Food Is Not Your Enemy


Are You Eating Your Roots?
September 24, 2014, 3:32 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: ,

When you think about healthy eating, salads and green vegetables usually come to mind. But how about adding a little more variety to your plan?

Root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and turnips are a rich source of nutritious complex carbohydrates. Instead of upsetting blood sugar levels like refined sweet foods do, they help regulate them.

Why eat more root veggies? Long roots–carrots, parsnips, burdock, and daikon radish–are excellent blood purifiers and can help improve circulation in the body. Round roots–turnips, radishes, beets, and rutabagas–nourish the stomach, spleen, pancreas, and reproductive organs.

If you’re like most of the world, the root veggies you probably eat most are carrots and potatoes. But here are many others you can try:

  • Beets contain an abundance of antioxidants and are highly detoxifying.
  • Burdock is considered a powerful blood purifier. This long, thin veggie is a staple in Asian and health food stores.
  • Celeriac, also known as celery root, is rich in fiber and has a respectable amount of antioxidants.
  • Jicama is crunchy and refreshing and contains a generous amount of vitamin C. It’s a favorite in its native Mexico and South America.
  • Onions are rich in antioxidants and other phytonutrients, making them prized for their ability to strengthen the immune system.
  • Parsnips, which look like giant white carrots, boast a sweet, earthy taste. They’ve also got plenty of fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, niacin, thiamine, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Radishes are an excellent source of vitamin C. They’re also rich in calcium and folic acid.
  • Sweet potatoes contain unsurpassed levels of beta-carotene and are also rich in vitamin C, phytonutrients, and fiber.

Excited to add more roots to your diet? Here’s an easy recipe …

Roasted Root Vegetables
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25-35 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 parsnips
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 turnips or 1 large rutabaga
  • 1 daikon radish (or substitute/add in other favorites, like squash)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • herbs: rosemary, thyme, or sage (fresh if possible)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Wash and dice all vegetables into bite-sized cubes.
  • Place in a large baking dish with sides.
  • Drizzle with olive oil; mix well to coat each vegetable lightly with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs.
  • Bake uncovered for 25-35 minutes until vegetables are tender and golden brown, checking every 10 minutes to stir and make sure veggies are not sticking.

Tip: any combination of vegetables will work. Roasting only one kind of vegetable also makes a nice side dish.



Walk Your Way to Better Health
August 15, 2014, 9:46 am
Filed under: Exercise, Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

The core classes at the gym are not scheduled at a convenient time for you. The local yoga studio doesn’t feel welcoming to anyone who isn’t already in perfect shape. The perky spinning instructors espousing affirmations make you want to roll your eyes. That’s why you don’t exercise.

You know these are all excuses, and that you shouldn’t let these things stop you from being physically active. But the fact is, they do stop you.

There is one type of exercise, however, that’s pretty tough to complain about. It can be done at any time of day or night, and it can be done anywhere. It’s free. It’s easy. And anyone can do it, even someone who is 100 pounds overweight: WALKING.

Walking may seem like nothing—is there really any benefit to an activity so, well, simple? The answer is yes. There is plenty of scientific evidence that regular brisk walking is associated with better health, including lower blood pressure, better mood, and improved cholesterol ratios. And it does burn a significant number of calories—314 per hour if you weigh 160 pounds, for instance, and up to 469 calories per hour if you weigh 240 pounds, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Going for a stroll on a regular basis will also help reduce your risk of stroke and type 2 diabetes, increase breast cancer survival rates, and reduce fibromyalgia pain.

You really have no excuse not to do this—so put on your sneakers and get out there!



Should You Do a Juice Cleanse?
July 22, 2014, 1:54 pm
Filed under: Fruits, Healthy Lifestyle, Vegetables, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

If you haven’t tried a juice cleanse yourself, you very likely know someone who has. Or at least you’ve heard about a celebrity who has—Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Blake Lively, and Daniel Craig are among the many stars who’ve jumped on the juicing bandwagon.

What is a juice cleanse, exactly? A cleanse of this nature involves forgoing solid food for a number of days and replacing it with fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices. The idea is that you’re supposed to be giving your digestive system a rest, clearing toxins out of your body, and kickstarting weight loss. Which all sounds great, except for the fact you’ll likely wish you were dead by day 3.

You will be hungry. Very hungry. You will be cranky. You will be unable to concentrate on the simplest of tasks. You will lose weight. And then you will gain it back.

Detoxing, in theory, is a great idea. I regularly have my clients undergo a detox to help them identify food sensitivities and to help them lose a few pounds more quickly than they might otherwise. But the detox I advocate involves real, actual food—that you chew—and keeps you energized and satisfied. A juice cleanse, while forcing you to forgo the foods/drinks/habits that might be making you ill, also forces you to endure intense hunger, blood sugar peaks and valleys, and an unrealistic way of nourishing yourself that you certainly can’t continue to sustain. As soon as you start eating food again, those pounds you quickly dropped will come right back. That’s what happens after you do a crash diet. Which is exactly what a juice cleanse is—just another crash diet.

Occasional fresh-pressed juices can be a perfectly healthy part of your diet. But as your breakfast, lunch, and dinner for days on end? Forget it.



5-Minute Stress Busters
June 23, 2014, 10:35 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

Stressed? Here are 16 simple ways to defuse your tension in a hurry—none of which requires a trip to the vending machine for chocolate …

Try a “one-minute meditation.” Close your eyes. For 30 seconds, inhale and exhale quickly, forcefully, and audibly. Each inhale/exhale cycle should last about 1 second total. After doing that for 30 seconds, for the next 30 seconds keep your eyes closed and breathe normally. Then open your eyes. How do you feel?

Sit on your hands or rub them together vigorously. Our hands get colder when we’re stressed, and warming them up helps lower stress.

Try acupressure. Find the spot on the top of your bare foot where the bones of your first and second toes meet. Gently press this area 10 times.

Say no. If you’re already feeling stressed, don’t be afraid to say no if someone asks you to do something you can’t handle.

Turn off the news. It’s easy to feel like part of the chaos we’re watching on TV or on the computer. Research has shown that watching the news can affect mood and aggravate sadness and depression.

Laugh. Laughing dissolves tension and can feel like a real release, even in the most stressful situations.

Put on some upbeat music. And if you’re in a place where you can get away with it, dance!

Smile at other people. Our moods are contagious–if you come across as happy and pleasant, chances are people will be pleasant back to you.

Have half a teaspoon of honey. Doing this will quickly help stimulate serotonin in the brain, leading to a calmer, happier feeling.

Realize that worrying doesn’t make things better. So stop worrying.

At the end of your day, take five minutes to write down the things you appreciated about that day. Calling up positive emotions will help push away negativity and stress.

Make a conscious choice not to become angry or upset. You may not be able to control everything happening around you, but you do have control over your response to any given situation. Take a few deep breaths. Then think about what can be done to resolve the situation, rather than focusing on how angry you are about it.

Do one simple thing that you’ve been putting off–whether it’s returning a phone call, paying a bill, or making a dentist appointment. Getting this thing off your mind will help you de-stress.

Vent to a friend for five minutes. Or write down your thoughts in a journal.

If you’re feeling anxious before bed and fear you won’t be able to get to sleep, have a cup of warm milk. It contains natural opiates called casomorphins.

Go outside.



Is Raw Food Better Food?

Foods in their raw form can be very healthy for us. Raw foods still contain all of their naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, as well as live enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Going raw also necessarily means you can’t eat such unhealthy fare as fried foods and most commercially prepared processed junk food.

If you commit to a raw diet your daily options will include raw fruits and veggies, raw nuts and seeds, sprouted beans, cold-pressed oils, and—if you’re okay with eating animal products—raw meat, raw fish, and raw milk products (i.e. unpasteurized milk and the foods made from it).

There are downsides, however, to eating lots of raw food. While cooking food kills off some of the nutrients, it also renders the food more digestible. Some people prone to digestive problems can actually feel quite terrible from raw fruits and veggies. Certain green vegetables in particular are really best eaten cooked. Spinach, beet greens, and chard are high in oxalic acid, a compound that blocks calcium and iron absorption, but which is largely neutralized if these greens are cooked. Cabbage, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts contain chemicals that block the production of thyroid hormone, but are also safer when cooked.

Raw milk and its derivatives are all the rage in certain nutritionally conscious communities—and it is true that unpasteurized milk (meaning milk straight from the cow that is not heat-treated) is theoretically better for us, as more vitamins and minerals and enzymes remain in the milk in its raw state (Sally Fallon Morell, author of “Nourishing Traditions,” has written extensively about this subject, and heads a foundation dedicated to spreading the word about the benefits of raw milk products, among other traditional foods). But there is a real risk of contracting Salmonella, Listeria, or Campylobacter from raw milk if it is not processed in a completely safe and clean way. It’s a similar story with raw meats and fish—there is always a risk of the food being contaminated with bacteria or parasites. Its helps to either freeze the meat or fish for several days before preparing it for a raw dish, or curing it with salt or citrus first.

So is a raw diet for you? Only you can answer that question. Experiment with these foods and see how you feel. Do your research. And ask yourself if you can live without roast chicken, hamburgers, and Mom’s apple pie!



Kitchen Tools to Make You Healthier
April 23, 2014, 11:06 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

Did you know that your choice of kitchen tools and cookware can make a difference when it comes to your health? It’s true—some materials found in many a kitchen can actually harm you over time, while others will lead to better health. Here are some tools you might like to have if you’re looking to build a better kitchen …

Cast-iron pots and pans. Cast-iron cookware is strangely cheap, extremely durable, and will give you nice even heat. But it will also add a significant amount of iron into your diet, as some iron from the pan actually leaches into the food being cooked. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed, for example, that the iron content of three ounces of applesauce increased from 0.35 mg to 7.3 mg when cooked in an iron pot and scrambled eggs increased from 1.49 mg to 4.76 mg of iron. On the other hand, the worst kind of cookware to use would be anything made of aluminum, a known carcinogen that’s also been shown to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Glass storage containers. What’s good about glass is that it’s not plastic. Plastic leaches such unhealthy compounds as dioxins and PCBs into our food, especially if heat is introduced into the equation (never microwave food in plastic containers for this reason). Pyrex dishes or Mason jars are a nice alternative to plastic containers.

 A wooden cutting board. Cutting boards made of wood are much less likely to harbor pathogenic bacteria than plastic ones.

 A blender. Smoothies! If you whip up a smoothie in your blender, whether with fruit, veggies, or both, you’re likely getting 4 or 5 servings of produce in one shot. This is an easy way to add more plants into your diet—a goal all of us should try to achieve.

A slow cooker. I am so in love with my slow cooker. You throw a bunch of ingredients in there in the morning, and by evening you have a delectable, tender concoction, and enough of it to feed a family of four a few times. I’ve used it to make pulled pork, chicken, ribs, brisket, and even lasagna. So it’s clearly convenient, but is there anything particularly healthy about using a slow cooker? Yes! According to Dr. Andrew Weil, slow cooking is less likely to expose you to advanced glycation end products (AGEs), toxins the body absorbs when we consume grilled, fried, or broiled meats cooked at high temperatures. AGEs have been linked to inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, vascular and kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Steaming, boiling, or braising foods—which is what the slow cooker does–will reduce your intake of these harmful compounds. Plus, cooking meat on the bone for hours and hours in the slow cooker will draw the key nutrients found in the bones–like collagen and gelatin, both crucial for your bone health–into the finished dish.



“Unhealthy” Foods That Are Actually Healthy

Nutritional science changes—often. One day we’re told a food is good for us, the next day we’re told it’s bad. The opposite is true as well—sometimes a food that we’re told to avoid turns out to be quite good for us. Here are four such foods we need to remove from the nutritional “doghouse” based on the latest scientific findings …

Butter. If you grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s like I did, then you likely kept margarine in your fridge rather than butter. Everyone knew that butter was bad for you, and that margarine was better for heart health. Unfortunately, it turns out we were dead wrong.

Margarine is made up of trans fats, and we now know that trans fats are way worse for our hearts than saturated fats. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, your risk for developing heart disease increases by 30 percent if you regularly consume trans fats as opposed to butter (or even lard).

And butter—especially butter from grass-fed cows and raw milk butter—contains many important nutrients, such as vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, lecithin, and trace minerals. So throw out those tubs of margarine and spreads made from overly processed vegetable oils and use butter!

Eggs. Stop tossing out your yolks. The most recent research finds that the cholesterol in egg yolks raises our levels of good cholesterol, not bad cholesterol. And egg yolks are extremely nourishing—they are one of the few foods that contain a good amount of vitamin D, as well as vitamin A, the beneficial long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA, choline, and many micronutrients. Some people pass on the yolks thinking that eating just the whites will help them lose weight. But an egg only has about 70 calories.

Beef (from pasture-raised cows). While we shouldn’t necessarily gorge ourselves on lots of red meat every day, there is a place for beef in an omnivore’s diet, especially if that meat comes from pastured animals as opposed to those raised on factory farms. There is a ton of protein in beef, and many other nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and magnesium. But grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and conjugated linoleic acid than grain-fed beef (a.k.a. “regular” beef in your supermarket). Grass-fed cattle are generally pastured on smaller farms where they’re not pumped full of steroids and antibiotics, which is better for our health as well.

Dark chocolate. Studies have shown that dark chocolate containing a high percentage of cocoa (70 percent or more) has many health benefits. Thanks to the flavonoids and antioxidants found in cocoa, chocolate not only has the potential to lower blood pressure, but it also can reduce diabetes risk and improve cardiovascular health. This doesn’t mean that you should feel free to down a king-size bar, however. Even high-quality dark chocolate is full of calories. Savor just a few squares.




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