#401 3/23/2010 SPICE IS NICE

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Beachbody® Restaurant Rescue: Indian Edition

By Stephanie S. Saunders

As we all learned in grade school and most of us subsequently forgot, in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue looking for an alternate trade route to India. And why did he want to go to the Near East so desperately? The answer is spices, which were, at the time, one of the most valuable commodities on the trade market.

Three Plates of Indian Food

Today, those spices—cumin, turmeric, saffron, and others—are slightly easier to come by, simply by popping over to your local Indian restaurant. The cuisine has become one of the most popular choices for eating out in the world. The UK alone has over 10,000 Indian restaurants, and Indian cuisine continues to increase in popularity in the United States, with vegetarians and carnivores alike being tantalized by a vast variety of tastes. With such a heavy emphasis on vegetables, legumes, and rice, how can one go wrong with eating Indian food?

And there's the problem. Indian chefs use butter, clarified butter, oils, nuts, and full-fat cheeses to create their rich creamy sauces. Naan, a traditional flatbread that comes with most meals, is also high in calories, carbohydrates, and often fat. And rice is often used in such abundance that the caloric intake of it alone could make up an entire meal. Indian food may be accessible nowadays, but with all the hidden fats and starchy breads, as well as the sizable portions, a night out at Joe's Tandoor can make your gut expand like the Niña, your hips grow to the size of the Pinta, and your rear end stick out to Santa Maria-sized proportions.

So can the flavors of India be enjoyed without feeling "sari" for your waistline? Let's look at some options in this installment of Beachbody Restaurant Rescue.


SamosasMost Indian restaurants offer a variety of appetizers, many of which aren't so rough on the waistline. Unfortunately, in this country, the most popular offering is the samosa, which is kind of akin to a savory potato-stuffed donut. As tasty as samosas are, a small one can have up to 400 calories and 20 grams of fat. That's equivalent to a McDonald's® Quarter Pounder, which is not how most of us want to begin a meal. Branch out and try something different, such as the aloo tikki. Or, if you have the willpower, save your calories for the main course.

Here's a brief description of some popular appetizers:

A vegetable samosa is a vegetarian turnover, stuffed with potatoes, peas, spices, and herbs. A lamb samosa is the same as the vegetable version, with ground lamb mixed in. The sev puri is a crisp wheat wafer topped with onions, potatoes, and chutney, and sprinkled with chickpeas. The chicken chaat is pieces of marinated boneless chicken, tossed with a blend of spices called chaat masala. The shrimp pakora is shrimp marinated with ginger, light green chili, and cilantro. The aloo tikki is an Indian potato pancake topped with chopped onions, tamarind, and green chili chutney.

Nutritional information (per serving):

  Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Samosa 400 20 grams 29 grams 356 milligrams 5 grams
Lamb samosa 369 14 grams 48 grams 300 milligrams 12 grams
Sev puri 400 6 grams 35 grams 400 milligrams 4 grams
Chicken chaat 282 17 grams 11 grams 415 milligrams 12 grams
Shrimp pakora 164 15 grams 1 gram 80 milligrams 7 grams
Aloo tikki 51 2 grams 7 grams 235 milligrams 2 grams

Soup and Salads

Indian SaladIn America, Indian cuisine is not exactly famous for its soup and salad selection. As far as salads go, many establishments have very few offerings, and nothing of true Indian origin. Soups, on the other hand, come in great variety and often are fairly healthy. Remember that warm liquids expand in your stomach and will make you feel full faster, so beginning a meal with a healthy broth-based soup is always a great idea.

Many Indian restaurants offer a vegetarian soup, usually mixed vegetables and lentils with ginger, chili, tomato, and cilantro. They might also serve chicken soup made of onion, ginger, garlic, spinach, tomatoes, spices with basmati rice, and, of course, chicken. Mulligatawny soup is a lightly spiced coconut-flavored soup cooked with lentils and rice. And "Indian salad" is lettuce, cucumber, and tomato with cumin-cilantro dressing.

Nutritional information (per serving):

  Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Vegetarian soup 188 2 grams 39 grams 367 milligrams 7 grams
Chicken soup 158 2 grams 9 grams 431 milligrams 3 grams
Mulligatawny soup 225 15 grams 10 grams 800 milligrams 8 grams
Indian salad 50 2 grams 15 grams 234 milligrams 1 gram


Saag PaneerWelcome to vegetarian paradise, otherwise known as the vegetable section of an Indian restaurant menu. After thousands of years of the vegetarian-espousing Hindu religious influence, Indian chefs have taken vegetables to an artistic level. Unfortunately, many of the selections are so delicious because they are prepared with butter, oils, and cheeses that would do damage to almost anyone's diet. If possible, try to lean toward dishes without cheese or nuts, and remember that tomato-based sauces are probably better than most sautéed options.

Here are a few popular vegetable choices. The vegetable bhuna is vegetables sautéed with spices. The akbari kofta are potato balls stuffed with nuts in a mild sauce. The bengan aloo is eggplant and potatoes sautéed in spices. The bhartha is roasted eggplant sautéed with onion, tomato, green peas, and spices. The gobi aloo is cauliflower and potatoes sautéed in garlic and ginger, steamed in a sauce. Saag paneer is spinach cooked with homemade cheese. Channa masala is chickpeas prepared in onions and tomato sauce. And bhindi masala is okra sautéed with onions, Serrano chilies, and spices.

Nutritional information (per serving):

  Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Vegetable bhuna 271 4 grams 52 grams 333 milligrams 10 grams
Akbari kofta 188 12 grams 8 grams 490 milligrams 8 grams
Bengan aloo 103 4.7 grams 32 grams 26 milligrams 1.3 grams
Bharta 200 13 grams 22 grams 11 milligrams 3.5 grams
Gobi aloo 206 8 grams 32 grams 332 milligrams 6 grams
Saag paneer 194 11 grams 19 grams 183 milligrams 11 grams
Channa masala 243 5 grams 43 grams 677 milligrams 9 grams
Bhindi masala 205 17 grams 10 grams 900 milligrams 4 grams

Meat Dishes

Tandoori ChickenThere's a fairly wide divide when it comes to how different regions of India prepare their meats. With that split comes a huge difference in how healthy it is. Meats that are tandoor grilled are usually very healthy, and considerably lower in fat than their sauce-cooked cousins because sauces add butter, oil, or cheese, blowing the fat grams through the roof. A kebab is always a safe bet, as it's a smaller portion and is usually tandoor grilled. Again, leaning toward chicken and fish and avoiding the sauce will save you the work of taking it off later.

You'll find great variety in tandoor-grilled meats. Tandoori salmon is a wild salmon marinated in spices, garlic, and ginger. Shrimp tandoori is jumbo shrimp marinated in oregano. Tandoori chicken is chicken marinated in spices. Mint chicken kebab is boneless chicken marinated in fresh mint. Shrimp bhuna is jumbo shrimp prepared in garlic, ginger, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, and cilantro.

If you are leaning toward a sauce-covered meat, here are some options. Chicken tikka is boneless chicken marinated in different spices than tandoor chicken, and served in a yogurt and tomato sauce. Chicken masala is boneless chicken prepared in a tomato sauce. Lamb vindaloo is lamb prepared in a tangy tomato-based sauce, with potatoes. Seekh kebab is minced lamb prepared with fresh mint, red onions, garlic and ginger.

Nutritional information (per serving):

  Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Tandoori salmon 127 4 grams >1 gram 73 milligrams 22 grams
Shrimp tandoori 200 10 grams 15 grams 87 milligrams 20 grams
Tandoori chicken 276 7 grams 7 grams 305 milligrams 45 grams
Mint chicken kebab 170 3 grams 4 grams 114 milligrams 34 grams
Shrimp bhuna 210 5 grams 18 grams 477 milligrams 23 grams
Chicken tikka 260 16 grams 2 grams 497 milligrams 27 grams
Chicken masala 297 14 grams 8 grams 685 milligrams 34 grams
Lamb vindaloo 713 57 grams 8 grams 533 milligrams 44 grams
Seekh kebab 336 23 grams 5 grams 791 milligrams 26 grams

Rice and Bread

Basmati RiceWe spent the last decade fearful of carbohydrates, believing that one bite of bread would destroy our entire physiques. As it turns out, the breads in an Indian meal might make all of these fears a reality. And not just the result of the carbs themselves, but the overall calorie count, which skyrockets because of the higher fat content in many Indian breads. One-fourth of a regular piece of naan bread can hold up to 7 grams of fat and 200 calories. And who really eats one-fourth of a slice? Then, there's rice, which is usually white and often fried in oil, butter, or ghee. Yes, both Indian rice and bread taste amazing, but is it really worth it? Should you decide to indulge, watch your portion sizes, and avoid anything with added cheese.

Basmati rice is aromatic rice suffused with saffron. Banarasi pulao is fresh vegetables, nuts, and raisins with basmati rice. Gucchi pillau is mushrooms cooked with, yes, basmati rice. Naan is fresh tandoor-baked white bread. Cheese naan is naan stuffed with cheddar, parmesan, and cream cheeses. Garlic naan is naan topped with freshly chopped garlic. Onion kulcha is naan topped with freshly chopped onion. Paratha is whole wheat unleavened bread. Aloo paratha is whole wheat bread studded with spiced potatoes.

Nutritional information (per serving):

  Calories Fat Carbs Sodium Protein
Basmati rice 150 >1 gram 35 grams >1 milligram 3 grams
Banarasi pulao 293 11 grams 44 grams 1,820 milligrams 4 grams
Gucchi pillau 700 53 grams 50 grams 780 milligrams 5 grams
Naan 200 7 grams 12 grams 435 milligrams 4 grams
Cheese naan 332 10 grams 49 grams 407 milligrams 16 grams
Garlic naan 209 6 grams 34 grams 462 milligrams 5 grams
Onion kulcha 220 7 grams 15 grams 334 milligrams 6 grams
Paratha 290 9 grams 42 gams 178 milligrams 11 grams
Aloo paratha 360 12 grams 47 grams 220 milligrams 8 grams

India has more undernourished people than any other country in the world, and yet obesity is on the rise. Some states report a 30 percent obesity rate amongst their population, thanks to an emerging middle class. In a country where over half the toddlers are malnourished, India already has the world's largest number of diabetics at 30 million people.

It isn't only about what you eat, but about how much you eat. Indian food's use of fragrant, flavorful spices makes it a favorite all over the world, but leave it up to the United States to consume it in super-sized portions. Try ordering just one dish, preferably of a lean meat or non-cheese-laden vegetable, and discover how truly satisfying it can be. You can always order more if you are hungry, or try other dishes at a later date. The fact that most Americans have access to food 24/7 does not mean we have to eat like we do.

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"Beachbody® Restaurant Rescue: Japanese Edition"
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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 29th at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chat Room!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Can Hard Exercise Hurt Your Immune System?

By Steve Edwards

Could working out hard increase your risk of getting sick? Two recent studies have led several publications to state that intense exercise should come with a warning that it increases the risk of illness. Today, we'll take a deeper look at these claims, analyze what they mean for you, and look at a few ways to keep your immune system strong.

Man Tired After a Workout

To someone who's been involved in athletic training his or her entire life, the studies look like a bunch of hoo-hah from the "duh" files. But for the general public, they've created quite a stir, leading many authors to pen articles warning about the dangers of hard exercise. Great, I'm thinking, just what our swelling society needs—another excuse not to exercise. Some of these articles were so craftily written, I even got a note from Tony Horton asking for my take. So obviously, the media fright club did its homework on this one.

Here's the rub. Two independent studies found that while moderate exercise boosted your immune system, intense exercise broke it down. The media spun this to challenge the notion that hard exercise is good for you, stating we should consider only recommending moderate exercise. The problem with that assessment is that to improve your fitness, you must continually stress your system, a process known as progressive overload in training circles. Over time, progressive overload leads to improvements in your immune system. Without it, your fitness will stagnate, and your immune system will regress.

This doesn't mean these studies were without merit. As your training load increases, so does the demand on your immune system, because exercise creates stress on the body. It's the classic what-doesn't-kill-you-makes-you-stronger scenario. Intense exercise increases the amount of hormones your body releases. These hormones are essential for all bodily functions. During the acute phase of intense exercise, however, these hormones are busy trying to repair all the physiological breakdown your workout incurs on your body, and there isn't enough left to boost your immune system. Therefore, during times of high stress, your immune system is compromised.

The upside is that your body gets used to this process. As your body grows accustomed, less physiological breakdown occurs during the same high-intensity movements, but the hormonal releases are still active. These hormonal releases increase the body's natural defenses—your immune system. So intense exercise leads to an improved immune system, provided you survive the initial stages of your program.

And despite all the hoo-hah, it isn't hard to improve your immune system. It should seem obvious that the harder you exercise, the healthier the rest of your lifestyle should become; but that doesn't create the controversy the media covets. With this in mind, let's look at ways to boost your immune system during times of stress.

Behavioral Changes

  1. Woman SleepingGet plenty of sleep. Sleep is vital for everything you do and especially for you to recover from exercise. When you don't get enough, the first thing to fail is your ability to fight off illness. Pathogens exist in all walks of life, and fighting them off is an essential part of your well-being. A rested body is a recovered body, and when your body is strong, it's more efficient.
  2. Avoid outside stress. During times of intense training, it's wise to do your best to avoid as much outside distraction as possible. I try to schedule my hardest training phases during when I don't have a lot of commitments. When I have a big travel schedule or a massive workload on the horizon, I try scaling back my exercise accordingly.
  3. Wash your hands. A very simple act that's highly effective when it comes to keeping you healthy. You don't need fancy antibacterial soap. Any simple soap will do. Just wash your hands often because most of the things you touch, especially in public, are covered in germs. To make this easier, you can buy waterless hand sanitizers, which were popularized by travelers in countries where the water was unsafe.
  4. Avoid enclosed spaces for long periods of time. This one's tough, since most of us work or go to school in enclosed spaces. But just because you're forced into a space doesn't mean there's nothing you can do about it. We could all benefit from taking more breaks. Our bodies and our minds will perform better if we give them a break every hour or so. This is why classes tend to be about an hour long. Moving outside of your enclosed space helps you recharge with clean air, sunshine, and vitamin D.
  5. Don't skip your recovery periods. There's a reason INSANITY® and P90X® have recovery weeks built into their schedules. Intense training should only be done in short cycles. One of the most common ways people get sick or injured is by trying to prolong the amount of time during which they Bring It. As good as it feels to keep pushing yourself to your limit, you have a breaking point.

Diet Changes

Chopped GarlicFollowing a healthy diet enhances each behavioral change mentioned and everything else you do in life. Staying hydrated, in particular, is also very important for your immune system. Supplementing during times of high stress, and when you're forced to stay in an enclosed place for long periods of time (like in an airplane), has been shown to reduce your chances of getting sick. But these are all obvious things, right?

What's less obvious is that many natural foods and herbs have been shown to improve the immune system. None of these are "proven" medical remedies, but they all have a long history of anecdotal lore that probably has some relevant meaning, even if the American Medical Association hasn't blessed them in the same way it has pseudoephedrine. Whether they work or not, all these foods have healthy benefits to supplement your diet, so file them under the "why not" category. With that disclaimer, here are 10 foods that may boost your immune system.

  1. Garlic. From staving off vampires to having antiviral and antibacterial properties, garlic has been a wonder food of holistic medicine for as long as we've been writing about it. Just eat it in its natural form—there's a reason you've never seen anyone defend themselves against Dracula with garlic salt.
  2. Citrus fruits. They're not just for scurvy anymore. Citrus fruits are all high in vitamin C—the vitamin most commonly associated with a strong immune system.
  3. Echinacea. Another one long on lore but short on science, its anecdotal history in antiviral medicine shouldn't be discounted. However, this herb is best used only in times of severe stress.
  4. Berries. These fruits contain exceedingly high amounts of antioxidants, which are directly responsible for fighting off would-be illnesses.
  5. Zinc. Not a real food, but with the popularity of zinc lozenges, who would know? There's good science behind zinc supplementation, but again, it's a high-stress supplement only. Don't make sucking on these a part of your daily diet.
  6. Oysters. For those who want to take their zinc naturally, nothing beats oysters. And to think that all this time we've only thought of them as aphrodisiacs.
  7. Shiitake mushrooms. Long used in Japan for their antibacterial and antiviral qualities, they're now common ingredients in haute cuisine.
  8. Yogurt. One of the few foods that's been a cornerstone of an entire region's diet, as it was for most everyone living between Eastern Europe and Central Asia for about 4,000 years. The bacteria in yogurt helps us digest other foods better, as well as helping us fight off many dangerous bacteria.
  9. Carrots. High glycemic index be damned. There's no negative research—and plenty of positive research—associated with eating carrots. They're exceptionally high in beta-carotene, and in a study on children's school attendance, beta-carotene was found to improve cognitive function and attendance in the participants.
  10. Astragalus root. Another popular herb used in traditional Chinese medicine that's picking up steam under the scrutiny of Western science. Unfortunately, the only downside is that it's not yet found its place in haute cuisine—although it can be found in Beachbody's Herbal Immune Boost and Shakeology.

Related Articles
"Can a Chuckle a Day Keep the Doctor Away?"
"5 Reasons to Sleep Your Way to Better Health"
"10 Tips for Stress Relief"

Steve EdwardsGot something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 29th at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chat Room!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Climbing Michi's Ladder: Flaxseed

By Denis Faye

Those-in-the-know have touted the benefits of flaxseed for years. King Charlemagne believed in the stuff so much that he made it required eating in the 8th-century Frankish Empire. Of course, current wisdom isn't based purely on the enthusiasm of one old, dead, white guy. The multitude of health claims associated with flaxseed, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer prevention, is primarily due to its three most important components: omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber.


The nutrition facts

One tablespoon of ground flaxseed has 37 calories, of which 25 come from fat. It has 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.

Most of that fat is unsaturated and over half of it comes in the form of omega-3s, which help with brain development, nervous system function, and eyesight. Many experts also believe omega-3s reduce the risk of arthritis, some cancers, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Vegetarian and fish-free diets tend to be weak in omega-3 fatty acids, making flaxseed vital.

Lignans are phytoestrogens believed to have antioxidant properties, meaning they possibly reduce the risk of various cancers, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases. Flaxseed is a top source of lignans, with almost ten times more than its nearest competitor, sesame seeds.

Fiber is the primary draw of flaxseed, with its combo of soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber turns into a gel on your insides and soaks up cholesterol. Insoluble fiber just goes right through and is essential in keeping you regular. Both forms of fiber also slow digestion, thus preventing sugar spikes.

There are also small amounts of various vitamins and minerals in flaxseed, most notably thiamin, magnesium, and manganese.

How do you eat this stuff?

The only problem with the fiber in flaxseed is that it forms a barrier. Eaten whole, it'll just pass right through you, undigested. You won't reap any of the other benefits if you don't grind the stuff up first. You'll find flaxseed in all kinds of breads, cereals, and baked goods. You can also add it to smoothies and protein shakes.

1 Tbsp. of flaxseed, ground (7 g)
Calories Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
37 3 grams 2 grams 2 grams 1 gram

Michi's Ladder is Beachbody's guide to nutritious eating. If you only ate from Tiers 1 and 2, you would have a near-perfect diet!

Related Articles
"Climbing Michi's Ladder: Arugula"
"Climbing Michi's Ladder: Chard"
"Climbing Michi's Ladder: Spelt"

Denis FayeGot something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 29th at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chat Room!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Spice IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. Spoons with SpicesWhat are the five spices in Chinese five-spice powder? The five spices are equal parts ground cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. Due to the popularity of Chinese cuisine, this mixture is now available premixed in most North American supermarkets.
  2. What is the Greek word for spice? The Greek word for spice is "aroma."
  3. What are the leaves of the coriander plant called? Cilantro. The Coriandrum sativum plant is native to southern Asia and northern Africa. The seeds are often ground into Indian curries and other dishes, while the leaves are often used in Mexican and Thai cuisine. Cilantro is also often referred to as Chinese parsley.
  4. What is the world's most expensive spice? Saffron. It comes from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus. It gives many Spanish, Portuguese, and North African dishes a beautiful golden hue. But like real gold, saffron is costly. Up to $5,000 a pound, in fact. Fortunately, it is so flavorful, only a couple of hair-like strands are needed to flavor and color a dish.
  5. What is the national spice of Hungary? Paprika. It's most commonly made by grinding sweet red bell peppers, though it is also made with hotter varieties. A popular variation is smoked paprika. It is the only spice that is traded more as its ground version than its whole version.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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