Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beans beans good for your heart, the more you eat the more you...

....want (gosh what were you guys thinking)

I think beans are an underrated health food. There are so many blogs out there advocating tofu, seitan, tempeh and other vegetarian protein sources that beans and legumes get to sort of get pushed into the background. But in reality beans are a wonderful, healthy food that is incredibly versatile and tasty. There are so many different varieties of beans, as well as tasty recipes that you are bound to find something that works for you.

Beans are an often-overlooked source of incredible health benefits. Some people believe that because of their high amount of carbs they they should be avoided and seen as a weight gain risk . Nothing could be farther from the truth though, as research has shown that the carbohydrates found in most beans are of the complex variety. Complex carbohydrates are not contributors to any sort of weight gain, instead providing the brain and muscles with a lot of good, stable energy supplies.

Beans actually contain a wider variety of healthy nutrients than most foods. These include calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium, folate, and alpha-linolenic acid. These nutrients work together on several key areas of the body promoting total health. Beans also happen to be good sources of proteins (around 15 g per cup), and when paired with other whole grains form complete proteins without the added fats and cholesterol often found in animal sources. Another thing that you might not have known is that, red, pinto, and kidney beans are the highest antioxidant food, beating both blueberries and cranberries.

Studies also tie beans to a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, , and breast and colon cancers high blood pressure. Sometimes the reduction in risk is substantial (the risk for heart disease, for example, may be reduced by as much as 22%.)

Here are some spesific health benefits of particular beans.

Black beans

Rich in anthocyanins, the same heart disease– and cancer-fighting antioxidants that are found in grapes and cranberries.

Garbanzo (chickpeas)

A recent study found that a chickpea-fortified diet slashed “bad” LDL cholesterol levels by almost 5%.


The thiamin (vitamin B1) in this bean protects memory and brain function; a deficiency has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Potassium regulates blood pressure and ensures normal heart contractions.


Fiber helps stabilize blood sugar, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Beans and legumes are a definite staple in my diet and I eat them at least 4-5 times a week. I like the versatility and different flavors they provide, because it helps keep things interesting. Besides that they're fairly easy to prepare, very cheap (unlike most other vegetarian sources of protein) and healthy to boot. You can substitute them in most meat recipes, blend and use them as thickening agents in soups, make a variety of sauces, dips and spreads or (if you're feeling daring) add them to your dessert.

Here are some tried and proven bean recipes:

Simple rice and beans (my go-to meal when I want something quick and simple)

There's no real recipe for this one. All I do is add:

kidney beans
tomato past and/or chopped tomatoes
sauted onions and garlic

I don't ever measure the ingredients because it is entirely to taste. All that goes into one pot and boils for about 20 minutes to infuse the flavors. Then I serve it over rice with avocado and yogurt. Delicious

Next on my agenda is : black bean brownies

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hunger awareness guide.

One of the things I've been focusing on more in my pursuit of a healthy lifestyle is mindfully eating and learning to listen to my hunger cues. This has become a little complicated in my case, as 2 years of disordered eating have caused me to become somewhat confused as to what my body needs and how to appropriately respond to those needs. I know that becoming reconnected with my body is a process, and I'm proud to say I've come a long way in this aspect. But there are still times when I second guess myself - "Am I really hungry? Or am I actually tired, bored or trying to cope with negative emotions". Here's something someone sent to me, which I am finding helpful in answering these questions:

Instructions: Self-evaluation encouraged before and after eating. The goal is to keep your hunger between a 3 and a 7 as often as possible. This exercise if to help those who have become disconnected with their bodies and hunger signals, (usually through an eating disorder,) to become more aware and attuned with their hunger and nutritional needs.

0 - Starving.

1 - Very hungry, feel like ordering everything on the menu.

2 - Preoccupied with hunger, everything on the menu looks good.

3 - Feel hungry and the urge to eat is strong.

4 - Feel a little hungry. Can wait to eat.

5 - Neutral, not hungry, not full.

6 - Sense food is in your belly, could eat a bit more.

7 - Feel satisfied. Hunger is gone and you may not feel hungry again for 2-3 hours.

8 - Not uncomfortable, definitely a full belly.

9 - Moving into uncomfortable.

10 - Very uncomfortable.

This scale has been helpful for me, because it encourages me to stop before or during a meal and really think about what stage of fullness and hunger I'm at. That way I don't end up eating too little, only to be RAVENOUS 2 hours later; or to eat too much to be point I feel uncomfortable - both physically and mentally.

I'd go as far as to say that re-examining your eating habits from time to time would be beneficial for anyone - especially if you are under a lot of stress or busy. We tend to give little importance to nourishing our bodies when things get stressful and busy, when in reality that is when it is more important.

Here are some yummy food I've been enjoying recently (and once again I apologize for the low quality pictures)

Vegetarian white bean chili (recipe adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen)

Ridiculously Easy Curried Lentil/Barley Soup (although I think most lentil soups fall under that category)

¼ onion
¾ cup dry red lentils
1/3 cup barley
2 tsp madras curry powder
¾ cup cauliflower
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 clove crushed garlic
salt to taste
2 bay leaves
3-4 cups broth/water

Optional: Greek yogurt or sour cream

Bring water/broth mixture to a boil in a pot. Dice the carrots and cauliflower and chop the onions. Add dry lentils to the boiling liquid, along with chopped onion, squeezed garlic and spices to the water. Let it cook for about 15 minutes, then add in the dry barley. After another 15-20 minutes add the vegetables Cook for about 30 minutes or till both lentils and barley are cooked through. Add last minute spices- 2 tbsp tomato paste; salt and more curry powder to taste. Serve hot, topped with Greek yogurt or sour cream if desired.

Aside from that I've come up with my own version of overnight oats. If you like your oats very thick, creamy and sweet - then you should give this a try.

All you do is:

- Add 1/3- 1/2 cup oats,
- Mush in half a banana
- Add 2/3 - 3/4 cup yogurt along with 1/4 cup milk
- Mix in 2 tsp of shredded coconut
- Stir it all together

Let it sit in the fridge over night and there you have it!

Personally I think these oats stand on their own in terms of flavour. But topping suggestions would definitely include fresh berries, nectarines, peaches or cherries. Get creative, because this is a great base to work off of.

What is your latest healthy living focus?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Take time to ENJOY.

I'm not sure if anyone else finds themselves eating the same things every day, or if it's just me. It just seems hard to try to think of fun and creative things to eat when you are pressed for time/on a budget/have food allergies. It's so easy to stick to the "tried and proven" foods that you know taste at least edible and give you the energy you need to keep going on with your day. It's far more risky to experiment with a recipe that :
a) could turn out awesome
b) could be an epic fail

It's kind of like playing Russian rollete in a sense, because sometimes you're not sure if the pros outweigh the cons. I for one hate nothing more then spending my time and effort preparing a meal only to discover at the end that it doesn't taste good. Especially if I'm tired or have had a bad or stressful day. A failed experiment is not something I need right then.

But eating the same things over and over again has it's drawbacks as well. By having an overly repetitive diet no matter how healthy you are bound to be missing out on an important vitamin or mineral. Not to mention that after a while eating becomes a chore, something you HAVE to do. It shouldn't be that way! Eating is one of life's pleasures and is meant to be enjoyed.

From now on I'm going to experiment with one of my meals/snacks every day and try something new. There are bound to be hits and misses, but I think in the long run it'll make my dining experiences a lot more enjoyable and pleasurable for me.

Here are some recent experiments - both hits and misses :P.

Today's oats: oats with cinnamon, pear and vanilla essence cooked in, topped with chopped almonds and more pear.

As promising as this sounds my oats were amazingly bland and the texture was way off. They were mushy as opposed to thick and creamy. I have no idea how I managed to screw up something so simple. Oh well, we win and we lose, right?

This on the other hand was a definite win: pot barley risotto - 3/4 cup of barley cooked in 1 cup of water + 1/2 cup mushroom and chicken broth. Chopped mushrooms and chicken added in the end (the broccoli was more for the color factor then anything else)

Chewy, flavorful and delicious.

Another hit - white bean basil spread.

And a all time winner:

What successful food experiments have you conducted lately (please include links so I can try them out). Do you have any idea how I might have messed up my oats :P?