Lovin' it !!
On Sunday, a beautiful rainy morning, I was out in my raingear and hat with my cowbell to cheer the 2,400 smiling runners in the Napa Valley Marathon. I now know firsthand how important the cheering squad is to those of us slogging along mile after mile of a distance run, and I wanted to show them I cared. I got high-fives, lots of smiles, and even two hugs. That was FUN !!
And now I'm pumped for another run.
It's been a month since I finished Donna's Run -- a half marathon, a mere 13.2 miles -- in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Oh my ! That was indeed one of the funnest weekends I've had in a long time.
The support of the whole town was everywhere in evidence,
In my August 2010 newsletter I talked a bit about the importance of a weekly exercise regimen. Combined with healthy whole plant foods in your diet, you have a prescription for robust good health. You don't need to be training for a marathon to stay healthy, as long as you get in a little workout almost every day -- try starting with a 1,000 pace walk (about half a mile) five days each week. Be consistent. As long as you incorporate healthy food choices and a workout, you'll be able to maintain your body weight.
Thank you to everyone who commented on my newsletter from last month. I had more comments than ever before on the information I passed along from the Oprah "Going Vegan" episode and the recent debacle in the White House with the new Monsanto Round-up-Ready seed stock. Thank you for your input and your encouragement to include more 'food politics' in my newsletter.
Up 'til now, I've been striving to keep myself calm, cool and collected, even when some pretty outrageous topics loom over our lives. By quietly sharing my views, and making the results of my research available, I hope to convince you that a switch to a whole plant food diet is in your best interest (not to mention for the planet and our kids).
Recently, a friend wrote, "Brenda, if you don't share this kind of stuff, who will?" She's right! And so are you. This trend away from human-benefiting, healthy food has got to be stopped. I'll try not to hit you over the head too excitedly (even when I am practically coming out of my skin in disbelief and dismay) to report when I find something interesting. As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts, comments, and opinions. I trust you always to bring issues to the surface that I miss. By sharing, we can be the change we want to see.
You may have noticed that I've stopped talking about "the raw diet". For me, it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle. That's the way we all need to think about the way food (and exercise) shape our day-to-day actions. I learned this the hard way: Health isn't something you pursue for a month, then forget whatever you've learned. Healthy is something you ARE, and staying that way becomes an everyday way of life.
Since our habits -- some good, some undoubtedly bad -- took us a lifetime to form, we need to be patient and forgiving with ourselves as we incorporate new ones. This isn't just our brains, either: research shows that our taste buds take a minimum of three weeks to re-calibrate to a new flavor regime. So give yourself permission to begin slowly and pick up the pace as new habits become easier and easier.
A great way to begin is to take new thoughts and ideas one at a time, and slowly build a foundation on them. With a firm footing established, you can start rebuilding. Here's an example:
Start with Low Hanging Fruit -- things which seem easy to incorporate.
Identify, and then start working your way up, the Continuum.
Sweeteners, and indeed all foods, can be considered to have a place on a different but related continuum called the Glycemic Index, or GI -- something that diabetics know extremely well, but that describes the healthy relationship between eating and digestion. The GI measures the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream, like baked potatoes, watermelon, white bread, most white rices, corn flakes, extruded breakfast cereals, and glucose have a high GI. Carbohydrates that require your digestion to work to release glucose into the bloodstream, like most fruits and vegetables, nuts, brown rice, and fructose have a low GI. Sucrose -- white sugar -- falls in the middle. Several lines of recent scientific evidence have shown that individuals who followed a low-GI diet over many years were at a significantly lower risk for developing both type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease than others.
I often get questions about Xylitol, Stevia, and other products marketed as 'natural sweeteners.' These are derived from leaves, stems, fruits and vegetables, corn husks, grains, and even mushrooms. The sweeteners are extracted, usually with heat and chemical solvents, and are about as far away from raw foods as it's possible to get. (See my February 2011 newsletter for a discussion about the use of 'natural' on labels.) For some folks with special dietary needs, these products are gifts. Personally, I'm not convinced that these products are safe. Honestly, when it comes to eating something with a name that begins with the letter "X" I like to apply Michael Pollan's principle: Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
Here's an example: Let's talk about sweeteners. We can save the discussion of Enlightened Label Reading and subversive added sugars in packaged foods for another newsletter. Right now, let's consider our simple, everyday sweetener choices. These are about as low-hanging as I can imagine.
Take sugar: The white refined stuff we all grew up with is on the "most processed" side of the sweetness continuum, only a little less artificial than the chemical sweeteners like cyclamates and saccharin, which are suspected carcinogens ... Please tell me you are no longer using the stuff, right?
Just a little way along the sweetener continuum, we find evaporated cane, palm and coconut sugars -- all pretty close to white refined sugar, with all the good "brown stuff", the molasses, removed. Next up, we have some liquid sweeteners -- agave (watch out for conflicting and deceptive claims here; not all agave syrup is created equal -- be sure to use a trusted brand) and yacon syrup. Next there are the nearly natural sweeteners, maple syrup and honey. Finally, at the natural end of the spectrum, we find the whole plant food sweeteners: dates, raisins, and other dried fruits.
Now let's apply the "low hanging fruit" idea to the sweetness continuum. Can you replace a sweetener with another that's less processed and lower on the Glycemic Index (see the sidebar), and therefore healthier? One of our most fundamental principles is that less processed foods are better for us.
So here's my question: where do you use sweeteners most? Morning tea or coffee? Baked goods? Desserts? Have you tried using less refined cane sugars? Take a deep breath, and move on up to maple syrup or honey. Yes, it changes the taste, and that can rub harshly against old habit. Remember, we're working to change habits gradually, patiently. Stop when you feel a little uncomfortable, and let your new choice settle into your routine. If one sweetener doesn't work, try another, but always keep moving toward healthier choices.
Substituting a syrup for a powder can also change the texture. In baking, sugar is considered among the liquid ingredients, but a little experimentation is always in order.
You'll notice that my green smoothie recipes suggest using dates or ripe fruits (bananas) for sweetness. Many fruits can be deliciously sweet, especially if you get them fresh and at the height of ripeness. Over time, as you use fruits to sweeten your green smoothie, you'll notice they begin to taste too sweet. That's your taste buds recalibrating, and signalling that it's time to cut back on the sweetening fruits. You're moving right along to a more balanced whole plant food diet, fully charged with more greens -- my favorite colors!
As we work our way up the continuum, taking the 'low hanging fruit' and making healthier choices one small step at a time, we can graduate from sweeteners to milk and dairy products. We can move up the continuum from pasteurized whole milk to lower fat milks, goat milk, then the boxed plant based "milks" like almond, rice, hemp or soy -- be careful of GMOs! --
Many of us know that the all-at-once reformation plan, the extreme diet, and any plan that makes too many changes at once, is almost impossible to sustain. Chances are we won't be able to stick to it, and when go back to our former lifestyle, whatever we were trying to change -- weight, cholesterol, stress -- will come roaring back.
Let's stop the madness. Healthy lifestyle changes are imperative. Each of us is 'our own best doctor.' Prescribe those necessary changes one mouthful at time ...and stick to the prescription!
The marketing, medical and conventional farming and agricultural businesses don't want you to succeed. We need to get past their hype, get ourselves Organic and buying locally produced, minimally processed foods. Take a chance with a new organic vegetable you've never seen before. Develop a friendship with the produce grocer in your local store and ask questions. Buy a tasty looking new ingredient and look it up on the web -- I'm always surprised by how many good ideas are out there free for the taking. Attend a cooking class or healthy lifestyle lecture close to home. Take what you like, ignore what you know you can't make work, thank the 'talking head' for sharing, and go home and think about what you've heard.
Try one thing new and different each day - maybe it's a smoothie, making your own nut or seed milk. Try a homemade salad dressing instead of a store-bought bottled one. Just grab a piece of fruit in the afternoon for that snack when your blood sugar begins to drop.
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UPCOMING EVENTS and CLASSES with BRENDA
My favorite color, green, is in full force this month with all the retail hoopla over St. Patrick's Day. In honor of the Saint and a little wink and nod to Popeye I'd like to share my newest lower fat version of Spinach Soup. A bit of cucumber has been added to brighten it up, zucchini to add some creaminess and I've replaced the avocado or cashews traditionally called for in a creamy raw soup with almond milk.
With a wealth of nutrients and numerous health benefits the spinach and cucumber combine with the lemon, apple and zucchini for a flavorful combination high in dietary fiber, trace minerals, iron, calcium, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, protein and much more. Serve the soup cold or warm with a Kale Salad and GO GREEN!
Here's a great YouTube clip ... no introduction needed. Just humor me and watch it. It's so well done and to the point, I hope it gets you thinking about choices you can make, right here right now. Then share it with your friends and family. With our help, vegan can go viral in a grass roots movement to 'Take Back our Plate'.
You know those ads that say "Ask your doctor about ..." and then name some obscenely profitable new drug? Here's a take-off that I enjoyed: "Ask your Doctor about MEAT"
IN THE NEWS
Big professional news for me: I've just completed certification in Plant Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. You may remember him from the January newsletter as the author of The China Study.
As I worked my way toward this important certification, I learned so much about the scientific basis and efficacy of plant based nutrition and sharing it with others. The foundation's website is packed with useful articles and important information. I encourage you to take some time to peruse what they have to offer.
Dr. Campbell's recently published an article in the San Francisco Chronicle outlining his three point agenda for President Obama and our on-going health care story.
More news from the White House, well the former White House: last year you may have noticed that President Clinton lost quite a bit of weight -- 24 pounds. He looks great, having embraced the whole plant food based diet. In a CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer he discusses his diet, personal research and his discovery that 82% of the people who've changed to this way of eating have begun to heal themselves. He's giving it a try and credits the work of Dr. T Colin Campbell among others with his new healthy choices.
Although President Clinton talks about adding a protein powder to his morning Almond Milk, most people find they fulfill their daily protein quota on a plant based diet as long as they consume enough variety and enough calories.
One interview, one movie, one lecture, one book , one newsletter at a time, sharing these basic ideas promoting health, we can all understand and access a quality of life far exceeding the current paradigm.
Thank you for reading. Remember to send me your thoughts, questions and comments. Feel free to share this with your friends and family.
Get out there, shake your booty, and EAT YOUR VEGGIES ! It's SPRING!
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updated 17 December 2020