Thursday, December 31, 2009

Medicinal Herbs: Wild Yam

Wild yam


In the 18th and 19th centuries, herbalists used wild yam (Dioscorea villosa ) to treat menstrual cramps and problems related to childbirth, as well as for stomach upset and coughs. In the 1950s, scientists discovered that the roots of wild yam (not to be confused with the sweet potato yam) contain diosgenin, a phytoestrogen (derived from plants) that can be chemically converted into a hormone called progesterone. Diosgenin was used to make the first birth control pills in the 1960s.

Although herbalists continue to use wild yam to treat menstrual cramps, nausea, and morning sickness associated with pregnancy, inflammation, osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms, and other health conditions, there is no evidence that it works. Indeed, several studies have found that it has no effect at all. That is because the body cannot change diosgenin into progesterone; it has to be done in a lab. Wild yam, by itself, does not contain progesterone.


Early Americans used wild yam to treat colic; another name for the plant is colic root. Traditionally, it has been used to treat inflammation, muscle spasms, and a range of disorders, including asthma. However, there is no scientific evidence that it works.

Menopause and Osteoporosis

Although wild yam is often touted as a natural source of estrogen, there is essentially no scientific evidence of wild yam's effectiveness in treating menopausal symptoms or osteoporosis. In fact, several studies have found that wild yam does not reduce the symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes) or increase levels of estrogen or progesterone in the body. Some preparations of wild yam may contain progesterone, but only because a synthetic version of progesterone (medroxyprogesterone acetate or MPA) has been added to the herb.

High Cholesterol

Researchers have theorized that taking wild yam may help reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood, although studies have shown mixed results. Diosgenin seems to block the body from absorbing cholesterol, at least in animal studies. But in studies of people, cholesterol levels have not gone down (although fats -- triglycerides -- in the blood have decreased). More research is needed to say whether wild yam is beneficial for people with high cholesterol.

Plant Description

Also known as colic root, wild yam is a twining, tuberous vine. One species is native to North America; another is native to China. Both contain diosgenin and have similar medicinal properties. There are an estimated 600 species of yam in the genus Dioscorea, many of them wild species that flourish in damp woodlands and thickets, and not all contain diosgenin. Wild yam is a perennial vine with pale brown, knotty, woody cylindrical rootstocks, or tubers. Unlike sweet potato yams, the roots are not fleshy. Instead they are dry, narrow, and crooked, and bear horizontal branches of long creeping runners. The thin reddish-brown stems grow to a length of over 30 feet. The roots initially taste starchy, but soon after taste bitter and acrid.

The wild yam plant has clusters of small, greenish-white and greenish-yellow flowers. The heart-shaped leaves are long and broad and long-stemmed. The upper surface of the leaves is smooth while the underside is downy.

What's it Made of?

The dried root, or rhizome, is used in commercial preparations. It contains diosgenin, a phytoestrogen that can be chemically converted to the hormone progesterone; however, diosgenin on its own does not seem to act like estrogen in the body.

Available Forms

Wild yam is available as liquid extract and as a powder. The powdered form may be purchased in capsules or compressed tablets. The fluid extract can be made into tea. Creams containing wild yam are also available.

How to Take It


It is not known whether wild yam is safe for pediatric use, so do not give it to children.


The following are recommended adult doses for wild yam:

  • Dried herb to make tea: 1 - 2 tsp dried root to 1 cup water. Pour boiling water over dried root, steep 3 - 5 minutes. Drink 3 times a day
  • Tincture: 40 - 120 drops, 3 times a day
  • Fluid extract: 10 - 40 drops, 3 - 4 times per day
  • Creams: Contain 12% of wild yam extract; use as directed

Note: Wild yam is often combined with other herbs said to have estrogen-like effects, such as black cohosh. Creams containing wild yam, as well as tablets and powders, may contain synthetic hormones. Check the ingredients carefully.


The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

Although it does not appear to have hormone-like effects in the body, there is a slight risk that wild yam could produce effects similar to estrogen. Because of that risk, anyone with a personal or family history of hormone-related cancer should check with their doctor before using any form of "natural" hormone replacement, including wild yam.

Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid wild yam.

Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use wild yam without first talking to your health care provider.

Hormone Replacement Therapy or Birth Control Pills -- An animal study indicated that the active component of wild yam, diosgenin, may interact with estradiol, a hormone that occurs naturally in the body and also is used in some birth control medications and certain hormone replacement therapies.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Medicinal Herbs: Valerian



Valerian has been used to ease insomnia, anxiety, and nervous restlessness since the second century A.D., and grew especially popular in Europe in the 17th century. It is also used to treat stomach cramps and as a diuretic. Now research has begun to confirm the scientific validity of these historic uses. Germany's Commission E approved valerian as an effective mild sedative and the United States Food and Drug Administration listed valerian as "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS). Scientists aren't sure how valerian works, but they believe it increases the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and has a calming effect on anxiety. A class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which includes alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), also work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain. Researchers think valerian may have a similar, but weaker effect.


Valerian is a popular alternative to commonly prescribed medications for sleep problems because it is considered to be both safe and gentle. Some studies bear this out, although not all have found valerian to be effective. One of the best designed studies found that valerian was no more effective than placebo for the first 28 days, but after that valerian greatly improved sleep for those who were taking it. That has led researchers to speculate that you may need to take valerian for a few weeks before it begins to work. Other studies show that valerian reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep itself. Plus, unlike many prescription sleep aids, valerian may have fewer side effects such as morning drowsiness.

Plant Description

Valerian is a perennial plant that is native to Europe and grows up to 2 feet tall. It is cultivated to decorate gardens but also grows wild in damp grasslands. Straight, hollow stems are topped by umbrella-like heads. Its dark green leaves are pointed at the tip and hairy underneath. Small, sweet-smelling white, light purple or pink flowers bloom in June. The root is light grayish brown and has little odor when fresh.

What's It Made Of?

The root of the plant is used medicinally and is pressed into fresh juice or freeze-dried to form powder.

Available Forms

Valerian fluid extracts and tinctures are sold in alcohol or alcohol-free (glycerite) bases. Powdered valerian is available in capsule or tablet form, and also as a tea.

Valerian root has a sharp odor. It iis often combined with other calming herbs, including passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), hops (Humulus lupulus), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and kava (Piper methysticum) to mask the scent. Kava, however, has been associated with liver damage, so it is best to avoid it.

How to Take It

Valerian is often standardized to contain 0.3 - 0.8% valerenic or valeric acid, although researchers aren't sure that those are the active ingredients.


Although one pilot study found no side effects using valerian in children, you should talk to your doctor before giving valerian to a child.


For insomnia, valerian may be taken 1 - 2 hours before bedtime, or up to 3 times in the course of the day, with the last dose near bedtime. It may take a few weeks before the effects are felt.

  • Tea: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 teaspoonful (2 - 3 g) of dried root, steep 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Tincture (1:5): 1 - 1 1/2 tsp (4 - 6 mL)
  • Fluid extract (1:1): 1/2 - 1 tsp (1 - 2 mL)
  • Dry powdered extract (4:1): 250 - 600 mg
  • For anxiety, 200 mg 3 - 4 times per day

Once sleep improves, valerian should be continued for 2 - 6 weeks.


The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

Valerian is generally regarded as safe.

Even though most studies show no adverse effects on fertility or fetal development, more research is needed in humans. Experts advise pregnant and nursing women to avoid taking valerian.

Some people may have a "paradoxical reaction" to valerian, feeling anxious and restless after taking the herb instead of calm and sleepy.

Valerian does not appear to cause dependency or result in withdrawal symptoms for most people when they stop taking it. But there are a few reports of withdrawal symptoms when valerian has been used over very long periods of time. If you want to stop taking valerian, taper your dose gradually rather than stopping all at once.

Valerian should not be used while driving, operating heavy machinery, or during other activities that require you to be alert. It is best not to use valerian for longer than 1 month without your health care provider's approval.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Medicinal Herbs: Uva Ursi

Uva ursi


Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi), also known as bearberry because bears like eating the fruit, has been used medicinally since the 2nd century. Native Americans used it as a remedy for urinary tract infections. In fact, until the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, uva ursi was a common treatment for such bladder and related infections. Through modern-day scientific research in test tubes and animals, researchers have discovered that uva ursi's antibacterial properties, which can fight infection, are due to several chemicals, including arbutin and hydroquinone. The herb also contains tannins that have astringent effects, helping to shrink and tighten mucous membranes in the body. That, in turn, helps reduce inflammation and fight infection.

Today, uva ursi is sometimes used to treat urinary tract infections and cystitis (bladder inflammation). Researchers believe the herb is most effective when a person's urine is alkaline since acid destroys its antibacterial effect. However, more research is needed to determine if uva ursi is effective in humans.

In addition, uva ursi can be toxic: Hydroquinone can cause serious liver damage. Conventional medications that have fewer risks are available to treat urinary tract infections.

Plant Description

Uva ursi is a trailing evergreen shrub that produces red berries and flourishes in alpine forests in many regions, including North America, Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, Siberia, and the Himalayas. It grows slowly but succeeds in places where other plants cannot, such as the walls of canyons. It has short, creeping, red-brown branches and pink or white bell-shaped flowers that bloom in the summer, followed by clusters of berries. Bears are said to be fond of the shiny, bright red or pink fruit, which is edible but sour tasting.

Parts Used

Only the leaves -- not the berries -- are used in medicinal preparations.

Available Forms

Uva ursi is commercially available as crushed leaf or powder preparations.

How to Take It


Do not give uva ursi to children.


Because uva ursi can be toxic, talk to your doctor before taking it. Recommended adult doses are:

  • Dried herb (available in capsules): 2 - 4 g per day, standardized to 400 - 800 mg of arbutin
  • Tea: Soak 3 g of dried leaves in 5 oz. of water for 12 hours. Strain and drink hot or cold 3 - 4 times per day.

Uva ursi should not be taken for more than 5 days at a time. (See "Precautions" section.) Do not take with vitamin C or orange juice.


The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.

Because uva ursi requires an alkaline urine to work as an antibiotic, you should avoid eating foods that contribute to forming acidic urine.

One of the chemicals in uva ursi, hydroquinone, can be very toxic to the liver. Uva ursi should be taken only for short periods (no longer than 5 days) under a doctor's supervision, and should not be repeated more than 5 times in 1 year. Do not exceed recommended doses.

Reported side effects are generally mild and include nausea and vomiting, irritability, and insomnia.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or people with high blood pressure, should not take uva ursi.

Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use uva ursi without first talking to your health care provider.

Drugs and supplements that make urine more acidic -- These include vitamin C, cranberry juice, orange juice, and other citrus fruits and juices.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids -- Animal studies conducted in Japan suggest uva ursi may increase the anti-inflammatory effects of these drugs, although it isn't known whether the herb would have that effect in people.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Eat Breatfast!

By Elizabeth Ward, Men's Health

In the time you spend each morning calibrating your hair gel, you could be doing something more important, with a much better payoff: eating breakfast. Mom was right (and it's okay to admit it): Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

It keeps you slim: Breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight than breakfast skippers, and successful dieters are also more likely to be breakfast eaters.

It keeps you healthy: Eating breakfast may reduce your risk of serious illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer, and it strengthens your immune system so you're more resistant to common ailments like colds and the flu.

It keeps you sharp: Memory and concentration get a boost from breakfast. A study on children found that kids who eat breakfast score higher on tests and are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity. It should help you at the office, too.

The Perfect Meal
You say you eat breakfast? Good boy. Even so, it's likely you're doing it wrong. "Most men make the mistake of eating too little in the morning, and then get so hungry they go overboard and eat a giant meal later in the day," says Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., a nutritionist in Irvine, California, and author of Stealth Health.

A typical breakfast is just a couple of hundred calories, mostly in the form of simple carbohydrates that spike blood-sugar levels and leave the body starving for energy a couple of hours later.

Even a classic fiber-rich breakfast — say a cup of raisin bran with blueberries and skim milk — provides less than 300 calories and only about 10 grams of protein. An ideal breakfast needs to be much larger — between 500 and 600 calories. And it needs to be packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, including at least 20 grams of protein and at least 5 grams of fiber. That will give your body a high-quality, long-lasting, steady supply of energy to help you through the morning.

Here's how to hit those numbers. Each of the following meals tastes great and can be made in minutes.

Blueberry Smoothie With Toasted-Cheese Sandwich
Prep time: 4 minutes
2 slices whole-wheat bread 1/2 c Kashi Go Lean Crunch! cereal 1 c fat-free milk 1 c frozen blueberries 1 1-oz slice Cheddar cheese Pop the bread into the toaster. Dump the cereal, milk, and berries into a blender and liquefy. Stick a slice of Cheddar between the warm slices of toast and nuke the sandwich in a microwave for 15 seconds. It tastes grilled—but isn't.

Benefits: "The cheese and milk in this meal are essential for building and maintaining new muscle," says Christine Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at Georgia State University. "The whole grains in the bread and cereal will help lower cholesterol, and the minerals in the milk and cheese will help keep blood-pressure levels down." Per meal: 509 calories, 26 grams (g) protein, 75 g carbohydrates, 14 g total fat, 12 g fiber

Grab-and-Go Breakfast
Prep time: 1 minute 1 medium apple 1/2 pint fat-free milk 1 bran Vita muffin 1 pack Skippy Squeeze Stix peanut butter Slice the apple, grab the milk, muffin, and peanut butter, and go. Squeeze the peanut butter out of its pack onto your apple slices as you eat.

Benefits: Vita muffins (vitalicious. com) contain 100 percent of your recommended intake of several important nutrients, including vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, and E. Foods high in monounsaturated fats — like peanut butter — may boost testosterone levels. This meal should help you burn energy more efficiently and lift more weight at the gym.
Per meal: 506 calories, 20 g protein, 87 g carbohydrates, 12 g total fat, 15 g fiber

Minute Omelette with Toast
Prep time: 2 minutes
1 egg 3/4 c frozen spinach, thawed 1 slice Canadian bacon, diced 2 slices whole-wheat bread 1 Tbsp almond butter 1 c Welch's grape juice Stir together the egg, spinach, and Canadian bacon and pour onto a plate coated with nonstick spray. Microwave for 1 minute or until the egg is fully cooked. Toast the bread and eat it with the almond butter. Chase everything with grape juice.

Benefits: Monounsaturated fat in the almond spread will help prevent spikes and drops in blood sugar, which can leave you feeling tired or crabby. Grape juice gives you an antioxidant, called resveratrol, that not only helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels but also helps improve bloodflow to the heart.
Per meal: 540 calories, 25 g protein, 73 g carbohydrates, 19 g total fat, 8 g fiber

Two PB-and-Banana Wraps With Milk
Prep time: 2 minutes 2 Tbsp peanut butter 2 Eggo Special K waffles 1 medium banana 1/2 pint fat-free chocolate milk Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter over each (briefly microwaved) waffle. Divide the banana between them and roll each to make wraps. Wash down with chocolate milk.

Benefits: Eggo's Special K waffles supply complex carbohydrates, which break down slowly in the body and stimulate the production of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. The banana is packed with potassium — a heart protector.

Per meal: 570 calories, 23 g protein, 90 g carbohydrates, 16 g total fat, 7 g fiber

The Santa Fe Burrito
Prep time: 4 minutes
2 eggs 1 c Santa Fe frozen mixed vegetables (black beans, peppers, and corn) 1 flour tortilla 1/2 c low-fat shredded Cheddar cheese 1/4 c salsa Mix the eggs and vegetables and spread the mixture on a plate coated with nonstick spray. Cook in the microwave for 1 minute, stir with a fork, and microwave again until the eggs are cooked and the vegetables warm. Pile onto a flour tortilla, top with shredded Cheddar cheese and salsa, fold, and eat.

Benefits: "Without protein, guys can lose muscle mass quickly," says William J. Evans, Ph.D., a professor of geriatrics, physiology, and nutrition at the University of Arkansas. This meal is packed with it.
Per meal: 530 calories, 36 g protein, 53 g carbohydrates, 18 g total fat, 6 g fiber

Black-Cherry Smoothie and Peanut-Butter Oatmeal
Prep time: 4 minutes 1 c R.W. Knudsen black-cherry juice 1 c frozen strawberries 1 c frozen unsweetened cherries 2 Tbsp protein powder 2/3 c oatmeal 1 Tbsp peanut butter 1/2 c fat-free milk Blend the cherry juice, frozen fruit, and protein powder until smooth. Microwave the oatmeal according to the directions on the package. Stir in the peanut butter and milk.

Benefits: Men who ate at least one serving of whole-grain cereal (like oatmeal) a day had the lowest risk of dying of any cause, including heart disease, according to a 5-year study of 86,000 doctors. Cherries and strawberries are natural sources of salicylates — the active ingredient in aspirin — making them ideal for relieving stress-induced morning headaches.

Per meal: 600 calories, 27 g protein, 100 g carbohydrates, 11 g total fat, 10 g fiber

Almond-Butter-and-Raisin Sandwich With Smoothie
Prep time: 1 minute
2 Tbsp almond butter 2 Eggo Special K waffles 1 Tbsp raisins 1 Stonyfield Farm smoothie Spread the almond butter on the waffles. Sprinkle the raisins over one waffle and top with the other. Wash down with the smoothie.

Benefits: Whole-grain waffles help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve your body's processing of insulin and glucose, a benefit that can reduce your risk of becoming diabetic.

Per meal: 600 calories, 21 g protein, 86 g carbohydrates, 22 g total fat, 7 g fiber

Giving Thanks Year-Round

While many of us take time on Thanksgiving day to reflect on what we are thankful/grateful for, I choose to reflect year-round. There are many things, not possessions to be thankful for, such as health and life itself. It doesn't matter if you don't drive a nice car or have a big house. The most important things in life don't cost a thing!

Lately I have left the tv or the computer off and taken time to walk at the beach or read a good book.

No matter how healthy you are, everyday is a gift. Take time to appreciate life!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe: Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Servings: 6 (or more)


  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar and flour. Add eggs; mix well. Stir in the pumpkin, milk, vanilla and cinnamon if desired; mix until well blended. Pour into a greased 9-in. pie plate. Place pie plate in a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan; add 1/2 in. of hot water to pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Another Wonderful Recipe: Apple Carrot Muffins

Servings: 12


  • 1 3/4 cups raisin bran cereal
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped peeled tart apple
  • 3/4 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


  1. In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In a small bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apple, carrots and walnuts. Fill paper-lined muffin cups or cups coated with nonstick cooking spray three-fourths full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe: Onion Roasted Sweet Potatoes


  • 2 (1 ounce) packages dry onion soup mix
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, toss the dry onion soup mix, sweet potatoes and vegetable oil until the sweet potatoes are well coated.
  3. Arrange the mixture on a large baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven 40 to 50 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

Servings: 8

Sleep Your Way Slim

I know what you're thinking: How can I possibly lose weight by lying down? Believe me, as the type of person who likes to squeeze the most out of every second of each day, I was skeptical, too. But the research that supports the connection between getting a good night's sleep and fitting into your favorite jeans is pretty convincing.

In a study of more than 68,000 women, those who slept seven hours a night weighed 5.5 pounds less than women who slept five hours or less. Turns out, ample shut-eye encourages your body to produce more of the fullness hormone leptin and less of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Plus, catching zzz's helps curb anxiety and depression, both of which can be a tripwire for emotional eating. Insufficient rest can even compromise moral judgment, according to the journal Sleep.

Now, aiming to hit the sack early and actually doing it are two different things. There are always a million and one excuses to stay awake (I tend to read way past my bedtime). Try these tips to help you catch up on your zzzzzz's.

  • Instead of trying to adhere to a strict lights-out policy every night, aim to get in bed early at least one night per week.
  • Ease yourself into your slumber session with a bath.
  • Eating a carb-based mini-meal of no more than 200 calories 45 minutes before drifting off can raise serotonin levels, helping you relax and sleep well. Try a whole-wheat English muffin with a tablespoon of honey or a cup of instant oatmeal with 1/4 cup of chopped apple.
Turn in earlier and look forward to sweet dreams (of a fitter, more fabulous you, of course!)

By Lucy Danziger, SELF Editor-in-Chief - Posted on Tue, Jul 22, 2008, 5:36 pm PDT

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe: Breadless Stuffing

Servings: 8


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (4 ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 2 (12 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the mushrooms, garlic, celery, and onion in the olive oil 3 to 5 minutes. Add the water and bouillon; cook and stir until the bouillon is dissolved.
  3. Combine the garbanzo beans, egg, sage, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mash together with your hands until thoroughly mixed; stir in the vegetable mixture; transfer to the prepared baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes; remove the foil and bake uncovered another 10 to 15 minutes.

Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

Forget the idea of trying to diet during the holidays. Turns out, just maintaining is a worthy goal. The reason? We eat an extra 619 calories per day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, says research from Texas A&M International University in Laredo.

That's why I'm always looking for shortcuts to undo some of the diet damage that occurs when my guard is down and my rationale for eating is linked to traditions. (After all, it's family time!) Working out a little longer or adding intervals can spur extra calorie burning, as you may know. In a poll, 59 percent of readers say they step up sweat sessions to make up for extra helpings of holiday fare.

But time is also precious this month, so if you can't eke out more exercise, consider a few of these simple pound-shredding secrets:

-- Have a seat during meals: Eating while seated at a table with nice plates and utensils can lead you to consume about a third less than if you munch on the fly, a study in the journal Appetite notes. Eat more slowly, so you have time to notice when your body sends the all-full signal.

-- Sniff out peppermint: People who regularly smelled peppermint ate 23 percent fewer calories per week, a study from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia found. Pop a piece of sugarless mint gum or sip some peppermint tea and take a whiff to outsmart a craving.

-- Pack a snack with protein: Try a small container of nonfat plain yogurt or a lowfat string cheese to stave off hunger, says SELF contributor Joy Bauer, R.D. And drinking protein-packed milk after your workout can help you burn more fat, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Exercisers who had two glasses of skim milk right after toning and another two an hour later lost 2 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. (They lost four times more fat than those who drank soymilk -- holy cow!)

-- Spoon up a satisfying soup: Filling up on a minestrone or another healthy soup can help you eat less of your entree. More of a chowder fan? According to a study at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, even heartier soups can be helpful when it comes to total calories consumed. People who indulged in a fat-based soup before a pizza dinner ate 20 percent less overall than those who had a broth-based soup with the same calories.

-- Spice things up: Preparing your meals with garlic and pepper may prevent overeating, according to a study presented at The Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Francisco. Overweight people who added zero-calorie spices to their dishes dropped an average of 30 pounds in six months, compared with 2 pounds in the control group.

To gain more quick tips on losing weight, join the SELF Diet Club.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe: Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing

Servings: 10


  • 1 1/2 cups cubed whole wheat bread
  • 3 3/4 cups cubed white bread
  • 1 pound ground turkey sausage
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cooked turkey liver, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup turkey stock
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F (175 degree C). Spread the white and whole wheat bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, sage, rosemary, and thyme; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.
  3. Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl. Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries, parsley, and liver. Drizzle with turkey stock and melted butter, and mix lightly. Spoon into turkey to loosely fill.

Use Smaller Plates and Lose Weight!

Willpower is overrated. Most dieters I know deprive themselves of food and then beat themselves up when they give in to an inevitable (and also a healthy) urge to eat. Bad cycle! Plus, once starving, they end up eating more than they would have if they’d planned their next meal or snack with a level, not hungry, head.

Why not skip the blame cycle and make it easier to stick to your healthy eating plan? Some of the most creative new weight-loss strategies have nothing to do with food. Switching up the way you serve your meals may actually help you eat less. Try these tricks:

Use smaller plates. Diners given smaller dishes serve themselves smaller portions, researchers at Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, New York, found. And we eat about 92 percent of what we serve ourselves, regardless of the size of the dish, another Cornell study notes. Replace your set of jumbo dinner flying saucers (the average size is 10 to 11 inches) with smaller ones (8 to 9 inches), or use salad plates.

Outsource the kitchen cleanup. If there are three bites of lasagna left on someone’s dish after dinner, chances are, I’m eating them on the way to the dishwasher. (What? Waste food? Not me!) Rather than fight the urge to pop morsels off of your family’s plates into your mouth (rather than the garbage where they belong), assign one of your kids or your significant other to scrape-and-stack duty: They take the plates from the table, scrape what’s left into the trash, and stack them in the sink for you to load into the dishwasher. Also ask them to pack up any leftovers so you won’t nip into those, either. And don’t feel bad about what goes into the garbage—it’s as wasted on your hips as it will be in the garbage can.

By Lucy Danziger, SELF Editor-in-Chief - Posted on Thu, Mar 27, 2008, 12:03 pm PDT

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe: Pumpkin Rolls

Servings: 16 rolls


  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 (0.6 ounce) cake compressed fresh yeast
  • 5 cups bread flour


  1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Let cool until lukewarm.
  2. In a large bowl, combine milk, pumpkin, sugar, butter, salt, yeast and 2 cups flour; stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
  4. Divide the dough into four equal pieces, divide each of these pieces into four pieces and then divide each of these 16 pieces in half to make 32 pieces. Form each piece into a round and place on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

#1 Killer of Women

Why is it important for women to learn about coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is the number one cause of death of women in the United States. More women die from coronary artery disease than from the next five leading causes of death combined (cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and accidents).

But many women underestimate the threat coronary artery disease (CAD) poses to their health. Surveys show that about half of women do not know that heart disease is the number one cause of death of women.1

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is caused by the gradual buildup of plaque (made of fat, cholesterol and other substances) on the inside walls of the coronary arteries, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Over time, the plaque deposits grow large enough to narrow the arteries' inside channel, decreasing blood flow to heart muscle. If the plaque becomes unstable and ruptures, a blood clot can form at the rupture site and block blood flow altogether, resulting in a heart attack.

What factors lead to coronary artery disease and death in women?

The rate of coronary artery disease increases 2 to 3 times after menopause, the time of life when a woman's menstrual periods stop.1 This increase is not completely understood, but cholesterol, high blood pressure, and fat around the abdomen—all risk factors for coronary artery disease—also increase around this time.

In the past, medical research on heart disease was primarily focused on men. Now, researchers recognize that there are significant differences in coronary artery disease in women and men. For example, men usually have typical heart attack symptoms: chest pain that grips the chest and spreads to the shoulders, neck, and arms. Although women can have these symptoms too, many women have less common symptoms such as breathlessness, heartburn, nausea, jaw pain, back pain, or fatigue. Heart attacks in women are often brought on by anxiety or mental stress or even sleep, while heart attacks in men more often come on with exercise or exertion.

Because women do not always have the classic heart attack symptoms or typical onset of heart attacks, they may delay seeking care or, when they do seek care, may not be treated as aggressively as men.

What can women do to prevent coronary artery disease?

In response to these concerns, the American Heart Association published specific guidelines for preventing and treating coronary artery disease in women.2 These guidelines address lifestyle changes, medications and supplements, and hormone therapy in menopausal women. Ask your doctor which recommendations are appropriate for you.

Lifestyle changes
  • Stop smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Try to do moderate activity at least 2½ hours a week. Or try to do vigorous activity at least 1¼ hours a week. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.3
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet and limit saturated fat to less than 10% of calories, cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg, and avoid trans fats.
  • Keep your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 and your waist circumference less than 35 inches. To determine your BMI, see the body mass index (BMI) chart for adults.
  • If you have coronary artery disease, be evaluated for depression.
  • If you drink, do so in moderation (an average of one drink per day for women). If you do not drink, don't start.
  • Adopt the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan, and reduce daily salt intake if you have high blood pressure. For more information, see:
    High blood pressure: Using the DASH diet.
  • When high blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or higher) cannot be controlled with lifestyle approaches, consider medications to control it.
  • Lipid-lowering medication (usually statins) and lifestyle changes are recommended for women at intermediate to high risk of coronary artery disease.
  • If you have diabetes, keep your hemoglobin A1c (HA1c) level at less than 7%. HA1c is a blood test that measures how well blood sugar levels have remained within a safe range over the previous 2 to 3 months.
  • Daily, low-dose aspirin is recommended for most women who are at high risk of coronary artery disease. The routine use of low-dose aspirin in healthy women at low risk of coronary artery disease is not recommended.
  • Beta-blocker medicines, which slow heart rate and reduce the workload on the heart, are recommended for women who have had a heart attack or those who have chronic chest pain (angina).
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor medicines, which lower blood pressure and reduce the workload on the heart, should be used by most women at high risk for coronary artery disease.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) medications, which also lower blood pressure and reduce the workload on the heart, should be used by high-risk women with heart failure who cannot take ACE inhibitors.
Hormone therapy
  • Taking estrogen with or without progestin does not prevent coronary artery disease. In fact, if you are 10 or more years past menopause, taking hormone therapy may raise your risk of coronary artery disease.4
  • Talk to your doctor about your risks with hormone therapy. And carefully weigh the benefits against the risks of taking it. If you need relief for symptoms of menopause, hormone therapy is one choice you can think about. But there are other types of treatment for problems like hot flashes and sleep problems. For more information, see the topic Menopause and Perimenopause.

How will my doctor determine my risk for coronary artery disease?

Your doctor will calculate your risk for coronary artery disease by assessing the number of risk factors you have. Risk factors include:

  • High LDL cholesterol level (greater than 130).
  • Low HDL cholesterol (less than 40 mg/dL).
  • Cigarette smoking.
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mm Hg or greater) or taking medication to treat high blood pressure.
  • Family history of early coronary artery disease.
  • Being older than 65, or having gone through early menopause.
By Robin Parks, MS

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe: Apple Crisp with Cranberry Sauce


  • 4 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Place apple slices in an 8 or 9 inch square baking dish. Spread the cranberry sauce over the apples. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over the apples and cranberry sauce, covering completely.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until apples can be easily pierced with a knife and topping is browned.

10 Breast Cancer Myths Debunked

By Marisa Weiss, MD, with Barbara Loecher, Prevention
Could that sexy underwire bra cause breast cancer? What about that frozen yogurt you just ordered? Or hormone therapy? And how would you know if you had the disease until it was too late anyway? Don't some studies show that examining your breasts and getting mammograms are useless?

Amid all the rumors and controversies surrounding breast cancer these days—what causes it, how to diagnose and treat it—it's hard to know what to think. Or do. One thing we can tell you is that being able to separate fact from fiction could make the difference between life and death.

Myths 1 & 2
Myth 1: Having a risk factor for breast cancer means you'll develop the disease.
No risk factor either alone or in combination with others means you'll definitely get breast cancer. There are various factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease. Some of these appear to increase your risk only slightly. They include smoking, drinking (more than five alcoholic drinks per week year after year), getting your first menstrual period before age 12, continuing to have periods after age 50, and not having your first full-term pregnancy until after age 30. If you have a number of these, the increase in risk can start to be more meaningful.That said, even an inherited genetic abnormality in your family doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get breast cancer. Abnormalities in the so-called breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are very strong risk indicators. But 20 to 60 percent of women with these inherited abnormalities will not develop breast cancer.

Myth 2: If there is no breast cancer in your family, then you're not at risk for the disease.

Every woman is at risk for breast cancer. So are some men! For any individual woman, an inherited abnormality is the strongest risk factor, but only about 10 percent of all cases of breast cancer are due to inherited abnormalities. About 85 percent of women who develop the disease don't have a family history. That's why it's important for all women to get screened regularly.

Myths 3, 4 & 5
Myth 3: Breast cancer is passed only from your mother, not your father.
We now know that breast cancer genes can be inherited from your dad's side of the family. So ask relatives about cases on both sides and in both men and women. About 1,500 cases of male breast cancer are diagnosed in the US each year. In fact, male breast cancer is most closely associated with a BRCA2 abnormality. So if there's a man in the family who's had breast cancer, be sure to tell your doctor.

Myth 4: No matter what your risk factors are, you really don't have to worry about breast cancer until you're through menopause.

The odds of getting the disease do increase as you age. But breast cancer can occur at any age.

That's why all women need to be vigilant. Though experts recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40, your doctor may suggest that you start even earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer at a young age.

Mammography isn't the ideal screening test for women younger than 40 because it can't "see through" their dense breast tissue. So your doctor may also recommend ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). You may be able to enroll in a study of MRI for breast cancer detection for women at increased risk. To find a clinical trial, go to the searchable database at

Myth 5: Wearing a bra or using antiperspirants and deodorants increases your risk of breast cancer.

These are two Internet rumors that never seem to quit. It's not true that wearing a bra, especially underwire bras, traps toxins by limiting lymph and bloodflow in your breasts, increasing risk. There's also no proof for the claims that antiperspirants and deodorants cause cancer by keeping the body from sweating out the cancer-causing substances that build up in the breasts, or because they contain harmful chemicals that are absorbed through the skin.

Myths 6, 7 & 8
Myth 6: If you have small breasts, you're much less likely to get breast cancer.
Size doesn't matter. Any woman with breasts can get it.

Myth 7: Research shows that using hormone therapy (HT)—even for a short period of time—causes breast cancer.

Many women were understandably concerned when a major study found that HT combining estrogen and progestin increased risks of invasive breast cancer slightly. Another study also showed that combination therapy boosts breast cancer risk somewhat, however, it was able to offer some reassurance: This risk appeared to return to normal 6 months after women stopped using the therapy. This seems to be the case for women who've been on HT for just months and those who've used it for more than 5 years.

One more thing: It's important to note that no studies have found a boost in breast cancer risk for women using estrogen-only therapy. This type of therapy is prescribed solely for women who have had hysterectomies, because estrogen taken alone can cause cancer in the lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).

Myth 8: Eating high-fat foods and dairy products boosts your risk.

A number of studies have found that women who live in countries where diets tend to be lower in fat have a lower risk of breast cancer. But the majority of studies focusing on women in the US haven't found a solid link between dietary fat consumption and breast cancer risk. Why are these findings contradictory? It may be that women in other countries are at lower risk for other reasons: They exercise more, eat less, weigh less, smoke less, or have a different genetic profile or environmental interaction that makes them less susceptible. One thing we do know: Postmenopausal obesity is a risk factor that does put you at risk for breast and other cancers, so it pays to maintain a healthy weight.

As for dairy products, the study results are mixed. But Harvard's Nurses' Health Study, a large-scale study of 120,000 women, recently found that premenopausal women who ate a lot of dairy products, especially low-fat and fat-free ones, ran a lower risk of breast cancer. The study found no link between dairy product consumption and breast cancer risk in women who are past menopause.

Myths 9 & 10
Myth 9: Mammograms can prevent breast cancer.
A 2003 Harris survey of more than 500 women found that about 30 percent thought mammograms could prevent breast cancer. The truth: While mammograms can detect breast cancer, they can't prevent it.

Myth 10: Some studies actually show mammograms are worthless.

Two studies, including a review study done by Danish scientists, did suggest that getting a regular mammogram didn't lower a woman's risk of dying of breast cancer. But several other studies, including one done by the US Preventive Services Task Force, totally disagree. You can maximize the benefit of mammography screening by seeking out the best facilities and staff in your area. Look for the radiology center that handles the most breast cancer cases in the region. Go to a radiologist who specializes in reading mammograms, and ask, "How many mammograms do you read each year?" More tends to be better. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that radiologists who read more than 300 mammograms a month were more accurate.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

8 Fat Fighting Foods!

Combat fat! Your allies in battling bulge? Foods that do the work for you. These edibles have proven lipid-melting powers that help you slim. That’s a win.

By Veronica Byrd

Almonds Almond joy! Dieters who ate 3 ounces of these nuts every day reduced their weight and body-mass index by a solid 18 percent compared with an 11 percent drop in the no-nut group, a study in the International Journal of Obesity found. Almonds are high in alpha-linolenic acid, which can speed the metabolism of fats. Stick to 12 per serving.

Berries Vitamin C–loaded fruit such as strawberries and raspberries can help you sizzle up to 30 percent more fat during exercise, suggests research from Arizona State University at Mesa. Blend a vinaigrette of 1 cup berries and ¼ cup balsamic vinegar.

See our tips: 5 stress-fighting superfoods!

This spice could make your waistline nice. Sprinkling ¼ teaspoon on your food may prevent a postmeal insulin spike—this increase normally occurs after you eat and “signals the body that it should store fat rather than burn it,” explains Lauren Slayton, R.D., of New York City. Add a dash to your oatmeal, yogurt or coffee.

Mustard Hello, yellow. The spice that gives mustard its color, turmeric, may slow the growth of fat tissues, a study in the journal Endocrinology notes. Eighty-six mayo in favor of any mustard; sprinkle turmeric on cauliflower and roast for a tangy side.

Oranges Prevent pound creep with this citrus star: It contains fat-torching compounds called flavones. Women who ate the most flavones had a significantly lower increase in body fat over a 14-year period, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds. Snack on slices or drink freshly squeezed OJ (with pulp!) for the biggest payback.

Related: 30 foods that fight fat!

Soybeans These green gems are rich in choline, a compound that blocks fat absorption and breaks down fatty deposits. Add ½ cup edamame to a salad.

Sweet potatoes
Trade up to sweet taters. They’re high in fiber, which means no drastic insulin jumps and thus less fat packed onto your hips. Bake a small sweet potato—think of two bars of soap as a portion size—and top with a dollop of lowfat or nonfat cottage cheese.

Swiss cheese Holy cow: “Calcium-rich foods reduce fat-producing enzymes and increase fat breakdown,” says Michael B. Zemel, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Put toe to toe with some of its cheesy counterparts, Swiss is a heavy hitter in the calcium department; layer a slice on a lunchtime sandwich, or stack some on high-fiber crackers.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vegetarian Recipe

Greek Salad Pita Pocket

4 servings (serving size: 2 pita halves)


  • 1 cup chopped Romaine lettuce
  • 3 ounces Feta cheese crumbled
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped cucumbers
  • 1 cup chopped red peppers
  • 1 cup chopped green peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 pita rounds


Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss with your hands to combine. In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients, whisk together and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the top of the mixed salad and toss again to combine. Cut the pita rounds in half and fill each half with the dressed salad mixture.

TIP: Make this lunch more hearty by tossing in a handful of canned, drained chickpeas.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Smoothie Recipe: Strawberry Banana & Flax


  • 1/2 medium banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen unsweetened strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk or light soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed


Blend all until smooth.

Interesting Article on Yahoo

What Soft Drinks are Doing to Your Body

Pop, cola, soft drink — whatever you call it, it is one of the worst beverages that you could be drinking for your health. As the debate for whether to put a tax on the sale of soft drinks continues, you should know how they affect your body so that you can make an informed choice on your own.
Soft drinks contain little to no vitamins or other essential nutrients. However, it is what they do contain that is the problem: caffeine, carbonation, simple sugars — or worse, sugar substitutes — and often food additives such as artificial coloring, flavoring, and preservatives.

A lot of research has found that consumption of soft drinks in high quantity, especially by children, is responsible for many health problems that include tooth decay, nutritional depletion, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease. (See: Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans' Health.)

Why the sugar in soft drinks isn’t so sweet
Most soft drinks contain a high amount of simple sugars. The USDA recommendation of sugar consumption for a 2,000-calorie diet is a daily allotment of 10 teaspoons of added sugars. Many soft drinks contain more than this amount!

Just why is too much sugar so unhealthy? Well, to start, let's talk about what happens to you as sugar enters your body. When you drink sodas that are packed with simple sugars, the pancreas is called upon to produce and release insulin, a hormone that empties the sugar in your blood stream into all the tissues and cells for usage. The result of overindulging in simple sugar is raised insulin levels. Raised blood insulin levels beyond the norm can lead to depression of the immune system, which in turn weakens your ability to fight disease.

Something else to consider is that most of the excess sugar ends up being stored as fat in your body, which results in weight gain and elevates risk for heart disease and cancer. One study found that when subjects were given refined sugar, their white blood cell count decreased significantly for several hours afterwards. Another study discovered that rats fed a high-sugar diet had a substantially elevated rate of breast cancer when compared to rats on a regular diet. (See: Hoehn, SK et al: "Complex versus simple carbohydrates and mammary tumors in mice." Nutr Cancer 1979; 1: 27.)

The health effects of diet soda
You may come to the conclusion that diet or sugar-free soda is a better choice. However, one study discovered that drinking one or more soft drinks a day — and it didn’t matter whether it was diet or regular — led to a 30% greater chance of weight gain around the belly.

Diet soda is filled with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin. These artificial sweeteners pose a threat to your health. Saccharin, for instance, has been found to be carcinogenic, and studies have found that it produced bladder cancer in rats.

Aspartame, commonly known as nutrasweet, is a chemical that stimulates the brain to think the food is sweet. It breaks down into acpartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol at a temperature of 86 degrees. (Remember, your stomach is somewhere around 98 degrees.) An article put out by the University of Texas found that aspartame has been linked to obesity. The process of stimulating the brain causes more cravings for sweets and leads to carbohydrate loading.

Carbonation depletes calcium
Beverages with bubbles contain phosphoric acid, which can severely deplete the blood calcium levels; calcium is a key component of the bone matrix. With less concentration of calcium over a long time, it can lower deposition rates so that bone mass and density suffer. This means that drinking sodas and carbonated water increases your risk of osteoporosis. (See: AJCN)

Add in the caffeine usually present in soft drinks, and you are in for even more trouble. Caffeine can deplete the body’s calcium, in addition to stimulating your central nervous system and contributing to stress, a racing mind, and insomnia.

Skip the soda and go for:

• Fresh water

Water is a vital beverage for good health. Each and every cell needs water to perform its essential functions. Since studies show that tap water is filled with contaminants, antibiotics, and a number of other unhealthy substances, consider investing in a quality carbon-based filter for your tap water. To find out more about a high-performance filtration system, click here.

On the go? Try using a stainless steel thermos or glass bottle, filled with filtered water. Enhance the flavor of your water with a refreshing infusion of basil, mint leaves, and a drop of honey.

Fruit Juice
If you are a juice drinker, try watering down your juice to cut back on the sugar content. Buy a jar of organic 100% juice, especially cranberry, acai, pomegranate, and then dilute three parts filtered water to one part juice. You will get a subtle sweet taste and the benefit of antioxidants. After a couple of weeks, you will no longer miss the sweetness of sugary concentrated juices.

• Tea
Tea gently lifts your energy and has numerous health benefits. Black, green, white, and oolong teas all contain antioxidant polyphenols. In fact, tea ranks as high or higher than many fruits and vegetables on the ORAC scale, the score that measures antioxidant potential of plant-based foods.

Herbal tea does not have the same antioxidant properties, though it is still a great beverage choice with other health benefits, such as inducing calming and relaxing effects.

If tea doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, try adding cinnamon or a little honey, which has important health benefits that refined sugar lacks. For a selection of healthy teas that promote total body wellness, click here. Drink up!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another great recipe!

Whole Wheat Fettuccine with Shrimp and Peas

Whole wheat pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup small shrimp
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
3 tablespoons frozen peas, rinsed and drained
Grated Parmesan cheese

Make It
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan. Add shrimp, tomatoes, garlic, and rosemary; saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes more. Toss shrimp mixture with cooked drained pasta. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Interesting Article in the LA Times

Bacteria in intestines play role key role in weight gain, study finds

A high-fat, high-sugar diet alters the composition of bacteria in the gut, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it.

A high-fat, high-sugar diet does more than pump calories into your body. It also alters the composition of bacteria in your intestines, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it, research in mice suggests. And the changeover can happen in as little as 24 hours, according to a report Wednesday in the new journal Science Translational Medicine.

Many factors play a role in the propensity to gain weight, including genetics, physical activity and the environment, as well as food choices. But a growing body of evidence, much of it accumulated by Dr. Jeffrey I. Gordon of Washington University in St. Louis, shows that bacteria in the gut also play a key role.

Humans need such bacteria to help convert otherwise indigestible foods into digestible form.

Ninety percent of the bacteria fall into two major divisions, or phyla: the Firmicutes and the Bacteroidetes. Previous research had shown that obese mice had higher levels of Firmicutes, and lean ones had more Bacteroidetes.

Analyzing the genomes of the bacteria, Gordon and graduate student Peter Turnbaugh concluded that the Firmicutes were more efficient at digesting food that the body can't.

Animals that have a higher proportion of Firmicutes convert a higher proportion of food into calories that can be absorbed by the body, making it easier to gain weight.

When the researchers transferred bacteria from obese mice into so-called gnotobiotic mice, which were raised in a sterile environment and had no bacteria in their guts, the mice gained more weight than did those receiving a similar amount of bacteria from lean mice, even though they were fed the same diet.

Gordon and Turnbaugh found that they could transfer bacteria from human intestines into gnotobiotic mice, which were fed a low-fat, plant-rich diet in the weeks before the bacteria were transplanted and for a month afterward.

After the bacteria were transplanted from a lean human donor, the colonies in the mice had a high proportion of Bacteroidetes and a low proportion of Firmicutes. But within 24 hours after the mice were switched to a high-sugar, high-fat diet, the proportions of the two phyla were reversed.

With time, the mice also grew fatter than their littermates who did not receive the human bacteria.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Survival Gardening: Day 2

Muscle Building Diet For Vegetarians by Jason Storm

Today a lot of people are switching from meat based diets to eating vegetarian. Many find that cutting out meat from their diet makes their bodies healthier. But is it possible to build muscles if you don't get the extra protein that you find in meat-products?

Protein is essential for muscle building and without it, they won't grow. Luckily, there are many other sources that you can use as a vegetarian.

It's important that the protein you are taking in is of good quality. Protein contains amino acids of which there are many different types, some of them can be produced by the body but still a few are what we call essential and can only be gained from the foods we eat. When you are eating vegetarian it's important to make sure you eat with variation, this ensures that you get all the amino acids that you need.

If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, which means you're eating egg and dairy products, you can increase your intake of protein by eating more eggs and adding more milk and cheese to your diet. Eggs have a lot of high quality proteins with many of the essential amino acids, a great source for muscle gain. You can make omelettes and add egg to your salads and other meals.

If you are eating a strict vegan diet, you're main source of protein comes from legumes, beans and grains. Beans in general and especially soybeans have a large concentration of high quality protein, and there are many different usages for it. Made into tofu and tempeh you can use it in a similar way as you are used to making meat.

Black beans are especially good for you as they are a complete protein. They have to soak overnight and it takes a few hours to cook them so i recommend that you do a large amount and put the leftover in the freezer. Having a black bean burrito is an excellent way to get your protein.

Broccoli is also excellent to add, it not only has a very large protein percentage but also a lot of vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy body. Variation is the key, eat a variety of vegetables and you'll naturally making sure that you gain all the nutritions that your body needs for bodybuilding.

Grains are a great source of protein and often have a lot of vitamins, usually from the B-group which is the most difficult to find for vegans. Grains like quinoa, bulghur, hirs and buckwheat all have a good amount of protein and nutrition. By eating those instead of white rice and pasta, your protein intake will naturally rise.

Also you want to make sure that you get enough energy for the body to be able to work out and renew itself. Add extra fat to your diet to gain extra calories and look for food that has a lot of energy. Nuts and seeds contains a high amount of good quality fat and it's a good idea to have some of these each day.

If you're really aiming to gain muscles fast and efficiently, it might also be a good idea to get a soy-based protein powder. This adds the extra proteins you need. It's important that the powder you're getting is of good quality with a high concentration of the essential amino acids.

By following these guidelines you can easily gain muscles even if you want to keep a healthy vegetarian diet.

Jason Storm is a writer for the blog Go Muscles. Visit his site to learn about muscle exercises and the best ways to gain muscles naturally.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Survival Gardening

General use of Vegetables for better Health Care by sara parveen

Vegetables play an important role in our diet as they provide essential micronutrients and minerals to our body. Apart from their nutritive value, vegetables probably do more than any other group of foods to add appetizing colour, texture and flavour to our daily diet.

Nutritional facts - vegetables provide fibre, minerals, and vitamin-A, C, E, K and B-complex vitamins, with the exception of Vitamin B12 found only in animal products. Dark green leafy vegetables and bright orange vegetables are richest sources of carotene. Four servings per day from vegetables and fruits group provide a significant fraction of the daily needs for many micronutrients. All fresh vegetables are low in fat and have low energy value. Green leafy vegetables must be consumed by children, pregnant and nursing mothers to obtain the much needed iron, beta-carotene and calcium. Fenugreek leaves and seeds, bitter gourd contains plant insulin, must be included in the diabetic diet. Per day, 100 to 125 g of green leafy vegetables, 150 g to 200g of other vegetables should be included in the diet.

Although we all eat vegetables cooked in our home, a slight negligence on our part makes them lose their nutritious and medicinal value. Given below are some guidelines for buying, cleaning, cooking and storing vegetables in a proper way, which promote health.

Purchase always fresh, firm and crisp vegetables instead of withered or stale. Rotten, stale, withered vegetables will bring harm than good to the human body and have no nutritious value, besides they became breeding grounds for many germs. Purchase vegetables which are heavy in proportion to their size. Medium sized vegetables are better than larger ones, as larger ones tend to be more fibrous.

Storage - most vegetables do not store well and should be purchased in small quantities. All vegetables should be washed of sand and dirt and the dried vegetables after wrapping in the polythene before being stored in refrigerator. They should be stored for 3to 4 days in refrigerator. Never store after cutting them. Onions and potatoes are best stored in cool, dry and airy place preferably hung, in the presence of moisture they mould easily.

Hygiene - Whether you bring vegetable direct from field or from the vegetable market, wash them clean after rubbing them with a rough cloth. Then leave in water for 10 to 15 minutes. Many vegetable which are grown in the fields having other crops, have some poisonous insects or germs attached to them. Sometimes, the vegetable destroying insects leave their tiny larvae on them which are invisible to naked eye. And when we purchase vegetables from the vegetable market, they are mainly brought from the cold storages having lots of insecticide powder, etc., sprinkled on them. In computer controlled vegetable markets, we come across the vegetables which look usually fresh and firm, are just a ruse to tempt the customer to buy it. Certain chemical solutions, which are injurious to the health, have astringent quality that ruins the genuine taste of the vegetables. Hence properly washing vegetables are inevitable to get freedom from health hazards associated with poisonous substances. The utensils used for handling and cooking vegetables must be thoroughly clean. One should take extra precaution to cook vegetable in hygienic condition.

Cooking - Do not over cook; use just enough water for cooking. Use a slow fire as high fire not only burns the nutritional elements, it ruins the taste of the vegetables. Actually, it is the intensity of fire which makes or mars a dish. Exposure to air causes damage to nutrients and affects the flavour; hence cut vegetables just before cooking, cover with a lid while cooking. Make sure that the knife, grater, etc., that are used to peel of the skin or cutting are free from rust. The rusted knives inject the fresh vegetables and make it also lose it’s nutritional value. Cooking vegetables in acidic medium such as tamarind and other acids prevents the loss of vitamins to a large extent. Adding lemon drops to vegetables enhances the absorption of iron. Try to peel vegetables with a peeler as it helps to remove a very thin layer of skin, because a large part of vitamins and minerals in the vegetables lie just under the skin. Vegetables should be cut into large pieces or if possible cook them whole.

Do not drain the remaining water or use the drained water for soups. Cook roots and tubers like potatoes, beetroots, sweet potatoes etc., whole with skin to retain flavour and nutrients. Do not throw away green leafy tops of vegetables like carrot, radish, cauliflower, beetroot etc., because they are good sources of many nutrients. Green leafy vegetables must be cooked in covered vessels. Avoid the use of ‘soda’ in vegetables as it increases the loss of vitamin C and Vitamin-B complex.

When preparing soups, the slowest cooking ingredients should be cooked first followed by the addition of other ingredients which cook in a shorter time. Always prepare salad and raita before serving. Add some raw vegetables to prepared food to enhance the color, texture and to retain nutrients. Avoid eating overcooked and reheated foods as they are the worst enemies of nutrient and flavour.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How long does your food last?

Since we're not big juice drinkers in our house, OJ usually only makes its way into our fridge when guests come to visit. Even then, it still takes us a few weeks to polish off the carton. I never thought much about keeping the OJ for a few weeks. After all, it still tastes good—and we usually finish it before the expiration date. Then I read this study that showed opened OJ loses all antioxidant benefit after just one week! Seriously? Well, as you can imagine, this led me to wonder if other items in my kitchen lose their health punch over time. (Spoiler alert: they do!)

Keep track of how long you store these 4 items. Here's why: certain nutrients are unstable when exposed to oxygen (from the air), heat (from cooking) and light.

Orange juice: 1 week
One cup of OJ can offer a full day's dose of vitamin C. But OJ that has been opened loses all antioxidant benefit after just one week. To get the most vitamin C, buy frozen concentrate and drink within a few days. Frozen concentrate is exposed to less light and air. (Use your OJ before it loses its nutritional punch: make Grilled Orange Chicken Fingers and more delicious recipes with orange juice.)

Green tea: 6 months
A 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science showed that catechins (antioxidants linked with a reduced risk of some cancers) in green tea decreased markedly over time. After six months, catechin levels were 32 percent lower. Make the most of the antioxidants by storing tea in a sealed container in a dark, cool place.
(Add this 1 ingredient to your tea to make it healthier.)

Olive oil: 6 months
Extra-virgin olive oil contains more than 45 heart-healthy antioxidants, but after six months of storage their potency decreases by about 40 percent, according to researchers at the University of Foggia in Italy. Why? Oxygen bubbles in the bottle destroy the antioxidants.
(Find out which brands won our Olive Oil Taste Test and find out how to shop for the healthiest and tastiest olive oil.)

Honey: 6 months
Researchers at the University of Illinois found the antioxidant power of clover and buckwheat honey decreased by 30 to 50 percent after six months. Consider buying buckwheat honey—it generally has more antioxidants to start with.
(Can honey help you lose weight?)

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DIY Beauty: 5 Natural Recipes for Skin Care

The skin is our largest and most sensitive organ. Each square inch contains 1,300 nerve endings. It is an extension of our nervous system, and it can be directly affected by our thoughts and emotions. Rashes, hives and eczema can occur during times of emotional distress.

Our skin is so sensitive that when we apply creams, lotions and skin products alike, they get absorbed by the pores and take a little voyage into the blood stream. We wouldn’t want any uninvited toxic substances entering our bodies, would we?

More label reading? For sure. But if you want to play it safe, here are five natural recipes for skin care.

1. Turmeric & Cream: Mix one teaspoon of turmeric and two ounces of heavy cream (borrow from a neighbor, surely you don’t have heavy cream in your refrigerator!). Apply to the skin with a facial sponge, rinse off. (Turmeric has natural antiseptic and antibiotic properties, so this recipe works against blemishes as well.)

2. Almond-Honey Scrub: Mix two tablespoons crushed almonds and one tablespoon honey. Gently rub on face. Leave on for five minutes. Rinse with warm water.

3. Cucumber Mask: Blend together one cubed cucumber and 3 ounces milk (whole, skim or otherwise). Gently apply onto face. Leave on for five minutes. Rinse with warm water.

4. Yogurt Mud Pack: Mix together 3 tablespoons fuller’s earth and 3 tablespoons plain yogurt into a paste. Pat onto face with gentle, upward strokes. Let dry for approx. 15 to 20 minutes . Rinse off with warm water.

5. Peel-Off Masque: Heat together 1 packet of unflavored gelatin and 1/2 cup natural apple juice. Let cool until almost set and then apply to face. Let dry completely. Then peel off!

For healthy skin, be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, drink tons of water, get some sleep, smile and steer clear of direct sunlight.