Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Adding This to My Grocery List—Avocados

IMG_4912

I have three reasons that I am especially interested in adding these “good” fats to my daily diet…

First of all, a diet that includes these “good” fats helps you to keep your cardiovascular system healthy–decreasing glucose and insuin concentrations, promoting healthy blood lipid profiles, mediating blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, controlling cholesterol levels, and regulating glucose levels.

Next, a diet that includes these “good” fats helps lower depression, anxiety and other mental disorder risks. Pretty important to me since my husband suffers from PTSD, members of my family have been diagnosed as being bipolar, and being a fifty year old raising a “resident four year old” could make almost anyone feel like they are going completely insane at times.

Finally, a diet that includes these “good” fats is best at helping you lose and maintain a healthy weight because these foods are very willing and allow you to wait longer between meals without getting hungry.

So I get it… instead of attempting to remove all sources of “fat” from our diets, we should be careful to choose foods that contain “good” fat and not “bad” fat.

 

But here’s the problem…

I refuse to become one of those obnoxious people standing in the grocery aisle with her reading glasses on trying to decode a given package’s nutrition label.I want to be able to simply grab what I need when I go shop for groceries, not have to read more than I ever did in all four years of high school English combined.

First of all, I shouldn’t be standing in those center aisles in the first place because I’m eliminating most of the processed food items found on those shelves and replacing those foods with fresher and healthier ingredients found along the perimeter of the store…right?!

Also, one of my goals is to create my own list of pantry staples and foods to always keep on hand. Soon I will start working on that post…starting with the best foods for helping with insomnia that we have previously talked about in this article.

After including this list of optimal midnight snacks…sorry, Blue Bell, our midnight rendezvous are over, at least for now…the next item on my grocery list will be avocados…

 

Avocados?!…Why avocado?! 

 

Avocados are possibly the single best food source of the “good” fats that our bodies actually do need. In fact,  avocados have a much higher fat content than most other fruit. One-third of a medium-sized avocado contains roughly six grams of  “good” fat.

Most of the fat that an avocado does contain is monounsaturated fat….(on average avocados are about 71% monounsaturated, 13% polyunsaturated, and 16% saturated).

As my family begins to start depending less and less on the fatty foods that once were staples in our family menu plans—such as high-fat meats, fish, and dairy products—I plan to start using more and more avocados. So let’s learn more and finally start sharing some recipes…

Advertisements
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

IMG_4473-1

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!!!

Getting Healthy

But Can We Still Eat Bacon…and Eggs?!

IMG_4473-1

When I first told my spouse that I was going to pursue this “Raw Foods Diet” thing, his first question was…

“Will we still eat bacon?”

Where I’m from bacon reigns supreme…and men are hunters with Silverado pickups who buy their wives guns for each birthday and anniversary that rolls around.

Don’t worry, honey…we’ll still eat bacon…

Just not as much and not as often…

In fact, according to what I have read so far, studies have shown that strictly adhering to a raw foods diet can be even more detrimental than the typical American diet…or should we say “healthy” American diet, for several reasons. These reasons include…

1.  Lack of protein…Even though many plant-based foods do contain protein, these protein are not  considered to be “complete proteins” that supply all of the essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own.

2.  Lack of critical vitamins and minerals—such as iron, vitamin B12, folate, zinc, and selenium.

These vitamins and minerals are all crucial for a vast variety of reasons. For example, iron prevents anemia and fatigue…Vitamin B12 benefits red blood cell formation and improves cellular function…folate is important for proper cellular functions and cellular division.

3.  Fatigue...Personally, I deal with having low energy and fatigue almost every single day…probably because I am a fifty year old woman going through menopause, while at the same time spending every waking hour chasing the “resident four year old.”  So a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet does not sound like a healthy option for me.

4.  Osteoperosis…Osteoperosis and arthritis runs rampant in my family, so I feel like I need to maintain as much muscle mass and bone strength as possible…another reason that I don’t think that a vegan or vegetarian diet would ever work for me.

So over the next month or two, I will be look at the different elements in a “raw foods diet” and trying to individualize the diet to a diet that works best for me and my family.

Getting Healthy

Why Next?!…Raw Foods Diet

IMG_4473-1

So why am I willing to set our Southern style of eating on hold for a while and pursue this raw foods thing in the first place? Wouldn’t anybody in their right mind be content to eat fried bacon, fried eggs, and gravy every single morning from now to eternity?

Actually, yes, I am “in my right mind”…I guess, or at least hope…but my husband was recently diagnosed as having diabetes…and we have got to eat healthier than before…than the way we were brought up…now that we have crossed that bridge that most Southern men find themselves crossing at some point in their lives…after years of eating like a true Southerner…

 

And the “Raw Foods” diet seems like a good place to start eating healthier…

In fact, there are many reasons to consider eating a Raw Foods diet, such as…

 

1. Chronic Disease/Conditions…A raw foods diet can help reduce your risk of getting certain chronic diseases and conditions—including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, gallstones or gallbladder disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

2. Digestion...Cooked foods are usually harder to digest than raw foods, and can be less “frustrating” to your stomach and digestive tract…(more on this later).

3. Energy Level.…Eating a diet like this can increase your\ energy levels, and being a fifty year old chasing a “resident four year old” 24/7, Lord knows that I personally need that.

4.  Longevity...Increasing your intake of raw fruits and vegetables could lead to a longer life

5.  Osteoporosis...Raw foods have been proven to be great for preventing and treating osteoporosis, joint pain, muscle aches and pains, and headaches.

6.  Weight...Eating fewer processed foods and consuming fewer sugary drinks is always a good idea and can result in losing weight without supposedly even trying. Raw foods contain plenty of fiber, and fiber helps curb cravings and keeps you feeling full longer so that you end up eating less overall

 

 

 

Nutritional Value...Switching to a diet that focuses less on “lower quality foods”—such as dairy, tofu, eggs, fish, and meat…and focuses more on “higher quality foods” such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds…has important nutritional benefits. Eating this way, instead of settling for the typical American diet,  will mean that you will be getting less sodium, added sugars, fats, carbohydrates, processed and pasteurized foods, preservatives, and unhealthy chemical additives…while at the same time getting more antioxidants, magnesium, minerals, vitamins, natural enzymes, phytochemicals, fiber, and other nutrients that most Americans are deficient in.

 

And perhaps best of all…A “raw foods” might even make us smarter and able to remember stuff. Studies have shown that chewing stimulates those parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory,  puts you in a better mood, and improves both your alertness, as well as both your short-term and long-term attention spans….and chewing raw foods simply takes more effort than chewing cooked foods.

Getting Healthy

Now What?!…Raw Foods Diet

IMG_4473-1

The next series of posts will be what I consider my breakfast posts. However, instead of talking about breakfast and the foods that you would most likely expect me to devote my time to right now, I plan on writing about my feeble attempts to adopt some sort of a “raw food diet.”

Mainly I am doing this so that I won’t have to cook…kinda like the fact that I use huge recyclable cloth bags whenever I go shopping—not to save the environment, but so that I can crame more into each bag and, as a result, make fewer trips from my car into the house…and also so that I don’t have to worry about some high school kid filling bags so full that the $200 worth of groceries that you just bought end up as one huge compost pile in your driveway.

Pursuing a “raw foods diet” involve eating mostly, or only, unprocessed and uncooked foods that are actually “raw.”…go figure.

Some followers of the raw food diet do eat raw fish and meat, raw eggs, sushi, and unpasteurized dairy. But most people who stick to a “raw foods diet” adhere strictly to stick to a strictly vegetarian diet that only includes foods that are organic, uncooked, and unprocessed.

Foods that can be included on a raw foods diet include vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, sprouted grains, and beans—none of which can have been heated above a certain temperature, usually somewhere between 104 and 118 degrees.

Being brought up in the Deep South, this should be interesting. Our typical breakfast, when we actually have time to grab something other than a granola bar as we head out the door, typically consist of bacon, big biscuits with lots of gravy, grits with cheese, and  so forth. This should be fun?!