Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for the ‘Natural’ Category

Processed Foods and Relationship to Disease


My “food hero,” Michael Pollan gives a compelling speech about the dangers of cooking and the processing of food. Pesticides, GMOs, and processing methods of prepared foods are contributing to the increase in disease.

It boils down to eating food as close to its natural state, and cooking the food yourself.

And he provides a realistic way to make it happen.

Listen up!

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/04/13/watch-this-video-youll-never-eat-mcdonalds-french-fries-again/

What About Genetically Modified Foods? (GMO’s)


There is much debate lately about genetically modified food. The discussion is about whether or not to label such foods. Big food companies don’t want labeling. Why not? Because it is BIG business. Most corn and soy products are genetically modified. The issue in producing these foods is that foods are modified with genes from other species to increase shelf life, resistance to insects, increase size and improve appearance. 

Allergies are on the rise, and GMO’s are suspect. If you eat corn (to which you have no allergy) that is modified with a gene from another organism that you are allergic to, you will appear to be allergic to corn. Whatever your position on the use of GMO’s foods is, be informed. A new documentary called Genetic Roulette is available free online from September 15 through September 22. Here is the link. Watch it and decide whether you want to eat these foods, but more importantly, decide if the pubic has a right to know so they can make their own decisions.

http://www.GeneticRouletteMovie.com

Living with Vegans


Please forgive my hiatus. Between a new job and studying for my national registration, my brain could not focus on anything else. Yes, I passed the exam; thanks for wondering. Now that I am on vacation, I can get back to business. (Now that’s an oxymoron!)

Today’s topic of conversation is veganism. Two of my sons’ friends are vegans. It started with a personal challenge, then they kept on doing it. It has been three and a half years for one; 4 years for the other. At the beginning, they ate all kinds of “imitation” foods like fake bacon and fake hot dogs. I questioned them about the spirit of going vegan, and the contradiction of eating foods that would be unhealthy if they were real. Further, they were eating a lot of processed foods, with ingredient lists 3 inches long. Since then, they have grown and become more educated about eating a healthy vegan diet.

Many people approach the decision to go vegetarian or vegan without enough information. While it is a healthy lifestyle choice, one must adhere to some nutrition guidelines to ensure healthy intake of essential nutrients. Giving up animal products entirely (strict vegan) presents a few challenges that can be overcome with attention to the diet.

The staples of the vegan diet should include: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, soy and seeds. The less processing, the better, to provide the best nutritional quality.

Plant based diets contain sufficient protein, iron, calcium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iodine, and zinc. A crucial ingredient missing from the diet however, is Vitamin B-12, which is necessary for proper nerve and brain function. Lack of it, over an extended period of time can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system. Some soy and rice drinks are fortified with B-12, as well as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast.

Animal products provide the most efficiently absorbed form of iron. When eliminated from the diet, extra care must be taken to ensure enough of this vital element. Iron is plentiful in fortified cereals, legumes and soy, dark leafy green vegetables, whole grains, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, molasses and potatoes with skins. Iron is absorbed from cast iron cookware. To boost the absorption of iron, consume foods with vitamin C along with iron-rich foods. Vitamin C is plentiful in citrus fruit, peppers, tomatoes, dark greens (like kale and collard greens) cabbage and broccoli. Note however, that iron and calcium compete for the same absorption receptors, so they should not be eaten together. Caffeine also interferes with iron absorption, therefore should be avoided at mealtimes.

Consume protein rich tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, soy (milk and other products), whole grains, legumes and vegetables daily.

Calcium can be a challenge if meals are not carefully thought out. Dark green leafy vegetables, beans, some tofu, almonds, seaweed, fortified soy milk, beans, figs, and unrefined molasses supply calcium. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption. You can get it by exposing your skin to sun 10-15 minutes per day or by consuming fortified soy or rice milk or a supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA and DHA. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found mainly in the oil of flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, rapeseed (canola oil), and soybeans. ALA reduces blood clotting, and is good for the heart. The body converts some of the ALA into two other essential omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA. These two are also found to a small degree in seaweeds, and there are vegan DHA supplements available made from micro-algae. Low levels of DHA have been associated with depression. A tablespoon of ground flaxseeds or a teaspoon of flax oil per day will meet the needs of most people.

You need iodine for normal cell metabolism, and it is easy to get enough if you used iodized salt. Fancy salts such as sea salt, are not iodized. If you use them, you need to get your iodine elsewhere. It is found in seaweed and some vitamins.

Zinc is important for would healing. Rich sources include eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, sprouts, legumes, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, miso, millet and quinoa.

Being a vegan or vegetarian can be a healthy lifestyle choice. It will require more attention to your diet however, to ensure adequate nutrient intake.

Labeling: Truth or Dare?


So many claims are on the labels of foods these days. Do you really know what they mean and if it is worth paying more? Or if the claims are true or meaningful? Marketing people are very smart when it comes to pushing our buttons. I see this evidence in the glut of gluten free foods. Many people believe it is simply healthier to go gluten free, because it is the latest “thing.” I hate to break it to you folks, but it’s a marketing ploy to sell designer food. As a matter of fact, gluten contains a lot of nutritious stuff and you WANT it in your diet – unless of course you have Celiac disease (only 1% of the population does) or a gluten sensitivity. Cutting any nutrient out of your diet to be chic is plain stupid.

So what about all the buzz words like organic, sustainable, free-range, etc.? Are these things regulated in any way or can anyone slap it on a label? Here is a little primer on these terms as it applies to meat products. I will follow in a later post with information on other products.

The term organic has the most teeth. Organic meats have to be antibiotic-free and the animal must be fed a pesticide-free vegetarian diet . They must have free access to a pasture. The feed cannot be genetically modified. The Department of Agriculture has strict guidelines that must be followed in order to label meats organic.

If an animal is truly free-range, it may be healthier. It will usually be fed better food, and because it roams freely, it develops more muscle fiber with more omega 3 fats (good for you).  The USDA does not have standards for this definition however, merely requires that the chicken has access to outdoor space. There is no language on beef or other meats at all.

Since grass-fed is also not defined or legislated, a farmer can call his animals grass-fed if it ate grass once. If the producer is honest, he might actually allow his animals to feed on grass all the time – but how do you know where your steak came from anyway? Grass-fed animals have less saturated fat and higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, making it healthier. It is not desirable to everyone (taste-wise) since it is the marbled, high fat content most Americans want. These guys are lean machines, and a little tougher.

There is no legal definition for sustainable. It means in theory, that the animal (usually used to describe fish however) was raised with concern for its welfare, the producer used natural resources wisely and was provided a fair wage.

So, if you think these are worth paying more for without getting all the facts, I have a bridge I’d like to sell  you.

 

 

Are Your Supplements Safe?


Most people don’t realize that supplements are not regulated in the same way that drugs are. The FDA has, in recent years, began to strengthen compliance. It started inspecting manufacturers’ facilities and found appalling conditions in over half of those it inspected. As law stands now, supplement manufacturers can sell products without proof of effectiveness. The burden of proof that it is unsafe, is up to those who suffer negative consequences. Supplement manufacturers voluntarily comply only with good manufacturing practices. Without stringent standards, like one imposed on drug companies, the industry is conceivably free to produce, for human consumption, tainted and dangerous products that you can buy at the health food store.

This article, published in the Chicago Tribune, is alarming. Be informed. It’s your body. The best way to get your nutrients is to eat a balanced diet. If you must use supplements, proceed with caution.

article from Chicago Tribune

Charoset


This is by far, one of my favorite Passover foods. Why I don’t make it other times of the year I don’t know, but it is so great and I use it for many things other than its original purpose. It is a food that most Passover Seder hosts make symbolically and put a teaspoon of onto your plate. I want A LOT of it, not just the taste for the Passover story to be told. Anyway, everything at the seder has significance. Charoset looks like mortar, so it was invented to represent the mortar between the bricks used by the Jewish slaves to build Pharoh’s kingdom. I just love the stuff, and as a bonus, it’s healthy. Well, at least something at the Passover table is!

I added charoset to chicken leftovers to make it into a version of Waldorf salad. You can spoon it over ice cream, put it in hot cereal, or, if you are like me, just eat it off a spoon. Here is my recipe:

Ingredients:
4 finely chopped apples (I like macintosh but many varieties work. If you use tart apples, you may need to add sugar. Taste first.n
1 C chopped walnuts
3 tsp brown sugar or honey
grated rind of 1 lemon
3 tsp cinnamon (more if you love cinnamon)
About 6 Tbs of sweet red wine or grape juice. Add more if it seems too dry.

Add all ingredients. Let sit for several hours so flavors meld and enjoy on a piece of matzah, plain water cracker or as I do; off a spoon!

 

 

Ginger Carrot Soup Made Healthy & Easy


I am always looking for ways to make great recipes easy and more healthful. Starting with a class assignment, I took a fat-laden soup and made it healthy, as well as vegetarian/vegan friendly with some alternative suggestions. Here is the result of changing an Emeril recipe, made with heavy whipping cream and sour cream, to a heart-healthy winter dish, saving 426 calories (496 calories if milk is omitted). There are 45 fewer grams of fat and most of it is shifted to mono or unsaturated fat – the good kind). Serve with good bread and a salad and you have dinner! Yield = 4 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 to 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk (* may be omitted for vegan)
  • Chopped chives, for garnish

Using a 4-quart stock pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Place the onions and celery in until they are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the carrots to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are lightly caramelized and start to soften, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the stock, salt, pepper and bay leaf, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the soup until the carrots are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf from the soup and puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender or in batches in a heat proof blender. Adjust the seasoning, add the milk at the end if desired (omit for vegan).

Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh chives or parsley.

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