Friday, November 11, 2011

My Favorite Cookbooks

I have probably looked through or used hundreds of cookbooks at this point in my cooking career.  It’s so hard to find a good cookbook with recipes that you actually will use often.  Below, I’ve listed some of my favorite cookbooks, the staples in my kitchen.  Hopefully this will be helpful to those who are trying to learn how to cook better.  With the holiday season coming up, they also make great gifts.

One of my favorite cookbooks is called Wildly Affordable Organic by Linda Watson.  I use recipes from this book weekly.  It’s also printed in paperback, which means it’s very affordable.  Part of the book is the author describing her journey learning how she and her husband could eat organic on $5 dollars per day.   It shows how to make eating organic affordable.  I learned a ton about how to prepare vegetables in a way that reduces the pesticides, how to shop and cook in season, etc.  This book really helped change the way I prepare food.  The rest of the book is filled with recipes she collected or developed that are wholesome and balanced.  All the recipes are made from scratch.  Her recipes in general are very “clean” cooking and I’ve loved everything I’ve made from her book.  The recipes are very practical.  She had foods in there I would have never thought of cooking like hamburger buns made from scratch and chocolate pudding.  I love the lentil soup recipe and have made her version of chocolate pudding Many times.  I use one of the pinto bean recipes almost weekly.  There are tons of other recipes in this book like blueberry pancakes, yogurt, black bean burgers, pesto, pizza dough, lasagna, bread, strawberry shortcake, and many yummy healthy desserts.  This book didn’t have any meat recipes, but is still an amazing book to have on your shelf.  It definitely shows people how to eat less red meat by providing recipes that taste Really good.  I think this book is a very helpful reference for anyone who is in favor of organic cooking. 

The second book that is a kitchen staple is Skinny Italian by Teresa Giudice with Heather Maclean.  Giudice is one of the women on a popular Bravo TV show that people love to hate.  She is very annoying on the show, but this woman knows how to cook.  Her cookbook is Amazing.  I also use recipes from this cookbook each week.  When I used to think of Italian, I would think of greasy breadsticks, creamy fettuccini, and fattening lasagna.  This cookbook really changed that.  Skinny Italian is filled with family friendly Italian recipes.  It shows how to make healthy Italian recipes with more of an emphasis on vegetables than regular Italian food.  All Giudice’s recipes are easy to follow and most of them are made from scratch.  They don’t take long to prepare and are perfect for making meals for a family or dinner party.  I love her one-pan oven-roasted chicken feast, pizza dough, marinara sauce, steak pizzaiola, and her farfalle con piselli.  I was really happy to see Giudice recently came out with a second cookbook called Fabulicious!: Teresa’s Italian Family Cookbook.  This book has even more family-friendly recipes like chicken parmigiana, pasta dough, meatballs, cheesy cavatelli, ravioli, salads, cannoli cupcakes, and tiramisu.  If you want to cook delicious and satisfying food for your family, these are the cookbooks to have.  I don’t think one of her cookbooks is better than the other.  Both books have amazing recipes and are both worth having. 

Another good cookbook was Cooking with My Indian Mother-in-Law by Simon Daley and Roshan Hirani.  I use recipes from this cookbook maybe once every few weeks.  It is filled with Indian recipes for someone with an intermediate cooking skill level.  I have looked through tons of Indian cookbooks and tried recipes from others, but this is the only one I really liked.  The authors really break down how to make Indian food.  When I first got this book, I had to search around to different stores to find some of the Indian spices used in this book.  There was also a learning curve to preparing some of these recipes.  Once you get the spices and master the learning curve, you can make some pretty amazing curries.  My favorites were a chickpea curry, cauliflower, potatoe, and pea curry, and also basic dal.  The recipes in this book are really healthy.  If you’re interested in branching out and attempting to cook some Indian food, this is the cookbook to get.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What to Do When You Get Sick

As I write this, I'm getting over a common cold.  This is the first time I've been sick in 2 years and it's definitely not fun.  What causes a common cold?  The answer is a virus that you pick up from another person, usually during flu season.  I'm pretty sure I picked my cold up from working at a health clinic and assisting sick patients all day.

If you have a fever, you need to go to the doctor.  The fever shows that your body is fighting some type of bacteria like strep that you will need antibiotics to totally kick.  If you have congestion, runny nose, cough, sneezing, and no fever, you probably have a common cold and would do better just staying home for a few days and watching television programs.

The best way to treat a common cold is rest and lots of fluids. Take a few days off from exercising and treat your body good with lots of rest.  Above all, avoid other sick people because your immune system is already knocked down and you don't want to get another cold.   A lot of people believe taking large amounts of Vitamin C help fight a cold.  This is Not true.  All the scientific studies to date show that taking a lot of Vitamin C has no effect upon speeding up recovery from being sick.  I've done vast reading on this subject and the medical community has not found any benefit from taking vitamin C during a cold.

What they have found to be beneficial is taking a large amount of Vitamin D.  It has been proven in studies that if you take a large amount of Vitamin D (2000-7000 iu) per day right for a few days when you begin to sick,  you recover faster.  Overall, you are sick for less days and the cold symptoms are milder.  2000 -7000 iu per day of Vitamin D seems like a lot, but it's really not.  It depends on how up to date your doctor's schooling is.  Due to new research, physicians are starting to put people on 2000-5000 iu per day every day.  If someone has a Vitamin D deficiency, they can safely take up to 15000 iu per day.  If you're starting to get sick and you don't normally take Vitamin D, leave the Vitamin C in the cabinet and take Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is what really works.  Above all, use common sense, take care of your body, and have a hopefully sickness free season.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Causes Male Pattern Baldness And How To Slow It

 Every wonder what causes guys to lose their hair?  It starts to recede by the temples or in the back and from there it’s just downhill.  It’s mostly genetic.  And it’s also a sex linked genetic pattern.  That means if you want to tell if a guy is going to go bald early in life, you need to look at his mother’s father and see what his hair was like.  Did he lose it early?  If the answer is yes, the guy in question probably will too.  What actually causes male pattern baldness is excess testosterone gets converted to a molecule called DHT.  DHT is what starts the cascade and makes individual hair follicles start to fall out. 

It’s starting to be a fad in the US that males are getting tested to check their testosterone levels.  If it’s low, physicians who jump on the health trends band wagon are putting them on extra testosterone.  Testosterone comes in a shot form, cream, and it recently just came out in a under the arm deodorant like application tube.  To be on extra testosterone, it has to be by prescription.  A side effect of giving men extra testosterone is that there is more of it for the body to convert to DHT.  And remember how DHT causes a male’s hair to fall out?  A side effect for some men of putting extra testosterone in their body is an increase in hair loss.  A lot of them don’t make the connection between the testosterone and their increasingly thinning hair, but you need to be cautious of side effects if you go on prescription medication. 

Luckily, there is a way to slow male patterned balding.  There are a lot of quackery remedies out there, so be extra careful when you shop.  If you can stop testosterone from being converted to DHT, you can prevent a male’s hair from falling out.  There are only a few ways to do this.  Rogaine is basically a medicated shampoo that helps slow testosterone from being converted to DHT.  It has a chemical called Minoxidil in it that prevents hair from being lost and stimulates hair growth.  There are several prescription medications that do the same thing.

With both the Rogaine and the prescription medication,  it’s best to start to use it when hair is just starting to thin out.  Once the hair is lost, it’s very difficult to grow any of it back because the hair follicles are no longer active.  If you wait too long, it will be impossible to grow back.  Rogaine is expensive and the prescription medication can be too if you don’t have good health insurance.   For most guys, it’s definitely worth the investment.  But in reality, this is the only way to go if you really want to starve off male patterned baldness.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cloth Diapers Protect a Baby Boy's Reproductive Future

Cloth diapers rock for many reasons.  I was lucky enough to be a cloth diaper baby.  A few years ago, almost all the mom’s I knew used plastic disposable diapers.  Now, cloth diapers are becoming more and more common.  Cloth diapers save families money, cut back on diaper rash for sensitive skin, and reduce the excess waste produced from plastic diapers piling up in landfills.  Some parents claim that cloth diapers enable their babies to be potty trainer faster.  Cloth diapers also spare exposure to some of the harsh chemicals that are in plastic diapers.  The most important reason to use cloth diapers is it helps preserve a baby boy’s reproductive potential.

As adults, men who had cloth diapers as babies have higher sperm counts than men who were diapered in plastic disposable diapers.  When a boy baby is diapered in a plastic disposable diaper, it insulates the scrotum area pretty well.  It can get very hot inside his diaper.  The testicles were made to be in the scrotum outside the body because they need to be kept 2-3 degrees cooler than body temperature.  When the testicles of a baby are insulated in a diaper and start to heat up for long periods of time, it begins to damage the sperm making “machinery” inside the scrotum.  Once the tubules that produce the sperm are damaged, they can’t be repaired.  The more the area heats up to a higher temp, the more sperm making machinery is destroyed.  When this baby boy grows up and becomes a man, his sperm count is lower than it could have been if he hadn’t had some of the tubules that made his sperm destroyed by heat early on in life.  Overall, if parents want to give their son the best reproductive future possible, cloth diapers are the way to go.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What To Give Trick Or Treaters For a Healthy Halloween

October may be the month that kids consume the most sugar.  For a youngster, the high point of Halloween is dressing up in a costume, collecting candy, and consuming it until they put themselves in a sugar coma. I Loved to trick or treat when I was little.  I looked forward to Halloween night all year.  My thrill came from running to house to house and collecting what they were handing out.  When I was a youngster, the houses that handed out something different than candy are the houses I like the best.

With the obesity crisis facing the United States, do kids these days really need more candy?  I don’t think we should load them up with candy when a lot of kids already don’t eat enough good fruits and vegetables.  Most parents appreciate their children getting stickers or a glow bracelet instead of one more chocolate bar or sucker they have to confiscate and ration out to the child later (or consume themselves).

Instead of handing out candy, try something new this year.  You could hand out quarters, a small sheet of stickers, or glow sticks.  If you handed out glow sticks, the kids would think your house was the coolest house on the block.  It’s such a new and novel idea, chances are, your neighbors won’t have thought of it yet. 

Glow sticks are totally safe and a lot of fun.  They glow in the dark and once on the child’s wrist, around their neck, or attached to their costume, it helps keep track of them in the dark as they run.  To get them ready, you take them out of the package and slightly bend them until you hear a slight cracking sound, then they start to glow.  You can put them in a basket and let the Trick or Treaters pick what color they want.  The glowing will usually last the night.  My favorite as a child was the glow stick necklaces.  If you have over 50 trick or treaters, you may want to consider the glow stick bracelets.  If you buy glow sticks, you will want to open the box and start getting them ready maybe 25 minutes before the Trick or Treating starts.   This year, they have tri-color mixed glow necklaces, which are the coolest yet.  What’s best of all is handing out glow bracelets or glow necklaces can sometimes cost less than handing out candy!

The key to handing out something other than candy is getting it ready ahead of time.  15 minutes of planning a few weeks before Halloween is all it takes.  I admit I’ve waited until Halloween evening to get a pumpkin carved, but as life has gotten hectic, I know planning brings success.  Take some time this week and get a plan for what you’re going to hand out to Trick or Treaters.  You’ll save yourself the last minute rush to the store to purchase candy and instead be the one house on the block that parents appreciate.

I added a link to the glow stick bracelets and necklaces below.  Each bracelet is a different color and the necklaces are tri-color.  Depending on where you live, they can be really hard to find in stores.  Because the links are to Amazon, it’s the lowest price I’ve seen.  Whatever you end up doing this Halloween, get ready early and have fun!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Benefits of Co-Sleeping With Baby*

Co-sleeping with baby is a hot topic.  Either parents are highly in favor of it, or they’re very against it.  Some people cite it as being a dangerous practice.  And it can be unsafe, if not done the right way.  As long as you use common sense and take care to co-sleep with the correct precautions, co-sleeping with baby can be beneficial for both the baby and the mother.

The one thing most parents who co-sleep do wrong is they don’t have the bed arranged correctly.  If you co-sleep with baby, parents should be really and willing to make some lifestyle changes to ensure their child’s safety.  The best way to co-sleep is to take the top mattress off the bedframe and put it on the floor.  Put the bed frame into storage for 6-9 months, or for the duration of you’re baby’s co-sleeping career.  I know this is a lifestyle change, but it’s worth the benefit.  It also helps to have a large mattress.  If parents don’t want to put the top mattress on the floor and only pull the sheets up to their waist, then the baby needs to go in a crib.  Parents have the top mattress on the floor and then line the sides with pillows.  That way, baby can sleep between the parents or on the side of the bed by the mother.  As soon as the baby is old enough to roll over, he or she will need to sleep between the two parents.  If the top mattress is on the floor and the sides are lined with pillows, in the event the baby does slide off the edge, he or she only falls a few inches onto a pillow.  At this point, the baby usually wakes up and alerts the mother. 

The other very important key to co-sleeping is to have the bed sheets only pulled up only to waist level.  A lot of co-sleeping parents sleep with a top sheet and they tuck it in really tight at waist level.  This way, the sheets won’t ride up in the night and cause the baby to suffocate. 

Co-sleeping also cuts down on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  SIDS is most common between 3-6 months of age.  So if mom is going to co-sleep with the baby, she should make sure to do it at least through 6 months of age. 

Lastly, when a mother co-sleeps with the baby, studies have shown that they begin to synchronize sleep cycles.  People cycle through different sleep cycles.  You need to get through most of a full sleep cycle for it to have a restorative effect.  People will go through a sleep cycle about every 2-4 hours while they are sleeping.  As soon as they’re done with one cycle, their body begins the next one.  REM is the part of the sleep cycle where people dream; it’s the part of sleep just before they wake up.  When mother and baby co-sleep, they begin to come out of REM sleep around the same time.  That way when the baby naturally wakes up and needs to nurse, the mother is in a part of her sleep cycle where she also easily wakes up.  If the baby were in a crib, mother and baby would be on different parts of their sleep cycles.  This means that when the baby woke up and began to cry, the mother would get wrenched out of a deep sleep and have to get up and tend to the baby.  If mother and baby synchronize sleep cycles, the mother doesn’t feel as tired during the day.

Most health professionals are against co-sleeping, and for good reason.  If done incorrectly or carelessly, it could have dire consequences.  You will always find parents who refuse to put the mattress on the floor, insist they need to use a full comforter, etc, and claim everything turned out fine for them.  They’re lucky.  Infant deaths have resulted from suffocation and fractures due to incorrect co-sleeping with a baby.  It’s not worth the risk.  Co-sleeping has to be done right for it to be a safe practice.  As long as co-sleeping is done done with care, it can be good for both the mother and the baby. 
*As with any advice in regards to children, consult your pediatrician before making lifestyle changes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Does Your Child Need a Multivitamin?

Some people say that as long as a child eats a variety of foods, they don’t need a multivitamin.  But are you sure that you give your child enough Vitamin A, D, E, K, calcium, iron, B12, B6, riboflavin, ect daily?  Most healthcare workers say there is no harm in giving a child a children’s multivitamin.  Giving a child a children’s vitamin daily ensures they get all the vitamins and minerals their body needs to develop and grow.  If they already have enough of certain vitamins, the extra nutrients will just wash through their body and not be absorbed.  A children’s vitamin really doesn’t have much in it.  It’s very watered down.  As long as you use a good brand, I recommend a child taking a children’s vitamin once each day.  If you schedule is really busy, then giving it to them more days than not is good too.  It’s only beneficial.

When your child becomes an adolescent, it’s really important to give them a multivitamin.  The highest prevalence of nutritional deficiencies occurs during adolescence.  During this the teens, your child starts to make more food choices on their own.  They may decide what they eat at school and start getting their own snacks at home.  As your child learns to drive or gets very busy with after school sports practices or dance classes, it easier and easier to just pick fast food up instead of sitting down to a vegetable laden, nutritious and balanced family dinner. Studies have shown that the American adolescent consumes more than one third of their calories as fat, and most of those are saturated fat.  For the average adolescent, French fries make up a full fourth of the vegetables they consume.  It’s no wonder that adolescents are often deficient in calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins A and C.  Above all, it’s very important to keep encouraging your adolescent to make healthy food choices.  Like with a children’s vitamin, make sure you pick a good brand of multivitamin because not all vitamins are made the same.  Having an adolescent take a multivitamin isn’t a substitute for healthy eating, but it helps ensure that that at least get some of the vitamins and minerals they need to keep going strong. 

Upcoming blog post: How to pick a great multivitamin  Also, send me your health questions that you want answered and hopefully we can make it happen!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Deciding If Your Child Needs Fluoride

Dental hygiene and fluoride for a child…there seems to be a ton of confusing information out there.  The current recommendation is that the parent should start examining the child’s mouth at age 6 months and gently brushing gums and any teeth present.  The child should have their first dental exam at a dentist’s office by age 3.  Some states require a child to have had a dental visit by the time they start kindergarten.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the maximum allowable level of fluoride in the community drinking water to range from .7ppm -1.2ppm.  If you and your family drink well water or filtered water, there is probably no fluoride in it.   There has been a movement in the past few years to filter water before drinking and also to start using all-natural toothpaste with no fluoride.  This has led to an increase in cavities in very young children.  If your child is not exposed to any fluoride, they will get cavities. 
I realize most parents filter water to rid it of lead, toxins, and other impurities, but if you filter your water, you have to give your child fluoride from other sources.  It’s important to use toothpaste with fluoride in it.  Children should use a pea size amount of toothpaste and try not to swallow too much when brushing.  Children can overdose on fluoride, but it’s really rare.  Overdosing on fluoride is hard to do and unless your child craves eating toothpaste by the tube, it probably won’t happen.

What is also important is giving your child fluoride treatments.  Fluoride supplements are available as a liquid for younger children and as tablets for older children.  Parent’s need to get the prescription for the fluoride liquid or tablets from their child’s pediatrician or dentist.  It’s one of the best things your can do to protect their teeth from cavities.  If your child needs fluoride and how much depends on how much is in the drinking water.  I’ve posted the chart below to help parents determine if their child needs extra fluoride supplements:

Recommended Dietary Fluoride* Supplement Schedule

0-6 months
6mo-3 years
.25 mg/d
3-6 years
.5 mg/d
.25 mg/d
6-16 years
1.0 mg/d
.50 mg/d

*Sodium fluoride (2.2 mg =1 mg fluoride ion)

I know this chart can be confusing at first, but once you figure out where your child fits on it, it’s very helpful.  You will have to call your water treatment center, look online, or look at the yearly water report to find out exactly how much fluoride is in your drinking water.  This is key to knowing how much fluoride in the form of a liquid or tablets to give your child, if any. 

For example, if your drinking water has more than .6ppm of fluoride in it, your child has enough fluoride exposure to adequately protect their teeth.  As long as you brush their teeth and use common sense with normal teeth hygiene, they should be fine.

If the fluoride in the water falls between .3 to .6ppm, then when your child reaches 3 years old until they are 6 years old, you give them .25 of fluoride mg/day.   When they are 6-16 years old, you give them .50mg of fluoride/day.

If you child has less than .3ppm of fluoride in their drinking water, or no fluoride, then at 6 months to 3 years of age, you give them .25 mg /day of fluoride.  At age 3-6 years old, you give them .5mg of fluoride/day.  At 6-16 years old, you give them 1mg of fluoride per day.

Hopefully this information will help clear up some of the incorrect information that is floating around about fluoride and how it should be used to correctly prevent tooth decay and cavities.  For your child, it’s best to use multiple sources of fluoride, like fluoride tablets and also fluoride toothpaste.  There are also children’s mouthwashes with fluoride in them.  Always check with your dentist or pediatrician before starting fluoride supplementation treatments.  Parents need to get the fluoride prescription from a pediatrician or dentist anyway.  Depending on your dentist or pediatrician, their dosing schedule may be a little different, but what I’ve posted is the current recommendation at this time.  It’s the schedule I would use.  Nothing can guarantee your child won’t get any cavities, but getting an adequate amount of fluoride will set them on a path to have a healthy mouth and good dental hygiene.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Many Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding a baby has a ton of positive benefits.  People can disagree, but the research speaks for itself.  It has been shown through empirical evidence that breastfeeding decreases the incidence of ear infection, Chron’s, respiratory tract infection, urinary tract infections, obesity, lymphoma, Type I Diabetes, autism, allergic reactions, and wheezing illnesses.  Studies have also shown that breastfeed babies are on average 6 IQ points higher than their non-breastfeed counterparts.  Breastfeeding also encourages maternal-infant bonding.

Science has never been able to replicate real breast milk.  Formula is basically a cheap imitation of breast milk, and not a very good imitation at that.  They can’t always replicate in a lab what the human body naturally makes.   The mother’s body makes exactly what the baby needs.  Human milk is rich in immunoglobulins, leukocytes, macrophages, and T and B lymphocytes, all things that boost up a baby’s immune system and prevent him or her from getting sick.  These really important components of breast milk are not in formula.

Why in the world would women not breastfeed if they are physically able to?  There is a trend in the United States for less women to breastfeed less then in previous generations.  It’s also becoming more common for babies to be breastfed for a shorter period of time than before.  We can owe this trend to more working mothers, less social support among women, challenges of breastfeeding for a working mother, and countless other reasons.  It’s a trend that is not good for the infant.

Doctors recommend that babies are exclusively breastfeed until 6 months of age.  At 6 months, you can start giving the baby solid foods, but it’s for recreational eating, not to meet their daily requirements.  Along with their new intake of some solid foods, babies should still continue to be breastfed until they are at least 12 months old.    

Before any mother decides to forgo breastfeeding their infant, they should really be educated about the benefits of breast milk.   Breast milk from the mother is a clean, nutritional, healthy and free way to feed the baby.  It’s really the best choice for the baby.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Type of Pans to Cook With?

The best type of pan to use for cooking is stainless steel.  Iron pans are also ok.  Never use aluminum pans to cook in.  Aluminum cookware is bad for your health.  People who cook with aluminum cookware have a higher level of aluminum in their bodies.  What happens is the aluminum of the pan tends to react with acidic foods like tomatoes.  This causes some of the aluminum to leech into the food that is then consumed.   Families that cook with aluminum pans have blood work and lab results that show elevated levels of aluminum.  If you cook with aluminum pots and pans over time, the amount of aluminum in your body begins to build up.  Our bodies were not made to have a daily intake of aluminum.  It really doesn’t do our health any good.

Cookware with a nonstick surface, sometimes called Teflon, is also not a good choice.  That non-stick surface also allows a chemical to leech into food being prepared that has been linked to cancer in animal studies.   Elevated temperatures cause the Teflon to start breaking up and letting off chemicals.   When the Teflon starts to wear off the bottom of a pan or gets scratches in it is when it becomes really hazardous.

 Some people still claim aluminum and non-stick cookware pose no health risk.  As we learn more, this really isn’t the case.  It’s in everyone’s best interest to clean their kitchens of any and all aluminum and non-stick pans.  Really the best pans to cook with over time are stainless steel.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why Do We Drink Soda?

What nutritional value does soda give us?  The answer is none.  It’s basically a can or bottle filled with sugar, preservatives, and carbonation.  Look at the back of a pop can and you’ll see it contains no calcium, vitamin A, fiber, protein, vitamin C, or iron.  What it often does contain is a little sodium and a lot of sugar and caffeine.  The caffeine from soda can cause calcium to leech from our bones. 

It still surprises me that soda machines have found their way into so many schools.  Soda often contains something called high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener.  Fructose is similar to glucose (like what carbohydrates are made of), but our bodies were not made to intake large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup.  Due to our bodies metabolizing and responding to high-fructose corn syrup differently than glucose, it’s been linked to obesity in both children and adults.  Some brands of soda are so acidic you can use them as cleaning solution.  This acidic content can cause the enamel on our teeth to slowly erode down.  The darker the soda, the more acidic it is.  Combine that with the high sugar content of the beverage and it leads to cavities. 

Because soda only has a very small amount of water in it, it really doesn’t quench a person’s thirst.  One thing soda has done is add to the obesity crisis facing the United States.  Passing on the pop is one small thing you can do to improve your health.  Next time you want soda, reach for a glass of juice or water instead.  Over time, you’ll feel better, your waistline will be slimmer, and your body will thank you.