Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #158

Ribollita Tuscan Peasant Soup Recipe, Spotlight on Tuscan Kale, Soaking Beans, A Surprising Benefit of Flaxseed and Alternating Cardio with Resistance Exercise is Heart-Healthy

Tuscany is the land of legumes, notably beans, and Tuscans have a centuries-old tradition of cooking simple bean-based soups that make the most of whatever ingredients are on hand. Ribollita is a perfect example. Meaning “reboiled,” it’s a soup that can be reheated and even enhanced by adding in leftovers as your week moves along. Speaking of moving along, there’s interesting research on the role of resistance exercise in heart health. And another study I’m sharing provides food for thought: Flaxseed could play a role in reducing breast cancer risk.

Ribollita

  • Ribollita Ribollita

    While you can make Ribollita your own by adding in other vegetables, three ingredients define this soup: cannellini beans, hearty (and stale) Tuscan bread, and Tuscan kale. If you’ve been saving your Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds, now is the perfect time to use two of them!

    Ingredients

    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling 
    • 2 medium onions, diced 
    • 4 large carrots, diced
    • 3 celery stalks, diced
    • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
    • 1 large bunch Tuscan kale
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, more to taste
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1/4 cup fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
    • 6 cups vegetable stock or water 
    • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
    • 2 pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, if available
    • 3 cups cooked cannellini beans, homemade or two 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained  
    • 2 or more cups of hand-torn stale Tuscan bread
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

    Directions

    Step 1

    Heat a Dutch oven or stockpot, and when hot, add the olive oil, onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat to soften but not brown the vegetables. Sprinkle on the salt to help them release their liquid. Add the kale and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the black and red pepper and the herbs; stir and then add the water or stock, the canned tomatoes with all their liquid, and the cheese rinds if available. Bring to a simmer and add the beans. Simmer for 30 minutes, and then add the bread. Cook for another 10 minutes to break down the bread a bit.

    Step 2

    To serve, ladle into bowls, drizzle on a generous amount of olive oil, and finish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

    Serves 10

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Kale

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

All Hail (Tuscan) Kale

If you’re not a huge kale fan, it could be that you’ve never tasted Tuscan kale. Also known as lacinato kale, black kale (cavolo nero), and even dinosaur kale, deeply colored Tuscan kale is not as bitter as curly kale, the more common option. So you get all the benefits of dark leafy greens that you don’t have to massage to make tender. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Soaking Beans

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Soaking Beans

It’s hard to beat the convenience of canned beans, but there are many more varieties to choose from when you use dried beans. Even the same variety that’s available canned will be more flavorful when made from scratch. One pound of dried beans will yield about 7 cups when soaked and cooked.

There’s very little active time needed—place your beans in a bowl that can hold at least three times their volume, cover them with cold water, and come back 4 hours later (or overnight). 

You can shorten the soaking time with a quick hack: Rinse the beans and place them in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover them by 2-3 inches and bring the water to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then take the pot off the heat and let it sit for an hour. 

For Ribollita, the beans must be fully cooked before adding to the soup because of its limited cooking time. To do this, rinse your soaked beans, return them to your pot, cover them again with cold water, and bring them to a boil. Simmer for about 2 hours or until the beans are tender but not overly soft and they’re ready to add.

For Your Best Health: A Surprising Benefit of Flaxseed

For Your Best Health

A Surprising Benefit of Flaxseed

A new animal study demonstrated how the gut microbiome could be a factor in breast health. In the study, flaxseed components called lignans were shown to influence the relationship between gut microorganisms and the expression of mammary gland microRNAs or miRNAs (short, noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression). A subset of these miRNAs regulates the genes involved in breast cancer, including genes that control cell proliferation and migration. 

“The gastrointestinal microbiota plays an important role in modifying many components of our diet to impact human health,” said Jennifer Auchtung, PhD, assistant professor in the Food Science and Technology Department at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and the editor who coordinated the review of the paper. “In this study, we found correlations between diets enriched in flaxseed, cecal microbiota composition, and miRNA profiles in the mammary gland that regulate many pathways, including those involved in cancer development. This preliminary study supports further research into the role that the microbiota plays in dietary approaches to reduce risk factors associated with disease.”

For this study, the researchers studied the effects of flaxseed lignans on the microbiota of young female mice. Lignans, fiber-associated compounds found in many foods and particularly plentiful in flaxseed, are associated with reduced breast cancer mortality in postmenopausal women. The researchers found that lignan components generate specific miRNA responses in the mammary gland. 

To determine whether the relationship between the microbiota and mammary gland miRNAs could be manipulated to reduce the risk of breast cancer, the researchers fed flaxseed lignan components to female mice to see whether gut cecal microbiota profiles are related to miRNA expression in the mammary gland. The cecum, the first part of the colon, located in the right lower abdomen near the appendix, is believed to have a role in production of short-chain fatty acids and has been proposed to serve as a reservoir of anaerobic bacteria.

One flaxseed oil lignan requires microbial processing to release bioactive metabolites, small-molecule chemicals produced during metabolism that influence physiology and disease—in this case, having antitumor effects. The researchers found that the microbiota and mammary gland miRNA are related and that flaxseed lignans modify the relationship to be non-cancer-causing.

“If these findings are confirmed, the microbiota becomes a new target to prevent breast cancer through dietary intervention,” said Elena M. Comelli, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, the corresponding author on the paper. The study was published in Microbiology Spectrum, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Fitness Flash

Alternating Cardio with Resistance Exercise is Heart-Healthy

A robust body of evidence shows aerobic exercise can reduce heart disease risks, especially for people who are overweight or obese. But few studies have compared results with resistance exercise, also known as strength or weight training, or with workout regimens that are half aerobic and half resistance. Researchers at Iowa State University led one of the longest and largest supervised exercise trials to help fill this gap.

Their results, published in European Heart Journal, indicate that splitting the recommended amount of physical activity between aerobic and resistance exercise reduces cardiovascular disease risks as much as aerobic-only regimens. However, resistance exercise on its own for the same amount of time did not provide the same heart health benefits.

“If you’re bored with aerobic exercise and want variety or you have joint pain that makes running long distances difficult, our study shows you can replace half of your aerobic workout with strength training to get the same cardiovascular benefits. The combined workout also offers some other unique health benefits, like improving your muscles,” said Duck-chul Lee, PhD, lead author and professor of kinesiology at Iowa State. That’s a huge plus because we tend to lose muscle mass, and consequently mobility and independence, as we age. 

“One of the most common reasons why people don’t exercise is because they have limited time. The combined exercise with both cardio and strength training we’re suggesting is not more time-consuming,” Dr. Lee underscored. Performing a certain number of sets and repetitions with weight machines, free weights, elastic bands, or your own body weight through push-ups or lunges, all count as resistance exercise.

How the study was done: 406 participants between 35 and 70 years of age enrolled in the one-year randomized controlled exercise trial. All met the threshold for being overweight or obese with body mass indexes between 25 and 40 kg/m2 and had elevated blood pressure. The researchers randomly assigned participants to one of four groups: no exercise, aerobic only, resistance only, or aerobic plus resistance. Those who were in one of the three exercise groups worked out under supervision for one hour three times a week for one year.

Every participant in the exercise groups received a tailored workout routine based on their individual fitness levels, health conditions, and progression. Those assigned to resistance training were given a certain number of sets, repetitions, and weights for weight-lifting machines. With aerobic exercises, participants wore a heart rate monitor and inserted a unique exercise program key into a treadmill or stationary bike. Sensing the participant’s heart rate, the machine automatically adjusted the speed and grade to match the prescribed intensity.

All participants wore pedometers to measure daily steps and met every three months with registered dietitians at Iowa State for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” education, which is promoted by the National Institutes of Health. On three random days per month, participants were asked to record what they had consumed in the last 24 hours with an online dietary assessment tool developed by the US National Cancer Institute.

At the start of the yearlong clinical trial, six months in, and at the end, the researchers measured each participant’s systolic blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, fasting glucose, and body fat percentage, all well-established cardiovascular disease risk factors. “Many previous studies only looked at one of these four factors, but it’s really multiple factors combined that increase cardiovascular disease risk,” explained Dr. Lee. The researchers used a composite score to fairly quantify changes across all four factors since each uses a different unit of measurement. A lower composite score indicated less risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

At the end of the yearlong trial, the percentage of body fat in all three exercise groups had decreased significantly compared to the no-exercise control group. The authors found that “every -1% body fat reduction is associated with -3%, -4%, and -8% lower risks of developing [cardiovascular disease] risk factors of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and metabolic syndrome.” Taking all four cardiovascular disease risk factors into account, the aerobic and combined exercise groups had lower composite scores than the control group, with results consistent across gender and age.

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The Olive Oil Hunter News #153

Baked Pears with Olive Oil Custard Sauce Recipe, Spotlight on Pears, How to Avoid Curdling Eggs and Protect Against the Biggest Heart Disease Risk Factors, Go Green to Clean

If you thought olive oil was only for savory dishes, you’ll want to try this delectable dessert right away! Roasting brings out even more of the pears’ natural sweetness and the custard is as creamy as the best pudding—and both are enhanced with olive oil. This issue’s research topics have to do with preventing health issues—avoiding toxic VOCs in cleaning products to protect your lungs and the greater environment and preventing or mitigating the five most damaging threats to heart health. The good news: We each have it within our control to make lifestyle changes that make a significant difference.

Baked Pears with Olive Oil Custard Sauce

  • Baked Pears with Olive Oil Custard Sauce Recipe Baked Pears with Olive Oil Custard Sauce

    Separately, roasted pears and rich vanilla custard are delicious. Together, they’re simply sublime. This dish can be served warm, with the pears just out of the oven and the custard right off the stovetop, or both can be chilled and served cold—the sauce will get thicker in the fridge.

    Ingredients

    For the pears:

    • 4 pears, such as Anjou, Bosc, or Concorde, ripe but still firm
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    • 1/2 cup water

    For the custard sauce:

    • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • Pinch of sea salt
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 2 whole eggs
    • 1-1/2 cups whole milk 
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste
    • 1/3 teaspoon almond extract

    Directions

    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 350°F. Halve the pears and use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds; there’s no need to peel them. Lightly coat a baking dish large enough to hold the pear halves with the olive oil. Place the pears cut side down in the baking dish and drizzle them with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle on the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the water into the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the pears cut side up, carefully spooning the juices from the bottom of the dish over them and into the cavities. Bake for another 20 minutes or until tender—check with the tip of a knife (if they start to brown before they’re done, cover the dish with foil). 

    Step 2

    While the pears are baking, make the custard. In a heat-safe bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the yolks and the whole eggs and whisk until the mixture is light yellow and slightly thick.

    Step 3

    Place the milk in a saucepan and scald it—it should start to form a light skin but not come to a rapid boil. Vigorously whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, and then slowly whisk in the rest. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Let it boil for 60 seconds until it thickens enough to coat a spoon (it should be the consistency of a cream soup). Remove from the heat. (If it looks at all lumpy, put it through a strainer.) Whisk in the olive oil and the extracts. Transfer to a 2-cup pitcher for pouring over the pears. Note: If you want to chill the sauce, press a small round of parchment paper over the surface to prevent a skin from forming as it cools down.

    Step 4

    To serve, plate two pear halves on each of four dishes and pour on generous amounts of the sauce and the juices from the baking pan.

    Yields 4 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Pears

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Pears: A Powerhouse of Nutrients

A medium pear has only about 100 calories, but packs a wallop of nutrients. At the top of the list are its 6 grams of fiber—be sure to leave on the skins to get all of them. Rich in antioxidants, pears have potassium, magnesium, and even some vitamin C. They make a great dessert, a filling snack—try a slice on a cracker spread with goat cheese, and a sweet addition to salads. 

Because of that sweetness and their smooth, often buttery flesh, puréed ripe pears can add a sweet note to creamy vegetable soups or be the star of a dessert like a tart, but only the firmer varieties can stand up to cooking, whether poaching, baking, grilling, roasting, or sautéing. Enjoy Bartlett, Starkrimson, and Forelle varieties raw.

Store pears at room temperature. Refrigerate only to slow the ripening process. For instance, if you bought a bushel at the farmers’ market, you can delay ripening by putting some in the fridge and take them out a few days before you want to eat them. Some pears change color as they ripen—green Bartletts, for instance, become yellow. For varieties that don’t typically change color, test for ripeness by gently pressing your thumb near the stem end or on the neck, not the body. The surface should just barely give when ripe. If you want softer flesh for a purée or smoothie, wait for the wider bottom half to become soft to the touch—the inside will actually be overripe. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: How to avoid curdling eggs

Quick Kitchen Nugget

How to Avoid Curdling Eggs

The reason to slowly add hot liquid to eggs for custards and pastry cream is to keep the eggs from curdling, the inevitable result of pouring in a large amount of scalded milk all at once. The cornstarch adds yet another layer of protection, which is why you can finish the cooking in the same pan you use to heat the milk rather than using a traditional double boiler. Still, it’s a must to whisk vigorously through every stage to avoid lumps and create a smooth texture. The cornstarch itself needs to be brought just to a boil and cooked for about a minute or else your custard will taste chalky—vigorously whisking during this stage and turning down the heat as needed are especially important steps to avoid burning. 

For Your Best Health: Imperfect calorie counting may be good enough

For Your Best Health

Go Green to Clean

A peer-reviewed study by Environmental Working Group scientists published in the journal Chemosphere detailed new information about the potential health risks of common household cleaning products. Their analysis of 30 products, including multipurpose and glass cleaners and air fresheners, showed that these everyday products may release hundreds of hazardous volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, into the air we breathe. 

Researchers tested both conventional products and “green” cleaning products and detected a total of 530 unique VOCs in the 30 products. Of these, 193 VOCs were hazardous, meaning they’ve been identified as having the potential to cause health harms such as respiratory system damage, increased cancer risk, and developmental and reproductive impacts. VOCs in cleaning products affect the quality of air both indoors and outdoors, but they contaminate indoor air two to five times more than outdoor air, with some estimates as high as 10 times more. Some products emit VOCs for days, weeks, or even months. 

“This study is a wake-up call for consumers, researchers, and regulators to be more aware of the potential risks associated with the numerous chemicals entering our indoor air,” said Alexis Temkin, PhD, a senior toxicologist at EWG. ”Our findings emphasize a way to reduce exposure to hazardous VOCs – by selecting products that are ‘green,’ especially those that are ‘green’ and ‘fragrance free.’” 

Products labeled green emitted fewer VOCs than did conventional products—about half the number, on average. The green products categorized as “fragrance free” also produced the fewest VOC emissions, nearly eight times fewer than conventional and four times fewer than green products that included fragrance on their label. 

That pattern also held true for the number of VOCs considered hazardous in the products. The green products emitted just four chemicals classified as hazardous, on average, compared to about 15 in green products with fragrance and 22 for conventional products. This suggests that choosing green or green and fragrance free cleaning products could be prudent for those concerned about indoor air quality and potential health risks, such as an increased risk for asthma.

“These cleaning products may hurt our health, but they may also harm the environment,” said Samara Geller, EWG senior director of cleaning science. VOCs emitted by consumer products can contribute to outdoor air pollution, adding to existing environmental concerns. 

“Going green with your cleaning products is an easy way to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals. This may be especially important for women’s and children’s health,” said Geller.

Fitness Flash

Protect Against the Biggest Heart Disease Risk Factors 

Scientists of the Global Cardiovascular Risk Consortium under the auspices of the department of cardiology at the University Heart & Vascular Center of the Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) have shown that the five classic cardiovascular risk factors—excess weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes mellitus—are directly connected to more than half of all cardiovascular diseases worldwide.

Specifically, the numbers are 57.2% and 52.6% of cases of incident cardiovascular disease among women and men, respectively, and 22.2% and 19.1% of deaths from any cause among women and men, respectively. Their work, “Global Effect of Modifiable Risk Factors on Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality,” was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2023.

They came to their conclusions after assessing data on 1.5 million people who took part in 112 different studies done in North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia, North Africa and the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Australia. Their objective was to gain a better understanding of the global distribution, the significance of the individual risk factors and their effects on cardiovascular diseases, and overall mortality in order to derive targeted preventive measures.

Cardiovascular diseases cause approximately a third of all deaths worldwide. They often develop silently over decades. Frequently, without being recognized, the vascular walls change, giving rise to arteriosclerosis, in the wake of which coronary heart disease may occur, including complications such as heart attacks, acute cardiac death, or strokes. But there’s a silver lining—you can do something about each of those five risk factors.

“Our study clearly shows that over half of all heart attacks and strokes are avoidable by checking and treating the classic risk factors. These results are of the highest significance for strengthening prevention in this area. At the same time, approximately 45% of all cardiovascular cases cannot be explained with these risk factors; they should motivate us and the academic funders to further research efforts,” said Stefan Blankenberg, MD, professor and medical director of the University Heart & Vascular Center at the UKE.

“In principle, the five classic risk factors that we examined are modifiable, and thus responsive to preventive measures. So far, the proportion of preventable risk attributed to these five risk factors is still matter of debate,” lead author Christina Magnussen, MD, associate professor in the department of cardiology at the University Heart & Vascular Center of the UKE, explains.

The study shows that we can learn how to avoid cardiovascular diseases or reduce their effects for at-risk persons, or people with cardiovascular diseases, by improving their lifestyles and by lowering blood pressure or cholesterol. It also shows a linear relationship between high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases. “High systolic blood pressure accounts for the largest share of cardiovascular risk. We should place a particular focus on the therapy of patients with high blood pressure to avoid cardiovascular diseases as much as possible,” said Dr. Magnussen. The scientists also identified a remarkable connection between cholesterol levels and overall mortality: Very low as well as high cholesterol levels increase overall mortality.

With the exception of BMI, which remains equally significant at any age, the significance of risk factors decreases with age. High blood pressure, for instance, is more damaging to a 40 year old than to an 80 year old. “This raises the question to what extent the target values for treating cardiovascular risk factors for the most elderly should be identical with those for the middle to older age bracket,” said Dr. Blankenberg.

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Phenols in EVOO are the primary source of its heart-health benefits

Reference: Flynn MM, Tierney A, Itsiopoulos C. Is extra virgin olive oil the critical ingredient driving the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet? Nutrients. 2023;15:2915.

A recent scientific review, published in the journal Nutrients, provides strong evidence that the phenols in EVOO—which are not present in lower grades of olive oil—play a primary role in the heart-health benefits associated with olive oil and the Mediterranean diet. 

Phenols are bioactive compounds in plant-based foods. EVOO is rich in phenols, whereas refined olive oils are stripped of these health-promoting compounds by chemical production processes. 

Study Objectives

Dr. Mary Flynn, PhD, registered dietician, and associate professor of medicine at Brown University, identified 34 randomized, controlled trials published between 2000 and 2022 that evaluated the effects of EVOO on risk factors for heart disease: blood pressure, levels of LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”) cholesterol, blood sugar, and body weight. 

A main aim of the review was to isolate the effects of the phenols in EVOO from the potential effects of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which are present in all grades of olive oil and other vegetable oils. Flynn hypothesized that the MUFA content is not responsible for the many health benefits of EVOO. 

Another objective was to identify a minimum daily amount of EVOO required to experience its health benefits and the timing for improvements in heart-health risk factors to be observed.

Findings

Across the 34 studies, EVOO improved multiple risk factors for heart disease as compared to other grades of olive oil, other plant oils, and low-fat diets: 

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered LDL and increased HDL
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Proved effective in weight-loss diets and improved long-term weight management

Daily dose of EVOO

According to Flynn and colleagues, “Daily use of EVOO starting at approximately two tablespoons a day will improve a plethora of risk factors in as few as three weeks.”

Phenomenal phenols

It is the phenols in EVOO that confer its heart-health benefits, the authors concluded. In order to obtain optimal levels of phenols, they recommend consuming the freshest olive oil: “The phenol content of extra virgin olive oil is highest in olive oil made close to the harvesting of the olive and will decrease with age and storage. Thus, for maximum health benefits, the EVOO should be produced and consumed as close to harvesting the fruit as possible.” 

The authors noted some limitations of this review: most studies did not include the specific phenolic content of the EVOO used, and many were conducted in the EU, where EVOO has been a part of the diet for centuries. More investigation, especially studies that identify the specific levels of phenols, is needed to confirm and build on these findings. 

The Olive Oil Hunter News #152

Garlic-and-Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Recipe, Spotlight on Garlic, Testing Meat for Doneness, Mindfulness Can Help You Stick with a Special Diet and Even Sleeping is Better for You than Sitting

Looking for a festive holiday entrée? My Garlic-and-Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin fits the bill for any celebration. Its two-step cooking method is virtually foolproof—it keeps the tender in tenderloin! I hope you’ll enjoy this sneak peek at my latest e-book, Savor the Season: Winter 2024, a collection of recipes featuring healthy and hearty seasonal dishes. Also in this edition of The Olive Oil Hunter Newsletter is information on how to use mindfulness to stick to a specialized diet and why even sleep is better for you than sitting.

Garlic-and-Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

  • Garlic and pepper crusted beef tenderloin Garlic-and-Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

    There’s nothing more celebratory than a beef tenderloin, and because it takes on the intense flavors in the crust, there’s no need for further embellishment. The center cut is the most choice, tender, and lean part of the tenderloin. 

    Ingredients

    • 8 cloves garlic, peeled 
    • 2 tablespoons coarse salt 
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for searing 
    • 1 tablespoon freshly and coarsely cracked black peppercorns
    • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
    • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary needles from a 3- or 4-inch sprig 
    • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
    • One 3-pound center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed as needed

    Directions

    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 450ºF. In a small food processor, process the garlic and salt until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the 1/3 cup olive oil, black pepper, thyme, and rosemary, and process until the herbs are evenly chopped. Stir in the mustard and set aside.

    Step 2

    Heat a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat. When hot, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the beef, searing it on all sides until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, making quarter turns with tongs. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let cool slightly.

    Step 3

    Coat the meat evenly on all sides with the reserved herb mixture. Transfer the tenderloin to a meat rack set in a roasting pan. Roast the tenderloin until the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 to 30 minutes (depending on its thickness). Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving to prevent the juices from running out. 

    Yields 8 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Garlic

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Garlic

Beyond adding wonderful flavor, garlic contains a powerful compound called allicin, released soon after the cloves are crushed or chopped—after you do your prep, wait 10 minutes before using the garlic to allow the allicin to develop. When I buy garlic, I always buy organic, and I always turn over the head to make sure there’s still some of the root network, a sign that it’s American grown. Beware of Chinese imports, bleached in chlorine to artificially enhance their appearance with a concave area on the bottom where the roots used to be. 

Quick Kitchen Nugget: Testing meat for doneness

Quick Kitchen Nugget

Testing Meat for Doneness

No matter what your preference for doneness, test with an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat. Rare is 120º to 130ºF; medium rare, 130º to 135ºF; medium, 135º to 145ºF; medium well, 145º to 155ºF; and well, 165ºF. Keep in mind that when you take a roast out of the oven, it will continue to cook and can go up by another 5 degrees, so plan accordingly. 

For Your Best Health: Imperfect calorie counting may be good enough

For Your Best Health

Mindfulness can Help You Stick with a Special Diet 

A Brown Universitystudy, published in JAMA Network Open, found that participants in an eight-week mindfulness-based blood pressure reduction program improved health behaviors that lower blood pressure. “Participants in the program showed significant improvement in adherence to a heart-healthy diet, which is one of the biggest drivers of blood pressure, as well as significant improvements in self-awareness, which appears to influence healthy eating habits,” said lead study author Eric B. Loucks, PhD, an associate professor of medicine, epidemiology, and behavioral and social sciences, as well as director of the Mindfulness Center at Brown University.

Dr. Loucks said the study helps explain the mechanism by which a customized mindfulness training program adapted toward improving diet can affect blood pressure. “Improvements in our self-awareness, of how different foods make us feel, of how our body feels in general, as well as our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations around eating healthy as well as unhealthy food, can influence people’s dietary choices,” he said.

High blood pressure, a major cause of cardiovascular disease, is the single most important risk factor for early death worldwide, according to a recent report by the World Health Organization, leading to an estimated 10.8 million avoidable deaths every year. The important thing to note about those avoidable deaths, Dr. Loucks said, is that there is ample research supporting effective strategies to control and prevent hypertension. “Almost everyone has the power to control blood pressure through changes in diet and physical activity, adherence to antihypertensive medications, minimizing alcohol intake, and monitoring stress reactivity,” he said.

The mindfulness-based blood pressure reduction program used in the study, which Dr. Loucks developed in 2014, trains participants in skills such as meditation, yoga, self-awareness, attention control, and emotion regulation. What makes the program unique, he said, is that participants learn how to direct those skills toward behaviors known to lower blood pressure. The researchers focused on participant adherence to the DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension) program, a balanced eating plan rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy intended to create a heart-healthy eating style for life. Despite its effectiveness, adherence to the DASH diet is typically low.

After six months, the mindfulness group showed a 0.34-point improvement in the DASH diet score. Loucks explained that this effect can be interpreted as a participant shifting from a vegetable intake approaching recommended levels (2-3 servings) to an intake at recommended levels (at least 4 servings), or making similar shifts across another component of the DASH score. The control group showed a -0.04-point change in the DASH diet score.

The trial results offer evidence that an adapted mindfulness training program for participants with high blood pressure that targets diet and self-awareness significantly improves both. “The program gives participants the tools to make heart-healthy diet changes that can lower their blood pressure and decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Loucks said.

Fitness Flash

Even sleeping is better for you than sitting!

A new study, published in the European Heart Journal, is the first to assess how different movement patterns throughout the 24-hour day are linked to heart health. It is the first evidence to emerge from the international Prospective Physical Activity, Sitting and Sleep (ProPASS) consortium.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) in the UK analyzed data from six studies involving 15,246 people from five countries, each of whom used a wearable device on their thigh to measure their activity and had their heart health measured. The scientists identified a hierarchy of behaviors that make up a typical 24-hour day, with time spent doing moderate-vigorous activity providing the most benefit to heart health, followed by light activity, standing, and sleeping, compared with the adverse impact of being sedentary.

The team modeled what would happen if someone changed various amounts of one behavior for another each day for a week in order to estimate the effect on heart health for each scenario. When replacing sedentary behavior, as little as five minutes of moderate-vigorous activity had a noticeable effect on heart health.

First author of the study Joanna Blodgett, PhD, of the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health, Division of Surgery and Interventional Sciences at UCL, said, “The big takeaway from our research is that while small changes to how you move can have a positive effect on heart health, intensity of movement matters. The most beneficial change we observed was replacing sitting with moderate-to-vigorous activity, which could be a run, a brisk walk, or stair climbing—basically any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe faster, even for a minute or two.”

The research found that, although time spent doing vigorous activity was the quickest way to improve heart health, there are ways to benefit no matter what your abilities—it’s just that the lower the intensity of the activity, the longer the time needed to start having a tangible benefit. Using a standing desk for a few hours a day instead of a sitting desk, for example, is a change over a relatively large amount of time but is also one that could be integrated into a working routine fairly easily, as it does not require any time commitment. Those who were least active were also found to benefit the most from changing from sedentary behaviors to more active ones.

James Leiper, MD, PhD, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, the organization supporting the research, said, “We already know that exercise can have real benefits for your cardiovascular health, and this encouraging research shows that small adjustments to your daily routine could lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. This study shows that replacing even a few minutes of sitting with a few minutes of moderate activity can improve your BMI, cholesterol, and waist size, and have many more physical benefits. 

“Getting active isn’t always easy, and it’s important to make changes that you can stick to in the long term and that you enjoy—anything that gets your heart rate up can help. Incorporating ‘activity snacks’ such as walking while taking phone calls or setting an alarm to get up and do some star jumps every hour is a great way to start building activity into your day, to get you in the habit of living a healthy, active lifestyle,” Dr. Leiper continued.

Though the findings cannot infer causality between movement behaviors and cardiovascular outcomes, they contribute to a growing body of evidence linking moderate to vigorous physical activity over 24 hours with improved body fat metrics. Further long-term studies will be crucial to better understanding the associations between movement and cardiovascular outcomes.

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