Health Coaches, traditional food lovers, and rebels with a dietary cause, it's a beautiful (and historic!) time in Foodie Land. Finally, fat has been vindicated! Thanks, Time Magazine, for putting butter on the cover.
I wondered if I would ever see this day, although I worked for it, anxiously awaited it, and got many an eye rolled at me in the process. For years, undergrounders such as myself did our darndest to get the mainstream to believe that saturated fat was NOT the enemy, and certainly not to blame for the sharp rise in obesity and heart disease in America since the early 1980s.
After all, haven't cultures, including ours, been eating saturated fat for millennia, never seeing heart disease or obesity in the numbers we see today? You bet! Yet, sadly, in the late 70s and early 80s, the mainstream started a war on one of our most vital nutrients: fat. And who do we have to thank (or spank?) for that 30+ year war on fat that sparked a preventable disease epidemic? Your United States government and its Department of Agriculture (USDA).
So, now that the mainstream has finally realized (or admitted) that the USDA was very, very wrong, and after millions of school children were forced to eat USDA guided school lunches, what is actually to blame for the sharp rise in heart disease, obesity, and diabetes since the 80s? SUGAR!
Soon after the USDA began its "saturated fat is bad" campaign, food manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and marketed low-fat processed foods to the public. These foods had lost much of the flavor that fat provided, so they were pumped with sugar to boost the flavor back up, with dire consequences for the public.
Scientists have known for a very long time that high sugar intake damages a healthy body in many ways, from raising cholesterol, to weight gain, to tooth decay, to premature aging, to diabetes. However, old habits die hard, especially in government and the mainstream media, and, very importantly, sugar is a BIG business. See my 2011 blog post: Sugar 101: Everything You Need to Know
So, now that the media is all abuzz with the news that fat is not the enemy, what now? Will food companies follow suit and stop marketing low-fat, high sugar foods? Will the sugar industry suffer? Will the USDA change its recommendations and save school children any more dietary abuse? Will the pendulum swing so far in the other direction so that people start consuming fat in record amounts?
I don't know, but the next few years should be pretty interesting! I, for one, can't wait to hear the USDA say, "We were wrong." I hate to say, "I told you so", but not this time!
So, even still, the question must be asked: Does fat make you fat? In larger amounts than your body can burn, absolutely yes. But moreso does a sedentary lifestyle full of processed foods and sugar. I recommend a simple approach: a lifestyle with daily activity, plenty of fresh water, and a whole foods diet rich in foods from nature, not from a laboratory or a factory. Learn to cook simple, colorful meals, take regular walks, and smile a lot.
This morning's breakfast of fluffy Paleo Pancakes was a fun little endeavor and happily, I'm still full hours later. The best part is, no carb crash! Everybody loves pakcakes, but needing a nap after breakfast is never good when there's a whole day ahead of us. The secret weapon? Coconut flour (thanks, Mom!).
Coconut flour is a great substitute for grain flours, providing much more protein and fiber. It also contains less carbohydrate than an equal amount of grain/wheat flour, but requires much less content in recipes than grain flour (note these pancakes use just 1/2 cup of flour), therefore drastically cutting carb content even more. Coconut flour is great for those with grain or gluten sensitivities or those who lean toward a grain free diet, being recently popularized as "Paleo".
Coconut flour acts differently than grain flour, so they can't be interchanged in recipes without lots of adjustments, but as with any baking recipe, stick to it and you'll be good! The texture of these pancakes is different than that of a conventional pancake, and make sure you are using coconut flour that hasn't been exposed to moisture. Have an open mind, and enjoy!
(makes about 8 small cakes)
4 eggs at room temperature
1 cup milk of choice (I prefer coconut milk)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. honey or pure maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional, but yummy!)
dash of cloves (optional)
dash of nutmeg (optional)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
fat of choice for skillet frying (I prefer coconut oil, butter, or olive oil)
(If nuts or fruit are desired, either fold in 1/4 cup before frying or add to top when serving.)
Pre-heat skillet (I prefer cast iron) to medium-low. In small mixing bowl bowl, beat room temperature eggs for a couple minutes until very frothy (the secret to "fluffy"). Beat in milk, vanilla, and honey (or maple syrup) until combined. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk or fork together flour, spices (if desired), baking soda, and salt. Whisk egg mixture into dry flour mixture until combined and not lumpy. Batter will be very thick, sort of like muffin or brownie batter, and not like regular cake or pancake batter. Add fat to skillet, and add batter by less than 1/4 cup dollups to skillet. Trust me, keep them small! These do not hold like conventional pancakes, so keeping them small makes them easier to flip and helps them cook more uniformly. Cook for a few minutes on each side, and be very careful when flipping. When they're brown on both sides and spring back in the middle when tapped, they're done. These are best topped with real, grass-fed butter (or coconut oil) and real maple syrup. Chopped nuts, berries, or bananas would be great on top, too!
Television commercials never cease to amaze me. This morning, yet again, I accidentally came upon a TV commercial that's screaming for rebuttal. This one, for Special K Protein Shakes. I guess I didn't learn my lesson after yesterday's blog post!
So, the scene: A lovely young woman in her car with a Special K shake in hand, stopped in front of a person in a cupcake suit who's trying to tempt her with a pretty looking pink cupcake in hand. She grips and sips on her Special K shake, staring back at him as if to say, "I don't need you anymore, evil cupcake." Then, a voice babbles something about the "Protein Effect" (Special K's newest marketing angle).
Yes, these shakes do have 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber as claimed. That's great for keeping you full and less easily tempted by a pretty pink cupcake (if the person in the cupcake suit doesn't scare you off first). However, the commercial fails to mention that the shakes also contain a whopping 18 grams of sugar. That's more sugar than the fiber and protein content combined! 18 grams is equal to 4.5 teaspoons or 1.5 tablespoons. If you had one of these shakes daily for a month, you'd ingest almost THREE CUPS of sugar. See my blog, "Sugar 101: Everything You Need to Know" for a crash course on why 18 grams of sugar is unacceptable in a drink or snack being marketed as good for you. In fact, why not note the full ingredient list for the milk chocolate flavored Special K Protein Shake:
"WATER, PROTEIN BLEND (WATER, NONFAT MILK, WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE), SUGAR, MALTODEXTRIN, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF POLYDEXTROSE, CANOLA OIL, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, GELLAN GUM, CELLULOSE GUM, SOY LECITHIN, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, POTASSIUM CITRATE, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), SALT, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, CARRAGEENAN, SUCRALOSE, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, VITAMIN E ACETATE, VITAMIN K1, ACESULFAME POTASSIUM, NIACINAMIDE, VITAMIN D3, CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, VITAMIN B12, ZINC SULFATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, FERRIC PYROPHOSPHATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), MANGANESE SULFATE, THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), POTASSIUM IODIDE, FOLIC ACID, BIOTIN, CHROMIUM CHLORIDE, SODIUM MOLYBDATE, SODIUM SELENITE. SWEETENED WITH NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS AND NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS."
Drink up? Hm. No, thanks! My loves, Special K Protein Shakes are a processed food that the body was never intended to ingest or digest. Your body needs and wants food from nature, not from a laboratory.
TV commercials are created for the single purpose of getting you to comply with an agenda, whether it's buying a product or believing an idea, with truth and integrity NOT being part of the formula. Marketing is a powerful tool and we, especially children, fall victim to its manipulation every single day, everywhere we go. TV, radio, the internet, billboards, endorsed products/toys, movie and TV product placements, intentional supermarket layout and neuromarketing are constantly fed, most often covertly, into the psyche. The average child watches 10,000 food advertisements per year on television but they're never for REAL, healthy food. How can 10,000 views not affect the thinking of a child when repetition is the key to learning? Marketers study child psychology in order to be able to most effectively get children to nag their parents into buying products. There is actually a form of measurement in the marketing industry called the "nag factor". I couldn't make this stuff up!
I cannot stress enough the need for muting commercials! We use the DVR in my house so we can skip right over them. When I forget to press fast forward, I see the idiocy of marketing and then I end up here blogging about it, but only because I truly love you. :)
So, when you need a pick me up, don't believe the hype. Instead of trading that cupcake for a Special K shake, go for celery or an apple with natural peanut or almond butter, mixed seeds and nuts, chopped vegetables with humus, or berries with plain yogurt - all of which provide a serious protein and fiber boost! Is it easier to grab a ready-made shake on the go? Sure it is. But, can't we all find 2 to 5 extra minutes to make a better investment in our health? You betcha!
I watch very little television. The bit that I do watch is almost exclusively DVR'd so that I can fast forward through the commercials. I loathe television commercials to the point that it's a house rule that if they're on, they're muted. Today, I was reminded why!
I woke this morning and decided to watch a recorded snippet of Deepak Chopra talking about meditation. About 10 minutes in, I had to make a pit stop (hence, my need for meditation) and therefore didn't fast forward the commercials. As I came back to the TV, I was greeted by one of the most outrageous commercials I've ever seen. I laughed. I pondered. And then, I was simply disgusted, but I'm glad I didn't miss this one because it reminded me just how important my mission to spread wellness really is.
Walgreen's latest marketing campaign aims to make you think that you're crazy if you use nutrition to battle a cold. Yes, they've stooped to the lowest of the low, bashing good wellness practices and insulting our intelligence at the same time. Ouch.
The scene: A slightly overweight woman is standing at her kitchen counter, looking sickly in her bathrobe, wiping her runny nose. On the counter in front of her are several healthful ingredients, ideal for treating illness, that she is reluctantly dumping into a blender, such as kale (my favorite food!), ginger root, lemon, raw egg yolk, sardines, garlic, cayenne pepper sauce, onion, and some orange liquid (presumably orange juice, hopefully fresh squeezed!). As she's looking disgusted at adding ingredients to her concoction, a script plays in the background, spoken by a cheerful male voice (sounding much like the adorable John Corbett):
"When you're sick, seems everyone and their brother has a home remedy to try. But Walgreen's knows that you need advice from an expert. [Scene then pans to the same but now healthy woman, dressed nicely at Walgreen's, talking to a Pharmacist with a box in hand and looking so very comforted.] That's why our pharmacists are trained to know just what you should take for your symptoms. They're here and ready to help. Before you try anything TOO CRAZY. [Scene pans back to woman looking sickly, now smelling the finished blender concoction and dumping the lumpy mix into a glass. She obviously doesn't have a Vitamix. Woman is so disgusted that she puts her glass down, giving up on that "craziness".] You can stop by today for the service you trust, at the corner of Happy and Healthy."
Translation: If you choose natural healing over chemical drugs, you're crazy. Walgreen's lies at the corner of "Happy and Healthy"? Keyword: LIES. Seriously, friends. Walgreen's wants you to skip the nutrient dense smoothie and head to the pharmacy for a drug that will mask your symptoms but do absolutely nothing to heal you or promote your good health in general, leaving you more susceptible to colds in the future and needing a detox to get all those drugs out of your liver! This is not conducive to "Happy and Healthy"; it's conducive to staying sick and unhappy while Walgreen's thanks you for your money.
Things like this keep me motivated on my mission to help people navigate through media and marketing manipulation and to steer themselves to lasting wellness. Here's what Walgreen's doesn't want you to know (or believe) about the healthful ingredients in their commercial that can heal your body, boost your natural immunity, and increase your lifespan:
Kale: Second most nutrient dense food on earth. Full of fiber to cleanse your gut, antioxidant vitamins to fight disease, minerals such as iron and calcium to build strong bodies, vitamin K (for blood, bone, and cell health) and essential omega-3 fatty acids (for heart and brain health and to fight inflammation). Excellent for the lungs.
Ginger: Powerful anti-inflammatory, immune booster, promotes healthy sweating to detox during colds and flu, cancer fighter, boosts gastro-intestinal health and powerful fighter of motion sickness.
Garlic: Powerful antioxidant and natural antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, assists in normalizing blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
Lemon: Alkalizing (creates an alkaline state in the body, vital to good health), high in vitamin C and flavonoids to fight colds and flu, liver cleanser, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer.
Onion: Antibacterial, promotes cardiovascular health, high in vitamin C to boost immunity, B vitamins for energy, high in potassium for multiple health benefits, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer.
Cayenne Pepper: Promotes circulatory health, anti-fungal, anti-cancer, clears mucous, anti-inflammatory, promotes detoxification.
Egg yolk: Nutrient dense! B vitmains for energy and immune boosting, calcium and magnesium, antioxidants, selenium, zinc (cold fighter!), lecithin to counteract the cholesterol, and more!
Sardine: Promote heart and bone health, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, second highest B12 content of any food, high in vitamin D for numerous health benefits, rich in selenium, high in calcium.
Smoothies are a great way to create a nutrient dense health boost, but adding all the above ingredients together, as the woman in the Walgreen's commercial did, will surely turn off a lot of newbies (a great way for Walgreen's to keep people coming back for more drugs!). So, try adding a few of those ingredients to a smoothie with lots of berries or other colorful fruit. See my KaleBerry smoothie recipe for starters. You'll love it; I promise.
As a health coach, my advice is to add any of these health promoting foods to your diet anywhere you can sneak them in. I also advise that you not take health advice from a television commercial, and most definitely not from a drug store. Even better still, MUTE the commercials!
Cheers to your health.
Smoothies are one of my favorite things, not only because they're delicious and easy, but also because they're a powerhouse of nutrition and a great way to get greens into kids (and adults) who wouldn't normally eat them! This KaleBerry smoothie is one that I make more often than any other for my family. With the right balance of ingredients, the taste of the kale (which I happen to love!) is virtually undetectable by even the most critical tongue.
Kale happens to be the second most nutrient dense food in the WORLD (and my favorite vegetable)! It's chock full of antioxidant vitamins, minerals (lots of iron and calcium), fiber, amino acids, and the ever important omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. It's readily available at supermarkets, and definitely abundant at farmer's markets (my personal preference) where you'll get the freshest crop and therefore the highest nutrient content. It can be bought in bulk at a more than reasonable price at farmer's markets and can be frozen for year round use.
Berries, like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, also rank very high in nutrition content, being one of the top ten nutrient dense foods on earth. They're loaded with powerful antioxidants, phytochemicals, dietary fiber, and minerals. Berries also have the lowest carbohydrate content of all fresh fruits. They're commonly available at supermarkets and farmer's markets, and, just like kale, berries can be bought in bulk and frozen for year round use. Frozen berries are also available year round in supermarkets, being a great choice because they're picked at peak ripeness and then quickly frozen, preserving nutrient content. For the best price and quality, I prefer Trader Joe's organic frozen fruit. Nature's Promise and Cascadian Farms also market organic frozen fruits which are a little more expensive, but still very good.
I tend not to measure my smoothies by methods other than handfuls, palmfuls, and pinches, even when following recipes that call for it. I prefer to throw things together quickly and experiment with different ingredients each time I make something. The ingredients for this smoothie are pretty basic, and at the bottom of the recipe you'll see suggestions for adding a little flair if you prefer, which I alwasy do. Enjoy!
KaleBerry Smoothie Recipe
Yeild: 4 servings
(all organic highly recommended)
2 large kale leaves, or 1 handful of chopped kale**
1 heaping handful of blueberries**
1 heaping handful of strawberries**
1 heaping handful of raspberries** (these best mask the kale flavor)
enough water (unsweetened rice or almond milk work nicely, too) to cover about 3/4 of blender ingredients
**More can be added once blending has commenced, depending on what will fit in your blender and what consistency you like. The more the merrier!
It is known that I am a completely out of the box thinker. I am a peaceful rebel. I do not support a particular political party as I hold both conservative and liberal views on many subjects, and because I'm no fan of our obviously corrupt political system. One thing I do support 100% is freedom. Freedom of thought, first and foremost, and freedom of speech, food freedom (we're working on it!), freedom to move about peacefully, freedom of property and liberty, freedom of religion and the press, freedom of petition and assembly, and certainly equal opportunity. Hence, I always say that Civil Disobedience is patriotic. When oppression is active, we are not free.
In contemplating the Occupy Movement recently, I realized a relevant and powerful metaphor in the animated movie "A Bug's Life". I saw this movie more times than I could count because I had two toddlers when it was released in 1998 (and I loved it!). I'll always remember it as an obvious and easy to swallow metaphor for Civil Disobedience in society.
Those who remember this movie will remember that the big bully grasshoppers were bigger in size but far less in number than the little ants whom they completely controlled by tactics of fear. However, an amazing thing happened when the ants finally realized that they greatly outnumbered the grasshoppers; they stood up, took back their power, and changed their world. The grasshoppers had no choice but to let the ants BE.
Now, to relate "A Bug's Life" to the Occupy Movement consider the following...
Grasshoppers: 535 Senators and Congressmen, 800,000 law enforcement personnel, 2 1/3 million military.
Ants: 312,784,991 United States Citizens.
THAT'S A 100 TO 1 RATIO OF ANTS TO GRASSHOPPERS. Plus, many of the 2 1/3 million military Grasshoppers actually support the Ants, because they are Ants.
Power to the Ants. Occupy Grasshoppers. And, don't forget to eat your veggies! :)
Sugar, sweet sugar... How can something so tasty be so bad for us? The truth is that sugar itself isn't a bad thing. In fact, the body's primary source of energy is glucose, which is sugar. The problem is that sugar is highly addicting by nature, but nature never intended for us to consume sugar in the forms or amounts that modern diets offer. Sugar consumption today is wreaking havoc on human health. In order to properly understand the sugar situation, how it's affecting our health, and how to fix it, we must understand what sugar actually is, its addictive nature, how it's handled by the body, and the history of sugar in the human diet.
Sugar is the term used to summarize substances called saccharides, components of carbohydrates. They are monosaccharides and dissaccharides which are known as simple sugars, and polysaccharides which are more commonly referred to as complex carbohydrates. Simple sugars have one molecule (monosaccharides) or two bonded molecules (dissaccharides) and are easily metabolized by the body causing quick spikes in blood sugar, short bursts of energy, and then the all-too familiar “crashes”. Simple sugars are found in breads and other baked goods, pastas, soft drinks, sweeteners, candy, dairy products, and most breakfast cereals. Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) have three or more bonded molecules and require more processing by the body than simple sugars, therefore offering a slower rise in blood sugar over a longer period of time. The sustained blood sugar release offered by complex carbohydrates is what we need from sugar(glucose) for sustained energy. Complex carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains (not processed foods claiming to contain “whole grains”).
Sugar is highly addictive, and there are scientific and evolutionary reasons for that. Sugar activates the same chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, as do stimulant drugs (cocaine, heroine, nicotine). It's literally a “feel good” substance. It's a biological catch 22, because we're addicted to a substance that's harming us, but that we actually need and were designed by nature to crave.
The body gets energy from sugars and fats, but the preferred source is sugar because it's easiest to convert to energy. Humans were designed with a like for sweet foods as a mechanism for survival. Our ancestors would have had more energy for living and reproducing if they found foods with sugars, like fruits, vegetables, and grains from plants. Fruits would have been the least consistently accessible of those foods, so nature designed us with a steady desire for those foods so that we'd continue to find those energy sources with high sugar content. These foods also provided the macro nutrients that animal foods did not, and the animal fats which were eaten helped the body absorb the fat soluble vitamins from plant foods. So, therein was the balance needed for survival which laid the groundwork for modern sugar addiction that has stemmed from the chemical processing and extracting of sweeteners from the nutrient rich fruits that once housed them. We've processed out the nutrients and given ourselves unnatural and very unhealthy doses of sugar that we then continue to crave in the vicious cycle of sugar addiction.
When foods containing sugar are ingested, the sugars move through the digestive tract and are broken down by enzymes once they've reached the small intestine. All sugars are broken down into simple sugar (monosaccharides) and absorbed into the blood stream as glucose. Once the glucose reaches the blood, the pancreas receives a signal to start producing insulin, which then scoops the glucose from the blood and delivers it to the cells in your body for energy. If that energy (sugar) is not used, it is stored as fat. This is why insulin is called the fat storage hormone and explains why high sugar intake leads to weight gain. Many are starting to recognize high sugar intake as the biggest contributor to the American obesity epidemic.
However, humans historically ate a low sugar diet. Sugar consumption has risen by incredible leaps and bounds since the industrial revolution. As recent in history as 1700, the average American consumed 4 pounds of sugar per year, which more than quadrupled to 18 pounds per year by 1800. Consumption rose to about 90 pounds per year in 1900, and hit an all time high in 1999 when it reached an unbelievable 158 pounds per person per year. Humans were never designed to consume the amount of sugar that is eaten today, and unfortunately it's difficult to get away from.
Modern Americans eat a lot of highly processed foods, especially carbohydrates, a.k.a. sugars. This has been especially true since the low-fat craze of the 1980s, when fat was replaced with sugar for flavor. U.S. consumption of sugars added to food items increased by 23 percent between 1985 and 1999. Coincidentally, obesity and related disease rates have risen sharply since then as well.
Where is our motivation to fix this? The real problem with sugar is not just its addictive qualities, but its detrimental effects on our health. High sugar consumption causes inflammation, weight gain, elevated cholesterol, premature aging of the skin due to destruction of collagen strands, sleep disorders, and mood disorders, especially depression. It also makes women more prone to yeast infections, and feeds cancer as cancer's favorite food is glucose! There is absolutely nothing positive to be said about high sugar consumption. If we care about how we feel physically and mentally (and even about how we look), then we've got to fix the problem.
The only way to fix the sugar situation is to work on it individually by upgrading our food choices. Since we're not going to see sugar and processed food operations shut down any time soon (sugar is a BIG business!), we must choose a whole food diet that is mostly plant derived and reject processed foods as much as possible. One of my favorite quotes on food is by Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, who recommends that we “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By “food”, he means whole food, real food, eaten as nature intended, unprocessed. Whole foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats that are eaten in their natural form, either raw or cooked, never having had anything extracted or added to alter their natural state. White rice is an example of a processed food because the fibrous and nutrient rich hull has been removed, leaving just the starchy (sugary) center. Brown rice, on the other hand, is a whole grain, whole food because the hull is still intact as it was before the grain was harvested.
Our highly processed, modern diet is devoid of nutrients and high in sugar. One can see from the state of public health in America that this is not having a positive impact on the population. Whole foods that are eaten as they are produced by nature (no processing) offer nutrients in the correct proportions to one another, and contain the co-factors necessary for the body to first recognize and then properly absorb the nutrients. A whole food diet also contains lots of fiber, which, in addition to lowering blood cholesterol and cleansing the colon, also helps control blood sugar levels because fiber slows down the body's absorption of sugar into the blood. This explains why an apple, which is high in sugar, will cause a more sustained boost of energy than the same amount of sugar extracted from the apple and then eaten alone.
The detrimental effects of modern high sugar consumption are clear. A back to basics approach to eating will certainly solve the problem for individuals who want to feel good and enjoy life as they age, and who are willing to make the change. We must fully realize what sugar is doing to our bodies and our culture as a whole, return to pre-industrial levels of sugar consumption, and teach our children to do the same. It's our only hope for survival as a healthy, vibrant, competitive people in a world market.
I have struggled with sugar addiction my whole life! Because I understand the effects of sugar on my body and on society as whole, I work hard to educate people on the subject. As a Health Coach, I work with clients on their own battles with sugar and sugar addiction (you know who you are!). I am happy to support you in your health journey.
Purslane is a hardy, annual succulent plant that is viewed here in the United States as a common pesky weed. Much to our surprise, it’s actually packed with nutrition and commonly eaten all over the world. I first came across Purslane when helping my mother weed her vegetable garden many years ago. She found a bunch growing in a raised bed and delightfully exclaimed that it was “Purslane”, having been taught about the plant when she was a child by her father, my grandfather, who was an avid outdoorsman and forestry major in college.
Purslane can be identified by its sprawling, pinkish red stems and succulent clusters of bright green leaves that are paddle shaped and not more than one inch long. It grows along the ground but will grow upward sometimes if surrounded by other plants that are taking up its elbow room. Purslane is well tolerant of drought and poor soil conditions. This explains why it absolutely THRIVES in my well cared for and watered organic vegetable garden, without ever having been invited!
Purslane is unique and wonderful in that it contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant, providing both ALA and EPA. It is full of antioxidants, vitamins A, B, and C, and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron. (Note: you want to consume calcium foods that naturally contain magnesium, which aids in calcium absorption. This is nature’s innate wisdom at work.) Purslane is clearly not a “pesky” weed worthy of pulling and discarding. I happily munch on sprigs of it while I garden, fresh picked!
Purslane has a crunchy texture and a very mild flavor with a hint of sweet/sour/tang. All parts of the plant, stems, leaves, and seeds, are edible and can be used in the same way that one would use any other leafy vegetable. Purslane can be added to raw salads, sautéed in a stir fry, or blended into a smoothie for picky eaters. In Greece, it’s sautéed in olive oil with feta cheese, tomato, onion, garlic, and oregano. Give it a try!
I often encounter people who say that they can't afford organic foods. This is certainly an understandable view considering the state of the economy and the high cost of food. However, I strongly feel that we can't afford NOT to go organic. There's no doubt that organically grown foods are healthier for people and the planet than conventional foods, and they taste better to boot! They can also be surprisingly affordable. I'd like to offer some simple suggestions for incorporating organic foods into our budgets, but first, a conversation about what's perceived as "affordable" is, in my opinion, even more important than offering suggestions on how to save money.
It's really about priorities. We often think we can't afford something, but if that something is important enough to us we find a way to make it work, don't we? I had a friend who used a $300 Coach wallet and often stated that she couldn't afford organic food because she had a family to feed. She found a way to pay for that $300 wallet because it was something that she wanted. I see this scenario all the time. We ALL spend money on things that we don't actually need. I have plenty of earrings that I don't need myself! Taking a good, hard look at our priorities is a good start to balancing our budgets.
Our health should be our number one priority. I always say that it's important to think of going organic as an investment in our own long term health, and also in the health of the plant. Are we really willing to pay LESS for something that's been sprayed with deadly neurotoxins and hormone disruptors countless times? Genetically Modified Foods, irradiated produce, artificially dyed fruits and vegetables; that's conventional food in a nutshell. Unbelievable! We're so disconnected form our food sources that most of us don't even know how or where our food is produced, what was sprayed on or injected into it, who touched it, how long ago it grew, and so on.... That's scary! We must love ourselves and care for the environment more than that or we're seriously doomed. We deserve better. Our kids and grand kids deserve better. This is so far beyond an issue of simple affordability, but once we start to care, economics can take care of the rest.
Economic principles tell us that the more produce and the more we buy something, the more affordable it becomes as prices go down due to more volume sold. If we continue to believe that organics aren't affordable and steer clear of them, the less we'll see of organics! The market is controlled by us, the consumers. Our dollar is our vote, and that's a fact. If we continue to buy organics, they'll become mainstream and we'll all be better off in the long run.
Below are a few suggestions to help us start eating more organic foods affordably so that we can create positive change in the food system for our health and the health of our children and their children....
1) Many big name grocery stores now offer their own store brands of organic foods that are more affordable than name brand organics and are often comparable in price to name brand non-organic foods (Nature's Promise, 365, and Full Circle brands, for example).
2) Farmer's Markets are great places for local foods and are very, very affordable compared to grocery stores. Much of the stuff is seasonal but there are winter markets around, too! You can easily make friends with farmers to learn their methods of producing. Many aren't certified organic simply because they don't want to spend the large sum on certification, but still use organic/sustainable farming methods and are usually amazing stewards of the land. Plus there's the added bonus of buying LOCAL foods.
3) Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a great way to get organic and local foods as well, and is surprisingly affordable! One pays a sum of money to a local farm, and in return gets a portion of the farmer's yeild, usually in a weekly delivery. Again, getting to know the farmer is important, and creating a CSA relationship helps keep local farmers in business and keeps healthy foods on your table. www.LocalHarvest.org is a great resource for finding CSAs and Farmer's Markets.
4) Growing your own food is easier than you might think! Start a garden, grow in containers on a sunny porch, or go for the easiest method - bag gardening! For those who are unfamiliar with bag gardening, all you need is a couple bags of garden soil at a couple bucks each, and six packs of vegetable plants for not much more than that. All supplies (and free advice) are available at your local farm, garden center, or home improvement store. Simply lay the bags down in a sunny spot, slice holes in the top, and plant the veggie plants right into the holes in the bag, according the the planting instructions that came with the veggie plants. Voilà, instant garden! Bags can stay put and be reused year after year as long as you supplement with a little organic fertilizer and/or compost.
Here's to our health!!!
"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."