About Dr. Gourmet

My name is Timothy Harlan and I am both a physician and a chef. This blog is a general collection of information and random ideas on eating great food and eating healthy.

You can find out more at the Dr. Gourmet web site. Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!

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Cinnamon; Fenugreek; More : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: My doctor says I am a borderline diabetic, so I looked on the internet to see what home remedies they had to lower my blood sugar and it stated that Fenugreek would bring it down. But my question is can I take that as I am on warfarin, cardizem, dioxin, evista, zetia and zocor. Please let me know as soon as possible. I have stopped eating a lot of sweets and carbs. And I am trying to do more exercises.

A: It sounds like you are on the right track with cutting the sweets out of your life since your doctor has told you about your diabetes.

Do keep in mind that carbohydrates are not bad for you. Unfortunately, many people eat a lot of extra calories that they don’t need and such foods as soda, cookies, candy, chips, crackers and fast food are very high in carbohydrates. They are also often very high in fat and the combination leads to eating more calories than you need. By making these occasional treats and eating healthier you may be able to control your blood sugar better (especially by exercising more). Fenugreek for blood sugars »

Q: I’ve been following a Weight Watchers type diet for 2 1/2 months now. I’m 44 yrs old, 5′4″ and weigh just over 150 lbs. In the past, as recently as last year, I have been able to go a month or two with a WW type diet and lose 5 lbs minimum. This time I have not been able to lose even 1/2 lb.

I have really been careful about sticking to eating well, but I feel at a real loss right now and don’t know what to do next. Any advice you can offer to help me lose weight would be appreciated. What would you advise as the next steps?

A: This is a great question. There’s some evidence that as we get older – into our 40s and 50s – that it can be more difficult to lose weight. Everyone is different, of course, and there’s been some research focusing on this but nothing conclusive as to the actual cause.

What we do know is that this requires more attention to calorie balance. The first thing to look at is your amount of exercise. Folks tend to be less and less active as they move toward their 50s. A lot of factors contribute to this – job, home, stress – quite simply, the time constraints of modern life. Age and weight »

Q: I have read that cinnamon helps control blood sugar levels. Is this true, and how much cinnamon would one have to eat daily?

A: There has been good research on this spice and how it might help control blood sugars. These have been well controlled, blinded studies. Unfortunately, the research has had small study groups — generally less than 60 participants. Some studies have shown benefit of a reduction in the Hemoglobin A1c (a 90 day average of blood sugars) by almost 1%.

This would be great as there is a major difference between a normal Hemoglobin A1c of 6.5% and one at 7.5% with the higher number indicating poorer control of blood sugars and more risk for diabetics. Cinnamon and blood sugars »

Have a question? Send it to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and your question may be answered in this newsletter. Dr. Harlan regrets that due to time constraints, he can not answer all questions submitted. Your question may already have been answered in our Ask Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Make Some Chili! : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dr. Tim Says….

 With Fall coming on we’re featuring soups this week: specifically chili. Soups and chilis are great to cook on the weekend and use for lunches or leftover nights during the week. They’re filling, often complete meals in themselves, and they usually freeze well, too.

It’s surprising that there are not more quality research studies about soup. We all think of chicken soup as being good for whatever ails you and there are a few studies that indicate that this may be the case (only a few, mind you, and not all that great quality).

In a study of the effect of chicken soup on white blood cells, Barbara Rennard and her colleagues showed a slowing of movement of the cells in test tubes containing broth. In Dr. Rennard’s study the more soup applied to the white blood cells, the greater the response. It may be a leap of faith to assume that this works in real life. Soup to the Rescue »

Chili Con Carne

The ground flank steak will be more expensive than using ground beef. I prefer to know that my ground beef is very lean and in this day and age there are not many hometown butchers that will make fresh, lean ground beef. You can use pretty much any lean cut of beef – top or bottom round that are well trimmed of fat will do nicely.

If you are going to use ground beef that is purchased in the meat section it is best to pre-cook this in a separate pot and then squeeze all of the excess grease out through a strainer. Then add the cooked and defatted beef to the cooking onions and peppers.

White Bean Chili

Compare this to the traditional Chili con Carne. There’s really not much difference and traditional chili, like many Mexican / Southwestern recipes, can actually be pretty good for you.

Black Bean Chili

This is a super simple chili to make and so versatile. You can use lean ground beef or chopped chicken thighs. Even leftover cooked chicken or turkey will really make it great. On top of being so easy it is everything that is great about a Mediterranean style diet – lean meat, good fats, legumes, veggies all made fresh in your kitchen with all of 10 minutes prep time.

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Pizza Wraps from Glutenfreeda : Dr. Gourmet Reviews

Three Cheese Pizza Wrap and Pesto Chicken Pizza Wrap

These looked interesting in the freezer case.

The idea of a wrap that tastes like pizza seemed novel. There are other forms of frozen pizza but none that we have seen of the burrito type. On inspection, I almost put them back because the smallish wraps were higher in sodium that we like to review, but the idea seemed unique enough to give them a try.

The first thing that we noticed after taking off the wrapper is that these are very small. In the frozen wrap world, even gluten free versions, these burritos are about two-thirds the size of the competition. Interestingly, they are much smaller than other Glutenfreeda products that we have tasted. Pizza Wraps from Glutenfreeda »

Did You Know?

We’ve reviewed over 700 convenience meals, ingredients, and even desserts! Check out our listings by main ingredient or brand name to find out if that meal that looks so good in the freezer case is really worth the money. Read more Dr. Gourmet’s Food Reviews »

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Roasted Chili Sweet Potatoes : New Recipes @ DrGourmet.com

Roasted Chili Sweet Potatoes

Two peppers provide moderate heat in this dish. For those of you who prefer mild spiciness, a single pepper will be enough. Of course, if you want more heat, help yourself to three or more peppers. There is, however, a balance in the sweetness of the potatoes, the spiciness of the peppers, and the umami of the onions and garlic. This makes a perfect side dish for simple grilled fish, chicken or pork.

Seared Chicken Breast with Apricot Sauce

I had this sauce while traveling and the restaurant where it was on the menu served simple but elegant comfort food. The sauce is much like the rest of their menu – balanced. This is sweet but with a great umami undertone balanced by the vinegar and salt. It is great served on poultry, pork or even duck.

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On cholesterol-lowering medication? Diet can still help : Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites

Back in 2006 I wrote about a professor I had in medical school who said, “I don’t care about my diet, I’ll just take Zocor or another cholesterol lowering medication and keep eating my thick, juicy steaks.” He believed that taking medication was just as good as eating healthy. We now know that 1. eating a steak is not as bad for you as he apparently thought (here’s some guidance on the role of meat in the Mediterranean Diet.), and 2. that adopting a Mediterranean-style diet can improve your cholesterol enormously.

But what if you’re already on a cholesterol-lowering medication? Should you make the effort to improve your diet? Today’s research article says you should – and that your effort could be focused in just one area: whole grains.

The authors, based at Tufts University, made use of data collected through the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) 2003-2006, which is a large-scale survey of American adults’ health and nutrition status (Am J Clin Nutr 2014;100:1149–57). The researchers focused their analysis on those men and women over the age of 45 with complete dietary and demographic information that included medication usage and cholesterol profiles. Diet + medication equals… »

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Popular Questions : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: I recently received this email about “butter and margarine” and since I really like margarine I got very concerned and decided to ask your expert opinion on it. I eat margarine and butter once or twice a week I use each for different food. So is margarine that bad, or is this another one of those email that exaggeratedly misinforms people? (Read the email here.)

A: There was a time when nutritionists and dietitians recommended avoiding butter and using margarine because of the amount of saturated fat in butter. We know now that while too much saturated fat can promote heart disease, it is trans-fats that are far more of a problem. While these types of fats do occur in nature, they do only in small amounts. Unfortunately, for a long time many products that were produced were very high in trans-fats. Butter vs. margarine »

Q: Your column on fat levels in ground turkey and ground beefraised a question in my mind. When cooking with these products, I will often sauté the meat and pour off the accumulated fat and juice. For example, I did this the other day when preparing a spaghetti sauce made with ground turkey. How much of the fat in the raw meat can you get rid of using this method?

A: The amount of fat in ground beef is listed as a percentage. When you see ground beef labelled 80/20 in the butcher’s case that means that it has a 20% fat content. This is the most common version of ground beef sold. You can also easily find 90/10 (10% fat) and 95/5 (5% fat). Sometimes these are referred to as 90% lean or 95% lean. Fat in ground beef »

Q: For the last couple years I have been feeding my family ground turkey in all recipes that call for ground beef. After a friend made a comment that the ground turkey wasn’t always better for you I checked the labels. The 85/15 turkey is not as healthy as the 90/10 ground beef from a calorie and fat comparison. In fact, the ground turkey had a lot more calories and fat.

So now I am wondering if we should be eating the lean ground beef (90/10 or higher) instead of the ground turkey. I have tried the ground turkey that is 90/10 and it does not have much flavor. Is there a benefit to eating ground turkey over ground beef? We only eat ground turkey once or twice a week.

A: I use both ground turkey and ground beef in recipes. Most of the time I do this for flavor and not as much for health reasons. In some dishes I like the more mellow flavor of the turkey vs. beef.

Ground turkey can be leaner but it depends on what you purchase and where it comes from. There’s a wide variety of results when I look at different packages. Ground beef vs. ground turkey »

Have a question? Send it to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and your question may be answered in this newsletter. Dr. Harlan regrets that due to time constraints, he can not answer all questions submitted. Your question may already have been answered in our Ask Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Seared Chicken Breast with Apricot Sauce : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dr. Tim Says….

 The mission of Dr. Gourmet is not really about weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, weight loss is important, but I feel that far too much focus is put on dietingonly for weight loss. Indeed, the folks who published my last book insisted on using the phrase “weight loss plan” in the title. People write us all the time and tell us how many pounds they have lost using Dr. Gourmet books and the Web site – and we love to hear your success stories! – but there’s no real magic about weight loss in and of itself.

Forget everything you have heard about weight loss other than the following: if you consume fewer calories and burn more calories, you will lose weight. For almost everyone, it really is that simple.

How about the Mediterranean diet? Can it help with weight loss over and above just lowering calories? The Mediterranean Diet and Weight Loss »

Seared Chicken Breast with Apricot Sauce

I had this sauce while traveling and the restaurant where it was on the menu served simple but elegant comfort food. The sauce is much like the rest of their menu – balanced. This is sweet but with a great umami undertone balanced by the vinegar and salt. It is great served on poultry, pork or even duck.

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Diet drinks may encourage long term weight gain : Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites

Diet drinks may encourage long term weight gain

Back in May I wrote about a study that seemed to show that drinking beverages sweetened with calorie-free sweeteners would actually help you lose weight. The problem, however, is that the study was funded by The American Beverage Association and two of the researchers involved had been paid consultants for Coca-Cola, who (surprise, surprise) is one of the three largest members of The American Beverage Association.

Other, more reputable research into the effects of drinking these types of beverages is rather more mixed, with some research suggesting that those drinking diet drinks instead of sugar-sweetened beverages were more likely to become overweight or obese over time. Research in rats has suggested that drinking beverages sweetened with calorie-free sweeteners may affect the individual’s ability to judge the number of calories actually consumed.

A team at Texas Christian University theorized that the effect of these beverages sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners (NCS) might be far more subtle and long term than had previously been thought (Appetite 2014;83:82-88). The designed a set of three experiments to assess people’s psychological and behavioral responses to consuming beverages sweetened with NCS. Diet beverages and weight gain »

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Comfort Food : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dr. Tim Says….

 There are two ways to eat fewer calories. One is to eat smaller portions and the other to reduce the amount of calories in a particular dish. With Dr. Gourmet recipes I work at both of these approaches, enhancing the taste and satisfaction of a recipe by choosing lower calorie ingredients that maximize flavor. One example of this is paying careful attention to foods that have a high number of calories by weight. Foods that are calorie dense, like those having higher fat and or sugar content, are one of my first targets when working on a recipe. The other key to eating fewer calories is controlling portion size.

There has been research showing that eating larger portions of food and eating food that is more calorie dense causes weight gain. It appears from research that these two variables are independent of each other (meaning that either would have an effect if the other was not present). Proof that you can eat less, eat fewer calories, and still be satisfied »

Comfort Food Spotlight

While calling something “comfort food” is pretty subjective, you’re sure to find one of your favorite comfort foods on our complete list of Healthy Comfort Food Recipes.

Chicken Fried Steak

Chicken fried steak reminds me of my childhood. Crispy on the outside but (when done right) tender on the inside. I learned the secret from a friend who tells me that his mother used only top sirloin. A great choice, but that can be pricy, so a good alternative is bottom round. If you are going to use the top sirloin, have the butcher cut it pretty thin – about a half inch thick.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

I have had a lot of requests for a Tuna Noodle Casserole recipe over the years. I will admit that it is not one of my favorite recipes but people do love this. After I made this, however, I was so surprised to find out how good it is and how much I loved the recipe. There are so many variations on this, but the peas and cheese really make this one great.

Meatloaf

Meatloaf, next to Mac and Cheese, may be the ultimate comfort food. It’s great out of the oven and I like the tomato sauce topping. Served with mashed potatoes and a side of broccoli or lima beans and you can’t help but feel good. As with all recipes that use ground beef, look for extra lean or 93% lean. If need be, ask the butcher to grind you some from a piece of very well trimmed bottom round.

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Three Cheese Ziti and Cheesy Rice and Chicken from Banquet : Dr. Gourmet Reviews

Banquet

Three Cheese Ziti and Cheesy Rice and Chicken

About a month ago we discovered Banquet’s so-called “entrees.” As I remarked at the time, Banquet was a company I didn’t expect to ever review. I learned better, however: the Queso Mac was given a thumbs up as being “better than evol,” while the Fettuccini Alfredo was aptly described as tasting like “their first white sauce:” bland, thin, and near-complete waste of our time (and yours, dear reader).

Honestly, far better than I had expected. So we return today with two more from Banquet. Once again, these are accurately described as “entrees” as opposed to “meals.” What the difference might be isn’t quite clear except for the entrees being lower in calories and sodium than many of Banquet’s meals.

This week our tasting started with the Three Cheese Ziti. After cooking for two minutes or so we pulled back the plastic to stir, and at the scent of the meal all of the tasters looked at each other. More “Entrees” from Banquet »

Did You Know?

We’ve reviewed over 700 convenience meals, ingredients, and even desserts! Check out our listings by main ingredient or brand name to find out if that meal that looks so good in the freezer case is really worth the money. Read more Dr. Gourmet’s Food Reviews »

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