Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates


“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”

– Ayurvedic Proverb

Every day at work I am struck by the fact that the majority of patients I see have preventable illnesses. While genetics may predispose some of us to certain conditions, it is not inevitable that we succumb.

When dietary factors are ignored and we fall ill, it is often too late. We might improve or manage the condition, but rarely will we eliminate it once it has taken hold.

Research suggests that the risk for obesity can start as early as exposure in the womb. While it doesn’t doom someone to a lifetime of fighting it, it does predispose a person, meaning vigilance is even more important.

The symptoms of heart disease and diabetes can be improved by weight loss. One is more energetic when feeding the body properly and getting exercise. It’s never too late to begin.

Take just one small step forward. Change just one thing toward improved health. When a habit is entrenched, take another small step. You will be rewarded with better quality of life, not only immediately, but in your golden years.


Supplements are drugs! But since they are unregulated, you can’t be sure you are getting what you think! Look for supplements that carry the seal of good manufacturing process, which indicates the brand follows voluntary quality standards. As with other drugs. Check for food-drug interactions of all prescription and over the counter medications and supplements.

Here is a piece from the NY Times, informing the public about the potential dangers:

Dietary supplements: mislabeled, contaminated and probably useless
http://nyti.ms/1j5s8xA


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I have been experimenting with kale chips for awhile, mostly focussing on the spice factor. I discovered however, that using a different variety of kale is the real secret to improvement. When regular kale is roasted, it becomes so brittle (because it is a thin leaf), that just picking it up causes it to crumble. A variety called Lacinato kale has a thicker leaf, therefore is sturdier when roasted.

So now I have the perfect leaf and spices that will even get your kids to gobble these up. Quantities are loose here, since every head of kale is different, so you have to be a little flexible.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F or 375degrees if using a convection oven. Use a head of Lacinato kale (or a different flatter, thicker leafed kale than the traditional one). For best results, prepare the kale before washing/drying. Cut out the hard spine that runs in the center of the leaves. Break up the pieces of kale into approximately 2-3″ pieces. Soak in cold water, swishing the leaves around to loosen any sandy earth. Remove the leaves by hand, into a strainer (don’t dump it out or you pour the sand onto the leaves again!). Repeat the process one more time. Now drain and dry thoroughly. A salad spinner works wonders if you have one.

Very finely grate a hard cheese such as parmigiana reggiano, so it is snowy fine. 

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Lightly coat a large cookie sheet with good olive oil. I use Lyrika Groves. It’s expensive, but worth it! (Shameless plug: https://www.facebook.com/LyriKaGrovesOrganicExtraVirginOliveOil) Place your kale leaves in a large bowl and lightly coat with oil. Toss well for even distribution.

Lay out your kale pieces, touching, but not overlapping. Spread a dusting of the grated cheese evenly on the leaves, followed by a VERY light dusting of chili pepper. (When the kale shrinks, the chile gets more potent, so unless you like your mouth ON FIRE, use sparingly.) 

Here’s the main potential for kale chip destruction: Place the tray in the preheated oven. DO NOT WALK AWAY. If you must multitask, do it in front of your oven. Leave the oven light on so you can observe the chips. They go from “not ready” to “ready” in seconds!

Figure on about 10 minutes, but since ovens vary, watch your chips. When they appear to have shrunk about a third to a half in size, open the oven gingerly, remove a chip with a small spatula and test it. It should be nice and crisp. If you have distributed the leaves evenly on the sheet, all the chips will be ready when the sample is.

Let cool completely and store in a tight plastic container. I guarantee, they won’t last long!

 

 


OK, I admit it. I have become addicted to aged vinegar. And when you need a lot of something that is expensive, you need to look for alternatives. I searched for “faux” aged vinegar and found a good number of sites, many of them with the same recipe. So I set out to experiment.

Having tried in the past to reduce vinegar, my big takeaway was that you DO NOT do this in the house. Your lungs and eyes will sting and you will choke from the acid in the air. I am not kidding about this. Do it outside. I went and bought a $15 single burner that I could use outside on the deck (a good investment since one good bottle of aged vinegar easily goes for $35 and up).

The first recipe had to boil for awhile to reduce it. I left it unattended and it seized, like candy when it exceeds the perfect temperature. I threw away the pot and tried  another recipe, this time attending to it as it boiled. It wasn’t quite right. So I adjusted a bit until I found what I considered very passable “aged” vinegar, for the price – less than $5.00. for 8 oz.

Don’t be put off by the sugar, as I initially was. As vinegar ages, the natural sugars emerge and it is indeed sweet. So try it and let me know how you like it.

Ingredients:

1 cup inexpensive Modena vinegar. I like Trader Joe’s in the 33.8 oz jug. $3.50
4 oz. inexpensive port wine
3 Tbs. packed light brown sugar
3 Tbs. Turbinado sugar

Directions:

Combine the vinegar and port wine in a stainless steel pot. Bring to a medium boil.  Let it boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugars, stir to dissolve and continue boiling . Watch it closely and stir continuously, for another 4 minutes.

Remove from heat, let cool and enjoy!

*If you want it a bit thicker, boil it longer, but before you add the sugar.

You can add an essence like blueberry. Wash and thoroughly dry the fruit and add it for the first boil. Strain the mix prior to adding the sugar and continue boiling as above. You can reduce the sugar slightly when adding sweet fruit.


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I needed a side dish to bring to a party and had all these cute little eggplants from the farmer’s market. “What to do with them?” I thought. Well I figured making an Asian inspired dish would fit the bill, and I would feel good about bringing a healthy dish.

The eggplant is a nutritional winner. Low in calories and fat, rich in fiber, it has a low glycemic index, contains many essential vitamins and minerals and is high in antioxidants. These properties are effective in helping to control cholesterol ,  sodium and the inflammatory processes that are harmful to our bodies.

And now, the recipe . . . . . .

Use the long, skinny, baby eggplants. I used the purple and white striped variety, but any color will do. You do need the thin, baby variety however, as they have no seeds and are ore tender than the mature types.

Ingredients:

12 baby eggplants, washed, stems removed and sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup soy (regular, tamari or reduced sodium)
1/3 cup sherry or port wine
3 TBS sesame oil
1 tsp hot pepper flakes, ground (can substitute another chili-based hot sauce)
4 cloves of finely minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Roasted sesame seeds
Optional: fresh grated ginger (about 2 tsp)

Directions:

Mix the soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, pepper flakes, garlic, and black pepper and pour into a large , flat pan (a foil-lined cookie sheet is good). Place the eggplant halves in a single layer, into the pan, cut side down. Let them marinate for half an hour on the counter.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees for a convection oven, or 400 for traditional oven.

After half an hour of marinating, pour off the excess marinade into a bowl and set aside. Place the eggplant pieces into the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the eggplant over, cut side up, brush with some leftover marinade and roast for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the eggplant from the oven and sprinkle roasted sesame seeds on top. This can be served hot or at room temperature.

You can also grill them on the barbecue, but use one of those mesh grill pans or the delicate eggplant will get too mushy and fall through the grates of the grill. Cook on lower heat and for less time than in the oven.


Having been a label reader for decades, it never occurred to me that there would be so many people who never do it. In my clinical work at the hospital, I educate people on diets they need to follow, and label reading is always a component. I am surprised at how many people are being introduced to the concept for the first time.

There are a few important things to know, right off the bat:

  • All nutrition information is not on the label. The important ones, as they relate to dietary restrictions, are listed.
  • Don’t assume the counts listed are for the whole package. The amounts of nutrients in the food item are stated per portion. You need to also look at how many servings are in that package, measure against how many portions you are consuming, and do the math to get the actual count.
  • There is a nutrient panel, and an ingredients section.

At some point in most people’s lives they will be told they need to restrict a certain element or ingredient. Being prepared will make the transition less difficult. Let’s now delve into the world of label reading.

THE NUTRITION FACT PANEL:

First you will find the serving size and the number of servings in the container. This is where the math is important when calculating how much of nutrient you are getting. If the container holds 2 servings and you eat the whole container, you need to double the numbers in the nutrition listing.

The next fact is the calories (again, per serving), and how many of the calories are from fat.

The next section addresses fat/cholesterol, sodium, carbs, protein and several vitamins and minerals. The information is stated in grams (g)) or milligrams (mg) and as a % of the recommended daily value. Assuming about 3 meals per day, the total of all you consume for that meal would ideally not exceed  one third of your daily value, particularly in calories, fats and sodium. Let me dissect the subsections for more useful information.

Fats are all not created equal! Healthy fats include mono saturated (like olive oil), polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats. These are the most likely to be in liquid form at room temperature (many oils). Unhealthy fats are saturated, with trans fats being the most unhealthy.  These are usually solid at room temperature (think of butter, lard, shortenings). Healthy fats raise HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Conversely, saturated fats do the opposite, clogging the arteries with fatty deposits that can lead to the blockage of blood flow. Blockages put one at significant risk for heart attacks and strokes. Make it a point to avoid any foods with trans fats, also listed in the ingredients as partially hydrogenated oils. Cholesterol is a type of fat that our bodies also produce. Currently, there is conflicting thought about the ingestion of cholesterol causing high cholesterol in the blood. Some now believe that the saturated fat causes our bodies to produce more cholesterol.

Sodium (the main carrier is table salt) is everywhere! Sodium is an electrolyte, important for the regulation of many bodily functions, but Americans consume unhealthy amounts of it. Long used as a preservative, it is used in canning, processed meats (hot dogs, cold cuts, etc.) baked goods, pizza, restaurants, prepared supermarket foods and more. Even if you never lift a salt shaker, chances are you are still getting too much sodium. It is hard to avoid unless you prepare all your food at home, from fresh ingredients. Too much sodium raises blood pressure, putting a strain on the arteries and other body functions. It leads to heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, breathing difficulties, edema (swelling and water retention). The recommended daily amount in an otherwise healthy individual is no more than 2,200 mg per day, but less is better. For those already afflicted with maladies affected by sodium, 1,800mg or fewer is the recommendation.

Carbohydrates, which include fiber and sugar are listed in the next sub section. Counting carbs is especially important for the diabetic. We will not cover this here as the subject is far too complex for this post. There are 2 basic kinds of carbs: simple and complex. Simple sugars (many of the ingredients listed with an “ose” at the end) absorb quickly into the bloodstream, causing spikes in blood glucose levels. This in turn floods the bloodstream with insulin, beginning an erratic spike and lowering of blood glucose levels, which is taxing on the body in a variety of ways. In contrast, complex carbohydrates (found in fiber and whole grains, not refined) absorb more gradually, lessening the rapid spiking and falling of blood glucose levels. This longer acting reaction supplies steadier energy and less fat storage. (Unused energy from carbs is stored as fat.) So look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. More is better. Stick with whole grains vs. refined – explained further in the next section.

Protein, vitamins and minerals are listed next. This is more informational, and less of an issue when watching certain potentially harmful elements.

The last section is the ingredient list. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity, from most to least. Study the list for partially hydrogenated oils (and reject foods with this ingredient), extra sugars (look for the suffix “ose”), additives that are unhealthy preservatives, etc. (again, this is another whole topic). If you have allergies, study this section carefully to learn if the contaminant is present. You need to learn all the names by which your allergen goes, to ensure you don’t ingest it. Many packages now state if the product is made in a facility that makes other products with the more common allergens like tree nuts, peanuts, milk, etc. Look for whole grains in your breads. If the listing says, “wheat flour”, it is not whole. It needs to say whole wheat. Corn, quinoa and oats are whole grains.

Well that about wraps up Label-Reading 10. I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. Just post to comments.

 


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Is a rainy day – just right for cooking! Everyone gets to eat well and you get another healthy recipe!
Enjoy!

Note: Although the sauce tastes deliciously rich, it is nearly fat free! Quick to make and very elegant. Serve with a green vegetable and some nice new potatoes, either boiled or roasted.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 lb salmon
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup chopped shallots or sweet onions

Directions:

Blend the yogurt, mustard, honey, lemon juice, and dill,in a bowl. Cover, and refrigerate until time to serve.

Place the salmon in a saucepan with the white wine and water and shallots. Make sure the fish is covered. Add more water if necessary.

Cover the saucepan, and cook over medium heat 10 to 12 minutes, until salmon is easily flaked with a fork. Drain, and top with the yogurt sauce.

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