Eat healthy and prosper: National Nutrition Month, Part 1
“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”
— Doug LarsonAccording to the World Factbook, as of 2008, 33 percent of the adult American population is considered to be obese (calculated by Body Mass Index of 30 or greater). A poor diet leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, assorted cancers, diabetes, infertility, and alas, snoring. As March brings in a mentality of rejuvenation across the land it is fittingly time to pay homage to National Nutrition Month.
Cocoa for the CureCurrent studies have shown dark chocolate with cocoa content of 70 percent or higher when eaten moderately (one square daily) is a cardiovascular warrior reducing heart attack and stroke risk by as much as 39 percent, along with having a moderate lowering effect on blood pressure. It’s all thanks to the antioxidant flavonoids that boost flexibility of veins and arteries.
There’s more. Not only does bittersweet chocolate redirect and satiate cravings for sweets, salts and fats, it has been found to reduce stress hormone levels, and act as nature’s internal sun protector to put the skids on sun burns.
Finally, chocolate is now the new codeine as the chemical theobromine in the treat is lauded as a suppressant that calms the cough reflex in the brain.
Grain of truthA UCLA medical professor has lectured about the diverse diet of the hunter-gatherers of the Australian outback who presently indulge in 800 varieties of plant sources. The average American, on the other hand, subsists on a pedestrian mainstay of corn, soy and wheat.
Jitter BugWatch out for caffeine lurking in unsuspected places, including a jar of decaf coffee (which misleadingly has been found to contain low to moderate amounts), non-cola sodas like root beer, energy drinks (be mindful of catch-phrases like energizing, invigorating and perky), ice creams, especially mocha flavors, and our fave, bittersweet chocolate. The higher the cocoa content, the higher also the caffeine, so those who are sensitive to the stimulant choose plant-based carob, reminiscent of chocolate’s flavor and texture minus the caffeine.
Lycopene healing machineTomatoes are a red powerhouse of cancer fighting lycopenes and flavonoids, along with A, B-complex and C vitamins, potassium and phosphorous. It has been found that cooking tomatoes releases even more lycopene than eating them raw, so make a pot of mighty marinara. Since lycopene is also fat soluble, eat it with some friendly fat. Baked ziti, anyone?
Take your breath awayWhen cooking with garlic, chop then let it sit for a few minutes at room temperature. This tinkers with the enzymes, which in turn, jacks up the healthful properties of the stinky rose.
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• 3 pounds of ripe roma tomatoes, chopped
• 2 thin carrot sticks, diced
• 2 ribs of celery, diced
• 2 garlic cloves, minced (and sitting at room temperature for a few minutes)
• 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil or Italian parsley
• 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey
• 1/4 cup of olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
• Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil on low medium and sauté carrots, celery and garlic until tender. Add tomatoes, honey, herbs and spices and simmer for about one hour or until it thickens. Add remaining olive oil. Pour sauce into a blender and puree. Serve hot over your favorite whole-wheat pasta or use as a divine dipping sauce.