Eating Well: To Reduce Stress - #117

BURT WOLF: What we eat and drink can increase or decrease the amount of stress that we live with. Let's take a look at how we can use food to help control that stress. We'll see what television host Regis Philbin does about it, we'll cook up a great anti-stress recipe for chicken and pungent sauce. We'll discover how to use food to prepare for a stressful situation, and what keeps Sid Caesar laughing. Join me, Burt Wolf, eating well to reduce stress. 

These days almost everywhere we turn we come face to face with stressful situations. Money, personal relationships, work, family responsibilities, health and physical well-being, eating properly, staying fit, the ever-increasing rate of change in our lives and our environment all add up to the incredible pressure of everyday life. As the modern world becomes more and more complex, so do our own worries and anxieties. Considering what we are all confronted with every day it is amazing that we can handle as much stress as most of us do. Ah, but we pay a big price for dealing with all of that stress. Whenever we are confronted by a traumatic or fearful situation, our bodies change their chemistry and we change our behavior in order to try and adapt to that situation. Some of those adaptations are wonderful and healthy, and some of them are a disaster. A while back I was sitting in my doctor's office. He told me that I had high-blood pressure on a level that would be dangerous to my life. That was a stressful situation. I adapted to it by taking his advice, losing twenty pounds, and starting an exercise program where I exercised four days out of each week. That was a healthful adaptation. A bad adaptation can lead to disease and death. Stress can be reduced by a number of things. Exercise, increasing the amount of sleep, taking the time to catch your breath a bit and put your problems into the correct perspective. A well-deserved vacation, and, of course, eating properly. Scientists are finding out that stress can affect your body's ability to process the nutrients in the foods you eat. Digestive disturbances that often come along with emotional distress can interfere with your body's absorption of very important nutrients that are essential to your good health. The pressure of added stress can rob your body of the following nutrients: vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and protein. Three of the vitamins that are being talked about in connection with an anti-stress diet are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. Always remember them because they spell "ACE," which is what I'm trying so hard to become. One of the reasons that doctors are so interested in Vitamin A is because Vitamin A is critical to boosting our immune system and protecting us from disease. The theory runs that if you're under stress you may lose Vitamin A. If you lose A, your immune system is impaired, you're more susceptible to disease, and that may very well be the mechanism behind the fact that so many people get ill more often when they're under stress. The way to protect yourself against the problem, or at least try to protect yourself against the problem, is to increase your intake of foods rich in Vitamin A. Skim milk products like low-fat cheeses which should also be low-sodium, skim milk itself to which Vitamin A has been added, and chicken. One of my favorite low-fat chicken recipes is chicken in pungent sauce which I learned in Stowe, Vermont. In addition to the fact that this recipe is loaded with Vitamin A which can help to combat stress, Vermont itself provides the perfect remedy to the pressures of civilization. Vermont, the Green Mountain State, is also the ideal place if you're seeking a soothing state of mind. (MUSIC) The Top-Notch Resort in Stowe, Vermont is a top-notch facility with all of the vacation comforts that you would expect. Not the least of which is Anton Florey, a master chef with a real talent for straightforward, good-tasting food. Here's his recipe for chicken breast in a pungent sauce. Minced garlic and minced fresh ginger root are sauteed in a few tablespoons of sesame oil. A little sherry, a little rice-wine vinegar are added and boiled for a minute. And a half-cup of ketchup and a half-cup of pineapple juice are poured in. That's simmered for about five minutes, then it's strained and added back to the pan. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are sauteed in a little oil and added into the pan with the sauce. The chicken is covered and cooked for five minutes more. Walnuts and chunks of pineapple are added for a minute of heating, and the chicken is served surrounded by the nuts and the pineapple with the sauce on top. These days chicken is an inexpensive dish but it wasn't always that way. In the 1500s King Francis IV of France promised his people that someday he hoped to have a chicken in every pot, and for hundreds of years chicken was kind of expensive and you only had it on Sundays as part of a big family dinner. Fortunately that has changed. Beneath the statue of the Greek god Prometheus who brought fire to man, making these chicken recipes possible, is the Sea Grill Restaurant where chef Seppe Regley prepares a warm chicken salad. The chicken is boiled in soup stock and the skin is removed. The chicken meat is pulled into bite-sized strips and mixed with a little mustard and a little horseradish. A few sliced mushrooms and some diced celery. A dish of olive oil and about half as much of vinegar. Let that marinate together for about twenty minutes. Meanwhile take a skewer and thread it with some slices of pineapple, plum, peaches, kiwi, orange, or whatever fruit you like. Roll the fruit for a moment, put a few greens on the plate, then the chicken, the grilled fruit, and a red-pepper garnish. They say that American cooking is like a melting pot where cuisines come from all over the world and are blended together. I disagree; I think American cooking is like a tossed salad where elements come from all over the world and are mixed together but you can clearly see each ingredient. Italian cooking in America is a perfect example. The restaurant Il Nido in New York City under the direction of Addy Giovanetti produces dishes that are as authentic as anything in Italy. This is chicken Nicola named after Nicola the chef. You've got to figure it's gonna be a good dish if he puts his name on it. Skinless and boneless pieces of chicken are sauteed until brown. Then they're cooked in a three hundred and fifty degree oven for ten minutes. Meanwhile garlic and jalapeno peppers are cooked together in a little olive oil. Jalapeno peppers contain something called capscam, which can easily burn your eyes. So after you slice one of these little babies, wash your hands before you continue the recipe. The cooked chicken is added, and a little chicken stock. Everything cooks on high to thicken the sauce. Finally chunks of pecorino romano cheese on top. Amazing, the cheese really brings up the flavor. And all these chicken dishes contain the Vitamin A that scientists believe can help reduce the effects of stress. Vitamin C may turn out to be a really great stress-buster. It's important to your immune system and it helps wounds heal, which is pretty critical when you're under stress. You'll find lots of Vitamin C in citrus juice, citrus fruits, strawberries, green peppers, green leafy vegetables, and melons. I like to get a lot of C into my diet every day, by taking a mixture of half-orange juice and half-water and sipping it through the whole day. Another vitamin that you have to take a really good look at if you're interested in an anti-stress diet is Vitamin E. It's known as an anti-oxidant and therefore performs a whole series of functions that help protect you against disease You'll find lots of Vitamin E in vegetable oil, nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. I like to get Vitamin E into my diet with a green leafy salad that I learned on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (MUSIC) Now the U.S. Virgin Islands have a pretty stress-free environment to begin with. The only knots that get tied around here are the ones made by the sailors. This is the spot where you just sit back, kick off your shoes, and find out what relaxation is all about. And just to play it safe, you can stop into the Hotel 1829, ease your way along their flower-filled paths, and down into their courtyard dining room. A truly laid-back corner of the world where you can sit and watch the table-side preparation of their wilted spinach salad. A little mustard is heated in a pan, a vinagrette dressing is added -- the vegetable oil base in the dressing is packed with Vitamin E -- mushrooms, onions, and a little grated low-fat cheese go on the spinach leaves. The hot dressing and the mustard is fully blended together so it's nice and smooth, and then poured on. The pan is used as a cover to keep in the heat so the spinach will wilt. That takes about two minutes, and it warms up all of the other ingredients too and blends the flavors around. A couple of tosses, a few turns, and you're ready to serve. Besides the Vitamin E in the vegetable oil, the spinach is packed with Vitamin A and Vitamin C. This is a real "ace" of a recipe. Hey, it could give me a new leaf on life. When you're dealing with stress it's important to remember to eat. Don't let a stressful situation place you in a spot where you forget to have your meals. The first thing that will happen is that you will be hungry, and that will increase your stress. Then you will find yourself in a spot where you have lots of food for a short period of time, and no food for a long period of time. And that will cause your blood-sugar to fluctuate. Fluctuating blood sugar leads to mood swings and they are not fun when you're under stress. Speaking of moods, our next guest is a man who has a positive effect on the moods of millions of people. He also balances stress in a way that makes it look easy. The unstoppable Regis Philbin. For millions of viewers, a morning without "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" just wouldn't be morning. Five days a week this dynamic duo has perked us up like a good cup of morning coffee. And although they make their work look easy, performing live every day in front of millions can lead to some unpredictable and stressful situations.

REGIS PHILBIN: What I've done for women, just in this business!


PHILBIN: Well, you never know how a guest is gonna be, you know. You're always worried about how they are, we had Roseanne Barr on just this week and, with her husband, and you know, you keep hearing these horror stories about Roseanne Barr, at least keep reading them, tabloids have beaten up on her pretty good, she turned out to be a wonderful guest and a terrific lady, you know. I can't see that anything major has happened because the way I do the show is that, if there is a calamity or a disaster that is incorporated into the framework of the show and becomes part of what we're doing.

WOLF: How do you deal with the stress of being on live every day?

PHILBIN: Well, I used to think there was no stress involved, you know, because I was live, there was a little added element of excitement, in other words like throwing that tightrope out and daring myself and my co-host to walk across it every day. And you know the first fourteen minutes has always been just ad-libbed. She doesn't know what I'm gonna say, don't know where she's been, we find out on the air. But lately, maybe through working out I've come to realize that maybe I am taking a toll on myself by doing it that way, not that I'm gonna change it, but to reduce that stress I've included certain exercises to build up my stamina, you know, the bicycling and all of those endurance exercises, which I think relieves stress and also gives you more energy.

WOLF: Regis is certainly filled with positive energy, makes a great case for a regular exercise program. No doubt about it, the world is becoming more and more stressful. But we're seeing an interesting thing: in our industrialized societies, the more stress we have, the more people are turning to exercise. And there appears to be a scientific relationship between the two. When we exercise, our brain secretes an enzyme that makes us feel less stressed. Nice relationship there. They also say if you exercise enough you'll get enough of that enzyme to give you an exercise high point when you feel just wonderful. Well, just between you and me, I have been exercising for forty-five years, I have yet to feel that exercise high point; I just seem to feel a sense of enormous exhaustion. But my doctors say it's all good for me, and that I am in excellent cardiovascular shape as a result of that exercise, and I think my lucky stars for that. And speaking of lucky stars, here's a man whose program for reducing stress is as simple and positive as you're likely to find. A legendary figure in comedy who's an inspiration to all of us, Mr. Sid Caesar. (MUSIC) Sid Caesar became a superstar of comedy over forty years ago with television's "Your Show of Shows." (MUSIC) Caesar, Imogene Coca and Carl Reiner often used food as the basis for their jokes.

SID CAESAR: Is there anything wrong with me bringing home Chinese food?



CAESAR: He absconded with the whole meal. (LAUGHTER)

Tell you about the secret of staying young, I mean your attitude is what makes you stay young. It's really, it's a, it's a wonderful life, it truly is, I mean to think I used to drag myself out of bed and go, God, another day, what am I gonna do, how am I gonna get there, why am I doing, who is, no, he didn't, did he call or, everything was a pain, you know, everything. He's gonna, oh no, he's gonna, they're gonna give me an award, oh gee, I gotta stay, I gotta, everything was down, you know, everything was down. Now it's like, hey it's rainy outside, I can stay inside and read, you know, I'll work out and I'll feel good. It's all attitude. How you approach life, that's the whole thing, I mean it sounds like it's, you know, Alice in Wonderland, but it works out, it works for me.

WOLF: But life wasn't always laughs for the king of comedy. Twelve years ago Sid Caesar took a good look at the direction his life was going, and made the most important decision of his life.

CAESAR: Well, that happened when I was, when I finally gave up alcohol and sleeping pills. I had to because otherwise it was gonna take over me, or give me up. But when I did that I gave that up, which was very hard, but then when I started to, you know, just go out for a walk, and I started to watch what I ate and I, I immediately said, well there's no fat, no salt, no sugar. I didn't learn that from anybody, I just said no fat, no salt, no sugar, because I figured if I'm gonna give that up and I might as well go for everything, you know, I might as well do it. And that's been the basis of my diet, the past, oh, twelve years.

WOLF: How do you keep up your energy?

CAESAR: Well if you eat well and you, your exercise thing you don't have to be a tremendous ape, but exercise, and then I watch the stress. And you'd be surprised how much energy you got, because a lot of it is wasted on stress, which you don't even realize you're doing. If you know, it's a matter of going like, it's like going like this, or going like this. That's the difference, it really is. Because when you're like this it's stress, and you don't realize it, but if you catch yourself, if you can catch yourself you feel (INAUDIBLE), this is like, I gotta go, I can't (INAUDIBLE), it ain't gonna make no difference, you know, everybody blowing their horn, you know, to get to the next red light. They're blowing horns and (NONSENSE SOUNDS), cursing and screaming, to the get to the next red light, they ain't going anywhere. Nobody's going anywhere, in this town, forget about it. Mean really. What are you blowing a horn for, I mean it's like insane.

WOLF: Now, some forty years since "Your Show of Shoes" premiered, Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca are still at it. They are living proof that having a positive attitude helps to rewind the clock.

CAESAR: If you feel good about yourself and you start to like yourself, you know because if you take care of yourself, if I do nothing else for the rest of the day, I mean I, I know I did something for myself, you know, even if I just go, say go to a movie or this and that, if I do nothing, you know you feel that you did something because you took a walk, you worked out, you took a shave, a shower, you ate well, you know that's, makes you feel good.

WOLF: Can't imagine a better way of looking at life, he's a wonderful example for all of us. And when it comes to choosing a recipe for Sid, here's one with his name written all over it. Caesar salad. It was invented in 1920 by a man named Caesar Cardini, who had a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. It's traditionally made with lettuce, oil, lemon juice, cheese, anchovy, and raw eggs. Now you can easily think that those ingredients are quite safe, but that might not be true. As you may know many of the chickens sold in the United States contain salmonella bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Fortunately when the chicken is properly cooked the bacteria is destroyed, but salmonella bacteria is often found in raw eggs. Those uncooked eggs in the Caesar salad could be as dangerous to you as Brutus was to Julius. In the interest of food and good health, I've modified all my recipes that previously used raw eggs. Now I make my Caesar salad by blending together hard-boiled egg whites, anchovy, mustard, garlic, and lemon juice. A little oil, a touch of tabasco and Worcestershire, lettuce, cheese, and croutons. By the way, the green leafy lettuce is packed with nutrients. Iceberg lettuce in comparison has about as much nutrition as an iceberg. A healthier Caesar salad. What do you think about that, Sid?

CAESAR: Boy that was like (WHISTLES). That was whoopee.

WOLF: Scientists who are trying to develop an anti-stress diet tell us that in addition to Vitamins A, C, and E, we should increase our intake of foods that are rich in magnesium, manganese, zinc, low-fat protein, and calcium. Let's take a look at each of these nutrients, see what they do, and find easy ways to get 'em into our diet. Magnesium helps keep your nerves functioning properly. You find magnesium in nuts and whole-grain cereals. Manganese also helps keep your nerves in good shape, and you find it in whole-grain cereals and beans. Zinc is bound up with your immune system and there are large amounts of zinc in meat, seafood and poultry. They're also the right foods for low-fat protein. Calcium is found in low-fat milk and milk products, green leafy vegetables and cauliflower. Botanists who have studied the history of our foods believe that cabbage is the oldest vegetable still in cultivation. We've been growing them for well over four thousand years. The word coleslaw comes from the Dutch word culsla, cul means cabbage and sla means salad. That's a pretty good descriptive name. Coleslaw shows up in American cooking as early as 1792. All cabbage dishes were popular with settlers because cabbage keeps crisp and fresh well into the winter, long after most vegetables have been lost to frost. These days a good reason to love cabbage is its relationship to good health. Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable; that means that when you look at the base of the vegetable you can see a cross formed by the ribs. Cruciferous vegetables seem to have a cancer-blocking effect. Cabbage is also high in Vitamin C and low in calories. The real trick in turning cabbage into coleslaw is to do it in a way that doesn't add calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. And here's the way I do that. I take a large bowl and blend together one cup of reduced-calorie mayonnaise, half a cup of plain yogurt made from skim milk, and a quarter-cup of prepared mustard. There are some low-salt brands of mustard that are excellent, check 'em out. And three tablespoons of white-wine vinegar, a little dried tarragon, a little celery seed and some fresh pepper. Then two large heads of cabbage that have been finely shredded. Mix it and you're set. These days Americans eat over two billion pounds of cabbage a year. Most of the cabbages in our supermarkets are bred for their big, good-tasting leaves. Savoy cabbage, winter cabbage, even our common white cabbage is all bred to get a big, good-tasting leaf. But that's not true for all of our cabbages. Cauliflower is a cabbage and it's bred for its little white flower buds. The white center is actually a dense mass of immature flower buds called the curd. It's the heart of a cauliflower, and what a healthy heart it is too. It contains calcium and Vitamin C, both of which are extremely important to you as you get older, and it also has some potassium and some phospherous, and those are good things to have in your diet too. Cauliflower is one of the favorite ingredients of chef Leslie Revson, who's one of the great young chefs in our country. I've been watching her work for almost fifteen years and I continue to be impressed. Today she's making a cauliflower salad. Start by cutting off the flowerettes from a large head of cauliflower. Make sure to peel off the leaves under the bud; they can be very bitter. Then cook the flowerettes in boiling water for three minutes, drain them, and set them aside for a few minutes to cool down. Meanwhile, make a vinagrette dressing by combining two tablespoons of peanut oil and two tablespoons of olive oil. Both of those oils are highly unsaturated, which is good for you, and the Vitamin E content in the olive oil is a recommended part of a diet for mature munching. Add in three tablespoons of white wine vinegar, three tablespoons of lemon juice, and a pinch of chopped garlic. Pour that dressing over the cauliflower buds and let that marinate together for about thirty minutes. Then gently stir in three tablespoons of low-fat plain yogurt, which is a nice source of low-fat protein and calcium. A little fresh mint, and onto a bed of lettuce leaves. A sprinkling of chopped chives, and you are looking at a nutritional package that's right out of the fountain of youth. Good taste and good looks too. This is a bistro restaurant in the French city of Bourdeaux. Bistros are well-known for taking simple ingredients and preparing down-home dishes that make you feel kind of cared-for. In New York City French bistro dishes are prepared at La Cite by chef Steve Malina. Today he's making chicken glazed in apple cider. Pieces of chicken are sauteed in a little oil until they're browned on all sides, and then removed from the pan. And in the same pan, celery, onions and sliced mushrooms are sauteed. One of the best pieces of equipment that you can have in your kitchen is a set of tongs with long handles that give you a good grip on your food and you can really turn things around, and your hand is far enough back so that you won't feel the heat. Apple cider is poured in, and the chicken returned to the pan. Broth is added, the surface is covered, and everything cooks another ten minutes. For serving, a ring of carmelized apple slices, the chicken pieces in the center, some sauteed pearl onions and mushrooms, and finally a little of the natural juices from the pot. Chicken sauteed with apple cider. In 1492 Christopher Columbus went off in search of a shortcut to the rich spices of the Orient. When he first hit land in the Caribbean he thought he had come upon one of the offshore islands of India. And when he was served a native Caribbean dish that tasted hot and spicy, Columbus assumed that it had been flavored with black Asian pepper. But he was wrong. The flavor came from a member of the capscam family, a New World plant group that produces hot chili peppers on one side, and sweet bell peppers on the other. Bell peppers start with a bright green color; as they mature they turn bright red. They're high in Vitamin C and A. Chef Leslie Revson at the Metropolitan Restaurant uses them to make a red-pepper dressing. Put two red peppers over a flame or under the broiler. Turn them a few times until their skin blisters and blackens. Then run cold water over them and remove the skin. Take out the seeds and the ribs and chop the peppers into small pieces. Puree them in a blender until you have a very smooth paste. Add in four tablespoons of red wine vinegar, three-quarters of a cup of olive oil, and the juice of half a lemon. Blend everything together. The dressing is perfect as a dip for raw vegetables, over a salad, or as a sauce for a fish. Finally, if you have a little advance notice that you're heading into a difficult, stress-filled situation, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself. Twenty-four hours before you head into that spot, make sure you're on a low-fat diet, no alcohol, low-calorie, filled with complex carbohydrates like fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and whole-grain cereals. Also, in the two hours before the actual situation begins, no food at all. You don't wanna be digesting food when you're in a difficult spot. I'm really glad that I'm up to date on the most scientific information on an anti-stress diet, because my kids are coming home for the weekend. That's Eating Well To Reduce Stress, please join us next time as we travel around the world looking for things that taste good and make it easier to eat well. I'm Burt Wolf.