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Posts from the ‘Food For Thought’ Category

A Persimmon A Day………

Are you tired of the seasonal "Pumpkin everything" craze during the holidays? Check out all the incredible health benefits and yummy culinary treats that can be made with a different kind of orange fruit: Persimmons!

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Summer Grilling: How To Be a Carcinogen-Free Carnivore!

Credit: Gary Larson, Far Side Comics

Ahhhh…..summer grilling! Cooking outdoors during the warm months is certainly one of the finer things in life. In my last post, I spoke about the importance of experiencing nature and spending time relaxing outside of our stressful, busy lives. Grilling meals is a simple and easy way to break out of your “indoor shell” – so today I’d like to talk to you about how to enjoy your outdoor meat cookouts while avoiding the many nasty carcinogens that we expose ourselves to during the grilling process. Thank you to the people at Cure Magazine for this very helpful information!

How does grilling meat expose us to cancerous toxins? 

– Grilling meat can produce two different types of carcinogens:  heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

– (HCAs) form when any animal flesh / muscle (as opposed to organ meat) is cooked at high temperatures.

– (PAHs) form when fat drips from the meat into the open flame on your grill. The chemicals from this process rise in the smoke and fire and contaminate the meat.

How can I prevent my meat from becoming contaminated with carcinogens? 

–  Choose lean meats and light, rather than dark, poultry.  Be sure to remove any skin and excess fat to reduce drippings into your grill.

–  Research has shown that steaming your meat for between 60-90 seconds immediately before grilling can completely eliminate the presence of (PAHs) in both beef and chicken.

–  Marinate your meats in lemon or vinegar-based marinades. Studies have shown that doing so can reduce formation of (HCAs) by up to 88 percent! Thick, sugary marinades tend to increase the level of char on your meat, thus increasing the odds of HCA formation.

–  Avoid charring your meat. Due to the high temperatures required to really “sizzle” your meat, the charring process increases the chances of (HCAs) and (PAHs) latching on to your meal.

–  Purchase a meat thermometer and grill your cut of meat to about 160º F. You don’t want to char the meat, but you need to ensure it is thoroughly cooked!

Other Cancer-Fighting Steps You Can Take This Summer:

– Grill your food on cedar planks or aluminum foil. Be sure to poke holes into the foil to allow the fat to drip – the foil will prevent the rise of fat content from the flame back onto the meat.

– Do not press your meat while it cooks or place your meat directly over the flame. Doing so will increase fat drippings and charring during the grilling process.

– Clean your grill and always replace your charcoal after every use to avoid rehashing any carcinogens that may have formed during your last grilling session.

Important Health Considerations for “Meatheads”

– To avoid a higher risk of colon cancer, limit your consumption of meat to 11-18 ounces per week. Keep your portion sizes to a maximum of 4 oz per serving.

– Avoid processed meats, especially products made with sodium nitrates. Nitrates are chemical preservatives added to processed meat that become carcinogenic during digestion. They also increase the sodium content of your food unnecessarily!

–  Look for organic or grass-fed meats on sale at your local market. Many supermarkets have daily deals on these items, so take advantage if you can and have piece of mind while you cook out!

Hope this had some insightful, summer information! Have a fabulous weekend and start practicing these healthy habits in the beautiful summer weather! Get Cookin’!

Don’t worry Vegan friends…next week something good for your grill!

Dr. Emily Nolfo

sources: Cure Magazine

Fighting Bad Cholesterol With GOOD Methods!

Re-calibrating Our Views On Cholesterol

As a doctor of Internal Medicine, I find that one common misconception many of my young adults (ages 35 and below) have is that “bad” (LDL or non-HDL) cholesterol is a problem of older age.  Too often the sentiment “Live while you are young!” is taken out of context by people in their teens, twenties and thirties to mean “Don’t worry about your health till you are older.” While it is true that after we reach the age of 20 our cholesterol levels begin naturally to increase, there are many factors besides age that determine the levels of bad cholesterol in our blood. While some of that is hereditary, many of these factors can be monitored and controlled from quite a young age. While I am a firm believer in living life to the fullest – I also am adamant that the choices we make about our health and wellness in our formative years provide a strong baseline for our bodies and minds of the future.

The Problems of Waiting Out Your Youth To Correct Cholesterol Levels

Patients of mine above the age of 50 are certainly at a higher risk of cardiovascular complications related to bad cholesterol than their younger counterparts. However, even children with poor dietary habits can have alarmingly high bad cholesterol levels and even the beginnings of blocked arteries before high school!

When one of my older patients at high risk has a very high LDL cholesterol (>190) and we have not been able to improve it with lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet, I may decide to use a prescription treatment for lowering those levels  to minimize the risks of complications like strokes or heart attacks. The most widely prescribed are statins, which quickly reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood . Statins, such as Lipitor, Crestor or Zocor, work by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase,  a liver enzyme which promotes cholesterol production in the human body.

(By the way, I have always advised my patients to CONTINUE their lifestyle efforts and to take Coenzyme Q10 whileon the statin, because statins deplete this substance which is a vital co-factor in your cells’ energy production.)

Despite the fact that I prescribe these medicines, as an advocate of a natural approach to health whenever possible, I’d much prefer that my patients never reach the point where taking a statin becomes their best option. While statins have proven to be extremely effective in reducing levels of bad cholesterol – their efficacy can be trumped by an array of side effects: muscle pain (not uncommon), liver problems (very rare) and increased risk of diabetes among them.

Today I’d like to talk specifically about one somewhat surprising side effect of statin use which has recently been highlighted by researchers in the peer-reviewed journal, Obesity.

In a new study, based on over 10 years of data collection, researchers found that patients prescribed statins “significantly increased their fat intake and calorie consumption, along with their BMI, in the last decade,” 

Why, you ask?  Patients taking these enzyme inhibitors are well aware of their positive benefits and therefore have a propensity for poor diet and lifestyle choices while prescribed them. Too often the mindset of “I take pills to lower my cholesterol – therefore I can eat whatever I want without getting sick” apparently becomes commonplace in those suffering from these kinds of health issues. Patients can become complacent with a poor, unhealthy lifestyle after viewing remarkably improved blood work results from a course of statins – and this is NOT a trend that doctors and patients should continue! When I read this I remembered that when the first statin, Mevacor, came out, one of my fellow doctors in my residency program told me he took it so he could “keep eating bacon and eggs”!

“Ok – I get it, Dr. Nolfo. You’d prefer I didn’t have to take statins if I had the choice. So what do I do instead? “

 I am SO glad you asked! There are many ways to keep our cholesterol at a healthy level:

1. Exercise!

Yes, I know I say it a lot. But countless other physicians and researchers like myself agree: Lack of physical activity can increase bad cholesterol (LDL) – and even DECREASE the good cholesterol! (HDL)

   2. DON’T SMOKE!

Smoking has been proven to lower your good cholesterol – BAD, BAD, BAD! And I seriously hope we don’t need to review the thousands of other health complications that can arise from such a terrible habit. Please don’t smoke! I like you just the way you are! 😉

3. See Your Primary Care Doctor Regularly

General health plays a large role in our cholesterol levels. It is best that you make regular visits with your primary care doctor so you can be screened for other health complications such as diabetes or hypothyroidisim, which can cause high cholesterol. Plus, it’s just the smart thing to do!

4. Eat Healthy, Real, Unprocessed Foods!

Clearly you saw this one coming! Diet is one of the most crucial factors in our cholesterol. Highly processed foods like chips, cookies, margarine, etc. can easily raise our levels of bad cholesterol. I have posted an array of healthy recipes of all kinds throughout this blog – please review for some great meal ideas to start changing your diet today! Vegan and Mediterranean diets have been shown to help cholesterol profiles. There is a little controversy about the effect of the Paleo diet on cholesterol, but my Paleo patients’ cholesterol profiles are usually quite good.\ because they don’t limit themselves to all meats and eggs and eat tons of fruits and veggies.

And just to give you a head start on the eating part – try this delicious and healthy black bean, corn and edamame salad! Not only is it perfect for the start of summer, but a new study shows that beans can help significantly reduce our bad cholesterol!

Go ahead, try this stuff!

Dr. Emily Nolfo

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