Posts filed under ‘Health’

Long-term Supplement Use Could Be Bad

Merry Holidays – you can give up buying multi-vitamins and put that extra money toward Christmas gifts. Okay, I know a lot of you are going to cry foul, so let me just give you the facts as reported: A recent news article cited a new study: “…women who took multivitamins were 6 percent more likely to die than others.” You can read the rest of the article at this link: http://www.denverpost.com/fitness/ci_19167099.

That said, calcium was the one supplement in the study that appeared to be beneficial. They don’t specify every supplement they were tracking in the study, but I’m guessing they did not study the use of supplements designed to help chronic conditions such as joint issues. My experience has been that if you have a specific condition, supplements can be very helpful to get you through it until your diet and body can handle itself again.

All this is to say that everything should be applied in moderation and with solid reasoning. “We think the paradigm ‘the more the better’ is wrong,” wrote Dr. Goran Bjelakovic and Dr. Christian Gluud, two European physicians. Too few vitamins may result in vitamin deficiency, they wrote, but too many may “increase the risk of toxic effects and disease.”

Know why you are taking supplements and, as with everything, it’s good to take some time off. I usually take summers off when the sun is shining and a wide variety of fresh food is plentiful and picked at the peak of its nutritional value.

December 3, 2011 at 11:49 am 1 comment

5 Slow-down Strategies for Autumn

Autumn is, of course, a time to focus inward. With the shorter days and cooling temperatures, our fiery natures, so dependent on warmth and lots of sunshine, are also cooled, giving us a perfect opportunity to slow down and rejuvenate.

Plants give us a perfect example of how to do this. They withdraw the parts of themselves that bear fruit and provide nourishment to their roots. Leaves turn gorgeous colors and then let go in order that the tree or shrub may survive the winter to blossom again. They have stored, in their roots, all of the good energy that the sunshine, water and soil nutrients helped them create and they will make good use of it through the winter while they grow more slowly, or not at all.

People can and should do the same in the autumn. Five great ideas for this:
1. Schedule less. Plan to spend an evening curled up with a good book once a week instead of rushing to the next event.
2. Take on an afternoon or evening yoga class to stretch your body and your focus.
3. Eat the fall/winter harvest: apples, pears, potatoes, squash, root vegetables, which are slightly sweet and very grounding.
4. Go for a hike. Getting out in nature is one of the best ways to create calm. Fall/winter hikes where there is typically less to focus on outwardly, allows you to enjoy the moment in a very different way.
5. Get to bed earlier. People’s bodies really do respond to day length. Staying up late causes your body to go into stress mode, fueling unnecessary fires which will keep you up even later.

Simple solutions and simple steps to take advantage of the quiet of winter and come into spring and summer full of life and energy, ready to blossom again!

October 31, 2011 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Reintegrating After the Cleanse

Fun varieties of winter squash all work well in soups, stews, risotto and baked or roasted for those chilly nights!

Try a new variety of winter squash this season.

Three days after the end of my cleanse, I have slowly integrated some of the food items I gave up for two weeks. I started with cow’s dairy and measured my body’s response to it. As I suspected, no change in energy levels or digestion. Then, just a teeny amount of sugar in the form of one Hershey’s Kiss on Monday and another on Tuesday, plus about 1/4 oz of chocolate chips after dinner both days. Last night was wine, which was nice to reincorporate. This morning it was my black tea, which tasted great.

I also just found out that it’s Celiac Awareness Month from Rudi’s Breads. They make a few gluten-free breads and are celebrating this month with the “31 days of Glorious Gluten-free Giveaways” on their Facebook page. There are Celiac awareness games as well as free loaves of bread, t-shirts and even GF toasters! Check it out at http://www.facebook.com/rudisglutenfreebakery. Their breads are lighter than most whole-grain breads that have wheat as a base, but tasty!

I’m not planning to go back to eating any wheat products until the end of the month, and probably sparingly at that point, but we’ll see. In addition to Rudi’s, both Udi’s and the Canyon Bakehouse make pretty good GF breads, so removing gluten from my diet turned out to be much easier than I thought, even though I’ve done it before.

I will also stay away from most sugary snacks and processed foods for a good long time, maybe until Thanksgiving. The afternoon sugar crash that occurs is just not worth it and I’d rather have really high-quality desserts, like fondue at a restaurant in Vancouver for which we bought a Groupon, rather than donuts and grocery-store cookies every day.

The best part is the season. I have been making soups for the past week out of yams, winter squash, potatoes, garlic, onion, leeks and all of the fall and winter produce. I’ve also been eating a salad almost every day, which is so satisfying and a nice foil for the warmth of the soups.

 

October 19, 2011 at 7:45 am Leave a comment

Local Food Week 2011

Southeastern Colorado’s Local Food Week starts on September 17 this year. There is a great line-up of classes and events, restaurant dinners and specials, a movie screening and more to tempt your tastebuds for the best of what Colorado has to offer.

 

This is an annual initiative of the Peak to Plains Alliance, so go to their website: http://www.peaktoplains.com and click on the Local Food Week link at the top to find out all the details! Then just go and explore and enjoy the world of local food! 

August 31, 2011 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

National Awards and Saving the Harvest

You may have heard the Agriculture segments that Western Skies presented last year to the Colorado Springs Community. I happened to be a part of that effort and was delighted to get the news that it won a first prize for “News/Public Affairs” from Public Radio News Directors, Inc., a national organization of journalists who give the award “to honor the very best in local public radio.” If you want to listen to the whole broadcast, click here.

It’s always interesting to me to get to mid-summer and see just how much produce we have available to us in southern Colorado. This year I doubled the size of my garden, just to see if I could handle it. If I could, I intended to “put aside” a bunch. To put aside refers to canning, freezing, drying or otherwise saving your harvest for a later date because, let’s face it, there is actually a limit to just how many tomatoes you can stuff in your face in a season, once they start coming.

I have roughly the equivalent of two 15’x20′ plots in my personal garden. In taking on my neighbor’s garden, I doubled that. My neighbor helps from time to time and my ex-neighbor, who started the garden there, asked to come back and help in exchange for veggies since she and her husband were not going to be around enough of the summer to have their own garden.

This being the year of the weed, I’m so glad to have the help. It turns out that my personal garden is probably about all I can handle without quitting my day job. The good thing is that others are helping here and there and reaping the benefits.

Which brings me back to putting aside. I’ve already blanched and frozen the spinach and snap peas. I’m still harvesting kale, chard and broccoli in the garden, but just enough to use and not enough to freeze.

The root veggies are about big enough to start using. Carrots, parsnips, and many root vegetables will keep in the ground through the winter under a thick layer of mulch, so I will only pull those as needed. While beets could be treated the same way, they are so delicious roasted that I will roast and freeze them in their skins.

You can also freeze peas, beans, corn and anything else you see in the frozen section of the grocery store. Freezing vegetables preserves nutrients better and produce tastes fresher this way, so it’s my preferred method for putting aside food. However, if there’s ever a power outage, you could lose everything , so I am going to learn to can this year.

A quick nod to drying and pickling foods: Apples, plums, peaches and cherry tomatoes,  are wonderful cut into 1/4″ thick slices and dried. Cucumbers, of course, are wonderful pickled. Check out this easy refrigerator pickle recipe from Organic Gardening

Audrey’s Pickles

Organic Gardening, Aug/Sept 2010

Makes 2 quarts, approximately 18 servings

1 lb. medium cucumbers

3 cloves garlic

½ t. black peppercorns

½ t. whole mustard seed

1 t. fresh dill weed

1 whole dried bay leaf

2/3 c. brown sugar

6 ½ T. white distilled vinegar

6 ½ T. white-wine vinegar

¾ c. water

Cut the cucumbers into spears or slices and place in a 2-quart glass container or jar with a lid. Add the garlic, peppercorns, mustard seed, dill weed and bay leaf.

In a bowl, stir together the brown sugar, vinegars and water. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and shake the jar well to combine. Cover and chill. For fullest flavor, wait at least 24 hours before serving. These pickles will keep up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

Finally, there is canning. Canning is a little more labor intensive and requires special equipment to keep the food safe, but it’s worth it in the long run because you can really keep things for a long time without refrigeration. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great website with tons of information on safely preserving foods: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/. You can put aside tomatoes and tomato sauce, beans, and pureed winter squash very easily. Fruit is perfect to make into jam or put aside sliced and ready to eat.

Preserving food is a time-honored tradition. It’s so rewarding, in the middle of winter, to be able to pull out a slice of summer. Maybe this is your year to learn a new skill as well!

July 31, 2011 at 8:22 am Leave a comment

Food of the Month: Raspberries

That sweet-tart burst of spring goodness found in raspberries is something I wait for all year. As soon as truly fresh berries appear in the grocery store, I’m there with bells on. Berries are on the pricier side and they are high in pesticide use, so I decided to grow my own, and nothing is easier to grow than raspberry canes.

Purchase raspberries at a garden center such as Rick’s or find a friend with runaways. Some varieties will produce two or more crops in a season. I favor these because I like to eat raspberries for as long as I can and freeze the rest.

Choose a location in full sun where you can get at the row from both sides to make it easier to harvest. Raspberries need a little room to spread since many types fruit on second year canes and that cane dies once spent. You need a space where you can leave them in place for a year and let the new canes move in to replace the spent canes. In the spring, once you see signs of life, you can prune out the dry, brown canes to leave room for the new growth and air flow through the patch.

Raspberries require little once established. To get them going, prepare your bed with 2-3 inches of rich compost, tilled in to 12″ or as deep as you can get it. Plant the canes before they have tons of leaves and keep them well-watered while they are establishing themselves. After two or three weeks, you should be able to start watering less, but make sure to keep them well-watered through their first summer.

After the first year, raspberries will be fairly xeric. Even with a winter as dry as we had, I only watered them two or three times and they have come back with a vengeance this spring. You will want to give them a little extra water once the canes start to bloom and set fruit to increase production.

Nutritionally, all berries are packed with life-affirming goodness. Raspberries are particularly high in vitamin C and manganese. According to the website World’s Healthiest Foods,

“As an antioxidant food containing ellagic acid, raspberries help prevent unwanted damage to cell membranes and other structures in the body by neutralizing free radicals. Ellagic acid is not the only well-researched phytonutrient component of raspberry, however. Raspberry’s flavonoid content is also well documented. Here the key substances are quercetin,   kaempferol, and the cyanidin-based molecules called  cyanidin-3-glucosylrutinoside and cyanidin-3-rutinoside. These flavonoid molecules are also classified as anthocyanins, and they belong to the group of substances that give raspberries their rich red color. Raspberries’ anthocyanins also give these delectable berries unique antioxidant properties, as well as some antimicrobial ones, including the ability to prevent overgrowth of certain bacteria and fungi in the body (for example, the yeastCandida albicans, which is a frequent culprit in vaginal infections and can be a contributing cause in irritable bowel syndrome).

Interesting to see what might be delicious and generally helpful to overall health at the same time.

Enjoy raspberries in salads, cold summer soups and light desserts. Following is one of my favorite recipes. For a cocktail party, make bite-sized meringues drizzled with the sauce.

Meringues with Raspberry-Cardamom Sauce

8 servings

Begin at least a day before you plan to serve the dessert and you can bake the meringues up to a week ahead.  Don’t make them on a humid day as moisture prevents meringues from drying properly and staying crisp.  Use a 3 ½-inch round cookie cutter or a 3 ½ inch round can/glass to trace the bases.

Meringues

1-½ c. sugar

2 T. cornstarch

6 large egg whites, room temperature

¼ t. cream of tartar

Position 1 oven rack in bottom third of oven and the other in top third; preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using 3 ½-inch diameter cookie cutter as template, heavily trace 4 circles on each parchment sheet.  Turn parchment over so that marked side faces down, but shows through.

Whisk sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend.  Using heavy-duty or handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat whites in large bowl until foamy, about 1 minute.  Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.  Add sugar mixture, 1 T. at a time, beating until whites are very stiff and glossy, at least 4 minutes with heavy-duty mixer and 6-8 with handheld.  Scoop enough meringue into pastry bag fitted with medium star tip to fill ¾ full.  Pipe small dot of meringue under parchment in each corner of baking sheets.  Press parchment onto dots.

Starting in center of 1 marked circle, pipe meringue in continuous spiral to fill circle completely.  Pipe 1 meringue circle atop edge of base circle, forming standing rim.  Repeat, piping 2 more circles atop first, forming meringue cup.  Repeat with remaining circles, filling bag as needed.

Bake meringues 3 hours without opening oven door (sides of meringues may settle slightly).  Turn off oven; let meringues stand in closed oven overnight to dry completely.  (If making ahead, store airtight in single layer.)

Sauce

¾ c. seedless raspberry jam

½ c. sugar

1/3 c. water

1 16-oz. package frozen unsweetened raspberries (do not thaw) or 2 packages of fresh raspberries

1 t. ground cardamom

Fresh mint, thinly sliced

Whisk jam, sugar and water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves an jam melts.  Boil until sauce thickens and is reduced to generous ¾ cup, whisking often, about 7 minutes.  Add berries and cardamom; stir gently.  Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Assembly (If you freeze the vacherins, the meringues will be tender and chewy rather than crisp.)

Place each meringue on a small plate. Spoon raspberry sauce over.  Garnish with mint to serve.

June 1, 2011 at 6:04 am Leave a comment

National Nutrition Month

Realizing that it’s national nutrition month and realizing that people need to be able to stomach nutrition (pun intended), here’s a way to improve your diet without stressing about reading labels and counting calories.

We all know that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is good for you. Did you know, however, that it’s the colors in produce that signify what types of nutrients they contain? For instance, orange generally means you’ll get a good dose of vitamin A; green is often a signal for vitamin K.

What this means is that you can eat by color and not have to think so hard. The more colors you have on your plate the more nutritious your meal will be.

Here’s a delicious soup recipe that incorporates tons of colors.

Potato Bean Chowder

2 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
½ c. chopped celery
½ c. chopped green bell pepper
¼ c. chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 ¼ c. water
2 c. (½-inch) cubed peeled baking potato
1 c. canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 t. ground cumin
1/8 t. black pepper
4 c. vegetable broth
1 (16-oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (16-oz.) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 ½ T. grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the onion and next 4 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
Add water and next 8 ingredients (water through navy beans), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

Yield: 9 servings (serving size: about 1 ¼ cups)

March 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

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