In Pictures: Animal Character Cakes

Cake with Orange, Chia Seeds and Orange-flavoured Rice Malt Syrup


1/2 cup black chia seeds
1/2 cup milk
125 g unsalted butter, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated orange rind
1 cup raw sugar
4 eggs
2 cups almond meal (ground almonds)
1 cup white spelt flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Orange Syrup

1/2 cup rice malt syrup
2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice


  1. Preheat oven to 160ºC (320ºF).
  2. Lightly grease a 20 cm round cake tin lined with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Place the chia seeds and milk in a bowl and set aside to soak for 10 minutes.
  4. Place the butter, orange rind and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 8 minutes or until light and creamy.
  5. Add the eggs and beat until well combined.
  6. Add the chia mixture, almond meal, flour and baking powder,and fold to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
  7. While the cake is baking, make the orange syrup.
  8. Place the rice malt syrup, orange rind and juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 12 minutes or until the syrup is reduced by half and thickened.
  9. Invert the cake onto a cake stand and, while still hot, top with the syrup. Slice And serve warm.

Makes 12 servings.

Source: Donna Hay

Anti-Aging Foods You Should Try

Janet Lee wrote . . . . .

Would you rather add years to your life or life to your years? There are anti-aging foods that may help you do both.

Diet appears to play a role in free-radical damage (which alters cell functioning), inflammation, and gut bacteria. It also affects the length of telomeres­­—protective caps at the end of chromosomes. These factors can have an impact on conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, respiratory disorders, cognitive decline, and infection.

“We’re trying to target the biology of aging to delay the onset of age-related diseases and extend the number of healthy, active, productive years,” says Nathan LeBrasseur, Ph.D., director of the Healthy Aging and Independent Living Program at the Mayo Clinic. “Diet can play a major role in that.”

Though following an overall healthy diet is most important, research suggests that incorporating certain anti-aging foods may give you an extra boost. Here, six foods to consider:


Beans are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant polyphenols that have protective benefits, especially for your heart. A large research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating four half-cup servings of beans, peas, lentils, or tofu per week was linked to a 14 percent decrease in the risk of dying from ischemic heart disease (when the arteries of the heart become blocked). Beans are a good source of soluble fiber, too, which helps lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Hot Peppers

If you can tolerate them, chilies are good for your heart and waistline. A large study published in the journal PLOS One found that people who ate hot red-chili peppers regularly were 13 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 19-year period compared with those who didn’t.

Capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat, may also help improve blood flow, boost metabolism, and protect against bacteria that have been linked with inflammation and diseases.

“Inflammation is the nail in the coffin of conditions like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and more,” says Carin Kreutzer, Ed.D., R.D., an assistant instructional professor of nutrition at the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “Many plant foods have phytochemicals that reduce the inflammatory response at the cellular level.”

In addition to green and red chilies, cayenne, jalapeño, and tabasco peppers all contain high levels of capsaicin. Sweeter peppers have less of that compound.


Research suggests that nuts may be tiny packages of healthy goodness. For example, consider a New England Journal of Medicine study that followed almost 120,000 men and women for 30 years. Study volunteers who ate at least an ounce of nuts (about 23 almonds, 18 cashews, 12 macadamia nuts, or 14 walnut halves) daily had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from several conditions—especially cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems—during the study period. Even those who downed nuts two to four times per week had a 13 percent lower risk of dying.

Nuts are high in monounsaturated fat, which helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Studies have also shown that their antioxidants may keep blood vessels supple (hardened arteries are a sign of heart disease) and improve the body’s use of insulin. Nuts have about 160 to 200 calories per ounce, but in the study above, frequent nut eaters weighed less than those who abstained.


It really may be that good for you. A study of nearly 21,000 adults published in the journal Heart found that those who ate the most chocolate (½ to 3½ ounces daily) had a 25 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease and were 23 percent less likely to have a stroke over an 11-year follow-up period. Flavonoids in chocolate may improve blood-vessel function, which can lower blood pressure and clotting. It’s high in calories, sugar, and saturated fat, though. Dark chocolate has more flavonoids and less sugar than milk chocolate.

Whole Grains

Despite carbs’ bad reputation in many circles, research shows that whole grains (instead of refined carbs like white bread and white rice) reduce your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, infectious disease, and respiratory problems. A review of 45 studies found that people who ate seven daily servings of whole grains were far less likely to have those conditions or die from any cause during the study periods. Even one or two daily servings may have a benefit.

When it comes to anti-aging foods, whole grains are among the best. “They’re the total nutrient package,” says researcher Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., a distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. “They have antioxidants, B vitamins, fiber, polyphenols.” These substances, she says, help reduce heart-disease risks.


Fatty fish is high in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which may help protect the heart and brain. Some research has shown a significant 33 percent drop in the risk of sudden heart-attack death in people who ate two or more servings per week.

Some interesting preliminary research shows that people with cognitive impairments who supplemented with EPA and DHA—omega-3 fatty acids found in certain types of fish—had less telomere shortening over time, Kris-Etherton says.

Studies of supplements have had mixed results, and experts advise getting your dose with fish instead. Try for 8 ounces per week of sustainably farmed or wild-caught low-mercury fish, such as Atlantic mackerel, Pacific sardines, freshwater (farmed) coho salmon and wild-caught salmon, and sablefish (black cod) from Alaska.

It’s Not Just What You Eat, It’s When

A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association suggests that certain diet habits show promise in helping to prevent heart disease and related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. These include:

Intermittent fasting. Though more research is needed, studies suggest that severely limiting your calorie intake one or two days per week may help with weight loss and reduce triglycerides, blood pressure, and insulin resistance. “We’ve known for a long time that calorie restriction can delay the onset of age-related conditions and diseases. Now we have newer data on intermittent fasting and time-restricted feeding that’s dramatic and promising,” LeBrasseur says.

Meal timing. Some studies suggest that people who consume most of their calories late in the day have a higher risk of obesity and heart disease. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming 50 percent of daily calories at lunch and 20 percent at dinner led to about a 33 percent greater weight loss than eating 50 percent at dinner. Similarly, restricting calories to a 10- to 12-hour period may be beneficial for dropping pounds.

Eating breakfast. It’s associated with a better blood glucose and insulin balance, which may lower type 2 diabetes and obesity risks.

Can These Foods Cost You Years?

Fill your plate with the following kinds of foods and you might hike your risk of heart disease, cancer, and a variety of other serious illnesses. Avoid or limit:

Charred meat: Studies have found that grilled or well-done meat creates compounds that have been linked to an increased risk of colon, pancreatic, stomach, and possibly other cancers.

Processed meats: Though red meat in general has been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, salami, pepperoni, ham, and other cured meats may predispose you to esophageal, kidney, stomach, and prostate cancer.

Refined carbohydrates: Diets that are high in added sugars (candy, some cereals, pastries, sodas) and carbohydrates that have been stripped of many of their important nutrients (these are carbs such as white flour and white rice) may shorten telomeres and hike the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke, especially in those who are overweight.

Prepackaged meals: These food products may be convenient but they’re often extremely high in sodium. That has been linked to a higher risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease.

Source: Consumer Report

How about Some Popcorn?

Cathy Daus wrote . . . . . .

It seems like we are always looking for a healthy, low-calorie snack. Popcorn is one of the healthiest munchies for any season of the year and has gained popularity for its ease of preparation. Thoughtful preparation of popcorn can prevent excess calories, yet satisfy the appetite.

Popcorn was first discovered thousands of years ago in Central and South America. The English who came to America in the 1500s learned about popcorn from the Native Americans. Today, the Midwest is known as the Popcorn Capital of the World, as most of the corn for popping is grown in Nebraska and Indiana. Popcorn is the official state snack food of Illinois.

Popcorn is able to pop because its kernels have a hard hull and a starchy interior. When heated, the pressure builds inside the kernel and it explodes out of the hull, leaving a light exterior that tastes delicious when eaten. Researchers from the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania found the hull of the popcorn to contain polyphenols, antioxidant substances related to reduction of heart disease. It is not clear if we gain benefits from the polyphenols in popcorn, as they are contained in the hull, which is insoluble fiber and not digested. There is a possibility the polyphenols pass through us unabsorbed. However, it is encouraging to know that popcorn is a whole-grain food and a good source of fiber.

What we add to the popcorn makes it healthy or not so healthy. Many recipes can be found full of sugar and butter. Nutrition of popcorn is shown here comparing 3 cups of popcorn without anything added and 3 cups of theater popcorn. It’s clear how quickly the buttery topping adds calories:

  • Nutrition for 3 cups of air-popped popcorn is 90 calories and less than 1 gram of fat.
  • Nutrition for 3 cups of theater popcorn is 185 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat. One tablespoon of buttery topping adds 2 grams of saturated fat.

There are ways you can add flavoring to popcorn and avoid extra fat. For a nutty flavor, try adding nutritional yeast. For a sweet flavor, try cinnamon. For added spice flavor, try cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. You may consider adding herbs like oregano or basil.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Most Cancers Caused by Random DNA Copying Errors

The “Why me?” reaction that can come after a cancer diagnosis may have no easy answer, with new research showing that most tumors are caused by random genetic “mistakes.”

Investigators at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore used complex mathematical modeling to track mutations driving abnormal cell growth for 32 types of cancer. The model was based on data from The Cancer Genome Atlas, as well as epidemiologic data from the Cancer Research UK database.

Scientists have long known that it usually takes two or more gene mutations for cancer to arise. And those mutations can be caused by environmental factors, genes inherited from parents, or simply random DNA copying errors.

From their calculations, the researchers now believe that the bulk of cancers are caused by random copying errors.

The findings will be published in the journal Science.

“It is well-known that we must avoid environmental factors such as smoking to decrease our risk of getting cancer. But it is not as well-known that each time a normal cell divides and copies its DNA to produce two new cells, it makes multiple mistakes,” study co-author Cristian Tomasetti explained in a university news release.

“These copying mistakes are a potent source of cancer mutations that historically have been scientifically undervalued, and this new work provides the first estimate of the fraction of mutations caused by these mistakes,” said Tomasetti. He’s an assistant professor of biostatistics at Hopkins’ Kimmel Cancer Center and Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For example, using their calculations, the researchers estimated that 77 percent of pancreatic cancers are caused by random mutations, 18 percent by environmental factors, and 5 percent to inherited genes.

But not all cancers have the same causation profile, and lifestyle and environment can still have a big influence on cancer risk.

For example, in lung cancer, the leading cancer killer, 65 percent of mutations that cause the disease are environmental in origin (smoking, for example), while only 35 percent are due to DNA copying errors, the team said.

Across the spectrum of the 32 cancer types studied, however, two-thirds of cases are thought to be caused by random DNA copying errors, 29 percent by lifestyle/environment, and 5 percent by inherited genes, the researchers said.

Nearly all childhood cancers are thought to be caused by random DNA copying errors, the researchers said.

None of this means that the importance of a healthy lifestyle, or carcinogen-free environment can be ignored, the research team noted.

“We need to continue to encourage people to avoid environmental agents and lifestyles that increase their risk of developing cancer mutations,” said study co-author Dr. Bert Vogelstein, co-director of Hopkins’ Ludwig Center for Cancer Research.

But he added that “many people will still develop cancers due to these random DNA copying errors,” and “these cancers will occur no matter how perfect the environment.”

This means that early detection will remain key to saving lives, Vogelstein said.

Doctors need “better methods to detect all cancers earlier, while they are still curable, are urgently needed,” he said.

He and Tomasetti believe that, at the very least, their research may bring comfort to cancer patients who lived a healthy lifestyle and now wonder why they got sick.

“It’s not your fault,” Vogelstein said. “Nothing you did or didn’t do was responsible for your illness.”

Source: HealthDay

Today’s Comic