Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's 11:39pm on a Sunday night and I need to be up at 6am tomorrow for my first day of Inorganic Chemistry for Summer Session at Berkeley City College. Bah. I popped half a Benadryl an hour ago to quicken the arrival of sweet, sweet slumber, but my body seems immune. Blast. Instead, I shall blog about what I had to eat today ... because it was chock full of nutrients and I cannot get the smoothie out of my mind. No pics this time, but next time-- I promise to deliver.

10:30am: A juicy peach and 1/2 cup of granola.

1pm: 1/2 cup of oatmeal and barley, cooked with a handful of goji berries and chopped almonds, and a teaspoon of coconut oil.

1:30pm: The best smoothie I have ever had in my life.. and I make my own smoothies all the time. 1/4 cup of frozen pineapple, 1/5 cup of fresh mint leaves, 3/4 large banana, 1/2 cup of vanilla soymilk. Insanely delicious. The mint really helps add that fresh kick.

3pm: 2 cups of sauteed spinach (using a generous dash of grapeseed oil), with garlic and onions. Ate a few cherries to satisfy my sweet craving.

3:30pm: Brewed a cup of tea with dried rose leaves and a little bit of vanilla bean. Added fresh mint leaves.

6pm: 1/2 container of blueberries. Handful of granola.

7pm: Father's Day Dinner! Soaked chopped chicken breast in milk to tenderize for a few minutes. Then drained and mixed in garlic, onions, and a little more than 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard. Sauteed. Added over cooked red quinoa. Mixed ingredients with chopped romaine lettuce, red bellpepper, and cucumber. Then ate some spicy Korean chicken with kimchee and brown rice because... must always represent. Brewed a cup of hot barley tea and added mint leaves. Obsessed with mint!

Wonderful nutritious food day-- very content. Will aim (high) for every day to be like this :) Some days are harder than others... but on the good days, I realize how delicious healthy cooking can be and how incredible it can make you feel.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

How To Achieve a More Rainbowful Diet

It's no easy task trying to get all the vitamins and minerals you need on a daily basis. First of all, I understand that it's easier to order tikka masala takeout than to chop up all those veggies and sautee them (but many of us also know that the aftermath of tikka masala is not always worth the convenience).

Try to think of your diet in terms of colors -- a fun visual approach to covering all your bases. In a perfect world where all the Golden Girls would still be alive, you should be eating a few servings of leafy green veggies every day. If you can do that and also incorporate a few different colors (balancing out veggies, fruits, whole grains, fats, meat/poultry/fish, appropriately), there's a great chance you'll be averaging out a diverse intake of different vitamins and minerals. Variety is k.e.y. to a good diet and rainbowfying it gives you a big kangaroo leap in the right direction.

An example of how this might happen:

Morning: Red, Brown (Oatmeal with strawberries)
Snack: Orange, Brown, White (Orange, handful of almonds, glass of milk)
Lunch: Green, Protein (Salad w/ assorted greens/veggies and chicken)
Snack: White, Purple, Yellow, Green (Yogurt with sliced up banana and blueberries and cup of green tea)
Dinner: Tan, Green, Red, Protein (Couscous mixed with steamed broccoli and chopped up red bellpepper and salmon)

With this menu, you have achieved balance, moderation, and variety -- the 3 fundamentals of a healthy diet.

Whole grains (oats, couscous)
(strawberries, orange, blueberries, banana)
Vegetables (salad greens/assorted veggies, broccoli, red bellpepper)
Nuts (almonds)
Dairy (milk, yogurt)
Protein (chicken, salmon)

...........and you covered the whole rainbow too. Sorry to insert fratastic lingo, but... you deserve a pound.

** ** ** ** ** **
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Here are some suggestions for fruits, veggies, and "others" -- broken down by color. Try picking a few different items within each color to brighten up your intake.


Fruits: Apples, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, watermelon
Veggies: Red bell pepper, tomatoes
Other: Kidney beans

Fruits: Oranges/grapefruits, papaya, bananas, cantaloupe, apricots, lemons, pineapple
Veggies: Squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes/yams, orange/yellow bell pepper, carrots, corn
Other: Egg (with yolk)


Fruits: Honeydew, green apples, pears, grapes
Veggies: Spinach, kale, broccoli, swiss chard, brussel sprouts, green bell pepper, sprouts, green beans, peas, cabbage
Other: Green tea


Fruits: Blueberries, blackberries, plums, figs, grapes
Veggies: Beets, purple cabbage

Fruits: Bosch pears
Veggies: Chickpeas, lentils
Other: Whole grains (barley, oats, quinoa, couscous, farro, cereals), sesame seeds, nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, pecans), ginger


Veggies: Mushrooms, jicama, garlic, onions
Other: Milk, tofu, soymilk


Veggies: Black beans, avocados
Other: Black sesame seeds, chia seeds, black tea

For a few great resources on benefits and properties of healthy foods, check out these websites:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Who, What, and Why of Diabetes

Diabetes is one of our society's most widespread epidemics today and as a firm believer in prevention, this is something I think everyone should be knowledgable about, in some way. It's a complicated topic, so I'll try to keep it as non-science-y and simple as possible. X, this one's for you.

How Diabetes works:

There are 2 hormones that control the regulation of our blood sugar; insulin and glucagon. Both are produced in the pancreas. Beta cells in the pancreas produce insulin, which is secreted in response to high blood sugar. Alpha cells in the pancreas produce glucagon, which is secreted in response to low blood sugar. Both work to keep your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels consistent.

3 type of diabetes:

Type I: Autoimmune destruction of insulin-- your own body kills off beta cells, which produce insulin (~5% of cases of diabetes in the U.S.). More prevalent in children and young adults.

Type II: Insulin resistance/deficiency (~95% of cases of diabetes in the U.S.). Your body produces insulin but is not sensitive to it, which then, does not allow for blood sugar to enter your cells.

Gestational Diabetes: Women may become diabetic during pregnancy, most often in the third trimester (due to hormonal changes). However, if monitored closely, the incidence of diabetes can go away after giving birth and leave the child unaffected.

Now how do we apply alpha this and insulin that to real life?

When it's 4 p.m. and lunch seemed like it was many, many moons ago-- your body usually starts to crave a little pick-me-up. When blood sugar levels are low, your body will secrete glucagon in order to normalize blood sugar levels by increasing them.

On the flip side, let's say it's another late night at the Taqueria (clearly I love being back in S.F.). You order 2 a.m. nachos with the works and polish it off with a slice of cheesecake (true story from a few weeks ago, I like to recount personal experiences). With the ingestion of all this sugar and carbohydrates (which break down into glucose), your blood glucose levels increase. This is when insulin steps in to decrease the blood sugar levels and bring them back down to normal.

Now on a cellular level, this gets really interesting. When blood glucose levels are high, insulin goes to our cells and allows for their glucose channels to be opened so that these cells can take in the glucose. Insulin is the key to getting glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. Think of it like a bunch of Twittering Tweens (blood glucose) trying to get into the Jonas Bro's concert (the cell) and the concert gatekeepers (insulin) are responsible for letting in the vested and fedoraed masses into the concert.

With diabetics (type II), there is a decrease in cell sensitivity to insulin. This means the cells are not acknowledging insulin, which in turn, doesn't allow for the blood glucose to be let into the cells. At that point, the blood glucose stays in the bloodstream and accumulates. Too much glucose hanging out in bloodstream and not enough in cells can lead to several medical complications. So at the end of the day, you have more and more angry Tweens amassing outside the concert door, but the gatekeepers aren't responding to the signals that they need to let the Tweens inside. This overload causes traffic jams in the streets (bloodstream) which starts to put a strain on everything else.

* Eyesight. Glucose can accumulate in the capillaries of the eyes, leading to blurred vision.

* Nervous system. Accumulation of blood glucose affects capillaries, which weakens them and affects overall circulation. Peripheral nerves are highly affected (especially the feet and hands which have the lowest circulation, hence, why they get cold more quickly than other body parts). In more severe cases, wounds/cuts can lead to gangrene. Ex: when someone with diabetes gets a cut, the wound is more susceptible to infection because diabetics have sweet blood, and bacteria feeds on sweet. The healing time is also increased and in some some cases, can lead to amputation when the infection is too drastic.

* Kidneys / Excessive urination & thirst. The kidneys are strained, desperately trying to flush out the excess blood sugar, which causes lots of trips to les toilettes. Which then, causes more thirst. And so the cycle continues.


Type I: Diabetics can self-treat with injections of insulin shots. This involves monitoring blood glucose levels after meals to know how much insulin is needed (too much/too little can be harmful). When the body destroys its own source of insulin (beta cells), diabetics need to inject themselves with an external source in order for the glucose to be allowed into cells.

Type II: Diabetics are advised to eat 6-7 small meals throughout the day to maintain steady blood sugar levels, increase fiber intake, and exercise regularly.

While too much carbs/sugar can be detrimental to someone with diabetes, it's about eating the right things, in the right portion sizes, at the right times. 45-65% of the diabetic diet should be devoted to complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables). Simple carbs (refined sugars) should be avoided. Fiber is essential because it slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, which helps keeps glucose levels consistent (as opposed to the spikes one might face with simple carbs). Eating small meals throughout the day will also make it easier for your body to keep these levels consistent. Eating a big meal requires a lot of insulin and your body does not have the resources to handle that high spike in blood sugar.

And according to Dr. Trinh Tran, my nutrition professor, exercise can trigger a cascade of reactions at the cellular level that increases sensitivity to insulin, which opens glucose channels and allows for these channels to let glucose into cells. Medication can also be taken to stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin.


Now, don't get crazy with the self-diagnosis (I was convinced I had diabetes when I first learned about it in class). But, if you are concerned-- you go see a doctor who can check your blood sugar levels. Here is a list of common symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Increased fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Blurry vision

Should you be concerned?

CBS news states that 24 million Americans have diabetes (about 8% of the population)-- the epidemics shows no signs of slowing down either. This is how preventative health and knowledge can save your life. A lot of diabetics simply don't know they have diabetes for quite some time and by the time symptoms are at full-blast, the situation could be very serious. Getting regular check-ups and being able to recognize symptoms can help you spot the disease in its early stages and prevent it from worsening.

Below is a list of populations who more susceptible to the disease (Type II):

1) Older people (40+). Diabetes can still affect people younger than 40, but research shows that with age, cells becomes less sensitive to insulin.
2) Obese and overweight individuals. The International Diabetes Federation states that "80% of people with diabetes are overweight."
3) Those with a family history of diabetes-- talk to your parents and see if it is genetic.
4) Those with IGT (Impaired Glucose Tolerance)-- whose blood sugar levels are higher than normal (healthy levels are between 70 and 110 milligrams of glucose / 100 milliliters of blood).
5) African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.
6) Those who do not exercise regularly.
7) Those dealing with another medical condition, such as renal (kidney) failure, cardiovascular (heart) disease, and/or stroke and nerve damage. It's important to look out for signs in the early stages so that these other medical conditions do not develop or worsen as a cause of the disease.

Conclusion (aka, you made it to the end!)

I know I presented a lot of information today, but this is a very serious topic and it will only become more relevant as we grow older. I hope you were able to take away something useful ....and please share your knowledge! You never know who might need to learn. Cheers and have a great week.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Who Wants To Get Naked (Juice)?

When you're standing in front of the beverage cooler at any grocery store, there are always an overwhelming amount of options, from sodas to "enhanced waters" to fruit juice smoothies, etc. Logically, it would make sense that getting a fruit drink with no added sugars or preservatives, like a Naked Juice Smoothie, would be the healthiest option. Fruit and vitamins... sounds like a deal, right? But let's rewind for a hot sec.

Let's take "The Blue Machine," for example. In just one 15.2 oz bottle, you can find the rough equivalent of 3 apples, 1 banana, 27 blueberries, and 3 blackberries. Woah nelly, that's a lot of fruit in one bottle. But that's also 340 calories and 80 grams of carbohydrates (almost 60 grams of sugar).

While I personally don't adhere strictly to the USDA's recommended daily food values, these values do provide a loose idea of how to aim for a well-balanced diet. The USDA encourages Americans to eat about 2 servings of fruit a day (2 cups) -- the ingredients of this one bottle obviously exceed that.

These are my thoughts on why I think Naked Juice Smoothies are overall, pretty lamesauce:

1. You don't need to eat thaaaat much fruit in one day....Fruits are the shiznasty and I love blueberries galore, but fruits are also are clearly high in carbs, so you need to balance your intake accordingly.

2. While juicing fruits/veggies is a great way to get vitamins, you would need to drink up right away in order to reap maximum health benefits. Once freshly juiced fruits/veggies are exposed to air, they begin to lose their nutritional value and the vitamin content is reduced. By the time you get a bottle of Naked Juice that's been processed, packaged, and shipped -- how "fresh with vitamins" could it really be?

3. Lacking in the fiber department. Your bowels will be pissed that you're just juicing those apples and throwing away all the fiber. The nutrition label actually says that this bottle has 14 grams of dietary fiber (which is quite high), but I don't know-- these juices don't seem to have that much physical bulk in them so I'm not totally buying it and would much rather opt for the real thing. Maybe I'll do a fiber content / poop experiment for my next assignment.....hMmMm (sorry... but you know I can't live without my pooptastic references).

4. No satiety effect. So you drink a bottle of juice but you sure won't be feeling like you just ate 3 apples, 1 banana, 27 blueberries, and 3 blackberries (I feel like I should be singing this to tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas"-- sorry my Jewsephs / Jewsephines, you'll get a shout out soon).

5. No es bueno for blood glucose levels. When you down 60 grams of sugar, you can be sure that that your blood sugar levels will spike high to the sky. Eating the actual fruit, especially with the skin, will provide fiber that will keep these levels balanced so you don't crash.

Conclusion: Anything's fine in moderation and it's not like drinking this juice from time to time is bad for you, per se-- it's just that the real deal is so much more beneficial in so many ways.

In fart's name we pray,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

B.O.O.Z.E. - How many calories are we keeping in (unless they're coming back out)?

Booze. All it takes for me are a few teaspoons before I turn bright red and potentially feel somewhat nauseous. Oh you Asian genes, how you love to lack that alcohol-digesting enzyme and cause me all sorts of troubles. My own gripes aside, I know most of us have our own love/hate relationships with alcohol. Who doesn't love to chill out with a cocktail and let loose (literally and/or figuratively)? And who doesn't love to reminisce about how that cocktail turned into many cocktails, which turned into an evening full of gloriously bad decisions?

So during a night like that, how much is your alcoholic consumption really adding to your overall caloric intake (not to mention the late night taco stands, pizza joints, and halal after bars close)?

Here's a quick breakdown of alcohol per serving*:

Hard alcohol (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)
One shot glass (1.5 fl oz): roughly 100 calories

One serving (5 fl oz-- just over 1/2 a cup): roughly 120 calories

1 can of regular beer (4.5-5% alc content): roughly 150 calories
1 can of light beer (3.5-4% alc content): roughly 100 calories

1 serving (1 fl oz-- most shot glasses hold 1.5 fl oz): roughly 40 calories

Ok, so there are lots of calories in booze. Just a few drinks could easily tally up to 300-400 cals. But, that shouldn't stop any of us from having a good time-- just be aware of it. If you're trying to be calorie conscious with the hard stuff, opt for a vodka soda (with a splash of juice for taste), cut out the sugary/fruity juice mixers, or switch from regular to diet sodas.

As for wine-- drink up on the red for health benefits! Red wine is famous for having antioxidant properties. A compound found in grapes/red wine called resveratrol "appears to protect the heart and prolong life," says the New York Times.

You know the drill-- don't drink and drive, practice moderation, and try not to be too embarrassed when someone catches you talking to yourself in the mirror with your eyes half open (which may look like my eyes on a good day).

Thanks for reading and see you next time.

Photo taken by Owen Franken for The New York Times

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Freaking Love Fiber-- and here's why you should too!

What happens when you eat a bran muffin, an apple, and drink water? For most of us, we might hear plippity ploppity ploop in the toilet. And we all know how enjoyable that past time is! Thank you fiber- you've done it again. I really do heart fiber...and you should too. Let's read why!

Why is it important to eat fiber?
Here are a few reasons to increase your fiber intake:

1. Weight Management. Our bodies cannot break down fiber, which means it will eventually exit our systems. It helps us feel more full so we can control our portion sizes more easily. Thus, we can reap the benefits but do not need to count it towards our caloric intake.

2. Promotes Intestinal Health. Fiber keeps bacteria healthy and active because it works hard to break down the fiber in your large intestine. This activity releases gas (energy), which is why you might be gassy after eating fibrous things like beans and vegetables.

Additionally, fiber helps
increase "bulkage" to your stool because it draws in water-- this helps with regularity. Fiber makes it easier for your stool to exit more easily and more quickly and also keeps the toxins moving out your body instead of hanging out in your colon.

3. Lowers Cholesterol. Fiber binds to cholesterol in the body and helps remove it, thus lowering cholesterol levels. Whoo!

4. Blood Sugar Management.
Fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugar, which helps keep blood glucose (sugar) levels nice and steady. This is great (especially for diabetics) because fibers helps us avoid sharp spikes in blood sugar levels (which we know as sugar rush--> crashing).

Are you getting enough?

Take a closer look at your p double-o p. Is it solid or soft? Is it cohesive or is it coming out in separate pieces? Do you spend a few minutes on la toilette (scroll through phonebook) or is this a longer and/or more uncomfortable experience (write out a text)?
A healthy stool should exit the body comfortably without too much strain or effort in one semi-solid piece. If not, you might want to reconsider a few factors, such as your fiber and water intake as well as how much you're working out.

How much fiber should you be getting a day?

32 grams
(according to Dr. James Anderson, professor of Medicine and Clinical Nutrition and National Fiber Council chair). Look below to see how you can get 32 grams of fiber in one day-- not as hard as you might think (and nutrient dense in other ways; anti-oxidants, calcium, and protein).

- 1 cup of Quaker® Old-Fashioned
oatmeal (cooked): 4 grams
- 1 medium
banana: 3 grams

Mid-morning snack:
- 1 medium
apple with skin: 3 grams

- 1 cup of
spinach (frozen, cooked, or drained): 6 grams
- 1/2 cup of
kidney beans (cooked): 6 grams

Mid-day snack:
- 1/2 cup of
dry roasted peanuts: 6 grams

- 1 cup of
carrots: 4 grams
- 1 medium
white potato with skin: 5 grams A

And there's
37 grams of fiber (5 grams over the recommended intake)! Boo yeah, you overachiever.

Soluble versus Insoluble fiber:
There are 2 types of fiber. To put it simply, our bodies can break down soluble fiber with the bacteria in our large intestines (promoting healthy activity). Insoluble fiber cannot be broken down and will pass through the body. Both are cool beans, so eat up!

A few examples of soluble fiber sources include: oats, apples (inside, not skin), beans and seaweed.

A few examples of insoluble fiber sources include: wheat, rye, bran, fruit skins (i.e., apples), and vegetables (corn, carrots, celery).

This is a list from the National Fiber Council's website for more sources of fiber. Click here to be redirected to the site:

Food Serving Size Grams of Fiber
Apple (with peel) 1 medium 3
Banana 1 medium 3
Blueberries 1 cup 4
Cantaloupe 1 cup 1
Grapefruit 1 medium 3
Orange 1 medium 3
Pear (with peel) 1 medium 4
Pineapple 1 cup 2
Prunes (dried) ½ cup 6
Raspberries 1 cup 8
Vegetables and beans
Asparagus (5 medium, cooked) ½ cup 2
Kidney beans (cooked) ½ cup 6
Pinto beans ½ cup 8
Broccoli (cooked) ½ cup 2
Carrots ½ cup 2
Cauliflower (cooked) ½ cup 2
Sweet potato, w. skin (baked) 1 medium 3
White potato, w. skin (baked) 1 medium 5
Spinach, frozen, cooked, drained ½ cup 3
Tomato 1 medium 1
Breads, cereals, grains etc.
Rye bread 1 slice 2
White bread 1 slice 1
Whole-wheat bread 1 slice 2
Kellogg’s® All-Bran (original) ½ cup 10
Kellogg’s ® All-Bran Bran Buds 1/3 cup 11
Quaker® Old-Fashioned Oatmeal (cooked) 1 cup 4
Wheat germ, toasted 2 tablespoons 3
Brown rice, cooked ½ cup 2
White rice, cooked ½ cup 0.3
Spaghetti, cooked 1 cup 2
Peanuts, dry-roasted ½ cup 6

Hopefuly, this will help explain why fiber intake is so important and why we can always use more. Thanks for reading and see you next week!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Redefining the Meaning of Health & Nutrition

I'll be turning 26 in less than a month. The number of people that tell me I'm still young and have "plenty of time to figure it out" is steadily decreasing. EEP! But as the birthdays pass by and the hangovers become more intolerable, I also feel like I grow a tiny bit wiser as well. And part of becoming wiser involves redefining things in my life, such as the definition of "health."

Until recently, "being healthy" has been more about vanity than anything else. I've focused on how food affects my outward appearance, but am slowly beginning to learn about the chemical properties of foods and how they affect my body on a more basic (and cellular) level-- what is going on inside and why are these nutrients so important?

Being consistent in my diet has always been a challenge and probably always will be. But when I'm on, I'm really on-- to the point of grossing people out with my algae potions (spirulina is rough). When I get motivted enough to juice, I'll throw in tomatoes/spinach/broccoli/carrots (and once even added garlic when I had a cold) or blend vegetable smoothies (including veggie skins to reap nutrient AND fiber benefits), make wheatgrass/flaxseed/soymilk/fruit smoothies, or experiment with all kinds of supplements (fish oil/probiotics/flaxseed oil, etc). It doesn't take an Asian engineer to realize... yeah, this was making me feel a lot better, look better, and actually want to be phsyically active. My skin was more glowy, I felt lighter, and I just felt... healthier. I felt like maybe, for the first time in 25 years, I could do a quarter of a pull-up. Dare to dream, they say.

All of this has made me realize: food IS medicine, and for this reason, I want to go into nutrition. Especially as we age, we shouldn't say no to "bad foods" just so we can fit into that one pair of pants or look a certain way. Rather, we should focus on picking the right foods that can give our cells and organs they need to run at their maximum performance levels. Think of your body as a luxury car-- it needs the right kind of oil to purr a kittens on the road (I actually dislike small cars, but it makes sense here, right?).

When I hear about adults with thyroid problems, cancer, or diabetes, I feel like these are medical conditions that more adults in their 40's, 50's, and upwards encounter than adults in their 20's and 30's. As a 25 year old, being 45 feels like a far away planet that I'll be forced to go to one day and I figure I'll start dealing with those issues when I'm forced to take the rocket ship there. But when I heard someone in one of my classes say, "I want to go into nutrition because too many people are dying of preventative diseases," that struck a chord. This is THE time for young adults to start making healthy decisions because these choices will absolutely affect the status of our health later on, no matter how far down the road it may seem.

I'll leave you with an analogy. You know when you're gassy and holding it in because it's not a silent-but-deadly or you're in a museum, church, echoey venue and you keep holding it in and it becomes more and more painful and by the 5th or 6th clench, you know you're about to be in big trouble because the trumpet's about to play (or maybe even trombone)? This is a silly example, but I'm applying it to a very serious topic. The point is-- we should do what we can in our power to take care of the problem before it gets out of control. None of us can know what lies ahead, but exercising our knowledge of nutrition sooner rather than later can only help our bodies stay as happy as possible for the long-run.