I was on ABC10 TV out of Sacramento yesterday to show their viewers (a.k.a. Easter bunnies) how to pull together a ‘healthy Easter basket’. Hmmm…. that’s an oxymoron, you say. Believe it or not, options outside of solid chocolate bunnies, Peeps and sugar-coated sugar do actually exist.
Here are my five basic principles when it comes to “healthify-ing” this tradition.
- Include plant-based foods and plant-based colorants.
- Load up on whole grains.
- Use healthy fats.
- Cut back on sugar.
- Swap out milk chocolate with dark chocolate.
All the recipes for the treats on the show will be featured in my upcoming book, “Athletes in Aprons“. 😀
Oat & Berry Bars: These whole-grain, gluten-free bars are made with oat flour and rolled oats layered with an organic berry purée sweetened with just apple juice.
Chocolate Chip Cookies: These cookies will surprise you! They’re made with garbanzo bean and fava bean flours, oat flour, zucchini, dairy-free dark chocolate, and organic unsweetened applesauce. Gluten-free.
Fudge Brownies: These fudge-y treats are made with whole wheat flour and… spinach. Really! Their moist richness comes from just a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, unsweetened applesauce, and golden ground flaxseeds. You have to taste ’em to believe they’re not loaded with hydrogenated fat and white flour.
Banana-Date Granola: Most granolas are made with lots of oats, sugar and fat. Here’s a no-sugar/no-fat-added granola (no kidding!) made with a base of protein- and Continue reading
Posted in Antioxidants, FOOD ED| NUTRITION, Heart Healthy, Lifestyle, Longevity, Nutrients, Tips & Techniques
Tagged Easter basket, Easter treats, fresh produce, gluten-free, healthy treats, Karen Owoc, Mellisa Paul, Sac & Co, whole grains
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to the usual shamrock-shaded green beer to show your St. Patrick’s Day spirit, try matcha. Matcha (pronounced “MA-cha”) is a finely ground green tea powder that dates back to a 1,000-year-old Japanese tea ceremony. Preparing and serving matcha is a formal art in Japan and the health benefits of this green elixir have been striking.
The Magic of Matcha
Researchers consider green tea the healthiest beverage you can drink. Its health benefits have been studied since the 1990s due to their strong correlation between long life and health in many Asian cultures. Extensive studies on green tea revealed that it provides significant protection against:
- Cardiovascular disease heart disease (atherosclerosis)
- Low density lipoproteins (LDLs – the “bad” cholesterol)
- High blood pressure
- Congestive heart failure
Healthy, plaque-free blood vessels are good for your heart and what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. An active, working brain requires sufficient blood flow.
What makes matcha so beneficial? Something called polyphenols. Polyphenols are potent antioxidants and green tea contains polyphenols classified as “catechins” (pronounced KAT’-eh-kins).
Catechin polyphenols are found in the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant that fight and may even prevent cell damage. Catechins are also found in red wine, chocolate, berries, and apples, but in smaller amounts compared to tea leaves.
Four types of tea come from the Camellia sinensis plant:
Green tea undergoes much less processing than the other teas, so it contains more antioxidants as well as less caffeine. Specifically, these hand-picked green tea leaves are high in catechin polyphenols called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is the most active and most studied of the polyphenols.
How to Drink It
Matcha is made from high quality leaves and is jewel green in color. When drinking matcha, in contrast to drinking steeped green tea, you are drinking the whole leaf and not just the brewed water from the leaves. Therefore, when drinking matcha, you’re consuming 10 times the antioxidants, i.e., the health benefits in one cup of matcha is equivalent to 10 cups of green tea. Continue reading
Posted in ♥ DAILY DOSE, Anti-cancer, Antioxidants, Cardiovascular Health, FOOD ED| NUTRITION, Heart Health | Cardiac Rehab, Heart Healthy, Longevity, Organic
Tagged atherosclerosis, Camellia sinesis, cardiovascular disease, catechin polyphenols, catechins, chasen, green tea, heart disease, matcha
Not a day goes by that I’m not asked about the latest and greatest health benefits of coconut oil. Due to its “good” saturated fat, coconut oil is being promoted as a cure-all for heart disease, weight gain, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, and Alzheimer’s disease (to name just a few). But is coconut oil and its powerful medicinal properties all that it’s touted to be?
Coconut oil is a saturated fat. These types of fats are generally concentrated in animal products, but are also present in tropical plant-based oils. Saturated fats can increase your LDLs (“bad” cholesterol) and increase your risk of atherosclerotic plaques, coronary artery disease, and stroke. That fact alone should be enough to put coconut oil on the “No Go” list of any healthy eating plan.
The Skinny on Sat Fat
Saturated fats are stable fats, that is, they’re not as sensitive to heat and light like other oils. That’s why they are solid at room temperature, can withstand high cooking temperatures, and have a long shelf life. Here’s how coconut oil compares with the other artery busters.
- Beef fat = 40% saturated fat
- Lard = 40%
- Butter = 64%
- Coconut oil = 92%
It’s All In the Acid
Not all saturated fats are created equal. Oils are made up of different types of fatty acids and in different percentages which impact how they react in your body. For example, chocolate contains 60% saturated fat. Stearic acid is its most common saturated fat which is why chocolate raises your LDLs significantly less than butter.
On the other hand, coconut oil contains about 65% of its saturated fats from lauric acid. The lauric acid may be what’s responsible for raising your HDLs (“good” cholesterol). But… don’t run out and buy a gallon of it just yet unless you plan on rubbing it on your skin! Continue reading
Posted in ♥ DAILY DOSE, Cardiovascular Health, FOOD ED| NUTRITION, Heart Health | Cardiac Rehab, Longevity, Nutrition, Weight Control
Tagged atherosclerosis, coconut milk, coconut oil, HDL cholesterol, heart disease, lauric acid, LDL cholesterol, saturated fat
Tea is the healthiest beverage you can drink. It’s rich in phytonutrients (healthy plant compounds) and like water, it’s calorie-free. But there has been a belief that caffeinated drinks, such as tea, are diuretics.
Diuretics cause you to lose more water from your body. That is, they increase the production of urine, so you’re sprinting more often to the John. But if you’re trying to stay hydrated, you may have been told to avoid drinking tea. A study that led to the belief that caffeinated drinks are diuretics used high-dose caffeine pills. However, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition tested the effects of black tea which is a more complex substance than pills. Here’s what they found…
The Tea Test
After a 10-hour fast and 24 hours of avoiding all caffeine, alcohol and vigorous exercise, twenty-one healthy resting men consumed 10 cups of caffeinated black tea at regular intervals providing roughly 170 to 250 mg of caffeine. The tea was prepared using tea bags and mixed with 20 ml of low-fat milk.
All food was controlled and they had nothing else to drink during the trial. Every drop of tea going in and every drop going out was measured and examined for color and electrolyte-water balance over a 24-hour period. Blood was sampled at the start of the trial and again at 1, 2, 4, 8, and 12 hours.
The test was repeated with boiled water. And guess what they found? There was absolutely NO significant difference between drinking tea and water on blood and urine values. Black tea had the same hydrating effects as water.
Fit Tip: Enjoy your cup of tea and don’t worry about your pee! 😀
Black tea is not significantly different from water in the maintenance of normal hydration in human subjects: results from a randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition. August 2011.
If you’ve ever moaned, “Ugh. It’s tough growing old.”, you’re likely in pain or you can’t do the things you used to do. But all is not lost! You can control how well you feel and how fast you age. However, before laying out the foundation of youth, here’s why your body is aging in the first place.
Blame It On Blood Sugar
One of the key suspects in what causes your cells to deteriorate is your own circulating blood sugar (glucose). In a process called glycation, these glucose molecules cling to proteins, and a chain of chemical reactions take place in your body. The end result? Proteins clump together, known as crosslinked proteins, which accumulate over time and disrupt the normal functioning of your cells.
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)
These “crosslinks”, also known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) or glycotoxins, seem to ‘stiffen’ tissues. A stiff body is an aging body. But remember my mantra: “Your age is a given. Growing old is an option.” So don’t throw up your hands just yet. Read on…
Why You Get Stiff
Collagen is the most common and longest living protein molecule in your body. Skin care companies spend billions of dollars trying to replicate it and sell it as their revolutionary secret to erasing wrinkles. Collagen provides structure and support to not only your skin, but to your joints and organs as well.
When glucose binds with collagen (part of the aging process), your collagen loses its suppleness and becomes less flexible. As a result, your lungs, arteries, tendons, and other tissues stiffen. Stiff = Less efficient. For example, when your arteries are stiff, they lose their contractility and can’t pump as much blood through them due to their limited inability to expand and contract.
Age-Related Diseases Linked to AGEs
Posted in ♥ DAILY DOSE, Anti-Aging, Cardiovascular Health, FOOD ED| NUTRITION, Heart Healthy, Tips & Techniques
Tagged advanced glycation end products, AGEs, aging, Anti-Aging, dAGEs, meat
You just returned from the Farmer’s Market, arms overflowing with fresh, seasonal produce that need to go in the frig fast. Do you randomly stash them in the produce drawer? That is, do you put them wherever they fit… only to find that a few days later your greens are wimpy, berries are moldy, and your cucumbers are shriveling? If this sounds familiar, here’s how to store your bounty to maintain their optimal freshness.
Those drawers in your refrigerator, a.k.a. humidity drawers or produce crispers, actually have a purpose. Notice the humidity controls ranging from low to high on each drawer. Do you know what they mean?
These settings aren’t anything fancy. They simply open or close a window in the drawer. For the low humidity setting, the window is completely open; for the high humidity setting, it is completely closed. And here’s why…
The Gassy Offender
Ethylene gas is produced naturally and released by many fruits and veggies. It causes:
- Cells to degrade
- Fruit to ripen (become softer and sweeter)
- Leaves to go limp
- Seeds or buds to sprout
Knowing which items are ethylene-gas producers and which are sensitive to the gas, you’ll never toss your apples in with your lettuce again. It’s all about the gas!
What Goes in the Low-Humidity Drawer (“Low Rot”)
1. Produce that IS NOT sensitive to moisture loss.
2. Produce that emits ethylene gas. When the window is open, the gases escape, and fruits and vegetables won’t spoil prematurely.
Here are some common fruits and vegetables to keep in the low-humidity drawer (window open): Continue reading
Pumpkins are the eternal symbol of fall and a healthy food, but they’re often transformed into not-so-healthy desserts. New York magazine declared Pumpkin is the New Bacon in their headline several years ago. Aargh! That’s because the minimal amount of pumpkin used (if any) in some of these processed products is usually wrapped in layers of saturated fat (butter), refined carbs (white flour) and sugar.
However, after much ‘tinkering’ in my kitchen, you can enjoy this nutritional all-star. These pumpkin treats are not only quick and easy to make, they’re extremely moist and light in texture (yes, despite being ‘whole grain’). I’ve skimped on the fat and sugar, but not the flavor. Best of all, my cardiac patients and family gave them a huge thumbs up! 🙂
- 2 cups (117 grams) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use Vietnamese cinnamon)
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 2 large eggs (omega-3 fortified)
- 1 1/3 cups (176 grams) light brown sugar
- 2 cups (488 grams) pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
- 1/2 cup (113.5 grams) nonfat milk
- 1/4 cup (56 grams) Earth Balance® (Original) natural buttery spread, melted
- 1/4 cup (63.8 grams) unsweetened applesauce
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla bean extract)
- Date sugar (optional)
Posted in FOOD ED| NUTRITION, Get Real Food!™, Heart Healthy, Longevity, Real Food Recipes, Recipes | Desserts
Tagged beta carotene, healthy dessert, healthy food, healthy pumpkin bars, light and healthy, pumpkin, pumpkin muffins, vitamin A, weight control
Did you know… that sudden cardiac death is usually the first symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD) — especially among women?
Compared to men, studies show that women are 66% less likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease before sudden cardiac death strikes. If you’re a woman and free of symptoms, you’re not identified as “high risk” which means you’re not eligible for cardiac interventions that could save your life. SCD accounts for more than 50% of cardiac deaths (approximately 250,000 to 310,000 cases annually in the United States).
Heart Attack vs. Sudden Cardiac Death
To clarify, the terms “heart attack” and “sudden cardiac death” are NOT the same thing.
- A heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI) occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood suddenly gets blocked. Oxygen can’t get to a section of the heart and cardiac tissue dies. Most often the heart is blocked by a build-up of fatty plaque.
- Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is an abrupt loss of heart function as a result of abnormal electrical impulses within the heart. The heart’s electrical system may fail from physical stress, inherited arrhythmias, drug/alcohol abuse, chronic kidney disease, structural changes in the heart, and/or scar tissue that damages the heart’s electrical system. (Cardiac deaths were considered “sudden” if the death or cardiac arrest occurred within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms.)
Simply put, SCD is considered an ‘electrical’ problem whereas a heart attack is more of a ‘plumbing’ problem. Over the years, I’ve had several patients that were revived and survived sudden cardiac arrest who said they didn’t need cardiac rehab because they didn’t have a heart attack, but had an “electrical issue”. They couldn’t be more wrong.
SCD Risk Can Be Prevented
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a 26-year study of nearly 82,000 women that showed you can reduce your risk for sudden cardiac death. In the majority of people, coronary heart disease is usually the underlying cause of SCD and this study showed that a low-risk, healthy lifestyle is associated with a low risk of sudden cardiac death. Continue reading
Posted in ♥ DAILY DOSE, Cardiovascular Health, Exercise, FOOD ED| NUTRITION, Heart Healthy, Lifestyle, Longevity
Tagged cardiac arrest, healthy lifestyle, healthy living, heart attack, Karen Owoc, Longevity, myocardial infarction, SCD, sudden cardiac death