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Posts Tagged ‘Vegetables’

Ah the cleanse is over. Sort of! After doing such a nice job of cleaning up our insides, we couldn’t exactly jump right back in to eating everything we ate before. What a waste that would be! Not to mention rough on the digestion after it had such a nice, long break. I ended my vegetable cleanse with a gentle gravity colonic so I think I put my colon through enough exercise without adding a sudden rush of all sorts of food right away.

Ah yes, I really did a colonic. They sound intimidating but if you go to the right practitioner they are a relaxing, soothing and rewarding experience. I felt great afterwards! While doing a cleanse without finishing it off with colon therapy is not a waste, it makes sense to me to get out all of those toxins. I’d cleaned up all that trash in my system, so I wanted to be sure to clear it out from my body. Otherwise you run the risk of getting all that garbage out of your cells and letting it stagnate inside you. I went to Kim at Nadha Brahma and she was fantastic.

photo by graur codrin

My biggest focus was to make sure I drank tons of water. During the cleanse and definitely after the colonic! The first food I brought back was quinoa. I felt like I needed some more texture and specifically I was craving a bit of grains. But grains tend to give me problems so I stuck with only quinoa. It was definitely time to add some fat back in to my diet – my skin was getting really dry – so I started using some olive oil to my raw veggies and coconut oil to the cooked ones. I’ve never had issues with nuts so I added them back in too. Finally, I really missed fish so I had some last night with dinner. And I’m back! There isn’t much more to add.

photo by Salvatore Vuono

One other thing to note is the importance of chewing. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but especially after a cleanse and colonic you want to help your digestion out by doing your part!

One thing I am trying to be careful about is something that I adhered to during my cleanse. The rules of food combining can be extremely helpful for your digestion. Basically, you never combine nuts, starches or meat and dairy in one meal. Any of those categories can be eaten with vegetables but not with eat other. For example, if you have vegetables with your fish, you wouldn’t want to eat grains too. Fruits are only meant to be eaten on an empty stomach so they are best in the morning and not for the rest of the day.

You may not be interested in getting this vigilant, but I find it really helps me. Plus, it’s not that far from how I have been eating anyway. In case you’re intrigued, here’s a quick rundown of the reasoning behind the rules. First of all, fruit breaks down much faster than any other food. So when you add another food at the same time, it causes the fruit to stick in your system longer even though it’s broken down and thus it starts to ferment. Not something helpful to have sitting around in your gut! Also, different types of food are broken down by different groups of enzymes. For instance, when you eat meat you secrete pepsin to digest it; when you eat grains your system sends out an amylase to break them down. Send out both of these at the same time and they neutralize each other, making it difficult to digest properly.

photo by Arvind Balaraman

Doing a cleanse is a great time to experiment with an elimination diet. In other words, reintroduce foods one by one to see how your digestion reacts. I’ve done this in the past and it’s what led to me finally discovering which foods were responsible for my digestive troubles. To narrow it down it might help to focus on the common contributors to health issues – dairy, eggs, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, shellfish and other fish and soy. Of course if there are any other foods that you have ever thought might not agree with you, try to add these in one at a time as well. As for things like processed, packaged foods, refined sugar and flour and the like… it’s safe to say we don’t need to add those back in at all!

Time for a run!

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That’s not quite accurate. Diary of a mostly raw fruit and vegetable cleanse. Much better, right?! 7 days of fruits and vegetables, piece of cake!

photo by Suat Eman

Cleanses seem to be a big topic these days. You see people with their Organic Avenue or BluePrintCleanse juice bottles everywhere you turn. Some people are aggressively, and I mean aggressively, against them, some people swear by them, some people try them out of curiosity (especially lately with all the attention they are getting) and some to lose weight. Personally, I wouldn’t say you need to do them regularly to be healthy but I do think they can be a great addition to a healthy diet. And while the pre-packaged juices are convenient (I like Organic Avenue best), you can pretty easily make your own at home.

Ideally, you would get all the right nutrients in the right ratios and whatnot. Certain vegetables in unique combinations to get a variety of vitamins and minerals and some nut milk to add fat, etc. Really when you are embarking on a three- or five-day cleanse, you don’t need to be that worried. As long as you follow a healthy diet overall, you will get the nutrients you need. The cleanse is supposed to give your digestive system a rest so your body can devote its energy to repairing the rest of your body. If you don’t get the right amount of Omega 3’s for this short period, it’s not going to harm you. (Of course, if you are currently underweight or have a known health concern you should consult your doctor or refrain from doing a juice cleanse.)

My Best Friend

There are plenty of ways to go about cleansing, it doesn’t have to be juice-only. You could just eliminate certain things from your diet, like common allergens or all white forms of sugar for example. Or you could eat only raw vegetables until dinner and then eat a healthy, balanced cooked meal. There are tons of options! I am not going to get into the specifics of how and why to cleanse here – it would need to be a series of entries! But let me just say I think it can be very beneficial if done right.

After seeing Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, my husband agreed to do a cleanse. It’s an inspiring movie, I recommend it if you haven’t yet. Of course, without hesitation, I jumped on top of his willingness! Seeing him not eat pizza or burgers or heavy foods for an entire 7 days? Sign me up! In the movie, Joe Cross lives on nothing other than smoothies for 60 days. That’s way too extreme for us – let’s just say Joe had a lot more ‘stored energy’ than we do. But to keep things simple and free of lots of complicated rules, we stuck to the raw fruit- and vegetable-only idea. It’s not the most balanced but it’s easy and gives our digestive systems a nice break. Juices, smoothies and good ol’ chopped up raw produce. Our friend Kathy just recently found out she has cancer so we decided to do the cleanse in her honor. If she can fight that beast and keep up her amazing positive attitude, the least we can do is a quick cleanse!

Today begins Day 5 already, I can’t believe it! The first couple days I was a bit tired and had a slight headache, not to mention a rumbly stomach. My husband, who was missing coffee and tends to eat a much heavier diet than I do on a regular basis, was suffering a little more. By the end of Day 3 we were so sick of raw produce. It was 7, 7:30, and then 8 pm and we were still sitting around saying we were hungry but couldn’t get motivated to eat any more vegetables. There was no way we were going to make it through 4 more days. We almost threw in the towel. Veggie sushi rolls across the street at Whole Foods was calling my name.

Out of desperation, at the last minute we decided we would add in some cooked vegetables and WOW I can’t tell you how good they tasted to us! Steamed vegetables with a bit of garlic and thyme? I would never have found this so exciting in the past. Not a trace of oil or salt? Boring! Our taste buds seem to be re-adjusted, which is reason enough on its own to do a cleanse in my opinion. When you eat foods with extra salt and sugar your taste buds start to need these things to find foods satisfying – but salt and sugar make you want more salt and sugar. Without them, we are finding so much pleasure in the natural taste of foods and able to stop eating when our bodies tell us they are full. There’s no getting confused by our heads telling us they want more even though our bellies are busting.

I’m totally rejuvenated and thrilled to be eating this way – not feeling trapped or limited at all! Day 4 I had tons of energy and continue to feel that way this morning. Tons! No help from caffeine or sugar or any other stimulant. Mr. Honey B is feeling great too!

It will be nice to add some fat soon, as my face is getting very dry. This way of eating is way too restrictive and missing in nutrients to continue for much longer, but it’s great for now. My digestion is loving it! Husband is almost giddy with his success in this department too – who knew I would be getting such details!? For two people who tend to have issues (and differing ones, at that) with this when not eating carefully, this is quite an achievement!

Come back in a couple of days to hear how the rest of the cleanse went! I’ll also talk about food combining, colonics and how to end a cleanse and re-introduce foods back into your diet.

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Have you ever checked your pH? I do. All the time. And every time I have a stomachache or just otherwise less than great feeling? Acidic. More acidic than usual, at least. (It’s incredibly easy. You can buy pH strips at most health food stores – Whole Foods included. You can also buy the ones I use, pictured to the right, here. The strips will include a pH scale so you know what you’re looking at.) I know, the pH Diet, it sounds like just another fad. And maybe (probably) the diet book is, but the idea of keeping your body within a happy alkaline range is just good sense. Ideally, you want the blood running through your veins at a pH of 7.365. Approximately! 😉

Actually even slight fluctuations can cause problems which, over time, can become serious. Everything from minor irritations like unclear skin or poor circulation to chronic fatigue or heartburn can signal acidity. Over time you can wind up with immune deficiency and potentially serious disease. An acidic setting is also what bacteria and yeast love most – it literally feeds them. And I don’t think I need to tell you that we don’t like them.

Have you ever looked at a list of what’s alkaline vs. acidic? The latter is largely made up of the stuff you know you aren’t supposed to be eating anyway! Soda, white flour, sugar, red meat, alcohol… you know how it goes. And of course eating lots of vegetables will keep you nice and alkaline. For a pretty comprehensive list of what’s what, just check out this one on Google. Or one of the other zillion lists out there. You’ll notice that even within fruits and vegetables there are more and less acidic choices. Of course you can’t be expected to eat zero foods from the acidic list and everything on the alkaline side, but a good 75-25 sway is a pretty good minimum to stick with. I’m a little more strict, myself.

Basically, alkaline foods give you energy and acidic ones suck you dry. All the cells in your body thrive in an alkaline environment – the other end of the spectrum gives you problems. Your body already fights against acidity as it is, what with regular everyday cellular activity and keeping you breathing and all that, before you even enter food into the equation. Naturally, non-food factors like stress and lack of exercise lead to acidity as well. It’s pretty safe to say you aren’t likely to have to worry about making your body too alkaline. It takes a waaaay larger amount of alkalinity to fight against acidity.

Kris Carr does a pHenomenal job of explaining the basics of pH, including what it means and what to do about it, in her recent book Crazy Sexy Diet. It’s a great book in general, I highly recommend it. One of the things she explains is how relentlessly your body works to maintain balance. You see this all the time – you get too cold and your body shivers to try to warm you back up; you get dehydrated and your body sends signals of intense thirst. Anyway, she explains how this struggle relates to pH and when you do unbalanced things like sticking to highly acidic foods, your body does whatever it can to bring you back to alkalinity. This includes taking minerals from your bones, teeth, tissues and organs – anywhere it can find reserves. As mentioned in the book, you need minerals to make proteins, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, basically everything you need to live. Your body has to make these, and it relies on what you put in your body to do it. Pretty serious stuff.

Some of the things I do to make sure I keep my pH in check are these…

  • Drink LOTS of water
  • Green Smoothies – I make them in the morning and keep them in the fridge all day, so when I want a snack I can grab this instead of cookies! I also like to put my morning smoothie in a plastic water bottle with a top – this way I can take it with me so I’m never left hungry and at the mercy of what’s at the nearest coffee shop or corner store.
  • Use a green powder! I like Vitamineral Green. I usually put it in my smoothie but you can stick it in water or juice.
  • Exercise! Duh, I know, obvious, but it’s easy to let it go if you aren’t thinking about it. It really does a lot to keep you balanced. It certainly has a huge effect on balancing my blood sugar as well. Just remember if you can’t fit in a proper workout, at least make sure you aren’t sitting still all day. Try to get up and move for a while at least every hour.
  • Eating vegetables does NOT have to be painful. Don’t let your stubborn brain get stuck on the idea that just because something is a vegetable it can’t be good. Be open-minded. Check out my post on how to sneak them in throughout your day in a tasty way!
  • Sea vegetables are especially helpful given all the minerals they contain.
  • Try eating more raw foods. (No, I don’t mean beef carpaccio.)
  • Take a supplement. I try to buy all organic and high quality foods because I know the nutrient content is generally quite low in other foods. But I still don’t get all the nutrients my body needs, it’s just not a perfect world. At least take a general one. You might also look into probiotics and enzymes, as well as others that suit your individual needs. I love New Chapter and MegaFood, for starters, because they are organic and whole food-derived. Nordic Naturals is a great option for fish oil, another super addition to your daily regimen!! (Quality is critical with fish oil, given all the toxic crud. It’s critical with fish in general, but know that toxins are that much more concentrated in the oil.)
  • Cut down on animal! Explore all the millions of other options out there. Be adventurous. Try new recipes! Clearly there are infinite reasons for this, way beyond balancing your pH.
  • Stop with the sugar. At least try to eat less of the refined, poor-quality, mass-produced stuff for a start. Use natural sweeteners. But the less sugar (of any kind) you eat the better. Challenge yourself! I’m sure you can go a week or two without any if you decide to.
  • RELAX. Find a way to release stress, whether it’s exercise, a hot bath or a massage… Whatever does it for you. Hopefully it’s not 3 glasses of whiskey at the end of the day. I think you know what I’m after – healthy relaxation. I didn’t say it has to be PG!

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WOW it is cold out there. Makes you want to put on sweats, curl up under a blanket and eat something like mac ‘n cheese! Veggies are certainly not everyone’s priority this time of year. And even if they are still at the top of your list of favorite foods, they may not be for your husband or children. (At any time of year!) That’s why it can be helpful to disguise them as something else. Now, if you’ve ever been to a raw restaurant, you know that veggies can be transformed in to an endless variety of foods and you can’t even tell they are what they are. It’s amazing! For the purpose of this post, we will keep it SIMPLE.

The benefits of hiding vegetables is two-fold. Of course, you are adding the nutrients of vegetables to a dish, enough said. But also, the displacement of whatever you are substituting the vegetable for is a huge benefit too. Faking out your kids with a bowl of “chips” or “onion rings”? The real deal is so unhealthy, and you are eliminating trans fats, sodium, preservatives and a whole list of things you can’t pronounce. For instance, last night instead of empty calorie-filled white pasta, we had zucchini “noodles”. You can transform boring this…

…into delectable this! When all the tomato sauce goodness soaks in to the zucc, it is just not the same vegetable. Or any vegetable at all.

So let’s see how we can transform healthy produce in to all sorts of palate-pleasing dishes!

Juices and Smoothies: This is an easy one! Throw an apple in the juicer with a bunch of greens and it’s suddenly a sweet treat! With bananas and blueberries in a smoothie, your taste buds won’t even notice the kale.

Breakfast: Try adding pumpkin to oats or yogurt with a little cinnamon and nuts, it’s more like dessert. How about an egg scramble with a bunch of chopped up veggies? Add a little hot sauce? Mmm! Or how about a healthy zucchini muffin? No one thinks they are anything but delicious – until they hear there is zucchini inside!

Starches: There are SO many ways to substitute white flour with vegetables. Cauliflower is one of the most versatile. Depending on how finely you grind it up and when and how much you cook it, it can stand in for mashed potatoes, potato salad, rice or risotto, or breadcrumbs. Did you know you can make a delicious stuffing with cauli instead of bread? As we’ve already seen, you can make “pasta” noodles out of zucchini – most squashes and root vegetables for that matter. Spaghetti squash is a great stand-in. You can also use these same veggies, and bell peppers too, as noodles for Asian-themed dishes – add a peanut or sesame sauce. To take the pasta theme one step further, if you thinly shave root veggies they can make a fantastic ravioli too. For the last of the starches, how about using cabbage instead of a tortilla? Or even a hamburger bun – though that is less “hidden”, it at least still allows you to pick up the burger with your hands so that has to count for something!

Fried foods – I can’t tell you how easy it is to cut sweet potatoes in to the shape of french fries, toss them with a little olive and salt and pepper, throw them in the oven for a little while and suddenly you have awesome-tasting “fries”. Thinly slice any root vegetable, toss them with the same ingredients and bake them in to crispy chips! Your kids or husband may cringe at the mention of kale – mine certainly does – but when you add oil, salt and a little cheese and bake them into chips they are a whole different animal. You can even make onion rings or zucchini fritters that taste freakin delicious baked in the oven.

Dips: Who doesn’t love guacamole and salsa? And what’s more, you can use veggie chips to dip! Pesto can be made with added vegetables and it is delicious – try adding bell peppers or mushrooms next time! I had a roasted red pepper dip at a restaurant the other night and it was fantastic. Ever made raita? Add some garlic and cucumber to plain yogurt, it’s to easy.

Dessert: Yes, even dessert. I guarantee you no one will notice if your chocolate pudding is made with an avocado base. Guarantee it! They may ask how you made it because it is so smooth and delicious, but not because it taste anything like avo!

Well, that’s a pretty good start. So go eat your veggies – no excuses!!

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Hopefully you get the Michael Pollan reference. The Omnivore’s Dilemma? In Defense of Food? If you looking at the computer screen with a confused look on your face, get up and run out the door to pick up one of his books ASAP.

Right then, on with the blog post… I noticed as I made my way through the grocery store today that I do not crave sugar at all. I never thought this was possible. I mean, I have kept my sugar addiction at bay and eaten a very healthy diet for the last several years, but no desire at all? Once upon a (recent) time, I was the craziest sugarholic I’d ever met. Lack of sugar cravings almost invariably meant that I was about to notice all the other symptoms that accompany the flu, in short order. Today I saw some of the things I would have HAD to get in the past and… nothing. I don’t know if this is because I told myself these foods are absolutely off limits, no if’s and’s or but’s; if it’s because I am too frightened of the consequences it will have, given my blood sugar issues, pushing me down the path toward full-blown diabetes; if the mood swings and digestive issues and the crap I know I will go through as a result has become that unpalatable; or if it’s simply because I haven’t had the evil starch in so long. I imagine it is a combination of all these things, but mostly the last point.

And I am absolutely not complaining one bit. I don’t miss it. The best part is that the experience gives me deeper insight in to what it takes to get away from sugar addiction, for me and for anyone else. Honestly, if I can kick the habit, anyone can kick the habit. Well… that may not be fair, but certainly almost anyone. There are so many strategies, substitutions, remedies. Exercise, stay hydrated, don’t let yourself get too hungry, make healthy sweet treats at home, the list goes on and on and on. The ‘suck it up and just don’t eat for a couple weeks’ strategy works for some people. Sugar, if you are really dedicated to the cause, will not beat you. Or me!

I made the simplest dinner that perfectly fulfilled my need for comfort food. One of my favorite meals used to be pasta with pesto, preferably gnocchi but I wasn’t about to argue with regular white pasta either. Today? Who needs the pasta?! This was delicious, I did not feel like I was missing a thing!

Spinach and Buckwheat with Pesto

Ingredients

2T olive oil
1/2 small onion
1/8 (approx.) cup raw cheese
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup whole grain buckwheat (pre-cooked)
pesto (to taste)*
*Note I usually make my own pesto with nothing but fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts and the slightest bit of sea salt; but today I cheated with an organic, store-bought version with the same ingredients.

Directions

Heat olive oil in a pan and throw in onions. Cook for five minutes or until softened. Throw in sprinkling of cheese, spinach and buckwheat and cover for one minute, until spinach is just wilted. Quickly turn off stove and mix all ingredients together. Do not over-cook.

This was honestly so delicious and hit the spot. If you have a better tolerance than I do, of course you will want to have fresh white pasta from time to time, and you should enjoy it! But try using whole grains as a substitute now and then. Or even better, often. Even whole wheat pasta is processed, the closer you can get to the way nature intended (whole grains) is best. And when you do feel the craving, try to have more sauce than pasta. I’m certain some people will disagree or think I’m crazy, but I never understood the concept of eating a large plate of mostly white pasta with just a teeny bit of marinara sauce. The tomato sauce is the best part! Make tomato sauce with tons of veggies, even sausage or some other meat if that’s your thing – and make the pasta just another ingredient rather than the main one. The plain ol’ pasta doesn’t offer you much, at least once it gets past your taste buds.

When Michael Pollan said ‘eat food’ he meant eat it in the form of food, like the edible kind, not as in the kind that comes from a box or a can. His rules are pretty simple. Don’t eat too much? Pretty straightforward. I realize people may find this part easier said than done, but it’s a LOT easier to control how much you eat when you aren’t loading up on sugar. I think the last part, ‘mostly plants’, is the most important part. If you are eating a heap of raw vegetables, no one is going to tell you you really should be watching your portion size. What is better than vegetables? They are delicious, available in a wide variety and ridiculously healthy for you, giving you energy and well-being. What’s not to love? You violently chew them up and swallow them without mercy and they just give back! Incorporate more of them and make everything else a side show.

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