I buy the majority of my food at my local Farmer's Markets, the health food store and through my food-coop group. While the health food store sells a lot of processed and convenience foods, they carry healthier versions of what their conventional counterparts sell, even when these carry some organic options also.
In my experience, most people's carts at the health food store contain a combination of produce, grains, beans and also quite a few processed, packaged and canned items. Some time ago, I was looking for ripe avocados and found myself looking in the local conventional super market. It was a surreal experience. I was almost in tears because it was so schocking and painful to see that the majority of people, with children, had shopping carts full of cheap toxic foods that come laden with artificial additives. It was truly overwhelming for me to witness this and I was overcome with sadness because I'm sure that in most instances, these peope simply don't know how harmful these "dead" foods are. They don't know how bad what they are buying is.
I decided to take a walking tour through the isles of the grocery store and noticed that the food prices, in many instances, are even higher than, for example, Whole Foods Market's 365 Organic Everyday Value® brand foods. Conventional grocery stores teamed up with industrial food manufacturers really stick it to uninformed consumers who pay a higher price -- both in food costs and in poor health.
I spent 5 hours yesterday making a 10-dish, 100 percent plant-base, farm fresh, homemade Thanksgiving meal from scratch in honor of my sister-in-law and her family who will be departing for an African adventure Saturday. They won't be back until after Thanksgiving and I really wanted them to enjoy a Thanksgiving celebration in advance.
I've also had clients asking me about preparing a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving, so I took this opportunity to develop and test new holiday recipes I’ve been working on. And I must say, they turned out really well. My guests, who are not vegetarians, absolutely loved the food and were raving about it.
I couldn't have said it better myself. We call diabetes a preventable disease because it is caused by the absence of healthy foods and daily exercise, which what our bodies are designed for. And it doesn't happen overnight. Our bodies resist for many years, but there is only so much abuse they can take. It's a disease of choice. We choose it every time we decide to eat processed industrial food laden with unhealthy pesticides, fats and additives, void of real nutrients and cooked in a way that is toxic.
The good news is that even people who have diabetes can control it and even reverse it by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. The body is an amazing machine and very rewarding when given what it needs to do its job as it's meant to do.
With just about one week left to the presidential election, the issue of the U.S. Farm Bill has not been discussed by either candidate. But sometimes the actions of a presidential candidate's wife can provide important insight. I was pleased to learn that Michelle Obama mentioned in an interview that she buys organic foods and fresh fruit for her family. This might be an indication that her husband may share her same value system. And, the fact that Barack Obama drinks organic tea might be further hint that he is aware of the superiority of organic food. Having any other new president will be a step in the right direction. But having a president that at least knows that organic is better gives me hope.
Recently, Michael Pollan, author of the best selling book, "the Omnivore's Dilemma," wrote an open letter called, "Farmer in Chief," to the next President of the U.S. in, which he eloquently and articulately outlines a proposal with strategies for sustainable agriculture. Pollan effectively makes the point that food policy is in many ways the underlying cause of what's wrong with all the challenges that the next administration will face, not unlike how processed foods are the underlying cause of the top four killer diseases in the U.S. Pollan systematically shows the connection between the outdated farm bill (providing subsidies to rich corporation in the food commodity industry), the food policy (responsible for our broken food system responsible for cheap toxic calories), the dependency on oil for the entire industrial food system (from growing methods to production and transportation), the crisis in health care (unaffordable and focused on treatment rather than prevention) and national security (how terrorists could easily attack us using our food supplies).
Pollan proposes what he calls the Sun-food diet, food that's grown with sunlight rather than fossil fuel. His insightful solutions include using the power of the sun to grow food, decentralizing the food system and changing America's food culture through education about why and how to grow and cook food. I applaud Pollan’s efforts to plant seeds.
Consumer Reports posted some findings from a report on the health benefits -- or lack thereof -- of industrial breakfast cereals. Here's the good, the bad and the ugly about their report.
The good: Consumer Reports does a nice job on two fronts. First, they highlight how extreme the sugar content is in some cereals. Two major brands are more than half sugar, and nine brands are more than 40% sugar. Obviously, this is candy, not breakfast. The other good thing about the report is that they actually prove that printed serving size is on average different from the serving sizes people actually eat. They found that, on average, children served themselves over 50% more than the serving size printed on the box.
The bad: Consumer Reports then goes on to essentially recommend several cereals because they have a little less sugar and a little more fiber. They recommend Cheerios, Kix, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Life cereals, despite the fact that all contain white sugar or corn syrup, most or all are made with genetically modified grains and all are processed beyond recognition.
The ugly: Consumer Reports completely failed to even mention that healthy cereals exist at all, or that you could easily make your own healthy cereals. Are industrial, processed, genetically modified breakfast cereals really the only choice?
This is why you should never rely on a publication like Consumer Reports for health information. They tend to point you toward middle of the road between health and sickness.
Why not point you toward total health?
Now, if you'll excuse me. I'm going to go have breakfast now. Cheerios? Don't think so. Never going to happen. I'm making myself a whole grain muesli of organic oats, dried organic fruit bits and raw walnuts from my local farmer's market, organic sunflower seeds, organic ground flax seeds, sliced organic bananas and freshly made raw cashew milk. It will have zero sugar, massive amounts of dietary fiber, phytochemicals, natural vitamins and minerals -- and it will taste far better than any cereal you could buy in a box. (Picture shows this morning's breakfast.)
I'm a big advocate of walking for exercise, stress release, mental stimulation, feeling invigorated and generally healing what ails you. I've talked and written extensively about how practicing a healthy and active lifestyle is key to health and happiness. Now, a major and large-scale 25-year study of 77,782 women by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that leading a healthy lifestyle, including keeping your waistline in check, exercising, avoiding smoking and eating healthy food do, in fact, keep you from dying prematurely. Essentially, doing what we've been designed to do instead of living an artificial life full of artificial ingredients, junk foods and remaining out of touch with the world of physical activity what causes chronic illnesses and early death. According to researchers, "Even modest lifestyle changes such as 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) per day significantly reduced risk of premature death."
Native to South America, pineapple guavas (also know as feijoa sellowiana and guavasteen) are newly in season. I picked some up at my local Farmer's Market yesterday. These egg-shaped fruits are green in color and feel firm to the touch, so it's hard to tell that they're ripe and ready to eat. The farmer I bought them from waits for the fruit to drop on its own from the tree as that means they're ripe. She was giving samples and I liked the tangy flavor. She told me that most people scoop out the pulp, but that it's good also to eat the skin. I tried that, and found it chewy and kind of gritty but with good flavor. If you can get your hands on pineapple guavas, give them a try -- and give your palate a chance to become acquainted with new exotic flavors.
It's amazing how many people suffer from cardiovascular problems these days. I know of people in their 20's and 30's who are already experiencing high blood pressure or hypertension as the direct result of bad food and poor lifestyle choices. Recently, a dear friend of mine who suffers from hypertension asked me about what to do to improve her condition without relying on the prescription hypertension drugs she has been relying on, and suffering the side effects of.
What's interesting is that she happens to be an amazing cook and very knowledgeable about healthy food. She prepares all her own healthy organic meals and exercises regularly.
I asked her to tell me what she eats. She said salads, vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, lean meats, chicken and eggs. I made some simple recommendations (she's not a client, just a friend), such as to stop eating eggs or eat egg whites only, eat more dark leafy greens, only eat wild fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon, eat three tablespoons of ground flax seeds mixed with meals or beverages daily and replace most animal protien with plant protein, including beans and grains such as quinoa, wild rice or millet.
After about a month after making these small adjustments to her diet, and increasing her cardiovascular exercise, my friend's blood pressure is already much lower.
I see these kinds of results with my health counseling clients all the time. But the reason I'm mentioning my friend's case is that so many people believe that they they're already doing all they can. Although my friend already ate a healthy diet, there was still room for improvement. There is always room for improvement.
The amazing part is that very minor diet modifications and a little more exercise did more to lower her blood pressure than all the medications she was taking.
If something is ailing you, there's a very good chance that food and lifestyle changes, rather than drugs that often come with unpleasant side effects, can either cure you, or improve your ailment naturally. Even if you know a lot about food and are already eating a healthy diet.
I write about health and food. My husband Mike writes, too, but about technology. Every once in a while, our areas of specialization overlap.
Today Mike wrote about our daily walks together. While walking, we listen to podcasts, talk (both on the phone and to each other) and do other things. By using technology, we combine learning, talking and exercise -- and save a lot of time. You can, too.
Here's what my husband wrote about what he calls a "cell phone-based exercise program."
Your mom was right: eating your fruits and veggies is good for you. Researchers agree that flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables help protect health. In a recent study conducted by scientists in Italy, results show that flavonoids (antioxidants compounds found in plant foods) may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Some 21,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year. Only about 6,000 will survive five years or more.
There is no question that whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds are good for us. The question is: Why are we eating processed and adulterated foods instead of fresh, raw, whole organic produce when we know that one causes cancer and the other protects us from cancer?
What this really means is that our bodies are designed to be sustained by a diet consisting of mostly plant-based whole foods. The conspicuous absence of healthy foods makes us sick.
Put another way, eating 8 to 10 servings of fruits and veggies along with beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds will give your body what it expects to receive to its job defending itself from constant attacks from toxins and free radicals responsible for causing cancer and other illnesses. Add daily exercise into the equation and you' are not only equipped with a strong immune system but also with overall optimum health.
So much of our health science seems to seek as the ultimate goal a pill that will reverse the effects of junk food without making the patient actually give up that junk.
The subtext of this cultural reductionism is that altering, extracting from, isolating, adulterating and fabricating foods is not to be questioned. We just need to keep trying to reverse-engineer nature so that we can get the benefits of healthy foods without having to actually eat them.
Instead of trying to reverse engineer, adulterate, modify, isolate and "enhance" natural foods, all we really need to do is enjoy them -- and the wonderful health they give us when we don't tinker with them.
Your mother was right. Broccoli is good for you. Researchers at the University of Warwick have found that sulforaphane, a compound found in Broccoli, helps repair heart blood vessels damaged by diabetes. Diabetics are five times more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes due to damaged blood vessels caused high levels of glucose. Sulfuraphane promotes increased production of enzymes, which protect blood vessels against radicals called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) reducing them in the body by 73%. The study also found that sulforaphane activates a protein called nrf2, which in turn activates beneficial antioxidants and detoxifying enzymes that protect cells and tissues in the body. What we should take from this we are designed to eat vegetables in plentiful amounts. Each vegetable we eat is a power house of nutrients we don't fully understand. Without a healthy diet, the body suffers. By all means, eat broccoli, but the larger message is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, along with grains, beans, nuts and seeds--all plant foods full of whole nutrients of the diet that Mother Nature intended for us to eat.
Peppers are often thought of as flavorings -- a way to spice up a meal. In fact, they're healthy super-foods. One small pepper, for example, can provide 100% of the daily requirement of vitamin C. And they have many other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
It’s the beginning of August, and fresh peppers are now in peak season. Take advantage!
Be careful: Stores often mislabel fresh poblano peppers as “passilla” and “ancho.” Sometimes poblanos are even mistaken with Anaheim peppers. The farmer I bought my poblano peppers from had a sign saying “ancho” peppers, which should only be called that in their dried form.
Poblanos are fresh, dark green chili peppers with a distinct flavor and aroma. They're not spicy, but darker ones tend to be spicier. These peppers have a medium length and taper from top to bottom. They are not as wide as bell peppers or as skinny as Anaheim peppers. Poblano peppers originate in Puebla, Mexico, which is where they get their name. They make the best Mexican-style stuffed peppers. Don't fry them! Just bake for better taste and maximum health.
Ancho peppers are dried poblano chili peppers. They neither look nor taste like fresh poblano peppers. Ancho peppers, when mature, turn dark red and, when dried, take on a dark, reddish brown color.
Pasilla peppers are dried chilaca chili peppers, which in their fresh form are dark green, but when dried turn dark brown or blackish. Both fresh and dried forms are spicy hot.
I did some research online and, to my dismay, found some web sites with the wrong information about the their names, what they are and how they're used. It’s perplexing as to why peppers are so misunderstood and why people who should know better mislabel them so carelessly.
I know people who are great cooks and who are not afraid to use exotic or unusual ingredients. But I've found myself correcting them when they call poblano peppers pasilla peppers or vise versa.
It’s a problem because recipes often call for different kinds of peppers -- including poblano, pasilla and ancho or even Anaheim peppers -- which serve entirely different roles in cooking. When stores or farmers mislabel the peppers, people end up buying the wrong ones. And it's no small error. There is a vast difference between poblano and ancho or between poblano and pasilla. Ninety percent of the time these peppers cannot be used interchangeably in the same way that green bell peppers cannot be used interchangeably with ground black pepper.
Though poblano and ancho are the same pepper, one is fresh and the other dried. One can be stuffed and the other cannot. And their flavors and textures are completely different. Using the right peppers is important.
August, September and even October are good months to explore all the flavors and variety organic peppers have to offer -- and only for a fraction of what they cost other times of the year when they’re imported, expensive and not so flavorful.
What are the benefits of eating a natural, organic vegetarian diet? One way to find out is to read the volumes of scientific data about how organic plant foods benefit health. Another way is to see how people who "walk the walk" get sick -- or don't get sick.
Monks on the Greece's Mount Athos eat vegan for most of the year, and for the remainder are mostly vegetarian. They eat wild fish and octopus very occasionally.
The produce they eat isn't from the industrialized food system, but from their own gardens.
So how are they doing health-wise? It's astonishing, really. A major study of their health revealed that, even though monks often live beyond 100 years of age, they have zero incidents of the following diseases:
2. lung bowel and bladder cancer
And they have almost no heart disease, cardiac arrests or strokes.
In fact, they're among the most healthy populations on Earth. Read more about it on my other blog, The Spartan Diet blog.
Becoming a skillful shopper, a good cook and smart eater is much simpler than you might think. It does require planning, organizational skills and a good attitude, but anybody can do it. The benefits of educated shopping and healthy cooking and eating far outweigh any perceived inconvenience.
The act of getting food on the table becomes whatever you make it. Treating food as some time-wasting but necessary chore, makes it just that. But choosing healthy meal preparation as an act of love transforms all aspects of it into a deeply fulfilling experience. It is wonderfully gratifying to choose your own food, know where it comes from, prepare it with your own hands, eat it joyfully, and watch your loved ones savor the fruits of your labor.
So by all means, learn the skills. But also cultivate a love of healthy cooking. Here are my 12 steps on how to shop, cook and eat for maximum health.