Sunday, May 31, 2015

Healthy Recipes from Around the World: Russian Borscht

By Tereza Hubkova, M.D.

Growing up behind the Iron Curtain inside communist Czechoslovakia, I was not exposed to a variety of cuisines. Once every couple of years, though, my mom took me to a Russian restaurant called Beriozka (Birch Tree), in Prague.


A trip to our capital was itself a great adventure, but visiting this restaurant for me was the highlight of those days. We almost never ate out in a restaurant, never mind food from another country.

My recipe now is undoubtedly different than that of the Beriozka of my memory. Over the years of making borscht, I combined various recipes and changed them a bit each time based on what happened to be in the refrigerator. What has not changed though, is the heart-warming feeling I get when I eat it with my family
who are now Borscht lovers, even if some started as beet haters.


For a large pot of borscht that could serve 5-6 people, you will need:
2 Tbps Oil (for frying)
1 Medium Onion (chopped)
4 cups Water
2 Large Potatoes (diced)
1 Large or 2 Small Red Beets (diced)

2 Carrots (sliced)
1/4 Large or 1/2 Small Cabbage (chopped well)
4 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup
Fresh or Dried Dill (a couple good shakes or one fresh stalk)
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon

1-1/2 lbs Lean Grass-fed Beef Cubes (about 1") or 1 Can Lima Beans (vegetarian vs. non-)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

A Dollop of Sour Cream or Creme Freche (for decoration)


If you prefer the non-vegetarian option, in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, start by browning the (salted) beef cubes in a vegetable oil of your choice, for about 7 minutes, then add the chopped onion, cooking until translucent. Then add 4 cups of water and cook covered, over medium heat for 45 minutes (or 10 minutes, for the non-meat version).


Add chopped vegetables as well as the rest of the ingredients (except lemon and sour cream); cook for additional 30 minutes, or until all ingredients are tender.

(If you prefer the vegetarian option, add the Lima Beans now, heating through.)

Squeeze half a lemon (or a tablespoon of vinegar, if you have no lemon) into the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Decorate with a dollop of sour cream or creme freche.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Tale of Two Parents (and Peanuts)

By Tereza Hubkova, M.D.

In ways I never imagined, raising a child has redefined the word "responsibility" for me. My husband, Chris, calls my scrupulous behavior "unnecessary worrying". Deep inside I know he's often right.

"Paralysis by analysis" is another way to describe my state-of-mind when it comes to raising my little girl
especially when she was only a baby. Luckily for me, my husband does not hesitate to act swiftly, perfectly complimenting my indecisiveness.

A little over three years ago, I mentioned to him preliminary results of a study suggesting that early introduction of peanuts to babies may, in fact, lower the risk of peanut allergies. Two months later my nine month old daughter seemed unusually interested in an apple with peanut butter I was snacking on. I turned to my husband. "Do you think I should give her some peanut butter? Maybe not. I'm worried about her having an allergic reaction. Maybe next time we're near a hospital, just in case. Right, Sweetie?"

My Sweetie cast an OMG look in my direction, rolling his eyes. Then he informed me that he had been giving our baby peanut butter a few times a week, ever since I mentioned the study. 
I almost fainted, but was also tremendously relieved that all had gone well.

At ten months or so, my husband gave our little girl a piece of lobster in a restaurant. "I think I need another glass of wine," I exclaimed to the waitress while biting my nails. But our little pumpkin did just as well with lobster as she did with peanut butter.

Around our daughter's first birthday, my husband and I decided it was time to start giving our daughter both probiotics and fish oil (Omega-3s). True to form, when it came to deciding exactly how much of each to give her, while I was agonizing over exact dosing, m
y husband simply popped an infant probiotics capsule into my daughter's mouth to be chewed, and let her sip a guesstimated dose of fish oil straight from a spoonwithout measuring by dropper. Gasp!

After another conversation, this time about the hygiene hypothesis and the health benefits of owning pets, my husband found the cutest foster dog in n
eed of a new family. 
One look in Acorn's deep brown eyes and I knew we had to get him. After all, children raised with animals have less allergies. As we discovered two days later, our four legged friend came with bunch of worms and other parasites. "Fantastic!", I hissed at Chris with sarcasm. "Hygiene hypothesis 2.0." But then again, countries known for lots of parasites actually have less autoimmune disorders and almost non-existent Crohn's disease. (We treated Acorn promptly nevertheless.)

Our little girl embraced our new family member right away, including his food bowl, which she would share with him with unmatched enthusiasm. "Don't worry, Tereza," my husband whispered lovingly, "The kind of dog food we buy is healthier than most human food." How reassuring.... Still, seeing her stuff her face with dog food almost every day made me more than a bit uncomfortable. "Sweetheart, it really is not for people," I would negotiate with her. Immediately, my toddler shoved another handful of dog granules in her mouth, announcing victoriously, "Gluten free!"

Somewhere around two and a half my daughter discovered sugar, and all hell broke loose. Don't ever think you'll get away with a "once a week" sweet treat. The little rascal goes through my purse searching for chocolates or mints at every occasion.

"We have to eat rainbow of colors, darling," I tell her, decorating her dinner plate with broccoli, tomatoes, radishes, olives, carrots, and cucumber. "I need something brown!" she exclaims, "Chocolate, mom! We need chocolate!"

We tried to hide the existence of chocolate for as long as possible, in spite of it's health benefits. Somehow I knew that justification would only partially help my guilt and anxiety over how much we caved in. The 80:20 rule 
(be good 80% of the time, allow some slack the other 20%), started tilting in the other direction.

Despite or because of all of it, our daughter seems to be growing just fine and is smarter than both her parents combined (or so it often seems). The results of the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study are officially out; children exposed to peanut butter at least three times a week, beginning at ages 4 - 11 months, and until age 5, had 70-80% less peanut allergies than children avoiding peanuts altogether. While we do not know if the same applies to other common allergens like milk, eggs, or tree nuts, our toddler got away with everything thus far (she's nearly four now). Let's hope it stays that way. All the best to your children too!


THIS SITE DOES NOT PROVIDE ANY MEDICAL ADVICE. Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. You should always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Amazing Experience of Childbirth

By Tereza Hubkova, M.D.

I love remembering how I gave birth to my daughternow almost four years ago.


For most of my life, I had been terrified of the idea that a child would pass through the narrow space between my hips. My poor little vagina! Even as a little girl, when left to play close enough to hear the stories my mom shared with her girlfriends over coffee, I heard about the terrible pains of labor. "I thought I was gonna die," I heard my mom exclaim. "I was squealing for help, calling 'God', but nobody would come. The nurses were calling me hysterical." Sadly, I don't doubt that communist maternity wards, with their old ceramic tile and cynical staff, resembled torture chambers.


Even though I knew things had changed in the forty years since my mom gave birth to me, I still had a deeply ingrained fear of labor. And here I was, pregnant with my first child. Being on the thin side, with narrow hips and no abdominal muscles to speak of, I was quite sure I could not push strongly enough. I asked my gynecologist about Cesarean. "Hmm, Tereza, we could use your advanced maternal age to justify it (Thanks for pointing that out!), but I am quite sure you can push."


I didn't think so. But I knew of the benefits to the baby of passing through the vaginal canal. That's how my little love would get started with healthy probiotics from my body. In preparation for labor, the vaginal canal's bacterial inhabitants, such as Lactobacillus, experience a population explosion during the last three months of pregnancy. These precious bacteria would be crucial for my baby's digestive and immune systems, and as it turns out, even for her metabolism and neurological development.


I am not, as Jeff Leach says, "too posh to push." I attended pregnancy yoga classes to stretch what needed to be stretched and worked a few times each day on strengthening my quads. By squatting rather than laying down during labor, I intended to allow gravity to help me along for as long as possible. I sat through a Lamaze breathing class with my husbandwho would proudly become my birth couchand visualized it all going super easily.

Sadly, one out of every three babies in the U.S. are born by C-sectionoften not for a medically necessary reasonbut rather on demand. Shockingly, in Brazil, one out of every two deliveries is by C-section.

One evening, after an at home dinner and movie, my water broke. It was a month before my due date, so I was not quite sure if I hadn't just peed on myself (any woman who ever bore a baby will understand)—something that had happened to me around month six. Crawling around our bed on all fours, my husband and I sniffed the fluid, trying to determine it's origin. We even Googled it, but still were unsure.

Hesitantly, by around 11 pm, I called my obstetrician. "Oh Tereza! You probably just peed on yourself," she exclaimed. "But if you want to be sure, go to the ER." We hopped in the car.


On our way to the hospital I started having my first contractions, though I was still in denial. When we arrived in the ER, I tried to persuade the triage nurse that I must be suffering from a urinary tract infection. She gave me a stern, but gently knowing look, "I can tell when a woman is in labor."

I was admitted to the maternity ward by midnight, with my cervix dilated barely to one centimeter. The nurse notified my obstetrician, but as a woman giving birth to her first child, I wasn't expected to deliver for at least another twelve hours. My obstetrician could stay in her pajamas. I laid back visualizing my cervix dilating nicely, and imagining my baby sliding down the birth canal like a water slide.

Two hours later, my cervix was at nine cm, and harsh contractions made me holler profanities. "Don't push, the doctor isn't here yet," cried the nurse as she hurried to the phone. I imagined, as instructed by my hypnotherapist friend, that each contraction was a wave on the ocean, peaking then lessening in strength. Knowing that I would always have at least a few seconds of rest before the next contraction was tremendously helpful. The obstetrician flew through a few red lights, and half an hour later I was finally allowed to push. By 4 am, my beautiful girl was born, healthy as can be.

"Let's have another one," I told my husband a few hours later, holding my sweet little girl in my arms. She was so beautiful, and the entire experience so empowering, I knew that if I could do that, I could do anything. And so can you!

THIS SITE DOES NOT PROVIDE ANY MEDICAL ADVICE. Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. You should always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.