Apr 242014

I love Greek yogurt. High in protein, low in fat, and so creamy you feel like you’re eating something you shouldn’t be. What’s not to like?

If you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to do so. In addition to being able to make some delicious desserts, you can also use Greek yogurt to substitute for some less-healthy options like mayonnaise and sour cream. Buy the plain variety. Not only will you avoid all the sugar that’s loaded into the flavored varieties, but it’s far more versatile.

There are several sweeteners you can use. Some people like agave and others prefer honey. Both of these are okay. But my absolute favorite is stevia. The brand I use is Kal. I like Kal Stevia Extract Powder because it is nothing but plain stevia, in powder form. Some brands add fiber and other fillers so you can measure the stevia as you would sugar. The reality is that stevia is far stronger than sugar so only a tiny bit is needed. Kal conveniently packs a tiny scoop in the bottle. This scoop seems to be just right for sweetening a 6-ounce container of yogurt.

My favorite brands of Greek yogurst are Fage (I get the 2%) and Oikos (preferably organic). Both these brands have a nice, neutral taste and creamy texture (the Fage is especially creamy). And both are available in most supermarkets.

So, what can you do with Greek yogurt? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Swap half the mayonnaise in a recipe
  2. Swap half the sour cream in a recipe
  3. Add some to your morning smoothie
  4. Add sliced strawberries and stevia for a healthy but rich-tasting dessert
  5. Add chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, pumpkin seed, and toasted oats for a high-protein alternative to cereal
  6. Add to your scrambled eggs or omelet

You’re limited only by your imagination. If you get stuck, check out the recipes section of the Fage site.

Bon Appetit!

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Mar 272014

I’m always on the lookout for recipes that are low on the Glycemic Index and high in nutrients. Oh… and they have to taste good, too. Here’s one that fits the bill on all counts. It’s made with almond flour rather than a grain flour. This reduces the carbs and makes it gluten-free, while adding protein. It’s also fairly high in fat, but it’s the mono-unsaturated kind (found in almonds and other nuts), so it’s not one you have to avoid. In addition, almonds are a powerhouse source for manganese, magnesium, vitamin E and more. More information about the many health benefits of almonds are found on the World’s Healthiest Foods site.

This bread came out moist and tasty. My kids gobbled it up. Miraculously, some is still left today, two days after baking it (probably because my son eschews anything with nuts in it). It is still moist.

3 cups almond flour (I use blanched almond flour from Honeyville
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 large eggs
2 large very ripe bananas
1/2 cup sweetener (I used brown rice syrup from Lundberg)
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil (ok to substitute canola oil)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 350 F; grease a medium loaf pan.

Combine the almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Beat the eggs, bananas, sweetener, oil, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended. Mix in the dry mixture in three additions on low speed. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed and ensure all ingredients are mixed. Stir in the walnuts.

Pour the batter in the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out the loaf. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

Per slice (assumes 14 slices):

265 calories
20g total fat
14.7g carbohydrate
2g fiber
4g sugar
7g protein

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Mar 182014

Seems like every week there is a new “super fruit” being touted as the thing to eat.  Acai berry, pomegranate, goji berry, blueberry…  My recent copy of Health Magazine is discussing the benefits of drinking cherry juice.

I like fruit.  Truly, I do.  And I eat fruit just about every day.

But I also like chocolate.  Who doesn’t?  There are times when nothing will do but a creamy piece of dark chocolate.   For me, those times are daily (more on that later).  So I was very happy to read a peer reviewed article in Chemistry Central Journal which showed that chocolate is more super than any of the super fruits.  The researchers compared levels of anti-oxidants, polyphenols and flavanols in cocoa products (cocoa powder and dark chocolate) and “super fruits” (acai, blueberry, cranberry, pomegranate).  Chocolate was the easy winner in all categories.

Why Does This Matter?

Chocolate confers numerous health benefits on those who consume it:  lower risks of cardiovascular desease and stroke, just to start.  Chocolate consumption reduces blood pressure and increases flow-mediated dilatation.  Researchers now believe that chocolate may help prevent insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Chocolate also contains serotonin, which is a natural anti-depressant.

Plus, it tastes good.

The Caveat

The type of chocolate you eat matters.  Researchers found higher levels of polyphenols in unprocessed cocoa powder than in its alkalized cousin, for instance.  And the chocolate needs to be dark – chocolate candy doesn’t count! Some tips:

  • Choose chocolate with a 72% or higher rating (Lindt and Green & Black are good and readily available)
  • Eat about 1 ounce a day
  • Use unprocessed cocoa powder over alkalized, whenever possible (Hershey’s cocoa in the supermarket fits the bill)
  • Savor each bite!

Shop early for Lindt’s Easter Chocolate Gifts

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May 012013

Coconut oil has been touted as one of the best oils you can use in cooking because of its high smoke point (higher than extra virgin olive oil’s, which is usually my go-to oil) and health benefits. Researchers have found that the medium-chain fatty acids (MSCFAs) that comprise coconut oil are easily digested and converted to energy by the body. This is in contrast to long-chain fatty acids such as are found in other saturated fats, like butter. Long-chain fatty acids have a greater tendency to be stored as fat. In fact, recent research suggests that MCFAs can help promote fat loss. So go ahead and cook with extra virgin coconut oil – it’s good for you!

But the health benefits of coconut oil are not the point of this post.

The other day, I was surfing around and stumbled on an article that suggested using coconut oil as a hair conditioner. Intrigued, I logged into my account on MakeUp Alley and was surprised to see it had a 5 lipstick rating. Several reviewers mentioned that it was great at calming frizziness due to humidity. As someone who lives in a climate where it’s always humid, I had to try it.

I already had a huge tub of extra virgin coconut oil on hand since I use it for cooking. I transferred about 1/2 cup into a small bottle and brought it into the shower with me. I shampooed my hair as usual and then applied coconut oil to the ends while I finished my shower. I rinsed out the coconut oil and styled my hair as usual (read: combed it and let it air dry). On the plus side, my hair was not frizzy. But it was lank and greasy – definitely not a good look. Back to the shower for another shampoo.

Amazingly, after the second shampoo, my hair was soft and shiny. So much so that when I went to the gym a day and a half later, one of the regulars commented on how shiny my hair was.

So it seemed that the best way to use coconut oil was as a pre-treatment. Accordingly, when I next showered, I put the coconut oil in my hair first, and let it sit while I lathered up my body. Then I rinsed out of the coconut oil and shampooed and conditioned my hair as usual. Soft, shiny hair resulted. It even held up in the rain! I’m sold. I hear coconut oil is a good moisturizer, too. I’ll be trying that next. :)

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