This is rule No.20 from Michael Pollen’s book “Food Rules”

 

not food

I’m always glad when someone comes right out and says it like it is, especially in regards to the business of food production. It’s scary what all ends up in those takeout meals and in much of the packaged food available to us. I’ve said plenty on the subject too, but this time since someone else has already said it in the best possible way, I’ll just share this quote–it says it all.

Here’s to eating real food!

Stay tuned for my next post “Get Cooking”

 

 

Celebrating Celery

 

celery

Celebrating Celery

I’m not sure when and how it began but somewhere along the way celery started getting some bad press. I’m still hearing the remarks, “It’s not good for anything”, “It’s got nothing in it” and “Celery must have been a mistake; why did God even make it.”

Not so, not so! It’s time to set the record straight and clear celery’s good name. Celery in fact has much value and is good for a great many things.

I’d even go so far as to call celery a super food and here’s why:

Celery:

  • Is commonly used in lowering high blood pressure. This is thanks to the chemical phthalide found in celery, which, according to researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center, can lower stress hormones in the blood, allowing blood vessels to expand and relax and let more blood flow through the body. (I know someone who was able to stop taking thier blood pressure medication after regularly eating two sticks of celery per day—one stick in the morning and one in the evening. Of course, this may not mean that celery will solve all cases of high blood pressure to the same degree.) Additionally, those with low blood pressure may want to go a little easier on the celery. These same researchers also found that phthalide was helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol.
  • Provides anti-inflammatory health benefits, useful in the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism, gout, arthritis, and nerve inflammation. It may also bring relief for those who suffer from asthma, acne, canker sores, and headaches.
  • Imparts key nutrients able to calm and soothe nerves, relieve stress, and improve sleep…celery, you’re a friend indeed!
  • Is high in various antioxidants which offer protection against oxidative stress. Studies have found that antioxidants play an important role in cardiovascular health and cancer prevention, not to mention anti-aging!
  • Contains the flavonoid luteolin, which according to studies at the University of Illinois, helps in the prevention of certain cancers, particularly pancreatic and breast cancers. Scientists also  found that the luteolin content in celery may boost memory and halt age-related brain inflammation in humans to result in better cognitive health. Another study published in Planta Medica suggests that the luteolin in celery may be able to inhibit the production of COX-2, an enzyme that triggers inflammation.
  • Improves digestion and assists with regularity.
  • Combats halitosis (bad breath)
  • Is a great source of sodium, potassium, and water making it beneficial for athletes in need of replenishing lost electrolytes and fluids. This natural source of sodium is considered safe for those avoiding table salt.
  • Is a rich source of fiber, vitamins K, A & C, folate, and manganese, and is a good source of magnesium, calcium, vitamins B2, B5, and B6.
  • It’s high vitamin A  content is of great benefit for eye health and for providing protection against age-related deteriorating eyesight.
  • Can be used as a diuretic removing excess water from the body.

Fortunately for most of us, celery, with all of these amazing things going for it, is also inexpensive, versatile, and super available. Personally I would buy organic celery (which I usually find to be reasonably priced) since celery is pretty high up on EWG’s ‘dirty dozen’ list of the most pesticide-contaminated produce. (For more about EWG-Environmental Working Group, go to http://www.ewg.org. )

So eat your celery whether raw by the stick, dipped into guacamole or humus, added to a Greek or Waldorf (or any) salad and even into blended/smoothie concoctions or juiced. Since celery is believed to hold onto most of its nutrients even when cooked, don’t think twice before adding it liberally to stews, chili, stir fries, and soups. Go ahead and eat the leaves and root (celeriac) too; they’re bursting with goodness and flavor!

Exceptions to becoming an avid celery eater:

  • Got low blood pressure? Don’t over eat celery.
  • Allergic to celery—like occasionally someone is? Then don’t eat any celery.
  • Eating lots of celery (especially the seeds or essential oil) is not recommended for pregnant women.
  • If already taking a sedative, go lightly on celery because of its own calming properties.
  • Those taking diuretic medications should eat celery sparingly.

Who would have thought that celery, one of the humblest of vegetables, was capable of delivering such a powerful punch!

 

celery fields 2

Celery fields forever!

More Weight-Loss Success Stories

dont be upset

One of the intentions for this blog when I created it, was to every once in a while, share some motivating, encouraging weight-loss success stories. Often when people ask me for weight-loss advice they’re really hoping for an easy answer, a quick fix or a magic pill. I do know a few of those rare people who achieved their desired results by making only one or two changes that were not particularly challenging. But for most people, it’s hard work.

Whether it’s an easy process for you or difficult, there’s one very important key to weight-loss success… Having a healthy, realistic plan and sticking with it. That’s as close as I can come to a simple answer. Easier said than done though, and that’s the problem. I know someone who removed wheat from their diet and weight loss followed as a result. Another person found success by taking one hour bike rides, 4 to 5 times a week. These are the only things they changed and it did the trick. But they kept doing it—that’s the magic answer—if they stopped, their weight loss would stop.

Most people have to change more than just one thing to achieve weight loss, but once you discover what (for you) those things are and keep doing them, the results will follow. For some, weight loss will come by stopping in-between-meals eating, or changing the type of foods eaten between meals. Some people need to eat a proper meal at meal times to prevent cravings and to eliminate reckless and impulsive binge snacking. And almost everyone needs to cut out unhealthy, high calorie snacks completely.

Here’s what a few people I’ve come to know have recently done to lose weight:

Trevor, who lives in my neighborhood, left for university in another city two thousand miles away. When he returned at the end the school year, he was barely recognizable. He was about half the size. I’d only ever know him as being a certain size and having a certain look. He never really struck me as someone who was particularly heavy, but after losing a fair amount of his weight, it became obvious that he’d had plenty to spare. There was someone else under those layers who was now exposed and who looked different. What was the secret to his weight-loss success?

Trevor said the biggest change was that he stopped the boredom snacking. He stopped filling his face while watching TV or while studying. Next he became more careful to make healthier choices about what he ate at meal times. The challenge soon became ‘where to draw the line’, because you can start going overboard once you get on a really successful weight-loss roll. He had to watch that he didn’t become overly strict with calorie counting or food choices.

Kathleen, a middle-aged woman working full time as a nurse, had been significantly overweight for many years. I saw her occasionally and began to notice a change in her overall size. This continued over the months and finally when she had achieved a state of considerable slimness, I asked her what she’d done to get there. Her successful formula: Make smart food choices, eat less, and stick with it. She also went to the gym or out for a brisk walk a few times a week. At that time she’d been at it for about 6 months. She had to buy all new clothes. I could tell she felt pretty good about herself. She planned to keep with it indefinitely. She felt she still had a ways go with getting firmed up at the gym and was committed to continuing along that path.

Lisa, in her late 30’s had gained 25 pounds since she started taking antidepressant medication a few years prior. It was very difficult for her to lose weight while talking the medication so she planned to see if she could improve her state of mental health in other ways. In particular, by regularly exercising.

She knew someone who had greatly decreased their level of depression, decreased the amount of medication taken, and decreased their weight, by jogging great distances regularly. Before long they were able to stop taking the meds altogether and began training for a marathon. Any remaining extra weight was soon lost as a result. Lisa realized that everyone’s mental health situation is different, and what may work for one person may not necessarily work as well for another, but she thought it was certainly worth a try. She’s now well into her journey and her positive results are giving her the hope she’ll need to see it through.

Although everyone’s story is a little bit (or sometimes a lot) different, the two key factors that always stays the same, are perseverance and healthier choices overall. And if you slip up by eating something like a donut or French fries (as almost everyone does on occasion), that’s normal. Just don’t let it become a habit. Keep making those healthy choices overall and stick with them. It’s what will keep you moving forward towards weight-loss success.

I Ate Fast Food – I must confess!

tuscan chicken panini

I know, I know, how could I? Especially after everything I’ve been going on about all this time, including writing a book on healthy eating. I’m a little ashamed, but what’s done is done, and now all I can do is let you know why it happened, share the experience and make sure I don’t do it again.

We all fall from time to time, and we almost all have a guilty pleasure or two. I know I do, but fast food is not one of them. For me, it’s just too guilty and it’s simply not a pleasure. It was a senseless act…

So, why did I do it?

Because I thought I should eat something. I was on the road, hadn’t eaten much since the light lunch and a snack or two much earlier in the day. It was now past dinner and I was still two hours from home. I had a bag of almonds in the car but had already eaten a good share. I wasn’t terribly hungry but didn’t want to wait until I got home, which wouldn’t be until almost bedtime. So I chose what I hoped was the best of the fast food options. Is there such a thing? It was a family fast food restaurant, not that that really fooled me.

What did I do that was so wrong?

Pretty much anytime you eat a fast food meal, there’s a good chance that you’re also taking a taste of the following:

1. Animal cruelty (including mistreatment, inhumane living conditions, poor diet, etc.)
2. Hazardous fats
3. Highly processed and refined ingredients
4. Mystery ingredients
5. GMO corn, soy and canola oil
6. Lack of nutrients
7. Extremely high sodium
8. No fiber to speak of
9. All sorts of other enviro and eco concerns

Eating fast food is generally a lose-lose situation in one meal. I actually wouldn’t have such a problem with a few of these slipping into one’s diet on occasion – particularly if the diet was otherwise healthy for the large majority of the time – but numbers 1,5 and 9 on this list, I’m just not okay with.

Was it a tasty experience at least?

No. This particular meal, a chicken panini which supposedly offered me a taste of Tuscany, was a bland processed substance doused in salt. The processed cheese bore no resemblance to actual cheese, just runny salty stuff. The processed mystery chicken (the type that makes you wonder, “What exactly is this?” was utterly flavorless. The only marginally redeeming factor was the veggies: a slice of tomato and a few scrawny shavings of onion. I have to say I liked the tiny bit of onion—flavor finally and a wee crunch.

Then what happened?

When I finally did get home, the panini was a lump in my stomach, just sitting there with no apparent intention of digesting. I pulled the sauerkraut from the fridge and ate a large spoonful. With one of the important missing ingredients—enzymes—now added to the meal, panini digestion began and the stagnant, heavy feeling soon lifted.

Note: If you’re used to eating mostly home-made whole food and then you throw a processed meal into your system, you can usually notice the difference in how it makes you feel. If this should ever happen to you, you can count on fermented food to come to your rescue. Sauerkraut, kimchi (and other unpasteurized fermented vegetables), or kefir can all tackle the job. Buy these at your local natural foods store and keep refrigerated. A raw veggie salad eaten with your meal would also assist with digestion.

So what should I have done to save myself from this bad experience?

Well, I could have remembered these few simple tips I usually follow for eating well on those days or long drives, when you just don’t have time for a proper meal:

– Keep a container of healthy snacks (nuts, seeds, fruit, dried fruit, healthy baked goods, etc.) in your vehicle, at your desk or in your bag.
– Bring a large thermos of water or herbal tea with you. Perhaps even a healthy smoothie.
– Plan ahead if you can. A day or two in advance, stock up on nutritious meals-to-go, for when non-junk food options may be few.
– For long days or long trips in the car, bring a small cooler or thermal lunch bag, filled with nutritious food that keeps well.

Why I recheck labels

Almonds Label

Of course it’s always important to check your labels. It’s best to find out what’s really inside your packaged food and then ask yourself “Do I really want those ingredients in my body?” Take a look at the above label, for example: The front of the package says Smoked Almonds, but the list of ingredients on the back has much more to reveal. Not just almonds, but canola and safflower oil, processed corn and soy, and loads of salt—not a package of almonds that I’d personally choose.

But it’s also important to recheck labels from time to time to ensure things haven’t changed—for the worse that is. Sometimes new, poorer quality or less desirable ingredients get added in place of a preferred ingredient. Ingredients like wheat, diary, corn, and soy (all going by various different names), or any of the vegetable oils, or all sorts of other preservatives or additives may suddenly show up in a food where they hadn’t previously been.

For instance, a certain cracker line that I’d come to enjoy, had all of a sudden changed from using 100% spelt, to also adding regular whole wheat (in addition to the spelt), into one of its products. It also now had soy oil in it. I had planned to include it on the list of recommended items for those “too busy to cook days” in my healthy weight-loss book, but I discovered this ingredient switch in the nick of time. I removed the cracker from the list and searched the natural food stores for a suitable replacement. (The majority of the products on the list were to be free of conventional wheat.)

I’ve since found yet another wholesome cracker product which I’ll happily recommend: Doctor Kracker’s Seedlander Snackers or Seeded Spelt Crispbread. All goodness—no worrisome ingredients.

.spelt crispbreat

Some body and beauty products will also have ingredient changes after a while on the market. Almost every time I discover a new hand or body lotion with an impressive ingredient list, it turns to disappointment before long—and I’m talking about products found in natural foods stores. Believe it or not, finding personal care products that aren’t going to do you more harm than good is not as easy as one might hope.

What often happens is that the good quality ingredients which were previously listed at the beginning of the ingredient list (the list runs from highest to lowest in terms of quantity), eventually get moved further down the list. While the poorer quality items—or at least the ones you’d prefer to do without—will have moved closer to the top of the listed ingredients.

When these things happen with food or with anything else that will be absorbed into my skin or bloodstream, I choose to find another product instead, preferably in a reasonable price range.

The main reason that companies tend to change some of their ingredients for those of cheaper, poorer quality, is generally about profit. Sometimes this change occurs when a smaller scale company producing good quality products is sold to a large company with a different agenda. I’ve not found any products that have suddenly sneakily started using superior ingredients. When a company improves a product, they usually widely advertise that they’ve done so. They may decide to quietly discontinue use of an increasingly unpopular ingredient that’s begun getting bad press, while being sure to boldly announce the addition of a new healthy ingredient that’s gaining consumer popularity and good press. Often companies leave the poor quality ingredients in, but try to win consumers over by adding and drawing attention to a hot topic item like ‘quinoa’ or whatever the current craze ingredient may be. That’s why it’s so important to become an informed label reader.

Whatever you’re purchasing, it’s good to also be aware that although a product costs more, it doesn’t always mean the ingredients are necessarily superior. Bear in mind though, if you want a good quality product, it’s not likely to be the least expensive.

While it is common for certain companies to choose profit over health, fortunately many other companies are consistently, unwaveringly dedicated to quality first.

A few food companies whose products I recommend are:

Eden Foods
Pacific Foods
Amy’s Kitchen
Nature’s Path
Food for Life

Recommeded personal care products (skin care, body care, hair care):

Andalou
Dessert Essence

Note: The products listed above are widely available, but there are also many other quality packaged foods and products, that are produced by local and smaller scale companies in your area, available in your local natural-food stores or farmer’s markets.

Vegetable Inspiration

vegetable inspiration

Do you ever fear you’re too often falling short in eating enough daily servings of vegetables (and fruit)? Who doesn’t? That’s why every once in a while it’s good to be reminded of why it’s important to ensure you’re getting your daily dose.

Even though I really do like all vegetables, the problem for me (and many others) often lies in putting the time and effort into utilizing a wider range and actually preparing and eating them regularly. I so often find myself resorting to the same-old-same-old… A salad of mixed greens (with tomatoes, avocado and coloured peppers) and then the handful of every-day basics: onions, carrots, broccoli, celery, garlic. Fruits are never a problem, on account of how delicious and easy to grab-and-go they are—little to no preparation necessary. Vegetables (most of them) are the challenge, but they are so worth it to consume.

I too, needed to be reminded of why I should eat more veggies. My reminder came in the form of a Ted talk. A medical doctor with multiple sclerosis explains how she improved her health condition considerably through diet. She discusses at length, the large amounts and different types of raw vegetables that she would regularly eat.That was all I needed to hear to become quite excited about vegetables again. I envisioned the raw veggie salad I’d create that same day for dinner and made a mental list of the vegetables I’d use.

Oh those amazing vegetables! Every part of our body needs the goodness that veggies offer; from the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes, to their high alkaline content, and all sorts of other good health and healing agents that vegetables contain. They are extraordinarily beneficial to us, especially when we eat enough of them, and regularly.

Yes, it’s a little more time-consuming, but preparing and eating real food is and has always been the natural and necessary thing to do. Think of vegetables (and fruits and herbs) as nature’s pharmacy. If you currently need to get chemical prescriptions filled, you may want to try reducing or eliminating your dosage by increasing your intake of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbal medications instead. There are many verified accounts (some of which I’ll share in another post) of people healing themselves from a range of health problems, strictly through diet.

It’s advisable to get your vegetables as locally as possible. It’s unnecessary to have every conceivable fruit and vegetable from all corners of the earth be made available to us. A wide local(ish) range will do nicely. During the winter months, I do often extend the local reach to include more of the continent. Luckily the continent I’m living on is North America, and areas of year-round growing for many different vegetables, but also for things like oranges, avocados and lemons, aren’t really that far away.

I made the envisioned raw salad later that day and fed it to my two teenagers and some of their friends. Everyone really liked it. The salad:

• chopped red cabbage and kale
• diced fennel and cucumber
• grated celeriac, carrots, and beets
• cilantro

The dressing:

• raw apple cider vinegar
• Dijon mustard
• a drizzle of sesame oil

I’ve since added chopped jicama and avocado, dried cranberries or raisins, and hempseeds or sunflower seeds to the blend, but really, the possibilities are endless. My plan is to keep switching things up and make a big bowl of raw veggie salad every second day.

Exceptions to the raw salad rule:

Not all raw vegetables (i.e. cabbage, kale, and broccoli) agree with everyone’s digestive systems. They can cause intestinal discomfort and be particularly gas-producing. For some people, these and some other vegetables are often best cooked.

Cabbage, kale, and other vegetables in the brassica/cruciferous family, such as broccoli, cauliflower, collards, and Brussels sprouts contain goitrogens. Goitrogens are naturally occurring compounds that can suppress thyroid function and are best avoided when raw by those with hypothyroidism. Cooking the “goitrogenic vegetables” reduces the goitrogen content considerably. (I personally prefer to eat the brassica family of vegetables steamed or cooked (i.e. soups, stir-fry, etc.) most of the time.

Want to see the TED talk?

Click the link below to hear about this medical doctor’s (Dr. Terry Wahl) phenomenal healing journey and to learn how and why vegetables are able to heal us as they do.

Something to keep in mind:

This is one person’s story – and a great one at that – but different things work for different people. Personally, I won’t be eating quite as many vegetables as Dr. Terry Wahl did/does each day. However, if I were to be diagnosed with a moderate to serious illness or disease, after consulting with a physician, I would likely follow a very similar food regimen. This TED talk provides a lot of excellent and important information, but the amounts and types of foods mentioned are not always possible or perhaps necessary for everyone to consume in the same way.

 

Oats—To Eat or Not to Eat

Image

A friend called me the other day, concerned over what to do about her breakfasts. She sometimes eats oats (steel-cut), but she’d just watched a talk show on television, where a guest had said that we shouldn’t eat oatmeal for breakfast because it turns to sugar.

Oh for heaven’s sake! I suppose I understand the rationale that brought on this new line of thinking that’s attempting to sweep the nation; but really, what’s the world coming to? On top of everything else we have to deal with—the steady bombardment of do’s and don’ts that are confusing people enough already—someone’s now bad-mouthing oats. I could feel my bronchioles constricting a little as I asked my friend for more details.

She told me all she could remember, still baffled over what to do with the news that had come along and hit her out of left field. I suggested that she quickly return to her senses and advised her not to listen to anyone who tells her not to eat perfectly good, real, whole food. Basically, if people were eating it one hundred years ago (and it hasn’t been terribly altered or tampered with since then), and it makes you feel good, then eat it. Besides, oats are nutritious, energy giving, bowel moving, cholesterol lowering, natural and economical, and we certainly need as many of these benefits as we can get.

We’ve got grocery stores loaded with products high in actual sugar and refined wheat (white flour rapidly turns to sugar) that we ought to be very concerned about and trying to avoid. I don’t think anyone should be picking on the innocent oat—dragging it into the sugar discussion. Same goes for any grains for that matter—rye, spelt, kamut, barley, brown rice – because they’re all generally friendly to most people. Oats didn’t do anything wrong and surely don’t deserve this bad press! Good grief! Okay, now I’m going to breathe…

Just make sure to stick to the large rolled oats or steel cut oats. The quick or “instant” oats do turn to sugar quicker. The large whole grain oats break down more slowly, releasing sugar/energy into your blood stream more gradually (as mentioned in chapter 2 of my book “Top Ten Best-Ever Healthy Weight-Loss Tips”).

A few exceptions to eating oats :

– Although oats do not contain gluten, there are often traces of gluten found in most commercially sold packaged oats because most facilities processing oats also process gluten containing grain, like wheat. This is why most oats may need to be avoided by those with celiac disease. Luckily “certified gluten-free oats” are also available to consumers.

– Oats are a perfectly good food to eat, but like all foods and all people, they don’t always get along. Occasionally a person may feel that oats, or other grains, simply don’t agree with them. Some people have trouble with grains in general.

For more on the many important health benefits of oats, see the following article from a website devoted to oats… http://www.eatmoreoats.com/health.html