Mediterranean diet ….eat more fat and your heart will love you (with caveats)

Olive Oil

Finally! All of us nutrition nuts have known that a Mediterranean diet was good for our heart, but there is now scientific proof to back it up! It was published 2 days ago by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study was in Spain, included 7500 people and was cut just short of it’s 5 year end date because the results were so overwhelming, they really didn’t need any more proof! In the end the message is that this diet reduces heart conditions, like strokes, by 30%!

If you don’t know what the Mediterranean diet is, it includes mostly fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken, beans, olive oil, nuts and wine. It’s lower in bread and the bad fats like butter or shortening.

Fat is important in satiety (feeling satisfied) and a good portion of the Mediterranean diet involves eating olive oil and nuts. As a matter of fact, the people in this study were given a handful of walnuts and 4 tablespoons of olive a day, which is roughly 500 calories on it’s own!

Sounds like a pretty fun diet, huh? A little bit of wine, a decent amount of fat to saute some of your favorite fresh veges? Snacking on nuts? It’s a dream come true!

 

Beware of the Halo Effect

Halo labeling

Have you heard of the Halo Effect? People working in the marketing industry have. It’s where a person holds a bias for something as a result of positive exposure. In other words, you will buy something you believe is good due to previous experiences.

What I’m leading up to is many food products today are being sold as “good for you” but may not necessarily be. Marketing has latched on to the latest health crazes and add words to packaging that may draw you to buy it without knowing the whole story. Organic, All Natural, Whole Grain and Light are just a few. Addition of the word Superfood, or specifically foods like acai berry, wild blueberries, healthy greens, etc. Unfortunately, reading labels is the only way to get the real story.

There are many different certifications for “Organic” that allow producers to label food organic but don’t meet the criteria of the USDA certification requirements. Some are even certified outside this country where requirements are much lower, potentially even using unimaginable fertilizers. Look for the USDA certification or I understand California is very good as well. Double check what country your produce is grown.

“All Natural” is a vague label. There are still no clear guidelines from the government on what this means. Read your label. The fewer the number of ingredients, the more natural it is. If you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce an ingredient, that’s also a clue.

“Whole Grain” has gotten some cereal manufacturers in trouble. The benefit of whole grain is getting the additional nutrition that is found in the hull that is usually removed. It also increases your intake of fiber. Marketers make health claims that have never been tested on their processed products, but are true for the raw grain that they are processing. It’s a far reach!

“Light” is a relative term. A manufacturer must lower the existing calorie content of the product to use this label. But if the product is potato chips, that doesn’t mean the calories have been lowered to match those of vegetables. And it certainly doesn’t mean it’s good for you! There are no guidelines on adding more sugar, salt, etc to counteract what’s been reducing the calories. Some even just reduce the size of the product!

Superfoods are really gaining momentum. Read your labels to see how much of the superfood is actually being used. Juices are my favorite. Cranberries are a superfood that rarely end up at the top of the ingredient list. Look for juices that are 100% juice with the ingredient you want as close to the top of the list as you can to actually reap the benefits.

Bottom line is don’t jump on the latest marketing bandwagon. Don’t be taken by the Halo Effect. Be a skeptic and read all your labels. It’s your health at stake!

 

 

 

 

Sweet peppers over pasta recipe

Peppers and Pasta

Here is a modified recipe from one I found on a website a long time ago. It’s an easy, tasty meal for Lent, if you are vegetarian or if you just harvested the last of your peppers out of your garden. You can also make it gluten free by just using gluten free pasta.

1 Tbs olive oil
2-3 large sweet peppers (10 small) julienned
1/2 cupped chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup water
2 cups cooked pasta
3/4 cup feta cheese

Saute peppers in olive oil. Add onions continuing to saute. Add garlic and spices, cooking until peppers are tender. Turn off the burner and add black olives and water, heating them until warm. Toss in pasta and cheese and serve.

 

Life is good…..it’s all perspective

sunrise

I was talking to someone at a party last night and asked her how she was. She said…..I have a job and I have a roof over my head. Life is good!

I spoke to another person and she said………Not good. Work is crazy and I’m tired of living in an apartment.

Both of these people work in the same place and don’t live that far away from each other. It makes you wonder why one can be so miserable and one can be so happy with their life. I once heard a man say……any day that I’m not six feet under is a good day! Clearly this is proof that happiness is perspective. If you tend to be a person who feels negatively about your life, you may want to take a step back.

Try this exercise. When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, think of 5 things you are grateful for. For example, I am grateful for my family, for my job, for my house, that I’m healthy and that I’ll be on vacation in a week. Just reminding yourself of what you have can help. Then, if you do run into negativity through the day, just remember…. Remember why life is good.

 

 

Simple, healthy lunches for work

Frozen lunches

I am so busy at work that when lunch time rolls around, I can’t even think about WHAT I should eat let alone where I should get it. And of course, skipping lunch is a health disaster that will result in not only metabolism slow down, but also lack of productivity perpetuating your workload! Ugh!

It’s the weekend and a good time to think about…..”what do I want to have for lunch next work week?” Buying lunches during the week take time from work, can result in bad choices and costs a lot of money. Making your lunches at home is the best option, and the weekend is the best time to prepare them since you have more free time.

Here is what to do:

Buy a large quantity of the meat, or meat substitute if you are a vegetarian. I usually pick a chicken and a filleted half of fish. Pick a spice, marinade or sauce (marinades are the easiest). Cook it all at once. I like to use the George Foreman Grill for speed. You can also bake in the oven.

Boil or steam a large pot of brown rice. If you want a little extra flavor, cook it in a broth. They have a number of healthy alternatives including fat free, low sodium, gluten free and organic.

If you don’t already have food containers like tupperware, or don’t want to spend that kind of money, grocery stores now carry cheap short term use containers, like the ziploc brand version. They actually last a long time.

Scoop a half a cup to one cup of rice, depending on your calorie requirements, into the bottom of a container and top with a 3-6 ounce piece of meat, also depending on your needs. The requirement range is based on weight loss versus athlete. Load up your freezer!

Buy an array of fresh veges you like to nibble on like carrots, cauliflower, celery and small sweet peppers. Wash and cut them into bite size pieces storing them, mixed together, in snack size ziploc bags.

The night before work, put together your lunch by taking out a frozen container, adding a piece of fresh fruit and one of your vege bags. If you are preparing for snacks too, toss in a handful of almond and a yogurt. To save money, you can get a large container of yogurt and portion it out into your food containers as well.

If you have the ability, I know some people take a whole week’s work of food in on Monday so they don’t have to worry about it all week. I don’t have the luxury of a freezer, so I usually just keep almonds at my desk and bring the rest in daily.
If you don’t have refrigeration or a microwave, there are a number of canned meats that taste good, and your rice, fruits and vegetables can last awhile without refrigeration.

Now you can focus on your work…AND have a quick and healthy meal!

 

Aphrodisiacs for Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate

I really enjoy romantic dinners on Valentine’s Day. Whether I cook or go out I always try to pick foods that intensify the evening. That’s where aphrodisiacs come into play! I think you will be surprised at how many there are!

Aphrodisiacs are foods, spices and herbs that release hormones or chemicals increasing your senses, your libido and stimulate your body. Here is a list to get you started:

Chocolate (of course!), oysters, asparagus, figs, garlic (your breath won’t be a problem if you both eat it), avacado, almond, banana, basil, vanilla, honey, strawberries, raspberries, peppers, artichoke, papaya, pine nuts, shrimp, cloves, ginger, anise, lavender, ginseng, gingko biloba, watermelon, coffee and wine in moderation.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the most popular. Of course if you want to keep these same feelings of euphoria and intimacy beyond Valentine’s Day, take great care of your body by eating well and exercising and take great care of your partner. Those feelings will last.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Chocolate….the Superfood!

Theo Chocolate

As we get closer to Valentine’s Day (what I consider chocolate day) I decided to talk to you this whole week about chocolate which is one of my favorite things!

I always knew that chocolate was a superfood, but I was watching “The Doctors” the other day and they actually recommended it as part of a power, superfood diet! If you aren’t aware of the health benefits of chocolate yet, let me inform you!

First, to get the most benefit, you need to get the darkest chocolate possible, which is an increased amount of the cocoa ingredient. The higher percent not only results in the highest amount of the best components, it leaves less room for the fat and sugar that is usually added to the lighter milk chocolate styles. I’ll warn you though…..I’ve had 92% before and it’s not sweet at all. It tastes more like bakers chocolate, although a little more refined. If you are not a dark chocolate fan I would try 70% before going any farther up.

People who eat chocolate have been found to be more heart healthy with lower blood pressure, lower LDL (the bad cholesterol). It also increases blood flow having a blood-thinning effect. Women who eat chocolate are 20% less likely to have a stroke.

Chocolate is found to increase effects of insulin reducing your chance of diabetes.

Here’s one I was surprised to hear…..chocolate used as a cough suppressant? Apparently the vagus nerve responsible for coughing is reduced when eating chocolate. The chemical is theobromine. Hmmmm….good to know!  I’ll now be demanding hot chocolate when I’m sick in bed!

Chocolate is LOADED with antioxidants which fight cancer risks and help keep youthful skin.

The satiety factor of chocolate is so high, that most people who snack a little are so satisfied, they tend to not over eat. This may help you lose weight.

The caffeine in chocolate can help increase energy, wake you up and make you more attentive. Some say it also increases your vision.

Finally, chocolate does effect hormones in your body which make you feel euphoric, leaving you less stressed, more happy and is one of the reasons chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac, hence the food of love. HEY MEN! This Valentines day, if you are trying to impress a women and win her heart, you may consider the biggest box of chocolate you can find! When it comes to chocolate…….size does matter!

 

 

 

Hand Sanitizer testing

Purell

I was watching ABC News today and saw an interesting story on hand sanitizers. To be effective did you know you need to use enough hand sanitizer to fully wet your hands so that it takes 15 seconds to dry? If you aren’t doing that, the hand sanitizer is not doing it’s job.

There have been a number of tests done to see how much it takes to remove bacteria from the hands. First, sanitizers must have 60% alcohol in them to be effective. There are a lot of substitute versions out there that contain less, or even some that don’t contain alcohol at all. Drench your hands in the sanitzer, making sure to cover every spot, and then let them thoroughly dry. This should take 15 seconds or you haven’t used enough. Waiting for them to dry before touching anything is important. There have been instances where small children have stuck fingers in their mouth immediately after applying hand sanitizer and ended up poisoning themselves.

Something the medical community has said over and over again is that washing your hands with standard soap is just as good and using antibacterial soap or hand santizer. This is NO LIE! Testing has shown washing your hands properly is just as effective. The key is similar to that of the sanitizer. Make sure to soap up thoroughly for 20 seconds. You can calculate this by singing the Happy Birthday song twice as you wash. Doctors also recommend not using antibacterial soap as it can result in resistant bacteria.

With the flu season still going strong, these are good recommendations to keep yourself from catching the bug.

 

NO MAKE UP celebrities can lead to healthier faces!

Make up

Have you heard that celebrities are increasingly not wearing makeup?! The lastest is a number of celebs posing make up free for W Magazine, now becoming the hottest trend! It’s about time!

The pressure for women to where make up is hard to get around. Not just for social events or dating, but many times wearing make up is necessary to get a job. There is no denying that impressions during a job interview can be different if someone is not wearing make up. It’s unfortunate but that’s the current society.

This new trend gives hope for those who prefer to go au naturale. Maybe people will begin to rethink the cost and health risks associated with wearing make up.  “What’s that?” You are now asking………”Health risks?!!!!”.  YES!  One of the smaller risks is mascara and lipstick grow bacteria at an alarming rate. They need to be tossed out routinely or risk infection, some that fester for years!

For those of us who try to eat right and exercise, it’s amazing how many chemicals we put on our face. Your skin absorbs what you put on it, and some end up in the bloodstream! Would you ever consider ingesting make up? What do you think makes all those pretty colors and fragrances? Here are just a few that are now being considered by some to be toxic……….parabens, sulfates, diazolidinyl urea, p-phenylenediamine, Dibutyl phthalate, aluminum, BHA, BHT, lead and even petroleum jelly. Some of the ingredients are used in fermaldehyde! YIKES! Many of the worst cosmetics are from other countries where there are fewer governmental guidelines to follow.

There are a number of websites that have suggestions for how to look beautiful without make up. Most agree, if you eat well, drink plenty of water, and carefully wash your face twice a day, patting it dry, your skin will be healthy and will not need make up to glow.