Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dairy-Free Cornbread

Ingredients:


  • 1 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup plain soy milk or rice milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup corn oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Oil a (9-inch) square baking pan and set it aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a second large bowl, whisk together soy milk, eggs and oil. Add milk mixture to cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined. 

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Today I realized that food manufacturers are like Leviathans


Earlier I was reading an article about how Lisa Leake (www.100daysofrealfood.com) is petitioning Kraft macaroni and cheese maker to remove the artificial dyes from their product.  If you aren’t already aware,  artificial dye is a carcinogen that has been linked to many diseases such as Cancer, ADHD, auto-immune disorders and more.
Throughout Europe, several countries have banned artificial dyes and require foods using any still-approved unnatural colors to display warning labels on packaging.  American companies like Kraft have stopped using artificial dyes abroad while they continue to sell foods with the questionable ingredients to the U.S. market in lieu of their obvious capabilities to use natural alternatives.
I’m really shocked at the amount of people who responded to the article I read saying, “Well,  I ate this junk when I was a kid and I’m still alive!”  or  ”If you don’t like it,  don’t buy it!”
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This kind of reminds me of Supernatural Season 7 where the Leviathans are lacing hamburgers with an additive that is turning  humans into these overweight, complacent drones that line up for the slaughter… only in  this scenario the Leviathans are the food manufacturers.
But getting back on track,  I don’t understand the apathy of your average consumer,  at all.  We as a nation are NOT okay.  Disease of every kind is on the rise.  You know what,  I also grew up eating processed foods and I’m still here.  However,  my mother passed away from Cancer at 48.  My father at age 59.  Can I,  or anyone,  really say that this lifestyle isn’t contributing to the rise of so many deadly diseases?
You personally might be okay, but how many of us can say that all of our friends and family are as well?  It’s not uncommon for someone to take medication on a daily basis for things that have been linked to diet and they just assume it’s “something that happens”.  I speak to people all the time who have ailments like GERD, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, neuropathic pain, chronic illness, irregular menstral cycles, asthma-  they take a pill,  and never question what causes it to happen.
And yes,  if you don’t want to eat processed foods or dyes the simple solution is to not buy those products-  however,  not everyone is aware of the dyes being present or educated about them.  Don’t we have the right to an informed choice?  What is the big deal about requiring the company properly label the product?
Personally, I don’t have the time when I’m at the grocery store to flip over every package and look at the ingredients list.  I want to be able to shop without having to worry.  I also don’t have the budget to buy only organic foods.  I don’t believe that people should be forced to eat carcinogens simply because they are poor.
Probably the most important point I can make is that no one is talking about shutting Kraft down or boycotting processed foods-  we simply want these foods to be safe.  Taking the dyes out of the product is not going to change the flavor of it whatsoever,  or even the appearance.  Kraft can follow the lead of many other brands and use turmeric or annatto for color,  which is safe as well as tasty.
To me,  it’s just common sense to stand behind the proper labeling or removal of dyes in foods.
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The Tree of Life


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Moringa Oleifera.  If you’re anything like me you probably can’t pronounce it,  but you might want to remember that name.  Why?  Because I’ve just told you the name of the Tree of Life.
Actually,  you may have already heard of Moringa. People in developing countries have been taking Moringa Oleifera for hundreds of years due to its nutritional properties. Dr Oz has mentioned this product in the past referring to it as an “energy blaster”.
It is native to the Himalayan region of Northwest India and is now found throughout the world in tropical and sub-tropical regions.  It can live in very poor soil.  The whole tree from the leaves to the seeds can be used to make medicine.
The nutritional benefits of Moringa truly blow me away. No other “superfood” on Earth can make claims like Moringa. The primary benefit of Moringa Oleifera is the high nutritional value of the leaves. In one serving of Moringa Oleifera leaves, you can find:
  • 125% daily value of Calcium
  • 61% daily value of Magnesium
  • 41% daily value of Potassium
  • 71% daily value of Iron
  • 272% daily value of Vitamin A
  • 22% daily value of Vitamin C
This is just the beginning!  There are over 90 nutrients, 46 antioxidants as well as ALL the essential amino acids and in good proportion.  Moringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers.  Leaves can be eaten fresh, cooked, or stored as dried powder for many months without refrigeration, and without loss of nutritional value.  This tree is offering hope nutritionally, medicinally and economically to devastatingly poor 3rd world countries.
Arthritis, asthma, cancer, constipation, diabetes, epilepsy, heart conditions, hypertension, kidney stones, thyroid disorders, and infections are just a few of the many things that Moringa has been used to treat.  The Moringa tree has great use medicinally both as preventative and treatment. Unfortunately, much of the evidence is anecdotal as there has been little actual scientific research done to support these claims.  My understanding is that this is because the tree was only recently heard of in Western medicine.  Sadly, I think most research funding is given for chemical drugs and not natural cures.  In the research that I reviewed,  I noted nothing but very positive findings in any research conducted.
Doctors are saying that it’s safe to take 400mg per day.  I can’t wait to try it!
learn more:

At your age, you should consider weaning!


Talking to people about dairy products and its effects on our health, in my experience, is a touchy subject because we have been taught our whole lives in school and by media that dairy is a crucial part of our diet.  I can remember how resistant I was to the notion that dairy products are bad for us when I first heard it several years ago.  I don’t typically talk about diet with people in real life in an effort to avoid being preachy,  but if you’ve found yourself here you are likely already curious about dairy and why it’s unhealthy. What I’m going to say here may not change your mind about consuming dairy products but I hope that you will use this information to make an informed choice.
Before I get started, there is something to be said about human’s drinking cows milk.  I don’t know who in their right mind ever looked at a baby cow eating and thought, I’ve got to get me some of that!  Most people would say drinking human breast milk beyond infancy is unnatural and disturbing,  yet consider it perfectly acceptable to drink the milk from a cow.  I don’t understand the logic in that.
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The belief that this protein and calcium rich drink is essential to promote good health is flawed.
The first glaring problem is the state of the cows themselves.  Dairy cows are fed high-protein, soy-based feed instead of their natural feed of green grass. These cows are also fed bone meals – powder of ground dead animals,  which are killed from fetal disease such as mad cow disease. This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding bone meal. Study after study shows that when cows are fed omnivorous or meat diets they will get diseases,  which then have been linked to humans getting Cancer, diabetes and the list goes on and on.
Feeding cattle soy beans and grains produces grown cows with abnormally enlarged pituitary glands, giving them the ability to produce milk more rapidly. The downside to humans: the process leaves the cow weak and unhealthy, forcing the milk industry to pump the animals full of a variety of antibiotics to keep them well enough to continue to produce. These antibiotics are then in the milk or dairy products that you are consuming.
The pasteurization process is the act of heating the milk up to a high temperature to kill any bacteria that it might contain. Unfortunately, heat during the pasteurization process also alters amino acids in milk, which makes milk rancid and destroys vitamins. During pasteurization process, vitamin C loss is over 50%, vitamin B-12 is totally destroyed, and other vitamin losses are up to 80%. After pasteurization, synthetic vitamin D2 may be added, but this synthetic vitamin D2 has been linked to heart disease. The pasteurization process destroys the enzymes in milk which help us digest it.  In fact, about 75% of the world’s population is unable to properly digest milk, a problem called lactose intolerance.
The reason that milk has to be pasteurized is because it is contaminated with blood, pus, feces and bacteria.  Think about that.
There is some evidence that raw milk produced by organic grass fed, free range, no antibiotic, no growth hormone cows is actually good for consumption.  Unfortunately, the FDA’s current position is that raw milk is dangerous and in many states it is illegal to sell raw milk.
Yes, raw, organic milk eliminates concerns like pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and the effects of homogenization and pasteurization – but to me, these benefits don’t outweigh dairy’s potential risks,  and they also don’t justify the need for dairy in our diets.
Most people drink milk because they have this notion that it’s the only way to get enough calcium in our diets,  but the harsh truth is that our bodies barely absorb the calcium that is in milk, and to make matters worse, it actually increases calcium loss in our bodies.  Foods originating from animal sources (like milk) make the blood acidic. When this occurs, the blood leeches calcium from the bones to increase alkalinity. While this works wonders for the pH balance of your blood, it sets your calcium-depleted bones up for osteoporosis.  In fact, countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
Many people avoid milk because it contains saturated fat, cholesterol, allergenic proteins, lactose sugar, or because, like myself, they don’t feel well after consuming it.  There are many other sources that you can get calcium and protein that are better for your body, such as dark green leafy vegetables (c’mon, we’ve all been told how important these are but how many of us actually eat them?) like collard greens, kale (personal favorite), mustard greens, and broccoli.  Soybeans, navy beans, almonds and almond butter, okra, figs, blackberries, and amaranth are all sources of calcium.  Instead of drinking milk I eat plenty of greens and additionally benefit by getting vitamin K, C, potassium, magnesium and more!
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why I haven't went Vegan:


I am very passionate about nutrition and eating healthy, organic whole foods. I don’t follow any  ”diet” or eating plan, instead I just eat a variety of foods that feel right to me.  My own diet is heavy on plants and free of dairy which causes me to stumble onto vegan blogs from time to time, usually when searching recipes.  However, I’ve never wanted to make the transition into a vegan diet because there are some things that, in my opinion, just don’t fit.
It seems like any time someone mentions a flaw with a vegan or vegetarian diet they run the risk of ruffling some feathers so I want to preface this by saying that I’m not on some hamburger-fueled mission to stop the vegans. I have friends and family that live this lifestyle (including my own husband) and I respect anyone who cares about the environment or their diet.
It’s very admirable to make a lifestyle choice based on a desire to decrease animal suffering by not partaking in the eating of animal products. I have found that most people in the vegan community think that a purchase of veggies instead of a purchase of meat is a vote for the health of our planet. However, you aren’t really saving the lives of animals. Most organic produce hails from HUGE farming operations, that are rife with many of the same environmental problems that exist on the non-organic industrial farms, such as:
  • enormous outputs of fossil fuels to run equipment to till, plant, harvest, process, and ship the food to your neighborhood health food store.
  • Less-than-safe working conditions for the laborers on the farm.
  • Thousands of tiny animals killed with each pass of the tilling and harvesting equipment. The animals in this case are mice, moles, rabbits and other creatures that are run over by tractors, or lose their habitat to make way for farming.  They are not as “visible” as cattle, but the deaths are very real, nonetheless.
  • Hundreds of species of flora and fauna displaced to create cropland.
This begs the question, why is it okay to kill animals on the field but not okay to eat one cow? Which choice truly reduces suffering?
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I will be the first person to agree with the vegan’s that the concentrated livestock operations  (CAFO’s) are a bane on our planet, and an absolute catastrophe in regards to animal welfare and human health. But to conclude that because CAFO’s are harmful, the only other option is to stop eating meat altogether is to engage in a false dichotomy. There is a third, and better option for us; small-scale, grass-based family farms, where multiple species of livestock and crops are raised in such a way that have been proven over and over again to actually IMPROVE the existing environment, soil, water, air quality, and very capably feed the local community.
I love animals as much as the next person but everything in life requires sacrifice. There is a very well-written article on Food Renegade that talks about how everything in life comes from death.  I am not as poetic as the author so I urge you to read it.
We, as a species, have thrived on meat for our whole existence. There seems to be a little debate about this; in fact, my husband says that there was some culture that survived on a diet free of animal protein, but I was unable to find any such information on the Internet (and we all know if it’s not on the Internet it’s simply untrue! LOL). If you look over some serious literature in the non-diet-biased fields of archaeology and anthropology, it quickly becomes clear that humans throughout history happily and gratefully chowed down on animal parts whenever the opportunity arose, and those opportunities were welcomed with gusto! Nutrient dense foods such as animal fat, meat, and eggs were life-saving for primitive people, who didn’t have the luxury of a Whole Foods store down the street.
Now, we modern humans DO have access to great food resources, however, choosing to eat this way is not necessarily a sustainable choice. One question I always ask the outspoken vegan people is this: Could you sustain yourself on a vegan diet if you only had access to foods within 100 miles of your home? For arguments sake, let’s say there is a zombie apocalypse and most of our food supply has been lost to looting.  Are you going to continue being vegan or expect me to share the rabbit that I just killed? Inevitably the answer is a resounding ‘No!’.
If a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is only made possible by shipping food over long distances with fossil fuels, and taking copious amounts of supplements to stave off malnutrition, can this REALLY be called a viable, environmentally friendly lifestyle choice? I think not.
I realize that I said vegan and malnutrition in the same sentence so some heads are already rolling.  Let me get into that point now. I’m well aware that many vegans do it for “health reasons”- because they truly believe, typically thanks to the China Study by Dr. Campbell, that eating a vegan diet can prevent and cure heart disease, as well as a number of other health conditions.  Folks, there are studies that can back up any diet.  There have been studies stating that eating broccoli has health concerns.  These studies by Dr. Campbell only prove, in my opinion, that eating meat may increase your risk of heart disease, and as another blogger so cleverly put it, “Saying that your risk of heart disease “may increase” from eating red meat is like saying you “may” be able to breath fire if you eat enough jalapenos”.
Denise Minger from Raw Food SOS (an ex-vegan, herself) did a great job debunking some points in the China Study, and you can read her blog here.
Many people will argue that there is no need for animal protein in our diets, regardless of how sustainable or environmentally friendly the diet is. I have even heard that it’s not necessary to take supplements to meet dietary needs,  yet whenever I read about vitamin deficiency I come across several comments from angry vegans who insist the whole thing could be avoided with supplements.  So which is it?  The problem is that here in America it’s hard to meet dietary needs on any eating plan, and many vegans come up short.  Poorly planned vegan diets may be low in vitamin B12, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iron, zinc, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and iodine. They often (and this one is my biggest pet peeve) eat too much processed food, which is very contradictory to the health benefits they preach about.
Without plenty of healthy fats in your diet, you are not able to assimilate and absorb the nutrients in fruits and vegetables. This means you can eat kale until you are green in the face, but if you’re not consuming enough healthy saturated fat, than you don’t even need to bother. And where do you find these healthy fats? Sure, you get them from coconut, avocado, almonds, and olive oil, but these sources are not always in season, not always convenient to purchase in your area, and are not always present in your diet in a high enough quantity on a given day to meet your body’s requirements to function properly.
While writing this post I came across dozens of blogs on google from ex-vegans/vegetarians who stopped the diet after realizing that they were sick.  Some of these people had been on the eating plan for decades.  I learned that statistically 75% of vegans/vegetarians return to eating meat.   Some of the celebrities that I remembered as being vegan like Natalie Portman or Ellen are no longer vegan.  In a way, this news doesn’t really surprise me.
In closing, if you are vegan, vegetarian or want to be one I would like to say:  Do it right, or not at all.  Just because you don’t eat meat or dairy doesn’t mean you are automatically healthier.  Say no to processed foods!
Additionally, I don’t think there is only one way that people should eat.  This article is simply about why I haven’t chosen this diet personally.  I recommend this diet to people often for short-term weight loss and detox.  This post talks mostly about what I believe  are some cons to the vegan diet, but there are also health benefits to going plant strong  and reducing or eliminating animal protein. We are all made differently;  some people feel better without dairy, or gluten, or soy, or even meat.  I believe that there are many paths to good health.

Easy Vegan Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 24-oz jars of spaghetti sauce
  • lasagna noodles (uncooked)
  • Sliced black olives

Filling:

  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 lb tofu (firm, reduced-fat recommended–not silken!)
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast (adds a cheesy taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Sauté the mushrooms and garlic over medium heat until tender; cover between stirring to keep them from drying out. Remove from heat and add the spaghetti sauce.
  2. Place the tofu and thawed spinach in the food processor (or blender, or hand-mash) and process briefly. Add the remaining filling ingredients to the processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Spread half of the sauce in the bottom of a 9×12-inch pan. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce. Spread half of the tofu mixture on the noodles.  Cover with another layer of noodles and then spread the remaining tofu mixture over them. Top with a final layer of noodles, and pour the remaining sauce over this. Cover the dish tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sliced black olives.
Cooking time (duration): 1 hour 15 minutes

Lentil Soup Recipe


Ingredients:
1 1/2 liters liquid vegetable stock
1 bag red lentils, washed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onions, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1/4 bunch celery, diced
2 cups fresh spinach
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 large leek, chopped
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1 tablespoon parsley,
1 tablespoon oregano,
1 tablespoon basil,
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt, to taste
Directions:
Add stock, lentils, onions, and garlic to your pot and bring to a boil.  This is when I chop the additional vegetables and add as each is prepared.  Add tomatoe paste, spices, etc.  Keep pot covered and stir every 10-12 minutes.  Takes 60-90 minutes for lentils to cook.  If soup dries out, add water.
Enjoy!
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