Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to Get Fat this Festive Season

From Halloween to New Years Eve we are bombarded with candy, cakes and cocktails. Blindly munch and slurp away on these and you'll not only find yourself in a sugar coma but potentially 5 lbs heavier by the end of the season. That's not to say that you can't enjoy the occasional indulgence (I'd be lost without my Parisian macarons), you can, but don't blow it all on a gluttonous food-fest of cheap prosecco and candied nuts.

Exhibit these behaviors and and watch the scale climb upwards:

- Ignore how much you are eating
- Pretend the extra food will not affect your weight
- Drink more alcohol, egg nog and cider and not balance it with exercise
- Make excuses - it's the holidays, it won't matter, I'll only have one, I'm stressed, tired, bored
- Drop the frequency and intensity of your exercise
- Eat food from the holiday gift baskets (stale crackers and cherry jam anyone..)
- Mindlessly eat co-workers left-over candy
- Try all food offered to you because it would be rude to say 'no'
- Eat and drink exactly what you'd like because everyone else is over-indulging
- Stop planning and shopping for healthy options because you're 'too busy'
- Follow a day of indulgence with another and another...
- Think that restricting your food intake after an indulgence is not sustainable because it feels like a 'diet'
- Replace your Herve Leger dress for sweatpants

If you're committed to eating, thinking and acting lean, you'll breeze through this holiday period with a hotter more sculptured body. Here's how:

- Plan in advance to eat a little more at holiday gatherings. Stick to it and don't feel guilty. Simply balance it the next day.
- Fill up your plate with vegetables and lean protein; skip seconds and enjoy a small slither of dessert
- Focus on the food you are going to eat, not what you are not going to eat
- Take a yoga class or go for a run before a holiday gathering as it helps to stop mindless eating
- Start with a lean breakfast such as a green juice and boiled egg or grated apple over Greek yogurt with a dash of cinnamon
- If you're drinking alcohol, limit it to a glass and skip the carbohydrate. One serving is 5 oz of wine which is 43% less than what is normally served
- If you're the host, people don't want an enormous amount of food - they dread it. Save money, food and waistlines by serving less
- Send guests home with a goodie bag and throw away the candied yams and left-over dessert. If not, you'll end up eating it
- Get a one-up on everyone else. Do 3-minutes of abdominals daily. You'll feel stronger and will notice a difference within 2 weeks
- Accept that you can’t eat whatever you want and lose weight. It just can’t be done.
- Wear something that doesn't allow for a food-baby. You'll be less tempted if you need to hold your stomach in

Enjoy yourself, don't stress too much. Visualize yourself at your lean weight and keep it at the forefront of your mind. It is certainly achievable.

Fill me in on strategies and post-indulgence meals that have worked for you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Research round-up - October 2010

Low levels of vitamin B12 linked to Alzheimer’s
Oct 19 2010: A study published in the journal Neurology by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden has indicated that people with low levels of vitamin B12 may have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Over a seven year period, Hooshmand et al. followed 271 healthy individuals aged between 65 and 79. All participants did not have dementia at the start of the study. They examined the relationship between homocysteine (tHcy) levels and holotranscobalamin (holoTC), the active fraction of vitamin B12. High levels of tHcy have been associated with an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and linked to negative effects on the brain, such as stroke. It is thought that elevated levels of vitamin B12 can help reduce tHcy levels. By the end of the study, 17 people had developed Alzheimer’s disease. The study found that for each micromolar increase in the concentration of tHcy, the risk of Alzheimer's disease increased by 16%. However a 1 pmol/L increase in holoTC reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer's by 2 %. The study results suggest that both tHcy and low holoTC may be involved in the development of the disease.

Dana's comment: from age 30 onwards, our body starts to produce less HCL which inhibits the secretion of intrinsic factor required for B12 absorption. Taking sublingual B12 bi-passes the digestive tract and enables its absorption. Nonetheless, if suboptimal levels of HCL exists the preferable route is to supplement with HCL and potentially zinc. Check via challenge tests.

Luteolin may reduce brain inflammation and related memory loss
A study in The Journal of Nutrition has suggested that luteolin (a flavonoid found in celery, carrots, peppermint and chamomile) reduces brain inflammation and related memory loss in aged mice, with luteolin directly inhibiting the release of inflammatory molecules in their brain. Johnson et al. from the University of Illinois conducted two studies. In the first study, Johnson et al. found that the microglial cells treated with luteolin, before toxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was added, had 70% less inflammation than those that weren't treated with the luteolin. The researchers concluded that luteolin was neuroprotective.

In the second study young adult mice (3-6 months) competed against aged adult mice (22-24 months). Half the mice in each group were fed a diet supplemented with 20 mg/d of luteolin for 4 weeks. The study found little difference within the two groups of young adult mice. However, the aged mice on the luteolin-supplemented diet showed improved working memory and reduced inflammation of the hippocampus putting them on a par with the young adult mice. In conclusion the researchers state that their findings suggest dietary luteolin enhanced spatial working memory by mitigating microglial-associated inflammation in the hippocampus.

Dana's comment - we don't need a study to tell us to eat carrots and celery but it's always validating when science supports common sense. Dip celery and carrots sticks in hummus for an afternoon snack or drink a green juice with kale, celery, cucumber and a carrot for an afternoon pick-up.

Soy isoflavones and hormone dependent breast cancer recurrence
Oct 18 2010: A study by scientists from the Harbin Medical University and published in the journal CMAJ has examined the associations between dietary intake of soy isoflavones and recurrence of hormone dependent breast cancer. The chemical structure of soy isoflavones is similar to that of estrogen which means they exhibit estrogen-like effects in the body. To determine the impact of soy isoflavones on hormone-dependant breast cancer, Kang et al. followed 524 women, of which 248 were premenopausal and 276 postmenopausal, for five to six years. All subjects had had breast cancer surgery and were receiving adjuvant endocrine therapy, of either Tamoxifen or Anastrozole. At baseline the women completed a food frequency questionnaire, which included reporting on consumption of soymilk, soy flour, dry soybeans, fresh soybeans, soybean sprouts and tofu amongst others. The study found that post-menopausal breast cancer survivors who consumed the most soy isoflavones (of over 42 mg/day), had a 12.9% decreased risk of hormone-dependent breast cancer recurrence compared with those who consumed the least (about 15 mg/day). They found that women consuming over 42mg/day and taking anastrozole had a 18.7% lower risk of hormone-dependent breast cancer recurrence. The study notes that they did not find the same association with premenopausal breast cancer survivors who had high soy consumption.

Dana's comment: Soy in it's natural state - miso, tempeh, tofu, edamame exhibit a weak estrogenic effect on the body which can provide protection from more potent forms of estrogen including endogenous estrodial and xenoestrogens such as BPA from plastics. However, processed soy such as soy protein isolate found in protein bars, food fortified with protein and some soy milk is highly refined and a very concentrated form of soy with potent estrogenic effects. Soy protein isolate is the 'white bread' of the soy family and should be avoided by everyone not just women at risk of hormone-dependent cancer recurrence.

Best Brunch Downtown

Nothing defines Sunday more than a leisurely brunch, strong coffee and the New York Times. Whether you are hungry or hung-over, brunch usually goes one of two ways: a disastrous carbo-loading caloric confection of French toast and pancakes or a packed plate of protein Atkins would be proud of. Nutritionally speaking, eggs are a superior brunch choice as they keep you lean and improve your memory thanks to their CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and choline content. Who does the best eggs downtown without resorting to the ubiquitous omelete?

Here's my Top Five for Best Eggs downtown:

Spoon - 17 W. 20th St, btwn Fifth and Sixth Ave, Sat and Sun 10:00 am - 4pm
Spoon is well worth the saunter to Flatiron. Ingredients are sourced from local farms and they turn out several exquisite eggs dishes from Huevos Rancheros to Eggs Spaniard with double smoked bacon to Baked Eggs with a potato and pork sausage hash. Or, if you're bored with eggs, try the Brook trout with gorgonzola grits. Buttermilk pancakes, French toast and granola are also available for those running the marathon.

Morandi - 211 Waverly Place, cross 7th Avenue, Sat & Sun 10am - 4pm
Morandi is part of the Keith McNally clan of restaurants but much more 'local' than Balthazar and Pastis. With seven egg dishes to choose from you'll be in uova heaven. My personal favorites, Uova in camicia - two poached eggs over artichokes, squash and mushrooms and Fricando di baccala - two eggs with salted cod and potato. Morandi does a frittata so large that you'd think you were at IHOP. Share it with four others. A basket of sweet bread with brioche, donuts and cornetti is also an option if you don't mind spending $16 and gobbling metformin to lower your blood sugar spike.

Tarallucci e Vino - 15 East 18th Street, 130 Greene Street & 163 First Avenue Sat & Sun 9am - 5pm
Tarallucci has fewer egg dishes than the other eateries on this list, but they make it for their baked eggs alone. Two baked eggs in a skillet with either leeks, asparagus or bacon, it is the leanest of all eggs dishes sampled. For something more indulgent, try the poached eggs over polenta and porchetta or the speck and goat cheese frittata. The baked mackerel salad with grilled artichoke and orange zest is delicious way to get your omega 3's in when eggs just aren't your thing. Whole wheat croissants, apple turnovers and cinnamon rolls are also on offer but as the bread basket comes with mini-muffins and foccacia, save some cash by skipping the pastries. Brunch is from 9am so it's ideal if you're up early or jet lagged.

Corsino Cantina 637 Hudson Street Sat & Sun 10:00 am - 4 pm
Take a seat at the Corsino Cantina bar, throw back an espresso, sample everything (nothing is over $11) and read their copies of Bon Appetit and Conde Nast. From truffled egg toast to scrambled eggs with asparagus and prosciutto to house cured salmon & egg salad tramezzini, Corsino is the sexiest brunch choice. Head back in the evening for charred octopus with fingerling potatoes and the autumn vegetable salad with sunchokes and walnuts.

Your own home - Hours vary
Throw on a white tablecloth, add some colorful plates from ABC Home and whip up a ricotta and mint frittata. Serve with iced hibiscus tea and French press. Buy the ingredients from the Union Square market or Eataly (but mid-week, there's a line to get into this place on the weekend) and voila, you've got the best brunch in the city.

Got a favorite brunch spot - let me know.