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Friday
Sep102010

How To: Cooking with Wine

Want to add flavor and reduce the amount of fat you use when cooking? Try wine. Red or white, wine offers a unique character to entrees, and can also help to cut down on the amount of fat you use - in some recipes, you can substitute wine for part or all of the specified quantity of oil. I like to use wine when sautéing or pan frying, as it works well in place of the oil that it would typically require.

One thing to note: While cooking with wine can enhance flavor, you won’t reap the health benefits that wine offers - cooking causes a loss of between 60 and 95 percent of the alcohol content of wine, so few, if any, of the direct alcohol-related health benefits remain.

For dinner tonight, head into the kitchen - wine in hand - and try my Stuffed Mushroom Caps with Couscous or my Tomato Mushroom Sauce.

Thursday
Sep092010

4 Ways to Get Rid of Warts

Anyone who has experienced plantar warts knows what a nuisance they can be. Caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), they appear on the bottoms of feet as small, fleshy bumps; hard, flat growths with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries; or gray or brown lumps with tiny pinprick-size black dots.

To help avoid getting plantar warts, avoid areas known to harbor the virus, including warm, moist places such as shower floors, locker rooms and public swimming pools. Always wear shower thongs or sandals when you use a public locker room or shower, and use foot powders and change your socks often to keep feet dry.
To treat plantar warts, you have a number of options:

  1. Leave them alone. Most will disappear without treatment, sooner or later.
  2. Try a “paint on” solution. Look for an over-the-counter treatment containing a 40 percent salicylic acid, and apply once or twice a day for a few weeks.
  3. Try the “duct tape treatment.” Simply cover the warts with duct tape for six days then soak in water and rub gently with an emery board or pumice stone. You may have to repeat the process over the course of a month or two before the warts disappear, but a study published in the October 2002 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that the duct tape method worked better than having a doctor freeze the warts off with liquid nitrogen, which can be painful and cause scarring.
  4. Try visualization. I recommend spending a few minutes each day picturing the growths shrinking. If you need help coming up with images, you can listen to recordings made by practitioners skilled in guided imagery and clinical hypnosis. It may be most effective to do this when waking and falling asleep. This mind-over-matter method can work remarkably well, so try it first, before resorting to acids, duct tape, lasers, or surgery.

More information on plantar warts.

Wednesday
Sep082010

Food Allergies or Food Intolerance?

A small minority of adults – less than five percent – have true allergies to foods. Common food allergens include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy and wheat. When true food allergies occur, the immune system reacts to a benign substance as if it were a harmful one, and produces antibodies against it, releasing histamines and other compounds in the process. This causes symptoms such as a tingling mouth, hives, swollen tongue and throat, drop in blood pressure, or even anaphylactic shock.

Food intolerance
- which is much more common - may produce less serious but still uncomfortable symptoms (diarrhea, gas, headaches or flushing). Food intolerance may be due in part to a lack of enzymes needed to break down food.

If you feel you have a true food allergy, or have been bothered by symptoms of food intolerance, talk with your physician about your concerns; he or she can arrange tests to determine what, if anything, is causing allergies or intolerance.

My thoughts on allergy testing: blood vs. skin tests

Tuesday
Sep072010

Antioxidants for Healthy Arteries

Not only that…new research from Israel shows that long-term supplementation with dietary antioxidants is also good for blood pressure and helps maintain optimal metabolism of sugar and fat. A total of 70 patients with multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease took part in the study at Wolfson Medical Center. The participants were randomized to receive antioxidants or placebo capsules for six months. Tests were performed at the beginning of the study and repeated at the half-way mark and at the end. The results showed that the patients taking antioxidants had more elastic arteries (a measure of better cardiovascular health) as well as improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels and significantly lower blood pressure than they had at the outset. The antioxidants provided to the study group were a combination of vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q10 and selenium. Study leader Reuven Zimlichman said the findings justify investigating the impact of antioxidant treatment in a larger population of patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors. The study was published July 6, 2010 in Nutrition & Metabolism.

Getting your daily dose of antioxidants is as easy as one, two...ten! Ten antioxidant-rich fruits.

Monday
Sep062010

A Note on Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

The monounsaturated fat found in olive oil (and nuts) is the healthiest type of fat. It is good for the heart and can lower your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Use it as your main cooking oil, in place of butter and margarine in most baked goods, and as a spread on bread. A neutral tasting healthy alternative is expeller-pressed, organic canola oil.

Keep an eye out for a future post wherein I discuss how to choose a quality olive oil.

Sunday
Sep052010

Hold the Milk?

Polyphenols called catechins are the antioxidant compounds found in tea that confer its well-known health benefits. They're present in all types of true tea (from the plant Camellia sinensis. Catechin content is the highest in white tea, the least processed type. Green tea has the next highest catechin content, then oolong and, finally black tea.

If you add milk to your tea, the milk protein, casein, binds catechins, making them unavailable to the body. German researchers recently focused on this effect in a small study, which included 16 postmenopausal women who first drank black tea without milk. The investigators found that the tea improved the ability of arteries to relax and expand, increasing blood flow. But when skim milk was added to the tea, this healthy effect was blocked. They also looked at how tea alone and tea with added milk affected blood vessels in rats and observed the same effects seen in the women.

Not surprisingly, this study got a lot of attention in Britain, a nation of tea drinkers, most of whom take their tea with milk. The findings may explain why the lower rates of heart disease and cancer seen in Asians (who traditionally don't add milk to tea) haven't shown up in the UK.

Like tea, cocoa is rich in polyphenols, but of a different chemical class. A study published in the April 2007 Journal of Food Science found that milk proteins don't reduce the bioavailability of the polyphenols found in cocoa. The reasons for the difference in milk's effects on polyphenols in tea and cocoa aren't completely understood. I don't imagine the tea-drinking Brits are going to change their ways and give up adding milk to their tea, but if you really want the health benefits of green tea, you should try to develop a taste for it without milk.

How do you take your tea? Feel free to elaborate in the comments if your preferred additions are not listed here.

Read about My Life with Tea.

Saturday
Sep042010

Soy Milk Basics

Soy milk is made by soaking dried soy beans in water, then grinding, heating and pressing them. The fluid is then strained and packaged as "milk" Among its many benefits, soy milk:

  • Can substitute for cow's milk in many culinary applications, thus avoiding the butterfat, which is unhealthy
  • Does not contain milk protein (casein), which can increase mucus production and irritate the immune system in some people
  • Does not contain milk sugar (lactose), which can cause digestive distress in those that are lactose intolerant.
  • Is a good source of protein - one cup contains four to 10 grams of soy protein.

When choosing soy milk, opt for a brand that is:

  • Fortified with calcium - while soy milk is naturally a good source of calcium, it doesn't have as much as cow's milk
  • Organic - many soy crops are heavily treated with pesticides
  • Free of the thickening agent carrageenan, a seaweed derivative, which I believe may be harmful, especially to the intestinal tract
  • A low-fat version, especially if you are watching your weight.

I recommend one to two one-cup servings daily.

Don't believe the many sensationalist negative claims about soy. Like any healthy food, enjoy it in moderation for optimal health.

Friday
Sep032010

Japan Women Longest Lived

For the 25th consecutive year statistics published by the Japanese government showed that women there had a longer life expectancy than any others on the planet. In 2009, Japanese women extended their average longevity to 86.44 years; Japanese men can expect to live 79.59 years, a pretty good showing but not as good as men in Qatar (81 years), Hong Kong (79.8), and Iceland and Switzerland (tied at 79.7). Women in Hong Kong came in second to Japanese women with a life expectancy of 86.1 years; French women were third at 84.5 and Swiss women fourth at 84.4 years. Japan's longevity is said to reflect good medical treatment that reduced death rates from cancer, heart disease and strokes as well as pneumonia. Japan's relatively healthy diet and high living standards also contribute to improving longevity among the population. In 2009, average life spans for women increased by almost five months and compared to nearly four months for men. While this is good news for the aging men and women, the downside is that Japan has a low birth rate and a declining population. The increasingly graying society may eventually strain government services and pension programs and lead to labor shortages.

The Japanese also tend to be happier than Americans, possibly due to their high fish consumption.