Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

16 Feb

If I See 1 More Carrot-Cauli-Broccoli Blend, I’ll…

Smart Fuel

You know what I am sick of? Boring vegetable blends! No wonder people don’t eat their vegetables.

Every restaurant, catered buffet and frozen blend seems to feature the same old julienned carrots, pale broccoli chunks and soggy cauliflower (does anyone really, truly love cauliflower?).

Let’s not forget the ubiquitous cucumber slices with bitter skins and the endless selection of pithy, depressing tomatoes.

I refuse to eat boring, soggy, uninspiring vegetables. Why eat broccoli stem chunks when you can stuff yourself with olive oil-drizzled broccolini? Why deal with yet another white onion when you can try out shallots for the same price?

I’m not exactly what you’d call a chef, but fortunately, coming up with meals that taste amazing is incredibly easy if you just expand your idea of what “getting your veggies” means. It’s just about impossible to mess up vegetables.

So try something new this weekend. There are plenty of really flavorful, interesting plants to nosh on in your quest for flat abs and more energy.

Here are a few to try:

Heart of palm

We can’t get enough of this stuff around the Sisson household. You can slice these stalks up like potatoes au gratin and bake them with a little ricotta, goat cheese or cottage cheese for a really indulgent but healthy meal. Heart of palm is almost nonexistent in the calorie department, and provides a lot of fiber. The texture is similar to canned artichoke or bamboo but is far more rich and satisfying. Heart of palm has the perfect amount of chewiness and a mild, salty flavor that makes it perfect for replacing starchy items like potatoes or pasta – and it makes a great snack.

If you’ve tried and failed at tofu, you will love heart of palm.

heartofpalm

Thanks to Chodta for the picture!

Okra

If you’re from the South, you already know (and possibly love) okra. A lot of people hear “okra” and think “slime”. But prepared right, okra is…off the chain. I buy frozen chopped okra, thaw it, and rinse it thoroughly several times. It takes a little work to drain and press the goop away, but what’s left is a vegetable that makes a mean stir fry. I cook okra over a really hot grill to get it a little bit seared for maximum flavor, dryness and crunch. Goes great with chili flavors and hot sauces. Okra is just about the easiest way to lose that belly fat – you can eat an entire bag for fewer calories than a slice of cheese.

okra

Sea vegetables

Seaweed is just the beginning. Look around – health food stores, organic and vegetarian aisles, and ethnic food stores all carry many types of unusual sea vegetables. Some of them are passable, but some are so good I don’t know why anyone continues to suffer through green-white-and-carrot. Experiment. Sea vegetables are nutritionally dense – they’re particularly good for the thyroid and the cardiovascular system.
seaveg

Herbs

All those little packets of fresh herbs? Start buying and eating them. A lot.

Herbs are pretty foolproof. Chop them up and throw them into every recipe for amazing flavor, antioxidants, and vitamins (herbs are really just another type of lettuce, if you think about it). Certain herbs go better with certain meat and vegetable combinations, but you’ll almost never create anything that tastes bad. Basil, rosemary, dill, chives and ready-picked blends are all great.

mint

Thanks to photographer Sarah Williams.

16 Feb

In Preparation for Saturday Morning Cartoons

Cheap, unhealthy, garbage food that plays directly into children’s fantasies?

General Mills calls it breakfast cereal. I call it manipulation. The Fuji calls it something that we just can’t print here. It’s a family show, after all.

16 Feb

Hard Core

Core strength – everyone is talking about it. Core is just a buzz word for your midsection, and it’s very important to maximize your core health. A healthy, strong core is the “core” of good health.

A few key steps:

– You must shed that spare tire to naturally improve core health (cut out that sugar, folks).

– Get both resistance and aerobic activity several times a week.

– Do one or two torso-focused exercise sessions a week. The midsection doesn’t need much time: 10 or 15 minutes is enough.

– Maintain good posture.

– Implement some stretching and balance exercises into your workouts.

Trainer Russ Suchala and I were discussing this “core” topic the other day – here’s why you must take care of your core if you want good health:

“Training your core will result in tremendous benefits in a relatively short amount of time. This is because a strong core improves your posture, decreases your chance of injury, increases your power and functionality, and gives you a great-looking lean midsection.

Core training is rapidly gaining popularity for one specific reason: sitting leads to a weak core. Sitting? Yep, sitting.

Think about your typical work day. If you are like most people then your day starts with a 30-60 minute drive to work, followed by 8 hours at your desk and then another 30-60 minute drive home. That’s a lot of sitting. And it all adds up to one thing: a weak core.

The muscles that make up the core play a unique role since they provide stabilization for your entire body.

Core training seeks to strengthen the muscles of your abdominal and lower back using coordinated movement. A strong focus is put on contracting your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine throughout the exercises to ensure that your core muscles are engaged.

Unfortunately many ailments stem from having weak core muscles. You may be personally acquainted with the most common ailment…lower back pain. Other problems include poor posture, being injury prone, having minimal strength and (drum roll please) a bulging waistline.

Alleviating persistent back pain is one of the most welcomed benefits of a strong core. An increase in strength and protection from injury are also nice, and who doesn’t love to lose inches from their waist as a result of tightened muscle?

Everyday motions such as lifting, squatting, reaching, twisting and bending will become less challenging after strengthening your core. While you may not immediately see the value in this, remember that it is better to be safe than sorry – who really wants to throw out their back while taking out the trash?”

Thanks, Russ. Apples, stick around for more fitness tips in future posts. It doesn’t take much to improve your health and physique – just commitment to action. As I always say, putting on the sneakers is 90% of the battle.

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16 Feb

No More Mad Cows

We’re as sick of mad cow as you are (just feed them grass and keep them clean!), but we promised to find out who was behind the crazy study to breed mad-cow-free cows. Ladies and gents, we present Hematech. This outfit uses cows to research and develop all sorts of human disease antibodies. In a bizarre example of how this corporate world works, Hematech is owned by none other than Kirin Brewing Company. As in, the beer.

Drop in later for Mark and Russ’s chat on core fitness, today’s Smart Fuel, and the weekly roundup!

15 Feb

Le Buzz

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

You won’t want to miss today’s health news, Apples – the world of health just got more interesting! There’s plenty of fascinating controversy in the works…

1) Big Puff Ain’t Happy

Which makes the gang here at Mark’s Daily Apple absolutely…elated!

After hanging out for years in cigar-smoke-filled rooms (okay, maybe not), a bipartisan bill that would allow the government to step in when Big Puff hurts people may finally make it to the presidential desk. Even tobacco-growing states have put their support behind the bill, which would stop the tobacco industry from marketing to children, making misleading claims about “low-tar” and “light” tobacco products, and adding harmful chemicals. Lawmakers tried to get a similar bill passed back in 2004, but you can guess what happened there. We’ll keep you posted on this bill’s progress.

Stick around the orchard, kids, because next Tuesday’s 10 will feature ways to quit smoking. If you’re curious and just. can’t. wait. till then, head on over to Ririan Project in the meantime for ways to quit the sticks.

buttout

Photo courtesy Audrey Jacometti.

2) What’s Best for Your Little Guppy?

A big study says mothers ought to consume fish during pregnancy to optimize baby’s development (all those beneficial fats in fish are excellent for fetal brain development). But Uncle Sam says the opposite, citing concerns about mercury’s impact on ‘nates.

In fact, there’s a growing movement questioning the relationship between mercury and autism (you no doubt remember the news from last week that rates of autism have skyrocketed from virtually…well, none…before 1940, to 1 in 150 kids today). We’ll bring you more news as it develops. In the meantime, the wise thing for expecting moms to do: supplement with purified fish oil, or choose cold-water fish – it’s far safer than warm-water fishes, which are more likely to be contaminated with metals and pollutants.

fish 1

Thanks to Tiffany Johnson for the photo!

3) The Dumbest Idea, Possibly Ever

Scientists are trying to create cows that can’t get mad cow. Here’s an idea: clean up the poop and stop feeding cows – cud-chewing ruminants – animal protein! This is a real-world example of digging a hole to put in a ladder to wash the basement windows. Who’s paying these genii? We’re gonna find out.
redcow

Web It Out:

The Health Ranger rides again. Er, writes. This time, a disturbingly logical argument for eating cow brains (the entire point of the article ultimately advocates avoiding the consumption of flesh). Whether you’re for vegetarianism, love steak, or have settled on some place in between, this is the kind of highly provocative and interesting writing that is important to read if you’re someone who wants to think, not follow. Think you can trust mainstream health wisdom? Think again.

Mark is totally comfortable with animal protein, provided it’s organic, lean and unprocessed (check out his new page on vegetarians way up yonder). But we think it’s important for everyone to arrive at their own health decisions only after careful research and consideration. Although a lot of mainstream health experts genuinely believe you are incapable of arriving at your own smart health decisions, our answer to that is: oh yeah, and whose idea was it to breed mad-cow-resistant cows instead of simply feeding a vegetarian species vegetarian feed?

Also, health information shouldn’t be boring or stale, so it’s our goal to annoy the heck out of purveyors of the status quo – down to every last mainstream milksop. Face it, bees are annoying.

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple