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Help your liver help you – Detox

happy-liver

In preparation for a presentation that Katie and I are giving this Saturday at a Wellness Retreat I have done much review on the detoxification funtions of the human body. This is one of my favorite topics and I’d love to share this with our blog fans! Todays blog is a basic introduction to what the liver does, and a few initial things you can do to support the liver. Tomorrow we will delve into some foods that help your liver detox.

The human body is built with wonderful detoxification mechanisms. It is REALLY cool actually. Your liver is incredible. That thing is so busy all the time and usually… just does not quit. What does it do you ask? Well for starters It filters 1.5 liters of blood in a minute. ONE POINT FIVE LITERS!! That is a Nalgene and a half, or two bottles of wine volume equivalence! Much of that blood comes from your gut after you eat food. That blood in your gut absorbs much of the nutrients and compounds that were present in the food you ate. Some of those compounds in your food were toxins too. Don’t get too upset though…It will be OK. I will explain how to minimize these, and how to help your liver help you. In addition to filtering all that blood every minute, it also stores carbohydrates for you. And it is GENEROUS with giving away those carbohydrates when you need them. Unlike your muscles, they are more selfish and hold onto their stored carbohydrates. Your liver’s generosity in turn helps you out when you have not eaten for a few hours. If your blood sugar drops your liver is the first to give up some carbohydrates to your blood to hold off your hangry cranky mood for a little longer. Your friends and family appreciate your liver’s generosity too. Nobody likes it when you are hangry. It also stores some vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin D, and Iron. Thanks liver. And additionally it builds carrier proteins that transport around your vitamins and minerals. With out those carriers your vitamins and minerals would not get to where they needed to go, to do the things that they need to do. That would be sad. Your liver also builds cholesterol which believe it or not you do need in the correct proportions anyways. And most importantly for the detox discussion, your liver breaks down things that can be harmful to your body like alcohol and xenobiotics. There is your nerd word of the day folks… XENOBIOTICS. A xenobiotic is anything that we come into contact with that needs to be broken down and processed. Like alcohol, drugs (both perscription and over the counter, chemicals (like pesticides, pollution, or from cleaning products etc). Certainly some of these chemicals are found in the air that we breath and some in the foods that we eat.

So the liver clearly has a pretty full schedule every day. It likes it’s job, and does it very well, but sometimes just like you, if you throw too much of a work load at it… it gets over whelmed. And then it can’t do it’s job as well anymore. I’m sure you can relate. We have all had those crazy busy weeks when school or work or familiy commitments overwhelm us and life starts to get messy. So how can we help the liver continue to keep helping us? By taking it easy on the liver. We live in a world that unfortunately has polution in their air, possibly in the water (depending on where you live) and our food sometimes has compounds that our liver needs to clear out. The first layer of helping your liver help you is supporting the organs of elimination. Your skin, your kidneys, your liver, your lungs, and your gut. How do we support these organs? The three “Fs” my friend (even though one of them is a “PH”) FIBER, FLUID AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY!

Fiber helps the body mover everything along. Especially when you follow it with water. Fiber also has the capacity to take some of the excess toxins / xenobiotics right out of the gut with it. We like you fiber! Hydration is very important as well. You want to be sure your drinking enough water so that your cells are not shriveled up and dehydrated. They need to be hydrated to properly function! Plus drinking adequate water helps you move all that food through your digestive tract as well. Drinking plenty of water is also good for your kidneys which are busy doing their own filtering. Just keep things moving… elimination. Physical activity aids your digestion as well, and also increases your sweat. Sweating is another way for you to detoxify your system! Other ways to increase sweat are ofcourse going into a sauna, hot yoga class, or just sitting outside in Arizona. I used to live in Arizona, the whole state is an outdoor sauna April through September. Physical activity is helpful even if you don’t sweat. A brisk walk is still great for your heart and digestion regardless of whether or not you actually sweat.

So the take home message today folks is every nutrition student’s mantra Fiber, Fluid and Physical Activity. Now go eat a piece of fruit, drink a glass of water, and go for a quick walk. Your liver will thank you. Tomorrow we will build on this some more 🙂

Have a healthy liver today!

Outsmarted by an Asian Pear…

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Never judge a book by it’s cover. And never judge anyTHING by the color of it’s skin. I had to learn this lesson the hard way with fruit! Walking around the farmer’s market for the first few times can present some introductions, and reintrductions to certain fruits and vegetables that are some what less popular to mainstream America. There are a few what I call zinger fruits/ vegetables. One zinger I came across that an aunt had to help me with was Kohlrabi (“Kohl- what?!” I said). Another last year was lemon cucumber, and the year before that sunchokes. Those zingers I avoided pretty darn well passing them up every time  until one day three years ago my fiance years pointed out a fruit that I had been ignoring all my life… The asian pear. Now I had certainly seen an asian pear before so it was not as obscure as a sunchoke to me, but I had always still ignored it. You know why? This is so horrible. For the same reason I avoided kiwis until I was 21… Because of the color of it’s skin! I know, I am a terrible nutrition nerd. I just was not at all attracted to a fruit that was brown! The asian pears were always RIGHT NEXT to something bright and exciting looking, like an apple, or an orange. So I never bothered to try them. But I have learned from the crazy mistakes of my youth and now I am a better person.

Then one day at a farmer’s market my fiance saw the asian pear cart and started getting all excited and gitty like I do over honey crisp apples… “who is this guy?” I thought. He started telling me how sweet and delicious Nashis (the Japanese name for asian pear) are, and how he grew up eating them in Japan and that when his family moved back to Washington they grew a couples Nashi trees in their yard so they could continue eating them. Coming from a guy with a huge sweet tooth, I knew they had to be good. So I decided to put my biased thoughts on hold, since 8 years before I got a reality check from a kiwi which turned out to be delicious DESPITE the fact that it was both brown AND hairy. We brought about four home. My first bite… WOW! The man knows how to pick fruit at a fruit stand. I was instantly obsessed. I started driving 25 minutes one way to Ballard every Sunday so I could get them despite my ridiculous pile of coursework that I had for chemistry at the time. I had to get my asian pear fix before the market stopped carrying them! I probably paid a premium for them if I included gas money yikes! But I’ve told you before that I have a vegetable problem, I guess I have a fruit problem as well.

The moral of the story folks, there are many  hidden treasures at the farmer’s market that are waiting to be discovered by you. The employees of the market are very helpful I have found, and want you to have the best produce experience possible. Don’t be afraid to ask them their favorite way to prepare a certain food because chances are, they are the experts on all the food on their table. Also when selecting an asian pear I learned that you want the deepest golden brown asian pears in the box (like the one pictured above). If they give just a little when you squeeze them that is good, they will be a little juicy! And stay away from the greenish looking ones they are terrible. If you try an asian pear and it is sour please do not give up, just keep searching for the deep brown ones at the market!

Those asian pears sure outsmarted me, and now I have two asian pear trees in my yard. I will have to wait three to five years for them to bear fruit though. But that’s OK. I kind of deserve it.

The new hip fat… Coconut oil.

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It’s all the rage right now, and there are many tasty recipes that it has become a key ingredient in. Everything from smoothies to desserts, to an oil for sauteing eggs and veggies in. Coconut oil is at the forefront of the health food world. You have probably heard the health claims all over facebook these days about this tropical oil. But are the health claims proven at this point? The answer is… not just yet.

Now don’t get me wrong! I love me some coconut oil. I use it at home myself. I will NEVER forget my first coconut oil cookie in whole foods cooking in grad school. They were our teacher’s lemon raspberry thumbprint cookies. Our lab group was instructed to make these cookies with coconuut oil instead of butter. Holy DELICIOUSNESS! All of sudden you have this aromatic tropical flavor on your tounge which complimented the fruit and the sweetness of the cookie wonderfully! It was love at first bite. We also learned in that class how coconut oil is a very handy oil to have on hand to season your cast iron cook ware. Since it is solid at room temperature you can put your cast iron cook ware away with less oily residue then when you might have used a liquid at room temp oil. They have found some anti microbial and anti fungal compounds in coconut oil which is another reason I like using it to season my cast iron cookware. I began experimenting with coconut oil at home and I found that I especially LOVE it when I am cooking an asian style dish. The flavor it provides your stir fries for example always brings my memory to one of my favorite thai restaurants in the whole world…yummy.

The health claims regarding coconut oil are many. There are claims that it helps people loose weight, improves cholesterol and heart disease, and cures alzheimers. While some individual cases claim these results with coconut oil, the evidence from research in humans is lacking. One reason that kept people away from coconut oil for many years was that it is a VERY saturated fat. 92% saturated. Butter is 63% saturated, and olive oil is only 15% saturated. Remember please from Tuesday’s blog that saturated fat can turn into cholesterol.

What else makes coconut oil unique? Well unlike other oils it contains a high amount of medium chain fatty acids or MCFAs. More than half of coconut oil fatty acids are MCFAs.Why does this matter? Well MCFAs are actually metabolized differently. To make a long story short, instead of hanging out in the blood circulating all around the body before they go to get metabolized (like long chain fatty acids), they go straight to the liver (in most cases) and get broken down quickly. Long chain fatty acids (LCFAs) on the other hand are the ones that circulate around a bit before metabolism, which makes them more likely to be deposited into fat tissues. So that is the theory behind coconut oil helping people loose weight. However there are no studies YET at least that show this to be the truth. Not that I know of anyways.

There has been a little more evidence to support the use of Medium Chain Triglyceride oil  or  MCT oil. Please note that I said a LITTLE more evidence which is still not much.This is a specially formulated oil that often times extracts the MCTs out of coconut oil to produce a 100% MCFA oil.

So how do we now eat coconut oil in a healthy portioned manner? Until we have more evidence showing it to be safe for everyone all the time, I would recommend treating it like butter or any other saturated fat. Enjoy it! Have it in the house and cook with it on the occasion. Just not at every meal please. Try it in cookies sometime! I would recommend the “cold pressed” or “virgin” coconut oils since they are less processed. The highly processed conventional coconut oils are processed using high heat and chemicals to refine it. That likely will result in an oxidated oil product which will likely make your cell membranes angry! Please do not make your cell membranes angry! They want you to be healthy.

I hope this was helpful, and have a healthy Wednesday!!

Should I switch to 1% milk??

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Since I love talking about fat… why stop now! One question I received after last week’s blog was whether or not someone should switch from skim milk to 1%? Well, the answer is fairly individual. While I am not a huge fan of skim milk ( the taste especially) I am not going to go against what anyone’s doctor recommends. For me to make an educated recommendation I would need to have an appointment with the person, and look over their medical history. If they are healthy with no family history of heart disease, no cholesterol control issues, and they exercise often I would say yes go for it. Still read labels for sat fat grams to be sure you are not over doing your sat fat intake through out the day of course.

The kinds of things that would caution me to be more conservative on a patient’s fat intake  (and maybe agree to skim milk for them) would be if they were having a lot of problems controlling cholesterol, or if they had many risk factors for heart disease, or if they already had some form of heart disease. The problem with saturated fat is that it can turn into cholesterol. However, it gets even more individual than just that person’s cholesterol control and heart disease risk. I would also consider how often that patient exercises, and how much fiber they eat, and of course… HOW MUCH milk they drink per day. Portion control. How much saturated fat do they eat from other foods on most days?

For example, in one measured cup of 1% milk there are 2 grams of fat, both saturated fat grams. This is going to be a quite rough average, but the average adult american (averaging both men and women) should be eating about a 2000 calorie per day diet based on height and weight. Averaging a little higher for men and a little lower for women. ON AVERAGE though this may be different for some! So hypothetically, we are talking about someone who’s body requires about 2000 calories per day to maintain their healthy weight. If we are on the conservative side (maybe our patient has some risk factors for heart disease) 20% of those 2000 calories can come from fat. So that’s about 400 calories from fat per day or 44 grams of fat per day. Only seven percent of total calories should be from saturated fat so that equals 140 calories or 15 grams of saturated fat per day.  So 15 grams of that 44 grams is what they recommend as a limit to saturated fat intake. That glass of milk only had 2 grams of saturated fat. So then the question becomes, what else does the patient eat in a day? Only the patient knows the real story there. With risk factors for heart disease, in a perfect world, I would hope the patient opts for all unsaturated fats to absolutely minimize risk of further artery damage. That is a bit on the idealistic side I know.  But if they are only going to have 2 grams of saturated fat from one or two glasses of milk I would not be too upset. However, if they were going to have one or two glasses of milk and then eat something really greasy with satuated fat in the same day or daily, then I might recommend skim.

But here is my beef with skim milk… Milk is fortified with fat soluble vitamins A and D. If you skim the fat out of milk and then put in fat soluble vitamins… how are you going to absorb those vitamins? Maybe you are getting enough vitamin A and D elsewhere. But most people do NOT get enough vitamin D. And milk is one of the only food sources of it (see other posts on vitamin D!).

This stuff is complicated isn’t it? I totally agree. We’d love to help you all! Call us to make an appointment!

Have a healthy Friday!!!

 

Cat on a fat soap box…

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Good morning everyone! This morning I’d like to talk about fats and oils and which are the best quality. First I’d like to clear something up. Contrary to everything we heard in the 90’s and even today sometimes, I am here to tell you… WE NEED FAT! It was villanized big time when I was growing up I can remember. Can you? Every product in the house was fat free this fat free that or 98.8 % fat free. At the time it was just what we ate and it all tasted normal to me. Now a days I sure eat differently. I slowly gave up the fat free products and now I almost spit them out when I taste them… YUCK! Not looking back. I like my fat.

So if during the 90’s we were not eating much fat …why did all of our nations statistics of overweight and obesity skyrocket in the 90s and 2000’s? You guessed it. SUGAR (soda). Lack of exercise. Super sizing meals. More and more restaurants (and fast food) opening making it impossible to avoid food establishments almost anywhere you go. Those are some of the reasons that I suspect. I am sure there are more.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you eat say a pint or more of yogurt a day, I am not suggesting you buy and eat a whole pint of full fat whole milk yogurt daily. But here is the thing… with full fat or higher fat yogurt, you will likely feel fuller sooner and for longer. You might not need or even want to eat that whole pint. Does this make sense? It tastes richer. It should provide you with more satiety. Want another suggestion? Definitely have some fruit with that yogurt that will help fill you up with healthy fiber as well. PS, yogurts that are flavored often times are LOADED with sugar. Consider buying plain yogurt and mixing in a small portion of sugar/ maple syrup/ jelly at home. The flavored yogurts at the store sometimes have as much sugar as soda.

I think the reason that the nutrition world has always been so conservative with their fat recommendations is because oftentimes the portion control gets a little out of whack. I will never forget in my cooking class in grad school when our teacher said to our class “Don’t be afraid of butter!” Of course she explained the whole just don’t eat too much part. Great! I thought. I’m going to go buy some butter. I felt so LIBERATED! Now the idea is to not make the butter (or any saturated fat) a part of every meal. Make FAT part of every meal, yes. But there are healthier fats out there than butter that you can incorporate three times a day. Save the butter for the occasional meal. Olive oil, avocados, fish, nuts, seeds etc. Those oils are more anti inflammatory oils. Did you read Friday’s blog? There you will find a good explanation of why we need anti inflammatory compounds in our cell membranes. If you make the anti inflammatory fats a part of every meal you are doing great!

Our cell membranes are made of a few substances including a lot of fat molecules. If our cell membranes are starved of fat they will not function all that well. And they have a lot of work to do. They have a lot of messages to send to the inside of the cell, and hormones to interact with, and glucose to up take, and DNA to instruct… etc etc. The better the quality fat that  you feed your cells, the better they will function, and the better they will fight off potential dangers to the cell.

Do you know what else is made up of a lot of fat? Your brain. Do you want to starve your brain of the molecule that it needs to do everything that it does? Your brain certainly has a lot to do too.

As always please take any health issues that you or your family has into account when deciding how to plan your meals. This is confusing to figure out I know. Would you like some help? That is why there are some professionals in town like us that are here to help you sort through all of your medical history and match an eating plan that is appropriate for you! Call us 🙂

Have a healthy Wednesday!

Anti Inflammatory Diet… what does this mean?

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Eating the anti inflammatory diet will allow your body to calm down it’s inflammatory state from the constant immune response that the body enacts when we encounter toxins or experience nutritional deficiencies and toxicities. These situations are inevitable. We WILL encounter environmental toxins daily, and we WILL eat too much carbohydrates, proteins, fats, micronutrients, and minerals from time to time. This is ok occationally since we are built with effective immune systems and antioxidant systems that can metabolize and neutralize these less than ideal human situations. The anti inflammatory diet is the diet I am always recommending to everyone. If we maximize the anti inflammatory power of our food, then we are providing our bodies with many food compounds that can quell the inflammatory processes in our body. This is setting your body up for success. If there are only two things you take away from my anti inflammatory advice let it be this: eat TONS of veggies and anti inflammatory fats! What are inflammatory fats you might ask? Typically animal fats are more inflammatory… EXCEPT FISH! Fish as I am SURE you have heard is the gold standard as far as animal protein. Unfortunately good fish is expensive. If you do not want to buy good quality WILD fish due to the high price tag, I understand! I’d love to buy it far more often than I do, but I do not for that same reason. However I DO NOT recommend buying low quality cheap fish as a substitute for more expensive good quality fish. You are just wasting your money if you are buying low quality fish! Those fish are not healthy and won’t have much omega three oils in them anyway. With a few exceptions to this rule, farmed fish are of poor quality. Remember when at a fish market, the label will not say “Farmed” it will just not call it “wild“. If you do not see “wild” on the label then just move on. Another important point, COLD WATER fish are the ones that are known to have the most omega three anti inflammatory fats. Salmon, halibut, cod and polluck are all good choices. Fish from warmer waters are not as healthy for you. If you do not or can not pay for the good quality fish I’d rather see you taking a good quality fish oil supplement than buying crumby quality fish. I know, I usually say “Food first!”, but in this case it is not always realistic. I try to be realistic. A good information source on fish quality and toxin levels in fish is linked here. Other sources of omega three fats are flax seeds (and flax seed oils), and walnuts (walnut oil). Avocados have a little as well. Omega three fatty acids provide our cell membranes with anti inflammatory fatty acids that get incorporated into those membranes which fortifies the protection of our cells proper functioning. With anti inflammatory fatty acids present in those membranes, our cells have the ability to fight off potential damage to the cell. DEFENSE!

As a cooking fat I would recommend olive oil as your main cooking oil on low heat since it also contains many anti inflammatory properties. Try to not cook with it over medium heat if possible since it may burn past medium. It is great to use olive oil in salad dressings, and to incorporate some flax oil with it to get an added boost of omega threes!

OK onto vegetables, I think I have pleaded my case for vegetables being awesome A LOT over many of my blogs so I will not beat a dead horse. Essentially the phytonutrients in vegetables fight off damage to your cells from free radical particles, and also fight inflammation. They are also chock full of vitamins and minerals which of course your body requires! Potatoes are a common starch for many  who happen to be gluten free. Feel free to branch out with your potatoes and eat the colorful ones, sweet potatoes, and the new purple potatoes. Don’t be afraid, they may look different but they taste wonderful and provide you with some more phytonutrients than a white potato does.

Other good food sources of anti inflammatory compounds are nuts, seeds, fruits, teas (black, green, red and white),  and spices like ginger, garlic, tumeric, and fresh herbs.

I hope this was helpful… and have a healthy Monday!

Vitamin C pill vs. The Orange… FOOD FIRST!

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One of the most facinating things I learned in grad school was how powerfully healthy food is on it’s own when compared to individual supplements. When we eat fresh produce and obtain our nutrients in the context of food, we really do benefit from not just a few nutrients, but a whole package of healthy goodness that goes beyond just a few vitamins and minerals . Supplements usually are sold as a single nutrient or a limited number of nutrients.

Aquiring a cold for example leads many people to seek out vitamin C supplements. Often times people will purchase 1000% of the daily recommendation of vitamin C since they have heard many health claims that this is the power house against a cold. It may help don’t get me wrong. But do you know what else will help? Food. That’s right. Try an Orange.  “An orange??? How could that have enough vitamin C in it to boost my immune system?” You may be asking. We have somehow created this belief in our culture that we need megadoses of vitamins to help our bodies heal, or to boost immunity. We need food. It just so happens that food was designed (or evolved) to become quite supportive of our body’s needs. Additionally, often times our body can not even absorb the amounts of vitamins contained in some of these supplements and sports drinks. You just excrete them past a certain point, despite the “energy” that the label may claim it will give you.

Take the orange for example, 139% of your  daily vitamin C requirement is in one orange. That is plenty of vitamin C in one day for your body’s needs. Not only do you benefit from the vitamin C,  vitamin A, thiamin, folate, calcium, and potassium, additionally you are getting many different types of phytonutrients when you eat an orange. Let’s review what a phytonutrient is real quick. It is a plant compound that often times is responsible for the color of the plant. It is not an essential nutrient for a body process like it’s cousins vitamins and minerals are, but they often times are found to have anti-inflammatory or antioxidant properties. So they are non-essential nutrients with beneficial side effects. One of the stars of the phytonutrient show in oranges is a flavone compound called herperidin. This phytonutrient in animal studies has been found to have beneficial effects on blood pressure, and cholesterol results. Interestingly this compound is found mostly in the white pith of the orange… which you won’t find in the vitamin C supplement! You also will not find this portion of the plant in orange juice. UNLESS you pulverize your own whole orange with a little of the white pith attached in your blender. Which I highly recommend. With three ice cubes, a cut up pear, and a mint leaf.

My point is that fruits and vegetables are highly under rated for their nutritional content. And for whatever reason in our society… supplements are highly over rated in their nutrition potential (in my opinion anyways). Don’t get me wrong, supplements are certainly useful in certain situations! And I do take supplements daily for the vitamins that I find important for my life stage and difficult to obtain from food (vitamin D). However, after getting my Master’s degree in nutrition which I worked very hard to get, I am here to tell you… FOOD FIRST!

The many uses of… the lemon peel!

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Although it’s not a fresh herb, I feel compelled to complete our fresh herb week by talking about the ingredient that I pair most with it. Lemon peel may not be the part of the lemon you first think of as a flavor source, however it does contain some essential oils that pack a good punch! The citrus flavor in the peel or zest is a slightly bitter flavor as opposed to sour (like the juice) yet maintains that bright lemon flavor of the juice.

To zest your lemon you will need a cheese grater of some sort. The best kind is actually a Microplane (pictured above). These are high end cheese/ food graters made in the USA. They are about $15 to $20, and they will make your cheese and citrus peel grating experience much faster and easier. Once you go Microplane, you never go back. Be careful while grating to not accidentally grate your skin please… since they are quite sharp and will hurt your skin!

Once you have your lemon zest the same rules apply as with fresh herbs… a little goes a long way! After zesting a lemon for example you will only have about two teaspoons worth of  shredded lemon peel. That is plenty of zest for a four person dish.

One easy thing you can do with lemon zest is to add the zest of one lemon to some rice that you are cooking. Why not add some fresh kitchen herbs to the mix while you are at it? For bonus points I recommend cooking your rice in some type of soup broth as opposed to water.

Another idea for lemon zest is to combine it with some chopped up kitchen herbs (2- 3 tablespoons), 2-3 garlic cloves minced (finely chopped), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix all of this in a small bowl till you have sort of an oily paste. Rub this onto four servings (3-4 oz) of the protein of your choice (chicken, fish, red meat, or tofu). Now bake  your brightly flavored protein servings in the oven. Dinner is served!

Another great use for lemon zest in conjunction with your fresh kitchen herbs is to use it in a salad dressing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a good substitute for home made dressing is plain old lemon juice and olive oil. Lets’s build on this shall we? The quicker version of this is to use your three cup food chopper that I encourage you to buy. That way you may put the ingredients in there un-minced and let the blades do the work for you. Without your blender do this:  Mix together in a small bowl 1/2 cup olive oil, juice of one lemon, zest of one lemon, 1 garlic clove minced, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme minced, 3 basil leaves minced, 2 mint leaves minced, salt and pepper to taste. Mix with a fork and pour over your favorite salad!

What about the health benefits of lemon peel? Limonene is one of the aromatic compounds that is found in citrus peels that can produce that unique citrus flavor in lemon zest. In preliminary studies limonene has been shown to have cancer preventative properties. Great news! Specifically limonene was found in some cancer cells to signal a benign tumor to go down the cellular death pathway as opposed to the progression to cancer cell pathway. YAY for lemon zest!

Enjoy your Tuesday and I encourage you to sprinkle on the bright lemon flavored joy all over your kitchen this weekend 🙂

Healthy “Fast Food” with Fresh Herbs…

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Asian cuisine is typically high in fresh vegetables and low in saturated fat. As a result, Asia has always been an interesting region to research in the nutrition field due to the many differences between their eating habits, and the western world. Another benefit of asian cuisine is that it is typically friendly to those with food sensitivities. There is very little wheat and dairy in the majority of asian diets so for those prescribed to avoid those foods, eating asian cuisine will not leave them feeling as though they are missing out.

The fresh herbs often used in Asian cooking are basil, cilantro and mint and when combined together you get FIRE WORKS! When you add lime, toasted sesame, oil, and soy sauce to the mix as well…. Hold on to your hat! One dish that I like to “throw together” when I am in a hurry involves all of those items mentioned above, some crushed peanuts, and some chopped up veggies like green peppers & sauteed mushrooms, but as usual, it depends on what veggies are in my fridge at that moment.

Although I usually free style it, here are my basic instructions for this dish…

4 oz thin rice noodles, cooked according to package instructions

1-2 cups fresh or sauteed veggies chopped

1/2 cup crushed peanuts

Juice of 2 limes

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 – 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

a little lime zest (half a lime’s worth or so)

2 cloved finely chopped fresh garlic

3 tablespoons of any combination of basil, mint, and cilantro.

 

In a small bowl combine lime juice, sesame oil,  soy sauce, lime zest and garlic. Mix and pour over rice noodles. Add fresh/ sauteed veggies, herb mixture, and peanuts. Toss well. Take a bite and assess if you should squeeze any more lime, add any sesame oil, or soy sauce. With adding the herb mixture I would caution you to go easy on the mint and maybe the cilantro too. Mint can be overdone. Cilantro is very polarizing. People either love it or hate it so try it first if you’ve never had it. Basil has a milder flavor so if all you have is basil, you should be fine with three tablespoons of it.

This dish is so easy to make and loaded with lots of phytonutrients from both veggies and herbs. I actually like the crunch of fresh veggies in this salad, and additionally it’s faster to make it that way, however if you have 10 extra minutes to sautee your veggies it will be great that way too. Some good veggie ideas for this dish are shredded carrots, sliced green onions, sliced peppers (green or red), and boiled edamame beans (shelled). You can buy edamame beans shelled already in the frozen section of your grocery store. Edamame can provide a good protein source and is a whole food source of soy as opposed to a more processed version of soy. I always recommend organic soy products when possible. If you are sensitive to soy feel free to fill in the protein blank with your favorite protein.

Have I convinced you yet to go pick up a kitchen herb plant or two? Or to plant an herb garden? Chicken dishes, soups, pesto, and asian noodle salad. What other reason do you need?

Enjoy!

Home made Pesto… It’s easy I swear!!!

FMFY_arugula-walnut-pesto

In the spirit of further convincing all my readers that having kitchen herb plants yields tasty food, I am providing you with some fresh basil instructions. There is an appetizer I make for parties that always has party goers tracking me down to introduce themselves and asking for the recipe. It involves home made pesto. This is an easy go-to dish for me since I usually have a basil plant on hand which supplies a cup or two of basil leaves. And why not since basil leaves have been found to be chock full of antioxidants? When people ask me what kind of pesto did I buy for this dish? And I respond that its home made, they act hopeless like they could never do it. They have little faith! I have said it before and I will say it again people… buy that $15 to $20 dollar three cup food processor! Actually you can use a blender for this (or  for any of my three cup food processor recipes) however, it just seems silly to get out and dirty a whole big blender when you are only making one cup’s worth of volume. Right? The three cup food processor has the same function as your blender, just in a much smaller easy to use and easy to clean set up.

I have never used a recipe for this pesto, I just keep throwing ingredients into the three cup food processor until I like how it tastes! However here are the basic ingredients and approximate amounts. I encourage you to keep tasting it until you like how it tastes.

Serves 4

2 cups of loosely packed washed & towel dried basil leaves

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of parmesean cheese grated

2 cloves of fresh garlic peeled

1/4 cup of crushed walnuts (or whatever nuts you have crushed)

Juice of 1 lemon

salt & pepper to taste

 

Put it all in the three cup food processor (or blender), and hit the button for like 30 seconds. That’s it. You’re done. Now was that so hard?

I do encourage you to taste it and adjust ingredients as you see fit. I like mine pretty thick for the most part, but you may prefer this a little more oily. If you were planning on using your pesto as a sauce on pasta you may want to make it more oily so it will pour better. So up the oil until you get your desired consistency. I tend to love lemon and salt so I go heavy on those. But everyone’s taste buds are different! Feel free to start with just a tablespoon of lemon juice. Now most pesto recipes call for pine nuts and you will notice that I have substituted walnuts. I have nothing against pine nuts, but they are pretty expensive. When I have made this with walnuts I do not find that it tastes any different than the pine nut version, so I left my walnuts in the recipe.

The actual party appetizer that gets so much attention is a dish my mom used to make for parties. So easy. A couple logs of goat cheese  placed in a microwave safe dish. Pour the pesto on top. Microwave for maybe 30 seconds. If it is still not soft, put it in for longer. When the cheese has become soft it is done. Dice up tomatoes to put them on top of the dip. Place the dip on a platter surrounded by bread cubes, veggies, and/or crackers. Within minutes the whole party will be gathered around it dipping like crazy.

Have a healthy day!