Japanese Sweet: Banana Daifuku (バナナ大福)

It looks just like a banana!


Portobello Burger with Pineapple, Yam and Guacamole


12 portobello mushrooms
1 jewel yam, peeled
6 slices pineapple
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tomatoes
1/8 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 (4-inch long) rosemary sprigs


2 avocados, pitted and diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 green onions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/8 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling barbecue grill
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp sea salt


  1. Combine guacamole ingredients in a bowl. Gently fold together until evenly mixed. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients.
  3. Remove stems from mushrooms and reserve for another use. Scrape gills from underside of mushrooms with spoon. Peel yam and cut into 6 round slices.
  4. Grease barbecue grill with oil and preheat to medium high. On rimmed baking sheet, place mushrooms, yam slices, and pineapple slices in single layer. Brush each item on both sides with marinade. Then dust one side of each pineapple slice with a pinch of smoked paprika.
  5. Place mushrooms, yams, and pineapple on preheated grill. Grill pineapple slices for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Grill mushrooms and yam slices for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove items to baking sheet as they are done to your liking.
  6. To assemble and serve, place mushroom caps, stem-side up, on each of 6 serving plates. Divide equal amounts guacamole per cap. Then top with slices of yam, pineapple, and tomato. Season with salt and pepper. Put another mushroom cap, stem-side down on top if the stack and spear each cap with a rosemary sprig. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Alive magazine

Cauliflower Is the New Kale

Claire Suddath wrote . . . . . .

For the past four years, chef Jason Weiner has offered a Meatless Monday menu at his restaurant, Almond, in New York. The idea, he says, is to urge omnivores to accept vegetables as a main course. To do this, he relies frequently on a versatile veggie almost everyone likes: cauliflower. “Cauliflower is this blank slate. It has the ability to take on any flavor, kind of like chicken,” Weiner says. Over the years, Almond’s Meatless Monday menu has included chicken-fried cauliflower, General Tso’s cauliflower, and Buffalo cauliflower topped with Roquefort dressing, which was so popular that it was promoted to the regular menu.

Weiner isn’t the only chef experimenting with the pale crucifer. “It’s absolutely everywhere,” says Elena North-Kelly, managing editor at the James Beard Foundation, a culinary arts organization. “Cauliflower’s moved from the boring side dish, and now we’re seeing it take on a starring role.” Girl & the Goat in Chicago tops it with pickled peppers. Ox in Portland, Ore., covers it in tahini sauce. At the Florence in Savannah, Ga., a cauliflower head is “whole-roasted” and served in a cast-iron skillet.

The vegetable’s ascendancy may be why one of the first changes B&G Foods Inc. made after it bought the brand Green Giant from General Mills Inc. in 2015 was to expand its cauliflower line to include mashed cauliflower, a frozen cauliflower-and-sweet-potato medley, and cauliflower “rice.” Whole Foods Market Inc., which has seen double-digit growth in nationwide sales of the vegetable two years in a row, offers similar products from its 365 brand. Both companies say they’re seeing sales climb evenly across the country, rather than clustered around more foodie metropolitan areas, as has been the case with past trends.

The boom is thanks to converging culinary trends: low-carb, gluten-free, and healthful eating, which often means vegetarian. “It’s similar to what we saw with kale a few years ago,” says Erik Brown, global produce buyer for Whole Foods. And the vegetable’s popularity is reflected on BuzzFeed’s Tasty channel, which posts dozens of DIY options—cauliflower mac and cheese, pizza with cauliflower crust, etc.—to Facebook feeds, where they’ve been viewed hundreds of thousands of times each.

Health food crazes in the U.S. aren’t always practical: Acai berries are grown in South America, and good luck to any Northerner looking for a ripe avocado to top her toast in winter. But cauliflower grows everywhere, from New York to Michigan to California, with staggered growing seasons, so it’s almost always available. It’s also cheap. And most people already know it, if only as a conduit for ranch dressing on crudité platters.

For cauliflower converts, there are two types of recipes: ones that use the vegetable as is, and ones in which it replaces meat or bread. Cauliflower-as-staple-substitute recipes range in authenticity, from that Buffalo cauliflower (definitely not a chicken wing, but still spicy and delicious) to cauliflower grilled cheese, in which grated cauliflower “bread” patties supposedly hold the sandwich together but in reality crumble to pieces (at least for me).

In April, during a seasonal revamp of Almond’s dinner menu, Weiner decided to discontinue the Buffalo cauliflower. To his surprise, customers complained. A few threatened to stop eating at the restaurant. One regular he knows left a scathing comment card urging him to “rectify this disaster.” “I got the message,” Weiner says. A week later, the Buffalo cauliflower was back.

Source: Bloomberg

Is Drinking Diet Soda a Health Risk?

Matt McMillen wrote . . . . . .

About one in five Americans drinks diet soda every day, according to the CDC. Is that a good thing?

Numerous studies over the past several years have reported links between diet soda and weight gain, diabetes, heart problems, and other health issues. Most recently, headlines sounded alarms about a higher chance of dementia and stroke among diet soda drinkers .

That may sound worrisome, but experts say you don’t need to clear the diet drinks out of your fridge just yet. Many questions must be answered before we’ll know whether diet soda raises your chance of health problems.

Diet Soda, Dementia and Stroke

Boston University researcher Matthew Pase, PhD, and colleagues examined 10 years of health information from nearly 3,000 American adults over 45 to count the number who had a stroke. They did the same for nearly 1,500 American adults over 60 to determine how many developed dementia.

After accounting for a variety of things that could influence their health, such as age, physical activity, and waist size, the researchers found that diet soda drinkers nearly tripled their odds of stroke and dementia, compared with those who drank no diet soda.

Scary, right? Not necessarily, says Pase. Only 81, or 5%, of the people in the study were diagnosed with dementia, and only 97, or 3%, had a stroke.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about small numbers of people,” says Pase. “I don’t think that people should be alarmed.”

Pase also makes clear that his study’s results, published in April in the journal Stroke, don’t explain the link. Do diet sodas cause health problems like stroke and dementia? Or do people who have higher chances of getting such health problems choose to drink diet soda, perhaps to try to cut sugar and calories in their diets? Pase can’t say.

Links, but No Cause and Effect

Other studies have also tied health concerns to diet soda broadly rather than to specific artificial sweeteners. (The FDA has approved six for use in drinks and food.) Like Pase’s study, they could not show whether diet soft drinks were to blame.

  • In 2014, a study reported that overweight and obese people who drank diet sodas ate between 90 and 200 more calories of food per day than those who drank regular sodas.
  • Also in 2014, a review of several studies, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, revealed that people who drink diet sodas raise their risk of type 2 diabetes by about 13% for each 12-ounce can they drink each day.
  • A 2015 BMJ review of studies also found that a single daily serving of diet soda boosted the chance of diabetes by 8%.
  • A 2012 study found that daily drinkers of diet soda who were, on average, 69 years old had a 43% higher chance of heart attack, stroke or dying as a result of blood vessel problems.
  • Israeli researchers who studied 381 adults without diabetes showed that diet soda drinkers had many things that raised their odds of having type 2 diabetes, including higher weight and belly fat, higher levels of blood sugars, and more glucose intolerance. Their 2014 study suggested a cause: Artificial sweeteners affected gut bacteria, which in turn affected metabolism. But that connection was only noted in mice.

The authors of these studies suggest many explanations for the links between diet soda and health concerns. In addition to potentially changing gut bacteria, artificial sweeteners may stimulate the appetite, which could lead to overeating. Researchers don’t know yet whether these explanations will prove to be accurate.

David Ludwig, MD, PhD, says that studies like these raise important concerns about diet soft drinks, but they’re not proof that we need to be worried.

“We need more clinical trials,” says Ludwig, an endocrinologist and professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and author of Always Hungry.

Ludwig conducted a test in 2012. In it, he randomly divided 224 overweight or obese teens into two groups. One group continued their normal habit of drinking sugary sodas; the other group switched to diet sodas. After a year, the diet soda group had dropped a little bit of weight, compared with those who drank regular sodas. By the 2-year mark, however, the two groups were about the same.

In another clinical trial, participants who drank diet soda lost about 5 pounds more than water drinkers over a 12-week period. However, that study was funded by the American Beverage Association, a trade group that represents soda makers.

Overall, says Ludwig, clinical trials have shown that if you switch from sugary sodas to diet ones, your weight will benefit. However, no clinical trial has yet been long enough to answer whether diet sodas affect the odds of having diabetes or whether they are as safe as unsweetened drinks like water. Diabetes and obesity, Ludwig says, are the primary focus of concerns about diet soda.

“Compared to unsweetened beverages,” asks Ludwig, “are they causing harm?”

Why Your Diet Soda May Derail Your Diet

One possible explanation for the link between diet sodas and weight gain and diabetes risk: The sweeteners in diet soft drinks may trick you into overcompensating, or eating a greater number calories than you normally would, says Christopher Gardner, PhD, director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. This can happen in one of two ways.

The first, he says, is psychological. If you choose a no-calorie diet soda over a regular soda, you may reward yourself later in the day with a treat. And that treat may have more calories than you saved by avoiding the sugary soft drink.

Your brain chemistry may play a role as well. The sweetness in the diet soda may prime your brain to expect a calorie boost. When no calories are on the way, that could trigger your appetite and lead you to eat more.

“Diet sodas may help you with weight loss if you don’t overcompensate, but that’s a big if,” says Gardner, who’s also a professor of medicine at Stanford University.

Ludwig suggests that drinking artificially sweetened beverages may affect your taste buds in ways that make you less likely to choose healthy foods.

“You may find fruit less appealing because it’s less sweet than your soda, and vegetables may become inedible,” he speculates.

Both Gardner and Ludwig acknowledge that their theories are just that: Theories.

To Drink or Not to Drink Diet Sodas

The American Beverage Association said in a statement that the FDA and other health organizations consider artificial sweeteners safe, and no research has shown otherwise .

“Scientific evidence does show us that beverages containing these sweeteners can be a useful tool as part of an overall weight management plan. America’s beverage companies support and encourage balanced lifestyles by providing people with a range of beverage choices — with and without calories and sugar — so they can choose the beverage that is right for them.”

Seattle-based dietitian Angel Planells encourages people to choose water over soda of any kind. But, he says, diet soda can fit into your diet as long as you make other healthy food choices.

“If you drink a diet soda, that won’t make up for eating a super-size fast food meal,” says Planells, a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Breaking the diet soda habit, if you choose to do so, can be tough, says Planells. He recommends starting with baby steps rather than going cold turkey. If you drink five or six diet sodas a day, drop down to two, to three, and then to one. Just be sure to drink water so you stay hydrated.

Ludwig advises people who want to get off sugary drinks to consider diet soda a temporary choice.

“I tell my patients to continue making the transition to unsweetened beverages,” he says. “We know that diet sodas are better than sugary beverages in terms of body weight, but we don’t know if better is actually good.”

Source: WebMD

If Your Knees Crackle and Pop, It Could Mean Arthritis is Coming

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . .

Knees that “pop,” “click” or “crackle” may sometimes be headed toward arthritis in the near future, a new study suggests.

It’s common for the knees to get a little noisy on occasion, and hearing a “crack” during your yoga class is probably not something to worry about, experts say.

But in the new study, middle-aged and older adults who said their knees often crackled were more likely to develop arthritis symptoms in the next year.

Of those who complained their knees were “always” noisy, 11 percent developed knee arthritis symptoms within a year. That compared with 4.5 percent of people who said their knees “never” popped or cracked.

Everyone else fell into the middle. Of people who said their knees “sometimes” or “often” made noise, roughly 8 percent developed knee arthritis symptoms in the next year.

Doctors have a term for those joint noises: crepitus.

Patients commonly complain of it, said Dr. Grace Lo, the lead researcher on the study. She’s an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

But until now, it hasn’t been clear whether crepitus can predict symptomatic knee arthritis. That means people not only have evidence of cartilage breakdown on X-rays, but also suffer symptoms from it — namely, frequent pain and stiffness.

“Our study suggests crepitus is not completely benign,” Lo said. “It’s a sign that something is going on in the knee joint.”

Dr. Joseph Bosco, an orthopedic surgeon who wasn’t involved in the study, agreed that frequent crepitus should be checked out.

“A lot of people’s knees ‘snap’ and ‘pop,'” said Bosco, a professor at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “Do they need to run out for knee replacements? No.”

But, he added, “if you experience crepitus regularly, get an evaluation.”

The findings, published May 4 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, come with some caveats.

The nearly 3,500 study participants were at increased risk of developing knee arthritis symptoms to begin with, Lo explained.

The participants ranged in age from 45 to 79. Some were at risk of knee arthritis simply because of old age, while others had risk factors such as obesity or a history of a significant knee injury.

So it’s not clear, Lo said, whether the findings would translate to — for example — a 35-year-old whose knees crack when she runs.

Plus, even though the study participants were initially free of knee arthritis symptoms, some did have signs of arthritis damage on an X-ray.

And it was in that group where crepitus was a red flag: People who “often” or “always” had noisy knees were nearly three times more likely to develop knee arthritis symptoms as those who “never” had crepitus.

According to Lo, the findings could be useful in everyday medical practice. “If patients are complaining of frequent cracking or popping in the knees,” she said, “get an X-ray.”

If that turns up signs of arthritic damage, Lo said, then the risk of progressing to symptoms in the near future is probably significant.

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that can stop arthritis in progress. But, Lo said, for patients who are heavy, weight loss can help.

Some, she added, might benefit from strengthening the muscles that support the knees.

Source: HealthyDay

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