Pumpkin– the Holiday Beauty Food

pumpkinsPlump, round and orange pumpkin are virtually synonymous with fall.  Carved into gouls for Halloween  or baked  into pies for  Thanksgiving, pumpkins are a staple  when leaves turn red and gold.

No question that pumpkins are adorable, but are they healthy?  Short answer, yes.  Pumpkins are packed  with beta carotene and vitamin A.  Even better, 4 oz of roasted pumpkin   clocks in at less than 40 calories.  By comparison, the same size portion of  roast potatoes add up to  tktk.  Pumpkin also has respectable amounts of vitamin C.  Despite  its stringy texture , it is  not a good source of fiber.

Adding Pumpkin to Your Menus

When selecting pumpkins for eating, rather than carving look for small, firm and deeply orange pumpkins. WHen making pies, most people use canned pumpkin puree.  Its good, but fresh, young pumpkin is absolutely delicious.   Here are two variations of one  of my favorite pumpkin  recipes:

Savory Roast Pumpkin

Ingredients: 1 small pumpkin, peeled and  cut up in 2 inch chunks ( save the seeds), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 medium onion, sectioned, 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss  all ingredients together. Cover cookie sheet with non-stick tin foil. Spread onins and pumpkin on cookie sheet.  After 10 minutes flip over to caramalize on the other side.  Cook additional 10-15 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife.

This is a lovely side dish with roast chicken or turkey.  You can also use  it in the now ever so trendy rice bowls.  Layer over  freshly  cooked rice or quinoa in a bowl.  Add a few sauteed spinach leaves and top with a sprinkle  with  a sprinkle  toasted pine nuts.

Sweet Roast Pumpkin

Ingredients:  1 small  pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2 inch  chunks, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon brown sugar or  mayple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:  Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss pumpkin oil and salt.  Cover cooking sheet with non-stick tin foil. Spread pumkin out  on the  sheet.  Cook 10 minutes then flip over and sprinkle with brown sugar.  Cook another 10 minutes.

Sweet roast pumpkins raises plain pork chops to a whole new level.

 

 

Skin Care Expert to the Stars

Skin care expert Gayelord HauserI first “met”  skin  and heath care expert Dr Gayelord Hauser  in a dusty junk shop where I picked up a copy of his 1951 best seller, Treasury of Secrets.  His clear  writing and positive attitude was addicting   and I  trolled old bookstores to find his other  out of print books.  ( This was before Amazon, way before).

Dashingly handsome, Dr Hauser was a European nutritionist who Hauser skin  care client the Duchess of Windsor promoted the idea of “living foods”– unprocessed  fruits, vegetables,  low fat dairy  and  even  meat.   He was certainly not the first natural health guru.  There have been self-styled  diet experts  who  recommended a wide range of  supplements, magic foods, and exercise programs  and equipment.  But Hauser was the first  who made the link between  a healthy diet and Hollywood glamour. In an era where doctors recommended cigarettes for digestion and lard was as popular  as butter, Dr Hauser   had  an enthusuastic following that included Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly  and the Duchess of Windsor.  His 12  books and  popular lecture tours  made him the Dr  Oz of  his day.

Skin care client of Gayelord Hauser, Greta GarboHauser’s living food concepts were actually a giant anti-oxidant food delivery system.  His menus were packed with all the nutrients we now know reduce signs of aging– vitamin C, fiber, and protein and avoided   well known toxin, like alcohol, salt  and  animal fat.   Hauser also promoted the spa approach to heath and beauty.   While  juice fasts  and healing baths  had  long been available to the rich and famous, Hauser’s Beauty Farm concept was a virtual spa trip that any woman  could enjoy  in their own home.

The Hauser Diet  and Skin Care in Real Life

I  was  still living at home when I became  a Gayelord Groupie. My parents were not  impressed.  My Dad liked  to  spread his steak with butter before grilling  and a pickle was his favorite green vegetable.   Lightly  cooked shredded carrots and  hamburgers fortified with wheat germ frankly scared  him. It was  much easier to follow   the Hauser skin care  approach to skin care.  I brought my youthful acne under control with  herbal  steam sessions and  nightly application  of calamine lotion  fortified with phenol.

I used his  milk and otmeal bath to soothe a Jones Beach sunburn and a cosmetic vinegar concoction for oily hair.  While I was banned from cooking Hauser style family meals,  I could still whip up  Hauser beauty smoothies for myself.  Instead of a butter drenched  bagel  my breakfast  was  now a ‘school girl complexion’ smoothie with  yogurt, and honey  or a ‘crowning glory’  made with  skim milk, gelatin  and honey.  But my all time favorite Hauser recipe  was for a homemade fragrance  called Budapest Waters.

Ageless Skin Care with Budapest Waters

The legend is pure fun.  As the story goes,  Queen Elizabeth of Hungry used this essence every night and at age 86  she was still so beautiful  her passionate  lovers  were still   in their twenties.

Budapest Waters ( From Mirror, Mirror On the Wall  by Gaylord Hauser)

Ingredients:  2 oz dried rosemary, 1 oz fresh lemon peel,1oz fresh orange peel, 1 oz dried mint leaves, 1 oz dried lemon balm, 1 pint rose water, 1 pint alcohol ( not rubbing alcohol)

Directions: Put all ingredients in a gallon glass jar.  Let the mix  stand for three weeks.  Filter the fragrant mix through a strainer. You can use it as a cologne  or  add a  tablespoon to a bath.

 

Health Hazards of Kale?

KaleKale is the “it” food  of the year– and for good reason.  A single one cup serving of kale has just 36 calories yet delivers a payload of  5 grams of fiber, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, 45 different antioxidants and 10x the RDA of vitamin K. I think that kale can legitimately  call itself  the ‘beauty green ‘ since it offers so much fiber and vitamin C,   the two nutrients linked  to lower  levels of wrinkles in the landmark NHANES study.

But wait there is more.  Kale, a cruciferous veggie like  cauliflower and broccoli,  also contains sulfur compounds that are linked to reduced  risk of  lung, breast, colon, bladder  and prostate cancer.   There is even some evidence that these  sulfur componds,  called glucosinolates, inhibit the spread of cancer cells.  For  example  one study showed that non-smokers  who  ate cruciferous vegetables  have more than a 70% lower risk of bladder cancer.

The Dark Side of Kale

With all of these benefits, it is startling  to learn  of potetial  health problems of kale. Cruciferous vegetables including kale, brussels sprouts  and cabbage contain goitrogens  which  can interfere with thyroid gland activity.  If you have existing thyroid problems, kale can cause  an increase in symptoms.

Two other common medical problems can  pose probems to a kale  lover. If you take the blood thinner warfarin  it can alter vitamin K levels and kale is already high in  this blood thinning vitamin.  FInally kale also contains oxalates which can be a problem if you have a history of kidney stones. That’s the bad news.  The good news?   The potential problems  with kale  can be controlled if the kale is cooked such as sauted or steamed.  Rather than using  kale in salads and smoothies, get your nutrition packed kale  in stir -fry combos or filling   soups.  My new favorite way to eat to eat  kale is saute that can be  easily turned into an incredible soup or a  crostini topping. It even contains  protein packed chickpeas! I first  had it last year at a little tapas place in Old Town Madrid. In January  I was thrilled  to see a recipe for it in the New York  Times and it became my go-to  dish all winter.

Kale Saute with Chorizos and Chickpea ( adaped from New York Times)

Ingredients:  one can  of chickpeas,  large onion, chopped, 2 tablespoons Spanish olive oil,  4 ounces of chorizo, chopped, one clove of garlic, chopped, 1/4 teaspoon of smoked Spanish pimento,  1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, one pound of Tuscan kale, slivered into thin strips, 1/2  cup chicken broth or water.

Directions:  Heat olive oil in  a large  skillet.   Add onions and cook until golden.  Add chorizos and cook for two minutes, then add  paprika, cumin and garlic.  Sitr ingredients together and then add  chickpeas ( Don’t let the garlic brown or it will turn bitter).   Add   broth and water, cover and cook for 5-10  minutes  until the greens are  tender.

You can serve it over brown rice or  quinona or turn it into a soup.  Just ladle the kale into a soup bowl and pour on rich homemade beef or chicken broth.  Now that its too hot for a steaming bow of soup, I  pile the kale and chorizos  on a crisp crostini for a quick lunch or  serve  these bits  with a cold  soup for a perfect hot weather dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The True Beauty Vitamin? by Deb Chase

Vitamin pillsLast week I received a simple question that did not have a simple answer– what  is the most important vitamin for my skin, the true beauty vitamin?   Just about every nutrient has been promoted for skin  health, but three  keep making the list:

1. Vitamin E-

Vitamin E is a  powerful anti-oxidant found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables.  Studies have shown that  it can block free radicals and  ( in theory) reverse signs of aging.    There are also  suggetions that vitamin E   can reduce scar formation. But  sad to say the impact and benefit of  vitamin E  has  been somewhat oversold. Vitamin E creams and cleansers  have been shown to  actually provoke breakouts in oily or acne prone skin.  And as for help in scar reduction, numerous researchers report  it just doesn’t happen.  In fact one study showed that not only did  Vitamin E fail to help scars, 30% of patients developed an itchy red rash.  This type  of irritant reaction has  been noticed  with other vitamin E rich skin care products.

2. Vitamin A-

This seems like a no-brainer.  Retin A , that super powerful skin care ingredient is derived from vitamin A and this supplement should  be the true skin care care rock star.  Not so fast.

Vitamin A is found in fish, greens, carrots and yellow squash. In the body, vitamin A helps normalize skin turnover and lack of vitamin A is linked to seriously dry, flaky skin.  If you eat a healthy, well balanced  diet and stay away from vitamin-poor fast foods you will meet  recommended daily requirement.  Yeah, right.  Because it can be genuinely challenging to get what you need IRL, vitamin A ( and D) has been routinely added to milk, flour and butter since the 1930’s.

In skin care products, issues are rather complex. Effective products use Retin A in the form of a retinol- a baby version of the prescription only Retin A. Some like Retinol 1.% from Skinceuticals have enough retinol to be effective, but others may contain  just trace amounts.  Just plain vitamin  A in personal care products will not take you where you want to go.

3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C in food and supplements is certainly essential to healthy skin. It is found naturally in oranges, leafy greens and berries. Our bodies   cannot store  vitamin  C and you need a fresh supply every day.

The NHANES study compared  the diet of 17,000 Americans  with the risk of common health  problems  including diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer.  The good news  for beauty junkies like us, they also  tracked   diets against signs of skin aging.   After ten years the NHANES found that people who had diets  high in vitamin C had fewer lines and wrinkles.

These are not really surprising results.   Vitamin C is known for collgen formation– the same collagen that is essential for smooth  firm skin.  This is the same collagen that when old and weak is a  major cause of lines and wrinkles. In foods, supplements and in properly  formulated  treatment products  ( eg CF Ferulic from Skinceuticals), vitamin C  is a valuable  anti-oxidant, skin brightener and  of natural collagen protector.

To get back to the original question, I think the case can be made that Vitamin C is the true beauty vitamin.  It is widely available in food, supplements and treatment products.  You can also  whip up an amazing vitamin C serum at home with  just three ingredients that costs less than $10. I will soon be posting a slide show  showing  how to do  just that.

 

 

Is Marijuana the Key to Beautiful Skin? by Deb Chase

marijuana plantQuestion: My friend from Holland says that  marijuana is great for the skin.  Is  that true?   How does it work?

Answer: You had me at marijuana.  While its true that marijuana ( which is legal in Holland)  contains effective antioxidants in the form of cannabinoids, that is not the whole story…..

Smoking marijuana is like smoking traditional tobacco  and  has the same harmful impact  on the heart, lungs and skin.  Some experts even say that it is more dangerous since it is drawn deeper into the longs and held in the airways for greater impact.  Smoke is smoke whether it is more a barbeque grill,  tobacco cigarette or a  hand rolled joint.  All forms of smoke contain carcinogens that raise the risk of many  forms of cancer, especaially  breast and lung cancer.

When it comes to  using  marijuana on the skin, the story is equally disappointing.   Like traditional cigarettes, marijuana smoke  depresses the production of collagen  which will accelerate the formation of lines and wrinkles.

Health Benefits of Marijuana

All kidding aside  researchers have shown that there are potential health benefits of  the THC chemicals found in marijuana.  Cannibinoids  in marijuana are highly effective anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.   Delivered in a vaporizer, marijuana  is used  to successfully relieve nausea  during chemotherapy.   But there is no evidence that adding marijuna to  skin care prodcuts would offer any  unique benefits.  While it has admirable  antioxidant properties, so do green tea, vitamin C, soy and oatmeal.   These easily available ( and universally legal) antioxidants deliver visible results in  affordable serums, moisturizers and masks.   Added to your diet, these antioxidant  rich foods have shown genuine health benefits.   For example a  simple  cardboard carton of oatmeal  can lower  cholesterol, reduce inflammation on the skin and internal organs  and  absorb excess oil on the skin.   In other words eating a bowl of oatmeal  or drinking a glass of OJ   is a easy ( and  law abiding ) approach to   antioxidant delivery.

 

 

 

Beans– The Ultimate Beauty Food by Deb Chase

beansIt woud be hard to invent a healthier food than  the humble bean.  Oounce for ounce beans are 22% protein, more than any other plant food.  Cholesterol free, salt free, gluten free and high in fiber, beans  also deliver an impressive payload of B vitamins, zinc and potassium.  But wait there’s more.  Beans have  almost as much calcium as skin milk.This profile– high in protein and fiber and low in  fat –is exactly  what researchers found when they looked at the links between diet and  skin aging.  And while   prime beef is now $10-20/pound, one pound of dried  beans is less than $2– which works out to less than 30 cents per serving. Seriously.   .

Beans From Around the World

Beans are one of the oldest cultivated foods.  They have been found in Egyptian tombs and are metioned in the Bible.  In fact, Esau sold his birthright  for a dish of beans.   Beans are prominent in a wide range of cultures and countries including Italy, USA, Mexico, Turkey, Latin America, Egypt and India.

The Problem with Beans

Affordable and healthy, beans  have one big problem– they can cause bloating and indigestion. In addition to  an admirable  nutritional  profile, beans contain  an indigestible  sugar complex that ferments into gas in our large intestine.

Some people are more affected than others and soaking dry   beans overnight before cooking can cut back on the problem.  If beans  still cause bloating, limit portions to 1/2 cup and don’t combine with other gas producing foods  like cabbage

Learning to Cook with Beans

I have to admit  that  until I realized their beauty benefits, beans were not  on  my shopping list.   Once I realized their health and nutritional benefits, I decided  to commit to  two servings of beans a week.  To stick to this pledge, I developed a handful of  bean recipes that friends and family would enjoy.   My recipe for white bean spread turned out to be especially popular.   A little pot served  with crostini is the perfct appetizer.  Spread on  whole wheat pita and tpped with  olives and tomates,  this spread makes a terriffic sandwich.  If you’re gluten free spread  some on soft lettuce leaves top with chopped red onions, role  it  up and dip in cucumber yogurt ssauce.   Last week I served it simply with a plate of raw veggies when a video shoot ran late.  Just about the only thing I  haven’t tried was a bean spread face mask.

Rustic Bean Spread

Ingredients: one can navy beans,drained , one medium potato, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 cup of chopped onions, 2 clove of grlic, chopped, 1/4 teasoon dried thyme, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:  Cook the potato  for 30 minutes or until soft.  Peel and cut up into one inch pieces and set aside.  Heat the  oil  and saute  the onions and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes.  Toss in the potatoes, herbs, beans, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir over low heat for a few minutes.  Cool  a bit, then dump  into  food processor. Blend  until fairly smooth.  If the mixture seems  dry  drizzle in addiitonal olive oil.

 

Scared of Vitamins by Deborah Chase

Vitamin pills This has not been a  good  time for the vitamin industry. A recent story  in the New York Times  reported  that vitamin supplements were not what they seemed.  Some were  contaminated by rodent poop while others had 200X recommended levels of selenium.  And then there were those Ayurvedic  supplements which contained  potentially harmful levels  of lead, mercury and arsenic.

Now in December no less than three studies showed that multivitamin supplements  had no health benefits.  Research out of Harvard  Medical School gave 6000 men over 65 a daily multivitamin pill and measured their brain function.  At the end of 12 years, the multi vitamin made  no difference  in cognitive ability. The much  larger US Preventive Service Task Force followed 300,000 men and women who took multi vitamins.  The result?  No change in heart and cancer rates.  Finally researchers at  Division of Cardiology at Columbia University  gave high dose multi vitamins ( 200-6000X RDA) to 1700 men  who  had suffered a heart attack.  Again, there was no difference in any type of cardiac problems.

These large, comprehensive and well-done studies  were all  published in a top ranked medical journal. In addition to more than a dozen major  studies that showed an increased risk of cancers, heart disease and  early death from  high doses of beta carotene and vitamin E supplements, these are not  findings that can be ignored.  But before  we throw out all  our vitamins,  we need  to  put these studies into context.

Vitamin Deficiencies Are Real

I think that we have all forgotten just how devastating vitamin deficiency  diseases  can be.  Three once  common and fatal diseases– scurvy, pellagra and beri-beri were due to lack of vitamin C and B vitamins.  Providing vitamin supplements and/or fortifying  everyday foods with missing nutrients  virtually erased these  terrible  diseases from the entire planet.   The stuggle to identify the causes and treatment  of these illnesses  is  one of the great narratives of public health for the common good. Its also a story that doesn’t get  much attention these days.

When researchers  today look at large populations there are  no longer wide spread deficiency  problems.  But if you drill down to look at individuals, I think different nutritional ptterns  can emerge.  For example  wheat is a major source of thiamin and niacin– and the  now  very popular  gluten-free diets  can be woefully  low in essential nutrients if supplemets are  not used.  Meat is our other  great source of  niacin and  without  supplements vegans can be at high risk for genuine defiencies.  And lets not forget low carb Atkins style diets that avoid  fruits and most vegetables virtually eliminating vitamin C from the diet. Since vitamin C is the  top beauty vitamin, supplementing  a low carb diet is essential for  smooth, firm skin.

Our  uber rapid digital lifestyles  can also contribute  to  low levels of essential nutrients. For example  soda and black coffee decrease aborption of vitamins while stress increases our needs  for  B vitamins and vitamin C.   Finally accelerated agricultural methods and  extensive  food processing dramatically lower the nuritional contents of seemingly healthy foods.

The Bottom Line On Vitamins

I definately  think there is enough evidence to avoid using high doses of vitamins as medication to reduce risk of heart disease and cancer.  However given the real time difficulties  of  meeting even minimal  recommended daily levels, I am  going to continue to use a single  multi-vitamin each morning.  It meets  no more than 100% of RDA for  the most essential  vitamins and micro minerals.  Its those  mega doses I’m going  to leave on the stores shelves.  .

What vitamins  do you take?  Will these widely repored studies  change the way  you take supplements?

 

Beauty Food: Chia Seeds

chia seedsAnyone ‘memba chia pets?  Those terracotta  dogs and  horses that “grew” fuzzy green leaves?  Now it turns out  that these chia seeds my be potential nutritional rock stars.

Chia seeds   are related to the mint family and have been around  since the time of the Aztecs.   You will  find three different types of chia seeds in the health food store. THe white and black seeds  have the same nutritional rofile, while brown seeds are not quite ripe. Gluten free chia seeds are high in calcium, fiber and anti-oxidants.  And good news, they  can  be eaten safely  if you have a nut allergy, adding crunch  to salads and baked goods.

These tiny seeds are also extremely high in linoleic acid– the  vegetable oil most closely linked to fewer wrinkles and younger looking skin. Some experts believe that chia seeds  have a significant health benefits including  lower cholesterol. weight loss, better insulin regulation  and lower triglycerides .  However real eveidnece of these benefits  are  not there yeat so its not wise to count on chia seeds  to manage these health problems.

 Cooking With Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are taseless but can add a bit of crunch to a wide range of recipes.  Given the season, I’m  sharing a perfect pumpkin pancake recipe  that is adapted from a dish I  found on the Nestle website.

Chia- Pumpkin Pancakes

Ingredients:  2 cups of Bisquick, 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 cups milk, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree ( unflavored), 2 tablespoon brown sugar, 2tablespoons sweet butter, melted, 2 tablespoons chia  seeds,

Directions:  Combine flour  and cinnamon in a large bowl.   Mix  milk, eggs, brown sugar, and butter and mix into  dry ingredients.  Stir until  ingredients are blended.  Let the btter rest for 15 minutes and then add chia seeds.  Spray a griddle with Pam, heat and  ppour  1/4 cup batter onto hot  griddle pan.  Watch acrefully and turn with the edges are brown and the surface is covered with bubbles.   Serve with  pure maple syrup.