Home & Jalapeños

Landed back on Melbourne ground this week! It’s so nice to:

a) be driving on the right side of the road again

b) be able to get a good coffee

c) not have to worry about adding sales tax + tips where ever i go

I love travelling, but I am always, always happy to come home to Melbourne.

I’m feeling a little out of my element in terms of blog writing at the moment (a mixture of jet lag and me not posting for a while I guess), so bear with me!

I ate a lot of good food in America. Actually, I just a lot of food in general (the vast majority of it going into the ‘holiday only’ category of the food pyramid). I could write about my hunt for the perfect bagel…my handmade donut…my cheese feast at Reading Terminal Market… but I think there was one common element to all of my memorable food experiences in the US; the jalapeño chilli (or pepper in the US). Yeah, I know, it surprised me at first. But then I thought about it, and it was, in some form or another, on my favourite pizza, my favourite drink, and my favourite grilled cheese, who would have thought!?

jalapeno

Chilli is a tough one when it comes to cooking for other people and individual preference, what is ‘mild’ for some could be unbearable for others. My tolerance is slowly increasing, and I think I can handle the heat pretty well! The compound in chilli that gives it it’s heat is known as capsaicin. It acts as an irritant to our body’s tissues which is what we feel as a heat and burning sensation. Interestingly, drinking a glass of water when you’ve eaten something too hot can make the sensation worse, as it spreads the irritant around more! Better to have a glass of milk or some yoghurt on hand.

Capsaicin has been gaining a bit of attention lately in it’s role as a weight loss therapy. It’s mechanism of action is thought to be related to it’s effect on dietary thermogenesis, which is basically the energy that the body requires in order to ‘burn off’ the food we eat, it usually contributes to about 10-15% of our overall energy expenditure for the day. This, in conjunction with it’s very minimal contribution to energy intake (only 4 calories in one jalapeño), has led to the idea that it can be a useful addition to your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. Small but significant effects have been found supporting the idea that capsaicin may play a role in decreasing appetite and also fat oxidation. For those who struggle with the heat of chilli, this literature review suggests trying the CH-19 sweet pepper, which contains the capsaicin but none of the heat. From a quick google search it looks like it is quite rare to find in its whole food form, so supplements appear to be more readily available.

Aside from it’s potential merits as a weight loss tool, chillies and capsicums are a great source of vitamin A and C and are full of antioxidants (try and go for fresh rather than in a jar). If you are a bit hesitant to go straight for the jalapeño, try the larger green or red chillies first, and take out the white membrane and the seeds before you eat them to reduce some of the heat.

Will post a recipe soon..after i recover form my jet lag and Christmas lunch food coma. X

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American Beauty

No recipes to share today, and no MSB either – I am on the other side of the world in the good old U.S of A!

Long story short; I am on a university study tour learning about the differences in American and Australian approaches to food and nutrition.

This is the second time I have been to the U.S, first time to the East coast, and I am learning a lot and visiting some fantastic locations such as Wholefoods, Honest-Tea, the National Institute of Health and McCormick.

First impressions:

  • Junk food is cheap! This was no surprise.
  • Serving sizes are big, but not all the time, and more so when dining out (McDonald’s do not do their ‘super size’ anymore) which we were quite disappointed about!
  • The range of products available to consumers is huge, almost overwhelming.
  • Vegetarians/vegans and those with food intolerances are much more well catered for than in Australia.
  • Wholefoods Market is health food heaven! Expensive, but heaven.

Some of the amazing new products I have found so far…

  • vegan tuna – this was something I had never seen before! Appearance wise, very similar, taste wise I actually didn’t love it that much, it was a little oily.
  • tofu shirataki noodles
  • seitan products – it’s really hard to find seitan in Aus but it’s everywhere here! Had a couple of varieties which have been ok..nothing fantastic yet..
  • Daiya dairy products
  • lots and lots of new chocolate and lollies! (think giant gummy bears and chocolate with bacon pieces)
  • beverages; low sugar iced tea – Honest Tea have a good range with very minimal sweeteners.
  • no-egg egg salad
  • lots of exciting salad bars!

I am actually eating a whole lot better over here than what I thought I would be, and would like to dispel the stereotype that America is full of bad food! Firstly, Washington DC is a super active city – lots of runners and fit people! Also, there are plenty of healthy options to turn to if you don’t want a burger and fries.

More importantly, food industry and government are doing so many huge things to combat the obesity epidemic and make an impact on population health. Everyone in the food and nutrition industry in some way or another is doing something to improve, whether it be McCormick’s salt-free seasoning or Honest-Tea’s low sugar beverages or the thousands of amazing research projects going on at NIH – the wheels are in motion! It has been inspiring and uplifting to realise that the outlook of our population health is not as dire as what I once thought. Of course – there are still major problems, conflicts of interest and disparities, but so far I have been impressed.

Stay tuned. Philadelphia and New York comin’ up! x

[To my American readers: would you agree with my first impressions? Has anyone been to Australia before and noticed a difference within the food and nutrition industry? Please share!]