Eggplant: the Good and the Bad

Eggplant: the Good and the Bad

A favorite in vegan and omnivore cuisine, eggplant, can be baked, roasted, grilled, and used as a pizza topping or in stir-fry recipes. It has a pleasantly bitter taste and spongy texture that may vary depending on the color/variety of eggplant selected. Dress your cooked eggplant with herbs, sauces, and condiments and you’ll be sure to please even the pickiest guest at your dinner table.

Like everything else in life, eggplant comes with the good and the bad.

It is a member of the nightshade family of vegetables along with tomatoes, potatoes, and all types of peppers and even some fruit.

GOOD. Eggplant contains a phytonutrient (plant chemical with nutritional benefits) and antioxidants, protecting from cells damage, supporting brain and heart health and a great source of fiber, copper, potassium and B vitamins.

BAD. Eggplant contains cholinesterase that blocks anti-inflammatory substances in the body and therefore promotes INFLAMMATION.

The amount of these substances may vary but usually small and good often negate the bad, however some patient may be very sensitive to those substances.

Especially people with high pre-existing level of inflammation will respond with more symptoms, usually pain, after eating eggplant and other nightshades (potato, peppers, etc). That is why we ask our patients to avoid those vegetables for 4-6 weeks during the elimination food plan. Upon reintroduction of these foods, some people will report increase in symptoms, usually inflammatory joint pain (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) and some gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, etc.).

The bottom line, if the level of inflammation in the body is low, one can enjoy eggplant and nightshades in moderation. But if you suffer from any chronic inflammatory conditions you might consider limiting your consumption of eggplant until the causes of inflammation resolved.

In our functional medicine practice, Dr.Klimenko and entire team of Healthy Wealthy & Wise Medical, P.C. will help you to understand which foods are best for you and why. Call our office 212-696-HEAL if you want to receive a medical consultation and guidance on how to improve your health.

For those who can and love to eat eggplant, enjoy this recipe.

Eggplant Caponata

Satisfying and versatile, eggplant can handle a variety of flavorful accompaniments, several of which give a kick to this Sicilian favorite. The tomato base is spiked with anchovies, garlic, and capers, creating a mouth-watering aroma and a burst of flavor in every bite. Serve as an appetizer, a main dish or as a side with your favorite fish.

Makes 4-6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large Italian eggplants, peeled and cut into medium dice
  • 2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 5 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced on an angle
  • 2 anchovies, in oil
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup capers, in brine

Preparation:

  1. Peel and dice the eggplants, peel and slice the onion, peel and slice the garlic, slice the celery.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with the salt. Transfer the eggplant to a colander to drain for 2 hours. In order to facilitate the draining, top the eggplant with a heavy weight, such as a dinner plate topped with full cans.
  3. Heat 3 Tbs of the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and celery and sauté for 5 minutes more, or until the garlic softens but does not brown. Add the anchovies and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir to thoroughly combine. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the paste turns a deep red, almost brown, and starts to stick to the pan. Add the vinegar and sugar and stir until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  5. In another large sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbs olive oil over high heat until smoking. Add the eggplant and carefully toss it in the oil, letting it sear before stirring. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the eggplant is translucent and soft.
  6. Transfer the eggplant to the caponata mixture and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, until the flavors combine. Add the capers and their brine and stir to incorporate.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature accompanied by toast points or crostini.
References
  • Worlds Healthiest Foods. “Eggplant” Accessed on 4 July 2016: http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=22
  • Whitaker, B.D., Stommel, J.R. “Distribution of hydroxycinnamic acid conjugates in fruit of commercial eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) cultivars.” J Agric Food Chem. (May 2003) 51(11): 3448-54. Accessed on 5 July 2016: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf026250b
  • Murray, Michael T., Pizzorno, J. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods (2005). Atria. Excerpt on eggplant available at: https://doctormurray.com/healing-facts-eggplant/
  • Das, S. et al., “Cardioprotective properties of raw and cooked eggplant (Solanum melongena L).” Food Funct. (2011) 2, p. 395-399. DOI: 10.1039/C1FO10048C. Accessed 5 July 2016: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2011/FO/c1fo10048c#!divAbstract
  • EatingWell.com. “10 Healthy Eggplant Recipes.” Accessed 5 July 2016. http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_eggplant_recipes

Food & You: The Body-Mind Connection

“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” – Dorothy Day

There’s no doubt about it: what we eat, and how much we eat, has a direct impact on our physical health. But did you know that those same choices also influence mood, mental alertness, memory, and emotional wellbeing? Food can act as medicine, have a neutral effect, or it can be a poison to the body and mind.

When food acts as poison, it creates inflammation, which alters the body’s balance of nutrients, hormones, and neurotransmitters. This directly affects your body’s ability to manage and heal from stress or illness.

While some body-mind effects are due to naturally occurring nutrient content in food, much is due to hidden additives. Below, are four common culprits. If you’re experiencing symptoms that interfere with your quality of living, talk with your holistic health practitioner about the role these or other foods may play in your health.

Foods that Impact Body-Mind Well being Caffeine:

The most socially accepted psychoactive substance in the world, caffeine is used to boost alertness, enhance performance, and even treat apnea in premature infants. Caffeine is frequently added to other foods, so be mindful of total consumption. Too much caffeine (500-600 mg daily) interferes with sleep quality which affects energy, concentration, and memory. It can aggravate other health conditions, cause digestive disturbances, and worsen menstrual symptoms and anxiety.

Food Dye:

The brightly colored, processed and packaged foods we buy come with a rainbow of health risks. Listed on ingredient labels as “Blue 2,” or “Citrus Red,” food dye has been documented to contain cancer-causing agents (e.g., benzidine). They’re also associated with allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children. Dyes are sometimes used to enhance skin color of fruits and veggies, but not in organic produce. A number of dyes have been banned from use in foods and cosmetics around the world.

Sugars:

Increased sugar consumption (as much as 30% over the last three decades for American adults), is linked to decreased intake of essential nutrients and associated with obesity, diabetes, inflammatory disease, joint pain and even schizophrenia. Too much dietary sugar can result in blood sugar fluctuations, causing mood swings, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and increased depression. Sugars that can act as poison include High Fructose Corn Syrup, table sugar, artificial and “natural” sweeteners.

MSG:

Monosodium glutamate is a flavor enhancer common in packaged and prepared foods. Although the FDA considers MSG “generally safe,” some individuals experience a complex of physical and mental symptoms after eating MSG-containing foods. Symptoms vary but can include headache, sweating, nausea, chest pain, heart palpitations, and overstimulation of the central nervous system which can lead to alterations in sleep, mood, and immunity.

Becoming aware of your food choices, why you make them, and how you feel mentally and physically is important. It is the first step in understanding your personal body-mind food connection. Your integrative or functional medicine practitioner may ask you to keep a mind-body food journal to provide a clear picture of how your food choices affect your health.

Elena Klimenko, MD, a certified functional medicine physician, will help you choose the right course of action to improve your nutrition. In her practice, she uses lifestyle modification, herbal and food based supplements to address the root cause of your medical symptoms. Call today to find out more about functional medicine and speak with Dr. Klimenko at 212-696- HEAL(4325).

The Fig: Sweet. Succulent. Sensual.

The Fig: Sweet. Succulent. Sensual.

One of the “Seven Spices of Israel” and referenced in many religious texts as a sacred fruit, the fig (Angeer), is rich in nutrition and history. For centuries, figs have been referenced in mythology and traditional medicine as a powerful sexual supplement. While they have yet to be adequately studied as an aphrodisiac in humans, some animal studies show figs can increase sperm count and motility. The health benefits of figs are far ranging. They are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, and the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E.

The fig offers a unique combination of textures – chewy flesh, smooth skin, and crunchy seeds. California figs are typically harvested June through September. European varieties are available into the fall months. The majority of figs are dried fruits that can be enjoyed anytime of the year.

When selecting dried figs, they should be plump and soft. They will keep for long periods in a cool, dry place. When choosing fresh figs, which are beautifully delicate, select those with deep color, little bruising and sweet fragrance. Keep them in the fridge and plan to eat them in one or two days; don’t wash until ready to eat. If figs are not yet ripe, keep them at room temperature to ripen.

Figs can add a sweet sensation to just about any dish. But the high fiber can produce a laxative effect, so don’t over do it.

Roasted Fig and Goat Cheese

You and your partner will swoon over the delectable combination of sweet, ripe fig filled with creamy goat cheese and drizzled with tangy balsamic and honey. All natural and gluten free, perfect for a romantic appetizer or healthy snacking after a little love in the afternoon!

Ingredients

  • 12 Black Mission figs, halved vertically
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbs honey
  • 2-3 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • Flaky sea salt, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. While the oven preheats, melt the butter in a small saucepan, along with the balsamic vinegar, honey, and a hefty pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook about 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
  3. Place the figs, cut side up, in a baking dish the size of a pie pan. Top each fig half with a 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of goat cheese. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar syrup over the figs.
  4. Roast in the oven until very soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Arrange on a platter and sprinkle with flaky salt.

 

Call our office 212-696-HEAL if you want to receive a medical consultation and guidance how to improve your health. Here, at Healthy Wealthy & Wise Medical, P.C. we evaluate our patients through holistic and functional medicine understanding of health and balance of vital organs and system and prescribe a comprehensive treatment plan.

 

References

  • Patil, V. & Patil, V.R., “Ficas carica: An Overview.” Research Jl. of Medicinal Plants. (2011) 5:3, 246-253. Accessed on 10 June 2016: http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/academicjournals/rjmp/2011/246-253.pdf
  • California Rare Fruit Growers. Accessed on 10 June 2016: https://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/fig.html
  • The World’s Healthiest Foods. Accessed on 10 June 2016: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=24#nutritionalprofile
  • Organic Facts. “Health Benefits of Fig.” Accessed on 10 June 2016: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-figs-or-anjeer.html *Has a terrific chart How to Stay Healthy on Figs that is downloadable.
  • Naghdi M., Maghbool M., et al. “Effects of Common Fig (Ficus carica) Leaf Extracts on Sperm Parameters and Testis of Mice Intoxicated with Formaldehyde.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, (2016) doi:10.1155/2016/2539127. Accessed 10 June 2016: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4745414/
  • http://www.popsugar.com/food/Easy-Roasted-Fig-Goat-Cheese-Recipe-9205886
Don't Let Food Labels Give You Indigestion

Don’t Let Food Labels Give You Indigestion

Food labels have been a topic of discussion with my patients for many years.

When you are walking the grocery store aisles, you probably flip over a few items to read the nutrition labels, but do you understand what you’re looking at? While overall, people around are well education about the topic, please remember these helpful tips:

Nutrition information on the label is provided for one serving of a food or beverage. Many products contain more than one serving. Example: standard size bottle of ice-tea contains 2 servings (2 cups) but label gives you information for 1 serving (1 cup). Therefore, if you drink the whole bottle at your lunch, you must double the calories, fat, sugar, and other ingredients on the label. If you’ve eaten a smaller portion, then calculate accordingly.

Pay special attention to the amount of Sugars (listed under carbohydrates section of label) in one serving. This is especially important if you have diabetes (or other health concerns) that require you to monitor sugar intake or the glycemic index of foods. My rule of thumb is, if the amount of sugar higher than protein (listed write below the sugars), I try to skip it.

Check out the amount of fat, especially Trans fats in one serving. Those are especially known to contribute to “bad cholesterol,” which contributes to heart disease. Choose foods that have “Zero” Trans fats.

Be aware that “0” does not mean zero! It means less than 5% per serving!

Always look at the list of ingredients. It describes what is actually this product is made of and what else was added to it. If you cannot pronounce the words that are listed on a food label, it’s likely coming from chemicals and processed (unnatural) elements that are not healthy for the body. Some of the items you want to avoid include:

Preservatives including BHA, BHT, brominated products

GMO – genetically modified organisms, common in corn and soy derivatives

Dextrose

Xanthan gum

Hydrocarbons (pesticides PCB, DDE, DDT)

Soy, cottonseed oil, hydrogenated oils

Dyes (e.g., yellow dye no. 5, tartrazine, anything with numbers in it)

MSG – monosodium glutamate (common in canned foods and Asian cooking)

Food allergens – if you or family members have a known allergy to peanuts, wheat, soy, or gluten

If you are in a hurry and can’t take the time to read labels, be sure to avoid packaged (bag, box, or bottle) foods. Instead, buy fresh or frozen whole foods and “eat a rainbow everyday” (e.g., fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt). Also, choose beverages with no sugar added (check that spot on the label).

If in doubt, do not eat it and always feel free to call us for an additional information. In our practice we always start with food, because “we are what we eat”. Eat Healthy – Stay Healthy!

References

  • David Katz, M.D. “Nutrition Detectives: Teaching Kids to Make Healthy Choices.” http://www.davidkatzmd.com/nutritiondetectives.aspx
  • Pizzorno, J.E. Textbook of Natural Medicine. Fourth edition. St Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Publishing: 2014.
  • United States Department of Agriculture. “Nutrition Facts Label.” Updated August 2006. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/printablematerials/NutritionFactsLabel.pdf
  • United States Food and Drug Administration. “How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label.” Updated November 2004. http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm

 

The Butterfly Inside You: The Tiny, Mighty Thyroid Gland

The Butterfly Inside You: The Tiny, Mighty Thyroid Gland

A busy butterfly lives just below your Adam’s apple that is responsible for the regulation of your inner state of balance, or homeostasis. Like a butterfly, the thyroid quietly goes about its business without getting much attention until your doctor checks it with her hands during a routine exam. Unless something unusual is found at that time (e.g., swelling) or symptoms manifest that indicate a problem, there won’t be much further ado about your thyroid.

Let’s take a moment to find out what the thyroid does, how to know if there’s a problem, and how to keep your thyroid healthy.

The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which includes the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thymus, pineal gland, testes, ovaries, adrenal glands, parathyroid, and pancreas. It makes hormones (e.g., T3, T4) that travel through your bloodstream and regulate your metabolism, brain and heart function, and reproductive and menstrual cycles.

When the thyroid is not functioning properly, a chain reaction of hormonal events takes place that involves many other glands/hormones of the endocrine system and the bodily systems they regulate. The end result is one of two primary types of health conditions: hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.

Hyperthyroidism results when the thyroid is overactive. Think of hyperthyroidism like a butterfly that can’t stop fluttering its wings. Everything is on overdrive, including metabolism, frequency of bowels, emotions (anxiousness), increased sweating, and–for lady butterflies only–very light menstruation or cessation of the menstrual cycle. This butterfly often feels hot and can’t maintain a healthy weight. There are also bouts of exhaustion from trying to maintain this intense state of arousal.

Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid is underactive. This butterfly just can’t get its wings to go. It’s gained weight, feels sluggish, and has brittle hair and nails. It feels cold and tired, is kind of depressed, and suffers from constipation. The lady butterflies usually have irregular, heavy menstruation.

5 Ways to Keep Your Thyroid Healthy

  1. Eat from the sea. The sea provides many natural sources of iodine, a building block of the thyroid hormone. Salt has a high concentration of iodine, but it can raise blood pressure. Instead, opt for saltwater fish, or try seaweed in a salad. Cod and halibut are high in selenium, which protects the thyroid gland during periods of stress and helps regulate hormone synthesis. Fish oil provides essential fatty acids that reduce inflammation, which plays a role in causing autoimmune diseases.
  2. Eat from the earth. Eat foods high in B vitamins, which are precursors to thyroid hormones and influence cell energy. Balance your diet with poultry, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Red meat provides iron, zinc, magnesium, and other minerals essential for thyroid hormone function, and the health of other bodily systems affected by thyroid disorders (skin, hair, metabolism).
  3. Relax. A daily relaxation practice, such as just 10 minutes a day of silence and deep breathing, can make a difference in the state of mind and body.
  4. Move it! Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Yoga is particularly good for thyroid health, including poses such as butterfly, fish pose, shoulder stand, and child’s pose.
  5. Get supplemental insurance. Our diets aren’t perfect, so supplementing with a vitamin/mineral or botanical (herb) regimen can provide extra insurance against exposure to stress, toxins, and perhaps your own family history. Be sure to consult with your wellness practitioner about the best nutraceutical products for you.

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