Pain Relief from Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetes is far too common in the USA.  One of the unfortunate complications of diabetes is that neuropathy can develop.  Of course, the first (and most important!) step is to get your blood sugar under control. For tips, see my previous post about blood sugar regulation.  Unfortunately, if you have neuropathy from diabetes, it can remain even after you've managed your blood sugar.  The pain can be very debilitating so here are some things that may help relieve some of the pain.

*First, to be clear: I am not a M.D.  Please consult your doctor before undergoing any health treatments or taking new supplements. This post, and all information on this site, is for educational and informational purposes only.*

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Supplements can definitely be helpful because we are talking about utilizing vitamins for therapeutic purposes, which requires higher doses than a typical healthy intake.  Work with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate supplements and dosages for you.  Until then, you can certainly focus on eating foods high in these nutrients. 

The following are your friends:

GLA (Gamma-linolenic acid)

  • Borage oil, Evening Primrose oil, Black Currant oil

ALA (Alpha-lipoic acid)

  • Flax seeds (and oil), Chia seeds, Hemp seeds

Vitamin C

  • Citrus fruits, Non-Citrus fruits, Melons, Green Leafy vegetables, Cruciferous vegetables

Vitamin E

  • Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Green Leafy vegetables, Avocados

Vitamin B6

  • Fish, Poultry, Meats, Nuts, Chick Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach

Biotin

  • Eggs, Peanuts, Almonds, Swiss Chard, Carrots

Capsaicin

  • Cayenne pepper
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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

What's the Deal with "Raw" Almonds?

You may or may not be familiar with the new laws regarding the required pasteurization of "raw" almonds in the U.S.  For those of you who have not read about all of the shenanigans surrounding almonds, let me bring you up to speed.

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In 2001 and 2004 there were cases of salmonella contamination in almonds.  In response to this, in 2007 The Almond Board of California, which oversees nearly all of the almonds that are grown in the U.S., decided to implement a mandate that would require all almonds be pasteurized for safety purposes.  The interesting point, of course, it why on earth would almonds contain salmonella?  It has nothing to do with the almonds themselves, rather it is caused by runoff from nearby CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations, which are the ridiculously inhumane and unsanitary mass confined animal feedlots that are referred to by Big Ag as "farms.")  

Instead of regulating the CAFOs and the issue of runoff, the Almond Board of California has demanded pasteurization of ALL almonds under their jurisdiction, which is essentially all almonds grown in the U.S.  Why would they do this?  Well, there is the safety concern side, but that would be best dealt with by actually going to the source of the problem.  Almonds are not the problem; the same thing has happened to other innocent foods such as spinach and melons.  The problem is the CAFOs and they will continue to contaminate their neighbors until they are forced to deal with their sanitation problems.  Therefore, there has been a lot of speculation that the true motivation for the mandate is for the larger almond growers to squeeze the little farmers by making them shell out the money to have their almonds pasteurized, which is a costly step.  Was it really a political power play on behalf of the powers that control the Almond Board?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Either way, the mandate doesn't really get to the heart of the issue and has created a system that now deceives the public.

What do I mean by deceiving the public?  The new law also dictates that these now pasteurized almonds can still be labeled as raw.  Say whaaat?  Yep.  It's a lie folks.  Pasteurized almonds, whether they are treated using the less undesirable method of steam heating, or are gassed with PPO (propoylene oxide, a known carcinogen), these almonds are not raw.  Truly raw almonds are a living food.  You can sprout them.  Pasteurized almonds are dead.  So why are companies allowed to lie to us and pretend that their almonds are raw when they aren't?

You can still buy truly raw almonds in the U.S. if you buy them directly from the grower at a farmer's market or online. There are a number of small companies that sell unpasteurized raw almonds: a few examples are One Lucky DuckRenegade Health and Bremner Farms.

A great resource with the latest on the pasteurization laws and the difference between raw and pasteurized nuts can be found here at www.livingnutz.com

If you want to know which brands use steam and which use PPO check out this Guide to how almonds are pasteurized.  Keep in mind that all certified organic almonds must use the steam method, so buying organic is a great way to avoid PPO.

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Raw Deserts are Awesome

Now that the holiday season is over, many of us may be looking to ditch desserts for a while to make up for the many treats that were consumed throughout December. Instead of completely ruling out anything sweet, if you are looking for a healthy swap, here is a way to "hack" your dessert plate: Raw Desserts.

Raw desserts are an awesome way to get your dessert fix without consuming processed sugars.  Most raw desserts use raw nuts to make amazing things.  Seriously, those two raw cheesecakes pictures below are made with cashews!  And they are awesome.  As in really, really deliciously awesome.  

What is a Raw Dessert?

Raw food hasn’t been cooked, processed, microwaved, irradiated, genetically engineered, or exposed to pesticides or herbicides. It includes fresh fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and herbs in their whole, natural state. Proponents say cooking destroys most of the vitamins in food and crucial enzymes.  In general, the temperature determined to be the cut off is around 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  Raw desserts are desserts made using raw foods. 

I am not a proponent of eating entirely raw foods, but dessert seems to me to be one of the areas where the raw versions flat out trump the processed versions.  I don't seem to get any of the negative consequences traditionally associated with eating desserts if they are raw.  My blood sugar doesn't spike (probably because there are always good fats, fiber and protein included in raw desserts via ingredients such as nuts, seeds, coconut oil, whole fruits and veggies.) I don't get a food coma after eating them and they digest well.

Raw desserts often use dates as the sugar, sometimes maple syrup/agave/raw honey, but never any processed sugars.  Personally, I'm not a big fan of agave, so maple syrup and raw honey are my go-to sweetners when a liquid sweetner is required.  I also like using Brown Rice Syrup since it is fructose-free.  And, because raw desserts are chock full of goodies like raw cacao, raw nuts, and other whole-antioxidant-rich foods, raw desserts are full of lots of vitamins and minerals, unlike most processed desserts which are completely devoid of nutritional value.  Not to mention that processed desserts are often incredibly detrimental to our bodies.  Therefore, for anyone who fears that they can't possibly satisfy their sweet tooth without consuming crap, I say "Fear not! Make yourself a raw dessert!"  

They are pretty simple to make usually, unless you want to get all kinds of fancy.  Which you can.  You can make raw desserts that would bring the house down if you'd like.  Or you can keep it simple and still blow the minds of any naysayer out there.  

There are tons and tons of raw dessert recipes out there, including a couple on my recipe page.  Other great sites are Sweetly RawRawmazing and This Rawesome Vegan Life to get you started.

Pictured above are this cheesecake recipe from The Wellness Warrior via Eat Awesome and this chocolate cheesecake recipe from Detoxinista.  (Surprise: The chocolate cake has an entire cup of zucchini in it! And it's soooo good!)

Happy Raw Dessert Eating!

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Blood Sugar Regulation is Extremely Important

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • You get sugar cravings throughout the day or after meals.
  • You get extremely irritable, shaky and/or spacey if you haven't eaten recently.
  • Your diet is full of processed foods and simple carbs.
  • Your blood test from your doctor came back revealing above normal blood glucose and/or Hemoglobin A1C levels.

If you said yes to any of the above, you may have blood sugar dysregulation.

The bad news is that blood sugar dysregulation can lead to a whole host of issues such as weight gain, depression, hormonal imbalances and diabetes.  It may even be a contributing factor to PCOS, infertility and breast cancer in women.

The good news is that blood sugar issues can absolutely be addressed by diet and lifestyle habits.

 via ucsf.edu

via ucsf.edu

Blood sugar imbalance is one of the few areas where even conventional medicine looks to diet and lifestyle interventions first.

What are the 3 main steps to getting blood sugar under control?

  1. Increase your intake of healthy fats, protein and fiber

  2. Remove processed carbohydrates from your diet

  3. Add regular exercise into your daily lifestyle (including strength training)

Those are the basic concepts.  Now, let me expand on those ideas a bit and help you understand how to do those three things.

I tend to find that my clients have an easier time adjusting their current food intake by focusing on ADDING first, and REMOVING second.  Usually, this approach is the most effective and successful.  Therefore, in terms of blood sugar management, this means that you want to start my making sure that you are consuming enough healthy fats, protein and fiber. How to do this?

 via pushupsandcarrots.wordpress.com

via pushupsandcarrots.wordpress.com

Healthy Fats:

Avocado, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Coconut oil, Butter (grassfed), Ghee, Oily Fish, Fish Oil, Flax Oil, Nuts and Seeds.

Fat is key.  Thanks to the 1980's people are fat-fearful, but that really needs to go away now.  That was a fad that allowed companies to pump their foods full of salt and sugar, but market them as a health food because they were "low-fat."  Terrible.  Fat slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, limiting the glucose spike that causes blood sugar highs and lows, which can lead to diabetes.  Not to mention all of the very important fat soluble vitamins that come with healthy fats.

BTW-Yes, butter is a healthy fat.  The key is to make sure that you are getting a good quality butter- meaning grassfed.  It really does change the nutrient profile.  KerryGold is a widely available grassfed butter, or any smaller local companies that sell grassfed butter at your local healthfood store or farmer's market is great.  Coconut oil (another saturated fat and therefore sometimes demonized) is awesome.  It is a medium chain fatty acid, which means it is easily absorbed into the body.  It is also a high heat oil so you can cook with it.  Please only cook with fats that can take high heat.  Low-heat oils will oxidize and become very inflammatory.  Not good.  

Cook with: Avocado Oil, Ghee, Butter, Coconut Oil. (Save the olive oil for low heat situations.)

ALSO, when it comes to fats, organic should be the priority.  I realize that price can be an issue and therefore you will need to make the decision that is right for you and your family, but in terms of health and the chemistry of fats, organic is extremely important. Fats can store tons of fat-soluble toxins and fats are mostly absorbed directly into the lymph, which means that they enter our bodies before getting screened by the liver. The liver is our ultimate protector that tries its best to eliminate harmful substances before they enter our blood stream.  Fats often skip this first step and therefore it stands to reason that fat-soluble toxins may be even more damaging than water-soluble toxins.  (Not that those are good either, we don't want to overload our livers and cause liver disease.)

Protein

It does't have to be animal protein.  While quality animal meats (humanely raised, not pumped full of chemicals) can be a healthy source of protein, try also looking toward plant sources such as beans and legumes.  They also have the added benefit of being good sources of Fiber.  

Fiber

This is where the classic fruits, vegetables and whole grains enter the picture.  (+Beans and legumes.)  Not only do these foods contain fiber, but they also contain wonderful vitamins and minerals that help our bodies function.  Think the color of the rainbow. While whole grains are good in moderation, try to focus on vegetables more than grains.  

Remove the Junk

Once you've got a hold of including the goodies, you should feel more prepared to remove the troublemakers.  Typically, the sheer act of including more of the good stuff will crowd out some of the bad stuff, but incase there is still a bunch of processed, refined carbohydrates on your plate: time to chuck them.  They are nutrient deplete (seriously, absolutely no benefit other than containing calories) and they spike your blood sugar very high.  This spike in blood sugar (aka. blood glucose) will result in your body bringing tons of insulin onto the scene to move that bucket of sugar into your cells. Unfortunately, this process will work too well and your blood sugar level will drop too low, resulting in reactive hypoglycemia and sugar cravings.  That is why you crave sugar soon after meals.  This can be the beginning of a roller coaster ride for your body's blood sugar management team: You continue to eat processed junk spiking your blood sugar, insulin comes in and works too hard to move the sugar into cells, which causes your blood sugar to drop low enough to cause sugar cravings.  If you indulge this craving the whole things repeats itself until your body is literally worn out. The insulin receptors stop working as well, moving you into non-insulin dependent Type II diabetes.  If you continue, your body will be too tired to make insulin at all and you will have insulin-dependent Type II diabetes and require insulin injections.  Once your body loses its ability to produce its own insulin, it can never be reversed.  You will require insulin injections for the rest of your life. Not Fun.  Let's stop you from getting there.  (If you are already there, we can still vastly improve your quality of life and prevent you from other unfortunate complications of diabetes.  Never give up on your health!)

 via dumbellsdepot.com

via dumbellsdepot.com

Exercise

Not only is exercise good for weight management and cardiovascular health (just to name a couple), but the physical act of contracting your muscles will move glucose (sugar) from your blood stream into your cells WITHOUT the use of insulin.  How cool is that?!  If you are heading on the path towards diabetes, or have already been diagnosed with diabetes, how important do you think it is to give the insulin in your body a break?  VERY that's how important.  Since it is the contraction of muscles that is key, strength training really is the golden boy in this scenario.  Instead of just hopping on the elliptical, throw in some strength training and you will reap the rewards!

 

I realize that was a crap ton of info, and I still feel like I only scratched the surface.  If you have any questions, thoughts, confusions, etc. please leave them in the comments section below and I will answer them/discuss them with you. 

2 Comments

Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Eat to Ease Arthritis Pain

Lots of people suffer from pain associated with arthritis, an inflammation of one or more joints.  Osteoarthritis, usually thought of as "wear and tear arthritis" is the most common form of arthritis.  (Not to be confused with rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease and quite different.)  There are also various other forms that fall under the umbrella term of 'Arthritis' because they all involve inflamed joints.

 via dailymail.co.uk

via dailymail.co.uk

Conventional medicine usually uses pain medication to treat the discomfort associated with arthritis.  While arthritis can be extremely painful and wanting to treat that pain is understandable, pain medication doesn't actually treat the cause of the condition, it only treats the symptom of pain.  Chronic, longterm use of these medications, such as NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: ex. aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen) can cause major damage to our digestive systems, kidneys and even increase our risk for cardiovascular disease.  Therefore, I think it is a much better option to try to find ways to decrease the inflammation holistically and avoid possible serious complications. 

Luckily, there are foods that can help quell inflammation, as well as foods that are known to increase inflammation, and therefore can be consciously eaten and avoided, respectively. 

Foods to EAT

  • Foods that are good sources of Omega 3's
    • ex. Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel, Trout, Flax seeds, Chia seeds, Walnuts
  • Foods that are good sources of other healthy fats
    • ex. Avocados, Olive Oil, Nuts, Coconut Oil
  • Foods that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates
    • ex. Vegetables, Legumes, Fruits, Whole grains
  • Foods that are high in plant-based antioxidants (such as anthocyanins and Beta-Cryptoxathin)
    • ex. Berries, Fruits, Greens, Turmeric, Ginger, Squash, Colorful Vegetables 

Foods to AVOID

  • Trans fats
    • These awful man-created fat molecules are incredibly inflammatory.  They have absolutely no need to exist.  Food companies manufacture them so that their products are more shelf stable and easier to transport.  It is a matter of convenience for them.  It has no bearing on taste while being extremely unhealthy. Not good. Stay Away. ex. processed foods, partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Omega 6's
    • The Standard American Diet is way too high in Omega 6's, which cause inflammatory responses in the body. ex. Corn Oil, Canola Oil, Safflower Oil, Palm Oil
  • A.G.E.'s (Advanced glycation end-products)
    • These bad boys are created when food is heated, grilled, fried or pasteurized.  They are toxins that cause the body to have an immune response.  The body sends cytokines, inflammatory messengers, to attack the toxins.  Try not to char your food and instead heat food at a lower heat to decrease the A.G.E. load. ex. Char-grilled, burnt and other foods cooked at very high heat.
  • Excessive Dairy and Meat Consumption
    • I believe quality matters a lot here- sticking to organic, grassfed meats and dairy will make them much less inflammatory.  If you are up for it, however, completely cutting them out or greatly reducing your intake has been shown to possibly be beneficial. ex. Dairy Milk, Cheeses, Meats from CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations)
  • Alcohol and Tobacco
    • Both are very inflammatory. Sorry. Tobacco is definitely out. If you want to stick with some alcohol, go for wine.  It has some polyphenols that might have some anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Nightshades
    • The family of foods known as Nightshades contain solanum alkaloids which may contribute to arthritis in susceptible individuals.  ex. tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant.
  • Processed foods and processed sugars
    • If it comes in a box with lots of ingredients, contains refined flours, contains lots of preservatives, processed sugars and/or unhealthy oils, steer clear. ex. Candies, Soda, Boxed Foods, White Sugar, White Flour.

If all of that was too much:

The main take away is to decrease your processed, refined food consumption and increase your colorful fruit and vegetable consumption.

2 Comments

Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Help! My Allergy Test Says I'm Allergic to Everything!

I've had a couple of clients come to me in a panic saying that they can't eat anything because the food allergy test their doctor ordered came back saying that they are allergic to practically everything.  The good news, I reassure them, is that they are not really allergic to everything that popped up on that list.

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If you have a food allergy test done that comes back identifying a huge number of food culprits, then the real problem is that you have an irritated/inflamed gut lining commonly referred to as leaky gut.

The cells that line your gut are called enterocytes.  Enterocytes are supposed to be joined together very tightly with "tight junctions" in order to prevent any food particles that are not properly digested from getting absorbed.  With leaky gut, the enterocytes have become damaged and spaces are created between the cells that allow for large, undigested proteins to get through.

These proteins are identified by the body's immune system as "foreigners" and an immune reaction occurs.  This reaction will be identified on your allergy test results as an allergic reaction.  Essentially, with leaky gut, the food that you consume can get through those gaps without being properly digested and cause a reaction.  Yet, if your gut lining was healthy, those foods wouldn't cause any problem.  

So how do you fix this?

  • REMOVE true irritants

If there are a few foods that show up on your allergy test as being spiked much higher than all of the other foods, then you may have a true allergy to those particular foods. Common examples are casein (a protein found in dairy), gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) and nuts.  You will also want to remove any universally inflammatory foods such as processed sugar, trans fats, coffee and alcohol.  (I know, the last two suck, but if you are a regular consumer of coffee and/or alcohol and you have a leaky gut, you really ought to remove them temporarily while your gut heals and then you can try reintroducing them later.)

  • REPAIR your gut

Simply removing many offending foods will help your gut wall out a lot, but usually your enterocytes need some additional help.  There are many things that can help heal your gut, but my two favorites are:

Supplement: L-Glutamine

Food: Bone Broth and Mineral Broth

L-Glutamine is the primary food source for the enterocytes and will help them heal. Broths, both bone and vegetable mineral, are very healing and help to provide critical minerals that may be missing from your diet.  For bone broth I use Sally Fallon's recipe, and for a vegetable broth I use Rebecca Katz's Magic Mineral Broth.

  • Reinnoculate

If you have leaky gut syndrome, your poor gut has been through the ringer.  You need the good guys to help you out.  The good guys being good gut bacteria known as probiotics.  

Supplement: Sacchromyces Boulardii is great, or a good quality multi-strain capsule with at least 10 billion per cap.

Food: Fermented Foods!! Check out my post on how to ferment.

  • Reintroduce

The last step is to reintroduce some foods one at a time.  Truly, all of this should be done under the supervision of a health care professional and that is especially true for this step.  If you are interested in working with me, please visit my Work With Me page. This step needs to be closely monitored because reactions can sometimes take up to a few days to show up.  Also, sometimes a small amount won't cause a reaction, but larger amounts will so that will also need to be evaluated. 

All in all, leaky gut syndrome is a serious enough condition that you really ought to be under the care of a healthcare professional who can guide you towards healing. The good news is that healing is possible, and since so many issues come back to digestive health, repairing your gut can have a profound improvement upon your life.

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Do You Steam Your Veggies?

If so, what do you do with the left over liquid? Most likely, you probably just toss it out. Don't! Save it, it's full of nutritious goodness. Save that liquid and it can:

  1. Become the base of a vegetable stock
  2. Be used in place of water to cook grains
  3. Be used in place of water in smoothies

Or just drink it. I'm not a big fan of the taste as a beverage myself, but if you like it, go for it! If saving for later, store the liquid goodness in a glass container in the fridge and use as soon as possible since the vitamins in the liquid will degrade over time.

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Foods for Winter Wellness

Colds and influenzas are common in the winter months. They are not, however, inevitable, and if you do find yourself under the weather, it doesn't have to be a long suffering experience.  If you support your immune system you will find that you can get through annoying illnesses much faster and maybe even avoid them all together.  

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Some great foods for aiding in relief and prevention of colds:

  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Raw honey 

1. Raw garlic is a tough one for people, but if you can manage to eat some raw garlic when you start to feel the onset of something, or simply have spent your day in a office with sick people, it can work wonders.  I chew it and eat it like a badass, which sucks, but I think works better (maybe I'm kidding myself, but I've heard it releases more of the medicinal properties) but you can also chop it into small pieces and swallow it. 

2. A tea made of hot water with turmeric and ginger powders with some raw honey is great for chest congestion.

3. Eat nutrient dense foods.  Cooking and eating for immunity means consuming a large variety of micronutrients to support your body's functions.  It also means making it easier on your digestive system by properly preparing your grains and legumes.  It's amazing how many people don't think that they can eat grains and/or beans and it is because they don't know how to properly prepare them.  For tips on preparing beans, visit one of my earlier posts entitled Don't Fear the Bean.

Grains also need to be presoaked.  I know that this is a less talked about topic, but many grains contain phytates that can inhibit digestion and absorption.  Soaking grains in water with something acidic (ex. 2 T of vinegar or lemon juice) will do the trick.  A few hours to overnight is ideal, but even a last minute 30-60 minutes is better than nothing.  Strain the grains and use fresh liquid when cooking.  As an added bonus: your cooking time will decrease if you've presoaked.

(There is also the kefir/buttermilk/yogurt option which I personally like, but I imagine freaks some people out.  If you want to soak your oatmeal in kefir, buttermilk or yogurt, be sure to cover it!)

Another great option is sprouting your grains or beans.  Mung beans are especially great for sprouting and grains such as quinoa and buckwheat are great for beginners.  Sprouted grains/legumes are much more easily digestible and super easy.  Initially soak your grains/legumes in cool water for a few hours - overnight.  Then drain them in a mesh strainer.  Keep them in the strainer, and 4 times a day or so, take the strainer to the sink, rinse them in cool water and set them aside.  Little tails will start to form within a day or two.  Voilà! Sprouted. You can let them keep going and create full-on sprouts, or leave it and cook with them immediately.

4.  Another thing to keep in mind is eating seasonally and intuitively.  Most people want warming stews over raw salads in the winter.  This natural inclination does not need to be fought.  I'm not saying to abandon fruits and vegetables, not at all, but prepare them in a way that feels good to you.  Winter squashes, roots and tubers are very appropriate for this time of year and actually have nutrient profiles that support our bodies in the colder months. 

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Label Overload

So many labels, what do they all mean?  

There are way more labels out there in food-world than I could possibly hope to go over, but I can at least hit some of the big ones.  The big thing to understand is the basic concept of what labels actually mean, and what they don't.

all-natural-label.jpg

Before you get completely overwhelmed by the vast array of tiny designs that can appear on foods, first understand this: descriptive words that are not an actual label are part of a marketing campaign. They are not well mediated or well substantiated.  For example: "made with whole grains" or "supports your child's immunity" don't really mean much.  There may be some whole grains in the product, or it may contain some amount of vitamin C, but the implication they are trying to give probably doesn't align with reality.  Bear in mind, they haven't actually tested whether or not eating their crappy processed food improves health.  They know that a particular nutrient is associated with health, so they pumped some of that one nutrient into an otherwise completely terrible "food" and are now using it to make a health claim.  DO NOT BE FOOLED BY MARKETING PLOYS.

An actual label, on the other hand, must be obtained through a certification process. Whichever certifying board is responsible for each label will have their own rules that must be met.  When a food or product has been validated, it will be able to display that label on its packaging (or as a sticker), thus informing you, the consumer, that the certifying body guarantees that the product meets their standards. 

And one more point before we get into some specific labels, the following are words that are not verified and therefore can pretty much be claimed by anything that isn't an obvious lie: Natural and Sustainable. Sorry folks, neither one of those words is truly regulated.  With that said, lots of products that claim to use sustainable practices actually do, so do your own research with those.  As for natural, companies seem to love that word a little too much for my comfort.  Get to know your companies!

Also, animal related terms to know:

Cage free: There really isn't third party regulation.  The implication is that the birds are not in cages, but usually they are kept in extremely overcrowded, dark warehouses.

Free Roaming/Free Range: Defined for poultry meat only.  The USDA regulates that they must have access to the outdoors.  Of course, whether or not they actually go outdoors, and how much time or space they have is unregulated.  For laying hens (eggs) the term free range is not regulated.

Pastured: No legal definition or verification.  The implication is the animals were raised on pasture, but  the claim is unverified.

Grass Fed: There are multiple definitions. Note that the USDA grassfed logo allows cattle to be confined on feedlots with cut grass shipped in on trucks.  The American Grassfed Association logo verifies that the animals were raised on pasture, without confinement, antibiotics or added hormones.

Humane: It implies the use of humane practices, but it is completely unregulated.

 

Now, onto some Common Labels:

NonGMO.jpeg

Referring to Non-Genetically Modified Organisms (common ones being corn, soy, canola, beet sugar). Products must be deemed compliant with the Non-GMO Project Standard.  They require testing of all ingredients that are being grown commercially in GMO form. They have an Action Threshold of 0.9%, which is the same as laws in the European Union.

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Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that some people have an allergy or sensitivity to.  The Gluten-Free Certification Organization is an independent service that conducts field inspections to verify that products are truly gluten-free. 

 

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The Fair Trade certification is designed and audited to ensure equitable trade practices at every level of the supply chain. To earn a license from Fair Trade USA in order to use the Fair Trade Certified™ label on their products, companies must buy from certified farms and organizations, pay Fair Trade prices and premiums and submit to supply chain audits.

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This is the major one so here's the story:

According to the USDA: Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

Crop Farms:

(They must have 3 years with no application of prohibited materials before being declared Organic)

  • Implementation of an Organic System Plan, with proactive fertility systems; conservation measures; environmentally sound manure, weed, disease, and pest management practices; and soil building crop rotation system
  • Use of natural inputs and/or approved synthetic substances on the National List
  • No use of prohibited substances while certified
  • No use of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs)
  • No sewage sludge or irradiation
  • Use of organic seeds, when commercially available
  • Use of organic seedlings for annual crops
  • Restrictions on use of raw manure and compost
  • Maintenance of buffer zones, depending on risk of contamination
  • No residues of prohibited substances exceeding 5% of the EPA tolerance

For livestock operations:

  • Implementation of an Organic Livestock Plan
  • Mandatory outdoor access, when seasonally appropriate
  • Access to pasture for ruminants
  • No antibiotics, growth hormones, slaughter byproducts, or GMOs
  • 100% organic feed and approved feed supplements
  • Sound animal husbandry and preventative health care
  • Organic management from last third of gestation or 2nd day after hatching
  • No rotating animals between organic and non-organic management

Single Ingredients

On foods like fruits and vegetables, look for a small sticker version of the USDA Organic label or check the signage in your produce section for this seal. The word "organic" and the seal may also appear on packages of meat, cartons of milk or eggs, cheese, and other single-ingredient foods.

Multi-Ingredient Foods

Foods such as beverages, snacks, and other processed foods use the following classification system to indicate their use of organic ingredients.

100% Organic: Foods bearing this label are made with 100% organic ingredients and may display the USDA Organic seal. 

Organic: These products contain at least 95–99% organic ingredients (by weight). The remaining ingredients are not available organically but have been approved by the National Organic Program. These products may display the USDA Organic seal.

Made With Organic Ingredients: Food packaging that reads “Made With Organic Ingredients” must contain 70–94% organic ingredients. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal; instead, they may list up to three ingredients on the front of the packaging.

Other: Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may only list organic ingredients on the information panel of the packaging. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal.

 

Of course, here is the ultimate tip for avoiding getting overwhelmed by packaging: buy very few things that actually have packaging.  I get that some whole foods come in packaging: bread, eggs, spices, grains etc. But generally those packages are mostly transparent and therefore not quite as overwhelming as, say, a cereal box. Boxed, processed foods are a marketing division's dream.  The entire point of processed foods is to purchase large quantities of cheap commodity ingredients, process them in various ways, and then charge a huge markup for "added value."  How do they inform you of just how much "value" they've added? By plastering claims and cute cartoons all over the packaging.  These are marketing devices.  The claims they make are typically unsubstantiated and loosely regulated.  For the real story, read the ingredients list. Those are really the only words that matter.  But again, if you are buying, say, a squash, there isn't any packaging to be found.  Between a box and a squash: go with the squash.   

Yes, to further complicate things, if you are rockin' and simply want to decide between various good things: do you buy organic or local or fair trade? I say ideally buy as much organically grown food as possible.  Hopefully, it will be labeled, but if you know your farmer and he isn't certified but adheres to organic practices, buy it.  Aim for local and in season as much as possible.  (I love buying local, it's the easiest way to know your farmer. But if that farmer sprays lots of pesticides and plants gmo crops- no way! That means he's selling contaminated food AND contaminating my water supply!) For imports from countries with poor working conditions, buy fair trade.  But to be fair, as long as you are deciding between organic versus local produce instead of Lucky Charms versus Fruit Loops, you deserve a massive shout out because you are awesome and I'll call it a WIN either way!

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Embrace Fermented Foods

One thing that the modern American diet is lacking that most traditional diets contain is fermented foods.  Traditionally, cultures have used fermentation to preserve food prior to the invention of refrigeration.  As with most traditional wisdom, this technique was beneficial to human health in many different ways that science continues to specifically identify.  Fermented foods are more easily digested because the proteins are already partially broken down.  And most importantly, they support good bacteria in our digestive tract, which is necessary for optimal health.

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Everyday we rely on bacteria in our gut to keep us healthy.  Yup, bacteria for health. Perhaps you've heard about this, probiotics are getting a lot of attention these days.  Of course, the reason that probiotics are getting so much attention is that 1) people are having a lot of health, especially digestive-related, issues and 2) it threw a wrench in our bacteria-fearing belief system.  So yes, we need certain bacteria.  And we actually have a huge amount of "good bacteria" living inside of us everyday making things run smoothly.  The stats tend to vary on this, but in general we have hundreds of different species of bacteria living in our gut, which are comprised of 10 times as many microorganisms as we have human cells.  This is still a relatively new topic for scientific understanding in our modern biomedical model, but traditional/cultural methods of food preparation have been supporting this knowledge for a long time.  Fermentation. Heard of it?  Specifically lacto-fermentation, with the "lacto" referring to lactic acid producing bacteria known as lacto-bacilli.  I bet you've heard of that one.  That's what is listed on many yogurt containers.  Lacto-fermentation was originally developed to preserve food; the lactic acid inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria. Lacto-fermented food also does a whole bunch of super cool things such as: start the digestive process, aid digestion, increase vitamin levels (esp vitamin C), help maintain blood pressure, promote healthy bacteria throughout the gut and boost the immune system.  Rad, right?!  

Keep this knowledge in mind throughout your life when things might happen that could potentially disrupt your gut ecosystem.  For example, antibiotics.  I'm not a huge fan of antibiotics, I think they are way overused in this country.  Again, I could get on a soap box about that one, but I also do understand that there are times when antibiotics are truly necessary.  Just remember, with the interconnectedness of all systems within our bodies, it is very hard to adjust one thing without it having consequences somewhere else.  If you are going to be on antibiotics, this might be an excellent time to include some extra ferments in your diet.

HOW TO FERMENT:

What you need: (for jar fermentation)

1. Jar with a two-piece lid 

2. Good quality sea salt

3. Time: a couple days to a couple weeks

4. Temperature: approx. room temperature 68-72 is ideal

5. (If you are not vegan) A fermenting agent: whey, or a kefir or yogurt starter

Fermenting can be vegan, you can drop the fermenting agent and just use salt and water.  

I've been taught 2 Tablespoons of salt per 1 quart of vegetables.  I find this to be too salty so I use 2 teaspoons per 1 quart.  Put veggies in jar, mix salt with enough water to cover the vegetables.  Leave about an inch of air at the top of jar. Seal lid tight, let sit for approx. 2-7 days. It's ready when the lid no longer has any give in it.  Then stick it in the fridge where it will keep for several months.  (Hotter room temperatures will ferment faster, colder will ferment slower. Check the lid for firmness.)

If dairy is not a issue, use 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup liquid whey for 1 quart of vegetables.  Or dissolve one packet of starter in water plus 1 Tablespoon salt for 1 quart of vegetables.  Again, cover vegetables with water, leave 1 inch at the top.  Leave at room temperature for approx. 2-7 days.  When the lid is firm, they are ready.  It will keep in the fridge for several months.  Note: You can buy whey or simply strain it out of yogurt yourself.  

*The above are general guidelines.  Different foods, such as beverages, vary.  But the above is a good rule of thumb.  

Below I've included some fun pictures and recipes of lacto-fermented foods that you can make at home. Be careful, though.  When first introducing ferments into one's diet, slow and steady is key.  Just a tiny bit to start while your body adjusts or else you may have some rather undesirable detox reactions.  Happy Fermenting!

Saurkraut.jpg

Sauerkraut - 1 quart

1 med cabbage shredded

(Optional-- Any additional vegetables of choice, chopped)

2 tsp salt

*** For cabbage, knead it with your hands in a bowl (after it is shredded and salted) to use its own water.  No need to add additional water, just squish out the cabbage juice!

Take salt, cabbage and cabbage water.  Add to jar.  Make sure water covers all vegetables and there is 1 inch of space at the top.  Needs approx. 3-5 days to sit on counter.  Will keep 3 months in fridge.

 

 

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Beet Kvass - 2 quarts

1 med beet chopped

1 T salt

5 cloves garlic chopped

1 cup whey

Water to fill

Chop beet and garlic.  Add all ingredients to jar.  Fill with water until 1 inch of space remains. Needs approx. 2-5 days to sit on counter.  Drink diluted or undiluted with water depending on personal taste.  Drink about 2 ounces a day. Or start off smaller if necessary.

Fruit Kvass.jpg

Fruit Kvass - 1 quart

1 apple chopped

1 handful berries

1 inch ginger sliced or minced (your preference)

1/2 cup whey

Water to fill

Put ingredients in jar, fill with water leaving 1 inch at top. Sit in room temperature 2-3 days.  It will last in fridge a few weeks.  Drink a couple ounces a day, or start off smaller.

 

*Kvass can be made with any fruit combo, vegetable combo or fruit and vegetable combo.  Experiment!

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Fermented Ketchup 1/2 quart

12 ounces of tomato paste (buy it in jars, rather than cans if possible)

1/8 cup of whey

1/8 cup maple syrup

1 T sea salt

1 clove garlic mashed

Mix ingredients together.  Fill jar.  Sit in room temperature about 2 days.  Transfer to fridge.  If you prefer thinner ketchup, add water after fermentation.

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Genetically Modified

What the heck is a genetically modified food?

Well for starters, we probably should use a different term: transgenic.  Technically speaking, any deliberate form of cross breeding is a form of genetic modification.  This is not, however, what people are usually referring to when they speak of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Therefore, I will use the less ambiguous term, transgenic, to refer to the specific splicing of the DNA of one organism and the subsequent insertion of a gene(s) from a different organism.  Although, note that when you see the terms GM or GMO elsewhere it is most likely referring to transgenic organisms.

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The process of creating a transgenic organism (whether plant or animal) is not a natural process.  There are many steps involved that require the invasion of a cell usually through a bacteria or virus that has been altered with the desired gene.  The plant or animal that is being modified will have the altered bacteria or virus forced into the nucleus of its cells.  

Here is a great video that explains the process.

The main question is why have biotech companies created transgenic crops?

The original idea is based around improving crop yields.  Whether or not yields have even been improved is up for debate, but what is for sure is that the biotech companies have created a profit generating machine by patenting seeds (live organisms which can replicate and cross-contaminate).  The most prolific transgenic seeds are those that have been engineered to be resistant to a specific herbicide: Monsanto's Roundup Ready Herbicide.  This means that farmers can spray massive amounts of Roundup Ready Herbicide without fear that it will destroy the crop.  Of course, Monsanto is the company that has both patented the seeds and the herbicide.  How convenient?  The company is making money selling farmers seeds and the herbicide.  So, now we've got transgenic food that is being sprayed with a massive amount of herbicide.

There is also Monsanto's Bt corn which is engineered to have an insecticide built into its DNA, which can liquify the stomach linings of insects trying to eat the crop.  What does it do to humans?  We don't know.  

There are a number of others, but Monsanto owns 90% of all transgenic crops and those are the two big ones.  Do not be fooled by Monsanto's claims that it is trying to feed the world.  It is the chemical company that brought us Agent Orange and it is mainly concerned with profits.  Otherwise, Monsanto would perform the necessary tests to determine that it is actually safe to feed the world transgenic foods.

For those of you who may not know much about transgenic foods, the following may come as a shock:

***In the U.S.A., transgenic foods are in as much as 80% of all conventional processed foods***

The following are considered high risk transgenic crops:

  • Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
  • Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
  • Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
  • Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
  • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
  • Also, Animal Products due to contamination of feed and rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone which is a transgenic hormone inserted into conventional cows)

[statistics from the Non GMO Project: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/]

Essentially, this means processed foods.  Canola, corn, soy and sugar (sugar beets) make up the majority of ingredients in conventional processed foods.  Also, any actual corn, soy or canola oil that is non-organic and not certified as Non-GMO is almost certainly transgenic.  Alfalfa is poised to become a big factor because it is both easily spread and fed to livestock.

Transgenic crops have been around for well over a decade, which means that almost all of us have, at one time or another, consumed transgenic foods without our knowledge or consent.  This is unique to the U.S.A.  In the European Union, transgenic crops are banned.  Even Russia and China require labeling of transgenic food.

Despite their proliferation in American diets, very little testing has been done on the safety of transgenic crop consumption.  The big biotech companies have a lot of money and have managed to lobby the government to reduce regulations and treat transgenic crops as normal.  Which means that they've entered our supermarkets and our stomachs without extensive testing, causing the public at large to be the biotech industry's own personal guinea pigs.  I, for one, do not appreciate that these companies have placed profits over public health.

 via golivegreenlife.com

via golivegreenlife.com

Clearly, eating a single serving of transgenic food does not produce immediate, acute effects that are easily identifiable, but what about consumption over time?  The answer is: we don't know.  Biotech companies have attempted to prevent testing of transgenic crop consumption, but slowly tests are coming out and the results are not looking good.  Connections are coming out between transgenic foods and infertility, immune problems and altered organ function, among others.  See the links below:

What does this mean for us, today?

Personally, I want to see labeling on transgenic foods.  This is extremely relevant today.  In an exciting new turn of events, Senator Barbara Boxer (D- CA) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OH) have sponsored new federal legislation that would require labeling of all transgenic foods in the U.S.  This is a right to know issue.  

If you do not want to consume transgenic foods your best bet is to: 

  • Avoid processed foods
  • Buy certified Organic and/or certified Non GMO foods
  • Try heirloom varieties of foods

If this resonates with you, please get involved.  Monsanto, Dupont and others spent just under $25 million in order to block Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of transgenic foods in California in 2012 (1).  We need people who will protect the interests of the public, not the interests of company profits. Get the word out.  Encourage people to call their representatives and tell them that they want transgenic food to be labeled.  We have the right to know what is in our food.

Some resources for getting involved and/or learning more:

(1) http://www.forbes.com/sites/amywestervelt/2012/08/22/monsanto-dupont-spending-millions-to-oppose-californias-gmo-labeling-law/

 

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Don't Fear the Bean

Beans are a really interesting topic.  

They hold many different associations for people: non-animal protein and fiber, mexican and southern cuisine, bloating and stomach discomfort....

Which of the the previous categories you most closely fall under probably goes hand in hand with how beans are incorporated in your diet.

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Maybe you are a vegetarian or someone who likes to try meatless mondays.  Maybe you have beans with your meat.  Maybe you only eat beans when they are served near a tortilla or corn bread.  Either way, if you have ever experienced the potential negative consequences of bean consumption, you probably limit your intake and thus do not get all of the awesome benefits from eating beans.  

For example:

Bean consumption has been suggested to reduce cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and has been linked to lower rates of certain cancers.  They are rich in B vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants, as well as the classically known protein and fiber. 

A great article about the greatness of beans: 

Beans: Fabulous Health Benefits, Weight Management and Nutrition at Very Low Cost

So, first of all, how on Earth do we cook beans in a way that won't leave us bloated and cramping?

**The following is for dried beans.  I prefer them to canned for a couple reasons:

  1. They are really cheap.  Seriously, anyone who says it's too expensive to eat healthy doesn't buy dried beans.  Even organic dried beans are super affordable.
  2. Most cans have a chemical coating on the inside that I would rather not consume.  Not to mention the actual aluminum from the can and any other additives such as massive amounts of sodium that are common.  Of course, in a pinch, use canned beans. It happens.

This is how I cook beans.  My friends and family constantly tell me how they never have any trouble eating the beans that I cook as opposed to at other places, so I think it's a good process.

1. PRESOAK:  If you are cooking any beans that are not lentils or split peas they should be presoaked.  Personally I find that the quick soak method is actually far superior to the long "normal" way. The normal way means soaking them over night in cold water. The quick soak method means you put the beans in an appropriately sized pot with an inch or two of water above them (an inch for a 1/2 cup of beans, 2 inches for a cup is a good guideline).  Bring the water to a boil.  Let the beans boil for a couple minutes then turn the heat off. Let the beans sit with the lid on.  

How long to let them sit?  An hour is a good guide.  Longer can be better and I've gotten away with much shorter.  It can depend on the bean.  If the beans have gotten larger and the water has changed color to resemble a bit of the bean color, that's a good sign.  The biggest key I find is the next step.

 

2. DUMP THE WATER:  You need a strainer or colander that can withstand fairly high heat for this whole process.  Pour the beans into the strainer and dump all of the water.  Rinse the beans and the pot out.  Leave the strainer in the sink.

 

3. COOKING:  This is where my method really differs.

Put the beans back in the pot with a bit more water on top than you did in the soaking step.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.  Different beans take different lengths of time to cook. You can look up average cooking times HERE.

(Although, to be honest, the best thing is to test beans as you go because I have found that beans often take less time than they say.  When the beans are soft but not mushy they are done.)

Ok here is the IMPORTANT PART:  Depending on about how long you think the beans are going to take- when they are about 1/3 of the way through DUMP THE WATER AGAIN.  Pour the whole pot of hot water and beans into the strainer (Not too quickly, be careful of splash).  Fill the pot back with fresh water, add the beans back and return to the stove top.  Again, bring to a boil and simmer.   

Do that again when the beans are about 2/3 of the way through.  Essentially, you will be dumping the beans twice and putting completely fresh water in.  I swear that this is the trick!  You can try to skim the scum off the top and other little techniques, but I have found that the way to not have gas-causing beans is to dump the water while cooking.  

 

When the beans are done, pour them a final time through the strainer and they are ready to be added to your dish in whatever manner you've concocted.  Happy eating!

What is an Heirloom Variety?

Maybe you've seen them before, maybe not: purple carrots, yellow tomatoes, black rice, red potatoes.

Heirloom varieties.

What does this mean?

An heirloom plant is one that has been grown for a long time in human history, but is no longer commonly grown in modern large-scale agriculture.

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These are not new hybrids.  They have been around for centuries.  Not that hybridization is necessarily bad, but lest you fear that these have ben concocted in a lab and tomatoes are supposed to be red, let me reassure you that tomatoes have been green, yellow, orange and red for a very long time.

 via lexiconofstability.com

via lexiconofstability.com

Modern day agriculture is very focused on uniformity.  As a result, large-scale operations tend to grow only one variety of corn, potato, tomato etc.  While this may be effective at producing french fries that all look the same, we are missing out on a multitude of benefits that various varieties of plants have to offer. Not all potatoes are created equal, for example.  While the common New and Russet potatoes get a bad rap, purple potatoes are loaded with antioxidants.

An article from Rodale with more information: Purple Potatoes: Your New Blood Pressure Medicine

One of the keys to a healthy diet is variety.  We need to consume a variety of foods in order to obtain the vast array of micronutrients that our bodies need.  A great way to do this is to add variety within the foods that you already eat.  Is rice standard in your diet?  Try cooking with different types of rice.  There are dozens of rice varieties, each with their own unique flavor profile that can add to your health and to the deliciousness of your meal.

More information about the greatness of black rice: 

District Avenue Nutrition: White rice, Brown rice, What’s BLACK rice?

Here's another reason to care:

In general, it is hard to find heirloom varieties at standard grocery stores. More health conscious grocery stores, however, do offer a lot of heirloom options and farmers markets are teeming with them. You see, the reason that there are, or at least were, so many different varieties of each plant species is that plants can adapt to be grown in different regions with different conditions.  Through the generations, farmers keep the seeds that thrive and pass those on to their children.  Thus, local heirloom varieties have been adapted over the years to be successful in your local area.  That means that these plants by nature require less external help to deal with pests and weather because they have evolved to be better suited to the climate.  Unfortunately, due to the monoculture mentality of large-scale agriculture, many heirloom varieties have been lost.  We are losing Agrobiodiversity.

Some numbers from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations:

[Box 5] 100 YEARS OF AGRICULTURAL CHANGE: SOME TRENDS AND FIGURES RELATED TO AGROBIODIVERSITY

  • *Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties.
  • 30 percent of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction; six breeds are lost each month.
  • Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species.
  • Of the 4 percent of the 250 000 to 300 000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans. Only three - rice, maize and wheat - contribute nearly 60 percent of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants.
  • Animals provide some 30 percent of human requirements for food and agriculture and 12 percent of the world’s population live almost entirely on products from ruminants.

            Source: FAO. 1999b http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5609e/y5609e02.htm

We have already lost a lot, but we can preserve what we have.  Buy heirloom varieties and support the use of locally cultivated seeds.

Eating heirlooms can be easy substitutions/additions.  Next time you have a veggie tray at an event, try throwing in some purple and white carrots beside the orange ones.  You'll have the most beautiful display and be helping everyone to eat the rainbow!

Nutrient Dense

A common theme among eating these days seems to be volume.  Eating large portions of low calorie food.  Sometimes large portions of high calorie food.  Yet, in either case, those foods are almost always nutrient deplete.  It's a modern phenomenon: the overweight and malnourished.  It's becoming incredibly common these days, though.  Perhaps, it is part of the cause of the obesity epidemic.  People are malnourished even though they are consuming a large quantity of calories.  ALL CALORIES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.  You need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for your body to properly function.  If you are eating nutrient depleted foods, you are not consuming all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs even if you are consuming enough total calories.  

And let me tell you, folks, a simple multivitamin ain't gonna do the trick.  The vast complexities of food have yet to be discovered, so you are far better off eating a varied whole foods diet, than trying to get all your bodily needs in a pill.  Supplementation can be used to fill in specific gaps, but not as a substitute for good food.

The key to optimum health involves eating nutrient dense foods. What are nutrient dense foods?

  • Whole foods grown/caught/raised as nature intended.


What are NOT nutrient dense foods?

  • Highly processed foods
  • Foods pumped full of chemicals and/or hormones
  • Animal products raised in unnatural, contaminated environments
  • Fruits and vegetables doused in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides

For example, these ARE nutrient dense foods:

NutrientDense.jpg

These are NOT nutrient dense foods:

NutrientDeplete.jpg

In fact, those aren't food at all.

The key is to eat REAL FOOD.  Then, focus on eating a variety of real foods with a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates.  There is no one correct percentage breakdown for all people when it comes to protein, fat and carbohydrates.  Different people thrive on different diets.  To find out what works best for you, work with a health care practitioner that can devise an eating plan that's right for YOU.  If you would like to work with me, check out my Work With Me page.  I can tell you, however, that with very few exceptions, you need some amount of all three.  Any diet that has you attempting to eliminate either fat, protein or carbohydrates is not a healthy diet. 

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Welcome to the Food Side of things

This is the health and wellness part of my site.  With my master's in Nutrition and Integrative Health, a completed clinical nutrition internship at The Natural Care Center seeing clients, and hopefully a future Certified Nutrition Specialist credential (CNS), I feel qualified to offer up my opinion on food and wellness.  That said, I am not a doctor.  Unless this is in the future when I am a CNS and working with you one-on-one as a client, I am not making any specific nutritional diagnosis about you.  I am offering up my opinions for educational and informational purposes only.  Be sure to consult a healthcare professional to determine the right course of treatment for you.

 

 via invigorateu.com

via invigorateu.com

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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.