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Articles from 2000 In December

Delicious Living

January 1, 2001

Ephedra: Herbal Wonder or Worry?

HerbsSince attracting the attention of Texas health authorities in December 1993, ephedra sinica, an herb with amphetamine-like qualities and notorious side effects, has taken hits in The Wall Street Journal and Ladies' Home Journal alike. It's the herb people love to hate — but not enough to stop buying it.

Traditionally used by Chinese herbalists to treat respiratory infections, asthma and hay fever, ephedra, also known as ma huang, undoubtedly works. The German Commission E, a respected government agency, recommends it for respiratory tract diseases with mild bronchospasms. Ephedra's most active ingredient, ephedrine, is a central nervous system stimulant that dilates bronchial muscles and contracts mucous linings in the nose. Isolated at the turn of the century, it quickly became the primary treatment for asthma. Today it crops up in common over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines.

The adrenaline-mimicking qualities that make ephedra ideal for asthma also make it an attractive weight-loss supplement. In addition to opening the bronchi, it suppresses appetite and speeds up metabolism. Caffeine is often added to these weight-loss products to heighten the effect.

What Price Stimulus?
The question isn't whether ephedra works, but whether it's safe. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came down hard on ephedra after more than 900 adverse events — from headaches to a fatal heart attack — were reported among people using ephedra products. The FDA is being taken to task for overstating the problems. In the meantime, federal hearings are being held, new dosages proposed and warning labels rewritten.

Much like caffeine, ephedrine triggers the heart-pounding sensation commonly felt before public speaking. It may also cause headache, insomnia or heart palpitations. And that's if you're healthy. If you're taking asthma medications, have heart disease, glaucoma, diabetes or other health problems, ephedra may raise your blood pressure or set off a cardiac arrhythmia.

"People who use ephedra can expect increased heart rate, some elevation in blood pressure and some wakefulness," concedes Carlo Calabrese, ND, MPH, product development manager at Rexall Sundown, which markets an ephedra weight-loss product. Sensitivity can be hard to predict. A recent study published in Obesity Research (1999, vol. 7, sup. 1) compared an ephedra-guarana weight-loss product to placebo. The ephedra product worked, "but that's not the interesting part," says Anthony Almada, president and chief science officer of Imaginutrition, a natural products consulting group in Aptos, Calif. "Twenty percent of the 100 people in the study dropped out because they couldn't handle ephedra," he says. "That has a huge impact on a study."

It gets more complicated in the real world. Theodore M. Farber, PhD, a toxicologist and risk assessment expert, reviewed for a group of ephedra manufacturers the FDA's collection of adverse events reports. What's clear from the 900-odd incidents, he says, is that many people are misusing ephedra.

Most who reported side effects "had hypertension, were diabetic, had a family history of heart disease or were taking other medications," says Farber. "One person was taking 85 pills a day."

Assess Your Risk
Don't become an FDA statistic. If you're considering taking ephedra, treat it as you would any other new diet plan and consult your doctor first.

"When used properly, under the supervision of a clinician, ephedra is very safe and very effective," says Jane Guiltinan, ND, dean of clinical affairs at Bastyr University. "Supplements are not the best way to help someone lose weight," she says, "but I would use ephedra short-term to help someone get over a hump."

"If you use ephedra for longer than seven days," writes Varro Tyler, PhD, herb expert and author of Tyler's Honest Herbal (The Haworth Herbal Press), in the September 2000 issue of Prevention, "do so only under the close supervision of a knowledgeable physician who will regularly monitor your vital signs, including blood pressure. Also, refrain from using any ephedra product containing caffeine, and steer clear of foods containing caffeine."

Assess your risk. Taken short term at the proper dosage, ephedra is probably safe. But like all stimulants, it comes at a price. Side effects such as headache, dizziness and insomnia are signs that the herb may be too much for you. If you have health problems or need your morning coffee or are prone to taking four pills when one will do, it's best to skip ephedra entirely and try another weight-loss tactic.

Catherine Monahan is a food and health writer and a frequent contributor to Delicious Living.

Photography by: Jeff Padrick

Delicious Living

ARCHIVE: Black Bean Cakes with Orange Basil Salsa

Serves 6

Tomatoes and oranges together in salsa make a great match both for flavor and dynamic color. Serve these hearty bean cakes with a rice pilaf sprinkled with scallions.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Salsa Marinating Time: 1 hour


2 navel oranges, sections separated and diced
1 large tomato, cored, seeded and diced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

Bean Cakes:

4 cups cooked black beans, divided
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for oiling pan
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine salsa ingredients in a bowl. Let sit at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours, before using.

2. Place 3 cups black beans in a large bowl. Process the remaining 1 cup of beans with the eggs until smooth. Stir this mixture into the whole beans along with the bread crumbs.

3. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery and sauté until very tender and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle on the cumin and cook 1 more minute.

4. Scrape the vegetables into the bean mixture and add salt and pepper. Stir to mix well.

5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop 12 portions of bean mixture and place on baking sheet. With a knife or your hands, flatten into patties. Bake 10 minutes, flip and bake 10 more minutes. Serve bean cakes with a spoonful of salsa on each.

Note: The dish may be prepared in advance through step 4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Delicious Living

ARCHIVE: Chestnut Cream Roulade

Chestnut Cream Roulade
December, 2000

Chestnut Cream RouladeServes 10 / The smooth, soft texture of chestnuts makes them ideal for creamy, and low-fat, dessert fillings. Sometimes called a Yule Log, a roulade begins with a malleable flourless cake baked in a sheet pan. Rolled up in a spiral, it makes a spectacular presentation when sliced and served. Since the dessert has no flour, it's a perfect alternative for those with gluten sensitivity.

8 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 pound good-quality, semisweet chocolate, broken into piece
1/3 cup cold water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 cups roasted, shelled and peeled chestnuts (chopped)
1 fresh vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups milk or plain rice milk
1/3 cup neufchatel cheese (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup honey or rice syrup
Shaved chocolate and fresh raspberries for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Separate eggs and place whites in refrigerator. Beat yolks with sugar until very pale, fluffy and lemon-colored. Set aside.
2. Combine chocolate and water in double boiler over simmering water. Stir with wooden spoon until melted; let cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Fold gently into yolk mixture.
3. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks, but aren't stiff and glossy. Don't overbeat or cake will be dry. Gently fold chocolate mixture into whites.
4. Oil an 18' x 12' jelly roll pan and line with wax paper, letting the paper extend 1/2 inch beyond narrow ends of pan. Smooth batter evenly and gently over bottom of pan. Bake in center of oven for 15-20 minutes; mixture will puff and its surface will lose its shine when it's done. Don't overcook or it won't hold together when rolled up.
>5. Remove pan from oven and immediately cover with 2 layers of paper towels dipped in cold water and wrung out. Top with 1 layer of dry paper towels. Cool at room temperature for 20 minutes. When cool, peel off paper towels carefully. Loosen roll a bit with a knife, and gently lift extended wax paper ends. Dust top of cake with cocoa, and invert onto 2 pieces of wax paper. Gently peel off wax paper on which it baked.
6. While cake bakes, cook chestnuts over medium heat in large saucepan with 11/2 cups milk and vanilla bean seeds until most of milk has been absorbed, about 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer chestnuts to food processor fitted with a steel blade, add salt and purée until smooth. Slowly add honey or rice syrup, and cheese (if desired) until smooth and creamy.
7. Spread chestnut cream evenly over surface of cake. Roll into spiral, beginning at one of the long ends. Use wax paper to help lift cake. Cover any cracks with dusting of cocoa powder. Garnish with shaved chocolate and fresh raspberries.
Variation: To reduce fat and cholesterol, try using egg substitute instead of egg yolks in Step #1.

486 cal, 14g fat (2g mono, 1g poly, 7g sat), 176mg chol, 9g protein, 87g carb, 5g fiber, 219mg sodium
Delicious Living

Peace Makers: 3 relaxing herbs for stressful days

Peace Makers: 3 relaxing herbs for stressful days

In our fast-paced culture, we all experience stress at one time or another. Stress can come from feeling overwhelmed during a busy day or from apprehension over the outcome of a particular event. And additional activities during the holiday season can definitely add extra pressure to our days.

Believe it or not, our bodies are actually quite adept at dealing with everyday stress. When we're uptight, our adrenals — the two glands on top of our kidneys — release adrenaline, which can work in a positive way to give us the energy boost to meet a deadline or finish our holiday shopping. However, prolonged stress may put too much strain on the body by overexciting the adrenals, compromising our immune systems and causing illness. Fortunately, there are easy-to-use natural remedies that can offer relief.

Coping with Stress
We all have our ways of alleviating stress. Meditation. Yoga. Avoiding negative situations and toxic people whenever possible, and choosing more positive influences instead. We can also help ourselves by getting enough rest and exercise, and allowing key nutrients to support adrenal function, including vitamins B6 and C, pantothenic acid, zinc, magnesium and herbs such as Siberian ginseng, licorice and oatstraw.

In Chinese medicine, practitioners often treat stress symptoms with acupuncture — a Chinese medical practice of inserting needles into the skin at certain points to rebalance the body's energy (called qi, pronounced "chee"). "There are many acupuncture points that deal with stress symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, insomnia, irritability, and fear of people and social situations," says Patrick Cunningham, LAc, who teaches at the New England School of Acupuncture in Belmont, Mass. "You can see a person's emotions change as the flow of qi improves."

In conjunction with acupuncture treatments, Cunningham frequently recommends herbs for stress. Although he advises seeing a health care practitioner for remedies specific to individual needs, he also says: "Herbs for stress are wonderful. They're something a person can take at home, which is like getting treated every day, and this is empowering."

Siberian Ginseng
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is an important herb for enhancing resistance to stress and disease. Also known as eleuthero, it contains compounds called eleutherosides that act on the neuroendocrine system to help the body build immunity and better adapt to external influences. "Siberian ginseng is used in both the Far East and the West," says Cunningham. "It's an adaptogen — that is, it increases the body's ability to respond to and withstand stress."

Ron Teeguarden, in his book Radiant Health: The Ancient Wisdom of the Chinese Tonic Herbs (Warner), writes, "This herb has been shown to reduce the activation of the adrenal cortex in response to stress, which means that it helps prevent excessive stress reactions, which can damage other components of the endocrine and nervous systems and result in exhaustion." Indeed, Russian studies show that Siberian ginseng is stress-protective as well as effective for enhancing physical performance. Siberian ginseng has been used by Russian cosmonauts and is regularly taken by athletes worldwide to increase energy, vitality and endurance. It has also been documented for its ability to modulate the immune system, according to Varro E. Tyler, PhD, author of Herbs of Choice (Pharmaceutical Products Press). Today, Siberian ginseng is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. Some health care practitioners caution against using ginseng if you have hypertension.

Licorice Root
Sometimes called "the grandfather of herbs" in Chinese medicine, licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra and G. uralensis) is a good choice if you want to get back on an emotional and physical even keel. "Licorice is an endocrine restorative, an adrenal gland tonic and a stimulant, so it's good for addressing stress," says Cunningham.

Licorice has been used in Western and Chinese herbal medicine for centuries, and has many uses. It contains the chemical agent glycoside glycyrrhizin, which is responsible for the root's sweetness, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Cunningham says it's also "an immune enhancer, fights infection, protects the liver and has been used to treat ulcers." Because licorice is estrogenic, it can also be helpful in treating amenorrhea, PMS with dry skin and menopause. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1999, vol. 70) noted that licorice root also contains potent antioxidant compounds that provide significant protection against chronic diseases.

Long-term use of licorice can produce side effects including headache, lethargy, sodium and water retention, excessive potassium excretion and high blood pressure. These effects are related to the herb's glycyrrhizin content and can be avoided by taking deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL); however, DGL lacks the anti-inflammatory properties of licorice. People with high blood pressure, water retention, excess adrenal conditions and estrogen-related cancer should avoid licorice.

We tend to think of oatmeal as an ordinary food, but the whole oat plant, called oatstraw (Avena sativa), can be dried and used for medicinal purposes — specifically stress. Containing flavonoids, many minerals and vitamins B1, B2, D and E, oatstraw is "an excellent tonic for the whole system, used for both physical and nervous fatigue," writes Penelope Ody in The Complete Medicinal Herbal (Dorling Kindersley). It's also good for easing anxiety, depression and insomnia.

While Cunningham primarily prescribes Chinese herbs in his practice, he also recommends oatstraw as a nervous-system restorative and sedative. And Edward Bach formulated his Wild Oats flower remedy to be taken during times of uncertainty and dissatisfaction. Other uses for oatstraw? James A. Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy (Rodale), recommends it for gout, psoriasis and, in case you want to sow those wild oats, as a male sexual stimulant.

Deborahann Smith is the author of several books, including Work With What You Have: Ways to Creative & Meaningful Livelihood (Shambhala).


Delicious Living

Nuts For Heart Health

Nuts For Heart Health

nutsMany Americans have nixed nuts due to their high fat content, but new research shows going a little nuts may improve heart health by decreasing cholesterol. In one recent study, walnuts were incorporated into the diets of 23 women and 26 men, all with high cholesterol. After six weeks of eating walnuts, participants showed significant decreases in LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol (Annals of Internal Medicine, 2000, vol. 132).

This latest research supports earlier findings from the Harvard Nurses Health Study, which showed women who ate five or more servings of nuts a week had two-thirds the rate of heart disease deaths and nonfatal heart attacks as non-nut eaters (British Medical Journal, 1998, vol. 317).

While the unsaturated fat in nuts is an excellent option to saturated fat, researchers note a handful a day is all that's needed.

— Lara Evans

Photography by: Rita Maas


Delicious Living

Stretch Your Stress Away

Stretch Your Stress Away

stretchingLet stress get you down — on the floor, that is. This simple yoga stretch will melt stress away at the start or finish of your busy day. Don't forget to breathe: Listening to your breath in each pose helps release tension. Repeat pose once.

Legs Up on Wall (Viparita Karini) Lie down on back, buttocks close to the wall, knees bent. If desired, place folded blanket under hips for added support. Extend legs up wall and straighten. Extend arms to sides, palms up. Inhale/exhale while holding pose for five minutes. Release by rolling to right side.

— Joan Cheikes

Photography by: David Roth


Delicious Living

Calling All Cooks: The Delicious! Living Annual Recipe Contest

Let your creative juices flow... in your kitchen, that is! Here's your chance to create an original recipe using the finest natural ingredients around.

Simply use one or more products from the list as a main ingredient to create an appetizer, salad, entrée, side dish or dessert. Recipes will be judged on taste, ease of preparation and innovation.

Prizes: First place winner in each category will receive a $150 gift certificate to the natural products store of his/her choice. One runner-up in each category will receive a gift certificate for $75.

Mail Info:
Mail entries to Delicious Living!
Recipe Contest
Attn: E. Bosley,
1401 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302. Or e-mail entries to: [email protected].

Deadline:Entries must be postmarked by February 1, 2001. Contest winners will be announced in our June 2001 issue.

Ingredient List:

  • Mori-Nu Lite Tofu - Firm or Extra Firm
  • Mori-Nu Mates Pudding Mixes - Chocolate, Lemon or Vanilla
  • Mori-Nu Tofu Hero Seasonings - Garden Scrambler, Shanghai Stir-Fry, Eggless Salad or Italian Herb
  • Imagine Natural Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
  • Imagine Natural Organic No Chicken Broth
  • Imagine Natural Tomato Soup
  • Soyco Foods Rice Cheese, block style, cheddar flavor
  • Soyco Foods Rice Cream Cheese
  • Soyco Foods Rice Slices, mozzarella flavor
  • Soyco Foods Rice Slices, American flavor
  • Soyco Foods Rice Parmesan Topping Alternative
  • Crown Prince Small Shrimp
  • Crown Prince Fancy White Lump Crab Meat
  • Crown Prince Albacore Tuna
  • Soy Dream Beverages
  • Rice Dream Beverages
  • Meyenberg Powdered Goat Milk
  • Meyenberg Evaporated Goat Milk
  • Meyenberg Fresh Whole Goat Milk and 1% Low Fat
  • Natural Touch® Kaffree Roma®
  • Natural Touch® Tuno®
  • Natural Touch® Vegetarian Chili
  • Natural Touch® Fat Free Vegan Burger
  • Nutral Touch® Spicy Black Bean Burger

Delicious Living

Recipe: Peanut Butter Doo-Dads

Peanut Butter Doo-Dads

1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/3cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup cereal, such as toasted oats or puffed rice

Peanut Butter Doo-Dads1. In frying pan over medium heat, stir peanut butter with wooden spoon for about 1 minute, or until very soft. Take pan off stove and put on cutting board or kitchen towel. (An adult might need to help.) Dump in chocolate chips. Stir until soft and a little melted.

2. Measure cereal and dump in. Mix slowly until cereal is coated and gooey. Scoop spoonfuls of batter into lumps onto large plate. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes. Time to eat!

Adapted and reprinted with permission from Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up (Tricycle Press) by Mollie Katzen.

Photography by: Jeff Padrick

Delicious Living

DHA For Healthy Babies

Research shows that the omega-3 DHA is vital to brain and eye development during pregnancy. Fetuses and infants are unable to convert ALA to DHA, so it's important babies get it directly from their mothers. Infant formula enhanced with DHA has been instituted in 50 countries, but not in the United States. Why? "One reason," according to Mary Van Elswyk, PhD, RD, and Vice President of Scientific Affairs at OmegaTech Inc., "is that some early research reviewed formula supplemented with DHA via fish oil; but fish oil also contains EPA, which is fine for adults, but in infants it counteracts with other EFAs needed for growth." She says DHA alone can and should be added directly to infant formula.

Results from a preliminary study conducted by Elswyk's employer, Omega Tech, which produces DHA-enhanced eggs — showed DHA helped women carry babies to term. A larger, more extensive study is monitoring pregnant women's diets — specifically DHA's role in avoiding miscarriage and premature births — as well as monitoring babies' cognitive abilities through their first year. Results are expected in September 2001.