Angelica Home Kitchen’s Same Day Bean Recipe


Conventional wisdom has it that you should soak your beans overnight before cooking them. This method works, of course, but here is another way to do it. This same day method is certainly a good way to cook beans if you forgot to soak them overnight, and the Angelica Home Kitchen Cookbook suggests that cooking this way is more effective in breaking down the complex sugars in beans that cause gas.


  • 1 cup dried beans (black, kidney, pinto, Great Northern)
  • 1 quart plus 5 cups cold water
  • 1 (3-inch) piece of dried kombu
  • sea salt


  • Sort through beans and discard pebbles.
  • Rinse beans under cold running water
  • Place beans in 1 1/2 to 3 quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan with 1 quart of the water. Bring to boil and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and allow beans to swell for one hour.
  • Drain and Rinse beans; place them in a pot with kombu and 5 cups cold water.
  • Bring to a boil, cover pot, lower the flame and simmer gently for 50 minutes or until the beans and kombu are tender.
  • Add sea salt to taste and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • Your beans are ready for use in another recipe!

Bring Your Lunch


Here are  five  of my favorite easy lunches to bring to work:

1. Leftover anything. It is easy to make extra the night before and then pack up the leftovers in your favorite storage container. Favorites of mine are chili, lentil stew, risotto, roasted veggies, whole grains with tomato sauce, and leftover sauteed greens. To keep your lunch fresh, a refrigerator is great, but you can also use a cold pack from your freezer.

2. Nut butter and jelly on california protein style bread or whole grain tortilla, carrot, and piece of fruit.  Sometimes I substitute nut butter and banana. Sometimes plain nut butter . It is pretty tasty and keeps you satisfied until the end of the day. Other sandwich ideas: lots of greens, leftover meat, pickles and mustard; mozzarella, tomato and pesto; avocado spread like butter, lettuce, and any bean made into a bean spread (whizz it in a food processor with a teeny bit of olive oil and salt.)

3. Cleaned salad greens, sliced chicken or beef with home made vinaigrette, some nuts, and piece of fruit.

4. Black beans (or any kind of bean), corn, edamame, cherry tomatoes, and leftover grain (rice, barley, quinoa etc…) Mix, add a little vinaigrette, a little yogurt if you  like for creaminess – voila!

5. Hard boiled eggs (2), cottage cheese, whole carrots, fruit.

Here is an easy prep step:

On Sunday make a bunch of hard boiled eggs, cook a pot of beans, bake some sweet potatoes, and wash some carrots. When I cook easy stuff in bulk, and store them in the refrigerator,  I can just grab things on my way out, ensure that I have something pretty healthy to eat, and I know that I’m not going to take a lot of time to prep in the morning. It isn’t always glamorous, but, if you can grab your lunch and head outside away from the computer, chances are your body will feel much better than if you go out for Chinese food or a burrito. You will certainly save money, and you might even have the energy to get a little walk in before you head back to work.

Sleep Hygiene


Avril Swan, MD

If your physician tells you that you need to improve your sleep hygiene, don’t take it as a personal insult. Sleep hygiene has nothing to do with cleanliness. Instead, it is the term that physicians and sleep specialists use to describe sleep habits. Many sleep problems are due to suboptimal sleep hygiene. Here is a list of some simple things that you can do to optimize the quality and quantity of your sleep.

Good Sleep Hygiene Practices

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
  • Make sure that your bedroom is dark, quiet, and an optimal temperature.
  • Use the bed only for sleep and sex. No eating, no TV,  no computer games or iphones.
  • For some people reading delays sleep, for others it brings it on quickly. Know your relationship between reading and sleep and use the relationship to your advantage.
  • Don’t eat big meals or exercise within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime
  • Limit alcohol to 1 drink with dinner. Even this may be too much for some and cause waking during the night.
  • Avoid stressful activity such as work or watching the news an hour before bed.
  • Establish bedtime rituals. For instance:  read a book, take a shower, meditate, and then go to bed.

If you find yourself waking in the middle of the  night with your mind racing, try not to lay there and clock watch. Watching the minutes tick by helplessly leads to a vicious cycle that results in more worry because you aren’t getting back to sleep. Instead, get up, move to another room and do some relaxation exercises. When you are feeling tired go back and try again. Sometimes moving to another sleep space can help, especially if a partner is tossing, turning, or snoring.

Like any change of habit,  improving sleep hygiene takes commitment and practice. Is it worth the trouble? Yes. Lack of sleep isn’t just a quality of life issue.  Poor sleep quantity and quality has been correlated with increased inflammation and risk of chronic disease, increased risk of obesity, and increased risk of mental illness. Children and adolescents with suboptimal sleep are more likely to have problems in school and social relationships. We have all heard that driving after sleep deprivation is equivalent to having a dangerous blood alcohol level.

If you are having trouble with insomnia or daytime fatigue and you have tried the above strategies, please seek help from your primary care doctor. There are many options and alternatives once we have an understanding of what is causing the problem.

Bollinger T, Bollinger A, Oster H, Solbach W. Sleep, immunity, and circadian clocks: a mechanistic model. Gerontology. 2010;56(6):574-80. Epub 2010 Feb 3. Review. PubMed PMID: 20130392.

Diekelmann S, Wilhelm I, Born J. The whats and whens of sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Sleep Med Rev. 2009 Oct;13(5):309-21. Epub 2009 Feb 28. Review. PubMed PMID: 19251443.

Chaput JP, Klingenberg L, Sjödin A. Do all sedentary activities lead to weight gain: sleep does not. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Nov;13(6):601-7. Review. PubMed PMID: 20823775.

Mullington JM, Simpson NS, Meier-Ewert HK, Haack M. Sleep loss and inflammation. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Oct;24(5):775-84. Review. PubMed PMID: 21112025.
Vandekerckhove M, Cluydts R. The emotional brain and sleep: an intimate relationship. Sleep Med Rev. 2010 Aug;14(4):219-26. Epub 2010 Apr 2. Review. PubMed PMID: 20363166.

Nature Champions and Park Prescriptions


by Avril Swan, MD

In late September of 2010, I had the opportunity to gather with a group of like-minded health care providers who believe, as I do, that time spent in nature is important for the physical and mental well-being of children. The occasion was a workshop sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation called “Train the Trainer”. We spent 3 days learning, collaborating, and brainstorming about how to link healthcare and our public lands through the use of “Park Prescriptions.” Park Prescriptions is the newly coined term that refers to an actual prescription given by a doctor to a patient that instructs them in an individualized plan for spending time in parks or other natural settings. Medical literature is starting to become available that provides data to support what we all suspect: time in nature is important to human health.  Time in nature has been linked with increased physical activity, decreased stress and depression, better concentration, and even improvements in breathing function. (McCurdy L, et al.Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care 2010;5:102-117)  At the end of the three-day conference, participants came away with knowledge about the current medical literature on the subject and tools to teach other physicians how to write park prescriptions. Most importantly  we developed new relationships with community organizations such as  US Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service.

As a result of this training, I met another physician, Nooshin Razani, MD,MPH a Pediatrician with the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at UCSF, and Howard Levitt, director of communication and education at the National Park Service in San Francisco. We were all enthusiastic to get to word out about park prescriptions, and decided to collaborate to get the ball rolling. After many meetings we have started to put together a pilot project to write park prescriptions to get kids from all parts of the city out to Crissy Field. The program will involve our training physicians at UCSF and hopefully in the Community Clinics throughout San Francisco. These physicians will then incorporate park prescriptions into their practice, handing them out to youth as they see appropriate. The children  will be given incentives (small prizes) for every 3 visits they make to Crissy Field.

The project has been helped along by students at Expressions College of Art and Design in Emeryville who have created a public service announcement, prescriptions pads, and a “passport” that the kids will get stamped by a staff member at Crissy Field to record their visits.

Ultimately, of course, anyone can go spend time in nature with or without a prescription, but, we hope by formalizing the process that it will help emphasize that physicians recognize and want to improve on the health problems that result from our personal and societal disconnection to our land.

Why Park Prescriptions? Take a look at some of these statistics:

7.5  hours/day: Average daily media time spent by children ages 8-18 (Rideout VJ et al. Kaiser Family Foundation Report. 2010)

40: Percentage of adults who do not engage in any leisure time physical activity (Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2007 with Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. 2007)

33%: Estimated population born in the year 2000 to eventually develop diabetes over the course of their lifetime (Narayan KM et al. JAMA 2003:290:1884-90)

9.5%:  Percent of children ages 4-17 estimated diagnosed with ADHD (Pastor PN, et al. Vital Health Stat 2008;10:237)

To reverse the statistics above, we need to think outside the traditional Western medicine chest. We also know that people who spend time in nature for their own benefit are more likely to become advocates for the preservation and support of the lands that they use. It is a symbiotic relationship.

Park prescriptions almost always make sense and only have positive side effects. No pharmaceuticals can claim the same.

The Benefits of Unstructured Play


By Avril Swan, MD

The nature of an average child’s free time  has changed. For the past 25 years kids have  been spending decreasing amounts of time outdoors. The time that our kids do spend  outdoors is frequently a part of an organized  sports activity. Other activities taking up our children’s time include indoor lessons and organized  events such as music, art and dance lessons. Another big indoor activity, taking up to 7.5 hours a day of our children’s time according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, is electronic entertainment. Of course some of these activities bring joy and fulfillment to our kids, but, in return, time for unstructured play has decreased.

Unstructured play is that set of activities that children create on their own without adult guidance. Children naturally, when left to their own devices, will take initiative and create activities and stories in the world around them. Sometimes, especially with children past the toddler stage, the most creative play takes place outside of direct adult supervision. Unstructured free play can happen in many different environments, however, the outdoors may provide more opportunities for free play due to the many movable parts, such as sticks, dirt, leaves and rocks which lend themselves to exploration and creation.

 Some parents find it challenging to provide unstructured play time for their kids.  Letting our kids play without constant supervision, especially outside, can be even more difficult. It  feels hard to balance reasonable concern,  over-vigilance, and the desire to let our kids experience freedom and learn from their own mistakes and experiences.

We worry because we have absorbed the  message that our children need to succeed and be competitive at younger and younger ages. Many parents start thinking about college before their children are even born. We want to give them every advantage and prepare them as early as possible. We worry about missing a crucial developmental window if they aren’t introduced to letters, extra languages, or a sport. We are also  hesitant to send our kids outdoors to play due to many fears. Surveys of parents reveal that we worry about “stranger danger,” crime, traffic,  and even weather.  In fact, violent crimes against children  and traffic related fatalities over all  have actually gone down in recent years (Bureau of Justice, CDC.Gov Traffic Safety Facts). Chronic illness, on the other hand, much related to sedentary indoor lifestyle factors, has increased dramatically. This is despite the high levels of participation in team sports. Encouraging free play, especially the outdoors, may be an antidote to the risks of indoor modern life.

Why might we need to loosen up and get over some of our fears in order to get our kids outdoor unstructured play time?  In the January 2005 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent medicine , Burdette and Whitaker wrote on the importance of free play. They argue that free play promotes intellectual and cognitive growth, emotional intelligence, and benefits social interactions. They describe how play involves problem solving which is one of the highest executive functions. ” Children plan, organize, sequence, and make decisions,“  they explain. In addition, play requires attention to the game and, especially in the case of very young children, frequent physical activity. Unstructured play  frequently comes from or results in exposure to the outdoors. Surveys of parents and teachers report that children’s focus and attention are improved after outdoor physical activity and free play and some small studies suggest that time spent outdoors improves focus in children with ADHD.

Socialization and emotional intelligence  benefit through shared interactions and physical movement that take place during play. Children must work together to decide  which game to play, what agreeable rules are, and how to manage scenarios that invariably involve their differing perspectives. This “work” builds the social qualities that we all wish for our children: empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation, and flexibility. Emotional development is promoted along with physical health when people spend time moving. In adults and older children physical activity has been well documented to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression, and to improve overall mood. Though the research is sparse in younger children, it seems likely that our youngest children benefit as well. Free play in toddlers and young children most frequently involves spurts of gross motor activity over a period of time with multiple episodes of rest in between. Most children are smiling and laughing when they engage in play, and it is reasonable to assume that their mood is improved during and after play.

So how do you incorporate more free time into your children’s schedule?

1. Consider the number of extra-curricular activities:

There is no magic right or wrong number of extras, but if you or your child aren’t taking joy in the activities or if the activities are eating all of your free time, drop one or some.

2. Change your mind set:

Successful adults are programmed to be productive. Children are not small adults. Their play is their work and is their productive activity.

3. Let your child go a little outside your comfort zone:

Consider that a child taking calculated risks  in natural environments may learn and improve their judgment. There is no teacher greater than experience. Learning how to climb a rock or a tree now might decrease hazardous behavior later in life by teaching limits.

4. Practice letting your child be bored

As you might remember from your childhood, we don’t need to have every moment scheduled, and, in fact, some of the best creativity comes from being bored.

5. Consider Neighborhood Solutions

Pedestrian/Play Advocacy: Traffic calming measures including speed bumps and traffic roundabouts have shown to decrease pedestrian vehicle accidents.

6. Allay your fears by getting organized:

Groups of parents can get together and take turns watching while kids play on the block.

There is no one right way to organize our time, and moderation usually ends up being the best course of action in all things. I hope that unstructured play time, however, continues to gain publicity as an important element of our children’s lives.

Susan Freinkel answers questions about Plastics


Susan Freinkel is the author of the new book: Plastic: A Toxic Love Story

She was kind enough to answer some health related questions about plastic based on her research for her book. 

Is all plastic toxic?

There are lots of different kinds of plastic and some may pose more of a health hazard than others. The two experts are most worried about are:

  • Polycarbonate, a hard, clear plastic that has been used in baby bottles and sports water bottles. It is made with a chemical called Bisphenol A that is a weak estrogen mimic and which may suppress or alter the way the body uses its natural estrogen. Some studies have found an association between exposure to BPA and heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, obesity and other health problems.
  • Polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC or vinyl, is a source of concern for several reasons. PVC is made with a very toxic chemical, vinyl chloride, that can be a hazard to vinyl workers. If vinyl is incinerated, it can release dioxins which are potent carcinogens. And to make vinyl pliable and soft, manufacturers add oily chemicals called phthalates, some of which can interfere with natural hormones, including testosterone. Animal studies have shown that high doses of one such phthalate, DEHP, is toxic to the developing male reproductive system. There’s conflicting evidence about the effect of low doses – the kinds we may be exposed to through such everyday items as vinyl flooring, shower curtains or flip flops.  But some epidemiological studies have found an association between low-level exposures and various health issues including reduced sperm quality, disrupted thyroid function, changed immune response and liver troubles.

One reason for concern about these two chemicals is that they leach out of their plastic hosts fairly readily. Phthalates are not atomically bound to the vinyl, and so can migrate out pretty easily, especially in the presence of something fatty like cheese. And the molecular bonds of polycarbonate are loose enough that exposure to warm water and/detergents can allow some BPA to come free. Because both chemicals can leach out and are so widely used, most Americans harbor trace amounts of BPA and various phthalates in their systems.

Are there safe plastics?

There are many plastics that seem to be quite stable. Two that are considered reasonably safe – in part because they don’t need a lot of additives — are polyethylene (the stuff of plastic baggies and labeled either #2 or #4) and polypropylene (used in yogurt and margarine tubs and labeled #5).

What are hormone disrupters?

Hormone disrupters are chemicals that seem to interfere with the network of glands that orchestrate growth and development.  They may mimic or suppress hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and thyroid hormone causing effects that effects can be complicated, subtle and may not show up for years or decades. Whether the amounts we are exposed to through plastics and other consumer products pose a serious threat to health is still a source of much debate within the scientific community. That said, if any group were to be affected by hormone disrupters, it would be fetuses, infants and children whose systems are still works in progress.

Is it true my child may have traces of synthetic chemicals in her system?

Unfortunately, most of us, even newborns, carry trace levels of various synthetic chemicals – including flame-retardants, solvents, anti-bacterial agents, plasticizers, pesticides and other substances — in our blood and urine. The mere presence of those chemicals does not necessarily mean they are causing health problems. Their presence simply indicates that you or your child has been exposed, Many of these chemicals pass quickly through the body. The big, still unanswered question is what, if any health risks, those small transient doses can cause over time.

Can I get rid of the chemicals in my or my child’s system?

It’s tough because synthetic chemicals are so pervasive, not only in plastics, but food packaging, cosmetics, soaps, furniture, medicines and a host of other things. But a recent study showed that people could dramatically reduce the levels of phthalates and BPA in their systems in just a few days by eating fresh, organic fruits and vegetables instead of canned and processed foods.

Is it safe to microwave foods in plastic?

It’s best not to microwave in plastic – or at least don’t microwave foods in plastic containers that don’t carry a label specifically indicating it’s safe for the microwave. The reason microwaving can be a problem is that heat increases the likelihood that any chemicals which can leach out, will do so.  If you are really concerned, use glass or ceramic containers to heat food in the microwave. If you do use plastic, steer clear of containers or plastic wrap that aren’t marked microwave-safe. And keep plastic wrap at least an inch away from the food since it can melt if it comes directly into contact with very hot food.

I’ve heard even BPA-free baby bottles are now considered dangerous?

Some of  the plastic bottles that replaced ones with BPA contain a related chemical which also may act as an estrogen mimic. These bottles are made of a type of plastic called polyethersulfone (PES). Others are made from a new kind of plastic called Triton, a relative of polyester, which so far, has been considered safe. If you are really concerned, you’d do best to look for glass bottles, or ones made of either polyethylene or polypropylene, two types of plastics that generally don’t require additives and therefore would be less likely to leach any chemicals.

What should I pack my kids lunch in since I can’t send glass containers?

One option is to use stainless steel tiffins, stacked food containers. You can also put sandwiches in wax paper or wax paper bags.  Tupperware is also probably pretty safe, since it is made from polyethylene, a relatively clean plastic.

Are the new “green” plastics any safer?

One would hope so, but there really is no guarantee because the main law regulating chemicals does not require manufacturers to demonstrate a chemical is safe before putting it on the marketplace. NatureWorks, which makes the most common new plastic, a corn-based plastic called Ingeo, claims a commitment to using non-toxic chemicals. And it requires any manufacturer using its plastic to abide by a “prohibited substances list”  which bars the use of various heavy metals, carcinogens, endocrine disrupters and other dangerous chemicals.

Are plastic toys dangerous? (We don’t eat them – how would the plastic affect me?)

Although children don’t eat the toys, they do mouth them, which is one way they might be exposed to any potential chemicals. But whether a given toy is dangerous depends on the type of plastic used to make the toy. Soft vinyl toys could leach phthalates although current federal law bars manufacturers from using the most worrisome phthalates in their toys. On the other hand, the only danger a toy like Legos poses if you happen to step on one of those sharp-edged bricks.

Is it true freezing water bottles releases carcinogenic dioxins?

This rumor circulating on the Internet and often attributed to Johns Hopkins School of Public Heath is a hoax. There are no dioxins in the plastic used in water bottles, and what’s more, freezing works against the release of chemicals. The main danger with reusing plastic water or soda bottles isn’t related to the chemicals in the plastic; it’s the bacteria from your mouth that can linger and get into the bottle and any fresh water you put in. Since it’s hard to really clean those bottles, you’d be better off using metal, glass or even BP-free plastic bottles that are designed for reuse.

Medical Student Integrative Medicine Lifestyle Clinic


There is now an  option  in our office for new patients who would like a comprehensive integrative consultation to evaluate  their health. Our new Medical Student Integrative Medicine and Lifestyle clinic is perfect for those who:

  • Do not currently see one of the doctors at WholeFamilyMD
  • Have a primary care doctor
  • Want a comprehensive evaluation of their chronic health problems or an in depth analysis of how to prevent disease
  • Would like  to understand how Western medicine might blend with lifestyle changes and alternative modalities to help manage,  cure or prevent  medical problems
  • Are willing to work with and  develop a relationship with a third year UCSF medical student who will be caring for them

The clinic will be supervised by Avril Swan, MD, however, the patients in the clinic will not be part of Dr. Swan’s primary care  practice. Should you wish to become a patient at WholeFamilyMD for primary care, you would need to transfer medical care to one of the doctors in the office.


FREE! Through June 30th! After June 30th, if things take off, we will charge 100 dollars for initial visits and 50 dollars for follow ups to cover clinic costs.

To schedule an appointment please email: with the subject line “medical student clinic”. You may also call 415-642-0333.

Please understand:

This is a consultative medical student clinic. Urgent matters must be referred to your primary care physician. Our office will not be available for ongoing medical treatment for patients in this clinic unless they become patients of one of our primary care physicians.