Healthy Chrysanthemum Tea

I’ve been enjoying Chrysanthemum tea lately. It has a refreshing and lightly fragrant taste, and it’s great hot or chilled. The Chrysanthemum flower has been cultivated in China since 1500 B.C. and been a staple in Chinese herbal medicine for over 2,000 years. Rich in beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A (important for skin and immune health), Chrysanthemum flowers are also rich in potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Note, if you want a caffeine free tea option in a Chinese restaurant, ask for Chrysanthemum tea (aka Ju Hua cha) as many Chinese restaurants will carry them, especially if they have a large Chinese patron.

Health Benefits:

  • Reduces risk of coronary artery disease and decreases blood pressure. Clinical studies in China and Japan have shown it relieves symptoms of angina (aka chest pain from heart disease)
  • Liver detox
  • Immune boosting and helps to fight against allergies. Traditional Chinese medicine has used Chrysanthemum tea for its “cooling effect”, which helps against fever, sore throat and sinus congestion.

Brewing instructions:

  1. Steep a handful of chrysanthemum flowers in hot water at 90°c (194°F) to 95°c (203°F) for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the liquor turns light yellow.
  2. You may try brewing this tea with a bit of rock sugar.
  3. Serves well hot or cold.

-NZ

Vitamin D rich Vegetarian Foods

Winter can be hard for many, including those with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the lack outdoor time often prevents many from getting enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for many functions of your body, including the immune system, bone health as well as for your mood and cognitive function. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to everything from depression, heart conditions, asthma, cognitive impairment, to cancer.

So what kind of vegetarian food can I eat to get Vitamin D?

  • Egg yolks
  • UV-grown mushrooms

You can also take supplements:

Cod liver oil- Vitamin D are generally in fatty fish and liver, so cod liver oil supplement is a good way to get Vitamin D. The amount can vary depending on the supplement. You can find 2 types of vitamin D supplements:

  • Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2)
  • Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3)- preferred. D3 is significantly more potent in raising and maintaining vitamin D concentrations and is converted by your body into the active form faster than vitamin D2.

How much Vitamin D suppelment shall I take?

This really varies based on your vitamin D level, which you can get it checked with your regular blood work. General recommendation for those with Vitamin D deficiency is to take ~8,000 IU’s of vitamin D a day in order to raise their serum levels above 40 ng/ml. For normal supplementation, Vitamin D council recommends for adult to take 5,000 IU of vitamin D.

-NZ

Vegetarian Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savory Pancake)

Few months ago, I saw an article online about all the different things you can make on a waffle iron. This inspired me to do my own experiment….making okonomiyaki on a waffle iron! Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake with veggies- one of my favorite street food as a kid. You can find many okonomiyaki restaurants in Japan, where you get to pick the ingredients that goes into the batter….think of it as a variation from the hibachi restaurants.

Traditional okonomiyaki is packed with different types of shredded vegetables along with either seafood (often shrimp or octopus) or bacon. It is a great dish to make at home because you can use a variety of vegetables (i.e. kale, cabbage, squash, carrots, leeks, chives, etc).

You can also use the regular cast iron or nonstick pan instead of the waffle iron. Below is the recipe I used, but feel free to experiment with different vegetables….okonomiyaki batter

Ingredients: (makes 1 okonomiyaki pancake)

  • 1/2 cup of cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 cup of carrots, shredded
  • 1 radicchio leaf, shredded
  • 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoon of water or veggie stock
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Optional: mochi, 1 square

Seasoning to place on top of the okonomiyaki (you can use all/none of the below toppings)

  • nori flakes for seasoning (~1 tablespoon)oko
  • vegan mayonnaise
  • okonomiyaki sauce, or sub it with worcestershire sauce/teriyaki sauce
  • bonito flakes
  • For a spicy option: add hot sauce of your choice
  • Alternative option: dip okonomiyaki in light soy or dumpling sauce

Directions:

  1. Prep the waffle iron. Set it to medium dark, with charred outside and soft inside.
  2. Combine all the ingredients (except the mochi) in a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Once the waffle iron is ready, spray some oil on the surface, then pour the batter on the waffle iron. If you are using a mochi, place the mochi square on to the waffle iron first, then pour the batter on and around the mochi (you will probably use less of the batter). If you are using the stove, then do the same thing, except you just need to flip the okonomiyaki to cook both sides evenly.oko waffle iron
  4. Cook until it is slightly browned on the surface.
  5. Plate the okonomiyaki, and sprinkle on the seasoning(s) of your choice and serve hot!

-NZ

What’s for Dinner? 3 Tips to help plan Your Next Meal.

There are days that figuring out what to eat for dinner can feel like a monumental task. And while I do find the act and art of cooking to be enjoyable and therapeutic, there are many days I lack motivation cooking for myself. I am lucky to live in an area with lots of healthy and organic food options to eat out, however, nothing beats a home cooked meal where you have control over food sanitation and quality of ingredients. I have been making a conscious effort to improve my health lately including exercising more frequently (the life of a psychotherapist is terribly sedentary) and eating at home more. After my own trial and error, getting creative, and finding what works for me, I’ve noticed a few strategies that have lead to success, particularly after a long day of work when I’m cranky.

  1. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Isn’t it annoying when mothers are right? My mom use to tell me this one. Eating a little snack before the days end can help curb a sense of urgency allowing for better meal planning including making conscious choices.
  2. Master a few dishes.  On my drive home from work, I refer to my cookbook. Basically the rotating meals I have mastered and are stored in my head. I’m a girl with particular preferences and when I’ve mastered something I like, I can eat it often without getting bored. The predictability of knowing what you’re going to make and knowing you’ve made it before with success can make dinner time less overwhelming.
  3. Plan ahead.   As a single gal at present, my planning ahead of purchasing ingredients can sometimes take the shape of “in the moment”. I do know this is not realistic nor preferable for everyone particularly those with families, etc. This tends to work for me as I pass a natural food co-op on my way home from work and get only what I need for a day or two.  Having a list and staying focused on the ingredients needed for the meal is helpful.

-SM

Super Easy, Baked Kabocha Squash

Winter squash is in season, and I wanted to share a simple and easy way to prepare kabocha. Kabocha is a lower calories version of butternut squash. Its also less sweet and has half the carbohydrates per serving compared to butternut or pumpkin. Kabocha is a great source of beta-carotene (which converts to vitamin A), iron, and B vitamins. It is also high in fiber, and easier to cook compared to a pumpkin or a butternut. You can eat the skin (it softens after cooking), and it cooks faster than many other winter squashes.

There are a lot of ways to cook kabocha, you can steam them, bake them and even fry them (very popular vegetable for tempora). I love using kabocha in my curry too, but that will have to be for another post! Today, I want to share with you one of my baked Kabocha recipes. It’s super fast!

Baked Kabocha

Baked Kabocha

Ingredients:

  • 1 kabocha
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt
  • red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. (Optional): boil the whole kabocha in a pot for ~8 minutes, or until you can cut through the center with your knife. -This is not required, bFullSizeRenderut I like to boil it for a little to “pre-cook” the kabocha…so that it becomes more moist and spends less time in the oven.
  3. Cut kabocha into large cubes (keeping the peel intact), then season it with sea salt, olive oil and red pepper flakes to taste.
  4. Place the seasoned kabocha on a large sheet of baking pan. Roast for ~17 minutes.
  5. Serve hot!

-NZ

An Intimate Surprise: How to Avoid Toxic Chemicals in Feminine Care Products

There are chemicals in our household cleaners, our food, our water, our mattresses and even our shampoo. Chemicals in products we use every day are linked to rising rates of diseases including obesity, diabetes, thyroid diseases, behavioral problems, cancers and more. Unfortunately, these sneaky toxicants are also hiding in feminine care products. Unregulated harmful chemicals are found in many feminine care products such as pads, tampons, wipes, sprays, douche and anti-itch creams. Such toxic exposures have been associated with numerous health problems including an increased risk of breast cancer, reproductive problems, disruption of hormones and allergic reactions.

Exposure to chemicals in these products is widespread. In the U.S., up to 86% of women use tampons and 10-40% of women use sprays, washes, douches and wipes. Even more concerning, these toxic products are coming into contact with one of the most absorptive tissues in women’s bodies. In fact, many medications are given vaginally because the drug quickly enters the bloodstream through the vaginal skin without having to undergo extensive metabolism and detoxification by the body first.

What is Hiding in Feminine Care Products?

Women’s Voices of the Earth recently released a report  exposing numerous harmful chemicals lurking in feminine care products. Many feminine care products including tampons and pads were found to contain dioxins, furans and pesticide residues that have been associated with reproductive harm, endocrine disruption and cancers. Allergens and irritants like formaldehyde were also found.

Little Accountability to the Consumer

A lack of government oversight allows toxic chemicals to be legally used in all kinds of personal care products without pre-market safety testing. There are no legal requirements for disclosure of ingredients in tampons and pads, making it difficult for even the most savvy consumer to decipher the full extent of potential carcinogens, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors and allergens in her feminine care products.

  • Tampons and pads are regulated as medical devices so companies are not required to disclose any ingredients of these products.
  • Although fragrance can refer to a potentially dangerous mix of any of more than 3,000 different chemicals including carcinogens, allergens, irritants and endocrine disruptors, it is not legally required that companies disclose these ingredients.
  • Regulation does not require manufacturers to prove that the chemicals they use in their products are safe.

What can you do?

Clearly, there is no place for unregulated toxic chemicals in feminine care and other personal care products! Empower yourself with knowledge and take these steps to protect your health and the health of the planet!

  • Look for un-scented/fragrance free, chlorine-free bleached or unbleached cotton tampons, pads and pantyliners. You want the brand disclose all ingredients including those in a product’s fragrance.
  • Some brands: Natracare, Seventh Generation, and Lunapads for a reusable option, or check out this list.
  • Menstrual cups are another safe, environmentally friendly and pretty easy to use option once you get used to them.
  • Lunette and the Diva Cup are both silicon options that have a few shape/size differences which work for different women.
  • Minimize use of products for vaginal care and feminine hygiene.
  • Avoid the most problematic additives such as methylchloroisothiazolinone, parabens, DMDM hydantoin, octoxynol-9, benzocaine, D&Cs and fragrance.

Check Women’s Voices of the Earth’s for more details

• Contact the manufacturer(s) and tell them to list all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals from their products.

-Authored by Dr. Jennifer Weinberg

Dr. Jennifer Weinberg, MD, MPH, MBE is a preventive and lifestyle medicine physician and the Founder of the Simple | Pure | WholeTM Wellness Method. She offers innovative online wellness and education programs for individuals looking for sustainable optimal health and a non-toxic lifestyle as well as health care providers seeking to embrace a transformative approach to health care and corporations wanting to integrate a holistic approach to corporate wellness. She blogs at http://www.JenniferWeinbergMD.com

 

Healthy Nutrition Dense Snacks

Many factors during residency are out of your control- one of those is night-float. Working during the night, the hormones in your gut get kind of wacky. In particular, ghrelin – a hormone that signals hunger- is not suppressed properly in response to your tummy being full. As a result, I constantly have the munchies during the night-shift.

To make matter worse, I had to work nights during the holiday season. There were holiday candies EVERYwhere. Thankfully, I discovered some healthy snacks that helped me get through the holidays without the stress of unmanageable weight-gain. Everyone is different and weight is more complicated than a “one-secret-strategy”, but strategies to consume calories intelligently can be helpful. In another words, eating nutrient dense foods can help curb calorie consumption. Below are 4 snacks that helped me keep the night-time munchies at-bay.

1. LesserEvil Super 4 Kale White Bean Bites

Three words – toss the Cheetos. These crunchy and delicious bite-sized snacks are made from white bean, chia, quinoa and lentil flours. The crunchy texture reminds you of corn snacks like Cheetos. The soluble fiber from the chia seeds and the resistant starch from the white-bean flour help to satisfy you and decrease the overall calorie content. The roasted garlic flavor is addicting. Thankfully, you can eat 45 of these little guys for a 110 calorie serving. Now that’s a night-float resident serving!

2. LesserEvil Chia Crisps

These are similar to popped chips, but are predominantly from black bean flour. Bean flour is great because of previously explained benefits. Keep in mind that some of the flavors are not vegan. My favorite flavor is feta and black olive. Opa!

 

3. Crunchy Chickpeas

The cheapest place to get these are from the Indian store, but of course the quality-control isn’t as good as foods manufactured in the US. The brand I have been eating is Saffron Road, and they have some fun flavors. My favorite has been Chilli lime. You can also make these in the oven. The good bean is another brand that I like.

4. Coconut Crisps

Literally coconut shavings flavored with sea-salt and vinegar. They are chewy so you take your time eating these. I was first introduced to them at the people’s co-op of San Diego.

Enjoy!

-DS