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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Whole grains and Type 2 diabetes, heart disease : Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites

Whole grains reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease

Metabolic syndrome, for those who might not be long-time readers of Dr. Gourmet’s Health and Nutrition Bites, is a combination of abnormal lab results and body measurements that, taken together, lead to a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. The clinical definition of metabolic syndrome is applied to those meeting three of the following criteria:

  • Measurement around the waist greater than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High blood sugar. (This is defined as a fasting blood sugar over 110 mg/dL.)
  • High triglycerides. (This is another type of fat that circulates in the blood.)
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL Cholesterol – the good cholesterol)(a level under 40).

For many people, losing weight can help with many of these factors, as can improving your diet. Research into the effects of whole grains has focused on several of these criterion, including improving your Waist to Hip ratio (waist measurement) (Bite, 12/15/10), improving your blood sugars (improving your score in a 2-hour insulin reaction test) and improving cholesterol scores(Bite, 12/19/07). Researchers in Italy and Sweden noted that these (and other) studies lack two elements that would make them even more useful to physicians like myself: they do not directly compare a diet high in whole grains with a diet high in refined grains, nor do they limit their participants to those who already have metabolic syndrome. As you might guess, helping my patients avoid developing metabolic syndrome in the first place is more straightforward than treating those who have already developed the syndrome: specific research on those with the syndrome is especially helpful. Whole grains »

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Stevia; Cooking Scales; More : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: What kind of pot should I use to make hard cooked eggs?

A: Any kind of pan is fine. I am careful about the size of the pot, however. Generally speaking I try not to crowd the pot so that there is much more than a single layer of eggs. For instance, if I am cooking two or three eggs I will use a small sauce pan and they are on the same layer. Cooking hard-boiled eggs »

Q: I just started on your diet plan. I thought it would be helpful to have a food scale. Can you recommend one for me? The one I have is a very cheap one and it won’t weigh ounces very well. For instance ounces of lean turkey will not move the needle.

A:I have used a variety of scales over the years and have settled on a digital scale. They are now relatively inexpensive (a good one used to cost hundreds of dollars) and are accurate to the gram. Cooking scales »

Q: What is your opinion of Stevia – the latest sweetener – and of the blended brand “Truvia”?

A: Stevia has been around forever it seems. The natural sweetener is made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Keep in mind that no matter how “natural” such a product is, there’s still industrial processing and refining that takes place to turn the plant into the powder-like substance. Granulated sugar does, after all, come from beets or sugar cane.

I first encountered Stevia in the 1970s, when a roommate of mine used it as a sweetener. He said that it didn’t have the aftertaste of other artificial sweeteners or of sugar. I have not used it in recipes on the Dr. Gourmet web site, because I have always tried to avoid products that are not widely available – and it’s only recently that stevia has gone mainstream. Stevia »

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 ourAsk Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Roasted Whitefish with Quick Ratatouille : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dr. Tim Says….

 I had a patient ask about fish the other day. This was after I mentioned that with his risk factors for heart disease he would do well to eat at least two servings of fish per week. He responded that he was worried about the reports of “mercury and other stuff” in fish and wanted to know what to do.

First and foremost, there’s no doubt of the tremendous health benefit in eating fish. There are hundreds of studies clearly showing that consuming fish high in Omega 3 fats reduces the risk of sudden death, death from heart disease and stroke. In a meta-analysis of numerous studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA 2006;296:1885-1898), Drs. Mozaffarian and Rimm conclude that eating 1 – 2 servings each week reduces the risk of death from heart attack by 36% and reduces total mortality by 17%.

Wow! Something easy, cheap and tasty to prevent disease and death. Count me in! Mercury in Fish »

Roasted Whitefish with Quick Ratatouille

This is a simple but elegant meal that can be made well in advance of your next dinner party – just roast the fish and tomatoes at the last minute, then serve. The ratatouille base is enriched by the roasted tomatoes for a fresh elegant flavor.

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Spanish Scrambled Eggs with Mushrooms : New Recipes @ DrGourmet.com

Spanish Scrambled Eggs
with Mushrooms

There are lots of scrambled egg variations, but the ones that I love best are the Spanish versions. Generally speaking, the eggs are on the runny side, soft and silky, and filled with veggies. They are often served on lunch menus with a smaller portion as a main course. Amongst the versions I have had, the mushroom are my favorite.

Baked Eggs with Mushrooms

I had almost this exact dish for dinner while in Spain. It was deceptively simple but amazingly delicious. The version that I had used wild mushrooms so if you want, that’s a great choice.

Serve this for dinner with a side salad.

There are two key techniques to this that can help your dish be perfect. Cooking the potatoes so that they are just slightly (slightly!) underdone and letting them cool before topping them with the hot mushrooms means that they will finish cooking in the oven. Topping them with the mushrooms means that some of the intense, umami flavor will mingle as the mushrooms give up a little moisture.

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Belly fat and sodas : Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites

Belly fat and sodas

Belly fat fixes seem to be ubiquitous: “Flatten your stomach with this one weird trick!” “Lose 10 pounds of belly fat by doing this!” The problem is that there’s belly fat… and then there’s belly fat. What most people don’t realize is that there are two types of belly fat – and one is far worse for you than the other.

As I’ve discussed in previous Health and Nutrition Bites (“Whole Grains and Belly Fat,” 05/18/11“Mediterranean Diet Helps Prevent Central Fat Distribution” 05/11/11), the two types of belly fat are Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue (SAT: fat deposited beneath the skin) and Visceral Adipose Tissue (VAT: fat deposited around the internal organs). While both contribute to belly bulge, Visceral Adipose Tissue is a component of Metabolic Syndrome and is more strongly linked to reduced insulin sensitivity and greater risk of diabetes as well as heart disease.

In other Bites, we’ve seen that increased intake of fructose (a component of HFCS: High Fructose Corn Syrup) has been linked to greater formation of VAT as opposed to SAT (“A Serious Look at Fructose” 01/06/10). Recently a team of scientists at Harvard, Tufts University, and the University of Massachusetts decided to take that research a step further by assessing the impact of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages (usually containing HFCS) on a person’s Visceral Adipose Tissue (J Nutr 2014;144:1283-1290). Belly fat »

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Orzo, Cornsilk, More : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: My husband is on Coumadin (warfarin) and his reading this past week was below the 2.0. He was told not to eat any green leafy vegetables and when I asked about zucchini I was told I would have to peel it. I had never heard or read about that before. His diet for the next 7 days is to be limited to non-green veggies but he could have one serving of green vegetables during that 7 day period.

Where can I find research on this? Especially interested in zucchini because I buy that all year long and cook it along with eggplant, etc.

A: I am not sure why your husband’s physician might have suggested peeling the zucchini.

Zucchini and other squash varieties are low in Vitamin K. Eight ounces of zucchini, including the peel, contain only 9.8 micrograms of Vitamin K. This is a medium sized zucchini and should be safe for those on Coumadin (warfarin). Peeling zucchini »

Q: Seems to me I read somewhere to fix fresh corn for the grill, you don’t need to peal all the silk from the corn, but if you soaked it, before putting it on the grill, that after it is done, you can just cut the end, and silk and all will just come off in one bunch. Is this true?

A: Yes, this is true.

I like the method of peeling the husks back prior to grilling for two reasons, however. Cooking corn »

Q: I would like to know if Orzo (coffee substitute drink) is ok to drink if someone is on 5 mg of Warfarin?

A: Orzo is a coffee substitute that originated in Italy and has not spread widely to the rest of the world. There are varieties of the drink found in Spain and South America.

It is made from ground roasted barley and is made much like espresso. Barley is caffeine free and contains very little Vitamin K.Orzo »

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 ourAsk Dr. Gourmet archive.

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Baked Eggs with Mushrooms : Dr. Gourmet Newsletter

Dr. Tim Says….

 Back in the 1970’s and 80’s eggs got a really bad rap – and not for very substantial reasons. Much of what happened in the late 1960’s that laid the groundwork for the egg’s poor reputation wasn’t based on sound science, but over the last 30 years research has shown that for most people, dietary eggs and cholesterol is not a problem. The truth is that the amount of trans fat and saturated fat in your diet has much more impact on your cholesterol levels – and therefore your risk of heart disease – than the amount of cholesterol you eat.

We do know that there are folks who are considered “hyper-responders” to cholesterol consumption, meaning they have a greater increase in their blood cholesterol after consuming dietary cholesterol (although not a tremendous increase). About 1/3 of us might be more sensitive (Am J Clin Nutr 1985;42:42 1-431).

Even so, in large studies looking at cholesterol consumption (especially eggs) it doesn’t seem to matter all that much. All About Eggs »

Baked Eggs with Mushrooms

I had almost this exact dish for dinner while in Spain. It was deceptively simple but amazingly delicious. The version that I had used wild mushrooms so if you want, that’s a great choice.

Serve this for dinner with a side salad.

There are two key techniques to this that can help your dish be perfect. Cooking the potatoes so that they are just slightly (slightly!) underdone and letting them cool before topping them with the hot mushrooms means that they will finish cooking in the oven. Topping them with the mushrooms means that some of the intense, umami flavor will mingle as the mushrooms give up a little moisture.

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Chipotle Glazed Carrots : New Recipes @ DrGourmet.com

Chipotle Glazed Carrots

This recipe is a riff on a side dish from an Austin restaurant. Sweet, spicy, salty and simple. The spiciness of the smoky chipotle is just subtle enough to not overwhelm the carrots and allows their sweetness to come through.

Southwest Cobb Salad

This recipe is a riff on traditional Cobb Salad with Southwestern flavors and ingredients mixed in. There are a lot of variations and substitutions that you can consider. Pinto beans rather than the black beans will give you a milder flavor, and of course you can take the dressing spicier with more cayenne pepper if that is to your taste.

You can easily replace the chicken with fish or shrimp, or you could use a lean cut of beef. Romaine lettuce will be nicely crispy and spinach would offer a bit of bitterness that balances the salad well.

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Exercise because it's fun : Dr. Gourmet's Health and Nutrition Bites

Exercise because it’s fun

As you know, you can lose weight just by cutting calories, but it’s much easier to lose weight if you diet and exercise. The trick for many people, however, is that exercise makes them hungry – and so they eat more than they should. But not everyone does – there is research to show that some people are less hungry after exercise. Why?

Researchers in Germany suspected that the difference was not only physiological – that there was some psychological or behavioral piece that also affected whether people wanted to eat after exercise or not. To test their theory they looked at what happened when people performed a standardized exercise that was labeled in two different ways (Appetite 2014;81:1-7).

They recruited 96 healthy men and women, both students and employees, from their university to participate in their study on exercise. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of two different forms of exercise: either a “fat-burning” workout or an “endurance” workout. Exercise »

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Coffee : Ask Dr. Gourmet

Dear Dr. Gourmet,

Q: I have atrial fibrillation and have had one small stroke. I take 5 mg. of warfarin per day. I stopped drinking my 2 cups of coffee in the morning and am looking for a substitute healthy, hot drink in the morning. Is one tea bag of Yogi Tea brand Chai Black per morning OK? What else would be safe to drink?

A: Coffee is perfectly safe to drink. It is one of the safest drinks we have and we know it is very good for you. It has more antioxidants than almost any food we consume.

It should be safe for you to drink coffee while on Coumadin. We know also that drinking teas can be safe, but in any case, when you are starting the tea you should discuss it with your doctor and have your INR monitored a little more closely at first. Substituting tea for coffee »

Q: 1) Are there as many antioxidants in caffeine free instant coffee as in regular? My husband has an enlarged prostate and the doctor told him to avoid caffeine; perhaps that is because caffeine makes one urinate more and not that it is bad for the prostate.

2) Are there more antioxidants in coffee or in caffeine free green tea? You are such a wonderful source of information.

A: There’s a tremendous amount of research showing the benefit of both coffee and tea. One of my favorites shows that coffee consumption may actually reduce the risk of diabetes. The feeling is that these benefits come from the large amount of antioxidants in coffee. Antioxidants in coffee »

Q: I am on Coumadin, do I have to drink Decaf coffee only. If I drink regular coffee, would it give me a headache?

A: Many physicians wish for their patients to not consume caffeine. There is scant evidence to support this posture, but many people do feel better drinking coffee or tea with no caffeine. You would need to ask your doctor how he or she feels about this for your case. Regular vs. decaf »

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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