April 15, 2016

Spilling the beans…about beans!
Why you should take the #pulsepledge

Have you noticed that pulses have become the new healthy food trend? If you are looking to shift your diet toward more nutritious foods, including more pulses in your diet is a fantastic step forward! Before the United Nations declared 2016 as the “International Year of the Pulses”, I used to group this type of food all in the category of “legumes”. After all, being a vegetarian for over 16 years, I have learned to make lentils, beans, and chickpeas my main sources of protein. So, what’s the difference between legumes and pulses? 

    What are pulses?
Pulses are a subgroup of the legume family, but the term “pulse” refers only to the dried seeds. There are 11 types of pulses including dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, fava, and peas. Soybeans are legumes but not pulses, because they are mainly grown for oil. Green beans and green peas are also excluded because they are fresh, not in their dry form.  

Why are pulses nutritious?
Pulses are full of nutrients. They have been in the human diet for centuries, and continue to be an important part of traditional diets in Latin America, Africa and Asia. They are a marvelous food, yet in North America their nutritional value is frequently underrated and replaced by other foods, often of animal origin. These are some reason why you should include more pulses in your diet:
1. Pulses are a great source of plant-based protein. The UN initiative could not come at a better time, given that last year the World Health Organization warned us about the carcinogenic effects of processed meat, and this year the American Cancer Society is recommending Americans to consume less red meat.
2. Pulses are high in fiber which is beneficial for proper bowel function. More than 90% of Americans do not meet the daily fiber recommendations. Fiber also helps reduce blood cholesterol and helps control blood sugar.
3. Pulses have high levels of minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc, which are essential for cardiovascular health, and immune support.
4. Pulses are a source of folate and other B vitamins that support the proper functioning of the central nervous system and are important for pregnant women to prevent babies’ birth defects.

Why are pulses getting so much attention?
Health is just one focus of the United Nations initiative. The campaign also aims to raise awareness about the impact pulses can have to food security around the world. Pulses are grown almost everywhere, they are accessible, and inexpensive. Pulses will keep you full longer. They have the promise of feeding people in developing countries, and also help with weight management.
Pulses can also contribute to sustainable agriculture. These plants have the ability to fix nitrogen in the soilhelping to increase soil fertility. They also take less energy to grow than other crops, producing fewer greenhouse gases, which is a positive effect in our fight against climate change. And they are so tasty!
If you really want to improve your health this year, and the health of our planet, don’t spill the beans, eat them!
I invite you to join me and take the pulse pledge to include pulses in your diet at least once a week for ten weeks. After signing up, you’ll receive a starter’s guide, and a weekly newsletter with simple recipes and cooking tips.

American Cancer Society. New Dietary Guidelines Call for Less Sugar, Less Meat. January 7, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/news/new-dietary-guidelines-call-for-less-sugar-less-meat
World Health Organization. Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. October 2015. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/
Curran, J. (2012). The nutritional value and health benefits of pulses in relation to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. British Journal of Nutrition Br J Nutr, 108(S1).
Mudryj, A. N., Yu, N., & Aukema, H. M. (2014). Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 39(11), 1197-1204.
Pulses: the perfect food. Healthy to eat, healthy to grow. Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Dakota State University Extension Service. Retrieved from https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1508.pdf
 3rd.Photo credit HTML: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/stone-soup/6497612043/">jules:stonesoup</a> via <a href="http://foter.com/">Foter.com</a> / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY</a>
Or Photo credit using visual wordpress: jules:stonesoup via Foter.com / CC BY


Magic garlic

January 25, 2016

I love garlic, it gives a delicious taste to almost everything: bread, rice, soups, even vegetables; and despite its strong aroma, using garlic on a regular basis can really add a boost to our health. Garlic strengthens the immune system, is good for heart diseases and atherosclerosis, kills some intestinal parasites, is antibacterial, and full of antioxidants. It's absolutely amazing!
I try to cook with it often (see one immune system booster soup recipe here). But every once in a while I like to eat it raw, especially when I start feeling the first symptoms of a cold. It's more potent that way. To avoid the strong flavor, I like to take two cloves, chop them in small pieces, and swallow them like pills without chewing them. 
So, if in these cold winter days, your throat is getting a tickle...eat garlic! I promise you will not regret it.

Do you know any other ways for consuming raw garlic?

January 15, 2016

So, it is a shiny new year. Welcome aboard! 2016 started with some very fun days, but has quickly started to get swept into the swirl of busy. Are you there already too? I can suddenly foresee how my next few months will be. I will be fighting off the million to-do lists running through my head and aspiring to get a few more good hours of sleep. And this is when it hit me! I have been focusing too much on what I need to do for the next day, and on long term and time-consuming aspirations. I have forgotten how to be more in the moment. I have forgotten about the daily habits that can bring more tranquility into my life. So, instead of my exercising consisting of just hurrying between my desk and the printer, or thinking about how many hours of sleep I will get right before going to bed, this year I want bring control back over simple moments in my daily routine. I want to change the focus to the here and now to maintain happiness and keep my well-being in check. 

These are my resolutions for 2016:

1    1. Move my body (even a little) throughout the day.
2    2. Make room for creativity and relaxation. (Have you tried this?)
3    3. Create morning and bedtime routines
      4. Drink more water
5    5. Spend more quality time with loved ones
6    6. Smile more often
7    7. Write stuff down
8. End each day with gratitude

The Food Desert Project

August 3, 2015

USDA's Economic Research Service estimates that 23.5 million people live in food deserts. More than half of those people (13.5 million) are low-income. This lack of access to nutritious food contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related illness, such as diabetes and heart disease.
I feel extremely lucky to be able to access local fresh produce pretty much everywhere I turn in TX. The above picture posted on my Instagram account is a call to end food deserts and ensure we all have access to healthy affordable food.  The company Nakedjuice is currently running “The Food Desert Project” campaign to give 500,000 pounds of fresh produce to food desert communities. All you have to do is post a picture holding a vegetable or fruit, use #DrinkGoodDoGood, and they will donate 10 lbs. of produce to families in need.

What else can you do to help eliminate food desserts? These two websites provide useful information about programs and grants available, with toolkits and guides to implement initiatives in your community.

Are dried fruits nutritious?

July 9, 2015

I always thought of them as candy, but the answer is Yes! It is however important to choose them wisely. Dried fruits are simply fresh fruit with the water removed, and this process of dehydration, in fact, causes some nutrients to become more concentrated. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition for example, found that antioxidants in figs, plums, grapes, and cranberries are more potent that in the fresh fruit version.

It is important to be aware that the calories of dried fruit are approximately twice of the ones found in fresh fruit. Because dried fruits are so small and tasty, we can tempted to indulge excessively, but remember that due to the high concentrations of calories and nutrients, smaller amounts count for more, a 1/2-cup serving is equal to a 1-cup of fresh fruits.

Additionally, many manufacturers add sugar for extra flavor. These sugar added dried fruits are more like candy than a healthy snack and should be avoided (no wonder why I never thought of them as nutritious).  So, always check the ingredients box to avoid dried fruits that have sugar and sulfur dioxide. The best dehydrated fruits to consume are apricots, figs, tomatoes, raisins, blueberries, and cherries.
If chosen and consumed properly, eating dried fruits can help us meet the recommended daily fruit intake. This is my favorite brand if you would like to try them.

Vinson, J., Zubik, L., & Bose, P. (2005). Dried Fruits: Excellent in Vitro and in Vivo Antioxidants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 24(1), 44-50.

 Photo my own

Why is lemon water so amazing?

June 13, 2015

We are always looking for easy ways to improve our health, and every once in a while, one trick keeps coming up: drinking lemon water...because nothing can be easier than squeezing some lemon juice in our water every day.
I usually squeeze 1/2 a lemon in a glass of warm (not hot) water almost every morning.

     So why is lemon water so amazing?

- it aids digestion: and encourages the production of bile
- boosts immune system: lemons are high in vitamin c, which protects the body against  immune system deficiencies.            
- soothes redness and inflammation in throat
- balances PH levels: lemons are one of the most alkaline foods for the body. lemon is a citric fruit, but once it has been fully metabolized, it has an alkalizing effect, raising the PH levels of   our  bodies.                          
- increases citrate levels in the urine, which helps prevent kidney stones

 Is lemon water part of your daily routine?

It's National Public Health Week!

April 6, 2015

Public health plays a larger role in our lives than we may realize. From the time we wake up, we take a shower with clean water, the seat belts we use protect us while driving to work, and we are confident that the food we eat for lunch is safe. Schools and workplaces are now smoke-free, and our kids are immunized against what were once very common infectious diseases. We breathe clean air on our afternoon walks, and our garbage is disposed of properly when we get home. These accomplishments and many more are the result of the efforts of public health professionals. All of us are committed to safeguarding the health of every world citizen, and we look forward to continuing our service to you.