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Is it Summer Yet? Offset Winter Blues with Food.

Are you suffering from the winter blues? If you’ve noticed changes in your appetite, energy levels, and sleep habits, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but may be related to a hormonal imbalance or ambient temperature and light changes.
As with many other health issues, changing your dietary habits can help treat this condition. Increasing your intake of certain nutrients is a great place to start. Production of serotonin – a key signaling molecule in the brain that helps regulate appetite, mood, and sleep – may be increased by boosting your intake of foods rich in vitamin D, folate, and vitamin B12.

Shopping Help for Men in Aprons

Men in Aprons is the #2 trend featured as one of the Ten Food Trends for 2011 on the Food Channel. They credit this trend to a gender role reversal due to a slumping economy. With men hitting the supermarket aisles, we decided to focus on Men and Health for the February SUPERMARKET SAVVY Newsletter.
Grocery shopping, slicing and dicing, proper portioning…these are all steps to a healthy diet, but ones that take time and patience, ones that most men find tedious and unfavorable. Research focused on the eating and dieting differences in men and women describe men’s approach to nutrition as uncomplicated and pleasure orientated; one which is straightforward. (Read research)  This creates a challenge.  Of the common concerns which face men – fruit and vegetable consumption, excessive protein intake, prostate cancer, and osteoporosis – changes in diet and preparation methods can play a crucial role. 

Happy (Healthy) Valentine’s Day!

What do dark chocolate, strawberries, red wine, and pomegranates have in common? Your first thought might have been that they’re all aphrodisiacs – appropriate for Valentine’s Day! But did you know that other than helping to win your valentine’s heart, they’re also healthy for your heart?
When you’re sitting down for a romantic dinner, start the meal off with a glass of red wine. According to the Mayo Clinic, resveratrol is a compound in red wine that may lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and prevent both blood vessel damage and blood clots. The alcohol in wine can have similar effects, and may also raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.  Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is linked with a lower risk of heart disease, but more is not necessarily better. Alcohol should be limited to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. For wine, one drink is 4 to 5 ounces.

Go Red for American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, and tomorrow, Friday, February 4th, has been dubbed National Wear Red Day by the American Heart Association to raise awareness of heart disease. But you can “go red” any day of the week – adding crimson-hued foods to your diet can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and give your meal a jolt of colorful energy. Red compounds found in foods can act as antioxidants, preventing CVD by reducing cellular damage and protecting cholesterol from oxidation, which is a major cause of CVD.

Lycopene is a reddish pigment found in many plant foods, such as tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, guava, and grapefruit. One study conducted at the Harvard School of Medicine found that women with the highest levels of lycopene in the blood had a 33% lower risk of heart disease! (Read the abstract) Interestingly, a recent study found that consuming tomato powder was more protective against LDL oxidation in rats than a lycopene supplement. (Read the abstract.) This research suggests that lycopene may work in concert with other food components to increase its antioxidant power. Thus, whole food sources of lycopene are better than supplements.  Reap even more benefits by including a little bit of fat with your meal to boost lycopene absorption.

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Omega-3s and My Brain

As my body ages and I enter “senior” status, I have become conscious of every name I can’t remember and every item I misplace and wonder if my brain is losing some of its function. You may be having the same concerns.
                To make sure my brain functions properly, I am striving to include omega-3 fatty acids in my diet by sprinkling ground flaxseeds onto my yogurt every morning and cooking or ordering salmon whenever possible. Ground flaxseeds can be sprinkled in everything from soups to sauces to meatloaf and included in baking recipes for breads, muffins, and even cookies. Hodgson Mill Milled Flaxseed is a good brand and it even comes in Travel Packs.

2011 Food & Health Trends & Predictions–Not a Sweet Future

This past year we saw an update of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines with a lifestyle approach that focuses on a total diet that is energy balanced and nutrient dense. The first Action item listed is to reduce the incidence and prevalence of overweight and obesity of the US population by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical activity.
 To do this the emphasis will be on reducing the intake of foods containing added sugars and solid fats. The food industry will be encouraged to offer health-promoting foods that are limited in added sugars and refined grains and served in smaller portions.
Another concern is the rising incidence of diabetes both in adults and children. According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of American adults with diabetes could double or triple by 2050 if current trends continue. This prediction is really depressing when you consider the growing number of children who already have the condition, once described as adult onset diabetes. To help control this trend, obesity in children will be a major focus this year and sugar a major target.

January is National Oatmeal Month

January has been deemed National Oatmeal Month for the simple reason that more oatmeal is consumed during this time than during any other month. It makes sense since January is a month of cooler-or down right freezing- temperatures depending on location, making us long for foods to warm us up, as well as a month of new beginnings which tend to consist of resolutions to lose weight or lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol – both of which oatmeal is helpful in doing! Other health benefits of oatmeal include: control of blood glucose levels, reduced risk of certain cancers, and perhaps even reduced blood pressure.
Typically oatmeal is thought of as a breakfast food, but it can certainly be incorporated in to other meals as well. In honor of National Oatmeal Month branch out from the typical breakfast of oatmeal with fruit, raisins, and brown sugar and try out one of these unique ways to incorporate oatmeal at lunch and dinner!

Make Your Own Healthy Holiday Gifts

With everyone watching their budgets this year, save some money, unleash your creativity, and give a few gifts from your kitchen. Not only will you save money, but you can control the ingredients and nutrition and give a personal gift that is unique.
Package your gift in plain plastic containers, mason jars, or find decorative jars online and in specialty shops (make sure that they are food safe). Use a theme and package them with recipes and useful accessories. See the suggestions given for each gift idea.
Layered Soup in a Jar
Layer dried beans and peas with dried bouillon granules, onion flakes, and herbs in a mason jar. Attach a recipe with variations on a card. Accompany the soup mix with bright soup bowls or mugs, crackers, and cheese and place in a crock pot or basket. Suggested recipes from Three Bean Soup Mix, Chicken Noodle and Minestrone Soup.

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

Here are some of my favorite holiday gifts that I have given over the years. Why not make a healthful statement with your gift giving efforts this year?
Perfect for Christmas or any of your holiday gift-giving needs! Enjoy pineapple stars, strawberries, cantaloupe, honeydew and grapes designed in a holiday container. Edible Arrangements offer a great variety of fruit, arrangement sizes, chocolate covered fruit, specialty containers, balloons and bears. Pick it up and give it in person, send it across town or across the country.  

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Healthy Holiday Foods & Ingredients

Spruce up your holiday recipes with some healthier ingredients or choose a nutritious alternative to a seasonal favorite. Here are a few of my favorites:

Eggnog is a traditional holiday favorite but is usually high in calories and fat. Horizon Organic has a low fat eggnog that contains only 3 g of fat in a 1/2 cup serving compared to 9 g in the regular eggnog. This is a savings of about 50 calories.

If you are lactose intolerant, several dairies carrry a lactose free eggnog, but it is usaully the high fat variety. You might want to try a vegan eggnog such as Silk Soy Nog, which contains only 2 g of fat in a 1/2 cup serving. Another treat from the Silk people is Pumpkin Spice Soymilk that is offerred exclusively during the holidays.

Many holiday recipes call for chicken stock or broth that usually contain a high amount of salt. Kitchen Basics carries a line of unsalted stocks with sodium in the range of 160 to 180 mg per cup, which is much less than the 800 to 1000 mg found in many popular products.

Cheese is a staple of holiday entertaining but an item that is considered a ‘stay away from’ item on the party buffet if you are trying to control your weight and/or cholesterol. You can cut half the fat (4.5 g vs. 9 g) and 30 calories per 1-oz serving by choosing President Light Brie rather than the regular. The fat and calories are still high so portion control is important.

Another great cheese choice is goat cheese that usually contains less fat and calories than regular cheese. My favorite is Montchevre Cranberry Cinnamon Goat Cheese Lot. At just 4.5 g of fat and 80 calories per ounce, this is a treat at any time. The cranberry and cinnamon flavors lend a festive touch to your party table.

I can’t think of the holidays without including cranberries–tart cranberry relish, dried cranberries, cranberry juice in a holiday punch, cranberries baked into breads or muffins, and strings of popcorn and cranberries hanging on the Christmas tree. For a quick cranberry treat try Ocean Spray Craisin Trail Mix or Haagen Daz Fat Free Cranberry Blueberry Sorbet.

If you need a gluten-free dessert, check out Pamela’s Products ready-made gluten-free cheese cakes, coffee cate, and chocolate fudge cake. These desserts are not low calorie or fat but like all Pamela’s products, they are gluten-free and delicious. Check out Pamela’s Celebrate the Holidays Together Gluten Free for a compete list of gluten-free desserts and recipes.
What is your favorite healthy holiday food and ingredient? I’d love to hear from you.
Look for blogs on Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas and Healthy Holiday Gifts from your Kitchen in a few days.
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