Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Beautiful Mind

We usually only think of nourishing our bodies from the neck down even though our brain is the true epicenter of our functionality!  A recent study conducted at the University of Michigan found that "cognitive ability starts to decline slightly as early as your twenties, when the brain begins to shrink and show other signs of aging".  "The human brain is more sensitive to food than any other organ" according to Ann Kulze, M.D., a nutrition expert.  Don't worry- there are plenty of foods that you probably already have on hand that make the perfect prescription for maintaining a healthy and high functioning brain:

+coffee: a long-term study found that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day at midlife was associated with a 65% lower risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.  Caffeine blocks adenosine (the brain chemical that causes memory loss and attention problems).  Other option: caffeinated green, black, white tea

+blueberries: exceptionally high in antioxidants which are key in counteracting the oxidative stress our brains experience from free radicals.  Other great options: pomegranates, apples, grapes, cherries, garlic, red cabbage, kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, dark chocolate, red wine

+wild salmon: packed with omega-3 fatty acids that protect neurons and help brain function - afterall, our brains are over 60% fat!  Other sources: walnuts, flaxseed, dark leafy greens, canola oil, mackerel, tuna, sardines

+broccoli: magnesium rich- a deficiency in this mineral can contribute to age-related memory decline.  Other sources: almonds, cashews

+chicken: a complete protein which means it supplies our bodies with amino acids that are essential for healthy brain function.  Other options: red meat, soy, milk, yogurt, eggs, whey protein, fish


(source: Whole Living magazine, March 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Take Back the Power of Food

In the midst of what some consider a renaissance of food (the recent reemergence of local, sustainable, farm to table, artisanal, etc), eating has ironically lost a lot of its enjoyment.  We've lost site of moderation and balance, and blame things like the obesity epidemic on the government, media and other external sources.  It's time to re-focus on ourselves. The more attention and respect you pay to the actual act of feeding yourself, the closer we can get back to a healthy attitude towards food.  Here's an exercise to try at your next meal:

Sit down (don't stand) at a cleared off, clean table. 
Eliminate all distractions like television, music, talk radio, books, magazines and your phone.
Take a few deep, calming breaths.
Try to eat something simple and from nature like a piece of avocado with greens on whole grain bread.  No dressings or sauces.
Take a bite and pay attention to the naturally complex and delicious flavors.
Eat slowly.  Chew well.
*The brain takes at least 20 minutes to register fullness so take your time- that's why eating quickly leads to over eating.
Eat until you are satiated, not stuffed. 
Avoid drinking anything while you eat- liquids can hinder digestion by diluting your stomach's gastric juices.

Be kind to your body; pay attention to it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wake Up with Water

After a night's rest, the body wakes up essentially from an overnight fast.  The best thing to first introduce to your body upon rising is a big glass of room temperature, filtered water (with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice).  It awakens the digestive system and gets things moving (literally!).  Doing something healthy and beneficial for your body at the very beginning of your day sets the tone for all your other meals and decisions.

Drinking enough water throughout the day not only aids digestion but is essential for clear, glowing skin, physical and mental energy and detoxification of the entire body.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Segregation in The Marketplace

Ever notice how in big, chain supermarkets (e.g. Pathmark, Gristedes, Red Apple, Key Food, etc) any and all "health foods" have their own section?  I can not figure out the logic behind it.  All the whole grain breads, gluten-free products, dairy-free milks, and any other "healthy foods" sit on their own, sad little shelf in some random aisle.  So when you go look for bread, for instance, in the bread aisle you actually won't be faced with their entire selection.  But how would you know to look elsewhere?

By segregating foods, supermarkets are sending out the wrong message.  It's almost like a caste system- here is all your normal food and here is the "special" food.  If there's a health food section, shouldn't all fruit and vegetables be in it as well?  A practically invisible shelf with gluten-free pretzels and quinoa doesn't exactly educate consumers.  If the healthiest options were made as accessible and attractive as say the pop tart aisle, they'd leave the shelves more often and prices would decrease.  The way things are now does not cater to the majority of shoppers.  A change needs to be made.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Stop-Motion Guacamole




*Try planting an avocado pit in some soil- in 4-6 weeks you'll start to see the beginnings of a beautiful green leafy vine- makes for a simple, low maintenance house plant!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Power of Endorphins

Never underestimate the power of endorphins.  A 10 minute brisk walk, a few reps of lifting weights, even a good stretch can get your body flowing with endorphins and give you a burst of energy and improve your mood.  It is a fact  that we eventually build a tolerance to prescription drugs (anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, stimulants) and that their effects quickly fade.  Often times placebos are actually just as effective.  Endorphins are free and always right at your fingertips- no side effects, no instructions - just the amazing human body working it's magic.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sardines

Sardines are one of nature's greatest Superfoods - they should not be overlooked!  You can find them in any supermarket for a great price.

They're perfect in an arugula salad with fresh red onions, lemon juice, salt & pepper and a little hot sauce!  The natural peppery flavor of the arugula, the spiciness of the raw red onion and the acid from the lemon juice perfectly balance the fat from the fish - sometimes I just put hot sauce on them and eat them right out of the can.  They're high in good fat and calories so they're perfect to eat early in your day to really fuel up.  I promise nothing will sustain you like this superfood will.

When I went to Paris a few years ago, every morning I would buy a can of sardines from a little mom and pop shop down the road from my hotel, a fresh baguette from the bakery and sit on a bench and mop up my fish with my bread.  This meal literally sustained me all day and gave me the energy to walk around the gorgeous city literally all day and into the night.  (Of course I snacked along the way- you can't pass up Parisian food especially when in the midst of endless summer farmers markets).  But the feeling is quite extraordinary- not thinking about food an hour later because your body is actually completely content.  Try it out!


Outdoor market on Rue Mouffetarde

deliciously sweet cherries

Eat Good Fats

Plain and simple (especially omega 3s)!  Forget the low-fat, fat-free craze of the 80s and 90s- there's a reason it didn't last.  Our brains are made up of over 60% fat- wouldn't it make sense that to keep it well and running we should supply it with what it needs?

-nuts, seeds (brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, pumpkins seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios)
-oils (olive oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, coconut oil*)
-fish, seafood (salmon, tuna, sardines**, flounder, mahi mahi, cod, fluke, trout, shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels)
-eggs

*Extra virgin coconut oil is not only great to cook with (especially popcorn) but a small amount rubbed in the palm of your hands is a great way to tame fly-aways and frizzy hair.

**Sardines- so special they get their own post ^

NYTimes Article that inspired this post <-- Click Here

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chicken: Double Flavor, 1/2 the price

The price of a raw, whole chicken can vary from as little as $3.99 to over $20.  Yes, the size matters (because usually it's priced by the pound) but the price also depends on how it was raised, where it comes from, and if it's Kosher or not.

The Kosher chickens are always more expensive than the non-Kosher ones (I guess because of the extra work that had to be done)- but did you ever notice they taste better too?  I used to think I was imagining it but then I found out it's because...they're all pre-salted!  So instead of spending the extra money, salt it yourself:

-unwrap your store bought, raw chicken take out any/all extra innards
-place in a large bowl
-cover completely with water and add at least 1/2 a cup of salt and 1/2 cup sugar
-cover with plastic wrap, place in fridge and let sit for at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours
-when you're ready to cook it, take it out of water, rinse off any salt/sugar that may have not dissolved completely, and prepare as desired (roast, bake, fry, etc).

For the record, I did not discover this technique- it's actually quite trendy these days.  Just letting you know that I've done it (actually, I never make a chicken nowadays WITHOUT doing it) and it's not only a cinch but worth every second.  Every part of the chicken comes out tender and juicy (even the white meat).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Quantity AND Quality

Just about everybody knows there's really only one way to lose weight: consume less calories, burn more calories (i.e. eat less, move more).  Yet we're still constantly bombarded with ads for weight loss supplements, articles "revealing" the "secrets of celebrities" and foods with less calories so you can eat more and not feel "guilty" - all distracting us from the true answer we all have in the back of our minds.

Thing is, quality matters too.  If you just eat less, you will lose weight, no matter what you still continue to eat.  But if you eat mostly nutritionally vacant foods (sugar, white flour, saturated unhealthy fats, foods filled with chemicals and preservatives), you won't come even close to feeling your best.  These things drain your energy and affect your skin and hair poorly, can make you feel depressed and lead to mood swings, constipation, bloating and trouble sleeping.  Wholesome foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats contribute to glowing clear skin, shiny healthy hair, a regular digestive system, sounder sleep and feeling alert and happy.

Eat to live (don't live to eat) and keep moving.


"The Importance of Portion Control" - An Interview with Marion Nestle - The Atlantic

Peanut Butter

HuffingtonPost.com posted a foolproof article to help you pick out the best one- here are the two most important takeaways:

-choose peanut butters that contain only peanuts and salt

-most contain palm oil (to emulsify the oil and the nut meat to create a smoother texture) - Unfortunately, palm oil is not only extremely high in unhealthy saturated fat but the increased production of it has resulted in the demolition of rainforests and peatlands in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bob Greene's 4 Pillars of Living Your Best Life

Nutrition

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." -Michael Pollan

"Eat foods that spoil, before they do." -Nina Planck


Exercise

It's a cliche by now but if you really want to stick to exercise and see results, do something you enjoy.

For example, I've never loved spinning (stationary bike riding) or pilates- I gave both a try many times over the years but couldn't stick to it...because I didn't enjoy it that much.

When I discovered yoga, I not only enjoyed it but looked forward to doing it again. That's what you should look for. Try everything once but don't force it.

Skin Care

It's a little redundant to have skin care as a pillar since it should/could be under the other 3.

However, it is something everyone cares about and is simpler than you think. The key is consistency. If you have "normal" skin (dry sometimes, oily sometimes, a zit sometimes but overall not problematic)- here are the two keys:

1. sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher) on your face every single day- winter, spring, summer, fall- rain or shine.

2. the other pillars! (drink filtered water throughout the day, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, get at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night)


Sleep

-always rinse face off before going to sleep

-at least 6-8 hours every night, even on weekends

-make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet (put your pets in another room if you have to)

-don't eat too close to bedtime- digestion is work and your body should be shutting off when you go to sleep for the night. Also, digestion uses gravity - your body can not digest food well while you are horizontal- that's why eating too close to bedtime leads to indigestion, acid reflux and heartburn.

-shut off TV and other electronics (especially cell phones) at least an hour before bed- the stimulation your brain gets from the bright screens will disrupt your sleep

-never use the snooze button- just confuses your body and makes you feel twice as groggy when you finally get up

-first thing out of bed- stretch, splash face with warm water, rinse out mouth, drink a tall glass of room temperature water with a squeeze of lemon (stimulates digestive system)