Monday, April 30, 2007

Heart Health News From NHLBI

A new guide to help women improve their heart health was issued by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) entitled, “The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women.”

This guide is free to download and offers tons of great tips for women who want to improve their health. The guide also recommends that women who have high blood pressure and hypertension may want to consider following the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet places emphasis on fruits, veggies, whole grains, low fat dairy products, fish, etc. It’s a very sensible diet that can be maintained for a lifetime.

In this booklet, there are suggestions about how many servings of the various types of foods one should consume for heart health. NHLBI recommends consuming 2-3 servings of fats and oils such as margarine, mayonnaise and light salad dressing.

So to the naysayer who believes margarine can’t be part of an overall healthy diet –take that!! Margarine can be an integral part of an overall diet and can help people who want to improve their heart health.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Misinformation on the Internet About Margarine

Okay, work is really crazy today and I’ve got tons of cleaning to do before my parents arrive from Houston on Friday. However, I did just want to post a few paragraphs from this quickie article. This myth that margarine is one molecule away from plastic is ridiculous but some people continue to believe misinformation on the Internet.

Q: My mother-in-law e-mailed my teens an article that says margarine is one molecule away from plastic. It also said if you leave margarine out in the woods, wild animals will ignore it, and it is far healthier to eat butter. Please help us with the butter vs. margarine wars in our house.

A: Apparently, this Internet rumor has been around since 2003, and shows no signs of dying. Let's look at a couple of the claims you heard.

The statement that margarine is "one molecule away from plastic" is essentially meaningless. According to the Snopes site, many substances share a similar chemical structure, but when the chemical structure is changed, it can mean the difference between an OK food and one that is inedible, or a poison.

To find the heart-healthy margarines, look for those with the least saturated fat and no (or very low) trans fat (these are generally in the tubs or liquid squeeze bottles).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms and Shrimp

During the spring and summer when the weather gets warm, nothing satisfies my taste buds like a delicious, light meal. This recipe, from, is really simple but will impress even the snobbiest of food snobs.

Spaghetti Squash With Mushrooms and Shrimp


Yield: 6 servings
1 Spaghetti squash, about 2 lb
4 oz Fresh mushrooms
1 lb Medium shrimp
2 tablespoon Margarine, divided
1½ tablespoon Flour
¾ cups Milk, 2
% (low fat) 1 tablespoon Dry sherry
½ cups Grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
¼ cups Corn flake crumbs

Boil shrimp with seasonings, let cool then peel and devein. Cut shrimp into small pieces, or shread. Set aside. Weigh squash, determine microwave time at 6 minutes per pound. Place squash, whole, on a glass pie plate. Microwave on high for 2 minutes; pierce rind in 4-6 places with an ice pick. Turning squash over, halfway through cooking, microwave on high for the time determined. Let stand while preparing the rest of the recipe. Place mushrooms in a 2-cup glass measure; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high 1¾ minutes. Remove mushrooms and add 1 tablespoon margarine to liquid. Blend in flour with a wire whisk, then add milk. Whisking midway through cooking, microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in sherry, cheese and pepper. Add cooked mushrooms and shrimp, mix well. Cut squash in half, remove seeds. Use a fork to scrape strands of squash from the rind. Place strand in a 1½ qt casserole, pour mushroom sauce over squash; toss to combine. Place remaining 1 tablespoon margarine in a custard cup; microwave on high 30 seconds, or until melted. Blend in corn flake crumbs. Distribute over the top of squash. Microwave on high for 1 minute, or until hot.

Your Spaghetti Squash With Mushrooms and Shrimp is ready. Bon appetit!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pollen is a Pain for Allergy Sufferers

Ah, spring is in the air…and so is the pollen. I think that 2007 is going down as the worst allergy season I’ve had yet. The pollen has been out of control! In Atlanta, everything has been dyed a lovely shade of yellow. My normally cherry red SUV, it’s now yellow. My tan condo, it’s yellow too.

At work people are constantly sniffling, sneezing, coughing and scratching their eyes. It’s ridiculous and miserable! Is there any reprieve in sight? Nobody knows, but according to the Harvard Medical School, approximately 40 to 50 million Americans suffer from allergies.

The Harvard Medical School also offers a few tips for easing the annoyances of allergies:

Stay indoors when the pollen count is high, and especially on dry, windy days.

Stay indoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when airborne pollen is likely to be at its highest.

Shut your home windows at night.

Keep car windows closed when driving.

Take a vacation to the coast (where pollen count is low) during pollen season.

Have someone else cut your grass.

Don’t hang your clothes to dry outside.

Happy Friday and happy sneezing!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What Makes Your Cholesterol High or Low?

I found this on the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Web site. It explains the various risk factors for having high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease.

Heredity. Your genes influence how high your LDL ("bad") cholesterol is by affecting how fast LDL is made and removed from the blood. One specific form of inherited high cholesterol that affects 1 in 500 people is familial hypercholesterolemia, which often leads to early heart disease. But even if you do not have a specific genetic form of high cholesterol, genes play a role in influencing your LDL-cholesterol level.

What you eat. Two main nutrients in the foods you eat make your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level go up: saturated fat, a type of fat found mostly in foods that come from animals; and cholesterol, which comes only from animal products. Saturated fat raises your LDL-cholesterol level more than anything else in the diet. Eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol is the main reason for high levels of cholesterol and a high rate of heart attacks in the United States. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat is a very important step in reducing your blood cholesterol levels.

Excess weight tends to increase your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level. If you are overweight and have a high LDL-cholesterol level, losing weight may help you lower it. Weight loss also helps to lower triglycerides and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.

Physical activity/exercise.
Regular physical activity may lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.

Age and sex. Before the age of menopause, women usually have total cholesterol levels that are lower than those of men the same age. As women and men get older, their blood cholesterol levels rise until about 60 to 65 years of age. After the age of about 50, women often have higher total cholesterol levels than men of the same age.

Alcohol intake increases HDL ("good") cholesterol but does not lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Doctors don't know for certain whether alcohol also reduces the risk of heart disease. Drinking too much alcohol can damage the liver and heart muscle, lead to high blood pressure, and raise triglycerides. Because of the risks, alcoholic beverages should not be used as a way to prevent heart disease.

Stress. Stress over the long term has been shown in several studies to raise blood cholesterol levels. One way that stress may do this is by affecting your habits. For example, when some people are under stress, they console themselves by eating fatty foods. The saturated fat and cholesterol in these foods contribute to higher levels of blood cholesterol.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Clearing Up Another Myth About Margarine

I feel like every few months or so I should address a myth surrounding margarine in order to clear up some misinformation circulating the Internet. I’ve found that the Internet is often breeding grounds for people to become experts on a topic without the appropriate education and background to actually be an expert on that topic.

Today’s Myth: Margarine is one molecule away from plastic.

Fact: Okay, if this myth was true there’s no way I would ever get near a tub of margarine! However, this myth is completely false and inaccurate. Plastic is a polymer, whose ingredients may include polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, acrylic, silicone, and urethane. Margarine is an emulsion of naturally processed vegetable oil, water, salt, vitamins, and other functional ingredients that ensure the safety and quality of the finished product. Emulsions consist of two or more ingredients that naturally do not remain blended or “in suspension”; and need added ingredients to keep them together; think of it like oil and water. Other types of emulsified foods that you may eat include deli meats and salad dressings.

Living a healthy lifestyle includes eating moderate amounts of various types of foods. The margarine industry has been in the forefront of reducing the amounts of trans fat, and adding more functional ingredients to its products to support health.