Have you wondered which "diet" is best? You are not alone! It seems like there's a new one every month and you may have tried them all or know someone who has tried many. I'm frequently asked what I think of the currently popular 'Paleo Diet'.
My answer is pretty much the same no matter which one I'm asked about. Here's the skinny:
Our DNA has changed since we were cave dwellers. It's a cocktail that didn't exist before. With every step of globalization, we have synthesized new genetics. Additionally, the industrial revolution has provided us the chemical means to exponentially alter the mix, from cigarettes to genetically modified soy beans to Frankenfish.
To propose that We, as a race of humans, should be eating one diet of any sort, I feel is ridiculous. I am certainly a proponent of a diet of whole foods, with all the colors of the rainbow, for everyone. End of story. Beyond that, I believe our DNA is so mixed up, that dietary generalization is a silly notion and every body is going to need something just a bit different from the next.
I'm sure there is merit to the Paleo Diet, but our bodies are smart. They will tell us what to eat (and what not to), if we tune in and listen. Not to our taste buds – they've been tricked by the food industry. Not to our minds – they can only playback what we've already experienced. Get quiet, take a couple of deep clearing breaths, then "go inside" and ask yourself what your body needs to eat for wellness. Trust the answers that come – you'll know the difference between those your mind creates and those which are from the REAL you.
I know, it sounds woo-woo. That's why it's called The Holistic Kitchen.
Once upon a time, the egg selection in the grocery store was Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large or Jumbo. Period. Now? The selection is so confusing it's enough to make one reel. From "Organic, Cage-Free, Vegetarian Fed" to nearly everything else you can think of. How do you make the best selection? It may not be what you think.
For example, by definition, "cage-free" requires that hens have access to a yard – but in conventional egg production, that doesn't necessarily mean they spend any time in it. Nonetheless, those eggs may be labeled (and priced) as "cage free". Eggs that can currently be labeled as "organic" are not necessarily from healthy happy hens.
While flimsy definitions of "free range" allow such facilities to sell their products as free range, please beware that a hen that is let outside into a barren lot for mere minutes a day, and is fed a diet of corn, soy, cottonseed meals and synthetic additives is NOT a free-range hen, and simply will not produce the same quality eggs as its foraging counterpart… –Dr. Joseph Mercola
Some of the factory farm operators literally raise millions of birds (both conventional and organic) with as many as 85,000 “organic” hens in single buildings.
True free-range eggs are substantially more nutritious than non.
|Mother Earth News' 2007 egg testing project|
- Eggs generally come from one of two sources: confined animal feeding operations or CAFO’s, where the hens are typically kept caged indoors, or smaller farms where the hens are not confined, but rather allowed to pasture freely.
- Hens’ natural diet consists of seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. CAFO birds are primarily fed a diet of corn and soy-based feed*; most of which is genetically engineered. The difference in diet makes the eggs they produce vastly different nutritionally.
- You can tell the eggs are free range by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you’re getting eggs form caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.
- Free range eggs are truly an ideal food; it’s not only one of best proteins you can get, it’s also one of the least expensive. They’re best eaten raw, or soft-boiled. Scrambled eggs are the most damaged, and will not provide the same health benefits as raw or partially cooked eggs
* Keep in mind this is "vegetarian feed" – so egg cartons that promise you "Vegetarian fed" are not necessarily offering benefit (and likely charging more)!
Your local farmer's market is a great source to find eggs laid by the happiest and best fed hens. If you don't have easy access to such, ask the staff in a natural food store, such as a Co-Op, which brands are from small, local producers or where else you can find eggs from "foraged hens". And use the Cornucopia Institute's Egg Scorecard to help identify the brands that are masquerading behind the term "Organic".
Now you know….. Eggcellent!!
FINALLY, the medical community is coming around! It's so refreshing to see a physician who has been entrenched in Western medicine for a lengthy career, do an about face and publicly admit that doctors and pharmaceutical companies have had it all wrong.
The injury and inflammation in our blood vessels is caused by the low fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine.
Foods loaded with sugars and simple carbohydrates, or processed withomega-6 oils for long shelf life have been the mainstay of the American diet for six decades. These foods have been slowly poisoning everyone.
Plus the diet and pills we've been prescribed are actually causing the problem to worsen? What a cruel joke! It certainly is lucrative for the doctors and drug companies who "believe" they offer help….
Get the story here – this is a LIFE SAVING MUST READ, written by a physician, who has changed his tune.
BTW, once you learn what he has to share, you may want to pick up a copy of my book, Chef Nancy's Recipe for Health (print version) or The Anti Reaper Diet (Kindle version), offering 4 weeks of Anti-inflammatory recipes.
As it happens, Oregano, the traditional herb in pizza sauce and widely used in Mediterranean cooking, is a healing powerhouse! It’s been used for centuries for stimulating the immune system and documented for its powerful anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic and anti-inflammatory properties (likely responsible for its anti-aging properties)!
Now if you know me at all, you know I consider anti-inflammatory to be synonymous with anti-cancer and anti-diabetes. Just sayin’…
Oregano has also been shown to be effective against arthritis and rheumatism (inflammation), respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis and digestive issues. Furthermore, the fragrance is known to create a feeling of security. Wow again!
Considering the quantity of Oregano prevalent in the Mediterranean Diet, in combination with the lycopene in cooked Tomatoes and health benefits of Olive Oil, it’s no wonder the Mediterranean Diet receives such attention!!
Oregano, on its own, can be used to activate your defenses with the first symptoms of cold, flu or upper respiratory infections. Continue throughout the infection and 4-5 days beyond, to avoid reoccurrence.
Because of its anti-bacterial properties, Oregano can also be useful in fighting other infections, such as those in the urinary tract. Drink as a tea or take 1-3 drops of therapeutic grade essential oil (diluted with olive oil) in a veg. capsule.
Consuming Oregano as a warm tea, right after a meal can help to relieve gas, regulate digestion and “keep things moving smoothly”.
“The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods” lists all of these conditions in the index under Oregano: Bad breath, bursitis [inflammation], cold sores [virus], depression, hives, nausea, osteoarthritis [inflammation again], pneumonia, sinusitis and toothaches!
Sheesh! I can’t personally speak to all those, but thought the list was sufficient to illustrate just how much respect Oregano deserves as a healing food!
So, Zach my friend, you can feel good about pizza! Just go light on the cheese, see if you can get some whole grains into the crust and load up on the Oregano!! And if you’re feeling adventurous, here’s a super easy (non-pizza) recipe from the Silver Palate that uses a plentiful amount of Oregano, qualifies as “holistic” and is lip-smacking delicious!!
REMEMBER: When cooking with herbs, add dried herbs early on, so their flavor and properties have time to become released. When cooking with fresh herbs, add just at the end of cooking, so their flavor and properties are maintained! And if you need to substitute one for the other in a recipe, remember that dried is 3x more concentrated than fresh, so adjust accordingly (i.e. a Tbl. of fresh is equivalent to a tsp. of dried.)
These are truly one of my favorite summer flowers – something about their sunny colors of orange and gold brighten any balcony, patio or garden spot. They seem so happy and always bring a smile to me.
“But wait, there’s more!” Nasturtiums are a 100% edible gift of nature! Their leaves and leggy stems lend a little spice to your summer salad. If you have a lot of them you can make a spicy pesto or add a bit to your traditional pesto.
The flowers themselves are completely edible and certainly lend elegance and color to your plate, not to mention those "oohs and ahhs" a cook adores. And finally, once the flowers have shined all they can, they leave behind a seed pod (kind of resembles a little crinkly green brain), from which you can pickle your own spicy little nasturtium capers!
While I share my knowledge with you through Kitchen Tips, I am, of course, still always learning. Last year, I planted too many nasturtiums in my garden box for the space. The result was an over crowded, bumper crop and while I basked in the beautiful color on my balcony and ate as much pesto as I could, I DID NOT KNOW I COULD’VE MADE ‘CAPERS’! This I sorely regret, as I adore the little things!
If you’d like to try it yourself, here’s how (thanks to Sandor Katz, my fermenting guru):
1½ cups of small seedpods*, such as Nasturtium or even Milkweed
1 Tb. Sea salt
1-2 heads of garlic
Harvest the pods when they’re small and tender.
Dissolve the salt in the water to create your brine.
Fill a pint jar with seedpods and peeled garlic cloves. Pour the brine over, making sure to cover all.
It’s important to keep them weighted down, so they remain covered under the brine. You can use a smaller container that fits in your pint jar (filled with water for weight) or even a Ziploc bag filled with brine (in case it leaks).
Taste daily until they taste “ripe”. This should take 4-7 days. If a film of mold develops, simply skim it off and continue to keep the pods submerged in brine, until they taste ready to you. Once they are, you can simply put a lid on them and keep them refrigerated, using them as needed. Voila!
Savor the Flavor of Summer!!
*EATING RAW NOT RECOMMENDED – CAN BE TOXIC, ESPECIALLY FOR ULCERS & KIDNEY DISORDERS
While gluten sensitivities are becoming mainstream, the gluten-free alternatives are plentiful and here’s one more you can add to your shopping cart, dinner table, breakfast bowl and snack recipes! That’s a lot of bang for your buck, considering its teeny tiny profile.
Millet is a whole grain that offers a strong nutrient profile in the absence of gluten. High in Magnesium, Potassium, Manganese and Trytophan, Millet is also a good source of insoluble fiber and that’s what helps to slow down the rate blood sugar enters your blood stream (an important factor in preventing spikes that lead to insulin resistance, inflammation and disease).
Studies have shown Millet’s nutrient profile offers many cellular level health benefits, only a few of which I’ve listed here:
- Heart protective
- Reduced risk of type 2 Diabetes
- Promotes healthy cell structure throughout the body
- More, more more!
Millet is available hulled or whole grain. Whole grain always offers more soluble fiber than the hulled version of any grain. Choose organic, if available. Eden, Nature's Path and Arrowhead Mills all offer organic whole grain millet. Store it in an airtight container where it’s cool, dark and dry.
From a culinary standpoint, Millet can be made mushy, like a porridge or fluffy like couscous or rice or it can be used in baking.
In all cases, rinse dry grains before cooking.
Fluffy Millet: 1 cup millet to 2.5 cups liquid (water, broth, combo). Bring liquid to a boil, add rinsed grains. Once it has returned to a boil , cover, reduce heat and simmer, approximately 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff grains with a fork and season with S&P.
FluffyNutty Millet: While waiting for the liquid to come to a boil, lightly toast dry grains in a skillet, then add to liquid, for a nutty flavor profile.
Porridge: Cook the same as fluffy millet, EXCEPT, stir it frequently and add a bit more liquid along the way.
Baked goods: Grind millet grains first, then sub 1/4 – 1/2 cup of flour with ground millet. Alternatively, use ground millet in place of oats in a recipe. If you want that nutty flavor, toast first, then grind. Stone ground Millet has been used for thousands of years in flatbreads in many civilizations!
Fillers and batters: Use whole or ground millet as a filler in veggie burgers, meatloaf, stuffing, or in pancake or waffle batter!
Share your questions or favorite uses of Millet by commenting below!
I count myself a member of the majority who LOVE food. Food is like a drug for many, myself included. We eat to experience new tastes and we eat to comfort, with well acquainted dishes. We eat to live (feeding our bodies) and we live to eat (feeding our souls). We eat to celebrate and we eat to commiserate. It is no wonder we become slaves to our beloved food, whether the selections are healthy or decadent!
But WHAT IF, those foods we love the most (usually the decadent ones) could be made with good-for-you ingredients, effectively rendering them comforting, celebratory and healthy?!
That’s what The Holistic Kitchen is all about.
There’s something about fall foods that are especially comforting. The weather is turning and we look to heartier fare for comfort, warmth and merriment. We also look to time tested recipes that have been handed down and embedded in our memories of holiday gatherings, in some cases because of their decadence! Again, I ask: WHAT IF those same delights could be made with healthier options, without sacrificing the delight?
It can be done – The Holistic Kitchen and I, Chef Nancy, exist to prove it! Here’s a recipe for Apple Crisp, that replaces every harmful ingredient and renders a delicious, anti-inflammatory version of this classic dessert (presuming you don’t ad ice cream!) If it ain’t Apple Crisp to you without the ice cream, make your own low glycemic coconut milk ice cream or buy the green label So Delicious Vanilla, coconut ice cream in your natural market. OR stayed tuned for my Walnut Vanilla Bean Chantilly in my next book!
Even if you "don’t like coconut”, give this a chance – it’s definitely different (and divine compared with commercially prepared coconut anything)! I never liked coconut either, until I tried the real deal.
The last time I wrote about coconut, it was about the oil. Not long ago, a friend asked me about the dangers of coconut milk, especially canned coconut milk. I am thrilled to share what I know about the benefits of coconut milk!
If you missed the Coconut Oil Kitchen Tips from a year ago, this information is worth repeating:
We were told 2 or 3 decades ago that tropical oils such as coconut, were very bad for our health. The soy and corn industry were largely responsible for scaring us into believing this hype – and that's all it was, without any scientific foundation.
It turns out that this ugly rumor has kept us from enjoying the long list of health benefits that coconuts and their Medium Chain Fatty Acids provide. For that very long list, you can visit CoconutOil.com.
Coconut milk is my go to substitute for milk in any situation. The health benefits cannot be overstated! If you don’t want the coconut flavor in your dish, that’s an easy fix. The critical point is that not all coconut milks are created equal. Not even all canned coconut milks are created equal. There is only one that can be counted on, every time, to deliver the benefits without the dangers.
My research has found that most coconuts used in commercial production are grown in areas where chemicals are not used in cultivation. However, once harvested, processing methods can and often do involve a chemical deodorization (more so with oil, thank milk).
Back to coconut milks: Many, unless labeled “organic” are likely to have any number of additives that render the milk a manufactured “food product”. This is definitely undesirable! Be sure to read the ingredients! Even one product I particularly like, So Delicious, Unsweetened Coconut Milk, has some undesirable additives, in order to make it a delicious dairy free milk substitute, just like all the other milk substitutes flooding the market today.
Even canned coconut milks that are labeled “organic” will usually have at least one additional ingredient (harmless for some people), such as guar gum, as a “stabilizer”. Generally this is used to keep the cream and water homogenized, instead of separating. Seems ridiculous to me that we can’t just learn to shake the can before opening!
The beauty of a canned product is that it is shelf stable until it’s opened. The down side is the dangerous compounds (such as BPA) most all can linings are made with (Eden brand, is one exception to this rule). It should be noted that, sadly, Eden does not offer coconut milk amongst its line of canned products.
When my friend indicated that she’d been told (canned) coconut milk should be avoided, (and since most people are not aware of the issue with can linings) I began to wonder if the high temperature a canned product is subject to, might cause a chemical change, rendering it “dangerous”.
So I went searching. I learned that canning temperatures “for a low acid fruit or vegetable” range from 240-250℉. “Raw” foods, by definition, are considered “raw” if their temperature has been kept below 104-118℉. So I guess we can agree that the lower the temperature of any produce, the more it’s natural benefits (such as enzymes and vitamins) remain viable (that is the beauty of raw).
I haven’t found any data that indicates a dangerous chemical change to coconut milk under high temperatures. That said, if we adopt the theory that “lower temps render a more viable product” we are left with a really fun, totally delicious and ultra healthy option:
1. Make your own coconut milk! (from dried, shredded unsweetened coconut meat). Temperature: Approximately 180℉
I, however, like to make mine from a fresh coconut, when available in the store. Additionally, it’s a fun family adventure (caution: sharp blades are involved) as well as a great way to take out frustrations by hammering on a coconut!
2. Make your own coconut milk! (from a whole coconut – Temperature: 70-100℉)*. AND where she tells you to smash it up under a towel? I found a better way (I ruined my towel her way) – TheCoconutTool.com and it really really works! Cut the meat into 1-2 inch pieces and blend them up with the reserve coconut water and some additional purified or natural spring water (4 cups total water) – you may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your blender. Then I pour the liquid through a nut milk bag (or multiple layers of cheese cloth, but the nut milk bag is MUCH easier) with a bowl below and S Q U E E Z E, extracting as much liquid as the mass will give!
I like the idea of using a whole fresh coconut because I can blend it with room temperature water (and the ultra healthy, fresh coconut water) so my resulting milk is still raw AND I get to snack on some of the fresh meat – what a treat!! AND I get two products from one effort because I can use the meat (that’s left over after squeezing the water out) as flour!
Either method you choose to make coconut milk, it must be refrigerated and will stay fresh only 2-4 days. It will also separate and the great for you fat will harden, so shake it well. And though I can’t drink a quart of milk within 2-4 days, I can make ice cream with it! Storage solved!
*If you’re using a high powered blender such as a Vitamix, remember that the longer you blend, the warmer it gets. If immunity is compromised, you could use method #2 with water that's been heated to 180℉ OR let the milk blend long enough to bring it up to at least 165℉ to reduce the possibility of bacterial contamination.
Post your comments and questions below!!
About a year ago, my inaugural issue of Kitchen Tips was on Alternative ingredients, protein sources, etc.
I won’t suggest you make these part of your alternative food selection, but I couldn’t help noting that one person’s vermin is another’s afternoon snack!
Do you keep flour in a canister on your counter top? I used to also, but found that it either “grew bugs” or went rancid before I used it all.
Solution: Keep your flour in the freezer, to avoid both of these unpleasant outcomes!
Do you use bleach in your home, to disinfect bacterial bugs from surfaces? I used to also, but learned how harmful it is to breath that and other cleaning chemicals.
Solution: Use all natural compounds like orange or lemon oil for de-greasing and thyme and clove oil for sanitizing.
Do you have a parade of ants in your kitchen? I have had also, but disliked using deadly substances on my counter tops and floors where my beloved pet lives.
Solution: Essential oil of peppermint placed at ports of entry should halt their march into your territory.
Do you use Comet or Ajax cleansers in your kitchen sink? I used to also, but again, those harsh chemicals went straight into my lungs!
Solution: Baking soda makes a great scouring agent that pulls up stains too. Use it plain or add antibacterial essential oils such as lavender, lemongrass, tea tree, thyme or clove, to name a few.
Please share your tried and true natural remedies for keeping bugs out of the kitchen!