Archive for healthy eating
May 12th, 2015
Some fermented foods don’t look very appetizing at first glance, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch.
Sauerkraut (translation “sour cabbage”) is one of the best known fermented food out there. It brings back interesting childhood memories for me. I remember watching my grandfather and father smother kosher hot dogs in sauerkraut. The more sauerkraut the better. The powerful smell and distinct taste is something that would literally make me run the other way.
Little did I know that this was one of many fermented foods that is a must in everyone’s diet.
What are fermented foods?
The process of fermenting our food isn’t a new one: History shows that early civilizations were making wine and beer between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago. Before refrigeration was available people would ferment food to preserve and extend the life of their food. When you ferment a food, you encourage growth of “good” microorganisms in it, while preventing growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms.
Why eat fermented foods?
Fermented foods are chock-full of probiotics or good bacteria. Probiotics are bacteria that help keep everything balanced in your intestines. The human digestive system is designed to have “good” and “bad” bacteria. Trying to maintain a balance between the two keeps our digestive system healthy. Studies show probiotics benefit everything from intestinal issues to allergies to weight loss.
Adding fermented foods to your diet
Just a little fermented food goes a long way. There’s no need to replace entire meals with fermented entrée. Instead substitute fermented foods for some of your favorite conventional foods. Here are a few examples to get you started.
- When you pick up a loaf of bread choose sourdough. Sourdough bread is fermented over several days by using a “starter” of combined flour and water.
- Use kefir and yogurt instead of milk in your smoothie.
- Try sauerkraut as a relish on hot dogs and hamburgers. Make your own if you’re feeling ambitious.
- Kimchi or kimchee is a traditional fermented Korean delicacy which is made from vegetables including cabbage and a range of spices and seasonings.
- Add pickles to everything. A few pickles go a long way.
- Try kombucha, a fermented drink you can find at the supermarket. If you don’t like it the first time, try it again.
- Have a bowl of miso soup before dinner. Or use miso as a marinade for fish and meat.
- Tempeh is one of my favorite fermented foods. Tempeh is relatively new to those of us in the west, but it’s been a staple for hundreds of years for many living in Asia. Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a rectangular patty. The consistency is similar to that of a veggie burger. Many use it as a meat substitute in dishes. I’ve used it in chili, stir-fry and on the grill. As with any soy product, it should be eaten in moderation.
If you’re interested in learning more about fermentation check out these books:
- Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes & Pastes
- Fermented Foods for Health: Use the Power of Probiotic Foods to Improve Your Digestion, Strengthen Your Immunity, and Prevent Illness
What’s your favorite fermented food?
photo credit: Making and sharing kimchi in Gaemi Village, 1 December 2012 via photopin (license)
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March 6th, 2014
Most of us know the best way to get Vitamin D is through exposure to the sun.
Adding Vitamin D to my diet has been a top concern lately. I live in the cold North East where below zero temperatures have made it challenging to head outside this winter. Even when I do spend time outside (I’m an avid skier) I’m covered head to toe so there’s no chance of daylight hitting my skin. I used to be forced to head outside a few times a day when our dog was with us. Now I find myself in my office or at the gym, running from my car to a warm building.
Even when I’m more likely to spend time outside in the sun I’m still covered from head to toe in sunscreen. So the likelihood of the sun hitting my skin at any time of the year is slim.
What is a Vitamin D Deficiency?
It is estimated that 30 to 100% of Americans, depending upon their age and community living environments, are deficient in Vitamin D. And more than half of all American children are vitamin deficient.
How to Add Vitamin D to Your Diet
Vitamin D is essential for bone health, cold prevention, fighting depression and more. If sunlight isn’t in your future there are a few other ways to add this critical nutrient.
Salmon is my favorite sources of this nutrient. One serving of salmon contains more than the suggested daily value. Make sure to use wild caught salmon.
The Vitamin D in an egg comes from its yolk so it’s important to eat the entire egg to get a portion of your daily dose. Use organic eggs when you can.
Specific types of mushrooms are grown in ultraviolet light and will produce this vitamin. Sun-grown brands are the only mushrooms with this nutrient, with shiitake mushrooms being one variety with a high level of Vitamin D.
Cod Liver Oil
This one doesn’t sound appetizing, but one tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 1,300 IU’s which is about twice the recommended daily allowance.
I’m not a fan of anything canned because of the BPA concern. Also tuna can contain mercury. But three ounces of light tuna in water has 154 IUs of Vitamin D, which is about 1/3 of the daily recommended dose.
Although not high in this vitamin, cheese does contain some. On ounce of swiss cheese contains 12 IUs, which is about 4 % of the daily value.
This fish is another great natural source of Vitamin D.
Fortified Foods. As you can see, there aren’t many foods that naturally contain Vitamin D. There are plenty of foods on the shelves of your market that have been fortified including milk, orange juice, cereals etc… Please know that Vitamin D doesn’t naturally occur in these foods, and has been added during processing.
In my opinion it’s best to get your Vitamin D from natural sources and small amounts of sun.
How do you get your Vitamin D?
photo credits: MendezEnrique via photopin cc , ulterior epicure via photopin cc , pietroizzo via photopin cc, Maggi_94 via photopin cc, justmakeit via photopin cc, kennymatic via photopin cc, thenoodleator via photopin cc, synes via photopin cc
February 21st, 2012
When my kids were really small, we had a lot of fun with the pronunciation (or mispronunciation) of these three foods. Edamame was called “ate-a –mommy” for many years. Quinoa was pronounced “king-wop” and Tempeh was “that stuff”. We have come a long way and I think we finally have the pronunciations down pat. While working through the correct food speak, we also worked hard to incorporate these three foods into our eclectic and healthy diet.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)
As much as quinoa looks like a grain, it isn’t actually a grain. It is a seed from a broad-leafed plant that is closely related to beets and spinach. Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain. It’s also perfect for those on a gluten free diet. It’s high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, and is a source of calcium, B vitamins and fiber. It can be prepared in many different ways. The most simple is preparing it in a similar fashion to rice.
The taste and texture of quinoa is a bit like brown rice crossed with oatmeal and a hint of nuts.
Tempeh is relatively new to those of us in the west, but it’s been a staple for hundreds of years for many living in Asia. Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a rectangular patty. The consistency is similar to that of a veggie burger. Many use it as a meat substitute in dishes. I’ve used it in chili, stir-fry and on the grill. As with any soy product, it should be eaten in moderation.
Tempeh has a textured and nutty flavor. I like to add tempeh to my favorite marinade and stir fry them together.
Edamame is by far one of my kid’s top side dishes-probably because they are so much fun to eat. Edamame is just a fancy name for boiled soybeans. They technically aren’t considered a vegetable, they’re a legume. The beans are boiled in their thick pods and a little coarse salt is sprinkled on top. After they are cooked the green edamame are popped out to eat. Sometimes they can fly pretty high-depending upon who’s doing the popping. Edamame are chock-full of protein, fiber and Vitamin A and C.
The soybeans are crunchy and delicious. Add a little coarse salt to taste and you won’t be able to stop eating them. As with any soy product, edamame should be eaten in moderation.
Have you tried edamame, tempeh or quinoa? What’s your favorite way to eat them?
Disclaimer: Before adding any soy to your diet please check with your physician to make sure it’s appropriate for you.
[Photos used under Creative Commons from Amina Elahi, Stacy and Sweeetonveg, The Unseasoned Wok/Flickr]
February 6th, 2012
I’ve always found the cooking oil aisle at the market to be one of the most impressive and overwhelming aisles to walk down. The shelves are lined with every imaginable variety of oil – peanut, olive, canola, vegetable and coconut –and each type has a few different brands and sizes.
When cooking with any oil it’s important to not heat it beyond its smoke point — the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke and discolor. Using cooking oil above its smoke point can generate toxic fumes and harmful free radicals. Most labels on bottles of oil will give you the smoke point temperature for that particular oil. All oils offer different benefits. Some are better for baking and some for salad dressing.
Here are a few cooking oils that are a chef’s best friend (there are a few affiliate links below):
Coconut Oil is a subject of much debate in the cooking community. Why? Coconut oil has a high level of saturated fat. Federal dietary guidelines recommend that consumers limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of daily calories. But nutritionists tell us that not all saturated fats are the same. The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which increases levels of good HDL and bad LDL in the blood. When you buy coconut oil try to organic when you can.
Suggested use: cooking at high heat
Olive oil is considered by some to be the healthiest oil because it provides a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It can also be obtained in a very pure minimally processed form, which is a healthier version than a processed olive oil. Olive oil has a fairly high cooking temperature and adds great flavor to many dishes. Olive oil would be best for cooking at medium heat.
Suggested use: light cooking or sauteing, salad dressing and other low temperature recipes
If there are no nut allergies in your family, peanut oil is the perfect choice for cooking. It has a high cooking temperature and is great for frying or any type of cooking at high heat.
Suggested use: stir frying, deep frying or cooking at high heat
Canola oil sometimes gets a bad rap. It comes from canola seeds. They are a genetic variation of rapeseed that was developed in the 1960s. It’s a good source of monounsaturated fats, the kind which can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. The problem with canola oil is most canola oil is genetically modified (93 percent in the U.S.). If you are going to use canola oil make sure it’s certified organic.
Suggested use: baking and stir frying at lower temperatures
Whatever type of oil you choose look for oils that are minimally processed and organic whenever possible. Also look for glass bottles over plastic to avoid potential leaching of toxic chemicals.
What’s your favorite cooking oil
Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links. If you use them a few pennies will go back into this blog. Thank you for support! All opinions are my own.
December 20th, 2011
As Hanukkah (the Jewish festival of lights) settles in for eight days tonight at sundown, traditional Hanukkah foods find their way onto tables around the world. It’s surprising to many that much of the food we eat is already vegan without even putting forth an effort. Tweaking simple, traditional Hanukkah recipes into vegan and vegetarian dishes is an easy way to make a big impact on your health and the health of the planet.
Why vegan or vegetarian?
- Vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese.
- Veganism (vegan pronounced VEE-gun) is a type of vegetarian diet that excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients.
Veganism, the natural extension of vegetarianism, is an integral component of a cruelty-free lifestyle. Living vegan provides numerous benefits to animals’ lives, to the environment, and to our own health–through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The UN estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change. Each year the average American eats 200 pounds of meat. Eating a plant-based diet isn’t just kind to animals and good for your health (and waistline!), it’s also the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
In the spirit of a green and healthy Hanukkah here are a few recipes for traditional Hanukkah foods in their vegan form.
Vegan baked latkes. Jewish or not, these traditional Hanukkah potato pancakes will work year round. They won me over because they are baked rather than fried. Use organic ingredients for an extra dose of healthy eating. Serve them up with some applesauce and you can’t go wrong.
Vegan sweet potato latkes. It’s challenging to find a vegan latke recipe since most call for eggs. This recipe changes up the traditional latke recipe and uses flax meal, sweet potatoes and buckwheat flour.
Homemade unsweetened applesauce. This recipe is delicious, simple and doesn’t have any added sugar. Make a batch and pile it on top of those latkes.
Wishing everyone who celebrates Hanukkah a wonderful holiday.
Do you have any favorite vegan healthy Hanukkah dishes? Please share in the comments!
May 31st, 2011
Think about what you’ve eaten this week. If you’ve eaten any processed foods that weren’t certified organic (guilty!)then they probably contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Today over 70 percent of corn and 90 percent of soy are genetically modified, and these two crops form the basis of a typical American diet.
SayNoToGMOs.org – Get started! from April Macaraeg on Vimeo.
Let’s talk GMOs
Genetically Modified Organisms (also called GM, GE or GMOs) refers to crop plants that are consumed by animals and/or humans that have been tweaked or modified in a lab to boost desired traits such as: the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide, disease resistance and improved nutritional value. These results have no health benefit, only an economic benefit to the company producing them.
Food with GMOs looks and tastes the same, but it’s not the same. Food producers have been altering and messing with our food with the blessing of the FDA, but without our permission.
GMO labeling isn’t required in the US. Does that bother you?
It bothers me. We have the right to know what’s going into our food-don’t we? Yet In the US the FDA doesn’t require the labeling of GMOs in food ingredient lists. If we take a look at our friends in the EU and other countries -GMO labeling has been the norm for years.
GMOs place organic crops at risk
The USDA continues to support deregulation of crops such as alfalfa, corn and sugar beets. This deregulation creates a real risk for cross contamination. Pollen from GM crops and trees can contaminate nearby crops and wild plants of the same type, except for soy, which doesn’t cross-pollinate. We can bid farewell to our organic crops if GM crops continue to grow.
Dangers of GMOs
The effects of GMOs haven’t been studied in humans. Pretty scary to imagine what they are doing to us since we do know what GMO’s are doing to lab animals:
- Toxic and allergic reactions
- Sick and dead livestock
- Immune problems
- Damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.
How many times have you heard someone say: “I don’t remember kids having food allergies when I was growing up”? Maybe GMO’s are the cause or at least a factor in this surge of food allergies, environmental allergies, ADHD and other diagnoses.
What can we do to avoid GMO’s?
Our pocket books can do some of the talking since food buying power has a tremendous impact on our food system. If we continue to support sustainable farmers we are sending a message to those producing foods that are NOT sustainable -letting them know that we don’t want them.
Here are a few tips to avoid GMOs in food:
- Buy a share directly from a farm (CSA) that is USDA Certified Organic. Ask if they sell produce that is non-GMO.
- By food that isn’t processed-opt for whole foods that are certified organic.
- Grow your own food using organic heirloom seeds.
- Shop at your local farmers market and don’t be afraid to ask the question: “is your food non-GMO?”
- Look for food labels that say “non-GMO” or “GMO free”. There seem to be more and more companies willing to label their products, although not required.
- Buy wild fish rather than farm raised and meat that was 100% grass fed. Fish and livestock are many times fed GM feed.
- Avoid aspartame as a sweetener-it is derived from GMOs.
- Know which foods are most likely to contain GMOs:
- Corn, soybeans, dairy, meats, canola and cottonseed oil and sugar beets.
More ideas on how to help
Bottom line: Take the time to investigate where your food is coming from. Keep your family safe by asking the right questions and educating yourself on the issues.
Do you try to avoid food with GMOs?
Video used with permission of SaynotoGMOs.org
Healthy Child Healthy World
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[Top photos used under Creative Commons from John S. Quarterman/Flickr]
March 22nd, 2011
Mooove over cow milk, there are some new (and not so new) milk choices in town. Many people are opting for dairy free milk alternatives and fortunately there are some great options out there. With just as much calcium and vitamins in milk alternatives, there are a variety of reasons for steering clear of dairy.
Why Stay Away From Dairy
- Allergy or intolerance to dairy.
- Dairy can cause excess mucus.
- Cows are given steroids and other hormones to plump them up and increase milk production-if you’re not drinking organic milk these toxins could be passed on to you in a glass of milk.
- The pasteurization process removes vitamins, proteins and enzymes while killing potentially harmful bacteria.
Rice milk is a staple in our home. We stopped drinking cow’s milk when two of our children were diagnosed with seasonal and food allergies. We’re not completely dairy free-the kids still eat dairy filled cheese, yogurt and ice cream (I’m in on this one too). It is generally organic, enriched with vitamins and calcium and has no added sugars.
Almond milk seems to be the most common nut milk-found on many store shelves. Occasionally I spy hazelnut and cashew milk. These are all great alternatives to dairy (provided there is no concern of a nut allergy. CAUTION: Most nut milks have added sugars unless they are labeled unsweetened. Opt for the organic nut milks to avoid any pesticides and other toxins.
Careful with this one-there is sugar added to most soy milk (Silk has all natural evaporated cane juice). Soy milk does have lots of protein and calcium. If your soy milk isn’t organic there is a good chance that the soy has been genetically modified. The Silk soy milk label also contains an allergen warning “may contain almond, coconut” so be careful if there is a nut allergy (or soy allergy). I don’t like the taste of soy milk, but your taste buds may have a different opinion.
Hemp Milk is made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground into water which turns into a creamy, nutty drink. It is made from the same plant used to make marijuana. Don’t get excited-the seeds don’t contain any THC delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Hemp milk also contains 10 essential amino acids, making it a good vegetarian source of protein. It is a bit thicker than soy milk and rice milk.
Whether you’re drinking cow’s milk or a milk alternative, always try to drink organic milk produced without synthetic chemicals, hormones or antibiotics.
What type of milk do you drink? Have you tried any milk alternatives?
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[Top photo used under Creative Commons from James Lee/Flickr]
[Rice Milk photo used under Creative Commons from Andrea_44/Flickr]