6 ways a womans body will change when she turns 50

For many, 50 is the new 40. It’s a time of life when we mellow, become more content, have more of life under control. However, when it comes to your health, there are always things to rein in, especially if you’ve acquired some bad habits over time. Read on as our experts direct you to six things you should do during this decade to improve your health.

 

1. You’ll need a colonoscopy.

 

Provided you don’t have a family history or personal risk of colorectal cancer (in which case you’ve probably had a colonoscopy already), regular screening beginning at age 50 is recommended to prevent colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, preventing colorectal cancer (and not just finding polyps and cancer early) is a major reason for getting tested at this age. Talk with your physician about screening options.

 

2. You may need some vaccines.

 

While you may think things like the pneumonia vaccine are reserved for the elderly, think again, says Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who suggests you get this vaccine every five years starting at age 50 if you’re at high risk — meaning you have asthma or diabetes. At 50, be sure to get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster vaccine, which you need every 10 years. If you’ve never had the chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you can get the vaccine as an adult. And the CDC also recommends getting a flu shot.

3. Women will go through menopause.

 

During this decade you’ll experience lengths of time without your period or your period will end, Bitner says. Expect to experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, low libido, consistent hot flashes, night sweats, belly fat weight gain and fatigue. “You may also start to deal with wrinkles, hair loss and pelvic prolapse,” she adds.

 

4. Your risk for heart disease may increase.

 

“In the first five years after menopause, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease escalate quickly if you aren’t living a healthy lifestyle and/or on menopause hormone therapy,” says Diana Bitner, MD, a physician at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even if you don’t have a family history of heart disease, at 50, ask your physician for a baseline electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which can help detect heart problems, Bitner says.

 

5. Expect aches and pains.

 

“At 50, all the folks who were lucky enough to get good genes from their folks begin to suffer from what others started noticing at 40,” says Barbara Bergin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Austin, Texas. “I never hear anyone say, ‘Everything went downhill at 60,’ because by then no one is surprised by the sudden onset of pain.” At 50, it’s likely you’ll notice that your knees and back feel tight if you’re been sitting for a while. “Your back and knees may feel painful when you stand up, too,” she says.

 

6. Your emotional health may suffer.

 

As your hormone levels fluctuate during menopause, your mood may be affected. It’s not uncommon for women going through menopause to feel depressed and have mood swings from happy highs to teary lows. Plus, getting a poor night’s sleep (or several of them) due to hot flashes would put anyone in a bad mood. Which is why it’s all the more important to find a way to cope. “Forming and/or using existing social networks and talking to friends will help you stay emotionally healthy,” Bitner says. Time to phone a friend.

 

 

Anti-aging pill could allow everyone to live over 120 years old

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León famously journeyed to the Americas in search of the Fountain of Youth. If he were still alive today, he might have been able to simply visit his pharmacist instead.

A potential anti-aging drug that is already commercially available for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, called metformin, is soon set to begin clinical trials to see if it can also expand the human life span, reports the Express.

Initial tests on some animals, such as one study of the drug’s effects on worms, suggest that humans could live healthily well into their 120s if the effects are shown to be similar. Metformin could literally be a miracle drug– the Fountain of Youth in pill form. It could change medicine in a way not seen since the discovery of antibiotics. That is, assuming the trials are a success.

Early optimism is high. Since metformin is commercially available for the treatment of diabetes, several extensive studies about its effects are already available; the hype is not merely based on a simple worm study. For instance, last year a study of more than 180,000 people showed that those being treated for diabetes with metformin lived longer than a healthy control sample. That is worth reiterating: Patients being treated for diabetes lived longer than otherwise healthy people.

Other research has shown that metformin could also help to directly treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and even cancer.

“I have been doing research into aging for 25 years and the idea that we would be talking about a clinical trial in humans for an anti-aging drug would have been thought inconceivable,” said Gordon Lithgow of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California. “But there is every reason to believe it’s possible.”

The clinical trial is called Targeting Aging with Metformin (TAME), and it will be conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Researchers are looking for 3,000 people in their 70s and 80s who either have or are at risk of having major diseases, and the trial should last from 5 to 7 years.

The drug has already been in use for over 60 years for diabetes patients, so scientists have a pretty good idea of how exactly it works. For instance, metformin is known to make our cells better oxygenated, and its easy to imagine how better oxygenated cells can have a positive effect on the body.

“We lower the risk of heart disease, somebody lives long enough to get cancer. If we reduce the risk of cancer, somebody lives long enough to get Alzheimer’s disease. We are suggesting that the time has arrived to attack them all by going after the biological process of aging,” said Stuart Jay Olshansky, one of the researchers involved in the project.

If all goes well, then age 70 could soon become the new 50. Age 100 could be the new 80, and so on. Better yet, we can age in a healthier fashion, free from many of the debilitating diseases that make living to older ages undesirable. It won’t be an immortality pill, but it might be the next closest thing.

credit: Bryan Nelson

Why can we sense when people are looking at us?

If you’ve ever felt like someone was watching you, you may have attributed that awareness to a sense of unease or a prickling on the back of your neck. But there’s nothing psychic about it; your brain was simply picking up on cues. In fact, your brain is wired to inform you that someone is looking at you — even when they’re not.

“Far from being ESP, the perception originates from a system in the brain that’s devoted to detecting where others are looking,” writes social psychologist Ilan Shrira. This concept may sound confusing, but it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it as a survival instinct.

Many mammals can tell when another animal is looking at them, but the human “gaze-detection system” is particularly good at doing this from a distance. We’re able to easily discern where someone is looking.

This system is especially sensitive when someone is looking at you directly, and studies have found that particular cells fire when this happens.

“Gaze perception — the ability to tell what someone is looking at — is a social cue people often take for granted,” Colin Clifford, a psychologist at the University of Sydney’s Vision Center, told the Daily Mail. “Judging whether others are looking at us may come naturally, but it’s actually not that simple as our brains have to do a lot of work behind the scenes.”

When you catch someone looking at you, what is it that clued you in? Often, it’s as simple as the position of the person’s head or body.

If both the head and body are turned toward you, it’s clear where the person’s attention is focused. It’s even more obvious when the person’s body is pointed away from you but their head is facing you. When this happens, you immediately look to the person’s eyes to see where they’re looking.
Human eyes are different from those of other animals in this regard. Our pupils and irises are darker from the white part of the eyeball known as the sclera, and this contrast is why you can tell when someone’s looking at you or simply looking past you.

Other species have less visible sclera, which is advantageous for predators that don’t want their prey to know where they’re looking. However, human survival is more dependent on communication, which is why we evolved to have larger, white sclera, which help us make eye contact.

But when head and body positions don’t provide much information, research shows that we can still detect another person’s gaze extraordinarily well because of our peripheral vision.

We evolved to be this sensitive to gaze to survive. Why? Because every look someone throws your way is a potential threat.

Clifford tested this by asking study participants to indicate where various faces were looking. He found that when people couldn’t determine the direction of a gaze — because of dark conditions or the faces were wearing sunglasses — people typically thought they were being watched.

He concluded that in situations where we’re not certain where a person is looking, our brain informs us that we’re being watched — just in case there’s a potential interaction.

“A direct gaze can signal dominance or a threat, and if you perceive something as a threat, you would not want to miss it,” Clifford said. “So simply assuming another person is looking at you may be the safest strategy.”

credit: Laura Moss

What is genetically edited food?

The USDA says this method of tampering with a food’s genes is not the same as genetically modifying it.

I wasn’t familiar with the term “genetically edited” food until I read an NPR feature last week about genetically edited mushrooms. While it may seem like genetically edited is another way to say genetically modified, editing is not the same as modifying, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) have had their genes altered in some way. Genetically modified salmon, for instance, has had its genes modified to grow faster than natural salmon. GMO salmon can grow to full size in 18 months. Non-GMO salmon take three years to grow to full size. The purpose of genetically modified food, whether it’s an animal or plant, is to introduce a new, desirable trait to the organism. (And yes, what’s desirable depends on who you talk to.)

A genetically edited organism does not have a gene altered to introduce a new trait. Instead, it has a gene taken away using a four-year-old technology called CRISPR. In the case of the mushroom mentioned earlier, Yinong Yang, a Penn State researcher, snipped out “a tiny piece of DNA from one particular gene in a white button mushroom,” NPR reports. With that gene gone, the mushroom produces less of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, making the mushroom brown more slowly. An undesirable trait was removed from the organism.

Yang asked the USDA if his genetically edited mushrooms would be regulated as a GMO. The government agency said since no new DNA was introduced, and there is no evidence the edited white button mushrooms would bring any problems with weeds or become a pest to other plants, the USDA does not need to regulate them.

I’ve seen several headlines since the NPR report last week that claim genetically edited foods will not be regulated. That’s inaccurate. The USDA said it would not regulate these mushrooms, but the agency ended the letter to Yang with the following statement: “Please be advised that your white button mushroom variety described in your letter may still be subject to other regulatory authorities such as the FDA or EPA.”

Whether some form of government regulation will happen for genetically edited foods hasn’t been decided. This mushroom is the first food created using this technique, according to The Washington Post. The company that paid for the mushroom research has no immediate plans to sell the mushrooms. There’s a lot more work and government scrutiny before a genetically edited food comes on the market — regulated or not.

At least, let’s hope much more government scrutiny will be done on genetic editing for food. CRISPR can be used for more than simply keeping fruits and vegetables from browning quickly. The method is also being considered as a way to remove undesirable traits in human beings, like the ability to inherit a devastating disease — something that should come only after years of testing for safety and side effects, and necessary regulations.

credit: Robin Shreeves

Why lack of sleep gives you the munchies

Looking for a better way to lose weight? Maybe it’s time to stop counting calories and start counting sheep. A new study has found a link between poor sleep and the marijuana-like “munchie” cravings that may be causing Americans to pack on the pounds.

The study, published recently in the journal Sleep, was a small but intense experiment that carefully controlled the sleep and diet of 14 20-somethings who agreed to spend several days at the University of Chicago’s sleep lab. On some nights, participants were allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours, while on others they were only allowed to snooze for 4.5 hours. Each day, the participants were given a large meal at 3 p.m. and allowed to snack from then until their next meal at 7 p.m.

Researchers found that all of the participants binged at that afternoon meal, consuming roughly 90 percent of their caloric needs at one sitting. But it was the participants who were deprived of sleep who continued to snack right up until their next meal, consuming as many as 1,000 additional calories, primarily from low-nutrient, high-reward foods (i.e. junk food.)

Blood tests revealed that the sleep-deprived participants had higher levels of a chemical called endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in their bloodstream than those who got a full night’s sleep. 2-AG is a chemical made in the brain that resembles chemicals found in marijuana. It affects pain, pleasure and appetite and has been linked to the “munchies” that pot smokers report feeling after getting high.

Typically, blood levels of 2-AG bottom out overnight but slowly build throughout the day before peaking in the late afternoon and early evening. For the sleep-deprived volunteers, 2-AG levels rose higher than they did for their well-rested peers and stayed high through the evening. This is the same period in which sleep-restricted participants noted feeling hungrier and having a stronger desire to eat. When given snacks at this time, they ate nearly twice as much fat as when they had slept for eight hours.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of Americans are sleep deprived, defined as getting less than seven hours of sleep each night. Guess how many Americans are also considered obese? One-third.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

Of course, diet and exercise are critical components for maintaining a healthy weight. But as this research points out, a good night’s sleep may play an even bigger role in the weight loss equation than previously thought.

Bottom line: If you’re trying to lose weight, get to bed at a reasonable hour. You’ll be more likely to resist that late afternoon junk food binge if you’re not fighting the sleep-deprivation munchies.

Credit: Jenn Savedge

Easy vegetable lasagna

PREP TIME
15 minutes
TOTAL TIME
1 hour
YIELD
6-8 servings
EQUIPMENT
Lasagna pan Foil Cutting board and knife Mixing bowl Large saute pan
INGREDIENTS
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
1.25 cup Ricotta cheese
.5 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
COOKING DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until the onions become translucent.
Add the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes more until the vegetables just begin to soften.
Add the marinara sauce and stir to combine. Let the mixture come to a simmer, then remove from heat.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and eggs. Stir until creamy and completely mixed together.
Place a little of the vegetable mixture on the bottom of a lasagna pan. Place a layer of no-boil noodles. Dollop about 1/3 of the cheese mixture on the noodles and spread it evenly. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the mozzarella over the cheese mixture. Spoon another layer of the vegetable mixture over the cheeses, add a layer of noodles, a layer of cheese spread, and a layer of mozzarella.
Repeat this once more and you’ve reached the top of the pan, ending with a sprinkle of mozzarella.
Cover the lasagna loosely with foil. Place the lasagna pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.
Remove the lasagna and allow to cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!

credit: Jaymi Heimbach

What your eye color says about you

Your eyes can be a window into your soul, and some say that your eyes — be them baby blue, sexy green or deep, mysterious brown — may reveal even more.

Like how well you tolerate pain. Or your tendency toward alcohol dependence. Or just how generally agreeable you might be.

Eye color and what eye color really means are a constant source of fascination among scientists, academicians and that guy or girl across the bar. As is often the case with these things, though, it’s not that simple. In fact, it gets pretty complicated.

What you see is what you get

“This general question of the relationship between, say, a visible trait — height or body size, or skin color or eye color or hair color — and anything else, whether it’s a disease trait or whether it’s a visible trait, is something that geneticists think about and talk about all the time. And it’s a topic of understandable popular interest,” says Greg Barsh, a faculty investigator at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, a nonprofit based in Huntsville, Alabama, and a professor emeritus of genetics at Stanford University.

“We do not think, we do not believe that there is a direct connection of eye color with specific diseases. We do not think that there is a relationship, say, between eye color and diabetes, or eye color and cancer, or eye color and behavior.”

Still, many people are all too willing to make that link between the color of someone’s eyes and, say, how well they react in a motor skills test. (Men with dark eyes reportedly performed better than those with lighter-colored eyes — but only when they blue racquetballs, rather than green or yellow.)

Are light-eyed people from a certain region, for example, really less agreeable than the dark-eyed population of the same region, as one study suggests?

It’s easy to accept the hypothesis of this study, which concludes that “light-eyed individuals have a higher prevalence of [alcohol dependency] than dark-eyed individuals.” Or this piece in Cosmopolitan, based on several popular papers, that concludes:

Brown-eyed people are prone to anxiety.
Green-eyed folks have a higher tolerance for pain.
Those with blue eyes have a lower risk of anxiety and depression, yet are more likely to be dependent on alcohol.
Easy, sure. But believable? Can you really make that jump, that generalization, based solely on the color of someone’s eyes? Or is it, as Barsh suggests, more complicated?
Ancestry, cause and correlation

“Most individuals with blue eye color are of North European ancestry. But there are many other traits that are also correlated with North European ancestry,” Barsh says. “So when someone says, ‘Okay, I looked at a bunch of people with blue eyes and I also discovered that they drive faster, or they die sooner, or that they have a difference in pain tolerance,’ … the default question that always must be asked is, ‘How do you know that isn’t a difference that is genetic and happens to be related to their North European ancestry?'”

Barsh cites an old example popular among geneticists: A discovery is made that people in the Bay Area of San Francisco are more adept, as a whole, at using chopsticks than people in many other areas of the country. Is that because, simply, they[re from the Bay Area?

Or is it because many people from Asia, or many people with ancestors from Asia, have settled in the San Francisco area, and those ancestors were adept at eating with chopsticks?

“The situation with visible traits is actually pretty similar, because visible traits are highly, highly correlated with ancestry,” Barsh says. In other words, blue eyes are usually handed down from ancestors in North Europe. People with ancestors from Asia and Africa are normally dark-eyed.

Still, that doesn’t mean you can come to conclusions about diseases or behaviors just based on ancestry, either.

“One of the major challenges that I think all biologists face is distinguishing correlation from causation,” Barsh adds. “If you have two traits found in one group but not another, it can be very challenging to distinguish whether the relationship between the traits is that one causes the other, or they just happen to be present in the same population.”

So to do this thing right, you have to dive deeply into the genetics of a given population. And genetics are a complicated thing. There’s one main gene — it’s called the OCA2 — responsible for eye color, for example. But several other genes contribute. So assigning a behavior, or the chance of getting a disease to, say, the OCA2 and four or five other genes (among some 20,000 in humans) falls a bit on the simplistic side.
“We know enough about the genes that control skin and eye color that [we know] that is, in fact, all that they do. They don’t do other things,” Barsh says. “No matter how much we learn, we’re never going to learn that eye color has anything to do with intelligence. We know that it doesn’t. It doesn’t have anything to do with behavior. It doesn’t have anything to do with disease susceptibility.”

The only exception, it seems, is that those with lighter skin and lighter eyes are more susceptible to the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays from the sun, which could lead to diseases of the eyes and skin.

Other than that, though, the color of those baby blues is that and only that: A color (or lack of, or a combination of colors) based on genes handed down from your ancestors.

Anything else may just be your eyes playing tricks on you.

Credit: John Donovan

9 ways that dogs tell you they love you

Dogs have lived alongside us for thousands of years, earning the reputation as “man’s best friend” for good reason. But while some people may be quick to dismiss a dog’s devotion as simply a relationship based on need, experts say that’s just not true.

“Dogs have developed the strongest ability of all animals on Earth to form affectionate bonds with humans,” says Dr. Frank McMillan D.V.M., director of well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society, an organization helping adopters find loving companions. “Dogs don’t just love us — they need us, but not just for food and physical care. They need us emotionally. This is why the attachment bond a dog feels for his human is one of deep devotion and is, as has been often stated, unconditional.”

But how exactly does a dog say, “I love you”? Read on to find out.

Your dog wants to be close to you.

If your dog is always in your lap, leaning against you or following you room to room, it’s clear your pooch is attached to you.

“A dog’s affection is most evident in their desire to be physically close to you. This can sometimes appear to be a clinginess, and it isn’t always easy to distinguish healthy positive clinginess from insecurity, but in both cases your dog is deeply attached to you,” McMillan says.

Your dog gazes into your eyes.

When you and your pup share a long look, your dog is “hugging you with his eyes,” according to Brian Hare, a professor at Duke University who studies canine cognition, and research shows that this “hug” has a profound effect on both man and animal.

When scientists at Japan’s Azabu University took urine samples from dogs and their owners before and after 30 minutes of interacting, they found that the pairs that spent the most time gazing into each others’ eyes showed significantly higher levels of the hormone oxytocin, the same hormonal response that bonds us to human infants. “It’s an incredible finding that suggests that dogs have hijacked the human bonding system,” Hare told Science.

Does your pup jump up, wag his tail and barely seem able to contain contain his excitement when you arrive home? If so, that’s a sure sign of affection.

“This becomes even more obvious when your dog learns, like Pavlov’s dogs, that some sound signals your upcoming arrival, like the garage opener or sound of your car, and they show excitement upon hearing that sound,” McMillan says.

Your dog sleeps with you.

Dogs are pack animals that often huddle together at night for warmth and protection, so when your dog snuggles up with you, it means he considers you to be part of the family. And these canine cuddles may even help you get a better night’s sleep.

You are your dog’s safe haven.

“Much affection in animals and humans is based on how much you can be relied on as a source of comfort and support in scary situations,” McMillan says. “If your dog seeks your comfort during thunderstorms, car rides, vet visits or other frightening occurrences, then you are seeing another aspect of her attachment bond to you.”

Your dog ‘reads’ you and reacts accordingly.

A close bond with your dog may enable him to sense your mood and respond with affection. “Many dogs who sense that you are upset or not feeling well will demonstrate their affection by spending even more time by your side. They might give you licks or rest their head or paws on some part of your body,” McMillan says.

If you’ve ever yawned after witnessing another person’s yawn, you’re aware how contagious the act can be. This contagious yawning is unique to only a few species, and man’s best friend is one of them.

Researchers have even found that not only are dogs more likely to yawn after watching familiar people yawn, but also that dogs will yawn when hearing only the sound of a loved one’s yawn. So if your canine companion yawns in response to your yawns, odds are good that his affection for you enables him to empathize with you.

Your dog focuses on you.

It’s not unusual for dogs to delight in positive attention from virtually anyone, but just because your pooch loves on everyone, doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you most. Pay attention to how your dog acts when in a room full of people. If he stays focused on you or ignores others while awaiting your return, you know you hold a special place in your dog’s heart.

Your dog forgives you.

“Part of the affectionate feelings your dog has for you shows up in their willingness to forgive you for things you do that make them feel bad, such as raising your voice, or misplacing your frustration on your dog by ignoring them,” McMillan says. “Forgiveness is your dog’s attempt to maintain the loving bond they share with you.”

However, even if your canine best friend doesn’t show affection in these ways, it certainly doesn’t mean your pooch doesn’t love you. Just as some people can care deeply without expressing their feelings, so can your pup.

“Be sure not to go through the list above and think that because your dog shows very few or even none of these things, he or she doesn’t love you. Odds are, love is very much there. After all, we’re talking about a dog here,” McMillan says.

And how can you show your dog some love? Engage in playtime, take a long walk, bake some yummy dog treats, or give your pup a homemade toy. Above all, McMillan says the best thing you can do is simply give your dog more of you because that’s what man’s best friend wants most of all.

credit:Laura Moss

Lentil meatball with lemon-pecan pesto sauce

PREP TIME
20 minutes
TOTAL TIME
40 minutes
YIELD
4-6 servings (about 25 meatballs)
EQUIPMENT
Soup pot Cutting board Kitchen knife Mixing bowls Measuring cups and spoons Food processor or blender Baking sheet Parchment paper
INGREDIENTS
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water
2 eggs
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup light ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2-3 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pecans
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
COOKING DIRECTIONS
In a soup pot, combine the lentils and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender and have absorbed all the water. Slightly mash the lentils with a fork until they are a chunky texture. Set them aside to cool.
In a food processor, combine the pecans, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Blend until fairly smooth. Add in the basil leaves, olive oil and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Blend until smooth, adding in a little more olive oil if needed to get a sauce-like consistency.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled lentils, eggs, olive oil, ricotta cheese, fennel seeds, parsley, thyme leaves, red pepper flakes, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir to thoroughly combine. Add in the bread crumbs, and stir until combined.
Take a spoonful of the mixture and roll a 1-inch round ball in your hands. The mix should be quite moist but hold together well. If it doesn’t hold together or is runny, add in a few more bread crumbs (only a little at a time) until the mixture holds together but is still very moist.
Place the 1-inch balls onto a baking sheet, spaced a little distance apart so they aren’t touching. Place the sheet on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the lentil balls, then bake 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven.
Plate the lentil meatballs with the pesto sauce drizzled over the top, and a little extra lemon zest as garnish. Serve and enjoy!
As an alternative preparation idea, you can keep the Parmesan cheese out of the mixture, and instead spread the cheese on a plate or tray. After rolling the lentil mixture into balls, roll the balls over the grated cheese to create a crust. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the lentil balls every 5 minutes to make sure the cheesy crust is evenly browned and crispy.

Credit: Jaymi Heimbuch

 

Amazing benefits of Malaysion palm oil

Every few years we rediscover a new, healthier cooking oil. About 20 years ago, we abandoned vegetable for canola, and 10 years back we forsook canola for olive. Today many people tout coconut or avocado oil for their healthy cooking needs. Waiting in the wings? Malaysian palm fruit oil.

Red palm oil, as it’s also called, is produced in several areas, including Malaysia, West Africa and Ecuador. It’s derived from the fruit of the oil palm, not to be confused with palm kernel oil. Ancient Egyptians regarded the palm fruit oil as sacred healing oil. The dark red oil is about 50 percent saturated and 40 percent oleic acid, an unsaturated fat present in higher quantities in olive oil and believed to be partially responsible for its health benefits.

A tablespoon of red palm oil is about 130 calories, similar to other oils, but it’s loaded with carotenes, like beta-carotene and lycopene.

These are the same antioxidants that give tomatoes and carrots their deep color. The tropical oil may have other benefits as well. “Malaysian palm fruit oil is a rich source of beta carotene (much more than carrots and tomatoes), vitamin E and may have benefits for patients with breast cancer, fatty liver disease, and more,” says Dr. Felicia D. Stoler, DCN, MS, RD, author of “Living Skinny in Fat Genes.”

What’s the hubbub about?

Unlike other oils, Malaysian palm fruit oil doesn’t lose its nutritional value when it’s cooked in high heat. It can be cooked at a higher temperature than butter, corn oil or virgin olive oil. Plus, most oils only keep for four to six months after they’re opened. (Olive oil can last for a year, if refrigerated.) Malaysian palm fruit oil can be stored at room temperature for 12 months without going rancid.

The oil is cholesterol-free and is touted as heart-healthy. Preliminary studies show that adding palm oil to your diet may help remove plaque build-up in arteries. What’s more, studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shown that a natural form of vitamin E called alpha tocotrienol, which is the form found in in red palm fruit oil, can help reduce the effects of stroke by 50 percent.

And since the oil is helpful in fighting inflammation, the core of many diseases, palm oil may have health benefits in fighting illnesses like osteoporosis, asthma, cataracts, macular degeneration, arthritis and premature aging.

Adding high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory Malaysian red palm oil palm oil to your diet may even reduce cholesterol and keep your blood pressure in check, too.

One review published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition, found Carotino and other red palm oils to be effective for treating vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to blindness. (Carotino is a specific blend of canola oil and red palm fruit oil.) Still, much more research is needed.

Raw, unrefined palm oil is a deep reddish color and may have a pungent taste of olives and saffron and smell flowery while the refined, processed version is colorless and tasteless. You should be able to find both versions in health food stores. The red-colored oil is the one with possible health benefits. Raw, unrefined oil retains its vitamins and antioxidants and may lend a zesty flavor to foods sautéed in it.

Buying sustainable oil

To reduce the environmental impact of deforestation by palm-oil producers, a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products. The group aims to reduce harm to wildlife habitats, especially orangutans and elephants, and improve conditions for migrant workers on palm oil plantations. RSPO has its critics, but others say the group is making headway toward the goal of making more sustainably harvested oils available to consumers.

credit: Jennifer Nelson