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Stories written by symnspolo

Seafood lovers: Add this advice to your fish list

Many readers have written to me wondering where they can get fresh fish in San Diego that is not only good for you, but for the ocean, too. Here’s a brief guide to help you become a smart, sustainable fish and seafood consumer so you can contribute to the health of the planet, your family and future generations:

The ABC’s of PCBs

When I was pregnant, the local fishmonger refused to sell me swordfish, a humongous, bottom-feeding creature loaded with mercury and PCBs — the former having been found to cause brain damage to the fetus, as well as young children; the latter a powerful carcinogenic to humans and animals.

So pick prudently. Avoid bottom-feeding fish such as swordfish, striped bass and eel, along with large fish such as shark and tuna, which devour fish smaller than themselves and therefore concentrate tremendous amounts of mercury in their bodies.

When foods are your foes, it could mean allergies

When you think of allergies, you conjure images of sneezing and wheezing, and red, itchy eyes. Food allergies are a different beast, and they’re becoming more prevalent (and frightening) with more than 12 million American children and adults afflicted. Here’s a primer on the big seven food allergens, and some tips to help diffuse them.


1. Buy me some peanuts and Benadryl

Peanuts make the top of the A-(llergy) List as one of the most common allergy-causing foods. And if a child has a peanut allergy, it is unlikely he will outgrow it. A friend’s son is so highly allergic to these legumes that he will go into anaphylactic shock (a severe reaction when the body pumps large amounts of histamine into the tissues causing swelling and difficulty breathing) if he eats, smells or even stares at the stuff.

Even if you buy organic peanut products that are free and clear of pesticides and additives such as corn syrup, emulsifiers and hydrogenated oils that may also trigger allergies, you’re not out of the allergy woods. When peanuts lie in the fields to dry, they develop mold or an aflatoxin, a certain amount allowable by the USDA. If grown in low-humidity states, they are less likely to contain the toxin. Still, people with peanut allergies should avoid them altogether, and be mindful of foods that may contain collateral peanut products such as Asian or Indian sauces and packaged baked goods. Also, read product labels diligently for such warnings as “produced on shared equipment with tree nuts or peanuts.”

‘Happy’ foods will put a smile on your face

Let’s kick off 2010 with some powerful foods that lift your spirits and nix the post-holiday blues.

Endorphin highs

Certain foods trigger the body to produce mood-elevating chemicals. High levels of endorphins in the brain give a euphoric bliss. Endorphins also stave off the aging process — another reason why they’ll make you happy.

Hot peppers or chilies contain capsicin that give the veggie its kick, which also stimulates the nervous wiring in the mouth, sending the signal to the brain to release endorphins producing a temporary high. Hey, could be why chips and salsa are so addictive!

Chocolate, the most-beloved endorphin-producing food, considered by the ancient Greeks as “food of the gods,” contains 300 substances including anandamide that mocks marijuana’s mellow effect on the noggin. Bittersweet is best, especially with cocoa content over 70 percent, while the flavonoids also give this caviar of the sweets an antioxidant boon.

Suspect foods go back to the market

‘Tis the season for resolutions, recycling, recovering and returns.

For the new year, I need to make a resolution to recycle more diligently, pray for recovery for us all, and as for the returns, I have mastered this art. As the self-proclaimed Queen of Returns, my hobby includes everything from shoes and sport utility vehicles to an assortment of food items.

Here are some practical tips on what you can return without becoming a supermarket pest.

As I stroll through the glass doors of the grocery store, I feel the adrenaline rush as my heart palpitates, my breath quickens, and my sweating and trembling hands clutch the thermal bag loaded with stinky food and damaged go-backs.

How well do you know Del Mar? Take this quiz

Here’s a trivia primer on the little town “where the turf meets the surf” — lovely Del Mar. To test your knowledge of your hometown, answer “True” or “False” to the following nine statements. The correct responses will help you start the new decade off with appreciation and insight for the way things are today!


1. Del Mar was named by early settlers from south of the border who set up seaside cottages and admired the coastal ambience so much, they affectionately called the community “Del Mar,” Spanish for “from the sea or marine.”

False. In the 1880s, contractor and engineer Theodore M. Loop, who was working on the first California Southern Railroad project that spanned from San Diego to San Bernardino, built a home north of San Diego along a mesa that he described as “the most attractive place on the entire coast.”

Have a happy, hangover-free new year!

Did you know that New Year’s Eve cheer can be had without nausea and a headache? Let me show you the way:

Standing advice: moderation

Know your limits and stick to them. On average, don’t have more than three drinks in two hours. And generally women are more vulnerable to hangovers as they have a lower metabolic rate than men thanks to the higher ratio of body fat. So drink accordingly.

From soup to nuts

Chicken soup is also supposed to be a good hangover remedy. It has been a miracle cure for all that ails you since biblical times. The ancient Egyptians prescribed the broth as a cure for the common cold, while a 10th-century Persian doc named Avicenna wrote about its curative powers. It replenishes lost fluids caused by dehydration from alcohol consumption, clears the sinuses and acts an anti-inflammatory. My grandma used to call it “Jewish penicillin.” Truly, it wouldn’t hurt!

Heed these flu survival strategies and breathe easier

When holiday and flu season collide, it could put a kibosh on all your fun plans. From a seasoned germ-conscious foodie, here’s a thoughtful primer on how to have the healthiest holidays possible, whether celebrating at home, with friends at their abodes or dining out.

Supermarket safety

The grocery store is a giant petri dish. The supermarket folks are quite aware of this and often provide complimentary wipes for your hands and to wash the contaminated cart handles that babies use as a teething device.

Try to avoid food from lower-level bulk bins where kids have a free-for-all and grab goodies with their bare (and frequently germ-infested) hands.

Kitchens aromatic, bustling during the holidays

This time of year, kitchens around the world are awash with the seasonal perfume of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg as culinary architects painstakingly build gingerbread houses, yule logs, trifle towers, plum pudding pyramids and shortbread sculptures. To accompany these delights are some holiday whistle-wetters, including eggnog, apple cider and hot toddy.

Christmas

My fave is a leavened cupola-shaped Christmas cake drizzled with crema di mascarpone, a blend of sweet cheese and a splash of amaretto. The traditional Italian panettone recipe incorporates such seasonal delights as candied orange and lemon zests, raisins, cranberries, glazed chestnuts and bittersweet chocolate chunks into the yeasty dough.

Turkey post mortem: Polish off leftovers in style

You’ve survived Thanksgiving, round one of a serial food orgy that ends on New Year’s Day. The fall out? Acid reflux, fatigue from a turkey tryptophan and carb O.D., and perhaps a little flush in the cheeks from dishing up a few slices of humble pie.

Preparing a Thanksgiving feast on a shoestring budget

Just because the economy is in the doldrums doesn’t mean you can’t have a scrumptious Thanksgiving meal. Use your culinary creativity and money-saving strategies to dial up a bountiful and healthful holiday table. So what, you won’t have a Heritage grass-fed, organic bird with French chestnut and truffle stuffing, asparagus tips and a Godiva chocolate pecan pie, but you and your loved ones will be breaking bread together and having a blast. Here’s a Thanksgiving primer for dishing up a frugal feast.

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