It was a busy week on The Travel Pharmacist’s Facebook Page! Our Health Tips included everything from how to get a better nights’ sleep to the importance of keeping the head warm to avoid sinus headaches. I think my favorite was learning it’s really my smartphone that’s to blame for those extra pounds from late night snacking!
Here is the weekly roundup for your #365Health…
Do you know the Dirty Dozen or the Clean 15? If you’re interested in foods with fewer chemicals or pesticides (up to 80% less!) and adopting a more organic way of eating, then these two lists may be the most important you’ll come across this week!
Thanks to a wonderful organization called Environmental Working Group, we now have a comprehensive way to look at the fruits and vegetables we buy regularly and know the levels of residue pesticides as reported by the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture. The Dirty Dozen represents the Top 12 farm grown foods with the highest levels of pesticides and chemicals (these are the ones you should definitely try to buy organic if possible). The Clean 15 are those with the lowest levels of residual chemicals. In other words, the ones on your grocery list that you can buy non-organic if cost is an issue. Here they all are…
It’s quite a scary list. Many of the fruits and vegetables we love to enjoy. So should I only eat processed foods? No. It is important to remember that the overall health benefit of eating fresh fruits and vegetables outweighs the risk of these chemicals, however buying organic will lessen the risk even more. “Organic” is a designation used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program to certify food that was produced without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation or sewage sludge.
Washing fruits and vegetables is also very important! The data from these studies was obtained from foods that were washed and peeled (as normally eaten), so if your produce isn’t washed, your exposure levels to harmful chemicals will be even higher.
If you’re interested in learning more, the Environmental Working Group offers an excellent PDF guide entitled “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”.By using these lists and in-depth information provided, consumers can have the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables with less exposure to pesticides.
Do you buy organic food regularly for your family? Is cost an issue? Let us know how you take steps to ensure your produce is as pesticide and chemical-free as possible.
Happy, Healthy Travels!
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Did you know that FOOD can actually change your mood? And all it takes is one bite to go from grumpy to grinning? Well, maybe not quite that simple, but some foods DO have the ability to alter the chemicals in your brain responsible for happiness. By increasing levels of these “happy” chemicals, like serotonin and endorphins, we can more easily face a day of stressful airport runs or trekking at the break of dawn.
So which food are considered the best “HAPPY” foods? Here are the Top 5 –
1. COFFEE! You can smell it now, can’t you? A study from Vanderbilt University showed 2 cups a day over a three week period increased the brain’s production of endorphins. Endorphins are those same hormones that make you feel SO good when you’ve just run your best time ever or when you help that frazzled foreign traveler read her upside down map.
2. SUNFLOWER SEEDS. It’s a crunchy, delicious snack that fills the brain with zinc, a natural stress-reducer. It only takes 1/2 a cup of shelled seeds daily for a week to see the benefits!
3. GREEN TEA. Sip away your anxiety with a cup of green tea. Green tea contains theanine, a compound shown to significantly reduce anxiety by protecting the brain from excess neurotransmitters. And if that wasn’t enough, green tea has other health benefits as well. The antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in that steaming cup of goodness assists the body in the fight against cancer and heart disease.
4. AVOCADOS. Nature’s Prozac! With high levels of tryptophan, the chemical that turns into serotonin in the brain, avocados have been shown to have a good antidepressant effect. It only takes 1/2 of an avocado daily to produce this mood-lifting feeling. An extra bonus – adding a few slices to your salad will significantly increase nutrient adsorption as the fats in avocados allow the body to absorb more nutrients from other foods.
5. CHOCOLATE. Oh yes! We all love chocolate and the fact it’s good for our brain makes us even happier! Phenylethylamine and anandamides are the two scary-sounding compounds in chocolate we can thank for boosting concentration and increasing blood flow to the brain. Chocolate increases both serotonin and endorphin levels in the body. Dark chocolate is best – 30 to 90 percent cocoa content, and all it takes is one ounce daily to bring on those wonderful feelings of happiness!
Share YOUR special “Happy Food” with us in the comments below…
As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.
Happy, Healthy Travels!
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Lentil Salad with Feta Cheese is a healthy favorite for on-the-go families and solo travelers. Travel food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Honest! We travel a lot and often get very tired of eating the over-priced options available in an airport or train station. And while it might be easier to grab a greasy burger and fries when your flight’s delayed, you body will certainly thank for a the bit of extra preparation that went into making something more sustaining.
So this week we’re looking at a few Travel Food options. The criteria were: portable, easy-to-make, healthy and travels well. Oh, and it has to taste good, too!
One of our favorites is Lentil Salad with Feta Cheese. Packed with protein, folic acid and fiber to keep us feeling full, we found an easy recipe to share. Easy is very important because when you’re packing for a vacation or any type of travel, you don’t have lots of time to waste in the kitchen. You can even make the vinaigrette a few days ahead and keep in the refrigerator until ready to mix together with the lentils.
Lentil Salad for 4-6 hungry travelers:
1 lb dried green lentils (these hold up best in salads)
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1 green pepper, seeds removed and diced
1/4 cup capers
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock to boil lentils (may also use just water)
Additions: crumbled feta cheese, tofu, or leftover chicken for extra protein
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1. Rinse lentils, drain well. Cover with 3-4 inches of stock and bring pot to boil. Reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes. Check for doneness at 15 minutes (typically it takes about 20 minutes total). Be careful not to overcook as mushy lentils don’t do as well in a salad.
2. Drain lentils and immediately rinse under cold water. Set aside to continue draining.
3. Saute onion and green pepper in olive oil until softened. Add capers just as these are finishing to meld the flavors.
4. For the vinaigrette: Mix all ingredients together thoroughly in small bowl and set aside until lentils are done (may be made several days ahead).
5. Mix the cooked lentils, onion, capers, and peppers together with the vinaigrette, toss, and add your favorite additions, like feta cheese or leftover chicken.
This lentil salad can be served warm or refrigerated for travel, whatever your family prefers. By using disposable containers and utensils, you’ll be able to eat whenever or where ever you or the family is hungry. A huge bonus in a busy airport at lunchtime.