Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Powers of Pesto

Of all the pasta sauces to chose from, I always stick with my favorite - PESTO! I used to be concerned that I was adding too much fat to my pasta dishes, but then I learned of all the health benefits of this delicious basil sauce. The majority of fat in pesto is monounsaturated (the good kind) and ALL of its ingredients have many health benefits!

* Lowers blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol
* Prevents atherosclerosis
* Reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke
* Serves as an antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory
* Acts as a potent antibiotic
* Fights cancer
* Protects against the side effects of diabetes
* Helps prevent weight gain
* Provides antioxidant protection

Olive Oil
* Contains monounsaturated fatty acids
* Contains antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, and Vitamin E
* Reduces the risk of atherosclerosis
* Increases HDL (good) cholesterol
* Helps fight against colon cancer and heart disease
* Reduces inflammation.

* Contains flavonoids that protect cells from radiation and oxidative damage
* Wards off unwanted bacteria
* Has anti-inflammatory properties
* Serves as a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A

Parmesan Cheese
* Serves as a good source of calcium and protein
* Easy to digest
* Helps maintain healthy bones and teeth
* Helps prevents osteoporosis
* Supports normal cardiovascular, thyroid, and muscular functioning
* Consuming 1,500 mg of calcium a day makes the cells less likely to store fat

Pine Nuts
* Contain high concentration of monounsaturated fat
* Improve CV system
* Contain Vitamins A, D and C
* Improve body's ability to absorb calcium
* Strengthen bones and teeth
* Sharpen vision
* Boost the immune system

* In NY, pesto is pretty expensive, and it ends up being much cheaper to make your own. Check out the recipe page for a quick and easy pesto recipe!

** For store bought pesto, make sure you check the label and try to avoid any added ingredients.

*** Stay tuned for a post on the many health benefits of tomato sauce!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


After watching the Oscars, I'm sure you all have a giant list of movies to watch. So, before you run out to catch them in the theater, let me warn you - movie theater popcorn is consistently listed on the Top Ten Worst Food List. Movie popcorn is typically popped in Coconut oil, which is an unhealthy choice because of its high levels of saturated fat.

Here is the fat and calorie breakdown of the different sizes offered at AMC, United Artists, and Cineplex Odeon theaters:
Kid size serving: 14-22 grams saturated fat out of 20-37 grams total fat; 300-472 cal
Small popcorn: 19-29 grams of saturated fat out of 27-50 grams total fat; 398-632 cal
Medium popcorn: 31-56 grams of saturated fat out of 43-97 grams total fat; 647-1,221 cal
Large bucket: 55-73 grams of saturated fat out of 77-126 grams total fat; 1,161- 1,642 cal

Keep in mind, for a typical 2,000 calorie daily diet, your total fat intake should be below 65 grams, of which, saturated fat should be less than 20 grams. Only the kid size popcorn would keep you in these limits if it is all the fat you ate that day.

Out of all the theaters, AMC serves the smallest servings that have slightly less fat and calories. Some AMC theaters pop their popcorn in Canola Shortening which has only 361 calories for a small with 7 grams saturated fat out of 22 grams total fat; 627 calories for a medium with 12 grams saturated fat out of 38 grams total fat; and their large is 850 calories with 16 grams saturated fat out of 52 grams total fat. While this is the best option, it is still not a healthy choice. But, if you cannot resist the temptation, at least avoid adding the extra butter topping which can add 10-18 grams saturated fat to your bucket.

*As an alternative, try sneaking in a healthier snack, going out to eat before, or chewing gum. If you can't walk by the concession stand empty handed, grab yourself an unnecessarily large and expensive diet coke instead.

**For watching movies at home, try air popping your popcorn! Microwaveable popcorn may contain carcinogens.

***Popcorn is a whole grain snack that is a good source of fiber and antioxidants if you do not bury it in butter. Try experimenting with your spices to find an alternative to butter-flavored popcorn. See the recipe link for new ideas!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Are you bitter?

If you are one of the many who know you should eat your vegetables, but you really don't like the taste of many of your choices, I have interesting news for you. 2/3 of Americans have an extra receptor that makes them taste a bitter chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC. This makes many foods too bitter to enjoy.

The foods you may not enjoy if you have this receptor:
Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Cola Soft Drinks
Collard and Mustard Greens
Cottage Cheese
Strong, Sharp Cheeses

Do you have the extra bitter receptor?
Take this quiz! Put a little salt substitute on the tip of your tongue. If it is equally salty and bitter, then you
don't have to feel guilty for not finishing your spinach. You can also try this test with saccharine. If it is bitter, you have the receptor.

*Even if you have the receptor, there is still no excuse to stop eating your greens! Check out my herb and spice post and try new ways to mask the bitter taste. You don't miss out on all the nutritional benefits in the more bitter veggies, especially the dark green vegetables.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Best Salt Substitute

Rumor has it that the next crazed diet is going to name salt as the new enemy. The recommended intake of sodium is 2,300 milligrams per day, but most Americans consume much more. In an effort to keep you from falling victim to the hundreds of new low-sodium products that will be hitting our supermarket shelves soon, let me remind you of the wonders of spices and herbs. Herbs and spices add seasoning and bring out flavor without adding sodium to your diet. They can also help make low-fat foods more enjoyable.

How to get the most from your favorite herbs:
Basil: add it as one of the final ingredients or as a garnish because the taste of fresh basil comes more from your nose than your palate.
Ginger: Fresh ginger is sweet and lemony and is best in stir fries, in fish dishes, or on roasted vegetables. Dried ginger is hotter and spicier. When baking, any form of ginger works.
Rosemary: when using dried rosemary, use it when the recipe has plenty of liquids and cooks for a while so the rosemary rehydrates and is not hard and brittle.
Sage: fresh sage is milder than dried. It's best in tomato based dishes or sauces. Use sparingly with other herbs since it is so pungent.

Tips for using fresh herbs:
*Wash all fresh herbs
*Cut herbs and crush gently before adding them to your dish so they release the most flavor.
*Add fresh herbs towards the end of cooking to make their flavor last longer.
*If the recipe calls for dried herbs, use more of the fresh herbs to get the same amount of flavor.

Make your own rubs:
Citrus rub: Combine grated lemon, orange or lime peel (or all three) with minced garlic and cracked black pepper.
Pepper-garlic rub: Mix together garlic power, cracked black pepper and cayenne pepper.
Italian rub: Combine fresh or dried oregano, basil and rosemary with minced Italian parsley and garlic.
Herb rub: Use fresh or dried marjoram, thyme and basil.
**Press the rub onto the surface of the meat, seafood, or poultry before you cook it. Make sure to wash your hands after you handle the raw meat.

Match the flavor and the meat:
Lean meats: bay leaves, caraway seeds, chives, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, curry powder, onion, paprika, parsley, sage, thyme, allspice, turmeric.
Veal: thyme, mace, curry powder, nutmeg.
Lamb: basil, curry powder, dill, mace.
Lean pork: thyme, savory, rosemary, sage.
Poultry: rosemary, nutmeg, mustard, lemon juice, ginger, dill, curry powder, bay leaves.
Lean ground meats: allspice, basil, mustard, savory.
Lean meat loaf: rosemary, nutmeg.

See the recipe link on the side bar for a Seven-Spice Chicken recipe from the American Heart Association.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Mighty Mango

Mangos are my favorite fruit so I was thrilled to learn of all the benefits they have to offer. They provide essential nutrients that supply your body with vital antioxidants. Mangos' healthy dose of vitamin C and beta carotene provide essential antioxidants that protect your body from free radicals and can help protect you from chronic diseases, including cancer. Vitamin C supports your immune system and the growth and repair of your body's tissues. Beta carotene gets converted into vitamin A which helps promote healthy vision, strong bones, strong teeth and tissue health. Vitamin A also supports your immune system.


A cup of mango has about 110 calories and is free of fat, cholesterol and sodium. It also provides 3 grams of fiber, which is 12% of your recommended daily fiber.

How to pick a mango:
There are many differnet kinds of mangos. You can get a fresh mango in green, yellow or red. A ready to eat mango will have a small give when you squeeze it. If it is not yet ripe, keep it at room temperature. Once it is ripe, put it in the refrigerator where it can be stored for up to 5 days. Do not refrigerate an unripe mango.

How to cut a mango:
Always wash the mango before you cut it. The best way to cut it is to put it stem down on a cutting board and cut it into 2 ovals. Then cut parallel slices into the two halves, scoop out the peices and enjoy.

Try incorporating mangos into your recipes. See the recipe link on the side bar for a new mango recipe!

1/2 cup fresh fruit = 1 serving (out of the 5 suggested servings a day)