Welcome to my Blog about Food and Well-being!

I am often asked to share my knowledge of food and recipes. After changing my diet four years ago from a typical "Western" diet to a mostly whole-foods and plant-based diet, I have seen incredible changes in my health and well-being. I have spent countless hours researching and love helping those who are ready to feel better. The underlying theme? YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. Read on to find out more.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dairy - Not What You Think

We were all raised to believe cow's milk was the next best thing for us after breast milk. There's a billion dollar industry hoping you still believe that. But science has shown that dairy can cause a host of problems that the dairy industry won't tell you about. This blog will just address one - osteoporosis.

Did you know that the U.S. ingests more dairy than most nations yet we have THE HIGHEST rate of osteoporosis on the planet (more than 20 million people suffer from it)? What's going on?

Most drink milk and give it to their kids because of the calcium. We all want strong bones and teeth, right? While cow's milk does contain plenty of calcium, it also contains a large amount of phosphorus (more than the perfect ratio of calcium to phosphorus found in human breast milk). This excess phosphorus binds with the calcium in our digestive tracts and makes the calcium in cow's milk mostly unabsorbable. Added to that, when cow's milk is pasteurized and homogenized, even less calcium is available. 

Your body is pretty amazing. It is constantly trying to balance itself. Because cow's milk is acidic and much of our Western diets are acidic (and high in sodium), your body pulls the calcium from your bones to buffer the acid (and salt). For example, people take TUMS tablets for heartburn (acid). TUMS is calcium. The calcium neutralizes the acid. If you don't have enough available calcium in your blood and digestive tract to balance out all of the acid, your body will pull the calcium from your bones. This leads to osteoporosis. 

Now what? You can get all of the calcium your body needs by eating leafy green vegetables, sea vegetables, tofu (calcium-set kind), nuts and seeds (especially unhulled sesame). Only 2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses has more calcium than a glass of cow's milk. Calcium-fortified juices and milks (soy, almond, hemp, etc) also contain up to 30% of your RDA. 

Next, cut out the extra salt and processed foods that are almost always high in sodium. Weight-bearing exercise is also important to build strong bones. This doesn't mean you need to become a body builder. Running, weights, resistance bands, even using your own body weight for exercises (think push ups, lunges, squats) works. These types of exercises cause the muscles to pull on the bones, which in turn stimulate bone cells to produce more bone.

We are humans, not cows. Human milk was made for humans and cow milk was made for cows. Small amounts of dairy can be fine, but if you're eating/drinking it thinking you're strengthening your bones, you may want to head to the produce aisle instead.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The #1 Best Thing to Add to Your Diet

Now that you've hopefully begun removing a few unhealthy things from your diet, namely unpronounceable ingredients, artificial sweeteners, food dyes and sugars, it's time to add something healthful to your diet. We know eating vegetables from the earth is good for you, but there is an entire produce section from the sea you may be unaware of. Sea vegetables (seaweeds) are probably the most beneficial food item you can add to your diet.

Sea vegetables are among the oldest forms of life (recorded dietary use dates back to 3,000 B.C.) and offer one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food, containing virtually all ocean minerals and many found in human blood. Seaweeds are packed with antioxidants and are extremely anti-inflammatory. Many cultures use seaweeds as a natural anti-viral medication, and a tonic for removing radioactive and metallic poisons from the body (they contain alginic acid, which bind toxins in the body for easy elimination).

They lower cholesterol, reduce estrogen excretion which can lower the risk of certain breast cancers, aid in preventing blood clots, and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. They contain the highest concentration of iodine and also boast measurable amounts of vitamins B6, B12, K, potassium and magnesium. Zinc, iron, calcium and even protein are also significant. 
Convinced yet? If you're worried about contamination, sea vegetables do not absorb pollutants as fish do. Where pollution is high, sea plants simply do not grow.

Seaweeds are usually dried and sold in bags. They keep in your pantry forever, just store them in an airtight container or bag. They are easy to find at Whole Foods and Central Market, as well as many natural food stores and online. Ideally, they should make up 5% of your daily food intake. Here are some common ones and how to use them:

Dulse - I buy these in flake form. The black flakes come in a bag and you can sprinkle them on anything where you would sprinkle salt. They have a slightly salty flavor and turn bright red when they get wet. I add them to salads, Asian dishes (see my sesame noodle recipe on the Recipes link) and even oatmeal! My kids love this as a condiment.

Nori - You are likely familiar with this sushi paper. Sold in sheets, it can be used for wrapping sushi as well as toasted and flaked into salads or even eaten plain. 

Kombu - You don't have to actually eat kombu, but it works miracles when you are cooking any grain or bean. Cut a 1" piece from the dried strip (also sold in bags) and add it to your water as you cook beans or grains (including rice), much like a bay leaf. The kombu will release its wonderful minerals and mild flavor into the cooking water while it helps with their digestibility (a.k.a gas prevention). You can either eat the kombu after cooking or toss it.

Wakame - These dried black strips or pieces are the staple for miso soup (see recipe in Recipes section). It expands tremendously when cooking, so you don't need to use much. If I buy it in strips, I use scissors to cut small pieces into the miso broth. You can buy it already cut up as well.

Arame - These dried black threads need to be soaked in water for 5 minutes before using to rinse off its bitter outer layer. Once rinsed, this seaweed makes a wonderful raw seaweed salad or mince and toss into a stir fry. My favorite way is to mince it and saute with sliced green onions, soy sauce (or tamari), ginger and garlic. A couple of tablespoons is one serving.

Hiziki - This black seaweed is one of the strongest-tasting but has an amazing 1,350 mg of calcium per 1/2 cup. You want to soak this one for 5-10 minutes before using to rinse off the briny taste. It resembles angel hair pasta and can be used similarly as Arame.

Agar - This is SO cool to use in place of gelatin (see Kanten recipe on Recipes link). Gelatin is ground up animal hooves and bones. No, thanks. Why not use something that is actually beneficial to your body? Agar is usually sold as translucent flakes and when simmered in juice or other liquid until dissolved, will set up just like Jell-O, just no animal skeletons.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Inflammation - The Root of All Evils

Scientific American reports "Inflammation has gained recognition as an underlying contributor to virtually every chronic disease." (see link to full article HERE) This inflammation is generally caused when our body pH is acidic. When our bodies are inflamed (acidic), they can't function as intended and are less able to fight off infections and free radicals. While we can't control all inflammation, much of it can be significantly reduced by changing our diets.

The typical Western diet is HIGHLY inflammatory and acidic. Not surprisingly, we are also the most diseased country among developed countries and spend the more than any other nation on healthcare. Sugar, processed foods, dairy, caffeine, animal proteins, medications and other items contribute greatly to our inflamed and acidic conditions. Limiting our ingestion of these foods and adding more vegetables, including sea vegetables (seaweeds) is the first step in  reducing this inflammation. You can actually cure yourself of many ailments, such as headaches, urinary tract infections, allergies, fatigue and heart disease just by eating more alkaline foods and reducing acidic foods.

George Ohsawa was a Japanese doctor who created the macrobiotic movement and coined the terms "yin and yang" as describing acidic and alkaline foods. In 1971, Herman Aihara wrote "Acid & Alkaline," a book dedicated to introducing Ohsawa's Eastern concepts to Western thought in medicine. The book, which is considered the bible for those studying macrobiotics, states, "It is imperative to keep enough alkaline forming elements in our body fluids to maintain the alkalinity level of pH 7.4 [the natural level of human blood]. Furthermore, one of the important causes of cancer - and other degenerative diseases - is the cumulative effect of the acidic condition of body fluid. Therefore if you study acid and alkaline balance as taught in this book, you can prevent almost all sickness, including cancer, heart disease, heart attack, and AIDS."

Pretty powerful statement. No wonder the Japanese culture boasts the longest lifespans with the least amount of disease. Although this acid/alkaline theory seems complicated to us, it is common knowledge in Japan. Their meals are not balanced with a meat, starch and vegetable as they are here. Instead, they are balanced based on the acid and alkaline, yin and yang features of the food. 

What is an example of alkaline forming food? Vegetables, seaweeds, lentils, dried beans and citrus fruits are mostly alkaline. Don't be scared of seaweeds. My next blog will introduce some dried seaweeds that can be easily added to your dishes, many of which you will barely taste.

So, how do you get started? 
  1. Reduce the highly acidic foods and add some alkaline foods. Start by cutting back on sugar (both refined and artificial), coffees and black teas, dairy and animal proteins (meats from any animal), and floured products (baked goods, crackers, breads). 
  2. Try instituting a Meatless Monday dinner and replace a sugary drink or snack with something more healthful, like water with splash of real juice or carrot sticks and fresh hummus. Possibly the best thing you can put into your body, especially if you have eaten a highly sugared or animal protein meal, is miso soup. I drink it in the mornings in place of coffee, but you can also drink it before/with a meal, as a snack and even before/after x-rays or radiation treatment. It has been shown to protect the body from radiation. The Japanese drink miso soup up to three times a day.
  3. Check out my recipes section to see how to make this SIMPLE miso soup and some delicious meatless meals and snacks your family will love.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

What's in a name? More than you'd think. There are occasions when you need to buy something in a package. When you do, do you look at the ingredients list or do you just buy it because you've always bought it? It can be overwhelming trying to decipher what all of those ingredients are. The food manufacturers have gotten pretty clever at masking food ingredients. 

Good ingredients lists will be short (5 or fewer ingredients) and all things you could buy individually in a grocery store. No chemicals, no preservatives, no food coloring. These types of packaged foods are ideal, especially if they are organic. 

Bad ingredients lists will have 10-20 ingredients and many of them are things you can't pronounce or couldn't find in nature. Hydrolyzed soy protein, sodium caseinate, sodium nitrate, citric acid, monosodium glutamate...the list goes on and on. AVOID.

Ugly ingredients are those you may have heard aren't good for you and have actually been linked to diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and even ADD. High fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, sucralose (Splenda), food dyes, and many others. AVOID.

If you are unsure of an ingredient, Google it. Look on the back of your packaged food you already have at your house. Start Googling those strange sounding ingredients and find out what they really are. For instance, blue #1 in Gatorade. On the Gatorade website, they say that they use artificial coloring because "The colors of Gatorade not only look good but also help in flavor perception and enable you to tell different flavors apart." Do we really need to be fooled with color? Why don't they tell us that the blue, red and yellow dyes used are derived from a petroleum product?

Keep in mind our objective - to nourish, protect and heal our bodies with whole foods found in nature, the way God intended. If you find lots of ingredients in your kitchen that you couldn't grow in a garden or raise on a farm, it probably needs to go. At the very least, limit how much and how often you ingest it. But above all, know what you're putting in your body.

Check out my recipes link (right side bar) to find some nutritious, WHOLE ingredients recipes I think you'll love. If you try any of them, make a comment on the blog to let me know what you thought. And as always, feel free to ask questions!

<a href="http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=blogspot/AQIYC&amp;loc=en_US">Subscribe to Eating to Live Well by Email</a>

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to Start A Whole-foods Diet

There's enough research out there now that we can be certain that eating fewer processed foods can only benefit your health. Processed foods, basically most foods in a box, bag or can, are usually full of salt, preservatives, chemicals, food coloring, sugars and ingredients not found in nature. Why do they have these ingredients? Because it helps make the food that's been sitting for years in a box, bag or can to taste and look better. Did you know that a Twinkie has a shelf-life of 21 years? Click on the link to see what fast food looks like after two years. 

If processed food and its ingredients aren't found in nature, our bodies have a hard time recognizing them and properly digesting them (or getting any usable nutrients from them). When food is hard to digest, the body becomes stressed. When the body is stressed, it becomes inflamed (and acidic). Many researchers believe Inflammation (of some sort) is the root of most chronic diseases, including allergies, heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, MS, gout and many others. Decrease inflammation and acidity, decrease your risk for disease. Pretty simple math. Plus, processed foods make you cranky.

Natural foods, namely veggies, grains, beans, seeds & nuts and fruits cause little to no inflammation (unless you have an intolerance/allergy) and are much less acidic than processed foods and animal protein (meats, dairy and eggs). I'm not telling you to stop eating animal protein, although I eat very little, if any, of it. But, you can drastically improve your health simply by cutting out the processed foods. How?

1) Take inventory. Check your kitchen staples and see what you and your family eat on a regular basis. How much of it comes from a box, bag or can? How much of it is from the produce aisle? This will give you a good indication of how far you have to go.

2) Start small. Don't try to change everything overnight or you (and your family) will only get frustrated. Start with one meal a week. Talk to your family about why you are doing this and see if you can get them to help prepare the fresh meal. Instead of defrosting those frozen chicken nuggets or opening a bag of Goldfish, think of something else you can serve that isn't from a box, bag or can. Instead of drinking that Diet Coke, try water with fresh lemons and limes. (See Recipes link to the right).

3) Try 1 new, healthy recipe a week (see Recipe link to the right). Think of what you and your family like most and modify it to be healthier. ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING ON THE PLATE THAT YOU KNOW YOUR KIDS WILL LIKE. Tell them they have to have at least 3 bites of the new food before they can eat what they like that's on their plate. A new veggie? Google it and see the nutrients so you can educate yourself and your family. 

Remember - the goal is to be conscious of what you're putting in your body and how your body reacts to that food. Take note of how your body feels after eating/drinking each food.