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A Little Spice Makes Everything Nice

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

 

Let’s talk about health benefits of a few of my favorite spices: cardamom, cinnamon and ginger. Cardamom originated in India and is available in most grocery stores (ground) and specialty health food stores (pod and plant). It is rich in Vitamins A & C as well as potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. It is well-known for having anti-carcinogenic properties as well as being good for cardiovascular health. It is also an anti-depressant and is often one of the essential oils used in aromatherapy.


 

Cardamom Tea

4 cardamom pods

4 black peppercorns

4 clove

1 cinnamon stick

4 slices fresh ginger (quartered)

*Heat all ingredients in 2.5 cups of water for 2 hours. Strain and serve with a teaspoon of honey and a splash of milk (sub almond or coconut milk for dairy free)

 

Have Nausea…Take Ginger! Ginger is the cure-all for all types of nausea including morning sickness, alcohol hangovers and motion sickness. It can also be used to aid in digestion. It originated in Southeast Asia more than 5000 years ago but spread quickly to other regions as its healing properties became more widely known. Traditional Ayurvedic (meaning life knowledge in Sanskrit) hailed ginger as a gift from God. It also has anti-microbial properties so it can be helpful when fighting a cold or other immune-suppressing illness.

 


 

Ginger Salmon

1 Filet wild caught Salmon

1 stem fresh chopped ginger

1 garlic clove chopped

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

S&P to taste

*Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly rub evoo on salmon then add garlic and ginger plus salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 15-20 minutes until salmon flakes off easily. Serve with a side of baked asparagus or other green vegetable and/or brown rice.

 

The use of cinnamon goes back to around 2000BC when Egyptians used it as a perfuming agent in the embalming process. Cinnamon is made by cutting the stems of the cinnamomum tree. Those stems are dried and during the drying process they roll up into sticks. The sticks can be used alone or they can then be ground up to form the powder we most commonly use in various recipes. Cinnamon contains large amounts of polyphenol antioxidant making it a huge superfood. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to help the body fight infection and repair tissue damage. Cinnamon has also been linked to reduce heart disease, lower blood sugar and blood pressure as well as cholesterol. Try a teaspoon in your coffee in the morning!

 


Basil Cinnamon Peaches

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup raw sugar (Or use 3 tablespoons of honey or agave nectar)

3 strips lemon zest (1-by-2-inch strips)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 3-inch piece cinnamon stick

3 ripe but firm medium peaches, halved lengthwise and pitted

1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

*Combine water, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and cinnamon stick in a large nonreactive saucepan (see Note); bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Add peach halves. Return to a brisk simmer, cover the pan and simmer, turning the peaches occasionally, until they are tender when pierced with a skewer or paring knife and the skins are loosened, 20 to 25 minutes (depending on the ripeness of the peaches). Transfer the peaches to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Return the liquid to a boil and cook until reduced to about 3/4 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in basil and let cool to room temperature, about 40 minutes.

Slip off and discard the peach skins. Place the peaches in a storage container and strain the cooled syrup over them. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

Getting the Sugar Out

Monday, March 09, 2015

 

 

With the obesity rate in the US becoming a national epidemic, it’s time to really understand the role that sugar plays for maintaining good health. Take the French, for example, and notice how they have a diet much higher in fat but their sugar consumption is 5 ½ times less than the American diet. And yet the French have minimal issues with obesity, cardiovascular disease and even diabetes. Did you know that excessive sugar consumption is linked to more than 60 ailments/diseases? Let’s look at a few of these in greater detail.

 

Sugar & Cardiovascular Health

The more sugar you eat, the more insulin your body produces which also increases your triglyceride levels. Higher triglycerides translates into higher cholesterol levels. Also high insulin levels is also linked to a lower HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure & obesity.


Sugar & Cancer

Cancer cells LOVE sugar so the more sugar you eat, the faster those cancer cells grow. High insulin levels are one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer. In fact, it carries a 283% higher risk. My sister is a breast cancer survivor and I witnessed firsthand the challenges she faced to fight that disease. Keeping my sugar intake to a minimum seems like a small price to pay if you ask me.


Sugar & Obesity

High fructose corn syrup accounts for more than 40% of sweeteners added to food and drink products today. This sweetener is a laboratory modified blend of fructose/glucose and the body is not designed to absorb this refined sugar mix so it goes straight to your cells where it is stored as fat. It is also absorbed into the cells without the production of leptin which is a hormone that regulates appetite so you stay hungry and continue eating which means you eat the whole bag of cookies….not good!


Tips for Reducing Sugar Intake

  • Eat foods low on the glycemic index (between 0-40) Reference www.glycemicindex.com for a helpful guide. These foods raise blood sugar slowly helping you avoid the dreaded sugar crash.
  • Eliminate refined table sugar NOW. If it’s in your pantry, get it out. Substitute raw honey or agave nectar if you must use it.
  • Eliminate processed carbohydrates (white pasta, breads, bagels) and go to whole grain pastas and breads or brown rice. These can all be found at your local grocery store.
  • Be your own food detective. Read labels carefully. Look for whole grains and be sure to read the sugar levels on containers. Between 20-40 g of sugar is all that is needed in a given day. Any more and you can put yourself at risk for those diseases above and fluctuations with energy levels and your mood in general.
  • Beware of fat-free or low fat foods. In many cases, to reduce the fat content, the manufacturer simply adds sugar. A good example is yogurt. A container of plain yogurt contains 6g per serving while its ‘fat free’ cousin contains 13g. Ironically, the fat-free food can make you fatter.
  • Listen to your body. When you eat a food that gives you a buzz but then you feel cranky or find yourself reaching for another sweet food a few hours later, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Think about the foods (natural whole fruits and veggies) that give you sustained energy throughout the day. Those are the foods you should be eating to keep you balanced.
  • Eat balanced meals regularly. This really expands on the point above about listening to your body. Each meal should be a balance of protein, complex carbs and high quality fats. Think about the colors of the rainbow and how you can incorporate those colors onto your plate for each meal. And for many people, that may mean 5-6 small meals per day.

Reducing (or eliminating) sugar from your diet does not mean you have to go into starvation mode, ready to kill anyone you see eating a cookie. In fact, by keeping your meals balanced, especially with lots of fruits and vegetables, your cravings will reduce drastically and your energy will increase. It’s a win-win for everyone!


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