Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Broccoli…The Why Else

Let’s look at some more reasons adding broccoli to your diet is beneficial…

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1. Bones and Joints

Broccoli contains many nutrients that have been shown to keep your bones and fjoints healthy and to help prevent bone-related disorders….

  • calcium …broccoli contains almost as much calcium as whole milk.
  • phosphorus…6% DRV per cup
  • vitamin A…11% RDV, in the form of carotenoids
  • vitamin C…Broccoli is an excellent source of  vitamin C.  In fact, only one-half of a cup of cooked broccoli provides a whopping 84% RDV of vitamin C— more than that foundf in half of an orange.
  • vitamin K…broccoli contains 116% RDI of vitamin K.

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2. Brain Function

Broccoli contains many nutrients and bioactive compounds that can keep your brain and nervous system functioning correctly. In fact, eating only one serving of dark green vegetables , such as broccoli, per day may help resist mental decline.

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3. Cancer

Broccoli contains nutrients that may help fight and even prevent certain types of cancer—including breast, prostate, stomach, and intestinal. Eating two cups of broccoli twice a week is the amount most nutritionists consider adequate to reap the full cancer-fighting benefits of broccoli.

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4. Dental and Oral Health

Broccoli contains many nutrients—such as vitamin C , flavanoids, and calcium,—that have been shown to support oral health and prevent dental diseases—such as periodontitis, oral cancers

Many people also claim that eating raw broccoli helps remove plaque and whiten your teeth

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5. Diabetes

Broccoli may be worth adding to your weekly menu because there has been research showing that broccoli can be beneficial to diabetics…definitely adding it to my own weekly menu, know that my husband has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and I don’t want to be a fifty year old widow with a five year old, right?

Anyway, why/how is broccoli helpful for diabetics?

First of all, broccoli has been shown to significantly decrease insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes….perhaps because of broccoli’s high antioxidant content.

Broccoli has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve diabetic control because of its high content of soluble fiber.

 

 

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6. Digestion

Broccoli may support bowel regularity and healthy gut bacteria because it is rich in both fiber and antioxidants, two nutrients that are important for “bowel regularity” and healthy gut bacteria.

Fiber affects several aspects of our digestive system—the speed that food travels through our digestive system, the consistency of food as it moves through our intestine, bacterial populations in our intestine, the health of your stomach lining.

And for those readers out there who still give a crap…broccoli even makes it easier to take a crap.

 

 

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7. Eye Health

Broccoli contains lutein and eaxanthin, the same antioxidant that have been shown to make carrots so very good for your eyes;.

These antioxidants both help your eyes from eye diseases and problems—such as macular degeneration and cataracts

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8. Heart Health

Broccoli has also been shown to play a role maintaining the health of your heart,  maintaining your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and keeping your blood vessels strong

First of all, broccoli contains sulforaphane, an anti-inflammatory that has been shown to prevent and reverse damage to blood vessel lining caused by chronic blood sugar problems.

.The fiber found in broccoli may reduce your risk of heart disease.

Finally, B-complex vitamins helps regulate or reduce excessive levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that increases your risk of coronary artery disease.

 

 

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9, Immune System

Broccoli is loaded with vitamin C, possibly one of the most important nutrients for keeping your immune system effectively doing its job of preventing and treating  various illnesses.

The RDV for vitamin C is 100–200 mg….and broccoli contains 78 grams …84% RDI of vitamin C per half-cup serving. of cooked broccoli

 

 

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10. Pregnancy

Broccoli contains many of the vitamins, minerals and protein needed by expectant mothers…especially the B vitamins…and even more specifically the vitamin B9, also known as folate…that are important for the development of the fetal brain and spinal cord.

Eating broccoli and other fiber-rich foods while pregnant can can help ensure healthy pregnancy outcomes and support healthier cognitive development of the newborn.

 

 

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11. Skin

Broccoli, mainly in the form of broccoli extract, contauns nutrients that have been studied as far as protecting you from getting skin cancer and other skin damage that result from exposure to a damaged ozone layer and increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Amaranth “Granola Bars”

 

Melt the honey and almond butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

Stir to combine.

Stir in the vanilla.

Remove from heat.

Let cool 5min.

Place all of the remaining ingredients…except for the chocolate…in a large bowl.

Pour the honey mixture over the ingredients.

Stir to combine.

Add the cold, chopped chocolate.

Stir together.

Press the mixture in a square baking dish lined with parchment paper. You want your mixture to be about 1/2″ thick.

Refrigerate for about four hours.

Lift the bars from the pan by using the parchment paper to lift it out of the baking dish.

Use a large, sharp knife to cut the bars into twelve separate bars.

You can store these by place them in an airtight container and refrigerating for up to five days.

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Kimchee—The How

Since this has been the year that I have tried to eliminate processed foods from my family’s diet, I thought that I’d try making my own kimchee.

Making kimchee involves using the same fermentation as making your own  sauerkraut or dill pickles. This means first soaking the cabbage in a salty brine to kill off harmful bacteria and then allowing the remaining Lactobacillus bacteria, or “good” bacteria to convert the sugars in the cabbage to lactic acid in order to preserve the cabbage and give it a tasty, spicy flavor.

Since this has been the year that I have started trying to use fewer and fewer processed foods, and since “simple”  kimchee…also know as “mak kimchee”…is actually “simple” to make at home, here’s the basic process…

Prep veggies…

  • Cut the cabbage into 2″ strips. Place in a large bowl.
  • Sprinkle ¼C sea salt or kosher salt over it.
  • Use salt that is free of iodine and anti-caking agents, which can inhibit fermentation.
  • Gently massage the salt into the cabbage so the leaves start to soften.
  • Add enough water to cover the cabbage.
  • Use spring, distilled, or filtered water. Any chlorine in the water can prevent the kimchi from fermenting.
  • Cover with plastic wrap or a baking sheet.
  • Let sit at room temperature at least twelve hours.
  • Rinse the cabbage under cold water 3 times.
  • Gently squeeze out the excess liquid,
  • Set aside to drain in the colander for 15 to 20 minutes.

Make spice paste.

  • Combine whatever spices you have chosen to make your spice paste.
  • This is a matter of personal preference, depending on how spicy you want your kimchee to be once you’ve finished making it.
  • Options might include 1Tbsp-5Tbsp gochugaru, 5 to 6 grated garlic cloves, 1tsp ginger, 1tsp sugar.
  • In addition to the spices, you will want to add some sort of seafood or vegetarian alternative–such as 2Tbsp fish sauce or salted shrimp paste or 3/4tsp kelp powder mixed with 3 tablespoons water or 2tsp minced Korean salted shrimp–because this is what gives kimchi its expected taste.
  • Stir spices and fishy whatever to form a smooth paste.

Finish making the sushi.

  • Combine the cabbage and spice paste in a bowl.
  • Squeeze rhe cabbage gently to remove any remaining water from the cabbage.
  • Add any other vegetables if you want to add them—such as 8 ounces Korean radish or daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks or 4 medium scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Work the paste into the vegetables until they are thoroughly coated. I would suggest wearing gloves because the spice mix can sting, stain, and smell.

Pack the kimchi into the jar.

  • Pack the kimchi tightly into a wide-mouth glass jar.
  • Press down on the kimchi until the brine rises to cover the vegetables, leaving at least 1″ of space at the top.
  • Seal the jar tightly with a lid.

Wait a week or so.

  • Set the jar in a cool, dark place for one or two days.
  • After these first two days, open the jar and press on the kimchi with a spoon.
  • Check the kimchee once a day by pressing down on the kimchee with a spoon to keep the veggies under the brine and to
  • Keep pressing down on the vegetables with a finger or spoon to keep them submerged under the brine and to release any gases produced during fermentation.
  • Keep checking the jar for the next several days.
  • Once bubbles appear at the top of the jar and the kimchee tastes tangy and sour enough for your liking, it’s properly fermented and ready to be refrigerated.

Refrigerate your kimchee

  • Now set the kimchi in the fridge for another week or so.
  • The longer you refrigerate your kimchee, the better the flavor will become.
  • Your kimchee will stay edible for the next three to five months, as long as there’s still brine in the jar, kimchi can last for several months in the refrigerator.
  • But if the brine becomes particularly fizzy with bubbles, your kimchee has gone bad,

Now that you’ve made your own kimchee, you will find that it can be used so many different ways in your everyday cooking—such as rice, noodles, and soup—

But first if you simly haven’t have enough time or honestly don’t want to bother with making your own kimchee, let’s look at a few great sources for buying kimchee, and other Korean roducts, online.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Bok Choy…The Why?!

 

1. The Serving Size…The first thing to consider when starting to weed out your pantry or fridge in the game called “What Not to Eat” is the “Serving Size.”

Serving Size cannot be ignored…sad, but true…

Knowing all of the nutritional value in the Serving Size given on the actual package does not do a bit of good if you’re not actually eating the size that they supposedly tell you that you’re supposed to be eating. If you eat the whole entire box of Cap’N Crunch cereal, you have obviously eaten way more calories than the number of calories that they had expected you to have eaten. And not only have you eaten way more calories, you have also jacked up all those other supposedly important nutrient numbers also…

The nutritional value of bok choy here is based on a serving size of 1/2C.

 

 

2. Calories...Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. Needless to say, far too many Americans consume way more calories than they could ever actually need. Yet they hardly ever even come close to meeting the “official” recommended intakes for the many different nutrients that our bodies need.

As a general reference for looking at calorie content when looking at a Nutrition Facts label, remember that…Any food item containing somewhere around forty calories is considered to be a low-calorie food item…Any food item containing somewhere around a hundred calories is considered to be “average” or moderate…Any food item containing four hundred calories or more is considered a high-calorie food item.

One-half cup of bok choy contains 13 calories.

 

3. “Limit These” Nutrients...The next section of the nutrition label details the specific nutrients contained in the food item.

The actual specific nutrients listed first are those nutrients that all of us generally eat in adequate amounts. These are shown as a percentage, showing what percentage of the amount of the recommended nutrients that food item contributes to your daily diet.
The nutrients included in this section are carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.

  • a,  Carbohydrates…One-half cup serving of bok choy contains two grams of carbohydrates.
  • b. Fats…No daily recommendation has been formally established by the FDA at this point, so your main goal is to limit “bad” fats and get enough “good” fats…Bok choy contains absolutely zero fat.
  • c. Protein…Unless a food item makes a claim regarding its protein content—such as being “high in protein” or is marketed specifically for infants and children under four years old, this nutrient is often now shown. This is not a big deal because studies show that most of us actually do get enough protein in our diets already.
  • d. Sugar…No set-in-stone daily value has actually been established for sugar either, but obviously it’s important to limit the amount of sugar you consume each day.
    The amount of sugar shown will include both any naturally-occurring sugar and those sugars actually added to a food or drink. Check the ingredient list for specifics on added sugars…

 

 

4. “Get Enough of These” Nutrients…The nutrients listed next are those nutrients that hardly any of us generally eat in adequate amounts. These nutrients include fiber, vitamins,

a. Fiber…Fiber helps keep the digestive system running smoothly—bulking up stools, ensuring the smooth passage of food through the intestinal tract, stimulating gastric and digestive juices so nutrients are absorbed in the most efficient and rapid way, promoting healthy bowel function, and reducing the symptoms from conditions like constipation and diarrhea.

The recommended daily amount of fiber that each of us should be eating each day is 25 grams.

Bok choy provides one gram, or 4%DV of dietary fiber.

 

 

b.  Vitamins…Bok choy contains about half of your daily requirement for saeveral different nutrients—including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin B6.

  • Vitamin A…89%…essential for a properly functioning immune system.
  • Vitamin B1…(Thiamine)…3%
  • Vitamin B2)…Riboflavin…6%
  • Vitamin B3…Niacinn…3%
  • Vitamin B5…Pantothenic acid…2%
  • Vitamin B6…15%
  • Vitamin B9…Folate —prevents certain birth defects like spinal bifida and neural tube defects….may also help prevent strokes….17%
  • Vitamin C…75%…vitamin C is an antioxidant that shields the body from free radicals.
  • Vitamin K…..44%…Vitamin K helps with blood clotting and maintaining strong bones and teeth.

 

 

c.  Minerals…

  • Calcium…11%…The recommended daily value for calcium is 1,000mg.
  • Copper…Copper helps strengthen your bone density and your blood vessels, helps keep your nerves healthy, and boosts your immune system.
  • Iron..6%…A diet low in iron can make you feel tired and have little or no energy. The RDA for iron is…13.7–15.1 mg/day in children aged 2–11 years…16.3 mg/day in children and teens aged 12–19 years…19.3–20.5 mg/day in men…17.0–18.9 mg/day in women older than 19
  • Magnesium…5%
  • Manganese…8%
  • Potassium…5%…essential for healthy muscle and nerve function, strengthening your bone density, helping relax your blood vessels and arteries and reducing your risk of circulatory problems—such as blood clotting, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes.
  • Sodium…4%
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Yes, You Can Actually EAT Water

 

 

 

Okay, so we all know now that water is important to our health for many different reasons…but sorry, water is still boring—even when “spiked” with spices and herbs…

Is there any other option that can help us reach out daily recommended two liters of water per day?

Fortunately yes…we can actually EAT our water by choosing foods that have a high water content…

Let’s look at a few of these options, using the Raw Foods Pyramid as a guide…

The levels of the Raw Foods Pyramid are…

  • Water
  • Leafy Greens
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Image result for raw foods pyramidSprouts and Legumes
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Herbs, Microgreens, and Juicing Greens
  • Seaweed and Nutritional Yeast

So looking at these levels, let’s see which foods help you reach your daily water needs…

 

Leafy Greens…Leafy greens require ample chewing and provide a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also help with acid indigestion, constipation, and urinary tract infections.

  1. Iceberg Lettuce…Although we have all been told to choose darker greens—such as spinach or romaine—because these have more fiber and nutrients such as folate and vitamin K, lettuce is the best leafy green as far as water content. Iceberg consists of  95.6% water…more water than any other leafy greens—including butterhead, green leaf, and romaine.
  2. Spinach…Even though spinach has less water content than iceberg lettuce—92% water, spinach provides more nutrients than iceberg lettuce—including magnesium, potassium, B-vitamins, lutein, fiber, folate, and antioxidants.
  3. Other leafy green options that will increase your water intake include kale, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, Swiss chard, cabbage, and watercress.
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

When Life Gives You Way Too Many Lemons

Sometimes life gives you lemons…then there are times when life gives you more lemons than you can handle.

Just like when you buy one or lemons at a time, you’ll probably end up using them before they go bad, but if you try to save money and buy the big bag of lemons, you’ll probably end up throwing out how many?!

Anyway, what should we, or can we, do when life gives us more lemons than we could possibly handle?!

Those answers will be shared later, but first I wanted to share a little bit more about the nutritional value of lemon water and tips on how to use/make/keep more lemon water on hand.

Nutritional Value

Lemon water can quench thirst better than any other drink, but lemon water also provides our bodies with plenty of vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and vital trace minerals—such as iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium.

1.Vitamins…One cup of fresh lemon juice provides 187 percent of your daily recommended serving of vitamin C and 6% DV of vitamin B6.

Vitamin C...Vitamin C is important for many different reasons. These include…

  • decreasing the severity and duration of respiratory infections like the common cold
  • helping to produce collagen, which is important for smoothing out fine lines in the face and keeping your skin healthy
  • lowering blood pressure
  • reducing the health hazards that are a result of stress
  • reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • strengthening your immune system

2. Antioxidants…Lemon juice contains powerful antioxidants that helps protect cells from damaging free radicals….keeping your skin looking fresh, and helping slow down the aging process, and strengthening your immune system.

3. Electrolytes…Electrolytes are hydrating minerals—such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

4. Citric Acid…Lemons are loaded with citric acid. Citric acid provides many health benefits. These benefits include helping your body with digestion by interacting with various enzymes in your body and stimulating the secretion of gastric juice…and preventing kidney stones by increasing urine volume and hydrating you enough so that your body can flush out kidney stones quicker.

Finally, that same one cup of lemon juice contains…

  • 61 calories
  • 21 grams carbohydrates
  • 0.9 gram protein
  • 1 gram dietary fiber
  • 31.7 micrograms folate (8 percent DV)
  • 16% DV of copper.
  • 5% DV thiamin (5 percent DV)

Thirteen Tips on Filling Your Tumbler

  1. Add even more flavor to your lemon water by adding a few springs of mint, a teaspoon of maple syrup or raw honey, a slice of fresh ginger, a dash of cinnamon, slices of other fresh citrus fruits such as limes and oranges, cucumber slices, and so forth
  2. Always use fresh lemons, not artificial lemon from a bottle.
  3. Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning gives the body a chance to absorb these vitamins effectively and can provide a little immune boost….
  4. Drink lemon water at warm or room temp water to avoid shocking your system.
  5. Drink lemon water consistently in order to reap any health benefits.
  6. For a sore throat, gargle frequently with lemon juice, diluted half and half with pure water.
  7. For the relief of heartburn, taking a teaspoon o lemon juice in half a glass of water.
  8. Juice several lemons at one time into an ice cube tray. Freeze. Pop a few cubes in a glass of water to have fresh lemon juice at the ready anytime.
  9. Keep your breath sweeter by drinking a glass of lemon water after meals and first thing in the morning.
  10. Replace your morning coffee with a cup of hot lemon water.
  11. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into ice cube trays and freeze. Use instead of “regular” ice.
  12. Use more than just a single wedge of lemon in your mug.
  13. When buying lemons, choose lemons that are fully yellow and, if possible, organic. If the fruit is still green, it isn’t fully ripe. Avoid lemons that look dull or wrinkled or that seem excessively hard.

There are many uses for lemons around the house other than their simply lounging in sweet tea glasses with their best friend, ice…or squishing them in the juicer to make fresh lemonade…or drinking as lemon water.

So what to do with those extra lemons that are sitting there slowly rotting on your countertop?

 

Here are a few options…

1.  Air Freshener…Cut a few lemons into quarters. Put them in a pot of boiling water to release citrus-infused steam into the air.

2.  All-Purpose Cleaner…Fill a Mason jar with lemon peels and white vinegar. Shake. Put in a cool dark place for about two weeks. Drain the liquid into a spray bottle.

3.  Ant Repellant…Squirt lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Squeeze lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance.

4.  Clogged Tub and Shower Drains...Boil a big pot of water on the stove. Pour it down the drain. Wait for the water to drain. Slowly pour 1C baking soda down the drain, using a spoon or funnel. Add 1C lemon juice. Use your tub stopper or a rag to cover the drain. Wait 30min. Uncover the drain. Pour more boiling water down the drain. Repeat until your drain is no longer clogged. Do this once a quarter to prevent those big clogs from building up again.

5.  Coffee Pot…Stir together a few tablespoons of lemon juice, a tablespoon of Kosher Salt, a few ice cubes, and a tablespoon of water in the pot..Rinse with warm water once the stains are removed.

6.  Cutting Boards…Clean after each use by scrubbing 2tsp salt onto the board with a lemon half and rinsing.

7.  Faucet Polish…Rub faucets with lemon peel. Wash, dry, and buff with microfiber cloths.

8.  Fridge…Add the juice of a lemon to a sponge. Place it in the fridge overnight.

9.  Fruit and Vegetable Spray...Mix together 2Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2Tbsp apple cider vinegar, and 1C water in a spray bottle. Spray on fruits and veggies and then rinse. This will keep apples, avocados, and other fruits and veggies their natural color and avoid browning.

10.  Garbage Disposals...Cut three or four lemons in half. Remove the pulp. Fill each empty rind with a few tablespoons of baking soda. Place the rinds in a bowl in an out-of-the way spot. Keep the lemon halves there for a few days or until you don’t notice the citrus smell anymore. Then, if you have a garbage disposal, send the rinds down it — they’ll clean and freshen your drain on the way.

11.  Laundry Detergent Booster.…..Add 1C lemon juice to the washing machine during the wash cycle.

12.  Microwave…Combine 3Tbsp lemon juice with 1 1/2C water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on High for 5-10 minutes. Wipe away the softened food with a dishrag.

13.  Mosquito Repellant...Break block of 100% organic beeswax into pieces. Place in a glass bowl over a pan filled with simmering water. Melt over medium heat. Stir citronella oil into the melted wax.

14.  Pots and Pans…Rub the cut side of half a lemon all over them, inside and out. Buff with a soft cloth.

15.  Roach and Flea Repellant.…..Mop your floors with the juice and rinds of four lemons and 2 liters water.

16.  Stain Remover..First try to get as much of the dirt out as possible. Next cover the stain well with lemon juice, scrub it with some Kosher salt, and throw it in with the next load of laundry.

17.  Tarnished Silver…Dip a cloth into lemon juice. Rub the tarnish off. Rinse.

 

 

Beginning with Breakfast, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Production Foods

So as our family makes this transition from setting up a household that is “greener” and more “politically correct”…and learning to live with type 2 diabetes, I have decided to actually plan and prepare breakfasts, instead of passing out the Pop-Tarts or granola bars.

This last year I have totally realized just how much diet and physical activity affect my own health, as well as the health of our entire family.

Using the Raw Foods Pyramid discussed earlier in this post, Now What?!…Raw Foods Diet, we can easily see which low-calorie, nutrient dense foods are at the base of the pyramid, those foods that we should probably all eat more of in the first place…and which high-calorie, nutrient poor foods are at the top of the pyramid, those foods that we should eat very little of, if any at all.

As a wife, mother, grandmother, and simply as my own individual, planning a diet that is based only on pure, water-based food is important. Such a diet provides more of the nutrients that we all need, prevents a myriad of health issues, helps us to love or maintain weight, improves skin condition, helps us to have more energy (which is VERY important when you are fifty years old chasing a four year old all day long).

So in planning our breakfast menus, I have started by mainly including foods from the three bottom tiers of the Raw Foods pyramid, which are grouped together in the one category “Production Foods.”

As a quick review of the raw foods “diet”, the cardinal rule is to…

Avoid foods that have been refined, pasteurized, homogenized, or produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

Now, let’s start taking this pyramid apart by looking at the bottom three tiers—“production foods”…and ask ourselves the following questions…

water.

Water

  • How important is drinking enough water?
  • How can I get the best quality water possible, water worth actually drinking?
  • What other options exist that make water something I look forward to?

Leafy Greens

  • Why are leafy green vegetables so important?
  • What are the different varieties of leafy greens, other than lettuce?

Fruits and Vegetables

  1. What snacks actually contain real fruits and vegetables instead of flavoring and so forth?
  2. How can I incorporate fruits and vegetables into my breakfast menu?
  3. Which fruits and vegetables offer the best nutritional value?
  4. Why is eating vegetables and fruits so important?
  5. How can I make sure that I am getting the best quality fruits and vegetables possible?
  6. Why should I buy local, seasonal fruits and vegetables?
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Agave Nectar

Once I learned that my husband had been diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, my first thought…well, not my first…but anyway…I immediately felt like adding agave nectar to my instacart order from Sprouts…

But what I’ve been reading lately has made me wonder about adding this agave nectar to my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List altogether…and to get consume any agave through tequila instead.

 

What is agave nectar anyway?!

The agave plant is native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States, and some tropical areas of South America. The plant is sometimes referred to as the “century plant” because the plants must grow to heights of about thirty feet before ever blooming. But once an agave plant does bloom, it will produce several pounds of edible flowers. After this, the plant will die.

When an agave plant has been growing from seven to ten years old, the leaves of the plant are cut off, revealing the core of the plant (called the “pina”). When harvested, the pina resembles a giant pineapple and can weigh in at 50 to 150 pounds.

There are many different species of agave, but the most common one is the blue agave. Blue agave is the species of agage used to make tequila. In order for a tequila to be classified as a 100% blue agave tequila, the tequila must be made only from the Agave tequilana ‘Weber’s Blue’ agave plant and only in certain Mexican states, according to an agreement made in 2001 between the Mexican Government and European Union.

The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods. The Aztecs and Navajo Indians have used every part of the agave plant—including the flowers, the leaves, the stalks, and the sap for just about everything–including meat, drink, clothing, and writing materials.

  • Flowers…The flower head can be baked and then boiled to make an edible paste used by itself or made into soup. The flower heads can be baked and sundried to extend the shelf life. Dried slices of the flower stem can be used to make all-natural razor strops.
  • Leaves…The leaves may be collected in winter and spring, when the plants are rich in sap, for eating and making sisal or hemp. The expressed juice of the leaves lathers in water like soap. The leaves are also used to make a tea that is used specificaxlly for treating constipation and arthritis.
  • Stalks…The stalks can be roasted and chewed right before the flower blooms to extract the sweet sap, called argamiel, much like sugarcane. The stalks can also be dried out and used to make didgeridoos.
  • Sap…The sap from the flower shoot is often collected, fermented, and distilled to make alcholic drinks called mezcal, which we Americans mostly know  in the shot glasses called tequila. The sap can also be boiled to make a sweetener that the Mexicans refer to as miel de agave.

Agave nectar is a sweetener derived from the sap of the agave plant

 

Agave Nectar—The Why or Why Not?!

Agave sweeteners come from the blue agave plant, the same plant that you get tequile from. Agave nectar is said to be about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar….and is often used instead of sugar, honey, or maple syrup. The taste of agave nectar is comparable, though not identical, to honey. Many people who do not like the taste of honey find agave a more palatable choice. It also has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners.

Agave has about sixty calories per tablespoon, compared to forty calories for the same amount of table sugar. But you should be able to get the same effect from less agage nectar because the agave is sweeter.

Agave claims to be an especially good sugar replacement for diabetics because it is low on the glycemic index. But at the same time, agave nectar has an extremely amount of fructose. And the agave nectar that you find as a consumer has been highly processed, much like high-fructose corn syrup.

Sweeteners containing fructose, as opposed to those containing glucose, can claim to be “healthy” or “diabetic friendly” because they typically have a very low GI and do not  raise your blood sugar or insulin levels in the short-term.Yet the high amount of fructose found in agave nectar can be detrimental to your health. For one thing, the liver is the only organ that can metabolize significant amounts of fructose. Eating, or drinking, an extreme amount of  fructose causes the liver to work too hard, resulting in kidney disease and cirhossis of the liver seen in many alcoholics

The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel, or “honey water.”

Even though Mexicans boil the sap to make a sweetener referred to as miel de agave, the agave nectar sold on American shelves has very little in common with this traditional sweetener made by the Mexicans because agave nectar that is sold on our shelves has been made by treating the sugars with heat and enzymes, which destroys all the beneficial health effects of the agave plant…resulting in a highly refined, unhealthy syrup–just as the processing does to any other fruit or vegetable.

In its original, natural form extracts from the agave plant contain strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but none of these beneficial elements are present in the agave that we see in the stores.

To make the agave nectar as we know it, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars.

Even though agave nectar has been targeted as a healthy sugar alternative for people concerned about their blood sugar levels, agave nectar contains very high levels of fructose….and fructose, even though found in whole foods that are on my permanent shopping list, actually can have long-term effects on our health—including heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes.

Agave nectar is about 85% fructose, which is much higher than plain sugar.

Consuming too much fructose can also cause your body to become resistent to insulin, causing major increases in long-term blood sugar and insulin levels and strongly raising your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Agave actually contains more fructose than the supposed demon called high-fructose corn syrup that we all know that we should be avoiding

Agave is not healthier than honey, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or any other type of sweetener. Agave syrup (nectar) is basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as a health food.

So my verdict on using agave nectar as a substitute for table sugar, based on what I have been reading, is a definite no….

 

Let’s all just shoot blue agave tequila instead!!!

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  • highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener on the market
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Is Cooking A Sin?

So is cooking a sin?

Should I never step foot in my kitchen again and turn on the oven or a stove burner?

Can I turn my kitchen into a sewing room or home office?

 

Probably not…as much as I wish that were true quite often…

But thoughts and opinions as to what should be cooked, and how much it should be cooked for as far as temperature and time, run the gamut from one nutritionist to the next, from one individual to the next.

Typically, raw food advocates will begin to persuade you into their way of thinking through the importance of enzymes.

 

Enough Info on Enzymes…Sorry, but I don’t care to spend the next umpteen thousand hours learning about enzymes, when I barely even know what an enzyme is…So here’s the little bit of information that I have learned at this point.

There are two types of enzymes that are used by the body to break foods down into smaller, more operable nutritional units.

  • First, there are the “endogenous enzymes,” those enzymes produced within the body itself through the pancreas.
  • Next there are the “exogenous enzymes,” found in the foods that we eat.

And it is important that we eat more foods that contain these “exogenous enzymes” so that it is easier for our bodies to fully digest nutrients from our diet, without making them work more than they should in this process.

 

True advocates of the raw foods diet believe that any food heated over about 112 degrees Fahrenheit loses way too many, if not all, of these vital exogenous enzymes and that cooking foods can rob them of almost all nutritional benefits, such as antioxidants and vitamins.

 

However, most nutritionists, and real people, agree that the best diet is one that includes both raw and cooked vegetables.

Sorry I ate enough raw black-eye peas and “butter beans” growing up having to shell them as a little kid, so the idea of eating a single raw legume frightens me while at the same time making me think about the days when our biggest worry in the world was how to get the purple stains off our fingers before going into town the next weekend.

 

So how do you know which ones to cook and which ones not to cook?

When considering whether a specific vegetable should or should not be cooked, it is important to look at both how many nutrients that particular food has to offer and how our bodies are best able to actually absorb these nutrients.

Each specific vegetable has its own “heat labile point,” that specific temperature at which the food begins to lose some of its nutrients during the cooking process. At this temperature, chemical configurations within the food begin to change,  enzymes are lost, and the food becomes less beneficial.

But this temperature varies…so there is no magical temperature that should really be regarded as biblical for all produce.

And different nutrients respond differently to the cooking process in general.

 

Reasons to Keep Cooking

1.Cooking food can help these foods release their nutrients, makes these nutrients easier for the body to absorb, and obviously make them taste a lot better also. For example, certain nutrients—such as the antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene found in carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes—and certain minerals, such as iron, are better absorbed after they have been heated.

 

2. Cooking foods can make certain vegetables—such as peppers and mushrooms—actually become more nutrient-dense.

 

3.  Cooking foods helps gets rid of the “bad stuff”–-Cooking can destroy certain harmful compounds, bacteria, and pathogens often found in foods, specifically fish, eggs, and meat. For example, goitrogen compounds—which are commonly found in such cruciferous vegetables as kale, broccoli, and cauliflower—can block thyroid function and contribute to hypothyroidism, but these compounds are mostly deactivated by exposure to heat. Another example of a compound that is deactivated by exposure to heat would be the lectins and phytic acid found in grains and legumes. These compounds could eventually prevent your body from absorbing minerals altogether.

 

4.  On the other hand, cooking foods also has the potential to increase the amount of “good stuff” that you get from the foods that you eat. An example of this would be steamed broccoli having more sulforaphanes, a compound in broccoli that fights cancer.

 

5.  Cooking can improve “digestibility,” the total amount of time food remains in our digestive system. The longer a food sits in our digestive tracts, the more likely that the food will begin to ferment in the digestive tract and cause problems such as gas, inflammation, and “leaky gut” syndrome.

 

 

So for this reason, and the fact that I am a true Southern belle from Mississippi who loves cooked black-eyed peas—in fact make that blackeyed peas cooked with fatback and cooked for hours before finally eating them, and cornbread with lots and lots of butter—I refuse to settle down to a strictly raw foods diet…and if I won’t do it myself, I’m not even going to ask the other members of our family how they feel about this issue at all.

However, I probably won’t be cooking my black-eyed peas with fat back for hours at a time any more, especially now that I know that the best way to cook vegetables is by steaming them…because steaming vegetables uses very little water and takes only a short amount of time, meaning that my blackeyed peas may or may not taste nearly as good, but at least they shouldn’t lose very many nutrients at all.

Like I said earlier…

Join Me for This Journey?!

Getting Healthy

Join Me for the Journey

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Because there isn’t necessarily one single type of “raw food diet” that must be strictly adhered to…but several different variations of a “raw foods diet” out there, all with different advice and degrees to which foods can be cooked…I have given myself permission to pick and choose exactly what I myself want to eat on a daily basis…(not that I didn’t obviously do that before now, but before now the main question that I would have asked the “resident four year old” would have been if he wanted chicken nuggets or a burger with those fries)…

 

The main guideline is that about seventy-five percent of the food that you eat should be uncooked.

As far as how much to eat, as long as you are eating raw and vegetarian foods,you can basically eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

 

Foods that can be technically included on a proper “raw foods diet” actually include far more than just fresh produce. Other options include fish, seaweed and other “sea vegetables,” fermented foods, sprouted grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, herbs, spices, beans, and perhaps even pasta, boiled eggs, and even some raw dairy products.

 

 

So instead of tackling one meal at a time or one diet at a time, I have decided to take a detailed look at the foods that make up what people call “The Raw Foods Pyramid,” starting with the lowest level on the pyramid and working my way up. Then based on that information, I will be better informed as to what my options are and what truly works best for myself and my family.

 

After all, changing your way of eating and/or your lifestyle in general—whether it be by switching to cruelty-free products or managing time more effectively or beginning new habits—is all about taking even the smallest step, only one step at a time—as long as that step is taken in the right direction.

Trying to completely change your diet overnight and thinking of developing better eating habits as a “quick-fix” solution will most sabotage your efforts. Introducing these higher-fiber, raw foods into your diet more slowly not only will make this transition easier, but also might mean that you experiencing fewer digestive problems and food cravings along the way.

So I have decided that, for our family at least, this “raw food diet” will become an important part of our overall diet on a long-term, not some short-term weight-loss…the main mission at the moment is to simply start gradually adding more and more nutritional foods to our Southern diet and lifestyle.

Soon I will do another “What Now” on Superfoods…what I learn about “raw foods” and then superfoods will hopefully also become a hinge on which to base our weekly menus and grocery lists based upon.

 

Anyway, I like the idea of adopting what many people refer to as the “80/20 raw diet,” which consists of eating “raw” 80% of the time and having cooked foods for the remaining 20%….(thanks goodness for that twenty, right?!)…

Join me for the journey, not only as I begin exploring the “Raw Foods Pyramid” layer by layer, but also as our family begins to…

 

1. Avoid foods that have been refined, pasteurized, homogenized, or produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

 

2.  Choose better quality animal products, and eat them only in moderation…just like I now dowith craft beers.  Choosing better grades of meat and eating fewer of them will lower exposure to pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones…while at the same will supply important nutrients and fatty acids—such as arachidonic acid, conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids.

 

3.  Learn to cook smarter and more “delicately.” Where I’m from, most of our favorite foods are deep fried, and sometimes even in lard. Where I live now, our State Fair is quite famous for introducing a new fried food of choice each year—such as deep-fried Twinkies, deep-fried Oreos, and even deep-fried ice cream. So this year I will be taking time to learn not only how to “cook” food at temperatures less than 100 degrees, but also how to blend, dehydrate, soak, steam, juice, sprout and also use my slow cooker to its full potential.

 

4. Replace all unhealthy products such as sugary snacks, refined grains, pizza, canned soup, fruit drinks, canned foods, and sweetened yogurt…with healthier choices.

5.  Replace bad fats—such as any hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, soybean oil, canola oil and vegetable oils—with good, healthy fats—such as extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed coconut oil, and grass-fed butter.

 

6.  Set up a healthy pantry and fridge…Other foods that I am considering on adding or keeping on the slate—or better yet in my fridge or in my pantry—include various types of sprouted seeds, cheese, fermented foods—such as yogurts, kefir, kombucha, kimchee, sauerkraut, nuts and nut butters, cold-pressed extra virgin olive or coconut oil, fresh herbs, freshly squeezed vegetable juices, fermented veggies, and herbal tea.

 

Join Me for the Journey!!!