Food Matters
All about fresh, flavorful food


Whole Wheat Bread Bakers Rejoice!

Baking bread at home takes time and energy, but advancing research is confirming the multitude of nutritional benefits found in whole grains.

Wheat berries, the whole grain form of wheat, is made up of wheat germ, bran and endosperm. About 6 grams of fiber are found in 1/4 cup of wheat berries. If you’re grinding about 3 cups of wheat berries to produce flour for your bread, you’ll find some 72 grams of fiber in one loaf.

MEL_JAN 29_2019
Photo by Loretta Sorensen

Those unprocessed wheat berries also contain a concentrated amount of protein and micronutrients such as manganese, selenium, thiamine, phosphorus, magnesium, niacin, copper, iron, zinc, vitamin B6 and folate. Small amounts of potassium, pantothenic acid and vitamin E are also found in wheat berries.

The 2018 research conducted by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Research Program included evidence that dietary fiber promotes growth of good gut bacteria, resulting in production of byproducts important to health.

On average, men under 50 should consume 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day and women should take in 21 to 25 grams (Mayo Clinic). Other whole gain foods with significant fiber content include graham flour, oatmeal whole oats, brown rice, wild rice, whole grain corn, popcorn and whole grain barley.

In recent years, researchers have learned that fiber not only contributes to brain health, it also aids the following:

  • Can help prevent chronic diseases
  • Delays brain aging
  • Decreases the risk of diverticulitis
  • Promotes healthy gut bacteria
  • Promotes healthy bones
  • Prevents hemorrhoid pain

Additional benefits of fiber:

  • Helps add volume to meals to help you feel full faster.
  • Helps stave off hunger.
  • Reduces fat absorption from food and drinks.
  • Provides sustained energy by stabilizing blood glucose levels.
  • Reduces the risk of cancer by moving foods through the gut more quickly.
  • Helps the body absorb certain vitamins and minerals during the digestive process.
  • Soluble fiber helps lover blood cholesterol.

Some studies have shown that fiber may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

In addition to its nutrition benefits, wheat bran positively impacts the gastrointestinal tract and provides antioxidant effects, helping slow or limit damage caused by free radicals.

Wheat bran does contain phytates, which consumed in significant amounts can bind to certain dietary minerals that include iron, zinc, manganese and to some extent, calcium, slowing their absorption in the body. This can be overcome by eating a balanced diet, cooking the wheat berry, or soaking (sprouting) prior to using/eating them.

Enhance your success in making home-made whole wheat bread by managing the temperature of your recipe liquids to support yeast activity (heating them to a range of 105- to 110-degrees Fahrenheit) and keeping your dough warm throughout the mixing-kneading-rising process to achieve a high, light rise.

Sources: 

Fiber Matters

Dr. Axe

Surprising Ways Fiber is Good for You

Dietary Fiber Reduces Brain Inflammation During Aging


Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterestand Facebook.

Homemade Sauerkraut is Easy and Good for You!

Today I made sauerkraut. Actually, today I finished my sauerkraut and put it in a glass container for the day when I make the greatly anticipated meal of sauerkraut, bratwurst and new potatoes. Sauerkraut is so easy to make and is really good for you! My grandmother Frieda claimed she never got sick a day in her life because she always ate a tablespoon of sauerkraut when she felt like she might be getting sick. Back in those days no one knew about probiotics and how they are so very good for your health.

homemade sauerkraut
Crunchy yummy cabbage kraut. Not the insipid mushy canned kind. Which is good, too! But this is much better! Photo by Renée Benoit

The fermentation process that transforms the salt and cabbage into sauerkraut increases the vitamins, particularly vitamin C and B vitamins, and food enzymes that are already in cabbage.  Homemade sauerkraut is also very rich in beneficial bacteria that help make our immune systems strong and create essential vitamins in our digestive tracts.  At any time of year, but especially winter when fresh food can be hard to come by, homemade fermented foods are really good to have.

The key to making sauerkraut successfully is to have a crock or container that can be completely closed off to the air. I have a large stoneware crock that has a tight-fitting plate to cover the fermenting kraut. I put a big bag of water on top of it so the kraut is completely submerged under its juices. Bacteria in the air, which can cause spoiling, cannot penetrate. So whatever does penetrate is neutralized by the salt.

Homemade Sauerkraut Recipe

You need:

• 1 head of organically grown cabbage about 3-5 pounds
• 1 tablespoon of pickling or unrefined sea salt (Read labels! You'd be surprised what they put in sea salt these days!)
• 1 teaspoon of caraway seed (optional)

Instructions

1. Core and shred your cabbage. I used a food processor with the shredding blade.

2. Wash your hands thoroughly. Toss the cabbage and the caraway seed (if you're using it) and salt together in a large mixing bowl and begin to squeeze the cabbage and salt together with your hands, kneading it thoroughly.

3. When the cabbage starts to releases juice, transfer it to your crock. Some people feel better investing in a fermenter. It's up to you. One thing I keep doing during the process is wash my hands. If I go off and do something, when I come back, I wash my hands. We're taking precautions to prevent naughty, inappropriate bacteria getting in with the kraut.

4. Pack the salted cabbage into the crock or fermenter as tightly as you can, eliminating air bubbles. I use a clean wooden mallet or pestle and mash, mash, mash until the juices come up enough to cover the kraut. Sometimes my cabbage doesn't produce a lot of liquid. It just has to cover the shredded cabbage so don't worry. If you don't get enough liquid to cover, mash more. You might have to mash a lot for a few minutes. Put on some mashing music to help make the job more fun! I'd also say make sure that your cabbage has been shredded pretty fine. It doesn't have to be shredded into a pulp but it has to be cut up quite small. Otherwise just mash and mash some more. Keep those hands clean!

5. Then I put my clean plate that fits into the crock—so I almost can't get it out—on top of the shredded cabbage mixture. After that I take a new clean zip lock bag filled half full with water sealed shut and put it on top of the plate to hold the plate down. Juices may leak over the edge but that's OK. The bag will seal it from the air.

6. Cover the crock with cheese cloth or a light cloth, secure it with a rubber band and allow it to sit at room temperature, undisturbed, for at least 1 week. You can try some after a few days to see if it is done to your liking. If it's too salty you can rinse it in cold filtered water when it's done. This is good for people who may have high blood pressure. Then eat it right away or put it in the fridge or other cold storage. It should keep for at least 6 months and up to 1 year—but it won't because you'll have eaten it all way before that!

If scum appears on the brine of your homemade sauerkraut, just spoon it off. You won't be able to remove it all but spoon off what you can and don't worry about. The real key to preparing homemade sauerkraut, and any fermented food, is that the liquid covers the cabbage.

I love this project because I get healthy probiotics for a fraction of the cost of store-bought!

5 Millennial Farmers to Watch

Small farmers are everywhere — especially millennial farmers. As the farming population ages, young farmers are becoming more and more important to the way our food is produced. Customers are starting to demand answers about where their food was grown, how it was grown, and even who grew it.

While urban agriculture is certainly popular with millennials, many young people are choosing to leave cities behind and pursue rural farming life. Wherever they choose to farm, young are definitely making a big impact on the future of organic farming and food security. Let’s take a look at five millennial farmers and organizations to keep an eye on:

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Photo by Pexels

1. Fleet Farmers | Orlando, FL

Since its inception in 2014, Fleet Farming has taken the world of urban farming by storm. These young farmers take over suburban lawns and transform them into food-producing green gardens filled with lettuce and other leafy greens.

Fleet Farming works to increase access to local food which in turns helps bring together a healthier population of people with strong connections between them. By making healthy food accessible and extremely visible in residential areas, Fleet Farmers are, in turn, fighting the obesity epidemic too.

According to Bradley University,“the widespread availability of convenience and fast foods, typically high in saturated fat, calories, salt and sugar is likely a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.”

When healthy food is more affordable and easier to get (thanks to organizations like Fleet Farming), it’s easier for people to choose healthy options over the sugary, processed fast food that has turned America into a nation of unhealthy people.

2. Rand Rasheed | One Leaf Farm | Snohomish, WA

Rand Rasheed started One Leaf Farm in 2011 and has been growing vegetables on 8 acres ever since — without a trace of synthetic chemicals, of course.

Rasheed sells the farm’s produce to local restaurants and to customers at a farmers market in Seattle. Utilizing natural processes like composting, crop rotation, grazing, and cover cropping, Rasheed is a true purveyor of soil fertility and health and keeps that philosophy at the core of her farming endeavors.

If all farmers had a mindset like Rasheed’s and highlighted the importance of soil health in relation to human health, the state of farming would be in a much different, and arguably better, place today.

3. Annie Novak | Eagle Street Rooftop Farm | Brooklyn, NY

Annie Novak, founder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, has made a strong presence for herself in the world of urban agriculture. Founded in 2009, Novak’s Rooftop Farm grows organic vegetables on 6,000 square feet of rooftop space three stories up from ground level in Brooklyn, NY. It’s not exactly your typical field full of food.

Novak doesn’t stop at just farming. She also published a book called “The Rooftop Growing Guide: How to Transform Your Roof into a Vegetable Garden or Farm” and even started a nonprofit food education program called Growing Chefs.

As more and more land gets developed, it takes millennial farmers like Novak to think of innovative solutions to the problem of how and where we’re going to grow food to feed an ever-increasing population of people at the global dinner table.

4. Helena & Matthew Sylvester | Happy Acre Farm | Sunol, CA

First-generation farmers Helena and Matthew Sylvester grow veggies on 2.5 acres at Happy Acre Farm in Sunol, CA, selling their organic food through CSA shares and to local restaurant and farmers market customers.

The Sylvesters are committed to sustainable farming practices and are working to create habitats for beneficial insects and farm creatures to work in harmony with the plants they grow.

Farming practices like the ones used by Helena and Matthew are an essential part of keeping our food abundant, healthy, and diverse.

5. Taylor Hutchinson & Jake Mendell | Footprint Farm | Starksboro, VT

Taylor Hutchinson and Jake Mendell started Footprint Farm in 2013 on 30 acres of family land, which helped them cross the hurdle many young farmers face: access to affordable land on which to farm.

The two millennial farmers are certified organic growers of vegetables, flowers, eggs, and sometimes pork. Hutchinson and Mendell are active parts of the National Young Farmers Coalition, which works to help young farmers achieve success. They also spend time participating in a mentorship program at a local elementary school to educate the next generation of food growers.

Farmers are busy people often at the mercy of an extreme set of variables out of their control. The fact that Hutchinson and Mendell take time to give back to their community really sets them apart.

Since millennials are more mindful of healthy eating, it’s no mystery why so many are involved in farming, whether on the down-and-dirty growing side, the marketing side, or involved in something like the farm-to-table dining scene, community gardens, or farmers market management.

These millennial farmers and farm organizations are working hard to change the face of farming and food security in America. Our plates depend on them.

Who did we miss? Who are your favorite inspiring millennial farmers?

Whole Grain Bread: It’s Worth the Effort!

Anyone can produce beautiful 100 percent whole grain bread by using the proper dough-making method that includes warming recipe liquids to a specific temperature range: 105- to 110-degrees (Fahrenheit). This step, as well as properly kneading and managing the temperature of your dough throughout the kneading and rising process, gives both yeast and whole grain gluten the boost needed to produce a high rise that not only looks fabulous, it tastes fantastic!

But why bother with whole grains? Here are some basic characteristics of whole grains to help answer that question.

homemade whole wheat bread
Photo by Loretta Sorensen

Whole grain kernels are made up of bran (outer kernel layer), a germ (embryo with potential to sprout a new plant) and the endosperm (the germ’s food supply).

When whole grain, such as wheat, is refined to produce flour – in this case white flour – the bran and germ are removed from the wheat kernel. As a result, some 25 percent of the kernel’s protein is lost as well as about 17 key nutrients found in the bran and the germ.

What are the nutrients that are lost? Protein, vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), fiber, potassium, iron and folate.

In refined wheat flour, a portion of each of those nutrients are added back, but not in their original amounts or proportions. Enriched wheat flour includes the addition of some of the nutrients, but not all of them.

In purchasing commercial breads, wheat flour (refined) and enriched flour are often the main ingredients, indicating that much of the nutrients of the whole grain are either missing or diminished. If the bread was made with 100 percent whole grain, the first ingredient will be “whole-wheat flour” or “100% whole wheat flour.” (Webmd.com)

Fiber is another benefit whole grains provide. Just one slice of whole grain/multi-grain bread will provide 3 g of dietary fiber. The American Heart Association says total daily dietary fiber intake for adults should be between 25 and 30 grams.

homemade bread on table
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

The goal of refining grains is to extend their shelf life since the oils found primarily in the germ of the grain can become rancid over time. Refined grains are also finer, producing an airy loaf.

However, with today’s modern refrigeration options and widespread access to fresh grains, rancidity is easily overcome if whole grain flours are used in break baking. Storing flours in either the freezer or refrigerator greatly extends the life and quality of the grain.

If traditional bread making methods have left you with a heavy, dense, undesirable loaf of bread, you can easily combine the effectiveness of a bread machine and precision of a digital thermometer. Both these items will help manage the temperature range that supports vigorous yeast activity and complete a thorough kneading to boost gluten action in your dough.

With access to a wide variety of healthy grains – organic and sprouted – and equipment to grind flour, mix dough and bake our home-made breads, we can enjoy fresh, whole grain bread every day!

Grain facts courtesy Oldways Whole Grains Council


Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Facebook.

Cooking at Home – Mindfully!

Mindfulness offers an inside-out approach: Usually we eat based on other people, the time of the day, the weather, and other factors. Most of us don’t eat when we feel hungry or maybe we don’t even let our body feel what hunger is. For example, you might have had your breakfast at 10am and your friend called out for having lunch. Before the food digests, you will go for a buffet lunch.

In order to cultivate mindfulness, you need to practice the following:

  • Cultivate a healthy relationship with food
  • Choose healthy foods, mindfully
  • Feel good in your body, mind, and spirit

Above all these factors: Cook at home!

Mindful cooking
Image by Arya Krishna

How to Cook Mindfully?

Once you have decided to cook at home, remember to do that with all your heart. Cooking at home is the best way to get food in its purest, freshest form. Home cooked food can make you healthier, happier and more connected.

  • Choose seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. They will stack your plate with essential nutrients and bold flavors.
  • Avoid foods that contain preservatives and artificial sweeteners, coloring, and flavorings. They just fill your body with calories and chemicals
  • Do you know what USDA’s My Plate suggest? Fill your plate half with veggies, 1/4 with grains, and another 1/4 with ,eatm
  • Try to choose organic foods and, thus, limit the amount of pesticides in the body. Wash the vegetables and fruits with a mixture of baking soda+ lemon juice + warm water
  • Choose snacks mindfully. Snack and treat is different. For snacking include nuts, pumpkin seeds, whole fruits, hard-boiled egg, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.
  • The wonderful part about mindful eating is that it can benefit anyone and everyone. One of the main reasons that people turn towards pursuing a healthier lifestyle is because they want to feel better inside out. In order to make that special connection with food, it is better to cook yourself and enjoy healthy foods.
  • Include spices in cooking. The typical attraction towards food is generated by olfaction, rather than gustation. The spices contribute much towards the olfactory aspect of food, especially in the Indian context. Besides rendering the food tasty, these aid in digestion due to the properties such as Dipana (carminative), Rochana (appetizers) and Hrdya (beneficial to heart).

These correspond to substances like coriander, garlic, ginger, pepper, curry leaf, onion, chilies, lemon, cumin, cinnamon, asafetida, fenugreek, mustard etc. used in modern cooking.

  • Cooking doesn’t need to be a solo affair. Invite your partner, kids, or friends into the kitchen to cut down on the time and energy required to make a meal and to make it fun. Cooking together solidifies your relationship at home.

Creating a Perfect Home-Cooked Meal

Rice (Matta variety)

Matta rice or Kerala red rice (Rosematta rice) is one of the healthiest kind of rice. Other than its unique taste, the red pericarp of this rice variety has a high content of nutrients. It is a great source of Magnesium which is a vital component of staying healthy. It meets your daily fiber requirement and keeps your digestive system run smoothly. The high fiber content also enhances its anti-diabetic properties, by slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates.

Here for a healthy home-cooked meal I have chosen Matta rice (1/4 plate).

Cooking matta rice in a saucepan will take nearly 45 minutes to 1 hour. The rice to water ratio is 1:5. Once the rice is cooked, excess water is drained using a colander. I have used a pressure cooker to cook the rice. For 1 cup of rice add at least 4 cups of water. Cook for 3-4 whistles and when pressure goes off, drain on a colander.

You can replace Matta rice with your favorite whole grain. Make sure you use 1/4 plate of whole grain.

Snake Gourd Stir Fry with Coconut

Snake gourd possesses meaningful amounts of carbohydrates, protein and soluble fiber. It has Vitamins A, B and C and high content of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and iodine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • Snake gourd – Cut and chopped into small pieces (Try to get locally grown organic snake gourd)
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated coconut
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Salt – to taste

Method of preparation:

Wash and chop off the top and bottom of snake gourd and cut it into small pieces. Heat oil in a small pan and when hot splutter mustard seeds. Add chopped snake gourd, Carrots, turmeric powder, and mix well. Add 1/2 cup water.  Let it cook without lid on low-medium heat for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender. Now, in a blender add scraped coconut, cumin seeds and chili powder. Crush it and add with cooked vegetables. Add salt to taste. Serve warm with rice.

Instead of snake gourd you can use French beans, beets, cabbage, or your choice of vegetable. Make sure you add the right amount of water to cook the vegetable.

Ladies Finger (Okra) Stir Fry

According to the University of Illinois Extension, a half-cup serving of sliced, cooked okra without any additions has 25 calories, 2 g dietary fiber, about 6 g carbohydrates, 1.5 g protein and healthy amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Here is a quick and simple recipe of goodness to fill your plate.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c washed and cut okra
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder

Method of preparation

In a sauce pan, add one tsp. coconut oil. When hot, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When mustard seed splutters add the cut okra. Sauté okra well and cover and cook in medium flame for 2-3 minutes. Now add the required amount of salt and pepper powder. Cook for 5 more minutes without lid. Serve with warm rice.

Fish Gravy

Here I have used tuna fish (fresh and organic) due to its impressive nutritional benefits. Tuna fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins. Proteins and minerals. Of course, it is delicious as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c shallots, chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/2 c tuna fish, cleaned and chopped to small pieces
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tomato, sliced

Method of preparation

Heat oil in a sauce pan. When oil is hot, add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and fenugreek. When mustard seeds splutter add in the shallots. Sauté well. When the color turns light brown to golden add ginger garlic paste, turmeric, and sliced tomatoes. Mix well. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. When tomato is fully mashed and cooked add chili powder and mix well. Now, add ½ cup of warm water and tuna fish. Add tamarind paste and cook until tuna fish is well cooked. Serve warm with rice.

Variations: This is a spicy dish. You can alter the quantity of chili powder or even add 1/4  cup of coconut milk in the end to reduce spiciness. If you are vegan replace tuna fish with cooked black eyes peas and follow all other steps.

The Importance of Home-Cooked Food

Studies have found that eating out led to at least a 50 percent increase in calories consumed, sodium and total fat intake. This can lead to overweight and other health problems. Research has shown that children who eat home-cooked meals more frequently were less likely to be overweight. Studies found family meals tend to contain more fruits and vegetables and less fried food, soda and trans-fat. 1

People who eat home-cooked meals on a regular basis tend to be happier and healthier and consume less sugar and processed foods, which can result in higher energy levels and better mental health.2

Cooking is one of the most important aspects of eating healthy. Next weekend when you plan for a eat out, make it a grocery shopping and have healthy home cooked meal.


References

  1. Medical Daily - Health Benefits of home cooked meals
  2. Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention?

7 New Year’s Food Resolutions

Did you make new year’s resolutions? What do they entail? Weight loss? Better money management? Improved health? A reduced carbon footprint? The following 7 food resolutions have you covered.

1. Eat real food you cook yourself and avoid fad diets.

If you cook everything from scratch, you can pretty much eat whatever you like (unless you make only cookie dough ice cream and homemade plum wine). With all the ferments I eat, my diet may seem like a fad. Seventy or 80 years ago however, when organic food was simply called food, my diet would have been considered normal. I eat pretty traditional fare—sourdough bread, fermented vegetables, pastured chicken, pastured butter, raw milk (but not exclusively raw) and so on.

2. Cut the processed food.

When I went plastic-free in 2011, I quickly realized that I had stopped eating processed food. By cutting the plastic, I inadvertently cleaned up my diet. My older daughter lost her extra pounds, we started eating better and, although I haven’t done the math, I  do spend less on food than I used to, even though I buy quite expensive ingredients.

3. Shop at the farmer’s market.

The food tastes better and you support your community. Because your local small farmer has recently picked the food, it retains more nutritional value than the produce that travels 1000 miles on a truck (after being picked unripe and gassed), sits in a warehouse and then ships to your supermarket. Yes, farmers’ market produce will generally cost more money than food from a discount grocery store or Walmart. These resolutions are a package deal (i.e., you’ll save money overall). However, when you buy produce in season (that’s all you’ll find at the farmers' market), it does cost less than out-of-season produce.

MEL farmers market haul
Farmers' market produce and two freshly baked loaves of sourdough bread

4. Eat at mealtimes.

By cutting the processed food, I also inadvertently stopped snacking. I don’t have time to make from scratch all the snacks I used to buy at the store (although I do bake sourdough crackers every week or so). When you eat at mealtimes, your cupboards don’t burst with snacks. You snack less. Learn more about how to create your ideal eating schedule.

5. Take all you want, but eat all you take.

According to the NRDC, in the United States, we waste up to 40 percent of the food we grow. That squanders precious resources, such as the water to grow the food, the oil to run the tractors and the labor to plant and harvest the food. When all that wasted food starts to rot in a landfill, it releases methane gas, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide. When I have excess vegetables, I make soup or another vegetable-heavy dish or I ferment them (see #7).

6. Eat ugly fruit and vegetables.

Some of the 40 percent of the food we waste in this country never actually makes it to the store. Why? Because most grocery stores reject ugly produce—kinky carrots, oblong apples, misshapen potatoes. But people have begun to rediscover that produce that doesn’t fit into the supermarket image of ideal beauty tastes just fine—and costs less.

MEL ugly avocados
Ugly organic avocados on sale at the farmers' market

7. Learn to ferment food.

Since I cleaned up my diet in 2011 and started eating more fermented food (I eat at least one fermented food every day), I rarely get sick. Filled with gut-friendly probiotics, fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, etc.) boost your immunity. They aid in digestion. They make nutrients more bioavailable for your body. By fermenting foods myself, I save a ton of money. Click here for more reasons to prepare fermented foods.

MEL purple kraut
Naturally fermented apple-ginger sauerkraut

The last time I made new year’s resolutions, I broke at least one by 10am on January 1st. They were all “don’ts”: don’t do this, cut out that, deprive myself of whatever. These resolutions focus more on gains rather than sacrifices. I don’t feel I have denied myself anything by adopting these habits. In fact, they have enriched my life.

I wish you a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2019.

How Tea Can Improve Your Health and Spirit

Tea has been around for thousands of years and embodies natural healing properties for both the mind and body. Tea has less caffeine than coffee; it is a great way to get your daily intake of fluids and can actually improve your health!

pexels-photo-259955
Photo by Pexels

Tea 101

Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, and depending on how long the leaves are processed, the color will be green, black, or oolong (a greenish-black color). Herbal teas come from other plants and fruits, and are sometimes combined with oils for enhanced flavor.

Green tea is the most highly concentrated with polyphenols, which are packed with health benefits and essentially anti-oxidants. Polyphenols are helpful for inflammation and also to prevent certain types of cancer. Green tea is also great for boosting metabolism and burning fat when you are dieting. It also fights bacteria in your mouth and helps keep your teeth healthy.

Black tea has been processed the longest and has the least amount of caffeine. It is also sometimes mixed with other things to create flavored teas like Earl Gray or Chai. Studies have shown that black tea is helpful in preventing cancer and regenerating cells. Other research shows that tea has a positive effect on improving heart health, lowering the risk of stroke, diabetes and kidney issues along with neurological disorders.

The oolong variety of tea is somewhere in the middle regarding processing time and color. Oolong is carefully tended during oxidation, and the taste varies widely based on the region where it was grown. The health benefits associated with oolong are lowered risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, ovarian cancer and help in reducing cholesterol.

Choose the Right Tea for You

Along with all the fantastic health benefits, tea can also provide a soothing, relaxing solution for stress and anxiety. For people who struggle with a demanding schedule and stressful life, tea can help to not only calm the nerves but also provide a relaxing sense of peace and mindfulness to go with it.

Some herbal teas are infused with flowers and plants. For example, chamomile tea is great for someone with anxiety or difficulty sleeping. Not only is it an antispasmodic, but it is also a natural calming agent. When combined with lavender, a cup of this tea can help to relax your entire nervous system and put you in a state of peaceful bliss. When your mind is at ease, so is your body and spirit.

Ginger tea is excellent for digestion and helps with nausea. If you suffer from a heart condition, green or black tea can help lighten the stress on your heart, improve blood flow, and lower the risk of stroke. If you are chronically ill or have trouble healing, then try some Holy basil or tulsi tea as both are natural immune boosters and include antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Tea for Healing Gout

For those who suffer from gout, tea may be a great option. Not only is tea much better for you than alcohol or sugary beverages, which can exacerbate the problem, but tea can also actually heal the symptoms of gout while getting more water into your body as a bonus.

Along with genetics, some of the causes of gout may be kidney disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. Since many types of tea help to regulate blood pressure, flush out the kidneys and keep them working efficiently while also helping with weight control, tea could potentially cure or prevent gout.

A study of gout sufferers, showed that drinking more than eight glasses of water a day reduced their likelihood of a gout attack by almost 50 percent. Staying well hydrated is a surefire way to keep gout in check and eliminate symptom flare-ups. Add a tea bag to the water you are already drinking, and you help your body in even more ways.

There is nothing quite a soothing as a hot cup of tea after a long day. Whether you drink it to calm your nerves or to improve your health, one thing is for sure; tea is a great choice when choosing what beverage to drink.







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