Tag Archive | "nutrition"

Finding the fountain of youth in your grocery store


Looking for a real-life alternative to the fountain of youth? Nutritionists recommend eating.

But not just anything will do. While coffee and energy drinks may provide a temporary heightened state of liveliness, they provide little to no nutritional value to the body.

“Food can create energy or it can destroy it,” said Ronna Corlin, a nutrition coach from Hartsdale, N.Y. “It’s important to eat foods that will help you age with vitality.”

The search for the fictional fountain of youth is a never-ending process. Some find it in athletics, others through artificial enhancement. Some swear by skin creams. But regardless of age, gender or background, a popular food talking point with this subject among nutritionists, health-conscious consumers and the media is so-called superfoods, those foods that offer the greatest health benefits. Common superfoods include blueberries, cinnamon, cruciferous veggies, garlic, ginger, nuts and watermelon.

“The key is to eat foods from their natural state, foods that are alive,” Corlin said. “Foods from the wild that ran freely, fell from a tree or grew from the ground.”

New foods are constantly being unveiled for their nutritional value, whether it is an international fruit that makes its way to the U.S. market (like acai from Brazil) or a food that food scientists realize has a greater positive effect than previously believed (pomegranate). The most recent superfood to enter the discussion is the goji berry, or wolfberry, which is native to southeastern Europe and Asia. The packaging for a goji berry product at Whole Foods in New York City says fruit is said to be “rich in age-defying antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.”

“My nutritionist just recommend them to me, today actually,” said Giovanna Braga, who had a large bag of raw goji berries in her grocery cart. “She told me I needed an iron supplement and said that these were supposed to be great. So I’m curious to see how they are.”

According to one food expert, superfoods aren’t the answer. If a person is truly in search of changing life through food, it needs to come from a well-balanced diet, incorporating all the key foods.

“People like to buy into the hype about acai as the next superfood or pomegranate, but that’s all marketing,” said Stefanie Bryn Sacks, a culinary nutritionist from the New York area. “Mostly people just need to be educated about healthy food choices, a balanced diet, instead of a few key foods.”

And it does help to consult the experts on this subject. There are an array of books and resources online, but as with anything one puts into their body, people should do their research. While most healthy foods are universal, what works for some groups won’t work for others.

“The elderly usually don’t have enough intake and then they have absorption issues, so we will recommend supplements,” said Jennifer Fix a dietitian at the UCI Medical Center in Irvine, Calif. “Their appetite isn’t what it used to be, so we have to find alternative sources for nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folate.”

Consumers like to believe the hype that surrounds the foods they hear about on talk shows, blogs or from their friends. But healthy living does require some research and a greater approach than one or two key foods.

“It’s a much bigger picture than most people think, there is no magic bullet that will make everything better,” Corlin acknowledged. “It’s about finding balance in one’s life, which seems simplistic, but most who take that approach experience a shift.”

According to Corlin, figuring out what works often requires listening to the least likely of sources.

“People have tuned out listening to their own bodies,” she said. “Your body is going to tell you a whole lot more about yourself than the experts.”

  • Share/Bookmark

Posted in HealthComments (0)

Athletes mind their diets as they age

Peter May, 48, ran the New York City Marathon in about four and a half hours. Nov. 1, 2009. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk)

Peter May, 48, ran the New York City Marathon in about four and a half hours. Nov. 1, 2009. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk)

Peter May walked down the street to his apartment in Chelsea wearing a metallic marathon cape, shorts, a medal and a huge smile, the kind of smile a 48-year-old man would have right after running the New York City Marathon.   He ran it in four and a half hours.
For the past 20 years, he’s been running “sometimes serious, sometimes not so serious,”  And the past two years have been serious.
“In order to do this race, I really, really had to focus on my diet,” said the Sydney, Australia, native who works in New York as an accountant. The bean counter doesn’t count calories, but he has been watching his portions. “I had to drop a few pounds as well so I can do the race,” he said.
That’s one of the biggest challenges to athletes as they age, said registered dietitian Marissa Lippert.  For every decade  after 30, a person loses 1 to 2 percent of their rate of metabolism, she said.
Another big challenge is calcium, Lippert said.  As athletes age, they become more prone to broken bones. It is especially true in women.
That’s why Carl Taeusch, 64, eats yogurt every night with his wife, Chizuko, 64.  He also takes calcium supplements.   The lifelong rower gets on the water about three times a week with the New York Rowing Association on the Harlem River during the warm season.  As it gets colder, he rows indoors and at the gym.
This type of physical activity can take a toll on a person’s body over time, Lippert said, so the body needs to recover.  A well-balanced meal with plenty of whole grains is the way to do that.
Taeusch is very aware of what he eats, partly because he is a borderline diabetic.  He’s the athlete, but his wife takes care of the diet.  She meticulously plans his meals and makes sure there is always water on the table.
When he’s not running, May eats a lot of fish and chicken combined with “really good veggies” such as broccoli and carrots.  He makes sure to eat brown rice, which is whole grain.
Aside from limiting his sugar, May’s diet hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past two decades.
“The big change is about awareness really,” he said. “I just wasn’t really aware of what I was eating 20 years ago.”
That’s typical, according to Lippert, the dietitian.
“At that age, most of us are more cognizant to what we put on our plate,” she said.
  • Share/Bookmark

Posted in HealthComments (0)

Ed Koch on eating your way to Gracie Mansion

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is back to work at his Manhattan office near Times Square after undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery in June. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk)

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is back to work at his Manhattan office near Times Square after undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery in June. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk)


In time-honored New York style, the mayoral candidates are eating their way to the campaign finish line.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is leading the charge, racking up votes with hot dogs at Nathan’s, a second helping of pickles at the Queens County Fair and even a “Mike Bloomberg sandwich” at Lioni’s Italian Heroes in Bensonhurst. “Next time, put some hot peppers on it!” was the incumbent’s verdict on the pastrami, mozzarella and mustard sandwich.

But shrewd as Bloomberg is, few know their way to New York’s heart through its stomach — or enjoyed getting there as much – as well as Ed Koch, New York’s mayor from 1977 to 1989.

“Not as many politicians enjoyed food as much as Ed,” says Koch’s former press secretary and former New York Post political writer George Arzt. “He ate a lot more than Bloomberg does.”

Bill Richardson attempts to scarf some votes at The Varsity restaurant in Atlanta during the Democratic primaries.  Oct. 5, 2007. (Photo: Mike Schinkel)

Bill Richardson attempts to scarf some votes at The Varsity restaurant in Atlanta during the Democratic primaries. Oct. 5, 2007. (Photo: Mike Schinkel)

For Koch, eating on the campaign trail, whether stopping at a street vendor or taking a slice of pizza offered by a local shop owner – and always smiling for the cameras – was not just about scoring votes. It was about being polite.

“You’re there, you’re campaigning and if someone offers you a pizza, to turn it down is plain rude and stupid,” says Koch, now 84, in his Midtown office at law firm Bryan Cave. It was also simply about eating.

A gourmand who these days twirls capellini pasta at high-end diners like the West Village’s Il Mulino and Trattoria Dell’arte on Seventh Avenue, Koch says he relished the pizza, deli sandwiches and hot dogs “with the real casing” that he ate while campaigning for mayor in 1977, 1981 and 1985.

Unlike some candidates, who may discreetly pass half-eaten knishes or pizza slices off to an aide before moving on to the next photo op, Koch boasts: “I ate the whole thing.”

It was a way of showing respect to voters, says Koch. “People want to show their community at its best,” he says. “The best and quickest way to do that is by offering some food that the community feels especially proud of.”

Joyce Purnick, who covered New York politics for 35 years for the New York Post and New York Times, agrees with Koch’s food philosophy. She says it’s particularly important for politicians to have a big appetite in the Big Apple.

“Favorite dishes are a matter of ethnic pride, or even regional identity in the politics of New York,” says Purnick, over the telephone. “It could be pizzas with Italians, burritos for Latinos or the hot dogs from Nathan’s. We all grow up eating certain foods on certain holidays and it’s very much a part of our culture.”

Former White House chef Walter Scheib, who served Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush from 1994-2005, puts it more bluntly. “You want a political debacle, turn down a regional specialty and watch the fallout from that one. It’s just like kissing babies: You’ve got to do it.”

Koch says he never turned down a meal on the campaign trail. Running for governor in 1982 against Mario Cuomo, whom he beat out for mayor in 1977, he was asked to milk a cow in upstate New York. He was then asked to drink the milk. He did.

“Milk directly from a cow is not so good because it’s hot,” says Koch. “I like cold milk, but not direct from the cow. You just try not to show discomfort.”

His discomfort did show once, but not while campaigning. At a Bedouin feast he attended traveling between the Sinai desert and Israel, Koch was given sheep’s eyes, a local delicacy. “You’d take it and then secretly throw it over your shoulder,” he says. “The eye looks at you – very intimidating.”

Koch’s enthusiasm for food photo ops back home sometimes worried press secretary Arzt, particularly at dessert time. “You have to beware of chewing on camera, you have to beware of getting chocolate all over your face, you want the less messy foods when you’re going out,” says Arzt.

But Arzt says that the greater danger for politicians at food stops is the people they’re eating with. When a person approaches a hot-dog-chewing politician for a photograph, Arzt says, “The one thing that goes through the aides’ minds is, ‘Is the guy part of the mob?’”

To ensure he wasn’t snapped with a mobster, Koch would joke with anyone approaching, asking them to raise their right hands and swear they weren’t “a member of la Cosa Nostra.”

Eating your way to power can be more dangerous still for out-of-towners, as South Dakota Sen. George McGovern discovered while campaigning in New York for the 1972 Democratic presidential primary. McGovern ordered a kosher hot dog from a street vendor in Queens, along with a glass of milk. The Jewish community he was courting slammed him for the non-kosher combination.

More recently, President Obama was mocked by conservative pundits when he ordered a cheeseburger with spicy or Dijon mustard at an independent burger joint in Arlington, Va. Sean Hannity teased on Fox News, “I hope you enjoyed that fancy burger, Mr. President.”

Between photo-op pizzas, burgers and an on-the-run campaign diet of hot dogs, takeout, ice cream and soda, Koch struggled with his weight while in office. “It’s always easy to put on weight when you’re campaigning and eating junk food,” he says.

After his quadruple bypass surgery, Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch is 4.5 pounds into a 10-pound doctor-mandated weight gain. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk)

After his quadruple bypass surgery, Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch is 4.5 pounds into a 10-pound doctor-mandated weight gain. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk)

Scheib, who as White House chef fed Hilary Clinton and Laura Bush, says the photo-op foods and gala dinners, sometimes 5 or 6 meals a day, also

took a toll on the first ladies. “They were thrilled just to get back to the White House and get back on a more low-cal nutritional diet, get their vegetables, lettuces and soups back in,” he says. “They’d come back off the campaign trail and get into a purge type of thing to get ready for the next wave of all this food.”

Since leaving office, Koch has used the private gym at Rockefeller Center most mornings to manage his weight and is comfortable giving advice to others on staying in shape. Visiting Ariel Sharon at his home in the Negev, in southern Israel, he told the former Israeli prime minister, “You’re getting too fat and you’re going to die prematurely.”

“He said, ‘I hardly eat,’” Koch recalls. “And, of course, that wasn’t true; he ate like a horse. He came to Gracie Mansion, where I lived, and he ate off everybody’s plate. I was amazed.”

But Koch himself has not been dieting lately.

From June to July, the former mayor spent five weeks in the intensive care unit of New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and had his aortic valve replaced. Slimmer than he’s ever looked, with suspenders holding up too-large pants, the older, more somber man than most New Yorkers remember, says he does not need to worry about what he eats for now.

“It was touch and go because of complications,” he says of the surgery. “I lost 26 pounds in the hospital and the doctor said that until I gain 10 pounds I was under no restriction. I left the hospital at the end of July and I’ve only gained back about four and a half pounds. I have six more pounds to go, during which period I can eat whatever I want.”

Ever the New York politician, Koch thanked the team of 20 hospital staffers who worked on him with a food stop worthy of a thousand Post flashbulbs – a dinner at Brooklyn’s 120-year-old Peter Luger Steak House.

He ordered a slab of steak, medium rare, and told his guests, “If any of you order anything other than steak, I am going to make it public.”

  • Share/Bookmark

Posted in Featured, Health, Politics, RestaurantsComments (3)

Brooklyn eat-in potluck raises awareness on school food

The participants could write letters to Congress   Photo Credit: Isabelle Schäfer

Participants were encouraged to write letters to Congress. (Photo credit: Isabelle Schäfer)


On a sunny Labor Day, the P.S. 9 Teunis G. Bergen School in Brooklyn isn’t deserted.  Instead, tables with oatmeal biscuits, quinoa salads and plum tarts are arranged in the schoolyard. Around 50 parents, teachers and children have gathered to share homemade dishes and to hear about nutrition in schools. A painted cardboard letterbox invites letters to Congress.

This “Eat-In,” arranged by the nonprofit organization Slow Food, is trying to raise awareness about the nutrition situation in schools and show support for the Child Nutrition’s Act which expires on Sept. 30. It’s just one of the 300 initiatives launched all around the country as part of the group’s  ”Time for lunch” campaign.

“It’s really for anyone who likes good food,” said Heather Teige, an intern at Slow Food, which started the Eat-Ins last year in San Francisco and added many more this year.  The program stresses the government’s investment in school food. President Obama has proposed a $1 billion annual increase for Child Nutrition Act programs, but such reforms still have to be discussed in Congress.

“There are really three main agendas to be tackled: health, environment and hunger,” said Professor Janet Poppendieck, who will soon release a book on school food, “Free for All.” “Health is the one highest on the radar screen. There are still ridiculous standards in cafeterias and vending machines. You just can’t sell soda pops and marshmallows like that!” Poppendieck said, while helping herself to whole wheat pasta.

Children learnt about fresh food

Schoolchildren tried fresh vegetables and acknowledged the different taste. (Photo credit: Isabelle Schäfer)

Maria Mcgrath has two of her children in the Bergen school. “The cafeteria here is basically a re-heating station. My child wouldn’t even eat the vegetables, they are so bland,” she said. Her daughter now prepares her own lunch at home. Asked about the school food, the nine-year old just makes a face. Her mother would like to see more fresh salads. “The food is OK, but really nothing children are excited about,” Mcgrath said.

Older students have already decided to act. Marcia Foster gets up to tell those at the Bergen school about her high school project. With 15 of her comrades of the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment, she grew lettuce, spinach and tomatoes in the borough’s Botanical Garden. The teenagers then offered the harvested vegetables to their school, who prepared lunch with the fresh ingredients.

“My friends actually liked salads for the first time!” Marcia, an 11th grader, said. “Usually, our school serves burgers and fries, and the packed salads are in the back. But they really don’t look good or fresh.”

Her project was part of an elective course. “They learn about food politics and agriculture,” said Marcia’s teacher, Irene Shen.  Now Marcia says she is more aware of her environment. “I think it’s really important to know where the food comes from,” she said.

  • Share/Bookmark

Posted in Education, HealthComments (1)