Here’s a totally worthwhile, recent article by your favorite and mine, Dr. Joseph Mercola. In it, he shows us how intermittent fasting improves your immune system and mitochondrial function, reduces your inflammatory process, and reduces the amount of free radicals in your...Read More
Matt & I just returned from 4 days of bicycle-camping with 11 friends through the Carrizo Plains. The super-bloom was breathtaking, and the sunburns each of us came home with were frustrating. Most of us had applied and re-applied our sunscreen lotions each day, but every...Read More
Bitter Greens such as kales, collard greens, arugula, mustard greens, and dandelion greens, are not only amazing nutritional powerhouses, but they greatly aid digestion, reduce sugar cravings, help metabolize fats, and work many other magical, healing effects on the human body....Read More
For those coming off the standard American diet, colon cleansing is one of the most important first steps on the road to vitality. The colon works with the liver and lymphatic system to keep our entire bodies free from toxic accumulations. It’s the first organ you’ll want to...Read More
For about the past 5 years in the healing foods community, there have been many proponents for a no-grain diet. Personally, I’ve enjoyed sprouted and simmered (or fresh ground and cultured), low-glycemic, whole grains like millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and brown rice as staple...Read More
Culturing (aka: fermenting) vegetables has long been a tradition meant to extend the shelf-life of fresh summertime produce throughout the winter months. In our modern world, we don’t experience this particular dilemma much. But so much has been recently discovered about the health benefits of eating live-cultured (probiotic-rich) foods which are brimming with beneficial bacteria (about 100 times more than probiotic supplements!), that many people are now beginning to culture their own veggies at home.
Making your own cultured veggies like sauerkraut, kimchee, or beet kvaas, is a great, inexpensive way to re-establish a healthy population of beneficial bacteria. I say ‘re-establish’, because in our toxic, modern world, our natural bodily populations of beneficial bacteria get significantly knocked down by: the use of antibiotics (prescribed AND residual amounts in commercially produced animal products), corticosteroids, birth control pills, chlorine in tap water, heavily cooked meat, preservatives in processed foods, refined sugars, hydrogenated fats and oils, toxins in our food and environment, and stress.
The wonderful little vitality-givers should actually cover our skin, swim in our blood, and colonize our intestines and vaginal tracts. Some scientists say that we are ideally 90% bacteria, and only 10% human! Wow! That’s a really weird thought! But beneficial bacteria help our bodies to thrive on multiple levels. Aside from helping our bodies to better digest and assimilate food nutrients, they act as the foundation of our immune systems, they help lower blood pressure, they keep bad bacteria and yeasts in check, they contribute significantly to healthy skin, AND they work to help normalize our metabolism and thusly our weight. Oh! They also produce both vitamin B12 and K2 in our intestines. Wow, right?
As if all these various benefits of probiotics aren’t enough, here are the latest findings via Dr. Joseph Mercola:
“Many fail to realize that your gut is literally your second brain, and can significantly influence your mind, mood, and behavior….mounting evidence indicates that ignoring your gut may have far-reaching psychological consequences, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that nourishing your gut flora through proper diet, from cradle to grave, is extremely important for proper brain function, and that includes psychological well-being and mood control.
“This mysterious connection becomes easier to grasp when you understand that your brain and your gut are actually biologically identical, as they’re created out of the same type of tissue. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. The featured research, published in the August 29 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms that the vagus nerve is indeed the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain.”
There are even more amazing new findings on how probiotics influence our continued genetic expression. Dr. Joseph Mercola has explained this in another recent article. He says, “One of the most cutting-edge fields of medicine is epigenetics, which has shown that your lifestyle plays a significant role in how your genes are expressed. Probiotics influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner. The widely accepted dogma that your genes control your health destiny is now being completely uprooted, as your genetic code is not set in stone. Rather it is constantly changing based on factors like your diet and stress levels. To put it simply, the more dietary and lifestyle habits you engage in that positively influence your genetic expression, the more protection you’ll naturally receive against a host of chronic illnesses. For instance, eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions helps to activate tumor suppressor genes that fight cancer. Likewise, researchers revealed that eating probiotic-rich foods influenced the activity of hundreds of human genes in a positive manner.”
We can start to take advantage of epigenetics by incorporating probiotic-rich foods into our diets such as raw sauerkraut, kimchee, beet kvaas, miso, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, etc. Cultured foods should always be raw or unpasteurized, refrigerated, and never cooked or heated to boiling, so that the good bacteria are kept alive. I prefer making my own cultured veggies rather than buying a probiotic supplement, not just because it’s way less expensive, but because, as I said before, cultured veggies contain about 100 times the amount of probiotic bacteria than probiotic supplements. Also, the sour flavor satisfies the third taste according to both Ayurveda and Macrobiotics. So, if a meal contains all 5 tastes (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and pungent), we’ll feel more satisfied and have less of a tendency to overeat.
Making your own sauerkraut can be tricky, but it’s very satisfying. The first time I made a batch of sauerkraut that actually turned out, I felt triumphant. The weeks of waiting had finally proven worthwhile. And, I realized that I was connecting to my ancestors by going through the motions they had gone through for so many hundreds of years.
Showing people what I’ve learned over the past 15 years about the art of culturing vegetables is very gratifying. I know I’m sharing a hugely health-promoting practice which they and their friends and family will definitely benefit from.
You’re welcome to come to my class “How To Culture Your Favorite Veggies”, at Whole Foods in San Luis Obispo, on Sunday July 19th, 2-4PM…
Class description and RSVP details below:
How To Culture Your Favorite Veggies!
Sunday, July 19, 2-4pm at Whole Foods, SLO
$35 per person
You’ll learn how to culture your favorite vegetables into body-beneficial, probiotic foods: sauerkraut (including flavored krauts with garlic and herbs, or carrot and fennel, etc), a spicy kimchee, or beet kvaas! These ferments are a wonderfully inexpensive way to supplement those important probiotics!
Cultured, probiotoic foods help us better digest & assimilate nutrients, keep bad bacteria & yeasts in check, greatly enhance our immune function, produce vitamin B12, contribute to beautiful skin, and balance brain chemistry to improve our moods.
Beet Kvaas is a mineral supplement drink and amazing vitality tonic from the Russian tradition. Not only is beet kvaas probiotic, it’s a liver / gallbladder cleanser, helps with disturbed cellular function, helps thin the bile and detox the body, keeps the bowels moving regularly, and builds healthy blood. You can add fresh ginger root kvaas for flavor and for digestive, circulation, and heart-healing properties, and/or fresh turmeric root for anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties! Wow! Why doesn’t everyone have this stuff in their fridge?
In this class everyone will get kimchee, sauerkraut & beet kvaas recipes, as well as a big bowl of delicious chipotle black bean & seasonal veggie stew with a side of tangy kraut to enjoy!
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I believe that the three, most important, first steps toward establishing great health are: 1) getting enough water daily, 2) getting enough dark leafy greens daily, and 3) quitting refined sugars then eating low glycemic. Last month, I shared strategies on how to get enough re-mineralized water daily. So, this month, I’ll share the healthiest ways to prepare all kinds of greens (including the Asian Greens!); why some leafy greens are best for the body when eaten raw, and why some are healthiest when at least lightly cooked. Yay!
Whether it be a big pile of steamed dino kale drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil, or a huge green salad with chopped dandelion greens, I feel so alive, so alert, and so much energy just from eating my greens daily! In fact, eating way more greens was the very first step I took about 15 years ago, when I had no energy and several health issues. When I simply started eating a big spinach salad every day, my energy level shot up by about 50%! Wow! “Greens, Glorious Greens! Life-Giving Sustenance!”
All greens have tons of fiber, minerals, and chlorophyl. Chlorophyl mirrors human blood almost exactly in it’s molecular structure, so it helps cleanse and re-build the blood. Live green salads are alkalizing to the body’s pH, and they’re full of fiber and living enzymes, both of which aid digestion. Greens rejuvenate us, period.
It’s important to maintain the body’s naturally alkaline pH balance to maintain good health, energy, stamina, and general vitality. I remember one of my teachers saying, “…disease cannot take root in an alkaline environment.” He recommend eating an 80% alkaline-forming diet, and limiting acid-forming foods to less than 20% of the diet. Acid-forming foods include: all forms of sugar, alcohol, commercially produced meats, refined salts, white flour products, pasteurized dairy, and packaged/processed/restaurant foods in general. When we eat mostly whole, alkalizing foods like seasonal vegetables, beans, millet, quinoa, nuts, avocado, pasture butter, organic eggs, and grass fed meats, there’s less room in our stomachs for the refined, acid-forming foods, which makes the gentle transition to a whole foods diet way easier than most people think!
Dark leafy greens are a big part of what’s missing in the Standard American Diet. The cruciferous (broccoli family) dark leafy greens like kales of all kinds, collard greens, Brussels sprout greens, broccoli greens, cauliflower greens, and cabbages are 1) very alkalizing to the blood, 2) contain potent anti-oxidants, and 3) are brimming with bio-available, food-state vitamins and minerals. The darker the color of the greens, the more minerals they have! I believe that these cruciferous greens are absolutely the most nutritious of all the greens because of their density of minerals, and their strong, anti-cancer properties. I’ve experienced that the crucifers are easiest to digest when eaten at least lightly steamed (or rubbed with coarse sea salt and olive oil). These methods help to break down the copious amounts of sulfur they contain, as sulfur is very difficult for the body to digest.
Raw, green lettuces are also very alkalizing to the body, contain minerals, and have a cooling effect on the body. So, raw greens are best eaten more often in the spring and summer (the time of year when lettuces naturally grow), or when you’re feeling too warm. These types of greens don’t contain too much sulfur, so they’re easy to digest when eaten raw: all lettuces, baby spinach, turnip and radish greens, dandelion greens, baby bok choy, baby tatsoi, baby mustard greens, and watercress.
“What about beet greens and chard?”, you ask. There’s a substance called oxalic acid that’s found in large amounts in mature spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, parsley, and Swiss chard. There’s a sensation associated with eating oxalic acid heavy veggies; it’s a feeling like the enamel is coming off of your teeth (similar to when you bite into a lemon). When these types of veggies are COOKED, oxalic acid binds with minerals in the intestine, and inhibits their absorption. If these types of veggies were cooked and eaten daily, they’d eventually contribute to mineral depletion. The great, recent news on this subject, is that when eaten raw, the living enzymes in the plant’s tissues help break down the oxalic acid, which leaves the minerals free to go to where they’re needed in the body. So, eat mature spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, parsley, and Swiss chard RAW. Other than eating these types of greens raw, there are two more ways oxalic acid can be neutralized: 1) by cooking these vegetables with kombu sea vegetable for at least 20 minutes, and 2) by fermenting (culturing) these vegetables in beet kvaas, sauerkraut, or kimchee.
A wonderful new addition to my health-arsenal of greens, are the Asian greens! Va and Ivorrie at the Wednesday morning market in Arroyo Grande, and Tou at the Saturday morning market in SLO, bring a beautiful, varied selection of Asian greens to us, such as Kang kong (water spinach), bittermelon leaf, amaranth greens, basil, long bean, daikon radish, singua, okra, shanghai bokchoy, lemon grass, dill, and yam leaf.
Their booths are in the North West corner of each market. I asked them which types can be eaten raw vs. cooked, and started including Asian greens in my salads ands stir frys. The yam leaf, amaranth greens, and water spinach are super mild, and will disappear into salads without a clue from picky eaters. The okra greens are mild too, and they have a slightly slippery texture (mucilaginous), just like their fruit. Turnip, radish, and mustard greens are slightly spicy, and the more mature (bigger they are), the spicier they get, so watch out!
For a full color guide to all the Asian greens including:
Latin name, also known as names, flavor, texture, how they’re best cooked, when they’re available, and where to find them, check out:
Here’s a brief summary of which types can be eaten raw, and which types should be cooked:
Asian Greens which can be eaten raw OR cooked
yam leaf, radish greens, turnip greens, amaranth greens, fava greens,
malabar spinach, mizuna, snow pea shoots, water spinach, napa cabbage, BABY bok choy, BABY tatsoi, BABY yu choy, & BABY mustard greens
Asian Greens which need to be cooked
chrysanthemum greens, chinese celery, chinese broccoli, AA choy, kokabu greens, bitter melon vine (bitter melon vine is usually made into a medicinal tea for diabetics who are NOT on blood sugar lowering drugs)
You may have seen them for sale at Mexican markets, on produce stands at the swap meet, and even in the produce section of many grocery stores; beaver tail-shaped cactus leaves called “nopales”. For years, I would pass by these unappealing guys, but I always wondered what they tasted like. I also wondered how in the world one could possibly work with them!
Nopales aren’t actually leaves, but they’re the soft stems of the underdeveloped prickly pear cacti. What would be considered the leaves, scientifically speaking, are the spines…go figure! Many people are only familiar with the prickly pear fruit themselves, which taste like a cross between watermelon and strawberries…Yum!
Okay. Either green or purple, nopales are roughly the size of a person’s hand, and, when cooked, they have a consistency somewhere between green beans and green peppers. Native to Mexico and Central America, they’re regularly added to eggs and steak stir fry.
Nopales have a wide range of health benefits. They aid in weight loss, regulate blood sugar, prevent cancer, improve skin health, protect heart health, regulate and improve digestion, boost the immune system, optimize metabolic activity, build strong bones, cure insomnia, and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Wow!
A couple of months ago, my dear friend Terre Dunivant (gaiagraphicsLINK), asked me if I had ever eaten nopales raw or cooked. She said that she had a ton of them in her yard if I ever wanted any. She said that they’re spectacularly healthy, as they’re brimming with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and many other phyto-nutrients. Even after hearing about these awesome health benefits, when I pictured the cactus paddles in my mind, I shied away from working with those spines. I said, “I love you Terre, but thanks anyway!”
Then, just last week, I was at my cooking demo booth at the Wednesday morning market in Arroyo Grande, right across from sweet Lupe’s produce booth. Lo and behold, I saw that she had 3 ziplock bags of de-spined and diced nopales for sale for just $3/bag! My eyes kept going back to those neatly diced nopales all morning. When there was a lul in the crowd, I walked over to ask Lupe about them, and she let me taste a piece raw. It was crispy and watery and surprisingly tangy, which tells me they’re full of vitamin C. I was immediately turned on. I thought, “what a refreshing element to a summer salad these would make!” I was also super excited by the idea of finally learning to cook with them.
To guide buyers in cooking them, Lupe had a small, laminated sign that told us to put them in a saucepan with a bit of salt and simmer them for 10-20 minutes on low heat until they let go of their water. Then, one can drain them and easily saute them with onions, eggs, stir fry, meats…anything! “Oh Boy!” I thought, “the possibilities are endless…let the adventure begin!”
Nopales & Caramelized Onion in Scrambled Eggs:
I brought the diced nopales home and did exactly what Lupe’s sign had instructed. Then, I set them aside, and sauteed a large diced onion in my favorite cast-iron skillet in about 2Tbsp nitrate-free bacon fat. When the onion started to brown and caramelize, I threw in the simmered and drained “nopalitos” along with: 1/2tsp each turmeric, cumin, and coriander. I stirred everything together, then covered the pan and let it simmer for about 4-5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so. On the side, I had whisked about 4 eggs with about 1/2tsp sea salt until they were frothy and fluffy, then I poured the eggs over everything and scrambled the whole ensemble together for a lovely, pre-Cinco de Mayo breakfast!
Here’s a link to the many details of the heath benefits of nopales:
A Few Words of Caution:
Due to nopales ability to regulate and affect blood sugar levels, they can sometimes make people hypoglycemic, and they should also not be consumed excessively before an operation, since they makes it difficult to control glucose and blood nutrient levels.
Integrity note from Courtney:
Since I finally ended up cooking with nopales last week, I just had to write about the experience for my May newsletter, instead of writing about the various kinds of dark leafy greens and the healthiest ways to prepare them, as I said I would do this month in last month’s newsletter. For this, I apologize deeply. And, I intend, in June, to finally bring you the reasons why some kinds of greens are best for the body when eaten raw, why some kinds are best when at least lightly cooked, and why some kinds are best when fermented. Thank You So Much for your readership, your time, and your patience!