The Politics of Food..What is at Risk?

In this very politically charged world we are living in it is hard for me, as a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Educator/Counselor to ignore the politics of food. The access to good food is critical for all people in reaching their optimal health and well-being. Without good food we know that we are less likely to be successful in what we endeavor to do in life.

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I am very fortunate in that I have access to good food, grown often very close to where I live. Food that is grown organically or with great care to avoid a multitude of pesticides. I also have jobs that I love at Vermont School for Girls and Southern Vermont College. I work with thoughtful people who seem to enjoy and support the work I do. And I have my private practice as a Holistic Health and Nutrition Educator/Counselor which every day teaches me something new. Enjoying my work adds to my overall health as much as the quality and choices of food do. I spend a great deal of time working and so made a committment to myself to only do what I consider to be good work. I am aware that not all people have these same blessings and so I remain active in the political arena making an effort to increase access to good food for everyone.

Recently, I had the great privilege of being one of the workshop presenters at the Northeast Organic Farmers Association’s (NOFA) Winter Conference in Burlington, VT. http://nofavt.org/events/35th-annual-winter-conference. While there I offered a workshop on the positive impact food has on not only our physical health but also mental health. I was as you might guess singing to the choir. Talking with the people who attended my workshop feed my desire to continue to seek ways to increase access to goof food for more people. The keynote speakers are both people I respect and I admit I’m a big fan of both due to the amazingly transformative work they have and continue to do in the area of accessibility to real food grown in a sustainable manner.

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The first keynote was Dr, Fernando Funes Monzote, who is a founding member of the Cuban Organic Farmers Association and the developer of the Agroecolocial Project outside of Havana, http://nofavt.org/events/winter-conference/keynote-speakers. I encourage you to read about he and his families work to provide better access to food in Cuba on small parcels of land. I was struck by the intelligent approach he took to reducing the food crisis Cuba experiences as a small island country. I thought if he could create such a successful farm under such challenging conditions then we here in America could learn from his example and figure out how to better feed our nation.

The second speaker Dr. Vandana Shiva, who is truly one of my heroes in the world of food accessibility and for her work to protect biodiversity and water rights. She was so approachable meeting with vendors and farmers who gathered for the conference as if she had known us forever. I am such a fan that I found myself following her around the conference for every minute I had to listen to her wisdom and experience her kindness. Here is a Bill Moyers film to introduce her to those of you who are not familiar with her and the work she does: https://youtu.be/fG17oEsQiEw. She has written widely some of the most powerful books include Monocultures of the Mind , Water Wars and her most recent book Making Peace with the Earth. These books will change the way you think about food and water and the very health of this beautiful planet we live on. I truly believe that if we can create food sources that are closer to people and grown with the care connected to organic and sustainable farms we can not only feed more people but we can create a culture that allows peace. And we can do it in a way that makes food not only more accessible but also more nutrient dense improving health of planet and it’s people.

peace

As for the risks if we continue on the model of large-scale industrial style agribusiness, it has become evident that we will continue to see a rise in health conditions in our country related to the food we eat and the chemicals that are used in the growning process. We will continue to see the decline in the health of this planet which by the way can do without our presence. It is in our best interest to learn about, teach, explore and act to protect the health of our neighbors and this Earth by developing better growing practices such as were presented at the NOFA Conference. Make it your job to get informed and buy or grow your food locally.

Eat Well, Be Well, Live Well

Blessings,

tomatoes

Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. HNC

Certified Holistic Health Coach @ Kira’s Kitchen

Blog: http://kirasgoodeatskitchen.com

Phone: 413-464-1462

 

 

Food & Mood

People living in my corner of the world have been blasted with some of the coldest weather and heaviest snow in more than 50 years. Cabin fever has set in as the snow and cold increases and the amount of sun decreases. For many, this has also brought on Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The good news is that spring is coming and there is an end in sight for all of us. In the meantime there are some foods and nutrients that may help relieve the grayness of a harsh winter.

sad

http://www.layoutsparks.com/pictures/sad-8

Research supports the finding that lack of sunlight and vitamin D have been linked to the onset of SAD. While our body is able to make vitamin D when we are exposed to regular sunlight, it is limited even then by the sunscreen we apply to prevent overexposure to sun. Since we are lacking safe access to sunshine, many of us are vitamin D deficient. It is now recommended that we take a vitamin D supplement to assure we are getting enough. Vitamin D is considered one of the most important vitamins for preventing and reducing symptoms related to depression. There are several food sources of this important vitamin we can consider to include in our diet.

maitake

http://www.ehow.com/how_5154650_grow-maitake.html

Foods rich in vitamin D include: many types of mushrooms such as Maitake 131% DV, Portabello 64% DV, Chanterelle 19% DV, Morel 23% Dv, and Oyster 4% DV. Other good food sources of vitamin D include Salmon, eggs, tofu and other soy products, almond milk, dairy, cod liver oil, beef liver, fortified cereals and orange juice. The RDA for Vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) for people age 15-60.

Other “mood” boosting vitamins and minerals that may help chase away the winter blues include Calcium, Chromium, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin B6, B12, Zinc and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Calcium is important in maintaining healthy bones and blood vessels. Some studies show that low levels of calcium in women (could not find similar studies for men) may increase symptoms related to PMS and depression. The RDA for calcium is 1000mg per adult. Good food sources for calcium include: Broccoli, collard greens, kale, edamame, bok choy, figs, oranges, sardines, salmon, white beans, tofu, dairy, almonds and okra.

calcium 

http://fightosteoporosis.ca/calcium-and-vitramin-d-for-bones

Chromium is a trace mineral needed to help the body metabolize food and regulate insulin. Chromium also plays an important role in increasing the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and melatonin in the brain which are all critical to regulating mood and emotions. The RDA is 25 mcg for women and 35 mcg for men. Food sources include: Broccoli, grapes, whole wheat products, potatoes and turkey.

Folate, or B9 supports the health and creation of cells in the body and regulates serotonin. Serotonin is the brain’s messenger, passing messages between nerve cells and assisting the brain in regulating mood among other things. Folate and B12 are often paired to treat depression. The recommended daily amount is 400 mcg (micrograms) per adult. Foods rich in Folate include: leafy greens, avocado, black eyed peas, brussel sprouts and asparagus.

folate

http://nutrition4health-iliana.blogspot.com/

Iron transports oxygen through the bloodstream, supports muscle health and energy. Low levels of iron leave us feeling tired and depressed. Iron deficiencies are more common in women. RDA 18 mg for women and 8 mg for men. Foods rich in Iron include: Soybeans, lentils, turkey (dark meat) beef or pork liver, clams, mussels, oysters, nuts, leafy greens and fresh ginger.

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Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps to break down glucose and transform it into energy. Make sure to take in enough magnesium daily. The RDA is 300mg women 350 mg men – grab a handful of edamame, cashews, almonds or hazelnuts for snacks; add more whole grains such as millet, quinoa and brown rice and eat fish (halibut in particular).

B6 promotes the health of our neurotransmitters. A deficiency of B6 can lead to a weakened immune system, depression, confusion and short term anemia. B6 is known to relieve mood related symptoms of PMS. RDA is 1.3 mg daily for adults. Foods containing healthy amounts of B6 include: Chickpeas, tuna, Atlantic salmon, chicken or turkey (white meat), sunflower seeds, pistachios, bananas, lean pork, dried prunes, avocado, spinach and lean beef.

Omega-3 fatty acid is not naturally produced by the body but it is critical to mood health. Deficiencies in omega-3 can contribute to mood swings, fatigue, depression or decline in memory. Salmon, sardines, tuna and rainbow trout contain omega-3s. Chia seeds are also a good source. Vegetarians relying on plant based sources may consider supplements as plant and animal omega-3 differ.

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B12 is critical to good brain health. Our mood depends largely on the signals from our brain making B12 one of the most important nutrients. B12 synthesizes a group of nutrients that are critical for neurological function. Low levels of B12 can contribute to increased fatigue, depression, lack of concentration, mania and paranoia. RDA for B12 is 2.4 mcg. (micrograms)B12 is found naturally in animal proteins such as eggs, beef, fatty fish and pork. It is also added to enriched cereals and breads. Taking a supplement is wise as the body can store what it does not use for a later time.

Zinc protects our digestive system as well as promoting a healthy immune system. Research has shown that healthy levels of zinc in the body reduce the risk of depression. Zinc has been known to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants in some studies. RDA is 11mg men and 8 mg women. Foods rich in zinc include: pumpkin seeds, cashews, Swiss cheese, crab and pork loin.

Tea – In a study conducted by The Journal of Nutrition researchers linked theanine, an amino acid found in most teas, increased alertness and reduced depression. They believe that the theanine acts with caffeine to boost attention and focus and suggest drinking 4-6 cups daily as a trial.

It is really fascinating to learn the many sources and combinations of good food we can include in our diets to reduce our risk for depression and improve our overall health. It takes thought and planning to assure we are eating well but it is truly worth doing!

Here is a favorite recipe that includes many of the foods listed in the blog post.

Vegetarian Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

 Quinoa:

  • ½ cup red quinoa
  • 1 cup hot vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary

Mushrooms:

  • 8 portabella mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup white beans, rinsed and soaked 6 hours
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 4 ounces feta cheese

Place while beans in saucepan with ½ strip kombu and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 45 minutes until beans are soft. Check often to make sure the water has not cooked out.

Combine quinoa, broth and rosemary in saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 5 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, preheat oven 375. Prepare mushrooms by removing stems and rubbing with olive oil. Place cap side up on baking tray covered with parchment paper and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast mushrooms for 5 minutes, then flip them over.

Place cooked white beans in bowl and mash with potato masher of fork. Add garlic, lemon juice, pinch sea salt and pepper. Cut spinach into strips and add to bean mixture along with the feta. Stir filling until well blended.

Divide the quinoa mixture among the caps. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes until the filling is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Eat Well and Be Well

Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. @ Kira’s Kitchen

Board Certified Holistic Health & Nutrition Coach

blog: http://kirasgoodeatskitchen.com

website: http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

 

Spice Up Your Life

It’s no secret that spices have wonderful flavor, adding much to our culinary palette. But did you know that spices have more to offer than taste, in fact in some cultures spices are highly valued for their medicinal benefits. With cold and flu season approaching it seems like a good time to explore spices for flavor and for health.

spices-market

Indian, Chinese and many Indigenous people use herbs and spices for various health needs. Turmeric (Curcuma Langa) for instance, is touted as a super food with multiple health benefits. A member of the ginger family, it is native to Asia and used in Pakistani and Indian recipes as a staple spice. Along with its delightful taste, turmeric is one of the highest sources for beta-carotene due to its curcumin content. Its also noted with containing strong antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory qualities and is known to strengthen the nervous system. There is a great deal of interest among cancer researchers as to turmeric’s ability to reduce cancer cells. This article is worth reading http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/herb/turmeric. As with any health aid it is wise to note potential adverse reactions related to particular conditions. Turmeric can be taken as a tea, added to recipes or in capsule/tincture or oil form.

tumeric bulb

http://www.nanotech-now.com/news.cgi?story_id=49363;  http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03001/Three-Reasons-to-Eat-Turmeric.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric

Cinnamon is a spice most of us are familiar with and use on a regular basis. There are actually two types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon commonly used in the western world and cassis cinnamon from Southern China. Some studies have had positive outcomes showing cassis cinnamon reduces blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

cinnamon_fe

http://www.scottsdalefitnessandhealth.com/natural-remedies-for-blood-sugar-control.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=68; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20924865http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266069.php

Cumin originated in Egypt and is a spice not as widely known in western cooking as cinnamon, though it is widely used in Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian cooking. Cumin’s health benefits are similar to cinnamon in reducing blood sugar and new research has it showing some promise as an anti-carcinogenic spice. It can be found in seed or ground spice form most often in cooking and in oils, tinctures and elixirs for medicinal purposes.

cumin-seed

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=91; http://www.livestrong.com/article/415653-ground-cumin-health-benefits/

Many of us have strong associations to the holidays when we smell cloves. Its strong fragrance reminds us of favorite baked goods, mulled cider or a baked ham. Some of us have clove extract to address tooth pain. Cloves are used in ground form most often in cooking/baking but are also used whole in drinks or to season meats.

oranges-cloves

I like to make orange, clove pomanders like these ones to hang on my Christmas tree.

Clove is most commonly used medicinally as an expectorant and so it is often found in teas and oils. It comes in gum form to address bad breath and to aid digestion. Cloves contain eugenol, a component that has been studied for its anti-inflammatory qualities as well as its ability to remove toxins from the body. Clove oil is used widely for its antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antiseptic and aphrodisiac properties. Similar to cinnamon and cumin, clove also contains a good amount of nutrients such as iron, magnesium and calcium.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/251.html; http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=69

Cayenne pepper is another spice used widely in spicy cooking and can be found in in dishes from all over the world. Chili originated in Central and South America, but the cayenne pepper is named for the city of Cayenne, in French Guiana. Along with its spicy addition to a favorite dish it has many health benefits including inhibiting cancer cell growth, increasing blood flow, anti-inflammatory properties and is used in some cases for weight reduction.

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http://www.ecorazzi.com/2013/07/22/the-incredible-health-benefits-of-cayenne-pepper/;http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267248.php; http://one-vibration.com/group/selfhealth/forum/topics/cayenne-pepper-the-wonder-drug#.VF00zjYo4dU

Finally, ginger. I use fresh ginger daily in recipes and in tea. It is a wonderful digestive aid and adds spice to an array of dishes. It also is known as an anti-inflammatory food as a result of a compound (gingerols) which acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Ginger is the object of a good deal of research related to cancer as well. Research in several cancer studies have shown the potential that ginger actually inhibits the growth of cancer cells.

ginger

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=72; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19833188

Here’s a pretty effective elixir to boost immune function and help with congestion due to a cold: From Kim Erikson

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, juiced or minced
1/2 lemon juiced
1 Tbs fresh ginger juice or finely grated ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
mix all ingredients and take at once as a shot
Happy Health!
Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. @ Kira’s Kitchen
Board Certified Holistic Health Coach