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Samir Becic



Q:  How does eating healthy and exercising impact my health?

A: With proper exercise and nutrition, you can control, manage or completely avoid 60-70% of illnesses such as: heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, colon cancer, breast cancer, stroke, heart attack, arthritis, etc.  Working out improves your confidence and self-esteem. It aids you in getting better sleep and giving you more energy and stamina throughout the day. Exercising slows down the aging process, improves sexual performance and restores libido. Last but not least, a healthy lifestyle builds and maintains healthy bones, muscles and joints while simultaneously increasing your immune system.

Q: How is my social life affecting my health?

A: Being healthy isn’t just a lack of illness, it’s a positive balance between body, mind and soul. In order for your social life to affect your life in a positive way, you need to create a healthy environment to socialize in. Socialize in a physically friendly a environment with walks in the park, meeting in an exercise facility for a class, biking, hiking, volleyball or tennis. Surround yourself with people who believe in healthy lifestyle and encourage your friends to join you. If you need to meet in a restaurant or a bar, choose healthy foods and low calorie drinks to stay on track.

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Health & Wellness


Houston's top chefs offer advice on low-fat, flavorful cooking


Maurizio Ferrarese

Quattro–Four Seasons Hotel Houston

What do people love most about Italian food? The pasta, of course! With pasta, it’s all about portion control. Look for serving sizes on the package and follow them. Most people prepare more pasta than they really need because it does look like a lot until after it is cooked. Also, use more whole wheat pasta.

For pasta sauce, you can have a creamy sauce and still stay away from cream. Combine a bit of olive oil and low-fat butter or margarine, and it will make a sauce taste creamy. You can also use fat-free cream cheese. It absorbs flavors beautifully. Sauté some chopped garlic and onion, then add a dab of the fat-free cream cheese and you have a very tasty cream cheese sauce.

Always think about what you are going to cook and how to improve on the traditional ways you do it. Salt can be a villain, and it is often used to flavor dishes when other, more healthful substitutes not only work as well, but actually improve the dish. Use herbs, either one you particularly like, or take several and chop them up together, especially rosemary, basil and sage. They bring in flavors that most people are trying to get by adding salt. And, of course, this is Italian, so never be without a nice supply of fresh garlic.

“When having Mexican food, I substitute corn tortillas for flour as often as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant if it has or will make baked tortillas for you instead of fried. If not, I put a handful of chips on my plate and have the waiter take the basket away.

“Fresh lime or lemon juice adds zing to any dish, and Greek yogurt is a great substitution for sour cream on tacos and nachos, and it’s a nice dressing for salads. It also goes great on baked potatoes and sweet potatoes. I use peppers, fresh or dried, as much as possible to provide flavor without adding salt. Fresh herbs are great, too. Fresh jicama adds great crunch to dishes without many calories.”

Make sure you always have olive oil, vinegar, especially balsamic, and fresh herbs on hand. These are the healthy basics for marinades, salad dressing and even a dip for fresh bread. Remember, Italians love to eat well and live long. This is how we do it!



The Virtue of Tolerance

Tolerance. What does it mean? According to Jill Carroll, Ph.D., who appears this month on “Living Smart With Patricia Gras” on HoustonPBS Channel 8, tolerance means you’re free to adhere to your own convictions, while accepting that others may have theirs.

Carroll is a lifetime scholar, author and student of religion and philosophy. She is an adjunct associate professor of religious studies at Rice University, and is also the founder of the Amazing Faiths Project, a national grassroots community initiative that fosters interpersonal relationships between people of all faiths and no faiths through dialogue.

“In my understanding, tolerance is about our capacity for difference, what kind of capacity internally, what kind of capability do we have to just be with people who are different from us in fundamental ways,” says Carroll.


In Carroll’s latest book, “Dialogue of Civilizations, Gulen’s Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse,” she features the Sufi leader who promotes peaceful co-existence of people from different backgrounds.

“Tolerance is about how we deal with difference, whether it’s a different skin color, different background, different language, different ethnicity or different religion,” Carroll says.

Carroll discusses the tolerance companion virtues, which include charity, justice and prudence. She relates prudence, perhaps the most ambiguous of these virtues, to wisdom.

Carroll also raises the question of how we feel when we are around people who are different from us. She says that we as humans have to accept the fact that not all of us are the same. As the world changes and our country and its population evolve, we naturally push ourselves to be more tolerant. Carroll says that we are being pushed to be more tolerant now because our demographics are different than they once were.

“Living Smart with Patricia Gras” airs on Sundays at 3 p.m. and repeats Fridays at 10 p.m. on Houston PBS Channel 8. For more information, visit or Patricia Gras also co-hosts “Latina Voices: Smart Talk,” which airs Sundays at 2:30 p.m. on HoustonPBS Channel 8.


—Patricia Gras and Cassady Lance

Photo: Gras (right) with Jill Carroll. [Photo By Anisworth Duvernay]

longhornLonestar Delicacy

Remember the catch phrase “Where’s the beef?” Apparently, it’s right here in Texas. Longhorn beef is the latest culinary craze, with demand for this homegrown, grassfed delicacy growing.

“Grassfed beef is higher in beta carotene (vitamin A), conjugated linolic acid (CLA) and Omega 3s,” explains Arie Funk, who, with his wife Arza, own Sabra Ranch ( in La Grange.

“Research has shown all these elements are crucial in reducing cholesterol, and the risk of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and other life threatening diseases. We started the business of producing grassfed Longhorn a year ago. We had Longhorns on the ranch grazing happily when we heard about the grassfed and locavore movements,” Funk says.

Arie and Arza approached the American Grassfed Association to get the ranch certified as a producer of grassfed cattle. The ranch is also Animal Welfare Approved, meaning the cows are treated humanely.

“They graze on native grass with no chemicals, no hormones and no antibiotics,” Funk said. The Funks moved to Texas 33 years ago from Israel and entered the jewelry business. They are the owners of Armari Designs. They are also avid cyclists, with their 50-mile bike rides taking them to the LaGrange area. They purchased the ranch—Sabra means “prickly pear” in Hebrew—six years ago.

“That’s how the idea of a ranch came to us,” explains Arza. “We were driving an hour and a half every weekend to ride our tandem bike away from city traffic, and while we were riding, we kept noticing many beautiful ranches. We also have three grown sons and they had always talked about wanting a ranch to use as a place for their growing families to gather.”

Beef from Sabra Ranch is being served at eateries throughout the Houston area.

“Haven, t’afia, Max’s Winedive, The Houstonian Golf Club and Houston Oaks Country Club get deliveries of our meat weekly,” Arza says, “so if people are curious about the taste, they can visit any one of those places and find it on the menu.”

—Lisa Malosky