Category Archives: Antioxidants

ABC10 | Healthy Easter Basket Treats

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

Matcha: The Ultimate Health Drink ☘

Organic green matcha tea

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
  • Stroke

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.

Catechin Polyphenols

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:

  • Black
  • Green
  • Oolong
  • White

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

Does Tea Make You Pee?

Hot Organic Black Tea

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.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Enjoy your cup of tea and don’t worry about your pee! 😀

Source:
Black tea is not significantly different from water in the maintenance of normal hydration in human subjects: results from a randomised controlled trialBritish Journal of Nutrition. August 2011.

Fit Minute | Why Pumpkin Promotes Anti-Aging

pumpkin_adobestock_117487967‘Tis the season for pumpkin! Here are the nutrition bullet points that make them well worth eating:

  • Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene (an important antioxidant).
  • Beta-carotene (a bright orange plant pigment) is converted to vitamin A in your body.

Vitamin A is for Anti-Aging

Foods rich in beta-carotene:

  • May reduce your risk of developing certain cancers.
  • Offer protection against heart disease and some degenerative aspects of aging, including cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Keep your skin soft and smooth. Vitamin A rebuilds body tissues and helps control the production of sebum (oil) that lubricates your skin.  If you’re deficient in this vitamin, you’ll end up with dry, scaly skin.
  • Destroy free radicals, that is, the by-products of oxidation from normal metabolic processing. These little scavengers cause cellular damage and are responsible for aging skin.
  • Attack the free radicals that break down your skin’s elastin and collagen – the vital components of youthful, firm and resilient skin.

pumpkin-seeds_adobestock_24256286Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are a good souce of fiber and healthy fats and an excellent source of iron — especially for vegans. A handful of pepitas (about 85 little seeds) contain about 1 mg. of iron. That’s about 4% of the recommended amount of iron you need each day.

Iron is essential due to its oxygen-carrying capacity. An iron deficiency can impair muscle function, normal function of the nervous and immune systems, and can limit your work capacity during exercise.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Roast and season pumpkin seeds and kernels for a bone-building high-fiber snack. To spice them up, sprinkle them with garlic powder, cayenne and smoked paprika. Also, try some Super Moist Pumpkin Bars for a boost of vitamin A!

Is Your Diet Causing Your Wrinkles?

concept of aging and skin care. face of young woman and an old woman with wrinkles isolated

Concerned about aging and looking older than you really are? Then don’t eat white sugar. Why? Because processed sugar binds to and eventually weakens the collagen in your skin. Save your money if you’re buying expensive skin creams, but eating processed sugar — the number-one ingredient to avoid if you want firm, resilient and radiant skin.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and one of the most revealing places where aging occurs.  Over time, your skin may lose its original ‘snug fit’ and begin to wrinkle and sag due in part to your collagen cells breaking down. Collagen is the main structural protein in connective tissue that provides strength to the skin. It’s abundant in blood vessels, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bone as well.

The sugar-collagen reaction can lead to premature wrinkles and sagging. Sweet Tooth = Wrinkles. All those sugary donuts, Danishes and cookies may be hard to resist despite knowing they could end up settling on your hips and waistline, but perhaps thinking about them showing up as wrinkles on your face and neck or as ‘crepey’, loose skin may help strengthen your will to resist them.

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Remember… sugar speeds up the aging process. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits every day to get the essential components for healthy skin – AND a strong heart! Eat 8-10 total servings daily of fruits and vegetables. That is, 5 or more vegetable servings + 3 fruit servings. Get Real Food! Coming soon… why your heart needs collagen too! 

VIDEOS: Watch Karen’s videos on what to eat for healthy skin. Get science-based info on skin nutrition in less than 3 minutes.

Top Anti-Aging Foods: Part 1 | Best Diet for Your Skin (02:53)
The skin needs essential vitamins to function and look its best.
Discover which ones you need and where to get them. Karen Owoc, The
Health Reporter, provides an overview of the foods to eat to get the key
vitamins necessary for healthy, youthful and glowing skin.

Top Anti-Aging Foods: Part 2 | Best Diet for Your Skin (02:36)
Healthy skin needs essential minerals and fats to do its job and to look its best. Find out which ones you need and where to get them. Karen Owoc, The Health Reporter, identifies the essential fatty acids and minerals that keep your skin smooth and radiant.

Fit Find | Ground Chia Seeds

Ground Chia SeedChia seeds? If you’re having sudden flashbacks of your old Chia Pet® from the 1980’s and you’re impulsively singing “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” right now, you’re probably not alone. Believe it or not, we’re talking about the same ‘chia’ but… instead of watching the seeds sprout into “animal fur”, we’re eating them!

Chia seeds, like flax seeds, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (2.3 grams ALA per two tablespoons). These omega-3’s increase the production of anti-inflammatory substances that help prevent “cell adhesion molecules” from causing plaque buildup in your arteries.

These little seeds also pack in a good amount of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. They’re small (little ovals) and typically black in color. To receive the benefits of the fatty acids, they need to be hydrated before eating them. These seeds can soak up to 12 times their weight in liquid and when soaked, they form a gelatinous texture which make them an excellent binding agent in baking.

chia-seed-smoothie_adobestock_77942716_croppedThese nutritious seeds now come finely ground to a powder which make them easy to blend in your yogurt, cereal, smoothies, salads, and soups. And like ground flaxseeds, they’re great in baked goods too. Spectrum® Ground Chia Seeds have been cold milled. Since Omega-3 fats are sensitive to heat, the cold milling process is a plus. On that note, be sure to store your seeds in the freezer or refrigerator to extend their shelf life because these seeds are also sensitive to oxygen (air) and light. Oxidation will affect the nutritional value of the healthy fats as well as cause them to go rancid.

*I especially like the Spectrum brand for chia and flaxseeds. They are packed in a light protective pouch and sealed airtight which is probably why they contain more omega-3’s than other brands. NEVER buy your seeds from self-serve bins or barrels in the grocery store!

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: You can substitute ground chia seeds (or ground flaxseeds) for eggs in recipes if you’re a vegan — or like me, sometimes you’re just out of eggs! Simply mix 3 tablespoons of water with one tablespoon of ground chia seeds (3:1 ratio) for every large egg. After stirring together, let the mixture sit for five minutes, then add it to your recipe.

How to Build a Better Salad

I love this infographic created by the Cleveland Clinic! Colorful guide on how to build a salad with lots of healthy layers…

how to build a better salad_cleveland clinic_cropped

Continue reading

SPA Smoothie (Spinach, Peach & Apple)

VitamixAfter investing in my super high-performance Vitamix® blender last year, I realized I haven’t been putting it to good use lately. So… it’s ‘Soup and Smoothie Week’ in my house. Please send me your favorite recipes!

Smoothies are an excellent (sneaky) way to get my teen to swallow his dark leafy greens and flaxseeds. 😀  Here’s one of my simple, teen-tested, smoothies that makes an ideal breakfast, morning boost or power snack. (If the thought of drinking blended spinach makes you say, “Ewww…”, believe me, you won’t even taste it in this recipe. )    Continue reading

Eat this Food EVERY Day

Puppy eating dog foodTake a tip from your vet. Dogs are eating this wonder food every day, why not you? Wouldn’t you also like a soft, glossy coat and healthy skin? This superseed is known for its immune system benefits and  anti-inflammatory properties.  What is it? It’s ground flaxseed.

Per a study published in the American Journal of Physiology¹, flaxseed is actually considered a ‘functional food’.  That is, it:

  • Has physiological benefits and/or
  • Reduces the risk of chronic disease
  • Has basic nutritional effects

Dietary flaxseed is a rich source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and lignans which may help:

Be sure the flaxseed is ground (not whole) to receive the health benefits.

Be sure the flaxseed is ground (not whole) to receive the health benefits.

1. Decrease inflammation by blocking the release of some pro-inflammatory agents. Studies show atherosclerotic plaque regression can occur when inflammation is inhibited. Once plaque regression occurs, your arterial walls can heal and are better able to open and relax (necessary for healthy heart function). See “Inflammation | Foods that Heal and Harm“.

2. Decrease total cholesterol by 7% and LDL levels or “bad” cholesterol by 10%. (Per a study of menopausal women² that consumed 4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed each day for three months.)

Atherosclerosis disease - plague blocking blood flow3. Reduce atherosclerotic plaque buildup by up to 75%. Arteries harden when plaque is deposited in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Some studies suggest that flaxseed omega-3’s keep white blood cells from sticking to the inner lining of the blood vessels.    Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | Clams: A Cardiac Superfood

Canned clamsDID YOU KNOW….  clams top the list as a source of vitamin B12? In fact, just one serving of clams (three ounces) has 14 times more vitamin B12 than a fortified breakfast cereal with 100% DV!

100% DV (Daily Value) of a nutrient is based on a 2,000-calorie diet and means a serving of the food contains 100% of your daily needs. This water-soluble vitamin plays a key role in cell metabolism, the formation of blood, and the normal functioning of your brain and nervous system. (See ♥ Daily Dose | Vit. B12 Deficiency)

Clams are also an excellent source of heme iron. Believe it or not, they’re right up there with beef liver. Heme iron is found in animal foods and derived from hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen). The body absorbs the most iron from heme sources of iron. Iron is essential due to its oxygen-carrying capacity.

An iron deficiency can impair muscle function, normal function of the nervous and immune systems, and can limit your work capacity during exercise. So, if you have a cardiac condition, it’s important to get enough iron each day. Patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) are prone to develop iron deficiency and iron supplementation improves functional status and quality of life.    Continue reading