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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An Owner’s Manual for life

Photo by Roy2k.com

Photo by Roy2k.com

 

When we were born, our bodies didn’t come with an Owner’s Manual that gave us instructions on how to operate this new vehicle, or did it? What should you eat, how much should you exercise, and when is the best time to sleep? These are all questions that some of us may be thinking about if we want to recover from poor health, or if we are striving for optimal health. However, if we are not thinking about these questions then we must have already found an answer, so where did that answer come from? If you were fortunate to be born into a family of knowledgeable parents then you probably received most of your guidance from them. Yet many people are not so fortunate, and receive guidance from their parents that steers them away from health. Besides our parents, if we are not actively asking questions on how to live then we are likely to receive guidance from our media, which seems to have displaced our culture. The media saturates our senses to a level that dilutes whatever remnants of traditional knowledge there are remaining in our society. Who are the village elders passing down their wisdom in modern America, McDonalds, Coke, Monsanto? I guarantee that if you are not actively asking questions on how best to operate your body through life then you are receiving answers from a constant stream of corporate advertisements and television shows. Don’t fret, because I’m here to tell you that there is a reliable source of knowledge available to all, but only if you are willing to open your mind.

Ayurveda = Knowledge of Living

Assuming you already know what Ayurveda is, let’s summarize by defining it as one of the oldest systems of medicine known to humans. Sure, there are plenty of books on the market today explaining how to eat, but who to believe? Butter was good then it was bad, and now it is good again, depending on whom you talk to. Perhaps you place all your trust in science, but even this powerful tool can produce some conflicting results depending on how the research is performed and who funds it. I find comfort in receiving guidance from a system of medicine that has survived the test of time, especially when it is supported by modern science.

The Daily Regimen

In Ayurveda the term Dinacarya refers to the daily regimen. I find it fascinating to know that a daily regimen exists for the sole purpose of promoting optimal health, and that the source of this knowledge was not contaminated by the influences of money. Pure knowledge that is presumably free of ego, profit, confusion, or other forms of interference. So if you are asking the question of how best to live for optimal health, and you trust Ayurveda as a reputable source of traditional knowledge, let’s begin with a very brief introduction to Dinacarya. The following list is from sunrise to sundown.

Awaken: early is best, before sunrise, usually between 3-7.

Evacuate waste: with regular digestion this should be first on your list.

Drink: warm or room temperature water, up to 750mL.

Cleanse the mouth, eyes, nose, and throat: Techniques include scraping the tongue, brushing the teeth, filling your mouth with oil, gargling, using herbal rinses for the eyes, nasya and neti pot for the nose.

Breathe: deep-breathing exercises known as Pranayama.

Therapeutic smoking: no, this is not an excuse to smoke cigarettes, rather medicinal herbs are used in small doses. Vaporizers could provide a healthier alternative.

Exercise: people may be surprised to learn that you should only perform to one half of your strength. Stop when perspiration, dryness and heavy breathing begin.

Massage: full body self-massage using plant based oils, though dry massages are sometimes appropriate.

Bathe: minimize or eliminate soap, instead soak in fragrant waters, remove oils with bean powders, and clean your hair with herbal rinses.

Yoga: remember, this is not a form of exercise; it is preparation for meditation.

Meditate: to attain mindfulness

Eat: diet is at the core of Ayurveda and can’t possibly be summarized here, but every factor related to eating is considered. Eating 2 meals per day is recommended.

Duties: finally, you can begin the duties of your day, while practicing the mindfulness attained during meditation of course. Naps should be avoided.

Sex: before bed, winter and spring are the best times.

Sleep: between 7 and 11 is best, especially if you’re waking between 3-7 in the morning…

Unlearn all you’ve learned

Well, I had to be concise as each of the above topics could easily fill an entire page, or in the case of eating, an entire book. Consider this an introduction to a subject that you can dig deeper into later if you are interested. The dinacarya appears to be very time consuming doesn’t it? To be honest, I am definitely not completing a full daily regimen every morning. However, I include as many practices into my day as possible, and some days are better than other. For example, on days when I don’t work it is possible to complete much more of the regimen. Before you dismiss the daily regimen as being impractical in this modern world, think of it as a goal you strive for, but recognize that you may never fully reach. Perhaps you can’t do a full body self massage with oil every day, but once per week is more reasonable. To my young readers, remember that you don’t have to live like everybody else. Instead of working 60 hours per week to buy a huge house and fancy car, have you considered working less and using the free time to focus on your health and happiness? We really need to examine our priorities in life. And to the busy single mothers with small children, it only takes 15 seconds to scrape your tongue!

 

“Instant quick, new improved, hurry hurry rush rush, world on the move, marijuana illegal, but cigarettes cool, I might look kind of funny, but I ain’t no fool”

-From Synthesizer, performed by Outkast

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 2, Meat

 

 

 

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

 

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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

 

 

 

The Season of Sweet

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“Set the gear shift for the high gear of your soul!!”

-From the lyrics for Run Like an Antelope performed by Phish

 

Locavore

Last week while I was browsing the produce section of my local food co-op I wondered what kind of fruit I should buy. Of course all the options that we are familiar with as Americans came to mind, and were definitely available to me. There were apples, bananas, pears, and oranges, as you would expect. Most of the apples and pears that we eat in this country come from here, Washington State, so that is usually a good option for me. However, this time of year most of the apples and pears we see are being imported from places like New Zealand since their harvest was likely a few months ago, while ours was nearly nine months ago. Instead of looking at these fruits that traveled thousands of miles to get here I focused instead on the many new fruits that are now available with the onset of summer. First we had strawberries, now we have raspberries and coming soon will be the blueberries. The Washington cherries have been amazing lately, and while local grapes, melons and plums are not what this state is known for, at least the California options didn’t require a plane ride across the ocean to reach my mouth. My observations continued as I passed the bulk section and saw the dried figs and dates that I normally buy, but needless to say, I passed on all these usual options and instead loaded my cart with some of the rare treats available now. As the sign on the cherry bin said, “get ‘em while you can”! And get ’em I did, in fact I have been gorging on fresh fruits lately like a black bear in an alpine meadow full of huckleberry.

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Short and sweet

Locavore was the 2007 Word of the Year according to the Oxford American Dictionary, so by now I’m sure we are all familiar with the concept. Evidence of this can be seen in the explosion of farmer’s markets across the country since then. Much has been said of the environmental motivations behind eating local, namely to reduce the miles your food has traveled, and to support smaller scale operations that may be more likely to follow organic methods. Of course there are also other social motivations such as knowing the person who grew your food, and supporting the local economy. From the health perspective we sometimes hear of the health benefits of eating fresh foods, which are much easier to acquire when they are grown nearby. I also wonder if there are even more subtle processes going on within the body; for example, if we eat a summer food during the winter, strawberries perhaps, then are we sending our body confusing biochemical signals? More research is probably needed on that one, and I’ll let you know if I hear anything on that subject. What I do know is that Ayurveda already considers the effects of eating seasonally on your health…

In Ayurveda

Summer is the season of pitta, so according to the Ayurveda tri-dosha philosophy there are certain foods that are better to eat during summer and others to be eaten only in moderation. Sweet is considered to be one of the tastes to balance pitta, along with bitter and astringent, and as we all know there is an abundance of sweet fruit available during the summer. How convenient! Some people may read that and mistakenly interpret this advice as encouragement to eat sugary foods like cookies and cakes, but that is not the intention. When I say that Ayurveda promotes eating sweet foods during the summer I’m talking about naturally sweet foods like plums, not processed foods with concentrated sweeteners added to them. Again, the other two tastes are bitter and astringent, so bitter foods like dark leafy greens, and astringent foods like lentils and beans are important components of a summer diet. The three tastes to eat in moderation during the summer are salty, sour and pungent.

What would Eric eat?

I’m happy to say that my kitchen is now free of all concentrated sweeteners including cane sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave, and even maple syrup. Not only are they absent from my kitchen in whole form, but you won’t even find these on the ingredient list of any products I buy, which is not too difficult since I buy mostly whole foods. The only concentrated sweetener you will find is some raw local honey, which is considered to be a medicinal food in Ayurveda. I know this may sound extreme, but with all the amazing produce available now, there really is no need to eat sugary foods. I’m not so disciplined as to avoid an occasional treat; all things in moderation, right? The point is that with all the sugars available in fruits, vegetables, restaurants, and social gatherings, why have more temptations in your kitchen? We are certainly getting more than enough even with a kitchen as sugar free as mine.

For further information on sugar see my earlier posts:

Our Paleolithic ancestors rarely ate sugar, should we do the same?

Agave *UPDATE* (Best oatmeal recipe ever, for dinner)

 

Sattvic Planet Tips

  • Shop at the farmer’s market, or food co-op
  • Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group
  • Eat local / seasonal
  • In summer eat sweet, bitter and astringent foods
  • Eat salty, sour and pungent foods in moderation
  • Remove concentrated sugars from your kitchen

 

Dietary Dissent is Patriotic

Standard American Diet

“Dissent is patriotic”, have you seen that bumper sticker before? I saw it more often during the campaign leading to the invasion of Iraq around ten years ago. Back then everybody was waving their flags, and the minority opposing the war was only to be found protesting in progressive cities like Portland, where I was at the time. Well, as we know now, public opinion swiftly shifted after trillions were spent, the casualties increased, and misinformation was revealed. A few years later and we chose a new president who promised to withdraw our troops from the battlefield if he was elected. The purpose of the bumper sticker I believe is to say that while the dissenter may appear to be unpatriotic for opposing the views of the majority, the opposite can often be true, as the dissenter is among the brave minority who sees a better path forward for the nation. And now is the moment where I connect the war in Iraq to the Standard American Diet (SAD). I dissent against the ways we grow, process and eat food in this country, and I don’t dissent because I hate freedom, I dissent because I am a patriot, and I know that there is a better way. There is a better way for our health, there is a better way for our environment, and there is a better way for our animals.

Don’t be S.A.D.

Thinking about the way we eat in this country makes me SAD. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are only a few of the common diseases people suffer from that are caused, at least in part, by our diet and lifestyle. Why do we do it? Because it tastes good; because it is most affordable; because it is most convenient; because it is our only option; because that is what all the advertisers told you to buy; because you didn’t know any better; because that is what everybody else is eating.

“Ignorance is taking over, yo we got to take the power back”

-From the lyrics for Take the Power Back, performed by Rage Against the Machine

 

Show your independence!

Even for those of us who can’t use ignorance as an excuse, we know that being different from the group can be difficult. It’s the 4th of July and while attending your friend’s party you begin to survey the table. You see hot dogs and burgers, sodas, bags of chips, and maybe some donuts, cake or ice cream. The meat is all factory farmed, the bleached white buns have no nutritional value, the chips have an ingredient list a mile long, the rest are all different variations of sugar. Nothing is homemade, local, fresh, or organic, so what to do? Sure, the 4th of July only happens once per year, but we all know these kinds of gatherings occur all throughout the year. Does anybody even know the purpose of the 4th of July anymore? I don’t think it is to launch fireworks and eat hot dogs. The purpose of this holiday is to take a stand against an oppressive system; to fight for a better way of life. Don’t be afraid to eat differently from the group, display your independence and eat with pride!

Strategies for surviving unhealthy social meals:

  • Contribute a dish for the group that will nourish you and eat only/mostly that
  • Use this as an opportunity to teach others if you are feeling extroverted
  • Tell others you are not hungry if you are feeling introverted
  • Eat before you arrive
  • Eat after you leave

Rage Against the Machine

Just as the person with the “dissent is patriotic” bumper sticker needed courage to drive down streets full of flag waving, ribbon wearing, war supporters, you too need courage to find a different way of eating. It’s not easy; there are holiday gatherings, office parties, weddings, and numerous other occasions where we eat socially. Food unites us, and nobody wants to be the person with the strange diet, but it’s their diet that is strange, not yours. It’s time to rage people! I say that jokingly, but only half jokingly because it truly is a machine that we are raging against. There are billions of dollars invested in keeping the food system exactly the way it is, not to mention the inertia from decades of learned behaviors by all the people in our lives.

“If we don’t take action now, we’ll settle for nothing later”

-From the lyrics for Settle for Nothing, performed by Rage Against the Machine

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In Ayurveda…

I often have to determine how much of the Ayurvedic philosophy to share with people when they are hearing about it for the first time. The subject can be a radically different way of viewing the world for some people depending on how they were raised, so I try to avoid overwhelming people with foreign Sanskrit words, and strange concepts. For example, with these articles I usually write 3-5 paragraphs without mentioning Ayurveda a single time, and then finally make the connection during the last paragraph. The reason for this is because there is a lifetime of information we need to unlearn before we can begin to learn a new way of living. With some people it seems that I could spend an entire year helping them unlearn the destructive diet and lifestyle of this country before I ever had to explain a single Ayurvedic concept. Occasionally people will say they’ve heard of the doshas; vata, pitta and kapha, but is it really worth explaining the tridosha philosophy to somebody that eats McDonalds every morning before work? Instead I think it is best to unlearn this idea that a daily serving of McDonalds is appropriate. Maybe the learning and unlearning need to happen in parallel, regardless, you get the picture. Americans are very SAD, but the time has come to display our Independence from the corporate food industry, and rage against the machine!

Hope you all had a great INDEPENDENCE Day!!!