MeatlessMonday Recipe

Today, for #MeatlessMonday, I’d like to share an easy pasta recipe.

Penne with asparagus, peas and mushrooms

 

Yealds: 2 Servings        Total Time: 30 minutes (10’ Preparation, 20’ cooking)

Nutrition per serving:     Kcal 384    Carbs 66.5g        Fat 8.9g/ Sat Fat          Protein 16g

 

Ingredients:

  • 100g thin asparagus (3.5 oz. or a bunch of 15-20)
  • 100g white mushrooms (3.5 oz., 10 pieces)
  • 100g frozen peas (3.5 oz., 7 tsp)
  • 150g penne rigate (5.3 oz.)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Curry powder
  • Chili flakes or powder

Instructions:

  • Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus (an inch or so), then cut them in 1-inch pieces. Slice the mushrooms. Cut the garlic in small pieces.
  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and the frozen peas, a pinch of curry powder, some chili flakes. Stir for a minute then add some water to cover the peas and cook for 5 minutes. Start preparing the pasta (see below for the instructions).
  • Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Stir and add a bit of water if needed. At this point add the asparagus and cook for 5-7 more minutes.
  • Add the penne. Stir in a table spoon of cream cheese and toss until it becomes creamy. If needed, you can add a little bit of the pasta water to moisten.

For the pasta:

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. My penne took almost 11 minutes. Drain but save some of the water.

 

Notes:

As you can see, I didn’t add any salt. I use spices so I really don’t need salt, especially when the recipe includes cheese which is already salty. In case you prefer to add salt, you can add a pinch of it to the pasta water and/or to the veggies.

You can use Parmigiano Reggiano cheese instead of cream cheese.

This pasta tastes good even if served cold. You can prepare some extra and bring it to work the next day. In this case, don’t add the cheese.

Frittata with Zucchini

This year, for Food Revolution Day, Jamie Oliver launched The Food Revolution International Omelette Challenge! Create a healthy omelette which symbolize your nation and share it on the Food Revolution platform.

I made a traditional Italian frittata with zucchini. This simple but delicious and nutritious dish can be your breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

Here’s how I prepared it…in less than 20 minutes!!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Half white Onion
  • Black pepper
  • Pecorino cheese
  • Chili flakes
  • Parsley
  • A handful of Cherry tomatoes

Directions:

  • Slice or dice your zucchini and the onion. Chop some parsley. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and the zucchini and cook them till they’re tender (6-8minutes). Set aside.
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, dress with some olive oil and oregano and set aside.
  • In a large bowl beat 2 eggs, some grated pecorino, the parsley, a pinch of pepper and some chili flakes. Add the zucchini and mix well.
  • In a small pan heat a teaspoon of olive oil. Move the pan a little bit so that the oil covers the entire surface. Pour the mix in the hot pan and make sure the egg and the zucchini are distributed evenly. Cook until the egg is lightly browned on the bottom (3-5 minutes). You can put a lid on the pan. Now carefully flip the frittata and cook 2-3 more minutes.

Serve it hot or cold with the tomatoes. Buon Appetito!!!

 

 

Food Revolution Day 2016

It’s Food Revolution Day, a day to celebrate good food, nutrition, health, and to invite people to join the revolution.

frd16

I’m a big fan of this event, also because it reminds me of the reason why I decided to pursue a career in the field of nutrition and health promotion.

I was living in New York when Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution aired on tv. Learning how kids were fed in school, how little people knew about the link between food and chronic diseases, seeing children not recognizing the different veggies, and other kids crying because they didn’t want to get diabetes like their relatives…It was very touching.

Living in New York, I could see by myself that many people, especially children, were overweight or obese. I could see that the most popular areas of the supermarket were the pastries, frozen food, snack and drink aisles. But after watching Jamie Oliver’s tv show I started to pay more attention to what I was surrounded by. I started to read articles and books about nutrition, I engaged in conversations about food and how it affects our health. It was very inspirational and made me realize that I was more interested in helping people to prevent diseases, rather than selling drugs to cure them. So I decided to go back to school and enhance my knowledge in nutrition and health with a clear goal in mind:  help people to embrace a healthy lifestyle!!!

Being a “revolutionary” is part of my mission. I love Food Revolution day and I am proud to be part of a community of people who promote and advocate for access to fresh and healthy food, for nutrition education and healthy meals in school, and think that is important to teach people how to cook and assemble a healthy meal.

Right now, 41 million children under 5 are overweight, while another 159 million are too undernourished to grow properly. It’s time to get together and do something to fight obesity and undernutrition!!

Are you ready to take a stand and be a Revolutionary? Please sign up and share by using the links below.

You can also join the omelette challenge. Yes, you read it right. This year, Jamie Oliver launched The Food Revolution International Omelette Challenge. Prepare an omelette, your own style, take a picture and share it on any of the #FoodRevolution platform. I prepared a traditional Italian frittata with zucchini. You can find the recipe here.

Happy Food Revolution day everyone!!

http://www.jamiesfoodrevolution.org/news/

https://signup.jamiesfoodrevolution.org/index.html

 

#EarthDay 2016

Today, April 22, is Earth Day, a day that marks the anniversary of the first environmental movement in 1970.

We celebrate our beautiful, generous and precious Mother Earth that loves us even though we’re destroying it. Indeed, so many studies are telling us and showing how we have been harming our planet.

We all, or almost all, enjoy a warmer winter season, but climate change is not good for glaciers, animal species, plants, agriculture. That’s not good for us and especially for the next generations that will be forced to live and deal with the damages we have been causing for decades.

Today there are several events worldwide to honor our Earth but also to share important information on what we all can do to protect the environment and inspire people to take action, now!

Adopting a sustainable diet is one of the several things we can do to show our love and respect for our planet.

What is a sustainable diet

“Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources”. (FAO, 2010)

Here are some simple tips that will help you eat sustainably:

  • Eat more veggies and less meat

It will benefit your health but also the planet because limiting meat consumption will help reduce the greenhouse gas emission.

  • Buy local food products

When fresh, food items are richer in nutrients. If you purchase grocery from a local store or market, you’ll have the opportunity to meet and connect with people who produced your food. And you will appreciate more the products. In addition, buying locally will help reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Shop and eat mindfully

Before going food shopping, make a list of the items you really need. This way you will avoid purchasing extra things that you’ll probably end up throwing in the garbage. Limiting food waste is another way to protect the environment, besides your finance! And don’t forget to bring your own shopping bag!!!

When buying fish and meat, choose those that have been raised with care and with little harm to the environment, and avoid species that are overfished.

Share food with family and friends. You will enjoy the food better. And focus on what you’re eating, it will connect you with the food and its source and will also help you eat just the right amount your body needs.

  • Start composting

You can transform the uneaten or spoiled food and the food waste into soil. That’s a good way to make something good (soil) out of something bad (food waste). Learn here how to start.

Food has an impact on the environment and on our health so it’s important we pay attention to what we eat as a form of love and respect for our body and our environment.

Earth-Day-2016-Poster-Earth-Day-Network

Today is a great day to show our love to our planet, and a good opportunity to start or continue taking great care of it. Because every day is #EarthDay!!!

#SugarTax UK

Last week, the UK government announced the introduction of a sugar levy on soft drinks that will be effective in 2018.

taxs

The tax will be split in two levels: one for drinks with total sugar content above 5g per 100 milliliters and a second for the most sugary drinks containing more than 8g per 100 milliliters. Small producers, pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be exempted.

The government expects that the tax will be passed entirely on the consumers and the revenue collected, an estimated £520m the first year, will be spent to fund sports in primary schools, at least in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are free to decide how to spend their share.

Adding a tax on fizzy drinks should discourage or at least reduce the consumption of sugar, present in high amount in these beverages (a can of soda contains up to 40 grams of free sugars, around 10 teaspoons).

sugar drinksThe guidelines issued by the World Health Organizations (WHO) in March 2015 recommend to reduce sugar intake to less that 10% of total calories (about 12.5 teaspoons). A further reduction to below 5% (6 teaspoons) of total energy is suggested. These recommendations are based on the results of scientific studies that showed a positive association between high amount of sugar in the diet and weight gain and higher rates of dental caries. In addition, other studies showed that children who consume high quantities of sugar-sweetened drinks tend to be overweight or obese.

Which were the reactions to this announcement?

Chef Jamie Oliver, who strongly advocated for this tax, was happy about the decision made by the government, but he also said that the tax alone won’t be enough to tackle obesity.

Public Health England and other organizations such as International Diabetes Federation (IDF) welcomed the initiative.

Others, like Professor Robert Lustig, criticized the decision of the UK government not to tax fruit juices. After all, they can contain as much sugar as sodas so why exempt them?

What about the soda industry? How did they react? Coca-Cola Great Britain said that a tax is not the proper solution to obesity and they, along with other soft drink companies, want to sue the government for discrimination, because the tax won’t affect fruit juices or milkshakes!

Will a soda tax work?

With this economic tool, UK joined other countries such as France, Mexico, and Norway that already have a similar measure or will soon have it (South Africa in 2017).

In Mexico, the tax on soft drinks came into effect in 2014, and a recent study concluded that the purchase of these drinks declined by 12% by December 2014.

Berkley, California, introduced the tax in November 2014 but an analysis conducted by Cornell University and University of Iowa showed that less than half of the tax was passed on the consumers. As a result, soft drinks aren’t more expensive and their sales didn’t decrease.

Indeed, such a policy tool must be designed with particular care otherwise it will be ineffective.

The levy on sugary drinks in UK will come into force in April 2018 so companies will have time to reformulate their products, besides investing a lot of money in campaigns to beat back the tax.

Hopefully, the government will use this time to implement the plan to make sure this powerful economic tool won’t fail, and that it will spend the money that will be raised to promote healthy eating and physical activity.

 

#SaltAwarenessWeek

This week, February 29th-March 6th, it’s Salt awareness week, a campaign promoted by World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) to raise awareness about the importance of eating less salt.lesssalt

 

Salt is important for many biological functions of our body. However, consuming too much salt can cause high blood pressure and promote different diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and stomach cancer. A recent study also linked childhood salt intake to obesity.

 

How much salt should we eat?

According to the World Health Organization, adults should eat no more than 5 grams of salt per day (about a tea spoon). Unfortunately, many people consume almost twice the recommended maximum level!!

Salt in our food

Salt is present in different food items such as cheese, olives, meats, fish, condiments like soy sauce, but it’s also added in large amount in processed food like salty snacks, processed meat, sauces, pre-made meals, breakfast cereals, bread. We also tend to add salt when preparing our food by using salt or bouillon cubes, soy or fish sauce.

How can we reduce salt intake?

  • Cooking food from scratch is a great first step to keep an eye on salt intake. When preparing your meals, add more flavor by using herbs and spices rather than adding salt (table salt, bouillon cubes, soy or fish sauce). Once you get used to, you’ll appreciate better the taste of what you’re eating.
  • Do not put on the table the salt shaker or the soy sauce.
  • Limit consumption of processed foods.
  • When buying food, read the labels carefully and choose the low-sodium options. Note: 1 gram of salt contains almost 400 mg of sodium, the maximum salt intake is 5g/day which means no more than 2,000 mg of sodium per day!!

Some people argue that food is not tasty if it’s not salty. Well, that’s actually not true. Your taste buds can adjust to eat less salt, and once you get used to it, you will appreciate a broader range of flavors 😉

salt

 

References:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs393/en/

http://www.worldactiononsalt.com/awarenessweek/

 

 

#WorldCancerDay 2016

Today it’s #WorldCancerDay

WCDAn important day to share some more information about cancer, from prevention to treatment.

Unfortunately, many of us, directly or indirectly, are affected by this disease.

According to the World Cancer Report 2014, cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.2 million deaths in 2012 and 14 million new cases.

The most aggressive cancers causing deaths are: lung, liver, stomach, colorectal, breast and oesophageal cancer.

In women, the most common cancers in 2012 were breast, colorectal, lung, cervix, and stomach cancer. Lung, prostate, colorectum, stomach, and liver cancer were the most common cancers diagnosed in men.

There are different causes of cancer. Generally, cancer can be triggered by external factors such as chemical, physical or biological carcinogens.

What about cancer risk factors? The main risk factors include smoking, alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

As my main research interest and professional activity are related to obesity, I would like to talk about the link between overweight and obesity and cancer.

The reasons why obese people tend to be at higher risk of developing cancer are still under investigation. Some mechanisms include the presence of high levels of hormones such as leptin and insulin that might promote the growth of cancer cells. In addition, obesity is associated with increased insulin resistance which leads to a greater production of insulin that increases the risk of cancer. Obesity is also associated with a chronic inflammation state that can promote cancer.

In particular, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), being overweight or obese increases the risk of 10 cancers: liver, advanced prostate, ovarian, gallbladder, kidney, colorectal, oesophageal, postmenopausal breast, pancreatic and endometrial.

The good news is that more than a third of the most common cancers can be prevented!! Let’s see how.

  • Do not smoke
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Be physically active (a 30-minute brisk walk per day would be a good start)
  • Limit consumption of energy-dense food and sugary drinks
  • Prefer foods of plant origins (at least 5 portions of a variety of fruits and veggies every day, legumes, whole grain cereals)
  • Limit intake of red meat (less than 500g/18 oz), and avoid consumption of processed meat
  • Limit consumption of alcohol (no more than 2 drinks a day for men and one a day for women.
  • Limit intake of salty foods (salt consumption should be less than 5g –or 2g of sodium- a day). Do not eat mouldy grains or legumes
  • If possible, breastfeed exclusively up to six months, and then up to 2 years along complementary feeding
  • Dietary Supplements are not recommended for cancer prevention

 

What is also important to know is that, fortunately, there are numerous types of treatments available for the different types of cancer. And we need to underline that early diagnosis is fundamental to establish the proper treatment and reduce cancer mortality!!

World Cancer Day, an initiative of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), is a great opportunity to spread the word about this disease. We can. I can.

So, if you would like to know more about cancer, WCD and the numerous initiatives taking place worldwide, please check the links below.

 

References:

http://www.worldcancerday.org/about

http://www.wcrf.org/int/research-we-fund/our-cancer-prevention-recommendations

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs297/en/

To eat meat or not to eat

indexUndoubtedly,  earlier this week you heard that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a report that classifies processed meat as carcinogenic to humans and red meat as probable carcinogenic.

I am pretty sure you also have read some sensationalist titles such as “Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes – WHO” or Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO”.

Does it meat really cause cancer and Why? Should we stop eating meat?

First of all, what processed meat and red meat are?

Red meat: beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat.

Processed meat: any meat that has been transformed through salting, fermentation, curing, smoking, e.g., hot dogs, hams, sausages, pastrami and cold cuts.

How did the IARC come up with these conclusions? What Group 1 and Group 2A are?

A team of 22 international experts from 10 countries evaluated data from over 800 studies of cancer risk in humans and found out that convincing evidence that processed meat causes cancer and they placed it in Group 1.

In the case of red meat, they found limited evidence so they placed it in the group of probable carcinogenic substances, Group 2A.

Cigarettes and asbestos are in the same group of processed meat (Group 1) but this doesn’t mean that smoking cigarettes is as risky as eating meat. So why they belong to the same group? Because the IARC classifies carcinogenic substances into groups based on the strength of scientific evidence rather than the level of risk.

What type of cancer is linked to red and processed meat?

Red Meat: Strong but limited evidence of causing colorectal cancer. Also pancreatic and prostate cancer.

Processed meat: Colorectal cancer. Evidence for a link with stomach cancer, but not conclusive.

Why red and processed meats are linked to cancer?

Scientists have been studying what makes red and processed meat carcinogenic but the process is not fully understood yet.

Red meat contains heme-iron, a component of hemoglobin. When it is broken down in our gut it forms a family of chemicals called N-nitroso compounds which are linked to cancer. Processing meat causes the production of carcinogenic chemicals such as N-nitroso compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In addition, cooking red and processed meat at high temperatures can cause the production of other carcinogenic substances. Furthermore, red and processed meats contain high level of saturated fats which increase the risk of chronic diseases.

Should we stop eating meat?

Well, that’s not what the report says. Red meat contains iron, B vitamins, proteins and other nutrients so it’s important to include it in the diet. However, as everything, it’s important to consume it with moderation. After all, the dose makes the poison.

So, what’s the take-home message?

High consumption of processed and red meats can increase the risk of cancer, which is not news as the link between meat and cancer was known long before the release of this report. SO, what to do ? Well, as the World Cancer Research Fund International recommends, in order to prevent cancer, you should consume less than 500 g (18 oz) a week, very little if any to be processed.

Indeed, the findings published by the IARC reinforce what had been confirmed by numerous studies, a plant-based diet is healthier and helps people live longer and better.

For further information about red meats and cancer and cancer prevention, please click the links below.

Sources:

http://www.wcrf.org/

Processed meat and cancer – what you need to know

Click to access Monographs-Q&A_Vol114.pdf

#WorldHeartDay

Today is September 29 which means it’s #WorldHeartDay, a chance to raise awareness about Cardiovascular disease (CVD).

CVD, which includes any disease of the heart, vascular disease of the brain, or disease of the blood vessel such as strokes and heart attack, kills over 17.3 million people every year!!!

There are many risk factors associated with CVD. Some of them, e.g., family history, cannot be controlled while others, like high blood pressure, can be prevented.

Although we now know a lot about how to prevent CVD, it’s not easy for everyone to follow scientists’ and doctors’ recommendations. This is why, this year, the #WorldHeartDay campaign focuses on creating heart-healthy environments that will enable people make healthy heart choices, wherever they live, work and play.

If you’d like to learn more about CVD, the campaign and the worldwide activities, please click the links below.

Meanwhile, here’s how you can protect your heart:

  • Be physically active. 30 minutes of activity a day can help prevent heart attack and stroke. Try to make exercise a daily habit. It will help you relieve stress and lose weight, which are risk factors of many chronic diseases. How to get active? You don’t need to run 10 miles, or lift heavy weight at the gym. Spend time outdoor with your children, play with them at the park, have fun with your friends dancing, go for a bike ride, even go to work with your bike or walk, or, if you use public transports, get off one or two stops early and walk the rest. Taking the stairs and doing household chores count as well!
  • Say No to Tobacco. After you stop smoking, your risk of CVD will be halved within one year and will return to normal levels over time. And don’t forget that second-hand smoke is dangerous too. So try to avoid smoke-filled environments.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Nutrition plays an important role in prevention of CVD. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, consume whole-grain cereals, nuts, seeds, use extra virgin olive oil as main fat, reduce salt consumption (processed foods contain a lot of salt), prefer spices. Moderate the consumption of saturated fats (meats, fish, eggs, dairy), limit consumption of added sugars (e.g., in fruit juices and sodas). Drink water and drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of CVD. Control your body weight by eating healthy food, reducing portion sizes, and staying active.
  • Enjoy life. Yes, that’s correct. Try to spend time your family and friends, get adequate rest, smile more, and stress less!

Happy #WorldHeartDay everyone!!

Image result for heart

For more info:

http://worldheartday.org/what-is-cvd/

http://www.world-heart-federation.org/about-cvd/risk-factors/