Wednesday, September 30, 2009

All Hail the Kale

If I were stranded on a desert island with one choice of nourishment to sustain me, it would be kale. Okay, so it would really be chocolate peanut butter swirl ice cream, but if I were perfect, it would be kale. Why? I'll let the nutrients speak for themselves. Just take a look at the chart. Is there any other food that comes close to being that nutrient-packed?
Chart from the George Mateljan Foundation for The World's Healthiest Foods

These nutritional benefits translate to cancer protection, rheumatoid arthritis protection, cataract protection, cell detoxification, lung health, and vision health among many other perks.

And the good news- contrary to popular belief- is that it's not as revoltingly bitter as you'd think. The trick is to steam it. A weekly salad at our house consists of steamed kale and avocado drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with sea salt and a dash of cayenne. It's awesome.

I recently made the kale salad in the picture with red onions (soaked in apple cider vinegar for a less pungent flavor), figs, peaches and oranges. The fruit gives a nice sweet contrast to the kale and onions and a balsamic vinaigrette was just the right dressing to complete it.
Besides using kale in salad, I often jazz up pasta sauce with it, throw it in soups or use it as a lettuce substitute in things like tacos, but perhaps the best way to enjoy it and trick your kids into eating it is by making kale chips.

Kale Chips: Cut kale off stems and chop into bite-size pieces. Baste with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cayenne if you like a kick. Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are brown. You can eat the whole "bag" of these guilt-free. Imagine that!

Next time you're in the produce section at the grocery store, don't be afraid to hail the kale and serve it as lunch.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Energy Bars

Last year, after becoming fed up with "high fructose corn syrup" and preservatives- galore granola bars, I decided to hit up the faithful Food Network website and learn to make my own.  I found a great recipe by Ellie Krieger, but have learned to adapt it to using the ingredients I have on hand.  The basic concept is nuts, seeds, dried fruit, oats, flour, egg, and a fluid sweetener/sticky agent.  You can chop the nuts and then combine everything together for chunky bars or throw everything in the food processor for smooth bars and then spread onto a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  These scrumptious bars had:
Oat flour
Dried Apricots
Macadamia Nuts
Sesame Seeds
Maple Syrup

They are packed with protein, omegas, fiber, and carbohydrates that combine to make for a good, healthy energy boost snack.  Rachel Ray would definitely give them a four star "Delish!"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Demise of Dairy, Explained

We are the only mammals that continue drinking milk into adulthood;  and we suffer because of it.  Over sixty percent of adults do not posses lactase--the necessary enzyme to digest lactose-- the sugar found in milk.  In turn, the undigested lactase builds up and ferments in the colon causing cramping, gas, bloating and diarrhea.  Being lactose intolerant is not a disease; it's the norm.  We are not meant to consume dairy. But instead of listening to our bodies, we suffer through the consequences or grab our Lactaid pills and call it good as we grate 2 cups of cheese into tonight's dinner.

The sugar enzyme is not the only digestive aid we are lacking. Pasteurization destroys the enzyme necessary to digest the heavy protein content of milk.  Cow's milk has 4 times the protein content of human milk.  Without the ability to break down the excess protein, it ends up petrifying in our digestive tract clogging our intestines with a sticky sludge.  Our bodies often deal with this by forcing some of the sludge out through our skin as acne and lungs as mucus.  The rest of the sludge forms mucus in other areas causing harm. Many cases of chronic ear infections, allergies, asthma and acne have been cured by eliminating dairy.

Now that most dairy farms are run like production factories with little regard to the animals or the health of the consumers, the cows are injected with synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone in order to produce up to 25% more milk.  This translates to 25% more profit for the farmers and huge health risks for consumers including ovarian, breast, and colon cancer.   It is also the reason for young females reaching puberty at record low ages.

These cows forced to produce unnaturally high quantities of milk become malnourished as they lose more nutrients in their milk than they are able to ingest and are therefore susceptible to disease. In addition to the health risks they have from being fed grains instead of grass, and harsh living conditions including exposure to feces, the hormones themselves cause hoof diseases, open sores, internal bleeding and bacterial infections.  In order to counter act the loss of profitable cows to the diseases, the animals are given antibiotics, which unsurprisingly also leaves traces in the milk we pour over our cereal.  Milk consumers are therefore become more and more immune to antibiotics as they build up a tolerance with every sip of milk they take.

Given the facts, why would people continue to consume dairy?  I would venture to say that aside from being accustomed to it, the reason is due to a very successful ad campaign promoting dairy as an optimal calcium provider.  However, digest this: Phosphorus combines with calcium in the digestive tract and blocks calcium assimilation, so although the calcium content of milk is high, so is the calcium-blocking phosphorus.  Cow's milk has a wopping 97mg of phosphorus to every 100g of milk as opposed to human's milk 18mg to every 100g of milk.  The ratio of phosphorus to calcium is just too high for cow's milk to be considered a good source of the mineral.  The following is a list of much better sources of absorbable calcium:

Seeds     1,160mg/ 100g
Kelp     1,093mg/ 100g
Sardines    400mg/ 100g
Almonds   254mg/ 100g
Kale     187mg/ 100g
Broccoli     130mg/ 100g

Cow's milk only has 118mg/ 100g!  And it has 50mg of sodium/100g milk as an added health risk bonus.

Although the detrimental farmer's actions are being brought to light and there are more readily organic milk products on the market every day, the enzyme problem persists.  Since I can no longer ignore the "sludge buildup" in my own body, I have chosen to eliminate it to the best of my ability (about 80% since my life would end without macaroni & cheese) and opt for good creamy, satisfying alternatives (see last blog entry).  I also continue to eat organic fresh live culture yogurt, since it is already predigested by lactobacteria and gives me a healthy way to fulfill my dairy fix.

(Much of my information on this matter came from The Complete Book of Chinese Health and Healing by Daniel Reid)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Demise of Dairy

I worked for a chiropractor in college who led and promoted a very nutritionally sound lifestyle. I thought he was nuts.  How and why would anyone deprive themselves of the greatest things in life- dairy and sugar?!  Although the explanation was simple and logical, to his dismay I continued to go next door to the ice cream shop for a chocolate malted milkshake every break.  Little did I know that I would be just as "nuts" as him one day.

Since I was 19, I have suffered from perpetual mucus- both nasal and in my throat (Don't visualize this; it's gross). Over the years it got worse and peaked while living in South America. I noticed I got it immediately after drinking the typical Chocolate Santafereno (sinfully delicious hot chocolate with mozzarella cheese at the bottom), which was a nightly ritual at my in-laws. It was usually served with cheese bread. =) Using every might of will power I had, I resisted the nightly temptation and was rewarded with fewer nasty visits to the sink.  However, the problem persisted by day to the point that formed a habit of locating all trash cans and bathrooms upon entering an indoor public place.  I became regular for me to walk away from conversations to hock a loogie around the corner because my throat was so blocked, I could no longer converse. And  when I was in a car, I always prayed for the next red light so I could do my business.

I had a hunch it was caused by dairy, but wasn't ready to deny myself my beloved cheese.  So I decided to start small.  Instead of regular milk in my tea, I would use almond or rice milk.  I often went for sorbet instead of ice cream.  

About a year ago, I attended a lecture given by RD Healing Nutritionist, Deirdre Earls.  She shared her testimony of turning to a healing diet (devoid of dairy) in desperation to avoid chemotherapy. Her disease cleared up after years of suffering and using medicine that did not work.  She even experienced other benefits from her new healing diet including allergy cures.
As I began to research and learn more about dairy and the adverse affects it causes, I became more determined to eliminate. As I researched and learned about alternative creamy satisfiers, I became more committed

I have eliminated dairy by about 80% (100% is sainthood) and rarely have to deal with mucus anymore. Not only that, but I have experienced unforeseen bonuses: My eczema has disappeared and so have my menstrual cramps.  The bonuses are enough alone to maintain this commitment. My dairy cravings are minimal thanks to satisfying substitutes that have done the trick. Fortunately dairy alternatives are becoming more readily available in most health food stores and even regular grocery stores these days, which makes life convenient.  When I have time though, I like to make my own dairy-free products, which are truly decadent treats with more fresh flavor and less preservatives.  Basically, I use rice and nuts to substitute everything.  Soy is also an option, but I don't like the flavor of soy as much and it's hard to find non genetically-modified soy products. Below is a list of some easy dairy replacement recipes.

Milk-----> Rice, Nut, Seed Milk 
Blend 1 cup soaked nuts, seeds or cooked rice with 3 cups water (4 for rice) and strain in cheesecloth. Add sweet spices for flavor and honey, agave nectar or maple syrup for sweetness.  Almond and rice milk mixed with cinnamon and agave make a deliciosa Horchata.

Cream-----> Nut cream
Follow the nut milk recipes, but use 1 cup nuts: 1/4 cup water (more or less for desired thickness). Cashew cream with agave nectar is the most incredible guilt-free creamy, sweet fruit spread.

Cheese-----> Nut cheese   
Process 1 cup nuts, 1/2 lemon's juice, salt, olive oil, 1 clove garlic, and herbs.  I had to stop and make this today after writing the recipe.  It's that good.  I used macadamia nuts with sage, parsley and chives (See above picture).  It took 5 minutes. Tomorrow I might attempt it a sweet version with strawberries and honey to spread on bagels.

Ice cream-----> Rice, Soy, Nut cream
The creamiest, most delicious, yet healthiest alternative to ice cream I have had (thanks Nikki!) is coconut milk based Purely Decadent.  The Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl is comparable to Ben & Jerry's, with an underlying hint of coconut. If you want to really delight your taste buds and impress your friends, Click here for delicious nut-based home made ice cream recipes.  

Even if you're not as "nuts" about nuts as me, I encourage you to try these dairy-free recipes anyways because you'll love them! And if you substitute them for dairy, you might just experience some health benefits.