Monday, February 25, 2013

Whole Grains Nutrition and Cooking Class

I'm back from vacation.  Had a lovely time.  Quite different - no roads or cars, only burros and boats - so that meant for lots of walking!

Tomorrow and Thursday I'm back at my Food as Medicine groups, with this week focusing on the health benefits of Whole Grains.  We are going to be cooking up some yummy food including:

  • my prize winning marmalade granola 
  • goji berry oatcakes
  • popped amaranth bread
  • supergreen quinoa salad
  • middle eastern oat groats, and
  • birdseed burgers (aka millet burgers!)

I am then taking the groups on a tour of Whole Foods to learn about reading food labels and the best food brands to buy.

Sounds like a busy and fun time!  I'll let you know how it goes and try to remember to take my camera!
Friday, February 15, 2013

On vacation

I head off on vacation today - away for a week.

Looking forward to lots of new yummy healthy foods while I am some quiet time, and exploration time, and excitement time!

Hope you have a good week!
Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

I made some raw sugar free and dairy free chocolates for my sweetheart today.  I hadn't made dairy free white chocolate fact, I've never made any white chocolate before!

Here they are:

Strawberry and White chocolate just poured in the molds

Above shows his box of goodies including the strawberry hearts, strawberry and coconut white chocolate bark, and then the following dark chocolate barks: pomegranate and pink peppercorn; goldenberry; and heart sprinkles.

We are off to see the movie "Amour" for Valentine's day.  Heard such good reviews about it and thought it apropos to see it on Valentine's day.

Hope you have a lovely day ie a day filled with with
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An apple a day......(Part 2)

can keep some people 'going' all day!

Photo by Artnow314
Yes, while yesterday's blog post extolled the virtues of apples, as we all know, not one "size" fits all and we are all individual.  And so it is with apples. 

If you have fructose malabsorption, sadly, it is best that you avoid apples.  Fructose malabsorption is a condition where an individual cannot properly digest the sugar fructose in their small intestine.  Undigested fructose then gets carried into the large intestine - the colon, where our normal bacteria break it down and use it as their food source.  In the process of them digesting the fructose, the bacteria produce different gases which can cause the intestine to swell.  At this stage, a person with fructose malabsorption may well experience bloating, cramping, gas and distension, and then this can be followed by diarrhea.

These symptoms are similar to those experienced by people with celiac disease, and also those who are lactose intolerant and thus it is frequently difficult figure out what is going on and what is causing the problem. Fructose intolerance is also often seen in those WITH celiac disease and lactose intolerance too.  It is also seen in those with irritable bowel syndrome. 

It is actually the ratio of fructose:glucose in foods that is the issue with fructose malabsorption, as glucose helps absorption of fructose. So those foods with a high fructose:glucose ratio are the ones that you should avoid if you have fructose malabsorption. These include:
  • apples, pears, melons, mangoes, peaches
  • sweeteners such as honey, sugar, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate
  • foods high in fructans such as onion family, artichokes, asparagus, inulin and fructo-oligosacharrides
  • grains including wheat, rye and barley

So while apples are generally seen to help with diarrhea, if you have fructose malabsorption, then they can actually cause diarrhea.

It is important to work with your doctor or health care practitioner if you are having chronic diarrhea and other digestive issues, as the symptoms share a lot of cross over with other issues.  There is a test for fructose malabsorption - a hydrogen breath test - but it is a relatively new test and not offered by all docs.

Remember - we are all different and have different needs. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

An apple a day...... (Part 1)

....keeps the doctor away.

  • In an analysis of more than 85 studies, apple consumption was shown to be consistently associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma and type 2 diabetes, compared to other fruits.  In one of the studies, Finnish researchers followed more than 5,000 men and women for more than 20 years.  Those who ate the most apples and other flavonoid rich foods such as onions, were found to have a 20% lower risk of heart disease than those who ate the smallest amount of these foods.

Harold enjoying his "lady" apple!

  • Apples are rich in a soluble fibre known as pectin, which has been shown to exert a number of beneficial effects.  Because it is a gel-forming fiber, pectin can lower cholesterol levels as well as improve the intestinal muscle's ability to push waste through the gastrointestinal tract.

One medium unpeeled apple contains 3 g of fiber. Even without its peel it contains 2.7g of fiber.

Just adding one large apple to the daily diet has been shown to decrease serum cholesterol by 8 - 11 % Two apples a day has been shown to lower your cholesterol by 16%.

  • Apples also contain malic and tartaric acids, which improve digestion and the breakdown of fats - so combining an apple with fattier food like apple sauce with pork, or apple slices with cheese, not only tastes good but helps the body deal with the fat intake.

  • Apples are helpful in the relief of the pain of gout, rheumatism and arthritis - and also help you feel better the morning after too much drinking!

An apple on our tree last year was "picked" by one of the tendrils of the grape vines!

  • They are great to eat if you have diarrhea and are one of the 4 components of the BRAT diet used for diarrhea or food poisoning - with BRAT standing for Bananas, Rice, Apples and Toast.

  • Apples are also a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.  Most of the apple's important nutrients are contained in its skin - so eating them raw and with their skin is best. 

They are a wonderful substitute in cooking and baking for oils.  In my salad dressings I replace oil with unsweetened organic apple sauce and in my baking, I frequently use applesauce to replace the oil.  Not only do I benefit from no oil, but I also benefit from eating the apple!

We have several apple trees (- an old proverb says " if you can plant only one tree in your garden, make it an apple tree")  and too many to eat when they are all ripe. So I dehydrate them.  I often leave the skin on, slice them and don't feel the need to use lemon juice. The idea is that we can then enjoy them year round but this year I think we had eaten them all by Christmas - and we had a lot!  Dried apples are a lovely snack....and you can now buy freeze dried apples which have a lovely crunch.

Have you had your apple today?
Friday, February 8, 2013

That time of the year

February can be that time of the year when people get a little depressed.  Often times, the weather isn't good with rain, sleet, snow, cold etc (although I have to brag and say we've had a lovely January and February so far in Northern California) ....and it seems ages since the fun of the holidays .....and what will the rest of the year bring?????....

If you have the February-blues, consider Snoopy's philosophy on life and use a little bit of Snoppy-style to get you through!

Let's not be sensible! Let's dance and laugh instead :-D
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Food as Medicine - Pomegranates - Part 3

Have you been out and bought your frozen pomegranate seeds yet or your pomegranate juice or dried seeds?  In the past couple of Food as Medicine posts, I've spoken about pomegranate looking hopeful for use with prostate cancer, and also some dental problems.

Studies show that pomegranate can also help to prevent and reverse atherosclerosis.  One study looked at the carotid artery and found that the group of men drinking pomegranate juice for a year had a 30% decrease in arterial plaque, while those not drinking the juice had a 9% increase.

Doctors in UCSF studied patients with heart disease. Nearly half had suffered heart attacks, most had high blood pressure and nearly all had high cholesterol levels. They were all taking several drugs, including statins, blood thinners and blood pressure medications.  For three months, one group drank 8oz pomegranate juice a day, and the others drank a placebo.  After three months, the group drinking pomegranate juice had a 17% increase in blood flow to the heart while the placebo had a 18% DECREASE.

UCSF researchers also found that episodes of angina decreased 50% in the pomegranate juice drinking group, while increasing 38% in the placebo group.

Pomegranate seems to protect cardiovascular health by augmenting nitric oxide, which supports the functions of endothelial cells that line the arterial walls.  Nitric oxide signals vascular smooth muscle to relax, which increases blood flow through arteries and veins.  Nitric oxide also reduces injury to the vessel walls, which helps prevent the development of atherosclerosis.

These studies definitely look interesting - but as always, please remember that not one thing does it all. If you eat a bad diet and just add pomegranate juice to that, you are not going to get healthy.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Food as Medicine - Pomegranates - Prostate Cancer - Part 2

Following on from Monday's blog post about pomegranates, today we will look at the effects of pomegranates on prostate cancer.  It's exciting stuff, especially as the last 5 years have seen a great increase in research showing how pomegranates can fight the disease.

Initial animal studies in Germany and the US showed that pomegranate extracts can stop prostate cancer cells from growing and then killed the cells, and also prevented prostate cancer from growing and spreading.

Following on from this, researchers in UCLA gave 8 oz of pomegranate juice a day to men with prostate cancer who had been treated with either radiation or surgery, but still had rising PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels - a biomarker of tumor growth. The study lasted 2 years.

Before treatment, the average PSA doubling time was 15 months.  (Doubling time is how long it takes to for say a PSA of 2 to get to a PSA of 4).  After treatment, the doubling time was 54 months - considerably slower.  85% of patients given the juice responded.

Other tests showed a 12% decrease in growth of cancer cells, a 17% increase in death of cancer cells.

The results suggest that drinking pomegranate juice may be a non-toxic option in slowing prostate carcinogenesis and preventing it.  However, these studies are only preliminary and not large scale (upto Phase II).  We'll have to wait for further studies to see if drinking pomegranate juice alters the course of prostate cancer overall so that men live longer or better.  Phase III trials are currently in progress and some are recruiting.

Further studies are now also being conducted looking at the effect of pomegranate on other types of cancer, including breast, colon, lung, skin, leukemia and more.


Pomegranate Ellagitanins, Heber D. In Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd Edition 2011.  

Specific pomegranate juice components as potential inhibitors of prostate cancer metastasis. Wang L. Ho J, Glackin C, Martins-Green M. Transl Oncol. 2012; 5(5): 344-55

For further references, check PubMed - searching for pomegranate and prostate cancer or pomegranate and cancer
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Misty morning at the pond

We've been getting a few misty mornings at the pond lately. This time of year we always get such a lovely gathering of ducks and birds there.  The male hooded mergansers are just so handsome with their black and white markings, and we get either a great egret or a great blue heron, plus our friend the little green heron.

Isn't it a restful scene. I hope you took time to look at something restful today.
Monday, February 4, 2013

Food as medicine - Pomegranates - Part 1

Pomegranates are still in season but they are coming to an end.  Buy them while you can, as they are such a wonderful health food.

Their many benefits are too extensive for one blog post, so I'll cover them in a few.

The whole plant seems to practically burst with disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols - from the seed, pulp, skin, root, flower and even the bark of the tree.  In fact, pomegranate seed extracts and juice have two to three times the anti-oxidant activity of red wine and green tea.

And while lots of foods have high levels of polyphenols, what makes pomegranates such superstars is that they are a top source of several varieties of polyphenols, namely flavenoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, punicic acid and many others.  Hundreds of scientific studies confirm these polyphenols can prevent and treat a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and stroke.  This ties in to the pomegranate being known as "a pharmacy unto itself" in Ayurvedic medicine.

There are several ways to get your pomegranate!

  • You can find fresh whole pomegranates from October - February, and use the seeds - arils
  • You can purchase the seeds frozen throughout the year
  • You can drink pomegranate juice 
  • You can buy dried seeds which are called ANARDANA - they can be used dried or soaked in water before use to plump them up
  • You can buy  pomegranate "spice" which is ground up dried seeds, again called ground anardana
  • You can buy pomegranate molasses

Anardana is used a lot in India - both whole and ground in curries, chutneys and as fillings for savory snacks such as pakoras and in flatbreads like parathas.

Pomegranate molasses is popular in the Middle East.  It is made by crushing the seeds into juice and cooking it until it reaches an almost black, thick molasses-like texture.  The molasses have a berry like taste with a citrus tang.  I discovered pomegranate molasses about 9 years ago and love it. If you haven't tried it before, make this your new food of the week. I frequently use it to make a salad dressing, or drizzle it on a savory or sweet dish. I also use it instead of sugar in baking - but it is thick so you have to chose recipes carefully!

Walnut and pomegranate roulade drizzled with pomegranate molasses
(sugar free, gluten free, no added oil)

I sprinkle pomegranate seeds on my oat muesli every fact, I'm getting worried about my supply running dry as its now February and the season is coming to a close. I guess I'll be using frozen pomegranate seeds instead.

A couple of quick snippets:

  • researchers found that rinsing the mouth with pomegranate extract reduced bacteria-causing dental plaque 84% MORE than commercial mouthwash
  • researchers in Thailand treated gum disease (periodontal disease) with pomegranate extract and found it decreased gum erosion and plaque
  • a pomegranate formula was found to clear up denture stomatitis, a fungal infection in people wearing dentures.

I'll tell you about other specific health benefits in the next few posts, including pomegranates effects on

  • atheroschlerosis, 
  • diabetes 
  • prostate cancer
  • aging
In the meantime, try to think of ways you can add pomegranate to your diet EVERY day.....on cereal/oatmeal for breakfast, sprinkled on a salad for lunch, drizzled on a whole grain meal for dinner ...

What is your favorite pomegranate dish?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Gluten Free Oat yogurt

I tried making yoghurt with oats - and it worked! I really like it.

Oat yoghurt in the process

I used whole kernel GF oat groats also known as oat berries,  with some GF rolled oats.   You can find oat kernels in Whole Foods or health food stores, or if you want gluten free ones, Chateau Cream Hill Estates does a gluten free whole kernel oats, which are available for order online from several GF suppliers. Whole kernel oats look a little like brown rice.

I soaked the oats for 8 hours then fermented them on the back of my aga (stove) for 16 hours.  I'm loving it on my oat muesli every morning.  Oats on Oats.  A healthy yogurt! No sugar. No preservatives. Just oats, water and probiotics!

Warming/fermenting on the back of the aga
Want to come round for breakfast and try some?

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