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Monday
Aug302010

Writing Off Weight?

Keeping a journal has a hidden health benefit: A recent study indicates that keeping track of your eating habits in a diary or journal can help to double your weight loss.  The study, published in the August 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine followed almost 1,700 overweight or obese men and women with an average weight of 212 pounds.

After 20 weeks of study participation (which included weekly group meetings,  recommended daily reduction of 500 calories, 30 or more minutes of daily moderate intensity exercise, adherence to the DASH diet, and daily journal entries of food intake and exercise minutes) the total average loss was about 13 pounds. But the more that the participants wrote in their journals, the more weight they lost - on average, about twice as much as those who did not maintain records.

By keeping a simple food diary, you can more objectively determine how much you are eating and become accountable for your food intake. Try to enter the portions eaten after each meal, and use whatever method works best for you - pen and paper, a smartphone application (such as the iPhone's "Notes"), or a spreadsheet on a personal computer - to help keep the process consistent.

For another interesting (and slightly controversial) take on achieving a healthy weight, check out what science writer Gary Taubes has to say.

Sunday
Aug292010

5 More Veggies to Have on Hand

I recommend keeping your kitchen stocked with all 5 of these veggies:

1. Beets: The deep red color of these root vegetables comes from anthocyanins, phytonutrients that protect against carcinogens and may help prevent heart disease. Beets are delicious hot or cold, versatile, and inexpensive.
2. Squash. With a wide variety of types, flavors, shapes, and sizes, squash is readily adaptable to any occasion - it can even be used in pie! It provides beta carotene, potassium, and fiber, nutrients that are necessary for good overall health.
3. Tomatoes: This red fruit (often considered a vegetable) contains lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight heart disease and some types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Use tomatoes in everything from salads to sauces, but know that the lycopene is most easily absorbed when the tomatoes are cooked with a little oil.
4. Broccoli. This vegetable-platter classic and other cruciferous vegetables offer cancer-protective benefits. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin K and calcium - both of which help keep bones strong. It is tasty both raw and cooked, and can be a stand out in soups, casseroles, and salads.
5. Mushrooms. Prized for their tonic effects, mushrooms can help address a host of illnesses. Maitake mushrooms (known as "hen of the woods" for their resemblance to the fluffed tail feathers of a nesting hen) are particularly valued in Asian cooking, as they have anti-cancer, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties, and may also reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. Shiitake, enokidake and oyster mushrooms also have immune-boosting qualities, and are easily included in many main courses.

Stock up on these veggies, but don't forget to reserve pantry/refrigerator space for the original 5.

Saturday
Aug282010

Vitamin E and Alzheimer's

Vitamin E may help you keep your wits about you as you get older. That's the conclusion of a new study from Sweden that looked at vitamin E levels in a group of 232 men and women all of whom were above the age of 80. Investigators measured blood levels of all eight components of natural vitamin E in each volunteer at the beginning of the study. None of the participants showed any sign of dementia at the time, but after six years, 57 of them had developed Alzheimer's. When the researchers checked vitamin E levels they found that those with the higher levels of all vitamin E components had a reduced risk of Alzheimer's compared to those with lower levels. Study leader Francesca Mangialasche, M.D., said that the protective effect seems to be related to the combination of the different forms of vitamin E and suggested that "the balanced presence of different vitamin E forms can have an important neuroprotective effect." The study was published in the July 2010 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

More on vitamin E.

Friday
Aug272010

How To: Cooking with Grapeseed Oil

While canola oil may have the lowest amount of saturated fat, and olive oil more monounsaturated fats, grapeseed oil is still a useful addition to a healthy kitchen. Pressed from the tiny seeds of grapes, grapeseed oil is a good choice for salad dressings - it has a neutral taste, though some brands may have a slight grape flavor or aroma. It is also ideal for use as a cooking oil, especially for high-temperature cooking such as sautéing or stir-frying, since it can be heated to higher temperatures than canola oil before it starts to smoke. Try it out and see if you like it - look for an organic brand, store in a cool, dark place and don't buy more than you can use up in a month or so.

Feel free to substitute grapeseed oil for olive oil in any of the salad/dressing recipes in my Healthy Kitchen.

Thursday
Aug262010

4 Steps to Pretty Summer Feet

A "corn" is the layman's term for a thickening and hardening of the skin's surface layer with a deep-seated core or nucleation. These callous growths can cause pain or discomfort when standing, walking or running, and are often the result of wearing shoes that do not fit properly. A corn generally appears wherever there is continuous pressure or friction on the foot. If you have corns, make sure your shoes fit properly and avoid wearing socks or stockings that bind your feet too tightly. To deal with the irritation that corns can cause, try the following:

  1. Use a pumice stone to reduce the thickness of a corn. Soak your feet prior to using it so that the corn is soft when you rub it.
  2. Use moleskin or other non-medicated pads to reduce the pressure and pain.
  3. Discard ill-fitting footwear and find products that offer both good support and a proper fit.
  4. Consider using an over-the-counter corn-removal solution. Apply with caution, as they often contain acids. Never use these solutions if you're diabetic or have any problem with circulation in the feet.

If the remedies above don’t help, see a podiatrist or other health-care professional who treats foot problems.

In the summer, flip-flops are a common footwear choice that, like ill-fitting shoes, can cause problems with your feet. Here's my opinion on flip-flops.

Wednesday
Aug252010

Best Frame of Mind for Food Shopping

We all know it's not a good idea to go food shopping when you're hungry, and new research suggests that you probably should avoid the supermarket when you've been drinking, right after exercising, or if you're involved in intense negotiations. Investigators at Indiana University and the University of Houston have concluded that the arousal involved in these activities may interfere with the ability to resist temptation. To demonstrate the influence of arousal, the researchers asked one group of volunteers to watch a calm movie clip, while another group watched a more exciting one. Then they offered both groups a snack of either a cup of grapes or a cup of M&Ms. The volunteers who watched the arousing clip were more likely to choose the M&Ms. Next, volunteers were asked to do some light exercise before watching a calm movie clip. This time, they were more likely to choose M&Ms. For the third study, participants were asked to remember either two or seven digits. The ones who learned the seven digits were more likely to choose M&Ms afterward - here, an acute shortage of mental energy was deemed responsible.

My take? Arousal is a by-product of stress, either internal or external, and there's little doubt that when you're under stress, your best intentions can go out the window. But forewarned is forearmed. If you think you're going to be keyed up when you go food shopping, you could postpone your trip to the store, or make a list in advance and don't deviate from it.

Not sure what to put on your grocery list in the first place? Use my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid as a guide.

Tuesday
Aug242010

Jasmine Scent Works Like Sleeping Pills

That's the word from German researchers who found that the scent of jasmine is as effective as valium and similar drugs for relieving anxiety and promoting sleep. In fact, they reported that two jasmine fragrances have the same neurochemical mechanism of action as barbiturates.

The investigators from Ruhr Universität in Bochum, Germany tested hundreds of fragrances to determine their effects in humans and mice on the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which helps control nervous system activity. The two jasmine fragrances that were strongest increased the GABA effect by more than five times, making the scents as powerful as some pharmaceutical drugs. One of the investigators noted that the results could be seen as supportive evidence of a scientific basis for aromatherapy. The researchers have been granted a patent for their discovery. The study was published online in May by the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Learn more about treating insomnia here.

Monday
Aug232010

Newport Beach True Food Kitchen

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have heard that my second True Food Kitchen restaurant recently opened in Newport Beach, California. Here's what I had to say at the opening (tour included!):

You can also view a slideshow of photos from the opening in my Multimedia Library.