Living Lite

The Right Amount of Alcohol Can Improve Health

May 21, 2017

Nutrition is a complicated science. Some of what we know makes complete sense, but often the science seems counter-intuitive. For instance, most people know that fruits and vegetables are good for you, but they don't know that alcohol can be good for you, too. The confusion often stems from the fact that nutrition isn't usually an "all or nothing" matter. It's also dangerous to assume that "if a little is good, more is better." Nutrition science is more like a "Goldilocks" situation: It's unhealthy to have too little or too much of anything. In nutrition, the amount of a food or nutrient needs to be "just right" in order to benefit your health.

Alcohol is a perfect example. Through the decades, most studies have shown that light to moderate alcohol intake is connected to a reduction in all causes of death (except for breast cancer). But drinking zero alcohol, or too much alcohol, in many studies, have been associated with increased death rates. Your cardiovascular system particularly benefits from the right amount of alcohol. A recent study published in the journal, Clinical Nutrition, found that only light drinking (1 to 7 drinks per week) was associated with a reduced risk of heart failure. Previous studies have also found light drinking to be beneficial for metabolic syndrome, the cluster of conditions that occur together that increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes (high blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides and excess belly fat). But too much drinking is clearly associated with increased death rates. And all scientific experts agree, if you don't drink, this is not enough of a reason to start. Simple healthy living surpasses benefits of light drinking.

To learn more about wine's and alcohol's health effects, read my article about it.

Most health experts agree: Women should maximize their alcohol intake to 1 serving daily, and men to 2 servings daily. One serving of alcohol = 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.


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Strawberry and Rhubarb Soup

May 15, 2017

At your farmers market, you'll find strawberries and rhubarb picked at peak ripeness, which means maximum flavor, texture, and nutrition. You're also helping save the environment  when you buy at a local farmers market.

Soupe aux Fraises et Rhubarbe
(Strawberry and Rhubarb Soup)

excerpted from Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 Tablespoons Canola Oil
3 stalks Rhubarb, pealed and cut into 1.4 inch chunks
2 cups hulled and sliced fresh Strawberries
4 ounces fresh Orange Juice
1/4 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Nonfat or Low Fat Vanilla Yogurt
4 fresh Mint Leaves

Procedure:

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Use a pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add the rhubarb and saute about a minute. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for about 7 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the heat and let cool. Add the strawberries, orange juice, sugar and 1/2 cup of the yogurt and blend with an immersible hand blender (I like the Cuisinart Smart Stick). Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until it is well chilled.

Presentation:

Pour the soup into four small chilled bowls. Place a 1 Tablespoon dollop of yogurt and a fresh mint leaf on each bowl.

Did you know that there are 200 seeds on each strawberry?

Strawberries are members of the Rose family and there are over 600 different varieties. Choose freshly picked, ripe berries, as they will be the tastiest and will have the most nutrients. “Look for berries fully formed, bright red, without bruising or soft spots and with fresh-looking green caps,” says Janie Hibler in “The Berry Bible.”

Strawberries are considered a “superfood.” They have one of the highest antioxidant and nutrient contents of all foods, yet they are low in calories, so you can eat them in unlimited quantities. In fact, for your health, the more the better! “A serving of eight strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange. Strawberries are also rich in folate, potassium, and fiber. They’re especially high in cancer- and heart-disease-fighting phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) called flavonoids, anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, catechin, and kaempferol.

Soupe aux Fraises et Rhubarbeis adapted from "The French Culinary Institute's Salute to Healthy Cooking" (Rodale Press, 1998), one of my favorite cookbooks, which I highly recommend!

For more of my fantastic spring recipes...


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Springtime Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

May 7, 2017

I anticipate strawberries all year. And the Farmers Markets are finally brimming with them. The first fruit of the year, strawberries signifiy spring, new beginnings, and everything that's good. There are so many ways of eating strawberries. The simplest is right off the vine! But strawberries can be used very creatively, not only in desserts, but in savory dishes, too. This recipe can be served as a side salad or a main course.

Mike Gardner's Springtime Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad
 
This is a great salad for a hot day.  Let the strawberries sit long enough to absorb the balsamic vinegar flavor while you take time to catch up with friends and enjoy the summer day.
 
Ingredients
 
For the strawberries:
1 pint of ripe strawberries, if they are large, cut them in half
1/2-3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
 
For the salad:
Baby spinach
Baby arugula
Goat cheese crumbles
1 small red onion, sliced
 
For the dressing:
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
 
Directions
Prepare the strawberries by placing them into a bowl and add the vinegar.  Let them sit for a while to absorb the flavor of the vinegar- an hour or better.  This can be done at room temperature.
In a separate bowl. make the dressing by combining the vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.  Slowly stream in the olive oil, tasting for flavor balance.  If necessary, add additional mustard to taste.
When ready to serve, combine equal parts of baby spinach and arugula.  Add in the sliced red onion, and lightly toss the salad with a small amount of dressing, adding more as necessary slowly dressing the salad as to not drench it all at once.  Add the goat cheese crumbles.  Lastly, plate the salad onto a chilled serving plate.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the strawberries from the vinegar and place them on top of the greens.  Finally, top with fresh ground pepper and serve.


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