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For the Love of Food

by | Mar 20, 2015
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 white wine has more sulfites than red, fonts affect your healthy behavior, and Kraft buys the blessings of dietitians.

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

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 and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (Yes, I took that picture of the pepper heart myself.)

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10 Tasty Carbs That Won’t Make You Fat

by | Mar 20, 2013

Photo by Denna Jones

We all know the story. Eating carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar, which results in a surge of insulin. Insulin shuttles all that extra sugar into your fat cells and you become obese. Over time, your poor helpless organs become resistant to insulin and you develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, thereby shortening your life by 7 years.

All of that is true.

The story is more complicated, however, because all carbs are not created equal.

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8 Tips For Drinking Less Without Your Friends Knowing

by | Aug 6, 2012

Photo by David Long

I have nothing against people who like to party. Partying is really fun, and a lot of the time I’m right there leading the crusade.

But we all know those people who really like to drink, and like to do it often. Not only do these guys take their own drinking a little too far, they’re experts at pressuring others to keep up with them drink-for-drink. And they’ll use mockery, guilt, generosity, logic, peer pressure and dozens of other tactics to get everyone around them to keep the party going.

These friends are fun to have, until they aren’t. As fun as it is to party, sometimes you want to go out and have a good time without regretting it the next day. Hangovers have their time and place, but when you have real responsibilities it is nice to have a way to hit it a little less hard, preferably without drawing attention to your secret plan.

Feel free to mix and match these tricks, different situations call for different lines of defense.

8 Tips For Drinking Less Without Your Friends Knowing

1. Alternate with water

This is a tried and true way to both cut back on alcohol and stay hydrated, thereby preventing a hangover. Every drink or two, go to the bar and ask for some water. You don’t need to make excuses for this, you’re thirsty and will get another drink in a second. Just be sure to finish the waters and feel free to take your time.

2. Drink clear liquids

Clear liquids like gin and vodka look like melting ice. So if you don’t want to finish every drink that comes your way, you can always leave a little extra in your old glass and no one will notice you aren’t tossing back as many as they are.

3. Order drinks that look like alcohol (but aren’t)

Another advantage of clear liquids. Vodka soda with lime is my favorite go-to drink on late nights, and it’s awesome for several reasons. Besides being easily palatable and sugar free, you also have the option of leaving out the vodka all together. Just order a club soda with lime and ask the bartender to make it look like a cocktail—they’re usually more than happy to comply.

4. Be forgetful

You don’t have to be limited to clear liquids to abandon the occasional half-full glass. Leave your drink on the bar, in the bathroom, on a random table or anywhere it won’t attract attention. That way when someone offers you another, you’re ready.

5. Drink light beer

If you’re a beer drinker and all this clear liquid talk is making you squirm, never fear. There is a huge difference in alcohol content of beers, with light beers coming in around 4% alcohol and some fancy Belgians topping out at over 10%. You do the math.

If you know you’ll have to get through more than you’ve bargaining for, opt for lighter beers. If you’re like me and think Bud Light tastes like donkey pee, go with a Mexican beer like Corona and add a lime. I can drink those all night and barely get a buzz going—and I’m little.

6. Master the shot spit

Drinking nights often don’t turn crazy until someone starts ordering shots, then it’s all over. Bartenders have this problem too, since drunk people often think they’ve found a new best friend and gratefully buy their server shots throughout the night. To avoid getting hammered on the job, bartenders keep a half empty pint of beer nearby and pretend to use it as a chaser but really spit shots back into it.

If you know your friends are likely to “surprise” everyone with shots be sure to have a nearby water glass or pint that you’re nursing. Use the old bartenders’ trick and no one will suspect. I know it’s gross, but it works. Just remember to not actually drink the beer later.

7. Show up late

Sometimes special occasions are specifically set aside for excessive drinking. If you need to make an appearance but would rather not sacrifice your liver, show up 45-60 minutes late. Everyone will already be one drink ahead of you.

8. Order half shots

If you’re in charge of ordering your own drinks and vodka soda isn’t your thing, ask for your regular cocktail but request a half shot instead of the normal full. You’ll still get the fun of drinking, but each drink will contribute less to tomorrow’s headache.

What are your favorite tricks for drinking less without your friends knowing?

Originally published June 29, 2011.

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10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

by | Aug 1, 2012
Photo by basheertome

Photo by basheertome

I pity the fool who puts health over pleasure every time they enter a restaurant, but if you eat out often all those French fries could get the better of you.

When nothing on the menu perfectly fits my preferences (particularly at low to mid-range places more tailored to the Standard American Diet crowd), I don’t hesitate to swap out whatever I don’t want with something better.

Whether it’s to avoid processed foods or simply add vibrance and color to my plate, here are 10 simple swaps to make the most of your restaurant meals.

10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

1. Mixed greens instead of ice burg or romaine lettuce

I enjoy cobb salads, but for some reason they’re usually served with boring industrial lettuce. Most places these days carry mixed greens or spinach as well, and are usually happy to make the switch.

2. Fruit instead of toast

I’m not sure why breakfast spots think you need two giant pieces of toast on top of your potatoes, eggs and pancakes, but if you don’t want it they’ll often offer you fruit instead. This is one of the best upgrades you can get away with.

3. Salad instead of potatoes

Speaking of potatoes, while they are real food and have their place in a healthy diet, they’re so often fried in rancid industrial oils that it’s best to skip them. Swapping them out for salad or cooked greens is rarely a problem.

4. Avocado instead of mayo

Real mayonnaise, the kind made from egg yolks and olive oil is perfectly healthy (and delicious). Unfortunately that isn’t what most places are putting on your sandwich. Instead commercial mayos are typically made with soybean or canola oils, AKA hyper-processed industrial oils. It may cost a little extra, but avocado is a fantastic alternative to gooey up your lunch.

5. Cheese plate instead of dessert

One of the things I love about France is that it’s perfectly acceptable to have cheese after dinner instead of sugar. If everyone is ordering crème brûlée and you don’t want to be a party pooper, get the cheese plate instead. Good cheese is healthy.

6. Brown rice instead of white

I don’t mind white rice in small quantities, but if I’m stuck eating somewhere I know the food isn’t very healthy I swap out my white rice for brown (and order as many vegetables as possible) if the option is available.

7. Drink wine instead of cocktails

Dinner often starts with a drink selection. While wine certainly has calories, cocktails usually have hundreds more thanks to the liqueurs and syrups typically used. Mixed drinks have their place, but if you’ll also be eating  a few hundred calories then wine is a better choice.

8. Beans instead of rice

If I see beans or lentils anywhere on the menu I’ll often ask if the kitchen can use them instead of one of the faster digesting starches on my plate. Your waiter may be confused, but he’ll usually do it if you ask.

9. Olive oil and vinegar instead of sugary dressing

At some point in the past 20 years salad dressings started being made with ridiculous amounts of sugar and salt, probably to cover up the completely flavorless vegetables from the industrial food chain. Good ol’ fashioned olive oil and vinegar is a better choice, and most kitchens have them.

10. Anything instead of American cheese

Have you ever looked at the ingredients for American cheese? Besides water, the first ingredient is usually trans fat. The second is cornstarch. All the way at the bottom it says, “Contains: Milk.” Replacing it with real cheddar, gruyere, provolone, or even nothing would be healthier.

What are your favorite restaurant substitution tricks?

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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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5 Unconventional Tips To Save Time In The Kitchen

by | Apr 9, 2012

Photo by r.reveche

Darrin Carlson helps smart, busy men learn how to cook real food at Lean, Mean, Virile Machine. When he’s not doing analytical chemistry he’s trying hard not to fall off his surfboard. You can follow him on Twitter @Darrin_Carlson.

You may not be able to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen every day, but that doesn’t mean you should have to fall back on microwaveable mac and cheese either.

Although it’s important to build healthy habits by learning to prepare your food from scratch, most of us still have to devote a lot of time to work, school, friends, family, and other obligations.

This is why these five unconventional kitchen hacks are bound to come in handy.

5 Unconventional Tips To Save Time In The Kitchen

by Darrin Carlson

1. Peel potatoes without a peeler

Peeling potatoes can be a pain. Here’s a way to simplify the process.

Instead of peeling the potatoes before cooking them, peeling them after. The process of cooking the potatoes causes their skins to loosen (almost like a honey badger), allowing you to remove it freely.

Get a pot of water boiling and add the potatoes. Boil for about 45 minutes and pour out into a colander in the sink. Turn on the cold water above the potatoes. Hold one potato under the water stream, twist and pull to remove the skin. Holding potatoes under cold water cools down the exterior enough that you don’t burn yourself, while the inside remains hot.

2. Peel garlic without a knife

Traditionally, you needed to peel garlic cloves by whacking them with the side of a knife to loosen the skins and then peeling off by hand. But if you have to peel quite a bit, you can save yourself a lot of time by ditching the knife altogether.

Start out by separating the cloves by pushing down on the bulb with the heel of your hand. Then, take the cloves and toss them into a large mixing bowl (or a covered saucepan). Then, cover it tightly and shake it as if your life depended on it for a few seconds. The skins should peel off during this process.

3. Peel a hard-boiled egg fast

If you’ve only got a couple of hard-boiled eggs to peel, the best way is to use the “blowout” method. Pinch off both ends of the egg and bring one up to your mouth while holding your hand on the other side. Now, blow hard into the egg and it should slip out through the other end and into your hand!

If you’ve got a lot of eggs to peel (or you’re afraid of scaring your dinner guests off), you can also use a method similar to the one above for peeling garlic. After removing the eggs from boiling water and cooling, put them into a large mixing bowl or saucepan and cover. Shake for a minute and the shells should come right off.

4. Peel a banana like a monkey

Sick of mangling your banana every time you try to peel one? Tired of making the end all mushy when you try to peel the stem back? Take a cue from the way monkeys eat them.

Instead of peeling from the stem, go after it from the opposite side. Pinch this end between your fingers and it should split. You can then peel the sides down without having to squish the fruit.

5. Chill a bottle of wine quickly

Now that you’ve put in all the hard work learning how to peel potatoes, garlic, eggs, and bananas like a boss, you’ve earned a drink. But what if that pinot grigio is still at room temperature?

No problem. Fill up a sink (or bucket) with cold water. Add a few dozen cubes of ice and a handful of salt. Put the bottle in and stir it around. In about 15 minutes, you should have a perfectly chilled bottle of wine!

Water is a better conductor of heat than air, and adding salt lowers the freezing point, allowing you to quickly chill wine (or anything else, for that matter).

What are your favorite unconventional ways to save time in the kitchen?

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30 Ways To Slow and Prevent Aging

by | Nov 18, 2009

Darya PinoToday is my 30th birthday and a perfect time to reflect on life, the universe and everything.

Despite being female and thus held to tough and often unrealistic physical standards, hitting the end of my third decade doesn’t cause me anxiety about either my appearance or place in the world.

In my experience, age is not an amount of time but a state of mind. As a child I always wanted to be a grown up, so I acted like one. It freaked my parents out sometimes, but that’s just how I was. In my mind, I still feel pretty much the same in that regard. I love to work hard and I thrive in positions of responsibility. Since both these traits get more important with age, I have actually enjoyed stepping into the adult role I’ve always felt I belonged in.

But that’s only one part of me.

In many other ways I’m as juvenile as ever. If you spend much time with me on Twitter (@summertomato) you’ve probably noticed I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy. I blame my dad for that one. I’m also still shocked every time I hear that friends my age are getting married and having children. In my brain we’re not nearly old enough for that yet! But in reality, it is my friends who are normal and I’m the outlier.

Oh, and did I mention I’m still in school? Up until a couple years ago I carried a backpack with me everywhere, for better or for worse.

Darya's GunsAll these things give me a sense of agelessness, so it is hard to think of this birthday as anything but another day to do things I love. But part of my peace of mind certainly comes from the fact that I’m in pretty good shape physically–probably the best of my life. And at 30 this is definitely something to be proud of.

Summer Tomato readers know I attribute my good health almost entirely to my eating habits. I also spend a good amount of time in the gym, though I don’t workout nearly as much as I used to. But healthstyle extends to more than just diet and exercise.

Here I’ve compiled my favorite 30 habits to slow aging and keep you young in more than just your heart.

30 Healthstyle Tips To Keep You Young

  1. Be happy The physical damage caused to your body by stress has only recently become appreciated by the scientific community. Fill your life with things you love and get rid of almost everything else. Practice stress relieving activities like meditation and exercise, and learn to appreciate joy when you find it. Happiness does a body good.
  2. Eat vegetables There is good evidence that oxidative damage caused by toxins and metabolism contributes to the aging process at a cellular level. Foods (but not supplements) high in antioxidants seem to protect us from oxidative stress.
  3. Avoid sugar Sugar is a direct cause of aging and significantly reduces lifespan in organisms from yeast to primates. Not by a small amount either.
  4. Moisturize The appearance of your skin is largely dependent upon moisture. Help it out by using moisturizers to keep your skin soft and hydrated. Work with a professional to determine what type is best for you.
  5. Don’t raise your eyebrows Credit my mother for teaching me this one, it has been a lifesaver. As a kid she used to warn me about raising my eyebrows, saying it would give me wrinkles and I’d regret it. I thought she was crazy, but still learned to express myself without much forehead crinkling. As a result I have far fewer forehead lines than some people years younger than me.
  6. Sleep For me the most important determinant of how I look (and feel) on a given day is how much sleep I get. Seven hours is my ideal, but everyone is different.
  7. Eat fish Some evidence suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are particularly beneficial to the skin.
  8. Wear sunscreen I love the sun and spend as much time in it as possible, but I never walk out the door without sunscreen on my face. UV radiation from the sun damages your skin and promotes aging.
  9. Don’t smoke Smoking is one of the easiest ways to look older than you really are and shorten your life at the same time. Avoid both primary and secondary smoke like the plague.
  10. Step out of your comfort zone Mental exercise seems to be one of the key elements of quality aging, but this doesn’t mean you should sit around all day doing crossword puzzles. Neuroscientist and cognitive aging specialist Dr. Adam Gazzaley suggests going out of your way to challenge yourself mentally, doing things like traveling and learning new languages even over the age of 60.
  11. Take vitamin D Some research suggests that vitamin D may be particularly important in slowing the aging process. The jury is still out on the value of vitamin D supplements for aging, but they seem to have enough other benefits that it’s worth the investment.
  12. Eat fruit Like vegetables, fruits have an enormous amount of antioxidants and help with hydration. Vitamin C in particular is thought to benefit skin.
  13. No foundation or powder makeup Generally I avoid putting any makeup directly onto my skin. I realize I have a very flexible work environment and this is not possible for every woman, but skipping the makeup does help maintain your skin’s hydration and elasticity. I do wear makeup occasionally, maybe once or twice per week. But in general I find that mascara and lip gloss are enough for most situations.
  14. Hydrate Your skin is very sensitive to water levels. Stay hydrated by sipping water and eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
  15. Whiten teeth I know this isn’t something you can find at the farmers market, but when you drink as much coffee and red wine as I do, minor (and admittedly superficial) fixes like teeth whitening can go a long way. If you don’t believe me, try and remember the last time you saw a 20-year-old with yellow teeth….
  16. Wear sunglasses If you’re a happy person (and I know you are), your wrinkles will most likely be caused by smiling and show up predominantly around your eyes. Block out extra sun (and look super cool) by always wearing sunglasses when you go outside.
  17. Eat beans and lentils Legumes are a fabulous source of minerals that can help keep your skin hydrated and looking young.
  18. Tea Afternoon tea time is one of the greatest discoveries I’ve ever made. Not only is tea full of antioxidants and other cancer-fighting compounds, a midday break can be just what the doctor ordered to sip away stress.
  19. Cardio I’m not the biggest believer in cardio exercise for weight loss, but it is still important for vascular health. Not to mention how awesome you feel after a good session. Cardio doesn’t need to kill you, but you should do it regularly.
  20. Strength training Building strong, toned muscles is one of the most effective ways to look younger than your years. Ask anyone who looks fabulous and they’ll swear by strength training. A little goes a long way.
  21. Eat intact whole grains Intact grains (not fake “whole” grains that are ground into flour) are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber. They are also perfect fuel for those killer workouts.
  22. Olive oil It is hard to think of something more versatile, healthy and delicious than olive oil. It breaks my heart that dietary fat got such a bad rap the past few decades, since the benefits of healthy fats like olive oil are innumerable. Fat isn’t just “not bad” for you, it’s essential.
  23. Kill your television We all have things we enjoy watching (I’m partial to NBA championship teams), but if it takes up a significant amount of your time each week (>5 hrs) it may be time to reevaluate. How many years of your life do you really want to spend on your couch?
  24. Don’t stuff yourself Cutting back on calories is the single most effective way to slow aging and extend life. I don’t advise starving yourself, but it’s a good idea to avoid overeating in any situation.
  25. Eat nuts Nuts are the perfect snack food and are filled with anti-aging fats, vitamins and minerals. They are also great for suppressing appetite–just don’t eat more than a handful.
  26. Avoid dairy Studies of aging skin have shown that milk and milk products are associated with acne, which can lead to scaring and age spots.
  27. Avoid processed meats Processed meats are associated with many different health problems in humans. No need to get too hung up on this, but you may not want to eat deli meat every single day if you want to stay young.
  28. No processed carbohydrates Just like sugar, processed carbohydrates are a direct cause of aging and disease. I eat these things occasionally, but don’t let it happen too often.
  29. Coconut oil Fats come in all different shapes and sizes, and I try to incorporate a good mix of all of them. Medium-chain fatty acids like those found in coconut oil are starting to be recognized as important by researchers, but the evidence is limited. Coconut oil is also a healthy source of saturated fat for vegetarians. I always use coconut oil when cooking Southeast Asian food.
  30. Red wine Red wine has a powerful anti-aging compound in it known as resveratrol. Though it is unlikely that the dosage of resveratrol in red wine is high enough to impact lifespan, drinking alcohol in moderation is also associated with decreased risk of heart disease and other vascular problems. Cheers!

Do you have any anti-aging secrets?

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