Tuesday, May 26, 2015

5 Changes I Made Immediately After Attending The 2015 Annual Nutrition And Health Conference

Dr. Christine Gallagher and I at the 2015 Annual Nutritional and Health Conference in Phoenix, Arizona

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Health and Nutrition Conference 
Dr. Christine Gallagher and I became good friends while getting our doctorates; her in Natural Health and me in Holistic Nutrition. Although she lives and practices in Grand Junction, Colorado and I live in Sebastopol, California, we make it a point to attend a conference together as often as we can. This year we headed to Phoenix to attend the 2015 Nutrition and Health Conference hosted by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. 

As always, I came away inspired to share the latest nutrition research with my readers but I also came home with a list of things I wanted to immediately change in my life. In the weeks to come, I will write more about the details of the conference and post a few recipes from the classes I took there, but today I am going to share 5 important changes I made in my own life upon returning from the conference.

#1 - Make and Eat More Fermented Foods
There are trillions of microbes living in our bodies and they have a profound effect on our health and well being. To continue to introduce and replenish these important little bugs into our system, we should eat fermented foods every day. Examples of these are yogurt, kefir, miso, the sauerkraut and pickles you find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, kimchi, and kombucha tea. Prior to the conference, I took the same probiotic supplement every day but I will now reduce my supplementation and get my microbes from a variety of fermented foods which should provide more microbial diversity. 

What to do now:
* I eat home-made soy yogurt every morning with fruit or blended into a smoothie.
* I buy raw sauerkraut and serve it with lunch and/or dinner. 
* I just made my first batch of sauerkraut from a recipe I learned at the conference. (I'll be sharing that soon).
* I've been enjoying kombucha tea that I bought at my local market.
* I loaded up on all the ingredients to make miso soup which I plan to perfect!

Load up on fermented foods

#2 - Feed your Bugs
The trillions of microbes that are colonized in your gut need to eat. Don't forget, 90% of the cells and 99% of the genetic material in your body are made up of these little guys so you have to feed them. They feast on microbiota accessible carbohydrates (MACs) or foods with high amounts of dietary fiber. Although I already have a pretty high fiber diet, I am paying more attention to every meal. You should aim for 25 to 35 g of dietary fiber a day or 14 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed.

Oh, and by the way, if you don't feed them, they will eat the mucosal lining of your intestines which cannot lead to anything good. So feed them or they will eat you!

What to Do Now:
* I am journaling my dietary fiber to make sure I'm getting about 30 g per day.
* I am making sure to eat lots of high fiber foods like whole grains, beans, fruits and veggie and to avoid all unprocessed carbohydrates like white rice, pasta or bread.

Note: If you are not used to eating this much fiber, introduce it slowly into your diet or you will explode!

Bugs LOVE beans and my pantry is full of them!

#3 - Get Moving
Sitting is the new "smoking" and can kill you. It is critical to do some form of exercise for 30 minutes a day. You don't have to run a marathon but even a 30 minute brisk walk can do the world of good. After my recent foot surgery, I was immobile for 6 weeks. In just that short period of time, I gained some weight and my energy level and mental clarity declined. 

What to Do Now
* I'm wearing my Fitbit and working myself back up to 10,000 steps a day.
* I use my recumbent bike or elliptical when watching TV.
* As soon as I my foot is completely recovered, I will get back to my Zumba classes.

You can buy fancier ones to wear on your wrist,
but I like this small fitbit that clips on my pocket.

#4 - Reduce Exposure to Environmental Toxins 
Dr. Victoria Maizes gave a presentation on "Eating Green and Clean". She pointed out that there are over 85,000 industrial chemicals on the market yet only 200 of them have been tested for safety with respect to human health. These chemicals are on our food, in our personal care products, in the lining of our food cans, in plastic containers, in our cleaning products, and in our drinking water. Many of the chemicals we are exposed to every day can cause unexpected health problems

What to Do Now
* I'm in the process of going through my medicine cabinet and discarding makeup, shampoo, lotion, sunscreen and any personal care products with questionable ingredients. Check out the EWG's Skin Deep website to see if your personal care products are safe.
* I'm attempting to get rid of all plastic in my kitchen (boy, is that hard).
* I'm not buying any cans with BPA linings. Check out Tree Hugger to see a list of BPA-free cans.  I avoid buying a lot of canned food by making my own beans from scratch.
* I'm trying to grow most of my food this summer but when I shop, I try to only buy organic food, especially if it is on EWG's "Dirty Dozen" List
* I am looking at my cleaning products and checking EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
* I'm checking all food products and vitamin supplements for food additives, like carrageenan.
* I'm trying to avoid my non-stick pans when possible even though I love them.

This is a big list and the hardest endeavor of all but I'll take it one step at a time.

#5 - Consume Turmeric with Black Pepper
Omega-3 fatty acids are very important in our diet as they reduce inflammation and the many degenerative diseases that are associated with inflammation. Vegetarians only get ALA from sources like hemp, chia, and flax seeds and other plant sources. EPA and DHA, the more important form of omega-3, are found in algae and animal sources like fish and grass fed meats. Vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in EPA and DHA - this deficiency can lead to a host of cognitive problems and other health issues.

The body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA but it's not very efficient and not much of it gets absorbed in the body. The good news for vegans and vegetarians is this:

* Eating sources of ALA together with Turmeric (curcumin being the main active compound) improves the conversion of rate of ALA to DHA, increases the absorption of DHA in the liver, and increases the levels of DHA in the brain.

* Consuming black pepper (piperine being the main active compound) with turmeric increases the bioavailability of turmeric by 2,000%. 

What to Do Now

* Although I am a pesca-vegan and get some of my DHA and EPA omega-3 from local salmon, I will also plan meals that include turmeric, black pepper, and sources of ALA omega-3. For example: Make a tasty curry (with both turmeric and black pepper) followed by a refreshing chia seed pudding. 
* I presently take Meriva SR from Thorne for my allergies. It is a time-released curcumin product. I noticed that there are a number of curcumin supplements on the market today that include black pepper extracts. This may be a better choice, especially for vegans trying to enhance the conversion of ALA omega-3 fatty acids to EPA and DHA.

I have a lot more to share with you about the conference but these 5 areas inspired me the most. More to come............

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Water It If You Can't Eat It?
Turn Your Yard Into Your Grocery Store

Newly planted kale borders the walkway with calendula.

I'm back from Andrew Weill's annual nutrition conference and I'm more inspired than ever to cook nutritious meals with fresh, organic vegetables. What better way to do that than to have all the produce you need right there in your yard! Besides, with the drought here in California, it's better to plant and water things you can at least eat for dinner.

We put in some nice garden boxes in our back yard 5 years ago (see our very popular post - instructions on how to build garden boxes) but this year we expanded our garden to the entry, the front yard, the walkways, well - just about anywhere we have dirt. I like to mix veggies with flowers to make the area pretty but still productive. 

For example, in the walkway to our front door, I planted 5 different types of spicy pepper plants with a few marigolds. We had already taken out all the roses and other shrubs to plant Sauvignon Blanc grape vines.

The front entry to our home has spicy peppers, marigolds and
enough Sauvignon Blanc grapes to make 8 cases of wine!

The zucchini and tomatoes become massive and can overcrowd our raised bed boxes so this year we tilled a large area in the front yard and planted tomatoes, zucchini, pumpkins and artichokes directly into the ground where they have more room. Of course there is the risk of gophers which you don't have with the garden boxes but if that's a worry, you can plant the veggies in individual mesh cages.

The front yard allows the larger veggies to grow freely!
This year we are trying to grow artichokes!

Along the walkway to the back yard, we planted raspberry bushes a few years ago. They are really taking off now. We enjoyed our first raspberries of the season this morning.

Fresh raspberries

With the larger veggies moving to the front yard, we planted bell peppers, Asian eggplant, Italian eggplant, Dragon tongue bush beans, parsley, and strawberries in the garden boxes.

Bell peppers, eggplants, bush beans & parsley
Dragon Tongue beans grow quickly and abundantly
We reserved this entire bed for strawberries

I just harvest an entire bed of garlic from another large garden box (not shown) so I filled the empty bed with organic heirloom corn. I've  never successfully grown corn before so this is going to be an experiment. What's there to lose?

We also just planted some more fruit trees. We now have apples, lemons, limes, persimmons, and pears. I'm saving some room for a pomegranate - something I've always wanted to grow. 

Fuji apples

There's No Downside
There's really no downside to growing your own veggies. Organic produce is so expensive, you can really save a ton of money by growing it yourself. When I see artichokes selling for $5 a piece, I figure I'll try growing them. And what's more convenient than walking to the garden and plucking off a perfectly ripe tomato for your salad. Another upside is that your kids will happily eat veggies that they grow. 

Plant too much? Great! Can it, dehydrate it, share it with friends, neighbors, and bring some of your extra produce to a local food bank. It will be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Cranberry (Borlotti) Beans, Kale, And Mushrooms
Made In An Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker
Easy Vegan And Gluten-Free Meal

Cranberry beans are a great source of protein and fiber.

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Beans and Greens
"Beans and greens" is one of my absolute favorite and versatile meals. We always have tons of kale in the garden and a pantry-full of various dried beans. Spinach, chard, escarole, collards, mustard and turnip greens are also excellent "greens" to make with this dish (cooking times will vary depending on the selection of beans and greens). I usually make a big pot for dinner and serve left-overs for lunch. Beans and greens can be eaten over a cooked grain, pasta or as is. And now with my Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker, it's easier than ever to make this healthy and delicious dish.

The Mind Diet, a diet used in a study to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, recommends eating six or more servings of greens and three servings of beans per week. 

Cranberry (Borlotti) Beans
This year I became addicted to Rancho Gordo beans. My son sent me a huge assortment of them for Christmas and I've been working my way through them in various recipes. The Cranberry Bean has become one of my favorites. Their creamy texture and short cooking time make them perfect for many dishes such as "beans and greens" or my other personal favorite, "pasta e fagioli", or as they say back in Brooklyn, "pasta fazool."

Cranberry beans are an excellent source of vegetarian protein, providing 16.5 grams of "complete" protein per cup, meaning they contain every essential amino acid. They also provide a whopping 17.7 grams of dietary fiber. One cup also provides 92% of the daily requirement of folate, an especially critical nutrient during pregnancy.

        *                   *                   *                      *

Cranberry Beans, Kale, and Mushrooms
Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]
Requires an Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker

1 1/2 cups dry cranberry beans
4 inch piece kombu (optional)
4 slices of onion
Salt and pepper to taste
8 cups destemmed, thinly sliced kale
4 ounces fresh maitake or shiitake mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Sort through the beans, removing rocks and debris. Rinse well.

Place in the Instant Pot and cover with 2 or more inches of cold water. Let sit over night.

You have two choices after this:
* Rancho Gordo suggests cooking the beans in their soaking water. This provides for a slightly richer broth. Or:
* You can rinse the beans before cooking them. Soaking and rinsing the beans helps eliminate the indigestible sugars that cause gas and reduces the phytates that bind with important minerals making them unavailable. You still get a rich, delicious broth.

Whether you cook the beans in their soaking water or rinse them after soaking, make sure there is at least an inch or two of water covering the beans. I like to make my beans saucy.

Add the sliced onions over the beans and snip the piece of kombu into thin slices and add to the pot. You may also leave the kombu whole and remove it before eating. Some people reuse it.

Kombu is a sea vegetable.
It improves digestibility of beans and reduces issue with gas.
Kombu is a source of iodine, missing in many diets.
Look for it at your health food store or Whole Foods.
Beans, water, kombu and onions in the Instant Pot.
Ready to start cooking!

Make sure the top vent of the Instant Pot is closed. Secure the lid, hit the manual button and set to cook at high pressure for 8 minutes.

After the pot cooks at high pressure for 8 minutes, hit the off button and let the pressure come down naturally. Carefully remove the lid, tilting it so that the steam escapes in the back. Test the beans to see if they are done. Salt and pepper to taste and place the cooked beans and broth in a large pot or casserole dish. Set aside. No need to wash the instant pot. You'll be using it again.

Cranberry beans after cooking.

I selected maitake mushrooms for this dish today but I've also made it with others. Shiitake mushrooms are particularly good to use. If you are using maitake, break them apart into small pieces. If you are using shiitakes, remove the stem and thinly slice.

Maitake mushroom.

Place the kale, mushrooms, garlic powder, olive oil, salt and pepper into the Instant Pot. Add 3/4 cups of the bean broth to the kale mixture. Stir to combine.

Secure the lid and hit the manual button. Set to cook at high pressure for 3 to 4 minutes. When complete, hit the off button and do a quick release of the pressure. Open the lid carefully. Mix the kale and the beans together. 

Serve over rice, quinoa, millet, or other whole grain. Or, mix together with cooked pasta.

Per serving: 228 calories, 2 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 285 mg omega-3 and 355 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 15 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, and 15 g dietary fiber.