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Health + Wellness: Cannonau Wine and the Blue Zones

23 Apr

The other day I was looking for something to read while I sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine so I grabbed The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. One of my favorite subjects to read about is health and wellness (and I love numbered lists with actionable steps) so I was intrigued by this study of four of the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities where common elements like diet and lifestyle have helped citizens live well into their 90s and beyond.

One of these blue zones is the island of Sardenia (Sardegna) Italy, off the western coast of Tuscany. As with most of Italy,wine is a daily part of life and is consumed with most meals. Dr Oz attributes this wine lifestyle and the local red wine Cannonau as a significant contributor to the extended life span found on the island. He suggest that the low numbers of heart disease and cancer are a result of the healthy effects of this wine.

Cannonau is grown all over the island and it makes a hearty, full bodied wine. Though the rest of the world calls the grape Grenache,Cannonau is much fuller and concentrated than other wines produced from genetically identical grapes thanks to the harsh Sardinian sun which causes the grapes to develop more red pigment to protect from the ultraviolet rays. This results in grapes with 2-3 times the level of artery-scrubbing flavinoids than other wines.

It is a food wine that excels with thick red sauces, meats and pasta. It also pairs perfectly with the local goats milk cheese, Percorino Sardo. Two of my favorite producers are Sella Mosca Cannonau ($16) and Argiolas Costera ($20). Select Liquors in Allston, MA is the closest shop I have found that carries the latter if you’re in the Boston area and want to give it a try. While poking around on the web I also discovered the blue zones website which is a fantastic resource portal of additional information like recipes and checklists.

Health Goals and the U.S Food Industry

9 Jan

 MediterraneanEating habits

I was lucky to grow up with surprisingly health-conscious parents when it came to quality food (more on that here) which laid the foundation for my awareness of and interest in nutrition, gardening, and health science.  But over the past few years I’ve dropped the ball. Sure, after watching the documentary Food, Inc and reading In Defense of Food (among others) in 2009, I made some small, swift efforts to improve what and how Brian and I eat, but that list should have evolved over time.

For example, I still try to:

– Buy organic for all dairy
– Buy organic for the “dirty dozen” (fruits and veggies that rate highest for pesticides, like apples)*
– Buy organic greens, like lettuce and arugula
– Buy only organic chicken, pork, and grass-fed beef and ground meats
– Limit consumption of animal products to 2-3/week
– Buy seafood using the seafoodwatch.org guidelines
– Serve at least one vegetarian dinner/week
– Swap ground beef for lean, ground turkey or chicken
– Drink a lot of black, Oolong and Matcha green teas (among others)
– Avoid processed foods by not buying foods that come in a box, bag, or package (think: Ore0s, potato chips, granola bars)
– Avoid soda

eatfood

I’m hardly a strict adherent to any of these and when I’m having a Cape Cod Potato Chip Salt ‘n Vinegar craving or am dying to taste the unique vanilla-raisin flavor specific to a Coke, you bet I treat myself to the occasional bag or chips or crack open a can of cola. Not often, but I’m human. The more alarming truth is that I haven’t added to this list of “rules” for YEARS.

My wake-up call occurred recently, when I tossed all my tea. Let me explain.

Months ago Brian told me he’d read about the shocking prevalence of pesticides in a LOT of the tea brands I drink (including some organic ones), but I just didn’t want to deal with it at that moment. (I had a LOT of nice teas I didn’t want to toss!) Then last week I happened to see a chart on Facebook that finally made me pay attention. This passivity, this “wait until later” attitude is what I want to CHANGE this year. I’ve just felt so discouraged by the uphill battle we have to fight here in the U.S to make the best food choices that any ongoing effort feels futile. It shouldn’t have to be so much work just to make dinner! But it’s one of my New Year’s resolutions is to take better charge of this area of my life.

I also want to make a better effort to keep up with current health news and really think about things like watching my cholesterol and how to protect my knees and hips so I’m sprightly into my 90’s (haha).  Since this is a topic that interests me and (I think) interests others too, I’m going to share what I learn each week here on the blog.

Here’s to a healthier, tastier 2014!

*FYI, the “Clean Fifteen” is the Environmental Working Group’s list with the least amount of pesticides and includes: corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, papayas, mangoes, asparagus, eggplant, kiwi, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and mushrooms. Please note that this list changes every year!

Mindful gratitude

4 Nov

gratitude
I try to practice an “attitude of gratitude” every day, but mindfulness is something I think we all have to really work at to achieve consistently. I think that’s why I love that gratitude is the overall tone of November. It’s like a re-set button (much like New Year’s) for all our good intentions. Each calendar page is a shiny new opportunity to practice kindness and love.

As we approach the holiday season I’ve been thinking about different ways to keep up this mindfulness. When I was a teen, I kept a “thankfulness journal” on and off for years. I didn’t update all the time or even daily, but just seeing it on my bookcase every so often reminds me to count my blessings.

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For the more tech-savvy, I love the website ThankfulFor.com, an online gratitude journal similar to Twitter. I especially appreciate their optional email nudges reminding me to log-in every few days. They just released their free iPhone app too, which I’m excited to try out.

One of the more longer-term projects I’ve been thinking about is which charity projects I want to work with for the holidays. Growing up, my mom was always very big on helping families with children at Christmas so Operation Christmas Child is one I really like. And after experiencing the frigid cold of Boston last winter, I’m thinking of organizing a coat drive or something similar for the homeless.

There really is something for everyone. Some of my favorite past projects involved letter-writing, sponsoring a family’s Thanksgiving meal, donating books for Reach out and Read, collecting toiletries for Lazarus House, and volunteering for Christmas in the City through Stonehill College. If you’re interested in joining in but don’t know where to start, this Forbes article is helpful for choosing a charity. Or is any of my projects piqued your interest, I’d love some help.

With lots of love and gratitude, thanks for reading.