What To Do Without Your Gall Bladder

If you [or someone you know] happen to be one of the 500, 000 lucky Americans who have gotten a gall bladder removed in the last 12 months, this article is for you.

Also,

If you have had pain that has persisted in any of the below marked regions, you may want to consult with your physician about the status of your gall bladder.

gallbladder-pain-relief

 

First things first, the gall bladder [pictured below] is not a vestigial organ [i.e. a body part we no longer need based on evolution. Examples of vestigial body parts would be the coccyx or “tail bone” and the appendix]

 

gall-bladder                       apex_vestigial

 

Much like the kidneys, while the gall bladder is removable, it still serves a valuable function [helping the body process fats] and lifestyle choices post removal should be considered.

Again, I want to stress, lifestyle change, this is not prep for a colonoscopy [as in changes limited to 12 hrs before procedure].

Your gall bladder is not coming back, so these doctor-recommended diet modifications are meant to be incorporated largely as lifestyle changes. The great thing is that these changes are some of the exact same changes that are linked to decrease chances of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and obesity. So good bye gall bladder – HELLO new lease on LIFE!!!

 

First things first,

Just for background, the reason doctors recommend six small meals post-surgery is because the gall bladder secretes bile which helps digest fats. But it’s not just the kind of fat that’s eaten. It is also the amount of fat eaten at one time that factors into the equation. Smaller amounts of fat are easier to digest. On the other hand, large amounts can remain undigested and cause gas, bloating and diarrhea [and could be the source of those indigestion issues that began a while back….]

 

[NOTE: IN REGARDS TO THE LIST BELOW,  keep in mind these are going to be “good” for you specifically with the gallbladder condition; there are some that will be on the bad list that are only “bad” because of the gall bladder issue [like peanut butter. Peanuts are not a “bad” fat but in the form of peanut butter it is a hard to digest kind of fat…]

Good Fats

Good = easily digested and helps raise HDL [good cholesterol] and lower Triglycerides [blood fats, which are high when the gall bladder is not working]

  • Fish oil [either from supplements or from salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines]
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Flaxseeds/flaxseed oil/flaxseed meal [omega-3’s]
  • Raw nuts [not in butter form] i.e. brazil nuts, walnuts almonds, cashews, hazelnuts [no more than ¼ cup at a time]
  • Avocados – If you are allergic to bananas or rubber – DO NOT eat avocados they are in the same food family
  • Hummus
  • Dark chocolate [1 oz]

Bad Fats

Bad = hard to digest and lowers HDL [good cholesterol] and raises Triglycerides [blood fats, which are already high when the gall bladder is not working]

  • Trans fats [think: anything fried that you did NOT make yourself]
  • Mayonnaise
  • Milk chocolate
  • Most creamy sauces [think: alfredo sauce, hollandaise sauce, thicker dressings]
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Nut butters
  • Animal fats [think: any meat that will be greasy when cooked]
  • Full fat dairy products [milk, yogurts, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, cheese of any kind] ** most people report a lot of trouble digesting dairy in general after gall bladder removal, so take it lightly in the dairy department even if it is fat-free or low-fat

Other Suggestions

  • Caffeine and alcohol will likely aggravate your system. Allow about 2 weeks healing before having any alcohol or caffeine – this includes diet sodas and any drinks with artificial sweeteners

Once you restart alcohol in to your diet [which, HELLO, is a must for 90% of us] start slow and opt for clear liquor like vodka or tequila or red wine. Tread lightly with beer and see how it goes. If you notice discomfort re-assess. Otherwise re-add slowly

  • Increasing Fiber is huge. Fiber can come from grains, fruit, or vegetables

o   Opt for grains that have protein built- in

  • Brown Rice
  • Bran
  • Whole wheat
  • Oatmeal
  • Barley
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Quinoa [a grain sold in bulk or boxed at most grocery stores. Cooked just like rice with water except with x4 the amount of protein!]

o   Increasing fruits and vegetable intake is huge

  • Nice thing is they are easy snack foods and pair well with a handful or two of nuts for a small meal – REMEMBER – at 6 small meals a day a meal is now only 300 calories. ¼ cup of nuts will have anywhere from 160 to 200 calories – add a cup of fruit of your choice or some veggies drizzled in olive oil and THAT IS A MEAL
  • Apples and prunes are particularly high in fiber and help raise HDL cholesterol
  • At least 60 oz of water daily – the added fiber from the fruits and veggies need water to move through your digestive tract – otherwise you may experience indigestion, gas, bloating, etc
  • Opt for fish and beans/quinoa as your #1 source of protein. Re-add lean red meat and poultry slowly after the first week and stop if you experience gastro-distress [i.e. gas, bloating, pain]
  • Also, low fat/ non-fat dairy is a GREAT source of protein and the calcium/Vit D is very much needed but proceed slowly in re-adding as not everyone can handle dairy right away. Try a bit and see how you feel. Greek Yogurt is the best. Just watch for sugars in the flavored kind. Aim to stay below 15 grams a serving.

 

Additional Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Drop me a line in the comments section or send confidential email to write.with.ms@gmail.com

Until next time, Stay Well.

Top 10 PHAT Myth Busters

Inspired by that amazingly, nerdy Discovery Channel show Myth Busters, I bring you the Top 10 PHAT Myth Busters.

Based on feedback i have gotten on my Twitter Feed @ Ms_Fit4Life here they are.

Make your voice with a quick poll at the bottom.

And if you have one to add, I would be happy to feature it. The more we expose the falsities, the more we can equip ourselves with the tools we need to meet our goals and Lighten Up !

mythb

  1. The majority of calories people say they “regret” eating are consumed between the hours of 11pm and 4am. Shockingly, alcohol is usually involved.
  2. The Diet Coke Doesn’t make the Big Mac okay
  3. Eating Low-Fat, calorie-free alternatives does NOT guarantee you will lose weight. It does however guarantee you’ll consume chemicals
  4. A skipped meal doesn’t “save” calories in the Bank-Up-For-Cake-Later way you intend; it wrecks metabolism and stores fat
  5. “Organic”, “Whole-grain”, “Raw” doesn’t mean eat as much as want. Excess “healthy” calories still contribute to weight gain
  6. Protein is best utilized by the body within 30 mins AFTER a workout. When consumed beforehand it can increase fatigue and cramping
  7. Allergen families could have you facing chronic inflammation and reduce your success at reach fitness goals. Get tested at your dermatologist and know what to looks for
  8. Looking to burn fat? Skip the over-priced gimmicky pills and go natural with citrus fruits; 90% of fat burning pills are compounds easily found in citrus fruits
  9. Food description impacts smell, taste, &cravings. Stop referring to that donut as “oozing sex appeal “& you’ll want it less
  10. Looking for an excuse for a few vices? New research shows dark chocolate and red wine work together to produce maximum benefits. Having both is better than just one.

 

A Day Like This

 

 

 

A few time a year, I ponder.

I ponder that the real tragedy of life is so often life itself

For it was a wise man who told me –

Dying isn’t hard,

But watching death, now that is truly excruciating…

How much of life we spend

On things that matter not

The TV shows, the glam, the fancy house and cars bought.

While all the while, we tell ourselves – and the passerby’s who ask with only their eyes

That it really is compassion, respect, and altruism that we prize.

Who are you kidding?

Why do we delude?

We are only robbing ourselves of the true gift

When we do

But we press on

Writing the false scripts

Playing all the parts

Act One, Scene One

Media fills in the rest

Suddenly

We’re done.

It’s hard to imagine

You are among this crowd

Oh the ease with which it can fall on deaf ears

So constant

So loud

A few time a year, I ponder.

I ponder that the real tragedy of life is so often life itself

Now is one of those times

Or didn’t you guess?

Yes, now is one of those times, where it all seems a mess

You see, in a few short hours

The clock will strike

Three years gone by since he was taken

So innocently, so sweet

A day our calendars might remind us to plant a tree –

Yes, a more perfect day there couldn’t be –

A day devoted to our Earth,

Now draped in Death, what was once marked for Birth.

On a day when we gather to celebrate anew –

This day, April twenty- two.

I quietly remember you

RIP Jack B Smith

There is a Time for Everything & a Season for Every Activity Under the Sun…

strawberry alarmOh the ongoing battle with all the literature out there sending conflicting messages about Timing of our food intake…
If we don’t eat breakfast, are we doomed?
If we eat less than 3 hrs before bed, are we destined for obesity?
What about working out – will you have insomnia if you work out within 2 hrs of going to bed? Will you crash before mid-morning if you wake up early to get your calisthenics in?
It seems like the infamous “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” conundrum but alas there is hope.
I’m going to share with you the short-hand science behind these various arguments to help you decide which lifestyle is best for you and your unique circumstance.

Most Important Meal – or Snooze Button Steal?

Breakfast. The word is actually a compound word made from “break” and “fast”; it is thus named because, theoretically, you should be sleeping 8 hrs a night and eating every 4 hrs or so during the day therefore making your sleeping hrs the longest period of time you go without food; an intentional period of time without food is often referred to as a “fast” so the first meal after you wake you are in essence “breaking” said fast.
Herein lies the science behind the claim that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day: When your body is at rest your metabolism is going at a slower rate than when you are awake and active. Food, or more importantly the calories in food, is the catalyst your body needs to rev up your metabolism. If you wait until lunchtime to eat your body has stayed in a low metabolic phase for upwards of 14 hrs and [depending on other factors like age and gender] it may go into Starvation Mode* – meaning an even slower metabolic rate because it is not sure when or if it is getting food. Once a body in Starvation Mode gets food, it does not necessarily kick that metabolism up a notch, more frequently, it grabs those calories and stores them for energy during the next starvation period [which we have now told our bodies is possible because it just had one].
The short-hand science, then, is that skipping Breakfast is a bad idea because over time it can cause very irregular metabolic rates for people and make it much more challenging to lose weight and keep it off.

Wake and Break [a sweat] ?

I am a big proponent of both breakfast and morning workouts and make the following recommendation to my clients: I mentioned above in the science behind Breakfast that the main tenant of the argument is revving up your metabolic rate.
Now, there is something else other than food that is capable of elevating metabolic rate and that is exercise – it doesn’t have to be running or other intense cardio [more power to you if you can go from Dreamland to Gym Rat in 10 mins but it is not necessary for improving efficiency of metabolism], it can be basically anything that gets your heart rate increased above resting rate for about 25 sustained mins. Instead of spending 25 mins hitting snooze, stalking people on Social Media, and calling your morning coffee “breakfast”, I propose that you wake up and use that 25 mins to do some yoga or pilates, go for a walk [take a small flashlight if its dark], do some jumping jacks and pushups, or even get the sweeping and vacuuming done [yes, household chores burn calories].
Once you have completed activity of choice, have a breakfast of about 300 or 400 calories. Make sure to include a Simple carb for immediate energy, a Complex carb for sustained energy, Fiber for fullness, and Protein for muscle repair. This sounds much more difficult than it is. For instance, a breakfast that meets all those components could be a quick smoothie with 1 cup skim milk/yogurt, some ice, and a fruit of your choice – bananas are great because they are a perfect combination of simple carb, complex carb, and fiber.
Not a smoothie or a fruit-in-the-morning fan? Not a problem. Have two eggs anyway you like them and get your simple and complex carb along with your fiber from a piece of whole wheat or gluten free toast with natural preserve or a half cup of oatmeal with 2 tsps honey or agave syrup [Stevia ® or the like if you are Diabetic.]
Eating within 30 mins of your workout will not only get metabolism revved up but will keep it elevated for up to 2 hrs afterwards as you have just given your body an additional task to now digest food and it must keep chugging along in order to do so.

Second Wind – or Zen Killer ?

Now, let’s address night time. I’ve long been a proponent of working out any time of day versus none at all – however, if you do struggle with extreme Insomnia, elevating heart rate within 60 mins of going to bed could be detrimental to helping your body achieve the relaxation it needs to fall asleep quickly.
However, for most everyone else, occasional Insomnia strugglers included, participating in exercise at any time of day wears your body out [think of the age-old tactic of taking the kids to the park and letting them run around so they sleep like babies at night – believe it or not, same tactic works for adults.
Bottom line, unless you struggle with chronic, relentless insomnia and have seriously examined all other potential contributing factors [i.e. medication dependence, consumption of nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, anxiety, extraneous stimuli from use of technological devices in bedroom] or you are doing an intense aerobics class then coming home and jumping right in bed and wondering why it takes your body a while to fall asleep, exercising in the evening time is not a threat to sleep and has more evidence behind it to support that it helps facilitate good sleep and even reduce anxiety by offering an outlet after you get off from work – i.e. sweating your day out – so that you can relax and allow your Body and Mind to refresh itself for a new day.

Night Cap – or Belt Buster?

As far as eating after dinner goes, this is a VERY complex situation that involves a series of X factors and needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case level where the individuals’ preference and goals are taken into consideration.
However, for the purpose of this article, I merely want to explore with you some of those factors and the short-hand science behind certain reasoning. The reason that many weight loss gurus argue against eating later at night is because, as mentioned in the Breakfast section, the body in resting mode has a slow metabolic rate and will not burn off access calories, but will instead store them, making it a challenge to lose weight. This is still true – however it doesn’t account for the fact that sleep is also the time when the body seeks to repair itself most extensively [i.e. cells breakdown and regenerate, muscle fibers and tissues connect and rewire all based on the day’s activities]. In order for efficient repair, the body needs an active energy supply [about 250 calories of sustainable energy] and this is most readily produced by having a snack before bed that is part Complex carb and part easily digestible Protein. Prime examples could include: an apple with a spoonful of peanut butter, veggies and hummus, or Greek yogurt with a handful of raw nuts.
Now, if your ultimate goal is to lose as much weight as fast as possible and you don’t care about preserving lean muscle [NEVER my recommendation, but I promised I would educate, not judge…] feel free to stop eating 5 or 6 hrs before bed but you are doing your body a disservice and raising the risk that you will eat mindlessly in the middle of the night. It is important to give your body what it needs to build the body you want.
A few more points of consideration on this topic:
Ideally you should eat every four hours – so, if you eat dinner and are up for 4+ hrs, then yes I do recommend to my clients that they have a snack like listed above.
If, however, you struggle with compulsive or overeating issues, and feel you could not limit yourself to 250 calories and it is easier to just go to bed, please contact myself or other mental health professional to talk through that emotional piece.
If you are in the habit of eating dinner late and usually go to bed within 2-3 hrs of dinner, make sure your dinner is appropriate based on your activity level during the day. For example, if you were mostly sedentary aim for a dinner around the 450 calorie mark and make sure the food is lower in carbs. Smart choices here can include a single starch such as a half cup of roast potatoes [skins cleaned and left on, olive or flaxseed oil and spices for flavoring] with a lean meat or fish, 2 cups of veggies, and a glass of red wine to assist in digestion. If you were moderately to very active, feel free to aim as high as 650 calories. I recommend the same meal components as listed for the 450 calories meal but perhaps give license for additional starch serving, extra condiments or sauces on the meat, or even a second glass of wine.
For those completely adverse to calorie counting, reach out to me and I can give you a few tricks of the trade to help figure out how many calories are in your current meals.

* While I understand we are not culturally prone to famines, it must be understood that biologically, our bodies have not caught up to this fact. Therefore Starvation Mode as far as our bodies understand it is a period of time, typically anything over 12 hrs where no calories [the energy molecules in food] are consumed.

Reward Yourself the Right Way

Reward Yourself the Right Way

What’s that saying? “The only things for certain in Life are Death and Taxes?”

Ugh. Not exactly a pep talk.

Who do I talk to about that…?

Well, regardless, let’s be honest…there is a third certainty in Life [some of us may like to tip our hats to Adam and Eve for this one]: Work.

I mean there’s that Monday through Friday work we do that we “sort” of get paid for – enough to prevent another serf uprising [although there are days…]

And then there’s the work that you don’t get paid to do – *cue the never ending Chore List complete with the items that you absolutely have to get accomplished [no, you cannot save that for little Timmy’s school project – the Science Fair is still a solid 5 months away]…

Let’s not forget the…um… how do you say, JOYS of marriage, parenthood and general interpersonal relationships. Those all require time, attention, and energy that you may or may not feel you have left after all that work we just mentioned.

With our reserves so spent – how could be possibly have enough energy left to devote to the willpower one must have to say, “No” to those two fine men in our lives, Ben and Jerry…?

Ice cream. Just one of the many “food rewards” media and culture has sensationalized as an item “you’ve earned.” Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with ice cream – did you look at that nutrition label [hopefully…] only like 150 cals! Hey! That’s not bad! Did you check the serving size though? A half cup. A half cup! I honest to god believe it takes more will power to only eat a half cup than to just not buy it altogether… Plus, might I add that the sugar rush you get from indulging in sweet food rewards [similar to the carb coma you get from starchy food rewards and the sluggish-I-want-to-nap-now effect from high fat food rewards] leaves you with LESS energy than before you “treated” yourself.

Cue Epic Fail.

You do work hard – and so does your body. You both deserve to be rewarded for said hard work.

Depending on your unique set of circumstances, there are some rewards that make more sense than others. Feel free to reach out to me and I would be happy to provide some recommendations for you!

In case you need a general yardstick… it’s very, very, difficult to go wrong with a nice warm bath [complete with lavender oil and Epsom salts to relax muscles that hopefully you have exercised today…], some candles for ambiance [whether you are solo or not…], and a nice red wine [complete with Resveratrol, known for its ability to block lipid accumulation in fat cells and activate the breakdown of already present fat cells – um YES PLEASE]. And, guys, don’t hate on the bath. Be comfortable in your masculinity to bathe in bubbles. It’s actually dead sexy.

HERB is the word, haven’t you heard?

As promised here is the article on Herbs – complement to the most recent one on Spices. I have enabled printing on my articles so feel free to highlight and print useful information to post up in your kitchen or take with you to the grocery store!

 

Basil leaves

basilo   Medicinal Indications – primarily, Basil has been used as a “carminative” herb meaning as a prevention agent for gas, bloating, and flatulence. More recently, Basil has been scientifically noted as having many essential oils present [such as Eugenol] that appear to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties making it useful in reducing the impact of the following conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Abnormal cell growth [cancer]
  • Bronchitis
  • Fevers
  • Mosquito, spider, and scorpion bite irritations

o   Buying Tips

  • Five words – BUY FRESH AND USE OFTEN
  • Basil should be a bright to medium dark green color and there should not be any visible bruising on the leaves or stem. Do not buy chopped basil as it oxidizes quickly and has little to no nutritional value

o   Cooking Tips

  • Wait to cut or chop basil until you are ready to use
  • Add to stir fry, rice, or noodle dishes as a late ingredient letting it wilt slightly once other ingredients are cooked

o   Storage Tips

  • Basil has a VERY high water content [typical for most herbs as they are plant-based] so basil cannot be dried out like some other herbs can without reducing integrity
  • Basil – fresh or store bought – should be placed stems down in a small vase near sunlight [such as on a counter top near kitchen window] and not manipulated until ready to use
  • Basil freezes very well
  • You will know Basil has gone bad if it turns black and loses its aroma

Cayenne/ Red Chili

cayenne

o   Medicinal Indications – most notable is the powerful compound Capsaicin known to aide in weight loss efforts by supporting metabolism. Just one gram added to food can curb appetite and reduce calorie consumption even several hours later. Cayenne/Red Chili has been scientifically noted as having positive effect on reducing the impact of the following conditions:

  • Digestive ailments
  • Peristaltic wave ailments [i.e. Constipation or unbalanced stomach acids]
  • Poor nutritional absorption
  • Poor circulation
  • Sinus problems or frequent infection
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Neuropathy [chronic pain caused from nerve inflammation]

o   Buying Tips     

  • Cayenne/Red Chili is one of the most common plants that people grow in their home gardens. They are very resilient to weather and do well in lots of sunlight. Whether you are growing them yourself, purchasing from a Farmers Market, or picking up at a grocery store, the following facts should be kept in mind
    • If you are planning to crush up the peppers and use, make sure they are of the dried, fire engine red color
    • If you are planning to slice whole or store in oil to infuse it, the green kind are more suitable
    • Whether red or green, opt for chilies without visible bruising. Dirt is fine, just wash it off with a bit of fresh water and salt [the added abrasiveness of the salt helps get smaller dirt particles]
    • Keep in mind that not every pepper is going to have the same “spice” factor. Each one, like a snowflake, will be slightly different. The scent of the pepper is a good indicator of how hot it is going to be. If it smells hot – IT IS. If you think it will be weird to sniff produce at the grocery store, feel free to play Russian Roulette and get a hodge- podge. Or, simply print out this article, bring it with you, and tell the onlookers that Miss Fit made you do it J
    • Be careful not to handle the peppers too much unless you are wearing gloves. The oil from the chilis is on its skin and if you handle them and then touch your face you will feel burning. Feel free to test this theory – you have been warned …

o   Ps If you are wondering how to both smell each one AND not touch too many… I recommend utilizing one of the produce bags. Pick up using the bag as a barrier between your hand and the pepper. Just don’t stick the pepper up your nose to smell it. I don’t have any recommendations for avoiding that other than not doing it.

o   Cooking Tips

  • Before cooking, wash off the peppers [as noted above]. If you plan to dry them, place them on a wire rack after washing and allow to dry out in sunlight for approx. a week then crush in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
  • Add sliced or ground to salsas, chilis, and stews
  • Use ground along with salt and pepper for a meat or fish rub before cooking or grilling
  • Add sliced or ground to greens, collards, turnips, cabbage, and rice dishes

o   Storage Tips

  • Cayenne/Red Chili, whether whole or ground, should be kept in cool, dark spots in tightly sealed containers away from light and heat sources.
  • Whole peppers can be stored in mason jars with oil of your choice [i.e. Olive, Flax, Grapeseed, Sunflower, Truffle] to infuse it and use the combination oil in dressings, marinades, etc

Cloves

cloves

o   Medicinal Indications – primarily used as an expectorant: an agent used to break up phlegm in the lungs and respiratory tract. Cloves, whether in the form of oil, crushed buds, leaves or stems, have been scientifically noted as having positive effect on reducing the impact of the following conditions:

  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal gas
  • Vomiting
  • Bad breath
  • Poor bone density
  • Poor skin integrity [i.e. sagging skin from low collagen, rash, or UV ray damage]
  • Manganese deficiency [just 2 tsp of clove contains 126 % of your daily value [DV] of recommended manganese. Manganese is a trace mineral stored in the bones, kidneys, and liver that facilitates cell regrowth]

o   Buying Tips

  • Cloves are essentially the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree pictured here   The clove buds are picked when they are pink and dried until they are brown.
    • Opt for the dried clove as it is easier to grind and therefore easier to cook with.
    • However, if you are purchasing clove oil it should be of the golden yellow color and should be diluted with either water or another therapeutic oil as straight clove oil has been known to cause irritation to sensitive skinned people.
  • You can buy cloves in the form of Kreteks – or Clove Cigarettes, but that may not be the best way to get its nutritious properties…

o   Cooking Tips

  • Cloves are more commonly added to baked goodies such as gingerbreads and pumpkin pies BUT they add an incredible aroma and zing to soups and chilis – particularly soups with a bean or lentil base. Here is a great example of gluten-free, dairy free, vegan lentil base soup – just a few teaspoons of cloves to taste http://allrecipes.com/recipe/lentil-soup/

o   Storage Tips

  • Store in tight container by itself away from heat and light; preferably a dark, cool place

Dill Weed

Dill-Weed

o   Medicinal Indications – like Basil, Dill Weed is a “carminative” by nature and works to ease stomach ailments. It is also very high in chlorophyll so works great to combat bad breath.  Dill Weed has been scientifically noted as having positive effect on reducing the impact of the following conditions:

  • Bacterial infections [known as a “bacteriostatic” agent meaning that Dill acts to reduce the replication of bacteria inside the body]
  • Carcinogenic conditions [ Dill has antioxidant properties that can help prevent cell oxidation from common carcinogens such as cigarette smoke, charcoal grill smoke, trash incinerator smoke – thus possibly reducing your chances of getting cancer]
  • Arthritis and low bone density [Dill has respectively high levels of calcium, magnesium, and iron to preserve bone integrity]

o   Buying Tips

  • Fresh Dill Weed can be found in the Summer and early Fall seasons but ground Dill Weed is available year round. Opt for fresh whenever possible as it will have a more potent nutrition base
    • Seed

o   Should be light brown in color and oval in shape

o   Will have a sweet, citrusy, ever-so slightly bitter aroma

  • Leaves

o   Should appear fern-like and feathery with a bright green color and soft, sweet taste

Note* Dill leaves are common staples in Scandinavian and Germanic dishes

Note* there is only two [2] calories in a half cup of dill weed leaves – HELLO! YES PLEASE.

 

o   Cooking Tips – Dill adds a “citrusy -tangy” zest to dishes; try these on for size:

      • Combine dill weed with plain yogurt and chopped cucumber for a delicious cooling dip
      • Use dill when cooking fish, especially salmon and trout, as the flavors complement one another very well
      • Use dill weed as a garnish for sandwiches
      • Since dill seeds were traditionally used to soothe the stomach after meals, place some seeds in a small dish and place it on the dinner table for all to enjoy
      • Add dill to your favorite egg salad recipe
      • Mix together chopped potatoes, green beans, and plain yogurt, then season with both dill seeds and chopped dill weed

o   Storage Tips

  • Seeds
    • Store in tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 6 months
  • Leaves – very fragile so storage tips are super important! Here are several options:
    • Freeze leaves in ice cube tray covered in water or vegetable broth/stock and pop out for single serve use in soups and stew
    • Wrap in a damp paper towel and keep in fridge for a few days
    • Freeze chopped or whole in an air-tight container
    • Similarly to Basil [see above] you can store dill weed by placing the stems in a small vase with water but keep AWAY from light
    • Note * if the leaves appear to get droopy a few days later they are NOT really compromised nutritionally, only aesthetically and possible aromatically. But still a good rule of thumb is to follow storage tips to avoid the drooping if possible

Garlic

Garlic

o   Medicinal Indications – Garlic has been used for therapeutic and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It belongs to a group called Allium Vegetable because it contains an amino acid known as Alliin. When garlic is crushed, the alliin becomes allicin. Allicin has been scientifically noted as having positive effect on reducing the impact of the following conditions:

  • Cancers of the prostate, lung, and brain [according to the Journal of Cancer Prevention Research]
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bacterial infections
  • Heart problems – improvements specifically linked to the diallyl trisulfide compound in allicin
    • High cholesterol [aka hyperlipidemia]
    • High blood pressure [aka hypertension]
    • Cardiomyopathy [**Leading cause of death in Diabetic folks**]
    • Coronary heart disease

Note * other Allium vegetables with similar benefits are Onions, Chives, Leeks, and Shallots

o   Buying Tips

  • Garlic bulbs come with their own protective layering of skin so it’s a particularly easy herb to shop for
  • Aim for large, clean bulbs with unbroken and “Dry” appearing skin
  • If you want, break open the bulb and check for green shoots inside the cloves. The shoots are not toxic but they will add a bitterness that does NOT dissipate once cooked so if you see a lot of green shoots, it’s still ok to buy, just remove them with a small paring knife before use

o   Cooking Tips

  • Several things to keep in mind when cooking with Garlic
    • Pungency of taste for one [1] raw clove is equal to an entire bulb of cooked
    • If you choose to bake an entire bulb, the aromas fuse and the Garlic develops a nutty flavor and can actually be used in brownies and other baked goods! Don’t believe me? Miss Fit is many things, a liar isn’t one of them. Three cheers for Toronto Garlic Festival. Click here! Click Here to see!
    • A good garlic press will save you time peeling the cloves. Peeling the cloves with your human hands works just as well
    • *Rule of Thumb* the smaller you mince/chop the Garlic, the stronger the flavor. The reason being is that, the more finely it is chopped, the more facets of surface area are exposed, and the more mini chemical reactions you have as the cloves oxidize. It’s the same type of chemical reaction that occurs when you start chopping Garlic’s sister veggie, the Onion; but Garlic shouldn’t make you tear up. Unless you are dating someone named Garlic [Garlique?] but I can’t help you there.

o   Storage Tips

  • Garlic needs air to circulate to stay fresh, so make sure you simply place it in an open bowl in a cool, dry environment. DO NOT PLACE IN FRIDGE. Refrigeration will compromise the flavor and dehydrate the cloves

 

Questions, Comments, Concerns? Leave a Reply or email direct at write.with.ms@gmail.com

SPICE IT UP!

You heard me, Readers – Spice it up.

Yes, in the bedroom

Yes, at the workplace [probably not the same way as the workplace…]

Yes, with your workout routine […totally fine if this takes place in the bedroom… and yes Mom… I mean…. I do my Yoga in my bedroom… or something like that…]

Ok – but really, Spice it up in your kitchen.

I’m sure even if you don’t have Hypertension [i.e. high blood pressure] you have heard someone at some point in time say that you [or someone you know] that you “should” cut back on salt – yes?

Ok well, that’s fine, I’m glad people are cracking down on high blood pressure – – – but what about bland, tasteless food?

That should be a sin too, right?

Totally and completely.

Food, I am a firm believer, is meant to taste amazing and be pleasing to all of your senses from the first glance to the last bite [which actually has more to do with your sense of smell than your sense of taste. Read Here For More On That

So what gives?

Isn’t salt the end-all, be-all flavor enhancer? I mean Betty Crocker and Nestle Tollhouse recommend salt as an ingredient in their infamous chocolate-chip cookies… and those are amazing, right?

Well here is where I throw a cliché at you – Everything in moderation.

True story. Check that Nestle recipe – no more than a teaspoon or so in any variation of the recipe.

Salt is not evil in small doses. It is accurate to say that it has flavor enhancing properties. However, it IS also a major contributor to high blood pressure and can easily be substituted with far worthier members of the spice family – members that not only contribute flavor to your favorite dishes but also contribute a whole host of other health contributions as well.

These “health contributions” I speak of are powerful, including but not limited to:

1. Burning body fat [hello! Yes please!]

2. Curbing excess food consumption

3. Revving metabolism

4. Supporting digestion

5. Fighting cancer

6. Protecting neurological function

7. Lowering insulin and triglyceride levels

That’s quite a list.

 

If I told you that there were several natural entities that you could ingest daily that would: [1] provide the above stated benefits [2] cost you way less than the price of a baby aspirin every day [3] and most of which could be used in small enough amounts so as to subtly compliment, not overpower, your food – would you have any real reason to say, “No” ?

If you do, please feel free to comment below, I would be happy to address any concerns you have.

First, I want to give a brief definition of Spices and Herbs and do a quick comparison of how they are similar and how they are different and then the remainder of the article will be dedicated to highlighting a few of the power-house Spices and best ways to buy, prepare, and store said Spices to get the most bang for your buck.

Guy Johnson, a certified nutritional scientist and Executive Director of the McCormick Institute, had this to say [Psychology Today, November/December 2012, p. 48-49]:

Both Spices and herbs have had strong medicinal and culinary indications for centuries. Both warehouse key components to effectively fight cancer and protect the nervous system – particularly the brain – by promoting cognitive function and preventing decline and maintaining metabolic integrity through their unique array of minerals, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds.

Both Spice sand Herbs release flavor when fully heated and retain most nutrients if added at the end of cooking process [high heat but low duration].

There really is “NO DOWNSIDE” – both Spices and Herbs are calorie free, contain no fats, and effectively enhance flavor of food without added sodium.

Botanically speaking, Spices are derived from the integral plant parts: including the buds [i.e. cloves], the bark [i.e. cinnamon], the seeds [i.e. fennel], the roots [i.e. ginger, turmeric] while Herbs are derived from the leaves of plants [i.e. sage, and rosemary]. Most Spices are native to tropical areas, while Herbs favor more temperate climates.

Let’s take a look at some of the most powerful Spices and Herbs.

Tumeric

turmeric-powder

o   Medicinal Indications – By nature, Tumeric operates as an anti-inflammatory agent and has been scientifically noted as having positive effect on reducing the impact of the following conditions:

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Alzheimer’s
  • High Blood pressure and High Cholesterol
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease [Colitis]
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Depression [Curcumin active ingredient in turmeric – has a measurable effect on mood; it induces neural growth factors in the brain [mimicking the action of Prozac] and has been shown to improve abnormalities associated with Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Skin conditions [Psoriasis, dermatitis, gout, open wounds]
  • Eye infections and macular degeneration
  • Gum disease
  • Obesity

o   Buying Tips

  • Most of the world’s supply comes from Alleppey [a coastal region in lower Western India] and Madras [ a coastal region in Mid-Eastern India]. Research shows that the Alleppey turmeric [for some reason related to soil quality and a million other factors it appears] has a higher curcumin count – so aim for Alleppey turmeric when possible.
  • Turmeric, like ginger [below], is a root by nature, and a very tough root at that. Feel free to grind your own if you have the patience, but most folks buy the already ground kind and it is readily available in most all grocery stores.

o   Cooking Tips – Easy ways to incorporate Tumeric [even the pickiest of eaters will scarcely tell it’s there!]

  • Add to olive oil in your frying; mix in on medium heat for a few seconds before adding veggies or making a stir fry
  • Add a few teaspoons of chili or soups, OR, HONESTLY, just about any hot dish – even pastas, rices, lentils – – – p.s I would love to hear what you tried it on, send me an email write.with.ms@gmail.com or simply comment below!
  • Eat more mustard! Mustard has turmeric in it!

 Coriander

coriandero   Medicinal Indications – the seeds contain high levels of Linalool and Geranyl Acetate – two oil-based phytonutrients [i.e. nutrients in plants] that have been shown to act as anti-oxidants, protecting your cells and warding off the degenerative cell mutations that cause many cancers. Additionally, recent studies have shown Coriander to be effective in soothing digestive ailments by acting as an “antispasmodic” agent and relaxing the muscles of the digestive system. Coriander has been scientifically noted as having positive effect on reducing the impact of the following conditions:

  • Bloating
  • Colon cancer
  • Diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach aches and ulcers
  • Vaginal yeast infections [Candida]
  • Liver disease

o   Buying Tips

  • As noted above, the oils in Coriander seed have cancer-preventing properties, so opt for whole seeds when buying since already ground seeds lose nutritional value after a few months
  • Most Coriander available for purchase in the States comes from Europe and India.
    • European Coriander will be spherical in shape and have very high Linalool and Geranyl Acetate content
    • Indian Coriander will be more egg-shaped and contains trace amounts of other phytonutrients that offer and more lemony scent
    • Nutritionally speaking both European and Indian Corianders are near equal, just depends on what flavor you want as to which you should buy

  Cooking Tips – Easy ways to incorporate more Coriander!

  • Coriander seeds with peppercorns in your peppermill
  • Coarsely grind it and use it as a meat or fish rub before marinating/cooking

 o   Special Note: often times, people confuse Cilantro with Coriander. Take note that Cilantro is an Herb that comes from the strongly scented leaves of the Coriander plant; while tasty, Cilantro pales in comparison nutrition-wise from the Cordiander’s nutty little seeds [from which the spice is ground]

 Fennel Seed

Fennel

o   Medicinal Indications – the seeds contain high levels of Anethole, the same phytonutrient that gives licorice its…licoricey flavor. Fennel seeds also contain high levels of another phytochemical known as phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like compounds found in plants

  • According to the Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, a study was conducted that compared Fennel seed extract to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] such as Ibuprofen. Per the study results, the fennel seed extract actually out-performed the NSAIDs in relieving menstrual cramping and pain! Trust me, this is a positive thing women AND men…
  • In another study, Fennel seed was shown to assist in calming babies experiencing colic [AKA – babies crying for 3+ hrs daily for multiple days] by more than 40% as compared to a placebo group
  • In India, Fennel seeds are eaten as an after-dinner digestive-aide

o   Buying Tips

  • Sold whole or already ground
    • Whole seeds should be yellow with a greenish tinge for best quality; they can last for up to 3 yrs without taste or nutrient compromise
    • Ground seeds tend to lose quality after 6 months – so ideally, buy whole seeds and ground as needed!

o   Cooking Tips – Easy ways to incorporate more Fennel seed!

  • Add to fruit salads and compotes for a complementary added crunch
  • Toast the seeds on a tray in the oven then crush and steep in your favorite cup of tea
  • Add to scrambled eggs or your next red sauce/meat ragu

 o   Special Note: Fennel is actually a vegetable, and herb, AND spice!

 Ginger

gingero   Medicinal Indications – used globally as an anti-nausea and motion-sickness treatment [this indication actually started thousands of years ago by “natural healers” and has been increasingly corroborated by scientific studies since the 1980’s here in the States]. Ginger has been scientifically noted as having positive effect on reducing the impact of the following conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Indigestion/heartburn
  • Morning sickness
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • High triglycerides [blood fats]

 o   Buying Tips

  • Opt for fresh Gingerroot and grind as needed for optimal nutrition and flavor
  • Look for “knobs” [or “hands” as they are frequently called] that are firm and smooth to the touch
  • Place peeled Ginger in a paper bag before placing in fridge
  • Ginger even keeps great in the freezer when left un-peeled!

  Cooking Tips – Easy ways to incorporate more Ginger!

  • Grate fresh Ginger over cooked rice noodles, tofu, or veggies
  • Rub ground Ginger onto meat before cooking
  • Steep a nickel-sized sliver of ginger with your favorite tea
  • Sprinkle ground Ginger on sweet potatoes or squash before baking

Cinnamon

cinnamono   Medicinal Indications – the most profound medical indication for Cinnamon is its documented ability to stabilize blood sugar/glucose

  • According to the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 109 people with Type II Diabetes were divided into two groups – one group received 1 gram of Cinnamon per day for 90 days, while the other group received a placebo. Results showed that the Cinnamon was 45% more effective at reducing A1C levels [a blood sugar measurement used to indicate Diabetes diagnosis]
  • Several other studies show that Cinnamon works that very same day it is incorporated and that the “90” days reflected in the above mentioned study represents cumulative advantages the Cinnamon produces.
  • Richard Anderson, pHD and head scientist at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center of the US Dept. of Agriculture theorizes that the Cinnamon works by mimicking insulin [the hormone that regulates blood sugar]. Simply put, Cinnamon is thought to stimulate insulin receptors the same way insulin would and allow the excess sugar to move out of the blood and into the cells for proper utilization
  • Cinnamon has been scientifically noted as having positive effect on reducing the impact of the following conditions:
    • High cholesterol
    • Food poisoning
    • Heart disease, high blood pressure [AKA Hypertension]
    • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome [PCOS]
    • Ulcers
    • Yeast infections [Candida]

o   Buying Tips

  • Ground Cinnamon flavor tends to fade after 3 months, so, ideally, buy whole Cinnamon sticks and grind as needed [but nutritionally, it stays pretty sound, so if you buy often don’t worry about grinding your own]
  • Reportedly, the finest cinnamon on the globe is “Ceylon” Cinnamon which comes from Sri Lanka
  • Any Cinnamon is better that no Cinnamon, so don’t worry about getting fancy

  Cooking Tips – Easy ways to incorporate more Cinnamon!

  • Sprinkle Cinnamon on fruit salads, particularly complimentary to bananas, apples, and melons
  • Combine with black pepper and cardamom for a hearty meat rub
  • Add to stew and soups for an extra kick people will rave about but not be able to place!
  • Make your own spiced tea: Use a quart of brewed tea [black or green], add two cups of apple juice, allow to summer with a sliced lemon wedge and two cinnamon sticks for about 10 mins. Enjoy!

 

 

**PLEASE NOTE: Spices tend to lose their aromatic flavor in the first 3 months – do your best to store all spices in their OWN clean, airtight containers away from heat and lights. Refrigeration also can help extend their life.

 

Make sure to check back this weekend for the follow article “HERB is the word, haven’t you heard?”  where we look at some of the most powerful Herbs you can include in your diet.