Health Benefits of Ballroom Dancing

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

Dancing is a wonderful physical and social activity that can improve your fitness and health, lift your spirits, reduce stress, and offer a fun experience, all at the same time! Ballroom dancing, in particular, is a perfect combination of physical and low-impact aerobic activity, range of motion exercise, social interaction, and mental stimulation.

Regardless of your age and ability level, dancing will help you to improve your health, flexibility, muscle tone, mental outlook, social life, and enjoyment of leisure.

Dancing:

  1. Is fun
  2. Helps to reduce your risk of chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular (heart) and cerebrovascular (brain) disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression
  3. Helps to slow the progression of osteoporosis and reduce the risk of falls and fractures, by increasing muscle strength which supports your bones and improves your coordination and balance.
  4. Enhances blood circulation throughout your body
  5. Strengthens your immune system and ability to resist colds, illness, and infections
  6. Can help you lose weight
  7. Helps you maintain a healthy weight
  8. Raises your metabolic rate, which helps you burn calories faster and lose unnecessary pounds
  9. Keeps you fit and flexible
  10. Improves your muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  11. Improves your coordination and balance, which can prevent accidents and falls
  12. Improves your posture
  13. Helps you to meet new people
  14. Builds self confidence
  15. Increases self esteem
  16. Improves your spatial awareness
  17. Improves your concentration and ability to focus
  18. Improves poise and gracefulness
  19. Improves your social skills
  20. Enhances an overall sense of well-being, promotes a positive outlook, and makes you happy to be alive
  21. Is a moderate physical activity that is generally healthy and safe for your joints and body (According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s [USDA] physical activity guidelines, adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily.)
  22. Provides mental stimulation and improved oxygenated blood flow for a healthy brain, especially when you take classes to improve your technique, memorize steps, or work with a partner
  23. Improves your memory and may help to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  24. Is a “sport” you can engage in throughout your life, with beautiful music, moderate aerobic activity, and social interaction
  25. Provides a temporary escape from normal daily activities, a chance to relax, relieve stress, reduce loneliness, and have a great time
  26. Helps you to feel young and energetic, no matter what age you are

For those of you in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or the Delaware Valley, a wonderful place for dance instruction and social dancing is:

Dance Haddonfield

USA Dance Delaware Valley Chapter 3012 

Grace Episcopal Church, 19 East Kings Highway, Haddonfield, New Jersey, 08033

Dancing every Sunday from 6pm-10:30pm

Intermediate lessons (6pm-7pm)

Beginner lessons (7pm-8pm)

Social dancing (8pm-10:30pm)

www.dancehaddonfield.org

References:

  1. “Dance Haddonfield- The Cure for 2 Left Feet.” (Source: www.dancehaddonfield.org/2leftfeet.html).
  2. “Dancing: Fitness the Fun Way!” Public Health Category: www.dianesays.com. 02/17/12.
  3. “Exercise for Your Bone Health.” National Institutes of Health (NIH) Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. NIH Publication No. 15–7879–E. May 2015. (Source: www.niams.nih.gov/health…/)
  4. “How Does Physical Activity Help Build Strong Bones?” National Institutes of Health (NIH). 05/06/14. (Source: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/bonehealth/conditioninfo/Pages/activity.aspx)
  5. “USA Dance Chapters-Find a Local Chapter.” USA Dance, Inc. (Source: www.usadance.org>chapters. Office: (800) 447-9047; Fax: (239) 573-0946).

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Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, eggs provide an inexpensive, nutritious, and filling meal. Any ingredients that can be added to scrambled eggs are wonderful for frittatas, as well.

The following recipe includes quinoa and is delicious, satisfying, high in protein, portable, and freezable. Quinoa is a super grain, providing all 8 essential amino acids (complete protein). It gets baked in the oven, so it doesn’t need to be precooked. Instead, it settles to the bottom of the pan and creates a moist crust.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon butter or oil
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup lowfat or nonfat milk
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, shallot or onion
  • 1+ teaspoon chopped fresh or dried thyme, rosemary, parsley or other herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cups chopped vegetables (red and/or green bell peppers, sliced cherry tomatoes, corn, mushrooms, minced parsley, cubed butternut squash, shredded broccoli, etc.)
  • 1 cup finely shredded Cheddar, Parmesan, Romano, or Mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter,  spray or lightly oil an 8×8 baking dish and set aside.
  2. Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse quinoa with cold running water until water runs clear, to remove bitter saponins. Drain well.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, garlic/shallot/onion, thyme, pepper and quinoa. Stir in spinach.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Jiggle dish gently from side to side, so quinoa can settle on bottom in an even layer.
  5. Cover dish with foil and bake until set, about 45 minutes. (I forgot to do this once and the casserole was still excellent!)
  6. Remove foil and sprinkle top evenly with cheese. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, until golden brown and crisp, 10-15 minutes more.
  7. Set aside to cool briefly, then slice and serve.

Variations:

  1. Pour the above mixture into a 12-cup muffin tin to create mini frittatas. First spray or lightly oil the muffin tin, or insert cupcake papers. Fill muffin tin cups just below the rim with mixture. Do not cover with foil. Bake until set, approximately 25 minutes. Carefully add cheese, return to oven and bake until golden brown and crisp.
  2. Layer frittata serving or mini frittata between bagel or English muffin halves, or slices of whole grain bread for an on-the-go sandwich.

Nutrition per serving: 

260 calories (130 from fat), 14g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 300mg cholesterol, 14g carbohydrates (2g dietary fiber, 3g sugar), 18g protein.

Freezing frittatas:

Individual frittatas make convenient, portion-controlled meals that can be prepared in advance. Wrap each serving tightly to prevent freezer burn, and store in freezer for up to one month. When ready to eat, remove desired portions, defrost overnight in refrigerator, and rewarm the next day in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

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A report published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service on Feb. 20, 2014 states that the vast majority of corn and soybean crops grown in America are genetically-engineered variants made to withstand certain conditions and chemicals. The consensus: no one is certain about the longterm effect GMOs will have on the environment!
GMO seeds have been sowed on US soil for 15 years now. However, Americans still have concerns about consuming custom-made, laboratory-created products, although not as much as in Europe and elsewhere where such crops have been banned.
Between 1984-2002, the number of GMO varieties approved by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) grew exponentially. Today GMO crops are found in most of America’s biggest farms, and scientists have in the last several years discovered new ways to make situation-specific GE (genetically engineered) seeds for corn, soybeans, cotton, potatoes, and other crops that have traits more desirable than traditional crops. In 2013, GMO crops were planted on about 169 million acres of land in the US, or about half of all farmland from coast-to-coast.
Around 93% of all soybean crops planted in the US last year involved GMO, herbicide-tolerant (HT) variants, while HT corn and HT cotton constituted about 85% and 82% of total acreage, respectively. HT crops are able to tolerate certain highly effective herbicides, such as glyphosate, allowing adopters of these varieties to better control pervasive weeds.
As herbicides are applied to more and more fields containing HT crops, USDA experts warn that they could have major, as-yet-uncertain impacts on the environment:

“Because glyphosate is significantly less toxic and less persistent than traditional herbicides…the net impact of HT crop adoption is an improvement in environmental quality and a reduction in the health risks associated with herbicide use (even if there are slight increases in the total pounds of herbicide applied). However, glyphosate resistance among weed populations in recent years may have induced farmers to raise application rates. Thus, weed resistance may be offsetting some of the economic and environmental advantages of HT crop adoption regarding herbicide use. Moreover, herbicide toxicity may soon be negatively affected (compared to glyphosate) by the introduction (estimated for 2014) of crops tolerant to the herbicides dicamba and 2,4-D.”

The chemical 2,4-D is a component in Agent Orange, a herbicide that had been widely used during the Vietnam war. This chemical is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic life, considered a possible carcinogen according to the World Health Organization, and increases the risk of abnormally shaped sperm and fertility problems in humans.

If the USDA allows GMO companies to manufacture 2,4-D-resistant crops, then that agent could appear in alarming numbers across America’s farmland. But while anti-GMO advocates consider that just one of the reasons they oppose the influx of man-made crops being grown in exponentially large numbers across the county, the USDA said activism along those lines has been comparatively small in the US.

Over 60 countries including members of the European Union, Japan and China, already label genetically engineered foods. Many consumers in the European Union, Middle East, and South America have indicated a reluctance to consume GE products. In other countries, including the United States, expression of consumer concern is less widespread.

Despite the rapid increase in adoption rates for GE corn, soybean, and cotton varieties by US farmers, some continue to raise questions regarding the potential benefits and risks of GE crops.

According to the USDA report, GE crops are being grown in record numbers, causing herbicide manufacturers to experience a surge as well. Herbicide use on GMO corn increased from about 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010.

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About 65% of produce samples analyzed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture test positive for pesticide residues. Unless you’re buying certified organic food, the chances are that you’re consuming a significant amount of chemicals. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report in 2012 that warned that children have unique susceptibilities to pesticide residues’ potential toxicity.

Wash your food carefully to protect the health of your whole family:

  • Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling gets rid of pesticide residues in the skin, but valuable nutrients are often removed with the skin.
  • The best way to wash produce is to place the fruit or vegetable in a colander and run water over it, rather than just dunk it in a bowl. The force of running water will drive off most residues. Be thorough when washing fruits and vegetables, as chemicals can linger in crevices that are hard to wash. If done diligently, washing with cold water should be able to remove 70%-80% of all pesticides.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables may also be washed in a distilled white vinegar and water solution. Let the produce soak in a solution of 10% vinegar to 90% water for 15-20 minutes. When you remove the produce, you’ll note that the water in the bowl is dirty and may contain some gunk. Rinse produce in fresh water, and then enjoy your cleaner product. This method should not be used on fragile fruits, such as berries, as they have very porous skin and might absorb too much vinegar or get damaged. With other fruits, there should be no lingering vinegar aroma. If you wish, you can also use lemon juice.
  • According to the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), it also helps to wash fruits and vegetables with a 2% salt water solution. This should remove most of the contact pesticide residues that normally appear on the surface.
  • The best approach: eat a varied diet, wash and scrub all produce thoroughly, and buy organic when possible.

Fruits and vegetables where the organic label matters the most: According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the results of government pesticide testing in the U.S., the following 15 fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide levels on average. Because of their high pesticide levels when conventionally grown, it is best to buy these organic:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Imported snap peas
  • Potatoes
  • Hot peppers
  • Leafy greens: kale and collard greens

Non-organic fruits and vegetables with low pesticide levels: These conventionally grown fruits and vegetables were found to have the lowest levels of pesticides. Most of these have thicker skin, which naturally protects them better from pests and also means their production does not require the use of as many pesticides:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangos
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Papayas*
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet corn*
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Sweet potatoes

*A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically engineered (GE) seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GE produce.

References: 

  1. “EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.” Environmental Working Group (EWG). (Source: www.ewg.org/foodnews/)
  2. “Tips and Advice for a Healthy Lifestyle: Nutrition and Public Health.” (Source: www.dianesays.com)

 

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“Non-GMO” and “Organic” labels are quite different! It’s important to understand the difference, if you want to choose the healthiest, safest food for yourself and your family. Each time we purchase a product, we are supporting so much more than our bodies. We are shaping the landscape of the entire food system, from the environment, land, air, water, the way crops are grown and livestock are raised, to the farmers themselves.

USDA Certified Organic Foods:

  • No GMOs used                                                                                                              
  • Tests for GMO residue at multiple levels of production              
  • Prohibits GMOs in all aspects of farming and processing              
  • Trustworthy method to avoid GMOs                                                            
  • Prohibits use of chemical/synthetic fertilizers and pesticides  
  • Prohibits antibiotic & synthetic hormone use                                       
  • Regulated by the government                                                                           
  • No synthetic pesticides, linked to lymphoma and leukemia         
  • No roundup herbicides                                                                                       
  • No ingredients laced with residues from neurotoxin Hexane      
  • No sewage sludge
  • No Ractopamine drug residues, banned in dozens of countries   
  • Much safer for environmental and public health                                             

Non-GMO Project Foods:

  • No GMOs used                                                                                                              
  • Tests for GMO residue at multiple levels of production              
  • Prohibits GMOs in all aspects of farming and processing              
  • Trustworthy method to avoid GMOs                                                            
  • Allows use of chemical/synthetic fertilizers and pesticides  
  • Allows antibiotic & synthetic hormone use                                       
  • Not regulated by the government                                                                           
  • Allows synthetic pesticides, linked to lymphoma and leukemia         
  • Allows roundup herbicides                                                                                       
  • Allows ingredients laced with residues from neurotoxin Hexane      
  • Allows sewage sludge
  • Allows Ractopamine drug residues, banned in dozens of countries   
  • Less safe for environmental and public health

References:

  1. Levine, Amy. “The Difference Between USDA Organic and Non-GMO Verified Seal.” Boston Organics: The Blog. 10/24/13 (Source: blog.bostonorganics.com/…/avoid-gmos-the-difference-between-organic)
  2. “The Shocking Difference Between Organic & Non-GMO Labels – It’s Huge!” Food Babe.com  02/26/15. (Source: foodbabe.com/…/difference-between-organic-non-gmo-labels/)

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Other Countries Labeling

 Over 60 countries including members of the European Union, Japan and China, already label genetically engineered foods. Why isn’t labelling of GMO foods required in the United States?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the increased use of pesticides:

  • The introduction of GMOs has had a profound effect on the level of pesticides present on and in our food, and potentially on the health of human beings and the environment.
  • Since most GMOs are engineered for herbicide tolerance, the use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced.

What are the possible risks of pesticides?

  • Some studies have indicated that using pesticides, even at low doses, can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
  • Children and fetuses are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure because their immune systems, bodies, and brains are still developing. Exposure at an early age may cause developmental delays, behavioral disorders, autism, and motor dysfunction.
  • Pregnant women are more vulnerable due to the added stress pesticides put on their already taxed organs. Also, pesticides can be passed from mother to child in the womb, as well as through breast milk. Some exposures can cause delayed effects on the nervous system, even years after the initial exposure.
  • Most of us have an accumulated build-up of pesticide exposure in our bodies due to numerous years of exposure. This chemical “body burden” as it is medically known could lead to health issues, such as headaches, birth defects, and added strain on weakened immune systems.
  • The widespread use of pesticides has led to the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which can only be killed with extremely toxic poisons like 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a major ingredient in Agent Orange).
  • There are growing concerns about the role of agricultural antibiotics leading to new antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Identifying GMOs in the U.S.:

  • Unfortunately the U.S. does not require GM or GE foods to be labeled.
  • You can find out whether or not your produce is genetically engineered by looking at its PLU (price lookup) code on the sticky label added to grocery store produce:
    • Conventionally grown foods have a 4-digit code……………………Conventionally grown banana: 4011
    • Organically grown foods have 5-digits starting with #9………… Organically grown banana: 94011
    • Genetically modified foods have 5 digits starting with #8……….GMO or GE banana: 84011

Organic farming and locally grown produce:

  • Instead of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, organic farmers rely on biological diversity in the field to naturally reduce habitat for pest organisms.
  • Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids (substances used during processing, but not added directly to food) and fortifying agents commonly used in nonorganic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, and monosodium glutamate.
  • Organic produce has lower levels of pesticide residue than conventional fruits and vegetables.
  • Organic farmers purposefully maintain and replenish the fertility of the soil.

Organic versus non-organic produce:

  • Organic produce:
    • No pesticides are used in production.
    • Grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost).
    • Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, tilling).
    • Insects are controlled using natural methods (birds, good insects, traps).
    • Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.
  • Conventionally grown produce:
    • Pesticides are used.
    • Grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
    • Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
    • Insecticides are used to manage pests and disease.
    • Conventional farming increases the risk of environmental degradation, water, soil, and air pollution, due to the large amount of toxic chemicals used.

Organic food buying tips: 

  • Set some priorities, so you can purchase organic food and stay within your food budget: Purchase organic versions of foods you eat the most and those that are highest in pesticides if conventionally grown.
  • Shop at farmers’ markets: Many cities and small towns host a weekly farmers’ market, where local farmers bring their wares to an open-air street market and sell fresh produce direct to you, often for less than at a grocery store or supermarket.
  • Join or shop at a food co-op (natural foods co-op, also called a cooperative grocery store) in your area: Co-ops offer lower prices to members, who pay an annual fee to belong. However, you do not need to be a member to shop at a food co-op.
  • Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm to purchase “shares” of produce in bulk, directly from a local, often organic, farm.
  • Buy in season: Fruits and vegetables are cheapest and freshest when in season. Ask when produce is delivered to your market, so you can buy the freshest food possible.
  • Shop around: Compare the price of fresh and frozen organic items at the grocery store, farmers’ market and any other venue.
  • Note that organic doesn’t always equal healthy: Making “organic” junk food sound healthy is a common marketing ploy in the food industry. Organic baked goods, desserts, and snacks are usually very high in sugar, salt, fat, or calories.
  • Always read food labels carefully!

Why is organic food often more expensive than conventionally grown food?

  • The higher price is related to natural fertilizer and labor-intense pest control tactics, since regulations limit the number of pesticide products available to organic producers.
  • Organic food is more labor intensive because the farmers avoid pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and drugs.
  • Organic certification and maintaining this status is expensive.
  • Organic feed for animals can cost twice as much.
  • Organic farms tend to be smaller than conventional farms, which means fixed costs and overhead must be distributed across smaller produce volumes.
  • Most organic farms are too small to receive government subsidies.

Reference:

“Over 60 countries including members of the European Union, Japan and China, already label genetically engineered foods.” Vermont Right to Know GMOs. www.vrighttoknowgmos.org.

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Oven Roasted Marinated Tofu

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

 Tofu

Tofu is made from the curds of soybeans (pictured above).
It is naturally gluten-free and low calorie, contains no cholesterol, and an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium.

USDA organic, non-GMO tofu is a very good source of inexpensive protein and can be used in numerous recipes. Silken tofu blends easily into dressings, sauces, and smoothies, while firm tofu can be cut, roasted, used in curries, salads, soups, stews and as mock meat in Shish Kabob. While the color and taste of tofu is somewhat bland right out of the package, it doesn’t take much to enhance it’s flavor for a satisfying meal. A little salt, pepper, and soy sauce rubbed into tofu before baking or frying it makes for a great stir-fry meal.

Nutrients in tofu:

  • Soy, the prime component of tofu, is a complete source of dietary protein, providing all 8 essential amino acids needed in the diet. Soybeans are also high in healthy polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.
  • A half-cup serving of tofu contains 94 calories, 2 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein.
  • Tofu is a very good source of your daily needs for calcium (44%), iron (40%), magnesium (9%), as well as, small amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, choline, phosphorus, manganese and selenium.
  • Tofu is also a good source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1.

Health benefits of consuming tofu:

  • Consuming plant-based foods of all kinds has been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Increasing consumption of plant-based foods like tofu decreases your risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
  • Tofu made from soybean curds is naturally gluten-free, low calorie, an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium, and contains no cholesterol. It is an important source of protein especially for vegans, vegetarians and those seeking a more plant-based diet.
  • To make tofu, soymilk is first coagulated to separate the curds from the whey. The resulting curds are then pressed and compacted into the gelatinous white blocks recognized as tofu.
  • Tofu is a good source of iron which facilitates oxygen circulation throughout the body.
  • Isoflavones, compounds also known as phytoestrogens, in soy foods have been linked to a decreased risk for osteoporosis, while the calcium and magnesium in soy may help to lessen PMS symptoms, regulate blood sugar and prevent migraine headaches.
  • Due to its large quantities of isoflavones, tofu consumption is associated with lower risk of several specific age- and lifestyle-related diseases, such as:
    • Cardiovascular disease: Consuming tofu rather than animal protein lowers levels of (low density lipoprotein) LDL cholesterol, which helps to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
    • Breast and prostate cancer: Genistein, the predominant isoflavone in soy, contains antioxidant properties that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Moderate amounts of soy foods do not affect tumor growth or a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, at least 10mg of soy per day can decrease breast cancer recurrence by 25%.
    • Type 2 diabetes: People who suffer from type 2 diabetes often experience kidney disease, causing the body to excrete an excessive amount of protein in the urine. Evidence from a recent study has indicated that those who consumed only soy protein in their diet excreted less protein than those who consumed only animal protein.
    • Osteoporosis: Soy isoflavones are known to decrease bone loss and increase bone mineral density during menopause, and have also been reported to reduce other menopausal symptoms.
    • Liver damage: Tofu of all types that have been curdled with various coagulants can be used to prevent liver damage caused by free radicals.
    • Age-related brain diseases

Are soy products a good alternative to meat?

  • It depends. Studies indicate that excessive amounts of soy products should be avoided by people, especially babies and young children.
  • Traditional fermented products such as tempeh and miso made from whole soybeans are the healthiest soy alternatives. That’s because the fermentation process removes phytates that prevent absorption of important minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Fermentation also reduces enzyme inhibitors that prevent effective digestion of protein, thereby making the beneficial ingredients more available to your body.
  • Soy protein contains isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen, which bind to estrogen receptors in the body and are known to disrupt endocrine function. Some studies suggest that high levels of phytoestrogens may raise the risk of certain forms of cancer, while other studies suggest they may actually decrease the risk of cancer and menopausal symptoms. Because of this uncertainty, the FDA has declined to classify soy isoflavones as generally regarded as safe (GRAS).
  • Most soy consumed in the US is highly processed and refined with chemicals. The initial process relies on a petroleum-based hexane solvent to extract the soya oil. The de-fatted soybean flakes or soybean meal are then further processed using a variety of chemical solutions and extreme heat and pressure, which turn it into soy protein isolates, soy isoflavones and other soy proteins such as “texturized vegetable protein” used in meat substitute products, including soy veggie burgers or sausages. Because of these chemical processes, soy products may contain traces of carcinogenic substances. They also have higher levels of isoflavones than fermented soybeans.
  • Tofu and all soy products contain large amounts of oxalate. Individuals with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones should avoid excessive consumption of soy products.
  • Soybeans and soy products contain significant amounts of purines, a class of organic compounds. People with gout should limit their consumption of tofu or other soy products.
  • Women who have or have had estrogen-sensitive breast tumours should restrict their soya intake to no more than 4 servings per week.
  • Too much soy intake may increase the risk of reproductive issues in males and females and possibly cause early puberty.

Oven Roasted Marinated Tofu

Easy Baked Tofu

Slow roasting helps marinated tofu develop a deliciously rich, sweet flavor and a firm yet tender texture. Serve roasted tofu hot or warm by itself or with a favorite sauce, or cold in salads and sandwiches. 

Baked tofu is crispy on the outside, creamy inside, and quite flavorful. It is delicious eaten as is, hot or cold, or in sandwiches, salads, and stir-fries.
The following recipe is easy to prepare and serve, either hot or cold, in a salad, sandwich, or as a healthy snack. It is appropriate for anyone on a dairy-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, low sodium, vegan, vegetarian diet. Try to remove as much water as possible from tofu before marinating it, to help the tofu absorb the marinade flavors and cook up crisp, rather than mushy. Toss tofu cubes with your favorite spices or herbs before or after baking for extra flavor, if desired.

Servings: 4-6
Ingredients:
  • 2 (14-ounce) packages firm or extra firm tofu
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon+ dried or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme, oregano and/or parsley (I add extra dried or fresh herbs for crunch and flavor!)
Directions:
  1. Drain tofu and place on a plate. Cover with another plate and weight the top with a heavy food can or other object of about 1 pound. Let stand 20-30 minutes to extract excess liquid. Pour off liquid and cut tofu into 3/4 -inch-thick slices. Place slices in a single layer in a shallow dish. (You can also drain and wrap tofu in 4-5 layers of clean paper towels before setting on the plate. Cover with a second plate and balance a heavy can or two on top to weigh down the plate. Press down on the tofu and set aside to extract excess liquid for 20-30 minutes. Remove wet paper towels, replace with dry paper towels, and repeat this process a second time.)
  2. After draining the tofu, slice it, put in a watertight container with the marinade ingredients, and refrigerate for 1/2 hour or more (1 hour is better), shaking or turning upside-down every 15-30 min (you can even open the container up and rearrange things to help ensure maximum absorption).
  3. Remove wet paper toweling, pour off any liquid, and cut tofu into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Place slices single layer in a shallow dish.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard and herbs. Pour mixture over the tofu and allow to marinate 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  6. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove tofu from the marinade and place on the baking sheet. Bake until firm and lightly browned, about 1 hour.

Nutrition per serving: 240 calories (120 from fat), 13g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 110mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 6g sugar), 22g protein.

Additional marinade suggestions for 1 cake of tofu, or 2-4 servings:

Lemon herb tofu:

  • 1 cake firm tofu (about 16 oz)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried herbs such as rosemary, dill, or oregano (I use 1-1/2 tsp rosemary, plus 1/2 tsp oregano)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

Emily’s magical baked tofu (For this recipe, toss tofu with herbs only after the tofu is baked):

  • 1 cake firm tofu (about 16 oz)
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 2-4 Tbsp cilantro, basil, or parsley
Soy sauce/orange juice tofu:
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive or canola oil
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Slice tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slabs and lay the slices on top of paper towels. Use more paper towels (you’ll probably need three) and firmly pat the tofu in order to remove as much of the water as possible. Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch cubes.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, orange juice, sesame oil, and canola oil. Add the tofu cubes and toss gently. Cover and let the tofu marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray a large shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Place the tofu in a single layer in the baking dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Garlic dijon marinade (Delicious for roasting tofu to be added to creamy soups and pasta dishes. This marinade can be used as a salad dressing or tossed with steamed vegetables, whole grain pasta, or poured on baked potatoes):

  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayo
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 fresh basil leaves or 1 tsp dried basil
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Whip ingredients together in a small bowl, or put them in a mason jar, close the lid, and shake vigorously.
  2. Soak tofu in any of these marinades for at least one hour before using it. Note that the longer you marinate tofu, the more flavorful it will become. If possible, marinate tofu overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. This marinade will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about a week.

Reference:

  1. “Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health: FAQ’s.” Environmental Working Group (EWG). 1436 U St. N.W. Suite 100, Washington, DC, 20009. 2011. (Sources: http://www.ewg.org › Home › Report and http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/frequently-asked-questions/#question_22)
  2. “Oven Roasted Tofu.” Whole Foods Market. 2015. (Source: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/…/oven-…)
  3. Ramiccio, Marisa. “The Amazing Health Benefits of Tofu.” 10/12/11. (Source: http://www.symptomfind.com/nutrition-supplements/health-benefits-of-tofu/#kypqPV1f1pcYGYhZ.99)

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Foods Which Raise Blood Pressure

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

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Eating with hypertension isn’t about deprivation. Instead, it’s about eating smart and healthy for all the organs in your body. Cut back on bad foods listed below. Find healthier options for meals and snacks, such as more fresh fruits and vegetables; unsalted beans, lentils, edamame, nuts and seeds; low-fat and non-fat dairy products (yogurt, milk, kefir), whole grains (plain old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, shredded wheat), lean sources of protein (healthy fish, skinless poultry, tofu), and salt-free or reduced-sodium, trans-fat free nutrient-dense foods:

Foods which raise blood pressure:

  • Fast Food: The heavily processed nature of fast food means that you’re eating additives, fat, sodium, sugar, and sometimes caffeine with almost any meal you get. The high total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat content can make you lethargic, unmotivated and instantly raise your blood pressure.
  • Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure, even for people who only drink occasionally. Having more than 3 drinks in one sitting may cause a temporary and sometimes dangerous spike in blood pressure. Repeated drinking can lead to long-term blood pressure problems. Alcohol can prevent any blood pressure medications you may be taking from working effectively. Since alcohol is full of empty calories, it can lead to weight gain. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have high blood pressure. Therefore, save alcohol for special occasions. If you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it may be best to avoid it completely. If you drink too often or need help cutting back, speak with a healthcare provider. Note that one drink can be 1.5 ounces of liquor, 5 ounces wine, or 12 ounces beer.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine stimulates the body physiologically and raises your heart rate. If you’ve become addicted to caffeine and feel like you need it to start functioning at the beginning of each day, consider reducing your intake or weaning yourself off of it. Caffeine withdrawal headaches that occur when you’re trying to quit indicate that your body has become addicted to it. If you do not regularly consume caffeine, having a cup of coffee (or other beverage containing caffeine, such as caffeinated tea, soda, energy drinks) can temporarily cause a sharp increase in blood pressure. Experts are unsure of what causes the spike; It may be that caffeine blocks adenosine, a hormone which keeps blood vessels widened or stimulates the adrenal gland, causing it to release more adrenaline and cortisol, both of which increase blood pressure.
  • Salt: Salt is mostly made up of sodium which occurs naturally in the majority of whole foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people with hypertension or prehypertension limit daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams or less. The average American eats more than twice that amount, or about 3,400 milligrams a day. More than 75% of the sodium you eat daily is usually from packaged foods, not what you add at the table with a saltshaker. Some of the saltiest sources of pre-packaged foods include deli meats and cheeses, frozen pizza, canned soups; canned or bottled foods, tomato products, and vegetable juices.
  • Processed and prepared foods: Many contain high salt levels. Most manufacturers of processed foods add extra salt, in order to increase shelf life. Restaurants do the same to enhance flavor. The problem is that the increased sodium in these foods can lead to blood pressure spikes. Avoid processed foods such as chips, crackers, pickled foods, pretzels, salted nuts, popcorn, frozen mixes, condiments, ketchup, salad dressings, dried soup mixes, lunch and deli meats.
  • Processed deli lunchmeats, ham, hot dogs, cheeses: These are often cured, seasoned, and preserved with salt. A 2-ounce serving of some lunchmeats can provide 600 milligrams of sodium or more. If you eat a larger serving, you’ll ingest even more. Adding bread, cheese, condiments, and pickles will also increase your sodium intake.
  • Frozen pizza: Most pizzas tend to be high in sodium, due to the combination of cheese, cured meats, tomato sauce, and bread, but frozen pizza may be worse for hypertensive people. To maintain flavor in the pizza once it has been cooked, manufacturers often add extra salt. One-sixth of a frozen pizza can have as much as 1,000 milligrams, sometimes even more. The thicker the crust and the more toppings you have, the more sodium you’ll get.
  • Pickled foods: Preserving any food requires salt. Salt stops the decay of food and keeps it edible longer. The longer vegetables sit in canning and preserving liquids, the more sodium they absorb. A whole dill pickle spear can contain as much as 300 milligrams of sodium. Reduced sodium options are available, containing about 100 milligrams of sodium per serving.
  • Canned soups, packaged broths/stocks: Some soups have 890 milligrams or more of sodium in just one serving. Consume the entire can and you might ingest 2,225 milligrams of sodium. Low- and reduced-sodium options are available or make your own from a low-sodium recipe.
  • Canned/bottled tomato products: Canned tomato sauces, pasta sauces, and tomato juices are often high in sodium. A half-cup serving of classic marinara sauce can have more than 450 milligrams and a cup of tomato juice about 650 milligrams of sodium. Choose low- or reduced-sodium versions of these.
  • Butter, margarine, shortening, commercial salad dressings, condiments, flavored oils, sauerkraut, soy sauce, sauces, vegetable juice, tacos
  • Foods high in saturated animal fat and trans fat (partially hydrogenated oils): People with diets rich in saturated animal fat (red meat, poultry skin, full-fat dairy products like butter, cheese, cream, whole milk, ice cream, eggs, etc.) tend to have higher blood pressure levels than vegetarians. That is because plant-based diets contain no cholesterol or saturated animal fat and include a great deal of fiber and polyunsaturated fats, all of which help lower to blood pressure. Additionally, many vegetables and fruits provide potassium which also reduces blood pressure. While trans fats are found naturally in small amounts in fatty meats and dairy products, the biggest contributor of trans fats is packaged and prepared foods. Trans fats are created in a process called hydrogenationLiquid oils are infused with air to make a solid oil. Hydrogenated oils increase packaged foods’ shelf life and stability. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), consuming too many saturated and trans fats increases your low density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad, cholesterol. High LDL levels may worsen hypertension and eventually lead to the development of coronary heart disease.
  • Sugar: Most Americans eat about 240 pounds of sugar each year, much of which gets stored in the body as fat. High sugar intake has been correlated with an increased risk of weight gain, obesity, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Dietary sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened drinks, has contributed to obesity in all age groups! High blood pressure is more common in individuals who are overweight or obese. Although the USDA does not have a recommended daily limit for sugars, the American Heart Association recommends that women limit added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons per day and men to 9 teaspoons per day. Less is best!
  • Energy and sports drinks: Gatorade, Powerade, Monster, Red Bull, etc. contain high levels of sodium and/or caffeine.

References:

  1. “Health Risks of Energy Drinks.” Dianesays.com. 10/24/12.
  2. “Blood Pressure Health Tips” category. Dianesays.com:
    • “Foods Which Lower Blood Pressure.”08/05/15.
    • “Lifestyle Changes Which Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure.” 07/22/15.
    • “Medications and Supplements That Can Raise Blood Pressure.” 07/20/15.
    • “What is Blood Pressure?” 07/20/15.
    • “How to Maintain a Healthy Blood Pressure.” 10/17/12.

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Substitutes for Coconut Milk

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

The thick, creamy, delicious flavor of coconut milk is the backbone of many curries, rice dishes, soups, stews and desserts. Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose-free and can be used as a milk substitute by people with lactose intolerance. It is also popular with vegans and vegetarians as a dairy alternative in smoothies, milkshakes and baking.

Unfortunately, coconut milk is very high in calories and saturated fat. A major component of coconut milk is coconut oil. The high oil content is responsible for coconut milk’s color, rich taste, caloric and saturated fat levels which can increase one’s risk for cardiovascular disease. Some people may wish to take steps to reduce these levels, especially if they use coconut milk often in their cooking.

Much of the challenge of substituting for this milk is it’s thickness and consistency. However, you can still make many of your favorite recipes with the following easy substitutions:

Coconut milk substitutions:

  • Spiced milk: A popular substitute for coconut milk while still providing some of it’s thickness. Use any type of milk you have and start warming it in a saucepan on the stove. If using cow’s milk, constantly stir it to prevent the milk from burning. While the milk is simmering, add spices like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, curry or peppers and continue to heat, so that the spices are absorbed into the milk and the desired thickness is achieved. Then add it to your favorite recipe (Some stores sell “coconut flavored” evaporated milk).
  • Yogurt: A commonly used substitute for coconut milk, yogurt has a creamy flavor, thick consistency, is lower in calories than coconut milk, but full of essential vitamins, proteins and minerals. Try a variety of plain flavors until you find one best for your recipes. Greek yogurt is a popular option for those desiring a thicker consistency.
  • Unsweetened, unflavored soy milk or almond milk as alternatives: A drawback of using soy or almond milk as a substitute is that these have a slightly thinner consistency than coconut milk. If you wish a thicker consistency, whisk 1 teaspoon of cornstarch into the milk before adding it to a curry, and stir the sauce as it approaches a boil.
    • Soy milk: Available everywhere and often lasting a longer time in the refrigerator than cow’s milk. Soy milk powder is also available, allowing you to increase the thickness of soy milk to a desired consistency. Soy milk contains fewer calories and fat than coconut milk, is a good source of protein, and its neutral flavor will take on the flavor of food in your recipe. It is also a good choice for those who are lactose intolerant or dislike the taste of dairy. Soy milk is made from soybeans and has more than 30% of your daily needs for vitamin D, riboflavin and calcium. One cup also contains 50% of the amount of Vitamin B12 you need daily, a nutrient difficult for strict vegetarians or vegans to get.
    • Nut milks: Nut milks, like almond and cashew, are widely available. Their nutty flavors can be a good addition to coconut-based recipes. Try to purchase plain, unflavored milks with limited added sugars. Add a bit of gelatin or cornstarch to thicken the milk, if a heavier consistency is needed.
  • Mix 1 cup yogurt or milk with 1 cup coconut milk (or low-fat coconut milk), or blend a smaller portion of coconut milk with more yogurt.
  • Blend 1 cup  milk (either whole, reduced- or low-fat) or 1 cup  yogurt or 1 cup evaporated skim milk with 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract, for a lower fat substitute. Mix well. Not as good as regular coconut milk but lower in calories.
  • Milk/cornstarch/coconut extract recipe: Combine 1/3 cup milk with 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small saucepan. Stir constantly over high heat until mixture boils and thickens. Immediately pour into a small bowl; stir in 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract.
  • Make your own coconut milk with water and unsweetened desiccated coconut flakes: Heat water (make sure it doesn’t boil), add the flakes and blend. Pour through a colander to filter out the coconut pulp, then squeeze through cheese cloth to filter out the smaller pieces of coconut. Use immediately or store in the refridgerator for 3-4 days.

References:

  1. “Coconut Milk.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 08/11/15.
  2. Lewin, Jo, Associate nutritionist. “The health benefits of…coconut milk.” BBC Good Food. (Source: www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-coconut-milk)

 

 

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The thick, creamy, delicious flavor of coconut milk is the backbone of many curries, rice dishes, soups, stews, and desserts. Unlike cow’s milk, coconut milk is lactose-free and can be used as a milk substitute by people with lactose intolerance. It is also popular with vegans as a dairy alternative in smoothies, milkshakes and baking.

What is coconut milk?

  • Coconut milk is the liquid resulting from the grated meat of a brown coconut*
  • Coconut milk contains minerals, vitamins and electrolytes such as calcium, potassium and chloride.
  • A major component of coconut milk is coconut oil.
  • The high oil content is responsible for the color and rich taste of coconut milk.
  • Most of the fat in coconut milk is saturated fat.
  • A popular food ingredient in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Southern China and the Caribbean.
  • Once opened, canned coconut milk must be refrigerated and is usually good for a few days. Otherwise, the milk will sour and spoil quickly.

How is coconut milk made?

  • The coconut flesh must be finely grated and steeped in hot water.
  • Next, the soaked pieces are squeezed through cheesecloth, and the liquid collected is coconut milk. This process may be repeated once or twice to produce lighter coconut milk, since different consistencies are required for different recipes.
  • When the first pressing is allowed to sit for a while, coconut cream rises to the top. This ingredient is often used in desserts or rich sauces.

Coconut milk nutrition:

  • Coconut milk is very high in calories and saturated fat.
  • Rich, thick and more like cream than milk, 1 cup of coconut milk contains 445 calories and 48 grams of fat, 43 grams of which are saturated fat!
  • Good points: no cholesterol, very low in sodium, high in manganese.
  • Coconut milk is lactose-, soy-, and gluten-free, so people allergic to such substances can also use it.
  • A dairy-free alternative, coconut milk can be used as a milk substitute by those with lactose intolerance and animal milk allergies .
  • Consuming excessive amounts of coconut milk may lead to weight gain. The high amounts of saturated fat in coconut may also contribute to weight gain. To avoid eating too much fat, limit your daily intake to 25-35 % of your caloric intake.
  • Substituting “lite” coconut milk for traditional coconut milk will reduce the fat and calories by two thirds, without sacrificing flavor.
Serving Size: 1 tbsp (15 g)
Per Serving % Daily Value: Based on a 2000 calorie diet
  • Calories 35/Calories from Fat 32
  • Total Fat 3.6g 6%: Saturated Fat 3.2g 16%/Polyunsaturated Fat 0g/Monounsaturated Fat 0.2g
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 2mg 0%
  • Potassium 39.45mg 1%
  • Carbohydrates 0.8g 0%: Dietary Fiber 0.3g 1%/Sugars 0.5g
  • Protein 0.3g
  • Vitamin A 0%,  Vitamin C 1%, Calcium 0%, Iron 1%
A 100ml serving of canned coconut milk
154 calories 1.4g protein 15g fat (13.2g saturates) 3.4g carbohydrate

 

Coconut milk health concerns:

  • Unlike nuts and seeds which are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (which lower bad cholesterol levels) and omega-3 fatty acids, coconuts contain significant amounts of fat mostly in the form of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs), especially one called lauric acid.
  • The saturated fat content in coconut is made up of short and medium chain fatty acids.
  • These fatty acids are quickly converted in to energy instead of storing as fat in the body.
  • The medium chain fatty acids present in coconut milk are full of lauric acid.
  • Lauric acid is converted by the body into a compound called monolaurin, an antiviral and antibacterial that appears to destroy a variety of disease-causing organisms. Consumption of coconut milk may possibly help protect the body from infections and viruses.
  • MCFAs are rapidly metabolized into energy in the liver. Unlike other saturated fats, it is believed that MCFAs are used up more quickly by the body and less likely to be stored as fat. This does not exempt them from contributing to heart disease. MCFAs are still a fat, but with a different effect than saturated fats.
  • The link between excessive consumption of dietary saturated fats and coronary heart disease (CHD) is well established. Because of coconut milk’s high content of saturated fatty acids, consume it in moderation.
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), International College of Nutrition, United States Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British National Health Service, and Dietitians of Canada all recommend against consuming significant amounts of coconut oil, a major component of coconut milk, due to its high levels of saturated fat.
  • The British Heart Foundation recommends avoiding the use of coconut oil for cooking.
  • Coconut milk, especially the lower fat version, can be used in moderation (1-2 times per week).
  • People who suffer from food allergies, especially tree nut allergies, should consume coconut and it’s components with caution. Coconut is considered a tree nut by the FDA. Manufactured foods that contain coconut usually carry a warning that the product contains tree nuts. Most people who are allergic to coconut react to proteins in the fruit, not the oil. Coconut oil allergies are rare, but may be life-threatening.

Guidelines for selecting coconut milk sold in cartons or cans from the many store brands or other less popular brands:

  • Choose brands with no added sugar.
  • Choose brands without carrageenan.
  • Choose brands made with organic coconut when possible.
  • Avoid brands with BPA-lined cans.
  • Avoid brands that use preservatives like sulfites (ex., potassium metabisulfite, sodium metabisulfite).
  • Be wary of vitamin A palmitate based on your total vitamin A intake.

*Do not confuse coconut milk with coconut water, the clear liquid inside young green coconuts (fruits of the coconut palm).

References:

  1. “Coconut Milk.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 08/11/15.
  2. Lewin, Jo, Associate nutritionist. “The health benefits of…coconut milk.” BBC Good Food. (Source: www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-coconut-milk)

 

 

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