Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Fitness

With the warm weather arriving early this year now is the time to put in extra effort
to work on your health and fitness. It is time to pack away the winter woolies and
break out the cute stuff. You know, the styles that leave us a little more exposed. 

'Tis the season to get into shape, regardless of your sex or age. 
Many people have a tendency to gain weight over the winter. All though the extra pounds are not a comfortable feeling, the motivation to do  something about it is not quite the same in winter as the incentive the warm weather brings. Whether you call it vanity or egocentric, most people become a little self conscious when they gain weight. Today I am giving you my simple, delicious, and non-fussy strategies for losing any excess baggage. Try one or several of my suggestions. At the very minimum you will receive some positive health benefits and start feeling better.
There are three areas of practice to which you should devote your time and energy when trying to
achieve an optimum weight: eating habits, diet and exercise. Separately, each has its
own perks. When used together these lifestyle practices are most effective and provide the
foundation for healthy weight loss.

Adopt a plant-based diet that includes whole and unrefined grains with every meal. 
Have 2 or 3 regular meals a day and do not skip a meal. 
Try to eat at earlier times, like; breakfast at 8:00, lunch before 1:00, and be finished with 
dinner by 8:00. 
Do not eat before bedtime. Give your body time to digest, which is about 3 hours. 
All these practices will help to keep your metabolism more active and help you to 
eliminate more excess.

Eat plenty of vegetables, both light cooked and longer cooked
Have quick steamed greens with fresh squeezed lemon, often or daily.
Make soft cooked daikon radish, either long steamed or boiled. Have a nice large
serving several times a week.
Make miso soup with daikon radish, dried shitake mushroom and leafy greens often.
Stay away from refined and processed foods.
Eat less baked foods, salty foods, and dry foods.

And the most important exercise for weight loss:
Fresh vegetables, a key factor in healthy weight loss!
Walking outside
Try to walk outdoors as much as possible.
 If you have the time take a walk everyday. 
Be active and engage yourself in activity that you find enjoyable and fun.

In the very near future, I will discuss exercise in more detail. I feel it is important to find what
suits you and what will give you the most benefit over time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vegetables: Sweet Like Candy

Last week we discussed the many different kinds of grain sweets. This week, let’s explore the natural sweet taste of vegetables. Many vegetables have a very sweet and satisfying taste. Root and round vegetables become very sweet when they are cooked. Squash, onions, sweet potatoes, and carrots all become sweeter when they are cooked. Eating these vegetables on a regular basis is delicious, satisfying, and will help keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Who doesn’t love that? 

"Sweet Vegetable Tea is like a cup of sunshine"

Here are some good - quality vegetable sweets:
  • Pureed sweet vegetable soup 
  • Sweet vegetable jam, such as onion butter 
  • Carrot juice, or carrot combination juice (such as carrot-leafy greens juice, or carrot-apple-leafy greens) 
  • Sautéed or long-steamed sweet vegetables (steam them until they are tender and juicy-- bliss!) 
  • Sweet vegetable tea 

The top ten vegetables that make my sweet list:
Winter Squash
Sweet Potatoes

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
This is a sweet, relaxing, and absolutely delicious soup. Garnish with some finely chopped fresh parsley, or bring the elegance factor up a notch by sautéing some herbs until they are delectably crispy.

2 1/2 cups of diced onion
1/2- 3/4 of a medium-sized head of cauliflower, cut into large florets. Cut the stem more finely.
6 - 7 cups of water
3/4 - 1 teaspoon of sea salt
Parsley, finely diced for garnish

Place diced onions in a pot with enough water to cover the onions by 1 inch.
Bring to a boil over medium flame, and add a tiny pinch of salt (1/16 of a teaspoon, to be exact!). Continue to cook the onions for several minutes or until they become translucent.
Add the cauliflower and the remaining amount of water.
Add the remaining amount of sea salt, cover partially, and bring to a boil on a medium to medium-high flame.
When water begins to boil, reduce the flame, cover completely, and simmer on medium-low for approximately 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Using a hand food mill or an immersion blender (aka the “Magic Wand”), purée all the ingredients.
Gently warm the soup before serving.
Garnish with finely chopped parsley or your favorite herb.

The consistency of this soup may be changed by adjusting the ratio of vegetables to water. If soup becomes too thick, add additional water until the desired consistency is reached.

Sweet vegetable tea quote is credited to my friend and Macro colleague, Michelle Nemer.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

In Search of Sweetness and Thank You

Before I go into my post for this week, I would like to say “thank you” to T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China Study. Last night, my husband, Denny Waxman and I were invited to attend a lecture at The University of Pennsylvania given by Dr. Campbell on the topic of dietary intervention as a treatment for degenerative illness and how diet can also be used in preventative medicine. The lecture was  informative and engaging, and even better, offered the scientific research supporting plant-based nutrition as a way to obtain and maintain good health. I respect and appreciate Dr. Campbell's work, as it is in line with our mission and our work at The Strengthening Health Institute, where we offer educational seminars to teach people how to maintain or recover their health through a plant-based diet and lifestyle changes. I feel that education and awareness are the keys to preventative medicine and that plant-based diet advocates need to work together to win the race for the cure! So, bravo, well done, and thank you to everyone who made this lecture possible.

And now, back to sweets
Last week I discussed the arrival of early Spring, and gave some quick tips for changing your diet to align with the changing season. This week I am going to focus on finding and getting good-quality sweets. Getting good-quality sweets is important all year long, but they are especially important during the changing of the season, such as in the Spring and in the Fall.

So, what are good quality sweets and how do you get them? First of all, sweet is the most balanced and the most-craved of all the tastes. I define a “good quality” sweet as one that is unprocessed and derived from a natural, organic source. Good quality sweets should be included on a daily basis, because we all need some sweetness in our lives. They can be in the form of a grain dish, a vegetable dish, a soup, a beverage, or a dessert.
Susan's Caramel Rice Pudding, a delicious dessert made from grains!

Sweetness from Grains
The least refined type of sweet is the natural sweetness that comes from properly cooked whole grains and vegetables. When chewed thoroughly, most whole grains have a mild sweet taste. The sweetness you get from grain is very subtle in comparison to sugar or even maple syrup, but try chewing your grain more thoroughly and you will see what I mean. The first step in the digestive process of whole grains takes place in the mouth. As you chew grains, they begin to release juices that mix with your saliva, which allows them to be digested and absorbed more easily. When you chew whole grains, you can actually feel a lightness in your head, almost as though your eyes are opening more wide. Sometimes it is as though a pressure has lifted. If you chew long enough and well enough, you will realize that you are experiencing a natural high (!).

Here are some examples of good quality grain sweets:
  • Well-cooked and well-chewed grain 
  • Brown rice syrup 
  • Barley Malt 
  • Amasake (a thick, fermented rice beverage) 
  • Cooked chestnuts or a puree of chestnuts (not exactly a grain but a close cousin) 
  • Desserts made from grains and grain sweeteners 

Barley Malt Kuzu
This is a fantastic grain-quality sweet drink that is perfect for springtime, thanks to its liver- and gall bladder-relaxing qualities. It can also be used as a home remedy to relieve cramps, constipation, and keep blood sugar levels stable.

1 rounded teaspoon of wild kuzu (you can find this at a health food store or Whole Foods, where the Eden Brand is readily available)
1 cup of water (either spring water or filtered water)
1-2 tablespoons of Barley Malt (again, readily available at Whole Foods or the health food store)
one wedge of fresh lemon, optional, for a nice sweet-and-sour effect
Sample Ingredients

Dissolve the kuzu in the cold water. You can use either a wooden utensil or your fingers to break up the lumps in the kuzu.
Place the liquid with the dissolved kuzu in a sauce pan, and turn on the flame.
Gently heat the mixture while stirring constantly to avoid clumping.
When the mixture begins to turn translucent, add the barley malt and mix well.
When the liquid begins to boil, lower the flame (keep on stirring!) and let simmer for another minute.
Turn off the flame, add a nice squeeze of fresh lemon, and stir well to blend the lemon. Pour into a mug and enjoy!

Stay tuned for next week when I talk about the sweetness of vegetables. Until then, be sweet!