Saturday, December 1, 2007

Turkey Cutlets with Cranberries

Though there are no magic foods that erase stress and immediately induce sleep, there are components of foods that may help. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, which naturally enhances sleep. In addition, vitamin C has been found to help reduce both the physical and psychological effects of stress on the body. This recipe, which is perfect for the holidays, contains both of these components. The turkey contains tryptophan, and the cranberries and orange juice contain vitamin C. Plus, the recipe is delicious, easy, and quick!

Serves 4

4 Turkey Cutlets (approximately 4-5 ounces each)
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup sliced onions
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray. Place the cutlets in the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Top with onions, cranberries, orange juice, and vinegar.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes, or until no longer pink.

Calories per serving: ~275

High-Fat Food and Sleep

A recent study shows that sleep and weight gain is a two-way street. Previous research seemed to indicate that lack of sleep led to weight gain. However, in a recent study published in Cell Metabolism in November 2007, researchers found that a high-fat diet may in fact be a cause of disrupted sleep, thus leading to further weight gain. In this study, mice fed a high-fat diet gained weight and showed a disruption in their circadian clock. These mice, after initially being fed a high-fat diet ate extra calories when they should have been sleeping or resting, and it was these extra calories that led to weight gain. So, avoid this vicious cycle by eating a diet that is balanced and moderate in fat.

Stress, Sleep, and Weight Gain – Oh My!

In late October of this year, the American Psychological Association released the results of a national survey on stress. They found that 1/3 of Americans are living with extreme stress, and that nearly half of Americans believe their stress levels have increased over the last five years. In addition, a majority of adults (63%) do not get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, needed for good health, safety, and optimum performance, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, over the past 40 years, Americans have cut their sleep time by 1-2 hours a night. These trends towards more stress and less sleep coincide with Americans becoming heavier each year. It is no surprise then that recent research has found that both stress and sleep are correlated with weight gain.

Lack of sleep appears to affect hormone levels. Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells which signals the brain to stop eating. Ghrelin, a hormone made in the stomach, signals the body to continue eating. Studies have shown that in individuals who are sleep deprived (i.e. sleeping less than 8 hours per night), leptin levels are lower and ghrelin levels are higher. This combination is therefore likely to increase appetite. On top of all that, the brain interprets a drop in leptin as a sign of starvation. In order to protect itself, the body not only responds by increasing your appetite, but it also burns fewer calories.

But, that’s not all. Lack of sleep also seems to affect insulin resistance and blood glucose levels. Insulin is the hormone that lets glucose (aka blood sugar) into the body’s cells, to be burned for energy. When people are insulin resistant, the insulin does not work efficiently. This can increase the risk for heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

As with lack of sleep, being stressed also affects certain hormones. When the body is stressed, it releases adrenaline, along with corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol. The adrenaline and CRH first affect the body by decreasing your appetite, since in the typical “fight or flight response” (when stress is highest), having to stop and eat would surely not help to save your life. However, this decreased appetite only lasts for a short time. Cortisol kicks in later. Its job is to help the body replenish its stores when the stress has passed, and cortisol’s effects last a lot longer. Moreover, since the body is looking to quickly replenish its energy stores, it begins to crave sugar. Cortisol may also work to slow down your metabolism, since it is trying to quickly replenish lost nutritional stores.

Stress may also affect weight gain in other ways. Aside from cortisol’s affect on the body, stress often leads to nervous energy. An increase in nervous energy in some people leads to nervous or emotional eating. Furthermore, stress is also largely associated with a lack of time. This lack of time may affect being able to prepare healthy meals, leading to an increase in fast food consumption. It may lead to less time to exercise. Or, it may lead to a lack of sleep, thus starting a vicious cycle…

What to do?

1. Try a stress-reducing activity such as listening to soothing music or going for a walk.
2. Maintain a regular bed and wake-time schedule, including weekends.
3. Get organized. Create lists and schedules to get work done. Delegate tasks when possible.
4. Stop eating 2-3 hours before bed. A calorie is a calorie, and eating late at night won’t lead to weight gain. However, eating late at night can make you more uncomfortable when you lie down for bed and thus interrupt sleep.
5. Exercise! Exercise helps to reduce stress, makes it easier to fall asleep, and contributes to a more sounds sleep. Just try to complete your workout a few hours before bed.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Greek Pasta with White Beans and Spinach

This recipe is quick, easy, and a perfect way to increase carbohydrate consumption prior to The Big Day. Using beans not only provides protein, but they also provide approximately 15-20 grams of carbohydrate per ½ cup serving.

Serves 8 regularly or 4 when training

1 lb. box penne
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can Cannellini or White Beans
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
10 ounces fresh Spinach, chopped
½ cup low-fat feta cheese, crumbled

  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water as directed on the package.
  2. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in a large non-stick skillet until translucent.
  3. Add tomatoes, beans, and seasonings to the skillet. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Add spinach to the sauce and cook until spinach wilts, stirring constantly.
  5. Serve sauce over pasta, and sprinkle with feta.
Serves 4 Serves 8
Calories 440 220
Carbohydrates 76 g 38 g
Fat 7 g 3.5 g
Protein 16 g 8 g

Glycemic Index and Exercise Performance

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods that is based on the food’s effect on blood sugar as compared with a standard reference food’s effect. Though the GI was originally devised to aid diabetics, it is now extensively used in sports nutrition to aid athletes in the selection of appropriate carbohydrates to choose for training. In a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers investigated the effects of meals with different glycemic indexes on the metabolic response during exercise in women. Eight active women participated in two trials. In each trial they received a test breakfast 3 hours before performing a 60 minute run. The first trial consisted of a high-glycemic breakfast, while the second was low-glycemic. Researchers found that the low-glycemic breakfast resulted in a higher rate of fat oxidation during exercise than did a high-glycemic meal. While endurance athletes may require the higher glycemic meal, those individuals desiring weight loss may benefit from consuming lower-glycemic foods prior to exercise.

Marathon Eating 101

Running a marathon, or training for any big sport’s event, is a huge commitment, and takes months of preparation. Training, however, does not simply consist of sprints, scrimmages, or other heart-pumping related activities. A major component is nutrition. Without proper fuel for your body, you will be unable to reach your maximum potential.

There are four nutrients on which to focus during training. These include water, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. When you drink enough water and eat a balanced diet, your body can work efficiently and provide energy to fuel performance.

Water makes up 60 percent of your body and is involved in essentially every bodily process. Unlike with other nutrients, your body cannot store excess water - you must replace whatever you lose. There is a fine line, however, between drinking too little and drinking too much. If you drink too little, you run the risk of dehydration, which hampers performance and increases the risk of heat illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Conversely, too much fluid puts you at risk for hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood drops too low. Although rare, hyponatremia can result in seizure, coma, or death. Those at risk are people who drink too much and do not adequately replace the sodium lost in sweat.

The best way to prevent hyponatremia and dehydration is to learn the correct way to hydrate.

* Drink to Hydrate: Your fluid-replacement goal is to drink the perfect amount of fluid, resulting in neither weight loss or weight gain. A helpful tool may be to estimate your sweat rate. Weigh yourself before and after a workout. Then account for fluid consumed during training and add this to the total weight loss.

For instance, if you lost 1 pound (16 oz) during 1 hour of training, and drank 16 oz, you should drink 32oz (16 + 16) each hour during similar intensity exercise training.
* Include More Salt: Salt is lost through sweat, so make certain to replace all of the salt lost during training. Consider including more salty snacks (i.e. pretzels or crackers) into your diet.

* Invest in Sports Drinks: Drinks, such as Gatorade®, help keep your body hydrated while replacing essential electrolytes, like salt, during exercise. Because of the added flavor, you are more likely to consume more. These drinks are preferred over water during long distance or intense training or competition.

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of fuel for the body. They are found in fruits, vegetables, starches, and other foods. The body converts carbohydrates into glucose for immediate energy or stores it in the liver and muscle tissues as glycogen. Muscle glycogen is used during endurance sports. As glycogen is depleted, an individual may become fatigued and unable to maintain training and racing intensity. With high intensity training, 60-70% of calories should come from carbohydrates. Remember: while we usually encourage high fiber and whole grains, opt for low fiber foods (i.e. white pasta, potatoes, etc.) when training to avoid gastric distress and cramping.

* Stock up before*: Eat carbohydrates for at least several days before competing so that you start with glycogen loaded muscles.

* Be consistent during: If training or competing for more than an hour, eat carbohydrates during the activity to replenish energy and delay fatigue. Consider energy gel supplementation. A typical gel has 90-100 calories composed mostly of carbohydrates. These are especially helpful during colder days when the sweat rate is lower, and you are not prone to drink as much. Gels, however, can upset your stomach, so try using them to gage your tolerance prior to the competition.

* Replenish: After a long run or an intense training session, your muscle glycogen stores will be depleted. Therefore, eat a carbohydrate snack of approximately 100-300 calories immediately after training. Snacks may include pretzels, baked chips, or frozen fruit pops.

*A note on carbohydrate (carbo) loading: Carbo-loading is a method some athletes use to maximize glycogen stores. The original method began 1 week prior to the event. For the first 3 days, athletes ate a very low carbohydrate diet (about 10% of total calories) and exercised intensely to deplete glycogen stores. The following 3 days the athlete ate a very high carbohydrate diet (about 90% of total calories) and reduced exercise intensity to maximize glycogen stores. Over the years this technique has been modified and the depletion phase has basically been eliminated. Now athletes usually just increase carbohydrate intake for the 3 days prior to the event (about 70% of calories) and decrease exercise intensity. Consult a physician before attempting a carbo-loading diet.

Protein is needed for muscle and tissue growth and repair. However, too much protein can cause dehydration and muscle heaviness. When muscle glycogen stores are high, protein contributes less than 5% of the energy needed by the body. When glycogen stores are low, protein must be used for energy and may contribute as much as 10% of the energy needed. This process of using protein for energy is expensive and inefficient, and should be avoided as much as possible.

* Increased Needs: Endurance athletes need up to 50% more protein than sedentary adults.

* Avoid Excess: Consume no more than 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. A high protein diet, especially after heavy training will cause incomplete replenishment of muscle glycogen and impair performance.

Fats are required in small amounts by the body for certain critical functions and as an alternative energy source to glucose. Eating too much fat, however, is associated with heart disease, some cancers, and other major problems. A high fat intake probably means you aren’t getting enough carbohydrates. Moreover, a high fat diet is difficult to digest and may cause sluggishness.

* Aim for Moderation: All individuals, including athletes, should consume less than 30% of total calories from fat and less than 10% of calories from saturated fat.

While these basic guidelines will help, we do recommend seeking personalized advice when it comes to intense training. Every body is different, and it is important to make sure you are adequately nourished and hydrated during training and during the event.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Homemade Snack Bar

Though there are definitely snack bars out there that taste good and are fairly balanced, sometimes you like to know exactly what’s going in your bar. This recipe is easy and fits all of our requirements for being a balanced snack bar. Best of all, it tastes good!

Serves 10

3 ½ cups quick oats
1 ½ cups powdered non-fat milk
4 scoops chocolate or vanilla protein powder
¼ cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup sugar-free maple syrup
2 egg whites
¼ cup orange juice
1 tsp Vanilla
¼ cup natural applesauce

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and blend well.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, egg whites, orange juice, vanilla, and applesauce.
  4. Stir wet mixture (step 3) into dry mixture (step 2).
  5. Spread mixture evenly onto a sprayed baking sheet.
  6. Bake until edges are crisp and brown.
  7. Cut into 10 bars.

Calories: ~185
Fat: 2g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Protein: 15g
Total Carbohydrates: 27g
Fiber: 4g
Sugar: 18g

Night Snacking and Weight

Night-snacking tends to be a problem for many. After dinner, we finally have a chance to relax. Oftentimes that relaxation comes with snacking. In a study published in 2004 by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers examined whether eating a calorie-controlled snack at night would help with weight management in night snackers. Sixty-two men and women were divided into two groups: calorie-controlled night snackers vs. ad libitum night snackers. The participants followed their assigned night-snacking routine for four weeks. After four weeks, those in the calorie-controlled night snacking group lost about 2 pounds while those in the group who ate ad libitum lost less than half a pound. Though in this case the calorie controlled snack was a measured out bowl of cereal, any calorie controlled item (i.e. a snack bar) may help to keep you from overeating and thus gaining weight.

Snack Bar Break

Though in an ideal world we would all eat balanced meals and snacks with whole grains, lean protein, and lots of fruits and vegetables, realistically it is often too time consuming and impractical. However, we can’t just starve until we have time to grab a decent meal. That’s where bars come in. Bars are quick, and if you choose the “right” ones, they can be balanced and filling. They are great to keep in your purse or briefcase if a meeting runs late and lunch seems far away, in the glove compartment of your car if you get stuck in traffic, or by the front door if there’s no time for breakfast so you can grab one and go.

The tricky part when it comes to bars is figuring out which ones are best or the most balanced. To help you, we’ve outlined a few nutrients/ingredients to watch for when choosing a bar. The major question to ask yourself, however, is will this bar help me eat less later or will it simply set off a sugar craving and leave me wanting more.

As a snack, ideally it should have less than 200 calories. If you’re replacing a meal, it can be higher than this, but beware that the very high calorie bars usually contain loads of sugar and/or saturated fat.

Fiber helps by slowing digestion and allowing you to feel fuller longer. Finding high fiber bars can be tough, but aim for at least 3 grams of fiber per bar.

There are loads of high protein bars out there, but the main idea of protein is to balance out the carbohydrates and satiate us longer. There is no need to go overboard with protein (keep in mind, this is just a snack), but aim to get at least 7 grams in your bar.

You do want to have some fat in your bar to keep your snack balanced, to allow for a more satisfying snack, and to improve the taste and texture of the bar. However, try to keep the fat below 5 grams, with as little as possible coming from saturated fat. Also, avoid any bars with trans fats.

This is definitely the hardest ingredient to assess. Most of the bars contain lots of sugar to improve taste. We decided to judge sugar based on its relation to fiber in the bar. Aim for bars that have at most a 6 to 1 ratio of sugars to fiber. For instance, if a bar has 3 grams of fiber, it should have no more than 18 grams of sugar.

To be honest, it was almost impossible to find a bar that fit all of our requirements. The bottom line is that you have to choose which ingredients are most important to you, and which bars help you most in staving off hunger (and which you like the taste of!). We’ve chosen some of our favorites to give you some ideas. The bars in bold fit every requirement.

Bar Calories Total Fat(g) Saturated Fat(g) Protein(g) Carbs(g) Fiber(g) Sugar(g)
Bellybar™ (for pregnant women)
Clif® Mojo™
Gnu® Foods
Kashi™ GOLEAN® Roll!
Kashi™ TLC™*
Luna® Sunrise™
Pria® Complete Nutrition
Slim Fast® Optima™ Meal On-The-Go Bar

*Not every bar in this brand fits all of the requirements.

Take this guide with you as you navigate the supermarket aisles. By keeping balanced, healthy bars on hand, you will never have an excuse for going hungry!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gazpacho with Chickpeas

Low calorie soups and salads are invaluable as natural appetite suppressants. Since soups and salads are full of water (or watery ingredients), they help to fill you up before you indulge in a big lunch or dinner. Moreover, if you add extra fiber to your meal, you will also feel fuller sooner. This recipe combines all of these aspects in one easy, refreshing, and tasty dish. No need for diet pills when you can fill up on veggies!

Serves 6

2 – 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, with juice
½ cup tomato juice
2 Tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
1 seedless cucumber, cut into a ¼-inch dice
1 small onion, cut into a ¼-inch dice
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (can leave in seeds for spicier soup)
1-15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsps lime juice
¼ - ½ teaspoon cumin (to taste)
2 Tbsps chopped fresh cilantro (can substitute flat-leaf parsley if prefer)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. In a food processor or blender, blend a ½ cup of the diced tomatoes with the tomato juice and olive oil. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Calories: ~140
Fiber: 6

Natural Herbs or Foods and Weight Loss…or not?

Considering the main topic of this newsletter is diet pills and weight loss drugs, we wanted to report on a single natural food or herb that is touted for weight loss and present the current research. Amazingly, after searching through the peer-reviewed journals, we found almost no actual research regarding the most common weight-loss ingredients. We searched apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger, ginseng, green tea, and even some of the less common ingredients like turmeric and rhubarb. Though there were a few animal studies regarding one or two of these ingredients, and a few actual studies on green tea, a couple of the searches brought up absolutely nothing (i.e. apple cider vinegar). Yes, we could have chosen one of those rare random studies to report on, but we think a stronger take-home message this month is to beware of what you hear or read. As our fruitless search has shown, the ingredients in most weight loss supplements have barely been researched, and though they may seem harmless because they are common household ingredients, taking large doses of them has not been satisfactorily tested (or even tested at all). When there are actual studies regarding natural ingredients and weight loss, we’ll get back to you.

The Skinny on Diet Pills

With the release of Alli this past June, diet pills are once again in the spotlight. The claims are appealing: “Lose 30 lbs in 30 days” or “Melt your fat away”. But, do these pills really work? And more importantly, are they even safe? We’ve broken down for you some of the more popular over the counter and prescription diet pills on the market to let you decide for yourself. As a disclaimer, we believe that there are no magic pills to get you to your goal – changing your lifestyle is the only truly tested and effective method.

Prescription Drugs
Research regarding prescription drugs is more thorough and credible since they have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Prescription weight loss drugs are intended for individuals with medically significant weight problems, and are intended to be used in conjunction with dietary, behavioral, and exercise programs. If used correctly by the intended group of users, oftentimes they can be a lifesaver. For those who do not fit the description of the intended user, or for those who simply take the pills without changing their lifestyle, expect disappointment.

Orlistat (Brand name prescription drug: Xenical; OTC drug: Alli)
How it Works: Orlistat blocks the absorption of fat by working on the digestive system. It is claimed to inhibit the action of an enzyme called lipase, which breaks down dietary fat so the body can absorb it. Orlistat blocks the absorption of up to 30% of dietary fat, and the unabsorbed fat is eliminated through the stool.

Research: According to the FDA, before orlistat was approved in 1999, it was tested in seven clinical trials, in which more than 4,000 obese individuals participated. Each of these trials used orlistat in conjunction with a low-calorie, low-fat diet, and an exercise routine. Overall, 57% of people taking orlistat lost at least 5% of their body weight as compared to 31% who took a placebo.

Side Effects: Due to the fact that unabsorbed fat will exit through the stools, many gastrointestinal side effects may exist. Perhaps most embarrassing is that users may experience oily rectal seepage and in extreme cases, may need adult diapers. Fecal urgency, gas with discharge, and frequent, oily bowel movements are also possible. In addition, orlistat interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K) and may also limit the absorption of healthy fats like fish oil or flaxseed oil. As a result, nutritional deficiencies may occur.

Sibutramine (brand name: Meridia)
How it Works: Sibutramine is a monoamine reuptake inhibitor, which means that is blocks the reabsorption of certain neurotransmitters, or messengers to the brain. This allows the levels of these neurotransmitters to increase, which then helps to control appetite. Thus, sibutramine is mostly an appetite suppressant.

Research: Manufacturers report several double-blind, placebo controlled trials. There was evidence that various levels of sibutramine led to significantly more weight loss in obese individuals, than for those who used the placebo. As with orlistat, these studies were done in conjunction with a healthy eating and exercise plan.

Side Effects: The most common side effects are dry mouth, anorexia, headache, insomnia, and constipation. Some users also experience an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.

OTC Drugs
Over the counter weight loss drugs are not subject to approval or regulation by the FDA. As a result, we have limited research on the hundreds of OTC diet pills out there, and almost no long-term research. In addition, because these pills aren’t regulated, they may not even have the amount of an effective ingredient that is stated on the bottle. There are hundreds of diet pills out there. This is only a small sample.

The only FDA approved OTC drug. See orlistat (above).

TrimSpa X32
How it Works: Trimspa, endorsed by the late Anna Nicole Smith, has many different ingredients in it. Unfortunately, TrimSpa no longer lists each of the ingredients separately, but rather states that it has a “x32 proprietary blend”. We were able to uncover some of the ingredients. Ingredients like caffeine, bitter orange, and green tea extract are thought to work as stimulants. Hoodia, chromium, and glucomannan (fiber) are proposed to work as appetite suppressants.

Research: Clinical trials have not shown that the ingredients in TrimSpa can reduce body fat. There is some evidence that green tea extract may aid in weight loss, and there is clear evidence that fiber (i.e. glucomannan) will lead to satiety, thus decreasing one’s appetite. However, none of the ingredients have been significantly proven to lead to weight loss.

Side Effects: Due to the fact that many of the ingredients have been insufficiently tested, there is concern that in large doses, some of these ingredients may be harmful. Bitter orange (naringin) may interfere with many common prescription drugs such as antiarrhythmics, anticoagulants, statins, immunosuppressants, calcium channel blockers, and protease inhibitors. Ingredients in TrimSpa may lead to insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, and restlessness. TrimSpa may also cause migraines in susceptible people since it contains cocoa extract which contains tyramine. Hoodia, a popular ingredient on its own, and thought to suppress appetite, is also still in the beginning research stages. There is a possibility that it can lead to liver toxicity. Moreover, Hoodia is a protected plant, and because OTC diet pills are not regulated, most of the pills don’t have as much Hoodia as is stated on the packaging.

Xenadrine EFX
How it Works: As with the TrimSpa, Xenadrine has a long list of ingredients. These include green tea leaf extract, bitter orange, caffeine, cocoa extract, grapeseed extract, ginger root, and guarana. These ingredients are purported to speed up the metabolism.

Research: Though proponents of Xenadrine claim numerous clinical trials have been completed, it was hard for us to find any. The two we did find were extremely small studies of six and ten subjects. In addition, we found it dodgy that the Xenadrine website listed “returning shortly…” under the tab for clinical studies. When we called the company, they could not elaborate.

Side Effects: The same side effects noted for specific ingredients in TrimSpa are noted here. In addition, people taking Xenadrine have noticed nausea and upset stomachs, anxiety, shaking, cramps, increased heart rate, and increased sweating.

There are hundreds of other diet pills out on the market. Most of the OTC diet pills rely on the fine print that states it must be combined with a low-calorie diet and exercise. In reality, if you followed the healthy diet and exercise portion, you would lose weight. However, in certain cases, prescription drugs may be helpful and/or necessary, but that must be determined by your physician. With all diet pills remember - if it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Red, White, and Blue Trifle

It’s summertime, and though we all may “scream for ice cream”, our waistlines are begging us to lighten up. Luckily, summertime is also chock full of fresh fruit, a naturally sweet dessert, which provide us with many important vitamins, minerals, fiber and water.
In fact, we need at least 2-4 servings of fruit per day. The following recipe combines 2 of these delicious fruits in a satisfying and low-calorie dessert.

Serves 15

1 package prepared low-calorie instant vanilla pudding
1- 8-ounce container fat-free or light whipped topping, ½ cup divided
2 ¼ cups sliced fresh strawberries, divided (2 cups & ¼ cup)
2 ¼ cups blueberries, divided (2 cups & ¼ cup)
1 prepared (10 ounces) angel food cake, cut into 1-inch cubes

  1. Fold the vanilla pudding into the whipping topping (minus the reserved ½ cup of whipped cream).
  2. Combine the 2 cups of strawberries and 2 cups of blueberries.
  3. Place half the cake cubes in the bottom of a 2- to 3- quart trifle dish or straight-sided glass serving bowl. Top with half of the fruit mixture and then half of the whipped cream mixture. Repeat layers with remaining cake and fruit mixture. Spoon remaining whipped cream mixture over the fruit mixture. Place reserved ½ cup of whipped cream on top.
  4. Arrange reserved strawberry slices and blueberries over the whipped cream.
  5. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.

Calories per serving: ~170

Flavonoids and Cognitive Decline

Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that are found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and red wine. The benefits of flavonoids have been highly touted, especially as it relates to cancer prevention. In a study published this year by the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that flavonoids may also help with cognitive function. Over 1600 subjects, age 65 and over, were followed for 10 years. At baseline, all participants were evaluated and found to be free from dementia. In addition, information on dietary flavonoid intake was collected at baseline. Over the 10 year period, participants were cognitively evaluated four times. The researchers found that those participants who consumed the most flavonoids from food did significantly better on the mental examinations 10 years later than those who consumed the least amount of flavonoids. Just one more reason to visit your Farmer’s Market and load up on fresh produce…

Eating Seasonally

No longer do you have to drive to rural areas for the fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, and seasonal culinary creations of the farms. In the last few years, Farmer's Markets have been popping up and becoming increasingly popular in both urban and suburban neighborhoods. Towns and cities alike have happily sectioned off streets monthly, or even weekly, for nearby farms to provide residents access to locally grown food. While many look at jaunts to the Farmer's Market as occasional quaint outings, however, there are major benefits to regularly frequenting the local markets and to eating seasonally.

Whether or not we realize it, the foods that are grown locally are essentially preparing us for the days ahead. Spring vegetables, like lettuce, kale, asparagus, and spinach, help to clean us out after a long winter. The summer harvest of grains and fruit helps to give us energy for the long days. The produce of autumn, including squash, apples, carrots, and beets, provide warmth and sweetness to help nourish us prior to the long winter. And finally, the winter foods, which generally are stored, like dried fruits, nuts, and other, heavy, dense foods, help to provide resilience.

Intact Nutrients
As soon as a piece of fruit (or any produce) is plucked from the tree, the nutritional breakdown begins. Certain vitamins, particularly vitamin C, are very unstable and though they may be present fresh off the vine, are largely depleted after a few days. Supermarket produce may be shipped from a thousand (or more) miles away. As a result, the produce sits around for many days constantly losing some of the key nutrients.

Since local farms must adjust to the seasonal weather, the fields are also turned over more frequently. Thus, a patch of land that held cucumbers in the summer may hold root vegetables in the fall and winter. This turnover encourages a more nutrient-rich soil, which translates into a more nutrient-dense product (not to mention a tastier product).

Locally grown produce is typically picked the day before arriving at the Farmer's Market. As a result, the produce is picked ripe or at its peak. Moreover, after a day at the Farmer's Market, leftover produce is generally not saved to be sold the next day. Instead it is used for jams and baked goods. On the other hand, supermarket produce is harvested well before ripeness so that it can withstand bulk handling and long range shipping. That means that when supermarket produce first hits the shelf, it is at least a week old. In fact, the automatic spraying of the produce section every few minutes is mainly done to perk up the week-old vegetables. It doesn't help that nutrients of the produce leach out at each spraying.

Fewer Preservatives

Many of the small growers at Farmer's Markets are organic growers, which mean they do not use any synthetic compounds on their fields. Even for those local farmers who do use some chemicals, however, the amount which they use is far less than large commercial farms. Moreover, because local farms pick their produce at its peak, they do not use any chemical ripening agents. And because they get their produce to market almost immediately, they do not need to coat their produce in wax or add any other preservative.

Nowadays, when you walk into a supermarket, you may never know the season. Due to global trade, the supermarkets will always have melon, tomatoes, and tropical fruit. Without any new options, we can easily encounter food fatigue. And when we tire of fruits and vegetables, it is too easy to fall into the rut of treating ourselves with high-fat and high-sugar foods to perk up our food repertoires. However, when we eat seasonally, we can look forward to the juicy summer watermelon or the savory autumn artichokes. Plus, by purchasing seasonal foods, and not splurging on that $10 clamshell of blueberries in the dead of winter, you can also save money.

Incorporating seasonal eating into your lifestyle demands a bit more time, thought, and commitment. As a result, however, you will be rewarded with more robust flavors and loads more nutrients – your body, your palette, and the Earth will definitely thank you!

Seasonal Produce Calendar (New York)

This chart, adapted from the Greenmarket NYC chart, will help you determine the seasonality of your favorite fruits and vegetables.

Season Vegetables Fruit
Winter Dried beans, beets, carrots, collard greens, leeks, onions, parsnips, potatoes, winter squash, turnips Apples, pears
Spring Asparagus, dried beans, cabbage, carrots, beet greens, mesclun, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, scallions, spinach, zucchini, turnip greens Apples, pears
Summer Asparagus, snap beans, dried beans, beets, beet greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, herbs, lettuce, leeks, mesclun, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb, scallions, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips, turnip greens, winter squash, zucchini Apples, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, currants, peaches, plums, strawberries, raspberries
Fall Snap beans, dried beans, beets, beet greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, corn, eggplant, fennel, herbs, kale, lettuce, leeks, lima beans, mesclun, onions, parsnip, potatoes, pumpkin, scallions, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips, winter squash, zucchini Apples, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapes, peaches, pears, plums, raspberries, watermelon

Friday, June 1, 2007

Caffeine and Weight

The findings regarding caffeine and weight loss seem to change daily. While nothing is conclusive, a recent study shed some light on caffeine intake and long term weight change in both men and women. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006, followed 18,416 men and 39,740 women from 1986 to 1998. Caffeine intake was initially assessed in 1986 and then reassessed every two to four years. Weight for each participant was recorded at baseline and then again in 1998. The study did find a lower mean weight gain in participants who increased, rather than decreased, their caffeine consumption. However, due to the nature of the study, it is impossible to assume that higher caffeine consumption actually causes weight loss as many other factors may have been involved; rather caffeine is simply associated with weight loss. Moreover, in men, the association between caffeine intake and weight was mostly present in younger participants. In women, the association was stronger in those who had a higher body mass index (>=25), who were less physically active, or who were current smokers. This study does lay the groundwork for future research, but for now there is no reason to run out and load up on caffeine. The best advice is to stay active and eat a balanced diet.

Coffee Beverages Exposed

With spring in full swing, and summer just a few short weeks away, we now find ourselves strolling outside as we delight in the beautiful weather. Oftentimes, these strolls are accompanied by jaunts into a coffee shop or an ice cream store to get a frosty treat. While many may feel that opting for the coffee is the healthier or least caloric choice, many times this is not the case. A serving of vanilla ice cream (which is ½ a cup) is only 145 calories, while a serving of a blended coffee beverage (16 oz) can range anywhere from 180 to 580 calories! The following chart gives a breakdown of some of your favorite coffee treats:

Product Serving Size(oz) Calories Total Fat(g) Saturated Fat(g) Carbs(g) Sugars(g) Protein(g)
Starbucks Coffee Frappuccino Blended Coffee – no whip 16 260 3.5 2 52 44 5
Starbucks Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino - whip 16 580 22 13 86 65 14
Dunkin Donuts Coffee Coolatta with Milk 16 210 4 2.5 42 40 4
Cosi Arctic Latte 16 530 16 unknown 94 unkown 6
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Ice Blended, Mocha, with non-fat milk and regular powder 16 390 7 4.7 58 39 11
Caribou Coffee Coffee Cooler 16 220 4 4 46 40 2

Luckily, you can mimic some of these frosty beverages while also cutting down on the calories.

Basic Blended Coffee Base*
Serves 2

1¼ cup strong coffee, chilled
1 cup skim milk
3 packets artificial sweetener (i.e. splenda, equal, etc.)
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 cups ice

  1. Put everything in a blender and blend until desired consistency.
  2. Serve.

Calories per serving: ~95

*To flavor your blended coffee, try adding a teaspoon of sugar-free vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate, or caramel syrup. These flavorings will provide additional sweetness, so you may want to decrease the amount of artificial sweetener or sugar in the recipe.

The Lowdown on Energy Drinks

In 1997, with the introduction of Red Bull, energy drinks began as a significant category in the US market. Since then, the market has grown by 50% almost yearly, and the energy drink market now totals more than four billion dollars. Clearly, this indicates that many Americans are consuming these caffeine laden trendy beverages, but are they really that good for us?

What is an Energy Drink?
Energy drinks, such as Red Bull, Monster, Cocaine, and Hype Energy, are beverages that contain large doses of caffeine, sugar, taurine, and other legal stimulants like ephedrine, guarana, and ginseng. These energy drinks may contain anywhere from 80mg of caffeine for 8 oz (about the equivalent of a strong cup of coffee) to 250mg. Energy drinks purport to have “functionality”, including increasing concentration and cognitive performance of the consumer. The basis of these statements, however, lies in inconclusive data, from a limited number of studies. To de-bunk some of these claims, we will breakdown the most common ingredients.

Caffeine is one of the main active ingredients found in energy drinks. In spite of extensive research, the evidence with regard to the health implications of caffeine is inconclusive. There is, however, some evidence that high acute intakes of caffeine are associated with tachycardia (fast heart beat) and acute increases in blood pressure. Too much caffeine may also cause nervousness, irritability, and insomnia. The longer term risks, or possible benefits, of caffeine on cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are less known.

Guarana, a native South American plant, contains guaranine, a substance that is chemically similar to caffeine with likely comparable stimulant effects. There is very little information regarding the effects of guarana, and in the US, it is unregulated. As a result, many health professionals are wary of guarana-containing products.

Taurine is a normal metabolite in the body that is synthesized from the amino acid cysteine or other sulphur or cysteine containing compounds. Taurine, which is naturally present in the diet, has been shown to have beneficial health effects, including decreasing blood pressure. No published studies have found any negative physiological effects of high intakes of taurine in healthy adults. However, there have been no conclusive studies regarding taurine’s interaction with the other stimulants in energy drinks.

The Dangers of Energy Drinks
While none of the common active ingredients in energy drinks seem to be particularly harmful alone, there has been limited research studying the combination of these ingredients on health. Energy drinks’ stimulating properties have been anecdotally reported to increase heart rate and blood pressure, dehydrate the body, and prevent sleep. These effects may be particularly harmful if the drinks are used in sporting contexts. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Vitamin Water, have certain compositional requirements with regard to carbohydrates, electrolytes, and osmolarity. Energy drinks, on the other hand, do not have these requirements and because they contain caffeine, a known diuretic, they can greatly dehydrate an individual, whereas in sporting events or exercise, they would be needed to rehydrate. In addition, socially energy drinks are now used as mixers for alcoholic cocktails. The danger in this lies in the fact that energy drinks are stimulants and alcohol is a depressant. As a result, the stimulant properties of the energy drinks can mask the feeling of intoxication and can lead a person to drink well beyond the safe limit. Finally, though not necessarily dangerous, energy drinks contain loads of sugar, and therefore contain numerous calories. Thus, consuming energy drinks, especially in place of water, can lead to weight gain.

Healthier Alternatives
Instead of relying on energy drinks to wake you up, there are numerous lifestyle changes you can make to boost your energy naturally.

  1. Eat breakfast. Eating something in the morning can rev up your metabolism and start your day out right.
  2. Eat every few hours. Oftentimes we get tired because our blood sugar drops too low. To prevent the drop, try and eat a healthy meal or snack every few hours.
  3. Drink water. If you’re dehydrated, you will feel fatigued. Get your 8-10 8 oz glasses to keep you awake.
  4. Decrease sweets. Consuming products high in sugar will lead to a peak in blood sugar and then a major drop. The drop is what leads to feelings of fatigue. If you cut out sweets, you’ll avoid the blood sugar swings.
  5. Exercise! Getting your blood flowing and getting into shape will increase your metabolism and stamina.
  6. Sleep. You’ll always feel tired if you don’t get your Z’s. Try to slow down and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Fiber One Breaded Chicken

Cereal doesn’t have to just be for breakfast anymore. By crushing whole-grain, high-fiber cereals, and using them in recipes, you can add great taste, and lots of fiber to your meals.

Serves 4.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 oz container non-fat plain yogurt, drained
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsps honey
1 Tbsp orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste
½ c Fiber One cereal, finely crushed

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine yogurt, ginger, mustard, honey, orange juice, salt and pepper.
  3. Dip each chicken breast into the yogurt mixture, then dredge each coated piece into the Fiber One breadcrumbs.
  4. Place the coated chicken into a baking dish and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until done.

Calories per serving: ~215

Eating Breakfast for Weight Management

In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2003, it was reported that people who skip breakfast are heavier than those who eat it. The researchers analyzed data from 16,452 adults who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) from 1988 to 1994. They found that those who ate ready-to-eat cereal, cooked cereal, or quick breads had a significantly lower body mass index than those subjects who ate meat and eggs for breakfast or those who skipped breakfast. In addition, a cross-sectional study reported in Obesity Research in 2002 further supports this point. The researchers in this study examined the eating patterns of 2,959 subjects who had maintained a weight loss in the National Weight Control Registry. Though the researchers could not make a causative connection between breakfast consumption and weight loss, they did note that eating breakfast was a common characteristic to successful weight loss maintainers. The bottom line? Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast. It can only help with keeping your weight down.

Breakfast Cereals : A How-to Guide

Though we’ve come a long way from the tasteless gruel of the 1800’s, we now have a whole new set of problems. With the plethora of breakfast options out there, it is now difficult to decide what to consume to start your day off right. Simply navigating down the cold cereal aisle can be overwhelming. The colorful boxes, with the catchy names, extraordinary box designs, and the promise of fruity sweet tastes appeal to our senses, but how do you decide which cereal is actually most nutritious? The following guidelines will help you select a healthy and filling cereal:

  1. Be the adult. If you let your children choose, you will absolutely end up with a sugary cereal, since kids are influenced by box design and TV ads. Remember that the appearance of the box has nothing to do with what’s inside. Look past that attractive picture on the front and look straight to the side panel (the nutrition facts).
  2. Read the “Nutrition Facts” and “Ingredients List”. The information listed here is standardized so it is easier to compare between boxes of cereal, than by just paying attention to the hype advertised on the front of the box. Check to see what constitutes a serving size before comparing the calories, sugar, fat, etc.
  3. The grains should be whole. Under ingredients, it should say “whole wheat” or “wheat bran” and not simply “wheat”.
  4. Protein content should be at least 5 grams per serving. Protein is what leaves you feeling satisfied, so you don’t want to skimp on this macronutrient.
  5. The total carbohydrate to sugar ratio should be no less than four to one. This means that if there are 24 grams of carbohydrates in the cereal, then the sugars should be listed as 6 grams or less. This ratio shows that the majority of carbohydrates come from grains and fiber and not just from added sugars.
  6. Check for fiber. One of the most important components of cereal is fiber. Aside from preventing constipation, fiber also helps to fill you up. Look for cereals that contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Keep in mind, however, that if you are opting for the “high fiber” cereals, you will want to also increase your fluid intake. Increasing fiber intake too quickly can lead to gas and bloating.
  7. Take those vitamins! For the most part, cereal is a major source of certain nutrients. These include folic acid, zinc, iron, and other B-vitamins. Check to see that your cereal is providing at least 25% of the RDA for these nutrients.
  8. Beware of fruit. Don’t be fooled by the fruity name or the dehydrated red berries that are floating in that bowl. Dried fruit is actually heavier than grains, so it will be listed towards the top of the ingredient list, leading you to believe that there is a lot of fruit in there. In most cereals, however, there is actually very little fruit. A better bet would be to skip the fruity cereals, and add your own fresh fruit to the bowl.
  9. What to avoid. There are certain ingredients that a nutritious cereal should not contain. These include hydrogenated oils, dyes or artificial colors, and chemical preservatives. If you see these on the ingredient list, keep walking!
  10. Don’t forget the milk. Whatever cereal you are consuming, chances are it is still missing some key amino acids (the building blocks of protein). By having that cereal with milk, you will be adding extra protein and making up for those few amino acid deficiencies in the grain. Remember though, keep that milk low in fat and opt for skim or 1% milk.

To further help you wade through the cereal aisle, we’ve compiled our top ten list of nutritious cereals (in no particular order!). You can find these at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Wild Oats, and many standard grocery chains. Each of these cereals has a serving size of ¾ cup or larger, at least 5 grams of fiber, more than 5 grams of protein, and less than 9 grams of sugar.

  1. Uncle Sam Original Cereal (10 g fiber, 7 g protein, <1>
  2. Arrowhead Mills Shredded Wheat bite size (6 g fiber, 6 g protein, 2 g sugar)
  3. Nutritious Living Hi Lo (6 g fiber, 12 g protein, 3 g sugar)
  4. Nature’s Path Raisin Bran (9 g fiber, 5 g protein, 5 g sugar)
  5. Nutritious Living Dr. Sears Zone Honey Almond (5 g fiber, 14 g protein, 5 g sugar)
  6. Kashi Go Lean (10 g fiber, 13 g protein, 6 g sugar)
  7. Nature’s Path Optimum Slim (11 g fiber, 9 g protein, 7 g sugar)
  8. Kashi Organic Promise Autumn Wheat (6 g fiber, 5 g protein, 7 g sugar)
  9. Back to Nature Banana Nut Multibran (13 g fiber, 5 g protein, 9 g sugar)
  10. Kashi Good Friends (12 g fiber, 5 g protein, 9 g sugar)

Now there is no excuse not to eat a healthy breakfast!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Trans Fats and Fertility

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January of 2007, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that the more trans fats a woman consumes, the more likely she is to be infertile. The researchers conducted a study of 18,555 married, premenopausal women with no history of infertility who either attempted a pregnancy or became pregnant between 1991 and 1999. The diet of the participants was assessed twice during the follow-up period through use of a food-frequency questionnaire. For each 2% increase in the intake of energy from trans fats as opposed to carbohydrates, researchers found there was a 73% greater risk of infertility. The risk rose to 79% for every 2% of energy consumed as trans fats if they replaced omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. And for every 2% of calories from trans fats consumed in place of monounsaturated fats, the risk of infertility more than doubled. For a woman eating an 1800 calorie diet, 2% of energy consumed as trans fats is only 4 grams, which is not that much. To try and totally cut out trans fats, avoid any product that lists hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.

Trans Fats 101

As of January 1, 2006, the FDA mandated that all nutrition labels include the number of grams of trans fat in a food item. Since then, it seems as though trans fats are always making headlines. KFC was sued for using oils with trans fat, the New York City Board of Health voted this past fall to prohibit the use of artificial trans fat in the City’s 20,000 restaurants, and many products are now advertising that they are trans fat-free. So what is all the hype about?

What are Trans Fatty Acids?
Trans fats, short for transaturated fats, are artificial fats that are created through a process called hydrogenation. In this process, hydrogen gas is added to unsaturated fatty acids and liquid fats are converted to solid fats. The main purpose of this is to increase the shelf life and flavor stability of foods. Trans fats also add texture and density to foods, help to create spreadable products (i.e. margarine), and lower the cost of products.

Where are Trans Fats Found?
Trans fats are found naturally in animal foods in very small amounts. These natural trans fats, however, are not the focus in the media. Rather it is the artificial or man-made trans fats. These artificial trans fats are found in products containing “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated oil”. They are abundant in processed foods including margarines, shortenings, cakes, cookies, crackers, snack foods, non-dairy creamers, donuts, and more. Trans fats can also be found in deep-fried foods, such as fast foods.

Why are Trans Fats Bad for Us?
Originally, saturated fats, found in butter, cheese, and beef were thought to be the worst type of fat. Saturated fats increase total cholesterol by increasing both LDL (“the bad”) and HDL (“the good”) cholesterol. As a result, items like margarine (which contain trans fat) were thought to be good replacements for their saturated fat counterparts. Overtime, however, it was discovered that trans fats actually have a worse effect on cardiovascular disease risk. Whereas saturated fats raise both bad and good cholesterol, trans fats actually raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, causing the arteries to become clogged and increasing the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Trans fats may also increase cardiovascular disease risk by triggering inflammation. In addition, trans fats may have a possible connection to insulin resistance and may increase risk of diabetes.

How can we Avoid Trans Fats in the Diet?

  • Identify high fat and trans fat foods. Start to read food labels and review the ingredients listed. Avoid foods with “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils. This is especially important if the hydrogenated oil is listed as one of the first ingredients. This means there is a lot of it in the food product. Sometimes you may see that a products is listed as containing zero trans fat grams but still has partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list. This is because a food product can claim to have zero grams of trans fat if it contains less than 0.5 grams.
  • Learn the trans fat food categories. These may include:

    • Fast foods: French fries, fried chicken, biscuits, fried fish, and pie desserts
    • Donuts, muffins
    • Crackers
    • Cookies
    • Cakes, pies, and icing
    • Pop tarts
    • Microwave popped corn
    • Canned biscuits
    • Non-dairy creamer and international and instant latte coffee beverages
    • Margarine, shortening

  • Choose alternative fats. Try olive, canola, peanut, or flax oils in place of the hydrogenated stuff.
  • Eat Fresh. Aim for more fresh fruits and vegetables. Try new recipes with fruits, veggies, beans, or chicken. If you make the food, you will be able to opt for the healthier fat options.

How Much Trans Fat is Too Much?
There is no set numerical value of trans fat that is regarded as “too much”. However, the American Heart Association recommends that trans fats in the diet should be restricted to less than 1% of the energy consumed by the body. This usually translates into less than 2 to 3 grams per day. Currently, the FDA estimates that the US population consumes about 5.8 grams of trans fat or 2.6% of calories as trans fats. For the good of our bodies, let’s start to bring that number down. But beware of products that advertise themselves as “trans-fat free”, that doesn’t mean they are fat-free. In fact, many items still contain a fair amount of saturated fat. So keep reading those labels!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Rainbow Salad

This recipe packs in so many different fruits and vegetables, that you’ll be sure to hit all the color categories. With such a sweet and delicious salad, you’ll be shocked that it’s actually good for you!

Serves 6 to 8

2- 10 oz packages baby spinach
1 pint grape tomatoes
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup corn (preferably fresh)
1 can mandarin oranges
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 can hearts of palm
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded, in a medium dice
½ cup sunflower seeds

4 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon honey mustard
Salt, garlic powder, and pepper to taste

1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.
3. Dress the salad immediately before serving and toss to coat.

Calories: 160/ serving for 8 servings
200/ serving for 6 servings

Vegetarians Gain Less Weight

Scientists at the University of Oxford found that vegetarians are less likely to gain weight than their meat-eating counterparts. The study compared the diets of 21,966 British men and women from 1994-1999, and then followed up with the participants from 2000-2003. They found that weight gain was somewhat smaller in vegans and fish-eaters as compared to meat-eaters. What is more pertinent, however, is that the study revealed individuals who changed from meat-eating to the direction of fish-eating, vegetarian, or vegan, showed the smallest amount of weight gain. Though it is not conclusive as to why the change caused the smallest weight gain, it does seem clear that including more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may help maintain your waistline.

Eat by Color

Red and orange, green and blue, shiny yellow, purple too, all the colors that we know…should be on your plate!

Nearly all fruits and vegetables are low in fat and contain healthy components called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural plant compounds that provide a variety of health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. These phytochemicals are what give produce their vibrant colors. The goal then, is to consume our “5 a Day” while varying the types and colors of fruits and vegetables.

According to Dr. David Heber, author of “What Color is Your Diet?”, there are seven color categories of produce, each providing their own array of phytochemicals and health benefits.

Red Group
Examples: tomatoes, watermelon, red grapes, radishes, pomegranates, and pink grapefruit.

Specific phytochemicals in red fruits and vegetables such as lycopene and anthocyanins are important because they help rid the body of free radicals that damage genes. Research indicates that lycopene protects against prostate cancer, as well as heart and lung disease. In addition, anthocyanins help to reduce the effect of sun damage on the skin from free radicals as well as assist in circulatory issues. There is also evidence that these phytochemicals help with memory function, urinary tract health, heart health, and by lowering the risk of certain cancers.

Yellow/Green Group
Examples: spinach, collard greens, yellow corn, peas, avocado, and honeydew.

This group is a great source of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of these components are believed to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Orange Group
Examples: carrots, mangoes, apricots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes.

The orange fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids and bioflavonoids that may help prevent cancer by repairing DNA. The beta-carotene in this group, which converts to vitamin A, is also good for night vision.

Orange/Yellow Group
Includes oranges, pineapple, peaches, papaya, and nectarines.

This group contains beta cryptoxanthin, a strong antioxidant that protects against free radicals that can damage your cells and DNA. Research has shown that beta-cryptoxanthin is protective against lung and colon cancer. In addition, it may reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. This group is also high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect cells.

Red/Purple Group
Examples: figs, beets, eggplant, purple grapes, cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, red apples, and red wine.

Red/purple fruits and vegetables contain health promoting phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and phenolics, which protect against heart disease and blood clots. These phytochemicals may also delay the aging of cells in the body and help in healthy aging. In addition, there is some evidence they may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and help with memory function. Of this group, blueberries have the highest antioxidant activity because of a large anthocyanin concentration.

Green Group
Examples: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, and kale.

This group contains the chemicals sulforaphane and isocyanate, and they also contain indoles. Each of these substances helps to protect against cancer by inhibiting the action of carcinogens.

White/Green Group
Examples: leeks, scallions, garlic, onions, celery, pears, white wine, cauliflower, endive, green grapes, and chives.

White fruits and vegetables contain a variety of phytochemicals such as allicin, which is found not only in garlic and onions but in an array of brown and tan foods as well. This particular phytochemical has some antibiotic properties, similar to anti-bacterials and anti-fungals, in addition to having antitumor properties. Other foods in this group also contain quercetin and kaempferol. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties. It may also be protective against prostate cancer. Kaempferol is also an antioxidant and may prevent arteriosclerosis. In addition, quercetin and kaempferol work synergistically to reduce cell proliferation of cancer cells.

A colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, healthfully prepared can make a significant contribution to a diet that will assist in promoting good health. In addition, focusing on fruits and vegetables will help you to fill up on low-calorie foods, thus helping to lower your overall caloric intake. So, consider this a challenge, and start to count the number of colorful fruits and veggies that you get each day!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Water and Weight Loss

We’ve been saying it forever, but there is finally evidence to back us up – drinking water can help you to lose weight. In October 2006, the Obesity Society presented compelling research to this effect. Researchers analyzed weight-loss data on 240 overweight women between the ages of 25 to 50, who were following one of several popular diet plans, all of which restricted carbohydrate consumption to some degree. The data showed that prior to starting the weight loss programs, the women drank an average of about two cans of sugary drinks a day (including both sodas and juices). The findings indicated that dieters who replaced almost all sweetened drinks with water lost an average of 5 pounds more than the dieters who did not. Moreover, the dieters who drank more than four cups of water a day lost an additional two pounds more than the dieters who did not drink as much. Whether it’s through the replacement of high calorie beverages or through unexplained properties of water, the bottom line is that drinking water when added to a healthy diet may help to shed some pounds. So, drink up!

2 Great Parfait Recipes

Valentine’s Day Breakfast Parfait

Serves 2

¾ cup non-fat strawberry yogurt
¼ cup non-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup sliced strawberries + 2 whole strawberries
¾ cup low-fat granola type cereal, such as Kashi Go-lean crunch or Grape Nuts

  1. In a clear dessert, parfait, or champagne glass, spoon 3 tablespoons strawberry yogurt into the bottom of each glass. Top with 1-2 tablespoons sliced strawberries. Layer 2 tablespoons cereal on top of the strawberries.
  2. For the next set of layers, spoon 2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt on top of the cereal. Repeat the strawberry and cereal layer.
  3. For the final layers, spoon 3 tablespoons strawberry yogurt on top of the cereal. Repeat the strawberry and cereal layer.
  4. Top each glass with a whole strawberry.

Calories per serving: ~160

Banana Pudding Parfait

Serves 4

1 cup non-fat vanilla yogurt
1 ¼ cups skim milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large ripe banana, thinly sliced
½ cup low-fat vanilla wafers, crushed
¼ cup non-fat whipped topping

  1. Mix yogurt, milk, vanilla, pudding, and nutmeg together, until well blended.
  2. Evenly divide mixture into the bottom of 4 wine goblets or parfait glasses.
  3. Top each glass with banana slices.
  4. Layer 1/8 cup of crushed wafers across the top of each glass. Try to evenly cover the bananas to prevent discoloration.
  5. Top with 1 tablespoon of whipped topping.

Calories per serving: ~125

Spotlight: Priobiotics

With nutrition and health, it happens all the time. Suddenly through marketing or through increased interest from a few highly respected media personalities, certain fads or foods hit the spotlight. And while sometimes it may lead to a misinformed public blindly following a new fad (i.e. The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Ball Diet, etc.), occasionally a few healthful gems are unearthed. One such beneficial food component is probiotics. Though probiotics were discovered back in the early twentieth century (and recognized as healthy bacteria way before that), it is only in the last few years that probiotics have made it big. Oprah has mentioned them in both her magazine and on her show, and now each major yogurt company is touting the different probiotic cultures that their yogurts contain. So, we now know that probiotics are good for us, but what exactly are they?

What They Are
Probiotics are friendly bacteria. These bacteria naturally live in our stomach and intestines, which keeps us healthy and functioning. In fact, it has been estimated that there are more healthy bacterial cells associated with the human body than there are human cells, and that there are over 400 species of probiotics. The intestinal microflora, which means the variety of bacteria in our intestines, is highly specific for each individual. These friendly bacteria begin to accumulate in our gastrointestinal (GI) tracts from infancy, and tend to remain fairly stable over time. However, our microflora develops in stages throughout our lives and are affected by diet, illness, and even environmental factors. This is important since optimal gut and digestive health is necessary for the absorption of nutrients and for removing toxins. For this reason, many health professionals feel that ingesting probiotics to further ensure GI health is beneficial.

Why They’re Getting Even More Press
Recently, there has been a plethora of new research regarding probiotics and health. All of the research, however, is preliminary and mostly inconclusive so don’t try and treat any medical problems without consulting a physician.

Intestinal Benefits

  • Promote recovery from diarrhea
  • Help alleviate symptoms of lactose intolerance and malabsorption
  • Relieve constipation

Immune System Effects

  • Stimulate gastrointestinal immunity
  • Reduce chance of infection from common pathogens (i.e. Shigella, Salmonella)
  • Normalize immune responses
  • Inhibit chronic sub-clinical inflammation
  • Improve inflammatory conditions with an autoimmune component, such as asthma, eczema, or Crohn’s disease

Effects on Disease

  • Improve food allergies
  • Promote recovery from vaginal (bacterial and yeast), urinary tract, and bladder infections
  • Reduce several risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce several risk factors for intestinal cancers
  • Ameliorate inflammatory intestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Where We Get Them
Probiotics can be found in supplements and in foods such as certain yogurts and other dairy products. Consuming probiotics from foods, however, appears to be the best way to go. Dairy foods help to protect probiotic bacteria. Since our stomachs are highly acidic, many varieties of probiotics may die before they even reach our colons. Dairy foods, however, help to buffer stomach acid and increase the chance that the bacteria will survive into the intestine. The most common bacterial strains added in yogurt are L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, and L acidophilus, so look for these on the label. It is important to note that not all yogurts contain active bacterial culture. Make sure to check the label for words such as “live cultures” or “active cultures”. Also, avoid yogurts that say “heat treated after culturing” since this means that the live cultures were destroyed and will be of no benefit to you. Finally, the potency, or amount, of live cultures is also important since a certain number of cells are required to attain the benefit. Check to see if the label states how many viable organisms are in the product.

The Bottom Line
Probiotics are a current trend that is actually healthy for our bodies. Including one serving of yogurt or another probiotic containing food per day, can help you reap the benefits.

Aside from its probiotic qualities, yogurt is also a great source of protein, calcium, B vitamins and other nutrients. To ensure the probiotic health benefits, however, you don’t want to heat the yogurt or you will destroy the live cultures. Instead, try incorporating it into cool dishes like cold soups, dips, salad dressings, or parfaits.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Touchdown Turkey Chili

In order to not penalize your waistline this Super Bowl Sunday (and your New Year’s resolution for that matter), try this healthy chili recipe. In this chili recipe we bench the fattier sausage or ground beef and send in the lean ground turkey instead. The result is sure to score a touchdown with any crowd!

Serves 6

3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1.5 pounds lean ground turkey (97% fat-free)*
1- 1 ounce package taco mix seasoning
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 – 14.5 ounce can fat-free beef broth*
1- 7 ounce jar salsa
1- 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1- 7 ounce can chopped green chile peppers
1- 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1- 15 ounce can black beans, drained
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
Fat-free sour cream (optional)
Low-fat shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large stock-pot over medium-high heat. Crumble turkey into the pot and break apart as much as possible.
  2. Season with taco mix, coriander, oregano, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste. Continue cooking until turkey is well browned.
  3. Pour in beef broth and simmer about 5 minutes.
  4. Add salsa, tomatoes, green chiles, chickpeas, and black beans, and continue cooking at a simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust thickness as necessary by adding water.
  5. While chili is cooking, heat one teaspoon of oil in a skillet. Cook onion and green bell pepper until onion is translucent and pepper is slightly browned. Add onion and pepper to the chili pot and continue to simmer.
  6. Heat the third teaspoon of oil in the same skillet and add the zucchini. Cook until lightly browned. Add the zucchini to the chili and continue to cook for another 15 minutes.
  7. Ladle chili into bowls. Top with a dollop of fat-free sour cream or low-fat shredded cheese if desired.

Calories per serving (without cheese or sour cream): ~350

*To make this a vegetarian recipe, you can substitute 2 Lightlife Gimme Lean, Ground Beef Style packages for the ground turkey and mushroom or vegetable stock for the beef stock.