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Tofu and Beet Greens

Fresh beets are a wonderful bargain because you get two vegetable dishes out of one plant. The beet greens, which many people foolishly throw away, are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and are a delicious vegetable in their own right.

Food as Medicine: Beet greens, similar in taste and texture to Swiss chard, offer abundant vitamins and minerals, and carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein.


1 pound firm tofu
2 pound beet greens
1 tablespoon expeller-pressed canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce (or to taste)
2 cups cooked rice


1. Drain the tofu; slice it 1/2-inch thick and place the slices on a dish towel or several layers of paper towel. Cover with another cloth or layer of paper towels and place a cutting board on top, weighted with a few heavy cans or a pot of water. Press the tofu slices for 1 hour, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes. You can also use baked, pressed tofu, in which case you just need to cut it into cubes. 

2. Wash the beet greens thoroughly, drain, remove stems and shred.

3. Heat the canola oil in a skillet and add the onion. Sauté over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, then add the tofu and continue cooking until tofu begins to color.

4. Add the beet greens and garlic. Stir-fry until greens are cooked, about 5 minutes.

A plant-based main dish like this one is an easy and delicious way to eat less animal protein - a step that I recommend for optimum health.


Leafy Green Vegetables and Diabetes Risk

An extra serving a day of leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and cabbage could cut your risk of type 2 diabetes. This finding comes from a British review of six studies, which included more than 200,000 people between the ages of 30 and 74 in the U.S., China and Finland. The researchers found that while consuming leafy green vegetables doesn’t prevent diabetes, people who eat more of these foods appear to have about a 14 percent lower chance of developing diabetes. The investigators saw no reduced risk with a higher intake of vegetables in general or a combination of fruits and vegetables. They're not recommending that eating leafy green vegetables alone is all you have to do to reduce your risk of diabetes, but the findings are a reminder that diet can be as useful as drugs for cutting the risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. The study was published in the August 18, 2010 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Keep an eye out for tomorrow's post, which will include a recipe featuring a generally unappreciated leafy green that I absolutely love: beet greens.


Hot Pepper for High Blood Pressure

Capsaicin, the compound that adds the spicy zing to hot peppers, seems to have some benefit in blood pressure control. Chinese researchers have reported that long term consumption of capsaicin as part of the normal diet of rats bred to have high blood pressure helps relax blood vessels so that pressure falls. The capsaicin sets off a process that increases production of nitric oxide, a molecule known to protect blood vessels against inflammation and dysfunction. Earlier studies showed that short-term exposure to capsaicin produced conflicting results in the hypertensive rats; this is the first one to look at the effects of treatment long term. Although follow up studies will be needed to see whether capsaicin works as well in humans, the author of the study noted that in southwestern China where hot and spicy food is widely consumed, the incidence of high blood pressure is significantly lower than it is elsewhere in China. The study was published in the August issue of Cell Metabolism.

How about celebrating the end of summer with some healthy chili and cornbread? Both spicy recipes contain capsaicin, which, in addition to possibly regulating blood pressure, is a known anti-inflammatory agent. Keep a glass of water nearby!


Your Temperament Could Torpedo Your Health

The more antagonistic, competitive and hostile you are, the higher your risk of arterial thickening, a physical change which raises the danger of a heart attack or stroke. U.S. and Italian researchers have reported on a three-year study in Sardinia that explored personality traits associated with arterial thickening. More than 5,600 men and women whose ages ranged from 14 to 94 took part. They all received a standardized personality test, and the investigators used ultrasound to scan the thickness of the walls of each participant's carotid artery at five points in the neck. All of the participants were also screened for the usual cardiovascular risks: high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose and diabetes. After controlling for age, sex, smoking and other risk factors, the researchers found that those whose personality tests showed them to be less agreeable, less straightforward and less socially compliant had the greatest increases in the thickness of their arteries over the three year study. Although this study was performed in Sardinia, the researchers said that their findings could apply to anyone, anywhere. The study was published in the August 16, 2010 online edition of Hypertension.

My take? We've known for some time that anger, which would seem to underlie the personality traits that proved threatening in this study, is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. A six-year study published in The Lancet on May 6, 2000, found that subjects with the most personality traits revealing anger were two to seven times more likely to develop coronary heart disease. If see yourself as angry, hostile or antagonistic, then psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and spiritual counseling may help you modify your feelings. I also recommend exercise as an excellent way to cope with strong emotions. In addition, meditation, relaxation techniques and my breathing exercise have healthy, calming effects.

Here are some ways to manage stress if negativity and anger are a problem for you.


Where Does Cinnamon Fit in Your Kitchen? (Poll)

As we enter fall, I suspect cinnamon - and other warming spices like it - will be making more frequent appearances in your kitchen; I know they do in mine. I'd like to know: how do you use cinnamon in your cooking and baking? I'm partial to this squash pie.


Best Diet for Companion Animals?

When choosing food for my Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Ajax and Asha, I stay away from anything containing animal byproducts, including rendered or recycled meats, and instead look for meat protein that is properly prepared before it's packaged for consumption. I suggest you always check pet food labels to verify that the product does not contain added growth hormones, antibiotic-fed protein sources, or rendered meats, fats and poultry.

I recommend pet foods that contain quality protein sources such as real chicken, beef or fish. Animal byproducts or ground-meat "meal" should not be part of a pet's food. When I see "beef or poultry byproducts" on the label, this tells me it may include anything from chicken heads to blood and feet. If "meat meal" or "chicken meal" is listed, these are rendered ingredients. While they provide protein, they can contain a wide variety of "secondary" items including the tissue of low-grade animals that were diseased or died of health conditions before reaching the slaughterhouse. Even many "natural" and "scientific" pet foods contain these rendered ingredients, so it is important to examine food labels closely. Remember that quality protein sources come from quality producers. I recommend using brands that source their meat and poultry exclusively from U.S. natural producers, who humanely raise beef, chicken, and turkey on vegetarian diets, and without added growth hormones and antibiotics.

Check out the Pets & Pet Care section of my site for more information on keeping your pets in a state of optimum health, just like you!


Fitness on a Budget Part 2: Free Weights and Tubing

In Part I of Fitness on a Budget, I talked about the benefits of walking. I'd now like to discuss those of weight-bearing exercise.

Strength training is a vital component of physical activity, and one your body needs for optimal health. For a small investment you can set up a fairly comprehensive home “gym” that includes strength training components such as free weights and tubing. Free weights usually cost between $1-$2 per pound, and can be used to help build muscle and increase the intensity of weight-bearing exercises. Resistance bands - stretchable rubber cords with handles at both ends - are also a cost-effective way to add resistance to stretches and help build muscle.

Learn more about strength training with weights.


Medical Marijuana for Pain

Here's the latest on the medical uses of marijuana: a research team from Canada's McGill University Health Centre has published a study showing that smoking marijuana at home three times a day reduced chronic nerve pain in patients who had failed to achieve relief from other treatments. Some participants had pain following nerve injury due to accidents, and some cases were due to surgical trauma, including cut nerves. During the study, the patients smoked low doses (25 mg) of marijuana three times a day over the course of five days; they all used a pipe, and the marijuana they were given contained approximately 10 percent THC, the primary active ingredient. The researchers described the pain reduction as "modest" but said that the marijuana also improved patients' moods and helped them sleep better. They noted that bigger, longer-lasting clinical trials investigating higher doses of THC would be needed to further evaluate the effectiveness and long-term safety of medical marijuana for pain relief. The study was published online August 30, 2010 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Read my latest Huffington Post piece on medical marijuana and cancer.