Friday, July 24, 2009

Five Surprising Things That Can Boost Your Health

I came across this information in a magazine today and that it was worthy of sharing. Definitely a couple of surprises here, for me...

What boosts your health?

1. Walking down the aisle.
A UCLA study found that married people live longer than those who stay single. Why? Married people, according to the study, are less socially isolated, they exercise more and they drink less (not so sure about that last point but I'll buy the first two!).

2. Having a furry friend (or two).
A study in Ireland has shown that owning a dog is associated with lower stress levels and fewer serious illnesses. Even if the dog sheds like crazy and you have to vacuum daily (I guess that counts as cardio!).

3. Being a social butterfly.
Australian researchers found that people with a strong social network lived an average of 22% longer than those without one. Cherish your friends! I certainly love mine.

4. Putting your money where your mouth is.
Studies have linked gum disease with heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The simple solution: floss EVERY DAY and see your dentist twice a year for cleanings. I started flossing regularly about five years ago and am religious about it now.

5. Surfing the web.
Researchers from UCLA found that searching the Internet stimulates and preserves key areas of brain activity, helping you stay sharp even as you age. Sweet! My Facebook addiction isn't quite so bad!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Final Nail(s) In Soy's Coffin

This is my third, and final post about soy. I'm done with it and I think you should be too.

This month, Bon Appetit arrived with a full spread on the downsides of soy. When a publication as worldly as Bon Appetiti strays from its foodie slant to devote a large chunk of its culinary pages to a health cause, I have to take notice.

The article basically reiterated a lot of information that I already know and brought to light a few new facts, as well. We all know that the soy bean has pretty much found its way into everything from peanut butter to canned tuna. We hear of its high protein content and its nearly existent cholesterol and we convince ourselves that it must be a spectacularly healthy choice. Well, we've been duped. And I'm here to tell you today that the jig is up.

Recent research has shown that soy may contain dangerous levels of isoflavones, natural chemicals that are similar to human estrogen. Isoflavones can affect fertility in men and may increase the risk of breast cancer for women. In fact, the Israeli Ministry of Health issued a warning in 2005, suggesting that adults moderate soy intake and that infants not take in soy at all. Oops, sorry about that Ben. If your fertility is affected later in life, you can blame me!

And it's not just Israel taking action. Health officials in France and Great Britain are concerned too. One British author underscored the research done in Israel by saying, "They (Israel) had a committee of more than a dozen distinguished nutritionists, researchers, pediatricians, and toxicologists who looked at the body of evidence and concluded there was risk."

In 1999, the FDA in our own country began allowing companies to claim that foods with soy protein "may reduce the risk of heart disease." Several studies later, the American Heart Association stepped in and clarified: The amount of soy protein consumed to reap the benefit would have to be the equivalent of 1.5 pounds of tofu or half a gallon of soy milk a day. As a result, in 2008, the American Heart Association recommended that the FDA rescind the health claim.

Let's say that, you're like me, and you really don't want to give up your Starbucks Vanilla Soy Latte. Fair enough. Here are the "hard and fast" guidelines for soy:

  • If you're a woman who has been diagnosed with or has a family history of breast cancer, it's probably safest to avoid soy.
  • Men hoping to father children should probably limit the amount of soy they eat.
  • Parents are urged to follow the Israeli suggestions in serving soy to infants, toddlers and small children: try to limit soy unless there is a known allergy to dairy products.
There is breast cancer in my own family, a little too much for me to safely feel good about taking in much soy. That being said, I do occasionally enjoy a couple of tablespoons of Silk Creamer in my coffee. I find it to be a "cleaner" coffee sweetener than many others. I still love a good tofu stirfry or a bowl of edamame, dusted with sea salt. Like everything else, moderation is key.

We've replaced the soy milk in our home with organic cow's milk and vanilla almond milk. I'm pretty smitten with almond milk right now. It is widely available (Trader Joe's has the best value) and it's actually lower in calories compared to its soy counterpart. I've replaced my morning soy protein with whey protein powder and Ben's back on organic yogurt.

And yes, sometimes I'll splurge and have a soy milk latte at Starbucks. (But I have to draw the line at artificially flavored Frappuccinos!)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Recipe: Light Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I think it's safe to say that the Chocolate Zucchini Bread was a hit among yogis, friends, clients and children. I doubled the following recipe, which yielded four large loaves:

2 1/2 cups flour (I used Trader Joe's white whole wheat)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil (I use Smart Balance)
3 large egg whites
1 egg
1/4 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
Chocolate chips (as many as your diet or your blood sugar level will allow!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coast two loaf pans with nonstick spray. Using an electric mixer, mix the sugar, eggs, oil, yogurt and vanilla together. Stir in zucchini. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter between the two pans and bake for 50 minutes. Cool loaves on wire racks for 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.