Archive for August, 2008

Don’t forget—have a glass of wine

August 27, 2008

By now, you’ve probably guessed I’m a fan of wine. And yes, I liked it even before all the health benefits started piling up. But that’s why I take delight in passing along the latest findings.

The latest is research showing that “compounds commonly found in red wine and grape seeds may help treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.” Wine Spectator‘s Tina Benitez reported last week on the study conducted by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers tested non-lethal doses of grape seed extract on mice that had attributes of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Dr. Guilio Pasinetti, professor of neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and research leader on the study, “The grape seed extract was so beneficial that it almost completely prevented the typical characteristics of degeneration of the brain.” Clinical studies on humans will begin in a few months.

And that’s cool. But while I’m waiting for the results, I think I’ll stick to my own study of the benefits of a glass or two of wine a night.

Read the entire Wine Spectator article—“Grape Seeds May Combat Alzheimer’s”—here. Photo by Roberto Caucino.

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Cholesterol, schmolesterol—eggs are good for you

August 20, 2008

Yes, eggs have cholesterol in them. But scientists now say that they also have something that blocks the absorption of that cholesterol. Since I’m writing about French toast this week in Blue Kitchen, it seemed like a good time to update this post I did about a year ago.

eggs.jpg

The people over at the American Egg Board need to get on the stick. Studies showed that wine in moderate amounts is good for you, especially red wine. Bingo. That story is everywhere. Winemakers are even trying to get legislation passed to tout the health benefits on labels.

Ditto chocolate, especially dark chocolate. Not only does it deliver antioxidants, which are good for your heart and arteries. Most of the fats in dark chocolate are the good kind like those found in olive oil, and even the bad ones appear to have a neutral effect on cholesterol. The chocolate marketing machine went to work and now, show of hands, who out there doesn’t know—at least on some level—that eating chocolate is actually good for you?

Well, back in 2001, nutrition researchers at Kansas State University published the first evidence that, even though eggs contain considerable amounts of cholesterol, the lecithin in eggs prevents the absorption of cholesterol from eggs and other sources too.

In 2004, a University of Connecticut report went further, stating that eating eggs is not related to body cholesterol levels or cardiovascular problems and recommending that “people with normal cholesterol levels and no family history of cardiovascular diseases should not worry about eating one or two eggs a day.”

How many of you knew that? Yeah, I thought so. The American Egg Board [still touting their innocuous “incredible edible egg” line, but only supporting it with the most timid, tepid information on their website] has been asleep at the wheel for seven years. There’s not word one about the cholesterol-blocking power of eggs. And all that while, we’ve all been quaking needlessly in our egg-white-omelet-eating boots.

To recap: Eggs good, not bad. Low in fat and calories, very high in quality protein. And most important, studies show that the lecithin in eggs actually prevents the absorption of cholesterol—not only from eggs, but from other sources.

So go eat some eggs. Have some dark chocolate. Wash it all down with some red wine. Just do it all in moderation—Oscar Wilde would have wanted it that way.

Coffee, wine and conflicting health stories

August 13, 2008

In the interest of full disclosure here, I don’t drink coffee. I’ve tried to acquire a taste a number of times, but the taste just doesn’t live up to the promise of the aroma. But when I saw a recent article on myths surrounding America’s favorite caffeine delivery system in the Health section of The New York Times, I was still interested.

In “Sorting Out Coffee’s Contradictions,” Jane E. Brody takes on a number of misconceptions about coffee and health, from hypertension to cancer to bone loss. And she gives it a refreshingly clean bill of health. Read the complete article here.

Wine and breast cancer:
The jury’s still out

I’ve written a number of times here about the various health benefits of drinking wine in moderation, from reduced stress to improved memory and heart health. But one troubling area has been the possible link of even moderate wine consumption to increased risk of breast cancer in women.

A recent article in Wine Spectator shows that the jury is indeed still out on this one. That the headline of the article by Jacob Gaffney, “Two Studies Look to Red Wine for Breast Cancer Prevention,” is followed by the subhead “Another study, however, finds drinking raises the risk” says it all.

While the one study “found that women who drink between one and three drinks a day had a 24 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to nondrinkers,” two other studies point in the opposite direction. In fact, a report published in the July 2008 issue of Cancer Prevention Research found that “resveratrol [found in red wine] suppresses the metabolism of estrogen, thereby protecting cells from becoming cancerous, in one of many anti-breast cancer activities the red wine chemical exhibits.” Read the complete article here.

Photo credits: Coffee photo by Michael Kempf; wine photo by Bruce Shippee.

Food blogs: A deliciously masochistic pleasure

August 6, 2008

No one warned me when I started writing a food blog that one danger—as you write, talk and think about food more or less constantly—is a low-level hunger that is also pretty much constant. It always seems worst when I’m reading other food blogs. Even though I mainly try to do this during lunch, I can still feel ravenous, even as I’m stuffing my face.

Here are a few things some of the folks in my blogroll have tormented me with lately. The photos are all by the individual authors; blame them for any hunger pangs.

It’s been hella hot here in Chicago lately [and to all my friends in St. Louis, yes, I know it’s worse there]. So when Susan over at Food Blogga made these gorgeous and reasonably guilt-free Skinny Berry Parfaits with fat free vanilla pudding, orange scented berries, and a crisp oat and almond mixture, I was so ready to dig in.

I gotta be honest with you. I’m not usually a big fan of lobster—too much work for too little pay off in my book. But when Jennifer over at Last Night’s Dinner said the magic word bacon as she discussed her Lobster Chopped Salad, I was hooked.

Was there ever a nobler, more versatile beast than the pig? Just think. From a single source, we get the aforementioned bacon, ham, chops, roasts and a dazzling array of sausages. We also get these amazing sounding Pork Paillards with Summer Tomato Sauce, as prepared by Christina over at A Thinking Stomach.

If you’re even a semi-regular at Blue Kitchen, you know we love spicy here. And as much as we try to take it easy on fried food, when it’s done right there’s nothing better [in small doses]. Mike over at Mike’s Table does it right, with his Creole Beer Battered Fish Fry.

And finally. I started with something sweet and I’ll end on another sweet note. Blueberry pancakes by Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. Deb not only gives you a recipe for these beauties—she gives you ten tips for making pancakes. Pancake 101, as she calls it.

I’ve not even scratched the surface here. Prowl all the links on my blogroll. Then prowl the links on theirs. Just make sure you’ve got something to eat close at hand.