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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Allergy/Immune System Help - Without the Meds

I have never had bad allergies...until January when cedar trees release their pollen. Cedar trees are the national tree of hell. They suck up all the underground water, are major fire hazards and their pollen is unbearable. Plus, they're ugly. Whether you suffer from cedar fever, ragweed, grass or other pollen, or you always get a cold/flu in the winter, there are things you can do to boost your immune system without drugging yourself into a zombie. 

Allergies are actually an auto-immune response. By giving your immune system every opportunity to work at its optimal level, you can greatly decrease your body's auto-immune response to allergens and increase the immune response to viruses.

I've taken every prescription pill, inhaler or OTC pill offered to combat cedar allergies. They have helped, but also made me feel anxious, groggy, cloudy, hungry and just plain out of it. They are also very acidic so while they mask my allergy symptoms, they are also weakening my immune system. Last year, I wanted to try something different - something more natural. I went to a local drug store and spoke with a naturopathic doctor who gave me all of the below recommendations. I tried it and was AMAZED at how well I did through what was touted as one of our city's worst cedar seasons. I only took 2 Benadryl the entire 2 months, when the cedar pollen counts were in the thousands - and I never got a cold. The doctor told me that each year, the symptoms should lessen. I am so happy I can forego the meds and just let my body do the work. Give it a try but start at least a month before your allergy/cold season to strengthen your immune system. 

1) Reduce or eliminate sugars - sugars (especially refined table sugars) are highly acidic and put the body in an inflamed state. When the system is inflamed, it is in a reactionary mode and can begin attacking when and where it shouldn't - hence the auto-immune response. Alcohol is metabolized like sugars, so limit wine and fruity drinks as much as possible. Sorry!

2) Avoid gluten - gluten often triggers an auto-immune response, even if you don't recognize it. Yes, some people have intestinal issues when consuming gluten, but others may show no gut problems. Gluten inflames the body like sugars and by minimizing or eliminating it leading up to and during your allergy/cold season, you may be surprised at how your body is more able to work as it should instead of attacking the wrong things. 

3) Avoid processed foods - if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know how important this one is for your overall health. Processed foods are possibly the worst thing you can put into your body. They wreak havoc on the immune system, among a host of other things. Processed foods, as with sugar and gluten, keep the body in a constant inflamed state, thereby preventing the immune system from working as it should.

4) Add cod liver oil - cod liver oil, sold in capsules or liquid, has renowned effects on the immune system, brain function, heart and kidney health and skin. It is loaded with omega fatty acids which are wonderful for so many things in your body like lowering triglycerides and blood pressure, preventing some symptoms of diabetes, and reducing swelling (inflammation). Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, cod liver oil has given people with allergies significant relief. It has worked wonders for me.

5) Add alkaline foods - to combat the acidity in many of our foods, we need to balance it with alkaline foods. Acidic foods cause inflammation and inflammation is the enemy. Be sure to read my previous blog entry about sea weeds ("The #1 Food to Add to Your Diet") because they are a wonderful way to alkalize the blood stream. Fermented foods such as pickled veggies (pickles, sauerkraut, pickled radishes or any veggie), umeboshi plums, tempeh, and miso (all sold at Whole Foods) are ideal (see Recipes for homemade miso soup which is THE perfect elixir for allergy/cold season - drink a mug daily).

6) Eat as many dark-colored veggies and fruits you can consume. These dark colors are an indicator of the foods' antioxidant concentration. Antioxidants boost our immune systems, so EAT UP.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Holiday Parties and Menus - How to Get Through It the Healthy Way

The holidays are so close, you can almost smell it - pumpkin pie, apple cider, peppermint bark. If you've been reading my blogs and trying to eat healthier, you may be anxious about the all of the traditional holiday fare that will throw you off of your game. DON'T BE! Here's how you can enjoy yourself and still feel great.

1. Moderation - you know this concept, but it's hard to follow it when you're faced with such wonderful holiday foods. It's easy to tell yourself, "It's the holidays! Let's eat!" If you know you're going to a party with food, plan ahead!

  • Eat healthy, whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible leading up to your event
  • Drink a green smoothie (see Recipe) before you go. Not only does this have veggies in it, but it's slightly sweet to curb your sweet tooth
  • When at the party, notice all of the food being served. Choose the least offensive (and I mean that in the best way) foods as your primary source and then a few bites of the things you want to indulge in. Example: load up on fresh veggies/fruit with hummus, sliced turkey,  and nuts; go easy on cheeses, breads/crackers/chips; and maybe just a bite or two of desserts
  • If you over-indulge on sweets, make a cup of miso soup (see Recipe) when you get home. It will alkalize your blood stream and reverse some of the ill-effects of sugar.
2. Have fun - that's what get-togethers are all about, not the food. Enjoy yourself and others. Don't worry about the food and don't gorge yourself. 

3. If you're throwing the party - you've likely told your friends and family about how you're trying to eat healthier, so why would you then feed them boring junk? Find some great, nutritious recipes and show your friends how great whole foods can taste.
  • Offer lots of veggies, raw and cooked, unconventional and expected. Examples: roasted brussel sprouts with cranberry chutney dipping sauce; lightly sauteed sugar snap peas with lemon; roasted sweet potato cubes with maple glaze; mushrooms stuffed with caramelized onions and thyme. 
  • Instead of a typical cheese tray, offer a tray of various goat cheeses. They come in many varieties, including soft, semi-soft and hard, and are much easier to digest than cow dairy
  • Serve nuts - nuts fill you up and you can flavor them a dozen ways. Buy your own, choose lots of varieties, and have fun with them. Sweet, salty, spicy - or all three!
  • Make sushi - most people gravitate to sushi. It's pretty and it's so easy to make. All you have to do is make sushi rice (sold in any store), buy nori paper (sold in most stores), spread a thin layer of rice on 3/4 of the  nori paper, fill with whatever sounds good and roll! Example: cucumber, carrot, avocado, cooked or smoked salmon and a wasabi "mayo"; or lightly steamed asparagus, good proscuttio and melon. Get creative! 
  • If you're going to serve meat, make sure it's organic and preferably lean. Stuff a chicken breast with goat cheese and spinach; coat the outside of a pork roast with grated horseradish and bake until done and serve with chutney; grill salmon or other fish 
  • Make your desserts with unprocessed sugars, like maple syrup, molasses, or unrefined sugar. Experiment with using less butter and add coconut oil or even apple sauce. Use fresh or frozen fruits for fruit desserts instead of canned. Substitute 1 tsp of baking powder for every egg or 1 Tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 Tbsp water for each egg.
  • Offer a fun cocktail. Everyone loves house drinks - they're festive and much more interesting than just wine/beer. Blend 100% pomegranate juice with fresh lime, agave, vodka, mint and ice in a blender. Or make cranberry martinis and float a fresh cranberry and sprig of peppermint in the glass.
If you have any specific questions about menu ideas or concerns about a party you'll be attending, make a comment! I promise to answer. I hope all of you have a fun, healthful holiday season!