Top 3 Nutrition Stories in 2013

NUMBER 3:  A CUP OF JOE FOR HEALTHCup of coffee with froth and cinnamon

I’m going to declare my bias here. Whenever a study is published that reveals any health benefits derived from drinking coffee (or wine for that matter), I get a little giddy.

2013 was a great year for coffee. Black coffee is low in calories, about 2 calories a cup, and is loaded with polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants. Aside from that, numerous studies have revealed multiple health benefits from your daily cup of joe.

2013 studies* have shown that drinking coffee:

  • can reduce risk of liver cancer
  • can reduce risk of endometrial cancer (along with active lifestyle and healthy diet)
  • Greek coffee may increase longevity [due to improved endothelial function (lining of blood vessels)]
  • is linked to lower suicide risk in adults
  • can reduced blood pressure
  • can help reduce risk of Parkinson’s Disease
    • in addition, a 2012 study out of McGill showed that caffeine in coffee may help control movement of Parkinson’s sufferers.

My take: if you enjoy a cup or two of coffee, continue to do so. Try to get used to the natural flavour of coffee without added sugar. Be aware that heavy caffeine use (4 cups or more a day) can cause anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness, in susceptible individuals.

NUMBER 2: GO NUTSAssorted nuts. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.

Nuts topped the headlines a couple of times this past year. Researchers have rescinded the decade- long advice that pregnant and lactating women should avoid eating nuts if there was a history of allergy in the family.  During the time this advice was given, the incidence of nut allergies in the US tripled. The advice was clearly not working.

A recent study showed that children born from women who consume nuts during pregnancy had a reduced risk of developing a peanut or tree nut allergy. This applies only for those mothers who were not allergic to nuts in the first place.

Nuts also hit the headline after a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people in the habit of eating a daily handful (a 1-ounce serving) of nuts are more likely to live longer compared with people who rarely consume nuts.

My take: for those who are not allergic to these nutritional-powerhouses, reach for a handful of nuts a day whether you are pregnant, lactating or just enjoying a snack. It may add years on to your life.

NUMBER 1:  OREOS & OTHER JUNK FOOD ARE AS ADDICTIVE AS DRUGSoreos

A study undertaken at Connecticut College showed that rats found Oreo cookies as addictive as cocaine. Oreos stimulated the brain’s pleasure centres in the same way cocaine and morphine do.  In fact, the results showed that Oreos activated significantly more neurons in rats’ brains than did cocaine or morphine.

One of the researchers from the study commented, “Our research supports the theory that high-fat/ high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do. It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”

This ties in with the much read article by Michael Moss published in the NY Times last February that took a look at the science behind junk food. Moss describes the staggering amount of money and PhD- powered research that goes into making junk food as addictive as possible so it is virtually impossible to have “just one chip”.NYT junk food

The article reveals the search by processed-food companies for the morphine-like “bliss point” of soda and chips. It describes why Cheetos are the most “marvelously constructed food on the planet in terms of pure pleasure” and how they fool the body so that, in the words of one scientist, “you can eat them forever”.

Scientists explained the guiding principle for the processed-food industry, which is known as “sensory-specific satiety”. This is “the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more. The biggest hits — be they Coca-Cola or Doritos — owe their success to complex formulas that pique the taste buds enough to be alluring but don’t have a distinct, overriding single flavor that tells the brain to stop eating.”

My take: there is no better evidence as to why processed food should be avoided at all costs. If you have not yet read the article, click here and be prepared to be shocked. You will never look at another chip the same way again.

The article is based on Moss’s book, Salt Sugar Fat – How the Giants Hooked Us.

 The Bottom Line: 

Enjoy your coffee
Eat your nuts &
Just Say No to Junk Food!

Coffee_quote

Have a Very Happy New Year!

* Coffee Studies:

Liver Cancer: http://www.cghjournal.org/article/S1542-3565(13)00609-5/abstract

Endometrial Cancer: http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/cup/current_progress/endometrial_cancer.php

Greek Coffee & Longevity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23509088

Coffee & Suicide Risk: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23819683

Coffee & Blood Pressure: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/806516

Coffee & Parkinson’s Disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23879665

Coffee & Movement Control in PD: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22855866

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Hors d’Oeuvres – Naughty or Nice?

Champagne and christmas decor on a silver tray with woman hand isolated

Between the numerous cocktail parties and open houses, it can be difficult eating healthfully during the holidays. Hors d’oeuvres, in particular, can be challenging. In order to create a pop full of flavour in a small mouthful of food, fat and salt tend to be used liberally.

I’ve made a list (and checked it twice) of naughty and nice hors d’oeuvres.  While out celebrating or hosting your own event, do your best to avoid those items on The Naughty List. Instead, enjoy creating & eating sinless and delicious hors d’oeuvres from The Nice List.

The Naughty ListPerfect party snacks. A line of mini sausage rolls with cocktail sausages on a white plate

  • Deep fried anything
  • Mini pastries, sausage rolls, quiches & knishes
  • Spanakopitas and other stuffed phyllo pastries
  • Mayonnaise-based dips like crab and spinach
  • Excess cheese & crackers –
    • A little bit of cheese is just fine; however, it is easy to keep lopping off a chunk as you pass by the buffet table.  Choose your favourite, enjoy a luscious piece or two and leave the cracker behind.

The Nice List

Tip: use endive and cucumber as the base for hors d’oeuvres instead of bread or pastry.tuna on cucumber_en

  • Edamame & Pecorino on Endive (see recipe below)
  • Sashimi grade tuna on cucumber with wasabi & cilantro
  • Ginger chicken skewers
  • Smoked trout on cucumber
  • Simple seafood – prawns, crab, oysters with a squeeze of lemon
  • Crudités with herbed yogurt dip or hummus
  • Handful of nuts spiced with turmeric, chilli, cumin and coriander
  • Deviled eggs

 

Edamame & Pecorino Cheese on Endiveendive edamame

1 head of endive

1 cup of cooked edamame beans

1 oz of pecorino cheese cut into small cubes

2 green onions, finely diced

Drizzle of best quality olive oil (option: use part olive oil and part truffle oil)

Juice of ½ a lemon

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation

Separate, wash and dry the endive leaves. Boil edamame for four minutes. If they are still in pods, take the beans out, cool under cold water, pat dry and place in bowl.  Finely dice the whites of the green onion and add to bowl. Cube the pecorino and keep separate. Drizzle about 1 -2 teaspoons of good quality olive or truffle oil over the edamame mix and the juice of half a lemon. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Let the mix marry in the fridge for a few hours (if you have the time).

Spoon the edamame mix onto the endive leaves. Add a few pieces of cubed pecorino to each endive. You may need to trim the base of the longer, outer endive leaves so they are not too large.

Makes about 10 hors d’oeuvres.

Enjoy.

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