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Flax Seed is a great source of Omega 3s

You’ve probably seen “a good source of omega 3’s” imprinted on various boxes and bags around the super market and wondered “what are omega 3’s and why should I give a damn?” You may have heard that Salmon and other fresh water fish are a great source of Omega 3’s – but that’s not the only place in nature where you can get this amazing nutrient. There are plenty of vegan sources of Omega 3’s including spirulina (algae), nuts, flax, and vegetables.

Omega 3’s come from a family of unsaturated fatty acids.  Even the healthiest diets need a moderate amount of healthy fats, and omega 3’s are crucial to healthy, sustainable living.  They’re considered “essential” fats – Essential fats are so defined as they are vital for, but cannot be made by, the human body. Only plants can make the vital omega 3 and 6 parent fatty acids, human enzymes can then convert these to other fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are building blocks of the brain and nervous system.  They are needed for the integrity of every cell membrane in the body so particulalry important for the health of vital organs such as the heart and brain.

Omega 3’s are found in foods including walnuts, some fruits and vegetables, and coldwater fish such as herring, mackerel, sturgeon, and anchovies.  Fish contain omega 3’s because they eat microalgae that contains omega 3’s. Other vegan sources of omega-3s include canola oil, broccoli, cantaloupe, kidney beans, spinach, grape leaves, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, spirulina, and walnuts.

The omega 3 parent fatty acid is called alpha linolenic acid (LNA or ALA) and comes from vegan seeds such as flax, hemp and pumpkin, from nuts such as walnuts, and to a lesser extent from soya and green vegetables.  Through a series of enzyme-controlled reactions the human body converts this LNA into a number of vital fatty acids including EPA and DHA. Among their many roles EPA is needed for brain function, concentration, and vision, and is also converted into a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. DHA is needed as a building material , particularly for brain structure and so is especially important in pregnancy for the baby’s brain and nervous system development.

Additionally, the benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease.

Just how do omega-3s perform so many health “miracles” in people? One way, experts say, is by encouraging the production of body chemicals that help control inflammation — in the joints, the bloodstream, and the tissues.

But even as important is their ability to reduce the negative impact of yet another essential type of fatty acid known as omega-6s. Found in foods such as eggs, poultry, cereals, vegetable oils, baked goods, and margarine, omega-6s are also considered essential. They support skin health, lower cholesterol, and help make our blood “sticky” so it is able to clot. But when omega-6s aren’t balanced with sufficient amounts of omega-3s, problems can ensue.  In general, Americans eat too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3.

You can replace some omega-6s from cooking oils with a third fatty acid known as omega-9 (oleonic acid). This is a monounsaturated fat found primarily in olive oil.

Think you can get all of your omega 3’s through fish oil supplements?  Think again.  There are other healthy components of whole foods containing Omega 3’s that make it better for your body and soul – flax, for example, is heavy in fiber which helps lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugars, and improve digestion.  Fish oil supplements also aren’t vegan and are just as prone to toxins and chemicals in fish and water supply as eating fish themselves.

If you have diabetes, including more omega-3s in your diabetic meal planner can reduce your risk of certain diabetic complications, as well as:

  • Decrease insulin resistance
  • Improve mood and lower rates of depression
  • Improve symptoms of inflammatory diseases, like asthma and lupus
  • Reduce apoproteins, cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Reduce risk of heart attack
  • Reduce risk of macular degeneration
  • Reduce risk of some types of cancer
  • Reduce risk of stroke.

Add some Omega 3’s to your diet today!

Good luck, healthy girl!

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By Sarah Knowlton

Scales are not traditionally objects of affection. More often they are the object of resentment, obsession, rage, and servitude, and the source of anxiety, fear, self-loathing and shame.

I have come to see the scale at my Weight Watchers meeting as my link to sanity. “It’s just a number,” my WW leader says. I know she means it shouldn’t be the source of our self-esteem, that it’s just information, that we shouldn’t invest in our emotional reactions to our weight, but rather in what the measurement is telling us about our own process of returning to health.

For me, it is just a number, but it’s also much more. It’s a way to stay in touch with reality. It’s freedom from dizzying body dysmorphia. It’s my way of stepping out of the river of media distortions of what a woman should look like. It’s my touchstone to what “health” actually means.

I had no weight problems until my mid 20’s: was actually naturally very slim, if by natural you mean smoking as many as 2 packs of cigarettes a day from the age of 15. Even before I quit smoking at 30, the weight was sneaking up on me. Slimfast brought it down, and then it went back up. Atkins brought it down; afterwards it went up further than before. There was never an approach that addressed the problem of being an animal that has to eat several times a day (O to be a snake and swallow one big rodent a month!)

Meantime, the slings and arrows of being an actress in the late 20th and early 21st centuries were wreaking their particular, subtle havoc on my psyche. While on the coffee/cigarettes/workout-4-or-5-hours-a-day/7 days-a-week diet, I was on a sitcom that sent me to a nutritionist to lose weight. I was a size 2. They wrote jokes in the script about my character being fat. I’m not kidding. I was “released from my contract” (fired) after the first season, assured I was a wonderful actress, “just not what the show needed at the time.” I was convinced I was fired for being too big. That and I wasn’t very good on the show, which, truth be told, I wasn’t. (Then again, if they give you a bent frisbee, it doesn’t matter how good you throw it.) Years later I found out it was because the head of the network wanted a blonde on the show. Also, due to my height, it was harder for them to frame me in a two shot with the star than the blonde they replaced me with. Welcome to Hollyweird.

ANYway… The following years had their ups and downs. On more than one occasion an agent asked me to lose weight. That’s always a fun conversation. Then I got a series of corseted jobs. Corsets are wonderful things, aside from their history as tools of suppression and physical torture of women. Corsets used in theater are fairly comfortable, and I made a very happy, sexy and employable truce with my bigger (not biggest, that was yet to come) self. I did a musical spoof of film-noir as a Jessica Rabbit-esque vamp, a Shaw play, a Gershwin musical, and one of Lear’s daughters; all fabulously corseted, beautifully dressed, unapologetically womanly characters that were all deliciously larger-than-life. I felt like a stallion straining against its saddle. Only I think stallions are male. But you get the idea: strong, sexual, potent, wild, barely tamed, and full of Life with a capital L.

Somehow, I went from bigger to biggest. I knew I was gaining (didn’t own a scale), but I kept booking jobs. By this time I was back in L.A., and had found my niche as the youngest, prettiest, thinnest of all the old, ugly, fat actresses. But I started to feel bad: tired and out of breath. I noticed myself looking not as cute in pictures, seeing my knees getting a little knocked, and being treated as increasingly invisible by men and thin women (It’s true: White men and skinny bitches of all races see right through you when you’re zaftig. Assholes.) A friend challenged me to go vegan and train for the L.A. Marathon with her. I took her up on it.

Training for my first marathon, believe it or not, was when I got to my highest weight. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon: for some godforsaken reason the first marathon often adds weight (WTF!!) I was also carb-loading pretty much every day, doing the pasta/rice/bread approach to veganism rather than the whole fruits and vegetables route. And I got big. I carried 185 lbs that first 26.2 miles. Only then, after I’d found the discipline of running, was I ready to face the discipline required to learn how to eat.

Thus began my life in Weight Watchers. I hit it. Hard. Never looked back, never faltered, did it like I quit smoking: once and for good. Practiced portion control. Wrote down everything I ate, diligently. Discovered these things called fruits and vegetables (They’re on the side of the supermarket, not in the aisles. They’re the things with no packaging. I know; it’s weird.) Lost 20 lbs my first 3 months, 20 more over the next 5. That got me to my healthy weight goal. But I live in Kookytown, Hollywood, and once you start getting a lot of praise, attention and positive re-enforcement for losing, it’s hard to stop.

I went down another 10 -12 lbs. I was barely within Weight Watchers healthy weight guidelines for my age and height. I kept running, completing 6 more marathons and 6 half-marathons, but I also kept restricting: eating the number of points required to keep losing, not the amount needed to maintain an even weight. Then I got a terrible intestinal virus one weekend (being underweight can weaken your immune system: Who knew?) and dropped 7 lbs in 3 days, bringing me under the WW minimum weight for me. I had my first audition for Desperate Housewives that Monday, but was too sick to go. I was finally thin enough to be on Desperate Housewives, but was too weak to make it to the audition. I recovered from that illness, and put a little weight back on. But the bookings just … stopped. I had my slowest professional year to date in 2008. How could this be? I’m Hollywood skinny, in Hollywood! I’m the weight I was when they sent me to a nutritionist in ’97!! Something was wrong: I wasn’t I getting what I wanted!!!

The answer is, I’m 12 years older than I was in ’97. Not that I necessarily looked healthy then. But the face changes with time, skin has less elasticity, and what may have been cute at one age can leave a girl looking like Skeletor at another. Catherine Deneuve said it best: “There comes a point in every woman’s life when she has to choose between her face, and her ass.” I had reached that point. I got up my courage to ask my agents if they thought I should gain some weight, and half of them answered “yes” so fast it was as if they’d been praying for me to ask. One said I used to stand out because I looked like a real person: now I just looked like everybody else out here. Others thought I was out of the character actress type, but not able to be competitive in the leading lady type. My mom asked me which one I wanted to be: my response was “I want to be the one that books jobs again.” I’m kind of whorish that way.

So I started to deliberately gain. And after a weekend in San Francisco of sundaes, french toast, and soup served in bowls made out of bread, I went to my Weight Watchers leader and asked for help. And she gave me a strategy to put some weight back on exactly the same way I’d taken it off: slowly, methodically, mindfully, and nutritiously. And the scale became the thing that would tell me how I was doing. If I could pull this off, I could lose and gain deliberately, free of emotion and judgment, healthily, in control, non-secretively, supported, and sanely. Moderation: the final frontier. There I might find freedom from fear of food.

After 15 years of being told to lose weight and stay skinny, gaining isn’t as easy as I would have thought. Even new habits die hard, it turns out. I realize not a lot of people are going to want to listen to me complain about this. An actress friend told me it was “her dream” to have her agents tell her to gain weight. My response to that is whether they’re telling you to lose or gain, it’s not good because it means something’s not right and you’re not making them or yourself any money. I’m still running ‘cause I love it, and they give you medals. Now I’m learning to eat like a runner instead of like a Hollywood whacktress.

So I put 5 lbs. on. And I kept it on for a month. And I booked a Desperate Housewives episode. My agents joked that all I had to do was gain 5 lbs and look what happened! That could be true. It could be coincidence. I find this business maddeningly random. But I have to believe them when they say my face looks better when my ass isn’t as small as I can possibly make it without surgery. They even said I could gain another 5. Maybe I will, maybe not. I don’t know yet what my ideal fighting weight is going to be. It’ll probably keep changing as time keeps passing, I keep ageing, and hopefully keep growing as an actress.

What I do know is every Tuesday I can go step on the same scale and find out what is really going on with my body, ‘cause I can’t tell on my own what reality is. At my heaviest and most unhealthy, I was back in a corset doing “Sunday in the Park with George,” feeling powerful and sexy (when i wasn’t struggling to catch my breath.) At my Desperate Housewives fitting, while the costume designer was telling me how slim and fabulous I looked in the tightest, lowest-waisted pair of jeans I’ve ever worn, all I felt and saw was fat. I can’t see reality. But the scale at my Weight Watchers meeting shows me what my healthy body “looks like” numerically. Not my body-as-others-see-it, not my body-as-a-marketing-tool, not my wildly distorted perceptions of my body. It looks how it looks, and it does what it does for me. The number on the scale makes me aware of what I’m doing for it. And I get to choose what I’m going to do for it from one week to the next, one gig to the next, one year to the next. And that’s pretty invaluable.

Plus I got to be on Desperate Housewives.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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Whole Soy Co.Looking for a dairy free yogurt that’s still loaded with protein and probiotics?  Whole Soy & Co. Plain Yogurt cannot be beat!  It’s a low fat, low cholesterol, vegan (dairy free), gluten free breakfast food that is not only delicious, but healthy for you too.  I recommend mixing it with honey and fruit for a delicious parfait!

Get some at your local Whole Foods, Safeway, Mollie Stones, or other specialty food stores.

A product that’s safe for lactose intolerance and Celiac Disease.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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Bay Area: Loving Hut, 165 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA or

1365 StGluten free vegan spring roll wrapockton Street, San Francisco, CA

The Loving Hut is an organic vegan cafe with multiple locations on the West Coast and Florida.  Displayed in the restaurants are pictures of famous celebrity vegans and vegetarians as well as literature and information on the vegan lifestyle.   The food is delicious – sandwiches, salads, desserts, and of course tapioca tea made especially with soy milk (bubble or boba tea).

I recommend the rice spring rolls.  Made with rice noodles, soy, and lots of veggies, they’re suitable for those with lactose intolerance or Celiac Disease (gluten free wraps!).  They also offer lots of choices for those going “raw vegan” or not eating anything vegan cooked over 118 degrees.

Lactose free ice cream

They also offer gluten free and lactose free versions of some of your favorite foods including fettucine, Shephard’s Pie, Cheesecake, and even ICE CREAM!  Lactose free ice cream?  Soy ice cream??  It’s so much more delicious than what you’ll find at the grocery store.  Go there with friends, on a date, or just by yourself.

Find the nearest Loving Hut for you at http://www.lovinghut.us







New York: Peacefood Cafe, 460 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY

Vegan healthy saladHey New Yorkers – try vegan!   The Peacefood Cafe offers plenty of options for salads, raw vegans, PIZZA, but also delicious totally 100% lactose free desserts.

Try one of their salds, like the their asian greens, or one of their pizzas like the mushroom deluxe.

Going raw?  You can’t miss the walnut pasta or absolutely delicious key lime pie (100% raw vegan!  no lactose or cooking!)

Raw Vegan Key Lime Pie

Other desserts include brownies, strawberry shortcake, coconut cream pie, tiramisu, and chocolate chip cookies!

Check out Peacefood Cafe today.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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Baby, it’s cold outside. Split Pea Soup Recipe

And nothing feels better than a hot bowl of soup at the end of a cold day.  Enjoy creamy, thick soups?  Try Trader Joe’s Organic Vegan Gluten Free Split Pea Soup seasoned with sea salt, cracked pepper and basil.   It’s fat free and has only 150 calories per can.  Microwave on high heat for 1 min 45 seconds and enjoy!

The best part:  it’s only $1.99 at your local Trader Joe’s.

Suitable for those with lactose intolerance or Celiac Disease.

Not a fan of just split pea?  Add ham and cheese!

Good luck, healthy girl!

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Bay Area:  Sprout Cafe, 168 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA

Places to get good salad bay area

For those living on the peninsula, Sprout is a necessity for a healthy lifestyle.  Loaded with organic fruits and veggies, Sprout offers signature salads and sandwiches, and a stellar list of toppings for custom salads.

May I recommend the following vegan and gluten free (safe for Celiac Disease!) salad I frequently get at Sprout:

-Full Salad

-1/2 mixed greens, 1/2 baby spinach

-Cherry Tomatoes, Celery, Cucumber, Sweet Corn, Brocolli, Red Bell Peppers, Carrots

-Apples, Dried Cranberries, Pears, Strawberries

-Light fat free balsamic vinagrette

The salads are incredily filling and good for you!

New York: Chop’t (multiple locations)

Where to get salad in New York City

Similarly, the east coast offers Chop’t, a salad bar with a little twist – the salad is chopped into tiny pieces right in front of you!  It makes salads easier to eat and very tasty!

Chop’t is food allergy and diet friendly.  Their menus offer choices for those looking for low fat, low calorie, low sodium, low carb, and low protein options.  They’ll also publish what’s in their dressings for those who are vegan, allergic to soy, gluten, or nuts.

Make it a habit to choose a salad place for lunch over a heavy steak house or Italian pasta place.  It’s inexpensive, there are tons of choices, and many times there are even larger tables or quiet areas for business lunches.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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