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Sunday
Jan162011

3 Reasons to Eat Broccoli

This vegetable-platter classic - along with other cruciferous vegetables - is tasty both raw and cooked, and is a standout in soups, casseroles and salads. I have long recommended broccoli as part of a healthful diet. This versatile vegetable:

  1. Promotes a healthy nervous system. Broccoli is a good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), which can help calm and nourish nerve fibers.
  2. Supports bone health. Broccoli is a good source of vitamin K and calcium - both of which help keep bones strong and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  3. Can improve energy through its high levels of vitamin C, a micronutrient which supports the normal processes of cellular energy production.

The nutrients in broccoli may also help protect against cancer, heart disease, cataracts and birth defects, while promoting a strong immune system and supporting optimal gastrointestinal function. One of the healthiest ways to prepare broccoli is to lightly steam it, which can help to retain the nutritional components better than other methods such as boiling.

If you do like broccoli, try these recipes. If you don’t like broccoli, read tomorrow’s post for some healthy cruciferous alternatives.

Saturday
Jan152011

Homemade Cornbread

One of the most popular American quick breads, cornbread is traditionally made with milk or buttermilk and eggs. This vegan alternative can be spiced up with chopped jalapenos or green chile for a delicious Southwestern twist.

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal (organic and stone ground, if possible)
1 ¼ cups unbleached white flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ cups boiling water mixed with 2 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola oil, plus a little extra for oiling the skillet

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 425° F. Lightly oil a cast-iron skillet with a little canola oil. Heat it in the oven while you mix the cornbread batter.

2. In a large bowl stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt.

3. Add the boiling water mixed with 2 tablespoons canola oil and stir to mix, but do not overbeat. Add additional hot water if necessary to make a light batter. 

4. Spoon batter into the hot cast-iron skillet. Batter should sizzle when it contacts the skillet. Bake 30 minutes or until the cornbread is light brown on top and springs back to the touch.

5. Cut into wedges and serve.

Food as Medicine: Coarse, stoneground cornmeal is a significant source of dietary fiber, which is important to healthy bowel function. Diets high in fiber have also been shown to help in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.

Try this cornbread alongside my Vegetarian Chili for a full meal.

Friday
Jan142011

Tossing and Turning Boosts Inflammation

Inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A study from researchers at Emory University School of Medicine revealed a possible link between poor quality of sleep or not enough sleep and inflammation. The researchers evaluated sleep quality in a survey of 525 middle-aged men and women. They found that participants who reported sleeping six hours or less had higher levels of three inflammatory markers: fibrinogen, IL-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP). Notably, CRP levels were 25 percent higher in individuals who reported sleeping fewer than six hours a night compared to those who reported sleeping six to nine hours. The difference remained significant even after controlling for other risk factors including smoking, blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Even with the increase in inflammatory activity, the researchers noted that CRP levels among this group were still in the range of what is considered low to medium risk. Earlier research has shown that sleeping between seven and eight hours a night is associated with longer lives. The researchers aren't sure exactly how short hours of sleep may contribute to heart disease deaths. The data were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago this month.

Thursday
Jan132011

The Ultimate Sports Drink?

Despite the advertising hype for various neon-colored concoctions, good old water is actually the best "sports drink" available. While some sports drinks can raise blood sugar and recharge electrolytes, many also contain unnecessary calories, artificial colorants, sweeteners and flavorings, and caffeine and other stimulants as well. If you exercise for less than 60 minutes at a time, water is your best bet for avoiding dehydration and improving your performance. There's no need for casual exercisers who eat a balanced diet to replenish potassium and sodium during a moderate workout - leave that to the endurance athletes. To avoid dehydration, however, you should drink plenty of water before, during and after working out, especially if you live in a hot, dry climate.

More on the essential nutrient that is water.

Wednesday
Jan122011

Is Your Voice Changing with Age?

If you have noticed a change in your voice - and you aren't a boy going through puberty – it may simply be a natural part of aging. Both the volume and quality of the voice is affected as we grow older, often resulting in a pitch change or slight breathiness or hoarseness when speaking. This is due to normal changes in the vocal cords: in men, the cords tend to become thinner, smaller and vibrate faster, resulting in a higher pitch. In women, the vocal cords can thicken and vibrate less, resulting in a deeper voice. Cartilage tissue in the larynx also becomes stiffer and less flexible, frequently causing a weaker-sounding voice.

To help prevent or reduce the effect of aging on the voice, try using your voice more - those with a trained singing or public speaking background often maintain stronger voices as they age. Also - don't smoke: it accelerates the voice changes associated with aging.

More on healthy aging: having a good attitude

Tuesday
Jan112011

Kick the Procrastination Habit

Plain old, garden-variety procrastination is very common. But whether it is related to work, home or personal life, chronic indecisiveness and delay can eventually undermine a healthy lifestyle. The good news is there are simple ways to help overcome these tendencies. You can address procrastination - through behavioral workshops, group therapy, individual therapy, or with some of the following lifestyle strategies:

  1. Break large jobs into small ones. Start with a yearly plan, break it down into months, then weeks, then days. Feel free to specify detailed tasks for the days and weeks only a month or so in advance.
  2. Organize your environment. Chaotic surroundings can be distracting and stressful, and pull your focus from the task at hand.
  3. Schedule your time. If you need to, awake an hour earlier or use part of your break time as a temporary strategy to get tasks accomplished.
  4. Set reasonable goals. Trying to achieve too much in too little time can actually set you back.
  5. Set deadlines to accomplish your larger tasks. When you achieve them, treat yourself to some flowers or a small piece of dark chocolate.
  6. Pace yourself. Work on a task you've been postponing for ten minutes and then decide whether or not to continue. If you discontinue the task, schedule another time to get it done.
Monday
Jan102011

Walk Away from Breast Cancer

…and make that a brisk walk. Researchers from Harvard reviewed data from more than 95,000 women who were followed for 20 years. Conclusion: an hour or more of brisk walking daily (or an equivalent activity) made the women 15 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who walked less than an hour a week. The exercise seemed to make the difference even after the potential influences of drinking alcohol and excess weight were taken into account. Brisk walking outscored swimming, hiking or jogging in terms of protectiveness. The definition of brisk, according to the researchers: between three to four miles per hour, a pace at which it's difficult to carry on a conversation. While earlier research has shown that exercise might be protective against breast cancer because it reduces levels of estrogen in the blood, this study found that exercise reduced the risk of breast cancers that aren't influenced by estrogen. It was published in the October 25, 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Don't forget: foods to lessen breast cancer risk.

Sunday
Jan092011

Toasted Grain Pilaf

Traditionally a Middle Eastern pilaf is made with white rice, but here we use a healthful grain, toasting it first to bring out its flavor, and mixing in aromatic vegetables to create a delicious and more nutritious dish.

Ingredients:

2 cups millet, quinoa, amaranth or a combination
1/8 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (more, as needed)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dried in a package, not in oil)
1/2 cup boiling purified water
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded yellow summer squash
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped scallions or green onions
Salt to taste

Instructions:

Toast the millet (or other grains) in a large saucepan set over low heat, stirring it constantly until it turns a light brown color, less than 1 minute. Stir in the curry powder until it is blended in. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer. Check after 20 minutes. If the stock has boiled away, add a little more. Cook until the millet has absorbed all the liquid, about 25 minutes in all.

Meanwhile, soak the dried tomatoes in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain them in a colander set over a bowl to reserve the liquid, then chop them. Mix the tomatoes, reserved liquid, zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, and scallions or green onions together in a small skillet set over low heat and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Pour into the cooked grain and toss until everything is completely mixed together. Taste and add salt if you think it is needed. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Tip: You can also make this recipe with brown rice, but the cooking time would increase to 45 minutes.