Archive for the ‘Stealth Health tips’ Category

Food Trend: Back to Back in Black

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

An online piece from Australian Food News quoted an article from Food Technology published in December 2011.  It caught my interest in Forbidden Rice or Black Rice, since I’ve never tasted this.   It also made me recall other natural food products I’ve encountered in 2011 that are naturally black.

Black/Forbidden Rice

A few clicks on the net directed my search to a West based company in the US called Lotus Foods, whose expertise is in the distribution of exotic rice.     On the FAQ section of their website, it explains that Forbidden Rice, an heirloom variety is aptly named since it was once reserved only for the emperor and his family in China.

The black colour is natural and is attributed to the outer bran layer.   It might also be due to where it  is grown, in the black hummus soil of the Black Dragon River of the Northeastern provinces of China.  Black rice is also grown in Japan where it is called Kurogome (or black rice),  and in Thailand as a glutinous black rice cooked in pudding with coconut milk.

The dark colour of the forbidden rice relates to the high content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanin that is also responsible for imparting the dark, purplish, bluish hues in fruits and vegetables.   In August 2010, CNN health writer Carina Storrs article “Is Black Rice the New Brown”, black rice is compared to fresh blueberries where she cites that “One spoonful of black-rice bran — or 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice — contains the same amount of anthocyanin as a spoonful of fresh blueberries, according to a new study presented today at the American Chemical Society, in Boston”. She further added that Black rice would be better to consumer since fresh blueberries contain sugar.

In an online post on titled “Is Purple Rice (referred to as “forbidden rice”) Better for you than Brown Rice?” the nutrient values were directly compared and concluded that based on their nutritive content, they were not significantly different, and in fact almost at the same level.      The author concluded that if price was a deciding factor between the two rice varieties, the Brown rice would be better due to its cost advantage over Black rice.

Taste-wise, I have yet to taste Black rice.    It seems from various posts that both have a nutty flavour.   Black rice however is a short grain rice whereas Brown rice is a long grain rice that absorbs more water and takes longer to cook.

Black Garlic

Black Garlic

Black garlic has its roots in Korea and China. explains that fresh garlic bulbs are carefully monitored for about 4 weeks in a controlled environment of temperature and humidity where they undergo a fermentation process.  Since garlic contains sugar and amino acids, these elements when fermented produces melanoidin that causes the black colour.      The result is a sticky, black clove that is soft and mushy with a sweet flavour and complex undertones.

Edible Bamboo Charcoal Powder

I had to do a double take when I saw this.   Japan seems to lead all other countries when it comes to unique food ingredients.  The idea is that charcoal has natural absorption properties, so when ingested it helps prevent the body from absorbing harmful chemicals or poisions.    This Japanese site illustrates some product applications for edible charcoal powder :      I’m not too keen on trying this out for the new year.

Black / Beluga Lentil

Black / Beluga Lentils

Black lentils are popularly used in Indian cooking and are the smallest of the lentils.   They are also referred to as Beluga Lentils due to their shiny resemblance to Beluga caviar.
Black Beluga® Lentil is a trademark of Timeless Seeds, Inc., their website mentions that among other lentil varieties, the black lentil has the highest amount of protein.

In the UK, it can also be found in the retail markets in a ready to eat pouch, simmered in stock.

Back to the Food Fight

Monday, August 8th, 2011

In my younger, single years while working as a product developer for a flavour company, one of the projects I developed was a “juice” drink composed of: 75% sugar, 5% juice powder (of which 50% was maltodextrin), tri-calcium phosphate (to prevent clumping), gums as thickeners, citric acid,  and colour etc. etc.   It addressed all the needs from a beverage perspective: it tasted good, quenched the thirst, it was affordable and very profitable for our client.  Not too proud of it’s nutritional aspect, but this “drink” eventually became a best-seller across a third world country.

More than a decade following that job, with young family in the picture – I try to make all our meals from scratch and I started a business venture that aim to provide more natural and value-added food ingredients.     Even in my own household, it has not been an easy voyage. As soon as my kids learned their colours, they have put up quite the resistance to their consumption of vegetables.     The food fight continues! I resorted to stealth health cooking i.e. adding cauliflour puree to the baked macaroni, spinach in the pesto, chia seeds in their pancakes, quinoa flour in the banana bread etc. etc.  to add enough fibre and nutrients into their meals.    The good news is that they are quite fond of fruits and though they would hate to admit it, they have picked up a few favourite veggies that they are happy to munch on.

It seems not a lot of people know what healthy food really means.     Is pizza a healthy lunch?   Can french fries count as a vegetable?   A typical lunch program often includes pizza lunches every week of the entire school year.        Adding “fruit juice” gummies as their idea of a nutritious desert, does not cut it.     The banning of nuts from schools and other children’s programs in Canada has also created an unhealthy reception for most kids – the idea that eating nuts are bad for you, whether you have allergies or not.    Ontario schools have started to change their ways, somewhat.   The government of Ontario has issued their guidelines for the coming schoolyear.   More details can be found here:            However, It does not come close to what the French public schools have, but it is a start.

The schools in France have been remarkable in their provision of a school lunch.    The children in the French public school system are provided a 5 course meal everyday.  Not only are the kids taught the value of enjoying their lunch,   they are also accorded ample time to savour it (,9171,1969729,00.html ).         Our Canadian schools allot about 20 minutes for our kids to lap up their meals before they are hurried out the door.     An article that came out last year in the Harvard Mental Health Letter suggests that eating slowly may help you achieve a feeling of fullness (    It also helps explain why most resources for losing weight would recommend you to slowly chew your food. The theory is that, if you eat your food too fast, you do not give enough time for your brain to realize that you are full. Do you still wonder why there is a growing incidence of obesity in children?

While kids may eat a not-so-healthy meal at school, it is up to us parents and guardians to make sure that our children are introduced to healthier choices at home.      To have a decent breakfast before they go off to school and a balanced dinner before they retire to bed.   While I may not pack a 5 course school meal for my kids, it is certainly close to gourmet.

Other related posts:
A Chef’s Guide to Healthier, Kid-Friendly Foods

French Week: On School Lunches

Tomato Seeds Vs. Aspirin Smack-Down

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

cherry tomatoes

Researchers have found that an extract based on the gelatin that surrounds tomato seeds may help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Aspirin has been a traditional weapon in the fight against heart disease, however, prolonged use can lead to the risk of ulcers and bleeding in the stomach. The tomato seed extract has been found to help thin the blood like aspirin, but without the unfortunate side effects.

The extract has been under study by researchers at Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute. It’s called Fruitflow and is  manufactured by Provexis, company that has been spun off from the research institute. According to the Scotsman:

The trial compared the effects of Fruitflow and aspirin over a seven-month period using 43 people…The study also showed no ill effects when Fruitflow and aspirin were taken together…The extract is said to begin to work immediately and its benefits are said to last for up to 18 hours.

Read more: Tomato seeds promise new way to fight heart disease more safely

Creative Commons License photo credit: Robynlou8

Inflammation Smackdown: Chia vs. Ibuprofen

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

The Lab

Inflammation is a biological response of the body to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens and other irritants. Inflammation represents an attempt to remove the negative stimuli and to begin the healing process. Without inflammation, wounds and infections wouldn’t heal. Unchecked, chronic inflammation can also lead to a host of diseases and for this reason inflammation is closely regulated by the body.

For athletes and those involved in an exercise program, inflammation is a common by-product of training. Inflammation can slow progress, cause loss of muscle mass, and increase body fat. Ironically, what we hope will help us become stronger, faster and healthier can also bring about results opposite to those we wish to achieve. All exercise and sports activities produce some level of inflammation.

How do we overcome inflammation due of strenuous exercise? One popular approach is the use of Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID’s) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxin, etc. Unfortunately, NSAID’s are not without side effects, such as reducing the flow of blood to the kidneys and therefore impairing their function.  They may also be linked to liver failure and intestinal hemorrhage.

Dr. David C. Nieman, the director of the Human Performance Lab at the Appalachian State University, is looking into methods other than ibuprofen for decreasing inflammation in runners. According to the Independent Tribune, Dr. Nieman believes that NSAID’s hurt the body (with the exception of aspirin):

We have shown that it actually causes bacteria to leave the colon and enter the blood stream, and that causes systemic inflammation and kidney dysfunction…Ibuprofen and heavy exercise do not mix.

Dr. Nieman has started looking into the effects of chia seeds on  overweight, post-menopausal women; women who tend to suffer some inflammation. Chia seeds are high in antioxidants, minerals, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. In October he will perform the same study on cyclists. Participants will take 25 grams of chia seeds a day for 30 days. Cycling test sessions will be conducted at the beginning and end of the of the trial where various fitness tests will take place. Half the group will be taking the chia seeds and the other half will take a placebo. According to Dr. Nieman:

We will be able to better determine if there is an anti-inflammatory effect in these studies…So what we really are doing is taking this Chia seed research to an all new level that’s never been done before. This study will determine once and for all if the omega 3 fat in the Chia seed has benefits for obese people and athletes.

Needless to say, we’ll be keeping our eyes on this study and look forward to the results.

Athletes test for impact of Chia seed on inflammation

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Creative Commons License photo credit: lmpicard

How to Shop for Groceries: Lists Trump the Perimeter

Thursday, September 9th, 2010


One common technique for healthy grocery shopping is to shop the perimeter and avoid the center aisles. The reasoning behind this is that the healthiest and freshest foods are found on the perimeter of the grocery store while the processed foods are found in the middle. According to Medical News:

In most grocery stores, the aisles are filled with canned goods, frozen and boxed dinners that are loaded with fat and extra unnecessary calories…The perimeter features fruits, vegetables, lean meats and other healthy fair.

It’s a good rule of thumb, and you can even find guides on how to perimeter shop. But is it really the healthiest method of grocery shopping? Nutrition expert Karen Collins writes at MSN’s Diet & Fitness column:

…it’s not really true that everything in the center of the store is unhealthy. This is the spot for many unprocessed whole grains (whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa), dried beans (either canned or uncooked), nuts, dried fruit, coffee and tea, and herbs and spices. And although it’s hard to go wrong in the produce department, the meat department contains both healthy options…and high-fat and processed meats that should not be standard fare for eating habits that help lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.

Vegan RD goes further, suggesting the whole concept of shopping the perimeter be thrown out the window. She provides great examples of unhealthy food which resides on the periphery such as hot dogs, canned dinner rolls and refrigerated cookie dough, as well as cakes and other sweets from the bakery. She also points out that some of the most healthy foods like whole grains, beans and seeds are to be found in the center aisles. As a vegan, she has a unique take on how this whole shop the perimeter meme took off:

I think the USDA made it up! After all, their job is to promote and protect the interests of animal agriculture, and they’re all placed at the perimeter. Consider this: all of those things need to be refrigerated, and it is most cost-effective for stores to house their refrigeration cases against the walls. How convenient for “experts” to advise folks to shop the refrigerators–meat, dairy, eggs, (and produce).

So what’s the best way to grocery shop if shopping the perimeter is not all it’s cut out to be? With a list. By preparing a shopping list of healthy foods ahead of time, and sticking to that list once in the store, you are pretty much assured that what you bring home from the grocery store will by good for you and avoid unhealthy impulse purchases. As a side benefit, if your list is thorough and organized by department, your trip to the grocery store is going to be a lot quicker!

Read More:
Shopping the Perimeter of the Grocery Store
How to Do Perimeter Shopping at the Grocery Store
“Shop the Perimeter”: My Theory

Here’s another tip: subscribe to Ingredient Hotline and stay informed on unique, natural ingredients. Be sure to follow us on twitter and facebook.

Creative Commons License photo credit: krystian_o

Quinoa For Breakfast

Friday, August 20th, 2010

As we’ve discussed before, quinoa has excellent nutritional value: its protein content is very high and contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for human consumption. It’s arguably the best complete protein source among plant foods. On top of this, it’s also a good source of dietary fiber and gluten-free making it easy to digest.

If you go out on the internet looking for how to incorporate quinoa into your diet, recipes abound. The perennial favourite approach is to incorporate quinoa into a salad and other savory side dishes. But why stop there? We also think quinoa is an excellent candidate for breakfast and sweets. It can be as simple as adding plain yogurt, apples, and a sprinkle of coconut sugar to a bowl of quinoa:

Quinoa Breakfast

Another delicious alternative is quinoa with blueberries and bananas drizzled with home made blueberry syrup (we got the recipe for the syrup from the excellent Simple Bites blog, but instead of refined sugar, try using coconut sugar instead):

Blueberry Sauce on Quinoa, Bananas and Blueberries!

If you head over to Sweet On Veg, you’ll find another fantastic take on the blueberry + quinoa theme: Blueberry Maple Quinoa.

Another promising way to incorporate quinoa into sweets is to use puffed quinoa. This unique product is somewhat like puffed wheat, but each individual unit is smaller offering a more interesting texture. It has a very pleasing toasted taste and would work well in health bars, desserts and breakfast cereals.

Chia: a Remedy for Acid Reflux

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Day 141- H's Sick Day
Acid reflux, the main cause of heartburn and acid indigestion, is the abnormal backward flow of stomach acid to the esophagus. The typical symptom is a burning sensation in the chest, just behind the breastbone. The blog Diabetes War claims that chia is an effective remedy against acid reflux.

As we’ve noted before, chia seeds have some rather amazing qualities, among them being high in omega-3, antioxidants, protein and calcium. Chia seeds can absorb about 12 times their weight in liquid. By adding water to chia seeds, a gel is formed around the seeds and it becomes a nutritious, filling drink, which helps decrease appetite. Iskiate is a beverage that leverages this effect, and is well known by long distance runners. According to Diabetes War:

Drinking a third cup of chia gel at the onset of acid reflux can eliminate it for many people. Try drinking that much three times a day. It might prevent acid reflux from occurring at all. I know of people who swallow a teaspoon of raw seeds if they experience acid reflux. The seeds absorb the acid just as they do water…it is rich in mucilloid soluble fiber, thus allowing it to quell the burning pain of acid reflux in the esophagus and stomach.

Have you ever tried using chia as a remedy for heartburn? How else have you used chia in your diet? Let us know in the comments!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jinx!


Friday, November 13th, 2009

In his bestselling book Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, Christopher McDougall describes iskiate as the “Red Bull” beverage for the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico. The Tarahumara are reknown for their long distance running ability. McDougall describes iskiate:

It’s brewed up by dissolving chia seeds in water with a little sugar and a squirt of lime. In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they’re superpacked with omega-3s, omega-6s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber, and antioxidents…you couldn’t do much better than chia, at least if you were interested in building muscle, lowering cholesterol, and reducing your risk of heart disease…

Source: Born To Run.

Iskiate is refreshing and said to be a great source of replenishment after any kind of exertion. Thanks in large part to the book, long distance runners and other athletes are now using iskiate to rejuvenate after a workout. I recommend reading Born To Run, and I also recommend trying out iskiate! It’s quite easy to prepare at home. Check out how simple it is in the video below:

Chia seeds can be purchased retail at many places, including Whole Foods in the United States and the Bulk Barn in Canada. For larger quantities of Chia, contact Ingredient Hotline and we’d be happy to help you with your wholesale needs.

For more on Born To Run, you can check out the official fan site. You may also like to read more about chia and iskiate: