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Choosing Olive Oil

Olive oil, once used in the U.S. mostly by immigrants from Mediterranean countries and adventurous gourmets, is now mainstream. In 2007, Americans consumed over 70 million gallons; a nearly ten-fold increase since 1982.

This is good news, as olive oil has the highest percentage of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat of any edible oil, and quality brands contain abundant antioxidants, substances that have been shown to provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer effects.

When choosing olive oil, I recommend buying small bottles of certified organic extra-virgin olive oil. Check the label for the ICEA (Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale, which means Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) logo, and that of another organic certification body such as the USDA's green-and-white ORGANIC logo. Quality extra-virgin olive oil should have a natural peppery finish and a deep, "green" aroma of grass and artichoke. Such oils are not cheap, because they rely on careful cultivation that preserves olive oils legendary taste and health benefits. But the reward is more than worth it.

Once you've purchased a quality olive oil, why don't you try it out in this Lemon Olive Oil Cake - from my True Food Kitchen restaurant - in which its rich and fruity flavor is perfectly balance by the lightness of lemons.


Low Vitamin D May Lead to Parkinson's

That's the word from a long-term study in Finland where researchers followed more than 3,100 men and women age 50 to 79, none of whom had Parkinson's when they signed up between 1978 and 1980. When they enrolled, the volunteers completed detailed questionnaires about their socioeconomic and health background. The investigators, from Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare, took blood samples from all of the participants to record their vitamin D levels at the outset. They then followed their subjects for 29 years, through 2007. During that period 50 of the men and women in the study developed Parkinson's disease. After adjusting for such factors as physical activity and body mass index, the investigators found that individuals with the highest serum vitamin D levels had a 67 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease than those whose vitamin D levels were lowest and that those with the lower levels of “D” were three times more likely to develop Parkinson's than the others. That doesn't prove that taking vitamin D will protect you from Parkinson's, but a pilot study just getting started at Emory University in Atlanta will look at the effect supplemental vitamin D has on Parkinson's patients. The Finnish study was published in the July, 2010, issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Learn about other potential treatments for Parkinson's: glutathione therapy and CoQ10.


Preventing Poison Ivy

If you enjoy camping out in the spring and summer, you should be aware of poison ivy.  Along with poison oak and sumac, this non-flowering plant can cause severe allergic reactions, resulting in an intensely itchy, red rash with bumps or blisters. Once you make contact with poison ivy, try the following to minimize symptoms:

  1. Avoid touching other parts of your body. This is especially important immediately after exposure, since the irritating oils can be transferred to other areas.
  2. Rinse affected areas with plenty of cold water immediately after exposure to flush out oils, or wash with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Use an over-the-counter product known as Tecnu lotion, which works well to remove oils up to 24 hours after contact.
  4. If the itching has begun to develop, run hot water - as hot as you can stand - on the affected areas. The itching will briefly become intense, but then will stop for several hours, as the nerves that convey the sensory information to the brain become overloaded and quit. Repeat the hot water treatment as necessary.
  5. Relieve itching with calamine lotion and aloe vera gel.
  6. Try witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) to treat poison ivy blisters. Available in liquid distillation, it can be found at any drug store and can be safely used by both adults and children.

Keep in mind that serious cases of poison ivy require medical supervision and prescription treatment - contact your physician if you run a fever of 101 degrees or higher, if blisters ooze pus, or if the rash is widespread or near sensitive areas such as eyes, mouth or genitals. For more information, visit the Condition Care Guide.

Additionally, check out my Natural Summer Medicine Chest for remedies for other common summer ailments.


Hawaiian Sticky Tofu

This one is sure to please even finicky eaters, especially when served with steamed rice. Serve this with steamed brown basmati rice and raw vegetables for a kid-pleasing meal. Leftovers are delicious cold!


12-14 oz. extra-firm tofu (not silken), cut into 16 thin slices 

6 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce or tamari
2 green onions
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3/4 teaspoons agar powder (this gives it that sticky quality) 
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water 
1/4 cup maple syrup or agave syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetarian chicken-like broth powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger 
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder
14-19 oz. can unsweetened pineapple chunks, drained
1 large green or red bell pepper (or 1/2 of each), seeded and cut into squares


1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Quickly brown the tofu slices in a nonstick pan until browned on both sides. Place in one layer in a nonstick or lightly-oiled 9 x 13" baking pan. 

2. Place the soy sauce, green onion, garlic, cornstarch, and agar in blender and blend well. Add the remaining ingredients except the pineapple and green pepper. Mix well, then pour into a saucepan and stir over high heat until it boils. Stir and let it boil for about 1 minute. Add the pineapple and green pepper, then pour over the tofu in the pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Food as Medicine: Tofu, developed more than 2,000 years ago in China, is an excellent source of protein, especially for those who wish to lose weight. Four ounces provides about 18 percent of the daily value for protein, with virtually no saturated fat and only 86 calories.

Whole soy foods - which obviously include tofu - make up entire row of my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.


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.


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.


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


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.