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!

Joyful Life

We came to the Earth as absolutely loving beings.

That is our basic nature. And all we want is to have a joyful life together…..

A peaceful, harmonious, laughter filled, song-filled kind of life together.

Brooke Medicine Eagle

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This photo was taken at South River Miso in Conway, MA

I awoke this morning feeling grateful for the sunshine and for my lovely life. It made me smile to think about what this life has given me and to reflect on what I hope I have given back. Of late, the opportunity I am enjoying of teaching others how to cook and eat in a more healthful way.

Yesterday I got to cook with a group of young girls who were curious and willing to try new foods. They reminded me to have fun and explore, and how much I enjoy doing that with my own children even now that they are adults. I was also reminded how much fun it is to come together with new people and see what we can learn.

We prepared several dishes and then shared a meal together with their adults. One commented on how cool it was to have a class where you get to eat together afterward. I smiled. And so I will share one of the recipes we made with you in the hope it brings a smile to your face as well.

Green Rolls

 4 cups water

Collard greens large leaves or other green of choice

Cucumber cut into match sticks

Carrot, parsnip or other root vegetable, blanched and cut into matchsticks

Sauerkraut

Sesame seeds or pumpkin seeds

Mustard or hummus

Brown rice (optional)

Preparation:

 Heat water in large open skillet to boil.

Lightly blanch collard or chosen greens, remove and place on cookie sheet to cool.

Lay our blanched greens onto sushi mat making sure to cover mat completely.

Layer the cucumber or root vegetable, sauerkraut and pumpkin seeds on the greens. Spread some mustard on the filling.

Carefully roll up the green in the sushi mats squeezing out extra water. Remove from mat and cut into 5-6 sushi style rolls.

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These are actually wrapped in nori which is another great way to introduce healthy greens and vegetables into a non vegetable lovers life…and we all need some vegetable to stay healthy 🙂

Next week I will be teaching a Cooking for Women’s Health class at Wild Oats Cooperative Market in Williamstown, MA as well as a Healthy Holiday Cooking class at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pittsfield. Consider coming to join our fun!

Be well

Miso Happy

Some of you more seasoned bloggers may see that I am a novice in the blogosphere. An example of just how much a novice follows: I just spent the last 2 hours trying to post a picture and video about my trip to South River Miso in Conway Massachusetts. The photo I took was upside down the video had a 2 minute advertisement for a new improved diet pill…I hope these things didn’t actually make it onto my blog but if I inadvertently posted them please pass them by…ignore them as I found something better to share! I found this delightful video link that stars Christian Elwel the owner operator of South River Miso.

http://www.southrivermiso.com/store/pg/102-About-Miso-Videos.html

I was among a handful of students from The Kushi Institute who had the good fortune of spending a Saturday with Christian and his wife. He has a wealth of miso making knowledge and is very happy to share his wisdom. He and his wife invited us into their miso haven providing a tour, sampling of many varieties of miso and wonderful stories of how they came to be the fine miso crafters they are.

Their property is in a beautiful country setting and one has a sense that they created every single garden, building, stone walkway, pond and sculpture with great thought and care. Everything seems to flow into the next with ease and I found myself so relaxed sitting near the frog pond watching the abundance of aquatic life. The tour was equally enjoyable giving me a sense of stepping back in time to the early craft of miso making. As a California girl I was struck by the similarities to fine wine winemaking that takes place in many regions of my home state. I found the day to be inspiring in that it helped me think about all the healthful qualities in miso while observing and learning about the process. I was also delighted to hear about the love and care that goes into its creation!

With all this said, I promised that I would share the recipe for miso soup in my next post…being a woman of my word I shall do so. Miso is a staple of Japanese diet and is also enjoyed by folks who are macrobiotic or simply enjoy healthy eating. As Christian said it has many active microorganisms and vital enzymes that aid digestion. Miso also helps to discharge toxins from the body. It is high in protein, calcium, iron and vitamin B. I will offer a basic miso soup recipe that can be eaten daily at breakfast to set your body in a proper state for the day.

Ingredients:

3 cups water

2” wakame-soaked and cut into small pieces

2 dried shiitake mushrooms-soaked and slice thinly

½ cup daikon-cut into thin half moons

1 ½ tsp – 1 Tblsp 2yr. barley miso

1 Tblsp minced fresh parsley or thinly sliced scallion for garnish

Add the wakame, shiitake and the soaking water to 3 cups water and slowly bring to a boil. Add the daikon, cover the pot, reduce flame to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Dilute miso in a little broth before adding to soup stock. Add to pot and continue to simmer for 3-5 minutes on low flame. Once miso is added do not boil just let it simmer.

Serve in bowls with either parsley or scallion garnish.

Before indulging in your miso soup, take a moment to sit quietly and set your intention for the day. It does not need to be earth shattering. Merely offer gratitude and at be at peace.

Until next time