Cooking, Renovations and Fun Stuff

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Superfoods

More superfoods, this time from Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth

Super Food 1: Berries

Berries are low-sugar low-calorie high fiber fruits that provide more nutrients and health benefits than you can begin to count. I'm talking here about every kind of berries- blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, goji berries, they're all great for you!

Let's take blueberries for example. In experiments, when you feed rats blueberry extract, they start to function like young studs. They don't suffer the same decline in middle age that other rats do and that lots of humans do as well. Their memory function, muscle strength and co-ordination were all way better than the rats that weren't fed blueberry extract.

Blueberries have the one of the highest antioxidant capacity of any fruit, making them highly protective for the cardiovascular system. They contain compounds that lower cholesterol, and others that improve vision and brain function. Blackberries are very similar.

Something in blueberries actually helps neurons communicate better with one another, so blueberries are a real memory food.

Berries contain compounds like anthocyanins that are anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory. The best thing we can do for our health is eat a diet high in anti-inflammatories, Inflammation is involved in virtually every major killer disease: Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and obesity.

Raspberries contain ellergic acid, a compound that's been found to inhibit the growth of tumor cells. Raspberries also contain anthocyanins that are said to be as effective as ibuprophen. And they're one of the great high fiber foods- one cup contains 8 grams of fiber, that's as much as some people get in a whole day.

In fact, all berries- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries- contain chemicals that have a protective effect against cancer. In one study, extracts from strawberry and blueberry decreased the growth of cervical and breast cancer cells. And like blueberries, strawberries have compounds that have been shown to protect memory, making them- and all berries- a great brain food.

So there you have it- anti-cancer activity, memory enhancing activity, anti-inflammatory compounds and tons of antioxidants. That's a class of superfood that can really impact your health.

And here's a tip from my own kitchen- freeze those berries and then eat them with a little milk or cream or yogurt. The yogurt will freeze right on contact with the berries and you'll have your own healthy version of cherry Garcia. Sprinkle some almonds and some flaked coconut and you'll have the healthiest desert on the planet.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Our New Drink Bottles

No more recycling plastic drink bottles for us.

From the eco essentials website:

Everyone knows the health benefits of drinking lots of liquid. However most people are not aware that buying bottles daily and/or re-filling existing plastic bottles can be harmful and not kind to the planet.

Buying multiple plastic bottles, just like plastic bags, puts a lot of strain on our limited resources. In addition to the environmental effect, the plastic (PET) used in these bottles contains a potentially carcinogenic element (DEHA). Repeated washing and rinsing can cause plastic to break down and the carcinogens can leach into the water we are drinking.




Sigg drink bottles
- Tough & durable (extrusion-pressed from a one-piece aluminium blank, which results in uniform, seamless walls)
- Lightweight & leak proof (excellent choice for people on the move!)
- Practical (parts are recyclable, replaceable, and interchangeable)
- Safe for humans (SIGG interior coating (baked on stove enamel) is resistant to fruit juices and acids, alcohol and isotonic drinks, and does not impart odours or tastes)
- Solvent free-paint (outside coating is solvent-free)
- The internal coating of an original SIGG bottle is the best kept secret of SIGG-Switzerland. It is the only drink bottle in its kind that fulfils the high quality requirements of the FDA (Food & Drug Administration of the US) as well as the Swiss Federal Law on Foodstuffs.

The inside coating contains NO:
- PVC
- phthalates
- polycarbonate
- bisphenol

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Digestive enzymes

We are looking at digestive enzymes at the moment to help with my husband's stomach condition (coeliac disease).

Digestive enzymes include:
Pancreatin - a mixture of several digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. It is composed of amylase, lipase and protease. It has been claimed to help with food allergies, celiac disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, and weight loss. Pancreatin contains the pancreatic enzymes trypsin, amylase, and lipase. The trypsin found in pancreatin works to hydrolyze proteins to oligopetides; amylsase hydrolizes starches to oligosaccharides and the disaccharide maltose; and lipase hydrolyzes triglycerides to fatty acids and glycerols. (Wikipedia)
Bromelian - a proteolytic enzyme (an enzyme that digests proteins) found in fresh pineapple. It is often used to treat muscle injuries and as a digestive aid. Bromelain aids digestion by enhancing the effects of the digestive enzymes trypsin and pepsin. (WorldHealth.net)
Papain - a super enzyme found in papaya and pawpaw that helps digest proteins.

Papaw and Papaya (by The Food Coach)

Papaya and Papaw are well-renowned for their tropical colours and juicy texture, but new research confirms they offer much more than just flavour.

In the midst of antioxidants making a recent comeback, it's been revealed that combining milk with papaya to create a nutritious breakfast smoothie such as a Papaya Lassi can lead to an increase in the amount of beta-carotene absorbed from the fruit. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant needed daily for eye health, skin health and a healthy immune system.

"Beta-carotene is a pre-cursor to vitamin A, which is essential for everyone, but in particular many adults over 45 years need to increase their intake of this important vitamin as most of them don't get enough of it ," says Sharon Natoli, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Founding Director of Food & Nutrition Australia. "Children can also find it difficult to meet vitamin A requirements due to lower than ideal intakes of yellow and orange fruit and vegetables, which are generally significant sources of Vitamin A in the diet .

"Studies show that eating a carbohydrate-rich meal for breakfast, such as a Papaya Lassi with wholegrain toast, can improve feelings of alertness throughout the morning ," Sharon continues. "Research also shows that breakfast eaters are more able to control their weight, which is important in combating the rising obesity levels in Australia ."

Other health benefits
Papaya and papaw are ideal ingredients for a solid start to the day. They are packed full of essential vitamins such as vitamins C, E, A and K, plus potassium and antioxidants which have numerous benefits for the body, including helping to maintain a healthy immune system, strong vision, healthy skin and protection against lifestyle related diseases.

Papaya and papaw also contain papain, a super enzyme that helps digest proteins. Papain is especially high when the fruit is unripe and may be beneficial to those with digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. Papain is also often extracted from the fruit to make digestive enzyme dietary supplements.

Availability
Australian Papaya and Papaw are available all year round and are quite different to each other. Papaya has an orange-red coloured flesh and yellow-orange coloured skin, with a sweet flavour. Papaw is a rounder and larger fruit, with distinct yellow flesh and pale orange skin, slightly more savoury in taste. There is also green papaya, an ingredient that partners well with Asian dishes.

Selection and storage
Choose papayas and papaws that are almost fully yellow and slightly soft to touch if you are going to eat them straight away. If not, select fruits with a yellow-green skin and allow them to ripen at room temperature for a few days before consuming.

Papayas and papaws can be ripened at room temperature and are ready to eat when the skin is yellow and slightly soft to touch. They can be stored in the fridge for a few days once ripe. Papaya and Papaw are fragile fruits that need to be handled carefully to prevent bruising. They may often display dark spots or blemishes during difficult growing periods but are still of excellent eating quality.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tagged!

by the inspiring Rae

Here are the rules:
-Write your own six word memoir;
-Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want to;
-Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to the original post so we can track it as it travels through the blogosphere;
-Tag at least 5 more blogs with links; and
-Don't forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

The Best is Yet to Come

28 March 2006, 58.3kg................21 April 2008, 53.5kg

Friday, April 18, 2008

Superfoods

Superfood 10 from Dr Perricone is Yoghurt & Kefir:

Kefir: Ancient Elixir of the Caucasus

I start every morning by pouring myself a glass of unsweetened whole milk kefir and add to it two tablespoons of POM Wonderful (pure pomegranate extract). I stir it up and it looks and tastes like a rich and beautiful berry smoothie. It is the perfect way to start the day.

Kefir (kee-fer) is a fermented, probiotic milk drink from the Caucasus Mountains in the former Soviet Union. The name kefir loosely translated means “pleasure" or "good feeling." Due to its health-promoting properties, kefir was once considered a gift from the gods. Fortunately it is being rediscovered and recognized for its many health and beauty benefits.

Kefir can best be described as a sort of liquid, sparkling yogurt, with its own distinct and deliciously mild, naturally sweet, yet tangy flavor—with a refreshing hint of natural carbonation. Its unique taste and almost mystical reputation as a longevity elixir explains why people all over Europe are making kefir (along with similar fermented drinks) their beverage of choice. Sales are even beginning to rival top soft drink brands.

Unlike yogurt, which is created from milk by adding certain lactic acid bacteria, kefir is made by combining milk with a pinch of “kefir grains”—the folk term coined to describe a complex mixture of yeasts and lactobacillus bacteria. The small amount of carbon dioxide, alcohol, and aromatic compounds produced by the cultures give kefir its distinct fizzy, tangy taste.

Kefir also contains unique polysaccharides (long chain sugars) called kefiran, which may be responsible for some of its health benefits. Much of the Russian research on its health benefits remains un-translated, and Western research is in its early stages—but the results to date support kefir's impressive folk reputation.

Kefir's Colorful and Romantic History

Kefir dates back many centuries—likely even longer—to the shepherds of the Caucasus Mountains, who reportedly discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage.

Another legend, from the Islamic peoples of the Caucasus Mountains, claims that kefir "grains” were a gift to the region's Orthodox Christians from Mohammed, who strictly forbade their dissemination, because they would lose their "magic strength." Although Marco Polo mentioned it in his travel accounts, kefir and its secrets remained unknown outside the Caucasus region until reports spread of its value in treating tuberculosis, and for intestinal and stomach disorders. Russian doctors of the Victorian era believed that kefir was beneficial for health and the first scientific studies for kefir were published in the late 19th century.

This mildly self-carbonated beverage continues to be popular in the Caucasus, Russia and southwestern Asia, and recently gained wide popularity in Western Europe. In the United States, most natural food stores and the “whole food” chain markets found in urban areas—such as Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats—carry kefir. Given the ever-increasing popularity of yogurt and yogurt drinks here, I predict it won't be long before the big U.S. supermarket chains follow suit. However, as with yogurt, beware of products laden with sugars and fructose. Buy plain, unsweetened kefir and flavor with mixed berries, including açaí.

Kefir's Health Benefits

In addition to kefir's ancient reputation as a healthy drink, it has been famously credited with the extraordinary longevity of people in the Caucasus. Hospitals in the former Soviet Union use kefir—especially when no modern medical treatment is available—to treat conditions ranging from atherosclerosis, allergic disease, metabolic and digestive disorders and tuberculosis to cancer and gastrointestinal disorders.

A number of studies conducted to date have documented kefir's ability to stimulate the immune system, enhance lactose digestion, and inhibit tumors, fungi, and pathogens— including the bacteria that cause most ulcers. This makes a lot of sense as scientists have since discovered that most ulcers are caused by an infection with the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori and not spicy food, stomach acid or stress, as physicians erroneously believed for years.

Scientists are now discovering that a great many inflammatory diseases (including certain types of heart disease) can be triggered by a bacterium. And that provides all the more reason to enjoy kefir as part of your daily diet.

Excuses

'At the end of the day, the week, the month, or the year, all your body knows is whether you exercised and ate right, or if you didn't. No amount of excuses - no matter how "valid" - will change the physical fact that you either did the right thing for your body, or you didn't.'
Aaron Potts (via Craig Harper)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Superfoods

Over the next few days I am going to be posting some info here about foods that give good nutritional value. First up is number 1 of Dr Perricone's 10 Superfoods, as seen on Oprah:

Superfood No. 1: Açaí
Nature's Energy Fruit
It may seem odd to start this list of superfoods with one you’ve likely never even heard of. But studies have shown that this little berry is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world! Açaí (ah-sigh-ee) is the high-energy berry of a special Amazon palm tree. Harvested in the rainforests of Brazil, açaí tastes like a vibrant blend of berries and chocolate. Hidden within its royal purple pigment is the magic that makes it nature's perfect energy fruit. Açaí is packed full of antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Although açaí may not be available in your local supermarket, you can find it in several health food and gourmet stores (often in juice form). A new product featuring the unsweetened pulp is now also available, and I highly recommend that you choose this form of açaí.

Açaí pulp contains:


  • A remarkable concentration of antioxidants that help combat premature aging, with 10 times more antioxidants than red grapes and 10 to 30 times the anthocyanins of red wine.
  • A synergy of monounsaturated (healthy) fats, dietary fiber and phytosterols to help promote cardiovascular and digestive health.
  • An almost perfect essential amino acid complex in conjunction with valuable trace minerals, vital to proper muscle contraction and regeneration.
The fatty acid content in açaí resembles that of olive oil, and is rich in monounsaturated oleic acid. Oleic acid is important for a number of reasons. It helps omega-3 fish oils penetrate the cell membrane; together they help make cell membranes more supple. By keeping the cell membrane supple, all hormones, neurotransmitter and insulin receptors function more efficiently. This is particularly important because high insulin levels create an inflammatory state, and we know, inflammation causes aging.

***
In Australia the berries can be bought from riolife

Typical analysis of RioLife Acai
Average per 100g
Energy (kj) 247
Protein (g) 3.8
Fat Total (g) 12.2
Saturated (g) 0
Carbohydrate Total (g) 13.9
Sugars (g) 3
Sodium (mg) 16
Calcium (mg) 118
Cholesterol (mg) 0
Dietary Fibre (g) 16.9
Potassium (mg) 318

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Winter Exercise Tips

Uh oh, we've just turned the corner into winter with the end of daylight saving. I can feel the chill in the air now and the earlier nights setting in. With the colder weather, many people complain of poor motivation for exercise. 'Its dark when I finish work', 'it's too cold in the mornings' and 'it's too cold in the evenings to walk'.

Unfortunately many people also complain of weight gain during the winter months, whether it is due to lack of exercise, or eating 'heartier' meals or both. Exercise, however does not have to mean rugging up to brave the cold at 5am or getting home before 4pm to get your afternoon walk in.

If you haven't already started your exercise plan to get yourself into a good regime over the winter months then you might want to try these ideas to get you through the winter ahead...
read more

Friday, April 11, 2008

Welcome Back

It's taken me since October last year to stop obsessing about what I'm eating. I was always thinking about what I was going to eat next, and if I should be approaching my eating in a different way to help me achieve my goals. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've finally started to relax with my eating. I have a rough system in place so I know what to eat and about how much to eat, but I'm not measuring or tracking anything, and it's a huge mental relief.
And I'm happy with how I look (OK, I was happier a couple of weeks ago when I was exercising more regularly, but I'm back into it again now). My husband commented yesterday, 'I haven't seen you this relaxed for ages - welcome back.'

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Figure Competitors - Solutions for Success



MWA: What are some of the biggest obstacles women who are at this "extreme" level face, and more importantly, what are the solutions to ensure success?

Dr. Mohr: With figure competitions, it can be tough staying positive and clean with the diet, particularly the farther out from a competition you are. However, I think that time is just as critical as right before the competition. It all has to do with "letting yourself off the hook." When you say you will do something, such as eat clean, workout 2 x per day, pack meals ahead of time, etc., and then you don't, you chisel away at the commitment you've made to yourself.

The first time you do it, it's easy to rationalize (remember: "to rationalize" means "to tell yourself rational lies"). The next time, it becomes easier and easier to rationalize and pretty soon you're deciding whether you should choose a later contest or push it off until next year. Maybe it's a little fear of failure, maybe it's fear of success, but it all boils down to not believing in yourself enough to commit to make it happen.

So stay positive and focused. Make lists of goals, and not only the big goals: break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals, so you have something very specific to follow. Celebrate small successes, but not with food! Another great tool is using visualization techniques every single day.

Visualize long-term goals such as being on stage but also daily goals such as completing a tough leg workout or being around friends and passing up dessert. Research has shown that the mind doesn't know the difference between a dress rehearsal and the real thing.

full article

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Licorice Tea

For Michelle:



Licorice is one of those things that people either love or hate. I love it, and when I get a craving for something sweet, licorice tea will often do the trick for me.

In addition to tasting good, licorice tea has the following benefits:
Cleanses the colon; promotes adrenal function; decreases spasms; recommended to treat hypoglycemia, bronchitis, colitis, diverticulosis, gastritis, stress, colds, nausea and inflammation. Health Benefits of Tea

Monday, April 7, 2008

Training and Eating Update

Haven't made it to the gym as often as I would like the last couple of weeks (poor time management on my part, rather than lack of motivation), but have had quality workouts while I've been there. Am focusing on upper body at the moment and am really enjoying it. Can do six regular chin ups (then four, four, two), with the remainder of my reps coming from negatives (gotta love the DOMs!). Also love the scene in Terminator 2 where Linda Hamilton is pumping out the chin ups in the psych ward. Would love to be able to do that many that easily.



Am working on bench strength too. Know there's something wrong somewhere when my bench press and close-grip press are about the same weight (what the?). Hubby suggested my hand position in my bench press has been too narrow - I have really long arms so need to get my hands further apart. Can feel it more in chest when doing this, so will see if I start to make some changes that way (along with the activation moves Liz has given me).

Am feeling really comfortable with my food at the moment. Have gotten into a good routine, getting plenty of variety but not thinking too much about what I'm eating, and eating when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full. Yay!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Protein Shakes, Yes or No?

Have been trying to decide whether to buy more protein powder recently. Got emailed an article about liquid calories by Tom Venuto today, and this is the part I found interesting:

While you would think that protein drinks are purely a good thing, because protein foods have been proven to reduce appetite and increase satiety, if you turn a solid protein food into a protein drink, it loses it's appetite suppressive properties in the same way that happens when you turn fruit into fruit juice.

[NOTE: After weight training workouts, liquid nutrition may have benefits that outweigh any downside, especially on muscle-gaining programs]

Why do liquid calories fail to elicit the same response as whole foods? Reasons include:
* high calorie density
* lower satiety value
* More calories ingested in short period of time
* lower demand for oral processing
* shorter gastrointestinal transit times
* energy in beverages has greater bioaccessibility and bioavailability
* mechanisms may include cognitive, orosensory, digestive, metabolic, endorcrine and neural influences (human appetite is a complex thing!)

* Last but not least, nowhere in our history have our ancestors had access to large amounts of liquid calories. Alcohol may have been around as far back as several thousand years BC, but even that is a blip on the biological calendar of humanity.

As a result, our genetic code has never developed the physiological mechanism to properly register the caloric content in liquids the way it does when you eat, chew and swallow whole foods.

At this stage I'm thinking I will keep my post workout protein and carb drink, but try and focus on whole foods for my other meals. Does anyone else do without?