Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #21

Horiátiki Salata and Za’atar Recipes, Spotlight on Oregano (Essential, Versatile and Medicinal), Plus Affordable Home Workouts

I’m all for simplicity when it comes to cooking, and many delicious dishes call for very easy prep. But the simpler your presentation, the fresher and higher quality the ingredients need to be. Greek salad is a perfect example. All it involves is arranging a few items on a plate, but what separates a great Greek salad from one that’s ho-hum is perfect ingredients, and that includes the seasonings. A sprinkle of dried herbs can make all the other flavors in a dish really sing. This issue of The Olive Oil Hunter Newsletter takes a fresh look at oregano, a kitchen staple that you may not be using as much as you should. Here are two simple yet superb ideas…

Horiátiki Salata

  • Horiátiki Salata Horiátiki Salata

    The quintessential Greek salad isn’t complicated, but two important elements will make it memorable—true Greek Kalamata olives and freshly sliced slabs of feta, not those packaged crumbles. Purists say the melding of the olive oil and the juice of the tomatoes is all the dressing you need, enhanced by the best oregano. That’s why the squeeze of lemon juice is optional. Note: If you can’t find great beefsteak tomatoes, substitute two cups of hothouse cherry tomatoes, halved.

    Ingredients

    • 1 large cucumber
    • 1/2 red onion
    • 1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into rings
    • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, quartered 
    • 10 Greek Kalamata olives
    • 2 3-ounce slices of Greek feta
    • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • Dried oregano to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Coarse salt, like Maldon sea salt flakes, to taste
    • 2 lemon wedges (optional)

    Directions

    Divide the ingredients evenly between two dinner plates or salad bowls in this order: Arrange the cucumber slices first and then layer on the red onions and green peppers. Space the tomato quarters and olives around the outside of the dish and place a slab of feta in the center. Drizzle on the olive oil and sprinkle on oregano and black pepper. Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with the salt. Add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

    Yields 2 servings.

Za’atar

  • Za’atar Za’atar

    This Middle Eastern spice blend is as ubiquitous in that part of the world as our salt shaker is here, but far healthier. Every country in the Middle East, and even region within each country, has its own proportions of the ingredients. My twist is using black lime in place of the traditional sumac, which isn’t—yet—in everyone’s pantry. (You can leave out the salt if you need to for health reasons.) Za’atar is amazing when sprinkled over olive oil on focaccia or flat bread before baking…or when reheating bread from your favorite bakery. ​

    Ingredients

    • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds 
    • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
    • 1 tablespoon sumac or black lime
    • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
    • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

    Directions

    Toast the sesame seeds in a small pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, watching closely so that they don’t burn. Turn off the heat and let them cool. Using a small food processor or a coffee bean grinder (you may need to work in batches), pulse the sesame seeds along with the other spices until they’re mixed, but stop well before they turn into a powder—there should be some texture to the blend. You can also do this by hand with a mortar and pestle.

    Yields about 1/2 cup.

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Essential Oregano

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Essential Oregano

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) was first cultivated in Greece and, though closely associated with classic dishes of southern Italy, is an essential in cuisines throughout the Mediterranean region. Oregano’s popularity among American cooks is relatively recent. Legend has it that GIs returning from WWII brought back their new love of pizza, liberally sprinkled with the herb, and its use here exploded. Oregano is popular in Latin America as well as Mexico and is the perfect herb for chili-based dishes. But know that what’s labeled “Mexican oregano” is actually a member of the Verbenaceae family and not a true oregano (it’s also much sharper).

Oregano’s intensity depends a lot on the climate and soil it was grown in. I love Turkish oregano because of its sweet, floral, and hoppy notes. But that’s not to say it’s meek. Far from it. There are hints of fennel and wild mint that give way to a spiciness that reminds me of Sichuan peppercorns.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Versatile Oregano

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Versatile Oregano

Oregano adds wonderful flavor to grilled fish, roasted chicken, and all kinds of meat, especially lamb (kebabs and patties in particular). Beyond pasta and pizza, sprinkle it on salads, omelets, frittatas, roasted potatoes, and even fries. Perfect in tomato- and meat-based sauces and bold pasta dishes, oregano can be paired with garlic—for the best garlic bread, brush slices with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with oregano before they go into the oven. If you’re really adventurous, use a dusting of za’atar.

For Your Best Health: Medicinal Oregano

For Your Best Health

Medicinal Oregano

Oregano is one of the most widely used botanicals in herbal medicine, thanks to its high concentration of plant nutrients. Phytochemical compounds such as flavonoids and phenolic acids give it the triumvirate of health benefits: antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Sipping a tea made from steeping dried oregano, for instance, can calm an upset stomach or a cough. It’s also being looked at to help stave off diabetes—researchers at the University of Illinois found that it disrupts a diabetes-related enzyme and merits serious investigation. It may also boost liver health.

Fitness Flash: Affordable Home Workouts

Fitness Flash

Affordable Home Workouts

Peloton and The Mirror are all the rage, but you don’t have to drop thousands of dollars to get an effective home workout. The New York Times just listed seven essentials, most of which cost less than a week’s worth of lattes. For strength training, resistance bands are a must and take up virtually no space; a set runs about $20. A fitness tracker shows you tangible proof of your efforts to increase steps—if you have an Apple watch, it’s already embedded in the Health app (you’ll find your heart rate, too, and can monitor your sleep as well as count everything from steps to calories). A dense foam roller, starting at $25, is a great tool to massage out kinks. A yoga mat, which costs $20 or more, cushions you when you’re doing any type of floor work. What might seem like a slight indulgence, headphones actually help you zero in on your workout while delivering music to motivate you. A stationary bike and a treadmill are #6 and #7 on the list. Both are pricey, but if you’ll use them for more than a clothes rack, you can see a return on your investment in a few months—and feeling fit is priceless. Check out the Times article for its specific product recommendations.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #20

Annie’s Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Recipe, Spotlight on Hazelnuts and Chocolate and Boosting Positivity for Better Health

One of the greatest “secrets” about extra virgin olive oil is how easily this healthful fat can substitute for the traditional saturated fats, like butter and lard, that are the core of many baked goods, especially desserts. As you experiment, I recommend starting with the mildest olive oil in your cabinet, especially for lighter cakes and cookies. But for Valentine’s Day, let’s go bold with an amazing chocolate cake that delivers benefits from numerous healthy ingredients. Enjoy!

Annie’s Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

  • Annie’s Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Annie’s Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

    Annie Paterson, the multitalented proprietress of Nullamunjie Olive Oil in Australia, generously shared one of her signature recipes when we got together. The hazelnuts provide another punch of healthy fats. Serve slices with fresh berries and, for a touch of indulgence, vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

    Ingredients

    • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons top-quality cocoa powder
    • 1/3 cup hot water
    • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
    • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
    • 1 cup finely ground hazelnut meal
    • 4 large eggs, separated

    Directions

    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch springform pan with a round of parchment paper on the bottom and a long strip around the inside walls. If making your own hazelnut meal, pulse 2/3 cup toasted whole nuts in a food processor to a mealy consistency, about 12 pulses—don’t go too far or you could end up with a paste. Measure out 1 cup (reserve any excess to sprinkle on cereal or yogurt).

    Step 2

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water, and whisk until smooth. Melt the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler, stirring constantly. Add the melted chocolate to the cocoa-hot water mixture along with the olive oil, brown sugar, and hazelnut meal. Stir until thoroughly combined, and then whisk in the yolks, one at a time; set aside.

    Step 3

    Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold half the whites into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. When well combined, fold in the remaining egg whites, and then scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.

    Step 4

    Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean—some moist chocolate may remain as the cake should be fudgy, like a brownie. Let the cake cool completely in the pan, then remove it and carefully peel off the parchment.

    Serves 8 — Recipe courtesy of the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Hazelnuts

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are one of the unsung stars in the nut category, with a sweet taste that’s best when roasted but not salted. A one-ounce serving delivers 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 17 grams of fat—76% are healthy monounsaturated fats and 12% are healthy polyunsaturated fats. Hazelnuts are also an excellent source of vitamin E and the minerals copper and manganese, and a good source of B1, B6 and magnesium. While ground hazelnuts make an excellent flour substitute, these nuts aren’t only for desserts—they’re great in place of breadcrumbs and they add crunch to salads and veggie side dishes. A handful makes a satisfying snack.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Dark Chocolate for Your Health

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Dark Chocolate for the Win

Much research has been done on the potential health benefits of dark chocolate. A study review published in The FASEB Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology looked at 19 articles and found that dark chocolate and cocoa do indeed contain significant polyphenols, antioxidant-rich nutrients that may help lower blood pressure and even cholesterol. But what exactly is dark chocolate, and how can you balance the sugar that’s added to make a very bitter food—cacao—so delicious?

Chocolate is defined by the percentage of cacao it contains, before other ingredients like cocoa butter, sugar, and vanilla are added. Cacao is made from the fleshy white seeds within cacao pods. Bittersweet chocolate has the highest ratio of cacao to other ingredients. It has to be at least 35% cacao, but the best choices are usually 70% or more—with just enough sugar to create a great taste. Semisweet chocolate—the vast majority of chips sold at most supermarkets—is about 55% cacao, while milk chocolate can be as low as 10% but more often is about 40%. So, it’s easy to see why eating a box of bonbons with a high sugar content is not going to deliver many antioxidants, but rather tons of calories. Always look for the percentage rather than just the designation of “dark” or “semisweet” when buying. Have fun researching new brands, and read the taste profiles on manufacturers’ websites—you might like a 72% bar better than a 64%! A great American brand to try is California-based Guittard. Storage tip: Keep chocolate away from moisture, heat, and extreme temperatures—a cool 60°F is ideal.

For Your Best Health: Boost Positivity for Better Health

For Your Best Health

Boost Positivity for Better Health

Emotional health is vital to overall health. With all the distress we’ve faced over the last year, it’s more important than ever to look for ways to boost positivity. An amazing resource is the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The Center sponsors groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well‐being and shows you how to apply their findings to your personal life through articles, videos, quizzes, podcasts, free online courses, and the wonderful “Happiness Calendar” full of ideas for doing good and feeling great. Check out the February installment and sign up to get the calendar by email every month.

Fitness Flash: Circadian Rhythms

Fitness Flash

Circadian Rhythms and You

Have you ever noticed that you feel more tired around the time of a full moon? Research done at the University of Washington, the National University of Quilmes in Argentina, and Yale University found that the body’s natural circadian rhythms tend to take advantage of the extra natural light after dusk on the nights leading up to a full moon, when the “waxing moon” is in the sky. Whether they were living in cities or rural areas, study participants slept the least and went to bed the latest during this monthly occurrence. “We hypothesize that the patterns we observed are an innate adaptation that allowed our ancestors to take advantage of this natural source of evening light that occurred at a specific time during the lunar cycle,” says lead author Leandro Casiraghi, a postdoctoral researcher in the biology department at the University of Washington. Note your sleep and wake times around the time of the next full moon; if you wake up cranky, it could be because you’re going to bed too late and missing out on some important zzz’s.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #19

Squash and Carrot Soup Recipe, Spotlight on Turmeric, Add a Microplane Grater to Your Kitchen, and Limiting Dangerous Downtime

I love a dish that’s easy to make yet tastes complex with layers of flavor and, even better, is also comforting on a cold day. The first recipe in this issue of The Olive Oil Hunter Newsletter delivers on all counts. The directions for many vegetable-based soups suggest boiling the vegetables before puréeing them, but that technique is no match for roasting to bring out all their natural sweetness, which, in turn, adds richness to the finished dish. Because I so want to introduce you to turmeric, often under appreciated in American cooking, I’m also including a second recipe that features it—chai masala, an amazing spice mix that makes it easy to create your own chai tea (or coffee) at home. Enjoy!

Squash and Carrot Soup

  • Squash and Carrot Soup Squash and Carrot Soup

    This dish is easy to make yet tastes complex with layers of flavor and, even better, is also comforting on a cold day. I recommend roasting your vegetables—before puréeing them—for maximum flavor and enhanced natural sweetness.

    Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
    • 2 pounds squash, such as butternut, acorn, or Hubbard, halved, seeded, and cut into large pieces
    • 4 large carrots, scrubbed and quartered
    • 1 onion, quartered
    • 1-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese, plus more to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Yields 6 servings.

    Directions

    Heat your oven to 425°F. Coat a large baking sheet with the olive oil and add all the vegetables, with the squash pieces skin side up. Roast for 30 minutes, flip the vegetables with a spatula, and roast for another 20 minutes. Once the vegetables are cool enough to handle, scrape all the squash flesh from its skin and transfer to your food processor along with the carrots, onions, 1 cup of the broth, and the spices. Pulse a few times, adding more liquid as needed until it reaches a purée consistency. Taste and add more cinnamon and/or nutmeg as desired.

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Turmeric

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Turmeric

India is the land of intriguing spices, rich and deep, and none more colorful than turmeric. The country produces nearly all of the world’s turmeric and its 1.3 billion people consume 80 percent of it! Turmeric (Curcuma longa) belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, which also includes ginger, and you can see the similarity between them when you hold up the edible parts, the rhizomes. Fresh turmeric reminds me of a thick tree trunk with a tight network of branches. Also, like ginger, turmeric has been used for thousands of years in both sweet and savory dishes in India and throughout South Asia and into the Middle East, Africa, and beyond. Apart from its culinary history, turmeric has been widely used in Eastern medicine, in religious ceremonies, and even as a natural coloring. Essential in Indian dishes from kormas to dals, it’s also delicious in sauces, stews, broths, salad dressings, juices, and baked goods for depth of flavor and a jolt of color.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Kitchen Tool Recommendation: Microplane Grater

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Kitchen Tool Recommendation: Microplane Grater

If you don’t yet have a Microplane grater (or two), it’s time to add this essential to your culinary gadget drawer. It makes fast work of grating nutmeg, not to mention finely zesting lemons, limes, and oranges. The graters are available everywhere from Amazon to top homeware retailers like Williams-Sonoma.

For Your Best Health: Homemade meals and your health

For Your Best Health

Most of the interest in turmeric comes from its powerful polyphenol curcumin, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, although research done in Western countries hasn’t quite been able to explain how it works. Interestingly, we know that, on its own, curcumin has a low bioavailability, meaning the body isn’t able to draw out and make the most of its nutrients. According to a report in the journal Foods, you can increase that bioavailability by having black pepper, rich in the active ingredient piperine, along with turmeric. So, every time you reach for turmeric, grab your black peppercorn grinder, too.

Fitness Flash: Limit Dangerous Downtime

Fitness Flash

How to Limit Dangerous Downtime

Working at home has its merits, but there’s a potential downside, too—more time spent sitting and less energy expended. In fact, according to a post from the American College of Sports Medicine by fitness and wellness experts Alicia T. Bryan, PhD, FACSM, and Raymond Jones, PhD, many people are clocking another three hours of sedentary behavior a day on top of the eight hours we’re already averaging. “With the recent rise in virtual learning, teleworking, and health-mandated quarantines/isolations, we can be confident that adverse health outcomes will eventually emerge among those who now find themselves classified as physically inactive or insufficiently active,” their report stated.

How to stop this dangerous activity slowdown? One key piece of the advice given by Drs. Bryan and Jones is to reimagine Zoom meetings (business and social) with these pointers:

  • Limit meetings to one hour or less.
  • Have breaks between meetings rather than scheduling them back to back so you can get in some light movement or even a short workout.
  • Spend 5 minutes in a standing activity for every 25 minutes you’re seated.
  • Between calls, practice stretches at your desk that target the hips, hamstrings and lower back.

They also offer the reminder that everyone can achieve health gains through small, incremental bouts of physical activity, even just five minutes at a time to start. Here are more ideas—they’re written with meeting organizers in mind, but can be adapted by anyone wanting to be more active.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #18

Maiale con Salsa Verde (Pork with Green Sauce) Recipe, Spotlight on Parsley, Boosting Flavor with Leftovers, and Learn More About Resveratrol

One of the things I love most about traveling the globe is tasting how each cuisine puts its own spin on the universal foods we love—breads, dumplings, sausages…and green sauce! Some cuisines, such as Mexican salsa verde and Argentinian chimichurri, are known the world over, while others are waiting to be discovered. To my delight, on one of my many trips to Italy, I experienced their version, redolent with anchovy and capers—so delizioso that I’m sharing it with you here. It’s so versatile, too, delicious on all types of meat and seafood. Let it inspire you to try your hand at creating your own herb-based sauces—the basic elements are leafy herbs such as parsley or cilantro, onions or garlic, olive oil, and an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar, plus spices that include one form or another of red pepper for a nice kick.

Italian cuisine is synonymous with pasta and pizza, but pork is also a favorite in Italy. Pork tenderloin is the leanest cut of the pig, on a par with skinless chicken breasts. Because tenderloins have little fat and typically weigh only a pound, they cook quickly and can quickly dry out if they cook too long, so set your timer as soon as you pop them into the oven.

Maiale con Salsa Verde/Pork with Green Sauce

  • Maiale con Salsa Verde/Pork with Green Sauce Maiale con Salsa Verde/Pork with Green Sauce

    Italian cuisine is synonymous with pasta and pizza, but pork is also a favorite in Italy. Pork tenderloin is the leanest cut of the pig, on a par with skinless chicken breasts. Because tenderloins have little fat and typically weigh only a pound, they cook quickly and can quickly dry out if they cook too long, so set your timer as soon as you pop them into the oven.

    Ingredients

    For the pork:

    • 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • Coarse salt to taste
    • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

    For the salsa verde:

    • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, packed
    • 1 anchovy fillet, coarsely chopped
    • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
    • 1-1/2 tablespoons drained brined capers
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • Coarse salt to taste
    • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste

    Directions

    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 400°F. Trim off any fat and silverskin from the pork tenderloins and rub all sides with extra virgin olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large cast iron or other oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the tenderloins until nicely browned, about 2 minutes per side, 8 minutes in all. Place the skillet with the meat in the oven. Roast the tenderloins until the internal temperature registers 145°F, about 10 to 12 minutes or as needed. (The meat will still be slightly pink inside. Roast longer if you prefer your pork more done, but don’t overdo.) Let cool slightly before slicing.

    Step 2

    To make the salsa verde, combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and run the machine until the ingredients are well combined.

    Step 3

    Carve the pork tenderloin into 1/2-inch slices and arrange them on a platter. Drizzle some of the sauce over the meat and pass the rest.

    Yields 6 servings.

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Parsley

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Parsley

Parsley is one of the unsung heroes of the herb garden. Of course, I mean flat leaf or Italian parsley, not the curly leaf variety, which has very little flavor. It’s a disservice to parsley to treat it as a garnish to brighten a plate since it can really brighten the food itself. It makes the perfect base for many sauces and dressings and is a great finishing touch to chicken and pasta dishes when it’s incorporated during the last minute of cooking. A key ingredient in the Middle Eastern classic tabbouleh, parsley can be a tasty addition to most salads, not only because of its flavor but also because of its nutrients. Parsley is a rich source of vitamin K and a good source of vitamins A and C. It has fewer than 4 carbs per cupful, and half of them are fiber (that means only 2 net carbs!). When parsley is fresh, you’ll be able to easily inhale its aroma, which is milder than the other great flat-leaf herb, cilantro.

Healthy Kitchen Tip: Flavor-Boosting with Anchovies

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Flavor-Boosting with Anchovies

Wondering what to do with leftover anchovies? Think of an anchovy fillet as a flavor booster—it won’t add a fishy taste. Caesar salad dressing isn’t the only dressing that benefits from anchovies—add a fillet to the mix the next time you whip up your favorite recipe. But don’t stop there. Add an anchovy to the pan when you sauté garlic or onions, especially when building flavors for a rich tomato sauce. For ease of use, buy jarred rather than canned anchovies. But if you find that you really only use them occasionally, get a tube of anchovy paste instead. Like tomato paste in a tube, it’s handy when you only need a small amount. A half teaspoon of paste equals one whole anchovy.

For Your Best Health: Resveratrol

For Your Best Health

Resveratrol

A blog post from Joe Schwarcz, PhD, director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, whose mission is “separating sense from nonsense,” may have you reevaluating your wine intake. Dr. Schwarcz puts into perspective all the hoopla surrounding resveratrol, the compound in grapes and red wine that has been looked at for potential anti-cancer and heart-health properties. Cell cultures and research on rodents, worms, and the like has shown benefits, but even if resveratrol had all the same effects on people, we would need to drink “about a hundred bottles of wine to approach the amount of resveratrol fed to the mice,” writes Dr. Schwarcz.

Is the answer then to take the resveratrol supplements that have flooded the market? “More than 20,000 papers later, in spite of the plethora of laboratory and animal studies, human clinical trials, and speculation about theoretical mechanisms of action, it is still not possible to say yay or nay about taking resveratrol supplements. On the positive side, there have been no safety issues with doses as high as 5 grams. That’s comforting because if there is to be any beneficial effect from resveratrol, it will have to come from supplements. At some point, I wish we could end such articles with something other than ‘more research is needed,’ but unfortunately, this is not that time. As far as that glass of wine with supper goes, there is a good reason for drinking it. The taste. And the pleasant after-effects,” Dr. Schwarcz concludes. You can read the entire post here.

Fitness Flash: The Tremendous Benefits of Exercise

Fitness Flash

The Tremendous Benefits of Exercise

Exercise Is Medicine® is an initiative launched back in 2007 by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association to make physical activity and exercise a standard part of disease prevention and treatment in the US, and to encourage primary care physicians to include exercise when designing treatment plans for patients. But, all these years later, too many annual doctor visits don’t even touch on the subject.

That’s unfortunate considering the tremendous health benefits seen with even low levels of exercise—as ACSM points out, the amount of exercise needed to benefit health is much lower than the amount needed for fitness (though that should be a goal, too!). Regular exercise at moderate to high intensity reduces the risk of heart disease by 40%, stroke by 27%, and the incidence of diabetes and of high blood pressure by almost 50%. It can lower the risk for certain cancers and of developing Alzheimer’s disease as well as decrease depression as effectively as Prozac or therapy. All this means that you shouldn’t leave your next doctor visit without getting an assessment of your current physical activity level and an appropriate prescription for an exercise program or a referral to a qualified fitness professional who can design one for you.

If you want a preview of how ready you are to exercise on your own, check out the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire, with its general and follow-up health questions. Use your results to initiate a conversation on exercise with your doctor.

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