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Archive for October, 2007

The budget.  If it weren’t for that pesky little issue, I wouldn’t be writing on this topic.  I’d just buy everything organic, and my guess is that you would too.  But since neither of us has unlimited funds, here a few tips I try to keep in mind when deciding whether it’s worth the extra $$ to buy organic:

1)  Always buys organic corn, soy, and canola, and any product containing one of these ingredients.  Corn, soy, canola, and cotton are the top four genetically modified (GM) crops, and until we know more about GM foods, you’re better off staying far, far away from them.  Very few rigorous studies have been conducted on these foods because of loopholes in the FDA approval process, and most of the evidence available suggests that they can cause reproductive problems, organ defects, infant mortality, and increased food allergies.  For more information, see the hot-off-the-press Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.  It’s a painstakingly-researched, fascinating book.  Also visit www.responsibletechnology.org.

2)  If you have to choose between buying organic produce or buying organic animal products, sink your money into the latter.  There are many times more pesticides in meats than in produce.  Conventionally-raised animals consume pesticide-laced diets themselves, which means that they are consistently building up the toxins in their flesh. 

My favorite source for organic, grass-fed beef and lamb is Paidom Meats.  Check them out if you live in or near Texas.  I’ve never found a better price, and their quality is unbeatable.  You do have to buy in bulk, so consider splitting an order with a friend to keep the up-front cost manageable (and your freezer from overflowing).

3)  According to the FDA, some kinds of fruits and vegetables retain higher concentrations of pesticides, even after washing and peeling.  Here’s a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group of the twelve most contaminated fruits and veggies (a.k.a. The Dirty Dozen):
          Peaches
          Apples
          Bell Peppers
          Celery
          Nectarines
          Strawberries
          Cherries
          Pears
          Grapes
          Spinach
          Lettuce
          Potatoes

The same organization, the EWG, also offers the least contaminated varieties:
          Onions
          Avocados
          Corn (but you should buy this organic anyway for GM reasons)
          Pineapple
          Mangoes
          Asparagus
          Peas
          Kiwis
          Bananas
          Cabbage
          Broccoli
          Eggplant
To get more information and a free, printable card listing these foods, go to www.foodnews.org.

4) Finally, buy local whenever you can.  Visit your farmers’ market.  Even if the produce isn’t organic, the food is fresher and is picked at its peak ripeness, which means the nutritional content is higher.  In addition, you can ask the growers what kind of pesticides and how much of them they use.  Even when the farmer uses chemicals, they are likely at a much lower level than commercial growers use.  If you live in the Houston metro area, I highly recommend the Bayou City Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon near the intersection of 59 and Kirby.  Check out their website for more information and directions here.

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Originally cultivated by the Incas, quinoa is a grain-like seed that’s gluten-free and high in all 8 essential amino acids (forming a complete protein).  Since I’m eschewing gluten, I’ve experimented off and on with quinoa, and the results have been great.  If you’re not familiar with this special food, here are some ways you can incorporate it into your diet.

Quinoa flakes easily replace oatmeal as a quick breakfast, although you can use them in baked goods as well.  In this case, going gluten-free doesn’t mean complications and extra time in the kitchen.  Here’s a link to the brand I’ve found at Whole Foods. 

The same company also produces quinoa pasta, which has a pleasing taste and texture.  Even my husband likes it enough to forgo regular wheat pasta.  I prefer it to rice noodles, but the corn content may be a problem for some people. 

Of course, the very best way to consume any grain, including quinoa, is in its whole form.  Consider soaking the grains overnight to make them easier to digest.  Whether you choose to soak the quinoa or not, be sure to rinse it thoroughly before cooking to remove its bitter resin.  Ways to use the whole grain?  Replace the wheat in dishes like tabbouleh or couscous.  Or you can prepare it as a pilaf to serve as a side.  Or you can make a porridge out of it for breakfast.  This recipe is delicious!  I made it a couple of days ago, replacing the sugar with stevia.  I was especially pleased by its creaminess, despite the lack of dairy.  Yum!

Finally, consider purchasing quinoa flour for baking.  Here’s a tasty cake recipe, from the book Eat Right for Your Type:

Quinoa Applesauce Cake

1 3/4 cup quinoa flour
1 cup currants or other dried fruit
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (aluminum-free)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup canola oil (organic) or, if dairy’s not a problem, 1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup Sucanat or other unrefined sugar
1 large egg
2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over currants and nuts and set aside. Blend baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cloves with remaining quinoa flour. Separately mix oil (or butter), sugar, and egg. Combine all ingredients, adding fruit and nuts at end. Spoon into oiled 8×8-inch cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until cake tester tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Hope you give quinoa a try!

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My apologies for a month-long absence!  To be honest, I wasn’t sure anyone would notice.  It seems, however, that people do read this blog from time to time, and, furthermore, based on an email I received last week, the information I post here has been helpful for at least one person.  Thus, I return to posting, though I shall make no empty promises of writing every 48 hours.  Henceforth, my goal shall be a measly one or two posts per week.  I simply had no idea how demanding school was going to be this quarter.

 Now that that’s out of the way, I turn to a topic that I have been researching most fervently of late: probiotics.  Vital to immunity, digestion, absorption, and keeping the perfidious Candida at bay, those fabulous little intestinal flora get wiped out by antibiotics, environmental toxins, and stress.  So what can you do about it?  Well, I used to think that taking probiotic capsules was my only option.  But what a world has opened up to me!  Yes, high-quality, encapsulated probiotics are, indeed, highly beneficial, but why stop there?  Those formulas contain, at best, a dozen or so strains of beneficial bacteria, yet there are hundreds more out there that our bodies need.  Besides, the high-quality ones are outrageously expensive.  Don’t get me wrong.  For short-term use, they’re invaluable, but we should all be taking in probiotics daily for the rest of our lives.  And, for most of us, taking Primal Defense every month isn’t financially feasible.  So here are three alternative (cheaper) sources:

Source #1: Kombucha
Since I’ve posted on it before, I won’t wax poetic on Kombucha’s marvelous merits here.  I do have some new information, though.  I found a highly detailed website (complete with many pictures) that gives instructions on how to make Kombucha at home.  I plan to try this, because I love this stuff.  Making it at home is very, very cheap, so I’ll get to drink much more of it.  I plan to order the culture this week or next, and I’ll be sure to update this blog with my success or failure.  You can check out the website yourself at www.kombuchatea.co.uk

Source #2: Apple Cider Vinegar
Make that raw (un-pasturized), unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV).  Besides its alkalizing, detoxifying effect on the body and its usefulness as a digestive aid, ACV delivers lots of lovely healthy bacteria to your digestive tract.  You can incorporate it into your diet in several ways.  Choose one or more of the following:

  • Try drinking a mix of 8 oz purified water, 1-2 Tbsp ACV, and, if desired, a little stevia, blackstrap molasses, or honey (choose stevia if you have Candida or blood sugar problems).  Do this once or twice per day on an empty stomach. 
  • During meals, sip 2 tsp of ACV mixed with 6 oz water.  This tastes pretty stout, so be prepared!
  • Eat salad dressing made with ACV every day.  I’ve posted some of my personal favorites here before.

Source #3: Cultured Vegetables
I know it sounds creepy, but that’s only because we’re wimpy Americans.  Millions of people around the world eat these on a daily basis (think: sauerkraut or kimchi).  Just don’t buy these foods in stores!  These foods are only beneficial as long as their bacteria are alive and well.  Pasteurization destroys them.  That means you have to make them at home.  I’m making my first batch today, and I’ll let you know how it goes.  Here are some recipes:

http://www.bodyecology.com/cveggies.php
http://bodyecology.com/07/02/01/kimchi_wonderfood_recipe.php

Check out the Body Ecology Website while you’re there.  Although their rhetoric is a little too sensational for my taste, their emphasis on cultured foods is right on target. 

That’s all for now.  Next up: more recipes.

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