Food And Mood – The Gut Brain Connection Expanded

There is a lot of noise out there about the gut-brain connection as it relates to our health. We are learning so much more about how a healthy gut can greatly influence our health. Research in the fields of neuropharmacology & neuroscience are revealing just how important it is for us to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria in order to achieve homeostasis within our body (and our gut) thus experiencing optimal health. This bacteria is known as our microbiome. The human microbiome is the totality of microorganisms and their collective genetic material present in or around the human body.

Michael Spector, an American journalist and staff writer for New Yorker magazine wrote the following about the human microbiome. “We are inhabited by as many as ten thousand bacterial species, these cells outnumber those which we consider our own by ten to one, and weigh, all told, about three pounds-the same as our brain. Together, they are referred to as our microbiome-and they play such a crucial role in our lives that scientists have begun to reconsider what it means to be human.”

Michael Specter

Elaine Hsiao a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry & biology at Cal Tech spoke on Ted Talks in 2013 about the promise of micro based therapies and the potential to reduce more invasive types of therapy for various illness. She explained that our bodies contain 10 times more microbial cells than our own eukaryotic cells. These microbes which include bacteria as well as viruses and protozoa are part of the micro flora that make up our commensal microbiome. There are 100 trillion commensal microbes in our intestines which effect our behavior inclusive of anxiety, learning & memory, appetite and satiety. I guess it can get a little crowed in our gut…it may look something like this:

100 trillion

So how do these microbes in our gut contribute to brain health & help to control disease? According to Hsiao it occurs in several ways. The first is through the Vagus Nerve which contacts the gut lining and extends up to the brain stem. In this case the bacterium – Lacto Bacillus Rhamnosus effects depressive behavior in studies on mice and demonstrated that the mice treated with this bacterium exhibited less depressive symptoms.

The second way these microbes contribute to health is through activation of the immune system. Hsiao explains that 80% of our immune cells live in our gut. Immune abnormalities contribute to several neurological disorders. In this case the bacterium Bacteroides Fragillis was used to treat mice with the outcome being that these mice were more resistant to developing multiple sclerosis. This was also dependent upon a special subset of regulatory T-cells that express the marker td-25.

Another way in which microbes contribute to health is through the activation of the gut endocrine system. Gut endocrine cells are primary producers of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters. Gut microbes can also produce metabolites which impact brain function and have been shown to reduce communication deficits such as are present with autism in studies on mice.

In addition to understanding how the health of our gut influences our overall health, there are certain vitamins and minerals that when present in healthy amounts in our body produce improved mood. We can improve our gut flora depending on the foods we eat. This chart can help explain the spectrum of foods from acid to alkaline. A diet that is too acidic which is the case in many American homes increases our risk of becoming ill.

Acid-Alkaline-Chart

Adding in the daily amount of the following vitamins can also reduce your risk for symptoms related to depression.

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.

Good food sources for calcium include: Broccoli, collard greens, kale, edamame, bok choy, figs, oranges, sardines, salmon, white beans, tofu, dairy, almonds and okra.

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.

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: Spinach, avocado, black eyed peas, Brussel sprouts and asparagus.

Iron transports oxygen through the bloodstream, supports muscle health and general energy. Low levels of iron leave us feeling tired and depressed. Iron deficiencies are more common in women.

Foods rich in Iron include: Soybeans, lentils, turkey (dark meat) beef or pork liver, clams, mussels, oysters, spinach and fresh ginger

ginger

Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body…it helps to break down glucose and transform it into energy.

Foods rich in magnesium include edamame. cashews, almonds or hazelnuts for snacks; add more whole grains such as millet, quinoa and brown rice and eat fish (halibut in particular).

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 who rely on plant based sources may wish to consider supplements as plant and animal omega-3 differ.

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.

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.

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.

Vitamin D – Most of us are vitamin D deficient. It is recommended that we take a supplement to assure we take in enough vitamin D. Rates of depression increase with vitamin D deficiency.

Few foods contain vitamin D naturally but Salmon, eggs, chanterelle mushrooms and milk are good food sources.

salmon-category1

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.

Foods rich in zinc include: pumpkin seeds, cashews, Swiss cheese, crab and pork loin.

Eating foods that balance blood sugar levels can also reduce the potential for fluctuation in mood and improve general health. You can do so by following these simple steps:

Increase whole grains. Whole grains release glucose into the bloodstream more slowly and evenly sustaining blood sugar levels and thus your energy. It is not so hear to do so. Eat power snacks that provide energy without weighing you down such as nuts, yogurt, fruit. Think of food in this way: carbs provide energy, protein helps to maintain that energy and healthy fats extend energy. So make the most of good carbs, fats and proteins in your diet?

Eat Well, Be Well

Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. HNC
Certified Holistic Health & Nutrition Educator @ Kira’s Kitchen
Email: Kiraskitchen5@gmail.com

Health and Wellness Through Movement and Nutrition

I gave a talk this morning at The Unitarian Universalist church of Pittsfield. It was part of a larger conversation about Health and Wellness Through Movement and Nutrition. It was fun to partner up with the church administrator, Kas Maroney who offers strength training and other exercise classes. I will add an excerpt from the service for your reading pleasure.

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Mike Adams, author, investigative journalist and educator is quoted as saying

…“Today, more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by food choice, toxic food ingredients, nutritional deficiencies and lack of physical exercise.” –

So how does nutrition contribute to having energy to do the things we like to do? Seems like a silly question doesn’t it. After all food and water are our life source, we all understand on some level that we can’t live without them. But it’s surprising how many people, including medical practitioners truly don’t consider the impact nutrition has on our health. When was the last time your doctor said “go home make a cup of tea (without sugar please) and vegetable barley soup and then go to bed early to catch up on your rest?” Rather we tend to believe and trust that there is a magic pill or medical procedure that can address whatever health issue arises. Therefore we don’t have to give much thought to how we eat and live our lives. In essence, we don’t have to take much responsibility in assuring we have good health because that’s someone else’s job.

We live in a society where the idea of health is that you reach a certain age and your health begins to fail. We expect to become ill throughout our lives with common ailments such as flu or cold and many of us grow up believing that due to our genetics we will develop whatever ailment has plagued our family of origin. The science to support this thinking is sketchy at times and often funded by pharmaceutical companies who are going to make killing on our fears. It has become our cultural or societal norm to be bombarded by advertisements for the next wonder drug and then we find ourselves calling our doctors to ask if it is right for us. The good news is there is a simpler, less dangerous solution that can in fact improve health and vitality at any age. The truth is nutrition and lifestyle have everything to do with how healthy we are regardless of our genetics.

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The student prepared feast at Kushi Institute’s Macrobiotic Leadership Program Level Ceremony!

The growing chatter out there about eating healthy whole foods or real foods for health can get a bit confusing, however. Go into any book store and you will find numerous books on the topic and some contradict the one you just read. That has more to do with competing interests than it does with good information. Many of these books offer good solid information that really needs to be considered if we are to reduce the growing health crisis we experience not only here in the United States with diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease, but now in many other regions of the world where diet has changed and moved away from the foods that were traditionally eaten.

Two of my favorite authors on the subject of healing through food include, Dr. Neal Barnard who I’ve eaten lunch with when he was visiting the Kushi Institute where I work part time, and Dr. Anne Marie Colbin, who I’ve had the pleasure of hearing lecture at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition where I am completing my studies as a health coach. These authors are among many authorities on gaining good health through diet. They have taken the time to learn and experience what a nutritious balanced diet can do for our overall good health. Dr. Barnard is the founder and president of The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and is one of the leading advocates of health, nutrition and higher standards in research. Dr. Anne Marie Colbin, is an award-winning leader in the field of natural health, and a highly sought-after lecturer and wellness consultant…. and she is funny. Colbin is Founder and CEO of the Natural Gourmet. They are both prolific writers and they speak the truth as is supported by good research. I think one of the best outlines written explaining good food and how to approach it was written by Dr. Colbin.

In her book, “Food and Healing” Anne Marie Colbin outlines seven criteria for food selection which I believe helps us really think about how to find the foods we need for good health and energy. I want to share an excerpt from the book that details these seven criteria. She starts with:

Whole: as nature provides them, with all their edible parts (grains with their bran and germ, apples with their skin – if not waxed) cooked raw vegetables and fruits rather than juices or vitamin pills. Whole foods Colbin says supply all of nature’s nutrients in a team, as well as providing us with the life energy of the food.

Fresh, natural, real, organically grown: meaning not canned, not frozen, certainly not irradiated or genetically engineered, free from chemical additives, colorings or preservatives. The foods we choose should be the real thing, full of their life energy, not imitations (such as margarine or artificial sweeteners) which invariably turn out to have some health damaging effect. Organically grown foods not only have been proven to have higher nutrients, but also taste far superior to the commercially grown kind.

Seasonal: To be in harmony with our environment, it is a very good idea to choose summery foods in the summer, wintery foods in the winter. Fruits and vegetables in season are cheaper and do not lose nutrients like foods that have been transported long distances. They also taste better. In addition seasonal eating means salads and fruit in the summer and soups and stews in the winter. On the whole, most people do eat this way instinctively. However, with the advent of refrigeration, freezer trucks, and worldwide transportation we can get raspberries in December and yams in July.  We also ignore this natural order when we go on restricted diets, such as raw food and juice regimes, which require us to eat lots of fruits and vegetables in the winter or cooked salty macrobiotic meals in the summer. With these diets we go out of sync with our environment, and we might feel cold in the winter, or cranky and depressed in the summer.

Local: Local produce is fresher, tastes better and is more nutritious because it is picked riper and does not lose nutrients in travel. The best restaurants in the country have discovered this and make an effort to obtain the freshest organically grown local foods, which they consider top quality.

In Harmony with Tradition: We should pay attention to what our ancestors ate and incorporate those foods into our diet where ever possible, maybe with some modifications (less salt, less fat, less sugar) For example, our staple grain will taste more appropriate if our ancestors ate it as well – barley and oats from the British Iles, Rye and wheat from Europe, Kasha from Eastern Europe and Russia, millet, teff and sorghum from Africa, millet and rice from Asia, corn and quinoa from the Americas.

Balanced: It’s important to make sure there is enough protein, carbohydrates, fat, and micronutrients in our diet as a whole, and to pay attention to the expansive/contractive, acid/alkaline and the five phase theory system. For aesthetics it is also important to include foods with a variety of flavors, colors and textures.

 Delicious: There is no point in eating “healthy” food if it doesn’t taste good. Besides, our taste buds can guide us, when encountering whole, real natural foods, to what we need and what we don’t need …and we’d do well to listen.

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The movement toward eating better is now thought to include a return to what our ancestors ate meaning eating foods grown closer to home in more natural circumstances. It also means getting rid of the sugary processed foods that are killing us. What we are learning in the nutrition field is that the closer the food we eat is to its natural form the better it is for us. My new food mantra is “if it contains more than a couple ingredients it’s probably not good for me.” I shop the perimeter of a grocery store and at open air or farmer’s markets when possible. I read labels incessantly and in reducing my sugar and processed food intake have greatly improved my health. In my health coaching practice I begin by suggesting clients reduce or refrain from eating the following foods: sugar, white flour and other gluten products, animal proteins, processed foods, alcohol and tobacco and in some cases soy products. This simple starting point has assisted many others in achieving their health goals. Though the recommendations are simple the practice is not always so simple. We are used to sweet and salty foods that don’t necessarily taste like the food they mimic. So it is important to be patient with yourself and have someone in it with you who can support you to reach optimal health.

I close today with this quote from Hippocrates:

Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.

                                           Be Well!

Herbs for the Spring or Autumn Soul

http://www.today.com/money/tag/fall-foliage

Fall weather brings out the cook in me along with some scrumptious ingredients for one pot meals. I love to play around with the different combinations of herbs, spices, vegetables and legumes to create new dishes. Between my little backyard garden and my CSA (community supported agriculture) there is quite a variety of fresh produce at this time of the year.IMG_0697

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/preserving-the-color-of-fall-foliage.html

This week I was reacquainted with an old favorite herb, sorrel. A member of the oxalis family, sorrel is used widely in European dishes. I was first introduced to sorrel when working with two wonderful herbalists in Branford Connecticut. I’ve mentioned these women in a previous blog post and it occurs to me each time I am reminded of them how much they positively impacted my life. One of my jobs was to run the day to day operations of their herb gardens and shop. I loved getting paid to be in the cutting and formal herb gardens. Sorrel was a favorite herb of mine at the time and so I learned how to prepare it. Since then I have learned more about it’s health benefits and potential risks for certain people.

Sorrel is a good source of iron, potassium, vitamin A and C. Health benefits of sorrel include aiding good eyesight, strengthen the immune system, stimulate the liver, aid digestion and it can increase circulation and energy level. However, due to it’s oxalic acid content people with kidney stones, gallstones or with rheumatic conditions should use it moderately if at all.

I made a lovely sorrel soup this weekend. It is a very simple recipe for such a yummy soup that can be served either warm or cold. While sorrel is considered a spring herb it can also be added into fall recipes as can other leafy greens. Sorrel is one of the first leafy greens to appear in gardens in the spring and it’s tart flavor reawakens our winter palate. In the fall sorrel is equally delicious when started late in the growing season. If it is an older plant it will contain higher levels of oxalic acid which not only effects the taste but is less beneficial in terms of health benefits. Make sure late season sorrel is from a late season crop. Here’s all the ingredients you need…so simple
prep3
I adjusted this recipe from Mother Earth News http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/sorrel-soup-recipe-zmrz1301zmat.aspx#axzz3FHXPZbNK, I swapped out butter for Earth Balance.

onionsSautee onions

sorrel potato prep1Cut sorrel into ribbons and chop potato into small chunks

ss cookingAdd sorrel and potatoes to onions

sorrel soupBlend together and top with plain Greek yogurt

I served this hot as a first course with ginger glazed salmon and wild rice to follow. I was lucky to have fresh tender sorrel greens available through my CSA, but you can keep this recipe tucked away for spring if you’d like when the new tender growth is readily available.

Happy cooking and eating!

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

 

Herb Woman

Roots and herbs she gathers, morning, night and noon, by raising dog star underneath the moon.

In her fragrant kitchen while the lost world sleeps, Gentle midnight priestess, she mixes and steeps.

Shakes the leafy brethren, sorts and scraps with skill, on her vibrant fingers wood and field and hill-

Poppy leaves and wormwood, Peony petals split, dreamy hop flowers added for a headache quilt.

Hands only made for healing, nostrils made for smell, forehead wide and yearning, eyes fixed in a spell.

With the loose prescriptions floating through her head, Such are prayers she mutters ere she goes to bed.

By Eleanor C. Koenig

 

 

 

 

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit

How many of you remember the children’s rhyme about beans? You know the one that claims the more you eat the more you toot. Ha, Since those early days as a child living in a neighborhood in Northern California where we skipped down the street singing this tune, I’ve come to really appreciate the health benefits of beans….and how to cook them so you don’t toot quite so much.
LEGUMES
http://yumuniverse.com/how-tosday-soaking-and-cooking-legumes/
Heather Crosby of Yum Universe describes how to prepare legumes and why it is important to use the real deal whenever possible rather than from a can. I love the way she outlines yields and cooking time in this blog entry.

Beyond this beans are just plain good for you and offer a very good source of protein and nutrients that is easily digested for most people. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to eat them either. My rule of thumb goes something likes this…replace red meat with red beans at least once weekly for optimal digestion of proteins. The American Heart Association agrees that beans are preferable to animal proteins for heart health. For some people who suffer from digestive issues such as IBS or Crohn’s Disease eating beans can be challenging but for most of us they are a welcome addition to our protein intake.

There is a wonderful assortment of legumes available on the market today. You can find them in bulk at many small markets and even some of the larger scale grocery stores have added bulk bins so you can grab good quality, organic non-GMO dried beans. Beans and Legumes provide soluble fiber and are packed with nutrients such as iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They are a pretty versatile food that can be prepared in a wide range of dishes from around the world. I must say since I’ve replaced meat with beans and bean products such as tofu and tempeh my energy and weight have both markedly improved.
IMG_0452
I’m going to share a favorite snack I make with adzuki beans, a sweet bean originally from japan that is described by many foodies as a super food along with chickpeas, lentils and black beans all of which I eat regularly. This high energy snack is both delicious and nutritious!

Chocolate Adzuki Bites (Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Soy Free)

Ingredients:
For the adzuki balls:
• 1/2 cup dried adzuki beans
• 3/4 cup pecans
• 6 or so pitted medjool dates (about 1/2 cup)
• 1/4 cup cocoa
• 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
• 1-2 teaspoons rice milk (optional)

For the topping:
You can choose either shredded coconut, chopped pecans or chopped cashews. You’ll need about a cup of whichever one you choose. For the nuts, I recommend blending them in the food processor before you make the balls because then you don’t have to clean it out.
• 1 cup of selected topping
• 1/4 tsp sea salt (the larger flakey kind if possible)

Directions:
Put the adzuki beans in a small pot and cover with a couple inches of water. Boil for about an hour, making sure you don’t let them dry out, until they are soft. Drain and set aside.

In a food processor or blender, blend the nuts for your topping (if using) and set aside. Add 3/4 cup cooked adzuki beans (they will have swollen up so your 1/2 cup should have turned into at least 3/4 cup), 3/4 cup pecans, dates, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. If it is too dry to blend well, you can add rice or almond milk a teaspoon at a time to add moisture. You can also add a teaspoon of maple syrup to make it a little sweeter (if you use the maple syrup you probably won’t need the rice milk)

Scoop out the dough a tablespoon or so at a time and roll into balls. Sprinkle them with just a bit of the sea salt and then roll the balls in the topping until they are coated then put them in the fridge for about an hour to firm up.

And for a little childhood humor:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So we have beans at every meal!

the_bean_eater
http://www.artble.com/artists/annibale_carracci/paintings/the_bean_eater

The Bean Eaters

Gwendolyn Brooks, 1917 – 2000

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

Be Well

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

Back to School Basics

In some places children have already returned to school with the anticipation that the start of a new adventure brings. Locally we have another week to wind down our summer. Even though the private school where I’m employed as a counselor and nutrition consultant is a year round school I still get that beginning of the school year feeling. It’s something between excitement for all the possibilities and melancholy about the end of another summer season.
back-to-school-apple_14065384591
In keeping with the beginning of the school year theme as it relates to my health coaching practice, I wanted to share some ideas for how to pack healthy, brain food for your child/ren that doesn’t set them apart from their peers. Let’s make eating healthy the cool thing to do this year and see if it can become the new cool. Something as simple as cream cheese (or Tofutti dairy free cream cheese) topped with fresh fruit is sure to grab kids attention.
back-to-school-snacks
Other ideas range from fruit kabobs to assorted wraps. Most fruit will keep in a lunchbox and when it’s as easy as sliding off a skewer into your mouth who can resist.
27465_pineapple_grape_kebab_620
http://www.chow.com/food-news/89934/27-healthy-snack-ideas-for-kids-lunch-boxes/
Fruit-Kabobs-410x273
http://www.mysporties.com/tuesday-tip-snacks-to-kick-off-the-school-year-with-a-healthy-start/
We can create so many variations of wraps that it’s limitless. In fact, in many schools they are slowly replacing white enriched bread with whole grain breads and wraps.
veggie-wrap-single
http://www.bodyenlightenment.me/blog/2013/08/how-to-put-healthy-back-into-school-lunches/
Wraps are an easy way to include vegetables in your child’s lunch in a way that they will eat them. If you can make the time to engage your child in the preparation of these beauties they are more likely not to trade them away for a snickers bar. My favorite wrap to teach children to make in my Cool Kids Cooking Class is the California wrap which includes avacado, sprouts, cucumber, carrots and cheese (if your child can tolerate dairy). It always makes me smile to see how quickly kids take to eating healthy when they are part of the preparation.
cali vege wrap
I also suggest getting to know the lunch ladies (and gents) who are preparing school breakfast and lunch. Be kind to these hard working people and let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Congratulate them when they have made something healthy and kid friendly. Offer your ideas about improving school meals in a way they can hear you. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that people respond better when you are willing to walk with them on their journey than when we give the impression we know what’s best. lunch ladies
If you are involved in your child’s school you may want to get involved in changing school food programs so that all children enjoy a healthier meal. For some children these are the only meals they eat each day so keeping it nutritious means they can attend to learning and the other challenges school brings. One of the many challenges educators face is holding all children to a standard. When a child experiences food insecurity it can be nearly impossible for them to focus on English or math. Educators are all too aware of these challenges.
An example of what a couple moms did in Berkeley California to change the school lunch program in their children’s school is the movie “Two Angry Moms.” It outlines what isn’t working with school meal programs and shows how they went about dramatically creating the change in their school. It is one example of how to start thinking about the food we eat and provide to school children.
lunch-wars-cover

“You must be the change you want to see in the world”
Mahatma Ghandi

Be Well
Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. Holistic Health Coach @ Kira’s Kitchen

blog: http://kirasgoodeatskitchen.com

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

Didn’t Your Parents Tell You Not To Waste Food?

As you probably know by now I am a foodie. I love everything about food. I love thinking about it, growing it, teaching others about it, preparing it and definitely eating it. food is powerful in every way. We are emotionally and physically connected to food and we all know we can’t live without it. So I write this blog post today with reverence for and passion about food.

I have always known that there is a certain amount of waste that goes along with the food chain from farm to table, but did you know that one third of the food produced globally is wasted. In North America it is closer to half the food we grow that is wasted. In some cases it is to keep the cost of the product at what is considered fair market value. A phenomenal amount of food does not even make it onto grocery store shelves because it doesn’t meet the standards for sale. Up to 90% of food waste is due to expiration dates.

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http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/food-waste-in-america-a-weeks-worth-of-produce-for-free/

So where does all this wasted food go you might ask? With all the people in our world who have no food, who are literally starving to death, we in North American alone, throw away nearly half of the food we grow. How does that make any sense? 

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Now imagine if we all decided that the food that was not initially perfect so would not be purchased could be given to a local food pantry. Imagine that all expired food stuff was quickly offered to people who can’t afford to buy it. Some markets have policies to do just that. At some Trader Joes you can find the expired food stuff at a greatly reduced rate in fact up to 75% off retail price. In addition, the Ex President of Trader Joes has created The Daily Table Project which essentially takes expired food stuff and makes low cost grab and go meals that can compete with fast food chain prices for people living in urban food deserts such as Dorchester, MA. Now that is good use of what would otherwise be wasted.

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=222082247&m=224715908.

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There are many documentaries about our food supply and the little known secrets about the politics of food, but the one I find most disturbing currently is “Just Eat It A Food Waste Story.”  Catch the trailer @ http://foodwastemovie.com/ or follow the film makers on facebook https://www.facebook.com/Justeatitmovie. The film is making the film festival run so is not yet available for popular viewing. This film reveals just how much food is wasted in North America by following a couple who are vowing to eat only salvaged food stuff. What their experience uncovers will shock and I hope inspire you to do something about the waste!

To learn more about the politics of food I recommend reading one of the many books written by Marion Nestle, the most relevant to this topic being “Food Politics: How The Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. She is a Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. You can also follow her blog @ http://www.foodpolitics.com/.
My children just bought me a membership in a new local all organic CSA, https://www.facebook.com/bradleyfarmma for my birthday. It is the best gift I have ever received! I can see where the food is grown and I know the people tending the farm. I will share what I can’t eat with family and friends and should any of it go bad I will compost it to use in my gardens. This is my small contribution to reduce food waste and my carbon footprint on the planet. What will you do to spread the abundance that exists all around us with those who are not a fortunate as we are?

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“Change like healing takes time.” Veronica Roth

Blessed Be

 

 

Time to Garden

I am inspired with the warming weather and the Flower Moon we had this week. Driving home on Wednesday night that beautiful moon was just beginning to peak over the Green Mountains in Bennington Vermont and it was breathtaking. This is a borrowed photo as my iphone couldn’t do the moon justice. It now truly feels like spring is here and so we can begin to plant our vegetable and flower gardens.

flower moon

http://shewhodreams.weebly.com/uploads/6/8/3/0/6830014/5473872.jpg?419

To inspire me even more this week I found this beauty growing in the window at the Vermont Arts Exchange http://www.vtartxchange.org/. Being a native Californian, I am accustomed to seeing fresh produce year round in some form. But to find a fully ripe tomato in Vermont in mid May is such a gift. After all we had snow on the ground less than a month ago!

tomatoes

I’m telling you the truth, right in Vermont, right now mid May there are these lovely tomatoes ready to eat! Planted in large buckets along the back wall of the multiuse art room at the Arts Exchange are growing 10 foot high tomato plants like these. I have had the pleasure of watching them grow since February.

tomato plants

So now I have to find my organic seeds and plants at various farmer’s markets and gardening shops. I like High Mowing Seeds http://www.highmowingseeds.com/ they have come through for me in past years and are fairly local in Wolcott, Vermont. So far I’ve planted my first round of snow peas which is my favorite to grow (and eat). I also plan to grow green beans, kale, summer and zucchini squash, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. My garden is small but it manages to produce a good amount of produce each year. This is an example of one of my recent harvests.

DSCN7603

So with all the fresh produce to look forward to I am searching for new recipes to add to my website. I made this one last night and it was delightful.

6 cups baby spring greens

½ cup crumbled goat cheese

½ cup dried cranberries

1 cup toasted walnuts

1 shallot minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

¼ olive oil

Salt/pepper to taste

Well I’m heading outside to see what kind of gardening I can get done before the three days of rain arrive.

“It was such a pleasure to sink one’s hands into the Earth, to feel at one’s fingertips the possibilities of the new season.” Kate Morton author of The Forgotten Garden.

Blessed Be