For the Love of Food

by | Oct 18, 2013
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week homemade is the new organic, standing is as good as running marathons, and the creepy Big Brother-ish future of food marketing.

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

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How to raise your HDL cholesterol

by | Aug 29, 2012
Olive Oil

Olive Oil

You’ve probably heard it is important to keep your cholesterol levels low, but if you want to protect yourself against heart disease you may be barking up the wrong tree.

Total cholesterol is actually a fairly poor predictor of heart disease, and LDL  “bad” cholesterol is only slightly better. Instead, the ratio of “good” HDL cholesterol to LDL is the most reliable indicator of cardiovascular health. That means higher HDL is as important (if not more so) than lower LDL for protecting against heart disease and atherosclerosis.

That’s right, you want higher HDL cholesterol.

HDL cholesterol scavenges the blood and removes dangerous cholesterol deposits from the arteries. An HDL level above 60 mg/dL is considered protective against heart disease whereas HDL below 40 mg/dL is a risk, even if your LDL is fairly low.

Last time I had my HDL tested it was above 80 mg/dL.

While drugs like statins are not very effective in raising HDL cholesterol, lifestyle modifications can raise HDL substantially.

10 Ways to raise your HDL cholesterol

  1. Exercise Exercise can substantially increase HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol.
  2. Lose weight Weight loss is almost always accompanied by improved cholesterol numbers, including increased HDL.
  3. Don’t smoke Smoking has been shown to lower HDL while raising LDL cholesterol.
  4. Avoid trans fat Processed, trans fats simultaneously raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol, vastly increasing your risk of heart disease (similar to smoking). Margarin, shortening and other fake fats should always be avoided.
  5. Avoid low-fat diets Low-fat diets lower both LDL and HDL cholesterol and are not effective at reducing heart disease.
  6. Eat olive oil and avocados Monounsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil and avocados raise HDL and lower LDL.
  7. Eat fish Fish (especially fatty fish like salmon and sardines) contain omega-3 fats that raise HDL and lower LDL.
  8. Avoid refined carbohydrates Refined carbohydrates negatively impact HDL and raise LDL (bad news).
  9. Eat whole grains Whole, intact grains contain soluble fiber and niacin, both of which raise HDL and may lower LDL.
  10. Drink alcohol 1-2 drinks per day can be as effective as exercise in raising HDL levels. However too much alcohol raises risk for cancer and addiction.

For more information on cholesterol check out my video Cholesterol Explained.

Are you concerned about HDL? Is your doctor?

Originally published Sept 14, 2009.

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Is Drinking Alcohol Healthy Or Dangerous?

by | Jul 23, 2012
Rocket Bar Wine

Photo by Mr. T in DC

“I’ve always wondered what the scientific perspective of alcohol consumption is. I have been doing some research but the actual effects of it on the body range from beneficial to cancerous.”

The clinical science on alcohol consumption is vast and diverse. It’s easy to find studies that demonstrate the benefits of alcohol, but it is equally common to find research showing its dangers. Sorting through the data is not trivial, and getting the right answer from news reports is virtually impossible.

Let’s start with the facts:

1. Alcohol is addictive

Alcohol addiction is one of the most well-understood and dangerous risks of drinking. A propensity for addiction can run in families, but can affect anyone who drinks in excess. None of the health benefits of alcohol can negate the destruction caused by addiction, and anyone who drinks should be careful to avoid this terrible condition.

2. Alcohol damages the liver

Alcohol metabolism occurs in the liver and can cause severe damage when consumed in large quantities. Liver damage can usually be reversed if alcohol consumption stops.

3. Alcohol is associated with breast cancer (sort of)

Drinking is weakly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. This is likely because alcohol increases aromatase activity in the human body, which increases estrogen production. Estrogen imbalance is a known cause of breast cancer. However, the association between drinking and breast cancer is negated by sufficient folate intake. Folate or folic acid is a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and legumes (and fortified foods). In other words, a healthy diet protects against alcohol induced breast cancer risk.

4. Alcohol protects against mortality from heart disease

Drinking alcohol reduces your risk of dying from a heart attack by preventing blood clotting. This effect is not limited to red wine, all spirits elicit substantial protection. The association appears to be dose-dependent, meaning that the more you drink the more protection you get. HOWEVER, you start raising your risk for the above mentioned problems with every additional drink per day. For men the ideal dosage is 2 drinks per day, for women it is 1 drink per day.

5. Alcohol raises good HDL cholesterol

Moderate drinking also reduces your risk of getting heart disease in the first place by raising beneficial HDL cholesterol without raising LDL cholesterol. Low HDL is a serious problem in America, and alcohol could be a significant benefit for some people. Here are other ways to raise your HDL cholesterol.

6. Red wine may slow aging

Aging research has been revolutionized by the discovery of a compound in red wine called resveratrol. Resveratrol has been shown to slow aging substantially in several model organisms. Though the effect in humans is still unknown, red wine is associated with many benefits that seem to go above and beyond the benefits of alcohol in general.

7. Red wine may protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Several studies have shown that red wine is associated with a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s Dementia, a devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 90. The mechanism of action is unclear, but the benefits may be linked to the effect of red wine on fatty acids in the blood (raising the good stuff), or by slowing the aging process itself.

8. Alcohol causes accidents and behavioral problems

Even relatively safe levels of drinking can be deadly when combined with poor decision making. If you do choose to drink alcohol, always be sure that you’re in a safe environment and can get help if you need it. Being safe sometimes, or even usually, is simply not good enough.

There are plenty of good reasons to avoid alcohol if you choose, and many of the benefits can be garnered by simply increasing the amount or intensity of your daily physical activity.

However, the evidence is pretty clear that moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks per day) can improve health and may be an important component of a healthy lifestyle. This is even true for those who pick up the habit later in life.

And last but certainly not least, some of the best times of my life have been over a drink with friends. And I guarantee you most of us aren’t thinking about our heart health while enjoying a great bottle of wine. As long as you consider safety first, never forget that smiling is one of the healthiest things you will ever do.

Here’s a fun question: what’s your favorite drink??

Originally published July 28, 2010.

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How To Make Eggs Taste As Good As Bacon

by | May 30, 2012
Fried Eggs

Fried Eggs

Something magical happened a few weeks ago. While trying to figure out what to do with the first fresh eggs I’d found at the farmers market this season, I discovered the greatest egg ingredient in the history of mankind.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little (truffles are pretty darn good on eggs), but not much.

Generally I am a big fan of adding some kind of ground red pepper (usually chipotle or ancho) to fried or scrambled eggs. But this day I tried something a bit different.

Digging through my pantry I remembered that I had a ton of smoked paprika left over from the hummus I made. I decided to do an experiment and sprinkle the smoked paprika onto my eggs.

I can’t believe I went all my life without knowing about this.

But before I explain why exactly the smoked paprika made my eggs so amazing, I want to address what I’m sure many of you are wondering:

How healthy are fried eggs?

Answer: Eggs are perfectly healthy, and frying doesn’t make them any less so.

Personally I cook my eggs in olive oil (it’s just easier), but even if you use butter it isn’t a problem since the amount you need to cook is so small.

What scares people about frying eggs is an irrational fear of dietary fat. But theoretically the amount of oil you use to fry an egg should be about the same as you need to scramble eggs, so it isn’t clear why fried eggs would pose any more of a problem. I use olive oil to scramble eggs as well.

The other issue people have with eggs is the yolk. It amazes me how often people proudly inform me that they eat eggs but “only the whites,” as if this were some unique virtue.

I understand that the public health message we’ve heard about eggs for the past few decades has been extremely negative, but eggs have since been completely exonerated from heart disease accusations. There was a time when it was assumed that dietary cholesterol (which is definitely higher than normal in eggs compared to other foods) would raise blood cholesterol, but it doesn’t for most people. In fact, the healthy fats in egg yolks are likely to positively impact your good HDL cholesterol.

Moreover, dietary fats in general have been shown to be excellent at satiating hunger, and are thus a terrific replacement for calories from refined carbohydrates. That makes egg yolks your ally in fighting heart disease and burning fat, not your enemy.

Then there’s the fact that egg yolks are incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals, since they are meant to be nourishment for a developing life.

And finally there’s the most important part, that farm fresh egg yolks are out-of-this-world delicious.

Which brings me back to how to make the best eggs in the universe.

First you must start with high-quality eggs. Two factors have the biggest impact on egg flavor. The first is the diet of the hen who laid the egg, and the second is the egg’s freshness. Thus for best results you want to find the freshest pastured eggs you can get your hands on. Pastured means the hens that lay the eggs are allowed to peck around on grass eating bugs and whatever else they find.

Your best shot at finding pastured fresh eggs is at a farmers market or direct from a farm, since if they are already on a grocery shelf they probably aren’t very fresh. Try to find eggs less than 1 week old. Their day of boxing should be clearly marked on the carton. It requires a little math, but I’m not the one who made up these rules.

Chances are good that if your eggs are very fresh then they are from pastured hens, but this is not guaranteed. Ask the farmer and try to hold out for hens that are allowed to roam free in grass during the day. If you cannot get fresh pastured eggs, “cage-free” is your next best bet for flavor (though these may still be fed a limited diet).

Without asking the farmer it is hard to tell the difference between real pastured eggs and industrial eggs labeled “cage-free” that are still fed standard or organic chicken feed. One good indication will be the price, since pastured eggs tend to run $6-10/dozen here in SF. Trust me, it’s worth it.

I do not endorse the taste or healthfulness of industrially produced eggs (even the fancy kinds), and if you do eat them you should be careful to cook them completely.

(Aside: I never worry about the safety of eggs from farms I trust, so I always eat them runny. If you think runny eggs are gross, I don’t blame you. Runny industrial eggs are gross, and before I had fresh eggs I would have completely agreed with you. But fresh egg yolk is incredible, and it is something you have to taste to really appreciate. I definitely recommend stepping out of your comfort zone on this one.)

Once you have great eggs, fry them one at a time in 1 tbsp olive oil or butter on medium low heat and sprinkle with sea salt, course ground black pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika. The paprika adds a depth and complexity above what even chipotle peppers can offer, and the smokiness is reminiscent of—I kid you not—bacon. Needless to say, it is the perfect compliment to eggs.

Fry your eggs for just two minutes or so on each side, being careful to keep the yolk intact while turning. You really don’t want to overcook eggs, which will turn them rubbery and ruin the effect.

I haven’t actually tried these eggs with bacon yet, though I certainly plan to. But bacon is no longer a requirement for making a show stopping breakfast of champions. Here I served them with some ruby chard sautéed with pistachios and garlic.

Did you guys know about smoked paprika on eggs and if so, why was I not informed?

Originally published March 3, 2010.StumbleUpon.com

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For The Love Of Food

by | May 11, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

A scary new link between BPA and breast cancer, a fascinating new discovery about HDL and how one simple habit can help you live 6 extra years.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomatoGoogle+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 1, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

A lot of interesting new science this week. BPA makes male mice less attractive, diet soda may cause weight gain and diabetes, and the “good” cholesterol is more complicated that we suspected. All this and more in my top 10 food and health picks for this week.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | May 27, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week I found a surprisingly in depth and thoughtful piece on genetically modified foods, an even more impressive food commitment by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and a few good signs that the politics of food labels are headed in the right direction—truth.

Also, for you geeks my thesis work is finally published. Here’s the deets.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links at Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Mar 4, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Just FYI next Tuesday March 8, at 6pm PST, I’ll be participating in a live chat hosted by Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva.

I’ll be joining Monica, Ben Greenfield of BenGreenfieldFitness.com, and Gloria Tsang of Healthcastle.com to discuss the pros and cons of breakfast. I’ll be broadcasting the event here at Summer Tomato. For more info check out Nutrition Over Easy.

This week around the web people are learning to love fat again, disrupted sleep cycles can mess with your metabolism and how your thoughts can influence your habits.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete list of my favorite stories check out my links on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jan 14, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I found a stellar collection of thought provoking stories this week. Did you know that the HDL story is more complicated than we originally speculated, even Paleo advocates can acknowledge that how you eat is important and that drinking more can be good for you? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete list of my favorite stories check out my links on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Dec 17, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Good cholesterol (and that means fat) may lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, why New Year’s resolutions are pointless and the benefits of sleep on your appearance. No recipe this week because all my favorite blogs were filled with cookies. Tis the season.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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