Dr. Andrew Weil: Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

“Without enough focus on diet and exercise and too much focus on prescription drugs we don’t have a healthcare system; we have disease management.  The U.S. spends more on healthcare per capita than any other country, yet we’re ranked 37th in terms of health” ~ Dr. Andrew Weil

After seeing Dr. Andrew Weil present this week on topics such as our current healthcare system, healthy aging in America and what is needed to reverse much of the damage done, I decided to condense the 2 1/2 hour talk here.  Here’s what Weil suggests are the societal, medical and individual approaches needed to shift from disease management to disease prevention and health promotion in the U.S.:

What can society do?

  1. Make better food choices cheaper and easier. The unhealthiest foods are the cheapest while fresh fruits and vegetables are the most expensive.  Government subsidies are skewed and need to shift from corn and soy to fruits and vegetables.  Weil suggests making fruits and vegetables more accessible in underprivileged neighborhoods and free to all school children.
  2. Make better health choices fun.  In Sweden, a metro station staircase was turned into a musical piano (think Tom Hanks in “Big”) to encourage people to Continue reading

Food, Wine, Northern California and a Charred Fava Bean Recipe

My husband and I have just returned from a week in Northern California.  If there is one thing I appreciate after living in NYC for so long it is big open spaces.  Wine country is just that.  The rolling hills, vast farmland, abundant greenery and perfectly manicured vineyards were just about enough to make this New Yorker never come home.  Not to mention the food and wine far exceeded my expectations.  Northern California has truly perfected organic, local, seasonal fare.  I suppose the vast farmland might have something to do with it…

Here were our dining standouts:

Recipe: Brown Rice and Vegetable Stir Fry

This is one of the easiest healthy meals you can make.  Aside from cooking the rice, this dish can be prepared in less than 20 minutes.  Stir-fries are an easy way to incorporate seasonal vegetables you might not often eat into your diet.  They are also a great way to clean out the fridge with whatever vegetables you have on hand.  That’s the thing about a stir-fry; they allow you to experiment without following a specific recipe.  I like to make a big batch of brown rice (a rice cooker is ideal and saves you from mushy rice) and use it for different meals throughout the week.

Benefits:

Documentary Film and Food Revolutions

“Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.” -Food Inc. website

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner and author Eric Schlosser uncover aspects of the U.S. food industry, revealing the industrialized weaknesses hidden from the American consumer.  Michael Pollan, the burgeoning household name and genius behind Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, is featured throughout the film discussing the overabundance of pesticides and chemicals used in farming, genetically modified chickens, why cows shouldn’t be fed corn, and the re-engineering of corn and soy into fast food, junk food, and practically every Continue reading

The Dirty Dozen

Last month I wrote about organic food, citing the definition, labeling, farming techniques and benefits.  I briefly mentioned the importance of buying certain foods organic vs. conventional.  Here is data that delves deeper into the issue, helping to differentiate when organic is the better choice and when it might be OK to wash your food really well and save a couple dollars.

*Developed by analysts at Environmental Working Group (EWG), here are the results for nearly 96,000 tests of pesticides and residues on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 2000-2008.

The Dirty Dozen:

(Produce with the highest levels of residue; in order of most contaminated)

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries Continue reading

Recipe: Black Bean Veggie Burger with Baked Sweet Potato Fries

The veggie burger has become ubiquitous as the vegetarian option of choice for many bars and low-key restaurants.  As a sports fan, I appreciate a place where I can watch a game and enjoy a “non-meat” meal.  Enter the veggie burger.  Here’s what I don’t understand though, why do so many restaurants serve these mushy patties filled with peas and carrots that don’t even come close to resembling a burger?  I love peas and carrots, quite a bit actually, but in a burger?  Absolutely not.  Why not just serve a vegetable sandwich…

I made my ideal sports bar fare the other night – a veggie burger that tastes and feels like I’m eating a real burger (smoky, hearty, solid texture, spicy and definitely without green or orange things falling out).  I added some sweet potato fries and sautéed spinach because in a perfect world, this is what every low-key restaurant and bar would serve.

Black Bean Veggie Burger with Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 4 Continue reading

Food, Mood and Neurotransmitters

Ever wonder why certain foods can make you feel either energized or exhausted?  According to Dr. Richard Wurtman, a neuroscience professor at MIT, certain foods can alter one’s mood by influencing neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers which allow for the transmission of signals from one neuron to the next across synapses.  Neurotransmitters control major body functions including movement, emotional response, and our physical ability to experience pleasure and pain. While other factors influence the level of these chemicals, such as hormones, heredity, drugs and alcohol, the three most food sensitive neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – have been studied in relation to mood.

For Relaxation: Eat Carbohydrates.  Serotonin is responsible for feelings of calm, relaxation and a general sense of Continue reading

Top NYC Restaurants: Perilla

“The Perilla plant is a relative of mint and basil but has a strong anise-like flavor. Primarily used in Asian cooking, Perilla is most commonly known as Shiso. Chef Harold Dieterle loves to sneak Perilla into his dishes when it is in season.”

It wasn’t until after my first dinner at Perilla, in New York City’s Greenwich Village, that I discovered the owner/chef was the Continue reading