Tag Archives: nutritarian

Make Bone Broth At Home and Eat Like a Nutritarian

Home-made bone broth is one of the best things you can do for your health, for your wallet and for your sense of satisfaction because you are using food that would normally be wasted.  Besides, once you taste homemade bone broth you will never go back. Never, ever.  The flavor is so much richer than the watered-down, over-salted version you can buy at the grocery store and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals from the bones, veggie pieces and various scraps you boil down. This is totally thrifty health and even though I’ve been doing it for years, the sense of satisfaction that I get out of turning scraps into deliciousness almost can’t be described. Literally every pot of broth feels like  a mini-miracle.

Benefits of Bone Broth:

  • Uses leftover scraps of food that would normally go to waste or compost so you get all the nutritional value out of them
  • After you make the soup the veggie scraps can *still* go to compost 🙂
  • Boosts your nutrition tremendously because it’s chocked full of trace minerals, vitamins and nutrients
  • Saves money
  • Tastes way better than store-bought broth
  • Easy enough that anybody can do it – even if you’re not sure about your skills at boiling water
  • Cuts down on food waste (and if you don’t know that we waste 40% of our food, then you should read this)
  • Your broth contains no cheap fillers, flavor enhancers, ridiculous amounts of sodium, artificial colors or anything else you don’t want to eat.
  • If you’re working on gut health and healing your gut to increase your nutrient absorption, then bone broth is a food-must.  It’s a huge part of the GAPS diet and many other protocols to boost health.

Starting Your Bone Broth Journey with a Freezer Bag

Bone broth starts with, well, bones.  Plenty of people rush out to buy bones specifically for broth, which is great, but I’m all about the thrifty so I just use bones from the meals we’ve eaten recently.  Naturally, this isn’t something you want hanging around in your fridge, but don’t worry – there’s a handy tip to keep things sorted out and it comes in the form of a zip-lock freezer bag.  At all times I have a 1 gallon freezer bag in the front of my freezer that I can toss scraps into for bone broth.  I’ve tried with reusable containers like glass storage containers, tupperware, etc… but it seems like when I’m actually making soup the freezer bag is the easiest to get frozen stuff out of to dump in the pot and I can usually reuse one bag for several months before it tears and I need to replace it.  It looks something like this (right now what I have is lamb bones – lucky me! But normally it’s a picked-over chicken carcass in there). I call this the BONE BAG and everyone in the house knows to add veggie scraps and chewed on bones to it.

A good bone bag is the key to good bone broth. This is pretty typical for mine - although the bones are all at the bottom of this one.

A good bone bag is the key to good bone broth. This is pretty typical for mine – although the bones are all at the bottom of this one.

Bone Broth Ingredients:

  • Bones. Cooked or Raw. Any kind you have, from whatever meat you like.  I like for the pot to be at least half bones and I use a big stock pot.  It can be a mix of bones, or all one kind – that’s totally up to you. If you’re lucky enough to have a local butcher they may have scrap bones, which would be awesome. I typically just use the leftover bones from what my family eats so it’s chicken carcasses, bones out of beef or pork ribs, lamb bones, or whatever.  You can totally make stock from fish bones, clam shells and shrimp peelings as well but it has a strong fish-stock flavor so I usually keep those separate from my meat bones.  If you’re feeling really adventurous add some chicken feet – they’re fantastic in terms of adding collagen and gelatin to the stock (which is great for your skin, hair, nails and bones) but people get squeamish about the idea of chicken feet.
  • Pot scrapings. If I roast a chicken or other meat there are always drippings at the bottom of the roasting pan. Some of it is chicken fat, some of it is juices and some of it is little bits of cooked skin or whatever that is stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Once it’s cooled down, scrape all of that out into your bone bag and make sure you don’t miss any of it because this makes the soup flavor awesome! Don’t worry about too much fat – you can skim the fat off later if you want to. Likewise if there’s anything stuck to the pan after you pan-sear a steak – add some water to liquify it and dump it into your bone bag.
  • Onion skins and scraps. The thin papery peelings from onions that would normally go straight to trash or compost, as well as the tops and bottoms that you cut off. These release nutrients and give your stock a nice golden color that canned stock mimics with colorants. In the old days some of the golden color would come from chicken feet too, but we modern kids are sensitive about that sort of thing – although if you can find them, I’d highly recommend them!
  • Celery tops and bottoms. The leafy tops that just go to trash and the bottoms that you cut off celery stalks can just go in the bone bag and get boiled down with the rest of it.
  • Mushroom stalks. Some people leave most of the mushroom stalk on when cooking, some people cut off only the bottom, and some people take out the whole stalk.  Any part of a mushroom that you don’t use can go into your bone bag.
  • Veggie ends and pieces. As you’re preparing food there are inevitably bits of veggies that get cut off. Think of the peelings, the ends that get cut off, the stems spots from tomatoes that get cut out, parsley stems, the outside leaves from cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower outside leaves or woody stalk.  The only things I don’t use are potato peelings and that’s only because potato things make the stock a little bit starchy, which I don’t prefer. My bone bag always has celery, onions, mushroom, carrot and tomato pieces because I don’t seem to know how to cook without those things so there are always scraps, but frequent additions are zucchini ends, eggplant peelings, squash tops or bottoms, parsley stems, cilantro stems, stems from fresh herbs, green pepper scraps, and sometimes a wild variety of other things.
  • Herb bits and pieces. If you happen to buy fresh herbs or cut some from your garden then most of them have stems that have the same great flavor but would normally get thrown out. The only herbs I wouldn’t add are mint (just because minty broth sounds weird to me) or huge amounts of any one thing because then the broth will only taste like that one thing – so just portion some out for the next bone bag.
  • A bay leaf. If you happen to have some – I usually buy these in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs just because I toss one into every bone bag and typically make a batch of bone broth at least every 2 weeks. If you don’t happen to have any sitting around the house then don’t worry about it. It adds flavor, but isn’t crucial.
  • Eggshells. If you happen to buy good organic eggs then tossing a couple of eggshells into the mix can up the calcium and mineral content of your broth. If they’re factory-raised eggs then I’d skip it.
  • Vinegar or Lemon Juice. This adds a bit of acidity to the broth and will help to pull the nutrients out of the bones. Long cooking does the rest. I’ll add maybe 1-2 tablespoons (honestly, I don’t take time to measure. I add a glug or two).
  • Water. Enough to fill the pot to about an inch and a half below the top.

Generally I make bone broth when the fates dictate that I should – which is mostly when my freezer bag is full – but you just pick the best day for you. 🙂 The whole thing is super easy, just pick a day when you’re mostly home.  Dump the bone bag into your big stock pot or big crock pot – whichever you prefer.  Fill it up with water to an inch and a half below the top. Turn it on high until it comes to a boil and then cover it with a lid, turn it down to a low simmer and go about your day. Every couple of hours check on it to make sure the water level isn’t changing too much – if it’s dropped significantly add more water and re-cover.

Give it minimum 4 hours, but the longer the better (often I’ll leave it simmering overnight). I’ve never left it more than 24 hours, but I’ve heard of people doing that.

Once it’s done cooking put a big bowl in the sink with a colander in it and pour the pot into the colander slowly. The colander will catch the bones and bits and the broth will drain down into the bowl.  Please remember the bowl because I know from experience that you will feel like an ass if you pour the soup through a colander directly down the drain (I only did it once, but was so sad when it happened that I learned my lesson).

Put the big bowl in the fridge and let it cool down. Typically there is enough collagen in the bone scraps to make it turn into a gel-kind of consistency and if you put chicken feet in it then it will be flat out broth jell-o.  The fats from the broth will rise to the top and solidify into a thick layer if there are lots of fats or little spots if there aren’t.  You can skim these off or leave them with the soup just depending on how much fat you like.  I typically leave most of it, but if something was really fatty sometimes I’ll skim some of it off.

The gel-like consistency is what makes this broth special, and what shows you how much nutrition you’re getting.  As soon as you heat the broth the gel will melt and it will convert to a liquid, but the collagen in this broth that makes it turn into a jelly is exactly what you want to see. It may need a little salt – don’t be afraid to be generous with the sea salt, you’ll never add a fraction of what you would find in store-bought broth.

This makes a lot of broth – I usually end up with about 4-8 quarts (2-4 L) per batch just depending on which pot I used and how full my bone bag was. Typically I’ll keep some in the fridge for use this week and divide the rest into glass mason jars (leave space at the top for it to expand as it freezes) for the freezer. I put a piece of masking tape with the date on the outside just to make sure I’m using the oldest ones first. If I’m feeling especially ambitious I’ll freeze some in ice cube trays and then store the ice cubes in gallon freezer bags for future use.  Honestly I usually run out just about when my bone bag is full again.

Bone broth is liquid gold for a nutritarian diet. I borrowed this picture from paleosherpa.com - if your'e going to freeze them just leave a little bit more room at the top.

Bone broth is liquid gold for a nutritarian diet. I borrowed this great picture from paleosherpa.com – if you’re going to freeze them just leave a little bit more room at the top.

Now make food-gold out of your bone broth

I use bone broth in everything. When I’m sauteing veggies I’ll add a spoon full for flavor. When I’m making sauces or gravies I’ll add some to make it richer. I love homemade soups and stews and always use my own broth. So many leftovers can be converted into a great soup for new flavor.  Favorite leftovers to add include rice, beans, cooked veggies (I usually chop them smaller for soups), leftover meat pieces, leftover noodles, or whatever.

If you’re not into the leftover idea then a great basic hearty soup is:

  • 3 cups (ish) bone broth
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans (whatever kind of beans are your favorites)
  • 4 thin sliced green onions
  • 1 small carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 1 celery stalk cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium or 2 small mushrooms cubed
  • 1-2 oz cooked chicken, beef, pork or lamb cut into small cubes (or small pieces of cooked ground beef are great too)

This will serve a couple of people. If you like your soup a little less dense than this one, just add more broth. The great thing about soup is that you can put literally anything into it. There just isnt’ a wrong way to do soup.  If you want different flavors try adding a dash of hot sauce, some lemon or lime juice, fresh parsley, cilantro or other herbs, a little bit of honey, molasses, agave nectar or palm sugar or even some Thai fish sauce. Just as an aside, the combo of a little bit of palm sugar and a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce is what makes Thai soups so darn yummy. Bone broth is the base for an endless variety of meals and once you’ve had your own liquid-gold bone broth you will never go back.

Cut Down on Food Waste And Eat Like A Nutritarian

Food waste sounds kind of like something mom used to tell you about at home, but as it turns out, it’s a far bigger problem than just not finishing what’s on your plate. In fact, farm to table the National Resources Defense Council estimates that 30 – 40% of the total food produced in the US is wasted. This is just a little bit shocking and disheartening, given how many people are hungry in this country and beyond.  Also, if you consider the impact on overall food costs that this must have, it’s a little staggering.

Staggering Factoids About Food Waste:

  • Decreases profits to farmers and increases the overall cost of food for all of us.
  • Limits the amount of food available for our population.
  • Rotting food in landfills is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas levels, specifically methane (!! I had no idea!) In fact a Canadian Public Radio Broadcast gives this shocking quote:

    “If food waste was a country it would be the third largest CO2 producer after the U.S. and China”

  • 80% of the total fresh water, 10% of the US energy budget, and 50% of our land is used to grow our crops and farm animals – if 40% of all of these is wasted we’re doing something incredibly wrong.
  • We throw out the equivalent of $165 billion (BILLION!!) each year
  • Reducing food wastes by just 15% would feed an additional 25 million people.
  • The average American consumer wastes 10 times as much food as a consumer in Southeast Asia. This is up 50% from the average American in the 1970s.
  • Using foods we would normally waste – especially if you get creative with things like beet tops and carrot greens and use celery leaves, chicken bones and onion peelings in your soup stock boosts the nutritional content of your food significantly. This is one of the best ways to become a nutritarian (and if you don’t know what that is, check it out here).

Much of this waste is a problem with the industry, including issues with packing, transport, distribution and display but there’s also the myth of the perfect apple, the flawless peach, the stick-straight carrot.  As consumers we tend to shop with our eyes and reject foods, produce especially, that show any sign of actually coming from nature, in spite of the fact that produce that looks less perfect is entirely equal in terms of nutrition, flavor, and everything else that actually matters with food.  In light of this, the French supermarket Intermarche launched what has to be my favorite marketing campaign of all time – the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables Campaign.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a campaign like that here? To have the option in supermarkets for buying “inglorious” fruits and veggies at 30% less than regular? I’d be thrilled to have that option because frankly produce spending is a huge cost.  It wouldn’t fix the problem entirely, but would certainly be one giant step forward.

Reduce your food waste and learn to love that ridiculous failed lemon. I mean seriously.

Reduce your food waste and learn to love that ridiculous failed lemon. I mean seriously.

What You Can Do To Reduce Food Waste:

Some of this starts with you and I. If we can take steps to reduce the amount we waste then not only do we benefit (think of the money we throw away constantly!) but everyone else benefits too. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Actually plan meals and snacks so that you know what you need each time you grocery shop.
  • Stop with the impulse buying – just because there’s a 2 for 1 special doesn’t mean you will actually eat 2 sheet cakes in a week. Honestly.
  • Love your freezer – If you do buy in bulk, freeze the portion you aren’t planning to use immediately right away so that it will still be useable when you get around to it.
  • Dish out less – Put smaller portions of food on your plate – you can always dish out more if you want it, rather than scraping your plate into the garbage after the meal.
  • Be organized with leftovers – If you cook large batches of things, separate out the leftovers into serving sized portions so they’re easier to use.  If there’s a lot of leftovers, separate them and then freeze them.
  • Take produce out of plastic bags – as it turns out, fruits and veggies rot faster in plastic. I like bringing them home, taking them out of plastic and rolling them up in big tea towels to keep them fresh and crisp.
  • Wash veggies just before you use them – moisture encourages mold growth
  • Label – When you freeze food, label it accurately with both name and date so that it’s less likely to be ignored as mystery food.
  • Buy from farmers – Buy from farmers markets and directly from local farmers. Ask them if they would be willing to sell you their seconds at a reduced price.
  • Grow your own – growing some of your own veggies, fruits and food connects you to your food in a different way. Its so much harder to waste food that you grew with your own hands, and you can grow great foods in containers if you don’t have a yard.
  • Get creative with leftovers – it doesn’t have to be the same thing 4 days in a row. Salmon can become salmon salad, salmon patties, salmon meat balls or salmon dip.  Apples that are getting soft or going brown are still wonderful sliced and baked with a drizzle of honey and some crushed nuts.  Cooked veggies can often be pureed and spiced into soups.
  • Make your own soup stock – this gives you a great use for onion skins, celery ends and leaves, mushroom stalks, ugly bits of veggies, parsley stems, veggie peelings and bones left over from your meals (chicken, beef, pork or lamb). Plus it tastes better than store-bought and doesn’t cost you anything at all. I’m going to do a post on this because people look at me like I have two heads when I talk about it, but making your own stock is so incredibly satisfying! This is also a great step towards nutritarian eating because you’re extracting the nutrition out of the bones and veggie remains that you wouldn’t normally get.
  • Compost – fruit, veggie and grain waste as well as coffee grounds and a lot of kitchen paper waste can be effectively turned into nutrient-rich garden soil. If you’re a gardener this is like gold and saves you from having to buy soil additives, fertilizers and a whole host of other things.
  • Clear the fridge – there’s something psychologically pleasing about having an overly full fridge, but it also creates more waste because you can’t see what’s actually in there.  Keep the fridge a little more empty and eat what’s there before you buy more.

 Great Additional Info about Reducing Food Waste:

NPR’s great broadcast and article about  ending food waste and the pilot program Food: Too Good To Waste.

Canadian Public Radio broadcast on food waste and steps you can take at home to reduce it.

I *love* this project from chef and masters student Leanne Brown. It’s called Good and Cheap and it’s a free cookbook in .pdf format that helps people to eat on $4 per day. Because she’s budget conscious she’s also really great at using leftovers and making sure food stretches as far as it can.  I love that she’s making good food accessible on all budgets. This is exactly what we need to boost health across the nation and the world!

This is the type of change and action that helps your health, helps your budget and ultimately helps the environment and changes the way food is handled on a larger scale.  Ending food waste really does start with you and there are so many benefits to everyone involved that it makes a great project to stat incorporating into your life. Small changes over time will really add up and it can be something as simple as starting a soup stock bag (look to next weeks post for how-to information) or getting a compost heap going for your garden. It can be changing the way your fridge and freezer are organized, or even sitting down for 10 minutes and writing down a list of ways that food is wasted in your home. Start with baby steps and work towards reducing the amount of money and nutrition you lose from food waste in your home.

7 Reasons You Should Be Eating Bugs. Really.

Eating bugs is one of those taboo topics in North America and Europe (although the rest of the world, which is 80% of the population, eats bugs regularly).  But here?  Here it’s kind of like eating dirt or something yucky.  It’s time to shift those perceptions though because as it turns out bugs are health food for you, and for the planet and they could be the key to solving world hunger.  Outside of those lofty goals, they’re just really freaking good for you and have a nutty, easy to eat flavor just as long as you get past the thinking about it phase.

Top 7 Reasons You Should Be Eating Bugs:

Here are some statistics according to the Institute of Food Technologists:

  1. Protein – It’s easy to think of beef as the biggest, baddest protein source in the world, but actually bugs can claim that crown.  Crickets are 65% protein, where beef is only 50%. That’s a huge leap (bad cricket humor).
  2. Nutritarian – in addition to the protein, insects are one of the most nutritarian foods I’ve ever heard of, and you know I like my nutritarian, nutrition-packed foods.  Bugs have a broad range of amino-acids, vitamins, minerals, trace-minerals and they’re high in good fats including unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Seriously – it’s like super food.
  3. Low Fat – Many different types of edible insects have less than 5 grams of fat per serving.
  4. Sustainable – While modern agriculture is destroying the earth with chemicals, pesticide and huge land-use, insects don’t need much space, live in every sort of condition and eat just about everything.  Bugs are the perfect crop. I stumbled across a great charity that is working to promote bug-awareness as a sustainable food source. They do bug tastings and events and that sort of thing so check them out – they’re called (hilariously) Little Herds.
  5. Easy to Cook With – It sounds counter-intuitive to our Western minds, but you can cook bugs bunches of different ways from sauteed to pan fry to baked, roasted or boiled.  The easiest way to use them is actually in an insect-based flour that is high protein, high fiber and blends easily with regular flour to add nutritional oomph to your meal without having to know you’re eating bugs.
  6. Abundant – if there’s anything we’re not running out of, it’s bugs.  Plus there are hundreds of different species so you can find your favorites with many, many, many to choose from.
  7. Taste – you many not believe me but different species of bugs are delicacies around the world, prized as choice dishes.  The flavors have been described as nutty, like shrimp or (the common phrase) it tastes like chicken. Ha!

The Worse Sales-Pitch Ever for Eating Bugs (watch until the end. It’s a killer)

Yeah – so, disregard that guy. Great info, but really???

Where Do I Even Get Bugs To Eat?

Outside of harvesting in your back yard, which seems to me like it’s probably just a little too “real” if you’re just starting out on this bug adventure, you can buy bugs on amazon (they really do have everything).  Also the occasional health food store will have insect-based products.  I haven’t tried the bugs yet, but I’m keen to get started and I’m thinking that either flour or protein bar might be the way to go… I’m used to adding alternative flours to recipes so I will for sure keep you posted on this project…

Price-wise, here’s the best price on cricket flours that I found (still pretty pricey, for bugs):

Eating bugs is great for you! Cricket flour might be an easier way to get into this than, say, the chocolate covered scorpions (eek!)

Eating bugs is great for you! Cricket flour might be an easier way to get into this than, say, the chocolate covered scorpions (eek!)

I have to say, I’m really enjoying the company’s write-up about it:

Looking for an unusual and unique way to fuel your high protein diet? Nature has the answer with this nourishing flour made entirely from ground crickets.  To most, eating crickets may appear to have a high ‘yuk’ factor but you won’t spot any of the distinctive characteristics of our chirruping chums in this flour.

Our crickets are raised commercially, fed a specifically developed, healthy diet and are raised in clean and hygienic conditions. Containing no preservatives, artificial colours or flavours, this low-fat flour has many nutritional benefits. Packed with vitamin B12 and iron, and rich in protein, it can be used to produce energy bars, snacks and much more.

The flour is produced at our FDA approved factory where the crickets are cleaned, processed and packed ready to be shipped off to you in handy foil pouches. Each 100 grams (0.22 pounds) of cricket flour contains approximately 1,112 of our premium Acheta Domestica crickets! Who knew that Pinocchio’s wise little sidekick could be so tasty and nutritious?

Ha! Pinocchio’s little sidekick indeed. I suppose you would have to have a sense of humor if you make bug flour for a living. A good point here is that bugs fit nicely into an ancestral diet or paleo diet because they are chock full of protein, fiber and nutrients and certainly don’t have to be farmed or domesticated to be eaten.  In my research I found a fascinating article in scientific american about what the “true” paleolithic diet might be, and although the bottom line included complex factors like gut evolution, this stood out to me:

They eat and ate meat, BUT most of that meat comes from insects. And so if you are serious about eating a really old school paleo diet, if you mean to eat what our bodies evolved to eat in the “old” days, you really need to be eating more insects

Essential our ancestors were eating bugs in addition to lots of plant matter including starchy roots and only small amounts of meat and extremely small amounts of grains.  That’s a big diversion from the modern-day paleo diet. Does that mean modern paleo is wrong?  No – not at all, it just means that we tend to modernize even our view of ancestral eating to take out the things that don’t fit into our cultural view, like eating bugs.

The 11 Factors that Cause Inflammation

Inflammation isn’t just caused by one thing. It’s caused by the totality of whatever is going on in your life right now, and some of those things are uncontrollable. There are 11 controllable factors that are known to cause inflammation so let’s talk about those. Most inflammation has to do with choices – the types of diets you choose, your stress levels, weight,  emotional terrain, hormone imbalance, toxins, food allergies and personal choices like alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs. Outside of this there are also things you don’t chose, like genetics along with viral or bacterial infections you may have. Clearly, inflammation is not a simple subject, which is part of why there is  so much heart disease, cancer,  joint pain and skin disease. Lets talk about causes – especially the ones you can control. Here’s a great picture of some of the diseases that are directly associated with inflammation:

Just like there are so many factors that cause inflammation, there are also so many consequences. This great picture was borrowed from this excellent post on foods that help inflammation.

Just like there are so many factors that cause inflammation, there are also so many consequences. This great picture was borrowed from this excellent post from LSU Ag center on foods that help inflammation.

  1. Overeating. Every time you eat you body goes through the process of metabolism. Metabolism is great and necessary – this is how your food turns into energy and useful nutrients in your cells. Metabolism also releases toxic by-products, your old friends the free radicals (if you can’t remember what a free radical is then check out this post on antioxidants). Eating is necessary, but overeating is not. In fact, in a survey of people who live to be over 100 years of age one of the only common factors is that they ate low-calorie diets. So essentially eating a little less than what you need gives all the benefits of good nutrition, where eating a little more causes inflammation. This is where nutritarian eating gets really important – getting the most nutritional value out of your food so you don’t have to overeat.
  2. Food Sensitivities. Obviously exposing your body to something every day that you react badly to adds up. I found out (entirely thanks to a patient of mine, who insisted if she had to do the “stupid elimination diet” then so did I) that I’m sensitive to both wheat and soy. Getting those two out of my diet has made a huge difference in my level of joint pain, my energy on a day-to-day basis and even my skin. If you don’t remember about food sensitivities or can’t remember how to test at home for free then look here.
  3. Gingivitis. Yes, it sounds ridiculous but floss every day and make sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day. If you have a chronic inflammation in your gums, or gingivitis, then it raises your total body level of inflammation. Even this insignificant thing adds up – and gingivitis has been shown to connect with inflammation specifically in the heart and blood vessels – which is something you don’t want. Approximately half of all adults in the US have gingivitis so talk with your dentist and take care of your mouth. This is one of the most common and most easily fixable factors that cause inflammation. Far more so than reducing stress (which has to be the most nebulous and difficult thing in modern society).
  4. Stress. I know it’s a hard one to change, but learning to cope with high stress levels and learning some stress-relieving tools can drastically improve your health. There is a reason why the most common time to have a heart attack is Monday morning at 8:00 am, and I’m pretty sure the timing has nothing to do with cholesterol. And yes – Monday morning at 8:00 am is a real thing.
  5. Not Enough Sleep. Sleep is a cornerstone of good health – this is when your body does a lot of the repair and restore functions, especially in your brain. Not getting it means that you don’t ever take out the trash, which obviously makes a mess in your body. Without sleep you don’t get rid of as many toxins, repair as much damaged tissue or get rid of those pesky free radicals. Getting enough sleep is vital to health.
  6. Lifestyle Choices. Choosing to drink alcohol to excess, smoke, or use recreational drugs takes a toll on your health. It’s not that I’m anti alcohol – I’m pro-moderation.  Especially during times where other stresses for your body are higher.  Ironically the times when you’re stressed and crazy as a human (which is when most people want to smoke and drink the most) are also the times when those behaviors will do the most damage because your body already has too much on it’s plate.
  7. Hormone Imbalance. Hormones and inflammation are tied together pretty tightly and if one side of the equation gets out of balance then the other side has trouble too. Just like hormones affect inflammation, inflammation affects hormones. There are some simple, gentle ways to begin to balance hormones (like seed cycling), but obviously if the problems are serious then it’s best to work with a practitioner or call me to schedule a visit because
  8. Obesity. As we discussed above there is a link between carrying extra weight and having higher than normal levels of inflammation. We don’t know why, but there are lots of theories about fat cells creating their own environment and secreting their own hormones and inflammatory proteins. This makes losing weight even more important for your health. Just like obesity creates more inflammation, inflammation makes losing weight harder. Reducing some of the other factors that cause inflammation can help your body to lose weight more easily.
  9. Family History. Some people do just become inflamed more easily than others. Heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and allergies all have some genetic link. Even if your family has a strong history of inflammatory disease you can still work to reduce your own inflammation – in fact doing the work to protect your health now will have a far greater pay off for you long-term because you may be able to avoid the family conditions.
  10. Environmental Toxins. Everything that you are exposed to – everything you breathe, touch, drink in your water or eat in your food has to be processed by your body and increases your likelihood of inflammation. This includes pesticides, herbicides, air pollutants, household chemicals and cleaners, food additives, flame-retardants in your furniture and perfumes. You are literally surrounded. It is unrealistic to think you can eliminate all toxins, but you can work to minimize them. The simplest steps are things like switching your body care, home fragrances and cleaning products to natural, less harmful alternatives.  Get a water filter, avoid processed foods and just generally try to avoid the yuck as much as possible.
  11. Chronic Infections. Sadly, many people have infections they’ve been carrying around with them for years. It is a sad but true fact that there are many walking wounded out there. One of the most common is gum disease, which is a bacterial infection that many bodies have to deal with day in and day out. Also many viruses can become chronic and often show up as non-specific symptoms or diseases such as chronic fatigue and Fibromyalgia. If you have any concern that this could be you then call your naturopathic doctor right away or schedule a visit with me.  Chronic infections are common and can certainly get in the way for good health.

Eliminating the Factors that Cause Inflammation Sounds Impossible

Yes – eliminating them completely is actually impossible in the modern world. The great hnews is that taking small steps works. These factors that cause inflammation are all things that you can chip away at in your own life.  If you’re only ready to make one change, then add flossing daily.  It’s a way bigger deal than people think. If you already floss, then see if you can make time and space for more sleep. If you floss and you’re sleeping enough for you then how about making your diet a little more nutrient dense?  Nutritarian eating is a great thing, just like focusing on anti-inflammatory foods. If you’re stumped about what are anti-inflammatory foods and what aren’t then here’s a handy post about it.

Do you know which foods cause inflammation? You can take this list to the grocery store.

Do you know which foods cause inflammation? You can take this list to the grocery store.


Just take everything one step at a time – don’t overwhelm yourself.  Having a healthy lifestyle isn’t about making drastic changes – it’s about doing small things on a daily basis that just turn into healthy habits over time. Reducing the factors that cause inflammation reduces your risk of heart disease, many types of cancer, neurological disease, joint degeneration, skin conditions and a host of other problems so it’s worth it to start taking small steps today.

Easy Seasonal Eating For Winter

Seasonal eating is something I feel passionately about – but seasonal eating for winter can be harder than in other seasons because it’s, well, winter.  So here are some easy ways to incorporate some seasonal into your diet and to help your body manage the season in the best ways possible.

Why Eat Seasonally?

It’s easy to dismiss this as a hippy/trendy kind of idea that has no real merit, but seasonal eating is the cornerstone of many ancient and holistic medical traditions.  Of course there are the side benefits of getting to buy from local farmers and not having to let your food wilt during cross-country (or cross-globe shipping) but the big thing really is health.  In the winter this is especially important because your body’s needs change with the more extreme outdoor climate (yes, even in Texas).  Your body uses more energy for basics like warmth and you may find yourself needing more sleep in the colder, darker winter months. So here are some seasonal Eating tips that optimize winter veggies and your winter health.

Love Your Squash (And Their Seeds)

Squash is just about the quintessential winter vegetable and comes in many tantalizing varieties including acorn, winter, delicata, pumpkin, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti, kabocha, and crook-neck. With names like that it’s hard not to be intrigued. All of these squash have yellow to orange flesh, which is saturated with healthy carotenoids – which are compounds in the vitamin A family. All of the orange/yellow veggies have these carotenoid nutrients by color – it’s literally the colored pigments that supply the nutrition. These carotenoids, some of which convert to vitamin A, help boost your immunity against winter colds and flus, help to protect your dark vision (this is the dark season, after all) and are also high in potassium, vitamin B6 and folate. Additionally one serving of squash gives you half of your RDA of vitamin C, which also helps keep you protected from colds and flus. Nutritionally they provide lots of complex carbohydrates but very low sugars, which helps your body have the sustained energy it needs to help keep you warm and cozy.  Squash are also very filling because of the complex carbs, giving you the delightfully full-belly feeling that we all crave in the winter.

Squash and pumpkin seeds are also a great nutritional input in the winter and any squash seeds can be roasted and salted for a lovely crunchy snack. These seeds are high in good fats, protein and minerals and also add a tremendous boost to your immune system for this vulnerable time of year. Seasonal eating for winter isn’t so hard, right?

The Best Roast Squash and Pumpkin seeds:

Scoop the seeds out of the squash and remove most of the pulp.
Drizzle the seeds with a little olive oil and rub the oil onto the seeds so they’re coated
Spread the seeds out over a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until the seeds start to turn golden-brown.

Watch them carefully because once they start to brown they really brown in a hurry. The little bit of squash pulp and juice that is left on the seeds adds a nice flavor with the olive oil and salt, but be careful. These are totally addictive so if you’re planning on using them as a salad-topper or anything like that be sure to hide them from the family. Otherwise they’ll be gone in a flash.

Winter Greens – Nutrient-Packed Winter Goodness

In winter the cold-weather greens abound. Think cabbage and kale and Brussels sprouts. The cold weather keeps these greens sweet and tender and the greens help you to stay healthy and illness-free in the winter. These are nutritional powerhouses which are high in vitamins A, C, K and folate.  Also they have a good balance between complex carbs, fiber, protein and good fats. Also, Brussels sprouts cut in half and fried with bacon pieces is a treat beyond compare – seriously even non-veggie people love this.

Go For the Root Veggies

‘Tis the season for all the underground veggie goodness to get underway. Think beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips and sweet potatoes. A cubed root-veggie mix is perfect to drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 or so for a warming, nutrient-dense winter treat.  Roasted root veggies literally make you feel warm when you eat them and are also packed with the nutrients your body needs for the winter months.

Gorgeous root veggies - perfect for seasonal eating for winter. Lovely picture from eatingbirdfood.com

Gorgeous root veggies – perfect for seasonal eating for winter. Lovely picture from eatingbirdfood.com

Again these veggies are packed with vitamin A and other antioxidants, as well as the complex carbs needed to sustain warmth in the winter. Also high in fiber and highly filling.

Slow Cooked Soups and Stews – The Easiest Seasonal Eating for Winter Ever.

Of course the perfect food in the winter is slow-cooked.  Pot roast with root veggies, slow-cooked stew, veggie-rich chili, or homemade chicken soup.  These are the foods that warm and nourish you. The slow-cooking does all of the heavy digestive work for you and these foods are mostly broken-down and actually make you feel warm inside. In Traditional Chinese Medicine slow cooked foods are appropriate for winter when your body needs heat and easy nourishment and when warmth is a priority. Also the slow cooking releases all of the nutrients from root veggies and softens them up so a lovely roast surrounded by root veggies is the quintessential winter dish. Seasonal eating for winter makes sense on this level – you’re semi-hibernating and need easy nutrition that keeps you warm and cozy and is the food equivalent of fuzzy socks and a fireplace.  The fall-apart in your mouth meat of a pot-roast is just what you need to warm up. Also as long as you’re using grass fed, grass finished beef you’re getting a good dose of omega-3 fats, iron to build your blood and easy to digest protein.

pot roast is the perfect food for seasonal eating for winter. Thanks to colonywinemarket.com for this yummy picture.

pot roast is the perfect food for seasonal eating for winter. It’s exactly what you want on a cold day. Thanks to colonywinemarket.com for this yummy picture.

Seasonal eating for winter sounds like it should be difficult, but just follow your gut. The squash heaped in gorgeous piles around the farmers market are begging to be eaten. All of those crisp winter greens are packed with nutrients and the colorful root veggies tempt your senses.  Best of all, the slow-cooked soups and stews that feel so good on a cold day are exactly what your body wants for health.

Do you know which foods cause inflammation? You can take this list to the grocery store.

Foods That Cause Inflammation – Nutritarian Eating

Diets come and diets go, but inflammation lasts forever and at the end of the day there are some foods that cause inflammation no matter how trendy they are. The great news is that any diet or lifestyle change can be shifted so that it’s less inflammatory and even anti-inflammatory.  For instance the paleo diet, which I love, can be done in a way that is highly inflammatory, or it can be done in a way that is highly anti-inflammatory so the most important thing is to educate yourself about inflammation and about ways to personalize your diet to your body. Also, in the never-ending quest to become more of a nutritarian (meaning to get more nutrient dense foods in my diet) this list is really helpful.

Some of the factors that can increase the inflammatory value of foods also have to be considered – like pesticides, herbicides or hormones in the food.  For that reason I’m also giving you the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists compiled by Environmental Working Group. These are lists of the foods that concentrate pesticides within their flesh (and so should be bought organic whenever possible – this is the “Dirty Dozen” list) and the foods that hold on to the least pesticides and so can be purchased conventionally to save those organic dollars.  Likewise products from animals that are conventionally raised using hormones and antibiotics are going to be significantly more inflammatory than products from animals who are raised organically, grass fed, or hunted. Therefore just choosing a better quality version of the same thing can help you to reduce inflammation.

Quick Food Guide: The Foods That Cause Inflammation

Do you know which foods cause inflammation? You can take this list to the grocery store.

Do you know which foods cause inflammation? You can take this list to the grocery store.

For a free .pdf download of the food list, click on: FoodChartNew

As you can see on the Quick Food Guide, some foods are also more likely to cause inflammation in your body just because of the nature of the food itself.  In general there are many of these that you probably could have guessed – white flour, white sugar, white rice, artificial sweeteners. Also the things we know are not so good, like partially hydrogenated oils and trans-fats.  The great news is that focusing on increasing your foods in the anti-inflammatory list will help tremendously on the

Making Paleo Diet More Anti-Inflammatory

Paleo diet can be really meat-heavy and that is great for some people, but not for people with inflammatory disorders to begin with. Granted it’s already cutting out a lot of the inflammatory foods like white sugar, corn syrup, white flour, white rice.  That is awesome!! The issue comes when people just eat meat three meals per day and forget about the veggies or the meat quality.  Here are some tips to optimize your Paleo diet so that you’re not boosting inflammation:

  1. Veggie-Bomb: Always get twice as many veggies as you get meat, and if you have an inflammatory condition like RA, autoimmune disease or cardiovascular disease then bump that up to 3 or 4 times the veggie to meat ratio.
  2. Eat Quality: Make sure your meats are organic, grass fed and grass finished (for beef), hormone-free and antibiotic free. Quality is so much better than quantity with animal products.
  3. Optimize the Organics: Check the “Dirty Dozen” list before you buy veggies to make sure you’re optimizing your organic food budget. It can get expensive, so getting it right really helps.
  4. Be Active: Diet is only half of the inflammation picture and exercise and activity will go a long way to normalize inflammatory levels.
  5. Hydrate: Drink plenty of water. Any protein-heavy diet puts some extra strain on your kidneys and if you’re a little dehydrated then this can start to impact how well you feel and your overall level of inflammation.  At least eight 8oz glasses per day.

Why Is It Important to Reduce Inflammation?

Inflammation is linked to almost every major disease and disease category we have including:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease including heart attack, cholesterol and stroke
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Obesity
  • Mood disorders (brain inflammation)
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other neuro-degenerative diseases

The bottom line is that real food, real veggies, and minimizing the chemicals is always going to be the best route to keeping your inflammation levels down. Knowing the foods that cause inflammation can help you to make better choices at the grocery store.

Happy cows! Grass fed beef.

Grass-Fed Beef – Does This Matter?

Grass-fed beef is a trendy idea right now, and sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish the real information from the trend, so let’s talk about beef, because god knows we all love beef. There are a number of factors to think about when evaluating this whole issue – some of them have been researched and some haven’t. So let’s dive in with cow happiness, cow health, health implications for you and your family and just keep going from there.

What does “Grass Fed Beef” Even Mean?

I know, that sounds like kind of a dumb questions – obviously grass fed means the cow has been fed grass. But, does that mean it’s been fed grass for part of it’s life, all of it’s life, only grass or grass mixed with other things? So let’s get into the legal nitty gritty. In October 2007 the USDA set voluntary standards to define the term grass fed. These standards suggest that beef should be grass or forage fed for the duration of it’s life, meaning that it doesn’t get grain except as an incidental part of the grass.  In general all cattle eat grass for the first 6-12 months, so this really only restricts the last portion of their life.  This sounds great but here are the drawbacks:

  • Verification is voluntary, and unless beef displays the USDA process verified shield, we’re just taking the farmers word for it.
  • In this sense grass-fed is different than pastured. These cows could still be in a penned feed-lot environment, but instead of being given corn or soybeans, they’re given hay. So essentially it still isn’t cows in their natural environment.
  • These regulations have no bearing on hormones and antibiotics given to the cattle. Cows can be labeled as grass fed and still be getting daily growth hormones and antibiotics with their hay. This tends to run counter to the general perception of what it might mean for beef to be grass fed.
USDA shield showing cows have been fed grass and forage only (but also still in pens, with hormones and antibiotics)

USDA shield showing cows have been fed grass and forage only (but also still in pens, with hormones and antibiotics).

Is There A Better Labeling Standard for Grass fed Beef?

The short answer, is yes!  But of course the long answer is slightly more complicated than that.  The American Grassfed Association is a membership organization of farmers and public interest groups who have come together to determine higher standards. Which is wonderful.  If you see their logo on your beef it means that the meat animal (they certify any ruminant animals, so cattle, goats, sheep and bison) is raised according to the highest standards:

American Grassfed Association logo. If you see this on your meat you know it's been raised right.

American Grassfed Association logo.

  • Diet — Animals are fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest.
  • Confinement — Animals are raised on pasture with no confinement.
  • Antibiotics and hormones — Animals are never given antibiotics or growth hormones.
  • Origin — All animals are born and raised on American family farms.

This is a fantastic step forward and gives you as a consumer much more information about the meat you and your family are eating. The problem is that each farm that wants to be included has to pay for membership and pay each year for an independent inspection, as well as pay per head according to the number of animals that they have.  This is by far the best system we’ve got, but for some farms the cost may be more than they can support.  Still, if you have a chance to buy your meat animals either from a farm you know personally or a farm that is AGA certified I would highly recommend it. If you’d like to see the AGA’s complete standards here they are.

Is Grass Fed Beef Healthier?

The good news is that this one is a resounding yes. Grass fed beef has higher antioxidant levels, better fat ratios and fewer calories than conventionally raised beef does without the pesky traces of antibiotics and hormones.  A 2009 study published in the Journal of Animal Science compared grass finishing vs. grain finishing methods on the nutritional content of the meat. Here’s what they found:

  1. Healthier Fat Content– Grass fed beef is higher in total omega-3 fatty acids and lower in total fat than conventionally raised beef. Grass fed beef also has a healthier ratio of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids to anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids  (1.65 vs. 4.64 in conventional beef).
    Total fat in different meats including conventional beef vs. grass fed beef. Data from J. Animal Sci 80(5):1202-11 Taken from eatwild.com

    Total fat in different meats including conventional beef vs. grass fed beef. Data from J. Animal Sci 80(5):1202-11. Taken with gratitude from eatwild.com

    Omega-3 fatty acids bottom out in the feedlot. Data from: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88. Taken from eatwild.com

    Omega-3 fatty acids bottom out in the feedlot. Data from: J Animal Sci (1993) 71(8):2079-88. Taken with gratitude from eatwild.com


  2. Higher in Potential Cancer-Fighters – Grass fed beef is higher in CLA, which is a potential cancer fighter and also higher in vaccinic acid, which can be converted into CLA.
  3. Higher in Vitamins – Grass fed beef is higher in thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  4. Higher in Antioxidants – Grass fed beef has higher levels of vitamin E and beta-carotene.

    Vitamin E in grassfed beef. Data from: Smith, G.C. "Dietary supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and international markets." Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171. Taken with gratitude from eatwild.com

    Vitamin E in grassfed beef. Data from: Smith, G.C. “Dietary supplementation of vitamin E to cattle to improve shelf life and case life of beef for domestic and international markets.” Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1171. Taken with gratitude from eatwild.com

  5. Higher in Minerals – Grass fed beef is higher in potassium, calcium and magnesium.

S.K. Duckett et al, Journal of Animal Science, (published online) June 2009, “Effects of winter stocker growth rate and finishing system on: III. Tissue proximate, fatty acid, vitamin and cholesterol content.”  Also for a great article on grass fed beef, meat, milk and poultry check out Eat Wild.

 Quality of the Cows Life in Grass Fed Beef

I am an unashamed omnivore, proud of my status at the top of the food chain. Nothing about that means that I do not value the lives of the animals that I eat any less than I value any life.  It matters to treat all living things with kindness, care and consideration. There is absolutely no excuse to neglect another living being. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves and you can make your own decisions as to which life looks happiest.

Feedlot cattle. Just picture yourself in that dusty pen with all those bodies, constantly. Flickr Photo Credit: Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, used under Creative Commons. Industrial Feedlot

Feedlot cattle. Just picture yourself in that dusty pen with all those bodies, constantly. Flickr Photo Credit: Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, used under Creative Commons. Industrial Feedlot

This is the life of honest to god grass fed beef from americangrassfedbeef.com. Now don't these look like happy cows?

This is the life of honest to god grass fed beef from americangrassfedbeef.com. Now don’t these look like happy cows?

The simple fact is that their environment speaks for itself. I have no ethical problem with eating meat, but I have a huge ethical issue with raising animals in a cruel or unnatural environment.

Other Thoughts on Grass Fed Cattle vs. Feedlot Cattle.

I’d like to digress for a minute into the musings of my mind, simply because these issues aren’t talked about too much with farmed beef.  Obviously on a feedlot cattle need daily doses of antibiotics so that they don’t get diseases from all the other cows there – it’s like humans in prison, but with less space. Communicable disease travels quickly.  Of course I don’t like that, but what about lifestyle diseases? These cows are being fed a diet that has nothing to do with what they would get in the wild (which is grass). That diet happens to be tremendously high in sugars and starches, which in humans leads pretty directly to diabetes.  Is it safe to assume that the cows we eat are largely diabetic cows but that this doesn’t matter to growers because they’re slaughtered before the health ramifications show up? I would theorize that this is exactly the situation. I’m guessing that by eating diabetic or pre-diabetic cows, we may actually also be ingesting their hunger and satiety hormones as well as the inflammatory particles that the cows flesh would be saturated with. What would that mean if my theory is correct? It would mean that by eating diabetic animals we are raising in our own bodies some of the hormonal and inflammatory factors that would contribute to our own diabetes.  Food for thought.

Economic Impact of Grass Fed Beef

This is a hard one to parse out. Grass fed cows take more time to raise, more land per animal and more expertise in their farmers. This means it costs more (often far more) per pound for the consumer.  That can be a real challenge if you have a family of four. In defense of grass fed the farmers are more likely to be small family farmers rather than huge agri-business and more of that money is more likely to stay in the hands of real families and real communities. Environmentally this requires less chemical use and healthier land maintenance, but the bottom line is that it’s expensive. The compromise that I’ve come to is eating less meat, but higher quality and filling in the gaps with more fruits and veggies. This gives me a healthy balanced diet, keeps me in my food budget, and makes sure that I’m putting money towards the things that are important to me.  Grass fed beef, grass fed meats and sustainably raised food in general have become a priority for me, but I’d love to know what you think so please leave your feedback!

Eat From The Earth: Foraging for Your Food

I am a big fan of plants and herbs, a big fan of the outdoors and a big fan of food – so let’s face it – foraging is pretty much my favorite thing.  Why you might ask? Why would I forage for food when there are so many shiny, waxed fruits and veggies at the supermarket? It’s a fair question.

Here is why I’m passionate about foraging for my food and why I think you might be too:

  1. Supermarkets are boring: Everyone agrees we’re supposed to eat lots of fruits and veggies every day. And many of us try to do that, but here’s the problem – we end up eating the same 5 – 10 kinds of fruits and veggies almost every day. Frankly, that can be more than a little boring.  I can’t be the only person who has gone to the grocery store and walked down the same aisle thinking “organic kale, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, bananas, apples, parsley, ginger, peppers. Yep – same as last week.” It’s not that there aren’t some exciting and wonderful foods out there, it’s that they’re hard to grow on a large scale, hard to transport, and hard to sell because plenty of people haven’t heard of them. Shake your diet up a bit and start to forage – this is the planet’s gift to those of us savvy enough to enjoy it!

    The uniformity of grocery store tomatoes. Try foraging! © Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

    The uniformity of grocery store tomatoes. Try foraging! © Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  2. Foraging is the perfect excuse to be outside: I *love* being outside, but there are only so many walks around the neighborhood, trips to the springs and hikes I can take in a week before I’m looking for something else – why not bring a field-guide and gather some food too?
  3. Foraged food is sacred food: There is something so magical about being connected to the earth, and connected to the place your food comes from.  This can be as simple as farmers market and visiting local farms, or it can be a little bit deeper and more vital than that.  Foraging – finding food in your natural environment – gives you a profound sense of just how much you are supported by the earth, by creation, by the divine mystery at all moments.  It is literally finding nourishment everywhere. Think about that for a moment because it is truly a profound idea to find nourishment all around you. This is a tangible gift to you for no reason at all – only because you are alive and have the eyes to see it.
  4. Foraged food is the best for nutritarians: Remember the nutritarian idea? It’s the notion that you choose the most nutritionally dense foods possible at all times.  Herbs, weeds, the plants that have difficult environments and survive because they are sturdy are generally the most nutrient dense plants out there and your body will thank you for the introduction to them.
  5. Your taste buds need some excitement: I’m just guessing here, but you probably know what spinach tastes like.  And green beans, and carrots and maybe even rutabagas. But you may not know what cleavers taste like, or the tart little pods that grow on some native clovers, or dandelion blossoms, or rose petals or juniper berries. These fresh, unique flavors can give you a whole different experience in your salad. They can enliven your dinner, your cocktails, your day.  Why be dull?
  6. You want to survive the zombie apocalypse: Well, don’t we all really. 🙂 Might as well build those survival skills now while there’s nary a zombie in sight.

Food Foraging Tips:

  1. Positive identification is key: When you’re first starting with foraging and just getting into it, be sure to choose foods that only look like themselves and can’t be mistaken for something else.  As your experience level grows and you get more used to looking at plants in detail then you can start in on the little more difficult foods.
  2. Expect the Unexpected: We are so used to the flavors that we are used to – it’s easy to forget that there is an infinite variety of taste experiences out there. Just because it’s green and leafy doesn’t mean it tastes like lettuce.  Likewise, just because it has a totally different flavor than you’re used to doesn’t mean it isn’t great food – you just have to begin to create space for it in your mouth.
  3. Start with Yard Food: Yard food is exactly what it sounds like – food foraged from your yard.  Why? Well, it’s pretty convenient for one, and there’s the added bonus that almost everyone knows what a dandelion looks like. Yard food is familiar food.

    Yard food! Gorgeous, sunny dandelion. © Ichtor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

    Yard food! Gorgeous, sunny dandelion. © Ichtor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  4. Prepare to be Fascinated: If you’re anything like me, you’ll find an interesting clump of plants (usually in a place where lawn is supposed to be growing) that you recognize.  Right next to that interesting clump, there will be another clump of different plants that are also interesting, and perhaps you haven’t seen this clump before. You will find that when you start looking there is an entirely engrossing world in your yard just waiting to be discovered and all you need is a good guidebook.
  5. All you need is a good guidebook: Try foraging in your yard a few times, and if you feel the fascination kick-in then it’s time to invest in a good guidebook or field guide.  There are plenty of them out there – and many are specific to the area where you live. Of course I will keep writing about this because I love it, but I probably can’t write enough to keep pace with your fascination.
  6. Find a foraging-friendly friend: Everything is more fun when there’s two of you, and once you start doing some serious tromping around in the woods and fields and roadsides it can be nice to have company. I feel 100% confident that you will start tromping around seriously, so we may as well use the buddy system.

American Crab Apple blossoms - beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

Are You a Nutritarian?

I *love* the concept of being a nutritarian – of looking for the most nutrient dense foods and enjoying those. Of broadening your ideas about what good food really is – we’ll be talking about this so much more because all of a sudden I’m an aspiring nutritarian (does anyone know do crab apples grow in Texas? I’m getting a tree). It’s time we embrace the sweet apples sour cousins, the grains less convenient early ancestors and yes, even the lowly dandelion from the yard (please don’t spray with weed killer – just dig it out and add it to your lunch.) Yes – there may be some growing pains for all of us as we adjust our taste buds to enjoy more bitter, tart and pungent but WOW about the nutrition!

What is a Nutritarian you Ask?

Funny – I have this AWESOME infographic right here…

An infographic by the team at Online Masters In Public Health

In answer to my own question, there is a Texas Crab Apple, which you can learn about from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. There is also an American Crab Apple which you can buy for $3.95 for a seedling that is rated for zones 5-9 (we’re an 8 in Austin but need something that’s rated to 9, which is hotter, and about 5, which is colder because you know as well as I do it’s unpredictable here.) Here’s a picture from Willis Orchards:

American Crab Apple blossoms - beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

American Crab Apple blossoms – beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

If anyone plants one this spring will you keep me posted? And expect more posts about foraged foods in Texas, because we’ve all got weeds, we might as well eat them.

Missing The Best Part? Avocado Seed Benefits

Kind of a random topic, but I have been learning about avocado seed benefits in these past couple of weeks, mostly because I’m hungry. I chose this time to do a 21 day cleanse with a complete elimination diet, which sounded awesome in my head but is working out to be one heck of a challenge. If you’re not sure why anyone would be insane enough to do this, read more about elimination diets here (although I’d suggest doing it in summer when nobody in Texas feels like eating anyway).  So – my diet right now is incredibly limited and I’m looking for ways to get extra nutrition out of the things I’m allowed to eat, hence the avocado seed benefits, and as it turns out they are AWESOME for you. I’m noticing a big difference in  my level of satisfaction with the morning smoothie as well as energy and feeling of fullness.

How do You Eat An Avocado Seed?

Avocado seed benefits may be greater than the rest of the avocado!

Avocado seed benefits may be greater than the rest of the avocado!

Avocado seeds are pretty significantly hard, and not the most pleasant tasting things to chew on directly – they have a little bit astringent, little bit bitter flavor (but if you read the nutritarian post, you know that the astringent/bitter flavor usually means it’s literally full of amazing nutrients, which happens to be one of the avocado seed benefits as well). My compromise was to chop it into smaller pieces (carefully, I found out the hard way that kitchen knives like to slide off rounded edges rather than cut through them. Oops!) and add it to my morning smoothie.  The flavor is easily covered by a banana and frozen berries and my vitamix makes short work of the grinding.

Avocado Seed Benefits:

  1. Fiber. More soluble fiber ounce per ounce than almost any other food out there.
  2. Antibacterial and antifungal. There is evidence that avocado seeds inhibit the growth of bacteria in the gram positive rod group and also of a variety of fungii including candida.
  3. Antioxidant.  70% of the total antioxidants from the whole avocado are found within the seed, which means we often throw away the best part. Just as an aside, the skins are also extremely high in antioxidants so that might be the next food experiment.
  4. Anti-cancer!! A flavenol from avocado seed was given to rats with cancer, which  induced programmed cell death (apoptosis) in the cancer cells. Serious avocado seed benefits!
  5. Anti-inflammatory for the GI tract. Historically avocado seeds were used in South America to help treat dysentery, gastric ulcers and other digestive disorders.
  6. Boosts skin collagen. Avodaco seed oil actually boosts collagen production in your skin and makes hair shinier and skin softer. Talk about a super food!
  7. Boosts heart health. The oils from avocado seeds and flesh include 71% monounsaturated fats (MUFA), 13% polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and 16% saturated fatty acids (SFA). This helps promote healthy blood lipid profiles and support cardiovascular health.

Avocado Seed Smoothie:

Awesome Avocado seed benefits from this berry smoothie. Thanks Praisaeng at freedigitalphotos.net

Awesome Avocado seed benefits from this berry smoothie. Thanks Praisaeng at freedigitalphotos.net

Here’s what I’ve been doing mornings this week to enjoy the avocado seed benefits and supercharge my nutrition:

  1. 1/2 avocado (including flesh and 1/2 of the seed, cut in pieces)
  2. 1 banana
  3. 3/4-1 cup organic frozen berry blend
  4. 1 scoop fiber powder
  5. 2-3 scoops protein powder (right now I’m using SP complete dairy-free, which is unflavored and unsweetened)
  6. Water to bring to the right texture.

Blended this tastes like a rich, creamy, berry smoothie and it’s really filling. You know you’re getting great fiber, great fats, protein and a ton of antioxidants.  The berries and banana cover up the flavor of the avocado seed, but you still get all the avocado seed benefits. You will feel a health boost from the antioxidants and phenolic compounds and power-pack your day. This smoothie also starts you out on the right track with so much fiber to keep your blood sugars regulate, and give you sustained energy to last the morning. Just be sure you let it blend for a while because chunks of avocado seed aren’t the most appetizing thing.