Sunday, 16 August 2009

Preventing a second, or a first, heart attack: Part 2

The obvious:

If you smoke, quit. Smoking is the single leading cause of heart disease: smokers are 2-3 times more likely to die from a coronary heart disease than non-smokers. Smoking disrupts your heart rhythm, decreases your "Healthy" HDL cholesterol (that gets rid of artery-clogging plaque) and damages your arteries. Smoking also doubles your risk of a second heart attack. Stay away from second-hand smoke too!

Lose weight, if you need to.
Lots of studies have shown that BMIs over 25 increase the risk of dying young, mainly from heart disease.
Click here to calculate your BMI. An alternative to the BMI is to measure your waist measurement. The more fat you have around your middle, the greater your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and heart disease. Men should keep their waists circumferences (measured at the belly button) to less than 37 inches or 94 cm, women to less than 31 inches or 80cm. What's your waist circumference?

Exercise regularly. Regular exercise will go a long way in preventing a second heart attack, even if you don't lose weight. Exercise strengthens your heart, increases your "Healthy" HDL cholesterol, decreases your "Lousy" LDL cholesterol (that clogs up your arteries) and also can help prevent depression often associated with a heart attack. A study found that people that have had a heart attack and that increased their physical activity levels were nearly twice as likely to be alive after 7 years compared to those that stayed inactive.

The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of walking or other moderately vigorous exercise at least five times each week, or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise at least three times each week, along with activities to increase or maintain muscular strength twice a week as well as daily activities like gardening and housework.

Not everybody can tolerate exerise the same way after a heart attack. Talk to your doctor who will probably ask you to do a stress test- your heart is monitored while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationnary bike. Many people participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program after their first heart attack where the heart is monitred during exercise to ensure the intensity is safe.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

"La p√Ętisserie, c'est comme les gens"

"Pastry is like people... Some dough needs a lot of kneading, some requires much less. Some dough is satisfied to rise just a little, while other dough needs to double in size. All dough needs warmth to rise."

-Taken from Kathleen Flinn's wonderful memoir, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry , about her experience moving to and living in Paris and attending the famed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school.
I just finished this book- an easy and enjoyable read about a women pursuing her passion for cooking...while living in a foreign city and trying to learn the language. The author offers her readers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the grueling training that goes on at the Paris culinary school and, along the way, manages to inspire us to follow our own dreams.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Insects dye our food?!

Well... this is a shocker:

Turns out that it's legal, and common, for food manufacturers to use
insects as food dye, and they don't have to let us know!!

More specifically,
carminic acid is extracted from the cochineal beetle's body and eggs and used to make carmine dye, a red dye commonly used as food colouring as well as in cosmetics, fabrics, oil paints and watercolours.

Although many foods, including yogourt, ice cream, cheese, butter, fruit-flavoured and alcoholic drinks, meats, pie fillings, jams, baked goods, sauces and candies, use carmine and cochineal extracts as dye, they only have to indicate "artificial colour" or "artificial colour added" to their ingredient lists. Only man-made dyes have to be listed (ie. FD&C No. 40)). As such, we have no idea if we're eating insect extracts or not.

In 2006, the consumer advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest called the FDA to
ban insect-based dyes and provided 32 adverse reation reports it had received. According to the CSPI, "Why tolerate food coloring that sends a couple hundred people to emergency rooms each year...?"

Symptoms reported after eating carmine-containing foods like Yoplait and Danone yogurt, Ocean Spay and Fruitopia juice and Good & Plenty candy included itching, swelling of the eyes and tongue, difficulty breathing, hives and headaches. Moreover, hidden beetle extracts are problematic for vegetarians and vegans, those with specific allergies and people who keep kosher.

In January 2009, the FDA finally ammended the colour additive regulation; foods containing cochineal extract or carmine must declare the presence of the colour additive with either "cochineal extract" or "carmine" in the ingredient list by January 5 2011.

At least it's a start but, according to the CSPI, why not require the ingredient to be listed as "insect-based colouring" rather than using words most people won't understand?
Why the sneakiness?

Thanks Heather for letting me know about this!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Coconut oil: Good fat or bad fat?

Saturated fat is a bad fat- it increases your "lousy" LDL cholesterol that transports cholesterol to the arteries, causing plaque to form on your artery walls, increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

In general, foods from animals sources contain mostly saturated fat (ie. meat, milk, cheese, butter, lard) whereas foods from plant sources contain mostly unsaturated fats (olive oil, canola oil, nuts, avocadoes).

There is one main exception though: tropical oils. These so-called tropical oils, like palm oil and coconut oil, are mostly saturated.
In fact, coconut oil is 92% saturated! As such, it has generally been recommended to limit intake of coconut oil, along with animal fats, to reduce your risk of heart disease.

That said, recent
studies have indicated that coconut oil may not be as bad as we had thought.

In a 1995 study, 28 people with high cholesterol followed a diet providing 36% of total calories from fat, 50% of which came from either butter, coconut oil or safflower oil (only about 10% saturated). After 6 weeks, total cholesterol and the "lousy" LDL cholesterol were significantly higher in those on the butter diet compared to the coconut oil diet. The safflower oil diet was associated with significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels compared to the butter and coconut oil groups. The same researchers confirmed the above results on healthy subjects as well.

Although coconut oil is more saturated, the saturated fat in butter comes from palmitic acid whereas the one in coconut oil comes from lauric acid. Palmitic acid (also the main fat in palm oil) has been found to have a greater negative effect on cholesterol and is therefore more conducive to heart disease than lauric acid.

So... what does this mean?

It means that non-hydrogenated coconut oil can be an alternative to butter or hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils that are high in trans fats, but it shouldn't replace other more healthful, mainly unsaturted, oils such as olive, canola, soybean, corn, safflower or sunflower oils.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Starbucks un-brands itself: sneaky or smart?

July 24th, a new coffee shop called 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea opened its doors in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle (on 15th Avenue).

This coffee house is the quintessential "little neighbourhood
coffee shop": reclaimed furniture, long wood tables, a stage where there will be live music and poetry readings, greek philosophy book pages wallpaper a back wall, the espresso' s made from a fancy manual LaMarzocco machines rather than regular auto-espresso machines, beer and wine is served, as well as cool "retro-hip" food including artisan baked breads and gelato.

The kicker? This is a Starbucks... in disguise!
A little sneaky, no?

Over a year ago, it was reported that Starbucks' sales were declining (more than 40% in a year). The problem? Starbucks became too popular! As the
BBC reported in 2008, Starbucks used to be the new, cool place to enjoy a 'venti' or a 'frappuccino', sitting in a comfy couch reading a book or working on your laptop. Now, there's a Starbucks on every corner, and even Starbucks' CEO admits that the brand has become a commodity, sending once loyal patrons to search out smaller, trendier coffee houses... like 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea.

Apparently, Seattle should expect
2 more Starbucks-in-disguise to appear, named after the neighbourhoods they're in rather than the chain. Clearly, Starbucks is responding to public awareness and interest in independent and local businesses versus large and international ones but what do you think of their strategy? Do you they're being sneaky by disguising themselves or that it's a smart initiative to re-invent themselves?

Click here for the new coffee shop's website.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Middle-age spread is dangerous

According to 2 long term studies - the Nurse's Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study- the more weight you gain after the age of 20, the greater your risk of developing certain diseases.

Middle-aged men and women that gained 11-22 lbs after the age of 20 were up to 3 times more likely to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and gallstones compared to those that gained 5 lbs or less, even if they were at a normal weight to begin with.

According to Dr. Walter Willett, the Nurse's Health Study's Principal Investigator and author of Eat, Drink, and be Healthy , adult weight gain or the so-called 'middle-age spread' is "neither inevitable nor innocuous".