Jul 15, 2014

Why it's okay to say yes to butter -- without harming your health!

This post is an edited summary of an article by Debbie Bell, a Registered Dietitian, appearing in The State Journal of Frankfort KY, July 22, 2014

For the past 60 years, saturated fat and cholesterol have been wrongfully maligned as the culprits of heart disease, one of the nation’s leading causes of death. 
Dr. Fred Kummerow has spent eight decades studying the science of lipids, cholesterol, and heart disease. His work shows that it’s not saturated fat that causes heart disease, but rather trans fats are to blame. 
Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Another name for trans fats is “partially hydrogenated oils.”
These fats can be found in many foods — but especially in fried foods like French fries and doughnuts, and baked goods including pastries, piecrusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, stick margarines and shortenings. 
There is some confusion about fats and their impact on LDL cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol.  According to the conventional view, high LDL is correlated with heart disease, and saturated fat does tend to raise LDL. However, we now understand that there are TWO kinds of LDL cholesterol particles:
Small, “dense” LDL cholesterol and large, “fluffy” LDL cholesterol
The latter is not “bad” at all. Research has confirmed that large LDL particles do not contribute to heart disease. The small, dense LDL particles, however, do contribute to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, and trans fat increases small, dense LDL. Saturated fat, on the other hand, increases large, fluffy LDL.
In addition, research has shown that eating refined sugar and carbohydrates, such as bread, bagels,and soda, increases small dense LDL particles. Together, trans fats and refined carbohydrates do far more harm than saturated fat ever possibly could.
To read the original article, go to: Saturated Fats, Cholesterol Are Not Evil.
Here's another article to the same effect, and from other sources, from the Wall Street Journal: The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease

Jul 1, 2014

Spiritual lessons from physical training

This is not me! But this is how I feel sometimes when I'm working out.

This blog is mostly about food, but it's also about health, so I think it's okay to share with you some lessons I've learned while working out.

First of all, you need to understand what a victory it is for me that I've been consistently exercising for three months now! I loved activity as a kid -- running fast and climbing trees were two of my favorite things -- but junior high PE class changed all that! (I've tried three times to start writing why, but there are so many reasons, it would take this post off-topic. So let's just move on....) For decades, doing any kind of exercise has been something I don't like and struggle to stay at it. Mostly, I don't. Or didn't.

Three months ago I finally admitted that I lacked the self-discipline to keep up with exercise on my own, and I started working with a personal trainer. The progress I've made in that time amazes me! And while I'm loving that clothes shopping is kinda fun again, the bigger victories for me have been in my thinking, and in my spirit.

Here are a few lessons I'm learning, that cross over from physical to spiritual:

1. When moving forward becomes painful, I want to give up. (Especially if we're talking running.) But if I persevere through the pain, it goes away and then I feel better than I did before I started! And I'm more able to tackle that distance or that move or that weight again.

2. Growth requires silencing -- or at least ignoring -- the old tapes in my head. Voices that have been there a long time say, "You've always failed at this; this time will be no different," and "You look stupid when you do this." Whether that's feeling like a spaz (note: junior high word!) when I'm trying to do a new move, or being afraid people will think I'm weird when I talk about God, those old tapes need to be erased, and I need to put a new message in their place! "With God's help, I can do new stuff -- and get better at it!"


Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19


3. This was new news to me: To make a muscle get stronger, you need to push it to the point of failure. When you've lifted a weight that you're able to move at first, but then with repetition gets to a point where the muscle just plain gives out, that sends a message to your body: Hey, we need more strength here; send reinforcements! Likewise, don't be surprised or discouraged when your faith "fails;" this is the point where God's strength comes to build us up -- IF you'll I'll lay down your my pride long enough to let Him!


But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
II Cor. 12:9


4. When you're trying something new and hard, the trainer is there to suggest new tactics when you run up against a difficulty, to spot you if you do start to drop something (my trainer taught me this one), and to encourage you when the going gets tough. Pastor/teacher Chip Ingram talks about how, in the spiritual realm, we often feel like we just need to try harder, when what we really need to do is to train better. The training leads to improvement. And training works best with help! (See a bit of his teaching on this here, and here.) Likewise, God is your partner in your spiritual growth: He can send you new tactics or encouragement, and He'll always be there to catch you when you fall. But He also sends others to help coach and encourage you along the way. Make use of them!

5. There will be sweat! That's okay! Maybe you've seen a jock type wearing a t-shirt that says, "Sweat is weakness leaving the body!" Likewise, there may be tears as your faith is stretched. But maybe tears are just spiritual sweat?!  :)

photo credit: Marco Crupi Visual Artist via photopin cc

Jun 10, 2014

Quick, easy buffalo chicken quesadillas with avocado

image and recipe inspiration from halfhourmeals.com

This is one of my go-to recipes when I realize too late in the day that I haven't planned dinner. (AND it's one my husband calls restaurant-worthy!) I love it because it's a few simple things you can throw together and have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less. Also, there's very little measuring involved.

I pick up some grilled chicken from the grocery store deli, grab an avocado and some appropriate cheese if I don't already have some at home. Tortillas and hot sauce are usually in my fridge. Butter: always!

For the chicken, you can use any already-cooked chicken you have on hand or can easily obtain. Grilled, roasted, whatever! Tear it apart with your hands; this lets you find and dispose of any parts that are overdone and chewy. It also creates a nice, uneven surface for the sauce to cling to. Or you can use already shredded chicken, if that's what you have on hand.

Quick easy buffalo chicken quesadillas

two small chicken breasts and one thigh, already cooked
1 T. butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
3-4 T. hot sauce (I like Cholula Chipotle)
1/2 avocado
4 flour tortillas, fajita size (6 to 7")
4-5 oz. queso fresco or Monterrey Jack, shredded

Put the 1 T. butter and the hot sauce in a small skillet over medium-low heat. While it melts, tear the chicken apart and slice the half avocado thinly. Once the butter is melted, stir it around to mix in the hot sauce, then add the chicken to the pan and toss lightly to coat. If you still need to finish your prep, turn the heat under the chicken mixture a little lower.

Put a large skillet on another burner, and turn the heat to just-under-medium. Let this heat up while you assemble the quesadilla.

Lay one tortilla on a cutting board or edgeless cookie sheet. Sprinkle about one fourth of the cheese on it; top with half of the avocado slices (1/4 of the avocado), then scatter half of the chicken on top of that. Sprinkle over this another fourth of the cheese, and top with a second tortilla. Press it down lightly, and if any chicken bits fall out, tuck them back in.

Lightly coat the large skillet with butter -- just enough for the size tortilla you're using. Carefully slide the quesadilla onto the hot skillet, and cook for a few minutes, till the color on the underside is GBD. (Golden brown and delicious!) Turn it over and heat the second side likewise.

Remove to a cutting board, and repeat the process for the other half of the ingredients.

When both quesadillas are done, slice them into sixths. (A rolling pizza cutter works nicely.) Serve with sour cream (and/or plain yogurt) and salsa on the side.

Serves 3 to 4.

Here are the nutrition facts, based on 3 servings per recipe, via myfitnesspal.com:

Nutrition Facts
Servings 3.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories 455
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 23 g35 %
Saturated Fat 11 g56 %
Monounsaturated Fat 4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 89 mg30 %
Sodium 871 mg36 %
Potassium 294 mg8 %
Total Carbohydrate 27 g9 %
Dietary Fiber 19 g75 %
Sugars 0 g
Protein 36 g71 %

Based on this recipe from HalfHourMeals.