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 “ABC10 | Healthy Easter Basket Treats”

Lengthen the Life of Your Produce | Frig 101

Fresh produce in grocery bag

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.

humidity-drawerThose 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”)

Apples, pears and grapes

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 “Lengthen the Life of Your Produce | Frig 101”

Whole Grains for Your Heart? Use the 5 to 1 Fiber Rule

Grain and cereal food selection in heart shaped porcelain bowls over lokta paper background. Green freekeh wheat in large dish with ears.

Ever since your doctor told you to start eating more fiber-rich foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes (beans, split peas, chick peas, and lentils), you switched to eating whole wheat bread. You congratulated yourself on trading in (reluctantly) your soft white “wonder” for a 21-grain brick, but your new kind of loaf may not be as healthy and whole as you might think.

Why You Need More Dietary Fiber

There is accumulating evidence that eating more dietary fiber reduces your risk for:

• Type 2 diabetes
• Cardiovascular disease
• Certain cancers
• Weight gain
• Obesity
• Diverticular disease
• Functional constipation

According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, as your fiber intake goes up, your risk of metabolic syndrome goes down resulting in less inflammation and a drop in obesity risk. It was concluded that greater dietary fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease. (See ‘”Inflammation / Foods that Heal and Harm“)

It’s no surprise that another study concluded that for every additional 7 grams of fiber consumed, heart disease risk decreased by 9%. Seven grams of fiber really doesn’t equate to that much food. You can get 7 grams through a serving of whole grains plus beans or lentils (e.g., rice and beans), or a few servings of fruits and vegetables.

How Dietary Fiber Benefits Your Heart

The cardiovascular benefits of dietary fiber include:

  • Helps get rid of excess bile (reduces LDL “bad” cholesterol)
  • Reduces cholesterol production
  • Feeds our “good” bacteria
  • Changes our gut hormones
  • Promotes eating low-calorie-density foods
  • Increases satiety
  • Delays gastric emptying

These effects collectively help control your cholesterol, body weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure which all reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Also, per a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dietary fiber has been shown to reduce inflammation, specifically, C-reactive protein, a sensitive inflammatory marker that can predict chronic disease.

Eat More Whole Plant Foods

Consuming more dietary fiber means eating lots of whole plant foods, such as:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Soluble fiber acts like a “cholesterol sponge”. Sources include:

  • Oats
  • Nuts
  • Seeds (especially flaxseeds)
  • Legumes
  • Most fruits

Sources of insoluble fiber, a.k.a. “Nature’s Broom”, help prevent constipation and include:

  • Whole wheat
  • Wheat bran
  • Brown rice
  • Other whole grains
  • Most vegetables

When shopping for “packaged” grain products, such as bread, crackers and ready-to-eat cereals, the first word in the ingredients list should be “whole”. However, the remaining ingredients might look like a bunch of chemicals, so how do you choose?

The “Five to One Fiber Rule”   

A more reliable strategy to identify a healthy whole grain food product is to   Continue reading “Whole Grains for Your Heart? Use the 5 to 1 Fiber Rule”

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 | Super Seed Crackers

Mary's Gone Crackers Super Seed CrackersIf you’re looking for a healthy edible platform for your NuttZo™ Seven Nut & Seed Butter or savory wild salmon salad, try Mary’s Gone Crackers® Super Seed Cracker! I like them dunked in fresh guacamole, but you can try them with your favorite salsa or dipped in some melted dark chocolate. Mmmm! But don’t get me wrong, they’re great naked right out of the box too!

I consider most crackers as bits of baked flour, butter or hydrogenated fat, and salt — pretty empty of any noteworthy nutrients. But these crispy Super Seed Crackers were a nice surprise. They’re made with real whole ingredients and are organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.

Ingredients: Whole grain brown rice, whole grain quinoa, seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, brown flax, and brown sesame), filtered water, sea salt, sea weed, black pepper, herbs. No added sugar or oil.

One serving (13 crackers) contains:

  • 160 calories
  • 200 mg sodium (a little over the 1:1 ratio of calories to sodium, but pretty close)
  • 3 grams of dietary fiber
  • 1 gram of saturated fat

NOTE: On our last Superfood Friday (featuring broccoli) in cardiac rehab, these crackers got the thumbs up when sampled with the ‘broccamole‘ that I made. So, the next time you roll out your favorite dip, give these crackers a try. Let me know what you think! 😀

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: This just in… One of my cardiac patients told me that he bought a box of Super Seed Crackers at Costco after reading this post. He paid $7.99 for a 20-oz. box. I bought my 5.5 oz box at Sprouts for $4.99. Thanks for the tip, Dirk!