Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Lunchtime and Fast Food

Lunch is the forgotten stepchild of the meal day unless you work everyday or work off-hours, (Swing Shift or Night Shift) and usually we spend a fair amount of energy planning dinner, and we (sometimes begrudgingly) spend some energy making sure we eat breakfast. Have you ever looked up at the clock at noon, realized we are hungry and then scarfed down whatever was available and easy?

Too often, lunch, means fast food, vending machine food or – for some people – nothing at all. And this is truly unfortunate. Nutrition experts tell us again and again that eating three meals and two snacks a day is the surest path to good nutrition and a balanced diet. Even the fast-food places are catching on to people being more health-conscious and are introducing more healthy choices, like a veggie burger that tasted like meat. A hamburger and fries don’t get you very far on the path to good nutrition, however.

So, how do you change this? Lunch is a tough one for people who work outside the home. Sure, you can pack leftovers from dinner, but what if there aren’t any or you didn’t like dinner in the first place? Making a sandwich and adding some fruit sounds easy, but that’s just one more thing to do in the morning and if you’re in a rush, it’s one of the first chores you’ll discard.

Here are some tips to bring lunch back into focus on busy weekdays:

Do plan for leftovers, if possible. I mean if you like what you’re making for dinner and think you wouldn’t mind having it for lunch tomorrow, set aside some for lunch add a piece of fruit and yogurt and there’s lunch tomorrow.

If you must have fast food try to stay away from fries, and see if soup or a salad is on the menu. Yes, I said salads. Sure, you’ll get some nutritional content from the lettuce and all the other goodies on the salad, but the dressing might have as much as 30 grams of fat in it, most of it saturated fat. Stick with light dressings or even keep a bottle of dressing in the fridge at work.

If you’re out and about running errands and get hungry, stop at 7-11, and grab a bottle of milk, some trail mix or a granola bar and a piece of fruit. It might not be gourmet, but it should boost your energy level until later and then dinner.

Keep lunch items at work. There are many things you can keep in your desk that are shelf-stable and still healthy. A packet of tuna and crackers were my favorite. Stay away from fruit juices loaded with sugar and prefer fresh fruit. Nuts, trail mix, and granola bars are all good lunchtime choices. Stay away from sodium-laden canned soups and noodle bowls. Not only can they provide you with more than the maximum sodium you need for one day, but they also won’t provide the complex carb and protein boost you need to get you through the afternoon and keep you from stalking the vending machine later for an unhealthy snack.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Grapes and Mental Health

We've all heard that drinking wine is good for us, but what about those who are on medication or just don't indulge in alcohol? Well, according to the experts, non-fermented (Concord) grapes may be just as healthy for you, especially when it comes to our aging brains. In fact, new studies suggest that drinking a healthy amount of unadulterated (Concord) grape juice can help us stay healthy by keeping our bodies laden with important antioxidants, our minds limber, and our memories on track.

Recent research shows that grape juice given to lab rats (who were approaching the end of their life span) enhanced their cognitive and motor abilities and skills. The researchers placed laboratory animals under a significant series of tests focusing on their short-term memory and their neuro-motor skills. What they found, was that the majority of the tests conducted revealed ample improvement or a trend toward substantial improvement in these essential areas that also significantly affect humans as they age.

These experiments, addressing our continually and increasingly aging population (people these days can look forward to enjoying a healthy life, up into their 80s and beyond, with a new standard reaching the 100 year mark), seek to determine better ways for individuals to grow "old" gracefully and maintain their mental and physical abilities and skills.

Experts went on to add that although these tests and findings are currently in the preliminary stages, they assert that much (previous) research has identified (red, concord) grapes as containing essential antioxidants that are beneficial for our health for a vast variety of reasons, including lowering cholesterol, and warding off serious ailments such as certain types of cancers. Now, drinking Concord grape juice is gaining notoriety for it (seeming) potential to help retard the mental and physical deterioration process that generally has been associated with aging.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Healthy Breakfast

Whatever your true feeling about breakfast? I believe this meal has earned the title of the most important meal of the day. Most of the information I have been able to internalize and commit to memory referrers to a "normal day." Meaning a day that ends in the evening and begins again in the morning. I say this because when I used to work the night shift hardly anything I have learned about the importance of breakfast would have applied to me then. So if off-shift work is your plight this information may or may not feel like it's useful.

After a good night's sleep of 8 to 10 hours, blood sugar levels are usually low by morning. Even while we sleep our body is busy working burning calories to keep us warm, while we sleep. After fasting for 8 to 10 hopefully restful hours of sleep. The Arabic word for the first meal of the day translates to Break Fast. In my opinion after fasting all night it's time to recharge in the morning and take in the nutritional fuel necessary to power our mind and body through the day.

Breakfast allows us to kick-start our day making this meal beneficial to both young and old. People who eat a healthy breakfast daily are more likely to

- Consume more vitamins, minerals and less of fat and cholesterol.
- Increased strength and endurance.
- Better concentration and productivity all day long.
- Control weight and
- Low cholesterol equals a lower risk of heart disease

Children who eat breakfast are likely to have better concentration, problem-solving skills, and better eye-hand coordination and are less likely to miss days of school.

If you think to skip this meal will help you lose weight, think again. Skipping this first meal of the day can send your body into starvation mode and make you crave for snacks especially sweets. Impulsive snacking on unhealthy foods can lead to weight gain. Try to choose healthy foods from at least two food groups each morning

- Fruits & Vegetables
- Grains
- Dairy
- Proteins

A glass of pure fruit juice, bananas, yogurt, low-calorie muesli with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, fresh fruit salad with few spoonfuls of low-fat yogurt, fresh and raw veggies mixed with flavored yogurt, a slice of toast or plain bread with eggs, boiled or poached are some good options for breakfast. Kids can enjoy a Smoothie with their favorite fruits; add a dash of yogurt or honey to make it more delicious.

The first thing I do in the morning is to rehydrate with a cup of tea or a glass of water and then try to eat as healthy as possible. If you look forward to eating different kinds of healthy foods for breakfast, you are less like to skip this meal. If time is your hurdle, think about packing your breakfast or eating on the 'run', its better than skipping breakfast altogether.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Keeping calories under control when dining out

There are plenty of fun places to dine in San Jose California not only is the city a fun place to visit but the area also contains some of the best restaurants in San Jose. Ever wonder how you can possibly lose weight when the average dinner out contains so many extra calories? Well, don’t worry this post might be able to help! Keeping yourself in shape when dining out is simply a matter of ordering the right things to eat.

Here are 6 tips for having a healthy dinner out (and keeping all those extra calories in check) Tips that will help you turn just about any restaurant into one of the healthy restaurants.

Watch Your Drinks

By not ordering an alcoholic beverage, you've saved yourself a considerable number of calories. Try sipping iced tea sweetened with a noncaloric sweetener, a diet soft drink, or water with lemon. You'll be glad you did when you consider the calorie savings.

Have A Salad

One of the best menus choices is a salad, salads are my healthy fast food. Not only will it fill you up so you'll consume fewer calories overall, but it will also give you a hefty dose of antioxidants which are heart-healthy. Be sure to ask your waitress to hold the croutons and cheese which will further reduce your caloric intake. Also, choose your dressing wisely. Avoid cream-based dressings and go for the vinegar-based ones. You also have the option of using vinegar and olive oil which is heart-healthy.

Don’t Order An Appetizer Unless Necessary

Do you know that some appetizers have more calories and fat than the main course? Plus, many appetizers are fried and served with heavy sauces which will add to your intake of saturated fat as well as trans fats and calories. It's not a healthy way to start your meal.

Choose The Right Kind Of Foods

Go for broiled and grilled rather than fried. Not only will you save calories and fat grams, but you'll also avoid trans fats which are so prevalent in fried foods. Instead, consider asking for a doubles order of vegetables with your entree. Very few Americans are getting the 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables recommended for optimal health. Plus, by avoiding the starch, you'll be reducing your caloric and carbohydrate intake. Also, stick to tomato-based sauces rather than cream-based and you'll enjoy considerable calorie savings. Lastly, ask for the sauce to be served in a separate dish on the side so you can control the amount you eat.

Don’t Overeat

Today, many restaurants are serving larger quantities of food than in the past. If this is the case, put aside a portion of your entree at the beginning of the meal to take home with you. If you remove it from your plate before you start eating, you'll be less tempted to overeat.

No ” To Sugary, Fatty Desserts

Instead, go for low fat or low carbohydrate dessert selections such as a low-carb cheesecake. These are wise choices for the health-conscious eater that still allow you to end the meal on a sweet note. If a healthy dessert option isn't available, try a cup of coffee with skim milk to help satiate your desire for something sweet.

The next time you go out for dinner, keep the above tips in mind. You will be surprised how many calories you are able to eliminate from your meal just by ordering the right menu selection, turn where ever you dine when you're eating out into a healthy food restaurant by the number of calories you can take away!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Why I love Apples

There are many great foods in the world. Unsigned professional chef (known only to my family) of course I love food. I enjoy cooking it just as much as I enjoy eating it. Nothing gives me as much of a thrill as preparing a great meal for the people I love. I've heard it said many times that a chef must have a hard time choosing a favorite meal. For me, that has never been the case. From the time I was a young boy up until now, I have loved a good apple more than any other food.

I guess one of the biggest reasons that I love an apple is because of all of the childhood memories I have that include apples. My Texas grandparents had several apple trees on their farm, and on the summers my siblings and I would spend with my grandparents we used to enjoy endless hours of wandering through the different fruit trees, picking or favorite fruit, my favorite was of course apples. We would play games and enjoy being out of the city (San Francisco) and when our energy was exhausted we would sit underneath apple trees for hours telling stories and laughing.

Almost since I can remember I had heard the words an apple a day keeps the doctor away but it wasn't until much later that I remember reading some of the information that showed me why those words might actually be true. Now I know that apples are good for the heart and possess a soluble fiber that helps in absorbing cholesterol. Antioxidants also useful in fighting bad cholesterol are packed onto an apple; antioxidants that can also help prevent lung cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer.

Apples are a form of health food that can help improve the bacteria that live inside our large intestine and affect the metabolism inside the digestive tract by eliminating bad bacteria and toxins maximizing your nutrient intake. Talk about a great snack food for diabetic patients apples slow down the digestion of food which can lessen the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. The high levels of potassium in apples prevent the loss of calcium in the blood which prevents the loss of calcium in the bones for good bone density.

I also learned over time that eating apples activate saliva to kill up to 80% of the bacteria in your mouth and that protects your teeth and gums. The free radicals that can lead to oxidative stress and has been linked to fatigue can be counteracted by the high vitamin C and antioxidants biologically sealed inside an apple. Vitamin C can even help protect against exercise-induced asthma, mix some apple juice with an equal amount of carrot juice for a good way to relieve constipation.

Most people know about the great taste of an apple depending on the variety of apple you enjoy, but now I eat them with the knowledge that eating apples are truly good for me and the apple's usefulness when it comes to your health is wide. The decline of acetylcholine can be prevented with an apple in your diet thus preserving your memory. Adding some apple to your diet has also been shown to slow the mental decline in people suffering from Alzheimer's.

My father did most of the cooking when I was a child but I actually think my love for cooking started in my grandmother's kitchen filled with the smell and taste of apple pie. It was my grandmother who taught me how to tell when an apple was just right for picking and then again when it was just right for eating. Unlike many families, we always ate our apple cold out of the refrigerator. Grandma always said that there was nothing as good as a cold apple.

My children now live on their own, but when they were younger and still living at home I was convinced that there is no food quite like the apple. It seems to be the perfect fruit and frankly, I'd say it is the perfect health food. I try to eat an apple a day and still see my doctor once a year no matter what, and I've been encouraging my kids to start doing the same. To me, a cold apple is still a treat but the information I wanted to get across in this post is that apples not only make a great tasting snack they are also healthy and good for you.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Organic Tea

The word “organic” seems simple enough but when it comes to shopping for organic our Numi organic tea there can be confusing. So let me share with you my inside look at the standards and laws governing organic tea companies that sell tea labeled organic. For me, it all started with a question, "what exactly determines if a particular tea is grown organically?

The Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) passed by the US Congress back in 1990, required the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop national organic standards for the labeling of organic tea. The National Organic Program (NOP) and OFPA developed regulations requiring products labeled “organic” originate from a farm, or handling facilities, that are certified by either State or private agencies that have been accredited by the USDA. The regulations further state that farms or handling facilities may not use any genetic engineering, ionizing radiation or sewage sludge, yikes!

Further stipulating that organic crops must be grown without the use of most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers and again sewage sludge-based fertilizers. The USDA is required by OFPA to review the certification programs under which imported organic products, like tea, are produced. This means that certified agents in foreign countries must apply for USDA certification. In lieu of USDA certification, foreign governments can assess and accredit certifying agents, under National Organic Program requirements, with USDA approval.

An equivalency agreement negotiated between the US and a country’s government may also be used in lieu of certification. So what are the organic tea brands labeling standards? Organic labeling is the simplest part of the certification process and the aspect that is most confusing for consumers. Where I live the word “organic” on a label simply means you pay more, certification wise what the organic label means is that the tea follows the standards based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product, and by law must be identified with a 100% organic label and must contain only organically produced ingredients.

Produce labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95% organically produced ingredients and display the USDA Organic Seal. Processed produce that contains at least 70% organic ingredients can only use the phrase “made with organic ingredients”. Processed products that contain less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term “organic” accept to identify the specific ingredients, on the ingredients list that is organically produced.

So what does all this mean to US tea consumers? Since tea is grown outside of the US certification is almost always done by foreign agents. It has become more and more important for consumers concerned about how their tea is grown to be comfortable with their tea supplier. Bio-terrorism laws have impacted tea importation by looking more closely overall at what and who are importing products into this country, particularly food products. While these laws can sometimes impede the smooth flow of tea to us from overseas it may be beneficial overall to consumers due to the “closer scrutiny” by the FDA.

Converting gardens and estates to organic farming is a costly and lengthy process and sometimes not even a consideration for small farmers. In some cases, farmers are already doing a lot right, but they lack the knowledge or funding necessary to become certified. There is an effort by the US tea industry to educate growers on the benefit both economically and ecologically for growing tea organically.

Reliable quality taste has been an issue with organic teas. Gardens converting to organic farming to produce the different organic tea brands or organic tea India have challenges that will require short and long term solutions to producing tea with consistently good taste. Over the years the organic tea growing process continues to improve, the tea farmers gain more experience and with each passing season, the quality and taste of organically grown tea keep improving.

As an importer and supplier of premium teas, the major responsibility is to know the production standards and philosophies of the gardens they work with. Securing quality organic tea with outstanding taste characteristics can be challenging but more flavorful varieties of tea become available each season.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Going Vegetarian

“Several epidemiological studies indicate that vegetarians have lower morbidity and mortality from chronic degenerative diseases.” Even the Utah Beef Council agrees with that data, but let's face it, today, vegetarians only make up about two percent of the population. Still, every day more and more people give up eating red meat or try their first bite of tofu. Aside from ethics, health and ecology seem to be the main reasons people are turning away from meat?

Hundreds of different studies have shown that vegetarians who eat balanced diets have lower rates of coronary artery disease, hypertension, obesity, and certain cancers. Registered Dietitian Winston Craig says that eating meat costs Americans somewhere between $30-$60 billion per year in medical expenses related to hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, gallstones, obesity, and food-borne illnesses associated with meat. Dropping some meats from my diet has helped me tamp down the skyrocketing price of meat from the grocery store. And, I remember feeling particularly pleased during the last major hamburger meat recall since hamburger meat was on my do not eat list at the time.

So far just about all of the information I have learned and tried to put to use has been very positive. I was especially attracted to the lower rates of disease amongst vegetarians which were right in turn with what Dr. Craig says; that a vegetarian diet is associated with lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and less obesity.

In 1997, the World Cancer Research Fund recommended a vegetarian diet for reducing the risk of cancer and it was the numbers they shared that piqued my interest. Lifelong vegetarians have 24% less heart disease, while vegans have an astounding 57% less. I'm afraid I fall into the vegetarian category since I have cut way back on meat, but still part-take of other animal products like cheese and milk. Vegans don't consume any animal products at all.

An all-inclusive study of a vegetarian religious group, the Seventh Day Adventists, found that the study group had half the rate of high blood pressure and diabetes, half the rate of colon cancer, and two-thirds the rate of arthritis and prostate cancer as other groups (2001). Also, Cornell University reported that eating less meat did more to reduce osteoporosis than supplementing your diet with calcium.

I am living proof that you don't need to go completely vegan to enjoy some of the health effects mentioned in this post I have noticed several improvements since my making a real effort to go meat-free (whenever I can) there has been some weight loss and an increase in workout energy.  In 1999, a meta-analysis of several vegetarian and vegan mortality studies was conducted. The results of these studies were compared together and re-analyzed. The researchers concluded that even reducing meat in your diet had a significant effect on lowering your rate of disease. People who ate meat just once a week had a 20% lower rate of dying from heart disease, and their over-all mortality rate was reduced by 10%.

For those who ate only fish saw as much as a 34% reduction in heart disease death, while their over-all mortality was lowered by 18%. My ultimate goal is to go completely vegan, right now my family, and extended family is the biggest enabler to my not being able to go completely vegan. The good news here is the more you reduce the consumption of animal products, the more you appear to benefit. Only 7% of the vegans studied died of cancer (lung, stomach, and colorectal). Worryingly, 19% of over-all deaths in the US are from cancer.

Being a Vegan, or even a Vegetarian is also good for the planet. How you may ask? Every year, meat eaters contribute to the cattle farming industry. This industry uses farmlands that could be producing food for people to make grain for cows. As most people know, cows produce large amounts of environmentally-toxic methane gas. Raising cows also uses precious water resources. Don't get me wrong I'm not really hating on cows, it's just that back when a cow or cows took care of a families needs the above toxins (methane) and use of the water supply didn't amount to much.

But once cows were gathered by the hundreds to produce milk and other dairy products for the masses it just seems to me that another problem was created. Believe me when I say it was not easy for me to contemplate giving up meat. I come from a long line of hunters, and meat-eaters who do not believe that man fought his way to the top of the food chain just to eat plants. My favorite uncle, Bae Honey, loved to hunt and said to me once "there's room on this earth for all of God's creatures that live in the forest, right next to the potatoes."

This post is meant mainly to share some of the stats I have collected about the health benefits enjoyed by vegans, and vegetarians in the hope you might find it useful and to share some of what I call the negative health effects from eating meat. Moving now to the negative environmental effects of eating meat, did you know that eating meat also contributes to the destruction of the rain forests? I kid you not. In an effort to make a cheaper Big Mac and Whopper, companies are growing cattle in Central America, where labor and other costs are lower. Eager Central Americans are slashing and burning their native rain forests to make room for the beef industry.

It is estimated that a vegetarian diet saves 1.5 tons of greenhouse gas per person per year. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that producing one calorie of animal protein requires ten times the fossil fuel as producing one calorie of plant protein, and according to the New Scientist publication eating a vegan diet reduces more carbon dioxide emissions than driving a hybrid car.

This is not the first time I have heard about the negative stats involving eating meat, and the price we pay for every hamburger that originated from a rain forest. Cow required the destruction of roughly 55 square feet of rain-forest, and too, studies show that one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water. The water used to produce one hamburger patty is enough for two-weeks-worth of daily showers.

Whether you join my crusade to save the world one hamburger at a time or not I hope you will take heed of the health benefits listed above and at least consider
a reduction in your meat intake and if you fear going-totally-vegan, you can at least enjoy a safe space in the middle because between an unhealthy diet and the healthy vegan diet is the vegetarian.