For the Love of Food

by | Mar 14, 2014
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 is one of the best link roundups in a long while. Learn everything you’ve always wanted to know about protein and mortality, the real reasons habits are hard to build, and new guidelines for sugar intake.

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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For the Love of Food

by | Nov 22, 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 skim milk spikes controversy, how to feed your gut microbiome and how your alarm clock impacts body weight.

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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For the Love of Food

by | Nov 15, 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 Trader Joe’s salads get E. coli, BPA is hurting us more than we realized (by a lot), and a 3-minute alternative to potato chips.

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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For the Love of Food

by | Apr 12, 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 foie gras is more ethical than chicken, paleo diets take some heat, and organic labels change how food tastes.

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 Butter and Real Food Saved My Health

by | Apr 11, 2012

Photo by Robert S. Donovan

Huge thanks to Emilia for sharing her story. I think she brings a very important message about the value of nutrition and the importance of trying different things until you find the diet that works best for you.

While Emilia found that more fat was necessary for her optimal health (as did I), keep in mind that some people thrive best on a diet with less fat. Humans vary substantially in their genetic background, so you can’t assume that what works for someone else will work for you. Experimenting with your healthstyle is the only way to figure it out.

Emilia has a certification in holistic nutrition from Bauman College and has worked in community health education.

How Butter and Real Food Saved My Health

by Emilia

Hello Summer Tomato Readers,

My name is Emilia and I’m hugely honoured to be guest posting on Summer Tomato. I have been a big fan of Summer Tomato since the beginning and I love Darya’s clear explanations and refusal to accept cliche. Most of all though I love her ‘healthstyle’ message and I wish I’d found a resource like Summer Tomato, back when I began dieting.

My unhealthy experience with dieting came after University when I decided I wanted to lose a few vanity pounds. I looked to various women’s magazines for guidance, and soon came up with a diet that was low in calories and very low in fat. It centered around salad without dressing, fruit, fat-free yogurt and muffins, scrambled egg whites and a small amount of seeds and fish. I lost weight quickly and was thrilled.

The problem was that not only did I lose weight, but I also developed other problems. These included extreme anxiety, irrational behavior if food was late and incredibly low immunity. People who knew me joked that I got sick an awful lot for the healthiest eater they knew. The worst symptom however was that my hormones became completely off balance. To put it bluntly, I barely menstruated for four years.

During this time I sought lots of medical advice about the problem. It was assumed to be a temporary result of my weight loss. After that many doctors made the diagnosis of polycystic ovaries, despite the fact that none were evident in scans. Since I wasn’t (quite) technically underweight, lifestyle factors were barely considered. The only advice some doctors gave me was to gain weight, exercise less or eat more protein. I did all of these dutifully, without result.

The transformational moment came after Christmas one year. I spend Christmas with my husband’s family who eat a very traditional British diet: fresh meat from local farms and homegrown vegetables. Everything is cooked in copious amounts of butter, but served in small portions. The only consistent time my cycles would re-start was after Christmas, despite the fact that my weight and exercise habits didn’t change. Since I was eating meat at home regularly by then (albeit grilled chicken breasts), I began to wonder if there was something unique about eating a diet high in both saturated fat and protein that helped me.

I began to study Nourishing Traditions and the Paleo diet, and started to (very loosely) incorporate some of the principles. I chose to first focus on including more saturated fat in my diet: butter, full fat milk and yogurt, whole eggs and fattier cuts of meat. I also refused to see fat as a negotiable, and stopped skimping on butter in my cooking so I could have a cookie later.

Second, I started to ensure I was getting some good protein at every meal. Meat or fish once per day, plenty of nuts, and legumes instead of bread. I also began including more exceptionally nutritious sources of protein like oily fish of all varieties, as well as organ meats like liver and kidney (yes, really!).

Third, I switched my attitude toward food. Instead of trying to eat more food for fewer calories, I started trying to eat moderate amounts of highly nutritious and enjoyable food. Buying smaller portions of vegetables, but getting them from the farmers market. Having the occasional delicious ice cream, instead of a daily frozen yogurt. Pretty much entirely cutting out refined flours, artificial additives and other non-foods. It was, I believe, this third change that was the most important. It was also the hardest since it defies our current societal instruction to seek out the most food or pleasure, for the least calories or money.

After I started eating this way, the improvements to my health were virtually immediate. My anxiety subsided, my moods normalised. Within two months my hormones began to re-stabilize. I am certain the dietary changes were pivotal because any time I reverted to eating less fat and protein, or relying on refined carbohydrates, my problems returned.

It took time to change my eating habits permanently—starting to eat butter can be as hard as stopping—but I am now a devoted and healthy convert. My current healthstyle is enjoyable, sustaining, affordable and supportive of my fertility. It it is also rather like Darya’s weight maintenance recommendations: high in healthy fats served with vegetables, and rich in legumes and good sources of protein; focusing on quality over quantity and resisting redundant ideas about ‘healthy’ packaged foods. Which brings me full circle to my first point.

For me, the impression many doctors gave that my fertility had everything to do with my weight, calorie intake and genetics turned out be far from the truth. I believe that for many people fertility has everything to do with nutrient intake. I am therefore so pleased there are rational websites like Summer Tomato that can help spread the message.

Thanks so much for allowing me to tell my story Darya!

How has eating real food helped your health?

 

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For The Love Of Food

by | Oct 14, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

This week the emphasis seems to be on the value of whole foods over single nutrients or supplements. Check out my article on the danger of vitamin E supplements over at KQED, the cool new study about why whole broccoli is better than its single nutrients as well as a cool trick for preventing avocados from browning.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. 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.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Apr 15, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

This is probably the best week of the year so far for food and health writing. Taubes’ provocative piece on sugar and its possible role in cancer is a must read. Also check out the latest consensus on saturated fat, the power of exercise, and the lovely ingredient found in processed ice creams.

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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Healthy Vegetarian & Vegan Diets – Episode #4 – Summer Tomato Live [video]

by | Apr 6, 2011

Thanks to those of you who participated in episode #4 about healthy vegetarian & vegan diets. I learned a lot while researching this post, and there’s valuable info on omega-3 fatty acids, essential minerals and other nutrition information that’s important for omnivores as well.

All show notes, including my annotated Kindle notes of Amazon’s most popular vegetarian nutrition book (I’m not a fan) are below. Everyone should at least skim through them, there’s a lot of great information/clarification in there.

Episode #5, Dairy: Friend or Foe? is airing on Monday, April 11 at 6:30pm PST. Does milk help or hurt your chances or getting osteoporosis? Does calcium cause prostate cancer? What’s the role of milk in acne? What about raw milk, is it really the holy grail? Join us on Monday to learn the answers.

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March 29, 2011 | Episode #4 of Summer Tomato Live. The topic is healthy vegetarian and vegan diets (with lots of interesting nutrition information for omnivores too).

Live participation is only available to subscribers of the newsletter Tomato Slice. You can sign up at any time, even during the show, and the password for participation will be emailed to you immediately.

Click here to sign up and get the password

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

The show will be recorded and released to the public next week. Show notes are below.

Show notes:

Follow Darya on Kindle

Darya’s Kindle notes on Becoming Vegetarian by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis

Health:

Tools:

I hope to see you there!

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Can You Live Longer By Cutting Calories?

by | Mar 30, 2011

Photo by Werwin15

Photo by Werwin15

The science of aging is among the most dynamic and provocative in modern biology. Over the past two decades we have seen a virtual explosion in research investigating the molecular and behavioral systems that control the aging process. But the more researchers uncover about the science of aging, the more questions emerge.

Dietary restriction has long been considered the most potent regulator of aging. Restricting food intake by any means induces a series of metabolic changes in organisms from yeast to primates that serve to extend life. Studies are currently underway to investigate the ability of dietary restriction to extend life in humans.

Several biological changes are known to occur upon the onset of dietary restriction including a decline in reproductive ability, increased stress resistance and a slowdown of some metabolic processes.

Insulin signaling was among the first molecular pathways to be identified in the regulation of aging, and offered a direct tie between diet and the aging process.  In 1998 UCSF scientist Cynthia Kenyon showed that removing an insulin receptor gene (daf-2) in worms could double their lifespan. Her lab later showed that removing another insulin signaling gene (daf-16) could extend life even longer. I spoke to Kenyon about the relationship between diet and aging for this article.

Blocking insulin signaling in these worms did not just prevent the worms from dying and allow them to age longer. Instead the aging process actually slows so that older worms continue to behave like young worms. Also, as these experiments were repeated in different animals, it was shown that lowering insulin signaling also helps protect animals from stress and diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Insulin is released as a direct response to glucose in the blood. This means that any time you eat a meal with carbohydrates, you are increasing your insulin signaling and likely accelerating aging. But this does not mean that you will live forever if you stop eating carbohydrates.

Interestingly, protein metabolism also contributes to accelerated aging, but through a different mechanism. Even more intriguing is that restricting protein increases lifespan to a greater extent than restricting sugar.

So is it simply calories that promote aging?

Probably not. For one thing, the effect of a calorie from protein is greater than a calorie from carbohydrate, making it unlikely that a calorie is the basic unit of impact. Second, there is evidence that calories are not required to accelerate aging.

Recent studies have shown that the mere act of smelling food can reduce lifespan. The mechanism for this effect is still unknown, but seems to be tied to respiration.

According to Kenyon it is clear that “sensory perception influences lifespan,” at least in worms and flies.

Thus it is likely that aging is controlled by the interaction of several pathways, including metabolism, respiration and stress. Importantly, however, lifespan seems to be dependent on a handful of specific pathways rather than global changes in cellular function or breakdown. The idea that aging is an inevitable function of time must be put aside given the evidence that it is controlled at a genetic and environmental level.

This makes sense when you think about it. Different organisms exhibit vastly different lifespans and rates of aging that are too great to be explained by some kind of universal cellular breakdown. A more parsimonious hypothesis is that organisms differ in specific genetic factors that, combined with environmental influences, regulate lifespan.

So how should we mortal humans react to these findings?

The genes linking diet and aging are highly conserved through evolution, indicating that there is a great chance human aging is sensitive to diet. Indeed, insulin-related genes have been found to be important in long-lived human populations. This suggests that the pathways discovered in worms and other organisms have similar functions in humans.

What is not clear is how much influence diet has on lifespan and to what extent we are able to manipulate it. It is already known that abnormal insulin activity in humans is linked to higher disease rates, especially “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cancer. And these diseases are clearly associated with diets rich in processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates.

The effect of protein consumption on lifespan in humans has yet to be investigated. Envisioning an experiment that would test the influence of smelling food on human aging is difficult to even imagine.

Although direct evidence is not available, there is good reason to suspect that a diet with low glycemic load may extend human lifespan. In November 2009, Kenyon’s lab reported that adding glucose to a worm’s normal diet shortens lifespan, but has no effect on the long-lived worms that lack insulin signaling genes daf-2 and daf-16. This discovery prompted Kenyon herself to adopt a low-carbohydrate diet.

Despite this there is still not sufficient evidence to recommend a calorie restricted diet for humans to extend life, largely because optimal nutrition levels for a given individual are unknown. However, most people would benefit vastly by eliminating processed foods and refined carbohydrates from their diets as much as possible.

Focusing on fresh, whole foods, enjoying an occasional glass of wine, avoiding smoking and getting regular exercise can add 14 years to the life of an average person. Maintain a healthy weight as well and your outlook gets even better.

Would you change your diet to be healthier and live longer?

Originally published February 3, 2010.

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Healthy Vegetable Sources of Protein and Iron

by | Aug 9, 2010
Collards, Carrots and Lentils

Collards, Carrots and Lentils

Today’s post is written by a long-time Summer Tomato reader, Matthew Shook. Matt refers to himself as an herbivore, rather than a vegetarian, which I love. To me the term herbivore implies an intent to live from vegetables instead of simply consuming them in an exclusive way.

Although the term omnivore better describes my own eating habits, I do think plants are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Moreover, although I eat animals I prefer to rely on plants as my primary sources of protein and iron. My reasons include health, ecology and economy.

Those of you who knew me back in the day know how very weird this is. I always considered myself a carnivore through and through, and the thought of a meal based entirely on plants seemed borderline insane. Now for me it is more normal than abnormal.

For one thing, relying on plants makes cooking and shopping a lot easier. It’s also cheaper and, as I’ve come to learn, just as tasty.

Since I have learned more about food and health I have come to appreciate that vegetarian sources of protein are not simply a substitute for meat (how could beans replace steak?), but are an essential part of a healthy diet in their own right.

Whether vegetarian or not, I encourage you to incorporate healthy plant sources of protein and iron into your healthstyle.

For this I turn you over to Matt, our resident expert on herbivory. For more wonderful vegetarian recipes visit his blog Recipes for Disaster.

Healthy Sources of Protein and Iron From Vegetables

by Matthew Shook

When I became an herbivore six years ago I had a very elementary understanding of proper nutrition. Becoming an herbivore was very simple for me–I just stopped eating animals. I soon discovered that becoming a healthy and well-nourished herbivore was a far more complex endeavor.

New herbivores often face three obstacles at the beginning of their diet transition. One is a self-perceived lack of acceptable food options and diversity. The cereal, rice, beans and pasta get old real quick. This is why herbivores often expand their interests to ethnic and unfamiliar foods.

The second obstacle, unbeknownst to many herbivores, is a lack of high-quality protein and highly-absorbable iron.

A third obstacle during my transition was trying to convince my friends, family and loved ones that becoming vegetarian can be a healthy decision. My parents swore that if I didn’t eat meat I would wither away and die within one year’s time. In their eyes, it’s a miracle I’m still alive.

The following is a review of some of the best options for maintaining a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet, but is also useful for health-conscious omnivores.

Protein

Most North Americans get more than enough protein in their diet (some even argue they consume too much protein). The problem, especially for herbivores, is that not all protein-rich foods are created equal.

Enter the “complete” protein.

A complete protein contains all of the nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), those that our bodies cannot produce themselves. So really, this should be a discussion of our need for amino acids, not necessarily protein.

Meat, fish, and dairy products are sources of high-quality protein, but herbivores need to look elsewhere for their fill of essential amino acids. (Sidenote: Some vegetarians consume dairy products, but relying on dairy as the foundation of your diet is, in my opinion, a very unhealthy way to go.)

This first vegetarian protein source is what I call “an herbivore’s best friend.”

Quinoa, while technically a seed, is often referred to as a “supergrain” from South America. It contains complete protein and is one of only two sources (the other is soybean) that are not animal-based. I have tried white, red, and black quinoa and find them all to be delicious when properly prepared. The red and black varieties tend to be a little “crunchier” than the white. 

Unlike many foods, quinoa is just as nutritious cooked as it is when sprouted and consumed.

(Here is the Summer Tomato recipe for Mexican-style quinoa salad.)

Amaranth, while not a complete protein, contains a large percentage of essential amino acids and is an outstanding source of plant-based protein. It is a “pseudograin” like quinoa, and can be used in dishes such as stir-fries, soups or just as a side dish to compliment seasoned vegetables. It can also be made into a pudding or be ground up into flour.

There are a wide variety of legumes (aka beans) capable of fulfilling an herbivore’s protein and palate requirements. Legumes are generally very low in the essential amino acid methionine, and therefore pair well with grains/pseudograins which fulfill this gap. Black beans, lentils, and chickpeas are three of the most nutritious and flavorful legumes.

This discussion would be incomplete without mentioning the most popular and highly debated legume: soybean. Soybeans have the highest amount of plant-based protein, by weight, of any other food. (Hemp seed and lentils are second and third respectively.) 

Soy can be a bit of a touchy subject as many health-minded individuals disagree about the long-term benefits of introducing the many forms of soy into your diet. Soy can be consumed as whole soybeans, edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, textured soy protein, etc.  Also controversial is the genetic modification of the typical American soybean (thank you, Monsanto).

Tofu and tempeh are concentrated forms of soybean, and thus have high levels of protein. Typically unprocessed foods hold more nutritional value than their processed counterparts, but one can argue that tempeh (a fermented form of soybean) is the healthiest form of soy. The argument is that unfermented soy products like tofu contain “anti-nutrients” (phytates, enzyme inhibitors and goitrogens), which can cause digestive problems and nutrient deficiencies.

I limit my soy intake to very moderate amounts of tempeh and utilize it as a complement to well-balanced meals.

This last one should come as no surprise to Summer Tomato readers. While not an option for vegans, eggs can provide a great deal of nutrition to a vegetarian diet. Eggs contain all of the essential amino acids and are particularly beneficial to herbivores as a source of active (highly-absorbable) vitamin B-12, which is only found in significant portions in animal-based food.

What are your favorite vegetarian sources of protein?

Iron

Iron is essential to any healthy diet, herbivore or otherwise. Iron is a vital part of hemoglobin in blood, and a failure to absorb an adequate amount can lead to iron deficiency anemia. 

There is a big difference between consuming and absorbing an adequate amount of iron.

Two types of iron exist in the human body: heme iron and non-heme iron.  Heme iron can only be obtained from animal sources such as cow, chicken and fish. These animal sources contain about 40% heme iron.  The remaining 60% of animal-based sources, and 100% of plant-base sources, are comprised of non-heme iron. 

The semi-bad news for herbivores is that heme iron is well-absorbed and non-heme iron is less well-absorbed. The good news is there are other foods you can eat with your meal that enhance the absorption of non-heme iron sources. Non-heme iron enhancers include fruits high in vitamin C, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and white wine.

Spinach is one of best sources of iron available for herbivores, especially when cooked. I consume spinach regularly both raw and cooked, and find it is an excellent addition to numerous recipes including soups, salads, stir-fries and smoothies. 

I have read that spinach is an iron inhibitor (reduces the absorption of iron), but when paired with iron enhancers the essential element is readily absorbable.

Swiss chard, turnip greens, and bok choy have decent but not spectacular amounts of iron.

There are a few legumes that are excellent sources of iron. Lentils, lima beans, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas and soybeans are the best sources in the legume family.  The wide range of flavor from these legumes enables herbivores to get more than enough iron from a variety of cuisines.

(For more nutrition information on lentils and the recipe for the dish pictured above read the Summer Tomato recipe for collards, carrots and French green lentils.)

Chickpea hummus, black bean burritos, dahl (lentil) soup and lima or soybean stir-fry are fantastic recipe ideas using iron-rich legumes. If you choose soybeans, be sure to add some iron enhancers to the meal since they are considered iron inhibitors as well.

Quinoa and amaranth, the two psuedograins mentioned for their high protein content, are also good vegetarian sources of iron. I try to maintain a varied diet by frequently switching up the different greens, legumes and (pseudo)grains in my meals.  I’ve included one of my favorite recipes that features many of these protein and iron-rich ingredients.

Black Bean and Quinoa Burrito

What are your favorite vegetarian sources of iron?  Are you concerned about iron inhibitors in your diet? Are you or someone you know ever been chronically anemic?

Originally published August 19, 2009

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