Category Archives: Food

Want to Get to the Roots of Health?

We share the health benefits and medicinal properties of these five super root vegetables.

Turmeric: Curcumin is the rich compound found in turmeric that gives it the bright yellow color and has many other properties beneficial to health.

  • Delays the occurence and progression of diabetes
  • Helps to protect and fight against cancer
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties for management of joint pain and arthritis
  • Protects the brain from neurodegenerative diseases such as stroke and Alzheimeres’

Ginger: The phenolic compounds found in ginger has many health benefits.

  • Helps to relieve gastrointestinal issues and promotes healthy digestion in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
  • Reduces inflammation and can be used to treat inflammatory disease conditions
  • Decreases risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality
  • Improves hair growth and skin complexion
  • Increases overall energy and stamina

Beetroot: The phytonutrients that beets are packed with gives it the bright crimson red color and has numerous benefits for overall health.

  • Lowers blood pressure within hours of drinking beet juice
  • Boosts stamina and increases energy level
  • Beets have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Beets contain betaine, a nutrient that helps protect cells and enzymes from oxidative stress and help fight against inflammation
  • Has anti-cancer properties. The phytonutrients found in beets help fight against cancer

Sweet Potato: They are packed with carotenoids which give them their bright orange color and makes them one of the super root vegetables.

  • Sweet potatoes have natural sugars which are released into the bloodstream slowly and this prevents the occurrence of blood sugar spikes.
  • They contain the compound magnesium which has anti-stress and relaxing effects.
  • Sweet potatoes are high in carotenoids that have anti-oxidative properties and help to fight against cancer as well as delay the progression of aging.
  • They are a valuable source of iron which helps to support a healthy immune system.

Garlic: The health benefits of garlic have been well known for centuries. It is packed with the compound Allicin which gives it many medicinal properties.

  • Raw garlic consumption on a regular basis will lower bad cholesterol levels . It has been found to be a super food for centuries  in preventing the development of heart disease and in regulating blood pressure.
  • It also has anti-bacterial properties. Diluted garlic extract can be used to treat bacterial infections.
  • Daily consumption of garlic prevents against stomach and colorectal cancers. It helps to boost the resistance of cells against cancer.
  • Loss of collagen can lead to reduced elasticity in aging skin. The anti-oxidative properties of garlic protect skin against free radical damage and decelerate the loss of collagen.

How to De-Stress Instead of Distress?

We share helpful tips on how to de-stress when otherwise in distress!

  1. Meditate to relax and spiritually connect with oneself deeply at the very core on a regular basis. Besides meditating, set aside a me-time to do something fun for yourself. It could be anything just for 15 minutes a day that gives you a lot of joy.
  2. Practice light yoga or other physical activity to keep up the energy level and boost metabolism.
  3. Practice taking deep breaths to relax oneself and to deeply connect at the very core on a regular basis.
  4. Watch your white sugar consumption and replace with natural substitutes wherever possible. Sugar is no different than any other addictive substance. Hence it is very important to limit the intake of refined sugar.
  5. Eat more whole foods and limit the intake of processed foods. Whole grains and complex foods go a long way to increase our metabolism, prevent diabetes and contain much more nutritional values than processed foods.
  6. Absorb plentiful sunshine and get some vitamin D. If you live in a place without regular sunny days,  it is recommended to take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D enhances mental and physical activity and prevents depression.
  7. Schedule only limited blocks of time to be on social media and minimize gadgets and device usage. Enjoy life’s bountiful gifts by being in the moment.
  8. Organize your day, prioritize all your activities by order of importance and de-clutter all your belongings.
  9. Connect with your family, friends and loved ones by appreciating them for their love and support on a regular basis. Feelings of gratitude and being loved uplift our moods and immediately alleviate stress.
  10. Last but not the least, make someone else’s day by doing something special for them and making them smile.

How To Maintain A Healthy Pregnancy?

Early prenatal care is important in promoting a healthy pregnancy. It starts with prenatal visits to the doctors to ensure that we are staying on top in all of the following areas:

1) Avoid smoking, drugs and alcohol: These are the absolute no-no(s) to get out of the way. Smoking or even second-hand smoke, alcohol and drug intake can affect the development of the fetus and affect the infant’s health. During pregnancy, the expecting mother should not have anything to do with these harmful substances.

2) Medications: Most pregnant woman may already be taking some medication, such as for acne or for chronic pain or for any other medical condition. It is important to discuss with the doctor which of these medications are still safe to take.

3) Avoid toxic substances: At all costs, we must stay away from exposure to any harmful chemical solvents or other toxic substances, such as lead or mercury.

4) Minerals/Vitamins: We have to ensure that we are taking adequate amounts of folic acid as supplements throughout the pregnancy to prevent the child developing any neural tube defects. The good news is that most prenatal vitamins will have at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Also your healthcare provider may give you supplements of vitamin B12 and assess that your iron levels are adequate.

5) Eat a Healthy Diet: It is important to have balanced meals with variety of fruits and mixed berries, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, proteins and low-fat dairy products to ensure the developing fetus has all the required nutrients. Also during this time one should drink plenty of fluids. Here is an awesome link that helps pregnant women to create a checklist of their daily meal plates:
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/moms-daily-food-plan

6) Eat a safe diet: Pregnant women should avoid all kinds of raw fish, processed meat, undercooked meat and unpasteurized cheese. They should also avoid fish with high content of mercury. The FDA guidelines for pregnant women are that 12 ounces a week of fish with low levels of methyl mercury, such as shrimp and salmon, is a safe choice during this time.

7) Limit Caffeine Intake: Excess caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage. Your doctor can dicsuss with you and recommend the total amount of caffeine you can take. They may suggest an upper limit of 200 milligrams of caffeine per day.

8) Maintain a healthy weight: The doctor will recommend how much weight you can safely gain during pregnancy based on your current weight or BMI. It is important to follow the weight-gain chart as gaining too much can lead to many other problems such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

9) Maintain physical activity: It is very important during this time to maintain a light level of physical activity. Some of the best forms of exercise during this time is walking and swimming with minimum physical strain. Activity improves sleep during pregnancy, helps to maintain healthy weight gain and also makes childbirth easier.

10) De-stress and relax: Last, but not the least, relaxing and de-stressing throughout your pregnancy is probably the best thing you can do for yourself and for your bundle of joy. Try to engage in peaceful and relaxing activities even when you feel anxious or stressed out – with a little bit of mindfulness and meditation, you can de-stress instead of distress!

How Insulin Resistance Can Affect You?

Food that we consume is broken down and processed in our digestive tract into sugar molecules known as glucose that can be easily absorbed by the cells of our body. The amount of #glucose# in our blood is modulated by the hormone #insulin# released by the #pancreas#. These glucose molecules are assisted by insulin to gain entrance inside the cells of the body. The insulin binds to the glucose molecules and act as a key that unlocks the door to the cells. Specifically, the insulin will carry the glucose to the #liver#, #muscle# and fat cells to be stored for release of future energy. In Type II #diabetes#, the cells are not responsive to insulin and this is known as #insulin resistance#. The insulin will still carry the glucose molecules to the cells but the cells will not open their doors as easily. As a result, there is too much sugar build-up in our blood, known as blood glucose concentration, which can damage the liver, kidneys, eye and nerves. The pancreas in turn tries to pump out more insulin to deal with the high glucose concentration in the blood stream. As a result of the increased insulin in the blood, it is also very difficult for the body to burn fats. In fact, the fatty acids in the blood move into fat storage that lead to increase in weight gain. Additionally, since the cells don’t have enough glucose to provide continuous energy release, one can feel more tired and have more sugar cravings.

Thus insulin resistance causes:

1) Fatigue and tiredness
2) Increased food cravings
3) Increased weight gain.

How can we cope with insulin resistance? We can eat more complex carbohydratess to slowly introduce the glucose into our blood stream – this prevents too much insulin from releasing and building up in the blood causing fat storage and subsequent weight gains.

We can simultaneously increase our levels of #physical activity# and engage in moderate exercises. When our muscles are more active, that increases the amount of glucose that can be easily taken up by our muscle cells, without needing the help of insulin. Additionally, the #energy storing capacity# in our muscles increases gradually with increased muscular activities.

How to Prevent and Stay on Top of Diabetes?

Diabetes is becoming one of the most widespread chronic diseases affecting millions of people worldwide with healthcare costs soaring to billions of dollars. The question in our minds is how to prevent this adult onset type II diabetes? And once we do get it, how can we manage it effectively?

Greasy and sugary carbohydrates along with long hours of sitting at work or in front of the TV result in a pattern of continuous weight gain. An unhealthy weight and sedentary lifestyle is the main culprit leading to diabetes. Research has shown that people with a higher BMI and those who experience muscle loss or sarcopenia from inactivity are more susceptible to developing diabetes with advancing age. The risk of diabetes is much greater for people over 65 years of age than those below 40. (Reference: American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/)

Food that we eat is metabolized into sugar molecules known as glucose that can be easily absorbed by the cells of our body. These glucose molecules require another compound, insulin, to gain entrance inside the cells. The insulin binds to the glucose molecules and acts as a key that unlocks the door to the cells. In Type II diabetes either the body does not produce enough of insulin molecules or the insulin that is being produced is unable to bind with the glucose. This is also known as insulin-resistant diabetes. As a result, there is too much sugar in our blood, known as blood glucose concentration, which can damage the liver, kidneys, eye and nerves. Also a very common symptom of diabetes is dehydration, fatigue and frequent urination. Since the cells of our body do not have enough sugar they become more fatigued and also dehydrated.

It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and BMI to prevent the onset of diabetes. In order to maintain a healthy weight or to lose excessive weight, one can make a habit of eating balanced meals that have the right proportions of vegetables, fruits, starch and proteins. A visual guidance is to fill up half of the plate with non-starchy greens, a quarter with lean proteins and another quarter with starchy foods. Additionally, participating in light to moderate activity and doing aerobic exercises ensures a positive energy flow through our system and prevents muscle loss.

Once a person is diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to regularly measure and monitor blood sugar levels. A daily routine of balanced and frequent meals with lean proteins, lots of fibers and complex carbohydrates is recommended. The meal plate should be ¼ protein,  ¼ starch and ½ of non-starchy veggies and some fruits. Substituting sweet cravings with naturally occurring sugars such as dates, honey and those found naturally in fruits can reduce blood sugar spiking. Additionally, maintaining light to moderate daily exercises that is not too strenuous is also recommended. 7-8 hours of sleep in diabetic patients cannot be over emphasized. Some people with type 2 diabetes can manage their diabetes naturally with healthy eating and regular exercise.

If sugar cannot be controlled naturally, however, the doctor may prescribe oral medications. It is important to take these meds regularly as indicated. Pill boxes are a great way to organize them so we can stay on top of our meds. In more advanced diabetes, the doctor will prescribe regular insulin shots to help maintain blood sugar levels. The injected medication acts rapidly in our bodies and therefore it is necessary to coordinate the insulin shots with timely intake of food.

Besides frequently checking our weight, blood sugar and blood pressure levels, it is important for diabetic patients to have several annual checkups. Urine and blood tests should be done for monitoring heart, kidney and liver functioning. Also, a dilated eye exam, a dental exam and a complete foot exam every year is highly recommended.

Do You Have What It Takes to Age Well Physically?

Free radicals are everywhere and they accelerate the process of aging. However, with appropriate defense we can prevent against many chronic diseases of aging. (Check out our new video “Aging Well Physically” on youtube channel ‘Healthy Flamingo’!)

Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that can invade our cells and tissues resulting in the occurrence of chronic diseases of aging – such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and chronic inflammations, such as, arthritis. Free radicals cause oxidative stress and damage on our bodies– they are naturally produced as a result of metabolic processes or maybe contained in unhealthy and oily foods.  These free radicals can be oxidized by some catalytic agents resulting in oxidative stress and cell damage. Some of these catalysts are:

  • Metals, such as copper, mercury, zinc
  • Toxic chemical agents, such as pesticides, cigarettes, air pollutants
  • Physical stressors, such as sleep deprivation and inactivity.
  • Greasy foods containing fatty acids, and cholesterol that undergo oxidation into secondary toxic substances.

Free radical oxidation damage our cell’s protein enzymes, thus hindering normal functioning of cells and accelerate the process of aging and disease pathogenesis. Such cell damages provoked by free radicals are much more common in aging. Increased oxidative protein damages were found in the livers and kidneys of aged animals. What are those functional superfoods we can eat to fight against free radicals and age well physically? There are functional foods with antioxidant, antiviral and medicinal properties containing lots of phyto-chemicals that we can eat to fight against free radicals.

We have grouped the superfoods into those that are beneficial for cardiovascular health, those that prevent against diabetes, cancer, arthritis, increase our body’s metabolism and prevent skin’s aging.

  1. Cardiovascular Health – Foods that are rich in Flavonols such as green tea, apple, onion, nuts, broccoli, strawberries and whole grains promote better cholesterol and blood pressure regulation – thus preventing against coronary heart diseases. Foods that are rich in vitamin E also fall into this category. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric is also very good for blood cholesterol regulation.
  2. Prevention against Cancer – Foods rich in anti-oxidants can decrease the risks of many forms of cancer – prostrate, colon, breast and lung cancer. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts reduce the risks of breast cancer, for example. Additionally, consuming plentiful green tea, garlic, soy products, and foods rich in vitamin A promote the apoptosis and death of tumor cells. Vegetables, such as beets and carrots that are rich in calcium and fibers are particularly good for prevention against intestinal cancers. These vegetables also protect the body against chronic inflammations, such as arthritis.
  3. Diabetes – Unprocessed whole foods, such as, whole grains, fatty fish rich in omega-3 acids, such as salmon/sardines, mixed nuts and non-sugary drinks, such as green tea and water are great foods for prevention of type 2 diabetes that typically occur with aging.
  4. Foods that boost metabolism –Not all calories that we consume are created equal – some foods exhaust more of our body’s energy than others. Thermogenic foods are those that have a higher chance of burning up more calories during the process of digestion itself. Therefore, we should consume lots of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, and fruits such as mixed berries, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and celery all of which boost the body’s metabolism. Lean meat, such as turkey and chicken are also highly thermogenic foods. Additionally, some spices such as turmeric powder and cinnamon also increase the rate of metabolism.
  5. Foods that prevent skin’s aging – Foods that are rich in phytochemical, Quercetin, such as apples, mixed berries, leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, citrusy fruits, such as oranges, lemons and tomatoes, provide rich sources of anti-oxidants and also have anti-inflammatory properties. Also, foods that contain the phytochemical, Resveratrol, such as grapes and peanuts have been found to protect the skin against premature aging.

Another important factor in aging well physically is to maintain a moderately active lifestyle in order to preserve our muscle function. Incorporating daily activities into our routine such as light weight lifting couple of times a week and taking frequent breaks to walk whenever possible goes a long way to prevent muscle loss with aging. Incidental workouts, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or carrying the grocery bag, help us to maintain and preserve muscle mass with age. Last but not the least, our body’s normal functioning and metabolism benefit tremendously from regular sleep to recharge our batteries.

What can superfoods do to our brain? – Aging well mentally

Please check out our new video “Aging Well- Mentally” on youtube channel ‘Healthy Flamingo’

Age is just a number and we are as old or as young as we feel! This is often easier said than implemented in our daily lives. In fact, often there are two groups of people – those who feel and act younger than their numerical age and those who are the opposite. Therefore, it is not surprising that these two groups will also have different perspectives and have completely different stories to retell about their intricate journey throughout life. In fact, there is now scientific research to support the notion that feeling younger can actually make us live longer  :

Feeling young at heart may help you live longer

When we feel younger, we are more likely to keep ourselves mentally and physically heightened with pursuing all those activities that promote health and fitness. In fact, our brains are very plastic and have a natural capacity to transform throughout life – not much different from a putty dough. We can truly shape it as we like! Also neuronal connections in our brain are constantly evolving and we would lose them if we did not use them or vice versa! We can always train our brains by trying new ideas, learning new skills, picking new hobbies, new languages and challenging ourselves with new activities. There are softwares and apps now available easily for such brain teasing exercises.

Additionally, to fuel our brain and promote its maximum functionality, we can consume superfoods! We constantly read so many articles on these superfoods and it can be difficult to summarize their benefits. We attempted to group the superfoods into three categories of improved brain blood flow, improved cognitive function and those that prevent against brain diseases:

  1. Increasing blood flow through the brain – All kinds of nuts, especially walnuts and avocados are rich in mono saturated fats and promote improved blood pressure and cholesterol regulation. Beets, a great source of nitrates and dark chocolates with their healthy dose of antioxidants – promote really good flow of blood through our brains, thus improving its function.
  2. Improving cognitive function – The first superfood in this category is water and it is a no-brainer because dehydration causes the brain to shrink and inevitably affects cognitive function. Olive oil is a great source of mono-saturated fats and has been found to slow down the brain’s process of aging. The super powers of mixed berries and fatty fish, rich in omega-3 acids, such as salmon and sardines, as well as green and leafy vegetables, such as spinach all improve cognitive function – namely, memory, focus and attention. Wheat germs and eggs, being an excellent source of the nutrient choline, also enhances memory. Choline is important for the body’s production of the brain’s neurotransmitter chemical, acetylcholine.
  3. Preventing brain diseases – Regularly drinking coffee has been linked to lower rates of depression. Also, fatty fish, rich in their omega-3 acids, has been shown to significantly reduce the risks of depression, especially, among women. Fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, also reduce the risks for dementia. Additionally, cancer research has shown that consuming garlic regularly can prevent against brain cancer.

 

Want Guilt-Free Comfort Foods for Every Meal?

Most of us are naturally comfort loving and we enjoy the comfort foods, especially when we have stressful days at work. We have regular cravings for our favorite dishes and delicacies. However, most of these dishes are too heavy on calorie intake and due to their richness can have a major impact on the waistline. It is difficult to ignore those hunger cravings, especially when we are pressed for time and energy. It is even more difficult to stop devouring these rich foods when they are close by at hand. Therefore I had always wanted to be able to quickly ditch the comfort food craving and switch over to a healthier alternative option.

Please check out our new app “DitchSwitch” from the apple app store (FREE download):

https://itunes.apple.com/de/app/ditchswitch/id1190413387?mt=8

DitchSwitch is a healthy lifestyle app that allow users to gradually improve their eating habits. For all meals throughout a day, the user can ditch common comfort foods and switch to healthier and lighter alternatives. Each healthy alternative suggestion also includes an easy recipe when it is selected.

We have identified some of the more common comfort foods and have organized them into four broad categories to help you tackle and manage your cravings as they change through the day. When you are craving cinnamon buns, “Ditch” and instead “Switch” to a ‘healthilicious’ cinnamon honey drizzled toast! And there is many more! We will expand the items list and add a search feature in our next version release.

Please share “DitchSwitch” app link with your friends and your networks. It is completely free to download. There are 30 light and simple recipes to try and encourage healthy lifestyle and living in our community. Thank you for downloading and sharing !

Baklava recipe:

This is a recipe for  Bosnian walnut baklava. My husband is Bosnian and his favorite dessert is baklava. I wanted to be able to make baklava for him at home. However, I started with phyllo dough bought from the store. I was not satisfied with the flaky consistency. When I discussed with other Bosnian ladies, I realized that in the old days, the women would make baklava at home with homemade phyllo dough or jufka! It is very difficult to achieve the paper thinness but it is possible with enough practice. I must admit that I experimented on several occasions until I was able to perfect the entire process. The process below now works for me perfectly every time and the result is a crispy yet juicy baklava fresh from home! I learnt the recipe for jufka from ‘Baking with Sibella’ @ http://bakingwithsibella.com/.

Homemade Phyllo Dough (Jufka):

Use unbleached flour 2.5 cups

Use 1+1/8 cups of warm water

Use 1 TB distilled vinegar

Use 1 TB veg oil

Knead 50 times to make a soft silky dough

Separate to 5 equal balls and oil and let rest inside plastic wrap for 15-30 minutes or so

Nut Mix:

Use fresh walnuts  totaling exactly 1.75 lbs of finely chopped walnuts

Use 4 TBs of bread crumbs

Use ¼ sugar

Use 1 big TB cinnamon

Mix well

Syrup:

Use 2 cups sugar

Use 2 cups water

Heat at medium until all dissolved, then lower heat and let simmer for 6-7 minutes.

Use 1 TB lemon juice

Use ¼ cup honey and let simmer for another 3 minutes and turn off heat.

Keep warm.

Process:

  • On a well floured surface, roll out one ball with a pin, flouring each time making it very thin and almost transparent. Put away on a well floured surface and sprinkle with flour. Repeat 3 more times with the other 3 balls.
  • Now turn heat to low and melt 1 stick of butter
  • Turn oven to 350F
  • Work on the last dough making a thin sheet
  • On a well buttered pan layer one well-cut and trimmed sheet and butter evenly.
  • Place the second sheet and repeat buttering
  • Stack with ½ of the nut mix
  • Place one sheet and butter
  • Stack remaining nut mix
  • Place one sheet and butter
  • Finish with the perfect top sheet and have diamonds cut slightly on the top sheet. Butter generously and place in oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown
  • While bakhlava is baking prepare syrup mix as recipe above
  • Have bakhlava cut more thoroughly into wedges once baked and pour warm syrup over hot bakhlava
  • Let soak for 6-7 hours and then eat!