19 Feb 2021

Camping

One of my favorite beneficial treasured activities is camping. Camping, like most things in life, has its pros and cons. The pros, in my opinion, far outweigh the cons. Cons will be examined first, then the pros.

When thinking of camping the first thought of concern is the weather. I planned a future camping trip with friends. I checked the future weather forecast and it seemed ideal. But, sometimes the weather person gets it wrong. This was one of those times. After setting up our campsite we were greeted with a downpour so intense it brought back memories of the rainy monsoon season in Viet Nam. Bugs and insects can present another drawback. If you’re not prepared or anticipate the nuisance, you might be heading back home much sooner than you think. Depending on where you’re camping animals can be a major problem. I remember camping and being awakened by a skunk prowling through our campgrounds. I didn’t know if it was rabbit or just curious. Either way I didn’t want to investigate to find out.

Hygiene can present another problem. Especially if you’re camping where there isn’t a community shower or bathroom.Cleansing oneself and eliminating bodily waste can be a great challenge.

Those are some of the drawbacks to camping. Now, let’s examine the plethora of benefits derived from camping.

We all know that camping can be a relaxing escape from our daily grind. You can bathe in the forest, trade the sound of traffic for the songs of wind, water, bugs and birds, while creating memories with your friends and family. By the way, forest bathing is a simple concept. Take a short relaxed walk through the woods or a densely natured area, and wait for nature to do its thing. After some time alone, chances are you’ll feel recharged and ready to jump back into your normal activities. Camping is scientifically proven to reduce oxidative stress, as it encourages an active lifestyle and reduces your level of exposure to environmental pollutants, which are a key factor in the development of free radicals that cause oxidative cell damage. Being outside on a consistent basis and avoiding the city for a weekend helps your body to recover from stress symptoms while also reducing the level of inflammation throughout your system.

Camping has the power to shine extra perspective on your life and priorities by giving you space and time away from distractions. In the normal world, it’s easy to distract yourself from focusing on what’s most important to you, whether through work, electronics, or social events. Taking time away from your office, technology, your household responsibilities, and even social pressures can do wonders for helping you prioritize your life

Not only does camping help to lower your stress levels, it’ll also stimulate the production of serotonin, a chemical within your body that naturally makes you feel happier. Better yet, those feelings tend to continue for a while, even after you’ve gone home. Another benefit, serotonin is a precursor for producing melatonin. Melatonin is a chemical that helps us fall asleep. That’s why a lot of campers testify they have had the best night sleep when camping.

When you spend time near a lot of trees, you take in more oxygen. That feeling of happiness that you get when you take your first breath of air at the campground isn’t all in your head, but in the release of serotonin from the extra oxygen. Your body can function with less strain when there’s plenty of oxygen. That’s not the only benefit of fresh air. Research shows that some time outdoors can improve your blood pressure, improve digestion and give your immune system an extra boost. When you spend a few days outside, you get some serious health benefits from the extra oxygen and low levels of pollutants.

If you regularly campout, you’ll enjoy dozens of significant health benefits from: fresh air, socializing, improve moods, less stress, exercise, sunshine, and a good night’s sleep. Thus, the benefits do indeed outweigh the cons. If you’ve never camped, you should give it a try. Do not fall into the category of denying before trying. Be adventurous. Go for it!!

09 Feb 2021

Athletics

In my high school and college days I was a very active athlete. I enjoyed playing basketball, track, football and wrestling. I felt I was at my peak physically. When my friends ask me if I would like to learn how to play the sport of golf, you might imagine my reaction. Are you serious? Golf isn’t a bonafide sport. Golf is a recreational event where older adults get together to drink and gossip. As Larry Atkins, a lawyer and writer wrote in the Chicago Tribune. Golf isn’t a sport, it’s a skill much like bowling, billiard, darts, auto racing, curling, shuffleboard and pinochle. It’s an activity that older people take up when their knees go bad and they can’t play real sports like baseball, basketball and football anymore.

This was the exact attitude I possessed about golf in my younger days. Now, that I have matured somewhat or my aches and pains have caught up to me. My outlook on life has changed somewhat, including my thoughts about golf. I have reached that stage where I can’t participate in activities like basketball, baseball or football, my knees and body will not allow.

My friends once again approached me and asked if I would be interested in learning how to play golf. At first, I said no but they were very persistent. I thought to myself, golf consists of a lot of gossip and socializing. I can socialize and gossip with the best of them so why not give it a try. If I truly don’t like it I can always quit.

Learning golf is more than I anticipated, it is very challenging. But,I began to enjoy the challenge. Walking in the great outdoors and taking in the fresh air. The golf courses I have visited are spacious and beautiful, how could you not enjoy taken in Mother Nature’s natural glory. My friends that encouraged me to take up golfing have abandoned the practice. I’m still at it. Because,I love the benefit it provides.

Playing golf regularly helps me stay fit, improves my muscle tone and endurance and I have lost weight. Golf is good for my mind. As physical as golf can be, 90% of the game is mental. An 18 hole round is basically one long mental exercise, constantly making me think and forcing me to stay focused on the task at hand. Golf can also help relieve stress, anxiety, and even depression. It’s also a great way to meet and make new friends.

The lesson I learned from this experience is one everyone should embrace. Condemnation prior to investigation can distort a person’s outlook on life. You should try it before you deny it. That’s all for now. Remember, the potential to create a meaningful and productive life lies within us all.

17 Nov 2020

The Great Outdoors

Many people spend workdays indoors under fluorescent lights and in front of computers, then go home to bask in the glow of television screens. Because of the Pandemic, others that work at home, aren’t any better off. They’re exposed to the same electronic devices just in a home environment. This routine goes on day-in and day-out with no end in sight.  If this keeps up, a war will ensue between income and health.  A balance must be struck between the two. Without balance each can destroy the other resulting in total destruction. They both go together hand and hand.  A synergistic balance must be formed, it is the only solution to ensure their survival. Is there any solution or insight to insure this balance. A light at the end of the tunnel to insure hope. After all hope spring eternal. The resounding answer is definitely YES in capital letters.

The answer is nature, Mother Nature. To explain, lets take a journey with our mind as the pilot and navigator. We can all afford the cost of the journey, and there is no obligation now or in the future. First ,find a chair or couch where you can get totally comfortable. Relax by taking slow deep breaths in and out. Calm your inner being by repeating the word relax several times or until you feel you’re totally relaxed. Now, close your eyes and visualize gazing at the most awesome, enchanting and magnificent sunrise you have ever witnessed. Its like Mother Nature exploding and displaying unbelievable colors, presenting all their glory and beauty before your very eyes. Sense the feeling that overwhelms you, wishing you could capture the moment to share with the world Mother Nature’s splendor. Words can not explain the joyous mood you feel. You feel as though you’re engulfed in a mist of serenity. You’re at peace.

The state of being at peace may seem farfetched and even unobtainable to some. This bring to mind the statement”can’t see the forest for the trees”.Because the answer seems rather apropos at this point, it’s  right in plain sight. The  answer, Mother Nature with all her glory. When commingling with Mother Nature the physiological and mental changes one undergoes are simply amazing. Spending time in forests, hiking in mountains, and just being outside can lead to significant health benefits. Studies have shown that walking in the woods can improve blood pressure, boost mental health, and decrease cancer risk. People do need to spend time in natural environments if they want to improve their physical and mental health. That could mean taking advantage of hiking trails near your home, playing in the snow, swimming in the ocean, or just spending time every week in a local park.

There is much more evidence of the benefits of the great outdoors. Several studies show that nature walks have memory-promoting effects that other walks don’t. In one study, University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups. One group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who walked among trees did almost 20% better than they had first time. The people who had taken in city sights instead did not consistently improve.

Something about being outside changes the physical expression of stress in the body. One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had decreased heart rates and lower levels of cortisol, a hormone often used as a marker for stress, then those who spent that time in the city. Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy. Among office workers, even a view of nature out a widow is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in nature, especially when that’s combined with exercise. One study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments for major depressive disorder.

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight hitting the skin begins the circuitous process. The liver and kidney get involved that eventually leads to the creation of the biologically active form of the vitamin. Overall, research is showing that many vitamins, while necessary don’t have such great disease-fighting powers, but Vitamin D may prove to be the exception. Epidemiologic studies are suggesting it may have protective effects against everything from osteoporosis to cancer to depression to heart attacks and stroke. Even by conventional standards, many Americans don’t have enough vitamin D circulating in their bodies. The good new is that you’ll make all the vitamin D you need if you get outside a few times a week and expose your arms and legs for 10 to 15 minutes. Sure, you can take a pill for it, but getting vitamin D the natural way, from being out in the sun gives you more benefits than pharmaceutical can.

Outdoor can also boost your immune system. Scientists think that breathing in phytoncides, air borne chemical produced by plants, increases our levels of white blood cells, helping us fight off infections and diseases. Outdoor also provides us with free aromatherapy. According to science, you really should stop and smell the flowers. Research shows that natural scents like roses, freshly cut grass, and pine make us feel calmer and more relax.

Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit. After all, the environment is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest. It is our thing that all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.

There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story. The earth has music for those who listen.

There are so many reasons and benefits why going outside is an integral part of any health plan. Best of all, it doesn’t require any sort of special equipment, clothing or location. All you have to do is step out your front door to reap the benefits. And remember, of all the different paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

11 Nov 2020

EXERCISE,WHY?

Too many people have the wrong idea of exercise. Their exercise consist of jumping to conclusions, running up bills, crunching charge cards, swimming in debt, stretching the truth, bending over backwards, lying down on the job, side stepping responsibility and pushing their luck. Others feel, if it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the fridge are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all. If this is your idea of exercise or physical activity, because you just don’t have the time, I want to let you in on a secret. Those who think they have no time for physical activities will sooner or later have to find time for illness. Also these so called physical activities don’t lead to a treasure chest of health, instead to a life full of stress, anxiety and inflammation.

Lets examine the role of inflammation. Inflammation plays a central role in healing. When it’s good, it fights off foreign invaders, heals injuries and mops up debris. But when it’s bad, inflammation ignites a long list of disorders. Inflammation can travel throughout the body and cause problems all over. Over time, chronic inflammation can trigger your immune system to attack healthy tissue and organs in your body. When left untreated, prolonged chronic inflammation can increase your risk for disease like, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, blindness and cancer. Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. It’s important to take brain inflammation seriously because it can rapidly degenerate the brain, raising the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain degenerative disease. When you see”itis” at the end of a condition, it means inflammation such as encephalitis, appendicitis, arthritis, colitis, bronchitis, hepatitis and cystitis. There is more, much more but I think you get the point. Inflammation can be very nasty.

Now, it’s time to put exercise under the microscope. Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom. And, with any kingdom, in order to safe guard its treasure (health) you must guard and work at it continuously.
Lets explore some of the jewels or benefits found in the treasure chest of health.

Exercise possesses many different jewels or benefits for health. Recently, research at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found how just one session of moderate exercise can also act as a anti-inflammatory. The brain and sympathetic nervous system, a pathway that serves to accelerate heart rate and raise blood pressure, among other things, are activated during exercise to enable the body to carry out work. Hormones, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, are released into the blood stream and trigger adrenergic receptors, which immune cells produces. This activation process during exercise produces immunological responses, which include the production of many cytokines, or proteins, one of which is TNF a key regulator of local and systemic inflammation that also helps boost immune responses. The study found one session of about 20 minutes of moderate treadmill exercise resulted in a five percent decrease in the number of stimulated immune cells producing TNF. Exercise is also known to reduce a number of inflammatory markers, like c-reactive protein and interleukin-6, which are linked to a number of diseases. The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise are likely one of the underpinnings of its effects against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, neurodegenerative conditions and more.

Another jewel or benefit of exercise. The American Heart Association started the country’s first set of exercise guidelines in 1972. And it’s not hard to envision why exercise helps the heart. If you’re physically active, your heart gets trained to beat slower and stronger, so it needs less oxygen to function well, your arteries get springier, so they push your blood along better, and your levels of good HDL cholesterol go up. It’s also not much of a surprise that physical activity helps prevent diabetes. Muscles that are used to working stay more receptive to insulin, the hormone that ushers blood sugar into cells, so in fit individuals blood sugar levels aren’t as likely to creep up.

Exercise can also trigger the growth of new brain cells. Neuroscientists used to believe the brain was the only organ incapable of growing new cells which partly makes sense, since we need our brains to be relatively stable over time, to keep our memories intact and to keep us us. But, in recent years its become clear that the brain, too, can grow new neurons, in a process called neurogenesis. And what seems to spur the growth of new neurons, perhaps above other activities, is aerobic exercise. The area of the brain that seems most capable of growing new cells is the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory. It’s also the area that’s known to shrink in depression, and particularly in dementia, so the fact that we may have some control over our health is very promising.

Exercise has many more benefits. It’s known to slow the aging process, improve mood, makes us more resilient to stress, improve social skills, give us better sleep and improve our memory.

Food for thought:
The act of getting strong doesn’t start in the gym, it starts in your head.

Fitness is not about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you used to be.

Exercise is done against one’s wishes and maintained only because the alternative is worse.

Not only will exercise make you look fantastic, but it will make you feel that way too.

The best fashion statement is a fit, healthy body.

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it’s the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.

Exercise plays a vital role in my life. The way I keep at it is to do things I truly enjoy, like biking, hiking, walking, golfing, camping, Tai Chi, and swimming. If you can find something that you enjoy doing and it is physical activity, you’ve killed two birds with one stone ( forgive the reference to killing birds) but you get the point. Go for it, the benefits of exercise are simply amazing. Talk to you soon, stay healthy and safe.

02 Nov 2020

The Magic of Art

I firmly believe in holistic health. Holistic health is defined as caring for the whole person, providing for physical, mental, spiritual, and social needs. It’s rooted in the understanding that all these aspects affect your overall health and being depleted in one aspect affects you in others. But, if all four aspects are grounded in an enriching and positive environment this will enable a person to live their life to its happiest and fullest. Art provides this environment.

In my website, on my blog page, there are five pillars that line the path that leads to holistic health, cooking, music, art, outdoor activities and exercise. I have expressed the positive reinforcement and enriching power in cooking and music.
Now, it’s time to investigate the Magic of Art.

We must first define art. Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. This, granted is a most primitive definition of art. Art is more, much more than a primitive definition. Art is a reflection or interpretation of the depths of ones inner being. Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows to people these secrets which are common to all. Think of a painting that is a rendition of pain, it evokes similar emotions and feeling in us all. Art transcends cultural, spiritual and racial lines, just about any demarkation you can conceive. In a word, art transcends.

The Magic of Art: Art has many facets, such as contemporary, abstract expressionism, art deco, impressionism, surrealism and avant-garde, this is a small part of the expansiveness of art. In order to throughly examine and explore each facet of art would be impossible, my life expectancy would not grant me the time. Therefore, I will reveal some of the more salient facts about art.

How does  art impact our lives? With the art that we are surrounded by, whether it’s a painting, music or even videos can have a huge impact on our mood and emotions. All kinds of art can affect our mood in a positive way, making us feel happier, calmer, or even inspired to do something. Think of the Nike saying, “Just Do It”. Or reading a comic strip that overwhelm you with laughter.

Art is important because it encompasses all the developmental domains in child development. Art increases physical development and the enhancement of fine and gross motor skills. Children learn about themselves and others through art activities. It really helps them build self-esteem and confidence. I can still see the look on my child’s face when I hung one of his first drawing on the fridge. His confidence and self-esteem soared, he proudly showed everyone his accomplishment. This not only improved his outlook but overwhelmed me with joy for I am the little artist proud father.

Art is generally understood as any activity or product done by people with a communicative or aesthetic purpose, something that expresses an idea, an emotion, more generally, a world view. It is a component of culture, reflecting economic and social trends in its design.

Self expression is one of the purposes of art. It is a way to show our feelings and emotions. It can also make a political statement a religious statement or even a whimsical statement. Art, is very personal and evokes different feelings in different people. That’s why good art is art that allows you to enter from a variety of angles and to emerge with a variety of views.

More evidence of the Magic of Art: There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence that proves art enhances brain function. It has an impact on brain wave patterns and emotions, the nervous system and can actually raise serotonin levels. Art can change a person’s outlook and the way they experience the world. Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have a soul.

Researchers have explored the benefits of art therapy for treating a variety of physical health difficulties. Some of their findings show art therapy helped reduced pain, decrease symptoms of stress and improve quality of life in adult cancer patients. Studies have also shown that expressing themselves through art can help people with depression and anxiety. And, doing so has been linked to improved memory, reasoning and resilience in healthy older people. The beneficial effects of creating aren’t dependent on a person skill or talent.

Furthermore, the benefits of art aren’t merely in your head. The impact of art, music and writing can be seen in your physical body as well. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine used writing as a treatment for HIV patients, found that writing resulted in improvements of CD4+lymphocyte counts. That’s the fancy way of saying the act of writing actually impacted the cells inside the patient’s body and improved their immune system. In other words, the process of creating art doesn’t just make you feel better, it also creates real, physical changes inside your body. In our always-on, always-connected world of television, social media, and on-demand everything, it can be stupidly easy to spend your entire day consuming information and simply responding to all the inputs that bombard your life. Art offers an outlet and a release from all of that. Take a minute to ignore all of the incoming signals and create an outgoing one instead. Produce something. Express yourself in some way. As long as you contribute rather than consume anything you do, can be a work of art.
Creating art isn’t just for artists, art is for everyone! Within each of us lies a spark of creativity. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try drawing, painting, sculpting, or fine art photography, but never had the time or opportunity to do so. With the knowledge of all the benefits artistic pursuits can provide, I hope you won’t put off exploring your artistic side any longer! You have nothing to loose and everything to gain, go for it. Be safe and enjoy life to its fullest, we only get one shot at life so give it your “best”.

27 Oct 2020

The Art of Music

Cooking with all its different modalities is my website’s main focus. However my interest encompasses more than cooking. Some of my activities I enjoy beside cooking, include art, outdoor activities, music and exercise. At this time I will examine music and give you my interpretation of it.

Our bodies are sacred temples. We must pay attention to every aspect of our temple from the foundation to the very top of the temple. In other words, we need a holistic approach to our bodies to obtain and maintain optimum health. We all know the body is composed of many different systems. We have the cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory and reproductive systems, to name a few. However the body is unique, complicated and complex system where all systems are harmoniously, synchronistically, intertwine, what effects one system effects them all.

A holistic approach encompasses the whole being, all the systems, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. This is the reason why I have blended music into my life as a major component.

If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout. Studies have shown that music produces several positive effects on our body and brain. Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory. Research has also shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, and mental alertness.

Therapeutically music has played a big role throughout the years, Evidences was presented as a result of a experiment conducted in 1914 with patients undergoing surgery. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that phonograph in operating room was a means of calming and distracting patients from the horror of the situation as they lie awake during surgery. Today, we have anesthesia, music is used to calm nerves before surgery. Valium type drugs are used as sedatives but they can have a variety of negative side effects including sometimes making people even more agitated. A study was performed to see if relaxing music had a greater anxiety reducing effect than a standard dose of drugs. The results revealed that playing soft jazz worked significantly better than the drugs. The music produced lower anxiety scores, lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure and the difference in the side effects of relaxing music compared to the drug is obvious. There were none, soft jazz causes no post-operative hangover.

The results of listening to music can sometimes be mystifying. Music has been found to stimulate parts of the brain. Studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, including a study conducted at UC Irvine, which showed that scores on memory tests of Alzheimer’s patients improved when they listened to classical music. Other studies have found that classical music enhances memory retrieval, including Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. The thought is that classical music helps fire off synapses, creating or re-energizing brain pathways previously left dormant.

Music is present in every part of our lives. Our spiritual rituals are framed with songs, children learn the alphabet through song and the malls and cafes we frequent are rarely silent. Did you also know that early childhood is critical time to support children’s desire to sing, move and play with sound. Research shows that music and music experiences support the formation of important brain connections that are being established over the first three years of life.

Music triggers the hormones oxytocin and serotonin, responsible for bonding, trust and intimacy. Music brings people together, allowing us to experience the same emotions such as, happiness after watching a funny movie, sorrow and sadness while attending a funeral or fear during a earthquake. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit.

In conclusion, music is one of the greatest creation of mankind. Creativity in the pure and undiluted form is the true definition of music. Music is an important part of our life as it is a way of expressing our feeling as well as emotions. Some people consider music as a way to escape from the pain of life. Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. It gives you relief and allows you to reduce stress. Music is a powerful therapy that will make you calm down and in the moment of joy, it will make you cheerful. Furthermore, it develops the mind and boosts your self confidence. Music plays a more important role in our life than just being a source of entertainment.

As stated earlier, this is my interpretation of music. I sincerely hope after reading this you will look upon music with a similar interpretation an recognize it’s many treasures. Signing off for now.

20 Oct 2020

Spices

When it comes to spices, one of my favorite is “cinnamon”. Cinnamon deserves to be put in the spot light because it is one of the healthiest spices in the world. Before I get into spices, let me differentiate between spices and herbs.

The difference between spices and herbs depends on which part of the plant that it comes from. Herbs are the leaves of the plant, while spices, come from the roots, stalk, bark, dry fruit, and seeds. Simply put, any part of the plant that is not a leaf and can be used for seasoning, would fall into the spice category. Some plants are used for both herbs and spices: like cilantro (the leaves) and coriander (the seeds) of the cilantro plant.

Now, that we know the difference between herbs and spices, let’s explore cinnamon. Cinnamon’s history dates back to ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians used it as a medicine, a spice, and as an embalming agent. Because of its scarcity and its multiple use cinnamon was so valued that it was considered more precious than gold at the time.

There are hundreds of types of cinnamon, but only 4 varieties are used for commercial purposes. These include Ceylon, Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje cinnamon. Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje cinnamon are scientifically classified as Cassia cinnamon, due to similarities in color, shape, and coumarin content. Thus, in reality there are just two types of cinnamon we are concerned about, Cassia, and Ceylon.

Before I get into the difference between the two Cassia and Ceylon, I need to discuss the benefits of using cinnamon in the first place. There are three elements in the essential oils of cinnamon, which make it a powerful spice. The three elements are: cinnamyl alcohol, cinnamaldehyde, and cinnamyl acetate. Cinnamyl alcohol is typically used in fragrances and cosmetic products, cinnamyl acetate is used in products like hair conditioners and shampoos. All three of these elements are anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial agents, and combine to make cinnamon a very potent antioxidant filled spice.

Cinnamon comes from a tree and the cinnamon we use is actually the bark. Cinnamon is sold as a ground power. There are two different kinds, Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon. The Cassia variety is referred to as fake cinnamon and Ceylon as true cinnamon. The cinnamon commonly found in most supermarkets is likely the Cassia variety. Why is it so common? Well, unfortunately, Cassia is considered lower quality and happens to be cheap, making it the best choice for large chain stores that sometimes sacrifice quality for price.

Cassia cinnamon contains a very high amount of coumarin. Coumarin is a flavoring substance and it can be toxic. Cassia cinnamon typically contains over 1,000 times more coumarin compared with the true cinnamon,”Ceylon”. Large amounts of coumarin, especially prolonged daily use, could potentially cause health problems.

Coumarin, is present in much higher concentrations in Cassia than in Ceylon cinnamon, which may be very important if you are taking certain hepatotoxic medications, preparing to undergo a surgical or dental procedure, if you’re considered to be at a high risk of bleeding. Because, coumarin is a natural blood thinner. Though coumarin is a natural ingredient, it carries a risk for causing liver damage or failure in sensitive individuals and among those who consume the Cassia cinnamon daily, or in large amounts. Cassia cinnamon has high levels of coumarin, which is why some European countries have banned the Cassia variety. While abstaining from Cassia cinnamon is warranted for some individuals, the average person does not need to worry about coumarin overdose. People that regularly consume more than a teaspoon a day, a diet that is rich in vitamin K  may help, as will switching to Ceylon cinnamon to avoid potential risk to the liver.

Ceylon cinnamon has 1,000 times less coumarin than Cassia. It is softer and lighter brown in color compared to Cassia. It’s sweeter tasting, and the big difference is it’s more expensive and harder too fine. Also due to the better quality, Ceylon has far less potential to cause harm when consumed regularly.

Scientific studies confirm that the benefits of cinnamon are numerous. This includes, but is not limited to antimicrobial and anti-parasitic activity, along with the lowering of blood glucose, antioxidant and free-radical scavenging properties, anti-inflammatory activity, anti-clotting and wound healing properties. Cinnamon also helps stop the growth of bacteria, as well as fungus. Cinnamon may help enhance cognitive function and memory. When studying for a test or brushing up on vocabulary in a new language, waft cinnamon essential oil under your nose or sip cinnamon tea for a brain boost. Cinnamon contains a nice amounts of manganese, calcium, fiber, and iron. Whats more the cinnamyl acetate, cinnamyl alcohol, and cinnamaldehde found in cinnamon oil may have antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

What are the most common uses for cinnamon? Possibly the most common cinnamon is a baking spice, cinnamon is used in cakes, cookies, and desserts throughout the world. Cinnamon is also used in savory chicken and lamb dishes from the Middle East. In American cooking, cinnamon is often paired with apples and used in other fruit and cereal dishes. If you decide to use cinnamon, use organic “Ceylon” it’s better for your health.

When it comes to incorporating cinnamon into my recipes I like to experiment. I’ve tried cinnamon in many different combinations. Some turned out really good others not so good. The point I am trying to make is, be daring, even if it turns out, not so good you’ll still be consuming one of the healthiest spices in the world. You have everything to gain (your health) and nothing to loose, go for it! I will be researching more of my favorite spices in the future so stay tuned in.

14 Oct 2020

I love to cook

I’ve been cooking for over 55 years. Through research, trial and error, I’ve picked up some useful cooking tips. And, today I wish to share them with you in hopes of making life a little less hectic.

I love cooking with garlic. Garlic has many health benefits, and I love it’s taste. The problem with fresh garlic is peeling it. It can be a tedious and time consuming task. Some people like to take the flat surface of a knife and crush the individual clove, then peel. I’ve found a faster and easier way. Separate the cloves, place on a microwave safe plate, in a single layer, zap for 10-15 seconds. Let the cloves cool, once cooled the shell or covering comes off very easily. The zapping in the microwave will not damage the garlic in anyway.

The art of peeling and slicing onions. Slicing onions can feel like an all out assault on our eyes causing a deluge of tears. The solution, put the onions in ice cold water for 10 minutes before cutting to prevent watery eyes. I sometimes peel my onions while still in the water, then take them out and slice. This method works quite well doing either a small or large amount of onions. Give this method a try, you will not be disappointed.

Rinse your rice before cooking. Most types of rice have a layer of starch outside of each piece. If you don’t rinse it, the rice might not absorb water properly. Some of the starches can also make the rice taste bitter. You can also drop a teaspoon of coconut oil into your boiling pot of water before cooking your rice. Researchers from the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka say that the rice will have 10 times the resistant starch (a good thing, it slows down rapid digestion) and stays this way even as a leftover.

Add salt and oil to boiling pasta water. The salt will season the pasta, while the oil will keep them from sticking together.

When you salt is as important as how much you salt. Season chicken, pork, and turkey up to eight hours before cooking. The salt will penetrate the meat fully and yield juicier, more fully seasoned results. But, with burgers, season seconds before cooking otherwise, the salt will break down the protein strands and create tougher patties. Too much salt? Use a splash of vinegar to provide a counterbalancing punch of acid.

Always slice your meat against the grain, this will keep your meat flavorful and tender, not chewy.

Do not slice into meat right after it finishes cooking, precious juices will escape. Wait five minutes before biting into burgers or grilled chicken, seven minutes before cutting into steaks, and 15 minutes before carving a large roast. This will ensure the majority of the juices and flavor will remain intact.

Steaks need to warm up before cooking. If you’ve invested the dollars to buy a beautifully marbled steak you want to cook it so it turns out to be a masterpiece. So, never send it straight to the grill from the fridge. You need to let it warm up before you grill it. Let all steaks, chickens, and pork chops rest at room temperature at lease 15 minutes before putting them on a grill or skillet. This warm-up period will help the muscles relax so the steak cooks more evenly. When you’ve finished with the grill, remove the meat and put it on a plate to rest once again. the resting period will help juices and liquid fat in the meat stop moving so you can cut into it without all the good stuff oozing out.

Have you ever had a problem with your produce wilting? If so, drop your aging produce into ice water before cooking. Plants wilt due to water loss, ice water penetrates  their cells to restore crispness.

Zap lemons, oranges, or limes for 15 seconds in the microwave before squeezing them. The fruit will yield twice as much juice.

Sprinkle flour on your bacon to reduce grease splatters. It’ll also make your bacon extra crispy.

Have you ever wanted to rescue tough stale cookies, but didn’t know how? Simply place the cookies in a container with a fresh piece of soft bread. The cookies will soak up the bread’s moisture in no time.

Avocado turns brown wickedly fast once cut. Is there anyway we can slow down the oxidation process (browning)? Once cut, leave the avocado pit in place, wrap it in plastic, and slip it in the fridge. When you’re ready to use it, remove the fruit from the fridge, let it come to room temperature, and then remove the pit. The pit can stop some oxygen from reaching the flesh of the fruit, which will slow browning.

Cooking can be quick, but when it requires time, you need to let it happen. Let pans heat up properly before you add oil. Let oil heat up properly before you add food. Let food sit and brown evenly before you flip. You won’t regret the time it takes when you see that delicious brown crust or charred bits, but you can’t recreate it once you’ve rushed the process.

I hope these tidbits can help you in your quest to create some memorable moments in the kitchen. Why not make it a family affair to remember for years to come? This is one way to really strengthen the family bonds. I look forward to talking again soon, stay safe and well.

Dave

06 Oct 2020

Fat Facts

I can remember when the health community stated limiting our fat intake was a healthy way to go. Low fat diets became the fad. They did not differentiate the good vs the bad fats. Their purpose was to lower the intake of all fats. We switched to a low fat food diet. But the shift didn’t make us healthier, probably because we cut back on healthy fats as well as harmful ones.

Are fats really bad for us? According to Harvard Medical School our body needs some fat from food. It’s a major source of energy. It helps us absorb some vitamins and minerals. Fat is needed to build cell membranes, the vital exterior of each cell, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. It is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. These are some of the functions of good healthy fats.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are considered the good fats. Foods high in good fats include avocados, tofu, nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil, peanut butter, boiled soybean, flaxseed oil, cheese, and eggs. This list is by no means all inclusive. According to my food data.com good fat can help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, lower bad LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing good HDL, lower blood pressure and triglycerides. The discovery that good fat could be healthful came from the seven countries study during the 1960s. Harvard medical school research revealed that people in Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean region enjoyed a low rate of heart disease despite a high-fat diet. The main fat in their diet, though, was not the saturated animal fat common in countries with higher rates of heart disease, It was olive oil, which is viewed as a good fat. This finding produced a surge of interest in olive oil and the “Mediterranean Diet”a style of eating regarded as a healthful choice today.

Trans fat (bad fat) according to the Mayo Clinic standard, is considered the worst type of fat you can eat. It is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn healthy oils into solids and to prevent them from becoming rancid. Trans fats have no known health benefits and that there is no safe level of consumption, according to Harvard Medical School. Eating foods rich in trans fats increase the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Trans fat create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Even small amounts of trans fats can harm health, for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rise by 23%. Examples of foods that contain high levels of trans fats are stick margarine, fast foods, commercial baked goods (donuts, cookies, crackers), processed foods, and fried foods. Trans fats may pose a risk of developing certain cancers according to WebMD.

The last fat that comes under scrutiny is saturated fats. Saturated fats has both a positive and negative effect on our health. Researchers recommend saturated fat intake at the minimum because the scientific community generally accept it to be a biological necessity. In fact, saturated fat is so important, our body actually makes its own from carbohydrates via a process called de novo lipogenesis.

Our body seeks homeostasis all the time and it couldn’t be more relevant when it comes to fatty acid balance. Saturated fats and unsaturated fats help promote optimal cell membrane fluidity where the former makes cell membrane less fluid and the latter, more fluid. The body needs saturated fat to produce hormones in our body. Hormones are responsible for muscle growth, bone health, and reproductive health. Fat, not just saturated fat, in general is also needed for organ protection and energy production not just for energy’s sake, but also for producing body heat by means of thermogenesis. Fat is also required by the body to digest, absorb, and transport vitamins A,D,E, and K because of their fat-soluble nature.

The negative side of saturated fats. While some saturated fat is necessary for your diet, about five or six percent of your average daily intake, according to the American Heart Association, too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels and increase your store of LDL, the type of cholesterol that causes plaque buildup in the arteries. Because of this correlation, it is possible that a diet rich in saturated fats can lead to health risks like heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes. The health hazards of high intakes of saturated fats, however, can depend on the type of food source they come from. For example, the National Institutes of Health found that processed meats can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, while dairy may decrease it.

These are just some of the known facts about fats. I hope this research helps you make an inform decision on which foods to embrace and which to avoid. Until the next time, stay save.

Dave

25 Sep 2020

Are you a fast food junkie?

Are you a fast food junkie?

Do you occasionally frequent fast food establishments? If you answered yes to either of these questions, this blog is especially for you. It’s also for anyone that is really concerned about their nutritional health.

First let me introduce myself. My name is David. I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my loving, caring and adorable soul-mate, Lynn. We’ve been getting on each others nerves for over twenty years. She is definitely a keeper. I am a people person. I get great pleasure in helping others. This is evident in the work i’ve done. I retired  as a Federal Government Employee after 32 years. I worked at the Veteran Administration Hospital as a registered nurse in the medical surgical and cardiac units. I care what happens to people. As a nurse one of my duties was to inform my patient of all the important facts related to their health care. When a person is giving the facts they can make an informed decision about their health care. This is the same philosophy i stress not only in my blog but in most aspects of my life. Decisions based on facts.

Enough about me. It’s time to examine some facts about fast food. What is the allure that attracts people? Most people answer it’s fast, convenience, cheap, saves time and virtually no clean up to content with. I agree with all these above with the exception of cheap. Sales gimmicks like offering discounts on value meals like chicken nuggets or happy meals is to get the customer in the door. Once inside the non-discount menu items have become increasing expensive over the years. Bloomberg reports hamburger price hikes of upwards of 55 % and chicken sandwiches 27% since 2008. This is just a few examples, the price has gone up on just about everything. These cost increases exceed overall U.S. price inflation recorded during the same period.

The greatest disadvantage of fast food is the adverse effect that it has on one’s health. It is a fact that fast food is more unhealthy than home cooked meals. Home cooked meals are also cheaper. According to a report from the Center for Young Women’s Health fast food contains higher amounts of unwanted nutrients like salt, fat and  various types of additives (artificial chemicals). It may contain harmful bacteria too. Fast food is usually higher in calories, cholesterol,, and sodium in comparison to homemade meals. Eating too much fast food can increase risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. There are much more undeniable facts. Health-line reports fast food can cause a host of problems, acne, depression, dental distress, headache, heart disease or stroke, shortness of breath, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weigh gain, extra calories, blood sugar spike, insulin resistance(diabetes), bloating and puffiness. It can also be very addictive. Given a choice fast food would not rank in my win column.

The reason why i created Topcheftrends.com (with the help of the Deleni Group). Money is always a motivator but not my main reason. The main reason was to give people a healthy choice other than fast food. I really care about people and their health. I’ve been helping people the majority of my life. Once retired i sought a way to keep helping people. I love to cook so what better way to help people then by sharing my cooking experience

Topcheftrends.com can offer you recipes that can save you money. Home cooked meals are much cheaper than fast food. With proper preparation home cooked meals can save time, be convenience and provide you with good healthy nutrition. What do i mean by proper preparation? When i worked i would cook and prepare my meals for the entire week on Saturday and Sunday. I would then freeze individual meals.All i had to do was take the meal out of the freezer before work, come home pop it in the microwave then eat, simple. With Topcheftrends you can learn about soups, baking tips, healthy food choices and so much more. With the Pandemic limiting our social interacting this is a great time to be in the kitchen. You can create family activity time. Everyone can contribute to meal preparation. You will get great satisfaction out of creating your own recipes. The only thing that will limit you is your imagination. So, don’t hesitate, as Nike says, Just Do IT. I can help, check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

This is my first blog. I look forward to writing many more, stay tuned. Thank you

Dave

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