Breakfast at the Diner

Here’s my very first HOT & SEXY Weekend Tip. These are tips that everyone should know but somehow doesn’t. I want to change that. You have the right to know what you’re eating when you eat out.. So, here in my first ever video blog, I’ll share with you one of the secrets of “diner” eating. Who doesn’t love breakfast at the diner? Here’s my hot tip on keeping it healthy!!

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A Salt Solution

Like saturated fat, salt, a.k.a., sodium chloride has been vilified as a culprit in negatively affecting a number of health issues, the most well-known being hypertension or high blood pressure. And like saturated fat, sodium is a critical nutrient that is essential for life and good health. It tastes good. We like it. We need it. But how much do we need and how much is too much?

Sodium is An Essential Nutrient

Apart from adding flavor to food, salt is necessary for the survival of animal life. Sodium and chloride are the principle electrolytes in the fluid surrounding cells. Sodium maintains blood volume and blood pressure, facilitates contraction of muscles, conduction of nerve impulses and transportation of nutrients to cells. So important is the tight regulation of the body’s sodium and chloride concentrations that multiple mechanisms work in concert to control them.

hamWhen it comes to food, salt and other forms or sodium are often used as preservatives. Salt can be used to brine pickles or to cure meat or fish. Think Smithfield Ham and Salt Cod. It is used as a binding agent, to enhance color or to give food a firmer texture. Some sodium occurs naturally in most foods. However, up to 75 percent of the sodium that Americans consume is derived from salt added during food processing or manufacturing, rather than from salt added at the table or during cooking.

Simply put, if you’re not eating fast food, packaged processed foods like crackers, chips, commercial cheese and breakfast cereals, or a significant amount of food outside of your home, you needn’t worry about your sodium intake for the most part. On the other hand, if you are a regular at the drive through, have numerous restaurants on speed dial, often rely on take-out or pre-packaged meals that are microwave ready, it’s time to take a serious look at your sodium intake.

What is Sodium?

Salt is sodium chloride. The chemical formula for salt is NaCl with equal proportions of sodium and chloride. There are two sources of mass-produced salt: it is either mined from salt mines or rock salt deposits, or distilled from sea water or salt lakes. China is the world’s main supplier of salt. In 2010, world production was estimated at 270 million tons with the top five producers being China, the United States, Germany, India and Canada. Salt is available in various forms including table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, Himalayan salt, rock salt and iodized salt. Salt can be unrefined like Celtic sea salt or highly refined and bleached like table salt. Some salt contains additives. More on that later.

Sodium and Disease

While hypertension is the most well-known disease association with sodium, excess sodium intake has been implicated in other diseases including gastric cancer, osteoporosis and kidney stones. While we know that chronic hypertension damages the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys, recent research indicates that high salt intake may contribute to organ damage in ways that are independent of its effects on blood pressure. For example, increased salt intake has been significantly correlated with left ventricular hypertrophy, an abnormal thickening of the heart.

How Much Sodium is Too Much?

Adequate intake (AI) levels of sodium as well as upper limits (UI) were established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute for Medicine in 2004. The UI for sodium is 2.3 grams (2300mg) per day and 5.8 grams (5800mg) per day of salt. The American Heart Association recommends going even lower to less than 1.5 grams (1500mg) of sodium per day for certain groups. Both of these recommended levels are well below the average intake of most people in the U.S. with adult men coming in at 7.8 to 11.8 grams per and adult women at 5.8 to 7.8 grams per day. These figures do not include salt added to food at the table.

What Type of Salt is Best?

Whichever form salt comes in, its’ chemical composition is the same. The amount of salt that you consume is more important than the type. That said, minerals and trace elements are often found to be lacking in the diets of most Americans, so choosing an unrefined type of salt is a better option from a nutritional perspective. Let’s take a look at the options.

What is Table Salt?salt

Table salt is highly “refined”, a word best used to describe manners. When used to describe foods such as grain, sugar and salt, the more refined it is, the more hazardous it is to health. In addition to being stripped of magnesium, potassium and other trace minerals, various additives such as aluminum (a heavy metal associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s) are added to keep the salt from drying out and to prevent clumping; and, stabilizers such as dextrose (a simple sugar most often made from corn) are common additives which affect color so bleaching agents are used to make it white.

Is Sea Salt a Better Option?

Sea salt is unrefined salt produced through evaporation of ocean water or sea water from saltwater lakes, or collected in man-made pools near protected shorelines and is minimally processed. Table salt is typically mined from underground salt deposits by industrial processes that strip most of the minerals present in it. The major difference between sea salt and table salt is in their mineral composition.

Depending on the water source, sea salt contains important trace minerals and elements. These naturally occurring minerals add flavor and color. Because table salt is stripped of most of its’ minerals during the extraction process, it contains 99.9 percent sodium chloride as compared to sea salt, which contains only 98 percent sodium chloride. What makes up the remaining 2 percent? Not only trace minerals but upwards of 80 important minerals including iron, sulfur, and magnesium. Its’ trace mineral content is what gives sea salt more flavor and less “saltiness” than its more refined counterpart.

Is Kosher Salt Really Kosher?

Kosher salt has a larger grain size than table salt and therefore more surface area. It can be derived from both sea water and salt mines. Typically found to be less “salty” than table salt, kosher salt has a mild but bright flavor and is usually free of additives (but not always). Both of those properties make it a better option than table salt.

Does Himalayan Salt Really Come from the Himalayas?

Himalayan salts come from natural salt deposits located in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Mined in both Tibet and Pakistan, the salt crystals formed from salt water that was once a sea in the area. Historical records show that people have been extracting salt from these underground deposits since 320 BC. This salt is known for color and flavor. While this salt is most often found as “pink”, crystals can also be red, off-white or transparent.

salt shotBecause of its age (estimated at 250 million years) and method of extraction (by hand), Himalayan salt is completely devoid of toxins or pollutants. The texture of Himalayan salt and its mineral taste are more noticeable when kosher salt sized crystals are used.  Upscale restaurants use small blocks or slabs for broiling and grilling foods. The salt flavor is infused during the cooking process by keeping the food in contact with the surface of the salt slab.

Buyer Beware: Himalayan Pink salt is often rock salt that comes from Australia, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Poland, Utah and Hawaii. Its pink color comes from the iron oxide present in the salt.

Rock Salt is a Rocky Road!

Rock salt is the mineral form of sodium chloride. Also known as “halite”, it is used industrially in a wide variety of manufacturing applications. At home, rock salt is used for making homemade ice cream, pickling and curing, and for making “salt” crusts for meat or fish. A word to the wise for cooks using rock salt: be sure to purchase food-grade rock salt. Sold in both grocery and hardware stores, it is most often used to melt ice on roads, driveways and walkways. Rock salt used for this purpose may be treated with chemicals.

Sea Salt….A Better Option

The quality of sea salt varies tremendously. If it’s white like table salt it may have been bleached. Good quality sea salt contains microscopic amounts of sea life, which provides natural iodine. It will be gray in color and even slightly moist. While sea salt contains minerals which add flavor and color, by weight, sea salt and table salt contain the same amount of sodium. However, because of its’ stronger flavor, you needn’t use as much.

Good sea salt comes in a variety of coarseness levels, some of which require a salt grinder. Salt grinders differ from pepper mills in that the blades of salt grinders are ceramic rather than steel to resist salt’s naturally corrosive properties. Dry out the salt gently before grinding.

Celtic Sea Salt….Is Perhaps the Best…. And My Personal Favorite

Naturally harvested in Brittany, France, this delicious salt is my personal favorite. Celtic sea salt contains all 82 trace minerals, its’ natural state preserved by the 2000 year old Celtic harvesting method still used today. It contains no chemical additives or preservatives.

Light grey in color, Celtic sea salt is dried only by the summer wind and sun. Also called “grey” salt, this salt is famous in the culinary world and is considered by many to be the best quality salt available. While best used in cooking, it is utterly sublime when lightly sprinkled on grilled or roasted meats, fish and vegetables. It adds tremendous flavor and a bit of crunch. If you prefer it finely ground, be sure to use a ceramic grinder and only grind as much as you need. To keep it from clumping, add a few grains of rice.

The Salt Solution 

The easiest way to reduce sodium intake is to eat less processed foods. Cook and eat more meals at home where you control what goes in and what doesn’t. Salt is an acquired taste. A little salt in cooking goes a long way. Adding a touch of salt during the cooking process typically means less salt at the table. Spices and fresh herbs enhance the flavor of food as does a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Properly seasoned food shouldn’t need additional salt added at the table.

The bottom line is this: if you don’t have a medical condition that is exacerbated by the use of salt, there is no reason to restrict it in your diet. Unless of course, you are eating packaged, processed and fast food on a regular basis. However, if you’re a regular reader of my  newsletter, chances are you love good food that is healthy and often enjoy cooking at home. You will never regret splurging on some really good quality sea salt. Enjoy!

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Juicing has grown in popularity in recent years. Juicing was previously relegated to health food stores and Juice Bars where you were likely to find “health nuts” drinking large cups of bright colored liquid and shots of wheat grass. So what is the deal with juicing?

As a self-proclaimed “health nut” I must confess that I own a juicer. The best kind of juicer can grind up the skin and seeds. You want to keep the fiber when juicing to slow down the sugars from entering your blood too fast. That can be a problem for diabetics or even those with low blood sugar. That’s why diabetics can eat whole fruit but should stay away from fruit juice.

Vegetable juicing has many benefits but two come to mind: it helps alkalinize your body because all vegetables and fruits are alkaline and, it helps detoxify your liver depending on the combo of juices that you pick. Trust me folks, cabbage, collard, kale and wheat grass are highly beneficial but taste a heck of alot better with a little apple, carrot and ginger thrown in. Your liver will love you but your taste buds might balk in the beginning.

The trick to juicing is to start by getting it from a really good juice bar. I was just at The Stand in Norwalk on Wall St. and I was really impressed. Everything is organic and the combinations are really great. They even have one called “the Nasty” that has dark greens combined with garlic and ginger. Carissa, one of the owners, told me it’s great for hangovers.

My green drink was really good and very palatable. So, leave it to the professionals. They know what tastes good and can steer you in the right direction when you’re just starting out. If you’re squeamish, stick to cucumber, celery, parsley and apple.

Tune in live at 5:00 or every half hour after or log onto news12.com

And don’t forget to listen to The Nutrition Scoop every day at 3:00 at www.ftns.co

Yours in Optimal Health,
geri

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I recently got a call from Kimber Crandall of News 12 Connecticut asking me if I’d like to comment on a recent study showing that fiber from whole grains is more effective than the fiber from fruit for lowering the risk of heart disease. It’s very tricky reporting this kind of information because the take-away can get distorted when just a snipet gets reported. Understanding the “whole” story is important.

Whole grain means the whole grain….in it’s “whole” form, not milled into flour. Wheat berries are the whole grain, not whole grain bread. While there can be a good amount of fiber in whole grain bread, every step in the refining process makes the gycemic index go up. That’s a measure of how fast the sugar in the grain gets into your blood. And make no mistake, all grain, even whole grain, eventually turns to sugar. For example, stoned-ground wheat bread will have more fiber than whole grain wheat bread which will have more fiber than wheat bread which will have more fiber than white bread. You get the picture. If you have blood sugar issues, choosing the “whole” grain is best.

My other concern is that putting the emphasis on grain takes the focus off vegetables and I’m here to tell you folks, vegetables are where it’s at! In addition to fiber, vegetables have thousands of phytochemicals, or plant compounds which are your number one defense against cancer. Of course, some vegetables have more fiber than others and it’s often those that people don’t eat as often. Click on the link below to find out which ones are loaded with fiber.

Geri talks fiber with Kimber Crandall on News 12

So you can see that all fiber is not created equal. What do you need to know? Eat grain in it’s most natural state and eat your vegetables…..just like your Mother told you!

Yours in good health,
Geri

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What to Eat, When to Eat it, Where to Buy it and How to Cook it

Passionate about good food and its importance to optimal health, I’ll help you navigate the treacherous waters of our toxic food environment and keep you up to date on the latest research and developments in the food industry. I’ll tell you what to eat, when to eat it, where to buy it and how to cook it!

My nutrition philosophy is very simple: Eat fresh whole food in its most natural state, most of the time. What does “most of the time” mean? It means that 80 to 90% of the time you pay strict attention to what crosses your lips. Perfection is overrated. You have to live a little.  That said, I do have some parameters.

Here are the main points of my nutrition philosophy:

1. Pick your poison

2. Be only as restrictive as is necessary to get to your goal

3. If Mother Nature didn’t make it and you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!

4. No weapons of mass destruction:

  • a. high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • b. hydrogenated fats
  • c. artificial sweeteners, dyes, flavorings, etc.
  • d fast food
  • e. soda

5. No GMO’s as best you can. GMO’s are not labeled so try to avoid the major GM crops which are corn, soy, cotton and canola. Cotton (as cottonseed oil) and Canola oil are most often found in packaged food. Corn and soy are also found as oils but corn and soy derivatives are found in numerous forms in packaged processed foods as well. Soy lecithin, hydrolyzed yeast extract, textured vegetable protein, dextrose and maltodextrin are just a few. If you don’t recognize it, don’t eat it!

 

 

 

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1416846_67643260“What should I eat for breakfast?” is a frequently asked question. Well, here’s the simple answer that applies to almost everyone. Protein and vegetables. Most often for me, it’s eggs.

“Eggs and vegetables” you say. Yep, that’s what I said. Eggs have the perfect protein profile for the human body and protein in the morning keeps your blood sugar level. Most of us don’t eat enough vegetables. If you’re not eating vegetables at every meal it’s next to impossible to get the recommended amount. Vegetables are unrefined carbohydrate, have tons of fiber and are low in calories. Need I say more!

This mornings breakfast was 2 eggs (organic) over-easy over ratatouille (recipe to follow). When the yoke breaks over the veggies, all I can say is, “YUM”. Green and yellow squash are in season and fairly inexpensive. But you should feel free to use any vegetables that you like. Leftover vegetables from last nights’ dinner makes breakfast the next day a no-brainer.

I make a huge batch, slightly undercooked so that when I reheat it, it’s not mushy. Broccoli, broccoli rabe, spinach, left-over grilled or roasted vegetables all make a perfect base for poached or fried eggs. “Fried eggs” you shout in disbelief. Yep, fried in “better butter” which is a bit of organic unsalted butter and bit of olive oil. Poaching is great but requires more time….something many of us don’ t have much of in the morning.

“But aren’t eggs high in cholesterol?” you ask. Here’s the answer. The yolk contains lecithin which emulsifies the fat in the yolk. Mother Nature’s perfect designer food. And, get this. Dietary cholesterol does not raise blood cholesterol. Too much saturated fat or refined carbohydrates will raise blood cholesterol. So, if you’re not eating fast food or deep fried food or living on cheese and junk food, live a little. A bit of organic butter is not going to hurt you. Remember “The 90% Solution”? If not, read last weeks’ blog!

If you’re still freaked out at the thought of eating eggs 3 or 4 times a week, make scrambled eggs and use 2-3 egg whites and 1 yolk. You can make an omelet or a veggie scramble. Either way, eggs and vegetables are a great way to start your day. I hope you like the recipe.

Yours in good health,
geri

Zucchini & Squash Ratatouille
2 medium zucchini, chopped (see below)
2 medium yellow squash, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded & chopped into ¼ inch pieces,
or ½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half
¼ cup basil leaves, chopped
Dash red pepper flakes (or to taste)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh black pepper

Wash squash and trim ends. Cut in half lengthwise. Place flat side down and cut in half again lengthwise. Chop in ½ inch pieces.

Preheat a frying pan on medium high. When hot, add oil. Add onion and sauté for one minute. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté for another minute and then add the squash and tomatoes. Stir fry for 3 or 4 minutes until the zucchini browns but not until soft. Remove from heat. Add sea salt and fresh pepper to taste. Sprinkle the fresh basil and toss.

ZATCOFF WELLNESS • Westport, CT • Tel 203-454-5560 • Fax: 203-454-5569 Geri Zatcoff, copyright © 2010, all rights reserved.

 

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“Baby Boomers” is the name given to the generation of Americans who were born between 1944 and 1964 following World War II. Currently, “Boomers” range in age from 47 to 67, with the youngest “Boomers” fast approaching a half century (47 years old in 2011) of life.

If you’re a Baby Boomer you realize that you’re not 20 years old anymore, or 30 for that matter. Don’t mistake my meaning. I’m not saying you cannot be as vital as 30 year old. I’m saying that it requires more work and vigilance, both from a nutritional and a fitness perspective. Two things are happening simultaneously as we age: your metabolism slows down about 2% every decade after age twenty; and, you lose about 2% of your muscle mass every decade after the age of twenty (without resistance exercise). The combination of the two can be disastrous to our weight and health if we are not vigilant.

What does this mean? It means that if you want to “stop the clock” so to speak, you must eat less and exercise more in order to maintain the same weight and fitness level you had when you were younger. It can be challenging and you need a comprehensive and personalized lifestyle program.

But eating less means taking in less nutrients. As we age, we need nutrient dense food that is low in calories. That’s how I can help. I’ll make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to support your unique physiology as it changes. Should supplements be indicated, I only recommend “Professional” supplements which are assayed and batch tested. What does that mean to you? It means that what the bottle says is in there, is in there. And, what’s not in there is as important as what’s in there!

 

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