The Ten Week Challenge Syllabus

I walked people through a ten week challenge, using the following syllabus.

Week 1 - Sugar-free
Week 2 - Whole grains
Week 3 - Wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats
Week 4 - Raw dairy
Week 5 - The microwave
Week 6 - Fats and oils
Week 7 - Cultured and fermented foods
Week 8 - Local and organic produce
Week 9 - Processed foods
Week 10 - Implementing lifestyle changes

Visit my Recipe Index over at Going Green in a Pink World.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Week 4 Shopping List

We'll be learning about the benefits of raw dairy this week. Here's the list if you're following the meal plans!

whole chicken
1lb ground beef

1 bag small onions (about 6)
1 bag carrots
1 bunch celery
several potatoes
*items to put in muffins AND crepes (cranberries, blueberries, apples etc.)
1 medium zucchini
2 lemons
1 bunch broccoli

2-3 seeded Anaheim (for mild vegetarian chili) or jalapeno (for hot vegetarian chili) peppers

Canned or Dried Items
2-3 c millet
whole wheat berries (if grinding your own flour) or WW flour
3 cups dried lentils OR dried peas
3 16oz cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
Oatmeal (try steel cut!)
jar of tahini (or if making homemade, 2 c sesame seeds)

Note on beans:
Most people do not want to soak and cook beans. If you fall into that category, canned beans are an option. Try to buy organic, no salt added. If you would like to save a little money and soak and cook your own beans, you'll need ROUGHLY half of the amount of dried beans to equal the amount cooked. For example, about 3/4 c dried beans equals 1 can. I always make more though - beans are versatile and full of protein and nutrients.

1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
2 cans chick peas

~2 c (raw) Parmesan or Cheddar cheese
cage free eggs
naturally sweetened or plain yogurt (Seven Stars Farm, Hawthorne Family Farm)
organic cream cheese BUT--
**homemade cream cheese can be made by letting your yogurt sit for 12 hours with cheesecloth and a bowl

..and does anyone want some raw milk?? Post a comment and let me know.

Other staples
coconut oil (favorite source - Mountain Rose Herbs: $41 for 1 gallon of unrefined or $22 for refined, which will last forever!)
Rapadura - unrefined sugar
spices: cumin, oregano, turmeric, coriander, allspice

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Week 4 Menu

This is the week of the crockpot! There are at least 3 crockpot recipes this week, but if you don't have one, a stock pot will do. I've been known to leave a stock pot cooking for days (yes, unattended.) Just makes sure the flame is on low!

In efforts to streamline meal preparation, take advantage of the weekly features. The menu plan will include use of a large pot of grains, bread, a soup, and snack. Additionally, all of the meals will include enough for two nights' dinners, for two people, so you'll be preparing dinner just three evenings (or if you're like me, all in one day to minimize cooking!). Adjust recipes accordingly if you are cooking for more than two.


Prepare these early in the week so you have them on hand for recipes and munching!

Grain - Millet--Reserve 1 cup uncooked
Bread - Pitas
Soup - Lentil or Pea Soup
Snack - Soaked muffins

Prep: Before the week, slow cook a chicken, and some veggies. This can serve as a quick lunch and will also provide you with the carcass for stock!

Day 1
Breakfast - Soft boiled eggs with bacon and sourdough
Lunch - Crockpot chicken and veggies
Dinner - Vegetarian Crockpot Chili

Day 2
Breakfast - Muffins and Smoothies
Lunch - Crockpot chicken (either with veggies, or add mayo, seasoning, and celery to chicken and make a chicken salad!)
Dinner - Left over chili

Day 3
Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Lentil/Pea Soup
Dinner - Easy Palestinian Synia

Day 4

Breakfast - Dirty Scrambled Eggs (scrambled eggs with bits of veggies mixed in)
Lunch - Yogurt Parfait
Dinner - Left over Synia

Day 5
Breakfast - Muffins and Smoothie
Lunch - Tuna tahini sandwich (mix 1 can of tuna with 1 cup of tahini sauce from Synia)
Dinner - Chickpea Millet Stew

Day 6
Breakfast - Breakfast Crepes
Lunch - Lentil/Pea Soup
Dinner - Chickpea Millet Stew

Day 7

You'll probably have enough leftovers to take you through the day! Most people enjoy a meal or two out once a week as well, so these recipes should take you through.

Power Bars
Crispy or sprouted nuts

Natural yogurt (no added sugars or "vitamins") with unsweetened coconut, soaked nuts, and cocoa powder

Hummus with veggies or crackers

Homemade popcorn, popped on stove in coconut oil

celery with all natural peanut butter and raisins

potato skins or sweet potato fries

Blogkeeping: Leaving Comments

Hi Readers,

It has come to my attention that the comment settings on my blog have been discriminating against unregistered users - which is what most of you are!! =( I've fixed the settings and encourage all of you to register for the Free Friday Giveaway before Friday evening, or else Trelane is going to win, no contest. All you have to do is click on the drop down menu "Comment As:" and select "Name/URL" and fill out your name. You can leave the URL section blank.

Don't forget to scroll down, as I've featured Curves as a Hump Day Exercise Challenge, and have some valuable information about fish, chicken, eggs, and beef below!

Eat real,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Garlic Soup

This post is originally from Green in a Pink World, but I'm participating in a Soups and Stews Carnival at Kimi Harris's blog, The Nourishing Gourmet. Check it out for some great winter soup and stew recipes!!

I made this soup after flying to Florida, and feeling awful because of the change in temperature (and too many days eating M&Ms for dinner). For four days I battled a low grade fever, congestion, and a very sore throat, without any of my healing foods at my disposal. As soon as I arrived back in Massachusetts though, I started taking my echinacea, honey, and ginger. I also decided to make a garlic soup, since garlic has great anti-viral, antibiotic properties. Not only was it delicious, but I think it may have given me the added boost I needed to feel like myself again (which I do! - I just finished an hour of power yoga.) This soup only costs about $5.50 (comparable to the Minestrone), which equals out to less than a dollar a serving!

Garlic Soup

2 medium onions
16 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 T butter
6 cups of chicken stock (or combo with water)
2 medium potatoes, washed and cut up
crushed peppercorns or pepper
3 yellow squash, sliced
sea salt or fish sauce
creme fraiche

I decided to roast my garlic first, which gave it a nice flavor. I just turned the toaster oven on 300 degrees and let two heads of garlic heat up while I prepared the rest of the soup. After about 15 - 20 minutes, the cloves were slightly opened, and I just scooped them out with a fork.

I used my new food processor to chop the celery and onions, and sauteed them in the butter. If you don't roast the garlic, you should throw it in at this time too. Otherwise, add garlic after soup boils.

When vegetables are soft, add chicken stock and potatoes, and bring to a boil and skim.

Simmer the soup, covered, until the potatoes are soft.

Add the squash and simmer uncovered 10 minutes or until squash is tender.

Now comes the fun part - puree soup with a hand held blender. You can always add water if it is too thick. If you don't have a blender stick, you can use a regular blender, or a food processor, or just eat it chunky!

Add creme fraiche and seasonings to your liking!

Hump Day Exercise Feature: Curves

For those of you that feel intimidated by everything *gym*-- 'roid raging men, oodles of equipment that look like they might rip you in two, or rows of cardio machines that you couldn't possibly balance on, let alone want to be seen exercising next to that skinny blond who's barely breaking a sweat, enter: Curves.

Curves is an all-women's gym that features a 30 minute cardio and strength training workout based on resistance. There are machines set up, (they'll show you how to use them when you visit!) and you move through each one at regular intervals. There's music playing, and other women working through the same circuit. A voice tells you when to change machines, and thirty minutes later, you're done! The prices are reasonable, and my mom swears she sees results in just a few workouts. Her new favorite is the application that shows her how hard she's working, and tells her how many calories she's burned! (376 was her personal best last week - not bad for 30 minutes!!)

There are 10,000 Curves locations worldwide!! If you're interested in this kind of workout, check out their website. Even if Curves isn't for you (because you're a guy, or some other disqualifier), remember to get moving. It's going to be snowy all day, but that doesn't mean you can't take 20-30 minutes to stretch, pump some canned beans, or scrub the tub (it burns calories!).

Week 3: Fish 101

The Science Journal published a 2004 study that found farm raised salmon to be TEN times higher in toxins than wild caught salmon. A 2003 study by the Environmental Working Group found farm raised salmon to be SIXTEEN times higher in toxins, and contain the highest level of PCBs in the entire food chain. PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) are toxins that are now illegal, but were once used in coolants and electrical equipment. They're still around in the environment, and farm raised fish tend to be rife with them. Those in the salmon farming industry claim that the public is misinformed. The levels of PCBs in the farm raised salmon were .038 parts per million, whereas the US FDA's guidelines allow for 2.0 parts per million, so industry leaders say these studies shouldn't scare consumers. However, PCBs, which are stored in fat, can deposit there, linger and accumulate, and for pregnant women or those hoping to conceive, passing along these carcinogens doesn't seem a like risk most are willing to take.

Other Things To Consider
Additionally, their feed isn't natural, thus the farm raised salmon are lower in Omega 3s (and isn't that part of their draw?!) Also, they are kept in pens with less swimming room, thus fed antibiotics, and tend to be higher in mercury, which can contribute or lead to cancer in humans. Farm raised fish end up a whitish gray color, but farmers shoot a dye into them so that they can compete with their salmon-hued wild competitors. One of the colorants, Canthaxanthin, has been linked to eye defects in humans. (Source: Pure Salmon Campaign)

What Does This Mean for Me?
Well, it depends. If you agree with the Real Food way of life, something inside you may have cringed at reading the above information. Or maybe the numbers seem insignificant - especially compared to the extra money you'll be paying for wild caught. Sometimes the difference between farm raised and wild caught is up to five dollars per pound (buying on sale rocks! we don't buy salmon unless it's on sale). If you don't want to fork over the extra cash, there are a few things you can do. PCBs are stored in the fat of the fish, so trim as much fat as you can, and cook under a broiler or over a grill to minimize fat. Also, most canned salmon varieties are wild, so whip up some salmon cakes, or add some flaked salmon to a salad.

My Opinion
I fall into the former camp - I have a difficult time eating something that has been raised in an artificial environment, ingesting toxins. I love the bright pink flesh of a wild caught salmon. And yes, I am one of those annoying dinner dates that asks the waitress if the salmon is farm raised, and say "No, thank you" when they return to confirm my suspicion. But I have been known to get a huge, CAFO raised burger while at Outback Steakhouse or Bugaboo Creek, so I extend no condemnation if you eat the pale pink swimmers! As always, I just want to give you the information. You decide what to do with it!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Week 3 Challenge: Hormone Free Meats

I realized I didn't explicitly say what the challenge was, though I've exhorted you to buy as local and fresh as possible! I recognize this is a very hard task for a number of reasons, the two primary ones being cost and availability. So if you haven't done any shopping yet (and next week isn't too late to start, either!) try to steer clear of meats that haven't had very good homes. That is, if it doesn't say hormone and antibiotic free, run!

Again, please let me know if you'd like to buy local eggs, or even meats. I have several connections around Boston and on the South Shore, and would be glad to hook people up!

Week 3: Chicken 101

Most families eat chicken weekly, and I'd venture to say that the majority of our chicken consumption is NOT organic. Organic chicken is expensive - especially because you don't get that great $1.99 (or less!)/pound sale that conventional chicken does. But conventional chicken frightens me, as does the ways our government and the media have kept the ugly side of their environment and processing under the radar screen.

Conventional Chicken
There's nothing pretty about the chicken we buy at Shaw's or Stop and Shop. Even when it says, "All Natural" all we're getting is something without artificial colors or preservatives added to it. All chicken is "natural." What most people care not to think about are the awful conditions of the chickens:

+cramped, dirty quarters
+unnatural feed

Highest on my list of concerns, however, are the arsenic and chlorine. What? Did I really just say that?! Yes.

Arsenic and Chlorine

The European Union has a BAN on chicken exports from the United States, due to the manner of processing. After conventional chickens have been slaughtered, they are dipped in a chlorine bath, which the US deems acceptable, but the EU believes it poses a heath risk to their citizens, and will not allow our chicken to enter their country. Hmm.

The other disturbing thing I've learned about conventional chickens is that ARSENIC is an approved supplement for keeping down intestinal parasites in chicken. No joke. There are quite a few articles about this. In a peer reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, a study was published linking high chicken consumption with arsenic consumption, contributing to skin, respiratory, and bladder cancers. Again - hmm.

What Can I Do About It?
Well, I have yet to find a local farm that raises chickens to sell for a price I'd consider paying, but I do occasionally check Local Harvest for listings. Buying organic chicken from the grocery store is a good alternative. You are guaranteed to be consuming chicken free of additives, hormones, and antibiotics. Even if they're not eating insects and routing around in the yard, I feel much better about limiting my arsenic intake, don't you?!

Free Friday Giveaway: Week 3

Congrats to the Free Friday giveaway winner of last week - Jeanne M.! It wasn't a hard decision, as Jeanne's was the lone comment and giveaway entry.

The Free Friday giveaway for this week is a recipe demonstration - which entails me coming to your home (Massachusetts residents only =) and bringing the ingredients for the recipe you'd most like to try. We'll make it together, and you get to keep the fruit of our labor!

In order to be eligible for this giveaway, please post a comment below with:
1. Your name
2. The recipe (or meal) you'd most like to try

Friday, January 30th at 11:59pm

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bonus Recipe: Pastured Eggnog

I've been dying for some good eggnog, but didn't dare make it with commercial eggs, or even the Eggland's Best. I wanted local eggs from chickens I have SEEN (or at least someone I know has seen). Yesterday, I picked up three dozens of such eggs, and tonight, I am sipping a glass of eggnog! I was in awe of the eggs while making this drink. As I separated the yolk from the white, I had a firm orange ball in my hand - the sign of a highly nutritious egg. I felt like I could play basketball with this thing! In the last post I mentioned that egg yolks contain so many nutrients, from protein and iron to zinc and phosphorus, and pastured eggs contain twice as much vitamin E and 40% more vitamin A!

I wouldn't recommend this recipe to anyone who doesn't have access to very fresh eggs. Check out Local Harvest to find some fresh eggs near you, or ask around your local health food store!

For one serving:
1 1/4 cups (preferably) raw whole milk or combination of milk and cream
2 egg yolks from free running chickens, raw
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 T maple syrup or honey

Combine in blender! You can add some ice cubes for a bit of texture and coldness.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Myth-busting: Eggs 101

The goal of transitioning to a real food diet is to maximize nutrition, right? Eat to nourish, and enjoy while doing so! When one of my favorite, most versatile and nutritious foods has been slandered repeatedly and without thought or accurate information, I simply must step up.

Mark and I love our eggs. I just bought a few dozen eggs from chickens that eat natural diets and play around in a yard! We go through 2-3 dozen a week, and if (when) we get our own chickens, I hope we can increase that amount! Eggs have earned a bad rap. Many of us dutifully and even eagerly share the nutritional advice that if you have high cholesterol (or even to prevent high cholesterol), you limit your egg intake. But I encourage you to think a little more about this...

Myth 1: Egg whites are a healthier alternative than egg yolks.

They have less calories and fat, yes. So if you are trying to starve yourself or consume as little nutrients as possible, egg whites are a better choice. They have nearly no nutritional value. Not only that, they contain a substance called avidin, which interferes with the aborbtion of a B vitamin called biotin. Egg whites also contain trypsin inhibitors, and they mess with protein digestion.

The egg yolk, on the other hand, is one of the most complete sources of protein found in food. It is also rich in just about every nutrient we know, including the fat soluble vitamins A and D. They are also a good source of iron and calcium. (It is important to note that eggs from chickens that have been routing around in the ground have been proven to be nutritionally superior. More on this later.)

Myth 2:
Eggs increase your cholesterol level and contribute to heart disease.

Let me first start out by stating that Japan is the country with the highest consumption of eggs, but is known to have one of the lowest rates of heart disease. Just throwing that out there. Also, when we (Americans) ate more eggs, before nutrition had it's own political correctness, people had less incidences of heart disease. As far as eggs raising cholesterol levels, there is no scientific basis for this bogus myth. Back in the 1960s, there was a study linking blood cholesterol and heart disease. Since eggs are high in cholesterol, they became marred and blamed. But guess what - they're innocent. Here's what will raise your cholesterol: genetics. Less than 25% of your blood cholesterol levels are affected by diet. So the other 3/4ths? That's all Mom and Pops.

Up Next...Eggs 102 - where to buy fresh, healthy eggs

Friday, January 23, 2009

Week 3: Beef 101

This is an intense topic, and I don't think I'll be able to do it justice in just one week, but my goal is to give an overview of the industrialization of the meat industry (I'm lumping beef, chicken, turkey, and fish into the word "meat" for right now). There are so many comprehensive resources, including The Omnivore's Dilemma, Eat Wild, and a host of scientific articles, many of which even I am bored with. I'm indebted to best selling author, Michael Pollen, for his research on this topic, and much of the information I'll be sharing comes from his work. I'll do my best to break things down simply, so you understand the implications on your health when you consume meat from various sources.

Factory Farming
America has moved towards specialization in so many areas, and the production of our food is no exception. There are hundreds of acres of lettuce at Cal-Organic Farms in California, hundreds of thousands of acres of wheat and corn in the midwest, and "farms" that raise acres and acres of cows, as if they were like a stalk of corn, and needed only a small space to grow. This "specialization" has led to losses on all ends. The crops miss out on the valuable nutrients from the manure of the cows; the cows aren't eating the grass and plants their bodies were designed to eat; and the people who eat the cows and the plants aren't getting the most benefits from what could be very healthy food.

Animals are raised on large farms called CAFOs, or Confined Animal Feeding Operations. The name alone doesn't evoke the happy, lazy lifestyle of a cow I'd want to eat. Here are some of the problems of CAFOs, cited by Eat Wild:

• Animal stress and abuse
• Air, land, and water pollution
• The unnecessary use of hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs
• Low-paid, stressful farm work
• The loss of small family farms
• Food with less nutritional value

Unnatural Diets
Animals raised in factory farms are given diets designed to boost their productivity and lower costs. The main ingredients are genetically modified grain and soy that are kept at artificially low prices by government subsidies. To further cut costs, the feed may also contain “by-product feedstuff” such as municipal garbage, stale pastry, chicken feathers, and candy. Until 1997, U.S. cattle were also being fed meat that had been trimmed from other cattle, in effect turning herbivores into carnivores. This unnatural practice is believed to be the underlying cause of BSE or “mad cow disease.” (Eat Wild)

What does this mean for me?
We've become so far removed from our sources of food. Many people do not know where the meat they consumed was raised, or that it was pumped with antibiotics because cows' stomachs aren't designed to eat grain, leading to diseases that have to be kept down with drugs. Animals that are raised on feedlots need to be fattened quickly to maximize profit. Enter: horomones. Girls are developing a more rapid pace than previous generations, and diseases such as cancer are sky rocketing in their occurrences. (In a 1999 study published in the Annual Review of Public Health, Dinse, Umbach, Sasco, Hoel and Davis found that cancer rates increased from 22% to 56% in the time period between 1975 to 1994. Startling information!) The media has vilified meat as a possible culprit, and warns consumers to limit their red meat intake. What if it's not red meat, but the broader range of meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised in CAFOs?

Consider this. Grass-fed meat offers a much greater amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a cancer-fighting fat. There are numerous European studies on the link between high levels of CLA and lower risk of breast cancer. Additionally, the nutrient levels in grass-fed meat, eggs, and dairy is higher than their CAFO counterparts. Grass-fed is rich in antioxidants, vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Additionally, there have been studies proving the Omega 3 content decreases significantly, the longer an animal is off grass.Data from: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88.

Up Next...
Common sense and tradition tend to trump even the best study. Many traditional peoples lived strong, healthy lives (cancer-free) on meat, eggs, and dairy from their own flocks or farms. I'm not suggesting we all move to rural Vermont, but we have options beyond a package of Shaw's Grade A beef, and nutritionally void eggs. In fact, I just bought $800 pounds of grass-fed beef yesterday, from rural Vermont, and I'd love to share. Stay tuned for how to incorporate more well-raised meats into your diet.

Week 3 Shopping List

There are a few choices this week (lamb vs. beef in the Moussaka, and salmon or crockpot ragout, and spinach vs. red pepper kiku) hence the options. I have to put in a plug for the baked oatmeal - easy and delicious! It's definitely worth it.

1 lb anti-biotic hormone free ground beef and 2 lbs ground lamb
3 lbs ground beef

1lb ground chicken
1 lb wild caught salmon

1 bag small onions (about 6)
6 green peppers
1 bag carrots
4-5 large eggplants

4 new potatoes
2 acorn squash (crockpot ragout or salmon)

2 bunches of spinach
1 bunch of spinach and 1 red pepper (for minestrone soup/kiku)

Canned or Dried Items
1 can tomato paste
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cups of brown rice
rolled oats
tuna fish
dried kidney beans, or 1 15 ounce can of beans
whole wheat berries (if you're grinding your own flour) or whole wheat flour

coconut oil (favorite source - Mountain Rose Herbs: $41 for 1 gallon of unrefined or $22 for refined, which will last forever!)

~ 1 c each pine nuts and walnuts (optional--though nice to buy in bulk and have on hand)

~2 c (raw) Parmesan or Cheddar cheese
cage free eggs

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Week 3 Menu

In efforts to streamline meal preparation, I've decided to include some new weekly features. The menu plan will include use of a large pot of grains, bread, a soup, and snack. Additionally, all of the meals will include enough for two nights' dinners, for two people, so you'll be preparing dinner just three evenings (or if you're like me, all in one day to minimize cooking!). Adjust recipes accordingly if you are cooking for more than two.


Prepare these early in the week so you have them on hand for recipes and munching!

Grain - Brown Rice
Bread - Whole Wheat No-Knead
Soup - Minestrone
Snack - Coconut Candy Delights

Prep: Soak oats for baked oatmeal

Day 1
Breakfast - Scrambled eggs and bacon (cook the night before)
Lunch - Tuna and celery sandwich on no knead bread
Dinner - Stuffed Peppers

Day 2
Breakfast - Baked Oatmeal
Lunch - Minestrone Soup and bread
Dinner - Leftover peppers

Day 3
Breakfast - Smoothies
Lunch - Spinach Kiku
Dinner - Crockpot Ragout

or Wild caught salmon prepared with a pad of butter, salt, and pepper, brown rice, and baked squash (at end of post)

Day 4

Breakfast - Baked oatmeal
Lunch - Yogurt Parfait
Dinner - Crockpot Ragout

or Wild caught salmon prepared with a pad of butter, salt, and pepper, brown rice, and baked squash (at end of post)

Day 5
Breakfast - Quick spinach omlette
Lunch - Minestrone Soup and bread
Dinner - Moussaka and rice

Day 6
Breakfast - Smoothies
Lunch - Spinach Kiku
Dinner - Leftover moussaka and rice

Day 7

You'll probably have enough leftovers to take you through the day! Most people enjoy a meal or two out once a week as well, so these recipes should take you through.

Crispy or sprouted nuts

Natural yogurt (no added sugars or "vitamins") with unsweetened coconut, soaked nuts, and cocoa powder

Hummus with veggies or crackers

Homemade popcorn, popped on stove in coconut oil

celery with all natural peanut butter and raisins

potato skins or sweet potato fries

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Friday Giveaway!

In order to get people excited, posting on the blog, and keep them on board with the challenge, I'm giving away a free copy of Nourishing Traditions. Yup, you heard that right!! If you already own one, it's a great gift for a friend. =) All you have to do to be eligible is post a comment below telling me 4 things:

1. your name
2. the hardest part of the challenge
3. what you're most proud of (in the past two weeks)
4. what you'd like to see on the blog in the future

The deadline to enter the contest is Friday, January 23th at 11:59pm!!

Week 2: Grains 202

I promised some arguments for phytates, and yet not having a computer has been quite a challenge for me. So for now, here is some reading for you.

Sue Becker, bread baker extraodinaire, writes a compelling article from which I stole the phrase - Phytic acid - friend or foe?

I also found this Suite101 article which has similiar information to the Becker article:

"Phytates may Prevent Cancer and Lower Cholesterol

While iron is a crucial need of the body, it is also a powerful oxidant. Phytates are thought to exhibit antioxidant properties by sequestering this iron before it can be involved in damaging processes -especially in the colon. Phytates appear to inhibit tumor formation, and even cause cancerous cells to revert back to their former types. They may also improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs when taken together. Phytates and green tea (Camellia sinensis) have a synergistic effect against select cancers when taken together. Phytates have been shown to reduce the digestion of starch by at least 50% and reduce the overall glycemic index of other foods they are eaten with. They also decrease cholesterol and triglyceride production by the liver."

Decision Making Time

So, hopefully you feel informed enough to make your own decision about phytic acid and its affects on the body. I, for one, will be soaking when I can, and not worrying about it for those times when I just can't! I know my diet is nutrient rich, but I believe I can get even more out of my grains by soaking and/or germinating them. In addition to reducing phytates and rendering those minerals more absorbent, we're increasing B vitamins! (You know, those feel-good, "happy" vitamins?!)

Putting it into Practice
Right now, I have two big bowls in my kitchen - one of oats and 5 other grains, soaking in water and yogurt for granola, and another of oats and a few T of wheat soaking in water and yogurt for baked oatmeal. I'll be baking bread tonight without any soaking though, (a long rise time will also reduce phytates) and am almost done single handedly eating the bread I made from Lindsay's recipe at Passionate Homemaking!

What is the general consensus??

Hump Day Exercise Challenge

It's Wednesday again - time for another exercise challenge! Has everyone been moving - even just a little bit?? I did a 90 minute power yoga class last night, and though I wanted to scream at the instructor every time she told us to do another upper pushup to lower pushup to upward dog to downward dog, I made it.

If you have stairs at your office or your home, take ten minutes to walk up and down them. Stairs are great - you can't cheat your way through them! Take 15 minutes to stretch your muscles while you unwind at the end of the night. And if you're brave, slow things down before you go to bed with an inversion. Simply position your bottom against a flat surface with your legs shooting up in the air, and your body at a 90 degree angle. Stay here for 1-5 minutes. Enjoy the benefits of increased blood flow and better circulation!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Week 2: Grains 201

Phytic Acid: Friend or Foe?

That's the question I've been wrestling with this week. We know that white flour, stripped of its nutrients, bleached, and dead, isn't a great option for our health. However, what about whole wheat (or kamut, or spelt, or rye)? Some people can't tolerate gluten, which is the protein found in rye, barley, and wheat, and eat a gluten-free diet. (If you have symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramping, or failure to thrive or grow, you may want to look into Celiac's disease a bit more.) However, if you do fine with gluten, there are a few things you may want to consider more in-depth.

What is Phytic Acid?
Amanda Rose, author of the book Rebuild from Depression, says this about phytic acid,

"Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contain a substance called phytic acid or phytate. In humans, phytic acid is a strong chelator of iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorous. What this means is that the phytate generally stays undigested in our digestive tract and it clings to other minerals in our food and escorts them out of our bowels. Because of phytates, you are missing out on about half of the minerals your food could be providing if you prepared it a bit differently."

What does that mean for me?
Research proves that phytates inhibit absorption. In an article in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "Phytates and the inhibitory effect of bran on iron absorption in man," the author finds that the removal of phytates significantly increases the absorption of iron. There are additional benefits of reducing phytic acid in our foods. An experiment involving two groups of people, one eating bread with phytates, and one with the phytates removed, showed a 50% increase in mineral absorption in stool samples. Those who consumed food without phytic acid absorbed about 30% of magnesium and zinc, whereas those who consumed food with phytic acid absorbed only 13% of the magnesium and 23% of the zinc (Egli et al. 2004; Bohn et al. 2004). Interestingly, the numbers also suggest that we absorb a fairly small amount of the vitamins and minerals in our food, irregardless, so keep that in mind as you read labels!

How can I increase absorption?
Since our body doesn't produce the enzyme phytase, which breaks down phytic acid, we need to find another way to do this. There are a couple of key factors to activating the phytase in grains: time, moisture, acid pH, and warmth. Sourdough breads are made using a fermented starter that involves all of these things. My favorite sourdough is made by Nashoba Brook Bakery in Concord, MA. So many stores carry this bread, and for a reasonable price - $3.19 for a loaf! You can make your own sourdough starter, and incorporate it into pancakes, breads, and other baked goods. If you're not up for keeping a starter going, you can make your own yeast breads, and give them a long rise time, letting these factors break down the phytic acid. There are ways to adapt your bread machine recipes too!

Breakfast Preparation
Mark and I eat oatmeal at least three times a week. I've been faithfully soaking my rolled or steel cut oats in a water/whey solution for over a year, following the time/moisture/warmth/acid pH guidelines, with the understanding that I was activating the enzyme phytase to break down the phytic acid. I've been digging a lot deeper into this subject, and realized that oatmeal happens to be notoriously low in phytase, so even a long soaking won't be very effective in reducing phytic acid. There are a few solutions. One, is to add a T or so of ground wheat (in a coffee grinder) because it is high in phytase. Another is to substitute oatmeal for other grains, like kamut, amaranth, millet, or hard or soft wheat. I've made a 5 grain cereal mix before and it's delicious. (Grind 1 cup each of rice, lentils, wheat, oats, and millet. Store in fridge and soak individual portions as desires. The third way to handle this is to not care too much, as we'll be learning about the benefits of phytic acid soon!

My Opinion
Scientists agree - if the grain is untreated, as in all non-sprouted commercial whole grain cereals and breads, the phytic acid remains intact, and combines with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc in the digestive tract, and renders these minerals unabsorbed. This logically points to the fact that a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies or bone loss! That makes me leery, but I do consume many nutrient dense foods, and only occasional grains, so I'll soak/sprout when I can, and not worry when I can't! Plus, there are health benefits to phytic acid--stayed tuned. On Tuesday I'll be posting about the better face of phytic acid, so you can make the decision yourself: phytic acid - friend or foe?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Week 2: Grains 101

Now that we've learned a bit about what sugar does to our body, it's time to move onto flour. Even more than sugar, I have noticed that when I eat white flour products, I feel lethargic, bloated, and unwell overall. I am not gluten intolerant - I'm just experiencing the common reactions to grains that have been stripped of their benefits. I also noticed it's nearly impossible to lose weight while eating products made with refined flour. I recently learned that when the bran and germ are removed, as in white flour, our bodies aren't able to digest the wheat in the same way. Instead of a slow release of energy as with whole wheat, our bodies break down white flour quickly, into glucose molecules, evoking the same response that sugar does!

What is white flour?
In order to prevent flours from going rancid (mold and fungus was a common problem in the Middle Ages), and increase profits due to prolonged shelf life, the food industry found ways to lengthen the life of flour and products made with flour. The answer was to create a product that bugs wouldn't like (they'll die if they try to eat white flour), people would find palatable, and could be marketed as "healthy" (doesn't the word "enriched" just sound good??). The technique used to create this product is known as refining. Refining removes the bran and germ of the grain, and strips them of B vitamins, as well as vitamin E, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium and fiber. What we have left is a dead, lifeless product that can stay on shelves and in pantries for seemingly limitless amounts of time.

What Does This Mean for Us?
Nutrient Deficiencies

Food companies have added synthetic forms of nutrients back into their stripped foods, in attempt to make them look healthier. However, these synthetic forms put a strain on the body and the store of the natural vitamins you already have, leading to an imbalance. If you eat a good deal of white flour, you might noticed some of the symptoms of a B-vitamin deficiency: fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, poor memory, insomnia, heart palpitations and muscle tenderness.

In an article in the Journal of Nutrition, entitled "New Approaches for Designing and Evaluating Food Fortification Programs", the author readily admits to the lack of attention to monitoring either the bioavailability (ie how much of those nutrients can actually be used in our body), appropriate dosage, and effectiveness of food fortification. That's a bit scary. The enriched flour (and it pops up in nearly every prepared food made with flour) may not be what you think. We're reading labels that tell us we're receiving 20% of our daily B6 intake, and yet there hasn't been much follow through to find out if our bodies are absorbing it!! The same goes for the multi-billion dollar vitamin industry. We've been thriving for ten of thousands of years without Centrum Gold. And our nation's health hasn't increased in the last few decades, despite the fat pockets of the supplement and vitamin industry. Bottom line: there can be gold in those little pills we pay so much for, but if we're not absorbing them, it's like throwing money in the toilet. Quite literally. Personally, I'd rather get my nutrients from real food.

Effects on Blood Sugar
I touched on this at the top of this post, but here is a great quote from Lori Lipinski, Certified Nutritional Consultant,

"If you're like most people who want to lose weight, chances are that at one time or another you've experimented with a lowfat diet. And it probably didn't take long to discover that avoiding fat in your diet doesn't make it magically melt off your body. That's because lowfat really means high-carb. So many dieters think they're doing a good thing by eating lowfat, low-calorie, high-carb foods like cereal, pretzels, bagels, and pasta--not realizing that these foods cause the pancreas to secrete insulin, the fat-storing hormone that stimulates the appetite and slows down metabolism."

I recently had a conversation with a friend about bowel movements. What a fun topic! I understand that people have heard that frequency varies person to person, and that's normal. However, I don't know if I believe that it's necessarily good for us. I gave the friend this illustration. Remember when you used to make playdough? (Just pretend if not.) My mother would hand me a cup of flour, a bowl, and some water. It would be a great, sticky lump after I mixed them. That's what's stuck sitting in your gut, fermenting and giving bad bacteria a delicious meal.

What's more, the effects of constipation, though not always talked about, can interfere with your daily life. Fatigue, lethargy, headaches, and poor skin are common effects of constipation. (Traditional Chinese Medicine strongly links the gut and digestion to skin!) If we're eating real, fiber rich foods, they'll add bulk to our stool and things will pass fairly quickly; plus, you'll have more energy, and you won't feel as bloated.

**Drinking water is also key to getting things moving. A good rule of thumb is to divide your weight in half, and drink that much water in OUNCES!

Decisions, Decisions
How can you make better decisions at the store? (Aside from buying a grain mill and grinding your own wheat, despite the fact that both your husband and cat think you've gone off the deep end...) Here are some quick tips, courtesy of Heath

To eat...

100% Whole Wheat or 100% Whole Grain products

...and Not to Eat...

— Bleached Flour: Just another white food that ain’t no good

— Wheat Flour: Does not contain the bran or germ (no fiber)

— Enriched Flour (wheat) : Wheat flour that is stripped of bran or germ and has had some nutrients added back in to make it pass as a consumable food.

— Enriched Flour (flour):Stripped! Just like the one above except the source of the grain isn’t identified.

— Stone Ground Wheat Flour: The word “Whole” isn’t in there. This means milled flour with no bran or germ.

— Cracked Wheat: Fractionated wheat is milled into angular pieces.

-“WITH whole grains”, lots of times the product is still largely composed of enriched flour, bleached four and sugar

If you're following my menu exactly, you don't have to worry about the flour issue - I don't think there's in any there. If you're doing your own thing, make sure you read labels at the store, and find healthier alternatives to white flour.

Extra Credit
Try making some whole wheat bread at home! Better yet, go for asourdough!

Week 2 Bonus: Nuts

Soaking Nuts
Whenever I tell someone that I soak my nuts, they either think I am 1. a squirrel, 2. nuts myself, or 3. inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on my husband. Thankfully, the answer is D. none of the above. Basically, I *try* (key word) to soak all of the nuts and seeds that I will consume. It takes some foresight, yes, but I believe it's well worth it.

Why should I bother to soak my nuts?
If your rarely eat nuts and seeds, then perhaps you shouldn't. But for the rest of us, I ask that you just consider what I have to say. Ancient people traditionally soaked seeds in a salt water solution, and then left them to dry out in the sun. They didn't have the FDA or Oprah or Bon Apetit to tell them what was best for their bodies or their taste buds. Somehow, they understood that nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors. This is a good thing for the little goobers, as it protects them until they have what they need for growing. Otherwise, they may sprout prematurely and die. However, it's a bad thing for us, as it puts a strain on the digestive track, and makes the nutrients less available. In order to neutralize the inhibitors, we can copy the practice of ancient peoples' saline solutions. (The salt activates other enzymes that neutralize the inhibitors.)

Benefits of Soaking Nuts and Seeds
+Gluten breaks down, making them easier to digest.
+Enzyme inhibitors are neutralized, eliminating toxins.
+Phytic acid, which interferes with the absorption of vitamins, is reduced.
+Beneficial enzymes are increased, encouraging growth of B vitamins.

The Simple Process
I mainly eat pecans, walnuts, and cashews, though I have tried pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts. Buying in bulk is key to this process. It can be a hard nut to swallow (pun intended) when you throw down a $20 for a bag of nuts, but if you have a handful a day, they last forever and you will only have to go through the whole process a few times a year. The picture above is of my sprouted almonds.

I put the seeds or nuts into a large bowl filled with filtered water and a tablespoon or so of sea salt. I let them rest for about 12-24 hours (depends on the density of the nut); then I drain through a colander, rinse, and fill the bowl back up with water and salt. Sometimes I drain again, but usually not. There's no exact science about when to rinse. I do a final rinse, and lay the seeds out on my drying racks. Before I had a dehydrator, I put them in a low temp oven (150 degrees), or else I only sprout a small amount daily, so that they won't go rancid (mostly just with almonds). Remember, sprouting the nuts means they're living - and living food decomposes quickly, so store in a refrigerator!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Week 2 Challenge

Many of you have reported great results with the sugar-free week and are already asking about next week. Congratulations!! Here's the deal for next week: we're trying to build on what we have started, so it would be great to continue with a low-sugar lifestyle. (After reading about the effects of sugar, do you really want to go back?!) You can add some fruits in moderation, as well as raw honey (choose unheated, unfiltered for maximum nutrition) and 100% maple syrup. They may cost more than bottles of high fructose corn syrup, but if you are enjoying them in small amounts, you won't have to buy as often!

Challenge #2 - Eliminate white flour
Starting Monday, let's eliminate those sources of white flour. (So don't buy that box of crackers while you're food shopping, and wave goodbye to the pound of pasta.) I promise I will justify this seeming injustice shortly! I'm computer-less, and heading to NYC for the weekend, so I'll try to squeeze in some blogging time soon.

Shopping List

1 lb ground organic turkey or chicken (thighs work great)
2 lb ground beef
1 whole chicken
turkey bacon (Applegate farms is best!)

white fish

bunch broccoli
greens (kale, swiss chard)
1 apple
2 medium leeks
2 zucchini
1 lb bag carrots
3 red peppers
2 sweet potatoes
1 baking potato
10-12 new or red potatoes
salad greens

2 dozen eggs
plain yogurt
1 pint cream (not ultra pasteurized)

1-2 cans salmon

whole wheat flour (store in airtight container in fridge or freezer if possible!)
tomato paste

Spices you may want:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eliminating white flour - Week 2 Menu

The challenge for Week 2 is the elimination of refined flour. There is strong evidence that refined flours (and possibly whole wheat flour - but more on that later!) contribute to many digestive diseases. Some informational posts will follow, but I am posting the menu so that people can buy food over the weekend.

If you choose any recipe for the week, I suggest the dinner from Day 1. I love having a whole chicken every few weeks so I can enjoy the meat, AND use the carcass for stock and eventually soup. I've included a whole chicken recipe so that you can make stock this week. Later in the week, enjoy Chicken and Rice Soup--it's delicious and easy: a great lunch or dinner for cold days!

Here's my suggested menu - take what you like from it, adapt some things - do what you need to do to get more real foods into your diet! Please give me feedback as to how I can best serve you. Is this format helpful? Would you rather a list of recipes to choose from? More soups? Less meat? I tried to keep these recipes as quick and easy as possible - and I'll bet you don't even miss flour!!

Day 1
Breakfast - Scrambled eggs and bacon (cook the night before)
Lunch - Vegetable Leek Medley
Dinner - Slow cooked or roasted chicken, carrots, potatoes and greens (reserve congealed fat and carcass for soup)

Prep: Grate and soak potatoes in water, whey, and salt
Form salmon cakes and pan sear.

Day 2
Breakfast - Sweet Potato Pancakes (this recipe makes enough for leftovers!)
Lunch - Salmon Cakes and salad (cook the night before)
Dinner - Leftover chicken meal

Prep: Soak oatmeal in water and whey
Prepare stock

Day 3
Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Vegetable Leek Medley with whole wheat pita pockets (recipe at bottom of post)
Dinner - Meatloaf

Prep: Prepare yogurt dough for quiche

Day 4
Breakfast - Sweet Potato Pancakes
Lunch - Salmon cakes and salad
Dinner - Leftover Meatloaf

Prep: Assemble and cook quiche

Day 5

Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Quiche
Dinner - White fish, steamed broccoli with lemon and garlic, and brown rice (make an extra cup for chicken and rice soup)

Day 6
Breakfast - Soft boiled eggs, sourdough toast w/ butter, and you may want to try this guest recipe for chicken/turkey sausages!
Lunch - Quiche
Dinner - Chicken and Rice Soup

Day 7
You'll probably have enough leftovers to take you through the day! Most people enjoy a meal or two out once a week as well, so these recipes should take you through.


Crispy or sprouted nuts
Natural yogurt (no added sugars or "vitamins") with unsweetened coconut, soaked nuts, and cocoa powder
Hummus with veggies or crackers
Homemade popcorn, popped on stove in coconut oil
celery with all natural peanut butter and raisins
potato skins or sweet potato fries

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hump Day Exercise Challenge

You thought this week was just about cutting sugar, right? Well, I don't care how many donuts you do not, if you're stressed and stationary, you're not doing yourself any favors. Tomorrow is Wednesday - also known as Hump Day. Each Wednesday I'll be posting a Hump Day Exercise Challenge - some small step you can take to get moving! Do your body good and start small. If you can bear the cold, go for a walk. The sunshine is a great source of vitamin D.

If walking won't work, try YogAmazing with Chaz. It really is amazing! The workouts are 20-30 minutes, and are all targeted yoga practices for beginners. You can download the free workouts to iTunes. They are quick, invigorating, and you will see results if you stick with it. (And c'mon, who can't spare 20 minutes to relax and unwind - yoga is a heck of a lot better than Deal or No Deal!) If Yoga ain't your thang, at least stretch while you watch Deal or No Deal, do some side bends, push-ups, toe touches, lift the soup cans, or do a hand stand against the wall, which happens to be great for the internal organs AND your memory. Just do something!

Post your successes here!

Let the Games Begin!

I'm sorry I didn't get to post yesterday - my computer died. =( I just wanted to welcome all participants (whether lurkers, skeptics, or those receiving daily meals from me). How was your first sugar free day? Has anyone made of the recipes? Anyone have any suggestions or questions? Post comments below!

The Week 2 menu should be up no later than tomorrow. Any requests??

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Weekend Update

Whew. It's been quite the weekend. I just stopped cooking and it's 4:36pm. Though I'm tired, I'm excited for the start of our challenge tomorrow!! Remember, if you jump off the wagon, it's OK. Just jump back on! If you have any questions, please drop me a line. For those who are trying to lose weight, let's do a weigh-in every two weeks, and I'll post our grand total on here.

I'm making meals and snacks for 4 of my coworkers, and I cooked Mom's meals for the week too. Here's what happened in the kitchen:
3 shepherd's pies, 1 spinach kiku, 1 fried oatmeal, 27potato skins, 1 pot of mexican soup, 2 pounds of bacon, fermented bean paste, kale and garlic, turkey stock, 16 cups of popcorn, oriental meat salad, 2 quarts of hummus, fermented sweet potatoes, amazing cashew nut butter (2 c nuts, 3/4c coconut oil, 1 T sea salt, and 2 T raw honey in the food processor!!), and lentil pecan patties. I still have oatmeal, spiced chicken, dutch baby pancakes, meatballs and herb bread to go...but I think I'll wait til tomorrow.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Eleven Staples of a Real Food Kitchen

1. Butter. Surprised to find this at the top of the list? Raw butter is the best, but organic or cultured butter, especially from cows eating rapidly green grasses, is good too. I just had to steal the following information directly from Sally Fallon's article on the Weston A. Price website, "Why Butter is Better."

"Butter contains lecithin, a substance that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents.

Butter also contains a number of anti-oxidants that protect against the kind of free radical damage that weakens the arteries. Vitamin A and vitamin E found in butter both play a strong anti-oxidant role. Butter is a very rich source of selenium, a vital anti-oxidant--containing more per gram than herring or wheat germ.

Butter is also a good dietary source cholesterol. What?? Cholesterol an anti-oxidant?? Yes indeed, cholesterol is a potent anti-oxidant that is flooded into the blood when we take in too many harmful free-radicals--usually from damaged and rancid fats in margarine and highly processed vegetable oils. A Medical Research Council survey showed that men eating butter ran half the risk of developing heart disease as those using margarine."

If you're interested in raw butter, let me know. It's not sold in Massachusetts, but I do know of some suppliers in NH. It's about $5 a pound. Or, you could buy Kerrygold, which is sold at Stop and Shop, Big Y, Shaw's, Costco, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's! Their butter is entirely grass-fed!!

2. Eggs. They're not just for breakfast. Eggs, especially from free running chickens, have enormous health benefits, including a good supply of vitamin D, fat, protein, and amino acids.

3. Coconut Oil - This versatile oil can be used for cooking, skin care (I use it as a moisturizer and leave-in hair conditioner), and it has great healing properties! It's a stable oil, so you can cook with it at high temperatures without concern for it going rancid. It's good for frying leftover oatmeal mixed with an egg! Coconut oil is prized in traditional cultures for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-microbial properties. Whew! Try to buy unrefined, cold pressed oil.

4. Garlic and onions - Can you ever get enough garlic? The health benefits are similar to coconut oil in that they are a power house for the immune system and fighting off disease and illness. Crush your garlic and let it rest for ten minutes before heating, in order to activate these beneficial compounds. Onions are high in vitamin C, and have been shown to reduce blood sugar levels, fight cancer, and repair intestinal damage.

5. Olive Oil - There is much debate about olive oil, but I think it's great for gentle sauteing, salad dressings, and dipping. Be aware though, olive oil contains monounsaturated fat and it's longer chain fatty acids promote fat storage. Also - olive oil should never be used to fry at high temperatures! Some of the beneficial properties will be lost and converted into free radicals, which we know wreak havoc on our body and can lead to cancers.

6. Sea salt - A naturally harvested sea salt, like Celtic salt, will supply your body with trace minerals and aid in digestion. And of course, it will make your food taste better too!

7. Wheat-free Tamari - This fermented soy sauce is great for cooking and free of additives!

8. Canned fish - Canned salmon and sardines are one of the only canned products I recommend. They contain Omega-3s, protein, and calcium! They can be made into salads, thrown over salads, or you can make salmon cakes for a quick lunch or breakfast. Dolphin safe tuna is also great for a easy lunch.

9. Nuts - We'll talk more about how to properly prepare your nuts and seeds, but I can't live without a decent stash. I prefer walnuts, almonds, cashews, and sunflower seeds. I soak them in a saline solution to let them germinate, and then dry slowly in a low temperate oven (our ancestors used the sun!) to preserve them. What a great snack!

10. Fresh or frozen greens - Yes, we use frozen vegetables sometimes in our house. Especially in the winter. Sometimes you just don't feel like chopping or shelling or whatever! Greens are nutrient powerhouses, so incorporating them into your weekly menu is a must!

11. Rice or lentils - Both of these are filling, and provide you with protein, B vitamins, and other benefits. They're filling, and easy to make.

Runners Up:
Frozen stock, Grass fed meats, natural or homemade yogurt (more on that later!), raw milk, bananas, and fermented veggies.

What is "real food"?

I've been asked that question, so let me give the shortest, easiest answer I can.

Real food...
Is or has been alive. It can't be "made".
Rots, wilts, decomposes - and sometimes quickly.
Doesn't have an ingredient label (unless, of course, the only ingredient is the food itself.)
Doesn't have celebrity endorsements.

Like I said in the food shopping post, our goal is for our diet to consist of as much real food as possible. And we can do it simply, once you get the hang of it.

Sugar Breakdown

This doesn't mean I'm having a breakdown from not eating sugar, nor is it a new dance. I'd like to run through the various forms of sugars. Remember what we learned in the last post - even natural sugars cause blood sugar imbalances, so eat in moderation. Avoid consuming sugar by itself, but instead try to make it a part of a healthy meal. If you can't live without your sugar desserts, try to limit them to 3 times a week, and try some cookies made with butter and eggs after a salmon dinner, or some natural ice cream after eating a bowl of soup.

Natural Sugars
Honey - I love honey. I can't lie. I eat Crystal's All Natural straight from the 5 pound jar. It costs $25 for a 5 pounds, and is unrefined, unfiltered, so it contains enzymes, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties, and minerals and vitamins. It's definitely better for you than regular ol' sugar, as it is full of its own enzymes and doesn't call on the body to produce the enzymes lacking in refined sugar. Honey doesn't call on the body's nutrients to metabolize, so those nutrients are able to be used to metabolize fat and cholesterol, which means less fat on your body! It's also a great remedy for sore throats, or beating any kind of respiratory illness. Just add cayenne pepper, ginger, honey, and raw apple cider vinegar and sip. Does the trick!

Maple Syrup - Maple syrup actually has more trace minerals than honey! It is a good source of zinc and manganese, which together help support a healthy immune system.

Sugars to avoid

From the website Splenda (Sucralose) Toxicity Exposed,
"New chemical sweeteners (like Splenda) and the sweetener blends (aspartame, sucralose and acesulfame K blended together in one product) may be causing users to show signs of weight gain, disruption of sleep patterns, sexual dysfunction, increases in cancer, MS, Lupus, diabetes, and a list of epidemic degenerative diseases." Aspartame breaks the blood barrier entering the brain and wreaking havoc on the nervous system. Not really what you signed up for, huh?

The artificial sweeteners may take on these brands: Sweet'n Low, Equal, NutraSweet, Splenda, Altern etc. Please avoid them at all costs.

Watch this informative video on HFCS - high fructose corn syrup!

Agave Nectar or Syrup - It's a highly refined form of fructose.

Fruit juice
-That's a lot of calories and a lot of sugar for one little drink! Try water instead.

I hope you have been convinced of the dangers and health risks of sugar. I used to be a chocoholic, and I am still known to order a LARGE dessert and polish it off by myself. I understand the addiction. But I like my skin, nervous system, clean teeth, clear arteries, cancer-free body, and on down the line, far more than a momentary treat. Of course I indulge, but the ironic thing is most of the time I wish I hadn't.

Gear up! I'd love to hear from people as to how they're doing with their sugar-free week. My hope is that we will minimize sugar for all ten weeks, but go hard at least for the first one. You'll be surprised at how your taste buds change. You just might reach for a handful of nuts instead of the oreo cookie, come March.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Remind me (again) why we're not eating sugar??

In the 1800s, the average American consumed about 10 pounds of sugar a year. In 1996, studies showed that American sugar consumption was at 170 pounds per person!! (That's 46 teaspoons a day.) Staying aware, reading labels, and eating as many whole foods as possible can reduce your sugar intake enormously. For a very scary, but informative read, check out Dr. Nancy Appleton's article"146 Reasons Why Sugar is Ruining Your Health".

To be honest, I've been stalling this entry for awhile, because I feel like I could write a book about it. But I keep getting the question. What does it mean to be sugar free next week? I didn't want to commit to an answer, and I still won't. I think it's an individual choice. Depending on your goal, your diet may look a little different. Some people want to lose weight; others want to detox; others are interested in maintaining health. Let's look at the different kinds of sugar, and what effect it has on our bodies.

Types of Sugars
Most of our sugars end in -ose, and sugar alcohols end in -itol. That's a great way to read a label, even if you can't pronounce the word! Here are some common names for sugar on labels: sugar, white sugar, brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, corn syrup, dextrin, honey, invert sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, corn sweeteners, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, malt, molasses, sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol, mannitol, lactitol and maltitol.

Glucose - blood sugar
Fructose - the main sugar found in fruit
galactose - milk sugar
dextrose - corn sugar
Sucrose - table sugar
maltose - starchy sugar (from vegetables)
High fructose corn syrup - found in MANY processed foods

What happens when I eat sugar?
The glycemic index of a food is the measure of how it affects glucose levels. If a food has a low rating, it is absorbed slowly into the blood stream, keeping insulin levels stable. The higher the rating, the more quickly the sugar goes into the bloodstream, signaling for the pancreas to release insulin to restabilize the blood sugar, or glucose, level.

Effects on weight

If you are looking to lose weight, understanding this is key. Insulin signals the body to store fat. So when you eat high sugar foods the body is being signaled to store fat! Additionally, high insulin levels raise triglyceride levels, which are responsible for high cholesterol. There is actually much evidence to support excessive consumption of sugar as responsible for high cholesterol, NOT red meat, butter, and eggs. See if you can wrap your head around this quote from the website Healing Daily,

"Because refined dietary sugars lack minerals and vitamins, they must draw upon the body's micro-nutrient stores in order to be metabolized into the system. When these storehouses are depleted, metabolization of cholesterol and fatty acid is impeded, contributing to higher blood serum triglycerides, cholesterol, promoting obesity due to higher fatty acid storage around organs and in sub-cutaneous tissue folds."

Disease and Sugar
Short response: Sugar suppresses the immune system and leads to and causes diseases.

Longer response: Our white blood cells need a high concentration of vitamin C in them in order to fight off bacteria, fungi, toxins and intruders. The molecular make-up of vitamin C and glucose are very similar. Glucose competes with vitamin C for space inside each cell, so if there is an abundance of glucose, there is a proportionately lesser amount of vitamin C. When you eat sugar and spike your insulin level, you're squeezing out the place of vitamin C. Your immune system is essentially shutting down. This can last for up to 6 hours. Go back to the top of this page if you haven't already, and read the well researched list of ways sugar is ruining our health. Snickers bar, anyone? I don't think so.

What does this mean for me?
Well, I think it depends on who you are and how you feel. Eating a piece of fruit with a larger meal will affect you differently than having a fruit roll-up or piece of cake for breakfast. I'm encouraging everyone to cut their ties to the sweet stuff for at least a week. It is up to you to decide the degree to which you take this. If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to nix fruit and honey for awhile. If not, you may want to eat a tablespoon of honey with your tea, or enjoy a banana with breakfast. Either way, I encourage you to consciously think about your relationship with sugar. What is it really contributing to your health?

Hidden sugars

salad dressing
more to come!

And please, don't go for the fake stuff. It's even worse than the real thing.

Coming up next week will be more entries on sugar substitutes, honey, fruit, and a few more surprises!

Food Shopping List

If you are following my menu pretty closely, here are some of the items you will want to buy this weekend. I always recommend organic, but sometimes cost trumps all. All of these foods can be found at Whole Foods or your local Health Food store. I am not sure about other places, but it's worth a shot! You will notice that almost everything on this list is located around the perimeter of the store, and there are no foods that have been significantly altered from their natural state. (OK, well the meat has, sort of.) That's the goal of eating whole, real food.

This list is geared towards two people, so you can adjust accordingly. Your total food bill for the week (if you shop off of this list exclusively and prepare all of your meals at home) will run from $100-125, depending on what you have in your home.

Shopping list:

Chicken bones, or a whole chicken to be cooked, and the carcass used later. I don't know where people are in their stock making, but getting your hands on bones is key!

bacon (applegate farms is great!)
1.5 pounds stewing beef
chicken breasts or drumsticks
canned tuna
1 pound of wild-caught salmon
4 pounds of ground beef (if you are making extra meatballs to freeze!)

2 dozen eggs
***local or cage-free are best--there are local eggs in Hanover, Hanson, and Natick that I know of
raw cheddar cheese (Neighborly Farms of VT, or Whole Foods varieties)
32 ounces plain yogurt
***Seven Stars Farms makes a great, sugar free yogurt, as does a Canadian company that begins with a B. I don't know it right now, but it's very good, and the same price as other yogurts
butter (organic, cultured, pastured fed are great key words!)

fresh or frozen spinach
frozen peas
red onion
yellow onions
2 avocados
red and green pepper
1/2 lb snow peas
1 bunch of kale
bean sprouts if you're into that thing
potatoes - 2 for baking, 4 medium for mashing
sweet potatoes for "fries"

2 can crushed or "kitchen ready" tomatoes
tomato paste

rolled oats or steel cut oats
sourdough bread
brown rice (2+ cups)
spelt (or whole wheat) flour if desired
alternative grain pasta

Suggested spices:
curry powder
dried chili flakes

Additional suggestions:
Red wine for tomato sauce
Chicken or beef stock if you're not making your own

Hummus ingredients
Canned or dried garbanzo beans
Olive oil
red pepper (roasted or fresh)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Week 1 Menu

I'm still working on the food shopping list with brand recommendations and some rationale as to why you're consuming so much meat and butter.

If this menu looks a daunting, don't worry. We use some of the same base ingredients to make the preparing process easier; plus, none of them take longer than 30 minutes to prepare. And we're into improvising, right? Change the order of the meals, only cook half of them, but double the recipes, whatever works. Remember, we're implementing small changes, gradually. So this week, focus on cutting out sugar and do your best with the rest. One of the most important additions to your weekly food routine should be stocks! Check out the post below on why stocks rock!

I'll be posting a tutorial on sugar soon, and a list of food/beverages you may want to scrap if you're going sugar-free, so check back frequently!

Day 1
Breakfast - Spinach Kiku
Lunch - Turkey bacon sandwich on sourdough
Dinner - Salmon, kale, and brown rice

Day 2
Breakfast - Spinach Kiku
Lunch - Oriental Meat Salad
Dinner - Mexican Soup

Day 3
Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Tuna salad or sandwich
Dinner - Spiced chicken, brown rice, and squash

Day 4
Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Turkey bacon sandwich on sourdough
Dinner - Mexican Soup

Day 5
Breakfast - Softboiled eggs, sourdough toast with butter, and bacon
Lunch - Oriental Meat Salad
Dinner - Leftovers or try another soup!

Day 6
Breakfast - Dutch Baby Pancakes
Lunch - Omlette
Dinner - Shepherd's Pie

Day 7
Breakfast - Dutch Baby Pancakes
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Spaghetti and Meatballs with Yogurt Herb bread

Hummus with veggies or crackers
Homemade popcorn, popped on stove in coconut oil
celery with all natural peanut butter and raisins
potato skins or sweet potato fries

Don't forget to read all of the recent posts! Make sure you sign up for demonstrations this Saturday if you're interested!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Preparing for Week One!

Are you overwhelmed with the blog posts yet? I'm trying to keep things simple and concise, and not overwhelm people. The most important thing I want to stress through this process is that it is an individual one. I love food, nutrition, and cooking, so naturally, it is enjoyable and easy for me to find time (and extra money!) to research, prepare, experiment, and encourage others. But sometimes the cleanliness of the bathtub suffers. That's life. It is my hope that your intention for this challenge should be to find out what works for you and your family. Maybe germinating wheat berries, drying them, and grinding them with a handmill is not your thing. That's OK. But maybe you like the idea of your ketchup free of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup--who knew?!), and want to make your own every few months. Take some risks, but start slow. As my sister likes to remind me, I wasn't always a nut-loving tree hugger. It took time to reach this status, to own all of these cumbersome kitchen appliances, and to be brave enough to chop up a fish head on the kitchen counter.

Who's In

It seems to me that we have three types of people participating, so I am going to try to differentiate by levels as much as possible.

Tier 1 - "I want some new recipes." Self-explanatory.

Tier 2 - "I want to feed my body and my family healthy foods and optimize our nutrition." This group is at a weight they are comfortable with, but want to maximize health and discover the best ways to prepare their eats--inexpensively and quickly. (Tall task, but I will try!)

Tier 3 - "I want to drop some weight." This group is looking to change eating habits and shed unwanted pounds, pains, and illnesses. If you are in this group, I can't stress enough the importance of trying to follow the menus as closely as possible, especially the first few weeks. I dropped 14 pounds in two weeks when I first eliminated processed food from my diet. But there's no sneaking Chinese food at lunch or biscotti for dinner (well, not often at least) if you expect to see results!

As of now, we've got about 25 people participating directly at various levels, and closer to 40 if you consider their family members that are also affected by the challenge.

Week One: Footloose and Sugar-free
Week one will begin with what I would consider a solid case for eliminating sugar from the diet. Now before anyone clicks the little red 'X' at the corner of the screen, I think there is a time and place for sugar. It's called December. Now, however, it's January. So if you're a Tier 2 or a Tier 3 (can anyone give these poor nameless groups a better tag than that??), get ready. I'll be posting more about why we are going to take the plunge and eliminate sugar from our diet, so put away those boxed cereals, snarf up those truffles [ahem: Mother] and get psyched!

I'll be cooking on Saturday, and I'd like to invite anyone who is interested to stop by for some breakfast and snack demos and tastings. Please RSVP through a comment below, via facebook, or email me:

What: Sugar-free Breakfasts and Snacks
When: Saturday, January 10 from 3 - 5pm
Where: 45 Mechanic St. #2 Newton
What you might see: Smoothies, Dutch Baby Pancakes, Spinach Kiku, Hummus, Potato Skins, and a few more surprises!
Cost: I'll get enough ingredients to send people home with portions, so please bring a few dollars to help off-set the costs.


I debated posting this one, but since a few of us are beginning this challenge with a fast, I figured I'd share the info with everyone. I believe that fasting is an important physical (and spiritual!) exercise. In Jordan Rubin's book The Great Physican's Rx for Health and Wellness he cites some our liver's duties: "...[It] removes toxins and germs such as viruses, bacteria, and yeast. The liver also processes fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and breaks down any chemicals, hormones, or metabolic waste circulating through your bloodstream." If our liver was a swimming pool, according to Dr. Don Colbert's book Fasting Made Easy, it would clean half of the pool every MINUTE. Our livers need a rest. And that's just the tip of the iceberg...

There are so many reasons to fast, but I'm not going to go into them here. (Unless people are specifically interested.) Freedom You! Fasting has been one of my favorite fasting resources. There are tons of articles, and the more I read about the benefits of fasting, the more excited I am to abstain from food. (I mean, as much as one can really be excited to abstain from food...)

I highly recommend giving your body a break. It will be a challenge, yes. But isn't that what we're all about?! A few of us will be doing a water/tea fast Thursday and Friday, in preparation for the challenge. (Lots and lots and lots of water.) It's a great way to detox and get ready for a new body! (If you're considering this for the first time, please let me know, or read up on the FreedomYou website, as there are definitely some things you need to remember!)

Why Stocks Rock

I remember distinctly the first time my mother asked me to touch raw meat. She was running late, she'd said, and could I please cut up the chicken for dinner? I held the phone between my neck and ear, not wanting my mother to hang up, because I wasn't sure what would happen to me if left alone with this pink, slimy flesh. A knot formed in my throat, and I was on the verge of either screaming or crying hysterically. Or both. Handling a raw piece of meat was just too much for my 12 year old psyche. I think I left it in the sink until she came home. I feared it might grow its feathers back and claw me.

Oh, how far I've come. But, how far we've come as a nation. And I'm not sure I mean that in a good way. In other parts of the world, there are fewer middle men, and more connections to the food. I don't mean that in an it-used-to-live-in-my-backyard kind of way, but there seems to be a greater appreciation for the ENTIRE animal, rather than just a bit of its flesh. Some of you may remember when birds were sold as whole chickens and meat was on the bone. There's reason to think twice about our practice of fast-fooding our meat: we're missing out on some good stuff.

I know, I know. You thought meat was week three. It is, but, in my humble opinion, rich stocks should form the cornerstone of a good diet, and stocks are made with meat. When I lived with my mother, it drove her nearly insane to have large bubbling cauldrons of brown scum cooking for what must have seemed like days on her pristine stove. Now that we've moved out, my husband worries if I'll light the apartment on fire, and asked if our renter's insurance covers chicken stock blunders. (It does. Line 30.) However, when they really understand the benefit of a good stock, they just might think twice. Here's the low-down:

Health benefits
**Extremely nutritious: full of electrolytes and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
**Supplies hydrophilic colloids - compounds that attract water and make for quick, easy digestion.
**Contain gelatin - a protein that aids in digestion and has been proven to successfully treat intestinal disorders such as Crohn's and colitis.
**Cartilage and collagen - supplies nutrients that have been successful in treating cancer and arthritis
**May help prevent and treat colds, asthma, infectious diseases, and contribute to virility!

I've been making stock several times a month for the last year. I don't have an exact recipe. I'm not too fussy about how much and how chopped etc. All of the brews generally come out the same. If you don't have celery, no sweat. If you have four onions to get rid of, go for it. It's all about making it work for you.

Cooked or raw chicken or turkey--1 whole carcass or 2-3 pounds of necks, backs, breastbones, and wings
or beef or lamb bones (rib, neck, knuckle - a mixture is great)
Calves foot or chicken feet for the brave (think gelatin!)
Cold, filtered water (Newton's water is yellow, so I always run the water through my brita for stock)
1/2 c of white or apple cider vinegar

an onion or two, coarsely chopped
a few carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
a couple of celery sticks, coarsely chopped

when i have fresh parsley, i'll use it. i generally don't worry too much about it if it's winter.

Put all of the bones in a large stock pot, add vegetables, cover with water, and pour in the vinegar.

Let it stand for 30-60 minutes. (If you're doing beef stock, you can roast the meatier bones in the oven while the water is standing, and add all the drippings plus the bones when browned.)

Make sure the water is at least an inch below the rim. Clean-up isn't fun when we overfill our stock pots.

Bring to boil. Skim off skum.

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for as long as the other people in the house will allow you - 6 to 72 hours. It will definitely cook down if you go the full 72 hours, but it will be delicious concentrated goodness, and you'll just use water to reconstitute it. **If you have parsley, add it to the last ten minutes of your simmer. It imparts some important nutrients.

Now comes the fun part. Once your stock has sufficiently cooled (or the people in your house are yelling at you to get all the crap out of the kitchen), figure out what straining method works best with the tools you have. I use our pasta strainer and a large ceramic bowl. It makes a mess, I lose some stock, but I never said I was perfect. I just sit the strainer over the bowl and pour in the stock so all the liquid goes into the bowl.

Next, I dirty some more dishes and use a large measuring cup to pour the stock into tupperware. I find that we use 4 cups at a time usually, so I tend to stick with 32 and 60 ounce containers...or whatever's clean. I pop them in the freezer and use as needed!

As for all the goodies left in the strainer? If there is meat on the chicken that's salvageable, go for it. If not, wave goodbye. I usually have enough chicken or turkey bits to make a few chicken salad lunch portions.

Uses for Stock
brown rice
soup (many recipes to come!)
any kind of grain you can think of

A few of next week's recipes will call for stock, so get cooking!! If you don't want to make it, you can definitely buy some Swansons - but I doubt it will have the health benefits of homemade stock.