Want to know what sunscreen to buy?

With the beautiful summer weather we have been having it is time to talk sunscreen and sun protection. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and cases of melanoma have increased 300% in the last 35 years. Unfortunately many sunscreens contain toxic chemicals that can contribute to cancer. You may reduce your risk of some skin cancers but you potentially increase your risk of other cancers, so it is important to know what to buy. Sun exposure is also responsible for 80% of facial aging signs like wrinkles, dryness, and age spots. Even if you don't want to think about cancer, I am sure nobody wants to look older. :)

Here are some tips from the Environmental Working Group to follow when you are out in the sun.

  • Wear a hat, or shirt.
  • Head for the shade.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV radiation.
  • Avoid the midday sun.
  • Don’t get burned.
  • Wear sunscreen. Reapply every 2 hours.

Tip for men: Wear sunscreen! In 2012 twice as many men died from skin cancer as women. Turns out men tend not to practice safe sun or wear sunscreen.

Tips on sunscreens

LOOK FOR:

  • Mineral-based sunscreens with Zinc oxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX
  • Cream sunscreen
  • Broad spectrum protection with strong UVA protection
  • Water resistant
  • SPF 15-50

STAY AWAY FROM:

  • Spray sunscreens — they contain harmful inhalants
  • SPF 50 and above — high SPF claims are misleading
  • Sunscreens containing Oxybenzone, Vitamin A (Retinyl palmitate), added insect repellent
  • Tanning oils

Looking for sunscreen? Here are a few that I like. You can find all of these at Whole Foods and many more at the EWG sun safety shop. You can also see how your sunscreen rates at Skin Deep.

I use this on my face and sometimes mix it with my daily moisturizer.

I use this on my face and sometimes mix it with my daily moisturizer.

This is a good all-over mineral sunscreen.

This is a good all-over mineral sunscreen.

This is a good sunscreen when you are looking for something with less of the white zinc oxide but it also doesn't rate as well. 

This is a good sunscreen when you are looking for something with less of the white zinc oxide but it also doesn't rate as well. 

 

 

Want to reduce your risk of cancer?

Check out my article on Cancer-fighting foods in Best Self magazine.

Check out my article in the beautiful and inspiring Best Self magazine

I am thrilled and honored to share an article that is near and dear to my heart called Anti-Cancer Rx — reducing your risk of cancer with cancer-fighting foods by yours truly. Who would have thought?

Over the last year our good friend died of colon cancer and three girlfriends were diagnosed with breast cancer. I started to wonder if I would be next. I talked with my good friend and colleague Jocelyn Kasper MPH, PhD who started her career as a cancer research scientist at Harvard and now works as a personal health consultant leading groups of cancer patients at Dana Farber Cancer institute. She recommended the book Anticancer — A new way of life by Dr. David Servain-Schreiber as her favorite book on cancer, diet and health. I immediately went out and bought it. I was shocked, inspired and hooked. It led me down this path to be able to share some great news about cancer. There is a lot more in our control than you probably thought. I know it is a lot more than I thought. Check out my article at Best Self magazine.

And coincidentally my rockstar friend Lodro Rinzler is featured in this this issue. Check out the great interview with him.

Baby steps to good health — Furman's way

When Furman showed me this receipt for a dinner he ordered while at a work training in Florida, I knew it was time to give him a big shoutout.

This is no joke. Fish tacos, kale salad, beet salad and grilled vegetables. Do I know this man? Well I didn’t need to worry because the next day he stopped at Chick-fil-A for lunch for a spicy chicken sandwich and potato chips, and that would be fried chicken sandwich. :) Turns out Chick-fil-A was right next-door to his training program. What kind of luck is that? 

When we first met over 7 years ago Furman talked of his baby steps approach to life. Baby steps? What is up with that? I had never heard that expression before. In short order my UPS driver was referring to baby steps too. Is this a guy thing? and frankly it translates to the “snail’s pace” approach for the most part. I find it maddening because in my mind baby steps can be like pulling a bandaid off slowly. I am more inclined to the “just do it” approach especially when your health is declining. But that is just me.

But to his credit, Furman knows Furman and after seven years he has gone from being a man who proudly proclaimed that he didn’t eat green things to a man that orders kale salads. How great is that? And I haven’t even told you about the green smoothies. A month ago Furman said to me that if I made green smoothies for him every day that he would drink them. I have been making them 4-5 times a week and he has been drinking them without complaint. And the other day he said it would be really great if he could have a smoothie when he got home from work at 1am in the morning rather than trying to eat a meal. For real. 

This is not to say that there aren’t jalapeño potato chips and ice cream in our house most of the time, which could be dinner at 2am if you get my drift, but this is enormous progress. I am very proud of Furman. Who knew baby steps could work. Oh yeah, Furman did. :)

Anti-cancer tip: Learn about the Clean 15

The Clean 15 — Fifteen fruits and vegetables that contain the smallest pesticide residues

The Clean 15 — Fifteen fruits and vegetables that contain the smallest pesticide residues

Good news! Here are the fifteen fruits and vegetables that contain the smallest amounts of pesticide residues as tested by the Environmental Working Group. That means you don't have to be as concerned about buying organic with these fifteen. Fortunately this group includes some of my desert island foods — mangoes and avocados. Yay!

I should point out that they are referring to sweet corn — corn-on-the-cob or frozen corn but be sure and buy organic corn meal or other corn products like tortillas or tortilla chips since non-organic corn products are often made with GMO corn.

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet peas (frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Honeydew melon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Cantaloupe
  15. Cauliflower

 

Anti-cancer tip: Steer clear of The Dirty Dozen

This year's Daily Dozen 2016

This year's Daily Dozen 2016

People often ask "what do I need to buy organic?" Well here it is. This year's Dirty Dozen. The Environmental Working Group puts out a list every year of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest levels of pesticide residue even after washing.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Bell peppers
  11. Cherry Tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

This year strawberries top the list. They contain 5.75 different chemicals per sample while all other produce samples combined contain 1.74 pesticides per sample. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, reproductive damage, and hormone disruption and many are banned in Europe. Strawberry farmers use a combination of over 60 different pesticides in various combinations along with very toxic fumigants to sterilize the soil before planting. Another issue with chemical pesticides is that very few studies have been done on the effect of small doses of multiple chemicals on the human body. 

It is best to buy organic if you can but especially for these 12 fruits and vegetables. Keep this in mind when you are eating out because likely the restaurant is not buying organic. Even the salad/prepared food bars at Whole Foods are largely not organic. If your store is anything like ours it is a pretty small section that is organic.

Washing Produce

If you want reduce your exposure or your immune system is compromised, try washing your produce in a mixture of white vinegar and water. 

  1. Pour 1/4 - 1/2 cup of vinegar into a large bowl
  2. Fill with water.
  3. Place your fruits and vegetables in the bowl to soak for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Rinse with fresh water and you are ready to go.

Or you can make your own spray bottle with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Just spray thoroughly. Let sit and then rinse throughly.

This method helps kill 98% of bacteria and most pesticides.

  

Anti-cancer tip: Swap your dairy milk for plant millk

Got milk? I hope not. Milk is not the wonder food you might think it is.

Did you know that the U.S. consumes the most dairy products of any country in the world and also has the highest rates of osteoporosis? For years we have been led to believe that we must drink milk and eat dairy products to get enough calcium. Ironically bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that don’t consume any milk. In a study in Sweden, milk consumption was actually associated with an increased risk of bone fractures for women.

  • Not only does a diet high in dairy products not protect you from osteoporosis, casein which makes up 87% of cow's milk protein, has been shown to promote all stages of the cancer process.
  • Dairy protein has been shown to increase IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1) levels which are implicated in several cancers.
  • Milk consumption is associated with increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancer.

70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant so you may have issues with milk and not even realize it. I am one of thousands of people that drank milk and ate dairy for years without realizing I had any issues. A few years ago I went without dairy for 10 days and was shocked at how much better I felt. All my life I had been a little congested and had post nasal drip (sorry for the TMI). I just thought that was normal. I didn’t even realize I was congested until I felt the difference. I still eat cheese and ice cream occasionally but now I know what I am in for and it has totally lost its grip on me.

So then where do you get your calcium? 

Green vegetables, legumes and nuts — You can find calcium in broccoli, collard greens, kale, spinach, Brussel sprouts, edamame, sardines, seaweed, almonds, cannellini beans, tahini, and tofu. Just to name a few.

If you are looking for something to pour on your cereal there are a lot of good plant-milks for sale at Wholefoods and other grocery stores. I particularly like unsweetened organic cashew milk. Or you can try making your own cashew milk. Cashew milk is creamy, delicious, and easy to make. Click here for an easy recipe.

Yes this is what I ate on New Years Eve... and it was really good.

Rib eye steak aux poivres

Rib eye steak aux poivres

Me and the crazy big steak and my friend's hands taking a photo of the crazy big steak

Me and the crazy big steak and my friend's hands taking a photo of the crazy big steak

This year on new year's eve we went to Abe and Louie's steak house for a late lunch. We do this once every year or two, go to a steak house that is. When I am there I surprise everyone by ordering a steak. It comes as a shock but when at a steak house I prefer to eat what they do well. Steak. Let me be clear though I did not eat this whole steak. It was obscenely huge and a little gross to be honest but it was delicious. I ate a small portion maybe 3" x 3" and we took the rest home for Furman to eat the next day. 

Normally I try to eat mostly vegetarian. Many of my meals are entirely plant-based and I am perfectly happy eating this way. I don't crave steak or bacon or chicken wings. I do eat chicken and fish occasionally with Furman so that we can happily eat together and I eat steak about once a year. Though I was completely vegetarian when we met, it doesn't really work for me to be entirely vegetarian now. I used to feel guilty that I was eating fish and poultry and being responsible for their deaths but I figure if Furman is eating less meat then we are equalling things out. I didn't really think about it in terms of a health issue back then.

So what got me to become a vegetarian? 

I have been a practicing Buddhist for 30 years and for 20+ years I happily ate meat. Many buddhists are vegetarian because one of the basic tenets is to not cause harm to self or other. It had been a struggle for me ethically to continue eating meat and fish when it was causing harm to them and the planet (The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined), but I just couldn't imagine giving them up... until I went to Spirit Rock, a beautiful retreat center in Northern California. There I discovered a world of delicious, vegetarian food with the freshest organic vegetables. The first night they served a meal of polenta with eggplant ratatouille, arugula salad and homemade rosemary focaccia. I saw the light. 

That was 8 years ago. Now many people have discovered that vegetables are delicious and vegetarian and plant-based food can be both delicious and thoroughly satisfying. In training to become an Integrative Nutrition health coach I also discovered that there are so many health benefits to eating a plant-based diet or at least eating a lot less meat, poultry and seafood.   

Here are some things to think about: 

1.  Meat cooked at temperatures above 350 degrees, that's roasted, pan-fried, grilled and baked contain "cancer-producing substances" called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs appear to both initiate and promote cancer growth. The Long Island Breast Cancer Study found that women who eat more grilled, barbecued and smoked meat over their lifetime had a 47% higher rate of breast cancer.1 Researchers think this is a result of the HCA carcinogens present in cooked meat. 

2.  A six-year study of 30,000 Californians found that higher meat consumption was associated with a higher risk of colon cancer. People who ate red meat at least once a week had DOUBLE the risk of developing colon cancer and those that ate chicken or fish at least once a week TRIPLED their risk of colon cancer.2

3.  According to the NIH-AARP study of 545,000 men and women aged 50-71 on meat consumption and mortality, meat consumption is associated with increased risk of dying from cancer, dying from heart disease and dying prematurely in general.3 This after controlling for diet and lifestyle factors.

So what is my point here? I strongly recommend eating a plant-based diet as much as you can. Try adding a few meatless meals to your week, but if you are going to eat steak, eat the best quality organic grass-fed meat you can get, don't eat a lot and enjoy it when you do. :)

For more info check out the book How Not to Die by Michael Greger MD and Gene Stone

1. Steck SE, Gaudet MM, Eng AM, et al. Cooked meat and risk of breast cancer — lifetime versus dietary intake. Epidemiology. 2007;18(3):373-82.
2. Singh PN, Fraser GE. Dietary risk factors for colon cancer in low-risk population. Am J Epidemiology1998;148(8);761-74.
3. Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzman MF, Schatzkin A. Meat intake and mortality: a prospective study of over half a million people. Arch. Intern Med.2009;169(6):562-71.

8 tips for raising healthy kids that grow into healthy adults

This adorable little girl reminds me of my niece Hannah, back in the day.

This adorable little girl reminds me of my niece Hannah, back in the day.

As many of you know I do not have children but I have do have a niece and nephew and many friends with kids. I know how hard it is to keep your kids healthy when they are in day care or at school and you are working full time. I think about this a lot because I see how our habits and diets from childhood tend to carry on into adulthood. If you didn’t eat vegetables as a child chances are you won’t as an adult. People who eat poorly as children are much more likely to develop serious illnesses and cancer later in life — not just because the habits persist but because most illnesses, cancer included, take years to develop.

Many of the following tips are from Luise Vindahl and David Frankiel of Green Kitchen Stories, my favorite foodie blog. They seem to be wonder parents to their two beautiful children so I couldn’t resist sharing their ideas.

1. Breast feed for as long as possible.

Breast milk is the ultimate wonder food. It improves immunity and creates a healthy microbiome which prevents intestinal issues later in life. People who were not breastfed as children are far more apt to suffer from intestinal issues as adults. Cow’s milk is no substitute for human milk especially since it often contains hormones and antibiotics. Many baby formula's contain corn syrup, GMO vegetable oils and MSG so be sure to read the label.=

2. Don’t let your kids eat sugar, candy, cookies or ice cream until they are two. 

It starts them off on a healthy track and keeps their moods in check. Remember sugar is highly addictive so if they get on a sugar binge when they are young it will be hard to get them to eat vegetables and other healthy things. Get your friends and family on board with this early. There is plenty of time for sugar later. 

3. Start kids eating vegetables when they are very young. 

Mix sweet vegetables like sweet potatoe and butternut squash with green vegetables so they are more appealing. Green vegetables are bitter to the untrained palette. Generally the more bitter they are the higher in phytontrients and antioxidants they are — the better they are for you. The taste of green vegetables takes some getting used to because historically, bitter foods were often poisonous and sweet foods were safe, so it is a natural response for children to resist bitter tastes. So how do you get around that? Sweeten them up and try, try again. Some children need to try a green vegetable as many as 10 times before it tastes good to them but repetition does work. I even heard one pediatrician recommend putting honey on green vegetables so that kids would like them. You can reduce the honey as they start to like them or maybe they'll like a green smoothie sweetened with banana.

4. Have healthy snack options with you. 

Always have healthy snack options or treats with you if you are out somewhere. (Carrots, almonds, hard boiled eggs, fruit, homemade power bars.) That way you can avoid giving in to candy and junk food. (FYI, gold fish crackers are not healthy.)

5. Limit dairy and gluten when they are young. 

Wheat and dairy are hard for many people to digest and this is especially true for toddlers. 70% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant so your kids may be too.

6. Don’t make separate meals for your kids. 

If you start them eating your food at a young age and limit their sugar and junk food intake you should be able to keep that going as they get older. Also if kids think they have another option like pasta or chicken nuggets they will always take it. In my family our only other alternative was a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly) which my sister and I didn't like, so we were stuck with whatever was on the table. As painful as that was at times I am so thankful that I was exposed to so much good and healthy food at a young age.

7. Be a good role model. 

Kids want to do what their parents do so if they see you are eating junk food or sweets they will want to as well. Make a family dinner a priority so you are all eating the same food and your children see you eating vegetables.

8. Let them walk. 

Children should be able to walk a mile for every year old they are so a 3-year old should be able to walk 3 miles. I kid you not. It is so strange these days how people push 4 and 5 year-old kids around in strollers. This is completely unnecessary if you just get them walking early. Maybe it’s partly our weird affluent society where we drive everywhere so we can’t imagine our kids walking anywhere either. In my neighborhood people have strollers for 3 kids with the baby, 2-year old and 4-year old. Seriously do you think our mothers pushed around 4-year olds in strollers? We are doing our children a great disservice, turning them into stroller potatoes and just creating headaches for ourselves. If you spend anytime in less affluent neighborhoods you’ll notice that toddlers are all walking with their parents perfectly well — hardly any strollers.

Anti-Cancer tip #1: Eat your brussel sprouts

Brussel sprouts_SM.jpg

Newsflash!! Furman likes Brussel sprouts! I kid you not. After 7 years of failed attempts Furman finally announced that he liked the Brussel sprouts he had at Blue Dragon Gastropub in Boston. This proves the adage that people need to try eating many vegetables 8-10 times to acquire a taste for them. This is especially true for children. I know it’s a pain to try and make kids do anything but it will really help them in the long run. I have to warn you they don't have them on the menu any more at Blue Dragon but I love Joanne Chang's version too.

On another note, Brussel sprouts and all the cruciferous vegetables were originally cultivated for their medicinal properties. Turns out they are really good for you. People with a diet high in cruciferous vegetables have a much lower risk of developing different cancers including breast cancer, bladder cancer and prostate cancer. In one study of almost 48,000 health professionals people who ate more than 5 servings of cruciferous vegetables a week (mostly broccoli and cabbage) had half the risk of developing bladder cancer than those who did not. In a study of 5000 Swedish women, those who ate one or more servings of cruciferous vegetables a day were linked to a 40% drop in the risk of developing breast cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables contain the largest variety of phytochemical compounds with anticancer activity of all edible plants. They contain several polyphenols and have high concentrations of glucosinolates. It is very complicated to explain how these compounds work, at least for me, but apparently the glucosinolates help other compounds in our cells to convert into sulfofurane which is a powerful anti-cancer molecule. They help slow the development of cancer by preventing carcinogenic substances from causing damage to cells. And the stars of the show are Brussel sprouts with 237 mg/100 grams. Phew! I hope you got that because I will have forgotten this explanation by tomorrow.

And now for the good stuff. The recipes. Click on the photos below.

The Buttery's Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad

For study references see Foods to Fight Cancer by Richard Béliveau, PhD (Cancer researcher)

Great gift idea — Buy 2 coaching sessions for the price of one

It occurred to me the other day that health coaching sessions would be a great gift idea... rather than more stuff... for someone you love or maybe yourself. 

Are you or someone you love concerned about cancer and what you can do to prevent it? We'll work on creating healthy eating options that help your body heal and fight cancer cells, managing your preferred weight, reducing stress, and eliminating toxins from your life.

For a limited time I am offering 2 coaching sessions for the price of one. That's a saving of $150. Get the new year off to a healthy start.

 Gift certificate can be redeemed at any time that is convenient. It can also be used towards a 4-month or a 6-month program. Coaching sessions can be done on the phone so don't let geography stop you.

Check out my Shop page for other great gift ideas for the people in your life that want to be healthier. (Isn't that everyone?) I will continue to add things as I think of them so keep checking back.

I'm back with a new focus — The Anti-Cancer Approach to Life

It has been a busy few months but I am finally back to my Green Tigress blog. A lot has happened. I redesigned my website! Furman and I moved into a new place, which was not the easiest thing to do merging two households of stuff with two very stubborn people, although I think he is more stubborn than I am. :) Two good friends were diagnosed with cancer and heart-breakingly another dear friend passed away from colon cancer. This has reignited the fire in me to focus more on what we can do to prevent cancer.

Most of us feel like it is all hopeless, that there is nothing that we can do. Recently I was reminded of Joe Jackson's song "Cancer." Remember that from the early '80s? (Those of you who are that old. :) "Everything gives you cancer. There's no cure and there's no answer. Everything gives you cancer." There is certainly some truth in that but there are also a lot of things we can start to do to improve our chances.

For instance, did you know that there is an Environmental Working Group app for finding out if your shampoo has cancer-causing ingredients?

That as of January 2015 you can now buy furniture that is not covered in carcinogenic flame-retardants?

That purple beets have cancer-fighting phytonutrients called betalains that have been shown to have positive effects on reducing prostate cancer?

Helping your body to heal itself and fight cancer takes a holistic effort —

  • Reducing toxins from our home and personal care products
  • Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds
  • Reducing stress
  • Daily movement
  • Cultivating joy in our life with friends and family

These are a few of things that I am going to be focusing on. And as a thank you gift, when you sign up for my newsletter I will send you a pdf of my new Soup recipe book — Delicious soup recipes from the Anti-Cancer Approach to Life. All Furman approved!

Soup recipes from the Anti-Cancer Approach to Life

Soup recipes from the Anti-Cancer Approach to Life

Which green vegetable has almost the same amount of protein per calorie as steak?

I know it is surprising, but the answer is broccoli. I kid you not.

According to the USDA there are 9.04 grams/in 100 calories of grilled steak and 8.4 grams/in 100 calories broccoli. So if you want to compare serving sizes, 1 cup of chopped broccoli has the same amount of protein as a 6 oz piece of steak. 

So how much protein do you really need?

For some reason, probably due to the stellar marketing job of the meat industry and the popularity of the Paleo movement, most people think that protein is the most important food group and that you get it by eating meat, poultry, fish and eggs. But how much do we really need? For an adult, a good number to shoot for is around 8-10% of total calories. If you eat 2000 calories a day that would be 160 calories. For most people that is more than enough. (Another thing to consider is that when we eat animal protein our body increases it’s production of the hormone Insulin Growth Factor–1 (IGF-1) which when elevated may promote the spread of cancer cells.1-4  (It’s kind of like giving the cancer cells steroids. Also there have been several large studies that show that eating more than 12% of your daily calories from animal protein encourages cancer tumor growth.)

So how much does that amount to? And how do you get enough protein eating a whole-food, plant-based diet? As a mostly vegetarian, wannabe plant-based eater, the most common thing people ask me is “How do you get enough protein?” Many people are surprised to hear that if you eat a variety of whole grains, beans, vegetables, nuts and seeds you will easily get enough protein without eating any animal products. Yes vegetables have protein. Broccoli as I mentioned has a lot of protein. Even asparagus has 3 grams/100 calories. And you don’t have to worry about the old notion of food combining to get a complete protein. Our body is able to receive all the essential amino acids it needs from a varied plant-based diet.

As an example I entered all the food that I ate the other day into supertracker.usda.gov and I exceeded the necessary protein for the day. 

Here is what I ate.

Breakfast: Blueberries, Muesli (oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins, flax seeds) Almond milk

Lunch: A big salad with mixed greens, broccoli, green beans, edamame, corn, and avocado, balsamic vinaigrette, sesame crackers

Dinner: Tofu and bok choy with brown rice and eggplant.

Snack: Almonds

Surprising isn’t it? So the next time you think about having a meal without meat you don’t have to worry about getting enough protein.

1. Chitnis MM, Yuen JS, Protheroe AS, et al: The type 1 insulin-like growth factor receptor pathway. Clin Cancer Res 2008;14:6364-6370.

2. Werner H, Bruchim I: The insulin-like growth factor-I receptor as an oncogene. Arch Physiol Biochem 2009;115:58-71.

3. Davies M, Gupta S, Goldspink G, et al: The insulin-like growth factor system and colorectal cancer: clinical and experimental evidence. Int J Colorectal Dis 2006;21:201-208.

4. Sandhu MS, Dunger DB, Giovannucci EL: Insulin, insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), IGF binding proteins, their biologic interactions, and colorectal cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 2002;94:972-980.

So if you are thinking that seems like a lot of broccoli, here's a great recipe for Thai Green Curry Broccoli soupThis more than passed the Furman test too ... because it is delicious. :)

Thai Green Curry Broccoli Soup

Thai Green Curry Broccoli Soup

5 favorite restaurants to get delicious, healthy food in Boston. — PART 1

The Green Monster grain bowl at Myers and Chang, South End, Boston, MA Photograph by Jared Luzia

The Green Monster grain bowl at Myers and Chang, South End, Boston, MA
Photograph by Jared Luzia

Friends are often asking me where to go for dinner so I thought I would share some of my favorite places, in no particular order. They are mostly relatively cheap places except Alden and Harlow which is not, but it's so good and has outstanding cocktails. Of course there are many more great restaurants in Boston that I will share in upcoming newsletters but here are 5 to start.

1. Life Alive

It took many tries to get Furman to go to Life Alive. (They make delicious hearty salads, rice/veggie bowls, juices and smoothies all with organic ingredients and their signature sauces.) Not really his thing but he relented when I returned from a retreat in England where the food was awful. Three different preparations of white potatoes were served at most meals. When I got off the plane all I could think of was Life Alive so he kindly drove me straight there. I had the Swami ,my favorite veggie bowl with Sweet Curry Miso sauce and a green juice. Yum. I felt refreshed and energized. Furman had a Mystic Mountain veggie wrap with lemon garlic hummus. Needless to say he mocked the whole experience and the absurdity of him eating a veggie wrap at this ultra-crunchy café but I was happy. lifealive.com

2. Alden and Harlow

Furman and I both love food and we love to try new restaurants but we don’t always agree on where to go. As you might imagine his tastes can include burgers and chicken wings and mine include healthy veggies but we both love big flavors, and spicy food. Sometimes eating out is the perfect compromise for us because we can both order what we like even though it may be radically different. Alden and Harlow is one of our favorites because everything is so flavorful and delicious. One of our favorite dishes is their Charred broccoli with Butternut Squash hummus. Seriously Furman loves it. It’s crazy delicious. I can happily order from their amazing fish and vegetable dishes and he can order Crispy Pork Belly. :)  aldenharlow.com

3. Myers and Chang

Myers and Chang is probably my favorite place to eat in our neighborhood of a billion upscale French/American bistros. Boring. But Myers and Chang is not. Quite the opposite. Super flavorful, creative Asian food. I especially love that they accommodate so many different diets. My dear friend that has a shellfish allergy can be safe eating there. They also have a vegetarian, a gluten-free and a nut-free menu. Lately my favs from the menu are their Mushroom Lo Mein, Kale and Persimmon salad and The Green Monster. The varied menu options also work for me and Furman because he can get his Miso Carrots and Fried Chicken and waffles. To be honest he mostly does that when I am not around. myersandchang.com

4. Red Lentil

Red lentil is one of my favorite dinner spots for meeting girlfriends who have moved out to the burbs. It’s on Mount Auburn Street in Watertown near the Cambridge line — kind of halfway to a lot of places. It’s a vegetarian cheap-eats kind of-a-place but the food is delicious. The food is very creative and flavorful drawing on many different cuisines from around the world including Thai, Mexican, Jamaican, and Japanese. I am a fan of the Butternut Squash polenta with oyster mushroom ragout, and warmed sesame asparagus, drizzled with cilantro sunflower seed pesto and maple balsamic vinaigrette. Sounds good doesn't it? theredlentil.com

5. Dosa 'n Curry

Our friend Sunil told me about this wonderful South Indian restaurant outside of Union Square in Somerville. This is a vegetarian restaurant and they don’t serve alcohol but it is delicious and cheap. The first time Furman and I went there I forgot to mention the no meat and no alcohol situation. It slipped my mind. :) He was looking at the menu perplexed and finally looked up and said where’s the meat? We had a great meal none the less. They make fantastic dosas — huge, that fill the whole plate. A dosa is kind of an Indian wrap made with a delicate chickpea crepe and stuffed with many different vegetable curries and served with coconut dipping sauce. Yum I think we should go there soon. BTW this a more of a dive place to eat. Not a romantic night on the town. dosa-n-curry.com

The many reasons why you are going to want to eat less sugar

Did you know that sugar consumption and elevated blood sugar levels can help contribute to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, fatty liver, Alzheimers and dementia?

Would that make you think twice about having that bottle of Coke, that Mango smoothie or that Chobani yogurt? 

During one of the many blizzards a few weeks ago I found myself working at my computer, looking at the snow coming down, listening to the snow plow going back and forth and thinking I want something. Sweet. My first thought was chai but then I realized I had a tin of these completely addictive Taza chocolate covered cashews that someone gave us. I don’t even like Taza chocolate, but they did something right with these cashews.

There were three reasons for the craving.

  1. I did not eat enough for lunch.
  2. I was bored. 
  3. There were chocolate covered cashews in the house.

The crazy thing is the more I ate them the faster I popped them into my mouth. And I am not that person that eats a pint of Ben and Gerry's ice cream while watching Game of Thrones. For the record I did not eat the whole tin…yet.

My chocolate covered cashews binge got me thinking about Sugar. Sugar is something that most of us love in various forms, but it is also an addictive drug not unlike cocaine and caffeine. It is actually 8 times more addictive than cocaine. It prompts similar endorphin responses in the brain. Eating even small amounts of it creates a desire for more and suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue. 

Chobani.png

The average American consumes more than 100 pounds of sugar and sweeteners a year. That translates to 30 tsp a day. It’s more than three times the USDA recommended amount which is very liberal in the first place and 4 times the WHO recommendation. Amazingly if you look at the ingredients list on a food item it doesn’t list the recommended % daily value for sugar as it does for fat and protein, because the sugar lobby fought it when nutrition labels were being created. The WHO recommends no more than 25 grams or 6 tsp of sugar a day.

So how much sugar are you eating?

Even some so-called healthy foods contain a lot of sugar. An apricot Cliff Bar has 23 grams of sugar, or 6 teaspoons. A Chobani Peach yogurt has 16 grams of sugar. Compare that to a chocolate-glazed cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts, which has 14 grams of sugar, or 3 teaspoons. (Not to say that a donut is better for you. It's not.) A 16-ounce Starbucks Frappuccino actually contains 44 grams of sugar, or 10 teaspoons—that’s like eating three donuts!

Overconsumption of refined sweets and added sugars found in everyday foods has led to an explosion of hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes. So much so that they predict that 40% of Americans will suffer from Diabetes in their lifetime. Sugar consumption can damage your heart by causing changes in the muscle protein and the pumping mechanism of your heart which can increase your risk of heart failure. It can damage your liver the way alcohol does, even if you are not overweight. Even more scary to me is the link between sugar consumption, and elevated blood sugars with memory deficiencies and cognitive decline. In other words dementia.

So the moral of the story is cut back on sugar. No more than 6 tsp a day. It’s not just about gaining weight. It can have a very serious effect on your health — now and in the future.

Why purple is the new green ... and why you should care.

One of most interesting things I learned from the book Eating on the Wild Side is how good purple vegetables are for you. If you have the choice of purple or orange carrots, choose purple. Purple or yellow beets, choose purple. Purple or green cabbage, choose purple. 

Often the purple varieties of vegetables have far more antioxidants and phytonutrients than their colorful counterparts. Over the years many vegetables have been bred to be sweeter to appeal to our highly addictive sweet tooths, but as a result many of the best nutrients are diminished. This is the case with yellow beets. They are a little sweeter than purple beets, but have far fewer cancer-fighting phytonutrients called betalains. In a dietary study, they found that people who eat beets on a regular basis have a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity than people who don’t eat beets. Interestingly the first wild carrots that originated several thousand years ago were purple, but the orange variety that was bred in Holland 400 hundred years ago became so popular for their pretty color that the purple ones were phased out.

Purple carrots are really high in the antioxidant anthocyanins and have amazing health properties including helping to combat chronic inflammation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In some cases like with red leaf lettuce (ok it is not purple but it is kind of) the red aspect is present in the lettuce to protect the plant from damaging sun rays and this means that is higher in antioxidants which help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. All in all, there are so many reasons to go purple the next time you are at the grocery store.

Beet, red cabbage, kale slaw

Beet, red cabbage, kale slaw

I make variations of this salad all winter long because all of these vegetables are readily available, but of course now that beets, cabbage and kale are at the famers market, I am in heaven. To be fair this photo is a version I made without beets so the beets will make it even more colorful. The proportions of chopped vegetables is not critical. 

Ingredients

2 purple beets, steamed and grated
¼ head of red cabbage chopped finely
2 cups finely chopped lacinto kale
½ medium red onion finely chopped
1 cup grated daikon or harukai turnip
1 cup grated purple carrots (or whatever you can find)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 cloves minced garlic
Balsamic salad dressing

  1. Cook the beets. Place unpeeled beets with the stems on (they retain more nutrients this way) into a steamer and steam until tender. Drain. Refresh under cold water and leave to cool. You should be able to easily rub the skins off. Coarsely grate. 
  2. Prep the cabbage, kale, onion, cabbage, garlic, daikon, mint
  3. Toss with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette. I often doctor Wholefoods Organic Balsamic dressing with dijon mustard, more balsamic vinegar, brown rice vinegar and a little ume plum vinegar. 

Nourishing Cold Weather Asian soup

Serves 2
 
I box organic chicken broth
2 garlic cloves minced (let sit for 10 minutes to let the allicin activate)
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon tahini sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
 
2 cups assorted chopped vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, napa cabbage,  spinach, julienned carrots)
½ package of organic extra firm tofu cubed or cooked shredded chicken breast
2 scallions finely chopped
½ package of cooked whole grain or brown rice udon noodles (optional)
1 lightly soft boiled egg per person (optional) 
 
Start with the broth.
In a medium sized pot add the chicken broth, ginger, garlic, soy sauce,  and hoisin sauce. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.
 
Add in the vegetables and tofu or chicken. Let simmer until vegetables are tender. This will only take a few minutes.
If you would like a heartier soup cook a half a package of brown rice or whole grain udon noodles and add it to the broth.
 
Add in scallions and sesame oil. Adjust soy sauce or salt to taste. If you like it spicy and don’t have a sore throat add in siracha or sambal oolek.

The extraordinary healing drug in your kitchen pantry

This winter has been a brutal one in Boston and elsewhere I imagine. So many people have told me of their persistent colds and flu viruses that would not go away. It made me realize that I have not been sick at all this winter and for over a year, as a matter of fact. Knock on wood. I hope I don't jinx myself. :)
So I wanted to share some amazing information that may help you to fight off those nasty vriuses more easily.


The Extraordinary Healing Drug in your Kitchen Pantry
Yes that's right. Garlic, also known as the Allicin Wonderland Drug, is truly a powerhouse when it comes to healing properties, on top of being delicious in so many foods. It's main active ingredient, Allicin, has the equivalent antibacterial properties to penicillin (except that bacteria does not become resistant to it). Quercitin, found in garlic and onions helps ward off the flu. It was found to kill a Type A flu virus better than a popular prescription drug. And it also has anti-cancer properties including inhibiting tumor growth. A Canadian study found that it blocked the growth of cancer tumors in the stomach, pancreas, breast, prostate, lungs, kidney and brain.

It's pretty impressive isn't it? There is an important, BUT to the wonders of garlic though. Depending on how you chop and cook garlic the Allicin may not become activated, and as a result it won't have the many healing properties. So the secret is to mince the garlic in a garlic press and let it sit for 10 minutes before you sauté or put it into a dish. 

As the food and health writer and author of Eating on the Wild Side, Jo Robinson says, "Garlic has so many healing properties that waiting those crucial 10 minutes could reduce your risk of a number of worrisome diseases." 

Don’t eat microwave popcorn and other simple steps to reducing your exposure to toxins in your food.

Sometimes I feel like I have become one of those paranoid alarmist people who worries about the world coming to an end in 2012 or did that already happen? I didn’t use to be that person, but ever since I read an article in the New York Times about flame retardants in our furniture there has been no going back. 

It turns out that as a result of the rise in domestic fires back in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, due to people falling asleep with cigarettes in their hands, the tobacco industry, rather than alter their cigarettes, created an essentially bogus fire safety commission to look into it. They came up with the brilliant idea to dump toxic chemicals onto virtually every piece of furniture, mattresses, upholstery, car interiors, airplane seats, household electronics and even baby mattresses sold in the U.S. so that we would be safe from fire. These chemicals, chlorinated tris and PBDEs are endocrine disruptrors that cause genetic defects and genital malformations in newborns, infertility and thyroid cancer among others.
 
Then I heard a show on NPR where they discussed the chemical industry in the U.S. and that of the 84,ooo industrial chemicals found/produced in the U.S. only 200 have been tested for human safety by the EPA. Here a chemical is assumed safe unless proven otherwise and who is going to prove otherwise? The great news is that California and Maine no longer require the use of flame retardants in furniture so hopefully that will have an effect nationally and they will be eliminated from furniture at least. Of course the chemical lobby is doing a great job of selling chemicals to China and other manufacturing countries so it will still be a long road to flame retardant-free homes.
 
You might wonder what the big deal is? For one thing many American mother’s have chemical flame retardants in their breast milk which is not good for a developing baby. Flame retardants have been found in foods that are rich in fat like butter, peanut butter, bacon and salmon. In the wild, flame retardants have been found in Antarctic penguins, Arctic orcas, owls and fish. It’s everywhere and it doesn’t degrade very quickly. In fact it’s designed not to.
 
And there are many more harmful chemicals that are used in food packaging and preparation. You would assume this couldn’t be the case because it is FOOD and we eat FOOD so the FDA and EPA must regulate that… but they don’t … at least not enough. So what is a person to do? I notice that many people find this news overwhelming and think “something is going to kill you so no point in worrying about it.” This is true. There is no point in worrying, but many cancer researchers like at the Silent Spring Institute in Massachusetts believe that these chemicals are the main reason for the rise of cancer in this country. So here are some things to think about and limit the use of if you can. Even small changes for the better will help. Baby steps as Furman always says.

10 simple steps to reducing your exposure to toxins in your food. 

  1. Buy organic foods whenever possible. Many pesticides are endocrine disruptors that effect brain development and neurological functions. This is also a challenge when eating out because you can assume that the majority of restaurants do not use organic foods.

  2. Store your food in glass containers when possible so the chemicals from the plastic don’t leach into the food. Even plastic that is not heated is volatile.

  3. Avoid plastic water bottles with a 7 on the bottom as they contain BPA which has been associated with negative effects on brain development, breast cancer and prostate cancer.  And please don’t leave your plastic water bottle sitting in a hot car.

  4. Use glass or ceramic dishes to microwave food. Don’t microwave food in plastic containers or plastic wrap. And don’t heat up your Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks coffee in the takeout cup! The chemicals will leach into your coffee. Every day at my office I see people doing this. :( One researcher from Silent Spring Institute told me that takeout coffee cups are coated in a grease resistant chemical that is carcinogenic so she always brings her own ceramic mug.

  5. Avoid Styrofoam cups and takeout containers. It’s horrifying that hot greasy foods are dumped into Styrofoam. Furman ordered Thai chili duck from our favorite Thai restaurant a few weeks ago and the deep fried duck arrived in a melted Styrofoam container. Yes melted from the duck! Which means that those chemicals were absorbed into the duck. Horrifying!

  6. Limit your intake of canned foods like tuna and canned tomatoes. Cans are lined with an epoxy resin that contains BPA. It’s really hard to cut out canned goods altogether, but use fresh or frozen foods when possible and dried beans.

  7. Eat in. People who eat out a lot have higher levels of BPA because restaurants tend to use lots of plastic in the cooking process — heating things up in plastic, and storing hot food in plastic. Many fine restaurants will make large batches of a dish and dump the hot food into individual-portion flimsy plastic containers which causes the chemicals to leach into the food. At Panera bread I have seen them take small sealed plastic bags of soup, heat them up in a microwave and dump it into a bowl like it was fresh made.

  8. When grilling foods, limit the amount of char on the food. Char contains PAHs which are known to cause mammary tumors in animals, reproductive harm and reduce the ability’s body to fight disease. PAHs are also found in combustion from fireplaces, cigarette smoke and auto exhaust.

  9. Don’t eat microwave popcorn. Microwave popcorn bags are lined with a known carcinogen called PFOA to make it grease resistant. It’s also used on pizza boxes and hundreds of other food packaging products.

  10. Another reason not to eat French fries. Starch-rich foods that are heated to high temperatures in the cooking process, like french fries and potato chips produce acrylamide, a suspected carcinogen.

So don’t be overwhelmed, just slowly start adopting some of these suggestions and you will make huge strides towards reducing your risk of disease.