Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feed Your Liver, Prevent Cancer

Did you know that eating broccoli sprouts, chlorophyll and grapefruit can reduce your chances of cancer dramatically? Studies have shown that individuals can reduce their risk up to 90% by eating these foods that help the liver function properly. (Ricci et al. 1999, Devanaboyina et al 1997, Dong et al 1989)

The liver removes substances from the body in a two-phase process. Partly-metabolized substances that have gone through the first phase but not the second are extremely carcinogenic. The liver works best when substances stay in phase one for a long time, then move through phase two rapidly and are are eliminated very quickly. Some foods help the liver do that well.

Broccoli sprouts are green powerhouses that contain a molecule called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) This molecule works on estrogen that has circulated in the body and is ready to be released. As estrogen is broken down at the end of phase one, it forms a metabolite (4HE) that is seriously implicated in breast cancer. When we eat broccoli sprouts, the I3C changes that metabolite to 2HE, which is not so dangerous.

Chlorophyll helps the liver prevent cancer, too, but in a different way. Rather than changing metabolites into something less harmful, this green miracle stops mutations by keeping the substances to be eliminated in phase one longer, where they can do no damage. It has been said that the chlorophyll contained in 2 cups of spinach can stop the carcinogenic effects of 1 grilled hamburger.

Grapefruit, and to a lesser degree, pomegranates, do their work by speeding up phase two and getting carcinogens eliminated speedily. Particularly, it is the bitter part of the grapefruit that works best.

So in a three-prong dietary approach that slows down phase one, changes metabolites, and speeds up phase two, cancer risk can be dramatically reduced.

Diet can also influence cancer by reducing inflammation. A general rule of thumb is that cancer grows in areas where there has been chronic inflammation for years. This inflammation may be a result of poorly managed injury, a high-glycemic diet with insulin excess, or viral infection such herpes or HPV. Foods that reduce inflammation are vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and essential fatty acids. Foods that contribute to inflammation are sugar and starchy foods, processed meats, transfats, additives and drugs.

To your healthy and happy liver,

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Super Salad #1: Elegant Waldorf

For the Waldorf:
 5 Tb. orange juice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
4 slices purple onion
8 brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
2 apples, chopped     
2 stalks celery, diced
¼ c. chopped pecans
2 c. cooked brown rice

Saute onion in orange juice and nutmeg until softened. Add Brussels sprouts and cook just until bright green. Remove from heat. Toss with apple, celery and pecans. Spoon onto rice. Top with Lemony Dressing.

Lemony Dressing
8 oz. soft tofu
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 c. maple syrup

Combine in blender and process until smooth.

To your health and happiness,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Super Salad Series

Coming Soon: Salad Saturdays! Check the blog every weekend for a new entree salad that's original and healthy. I already have 10 salads in the series and I can't wait to share them with you!

These nutrient-strong salads are one-dish meals, built from vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. They have no extracted fats, low sodium, no refined sugars and no animal products. They are chock-full of wholesome goodness you can eat guilt-free. Plus they are easy to make and relatively quick.

Enjoy them for everyday.  Use them for celebration meals. Surprise guests with your gourmet talent.  And while you’re enjoying them, feel your vitality mounting.  They are nutrient-heavy, fiber-rich and calorie-light.

To your health and happiness,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Feed Kidneys, Control Blood Pressure

Did you know that high blood pressure often begins in the kidneys? A hormone called renin, secreted by the kidneys, controls whether blood pressure rises or falls. And the amount of renin produced is tied to diet. The kidneys will secrete more renin if:
  • there is too much sodium in the diet
  • we are under stress
  • the body has inflammation
Luckily, what we eat has direct bearing on those three factors. The FDA's recommended daily allowance of sodium is only 1500 milligrams, an amount that is exceeded simply by eating a bowl of Cheerios and a grilled cheese sandwich. Many Americans get more than 8000 milligrams per day. But by eating the nutritarian way, we drastically reduce sodium levels without even touching the salt shaker. This is accomplished by filling up on fruits, vegetables and legumes (not canned), which have on average ten times less sodium than processed foods. If you miss the salty taste, you can add high-mineral foods to your cuisine, such as dried celery leaves or powdered sea vegetables (kelp, nori, etc.)

Though stress has more to do with emotional than physical health, diet can still impact it immensely. Magnesium can help the body relax, and foods that are high in magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, seeds and fruits!

Inflammation has also been correlated to what we eat. It has been shown that sugary and starchy foods, processed meats, food additives, oils and transfats all contribute to the release of prostaglandins that fuel the body's inflammatory response. Those foods that are anti-inflammatory are vegetables, fruits, nuts, omega-3 fats, and limited whole grains.

Many people notice their blood pressure dropping within a few weeks of becoming nutritarian as the kidneys stop producing so much renin. Blood pressure can also be reduced by consuming natural diuretics (such as parsley and bitter greens), by using vasodilators (cayenne, ginger, garlic), and by eating cholesterol-lowering phytosterols (found in berries, cruciferous vegetables, onions, nuts and seeds).

Keeping kidneys functioning normally and blood pressure within acceptable ranges are two more reasons to eat a healthy plant-based diet.

To your health and happiness,


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Radish and Fennel Salad

Looking for a change of pace in your daily salad? Want something besides a bed of leafy greens topped with the usual carrot shreds, tomatoes and cucumbers? Here's a refreshing salad that's really good for you, too, because radish and fennel are both high in Vitamin C, potassium and folate. Additionally, radish is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning it offers cancer protection.  It improves digestion, too, and contributes to liver health. Fennel has anti-inflammatory properties and may also be instrumental in preventing cancer.

Here's how to make it:
1 bunch radishes, sliced (save the leaves!)
1 fennel bulb, grated (save the tops) - or use sliced cucumber instead
2-3 green onions, sliced
1/4 c. plain yogurt or kefir
Dill or parsley, optional, as an alternative to the fennel leaves.

Combine the radishes, fennel bulb and green onions. Finely chop the fennel leaves (or other herbs) and mix with the yogurt. Pour over vegetables and toss. Serve immediately on a bed of radish greens or refrigerate to let flavors blend more. Easy and quick!

To your health and happiness,

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fiber and Bloating

Switching from the Standard American Diet to a plant-strong diet may unfortunately initiate bloating for many people as their fiber intake skyrockets. But nature is smarter than we are and has already provided remedies in every spice cupboard to relieve that uncomfortable full feeling AND accentuate the flavors of the foods we are eating.

The following spices, which are commonly used in bean dishes, are considered "carminitive" (gas-expelling):
  • black pepper
  • cayenne
  • cumin
  • fenugreek (an ingredient in many curries)
  • garlic
  • turmeric (see recipe for black beans and yellow rice below)
Additional carminitive spices that accent whole grains include:
  • anise
  • caraway
  • dill
  • fennel
A list of carminitives that can be used with fruits and vegetables contains:
  • cardamom
  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • peppermint or spearmint
  • tarragon
Click here for a flavor profile of common spices.

You might enjoy this simple recipe for Black Beans and Yellow Rice:
1/4 fresh onion, chopped
2 c. vegetable broth
1 c. rice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 cans (16 oz. each) black beans

Saute onion in a little of the vegetable broth until softened. Add rice, remaining broth and turmeric. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile heat beans. Spoon beans onto rice and top with salsa.

To your health and happiness,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Defeating the Flu

If you have been following the nutritarian lifestyle for a while, you're probably not catching viruses like everyone else, in spite flu season being at its peak. A plant-strong diet full of anti-oxidants and fiber is a good shield against acute illness. But if you'd like to strengthen your immunity further, read on:

Our bodies are designed to be self-healing. To that end, we have five systems for eliminating toxins. These systems are the colon, the skin, the lungs, the kidneys and the lymph nodes.

The body's first recourse when it is invaded is actually the colon. By eating a high-fiber diet of raw fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains, we not only keep indigestible food from stagnating, but we sweep out harmful micro-organisms, as well. But in case you do feel some chills and fever coming on, here are some things you can do to "activate" your colon:
1. Fast - Abstaining from food or drink allows the colon to clear itself. A water fast helps the body to cleanse itself further the way rinsing the laundry helps to wash away built-up dirt, scum and debris.
2. Use laxative herbs such as senna or cascara sagrada to further purge the colon.
3. Eliminate refined sugar but eat bitter foods like cruciferous vegetables, and bitter herbs such as fenugreek,  burdock and goldenseal. Sweet foods turn off digestion but bitter foods stimulate digestion and help move material through the colon.

Unfortunately, when the colon becomes overworked and overburdened, the skin must then work harder to keep the body clear. Rashes, acne, hives, itchiness, body odor, and even eczema can be signs that the skin is being taxed with more toxins that it can release. Have you ever had your skin break out just as you begin to feel sick? Opening the pores of the skin is a great way to bolster yourself against an impending illness. Try these tips to help your skin release toxins:
1. Cardiovascular exercise -  Sweat carries "nasties" out of the body. Some native Americans had a practice of going into a sweat lodge (like a sauna) to rid themselves of a fever. They knew that the body would carry the harmful organisms away through perspiration.
2. Reduce salt intake - Excess salt exacerbates skin conditions by decreasing perspiration.
3. Try skin brushing - Rubbing the skin with a dry brush carries away. dead skin cells, toxic wastes and dirt.
4. Open the pores with "diaphoretics" (perspiration-inducing herbal teas) such as ginger or yarrow. Or you can take a bath with 1 tablespoon ground ginger and 2 cups epsom salt added to the bath water.

It should be easy to understand that if the colon and skin are flooded with toxins, then an illness can settle in the lungs. How many times does a simple cold turn into bronchitis, or worse yet, pneumonia? But following the steps above can keep the lungs from being over-taxed. Additionally, we can open the lungs by:
1. Deep breathing - especially through a 30-60 minute session of cardiovascular exercise.
2. Drinking adequate water. Proper hydration helps break up phlegm.
3. Using "anti-catarrhal" or phlegm-reducing herbs, such as plantain or red clover.
4. Avoiding mucus-producing dairy and soy products.

Keeping the kidneys from bogging down is also important for beating winter illnesses.  This  requires the same strategies that have been mentioned above:
1. Proper hydration
2. Reduction of salt
3. Limiting sugar
We can also eat anti-oxidant rich fruit for energy and regeneration.
Activating the lymph system (which includes the spleen and tonsils) is quite dependent on diet. Foods that clog that lymphs include "chemical foods” (those with artificial preservatives, flavors, colors and stabilizers), fatty foods, and excessive animal proteins. Keep your lymphs healthy by eating:
1. Foods full of enzymes and acids, such as raw fruits.
2. Cranberries to help emulsify fat deposits in the lymph system.
3. Green vegetables because the chlorophyll boosts lymph health
4. Proper fats, like seeds, avocados, and nuts to ensure proper lymph functioning.
5. Immune-boosting herbs like echinacea, which is a lymph tonic.

Removing obstacles to good health helps the body become its own best physician.
To a flu-free and happy Spring,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To Sweeten or Not To Sweeten?

According to Ayurvedic medicine, the taste of a food tells its purpose, and each taste has its place in balancing health. For example, bitter foods detoxify, while hot foods speed metabolism. Therefore, having sweet foods can be a benefit - to an extent.

Sweetness, according to the Ayurvedics, makes one feel comforted and contented. It can promote tissue growth, and is therefore beneficial to children, elderly or injured. We consider sweet foods to be nourishing and soothing. Most comfort foods are sweet.

But too much of a good thing can bring serious imbalances. The disorders of sweetness are heaviness, laziness, dullness, colds, obesity, excessive sleeping, cough, and diabetes. Scientifically, what happens with an overly-sweet diet is that the ingested sugars, which are sticky, begin to adhere to the proteins in our bodies. This is called glycation and is like being carmelized from the inside out. No wonder sugars cause a reduction in energy, immunity, metabolism and stamina!

If your purpose for being on this blog is to lose weight, reverse disease, ramp up energy or strengthen immunity, then you should be limiting your intake of sweet foods.

Most Americans eat way too many simple carbohydrates and high glycemic foods, even if they are limiting desserts and "cutting back on sugars." It is estimated that of the children being born today, half will develop diabetes during their lifetimes.

A visual clue that you may be pre-diabetic is whether you have belly fat. This is true because the more sugars you ingest, the more insulin you must secrete. Insulin is a hormone that also triggers fat deposits throughout the body core. While fat deposits on the face are a sign of thyroid imbalance, fat around the waistline is a sure indication of elevated insulin levels

Here's a another quick test you can do to determine whether you are eating too many sweets. Calculate your total fiber intake for an entire day. Compare that amount to the glycemic index (GI) of one meal.*  If your fiber is higher, you're probably okay. If your glycemic index is higher, then you need to replace your sweet foods with other tastes, such as sour, bitter, hot, or astringent.

Bitter foods are considered healing for many imbalances. They include leafy greens, which not only slow the release of sugar into the blood because of their fiber content, but also act as de-toxers. 

Sour foods, like citrus fruits, miso vinegar and fermented or cultured foods, increase enjoyment of a meal by stimulating salivation and increasing nutrient absorption. They retard a sugar rush.

Hot foods like chilies, mustard, garlic, onion and peppers, stimulate appetite and help cure obesity. They can improve circulation and purify the blood.

Astringent foods include cranberries, beans and pomegranates. These are anti-inflammatory and promote healing. Salty foods, such as sea vegetables, help retain moisture and act as anti-spasmodics.

We may have been conditioned to think that food is not good if it is not sweet, but we can re-condition ourselves to appreciate other tastes by including them more and more in our diet.

To a bitter, sour, hot, astringent, salty health,

*P.S. You can find fiber and GI calculators online. I used and