You’ve been good at sticking to your diet and physical activity plan all year, and you have the results to show it — congratulations!

Now you stare at your calendar and see all the holiday dinners and parties that are scheduled and you start to break out in a cold sweat. How are you going to resist those delectable sweet potato pies, cranberry creations and gravy-slathered mashed potatoes? How are you going to get by without eating holiday cookies, or drinking that famous holiday cocktail your uncle (substitute your uncle’s name here) makes?

The shorter days and colder weather invite us to hibernate and take it easy, but our calendars are screaming a totally different message. Your inner introvert is crushed as you put on your winter coat and summon the energy for yet another party!

bigstock-Lazy-Turkey-Watching-Tv-2298130

bigstock-Lazy-Turkey-Watching-Tv-2298130

Or perhaps it’s just that cabin fever that sets in as your brother (insert name here) fires up yet another football game and you’re in for a long couch-sit complete with nachos and kettle corn.

I know you’re not feeling the stress of holiday shopping as you hear that holiday music frenetically reminding you that you have not even started thinking about the holidays BECAUSE IT’S STILL EARLY NOVEMBER!

Whatever your holiday challenges are — perhaps you are wondering whether there exists a way to break the cycle? Are you looking for a way to face the holidays with a new kind of energy — one that doesn’t wear you down or add inches to your waistline?

Here’s one for you. It’s really easy, and it’s something your body usually takes care of for you… it’s called breathing. That’s right, as you read this – take a deep breath. Don’t hold it. Just slowly fill your belly with air, and then exhale a little longer than you inhaled; then REPEAT. Do you feel your shoulders un-hunching, and your heart beating just a little slower? Remember, you always have this strategy with you as you face the winter holidays.

Taming the stress that holidays bring is one way of keeping yourself healthy this holiday season.

Have you gone apple picking recently? Or perhaps you’ve just noticed that

grocery stores and farmers’ markets are prominently displaying all kinds
of apples these days. Yes, it’s apple season again!

If you’re looking for new ways to make apples or just a few more good reasons to eat them, you can read up on it in this article I recently wrote for We the Eaters, a blog for food lovers.

It’s not quite Halloween, but grocery store shelves have been exploding with bags and bags of candy since the first day of school. Avoiding candy might be easy for you – but throughout our days we are constantly invited to add sweet treats.

Photo License: CC0 Public Domain

Photo License: CC0 Public Domain

Starting with the sugar-laden morning drinks offered at your favorite cafe – or the snacks people bring in to share at work – or even the glorified candy bars labeled as “high fiber” that we are convinced we need as a post workout snack… We are constantly invited to load up on Sugar in some way, shape or form.

Yes, there are sugar substitutes that many people have turned to because they are lower in calories. These may be good options, especially if you are living with diabetes. The only issue is that once your tongue tastes sweet, your body wants more.

Photo license: CC0 Public Domain

So, in the long run, these sugar substitutes may increase cravings for (and therefore your consumption of) more sugary snacks. Ultimately, though we might avoid calories with one snack, that good deed is often undone by the increased desire for more sugar-coated calories.

In the past I have given workshops on this topic. Now, mostly I work one on one with individuals at Mary’s Center. If you are interested in meeting with me, schedule your appointment at 1-844796-2797.  We can assess your needs and to work out a plan of action!

 

90 percent of the cells on and in your body aren’t actually you – they are the trillions of microscopic bacteria and viruses that make up the human biome. Approximately 100 million (3-13 lbs worth) of these live in your digestive system. Eating fermented foods could improve the quality of those bacteria and in turn help improve digestion, and your body’s immune function.

When you eat lacto-fermented foods you ingest some of the good bacteria contained in those foods. These bacteria help repopulate a healthy microbiome, which can be wiped out by a course of antibiotics, or a diet that’s heavy in refined sugars and fatty meats.

Fermentation was traditionally used as a way of preserving foods. Depending on what you ferment, the bi-product of fermentation will be some kind of bio-preservative that retains nutrients and prevents spoilage.

Whether that preservative is alcohol, lactic acid or acetic acid (Katz, 2003), fermentation will not only preserve nutrients but break them down into more easily digestible forms. For example, milk is hard for a lot of people to digest, but lactobacilli the bacteria that makes its appearance in almost all fermented dairy products transforms lactose into lactic acid, which is much more easily tolerated (Katz, 2003). sauerkraut-574170_1280

Fermented foods help to improve digestion, as it is that microbiome — or that colony of bacteria living within us — that is most responsible for aiding with the absorption of nutrients from food.

You may have made a decision recently because you had a gut instinct about something… well, there is a lot of evidence that the gut really is our second brain. One of the amazing things that gut bacteria does for us is to train the immune system to function properly. It’s that bacteria living in us that helps to identify allergens and other substances that might cause an adverse reaction.

Perhaps now you are curious and asking yourself — what are the best fermented foods and where do I find them? Some popular foods that are easily accessible are kimchi, some brands of yogurt and some brands of sauerkraut. You can easily (and more economically) make many of these kinds of food at home. If you’d like to learn how, please schedule an appointment with me at Mary’s Center (call 1-844-796-2797).

Katz, S.E. (2003). Wild fermentation: The flavor, nutrition and craft of live culture foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

It’s always surprising to see the places my foods have been! If only plants could write their history…earth-437670_1280

 

This winter, when I shopped for some of my kitchen staples, I paid attention to how far food travels to get to my kitchen. The lemons, garlic, mushrooms, avocado, carrots, celery, canned tomatoes, and assorted frozen berries now in my kitchen are renowned world travelers — visiting my home from Argentina, Chile, Italy, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Spain, Turkey, oh and yes, unknown states in the USA.

While I do like to have many of these particular foods on hand for nutritional and gustatory reasons, there are many downsides to this long-distance relationship with the foods I love.

Photo by Lisa Missenda

Photo by Lisa Missenda

First, quality: To be packaged for shipping, many times these vegetables and fruits and picked before they are ripe. This is particularly true of tomatoes. At some point along the route to my table they might be sprayed with a little ethylene gas to make them appear riper. Truth is, in spite of shippers; best efforts, many fruits and vegetables do not continue to ripen once taken off the vine, out of the ground or once they stray too far away from the sun’s reach. So, when they get to my kitchen counter, they may look ripe, but they just don’t have the fresh taste of the ones I can get at the farmers’ market.

Second safety: The more food travels and the more hands it passes to get to my table – the more risk there is of food borne illness. Over the past 10 years the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has rejected numerous shipments of plant foods like green beans and mushrooms due to illegal pesticide violations, excessive filth and unsanitary conditions of the products. Luckily, the FDA is looking out for us.

ingathering-607121_1280

Strawberry Harvest Pixaby photo – Public Domain

Third – labor standards: I am never sure what the working conditions might be in the country of origin. Where children skipping out on an education to work in the fields and harvest my berries? Did a woman give birth in that same field because she was not allowed to take a day off? Where workers exposed to dangerous pesticides and fertilizers that we would not use in the USA?

While ultimately, I would love to be a locovore, eating only foods in my bioregion, I am happy these labels exist; they can be found at almost any grocery store. Consumers and non-profit groups like Food and Water Watch and National Family Farm Coalition fought hard to make the 2008 rule for mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL), for meat, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and several kinds of nuts. While the law is not perfect, at least I do know more, and have a choice when I reach for lemon and start my day. Learn more about the foods you eat using Food and Water Watch’s interactive shopping cart.

You may have heard that all of us with a human tongue can distinguish five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. The last of these, umami, was discovered at the turn of the 20th century by a Japanese chemist, Kikunea Ikeda argued that this flavor was distinct from the four already recognized and accepted flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, salty). Scientists debated for several years whether humans had specific taste receptors for umami, and finally it was confirmed in the mid-1980s.

Ikeda identified this full, meaty and brothy flavor coming from Kombu, a seaweed that the Japanese often use in soups. He also identified that the natural compound glutamate salt is responsible for this flavor. Shortly after his discovery, the Japanese company, Ajinomoto began to make and export monosodium glutamate (MSG) chemically derived from wheat gluten (McKee, 2007).

photo

Chicken bone broth. Photo: Kathy McNeely

Today, people who know that they react poorly to eating gluten avoid bouillon cubes and broth because wheat gluten is often an ingredient from which MSG is made. Others avoid it because they suffer from “Chinese restaurant syndrome;” and experience sensations of burning, pressure, and chest pain after beginning a Chinese meal with MSG-laden soup (McGee, 2007). Scribner. In addition to the health reasons for avoiding MSG, consumers today have lost a flavor-packed nutritional treasure by embracing quick and easy broths and soups. In his book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Harold McKee writes: “The most unfortunate aspect of the MSG saga is how it has been exploited to provide a cheap, one-dimensional substitute for real and remarkable foods.”

Not only is MSG a health hazard for people with MSG sensitivities; it also represents a short-cut around a time-tested method of cooking good, nutritious food. Lost are the ingredients of a fabulous bone broth: the gelatin, amino acids and minerals that are released when bones are rolled on a simmer for several hours, as well as the minerals and phytochemicals the animal ingested by eating grass or other vegetation. All these elements that served to protect and support the health of the animal are passed on to the person when s/he ingests home-made bone broth. Try getting that out of a can, carton or bouillon cube!

Interested in learning more? Join us on Thursday, Feburary 19 at 7pm

Fallon Morell, S. (2014). Nourishing broth: An old-fashioned remedy for the modern world (p. 9). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Fallon Morell, S. (2000). Broth is beautiful. The Weston Price Foundation. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/broth-is-beautiful/

McGee, H. (2007). On food and cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen. Scribner. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 3635-3641).

Nourished Kitchen blog (2014). Traditional foods 101: Bone broth, broth & stocks. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from: http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/

Wikipedia (2015). Umami. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; Wikipedia®; Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Retrieved January 26, 2015 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umami

Making bone broth is an ancient tradition going back to 1000 CE; “bru” the Germanic root of the word, means to “prepare by boiling” (McGee, 2007). Today the terms stock and broth are often used interchangeably. Stocks tend to be totally clear, and are used by professional cooks as the foundation for sauces and gravies. Broths are typically a little less clear, and are also used to as the basic ingredient in sauces, and soups.

Image: Bigstock

Image: Bigstock

Professional cooks make the distinction mostly based on appearance (clear or cloudy), but the ways of making each are basically the same. Both broth and stock are made using a long, rolling simmer. While you can see movement in the pot, it is much less movement than a boil. Both stock and broth made from bones contain gelatin, a key ingredient that provides incredible texture, fullness and healing properties.

Another distinction that cooking professionals would make is around seasoning – for them, stocks are denser and have little flavor and broths are more liquid in nature and are seasoned with herbs and spices, which, more often than not, have healing properties.

To learn more attend a workshop on making bone broth at Center Point Healing February 19 at 7 pm.

Many of us have had the experience of suffering through a miserable cold only to be brought back to life by someone’s version of grandma’s chicken soup. Grandmothers all over the world make wonderful soups from scratch, and almost all of them start with bone broth, an often forgotten, not-so-secret-formula for supporting optimal health.

chicken bone broth, photo: Kathy McNeely

chicken bone broth, photo: Kathy McNeely

The bones used to make bone broth are the cartilage-containing joints from feet and necks, as well as the large bones (legs, shoulders, etc) that contain marrow. The cartilage we ingest in bone broth activates natural killer cells and macrophages, some of the first lines of defense in the human immune system. The marrow provides the fatty acids needed for to support brain function, growth and to boost immunity (Fallon Morell, 2014, p. 26). Adding spices to bone broth will also help trigger the release of fluid in the mouth, throat, and lungs, helping to thin respiratory mucus making it easier to expel.

Bone broths are packed with nutrition in the form of amino acids and minerals. One of bone broth’s abundant amino acids, glycine, supports the body’s detoxification processes, and is used to synthesize hemoglobin to build blood and bile salts, needed to digest fats. Another amino acid, proline, promotes good skin health, especially when the body’s vitamin C intake is high. While the marrow and cartilage cook, minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphate and nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are released into the broth. These nutrients help to maintain strong bones and to fight inflammation in the body.

Because bone broth is made with connective tissues laden with collagen, when it cools, it congeals into gelatin (McGee, 2007). While most cooked foods are a little harder to digest than raw foods, gelatin is a liquid-attracting colloid; it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the small intestine. Gelatin is also healing for the digestive tract because it contains glutamine, an amino acid that serves as the preferred fuel for the small intestine.

photo

Gelatin from Chicken bone stock. Photo by Kathy McNeely

In her book, Nourishing Broth, Sally Fallon Morell details a long history of research on the healing properties of gelatin going back to the Napoleonic Wars. This research came to a screeching halt in the mid-1900’s when interest shifted toward individual vitamins and minerals. The shift also coincided with a time in history when commercially produced MSG became much more widespread in packaged bouillon cubes and canned soups.

If you are still not convinced of the value of bone broth, consider this, you can make a gallon of super-nutritious bone broth for as little as $5.00. Traditionally, grandma’s great soup recipe began with a bone broth made from bits and scraps because she never let anything go to waste. She would ask the butcher for feet, knuckles, necks and backs because she knew these extras were inexpensive. She saved chicken and turkey carcasses, from making that big Sunday spread and she spent the better part of a day whipping up a huge batch of bone broth to freeze and reuse as a base ingredient for future sauces, gravies and soups.

Read more about the benefits of bone broth:

Fallon Morell, S. (2014). Nourishing broth: An old-fashioned remedy for the modern world (p. 9). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Fallon Morell, S. (2000). Broth is beautiful. The Weston Price Foundation. Retrieved January 25, 2015: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/broth-is-beautiful/

McGee, H. (2007). On food and cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen. Scribner. Kindle Edition. (Kindle Locations 3635-3641).

Nourished Kitchen blog (2014). Traditional foods 101: Bone broth, broth & stocks. Retrieved January 25, 2015: http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/

With Halloween upon us, open season for sugar consumption begins. Though we’re free to eat whatever we want, it turns out that a steady diet of added sugars can have a devastating impact on health and wellness. The first step is always just to recognize how much sugar you’re consuming and one of the easiest ways to do this to to study food labels.

Sugar, by any other name… Sugar (in one form or another) is added to more food products than you can imagine. There are also a large number of “variants” of sugar – depending on the kind of processing that has occurred. Here is a list to get you started in identifying sugars. I’m sure you can come up with many more names for sugar:

Acesulfame-k

Apple Juice concentrate Aspartame

Baker’s sugar

Brown sugar

Corn syrup

Cyclamate

Demerara Sugar

Dextrose

Erythritol

Evaporated Cane Juice

Free Flowing Brown Sugars

Fructose

Galactose

Glucose

Grape Juice Concentrate

High Fructose Corn Syrup

High Maltose Corn syrup

Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate (HSH)

Honey

Invert Sugar

Isomalt

Lactitol

Lactose

Malt

Malittol

Maltodextrin

Mannitol

Maltose

Monatin

Maple syrup

Molasses

Muscovado or Barbados Sugar

Oligofructose

Orange Juice concentrate

Polydextrose

Panocha

Powdered or confectioner’s Rebiana/ Stevia

Rice Syrup

Saccharin

Sortbitol

Sucralose

Sucrose

Sugar (granulated)

Tagatose

Thaumatin

Treacle

Turbinado sugar

Xylitol

 

Books & Articles:

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan. Penguin Books, NY. 2009.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, Penguin Press, NY 2008.

Website:

The Center for Science in the Public interest devoted a page to explaining what additives go into our foods: Learn more at: http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#dextrin

Tabouleh – an excellent salad option for a hot summer day. It’s made with fresh herbs, tomatoes, olive oil, spices and can be eaten with pita bread, or atop romaine lettuce leaves. In the Middle East, fresh grape leaves are used as a scoop.

Tabouleh made with quinoa.

Tabouleh made with quinoa.

You can add any number of vegetables to tabouleh – according to taste; carrots, cucumbers, red or green onions are wonderful additions.

As you can see, tomatoes are a star attraction – and since they are in season right now and delicious varieties are currently available at your farmers’ market, why not pick up a few good tomatoes and try some tabouleh tonight?

Prep Time: 40-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches of fresh parsley (1 1/2 cup chopped, with stems discarded)
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, finely chopped
  • 6 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup bulghur, medium grade (can also use cooked millet or quinoa as gluten free options)
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

If using MILLET – add 1 cup of millet and a pinch of salt to 1-3/4 cup of water; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir, place lid on the pan and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Then stir to fluff the grains and taste. It it’s still a little crunchy, add about ¼ cup of boiling water and leave over low heat so that it will steam covered for an additional 10 minutes.

If using BULGUR: place 1 cup of bulghar in a bowl and cover with 1 ½ cups of boiling water and a dash of salt. Cover bowl and set aside for 20 or 30 minutes. Fluff with a fork when all the water has been absorbed.

Combine all ingredients, adding salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil last.

Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.

Health & Nutrition Counseling

An integrative approach to health and nutrition which includes Earth consciousness.

Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 320 other followers