Category Archives: 3-Eat

Tropical Snowboard Mix and Other Recipes From the Twitterverse

I recently got serious about exploring Twitter and it was like turning on a fire hose of information.

Image by: grebenru

Along with all of the information, there are lots of helpful people.

So helpful in fact, that I am going to let them help me write this post!  These are recipes that have been provided by or inspired by people I am following on Twitter.

Max / NU_FiT has been very generous in helping me out on Twitter.  He also posted a recipe for home-made organic ketchup and is responsible for the 9 Feb 2010 workout.

Chris B / Zen to Fitness inspired me to find an easy way to cook beets: wrap them in foil and bake at 400 for 45 minutes.  Set them aside.  Whenever you are ready to eat them, just slice them up and heat them in a skillet.  I also chopped, then pan fried the greens with butter and garlic.

Matt Stone / 180 Degree Health provided a knife skills video that changed the way I hold a knife, while slicing and dicing.  He also went on about macadamia nuts.  Meanwhile, Zen to Fitness and CastleGrok were putting up very positive posts about coconut and coconut flakes.  In the end, they all helped inspire this recipe for Tropical Snowboard Mix: banana chips, coconut flakes, cashews, macadamias, and dark chocolate chips.

Speaking of Castle Grok his frequent posts about coconut milk led to two great experiments.  One, I modified my green smoothie recipe.  I added half a can of coconut milk and subtracted an equal amount of orange juice.  So now, the recipe is: frozen spinach, frozen mango chunks, half a can of coconut milk and just enough orange juice to blend it all smooth.  Two, he linked to this awesome recipe for scrambled eggs/dessert using coconut milk.  I made it using my rice cooker to steam the eggs, which made them nice and fluffy.  I sprinkled them with cinnamon and topped it all off with strawberries.

Twitter is swarming with talented creative people sharing tons of information, hints, and tips.  I have been exposed to great ideas relating to work, exercise, and food.  Experiments have followed and as you can see the results have been positive.  Many thanks to NU_FiT, Zen To Fitness, 180 Degree Health, and Castle Grok!

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

EAT: DIY Greek Style Yogurt

EAT: Super Oatmeal

EAT: Mango in Coconut Milk

Do Nutrition Labels Increase Food Cravings?

 

Photo by: joelogon

On June 13, 1966, Miranda v. Arizona was decided by the United States Supreme Court.  And, television changed forever.  Since that date, American police dramas have used the line: You have the right to remain silent…as the universal mechanism for signalling  that the police have got their man.

Miranda was a 5-4 decision.  It was a controversial decision.  Law enforcement officials denounced Miranda as undermining the efficiency of the police and warned that it would contribute to an increase in crime.

But, in practice, Miranda had no such effect.  Instead, reading suspects their Miranda warnings lent a sense of legitimacy to subsequent police questioning.  And, rather than assert their rights, suspects routinely waived them and made statements against their own interests.

Also in 1966, the United States government mandated that all cigarette packages display  the warning, Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health. Since then, warning labels on cigarettes have grown larger and become more explicit.  With these labels from Australia likely winning the prize for greatest shock value.  Yet, despite these warnings, smoking is not a marginalized business.  Worldwide, 5,763 billion cigarettes are sold annually, which works out to about 15 billion daily, and roughly 10 million per minute.

Photos by: foboat

In chapter 1 of his book buy-OLOGY, Martin Lindstrom discusses studies in the new field of neuromarketing.  In these studies, brain activity is monitored and recorded as consumers are exposed to products, brands, advertisements, and in one study cigarette warning labels.  For this particular study, smokers were asked to complete a questionnaire about cigarette warnings.  Unsurprisingly, smokers indicated that they felt that warning labels had a deterrent effect, causing them to smoke less.   Next, the same volunteers underwent MRI scanning.  During their brain scans, images of cigarette warnings were presented to the volunteers.  The results…cigarette warnings did nothing to decrease activity in the areas of the brain associated with cravings.  Rather, the results showed that exposure to the warning labels actually stimulated activity in the nucleus accumbens, affectionately known as the craving spot.  In the end, these results indicated that cigarette warning labels do nothing to deter smoking, instead they tend to instigate cravings for cigarettes.

In the United States, pursuant to the 1990 Nutrition Labelling and Education Act, the now ubiquitous nutrition facts label was mandated for most food products.  It seems apparent enough that over the last 20 years nutrition facts labels have done nothing to deter folks from eating non-nutritious foods.  My hypothesis is that like Miranda and tobacco warnings, nutrition facts labels tend to legitimize food products and to stimulate cravings for them.

For example, without the nutrition facts label, you know that ice cream is not a healthy snack.  If, while strolling through the grocery store, you innocently pick up a carton of ice cream to read the nutrition facts label and see how bad it really is, then any latent craving for ice cream is going to spring to life and become a strong force in subsequent decision making.   At this point, the probability of buying a carton of ice cream has dramatically increased.  You may not buy the first carton of ice cream that you picked up, but the search for a carton with more appealing numbers on its nutrition facts label has likely started.  In the end, you may go home with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, but the probability that you are going home with some sort of frozen treat is nearly inevitable.  Which may be why, grocery stores and the manufacturers of food products are always exhorting you to compare labels.  Once you start comparing labels, the question of whether you will buy something or not is likely settled, now it is only a question of what you will buy.

The best comment I have read on this topic is that you should not buy food products that come in packages and require a nutrition facts label.  Other than that annoying sticker, there is not much to read on the side of an apple.  On a more practical note, if you are undecided about whether you actually want to buy a food product or not, make up your mind before you pick it up and read the label, because once you pick it up, not buying is no longer an option.

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For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

EAT: Nootropics

EXERCISE: How To Set Goals to Meet Your Fitness and Performance Objectives

EXERCISE: The Importance of Rituals

Also SEE:

Tom Naughton’s Post: More Calorie Counting Nonsense

NY Times Well Blog: Six Meaningless Claims on Food Labels

EAT: Super Oatmeal

*I have sung the praises of oatmeal on this blog before and Steve kicked in a great summer time recipe using fresh strawberries and cold milk.   But, with the weather turning a little chillier, if your activities take you out of doors, you will want to fuel up with some super oatmeal.  This video clip from Stack TV will get you started, making a fast, delicious, nutrient packed breakfast for you or your hockey / snowboarding  / soccer playing little buddies.

*Oatmeal really lends itself to being creative.  Lately, I have been loving it with mashed banana, blueberries, shredded coconut, dark cocoa, butter, and honey.

Q: What do you add to make your oatmeal super?  Share your best oatmeal tips, ingredients, etc. in the comments section.

Squash – Fall Colors While You Eat

ButternutAutumn

Brilliant colors surround the city.  Shades of yellow, gold, orange, red and brown explode against a background of clear blue sky.  The dark evergreens stand out on the hills.  The air is crisp.

Photo by: judywross

During fall, along with the scenery, our foods change.  This fact is muted by the modern grocery store, where most products are available all of the time.  But, for those wanting to experiment with natural eating strategies, eating what is in season is a good place to start and fall foods bring nutrition and color to your plate.

Fall Food

Apples, pumpkin, cranberries, all present distinctive fall colors and flavors.  But, squash…the humble squash…offers an amazing variety of color, texture, and flavor.  Squash exhibits this same variety in its nutritional value as well.  Squash is a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.  Plus, the orange and yellow pigments of squash signal the presence of carotenoids.

Acorn Squash

This autumn, as you focus on eating what is in season, don’t forget to experiment with squash.

Photo by: shaferlens

If you are already a squash expert, please leave a comment with your favorite recipe, preparation tips, and serving suggestions.  If you need a place to start with squash, try this colorful and tasty experiment.

Squash with Mushrooms, Walnuts, and Feta

Ingredients:

—Butternut Squash

—Butter

—Salt and Pepper

—Button mushrooms

—Walnuts

—Feta cheese

Directions:

—Peel and cube the butternut squash.  Place in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and continue to boil until the squash is soft enough to mash.  Drain water.  Add butter, salt, and pepper.  Mash squash and other ingredients.

—Meanwhile, clean and slice the button mushrooms.  Warm the mushrooms in a frying pan to release their moisture and strengthen their flavor.  Then add mushrooms to squash.

—Place squash  / mushroom mix in a shallow baking pan.  Crumble feta cheese over top and cover with walnuts.  Bake at 350 until feta is soft and walnuts are toasted.

EAT: DIY Greek Style Yogurt

alphabetjen-Greek YogurtPhoto by: Alphabetjen

*We are talking about yogurt of course!  In the post on eating healthy while on the road, I mentioned a great breakfast that I had at The Manhattan Diner.  It was simple, wholesome,  and delicious: Greek style yogurt, walnuts, and honey.  Upon my return to Korea, I started to eat plain yogurt with walnuts and honey.  It was good, but not as good as the thick rich Greek yogurt that I fell in love with in New York.  As far as I know, Seoul does not have any Greek Diners (although, I bet one would do very well in Itaewon).  So, I set out to see if I could make my own Greek style yogurt.

Stonyfield-32oz-WM-Plain

*It turns out to be fairly easy.  All you need is yogurt (I prefer the 32 oz, plain, whole milk, cream top yogurt from Stonyfield Farm), a cheese cloth, a colander, and a bowl.  Set the colander in the bowl.  It needs to catch on the lip of the bowl, leaving some space between it and the bowl.  Place the cheesecloth inside the colander.  Now, empty the yogurt on top of the cheese cloth.  Gently cover the top of the yogurt with the excess cheese cloth and set the whole contraption in your refrigerator.

Making Greek Style YogurtPhoto by:  eekim

*Let the yogurt set over night.  In the morning, the bottom of the bowl will contain yogurt water (I save this and add it to green smoothies).  When you unwrap the cheese cloth, you will have thick rich Greek style yogurt.  Serve it up or spoon it into a container and store it in the fridge.

*Definitely, try your Greek yogurt with walnuts and honey.  Now that we are entering Autumn, I will start mixing cinnamon and nutmeg into mine.  Please share the knowledge, leave a comment telling us about your favorite yogurt tricks and the goodies you add to turn plain yogurt into a probiotic treat.

*If you want to go all the way with this project, you can make your own yogurt.  This article from Good Magazine will get you started.  Also, check out what the Mayo clinic has to say about the potential benefits from eating probiotic foods like yogurt.

What’s Worse Than Three Days Without Food? A Day Without Tea…

Iced Tea w LemonPhoto by: stevendepolo

Tea is the world’s second most popular drink.  Only water is a more popular drink choice.  Unless you live in Texas, in which case, (iced) tea is second only to beer in popularity.

Selecting a healthy beverage can be a daunting task.  A vast array of drink choices are branded and marketed as healthy, but, upon further review, questions remain about whether they are safe alternatives to water.  With tea, there are no such doubts.

Lately, choosing a tea seems to be a complicated and snooty endeavor.  There is an emerging class of tea snobs, who shudder at the thought of grabbing that trusty box of Lipton teabags to make their tea.  They are focused on different tea producing regions of the world, the different grades of tea available, and the different methods of preparing their favorite brew.

Bai_Hao_Yinzhen_or_Silver_needle_White_TeaPhoto by: LDFrancis

Note: Many paper tea bags are manufactured with epichlorohydrin, which is also used as an insecticide.  Upon contact with water, epichlorohydrin produces 3-MCPD, a known cancer causing agent.  Maybe those tea snobs are pretty smart after all.  If you are considering becoming a serious tea drinker, you will want to invest in a tea ball and experiment with loose leaf teas.

Meanwhile, don’t let any of this put you off.  Tea is not so scary, once you get to know a little bit about it.

For our purposes, tea refers to a drink brewed from the Camellia Sinensis species of plant.  This distinction helps us avoid confusing the term with various drinks brewed from flowers and herbs, which are often colloquially described as (herbal) teas.

Depending on the age of the leaves when they are picked and their level of oxidation due to the various methods of processing, four distinct types of tea emerge.  White tea is derived from buds and young leaves that are minimally oxidized. Green tea comes from more mature leaves that undergo limited oxidation.  Black tea is the most oxidized tea.  Oolong tea has an oxidation level between green and black tea.

Tea_processing_chart

Image by: Mvcorks

With tea, there is even a fermented foods option.  A Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) is added to tea to ferment it and make Kombucha.  Kombucha is slightly acidic.  Drinkers of Kombucha relate many advantages such as improved immunity, alleviation of acid reflux, increased energy, sharper eyesight, and better skin condition.

Kombucha_jar

Photo by: Romarin

Tea leaves contain over 700 chemical compounds.  The key bioactive compounds in tea are flavonoids, caffeine, and fluoride.

Health benefits associated with tea include:

Improving recovery from stress and increasing relaxation;
—Boosting the immune system;
—Preventing cavities;
—Aiding arterial relaxation (vasodilation), which could explain the minor decrease in the incidence of cardiovascular disease found in tea drinkers.

A couple of notes on preparing tea…I do not like sugar in my tea and I can’t see how it would provide any health benefit.  Also, because milk binds to key flavonoids, adding it to tea neutralizes the health benefits associated with drinking tea.  You can substitute soy milk, as it does not effect the tea flavonoids.  Also, adding lemon or other citrus juice improves the body’s ability to absorb flavonoids.  So, lemon and not milk.  Also, avoid experimenting with lemon and milk…my personal results show that the lemon juice will curdle the milk and ruin your tea (Yep, I am a little slow to anticipate consequences sometimes).

Throughout the day, you have many drink options.  Drinking tea is a smart choice.  It offers a wide variety of flavors and provides healthful benefits.  As the number two drink in the world…Tea tries harder!

Green Tea

Photo by: Kanko*

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Consult Your Biological Clock to Optimize the Effectiveness of Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Biological_clock_human

Image by: YassineMrabet

Breakfast is finished.  There are a million things to do before heading out the door.  On the corner of the place-mat is a collection of shapes (oblong, round, oval) and colors (white, peach, gold, green).  Grab and swallow.  It is very nearly a reflexive act.

You recognize the importance of taking vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements.  You spend significant funds on these products.   Taking them is a morning ritual.  You want them to boost your immune system, to be available for  regular cellular repairs, to help moderate stress, and to prevent future catastrophes like heart disease and cancer.  Chronobiology may help you optimize the benefits offered by vitamins, minerals, and other supplements.

Chronobiology, the study of biological rhythms, has made significant findings about improving medical treatment based on timing.  Cancer researchers are at the forefront of studying the correlation of treatment with biological rhythms.  For example, in premenopausal women, when undergoing surgery for breast cancer, where the woman is in her menstrual cycle has a significant impact on the probability of a future significant recurrence of the cancer.  Women that have their breast cancer surgery scheduled during the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle have a much better prognosis for recovery and survival than women who have surgery during the follicular phase.  Interestingly, mammography does a better job of detecting cancer during the follicular phase.  Other interesting chronobiology effects include a higher rate of breast cancer in women with disrupted circadian rhythms due to working night shifts.  There is evidence that timing the administration of chemotherapy and other drug treatments for cancer patients has a significant impact on their effectiveness.  Also, proper timing helps reduce the toxicity associated with these treatments.  Improved effectiveness based on timing is not limited to cancer treatments.  Taking ACE inhibitors (used for the treatment of hypertension and congestive heart failure) at night, improves the performance of this class of drugs and reduces the incidence of negative side effects.

Providing your body with access to supplements on a daily basis is a good first step, but optimizing the effectiveness of these supplements requires factoring timing into the equation.

Biological rhythms or phases were first recognized in plants.  Many plants exhibit strong circadian rhythms.  In certain plants, this can be readily observed with their flowers opening up at regular times during the day.  This behavior is consistent enough that Carolus Linnaeus planned a garden of various plants that could be used to tell time throughout the day based on which flowers were open.

At the most basic level, there is a dark – light cycle, with cells and organisms performing certain functions during the daylight hours and other functions during darkness.  At the cellular level, it is believed that photosensitivity arose as a method of protecting replicating DNA from harmful ultra-violet rays.  At the macro or organism level, the human circadian rhythm follows a dark – light cycle.  The mechanism for this appears to be a circuit from the retina of the eyes, where photoreceptive ganglion cells collect information, then transfer this data to the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus.  The Suprachiasmatic Nucleus processes the data from the retina and provides corresponding information to the pineal gland for the release of melatonin.  Secretion of melatonin commences with the onset of the dark cycle and ebbs during daylight.  In healthy adults, the periodicity for the human circadian rhythm is quite strict, measured at 24 hours and 11 minutes (with an error of +/- 16 minutes).

Circadian_rhythm_labeled

Image by: National Institutes of Health

This basic division between dark and light serves as a good starting point for our efforts to supply our body with vitamins, minerals, and other supplements at the most effective times.

There are two types of vitamins, water soluble and fat soluble.  Water soluble vitamins include the B vitamins and vitamin C.  Fat soluble vitamins include vitamin A, D, E, and K.  Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the aid of lipids.  For maximum effectiveness, they must be taken with a meal that contains some fat (a point bacon lovers may want to keep in mind).  Water soluble vitamins as the name implies require water to be absorbed properly.  Thus, taking both types of vitamins with food and drink is recommended.

Given the need to take vitamins with a meal, we can use an AM / PM pill divider to separate our supplements to take with breakfast or dinner.  The known effects of the supplement help us determine whether to take it with a morning or evening meal.  For example, B vitamins give you energy and protect against stress, so we will want them hitting our system first thing in the morning.  On the other hand, the mineral magnesium tends to cause sleepiness.  This would be a good one to take in the evening.  With these concepts in mind, I worked out the following schedule for taking my vitamins, minerals, and other supplements.

pillbox

AM:
B vitamins (Biotin, Folic Acid, Niacin, Panothenic Acid, Riboflavin, Thiamin, B6, and B12) are associated with improved energy and protecting the body from stress.  Unless I need to be awake at night, I take my B vitamins with my morning meal.
Vitamin C - I take vitamin C both in the morning and the evening.
Vitamin D is naturally produced from exposure to the sun, thus making this supplement available during daylight hours seems logical.
Multivitamins – Because they contain B vitamins, I take my multi with a morning meal.  Also, because they contain fat soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin A, I make sure that I have some fat with my breakfast, usually whole milk yogurt.  (Note: If taking calcium supplements and your multi contains iron, then you will want to take your calcium at a different time, as it can interfere with iron absorption.  Also, iron can interfere with the absorption of zinc, so best to take your zinc supplement at a different time.)

PM:
Magnesium is known to induce sleepiness, making this an obvious candidate for the evening meal.
Zinc has also been known to induce sleepiness and lethargy, so I take it in the evening.
Vitamin C – I particularly like vitamin C in the evening, because it helps to minimize follow-on muscle soreness from a hard work out.
Vitamin E with its vasodilating effects and relationship to heart health would seem to be best taken in the evening.
Essential Fatty Acids (Flax Seed or Fish Oil) are also associated with heart health.  Their ability to help with inflammation also indicates to me that there may be a benefit to taking them at the end of the day.
Coenzyme Q-10 also falls into the category of supplements that are associated with heart health, so I take it in the evening.  It is also fat soluble and best if taken with a meal that includes some fat.
Melatonin is released at night.  Melatonin supplements can be taken in the evening as a sleep aid or to speed up recovery from jet lag.

You want to give your body the best opportunity to get the most out of your supplements.  In life, timing is everything.  So, do not be afraid to experiment with the times that you take your supplements.  You may just find that you can optimize the health benefits of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements by changing the times that you take them.

Blanch Those Veggies

16_Pike_Place_Market_greengrocer_vegetable_display This post is for everybody sharing a CSA box of veggies, visiting the local farmer’s market, or starting to harvest their truck garden.

Blanching is a great way to quickly cook up fresh vegetables.  It keeps them firm, crunchy and full of flavor.

Photo by Eric Hunt

Technique:

—Fill the bottom of a skillet with enough water to cover your vegetables (add salt as desired).

—Bring water to a boil.

—Clean and cut vegetables while water is heating.

—Add vegetables to boiling water (not so many that the water losses its boil).

—Only just barely cook the vegetables (e.g. asparagus no more than 3m).

—Traditional: Remove vegetables and immediately submerge in an ice water bath.  Remove from bath when vegetables are cool.  Vegetables can be reheated (not cooked) later using your preferred method (since its summer, reheating on the grill comes to mind).  They can also be frozen for longer storage and reheated when needed.

Note: With this method, you can reuse the water to cook rice or pasta, which will incorporate the vitamins and other good stuff from the vegetable water.

—Shortcut: Take the pan to the sink and rinse with cold water, then serve.  (This is how I do it!)

Blanching is my favorite way to cook asparagus, it is a great way to cook green beans, and cauliflower comes out tasty as well.

Q: What do you do with your extra veggies, when your box or garden runneth over?

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EAT: On The Road

RestaurantI just got back from a whirlwind tour.  NYC for my sister’s wedding, Texas to visit the in-laws, and Honolulu to check out the beach.

Picture by Rick Dikeman

Like all trips there were ups and downs.  Some things were easier than others.  When traveling, eating healthy food can be one of the hard things.

But, I have found a way to eat at least one healthy meal a day usually at a reasonable price, while immersing yourself in the local culture.  Every American town has its local joint, usually a diner or a coffee shop (not Starbucks).  If you look past the always tempting stack o’ pancakes, you can find some healthy treats on the menu.

In New York and New Jersey, Greek diners are a long standing tradition.  The Manhattan Diner on the upper West Side (2180 Broadway-Broadway and 77th) does this tradition proud.  For breakfast, I had fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and homemade Greek yogurt with walnuts and honey.

In Texas I did not have to go out for breakfast, as Eileen’s Mom spoiled us with her fantastic breakfast tacos.

Waikiki has the Wailana Coffee House.  This is a popular spot for locals and tourists.  One morning, we sat next to a guy that had just finished his shift at an IHOP.  Local joint trumps chain restaurant.  We ate at the Wailana more than once. One morning, I got a bowl of cottage cheese with lots of fresh pineapple.  Another, I cracked and got the coconut pancakes with coconut syrup.  Yummy!


Q: What is the name of your town’s joint and what is the healthy treat on their menu?

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EAT: Mango in Coconut Milk

Sliced-cubed_Mango_01*I have been working on a simple tasty new dessert / snack: Mango in Coconut Milk.

Photo by Zantastic

*Ingredients:

—Cubed mango (fresh or frozen).

—Coconut milk.

—Honey.

—Shredded coconut.

Directions:

—Place mango in a microwave safe bowl.

—Pour in coconut milk (cover mango like cereal).

—Drizzle a stream of honey across the top.

—Microwave until warm (usually 1-2m depending on strength of microwave).

—Top with shredded coconut.

*Lots of good coconut fat for your brain to add to your nootropics.  Natural sugars and fiber from the mango.  Enjoy!

—Don’t Forget to Vote for the: BIRTHDAY CHALLENGE!

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