Friday, November 30, 2012

puppies spells stress relief

It's that time of year for many students.  Exam time.  And because it's the end of the semester that means final exams.  This tends to bring high levels of stress, late nights fueled by far too much caffeine, and poor eating choices.  For those who have students in their life here are a few strategies that may help with stress reduction.
  1. Know your stressors - recognizing when we are stressed is a big piece of the puzzle.  We can then be proactive about it by engaging in stress-relieving activities
  2. Stay hydrated - when we are dehydrated that simply causes physical stressors as well.  Drink water to stay hydrated, not caffeinated beverages.  Caffeine has been known to increase anxiety and to raise blood pressure, not good combinations for a stressful situation
  3. Eat well - make sure to not let your blood sugars dip out of control.  When this happens we are more likely to binge eat, especially on sugars, which can further destabilize blood sugar.  Having small snacks that are high in protein such as raw nuts, or delicious crunchy veggies with hummus are a great way to help avoid the munchies later in the day.
  4. Sleep - the temptation when we are stressed about impending deadlines is for us to pull an all-nighter.  This can actually impair cognitive function.  When we are well-rested we are better able to handle stress.
  5. Breathe - when we are stressed we often start to breathe shallowly.  This is usually an unconscious shift.  By stopping to take deep, slow breaths we help to oxygenate and we also force ourselves to calm down, even if just for a little while.  Try it now, take three long slow deep breaths, you'll be amazed at how different you feel.
  6. Try whole body relaxation - this is a process where you tense and relax the muscles in your body.  The entire process takes just a few minutes but can help to let go of a lot of stress.  Typically the pattern is to start by tensing the muscles in your feet, counting to five, and then relaxing them.  Then repeat this for the calves, thighs, buttocks, and so on all the way up the body to the face.  
  7. Take a laugh break - laughter is good for us.  Watching a funny video on YouTube, telling jokes with a friend, or reading something humorous can all help to relieve stress. 
Some colleges, in an effort to help with stress relief, have even started puppy rooms where students can come and hang out with puppies to get a little fur-ball therapy.  The animals run the gamut from certified therapy pets to animals borrowed from a shelter.  The movement seems to be growing as each year around this time there are more articles about more schools who are doing it.  Some schools, such as Yale, apparently even have a therapy dog program where students can borrow a dog from the library for 30 minute sessions.

Figuring a picture is worth a thousand words, cute pictures make us smile, and that smiling is very stress-relieving I wanted to share the following.

These puppies are currently living with my friend Larry who rescued their pregnant mother from the animal shelter so she would not have to give birth there.  He has taken on the commitment to raise them and find foster homes for them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

hidden health costs of cheap food

Today's post is a testimonial of sorts focusing on whole food.  Written by Tracy Falbe, she shares her story and her journey toward health accomplished in part by transitioning to a low process, low chemical nutritional plan.

The value of food is not solely determined by the money paid for it. The real measures are the food’s nutritional value and its impact on your health.

My whole life I always caught colds and the flu easily. Then about two years ago I switched to eating local naturally raised eggs, poultry, and meats. No more hormone-dripping antibiotic-oozing confined animal meat for me. I began to grow a great deal of my own vegetables which I now enjoy through the winter with canning and freezing. These vegetables grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides and often from heirloom stock contribute to my health. Since I got serious about carefully sourcing my diet and paying a premium for good food, I stopped catching every bug in the region.  When my husband complained of how many sinus infections he was getting, I convinced him to stop eating at his workplace cafeteria, and he has not had a sinus infection since.

Our immune systems are now more robust because we are eating food with higher nutritional content. Science is beginning to quantify the paucity of nutrients in food from industrial agricultural systems. Data collected and analyzed by University of Texas chemist Dr. Donald R. Davis has revealed some startling declines in crop nutrients over the decades. For example protein in wheat and barley declined 30 to 50 percent between 1938 and 1990. Broccoli now has 66 percent less calcium, in a 2003 analysis, than in 1950.

Large scale agricultural monocultures and business models dependent on chemical fertilizers deplete soils. These fields are stripped of minerals which go unreplaced. Fertilizers generally add nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These three elements produce growth and fruiting but do not provide a complete nutrient profile needed for good health. The soil has nothing to give to the plant. Even if a diversity of nutrients still remain in the soil, newer crop varieties bred or genetically engineered to produce higher yields more quickly do not have time to draw in as many nutrients as a slower growing heirloom variety. Often the crop is just growing big but lacking in substance. Time is money and nutritional value is sacrificed for speed.

The same problem occurs with egg and meat production. Hormones and antibiotics speed the production but at the cost of nutritional quality.

When I was always getting sick, I was suffering from low grade malnourishment that depleted by immune system. My body was lacking the minerals that had been sucked out of the fields long ago. In a grand sense I was feeling the same sickness that is in the Earth that is mismanaged by industrial food systems.

I agree with agribusiness that time is money. Therefore I double invest by spending more time and more money sourcing high quality nutrient dense food. This provides the double dividend of feeling better while avoiding expensive medical appointments and prescriptions. I also get the greater gift of time that is not wasted feeling bad or sitting in some dismal clinic waiting room.

Admittedly it is convenient to malnourish yourself. Fluffed up produce and processed foods made from “high yield” grains are abundant but have lower nutritional value. Our food system is devoted to filling the plate instead of nourishing the body. The cost of cheap food adds up with deleterious effects caused by weaker immune systems. It’s no secret that poor health follows a poor diet. Remember this truth next time you feel like you can’t afford the produce from the local organic or natural methods grower. You’re going to pay somewhere, so start with a nice dinner and see how it goes from there. I expect that you will eventually, as I did, feel better.

When Tracy Falbe is not studying seed catalogs, tending her fruit trees, or shopping the farmers’ markets, she writes novels. Building a business out of her creativity nurtures her spirit as she seeks to find value in her dreams. Discover her hard-hitting passionate epic fantasies at

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

national caregiver's month - part 4

November is National Caregiver's Month. A time to focus on those who care for others, especially if that caregiver is ourselves. Dr. Vicki Bradley has created Self-Care Reminders for Caring Professionals and Family Caregivers to focus on those very special people. Part one of this series can be found here, part two here, and part three here.

But when can we care for ourselves?

I have been asked this question several times and I have an answer. We can care for ourselves now, all the time, and while we care for others. All we need to do is redefine self-care. The most helpful definition of self-care is to consider everything we do for ourselves as self-care. So, for example, the way we eat, sleep, breathe, and walk can all be ways to care for ourselves.

The following two self-care reflections are simple metaphors to encourage us to care for ourselves while we care for others. Both reflections are adapted from my book, Self-Care Reflections.

The Dance of Self and Other Care

We need to take care of us while we are taking care of them. We cannot wait until we have some free time or a vacation. We need to care for ourselves now.

We can use the metaphor of a dance to visualize caring for them and us during each day. In a dance, let's say a dance with two partners, the couple steps forward and, then, back - over and over again.

In the "dance" of self and other care, we make choices all day, every day to take care of them and us. One dance step is a movement to help ourselves. The next step is a movement to help them. We can dance through our day!

How will your daily dance steps reflect your self-care?

The Tapestry of Self-Care and Other-Care 

Most information about self-care emphasizes self-care as "taking a break" (getting away from) and "venting" (talking) about the persons in our care. The underlying belief seems to be that we cannot take care of ourselves unless we separate ourselves from the persons in our care.

"Taking breaks" and "venting" can be helpful. However, self-care needs to be an ongoing interwoven part of our lives and our days - similar to weaving a tapestry.

Weaving is an art that intertwines multiple threads to form the whole fabric. Weaving together our self-care with the care of others is also an art. Our focus on both the care of ourselves and others becomes the fabric of our lives. 

How will you weave the fabric of your life to include self-care and other-care?

The mission of Self-Care Reminders is to encourage caring professionals and family caregivers to care for ourselves, so we can better care for others (and we'll be happier, too). Contact Vicki to purchase the book Self-Care Reflections, a set of Self-Care Option Cards, or to schedule a “Filling up Our Wells” workshop.

Monday, November 26, 2012

on my mind monday 11.26.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Southeast Paying Price For High Antibiotic Use - While overall antibiotic use is dropping, some areas of the country are not dropping as quickly as others.  This is problematic as those areas tend to show higher levels of antibiotic-resistant infections (including urinary tract infections).  It is important to remember that antibiotics should be taken responsibly.  Only take them if you really need them, take them according to the schedule written by your doctor, and finish your entire prescription to ensure that you do not potentially breed superbugs.

Fat blocking soda - Pepsi is at it again.  Trying to make an unhealthy product appear to be something that might be good for you.  Soda is not, is never, a healthy choice of beverage.  Fat blocking soda is just ridiculous.  By adding a dose of what is essentially an ingredient found in laxative Benefiber they are claiming it will block fat and help you lose weight.  My prediction is that this one won't last long.  It's kind of like the 7-up with anti-oxidants which was shut down for making nutrient claims.  Looking for fat blocking foods? Eat fiber-rich foods rather than drinking a chemically concocted, empty calorie beverage.

Edible deodorant - While I will be the first to tell you that many deodorants have ingredients in them which are unhealthy and should be avoided, I'm not a fan of this product. First we don't know that it will work well for everyone as we are all bio-individual and there are no guarantees when it comes to body chemistry. Second I'm not convinced that the ingredients are going to be that great. Instead consider using the EWG's Skindeep - Deodorant List.

Water Conservation - is still in the news. As I've written before it's something we are definitely thinking more about (especially in light of the letter we recently received from our utility district informing us that water rates were going up by 14%). This is an issue that is not going away and I believe will have a profound impact not only on our water but also on our food (we need water to irrigate, wash, cook, etc).  Our big effort right now is looking for ways to get rid of more of the lawn. I'd love to hear any water conservation ideas anyone else has.

Veggieducken - Wow, what is it with us and combined foods? It's certainly not a new concept and is something that's been around for ages, but lately the idea seems to be regaining popularity. The turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken), a cherpumple (a monstrous three cake three pie combination) and now this. I will confess this one could be a WWME food but I'm not sure I'm willing to invest all the time it would take to make one.

I wanted to share this video from my friend Karen who talks for the first time about her personal journey with Crohn's. Thank you Karen for your willingness to share and open up about your health and your condition.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

national cashew day

This November celebrates a rather “nutty” day, the National Cashew Day. While we’re all preoccupied with Thanksgiving planning and holiday preparations, this November 22 takes a moment to celebrate this rather tasty and very special ingredient to many of today’s recipes.

While cashews were once considered to be native to Northeast Brazil, they are said to have found their roots in ancient Africa. Grown for both the cashew seed, what we call the nut, and it's outer coating, the cashew apple (haven’t seen many of these, but they apparently contain five times the vitamin C of the average orange), it is now grown throughout tropical climates, some of the prime sources being the Philippines and Nigeria.  Although less common that other tree nuts or peanuts, some people do have a serious allergic reaction to cashews.

The nut alone isn’t what it’s all about. There is far more to cashews than we think. In some countries, the juice of the cashew nut is a very popular drink, offering plenty of essential nutrients and often considered as a wholesome part of the diet. For medicinal purposes, cashews are renowned for their ability to ward off tooth infections due to the compounds naturally found in them. Parts of the cashew plants are even utilized as a medicinal aid for snake bites (such as the deadly cobra).

So, who decided that November 22 was going to be National Cashew day? Well, no one really knows.  It is believed that this tasty nut has been celebrated as far back as the 16th century.  Over the years, because of its integrity to so many different dishes found worldwide, the cashew gained fame amongst chefs and became a valued item, often appearing in restaurant specials. As its popularity improved during the fall season in America, November was designated a prime time for cashew flavored additions to dishes and today, November 22 has been designated as its celebrated day.

While most often available either salted or chocolate covered, cashews are so tasty that they stand up well on their own in a raw format.  This is the healthiest way to eat them as a mid-day or evening snack to keep your guests preoccupied while they converse with one another. We also find them in trail mixes, a great way to keep us company while traveling on the road.

However, cashews are found in far more places than just our daytime snack packs. When it comes to preparing vegetarian recipes, the cashew has a unique place on the ingredient list. In Kerala cuisine, the cashew is a vital ingredient in the dish known as Avial, which is a thick mixture of vegetables, curd, and coconut as well. Broccoli with garlic butter and cashew is also a very prominent and tasty dish, regardless of preference. Another favored recipe is Coconut Red Lentils with spinach, cashew, and lime, which makes for an amazingly healthy dish that anyone would enjoy. Additionally, cashews are an appetizing ingredient to many sauces, especially for chicken and turkey recipes. Sauces are often thickened by use of flour or other starchy alternatives, but if you’re searching for a new flavor or want to improve the nutritional value of your meal, consider some meaty dishes that utilize the healthy cashew as a saucy alternative. This holiday season, don’t neglect to introduce this fantastically delicious and amazingly healthy nut into your mealtime recipes.

Mark Gomez is owner and operator of Gomez Catering. Gomez Catering which specializes in providing full service, off-premise catering and party planning. With an emphasis on quality, customer service, and style we can help you with any size event but we believe there are no limitations when it comes to food. What lies in your imagination is our goal to create and bring to life.

photo: Midori

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

national caregiver's month - part 3

November is National Caregiver's Month. A time to focus on those who care for others, especially if that caregiver is ourselves. Dr. Vicki Bradley has created Self-Care Reminders for Caring Professionals and Family Caregivers to focus on those very special people. Part one of this series can be found here and part two here.

Have you ever felt like this (I have!) 

It makes sense to take good care of ourselves, so we can take better care of our family members. But what if we feel trapped? We may be looking at all those people who are not family caregivers. They don’t seem to struggle with self-care! And, then how do we manage this self-care thing, any way! Our family members may seem to need us so much that there doesn’t seem to be time for anything else.

I have two reflections that might help you. I know they have helped me. I call them “No Comparison” and “Self-Care as a State of Mind.” Both reflections are adapted from my book, Self-Care Reflections. 

No Comparison

Many of us need to "think for them." In other words, we may need to help people in our care be safe and accomplish multiple tasks. We often need to think about how to do these things for them. "Thinking for them" generally becomes a normal part of our everyday lives.

However, “thinking for them" adds an extra layer of mental activity to our lives. Imagine a day or a week or a lifetime without "thinking for them." No, wait! Whose life would that be anyway! We need to be kind to ourselves. If we compare our achievements to another's achievements, then we need to take into account the extra layer of mental work we do as we "think for them." Often, because we are caregivers, we have accomplished more than most people in our everyday lives.

How will you acknowledge your giving achievements?

"Self-Care" as a State of Mind

If I limit my thoughts about "taking care of me" to just specific actions, then it is like turning on and off a switch: "now I am caring for me" to "now I am not caring for me." For example, "now I am taking time for me" but "now I am washing dishes."

If, instead, my attitude is that I am always doing my best to "take care of me" then I feel more taken care of - by me. I am more aware of how I act in ways that are caring to me.

For example: I am "taking care of me" when I am washing dishes. It's not a vacation, but I care enough for me so that I have clean dishes.

How will you become aware of all the ways you care for you all day - every day?

The mission of Self-Care Reminders is to encourage caring professionals and family caregivers to care for ourselves, so we can better care for others (and we'll be happier, too). Contact Vicki to purchase the book Self-Care Reflections, a set of Self-Care Option Cards, or to schedule a “Filling up Our Wells” workshop.

Monday, November 19, 2012

on my mind monday 11.19.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Read what's on my mind.

High Riboflavin Linked to Low Lung Cancer Risk - This study was done as part of the Shanghai Women's Health Study, the participants were non-smoking females.  Not sure what the implication is for those who used to smoke but it sure can't hurt to make sure you eat foods high in riboflavin. These include:  venison, yogurt, milk, crimini mushrooms, and spinach.

Rooftop Hospital Farms - This is a great way for hospitals to utilize the space on top of their building, create healthy menus for the patients and staff, and help to contribute to a growing eco-friendly environment.  I can also envision this as a potential park-like area for inner-city patients (those able to be ambulatory), and staff to be able to spend therapeutic time in a green environment.

Fat loss odds stacked against you - It's a never-ending battle of the bulge.  Portion sizes, especially when eating out, are out of control.  Fats and sugars and salts are packed into foods to make them more tempting and convince us to overeat.  It is not in the best (profit-driven) interests of corporations to have consumers who don't overeat -- read overspend on food and then the attendant pharmaceutical/healthcare bills that come along with obesity.  We need to become more aware and more proactive in managing our health and our consumption.

Exercise Your Sperm - Turns out men who exercise not only improve their own health, they also improve the quality of their sperm.  Important for those who want to have children.  Interestingly enough the study found that endurance athletes, such as triathletes, did not have this benefit as they suffered from reduced sperm quality.  Rather it was moderate exercise which promoted the best value of sperm health and hormone levels.

One Can Equals 22 Aerobic Minutes - How hard do you have to work to burn off that cola?  And don't forget about the immune suppressing effects of all that sugar.  Drinking sugar free?  You're still taking in toxic chemicals and damaging your health. Do we really need a "calculator" to tell us that soda is not a healthy beverage choice?

I know you hear me on Facebook frequently encouraging alkalizing. Here's a great video that shows a good explanation of the acid-alkaline balance.  If you're not already participating, sign up or "like" my Facebook Fan Page to stay connection and be part of the conversation.

photo: mconnors

Thursday, November 15, 2012

cranberries: nature's little helper

Cranberries don’t get as much press as they deserve. They might be sour and somewhat reclusive in traditional cooking, but their health benefits go far. Also called “bounceberries”, for their ability to bounce when ripe, these little powerfruits pack quite a bit of nutrition and health benefits aside from their well-known ability to cure a urinary tract infection.

Blocking Bacteria from Sticking Around in your Body 

Proanthocyanidins, or PACs, are a natural component found in cranberries. These condensed tannins inhibit the adhesion of infection-causing bacteria within the urinary tract. Recent research shows that these PACs may act elsewhere in the body preventing other infectious diseases. According to The Cranberry Institute,

     “The adhesion of the different types of bacteria that cause both stomach ulcers, and periodontal gum disease, have been shown to be inhibited in the presence of cranberry, and it is likely that others susceptible bacteria will be found as well [...] Not only may regular consumption of cranberry products help maintain health, but in the process will reduce the number of infections in a given population, and thereby the doses of antibiotics which are needed. It is becoming increasingly clear that a reduction in general antibiotic use also reduces the likelihood of the bacteria becoming resistant to those very same antibiotics, which is a public health problem of global proportions.”

It has been accepted by medical communities worldwide that antibiotics lower immune function in children and resistant bacteria has become a serious issue. Cranberries very well may be to solution here.

Cranberries: Good for your Teeth?

Plaque is simply bacteria that have attached to your teeth and gums. Much like cranberries ability to break up the adhesive purposes of bacteria in urinary tracts, cranberries contain a substance known as a nondialysable material (NDM) that has demonstrated the ability to break up oral bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease. According to Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition,

    “clinical trial using a mouthwash containing cranberry [...] showed a two order of magnitude reduction in Streptococcus mutans colony forming units compared with the placebo group (unpublished data). A large percentage of dental caries (cavities) can be attributed to S. mutans.”

Antioxidant Packed Little Disease Fighters

These simple little berries pack a lot of antioxidants in a small space. Cranberries contain more antioxidants than any other common fruits. These antioxidants fight off the free radicals we are exposed to daily by consuming them and removing them from the body, in laymen’s terms. They are believed to fight off heart disease and cancer. Eating cranberries helps the body maintain a healthy level of antioxidants even under high stress.

Cranberries May Be the Fountain of Youth

Research supports theories that aging is caused by free radicals destroying cells in your body. It has been found that antioxidants and other phytonutrients provide protection against these free radicals that cause chronic age-related afflictions including loss of coordination and memory. As said before, cranberries are high in antioxidants. Preliminary studies in animals have shown that cranberries protect brain cells from free radical damage and subsequent neurological damage.

Cranberries are also a rich source of the flavonoid quercetin that has been shown to inhibit development of breast and colon cancers. Drinking cranberry juice has proven benefits to your heart as well by breaking up “bad cholesterol” or lipoproteins. Cranberries have also been known to reduce the bacteria associated with peptic stomach ulcers, benefit the eyes and improve cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, and prevent kidney stones by preventing the calcium and phosphate from binding together.

Eating Cranberries

High in vitamin C, cranberries support immune function along with providing antioxidant and antibacterial benefits to your body; however, these effects are nearly depleted by the addition of high amounts of sugar. So how can you include them in your diet? Aside from drinking cranberry juice, you can mix them with other naturally sweet fruits or add a zip to your meals and use them like you would lemon. Dried cranberries can be added to an array of common foods including cereal and trail mix or if you just don’t favor the flavor you can always take a cranberry supplement. Other ways to include cranberries in your diet?

  • use them in a vinaigrette
  • throw some on your salads
  • grab some dried cranberries on the go
  • add them in bread  and muffins
  • add them to your spicy meals
  • or even, make a cosmopolitan 
Sauce it Up

You can make some cranberry sauce in ten minutes. Serve this with cottage cheese, yogurt, or ricotta cheese for breakfast or a snack. It’s also good with cheeses and nuts and as we all know, cranberries go great with turkey, but it also compliments a good chicken dinner or pork roast. Here is a recipe for a healthy chutney to accommodate any meat dish or add to your morning oatmeal

Kate Hunter is a writer at Everlasting Health Center, Reno’s best vitamin, supplement, herb and health food store since 1995. She enjoys organic gardening, whole food cooking, and following up on the latest health food news. Katie obtained B.A. in English with an emphasis on writing from Southern Oregon University and has been writing about nutrition, healthy living, cooking, and gardening for over nine years. She is a mother of three and spends her time baking, canning, growing and drying herbs, and, of course, reading food labels.

photo: Melodi2

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

national caregiver's month - part 2

November is National Caregiver's Month. A time to focus on those who care for others, especially if that caregiver is ourselves. Dr. Vicki Bradley has created Self-Care Reminders for Caring Professionals and Family Caregivers to focus on those very special people. Part one of this series can be found here.

We may need a reminder to encourage self-care:

Most of us who are family caregivers know that when we feel exhausted, grouchy, or sick, then we really cannot care well for our family members. Only when we take good care of ourselves can we truly care well for them. Imagine asking someone to use a broken wheelchair or learn in a schoolroom with no books. When we do not take good care of ourselves, we are offering our family members a broken inadequate caregiver.

Below are two self-care reflections. The first reflection encourages us to think of all the ways we can care for ourselves. The second suggests a simple way to put our self-care into action. Both reflections are adapted from my book, Self-Care Reflections.


One common way to think of our "selves" is to divide the self into four "parts" - the physical (our bodies), the mental (our minds), the emotional (our feelings), and the spiritual (our souls). To care for ourselves well, we need to care for all four parts of ourselves - our bodies, our minds, our feelings, and our souls.

Caring for All the Parts of Ourselves 

Physically - how we move our bodies, eat, and drink

Mentally - how we think and learn 

Emotionally - how we acknowledge and share our feelings

Spiritually – what we believe and how we live our beliefs

What are ways that you care for the parts of yourself?

Implementing Self-Care Ideas

How can we implement self-care ideas? We may have great ideas and wonderful intentions, but we may be unsure of how to make our ideas become reality. It may seem too difficult to do these things.

If someone else asked for our help, we would probably do our best to help them. We can find a way to help ourselves, too.

To take care of ourselves, we can ask the same kinds of questions we may ask about another person who needs help: What do they (I) need? How can I help them (myself) get their (my) needs met?

With practice, we can learn to implement really big and everyday small self-care ideas. Just like we don't give up on others, let's stick with it for us!

How will you implement your self-care ideas?

The mission of Self-Care Reminders is to encourage caring professionals and family caregivers to care for ourselves, so we can better care for others (and we'll be happier, too). Contact Vicki to purchase the book Self-Care Reflections, a set of Self-Care Option Cards, or to schedule a “Filling up Our Wells” workshop.

super (food) sweet potatoes

With Thanksgiving right around the corner the farmer's markets and grocery stores are overflowing with sweet potatoes.  They're so fabulous we just had to do another blog post about them.  Today we have Sydney Gallimore sharing why she loves these versatile, wonderful root vegetables so much and (shhh....) she's even giving us her mom's delicious recipe.

Fall is my favorite season for many different reasons. I love when the trees are bathed in hues of reds and oranges, when the weather cools down so I can wear my favorite scarf, and, of course, fall produce. My favorite fall ingredient is sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes contain lots of awesome health benefits. Here’s a quick list of all the good stuff packed into this delicious little tuber.

1. High in beta-carotene and other carotenoids which can strengthen our eyesight, boost our immunity to disease, and help fight cancer. Not to mention all of those antioxidants are great for fighting off the signs and affects of aging!

2. They’re high in vitamin B6 which can help prevent against heart attacks

3. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which can help ward off cold and flu viruses, and reduce stress. Vitamin C also produces collagen, which helps you maintain your youthful looking skin!

4. Sweet potatoes are also a source of potassium, which helps regulate heartbeat and nerve endings, which can prevent muscle cramps, reduce swelling, and regulate your kidneys.

5. Sweet potatoes have iron, which helps with red and white blood cell production, reduced stress levels, and helps regulate your immune system.

6. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber which is metabolized slowly, so you feel full longer; this may help fight against fatigue and weight gain! Sweet potatoes are a great diet food!

7. One average sized sweet potato contains about 112 calories, 2 grams of protein, and 26 grams of carbohydrates. The sweet potato is a true super food!

My favorite thing about sweet potatoes is how versatile they are. You can scour the Internet and find recipes for sweet and savory sweet potato dishes, and they’re all delicious. Or, pick your favorite potato recipe and simply substitute a sweet potato to increase your health benefits! My favorite way to serve sweet potatoes is in a soup. Here’s my mom’s recipe, which is both sweet and savory, and totally delicious!

2 tablespoons butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, stalks and leaves chopped separately
2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
1 tart green apple peeled, chopped
1 teaspoon granulated white sugar  [note:  change this to evaporated cane juice crystals]
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
3 cinnamon sticks
3 sprigs fresh Thyme (1 tsp dried)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Sour Cream or Crème Fraîche as garnish

Heat oven to 400˚F
Spread the potato cubes evenly on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. Potatoes should be a bit under cooked, not yet tender
Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat
Add onion, celery, sugar, and apple and sauté until soft
Add the garlic, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and thyme and sauté for 2 minutes
Add the chicken stock, potatoes, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are completely tender
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender (or in a blender working in batches) until smooth Add the maple syrup and whisk in the cream over medium-low heat, until warm throughout
Season to your liking
Add water or simmer for a bit longer until soup reaches desired consistency
Ladle into bowls and garnish with sour cream or crème fraîche

Sydney Gallimore is content manager for Pippin Hill Farm, a boutique winery & wedding venue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Photos: Wally Hartshorn

Monday, November 12, 2012

on my mind monday - 11.12.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Food: An Atlas - It's an interesting project to map food in a number of different ways; production, distribution, security, and cuisine  Should be fascinating to look at and see where your food is really coming from.

Factory Farms May Raise Blood Pressure - We know factory farms are bad for the animals that are raised there.  Overcrowding and filthy conditions are not good for any living being.  The environmental impact of CAFO's is huge.  Now it turns out that it may not be healthy for people living nearby either.  While the study is small and the results not firm, it points to another reason why CAFO's may not be the best way to raise meat.

Meat Inspections Are Down - And speaking of meat, it turns out that our government is inspecting less and less of the meat coming in to this country from other countries.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is instead relying more and more on those countries to self-report any issues.  Another good reason to buy local and get to know your farmer.

Women Who Exercise Still Sitting Too Much - Whoops, that would include me.  The health results of sitting are known to be bad for us.  The more we sit the more challenges we face to our health.  I try to be as active as possible but when I added up my hours spent sitting, either at work or at home, it came to far more than I thought it did.  Time to bump up the activity program and try to find ways to be more active during the course of a day.

Sports Drinks Overhyped - "There isn't much evidence that sports drinks improve athletic performance."  Truthfully not many people work out enough to need a sports beverage.  Not only that, most sports drinks are filled with garbage ingredients.  Consider drinking water, a great hydrating beverage.  Need electrolytes (and I mean really need them), then try coconut water, a perfectly balanced electrolyte beverage.

If you're going to add more exercise to your routine, don't forget to add in stretching.  And to do stretch properly as demonstrated in this video.

photo:  mconnors

Friday, November 9, 2012

persimmon tea for acid reflux

Persimmons are a beautiful, fragrant, sweet berry available in the Fall.  Some varieties can be eaten while still slightly firm although most varieties taste best when allowed to ripen to an almost mushy consistency.  Dried persimmons are a way to enjoy this delicious treat throughout the year and are available at Asian markets.

Commonly offered after traditional Asian meals as a digestion aid, persimmon tea, sometimes called "persimmon punch," also alleviates the symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. GERD symptoms occur when stomach contents rise into the esophagus, which produces irritation. Acid reflux sufferers often experience varying degrees of heartburn, a feeling that food remains stuck in the region of the sternum, or nausea and regurgitation after meals. Various factors contribute to GERD including a hiatal hernia or a weakened sphincter between the stomach and esophagus. Certain medications, obesity or pregnancy may also create the condition. Persimmons are known, not only for their antimicrobial properties, but also contain vitamins A, C, and ten different minerals.  The  tea, made from simple ingredients consisting of persimmons, ginger, cinnamon and sugar, offers a number of health benefits that include diminishing flatulence and the discomfort that accompanies GERD.

Making the tea merely requires boiling the persimmons, adding the spices and sugar, and cooling the mixture. Some believe the secret of the remedy lies in the cinnamon and ginger components of the tea. Cinnamon originated in China and using the bark as a spice and health remedy dates back thousands of years. The popular spice offers anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties as well as providing it's antacid properties, relieving excess gas and calming diarrhea. Ginger also has a long history in alternative medicine for relieving nausea and having anti-inflammatory properties.

Persimmon Tea

In a large saucepan, combine:

2 quarts water
3 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger root, sliced
1 cup dried persimmons
3 tablespoons evaporated cane juice crystals

Simmer the water, cinnamon sticks and ginger in the saucepan for approximately 45 minutes.
Add the persimmons and cane juice crystals.
Simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow the mixture to steep for one hour.
When cooled, strain the liquid, discarding the solid ingredients.
Refrigerate the concentrated tea and enjoy as needed, hot or cold.

Many people enjoy drinking the concentrated tea while others add a few tablespoons of the liquid to other beverages, which also provides symptomatic relief. Individuals suffering from acid reflux typically consume three to four ounces of persimmon tea before or with meals and before going to bed. The sweet, spicy flavor of the tea appeals to many and GERD suffers appreciate the beverage's calming effects.

This simple home remedy remains worth a try for people plagued with the discomfort associated with gastric disorders. Some claim that including persimmon tea with an acid reflux diet and lifestyle modifications may reduce the need for prescription medications however GERD patients should consult with their primary care provider before eliminating any prescription medications.

Rowena Kang is a writer and the Outreach Director for the Morgan Law Firm, a firm that represents clients going through a divorce in Austin.

photo:  Tomomarusan

Thursday, November 8, 2012

vitamins and minerals for a healthy immune system

In today's busy world, staying healthy is very important. Day to day stress can leave people feeling run down and low on energy, especially if their dietary needs are not met. Many people with fast-paced lives opt for fast food instead of a home cooked meal, and the downside of fast food is that it's often high in fat and calories and low in the recommended amount of daily vitamins and minerals a person needs in order to stay healthy. With winter just around the corner, cold and flu season is on its way. Individuals with lowered immune systems can be especially susceptible to these pesky viruses. Support your immunity by building up your vitamin arsenal. In taking supplements as directed, you can defend yourself this winter by giving your immune system the boost it needs.

Vitamin C - one of the most beneficial vitamins of the entire vitamin spectrum. It is found in a variety of fruits (strawberries, oranges, and kiwis) and vegetables (bell peppers, brussel sprouts, and broccoli), and can be taken daily in capsule or chewable tablet form. Vitamin C gives a boost to the immune system, which is why it is known as a common remedy for winter colds. It also assists in cell renewal and works as an antioxidant, helping the body rid itself of toxins that can also contribute to low energy and chronic health problems.

Zinc - a mineral that is well known for its immune boosting properties, zinc also offers a long list of incredible health benefits. Research has proven that zinc is a very important element, even a minimal deficiency can contribute to various health issues. Zinc is a potent antioxidant, and antioxidants have been shown to lower cancer risks as well as renew cells and tissues. Zinc also assists in hormone and endocrine function. Low zinc levels can contribute to premature aging as well as well as lower natural energy levels. Probably the most common foods that include zinc are: low fat roast beef, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and peanuts. People can also easily get the daily requirement of zinc by taking a multivitamin that contains this mineral.

Vitamin D - essential for health, getting fifteen minutes of sun exposure each day allows the body to absorb this amazing vitamin and utilize its health benefits. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which contributes to strong and healthy bones and a healthy immune system. It also works to regulate blood pressure, reduce respiratory infections, fight depression and improve cardiovascular strength. To make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D eat fish like mackerel, sockeye salmon, herring, catfish, or tuna fish. If you do not like fish you can also consume eggs or Shiitake or Button mushrooms.

While these vitamins and minerals can all be consumed individually or in multivitamin form. Multivitamins contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, and are a convenient way to get everything you need in one dosage. By incorporating these vitamins into your daily routine and taking them as directed, you will be able to protect yourself during cold and flu season, and you will also be contributing to your overall body health and future wellness.

Elissa Pitney studies health and wellness and is working towards becoming a personal trainer. When not working out and watching what she eats, she enjoys mountain biking and spending time outdoors. She also shops to stretch her dollar further while she is still studying.

Ed Note:  For high quality pharmaceutical grade supplements consider shopping through a Holistic Health Practitioner 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

national caregiver's month - part 1

November is National Caregiver's Month.  A time to focus on those who care for others, expecially if that caregiver is ourselves.  Dr. Vicki Bradley has created Self-Care Reminders for Caring Professionals and Family Caregivers to focus on those very special people.  She has generously offered to write a four-part series about self-care and we'll be sharing it on the blog throughout the month.  

“Filling up Our Giving Wells”

The metaphor of a Well has helped hundreds of people in my workshops (and me!) imagine caring for ourselves, so we can better care for others. This is the way it works: If our Wells are empty, then we don’t have much to give to others. If our Wells are full, then we can do great things for them. And, by the way, we have also found that caring for ourselves makes us happier, too! The following two self-care reflections use the Well metaphor to encourage caregiver self-care. Both reflections are adapted from my book, Self-Care Reflections.

Continuum of Self-Care

I offer the following options as a way to assess our own self-care. Remember, our family members need us (and we’re worth it). Our self-care matters!

"Empty Well" - Loss of Self
Signs - No good well-filling ideas; belief that there is no time to care for self
Feelings - resentful, depressed, pessimistic

"Half Full Well" - Struggling to Care for Self
Signs - May have good self-care ideas, but difficult to implement or remember
Feelings - tired, cranky, overwhelmed

"Full Well" - Self-Caring
Signs - "Self-care" flows in and "giving" flows out in equal measure
Feelings - grateful, happy

Where are you on the continuum of self-care?
If you want a “fuller Well” keep reading . . .

Tiny Buckets We may be worried that taking care of ourselves will be too time-consuming or difficult. However, some of the simplest ways to refill our Wells can be thought of as “tiny buckets.” Tiny buckets do not carry much water, but they are easy to carry. In other words, we can easily do simple things each day to care for ourselves. For example, I love being prepared to write at a moment’s notice. I really do like to write. A technologically-advanced gadget cannot fill this role in my life. I keep pens and scratch paper everywhere – on my desk, on the kitchen table, in my purse, and in my car. Any time I have an idea or remember something I need to do, I just write it down. I have a system that works for me. This “tiny bucket” really makes me feel good! Small things don’t take much time and can easily become part of our routine. Small ways of caring for ourselves can be easily implemented. All of the small ways to care for ourselves do add up to a fuller Well!

What are your “tiny buckets”?

The mission of Self-Care Reminders is to encourage caring professionals and family caregivers to care for ourselves, so we can better care for others (and we'll be happier, too). Contact Vicki to purchase the book Self-Care Reflections, or a set of Self-Care Option Cards, or to schedule a “Filling up Our Wells” workshop.

Monday, November 5, 2012

on my mind monday 11.5.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Jump rope for health - With the colder weather coming it may not be as comfortable to exercise outdoors.  If you've got a good clear space in your home consider trying jumping rope.  I'm impressed by how much exercise you get in just a short period of time (believe me, it's a workout).  This video showed me a couple of new steps which was pretty cool.

Cows making human milk - this is one of the most disturbing GMO developments I think I've seen yet.  Cows that have been genetically engineered to produce human milk.  If you can't drink cow's milk, don't drink it.  Let's not try to cash in on the dairy industry by making cows give human milk.  One of the disturbing things is that the baby cow who has been created from this experiment has no tail.  Scientists are claiming that this is unrelated to their genetic manipulation but I'm not convinced.  I fervently hope that this experiment is shut down.

New Season's CEO leaving to create a chain of healthy convenience stores - this is an idea that has been needed for a long time.  Huge numbers of people are looking for this sort of option, especially when they are on the go with errands or if they are traveling.  The biggest issue, as I see it, will be getting all those people who say they want this to actually utilize it once it happens.  I'm excited about this idea and hope it grows.

Chipotle signs fair food agreement - Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the environmentally-friendly-chemically-clean-non-gmo-organic food issues that we forget to think about the human cost, the ethical side of food.  Some of this was highlighted in the book Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook, but mostly, as consumers, we never see this side of our food.  This agreement is only a small part of what is needed, but it is a step in the right direction.

Unreal Candy - I'm not a big candy person, although I admit to liking some as a treat now and then.  Most candy is loaded with garbage (artificial colors, preservatives, GMOs, etc) which goes a long way toward keeping me away from it.  Now it appears there's a company that's created a candy bar which is a little bit better for you in that it has no garbage ingredients.  They do use agave nectar which, admittedly, I'm not a fan of, but overall their ingredient list is pretty amazing.  If you plan to try it keep in mind it's still sugar and still something that needs to be a treat, eaten in moderation.

As long-time readers know, I am a huge proponent of finding ways to cut down on food waste.  This video is a reminder about just how much we throw out in this country with a lot of thoughtful commentary on how we can reduce our food waste.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

quitting smoking (the holistic way)

The Great American Smokeout is on November 15th this year.  Created in 1977, this is a day set aside as a national effort toward encouraging and supporting people to quit smoking.  Today's article is written by Alex Kerwin, a creative writer from Michigan.  In addition to his work as a guest writer, Alex works closely with Best Drug Rehabilitation, helping people find drug rehab programs to aid in their recovery.

There are plenty of studies linking cigarettes to various diseases and health problems, and many people have surely witnessed disturbing ads on TV, which illustrate the dangers of cigarettes by featuring former smokers who use tracheotomy devices to speak or bear scars from removal of a diseased lung. It’s clear that smoking is bad for our health. This increased awareness hopefully sparks more people to quit the habit, but the process is no doubt a test of determination and will power. Focusing on a holistic plan that emphasizes nutrition and exercise can help ease the process of kicking cigarettes to the curb—for good.

Many smokers fear that quitting will cause weight gain. Smoking cigarettes burns an extra 200-250 calories per day, depending on the number of cigarettes and the smoker. This can slightly elevate their metabolism. Nicotine also acts an appetite suppressant, so smokers tend to eat less. Quitting smoking can easily pack on the pounds for smokers who grab a cigarette because they’re stressed or want to feel calm. They may replace smoking with food, and since starchy and sweet foods that are high in carbohydrates increase serotonin levels, just like nicotine, quitters-in-progress can make the mistake of turning to unhealthy foods to get a similar fix.

In 2007, Duke University Medical Center conducted a study that showed dairy products, vegetables and fruits can help break the smoking habit. Nineteen percent of participants reported that dairy products worsened the taste of cigarettes, 14 percent had a similar effect with non-caffeinated beverages, and 16 percent reported the effect with vegetables and fruits. However, alcohol, caffeinated beverages and even meat, enhanced the flavor of cigarettes.

With the average person gaining four to ten pounds after quitting smoking, choosing low-glycemic foods that are filling and help regulate blood sugar levels can help control weight. Foods rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, along with lean, protein-rich sources such as beans, fish and egg whites, can result in a satisfying meal that’s low in bad fats and high cholesterol. Providing the body with proper nutrition from natural foods boosts antioxidants, aiding the immune system that might have been damaged by smoking.

Smoking is both physically and emotionally addictive, which only increases the difficulty of quitting. However, a smoker can choose from several options to help gain support in their journey. Consulting a doctor on a regular basis to help with exercise and nutrition plans or joining a support group can aid in recovery. Choosing to participate in a holistic drug rehab program is also beneficial, as these programs emphasize a detoxification process through proper nutrition, exercise, and spiritual exploration to help understand emotions and deal with stress. By discovering what led the person to smoke in the first place, they might be less likely to relapse and start again.

It's important to remember that quitting is a process—be patient with your body and allow it to detoxify the natural way. Avoid crash diets and give your body time to restore its balance so it can provide for you in the future. By getting in tune with your body and your mind, you’ll appreciate the benefits of quitting smoking even more and realize that cigarettes are part of a problem, not a solution.

photo: Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin