Food Files: Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash

Forget about the potatoes for a minute.  How about a delicious baked acorn squash?  This hardy winter vegetable is somewhat forgotten on most American tables.  Light, buttery texture that smells slightly of maple syrup.  This is a great addition to meals especially in the fall and winter.  It may be a little heavy during the spring and summer.  We just eat too many damn potatoes in this country!  Where is the variety?  Nature has provided many good root crops for us to choose from.  I have been cycling them lately having finished up a good pile of local parsnips lately.

How do we prep this beauty?  We cut ours in half, baked at 350 for about 40 minutes.  After about 20 minutes we quartered it.  After it’s finished, consider scooping out the seeds and peeling as you would an avocado.  The skin should come off pretty easily if it’s done.  This has great amounts of vitamin A among others in smaller amounts.

So put that sack of potatoes away for a week or two and start eating those winter squashes.

 

Advertisements

Transitions In Health

Transition

When evolving on a healthy program it is important not to get ahead of yourself.  If you have a major illness or “disease” condition, you may be forced to jump on the wagon pretty quickly.  I’m talking about the average person.  The guy who wants to drop a few pounds.  The girl who wants more energy to enjoy life again.  Everyday Americans.  A good, health based lifestyle is the end goal but how do we get there?  Is it possible that we are BEING unhealthy trying to get healthy?

It is not very safe for your mind or your body to just cold-turkey everything.  It took quite a while to get unhealthy.  I know it is tempting to stress out and go overboard trying to “Achieve” your goal of health.  I believe however, in finding what I call “The Sweet Spot.”  What is the sweet spot?

You need to find that line between truly accepting where you are with your health while still wanting to move forward.  We can’t make much progress without accepting where we are currently.  This is the problem with our economic system right now as well but that is another story =)  For some older people, this may mean a year of making changes before achieving what you want.  It depends how long you have been choosing unhealthy habits.  It also really comes down to what choices YOU are WILLING to make now.  Some people may implement these changes over the course of a few months.  For others it may take years.  For others still, they just never quite get around to it.  We need to make our health a priority if we are going to change.  But don’t feel bad about what you are NOT doing.  Feel GOOD about what you are doing for yourself.  If you just cut out drinking soda last week altogether, don’t feel bad because you still eat gluten.  Give yourself a window to achieve your goals.  So I will quickly outline some general tips on making these changes a lot more manageable.  In America, it is hard for some of us (me) to not look at everything as a FINISH LINE or something to check off our TO-DO-LIST.  Well I will tell you something.  Health is not a “to-do list.”  It is an evolution.  It doesn’t “end.”  So the best strategy would appear to be happy that you have the opportunity to evolve physically, emotionally, and spiritually while we spend time on this planet.

1.  Create an outline of your goals:  This may include goals for weight loss, detoxification, better energy, longer life, fitness, whatever.  This could be emotional or spiritual health as well.  Your goals may even just be a sharper brain or a less risk of developing a health condition later in life.

2.  Create a realistic plan of things you can do to help you achieve these goals.  This may include changing your diet, exercising more, getting more sun and fresh air, drinking more water, having a spiritual practice, undergoing a detoxification program, seeing a therapist, etc.  Each of these topics can be further split up if you want to make a detailed plan.  Realize that when we put our thoughts to paper, they often stay on paper =)

3.  Pick something to start working on.  If you try to do it all at once, odds are that you will overwhelm yourself and not want to do any of it.  There are very complex issues in health but from experience it would seem that the basics are the most important.  What you breathe, eat, and drink have a huge impact on everything.  It will be nearly impossible to “detox” your body or evolve a sharp brain or a good spiritual practice if we are still doing the things that clog those systems.  A good first step for most American’s might be to cut out all of the junk food and drinks and start working towards a whole-foods based diet.  This means drinking clean water instead of pop, coffee, beer, and pasteurized dairy products.  Maybe your diet is locked in already.  Maybe you want to focus on spiritual health.

4.  Recruit the advice of an expert.  Not somebody to tell you what to do.  Somebody to help you design a plan.  If this involves spending a lot of money on supplements and drugs you may want to reconsider your choice.

5. STICK WITH IT!  Lifestyle changes always work, we just need to stick with them.  Reevaluate your progress every so often to see where you are.  Don’t make this an everyday thing.  Maybe work 3 months on your diet and check on the changes you have made?  If you are satisfied with your diet; maybe move on to detoxification.  Maybe move on to developing a spiritual practice.  Whatever you want.  There is no wrong way to do this.  The point is to keep moving forward, listening to our body, and evolving to become the best “US” we can be.

Remember, health is an evolution.  It is not an end-point.  By realizing and accepting this fact it is easier to mellow out on our desires and goals.  It really is possible to be healthy at any age and overcome challenges.  We are all in this together.  By healing ourselves, we give others permission to heal as well.

-Joe

Food Files: Broccoli

broccoli

Another household favorite here.  I think that a lot of us have connections to food that we ate growing up.  Our family ate a lot of broccoli.  It was a side dish I always enjoyed.  These days, broccoli is a regular part of the menu.  It’s not unusual for me to eat several heads of broccoli in a week.  Other cruciferous veggies are there too, but broccoli is my go to guy.

So whats up with broccoli?  I think everybody knows it’s good for us.  Vitamin C, K, and several other vitamins and minerals abound here.  More and more anti-cancer, blood cleansing, detox boosting, and immune boosting properties seem to be discovered every day.  The best way to prepare this wonder-vegetable is probably to steam it or very lightly sauté.  They also go great in crock-pot meals.  I really can’t think of too many things broccoli doesn’t go well with.

So make broccoli a mainstay in your diet for future health.  Now how many times did I say “BROCCOLI” in this post?

-Joe

Healthy HIGH-Calorie Foods

poached egg and avocado

This is for the people who may want to actually GAIN some weight.  Or maybe just have some nice comfort foods around that you don’t feel bad about eating.  We are so used to people telling us NOT to eat high-calorie foods.  Well this isn’t always the best advice.  Of course I would advise not eating high-calorie “junk or processed” foods.  But real, whole, natural foods are a different story.  Ok, enough banter; let’s get to it.

Before I begin, I need to state that eating something is not enough to absorb it.  You remember the old saying: you are what you eat?  Well its wrong.  It’s not as simple as that any more in our modern world of Gluten, pasteurized dairy, medications, wrecked guts, stress, chemicals; you get the idea.  The new term is “You are what you ABSORB.”  Even eating all the calories in the world is not going to help you gain weight if you can’t absorb it.  And if you don’t absorb what you eat, then it just becomes toxic to your system anyway so that is obviously to be avoided.  So when it comes to healthy high-calorie foods, I believe it comes down to 3 main factors.

1. Digestibility for YOU:  Can you comfortably digest the meal?  Do you feel bloated after you eat it?  Does it sit well with you?  You need to be able to digest anything that you put into your body.  Most of the “foods” we are told not to eat is because humans can’t really digest them well.  (gluten, pasteurized dairy, processed foods).  This is of primary importance.  Also, cleansing your liver is very helpful here.  If your liver is gunked up from years of bad food choices, it is likely that your bile flow is reduced.  You need bile to digest and absorb good fats.

2. Caloric level:  This is a no brainer I know, but the food we are taking in has to have sufficient calories.  You can eat fruit and veggies all day and not always gain much.

3.  Cooking/eating method.  This is a big one.  We do too much frying and grilling in this country.  What happened to steaming?  Crock-pots?  Even eating things raw?  These all make things easier for our system to absorb nutrition.  Also, eat simple meals and really try not to combine heavy protein with starch.  “Mono-meals” are sometimes the best choice.

OK; that said let’s get on to the actual LIST here.  What exactly are the healthy high-calorie foods?

Avocados:  How can you not like an avocado?  These little puppies have around 300 calories.  This is RAW plant fat.  Soft, mushy, easily absorbable calories.

Olives: Great snacks.  Just make sure you get the real olives; not bottled in preservatives and pasteurized.  Get the raw stuff in “brine” or apple cider vinegar.  Again, RAW plant fat.  Another good option is olive oil.

Eggs:  Raw eggs (from a good source) are an amazing option here.  One thing you realize about eating after a while is that sometimes we get “full” from our digestive capabilities and not be our caloric intake.  Pop a few raw eggs in the morning and watch how easy they go down.  Leave them out on the counter for maybe 20 minutes to make sure they are at room temperature. That way, it’s not a big shock to your system.

RAW butter:  Again, how can you not like butter?  I know that this food has been scorned by “society” and replaced by margarines and high heated vegetable oils, but I can tell you that these are not good foods.  People have been eating raw butter for thousands of years as a nourishing, healing food.  It soothes the digestion.  Put a good amount over some steamed veggies (especially roots)

Root Vegetables:  Things like potatoes (fingerlings, reds, etc), but also sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, and rutabagas.  Most of these are high glycemic and should be mixed with healthy fats and low-glycemic vegetables.  So an ideal meal could be “mashed sweet potatoes with broccoli and a big pat of raw butter or coconut oil.”

Coconut oil:  There are several benefits to this food.  It is one of the easiest fats for our bodies to process.  Like everything else though, get it COLD-PRESSED from a reliable source.  This goes good over most vegetable or meat dishes.  Eating whole coconuts is another option.

Animal fats/Bone Marrow:  This is a long-forgotten food.  Once again, a fat from inside animals.  More and more local farmers are beginning to carry this ancient food.  When it comes to cooking animal foods, really go easy on the heat.  Get good quality meats and do not overcook them.  Rare is fine with beef and lamb.

RAW Nuts:  This is a tricky one, so be careful.  Raw soaked nuts and seeds have the potential to be a good caloric source.  However, they can also cause digestive problems.  Just make sure you soak/dehydrate them before you eat them.  Also, if there is any discomfort; discontinue.  Good options would be walnuts, macadamia, and almonds.

Carbs:  In addition to the root vegetables, things like bananas, fruit, peas, etc could help a bit as well.  Just be careful with any blood sugar issues.  Less preferred things could include a little rice or quinoa but again, be sure it’s prepared properly and digested well by your own body.

I’m sure there are many other good, nourishing foods out there.  These are some I personally find helpful.  Don’t be afraid of high-quality fats.  Eat them as feels right.  Also, don’t be afraid to add in some carbs if you are dragging all day and have no energy.  It’s basically all about balance here.  These are all foods that satisfy that “comfort” type of feeling without the negative consequences of “junk-food.”  These are also foods that will help people gain weight in general.  If you are looking to build muscle, these foods still apply but there are more foods required for that that are not on this list.  Hope you enjoyed.  I got very hungry writing this and looking at the avocados and juicy eggs =)  What are your favorite HEALTHY high-calorie foods?

-Joe

Food Files: Parsnips

 

Pastinaca

Whatever happened to parsnips?  This belongs to a group of long-forgotten root vegetables that somehow we traded out for the “baking potato.”  Now I have nothing against potatoes assuming you don’t have problems with nightshades, but where is the variety?  What happened to the parsnip, the turnip, the rutabaga, the celeriac?

 

Parsnips are an amazing tasting root vegetable in the carrot family  They are a good alternative to carrots and potatoes if you get sick of them.  Parsnips are high glycemic, so they are best mixed with other green vegetables.  They have good antioxidants, and healthy starches.  There are rumors that this vegetable contains hormone-boosting substances =)  Celery is another in this category.

 

So let’s all get off of this “potatoes only” bandwagon that we have fallen for in America.  There are so many more tasty root vegetables to enjoy.  Variety is the spice of life.  Let’s get that variety and flavor back in our lives with parsnips.

 

-Joe

 

Cleansing and Healing Your BRAIN Naturally

The brain

How many people have ever had brain fog?  A little poor memory here and there?  Maybe we aren’t as sharp as we used to be.  Maybe math and science are becoming a little harder for us to do.  Things just aren’t there as they were when we were younger. Brain and cognitive issues are a huge issue in our society.  Some of us think it’s a normal part of life.  Some of us have health issues contributing to this.  Well it is not normal I can assure you.  Evolution has created us to be sharp.  Without being sharp, we don’t survive in the wild.  Before I begin I would like to go over A basic point.

You will not have much luck cleansing and healing your brain if you continue to do the things causing the problems in the first place.  This could include bad food (especially gluten and pasteurized dairy), GMO foods, pesticide laced foods, fried foods, chemicals from skin lotions, hair products, perfumes, drugs, etc.  Lack of sunlight, exercise, clean water, sleep, and fresh air could also be included here.  Try to avoid EMF fields as much as possible as these will interfere with your own bodies electrical system.

That said, what are some of the reasons for this “brain-fog and mental decline?”  A quick list could include; heavy metal toxicity , lack of exercise/sun/grounding/water/sleep/air, nutritional deficiencies, toxic body, emotional traumas/stress, energetic issues, etc.  Also remember that the GUT has been called the second brain.  If you have gut issues, it is very likely that you will have brain issues.  If the gut is damaged, bad bacteria or parasites can come in and wreak havoc.  So you say what about the tips Joe?

OK OK.  Here is my list.  This is by no means medical advice or a comprehensive list but simply easy ways that the average person can implement some “brain-healing” strategies using natural health.

1.  Exercise more:  Breathe more fresh air.  Strength training is not as helpful here as cardio.  Anything that pumps your lymphatic system will do the trick.  Walking, light jogging, kayaking, swimming, etc.  Mini trampolines are especially good for this purpose.  Remember that part of the problem with every “dis-ease” is always a lack of circulation.  The brain is no different.  Also, don’t forget to exercise your BRAIN too.  Reading books on math or quantum psychics will do this in a hurry.  Throw in a curveball for yourself.  Read something that challenges your thinking every now and then.  Another tip is to do some things with your non-dominant hand.  So brush your teeth with your left hand, chop veggies, use your computer mouse, or even try writing left-handed.  This creates new pathways in our brains.

2.  See a good chiropractor:  Figure out if you have any issues in your upper-cervical spine (neck) especially.  These can lead to problems anywhere in the body including the brain.  No nerve supply and blood flow = no life force coming through.  Basically bad stuff can’t get out of your head and good stuff can’t get to your head.  Home rehab and other similar items can also help here.

3.  Tackle any nutritional deficiencies:  These are rampant in our society.  People don’t seem to understand that we need this stuff.  We have eaten whole foods for thousands of years.  These can be hard to track down though, so I would either get medical testing done or some kind of alternative testing.  Common deficiencies linked to brain function could include Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, C, etc.  Your balance of magnesium/calcium and potassium/sodium are also crucial.

4.  Manual stimulation:  Massage your scalp and neck when you take a shower.  This gets things moving very well.  Dry skin brushing and hot/cold showers also work very nicely in this category.  The stimulation of a cold shower does wonders for the whole body.  Just be careful starting out as it is somewhat shocking to the body.

5. Herbs:  What happened to herbs?  It seems that most people in America think that herbs are a little aged, dry seasoning they sprinkle on their food.  I am talking about real herbs.  The herbs used in medicine for thousands of years.  There are herbs for about every purpose but I am sticking with the brain stimulating ones today.  A brain-cleansing kit might include; Fresh ginger, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, and cayenne.  Anything that could make you sweat or get your blood pumping can help that circulation.

6. Detox:  A lot of the time there are toxins floating around in our bloodstream.  How healthy can our brains be swimming in toxins all day?  Paul Chek once said “our brains are only as healthy as the blood they are living in.”  I think this is correct.  Our brains simply won’t work very well when our liver, kidneys, and bowels are muddied up with toxins.  A good, guided detox program can help you achieve this step.

7. Heavy Metals:  There is beginning to be what seems to be an irrefutable connection between cognitive problems and heavy metal toxicity in our environment.  For prevention; don’t cook with crappy cookware, don’t use non-natural deodorants, lotions, etc.  Try to avoid getting mercury fillings.  Watch consumption of certain fish.  There are natural ways to get these metals out of your body, however I believe this is something you should have a person who knows what they are doing talk you through it.  Don’t skip this step.  Most of us have some form of heavy metal toxicity present in our bodies.

8. Stress:  Tackle any emotional traumas, faulty belief systems, etc.  LAUGH more.  Have more FUN.  Take up a spiritual practice, meditation practice, etc.

Obviously any one of these steps can be expanded and spent more time on.  This is just a basic list to help you get started.  I hope these tips help that brain of yours start “firing” like it should again.  Having a healthy  brain is one of the best gifts that you can have in this world.  Let’s keep it HAPPY.

-Joe

Food Files: Olives and Olive Oil

A bowl of kalamata olives.

What exactly is an olive?  Is it a fruit?  A vegetable?  An oil?  Technically an olive is a fruit.  It behaves similar to other plant fats such as avocados or coconuts.  Healthy fats abound.  Olives and their oil have been used for millennia as part of healthy cuisine.  Terms like essential fatty acids are thrown around a lot.  They are also anti-inflammatory and lubricating to your joints, as well as being beneficial for your skin and hair.  There is a reason that these little wonder-fruits have stood the test of time.  Like everything else modern though, we need to be careful with how we go about selecting and eating these little treats.

I would say eating the fruit itself is probably the best option.  The problem is that most “olives” bought in supermarkets are drenched in vinegar, chemicals, preservatives, and who knows what else.  They are more often than not pasteurized and no longer living to preserve the shelf-life.  These are not the best thing to be eating.  There are a few companies that create truly RAW olives.  These are set in “brine” or some form of salt-water solution or an acidic medium such as apple cider vinegar.  This allows for some stable preservation without the harsh side-effects.  When it comes to choosing an olive oil, make sure that you find all-cold pressed.  These usually use centrifuges or other similar pressing devices.  The key is to avoid heating it.  Plant fats seem (except coconut) seem very fragile under heat.  They turn rancid or oxidize easily.  So get a nice, raw, cold-pressed olive oil preferably in a dark glass bottle.  Buy in small quantities or just get small bottle sizes.  Store in a cool dark place.  As the fat is very heat-sensitive it is best not to fry or heat this stuff too much.  Best option would be to drizzle on dishes after you cook them. A slightly less good option is using it for very low-heated sautéing.  Avoid high-temperatures with olives and olive oil.

Olives have been a key food in many cultures throughout history.  Let’s carry on the tradition and keep growing and eating these delicious fatty fruits.