Fresh and wholesome information on the foods we love.

,

Healthy Eating in Ramadan for Detox

Ramadan DetoxAs salaam alaikum peeps – it’s almost Ramadan again! Is it just me or is this like one of the best times of the year?

So I know we all start getting ready to have our spiritual game on – but somehow we tend to overlook the physical benefits that fasting has on our system… Like boosting our metabolism, clearing toxins, improving our sensitivity to insulin and decreasing our blood pressure and so much more

The problem is not a lot of us actually get our body into detoxification. You see just because we are fasting doesn’t automatically mean that we are detoxing … 

In fact, if you gain weight during Ramadan – as most of us tend to do – then you’re body isn’t really detoxing like it should be. So what are you doing wrong you might be wondering…

While I’d love to answer this for you in this post, I think it would take me many many pages to really give you the info you’re looking for – and more importantly you might just fall asleep while you’re trying to read it all.

So instead Ayesha (my sister and business partner – also a nutritionist) and I have put together a FREE webinar on:

Healthy Eating in Ramadan

And you’re invited to attend at your own convenience!

If you’re interested all you have to do is sign up (on the right) and I’ll send you the link for the session! Oh and in case you’re wondering, this one-hour Seminar covers healthy eating during Ramadan including how to make healthy choices for suhur and iftaar that will help you start detoxing your system!

Ayesha and I really hope you enjoy the session – do let us know what you think and leave us a comment below with any questions you might have.

RAMADAN KAREEM!!

,

5 Immune Boosting Foods to Ward Off Colds/Flus

5 Immunity Boosting Foods
It’s that time of year – the weather’s changing, school’s back in session and people are coming down with runny noses, coughs and sneezes.

While we all know that there is no real cure for the common cold or the flu mainly because there are so many unique viruses that hijack our own cells to spread and reproduce that it’s impossible to keep track of them, boosting our immune system can really help stave off these pesky invaders.

On that note, here are 5 immune boosting foods that have been proven to do just that:

1) Culinary Mushrooms – They may look humble, but mushrooms are ninjas when it comes to boosting your immune system. In fact, like garlic and onions, they have been shown to increase your white blood cell count, due in part to the selenium and glucans they contain. But that’s not all, they have also been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
2) Garlic – While it’s most notoriously known to keep vampires away, garlic also keeps your immune system
running at it’s optimum. It’s the sulfuric compounds like allicin, also found in onions (cabbage, brussel sprouts
and kale), that give garlic it’s pungent odour and are responsible for wiping out bacteria, viruses and fungi. While the most effective way to get garlic’s benefits is to have it raw (2 raw cloves a day can give your immune system the boost it needs),  this is not always very practical! The good news – incorporating garlic into your meals several times a week is also helpful.

Need some inspiration on how to add mushrooms and garlic to your diet? Try out this Garlic Roasted Mushroom Salad.

3) Onions – Loaded with nutrients like quercetin, selenium and allicin, onions don’t just add great flavour to everyday cooking, they also  work hard to ward off invaders like viruses. While there’s no real recommendation on how much you need to eat to boost your immune system, including them in the diet on a daily basis isn’t difficult.

Now, while we all use onions in our cooking, you may also enjoy Pickled Onions.

4) Ginger – is especially good to fight off upper respiratory viruses, which is exactly what you need at this time of year. This is partly due to it’s high manganese content, but it also contains shagaols and gingerols that help open up the sinuses. Because it can cause mild irritation if eaten in excess, you shouldn’t have more than 4g (about a tsp.) of fresh raw ginger a day.
5) Turmeric – this yellow spice that gives curry powder its distinctive color is
loaded with curcumin. Among many other properties like preventing inflammation and oxidative damage, curcumin has immune boosting properties as well.  If you’re not an Indian Food fanatic don’t worry, this mild (almost tasteless) spice can be added to pretty much anything you’re making.

Need some inspiration on how to add turmeric and ginger to your diet? Try out this Glowing Sesame Ginger Turmeric Dressing/Dip.

I’d also venture to say all of these foods together would make the basis for a delicious stir-fry.

Who knew boosting your immune system could be so simple and delicious?

,

Drinking Water in Dubai – Bottled, Filtered or Straight from the Tap?

How safe is Drinking Water in DubaiOne of the things that we all do in Dubai is drink BOTTLED water. And even though we have been reassured by the municipality time and again that our tap water is in fact “safe to drink” – there isn’t a lot of buy in from the public (but more on this later). So for most of us bottled water is really the only  available source of drinking water in Dubai.

Now coming from Canada, where tap water is safe to drink and where drinking bottled water is considered an extravagance, having to switch to the bottle was concerning to me on a number of levels. For one thing, not a lot of companies specify that their bottles are BPA Free here. Add to that the fact that when heated, or left in the car in hot weather which is pretty much every single day in Dubai, plastic made from BPA tends to release harmful chemicals into any substance it contains. Now as careful/vigilant as one might be about leaving a bottle in the sun, the fact is all that water, whether it be from the big gallon jugs we have delivered to our homes and offices or from the smaller bottles that we get from our grocery stores or find at our restaurants, has been transported on trucks and exposed to sun and heat for an unknown number of hours – possibly even days. And then there’s the environmental impact that thousands, I’d say even MILLIONS, of these plastic bottles have on our planet, especially when you consider that we live in a country where you have to really work hard to recycle.

That being said, after doing a bunch of research on it (which involved me looking at different bottled water companies, reading up on home filtration systems – that practically don’t exist – and even seriously considering drinking straight from the tap), I figured there wasn’t much that could really be done in this situation and so I embraced chugging water from bottles like a true Dubia’n. Of course I did convince the family to pay more (and get less) for Masafi @  home – mainly because their water comes from a local spring, at least their gallon jugs are BPA Free and they do not reuse their bottles (YIKES for the environment – but luckily they do recycle the plastic, phew)

But then that was almost 5 years ago – so let’s fast forward to today…

So from time to time we’ve gotten a flyer stuck to the apartment door about having a home water purification system installed. Something I’ve been interested in looking into (particularly a carbon block one) for a while but for some reason or other couldn’t seem to coordinate a time for someone to come in and give us a demo. Well that was until last weekend anyways.

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a demo for one of these units before, but Saturday was the first time I ever have so when the sales guy for Pure Tech showed up dressed in a suit and carted in a laptop case with him I really didn’t know what to expect. It turns out it’s pretty much like any sales pitch with the exception of a simple water quality test where you provide 2 (and in my case 3) samples of water and he places 2 electrodes into each glass to allow any particles to settle out of them. He also does the test using his filtered tap water and I think the results are quite awe inspiring, they kind of speak for themselves don’t they:

Drinking Water in Dubai - Pure Tech Demo

So let me give you the low down of his explanation:

  1. Yellow – is simply the minerals in the water that have reacted with the charged ions
  2. Orange scum – i.e. what you see on top of the bottled water is apparently due to chemicals that are almost always (with the exceptions being more expensive brands like Evian plus a few more which I can’t remember, sorry) added to prevent any harmful bacteria from growing in it over time
  3. Blackish green – is rust, dust and other particles that get into the water from the storage tanks and the pipes.

Now I rarely take anything anyone, especially a sales rep, says at face value…and it’s a good thing too since it turns out that this “electrolysis test” is actually bogus, in fact some people are even calling it an outright scam:

As it turns out that orange scum on top of the bottled water is really the minerals it contains, which act as the electrolyte in this “experiment”. And based on the video, I’d venture to say that the tap water turns a murky greenish black probably because it’s desalinized sea water and probably still contains a bit of salt in it. As for the yellowish tint in the filtered water, from what I can gather from the Pure Tech pamphlet, unlike the systems mentioned in the video, their reverse osmosis (RO) filtration system adds a select number of minerals – but from the look of it not very many – back into the water after filtration.

You know I’m quite disappointed that this was a fake test because it made me not want to consider the Pure Tech filter at all – I mean who wants to buy something from someone who’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes, right?

But to be fair to myself, my family and all of our health in the long run, I do think that while RO filters aren’t 100% ideal, they do remove a lot of impurities including bacteria, parasites, pesticides, heavy metals like lead, mercury or arsenic and flouride (which is a controversial topic all on its own). Unfortunately they also remove essential trace minerals that our body needs and while the Pure Tech filter adds some of these back in, this is more like taking a vitamin instead of eating wholesome food.

SO the question remains, what is the best drinking water solution for Dubai residents…

While tap water is definitely the cheapest option, the fact that  while the Dubai Municipality assures us that the water leaving their purification plant is safe to drink, as recently as Aug 2013 they can’t guarantee that the water stored in your building’s water tank is still drinkable makes this option sketchy.

This leaves us with the bottled water vs the RO filtered water option. From a cost perspective installing a purifier at home requires a bit of an investment – the Pure Tech quote was AED 2500 – however over time the cost becomes quite a lot less (something like 40 fils per gallon vs about AED 10 per 4-5 gallon bottle).

But to be honest both are quite good options that have their own advantages and disadvantages:

Bottled Filtered
Advantages Filtered to meet drinking water standardsMay contain natural minerals (as per the label) Filter to meet drinking water standardsRemove harmful toxins commonly found in ground water due to pollution

Less expensive over time

Disadvantages Have no control over how long bottles are exposed to heatExpensive

Negative impact on the environment

Demineralized

At the same time, as per the information provided on bottled water safety by Health Canada, no research to date indicates that the claim that chemicals leach into bottled water are true.

While I’m still considering getting the RO filter installed @ home (though I’m still on the look out for a good carbon block filter),  surprisingly the sales guy at Pure Tech actually made me feel much more comfortable about drinking my bottled water!

If you are looking for how to choose a good bottled water here, check out Time Out’s article on Dubai’s Best Bottled Water.

,

With Love From the Skinny Foodaholic

dippedSo as some of you may have noticed I’ve been in hibernation from blogging for a while… the end of 2013 was a bit more hectic than I anticipated and unfortunately some things had to be put on the back burner, though I missed this space a lot!

But now that we’re already well into 2014 and things have finally settled down a bit on my end, one of the things high on my priority list is to share my knowledge with you more frequently, along with listening and learning more. So I hope I’ll be providing you with interesting content this year and in turn I always look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

There are some other changes you may notice – for one thing I’ve updated the look of the blog, part of freshening things up for the new year. (I hope you like it). But more importantly I’ve changed the tag line from Skinny Food Addict to Skinny Foodaholic. That’s because food addiction has recently started to become recognized as a medical condition, and I definitely do not want to misrepresent this blog nor do I want to make light of a serious health concern.

But enough with the updates, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner… and while it’s not such a big deal for me since I’m happily single at the moment – I know I will definitely be making some time to pamper myself and my loved ones on the 14th (as I think all of us, in a relationship or not, should do)!

And since you guys are part of my extended family in a way, I thought I’d share this great little recipe for making your own chocolate dipped strawberries from All Recipes. I love it because it’s so easy (it takes less than 30 min to make), the kids can get involved too and it’s a great way to get 1/2 a serving of fruit in while you’re enjoying dessert!

To make this recipe a bit more wholesome I would suggest using dark chocolate (preferably at least 70% cocoa) and either coconut oil or real (unsalted) butter instead. And rolling your strawberries, or any other fruit of your choosing for that matter, in nuts or coconut flakes rather than drizzling them with white chocolate adds a bit more nutrition as well.

For those of you who are curious, this recipe makes 12  – 1/4 cup servings (which is about 2 large or 3 medium size strawberries) and contains about 190 kcal/serving.

1 oz of 75% Dark Chocolate

melted chocolate and coconut oildippingdipped strawberriesa serving of chocolate dipped strawberriesHappy Valentine’s Day everyone!

This Valentine’s Love Your Heart – Think Dark Chocolate


Hearts and chocolate go hand in hand on Valentine’s Day. But what if you could enjoy chocolate knowing that it’s actually healthy for your heart?

The rumour that dark chocolate is good for you seems to be proving true. In fact, a number of recent studies have found that dark chocolate is effective in lowering high blood pressure, keeping cholesterol from gathering in blood vessels, reducing the risk of blood clots, slowing down the immune responses that lead to clogged arteries and reducing the risk of heart failure.(1-6)

That’s because cocoa is naturally rich in plant phenols (like the  flavoniods flavonol and epicatechin), which are antioxidants. However, when cocoa is processed to make chocolate, some of these phenols are stripped away (2); while milk may inhibit their absorption (3). Not to mention the addition of refined sugar and saturated fat add unhealthy calories.

So how can you reap the benefit of eating chocolate without doing your body harm?

  • Enjoy one or two 19 to 30 gram servings of dark chocolate a week – While some studies had participants consuming as much as 100g of dark chocolate a day (4), one study found that having more or less than the two servings of 19-30g of dark chocolate didn’t add any, and may actually have reduced, benefits (5). And if we keep the added calories in mind, it’s probably better to not go over board!
  • Choose darker chocolate – the more cocoa a bar of chocolate has the more antioxidants it will have. I usually recommend choosing a bar with at least 60% cocoa but studies have found positive results with as little as 45% cocoa (6).
  • Don’t add milk – In one study, participants who consumed dark chocolate with a glass of milk or had milk chocolate also had lower levels of antioxidants in their blood as compared to those who had dark chocolate alone (2). So while milk is good for your bones and teeth, have it at another time during the day :).

This definitely makes me happy on Valentine’s Day – and I hope it does you too!

(1) Karin Ried, Thomas Sullivan, Peter Fakler, Oliver R Frank and Nigel P Stocks. Does chocolate reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis. BMC Medicine, 2010.

Giuseppe, R., Castelnuovo, A., Centritto, F., Zito, F., De Curtis, A., Costanzo, S., Vohnout, B., Sieri, S., Krogh, V., Donati A., Gaetano, G. and Iacoviello, L. Regular Consumption of Dark Chocolate Is Associated with Low Serum Concentrations of C-Reactive Protein in a Healthy Italian Population. J. Nutr. 138:1939-1945, October 2008

(2) Miraglio A, Chocolate’s Potential for Health Benefits Nutrition Notes May 2001

(3) Serafini, M., Bugianesi, R., Maiani, G., Valtuena, S., De Santis, S. & Crozier, A. Plasma antioxidants from chocolate. Nature, 2003. 424: 1013.

(4) Elizabeth Mostofsky, Emily B. Levitan, Alicja Wolk, Murray A. Mittleman. Chocolate Intake and Incidence of Heart Failure: A Population-Based, Prospective Study of Middle-Aged and Elderly Women. Circulation Heart Failure, 2010.

(5) Engler, M.B., Engler, M.M. The vasculoprotective effects of flavonoid-rich cocoa and chocolate. Nutrition Research, 2004. 24(9): 695-706.

(6) Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD; Renate Roesen, PhD; Clara Lehmann, MD; Norma Jung, MD; Edgar Schömig, MD. Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA, 2007. 298(1):49-60.

Avocados: Eat Fat Lose Weight

Although they are now all the rave, it wasn’t actually until 1996 when researchers at the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Mexico (Archives of Medical Research,Winter 1996) found that the daily consumption of avocados lowered blood cholesterol levels, decreased both LDL (harmful cholesterol) and triglyceride levels and increased HDL (helpful cholesterol) levels in their subjects, that they were considered to be good for you. Grown in the southern states, and the African, Asian, South and Central American continents, avocados:

  • are loaded with vitamins, A, C, E, H (i.e. biotin or B7), K and B complex (including folic acid), plus the minerals magnesium, copper, iron, calcium, potassium and many other trace elements.
  • are full of enzymes and are 74 percent water by weight
  • provide all of the essential amino acids (those that must be provided by our diet), with 18 amino acids in all, plus seven fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6.
  • have 60% more potassium than bananas.[28]
  • have a high fiber content among fruits – including 75% insoluble and 25% soluble fiber.[29]

(If you do a quick web search you’ll get a whole load of information on how good these little gems are for you – I compiled all of this info just from wikipedia and alive.com) So you don’t need me to tell you why they would be considered a Power Food.

But the best part is – like most foods that are high in monounsaturated fats or MUFAs, avocados have also been found to help in WEIGHT LOSS! Several studies have shown that a diet rich in MUFAs help decrease your total body fat %, reduce belly fat, and help to maintain muscle mass. In fact a recent study published in the Oct 2011 issue of Nutrition and Metabolism reconfirms the positive effect MUFAs have on decreasing belly fat.

That’s not all – avocados, with their high mineral, vitamin and nutrient compounds, are also known to smooth skin, help to support healthy cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, improve brain function, fight serious malignant disease and promote good eye health. They also contain mannoheptulase, a carbohydrate that is just beginning to be researched for its potential benefits in maintaining blood sugar levels – also an important part of better weight loss.

But considering that they are so high in fat, there are conflicting views on how much we should consume. Half an avocado (which is considered a serving according to Canada’s Food Guide) contains about 150 kcals; though most of us dietitians agree that  1/4 piece of avocado is equivalent to a serving of fat and the perfect amount to add to your sandwich instead of mayo (simply use sliced avocado or mash half an avocado up with a bit of salt pepper and lemon juice and spread on toast).

Your best bet is to substitute avocados (and other MUFA containing foods) where ever you would normally use oils or creams.

What I love most about this creamy fruit is the diversity with which it can be used, because it has such a mild flavour it offers quite a bit of culinary diversity. I find that it’s a great substitute to make creamy shakes/smoothies without adding ice cream; and can be enjoyed as a dessert as well as a dip – who doesn’t love guacamole with homemade pita chips?

*Image by Master Isolated Images | FreeDigitalPhotos.net