, and the glowing testimonials from dedicated fans—even YouTube® videos by drinkers extolling the virtues of this ancient Asian wonder tea that has apparently become the hot new thing in America. That being said, I was definitely grossed out by the main ingredient of kombucha: a big, smelly, slimy grayish blob of yeast-bacteria culture that kombucha lovers call the "mother." It's a symbiotic, probiotic colony of yeast and bacteria (the friendly type), and kombucha is made by combining this culture with a mixture of black tea, water, and sugar. (The "mother" is created from an originating batch of tea, water, and sugar that successfully ferments, so becoming the culture for all subsequent batches—much the way sourdough bread is made.) The ingredients are allowed to ferment, usually from 7 to 10 days, preferably in a wide-mouth jar covered in a porous cloth that will allow the mixture to "breathe" while filtering out any impurities. However, it's at this stage that contamination can easily occur (most impurities are airborne—especially in this case), which could turn the tea into something that could get you really sick if ingested. If all goes well, however, the result is a jar of fizzy, cider-like brew topped by a floating jellyfish-like mass that smells—by most accounts—like a mix of stinky feet, stale sweat, and the sticky, beer-soaked carpet of your local dive bar. The taste is similarly quite pungent and tangy, but the tea is said to contain "dozens of elements, many of which are known to promote healing for a variety of conditions."

    What does this mean, exactly? It's suggested that newcomers to "K-tea" start out with no more than 1 to 4 ounces in a day, and to let ther bodies get used to the stuff gradually before increasing the amount of daily intake. So a one-ounce serving of "plain" kombucha (no added sweeteners or flavors) contains 5 calories, 2.1 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12, 3.1 percent of the RDA of folate, 1.3 grams of sodium, 1 gram of total carbohydrate, and 0.5 gram of total sugars. Also present are varying amounts of lactic, acetic, malic, oxalic, gluconic, butyric, nucleic, and amino acids, as well as enzymes.

    And therein lies the rub: While regulated amounts of vitamin B12 and folate should be part of a healthy diet, the jury's still out on the host of acids and other elements found in kombucha, which are indeed responsible for the smell and flavor of the tea. But are they actually good for you? For instance, malic acid is present in unripe fruits. It's what makes apples sour and tart, but it'll also burn your mouth if you eat too much, and just like Mom always predicted, too large a dose will give you a tummy ache. Butyric acid is found in Parmesan cheese—and vomit. (You make the connection.) Oxalic acid's main applications are bleaching and rust removal, while calcium oxalate is the most common component of kidney stones. There have not yet been any conclusive studies showing that the regular consumption of these elements actually produces consistent beneficial results. And, as even kombucha lovers will tell you, too much is not a good thing.

    Bottom Line: The risk of contamination in a homemade kombucha brew is high—the consequence of which is turning your tea from healthy to potentially deadly. Some of the elements present in this brew can be good for you in very small amounts; however, ingesting too much of the other elements present can have the opposite effect. Furthermore, there's a lot to be said for regularly brewed, unfermented tea, which is loaded with antioxidants. The conclusion? Just because it smells bad doesn't mean it's necessarily good for you.

    Smelly Superfood Vote: NO.
  2. Durian. A fruit that could kill you if thrown with enough force, and smells deadly too.

    This tropical fruit is widely eaten and loved in Southeast Asia, apparently for both its taste (which has been described as having elements of mango and creamy custard with notes of onion or garlic) and its nutritional value. It's a fascinating fruit—grown on trees throughout the region, a ripe durian is about the size and shape of a rounded football and is covered in thick, sturdy half-inch-long thorns, making it look like a very distressed blowfish. Indeed, it's recommended that those who harvest the fruit wear a hardhat, and there are often signs posted at the base of the trees warning people not to linger under them too long for fear of being bonked on the head—a bloody and potentially fatal occurrence.

    It takes a really sturdy, large knife to crack these things open, and it's best to do this outdoors, on a solid, steady surface. Opening a durian outdoors is also recommended because it'll stink up your place pretty quickly, with the odor (imagine rotten, mushy onions mixed with sweaty old gym socks and a dash of vomit) lasting for a good, long while. The flesh, which is a pale yellow with a creamy or custardy texture, surrounds five or six large seeds—the layout of flesh and seeds is much like that of an avocado. It's a bit of a challenge to find durian in the U.S.—some Asian markets will carry them, usually in the freezer section, but because of their extreme smell, shipping from overseas is not a common occurrence. It's also important to understand that even in the countries where durian is a beloved and popular treat, many office buildings, hospitals, and mass transit systems actually forbid the fruit to be carried, let alone opened and eaten on the premises! However, if you do come across some and you really want to buy one, it'll cost you anywhere from $5 up to $25—depending on availability and quality.

    So how does this superfruit add up? A single 243-gram (1 cup) serving contains 357 calories, with 108 of those calories coming from unsaturated fat. You will however, receive 80 percent of your RDA of vitamin C and 37 percent of your RDA of dietary fiber, along with substantial RDAs of thiamin (61%), riboflavin (29%), vitamin B6 (38%), folate (22%), potassium (30%), manganese (39%), copper (25%), and magnesium (18%).

    Bottom Line: For those in areas or economic situations that make a nutritionally sufficient diet a hard thing to come by, or for anyone living in Southeast Asia, durian could definitely be of value. But for the sheer desire to add something healthy and smart to balance out a diet, my vote is definitely a big thumbs-down. Lack of availability, difficulty of preparation, and high fat and caloric content all make this fruit not so super.

    Smelly Superfood Vote: NO.
  3. Natto. Mucus-y snot-chunks flavored with mustard, vinegar, and soy sauce . . .

    Eloquently described by a Japanese friend whose mom looooves to eat the natto, or fermented soybeans, this stuff is something both old-timers and young people throughout Japan have historically enjoyed eating in a variety of ways. And as Japanese culture and cuisine have become more known and loved around the world, so has natto. It's common knowledge that soybeans must be cooked or fermented in some way in order to release their nutritive value (as we have learned from miso, soy sauce, tofu, and edamame). Long hailed as a staple of traditional Japanese diets, natto consists of soaked and steamed soybeans that are then laced with Bacillus subtilis natto (a "good" bacteria) and left to ferment in a warm, moist, dark, and airtight place for a day or so. Another week of successful aging, this time in the refrigerator, results in the beans becoming covered in a thick, slimy goo, the odor of which is quite reminiscent of, well, Limburger cheese. Usually natto is found in a market's refrigerator section, in little ready-to-eat single-serving packs with pouches of mustard and soy sauce. Natto lovers enthusiastically flip open the lid, peel off the plastic-film cover, and give the beans a brisk stir—"15 times" as an old saying goes. This makes the beans even slimier, and the thick, mucus-like coating gets extra-stringy and goopy, all good signs of a really yummy batch of natto. It's commonly eaten over a bowl of rice, and lots of natto fans add a raw egg to the whole mess, along with a handful of sliced green onions.

    How does this treat add up, nutrition-wise? Well, perhaps millions of people can't be that wrong. One 100-gram serving of natto contains 212 calories, 18 grams of protein (35 percent of your RDA), 47 percent of your RDA of iron, 16 percent of your RDA of total fat, 7 percent of your RDA of saturated fat, and 21 percent each of your RDAs of dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin C. If you're manganese-deficient, this stuff is for you—it's got 76 percent of your RDA, along with significant amounts of copper (33 percent of your RDA), vitamin K and magnesium (38 percent of your RDA each), potassium (30 percent of your RDA), zinc (20 percent of your RDA), phosphorus (17 percent of your RDA), selenium (a whopping 212 percent of your RDA), thiamin (10 percent of your RDA), riboflavin (11 percent of your RDA), vitamin B6 (6 percent of your RDA), and folate (2 percent of your RDA). So that's why people eat the stuff! According to the Federation of Japan Natto Manufacturers' Cooperative Society, as of 2007, approximately 130,000 tons of soybeans went into natto production yearly, and more than 79 percent of those who chose to eat natto did so because of its nutritional value.

    Bottom Line: It's smelly, it's slimy, it looks and tastes weird, and it kinda has a lot of calories too. However, I like blue cheese, so who am I to talk? Many, many people who love to eat natto will tell you right off that it's an acquired taste, but that you will grow to love it. And the nutritional punch this stuff packs makes it an Official Smelly Superfood. I might just be willing to give it another try.

    Smelly Superfood Vote: YES.
  4. Marmite®. "Love it or hate it." It says so right in the ad!

    Despite the fact that this sticky, gooey stuff stinks to high heaven, it seems to be gaining popularity among a whole new generation of Marmite eaters. According to the "i like marmite" Facebook page, Marmite is "made from spent brewer's yeast, that comes in a distinctive black jar with a yellow lid." Although Marmite is currently owned by corporate leviathan Unilever, the Marmite Food Extract Company came into being back in 1902, when someone at a food factory figured out that all the leftover yeast extract from the brewery next door actually had some nutritional value—mainly a host of B vitamins, which are good for cell metabolism, healthy skin, and fighting off anemia, among other things. Marmite's makers have shamelessly kept the exact recipe secret. However, they tell us that extra vitamin B ingredients do get added to the mix, along with some vegetable and spice extracts. The general breakdown goes something like this: A single four-gram serving contains 9 calories, 200 mg of sodium (8 percent of your RDA), and 1.5 grams of protein (3 percent of your RDA). It'll also give you the following RDAs: 60 percent of vitamin B12, 50 percent of folic acid, 36 percent of riboflavin, 18 percent of thiamin, and 17 percent of niacin.

    Marmite is really salty, quite pungent, savory, and tangy. Think of it as really smelly, thick, nutritious soy sauce, if you know what I mean. I asked my neighbor, who hails from London, what he thought of Marmite. "Hate it!" he immediately exclaimed. "But," he added, "my children both love it." Apparently, Father doesn't always know best.

    Bottom Line: Go for it! (In, of course, very small doses.) If you put it on your toast, the thinnest of layers will do.

    Smelly Superfood Vote: YES.