Simplifying nutrition and using food as medicine - one bite at a time.

My goal with this blog is to set folks straight about what good nutrition really is! Starting by discarding the info we get every day from 'sponsors' that do not really have our best interests at heart, I want to inspire you to eat better AND realize it is much easier than you thought it would be!

Just about any health issues can be addressed with nutrition (and meditation), from mild to chronic to acute. We truly have the ability to heal ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually...

And you can use your daily routine as your vehicle to drive that change :)


Join me...

Quote of the Month

"When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous"
~Wendell Berry

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To Cleanse or Not To Cleanse?

At this time of year I get a lot of questions about cleansing/detoxifying the body: What are the best packaged cleanses? How long should I cleanse for? Is this the right time to cleanse?

Rarely am I asked: Is it appropriate for me to cleanse at all? Everyone seems to assume that they’ve been naughty so they MUST need cleansing to get rid of the ‘toxins’ they’ve taken in.

It seems that this time of year generates a lot of these questions as it symbolizes a new beginning, new goals, not to mention leaving behind that end of year indulging. If I were to choose, I’d say springtime is probably the best time to cleanse as it coordinates with our inherent bodily cycle which moves naturally into cleansing mode at that time of year. But it can be done anytime if it feels right for you.
This is a bit of a complex issue but I’ll try and keep things simple. I’d like to start by clarifying a few guidelines about the safety and appropriateness of ‘cleansing’.

First, please refrain from engaging in total fasting (no food at all), especially if you are not experienced in doing so and certainly not without supervision of a certified health practitioner. This can actually be dangerous if you do not know exactly what you are doing or how your current state of health is.

Second, consider the fact that many of us who suffer from symptoms that make us feel ill or low energy or even diseased are deficient and cleansing can worsen that state of deficiency. So, cleansing as we know it may not even be the way to go at all (speak to a Holistic Nutritionist or Naturopath for more specific guidance).

The grand paradox: we live in a society that generally over-eats, yet the majority of us are malnourished.
So many people assume that that ‘toxic’ feeling will be alleviated by cleansing – and, yes, often that does happen temporarily, as your body is relieved to be less encumbered, but it can set you up for more deficiency in the long run. When you have deficiencies your body may lack the building blocks to re-build what it needs to be well again.

Third, I recommend committing to cleaning up your diet, gradually but surely. A good start would be to designate one day a week to eat totally clean (see below for guidelines). This makes it less likely to get steered ‘off-track’ by trying to have a perfect diet right away (many are feeling so stoked right now to get started). Any drastic changes will greatly increase your likelihood of standing in front of the boxed cleanses again in a few months back where you started.
You’re wiser to find a sustainable diet that works for you and that makes your body feel better.

If your weekly ‘cleansing day’ works for you and you want to increase to twice weekly then go ahead and graduate yourself, you are on the right track.

If you really are confident that you can jump into something more intense because your diet was already pretty darn good then start by doing a week or two of really clean eating and then continue with one/twice weekly as maintenance-cleansing to prevent significant toxic build up from happening again.

Here are some great examples of simple meals to eat on your ‘clean day’:

Homemade organic veggie or bone stock (must be organic!)

Salads with easy-to-digest herbs and veggies: avocado, celery, onion, garlic, watercress, ass’t sprouts (including bean sprouts for those who seek more protein), radish, thyme, ginger, etc. Avoid raw salad greens/lettuces as they are difficult to digest and are relatively low in nutritional content

Veggie stir-fry’s with steamed brown rice + optional tamari sauce (a healthier soy sauce alternative that contains enzymes and probiotics bacteria - wheat free varieties would be ideal) or just cold-pressed olive oil or virgin coconut oil for enhanced nutrition and flavour.

Freshly juiced root veggies (ie: carrots, parsnips, beets, turnip, burdock, sunchokes) w/ cold-pressed olive oil or virgin coconut oil to enhance absorption of vital vitamins and minerals in the veggies and to keep you ‘grounded’.

Pre-soaked (8 to 24 hours) or sprouted organic nuts and/or seeds.

Non-glutinous grains ie: millet, quinoa, brown/wild rice, teff, buckwheat (not actually a grain), arrowroot,…w/ olive or coconut oil (as above).

Tempeh, au natural, or with a small amount of tamari

Fresh small fish (for those with higher protein needs), accompanied by sautéed veggies. *Use above mentioned oils and low temperatures for cooking.

Fermented foods (lactic acid fermented ones, that is) such as kefir (if you tolerate dairy), sauerkraut (no vinegar added!), miso, kimchi, dosa, crème fraîche, sourdough, kombucha…


Foods to AVOID (in general):

Conventional animal products

Conventional produce, especially the most highly sprayed ones (see www.foodnews.org)

Refined flour and sugar

Pasteurized dairy

Unsprouted, non-organic wheat

Alcohol

Soda/Pop (even the ‘natural ones’)

Coffee

Corn

Additives/Preservatives (almost anything in a can or box)

Artificial sweeteners

Anything modified/hydrogenated/skimmed

Canned foods

‘Fast food’ soy products such as soy dogs/burgers and various other texturized soy protein products.


Note: when I say ‘organic’ I always mean certified organic. Get to know your labels and what certification boards are legitimate (ask questions, demand honest answers!). These sites can help: www.eatlocal.org or www.organicconsumers.org

Best of luck in achieving a healthy, clean body!

Contact me if you would like to work with me directly to ensure a healthy sustainable diet is achieved; one that is specific to your needs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Perfecting Perogies

Recently I prepared perogies from scratch for the first time. It was a daunting thought at first but I decided I was up for the challenge!
My husband’s mother is Polish and we always have a huge traditional feast every Christmas eve. complete with borscht, uszkas, perogies, fresh bread, kucia (a dessert) and even pickled herring. To make things even more interesting, my husband’s father, who is from India, often prepares a traditional Indian dish as well. It is a foodie’s dream, really!
I wanted to contribute this year as I had some free hands (last year I was baby-minding) and was eager to learn the ‘art of making traditional perogies’.
Being the holistic foodies that I am though, I had to find a way around the ‘white flour dilemma’, so I decided to make them with half spelt flour. My mother-in-law gave me her blessing (in fact, we attempted making them this way previously to test it out and found them quite nice).
* I believe you could even use ¾ spelt or even all spelt with the right tweaking to the recipe (and if you can work with stickier dough)

I wanted to involve my little Oskar in the process, partly to introduce a family tradition and also to encourage his support in the kitchen. I hope that this will develop a healthy love of food including its preparation!
I strongly encourage all parents to involve your kids in the kitchen, from a young age, and especially if they are finicky eaters. It has shown to significantly improve their eating habits and it is a wonderful way to bond with your child, especially if you create a loving and patient environment to practice in.

Note: When involving little ones, be prepared to spend a LOT more time and have a LOT more mess…but also a LOT more fun!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why choose organic(...and ways to prioritize when we cannot)

Many folks do not know the full extent of the benefits of choosing organically grown food (certified organic, that is, or equal). I’ve listed some of the most valid points below for your consideration.
I should clarify that we should not necessarily be striving to eat 100% organic. It is very difficult and expensive to have a 100% (certified) organic diet, especially when trying to eat locally as much as possible (that is a whole other post in itself!). So, what I recommend is to prioritize certain foods over others (see: http://www.foodnews.org/). In other words, avoid non-organic produce that tends to be most sprayed, like peaches.

And I’d add animal products to your list of priority foods (or in the case of animal products free-range/grass-fed, non-medicated) as they are higher on the ‘food chain’ and therefore bio-accumulate more toxicity in its lifetime. Also they are likely to also contain ‘undesirables’ such as antibiotics, hormones, etc.
For this reason my husband and I have become ‘part-time vegetarians’, for economical reasons (it is expensive to eat meat every day when choosing only the best quality) as well as environmental reasons (even though organically raise animals take way less toll on the environment it still takes more energy than growing vegetables).

Modern Farming Practices

Conventional Meat Production:
These days animals are farmed in such a fashion that turns out to be detrimental not only to their health and wellbeing, but ours as well.

Things to consider:

• Treatment and cruelty:
o not given adequate room to move or sunlight.
o given growth hormones to speed up development and to produce more product
o given antibiotics
Both hormones and antibiotics make it into our systems, upsetting our hormone balance and making us more antibiotic resistant.
• Animal Feed:
o Chemicals in feed to given to animals (pesticides used when grown).
o Animals given wrong feed (cows given soy and grains, fish given soy).
• Additives, post slaughter –nitrates, dyes, artificial smokes
• Environmental hazards of large scale farming – antibiotics; excess nitrogen (feces) polluting land and ocean (fish farming)
.
Conventional Vegetable Farming

• Uses chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilisers to grow their products
• These chemicals mostly don’t break down and remain toxic in the earth and water supply for years to come
• Is often large scale, mono-cropping which can produce more food in the short-term but end up creating problems to keep this production up in the long-term as nutrients are leached from the soil.
• As a result, lower density of nutrients in food – sometimes more than 50% fewer nutrients found in conventional produce in comparison to organics!
• Lacks biodiversity e.g. industry usually farms only a couple of varieties of the species, leading to disease susceptibility (Cavendish banana, Irish potato famine). 97% of the vegetables grown at turn of century are now extinct.
• Soil is leached of nutrients as a result and often topsoil is lost
• Bacteria, fungi, and other soil organisms often killed off by chemicals, leaving acidic and nutrient deficient soils. Entire soil eco-system is messed up, requiring use of more chemical fertilisers and pesticides
• Often controlled by large corporations leading to issues with:
o local economies losing out on $$
o small scale, local growers having trouble competing with giants
• Linked with higher incidences of cancer and other chronic diseases in communities, especially among farm workers
• IS NOT SUSTAINABLE

Organic Farming:

• Doesn’t use synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicide, fertilisers or anything chemical. Also no GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). Nothing synthetic or unnatural used in the growing of the food.
• Often promotes biodiversity by planting several varieties of the same plant as well as heirloom (old, nearly lost) varieties.
• Does use natural pest and weed management,
o Uses manual weeding, companion planting (certain plants deter pests from others), mulching to stop weeds
o Applies strategic planting times to avoid certain bugs
o Adds natural fertilisers such as fish, seaweed, animal waste, old plant and food material
o Uses cover-cropping to fertilise soil
• Focuses on building soil and nurturing beneficial bacteria, fungi, earthworms found within. Bacteria decompose plant material, making the nutrients (minerals) available for roots. Fungi fight off soil pathogens and earthworms aerate the soil (and these are just a few of their tasks).

Often Includes:

• Support biodiversity of crops, as well as poly-cropping
• Encourage crop rotation so as not to deplete soil of a particular nutrient
• Promote recycling of all substances back into the land e.g. plant and food stuffs composted into soil
• Are stewards of the land caring for it, not degrading it
• Encourage beneficial insects by planting flowers
• PLANNING FOR THE LONG-TERM AND FARMING SUSTAINABLY


*Please note, not all local farmers can afford organic certification but still grow great food, with honour and integrity. Supporting farmer’s markets is a great way to get much of your food (not just produce, but much more!) straight from the farmer and get to know how they grow, not to mention cutting some of the costs by buying direct. So, always ask to know the source and growing methods of your food as much as possible, whether at the supermarket, with your delivery service, or in person to the farmer.

To find a farmer’s market in BC check out: www.eatlocal.org
For the US: http://www.localharvest.org/

Monday, January 4, 2010

Looking Beyond the Ingredients

I was talking to Karen, my friend and fellow weemunch blog partner (www.weemunch.blogspot.com), the other day and we were discussing the pros and cons of rice cakes. She's a fan (or at least was), I am not. And here are my reasons...
They have undergone a method called 'extrusion' in their processing and therefore the protein and other nutrients within will have become de-natured...aka: not good for you.
This goes for anything puffed, shaped or flaked unfortunately, which is why we holistic nutritionists do not recommend having commercial cereals (meaning the boxed ones not plain grains) as part of your regular diet. Further, they are usually made with grains that are loaded with phytic acid (which as I explained in a previous blog entry "To Soak or Not to Soak?" plays havoc on your digestion over time with regular consumption).

My point to this blog is to make people think beyond the label.
If you stop after reading the label and see, for example, organic brown rice, salt - you may think "well, that's sounds pretty simple and healthy" but you also want to ask yourself "Now how was this product processed?" "Does it resemble its natural form?" "Has it required a lot of industrial heat and pressure to be in this form?" and "Can I do better?"

A healthy alternative to almost all commercial cereals (I say "almost all" because there is one that I recommend: Ezekial brand sprouted grain cereal) is to buy your grains as minimally processed as possible (ie: whole, steel cut, rolled...) and make them yourself into porridge or mueslix etc. Or if you're really keen you can sprout them and dehydrate them in order to store them and have them 'dry' (such as with Ezekial's cereals).

You may ask, is this really worth my effort? And I say YES it is!

It may seem like a big change but improving your grain quality intake is a huge step toward better health. I have had several clients now who have seen significant improvements just by improving their grain quality in their diet(in some cases cutting out gluten-containing grains and just focusing on preparing their non-glutenous grains to reduce phytic acid content, in others by just pre-soaking their porridge overnight)

Gastro-intestinal distress (stomach/small intestine/colon) is amongst the highest reason for hospital visits and prescription drug use in our country. Almost everyone has some distress to varying degrees and the vast majority can be prevented. Do you experience occasional constipation or loose bowels? Do you ever feel bloated or gassy? Are you ever full for a long time after eating? Do you ever feel an urgency to have a bowel movement? Do you ever experience heartburn or indigestion? Perhaps discomfort in your stomach or abdominal area? These are just some of the most common symptoms.
Some people feel symptoms more than others but this doesn't mean that if you have no obvious symptoms that there aren't any or that you may not at some point.
I'm not trying to instill fear here, really, just awareness and hopefully prevention of future maladies as digestive stress is a very real and very potentially serious issue today. A bit of prevention can go a very long way.

Stay tuned for more next week :) And please email me if you wish to be added to my mailing list.

Until then, be well-nourished!
Lisa Marie

Follow by Email