Hunger Signals Are Linked to Brown Fat

“Is it hot in here?”

That would be me asking, the day after I overate. I could literally feel the extra calories leaving my body as heat. My brown fat must be up to snuff, probably because I exercise and I don’t “weight cycle” (loose weight and regain.)

Brown fat (also called BAT, brown or beige adipose tissue) is a new critical determinant of energy expenditure. BAT seems to be an endocrine organ that influences metabolism. Aaron Cypess, M.D., a metabolic researcher from the Joslin Diabetes Center, explains that 54% of the variation in metabolic rate correlates with an individual’s activated brown fat. Wow! Maybe it’s time to retire the Harris–Benedict Equation and other formulas that predict basal metabolic rate.*

Last week, I wrote an article about new brown fat research for DietsInReview.com. In my opinion, the research links a healthy supply of brown fat to “intuitive eating” – in mice.
See my article, and the TIME magazine report, that got me thinking.

Your thoughts: Do you love brown fat as much as I do?

* Basal Metabolic Rate:  The rate at which energy is used by an organism at complete rest, measured in humans by the heat given off per unit time. It is expressed as the calories released per square meter of body surface per hour. 

Healthy Vending Machines Are Here to Stay

bettervendingmachinesAn important diet trend is unfolding. The food in vending machines is changing for the best.

You can’t believe how often people eat from vending machines. Teens get around one third of their calories from snack foods eaten away from home. At work, school and in public places, machines may be the only option. I ate from vending machines I worked in the cubes. :( I used to buy two ounces of salted Planter’s Peanuts, full of calories but also nutrients, I was starving, and the other food was crap. I should have packed a snack.

Anyway, the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, (Michelle Obama’s) federal law that affects public school food, mandated that food sold in schools, including vending machines, meet the USDA’s “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards. In turn, several major cities, and now the State of California, mandated that vending machines on government property be healthy. That drove the market for suppliers and (surprise!) people liked the healthy food better (well not all.) Still, it looks like a healthy vending machine franchise is good financial bet.

To learn more, read my article, Healthier Vending Machines are a Win-Win for All Hungry Consumers, at DietsInReview.com.

Your thoughts: What do you buy from the vending machine?

Aglio e Olio, A Pasta Story

Aglio e OlioOn his blog, Ed Writes, Stories of the 40’s & 50s, my friend, Dr. Ed Iannuccilli, asks, “Do you have a pasta story to share?” Well, I can think of a pasta story that remotely involves him.

A long time ago, about seven years into my career, I worked as a dietitian in the medical office of Dr. I and his partners, where mostly everyone – professional and support staff alike and the patients too – were of Italian American heritage. I was not.

I had a patient with Anorexia nervosa, a psych condition characterized by a fixation on food and weight, although is really about deeper, difficult emotional issues. Nutrition therapy is an important part of treatment.

Anorexics usually have strange food rituals, such as eating the same food over and over because it feels safe. This patient’s “safe food” was Aglio e Olio [pronounced AH-lyoh ay AW-lyoh], a simple pasta dish that was unknown to me at the time. The patient shared an intimate history. It wouldn’t be right to interrupt. “Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio….” Follow the bouncing ball. It was all the patient ate. 

When the appointment finally ended, I burst out of my office into the common area where my coworkers sat. “Help!” I said, “What the hell is Aglio e Olio??!!”

Here’s a recipe for Spaghetti Aglio E Olio. Eat it with other foods as part of a balanced diet

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • salt
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold the pasta. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not overcook. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
  • Boil and drain the pasta.
  • Carefully add the reserved pasta-cooking water to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about a third.
  • Add the drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Off the heat, add the parsley and Parmesan and toss well. Rest the pasta for a few minutes. Serve warm.

Your thoughts: Do you have a pasta story to share?

My Grandmother, the Chicken Killer

Ninja Chicken
Eat only the animals you kill.
Yesterday, while sitting in a restaurant with my 94-year old aunt, Jean, she told me that her mother, my grandmother, was an exceptionally skilled chicken killer. (From living in Brooklyn, I know that backyard chickens are great.)
Mary:  Really, did my grandmother raise chickens?
Jean:  No, she killed chickens as a favor to the neighbors.
Mary:  Where did she get the live chickens to kill?
Jean: The man sold live chickens off the truck. Chickens in cages were loaded onto a flatbed truck that was driven into the neighborhoods.
Mary: Why didn’t my grandmother buy chicken at the store.
Jean: That was expensive and she knew these chickens were fresh.
(Mary: FRESH? I guess. She had to kill the damn things! Nowadays, people can’t even touch a raw chicken, let along MURDER it.)
Mary:  So, what was this skill? How did she actually kill a chicken?
Jean: She would feel the neck and SNAP it in the right place. It was so fast. She pulled the head away from the body.

Backyard chicken lovers, let’s take this relationship to the next level.
How to kill a chicken*
“The recommended neck dislocation method is to grasp the bird’s legs in one hand (usually the left), holding the legs at about waist level, and the head in the other hand going diagonally across your body down to below your right hip. The beak should protrude between your first two fingers and, gripping tightly, you use the heel of your palm against its upper neck to provide the necessary pivot. In the one movement, you’re supposed to wrench downward (that is, up with the legs, down with the head) and twist the head sharply up and back. There should be an audible click of dislocation but the very strong may pull a head right off, which would be rather upsetting. If you practice beforehand (perhaps on an already deceased chicken) you will certainly know what force to use as well as if you have the strength to do it.”
*www.backyardpoultry.com

But wait (sorry) there’s more. The chicken gets dunked in scalding water followed by an ice bath to make feather plucking easier. But, before that, the bird gets decapitated and eviscerated with the skill of a surgeon. Finally, the chicken is cooked very quickly before rigor mortis sets in.

Just think, that was only eighty years ago and, still, many (most?) people around the world kill the meat they eat. At least they know it’s fresh.

Your thoughts?
Would you eat meat if you had to kill it first?

Number One Thing Needed to Ensure Diet Success

Oops! It’s a rogue blog. Hello.

I released this ditty to the public by mistake because I forgot how to use WordPress – and I switched to a Mac – during my absence. I stopped blogging last December when I sold my Brooklyn apartment (number one) – packed and moved my stuff into storage – subleased a cute little Brooklyn apartment (number two) from a professor on sabbatical – moved into a Brooklyn AirBNB (number three) that I’m leaving this week. It’s all too hard to explain. I like freedom and variety.

But through it all, I still have to write for DietsInReview.com, the best contracting agent ever! Here is the assignment for the week; “We have a new partnership with Shape magazine in which we write one article for them each week. For next week the topic is: What about the #1 thing you should do when you first start a diet to make you more likely to succeed?”

I turned to my best bud’s stuff. Diane Petrella writes about the power of the mind to change weight and get healthy. It’s free, it works, and it’s way underused. It’s the secret sauce.  It’s too bd that I scooped Shape by pushing the wrong button!
But now that I’m in the water, my promise to you, should you care, is that I will blog once a week to stay in practice. God knows, I am not a writer. But I am a bit of a different nutritionist with something to say.

 

The Number One Thing Needed to Ensure Diet Success

 

News flash: There is no one best way to lose weight. It is up to you to find a healthy eating approach and activity pattern that is unique to you. Don’t change anything until you document the “real you” by keeping a food journal. It will give you a clear picture of what to change. Most people need to dump the junk, reduce food portions, and rarely eat when not actually hungry.  Setting clear positive goals such as “I will eat oatmeal with fruit and nuts at least three times a week,” or “I will go to Zumba on Saturday morning and Tuesday evening,” enhances your chances of success.

But the greatest predictor of weight loss success is how you see yourself. Old images of the “heavy you” making unhealthy choices are replaced with new images of the “healthy you” choosing to act in healthier ways. When you “act as if” you are already there, you shift energy towards the positive, which makes way for intuition to move you easily towards your goal. Think of a time when you accomplished something by first creating a vision. Success is always created with a picture in the mind.

“Visualization” is a actual process of deliberately using your imagination to create a mental model. Since the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, when you visualize, your subconscious encodes a new picture as if it happened for real.  Sports psychologists and peak performers always use the power of visualization to build confidence and imagine success.

A small study* recently showed the power of visualization to improve eating habits. Subjects were asked to eat more fruit for one week, One group was simply asked to set a goal to eat more fruit, while the other group was told to visualize buying fruit and eating it at particular times. While both groups ate more fruit, the groups that used visualization ate twice as much.

The power of visualization is truly an under-used free tool for weight loss success. As you lie in bed in the morning or before falling asleep at night, calm your mind, relax your body, and picture yourself at your goal weight. See yourself making choices as the new healthy you. Hold a picture of yourself calmly eating delicious healthy food and watch as your body moves with ease. Notice the feelings and sensations associated with the images because connecting with your feelings as your visualize strengthens the effects. Deep relaxation internalizes the new images. In only three to five minutes a day, you can visualize your way to weight loss success.

* McGill University. “Planning and visualization lead to better food habits.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110225122818.htm>.

My Favorite Christmas Gift (Orange You Glad?)

Citrus Fruit Gift BoxMy favorite gift is one that disappears. Eat it, drink it, burn it, rub it on the skin, throw it away like a withered bouquet.  Just make it go.

Tops on my list is a box of seasonal fruit, straight from the farm. Aromatic and soooo delicious; it’s peak season for citrus fruits: red grapefruit, clementines, Cara Cara oranges, Meyer lemons. Super foods, as they say. I really mean it.

That’s what told Joan Wickham on a sweaty scorcher of a day last summer. Joan is the manager of advertising and public relations.for the Sunkist Growers. We met at The Capital Grille on E 42nd Street during her visit from Los Angeles. Sunkist a citrus growers’ cooperative of 6,000 members from California and Arizona. They are the largest fresh produce shipper in the United States.

Citrus Gifts

Joan presented me with a mesh bag of variegated pink Eureka lemons. (Sunkist calls their Pink Variegated Lemonsvariety “Zebra”.) It has green and off-white stripes on the outside and a pink flesh inside. Sporadically, pink lemons are available winter through mid-summer. They are a perfect garnish for cocktails. Look for them where Melissa’s Farm Fresh Produce is sold – and in fine bars. The variegated pink is a mutant variety first discovered on an ordinary Eureka lemon tree in a Burbank home garden around 1930.

As for my favorite Fresh Citrus Gift Box, California citrus can be ordered from farms such as Shields Date Garden and Pearson Ranch and, of course, on Amazon. To guide your choice, Sunkist makes a varietal chart of all the California citrus fruits available by month.

Lékué Citrus MisterAnd here is citrus gift, that doesn’t disappear, but gets a pass for being so darn practical and cute. It is the Lékué Citrus Mister I saw demonstrated at several cooking events this year. Just pop the mister right into the fruit to spritz salads, seafood, cocktails, your hair, the room, and more. The gadget is so much fun to pass around the table.

My citrus gift to you is this recipe for Grapefruit Avocado Salad, my favorite winter salad. It was first served to me at the Zuck’s dinner table and now, I make it all the time. Add pomegranate seeds to dress it up for Christmas and spritz the avocado to stay green.

Your thoughts: What’s your favorite holiday gift?

Double-Double Gratitude, Happy Thanksgivukkah!

A Turkey-shaped Challah

A Turkey-shaped Challah

This year, I think I’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in a Jewish home because I don’t want to miss out on Thanksgivukkah. That’s the pop culture portmanteau neologism for the first day of Hanukkah that falls on Thanksgiving this year. (Such a phrase! Oy, the fun!)

This is the first and only Thanksgivukkah in our lifetimes. The next one is 70,000 years from now. Since both holidays are about giving thanks, it’s double-double gratitude happy happy joy joy, 2X the love.

The Thanksgivukkah Meal

A Thanksgivukkah menu combines the best foods from both holidays: Manizchewitz-brined turkey….challah stuffing….pumpkin pie with caraway and seeds in the crust. The Internet is a cornucopia of creative and healthy Thanksgivukkah recipes. My favorites are from Christine Byrne for BuzzFeed who has nine original recipes that combine the best foods from both holidays for us. I am considering these recipes:

Your thoughts, Will you be celebrating Thanksgivukkah? What’s for dinner? 

Squatters Get Free Subway Rides

Subway Squat

This is right up my alley. I ride the subway, I worship squats, and I’m all over free stuff. The proof is in my archives:
Do You Know (How to) Squat?
If You See Something Say Something
3 Degrees of Separation from Snackman
Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Free Yogurt

And so, you can imagine my excitement when I read the headline today:

—-   Russian Commuters Can Earn Free Subway Ticket by Doing Squats   —-

The news is that the Russian Committee for the 2014 Winter Olympics (in Russia) came up with a cool promotion for one month. They are giving away a free travel ticket to anyone who does thirty squats. How clever is that? And look at how easy it was to set up the ticket machine:

If this is another Space Race, then Russia is beating us for supremacy in physical fitness, public health and public relations campaigns. Our subway stunts don’t promote healthy behavior. Do you remember when Heineken Took Over the NYC MTA? You know, I’m going to email Mike Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, and Stephen Colbert too right now.

Your thoughts: Should Americans get free subway tickets for doing squats?

Have a Complicated Halloween

Halloween Letter Fargo MomDid you see the Halloween letter from Anonymous Mom? She is handing it out instead of candy to overweight kids. Her stand against childhood obesity made the media outlets. Too bad she doesn’t know that shaming doesn’t work. Weight prejudice seems to be socially acceptable now and will become more so when healthcare costs are transparent. But back to today and the conflicts Americans have about Halloween candy. Check out yesterday’s Tweets:

  • How to talk to your kids about Halloween candy.
  • Watch out for these common (and gross!) ingredients in Halloween candy.
  • Don’t get caught giving petroleum, GMOs, and trans fat to little children.
  • Artificial dyes linked to M+Ms.
  • What it takes to burn off your Halloween treats.
  • Food Allergies: Could Halloween Kill My Child?
  • 7 Terrifying Facts About Halloween Candy!

Danger! Danger! And still, the kids return with their sacks full.

A few years ago, I was asked to write about the “healthiest” Halloween candy. What could I say? “Give out candy that won’t get eaten.” Dum Dum Lollipops, wax lips, and candy buttons stuck on paper tape. Nobody eats those. Pencils, stickers, and temporary tattoos, All good. As you can image, my Dietitian’s Guide to Halloween Candy wasn’t well received. The comments tell all.

Realistically, Halloween night is a free-for all. Everybody eats candy. That goes on for another day or two, but sooner rather than later, candy is rationed to one piece at lunch and another after school. Some is shared with grown-ups or relegated to the freezer or traded with a friendly dentist for cash. (Just don’t dump candy on the Food Bank because needy people need real food!)

I’ve stated my feelings about junk before in Eat Only the Junk Food That You Make. But homemade doesn’t fly on Halloween because of hidden razor blades. Oy! Razor blades, artificial dyes, barbs from Anonymous Mom. Halloween is complicated.

Your thoughts: What is your Halloween candy plan?

Confessions of a Wheat Germ Lover

Wheat GermA brief interaction on Twitter led Kretschmer Wheat Germ to me. They are considering me for a “Happy Wheat Germ User” feature, but needed to know more first.

Wheat Germ and Me

As a nutrition-loving baby boomer, it seems like I have always known about wheat germ. Along with soy protein and non-fat dried milk, it was part of Cornell Bread, a staple food developed for wartime rationing in the 1940s (well before my birth!) My first encounter with a regular wheat germ eater took the form of a woman from Switzerland I met in my late teens. She ate wheat germ for breakfast mixed with avocado and honey or as part of muesli along with yogurt. I like to add wheat germ to recipes for pancakes, muffins, veggie burgers, and meatballs. My favorite Wheat Germ Bread is from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book via Kretschmer Wheat Germ a long time ago.

The Original Super-food

As a registered dietitian, people complain to me about feeling stiff-achy-and-punk. Their children are listless and their parents are falling apart with inflammatory diseases and cancers. To them I say, “You really ought to be eating wheat germ!” Wheat germ is LOADED with B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid), vitamin E and essential fatty acids, the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper and zinc, plus protein and phenolic compounds. Wheat germ is the nazz! In fact, the germ is the richest part of the wheat kernel, which is why white flour is a problem: the germ (and bran) is tossed during in processing. Such a sin.

An Image Problem

A “germ” is a seed, bud, spore, or embryo, the basis of all new life. A plant germ is highly nutritious because it has the nutrients to support future growth.  A “germ” is also a microorganism, especially one that produces disease. People today don’t seem to know that one germ has nothing to do with the other. Wheat germ needs a re-branding campaign. I can help with that.

Here are three good wheat germ recipes from my recipe files at Calorie Count:

Your thoughts: Do you eat (and enjoy) wheat germ?