Filed under: Chronic Disease, Mushrooms | Tags: cordyceps, enoki, maitake, Mushrooms, shiitake
The more we study mushrooms, the more amazing they become. Mycologists are now finding that such humble varieties as oyster mushrooms and garden giant mushrooms are capable of everything from cleaning up oil spills to filtering wastewater to possibly even decontaminating the area surrounding Fukushima. And they can do wonders for our health, too.
Mushrooms contain a host of proven disease-fighting chemicals, like polysaccharides, glycoproteins, ergosterols, and triterpenoids, in addition to antimicrobial and antiviral compounds. Some of the best mushrooms with strong medicinal qualities are shiitake, maitake, enoki, and cordyceps. Shiitakes encourage body tissues to absorb cholesterol and lower the amount circulating in the blood, and are also seen as helping to prevent cancer. Maitakes are also anticancer, have immune-boosting effects, and may help control both high blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Enoki are generally great for the immune system. And Cordyceps, often sold dried or in tea form, are believed to be a general tonic for good health.
Mushrooms also have the ability to make vitamin D if you let them sit out in the sun for a few hours before consuming them. Given how few foods contain this essential vitamin, this is great news.
So slice up some shiitakes as part of a side dish. Throw maitake or enoki mushrooms into a stir-fry. Or cook up a mushroom barley soup. It doesn’t matter how you make them—just eat more mushrooms!
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Grains, Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: celiac, gluten, gluten intolerance, gluten-free diet, lose weight
Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, seems to be our current food devil—the thing that’s allegedly causing all our weight and health problems. Avoid bread! Avoid pasta! Avoid beer! You’ve probably heard or read all of these exhortations somewhere.
For some people, gluten is indeed a very real problem. Sufferers of celiac disease will see serious damage to their small intestines if they consume any food containing gluten. And many other people who may not have full-blown celiac disease are truly gluten-intolerant—if they eat gluten regularly they may find themselves with chronic digestive problems, joint pain, brain fog, debilitating fatigue, or thyroid issues. Cutting gluten out of the diet for these people can be life-changing. I’ve seen it happen with many of my clients.
But if you’re healthy and not experiencing any of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, there is really no reason to cut gluten from your diet. I would argue that some people who cut gluten lose weight not because of the absence of gluten, but because they are avoiding junky food made primarily of white flour. If you stop eating calorie bombs like bagels, donuts, muffins, and the Olive Garden’s never-ending pasta bowls, then you’ll likely lose weight. It’s not the removal of gluten that made the difference, it was the reduction of calories and poor-quality foods that led to your weight loss.
So if you want to lose weight, it’s really better to think of white flour as the problem. Whole wheat and other whole grains containing gluten (especially if they are high-quality organic grains) can be a very healthy part of our diets, and shunning them in favor of white rice, for instance, won’t necessarily help you reach your weight and health goals.
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, Restaurants, weight loss | Tags: fast food, McDonald's
As a holistic nutrition counselor, my job is to help people eat better and live healthier lives. Which is probably why at some point one of my kids said to me, “What if your clients found out you were eating McDonald’s right now?”
I shrugged and said that I wouldn’t try to hide it–in fact, I would happily confess that I indulged in this meal. Here’s why.
Does McDonald’s, like virtually any fast-food chain, serve low-quality, genetically modified, factory-farmed food that is overloaded with fat, salt, and sugar? Yes. Do I advise my clients to avoid such food? Yes. And I generally avoid this food also.
But two or three times a year, I do eat it. I have to admit that while I do know that the food is disgusting, I enjoy the taste of it. You can’t beat those fries! And whenever I’m done with my Quarter Pounder with Cheese, I always wish there were just a few more bites left.
I don’t feel guilty about these meals, because I know that these two or three McDonald’s runs are not going to undo the healthy eating I do the rest of the time.
It is very important to strike a good balance with your eating–once-a-week fast food WILL lead to weight gain. But if you try to be too “perfect” or “pure” with your food choices, you can drive yourself nuts. This kind of stringency can also lead to binge-eating or secretive eating, where you end up shoveling Oreos into your mouth at 2 a.m. while everyone else in your house is asleep and unable to witness what you’re doing.
So cut yourself some slack. When it comes to your food choices, aim high, but don’t feel bad about missing the mark sometimes.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: butternut squash soup, recipe, vegetarian
Here’s a recipe for a yummy butternut squash soup…
1 medium butternut squash
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, or water
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2-3/4 cup whole milk
12 whole fresh sage leaves
6 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
Halve the squash and scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy pulp. Use a large knife to cut away and discard the tough skin. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch chunks. There should be about 6 cups. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a medium pot or soup kettle. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until golden, about 6 minutes. Add the squash and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes more.
Add the stock or water, salt, and white pepper to taste. You can also throw in a parmesan cheese rind for extra richness. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the cheese rind if you used one and discard it.
Transfer the squash mixture to a blender. Add 1/2 cup milk and puree, working in batches. (You can also use an immersion blender directly in the pot.)
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with 2 whole sage leaves. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cheese over each bowl and serve.
(Recipe courtesy of “The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook” by Jack Bishop)
Filed under: Beans, weight loss | Tags: Beans, fiber, plant protein, what to do with beans
“I was determined to know beans.” – Henry David Thoreau, The Bean-Field
How well do you know beans?
Creamy cannellinis, meaty garbanzos, sweet adzuki, tender pintos, and so many more–beans are one of the most powerful, nutrient-dense plant foods around.
Consider this: Beans are packed with tons of fiber, as well as plenty of iron and protein. They are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. They are low in calories. Plus, studies have found them to lower the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And if you’re constipated? You can’t do much better than eating beans to solve this all-too-common problem.
What to Do With Beans
Many people avoid beans because they just don’t know what to do with them. Are you one of them? Here are some tips:
- Toss beans and diced veggies (such as celery, shallots, and red peppers) with vinaigrette for a bean salad.
- Blend cooked beans with tomatoes, onions, and your favorite seasonings to create a yummy bean soup.
- Top a green salad with 1/3 cup of your favorite bean.
- Puree beans with a bit of olive oil, a garlic clove, salt, and your favorite seasonings. Voila! A fast dip or sandwich spread.
- Add beans to eggs. Top with avocado and salsa!
- Add 1/4 cup pureed beans to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or cake recipe. You’ll be surprised at how moist and springy baked goods are when baked with beans.
What makes you smile? Laugh? Jump up and down with excitement? For some, it’s body surfing in the ocean. For another, it’s a spin on a roller coaster, a solo movie date, or a perfectly ripe mango.
So … when was the last time you did something that makes you happy?
If it’s been a while, consider this: Happiness lowers stress levels, increases immune system function, and lowers your risk of disease. It also makes life easier.
Doing one pleasurable thing per day (or more!) is the most powerful antidote for gray, boring, or stressful days. Try this:
- Make an “I love” list. List everything that you enjoy–nothing is too small or too large. If you enjoy it, get it on the list.
- Take a look at how you spend your days. When could you fit in a little pleasure? Perhaps you could leave the office at lunch to walk in the park? Maybe you could play your favorite music while doing the dishes? Book yourself a massage this weekend?
- Repeat daily, or more often, as needed.
Enjoy your summer!
Filed under: Dairy, Grains, Meat, Vegetables | Tags: black rice, forbidden rice, grass-fed beef, kefir, kombu, seaweed
Are you stuck in a food rut, eating the same stuff week after week? If so, why not try something new? I chose the following four because they taste good and all have substantial health benefits …
Black rice. Also known as “forbidden rice,” black rice is a whole grain that contains anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in blueberries, grapes, and other purple/red foods. These compounds have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, improvements in memory, and other health benefits. And as a whole grain, black rice provides lots of fiber and vitamins and minerals, and will keep you fuller longer than white rice. Here’s the recipe I usually use when I make black rice.
Kefir. Kefir is basically drinkable yogurt, but with even more beneficial bacteria that will help keep your digestive system healthy and your immune system strong. Kefir is a complete protein that contains an abundance of calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, and phosphorus. And it’s great for your skin! Kefir is perfect for smoothies–pour plain kefir into your blender along with some berries and a banana, and you have an excellent breakfast.
Grass-fed beef. Otherwise known as, during your grandmother’s childhood, “beef.” Cows’ natural diet is grass. But the beef you get at your supermarket, butcher, or local restaurant–unless specifically labeled as “grass-fed”–was raised on industrial corn, as it has been for decades now. Cows raised on corn tend to get sick a lot–as their digestive systems are not geared for digesting grains–so they’re routinely given antibiotics, which end up in the meat. Corn-fed beef also contains a higher concentration of saturated fat, has a lower ratio of healthy omega-3 fats compared to grass-fed beef, and has fewer vitamins and minerals. So seek out grass-fed burgers and steaks whenever you can.
Seaweed. Most often associated with Japanese cuisine, seaweed is a true superfood. Whether you choose a seaweed salad, sushi rolls, or kelp (also called “kombu”) cooked into a bean dish or stew at home, your body–and your thyroid gland in particular–will thank you. Seaweed helps remove heavy metals from your system, detoxifies the body, provides trace minerals, regulates cholesterol, and decreases the risk of cancer. Most importantly, seaweeds are very high in iodine, which is crucial for proper thyroid function and therefore key for a healthy metabolism.