Exhausted? Eat this to get your energy back.

I was completely shocked when I read that America’s top weight loss coach, best-selling author and nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health – Dr. Jonny Bowden said that sardines are “health food in a can.” I was even more shocked to learn that sardines can not only help with overwhelming fatigue, but they can improve my mood, memory and metabolism. 

Sardines are full of healthy omega-3 fats. While we typically think of fat as “bad,” Omega-3 fats are definitely the exception. Why? Consider that a mere ½ gram of omega-3 fats a day can significantly decrease cardiovascular risk. Omega-3s can also reduce the risk of stroke and reduce the symptoms of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3s have even been linked to protection against Alzheimer’s

We’ve all heard that we should eat more salmon to increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acid, but sardines are an equally good choice. Sardines are also convenient, since they can be eaten straight from the can, no preparation needed.

Speaking of the can, make sure that you get sardines packed in their own oil or olive oil, but do not buy the kind packed in vegetable oil. The vegetable oil simply loads them up with omega-6 fats, which are not good for you at all.

 Omega-3 fats aren’t all you will get from those little fish. Sardines are also loaded with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. One can of sardines also provides over 150 percent of your Daily Value of vitamin B12. Sardines are also a great choice for pregnant women because they are low in mercury, unlike tuna. 

I headed to Trader Joes to pick up my dreaded can of sardines. I trust Trader Joes and figured if I had to try those little suckers, I’ll buy it from my go-to health food store. 

I have a confession though – I let that little can of sardines sit in my pantry for three full months before I built up the courage to try them. I was dreading the day I would have to try them. I even considered blogging about the health benefits without trying them, but quickly snapped back to my senses. My commitment to you is that I will try every one of the top 150 foods on earth, even as horrible as they may sound. I survived bee pollen. I actually enjoyed kale. I could survive sardines. 

I found a sardine recipe in the December 2010 edition of Whole Living magazine and decided that it was time….

The article stated that this dish, Spinach Pesto with Sardines, was essential to try if you are “feeling fatigued and spreading yourself too thin.” Bingo! I was definitely feeling run down, tired and overwhelmed – maybe this would help. 

I prepared the recipe (below) and gingerly placed two sardines on top of the pesto covered Naan bread. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to look at those little fish bodies and I bravely took a bite. The spinach pesto was delicious and the sardines were innocuous. Their flavor was milder than tuna and the texture was firm, neither crunchy nor mushy. If I could just get over their appearance, I’d be willing to add these babies to my regular rotation, but I have a difficult time ignoring their headless shining bodies. 

Give this recipe for Sardine topped Spinach Pesto a try and let me know what you think. The recipe suggested serving on rustic bread, but I found the Indian Naan bread at Trader Joes to be absolutely delicious! 

Spinach Pesto with Sardines 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. baby spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 can sardines
  • 1 package Trader Joes Naan Bread

Instructions

Sautee spinach with garlic and red pepper flakes until wilted. Transfer to food processor and add pine nuts and Parmesan. Pulse until finely ground. With the machine running, add the olive oil and season with salt. Meanwhile, toast the Naan bread. Spread the Naan bread with the spinach pesto and top with two sardines.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly About Raisins

I ran a half-marathon last weekend in preparation for my full Disney Marathon in January. As my reward, I baked a homemade loaf of raisin bread. The bread was delicious, but it was a little too good. I fell into the trap that I was warned about, but swore I would never do: I justified my eating three-quarters the entire loaf because I ran 13.1 miles.

Fact: I burned 1,548 calories while running the half marathon (according to my Garmin.)

Fact: I ate approximately 1,800 calories in ¾ of a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.

I completely negated my run by eating that cinnamon raisin bread. There are a couple of lessons here:

  1. Know your trigger foods and don’t have them in the house
  2. We often overestimate the calories we burn through exercise and underestimate the calories in the foods we eat.
  3. Don’t justify eating whatever you want because you exercised.
  4. Don’t bake a fresh loaf of cinnamon raisin bread when you are hungry.

First of all, while raisins did make the top 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth list, the news about raisins isn’t all good. I’m going to break down the good, the bad and the ugly on raisins.

The Good

Raisins are high in phenols, which have high antioxidant activity and can prevent damage to the cells in the body from free radicals. Raisins are also high in boron, .which can promote bone and joint health. Also, I hope you read my recent article about Five Ways to Combat Alzheimer’s and I’m excited to read about yet another discovery in Alzheimer’s prevention: myricetin, found in raisins, has been found to inhibit beta-amyloid fibril formation, which is a key problem in Alzheimers disease. So now you have six ways you can prevent Alzheimer’s through lifestyle changes – add raisins to your diet!

The Bad

When I was researching the health benefits of raisins, I came across an article that touted one of the “benefits” was gaining weight because “raisins, like all dried fruit, are very good for gaining weight, as they are full of fructose and glucose and give a lot of energy.” OK, that is wonderful if you are one of the very few naturally thin people on this earth, but personally, I don’t need a food that will “help me gain weight.” I have enough “weight gain” tricks up my sleeve, it is the weight loss that I need help with.

 

However, my dietician did recommend that I bring raisins with me on my long runs instead of the GU or energy gels. Maybe I’ll do that on Saturday when I run 23 miles.

The Ugly

Raisins are concentrated grapes, so they have the highest pesticide residue of any fruit – not good. For that reason, try to buy organic raisins, even if they cost a little bit more.

 

I made the cinnamon raisin bread from a recipe in the The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. If you love bread, you must have this book. This is absolutely the best loaf of bread I’ve ever had in my life and I’m not an experienced bread baker.

I’m not going to lie, it is VERY time consuming, but it is worth it. Do you like raisins? Did you know that they had the highest pesticide rating of any fruit? I’d love to hear from you!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Sponge

  • 2 ¼ cup plus 2 ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cup water, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast

Flour mixture

  • 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup dry milk
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon salt

 

Spiral Filling

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. Make the sponge by whisking flour, water, honey and instant yeast in a large bowl for 2 minutes. Set it aside and cover it with plastic wrap.

2. Make the flour mixture by mixing the flour (reserve ¼ cup if mixing by hand), dry milk and instant yeast in a separate bowl. Gently place the flour mixture on top of the sponge, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment 1 to 4 hours. The yeast mixture will bubble up through the flour mixture, don’t worry, that is supposed to happen.

3. Add the salt and cut up butter to the mixture. I mixed this all up in my KitchenAid mixture and blended until it all came together, about 10 minutes.

4. Cover it with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

5.  Knead the dough for another 5 minutes until it’s very smooth. Add some additional flour if the dough is sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to relax for 10 minutes.

6. Add the raisins and mix on low speed or about 2 minutes to incorporate them.

7. Place the dough in a lightly greased 4-quart bowl and turn the dough over once to completely coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 ½ hours to 2 hours.

8. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and the cinnamon. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl.

9. Scrape the dough out on a floured surface and divide it in two equal pieces. Cover one piece of dough with plastic wrap and work with the other. Roll out on piece of dough to a rectangle 7 ½ inches wide by 14 inches long and about ¼ inch thick. Gently dimple the dough all over with your fingers to deflate air bubbles. Brush the dough with the beaten egg, leaving a 3/4 –inch margin on the edges. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar evenly on the dough. Start rolling the dough together, squeezing it gently along the length of the roll. Close the ends up and pinch the seams together. Place the roll in an oiled 8 ½-by 4 ½-inch loaf pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and repeat for the second loaf. Allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours.

10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees 45 min before baking. Place a baking sheet in the oven while it is pre-heating so you can place the loaf pan directly on the heated pan after 45 minutes.
11. Set the loaf pans on the baking sheet and shut the door immediately. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.

12. Once the breads are done, remove them from the oven and unmold them. Set on a wire rack and let cool completely.

 

Top Five Things You Can Do Today to Combat Alzheimer’s

Last week my grandfather, Rev. Joe Brown, lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. I also have another very close family member who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Having several family members with this disease has definitely ignited a spark in me to understand more about Alzheimer’s.

Over five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and it affects over 10 million women as the primary caregivers, advocates and caregivers, according to studies conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s is currently the 7th leading cause of death and mortality rates will continue to rise as the baby boomer generation ages.  Alzheimer’s is particularly challenging because it is a progressive disease, in which the symptoms gradually worsen over time and there is currently no cure. Research has come to light in recently that show treatments that can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve the quality of life for both those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Unfortunately there is not a clear-cut prevention strategy for Alzheimer’s, but recent studies do show certain foods, diet and lifestyle that can be therapeutic for treating Alzheimer’s and contribute to prevention. Here are the top five things you can do to help prevent and even treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s:

1.       Eat a Mediterranean diet

A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Volume 20, Number 3 / 2010) found that people who regularly consumed a Mediterranean diet were 38 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. A Mediterranean diet is rich in nuts, healthy fats (from salad dressings, avocados), tomatoes, fish, cruciferous vegetables, dark and leafy vegetables and fruits. A Mediterranean diet is also known for being low in red meat, organ meat, butter and high-fat dairy.

2.       Quit smoking

A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that smoking is directly linked to dramatic increase in dementia in later years. The study found that those who reported smoking two packs of cigarettes a day had a 100% greater risk of dementia diagnosis than non-smokers.

3.  Eat celery and green pepper

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at the effects of luteolin on the brains of mice, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Luteolin, which is found in celery and green pepper, was found to reduce brain inflammation caused by Alzheimer’s and can ease symptoms of memory loss.

4.       Drink coffee

The European Journal of Neurology found that those with an increased caffeine intake had a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who with little or no intake of caffeine. Another study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that caffeine significantly decreased abnormal levels of protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease and 50 percent reduction in levels of beta amyloid, a substance forming sticky clumps of plaques in the brain of those with Alzheimer’s. This means that not only have these studies found that caffeine can be a critical in preventing Alzheimer’s, but it can actually be a therapeutic treatment for those already diagnosed with the disease. This is a huge development! This is also a great excuse to continue your daily latte habit.

5.       Exercise

Several studies have shown the benefits of exercise in persons with Alzheimer’s. The Journal of the American Medical Associate published a study that found that exercise training for patients with Alzheimer disease not only improved physical conditioning and extended their independent mobility, but it also helped improve depression. Independent mobility is important as we age, especially for those with Alzheimer’s, because one symptom of Alzheimer’s that is often not discussed is the lack of balance, falls and tripping. This leads to injury and the need for constant supervision in Alzheimer’s patients. By incorporating 60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week, and “active” days of rest, one can greatly improve their mobility as they age.

While there is not a “cure” for Alzheimer’s today, that does not stop researcher’s from working hard to find new ways to prevent, treat and cure the disease. I am passionate about contributing to finding a solution to this rapidly growing diagnosis. I am walking in the Memory Walk in Charlotte, NC on Saturday, November 13 to help raise money to fight against this devastating disease. Visit Memory Walk 2010 to find a Memory Walk in your area. You can also find out more information about Alzheimer’s disease and prevention at Alzheimer’s Association.

Do you know anyone affected by Alzheimer’s? Have you read about any therapeutic measures those with Alzheimer’s can do to lessen the worsening of symptoms?

Day 66: Ten Reasons to Get Your Apple a Day

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” How many times have you heard that little rhyme? I guess the cliché is so popular because it’s true. I could write a new blog post everyday with the health benefits of apples, but if I had to boil it down to the top ten headlines, it would look like this: 

1. Apples protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons

Two new studies from Cornell University found that apples protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons. The study showed that the chemical quercetin, a flavanoid that has also been shoed to prevent the growth of prostate cancer cells, protected rat brain cells when approached with oxidative stress in laboratory tests.

2. Apples reduce your risk of asthma and improve your pulmonary health 

A recent study in Australia found that apple and pear intake was associated with a decreased risk of asthma and decrease in bronchial hypersensitivity. 

3. Smoke? Better eat your apples

In a case control study in Hawaii, it was found that there was a 40-50% decreased risk in lung cancer participants with the highest intake of apples, onions and white grapefruit. Check out An Apple a Day Keeps the Lung Cancer Away blog post for more info.

4. Decrease your heart attack risk by eating more apples 

The Women’s Health Study found that women ingesting apples had a 13-22% decrease in cardiovascular disease risk.

5. Eat apples to reduce your risk of Type II diabetes 

A Finnish study of 10,000 people found a reduced risk of Type II diabetes associated with apple consumption. This is attributed to the quercetin, which is a major component of apple peels.

6. Don’t peel that apple!

Apples, and especially apple peels, have been found to have potent antioxidant activity. In fact, apples have second highest level of antioxidant activity than any other fruit. These antioxidants can greatly inhibit the growth of livery cancer and colon cancer cells. Another study, at Cornell University showed that phytochemicals in the skin of an apple inhibited the reproduction of colon cancer cells by 43%!

7. Apples have the highest portion of free phenolics

What is free phenolic and why is this important? A phenolic is a huge class of biochemically active substances most of which belong to the flavanoid group. “Free Phenolic” means that these compounds are not bound to other compounds in the fruits and the phenolics are more available to absorb into the bloodstream. All you need to know is this, they are really, really, really good for you! 

8. Eat Apples. Lose Weight 

Researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro found that women who ate apples lost more weight on a low-calorie diet than women who didn’t eat fruit. And get this, one apple has more fiber than an entire bowl of bran cereal! With only 80 calories and 5 grams of belly-filling fiber, an apple is a dieter’s best friend. Check out this blog post about The New Apple Diet, which talks about a study that demonstrated that people who eat an apple 15 minutes before lunch consumed almost 190 fewer calories then when they didn’t have the apple! 

9. Kick arthritis and osteoporosis with apples

Apples are one of the best dietary sources of boron, which is a bone-building mineral. The Journal of Applied Nutrition recently published a study that demonstrated a high probability that there is a connection between not having enough boron in your system and having symptoms of arthritis.   

10. Apples can reduce breast cancer risk

Cornell researchers found that apple consumption can reduce breast cancer tumors. In their study with a group of rats with a known mammary carcinogen they found that the number of tumors was reduced by 25, 25 and 61 percent in rats fed, respectively, the equivalent of one, three or six apples a day. 

Check out All About Apples for more information on the health benefits of apples. 

Nothing says fall like a fresh, crisp apple, so after conducting research on the benefits of apples, I was excited to go pick my own apples from the local apple orchard. I visited Windy Hill Apple Orchard in York, SC. You can visit www.pickyourown.org to find local pick your own apple orchards in your area. 

Come back and visit my blog tomorrow for the Top 5 Ways to Get Your Apple a Day blog post, which will be filled with five great apple recipes and more information about my experience at the apple orchard and picking our own apples. In the meantime, check out my recipe for awesome apple museli: 

Apple Museli

Ingredients

  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp almonds
  • 2 tsp honey

Instructions

Combined oats and milk in a small bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in apple, almonds and honey.

Do you like apples? How do you enjoy eating them? Please share!