Monday, November 16, 2009

Spices that Burn Fat

Spices that Burn Fat

Spice and all things nice—now, how about a nice waistline? Fighting the bulge can be daunting and at times, frustrating. But what if there are foods that are on your side, fighting the bulge for you, making it easier for you to lose weight? Spices that burn fat? Sounds like a pipe dream for weight watchers. A dash here, a dash there and viola, fat will not stand its ground against these fat-busters. Is that myth? Or is it something spice companies love to claim to push their products? How can we prove the fallacy or truth behind this bold claim? Let’s look to some solid scientific evidence and put this claim to the test.

Chili Power
The red stuff that makes your food spicy—chili is a powerful fat burner. You can eat it fresh or you can use chili powder—it doesn’t matter because either way, you’re tapping into its active ingredient, capsaicin, capable of raising metabolic rate or helping you to burn unwanted calories. So, add a dash of chili powder to your food—use it to marinate meat, fish or to make sauces, condiments or marinades. Fresh chili peppers can be used to spice up any dish—from salsa to stir fry to salads.

Ginger adds zing, ginger adds zest. Engage ginger in your food preparation and allow this feisty rhizome to rev up your metabolic rate. According to an Australian study, when biochemists apply both fresh and dried ginger extracts to the tissue of animals, they found that the spice induced tissues to use up more than 20% more energy than usual. Go ahead—indulge—ginger snaps, ginger tea, ginger chicken, ginger pickles.

Hailed as “holy powder,” in India, this vibrant yellow root of the ginger family is one health miracle. It is commonly used in Asian countries to make curry and to season foods. Now, a new animal model study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) theorized that turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, may stall the spread of fat-tissue by inhibiting blood vessel growth, necessary in building fat tissue. The group treated with curcumin had lower blood glucose, triglycerides, and fatty acid, cholesterol and liver fat levels.

This familiar bulb, aptly nicknamed "stinking rose" is anything but stinky when it comes to promoting weight loss. Use garlic, preferably chopped, bruised to release allicin (its active ingredient) in your food preparation—allicin fights fat accumulation.

Parsley is famous for its role as a breath freshener. In ancient times, the Greek use it as an aphrodisiac and to promote beauty and youthfulness. Now, we can add more benefits: parsley can also stimulate the circulatory system, increase energy and fight water retention. Parsley looks pretty as an edible garnish and it can also be added to food to enhance flavor. Fresh is better than dried.

You can easily find these fat-fighters when you go grocery shopping. Can you put them together in one simple dish? Why not?:

Here is one really simple dish you can whip up in no time:

2 pieces of fish fillet (tilapia, salmon)

1 tb of curry powder (has turmeric)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 thumb of ginger, grated
A sprinkling of chili powder
Sea salt

Chopped parsley for garnishing.

Marinate fish with all the seasoning mentioned.
Coat pan with enough oil to pan-fry the fish—about 5 minutes each side.
Dish out and garnish with chopped parsley. And if you feel like a squeeze of lemon—by all means—I’ve heard it’s a fat buster too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Have You Had Your Vinegar Today?

About 90% f the American household have vinegar in the house. After all, vinegar is very versatile. We all know that vinegar can soothe a bee sting or take the sting out of sunburn pain. It is supposed to make water-stained windows sparkling clean and remove odors in your kitchen. In fact, somebody listed 74 uses for vinegar--not bad for a bottle that costs a couple of dollars (or less).

If you enjoy vinegar in your food--pickles, hot and sour soup, sweet and sour pork, barbecue ribs, dressings on your salad--anyone? If you do, you have made some good food choices. Researchers in Japan revealed new evidence that vinegar can prevent accumulation of body fat and weight gain. They found that rats given a high-fat diet and vinegar have less body fats (up to 10% less) than other mice.

What is the magic, you ask? They explained that the main ingredient, acetic acid, in vinegar has fat-busting capabilities. Acetic acid is what makes vinegar sour and it turns on genes for fatty acid oxidation enzymes, thereby suppressing fat accumulation in the body. But that's not all vinegar can do. Other scientific researches can uncover other benefits of vinegar: it helps to control blood pressure, blood sugar levels and fights cancer.

So, have you had your vinegar today? That doesn't sound like such a weird question, if you consider the health benefits of this common household item.

Turns out it's easy to include vinegar into your diet. You can use it in your salad dressings, use it as a cooking ingredient, use it to pickle vegetables or make a healthy drink.

I've include a simple recipe for making cabbage pickle. Cabbage contains quercetin, a fat-whittling active ingredient and if you pickle it with vinegar, you get double the weight loss mileage. Here's how:

1 small head of cabbage, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons of salt
1 tablespoon of organic sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of roasted sesame seeds

1. Sprinkle salt on cut cabbage and let it sit for a couple of hours
2. Wring out water from cabbage and put it in a big bowl
3. Add vinegar, sugar and sesame seeds.
4. Toss well and enjoy.

To make a vinegar slimming drink:

Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and add 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey to make it taste less acidic.

D.C. Jarvis, M.D., author of the book, Folk Medicine, advocates drinking this vinegar concoction before every meal to induce weight loss. He believes that weight loss with this method is gradual but permanent.

Basic Vinegar dressings:

Mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts healthy oils (olive, canola or safflower oil), salt and pepper and herbs or spice.

If the basic vinegar bored you, try gourmet fruit vinegar. A study from the Memorial University of Newfoundland shows that fermenting fruits into vinegar produces more potent disease-fighting phytochemicals.

However, gourmet fruit vinegar can be expensive. Don't sweat it, though--you can make you very own fruit vinegar and it's a snap:

Bring store-bought white vinegar to just below boiling point, toss in your favorite fruit (raspberries, grapes, key limes, peach), refrigerate for a few weeks and strain.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Resistant Starch: Why You Can Have Your Carbs and Eat It Too

Carbs have a bad reputation and they have taken a beating for as long as diet became a science and a weight loss program. They are supposedly evil, capable of padding your middle, increasing your thigh size and adding layers of unwanted, unsightly inches to your otherwise could-be thin frame. If not for carbs, the world would thinner and healthier. Now, is that so?

I've been raised on carbs. We have rice and often, noodles for lunch and dinner and more carbs for mid-day snack and supper. Granted that our snacks are sweet potatoes and bowls of bean dessert, still--I subsisted heavily on carbs. By all reasoning and reckoning, I should tip the scale at an unmentionable number but...thanks to my mother's nutritional intuition, I remain a size 0. How is that so?

Turns out that not all carbs are bad. There is a group of carbs that are high in resistant starch and more and more researches are showing the upside of eating resistant starch. What are they--these new found stars of weight loss? They are a type of fiber that delivers some of the health benefits of soluble and insoluble fiber. They are tightly packed chains of sugar molecules that amylase (the enzyme that breaks down starch) finds difficulty breaking down. Resistant starch resists digestion (hence the name) and continues through the digestive tract to the large intestine, where bacteria can then feed on them, fermenting them and producing fatty acids. These fatty acids make the environment more acidic and therefore less friendly to bacteria, thereby promoting colon health.

But perhaps, the better news is that resistant starch helps weight control. A small study conducted at the University of Colorado, published in Nutrition and Metabolism, showed how fat burning was 23% higher in those who ate 5 grams of resistant starch in a meal than those who didn't. In other words, more fat is burned and less is available to store away. Less fat stored away means a leaner you. In addition, resistant starch makes you feel full sooner and the feeling of satiation stays longer. A winning solution.

Ok, where can you find these good samaritans of weight control? You have choices: beans, bananas (especially under-ripes ones), potatoes, sweet potatoes and whole-grain breads and products.

So, don't be afraid to include carbs in your diet. Picking the right kind of carbs (and enjoying them too) may be the way to a trimmer, healthier you.