For all you “foodies” out there, this may be hard to believe, but I have never watched the Food Network. I can’t tell you where to find the Cooking Channel either.
I realize it’s my loss. It seems everyone I know loves to watch and learn from cooking shows. And while I could certainly use a little help in the kitchen (just ask my long-suffering husband!), I’ve just never found slicing and dicing or simmering and sautéing all that interesting to watch.
Until I met Melissa d’Arabian!
Left: Melissa d'Arabian (3rd from left) with emcee, Pat Brown (left), yours truly and friend, Vicki Hesterman.
The New York Times best-selling cookbook author, host of “Ten Dollar Dinners,” and winner of the “Next Food Network Star” recently wowed a crowd of 400 as the keynote speaker at my church’s (First United Methodist Church, San Diego) annual “Spring Fling” women’s luncheon.
Melissa may be a pretty face, a celebrity chef, and an engaging TV host, but as she shared her compelling life story, it became clear she also possesses an inner beauty and depth of character not often seen in the celebrity world.
Early in her work life, d’Arabian found success in corporate America. She received her MBA from Georgetown University and was enjoying a career in corporate finance when she met her now husband, Philippe, in Paris.
When the two returned to the States and started their family in Coronado, d’Arabian made a career shift to stay-at-home mom. And with four daughters close in age, her work schedule was packed full.
One challenge was figuring out how to feed four young children on a sustainable budget, but with her love of cooking and financial savvy, d’Arabian discovered how to kill two birds with one stone. She began making her own baby food and yogurt at home. “I was saving $125 to $150 a month on yogurt alone!” she says.
The idea became so popular among her friends and family, she began self-recording home yogurt-making tutorials on her cell phone to share with even more moms.
The concept of combining delicious recipes and money-saving techniques spread quickly leading to her victory on season five of Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star.”
That was five years ago and the TV competition was true to its name. Melissa is now well known as the star of Food Network’s “Ten Dollar Dinners.” She has a best-selling cookbook of the same name and her second book is due out soon. She is also featured in numerous publications.
But Melissa’s successes are just part of her story. The gifted, bright-eyed beauty is also a down-to-earth, passionate woman of faith…a faith that has carried her through life’s trials, including her mother’s suicide when Melissa was only 19 years old.
As Melissa shared, it became clear that success and celebrity are not what’s most important in her life. Her main focus is to be on the path God wants her to be on, which affects her daily decisions as a woman, wife, mother and professional. “I focus on staying in a place where I’m grateful for everything I have. Faith is what gets me through.”
Melissa has even turned the pain of her mother’s loss into an opportunity to help others as she champions the cause of suicide prevention through a variety of organizations. She is an active Girl Scout leader for her daughters and was recently honored by the organization as one of San Diego’s “Cool Women.”
I have to agree with the Girl Scouts. In fact, Melissa d’Arabian is not only “cool,” she’s a breath of fresh air. And now that I’m one of her fans, I plan to DVR her show, if for no other reason than to get a little boost from her million-dollar smile.
Who knows, I may even learn how to separate an egg in the process!
(I recommend her Salad Nicoise. It’s yummy and so easy, even I can make it!)
I drive my coffee-loving friends crazy. Don’t get me wrong. I love coffee, but only if it’s masked with every accoutrement available. By the time I’m done with it, my morning dark roast is the color of my husband’s khakis!
For years, I’ve justified my breakfast treat –half and half, two teaspoons of sugar and a little coffee because, for the most part, I eat healthfully the rest of the day.
But recent news about the relationship between sugar and heart disease has got me thinking I may need to learn to drink my java black. A report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) comes with a stern warning: eating too much sugar can be deadly!
Now, I hate to be alarmist about food studies, but this research is compelling.
The problem isn’t with sugar found naturally in foods. But the largest study of its kind reveals consuming too much added sugar – found in regular soft drinks, cakes, cookies and candy dramatically increases your risk of death from heart disease.
According to one of the study’s authors, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases exponentially as you increase your consumption of sugar.
Adults, on average, consume about 15 percent of their daily calories – about 300 calories a day from added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 100 calories a day from added sugars – about six teaspoons. Men should keep it to about nine teaspoons. (BTW: One can of regular soda has about 140 calories of added sugar.)
But just as I began congratulating myself for not drinking sugary soda, there’s this:
Added sugars in the CDC report also include table sugar (the stuff I add to my breakfast brew) brown sugar (which I love atop an otherwise healthy bowl of hot oatmeal) high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey (Yikes! Last night I drizzled honey over a slice of cornbread!), molasses and other caloric sweeteners in prepared and processed foods and beverages (I guess that includes the handful of M&M’s I nibbled on while working at my computer.)
Busted! Clearly – without even realizing it, I can blow right through my 100-calorie sugar limit…even if I’m making otherwise healthy food choices. Bottom line, sugar is everywhere and we need to be intentional about keeping intake to a minimum.
And if the risk of heart attack isn’t enough incentive, other research has tied a high intake of added sugars to obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and risk factors for stroke. With all that’s at stake, it may just be worth keeping an eye on how much sugar you add to your diet each day.
As Rachel Johnson, spokeswoman for the American Heart Association points out, “Now we know that too much added sugar doesn’t just make us fat – it could cause a heart attack.”
Guess I’ll take my cuppa joe with a little half and half, thank you. Hold the sugar.
Do you have a favorite San Diego area restaurant just for special occasions? Chances are it’s one of an array of excellent eateries located in an upscale, seaside destination such as Coronado, La Jolla or Del Mar right?
How about Imperial Beach?
Before you dismiss that idea, you may just want to head to South Bay and check out what may just be the best-kept secret in waterfront dining. It’s not only “special,” it’s located just steps from the sand and minutes from Mexico.
SEA180 Coastal Tavern is located in the new Pier South resort in IB and I think this newest offering from the Cohn Restaurant Group is simply stunning.
My sweet husband, Tom, recently treated me to a delightful birthday dinner at the new, contemporary beachfront resort that’s changing both the landscape and attitude of the sleepy beach community most known for its annual sandcastle competition.
You may just want to add the new beachfront resort and restaurant to IB’s notable list. With sweeping 180 degree views of the Coronado Islands, South Bay and Mexico, the name SEA180 Coastal Tavern was a no-brainer! Expansive, breathtaking views are visible from every table.
But I think the (almost!) on-the-sand patio seating offers the best waterfront dining experience in town. Despite the evening chill, heaters kept us warm and toasty. (For added warmth, our server even offered to bring us cozy throws!) So we lingered over dinner until the sun dropped below the horizon. The perfect end to a perfect birthday.
Oh! Did I mention the food??!!
SEA180’s menu includes several fabulous entrées from their killer Wagyu Cheeseburger and creative charred vegetable wrap to Mary’s “Beer Can” Smoked Half Chicken and Miso Marinated Yellowtail.
But if you’re like me and enjoy trying a little of everything go for the “shares” menu. We chose several items. The seared sea scallops are to die for. (I gobbled the last one while Tom wasn’t looking!)
We also sampled the gingered pulled pork empanadas and one of the Cohn restaurants’ signature recipes…fire roasted Brussels sprouts. Ev
en if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, I challenge you to give these a try. Prepared with bits of ham and balsamic glaze, these veggies are better than candy!
Prepared with the freshest, organic, sustainable and local ingredients possible, enjoy Mexican shrimp ceviche, smoked salmon gringo sushi, ground lamb sliders and mushroom raviolis…nearly 30 yummy “shares” from which to choose.
These great eats are also available at great happy hour prices. SEA180’s beautiful bar with a million-dollar view is a perfect place to g
ather after a long day’s work.
There’s a lot going on in IB. SEA180 owner, David Cohn says he’s happy to be part of it. “We hope the restaurant will help revitalize the area by attracting a broader range of visitors who would otherwise never venture into this laid-back beach community,” says Cohn.
“Through this restaurant and adjoining boutique hotel, we look forward to putting Imperial Beach on the map – providing a top-notch destination that truly showcases the pristine, coastal location.”
Thanks, David. Tom and I so enjoyed our SEA180 experience, we returned again for Easter Sunday brunch and brought along our nephew, Ian and his girlfriend Katie. What could be better than brunch on the beach?!
It was the highlight of the weekend! (OK, maybe AFTER the Resurrection!)
Medical breakthrough means hope for those with spinal cord injuries
Medical breakthroughs make great news. In fact, reporting on so-called medical "miracles" has been one of the highlights of my career. But nothing compares with learning one of those "miracles" could possibly help change the life of someone I know and love.
Ten years ago, Glenn Henry was in a freak motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. At 65, my professor, coach, mentor and friend had just retired from the athletic department at my alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa.
To celebrate the milestone, Glenn and his wife, Karen, bought a Harley and hit the road. Riding along a quiet, but winding country road one beautiful fall day, their bike suddenly skidded on a patch of gravel and went down. The former winning swim coach, popular professor and successful entrepreneur was able to maneuver the spill so Karen suffered only minor injuries. But Glenn flew over the handlebars...landed on his head and severed his spine at the neck.
Left: Coach Glenn Henry, his wife, Karen, Tom and Carol.
In a split second, one of the most active, full-of-life people I have ever known found his retirement dreams of travel and adventure dashed on some loose gravel. He could no longer do anything on his own but speak and breathe.
With his indomitable spirit, fiercely supportive family and unwavering faith, Glenn has beat the odds and continues to find joy in living – holding out hope that someday, medical science will come up with a cure for spinal cord injuries (SCI).
Recently, his dream moved one step closer to reality.
After his accident, Glenn’s three children connected with the Christopher Reeve Foundation and for the last decade, Lisa, Lori and Lance have been working tirelessly with the non-profit raising money and awareness on behalf of their Dad and others sidelined due to SCI.
Last month came news of what may just be the “miracle” the Henry’s have been praying for. The stunning results of a clinical trial funded by the Reeve Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, could be a game-changer for thousands living with paralysis due to SCI.
Four paralyzed men can now voluntarily move their legs after researchers implanted a device that shoots electrical stimulation into their spinal cords.
Two of the four men were told there was no chance of recovery. But with the help of epidural stimulation, they can now move their hips, ankles and toes.
The study results, published in the journal, “Brain,” are groundbreaking giving hope to many who were given wheelchairs and told to just “live with it.”
The electrical stimulator used in the treatment sends electric pulses of various frequencies and intensities to specific regions of the spinal cord. The electrical signal helped the spinal cord reuse the broken neural network and control movement of limbs.
The treatment also helped improve patient’s overall health. No surprise to Glenn and his family. Because of the added movement, the men in the study developed muscle mass, had better blood circulation and reported greater well being.
You better believe, within moments of getting the news, the Henry’s were filling out paper work to hopefully enroll my friend in the next study. We’re praying this is just the beginning of renewed hope for Glenn and some 200,000 others in the U.S. living with SCI and hope for a future where paralysis is completely reversible.
Imagine sadness so profound, despair so deep, that it seems the only way out is suicide. Tragically, that scene plays out for hundreds of San Diegans every year.
In 2012, 413 men, women and, yes, even children, died at their own hands – a record number of suicides in San Diego. Sadly, the number of self-inflicted deaths continues to rise, with no end in sight.
Perhaps that explains the huge turnout recently for the annual “Save a Life” Walk sponsored by Survivors of Suicide Loss. A record crowd of 2,000 gathered for the annual 3.1-mile trek around Balboa Park, with most walking in memory of loved ones lost to suicide. (Learn more www.soslsd.org).
Despite the disturbing theme, as a survivor (I lost my mother to suicide) and participant, I assure you the “Save a Life” Walk is neither depressing nor somber, but full of love, laughter and hope – due, in part, to the presence of Pastor Joe Davis.
As we gathered together before the 5K begins, emotions run raw for many. But Joe’s uplifting invocation never fails to include a perfect prayer to comfort those who have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide.
You might say Joe’s the perfect guy for the job! Every day, as chaplain for the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office, Joe ministers to grieving families dealing with all kinds of traumatic death, including suicide.
Every time he speaks at the annual Walk, Joe says he can count on someone coming up to him, reminding him about the time he came to their home, “with the news that their son, or wife, or father had died at their own hands.”
It’s an emotionally taxing job, but the affable and easy-going Joe believes he’s been called to comfort families and friends of loved ones who have died. He deals with death of every description. “What makes suicide different,” says the chaplain, “is that other deaths can usually be explained.” So Joe says his job is to be there for distraught loved ones “trying to make sense out of something that never makes sense.”
He admits, dealing daily with death and human anguish hasn’t been easy. Several years ago, plagued by emotional stress and stomach problems, Joe turned to prayer asking, “If I’m supposed to be doing this, why is it so hard?”
He believes God’s answer was loud and clear, “If you’re going to get that involved, you’re no good to the families and you’re no good to me.”
“Now, instead of being part of the storm,” explains Joe, “I’m the calm in the midst of the storm.”
But last year, in a tragic irony, the “storm” came to Joe personally when he got the call that rocked his world. Following years of depression, his own father had taken his life. “It was the most painful, horrible training I’ve ever had,” Joe told me, tears welling up.
As he deals with his own lingering pain, Joe believes his experience has helped him better help others. “Now I can honestly say, ‘I know what you’re going through.’”
And so Joe continues his unpaid job, as the only full-time chaplain for a medical examiner in the US, with his faith and signature sense of humor to carry him through the next crisis.
“I don’t know the shelf life of a coroner’s chaplain,” quips Davis. “I’m just being obedient to where I’m supposed to be.”
Thank you for making a difference, Joe.
Q&A with Badalin Helvink, M.D.
According to Badalin Helvink, M.D., medical director of the Psychiatry Program at the Palomar Center for Behavioral Health, suicide is our nation’s top public health issue. Here she explains how we all play a role in saving lives.
Carol: Why is the suicide rate rising?
Dr. Helvink: Violence, economic stress, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, family history of mental illness, access to guns, lack of access to health care … take your pick!
Carol: How do we get a handle on the problem?
Dr. Helvink: First, by talking about it. Sadly, a stigma still exists when it comes to mental illness.
Carol: Why can’t we get past the stigma?
Dr. Helvink: Unfortunately, the barriers are still there. Families don’t want to talk about it. Patients don’t want to be on medication.
Carol: What about the media?
Dr. Helvink: Sensationalized celebrity suicides can actually cause a copycat effect. Cyberbullying through social media causes severe pressure on kids. Nearly 16 percent of kids admit thinking about suicide.
Carol: Sounds like an issue for everyone.
Dr. Helvink It takes a village—a collaborative effort of family, friends, community and providers.
Carol: How can I help prevent a suicide?
Dr. Helvink: If you know someone who’s struggling – isolating, consumed with sadness or morbidly preoccupied – don’t wait for them to “snap out of it.” Reach out.
Carol: How do you know when it’s serious?
Dr. Helvink In my practice, if I hear, “I’m a burden” or “I can’t live like this anymore,” or when a teen hears her friend say she “wishes she were dead.” If they voice it, take it seriously.
Carol: Some say suicide is an act of cowardice.
Dr. Helvink: I invite them to have compassion about something that’s tragic, and for many, a result of major depressive disorder.
Carol: Can there be a happy ending?
Dr. Helvink: I had a patient who took a serious overdose. After successful treatment for her depression, she told me she never knew she could actually feel good again.
Carol: What do you want people to know?
Dr. Helvink Depression is a very treatable condition. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is help.
See our full story on Behavioral Health in The HealthSource.
Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month which is a good time to be extra vigilant with friends and loved ones dealing with extreme sadness or a sense of hopelessness.
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
• Always talking or thinking about death
• Clinical depression – deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating that gets worse
• Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Losing interest in things one used to care about
• Making comments about being hopeless, helpless or worthless
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
• Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
• Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
• Talking about suicide or killing one's self
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Be especially concerned if a person is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20 and 50 percent of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt.
I got the horrific news from Susan.
Our friend, Sharon, she told me quietly over the phone, had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer…and the outlook was grim. Doctors called it Stage 3-C – an extremely aggressive form of the potentially deadly disease.
It all happened so fast.
Within days of her diagnosis, Sharon was scheduled for surgery to re-route a section of her intestines being strangled by the tumors…ending in what hopefully would become a temporary colostomy.
It didn't seem possible. I'd just seen Sharon a few weeks earlier at a festive dinner party at her home celebrating the recent engagement of her 22-year-old daughter, Paige. She was fine. Glowing, in fact.
But now her life was about to be forever changed by the cancer she was unaware had been silently growing inside her.
Sharon admits she'd been bothered by some vague intestinal symptoms in the months leading up to her diagnosis – gas, bloating and indigestion she treated with antacids and Beano. Then one day, the belly pain became unbearable. She was hospitalized and treated for three days for what doctors believed was an intestinal blockage. Her pain only got worse. Further tests revealed the bitter truth.
The tumor with tentacles was choking her colon and was moving throughout her abdomen.
The good news? It’s been several agonizing weeks, but the surgery restored function of her lower GI. All indications are three rounds of chemotherapy have shrunk the tumors. And now there's hope a final surgery to remove what remains…followed by more chemotherapy and radiation… and will restore her to good health.
But the question remains. How could this have happened? Sharon is smart, healthy and in tune with her body. With her signature sense of humor, even she wonders how this "alien being" could have overwhelmed her body, virtually undetected.
Unfortunately, “undetection” is the hallmark of this insidious disease. So while my friend works her way toward a clean bill of health, more than 20,000 new cases will strike women across the United States this year.
What’s frustrating is scientists still don’t know the exact cause of ovarian cancer, so they haven’t found a way to prevent its often deadly progression. So, without the presence of overt symptoms, women need to pay attention to more subtle symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?
Although ovarian cancer rarely produces symptoms in its earliest stages, eventual warning signs may include:
• Vague digestive disturbances, such as mild indigestion, bloating, feeling of fullness, or loss of appetite, gas
• Diarrhea, constipation, or a frequent need to urinate
• Pain or swelling in the abdomen, or pain in the lower back or pelvic pressure
• Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause
• Shortness of breath
Symptoms associated with advanced ovarian cancer include severe nausea, vomiting, pain and weight loss.
Call Your Doctor About Ovarian Cancer If:
You have unexplained abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, particularly if these conditions accompany the more general symptoms listed in the description section; do not allow such symptoms to continue undiagnosed for more than two weeks.
With great faith and great medical care, Sharon and her family are expecting at a great outcome from her cancer scare. She’s already got a gorgeous dress picked out for Paige’s wedding!
Love you, Sharon!
Would you like to be part of something that’s fun, good for you…and good for others? Then join me Saturday morning, June 7 for a stimulating stroll or fast-paced run along the Embarcadero at the 2nd annual “Run For Independence.” It’s a 5 or 10-K (take your pick!) for an awesome organization called “TMI.” As you enjoy a great workout along San Diego’s gorgeous waterfront, you’ll also be supporting something big!
In this case, TMI doesn’t stand for “too much information!” In fact, we want to spread the word about what may just be the most important non-profit you’ve never heard of!
Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) has been giving people with disabilities the chance to live happy, fulfilling lives in our community for more than 30 years. I’ve been blessed to see first-hand the changed lives made possible because of the people and programs associated with TMI.
Because of TMI, my entire perception of people with disabilities has changed. There’s a type of discrimination that exists… I believe rooted in fear… of someone who’s “different….” someone who looks different, speaks differently, walks differently…or maybe can’t walk at all.
Because of TMI, I no longer fear or avoid what I don’t understand. I love to engage the delightful young man who bags my groceries at Vons. He’s always cheerful, efficient and clearly loves his job. Anthony also happens to have a developmental disability and that makes him “different.” So what!
TMI’s mission is to provide what Anthony and all people with disabilities want to enjoy…a job, a home…full inclusion in society. For years, TMI has been looking beyond the differences and seeing the person made by the same Creator…with the same hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations as the rest of us.
I’ve spent time with the CEO David Piazza and the TMI team and seen their pure passion for people living with disabilities. They’ve been doing what I believe is God’s work in our community for decades…under the radar with virtually no recognition.
It’s time to shine the light on TMI. Would you think about joining me and hundreds of others in support of the proven programs of TMI as they continue to make dreams come true for people with disabilities?
They’re not so “different,” really. Just like you and me, people with disabilities need nothing less than love, acceptance and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Click on this link for a brief look at the fun you’ll have if you join us.
Don’t miss this year’s fun. See you June 7!
Sixty. I turned 60 this month! I’ve been practicing saying it for months. But now that it’s here, it seems surreal!
Sixty. Yikes! It sounds so old, and yet, I have to admit, I’m glad I’ve lived long enough to say those words and celebrate their meaning. I’m alive happy, healthy and surrounded by family and friends who care about me. Those are blessings…at any age.
Not only that, I’m in good company! Did you know Oprah just turned 60? She’s still going strong and feeling pretty positive about the milestone. In a recent magazine interview, the superstar shared a few thoughts…echoing my feelings about the benefits of aging up!
“I’m turning 60,” says Oprah, “and – please don’t take offense, but I no longer have to be concerned what anyone thinks of me! (You know, the old, am I doing it right? Am I saying it right? Am I being what or who I’m “supposed” to be?) I’m turning 60, and I’ve earned the right to be just as I am.”
You go, girl!
I may have lost my once firm behind, but, like Oprah and many of you 60-plus gals out there, I’m more secure in being myself than I’ve ever been. My skin may be saggy in spots, but at least I’m more comfortable in it!
I also happen to know some really “hot chicks” that recently turned 60. “Peeps,” the beloved marshmallow candy,” is celebrating six decades of success and longevity. More popular than ever, the iconic Easter candy is constantly reinventing itself…proving that 60 may just be the new 30!
So, I’m not going to let a couple of gray hairs get me down. I was 20 once. Now it’s someone else’s turn. It’s the cycle of life. And rather than waste time and energy whining about it, I’m going to give myself a birthday gift…a piece of age-old inspiration from one of my feminist heroes…award-winning newspaper columnist, Erma Bombeck.
Check out her hilarious “At Wit’s End” column from 1992 in which the gifted humorist took aim at the problem of aging.
“Aging Gracefully is Going out of Style”
by Erma Bombeck
One of the bonuses of growing old used to be that you could shrivel and no one cared. My grandmother shriveled. She also sagged, shifted, slouched and slumped. It was as if the floor was the center point of gravity, and with glacier-like movement all of my grandmother’s parts eventually came to rest there.
No one gave her permission for her body to go from a solid to a jelly state. It was her rite of passage.
Had she lived today, she might not have been so lucky. We live in times of the youthmeisters. There’s the grandmother from West Melbourne, Fla., who wrote that she slipped into a pair of jeans one afternoon and buttoned a plain white blouse over it. When she saw her 6-year-old granddaughter, Katie, taking it all in, she wiggled her hips and asked, “Does this blouse look OK with the jeans?”
Katie circled her critically and said, “Yes, Grandma, the blouse looks OK, but if you’re ever gonna be a stripper, you’re gonna have to lose those thighs.”
There’s nothing wrong with hanging onto youth, but we have gone to war with aging. Thirty year-olds are “doing their eyes” and having skin peels. Why? It’s like having a car serviced with only 200 miles on it.
My mother said to me last Sunday, “I’m going to lose this stomach if it’s the last thing I do.” She is in her 80’s.
Think about what you’re doing,” I said. “Think about all those women on the Titanic who looked at the dessert cart and said, “No thanks, my waistband is getting a little tight.”
You could lose a few pounds yourself,” she retorted. “I’ll bet you couldn’t even fit in your wedding dress anymore.”
“I get so few calls for it,” I said dryly.
But the pressure is there and will remain there for the rest of our lives. When I’m 90, I will sit in front of my TV set listening to, “Give us a week – we’ll take off the weight” and shouting at it, “I don’t HAVE a week!”
I looked through an old photo album and found a picture of my grandmother just before she died. She had great skin and the best pair of legs this side of the Ohio River. But she was shaped like an eggplant. It didn’t matter. She was beautiful, and she was supposed to look that way.”
Some things never change.
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.