Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Superfood Giveaway from Sacha Vida

At last year’s NYC Veg Fest I met Carlos, the young and energetic founder of Sacha Vida. Sacha Vida is a new company that recently started bringing some of South America’s best superfoods up North to share with us. They pride themselves on their sustainability, and the very high quality of their products.  I have been impressed with Sacha Vida since first meeting Carlos and really loved the sample of Maca they recently sent me. To help build a little holiday excitement, Sacha Vida has agreed to do a giveaway of a bag of their maca as well as a bag of their delicious chocolate covered goldenberries! I know once you try it, you’ll be as convinced as I am about its health benefits and Sacha Vida’s quality.

First tell me a bit about who you are and the founding of Sacha Vida.
Sacha Vida comes to life from my desire to share the amazing super foods that are native to Peru.   After I graduated from college I started to work for an international shipping company and traveled all over the world.  During my travels I always ended up talking about maca and other super foods from Peru and people would always ask me where they could buy such products.  Eventually I started thinking about my own company and ended up leaving my job to work on Sacha Vida full time.  It has been an amazing journey and we are excited and grateful for the great support that our products have received in the U.S. 

I love your company’s mission statement about providing healthy plant-based foods while also preserving the environment they grow in: the Amazon. Can you talk a little about why the Amazon is so vital to protect?
I’ve travelled in the Amazon many times and am always impressed by its beauty and its rich biodiversity.  The Amazon rainforest provides most of the air that we breathe and it is also the best source of natural remedies that could probably cure most of today’s illnesses.   Many people don’t know that  a lot of medications are derived from plants that grow in the Amazon.   The Amazon is also home to many native tribes that have survived for thousands of years only to be kicked out and robbed of their land by industrial agriculture and deforestation.  We need to protect the Amazon in order to ensure that our planet fights back against global warming and to ensure that we protect the natural ecosystems that our planet needs to keep going.

When did you first learn about Maca?
I learned about maca when I was in college, during one of my travels to Peru one of my friends talked to me about this natural powder that he used before he played soccer (we are talking about playing soccer at approximately 10,000 feet above sea level).  I did a little bit of research and found out that the Chasquis, which were high distance runners in charge of delivering messages on behalf of the Incas used maca during their journeys.   I tried maca powder and felt more focused and energized and have been hooked on maca ever since.

Why do you think Maca is such a vital ingredient? How can it benefit us?
Scientists have proven that maca is an adaptogenic plant, that means that it has the capacity to adapt and benefit your body where it needs it most.   For example, a woman suffering from menopause symptoms will  take maca and feel relieved and another woman who is trying to conceive will take maca to produce healthier eggs.  Likewise, an athlete training for a big event will take maca before workouts and a scientist will take maca before going to work.   Maca is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and it also supplies your body with calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids.  In addition, maca is known for its aphrodisiac powers and in Peru is known as “Peruvian Viagra.” I heard countless stories of people using maca to enrich their sex lives and to help them conceive.  I use maca for its energizing properties, nothing helps me focus and concentrate better than a spoon of maca in my morning smoothie and I have friends that swear that a maca smoothie before hitting the gym makes their workouts more intense.

What is the best way for us to incorporate Maca in our daily lives?
Best way is to add a tablespoon to your daily smoothie, juice or oatmeal in the morning.  It is best to start gradually and start with one tablespoon in the morning or before your workouts.  

There are generally two types, raw or gelatinized. What is the difference? Which, in your opinion, is better?
People familiar with maca will know that raw maca is a lot cheaper and harder to digest than gelatinized maca.   Besides the digestibility issue you can also tell the difference with the flavor, raw maca has a much stronger flavor that many people dislike or can not tolerate.   Raw maca is made by pulverizing the dry maca roots,  gelatinized maca undergoes an additional step where the natural starches of maca are removed in order to make the maca powder more digestible while concentrating its nutrients.  Some people’s digestive systems are more sensitive and have to work harder to digest starches and other compounds in raw maca, consequently they experience stomach pains or a feeling of discomfort during the digestive process and may not give maca a second chance.  Gelatinized maca powder does not cause those side effects as it goes straight to your system allowing your body to absorb all the nutrients and minerals found in maca immediately.   Sacha Vida currently carries gelatinized maca and so I am biased towards gelatinized maca which in my opinion is a better product than raw maca.  Now, on a related side note, in Peru maca is always consumed cooked and never raw, people who cultivate maca in the Peruvian highlands added it to their stews or toasted but don’t eat it raw.
I also want to highlight that we are the only company in the market that sells maca products that are Fair Choice Certified  which is a certification system based in the International Human Rights Declarations and Labor Conventions.   I support this certification process because it seeks to protect and assure the fair treatment to everyone involved within the control of the company that implements the certification system so it benefits the overall community of growers and producers.   This is the first fair-trade standard created in Latin America that takes into consideration local market and producing conditions and it also includes requirements on health, safety and environmental protection.

Do you have a relationship with the growers of your product? What are the conditions Maca is grown in?
I have a very strong and close relationship to the farmers that produce our maca products.  I visit the maca farms every time I travel to the highlands of Peru and have shared many meals and interesting conversations with our farmer partners.  They are invested in producing a high quality product and are very excited to see that their products are reaching the U.S. market. Maca is usually grown in high altitude lands, where  lots of sunshine during the day and freezing temperatures at night make it difficult for other plants to survive. Maca has adapted to this environment and thrives by absorbing all of the minerals and nutrients from the soil in order to grow and survive. 

Tell me about Sacha Inchi. There is a lot of buzz around the seed of this beautiful star shaped fruit.
I am very excited about sacha inchi finally getting the recognition it deserves.  Sacha inchi is a vine and grows in the Peruvian Amazon, it is a very sustainable crop because you can cultivate it many times a year.  The seed has one of the highest plant based concentrations of Omega 3 fatty acids along with protein and vitamins.  This seed has been consumed in the Amazon for thousands of years and the oil has been used by native women to protect their skin.  What distinguishes sacha inchi from other plant based sources of Omega 3 is that sacha inchi also has naturally occurring vitamin E which helps the oil preserve its properties without oxidizing quickly like flax seed oil for example.  In addition the oil is very light and is a great complement to salads, dips, smoothies and cold dishes.   I recommend that the oil do not be heated because the Omega 3 bonds will break with heat and the nutritional value of the oil is compromised.  Sacha inchi seeds are super healthy snacks, they are full of protein and Omega 3 and are a great additional to trail mixes or enjoyed on their own.  We are currently working on expanding our sacha  inchi line and will have new sacha inchi products available online soon.

Anything else you’d like the readers to know?
We are a family owned company competing with big companies, what makes us different is that our products are always organic and that we truly care about following fair trade practices with our partner farmers.  For example, our maca products are the only ones in the market that are Fair Choice Certified. In addition,  I pick our partner farmers carefully and usually spend weeks with them understanding their processes and learning about their motivations.  I believe that a great part of being a successful entrepreneur is associating yourself with partners who are as passionate if not more passionate than you are about producing and delivering a high quality product.    I grew up in Peru and unlike other entrepreneurs  I am vested in seeing our partner farmers grow and prosper.  Economic development of their communities along with access to education for their children are the first steps in the process.   We have exciting projects in the pipeline with these goals in mind and I hope to share them with you soon.

Besides online, where can we find your stuff? Also what is the best way to connect with you (Instagram, twitter, facebook?)

You can find our products in New York at the Live Live Organic store in the East Village, you can also find us in California at the Rainbow Grocery Coop in San Francisco and in Massachusetts at Cambridge Naturals.  We are always looking to add more stores and if you want to see our products sold in your local store I encourage you to speak to the food buyer at the store  and ask them to add our products to their store inventory. You can always connect with us through our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts, we love to hear from you!

Thanks for doing the interview Carlos! Now for the exciting part. We are doing a giveaway (call it a little holiday gift!) of a bag of Organic maca and chocolate covered goldenberries!

Here are the rules. First, the winner needs to live in the United States (sorry international readers, no disrespect). The contest will end on December 30th at midnight. To enter, you must be a subscribed reader to BYOL. To increase your chances of winning leave a comment on this post or/and "like" "Sacha Vida" on facebook. You will also gain a point if you "like" Bring Your Own Lentils facebook page. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cristina's Story

Last year I shared a post from my good friend, Kat and how changing her diet has literally changed her world. I’m happy to report that both her and her husband have continued to thrive on a plant based, whole-food, vegan diet. Today I have another shining example of someone very close to me who has transitioned to a plant based diet and has taken charge of her life, her family's health, and accomplished goals she never dreamed of! I’m happy to share my cousin's, Cristina’s story.

I always thought of myself as a pretty active person. Growing up my parents had enrolled me in ice skating, ballet, and jazz. I spent most of my life in Europe where I also started skiing at the age of 4. Even though I lived in Europe I grew up eating and loving standard American food - processed foods and lots of meat and dairy. Years went by and I met my husband, who was once a ski instructor in his hometown before joining the Army. The two of us bonded on some of the highest peaks of Europe. In addition to skiing, I ran, but never more than a 5K.

I eventually married my ski instructor/soldier, moved to Germany, and had a beautiful baby boy.  We promised each other that we would continue being an active family. I hiked a couple smaller mountains (with baby in tow), ran a race in Prague pushing a BOB stroller but even still, for the first time in my life, I was struggling with my weight. While I’ve always been thin, my post-baby weight was the same as my pregnancy weight, and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. 

We moved to Fort Benning, GA in 2012. Like your typical Army spouse, I had to start my life from scratch. In an attempt to meet some new friends, I joined the Columbus Stroller Strong Moms and that’s when I noticed how out of shape I really was. I was so intimidated by these women who were running past me with their double strollers, not even breaking a sweat. I often felt discouraged because these ladies seemed to be in such better shape than I was. I could see every single muscle in their bodies. That said I became good friends with many of them and in addition to encouraging me to keep working out and pushing myself, these Mommas taught me to never give up.

In November 2012 I completed my first half marathon, in exactly 2 hours. I could not believe I completed this, but instead of being happy and proud, I saw pictures of myself and could not believe how “big” I looked. I wondered, “how was it that I was working out almost every day and not losing any weight? Why were my knees and overall body always in pain?” I was always active as a younger child and adult; I simply couldn’t understand why I felt as if I was continuously struggling. Initially I thought that I was simply comparing myself to some unrealistic and unattainable goal.

Big Dog Heat Wave Five Miler 2012

My husband deployed yet again, to fill the time I found myself spending an increasing amount of time exercising. I could not get over the fact that I still looked bigger than ever despite the amount of exercise I was doing. I decided to seek medical advice and was referred to a dietician. My blood results showed that I had genetically high cholesterol – 210! My thought was, “I am too young for pills!” I always thought I was eating a healthy diet, but after several long talks and email exchanges with my cousin I quickly realized that I was buying into a lot of hype and marketing. Knowing that my cousin and my aunt were both thriving on a plant-based diet, I began to research and then transition to a cleaner, plant-based diet, with the support of my doctor and dietician. Within the first month I noticed inches come off my midsection, which was the area I struggled with most. My physical performance dramatically increased, and my body felt stronger. Within 6 months I had lost a total of 13lbs. I had muscles where they had never been before. More important than losing a couple of pounds, I felt better - stronger, awake, and energized. Despite having “genetically high cholesterol” my cholesterol dropped to 158!

My race times throughout the year have dramatically improved and in November 2013 I ran my first full marathon in 4:04. I felt a little sore the next day, but nothing more than typical long run soreness. I felt amazing pre, during, and post marathon. I finished the marathon hungry for more.

Some dude getting “chicked” by my cousin.

Changing my diet and my eating habits has been the best thing in my life. I now realize how unhealthy the “healthy” version of the Standard American Diet is. I realized how unhealthy the food itself can be and how it plays a dramatic role in our entire life. I became vegan for dietary reasons, not for ethical ones. Despite this, I DO feel a sense of responsibility when I see how animals are treated and how they are mass produced for human consumption. It definitely puts things in a different perspective. In addition, becoming vegan has proved to be more than just a personal lifestyle change, I feel like I am contributing to our Earth – making it a better place. 

I tell everyone who will listen about my lifestyle change and how well it worked for me. I did not become vegan because of Hollywood trends, nor because I “never really liked meat anyway.” Trust me, I loved steaks and the occasional Big Mac.  I became vegan because I want to LIVE! I want to be an active and healthy person for the rest of my life. I owe it to my husband and my child who are also embarking on their own healthier plant-based journeys. As a family we are more vibrant than ever -  and we were able to do this in the Deep South proving that were there is a will, there is a way!

Always listen to your body, seek professional advice, and experiment!  You will be amazed how being a vegan goes above and beyond eating just kale and various salads. You create meals that the average person had never even heard of and you will LOVE it! Your body will thank you and so will the planet.    

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Curried Miso Butternut Squash Soup

It has been a beautiful fall and as such I’ve been inspired to cook with tons of root and other traditional fall veggies. From cranberries to cabbage, I’ve been enjoying them all, and over the weekend I made a soup that knocked my socks off! Literally! 

There are few things that say autumn better than butternut squash soup. While traditionally these soups are completely pureed, I’m not a big fan of fully pureed soups - if I want a smoothie, I’ll make one. This soup however starts out as a traditional butternut squash soup but then gets transformed into something completely new and unique and the taste is out of this word! I look forward to sharing this great recipe with my family this holiday season!

Curried Miso Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 2-4

2-3lbs peeled and cubed Butternut squash – separate into two equal sized piles
3 potatoes – cubed (I prebaked these for 15 minutes on 350 while preparing the other ingredients)
1 cup red lentils – washed
½ cup brown or wild rice
1 red onion – chopped
3 carrots – cut into large cubed pieces
3 stalks celery – chopped
1/3 cup purple cabbaged – chopped
2 cups kale – chopped
1 tbsp sweet miso paste
1 tbsp curry powder
2 cloves garlic
1 small chunk ginger
8 cups veggie broth

In a blender or food processor, add 5 cups of the veggie broth, half of the butternut squash, the miso, curry, garlic, and ginger. Blend until smooth.

Now pour the butternut squash-broth into a large soup pan. Add the red lentils, potato, the remaining cubed squash, and rice and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil lower heat to a medium flame and stir frequently. As the soup cooks, it will begin thicken. Slowly add the remaining broth and stir it into the soup to keep it from becoming too thick. After 15 minutes or so, the harder root vegetables will start to soften and the lentils will plump up. As this happens add the chopped onion and carrots to the mix and continue cooking. At this point you can lower the heat even more to a low simmer and cover, but still stirring every few minutes. After another 10 minutes or so, the root vegetables should be soft but not over cooked. Add the celery and the purple cabbage and cook for another 5 minutes or until the celery becomes translucent.

Serve your soup hot on top of your favorite greens. I used kale.    

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Preserving Immune Function

We all know that exercise has benefits. One of the many benefits is improved immunity and decreased illness rates. This is hardly breaking medical news but even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference! One study found that just 6 minutes of kids running around was enough to boost their white blood cells circulating around their blood stream by more than a third and another study found that athletes tend to need 15-50% fewer sick days!

Regular exercise has great advantages for the elderly as well. Sedentary women in their 70s have as high as a 50% chance of contracting an upper respiratory illness every year. However that risk gets knocked down to just 20% when they do just 30 minutes of walking a day and when they did even more exercise their risk lowered even more!

However, sometimes we can also over-exercise, and when we do this we temporarily weaken our immunity system. Over-trained athletes put so much excess stress on their bodies that they lower their immunity and increase their risk of infection. Recently I experienced this when I had to endure 24-hour cold-like symptoms a few days after a strenuous five-hour bike ride (to be fair, this was also an unusually busy week which caused me to get less sleep than usual). This was the first time I’ve been sick in several years and while it didn’t last too long, I feel almost certain it was, in part, a result of over-exerting myself during the ride and then failing to recover properly.  

However a new study shows that we can better maintain our levels of circulating white blood cells after exhaustive exercise by consuming a specific type of fiber found in baker’s yeast and nutritional yeast.

Basically the study had active people cycle for two hours in a humid room at a hard effort and then tested their blood both pre and post ride to check their immunosuppression levels. Those who were given a supplement of baker’s yeast were found to have high levels of white blood cells even after the strenuous exercise, while the control group had significantly lower levels, leaving the researchers to suggest that yeast had the potential to alter immunity.

When this was then tested on a group of marathon runners, those who were given a daily spoonful of nutritional yeast were half as likely as those on a placebo to get an upper respiratory illness.

Both baker’s yeast and nutritional yeast were found to have these protective properties; however, nutritional yeast is both full of nutrients, as its name implies, and can be consumed without any processing making it more ideal than the bitter-tasting nutritionally-void baker’s yeast.

While this is not yet conclusive, it is highly suggestive, and since my Green Mac ‘N Cheese recipe linked above is so delicious and easy to make, nutritional yeast is pretty easy to incorporate into your life. 

Even if you’re not doing strenuous exercise on a regular bases, if these studies are correct, using nutritional yeast could potentially also help to boost our immunity from other forms of stress found in our daily lives. With flu season approaching, adding some of this delicious and relatively cheap yeast is probably worth the tiny bit of effort it takes.

K. C. Carpenter, W. L. Breslin, T. Davidson, A. Adams, B. K. McFarlin. Baker's yeast β-glucan supplementation increases monocytes and cytokines post-exercise: Implications for infection risk? Br J Nutr. 2012 10:1-9 

C. D. Schwindt, F. Zaldivar, L. Wilson, S.-Y. Leu, J. Wang-Rodriguez, P. J. Mills, D. M. Cooper. Do circulating leucocytes and lymphocyte subtypes increase in response to brief exercise in children with and without asthma? Br J Sports Med 2007 41(1):34 - 40. 

M. Gleeson. Can nutrition limit exercise-induced immunodepression? Nutr Rev. 2006 64(3):119-131.   

A version of this article was recently highlighted in the Athlete Recovery Center's weekly Newsletter

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Not being Perfect in an Imperfect World

I’ve recently met two rather incredible, smart, and very insightful new friends that have really helped me think through something I’ve been struggling with for quite some time; namely, the drive for perfection in an otherwise imperfect world. While a lot has been written about perfectionists or Type-A personalities, I’ve seen very little written about it in regards to nutrition.

I’ve always been pretty demanding and typically hold myself to pretty high standards. Unfortunately, this blog is often reflective of that. My one friend semi-jokingly calls me “the robot” as a way of pointing out my rigidness, and while having tea with my friend Gena, I came to realize that I’ve become entrenched in the “diet wars” and have become so dogmatic in regards to nutrition that I sometimes am unable to remember why I began writing this blog in the first place.

The reason why I write this blog is not to bicker about how many nuts should be consumed in a sitting or any of the other semantics that nutrition bloggers often get bogged down with. Instead I write this blog because I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and want to share that research-based knowledge in an attempt to help people find their own paths to healing and long-term health. Long time readers have been able to watch many of my thoughts about nutrition evolve over that time - particularly when it comes to oil. However, the one thing that consistently bothers me is that my posts are often written from the perspective that the world is black or white, with nothing in between  when nothing could be further from the truth in regards to nutrition.

Before I continue, I need to be completely clear. I am an ethical vegan (which is why I have never backed away from using the term) regardless of nutrition, I do not support or condone any use or exploitation of any animals in any situation.

That said, nutrition is often very complex and works in highly sophisticated ways, many of which researchers are just now starting to chart. The world is even more complex and our daily lives are nothing if not the same.

To assume that the path that worked for me will work for everyone is a foolish errand. To be dogmatic about it will accomplish nothing. Furthermore sometimes optimal health and our lives stand simply at odds with one another… and that is okay.

It’s okay to skip out on the ideal 8-10 hours of sleep once in a while to spend time with friends and family, enjoying a sweet treat on occasion has, to my knowledge, never killed anyone, and if you prefer iceberg over kale or collards you won’t be the less healthy for it. Basically what I’m trying to say is, if eating less-than-optimal means less stress, then maybe that’s the right thing to do. As my friend Maria has taught me, what’s the point of living to be 100 if you’ve missed out on some of the best parts of life?

Now I’m not saying that cookies and cakes are the best parts of life – in fact, far from it, and personally I probably won’t change my own rather rigid habits – but if you’re moderately healthy, and are trying to move towards a healthier version of yourself, it’s okay to not always be perfect. Being hard on yourself or feeling guilty about what you’ve been eating is almost never a healthy or even productive habit. 

Instead, enjoy the moment. Food, like life should be enjoyed and is always better when in good company. If you feel like you want to eat healthier then focus on learning from the mistakes rather than punishing yourself for them. Focus your energy away from being negative; instead be positive and spend your energy on making sustainable changes. If eating optimally means you feel completely deprived and depressed, than you’re hardly developing healthy or sustainable habits. Being healthy is to enjoy life, and sometimes that means doing something inherently unhealthy.  As the book of Ecclesiastes Dave Matthews says, “Eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow we die.” 

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Powerful antioxidant, Cinnamon

Just a short post about a spice that is probably sitting in all of your cabinets right now. Cinnamon is a culinary spice that is derived from the fragrant inner bark of a group of small evergreen trees called Cinnamomums. It is the second most popular spice used in the United States, right behind black pepper.

There are two major types of cinnamon found in the US. They are Ceylon cinnamon and Cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is typically from Sri Lanka, and is also referred to as "true cinnamon.” While Ceylon is the predominate source of cinnamon sold in the UK, it is not the predominant spice typically sold as cinnamon in the United States. More common is Cassia cinnamon, which is typically from Burma but also grown in China and Vietnam and is sometimes called Chinese cinnamon. Cassia is darker in color and often has a stronger more pungent taste.

According to a major study done measuring antioxidants of various foods, cloves were found to be the most potent supply, by weight, but cinnamon wasn’t far behind. As such, cinnamon is an excellent food to be included into your normal diet. Evidence suggests that cinnamon has “anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular, cholesterol-lowering, and immunomdulatory effects.” 

That said, the distinction between Ceylon and Cassia makes a bigger difference than one would imagine. Cassia cinnamon is the main source of coumarin found in most people’s diet. Courmarin is a naturally occurring toxin which has the potential to damage the liver when taken in high doses.

Recent studies have revealed that regularly consuming Cassia cinnamon powder could be problematic, resulting in potentially harmful levels of coumarin intake. For example, Dr. Joel Furhrman, reports that one study estimated that small children eating oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon a few times a week would exceed the established safe upper limit of exposure.

Cinnamon also is high in oxalates. Oxalates have been linked to cause oxalate kidney stones which sounds rather uncomfortable to me. However, less than 10% of the oxalates found in cinnamon are absorbed, so even taking large doses of cinnamon on a daily basis shouldn’t be a problem in this regard.

Since Ceylon cinnamon has been tested as having near-zero levels of courmarin, it’s worth the time and money for American consumers to find a good source of Ceylon cinnamon. FRONTIER Natural Products Co-Op is my preferred choice as I can get it easily from Whole Foods or any other natural/organic grocer. Because of it's many health benefits, Ceylon Cinnamon is an excellent, easy and delicious way to boost one's antioxidant intake.  

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

More Reading:
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods—2007. November 2007. 

M. Tang, D.E. Larson-Meyer, & M. Liebman. Effect of cinnamon and turmeric on urinary oxalate excretion, plasma lipids, and plasma glucose in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr, 87(5):1262-1267, 2008. 

Gruenwald J, Freder J, Armbruester N. Cinnamon and health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Oct;50(9):822-34.

Fuhrman, Joel. “Choosing the Right Cinnamon,” http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/choosing_the_right_cinnamon.aspx

Friday, October 4, 2013

African Sweet Potato Stew

Even though it is 80 degrees in New York, it’s officially fall. While I’m in no rush for the winter weather to arrive, I am excited that root veggies are officially back on the menu! This dish has it all: nutrient dense, easy to make (one pan only), a great taste, and it’s incredibly filling. Making it perfect for any fall evening -even warm ones!

Between the brown rice, the beans, and the sweet potato this dish is heavily starched-based. But don’t worry, contrary to what the Aitken’s type diets claim, neither starches nor carbohydrates make you fat. This is due to the way our bodies process carbohydrates. While many argue that starches are converted into simple sugars and then stored as fat by the body; that is not how it actually works.

First it is important to note, that unlike fats which has 9 calories per gram, carbohydrates contain only 4 calories per gram. This means you will feel physically full with less calories. Basically this means starches have a low calorie density but a high satiety value per calorie.

After eating complex carbohydrates like potatoes or beans, our bodies break these carbs down into simple sugars. These sugars are absorbed into the blood stream, where they are transported to our cells and used for energy. When you consume more carbohydrate than your body needs to furnish it with energy, the body stores around 2 lbs of it, in the form of glycogen, invisibly in the muscles and liver as a reserve.  Any remaining carbohydrates are typically burned off as body heat rather than stored as fat. This is because humans are very inefficient at turning sugars into fat, a process known as de novo lipogenesis. Even simple sugars are rarely turned into fat. For example, a study found that both trim and obese women fed 50 percent more calories than they usually ate in a day, along with an extra 3 ½ ounces of refined sugar, produced  less than 4 grams of fat daily. That means it would take nearly 4 months of this overeating for a person to gain 1 pound of fat. In comparison, the average passenger on a cruise ship, dinning on high fat and protein animal foods, gain an average of 8 lbs on a 7-day trip.

Fun facts about Sweet Potatoes:
  •  Sweet potato and potatoes are two of the only foods that can fulfill all of our nutrient needs meaning they have all the protein, fats, and carbohydrates our bodies need to thrive (with the exception of some micronutrients).
  • George Washington grew sweet potatoes on his farm at Mount Vernon.
  •  George Washington Carver developed over 118 products from sweet potatoes including a glue and starch for laundry.
  • They are loaded with vitamins A, C and E as well as other antioxidants that can help prevent heart disease and cancer, bolster the immune system, and even slow aging by promoting good vision and healthy skin.  They have been recently reclassified as an "antidiabetic" food and they are anti-inflammatory.

African Sweet Potato Stew:
Serves 3-4

4-5 medium sized sweet potatoes
2 carrots diced
1½  cups brown rice
1½  cups of corn
1 red onion-chopped
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can pinto beans
1 large can chopped tomatoes
½ cup almond, peanut, or sunflower butter (I used almond)
¾ bunch of collard greens, de-stemmed and chopped
4 cups veggie broth
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander

In a large pot, sauté the chopped red onion in 2 tablespoons of water until the onions are translucent.

Add the sweet potatoes, veggie broth and spices and cover for 10 minutes to get the veggie broth hot. As the broth begins to boil, add the remaining ingredients with the exception of the almond/peanut/sunflower butter, the corn, and the collard greens.

Cook for 15 minutes at a simmer. As the sweet potatoes start to soften, add the remaining ingredients and cook for an additional 10 minutes until the greens are soft.

Further reading:
McDevitt, R.M. et all., “De novo lipogenesis during controlled over-feeding with sucrose or glucose in lean and obese women.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001.

McDougall, John A. and Mary McDougall, The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Loce, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good. New York: Rodal, 2012.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Green Mac 'N "Cheese"

As a way of building a little excitement for the final week of the “Keep it Simple” giveaway, here is just one of the delicious recipes from the book!

This simple meal takes less than 20 minutes to throw together and I promise after you taste this nutritious dish, it’ll become one of your regulars. Don’t believe me? Even my persnickety sister, who is something of a connoisseur of mac and cheese loved the dish… Just more evidence that home-style comfort food doesn’t have to destroy your health!

To create that cheese-y goodness, this dish calls on an old school vegan staple, nutritional yeast. While many promote the yeast for being a good source of B-12, most studies show that it is not an active source, and hence should not be depended on for this essential vitamin. However, the yeast is still worlds healthier than any of the heavily processed faux-cheeses that have recently saturated the market. For some, this may be a new ingredient but it is relatively inexpensive and available at most health food stores and many local grocers as well. Make sure what you get is actually nutritional yeast and not brewers yeast, and if possible look for a non-fortified version, as fortified vitamins and minerals are really just isolates added to foods.

Makes 2-3 servings

1 box of quinoa, rice, or whole-wheat pasta (elbows are traditionally used)
1 cup raw cashews
1 small-medium red onion
¼ cup Nutritional Yeast
2-3 cups spinach
1 tsp onion powder
water or veggie broth as needed

Cook the pasta or grain of your choice according to the package.

While the pasta is cooking, add the cashews into a blender or food processor.

Process until the cashews are like a flour. Then add 1 cup water, nutritional yeast, and onion powder and blend again until creamy.

Now roughly chop the onion and place on a skillet with just a little bit of water to sauté the onions.

Once the onions start to caramelize, add the spinach and cook for another minute or until the spinach is wilted and begins to cook down.

Add the onion and spinach to the blended mixture and blend/process again until bright green and creamy. Add more water if the sauce becomes too thick.

Once the pasta is al dente, pour the Green “Cheese” over the hot noodles and serve.

This is just one of the great recipes. Trust me, you don't want to miss out on this book, so make sure you go sign up for the giveaway!

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.