The Simple Dutch Cure for Stress

Alice Fleerackers wrote . . . . . . . . .

Recently I was in San Francisco, a city known for its tech companies, steep hills, and fierce winds. Each day I’d run around the neighborhood and up through the park, ending with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Back in my AirBnB, I’d feel energized and refreshed, fingers tingling from the breeze. It was cold, exhausting, but completely exhilarating.

As it turns out, there’s a unique term, from the Dutch, for this sort of pastime. In the Netherlands, people have been seeking out windy exercise for more than a hundred years. Today, the practice is so common that it’s known as “uitwaaien.” It “literally translates to ‘outblowing,’” explains Caitlin Meyer, a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam’s Department of Dutch Linguistics. “It’s basically the activity of spending time in the wind, usually by going for a walk or a bike ride.” Meyer has lived in the Netherlands for more than 20 years and has come to specialize in the language, despite being a non-native speaker. She says uitwaaien is a popular activity where she lives—one believed to have important psychological benefits. “Uitwaaien is something you do to clear your mind and feel refreshed—out with the bad air, in with the good,” she tells me. “It’s seen as a pleasant, easy, and relaxing experience—a way to destress or escape from daily life.”

A growing body of evidence suggests that Dutch speakers may be onto something. “Pretty well every group of people benefits from being outdoors in the presence of nature,” says Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex. “It takes us out of the stresses and anxieties of the rest of life.” Over the last 15 years, he’s explored how a range of outdoor activities affect human psychology, including walking, cycling, and even farming. He’s found that people from all walks of life can increase their well-being after spending as little as five minutes amid natural settings, with positive impacts on sense of self-worth, mood, and sense of identity.

Other researchers have found similar results, linking activities like nature walks with reduced levels of depression, perceived stress, and negative emotions. Some research goes even further, reporting that walking in nature can help reduce headaches, improve immune function, and even, as in the case of the famous forest-bathing studies, increase anticancer protein production.

While research into the benefits of waterscapes isn’t as well-established, evidence suggests these “blue spaces” may be equally—or perhaps even more—beneficial to mental well-being. For example, people who live closer to the coast, like many Netherlanders do, report better physical and psychological health than those farther inland. Water may have a restorative effect, helping people overcome negative emotions and diminish their mental distress. Apparently, when it comes to relaxation and recovery, a little “outblowing” at the beach might be just what the doctor ordered.

There are lots of theories about why spending time in nature might be so good for us. Some researchers, like Qing Li, a physician at Nippon Medical School Hospital and the President of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine, believe the answer may literally be blowing in the wind. He and his team have spent years studying the effects of phytoncides, antibacterial and antimicrobial substances that trees and other plants release into the air to help them fight diseases and harmful organisms. When humans breathe in these substances—typically by spending time in nature—their health can improve. Across several studies, phytoncides have been shown to boost immune function, increase anticancer protein production, reduce stress hormones, improve mood, and help people relax.

Pretty attributes the restorative power of natural spaces to their immersive quality. He tells me that activities like watching shorebirds or collecting seashells on the beach can be really engaging—so engaging that they can help us temporarily deactivate a part of the brain, located in our prefrontal cortex, called the default mode network, which allows us to scheme, plan, and innovate. “It’s what makes us brilliant humans,” Pretty says. The trade-off is that it’s also extremely active. “The one thing that we haven’t got is an off-switch for our thoughts,” he says. As a result, many of us “find ourselves living our lives on simmer—[like we’ve] got a pot on the stove that’s almost ready to boil.”

In the long-term, this constant low-grade stress can damage our health and well-being, increasing our chances of cardiovascular diseases, inflammation-related issues, and other dangers. That’s why Pretty believes a regular “dose” of something akin to uitwaaien can be so beneficial. In our over-stressed society, listening to the sound of the wind or admiring the colors of ocean waves may be among the few ways we can truly unwind. “We just need a name for it, an encouragement for people to undertake it and then to carry on doing it.”

Uitwaaien, being a difficult-to-translate word, may be perfectly suited to the task. “One of the main functions of language is to map our experiences of the world around us,” says Tim Lomas, a Senior Lecturer in Positive Psychology at the University of East London. The more nuanced the vocabulary we have available to describe something, in other words, the more detailed the map we can create of it. “One way to look at untranslatable words is that they’re mapping a part of the world that our own language doesn’t map,” says Lomas. By learning what these words mean, we may be able to access feelings or experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise. “There will be experiences that aren’t captured by our own language,” he says. “And for that we can learn from other languages.”

Learning to use words from other languages regularly can be a challenge, of course. “Even though I think it’s very useful for people to engage with words from other cultures, it’s still hard,” he says. He adds that if people really want to incorporate an activity like uitwaaien into their lives, they need to “work on practicing it, and then get better at experiencing it and cultivating it.”

Pretty agrees. “Go out at lunchtime and take a break,” he says. “Park a bit further away [from the office] and walk for five minutes.” Whatever your lifestyle, he says, look at your schedule, and ask yourself the simple question: “How you can fit in small amounts of exposure to nature?”

So open that calendar app and note some time for uitwaaien. Whether it’s a windy, riverside bike ride or a jog up a steep San Francisco hill, chances are, your mind—not to mention your body—will thank you for it.

Source: Nautilus

Glutinous Rice Sweet Potato Balls

Ingredients

300 g glutinous rice flour
200 g sweet potatoes
2 tbsps tapioca flour
10 pandan leaves
a few drops of green food colouring
a pinch of salt
100 g palm sugar (grated and mixed with 1 tbsp castor sugar)
250 g grated white coconut

Method

  1. Steam grated white coconut on 2 pieces pandan leaves with a pinch of salt for 10 minutes. Leave to cool.
  2. Remove skin of sweet potatoes and steam for 15 minutes or until cooked. Mash while still warm.
  3. Crush pandan leaves till fine. Add water to make 200 ml pandan juice. Filter to remove leaves. Add salt and green food colouring.
  4. Put glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour in a mixing bowl. Add in mashed sweet potatoes. Pour in pandan juice and knead till dough is smooth and spongy. If it is too dry, add some more water.
  5. Pinch a small lump of dough. Roll into a ball and flatten. Put a little palm sugar at the centre and seal well. Place the balls in a bowl.
  6. Bring a big saucepan of water to the boil. Drop the balls into the boiling water. When the balls rise to the surface, keep boiling for another 2 minutes. Scoop up each ball with a strainer and coat in grated coconut.

Source: Delicious Nyonya Kueh and Dessert

Inside the Little-known World of Flavourists, Who Are Trying to Make Plant-based Meat Taste Like the Real Thing

Laura Reiley wrote . . . . . . . . .

Marie Wright dips four long strips of paper, the kind you’d sniff a perfume sample from in Sephora, into bottles of clear liquid marked Methyl Cinnamate, Ethyl Butyrate, y-decalactone and Furaneol. She holds the four strips together and wafts them, fanlike, under her nose. Suddenly, the lab smells of strawberries.

Wright is the vice president and chief global flavorist for Archer Daniels Midland, one of the world’s largest food processors and suppliers. She’s a former French perfume industry chemist who has created more than 1,000 individual flavors for major food and beverage companies, and she’s now facing one of the biggest challenges of her career.

Consumers are seduced and beguiled by flavorists without even being aware of it. Flavorists are the people who tinker with nacho cheese dust, Hot Pockets and pumpkin spice lattes. They are the tastemakers, driving consumer trends and making food craveable.

Wright and the planet’s 200 or so other flavorists are bringing their alchemy to plant-based meat. It’s the biggest craze the food industry has seen in a long time, driven by concerns about climate change, animal welfare and human health. It is still dwarfed by the $49 billion beef industry; however, the Swiss investment firm UBS predicts growth of plant-based protein and meat alternatives will increase from $4.6 billion in 2018 to $85 billion by 2030.

Despite its swift ascent, plant-based meat is the antithesis of recent trends such as local and farm-to-table dining, representing an embrace of highly processed foods made palatable in a laboratory by technicians such as Wright.

“These are great proteins from a nutritional perspective, but plant-based presents some challenges with tastes that can be unpleasant,” Wright says.

First, there is the masking of the vegetal “green” notes in pea protein and the “beany” notes in soy, often by adding other ingredients and chemicals.

Veggie burgers were living an idyllic little existence. Then they got caught in a war over the future of meat.

“There isn’t one magic bullet, not one molecule or extract. It tends to be common pantry items like salt, spices, molasses, honey,” Wright says. Vanilla extract is often used for masking because it is known for how it binds to a protein, rendering its own distinctive taste undetectable.

“It sacrifices itself,” she says.

She describes vegetal notes that are more about aromatics. The goal is not to remove these aromas, but to prevent them from being perceived.

“Smell and taste are closely linked in the appreciation of flavor but are independently triggered,” she says. “Taste is composed of the taste sensations perceived in the mouth and odor compounds perceived by the receptors in the nose linked to the olfactory lobe.”

Then comes the insertion of the mineral, musky, charry, “umami” flavors that we associate with meat.

Wright huddles with fellow flavorist Ken Kraut, who works only on the savory side. They swirl little plastic cups of clear liquid, sniffing and tasting. Too yeasty, they say. They want a little less soy and a bit more umami — that elusive, savory monosodium glutamate flavor. Mushrooms provide that, as does Japanese green tea. Meat’s mineralized note can be mimicked by concentrated extracts of broccoli and spinach.

They’ve got a deadline. A big client is coming in the following week to test blended veggie-chicken meatballs, a plant-based burger and a few other proprietary products. Everyone is launching a plant-based burger these days, and as quickly as possible.

“They want to do it in anywhere from six weeks to three months — there’s an urgency, a panic,” Wright says. “Usually, a product is a year to 18 months to complete.”

Wright says an ordinary product — a snack bar or a protein drink — might cost a client $10,000 to $200,000 to have ADM formulate a recipe, which the company can then produce in its own processing facilities. Plant-based meat is different.

“This whole area is expensive because it’s fairly high-tech, with a lot of dollars involved in research,” she says. “Something like this, you’re talking $100,000 to $1 million.”

There’s a lot of heavy lifting that goes into making vegan sea urchins out of soy and vegetable oils or sausage links out of lupin beans, a yellow and occasionally bitter legume. The world is agog at plant-based meats that taste uncannily like the real thing, but nutritionists warn that if companies increasingly rely on chemists to insert desirable flavors into food, consumers might temper their enthusiasm for this new raft of better-living-through-science processed foods.

With their pea protein isolates, their gum arabic and yeast extracts, these new foods are the opposite of whole foods, the obverse of transparent sourcing. Some nutritionists and food industry leaders are wondering if the food system is being led astray by foods that need their flavor and appeal inserted industrially.

“It doesn’t resemble the foods from which it came; it has a vast number of ingredients. It fully meets the definition of ultra-processed food,” says Marion Nestle, author and nutrition professor at New York University, about these new plant-based meats. “Are flavorists complicit? They always have been. These are industrially produced food to which flavors and textures and colors are added so it’s attractive. What they do is cosmetics.”

Back at the lab, Wright and the team nudge the burger formula, trying to achieve the aroma and flavors resulting from the Maillard reaction, a chemical process between amino acids and sugars as they reduce that gives caramelizing meat its distinctive seared flavor.

They dry liquids in a spray dryer, tiny droplets sent through a hot chamber in a stainless-steel box, the water driven off to produce powders. They consider the protein, the flavorings and the binders, looking for a mineral, bloody note and seeking appealing top notes that mimic seared sirloin. They go beyond sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and umami, reaching for a lesser-known “sixth taste” sensation that the Japanese call kokumi, which translates as something like “heartiness” or “mouthfulness.”

Then they take their thoughts into the kitchen.

John Stephanian, ADM’s culinary director, went to culinary school but considers himself a culinologist, where the culinary arts and the science of food meet. He’s plating the plant-based burgers as the flavorists arrive, deep ruddy patties with charry grill marks, tucked onto glossy brioche buns with delicate Parmesan crisps. Wright tastes, appraising. How is the chew? Is it meaty enough?

Wright grew up east of London and studied chemistry at King’s College London. She worked in Europe for years, moved to New Jersey and commuted back and forth to South America to set up flavor labs. Salaries for flavorists vary widely, she says, from $50,000 to $500,000. Flavorist is a mentoring profession, with trainees spending years as underlings in places such as ADM’s Academy of Future Flavorists program. It takes seven to 10 years to achieve flavorist status, and 20 to be a senior flavorist, Wright says.

“Learning the materials takes three to four years. Like being a pianist, you have to practice. A trainee may do 20 to 30 versions of a flavor,” she says.

Flavorists work with beakers and magnetic stir bars. They work with gas chromatography mass spectrometry instruments that separate chemical mixtures and identify the components at a molecular level. They paint their pictures with essential oils, resinoids, concretes and absolutes, the building blocks of fragrance and flavor. But mostly, they use their noses and skills of prognostication.

Designing an average of 300 new products a year, flavorists have tens of millions of dollars riding on their senses and gut instincts about the next big thing in the food industry.

“There are so many influences from all over the world. If you’re going to hang your hat on a flavor for next year, you may be wrong,” Wright says.

It’s about reverse engineering, listening to clients’ visions while tracking trends and predicting consumer fetishes and preoccupations.

“Consumers are driving trends. Trends only used to come from high-end restaurants. Now, a lot of trends are coming from street foods,” she says. “The consumer has changed. They’re saying, ‘I’m not going to eat that, and I have a say.’ ”

She points to smaller food companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which have pushed food giants such as Cargill, Tyson Foods, Kellogg and Smithfield Foods into a headlong race to produce signature plant-based meats.

Before the day is over, Wright checks in with a flavorist working on an energy bar flavored with salted caramel, then with a team in the mint lab working on a gum that both cools and tingles. She tastes a nitro coffee, deciding whether it should be flavored with Madagascar or Ugandan vanilla — the former classic and beany, the latter sweeter with a hint of milk chocolate.

And about that burger. Nondisclosure agreements prevent her from naming the company behind this plant-based burger, but the meeting is a success, the company’s team staying for two days to hash out the details.

“They liked aspects of it, and they also wanted some changes in the fat delivery. They wanted a bit more of that bloody, minerally note and more of that seared taste, as well as that melty quality you get with animal fat,” Wright says.

“A few years ago, they didn’t have to taste so fantastic, but now we can really replicate a meat product without meat,” she says.

Clients often provide nutritional and price guidelines, with the ADM team working within constraints such as calorie counts or projected retail cost. Once the formulation has been approved, the client gets the recipe, frequently having it produced and packaged by a co-manufacturing facility. Wright and her group don’t produce the finished, packaged product. They invent the formula.

With food technology and the culinary zeitgeist moving so swiftly, predicting what will resonate with consumers is tricky — even with Wright’s expanding toolbox of ingredients and food technologies.

“It’s a huge area of investment,” Wright says. “If it doesn’t taste delicious, people are not going to buy it.”

Source: The Washington Post

Testosterone Supplements Double Men’s Odds for Blood Clots: Study

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Testosterone therapy appears to double a man’s risk of suffering a potentially life-threatening blood clot, a new study warns.

Men had twice the risk for a deep vein blood clot if they’d been receiving testosterone during the previous six months, researchers reported in the online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.

The increased risk occurred whether or not a man had the low-testosterone condition known as hypogonadism, but appeared to be more pronounced in middle-aged men than in seniors, the findings showed.

These findings should cause men to think twice about asking for testosterone treatments to battle normal symptoms of aging, said lead author Rob Walker, a graduate research assistant at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, in Minneapolis.

“If a potential patient reads this and maybe is seeking out testosterone therapy for some kind of common symptoms, like weight gain or sexual function, maybe they should seek out behavioral changes or lifestyle changes that will improve their health without a prescription,” Walker said.

The “low-T” fad caused testosterone prescriptions to soar early in the 21st century, increasing more than 300% between 2001 and 2013, the study authors said in background notes.

The fad faded in 2014, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that testosterone therapy increases a man’s risk of heart attack and stroke.

Still, more than 1 million U.S. men over 30 received testosterone therapy in 2016, the researchers noted. Evidence suggests it’s still being prescribed to some who don’t suffer hypogonadism, a condition in which the body isn’t producing enough of the male hormone.

To further investigate the risk of testosterone treatment, Walker and his team analyzed insurance claims for nearly 40,000 men filed between 2011 and 2017.

The investigators focused on men who experienced either deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism occurs when a deep vein clot breaks free and travels into the lungs, blocking some or all of their blood supply.

Men without a low-testosterone condition who took the hormone had 2.3 times the risk of developing a deep vein clot within six months, the results showed. Men diagnosed with hypogonadism had 2 times the risk.

The results also indicated that risk might be even greater in middle-aged men taking testosterone to battle aging, although those findings were not statistically significant, Walker said.

“In men without hypogonadism, men under 65 almost had a tripling of risk versus men 65 years and older, whose risk was only about 1.5 times greater,” he said.

Testosterone poses this risk because it “revs up the consistency of the clotting factors in the blood,” said Dr. Umesh Gidwani, an associate professor of cardiology, critical care and pulmonology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

The hormone increases red blood cell count, which thickens blood and makes it flow more sluggishly, Gidwani said. Testosterone also amps up the action of platelets, the blood cells responsible for forming clots.

The study “seems to suggest it would be safer to refrain from testosterone use in patients who do not have hypogonadism,” Gidwani said.

Walker agreed, adding that men who must receive testosterone therapy due to hypogonadism should be closely monitored for blood clots.

Source: HealthDay

Run for Your Life, New Study Recommends

Even a little running on a regular basis can extend your life, Australian researchers say.

They analyzed 14 studies that included more than 232,000 people whose health was tracked for between 5.5 and 35 years. During the study periods, nearly 26,000 participants died.

The collective data showed that any amount of running was associated with a 30% lower risk of death from heart disease, and a 23% lower risk of death from cancer.

Even as little as 50 minutes of running once a week at a pace slower than 6 mph appeared to be protective, according to the authors of the study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

They said that makes running a good option for people who say they are too busy to exercise.

The reasons running is associated with a reduced risk of premature death are unclear, and the study doesn’t establish cause and effect, said lead researcher Zeljko Pediscic. He’s an associate professor of public health at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.

His team also noted that the number of studies analyzed was small and considerable variation in their methods may have influenced the results.

Even so, any amount of running is better than none, the authors suggested.

“Increased rates of participation in running, regardless of its dose, would probably lead to substantial improvements in population health and longevity,” they concluded in a journal news release.

Source: HealthDay


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