Tag Archives: cooking

Eating Whole Grains Is Great For Your Health

I’ve long been a fan of whole grains.  Eating whole grains helps you stay fuller longer making you significantly less likely to constantly eat.  Your body takes longer to digest the whole grains.  Look for the whole grain seal on bread, cereal, oats, etc. and make sure you are eating your whole grains!

Whole Grains Each Day Linked to Longer Life

Eating a diet rich in whole grains may reduce your risk of dying early, a new meta-analysis finds.

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People who reported eating at least three servings of whole grains daily were 20 percent less likely to die early from any cause compared with people who reported eating less than one serving a day, the researchers found. The analysis included 14 previous studies; all of the studies were at least six years long, and many were more than 10 years long.

The researchers also looked at specific causes of death. They found that eating three servings of whole grains a day was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of death from heart disease, and a 14 percent lower risk of death from cancer, compared with eating one serving or less of whole grains daily. 

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend eating three or more servings of whole grains each day.  However, Americans eat, on average, less than one serving a day, according to the study, published today (June 13) in the journal Circulation.

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Indeed, “these findings lend further support to the U.S. government’s current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which suggest high consumption of whole grains to facilitate disease prevention,” Dr. Qi Sun, an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and the senior author on the study, said in a statement.

The studies in the meta-analysis included a total of more than 786,000 people. There were nearly 98,000 deaths in all of the studies, including more than 23,000 from heart disease and more than 37,000 from cancer.

“Multiple individual studies consistently revealed a reduced risk of death among people who consumed more whole grains,” Sun told Live Science.

Moreover, each serving, or 0.5 ounces (16 grams), of whole grains a day was associated with a 7 percent reduction in a person’s risk of death from any cause, a 9 percent reduction in a person’s risk of death from heart disease and a 5 percent reduction in a person’s risk of death from cancer, the meta-analysis found.

The researchers noted that the types of whole grains people ate varied from study to study. However, in the U.S., more than 70 percent of whole grains that people eat come from breads and cereal grains, which include oatmeal, rice and barley, according to the study. 

This is not the first study to suggest whole grains have health benefits, nor is it the first meta-analysis to do so.

Two previous meta-analyses, for example, found that whole grains were associated with lower blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol levels and lower amounts of body fat, the researchers wrote.

A number of compounds found in whole grains could contribute to the foods’ effects on health, the researchers wrote. Fiber, for example, may lower cholesterol and help people feel fuller so they eat fewer calories. Magnesium may help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood pressure. And other minerals and antioxidants may help fight oxidative stress, they said.

Based on the new findings, “health care providers should unanimously recommend whole grain consumption to the general population, as well as patients with certain diseases, to help achieve better health and perhaps reduce death,” Sun said.

In addition, whole grains should replace refined carbohydrates in a person’s diet, because these carbohydrates have been shown to have negative health effects, the researchers wrote.

(via Live Science via Yahoo! News)


Pulchritude: Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (No Copyright Infrngement Intended)

Melissa Officinalis, commonly known as Lemon Balm, is a perennial herbaceous plant that is best known for its lemon scent and flavor, and striking resemblance to mint.  Lemon Balm belong to the same taxonomic family as mint Lamiaceae, along with commonly used herbs, such as basil, rosemary, and sage.  Native to the mediterranean region (Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and Central Asia), Lemon Balm can grow to be 28 to 59 inches tall.  The scent and flavor of Lemon Balm comes from its flavor constituents (terpenoids), specifically, citronellal (24%), geranial (16%), linalyl acetate (12%), and caryophyllene (12%).  Lemon Balm is often used in cooking as a flavoring agent in ice creams and teas, and can also be used as a pesto.  Lemon Balm is believed to treat gastrointestinal tract, bile, nervous system, and liver disorders.  Lemon Balm essential oil has been shown to have a calming effect in early scientific research.



Thanksgiving: A More Natural Approach!

Thanksgiving is a big day of food, family, friends–and did I mention food?  This Thanksgiving I encourage you to be mindful of the ingredients you use to make your favorite dishes.  Your food will taste just as good (if not better) with a few minor adjustments!


Turkey:  The turkey is the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving meals.  Consider purchasing a local, free range, and/or organic turkey!

Why?:  Most turkey are mass produced similar to other livestock and are likely feed vegetarian GMO diets.  The impacts of GMO feed on livestock and subsequently humans is not well known.

Stuffing:   Opt for organic milk and organic eggs in your cornbread.  Use organic chicken (or vegetable) broth in place of your usual.

Why?: Milk often contains artificial growth hormones (rBST) that currently have unknown impacts on humans.  Chickens tend to be mass produced in farms that feed the chickens a vegetarian GMO diet that often live in small cramped spaces.  Conventional eggs are produced by these chickens.

Macaroni & Cheese:  Opt for organic milk or heavy cream and organic butter.

Why?:  Milk used to make conventional butter typically contains rBST and other artificial growth hormones.  Cheese tends to be very crucial to macaroni and cheese so feel free to use your favorite brand!

Candied Yams/Sweet Potato Souffle:  Opt for organic or non GMO sugar!

Why?:  Sugar can be produced from genetically modified sugar beets.  Many bulk food retailers sell comparably priced organic, fair trade, and/or non-GMO sugars.  I highly suggest making a small batch to test the flavor and adjust quantities as necessary as these sugars can be coarser and contain molasses.

Mashed Potatoes:  Opt for organic butter & organic milk/cream.

Gravy:  Opt for organic chicken broth and butter.

Apple Pie:  Opt for non-GMO, fair trade, and/or organic sugar and organic butter.  Opt for non-GMO/organic apples if it suits your budget!

Pumpkin/Sweet Potato/Pecan Pie:  Opt for non-GMO, fair trade, and/or organic sugar and organic cream.  Opt for non-GMO/organic pumpkins or sweet potatoes if it suits your budget

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Seafood:  Many like to incorporate seafood into their Thanksgiving meals in a variety of ways.  Opt for wild caught fish and certified sustainably produced shellfish.

Why?:  Most shellfish imported into the US comes from southeast Asia where farming sanitary conditions are very poor and antibiotic use is high.


These are all minor fixes that won’t break the bank.  Of course, you could buy all ingredients for your feast non-GMO or organic, and purchase local when accessible if you’d like!


How do you make your Thanksgiving more natural?

Thank you for reading!

Pulchritude: Vanilla Orchid

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The Vanilla Orchid is the source of, by far, one of the most popular flavors and fragrances in the world.  Whether used as an extract or directly from the vanilla bean, vanilla is common in most baked goods, desserts, and ice creams, and is also a popular note in many personal care products.  The Vanilla genus is comprised of 110 species and grow as vines in tropical and subtropical regions in the Americas, Africa, and Southeast Asia.  The fruit of the Vanilla Orchid produces the vanilla bean, which is a long thin pod that is harvested from mature pollinated plants.  Vanilla pods must be cured before they become fragrant, which includes stopping the vegetative growth of the pod, sweating, drying, and conditioning.  Vanilla planifolia is the most common species harvested for vanilla, which is native to Central America and the West Indies but is grown predominately in Madagascar and Mexico.  Cultivation of Vanilla Orchid dates back to at least the 14th century.  The Totonac were native to eastern Mexico and are believed to be the first cultivators.

How Authentic is Your Olive Oil?

Various Brands of Olive Oil

“Much of the oil sold as Italian olive oil does not come from Italy, but from countries like Spain, Morocco and Tunisia.  After being picked, the olives are driven to a mill where they are cleaned, crushed and pressed.  This oil is then pumped into a tanker truck and shipped to Italy, the world’s largest importer of olive oil.  Meanwhile,  shipments of soybean oil or other cheap oils are labeled olive oil, and smuggled into the same port.  At some refineries, the olive oil is cut with cheaper oil.  Other refineries are even worse.  They mix vegetable oils with beta-carotene, to  disguise the flavor, and chlorophyll for coloring, to produce fake olive oil.  Bottles are labeled “Extra Virgin” and branded with “Packed in Italy” or “Imported from Italy.”  (Oddly, this is legal, even if the oil does not come from Italy–although the source countries are supposed to be listed on the label).  The “olive oil” is shipped around the world to countries like the U.S., where one study found that 69 percent of imported olive oil labeled “extra virgin” did not meet, in an expert taste and smell test, the standard for that label.   To combat fraud, a special branch of the Italian Carabinieri is trained to detect bad oil.  Lab tests are easy to fake, so instead the policy rely on smell.  Police officers regularly raid refineries in an attempt to regulate the industry.  But producers–many of whom have connections to powerful politicians–are rarely prosecuted.  All this fraud, however, has created a drop in olive oil prices.  Corrupt producers have undermined themselves, effectively committing economic suicide.”

 – Excerpt from The Extra Virgin Suicide: The Adulteration of Italian Olive Oil by Nicholas Blechman

A study conducted by the University of California, Davis collected various “extra virgin” olive oils sold in 3 locations within California and performed laboratory tests to determine if they met the standards, as mandated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and International Olive Council (IOC), necessary to be considered “extra virgin”–the highest quality of olive oil.  69 percent of tested imported “extra virgin” olive oils failed IOC/USDA sensory (smell and taste) tests, whereas 10 percent of California olive oil samples failed.  31 percent of samples that failed sensory tests failed UV absorbance tests (for oxidation), and 83 percent failed German/Australian  DAGs (1,2-Diacylglycerol content) tests, which “indicates that the samples were oxidized, adulterated with cheaper refined oils, and/or of poor quality” due to being “made from damaged and overripe olives,” or improperly storing or processing the oil (Frankel et al. 2010).

Brands that failed to meet organic, extra virgin olive oil standards:

  • Bertolli (All locations)
  • Carapelli (All locations)
  • Colavita (2 of 3 Failed)
  • Star (1 Failed)
  • Pompeian (All locations)
  • Filippo Berio (2 of 3 Failed)
  • Mazzola (All locations)
  • Mezzetta (All locations)
  • Newman’s Own (2 of 3 Failed)
  • Rachael Ray  (2 of 3 Failed)
  • Safeway  (2 of 3 Failed)
  • Whole Foods  (2 of 3 Failed)
  • Walmart (Great Value 100%) (1 Failed)
  • Bariani (1 of 2 Failed)
  • Also indicated by additional report: Braggs, Goya, Trader Joes

Brands Met organic, extra virgin olive oil standards:

  • California Olive Ranch
  • Corto Olive
  • Lucini
  • Kirkland Organic
  • Lucero (Ascolano)
  • McEvoy Ranch Organic
  • Also indicated by additional report: Cobram Estate

This report may not be new to some of you, but it just further confirms the deception that occurs with food and other product labeling.  Many don’t solely use olive oil for cooking, but for cosmetic purposes on their skin and hair.  Knowing that olive oil, particularly organic, can be contaminated with genetically modified soybean oil or corn oil is troubling.  It is also troubling that extra virgin and/or organic oils are more expensive, despite not truly living up to quality standards.  I have a bottle of extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joe’s and a bottle of “Pure Olive Oil.”  The extra virgin oil states packed in Italy, whereas the pure olive oil states the various countries of origin and that the oil is from refined and virgin oils.  Sometimes buying organic does not unequivocally indicate the highest quality, though you may be avoiding pesticides and GMOs.


Frankel, E. N., Mailer, R. J., Shoemaker, C. F., Wang, S. C., and J. D. Flynn.  2010.  “Tests indicate that imported “extra virgin” olive oil often fails international and USDA standards.”  UC Davis Olive Center.