Tag Archives: healthy

Image from Yoganonymous.com

Ever heard of oil pulling? I hadn’t until a couple of weeks ago, but now I’m starting to see articles about the benefits of oil pulling all over the place.  I was even chatting with one of my friends in the dietetics program with me about oil pulling and she said she went over it in her yoga teacher class.  Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurveda (translation: life knowledge) technique that involves swishing a small amount of oil in your mouth for twenty minutes, first thing in the morning, in an effort to draw out toxins that are sitting in your tongue and around your mouth.  Ayurveda believes that the preventative cure for a lot of diseases is by properly treating and maintaining the digestive system, and the mouth is the first and one of the most important steps to good digestive health.

After hearing really good things from both my friend and the article, I decided to do a little more research, just to make sure this wasn’t totally insane.  Turns out, it’s not insane.  There’s no proof that it cures cavities they way some people claim, but it can help promote gum and teeth health.  Even the NIH did some research and found that oil pulling is a good thing.

Here are the supposed benefits of oil pulling:

  • Strengthens gums and teeth and may make teeth whiter
  • Prevention of diseases such as cavities and gingivitis
  • Prevention of bad breath
  • Aids in skin health and may reduce eczema and/or acne
  • Improves vision
  • Detoxifies the body of harmful metals and enzymes

The list of benefits goes on and on, but very few of these have been proven by scientific, peer-reviewed studies.  The scientific, peer-reviewed studies recommend oil pulling in combination with twice daily teeth brushing and that it can be effective as a replacement for mouthwashes such as Listerine.

So I decided to try it, because that’s what I do.  And I hated it.  Maybe I’m doing it at the wrong time of the day, or maybe I just have a lot of toxins built up in my mouth, or maybe both is true, but every time I’ve tried oil pulling (3 times now) I’ve gotten an awful headache that just won’t go away.  My research tells me its a toxin withdrawal, which could be true, so I haven’t completely given up hope.  I’m using coconut oil and following all of the instructions that I’ve seen, so I’m just not sure what adjustments to make.

Have you guys tried oil pulling?  What did you think?  Any tips?

My Oil Pulling Problem

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What Your Activity Tracker is Really Doing

From ActivityTrackerComparison.Com

I have a Fitbit, and I love it.  It means that I take more steps, I’m outside my apartment more and I’m moving much much more.  I’ve come up with excuses to go for long walks and even on days where I’m just not in the mood to run, I find myself running to get my step count up.   The Fitbit has been a really good thing for me.

There are also tons of other devices out there, like the Jawbone and the Nike Fuel Band, and of course some I’ve never heard of before.  It seems like every person I meet now has some sort of activity tracker and is very vigilant about knowing their step count for the day.

I found this short article from the NYTimes really interesting.  Using graphs and gifs, they explain exactly what an activity tracker is up to when it’s measuring the distance you’e gone and the steps you’ve taken.

The one thing I will say about the Fitbit is that it encourages me to do only one type of activity: one that counts steps.  Fitbit can’t pick up on my yoga moves, my squats or even my biking (which is sort of disappointing since I just got my bike fixed).  All my Fitbit knows how to do is measure acceleration of the arm the Fitbit is on.

I’m excited to see where the technology takes this, but right now I’m happy enough with my Fitbit.  It has made me much more active than I used to be, and that’s what matters.

If you’re interested in learning more about activity trackers, not just my beloved Fitbit, you can visit this site.  It will compare all of the trackers for you and tell you which one best matches your lifestyle!

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Vegetable Rankings

I found this on Buzzfeed and thought it was pretty cool and very relevant to everything I write about on here.  Apparently, an organization called Food Day, which does some pretty awesome things like host the annual Food Day (it’s October 24), make a ranking of the best vegetables to eat based on nutritional bang for your buck.  They considered calories, Vitamin K, Lutein, Vitamin C, Potassium and Fiber and from that, came up with a score and a rating system.  (If you’re wondering what Lutein is, its a carotenoid that’s important for your vision).  Those that scored about 150 on the Food Day scale are considered “Superstars.”

So, these are the top 5 Superstars according to Food Day:

  1. Kale
  2. Spinach, raw and cooked
  3. Collard Greens
  4. Swiss Chard
  5. Turnip Greens

These aren’t suprising, but the lesson to learn here is that eating a lot of greens is important.  You can work greens into just about every meal you’re eating whether it’s by sneaking spinach into your breakfast smoothie or your scrambled eggs, by making a salad out of baby kale or by lightly sauteing swiss chard and turnip greens with kidney beans for dinner.  Just make sure you get your greens!

And these are the least healthy vegetables according to Food Day:

  1. Onions
  2. Radishes
  3. White Button Mushrooms
  4. Shiitake Mushrooms
  5. Spaghetti Squash

The first four on this list weren’t too surprising, they’re light-colored vegetables and usually the color denotes a high nutrient content.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be eating them.  You just shouldn’t rely on these vegetables for all of you nutrient intake.  Spaghetti squash was a little surprising to me though.  According to Food Day’s chart, the only reason to be eating spaghetti squash is the fiber content.  It’s still a good substitute for pasta though which is very low in fiber (and calories)

So, did you see any vegetables on the list that surprised you?  Let me know!

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Vegetable Frittata with Ricotta

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Have you ever just needed to get your hands on a tub full of ricotta only to find that every store in apparently the entire Boston Metropolitan region is out of it?  I recently had to suffer through a similar experience.  I even went down to the North End (where there should be little Italian delis everywhere) only to find they too were out of ricotta.  After two hours of searching, I gave up and got on the T to come back to Harvard Station.  Turns out, what I was looking for was nearby all along!  There was a little deli right on top of the Harvard T station that had copious amounts of ricotta.  Fresh
, organic, hand-pulled.  I was smitten.  So it came home.

After playing around with some ideas for a while, I finally came up with a vegetable frittata, loaded up with ricotta.  This is easy, fast and the perfect meal for breakfast lunch or dinner, so I highly recommend making it as soon as possible.

What you need:

  • 3 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a small onion, thinly chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

What you do:

  1. Combine the 3 eggs and milk in a small bowl.  Beat the mixture to blend and set aside
  2. In a small cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil.  Once the olive oil is ready, add the garlic and onion to the pan.  Cook, stirring every now and then, until the onions start to become translucent.  Add the mushrooms, broccoli and the zucchini and cook the vegetables until they’re soft.
  3. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the pan and place teaspoon-sized drops of ricotta evenly throughout the pan.  You can sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top if you’d like.
  4. Place the skillet under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbling and the egg mixture is cooked through.  About 10 minutes.
  5. Once fully cooked, you can remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to cool on the oven.
  6. Enjoy!
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Seaweed Salad

I love going to sushi restaurants and ordering a bowl of seaweed salad as a side.  It’s so fresh and the salty-sweet flavors meld together so perfectly.  So naturally, as I have a habit of spending $7 on a very small bowl of the stuff, I decided to figure out how to make it on my own, at home.

Seaweed is one of the absolute best things for you to be eating.  It’s got Vitamins A, C and Calcium and Iodine in addition to an enormous number of antioxidants that can help to reduce inflammation (which in turn helps to prevent some chronic diseases).  It also contains a high amount of fiber and is very low in calories.  It’s also pretty delicious, so I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already had it.  I got my seaweed from an Asian supermarket and it was only about $3 for a pound of it dried (this goes a long way, I promise).  So it’s also really inexpensive.

So now I just need to figure out what to do with the seaweed.  These are a few recipes I found that I’m curious to try, but let me know if I’m missing out on a really good one!

Japanese Seaweed Salad from Food 52

Photo from Food52.com

Sesame Seaweed Salad from Weelicious

Photo from Weelicious.com

Seaweed Salad from Epicurious

Photo from Epicurious.com

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Lust v. Must: Weekend Detox

Tons of bloggers make lists of their “lust” items and their “must” items.  Well this weekend, I have a “must.”  I need to detox, both mentally and physically.  I’ve have an exhausting two weeks (which is probably fairly evident by the lack of posting on here) and I just need to clean out my system.  I don’t really have the luxury of going on a spa retreat, that would be a “lust” so here’s a few things I’m planning on doing this weekend to put my body back on track and get my mind ready for the upcoming week of midterms.

1. Drink lots of water.  With the cold weather, I have a really hard time drinking water and staying hydrated.  I’d so much rather have a hot tea or a coffee to battle the brisk cold, but I’ve been waking up really thirsty, and I feel like my brain and mood is suffering because of it.

Detox Water from Blogilates.com

This water looks delicious and fully of flavor, plus the cucumbers, oranges and lemons all help to eliminate toxins that have built up.  Blogilates explains more here about what each component of this detox water does to help clean out your system  The important thing to remember if you decide to make your own detox water is to buy the organic versions.  Pesticides and other chemicals build up on the peels of these fruits and vegetables and you’re trying to eliminate toxins, not put more in.

I’m planning to start each morning with two glasses of this water, before any coffee or breakfast, and to continue drinking it throughout the day.

2. Warm salads.  It’s cold, so I’ve been really drawn to comfort foods.  Asian stir-frys, although I’m making them at home, they’re still higher in sodium than I’d like and don’t leave me with a good, clean feelings.  Same goes for all of those substituted comfort foods like butternut squash mac and cheese or zucchini lasagna.  I just don’t end up with the same fresh feeling that I do have a beautiful, colorful fresh salad.

The issue I have though, is that it’s cold, so I don’t want salad.  The way I’m going to get around this is by making warm salads.  By using whole grains like quinoa, farro and bulgur as a base, you can throw just about any fruits, vegetables, legumes in that you want and end up with a super healthy, detoxing meal.

This Farro Salad with Winter Fruit Pistachios and Ginger from Foodandwine.com looks right up my alley!

3. Running and yoga.  Last weekend was gorgeous, at least by winter standards.  Sunny, slightly breezy and warm: the perfect conditions for outside exercise.  This week, after some unfortunate shin splints from trying to run in healed boots (high recommend never doing this) and some unfortunate weather (when is the snow going to stop!?) I just couldn’t get to the gym.  I’m planning to go for three four-mile runs this weekend, and do at least two sessions of at-home yoga to get myself back on track.

So, how do you detox when you’re just not feeling right?  I’d love to add more to my weekend detoxing!

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Red Lentil Burgers

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Last week, I bought red lentils from Whole Foods because, for some reason, they were out of every single type of other lentil (perils of grocery shopping on Sunday night).  Unbeknownst to me, red lentils cook a little bit differently than green or French lentils and end up really soft and smooshy.  In other words, they are not good for making a lentil salad.  But they are absolutely perfect for burgers.  So this recipe happened.  I served it with the same roasted eggplant that I posted here, but you could serve it with a salad, soup, whatever your heart pleases.

What you need:

  • 1 lb red lentils
  • bay leaf
  • 1 carrot, cut into 3 large pieces
  • celery, cut into 3 large pieces
  • 1/4 of a small onion
  • 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • 1/2 t ginger

What you do:

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to boil.  Add the lentils, bay leaf, carrot, celery and onion.  Cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked (they’ll be a little mushy).
  2. Drain the lentils and allow to cool in a medium mixing bowl.  Add in the egg, parsley, garlic
  3. Once the lentils have reached room temperature, add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until it reaches a burger-patty-like consistency and the mixture can be packed into burger patties without falling apart.  If you need to, add more panko bread crumbs.
  4. Heat about 3 T of olive oil in a large skillet.  Using, a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the lentil mixtures into balls and then flatten into patties.  Place in the skillet and allow to cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Enjoy!
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Organic Whole Milk Versus Organic Skim Milk

I grew up during the low-fat craze of the 1990s and beyond.  I was always told to avoid fat and to buy the low-fat yogurt, the low-fat milk, the low-fat cheese and the low-fat whatever else could have fat removed from it.  The craziest low-fat food that I ever saw was low-fat peanut butter that was basically peanut dust (last time I checked, that’s not peanut butter).

As the science behind nutrition has matured and we’re beginning to learn that there are a.) different kinds of fats and b.) our body responds to different fats in different ways.  For starters, we know that trans-fats, which used to be glorified and found in things like margarine and just about anything else, are actually terrible for you and can completely destroy your body’s circulatory system.  We also know that Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are pretty great and help with all sorts of things like reducing an individual’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.  We also know that regulating the balance between Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids is really important and that in recent years, our intake of Omega-6 is much much much higher than it should be.  In fact, the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids that most people consume is the exact opposite of what it should be: we should be consuming much more Omega-3 than Omega-6.

There’s a relatively new (to me) food movement that is built on finding the correct balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in plant oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil.  Omega-3 acids come from fish like mackerel, tuna, as well walnuts and flaxseed.  Recent research shows that Omega-3s are also found in milk, butter and yogurt, if they come from organic, grass-fed cows.  The problem is, in America at least, most of the meat we eat and the milk we drink comes from animals that were raised on grain diets, often involving soy and corn, and not grass-fed diets.

Research out of the University of Washington found that whole milk is actually much better for you than skim milk, but only if it comes from organically-raised, grass-fed cows.  The whole milk from these cows contains a substantially increased amount of Omega-3 fatty acids.  By comparison, cows that were raised on grain diets (such as corn) had much higher levels of Omega-6 in their milk.  Other research found that meat from cows that were raised on grain diets had higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids than meat from cows that were raised on grass-fed diets.  Another really good example of “you are what you eat.”

So, it turns out that low-fat isn’t always best and that what’s important is what KIND of fat you’re eating.  It is important to be sure that you are watching the calories you consume from fat as fat does have a higher number of calories than carbohydrates and proteins.  The message I’m taking away from this, and of course this is highly individual, is that when I’m eating dairy, I’m going to avoid the low-fat, low-calorie option and instead opt for the organic-grass fed, full-fat option.

What do you think?  Have you heard any other research comparing Omega-3 and Omega-6?  Have you made any changes to incorporate more Omega-3s into your diet?

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The Science of Nutrition: Vitamin D

If you are a nerd like me, this is what the molecular structure of Vitamin D3 looks like.
Source: Chemistry.About.com

I’m sure you’ve heard of Vitamin D.  In recent years, companies have started fortifying just about everything with Vitamin D, even things that really have no business being fortified with Vitamin D (take orange juice for instance).  Since it’s being added to everything, it must be important right?  Well, it is and researchers are constantly finding new reasons that Vitamin D is important for you and your diet.

So let’s talk about Vitamin D.  The first thing you should know is that Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.  This means that you need to consume fat in order for your body to pick up and process Vitamin D.  This is why drugs like Alli aren’t good for making sure you have enough Vitamin D: if your body can’t absorb fat, it can’t absorb Vitamin D or any other type of fat-soluble vitamin.  In turn, because Vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate and zinc, you’ll also have trouble absorbing these vitamins.

Another thing you should know about Vitamin D is that sun exposure can also help to synthesize it.  In winter months where there is very little sunlight and you spend very little time outside, it’s important to make sure you get the appropriate amount of Vitamin D from your diet.

Vitamin D, research seems to show, is essential for just about everything.  Vitamin D promotes bone health by helping with calcium absorption, and also helps with boosting your immune system.  Vitamin D does this by helping to promote the development of CD-8 T Cells, also called Cytotoxic T Cells, the only cell in your immune system that can directly attack and kill foreign, infected cells.  Research shows that adequate levels of Vitamin D can help to prevent influenza while low levels of Vitamin D can increase an individual’s risk for Tuberculosis, HIV, and other viral infections.  Vitamin D deficiencies have also been linked to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

So, where to find Vitamin D?  As I mentioned above, sunlight is really the best place to get Vitamin D from, but it also naturally occurs in some fish (swordfish, tuna fish, mackerel all have some).  You can also take supplements or eat foods that are fortified with the Vitamin (milk often is) to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts.

To learn more, you can visit the NIH’s Page on Vitamin D.  I found it extremely informative and it really delves into the science if you’re into that.

Drink up!
Source: Wikipedia.org

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Learning to Cook with Chicken Breasts

I’ve always hated boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  They tend to be dried out, unflavored and generally taste like sawdust, so usually I avoid them.  I recently discovered that I don’t hate all chicken though, despite thinking for awhile that I did.  Roasted chicken, chicken thighs, chicken legs, these are all good things.  Organic, farmers’ market chicken also happens to taste better than all other chicken (not exactly a surprise).  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts though?  Still at a loss of what to do with.

I was digging around the internet in an attempt to avoid studying for my Anatomy Lab Practical (let me tell you, if I never have to differentiate between leukocytes ever again, it will still be too soon) and found a couple of ideas for how to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts that don’t taste like sawdust.  Below are a few I found, but I’d really love to know if you have any recipes or ideas on how I can turn chicken breasts into my new favorite food!

How to Make Chicken Breasts in a Slow Cooker from Fifteen Spatulas

Photo: FifteenSpatulas.com

Lemon Chicken Breasts from Ina Garten

Photo: FoodNetwork.com

Parmesan Crusted Chicken from Martha Stewart

Photo: MarthaStewart.com

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