Friday, July 24, 2009

Plain Yogurt?

Since breakfast can be challenging, here is one more easy option that takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and can hold you for 3-4 hours or until lunch. Plain yogurt is a great food to have on a daily basis since it contains 400 mg. of calcium per cup serving besides providing healthy bacteria for your gut.

As opposed to European yogurts, most plain American yogurts are bitter and tasteless, at least until recently. A few years back this pattern started to change with several companies selling European-style yogurts with a thick creamy consistency.

One of my favorites is from Greece called Fage. The plain Fage 2% contains the best nutritional mix with high levels of protein, a little fat and a moderate amount of carbohydrate. It comes in large containers, and small ones that travel well.

Another favorite is Strauss plain yogurt. Strauss is a small company that carries all organic products including plain low-fat yogurt and whole milk yogurt. Both are good options that come in large containers only.

Spega La Natura is an Italian yogurt that comes in small glass jars which are handy for re-use around the house. This yogurt is easy to take to work for a snack or small meal.

All of these brand mix well with fruit and nuts or seeds, or the Healthy Nut Mix (see blog 4/1/09) from my upcoming book A Recipe for Life by the Doctor's Dietitian which will be available in September.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Frittatas: A Simple Healthy Breakfast

Since I did a recent article about eggs (see 7/11/09) I thought I’d give you an easy breakfast idea for eggs. Eggs are the highest quality protein that exists. If you eat eggs for breakfast it will sustain you for many hours versus eating a bowl of cereal which will leave you ravenous in 2 hours. Eating protein in the morning also increases your metabolism so you burn more calories which could help with weight loss.

No time to make eggs? Try making my easy frittata on the weekend. Simple to make, and can provide breakfast throughout the week by just heating up a square with a cup or a pieced of fruit. Besides being portable to bring to work, frittatas are versatile since they can be made different each time with various colorful vegetables - appealing to the eyes and palate!

Serves: 8 squares
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

½ sweet yellow medium sized onion, chopped
5 cups chopped vegetables (zucchini, yellow squash,
mushrooms, red bell pepper, tomatoes)
12 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2-3 tablespoons 1% milk
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence (or favorite spice)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

In a medium saucepan sauté onions and red bell peppers in olive oil until tender for 5 minutes. Add other vegetables and sauté until tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a bowl whisk eggs and add shredded cheese, milk, and spices. Fold in vegetables. Pour mixture into large glass baking dish (9 x 12) and bake at 350 degrees for half an hour or until lightly brown on top and firm. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut in squares and serve.

Per Serving

Calories 209

Protein 18 grams

Total Carbohydrates 6 grams

Total Fat 12 grams

Fiber 1 gram

Sodium 301 mg.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Low-Carb High-Protein Pancakes?

Let’s take a break from the research today and focus on eating. The recipes in my upcoming book: A Recipe for Life by the Doctor’s Dietitian focus on unprocessed “clean” foods that are balanced with respect to protein, healthy forms of carbohydrate and fat. In creating a breakfast recipe that fit these criteria I wanted a pancake high in protein and could be enjoyed by people with insulin resistance, diabetes and wheat and gluten in tolerances.

Although the name is deceptive, Buckwheat contains no wheat, and is from the beet family, making it technically a fruit and not a grain. Besides being high in protein and calcium, this recipe is a great way for carb lovers to feel spoiled. It is very light compared to regular pancakes and can be used as a wrap for sandwiches at other meals. Top with unsweetened applesauce and fruit.

Ricotta Buckwheat Pancakes

Serves: 20 medium sized pancakes
Prep Time: 10 minutes (plus 1 hour refrigeration)
Cook Time: 15 minutes

4 large eggs, separated
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
½ cup buckwheat flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup 1% milk

Separate egg whites in a small bowl and yolks in a medium bowl. Set egg whites aside. Mix yolks and ricotta cheese until thoroughly combined. Add the flour, salt and sugar into yolk mixture. Stir the milk.

Beat egg whites with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into yolk mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight for best results.

Heat griddle with a small amount of butter. Measure batter in approximately ¼ cup increments and pour on hot griddle. Once bubbles start appearing (about 2-3 minutes), gently flip pancake until the other side becomes golden brown (an additional 1-2 minutes). Top with fruit or applesauce.

Tip: Recipe can be halved.

Per Pancake:

Calories 66

Protein 5 grams

Total Carbohydrates 3.7 grams

Total Fat 3 grams

Fiber .5 grams

Sodium 74 mg.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vitamin D: The Wonder Vitamin?

This fat-soluble “sunshine vitamin” has recently re-emerged as the wonder vitamin with numerous research studies coming out monthly on its health benefits.

Until very recently, it was thought that the RDA for Vitamin D (400 IU/day) was sufficient to prevent disease and to maintain bone health. We have recently seen an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in this country, which is thought to be responsible for many autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis, cancers and even cardiovascular disease.

What are the recent findings on Vitamin D?

In January 2009 researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Michigan Peninsula Medical School revealed that compared to those with optimum Vitamin D levels, those with the lowest levels were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired – i.e. have dementia

In February 2009 the Archives of Internal Medicine studied 19,000 adults and adolescents. People with the lowest average levels of Vitamin D were 40% more likely to have a recent respiratory infection compared to those with higher Vitamin D levels

In March 2009 the Journal of Nutrition published research showing that high intakes of both calcium and Vitamin D helped protect against diabetes. C-peptide (a measure that determines if diabetes is in the works) was 20% lower in those with higher blood levels of Vitamin D

In April 2009 the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published research showing that a daily supplement of 83 mcg. of Vitamin D per day (or 3320 IU) significantly boosted heart health by lowering triglyceride levels (storage form of fat) and markers of inflammation in the blood that indicate heart disease

In June 2009 the National Institutes of Health funded a study that showed that higher blood levels of Vitamin D were linked to increased loss of abdominal fat

Benefits of vitamin D are more important than we all knew – lowering risk of heart disease, respiratory infections, dementia, and diabetes and helping with weight loss!

A great way to get your vitamin D, besides food, is exposure to daylight or sunshine three times per week for about 10-15 minutes, since your skin has the ability to manufacture it after being exposed to sunlight. Since many of us try to stay out of sun due to skin cancer, we are deficient in natural vitamin D. However, it is still important to wear your sunscreen.

Some researchers are now calling Vitamin D the antibiotic vitamin since it boosts protection in the white blood cells of antimicrobial compounds that defends the body against germs. Many physicians are recommending intakes of 1000-2000 IU of Vitamin D per day to help with already low tissue levels and increasing the tissue levels to help prevent disease.

Next time you visit your physician ask to have your Vitamin D levels checked to know if you are in need of supplementation – it could save you more than just a cold!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cracking the Myths on Eggs and Cholesterol

For many years we’ve been told to avoid eggs if we want to keep our cholesterol levels under control. Since eggs contain cholesterol they must increase cholesterol levels in the blood, right?

Since research did not exist at the time this recommendation was made, committees were formed from the American Heart Association, American Dietetics Association and so forth to come up with guidelines for healthy eating. One of the guidelines stated that American should limit their eggs to 3 per week.

Since that time solid research is now available that dispelled the myth of needing to limit eggs. Following are excerpts from my upcoming nutrition book: A Recipe for Life by the Doctor's Dietitian explaining the current studies.

Myth: Eating eggs in your diet will increase your blood cholesterol levels.

Fact: Dr. Stephen B. Kritchevsky from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging states in his 2004 review on eggs:

“Data from free-living populations show that egg consumption is not associated with higher cholesterol levels. Furthermore, as a whole, the epidemiological literature does not support the data that egg consumption is a risk for coronary disease.”

Very few studies exist linking any connection between cholesterol levels in the diet and cholesterol levels in the blood. When the guidelines were made up by the various health boards recommending a limit to cholesterol levels, it was based more on common sense than on research. It does make sense that if a food contains cholesterol, it must increase the blood cholesterol value. However, this analogy never really panned out.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, and most of the fat contained in the egg is polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. It is an excellent source of the antioxidant lutein which can lower certain inflammatory responses in the body. Eating an egg daily or 2 eggs several times a week easily fits in with a healthy lifestyle and is even beneficial. If you are diabetic it might be prudent to limit your intake to less than 7 eggs per week, taking into consideration all the studies on eggs. So don’t be afraid of eggs, or limit yourself to egg whites. Enjoy an omelet and get on with life.

Dr. Bruce Griffin, a researcher from the University of Surrey stated in Nutrition Bulletin in February 2009:

The link between egg consumption and raised cholesterol levels, which ultimately could lead to cardiovascular disease, was based on out-of-date information. The egg is a nutrient-dense food, a valuable source of high quality protein and essential nutrients that is not high in saturated fat or energy…it is high time we dispelled the mythology surrounding eggs and heart disease and restored them to their rightful place on our menus where they can make a valuable contribution to healthy balanced diets.

We’ve now cracked the myth of eggs and cholesterol.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Omega 3's for Health?

Why all the hype about Omega-3 fatty acids, and what exactly are they good for? The history of fats is a long complex one we will save for another blog. The important thing to know for now is that Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat or one that is liquid at room temperature. Another type of polyunsaturated fat is known as Omega-6 fatty acids and it is vital to know the difference.

Omega-3 fatty acids are critical to keeping the cells of your body healthy and flexible so good nutrients can get in and waste can get out. They have what is known as an “anti-inflammatory effect” in the body versus the “pro-inflammatory” effect that omega-6 fatty acids have. Think of what happens when you sprain your ankle and it swells – this can happen internally to the body when your diet is out of whack and you are not getting the right types of fats.

The 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids have long chemical names but let’s stick with the abbreviations: ALA, DHA, and EPA. ALA is found in high concentrations in ground flax seeds and DHA and EPA are found in fish and fish oil It is thought that 85% of Americans are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids which has lead to many types of medical problems including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s, and cancer to name a few.

Olive oil is the main one that contains large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most other oils are high in omega-6: vegetable, corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean. Canola oil is a genetically modified product (see blog 4/9/09) and therefore not recommended.

Multiple research studies in the past year have proven:

Daily intake of DHA and EPA (fish oil) can lower triglyceride levels by 25-30% which can subsequently lower risk of heart disease and diabetes

EPA taken daily by patients with colorectal cancer had suppression of cancer cell growth

After supplementing for 4 weeks with EPA/DHA, subjects displayed significantly lower levels of depression compared to controls

Supplementing with DHA and DPA delayed the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by reducing inflammation in the brain

Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis taking omega-3 fatty acids had significant reduction of their pain intensity, morning stiffness and joint pain and were able to lower their pain medications

Taking EPA/DHA during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy contributes significantly to both neurological and visual development of the baby besides improved mood of the Mother

The ALA in ground flax seed contains a lignan, a type of phytoestrogen that is thought to have a role in prevention of breast cancer. Since the lignan can bind to estrogen receptors, estrogen related cancers are minimized

The take home message is you can’t afford NOT to take omega-3 fatty acids for health and prevention of disease. To get your omega-3’s I recommend a daily intake of:

1. 1 tablespoon per day of ground flax seed for ALA
2. At least 1000 mg. each of DHA and EPA from fish oil or fatty fish
3. Use olive oil as your main oil and minimize other oils