Coconut cacao sweet potato (yam) recipe

Garnet "yam". Photo by Sattvic Planet.

Garnet “yam”. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

 

Chocolate for breakfast?! Well, almost, but not quite. Many people often confuse cacao and chocolate, the former being the primary ingredient for the latter. However, in addition to cacao, chocolate often contains milk from conventional dairies that we should probably be avoiding, sugar which we already eat way too much of in our diets, and other unnecessary ingredients depending on which chocolate you buy. When eaten alone cacao can be equally as delicious as a bar of chocolate, without the negative effects on your health.

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How often should you snack?

I’m going back to my roots. After posting articles during November about Daylight Savings Time, the US Election, Pharmaceuticals, and Black Friday, today I’m going to write once again about my favorite subject, food. Based on my observations, people simply don’t know how to eat. That may sound like a funny statement because we all eat every day, and it is a task that is essential for our survival. Well, you may know how to eat, just put food in your mouth and chew, but do you know how to eat properly for efficient digestion and optimal health? The quantity, frequency, timing and combination of your food are all important factors affecting your digestion. Believe it or not, I could probably write an entire chapter on how to eat, but instead of that, today we will focus on a topic that is confusing to many people, snacking.

Radical snactivism

We’ve all heard the theory that it is important to snack many times per day to keep our energy levels high, but is that even true, and where did it come from? If you think about it, the frequent snack theory appears to be adapted to high performance athletes. Imagine a professional football player who spends the whole day lifting weights, running, and training for his job. The amount of energy expended by a professional athlete must be several times more than what you expend sitting in your cubicle and tapping on that keyboard. Frequent snacking seems appropriate for such a physically demanding lifestyle. Somewhere along the way sports nutrition got confused with the nutrition of the average person. Perhaps it was an improper dissemination of information through the media, or our fascination with professional athletes. Many of us obsess over our favorite athletes; we wear their jerseys and spend billions of dollars following them weekly, so it’s not difficult to imagine their diet strategies crossing over into the average person’s life. Another possibility is the source of funding for research. How much money is available to research the nutritional needs for producing a star athlete versus the nutritional needs for helping an average person reach their true potential? Perhaps the government can fund some research, but corporations heavily influence governments, and do corporations bring in revenue by selling wholesome breakfasts, or by selling snack packs? Regardless of the origin of the multiple snack theory, and the role of sports idols, money and politics; we have access to an unbiased source of information for guidance on how to eat. According to Ayurveda, a traditional preventive medicine system from India, the average person should practice a diet of minimal snacking.

sugar_ngm

2 meals per day

To understand why minimal snacking is the suggested diet of Ayurveda, one only needs to have a basic understanding of digestion. Digestion is at the core of Ayurveda because good digestion is thought to be essential for having good health. Ideally a person would wait until their previous meal was completely discharged from their stomach before eating the next meal, but if you are snacking 3-5 times per day there are simply not enough hours in a day to do this. Generally speaking, it should take at least 3 hours for your stomach to be empty, so if you ate every 3 hours beginning at 6am and ending at 9pm that would be 3 meals and 3 snacks. With a schedule like that some problems become immediately apparent. It is unlikely that you are eating on an empty stomach if your schedule consists of eating 6 or more times per day. If your stomach is completely empty then you must be either eating small meals or easily digested carbohydrates and sugars, and we have all been hearing lately of the dangers associated with diets high in sugar. Your digestion should improve if you wait until your stomach is completely empty before consuming the next meal, and as a result your overall health should also improve. To completely digest each meal then you will have to eat less frequently which of course means less snacking. One great strategy for eating less frequently is to eat large meals containing more slow burning fuels such as oils, fibrous vegetables, and perhaps some meat if you are not vegetarian. As you are increasing the amount of slow burning foods, try decreasing the fast burning foods such as sugar, flour, grains, and in some cases fruit. For an excellent and detailed description of what this meal looks like read Todd Caldecott’s article about breakfast. A large breakfast such as this allows me to go 6 hours without eating, and during those 6 hours I enjoy the benefits of a slow sustained release of energy without the inconvenience of having to interrupt my busy day to find more food. Ayurveda recommends eating twice per day, and the only practical way for a person to do that in this modern world is to make sure your two meals are large and dense enough to power you through the day.

From Time magazine.

From Time magazine.

Goodbye low fat diets

As we emerge from the failed war on dietary fat into a world of obesity, diabetes and cancer we can look to the past for guidance on moving into the future. Ayurveda is a valuable source of traditional knowledge that is not contaminated by money or politics. People would have never chosen the frequent snack theory if the low fat theory didn’t exist. It is difficult to snack all day if you are eating high quality fats because quite simply, you will not be hungry as often. So as we say goodbye to the low fat era we should also say goodbye to the high snack era. Unless you happen to be a high performance athlete, try eating like me, a radical snactivist.

Related Articles:

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Our Paleolithic ancestors rarely ate sugar

 

 

Just say NO, to pharmaceuticals

Photo from the Dogwood School of Botanical Medicine

Photo from the Dogwood School of Botanical Medicine

I’ve done it, during the entire month of October I did not swallow a single pharmaceutical, and as of today it has been 7 weeks since I last needed the help of a synthetic pill. To put this into perspective I am defining pharmaceuticals as not only the more powerful type prescribed by your doctor, but also the over the counter types available to anybody at the store. Seven months ago I shared with you a personal account of my monthly pharmaceutical consumption. Despite being a student of Ayurveda and a huge advocate of preventive medicine, I was still taking an average of 5-10 pills per month. The message I tried to convey back then was that nobody is perfect, but with some awareness and a little effort we could move towards a life of better health with a reduced need for pharmaceuticals.

Why is this important?

As I’m typing this, the question of whether this is a significant achievement arises. Considering the US pharmaceutical industry makes billions of dollars every year, these corporations wouldn’t be making such huge profits if a majority of the population wasn’t frequently consuming the pills they produce. In other words, I assume that going 7 weeks without taking any pharmaceuticals is uncommon in the US. Another reason I decided to share this with you is to demonstrate that saying no to pharmaceuticals required me to change my lifestyle. Rather than doing whatever I want, whenever I want, and ignoring the messages my body was trying to send, I had to be mindful of my lifestyle and avoid situations that might require the relief offered from a pill. One of the defining traits of preventive medicine is to remove the cause of disease. Contrast that with modern reactionary medicine, which typically treats the symptoms but rarely attempts to remove the cause. Symptoms are messages from your body saying that there is an imbalance occurring somewhere. Symptoms should not be thought of as minor annoyances that need to be muted through the use of pharmaceuticals. Sure, symptoms interfere with our busy lives, but if you suppress a symptom for long enough it could manifest to a more serious and difficult to cure disease. Finally, this achievement is significant because quite simply, many pharmaceuticals have harmful side effects. If the long list of potential side effects listed in a pharmaceutical advertisement doesn’t alarm you then consider herbal medicines, healthy diets and natural lifestyles, which rarely have any harmful side effects.

food as medicine

Drugs versus Medicines

I can still remember being exposed to the propaganda from the War on Drugs when I was a child during the 80’s. First Lady Nancy Reagan led the Just Say No campaign from the White House. And who could forget the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, DARE, which originated from the Los Angeles Police Department? The Partnership for a Drug Free America created a famous commercial that said, “this is your brain (an egg), this is drugs (a frying pan), this is your brain on drugs (a fried egg), any questions?” Yes, I do have some questions. How powerful these messages must have been for me to remember them decades later. Despite being ingrained into my childhood memories, as an adult I find the messages to be disturbing and hypocritical. One question I have is, would the same people who told us to avoid Cannabis also tell us to avoid Percocet, Vicodin or other pain relievers? Or what about Psilocybin Mushrooms versus Prozac? I doubt it, and therefore two classes of drugs exist in our society, those that are good/accepted, and those that are bad/illegal. I would also ask you to think twice about the language involved here. Pharmaceuticals are now considered to be forms of “medicine”, while powerful plant medicines that were actually used by native cultures for thousands of years are now given the derogatory term “drugs”. How is it that pharmaceuticals derived in an industrial factory are accepted in our society despite sometimes being created so recently that the side effects are not yet understood, while plants such as ayahuasca, cannabis, iboga, peyote, psilocybin and huachuma, which have been traditionally used for healing, are deemed to be so worthless that it is nearly impossible to conduct a scientific study demonstrating their effectiveness?

Which will you choose?

Which will you choose?

DARE to be open minded

In the previous paragraph I contrast legal pharmaceutical drugs with illegal plant medicines to demonstrate the extreme and unexplainable policies adopted by the US government. However, we don’t need to look at such a controversial example. Instead consider Ayurveda, which advocates for the use of plant medicines that are already legal to prevent and treat disease. I totally understand that there are situations where it may be necessary to use pharmaceuticals for difficult disease, extreme pain, or for survival of the patient. I wouldn’t advise somebody who was just in a serious car accident to use Ayurvedic herbs for survival, likewise I wouldn’t advise somebody with minor depression to take an antidepressant for happiness. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of new developments in technology? The answer is that we should, when we need to, but we should also be shifting towards a lifestyle that avoids the cause of disease so symptoms don’t emerge that tempt us to consume a pill. In this busy, stressful modern world it can be difficult to consistently practice a healthy daily routine. Pharmaceuticals seem so convenient to us, swallow a pill and your are done, no need to change your behavior, an easy choice, right? But what happens when you need a second pill to treat the side effects from the first pill? What happens when the symptoms worsen, and you need to take a stronger pill with potentially stronger side effects? Or worse, what happens when your doctor says the pills don’t work anymore and now you need surgery? We don’t need to imagine such grim scenarios, instead we can be comforted by knowing that we have access to safe and effective traditional medicines such as Ayurveda, and it all begins right here, by becoming aware of options that you may not have known existed.

Related Articles:

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 3, Pharmaceuticals

18 months since I was sick, without flu shots

Want to know the #1 place in town to eat?

 

 

Everything’s connected: US Election results

The phrase “everything’s connected” is often used within the spiritual community to describe their feelings and experiences on a higher level of consciousness. Ecological and Environmental Scientists also frequently use the phrase in reference to the cause and effect relationships between plants, animals, microorganisms, chemicals, climate, and many other factors that play a role in the web of life. This phrase also applies to Ayurveda, preventive medicine and human health. Recently, a visitor to this website commented on what he perceived as a lack of focus regarding the topics posted here. I appreciated this critique and interpreted it as, there is a lot of information being offered here beyond what you might find from a typical health site. In this fast paced modern world people are overwhelmed with information and they need to find quick and easy advice, so I understand his criticism. Posting an article about the US elections results may at first glance seem to be another out of focus topic, but hopefully the following will demonstrate that everything really is connected, including human health and American politics.

 

GMO Labeling campaign contributor Dr Bronner's

GMO Labeling supporter and campaign contributor Dr Bronner’s. From Facebook.com/drbronner

 

GMO Labeling

Some might say that if voters can’t approve GMO labeling in the foodie paradise that is Oregon then it can’t pass anywhere. However, the story is not that simple, specifically Monsanto and other agrichemical companies outspent their opponents by 12 million dollars and saturated the TV with their advertisements. Just as in Washington, surveys showed support for labeling in the weeks prior to the election, but in the end the Oregon measure lost by only 1%. What does it mean when corporations spend millions more than their opponents yet barely win? It demonstrates the power corporations have influencing important decisions that affect our food and health, and it also demonstrates that this fight is certainly not over. I imagine Bob Marley singing about Monsanto when he says:

 

“If you are the big tree, let me tell you that, we are the small axe, sharp and ready, ready to cut you down, to cut you down”

Lyrics for Small Axe, performed by Bob Marley

 

Bob Marley

From bobmarley.com

 

Recreational Cannabis

Speaking of Bob Marley… the pioneering spirit of the Pacific Northwest motivated voters there to blaze a new trail for the rest of the nation to follow, as they often do. The momentum generated by Colorado and Washington State continued as citizens in Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC voted to legalize the recreational use of Cannabis. Whether or not you decide to partake should be your decision alone, and not that of the government. Let’s be honest here, this is only a plant, and for a country to criminalize the consumption of Cannabis, yet declare itself “the land of the free, and home of the brave”, is quite simply ridiculous. Not only is Cannabis a plant, but it is also believed to have many medicinal properties. In this case the will of the voters prevailed partly due to a lack of major corporate opposition. Citizens in 4 US states now have safe and legal access to a natural plant medicine that has potential to replace pharmaceuticals and their associated harmful side effects. More importantly they can do this without having to get a prescription from a doctor which empowers them to take control of their health.

 

“So you’ve got to legalize it, and don’t criticize it, legalize it, yeah, yeah, and I will advertise it”

Lyrics from Legalize it, performed by Peter Tosh

 

The urban blues

The US map Wednesday morning looked like it was completely painted red, with a few blue dots where the major cities are. The red Republicans took control of the congress from the blue Democrats. How is this change of power connected to health and preventive medicine? A quick analysis of the Republican’s environmental philosophy should help answer that question. Common sense tells us that without a clean environment we have nothing, no air to breathe, water to drink, or food to eat. Yet the Republican philosophy seems to be the opposite; “remove the burdensome environmental regulations that prevent us from growing the economy” is their rallying call. Sure, we all benefit from a strong economy, but growing the economy while destroying the environment is a recipe for disaster. I suppose it all boils down to whether you believe that in the end technology will save us. Should we pollute our clean rivers to make money, and then spend that money building machines to clean our drinking water? This is the political party that calls climate change a hoax, this is the party that blocks the designation of wilderness areas, and this is the party that fought a national health care system until the bitter end. I might sound like a frustrated Democrat (I’m actually independent), but all I really want to know is why a party that calls themselves conservative seems to understand very little about conserving the natural resources that we all depend upon. Yes, everything is connected, and the people you vote for will either protect our environment or sell it to the highest bidder. The League of Conservation voters, not to be confused with the league of conservative voters, is a great resource this time of year. Their scorecards tell you exactly how the incumbent candidates previously voted on important environmental legislation.

 

“Tell me man, can you eat your money?”

Lyrics from Money, performed by The John Butler Trio

 

Was Agent Smith a Republican?

Was Agent Smith a Republican?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sattvic Nation?

Admittedly, the scope of this site can be quite wide at times, and while politics may seem completely unrelated to preventive medicine, this past election shows us that everything really is connected. How we vote determines whether we are eating GMO foods, have access to potentially medicinal plants, and choose leaders who are good stewards of our natural resources. We are what we eat, and yes we also are what we vote for.

 

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18 months since I was sick

Image by Alex Grey

Image by Alex Grey

 

“Down with disease, three weeks in my bed, trying to stop these demons that keep dancing in my head”

From the lyrics for Down with Disease, performed by Phish

 

6 months ago I wrote an account of having reached 12 consecutive months without being sick, and today I am here to tell you that I have successfully avoided sickness for one and a half years. I’m writing this because you probably don’t personally know me, and this is my way of demonstrating to you that there are real benefits to following the diet and lifestyle practices that I write about every week. I also do this to prove to myself that my practices are effective. If I was getting sick every few months then I may want to stop and reevaluate my methods. Like every other person on this planet, I have health issues that I struggle with, but my goal is to constantly improve my health and knowledge, and then share the results with you.

Should you get a flu shot?

I can’t answer that question for you, but I can share my personal experience with influenza vaccinations. My experience is quite simple, I don’t get flu shots, and in recent times I don’t get the flu. Perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I would like to believe that I have avoided the flu and other illnesses because I practice preventive medicine. It may not be wise for me to publicly state that people should avoid the vaccine; instead I want to highlight the difference between modern medicine’s version of preventive medicine versus that of a traditional system such as Ayurveda. Mainstream preventive medicine has come to mean that you routinely get your vaccines, blood tests and physical exams which is much different than Ayurveda where the emphasis is on building a strong immunity through diet and lifestyle. One of the purposes of this website is to help you take control of your health so that you can be less dependent on a medical system that here in the US is extremely expensive, reactionary, and heavily dependent on pharmaceuticals and surgeries. While I can’t replace your physician, I can provide information about preventive medicine so that you have less need for a physician as you regain control of your health.

Image by Alex Grey

Image by Alex Grey

 

How did I do it?

If you read 12 months since I was sick then you already know because my strategy hasn’t changed. In summary, I have avoided sickness by minimizing stress and listening to signals from my body that tell me to get some rest, and by focusing on strengthening my immune system rather than sterilizing my body and environment with antibacterial soap and harsh cleaning chemicals. Nearly every time I got sick in the past the illness was preceded by mental stress such as frustrations at work, body stress such as extended periods of poor sleep, or even a spiritual stress such as dissatisfaction with my position in life. Regarding cleaning products, we have been engaged in a war on microorganisms in this country for decades, and have been convinced that through heavy applications of chemicals we will be able to sterilize our path towards good health. The reality is that every day we are learning new information about the positive benefits of bacteria in our digestive system and on our skin. Developing a strong immune system allows you to defend against any microorganisms that you will inevitably encounter, and not have to be so paranoid about sanitizing your surroundings. For more information about taking a more relaxed approach to hygiene see the Huffington Post article Dirty kids: how germs can be your child’s best friend.

10 easy steps to immunity?

Unlike many healthy living resources on the internet this website rarely uses numbered lists of steps to take towards a goal. Instead the focus is more on mindfulness of how to live in general. As we all know, everything is connected including our mind, body, spirit, organs, thoughts, diets, and lifestyles. To present a list of steps meant to improve immunity doesn’t make much sense since that would likely be the same list to improve your sleep, digestion, or happiness. Instead I prefer to think of how to eat and live in general because this whole system approach is likely to solve multiple problems and not only one. Contrast this approach with the current medical paradigm, which uses a reductionist perspective to isolate individual chemicals and organs to treat symptoms rather than remove the cause of disease.

“If you can heal the symptoms, but not affect the cause, it’s quite a bit like trying to heal a gunshot wound with gauze”

From the lyrics for Sand, performed by Phish

 

2 years, 3 years, and beyond…

Well, I hope to report 6 months from now that I’ve survived another winter without getting sick. Until then, put down those harsh cleaning products, pick up a fork full of kale, and join me on creating a streak of your own!

 

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Eating for the Equinox (chicken crockpot recipe)

pastured chicken

Photo by everychickdeservesamother.com

 

The Autumn Equinox has come and gone and since then you have probably begun to notice seasonal changes. The days are shorter, the weather cooler, the leaves are falling, and the food available at your local market is changing from foods like berries, melons and snap peas to apples, squash, and parsnips. According to Ayurvedic principles, now would be a good time to adjust your diet to match our changing environment. This can be easy to ignore when we have access to foods like strawberries in January at the grocery store, but seasonal eating makes a little more sense when you start shopping for locally produced food as much as reasonable.

Warm, greasy and heavy

According to Ayurveda, as we transition from the season of Pitta to the season of Vata, we can also transition from the foods of Pitta to those of Vata. Sour and salty replaces the tastes of bitter and astringent, while the taste of sweet continues until later in winter during the Kapha season. Isn’t it interesting that salty and sour are the tastes you would experience while eating the cabbage you fermented during the summer to eat as sauerkraut during the fall, while sweet and sour would be most noticeably tasted with the fall apple harvest? Beyond the tastes of food, the qualities transition from cool and dry to warm and greasy (oily), while the quality of heavy continues until later in winter during the Kapha season. A good example of a heavy, warm and greasy food might be a dense winter squash roasted in the oven and then drizzled with a generous amount of ghee or coconut oil for moisture.

Meat in Ayurveda?

You may find it odd that a website with an Ayurvedic theme would have a recipe for chicken, but the ancient texts never forbid the consumption of meat, and in some cases encourage it for the recovery from disease. The Hindu religion is known to be vegetarian, and is also very common in India, so since India is the home of Ayurveda it is easy to see how the connection between vegetarianism and Ayurveda could be made. However, vegetarianism may be required to practice the Hindu religion, but that does not mean it is required to practice Ayurveda. Another fact to consider is that many parts of India are low in latitude and as a result have a much warmer climate. I’m not sure if you’ve ever noticed this, but my appetite decreases when I’m in a hot and humid environment, which would make vegetarianism much easier closer to the equator. If you don’t believe me then try being a raw food vegan in northern Canada and let me know how that works for you. I’m not promoting eating meat; I’m promoting diets that are appropriate for your geography and your season. Simply put, those of us in the north have less access to fresh produce, and more need for nourishment during a cold winter. I’m not talking about eating meat for pleasure as most Americans do, I’m talking about eating what your body needs, which I’m willing to bet is far less than what we are currently witnessing around the country. Eating based on bodily needs will require people to be aware of their bodies, and to learn how to properly cook nutritious meals. I often say that PETA would be far more successful if they encouraged people to eat less meat rather than none, and that is because even though most people are probably eating much more than they need, telling them to quit completely can not only cause a defensive reaction, but it may also be inappropriate advice for their location and time of year.

 

20141012_113536

Photo by sattvicplanet.net

 

 

Crockpot time

The size of my crockpot is 5.5 quarts, or 5.2 liters, and I find that a 5.5 pound, or 2.5 kg bird can easily fit. This recipe is very simple, but that is the point, to realize that cooking high quality meals is a convenient and healthy way to live. Here is the recipe:

4-5 pound chicken

1 onion

2-4 bulbs of garlic

½ T oregano

½ T thyme

½ T rosemary

½ T black pepper powder

½ T pink salt

1 T dried parsley

1 T dried basil

3-4 cups water

Dice the garlic and allow to sit for 10 minutes to maximize the nutritional benefits. Place the bird and the water into the crockpot. Dice the onion and add it to the crockpot along with garlic and all the spices. Sprinkle the spices under, on top of, and all around the bird. I like to set my crockpot to 10 hours on a low setting. You can flip the bird after about 6 hours if you like. The final result is more like a stew than an oven roast, but you can try a shorter duration or less water if you prefer that effect. Serve with roasted squash or root vegetables and some steamed dark leafy greens. Don’t forget to save the bones for a bone broth!

Integrity Food

When buying your chicken I highly recommend a locally sourced, pasture raised product. This will require you to search beyond the deceptive “all natural” and “cage free” feel good options available at the grocery store. Did you know a cage free bird might never see the sun, breathe clean fresh air, or have enough room to run around? An organic, pasture raised bird may cost 2-5 times as much as a conventional bird, but don’t you think it is worth it? A pastured bird might be more nutritious if they are eating insects as they were meant to. I find it odd when the label says “vegetarian fed” since chickens are known to eat insects, but they obviously don’t have that opportunity in an indoor facility. My last chicken had a slightly wild taste to it versus the typical bland and neutral flavor we are all accustomed to. A pastured bird should be less likely to get sick since it is not breathing dirty air in a confined space and is therefore also less likely to need antibiotics. Wouldn’t you rather eat a healthy chicken than a sick one? I actually get at least 10 servings from a bird, so when you look at the per meal price it is not bad compared to what you would pay at a farm to table restaurant. Besides the nutrition, taste and health, I think raising animals on pasture is much more humane, and a great way to support your local family farmers.

 

Related articles:

The “Integrity Food” Revolution

The Season of Sweet

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 2, Meat

 

 

 

How much soap should you use for healthy skin?

dr bronner

Try Dr Bronner’s

Talk dirty to me

We’ve been taught our entire life the importance of good hygiene, and how frequent use of soap is essential to avoid offending the noses of the people around us, and to steer clear of infectious disease. How accurate are these teachings, and may they even be damaging our health in ways we never imagined? Now I could present my typical argument to you that common body products contain toxic chemicals that we should all avoid, and I certainly will, but there are some further risks you should consider the next time you lather up in the shower.

Goodbye antibacterial, hello probacterial

Recently there has been an emerging field of research and media coverage on the roles bacteria play inside our bodies, specifically within our digestive system. Probiotic foods such as yogurt and kombucha are commonly found in natural food stores, along with the probiotic capsules that doctors often prescribe following a dose of antibiotics for your infection. That may not be news to you, but did you know that scientists are now pioneering into a less understood territory and have begun researching the beneficial roles that bacteria may play ON our bodies, and not just inside our bodies? In this New York Times article the author highlights an innovative company called AOBiome that is attempting to sell a probiotic product that you apply externally rather than swallowing. Initially they plan to offer this as a health enhancing product, but hope to someday get approval to treat specific skin diseases with their product.

Colonize it, don’t criticize it, yeah…

The concept behind reducing the use of soap, and maybe even intentionally applying bacteria to your skin, is that all these years we may have been inadvertently removing bacteria from our skin that serve a purpose. Imagine if some species of bacteria naturally exist on our skin in a balanced ecosystem that reduces odors, prevents disease, and allows wounds to heal. Now imagine what happens to that harmonious ecosystem when you scrub your skin with a soap made of harsh chemicals 1-2 times every day. Research is ongoing, and we are far from any conclusions, but if external bacterial colonies prove to be beneficial then we will realize that for decades we have been battling the bacteria that exist to help us. This definitely wouldn’t be the first time humans thought they could improve a perceived inferior natural situation only to actually make matters worse. Just as we are now learning that dietary fat is actually good for our health despite being told for decades that it will kill us and make us obese, I wouldn’t be surprised if scientists discover that we should be trying to build colonies of bacteria on our skin rather than destroy them. Obviously those in certain professions, surgeons or food handlers for example, need to be very careful with their hygiene, but there is increasing concern that antibiotic soaps are being overused by the average person, and now companies like AOBiome are showing just how far down the wrong path we may have traveled.

sappo hill soap

Sappo Hill is one of my favorites.

The vicious cycle

I don’t know about you, but even though the research is only now beginning, a lot of this seems intuitive to me. We buy all these harsh soaps that our parents and the corporations taught us to use, then we buy all these creams and products to moisturize our skin after stripping our skin of the oils that our body naturally produces. We would rather apply chemicals that were developed in a factory to moisturize our skin than rely on our own bodies, or use plant based oils. Next we buy cosmetics to cover all the damage caused by the harsh soaps and chemical intensive body products. It seems to me that cosmetics often times are just substitutions for not taking care of your body. Finally we go to the doctor to receive a prescription for a pharmaceutical skin product to help us with our skin conditions that seem so common now. Perhaps these skin conditions are partially caused by our excessive chemical use and our deficiency in beneficial bacteria? Regardless of the cause of common skin conditions, I try to avoid the faulty logic that traps people in this vicious cycle and have reduced my use of soap and body products. The only body products I’m using are the occasional use of sunscreen and deodorant as I experiment with various essential oils to find an effective substitute for deodorant.

What are you waiting for?

The company in the New York Times article expects at least a decade to maneuver through the approval process of the FDA, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait years to experiment on your skin. As I mentioned, I reduced my use of soap, but I still take warm showers and use soap when and where it is needed. If you do use soap then try to find a mild natural version like Dr Bronner’s or Sappo Hill. Experiment, see what works best for you and ask your partner to sniff you and give their honest opinion. In the Steve Jobs autobiography former coworkers often complained about his odor, but Jobs would ignore them and argue (mistakenly) that vegans don’t stink. I’m not encouraging you to offend your neighbors like Jobs did, instead try to find a balance between reducing the chemical attack on your skin and smelling pleasant for others around you.

In Ayurveda

The innovative company mentioned above is really not very innovative, they are simply reintroducing a concept that has been with us since the beginning of human history; bacteria live on our skin, and it is probably not bad for us, and maybe even good for us. I wonder if it is worth buying their product when similar results could probably be achieved by reducing the use of harsh soaps, and finding natural ways of applying bacteria to your skin. In Ayurveda plant based oils are regularly applied to the skin to prevent and treat numerous health conditions, and artificial products are avoided, as they are known to be absorbed through the skin and consumed similarly to the food you put in your mouth. Following the application of these oils I have been advised to rinse off excess oil with a warm shower, but not to use soap as this would reduce the benefits. The reality is that in this modern world most of us are really not dirty at all. How dirty do you get sitting at the desk and typing on the keyboard? If you work at a petroleum refinery, an auto repair shop, or a greasy restaurant then I can understand your need for soap, but for the rest of us the need doesn’t really exist. The theme to this website is “Traditional lifestyles for a modern world”. Often times we think the solutions to our problems need to be complicated, highly technical, and purchased from a company, yet many solutions are already available from traditional sources and can be as simple as removing products from your life rather than adding more.

 

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Make kale chips and save money (recipe)

Brassicas comp 17.indd

Who doesn’t like chips?

You’ve probably noticed the explosion of chip varieties over the past few years at the grocery store. Not long ago your only options were in the form of potatoes or corn, but we now have access to sweet potato, beet, bean, and rice chips. One of the most recent additions to the chip aisle are the kale chips. I was checking out one of the new products recently and had mixed reactions to what I was seeing. I was happy to discover the product was made using all organic ingredients, and there is no doubt that kale should be a healthy ingredient in most people’s diet. In my earlier post, Bitter is better, eating wilder foods, I shared Jo Robinson’s suggestion that everybody should definitely eat more cruciferous vegetables from the brassicaceae family. Examples of these plants include brussels sprout, broccoli, rutabaga, and kale. The part I struggled with the most while examining this new product was the price. The chips looked voluminous, but they were being sold in tiny servings of around 2 ounces for around $9. Out of curiosity I pulled out my smartphone calculator and did the math; these healthy, tasty treats sold for approximately $67 per pound! I then walked down to the produce section and saw locally grown organic kale being sold for about $2.50 per bunch. If each bunch is around 1.5 ounce after dehydration then I could buy a pound of kale chip ingredients for $27, not including all the flavorings. The price obviously drops even further if you are growing the kale in your backyard.

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Wastelandia

The price was obviously a major deterrent for me, but the packaging was also slightly disturbing. To protect these delicate little treats from being crushed into kale dust they are served in rigid plastic containers. I don’t know, as an Environmental Scientist maybe I’m the only person who sees the folly here. I notice things like that, and I understand why we have reason to be concerned about our wasteful society. Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch yet? Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that each of us eat many pounds of food each day, and plastic has become such an integral part of our industrial food system that he have now reached the point where we package mere ounces of food in large plastic containers. If we are packaging food by the ounce, and we eat pounds of food per day, and there are 7 billion of us, and our population is projected to grow to at least 9 billion… Well, you get the picture. The picture looks like a giant patch of plastic waste floating in the North Pacific Ocean.

Ignorance is bliss

Sorry if I’ve depressed you, but now is the time where I introduce some good news and empower you to make right the wrongs of the world. They weren’t lying when they said that ignorance is bliss, but I’d much rather be aware even if it can be a downer sometimes, especially since there are an abundance of solutions available. Now, who wants to learn how to make some healthy, tasty, organic, cruciferous, affordable, low waste snacks??

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Kale Chip Recipe

1 bunch of kale

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1/8 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt

black pepper grinder

Cut kale leaves into large pieces and remove the stems. Place kale in a large glass oven dish and be careful not to overlap the pieces. Drizzle one large spoon of olive oil over the kale. It would be ideal if you have some kind of refillable squeeze sprayer. Simply spray a few times until most of the kale has been lightly coated. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the kale; it is surprising how far even a little salt and oil can go, so try not to use too much. Season with a couple rotations on the pepper grinder if desired. Place the uncovered dish in a 350 degree preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. They are not finished if still soft, tough and moist, but will be overdone if they become brown/black or excessively crispy. After they are cool and dehydrated store them in a glass container in the fridge or in the pantry. I like to double or triple the recipe and fill all the shelves of my oven for maximum efficiency. Like any recipe your results will vary based on many different factors, so if the first batch isn’t perfect then you will have to adjust the temp, time, or quantity of seasoning. Of course you don’t need to be limited to salt and pepper, as there are an infinite number of spice possibilities available. In fact, many of the new kale chip companies do offer some good ideas for flavor, and seem to be offering a high quality product. I think their intentions are great, and hesitate to criticize, but the reality is that there is a better way of adding kale to your diet, and that way is much cheaper, and much less wasteful.

That’s all for now,

CIAO

 

Related articles:

Rejuvenating Green Smoothie

Minimize it, don’t criticize it

 

Want to know the #1 place in town to eat?

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Seattle, WA

Healthy, tasty, affordable, and sustainable

Eating out at a restaurant can be a real challenge for people trying to be conscious of what they are consuming. If your only criteria when choosing a place to eat are tasty and affordable then there are endless options available to you in most US cities. Cheap, fast, sugary foods are everywhere you look, but if you add healthy to the list of criteria, suddenly your options are greatly reduced. If you take it one step further and seek a place that sources local, organic and environmentally friendly ingredients as much as possible then I wish you the best of luck. Even if you do find such a place then you are likely to trade health or sustainability for affordability.

Food as Medicine

I am a big advocate of the concept of Food as Medicine, and am also very interested in the connections between food, health, agriculture, and environment. As a result, when I go out to eat it can be difficult to find meals prepared with these concepts in mind. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are fortunate to have access to chefs and restaurant owners that are aware of these concepts, and who are passionate about raising their standards above typical restaurant food. Regardless, a restaurant that includes healthy, tasty and sustainable in all their meals is more often a novelty; a place perhaps where you go on a first date, rather than a place you go for lunch three times a week. So, what should you do?

Boring, OR

Boring, OR

The #1 place in town

Now is the time when I’m supposed to introduce you to the newest smartphone app that guides you to the closest healthy, tasty and sustainable restaurant in town. Sorry, but that’s not going to happen today. The purpose of this post is to remind you that the #1 place in town is…your kitchen. I know that may not seem very profound, but at a time when some people are eating out for a majority of their meals I think this is a message that needs to be said. Have you ever seen the episode of Portlandia where the foodies ask a thousand questions about where the chicken comes from? It’s very funny, but the reason they have to ask so many questions is because they have very little control over what they are eating. Sure, you know what chicken, tortillas, and vegetables are, but you rarely know if the chicken came from a factory farm, if the tortillas are made of genetically modified corn, or if the vegetables were sprayed with pesticides.

Take the power back!

I know that eating out is inevitable for various social occasions, and when you do I encourage you to have fun and do the best you can do while ordering from the menu. However, in our busy lives we often eat out even when it is unnecessary simply for the convenience. We don’t have the energy to cook, we don’t feel like doing the dishes after, or maybe we don’t really know how to cook. If you understand the concept of Food as Medicine then you know how important it is to decide what you put in your mouth. Some people have allergies and sensitivities, others are experiencing weight gain, and many are suffering from various diseases. The only real way to control for allergens, pesticides, GMOs, sugar, gluten, dairy, price, and quality is to cook at home. We can’t blame the restaurants; they are simply trying to survive, and are using the rules of supply and demand to do so. We demand affordable, so they supply it, often at the expense of health and sustainability. Instead, I think we need to rearrange our priorities and prepare our meals more often. If you don’t know how, there are endless resources available online now, including this one.

Ciao!

 

 

Ending the war on fat: Victory!

Time_eat butter

 

Have you heard?

Time magazine recently stated a simple, yet important message on their front cover that may come as a surprise to many Americans. The message was to “Eat Butter”, and with this symbolic action the ending of the decades long war on fat began. Time magazine may not be the most progressive form of media on the market today, but it is a very familiar source of information for the average American. When a mainstream publication like Time talks about ending the war on fat I can only conclude that the glory days of non-fat foods are coming to an end. But when will that end be? The Time magazine declaration is similar to president Obama promising to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While it may have seemed like a major change to switch from a war-starting president like Bush to a war-ending president like Obama there were still years worth of steps required to officially withdraw the troops. Despite the endorsement of the president, members of congress had to support the idea, and the generals needed to be consulted as how best to carry out the plan. Similarly, in a complicated web of scientists, government agencies, medical doctors, and food corporations, it is not easy to predict how the end of the war on fat will unfold over the coming decades. One thing seems certain, withdrawing the troops will not happen overnight. The troops in this case, the American consumer, have been receiving a no-fat, low-fat message for decades, and it may take many more decades of education to reverse that message. In addition, just as the Taliban and Al Qaeda refuse to surrender, food companies are unlikely to surrender either. They will continue to supply these products until the customers no longer demand them.

We told you so

Whole food nutritionists, Paleo diet advocates, Ayurvedic practitioners, and Weston Price Foundation members around the country were once again validated, and many likely celebrated this symbolic victory over a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Actually, it is not really clear if this is an actual victory worthy of celebration; after all, we just endured decades of misinformation that likely led to the disease and death of many, many people. Regardless, don’t expect much credit to be given to the various preventive medicine supporters mentioned above, as we are accustomed to being left out of the conversation. You see, there just isn’t much money being made in the field of preventive medicine, and we all know the big players are those that make the big dollars. Pharmaceuticals, hospitals, health insurance, industrial agriculture, and food corporations all generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue. There simply isn’t a seat at the table for preventive medicine supporters whose very existence could potentially lead to the reduction of many of these business’s profits. However, be thankful for the power of information because ultimately I believe even the most powerful companies on the planet will at some time have to submit to the amazing tool that is the internet.

Eat Ghee

I’m happy to see that Time magazine, and the mainstream audience they represent, finally recognizes what Ayurveda knew thousands of years ago, that fats are an important component of our diets, and essential for good health. Hey, better late than never, right? You’re only 5000 years late, but I’m glad that you have arrived to the party! Now, I wonder how many years we will have to wait for Time to release an updated cover story that declares we should all “Eat Ghee” instead of butter. Eating butter may be a good step in the right direction, but I’m concerned about this simplistic message. Honestly I didn’t read the article because I didn’t want to pay Time $30 for a year subscription, but I suspect that they didn’t specify the difference between ghee and conventional butter. In Ayurveda, you would start with organically raised cows that grazed on green pastures rather than being fed genetically modified corn and soy grains, antibiotics, and growth hormones. Next you would culture the cream to enhance the digestive process rather than produce sweet cream as a majority of all butter producers now do. Finally, you would take the organic, grass fed, unsalted, cultured butter and process it into the health promoting form known as ghee. I know, that is probably too much to expect of a mainstream magazine, but someday that message will be delivered, and if you are reading this post then you are ahead of the herd and don’t have to wait for that day to come.

 

For some of my related posts see:

The NEW definition of comfort food (with boiled spicy milk recipe)

The “Integrity Food” Revolution

How to make Spicy Oil and take another step beyond the low fat era

Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 2, Meat

How to make ghee and move beyond the low fat era