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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.


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.


Healthy Dinner Idea: Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Spaghetti squash may look funny, but it's chock full of vitamins and minerals, especially carotenes - so don't be afraid to try it. This vegetarian casserole is low in calories and fat, and very satisfying as a main dish. Add a mixed green salad and some whole grain bread and you've got a great meal.


1 spaghetti squash
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
Red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of ground allspice
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 pound part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Place the spaghetti squash in a large pot of water (it should float) and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and boil gently for 50 minutes.

2. Another option is to bake the squash first. Cut it lengthwise and place the halves skin-side down in a baking dish with an inch of water. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350º F for about 45 minutes, or until meat is tender.

3. While squash is cooking, peel and slice the carrots, celery, onion and bell pepper.

4. Heat olive oil in a skillet and add the onion and carrot, with some water to prevent sticking. Sautéover medium heat for 5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables with some red pepper flakes and a dash of salt, if desired. Sauté, stirring frequently, till vegetables are barely tender, about 10 minutes.

5. Add crushed tomatoes, basil and oregano to taste, and a sprinkle of ground allspice. Squeeze in 2-5 cloves of garlic. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the mozzarella and Parmesan.

6. Remove squash from pot or oven and allow to cool until you can handle it. If it is whole, cut it in half lengthwise, then remove seeds with a spoon and squeeze any excess water out of meat.

7. Remove meat and break it up into strands with a fork or potato masher. Mix squash well with vegetables and put half in the bottom of a large baking dish. Top with half the cheeses, the rest of the squash, and then the rest of the cheeses.

8. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Let cool 15-20 minutes before serving.

Food as Medicine: Spaghetti squash, like all winter squash, may be particularly good for men. Juice from winter squash has been shown to help reduce symptoms of the enlarged prostate condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.

In the mood for lighter fare? Try this Green Squash Soup instead.


Curbing Electrical Bills - And Helping the Planet!

Going Green: Pull the plug. Even if they are not in use, common household appliances and electronics such as microwaves, computers, DVD players and televisions use power when simply plugged in. This not only increases your electric bill but increases overall energy consumption - a television that is plugged in but not turned on can consume as much as 20 watts per hour. Help curb your energy consumption: unplug items you rarely use, once portable devices are charged up unplug the charger from the outlet, and use electronics only as needed. A simple step to a healthier planet!

Another way to green your lifestyle is to use natural household cleaning products and natural fibers for your home.


New Use for Older Produce

Next time you contemplate tossing out those limp greens, softening grapes or spotted bananas, you may want to reconsider. A study found that fruits and vegetables don’t lose any antioxidant capacity in the days after purchase, and still provide abundant nutrients, including antioxidants, up until the time that they begin to spoil.

Belgian researchers purchased an assortment of fresh produce and measured their antioxidant content, then stored them at room temperature or refrigerated them. They continued to check the antioxidant levels of both groups until spoilage occurred, and found that the fruits and vegetables did not lose any phenolic compounds, ascorbic acid or flavanols - the trio of chemical types associated with antioxidant content. And in some cases, the total count of phenolic compounds actually increased prior to spoilage.

Instead of tossing produce, try cooking methods that exploit their softened state - you can easily turn older fruits into jams, add limp greens to soups and stews, and overripe bananas are perfect for banana bread!

Here's my favorite banana bread recipe.


Two Ways to Prevent Varicose Veins

Yesterday's post discussed lifestyle and other factors that can lead to developing varicose veins. Today we cover simple ways to help prevent vascular problems in the legs:

  1. Get regular physical activity. This not only promotes healthy circulation, but can help to discourage weight gain and obesity, which are associated with increased risk of varicose veins.
  2. Leg placement. Avoiding long periods of inactive standing or crossing your legs while sitting and try to elevate your legs whenever possible.

Although considered a supplement here, horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) is widely prescribed in Europe for chronic venous insufficiency, a syndrome that may include leg swelling, varicose veins, leg pain, itching, and skin ulcers. The active ingredient in HCSE is believed to be escin, a compound that helps support normal vessel wall functioning.

Varicose veins are primarily a cosmetic problem and the above measures can make your skin look healthier. Here are some other ways to keep your skin healthy!


Worried About Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged blood vessels caused by weakening vein walls. For most, they are simply a cosmetic problem, but more advanced varicose veins can cause legs to ache or swell. To find out if you are at risk, consider the following - each can increase the risk of developing varicose veins:

  1. Genetics. Varicose veins tend to run in families.
  2. Age and weight. The older you are and the more you weigh, the higher your risk.
  3. Hormonal changes. Among women, hormonal changes associated with puberty, pregnancy and menopause can increase the risk of developing varicose veins, as can birth control pills and other drugs containing estrogen and progesterone. (The good news is veins that enlarge during pregnancy tend to improve after giving birth.)
  4. Sitting position. If you tend to cross your legs while sitting, you may increase your chances of developing varicose veins.

Now you know the risk factors; tomorrow I'll share some ways to prevent varicose veins.


What Kind of Milk Do You Prefer? (Poll)

Here is a Q&A on hemp milk, which I think is a good thing. What kind of milk do you prefer?