Thursday, October 7, 2010

USDA permits of genetically engineered sugar beets ruled illegal yet again

A federal court has ruled against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and deemed that it has acted illegally by allowing limited planting of an herbicide resistant, genetically engineered sugar beet called Roundup Ready despite a prior court-ordered ban.

Sugar beets are commercially grown plants for sugar production. The Roundup Ready sugar beet, also known as Event H7-1, was engineered by Monsanto and the German corporation KWS to include a gene that is tolerant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

On August 13, 2010, in another case, federal district Judge Jeffery White ruled that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had illegally deregulated a sugar beet designed to be resistant to Monsanto's herbicide, Roundup Ready.

Less than three weeks later, the USDA issued limited seeding permits to four sugar beet seed producers, arguing the step  didn’t violate the ban because those plantings wouldn’t be allowed to flower and that the  seeds would be used for widespread production in 2012 growing seasons.

By mid September 2010, the four seed producers stated that plantings had been completed and specified within the permits that their purpose was to produce stecklings (seedlings) to transplant into basic seed for commercial production in the winter of 2010-2011, a production stage which goes beyond the supposedly limited plantings at issue. “The permits are replete with references to future transplantation and use of the stecklings” according to case notes.

In Ctr. for Food Safety v. Vilsack, No. 10-04038   The plaintiffs, Center for Food Safety (CFS), Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop APHIS from issuing permits and any planting allowed by them.

The judge granted the plaintiffs request to vacate approval of the crop.

Plaintiffs want the judge to order the destruction of the genetically engineered sugar beets that were planted. The judge will rule on the next steps by October 22.


In March 2005, USDA announced the deregulation of Event H7-1 stating that it "would not present a risk of plant pest introduction or dissemination" and could be introduced into the environment without permits.
Roundup Ready sugar beets were planted for the first time in the spring of 2008 by growers.

In 2008, CFS and the remaining plaintiffs argued that USDA failed to take a "hard look" at the environmental effects of cross pollination with conventional beets with its decision to deregulate in 2005 and called for a thorough assessment.

By 2009, federal court judge Jeffrey White ruled that the USDA had violated federal law in deregulating Roundup Ready sugar beets without adequately evaluating the environmental and socio-economic impacts before approving commercial release.  He ordered APHIS to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS).

By August 13 2010, the Court overturned USDA’s deregulation decision based on APHIS’s failure to prepare an EIS.

What does this mean for growers and the sugar beet industry?

According to a 2009 European Commission report the sugar beet event H7-1 shows that the likelihood of potential adverse effects on human health and the environment resulting from its cultivation and use as any other sugar beet is negligible.

Currently a large percentage if not 95 percent of sugar beet growers use Roundup Ready crops. The European Union, the United States, and Russia are the world's three largest sugar beet producers.

Roundup Ready sugar beet event H7-1 contains a gene encoding which tolerates Roundup herbicide. The objective of the gene modification is to improve expensive weed management practices and for optimal production efficiency of sugar beets.

No single currently registered herbicide offers the broad spectrum weed control afforded by Roundup. Instead, farmers today must resort to using several applications of multiple herbicides with high input of the respective chemicals.

The already popular strain of genetically engineered sugar beet can no longer be used by growers, most of which come from Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Consumers can consider local alternatives to processed and refined sugars such as organic sugar, evaporated cane juice, rice syrup, barley malt, tapioca syrup, wheat and oat syrup, honey, fruit juices, molasses, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and agave.

Suggested Articles:
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

American food trends since 1909

Courtesy: Renegade Lunch Lady
Since 1909, American food trends have shifted to cheese, processed eggs, chicken and carbonated drinks over whole milk and beef per USDA’s latest report. 

Economists at Economic Research Service (ERS), one research arm of the United States Department of Agriculture, have compiled an extensive data set which tracks the U.S. food trends dating back to 1909.
The data sets are based on several factors such as national food supply availability, adjusted losses to the supply from spoilage, moisture loss, waste and nutrient availability.

What are some interesting trends?
For most commodities, better processing techniques, health concerns, information availability, education, economic factors such as wars and availability of large selections at numerous locations are factors in the shift. The estimates are converted to pounds per person (PPP) with recognition of the population count for the period.

The fluid milk category which includes whole, skim, low fat and flavored milks plummeted on a per person per pound basis from 1909 onward, although low fat and skim milks within the category have increased. Yogurt demand has increased from .1% in the 1950s to 11.8 PPP.

Within the red meats and poultry category beef, pork and chicken lead, however, by 2008 chicken demand is quickly overtaking a declining beef demand. Beef declined from 88.8 PPP in 1976 to 61.2 PPP by 2008, while chicken steadily rose to 58.8 PPP by 2008. Pork demand has remained relatively stable.

Fish and shellfish, edible stocks have moved from 8.4 PPP in the depression era of 1932 to double the amount by 2008.

In oil and fat category, as butters and lard use reduced, salad oils and shortenings increased. Salad and cooking oils moved from 12.5 PPP in 1965 to 54.3 PPP by 2008.

Legume demand is relatively stable through the century, however imports of dry edible beans increased from negligible amounts in the 1900s to almost 300 million pounds by 2008.

Retail coffee diminished from peak post World War II numbers of 16.5 PPP to 7.2 PPP by 2008 while cocoa numbers improved.

Americans are drinking more carbonated and alcoholic beverages as opposed to milk. Total soft drink availability has increased to 46.4 PPP by 2003, trailing is the alcoholic beverage section which was at  25.7 PPP to date. Milk declined to 20.8 PPP by 2008 from a peak of 31.3 PPP in 1970.

Americans are eating their broccoli demonstrated by the PPP which grew from 1.5 in 1970 to 8.3 in 2008. Potatoes, Tomatoes, Sweet corn and onions are top vegetables for consumption in 2008.

For the fruit category, oranges are consumed the most followed by grapes and bananas.

USDA's data set is unique and the only extensive source of this research in the U.S. today. The data set is a valuable tool which can assist anyone in understanding the socio-economic influences shaping our country and its eating habits.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Caramelized Onion, Fig and Goat Cheese Tarts

Courtesy: California Fig Advisory
Figs and cheese have harmonized well for generations as the flavors contrast the sweet with the salty. There are no die-hard rules for the type of cheese pairing one should consider as the cheese flavors range from mild to sharp. Here is a warm and luscious recipe to ring in the fig season.

Recipe courtesy: California Fig Advisory board

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 frozen prepared 4-inch puff pastry tart shells
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
8 California dried or fresh figs, sliced

In heavy skillet over low heat, heat oil and sauté onions, cooking gently for 10 minutes or until
very soft.

Add butter, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar; continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are very soft, caramelized, and jam-like. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375?F. Divide onion mixture among pastry shells; top with sliced figs and crumbled goat cheese. Crimp edges of each tart in about 8 places to make free form; arrange on baking sheet.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or as directed on package, until golden and crisp. Note, for dried mission figs, plump with warm water or fruit juice for 20 minutes before slicing.

Serves 4

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fabrikators cool tools for the urban kitchen

Culinary design lovers will revel in the slick and kid friendly products from Danish based Fabrikators like the Skrub’a Gloves and the Toddler Cutlery set.

The need for better cleaning tools for dirt ridden, new dug potatoes and vegetables in Northern Europe led engineers, Lars Forsberg and Peter Andersen to formulate the Skrub’a vegetable scrubbing gloves. Upon their entry, the Skrub’a gloves are a hit in Europe with adults and children.

Time conscious cooks may find the thought of adding a few more minutes of cleaning exasperating but here is something to think about - The gloves clean vegetables and retain the most important part of your vegetables, the peel. Research shows that significant amounts of the vitamins, minerals and crude fibers are lost from vegetables if we remove the peel. Studies also show that scrubbing vegetables can assist in removing topical pesticides and fungicides and hence both aforementioned factors make this scrub glove very appealing to health conscious foodies!

The gloves are a twist to the standard scrub brushes because they allow you to hold vegetables in your hands and maneuver around them for cleaning.  The upkeep is no different from your ordinary dish scrub brush so feel free to rinse or toss these in your dishwasher for cleaning.

The Skrub’a vegetable gloves are FDA tested for food safety, rugged, low maintenance, one size fits all, with bright colors and varieties. Parents can enjoy involving children in the cooking process as kid’s gloves are also available. Fabrikators will be introducing a new waterproof version which can also clean fish in 2011.

The Toddler table cutlery was designed to aid children as young as six months in adapting to the skill of early self-feeding with ease and safety. The colorful, chubby handles allow small hands to grip utensils easily while the fork and spoon have a good size scoop bowl preventing food from spilling as the little ones learn to handle food. The knife easily and safely cuts most soft fruit and vegetables. Children learn by imitation and aesthetics aside, this flatware is a great way to improve motor skills and develop good eating habits. The product is fully BPA-free, and dishwasher and microwave-safe. This line recently won the prestigious Red Dot 2010 award, a coveted international award for the most innovative and design forward products. It also won the Scandinavian Formland Design Award in 2009.

Fabrikators also designed the magnetic dish brush and the Lemon friend, a lemon squeezer. Please see the video links and pictures on each product.

You Tube: Skruba
You Tube: Toddler Table Cutlery

Where to get the products and cost:
Fabrikators products are available in the U.S. at Dillard’s department store and various kitchenware shops. Santa Ana resident can find some products at the Costa Mesa Williams Sonoma store. You can also purchase these products online from the Roland website

Roland Inc Phone No: 800.321.2226
Hours: 9:00 to 6 p.m. Mon – Sat.

Skrub'a gloves:  $9.99 adult, $6.99 kids
Toddler Table Cutlery: $40.00 for the knife, fork, spoon set
Lemon Squeezer:  $7.99 for pack of 4

Friday, August 6, 2010

Mil Jugos Arepas: The hamburger of Venezuela

Norah Briceño, a Venezuelan native has brought a taste of modest home cooking to Mil Jugos in Santa Ana.  Since 2003, this small eatery has prized itself on a lean and fat free menu and has fast earned a reputation for serving up the best Venezuelan hamburger or Arepa in town.  The Mil Jugos menu also features other traditional meals like Cachapas a sweet, corn pancake.

Mil Jugos’ grilled Arepas or flattened bread are made out of imported cornmeal and are offered plain or stuffed with various fillings like white cheese, black beans and assorted seasoned, shredded meats. Briceño prefers to replicate the menu from a similar restaurant she operated while in Venezuela and chooses to import the same Venezuelan cornmeal for an authentic taste.  The bread is gluten free and reminiscent of a breakfast muffin in shape and size.  A plain arepera averages one hundred calories and is traditionally eaten with soups.

There are ten varieties of Arepas offered to satisfy the eclectic palates of Santa Ana patrons.  Available choices like shredded beef with black beans or finely shredded chicken breast drizzled in garlic and cooked with onions and tomatoes can be accentuated with accompanying sauces called Perejil and Guasacaca.  The Perejil or parsley sauce is a mild, aromatic fusion of parsley and garlic while the Guasacaca is a zesty and hot combination of Jalapeno peppers, cilantro, sweet peppers and parsley in an oil and vinegar base.  The service is warm, relaxed and guest requests for a vegetarian Arepa is surprisingly accommodated regardless of its absence on the menu!

The restaurant has a light and fresh ambiance and the healthy meals are modestly priced. For returning customers Rosemary and Chris Foreman, the restaurant is a quick pit stop to satisfy a craving en route to their new home in California. It is the only place which carries the Arepa and Cachapas she discovered on her frequent trips from Texas.  Arepa is a daily and common meal in most Venezuelan homes and per Briceño, “it is what hamburger is to Americans”.  True to her motto, Norah Briceño is well on her way in ensuring customers that Mil Jugos is the best Venezuelan restaurant in town.

 Mil Jugos is located in downtown Santa Ana at 318 W. 5th St. catering is offered.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

El Toro Carniceria: Santa Ana's Triple Threat

Located in the heart of Santa Ana, hungry passerby's rarely miss the wafting aroma of freshly made tortillas which lures them in for an unforgettable taste of El Toro Carniceria's famous carnitas. Once in, customers delight not only in the variety of selections from the deli, grocery and spirit shops but are also at once enlivened with the bustling mariachi music at this one stop shop for all things 100% Mexican according to Rudy Navarette. Navarette is one of nine brothers who help operate the triple stores since their mother, Justina Navarette opened it in 1976.

Maria Duran, a weekly customer of twenty years meanders down the glittering pinata topped aisle to one of her favorite sections which carries a variety of fine cut meats. She has driven four miles past her neighborhood grocery store for the fresh cut pork. Today, the meat case features a large pork's head centerpiece which overlooks exotic selections like Octopus pulpo or whole octopi, beef honeycomb tripe and pig's feet.
A few feet ahead, customers toggle between the produce aisles featuring fresh coconut, cacti leaves and Flor de Calabaza or squash blossoms, used as an ingredient in Mexican and Salvadoran cuisines. Tucked in the back corner, an unassuming clerk sorts a pile of dark chile pods for a counter filled with sixteen varieties of dried Chile and peppers like Chile de Arbol, Morita and Chile Guajillo.

On the west side of the store resides the deli where throngs of customers have grabbed a ticket and ordered food in an elbow to elbow standing room only area. A queue of hungry patrons stretching into the parking lot is a common affair. The success of El Toro's deli lies mainly in its key ingredient: Masa. The cornmeal dough filler is used in making tortillas, tamales and assorted baked goods. It is the Masa which contributes to the production of some of the finest, softest and mouth watering tortillas in this city. Three tortilla machines operate twenty-four hours a day churning approximately 30,000 fresh, corn tortillas a day. Customers can order beef carnitas or a sumptuous carne asada topped with garnishes like fresh guacamole, Nopales or prickly pear pads and rojo salsa. Add a salty snack called chicharon or pork rind and don't forget the six choices of tamale offerings from vegetarian to beef and chicken.

As the west end of El Toro quenches hunger, the east end quenches thirst at its renowned liquor store which carries the largest variety of tequila according to Navarette. El Toro carries one hundred and twenty varieties of tequila with top agave sellers like Tequila Cazadores and Tenampa Azula. Some prestigious brands include Don Julio Real and Seleccion Suprema. A popular seller at El Toro's liquor store is the repackaged beer. Try a customized, disposable beer bag of six Corona bottles, buried in ice and accompanied with salt and fresh lemons at $7.99 each!

Over the last twenty years, the growing celebrity of the market has extended to famed visitors like mixed martial artist, Tito Ortiz and members of the Angels team. For Rudy Navarette, the success of  this reclusive market in Santa Ana's barrio lies in the authenticity and wholesomeness of its products which keep first to third generation shoppers coming back for a memorable link to the flavorful tastes South of the border.

El Toro Carniceria is located at 1340 W. 1st in Santa Ana, California. Store hours are 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The deli hours are 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. El Toro Carniceria can be found in additional locations in Costa Mesa, Santa Maria and Fresno.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Indian Spice box: A Commentary on the Masala Dabba

I have yet to walk into an Indian house which is amiss of the "Masala Dabba" (Indian Spice box), and its accompanying infamous waft when one walks into the pantry. The shiny little steel box is our true blue companion and the odd man out sitting on a pantry shelf filled with Post cereal boxes and Bertolli pasta packages. Veggies, meats and legumes come and go but the trusted spice box stays on forever. It is the sole and distinct link to a heritage Indian families abroad have left behind and it is the sole and unwavering promise to jazz up the variety of foods in one's kitchen.

The masala dabba is a round stainless steel box which contains seven stainless steel spice cups which are normally filled with:

1. Cumin seeds
2. Turmeric powder
3. Mustard seeds
4. Garam masala (blend of pepper,cinnamon,cloves,nutmeg,anise,cardamom)
5. Coriander powder
6. Fennel seeds
7. Red chili powder.

Handed to families generation after generation one cannot help but be amazed by this simple box's lofty past. Recall the great spice trades of the 1400s which began with the marketing of black pepper in Europe. The spice trade was possibly the first extensive global trade spanning from Europe, Africa, Middle East to Asia and in the process made numerous countries wealthy while diversifying its culinary palette. I once believed that spices were used as preservatives in the ancient world but soon discovered that salt, an abundant world wide commodity, was used for preservation possibly making the need for other spice preservation techniques negligible or on a smaller scale. The ancient world probably consumed foods faster and in a more fresh manner to avoid spoilage and therefore may not have needed preservation methods as regularly as we do today.

Apart from the culinary merits, spices hold an important link to modern medicine. The crude usage of spices are recorded in many ancient Indian Samhitas (Hindu sacred writings) such as the Atharva Veda written around 1200 B.C.E, the Charaka Samhita written around 400-200 B.C.E. and the Sushruta Samhita written around 100 C.E. All compendiums are authoritative writings on either sacred rituals or Ayurveda and directly refer to the use of herbs and spices as medical remedies. Here then lies the roots of modern day pharmacology which would and lay an important pathway and eventually peak world wide interest.

I pondered on my little spice box again and took in a deep breath upon opening my pantry door. The scents were powerful but almost screamed at me to shun my attachment to the current and commercial ideas of smell. No!  This was certainly not Channel No. 5 nor a bouquet of hyacinths, it was something much more, something solid, unrelenting and permanent. Without the spice box, would my home or pantry even retain that small link to a grand piece of history? The spices in my Masala dabba,  thereby became my seven silent guardians of health per the ayurvedic path. Cumin for its carmative and digestive properties, Turmeric and mustard seeds the anti-inflammatory herbs, fennel seeds and coriander powder my digestive aids, and the stinging red chilli powder, the loyal warrior which aids in fighting infections.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tamarind: The Tropical Treat

Tamarindus indica L.

Leguminosae (Fabaceae)

I recently picked up raw Tamarind pods at a local Asian market and relived a wonderful childhood memory of this tropical treat. On a visit to a local village in India, I recalled dispelling the harsh summer heat under the shady refuge of a tamarind tree. I joined some of the local children to obtain its delicious fruit by pelting its branches with whatever we could find on the ground. Once the pods fell, we hungrily dove towards our treats. The tamarind pod seemed unappetizing at first glance, the large ones were roughly 6-10 cm, curvy pods, with the coloring of dirt, but it was the first crack of the matured pod which released a wonderful, pungent aroma assuring us of a true epicurean adventure. Once opened, we eagerly gnawed the sweet and sour, dark brown meat around the seeds within the pod. As a child, the journeys of such discoveries are fascinating as we were not concerned with the tough strands of fibers which needed to be pulled apart in this unrefined fruit. We were unconcerned with our sticky fingers and relished the last few nibbles on our hands. We even ventured to make games out of the glossy purplish-red seeds which resembled precious stones.  Our little unseasoned minds were unconcerned and unaware of the gift these precious stones could afford not only to this rural community but many other towns facing the blight of malnutrition.

Years later I discovered that the Tamarind was widely used in India, Asia, Africa and many other parts of the world and the term 'Tamar-Hind' was the Arabic word describing the fruit as an Indian Date. The pulp could be used in most Indian curries, drinks and chutneys and provided an interesting sweet and sour zing to many dishes. The sour taste is mainly due to the high tartaric acid content in this fruit. Aside from Tamarind pulp and the raw tamarind fruit, most parts of this tree from roots, bark to leaves are used in rural India from agricultural use to deity worship. 

Although the herbal uses of Tamarind may have been known for some time, it is the nutritional content which is equally interesting. Tamarind concoctions have been used as cooling, laxative and digestive aids for centuries. Eggs are often used as a protein standard and according to the American Egg board (Yes there is such a thing!) one large egg has about 6 grams of protein. A 100 grams of eggs equate to about 11 grams of proteins, the tamarind yields 2 to 3 grams of protein, 34 to 94 mg of Calcium and 44 mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams of the raw fruit. This baby has low water content and high levels of proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates and minerals.

Interesting isn't it how such a reclusive fruit can be a delight not only to your palette but to your health!  This is precisely what brings me to a more important pathway – the future.  According to J.T. Williams in the publication Tamarind, Tamarind trees are “easy to cultivate and underexploited.” New strains of sweet tamarind which are less acidic have created a renewed interest in growing Tamarind as a commercial crop leading to expanded cultivation in some parts of Asia. In addition, because Tamarind is easy to grow in the smallest portions of land and as its fruit and seeds possess ample nutritional value it can be an incredibly beneficial plant in low income rural communities plagued with sub-standard health conditions.  Pessimism always tempers optimism and in the case of our forgettable Tamarind new roads of improvement need to be paved to make this fruit more accessible. Post harvest issues of storage, the need for modern equipment such as shellers and better processing technology are necessary for expanding the production of this fruit.

In the meantime, for newcomers to Tamarind, visit your local Mexican, Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern market. I like the Tamicon brand paste available at most Indian stores, Add just a few dribbles to your curries and daals for a lift. Feel free to venture into putting a bit in your Western sauces for an added boost.  If you are in the mood to feel adventurous grab a pod to enjoy the pure taste and experience the journey of your tropical treat. A word of warning the Tamarind fruit does have a laxative effect so a pod or two should suffice.


Friday, April 16, 2010

The Healthiest Cocktail around - Bloody Mary

Now ask me why Bloody Mary Mix cocktail information is on a blog about living healthy?

Two reasons: Tomatoes and No hangovers. 

A cocktail is a mixed drink made with distilled beverages such as gin, vodka, whiskey, tequila or rum. Kahlua and Creme, Pina Colada, Gimlet, Bacardi are just some of the one's which come to mind...so which cocktail offers a delightful zing accompanied with a nutritious edge? It is the one and only Bloody Mary!

Research tomatoes and you will find both of them chocked full of nutrients and electrolytes. Tomatoes are a major dietary source of anti-oxidants such as Lycopene. Interestingly, one study cited in the Journal of Medicinal Food states that "the Lycopene content of tomatoes remained unchanged during the multistep processing operations for the production of juice or paste and remained stable for up to 12 months of storage at ambient temperature."  Canned and bottled tomato products such as V8 and Bloody Mary mixes do not show a nutritional degradation.

In addition to the anti-oxidants, there is the extra benefit of minimal hangovers, that's right the high Vitamin C content from the tomatoes also keep the hangovers at bay.

Bravo for Bloody Mary mixes! Just add your favorite tonic to the mix and go!

Meru VIP Beverage's Ultimate One Bloody Mary Mix is not only enriched with Vitamins but also includes Omega 3!


Friday, April 2, 2010

Natural Ways to beat Sinusitus

Home Remedies

My daughter was approximately seven months old when I began experiencing bouts with Sinusitis which were increasing in frequency on a monthly basis! I was ordinarily a healthy woman with no history of allergies and rarely caught colds. Another oddity was that not only did I constantly contract colds but they happened to occur during the onset of my menstrual cycle.

I approached doctors who found no correlation with Menses and Sinusitis. I beg to differ as a lay person as I felt that my system was possibly more immune compromised during this stage which probably opened up the gateway to more colds.  He also gave me a depressing prognosis - I was doomed to have sinusitis for the the rest of my life and the symptoms would get worse as I age.

After months of harsh antibiotics and nasal sprays (steriod), I found myself on Google researching herbal alternatives and stumbled on a regimen which basically saved my life!

Here is the alternative:
  • Nasal lavage, Nasal lavage, Nasal lavage. This is about the best way to soothe a stuffed nasal passage. I continued the washes upto thrice a day. Once after waking, during the day and then before bed.  Be   careful not to overdo these, in particular after your system is clear.  Your nasal passages needs the natural flora! Google Nasal lavage for instructions on how to bathe your nasal passages. 
  •   Steaming. I accompanied nasal lavage with steam inhales to clear my passages
  •  Fresh Ginger in tea. I normally threw shaved ginger chunks in my herbal teas
  • Lots of Vitamins, in particular C. I consumed quite a bit of oranges and broccoli during this period
  • Hydrate yourself, drink lots of water
  • Over the counter decongestant. I took these before going to bed as this was the worst time for the stuffiness.
 The results: After pursing this regimen in a rigorous fashion with each of my bouts, I noticed that my recovery period from Sinusitis changed dramatically. I was able to recover within 1.5 weeks versus one month! In addition, the frequency of Sinusitis also decreased tremendously from being sick for six months in a row to literally one occurrence per year during high flu seasons. Over the last two years, I have noticed that I rarely have an issue with Sinusitis now and although I feel a bit fluish during my menses even these symptoms have slowly dissipated!.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sambhar and the GI Index

Sambhar a flavorful Indian stew for vegetarians, diabetics and people who desire weight loss

I recently found a new interest in Sambhar after witnessing my sister's sudden ten pound weight loss. My sister is a vegetarian and in an effort to lose weight started eating sambhar as a main meal. If you don't mind the hot spices, it can be a wonderful meal full of proteins and vitamins due to the toovar daal and vegetables. Yum!

Before getting into the recipes lets get a few interesting facts out of the way. Sambhar is a vegetable stew which has its origins in South India. There are so many variations that one can truly never get bored of this meal which by the way is normally served up for breakfast! You can mix sambhar with veggies, rice, idli (a puffed and steamed cake made from black gram), dhokla (steamed gram flour) and continue the variations. For a twist Westernize the dish by throwing in croutons instead, add non-traditional veggies such as broccoli and tone down the spices.

Sambhar and rice (Unpolished Basmati) has an overall low Glycemic index (GI) and also lowers the lipemic response. The lipemic response affects cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your body. According to glycemicindex.com, "The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating.”  Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. With the majority of charts, a number lower than 55 means that the ranking is considered low, if the ranking is between 55 and 70 it is middle range, and above 70 is considered a high ranking. There may be some foods which cause a ranking above 100; this would normally interpret as a food that causes a higher spike in blood sugar levels. Along with the GI index, many researchers are also leaning towards the Glycemic load (GL) of foods to resolve inconsistencies with the GI index. A main problem with the GI index is that it is reliant on results from a measure of 50 grams of food which some nutritionists see as too small of a portion. Although Glycemic Loads are good to consider, the Glycemic Index as a standalone tool does provide you with a basic picture: The lower the number, the slower the food digests in your system, this in turn means that it will slowly alter your blood sugar which is much healthier for your body.

I found a very interesting study to back this claim - (http://www.rssdi.org/1997_july-sept/article2.pdf).

This study was performed with various controlled conditions and found that South Indian food overall had low GIs. In particular, Sambhar with Pongal (rice dish, you can substitute with plain basmati rice) shows a GI of 53.6%. This is quite a bit lower than other regional foods and even the traditional idli and chutney meal which rendered a GI of 102%!

Food Items and Glycemic Indice (%) ( Mean ± SD )

1. Pongal with Sambhar 53.6 ± 2.4
2. Bisibelle Bhat 58.0 ± 5.5
3. Uthapam with Chutney 63.0 ± 3.0
4. South Indian Meal 63.3 ± 4.3
5. Curd Rice with Curry leaves Chutney 65.4 ± 5.1
6. Punjabi Meal 68.0 ± 19.2
7. Adai with chutney 69.6 ± 8.1
8. Bengali Meal 69.9 ± 16.5
9. Rasam rice with Papad 77.5 ± 6.5
10. Gujarati Meal 83.0 ± 11.4
11. Sambhar Rice 83.1 ± 5.2
12. Dosai with with Podi 91.3 ± 2.5
13. Idli with Chutney 101.5 ± 7.5

Food Item Lipemic Response (% rise / fall in Triglyceride) Mean
1 Pongal with Sambhar - 6.3
2 Bisibelle Bhat + 2.2
3 Uthapam with Chutney + 6.4
4 South Indian Meal + 7.1
5 Curd Rice with Curry leaves Chutney + 8.5
6 Punjabi Meal + 8.6
7 Adai with chutney + 9.5
8 Bengali Meal + 10.2
9 Rasam rice with Papad + 10.7
10 Gujarati Meal + 12.5
11 Sambhar Rice + 15.4
12 Dosai with with Podi + 16.2
13 Idli with Chutney + 18.0

Now on to the delicious part, okay as much as I like to make things from scratch I also appreciate short cuts to save time. Hence the Sambhar daal packages available at the local Indian grocery store. I like the Gits Sambhar Mix. Add water and boil. Throw in your favorite vegetables such as tomatoes, cauliflower, eggplant and you have a wonderful stew.

On a final note, if you don't understand some of the terms - Google It:))

If you want to make sambhar from scratch, here is a good Tarla Dalal recipe I liked:

Cooking Time : 15 min. Preparation Time : 20 min.
Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients For the sambhar
1 cup toovar daal (arhar)
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 brinjals, cubed
1 drumstick, cut into 4 pieces
1 potato, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp (amlaa)
salt to taste

For the sambhar masala
6 to 8 red chillies
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
1 tablespoon toovar daal (arhar)
1 tablespoon split Bengal gram (channa daal)
1 tablespoon split black gram (urad daal)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
1 teaspoon oil

For the tempering
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
6 curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
2 tablespoons oil

1. For the sambhar masala
2. Heat the oil and roast all the ingredients for the sambhar masala in it.
3. Grind to a fine paste in a blender using a little water. Keep aside.

How to proceed
1. Wash and pressure cook the daal, tomato, onion, eggplant, drumstick
and potato with 2 cups of water.
2. Then add the tamarind pulp, sambhar masala, salt and 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.
3. Prepare the tempering by heating the oil and frying the mustard seeds,
curry leaves and asafoetida until the mustard seeds crackle.
Add this to the sambhar and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Serve hot.