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Porcini Risotto

This classic Italian dish is rich with the flavor of dried porcini mushrooms. Adding truffle-flavored olive oil at the end of cooking adds depth. Always remember when making risotto to cook the rice until it is creamy but still has a bit of tooth. With a large green salad, this dish is elegant enough for guests.

1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms  
3-4 cups warm vegetable stock
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons truffle-flavored olive oil (optional) or extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Rinse the dried mushrooms in cold water, drain, and add to warm vegetable stock to soften.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft. Add the rice and stir to combine. Add the mushrooms, cut into smaller pieces if necessary. Reduce heat to medium-low.

3. Add the stock, one ladleful at a time, as you stir the rice. As the rice absorbs the liquid, add more. After 15 minutes, test the rice for doneness.

4. When the rice is tender but not mushy, remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and add truffle-flavored olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Food as Medicine: The dried Porcini mushroom, Boletus edulus, has an exceptionally high protein content.


Is Popcorn a Health Food?

Maybe so. A new study suggests that popcorn and other whole grains, including some breakfast cereals, contribute more to health than just the fiber they contain. Many of these foods are rich in polyphenols, health promoting antioxidants also found in fruits, vegetables, wine, chocolate, coffee and tea. A study from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania presented at the August, 2009, meeting of the American Chemical Society found that whole grains such as popcorn contain a "surprising large" number of polyphenols. The investigators said that the polyphenols in whole grain cereals and snack foods were "potentially more important" than fiber in reducing the risks of cancer and coronary heart disease. In fact, the research team noted that it found "comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and vegetables." The most antioxidants were present in whole grain cereals made with wheat and, in this study; raisin brain had the highest amount of antioxidants per serving, thanks to the raisins. But corn, oats and rice cereals also contained polyphenols, in descending order. Among snack foods, the study found that popcorn has the most antioxidants. So eat up. But hold the butter.


Health Benefits of White Tea

In their search for plant extracts that protect the skin’s natural proteins - collagen and elastin - British researchers found that white tea trumped 20 other plant and herb extracts tested. The investigators from Kingston University also found that in addition to its potential benefits to skin, white tea has high levels of anti-oxidants that can protect against heart disease and cancer. Elastin is a structural protein in skin that also underlies the function of the lungs, arteries and ligaments.

Beyond that, it helps body tissues to repair after injury and prevents skin from sagging. Collagen promotes skin strength as well as elasticity. The new research showed that white tea blocks the action of enzymes that break down elastin and collagen leading to skin wrinkling. The same enzymes and oxidants are associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Other plants and herbs found to have some protective effects include bladderwrack and extracts of cleavers, rose, green tea, angelica, anise and pomegranate. The findings were published in the August 4, 2009 issue of BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.


The Great American Smokeout 2009

Tomorrow, Thursday, November 19th, 2009 is the Great American Smokeout - which makes today a good time to consider some information on how to kick the habit. Tobacco is the most addictive drug in the world, and nicotine is one of the strongest stimulants known. It is difficult to quit smoking - but it is possible. Thousands of people quit each year, and are an inspiration to those who want to stop. There are a number of ways to quit, including cold turkey, acupuncture, or using nicotine patches or gum.

Hypnotherapy is another option. Steve Gurgevich, Ph.D., is an experienced hypnotherapist who has studied smoking cessation through hypnosis. He says that it takes just three days to get over the physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal - think of it as a long weekend. The more difficult part is addressing the habit of smoking. According to Dr. Gurgevich, patients have to be truly motivated to quit smoking if they expect hypnotherapy to work. The habit will not be eradicated in one session.

For more smoking cessation information, consider "Dr. Gurgevich's Amazing Hypnotic Tonic," This set of smoking cessation CDs may help you quit smoking - and improve your health and life.


Simple Steps for Increased Energy

Persistent mild fatigue or a chronic lack of energy due to day-to-day stressors or hectic schedules can often be addressed with simple preventive steps. In addition to regular exercise, quality rest, and a supplement routine designed to promote energy, try these dietary tips for a natural energy boost:

  1. Eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably organic) for their protective phytochemicals and micronutrients needed for optimal metabolism.
  2. Become a grazer. A large meal can trigger the body to release more insulin, resulting in low blood sugar levels and a fatigue-inducing slump. Eating smaller meals or healthy snacks throughout the day can help keep blood sugar levels steady.
  3. Stay hydrated. Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue - drink purified water or other healthy liquids throughout the day.
  4. Snack right. Choose healthy snacks that contain some protein, carbohydrates, and beneficial fats or select whole foods that are low in fat. Good options include a handful of unsalted nuts, fresh or dried fruit, yogurt, vegetable sticks, and whole grain bread or crackers.
  5. Eat more fiber. Navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils are all rich in fiber, which slows the release of insulin and helps maintain a steady supply of energy.

Five Steps to a Healthy Mouth

Gingivitis, inflammation of the gums with resultant recession of gum tissue and damage to teeth, is a common condition of middle-age. Often it necessitates painful, costly surgical treatment. If your dental hygiene habits aren't the best, keep in mind that a little effort can go a long way. Maintaining a healthy diet, not smoking, and practicing good oral hygiene can prevent most gum disease. Try the following:

  1. Get in the habit of using dental floss at least once a day (such as when you brush in the morning or evening). Use unwaxed dental floss if possible, and get it under the gum line to scrape the tooth surface. If you have the opportunity, ask a dental hygienist to teach you how to use it.
  2. Whenever you have a chance, wash your hands and massage your gums with your fingertips. You can also stimulate your gums by running the end of a round wooden toothpick under the gum line.
  3. If your gums are sore, mix hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to a paste and work this mixture into and under them with a toothbrush. Leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse.
  4. Use a goldenseal mouth rinse.
  5. Have your teeth and gums cleaned by a dental hygienist twice a year, and get treatment for any pockets of infection that are discovered.

Miso Soup

Miso soup is the Japanese version of chicken soup - a combination soul food and comfort food. It is traditionally eaten at breakfast in Japan as a daily staple. Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, and is full of antioxidants like vitamin E, as well as protective fatty acids.

It's healthful and delicious, and the Japanese say that the linoleic acid in miso promotes soft skin. The soybeans miso is made from also contain isoflavones and other elements that provide protection against some forms of cancer. To preserve these properties, miso should not be boiled. Add it to a soup after it has been removed from direct heat.


2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil
3 slices fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 cups coarsely chopped cabbage
5 cups water
4 tablespoons miso (dark or light, available at natural-food stores)
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil


1. Heat canola oil in large pot. Add ginger and onion. Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes and add carrots, celery and cabbage. Stir well.

2. Add water, bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer covered till carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Place miso in a bowl, add a little of the broth from the soup, and stir into a smooth paste. Add more broth to thin the mixture, then add the miso to the soup. Let rest for a few minutes.

4. Serve in bowls with chopped raw scallions and a few drops of roasted sesame oil. You may wish to remove the sliced ginger before serving.

Food as Medicine: Miso is a particularly valuable food for vegans. The bacteria in miso synthesize vitamin B12, a difficult nutrient to obtain from diets that contain no animal products.


4 Steps to a Healthy Heart

Maintaining the right mix of healthy lifestyle habits is the best way to achieve optimal cardiovascular function. Incorporate the following into your daily routine to help promote the health of your heart:

  1. Exercise. Regular exercise helps maintain the health of blood vessels, strengthens the heart muscle itself, and can help reduce heart disease risk factors including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and stress. Aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity on most days of the week. For individual guidance, consult a personal trainer.
  2. Lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss can significantly lower cardiovascular risks.
  3. Don't smoke. Smoking is the major preventable risk factor for heart disease, and has negative health consequences for your entire body, from your taste buds to your energy levels to your skin. Seek support and guidance in quitting.
  4. Manage stress. Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and homocysteine levels. Practice breath work, meditation, guided imagery, visualization or another relaxation technique, and participate in regular moderate exercise (including yoga and T'ai chi), stay social, and laugh often.