Following a devastating stroke, my husband’s sweet Dad, “Woody,” lived another five years – each day a challenge because the massive blood clot in his brain left his left side paralyzed. Woody handled his situation with grace and class but it wasn’t easy.
Because heart disease and stroke run in Tom’s family, he’s fighting back with a healthy lifestyle and frequent check-ups and I make sure the fridge is full of fresh veggies including tomatoes.
A new study shows that men who had the highest levels of lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, had fewer strokes than men who had the lowest level of lycopene in their blood.
And get this. Overall, the risk of strokes was reduced by a whopping 55 percent!
But here’s where the study, based in Finland, got my attention. Lycopene, it seems, is found in the highest concentrations in cooked tomato products such as prepared paste, puree and sauce.
As someone who likes to take short cuts in the kitchen, I was thrilled to learn a cup of ready-to-serve marinara sauce has 10 times more lycopene than a raw tomato. It’s not only okay to use the stuff in the jar it’s actually better than fresh when it comes to lycopene concentrations.
And that goes for the sauce found on fast food pizza and store-bought catsup, too (though high fat and sugar content in these products should also be considered.)
One doctor commenting on the lycopene study in the journal, “Neurology,” says the lycopene study shows “diet is very important” for cutting stroke risk along with exercising and not smoking. Dr. Rafael Ortiz says lycopene works by reducing inflammation and preventing blood clots from forming.
So, when I want a quick and easy meal that’s loaded with lycopene, here’s a simple, little recipe I came up with:
*Sauté a chopped onion, green pepper and 1 cup of mushrooms in a tablespoon of olive oil.
*Brown one pound of lean, ground turkey and combine with vegetables
*Add one large jar of marinara sauce (We’re hooked Costco’s 40-oz. Victoria All Natural Marinara Sauce)
*Simmer all ingredients together for one hour
Serve over whole-wheat penne (or pasta of your choice)
Double the recipe. It’s even better the next day! And it freezes beautifully.
One more thing…If you’re not a tomato lover, no worries. Lycopene is also found in watermelon, grapefruit, papaya and mango.
When it comes to fruit, all the buzz is about the berries – the more exotic the better. From black and blue to goji and acai, these antioxidant superstars get all the attention. And that’s fine.
But I think it’s high time somebody gives a shout-out to one of the most popular fruits no one talks about. In smoothies, sliced on cereal or gobbled up before (or after!) a long workout, I’m big on bananas!
For me, and millions of Americans, the perfectly packaged curved, yellow fruit has been a nutritional mainstay for decades. Tucked in my lunchbox as a child or stuffed in my purse as a working professional…I could always count on a power-packed banana for a burst of energy and sense of wellbeing – all for 100 calories or less!
I decided to investigate whether my favorite fruit could nutritionally go “peel to peel” with other popular fruits. Now, I’ll never look at a banana the same way again after discovering the many health benefits and reasons to keep them in my diet.
If you think bananas are just for monkeys…think again! Here’s a sampling of the benefits you can expect from that bunch of bananas in your fruit bowl:
1. Bananas help overcome depression, due to high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin…the happy-mood brain transmitter.
2. Eat two bananas before a strenuous workout to pack an energy punch and sustain your blood sugar.
3. Protect against muscle cramps during workouts and night-time leg cramps by eating a banana.
4. Counteract calcium loss during urination and build strong bones by supplementing with a banana.
5. Improve your mood and reduce PMS symptoms by eating a banana which regulates blood sugar and produces stress-relieving relaxation.
6. Bananas reduce swelling, protect against Type II diabetes, aid weight loss, strengthen the nervous system and help with the production of white blood cells…all due to high levels of vitamin B-6.
7. Strengthen your blood and relieve anemia with the added iron from bananas.
8. High in potassium and low in salt, bananas are officially recognized by the FDA as being able to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke.
Then there’s bananas and digestion!
9. Rich in pectin, bananas aid digestion and chelate toxins and heavy metals from the body…stimulate the growth of friendly bacteria in the bowel and produce digestive enzymes to assist in absorbing nutrients.
Constipated? High fiber in bananas can help normalize bowel motility. They also help restore lost electrolytes after diarrhea. Bananas are a natural antacid and the only raw fruit that can be consumed without distress to relieve stomach ulcers by coating the lining of the stomach against corrosive acids.
And don’t forget natural cures from a simple banana!
10. Eating bananas helps prevent kidney cancer, protects the eyes against macular degeneration and builds strong bones by increasing calcium absorption.
11. Bananas help with learning by making you more alert. They’re high in antioxidants, providing protection from chronic disease.
12. Eat a banana between meals to help stabilize blood sugar and reduce nausea from morning sickness, lower body temperature and cool you during a fever or on a hot day.
And how about this?
13. Rub a bug bite or hives with the inside of a banana peel to relieve itching and irritation. Remove a wart by placing the inside of a piece of banana peel against the wart and tape it in place (take that, Compound W!!) and, what the heck…rub the inside of a banana peel on your leather shoes or handbag and polish with a dry cloth for a quick shine!
How ‘bout a hand for the mighty banana? (Now you know why monkeys are so happy!!)
Eat a banana today.
Whether you need to or not, these days it’s cool to eat gluten-free. The food industry has capitalized on this so-called health trend, marketing everything from bread and chips to cookies and cereals as “gluten-free.”
But for those who truly are gluten intolerant, the results of eating wheat in any form can be agonizing. For those with gluten-induced Celiac disease, the outcome can be fatal.
After years of living with miserable, unexplained intestinal distress, my step-Mom, Kaye, discovered she had an extreme sensitivity to gluten. Thankfully, her symptoms have abated because she adheres to a strict gluten-free diet. And it’s not always easy.
Maintaining a diet free of wheat-based products takes discipline…especially if you’ve got a sweet tooth. Most cakes, cookies and other baked goods are a big no-no. And sadly, most of the store-bought, gluten-free fare out there tastes like sand.
So, when I came across an interesting recipe for super-healthy flourless brownies, I just had to give it a try. They are so delicious; I’m going to make a batch for Kaye!
If you or someone you know happens to be a gluten-free chocoholic, you’ve got to give these brownie makeovers a try. Even if you’re good with gluten, I think these fudgy, flourless brownies are better than energy bars...packed with protein and fiber to keep you fully charged before or after a workout.
If you’d like to build a better brownie, here’s the recipe! Whip up a batch of these super squares and let me know what you think!
Fudge Flourless Brownies
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup packed pitted Medjool dates (brilliant!)
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
2 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips (optional)
You’ll find these brownies fudgy but not at all dense, thanks to the whipped egg whites. The olive oil and almonds give a double shot of healthy fats and if you prefer them less sweet, skip the chocolate chips.
The headline on the recipe read “Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Bake.” The dish was among several on a page in one of those women’s magazines at my nail salon.
Eggplant doesn’t do much for me one way or another, so I nearly passed it by. Thankfully, I didn’t turn the page before taking a quick glance at the rest of the ingredients. Roasted tomatoes, bell pepper, basil pesto and Parmesan cheese mixed with whole wheat fusilli. Hmmm. It actually sounded pretty good as I ripped the recipe from the page. (With permission!) Not only that, it was super-easy…15 minutes prep time!
What the heck…a little eggplant wouldn’t kill me, right? Truth is, the health benefits of the eggplant are numerous since it contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals. I had no idea, but the vegetable that’s least vegetable-like, contains Nasunin, a phytonutrient that provides high concentrations of antioxidants and can protect against cell membrane damage and improve blood circulation.
The iron, calcium and fiber it provides are all essential parts of a balanced diet. And eggplant contains only 35 calories per cup. It has a hearty taste and texture similar to meat (maybe more like tofu?) and eating eggplant can be made enjoyable even for those with an aversion to consuming anything healthy. (Think eggplant parmigiana? Roasted eggplant?)
I did a Google search and the number of eggplant recipes is practically endless. I’d just like to leave you with one recipe that’s become part of the regular meal rotation at my house. It’s a great vegetarian option and trust me, you won’t even miss the meat!
Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Bake
1 lb. eggplant cut into cubes
1 lb. small tomatoes (2”diameter), halved
1 lg. red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
8 oz quinoa rotelle (ancient Harvest is good brand) or whole wheat fusilli (or any whole grain pasta of your liking)
¼ c. basil pesto (already made up in the refrigerator section at the grocery store)
4 Tbsp chopped, fresh basil
¼ c. finely grated Parmesan (I LOVE Parmesan, so double this ingredient!)
1. Heat broiler. Arrange eggplant, tomatoes (cut side up), bell pepper and onion on large baking sheet coated with olive oil spray. Coat vegetables with olive oil spray and season with ¼ tsp each salt and pepper. Broil, stirring vegetables (except tomatoes) halfway through cooking, until tomatoes are slightly charred and giving up their juices and remaining vegetables are golden brown and tender…about 6 minutes for tomatoes and 18 minutes for eggplant, bell pepper and onion.
2. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare pasta per package directions. Drain and toss in bowl with broiled vegetables, pesto and 2 Tbsp of the basil. Spoon into shallow baking dish (about 2 qt.) and top with cheese.
3. Cover with foil and bake until heated through, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp basil.
Enjoy this healthy and hearty version of comfort food with a salad and grainy bread.
I love it when Dana hosts our women’s Bible study. Her home is warm and welcoming. She has a cool dog and she makes the best, by far, pumpkin bread in the world.
Dana serves her signature sweet bread warm right from the oven in a cute, Bundt-style baking pan in the shape of a pumpkin. Martha Stewart would be proud.
Recently, as I let a second warm slice of pumpkin perfection melt in my mouth, I decided to ask Dana for the recipe. I figured it would be beyond my culinary skills…probably an old, family recipe involving double boilers, exotic spices and separated eggs.
Dana just smiled as she shared her “secret” recipe – three ingredients – one step. So simple, even I could dazzle my friends and family with pumpkin bread worthy of the Cooking Channel.
If you need to bring something sweet to a holiday gathering, consider whipping up Dana’s perfect pumpkin bread. It’s so simple; you won’t even have to write it down. But here it is just in case!
Dana’s Pumpkin Bread
1 Box Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix
Prepare according to the box recipe, but add ½ can of organic, canned pumpkin (also at Trader Joe’s) and a small tub of vanilla Greek yogurt.
Bake and eat. Consider it my gift to you!
Good eating and God’s blessings!
It was our first trip to Paris. So much to see and do…the Eiffel Tower…Notre Dam…the Louvre. Amazing!
But as Tom and I recently experienced our first trip to the “City of Light,” we quickly learned the main Parisian attraction isn’t a cathedral or museum. It’s the food! And for nine days, we made it our goal to taste it all.
We indulged in crepes, both savory and sweet, swimming in rich cheese and cream sauces – fresh, buttered baguettes stuffed with ham and Gruyere, buttery croissants slathered in orange marmalade and steaming cups of cappuccino with creamy, whole milk. (Don’t even think about insulting your French server by asking for non-fat!)
We literally ate our way through the streets of Paris. From curbside vendors and colorful sidewalk cafes to charming bistros with white tablecloths, we dined on steaming bowls of cheese-covered French onion soup, spaghetti bolognaise and melt-in-your moth beef bourguignon.
I won’t even begin to describe the delightfully decadent French desserts in this space. Words are completely insufficient. But I will say this much. Last night I dreamt about one of those divine desserts…the rich ice cream, whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce confection known as the “blanche dame.”
For the record, I didn’t work out one day. Oh well, when in France…
But the day of reckoning finally came back home as I stepped on the scale to assess
the damage. Unbelievably, the digital display indicated I had lost nearly a pound!
And then it hit me.
I’d just experienced a touch of what’s known as the French Paradox…the country’s low rate of coronary heart disease despite a diet rich in saturated fat. It’s the basic premise of the popular diet book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” Author Mireille Guiliano advises eating only good food of very high quality, eat it in small portions and savor every bite.
And it fits our French dining experience to a tee. Rather than wolfing down a hastily prepared PB and J running out the door, our meals were not rushed. In fact, they were an event unto themselves…consumed slowly while visiting and sipping the local Bordeaux.
As Guiliano explains, “From chocolate to champagne, eat slowly, with all your senses, and make every dining experience pleasurable so you will be satisfied with smaller portions of delicious food. No food is off limits, only large portions. No counting calories, no skipping meals – just control what you eat.”
It truly is a paradox. Lean and fit, the French aren’t into low-fat, low-carb, low-taste and low-calorie. Their diet is full of flavor and high in satisfaction. (And the majority of Parisians don’t have cars. They walk as did we – often miles a day!)
When it comes to food, we could all learn a thing or two from our French brothers and sisters. With their low rate of obesity and cardiovascular disease, the French way may just be the way to go!
Like most of you health-conscious folks out there, I’ve done my best to make sure my diet includes a wide variety of leafy greens because they’re chock full of vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting anti-oxidants.
I admit going green hasn’t always bee easy. But over time I’ve finally acquired a taste for arugula. I make my soups “super” by adding some Swiss chard. And despite a bitter battle, I’ve finally conquered my aversion to kale and frequently mix the dark, leafy green into my favorite salads. Pretty good effort, I’d say.
But just when I thought I’d gone green enough, a new leafy veggie has become the darling of the farmer’s market. Have you heard the buzz about the nutritional power of “mini greens?” According to the research, these seedlings are proving that good things can come in extremely small packages.
I first ran across the news about mini greens in “O” magazine…then checked it out for myself. Turns out, according to the USDA, when harvested at just seven to 14 days old, these pint-size leaves can be far more nutrient-dense than their full-grown counterparts.
Studies show plants use stored nutrients to grow, so plucking the tiny seedlings early means they still have high levels of vitamins and minerals. Just keep in mind, says one study, that these “mini-me’s” lack the fiber found in mature plants, so they should supplement the greens you already eat…not replace them.
For all you fashionable foodies out there, here’s more good news about teensy greens. Thanks to the concentrated flavor of these diminutive standouts, they can elevate meals in taste as well as nutrition.
Give these a try:
This fragrant green contains 11 times more lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients that can reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related vision loss) than the same amount of mature cilantro.
Micro Red Cabbage
These slightly bitter, heart-shaped leaves outshine full-grown cabbage with roughly 260 times the beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A that can help protect eyesight) and more than 40 times the vitamin E.
Micro Purple Mustard Greens
Just four ounces of these greens meet your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C (75 milligrams). Another perk: these greens may be among the tastiest, due to their spicy zing.
Micro Green Daikon Radish
These sharp, spicy leaves are vitamin E superstars, boasting 165 percent of your RDA per ounce – helping to shore up your immune system and protect tissues and organs from damage caused by free radicals. By contrast, mature leaves contain only trace amounts of the antioxidant.
Micro Garnet Amaranth (this one’s new to me!)
Light red with an earthy, floral flavor… micro garnet amaranth ranks highest in vitamin K among micro greens (with more than 3 ½ times the amount in mature amaranth). Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and may reduce the risk of bone fractures.
I’m not exactly the queen of the kitchen, but I’m thinking if I adorn my next salad with nutrient-dense mini cilantro, would it be OK to can the kale?!
You all know I’m no Martha Stewart, so there’s no use pretending. When asked recently to bring a side dish to a backyard barbecue, I admit…I picked up some potato salad at a grocery store deli.
While transferring my store-bought salad to a plastic serving bowl, I couldn’t help but notice the little chunks of potato literally swimming in gooey dressing. Yuk! Not very healthy (and probably not very tasty either.)
I debated getting out my Mom’s famous potato salad recipe and whipping up a batch. But while her famous recipe is delicious, it, too, is loaded with rich, heavy dressing.
Growing up in the Midwest, summers meant burgers on the grill and classic cookout favorites like coleslaw, bean salad and, of course, potato salad. I still love a traditional barbecue buffet!
I just need some updated recipes with fewer calories, less fat…AND plenty of flavor.
My search led me to several classic cookout side dishes that have undergone healthy makeovers and they’re delicious! (Easy, too!) Next time you’re asked to bring a “side,” give one of these a try. (Beats the grocery deli every time!)
6 Tbsp chopped red onion
4 Tbsp wine vinegar
4 oz. thin green beans, trimmed
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 c shelled, cooked edamame (about 10oz), thawed, if frozen
1 can (15 oz) dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1. Combine onion with 3 Tbsp of the vinegar in small bowl and let stand 15 minutes to pickle. Cook green beans in boiling, salted water until tender, 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water and cut into thirds.
2. Whisk together mustard, honey, oil and remaining 1 Tbsp vinegar in large bowl. Stir in pickled onion mixture.
3. Add cooked green beans, edamame, kidney beans and chickpeas. Toss together until well combined. Season to taste.
New Potato Salad
1½ lb. new potatoes
3 ½ Tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp finely chopped shallot or onion
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon.
2 lg. hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lg. rib celery, chopped
1. Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. When potatoes are just cool enough to handle (but still warm) cut into quarters.
2. Whisk together vinegar and mustard in large bowl while potatoes are cooling. Add oil in slow stream, whisking until well combined. Stir in shallot and tarragon. Immediately add warm potatoes, tossing to combine.
3. Add eggs and celery and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Makes 4 cups.)
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz. fresh coleslaw mix (about 3 cups)
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1 bell pepper, sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp poppy seed, toasted (optional)
1. Whisk together vinegar, lime juice and honey in large bowl. Add oil in slow stream, whisking to combine.
2. Add remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine. Cover and chill at least 1 hour to let flavors develop. (Makes about 6 cups.)
Planning a backyard barbecue bash? Break out the burgers…just make sure you have an option for your beef-less friends!
Turkey burgers are a great, healthful alternative to beef, but frankly, they can be a bit bland. Even worse, the so-called “better” burgers are often so full of bread and other binders, you can end up loading up on carbs and empty calories rather than enjoying a healthy, high-protein, low-fat meal.
I find most prepared burgers disappointing, so I’ve been on the lookout for a turkey burger recipe I can make at home that’s healthy, delicious and not the least bit boring! The winner? A boffo burger with a little Greek influence. I tried it out on husband, Tom and got a big “thumbs-up!” Let me know what you think.
CAROL’S TASTY TURKEY BURGER
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
¼ c. 2% plain Greek-style yogurt
2 Tbsp. chopped scallions
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 lb ground organic turkey breast
¼ c coarsely chopped pitted green olives
2 oz feta, crumbled
1 tsp. Greek seasoning
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, split and toasted
4 sm leaves butter lettuce
8 sm slices tomato
8 thin slices red onion
1. Stir together yogurt, scallions, and 2 tsp of the lemon juice in small bowl. Set aside.
2. Mix together turkey, olives, feta, Greek seasoning and remaining 2 Tbsp lemon juice until just combined. Form into 4 patties.
3. Prepare lightly oiled grill for medium heat. Grill patties, turning until golden brown and cooked through (internal temperature 165 degrees F), about 12 minutes
4. Serve burgers on buns with lettuce, tomato, onion and yogurt sauce.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.
Growing up, Mom fixed asparagus for dinner…a lot. My Dad loved the green, veggie spears, so it was a mainstay in our diet. “Eat your asparagus,” Dad demanded. “It’s good for you.”
That may have been true. But I hated the nasty, green vegetable. When no one was looking, my portion often went to our poor, dog, Chuckie. (That dog would eat anything. Once, he ate the entire Easter ham!)
I can’t tell you exactly when my relationship with asparagus changed, but today I absolutely love the versatile vegetable packed with nutrition. Maybe, like Brussels sprouts, asparagus is just an acquired taste. But I think the difference is in the preparation.
For the record, my Mom was an excellent cook. However, like every other Midwestern homemaker, Mom boiled her asparagus in water and butter until there was nothing left but green, stringy mush.
Not until I was an adult did I get a taste of this ancient vegetable prepared al dente, or better still, roasted, parboiled or fresh in a salad. I’ve been hooked on my former vegetable nemesis ever since!
The more I learn about the amazing asparagus, the more I love it!
Did you know the name for asparagus – a member of the lily family comes from the Greek word meaning “shoot” or “sprout?” Now widely cultivated throughout the world, this regal vegetable is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean region, where it was prized for its unique texture and alleged medicinal and aphrodisiacal qualities. (How’s that for a health bonus?!)
Asparagus spears grow from a crown planted in sandy soils and, under ideal conditions, can grow 10 inches in a 24-hour period! The most common types are green, but you might see two others in stores, farmer’s markets and restaurants: white, which is more delicate and difficult to harvest, and purple, which is smaller and fruitier.
This giant veggie is also a nutritional rock star – high in folic acid and a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin and vitamins A, B6 and C. A 5-ounce serving provides 60 percent of the RDA for folic acid and is low in calories.
‘Tis the season for asparagus, so pick up a couple of bunches. Enjoy it raw or with minimal preparation, which the Romans seemed to appreciate. They had a saying to describe something done rapidly, “As quick as cooking asparagus!” (Sorry Mom!)
Here’s a simple, tasty and nutritious asparagus recipe I think you’ll enjoy. Perfect for a warm, summer evening!
Spring Asparagus and White Bean Salad
3 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 lb)
1 ½ cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
5 thinly sliced radishes
½ cup (2 oz) crumbled feta or goat cheese
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1. Steam asparagus, covered, 2 minutes or until crisp-tender.
2. Rinse asparagus with cold water and drain.
3. Gently combine asparagus, beans radishes, feta, shallot and fresh mint in a serving bowl.
4. Make dressing by combining lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine.
5. Pour dressing over asparagus mixture and toss gently to coat.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.