Archive for the ‘nutrition’ Category

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Countering Cooties

August 5, 2008

Last winter, during one of my teaching practices, I caught one of those super-bugs that seem to inhabit the bodies of pre-school children. Personally, I blame the excessive use of antibiotics by drug-pushing doctors for creating a host of super-viruses that will knock you out for an entire month. That, and little ones who will wipe their runny noses with their hand and then grab yours. Or my favorite:

Little boy with a cold: “Ms. L, can I tell you something?”

Me (squatting to the child’s eye level): “What do you want to tell me, Johnny?”

Boy: Ah-CHOO!! (saliva and mucus, right in my eye) “I love you.”

*sigh*

During that time, I was working with 24 pre-schoolers in the mornings, running my wedding planning business in the afternoons, managing the housework, and living in a house without heating (we live in San Diego, but it’s still cold!!). Stressful? Nah, you think? Oh, and did I mention I was addicted to Starbucks soy chais (yes, the ubber-sweet drink with 40 grams of immune system-depressing, bacteria-feeding sugar!!). Needless to say, this lifestyle was NOT conducive to warding off cooties, and one of them hit me… HARD.

I was sick for an entire month, and I normally NEVER get sick! Do you know what it’s like to drag your aching, stuffy body out of bed day after day to deal with 4-year old trantrums during the day and 24-year old tantrums during the afternoon? I would not wish that kind of suffering on anyone, not even George W. Bush. (Well, maybe…)

So, this year I am pulling out all the stops in my quest to remain healthy during the bug season!! Bring on the snotty, sneezing, coughing children… They’re no match for my arsenal of natural preventions!

Here’s my plan of action:

  • Every morning I’m drinking a tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar (with the “mother”). It really doesn’t taste bad at all! I dilute it in 1/3 cup of water and drink it on an empty stomach. It is supposed to alkalize your body, which means that it creates an environment where bad bacteria cannot grow. Oh, and it has the added benefits of lowering my appetite, curbing my sweet cravings, preventing yeast infections, and helping me to lose weight!
  • I’m also taking a 1,000 mg capsule of Norwegian cod liver oil. It is supposed to prevent depression (a huge cause of immune system suppression) and it provides vitamin D, which strengthens the immune system (especially during the winter, when you get less exposure to the sun).
  • Every morning, I also take a serving of green superfood, a powder composed of grasses (wheat grass, barley, oat grass, etc.), seaweeds (spirulina), green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, etc.), antioxidants, fiber, live enzymes and probiotic cultures, and energizing herbs. While the green concoction looks positively evil in the glass, it tastes quite pleasant and provides me with an amazing amount of energy!!
  • I’ve kicked the chai tea habit and I’m permitting myself only two soy lattes a month. And no pastries!
  • Finally, I am taking meditation and yoga classes to learn breathing and stress-management techniques that also help build a strong immune system.

WHEW!! If all this (plus my normal organic, dairy-free, plant, grain and wild fish-based diet) doesn’t shield me from the cooties (or at least shorten their stay in my body), then I give up!!

The lady at the cash register who rang up the green superfoods powder did a double-take when she saw the price on her screen. “Forty-seven dollars?!?!”, she asked, her eyes popping out of their sockets. I nodded, “Yes, and worth every penny.” (I hope!)

What natural cures do YOU use to prevent or shorten your battle with cooties? I need all the advice I can get!

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Blame

June 13, 2008

It’s all over the news: one child dies every six seconds from malnutrition and starvation in the developing world.  Their faces stare out at us from countless news articles; eyes wide, longing for salvation, and yet resigned to their cruel fate. Young and frail, they’ve suffered more in their few years of life than we ever will.

I sit at my computer, knowing that the few dollars I can send will do little to alleviate their long-term suffering.  And then I find this.

How is it that we can live in a country where people pay upwards of $15,000 to lose weight at an “it’s all about me” fat camp?  Whatever happened to strapping on a pair of tennis shoes and waddling around the block?  Or choosing the salad over the chicken pot pie?  How on earth did we even get here?  

Maybe we should blame television, with its messages of happiness through consumption.  We could accuse restaurants of serving up gargantuan portions.  We could fault Roosevelt for creating the many highways that turned us into a vehicle-dependent society.  Heck, many people blame their genes.

Well, how about blaming ourselves?  Isn’t it time we took responsibility for how our lifestyle choices affect us and those around us?

How many children could $15,000 feed???  How many lives could we save???  And why are businesses like that one thriving while children are dying?

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Getting the Message Across

June 11, 2008

Last night, Tom and I were discussing the most effective ways of getting messages of awareness and change out to people who have been blinded by mass media and the government.  He argued that light-hearted videos such as The Meatrix and Grocery Store Wars were more likely to be a catalyst for change (or at least awareness) than more hard-core videos like Earthlings,because the general public would find them amusing and would tolerate watching them (even I haven’t been able to get through Earthlings in one sitting).

He has a point. The hardest part about exposing the truth is getting people to listen, and these animated videos put forth important messages without making you queasy.  But… Will these videos prove effective for inspiring actual change??  

I think most people in our society are unwilling to transform how they live or modify what they believe in until they are personally impacted and/or shaken to the core.   What is getting SUV drivers to re-think their means of transportation?  It isn’t warnings about global warming (after all, who cares if polar bears are dying?!).  It’s “the pinch at the pump”!  

I don’t exclude myself: I dated Tom – a vegetarian of 20+ years – for almost four months before I became convinced to give up all meat.  What was the catalyst?  The astounding, courageous book Fast Food Nation.  I had watched all the requisite cow cartoons an intergalactic store wars videos that Tom is a fan of, but nothing convinced me prior to reading the book.  

Would I have been as receptive to the book’s message if my mind hadn’t been primed by these deceptively cute videos?  Perhaps they play a much more important role than I give them credit for.  What do you consider the most effective means for getting your message of change across?

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CSA – The Healthy Way

September 5, 2007

Yesterday was CSA day, which for me is like Christmas every two weeks (but without the family drama).  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a fabulous program available in many cities around the country. You sign up with your local organic farm, and every one or two weeks (you choose the schedule) you pick up a box full of delicious produce.

During the Winter months, we get butternut squash, chard, turnips, beets, apples, oranges, mandarins, fennel and kale, among other things. In the Summer months, we get delicious heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, mixed salads, zucchini, collard greens, peaches, and green beans, to name but a few items.

The benefits – to your family, the community, and the planet – of joining a CSA program are many. Through your membership, you are supporting local organic agriculture and actively pumping money back into your local economy. Organic farmers face many challenges and hardships in order to bring us quality produce, and this is a great way to thank them. At the same time, because you skip the assorted middlemen and costs involved in bringing produce to a grocery store, you can save a considerable amount of money!

While you’re saving money, you could also be doing your part to save the planet. According to the PA Department of Agriculture, the average vegetable travels nearly 1,500 miles from the farm to the grocery store before you even see it on display. That’s 27 times the mileage of foods purchased from local farms! Join a CSA, and not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but you’ll be limiting the amount of money that goes into the pockets of Big Oil. We all like that!

Much shorter travel times mean that your fruits and vegetables will last longer in the fridge. How many times have you been forced to throw away partially-consumed bags of salad because the vegetables spoiled after only two or three days in your fridge? We receive a large amount of produce every two weeks (enough to fill two large crisper drawers and one shelf in the fridge). Many of our veggies have lasted us up to three weeks without special handling or packaging! Try that with supermarket produce.

And speaking of supermarket items, have you noticed how bland and insipid fruits and veggies have gotten in the past years? Many people remember growing up with sweet, juicy strawberries and plump, flavorful tomatoes. Now, all you get are crunchy, dry, flavorless foods with reduced nutritional value, wax coatings, and elevated prices. These fruits and vegetables have been picked while still unripe, resulting in lower nutritional values, and impaired flavor and texture. Taste a strawberry from a CSA or a farmer’s market and I guarantee that you will NEVER buy grocery store produce again!

Now, let’s face it, if you feed your family fruits and vegetables, it’s with their health in mind, right? Well, if you buy your produce in the supermarket, you might be surprised to see these statistics:

Reviewing 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains, certified nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington has concluded that there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic crops. These include: 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus. In addition, organic products had 15.1% less nitrates than their conventional counterparts.

See the complete article here.

And finally, there’s the fun of receiving a bunch of unexpected items, and creating or researching great recipes to bring the flavors to life! Yesterday, it was so hot in San Diego that I decided to make a cold dinner. I combined cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, basil, and red onions with a generous squeeze of lemon, a dash of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and coarsely-ground pepper. This salad accompanied a mixture of quinoa, lentils, parsley, and radishes. Hummus and pita bread rounded out this well-balanced vegetarian meal. It was ready in less than 30 minutes, and I only dirtied two bowls in the process! Who says healthy cooking has to be laborious and time-consuming???

For more information on your closest CSA or farmer’s market, visit http://www.localharvest.org

Here’s a GREAT six-minute video about choosing organic produce that your entire family will enjoy! Share it with your kids and teach them the way to better health.

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Here We Go…

September 4, 2007

I had wanted to start this blog for a few weeks, but “life” kept getting in the way. However, I finally got my priorities in order a few days ago, when I went for an ob-gyn checkup.

Before I continue with my story, perhaps a little background would be in order. I was raised “normally” until the age of nine. By “normally”, I mean that I had recurring sinus infections, colds every year, and made regular visits to the pediatrician. Change “sinus” to any other infection, and this sentence could apply to a large majority of the children in the Western world. My mother was very conscious of our diet, providing us with healthy doses of dairy products, meats, vegetables, and tropical fruits throughout the year, believing that in this way we would be getting plenty of nutrients, vitamins, and calcium essential for proper growth.

My grandmother became deathly ill the summer I turned 9, and the doctors told her she was as good as dead at the age of 63. My mother kidnapped her from her hospital room and took her to see a “miracle Chinese doctor” her brother had heard about. This doctor turned out to be a talented Japanese acupuncturist – and a life-saver. Six weeks later, after adopting a new diet for life and receiving acupuncture treatment ONLY, my grandmother played volleyball with us in the pool.

My mother was amazed by the doctor’s abilities and vowed to learn all she could from him. She started studying the nutrition of the ancient Far East cultures and modified her family’s diet accordingly. We adopted an eating plan based on whole grains, legumes, green vegetables, sea vegetables, local seasonal fruits, and a little fish. We also started receiving acupuncture treatment to balance our energy channels.

My grandmother is still alive 22 years later and doesn’t take ANY medications. She recently tripped and fell on a sidewalk, but didn’t break a single bone. She’s 85 years old. I have not taken antibiotics or gone to see a Western doctor (other than an ob-gyn) in 22 years. My mother is now a certified acupuncturist with a thriving practice where she combines this ancient healing technique with diet modification. I’ll write more about her later… She’s my hero and my inspiration.

So, back to my story and why I finally decided to start this blog. I hadn’t been to the ob-gyn in three years and my boyfriend suggested I go for a routine check-up. The doctor I visited was highly recommended by a friend, but the experience I had with this so-called “professional” reminded me why we should all be empowered to heal ourselves.

When I entered the office and sat down, she asked me a few routine questions, barely bothering to glance at me as she wrote. She then examined me for all of five minutes, determined I had a mild infection (which she didn’t bother to name), and told me she would give me a prescription for some medicine.

I pressed her for more information on the infection, so she grudgingly gave me the name and told me that it was probably due to wearing tight pants (which I don’t, but she didn’t bother to ask). She summarily dismissed me, and I was left to investigate the causes of the infection, as well as the ingredients in the medication she wanted me to unquestioningly stuff my body with.

I got home, ripped up the prescription, and jumped online. I soon found several natural remedies for the very common infection I had. A quick dash to the supermarket’s produce section, and I was armed with all the tools I needed to cure myself of this simple ailment. Not only that… Through my research, I had discovered that a leading cause of the infection is an unbalanced diet. Looking back, I had gotten careless with the types of foods I was eating, and I know now that this is what brought the imbalance about.

This experience with Western medicine reminded me of the crucial importance of taking your health into your own hands. I have spent the entire weekend doing research into the rampant deterioration of our collective health at the hands of “professionals” and pharmaceutical companies. I will post much more on this topic in the near future, but for now I’d just like to remind you that they can only continue to destroy our health while we let them.

While my imbalance was easy to fix, I know that many illnesses are much graver and require professional guidance. Instead of going first to your Western doctor and pumping yourself full of chemicals without ever tackling the root causes of your illness, why don’t you consider visiting an acupuncturist and giving these ancient and well-proven methods a try? You might just save your own life and change the futures of your entire family.