In Pictures: Baked Goods of Pastry Shops in Paris, France

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Microwave Oven Cooked Pudding with Taro and Shredded Coconut

Ingredients

1 lb taro
6 oz rice flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut
6 oz rock sugar
2-1/2 cups water

Method

  1. Peel, wash and shred taro.
  2. Dissolve sugar in 1-1/2 cup boiling water, drain, set aside.
  3. Cook shredded taro in syrup for 3 minutes over medium heat, add coconut and stir well.
  4. Mix rice flour with 1 cup water, slowly add to taro mixture, stir well until thickens.
  5. Pour the mixture into a greased baking dish, microwave on high for 6 minutes, then on medium for another 2 minutes.

Source: Cook It Easy

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How to Choose the Type of Mindfulness Meditation

Kira M. Newman wrote . . . . . . . . .

Many beginner meditators, myself included, start out with a mindful breathing meditation: one breath in, one breath out, the mind wanders, you bring it back.

Armed with an app guiding me through this meditation, I practiced dutifully for several months—but eventually I fell off the wagon. It just stopped feeling right for me.

I didn’t know there were other types of meditation to try. That’s why a new study published in the journal Mindfulness is so encouraging: It compares four different types of meditation, and finds that they each have their own unique benefits. Mindful breathing isn’t the only place to start—and it’s not the end of meditation, either.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute recruited more than 200 adults in Germany who hadn’t meditated before to participate in a nine-month mindfulness training. It taught four types of meditation:

  • Breathing meditation: A practice where you focus your attention on the sensations of breathing.
  • Body scan: A practice where you focus on each individual body part in turn, from head to toe.
  • Loving-Kindness meditation: A practice deigned to foster positive feelings of love and care, initially toward a close loved one and then extended to yourself, others, and eventually the whole world.
  • Observing-thought meditation: A practice that teaches you to notice as thoughts arise, label them—for instance, as positive or negative, focused on yourself or others—but avoid getting absorbed in them.

The program was split into three three-month modules, with breathing meditation and body scan taught together. Each module included a three-day retreat and two-hour weekly group sessions, plus five days a week of practice at home. Before and after every meditation session, participants filled out online questionnaires about their thoughts and feelings in the half hour before the meditation and during it—providing a snapshot of how the practice impacted their minds.

During every type of meditation, participants reported feeling more positive emotions, more energetic, more focused on the present, and less distracted by thoughts than they did before beginning—perhaps thanks to the attention training that’s common to all meditation. But that’s where the similarities ended.

During body scan, participants saw the biggest increases in how aware they were of their bodies (unsurprisingly) and the sharpest decline in the number of thoughts they were having, particularly negative thoughts and thoughts related to the past and future. Lovingkindness meditation led to the greatest boost in their feelings of warmth and positive thoughts about others. Meanwhile, the observing-thought meditation seemed to increase participants’ awareness of their thoughts the most.

Participants had been split into three groups, one of which learned only lovingkindness meditation (my personal favorite) for three months. But doing this practice without a foundation of more basic meditation didn’t seem to be problematic. In fact, though they had slightly more negative thoughts during lovingkindness meditation than the other groups (who had already learned mindful breathing and body scan), they saw an even bigger rise in their warm and positive feelings.

As the researchers point out, these findings offer insights to would-be meditators and mental health practitioners. If you’re tackling a specific issue—say, feeling disconnected from your body, in conflict with others, or plagued by rumination—then you can choose to try body scan, lovingkindness, or observing-thought meditation (respectively). Previous research also suggests that the observing-thought meditation has an advantage in reducing our judgmental attitude toward others.

“The type of meditation matters,” explain postdoctoral researcher Bethany Kok and professor Tania Singer. “Each practice appears to create a distinct mental environment, the long-term consequences of which are only beginning to be explored.” In fact, this study is part of a larger investigation called the ReSource Project, which is also examining how these different meditations affect brain structure, stress, and social behavior.

But if you’re looking for broad benefits, any of these types of meditation could help you cultivate positivity, energy, and focus. In that case, whichever meditation you’re likely to stick with is probably the best choice.

Source: Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Greater Risk of Diabetes

Scott LaFee wrote . . . . . . . .

An epidemiological study conducted by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Seoul National University suggests that persons deficient in vitamin D may be at much greater risk of developing diabetes.

The findings are reported in the online issue of PLOS One.

The scientists studied a cohort of 903 healthy adults (mean age: 74) with no indications of either pre-diabetes or diabetes during clinic visits from 1997 to 1999, and then followed the participants through 2009. Vitamin D levels in blood were measured during these visits, along with fasting plasma glucose and oral glucose tolerance.

Over the course of time, there were 47 new cases of diabetes and 337 new cases of pre-diabetes, in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be categorized as type 2 diabetes.

For the study, the researchers identified the minimum healthy level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in blood plasma to be 30 nanograms per milliliter. This is 10 ng/ml above the level recommended in 2010 by the Institute of Medicine, now part of The National Academies, a health advisory group to the federal government. Many groups, however, have argued for higher blood serum levels of vitamin D, as much as 50 ng/ml. The matter remains hotly debated.

“We found that participants with blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D that were above 30 ng/ml had one-third of the risk of diabetes and those with levels above 50 ng/ml had one-fifth of the risk of developing diabetes,” said first author Sue K. Park, MD, in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea.

Study co-author Cedric F. Garland, DrPH, adjunct professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, said persons with 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels below 30 ng/ml were considered vitamin D deficient. These persons, the researchers found, were up to five times at greater risk for developing diabetes than people with levels above 50 ng/ml.

Garland, who has previously investigated connections between vitamin D levels and various types of cancer, said the study builds upon previous epidemiological research linking vitamin D deficiency to a higher risk of diabetes. Epidemiological studies analyze the distribution and determinants of health and disease conditions. They do not necessarily prove cause-and-effect.

“Further research is needed on whether high 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels might prevent type 2 diabetes or the transition from pre-diabetes to diabetes,” said Garland. “But this paper and past research indicate there is a strong association.”

Garland and others have long advocated the health benefits of vitamin D. In 1980, he and his late brother Frank C. Garland, also an epidemiologist, published an influential paper that posited vitamin D (produced by the body through exposure to sunshine) and calcium (which vitamin D helps the body absorb) together reduced the risk of colon cancer. The Garlands and colleagues subsequently found associations with breast, lung and bladder cancers.

To reach 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 30 ng/ml, Garland said would require dietary supplements of 3,000 to 5,000 international units (IU) per day, less with the addition of moderate daily sun exposure with minimal clothing (approximately 10-15 minutes per day outdoors at noon).

The current recommended average daily amount of vitamin D is 400 IU for children up to 1 year; 600 IU for ages 1 to 70 years (less for pregnant or breastfeeding women) and 800 IU for persons over 70, according to the National Institutes of Health. Higher daily amounts of vitamin D are generally considered safe, but blood serum levels exceeding 125 ng/ml have been linked to adverse side effects, such as nausea, constipation, weight loss, heart rhythm problems and kidney damage.

Source: University of California – San Diego


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