Friday, August 26, 2011

The Caffeine-Calcium Connection

Diana likes her caffeine, as many of us do.  And she doesn't like milk. She puts 1/4 cup of coffee in her milk to "get it down in the morning." Later throughout the day, it's usually 3 Diet Pepsi's.  Diana wants to know if the caffeine in her coffee and soda prevent the calcium from being absorbed. Great question!

The easy answer is yes, but only to a degree. Caffeine has been shown to reduce the absorption of calcium from the foods we consume.  It also increases the excretion of calcium already in the body. But, this does not prevent all of the calcium from being used. Drinking one cup of brewed caffeinated coffee or 2 cups of tea essentially creates a loss of 2-3 mg of calcium. Studies conclude that drinking caffeine at these levels does not impact bone health in premenopausal women. Of course, the more caffeine you consume, the less calcium your body has available to use. And the older we get, the amount of calcium we absorb decreases (I hate all of these things on the list of "As You Get Older...!")

Caffeine is not the only substance that may wreck havoc on calcium. Phosphorus may also be a culprit.  This mineral found in sodas like Diana's Diet Pepsi, has been brought into question some observational studies pointed to a reduced bone mass and higher fracture risk with higher phosphorus consumption. Many experts think that what is causing these issues is that people are drinking soda instead of drinking milk or eating yogurt; not that phosphorus.

My advice is to keep getting those calcium sources in! If you consume more than 2 cups of caffeinated beverages a day, try to have your high calcium foods at another time at least once a day.  For example, I love to have a yogurt just before bed.  It's yummy and I'm not consuming any caffeine to interfere with its absorption. And late yesterday afternoon, I had a skinny decaf latte.

Don't forget, Diana, if you really don't like milk, look for other sources of calcium you really do enjoy: yogurt, low-cheese, fortified soy milk, sardines, tofu, salmon, spinach, kale...


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Incredible, Edible Egg*


Nakia, one of our MM Followers, has a recipe that calls for egg substitute.  She'd rather use real eggs and is wondering how to make the change.  I'll bet many of you have wondered the same thing. Just keep in mind that one large egg is about 1/4 cup.  If your recipe calls for 1/2 cup egg substitute, simply replace it with 2 eggs.  If you would rather use all egg whites in a recipe, 2 whites are the equivalent of 1 whole egg.

Substituting is easy, but are you jeopardizing your health by using real eggs?

Eggs are an inexpensive nutritional powerhouse. One large whole egg comes in at only 71 calories, and offers protein, vitamins A, B-12, D, K, folate, riboflavin, selenium, choline, iron, and the disease fighting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Since choline plays a role in brain development, I used to tell my kids that eggs were brain food.  I always made eggs for my kids on mornings before any big tests. I should point out that all 3 of them certainly ended up with high functioning brains!

Eggs took a big hit in the 1970's when the connection between higher blood cholesterol levels and an increase in the risk of heart disease became apparent. Experts warned us to consume fewer than 300 mg of cholesterol each day.  Since one large egg yolk has 211 mg of cholesterol, people were advised to limit their egg consumption to no more than three a week. While both the white and yolk contain complete protein, it's the yolk that houses all those other nutritional wonders.

But, all the cholesterol in your blood does not come from the cholesterol you eat. Your liver produces the majority of the cholesterol zipping around in your blood stream.  Genetics play a major role in determining whether it produces more or less cholesterol. This is where if you chose your parents wisely, you're much better off.  Exercise, soluble fiber (found in oats, beans and fruit pulp) and some medications have been shown to help reduce the amount of cholesterol your body produces.  On the other hand, eating more "evil" saturated fat, especially trans fat, seems to tell your liver to make more cholesterol. The cholesterol you eat actually has much less impact on the total blood cholesterol. That being said, if you are at high risk for heart disease, it's important to diminish the amount of saturated and trans fats you eat, eat soluble fiber, and to minimize the amount of cholesterol consumed.  In this situation, every factor impacting total cholesterol can make a difference.

As more research is completed, more is understood about cholesterol and heart disease. One study of 117,000 nurses found no difference in risk for developing coronary heart disease in people who ate more than one egg each day. Another study found that people who start the day with eggs tend to be less hungry and consume fewer calories throughout the day. Could it be that eggs help with weight control?

At this point, the majority of us can and should enjoy eating nutrient-rich eggs; experts now say an egg a day is just fine. Now the question is, do I go with scrambled, sunny side up, or poached?
*The American Egg Board

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Gives You Joy?

"I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy." C.S. Lewis hit the nail on the head with this line. 

In my coaching lately, I've been challenging people to think about what gives them pleasure, makes them happy, brings them joy. Besides food or eating. It's been interesting to watch how difficult it is to answer that question. 

Many of us are so busy "doing" life that we neglect taking care of our inner selves. We do our jobs, take care of kids, pay the bills, clean, cook, run errands. We "do" our life. Is everything we do simply a function getting things that need to be done, done? I wonder if we miss the fact that we need to be doing something for ourselves that nurtures the very basic need of bringing happiness deep inside: to bring joy. Dr Melba Colgrove wrote, "Joy is the feeling of grinning inside." I just love that visual :)

For many of us, food brings great pleasure. We love licking ice cream from a cone, crunching on crispy chips, and savoring sweet, smooth chocolate.  We love to eat. But, are we indulging in the pleasure of eating because we don't recognize a spot deep inside of us needs to grin? Are we failing to do anything else that truly brings us joy?

This week, I want you to think about yourself for a little while. Write down everything you do that brings you joy that does not involve eating. Does escaping in a book bring you happiness? What about having coffee with a friend, delving into your spiritual side, drawing or painting a picture, creating something, needlework, woodwork, get the idea. Next, plan to do at least one of these things for yourself this week. Write it on your day planner, schedule that time into your life. Then, do it!

When you start filling up yourself from the inside out (instead of the stomach out,) you may just find that you don't feel the need to overindulge on food quite so often.

Get your JOY on this week!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Garden Fresh Ratatouille

Did you see Ratatouille, that wonderful Pixar/Disney animated film that was released in 2007?  In it, a French rat named Remy turned into an amazing rodent chef who delighted the palettes of many a human. He wasn't afraid to experiment in the kitchen by adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  And of course, his culinary creations drew rave reviews.

Before Ratatouille became a well known film, ratatouille was a French Provencal vegetable stew made with eggplant, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes.  I'd never made it until last year.  I always held the preconceived notion that eggplant was rather blah unless deep fat fried and smothered with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. When I tasted the first bite of homemade ratatouille, I couldn't believe how those flavors came together to form a great big Yum.

As I was walking through all the colorful fresh vegetables starting to ripen in my dad's garden, I realized that there was almost everything I needed to give my parents their first encounter with Ratatouille. Taking my cues from Remy, I tasted and tweaked the flavors until I was happy.

Ratatouille makes a wonderful side dish for anything grilled. You can also serve it up with brown rice or whole grain bread, and you have a great meal. Try leftovers cold as a salad side, or warm them up to top an omelet.  Freshly grated parmesan on top finishes the dish.

Garden Fresh Ratatouille
In a large pot, saute until transparent:
     1 large onion, diced
     3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
     2 Tbsp olive oil
Add and cook for 10 minutes:
     1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced into 1" cubes
     2 medium green peppers, roughly diced
Stir in and cook for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are just tender.
     3 small zucchini, diced into 1" cubes
     4 whole tomatoes, diced (or 2 cans petite diced tomatoes)
     3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
     2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
     2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
     1 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
     1/2 tsp salt (optional)
     1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Makes 8 servings (about 1 1/4 cup each)
Nutritional data:  79 calories, 4 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 157 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2g protein.  Counts a 1 Unit and 2 non-starchy vegetables.
Our ratatouille tonight tasted great along side grilled New York strip steak.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Place the Mask on Yourself First

"Should the loss of cabin pressure occur, oxygen masks will automatically drop...Place the mask on yourself first before assisting others." 

I never really thought about the power of these words until a MM group member brought it to my attention. After all, how many of us really listen to what those flight attendants say? I've been thinking about this message these past few days... 

Unfortunately, my dad's back in the hospital. His hip replacement surgery was done almost 3 weeks ago, but he developed an infection last week. So, I flew back here to take over the care support for my folks, since my sister had to go back to her home over 10 hours away. Tag-team. It's tough when we don't live near each other: 1 set of parents and 4 adult children all living in 5 different states.

The email messages I received from friends and MM groupies were perfect. All of them included notes of well wishes for my dad's health. And many sent reminders to me to care of myself: eat well, exercise, and try to get enough rest and sleep. This hits right to the center of one of my challenges in life.

I am a caregiver by nature. I nurture. I listen. I help. I care. I know many of you are the same way. But, too often, we end up working so hard to care for others that we put their health and happiness above ours. Deep down, it seems like the right thing to do. Unfortunately, it doesn't work well in the long run.

If our basic health needs are put at the bottom of our priorities, we end up paying a price. For me, it means more severe headaches, back pain, and less patience. If the worry, stress and fatigue really take over, my immune system crashes and I end up getting sick. When that happens, I'm not much good as a care giver! (Check out the post on 6/22/11). 

Yesterday, I woke up with nasty headache and it just didn't want to go away. I was having trouble listening and being patient. So, after visiting at the hospital in the morning, we skipped the "interesting" hospital food, went home and ate a healthy lunch. After that, I declared "time-out." I left my mom to do her own thing while I laid down in bed, simply closed my eyes and zoned out. When I got up, the headache was gone. I was just taking care of me. I placed the oxygen mask on my own face first.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blueberry Scones

The blueberry season is here! Although these berries are loaded with antioxidant power, many of us like to do more than just eat them raw. My sister gave me this recipe, though I did tweak it a bit for more nutritional bang for the buck.  These scones are so good, that you may want to wrap them up into individual servings to help you out with portion control. You can make these with or without the streusel topping.

Blueberry Scones  

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.
In a food processor, zip until finely ground:
     1/2 cup dry oatmeal
In a large bowl, whisk together:
     1/2 cup whole wheat flour
     1 cup all-purpose flour
     3 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
     1 tsp baking powder
     1/2 tsp baking soda
     1/4 tsp salt
With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in
     3 Tbsp cold butter
Toss in gently
     1 - 1 1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Stir in until just moistened
     1 cup plain fat-free yogurt
Pat dough into an 8" circle and place onto baking sheet

To make streusel topping:
In a bowl, blend together
     1 Tbsp butter, melted
     2 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
     1 Tbsp flour
     1/4 cup dry oatmeal
Sprinkle on top of scones
Score (cut part-way through) into 12 wedges
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes

Makes 12 scones

Nutritional info with topping:
     152 calories, 4 g fat, 185 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein, 3 Units
Nutritional info without topping:
     127 calories, 3 g fat, 177 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g protein, 3 Units

What's Your Favorite Health Quote?

Choose your favorite quote, write it down and look at it often.
Let the quote be your mantra or affirmation for this coming     week...

1)  He who's greatest wealth is health.  -Virgil

2)  When it comes to eating right and exercising, there is no "I'll start tomorrow." 
 Tomorrow is disease.  
             -Terri Guillemets

3)  It is amazing how much crisper the general experience of life becomes when your body is given a chance to develop a little strength.
             -Frank Duff

4) The best six doctors anywhere
     And no one can deny it
     Are sunshine, water, rest, and air
     Exercise and diet.
     These six will gladly you attend
     If only you are willing
     Your mind they'll ease
     Your will they'll mend
     And charge you not a shilling.
              - Wayne Fields

5)  I really believe the only way to stay healthy is to eat properly, get your rest and exercise. 
If you don't exercise and do the other two, I still don't think it's going to help you that much. 
               -Mike Ditka

6)  If you have health, you probably will be happy, 
     and if you have health and happiness,
     you have all the wealth you need, 
     even if it is not all you want.
             ~Elbert Hubbard

7)  The first wealth is health
             -Ralph Waldo Emerson

8)  What is called genius is the abundance of life and health. 
            -Henry David Thoreau

9)  Happiness lies, first of all, in health.  
              ~George William Curtis
10) Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. 
               -John F. Kennedy

Do you have a quote that keeps you inspired and motivated to keep reaching your
health goals?  Please share it with us!