5 Apps That Will Help You Master Meditation

by in Fitness, April 6, 2017

Even though it’s been around for thousands of years, meditation seems to be especially trendy these days. It’s part of the mindfulness movement that’s been gaining traction in the health and wellness world. And it makes sense that more and more people are actively seeking ways to manage their stress: A 2015 survey from the American Psychological Association found that overall stress levels have increased in Americans in recent years. These higher stress levels can affect mental and physical health in numerous ways: 39 percent of those surveyed reporting overeating or eating unhealthy foods in the last month due to stress, and 46 percent reported losing sleep over it.

Given what a profound affect stress can have on wellbeing, it’s no wonder that people are looking for innovative ways to get that moment of zen. Meditation studios have recently popped up in some of the country’s big cities (there’s Unplug Meditation in Los Angeles, MNDFL in New York City). But there’s also a variety of helpful meditation smartphone apps on the market. You may already know about Headspace, which is one of the most-downloaded mindfulness apps. But here are five new or under-the-radar meditation apps worth a try. Because, in addition to relieving stress, meditating can also improve concentration and benefits digestion as well as cardiovascular and immune health.

 

Sway 
Cost: $2.99
While most apps in this space feature guided meditations, this brand new option—it launched in late March—focuses on your movement as way to help you achieve mindfulness. The app uses your phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to measure your moves. In order for the app to work, you need to be moving in a slow, consistent motion (think swaying back and forth or walking slowly). Once you at you’re at the proper pace, the app will soundtrack your moves with soothing music. If you get distracted or your movements are interrupted, the app interprets that as a lack of mindfulness and reminds you to refocus. According to the makers of this app, this interactive meditation is one of the newest ways to approach the practice. Read more

Ask An Expert: Is Couscous Healthy?

by in Food & Nutrition Experts, April 2, 2017

Ever wondered about couscous…what is it? How it’s prepared? And most of all, is it healthy? A registered dietitian weighs in on this commonly misunderstood food.

 

What Is Couscous?

Often mistaken for an ancient grain, couscous is actually tiny pieces of wheat pasta – basically a mixture of semolina flour and water. Popular in cuisines around the globe, couscous is quick cooking and can be used like rice to accompany a wide variety of foods.

Traditional or Moroccan couscous are very small grains that can be prepared by simply adding hot water or broth and allowing to steep for 5 minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed. Larger round pieces of couscous known as Israeli or pearled can be cooked in boiling liquid. This version takes slightly larger to cook and has a more robust and pleasantly chewy texture. Read more

5 Spring Vegetables You May Not Know

by in Farmers' Market Finds, In Season, March 31, 2017

Seeing the first glimpse of spring vegetables make their appearance at the farmer’s market this month is a welcome change from winter’s hearty abundance. While the usual suspects — bright pink radishes, tender asparagus spears, and bright green snap peas — are there, you’ll also find more unexpected options like fiddleheads, ramps, morels and more. While these vegetables aren’t as common, don’t be intimidated! Familiarize yourself with each of these unique spring market finds and ways you can use each in a fresh and flavorful spring recipe.

 

Fiddlehead ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are the coiled tips of a young fern; deriving their name from the resemblance to the decorative end of a fiddle. This unique vegetable has a grassy, slight nutty flavor that’s similar to asparagus. Try them lightly steamed or boiled, then finished with olive oil and lemon for a quick side dish. They can also be swapped into almost any cooked recipe that features asparagus or haricot verts.

Let fiddleheads take center stage by replacing them for the asparagus in this Healthy Roast Asparagus with Creamy Almond Vinaigrette. Read more

Untangling the Facts About Instant Ramen Noodles

by in Healthy Tips, March 29, 2017

We know that instant ramen noodles — that cheap college-student staple — probably don’t qualify as a health food, but exactly how bad for us are they?

A 2014 study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that women who ate instant ramen noodles at least twice a week were at a 68 percent higher risk for metabolic syndrome – a group of conditions including elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; obesity and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. So, you know, not good.

“Instant ramen is notoriously high in sodium,” explains Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-certified chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, noting that some brands contain 72 percent of the daily-recommended sodium limit per package.

The packaged noodles are also made with refined grain flour, fried in palm oil, and are hardly redeemed by the teensy bit of dehydrated vegetables they contain. Consequently, Dudash puts them squarely in the “unhealthy food” category. But, she adds, “one of the leading brands of instant ramen noodles offers a 35-percent-less sodium option, so that is a move in the right direction.” Read more

Can The Mediterranean Diet Help Treat Depression?

by in Diets, Food & Nutrition Experts, March 26, 2017

Feeling a bit down? New research suggests that a Mediterranean diet can help treat depression. Now that’s cause for celebration! The study suggests that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean proteins may be able to treat major depressive episodes.

 

The study

The researchers followed 67 Australian individuals with a history of depression and poor dietary habits. Study participants were randomly sorted into two groups. One group received dietary intervention, consisting of 60-minutes of Dietitian-lead nutrition one time per week. The second group received social support, otherwise known as ‘befriending’ or spending time with another individual discussing neutral topics, like sports, news or music. In addition to the interventions, both groups were being treated with a mixture of anti-depressive medication or therapy.

The dietary intervention group learned about the importance of eating a Mediterranean diet, including 5-8 servings of whole grains per day, 6 servings of vegetables per day, 3 servings of fruit per day, 3-4 servings of legumes per day, 2-3 servings of low-fat and unsweetened dairy foods per week, 1 serving of raw and unsalted nuts per day, 2 servings of fish per week, 3-4 servings of lean red meats per week, 2-3 servings of  chicken per week, 6 eggs per week and 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day. They were also encouraged to reduce their intake of sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks to no more than 3 per week. Read more

Healthy Cooking Mistakes You’re Likely Making

by in Food & Nutrition Experts, March 24, 2017

Cooking more healthfully doesn’t need to be a painful task, but if you’re falling into these common traps you may be fighting an uphill battle. How many of these habits do you need to break?

 

You don’t measure high calorie ingredients

There is such thing as “too much of a good thing.” While there’s no disputing that ingredients like olive oil, nuts, avocado and nut butters offer healthy fats, inflated portions can lead to inflated waistlines. When each tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat, and each cup of cooked whole grain pasta adds up to 200 calories, it’s important to measure out these ingredients to avoid a calorie overload.

 

You defrost meat on the countertop

Is it common practice for you to toss that package of frozen chicken on the countertop before you leave for work? This is a food safety nightmare waiting to happen. The drastic temperature shift from freezer to counter rolls out the red carpet for potentially harmful bacteria and foodborne illness. Instead defrost meat safely overnight in the fridge. Or if you’re in a time crunch, defrost in the microwave then cook immediately. Read more

Creative Ways To Use Dates

by in Food & Nutrition Experts, March 21, 2017

Growing up, I spent my summers in Israel, where dates were part of the daily diet. These days, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that this dried fruit has become mainstream in the States. I spoke with Colleen Sundlie, founder of the Date Lady, to ask for her tips for getting creative with this versatile, nutrient-packed fruit.

The History

This naturally dehydrated fruit goes back over 5,000 years, and is native to the Middle East. These babies require a hot, dry climate, and are grown in the Middle East, Africa, along with California and Arizona. You may be familiar with the Medjool variety, but there are numerous other varieties including Dayri, Halawy, Thoory, and Zahidi which may be found in specialty food markets.  Most varieties are about 1-2 inches long and have an oval shape with a single oblong seed inside. The skin is paper thin, while the flesh has a sweet taste.

Dates are green when unripe, and turn yellow, golden brown, black, or deep red when ripe. The sweet fruits are typically picked and ripened off the tree before drying. You can find pitted and un-pitted dates at the market. Read more

Start a Garden and Harvest the Health Benefits

by in Healthy Tips, March 17, 2017

As the weather begins to warm (March, you’re still planning to go out like a lamb, right?) and the first signs of spring tentatively peep out of the ground, many of us take our cue to start rooting around for our garden tools.

If you are not yet a gardener, why not make this spring the season you try out your green thumb? Even if you live in a city and have no yard at your disposal, you may be able to give it a whirl by finding a small plot in a community garden or even stashing a box on your windowsill. The rewards may include far more than whatever you manage to grow.

Studies have shown that gardening has all sorts of health benefits, from boosting your mood and improving your diet, to helping you stay fit and trim. So Healthy Eats reached out to Sharon Palmer, RD, a plant-based food and nutrition expert and the author of The Plant-Powered Diet, Plant-Powered for Life and The Plant-Powered Blog, to find out more.

 

How is tending a garden beneficial for your overall health? 

Gardening is good for your overall health in many ways. First of all, it is a form of physical activity that contributes to your overall physical fitness levels. Secondly, it can boost mood-enhancing hormones. Studies show that gardening can increase the release of serotonin, which has an anti-depressant effect, while decreasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thirdly, it can increase your exposure to health-promoting vitamin D levels we obtain from the sun. And fourthly, studies show that when you garden, you increase your consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables. Read more

Market Watch: Radishes

by in Farmers' Market Finds, In Season, March 16, 2017

Radishes

Grown throughout the world, radishes come in a surprising number of shapes, sizes, and colors, from the large, white daikon to the ping-pong ball sized red globe radish. They range in flavor too, from slightly peppery to seriously pungent. What they have in common is a satisfyingly crunchy texture and an ability to add fresh flavor to all sorts of dishes. Though they are in season all year long, they are at their peak from spring to summer. Look for them at local farmer’s markets, where you are likely to find varieties like the whimsically named French breakfast radish, an elongated red-skinned radish with a white tip and a mild flavor, striking black radishes that pack a seriously spicy punch, and gorgeous pale green watermelon radishes that reveal a hot pink interior once sliced.

 

Radish facts

Radishes belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables, and like cousins broccoli and cabbage, offer up a wealth of nutrition. They are particularly high in Vitamin C and contain fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals called indoles, which have a detoxifying effect on the body. What’s more: radishes have only 20 calories in an entire cup.

Choose radishes that are firm and free of cracks or brown spots. Before refrigerating them, snip off the greens and place the red bulbs in a plastic bag. If the greens are still crisp and not beginning to wilt, rinse them and refrigerate them separately. Plan on using the leaves within a day or so, as they won’t stay fresh for long. The radish bulbs can be stored up to two weeks. Read more

It’s Not Just You: Stress and Fat Are Linked

by in Food News & Trends, March 14, 2017

In times of stress, many of us turn for consolation to sugary, fatty, high-calorie foods. Macaroni and cheese? Meatloaf and mashed potatoes with extra butter? A massive hunk of buttercream-frosted cake? They don’t call them “comfort foods” for nothing.

“I often see unmanaged stress lead to overeating and binging with my clients,” says Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, author of Nourish Your Namaste e-book and blogger at The Foodie Dietitian. “When we push away our basic needs for self-care — relaxation, spirituality, fun, sleep — we wind up feeling overexerted, depleted and stressed and turn to food as a way to fulfill an unmet need. Overeating because of stress often leads to more stress and anxiety and it becomes a vicious cycle.”

Given that, the results of a recent British study that found a link between long-term stress and obesity may not come as much of a surprise.

The study, conducted by researchers at University College London and published in the journal Obesity, looked at hair samples representing about two months of growth from more than 2,500 men and women age 54 and over participating in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to determine the levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, present in the hair. The researchers found that those with higher levels of cortisol, which plays a role in metabolism and fat storage, were more likely to be overweight or obese – to have a larger waist circumference, weigh more and have a higher body-mass index. Read more