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Garcinia Cambogia, The New Super food Wave Hitting Singapore?

Green Garcinia cambogia

This new found fruit has seen a rise in consumption in Singapore. It is mostly ingested in a pill form and is said to have many different benefits, including weight loss.

What is it?

Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit native to South and South-east Asia that is very commonly used in Asian recipes. It is green, rather small (the size of an apple), and is pumpkin shaped. It is well known for its sour taste. In the late 1960s, an acid (hydroxycitric acid) has been discovered in the fruit’s rind, which has been found to provide many benefits, such as appetite reduction, improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased weight loss, and mood enhancement.

How does hydroxycitric acid work?

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) was discovered over four decades ago, and since then studies have shown that it provides many benefits for humans. HCA seems to inhibit citrate lyase, an enzyme that is used by the body to produce fat out of carbohydrates. HCA blocks a portion of this enzyme, making it more difficult for the body to turn starches and sugars into fat. This means that rather than be accumulated as fat, carbohydrates are diverted into energy production.

What are the benefits of garcinia cambogia?

As discussed above, one of the benefits of garcinia cambogia is less energy being stored as fat, which means that it should (and does) aid weight loss. One recent study by Dr. Harry Preuss of Georgetown University Medical Center showed that participants HCAHCA lost significantly more weight than those using placebo. In another study, also by Dr. Preuss, those not supplementing HCA lost an average of 3.5 pounds, whereas those that did supplement HCA, lost an average of 10.5 pounds.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

There are recipes we try and love once or twice, and a few that make it into our longtime dinner rotation. And then there are recipes that we make, love, and immediately turn into staples.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

For me, this recipe is the latter. It’s so simple and easy to prepare, but it’s a combination of a ton of my favorite flavors and textures in one place. It’s filling, nutritious, and–an important added bonus–it can be served on toast.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

The sauce on this salad is an enticing mixture of tahini, Dijon mustard, tamari, lime juice, and a touch of maple syrup. It’s good enough to make and serve in lots of different ways, from grain bowls to kale salads, but it’s particularly good here. Its slight sweetness picks up the the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, but the mustard and garlic give it all a little bite–as does the addition of fresh green onion tops to the salad itself.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

Make a batch at the start of the week, and enjoy it for lunch or breakfast for the next few days. It would be great in wraps, stuffed into collard leaves, scooped onto salad or a bed of quinoa, or as a snack-time dipper for crackers. To save some time, you could bake or steam the sweet potatoes in advance. I baked them, so that they’d be a little creamy and tender for the salad; steaming them will allow them to hold their shape in the salad more. Here’s the recipe!

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad (gluten free)

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Size: 3/4 cup


  • 1 cup dry brown lentils (will make about 2 – 2 1/2 cups cooked; you can also use 2 cups canned lentils, drained and rinsed prior to using)
  • 2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes (3-4 cups, cooked)
  • 3 green onions, green tops only, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium tamari
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • Dash red pepper flakes


  1. To bake the sweet potatoes, preheat your oven to 400F and prick them a few times with a fork. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until they’re tender all the way through. Remove them from heat and allow them to cool, so that you can handle them easily. Scoop the flesh out of the skins and chop it into 1/2-inch cubes. To steam the sweet potatoes, peel and chop them into 1/2-inch cubes. Place a steamer attachment over a large pot of boiling water. Steam the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, or until they’re very tender. Set them aside.
  2. Rinse the lentils and place them in a small pot with enough water to cover them by a few inches. Bring them to a boil and reduce them to a simmer. Simmer for 25 minutes, or until they’re tender but firm when you taste them. Drain them.
  3. Transfer the sweet potatoes, lentils, and green onions to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Whisk together the garlic, tahini, mustard, tamari, lime juice, maple syrup, and red pepper, along with 1 tablespoon water. Pour this mixture over the sweet potato and lentils. Mix everything well. Check for seasoning and add extra lime juice, mustard, or salt to taste. Serve. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.


This recipe is packed with nutrition, including protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, tons of fiber, and a good deal of iron as well.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

More importantly, it’s flavorful and lovely without being too fussy. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Mustardy Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

Thanks for the many sweet words about the upcoming Food52 book. Can’t wait to share more. Have a great evening, and I’ll return with another legume recipe later this week!


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Weekend Reading, 7.26.15 (and News!)


Happy Sunday, everyone. This weekend has been marked by celebratory occasions, including my good friend Ethan’s birthday yesterday and Steven’s and my 16-month anniversary today (yes, we still count the months). These things, coupled with work for a few new clients, have helped the weekend to fly by so far. No weekend is too busy, though, for a little weekend reading!


To begin with, I’m totally smitten by the idea of these savory chickpea dumplings in a fragrant, curry tomato sauce, courtesy of Shelly at Vegetarian Ventures. The recipe sounds so flavorful and satisfying, and I love the rustic presentation. Bookmarked!


Another great dinner recipe: barbecue cauliflower chickpea tacos with a creamy lime slaw. Love the combination of spiced cauliflower and the cooling, citrusy slaw, plus they’re easy to prepare once the BBQ rub is ready. Yum.


A colorful, light, and beautiful accompaniment for summer suppers: green bean salad with peaches and balsamic bitters, courtesy of Elizabeth and Brian at Brooklyn Supper. I’d never have thought to put bitters in a vinaigrette, but it sounds interesting, and I love the combination of summery produce here.


The homemade ponzu sauce in this awesome recipe for cold vegetable and noodle salad isn’t vegan, but you could omit the bonito or make your own ponzu blend (Forks Over Knives has one on their site, and my friend Janet has one on hers) to easily veganize it. I love the bright, acidic and slightly sweet flavors, as well as all of the nutritious and high protein mix-ins. Corn is a nice surprise, too. This would be a great recipe to make on Sunday and pack up for portable lunches through the week.


Finally, you can never have too many recipes for vegan banana bread. Ever.


1. A fascinating article, via Buzzfeed, about a mysterious sleeping sickness that’s sweeping through a small, Kazakh mining region. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s all sorts of varied speculation on the origins of this inexplicable illness, ranging from radiation to carbon monoxide to government conspiracies to mass hysteria. It’s not only a medical mystery story, but also a powerful depiction of boom and bust, of uranium towns rising and falling.


2. Meditation is known for helping to reduce stress, calm anxiety, and help us to handle difficult emotions, like anger. But new psychology research also suggests that it may help to combat “compassion fatigue,” or the lowering of a person’s empathic capacities over time. “In short, then,” writes psychology professor David Denteno in The Atlantic,

our research suggests that mindfulness’s most profound benefit may not be the one that’s most often touted—adapting to a stressful, competitive, even unkind 24/7 world. Instead, meditation might fundamentally alter how we treat those around us. Corporations, physicians, and policy-makers who now push mindfulness as a technique for self-enhancement and physical wellbeing would do well to focus more on its potential for preventing everything from bullying to domestic violence to callousness and indifference.”

What a hopeful area of research!

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 7.41.56 AM

3. A fun, digestible (no pun intended) blog post on resistant starch and its health benefits. I consistently observe the benefits of starch-rich foods, like whole grains, tubers, and legumes, in my work, and I think it’s helpful to share information on their potential to benefit gut health and serve as an energy source–especially since many folks have come to fear the word “starch” unnecessarily.


4. Big news for genealogy studies in America: handwritten records compiled for the Freedmen’s Bureau, an administrative body created by Congress in 1865 to assist slaves in 15 states and the District of Columbia as they transitioned into free citizenship, will now be searchable online. According to The Guardian,

“African Americans trying to trace family history today regularly hit the research equivalent of a brick wall prior to 1870, when black people were included in the US census for the first time.

Now a major project run by several organisations is beginning to digitise the 1.5 million handwritten records from the Freedmen’s Bureau, which feature more than four million names and are held by various federal bodies, for full online access.

All the records are expected to be online by late 2016, to coincide with the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington.”

Hopefully, this will grant more individuals access and insight into their family histories.


5. Comprehensive, on-the-ground reporting via Mosaic Science about why cholera outbreaks are so difficult to stop in Haiti–in spite of public education efforts, and in spite of the fact that cholera can be very easy to treat through rehydration.


Other news from this past week: I shared a recipe for vanilla berry baked oatmeal in my New Veganism column at Food52. It’s delicious and easy, and if you can stand a baking project in the summer heat, I promise you’ll be so happy to have at least four pre-made, sweet, and special breakfasts waiting for you as the week begins.


Bigger news: perhaps you’ve seen on Instagram or Facebook that my new cookbook, Food52 Vegan, is now available for pre-order!

The book, which expands upon the column I’ve been writing since 2012, is a labor of love from the past year. It features 60 vegan recipes. Some of them are greatest hits from the column, like my sweet pea hummus, my creamy carrot ginger bisque, or my tempeh kabobs. But more than half of them are new. In the book, you’ll find such enticing plant-based dishes as savory breakfast polenta with greens, roasted tomatoes, and lentil walnut crumbe, Jamaican jerk chili with quinoa and kidney beans, roasted cauliflower and oyster mushroom tacos, chai-spiced bread pudding, and ginger roasted pears with vanilla cream.

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The emphasis of the collection is satisfying plant-based recipes that anyone would or could enjoy. The book’s subtitle is “60 vegetable-driven recipes for any kitchen,” and it sums up perfectly what the Food52 team and I were hoping to achieve: a collection of vegan fare that can entice and appeal to a huge array of palates–whether you happen to be a longtime plant-based eater or you’re just exploring the idea of a Meatless Monday.

I learned so much writing this book, and I really believe that the experience turned me into a stronger cook. I’ll be sharing plenty more details about the book prior to its publication in September, but for now, I just wanted to share the news with this community and thank you all for the love and support that you’ve given the column since day 1. If you’re curious about pre-ordering the book, you can check out the Food52 presale now. It’s also available for pre-sale on Amazon, B&N, and Powells, and in September you’ll be able to search for it locally on Indiebound.

And with that, it’s back to work! I wish you all a restful and pleasant day. On Tuesday, I’ll be back with a versatile and tasty new recipe.


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Tess Masters’ Chai Tai Smoothie from The Blender Girl Smoothies Cookbook

Blender Girl App

Many of you are already familiar with Tess Masters and her work. Perhaps you know Tess better as “The Blender Girl,” and you already follow her site, Healthy Blender Recipes. If not, you’re in for a treat!

As you might expect from her moniker, Tess knows how to work magic with a blender. A lot of the most enticing recipes on her website are soups, smoothies, dips, shakes, and nut milks. But she also loves to review and feature cookbooks, to host giveaways, and to share cool products and brands.


Tess’ first cookbook, The Blender Girl, demonstrated that her culinary talent goes above and beyond blends. That book featured a wide array of appetizers, mains, salads, and sumptuous desserts (check out her wonderful chai rice pudding), as well as smoothies and soups. Tess’ food is always easy-to-prepare and appealing, and her vivacious personality (Tess is an actress and a voiceover artist by trade) always shines through in her food writing.

masters, tess

Fans of Tess’ first cookbook will be happy to know that she’s now returning to her roots, so to speak, with the publication of a smoothie book. I’ve had such a great time exploring The Blender Girl Smoothies and its 100 creative and unusual blends.

Mast_Blender Girl Smoothies

One of the cornerstones of Tess’ approach has always been her inclusivity. In fact, her blog name originated in many years of health exploration. Having experimented with various dietary and wellness approaches to treating a chronic illness, Tess used a “blend” of guidance and wisdom and nutritional therapy to recover. Her blog is plant-based, but her recipes usually include a bunch of options for specific health challenges, including allergen-free, low glycemic, and paleo-friendly recipes. There’s something for everyone.

Her new smoothie book channels this same approach. The smoothies range from creamy dessert blends (one of which I’m about to share) to light and fruity summer elixirs to creamy, super-green concoctions. You’ll find lower fat blends, anti-inflammatory blends, nut-free, gluten-free, and unsweetened options. In addition to a lot of familiar flavor combinations, you’ll find smoothies that are off the beaten path, like a rosemary melonade (watermelon, rosemary, pineapple, strawberries), a “pomegranate slam it” (pomegranate juice, red bell pepper, arugula, avocado, and strawberries) or her grapefruit fennel fix (fennel, grapefruit, avocado, green apple).

Blender Girl App

Each recipe also includes three optional “boosters,” each of which will either enhance flavor or add nutrition. It’s a nice touch that makes Tess’ smoothies super easy to customize–and she definitely encourages readers to make the blends their own. One thing I’ll note is that stevia appears in a lot of the recipes as a means of reducing sugar for low-glycemic readers. I don’t use stevia, so I’ll add mango, banana, or another sweet fruit in its place.

Blender Girl App

As you can see, the book also has an attractive, minimalist aesthetic that emphasizes each smoothie’s unique color and texture.

Blender Girl App

As I was flipping through the book, I couldn’t resist being enticed by some of Tess’ richer and creamier smoothies and shakes. Since I featured her chai rice pudding in my last Blender Girl review, I thought it would be fun to continue with the theme and feature her “Chai Tai” smoothie today. It’s a blend of dates, almond milk, chai spices, and bananas (all things I love), as well as a hint of sea salt. It’s absolutely delicious–a perfectly satisfying treat on a warm day. Here’s the recipe.

Chai Tai Smoothie From The Blender Girl Smoothies

Yield: Makes 2 Servings


  • 1 cup (240ml) unsweetened almond milk or other nut, grain, or seed milk (strained if homemade)
  • 1 cup (240ml) coconut water
  • 1/4 cup (43g) chopped pitted dates (soaked, if using a conventional blender)
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Pinch of natural salt (optional, to bring out flavors)
  • 2 medium frozen sliced bananas
  • 1 cup (125g) ice cubes (optional)
  • Optional boosters: 1 tablespoon soaked raw almonds, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, or 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil


  1. Throw all of the ingredients into your blender and puree on high for 30 to 60 seconds, until smooth and creamy.


If you’re curious about exploring Tess’ blends, then I’m happy to tell you that Tess and her publisher, Ten Speed Press, have generously offered one Choosing Raw reader a copy of The Blender Girl Smoothies. The giveaway starts today and runs for two weeks, and it’s open to US and Canadian readers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! And if you’re interested in exploring Tess’ recipes according to your cravings, then you should check out her very cool new app! It allows you to search for smoothies according to your own dietary preferences and flavor requests, and it also features full color photography.

I Feel I Need I Crave

Recipe Page

Finally, Tess is hosting a huge giveaway with KithenAid this month. One lucky US winner will receive a KA Gift Pack (Torrent Blender, Pro-Line Stand Mixer, and Pro-Line food processor) valued at $2,000. If you’re interested, you can learn more about the giveaway here.

OK, smoothie lovers. I hope you enjoy the recipe and that you’ll enter to win a copy of The Blender Girl Smoothies to play with. In the meantime, I wish you a very happy start to the weekend! I’ll see you on Sunday for weekend reading.


Recipe text and imagesReprinted from The Blender Girl Smoothies Copyright © 2014, 2015 by Tess Masters. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Erin Kunkel. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC. Author photo: Copyright © 2014 Anson Smart

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No One Is Denying a ‘Right to Know What's in My Food’

Superjoseph / Shutterstock

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban states from requiring special labels for all “genetically modified” foods. Known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, it advanced by a vote of 275 to 150.

A deeply concerned contingent of detractors, meanwhile, calls it the Denying Americans the Right to Know Act. Which sounds much worse. And it accurately recapitulates the case for mandatory labeling, which consistently returns to the argument that people have a “right to know what’s in their food.”

“What’s the problem with letting consumers know what they are buying?” argued Peter Welch, a Democratic representative from Vermont, one of three states that has already passed mandatory “GMO labeling” laws.

Who doesn’t want to know what’s in their food? As pro-rights arguments go, that sounds pretty airtight.

Except that the act doesn’t deny people that right. Nothing will stop food manufacturers who avoid “genetically modified” ingredients from labeling and marketing their products accordingly. People who object to genetic modification—either because of concerns about the prudence of introducing certain crops into certain ecosystems, or because of patent laws and corporate business practices, or because these people are among the majority of Americans who now believe any and all “genetically modified” foods to be inherently unhealthful to consume (despite assurances to the contrary from The World Health Organization, Food and Drug Administration, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others)can continue to pay premiums for products that are marketed as “GMO free,” which implies health and safety, even while the implication is without merit. Some go so far as to call it fraud.

The central and debilitating fallacy of the “right to know” argument is the meaninglessness and misleading nature of what is being known. Humans have been practicing bioengineering for centuries with selective breeding and cultivation. The Non-GMO Project defines “genetically modified organisms” as those “artificially manipulated in a laboratory” as opposed to “traditional cross-breeding methods,” wherein a laboratory is the nidus of transgression. It was only as recently as 1979 that Gallatin Valley Seed won the All American Selection Award for creating a variety of pea known as sugar snap, which is now ubiquitous, but carries no Franken-crop warning label. Indeed, most any act of agriculture could be considered an imposition of “unnatural” human activity into malleable, unassuming ecosystems. The domain of bioengineering is too vast and complex to know what exactly to make of blanket “GMO” labels; the hopeful premise that this is a binary indicator of good or evil is false. Should I have the “right to know” if my food contains ghosts?

Long-term effects of introducing certain crops into certain ecosystems, and the business practices with which they are grown and sold, are enormously important and remain to be seen and carefully considered. Some effects of agriculture will be desirable, some untoward, and effects of both kinds will come from crops that run the gamut of what has been “modified” by human intervention, and to what degree. But “GMO-free” does not mean fair trade, and it does not mean sustainable, and it does not mean monoculture-averting, and it does not mean rainforest-enabling, and it does not mean labor-friendly, and it does not mean healthy, though it puffs its chest and carries itself alongside those claims. Activists march with signs that say “I AM NOT AN EXPERIMENT.” But the state of having 7 billion food-consuming humans on this planet—6 billion more than there were two centuries ago—is an unprecedented experiment.

It’s because of this meaninglessness, and fear perpetuated by a “natural” food industry, that a right to know is in this case a right to be misled. And this act continues to give food companies the right to tout and sell “GMO-free” as some halo of wholesome virtue, which would be lovely and elegant if it meant progress toward sustainably feeding the world healthful food, but it does not.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/07/no-one-is-denying-a-right-to-know-whats-in-my-food/399536/

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Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

I’m excited about this post for a bunch of reasons. First, I love the fact that a single recipe turned into two while I was preparing this dish. To make a long story short, I had eggplant and tomatoes on hand yesterday, and I thought that I’d put them together in a summery curry dish. I was super happy with the results, but I realized that I didn’t have anything handy to scoop up the fragrant broth at the bottom of each bowl. I usually serve curries over rice or quinoa, but since Steven is a huge fan of naan, I thought I’d make something that, while decidedly not naan, is great for scooping and soaking.

Chickpea Rice Flatbread

I have a feeling that these simple chickpea and rice flatbreads (which I debated labeling as pancakes instead of flatbreads–I think they’re sort of a hybrid) are going to be a staple for us. They’re so easy to prepare, and the batter can be mixed up to a day in advance. The recipe is loosely inspired by a chickpea crepe recipe from Myra Kornfeld’s wonderful cookbook, The Voluptuous Vegan. I used rice flour in place of all purpose, and I added both cumin and chopped parsley for extra flavor. The resulting flatbreads definitely aren’t as delicate as crepes, but they’re sturdy and have a great, chewy texture.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice FlatbreadEggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

This dish is easy to make in advance, and like most curries, its flavor seems to deepen over the course of a day or two . I had leftovers for lunch today, and they were fabulous. Because the curry has all of that delicious, aforementioned broth, I actually mixed in some of my leftover quinoa today as well. It turned into a thicker curry, almost a stew, and though different from the original dish, it was also really tasty.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

It’s ideal to try the curry now, while eggplants and tomato are both in season. But even after fresh tomatoes become more scarce, the dish will work with canned tomatoes as well (I usually use fire-roasted, canned tomatoes from the Muir Glen brand).

I recommend playing around with the spice combination, adjusting the quantities a little to fit your tastes, and even adding different veggies, if you like. I’d love to try adding potatoes.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice FlatbreadEggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread (Gluten Free)

Yield: 6 cups curry, or 4-6 servings; 8 flatbreads


    For the Curry
  • 2 teaspoons olive or coconut oil
  • 1 medium sized white or yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 7-8 cups, or 1 – 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 3 cups beefsteak or Roma tomatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 3 cups, or 1 pound–alternately, you can use 2 cans of diced tomatoes, draining some of the liquid beforehand)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed, chopped parsley or cilantro leaves (for topping)
  • For the Chickpea Rice Flatbread:
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Olive oil


  1. To prepare the curry, heat the olive or coconut oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook the onion until it’s clear and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Continue cooking the garlic for 1-2 minutes, or until it’s very fragrant. Stir in the cumin, curry, turmeric, garam masala, and salt, as well as a few tablespoons of water, to help mix everything together and create a kind of slurry.
  2. Add the eggplant, tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Cover and cook for fifteen minutes. Uncover the curry and cook it for another 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and the eggplant is melt-in-your-mouth soft. Check the mixture and adjust seasonings to taste. Divide the curry into bowls and serve over a cooked whole grain or with flatbread. Directly before serving, sprinkle each bowl with a tablespoon or two of parsley or cilantro. Curry leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
  3. To make the flatbread, whisk together the chickpea and rice flour, salt, and cumin in a medium or large mixing bowl. Add the warm water and whisk until you have a smooth batter, making sure to catch any lumps. (To make super easy work of this, use an immersion blender or a regular blender instead of a whisk.) Then, stir in the parsley. Cover the bowl and allow the batter to rest for 30 minutes, or transfer the batter to an airtight container and let it rest in the fridge for up to 24 hours before you make the flatbreads.
  4. Heat a small amount of olive oil (about a teaspoon, or use a mister or spray oil for convenience) in a medium sized frying pan or skillet (I used a pan that was about 10 1/2 inches across at the top and 8 inches across at the bottom, but I could have used something even a bit smaller) over medium heat. Add the batter to the pan by the heaping 1/3 cup. Allow the batter to cook until small bubbles are forming evenly across the top, and then gingerly use a spatula to loosen the flatbread from the pan and flip it. Continue cooking the other side for 1-2 minutes, or until it’s cooked through and can be easily removed from the pan. Continue this process with all of the remaining batter. As with pancake-making, the flatbreads will probably get more consistent as you continue to use up the batter with confidence!
  5. Serve the flatbreads with any soup, stew, or curry, or enjoy them with hummus spread on top. They’re versatile. If you’d like to make a simpler version, you can omit the parsley and cumin. The flatbreads will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.


I look forward to trying these flatbread with red lentil daal, curried yellow split peas, and chana masala. My friend Richa’s book has given me lots of Indian dishes to bookmark and experiment with. I’d also love to try them for breakfast, maybe with a savory tofu scramble. Lots of possibility, and again, I love that the batter can be stirred and stored in advance.

Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry with Chickpea Rice Flatbread

I hope you try and enjoy the recipe–let me know what you think!

On Friday, I’ll be back with a new cookbook giveaway, as well as a terrific smoothie/shake recipe. Stay tuned.


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Dad Heaviness Quantified

Smolina Marianna / Shutterstock

If there’s one aspect of the child-rearing process that deserves more attention and consideration, it’s the effects on the male body.

No no, but there is a study out today that looked at 10,253 men and found that young, first-time dads gained an average of 4.4 pounds, while their childless peers actually lost 1.4 pounds. Researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine are calling this the “fatherhood effect,” a mildly academic take on “dad bod,” the term for mid-life male physique as a product of paternal indolence that enjoyed two seconds in the sun in April before being commercialized and basing out (v. becoming basic, reaching a linguistic-cool nadir).

Even if the weight gain doesn’t seem immediately surprising, it may offer a glimpse into the typically impenetrable male mind and the nature of health motivation. “I’ve been studying fathers for a while now,” lead researcher Craig Garfield told me, “and I’ve always been interested in how becoming a father leads men to think about what they’re doing with their lives.”

What Garfield has found is a renewed sense of interest in health, if not to be good role models then because men want to live to see their children grow and prosper. In his research and clinical work as a pediatrician, men tend to tell him that becoming a dad was a “magical moment” for them, when they became inspired to eat well, stop smoking, drink less, et cetera. Living for reasons bigger than oneself, imbued with love and connection, is the advice of many health gurus. In that way, the weight-gain findings are a little unexpected.

But reason and action are not the fondest of bedfellows. Garfield and colleagues speculate that despite noble intentions, new fathers eventually end up with less time and energy to exercise and sleep and relax, and with more leftovers and plates to clean. Health is only as robust as a person’s environments; our bodies are products of circumstance.

One day, building on today’s findings could inform preventive recommendations that could affect all parents. In the meantime the lesson is, guys, if you want to get that tight beach body ready for swimsuit season, don’t bring a child into the world.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/07/dads-fat-indeed/399104/

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Don’t Leave Your Macronutrients Behind

Macro Plate

Way back in 2010, I wrote a post called “how to build a meal-sized salad.” The idea behind it was to distinguish between salads that fall into the category of side dishes, and salads that are hearty and nutritious enough to constitute a meal. In the post, I suggested that a hearty, meal-sized salad should have at least two sources of real nutritional density that aren’t vegetables; some examples I gave were healthy fats, whole grains, tempeh, and nuts and seeds.

The spirit of that post still rings true to me, even if the ingredients and combinations I used then are different from the ones I’d use now. Today, I’d probably emphasize raw foods and products a bit less, grains and beans a bit more, and I’d reduce the portions of greens slightly to make space for even more variety (more on this in a moment). I think I’d go further than I originally went and offer that a really balanced, meal-sized salad should probably cover all of the macronutrient bases: protein, fats, and complex carbs.

Macronutrients–proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and macrominerals, like calcium and magnesium–are the nutrients that we need a lot of to function and thrive. They stand in contrast to micronutrients–trace minerals (like copper or iron), vitamins, and phytonutrients–which are crucial for good health, but which we only need in small doses to guarantee adequate intake. Fruits and vegetables are notably high in micronutrients, which is why you might often hear them described as “nutrient dense.” Fruits and vegetables are often good sources of carbohydrates, too, but they’re not always the most reliable sources of fat or protein (there are exceptions, of course–avocados are excellent sources of fat, and ample portions of greens can be a decent protein source as well).

A tendency that I’ve observed in my own life and also among my clients is the habit of piling up plates of foods with tons of fruits and vegetables, leaving perhaps too little room for concentrated sources of protein, fats, and carbs. The point of this post is to offer a gentle reminder that, even if you’re loading up on colorful, phytonutrient and vitamin-rich foods, it’s important to keep macronutrients in mind, too. It’s a similar message to what I was trying to convey with the meal-sized salad post, but it doesn’t just apply to salads.

If you’re wondering how I could possibly find reason to criticize hefty portions of vegetables or fruit, rest assured that I’m not in any way trying to dissuade an enthusiastic appetite for produce! Obviously, the majority of folks could probably afford to focus more on fruits and veggies, and less on other foods. But a lot of the topics that I’m inspired to write about on my blog are drawn from my experience with clients, and I’d say that most of my clients are above-average vegetable eaters. Some of them even report feeling a certain amount of anxiety about eating enough vegetables, greens especially–an internalized pressure to eat a certain amount with every single meal.

I know this pressure well. I think it’s a fairly normal thing to feel if you’ve spent a lot of time absorbing information about how vital and beneficial fruits and vegetables are. And I don’t think it’s an impulse that we necessarily have to problematize or critique, so long as it stays within the realm of “vegetable enthusiasm” and doesn’t become “vegetable orthodoxy.”

When I look back at my own history, for example (and this is easy to do, by browsing early blog posts), it seems as though I had to serve everything on top of either a giant plate of greens or a giant plate of spiralized zucchini (or some other watery vegetable). Part of this was genuine taste for and enthusiasm about green leafy vegetables. But I think that part of me–the part that was still susceptible to ortherexic tendencies and thoughts–was also leaning a little too heavily on fruits and vegetables because I thought of them as being the most healthful foods. They were/are every bit as healthful as I imagined, but so are many other plant foods, including the legumes and soy foods and grains that I tended to skimp on. These foods really are as important as leafy greens and other veggies in helping us to remain well-nourished and balanced.

Another potential problem with overdoing it on veggies within a meal is that vegetables are so rich in fiber that they fill us up very quickly. This is great for our sense of satisfaction during and directly after a meal, and it can be a useful tool in hunger management and weight loss. It can be a problem, though, when it makes us too full to enjoy the other components of our meal, some of which may offer us the nutrients we need to stay satisfied longterm.

If you feel as though many of your lunches or dinners focus on vegetables at the exclusion of other foods, or as if you’re becoming a little frantic about how many servings of leafy greens you eat with every meal, consider whether or not you might be crowding out some macronutrient-dense foods by filling up on veggies. Again, I know that eating a lot of vegetables sounds like a very good problem to have, and for the most part it, it is. But if you find yourself uncomfortably full after a vegetable-based meal, yet hungry soon after, or if you have questions about whether or not you’re getting enough of what you need, this tip may be a useful one for you to remember.

I often encourage my clients to do a quick scan of their meal before they sit down. While I don’t have some magical ratio of macronutrients that I recommend, I do invite them to ask, have I covered my nutritional bases? Do I have some protein in this meal? Some healthy fat? A good source of carbohydrates for long-lasting energy? A simple adjustment, like adding a sprinkle of edamame to a stir fry or a portion of quinoa to a lunch salad, can go a very long way in helping to source all of the necessary macronutrients and ensure lasting satisfaction after a meal.

Posts like this one are hard to write without running the risk of oversimplification. As I said, some fruits and vegetables are good macronutrient sources (especially when it comes to complex carbs), and at the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with a vegetable bounty on one’s lunch or dinner plate. But I suspect that, for this audience of vegetable-lovers, the topic might strike a few chords.


It’s also worth noting that, if you have a natural appetite for fruits and vegetables, you probably don’t have to worry about getting an optimal portion within each meal. If you love vegetables and greens, and you make an effort to cook with them whenever you can, then you’re probably doing just fine. As a wise reader of mine once noted, “sometimes you have 3 cups of veggies in your salad at lunch, and sometimes you have peas and carrots in your mac and cheese.”

In other words, things have a way of balancing out.

Hope that this is interesting food for thought. And I’ll be back this Wednesday with a new recipe (two, really), that I’m excited about! Till then,


Image sources here and here

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Weekend Reading, 7.19.15


Happy Sunday, everyone! As always, I hope that the weekend has brought you rest and restoration. Steven’s birthday was this past week, so we had a small celebration with friends on Friday and some quiet time yesterday. Now I’m catching up on meal plans for clients and diving into these recipes and reads.


First, a super simple but delightfully summery lunch idea from Ashley of Cookie Monster Cooking: summer garden veggie flatbreads.


Next, I love these crispy avocado tacos with roasted radishes and sriracha smashed beans from Jodi of What’s Cooking Good Looking. Tons of texture contrast (in spite of a simple ingredient list), and I’d imagine the beans are super flavorful. I’ve been getting into roasted radishes this summer (most recently, in my sorghum and roasted summer vegetable salad), and I can’t wait to try these!

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Inspired in part by my friend Kristy’s wonderful cookbook, But I Could Never Go Vegan!, Laura of The First Mess has created a wonderfully hearty barbecue lentil dish with millet polenta. I’m eager to give the millet polenta trick a try, and I could eat lentils at pretty much meal, so this is definitely bookmarked.


Speaking of lentils, I love the looks of Lindsay’s one-pot creamy spinach lentils. What a great, nutritious dinner recipe! Substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth to make it vegan-friendly.


And for dessert, an adorable copycat recipe from Levan and Amrita of My Wife Makes: raw vegan twix bars with banana date caramel. The perfect bite-sized dessert.

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1. A touching story about a school in San Diego that works with a facility dog to assist and support the education of children who confront complex circumstances in their home lives, including poverty, foster care, neighborhood gangs, and incarcerated parents. The article is clear that the use of facility dogs is not a cure for the stresses that can be associated with these factors, but the presence of Sejera — the dog who works with caretakers at the O’Farrell Charter School — seems to have had a decidedly positive impact on the students’ lives. “If an O’Farrell student is having a hard time in class, either emotionally or behaviorally,” the article states,

“a teacher can send him to see Sejera. The student can play or cuddle with the dog, or just talk with her. Sejera’s calm, comforting presence can often be enough to enable a student to recover equilibrium and return to class…[s]everal students wrote letters to Paws’itive Teams, Sejera’s training facility, about her importance to their daily school life. ‘Sejera motivates us,’ said one. ‘If we do a great job we can visit Sejera, so we do our best because we want to see her.’ Another student, who was “scared and felt terrible” after a car crash, wrote that after her teacher let her go see Sejera, ‘I wasn’t scared anymore.’”

2. Also on the topic of education, I was intrigued by the Sonima Foundation’s effort to incorporate wellness practices, including yoga-based exercise, nutrition, coping skills and mindfulness instruction, into the therapeutic care of children who are suffering from post-traumatic stress. Yoga is known to help practitioners modulate and control their responses to stress and anxiety, so it makes sense that it might work in concert with other forms of therapy for trauma. I hope that the study yields promising and replicable results.


3. I have no doubt that many of you have already seen this article about two pairs of identical twins who were accidentally swapped at birth (resulting in two pairs of twins who thought themselves to be fraternal). It is an incredible story, and from a scientific point of view, the story brings up so many fascinating questions about nature vs. nurture.


4. Young journalist Katie Worth has written a powerful and probing piece of investigative journalism, which questions the certainty with which most of us greet DNA testing. DNA testing is highly accurate under the right circumstances (a large quantity of one person’s well-preserved genes, a clear story of how evidence arrived at a crime scene, and error-free lab work), but as Worth notes, “those are not circumstances enjoyed by every criminal investigation.” She uses one particular crime case and conviction, which hinged strongly on DNA testing, to illustrate the complexities surrounding this technique and the fact that its accuracy is often taken for granted.


5. I very much enjoyed this post from Martha Bayne, which details her experience with triathlons after a difficult miscarriage. It’s honest and beautifully written; I have very little experience with endurance athletics, but I think anyone who has developed a challenging practice in the wake of personal struggle can relate to her account of growth. And I love what she has to say about learning to trust in the body’s strength, in spite of the initial doubts you might harbor about your own endurance or capacity:

And against your generally contrary nature, you’ll find yourself changing — left foot, right foot. And while the new muscles are nice, it’s the ineffable connection between them and some elusive core of selfhood – still enfeebled by confusion and loss – that imperceptibly gains strength.”

Bayne’s article reminded me of my early forays into yoga, when ED recovery was still much more recent, and I hadn’t yet cultivated any trust in my physical shape. I didn’t enjoy it at first, and I fought back plenty of the contrariness that Worth mentions, but I found myself returning, class after class. Ultimately, I was able to tap into that connection of physicality and selfhood. I’m sure that this is possible within many forms of movement, not to mention other practices, like meditation. Definitely an inspiring read.

Speaking of the body and trust, it’s worth mentioning an experience I had yesterday. Maybe some of you read my post on bad body days last autumn. I woke up (for the first time in a long time) in the throes of one those yesterday. I went back and read that post, as well as the helpful and constructive comments that readers left. That reading, coupled with yoga and some quiet meditation, led to a complete midday transformation in my perspective. I can’t remember the last time that a day started and ended in such radically different places.

This is new for me, as historically I’ve assumed (and then proceeded to fulfill the prophecy) that a certain mood or perspective is bound to last forever. More and more, I’m learning to recontextualize challenging moods and feelings, and also to accept that the mind and spirit are in constant flux. It’s not always possible to “snap out of” a difficult frame of mind, but the possibility for a new perspective, I think, is always present. Thank you all for the comments on that post–they were definitely inspiring to me, and I just wanted to take a moment to tell you.

Have a wonderful Sunday, all.


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“To Feel Comfortable in My Own Skin”: Karen’s Green Recovery Story

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Karen Hovie has been reading and commenting on Choosing Raw for over a year now. I’m always struck by her kind and empathic words, especially when it comes to ED recovery and body image. I was thrilled when Karen sent me a green recovery story months ago; by that time, I’d had a chance to get to know Karen through her blog, 2 Write 4 Health, and I wanted to hear more about her story with food.

What Karen has shared today is so much more courageous, intimate, and inspiring than I could have imagined. Karen’s struggle with eating disorders began when she was a teen, and I think that she does a remarkable job of capturing the psychological factors that contribute to EDs in so many young people. At the same time, this is a winding story, one that involves phases of relapse and recovery. My own ED story was full of twists and turns, and I think it’s important to underscore that recovery is not a straightforward or a linear process for everyone. We continue to live with some of the predispositions that made us susceptible to EDs in the first place, and under certain circumstances they can lead us into old behaviors.

I believe firmly that full recovery is possible, and I also believe that ongoing mindfulness, honesty, and therapeutic activities play an important role in helping us to stay healthy, accountable, and at peace with our food. I so appreciate Karen’s willingness to share her own story, and to address how recovery continues to unfold for her.

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I was an ideal candidate, a perfectionist with a need for routine and organization. My self worth emanated from my accomplishments. Unfortunately, there was always someone smarter than me, or faster than me, or more talented than me, so I never felt special. I wanted to be liked by everyone, so I avoided conflict at all cost.

By the time I was in 8th grade, I was on top of the world; I was taking advanced classes, and a regular on the A Honor Roll; I was a cheerleader, I played basketball, and ran track. I was a first chair clarinet player, chosen as soloist for band concerts, and selected to be in symphony orchestra.

When my mom went on a diet, I decided to join her. I did not need to lose weight, but in my head, being thin meant being perfect, so the thinner I could be, the more perfect I would become. It didnʼt take long for weight loss and calorie counting to become an obsession.

The summer after my freshman year, I attended a friendʼs birthday party. My plan had been to nibble on a piece of pizza. Unfortunately, one piece turned into several pieces. A huge birthday sundae was delivered to our table, and I ate some of that too. I hated myself for losing control. I cried myself to sleep, vowing to never feel that way again.

But I did, and when I did, I negated the extra calories by exercising. At night I would leave my bedroom window open and sleep without any blankets, believing that my body would burn more calories if I were cold.

By the time I was a sophomore, I gained weight and loathed my body. I resorted to laxatives. When my laxative habit became more expensive than my allowance would cover, I stole money from my parents. When they started noticing money missing, I shoplifted. Eating, not eating, exercising and purging became my whole life.

The summer before my junior year I lost a significant amount of weight. I was feeling good about myself when school began. Each night I would disappear into my bedroom shortly after supper under the guise of doing my homework. Instead, I organized my clothes in my closet and drawers according to style and color. I would try on every pair of pants I owned, making sure they fit looser than the day before. I would stay up late and exercise, recording my weight and other body measurements in a notebook that I stashed under my mattress.

One day in gym class, I passed out. This prompted my friends, who were concerned about the weight I had lost, to talk to our physical education teacher. She in turn contacted my guidance counselor, who called my parents. Life at home became unbearable. Suddenly I was being watched closely, forcing me to become sneakier and more deceitful. I felt like I was walking on egg shells whenever I was home. One night at supper, my dad told me I made suppertime miserable and he didnʼt even enjoy coming home anymore.

I was on my high school pom-pon squad. On game days, we would practice on the court after school, and then come back for the game later that night. One particular night after practice, my heart started racing. I thought I was having a heart attack. I lay on my bedroom floor afraid I was going to die. I managed to perform, but that night after the game, my dad told me that my looks embarrassed him, and he was ashamed of me.

By December of my senior year, my eating disorder had gotten so out of control, I was admitted to an inpatient eating disorder program. I suddenly found myself in an environment where my bathroom door was always locked, I was weighed each morning, and I was forced to take a nutritional supplement if I refused to eat. Despite all of these restrictions, I felt relieved to be there. I went through the program and was discharged 6 weeks later after learning a bunch of new tricks, and with absolutely no desire to change.

That summer I began to realize that there had to be more to life than an eating disorder. It had become my entire identity. I desperately needed a fresh start, so I eliminated white sugar from my diet in attempt to gain control over my eating. By the time I left for my freshman year of college, I felt healthy and eager to begin my college career.

Unfortunately, it didnʼt take long for me to resort to my old destructive patterns. Before the end of my first semester, I had to withdraw from school, and was readmitted to the hospital for another long term stay. I was discharged in time to start the spring semester at a university close to home. I relapsed again shortly after my discharge, and my life quickly spiraled out of control.

After an appointment with my therapist, I totally lost control and attempted suicide. In desperation, my parents committed me to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital. The next day I was admitted to a hospital a few hours from my home that specialized in the treatment of eating disorders. Upon arriving, I was thrust into a large group meeting with about a dozen people-mostly women and everyone older than me. I immediately announced that I didnʼt belong there. I went on a complete rant, telling everyone I was in complete control of my eating, and I didnʼt need anybodyʼs help. I then broke down in tears in front of everyone.

Each day, I spent hours in therapy. Surrounded by mature patients who were living “real lives”, I came to the realization that I didnʼt want to be 40 years old and still living under the control of an eating disorder. I vowed this would be the last time I would need treatment. I “graduated” shortly after my 19th birthday. I truly felt ready to let go of my eating disorder.

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In May of 1988, I met, and instantly fell in love with my husband. We were engaged after 9 months, and married shortly after I graduated from college in 1990. We had three children born within 28 months. I loved being a mom, and was thankful to be able to stay at home with them. Once my children were in school, I began my teaching career.

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At this point, my eating disorder was a chapter in my life I thought I had put to rest. But then, a couple of years ago, a stressful work situation prompted unintentional weight loss. I was lured in by the sense of control I felt, and comforted by watching the number on the scale drop. Within months, I stopped getting my period. It was obvious to many that I was not healthy. When my husband confronted me, I blamed my marathon training. Up until this point I had felt the power of being an adult and being able to control and manipulate my eating without anybody questioning me. I instantly felt like I was back in high school, and it angered me.

One morning, while on a run, I started feeling weak and lightheaded. The next thing I knew I was sprawled out on the sidewalk with a scraped knee, elbow and hands. This was a turning point for me, as I seriously began questioning myself about what I was doing. I worried about the long term health effects I might be imposing upon myself.

Coincidentally, it was shortly after this that I stumbled upon a healthy eating blog written by a registered dietician. In her “About” section, she explained why diets didnʼt work, and stressed the importance of eating real, quality food. I started crying as I read. For the first time in a long time, I felt a glimmer of hope. Up until this point, I couldnʼt imagine how I could bring this chapter of my life to a close once and for all. Itʼs hard to explain how something you know is self destructive becomes a comfort, but it does and it is so hard to break free.

I tore through books, learning all I could about health and nutrition. I discovered healthy eating blogs. I started making, and eating real food, slowly becoming more comfortable and at peace with eating. I loved the way eating healthy made me feel. I loved the energy I felt when I went on a run. I loved not having to be secretive about food. I loved not counting calories. I did not love gaining weight, but I knew I could not provide my body with the nutrients it needed by continuing to restrict calories.

Through my reading, I became intrigued by vegan diets. I watched documentaries and read books about plant based lifestyles. I discovered blogs devoted to vegan eating. As a result of what I had learned, I made the decision to eliminate meat, dairy and eggs from my diet. I was excited to provide my body with the nourishment it needed to perform its best, and eating a whole food, plant based diet did exactly that for me. And, better yet, I knew that the food choices I was making made a difference on a much grander scale.

That was over a year and a half ago. Food has now become a source of nutrients and enjoyment, rather than a source of calories and guilt. I am grateful for the knowledge I have gained, and relieved to have a healthy relationship with food. I enjoy discovering new foods and trying new recipes. I feel passionate about the quality of food I eat. I am healthy, feel great and donʼt take any medications.

For the most part, I feel content. I no longer weigh myself, as I donʼt want the number on the scale to dictate how I feel about myself. Calorie counting has been replaced by ingredient label reading. I now exercise to make myself stronger instead of to burn calories. In spite of all of this, Iʼm still not 100% at peace with my body. I long to feel comfortable in my own skin, and accept myself the way I am. Unfortunately, there still are days I analyze myself far too critically when I look in the mirror, or I experience a period of panic and anxiety when my clothes fit. I then remind myself that eating healthy and exercising moderately, will provide me with the body God intended me to have.

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Karen’s Bio: Hi! My name is Karen. I’m a health and fitness fanatic living in Neenah, Wisconsin. I have been happily married for almost 25 years to a man who never fails to tell me each day how much he loves me. Together, we have raised three children (22, 21, and 20 years old), all of whom I am immensely proud. All three are collegiate athletes, so we stay busy traveling to their games and meets. Recently, we added a 3 year old Golden Retriever to our family.

I teach 6th grade Language Arts, and feel incredibly fortunate to share my passion for writing with my students, and to work with a phenomenal team of teachers (who don’t mind being guinea pigs when I try new recipes). I serve on my school district’s Wellness Committee, and love incorporating health challenges into my classroom.

Running, biking, hiking, boating, sailing, and skiing are my favorite ways of staying active. I’ve been running for 30 years, and have completed 5 marathons. I am trying really hard to love yoga. I also enjoy reading, writing, and making (and photographing) vegan food! A year ago I began a blog to combine my passions for writing and health.

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Here are some things that stand out to me about Karen’s story, in no particular order. First, I appreciated her description of the relief and flash of understanding she experienced when she read a powerful challenge of dieting on an RD’s website. A well-known 2007 UCLA study (1) determined that having lost weight via dieting was actually one of the best predictors of future weight gain, and that at least two-thirds of dieters regained more weight post-diets than they had lost while dieting. In the  the studies they examined, one showed that, among those who were followed for fewer than two years, 23 percent gained back more weight than they had lost, while of those who were followed for at least two years, 83 percent gained back more weight than they had lost. We hear these statistics about restriction and dieting, and yet the impulse to use both as a form of control remains strong. In people with longterm ED struggles, restriction and dieting cycles can become so habitual that they seem to impart calm or help to quell anxiety. This is part of why those cycles can be so difficult to interrupt.

Karen’s story also makes clear that, without a profound and meaningful shift in the way a person experiences food and eating, treatment resources alone can often fail to create longterm recovery. This is not to say that those resources–therapy, group support, in- or out-patient programs–aren’t incredibly important. But a person can navigate them without healing.

In Karen’s case, the doors to healing seem to have been thrown open by her health crisis and held open over time by a transformed relationship with food. I loved reading her description of how adopting a wholesome diet and reconnecting with cooking allowed her to become “at peace with eating.” Her descriptions of food and how she relates to it now demonstrate several forms of deep appreciation: first, appreciation of the healthfulness and vibrancy of the plant-based ingredients she’s working with and the benefits that they can offer her body. Second, a true commitment to self-care and nourishment, made evident in cooking and enjoyment of new recipes. Last, a sense that her diet is “making a difference” on a grander scale. It seems as though Karen is redefining the way she regards and experiences food each and every day, with deeply meaningful results.

Thank you so much to Karen for sharing her story with all of us today. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it, and that you’ll share your thoughts with her.


1.Mann, T, Tomiyama, AJ, Westling, E, Lew, AM, Samuels, B, Chatman, J. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol. 2007 Apr; 62 (3): 220-33.

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The skinny on the trans fat ban

On June 16, 2015, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced their decision to eliminate trans fat from food in the United States by 2018, with a gradual phase-out period beginning immediately.

Take THAT, trans fat advocates! Hold on … are there any trans fat advocates? While some dislike government regulation of foods and nutrients, there isn’t much debate about trans fat health effects anymore.

This brings up a question … if we all know that trans fat is bad, why is it still a public and personal health issue? Well, it is true that trans fat consumption has dipped considerably, with blood levels dropping by 58% in the 2000s. But incremental consumption of industrially produced trans fat is incrementally harmful, and the National Academy of Science has concluded that there is no safe trans fat dose.

So out of all the nutrient and nutrient-like substances out there, trans fat hold the dubious distinction of being one of the only categorically harmful ones. And you might not always know that you’re consuming trans fat, since some soybean and canola oils can have hidden trans fat inside.

Trans fat is an unsaturated fatty acid and a byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs.) It is found in many processed food products, including margarine, coffee creamer, fast food, frozen pizza, snack foods and other baked goods. Trans fat is also found in some peanut butter. It is frequently used by the food industry because it improves flavor stability and shelf life of food. Since trans fat has a different melting point depending on how processed it is, it’s also a very flexible ingredient. But aside from these benefits, it seems that the primary reason trans-fat was added into the food system was the demonization of saturated fat by the USDA in the 1950s. By the 1980s, activist organizations were denouncing food manufacturers for using ‘unhealthy’ saturated fats in their foods, and endorsing trans fat as a ‘healthier’ alternative. Considering the benefits to shelf life, flavor stability, and flexibility, manufacturers gladly made the change.

Some types of trans fat are naturally produced by ruminant animals. This group of animals includes cattle, sheep, goats, buffalo, deer, and other animals with four stomach compartments. The first, and largest, part of the stomach, called the rumen, is where trans fat is produced. Humans can create trans fat through a commercial process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen gas is boiled through oil (usually vegetable oil) to allow the oil to saturate, which determines its thickness.

Medical professionals consider trans fat to be one of the most unhealthy compounds found in today’s food. Trans fat consumption is associated with increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C and inflammation), and decreased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). These health risks can speed up the development of atherosclerosis (clogging and hardening arteries) and increase the risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cardiac-related sudden death. However, a recent systematic review strongly suggests that
these negative health effects are primarily attributed to the consumption of industrially-produced trans fatty acids (IP-TFA), but not ruminant-derived trans fatty acids (R-TFA). In fact, most animal models have demonstrated that IP-TFA and R-TFA have different effects on CVD risk factors. For instance, a rat study showed that supplementation with an R-TFA called Vaccenic acid had either a neutral or beneficial effect on CVD risk markers such as total cholesterol, LDL-C, and fasting and postprandial triglycerides.

Trans fat can be made commercially, or naturally by certain animals. It is used in the food industry to improve flavor and shelf life, but the FDA has announced it will be phased out of the U.S. food supply because it is damaging to health.

Trans fat and disease risk

This increased risk is significant. A 2006 meta-analysis found that a 2% increase in trans fat intake is associated with a 23% increase in cardiovascular disease risk. Cutting commercial trans fat intake from 2.1% of daily energy intake to 1.1% could potentially prevent 72,000 cardiovascular deaths. A drop to 0.1% of daily energy intake could potentially prevent 228,000 cardiovascular deaths every year in the U.S.

While the evidence on ruminant-produced trans fat isn’t conclusive regarding potential heart health benefits (especially at the doses commonly ingested), a recent meta-analysis points to no detrimental impact on cardiovascular disease markers.

Even though the FDA has recognized the negative health effects of trans fat and is taking steps to remove it, trans fat is still prevalent in our food. While the American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends no more than 1% of your daily calories come from trans fat, unclear nutrition labels can sneak a lot of trans fat onto your plate. If a nutrition label claims the product contains “partially hydrogenated” fat or “zero grams of trans fat,” that doesn’t mean there is no trans fat in the product. This is because the FDA previously allowed products to be labeled with zero grams of trans fat as long as the product had less than 0.5 grams. Multiple servings of “zero grams of trans fat” food can result in much more ingested trans fat than the ADA recommends.

Trans fat consumption is a significant contributor to cardiovascular disease. The FDA has long recognized this and finally decided to gradually eliminate it from our food system by 2018. Until then, any industrially produced trans fats still present in our food system should be avoided, though this can be quite difficult due to confusing and misleading nutritional labels.

To explore the potentially healthy side of natural trans fats, click here to see our entry on CLA.


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