Caution: Eat Your Fruits and Veggies – with Care

fruits and veggiesYears of trying to get my family to eat more fruits and vegetables were hopeless.  Like many frustrated mothers, I considered pulling out my hair but thought better of it.  Their ambivalence would not deter me from eating all the fruits and vegetables I could manage.  That was until I discovered some combinations could react seriously with certain medications I was taking.  Another question I had dealt with eating specific foods in combination with others.

Before I embarked on a new healthy eating plan several months ago, these issues didn’t concern me.  An abundance of contradictory opinions on the internet had my head spinning.  Trial and error would be fine had I not been taking medication.  No; better to ask an expert and I wasn’t about to fork over dough for an unnecessary doctor’s visit.  I had other professional sources; family and my BFF.  good bad carbs

 “Eating meals and snacks that include both proteins and carbohydrates prevent episodes of hyper and hypoglycemia and stabilizes blood sugar” says food and nutrition expert Diane Pisciotto, RD of Suffolk County’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) services in NY.  “Food-combining diets of the past are no longer considered advantageous.”  Pisciotto agrees with current USDA guidelines which suggest eating a daily diet of 50% complex carbohydrates, 20% lean protein and 30% fats and avoiding processed foods, sugary snacks and trans fats.My Plate

Balance and moderation, keys to a healthy lifestyle, are not new concepts.  Depending on specific medical conditions, some fruits or vegetables may best be avoided or should be consumed in moderation.  For example, diabetics should eat fruits low in carbohydrates (<15 grams) to avoid a blood level spike.  It’s best to discuss dietary recommendations with your physician or dietitian first.

grapefruit-and-drugsIf you take prescription medications, be aware that certain fruits, specifically citrus fruits, may cause dangerous drug interactions.  Grapefruit and orange juices are popular breakfast beverages in the American diet.  However grapefruit juice in particular, can wreak havoc if consumed with specific medications, causing too much of the drugs’ active ingredient to be absorbed.  This can result in damage to your muscles or liver.

Pharmacology expert Peter Donohue, MS, RPh at Winthrop University Hospital in NY confirms “Grapefruit juice has serious interactions when combined with certain medications for the treatment of anxiety, depression, seizures, cholesterol and hypertension, to name a few.”  For example, grapefruit juice contains a compound which affects an intestinal enzyme responsible for the absorption of some medications.  Apparently this news has been circulating for several years but has made a comeback in recent months.   Thankfully, my medications are not on the “avoid grapefruit while taking these” list. I’m a happy camper.

As Ben Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Talk with your doctor.  Know your medications.  Watch what you eat.  Get adequate sleep. Tack on getting plenty of exercise and you’ll have a prescription for a healthy life.

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”  ~ Doug Larson


Low Cholesterol Cooking with Rice Bran Oil

My latest research into low cholesterol meal plans led me to a new type of cooking oil.  I first heard of rice bran oil from a Dr. Oz show earlier in the year.  He again mentioned its benefit at a health symposium I attended this past June.  After further study, I discovered rice bran oil is especially versatile.  My own personal decision to use it comes from my desire to reduce cholesterol.  After using it in the preparation of several meals, I enthusiastically endorse it.

 Everyone should realize our body needs a certain amount of dietary fat for optimum health.  However, the most beneficial ones are mono and polyunsaturated fats.  Most popular cooking oils or fats, including butter, are high in saturated and trans fats.  They are also higher in calories; an important consideration if you are seeking to lose weight.  Rice bran oil contains phylosterols which help reduce cholesterol absorption, is rich in gamma oryzanol, Omega-6 fatty acids, Vitamin E and antioxidants, all of which have been shown in clinical research to help lower cholesterol and benefit overall health.

 One of the reasons I consider rice bran oil a new favorite is its high smoke point; another is its slightly nutty (almond) flavor.  I enjoy using it when stir-frying which is now becoming one of my “go to” choices for cooking.  Stir-frying enables me to pack more punch into a one-dish dinner than broiling, baking or grilling. 

 The other night, I made chicken stir-fry using rice bran oil, with a pepper, onion, carrots and broccoli.  If I had mushrooms, I would have added those too!  I chose reduced sodium chicken broth and soy sauce.  Next time, I may try the reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce to see if it makes a noticeable difference in overall flavor.  As a note, in the reduced sodium varieties, the Worcestershire has only 135 mg of sodium per tablespoon compared to 575 mg in the soy sauce (Lea & Perrins vs. Kikkoman).

My husband said he enjoyed the dish, which is important.  The basic recipe is easy.  Feel free to pick and choose a veggie or two of your own to add.


1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth 2 cups broccoli florets  
2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce 1 green pepper (thinly sliced)  
2 tbsp. water 1/2 onion (thinly slice)  
1 tbsp. cornstarch 2 peeled carrots (thinly sliced, not shredded)  
2-3 tbsp. rice bran oil 1 pinch red pepper (dried crushed, optional)  
2 garlic cloves (chopped or diced)1/8 tsp. ground ginger or 1 TBSP grated fresh    
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves(cut crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips or chunks) Brown rice (hot cooked)  


  • If desired, season chicken with a salt substitute such as Nu-Salt® and pepper.
  • Whisk broth, soy sauce, water and cornstarch together until smooth.  Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Add garlic and ginger and stir about 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry until white, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add broccoli florets, pepper, onion, carrots and red pepper and continue stir-frying until vegetables are crisp-tender and chicken is just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Push chicken & veggies to sides of pan and add cornstarch mixture to center.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Blend with chicken & veggies until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Serve over rice.

Some people have also used rice bran oil in baking as a substitute for vegetable oil.  If I want to eliminate fat in baking, I generally do so with applesauce.  But it would be fun to experiment with the rice bran oil next time.  I’m trying to watch my carbohydrate intake as well, so sweets and other high carb foods may be off my list for a while (except on Thanksgiving…and then, only in moderation!)

I hope you consider trying rice bran oil in the future.  The cold-pressed varieties are best.  If you do, good luck and Bon Appetit!  I’m looking forward to creating lots of new recipes for my upcoming low cholesterol dietary adventure; my husband, not so much…he’ll miss his C’s…chocolate and cheese!

“Tout est question d’équilibre” ~ Mireille Guiliano