Sunday, March 20, 2011

Secret 11: Find Good Fats in Fish

Just like there are good eggs and bad eggs, so too are there good fats and bad fats.  And Sally Beare suggests that you stick to 'good fats' for 'best health'.  According to Beare, 'bad fats' include your standard vegetable oils found on many grocery store shelves (most are chemically processed rather than expeller or cold-pressed), the fats used for frying and cooking in many chain restaurants (often the cheapest kind available) and saturated fats in diary products and red meat. Sally Fallon, who co-founded the Weston Price Foundation in 1999, will argue that saturated meat and diary products are not unhealthy per se, but just as is the case with eggs, the QUALITY of the meat and diary product is the determining factor. But back to Beare. We all need EFAs or essential fatty acids to survive.  These are fats our bodies are not able to generate on their own.  EFAs come from fresh, unspoiled polyunsaturated oils found in nuts, seeds, and oily fish. Nuts, seeds, and cold-pressed oils from nuts and seeds deliver mainly linoleic acid or omega-6s. The oil from oily fish is omega-3 or alpha linolenic acid.  Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are found in abundance in the diet of blue-zone people.  Oily fish enjoyed by blue-zoners include sardines, mackerel, herring, salmon or anchovies that are grilled, gently sauteed in virgin olive oil, cooked in soup or roasted. Fish obtain their omega-3s from marine algae. Omega-3 fats are converted to DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA. We need both kinds. 60% of our brain consists of DHA.  According to studies at Harvard and Oxford University, the symptoms of children with ADHD and adults with manic depression were significantly reduced when omega-3 intake was increased over several months. Beare recommends eating oily fish up to three times per week. Apparently the Standard American Diet or SAD is not only deficient in omega-3 and omega-6, but the ratio between these two fats is severely out of balance.  A healthy balance would be a ratio of between 1:2 to 1:5 of omega-3s to omega-6s, the SAD has a ratio of 1:20.  
Another point made by Beare is that our omega-3 rich brains are susceptible to free radical damage, and she recommends green tea, red berries and red wine as good sources of antioxidants. EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate is the fat-soluble antioxidant in green tea, proanthocyanidin is the powerful antioxidant found in red berries and red wine.  
I often cook salmon at home, both farm-raised and wild (the wild has less fat and tastes different than the farm-raised) so I thought I'd look around the local supermarkets for another oily fish to try. I prefer fresh over canned and decided that since I have enjoyed mackerel in local restaurants, I would easily find fresh mackerel in the grocery store. I was mistaken. My first stop was Sunflower Markets where I was informed by the fishmonger that the store very rarely carries mackerel.  Demand is non-existent and due to the fish oil the fish can quickly turn rancid. No problem, I thought.  Surely a store that focuses on health foods such as Whole Foods will have mackerel? "No, we don't carry it.  It does not sell.  But we can special-order it for you!" the helpful young man at the Highlands Ranch Whole Foods fish counter offered, "but I know that Whole Foods in So-Cal carries it". No luck at Whole Foods, Colorado, so I decided to try the local specialist in meat and fish: "Tony's Market" -- "No, we do not carry mackerel; you might want to try the Asian supermarkets down on Alameda or Pacific Mercantile in Denver". If the local Caucasian population does not include omega-3 rich mackerel on their standard menu, maybe I was going to have better luck at the places where Asians shop?  Pacific Mercantile (1925 Lawrence Street, Denver, CO 80202; 303-295-0293) is a Japanese grocery store in downtown Denver. Bingo! I found three gorgeous, large mackerel on display at the seafood counter. $4.99/lb or $6.99 for the most beautiful, fresh specimen I had ever seen. I was going to take a picture of the mackerel for this blog but when I returned home and had cleaned and gutted it, rubbed it with some finely-chopped fresh ginger, broiled it for 5 minutes on each side and presented it for dinner, the entire fish was eaten in no time. It was delicious. It tasted better than any grilled mackerel I have ever eaten at any of the local Japanese restaurants.  So if you live in Denver and would like an easy, fast dinner loaded with omega-3s, pick up a mackerel at Pacific Mercantile!  A one lb. mackerel is enough for two adults and two young children.

Take-home: make sure your diet includes plenty of EFAs - both omega-3s and omega-6s. Try to keep the ratio between omega-3s and omega-6s closer to 1:2 than 1:20.  Good sources include cold-pressed nut and seed oils, nuts, seeds, and oily fish.  Look for sources of fresh, oily fish in your town.  The fish is fast and easy to prepare and very tasty.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Secret 10: Have a Good Egg

The egg is an excellent example of "garbage in, garbage out" or "you are what you eat".

According to Beare, the egg is a great addition to a healthy diet - as long as it's a good-quality egg.

Sally recommends eating eggs because:

  • the egg is a complete protein i.e. it contains all eight essential amino acids
  • an egg provides 6 g. of protein, or around 15% of the daily protein requirement
  • eggs do not increase bad or LDL cholesterol levels
  • egg yolks contain antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.  These are thought to reduce the risk of eye cataracts
  • eggs contain minerals such as iron and zinc
  • eggs have 13 vitamins including the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E
However, you have to be careful that you are eating a nutritious egg, preferably from a hen that is fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of steroids, antibiotics or hormones.  The least nutritious egg is also the most common and cheapest one available at your local supermarket:

Only $1.89 per dozen battery-laid eggs

If you look at the egg carton more closely, chances are that you will find more information about the origin of the egg on the inside of the cover.  The cheapest eggs available are factory-farmed eggs.  These eggs are laid by hens that live and die in a crowded cage and are reared on 'food' that contains animal waste (cheap), steroids and hormones (to increase the egg-producing capability), and antibiotics (to keep infectious diseases at bay in overcrowded, unhygienic cages).  If the egg carton makes no mention of the hen's diet or the hen's ability to move around freely outdoors, you may assume that the feed is cheap and the mobility is non-existent. Hens raised on such feed lay eggs with an unhealthy omega 3: omega 6 ratio of 1:20, and the human who consumes such eggs in turn will have a similar, unhealthy omega 3: omega 6 ratio.

For up to nearly twice the price of battery-laid eggs, the consumer is offered a healthier choice: 

Your choice of cage-free, omega-3, and organic eggs at $3.50 or higher per dz.
So how do you choose a good egg when all you want is to get in and out of that supermarket as fast as possible?  Here's Sally's 'quick guide to a good egg':

  • farm-fresh: this is a marketing gimmick that means nothing
  • free range: just 2 to 5 sq.ft per chicken can already be called 'free range'
  • hens raised on feed that contains animal products, steroids, hormones, antibiotics and pesticides
  • being mislead by pictures of happy hens feeding on pasture unless this is supported by text on/in the egg carton
  • cage-free: this will be stated on the cover as well as inside the cover, check for the 'cage-free' certification
  • organic: to avoid pesticides; check for USDA certified organic
  • hens fed an all-vegetarian diet free of hormones, steroids, chemicals and antibiotics
  • diets that include flax seed may have a healthier ratio of omega 3: omega 6 such as 1: 2
  • egg cartons that are made of recyclable materials
I decided to do a blind taste-test on two kinds of eggs:
  1. cage-free, non-organic
  2. organic, not clearly stated whether this was a cage-free egg
I could not get myself to try out, let alone purchase, the factory eggs.

Cage-free egg, NOT organic

The cage-free egg was flavorful, but had a bit of a strange aftertaste.

Organic egg from Chino Valley Ranchers, $2.00 for 6 eggs

The organic egg was neutral and the egg yolk barely had any taste.  

I would suggest trying out eggs that are both organic and cage-free until you find the one you consider to be the most flavorful.

And finally, once you have your quality eggs, what is the healthiest way of preparing them? Sally recommends boiling or poaching eggs over frying or scrambling as the former is least damaging on the egg's essential fats.  And how many eggs does she recommend per week?  Four or five.

Take-home:  if you are fortunate enough not to have an egg allergy, by all means add this invaluable protein to your diet, however, eat only the best quality you can obtain and afford.

Some brands you might like to try (organic AND cage-free) if you live in Colorado:
  • Organic Valley
  • Nestfresh
  • Farmer's Hen House

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Secret 9: Be Full of Beans

Why eat beans and other legumes? According to Beare, not only are legumes high in protein and fiber (the sponge that mops up toxins along its journey through your body and out the other end), and low in fat, but they contain anti-aging antioxidant flavenoids and anticancer agents protease inhibitors and isoflavone genistein. In short, legumes are a valuable addition to a well-balanced diet.

I have to confess, legumes are not my favorite food. I prefer food with a high water content, such as fruit, or foods that are tangy. But I do enjoy a some legumes. One that is always a great snack and a popular, easy-to-serve appetizer at parties is organic edamame. The fresher, the tastier. Here in Denver one of the best places to obtain delicious organic edamame is Sam's Club.

Another favorite with the family are peas. Frozen peas are fast to heat up and a nice addition to the lunch box. Here is an adapted pea soup recipe from one of our favorite authors 'Roald Dahl'. Check out 'Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes' illustrated by Quentin Blake. Even if you do not try the tasty recipes, you may get a laugh out of the illustrations and the creativity that went into the dishes. Recipes include George's Marvellous Medicine chicken soup, lickable wallpaper, wormy spaghetti and hair toffee to make hair grow on bald men.  
Perhaps the Dahl's green pea soup received high marks from the family due to all the 'not-recommended by Beare' dairy ingredients:

Green pea soup:

  • 2 tablespoons butter  (if possible, rBGH- free butter.  Available at Whole Foods)
  • 8 scallions (they are usually found near onions but are smaller and have thin, brown skin)
  • 1 small potato
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 12 oz frozen peas
  • 3.75 cups of chicken stock (if possible, organic and from free-range chicken)
  • salt and pepper

Garnish with 6 oz. frozen peas and 5 oz. of heavy cream

1. Melt butter in pan
2. Chop scallions, dice potato, crush garlic and add to pan
3. Cover pan and simmer for 10 min.
4. Add peas, stock, salt and pepper. Boil, then simmer for 15 min
5. Remove from stove and mix in a blender (since this is v. hot cover blender with foil that has been punctured to avoid a scalding mess)
6. Reheat blended mixture, add peas to garnish, cook until peas are just tender, add cream


Another easy, super fast and tasty home-made appetizer using garbanzo beans is hummus.  A friend who from Iraq taught me this recipe:

Rachel's hummus:

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drain some liquid but not all
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of tahini (ground sesame seeds)
  • juice from one lemon
The instructions could not be simpler:  put all the above in blender. Serve with raw vegetables or pita bread.

And finally, how about some bean dessert?
This is popular among Chinese from the South. Makes a hearty, warm soup in the winter.

Red-bean soup:

  • 5 cups or 1.25 liters water
  • 1 cup adzuki red beans (available at Sunflower)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (preferably rock sugar but any sugar will do)

1. Soak red beans in water overnight in fridge
2. Boil cold water
3. Drain beans and add to boiling water
4. Cook 30 minutes until beans are soft
5. Add sugar and allow dessert to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before eating

If you did not grow up with this dessert, red bean soup may be a bit of an acquired taste.

So there you are. Three variations on how to make beans and legumes more palatable.

Take-away: don't forget to add beans and other legumes to your diet. Even if you are not a bean fan, you will find some version of serving them (i.e. Indian dhal, Japanese edamame or some other country's version) that will make this food more delectable!