Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guest Blogging About Kids and Food

Last week I guest posted at The Desperate Housemommy all about what a huge Dr. Dork I am, but mostly about kids nutrition.  In general, I think certain moms beat themselves up worrying about what their kids eat...and by "certain moms" I mean those who are making a concerted effort to feed their kids healthy foods.  Chances are that if you're reading my blog and a mom, you fall into this category.  Check out that posting...I guarantee you'll feel better. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eggs and Other Happies...

According to my dear friend Lori, "happies" are things that make you feel...wait for it....HAPPY.  They can be gifts, they can be things you buy for yourself, or anything else that gives you that warm fuzzy feeling of happiness.  My two happies for this week are eggs and fairy gardens. 

These aren't just any eggs, but special eggs of different sizes and colors.  They were given to me as a gift from a friend who is part of a grass-fed beef CSA called Trail's End Organic Farm.  Although it's not indicated on their website, I have to believe that the chickens were raised in different conditions than conventional eggs.  Most eggs are from chickens crammed into cages, versus those allowed to stretch their legs (called "free range" but in the U.S., this just means chickens have access to the outside).  Most farmers using organic growing practices take the term "free range" seriously and allow chickens to be pasture fed.

The different shell colors likely indicates that more than one breed of chickens contributed to this dozen.  The shell color varies by breed.  For example, the Araucana chicken lays blue eggs.  And it's quite attractive.  

Here's another interesting fact about eggs.  The color of the egg yolk is a function of the carotenoid content (carotenoids are antioxidants...good stuff).  Look at the difference in yolk color between a conventional egg (left) and my special blue egg (right):

The darker color means there are likely more antioxidants in the special egg.  It could just be that the breed of chicken makes eggs with more carotenoids in the yolk, but more likely, they were raised on feed that contained either red peppers or marigold.  These are two common ingredients added to chicken feed (or found in the pasture) to increase the color of the yolk.  

Another interesting factoid...all eggs are considered to have the same nutrition content regardless of chicken breed and what they are fed.  A large egg has only 70 calories and 6 grams of protein...pretty darn great.  Even better, the cholesterol and saturated fat content of eggs has declined over the years, making them even healthier.    

But how can a chicken raised on a conventional diet in small cages produce eggs with the same nutrition as a chicken raised on pasture?  I doubt they do!  Although the USDA doesn't recognize this evidence, an independent group looked at the nutrition content of eggs from pasture fed chickens and conventional chickens and what do you know, it looks like the pasture fed chickens make healthier eggs.  

Best part, they were YUMMY.  Much more flavorful than a conventional egg and prettier because of that dark yolk.  I'm sold on the fancy eggs!

Here is my other new fairy garden.

I think this is the green-thumb-adult equivalent of having a doll house.  If you google fairy gardens, you soon realize that this is an obsession for many people.  I just like how peaceful it looks.  I have it sitting in a large white pot outside my front door and I smile every time I look at it. 

If only my real children were as quaint and quiet as these three. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Melting the Pounds Away with Green Tea

Yesterday I was interviewed by a journalist from a popular woman's magazine.  They are doing a story on green tea and somehow found a paper I recently published (in a biochemistry journal, no less) on green tea and weight loss. The journalist was very nice on the phone and asked me a lot of good questions, but I'm pretty confident that this will be the headline in her magazine:

Drinking green tea helps shed extra pounds, especially around the middle.

In reality, here's what the research says:

1. Drinking the equivalent of 6-12 cups of green tea a day may lead to weight loss over several months, especially if you are:
  • Asian and don't drink a lot of caffeine on a regular basis (~3 lb weight loss in Asians vs. about 1.5 lbs in Caucasians).
  • An exerciser that consistently works out on a weekly basis (~5 lb weight loss).  
2. Green tea may have this effect because of the combination of green tea antioxidants (called catechins) and caffeine naturally present in green tea.  They appear to work together to stimulate the nervous system to burn more calories.  The combination may also cause the body to burn more energy as fat, which may be why some studies show more fat loss from the belly region.

3. Black tea and other varieties have much less of the catechins, and therefore would likely be less effective.

Doesn't seem like a lot of weight loss, does it?  Especially if you have to drink 6 to 12 cups of tea a day.  But here's the thing...these numbers are from research studies that are 3 months long and because the studies are so short, the Dr. Dorks give high amounts of green tea to produce an effect.  It is entirely possible that just a few cups of a green tea a day has a similar effect over a longer period of time...say a year.  And even if it doesn't, green tea is a zero calorie beverage and has been linked to other good stuff, like lower risk for cancer and heart disease. 

As such, I think green tea is definitely a "do" for summer....completely on trend with other fashion statements like feathers in the hair and maxi-dresses....hmmmmm....I wonder how it tastes over ice with a little vodka???  

Wait, check this out:

I guess someone else thinks it tastes good!  Cheers!