Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Case for Organic Food

 Just a few generations ago, in the early 40s, we didn’t have the word “organic.” All food in those days was grown and prepared without pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, or irradiation.  Foods wire unrefined, whole, or minimally processed.  With the advent of chemical farming and food processing after World War II, the soils and foods of much of the world have been depleted of many important minerals and nutrients.

These days our food is not only deficient in nutrients, but also full of pollutants and farming chemicals.  The modern process of denaturing foods via heavy refining and chemical treatment deeply affects the life force of our food supply, making it difficult to foster equilibrium and health.


Pesticides have been shown to cause cancer and liver, kidney, and blood diseases.  They create extra work for our immune systems.  They accumulate in tissues, resulting in a weakened immune system, and allow other carcinogens and pathogens to filter into the body and affect our health.  Organic certification is assurance to the public that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures without persistent chemical inputs.

I bring all this up, because, now that I have been eating a high raw vegan diet for several years, I notice more than ever how much healthier organic produce looks in the stores, how much better it keeps, and what a bargain it really is, in spite of the fact that it costs a little bit more than conventionally grown food.  And, yes, the fact that we now have to say “organic,” like it’s a special and unusual request rather than the way the food was created in the first place, leads me to speak out with some reminders about why opting for “organic” is a smart choice for anyone concerned with individual, community, or global health.  Following are a few reminders about the benefits of buying and eating organic foods.

1.  It keeps chemicals off your plate.  Pesticides are poisons are designed to kill living organisms and thus are harmful to humans. Many of them were registered and approved long before much research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is a way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, the water, and the food supply.

2.  It protects future generations.  Children are four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults.

3.  It protects the water supply.  More than half the country’s population is using water which is pesticide polluted.

4.  It promotes harmony with nature.  Much of the three billion tons of topsoil which is eroded each year from  US croplands is due to conventional farming practices, which often ignore the health of the soil. Organic agriculture respects the balance necessary for a healthy ecosystem, and wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fencerows, wetlands, and other natural areas.


5.  It saves energy and supports a true economy.  More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate, and harvest all the crops in the US. While organic foods might seem expensive at first, remember that your tax dollars pay for hazardous waste clean-up and environmental damage caused by conventional farming.

6.  It helps small farmers.  Some large-scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, for sure.  However, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms.  Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can demand fair prices for crops.

7.  It promotes better nourishment and flavor.  Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, which then produces nourishing plants.  Well-maintained and respected soil produces strong, healthy plants that have more nutrients than conventionally grown produce.  Do  the taste test yourself!  Organic produce simply tastes better.  End of story.

In recent months I have stepped up my insistence on buying as much organic produce as I can, and am less and less willing to compromise my health and the health of those around me with second class, adulterated foods. Please consider joining me in the effort.  The consumers demand the food they want to put on their tables and in their lunchboxes, the more we will get it.





Friday, August 1, 2014

I ran across this article that I wrote in 2012, and can't believe that I never posted it as a blog, but I don't think I did.  It's a little of my own story, and offer it to you now in a small effort to get more acquainted.  We all have a story of how we got from where we were to where we are......this is a piece of mine.  Here's hoping that you have lots of opportunity in your own life to share yours.

The "Raw Foods" Lifestyle?  What's That? That was my question several years ago when I was making my way through life as a "lacto-ovo" vegetarian of 12 years, which means that I ate eggs and dairy, but no meat.

It was a good life, I thought. I was 20-30 pounds overweight, give or take.  My blood pressure, though not terribly high, was well controlled by three medications that I took daily.  I rode my bike, even when my knees bothered me, swam regularly, had regular sessions of yoga, and worked out with weights at home.  I thought that life was OK, and quite normal -- healthy, actually.


An Introduction to the Raw Foods Diet

It was my granddaughter Leah, then 15, who introduced me to a new way of thinking about food and its affect on health.  During a Christmas visit with her family in 2006, I took note of her simple eating patterns and her calm demeanor with which she carried herself.  Wanting to at least learn something of what she was up to, I read through her raw food books. Because I knew the "loneliness" of eating an unconventional diet, I wanted to at least be supportive of Leah.  While her parents encouraged her to choose nutritious foods, Lean was in mayh ways "on her own" as she tried to figure out the path of raw foods.

I also wanted to learn about a diet of raw foods, and not be judgmental about something I knew nothing about.  And while the benefits and personal success stories that I  read in her books were compelling, I did not imagine making such a drastic change in my own way of eating.  After all, I was too busy commuting a long distance to work, and dealing with the stresses of life the way it was.  Changing to a raw foods lifestyle seemed too hard -- and, well, maybe too weird, as well. But then I realized that I was on the verge of rejecting something out of hand because it was just too new and too different.   Certainly, eating a diet of purely raw foods posed a challenge, but maybe the fabulous benefits I was reading about were worth it.

I tried an experiment.  Two days after that Christmas I ate nothing by raw food.  The next day, after I realized that I had lived through the experiment, I ate nothing but raw food again.  The rest is history, and I have been a very high raw eater ever since, and, I am pleased to say, that it's been a wonderful (and healthy) adventure.

So, Just What are We Talking about Here?


Simply put, a raw and living foods lifestyle means eating exclusively fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that have never been cooked. A very fun and liberating part of the raw foods way of life is that there are myriad combinations of these foods, so that mealtime is always interesting.  I was surprised to learn that raw food recipes abound!

But, why eat raw?  In my experience , my occasional knee pain disappeared in just a few weeks, even though  I was  bike riding harder and more often on some very steep hills.  In three months I had effortlessly lost thirty pounds.  After about one year, my blood pressure had dropped sufficiently that my doctor suggested that I didn't need medications for it any longer.

There are many, many benefits to eating and "living" raw!  My success story isn't that dramatic, even when you factor in my greatly increased energy, the need for less sleep, the disappearance of occasional headaches, and my greater strength and improved performance in athletic endeavors.

Raw Foods Success Stories

Individuals switching to a diet of raw foods have reported dramatic outcomes, some of them after years of taking medication and undergoing extensive medical treatments.  I have witnessed many of them.  A raw foods lifestyle has led to relief from depression, hay fever, fibromyalgia, and diabetes. Other benefits of a raw food diet include lower cholesterol, a clearer complexion, less grey hair, fewer toothaches, a more positive outlook, and overall improvement in health and vitality, and more harmony in body, mind, and spirit. Even more, people plagued with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, all manner of digestive disorders, and allergies have made remarkable recoveries after other fruitless efforts. And the list of benefits goes on.

Consider This!

The trend towards a raw and living lifestyle begins with being open to the idea that human beings can be more healthy and vigorous than we are now.  Everyone deserves to be as healthy and vibrant as they can be.  It begins with nutrition, and the  best nutrition is plant-based and raw!


One way to get started adding more raw foods into your diet is to investigate the possibility of a raw food potluck group.  The benefits of such a group abound!  Here in Columbia ,Missouri, join us at the Columbia Raw Food Feasters, a monthly raw food potluck where we share food, ideas, and help each other.  For further information about Raw Food Cuisine and Health Coaching, visit my Abundant Raw Life website.

Live Well  ~  ~  Eat Raw!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Journaling and Goal Setting

In my holistic health coaching practice, I encourage journaling.  Journaling is a great way to track progress, to monitor things like food intake, (types, amounts, frequency, etc.), exercise, blessings  received, and whatever else comes to mind for the summation of any given day.  It’s a wonderful life-giving habit to acquire and stick with long term.

Also in my practice, I work with others as they set reasonable, attainable short term goals consistent with their long term goals. Together we track the goals, monitor them for success, and in some cases, re-work them for an even better outcome.


Where am I going with this?  Precisely to encourage a new partnership—journaling and goal setting.  Continue to set those goals, for sure, but commit them to paper now, and keep them handy so that you can work in the journaling part as you go along, and watch the successful outcomes roll in as never before! 

When you write down your goals, you’re laying the first brick, or planting the spring seed, so to speak.  The ongoing recording of the process of working those goals, bringing them into  being on a day to day basis can help you achieve them  in several different way.

First, by setting a few minutes a day, every day at a predetermined time to write about your goals, you are guaranteeing that you will spend at least that amount of time each day thinking about those goals and how you are going to achieve them.  In other words, it’s time that you’re going to spend “tending your garden.”

Second, a journal allows you to record your progress.  If you’ve encountered setbacks while trying to achieve an important goal you may be feeling discouraged. Writing about your experience can help you to keep motivate to keep moving forward as well as to see the progress you’ve already made toward the achievement of your goal. Also, if success has been hard to come by, reviewing the process may help  you uncover what, precisely, isn’t working.  Then, by making a small adjustment in timing, or amount, or another variable, you’ll be right back on track to achieving your goal.

Third, a journal is evidence of past success.  Before you start working on a new goal, it’s a good idea to sit back with some of your old journals and read about your past successes.  Doing this will give you motivation to work on a new goal with a feeling of certainty that it too will be achievable.

Fourth, having a set time during which you’re going to write about your  goals each day keeps you accountable.  Nobody wants to sit down and write: “I did absolutely nothing o move closer to meeting my goals  today. Knowing that this time of reckoning will occur every day will help you in the “having something positive to say” department.  You’ll like that!

Finally, writing daily about your goals helps you to identify possible obstacles that you may encounter, and create an action plan on how you’ll deal with those obstacles when they arise.  Then, when a obstacle does appear on your path, you won’t be blind-sided or caught off guard about it.  Rather, you’ll know just how to deal with it.

Journaling of all sorts is a good thing.  Goal setting is a good thing.  Combine these two things can be a powerful tool for achieving those goals, helping you to achieve your health and lifestyle ideals.    Begin your Goals Journal today!

And if you’re interested in having additional support and encouragement as you work to achieve your most healthy and vibrant self, visit my website at www.janesmith-healthcoaching.com to learn more about the benefits of working with a certified health coach. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

9 Ways to Conquer Sugar Cravings

Sugar is a sizzling hot topic right now with the release of the new documentaries “The Men Who Made Us Fat” and “Fed Up.”  I saw the latter, which was a great compilation of things I’ve seen before about the great sugar excess, and some material that was new to me.  It’s a great film, narrated by Katie Couric, and I hop you’ll all try to see it.  It’s very well done, and shines a bright, bright light on the relationship between the food industry and the epidemic rise of obesity and diabetes among American children.  Powerful film, I tell you!

While it’s easy to blame the food industry for much that  is wrong with the  food we eat in this country, (and much of that blame is well deserved!), one of the invitations of this documentary is for individuals like you and me to take a look at our own sugar intake, and how we, as consumers, are complicit, albeit indirectly, in the problem of sugar excess.  I have often said that each bite we take makes us either part of the solution or part of the problem.  Even if our sugar intake has reduced gradually in the last few years, as it well may have, it doesn’t hurt for us to look again, to do a review, lest we get complacent….

Sugar has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.  It’s a leading factor in excessive weight gain, inflammation, and unhealthy skin conditions.  It is also associated with mood swings, bulging middle sections, bloating, and afternoon energy slumps.
We are genetically programmed to enjoy sweet foods.  In their natural state fruit, for example, has many vitamins, minerals, and plenty of fiber.  The problem is that the highly processed granules and syrups that are added to much of the food that  we buy are highly addictive.  Following are some ways to manage our relationship with sugar, so that it is not in the driver’s seat of our lives, always beckoning us to have more and more of it.  Consider these helpful tactics to gain better control over the sneaky stuff.

1.  Eat lots of nourishing foods, particularly in their raw state.  Increase the amount of dark leafy greens and other vegetables.   When your body is truly nourished, that is, receiving all the nutrients that it is searching, the voice of sugar will not be nearly as demanding when it calls.  Sugar cravings can be eliminated by a more nutrient dense diet.

2.  Drink more water.  Soft drinks, soda, energy drinks, and packaged fruit drinks are typically loaded with sugar.  Additionally, sometimes sweet cravings are simply a sign of dehydration.  Before you reach fro the sweets, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes.  The craving may just disappear.

3.  Reduce caffeine consumption.  The ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar swings, which can cause sugar cravings to become more frequent, more pronounced.

4.  Eat sweet vegetables.  Pumpkin, corn, beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, healthy, and delicious.  Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, they’ll keep you satisfied for longer, and will help to curb your cravings.  Also, try some coriander, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom.

5.  Use natural forms of sugar.  When the idea of a “real” dessert is irresistible, you’ll do yourself a big favor by avoiding artificial sweeteners and foods with added sugar.  Enjoy some fresh fruit, or foods sweetened with dates, organic maple syrup, or coconut sugar or syrup.  The less refined sugars you eat, the less sugar you will crave.

6.  Avoid the fat-free and low-fat labeled foods.  They compensate for the lack of flavor from fat with high quantities of sugar, which will assure you a seat on the roller coaster ride of sugar highs and lows.  Foods high in natural fat, such as coconut, avocado, nuts, and seeds actually reduce sugar cravings while they balance hormones and feed the brain and skin.  Don’t believe the marketing ploys and make better friends with whole foods, which are much better life companions anyway.

7.  Get moving.  Even ten minutes of walking or yoga a day to begin with will help  to balance blood sugar levels, boost energy, clear the mind, and reduce tension.  All of these things will eliminate the need to self-medicate with sugar.


8.  Get more sleep, rest, and relaxation.  Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, are the most readily usable forms of energy for an exhausted body and mind.  Sugar is a quick form of energy in a chronic state of stress and/or sleep deprivation.  Getting adequate rest will save you from this toxic, never-ending, unhealthy cycle.

9.  Find sweetness in non-food ways.  Cravings – especially for sweets – often have a psychological component.  Is it really more fun, adventure, affection, or freedom that you crave?  Be good to yourself.  Check to see what’s out of balance in your life.  Treat yourself.  Reward yourself in ways that don’t involve food, especially the sugar-sweetened kind.  (Seeing the movies I mentioned above will give you encouragement to become more of the solution to the sugar craze in this country than part of the problem.)  When life is sweet enough, you don’t need sugar additives.

Please feel free to leave comments below  I’d love to hear from you about some of your sweet cravings --- what they are, and how  you’ve managed them.


Have a wonderful July 4th weekend!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Eating Well and Within Your Budget

I am sometimes asked if my diet (high raw vegan, about 95%) is terribly expensive.  My usual reply is that I don’t know, as I am among the 10 worst shoppers in the world.  The issue for me is to buy foods with high nutrient density, mostly organic, in ways and places that fit with the rest of my lifestyle.  Truly, I don’t think my way of eating is any more expensive than anyone else’s, especially given that I don’t eat meat, drink alcohol, or buy any processed food – well, very little processed food. 

I do believe that on either large or modest food budgets, we can eat poorly or we can eat well. In these days of ubiquitous pesticides, genetically modified foods, and questionable soil conditions, it’s more important than ever to eat the right foods in order to maintain physical health and a high level of immunity. So, I may pay the higher prices for produce, but have good clean food to show for it, and I don’t buy low quality foods that have been highly compromised, and which, I might add, come at a very high price for their “convenience.”, but certainly not for their nutritious superiority.


Of course, it makes good sense to be a more discriminating shopper than I am, for sure.  Just don’t sacrifice relative cost for nutrient dense, life-giving food.

Here are a few tips to help you eat in a way that you can develop and maintain the energy and vitality to function on a high level – with peak performance, as it were, and still honor your budget.

1.  Take advantage of seasonal produce and sales.  For example, eat lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer when they are plentiful and inexpensive.  Try some new varieties while you’re at it. Each one has its own set of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and they’re all good and valuable in some way for our bodies.

2.  Shop around.  Visit different stores and observe different pricing schemes and sale schedules. Visit ethnic markets and local farmers markets, too.

3.  Grow some things yourself.  I am an anomaly  in the Midwest, where virtually everyone has a garden.  I’m not a gardener, but even I can plant some fresh herbs in a pot, and occasionally tomatoes.

4.  Some produce – apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, and cabbage are available year round and are usually reasonably priced.

5. Get together with a group to purchase your food.  Belonging to a food co-op can be a money saver.

6.  Eat mono-meals several times a week. A mono-meal is simply eating one food at a meal.  So….all peaches, all apples, all greens, etc.  Doing this occasionally will give your digestive system a break and help your budget as well.


7.  Take some time to learn as much as you can about local foraging.  There are many edible, nutrient dense plants to be had probably very close to your home, and are very well –priced. If you have an herbal medicine class, or wild edibles class available to you, it would pay big dividends.
Summer is a great time to experiment with new foods, because they are so plentiful in number and moderate in price. Be creative. You may find some new very fine “bargains!”

Thursday, May 22, 2014

About That Protein Question

It happened again at a conference that I attended recently.  An acquaintance of many years, in a discussion about eating healthy, asked me about getting enough protein on a plant based diet.  While it’s true that protein is an important component of any diet, we do seem, in this country, to think that the best way, if not the only way, to meet our protein requirements is to eat animals and/or the products they produce, such as milk, eggs, and cheese.  Maybe it’s time to write a little about this subject. 

First, protein is present in all food that grows.  Good sources of non-meat-based protein include kale and other greens, cauliflower and other vegetables, garbanzo beans, sprouted, almonds and other nuts, sunflower seeds and other seeds, almond butter and other nut-butters, and peaches, bananas, and other fruits.
Second, the quality of the protein is also good to consider.  Protein from animal sources takes lots of energy for the body to convert to usable protein.  The best source of easily absorbed protein is from dark leafy greens.  A green juice or green smoothie and a big salad and/or vegetable-based meal would be a good idea every day! 
Third, consider this nugget of truth.  Mother’s milk has the same protein content as fruit, approximately 3%.  A breast fed baby doubles its weight in one year of drinking ONLY mother’s milk.  It may therefore not be necessary to eat foods high in protein, but rather more of the foods that have a more ideal protein concentration for humans.
All of that said, for those of you who are comforted by numbers, the following list of some raw foods and their protein content is worth pondering. 
Nuts, Legumes, Seeds
1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – 39 g;  1 cup almond butter – 36 g;  1 Tbs cashew butter – 3g; 1 cup almonds – 30 g; 1 cup filberts – 17 g; 1 cup sunflower seeds – 29 g; 1 cup pumpkin seeds – 24 g.
Vegetables
1 large head cauliflower - 2 g; 1 cup cauliflower – 2 g; 1 cup kale – 2 g; 1 cup spinach – 1 g; 1 cup vegetable juice – 2 g; 1 cup alfalfa sprouts – g; 100 gm seaweed – 2 g.
Fruits
1 cup orange juice – 2 g; 1 cup oranges – 2 g; 1 cup bananas – 2 g; 1 peach – 2 g; 1 apple – 1 g; 1 cup grapes – 1 g; 1 cup fresh coconut water – 8 g.
These and other foods can be seen along with other nutrient values at http://nutritiondata.self.com/
In a day, then, if you were to eat a cup of soaked chickpeas, 2 cups of vegetables, and 3 fruits, you would have all the protein you need if you are a woman.  Or, you could eat 1 large cauliflower, 7 cups additional vegetables, 2 cups orange juice, and 6 peaches.  A man could add 5 bananas or a cup of almonds to that and have more than the required amount of protein. 
So, rest easy on concerns about protein.  Many authors say that in this country there just is no protein shortage.  Keep eating lots of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and you’ll have plenty of protein, along with many, many other very valuable nutrients which are unavailable in animals and/or their products.
 
Garbanzo beans are as high in protein as nuts, but have much less fat.  They are a great protein source for anyone incorporating more raw food into their diets, especially those who are avoiding fat or have trouble digesting nuts.Try this recipe on tomato slices, topped with olives.  It’s is a lovely way to serve a protein-rich snack or lunch.
Sprouted Hummus
1 ½ cups garbanzo beans, soaked for 24 hours (Change water every 12 hours).
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Dash of paprika 

Mix garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in food processor, until texture is smooth.  Serve with paprika garnish.  Use as dip for crudite`, as a stuffing for tomatoes, or a filling for wraps.  Enjoy! 

Let me know how you like it!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

While it’s Still Spring – FLING!

March and April are the typical months for spring cleaning.  Everyone knows that early spring is a good time to declutter closets, donate things for garage sales, and scrub nooks and crannies to squeaky clean.  Now that the season has ripened and greened, consider these three things that you can fling this spring to restore your confidence, boost your energy and take the weight off your shoulders!
 
1.  Indecision
“Maybes” are  time-sucking, attention-draining, problem-creating trouble makers!.  If you have areas of your life where you’re feeling undecided, uncertain, or wishy-washy, then watch out!  Self confidence has a whole lot to do with your ability to DECIDE.  Clutter, for instance, is a sign that you’re having a hard time making decisions.  Take a look at your thinking processes and see if you’re feeling stuck in a rut, unclear and undecided.  Then DECIDE and start moving forward.

The good news here is that you don’t have to have everything all figured out.  You don’t have to see the view from the top before you start climbing the mountain. Once you take the first step out of inertia, you’ll be in a new place with a new view, and the next step or steps will become more clear.

Making decisions is a great energy, confidence, and certainty booster.  Go for it.

2.  Secrets

It doesn’t necessarily feel good to admit to past wrongs, but keeping them inside is not healthy. Nobody likes to be wrong, but a humble heart which is willing to take responsibility for what’s gone awry is a lovely thing to behold.

If you have something  weighing on your heart, tugging on the edge of your tear ducts – something old, something new, something you knew you shouldn’t do but did anyway, it’s time to let it out and let go.

You don’t have to say it just right.  A good attempt at reconciliation trumps not making any attempt at all. Even the worst possible consequences will pale next to the cost of keeping it festering inside of you .

Your secrets wouldn’t bother you like they do if you weren’t a good person.  Free yourself, and let the new light and weightlessness of truth shine in. 
3.  Incomplete Projects

Those half-done photo albums and unwritten birthday cards may look benign, but they are not.  An accumulated collection of incompleted projects is the perfect invitation to feel lethargic, burdened, overwhelmed and unhappy!  Incomplete projects leak a slow, but strong energy drain on your life, your confidence, and your health.

Finish what you start.  Keep your commitments.  Clean up your unfinished business and make things feel right.

 As summer now approaches, take inventory on your life and personal choices – not just what you eat and how much exercise you get, but what you complete.  Not just what you wear, but what you hide inside and how you decide rather than letting things ride both sides of the fence. Then you’ll be ready to great the summer of full bloom, with an internal full bloom of life lived abundantly! 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kombucha, the Tea of Gods

I was six or seven months into a high raw food diet several years ago, when I discovered Kombucha.   Kombucha is a fermented, sweetened tea that employs a colony of bacteria and yeast to consume sugars and transform the tea mixture into a living drink.  The microbe colony responsible for this friendly ferment forms a gelatinous layer that floats on the surface of the tea.  This floater is referred to as the “mother” of living vinegars and is often referred to as SCOBY, “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.”

As with all living foods, enzymes, probiotics, and concentrated nutrients engender these foods with health-supporting properties.  Research in Europe has shown Kombucha to be supportive of digestive function.  Other potential benefits include immunity support, cancer prevention, and improving liver function.

What a wonderful beverage!  I bought several bottles from our local health food store, and then learned how to make it myself.  Since then it has been a staple in my refrigerator that I enjoy often, particularly in warm weather.  It’s tart and tingly, reminiscent of champagne, soothing as it travels down the channel into the belly where it does its job of providing pro-biotics, positive, digestion-enhancing, constipation-relieving  microbes to the system.

For those of you who would like to make your own Kombucha, here’s how.

Equipment
A one gallon GLASS jar.
6 air tight bottles suitable for bottling liquid.  (I use bottles saved from my store-bought Kombucha – they’re perfect.)
Plastic spoon

Kombucha in starter tea
 
Ingredients
1 Kombucha culture* in some starter tea
4 black or green tea bags (black is best)
1 cup sugar (organic is best)
The best water available; spring water is wonderful, otherwise filtered is good.
 
* If you don’t have a Kombucha mother in some starter tea, you can often find one by asking at your local health food stores.  People there often have them in their refrigerators waiting for good homes.  Some health food stores sell packaged Kombucha starter kits.  Alternatively, the bottled kombucha available in health food stores, if it is unpasteurized, can be used to grow a culture (“mother”).  Just one bottle will do it, along with some patience.

Empty the bottle of Kombucha into a glass quart jar, and cover it with a cloth or paper towel (so it can breathe) and an elastic band. Keep it at room temperature for two weeks without touching the jar.  The culture is slowly growing.  That “baby” can be used, then, to start your own batch of Kombucha. 

Directions
Boil 1 gallon water
Remove from heat and add 1 cup sugar.  Stir until it is dissolved.
Add the 4 tea bags and stir gently.  Let steep until the mixture is room temperature.
Pour the liquid into the gallon jar.
Add the mushroom and the starter Kombucha.
Cover with a towel or paper towel….something that breathes.
Label the mixture with the date. Let sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.

Taste it after about a week with a non-metal spoon.  If it tastes like vinegar, it’s ready.  If it’s still quite sweet, taste it every couple of days until the tastes suits you.  When you think it’s right , (and it really is all about taste here), remove the mother and ½-1 cup  liquid to a jar.  Cover with a tight lid and store in refrigerator until you’re ready to make another batch of Kombucha.

Decant the new Kombucha into glass airtight bottles. Refrigerate. 
That’s it!  You have Kombucha. 

Notes
The mother must be stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to make more Kombucha.  It will grow at room temperature.

 The next time you make Kombucha using that mother, it may grow so much that it grows a “baby.”  If it does, you can peel the baby off for a second jar.  If it doesn’t detach easily, just leave it attached, and it should be easily detached after another batch or two.
 

If you like your drinks on the fizzy side, just leave your freshlybottled batch in a warm place for 3 or 4 days, and then checkon it.  Be careful, as they might get really bubbly  or even explode if left for too long.

Enjoy!
Form

 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What's Gluten All About?

I was visiting a long-time friend in another city last weekend, and we were chatting about the general proliferation of gluten-free products on grocery store shelves and the rising number of people announcing that they want to avoid gluten.  We agreed that as recently as 5-10 years ago, we didn’t know anyone who was gluten free or who wanted to be.  And we didn’t notice the very few products in the health food stores, noting that they weren’t in the supermarkets at all!  By comparison, even good old Bisquick, (which I haven’t used in 30 years or more,) now has a gluten-free variety among the pancake products.  So what’s the deal with Gluten, and why are so many people avoiding it?

Let’s start at the beginning.  Gluten is a protein composite made of gliadin and glutenin stuck together by starch, and is found in several grains, including wheat, which, by the way, is found in many, many food products. Trying to avoid all wheat is a difficult task indeed.  Gluten is the substance that makes bread dough stretchy and elastic.  Changing the gluten changes the dough—very refined gluten makes chewy bagels, and less refined gluten produces pastry dough.  Bakers measure the dough elasticity with a took called a farinograph.  For years everybody thought that gluten was good news, and before all the wheat in this country became genetically modified in the 50s, it may well have been good news.  It is a source of protein and was sometimes added to food to boost its protein content.  (We’re talking way beyond bread products here.  Gluten is also used in cosmetics, beer, vitamins, soy sauce, ice cream, ketchup, and many other products.)


The problem with gluten is three-fold.  First, some people are allergic to wheat, and all wheat contains gluten.  These words refer to grains of other products that almost surely contain gluten:  triticum vulgare, tritcale, hordeum vuglare, secale cereal cereal, tritcumspelt, wheat protein, hydrolyzed wheat protein, wheat starch, hydrolyzed wheat starch, bulgur, and wheat germ.
Second, the following items may (or may not) contain some gluten:  vegetable protein, modified starch, natural flavor, artificial flavor, caramel color, hydrolyzed plant or vegetable protein, flavorings, seasonings, dextrin, and maltodextrin.
Third, the symptoms of gluten intolerance can be vague, and thus elusive.  If you experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may well benefit by reducing gluten in your diet: chronic diarrhea or constipation, infertility, abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue, and headaches.

While it is not the case that gluten-free diets necessarily  lead to weight loss, as some people believe, substantially reducing gluten in your diet goes a long way towards weight loss, if you increase healthy, life-giving foods in place of it.

Consider these steps
1.  Eat more fruits and vegetables in their natural state.  Raw is definitely best, but if you must cook them, don’t deep fry them or add any kind of dough to them. Plants do not contain gluten until the food industry gets them.
2.  Back out of as much processed food as you can – anything that comes in a box, bag, can, bottle, etc.
3.  Read the labels very carefully on what processed foods you do by, such as ketchup, soups, etc., and be prepared to be astounded.  Wheat is everywhere!
4.  Get out of the cereal aisle and stay out.
5.  Reduce or eliminate your intake of bread, rolls, pizza dough, pies, cakes, etc.
6.  If you want to make gluten-free muffins or breads, alternate flours can be used.  Almond flour is a popular choice, and there are cookbooks to help you learn about the art of gluten-free baking.
7.  Most candy contains gluten, even chocolate, so be careful. 


An excellent resource for learning about the history of our wheat/gluten problem  and what to do about it is Wheat Belly,  by William Davis MD.  I recommend it.

I can’t help but add here that one of the many benefits of a diet high in raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds eliminates all the label reading and angst about hidden ingredients in prepared foods.  For more information about preparing raw foods that are as creative and tasty as they are nourishing, contact me at abundantrawlife@gmail.com  and/or visit my site www.janesmith-healthcoaching.com.

Better health and  more vibrant living is easier than you may think it is to attain!  Move today towards all your health goals!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Cleaning Meets Earth Day


The warmer weather for which we have been eagerly awaiting is here, which means that spring cleaning will be happening in many homes. After being cooped up in an increasingly stuffy house all winter long, it’s time to fling open the windows, shoo away the cobwebs, and take on the annual spring cleaning.  While this is a great and usually refreshing idea, April, and especially Earth Day on the 22nd, reminds us that the chemicals found in conventional cleaning products can be more dangerous than the dirt they’re intended to clean.  And the way we clean (with lots of disposable paper towels) isn’t exactly earth –friendly either.  Thankfully, there are many  alternatives available that can help us make our homes not only squeaky clean, but green.  This year, make a special effort to clean in such a way that the health of you and your family are not at risk, and the planet doesn’t suffer either.
Following are several tips for getting your home in tiptop shape.  By implementing some or all of these ideas, you can be satisfied that you will not be causing physical harm to those you live with, including pets, or the environment.
A good place to start in a home “greening “ movement is to consider the actual cleaning products that  you’re using.  The last thing we want to be doing is dumping toxic chemicals into the environment in the name of personal cleanliness.  The good news is that you don’t have to make a special trip to the health foods store, (although I do love to make trips to my local health food store), to find environmentally-sensitive cleaning products.  Seventh Generation, Method, and Biokleen are three companies that make full lines of household cleaners, and they are available in just about every store.  These products work just as well as their conventional counterparts.
Another option with cleaning products is to make them yourself.  Basic supplies include
White Distilled Vinegar (usually found in the cooking section of supermarkets
Baking Soda
Olive Oil
Borax (sold in a box in the laundry aisle)
Liquid Castille Soap (like Dr. Bronner’s brand, found in most natural food stores)
Essential Oils (super concentrated natural plant oils found in natural food stores, usually in the cosmetics section
Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
Newspaper.
Here are some ideas for putting these ingredients to use:
Glass:  Mix ¼ cup vinegar with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle.  Spray on glass and wipe clean with old newspaper or a micro-fiber (lint- free) cloth.

Countertops and Bathroom Tile:  Mix 2 parts vinegar and 1 part baking soda with 4 parts water.  Apply with a sponge, scour, and wipe away.
Floors:  Mix 4 cups of white distilled vinegar with about a gallon of hot water.  If desired, add a few drops of pure peppermint or lemon oil for a pleasant scent.  After damp mopping the floors, the smell of vinegar will dissipate quickly, leaving behind only the scent of the oil
Wood Furniture:  Mix equal parts of lemon juice and olive oil.  Apply a small amount to a cloth, and rub onto the furniture in long, even strokes.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:  Sprinkle a toilet brush with baking soda and scrub away.  Occasionally disinfect your toilet by scrubbing with borax instead.  Wipe the outside of the toilet clean with straight vinegar.
Disinfectant:  Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, 3 cups hot water, and ¼ teaspoon liquid castille soap.  Wipe on with dampened cloth or use spray bottle.  Wipe clean.
Mold and Mildew:  Wipe with straight vinegar.
Air Freshener:  Sprinkle essential oil on a cotton ball, and stash it in a corner of the room.  Keep out of the reach of children, as essential oils are very strong and could irritate young skin.  Lavender is a relaxing scent that is great for bedrooms, and cinnamon, clove, and citrus oils are nice in the rest of the house.  Also, a few stashed in the car, like peppermint, not only provides a pleasant smell, and may help to keep you alert.

For more tips for cleaning in an environmentally friendly way, see my Abundant Raw Life April 2014 newsletter.  Contact me at abundantrawlife@gmail.com for a copy.