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, January 22, 2013

Juicing vs Smoothies - What's the Big Deal?

There's alot of hype these days about juicing or drinking smoothies. There are juice bars popping up left and right and even mainstream commercial brands are offering instant smoothies. What's the deal with them? Is one better than the other and what should they contain? Let's break it down...

The Difference Between Juicing and Smoothies
Juicing is simply extracting the juice from a fruit or vegetable. Most juicers separate the pulp from the juice so you get a smooth, bit-free juice. While the juices can be delicious, when you toss the pulp, you're tossing the fiber, too. What you get are vitamins and sugars. These aren't processed or refined sugars, but they are metabolized in your body as sugar and thus spike your blood sugar (hard on your pancreas). When eaten with fiber, however, these juices are metabolized slower and your blood sugar doesn't take such a hit.The more fruit you juice, the more sugar. The more vegetables you juice, the less sugar. Either way, you're not getting the WHOLE food. And if you've been reading this blog, you know the WHOLE food is always best.

Making smoothies is preferable because they are made in a blender, which retains all of the pulp and fiber - ensuring you are digesting the entire fruit/veggie, not just the juice. The pulverization process makes it much easier on your body to digest because you have done much of the breakdown legwork prior to consuming. Because you have all of the fiber intact, your body can slowly metabolize the sugars, fiber and vitamins together, causing very little blood sugar increase - if you focus on the ingredients. Smoothies are an easy and fast way to get a daily serving or two of veggies into your diet. 

The Ugly Truth about Fruit Smoothies
Whether you are juicing or smoothy-ing, you should aim for a vegetable-to-fruit ratio of 3 to 1 (three parts vegetables to one part fruit). All fruits contain a hefty amount of natural sugars, so these need to be limited and used mainly to slightly sweeten the drink. You can start gradually so you can get used to more vegetables, but if you're making a banana, strawberry and apple smoothie, you've just consumed at least 34 grams of sugar (not including whatever liquid base you choose). That's the equivalent of 8 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. A 12 ounce can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar. Yes, the smoothie is natural sugar, but your body still metabolizes it the same.

Making Smoothies Work for You
My favorite smoothie uses a base of 2 ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice, 2 large leaves of kale, 1/2 a lime, an unpeeled carrot, an M&M-sized piece of ginger, and 1 tsp of spirulina (a seaweed powder found in health food stores) and ice. I drink this almost every morning. It contains 8 grams of natural sugar, or 2 tsp of sugar. Much better than the all fruit smoothie.

Experiment with different vegetables and Google some green smoothie recipes (check out my Recipes page for one). There are hundreds of them - just make sure you are limiting the amount of fruit. And make sure you are using a good blender. You'll know you need a better blender if your smoothies have noticeable chunks and pieces of produce. The smoother your smoothie, the more pleasant the experience. I highly recommend VitaMix blenders. They are pricey, but worth every penny. There's a reason why they are so coveted. They are the best on the market and will give you a completely smooth smoothie every time.

Be sure to see the Recipes page for some newly-added recipes! Eat - or drink - those veggies!

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year - New You

It's 2013 and if you're like the majority of Americans, somewhere on your list of things to accomplish this year is to either lose weight, eat cleaner or exercise more. While I can't force you to exercise, I can encourage you to eat cleaner (which will inevitably lead to weight loss).

Eating clean means you eat the most BASIC form of a food - what is closest to that which is found in nature. This means you will be buying more ingredients and less prepared foods; you'll be cooking more and using your microwave less; you'll be discovering new vegetables, grains and beans while eating less cow dairy, sugar, caffeine and processed foods. Scared yet? It may seem overwhelming at first, but as with anything, once you start, it gets easier until it becomes the norm. The continued motivation will come from your improved health, vitality, energy, appearance and mood. I promise.

Ready to get started? 

1. Take inventory of your kitchen and toss as many packaged foods as possible, especially those with more than five ingredients, ingredients you can't pronounce, ingredients that contain: 

    • high fructose corn syrup
    • food dyes (red, blue, yellow, etc)
    • non-organic corn or soy (including oils)
    • bleached white flour
    • refined sugar
    • artificial sweeteners 
    • nitrates/sulfates
    • other preservatives
2. Eliminate sodas from your house. The occasional Izzy or sparkling water is fine, but there is absolutely NOTHING redeemable about Diet Coke. Ever.

3. Go online and search for websites that have CLEAN recipes using fresh ingredients and as many veggies as possible. I have several listed on my blog and my own recipes page, so find some there or in a cookbook to try. Think of it as an adventure or a way to express your creativity.

4. Become friends with the produce section (or better yet, shop at your local farmer's market or order farmer's market produce to be delivered to your neighborhood through a local CSA - go online to find one in your area). Most nutrient-rich veggies to add to your diet are:
    • Kale, collard greens, mustard greens
    • Bok choy
    • Spinach
    • Napa cabbage
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Swiss chard
    • Radish
    • Mushrooms
    • Red peppers
    • Carrots
5. Eat more beans, grains and seeds. These little dynamos are packed with protein, minerals, fiber and vitamins. Did you know a serving of quinoa (actually a seed) with lentils is a complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids? Be sure to cook beans and grains with a 1" piece of dried kombu (seaweed that can be found on Asian aisle at Whole Foods or Central Market) to eliminate gas and add micronutrients (see previous blog titled "#1 Thing to Add to Your Diet). Most nutritious beans, grains and seeds are:
    • Lentils
    • Red kidney beans
    • Great Northern beans
    • Adzuki beans
    • Black beans
    • Black-eyed peas
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Sesame seeds
    • Flax seeds
    • Pinto beans
    • Edamame (organic ONLY)
    • Split peas
    • Chickpeas (garbanzos)
    • Oats
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Barley
    • Pistachios
    • Brown rice
    • Pecans
    • Almonds
6. Get your family involved and explain why you're doing this. I've said it before, but there is no reason why you shouldn't let your family in on what you're trying to do. Kids as young as 3 can understand the simple concept: "there is food God created for us to eat and then there is food a laboratory creates that they think is okay for us to eat. I'm trusting God on this one." See? Simple. 

The #1 marketing tip I ever learned in my nearly 20 years in the industry was "never sell the product - sell the benefit." That means you don't just put the food on the table and tell them how good it tastes. You explain to them WHY you are changing how your family eats - why eating from nature always trumps eating from a lab. How our bodies were created to eat what was found in nature and when we feed it chemicals, preservatives, mystery food, etc, it doesn't know what to do with it so we feel bad. Eventually, eating this type of food makes us sick - lethargy, mood swings, allergies, intestinal problems, diabetes, heart disease, gout and even cancer. 

Please make a comment on the blog if you have any questions so others can see it. Most of you probably have similar questions, so let's share them. If you're reading this on a smart phone, be sure to check out the blog on your computer so you can see the links in the margin (Recipes, Kitchen Staples, great websites, etc.). 

2013 is YOUR year. It's the year you start healing your body and allowing it to work the way God intended. The saying, "you are what you eat" is 100% accurate. If you put junk in, you'll feel like junk. Make the change. You are worth it!!!