Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sitting Is Killing you..

I stumbled on this recently. Though the facts aren’t new to me, it’s always easier to fully understand information when its wrapped up in a neat little package for you. Or in this case an utterly terrifying one. The last five years I have suffered the trials of a desk job. While in the grand scheme of things my working woes are really quite meaningless, but it’s still hard to work off extra weight simply because my job requires me to sit in front of a computer eight hours a day. And sadly I don’t see an end to this anytime soon, the sad fact of the western post industrial world is, most jobs require desk work.

So if I like many people cannot currently get around the desk job, what’s a girl to do? I try my darnedest to walk or ride my bike instead of driving, but that isn’t always enough. I know some people who work out during commercial breaks if they watch television. And a lot of people who work out much more than the suggested 30min a day. What are some ways you help ward off the effects of sitting all day?

Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fresh - Preserved - Processed

I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they asked me if cream was processed. After immediately saying no, I thought more about it and realized what little communication actually occurs when explaining  which foods embody the term “processed”. I sleep, dream, read, think and eat (no pun intended) food day in and day out, so I don’t have to actively think about whether or not a product is processed. Its common sense. But in making the assumption of knowing a term that embodies so much, I and others could possibly be alienating those we are trying to help. “It’s so obviously processed, you idiot.” Or so I imagine a person hearing a foodies response to a product. I feel like that all the time but about most normal pop culture references “*gasp* you don’t know who so and so is.” No, I don’t know who so and so is, because I don’t spend my time watching television and devouring celebrity magazines but that doesn’t make me stupid and it certainly doesn’t make them or me better than the other. It just means I put my attention elsewhere. And assuming that attitude of superiority is probably alienating many people from pursuing healthy choices. People shouldn’t be afraid to walk into a food coop, or ask questions about food or be afraid to start exercising. Conversely those who have this knowledge shouldn’t act superior to those who don’t.  If fact these are the people who should be most inviting and helpful, because the more people join the healthy food movement the healthier our food structure and environment will become.

Sharing the knowledge I learn as I go about my attempts to make better choices in life was why I started writing this blog in the first place. I am certainly no stranger to feeling stupid about food, or health and welfare. I have come across countless blogs where the writer lords over the reader the fact that they make better choices and you the readers are just peons. I think like any other choices in life, when someone becomes passionate about a choice they are a bit blinded to the rest of the world and this can cause a slight attitude of superiority. “HA! You don’t know what rBST is, what a fool!”

I apologize to you now for anyone who has made you feel stupid about a food choice. Some people just can’t help it, it’s all too easy to feel superior to someone who doesn’t have the same knowledge as you.  But that attitude is not nice and its certainly not helpful and it’s REALLY not helping spread the word about food choices and the impact at large. So I’m starting small today.

Food processing:  takes clean, harvested crops or butchered animal products and uses these to produce, attractive, marketable and often long shelf life food products.

Food preserving: treating and handling food to stop or slow down spoilage, and thus allow for longer storage.

In theory these two things should really be no different. In fact the definitions make food processing look more attractive. But the key difference here is the end products. While both processes start with real food, food processing often involve breaking down foods and extracting nutrients to then mix back in and create new food products. The end result of food processing is things like, pop tarts, frozen pizzas, cereal, energy bars and microwavable meals. Food processing takes a real food breaks it down and extends the shelf life to years. But the only reason this can be done is due to the extraction of nutrients that spoil easily and the addition of heavy preservatives. Hence the mile long list of ingredients on shelved food packages.

Food preserving is a little less invasive to the original fresh food and a little lighter on preservatives. There are hundreds of ways to preserve foods, the most common are canning, freezing, pickling,  fermenting and pasteurizing. These methods require less preservatives, though admittedly store bought canned and pickled foods can still be high in sodium and sometimes sugar. Frozen veggies are usually preservative free and they resemble the original food (always a plus). Lastly fermenting and pasteurizing are left mainly to dairy products, fermenting for yogurts and cheeses, whereas pasteurizing is used for milks and creams.

Original Food               Preserved Food                              Processed Food
Corn                         Frozen, canned or bulk pop corn     Corn Syrup, Corn Sugar Solids, Corn starch
Edemame                 Frozen, or canned soy beans           Tofu, soy lecatin
Raw Milk                  Creams, cheeses and milks             Casien and Whey
Pig                           Bacon, pork chops, pork roast          Meats on frozen pizzas
Wheat                     Whole wheat flours                           Cereals

The point I am trying to get across here is choosing what to eat isn’t always easy or clear. So don’t be afraid to try new things. Walking into a food coop and asking someone to explain the benefits of whole fresh honey may be terrifying to you but I bet the second they start talking they will light up and talk your ear off for days. People like to share knowledge and as long as you can get past the occasional rude person it becomes a lot easier and a lot more fun to shop at places that may have been previously intimidating. And remember there is no such thing as a stupid question.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Global climate change is happening. People can deny it all they want, convince others that it’s not true. But no amount of kicking and screaming and denial is going to make this mess we have made untrue. When did it all go wrong? I don’t know anyone who has that answer though I don’t doubt there are countless people dedicated to finding that out. Regardless of how it started and where we took that first step, I think the point is really that it wasn’t one giant step but thousands of small ones that have lead to where we are today.

Missouri Flood Victum, source unknown

How is this related to food and health? Well that might be the easiest correlation in the world! Small insignificant choices, can lead to bad habits and future catastrophic health problems. Much like the earth as a whole our bodies are systems, start messing with the little things and eventually there will be no turning back. So even if you don’t understand the bigger issues of local food, whole cooking, exercise, avoiding processed foods, etc. that is no excuse to avoid it. Knowledge is empowering, use your right to free information and your ability to make changes in your own life to help yourself now. You’ll be happy you did later on in life.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Bugs That Live in Your Gut

There are 500-1000 different strains of bacteria that live in your digestive tract, which is roughly about 100 trillion bacteria at any given time. They reproduce at lightning speed, meaning in terms of our life span they mutate quite frequently. And nearly half of your body waste is dead bacteria. Grossed out?! Don’t be, these little critters account for nearly 80% of your immune system, and that is the least of their talents.  

Bacteria can digest food much more quickly and efficiently that animals can. In fact the only reason cows can subsist solely on a diet of grass is due to the bacteria that live in their ruminant stomachs. The bacteria feeds on the grass and the waste product is absorbed by the cows stomach and intestinal tract to then be used an energy. Just like in cows, having a healthy stomach flora (the right amount of the right kind of bacteria) means your food is properly broken down and used by your body. The bacteria work with your stomach acids and various enzymes to break down food and prepare then to be absorbed. This means even if you are the best eater in the world your body could still be starving for nutrients because they aren’t being broken down enough to use. Having a healthy stomach flora can help regulate cholesterol levels in your body, promote colon health and reduce your risk of cancer, stable out blood pressure, reduce inflammation in joints, promote mineral absorption, reduce effects of lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, diarrhea, constipation, and even help with severe cases of ADD.

The important things to remember here is that bacteria aren’t scary. They are everywhere and do amazing things in the world. Granted there are a couple deadly strains out there but for the most part they are only found in some truly vile places like corporate feed lots. And the number of harmful strains compared the number of beneficial strains almost makes them insignificant. There are probably only  5-10 strains that could do you any harm that you would ever come in contact with. And even fewer than would cause you any serious problems. Compare this to the the 500-100 strains that live in your digestive system, those pesky harmful strains don’t stand a chance (this includes virus’).   

How do you know you have good or bad stomach flora? Well if you have ever taken antibiotics in your life, chances are you could use some improvement. The funny thing about antibiotics is they kill everything that is bacterial in your body. So if you have ever taken one, it probably got rid of the infection and then wiped out the entirety of your stomach flora. Couple that with traditional American diets and it’s no wonder people get sick all the time.

There are a lot of ways that you can get your digestive tract back in business. In fact there are hundreds of books written on the subject. I found the best way to maintain stomach flora is to take probiotic supplements on a regular basis. Any health food store will sell them, just make sure you buy the ones that are refrigerated. This ensures that they are live cultures and have not been sitting on the self full of preservatives for years. For the most part the supplements are very small gel caps and a heck of a lot easier to get down than calcium supplements. I take two a day year round, but the times I have had to go on antibiotics I have doubled my intake until the antibiotic is out of my system. I have seen a vast improvement in my overall health since I have started probiotics including fewer allergies, avoiding most illness’ that run rampant in my office and a much quicker recovery time when I have gotten sick. And you are going on them or have been on them please let me know how you feel and any improvements in health that you have noticed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Best Soup I've Ever Eaten

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Kevin Crafts

1qt. broth (I use homemade chicken broth)
2 quarter-size coins fresh ginger, smashed
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
8 ounces fresh think wheat udon noodles
1 TBL. Soy sauce
2 cups chopped bok choy

Other additives:
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp chili oil
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 cup green onions
Roast duck, port chop or chicken

If using meat set up to cook so that it will be ready to slice 20 minutes after starting soup process.

Simmer broth, ginger and garlic covered for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes remove garlic and ginger, add noodles and soy sauce let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add any veggies and simmer for three minutes.

Remove from heat add any oils and sliced meats.

I found this recipe on the Sunset Magazine site a few weeks ago and have since then made it three times. I have had a lot of years of cooking but for whatever reason my soups tend to taste like dirty socks, but not this one! Just to clarify this one DOES NOT taste like dirty socks. It is quite amazing. Probably due to the simplicity of the recipe. When I have made it I have included a thinly sliced pork chop, lots of chili and sesame oil but none of the other add-ins.

For the broth whenever I cook a chicken I always drain off the juices and freeze it for later use. I have found this is the best way get a truly tasty chicken broth without all the added sodium. If you are a vegetarian or vegan save your veggie scraps throughout the week and boil them down on Sunday before you start the week again. You can freeze these broths in ice cube trays and then put them in baggies once frozen solid for easy broth use in the future.

As for the rest of the ingredients go there are a number of great benefits to this soup.  Boy Choy is a new best friend of mine, I used to see it as a close relative to celery which as far as veggies go is sort of low on my list. But it is actually really high in potassium, vitamin c, folic acid and a slew of antioxidants. If you’ve never tried it, don’t be scared it has a very pleasant mild flavor and the leafy green parts don’t get soggy and gross when you cook them. it I have already written a love letter to garlic on my blog so no need to go down that road again, but  ginger is an incredible ingredient and ads a wonder fresh flavor to the soup.  It also does wonders to boost the immune system,  relieve inflammation and pain as well as help protect kidneys from long term damage.  And of course when choosing pastas of any kind sticking to whole wheat will be the best choice for your digestive track and blood sugar levels.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Burlington, Part Uno

I am out in Vermont this week for work, and much to my delight we are finally conferencing in a place with decent food. I love traveling and even like doing it for work as I get to see alot of the country. But my body hates it. Decent food is harder to find outside of my Northwest bubble than I ever would have guessed 5 years ago. But I now find myself in Burlington and a happy camper.

Nearly all of the resturants are displaying "Farmer and Chef Alliance" placards wich denote that the resturants first and formost buy local and in season. All the coffee shops I have walked by are local organic roasters and many are even certified green buildings. My favorite place so far is the City Market, which is a local organic grocery. I am keeping track of all the amamzing things I have found and will put together a guide to sustainable Burlington to post in case any of you even make your way up here, which I highly suggest.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mothers Day

My family isn’t big on holidays. Other than Christmas and birthdays we tend to celebrate the bare minimum if at all. Mothers day is really no different. Not to say that we ignore each other. I think part of the reason why holidays seem less necessary is due to our closeness on a regular basis. So while I did spend Saturday with my mum its wasn’t really in celebration of mothers day, it was just a normal fun day out between mother and daughter. But it did get me thinking about the role of mothers throughout history and in different cultures.

I think it is safe to say that in nearly every culture mothers are the stronger parental presence in the home. Whether it be a hut in Central Africa or a condo in Japan mothers take care of the daily business of children, cooking, and cleaning. The means of doing so may be very different but at the base level mothers are the ones that pass on to their daughters and in many post industrial societies also their sons, the life skills necessary to care for themselves and their future families.  As grand social schemes change in society it becomes more important to instill these skills into both sexes of the youth. But as we have passed through the post war, post depression eras of American living, microwave meals and instant dishes replaced roasted chickens and veggies. For many families the life skills that have been passed on have become an awareness of microwave and toaster oven use and in some cases to go ordering skills. There is literally nowhere else a child is going to gain skills to plan, shop and then go home not only safely but successfully prepare a meal. Mothers hold and pass on this information and if they never got it from their mothers, than the future children in the family will most likely never pick up these skills.

I was incredibly lucky, every time I prepare a meal I think of my mom and all the years of joint cooking we did when I was younger. I knew at the time that the kitchen lessons I had with mom were important but I didn’t realize until recently how priceless and rare they truly were. I graduated from high school fully prepared to run a kitchen and do so nutritionally. So daughters thank your mothers for all the lessons they have taught you. And if you are a new mother don’t forget to spend time teaching these skills to your kids, boy or girls. No one else is going to teach your kids these skills, and knowing how to feed one’s self in a healthy sustainable way is going to make or break our future in food, health and the environment.

My favorite mother daughter team
Me, my mom's best friend Marcene, me madre, and my friend Brooke (Marcene's daughter)