Sunday, February 22, 2009

Home Sweet Savings

Click the link above to access Robin's latest Eco Simple column in editions of the Examiner nationwide, including DC and San Francisco. By the way, the price-per-square-foot of the featured home – Heather's Home – is ONLY $117!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Soybean dish lowers Alzheimer's and heart attack risk

Newswise - A vegan food renowned in Asia for its ability to protect against heart attacks also shows a powerful ability in lab experiments to prevent formation of the clumps of tangled protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease, scientists in Taiwan are reporting. Their study is in the Feb. 11 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Rita P. Y. Chen and colleagues point out that people in Asia have been eating natto — a fermented food made from boiled soybeans —for more than 1,000 years. Natto contains an enzyme, nattokinase, that has effects similar to clot-busting drugs used in heart disease.Nattokinase is sold a dietary supplement to improve the body’s circulatory system. The scientists term this the first study on whether nattokinase also can dissolve amyloids. Those tangled proteins are involved in Alzheimer’s disease and several other health problems.

In the study, the nattokinase degraded several kinds of amyloid fibrils, suggesting its possible use in the treatment of amyloid-related diseases. “Moreover, since natto has been ingested by humans for a long time, it would be worthwhile to carry out an epidemiological study on the rate of occurrence of various amyloid-related diseases in a population regularly consuming natto,” the scientists say.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rain gardens: improve your yard, save our waterways

About rain gardens and how to make one - my Eco Simple column in the Feb. 8 Examiner ... DC, MD, Virginia and San Francisco editions. Access by clicking this post's title.

Link to the article in the DC edition:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Valentine for your body and brain

Eating a Mediterranean diet appears to be associated with less risk of mild cognitive impairment—a stage between normal aging and dementia—or of transitioning from mild cognitive impairment into Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report in the February issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

“Among behavioral traits, diet may play an important role in the cause and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., and Columbia University Medical Center research team in the article. Previous studies have shown a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease among those who eat a Mediterranean diet, characterized by high intakes of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and unsaturated fatty acids, low intakes of dairy products, meat and saturated fats and moderate alcohol consumption. While fish is also allowed on the Mediterranean diet, registered dietition Gail Nelson writes in that you can get its healthy benefits (primarily omega-3 fatty acids) from fish-free foods such as flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed (good on salads), canola oil, soybean oil, soybeans, walnuts, walnut oil, and purslane.

The Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood vessel health overall, or reduce inflammation, all of which have been associated with mild cognitive impairment. Individual food components of the diet also may have an influence on cognitive risk. “For example, potentially beneficial effects for mild cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment conversion to Alzheimer’s disease have been reported for alcohol, fish, polyunsaturated fatty acids (also for age-related cognitive decline) and lower levels of saturated fatty acids,” noted the New York-based research.

Courting rituals in the wild

Cool examples of animal mating rituals shared by the National Wildlife Federation:

* Extreme makeover, avian edition: The male bower bird is a woman’s dream: he’s an excellent carpenter and fabulous decorator. He builds a stick structure called a bower and then decorates it to impress the ladies. He picks a monochromatic color scheme for his decor, which can include shells, feathers, flowers, and even bits of string, plastic and other man-made items – all to entice a female companion.

In spring, male house wrens migrate north a week or two before the females. They use that time to build multiple nests to impress the girls. When a female finally picks a male and one of his abodes, she moves in and rebuilds his “bachelor pad” nest.

* Flashy fake-out: Some insects take advantage of the visual displays of the opposite sex as a way to score a meal. Male fireflies flash their light and wait for the females hidden in the vegetation to flash back. One species has learned to mimic the return flash of the female of another species, and when the hopeful male shows up to introduce himself, she eats him, then goes on to mate with a male of her own species.

* Man-icures: To impress a particular gal, a male painted turtle swims to face her and then waves his long claws in her face in the hopes of turning her on.

* Wing bling: In the bird world, guys sport the fancy ornamentation. Females usually have drab, earthy colors – for camouflage as they sit on the nest. A male’s flashy feathers are an indication that he’s in good health and can father fit offspring with a good chance of survival.

Valentine from a Sexpert: Are *you* just not that into you?

He’s not chasing you? He's not calling you? He's avoiding you? These may be signs that a fairytale ending may elude you.

The concern goes beyond “He’s just not that into you.” May be that you’re not that into you.

Here’s a sexpert hypothesis on why women pursue Mr. Wrong: "Many women believe that they will be able to change a man's mind and persuade him to live happily ever after with her," said Domeena Renshaw, MD, author of Seven Weeks to Better Sex and director of Loyola University’s Health System Sex Clinic. "However, women cannot change men. They can only change how they react to them in this scenario."

Low self-esteem also may be to blame, notes Renshaw, whose less sexy title is professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "Women send signals that they do not value themselves when they repeatedly engage in situations or relationships with men who are not interested.”
Women also may make excuses for the “unclear behavior” of love targets, because they haven’t accepted that their feelings are not mutual.

"I encourage women to concentrate on finding happiness within themselves rather than waiting for men to call or commit," said Renshaw.

Society sometimes suggests that a woman’s worth is measured by her ability to find and keep a man, even though long-entrenched custom has been to let the men court and call the women.

Here’s some self-love potion: "If women can learn to empower themselves, give themselves due credit and know when to walk away from a dysfunctional situation or relationship, it will free them up to meet someone who is genuinely interested," said Renshaw. "We should learn from experience and understand that healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and recognition."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mayo Clinic thumbs-up for vegetarian eating

There’s more to being a vegetarian than cutting meat from the menu. The February issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource offers suggestions for a well-balanced vegetarian diet -- and some reasons why it’s worth considering.

The vegetarian menu emphasizes the food that U.S. dietary guidelines say all Americans should eat regularly -- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes. Vegetarian diets often are lower in calories than the typical American diet. So it’s no surprise that on average, vegetarians are thinner than their nonvegetarian peers. And eating a mainly plant-based diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

The increasing variety of meat-free options makes the transition to vegetarian easier than ever before. With a little planning, a vegetarian diet can meet all nutritional needs. Important nutrients to include are:

Protein: Besides eggs and dairy products, you can get protein from soy products, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Meatless products such as tofu dogs, soy burgers and texturized vegetable protein can be excellent sources of protein. Many meat substitutes, such as tofu and tempeh, are made from soybeans. Soy offers a balance of all essential amino acids, just as meat does. These meat substitutes often are lower in calories and saturated fat than meat.

Calcium: Low-fat dairy and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, collard greens and kale are good sources of calcium. Tofu enriched with calcium, fortified yogurt (available in soy-based) and juices also are options.

Vitamin B-12: This is found in animal products including milk, eggs and cheese. Those who eat only plant-based foods (vegans) can get B-12 from enriched cereals, fortified soy products or by taking a supplement.

Iron: Dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, baked potatoes with skin, dark leafy vegetables and dried fruit are good sources of iron. Eating foods high in vitamin C (strawberries, citrus fruits) along with iron-rich foods can help increase iron absorption.

Zinc: Zinc is found in whole grains, soy products, legumes, nuts, wheat germ, mushrooms and peas. It’s also found in dairy foods and eggs.

Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource is published monthly. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. Subscribe via 800-876-8633, extension 9751, or