Friday, March 30, 2012

It's what you do with what you've got

A song from TED about using your gifts and talents to make a difference.
 "It's not about how big your share is, it's how much you can share"
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Health benefits of chocolate

I'm always happy to read research that points out the health benefits of chocolate.  If you enjoy chocolate, you may enjoy reading this :=D

Photo by Chocolate Reviews
A 15 day study performed on hypertensive human volunteers evaluated the effects of eating dark chocolate or white chocolate on various circulatory measurements.  The patients who ate the dark chocolate showed an 11-point (mmHg) reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 6.2-point (mmHg) decrease in diastolic blood pressure.  The participants who ate white chocolate showed no change in blood pressure.

These researchers also looked at measurements of insulin sensitivity and found that after consuming dark chocolate for 15 days, the fasting insulin levels declined by 29% along with a 6% reduction in fasting glucose. Again, no improvements were seen in the white chocolate group.

Endothelial function was also measured and the dark chocolate group also saw an improvement to almost normal levels, while no improvements with white chocolate.

Photo by Peluna
Further longer term studies, including a meta-analysis of 15 studies ranging from 2 - 18 weeks long, have corroborated these results, with the conclusion that dark chocolate decreases blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity.

A concern regarding chocolate intake has been whether these health benefits would be offset by increased weight gain, or serum lipids but these parameters remained unchanged.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this research comes from one of the German scientists who points out that small amounts of dark chocolate convey a similar BP lowering potential to  major dietary modification techniques. Long-term adherence to complex major dietary modification is often low, however "adoption of consuming small amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa into the diet is a dietary modification that is easy to adhere to and therefore may be a promising behavior approach to lower blood pressure in individuals with above-optimal blood pressure."

I'll be blogging about additional health benefits of chocolate again soon, but in the meantime, if you fancy some chocolate, chose a bar of dark chocolate with more than 65% cocoa, and find one that has less than 10g sugar per serving. And then a typical serving size should be about 20g - one or two squares. Or else add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to baking or smoothies or....

The photo above is some chocolates I made this week for some friends coming round on Saturday.  It's 70% cocoa and on top are freeze dried raspberries on the left hand side and a little secret on the right hand side ones. I can't tell you about that until after my friends have had them!
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Zucchini chips

Oh goodie - a delivery coming my way... I wonder what is inside the truck?

Slow down, let me see....

Ah - yummy zucchini chips.  I see there aren't many in there.  Obviously lots of other people have been eating them as they are so good for you!

They are dehydrated zucchini - or courgettes for the Brits reading this.  Just slice the zucchini to about 1/8 inch thick - you can do it in rounds or ovals and then put in the dehydrator at 125 degrees for about 5 hours. They come out crisp and tasty.  All the goodness and enzymes are still in the zucchini as the dehydration doesn't denature them as the temperature is low.

This is definitely my favorite way of eating zucchini.  Hope you'll give it a try.

Wonder when the truck will return with more???

PS the little truck is a wonderful way to serve nibbles, as you get to wheel it around to everyone! Get creative in how you serve your food and then if it's something new, people will be more intrigued to try it.
Monday, March 26, 2012

Healing foods - garlic, onion, chives, leeks, shallots

Photo by janscheffner
Garlic, onions, chives, leeks and shallots all belong to the alliaceous family of plants - alliums.  Garlic is recognized as one of the oldest medicinal herbs (prescribed on Sumerian tablets from 3000 BC). Louis Pasteur observed its antibacterial properties in 1858 and during World War I, garlic was widely used in bandages to prevent infections.  Russian soldiers in WWII used it when there was a shortage of antibiotics and it garnered the name "Russian penicillin".

The alliums are great foods for cancer prevention and halting cancer growth.

The organosulphur compounds in this family of plants are seen to prevent the development of cancer by detoxifying nitrosamines and N-nitroso compounds, which are created from over-grilling meat and during tobacco consumption.

They promote apoptosis (cell death) in colon, breast, lung and prostate cancer, as well as in leukemia and also block angiogenesis (- the formation of blood vessels needed to provide nutrients to the cancer tumor).

Epidemiological studies suggest a reduction in kidney and prostate cancer in people who consume the most garlic.

Photo by Sensinct
Moreover, all the plants in this family help to regulate blood sugar levels which in turn, reduces insulin secretion and Insulin-like growth factor, and thus reduces the growth of cancer cells.

Onions also contain high concentrations of health-promoting flavonoid antioxidants, predominantly quercitin, and red onions also contain at least 25 different anthocyanins. Quercetin slows tumor development, suppresses growth and proliferation and induces cell death in colon cancer cells.  Flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory effects that may contribute to cancer prevention.

Photo by tallpines

Active molecules of garlic are released when a garlic clove is crushed and are more easily assimilated if they are dissolved in a little oil.

Try and include an alliaceous food every day, for example chopped garlic and onions mixed with steamed vegetables, or raw onion or chives on a salad or in a sandwich.

What's your favorite way to eat a food from the allium family?  Is it:


Friday, March 23, 2012

Healthy Cooking for children

After posting Jamie Oliver's TED talk on the blog last week, I had a comment back from Jennifer that said:

"This video clip is so moving. Thank you for it, Ruth. What would be the 10 meals that you would teach children to cook that would save their lives?" 

I felt the answer deserved more than just a comment back and so here are some of my suggestions. Remember, children naturally love healthful foods. Their genetic makeup is designed to consume nature's bounty without any coaxing or effort; they naturally like fruit and vegetables.  The following aren't full meals necessarily as salads can be added for appetizers and fruit for dessert etc, but they give you some ideas.

Breakfasts: I would definitely teach the children about healthy green smoothies, especially as it's an easy way to get green vegetables in us at breakfast time.  To begin with, it's important to not go too heavy on the strong flavored green leafy vegetables until they get used to the green taste, so adding more fruit for the first week or so helps, for example a banana or a couple of dates. I make my smoothies with only fruit and vegetables - no milk or yoghurt or anything else.

Photo by jules:stonesoup

1.Mango spinach smoothie.  A bag of frozen mango and a few handfuls of spinach blended up together, with a little water to get the consistency that you want.
2. Applesauce smoothie - 3 apples, a banana, a bunch of parsley and some root ginger and water.
3.Lettuce smoothie - 3 cups of lettuce, 2 pears,half a pint of blueberries and water.

Lunches:  Often school lunches include processed meats and cheese, but there are many other healthy meals like soups and salads or cold left overs that kids can take in attractive containers to school.

4. Raw almond nut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, plus orange or apple slices.
5. Whole wheat pita bread pocket filled with hummus, salad and nut/fruit dressing and some pineapple or seasonal fruit.
6. Carrot cream soup made with carrots, zucchini, onions etc and raw cashews for the creaminess. Kids often like soups cold so they can take it as is or warmed and in a thermos.

Dinners: Dinners a typically a good meal to start with a salad with some beans, mushrooms, onions, seeds, nuts and berries.  The following are suggestions after the salad or to accompany the salad.

7. California Creamed Kale.  Kale is such a high-nutrient green vegetable that you can add to soups or serve chopped.  In this recipe, the kale is lightly steamed and then served with a soy milk and cashew cream
8. Healthy potato fries.  Potatoes, cut into fries,  are mixed in apple juice and left for 5 minutes, then the juice drained and they are baked in the oven for about 20 minutes.
9. Pita-bread pizza.  Using whole wheat pita, no salt tomato sauce, mushrooms, broccoli, onions and soy cheese.
10. Squash Fantasia - Baked dish made with apricots, raisins, orange juice, butternut squash, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Small portions of organic, white meat or eggs can be added to any of these - using meat more as a condiment or flavoring rather than the focus of the meal.

And not forgetting Dessert - how about non-dairy ice cream - made by freezing bananas and then when frozen, blending them in a high powered blender. Yummy on it's own, but even better when other fruit is added to the blender too, like strawberries or raspberries or blueberries or else almond butter, or cocoa or......  Tastes like soft scoop ice cream.

Gosh, this could go on for ever, but I hope this gives some ideas.  What would you suggest? What are your kids favorites?

If you are looking for more information on how healthy eating for kids can protect  them  from diseases, check out Dr Fuhrman's book "Disease-proof your child - Feeding kids right".
Monday, March 19, 2012

Harvard's Meat and Mortality Study

Last week, the Harvard Health Professionals Follow-up Study  (22 year study of 37,698 men) and the Harvard Nurses' Health Study (28 year study of 83,644 women) concluded that meat consumption is associated with living a significantly shorter life, through increased cancer mortality, increased heart disease mortality and increased overall mortality.

Photo by

A combined 23,926 deaths were documented in the two studies, of which, 5,910 were from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 were from cancer.  Regular consumption of red meat, particularly processed red meat, was associated with increased mortality risk.  One daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality, and one daily service of processed meat (i.e. one hot dog or two slices of bacon) was associated with a 20% increased risk.

Replacing one serving of total red meat with one serving of a healthy protein source was associated with the following lower mortality risks: 7% for fish, 14% for poultry, 19% for nuts, 10% for legumes, 10% for low-fat dairy products, and 14% for whole grains.

Photo by steffenz

For more on this study, check out Dr Michael Greger's video and Dr Fuhrman's blog post, which also brings up the environmental issues related to eating meat, from Dean Ornish's commentary on the study.
Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St Patrick's Day

Photo by SweetOnVeg
Instead of wearing green today, for St Patrick's day, why not eat green instead!

Photo by Muffet
There are so many yummy green vegetables out there - gorgeous, vibrant colors, packed with vitamins, phytochemicals, enzymes, minerals etc.   So make a point today to add green to your diet instead of or as well as your attire!

Photo by zbigphotography
Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jamie Oliver on Teaching children about food

Jamie Oliver's Wish for America, from the TED2010 - Teach every child about food.  Look out for the segment on children identifying vegetables - it's pretty shocking.   
Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sunshine and flowers

Look how beautiful our daffodils look this year as you enter our gate:

Those sunshine colored flowers brighten every day.  They've been in bloom for a month now...hope they last a few weeks longer.

Take time today to go outside and look at the signs of spring. Have a seat, relax, and enjoy the signs of new life all around you.  It'll surely brighten your day.  
Monday, March 12, 2012

A blank canvas

Here is my new blank canvas - actually, three blank canvases!

But what am I to plant in my new raised veggie beds?  So many yummy veggies to chose from.....which are your favorites?
Thursday, March 8, 2012

Making Nut Cheese

I don't eat dairy, so this week I thought I'd tried my hand at making some cheese using nuts instead of dairy.  It was a soft cheese and I am really pleased with how it turned out.

The cheese was made from cashew nuts - and I did two types - one which I dehydrated to form a rind, and the other which I didn't dehydrate (the dehydrated one is at the back of the photo below).

The recipe I used was one I found on the blog Golubka.  I hadn't seen her blog before until I started searching for nut cheese recipes.  But now I've found it - I really like it.  Hope you'll take a look.

The cheese really is simple to make and includes Bio-K probiotics, so you can feel good about eating cheese  as it is providing lots of healthy bugs for digestion.  Here is the recipe with slight modifications to my tastes:

3/4 cup of cashews
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons of Bio-K probiotics - non-dairy
1 teaspoon raw honey
Dash of Spike or No-salt (salt alternative)

1. Soak the cashews in water overnight.  Drain. They will swell to be 1 cup full.

2. Blend all the ingredients together in a Vitamix/Blendtec or powerful blender until smooth.

3. Put into a stainless steel ring former* on parchment paper and either refrigerate overnight or dehydrate overnight.

4. After a couple of hours dehydrating, I removed the ring former so that the sides of the cheese would also form a rind.

*A ring former can be a cookie cutter or muffin ring or something like this ring former.  Basically it just shapes the cheese but you can alternatively just have it free form.

I actually prefer the taste and texture of the un-dehydrated cheese.  It reminds me of boursin cheese in it's texture.  I love cheese with raw honey and fruit.  You can see I added chopped chives to one of the could also mix in or use as a garnish any of the following: garlic, dill, edible flowers, ginger, dried cranberries, figs, or.....So many options. I'll definitely be making it again.  Hmmm, I think I might try dried lemon peel next time......

Let me know if you give it a go.  Thanks Golubka.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What's wrong with what we eat?

A call to action talk by Mark Bittman, New York Times Food writer, on "What's wrong with what we eat" and how it is affecting the planet.  What will you do?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

12 ways to eat more vegetables

Remember - March is National Nutrition Month and time to "shape up your plate".  So today, I'll offer some suggestions of how to increase your intake of vegetables.  I think vegetables are the most important part of our diet.  They give the body so many nutrients, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and impact the body in many ways - so it's always good to try and eat good quality vegetables.

Here are 12 ideas you may want to try to increase your veggie intake and move towards eating a plant based diet:

  1. Eat a salad at both lunch and dinner.  For one of these meals, you can make the salad the main entree, and for the other, you can have it as an appetizer or a side dish.
  2. Substitute raw vegetables for crackers or bread. For example, cut up carrots or cucumber or celery or bell peppers and serve those with hummus or cheese.  Or instead of bread for a sandwich, put the filling on a slice of lettuce or kale or collard greens and wrap it up like a tortilla wrap.
  3. Join a CSA - community supported agriculture - and get a box of vegetables from a local farmer every week.  Some weeks you'll have something you've never tried before, so it'll encourage you to be creative and try new recipes and ideas.
  4. Prepare more than one days worth of vegetables at a time. For example, if you are roasting vegetables to have with dinner one night - roast a full large pan and save the others for adding to soups or stews or reheating later in the week.
  5. When you plate your meal, give yourself double the amount of vegetables you normally would, and then select a smaller portion of something else - like meat - to compensate.
  6. Drink your vegetables.  I ingest a large portion of vegetables by using them in green smoothies. The smoothies taste like fruit instead of vegetables so this method is great for  everyone - even those who say they don't like vegetables.  It's also an easy way to get vegetables into breakfast.
  7. Add extra vegetables to soups. If you are making your own soups or using prepared soups, just throw in a few more veg - like a handful of spinach, some mushrooms, some sun-dried tomatoes.There are lots of choices.
  8. Chop up vegetables to add to your grain dishes, for example cut up peppers, cucumbers, fresh leafy herbs, onions, chives, and add them to your rice or quinoa dish.
  9. Make a salad dressing out of veggies - blending an avocado with cucumber and lemon juice, for example.
  10. Keep a bag of raw veggies cut and cleaned in the fridge for quick snacks when you are hungry.  Take the bag in the car with you when you drive if you are going to be late having a meal.
  11. Try growing sprouts indoors by a window.  It's fun to watch them grow and then add them to salads and sandwiches.  They are a great source of enzymes and so help digestion.
  12. Plant a vegetable plot in your garden - doesn't matter how small - can even be a single plant pot. You can also grow vegetables indoors if you don't have a garden.When you grow your own veggies, you'll enjoy them even more, knowing the care you've given them.
Photo by Zdenko Zivkovic

Do you have other good suggestions? 

Now go eat some veg!
Friday, March 2, 2012

Pretty in Pink - Rhubarb Smoothie

I was going to make a smoothie yesterday but the only frozen fruit I had was some rhubarb - so I made my first rhubarb smoothie!

And FYI: Did you know that in the US, Rhubarb is considered a fruit, but elsewhere it is considered a vegetable?  A New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used as a fruit in the US, it was to be counted as a fruit for the regulations and duties.  A side effect was the reduction on imported rhubarb tariffs, as tariffs were higher for vegetables than fruits.

Pretty in Pink

For most smoothies, I just use fruits and vegetables and nothing else - but the pink of the rhubarb made me want to have this a little creamy.  So I added a carton of Bio-K probiotic - which looks like yogurt, but isn't yogurt - but has 50 billion probiotics in it and is non-dairy and has no sugar. I then also added a product I just found this week - pomegranate powder. It is made from freeze drying pomegranate seeds and then grinding them into a powder.  I adore pomegranates but, sadly, it is no longer their season, so I thought I'd give this a go.

It's a pretty pink powder and considered a superfood.  It has lots of vitamins and minerals, especially high in Vitamin C and potassium.  Potassium is an often overlooked mineral but made more important for us because of the high levels of sodium we consume as salt in our diets.  Practically every packaged food we consume contains high levels of sodium and the balance in our bodies of sodium to potassium is very important.  Potassium is generally inside cells and sodium is generally outside of cells. But when there is an imbalance, sodium goes inside the cells and can affect the reactions in the cell, and ultimately lead to disease.

So reducing salt intake and increasing potassium intake can really help prevent illness and also treat illness.

I don't generally like sweet things but after blending the rhubarb, BioK and pomegranate powder in the blender, with a little water, I realized it needed a little sweetness, so I added a banana.

Now, it is delicious.  The creaminess is very satisfying, - a great way to get a high dose of probiotics - and the sharpness suits my taste perfectly. And the color just makes me happy! I think I'm going to have to get more frozen rhubarb as a staple for my smoothies!

1 packet of frozen rhubarb
1 carton of non-dairy Bio-K probiotics
1 tablespoon of pomegranate powder
1 banana
Blend until smooth and enjoy! Makes two 8 oz glasses. 

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