Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quick Three-Bean Chili

Truth be told, I’ve struggled with chilis in the past. They either come out too water or too bland, however recently a friend tipped me off and shared with me his phenomenal and lightning-quick recipe that makes a delicious, nutritious, and hearty meal. 



I hope you all enjoy it and have a great October! Also be sure to check back soon for some exciting news and big changes to BYOL! I like to serve this piping hot on top of a fresh bed of chopped greens.

Perhaps the best thing about this recipe is it takes only 20 minutes prep and just another 10 to cook!

There are two additional serving options below to help jazz this recipe up if you choose.




Basic recipe:
1 16 ounce jar of your favorite salsa
1 14.5 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (I like to us Pomi)
1 can no-salt added pinto beans
1 can no-salt added kidney beans
1 can no-salt added black beans
½ cup of water or veggie broth
1 red onion – finely chopped
2 carrots – finely chopped
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
½ jalapeno pepper - diced (more depending how spicy you want it)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ginger
Black pepper and salt to taste
Fresh cilantro and cubed avocado to garnish (optional)

Start by chopping the onions and carrots and placing them in a large pot and saute them together for 4 or 5 minutes until the onions starts to soften. Then add the diced jalapeno and garlic and continue to saute for two more minutes. 

Then add in the crushed tomatoes the jar of salsa and the three cans of beans. Now add the spices and mix well. Taste and adjust the spices to your preference. Bring the entire pot to a simmer. Once everything is hot it is ready to serve. 

Option 1: Blend ½ cup of cashews with nutritional yeast, 1 clove of garlic, juice of ½ a lemon and some salt in ½ cup of water to make a smooth, creamy but still thick cashew cheese. Once done, stir in finely chopped green onions and fresh mint until well combined. Place a dollop on top of the chili to simulate sour cream.

Option 2: steam or bake two large potatoes while chili is cooking. Once soft, cube the potatoes and add to the chili to make it extra hearty!



Happy fall!


As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Power of Flax

It’s been a little while since I last posted a research piece. Honestly, these pieces often are very time consuming. On top of this, I realized that more recipes were needed. It’s one thing to tell you why you should eat healthy, but it seems impractical to not also show you how to do so.  



Flax seed has been around for quite some time. Treasured for it’s medicinal uses throughout the Roman Empire, it was also one of the first “health foods” used by Hypocrites. In fact, whenever I’m asked for a recommendation for a single healthy food to include into a diet, flax seed always makes the short list of possible contenders. But why is flax so well regarded?

Flax are available almost everywhere in the US and are relatively cheap – typically just $2 a pound. They’re two main verities, gold and brown. They are essentially the same nutritionally so either is just fine.

Now because the seeds have a strong fibrous outer shell, our bodies are often unable to digest them and access their full benefits. It is possible to chew them, but it is much simpler to just buy pre-ground flax seeds, or toss the whole flax seeds into a blender or coffee grinder and give them a few pluses. If you grind them yourself, you’ll want to keep them refrigerator or frozen to prevent them from going rancid. They will last several months in the fridge. 

The seeds are powerhouses of nutrition. While Hypocrites didn't have the details, he was clearly onto something. They are one of the richest sources of lignans. Lignans are a type of antioxidant that have been demonstrated to have a multitude of positive health effects. Some of them include the ability to help regulate hormone levels, they help support the immune system, can inhibit certain enzymes from becoming free radicals and may help reduce the stress hormone cortisol among others.

They also contain iron, zinc, copper, calcium, protein, magnesium, folate, and even a trace mineral known as boron that helps bone health. They also help decrease the amount of estrogen, which may help lower breast cancer risk.

On top of this, just 7 grams of ground flax seeds (roughly 1 tablespoon) contains 1.6 grams of Omega 3 fatty acid. That represents the recommended daily dose of Omega 3. To make flax seeds even more appealing, they have just .4 grams of Omega 6 (another essential fatty acid, that most people simple get way too much of.) This means the important Omega 3 to 6 ratio is a great .25. Chia seeds by comparison have .3 grams of omega 6 per 1.6 grams of omega 3, meaning that flax seeds actually has the more favorable omega ratio. Flax seeds are also far cheaper, so per dollar, you are getting more for your buck!

Flax also helps control our cholesterol and blood pressure levels and has also been shown to help with hot flashes in menopausal women.

Honestly, one tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily is one of the best foods you can include in your diet. Because they have such a neutral taste, you can use them in almost any way you desire, but heating them will destroy some of the nutrients so try and include some in their raw, ground state. I sprinkle them on my morning oats and in smoothies as well as on top of salads and pastas. You can also see this post about how to use flax as a replacement for oil in many recipes. 


---
G.K. Paschos et. all. “Dietary supplementation with flaxseed oil lowers blood pressure in dyslipidaemic patients.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61 2007.

Jeff Novick, “Nuts?” on McDougall Form Jan. 8, 2008.

Zhang, Wang, et. all. “Effects of dietary flaxseed lignan extract on symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Journal of Medical Food, 11 2008.


Zhang, Wang et. all. “Dietary flaxseed lignana extract lowers plasma cholesterol and glucose concentrations in hypercholesterolaemic subjects. British Journal of Nutrition. 99 2008.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Oil-free Baked Falafel

In my last post, I shared a hummus recipe that got some really kind feedback, well today I’ve got another chickpea-based Middle Eastern inspired recipe: oil-free baked falafel.

As I mentioned in my post about mung beans, legumes are one of the healthiest foods available worldwide, and some recent research suggests that bean intake is the most important factor associated with longer lifespans! Not only this, but beans are some of the cheapest foods making their nutrition value a huge bang for the buck!



This falafel recipe is super easy, essentially fool-proof, and tastes phenomenal.

I’m also including a very basic tahini dressing recipe. This is one of those once-in-a-while foods. Tahini is a thick paste made from pulverized sesame seeds, which sounds healthy on its face. However, it is very high in calories with most of those calories coming from fat. Unfortunately, most of that fat comes from Omega-6, an essential fatty acid, but one that most westerners get too much of in relation to their Omega-3 consumption. It is also possible for tahini to oxidize as it ages, which can cause the release of free radicals in your body.



That said few things are so cut and dry. Tahini is rich in phosphorus, lecithin, magnesium, potassium and iron. It’s also a good source of methionine and very high in calcium. It also boasts vitamin E and many of the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5 and B15). Most tahini’s are around 20% protein as well. So feel free to weight the costs for yourself. If you’re healthy and fit, including tahini in your diet won’t have a negative impact on your health when consumed sparingly.



Oil-free Falafel:

1 ½ cups dried chickpeas
2-3 cloves fresh garlic
1 small sweet onion
1 cup fresh parsley (it’s important to use fresh for this recipe)
Juice from ½ of a lemon
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax in 1 tablespoon of water)
Pinch of baking soda
1 tablespoon cumin
Black pepper and salt to taste

Soak the chickpeas overnight or for several hours. Try adding some citrus (like apple cider vinegar) to speed up the process and help with digestibility. Once the beans can be crushed by pinching them between your fingers they are ready. (Note: if you don’t have time to soak them, boil the chickpeas until they are about half cooked. Roughly 30 minutes).

Now, put all of the above ingredients into a food processor or hand held blender. Process until well combined and relatively processed, but not completely smooth. Stop the food processor and push the ingredients down towards the blends when needed. The entire mixture should turn into a light green from the parsley and have a pleasant cumin smell.
Now pre-heat the oven to 350 and line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture into small 2 inch balls and put onto the pan. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes and check. The falafel balls should begin to brown. Flip them over and return to the oven for another 8 – 10 minutes. Take out and let cool.

While the falafels are cooking making the tahini sauce.

Tahini sauce:

2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
Onion powder
¾ cup water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined and smooth.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cumin-spiced Hummus and Gluten-free Lentil Flatbread

I've been told that in certain parts of Asia, every family has their own kimchi recipe. You can travel to a dozen different towns, and in each one, you’ll experience a dozen different varieties of the fermented dish. 

Hummus is like that in the United States… particularly among vegan bloggers. And today I’m going to share with you one of my oil-free hummus’.



Hummus is great as either a snack, appetizer, or as part of dinner. It can be used as a simple dip or used as a dressing. Literally, there is no limit to what you can do with this versatile spread. Typically made from cooked chickpeas, it has a nice blend of the macro-nutrients, and also offers several micro-nutrients as only plant-based foods can provide!

This recipe is for a simple and fast hummus and can be made with either canned or soaked and cooked chickpeas. Feel free to stray from the original recipe and start to create your very own variety!


Makes 2-3 servings

1 or 2 cans of chickpeas or 1 cup cooked chickpeas*
1 teaspoon of tahini
Juice of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 bayleaf
1 clove of garlic
Cumin seeds (or powder), salt, and black pepper to taste

Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor (a hand blender also works well) and blend until smooth and creamy. Slowly add water or veggie broth for desired texture. Taste the hummus and adjust spices and seasoning as needed or desired.

*Pro tip - save the water from the can to use for the hummus


Lentil Flatbread

Now hummus is amazingly healthy, especially when it’s served with veggies like carrots, bell peppers, or cabbage. However, if you are looking for something a little hardier, give this great BYOL-original Lentil and brown rice flatbread a try! Not only is the bread made from whole food ingredients rather than a refined flour, it only requires four essential ingredients, and can be made relatively quickly when in a bind! That being said, I suggest soaking the lentils and rice over night to help with digestibility.

While I’m suggesting pairing it with hummus here, the bread makes great toast with apple butter for breakfast, is perfect with all types of soups, Indian daals and curries, a nice snack with your afternoon mate, and can easily be brought to work or a picnic (It is literally the easiest way to BYOL!) You can also change the thickness by altering how long you let the bread rise and by how thick you make the batter.


Makes One Flatbread loaf

½ cup green or brown lentils (soaked)
½ cup brown rice (soaked)
½ teaspoon or half of an 8 gram packet of Active Dry Yeast
½ teaspoon baking powder*
¼ - ½ cup of veggie broth or water
Add optional spices and herbs such as a bayleaf, basil, or rosemary.

After soaking and rinsing the lentils and rice, put them either in a blender or food processor (again, a hand blender can work well for this). As you blend, slowly add a little bit of water or broth until you start to reach a dough-like consistency. It should be a little runny. Then add the baking powder and active yeast. Now let the mixture sit for 45 minutes to one hour. Pour the batter onto a parchment paper lined baking pan or pizza stone (I often use my cast iron pan) and place into the oven for 20 -25 minutes on 350. Once you’ve achieved the desired crispiness of the bread, remove from the oven and let cool. 

I hope two recipes help power your weekend! 

* If you are highly sensitive to gluten, or have celiac disease, make sure you get a certified gluten-free baking powder. 

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Yerba Mate: A beautiful South American Tradition

As many of you know, I was recently traveling in Buenos Aires. The city is beautiful and rich with tradition. While Buenos Aires operates on a pretty regular schedule, most still practice what is known as “merienda” which is like an afternoon siesta, typically in the middle or later part of the afternoon.  Part of this break includes sharing Yerba Mate (In Argentina it’s pronounce Chur-ba Mate).


Yerba Mate is a South American tea that is most popular in Argentina and Uruguay and in some southern parts of Brazil. It is made by steeping the ground leaves and steams of the yerba mate plant. In America you can find Yerba Mate tea bags, however, that is not how you should enjoy it. Instead, you serve the loose leaf Yerba in a gourd or small container called "mate" (which is Spanish for gourd) and drink small “shots” of tea through a metal straw known as a bombilla (bom-bish-a). 

This is where most American’s get uncomfortable. Because Argentina is a much more open and receptive society (I guess that is a result of not being settled by Puritans!) everyone shares the same mate and the same bombilla. Basically you pour hot (but not boiling) water onto the yerba and then sip the water until there is none left. Then you pour more water in the mate and pass it to the next person. I shared mate with friends while watching Argentina defeat the Netherlands to advance to the World Cup final. It was such a fantastic moment and memory, made all the more special by sharing mate. 

Historically, yerba mate has been being enjoyed since before Europeans arrived on the American continent. In the early 16th century, Juan de SolĂ­s, a Spanish explorer of South America's famed La Plata River, reported that the Guarani Indians of Paraguay brewed a leaf tea that "produced exhilaration and relief from fatigue." Today it is commonly drank multiple times a day. Often with toast, jams, or dulce de leche for breakfast or as a snack. 

Good quality Yerba Mate is available both online and in most health food stores in the US, and you can easily find inexpensive mates and bombilla online as well.

What better way than to reconnect with friends and family than by sharing mate while discussing the day?


Besides being a fun way of reconnecting with loved ones, yerba mate also has some amazing health benefits as it contains numerous nutrients. While it does have caffeine, its content varies, and can range between 25 – 75% less caffeine than a standard cup of coffee. However, according to Brendan Brazier, the caffeine in yerba mate does not cause a spike in cortisol the same way coffee does. As a result, some sensitive to the caffeine in coffees and teas may not be impacted by the caffeine in mate. That said, the Argentine futbol star Lionel Messi drinks mate before every single match, to help energize him to perform on the pitch, and former Ironman athlete Brendan Brazier used it before races.


 
The Pope and Lionel Messi both enjoying mate.

Yerba mate has roughly 90% more antioxidants than green tea, making this a true powerhouse drink. It contains vitamins B-1, B-2, A, riboflavin, carotene, colin, pantothenic acid, inositol and 15 types of aminoacids! It also contains a significant quantity of potassium, sodium, and magnesium.

Thanks to the antioxidant called polyphenols, yerba mate can help boost immune function and can also slow the signs of aging while also helping to detox the body. Furthermore, (and I almost feel like Dr. Oz for saying this) but several research article report that the consumption of Yerba Mate can help reduce the accumulation of lipids in adipocytes, (or in common talk, can help reduce fat storage) both of which lead to weight gain. Another study done on post pregnancy women showed that Mate consumption can decrease overall calorie consumption, suggesting that Yerba Mate may help one lose weight, and keep it off once they do.

Perhaps we should all start partaking in the merienda’s of South America! Clearly it will benefit our health! 

  

 
Just a few photos from the trip. Enjoy

Heckman, MA. Et al. “Caffeine in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters.” Journal of Food Science. 2010.

Po, E. et al. “The Effect of Yerba Mate Supplementation on the Productive Performance of Dorper Ewes and their Progeny.” Asian-Australas Journal of Animal Science July 2012.

Kang, Young-Rye et al. “Anti-Obesity and Anti-diabetic effects of Yerba Mate in C57BL mice fed a high-fat diet.” Laboratory Animal Research March 2012.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Beth's Amazing Story

Once again, I'm very happy to share the success of another one of my friends. This story shows the dramatic impact of cleaning one's diet can make. It also shows the benefits that can be gained without without having to go completely one way or another. I'd like to thank Beth and Nick for the opportunity to help them, but also for their willingness to share their successes. I'd also like to publicly congratulate them on their recent engagement! 


The 2013 holiday season came and went, but those extra pounds I inevitably put on during it chose to stay behind. Beyond frustrated and angry at myself for allowing this to happen yet again, I decided “Ok, this weekend is my last hoorah, then I’m going on a strict diet.” That particular weekend, my boyfriend Nick and I planned a day trip to NYC to visit an old college friend, Anthony. Anthony is a dedicated vegan, and when Nick and I told him we were going on diets, his response back to us was, “Don’t diet, change your diet.” Those wise words opened the door to one of the most informative conversations of my life.

Though Anthony has tried to help us change our diets in the past, this time Nick and I actually listened and wanted to learn how we could not just diet to lose those pesky holiday pounds, but also be healthier overall. It’s amazing the things you can learn by being open minded and willing to listen. That day, Anthony even cooked us an awesome vegan lunch, courtesy BYOL’s Green Mac N “Cheese” recipe. Always skeptical that vegan food would never fill me up and leave me still hungry, boy was I pleasantly surprised. It not only tasted awesome, but I was stuffed by the end of my meal.




Along with wanting to lose weight and be healthier, I also work in breast cancer research, and seeing the devastation that this disease affects on women every day also became incentive for me to change my eating habits. It is traumatizing to see how common the disease is and how more common it is becoming in increasingly younger women. When you start to see patients come through the door who are younger than you, and I'm only 26, you begin to realize something is just not right. Everyday at work I ask myself, like many people I’m sure, what is the cause of this disease? Well, after our talk with Anthony, I’m more convinced that diet plays a significant role. There are many things in life we have absolutely no control over, but diet is something that we do. If changing my diet can help lower my risk for not just cancer, but other common diseases, such as heart disease, I know I am doing something right for my body.

So I had my motivation, but now I needed to start somewhere. I always thought I was healthy enough, as ate lots of fruits and vegetables to begin with, exercised and drank lots of water, but it wasn't until I started to cut things out of my diet, that I realized how unhealthy I actually was. And how terribly I was actually feeling. Nick and I both decided to do this together and we started cutting out soda, milk, fast food, a lot of meat and candy. Did we and do we have days where we cheat? Yes, I am the first person to admit we are not perfect, and this change is still a work in progress for both of us. But the progress we have both made so far is pretty amazing.

Since changing my diet, I have lost a solid 15 pounds and kept it off. Being that I am 5’7”, losing 15 pounds is not that noticeable when you look at me, but I am able to feel the difference. I have also struggled with running in the past and I now find running easier. I have more energy, throughout the day and during my workouts, and I just feel better. I don’t stress out about needing to make sure I burn enough calories when I work out because I know the majority of what I put in my body now is good for me. All the things that Anthony told us would start happening were happening.  

I also noticed that things I used to enjoy eating, I could no longer eat without getting a stomachache or headache. For example, one of my favorite candies used to be Swedish Fish. One afternoon a co-worker and I decided to splurge and get a mini bag of them from the vending machine downstairs. To my surprise, they tasted nothing like they used to and I found I couldn't finish them. Yep, I had a full-blown stomachache halfway through my bag. I felt like I was eating plastic and the sad part of this experience was, I bought them to “treat” myself. I was actually in awe at the whole experience and this only furthered my motivate not give up and to work harder to live a healthier lifestyle.



While I still have a significant amount of work to do, I am proud at how far I have come so far from where I was six months ago. I am also very thankful to have a friend like Anthony who cares enough about us to help us get on the right path and teach us all we need to know about being healthier, while never being judgmental or dogmatic. I look back now and I can’t imagine living my life with the same everyday eating habits I once had. I hope that in another six months, I can look back at this very moment and see that I have made even more progress.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

TMAO: A Toxic Substance Formed When You Eat Meat Can Make You … Dead Meat

Guest Post by: Robert Ostfeld, M.D., M.Sc. 

We can add another reason to the list of why we should not eat meat. If the saturated fat and cholesterol in meat were not enough, there is a newly identified toxic kid on the block: trimethylamineoxide (TMAO).1,2

When we eat red meat, its carnitine interacts with our gut bacteria, forming trimethylamine, which is then metabolized by the liver into TMAO. And it appears that TMAO is not our friend.1,2

TMAO promotes the formation of cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels, which make them less healthy and may lead to heart attack, stroke, and death. TMAO reduces our body’s ability to excrete cholesterol.1,2 And, if that is not bad enough, TMAO may be linked to death from prostate cancer.3

The good news is that people who eat an exclusively plant-based diet appear to form little TMAO. In fact, when researchers fed steak to a vegan, virtually no TMAO was made. Why is that? Vegans, it seems, do not select for the specific gut bacteria that lead to the formation of TMAO, whereas meat eaters do. Hence, it’s as if plants create a coat of armor in our stomachs, protecting us when they are not even there.

So if we’re protected by plants, is it okay for us to eat steak for just a few days? Are we protected from TMAO? It appears that we may not be. The trillions of bacteria in our gut change very quickly. In fact, they may meaningfully shift even within one to two days!4 So aside from the many other deleterious effects of meat, even one day of steak could cut a chink in the natural armor afforded us by eating plants.

Notably, red meat is not the only source of TMAO. Choline, which is found in chicken, fish, dairy ― and even plants ― is another. Choline is structurally similar to the carnitine in red meat, and with the help of the same gut bacteria, also forms TMAO. Accordingly, when investigators fed omnivores an egg, they made TMAO.1

Although we have no dietary need for carnitine, we do require dietary choline. So how can we get the choline we require without the unwanted company of toxic TMAO? The answer appears to be in the armor. Eating a plant-based diet selects for gut bacteria that do not lead to the formation of TMAO.2 So even though we are eating choline in plants, our stomach’s plant-derived protection is in place, practically freeing us from concern about TMAO.

Science’s understanding of the interaction of our diet and gut bacteria and their influence on our health is at an early stage. However, evidence is mounting that a plant-based diet may be beneficial for this interaction in many ways. Yet another reason to go (or stay) plant based!

Robert Ostfeld, M.D., M.Sc.



As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.