There's another measurement of food "health" that's making the rounds. The ANDI scale can be very useful whether your eating habits are just so so or you're eating well but still feeling like you aren't quite where you want to be nutritionally. ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. The ANDI score of a food reflects its nutrient density on a scale from 1 to 100. Calculations for ANDI scores include consideration of a foods micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidant capacities.
I came across the ANDI Scale on the Whole Foods website as they are now using it as a part of their whole foods Health Starts Here educational strategy. The ANDI Scale was created by Dr. Joel Fuhrman and is the base of his healthy eating strategy. Dr. Fuhrmann advocates a nutritarian diet, a concept of eating foods that maximize the nutrients in your diet.
You can use the scale as a way of learning the relative healthiness of the foods you eat. For example, what if you want to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck out of a stew that includes greens and beans? The ANDI scoring system tells us that collards and kale are super nutritious at 1000 on the ANDI Scale, while spinach clocks in at an impressive 739.
I've mentioned before how I love tips & tricks to make home cooked meals even more health enhancing. I can see the ANDI Scale will be a new additional to my healthy cooking repertoire.
These two books teach such simple ways of enriching the healing quality of our foods, it’s a shame we aren’t all raised with this knowledge. But it’s available through these cookbooks!
Several years ago I bought a cookbook that changed forever the way I cook. Secrets from a Healthy Asian Kitchen by Ying Chang Compestine is not only a great cookbook, but suggests methods of cooking integrating health giving ingredients into a variety of dishes.
For example, those of us who are garlic lovers use garlic whenever we can for its taste, knowing we’re also reaping the benefits of its side effects of immune support, and support in preventing heart disease and cancer. She takes us further, advocating not only the regular use of garlic, but also ginseng, ginger & other healing foods.
One of the ingredients she advocates using frequently is green tea. You’ve no doubt heard that green tea has antioxidant cancer fighting properties; it’s also helpful in maintaining a healthy weight. Compestine uses green tea as a base in recipes where we would normally use water. It was a novel idea to me! As I got into the habit of using green tea, I expanded into other herbal teas depending on what I had available or what I felt I needed. In the spring, a rejuvenating tonic of dandelion tea can turn into a soup or spaghetti sauce base.
Taking the concept a step further, why not use the water left after steaming vegetables? Steamed broccoli gives a broth base to cook rice or pasta in. Now I almost always use a health giving tea or a vegetable broth as a base for my dishes. It’s a healthy addition to any recipe that doesn’t alter the taste.
Her recipes are light and delightful. This is where I learned to make a basic Thai sauce and candied walnuts for garnish. She includes a section on stir frying that includes an explanation of the order of foods to add in order to have them all cook together evenly.
Another book that has influenced my recipes is Sandra Cabot, MD’s Raw Juices Can Save Your Life!: An A-Z Guide to Juicing She provides the basic process for making health giving vegetable and fruit juices in your blender or juicer. She gives specific combinations that are the most effective for over 50 conditions including concerns such as candida, asthma, fluid retention and skin problems.She even covers different types of juicers. I have a good blender, not a juicer, so I have the choice of straining my results for a juice, or drinking it with the pulp. More often than not I strain it and use the pulp as a base for soup or a sauce. Juicing aficionados prefer a juicer that removes the pulp.
It’s a wonderful reference book too. I love that I can look in her book to see the beneficial nutrients and effects of different fruits or vegetables. If I’m feeling worn down, I know I need to pull out the wheat grass or if I have a cold coming on the garlic, ginger and lemons are on my list.
Try adding some of these simple tricks to your meal preparation, it's such a simple way to increase the value of the meal!
I have a new cooking obsession - making ice cream! In my quest to continue reducing my sugar consumption I am always looking for places where I can substitute healthy sweeteners for sugar in my diet. I recently had one of those “aha” moments while staring at the ice cream in my freezer. Years ago we had a little ice cream maker and it wasn’t too hard to use so I decided to try it again.
I got myself a little Hamilton Beach Half Pint Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker (there's a link below if you want to check it out). The booklet that comes with this ice cream maker includes recipes that are easily modified. I made all the dairy organic and substituted xylitol for the sugar. Then I got creative- Blueberry-Acai Ice Cream has turned out to be my favorite, but I’ve also made successful batches of Lemon-Ginger and Strawberry-Goji Berry Ice Cream, which turns out a very interesting pinkish orange color as you can see in the picture above. I’m still working on the Mint Chocolate Chip (can’t get the cacao chocolate to keep from freezing too hard) and a reasonable coffee ice cream using decaf instant.
There are a number of different Ice Cream Makers available. My Hamilton Beach has been great, but I’ll probably upgrade to a larger model now that I know I’ll use it regularly.
For your culinary pleasure - here are my recipes to date
Basic Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup ½ & ½
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tbls. xylitol
½ teas. vanilla extract
Stir or shake well to ensure xylitol is dissolved before putting in your ice cream maker
For dairy free ice cream you could experiment with coconut milk instead of the ½ & ½ & heavy cream
Fudgsicle® Chocolate Ice Cream
I think this recipe tastes just like fudgsicles®. I’m going to pick up an ice pop maker and make them for our next picnic.
4 Teas. Unsweetened raw cacao powder
2 ½ Tb. Xylitol
½ cup ½ & ½ or heavy cream
¼ Teas. vanilla extract
Stir or shake well to ensure xylitol is dissolved before putting in your ice cream maker
Low Fat Vanilla Ice Cream
1 Cup fat free ½ & ½
½ cup evaporated milk
½ cup whole milk
¾ cup xylitol
1 Teas. vanilla extract
Stir or shake well to ensure xylitol is dissolved before putting it in your ice cream maker.
Just pop your favorite yogurt into your ice cream maker & follow the directions. For a healthier vanilla, buy the plain flavor and add a few drops of liquid vanilla stevia to taste.
Here are a few ideas to get you started experimenting.
Blueberry-Acai – Add ¼ cup blueberries & 1 teaspoon acai powder to the vanilla ice cream recipe. Mix well with a hand blender or mixer.
Lemon-Ginger – Add ½ teaspoon grated ginger mixed into 3 tablespoons lemon juice to the vanilla ice cream recipe. Mix well with a hand blender or mixer.
Mango – Add 1/3 cup chopped mango to the vanilla ice cream recipe. Mix well with a hand blender or mixer. I like to sprinkle dried coconut over the top.
Here's a link to the Hamilton Beach Soft Ice Cream Maker. Just pop the finished product in the freezer for hard ice cream. I think the hard ice cream tastes best if you defrost it a little before eating it.
Going back a couple of years I reviewed a book called Secrets from a Healthy Asian Kitchen.
This book advocated making foods healthier by substituting ingredients such as green tea for water when cooking. I loved the simplicity of the idea.
In recent months I've started adding another health enhancing trick to my repertoire. I am adding healing spices to many of the foods I eat. My mainstay is turmeric which helps fight against the development of tumors; when coupled with pepper turmeric is said to be especially potent.When I add these two spices to things like my homemade salad dressing on a regular basis I know I'm adding a little more health insurance to my food.
Here are some other spices that are being shown to help your body:
Rosemary - The carnosic acid found in rosemary has been shown to reduce stroke risk in mice by 40 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry. It can also protect against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and the general effects of aging.
Cinnamon, turmeric, basil, oregano, thyme, and sage can all protect your brain from inflammation, according to neurologist Eric Braverman, M.D., a clinical assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Braverman recommends 3 to 7 teaspoons of any combination of these spices each day. I always include basil when I'm having tomatoes, such as in a salad or a sandwich.
Cinnamon also helps the body process sugar. It's natural compounds improve insulin function lowering blood sugar with as little as 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon a day. It has also been found to help cut triglycerides and total cholesterol levels.
Oregano and cinnamon both have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Oregano oil is available in a tincture as well and is often used as a bacterial fighter.
Cilantro enhances the bodies ability to detoxify heavy metals. Since I have a history of high levels of lead and mercury in my system I regularly eat cilantro, it's also available in a tincture. After first taking chlorella to protect the stomach from the metals that it may pull from your body cilantro is good to take before getting a massage, using a sauna or participating in other activities that make you sweat or get your lymph working. It will enhance the detoxifying effects of these activities. It is also a digestive aid and is used as a tea to calm diarrhea.
Speaking of detoxing, last spring I did the 21 day Clean protocol recommended by Dr. Alejandro Junger. According to Dr. Junger the body needs 12 hours after it's last meal of the day to fully detox for the next day. He recommends a 12 hour window overnight before you eat the next day. I thought that sounded pretty interesting and matched my tendency to get hungry about 12 hours after my last evenings meal. I've found I feel much better on days when I follow that guideline. I recommend the Clean experience, particularly if you suspect you have food allergies. The Clean "diet" is a great way to identify foods you're sensitive too and it has a great Clean support site on the web. The site includes a lit of healthy recipes too!
The book is available here Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body's Natural Ability to Heal Itself
There are plenty of books on healing spices available if I've piqued your interest. I love simple tricks to increase my chances of living a long healthy life, and this is certainly one of them!
It's hard to keep up with what we're "supposed" to be eating to be healthy. Wheat products are a great example. In the 50's and 60's fortified bread was supposed to be healthy then we're told we should be eating whole wheat bread, then we hear whole wheat isn't adequate, it has to be whole grain. Now we're finding out we're consuming too much wheat period!
We've all experienced the confusion of the unending variations on healthy diet advice. Here are 6 definitive steps you can take to improve your health for good.
1. Replace your unhealthy sweeteners. No sugar, no corn syrup. Use alternatives such as Stevia, Succanut and Xylitol. Even the "good" sweeteners should be used sparingly since sweet tastes tend to make us crave more. It’s hard, but worth it. If you drink soda look into alternatives such as making your own with a Soda Stream, or mix seltzer with flavored liquid stevia. Xylitol has the added benefit of supporting dental health, especially in children. (Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye: A Do-It-Yourself Mouth Care System for Healthy, Clean Gums and Teeth) So get rid of your sugar. Sugar is really, really bad for you.
~ Spikes your blood sugar levels causing tiredness and food cravings
~ Appears to be addictive in many people, the more you have the harder it is to resist
~ Feeds cancer
~ Ages your skin and causes puffiness (Dr. Perricone's book Forever Young: The Science of Nutrigenomics for Glowing, Wrinkle-Free Skin and Radiant Health at Every Age explains the science behind this and what we can do about it)
~ Causes cavities
~ The more our blood sugar is spiked, the more likely we will develop insulin resistance, which means the body can’t stabilize its blood sugar adequately anymore
~ Insulin resistance leads to diabetes and heart disease
2. Cut out Trans Fats. Think of trans for artificially transformed, these fats are also known as partially hydrogenated fats. Food companies love them because they have a longer shelf life than healthier natural fats. Thankfully food companies are now required to list trans-fats on their food labels. Watch for other names though - like partially hydrogenated fats. California and some cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle, have banned the fats. Trans-fats are really, really bad for you.
~ Compromise bodily tissue repair (Dr. Mary Eng Eat Fat, Lose Fat: the Healthy Alternative To Trans Fats)
~ Compromise insulin metabolism and adrenal function causing fatique
~ Cause weight gain
~ Contribute to high cholesterol
~ Displace healthy fats disrupting our hormones and immune processes (Udo Erasmus Fats That Heal, \Fats That Kill)
~ Aggrevate asthma and contribute to low birth weight babies
~ Promotes ADD/ADHD in children due to the disruption to normal glucose absorption
3. Increase your good fats. Healthy fats feed our brains and our skin. They help our bodies’ hormones, immunity and anti-inflammatory responses. Unfortunately when eating a diet of fast and pre- packaged food we aren’t feeding our bodies as we need to; we're just eating sugar, trans fats and chemicals.
Then there's our meat, which is from factory farms where livestock get little exercise, so there’s more fat, but it’s not healthy Omega 3 rich fat as they fatten up on grains and fillers instead of vitamin and mineral rich grass.
~ Get your livestock meats from local farms that pasture their animals. Animals fed on grass have higher amounts of the good fats in both their meat and dairy.
~ Grass fed beef and wild Pacific fish (available at Vital Choice ) contain higher amounts of Omega 3 than their nutritionally deprived counterparts
~ Cod Liver oil supplements, egg yolks, evening primrose oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil
~ Traditional healthy fats such as organic butter and whole milk. Any dairy you consume should be organic to avoid the added growth hormones, and antibiotics
~ Use olive oil and butter for low temperature cooking. Use grapeseed oil or coconut oil for high temperatures.
~ Can support weight loss (Kat James The Truth About Beauty: Transform Your Looks And Your Life From The Inside Out )
4. Eat organic when you can, if not organic, buy local. Organic is still expensive, so prioritizing what organic foods to eat is necessary for most of us. While some studies show there’s no difference in the health of organic vs non-organic food, those studies have primarily looked at the vitamin and mineral content and have not included variables such as pesticides or the effect of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Other studies, such as this California study, say organic food is healthier. Consider some of the issues below and see if it doesn’t make sense to get organic food into your diet.
One very important caveat about organic foods. The cost of gaining the organic label is cost prohibitive to many small farmers. Check with your local farm, their products are fresher and they may not be able to afford the cost of the organic certification but nevertheless be virtually organic. In that case their product would be better for you than a store bought organic item that's traveled hundreds of miles.
~ Unless organic, corn products are virtually always GMO.
~ Unless organic, wheat products are virtually always GMO
~ Unless organic, soy products are virtually always GMO. and by the way, GM foods are not currently required to be labelled, so you don't know you're eating them
~ Salmon is being considered for genetic modification. You can avoid this possibility by buying organic.
~ The pesticides on the surface of fruits and vegetables can be washed, although I wonder what growing in soil full of fungicides and herbicides does to them. ( See this California study mentioned above).
~ You can prioritize which fruits and vegetables to buy organic based on this list of which are treated with more pesticides :The Dirty Dozen from the Environmental Working Group.
~ Livestock products (beef, pork, even chicken) that aren’t organic may contain growth hormones and antibiotics and may have been fed various unsavory fillers, including GMO corn, as part of their feed. The practice of feeding cattle ground parts of other dead cattle contributed to the spread of Mad Cow Disease several years ago.
~ Dairy products that aren’t organic may contain growth hormones and antibiotics and come from livestock that have been fed various unsavory fillers, including GMO corn, as part of their feed.
~Our fruits and vegetables have far less vitamins and minerals than they used to (2004, Donald Davis, University of Texas in Austin), however organic produce has been found to contain higher amounts of beneficial antioxidants called phytochemicals (Alyson Mitchell, PhD, study in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry).
5. Reduce consumption of wheat and high carbohydrate products. Wheat is high glycemic because it converts to sugar in your blood steam. If you eat a lot of bread and high carbohydrate products your body is in constant fat storage mode. Unless organic it’s also treated with a host of pesticides and grown in soil treated with herbicides. It’s believed the increasing incidence of gluten intolerance may be related to the increased consumption of processed wheat products over the years. Unfortunately wheat isn't as nutritious as it once was.Your diet should be primarily (healthy) fats, fruits and vegetables, with some protein on the side, not primarily carbohydrates.
6. Consume foods that support digestion. Yogurt with active cultures, probiotic and enzyme supplements, sauerkraut, kefir and kim chi all support your ability to get the most nutrition from your food through good digestion. Consume one of these digestion supporting foods or supplements every day. Note that the most effective probiotic supplements are refrigerated, as they are indeed live cultures that will die off if kept in a warm environment.
These steps all support weight loss as well. Work to decrease the highs and lows in your blood sugar, which will in turn decrease binging on unhealthy foods. (Again I would refer you to Kat Jame's wonderful book for more information on stopping cravings and binging). This means eating on the lower end of the glycemic index, a measure of the amount a food will convert to sugar in your system.If the list is too overwhelming, prioritize ridding your diet of sugar and trans fats.
Oh yea, and back to that wheat question. The answer, as indicated in number 5 above, is to watch your consumption of wheat products in general, but any grains you do eat should indeed be from the whole grain. While whole wheat is good, whole grain is even better as it gives you a variety of grain nutrients.The whole grain has a lower glycemic index because it converts to sugar more slowly, avoiding the insulin spike we now know is so detrimental to our health.
Whether you decide to work on just the first two or all six suggestions above you’ve made huge strides to support a healthier you!
Here we are in the depth of summer with harvest season building to a peak. There are three great websites every experimental cook should have on their desktop.
Self Magazine has the best site I've seen for looking up nutritional information. www.nutritiondata.self.com goes way beyond calories and carbohydrate counts. When you search for the food ingredient you want to know more about you end up with information about all kinds of things. Just a few of the facts it includes are the glycemic load, a nutrition factor score, an inflammation rating, and a rating for the effectiveness of the ingredient for gaining or losing weight.
Another fun site is www.foodily.com. Foodily allows you to search for a recipe to use the ingredients you have on hand while also noting what you do NOT want in the recipe.This is great if you have food allergies or sensitivities, or if you're on a diet that excludes certain foods. To put it to the test I searched for macaroni and cheese - without cheese. After a few false starts, I came up with several recipes for chili and macaroni.
Vegetarian Times has a recipe search on their site that allows you to plug in a recipe name or ingredient to find related recipes. Not for vegetarians only, this is a great way to find recipes for your glut of garden zucchini or tomatoes. A wide variety of recipes for vegetables and other meatless ingredients can be found at the Vegetarian Times recipe site.
I'm searching for the best healthy recipe sites, share with us any you know, and I'll keep you "posted" on my finds too.