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Monday
Feb152010

A Note on Oatmeal

While whole grains in general are healthy, oatmeal has additional benefits: It's naturally high in fiber, which helps keep blood-sugar levels stable and contains B vitamins, which are essential to convert carbohydrates into energy. Choose steel cut or Irish oatmeal over rolled oats. Oatmeal is a great high-energy food. Try it with almond milk and fresh or dried fruit.

A tasty recipe with oatmeal: Multi-Grain Scones.

Sunday
Feb142010

Pink Lentil Curry

Lentils are a wonderful source of protein, calcium and iron. They are a staple ingredient in Indian cooking, and combine well with many different seasonings. You may be most familiar with brown or green lentils, but did you know lentils can also be black, yellow and pink? Look for these more exotic varieties in Indian and specialty food stores. Similarly, not all curry powders are the same, ranging from quite mild to very hot. In making this dish, start with a small amount and taste it to be sure your dish meets the comfort and taste level of your guests. This dish is filled with exotic flavor and can be served as an entrée with rice or as a side dish alone.

Ingredients:

1 pound pink lentils
1 tablespoon expeller-pressed canola oil  
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cup cabbage, chopped
Curry powder to taste
4 cloves garlic, mashed
1 tablespoon chopped gingerroot
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
4 cups hot cooked rice

Instructions:

  1. Pick over lentils, removing any stones or foreign matter. Place in a bowl or colander and rinse thoroughly. Place lentils in pot with enough cold water to cover well. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and cook, partially covered, until lentils become a thick mush (about one hour).
  2. Meanwhile, heat canola oil in skillet, add vegetables and a little water, stir and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are barely tender.
  3. Add curry powder, garlic and ginger. Stir, then replace cover and simmer until vegetables are tender.
  4. Add vegetables and soy sauce to lentil mixture. Toss together, correct seasonings, and simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors.
  5. Serve with rice.

Food as Medicine: Turmeric is a major component of curry. In a recent study, two important enzymes (UDP glucuronyl transferase and glutathione-S-transferase) that help the liver detoxify blood were elevated in rats that were fed turmeric as opposed to the controls. This suggests turmeric can support liver function.

Saturday
Feb132010

BPA and Men: A Bad Match

New evidence suggests that bisphenol-A (BPA) can cause sexual dysfunction in men, especially those exposed to high levels at work. Investigators from Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland, CA, who reviewed the health records of 550 factory workers in China found that those who worked with BPA were four times more likely to report some type of sexual dysfunction than were men in the factory who didn't work with the chemical. This is the first study to link BPA to harm in humans. Other research has demonstrated developmental changes in animals exposed to the chemical. In the new study, 15.5 percent of men exposed to BPA reported erectile dysfunction more than half the time compared to only 4.4 percent of men who weren't exposed to BPA. In addition, 13.9 percent of the men exposed to BPA complained of difficulty ejaculating compared to 2.5 percent of men who weren't exposed. However, the BPA levels in question were about 50 times what the average individual experiences. Don't look for any change in policies pertaining to BPA as a result of this study. More evidence from other human studies will be needed to determine what levels, if any, of BPA are safe for humans.

My take? Until we know more about any human health risks, I recommend avoiding plastics containing BPA. Substitute those made with polypropylene (#5 PP), high-density polyethylene (#2 HDPE), and low-density polyethylene (#4 LDPE). You can also reduce your exposure by buying foods and beverages frozen or packed in glass jars or bottles instead of cans lined with an epoxy containing BPA.

Friday
Feb122010

Chinese Green Bean Salad

This bright green, crunchy salad is bursting with Asian flavors and is so easy to prepare. Look for fresh, plump organic green beans if you can find them. Cook them until they are bright green and still crunchy-tender. At this point you can keep the green beans refrigerated. Toss them with the dressing just before serving or the acid in the dressing will dull the bright green color. Ginger root, one of the main flavors in this salad, is actually a rhizome, an underground stem of a tropical plant, Zingiber officinale, which is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties and as a treatment for nausea. You can use ginger in many forms and reap its benefits. Look for other recipes that use crystallized ginger, the dried powder, the fresh form (used here) or even ginger tea.

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh green beans, organic if possible
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 cup slivered red onion

Dressing:
4 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 tablespoon cold water
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dark-roasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons of sugar

Instructions:

  1. Trim and cut the green beans into 1-inch lengths. Cook in rapidly boiling water, about 5 minutes or until crunchy-tender.
  2. Drain beans, immerse in cold water to stop the cooking until they are cool, then drain well.
  3. Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk until well blended.
  4. Toss the green beans with the ginger root, red onion and dressing. Serve immediately.

Food as Medicine: Green beans are low in calories - just 44 per cup - but rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese.

Thursday
Feb112010

High Fructose Corn Syrup and Blood Pressure

Here's another reason to watch out for high fructose corn syrup (HCFS), the ubiquitous, cheap, sweetener used in soft drinks and a wide range of processed foods such as salad dressings, ketchup, jams, jellies, ice cream, even bread. In addition to promoting weight gain, it may also raise your blood pressure. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center queried more than 4,500 adults, age 18 and up, about their eating habits. Then, the investigators calculated their study participants' consumption of HCFS by looking at the amount of fruit juices, soft drinks, bakery products and candy they reported eating daily. The researchers found that individuals who ate or drank more than 74 grams of HCFS per day (the amount found in 2.5 servings of sugary soft drinks) were at increased risk of developing hypertension and that HCFS is "significantly and independently associated with higher blood pressure" in adults with no previous history of hypertension. More studies will be needed to see if cutting down on HCFS consumption can bring blood pressure back to normal.

My take? HCFS is a contributor to the obesity epidemic, may have disruptive effects on metabolism, and appears to elevate triglycerides (blood fats that increase the risk of heart disease) in men (but not women). Avoiding foods containing HCFS will benefit your health and  help control your weight - and, it now appears, your blood pressure.

More information on lowering high blood pressure.

Wednesday
Feb102010

A Note on Garlic

This culinary mainstay also provides a host of health benefits, including improving cholesterol ratios, lowering blood pressure and platelet aggregation, and even reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack. It also has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, making it especially helpful in combating colds. A simple way to treat a cold is to eat two cloves of raw garlic at the onset of symptoms. Chop or crush the cloves to release the allicin (a sulfur compound with strong antibiotic effects) and put them on a sandwich or mix them in applesauce.

Try Garlic Broth or Garlic Walnut Dip.

Tuesday
Feb092010

Exercise and Appetite

Exercise can make you hungrier but it also can tamp down your appetite so you eat less and lose weight. The trouble is, that doesn't always happen. Australian researchers observed the differences in a study of 58 overweight and obese adults who began a 12 week exercise program designed to burn 500 calories per session. Overall, the investigators found that all the study subjects were hungrier for a meal after exercise than they had been before they began to exercise. However, some were more easily satisfied by their breakfasts than they had been prior to exercising while others who didn't drop as many pounds as they had hoped said that they were hungrier for their breakfasts than they had been before joining the study and remained hungrier throughout the day than they used to be. The researchers don't have an explanation for the difference in appetite but speculated that physical activity may trigger hunger and also boost the sensitivity of the body's fullness-signaling system. The study was published in the October 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Monday
Feb082010

Can Soy Prevent Colon Cancer?

Maybe so. New investigation from the Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland in California suggests that molecules called sphingadienes (SDs, for short) found in soy are cytotoxic - that is, they can induce the death of cells including mutant ones such as cancer cells. This may mean that the SDs found naturally in soy foods can help prevent colon cancer and that understanding how SDs work may lead to development of new drugs for the disease. Soy foods have long been thought to be protective against colon cancer, noted Julie Saba, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study. Identifying SDs could provide the scientific explanation of why this effect has been seen. More research is needed to see how SDs could be harnessed to fight colon cancer and to further explore other soy components that might also play a protective role. The study was featured in the Dec. 15, 2009 issue of Cancer Research.

More information on colon cancer.