Monday, December 28, 2015

Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Health News Edition

Chocolate causes weight-loss? Sleeping too much can kill you?! Before reposting "health news" see if it passes the test: Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Health News Edition.

Just the other week many of us saw a glaring example of bad science taking the media by storm. As the year closes, we can reflect on the year in science vs. the narrative constructed by the media. Thankfully, WNYC produced this awesome "Breaking News" survival guide; how to tell the real science from the junk science and cut through the media sensationalism.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

No, Eating Bacon is Not Better for the Environment than Eating Lettuce

Recent news headlines highlight yet another example of media sensationalism rather than properly vetting a poorly designed study. No, that one study from Carnegie Mellon does not show that eating plants is worse for the environment that the standard American diet (SAD).
Yes, every other major _properly designed_ study done by credible organizations like the UN, FAO, DGAC, EWG, etc. is still valid shows that the more plant-based we eat, the less environmental impact.
The CM study is just a rehashing of the calorie per calorie approach of comparing lettuce vs. bacon which makes absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, the majority of news reporting of the CM study does not bother to highlight this glaring study flaw and most people who read the news won't go beyond the headlines.
The author of the study concludes:
“My bottom line is that there are no simple answers to complex problems,” Fischbeck said. “Diet and the environmental impact of agriculture … is not a simple problem.”
That statement is so utterly misleading.  Of course, science is complicated.  That's why we use science to help us figure out how to solve complicated problems.  But this kind of statement is akin to saying 'why even try to solve a problem, it's all so big and complicated.'
But if you actually read the study, and come to your own conclusion you would see that:
the researchers didn't find that vegetarianism is bad for the environment. They found that not every plant product is more environmentally friendly than every meat product on a calorie per calorie basis
Furthermore, the study quite oddly does not actually look at healthy vegetarian diets.  They define the healthy diet as consuming a lot of dairy and fish!  Of course, we know how the inclusion of dairy and fish is extremely energy intensive and unsustainable.
I'm left a bit puzzled what the CM researchers were after when they did their analysis in such a biased way. Or maybe they were just looking for rationalization to continue to cling to unsustainable bad habits?
Fortunately some columnists were quick to point out the obvious flaws:
If you hear an omnivore try to convince you that eating meat is better for the environment, check out the links above for the logical rebuttals.  Better yet, have them watch Cowspiracy. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Healthy Diets Broken Down into Five Simple Principles by Jeff Novick

Jeff Novick, MS, RD offers a simple, practical, evidence based approach to eating healthy; devoid of labels, dogma, and pontification. It requires no measuring, no counting, no reductionism, but it does require some planning and discipline to put it into practice. 

Embrace these 5 basic principles and you are well on your way to optimal eating. We desperately need more health practitioners to offer such practical guidance on diet like this.

Now, if there were ten of us in the room, we could each implement these pillars slightly differently and still each have a healthy diet and great health results. That’s because when we look at the research evidence, there’s no one specific diet that is “best.” Instead, there are common denominators across healthy diets that combine to make up a healthy dietary pattern, and these are reflected in my five guidelines/principles of healthy eating.
I love Jeff's approach and his writing because he's so down to earth and he knows the science cold.  He was one of the first of the WFPB doc's to demonstrate just how easy it can be to eat super healthy, utilizing frozen vegetables, easy to find spices and canned goods.  It doesn't get any simpler or cheaper than this.  I highly recommend this approach to anyone who thinks eating healthy has to be complicated or expensive.  

Read more here and check out Jeff Novick's site.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Do We Want to Know How Our Food is Made?

Earlier this week, I listened to a special report on food production and food safety.

Farm to Fork: Uncovering Hazards in Our Food Systems

I found this special report fascinating. It's all about the process of how food ends up on our plates (which a big portion is dedicated to meat production). What's more fascinating is that I'd bet that most meat eaters will have no interest in listening to this. "I don't want to know [what happened to this animal before it got to my plate]" For the food I now eat, I'm continuously fascinated by and eager to learn more about how plant based food is produced, harvested and distributed. Doesn't that reveal something about it if we want to willingly remain in the dark about the food we put in our bodies and feed our families with?

Hopefully this popular mindset is changing. More people are getting interested in particular parts of the story about how food is made. There are growing concerns about local, organic, and GMOs. Most importantly, this special report also focuses on the workers who make this whole process possible. There are so many abuses in our food system and parallels between the exploitation of animals and people caught in the middle. The way our food is made today neglects fundamental human and animal rights.

We can make the companies that produce our food change. We make a difference every day by voting with our dollars. As much as we tend to villainize big corporations, I believe they will necessarily be part of the solution...if we make them change.

"At the center of these complex systems [all the various ways food gets to us] is people. There is stark contrast between the condition of the foods we see in grocery stores and the conditions the workers ensure to put it there. But change is possible."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Climate Talks and Walking the Walks

This week world leaders have gathered in Paris for the COP21 to discuss solutions for the climate crisis we're in.  I've been reading news accounts about protests outside the convention where activists are urging leaders to recognize the effects of raising and killing animals for food on our environment.  It's been years since the famous UN FAO report tallied up the causes of climate change and found that the animal food industry is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases, species extinction, land use, deforestation, water use, and waste - by a large margin.  On just greenhouse gases alone, they account for more than 18% which is more than every car, truck and airplane on the planet.

I do think we need leadership on a global scale, but I am less hopeful that this will be the message from the COP21 talks.  The good news is that people are catching on.  Movies like Cowspiracy are helping to shine a light on the elephant in the room.

This was a big year for veganism hitting the mainstream conscious.  This week we saw a great example:  I may not agree with Arnold Schwarzenegger on many things but he does know a lot about bodybuilding, and now even he says A) we don't need meat to build muscle and B) we'd all be better off if we ate less meat.

You don't need meat to grow strong and heathy
"Luckily we know that you can get your protein from many different ways. You can get it from vegetables; I have seen many bodybuilders and lifters that are vegetarian and get strong and healthy and many who eat meat who get strong and healthy." - Arnold Schwarzenegger.One protein source feels pain and is linked to the increased risk of many diseases, and has awful environmental consequences, the other protein source (plants) does not... It's an easy choice.
Posted by Vegan Bodybuilding, Health and Nutrition on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Green Bananas As a Cashew Substitute?

I have to try this.  Apparently you can use cooked green bananas to replace cashews in many recipes. Cook them in the Instant Pot and freeze the biomass.  Method from UC Davis
Integrative Medicine Program

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Roots of Hanukkah and a Root Vegetable Latke Recipe

Happy Hanukkah! To celebrate the "Festival of Lights," we're encouraged to put candles on display for all to see. But did you know the meaning of the word Hanukkah means dedication?

I like to celebrate by thinking about those who need a little more light in their life. Even if we're not lighting candles, we can share our inner light with everyone. We can help light the way for others who may have lost their way in darkness. Whenever we say "namaste," we're making a dedication to share our love, light and compassion that we all have within us. While I may not be religious,I see the major winter holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanza and Christmas are all rooted in this message of sharing our light. Perhaps that's why so many decorate their homes with lights...on the outside!

So when I see a house covered in Christmas lights, windows filled with brightly lit menorahs, or lavishly decorated trees, I don't view them as reminders to shop and buy things we don't need. All I see are reminders of how we can bring more light and color into the world.

And in the spirit of the root of Hannukah...I'm excited to try this root vegetable take on vegan latkes! :) Looks delicious!!! I will try baking these without oil: From Delicious Everyday: Parsnip Latkes with Mustard Cashew Cream and Honey Roasted Apples

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reflections on Plant-Based vs. Vegan

After spending an incredible weekend at this year's Farm Sanctuary Hoedown​, I find myself thinking a lot about vegan vs. plant-based, but mostly about how I can share and inspire deeper connections with all beings.
Eating plant-based is unquestionably a win for our own health and the well-being of animals and the environment but the label can also cause confusion.  More and more people are eating "mostly plant-based" (which is great!) but are not committed to being vegan.  To many, eating plant-based is about a strong commitment to eating plants for health, and that's something we should embrace -- but it can be confusing as it leaves the door open to recidivism and clinging to values that are in conflict.  Here's an example I read in Philly Magazine recently:

I applaud the author of this article for writing about being (mostly) plant-based and hope that vegans refrain from criticizing anyone on this path.  It's the same path I took, which eventually made me realize the confusion I felt was inner conflict of my ego -- a tension between the values I wanted to live and the actions whereby I allowed myself to find comfort in old habits.  Making the leap to being vegan freed me from this inner conflict and helped me live in alignment with the values I already had.  It felt so liberating, and continues to deepen my connection and compassion to all life.  My intention is to help others find this connection too -- whether that means going plant-based, or even just plant-curious, it's still one of the most powerful compassionate steps you can take on the path of life.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fourth of July Reflections on Food, Health, and Justice for All

Virtually all of the most significant societal challenges we face are linked to food.  We can't talk about improving food without talking about improving social justice.  With so much disagreement in policy and politics, food might be the one issue that can unite our country to lead changes on a global scale.  Don't we all want better education, health, communication, safety, more equality, innovation, and opportunity, less crime, pollution and waste?

Brian Lehrer recently sat down with NY Times columnist Mark Bittman for a conversation about the links between food and issues of social justice, economics and health.  Bittman has been writing about these issues for a while and offers many insights into how we can set aside our differences and make progress toward our shared goals.

As I reflect on my love for this great country and acknowledge the progress we're making on major issues, I'm feeling more confident that we can continue to help change toward a more sustainable future for all.  To all those who changemakers and peaceweavers, or anyone who has struggled and persevered, thank you and keep shining.  #HappyFourth

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Don't Believe the Hype - How a Prank Fooled Millions into Believing Bogus Science

A journalist recently put together a prank as a way to test the reception of wild claims about diet based on faulty science.  The story behind the prank can be found here.  He registered a website, crafted a completely flawed study and boasted wild claims...and the media bought into it big time.  This prank highlights some of the fundamental problems with nutrition science and reporting on it.  Far too many people believe that the science wavers back and forth: eggs are bad, eggs are good, butter is back, saturated fat is bad, high cholesterol isn't as dangerous as we thought, etc.  But this is not the case.  Nutrition science is a lot like climate science.  If it snows in April, that does not mean global warming is no longer happening.  Media outfits, websites and social media LOVE to publish stories that give us what we want to hear, especially if it's good news about bad habits.
Real reporting on science is usually boring and nuanced, big shifts in thinking about nutrition science happen gradually and slowly.  Everything has to be taken in context of the big picture.  We used to rely on respectable newspapers and magazine to filter the news.  These days, it's far too easy to get duped by bogus claims because the media (and social media) has become a mirror for repeating, retweeting, and spinning junk science.  It's up to us to be more discerning about what we read, hear and watch.  We can be yogic about our news, the same way we become inquisitive when we practice on our mats.  We can use the yamas and niyamas to help us.
What is the intention behind this news story?
Does the information help bring us into balance?
Is this excessive?
Is this committed to the truth?
Does this information promote attachment to things we know are unhealthful?
Is this a misappropriation of science?
Does the news elevate our consciousness?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Imagine A World Where All Beings Are Equal

After my morning meditation, I looked out at the scene in my backyard.  There were birds singing, trees swaying and flowers blossoming.  I opened the door to my porch and felt a cool morning breeze wash over, feeling immense gratitude for the life unfolding before me.  Recently I've been reflecting
on Melanie Joy's book on Carnism -- a profound and initially troubling account of the psychological disconnect necessary to consume animals.  With a heightened sense of awareness, I realized quickly it would be too easy to be overwhelmed with sadness at the amount of unnecessary suffering in our world.  I made a conscious decision not to let it affect me with sadness, but to explore what life could be like, and is beginning to become, when we make the decision to do less harm.

Imagine what this world could be if all beings were truly treated equally.  Would we still have wars?  Could we keep animals and people in prisons?  How could we justify treating any person or any being without equal respect and love?  Imagine...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Taste of Kosha

In yoga philosophy there are 5 koshas, or sheaths.  The Mind Body Green has a good description of these:
The koshas are energetic layers or sheaths that move from the outermost layer of skin to the deep spiritual core. The koshas provide a framework for conceptualizing ourselves. Much like the chakra system, the kosha layers come packaged with their own individual physiological function and psychology. In some respects, the kosha layers mirror the psychology of the chakras
The five koshas are:
1. Annamaya kosha - physical body
2. Pranamaya kosha - subtle body or energetic body
3. Manomaya kosha - emotions, deeper in the mind
4. Vijanamaya kosha - wisdom, awareness, or deeper desires and motivations
5. Anandamaya kosha - transcendence, bliss, connection to all things

These layers provide a framework for us to think about how we interact with the word.  When we practice asana, we become keenly aware of our physical and energetic koshas and sometimes our emotions.  When we spend time with loved ones, go for a peaceful walk on a nice day or experience gratitude we often feel the interaction in deeper layers beyond emotions -- that sensation we get when we feel connected to others or to nature.  I'm particularly interested in how these layers affect health and our understanding of the science of food and nutrition.
If we look at the interaction we have with food, we can start with the five sense: seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and hearing.  Culinary instructors have taught me that we definitely "taste" with our eyes first and then with our nose even before food enters our mouth.  Then we get the sensation of taste on the tongue which, of course, correspond to the five tastes.  How we hear food may not be so obvious, but after reading Michael Moss' book, it's clear that the sound of produced by our teach plays an important role.  Think of the irresistible crunch of crispy food, for example, and how satisfying they can be.  We definitely hear food too.
Similarly, we can make direct connections between consuming food and the first kosha, which is sometimes called the food body.  Food also gives us energy, carbohydrates and sugars provide fuel for both the mind and the body.  There is a ton of research on the emotional connection we have with food.  The unconscious connection to food choice is illustrated brilliantly in in the work of Doug Lisle's Pleasure Trap -- interesting, that there are also 5 phases here :-)

Monday, May 4, 2015

References, Links and Resources from my talk on Mindfullnesss and Food

On Friday we had a tremendous turnout for my workshop on Mindfulness and Food: The Benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based Diet.  I was so happy to see so many people engaged, asking questions and enjoying the food.  It is truly inspiring to me to see people begin to discover the whole food plant based lifestyle, even if that means starting with small changes.  I recognize how long it took me to really embrace this change...we all know how hard it can be to break old habits.  What really helped me make significant changes was having a support system of family, friends, and support groups all over the Internet that are making it easier than ever to go WFPB.

In my talk I mentioned a few films.  I think these are a great starting point... It was the FOK movie that helped me finally commit to the WFPB lifestyle:

Forks Over Knives - Tons of resources, blogs and recipes about WFPB
Cowspiracy - Eye-opening statistics about food choice and the environment
PlanEAT - free to watch online
10 Life Changing Documentaries about Food and Diet

Other good starting points, these are powerful videos:

Rip Esselstyn on Plantstrong

The Blue Zone Diet in 90 Seconds, What the World's Healthiest Populations Eat

Gene Baur on the Daily Show Discussing Mindful Eating and his Book

Plant Based Nutrition: Julieanna Hever (Author of Plant-Based Diets for Dummies) at TEDx

Mark Bittman, What's Wrong with What We Eat

Michael Pollan on how Cooking Can Change Your Life

A Vegan Bodybuilding Experiment

Dr. Melonie Joy on Authentic Food Choices (and Mindfulness)

Frank Medrano (Plant-Based / Vegan Athlete) Bodyweight Domination Workout

Frank Morris (78 year old vegan builder, healthier and stronger than most men 1/4 his age)

Tim "Livewire" Shieff on how to get started on a plant-based (vegan) diet

CT Fletcher on Frank Medrano's Diet :-)


The China Study
The Plant Power Way by Rich Roll (named one of the fittest men alive)
Rip Esselstyn's My Beef with Meat and Engine 2 Books
Thrive Fitness - An Ultramarathon Runner's Guide to WFPB
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible
Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition
Diet for a New America by John Robbins
Dr. Esselstyn's Books
The Farm Sanctuary Life by Gene Baur
Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

more book recommendations:

Reliable Nutrition Science Websites

Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
Nutrition Facts - Dr. Micahel Gregor's extensive review of scientific literature features new videos every day and covers a wide variety of topics
Cornell University’s Nutrition Program started by Colin T. Campbell

Lifestyle Change and Ways to Get Started
PCRM's 21-Day Kickstart - Free 21-day meal plan w/recipes, nutrition webcasts, daily messages (you can opt out too) and more
The Ultimate Guide to WFPBD
Engine 2, 28 Day Challenge - Short videos with great information and tips on eating healthy

One Greeen Planet - Great Site for News Stories, Articles, Recipes
Myths and Concerns about WFPBD

Rich Roll, one of the fittest men alive wrote the best post I've ever seen about the myths and misinformation surrounding protein
More on protein requirements (hint: it's less than we think)
Robert Cheeke's (World Class Vegan Bodybuilder) take on protein for active people:
Helpful Charts on Protein in Whole Plant Foods
Why is Oil not a Healthful Food - If you do use oil, use it mindfully
Dr. Esselstyn Says No Oil is Healthy

Great collection of FAQs on WFPBD for Disease Prevention:

Debunking the Soy Myth
Here are some good articles on the misinformation surrounding soy with links to the science that backs it up*:
*what's particularly notable about the science is the meta-analysis that looked at 50 years of researching soy foods and their effects

and there are great informative videos on (one of the best sources for almost any nutrition topic)

Why is Dairy Cheese So Addictive
Here's an article about the casomorphins found in cheese

Debunking the Paleo Diet - A TED Talk by an Archaeologist

Cooking Classes

How to Steam Saute (Without Oil)

Batch Cooking Like a Boss by the Happy Herbivore

Rouxbe Online Cooking School has an incredible plant-based professional certification program:

WFPB Recipe Sites

Engine 2 Recipes - Some of my favorite whole food plant-based recipes
Happy Healthy Long Life - One of the best written blogs by a medical librarian's adventures in evidence-based living
My New Roots* - Gorgeous plant-based recipes, such a beautiful website!
Happy Herbivore - Also has a free 7-day challenge
She has written FOUR of my favorite cookbooks and offers many of her recipes free on her website (click recipes)

My Favorite Kitchen Appliances
The Instant Pot Pressure Cooker - It's so much more than a pressure cooker.  It is a must-have if you want to save money and cook your own dried beans. You can set-it-and-forget-it -- completely foolproof and safe.
Vitamix - The best high powered multi-purpose blender for the money.  Not cheap but it's an investment in health.  I use mine DAILY.

Plant Based Athletes and Workout Sites

Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness
Great Vegan Athletes shattering the myth that you can’t be competitive on a plant-strong diet
Frank Madrano
Rich Roll

Rich also puts out a free weekly podcast on itunes and the FoK website blog is great too!
Thrive Fitness - Ultramarathon Runner Brendan Brazier's Site

Friday, April 17, 2015

22-Day Spring Mindfulness Cleanse with Ayami of YogaSoul

My friend Ayami is leading a 22-Day Spring Mindfulness Cleanse at YogaSoul.  I was thrilled when Ayami asked me to collaborate.  She has crafted a thoughtful plan to transitioning to a healthy plant-centric diet, complete with shopping lists, recipes, menu plans and more.  Providing support through any kind of lifestyle change is so important, which is why I love how Ayami has designed the cleanse to be done as a sangha with the support of YogaSoul and a community of yogis.  There will be daily emails and Facebook group where Ayami and I will be answering questions and offering inspiration.

I will also be doing a workshop on the benefits of plant-based whole foods and how to make them into delicious and nutritious meals. The workshop will be at YogaSoul on Friday May 1st at 7:15pm.
Let's get mindfully clear together!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Sustainability Secret

It's incredible to see the mainstream media starting to make the link between plant-based diets and the environment.

Care about the environment? It might be time to consider going vegan. Here's why.
Posted by msnbc on Monday, April 13, 2015

The film, Cowspiracy really drives this point home with well-researched facts and interviews with top-executives some of the biggest environmental organization.  If you have not see it yet, please seek it out.  You can watch it on the film's website or it's being shown all across the country at various venues and festivals (click on Screenings on the site).  I believe it's one of the most important documentaries made in the last ten years.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Beyond the Physical

Sharing some sage advice from a fellow yogi that I found in my inbox today:

"Doing yoga just for the physical benefits, is like owning a mansion, and living with your entire family all cramped up in one little room, on the ground floor. You gotta stop caring about how yoga makes you look.
Focus on how it makes you feel.
Then get to the root of that and open that inner window to your soul.
It will speak to you like no book, teacher or class will ever be able to."

- Cecilia Sardeo Co-founder at Zenward

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Two Lines of Energy from the Core - Building on Your Core Values

Tadasana, or Standing Pose, is the one of the most foundation pose in asana practice.  The importance of the pose became apparent when we spend two whole days teaching a roomful of adults how to stand.  We all know how to stand, right?  Tadasana is more than just standing, it is a powerful pose that engage all the muscles.  It is simultaneously grounding and lifting.  In proper alignment, there should be two lines of energy extending from the core, one down to the ground to your feet (the base) and one extending through your heart and head ascending to the stars.  Standing tall requires just enough energy to keep your body rooted, but relaxed enough so that we can be at ease and focus on the breath.  My favorite explanation is "root down to rise up."
When we learn how to stand like a mountain, we can start to see how every other pose is built on tadasana.  Every pose asks that we engage in two directions, with just the right balance between effort and ease.  Every pose has a base, which may not always be our feet.  And every pose has a lifting or opening.
As I was practicing tadasana this week, I connected the duality of the pose to what I identify as one of my core values -- that I strive to find balance in all things, yin and yang, and sometimes these may be in conflict.  I believe inner conflict can be essential for growth.  Or maybe it's not, but I think it's probably not a stretch to say that most of us have inner conflicts of beings.  The very concept of identify, I've often seen, is a conflict between wanting to express individuality and wanting to fit in, or be a part of something bigger than one's self.
Nietzsche famously said, we must have conflict within ourselves in order to give birth to dancing stars.  I interpret this beautiful aphorism to mean that we can hold conflicting ideas simultaneously and explore them, rather than fight with them or try to be right.  The key is to find how the duality of both sides resonates with your being.  What does this mean to me.  That is what I learn from tadasana and it's one of my most fundamental values -- there is no right or wrong, but there are different paths.  The path that explores both sides will be more fruitful than one that says 'only this path is the right path.'  Even if this inner struggle is subtle, it helps me to think of every challenge in this light.  Every difficultly is either an opportunity to learn and grow or a chance to step back and try a different route.  The same is true in culinary arts.  It's all about balance, folks.  How can we cook with more balance? Is it possible to maintain the base of a recipe while stepping outside what's written and try to make it rise above what's been done before?  What do we need to engage in our minds and bodies to create healthy food and where can we find comfort and ease in our diets.  Great questions to meditate on...more to come.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Taking the Teacher Training Plunge

I can barely contain my excitement for the new journey I embarked on this past weekend.  I finally began a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program and will be certified to teach yoga by the Summer.  This is something I have wanted to do for a long time and had been seeking the right opportunity.  My hesitation in enrolling sooner was not for lack of available teachers or programs, rather there were too many that I wanted to study with.  I am blessed to live in an area with such a vibrant yoga community with a plethora of amazing teacher.  When I heard that Honor Yoga, a new yoga studio in town was offering RYT-200 training, I felt a calling.

I did not know a lot about their program but I knew many of the teachers there and learned that the studio's owner and I had a friend in common -- who happens to be the very first yoga teacher I had in Princeton.  I came to learn that the owner of the studio and I had studied yoga with the same teacher for many years, our mutual friend, who was a major inspiration for me deepening my interest in yoga over the past 7-years.  We were students of the same teachings and shared a strong connection to the philosophy of yoga.  My difficult decision as to where to study seemed to be not so difficult at all -- the opportunity connected with my identity -- I could not wait to begin.
So here I am, only a few days into training, and I'm loving it so far.  I hope to post more regularly on the blog, not just about what I'm cooking in my kitchen but also reflecting on my deep immersion into yoga philosophy, asana, anatomy, and more.  Stay tuned for more.
All things go-

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Superfood Goji Bites - Quick Energy on the Go

This weekend I did a food demo at the local Lululemon where I handed out heart-healthy whole food treats.  I was grateful for the opportunity to share food with the amazing yoga community that Lululemon helps to foster.  They offer free yoga classes in-store every week which I love going to because of the regulars who go.  Although we had freezing temperatures and gusty winds, dozens of people came by to sample treats and talk about healthy eating.  Special thanks again to the amazing workers at Lululemon and for collaborating with me.
One of the hits of my tasting was a homemade super food energy bar.  It's packed full of whole food high-energy fruits, nuts and seeds so it's perfect when you need some quick energy on the go or before/after a yoga class.
The secret to this recipe is using high quality ingredients.  Whenever possible I like use organic sprouted nuts and seeds.  To sprout raw nuts or seeds, simply soak them in 2-3x the water overnight and then drain.  This makes them more digestible and easier to blend together.  The basic method is this:

  1. Gather equal parts of your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits.
  2. Throw everything in a food processor.
  3. Add any additional flavorings or spices
  4. Pulse the mixture until it starts to get crumbly, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed.  I've had the best results blending until it just starts to ball up.  Depending on the ingredients you use, you might need to add a tiny bit of liquid (I reserve the soaking water from dates or juice...lemon or orange works nice) to help get things moving.
  5. Transfer mixture to a glass baking dish lined with parchment paper and press down with the back of a spoon until it it is smooth.
  6. Let it firm up at room temperature for a bit before cutting into bars or squares.
  7. Store leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer it will keep for months (though I doubt they would last that long before being eaten!)
For my super food yoga snack bars I use:
  • 1-cup sprouted raw organic cashews
  • 1-cup organic mulberries
  • 1/2-cup organic goji berries
  • 1/2-cup organic goldenberries
  • 1/4-cup pistachios 
  • 1/4-cup organic raw cacao nibs
  • 1/4-cup almond meal
  • 3-soaked dates, drained
  • dash of pink himalayan salt
  • 1-tsp cinnamon
  • 1-tsp vanilla
Remember, you can mix it up.  I'm going to continue to play with this recipe and try adding some sprouted grains for a different texture.  I sometimes like to substitute the almond meal or sprouted and dehydrated buckwheat.  I want to try adding popped amaranth seeds next time.  Feel free to comment below with the combo that you like best.  Happy snacking!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Science-Based Strategies vs. Health Hacks -- Two Spicy Health Tidbits That Are Actually Helpful

Last summer, Rich Roll wrote a blog post railing against the hack that went viral.  It is a brilliant critique on our shortcut obsessed society, and a plea to remind us to invest in the journey and to devote time to learning how to be your best self -- "the ant-hack."  If you didn't see the article, there's now a TED-style video version.  It's a good investment of 19-minutes, likely longer than the time it would take you to read the original -- so the video is definitely not a hack, but worth watching.
As Rich points out, he was quite surprised to see his article become a meme in social media.  What's noteworthy about his post going viral is the fact that it became noteworthy and went viral.  He is basically pointing out something that should be common sense, but isn't for most of us.  This reminds me of what Michael Pollan said in an interview about his often quoted aphorism: "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much."  The fact that simple messages like these get so much attention does indeed tell us a lot about our demand for instant gratification, and how difficult it is to discover and develop helpful and sustainable behaviors and practices.

On my journey to be my best self as a plant-based yogi, I dedicate a lot of time to learning, practicing and iterating.  There are no substitutes to experience, and certainly no real "hacks" to good health or happiness.  I try to approach cooking like hiking a new trail -- generally I know the direction I want to go but I allow myself to explore and play, and sometimes fail.  Once I embarked on a hike alone, relying too much on my phone's GPS rather than looking at the trail map.  At least when a recipe is a failure, you won't need a rescue party to find your way back home. :-)  This was a great reminder that technology can and will fail, so it's important to find reliable sources of information.  This holds true especially in cooking and nutrition.  So when it comes to learning how to cook healthfully, science-based evidence can be just as important as experience.

Without further ado, I'd like to share some amazing healthy cooking strategies that are sorta like...hacks!  Are there really shortcuts to better nutrition?
Well, these do actually work according to scientific evidence.  So I think if we can boost good behaviors by learning reliable facts, then science-based tips like these deserve praise even if they sound like hacks.  Here are my two* favorite cooking hacks strategies that might actually help us optimize health -- at least for cooking with turmeric and broccoli. (*and a bonus non-time saving but health promoting tip for garlic ;-):

1)  Consuming ground pepper with turmeric boosts the effectiveness of curcumin (the anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting, health-promoting chemical in turmeric) by 1000.  Always crack some pepper into any smoothie or dish you make with turmeric to make it even healthier.  As proof that this is not a hack, here's the science behind why this works:
Why Pepper Boosts Turmeric Blood Levels

2)  Adding just a pinch of ground mustard to cooked broccoli restores the health boosting, cancer fighting enzymes that are destroyed during cooking.  Nutrition Facts has a video on the science behind this health promoting strategy too:
Second Strategy to Cooking Broccoli

*3) Garlic Bonus strategy tip:  Remember to let your garlic rest for around 10-minutes after chopping before you cook it or use it in recipes.  Preparing garlic this way has been shown to preserve cancer-fighting and health promoting enzymes that are destroyed if cooked too soon.  WHFood's website updated their fantastic nutrition guide to include this information too.

If you give your chopped/crushed garlic time to sit before changing its temperature (through cooking) or its pH (through the addition of acidic food like lemon juice), it will give the alliinase enzymes in garlic an opportunity to work on behalf of your health. (source)

So maybe taking a tiny bit more time or adding a dash of spice -- rather than seeking shortcuts -- is the real health hack ;-)  Peace, plants.  Namaste.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

When it Comes to Food, Are We Human Beings vs. Human Doings?

The Kundalini  master, Yogi Bhajan used to say, “We’re human Beings, not human Doings.”  In modern life, how many of us take the time to stop doing and be?   We cling to our routines and have endless distractions at our fingertips -- so much that it's beginning to change our brains.  In yoga, we remind ourselves to pause, not to tune out but to tune in to what we are, to the be.  This theme of returning to our nature is found throughout yoga philosophy, and also in modern discourse on food.  It becomes increasingly difficult to be present with our food when we are so removed from its creation or its source.
When we learn where our food comes from, how it is grown, cultivated, prepared and cooked, we make the connection between food and our being.  Study after study has shown the single most predictive indicator of good health is whether or not we cook for ourselves.  Preparing our food consciously leads us to make better choices.  It really is as simple as 'we are what we eat.'  
In cooking, of course there is much to do, as with yoga.  The doing is to prepare and to practice.  One of most basic lessons I learned in chef school is to prepare the mise-en-place.  This is the French term for everything in its place, or prepping, measuring, chopping all of your ingredients and setting up your space.  This simple act of preparing is so essential because it allows us to be present when we're ready to create.  We don't need to hunt down that ingredient or worry about our ratios when everything is in its place.  Mise-en-place, like the practice of asana yoga is never the goal.  They are doings of preparation so that we can be (the goal or intention).  Too often we allow ourselves to get so caught up in the doing, we forget that it is all practice to get to the being.  We tell ourselves the story that we don't have time to cook.  Studies have shown that on average we spend far less time today in the kitchens preparing food than past generations.  Is it that we really don't have time to cook, or is it that we don't make it a priority?  I recognize it can be difficult, because most of us are not taught how to practice the art of time management in the kitchen.  I never understood the value of mise-en-place until I went to culinary school.  It was daunting, at first, because it was new and it took a lot of time.  I wanted to dive right in but I didn't realize that it takes practice to be well prepared to be a cook.  The more I chopped veggies, the better I became at knife skills.  It used to take me several minutes to prep an onion, now I can finely mince one without crying.  Anyone can learn, even without going to school.  As with yoga, everything takes practice.
We are lucky that we live in the age of information and can find out how to do almost anything through youtube how-to's or blogs.  This morning I heard an encouraging story about new classes on cooking as part of a college curriculum.  The wonderful thing about practicing with others or as part of school is that it helps build confidence and makes it easier to practice.
Even if you think you don't have time to prepare something, challenge yourself to find something simple you can practice that will help you be present with your food.  For some, this could be being a more health conscious shopper rather than a more skilled chef (e.g. watch this great 'how to navigate the supermarket' with Michael Pollan).  There is no one path that leads to being present.  Any form of practice will help us find our mental mise-en-place.