Coconut Water Update + A Pizza Reunion

First of all, thank you to everyone who commented about coconut water in my last post!  You gave some very helpful info, and inspired me to take my first sip last night.  But after a couple gulps, I realized I'm not a big fan.  I thought the coconut water was a little too sweet to be thirst quenching, and yet too "nutty" to be enjoyed by itself.  However I did a little research on my own, and learned that coconut water is used by some athletes as a natural sports drink.  While it contains calories (sugar), electrolytes (particularly high in potassium), and water, it is not necesarilly better than other sports drinks.  Check out the New York Times for some fashionable coconut sippin' and here is the nutrient profile from the USDA.  Also, did you know coconuts have been used for IV fluid replacement?  Crazy!  Go to Eating RD's awesome post  to learn more history and research for this tropical water!  
Anyways, let's talk PIZZA!  My friend was visiting me in Boston this weekend, and she just left yesterday.    We went to college together in California, and share some fond cooking memories.  So we decided to tinker in the kitchen once more, and our latest fun involved some garlic-herb pizza dough, chicken, pesto, and veggies!
I would say our "Boston Pizza Kitchen" creation could match CPK any day!
I've never made pizza dough from scratch, but I would love to find a good recipe.  In the meantime, Trader Joe's (er.. Trader Giotto's) did quite nicely.  The Garlic and Herb was a new one for both of us; we loved it.
Stretch that dough!
Thick slices of tomato rested on mozarella cheese and pesto.  
We sprinkled on some yellow bell pepper, mushrooms, steamed brussel sprouts, chicken- and it was ready for the oven!
Serving up today's special from the Boston Pizza Kitchen! 
Don't you think pizza's greatest virtue is its versatility?  The dough is a tasty medium for a host of different sauces, veggies, and proteins-or whatever leftovers you want to slap on there!  
So what's your signature pizza topping?
Have a splendid Thursday,

Crank That Nut Butter! [New Food Finds]

Hope everyone had a good weekend!  I enjoyed watching some Olympics, and discovering some new foods!
First, someone gave me this coconut water.  I haven't opened it yet, because I don't know what to do with it.  Hmm, should I just slurp it, or is there another way to enjoy this? 
Do you like coconut water, and do you have any suggestions?  
And then there's Bob, my latest oatmeal friend.  This seven grain jumble includes barley, oats, corn, whole grain wheat, rye, brown rice, oat bran, triticale (wheat-rye hybrid grain), and flaxseed.  Just 1/4 cup of this good stuff has 6 grams of fiber and 140 calories.  This upgraded oatmeal sure is swell!
What a perfect transition to OIAJ...Oats in a Jar!
Oats in a Jar.
I first saw this idea from the wonderful blogger at Food, Faith, and Fitness.  But then I noticed bloggers everywhere were eating this, so I became convinced that I was missing out on something great.  I had just finished a jar of almond butter, so on Saturday I made my oatmeal in the almost-empty jar with some chopped banana and pecans.  Yum indeed!
And finally, the featured food of my weekend was fresh ground peanut butter and almond butter!
Let's crank that nut butter!  
My friend was visiting me this weekend, so I wanted to show her my latest nutty fetish from the 
Harvest Coop!
Just flip that switch and the fresh PB comes oozing out.  I love this stuff because it is less sweet than the nut butters in the jar, and tastes authentically gritty.  Now my friend is just as excited as I am! 
Above Left-Fresh PB.  Above Right-Fresh almond butter.
How was your weekend?  Eat anything new?
And if you have any tips for coconut water, please let me know!

Subway Mistake and Recent Reads

Have you ever gotten on the wrong subway?  Have you ever made a fool of yourself by hysterically jumping out of your seat upon the moment of realization?  Yup, that's me!  It happened last night while I was reading Time Magazine's Special Health report, How to Live 100 Years.  My head was buried in the pages, and my feet audaciously waltzed right into the green-line E train, which took me in the exact opposite direction from Cambridge, my home!  Oh dear.  But fortunately, I continued my stimulating conversation with Time Magazine, where I learned some interesting things about online dating Seeking My Race-Based Valentine Online.  Haha, I'm a nerd- I know! Speaking of reading...
Currently Reading
The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite
by David Kessler
published 2009
Sorry to keep bringing up my Health Claims class, but one of the course requirements is to read 5 books from a preselected list.  This is one.  It seems like this book has been getting a lot of shelf space at the bookstores, so I figured I should know what it's about.  I'm only a few chapters in.  We'll see.
Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand
published 1957
This book is denser than my grandma's bread pudding!  I bought the compact paperback version thinking it would be smaller and more manageable on the subway.  But the hefty 1069-pages still feels like a rock in my purse.  Although Ayn Rand is pretty amazing, I'm not sure if I still consider this my "for fun" book.  : )

Just Finished
by Susie Orbach
published 2009
Orbach, a psychoanalyst, explains how the obssessive pursuit for a perfect body has gone beyond healthy.  Her questions are interesting, and unconventional.  How does body image control identity?  Has the body become a mere commodity, an endless hole for our money and time, and a constant project for alteration, toning, fixing, and shaping?  These are just some of her themes.
Eat, Memory: Great Writers at the Table  
A Collection of Essays from the New York Times
edited by Amanda Hesser
published 2009

On Hold at the BPL
Terrors of the Table: A Curious History of Nutrition
by Walter Gratzer
published 2005
(another book for my Health Claims class!)

So friends, what are you reading? 

Heath Claims Part 2-Historical Timeline

flickr photo from szb78 (I know this photo is a stretch, but I like it!)
Hello!  This is a continuation from Part 1, where I started a discussion on the food industry's use of health claims on food labels to increase consumer demand.  These posts are a brief synthesis of what I've been learning in my Public Policy of Health Claims class this semester.
Historical Timeline of US Health Claims Policy
It seems that humans have always associated food with limited healing properties, however nutrition science has just started to associate nutrition with disease states and health outcomes.  The growing research has fueled the development of health claims, and the food industry has health claims food labeling to increased consumer spending.  Meanwhile the government has swayed between stict and lax enforcement of health claims labeling.  Let me break it down.

before 1906-No reglation of food labels.
1906-Pure Food and Drug Act.  Congress makes a distinction between foods and drugs.  Drugs can make health claims relating to disease.  Foods cannot make any claims about disease.
1938-Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.  Lax enforcement of drug labeling combined with a drug toxicity tragedy (estimated death of 35,000 people) prompts the government to crack-down.  Drugs are required to follow strict labeling laws, and foods are still not allowed to claim any health benefits.  Any food that makes a "health statement" is considered a drug, and can be seized by the FDA.
1984-Kellogs makes first (unauthorized) health claim for food!  Kellog's All-Bran challenges FDA and uses the National Cancer Institute's dietary recommendations to produce an Anti-cancer advertisement.  How did Kellog's get away with this?  Both the FDA and the National Cancer Institute are part of the same Department of Health and Welfare, thus the FDA's hands are tied.  Kellog's, you are tricky!
1984-1990-FDA scrambling to revise their stance on health claims.
1990-Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. Congress says health claims are allowed!  But only under strict conditions.  Any health claim on a package must first be approved by the FDA, and documented in their Federal Register.  This is when the Nutrition Facts Label was created.
1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA).  The supplement industry decides to make some noise, and the government grants them the ability to use health claims, without FDA regulation.  (Yup, so that's why there's no government control on all your vitamin pills.)  Since the food industry is jealous, the FDA consoles them by allowing the use of "Structure-function claims" on food labeling.
1997 Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act.  Government creates a new labeling option fo the food industry, called "authoritative statement claims."  This is good news for the food industry.
1999 Pearson vs. Shalala court case.  Dietary supplement industry cites breaches of freedom of speech.  Government allows dietary supplement industry to use Qualified Health Claims on their labels.
2003-Qualified Health Claims allowed for food. 
2010 and beyond?  The recent Smart Choices fiasco and the newly appointed Institue of Medicine's Front of Package Labeling committee seems to point to a new era of stricter government regulation.
*whew.  Anyone still onboard?*
My study notes!  I'm one of those kinesthetic learners, and have to re-writing everything.
Flip the Page...some more reading!
February 2010 Institue of Medicine's newly appointed committee for Front of Package Labeling
December 2009 CSPI's Nutrition Facts Panel Makeover
October 2009 New York Times- Smart Choices Food Labeling Loses Support
May 2009 Wall Street Journal- FDA Cracks Down on Cheerios' Health Claims
from one of my professors: U.S. Food Policy blog

Happy Chinese New Year!

As I walked through Chinatown yesterday on my way to the Tufts library, I noticed an unusual bustle of activity.  Street vendors selling flowers had popped up on the corner of Beach Street and Harrison, and the sidewalks were crowded with women hunched over their bursting plastic red C-mart shopping bags, a predicitve sign of some delectable cuisine this weekend.
Of course, it's Chinese New Year!  I had momentarily forgotten.
Although I'm neither Chinese nor in the practice of celebrating Chinese New Year, I decided to welcome in the year of the tiger by picking up a sweet treat for myself and my roommate.  At the bakery, I asked the lady behind the counter what I should eat on New Years. In my ignorance I was hoping for an almond cookie or moon cake.  But she pointed to some seseme balls and smiled.  Ok sure!
Does anyone know the Chinese name for these?
It's been a while, and I had forgotten that I don't like these.
But that's ok!  I still enjoyed the red bean inside.
I hope everyone has a good new year!  Here in Boston I'm happy to report cheerful sunshine and mild temperatures in the mid 30's.  I don't have big plans, but I'm meeting a friend this afternoon, and can't wait to go to church tonight.
What are you doing today?  What are your traditional foods for Chinese New Year?
ps- Happy Valentine's Day too!  *smooch*

Health Claims Part 1-Untangling the Mess

It's hard to keep up with the flurry of nutrition information in commercial media.  One day it's chocolate for the heart, the next day it's beer for bone health, and those who market these wonder foods promise that health and wellness is simply a fork's-reach away.  In addition, the clamor of health claims gets louder in the grocery store, where the front of food packages scream various messages such as "anti-oxidant rich," "zero trans fat," and "high fiber" in a myriad of colorful checkmarks, hearts, and cryptic symbols.  Even if you have enough time to flip the package over, you'll find the Nutrition Facts Label with its microscopic ingredients list.
So who makes the rules about nutrition labeling?  Since when did nutrition become a marketing platform for the food industry to increase consumer demand?
picture from yumsugar
Back to the Basics.  Definitions.
Actually, I can't provide all the answers.  I really just wanted to share what I'm learning from my class, The Public Policy of Health Claims.  My professor has combined guest lecturers, class discussions, and readings to present an overview of changing US policies governing the use of health information in the food and dietary supplement industry.  I'm gradually understanding that the marketing of nutrition is a business- a big money business!
What is a food? Food is a product consumed primarily for taste, aroma, or nutritive value.
What is a drug? A drug is a product intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease; or a product intended to affect the structure or any function of the body.  Hold on. Humans have always attributed mystical powers to food in the curing of ailments and prevention of disease.  Is food a drug?
What is a dietary supplement? Vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, or amino acids.
Who are the FDA?  Food and Drug Administration.  These guys regulate food and dietary supplement labeling.  They approve and regulate all health claims, which must be registered in the Federal Registry.
What is the FTC?  Federal Trade Commission.  These guys regulate advertising.  So does the FTC regulate online advertising?  Is there a way to even enforce online advertising?
What is a health claim?  Any statement or symbol that relates a food substance to a disease condition.  These claims are have strong scientific proof and are registered with the FDA.  This is the ultimate gold star for the food industry.  Example: Calcium and/or Vitamin D and the prevention of osteoporosis.
What is a structure function claim?  Statements about food substances and their effects on body structures or functions.  This is not an official health claim because it does not reference a disease.  The food industry likes these too!  Example: "Calcium helps build strong bones."
What is a qualified health claim?  Statements about food benefits that do not have conclusive scientific backing. This is not an official health claim.  Example: Green tea and cancer.  "One weak and limited study does not show that green tea reduces the risk of prostate cancer, but another weak and limited study suggests that drinking green tea may reduce this risk. Based on these studies, the FDA concludes that it is highly unlikely that green tea reduces the risk of prostate cancer."
What is the 1st Amendment?  The 1st amendment grants the right to free speech.  This applies to you and me, but what about the food companies?  Is there freedom of commercial speech?  Can food companies make claims about their products for economic benefit?  Yes, commercial speech is being granted more and more freedom since a supreme court ruling in 1999.  Come back soon, I'll explain this in Part 2.
If you want to affect policy, should you become a lawyer or a scientist?  Um...?
flickr picture from Jayna
Sorting Through the Mess
So what have I concluded thus far?  (This blog post is really helping me study for this class!)
  • There is a constant balancing act between emerging scientific research on food componants and the marketing of those research findings for consumer health and disease prevention.
  • The food industry wants to increase the demand of food, and nutrition is one way to increase sales through the promise of wellness.
  • Meanwhile the government is constantly teetering between tight regulatory and lax regulatory control of food labeling.  
  • Then there's the health professionals, who are desperately trying to help consumers make the right dietary choices.
  • This is so complicated.  I understand it now, but who knows about tomorow!
Coming next...A chronological snapshot of Health Claims Policy in the United States.  How did we get to where we are now?

Ghrelin Part 2- More on The Hunger Hormone

Yesterday in Part 1 I introduced ghrelin, your hunger hormone.  Scientists know that ghrelin sends hunger signals to the hypothalmus, and they are investigating its role in weight management.  More importantly, ghrelin is our body's natural hunger messenger.  You can benefit if you learn to listen and eat by its call.  Here's the rest of the story.
flickr photo from mr. p
Ghrelin’s Regulation: A weight loss therapy?
Have you ever noticed that you feel hungrier when you are dieting?  Scientists now know that ghrelin levels increase during weight loss, explaining why people have a hard time losing weight and keeping it off.  Scientists also know that decreasing ghrelin can help people lose weight. 
In 2002 David Cummings, MD Associate Professor of Medicine from the University of Washington, noticed unusually low ghrelin levels in gastric bypass patients.  After surgery many patients lost their appetite.  Cummings tracked a group of patients for six months and found that ghrelin levels temporarily decreased, leading to a limited window of drastic and quick weight loss.  Since 2002, many scientists have confirmed ghrelin’s helpful role in weight loss, and now scientists are looking for ways to decrease ghrelin without the bariatric surgery to make weight loss easier and faster.
            Although this idea is exciting, researchers still do not know how to control ghrelin for weight loss. Some scientists are trying to develop a drug to block the ghrelin receptor in the hypothalamus, which would intercept the hunger message.  Other researchers are testing insulin, which may compete with ghrelin and stifle its hunger signals.  But until the research is done, a ghrelin weight loss therapy is only a theory.
Ghrelin’s Lesson: Listening—the key to eating and stopping.
            Hunger is your body’s reminder to maintain energy balance.  Hunger is good.  Hunger is natural.  Unfortunately, hunger may not always guide your eating habits.  That’s because your brain is easily distracted by many delectable smells, convenient nibbles, and stress-induced cravings—in such a mess, hunger can hardly be heard. 
It’s time to listen to ghrelin and eat mindfully.  That means eating smartly.  It’s actually an old game with only two rules.  Rule one: Eat when you are physically hungry.  This separates hunger from boredom, stress, or depression.  True hunger is helpful.  Listen to it, and respond by choosing healthful foods.  Rule two: Stop eating when you are full.  This second principle requires an equally fine sense of hearing.  The human body is sensitive to its own energy needs, and has complex hormonal signals to control appetite.  Have faith: ghrelin will stop and appetite will decrease as food goes through your digestive system.  When it does, be ready to put down the fork.
So the next time you feel your stomach churn, don’t grumble.  It’s only ghrelin.  Thank it, listen to it, and realize that it’s just doing its job.
And to finish...3 Hunger Tips!
You can't control the environment, but you can control those hunger pangs.
Eat protein first.  Protein takes 3 hours to digest, but carb takes only 30 mintues.  Protein wins!  It will keep you full for longer.
Eat fiber.  Fruit and vegetables are high in insoluble fiber, low in calories, and have water volume-the perfect combo for a filling snack.  Oats and barley have soluble fiber that binds to water in your stomach, making you feel fuller.
Eat frequently.  Feeding your body throughout the day stabilized blood sugar levels.  Try 3 smaller meals with 2 high-protein snacks.
Today and yesterday's posts were taken from a paper I did last semester.  Hope it was informative!

Ghrelin, The Hunger Hormone Part 1

Last semester I wrote a paper on ghrelin, a hormone that I learned about during my rotation at the Tufts Weight and Wellness Center.  Here's Part 1 from my paper!
flickr photo from Mountainbread
Listen.  Can You Hear Your Hunger Hormone?
When was the last time you were hungry?  Maybe your stomach, with no thought to proper etiquette, interrupted you mid-sentence with an embarrassing gurgle.  Or maybe your stomach has not had a chance to rumble at all in recent days.  In the modern world physical hunger is one factor among many (such as social environment, convenience, and emotion) that regulates your appetite.  But take away the distractions, imagine complete silence, and you will hear the voice of your hunger hormone—ghrelin.  Scientists know that ghrelin sends hunger signals to the brain, and they are investigating its role in weight management.  Most importantly, ghrelin is your body’s natural hunger messenger.  You can benefit if you learn to listen and eat by its call.
Ghrelin’s Message: Eat food, now.
            Discovered in 1999 by Japanese scientist Masayasu Kojima, ghrelin is the only hormone that prompts hunger.  When your body physically needs food, your stomach and small intestine produce ghrelin.  Ghrelin then travels from these organs and binds to receptors in the hypothalamus.  There, it shouts its hunger message—and your brain responds with a series of hormonal reactions, ultimately prompting you to take that first bite of crunchy apple.             
As food enters your digestive system, ghrelin production decreases; research shows that protein and fat seem to stop it faster than carbohydrate.   Ghrelin production will stop altogether when other hormones enter the digestive system to break down food.  After the meal, levels of leptin and insulin (ghrelin’s counterparts) increase to make you feel full.  
coming next in Part 2: Lessons from ghrelin, and it's role in weight loss?

She Says Good Morning. I Say Chai!

6am.  The oven timer goes off, and I know it's time to wake up.  (You see, my alarm clock broke in November, and I haven't found reason to buy a new one yet.)  My eyelids resist, my mind clings to dreamy fragments, but my nose leads the way to consciousnes.  Wake up silly, don't you smell the cinnamon and cardamom?  I shuffle to the kitchen and peer through the steam to see my roommate serenely stirring a boiling pot of tea.  Nikita is making chai.  It's going to be a good morning.
Chai is simply the Indian phrase for "tea."  Now that I'm awake, let me share Nikita's Indian morning brew.
Hello Beautiful.  A Cup of Chai?
On the stove top, heat up 2 cups of water with:
1 black tea bag (Or use loose leaf tea if you're up for a little extra clean-up.)
2 green cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp cardamom powder)
1/4 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder)
1/2 Tbsp sugar (add more or less to taste)
Optional-fresh/powdered ginger, and whole cloves.
Green cardamom.  Crack the shells to release the pungent black seeds inside.  But throw in the green shells for good measure!
Nikita's whole cinnamon is slightly different.  Cinnamon bark?
Bring the water and spices to a boil.  For strong tea, reduce heat after the first boil and then ramp it up again for a second boil.  This steeps the water in the spices for an extra kick.
After boiling, stir in 1/2 cup skim milk or 1/4 cup 2% or whole milk.
Let the tea boil once more with the milk.
Strain out the tea bag and spices.
Tip her over, and pour her out!
This recipe makes 2 cups!
So friends, I say "Good morning!" and you say____?
In other words, what's your favorite morning sip?
India's Morning Sips
Wake up in India, and the first order of business is a cup of chai.  This morning ritual precedes the teeth brushing, the showering, and the newspaper reading.  Referred to as "bed tea," Nikita speculates that this practice stems from the British influence.
Does your morning commute take a daily detour at Starbucks?  Surprisingly, Nikita told me there are currently no Starbucks in India.  The American grab-and-go coffee culture is relatively foreign to India, where the traditional concept of coffee is still associated with leisurely conversations at a cafe.  However Nikita thinks that the caffeine rush has started, since large chain coffeeshops have begun to pop up.  In particular, Barista and Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) are the Indian counterparts to the American Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.  But for the present, India is still a tea-driven society.  Though lacking in cappuccino drive-throughs, plenty of tea carts litter the streets on any given morning.  I find this fascinating!
Have a good Monday,
Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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