August 28, 2016

Blood Pressure and Heart Health


Ways to Reduce Blood Pressure and Promote Heart Health with Food and Herbs


Eat 3 tablespoons of flaxseed meal daily. Sprinkle it on sautéed vegetables, salads, and whole grains. Consuming flaxseed in a variety of foods was linked to a reduction blood pressure when eaten daily over six months. Flaxseed’s alpha linolenic acid, lignans, peptides and fiber reduce blood pressure.

Use good quality olive oil as your primary cooking and garnishing oil. Spanish researchers compared a diet of polyphenol-rich olive oil to a diet that didn't contain any polyphenols and their effects on
blood pressure over a period of four months. The results: The polyphenol-rich olive oil was linked with drops in systolic and diastolic blood pressure—especially among women with higher blood pressure to start.

Reduce consumption of saturated fat. Try to cut out most dairy. Unsweetened yoghurt is ok 3 times weekly. Limit intake of coconut products to 3 times weekly. Whenever possible, avoid pork products, lunch meat, and beef/venison/beefalo. The peptides that are produced when digesting saturated fat are known to increase blood pressure.

Reduce consumption of nuts and nut butters. Again, these protein sources are high in saturated fat and can aggravate rising blood pressure. Pistachios seem to be ok on occasion.

Limit sodium intake. Please read labels on packaged food. If a food product contains more than 50 mg of sodium per serving, try to avoid it. Stop sprinkling salt on your food before you eat it and enjoy its natural taste.

Eat more beets! A 2013 study in Nutrition Journal observed a reduction in systolic blood pressure six hours after participants drank beet juice, especially among the men. Beets naturally contain nitrates, which ease blood pressure.

Enjoy foods high in potassium. Consuming more than a cup of pomegranate juice every day for four weeks was linked to a drop blood pressure (study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition). Other potassium-rich foods include bananas and potatoes.

Focus on omega-3 fatty acids. If you aren’t doing so already, take a fish oil supplement. I recommend Nordic Naturals. Include salmon in your diet weekly and enjoy eggs daily or every other day.

Enjoy magnesium-rich foods. These are known to lower blood pressure and are delicious, too!
Choose chard, kale, avocados, pumpkin seeds, black beans, and quinoa.

Drink herbal tea! A blend of linden flowers, hawthorn berries, motherwort flowers and hibiscus flowers promotes heart health due to the high anthocyanin and polyphenol content of these plants. Add a bit of raw honey to sweeten the tea.

Practice deep breathing. Calming the nervous system has a proven effect on reducing blood pressure. Try this: breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 2, breathe out for 4, hold for 2. Repeat this cycle 3 times.

Get cardio-vascular exercise 2 or 3 times weekly. Walk uphill or ride a bicycle at a rate vigorous enough to feel your heart pounding. Do this for at least 10 minutes. Slow down, then resume the vigorous rate for 10 more minutes. Remember to stretch a bit before and after exercising.

August 20, 2016

Healthy Eating at Work

Serotonin is our basic feel-good hormone. If serotonin is low, we feel sad or depressed. And hormonal imbalance or weak digestion can lead to low serotonin. Unfortunately, sugars and simple carbohydrates release a short burst of serotonin — we feel good for a moment, but soon return to our low-serotonin state — then crave more sugar and simple carbohydrates. It’s a downward spiral.

Food cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When we are exhausted or blue, we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin (our ‘feel-good’ hormone). At these times, the body signals the brain that it needs energy. This signal causes a sugar or carbohydrate craving, which only temporarily releases endorphins to raise serotonin levels. Thirty minutes after we indulge the craving, levels plummet again and the vicious cycle starts over.

Work defines our lives, yet we cannot let it take over the way we eat. Try these simple tips to develop healthy workplace eating habits.

To avoid unhealthy foods on a stressful day, keep these super foods on hand:
Almonds and 80% dark chocolate;
Refrigerated fruit and vegetable smoothies (I like Odwalla);
Apples and oranges.

Enjoy one of these as a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.

Go for a 5 minute walk around the building or outside after you eat a snack. Breathe deeply. Listen to yourself breathe.

Keep an electric tea kettle at your desk. When you are feeling tired or craving snacks, heat water for tea and enjoy it as you work. Choose green tea or herbal varieties. Add honey instead of sugar to sweeten it. As you sip, try to keep your tongue resting softly behind your front teeth. This practice loosens tension in the jaw, hence relaxing the whole body.

Ways to reduce cravings and better meet the body’s needs:
Drink water. Often, when we crave sugar, our body is de-hydrated. Stop, notice your craving, and try to drink a glass of water before reaching for sweets.

Reach for fruit. Keep fruit handy for when sugar cravings hit. You'll get fiber and nutrients along with some sweetness. And stock up on foods like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.

Move your body. When a sugar craving hits, walk away. Take a walk around the block or go somewhere to change the scenery. It may take your mind off your craving.

Eat regularly. Waiting too long between meals may set you up to choose sugary, fatty foods that cut your hunger. Instead, eating every three to five hours can help keep blood sugar stable and help you avoid irrational eating behavior. Choose protein, fiber-rich foods like whole grains and vegetables.

Eat a bit of what you’re craving. Enjoying a little of what you love can help you steer clear of feeling denied.

Combine sweets and protein. If the idea of stopping at a cookie or a baby candy bar seems impossible, you can still fill yourself up and satisfy a sugar craving, too. As a beneficial bonus, you'll satisfy a craving and get healthy nutrients from those good-for-you foods.

Packing a daily lunch:
Make a weekly dinner plan with your family that everyone will enjoy. For example:
Burrito night – corn tortillas, beans, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, salsa
Pasta night – grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, olives, spinach, and garlic
Soup night: leftover grilled chicken and roasted sweet potatoes, chicken broth, side salad
Stir fry night: onions, ginger, carrots, bok choy, adzuki beans over brown rice
Breakfast for dinner night: scrambled eggs with mushrooms and peppers, sourdough bread

Casserole night: leftover stir fry baked with cornmeal, eggs, and yogurt

Be sure you make large batches so that you can take leftovers to work. Pack them as you are cleaning up from dinner and have a little cooler and ice packs ready in the morning. This way, you can assemble lunch, snacks, and go!


In addition to these leftovers, set aside 2 hours over the weekend to prepare some of the recipes below. You can take them to work and trust that they will help you reduce cravings and avoid unhealthy food.

August 10, 2016

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Summer is transitioning into its late stages and we move from enjoying the bitter flavor of quinoa olives and salad greens to embracing the sweet flavor of millet and round vegetables.

Why not mix the bitter and the sweet in this delicious chocolate cake recipe? Try it and let me know what you think. It makes a great birthday cake.

You will need:
1 bar dark chocolate 80%
1/2 cup butter
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons coconut flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat.
Place in food processor with all other ingredients.
Blend well.

Pour in greased cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Dust with cocoa powder or cover with coconut frosting if you like.

July 14, 2016

Middle Eastern Feast

Dear friends of ours are getting married this fall. I have the honor of helping coordinate the wedding feast. Because the bride grew up in Jerusalem, they are choosing a Middle Eastern theme for dinner. 

Here are some recipes from the feast, which are perfect for cooling summer heat. They will tantalize your senses and get your creative juices flowing.

Tabbouleh


You will need:
1 1/2 cups bulghur wheat*
2 cups boiling water
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups minced scallions
1 1/4 cups chopped fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 cucumber, unpeeled and diced
3 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

*You can substitute cooked quinoa for a gluten-free version of this salad.
Place the bulghur in a large serving bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.
Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, salt, and pepper.
Mix well. 

Cover and refrigerate. 
The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh marinates for a few hours.

Watermelon Mint Feta Salad


You will need:
One 8 pound (approximately) watermelon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 limes, juiced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup fresh chopped mint leaves
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese (goat or sheep milk feta is best)

Chop the watermelon, remove the seeds, and place in a colander to drain.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, fresh lime juice, salt, and black pepper to create a dressing.
Place watermelon in a large salad bowl. Pour dressing and chopped mint over the watermelon and toss gently to coat.
Crumble the feta over the top ans stir gently to incorporate all ingredients.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Israeli Salad

This salad is delicious served with feta and olives or fresh pita bread.

You will need:
3 cups Roma tomatoes, diced (about 5 tomatoes)
2 cups cucumbers, diced (about 2 cucumbers)
1 cup yellow bell pepper, diced (about 1 pepper)
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons green onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Toss together all ingredients in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
This salad's flavors improve when given a few hours to marinate. Prepare it mid-day to serve at dinner.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

July 10, 2016

Salad Summer

Summer is a wonderful time to combine fresh ingredients and minimal cooking effort to create a delicious meal. Try these salad recipes to nourish and inspire you.

Arugula, Potato and Green Bean Salad


You will need:
1/3 cup walnuts
2 pounds fingerling potatoes, chopped
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 packed cups arugula

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add potatoes, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a colander to drain and cool. Set aside.

Return pan of water to a boil. Add green beans, and cook until tender and bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the colander with the potatoes.

Whisk together vinegar, mustard and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl; season with pepper. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Set dressing aside.

Arrange arugula, potatoes, and green beans on a platter. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with toasted walnuts; toss to coat.


Parsley Cilantro Chickpea Salad


For the salad:
2 cups cooked chick peas OR one 14 ounce can chickpeas. drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons each: salt, black pepper, allspice, cumin, and cardamon

5 packed cups of salad greens
2 cups cucumbers, diced (about 1 cucumber)
2 cups tomatoes, diced (about 3 medium tomatoes)
1/3 cup each of fresh cilantro and Italian parsley. chopped

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon each: salt and black pepper

Cook and drain the chickpeas. If cooking dried chickpeas, soak them overnight and boil them in water for 2 hours until tender.
Place them in a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper, allspice, cumin and cardamom. Saute on medium heat for 5 minutes. 

Chop cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and cilantro.
Wash and drain salad greens.

Remove chickpeas heat and place them in a serving bowl with all the other salad ingredients.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad, toss well, and refrigerate to marinate for at least 1 hour.
Enjoy!

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