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Could cheese prevent diabetes?

Adding fuel to the “saturated fats are not all created equal” argument, an article was recently published (original research article can be found here) which aimed to examine any link between dairy fat and development of diabetes. Previous studies have found possible protective effects of dairy fat with respect to cardiovascular disease, and this study furthered this line of thought by indicating a possible protective effect of saturated fats with odd numbers of carbons, for example dairy fat, against development of diabetes. I want to be careful in my wording here; this is a prospective observational study demonstrating an association, not a randomized controlled trial, so it cannot demonstrate causation. It is entirely possible that people that eat cheese also do other things (for example, eat less meat) which are protective against type 2 diabetes. Other entertaining examples of how not to over-interpret observational information, to drive my point home, can be found here

However, I must say, my knee jerk reaction to the headline was “yay cheese!” and I find the entire concept quite intriguing. 

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Go ahead and enjoy that gluten?

A researcher who previously published one of the studies providing evidence for non-celiac gluten sensitivity has conducted a rigorous follow up study. This study enrolled 37 participants with previously reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity and/or irritable bowel disease. Participants received high gluten, low gluten, and no gluten diets where other potential triggers (eg. FODMAPs) had been removed, and it was shown that participants indicated similar levels of gastrointestinal symptoms on all of the study diets (with only 8% having change of symptoms associated with gluten). Furthermore, no biomarkers were affected by any of the diets. Meaning the presence or absence of gluten did not really change their gastrointestinal distress/inflammation in any measurably significant way.

Here’s an article about the study, and a link to the original study.

Remember, gluten is a protein. But this isn’t the first mention of FODMAPs I’ve heard related to gluten. FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates, specifically fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. And people that restrict gluten often inadvertently reduce their FODMAP intake because there is some overlap in FODMAP- and gluten-containing foods (eg. Wheat contains fructans which are part of the FODMAP family). So those people that believe so ardently that they are gluten sensitive may be 1) part of a small percentage of people who really are gluten sensitive 2) may be experiencing a “nocebo” effect or 3) may actually be sensitive to FODMAPs.

Here’s a link to a journal article about the FODMAP diet if you would like to read more.

Dietetic Association of Australia Discourages Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is a fad diet comprised of grass-fed meats, seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, unsaturated fats, eggs and nuts/seeds. It excludes all cereal grains and dairy, among other things.

On Wednesday, the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) issued a press release discouraging people from following the Paleo diet. Their primary arguments were that the evidence is lacking and that any diet excluding whole food groups (namely, grains, and milk and alternatives) should raise suspicions. And it should.

For example, the trendy aversion to dairy I see so often (not just with Paleo) frightens me to no end because I worry for peoples’ bone health. Osteoporosis is a debilitating condition, and I feel like it’s sometimes not on peoples’ radar. Or they make the argument that they are getting enough calcium from the vegetables they eat. I can forgive them for making this mistake, but allow me to shed some light on that: a cup of spinach has almost as much calcium as a cup of milk, with the milk hovering around 300mg. But spinach also contains oxalate, or oxalic acid, (and, to a lesser extent, phytate/phytic acid), which hinder the body’s ability to absorb calcium, meaning only about a tenth of that is actually absorbed. When the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is set at 1000mg of calcium for most 19-50 year olds, that adds up to a comical and unrealistic number of cups of spinach in a day. Can you say Popeye?

I digress. The press release also hints at some great points about sustainability, affordability, and difficulty, saying the Paleo diet was hard to follow by participants in research studies, 9% more expensive, and would likely be unsustainable from an environmental perspective if we all decided to eat that way.

Don’t get me wrong. The huge amounts of refined carbohydrate and sodium, etcetera, in many processed foods also makes me uneasy. But rigidly Paleo may not be the answer either. Something a little more moderate (and individualized) that incorporates all food groups, and can be followed long term because you enjoy it and don’t feel too restricted, is likely the way to go.

Wine Review: Chateau de Flaugergues Cuvée Colbert 2008

I bought this bottle of wine direct from the Chateau de Flaugergues, which I visited and had a wine tasting at almost exactly a year ago. The chateau itself was an amazing experience, and very personal somehow. Maybe it was because we bumped into the owner, who still resides there to this day with his family. Maybe it was the little “lived in” touches at the chateau, like the modern family photograph sitting beneath the centuries old oil painting portraits. Maybe it was the fact that there were only a handful of tourists there at all, and being there felt almost bordering on trespassing.
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The lovely Chateau de Flaugergues

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Cool idea for a garden I intend to replicate on a smaller scale someday…

At the tasting if I recall, I had two whites and two reds, and the Cuvée Colbert was definitely my favourite. I’m not a huge white wine drinker, but both of the whites I tasted were also phenomenal.

Well, tonight was the night. I opened it. And unsurprisingly, it is the best bottle of wine I’ve had in a long, long time. During the tasting, I remember wondering if the wine really was as good as I felt it was or if I’d been enamoured with the magical experience of visiting the chateau and tasting the wine with lovely, good-humoured French/Swiss/Australian strangers-made-company. I guess my “hesitation” related to the fact that, in general, there are other French regions, such as the Rhone Valley and Bordeaux that have red wines appealing more to my tastes than Languedoc (although there are exceptions, and Languedoc also produces some amazing white and rosés) but in this case I make a definite exception. This is a pretty big, dry wine with a long finish and lots of tannins. All things I love in a red wine. Aromas of black currant, earthiness (like truffle, mayhaps?) and maybe hints of violet, smoke and licorice. At least, that’s my amateur assessment (and this is, after all, the first review of a wine I’ve ever written). A lovely, balanced wine. It probably could have aged nicely a few more years, but it didn’t taste overly young, and compared to the others I’ve brought home from France, it was the only one I was really ready to open.

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There she is, the Cuvée Colbert in all her glory

All in all, an excellent wine, that instantaneously transported me back across the Atlantic Ocean to Montpellier all from the comfort of my backyard. And I can’t really ask for anything more.

If you’re interested in the basics of tasting wine, but don’t know where to start:
1. Taste many wines to learn what you like (responsibly of course!)
2. Check out links/resources like this to learn what you’re looking for

3. Consider attending a tasting or two, where the basics will be explained as you taste the wines

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Tips and tricks: cooking fish

This article gives some simple tricks for cooking fish.

I think it’s a shame so many people are afraid of preparing seafood at home: it’s actually a go-to “quick and easy” meal for me, and most of us could stand to eat more of it: I think the omega-3 fatty acids likely have health benefits, and the North American diet tends not to be terribly rich in omega-3s.

My two favourite ways of enjoying a quick, lazy meal featuring fish are as follows. For both, you should preheat your pan, and be cautious not to over cook your fish. It probably is done just before you think it ought to be.

1. Sole meunière – there is no doubt a fancy, precise way of doing this out there, but I toss some butter (let’s say a tablespoon or two for a two person meal – but I never really measure) in my favourite cast iron pan and cook the fish on medium heat. Flip it mid-way through cooking (a minute or two depending on fillet thickness and the temperature of your pan). When it starts to flake (cooks super quick because the fillets are thin) I take it out of the pan and turn the burner off. I squeeze about a quarter of a lemon into the pan, and stir the butter and lemon juice around in the residual heat of the pan. Your butter should be nice and browned at this point, and the heat takes the edge off of the sharp lemon flavours. Pour the lemon butter sauce over the fish, top with fresh ground pepper, and serve with some wild rice and green beans (which, let’s face it, I usually just cook in the microwave). Quick and easy.

2. Poached salmon – I usually season with whatever herbs and spices catch my eye (varies dramatically, including everything from smoked paprika, to thyme, to citrusy things, to plain old salt and pepper… Not all at once, obviously) but a sneaky little trick I have if I’m feeling uninspired is Montreal Chicken Spice which compliments salmon quite nicely in my opinion. Don’t over season, because I find the poaching really accentuates flavours. Put the salmon skin down in the pan, on medium-high heat. Add about a quarter cup of water to the pan and cover. Don’t uncover the pan again for at least two or three minutes or you’ll let out all the steam and ruin the effect. You can flip it halfway, poach it until done, or even put the pan into the oven (assuming you’re using cast iron) and broil to finish it off. When it’s done it will take on a lighter pink colour and flake easily with a fork. Add rice and corn or serve on a bed of pasta with a tomato and spinach mixture. Or whatever else you happen to have in the fridge.

Check out the link for more tips for cooking fish!

Triple Chocolate Brownies

So I made these yesterday. Not your typical dietitian health food, I suppose, but it’s all about balance and moderation right?
Anyway, golden caster sugar isn’t easy to find here in Canada so I used plain old granulated sugar. That’s the only place I am aware of where I deviated from the recipe, but after 25 minutes it was nowhere near cooked. Popped it back in for another five, and then another, and then another. A full forty minutes total before they were done enough not to run all over the plate. That aside, they are deliciously crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, and the flavour is perfect chocolatey goodness.
Will I make them again? Probably. I might play around more with the sugar though. Would I have eaten them even if they’d never firmed up and had instead remained a sloppy, gooey mess? Shamelessly, yes.

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Jaye's Journal

Triple Chocolate Brownies

If you want to make the most chocolaty, fudgy and just downright delicious brownies in the WHOLE GOD DAMN WORLD, here is precisely how.

Takes: 1hr including cooling time
Makes: 16 squares
Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients:

  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 185g dark chocolate
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 70g white chocolate
  • 70g milk chocolate
  • 3 large eggs
  • 275g golden caster sugar

Method:

  1. Cut the butter into smallish cubes. Break the dark chocolate into small pieces. Put both into a medium glass bowl.
  2. Fill a small pan about a quarter full with hot water, then sit the bowl on top so it rests on the rim of the pan, not touching the water. Put over a low heat until the butter and chocolate have melted, stirring occasionally to mix them.
  3. Remove the bowl from the pan and leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature.
  4. While you wait for the chocolate to…

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