Category Archives: Nutrition

3 Great Vegetarian-ish Blogs

Summer’s plenty is finally here, and (if you can pry yourself off of the stone fruits) it’s a great time to pick up some new cooking skills.

Bitten
Bitten

Bitten. If you don’t know Mark Bittman, you can just go ahead and become his fan now. Author of the Times’ “Minimalist” food column, he’s become the traditional paper’s semi-vegan spokesperson. (He says he’s generally vegan til dinner, but since he’s a food critic his last meal is fair game). Yesterday’s column was 101 Simple Salads, and he has all sorts of guest contributors writing about their sustainable, fair-trade, free-range lives.


Melo Meals
Melo Meals


Melo Meals.
Eating raw, or vegan, is super expensive and annoying, right? This blog shuts you up by showing amazing creations on a budget of $3.33 a day. Dessert and Dal might be my dream for last meal on Earth. No, wait, Chipotle White Bean Avocado Dip! No, I mean Raw Sushi Collard Rolls! Now if I could only just stop looking at the pictures and actually go make something…


101 Cookbooks
101 Cookbooks

101 Cookbooks. Your new fall-back favorite. Authored by a food lover who realized “when you have 101 cookbooks, it’s time to stop buying cookbooks and start cooking,” it’s an infinite trove of creative, healthy recipes. Helpful wrap-up posts suggest the best dishes for barbecues, holidays, etc. Beautiful photos and easy navigation. The Black Bean Brownies are legendary.


Any other recipe blogs you love? Share ‘em if you got ‘em!

Vitamins: Bitter Pills

Vitamins B(erry) & C(herry)
Vitamins B(erry) & C(herry)

Well, the New York Times has published another blow to the pharmaceutical / health food industry:

In the past few years, several high-quality studies have failed to show that extra vitamins, at least in pill form, help prevent chronic disease or prolong life.

The fifties marked the boom of science, and its miracles of white bread and infant formula, but the pendulum is swinging back to intuitive or traditional nutrition. Yes, you have to eat your vegetables:

Scientists suspect that the benefits of a healthful diet come from eating the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the individual vitamins found in it. “There may not be a single component of broccoli or green leafy vegetables that is responsible for the health benefits,” Dr. Gann said. “Why are we taking a reductionist approach and plucking out one or two chemicals given in isolation?”

Read the full article at The New York Times.

Super Smoothie

Smoothie!
Smoothie!

OK, random post because I am really excited about my breakfast. I have never been a smoothie person, I am not satisfied with breakfast until I get to chew something like Thai food or brussels sprouts, but this one is GREAT. It has about 25 grams of protein, which is right about a third of my attempted daily intake, and lasts me until lunch. I’ve had it every weekday for about three weeks, and my skin is rosy and taut like I’ve had a facial. This is double good, because the skin and the brain develop at roughly the same time, from the same type of cells, so if your skin is in good health you can trust that your brain is in good health. Dunno what the secret ingredient is, all of them are great. Here goes:

  • 12 oz. soy milk (unsweetened) — this has about 10 grams protein
  • 1 scoop protein powder (unsweetened) — another 15 grams protein
  • 1 scoop açai powder — this is a berry from Brazil that’s energizing
  • 1 large spoonful green powder — this has every vitamin and mineral you could possibly need
  • 1 large spoonful flax seeds — these have essential fatty acids, which are good for your brain and make the smoothie thicker
  • 1 large spoonful raw almond butter — also good for your brain, this makes it heartier so I’m not hungry again in an hour
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries — these add flavor, thickness, and anti-oxidants

Other notes:

  • You have to blend it for a while so the flax seeds get destroyed. They will still be a little chewy, which I like. If you want it even chewier you can add a little raw oatmeal. I love hand blenders cause they’re much easier to clean. I got the flax seeds in bulk at a food co-op.
  • The brand of protein powder you get will also affect the consistency. I first got Aria, a “women’s blend”, then Spiru-tein Banana (unsweetened), which is thicker but a bit less sweet and slightly more chemical in taste. (Might be the banana flavoring versus the vanilla.) Now I’m using hemp protein powder — I started to have allergic reactions to the whey proteins.
  • Get the açai online if you can, it’s expensive in the stores. In fact this whole smoothie is much more affordable if you can stock up online, at Trader Joe’s, or at a local health food co-op. Price per smoothie will be about $2 instead of $5.
  • Greens+ is the best green powder, it has everything from spirulina (the most complex protein your body can digest) to bee pollen (another rich protein / energizer). Trader Joe’s also has a version. Both taste like lawn clippings, so you need the berries to mask the flavor. Orange juice is another great pairing, but it has too much sugar for me; I feel a sugar crash an hour later.
  • Berries are high in anti-oxidants, which scoop up all the roaming, possibly pre-cancerous ions in your body.
  • Most of this stuff is enriched with vitamins, so you’re covered if you forget your multi-vitamin.
  • Don’t worry about the fats, they’re good fats.
  • There is argument on whether soy is actually good for you — the cons saying it’s so genetically modified that your body doesn’t even recognize it as food, storing it as fat. See for yourself. I still prefer it over regular, raw, rice, or almond milk. I could still try hemp milk.

Your brain uses vitamins and minerals to think, and deal with stress, which is why you need a lot of fruits and vegetables every day. That fact finally got me to take a daily B-vitamin (occasionally), but even better is getting vitamins and breakfast at once. Vitamins from whole foods are supposedly absorbed better anyways.

I’ve felt more energetic and less stressed in the past few weeks, so I’m giving the smoothie some credit. But, it might be the Golden Nuggets…

POSTSCRIPT — I ran out of almond butter, so I’ve been adding a big spoonful of raw sunflower seeds instead. Haven’t noticed a difference. I’ve also switched to flax seed oil, but I kind of miss the chewy flax seeds.

Fasting Tips

Well, now it’s day 8 of my fast, and I’m definitely over the hump. Here are some of the things that are keeping me going.

1) CULTIVATE AN ATTITUDE OF ABUNDANCE. There are these crazed moments when fasting (esp. around dinner time) when I start fantasizing about food and am almost convince myself that there won’t be any left by the time I start eating again. When I come to my senses and realize that there is likely to be an abundance of food when I choose to eat again, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude that this is so, and reminded that this isn’t the case for everyone. That not eating is a CHOICE for me, and that it is a luxury to be able to make this choice. There IS enough in the world, and I don’t need it all right now. I have what I need. I am blessed. Some friends of mine make it a tradition to fast instead of feasting on Thanksgiving, and somehow this seems appropriate and beautiful, if impractical for many of us.

2) PRACTICE AHIMSA, an attitude of non-violence, in this case particularly to onesself. I am doing this as a way to be kind to myself, not to punish myself for all my previous sins. When I was a teenager struggling with body-image issues, I never had the willpower to successfully fast, because my attempts were not out of love and respect for my body but rather out of self-loathing and punishment. It was only after (effortlessly!) losing weight through practice of yoga and learning to love myself that I had the willpower to successfully fast.

3) ENJOY THE OTHER SENSES. I’m continually amazed at how sensitive my other senses are while fasting. Especially the sense of smell (ok, so sometimes this isn’t so great, especially when living in New York it was a bit much sometimes)…but I am finding that whereas a few days ago the smell of my mom’s cooking was enough to drive me mad with craving, now the smells are almost filling in themselves. The same with sight. My eyesight seems clearer and its almost as though I can fill up at the mere sight of food, especially beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables. I am more sensitive to sounds as well, and trying to practice a bit of nada yoga each day, just listening…it really does feel like I can see, taste, smell, and hear not just with my sense organs but at the cellular level. Again, this can be overwhelming, so it’s nice if you can be as gentle as possible with oneself (ahimsa again).

5) PRACTICE ASANA! Along with increased sensitivity of sight/sound/smell/touch comes increased sensitivity to the subtle body in yoga practice. The movement of prana in the body is much more distinct and perceptible with the digestive system fully at rest. Also, I’m finding that instead of using my practice to “burn up” whatever I’ve consumed, it actually seems to fill me up at the cellular level. I have been able to keep up my regular intensity of practice, and my body feels  steadier, lighter and more flexible than before. I am also finding exploring a more restorative practice (which I don’t ordinarily have the patience for) extremely rewarding and nourishing.

6) MEDITATE. Not just on the cushion, but all day long. the way the mind reacts to fasting is much like it does when trying to meditate. Desire for food arises (much like any thought) and the choice is presented of whether or not to entertain the desire. Sure, sometimes it’s fun to go ahead and drive myself crazy fantasizing about food…but eventually I find that if I choose NOT to engage, the desire passes! Then it rises again, and passes again. Much like those pesky thoughts when on the cushion. It helps me to realize that its always like this, not just when fasting or sitting, that I can really bring this practice into my life in a useful way.

7) TRY OIL-PULLING. Usually during the first few days of a fast, the mouth can get really funky and the tongue coated with “amma” (the body’s toxic sludge, delightful) as part of the detox process…..but I decided to try this practice (as introduced by Scout in a previous blog), and it pretty much eliminated this problem. Cool.

8) DO THE SALT-WATER FLUSH. Every day. I’m serious. Unless its making you truly ill, in which case you must listen to your own body. This is the first time I’ve been truly diligent about it (I usually just do it every other day, or only for the first 3 or 4 days). this time I’m doing it every day. After day 4 it seemed like I was pretty much done and clean….not the case! Hear I am on day 8 and its like a whole second wave of cleansing is happening. And I feel like I’ve had a pretty healthy diet my whole life. I’m shocked. It’s definitely inspiration to keep fasting until its really over.

9) DRINK NETTLES TEA. This is not part of the classic Master Cleanser protocol, but nettles are packed with nutrients, and aid in detoxification of the organs. Drinking a stout cup of nettles tea while fasting is for me like eating a big salad — really nourishing and refreshing.

10) ENJOY THE EXTRA TIME! Without all that time spent preparing and eating food, there can be extra hours on each day. Do things you “never have time” to do. Take a contemplative walk. Meditate. Sit and pet the cat. Read. Study Tarot. Write letters. Enjoy your Self.

Master Cleanser: The Dark Side?

Well, let me first say that I have done this fast numerous times with great results. Nothing has worked better to clear up my skin. My digestion has greatly improved. I’ve managed to break some pretty major bad eating cycles this way. But upon further research of Mr. Stanley Burroughs, the guy who devised the fast, some pretty dodgy stuff comes up.

Among other things, he was convicted of 2nd degree felony murder for his treatment of a poor unwitting cancer patient. The patient was to live on only master cleanser (including the saltwater flush) for a month, and also to recieve abdominal massage from Burroughs. He died a painful death. Apparently Burroughs was really stubborn about the way he was treating the patient,  the patient must have been really trusting, and the result was tragic. I wonder if this had anything to do with the amount of sugar in the maple syrup in the recipe? Doesn’t cancer feed on sugar? And in my massage training, I’ve been taught never to directly massage a cancerous area. Maybe Burroughs didn’t know these things, and had that intense and stubborn “My way is THE way” attitude that isn’t so uncommon amongst health “gurus”. Maybe he had success with other cancer patients following the same regime?

I have wondered about the sugary element of the fast, since sugar is often what I’m trying to detox from. But the truth is, that by the time I’m done with the fast, sugar is the last thing I crave.  Maybe  because I’m just so sick of it!  And even though I am normally a person who gets lightheaded if I don’t eat regularly, I never seem to have trouble with this on the master cleanser, which is remarkable and quite probably thanks to the maple syrup. I’m not sure about the chemistry, if maple syrup metabolizes much differently from other sugars (I’m sure Stanley Burroughs would say yes! He claims even diabetics can benefit from this fast, and get off of insulin.)  I read so many different things. It seems that during the fast it must be processed very efficiently, since its the only food the body is getting glucose from. But maybe a note – if you have cancer and are thinking of fasting as a cure, perhaps Master Cleanser is not the best option!

At any rate, when researching the Master Cleanser much more positive information comes up than negative. Many people seem to have benefited greatly from Burroughs’  ideas. I guess its another example of trusting one’s body, ”Take what you can use and leave the rest”, as one of my favorite yoga teachers is always saying.

Some moral support, huh! Hope I haven’t scared anyone away from fasting….

‘Tis the season for…..Master Cleanser!

Well, it’s that time of year. The relatives have cleared out, the last of the turkey scraps have been fed to the dogs, and all the good sweets are gone. I’m feeling sluggish, my blood feels like molasses, my skin’s a wreck, and I’ve been waking up feeling cranky and achy every morning with my caffeine addiction in full bloom. Plus I’ve taken to drinking every night. So, I ‘ve finally embarked on that fast I’ve been meaning to do for the last couple months.

My fast of choice is the classic Master Cleanser, sometimes known as the “lemonade diet”, made popular by Stanley Burroughs in the 1950’s. My main reason for choosing this fast is that it’s pretty simple. You just subsist on a mixture of lemon or lime juice, grade B maple syrup, and a dash of cayenne pepper in water (I prefer the water to be hot) for at least 10 days. The lemon juice helps break up mucus, the maple syrup provides essential nutrients like iron and B vitamins (grade B has more of these than grade A), and the cayenne pepper further helps to break up toxins. It also helps warm the body which is pretty important in a wintertime fast. The only other thing you consume (and this is the hard part!) is a quart of warm salt water (about a teaspoon per cup) every morning, or at least every other morning. This is to thoroughly cleanse the digestive tract, and while it’s not exactly pleasant, it is – ahem – very rewarding. To omit this part is to miss out on some of the prime benefits of the cleanse. Just make sure you are near a toilet for at least an hour after drinking it – wouldn’t want to be caught on the subway, that’s for sure!

Why fast? Well, in the body a huge amount of energy is devoted to consumption and digestion of food. The idea behind fasting is that once the digestive system is cleansed and at rest, that energy can then be devoted to whatever other repairs the body is in need of. A great deal of healing can take place at the cellular level in all of the bodies systems.

Not only is a lot of the body’s energy spent on food, so much of our mental energy is tied up with the whens and wheres and what are we going to eat. Clearly food is not just nourishment for us, it is a major provider of comfort and distraction. When we give it up for a time it becomes apparent how much of the desire for food is mental rather than physical. And if we go long enough on a fast to finally stop obsessing about wanting to eat, a certain quality of clarity and sensitivity arises in both body and mind. Fasting does for the digestive system what meditation does for the mind. It facilitates the shift from “doing” to “being” for a spell. It’s a really great way to change negative patterns, get out of ruts (mental and physical), and determine food allergies.

The recommended time for the fast is at least 10 days, and my experience has been that if I can just make it past day 4, the rest is much easier. The really hard part is not going nuts and overeating when ending the fast. Stanley Burroughs recommends 2 days of orange juice followed by easing into vegetable soup. I prefer grapefruit instead of orange, and rarely can make it 2 days of just the juice. Instead, I start letting myself have miso soup on the 2nd day off the master cleanser solution.

I am on day 2 of the fast now. I will be blogging more about fasting in the coming days….just in case anyone wants to join me and wants some moral support…….or to lend me some!

Happy New Year!

Pesticides in Produce: The 12 Most Important Organic Purchases

My friend and I were talking about nutrition this weekend, as I am wont to do, and the price of organic food came up. Here in New York, where a small box of shredded wheat is often $7, it’s hard to conceive of committing to an even more expensive lifestyle. (I’ve seen some marketing articles saying that moms are a big target for organic corporations, because they will buy only the best for their baby, even if they won’t for themselves.)

There’s rising awareness that all food is not created equal. Michael Palin, in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, reminded us that organic foods are more full of nutrients and less full of pesticides. For anyone on a budget, however, the prices are hard to resolve.

One thing that helped me was to hear that certain fruits and vegetables are not as important to buy organic. It’s not a black-and-white situation! Whew! (I’m queen of the gray area.) Fleshy fruits and vegetables absorb more pesticides, so you want to buy those organic. Hard-skinned ones, you can go for cheap.

I found a great wallet card from the Environmental Working Group, here’s their list:

DIRTY DOZEN: (buy these organic)

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Lettuce
  9. Grapes (imported)
  10. Pears
  11. Spinach
  12. Potatoes
CLEANEST 12: (can buy conventional)

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Corn (frozen)
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi
  9. Bananas
  10. Cabbage
  11. Broccoli
  12. Eggplant
 

So I can skip the $4 organic broccoli at my local Key Foods.

You can download the wallet card, or get more information at www.foodnews.org. Here’s their explanation:

Why Should You Care About Pesticides?
There is growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can adversely affect people, especially during vulnerable periods of fetal development and childhood when exposures can have long lasting effects. Because the toxic effects of pesticides are worrisome, not well understood, or in some cases completely unstudied, shoppers are wise to minimize exposure to pesticides whenever possible.

What’s the Difference?
An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead. Eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 14 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to less than 2 pesticides per day. Less dramatic comparisons will produce less dramatic reductions, but without doubt using the Guide provides people with a way to make choices that lower pesticide exposure in the diet.

Will Washing and Peeling Help?
Nearly all of the data used to create these lists already considers how people typically wash and prepare produce (for example, apples are washed before testing, bananas are peeled). While washing and rinsing fresh produce may reduce levels of some pesticides, it does not eliminate them. Peeling also reduces exposures, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the peel. The best option is to eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and choose organic when possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.