Monday, May 20, 2013

Healthy Breasts

In response to the recent news of Angelina Jolie undergoing a double mastectomy as a “preventative measure” for breast cancer, I would like to offer an alternative solution to a problem and fear faced by many women. The thought of getting breast cancer or any other cancer for that matter can be
devastating for women and their families. However, there is a solution that allows us to feel empowered, pro-active, and fearless. 

The key point I would like to make is that our diet and lifestyle is the best preventative medicine. Hippocrates, the founder of Western medicine, said “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food". I believe this quote to be true, as people who are not as excessive with their intake of food tend to live healthier lives. The scientific proof of this is well-documented in T. Colin Campbell‘s book The China Study. It is undeniable that our diet and lifestyle have a direct impact on our health.

In my field of Diet and Lifestyle Counseling, I use a means of Oriental Diagnosis, which uses physiognomy and acupuncture meridians as a way to assess a person’s overall condition. While this type of diagnosis does not use fancy equipment, it is quite accurate. A skilled practitioner is able to detect a potential problem long before it is detected by medical testing. Thanks to this type of diagnosis, my clients are able to make dietary and lifestyle adjustments to cleanse their bodies, strengthen their blood and immune system, and restore their condition back to balance. Many of our clients have had complete success in recovering their health naturally, while others choose to combine medical treatment with a dietary approach to healing. Macrobiotics is not opposed to Western medical treatment when needed. It is my experience that that the two approaches to health can be complimentary. My clients who have had medical treatment heal and recover more quickly when they eat well.

In Oriental medicine there is an up-down correlation between different organs in the body. Each organ system is seen in pairs. For example, the lungs are paired with the large intestines. The breasts, while not exactly part of the lungs happen to rest on top of the lung area so there is also a correlation, which simply means that the key to healthy breasts is having a healthy digestive system. When we eat excessive foods, such as meat and dairy, combine it with sugar and other refined sweets it is just a disaster waiting to happen. If a problem does not develop in the breasts, sooner or later, a problem is likely to manifest in another part of the body. This being said, having a mastectomy is not the cure to prevent cancer, rather it is a set up for a problem to develop elsewhere. I would like to send a message to all women and say, let’s take care of our breasts and our entire body by eating a plant-based diet, or at the very least, by eating more grains and vegetables.

For healthy breasts (and a healthy body) here are my top “Power Breast” foods:

1.Whole grains, especially brown rice, millet and barley.
   *Grains strengthen the digestive system and are low in fat. 
2. Have a bowl of homemade miso soup 5 to 7 times a week.
   *Miso soup is very easy to make, it takes about 10 minutes to
     make and is very strengthening to the digestive system.
     Miso soup helps to build good intestinal flora and cleans the intestinal villi.        
     A small bowl a day helps keep the doctor away!
3. Eat one serving of quick steamed leafy green vegetables 5 to 7 times a week.
    *Quick steamed greens are rich in minerals and fiber which helps the overall functioning of the
     digestive system by keeping it clean and active to do its job eliminating excess.
     Just remember, do not overcook your greens, they need to be crunchy!

Below is a recipe for millet cooked with sweet vegetables.
This is a miso soup recipe from a previous post.

Millet with Sweet Vegetables
Millet is a whole grain with overall “settling” qualities. Energetically it is very helpful for breast problems because it helps to draw excess from the upper body and allows it to discharge naturally through the digestive system. As an added bonus, it is also very balancing for the central organs and especially helpful in stabilizing blood sugar.
1/3-cup of diced onion
1/3-cup of diced cabbage
1/3-cup of diced carrots
1 cup millet; washed several times to remove any debris
3 1/4 to 4 cups of water -When serving millet as a breakfast porridge use 5 cups of water
A small pinch o sea salt - about 1/16 of a teaspoon

* Place onions on the bottom of the pot with just enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Add a tiny   
   pinch of sea salt (literally a few grains) and cook 5 minutes or until the water begins to evaporate.
* Layer cabbage, then carrot and millet on top of the onions.
* Add water and another tiny pinch of sea salt.
* Cover and bring to a boil on a medium flame.
* Place a flame deflector underneath the pot and simmer on low for 40 minutes.
* Remove grain from the pot, place in serving dish and cover with a sushi mat.
* The texture and consistency should be slightly moist and fluffy.

Here are some of my favorite Millet and sweet vegetable combinations:
Onion and cauliflower
Onion, leeks, parsnips
Onion, sweet potato
Onion, cabbage, parsnip

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Farmers' Market; buy fresh, local and seasonal!

For me, one of the best parts of spring is the start of the farmers’ markets. Here in Philadelphia, they are becoming more popular every year. I think this is wonderful, because the ubiquity of farmers’ markets indicates a social awareness of the benefits of fresh, locally-grown food. For me, going to the farmers’ market is foreplay for my creativity! I feel so alive surrounded by an assortment of healthy, organic, fresh, locally-grown vegetables and fruits. Their colors are brilliant. You find unique varieties that you have never seen before. These vegetables have vitality. They whet my appetite. They appeal to my sense of beauty and inspire me to get creative in the kitchen. George Ohsawa, the founder of modern day macrobiotics, said that we are to marvel at nature. Beautifully grown vegetables are a physical manifestation of nature’s energy. We can share an intimate part of this energy when we eat fresh vegetables.

Denny and I recommend having vegetables with every meal. Doing your shopping at the farmers’ market makes eating lots of vegetables easy, because there is such an abundant variety of produce to choose from. The farmers’ market also facilitates menu planning, because, unlike the grocery store, everything at the farmers’ market is local and in season. Even better, freshly-picked vegetables stay fresh longer. From an economical standpoint, shopping at the farmers’ market will also save you a considerable amount of money on your weekly grocery bill. To sum it up, you can’t go wrong with a weekly visit to your local farmers’ market! To sample one of my inspired creations, try my recipe for Arugula and Wild Mushroom Salad, yum!

Arugula and Wild Mushroom Salad
This was so delicious I just had to take a picture!

Fresh Arugula - rinse well to remove any debris
Wild mushrooms - I used Beech and Maitake
Half moon slices of red onion
Tofu Cheese - seasoned to taste with umeboshi vinegar (See earlier posts for a description of this ingredient).
Organic Extra virgin Olive oil
Sea Salt (Just a pinch, about 1/16 of a teaspoon)
Shoyu - 1/4 teaspoon
Mirin - 3 to 4 drops

Place the washed arugula in a bowl.
Add the tofu cheese on top of the arugula.

To Prepare the mushrooms:
Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan.
Add the red onion and begin to sauté.
Add a little water, a pinch of sea salt and 2 to 3 drops of umeboshi vinegar.
Add the Beech mushrooms, cover the pot and simmer for 1 minute.
Add the Maitake mushrooms and lightly season with shoyu and mirin.
Continue to sauté for another minute to cook the mushrooms and blend the seasonings together.
Pour the warm mushrooms and onions over the arugula and lightly toss.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Suffering from Allergies?

Spring is in full bloom. Pussy willows, cherry blossoms, forsythia and magnolia trees offer a vibrant collage of color. Spring is just bursting with beauty and after the cold, damp rains that precede the flowers, I am finding that I want to spend as much time as possible outside.

However, if you suffer from allergies it can put a real damper on your outdoor activities. 
What can you do to ease your seasonal  suffering? 

There are several changes you can make to your diet to alleviate allergy symptoms.
Try eliminating foods that cause stagnation and mucus build-up in your body.
Animal and dairy foods are at the top of this list, as is refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.
If you consume these foods on a regular basis, try leaving them out of your diet for a few
days and see how you feel. I bet that you will notice a reduction in your allergy symptoms. 

For those of you who already eat a plant-based diet, there are many other dietary adjustments that 
you can make to reduce allergy symptoms. Foods that are dry, hard, baked, flaky or salty will exacerbate your allergies. Reducing your intake of fruit and fruit juices will help to curtail the itchy, watery eye symptoms. Tropical fruits are much more acidic and should be avoided completely due to their acidic nature. Sweeteners such as agave, honey, high fructose corn syrup or the more cleverly disguised “corn sugar” are highly acidifying and contribute to many allergies. Plant-based “dairy-like” substitutes should be avoided due to the thick, creamy consistency which contributes to mucus build up and is stagnating to the lymph system. Consuming cold foods and beverages can harden mucus causing more stagnation and making the excess more difficult to eliminate. In addition many of the above foods will make your condition acidic, which weakens your blood and immune system.

The key to feeling better is to eat more grains and vegetables. In addition, including foods such as miso soup and good quality pickles will improve your digestion, strengthen and alkalize your blood quality and make your body more resistant to allergic reactions.

For those of you who are not familiar with the above foods, the easiest pickle to incorporate into your diet is sauerkraut. Many health food stores sell natural, unpasteurized sauerkraut, often made with sea salt. Miso soup has long been used in Japan and has numerous health benefits..

Recipe for basic miso soup
Wakame or alaria sea vegetable - Use about 1 inch per cup of water.
One to two thin slices of root and/or round vegetables per cup of liquid used.
Leafy greens
Aged barley or Brown rice miso - Use 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of miso per cup of liquid
Finely chopped scallions for garnish

Soak the sea veggies in water until it is soft enough to cut into even pieces.
Discard the soaking water.
Measure the desired amount of water and pour it into a stainless steel pot.
Add the sea vegetables, turn on the flame and bring the water to a boil.
Add the root, and/or round vegetables and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, measure the miso and place it in a small bowl.
Take a little of the stock and dilute the miso, then use a wooden utensil to dissolve the miso.
Add the leafy greens to the soup.
Add the diluted miso to the boiling water. Note: the water needs to be boiling when you add the miso. The boiling water activates the miso. After you add the miso the water will stop boiling. Immediately lower the flame and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Garnish with finely chopped scallion before serving,

Note: You want to use Naturally fermented miso from a reputable source, either a good quality Natural Food store or from a Natural food Mail order company. Good quality sea vegetables may also be purchased in the health food store.

Types of miso recommended:
Aged Barley miso or “Mugi” miso
Brown rice or Sweet tasting Brown rice miso
White Miso
Or Try a combination of aged barley together with younger white miso.

                            Make your health strong and enjoy the full beauty of the season!
Photo taken by Chef Ralph