Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Serotonin-Boosting Cookie Recipe

Speaking of comfort foods, check these out! Specially posted for I Am That Girl fans...

Serotonin-Boosting Cookies

¾ c. whole grain flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ cup Splenda
½ cup raw brown sugar or pure maple syrup
1 egg
½ c. canola butter or vegetable oil
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup oats
½ c. dark chocolate chips

Directions:Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift together. In a medium-size bowl combine sweeteners. Stir to combine. Add egg, vanilla and butter or oil, stirring until smooth. Pour dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir. Add oats and chips and stir until blended. Drop by teaspoons onto an un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 8 – 10 minutes. ENJOY!

Comfort Foods

Thanks to all of you who contributed to my research for this article. I learned a great deal (including the fact that deep fried pickles are comforting to some...!). Hope you enjoy!

The Perfect Plate of Comfort
By August Johnson McLaughlin, CN, CPT

You’re home alone on a Friday night. Your girlfriends are busy, your Prince Charming who constantly woos you and brings you flowers, well, doesn’t exist and your premenstrual hormones are raging like St. Elmo’s Fire. You yearn, you ache, and you BURN, for two men. Your favorite, dependable, non-judging, tasty men: Ben and Jerry.

What is it about ice cream that makes it so darn comforting? Most comforting devices are warm — fuzzy sweaters, cozy blankets, and hot chocolate… Ice cream is America’s top choice of comfort foods. Why? It’s delicious.

Due to their fierce popularity, “comfort foods” became a new word added to the Webster’s Dictionary in 1987. Soon after ice cream, cookies, chocolate cake, pie, chicken soup, Mac n’ Cheese, pizza and meat loaf followed. Most women lean towards the decision of sweets when they crave a type of food. Granted, we are often nurtured as youngsters by ice cream as a reward for good grades or to cheer us up after our tonsils come out. But there is more to comfort foods than nostalgia alone.

Scientists have found physiological reasons for our comfort food cravings as well. A study done at the University of California San Francisco linked the stress hormone, cortisol, and the hypothalamus gland, which controls our hunger. When stress levels rise, so might hunger.
Additionally, certain foods have a physically calming effect, assisting the body’s production of serotonin and other feel-good hormones. Complex carbohydrates have a positive effect on our moods, with effects that outlast the temporary rush from typical sweets. So when your sweet tooth cries out, a whole grain equivalent is best.

Tryptophan, the chemical credited for post-Thanksgiving-feast naps, is also calming. It only pacifies if coupled with a carbohydrate, so turkey on rye beats turkey on its own.
How we approach our comfort food tendencies determines how consoling they actually are. If your attitude about foods are positive, you will likely enjoy your comfort foods and crave them less. Plus, you won’t beat yourself up over eating them. Many interviewees shared disclaimers or self-punishing remarks with their answers. “Ugh, I eat cake. So bad!” one replied.
If you feel shameful for indulging, remind yourself that no one’s daily diet is perfect and the ideal diet contains variety and occasional indulgences. Negative reactions to eating comfort foods can cause greater problems than the food itself.

As for our favorite ice cream treats, occasional servings are fine. If you crave it often, choose lower fat or reduced sugar varieties and add fruit to make them healthier. In other words, you do not need to break up with Ben or Jerry; but you may not want to propose to either of them just yet.

Appeared at www.iamthatgirl.com.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Chocolate and Your Taste Buds from I Am That Girl

Sweet Teeth and Taste Buds: The Link Between Chocolate and Your Tongue
by August Johnson McLaughlin, CN, CPT

Have you ever known a woman who dislikes chocolate? “I’m not a big sweets person,” she’ll say, or, “This is too rich for me.” After one bite of her decadent dessert she sets her fork down. You sit across from her, trying not to drool while her words blur together into a distant rambling stream, wondering how in the world she canNOT eat that chocolate! The differences between you and she are likely not about will power but rather the power of your taste buds.
If you dislike chocolate, you may be part of the nearly 25% of people known as super tasters. (Yes, this is an actual scientific term.) Super tasters have highly sensitive taste buds and more of them than their chocolate-loving counterparts. At close glance, their tongues are bumpy - chock full of acute taste buds, or papillae. This results in low tolerance for highly sweet, fatty or bitter foods.

Another near quarter of people is known as non-tasters. Non-tasters do taste but not as deeply as super tasters. They have fewer papillae on their tongues and can tolerate most flavors and tastes. They are drawn to highly flavorful foods, sugary sweets and yes, chocolate. (If you are known to put 7 packets of sweetener in your coffee, this may be you.)

The rest of us are coined normal tasters. Normal tasters have moderately bumpy tongues and average ability to taste and differentiate between flavors. They are less picky about foods than super tasters but not as extreme in taste acceptance as non-tasters.

There are pros and cons to each of these categories. Super tasters eat fewer fatty, fried or sugary foods. They may also have aversion to healthy foods such as certain vegetables. (Imagine if you could taste the bitter earth in a vegetable variety. A super taster very well might!) They are often self-proclaimed picky eaters and are particular about where, what and how they eat.
Non-tasters (most chocoholics) can eat just about anything. Such flavor allowance can be a blessing or a curse. If a non-taster goes for sugary, salty or fatty foods, most often it can be problematic. They may struggle with cravings or portion control. If they commit to a diet based on healthy foods, they’re able to enjoy them in great variety, allowing for heightened nutrient intake and wellness.

Normal tasters fare pretty well in between. They tend to be moderate eaters and obsess less over what they eat. They are more focused on dinner conversation than the food on (or not on) their plates and tend to be more relaxed in general.

Knowing where you fall on the taste bud spectrum can heighten understanding of yourself and others and can inspire positive changes in your eating life. Your love, loathing or apathy toward chocolate may be just the tool you need to get started. (Ah, yet another reason to cheer for chocolate…)

photos by tammy green, anjuli ayer

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Whole Grain Oatmeal Cut-Out Cookies!

Especially for Extreme Boot Campers in Santa Monica! (You won't be doing push-ups for these...)

Whole Grain Oatmeal Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup canola butter
3/4 cup pure or sugar-free maple syrup*
*(may be substituted Splenda® brown sugar)
1 large egg
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ tsp. sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 ½ cups whole grain flour
1 cups white whole wheat or oat flour
½ cup Fruit sweetened chocolate chips, chopped (opt.)

Cream butter and sugar well, then beat in egg. Add vanilla, salt, spices, and baking powder. Stir in oats and flour. Add chopped chocolate if desired. Divide into three balls and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Roll out each dough disk to 1/4 inch or so thickness on a floured surface and cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place close together on cookie sheet and bake for 10 - 15 minutes, until they are as crispy as you like!