It's easy to get lost in the maze. There is so much information out there...eat this, no this, don't eat that! Who do you believe? Where do you start? And, then, you feel so overwhelmed you just give up and say SCREW IT! I was there for a long time. I ate whatever I wanted. I was very active and I didn't put much stock in worrying about what I was eating. Side note: I just read an article about Bob Harper, you know that super fit guy from the show “Biggest Loser”?! He had a HEART ATTACK...not just any heart attack, but what they call a “widow maker”, only 6 percent of people survive!! Sooooo...Super fit, had a heart attack, what?!?! Exercise is important, but food is the MOST IMPORTANT!! It wasn't until after I had my son that I started to take notice of what we were putting into our bodies. Then, the hurricane of information swirled around me for years.
As we gain more knowledge, we become more empowered in our decision making and feel a lot less anxiety about the choices we are making. That is what I encourage you to do...do not listen to one piece of advice or methodology. Do your research...this is one of the most important things you will do in your life: the investment in your health, which takes time and money. Yes, we could get hit by a bus tomorrow, but when you are crossing in front of that bus, do you want to be vibrant and full of life or sick, stressed, and worried about your next doctor's appointment? Ok, that was a little dark and dramatic, but you get the point, right? What we should be shooting for is quality of life not quantity. Hell yeah, I want to live to be 100, but not if I'm surviving through a mountain of pills and doctor's appointments! I want to run, jump, and ride into my grave!
Where do I start?
I have lots of great resources where you can find a ton of valuable information. First, let me give you this tip...Trust in information that has been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN. The resources that I have get their information from tons of scientifically proven studies to back up their claims. So, when you are looking at those fad diets, look for the science behind them. Maybe they have shown that those who are on those diets will lose weight, but what are the consequences of that weight loss? For example, a lot of people have had successful weight loss on the low-carb diet, but what are the side-effects of that...Heart Disease. An example of the science can be found here and here.
My favorite and most entertaining resource is Dr. Michael Greger (#drcrush-can I hashtag in a blog post!). He reports his findings on information that can be shown through scientific studies. His website www.nutritionfacts.org is jammed packed full of videos (most are under 5 minutes!) on almost every topic you can imagine and even ones you can't! For example: “PaleoPoo: What we can Learn from Fossilized Feces” What?!
Here are some really great videos:
https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-not-to-die (this one is long, but so worth it!)
...and so many more!! Please check them out!
Dr. Greger also has a fantastic book, if that's your thing, called “How Not to Die”. It's broken down into sections based on the most common diseases. These sections explain how these diseases can form and then, the second part of the book explains how to eat to manage and possibly reverse these diseases. It is a must read! You can order it here!
More websites that I love:
Life Changing Documentaries:
Forks Over Knives
Hungry for Change
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
and many more!
One more tip on where to start: ADD TO SUBTRACT! This is the number one thing I tell everyone! I don't think there is one person who will argue with the fact that we all need to eat more fruits and vegetables. So, start there! Fill your fridge and countertops with fresh fruits and vegetables. Make them front and center so that is the first thing you see and what you reach for! Fill your plate with vegetables and crowd out the other stuff. Eventually you are going to find yourself wanting more and more fruits and vegetables. Even craving them, GASP! If there are other things you want to eliminate...STOP BUYING THEM! And then, whatever is left in your house will eventually get eaten and now you are forced to eat the healthy stuff, which by then you will be loving and want more. The brain really is an amazing thing...it will tell you to eat the healthy stuff if you listen...you have to create pathways of good decisions so that your brain will stay on those tracks and keep them running smoothly. The more you ride the tracks of healthy eating the easier it gets. Easier said than done, right?! If you don't believe me check out the testimonials of some of our workshop participants here. I'm not telling you that you have to 100% perfect, but the closer you get the healthier you will be!! And a little shameless plug for my business: if you are looking for someone to guide you in your journey to better health check out my website; I am more than happy to help you. I LOVE sharing my passion!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Anxiety disorders and depression are reaching epidemic proportions. Surpassing depression, 40% of adults and 12% of adolescents and teens have diagnosed anxiety disorders! To those who are not suffering, it is very hard to comprehend the illogical fears of those with these anxiety disorders. Some try to rationalize the fears of others and sometimes add, “just stop thinking that way”. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way for those who are suffering.
After having a baby, my hormones were all over the place! I never hated my life or my baby or myself, but I was scared...I was always fearing the worst. My thoughts would spiral out of control until I found a way to distract myself. My fears were mostly hormonal, but a little from experience, too. My father had a baby later in life with his third wife...when I was 16 years old, my half-brother went to sleep at 9 months old and never woke up. It tore at my heart then, but at 16, I couldn't possibly grasp the magnitude of the death of a new life, of what my father and step-mother have to bear. But now, as a mother, it tears at my soul. And it tore at my mind the first year of my baby's life. I feared leaving him alone...checking on him every few minutes. No one could convince me that he was fine or would be fine. Eventually things balanced out for me and I found relief from my spiraling thoughts, but for some it doesn't end so easily. As I see people suffering with these anxiety disorders, it breaks my heart; especially, children. I want to write this post hoping that it will help at least one person take a deeper look at what could be happening with their body.
Anxiety disorders can be linked to many things; hormones, chemical imbalances, past experiences, diseases, and many others. I wanted to give some insight into one significant factor because it is one that can changed: your gut health. Do you know that you have two brains? Obviously, there is the brain that inside your head, but did you know there is one in your gut, too? It is called the enteric nervous system(ENS). The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. “The enteric nervous system doesn’t seem capable of thought as we know it, but it communicates back and forth with our big brain—with profound results,” explains Jay Pasricha, M.D. A new study from John Hopkins Medical Center has reported these “profound results”:
----The ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around,” Pasricha says. Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes.
“These new findings may explain why a higher-than-normal percentage of people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety,” Pasricha says. “That’s important, because up to 30 to 40 percent of the population has functional bowel problems at some point.”----
Wow! What an amazing discovery that gut problems are CAUSING anxiety and depression!! For each person, the gut is home to about 1,000 trillium bacteria with which we live in harmony. These bacteria perform a number of functions vital to health: They harvest energy from the diet, protect against infections and provide nutrition to cells in the gut. Any disruption can result in life-threatening conditions(McMaster's University). Let's take a look at some of the foods and chemicals that cause disruptions in the gut leading to physical and mental diseases.
The results of this study have prompted the British Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue an immediate advisory to parents, warning them to limit their children's intake of additives if they notice an effect on behavior. They’re also advising the food industry to voluntarily remove the six food dyes named in the study by the end of 2009, and replace them with natural alternatives if possible.
The U.S., however, has not followed suit in issuing any similar warnings to American parents.”(Mercola)
If the government won't warn you, then, I will. So here is an annoyingly long list of things to avoid. You can scroll down past it, but I highly recommend you print it out and carry it with you when you are shopping to make things a little easier:
Food Additives to Avoid:
Sodium nitrate: Added to processed meats to stop bacterial growth. Linked to cancer in humans. (Worst Offender)
Sulfites: Used to keep prepared foods fresh. Can cause breathing difficulties in those sensitive to the ingredient.
Azodicarbonamide: Used in bagels and buns. Can cause asthma.
Potassium bromate: Added to breads to increase volume. Linked to cancer in humans.
Propyl gallate: Added to fat-containing products. Linked to cancer in humans
BHA/BHT: A fat preservative, used in foods to extend shelf life. Linked to cancerous tumor growth.
Propylene glycol: Better known as antifreeze. Thickens dairy products and salad dressing. Deemed ‘generally’ safe by FDA.
Butane: Put in chicken nuggets to keep them tasting fresh. A known carcinogen.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Flavor enhancer that can cause headaches. Linked in animal studies to nerve damage, heart problems and seizures.
Disodium inosinate: In snack foods. Contains MSG.
Disodium guanylate: Also used in snack foods, and contains MSG.
Enriched flour: Used in many snack foods. A refined starch that is made from toxic ingredients.
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH): Geneticially-engineered version of natural growth hormone in cows. Boosts milk production in cows. Contains high levels of IGF-1, which is thought cause various types of cancer.
Refined vegetable oil: Includes soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, and peanut oil. High in omega-6 fats, which are thought to cause heart disease and cancer.
Sodium benzoate: Used as a preservative in salad dressing and carbonated beverages. A known carcinogen and may cause damage our DNA.
Brominated vegetable oil: Keeps flavor oils in soft drinks suspended. Bromate is a poison and can cause organ damage and birth defects. Not required to be listed on food labels.
Propyl gallate: Found in meats, popcorn, soup mixes and frozen dinners. Shown to cause cancer in rats. Banned in some countries. Deemed safe by FDA.
Olestra: Fat-like substance that is unabsorbed by the body. Used in place of natural fats in some snack foods. Can cause digestive problems, and also not healthy for the heart.
Carrageenan: Stabilizer and thickening agent used in many prepared foods. Can cause ulcers and cancer.
Polysorbate 60: A thickener that is used in baked goods. Can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Camauba wax: Used in chewing gums and to glaze certain foods. Can cause cancer and tumors.
Magnesium sulphate: Used in tofu, and can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
Chlorine dioxide: Used in bleaching flour. Can cause tumors and hyperactivity in children.
Paraben: Used to stop mold and yeast forming in foods. Can disrupt hormones in the body, and could be linked to breast cancer.
Sodium carboxymethyl cellulose: Used as a thickener in salad dressings. Could cause cancer in high quantities.
Aluminum: A preservative in some packaged foods that can cause cancer.
Artificial Sweeteners to Avoid:
Saccharin: Carcinogen found to cause bladder cancer in rats. (Worst Offender)
Aspartame: An excitotoxin and thought to be a carcinogen. Can cause dizziness, headaches, blurred vision and stomach problems.
High fructose corn syrup: Sweetener made from corn starch. Made from genetically-modified corn. Causes obesity, diabetes, heart problems, arthritis and insulin resistance.
Acesulfame potassium: Used with other artificial sweeteners in diet sodas and ice cream. Linked to lung and breast tumors in rats.
Sucralose: Splenda. Can cause swelling of liver and kidneys and a shrinkage of the thymus gland.
Agave nectar: Sweetener derived from a cactus. Contains high levels of fructose, which causes insulin resistance, liver disease and inflammation of body tissues.
Bleached starch: Can be used in many dairy products. Thought to be related to asthma and skin irritations.
Tert butylhydroquinone: Used to preserve fish products. Could cause stomach tumors at high doses.
Artificial Food Colorings to Avoid:
Red #40: Found in many foods to alter color. All modern food dyes are derived from petroleum. A carcinogen that is linked to cancer in some studies. Also can cause hyperactivity in children. Banned in some European countries. (Worst Offender)
Blue #1: Used in bakery products, candy and soft drinks. Can damage chromosomes and lead to cancer.
Blue #2: Used in candy and pet food beverages. Can cause brain tumors
Citrus red #1: Sprayed on oranges to make them look ripe. Can damage chromosomes and lead to cancer.
Citrus red #2: Used to color oranges. Can cause cancer if you eat the peel.
Green #3: Used in candy and beverages. May cause bladder tumors.
Yellow #5: Used in desserts, candy and baked goods.Thought to cause kidney tumors, according to some studies.
Yellow #6: A carcinogen used in sausage, beverages and baked goods. Thought to cause kidney tumors, according to some studies.
Red #2: A food coloring that may cause both asthma and cancer.
Red #3: A carcinogen. that is added to cherry pie filling, ice cream and baked goods. May cause nerve damage and thyroid cancer.
Caramel coloring: In soft drinks, sauces, pastries and breads. When made with ammonia, it can cause cancer in mice. Food companies not required to disclose if this ingredient is made with ammonia.
Brown HT: Used in many packaged foods. Can cause hyperactivity in children, asthma and cancer.
Orange B: A food dye that is used in hot dog and sausage casings. High doses are bad for the liver and bile duct.
Bixin: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
Norbixin: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
Annatto: Food coloring that can cause hyperactivity in children and asthma.
3. ANIMAL PRODUCTS: Animal products contain Omega-6 fatty acids, also called arachidonic acids. Arachidonic acid is a non-essential fatty acid, which means our bodies make it themselves without needing it in our diets. When we eat foods rich in arachidonic acid like poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs our bodies have an excess. An excess of arachidonic acid produces inflammation in the digestive tract and the rest of the body; especially, the brain. “In the Journal of Lipid Research study, Dr. Green in collaboration with Dr Gal Yadid of Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, used the Flinders Sensitive Line rats to investigate the link between omega-3 fatty acids and depression. They examined the brains of the depressed rats and compared them with brains from normal rats. Surprisingly, they found that the main difference between the two types of rats was in omega-6 fatty acid levels and not omega-3 fatty acid levels. Specifically, they discovered that brains from rats with depression had higher concentrations of arachidonic acid, a long-chain unsaturated metabolite of omega-6 fatty acid. (moodfoods)” Another study was done that removed poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs from the diets of participants and within 2 weeks they eliminated their symptoms of depression and anxiety!!
You are probably feeling like I want to blame all of the world's problems on food...you are right, I do! But, I'm not saying these things without a ton of scientific evidence to back it up! When it comes to your health; especially, your child's health, you have to take a look at all of the evidence and information and make informed, intelligent choices. I'm not asking you to take my word for it...do the research yourself. You have control over your health.
Peace, Love, Plants,
A friend recommended a restaurant to me, “They have vegan options!” We didn't get a chance to check it out for a few months. We don't go out to dinner very often. Mostly, during the hockey season as we travel around for my son's games. I get really tired of black bean burgers and veggie wraps, but my friend promised this place had different options. Do you get a little nervous eating at new restaurants? I do! But isn't it amazing when you find a diamond in the rough?! If you live anywhere near Olean, NY you have to try this place out: Four Mile Brewing!! Not only is their food spectacular, the beer is delicious! I had a mango wheat Belgian white and it was so good. BUT not as good as the vegan philly cheese steak!! Oh my gosh, this wrap was spot on! They make their seitan (re: fake meat) in house and it is the BEST I have ever tasted! It came with a side of broccoli slaw that was equally as delicious! So GO, try this wrap and get a beer while you are there!
Of course, I wanted to try to recreate that amazing sandwich...my version didn't taste the same, but it was just as delicious and I wanted to share the recipe with you! It is a little time consuming; however, it is easy and so worth it! I've made it super easy to follow along with pictures so you can see exactly what each step should look like!
While the veggies are sauteing, work up the "cheese sauce". The Cheese Sauce is super easy and delicious:
1 Medium Sweet Potato (peel, dice-1/2 cubes, and saute in water for 15 minutes until softened)
-when the sweet potatoes are cool add to a blender with:
1/4 cup of non-dairy milk
3 Tablespoons of Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon of Oil
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
1/2 Tablespoon of Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon of Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt
-Blend until Smooth
I choose broccoli slaw as my side. This is one of my favorite sides; especially during the summer! Here is the dressing recipe:
You could choose any veggies you like, but I like this one with Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Shredded Carrots. I chopped the broccoli and cauliflower very small.
Stir it up! I served the Philly Cheese Steak on whole wheat tortillas, but you could choose any roll or wrap you like!
Seriously, make this!! It is so freaking delicious!!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Recipe Adapted from The Edgy Veg
Vegan Philly Cheese Steak
Has your sneezing begun? It has in our house, which has led to a few sore throats. The trees are sporting buds and soon we will see dandelions. All that new life leads to pollen and allergies. Allergies aren't a huge issue with us, but as each new season blooms we feel it with some sniffles and sneezes. We've been blessed through the winter season with no illnesses so I will take the sneezing and sore throat without too much complaint!
I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the wonderful healing gifts Mother Nature has to offer and for most of us they are growing in our backyards! There are so many wonderful things growing around us that we can harvest, for FREE!! Today, I'm going to share two of those that I harvest each year in my own backyard. I like to call myself a backyard apothecary because as the gifts of growth are given to me, I reap the rewards. And by reap, I mean hoard. I have been know to spend hours picking “weeds”.
Let's start with my favorite and not because it's fun to pick; in fact, it can be down right painful! Have you been walking through the woods when you just slightly rubbed against some green leafy vegetation and find your ankle burning and itching like you've been stung by 10 bees and bitten by 100 mosquitoes, all at the same time?!?! That jewel is called stinging nettle and you've probably heard of it if you are a hiker; it is one you are always trying to avoid! Take a look at all those little stinging hairs!! “The tiny sharp stinging hairs which densely cover the leaves and stems act as miniature syringes that inject a mixture of histamine, formic acid, and acetycholine into the skin; these irritating chemicals cause burning, itching, and even blistering to the skin.”*
Not pleasant, right?! Well, don't judge a book by its cover! This “weed” has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. Greek physicians used nettle as a diuretic and laxative. “The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder (ca. 23-79 A.D.) reported its use as a counter irritant and effective remedy for chronic rheumatic pain, muscle paralysis, and sciatica.”*Currently, it is being used in Germany where “clinical trials have demonstrated that dried stem and leaf nettle extract taken internally is effective in addressing pain associated with rheumatic complaints.”* In the United States, dried nettles are used as a component in formulating herbal supplements for addressing hay fever and allergies. And this is how we use them!! Studies have found that nettle tea can be as effective or even more effective than common over the counter allergy medicines like Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, etc.
My son now asks for nettle tea when he feels the sneezes and sore throat coming on. He finds relief within 30 minutes and it lasts for about 6 hours. But the amazing thing is, for his mild allergies, he only needs to drink the tea a few times a day for a few days and the allergies seem to disappear for months! The BEST part of all is that there are NO bad side effects to nettles, only GOOD!! Nettles are packed full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. I've found the easiest and most common way to consume them is through nettle tea. I usually make a big pot on the stove and store it in the refrigerator to have as iced tea. My recipe is 4 cups of water to 1 cup of dried nettles and a little honey for sweetness; boil for 20 minutes.
Nettles can be consumed like other green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, cooked or raw; however, it takes some skill to eat them raw as you will have to learn some tricks to avoid those stinging hairs!! Speaking of those stinging hairs, if you want to harvest and dry your nettles you have to be prepared for picking. Wear gloves and pants! These plants usually grow together and get thick so you will need to wade through them. I use pruning shears and always wear gloves. I still get pricked from time to time as those little hairs are resilient and will poke through my gloves or find my exposed skin. They tend to grow in sunny places where there is rich, moist soil. You’ll find them growing along rivers, streams, lakes, ditches, fence-rows, and on the edges of cultivated farm fields. (you shouldn't have any trouble finding them; they are everywhere!). Avoid picking them along roadways and areas where you know pesticides are sprayed.
It's best to harvest nettles in the spring before they have flowered because they tend to become bitter after flowering. Not interested in picking your own? You can also buy them in bulk here. If you are on any medications, always consult your doctor before consuming medicinal herbs as there may be some interference. Nettles have a diuretic effect and will interact with diuretic medication. Nettles can also interfere with these medications: blood thinners (nettles contain a lot of Vitamin K which can help the blood's ability to clot), drugs for high blood pressure (nettles reduce blood pressure), NSAIDs (nettles are anti-inflammatory and will increase NSAIDs effects), and Lithium (nettles are a diuretic and may interfere with the body's ability to remove these drugs).
Have you heard of plantain? If you have, you are probably thinking of the things that look like bananas, but aren't bananas. I'm referring to the really cool “weed” that I'm willing to bet grows in everyone's yards. Look familiar?
As you can see there are two different looking plants, but they both have amazing medicinal properties! My favorite way to use this extraordinary plant is after a bug bite or bee sting! After you've been stung or bitten, rip off a leaf, chew it up a bit to release the compounds, and then apply it to the affected area. Allow it to sit on the area for 5-10 minutes and before you know it your bee sting no longer hurts or your bug bite no longer itches! It really is amazing!! It can also be applied to minor cuts and scrapes as plantain has anti-inflammatory effects, and it is also rich in tannin (which helps draw tissues together to stop bleeding) and allantoin (a compound that promotes healing of injured skin cells). The leaves of plantain as well as the juice have been widely used as topical substances in poultices and lotions for treating sunburns, stings, insect bites, snakebites, poison ivy breakouts, rashes, burns, blisters, and cuts. So cool, right?!
Not only can plantain be applied topically, it is more nutritious than most of the greens you are adding to your salad and is FREE!! They are tastiest when the plants are young because as they continue to grow, they become a little bitter and less tender (the larger ones become stringy and tough). The seeds can also be harvested and ground into a flour (I haven't tried this, yet). Interestingly enough, Plantain is a common folk remedy in many parts of Latin America for treating cancer. It has also been used for many centuries in treating sore throats, coughs, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and mouth sores. It is as close as your yard (or your neighbors).
Even if you have no intention of picking these wonderful plants in your backyard, I hope you have found some inspiration to look beyond your medicine cabinet. We can find relief through the use of plants with no bad side effects! The earth has provided us with everything we need to live a healthy life! Check back soon because I would love to share more of the plants that can heal our bodies!
Peace, Love, Plants,
*-See more at: http://drexel.edu/cnhp/news/current/archive/2012/August/2012-10-01-Stinging-Nettle/#sthash.kSv7oQbJ.dpuf
On average, Americans eat just ONE serving of fruits and vegetables per DAY. “If Americans ate just one more serving of fruits or vegetables per day, this would save more than 30,000 lives and $5 billion in medical costs each year.” What? Crazy! Just think how amazing it could be if Americans added two more servings?!?! *Mind Blown* All kidding aside, it really is important to add more fruits and vegetables in your diet. EVERYONE needs more and you can not eat too many fruits and vegetables. They are called superfoods for a reason! Did you know all fruits and vegetables contain cancer-fighting compounds?!?! People who eat just five servings of fruits and vegetables a day lower their risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions!
I know what you are going to ask me: “what's an easy way to add in more fruits and veggies?” That is what you were going to ask me, right? I am always looking for easy ways myself! The best way to make a change is to Set Goals! Don't just say “eat more fruits and vegetables”; make it actionable! Set tangible, specific goals! So, let's make this a list, I LOVE lists!!
I use it for fruit, too! I always hesitate buying berries because I feel like they go bad
by the next day. With these nifty contraptions I can store berries in the fridge for at least 10 days!! I know, so exciting, right?! So, the tip is to make a big salad that you can grab at anytime!! How easy is that?! The secret to keeping the salad fresh though is not adding the vegetables that get too wet...I save the tomatoes and cucumbers until I'm ready to serve. I also top with some seeds like sunflower or pumpkin.
Here's what I throw into those awesome containers:
Are those doable? Can you find some time to fit more fruits and vegetables into your life? Your life depends on it;)
Do you have any tips that can make my life easier?!?! I'd love to hear them; post in the comments, facebook, instagram, or throw an email my way!
Peace, Love, Plants,
*I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you real information about health and holistic wellness.
I'm going to change things up this week...I'm not going to talk about food (what?!?! I know crazy, right?!). You all know I'm a big holistic health advocate so that means focusing on every aspect of health in the entire body...the body as a whole. So, if you'd like to hear about the healing of my spirit read on....
I had always been fearful of the word God. As a child, the God I learned about was vengeful, judgmental, a magician. I was told stories of a God that sent a vengeful storm for the sins of humanity, a god who judges based on the choices made in life, a god who magically creates. I didn't want to believe in that God. I would ask myself "why would a God punish people?" "Why would a God 'test' me?" "How could a God create something out of nothing?" This was heavy in my heart for a long time. As my world grew bigger, so did my understanding of God. I searched through religions trying to find something that would explain God more clearly to me. I learned that God is many things to many different people. Each of us has to find our own meaning and understanding.
I've found my own path and my own God. It's hard to express the ideas that we have of our own God in a world filled with dogmatic religious philosophy. Buddha has said, "Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; not upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in scripture. But when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them." That Buddha was a smart guy! He told us to believe what we feel is right and what we have experienced for ourselves and not follow along with things we've been told or rumors we've heard.
I am putting it into the Universe that your God may be different than my God and that's OK! I am finally finding peace in my God. I am no longer questioning my virtue in seeking my God. I have my own path for whatever reasons that the Universe has chosen. Whatever those reasons may be, I would like to share with you. My hope is that this reaches someone who is also searching for their path and they can find some solace in my thoughts.
My God doesn't punish.
My God doesn't judge.
My God is love.
My God is light.
My God is compassion.
My God is kindness.
My God has no face, no form.
My God doesn't create because my God shares the energy, essence, spirit in which all things are brought into the universe.
Imagine God as an ocean and all things as waves. Waves are not separate from the ocean. They are the ocean. As a part of the ocean, waves are a transfer of the ocean's energy. As a part of God, we are a transfer of God's energy. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; therefore, I am God, You are God, trees are God, animals are God...
I love myself, animals, you, trees and everything because I love my God and my God is all things. Since all things are my God and I am my God, then, I am you and you are me. This fundamental level is where we learn that we are all connected and what we do affects everything in the world. Wow, think about how powerful you are and I am!! Let us use our powers for good...Loving others means loving yourself. Having compassion for others means having compassion for God and all other things. As your essence flows through the Universe be sure it is filled with everything that you would want in return like love, compassion, kindness, joy because remember, we are all the same energy!!
At an earlier time in my life, I never would have had the courage to share these words. These words have come to me after meditation. Only through my experience could I believe that such a thing could be so powerful!! Through my practice, I have found so much peace, joy and abundance.
The power of meditation lies in its creation of mindfulness...living in the now. When we live in each moment there is no time for worry, guilt, regret, fear....I'm not telling you I no longer feel/think these things because I do! We all do!! Our minds are computers that never power off, but we CAN have power over our thoughts. As Douglas Adams says, "So much of our suffering happens between our own ears." How powerful is that statement?! Our worst critic is in our mind, our demise creator is our brain. We need to learn to take control of our thoughts. This is where meditation comes in; it is a PRACTICE of having power over our thoughts. That power comes in the form of mindfulness. In their innumerable forms, mindfulness and meditation can look like many things! I encourage you to find your THING! In all their forms, it allows you to find that silent space between your thoughts where peace, light, and joy reside.
Each morning, I dedicate 10-30 minutes to a silent, seated meditation practice, but another important part of my practice is getting outside...being a part of nature. When I am immersed in the silence of the forests and mountains, I find myself clearing my mind without thought of doing it. I find peace and joy. I've taken to photography during my nature adventures and this has helped me stay mindful, as I put all of my energy into focusing on the beauty around me. It is so easy to get lost in the minuscule details of the mountains and forests.
I encourage you to give meditation a try. It doesn't have to look like anything in particular! Take 5 minutes to focus on your breath, to stare at a beautiful flower, to watch your child smile and laugh, but be completely, 100% in that moment. Immerse all of your energy and spirit into that moment. FEEL that MOMENT. All we have is this moment!
Peace, Love, Plants,
"But chicken is healthy, right?” Is that a rhetorical question??...it's the look I get. It scares me a little. I feel I need to take a few steps back (out of reach) before I answer. People REALLY love their chicken!! We were that family! “What's for dinner?” Chicken. My husband LOVED chicken. We raised chickens! Ok, not to eat; I couldn't do that!! I loved those little ladies! But we ate A LOT of the waste from their menstrual cycles...or more commonly called eggs.
So what's the problem, you ask? Let's start with cholesterol...raise your hand if you think red meat has more cholesterol than chicken. Is your hand up? You know I can't see you, right? Chicken and red meat are comparable in the amount of cholesterol they contain. Did you read my blog post about protein? That's where we learned that cholesterol is made in the liver and all things that have a liver produce cholesterol. If you are eating things that have a liver, you are eating cholesterol. We make cholesterol in our liver, too; therefore, we do not need ANY from our diets.
P.S. One egg has 187mg of cholesterol!! And I know you know, but cholesterol is linked to clogged arteries and heart disease
What else? Chickens are full of GROSSNESS! A recent study showed that almost half of the chickens in grocery stores are contaminated by E coli, which researchers say is an indicator of fecal contamination. E coli comes from colons either from a human colon, or more likely chicken colon(s). In other words, there is poop in your chicken meat! There are 250,000 cases of E coli infections reported every year in the United States (and countless unreported). What else is in the chicken? Salmonella is in 16% of grocery store chickens. Salmonella is responsible for an estimated 1,027,561 illnesses, 19,336 hospitalizations, and 378 deaths per year in the United States. Annnndddd….63% of store bought chickens contain Campylobacter bacteria which causes 845,024 illnesses, 8,463 hospitalizations, and 76 deaths every year.
I know what you are going to tell me...you clean the chicken right? Have you asked yourself why studies have shown that there is more fecal bacteria in your kitchen sink than your bathroom? Let me whisper in your ear: It's From Your MEAT. A study was published as “The Effectiveness of Hygiene Procedures for Prevention of Cross-Contamination from Chicken Carcasses in the Domestic Kitchen” (uh, what?)...anyway, these researchers visited 60 homes putting them to the test:
Was that enough for you? No? Ok, how about some of these statistics:
Have you changed your mind about chicken, yet? Ok, if I can't appeal to your brain, can I appeal to your heart?
Chickens raised for their flesh are often packed by the thousands into massive sheds and fed large amounts of antibiotics and drugs to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them.
Many fowl are stuffed into unimaginablely small cages.
I don't offer up the “I don't eat animal-anything” nugget unless asked. The way you eat is your business and the way I eat is mine. With that being said, I LOVE talking about the plant based lifestyle so don't be afraid to ask;) However, once revealed that I don't feast on anything that comes from an animal, I get a lot of questions. The very first one I almost always get is “Where do you get your protein?”. I addressed that question in the last post. Now, I'm going to jump on another common one: “Do you eat bread?”. I think this one stems from the low-carb and gluten-free crazes. Short answer: yes, I eat bread. The end. Thanks for reading.
Just kidding. You didn't think I would leave you without giving you all the good science-y stuff, did you? First, let's start by addressing the low-carb craze. It can be a little complicated, but here is the simplified form: Carbohydrates are what our bodies use for energy, including brain function. Carbohydrates are necessary for proper bodily function. As we eat carbohydrate rich foods our body converts them to glucose and moves them to our cells with the help of insulin. Excess is stored in the liver, muscles, and other cells or stored as fat. Still with me? So, we need carbohydrates. Why, then, do so many people lose weight when eating low carb? When our bodies do not have carbohydrates either from the food we are eating or from our storage (we only have about 24 hours worth in our liver and muscles) it pulls energy from the fat, i.e. burns fat, which means we lose weight. Hmmm that sounds good, right? Not so fast...eating low carb can be helpful if done right; however, it is mostly done wrong. Most people participating in a low carb diet eat a lot of protein (we already discussed how this can be bad) and a lot of fat, also bad. We could all benefit from cutting out carbohydrate rich foods like white bread and pasta, processed foods, sugary drinks, cereals, etc. But we should all be eating more of these carbohydrate rich foods: vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils). When we cut out carbs, we cut out fiber. Fiber is the #1 thing all Americans need more of!! Fiber-deficiency is the #1 cause of inflammation in the body and inflammation is a major cause of disease! In addition, there is evidence that a low-carb diet (one high in protein and fat) impairs arterial function, which means clogging our arteries leading to heart disease.
Let's now address this gluten-free demon. I eliminated gluten from my diet for about 6 months (crazy hard) just to see the effects. There weren't any. I did not lose any weight. I mostly felt the same before and after; I had a little easier time in the bathroom after eating gluten again (sorry for the TMI). Only about 1% of the population has celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder affecting the small intestine where the sufferer has to completely avoid gluten. There is also a condition known as gluten intolerance or sensitivity where the individual also avoids gluten. With the gluten-free industry reaching billions of dollars, millions of people are drawn to these products as they are being marketed as a health food. The fact is there is no evidence that avoiding gluten is beneficial to your health for anyone other than those with a diagnosed intolerance, sensitivity, or celiac disease. In fact, you could be doing your body harm by avoiding gluten. Eliminating gluten from your diet means removing a very important food group, whole grains. Whole grains have been found to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases. From nutritionfacts.org “Gluten, itself, may also boost immune function. After less than a week on added gluten protein, subjects experienced significantly increased natural killer cell activity, which could be expected to improve our body’s ability to fight cancer and viral infections. Another studyfound that high gluten bread improved triglyceride levels better than regular gluten bread.” Not only does the research indicate that going gluten-free doesn’t fix the gut or cool inflammation, but that it alters your gut flora and allows bad bacteria to grow in your gut. We need gluten to maintain the community of good bacteria in our guts.
To sum it up...yes, I eat bread and pasta and carbs. It is rare that I eat white, processed bread...it might be a crunchy french bread with pasta or if we are eating out I might have a veggie sub or something of that kind. I eat lots of good carbs like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and pasta, oats, etc. Again, stop worrying about calories, carbs, protein and think about filling your plate with A LOT of plant food!!
Peace, Love, Plants
I'm going to spend the next few blog posts answering some questions. Every time someone wants to discuss my eating habits, I get the same questions over and over again . Starting with the #1 question I get, not only because it comes up so often, but because I feel it is vital that everyone has the facts about this overwhelmingly misguided perception perpetuated by the media and the-billions-of-dollars-a-year meat industry.
Where do you get your protein?
I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me this question...I could buy a billboard! First, I will discuss why we need protein, second, sources of protein and more importantly, third, I will explain why too much protein is bad NOT good.
In 1839, protein was discovered and since then has been revered as “THE” most important nutrient for the human body. (I could write pages on just protein; so, I'm going to try and control myself and make this as user-friendly as possible. I encourage you research this topic; check out the sources that I have cited at the end.) Protein is found throughout the body—in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood.
Protein is made up of amino acids. There are a total of 20 amino acids; essential and nonessential. Nonessential amino acids (11) are the ones our bodies manufacture themselves and we do not need to find in our diets. Essential amino acids (9) are the ones that we must consume through food sources. Animal sources of protein are complete proteins, which means they contain all the essential amino acids. Plant based proteins can be incomplete; whereas, not every plant contains all of the essential amino acids, but some do! (No worries about plants and amino acids! We'll discuss this later) Wait?! “Did you just say animal protein is better?!” NO! I said it was a complete protein. Yes, it contains all the essential amino acids; however, animal products are not a good source of protein. Animal products cause diseases. Check out some of these facts:
Ok, Ok, you are seeing it, right? Scientifically and clinically, the consumption of animal products has been shown to increase risk of all diseases. So play it safe and get your protein from plant sources.
Protein is found throughout the plant kingdom and shocking as this may be for some people, some plants have more protein than meat! GASP!! Now, don't go believing that myth that you have to eat “complementary proteins” meaning you have to eat certain plants in specific combinations to meet your amino acid needs. Eating a diet rich in plants will meet ALL of your needs. Jeff Novick, RD explains it best on his website: http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Articles/Entries/2012/3/28_The_Myth_Of_Complimenting_Proteins.html
So what plants can we eat? ALL OF THEM!! Here's a great info-graphic showing the protein in plant foods. This graph is based on the percentage of protein per calorie. As you can see, plant foods are rich in protein. A majority of them containing between 20-30% protein!!
Now that you've got all the facts, STOP worrying about protein! Protein deficiency in the United States is extremely rare and only happens in persons not getting enough calories to meet their daily needs. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the average woman and man needs only 46-56g of protein per day, with the physically active individuals needing slightly more.
Something you do NEED to be concerned with is TOO MUCH protein! The majority of Americans get MORE than the recommended daily allowance! The body takes excessive amounts of protein, coverts them to fatty acids, which are then stored as fat. Also, the excess could be filtered through the liver and kidneys adding extra stress to these detoxifying organs. The consumption of higher amounts of protein have been linked to increased cancer rates, bone disorders, kidney problems (specifically kidney stones and cancer), liver diseases, and heart disease.
Stop worrying about protein, carbohydrates, and calories! Start eating plants and lots of them. Next, week I will continue the question series with “Do you eat bread?”.
Do you have a burning question you would like answered? Ask me in the comments or send me an email and I will try my best to help you out!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Manly meat is so hard to give up! When I went vegetarian in December 2015, my boys declared “We will never give up meat! We love meat!” I prepared the same meal for all three of us, just adding in a little chicken, beef, or fish for them. When I decided to go vegetarian, it was plain and simple; “I don't like meat, why am I eating it?” So, I stopped. Easy Peasy. I ate eggs everyday, mostly, because we had chickens and we had a lot of eggs to use. I also LOVED cheese. My manly-men needed their meat! Once I started studying holistic nutrition and learned about the plant-based lifestyle and it's ability to reverse disease, I was SOLD! I'm a type A personality. You've heard me say this before, I'm an all or nothing kind of gal. My poor husband, he loves me anyway!
I started sharing all the information with my boys, educating them on the amazing health benefits of a plant-based life...they were not as excited as me, but I'm happy to say they were a little frightened by what they learned about animal products. *cue evil laugh. I told them that if they wanted meat, they had to cook it themselves. Well, that was easy because no one cooks around here but me. I win, again!! So, that was it, no more meat. That's where we started and then, eventually, weened off of the cheese and eggs. Well, eggs were not difficult for us to cut out of our diets after an eye-opening article that described the chicken's egg as part of their menstrual cycle!! REALITY CHECK! GROSS!!
Our transition consisted of some “fake” meats...meats made with soy protein, vegetable protein, and/or vital wheat gluten. These are not health foods and I would never want to advocate for that as they are highly processed foods. However, they made our transition A LOT easier. These “fake” meats have helped us get on track and stay the course.
Vital wheat gluten, when used to make vegan meat, is referred to as Seitan. I have practiced with this numerous times coming up with some pretty delicious and fun recipes like “chicken” and bbq “ribs”. It's actually really easy to work with, but takes a while to cook. Confused as to what vital wheat gluten is?
My son has always loved pepperoni. After eliminating meat from our diets, he would say “I'm craving pepperoni”...he's a weirdo. Well, being that I love him so much, I went in search of a plant-based pepperoni and came upon the Fat Free Vegan Blog. I haven't adapted her recipe at all, other than subbing what ever nut butter I have on hand when she calls for cashew butter (I have never had cashew butter so I have used peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower butter on separate occasions.) This recipe is spot on for the “taste” of pepperoni!! The texture is a off...I would describe it as soft and maybe a little doughy. My son likes the softness, but I have tried adding more time to the baking time and have had success with a firmer and drier pepperoni; play around with the baking time and see what works best for your taste buds. I shared this with our nutrition workshop participants and everyone seemed to really like the flavor! Even some of their kids gave it a thumbs up. So, if you are already plant-based give this one a try for some new meatiness, but even if you're not plant-based, yet, give this a try and maybe we can convert you!!
Here are a few tips:
-Get your hands in there and work the dough! It will be too tough to use a spoon.
-The recipe calls for a 7 inch log, this will give you about a 1.5 inch in diameter slice of pepperoni. If you want smaller slices (like you'd find in regular pepperoni), you can create (2)-7 inch logs with the logs being narrower in circumference. Just wrap them separately in foil and decrease baking time by 10 minutes.
-You may prefer a drier pepperoni...just add a little time to the recommended baking time
-I always double the recipe...it lasts for about 2 weeks when sealed in the refrigerator.
-Eastyn's favorite is a pepperoni and mustard sandwich!
Peace, Love, Plants,
Veggeroni (Seitan Pepperoni)
From the Fat Free Vegan Blog