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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Salt may help with weight loss, grass-fed beef gets an upgrade, and a new blood sugar regulation mechanism

by | May 12, 2017

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

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

This week salt may help with weight loss, grass-fed beef gets an upgrade, and a new blood sugar regulation mechanism.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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For the Love of Food

by | May 16, 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 week “clean eating” gets the boot, exercise snacks control blood sugar, and why nutrition is so %&* confusing.

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 | Oct 25, 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 the nutrition of raw vs cooked veggies, the tremendous benefits of sleep for health, and how personal values motivate your food choices.

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 | Sep 7, 2012

For The Love of Food

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

Most of the food news this week focused on the controversy over organic versus conventional agriculture, and I’m already tired of it. I normally post 10 links on Friday, but today I could only find seven additional good stories, so I didn’t waste your time by posting three more lame ones. It was a short week anyway, so consider this a holiday.

That said, all these are definitely worth reading. Learn why you should be scared of chicken breasts, romantic dinner settings can help you eat less, healthy eating helps your brain and more.

Want to see all my favorite links? 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).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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How To Eat Dessert And Still Stay Skinny

by | Jun 20, 2012

Photo by E.Baron

Cutting processed foods and refined sugars out of your diet is arguably the most important dietary change you can make to improve health and lose weight. But will one slice of birthday cake inevitably tighten your pants and cut your life short?

Not necessarily.

Quality of life is hard to measure, but it certainly involves some balance between good health and hedonistic enjoyment of things that might not be perfectly healthy. The question is how we find this balance for ourselves, and how do we make sure our behavior helps us keep that balance?

The answer, of course, will be different for everyone. Competitive athletes have higher physical demands for maintaining ideal health than, say, a scientist. And I’m not a fan of watering down my favorite foods—especially desserts—with “healthier” ingredients. But there are a few general guidelines that can help the majority of us live a little without constantly fighting the battle of the bulge.

9 Tips For Dealing With Dessert

1. Eat dessert once per week or less

As a general rule I try to keep my dessert consumption to once per week or less (it is often less). A larger person may be able to get away with a bit more, but setting a weekly maximum can help you keep tabs on your sugar consumption. If you are actively trying to lose weight, aiming for once every two weeks or less is ideal.

Sugar is problematic for several reasons. Most of you probably realize by now that excess sugar causes rapid blood sugar and insulin spikes that force extra calories to be stored as fat. Over time these spikes will alter your sensitivity to insulin, negatively impacting your metabolism and risk of type 2 diabetes. Extra insulin signaling is also associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and accelerated aging.

The less refined sugar you eat the better, but assuming most of us aren’t willing to give it up completely it is helpful to have a weekly maximum to keep consumption in a reasonable range.

2. Pick your occasions

Once you decide to budget your sugar consumption, it is time to start choosing your priorities.

Is your weekly group meeting at the office (the one where there’s always doughnuts) really a special occasion? In other words, is that stale chocolate doughnut you wolf down while half asleep really worth the extra workout or skipping dessert with your kids this weekend? Probably not.

If you think about it, there’s a good chance you don’t even enjoy that doughnut as much as you assume you do. And we both know you’ll feel horrible after eating it anyway. So why do you believe that you want it?

When you stop and really think about your food choices, you’ll often find that many of them come from conditioning rather than true preference. But just because 12-year old you liked low-quality sweets doesn’t mean the adult you has to continue eating them.

Save desserts for the times that are really worth it, and realize you aren’t missing much by skipping the Costco brownie bites.

3. Don’t eat dessert alone

Special occasions are moments of celebration you share with people you care about. One of the wonderful things about life is these moments happen all the time. Our weeks and months are perpetually marked by birthdays, weddings, promotions, vacations and a million other reasons to celebrate. Use these special times as cues for when to indulge.

On the other hand, there is nothing particularly special about sitting alone on your couch watching TV. Try to get out of the habit of eating dessert alone, especially if this is something you rely on for comfort. If you just want something sweet, try having a piece of fruit or some herbal tea instead.

I recommend not keeping any pre-made desserts in the house at all. Why torture yourself?

4. Know dessert when you see it

If you’re eating dessert several times a day but only think you are eating it once or twice per week, none of these rules are going to help you maintain your health and physique.

I’ve written before about the hidden sugars in common foods such as sandwiches, salads and fruit yogurts. There are clearly benefits to eating a salad, but syrupy dressings contribute to your sugar intake whether there is lettuce around or not. Overly sweet non-dessert foods make it more difficult for you to enjoy real indulgences without consequences.

Be aware of the sugar content in the foods you eat and actively try to minimize it in the bulk of your diet (i.e. choose sandwiches without teriyaki or BBQ sauce, salads with savory (not sweet) dressing, cocktails without juice or syrup, and plain yogurt).

If you’re eating healthy and minimizing sugar 90+% of the time, your waist will hardly notice the occasional birthday cupcake.

5. Little indulgences count

Just as you cannot ignore the 27 grams of sugar in Yoplait yogurt, you can’t grab 2 or 3 pieces of candy every afternoon from the bowl in the office without it adding up.

Be aware of the little cheats you make throughout the week and don’t kid yourself about their impact. If you decide that the work day is just too hard to get through without these, that’s fine. But you aren’t doing yourself any favors by pretending they don’t exist. Remember to count them in your mental dessert tally and keep it in mind when you’re looking lustfully at your grandma’s homemade apple pie and wishing you hadn’t had so much sugar this week.

6. Choose quality over quantity

If your goal is to limit your sweets but you don’t want to feel like you’re missing out, make sure your choices emphasize quality over quantity.

A few bites of good quality dark chocolate is infinitely more satisfying than a handful of Hershey’s kisses. Desserts can rack up 25-50 calories per bite. Get the most bang for your buck by picking foods with actual flavor and not just extra sugar and salt.

Hint: This tip should also help you stick to tips #2 and #5.

7. Go splitsies

Half a dessert is 100% better for you than a whole dessert.

If you really really want to try one of those cookies your co-worker has been bragging about for months but have already had your ice cream this week, try taking only half of one. Better yet, find someone to split it with you so you aren’t tempted to finish it. If it’s that good, a few bites should be plenty satisfying.

8. Resist peer pressure

Some people take a special pleasure in encouraging others to do things they know are bad for them. These people also tend to be good at recruiting others to join in their banter.

Be prepared to get nagged occasionally for not wanting to eat foods that aren’t worth it. But if you have decided in advance to stick to desserts you know taste better than what your friends are pushing, it really isn’t that hard to ignore them.

Who’s really missing out here?

9. Use the gym

Despite our best efforts, we all eat too much dessert every now and then. This isn’t good, but it isn’t the end of the world either.

When this happens to me I use it as an opportunity to amp up my workout routine. By far my best runs are on days when we have birthday cake in lab–I feel like I can run for days with all my extra energy.

Your muscles use sugar as fuel, so use it up while you can and give your metabolism a little boost (having a little extra blood sugar and insulin around when you’re exercising can actually improve your metabolism) and prevent those spare calories from being stored as fat.

You’ll probably feel better after working it off too.

How do you deal with dessert in your healthstyle?

Originally published March 31, 2010

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Controlling Blood Sugar May Help Preserve Your Memory

by | Jan 5, 2009

High blood sugar levels are known to accelerate aging and decrease longevity in many different species. Now it seems blood sugar may also be tied to how well you keep your memory as you age.

Aren’t you glad you have cut back on refined carbohydrates and sugars since you started reading this blog? I thought so!

A new study published in the December issue of the Annals of Neurology examined the effect of high blood sugar on the region of the brain responsible for memory formation, the hippocampus. Researchers examined patients with either diabetes or stroke (in other, non-hippocampus, parts of the brain) and determined that both groups had defects in the hippocampus compared to normal patients, but the problems were in different hippocampal subregions.

Patients with diabetes had defects in a part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus, which has been shown to be especially sensitive to aging and memory loss. Stroke patients had problems with a region of the hippocampus called CA1.

Diabetes is a disease that involves misregulation of blood sugar, so the scientists examined if blood sugar levels alone correlated with problems in the dentate. This is important because some patients that have not been diagnosed with diabetes may still have high blood sugar levels. The scientists did indeed find a correlation between high blood sugar and hippocampal deficits in the dentate gyrus. Interestingly, blood sugar levels were also linked to memory performance.

Correlational findings are very interesting, but it is easy to imagine situations that would give this result without there being a causative role for blood sugar in memory function. One reason this study is particularly compelling is because they repeated the analysis on rhesus monkeys and found the same relationship between blood sugar and hippocampal defects.
Even better, they were able to show a causative relationship between blood sugar regulation and dentate gyrus deficits in mice. In this experiment the scientists induced type 2 diabetes in the animals, then measured hippocampal function. Mice that could not regulate blood sugar had hippocampal deficits in the dentate compared to control mice.
Taken together, this study provides strong evidence that high blood sugar levels are related to hippocampal and memory dysfunction.

What does this mean for you?

This is actually great news for the rest of us because blood sugar is something we can self-regulate fairly easily.
The study’s principal investigator and professor of neurology at Columbia University, Dr. Scott Small says,”This would suggest that anything to improve regulation of blood glucose would potentially be a way to ameliorate age-related memory decline.”

That means both diet and exercise may work together to preserve memory function into old-age by controlling blood sugar.

“We had previously shown that physical exercise strengthens a part of the brain involved with aging but, at the time, we didn’t know why physical exercise would have this selective benefit,” Small affirmed. “Now we have a proposed mechanism. We think it’s because subjects who exercised had better glucose handling.”

Though the role of diet in hippocampal function has not been directly tested in humans, evidence is mounting that it is important for maintaining cognitive function and protecting against Alzheimer’s disease.


The best way to control your own blood sugar levels is to eat and live in a manner that improves insulin sensitivity. An added bonus is that you will probably lose weight, live longer and reduce your risk of a bunch of other diseases too, including cancer.

Sensitivity to insulin is affected by two dietary factors: 1) How much glucose is in your blood at any one time and 2), the composition of fat in your diet. It is also improved by exercise.

Keep these things in mind when you eat if you want to control and improve your insulin sensitivity:

  • Limit sugars and refined carbohydrates, including all white bread, white rice and pasta.
  • Choose whole, intact grain carbohydrates such as brown rice and oats.
  • Make vegetables the bulk of your diet.
  • Consider substituting legumes for carbs.
  • Reduce saturated fats from red meat and dairy
  • Eat more healthy fats from fish, olive oil and nuts.
  • Avoid processed foods with hidden sugars, yogurts and salad dressings come to mind.

Basically just eat real food and you’re on your way. And don’t forget to keep reading this blog to learn how to make healthy eating both easy and delicious.

Let me know which of the above suggestions you find the most difficult to follow and I may be able to give you a few pointers….

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Sunchokes: Did You Know?

by | Nov 25, 2008

Sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, are one of the few tubers native to North America. Despite the name, these plants are not from Jerusalem nor are they artichokes. They are in fact a type of sunflower, though their flavor is similar to that of an artichoke. For this reason Italian cultivators called them girasole, the Italian translation of sunflower. When pronounced in Italian, girasole sounds similar to Jerusalem. Hence the name Jerusalem artichoke.

Their unique taste and texture make sunchokes a fantastic addition to many foods, however they are particularly useful as a potato substitute for diabetics. Unlike most tubers, sunchokes store their carbohydrates in the form of inulin instead of starch. Our digestive enzymes do not breakdown inulin, so it has a minimal impact on blood sugar and does not raise triglycerides.

The down side of inulin is that since it is not easily digested it can produce gas and bloating in sensitive people. Cooking sunchokes well can minimize this effect. It is also a good idea to eat a small amount the first time you try them and build up your tolerance.

Sunchokes are a good source of potassium, thiamin and phosphorus, and a fantastic source of iron and soluble fiber.

They make a delicious soup, but can also be roasted, sauteed or eaten raw.

What is your favorite way to eat and prepare sunchokes?

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