Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Olive Oil – Some Additional Thoughts


Olive Oil - Gift of the Mediterranean
Last week I posted a piece about Olive Oil and its benefits to our health, especially in heart health.  I want to add a few practical matters to that discussion. 

Here are a few suggestions for how to use olive oil.  You may want to add  some of them to your current practices. 

·         Use an Olive Oil dressing on your favorite salad. Making your own will spare you the additives in store-bought dressings, and will give you a much tastier dressing.

For example:
Creamy Italian Herb Dressing*
      2 cups olive oil
      1 cup basil
      1 cup parsley
      ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
      2 tsp onion
      2 scallions
      ½ lemon, juiced
      2 cloves garlic
      1 Tbs honey
      2 Tbs dried Italian seasoning
      1/ tsp sea salt
      ¼ tsp black pepper 

      Blend all ingredients in a blender.

·         Sprinkle green vegetables with olive oil instead of margarine or butter. Make pesto and serve with your favorite pasta. 

·         Prepare your own raspberry vinaigrette for salads. 

Raspberry Vinaigrette

      Try this one:
Raspberry Vinaigrette*
      1 ¼ cups raspberries
      1 cup orange juice
      2 Tbs olive oil
      ½ Tbs lemon juice
      Sea salt and pepper to taste 

      Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

·          Add flavor to olive oil by infusing the oil with  sprigs of rosemary or other dried herbs.
 In addition to all the benefits there are to putting olive oil inside our bodies, it’s good to keep in mind  that the same antioxidants that heal internal cells may help protect the outer layers of cells, our skin, from damage. People living thousands of years ago in ancient Greece took for granted that extra virgin olive oil is one of the best beauty secrets to be found. It’s a wonderful lubricant for dry skin, and can also be used to create a hair mask or eye makeup remover. 

 Indeed, the multibillion beauty industry of today beauty uses olive oil in a large proportion of its products, from skin moisturizers to nail care kits. 

Some people are interested in the study of olive oil, much like there are connoisseurs of wine or coffee.  Several months ago I heard a fascinating interview of Tom Mueller, who, in 2011, released his book Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.” In it he makes the point that not all olive oils are equal in taste quality or health benefits, depending largely on how much they have been tampered with and/or tainted in the processing mechanisms.  I was very interested in what he had to say, bought his book, and put it on my shelf where it remains yet unread.  That’s another story, but if you live near me and want to borrow it, I will happily lend it in return for a nice book report.  If you’d like to buy your own copy, you can click on the image below, and get right to it.  (If you take that route, I will appreciate the small commission I receive from Amazon, which has no affect on the price you pay.  Thanks for helping me to spread the word about healthier eating and living!)  


Let me know what you’d like to hear about in future posts. You can leave comments below, and if you haven’t yet filled in the “follow by email” box in the sidebar, this would be a good time. 

* Recipes from Living on Live Food, by Alissa Cohen

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Olive Oil for a Healthy Heart

Good news here?
I went for a semi-annual checkup at my doctor’s recently.  I was delighted to hear him report that the results of my fancy blood work confirmed what he and I both suspected – that I am I am vigorously alive and quite well.  Good news.  At my age I get a little nervous.  My blood pressure remains a puzzle for us both, however.  For twenty years it has been high—not dangerously high, and well controlled with medication, but stubborn when it comes to responding to non-medical means of control.

In our conversation that followed, he shared with me that a new study has shown what others have suggested, that olive oil can be very helpful in preventing heart disease, and may make an impact on my blood pressure.
An ancient and wonderful food
So I did some reading…

To be sure, olive oil all by itself may not help much, but in conjunction with a diet of a good variety of vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, and seeds, it can make a big difference in overall heart health.  In a recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, participants were to consume at least 4 tablespoons of olive oil a day, or an ounce of mixed nuts.  The benefit was so great--a 30 percent reduction in risk, even among people at high risk, many of whom were already taking drugs for high blood pressure and cholesterol levels--that the researchers stopped the trial early, considering it wrong to continue when the benefits were so apparent. I should, in fairness, mention that the same study also recommended seafood, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or sardines; a tomato, garlic , and onion sauce in olive oil at least twice a week.  Some wine is good, as is chocolate, as long as it’s at least 50% cocoa.

High quality foods + olive oil
Back to olive oil.  It is high in monounsaturated fat (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fat, (PUFAs),both of which can help lower cholesterol and control insulin levels in the body. The way it works is that, as the coronary arteries provide blood to the heart muscle, the MUFAs help to keep those arteries clear so that your heart can get enough oxygen and nutrients to keep pumping. The benefits of olive oil thus abound, and include the following:

       - Consuming more than four tablespoons a day can significantly lower your risk of having a heart attack, suffering from a stroke, or dying of heart disease.

      - Some research shows that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.

     -  May help to prevent some forms of cancer.

Many choices
Buying and Storing

When you’re buying olive oil, look for the extra virgin, cold pressed, which is the least refined, and thus retains the most of its valuable nutrients.  It is also good to buy olive oil that comes in dark green glass or metal, both of which protect it from light.  Heat and light can damage the oil by creating oxidation which will also change the beneficial chemical compounds.

Olive oil is best stored at room temperature, where it will keep for about a year, or within six months after it is opened. Some of the healthy phytonutrients, as well as the taste, can slowly degrade over time. 

A  Reminder

As beneficial as good olive oil seems to be, it’s important to remember that it is a fat, so has a high caloric content.  It is certainly a better choice than many other fatty foods, such as vegetable oils and margarine, not in addition to them.  Additionally, unhealthy foods cannot be made healthier by adding olive oil to them.  You know what I’m talking about here.

My Takeaway

With regard to my elusive blood pressure, I’m going to increase my olive oil consumption, and keep it balanced with the substantial amount of raw nuts and seeds I consume.  I also am fond of coconut oil, also very beneficial for many of the same reasons that olive oil is.

Let me know what you think about all this. In my next post, I’ll talk a little more about some aspects of olive oil that I have found very interesting.  It's a wonderful, beautiful food.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Travelling Raw -- Homemade Trail Mix!

Assume nothing! Always bring some food
along for yourself
I addressed this travelling issue years ago in an early blog.  You may want to back up and see what I said there.  Today I want to reflect on a recent trip I took, and some of my observations about trying to maintain a high level of raw eating in the situation I was in.

We do lots of travelling these days, since my husband and I retired a couple of years ago.  We drive in the car to visit family, we stay in motels and hotels, and we travel by plane.  I like travelling by car, because it’s easy to pack a blender with me, and I know I’m only a grocery store stop away from my much favored green smoothie operation, no matter where we are. 

Travelling by plane is another animal, however, and for me, more challenging where my diet is concerned.  Last week, for example, I was at a meeting in another city. The sponsoring organization was very solicitous of my dietary preferences, and ordered me special salads, chose restaurants where there was a good salad option with lots of dark greens. 
Additionally, there was adequate fruit around in motel where we were meeting, so the situation washn't entirely bleak, by any means.  It was, though, boring.  apples, oranges, pears, and standard (no frills) salads were pretty much my fare.
Apples, oranges, pears -- beautiful!
Oh, but wait!  In a flurry to get myself to the plane on time, I had not prepared any pate`s which are normally good travel companions, and fun diversions from the “rabbit food.”.  In one sense, I admit, I could have done a better job of taking care of my own dietary preferences in that regard.  I did, however,  carry with me some raw bars, a knife for cutting up apples, and some extra fruit, including grapefruit, which I find very refreshing at the end of the day.
What I was happiest about, though, was that I had put together some of my own homemade trail mix, measured out into Snack bags in ½ cup servings. Having it available was a real treat. And that’s what I want to pitch to you today.
There are so many pre-made trail mixes, especially in airports, and they look enticing and well, maybe not so nutritionally deficient as some of the other things hanging on those many racks.  We all know, though, that a look at the ingredients on the wrapper of any one of those mixtures tells a grim story of salt, sugar, various fats, and a host of additives and preservatives.  Also, all the nuts and seeds that they contain have been roasted, rendering them nutrient deficient.  And, those innocent looking little packages are expensive as all get out!
Homemade trail mix - raw seeds and nuts,
and dried, unsugarred fruits
All that is to say that it’s a much better deal for your health and your pocket book if you make your own trail mix.  It’s very easy, so easy to put together, keeps a long time, and travels well under any conditions.  You can add or eliminate ingredients according to your own taste and diet preference, and you always have a ready source of a tasty energy booster.
Here is my approach.  You’ll find more fun and creative things to add as you go along. 
Begin in the bulk foods department .  I buy one of those medium sized bags of each of the following:
Raw nuts and seeds
-Raw Nuts and Seeds—almonds, Brazils, pecans, cashews, walnuts, filberts (hazel nuts), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. (Macadamias and pine nuts don’t keep quite as well, and they are very expensive, so I skip them for trail mix.) Nuts are fattier than seeds, and seeds are more protein dense and less expensive. Buy them all raw so you get all the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in  tact. 
-Dried fruits from the bulk bins or the packaged bulk shelves in Clover’s or other health food stores : raisins, currants, goji berries, figs, apricots,  etc. Others, which I then cut up, include papaya spears, mango slices, date rolls, pineapple, etc.   Take care to buy the ones that have no sulfur, sulfites or sugar included.  Sugar is more concentrated in dried fruits than in fresh, so don’t overdue.  It’s all about balance, and there’s lots of room for creativity.
-There are other bagged, raw berries that I like and are labeled “raw”, like golden berries and mulberry berries. 
Goji berries- high in anti--oxidants
and noted for increasing longevity.
-Raw cacao nibs add a really nice surprise chocolate treat in trail mix, and are high in magnesium and anti-oxidants.
Then I put these all together-- one cup of each thing, perhaps adding an extra half cup of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.  Suit yourself. This mixture will keep very well and travels very well.  Enjoy!!
Admittedly, buying all the ingredients can be a shock at the cash register.  I try not to flinch, remembering that I’m only going to eat ½ cup a day, and that everything I’m buying will keep for a very long time.  It’s an investment in my own health and well-being, after all, and far less costly than anything that’s packaged that even comes close to the same nutrient value.  It’s also a nice thing to have in my pantry at home when company comes by.
 Let me know how you do with this venture.  Respond below this post, so we all can benefit from your discoveries.  Happy Travelling.  Happy Healthy Eating!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Clean Inside and Out

Raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
make for a good cleanse
There is certainly a case to be  made for eating a diet that is naturally cleansing to the body, that is, a diet that helps to clear the digestive system of unwanted debris and bacteria.  A diet high in raw, whole fruits and vegetables provides the hydration, nutrients, and fiber content to keep the body in a healthy balance. 

However, there are also cleansing programs that can be used either independently or inconjunction with the raw food detox diet.  Herbal cleansing programs, for example, come in a variety of forms that are customized to individual levels of commitment, and are readily available at local health food stores and at

Herbal Cleanse Kit (an example)
An herbal cleanse is usually a kit that contains a variety of cleansing mixtures (powders, liquids, and capsules) that are to be taken over a period of three to five weeks.  During the program, digestion is strengthened and the colon, liver, gall bladder, and kidneys are cleansed by the elimination of bacteria, mold, yeast, fungus, and parasites.  Herbal cleanses usually consist of a variety of herbs and natural ingredients known for neutralizing and eliminating these unwanted guests. 

The Master Cleanser, which is also known as The Lemonade Diet, is, among other things, an easy way to get introduced to the health benefits of fasting.  Stanley Burroughs began  this program in the 1970s, and many people subscribe to its ease, simplicity, and effectiveness today.

Basically, the Master Cleanser consists of three components:
-- Lemon water with cayenne, fresh lemon or lime juice, and maple syrup  to sweeten it up, drunk all day
-- A daily  morning salt water flush
-- An organic laxative tea at bedtime during the cleanse.

The Master Cleanse
This simple method for flushing out the digestive system is safe, cheap, and effective.  The combination of the lemonade mixture throughtout the day, laxative herbal tea before bed, and salt-water flush each morning enables the body to perform a deep cleaning that can be done from 10 to 40 days.  Lemon juice provides much-needed minerals, especially sodium,while also dissolving mucus in the body.  It is also very alkalizing, and helps restore the acid/alkaline balance in the body.  The maple syrup provides calories for energy in the form of simple sugars. Cayenne pepper adds a potent kick to the Master Cleanser by breaking up mucus and dilating blood vessels, which aids in cleansing and the elimination of toxins.  Because The Master Cleanser is so simple and effective, it has become the most popular of all the different cleansing programs.  If you'd like specific directions, you can find Stanley Burroughs' book The Master Cleanser at health food stores near you, or click the Amazon icon in this sidebar to see it available at

My own dietary cleasing experience has been limited to some fasting, and mostly to eating as high percentage raw diet as I can.  This is the slowest cleansing method, to be sure, but just as effective in the long run, and, I believe, less stressful for the body.  I have nothing against the packaged cleanses on the market, and I know that many people have been helped by them. I do admit to being reluctant to pay for a particular blend of herbs which may hasten a body cleanse, but  in the end, may not provide any better cleansing than can be had by eating a diet rich in raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. 

Suit yourself! I  welcome your discussion on this matter.  Leave a comment, if you like.  I'd love to hear from you. To view some of the available relevant products, click on the Amazon icon in the sidebar.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Independence Day -- Freedom

"Seek freedom and become captive of our desires.  Seek discipline and find your liberty."       -- Frank Herbert

I had to google Frank Herbert to find out something about him.  I had never heard of him before.  This quote of his struck a chord with me, though, as I was trying to pull together some thoughts about personal freedom during this Freedom and Independence Celebratory week.

And, of course, I was thinking about freedom in the context of food, and the freedom, or lack of it, that I sometimes experience.  Let me roll with this a bit.

It's easy enough to say, "I'm a free person.  I can eat anything I want."  So, we run with that and end up solving the choice issue that we see in this picture by wolfing down that pretty piece of cake.  Free?  or Enslaved?  If I  were that person, I would spend some time telling myself how much I enjoyed that cake. I deserved it, after all, as I worked hard all day, put up with some idiot drivers, or a hang nail, or something.  I am entitled to treat myself to something wonderful.  And, by golly, I enjoyed it.  But then what?  In a few minutes the remorse sets in....the "why did I do that to myself? thoughts, the talking down to ourselves, berating ourselves for our lack of control.  We were free to eat the cake.  We ate the cake, and now we really don't feel as free as we feel out of control, and trapped by our own lack of will power, or whatever.  In short, we feel anything but the freedom that seemed like such a good thing a few minutes ago.

The truth is that there are so very many foods out there that are actually addicting.....primarily those with fat, sugar, and mostly the combination of the two of them.  They are as addictive as any other drug substance around, plain and simple.  (If you want a good dose of this line of thinking, read Michal Moss' new  book, Salt, Sugar, Fat, his Pulitzer Prize winning expose` about how the food industry works hard to keep us addicted to things they sell us, with very little or no concern for our actual health.  It's a great read.)
But I digress.  My point is that often what seems like freedom when we are craving this food or that, we perhaps   we choose it, not because of the freedom we pronounce, but our addiction to it. Sorry thought, and yet, I think, certainly true for me sometimes. You decide for yourself.

I think Frank Herbert, who turns out to be a great science fiction writer of the 20th century, has it right in his quote above.  The more we can curb our appetites, so to speak, make choices of food that actuallly support our health and well-being, the more we can walk past those "I gotta' have that cake" moments and live in some real freedom --  free from remorse, free from self-recrimination, free from unwanted pounds and other unfavorable health consequences, free to live and celebrate the joy of life and the many other gifts that come to us in this wonderfully free country.

So, celebrate our many freedoms well this week.  We'll be joining family out of town.  My rule of thumb for these big festive, fun meals is to contribute something that I really want to eat.  I'll probably make a good kale salad and the blueberry pie, the recipe for which I published here last week.  Be good to yourselves.  Your family and friends will actually appreciate you more for giving them some real honest to goodness nutrition. And good nutrition can also be delicious and delightful.

Happy July 4th!  Happy Freedom! Oh, and if you're interested in the book I mentioned, you can click on the Amazon icon in the sidebar here and get it very quickly.  Enjoy!

Let me know about your holiday celebration and how you like the book!