Friday, December 12, 2014

Fat Facts

By Melissa Diane Smith
When it comes to your health, one of the most important things you can do is steer clear of processed fats, meaning partially hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated omega-6 fats. Just as avoiding refined carbohydrates—such as sugar and refined wheat or gluten-free flour—is a critical nutrition strategy for preventing disease, so, too, is avoiding partially hydrogenated and refined vegetable oils.
Hydrogenation is a chemical process in which hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to turn them into semi-solid oils that are used in deep-fat frying, added to processed foods, and used to make margarine and vegetable shortening. These man-made trans-fats cause dysfunction in the body on a cellular level, and they promote obesity and insulin resistance and double the risk of heart disease.
Many consumers over the past decade have learned about the dangers of trans-fats and have been gradually moving away from them, and fewer food companies are using them. Even so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that further reducing trans-fats in the food supply could prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year.

What You May Not Know about Vegetable Oils

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cooking with Herbs

By Lisa Turner
From the bright, aromatic essence of basil to the subtle licorice undertones of tarragon or the hints of pine in rosemary, few foods add flavor, aroma, and visual appeal as quickly and easily as fresh herbs. Here’s a simple guide for both beginners and seasoned chefs on buying, storing, and using them.

Selecting & Buying Herbs

Fresh herbs are sold in a variety of ways: in pots, in small plastic clamshells, or in bunches (especially parsley and cilantro). However you buy your herbs, look for bright green leaves with no browning or yellowing at the tips. If you’re buying them in bunches, look at the stems—dry, splitting stems mean they’re older. For herbs sold in plastic boxes or bags, give them a sniff before buying. They should have a pronounced aroma with no hints of mustiness or mold. Potted herbs are a great choice. You can snip leaves and keep the plant alive for future harvests.

Storing Fresh Herbs

Herbs are more delicate than other produce and have to be stored and handled gently. Generally, keep them dry and refrigerated. If you buy them in bunches, take them out of the bags and remove the rubber bands, then snip the ends and stand them up in a glass with 1/2 inch of water, then store in the refrigerator. If you buy them in plastic boxes, remove them from the box and wrap them in very lightly dampened paper towels, then store in the warmest part of the fridge to prevent freezing.

Using Fresh Herbs

Rinse herbs gently just before using them. If they’re very dirty or sandy, immerse them in a large bowl of cold water, agitate gently, and lift them out of the bowl. Never cut herbs when they’re wet, or they’ll blacken and get slimy. Instead, pat herbs with paper towels and let them air-dry before cutting, or use a salad spinner to dry larger quantities of herbs.
Be sure your knife is very sharp before cutting herbs—dull knives, blender blades, or food processor blades will bruise the leaves and destroy the vibrant green color. And use all parts of the herb, not just the leaves. Rosemary, sage, and thyme stems can flavor soups and stocks, and chive, sage, thyme, and other herb blossoms are beautiful garnishes (don’t use basil or marjoram blossoms, since they’re often bitter).

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Organically Minded Websites

It’s easy to go organic in all areas of your life with this mini resource guide.

If You Are Interested In …Go to …
Learning more about (operated by the Organic Trade Association)
Getting involved in the organic
Learning about local, sustainable
Avoiding GMOs (and learning more about how to do so)
Finding organic
Organic household
Organic beauty and personal

Your Brain on Gluten

By Lisa James

Problems with gluten often range well beyond intestinal issues to affect other parts of the body, including the brain. For example, scientists have known for decades that people with celiac disease, in which gluten triggers an abnormal immune response, are prone to ataxia, a neurological disturbance marked by unsteady balance and jerky, uncoordinated movements.
However, the association between gluten and the brain has been found to go far deeper. Memory slippages, fuzzy thinking and low mood may all be linked to this troublesome protein.
Connecting the Dots

The linkage between gluten and a variety of brain dysfunctions is only now becoming a matter of concern among the general public. “It has awaited critical mass,” says David Perlmutter, MD, board-certified neurologist, president of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Florida, and author (with Kristin Loberg) of Grain Brain (Little, Brown). “We now understand there is a powerful relationship between the gut and the brain.”

For example, “depression is found in as many as 52% of gluten-sensitive individuals,” says Perlmutter. He notes that up to 90% of the body’s serotonin, which helps regulate mood, is produced in nerve cells found in the gut (known as the “second brain”). Gluten has also been linked to anxiety and schizophrenia (The Psychiatric Quarterly 3/12).
Children with celiac disease have a higher risk for developmental delays, learning disabilities, seizures and headaches. In fact, Doni Wilson, ND, who maintains a three-location practice in the metropolitan New York area, says the most common signs of gluten sensitivity among her younger patients are “headaches and stomachaches. When a child has these, right away I’m thinking gluten.”