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”

How to Slow Growing Old

Businessman Suffering From Shoulder PainIf 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.

In addition to AGEs, the following factors promote the breakdown of collagen resulting in skin laxity and wrinkling:

  • Hormone loss (estrogen levels decline after menopause)
  • Sun exposure
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Pollution
  • Other sources of free radicals

The condition of your skin is a good reflection of what’s going on internally. When glucose binds with collagen (part of the aging process), 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      

Continue reading “How to Slow Growing Old”

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”

ABC10 | Vegetarian Hawaiian Luau

Guest appearance on ABC10 “Sac & Co”

VIDEO: Native Hawaiian cuisine traditionally consisted of meat (pig and fowl), fish and shellfish, pineapples, coconuts, coconut milk, sweet potatoes, taro, seaweed, and sea salt as a condiment. Here’s an updated veggie version of some historical Hawaiian dishes which incorporate some of these native foods. I chatted with host Mellisa Paul on Sac & Co, ABC10’s local morning TV show out of Sacramento, about how to host a vegetarian Hawaiian luau.

Vegetarian Hawaiian Luau_Sac&Co1Vegetarian Hawaiian Luau_Sac&Co3

Here’s what I prepared for the show:

  • Vegetarian Poke: tofu, mango, avocado, wakame (seaweed to impart the flavor of the sea), sweet onions (e.g., Maui or Vidalia onions), green onions, macadamia nuts, Hawaiian sea salt
  • Vegetarian Lau Lau: sweet potato, spinach, sweet onions, green onions, coconut milk, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, Hawaiian sea salt, and collard greens
  • Hibiscus Cooler 
  • Mango Freeze
  • Sparkling POG Juice
  • Haupia with fresh fruit and edible flowers (coconut dessert – pudding style)
  • Hawaiian bread pudding
  • Fresh pineapple in freshly cut coconut bowls

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: If you cannot find Maui or Vidalia onions, look for an onion that has a flattened vs round globe shape. These onions are less pungent due to their low amount of sulfur compounds which allows their ‘sweetness’ (sugar) to come through.