Friday, May 6, 2011

Bitter Fruit for Better Weight Loss

Before today's article, I'd like to take some time to vent about a rather unpleasant experience.  I travel often in Europe and while this info will not really have much interest for my American followers, Europeans will know what I'm talking about.  

EASYJET, is by far the worst airline I have ever used.  It bills itself as a lowcost airline, but in fact after you add all the little extras, the cost if often more enpensive than other airlines.  I recently flew from Lisbon to Paris and to me this airline is more a flying bus than an airline.  Their customer service is vertually non-existent.  Although in Lisbon the staff was a bit more accomodating and friendly, the Paris staff is totally incompetent and rude, but then everyone knows that customer service in France is a foreign word.  Aside from their usual French arrogance, the assistance from Easyjet staff did not exist.
So, for my fellow travelers, I recommend you  boycott Easyjet if you travel in Europe.  You'll arrive at your destination a much happier person with a lot less stress.

Bitter Fruit for Better Weight Loss

Are the rumors true? Could grapefruit -- touted for years as a weight loss wonder -- actually work?
Possibly. In one 12-week study, obese people who ate half a grapefruit before each of three daily meals shed more pounds than their counterparts did.

Show Me the Grapefruit
In the study, whole grapefruit also took a bite out of insulin resistance in folks with metabolic syndrome -- a constellation of conditions that can raise the risk for several serious health problems, including diabetes. 

Go Whole
Although grapefruit juice and grapefruit capsules also may have pound-shedding potential, whole fruit was clearly the winner in the study -- probably because the whole fruit has appetite-controlling fiber as well. The scent of grapefruit may help you, too. 

Combine Your Efforts
Exercise and a calorie-controlled diet remain the true cornerstones of weight loss, but if grapefruit helps, great! However, if you're taking medications of any kind, talk to your doctor before adding grapefruit to the mix; it interacts with several meds. Try these other fat-blasting tips, too:
  • Walk with me. Walking has the highest stick-to-it rate of any exercise. And a walking buddy can help even more. 
  • Be sane. Fad diets, like the famous but extreme 600-calories-or-so-a-day grapefruit diet, may help some people lose weight temporarily, but most gain it all back in the long run. 
  • Get a grip. Do you eat when you're bored? Stressed? Sad?   
Find out what's behind emotional eating and what you can do to curb it.
Our ancestors ate to survive. They ate because they were hungry, or maybe to celebrate a victory over a warring tribe. Us? We eat because we're angry, bored, stressed, frustrated, depressed, watching a movie, too busy, not busy enough, getting together with friends, or ticked off because the Lions lost.
And when eating is the result of an emotional reaction -- where we substitute chocolate for a conversation, ice cream for a relaxing bath, or chips for a punching bag -- it isn't as much about character as it is about chemistry.
Brain chemicals not only influence your emotions but also provide the foundation for why you eat at certain times. Here are a few examples:
  • Norepinephrine: This is the caveman fight-or-flight chemical. It's what tells you to tangle with a saber-toothed tiger or hightail it to the safety of your hut.
  • Serotonin: This is the James Brown of neurotransmitters. It makes you feel good (Hey!) and is a major target of antidepressants.
  • Dopamine: This is the brain's fun house. It's a pleasure and reward system and is particularly sensitive to addictions. It's also the one that helps you feel no pain.
  • GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid): This one is the English Patient of amino acids. It makes you feel like a zombie and is one of the ways that anesthesia may work to reduce your responsiveness to the outside world.
  • Nitric oxide: This is your meditation-like chemical. It helps calm you. This powerful neuropeptide is usually a very short-lived gas that also relaxes the blood vessels of the body.

Now, the real question is what do all these chemicals have to do with whether you snack on a Hershey bar or a plum? Read on.

The Brain Chemical/Food Relationship

Let's use serotonin as an example of this relationship. Picture your brain as a small pinball machine. You have millions of neurotransmitters that are sending messages to and from one another. When your serotonin transmitters fire the signals, they send the message throughout your brain that you feel good; this message is strongest when that feel-good pinball is frenetically bouncing around in your brain, racking up tons of yeah-baby points along the way.
But when you lose the ball down the chute (that is, when cells in the brain take the serotonin and break it down), that love-the-world feeling you've just been experiencing is lost. So what does your brain want to do? Put another quarter in the machine and get another ball. For many of us, the next ball comes in the form of foods that naturally (and quickly) make us feel good and counteract the drop in serotonin that we're feeling.

An example? Sugar. A rush can come with a jolt of sugar. Sugar stimulates the release of serotonin. Insulin stimulates serotonin production in the brain, which, in turn, boosts your mood, makes you feel better, or masks the stress, pain, boredom, anger, or frustration that you may be feeling.
And serotonin is only one ball in play. You have all of these other chemicals fighting to send your appetite and cravings from bumper to bumper.

Knowing how your emotions can steer your desire to eat will help you resist your cravings and, ideally, avoid them altogether. Your goal: Keep your feel-good hormones level, so you're in a steady state of satisfaction and never experience huge hormonal highs and lows that make you search for good-for-your-brain-but-bad-for-your-waist foods.

Here are three tricks to try:

1. Use foods to your advantage. All foods have different effects on your stomach, your blood, and your brain. Choose turkey to cut carb cravings. Turkey contains tryptophan, which increases serotonin to improve your mood and combat depression and helps you resist cravings for simple carbs. Choose salmon to curb blue moods. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in certain fish (including salmon, canned tuna, halibut, and mahimahi), have long been known as brain boosters and cholesterol clearers, but they've also convincingly been shown to help with depression in pregnant women. Depression contributes to hedonistic and emotional eating.

2. Savor the flavor. If you're going to eat something that's bad for you, enjoy it, savor it, roll it around in your mouth. We suggest taking a piece of dark (70% cocoa) chocolate and meditating -- as a healthy stress reliever and as a way to reward yourself with something sweet. It's OK to eat bad foods -- every once in a while.

3. Go to sleep. Getting enough sleep can help with appetite control. That's because when your body doesn't get the 7 to 8 hours of sleep it needs every night to get rejuvenated, it has to find ways to compensate for neurons not secreting the normal amounts of serotonin or dopamine. It typically does that by craving sugary foods that will give you an immediate release of serotonin and dopamine.


Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Cheese Tortellini

Bring the flavors of the Mediterranean to your dinner table with this 20-minute recipe.


PREP TIME: 10 mins

TOTAL TIME: 20 mins

    • 1 8- to9-ounce bag dried cheese tortelloni
    • 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
    • 2 6-ounce jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained
    • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
    • 1/2 cup chopped basil


Cook tortelloni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water according to package instructions.
While tortelloni boils, sauté red peppers, artichoke hearts, and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer sauce to a large bowl.
Reserve ½ cup pasta-cooking water, then drain tortelloni and add to red pepper-artichoke sauce along with some of reserved cooking water and basil. Toss well and season with salt and pepper. Thin with additional pasta-cooking water, if desired.

about this recipe

Bring the flavors of the Mediterranean to your dinner table any night of the week. This recipe is such a breeze, you'll almost feel guilty about how good it tastes. Almost, but not quite.




Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Weight Loss Hit a Plateau? Try These Superfoods

Weight Loss Hit a Plateau? Try These Superfoods

The natural chemical responsible for raspberries' mouthwatering aroma is similar to capsaicin, the substance that puts the heat in hot peppers and has been shown to fire up metabolism. But one of the greatest benefits of this gorgeous berry is its fiber content. One cup provides a whopping eight grams, over 30 percent of the recommended daily intake. A classic fiber study concluded that for every gram of fiber we eat, we eliminate about seven calories, and research in Brazilian dieters found that over a six month period, each addition gram of fiber resulted in an extra quarter pound of weight loss.

How to Eat More: When combined with four other superfoods (whipped into a smoothie along with yogurt and almond butter and sprinkled into a spinach salad) this secret weapon can help you shed up to eight pounds in five days. Not up for a detox? Add a dash of cinnamon and citrus zest, mash a little, and top with toasted rolled oats for a quick mock cobbler.

Lima Beans
This often overlooked bean packs a one-two-three weight-loss punch. Not only are they high in fiber (see raspberries) with five grams per half cup, they're also a great source of potassium, a mineral with natural diuretic properties that sweeps excess sodium and fluid out of your body. And finally they're a bean! Studies show that regular bean eaters have smaller waistlines and a 22 percent lower risk of obesity.

How to Eat More: Add them to a garden salad, or marinate in balsamic vinaigrette with chopped red onion, minced celery and sliced grape tomatoes.

This fermented milk drink can be made from cow, sheep or goat's milk or a plant-based version like coconut milk. Kefir is loaded with beneficial bacteria -- about 10 different strains compared to the two to three found in most yogurts, and those live and active cultures are thought to favor weight control. A recent Japanese study found that subjects who drank a fermented milk product for 12 weeks shed nearly 5 percent of their belly fat.

How to Eat More: You'll find kefir in the refrigerated dairy case of your supermarket, alongside milk and yogurt. Reaching for a plain, nonfat or lowfat version and doctor it up yourself. For a refreshing snack whip about 6 oz in the blender with about a cup of frozen fruit (berries, pitted cherries, mango, pineapple, peaches, a few tablespoons of natural nut or seed butter (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed) and a dash of spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.).

Good Old H2O
Agua's weight loss benefits have been debated for decades, but an intriguing new study found that adults who simply gulped two cups of water before meals enjoyed a major weight loss benefit -- they shed a whopping 40 percent more weight over a 12 week period. The same group of scientists previously found that subjects who drank two cups before meals naturally consumed 75-90 fewer calories, an amount that could really snowball day after day.

How to Eat More: Of course you can drink water with and between meals, but you can also eat it. Carrots, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, watermelon and lettuce are each over 90 percent water. And if you dislike the taste of plain water, stir in a few sprigs of fresh mint and some fresh grated ginger or add them to your ice cube tray.


Cuban-Style Pork and Rice

Full of spice and exotic flavors, this Cuban take on the classic Spanish paella is an easy way to feed a hungry crowd.

Prep Time: 0 mins
Total Time: 1hr.45mins


    • 1/4 cup paprika
    • 1/4 cup lime juice
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • 2 tablespoons rum (optional)
    • 2 teaspoons minced garlic plus 2 tablespoons chopped garlic, divided
    • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin cumin
    • 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork chops (3/4-1 inch thick), trimmed, cut into cubes
    • 2 cups onion, chopped
    • 2 cups arborio rice or short-grain brown rice
    • 2 14-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • 2 14-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes diced
    • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
    • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (see Note)
    • 16 large raw shrimp (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined (optional)
    • 2 cups frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, or cooked green beans, fresh or frozen, thawed
    • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips


1. Combine paprika, lime juice, 2 tablespoons oil, rum (if using), 2 teaspoons minced garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and cumin in a medium bowl, stirring to make a homogeneous paste. Add pork and stir to coat.
2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pork, leaving any excess spice mixture in the bowl to add later. Cook the pork, stirring, until just cooked on the outside and the spices are very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate.
3. Add onion and the remaining 2 tablespoons garlic to the pan and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until well coated with the onion mixture. Stir in broth, tomatoes, capers, saffron and any remaining spice mixture. (If using brown rice, also add 3/4 cup water now.) Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes for arborio, 30 minutes for brown rice.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
5. Stir shrimp (if using) and artichokes (or green beans) into the rice. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Stir in the pork and any accumulated juices from the plate; scatter roasted peppers on top. Cover and continue baking until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed (if you?ve added shrimp, they should be opaque and pink), 10 to 15 minutes more.

Note: Saffron is the dried stigma of a saffron crocus. It contributes a pungent flavor and intense yellow color to classic dishes like paella. Saffron is sold in threads and powdered form.

about this recipe

Don't worry if you have leftovers. They can easily be rewarmed in a microwave or combined with eggs to make a Spanish tortilla (omelet); or for a great cold dish, toss the leftover rice with cooked vegetables and a vinaigrette made with lime juice instead of vinegar.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Eat Like a Viking to Live Longer

Eat Like a Viking to Live Longer

You've heard about the Mediterranean diet. Now try the Viking diet. Recent research suggests that it, too, could help you live a much longer life.
So what's a Viking diet, exactly? It's one that emphasizes the staples of Nordic cuisine, typically rich in cabbage, rye bread, root vegetables, and other healthful, hearty fare. In a study, diets that emphasized these Scandinavian staples reduced 12-year mortality risk by as much as one-third!

Score One for Cabbage
In the study, researchers assigned people a score from 0 to 6, depending on how closely they adhered to the traditional Nordic eating style. For every point earned, mortality dropped by 4 to 6 percent over the course of the 12-year study. Overall, men with the most points reduced their mortality by 36 percent while top-scoring women lowered their mortality by 25 percent. Cabbage, rye bread, and root vegetables were responsible for most of the longevity benefits. But people also scored points for other Nordic favorites, including fish, oatmeal, apples, and pears. 

Do this for 30 minutes a day to live even longer.

You could cut your mortality risk dramatically if you just did this for 30 minutes: walk.
Or ride your stationary bike. Or dance. Or chase the grandkids around outside. Or shovel some snow. Or all of the above. Just be active for 30 minutes, five times a week. This simple choice cut mortality risk by nearly 20 percent in a recent study.

Walk the Walk
You can't be your best and be there for others unless you take care of yourself first. So no matter how busy life gets, make time for the active things in life that you enjoy. Doesn't have to be a killer ab workout or a sweat-till-you-drop spin class. In a study, people who simply did nonvigorous physical activity for 2 1/2 hours a week saw their risk of dying from any cause drop by almost 20 percent compared with the couch potatoes. If there's no special activity that floats your boat, just walk. Hoofing it for 30 minutes, five times a week, is a small and easy investment to make in your long-term health.  

Moving Matters
Of course, a little sweat is healthy, too, so if you want to crank it up a notch, and you don't have any health conditions in the way, feel free. When the people in the study kicked activity levels into high gear -- logging 7 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week -- their mortality risk dropped by 25 percent compared with nonactive folks. Chalk it up to the favorable impact exercise has on weight (active people gain less over time) and blood pressure (exercise helps keep those blood vessel walls nice and relaxed). Make walking a regular part of your life with these easy strategies:

Gender Gap
When the researchers broke things down by gender, they found some interesting differences. Although both genders enjoyed longer lives if they ate 1½ cups of shredded cabbage each week, only the men appeared to reap significant longevity benefits from eating ample amounts of rye bread while only the women seemed to get a big boost from eating lots of root vegetables. Regardless, we know that all of these Nordic faves are nutritional superstars, which probably explains their overall impact on mortality risk. Rye bread contains vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that keep blood sugar and insulin levels in check. Cabbage is rich in isothiocyanate, which helps rid the body of toxins and carcinogens. And carrots win first place among root veggies as a source of beta carotene. Taken together, all of these nutrients can translate into lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. 


Easy Asian-Style Chicken & Rice

The right combination of convenient ingredients like frozen vegetables, teriyaki seasoning mix and instant rice make this super-easy chicken stir-fry absolutely delicious.

  • Prep Time: 
    Total Time: 25 mins

  • SERVES 4


      • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
      • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast half (about 1 pound)
      • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Golden Mushroom Soup
      • 1 1/2 cup water
      • 1 package (1.25 ounces) teriyaki seasoning mix
      • 1 bag (16 ounces) frozen stir-fry vegetables
      • 1 1/2 cup uncooked instant white rice


    Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides.  Remove the chicken from the skillet.
    Stir the soup, water, seasoning mix and vegetables in the skillet and heat to a boil.  Stir in the rice.  Return the chicken to the skillet.  Reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the rice is tender.


    Friday, April 29, 2011


    Eating to Lose Weight? Sprinkle on Red Pepper Flakes

    Wouldn't it be great if you could just sprinkle something on your food to help you lose weight? Research suggests these fiery flakes might fit the bill: crushed red pepper.
    A small batch of studies has shown that a key ingredient in hot peppers -- capsaicin -- may help curb appetite and hinder the storage of fat.

    Slim and Spicy
    If you're serious about losing weight, red pepper flakes alone aren't going to move the dial much. But they could be a useful addition to a legitimate weight loss plan. Researchers in one study concluded that capsaicin may boost sympathetic nervous system activity in a way that dampens hunger and calorie intake later in the day. And related research found that capsiate -- a capsaicin-like compound from sweet peppers -- hindered fat storage and boosted weight loss. 

    Fiery-Hot Weight Loss
    Besides possibly helping you lose more weight, adding heat to low-calorie meals will boost flavor and interest as well -- whether you choose capsaicin-rich cayenne pepper, diced jalapenos, or any variety of hot chili peppers. Try a few of these pungent pepper recipes.

    Turn body fat into energy with this nutrient recommended by the YOU Docs.

    The trouble with most fat-burning supplements is that they're actually just wallet-burning substances. If you want to take the jiggle off, steer yourself away from the late-night TV ads and into the produce aisle.

    Research shows that your body needs sufficient vitamin C to burn fat. And in one study, people who had low blood concentrations of vitamin C and walked on a treadmill for an hour burned 25% less fat than people with adequate C. But a dose of vitamin C brought fat-burning levels back up to par. Why? Seems C is essential for creating carnitine, a substance that turns fat into fuel.

    To keep your fat-burning abilities at near Olympic levels (meaning at your peak, not at the "staying thin on 12,000 calories a day" plan that Michael Phelps reportedly follows), we recommend that you get 1,200 milligrams of C per day.
    That also gives you high enough levels of this vitamin to prevent deficiencies and keep away aging and disease. You can get much of C from food and the rest from supplements twice daily (you pee out C quickly, so you need to get half of your dose in the morning and the other half at night).
    Try beginning the day with some strawberries (nearly 100 milligrams per cup), having an orange after lunch (70 milligrams), and filling your dinner plate with C-rich veggies like red bell peppers (152 milligrams per pepper), broccoli (about 100 milligrams per cup), and brussels sprouts (52 milligrams in just four sprouts). Grab a kiwifruit (70 milligrams) or mango (57 milligrams) before your workout to keep your fat-burning fires stoked.


    Three-Bean Chili

    This rib-sticking bean chili is richly flavored with cumin, chili, paprika, oregano and an assortment of peppers. Use whatever beans you have in your pantry. Make it a meal: Bake up a batch of Salsa Cornbread while the chili simmers.


    8 servings, 1 1/2 cups each
    Active Time:
    Total Time:



    • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
    • 2 tablespoons chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon paprika
    • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
    • 1 pound beef round, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
    • 3 onions, chopped
    • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
    • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
    • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
    • 8 sun-dried tomatoes, (not packed in oil), snipped into small pieces
    • 2 dried ancho chiles, seeds and stems removed, snipped into thin strips (optional; see Note)
    • 12 ounces dark beer, such as porter or stout
    • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, with juices
    • 1 tablespoon grated unsweetened chocolate
    • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
    • 1 19-ounce can white beans, such as Great Northern, rinsed
    • 1 19-ounce can black beans, rinsed
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, (optional)
    • 2 tablespoons lime juice
    • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
    • Nonfat plain yogurt, chopped scallion greens and shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, for garnish


    1. Toast cumin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring, until aromatic, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder; grind to a fine powder. Transfer to a small bowl; add chili powder, paprika, oregano and cayenne. Stir to combine; set aside.
    2. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil in a large heavy pot over high heat. Add beef, in batches if necessary, and sauté until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
    3. Reduce heat to medium and add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions have softened and are golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeños, sun-dried tomatoes, ancho chiles (if using), and the reserved spice mixture. Stir until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add beer, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, scraping up any brown bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes and their juices, chocolate, sugar, bay leaves and the browned beef. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
    4. Add kidney beans, white beans and black beans and cook until the chili is thick, 30 to 45 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in cilantro, if using, and lime juice; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with garnishes.

    Tips & Notes

    • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up 2 days or freeze for up to 6 weeks.
    • Note: Ancho chiles, one of the most popular dried chiles used in Mexico, are dried poblano peppers. They have a mild, sweet, spicy flavor. Ground ancho chile can be found with other spices in large supermarkets, or substitute ground chili powder with a pinch of cayenne.


    Per serving: 358 calories; 8 g fat ( 2 g sat , 4 g mono ); 33 mg cholesterol; 48 g carbohydrates; 1 g added sugars; 26 g protein; 14 g fiber; 455 mg sodium; 797 mg potassium.
    Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (39% daily value), Iron (35% dv), Vitamin A (26% dv), Potassium (23% dv), Selenium (19% dv), Zinc (18% dv).
    Carbohydrate Servings: 2


    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    How to get more whole grains in your diet

    It's no secret that whole grains are good for us. They deliver way more nutrients per calorie than refined grains do, which just happens to fall in line with one of the major themes of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (published by the U.S. Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments): packing as many valuable nutrients into as few calories as possible each day. 

    How much each day?
    The guideline. The dietary guidelines say we should make sure that at least half of the six servings of grains we eat in a day are whole, not refined. In short, we should "Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains." 

    Daily amount. A person consuming 2,000 calories per day should have at least 48 grams of whole grains (or three servings) and an equal amount of refined grains. You can get about 16 grams of whole grains from any one of the following: a one-ounce slice of bread, one ounce of pasta or rice (uncooked), a six-inch tortilla, or about one cup of cereal. 

    Enriched grains. The other three servings can be refined, as long as they're enriched. These are refined grains that have nutrients such as folic acid or calcium added to them. Whole grains are not enriched, so if you replaced all your refined grains with whole ones, you'd need to get those nutrients elsewhere, perhaps through dietary supplements. 

    Whole vs. refined
    Common whole grains. These include barley, corn (whole cornmeal and popcorn), oats, rice (brown and colored), rye, wheat and wild rice. 

    The whole seed. A whole grain contains all the components of the grain seed, including the bran, germ and endosperm; those parts are stripped away when grain is refined.

    Nutrients. Whole grains contain fiber and important vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium and B vitamins, all of which are lost when grains are milled to remove the bran and germ (making them "refined"). 

    Health benefits. Eating whole grains may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and is linked to lower body weight; it may also help prevent type 2 diabetes. 

    By the numbers
    Percentage of Americans who meet the daily whole-grain recommendation: less than 5
    Servings of refined grains Americans consume daily: 6 (No more than three are recommended.)
    SOURCE: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 

    Shop smart
    Stamp of approval. A growing number of products carry the Boston-based Whole Grains Council's stamp, which highlights the amount of whole grain per serving. Check the ingredient list: some kind of whole grain should be listed first or second (after water). 

    "Multigrain."Be aware that whole-grain content isn't listed on Nutrition Facts panels, and labels can be misleading. For instance, multigrain bread may have plenty of whole grains or none at all. 

    "Bran," "wheat germ." The Whole Grains Council notes that these terms do not signal whole grain content.
    Fiber. Don't get confused by fiber content: Whole grains have fiber, but a food that has fiber doesn't necessarily have whole grains. 

    Eating whole grains
    Start with cold cereal. This is a tasty and convenient source of grains, but some brands have more whole grain than others. General Mills has reformulated its cereals to have at least 8 grams per serving (some have 16). Be conscious of sugar content, though: Lucky Charms have 10 grams of sugar per serving. Better yet, choose Cheerios, which have 1 gram of sugar per serving. 

    Or cook up some hot. When you cook oatmeal, whose whole oats count as whole grains, you can control the amount of sugar, salt and butter (Post recipe suggestion: Peanut Butter-Banana Oatmeal). You can also add uncooked oatmeal to your favorite meatloaf or meatball recipe, or use it in homemade breads, muffins and cookies. 

    But don't ignore the everyday ones. Popcorn - air-popped, popped in the microwave or cooked on the stovetop in a little bit of olive oil - is a perfectly legit whole grain. (Just go easy on the butter and salt.) So is the corn in cornbread and tortilla chips. Again, though, keep an eye on the sodium and fat.
    Bake your own bread. It's easy, and you can use white whole-wheat flour, which is milled from "white" or albino wheat instead of the more common red wheat. One suggested Post recipe: Seeded Quick Wheat Bread. Another resource is the cookbook "King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking" (Countryman Press, 2006, $35). 
    Stir it in. Add dry cereal to yogurt. I think this must be what Grape-Nuts were invented for. 

    Try unusual whole grains
    Find these recipes in the Post archives at
    - Quinoa: Mediterranean Quinoa With Broccoli
    - Buckwheat: Double Mushroom Soup With Soba Noodles


    Balsamic Soy Chicken Cutlets

    This multicultural duo produces a sauce so full-bodied and delicious and does it so easily, you won't stop at pairing it with chicken.


    Prep Time: 20 mins
    Total Time: 
    SERVES 4


      • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast cutlets (a.k.a. thin sliced chicken breasts)
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
      • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
      • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces



    Arrange cutlets in 1 layer on a tray or baking sheet and season both sides with salt and pepper.

    Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet (not non-stick) over moderately high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat bottom.

    Cook chicken in batches (don't crowd pan), turning once or twice, until just cooked through (adjust heat lower as necessary to keep bits on bottom from burning and add remaining tablespoon oil if pan begins to look dry in subsequent batches), 2 to 3 minutes total per batch.

    Transfer chicken as cooked to a platter and keep warm loosely covered with foil.

    Add vinegar and boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half.

    Add soy sauce and chicken juices accumulated on platter and bring to a simmer.

    Remove skillet from heat and add butter, stirring until incorporated and sauce is smooth.

    Season with salt and pepper and spoon over chicken.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    FOODS THAT CUT CHOLESTEROL, benefit heart health

    Apples to lower cholesterol? That's just the beginning

    To truly keep the doctor away, it’s going to take more than a handful of red delicious. The fruit and vegetable aisle is a fine place to start your quest to lower cholesterol, but don’t stop there. Keep moving, keep moving....

    This week we learned that eating dried apples can help reduce “bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein, while raising “good” cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein – at least when compared to eating dried plums (aka prunes).

    Cholesterol is a fatty substance that travels in the blood. If you have too much cholesterol, it can stick to the walls of your blood vessels and narrow or even block them, leading to heart disease. You’re more likely to have unhealthy levels of cholesterol if you eat fatty foods, are overweight or have a close relative with high cholesterol.

    But you can help lower your cholesterol simply by changing your diet. The Mayo Clinic

    -- Oatmeal and other foods high in soluble fiber, such as apples, kidney beans, pears, barley and prunes. Try for 5 to 10 or more grams of soluble fiber per day.

    -- Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3s can reduce the risk of blood clots; the highest amounts are in mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, salmon and halibut.

    -- Nuts! But try to limit yourself to about a handful--they’re naturally high-calorie.

    -- Olive oil. But be careful to swap it for something else in your diet, don’t just add it. Two tablespoons have 240 calories.

    -- Plant sterols. They’ve been added to some brands of margarine, orange juice and yogurt drinks. Try for at least 2 grams, about the amount found in two 8-ounce glasses of fortified orange juice.

    Your Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol With TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes), from the National Institutes of Health, offers even more detail – lots and lots of detail – even information on salt and alcohol, label-reading instructions, sample menus and more.

    Now that you know which foods to choose, take care with how they’re prepared. A piece of apple pie a day probably doesn’t do much for cholesterol or overall health. suggests these five foods for better cholesterol and heart health:



    Asian Halibut & Brown Rice Packets

    If halibut isn't available, striped bass, sole or even thick cod fillets will work just fine in this recipe.


    Prep Time:

    Total Time: 30 mins

    SERVES 4


      • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
      • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
      • 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
      • 2 cups instant brown rice
      • 4 scallions, sliced, whites and greens separated
      • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
      • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
      • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
      • 1 pound halibut fillet, skin removed, cut into 4 portions
      • 1 large ripe plum, cut into 12 wedges


    1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill.

    2. Heat 3/4 cup water, 1 cup orange juice and soy sauce in a small saucepan until just simmering. Pour into a medium bowl; stir in rice and scallion whites and set aside, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Whisk hoisin sauce, ginger, sesame oil and the remaining 2 tablespoons each of water and orange juice in a small bowl.

    3. Stack two 20-inch sheets of foil (the double layers will help protect the ingredients on the bottom from burning). Coat the center of the top layer with cooking spray. Place one-fourth of the rice mixture in the center. Set a piece of fish on the rice. Arrange 3 wedges of plum on the fish. Top with one-fourth of the hoisin mixture and sprinkle with one-fourth of the scallion greens. Bring the short ends of the foil together, leaving enough room in the packet for steam to gather and cook the food. Fold the foil over and pinch to seal. Pinch seams together along the sides. Make sure all the seams are tightly sealed to keep steam from escaping. Make 3 more packets with the remaining ingredients.

    4. Place the packets on a gas grill over medium heat or on a charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium coals. Cover the grill and cook until the fish is opaque in the center, 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness. (When opening a packet to check for doneness, be careful of steam.) Use a spatula to slide the contents of the packet onto a plate.

    Technique: Packet Steps
    Step 1. Stack two 20-inch sheets of foil (the double layers will help protect the ingredients on the bottom from burning). Coat the center of the top layer with cooking spray.
    Step 2. Layer your ingredients on the foil. Center everything: it's easier to wrap the food and Makes the packet look neat.
    Step 3. Bring the short ends of the foil together, leaving enough room in the packet for steam to gather and cook the food. Fold the foil over and pinch to seal. Pinch seams together along the sides. Make sure all the seams are tightly sealed to keep steam from escaping.
    Step 4. Place the packets on a gas grill over medium heat or on a charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium coals. Cover the grill and cook just until the packet contents are done. Handle the hot packets with a large spatula or oven mitts. Carefully open both ends of the packet and allow the hot steam to escape.


    about this recipe

    Rice on the grill? Absolutely, and by the time it's cooked it's scented with the exotic flavors of plums and Asian sauce.


    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Mediterranean diet reduces risk of metabolic syndrome

    Mediterranean diet reduces risk of metabolic syndrome

    The Mediterranean diet, long known to be heart-healthy, also reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that boost the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to a new review.

    Researchers from Greece and Italy reviewed the results of 50 published studies with a total of more than 500,000 participants as part of a meta-analysis — a statistical analysis of the findings of similar studies — on the Mediterranean diet.

    Among their findings: the natural foods-based diet is associated with a lower risk of hikes in blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides, as well as a reduced risk of a drop in good cholesterol — all of which are risk factors in metabolic syndrome.

    "It is one of the first times in the literature, maybe the first, that someone looks through a meta-analysis at the cardiovascular disease risk factors and not only the hard outcome" of heart disease and other conditions, said Dr. Demosthenes Panagiotakos, an associate professor at Harokopio University of Athens in Greece.

    The study is published in the March 15 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
    The Mediterranean diet is a pattern marked by daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and low-fat dairy products; weekly consumption of fish, poultry, tree nuts, and legumes; high consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids, primarily from olives and olive oils; and a moderate daily consumption of wine or other alcoholic beverages, normally with meals. Red meat intake and processed foods are kept to a minimum.
    Metabolic syndrome — increasingly common in the United States — occurs if someone has three or more of the following five conditions: blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85, fasting blood glucose equal to or higher than 100 mg/dL, a waist measuring 35 inches or more in women and 40 inches or more in men, a HDL ("good") cholesterol under 40 in men and under 50 in women, triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL.

    In the review, Panagiotakos and his team found the Mediterranean diet "is strongly associated with decreased metabolic syndrome risk," declining to pinpoint an exact percentage because the data would not fully support it.

    The research team also noted that further study was needed, as a few of the studies reviewed also included interventions such as physical activity and smoking cessation.

    The findings come as no surprise, said Dr. Ronald Goldberg, professor of medicine at the Diabetes Research Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who reviewed the findings. Since many studies have confirmed the role of the Mediterranean diet on reducing heart disease, he noted, it makes sense that the diet would also reduce the risks that lead up to heart disease.

    But since Americans are fond of processed and fast foods, how willing would they be to adopt the diet? "Not particularly," Goldberg acknowledged. But, he added, nutrition experts, recognizing that reluctance, have recently begun efforts to adapt the diet to different cultures — for example, including many traditional Hispanic foods into a Mediterranean diet adapted for those of Hispanic descent.

    By doing so, the diet not only provides the same nutrients as the Mediterranean diet, but the familiar food of one's ethnicity, Goldberg said.

    Panagiotakos says even U.S. fast-food-lovers can eat more like Mediterranean's. "Even in fast-food, we can introduce healthy eating, like salads, fruits and vegetables, cereals and legumes, and use good sources of fat. We can replace burgers with all these products — it is a matter of nutrition education."


    Broiled salmon with marmalade-dijon glaze 

    Although quick enough for a hectic weeknight, this will impress guests, too. Serve with salad and roasted potatoes. Cooking Light Complete Meals in Minutes 


    • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
    • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
    • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
    • Cooking spray

    Preheat broiler. Combine first six ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well. Place fish on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray.
    Brush half of marmalade mixture over fish; broil six minutes.
    Brush fish with remaining marmalade mixture; broil two minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

    Servings: 4 (serving size: 1 fillet)

    Nutrition information per serving: 377 calories; 13.4 grams of fat; 3.1 grams of saturated fat; 36.6 grams of protein; 27.3 grams of carbohydrate; 488 milligrams of sodium.



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