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Monday, January 30, 2012

Cooked vs Raw

My latest obsession is the site Nutrition Data. I've entered pretty much every green, leafy vegetable imaginable to see what nutritional weight it carries. 

One interesting thing I discovered is the nutritional difference between raw and cooked veggies. I had heard and read that lightly cooking broccoli increases its nutritional profile. I was amazed that the same holds true for green leafy veggies like kale.

A cup of cooked kale has 1062mg of Vitamin K, while raw only has 547mg. 

A single raw brussels sprout has 143 IU of Vitamin A, While a cooked one has 217. However, Vitamins C and K decrease with cooking. While Folate and choline increase. Confusing? Overwhelming? Yes. I constantly read that raw fruits and veggies pack a powerful enzyme punch. Something their cooked counterparts lack. I wish I could find similar numbers for various vegetable enzyme levels in raw and cooked forms. 

According to one website: Enzymes are important because they assist in the digestion and absorption of food. If you eat food that is enzyme-less, your body will not get maximum utilization of the food. This causes toxicity in the body. (Can you guess why over 75% of Americans are overweight?)

My take away is that a mix of raw and lightly cooked veggies is best. Throughout my day, I eat or drink a mix of raw veggies and fruits along with some cooked veggies. When I cook my greens, I only steam them for 1 to 2 minutes. Never longer. Usually just 60 seconds and they're done. Which is great for fixing dinner in a hurry. My goal is to always have something green with each meal. So get your green cooking thumb on. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kale Salad

Everybody's doing it. And I wanna do it too. Kale salads that is. You ask what am I waiting for? Well, the problem is that most kale salads require soy or tamari, which is gluten free. Unfortunately, I have a sensitivity to soy. Lucky for me, Whole Foods made my kale salad dream come true with their recipe for Kale Waldorf Salad.

I left out the walnuts as well as the celery, since I have some level of sensitivity to both of these. I added a little chopped red pepper and red onion to the salad. My salad base was red curly kale. Instead of red wine vinegar, I used organic brown rice vinegar.

I doused the salad in the dressing. I let the greens marinate for about 15 minutes, while I folded laundry. Then I took a bite. The combo of sweet and spicy I love. The dressing made the kale easy to eat. I think this was the most delicious salad I've ever made. It tastes as good as one of those flavorful salads you order in your favorite restaurant.

As you've probably heard, kale is an amazing plant food. It possesses cancer lowering plus anti-inflammatory properties, helps the body detox, and contains a plethora of vitamins as well as minerals. For more on kale's nutritional profile go here. A couple times a week I steam kale, which I then add to a veggie burrito and also use as a base in green smoothies.

An hour after eating dinner, I noticed that my chin was itching and I felt tightness in my chest. I'm well aware that vinegars can be problematic since they can contain fungus. I also sprinkled some nutritional yeast on my brown rice pasta, another no-no due to yeast. I was just craving that cheesy flavor. Overall, I've been feeling better. But still my good moments are offset with symptoms, reminding me that I still have a way to go. Hopefully kale helps me get there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Candy For Lunch

Dang it! I forgot to pack my Mulligatawny Soup with brown rice before I left my apartment this morning. Being without lunch, I headed to Organic Avenue. I was all set on purchasing their Green Monkey Smoothie but lo and behold they were sold out. Actually, their shelves overall were pretty bare. I see this as a positive that raw, organic eateries are gaining in popularity. Hopefully more to come in this department. 

I settled on a bottle of Green Love along with a bar of Raw Chocolate Love with orange. 

The juice I've had many times. It never disappoints. The chocolate was brand new to my taste buds. The nice thing about a lot of raw chocolate bars is that you taste chocolate. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, so many chocolate bars taste like sugar. This bar was sweetened with agave. Something I wish was more prevalent in chocolate bars. Mainstream bars usually contain sugar. 

The chocolate was rich and a bit chalky and crumbly, which I didn't mind. The tiny bar cost a whipping $7.95 but packed a powerful chocolate punch. Plus, being raw the bar contains tons of antioxidants called flavonoids. And, cocoa beans are rich in a number of essential minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese as well as Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E plus pantothenic acid. 

The bar also contains mesquite. An ingredient I've read very favorable reviews about. Mesquite is a high protein meal which (according to their website) contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, and is rich in the amino acid lysine as well. It has a sweet, rich, molasses-like flavor with a hint of caramel.

The bar really did have a rich almost caramel taste. A flavor that usually requires milk as an ingredient. However this bar is totally vegan. And totally tasty. 

Next time you're unsure what to eat for lunch, I urge you to tap into your inner third-grader and go for a chocolate bar. Make it raw and chase it with a glass of green juice. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In The Sun

"In the Sun
 In the Sun I feel as one
 In the Sun
 In the Sun..."
-Kurt Cobain

Since high school, I've always prided myself on applying sun screen daily. In my teens I spent sun drenched afternoons riding my horse around and around a dusty ring in North Carolina. Every day before heading out to go riding, I would slather on my face gobs of sun screen.

I used to fear the sun. Running for the safety of a shady tree or being sure to walk on the shade covered side of the street. Then I learned that shade is only SPF5. I was crushed. My wrinkles deepened. Age spots revolted.

Last summer I spent my days in a hyper air conditioned office freezing. Every day I lost feeling in my fingers. Each turning pale white and tingly. It could of had something to do with the fact I was down to 89 pounds. My only chance for survival was the sun. I would escape Siberia daily for the outdoors where I'd sit for 15 to 20 minutes on a sunny bench. Slowly the feeling would return to my fingers, my shoulders would relax and I'd feel whole again.

Through my own personal search for wellness, I've learned that I have misjudged the Sun. To me it used to be an evil cancer, wrinkle blaster. Now I realize it is a life force. We are all made of the Sun. The greens, veggies and fruits we eat soak up the Sun. Even animals graze on sun soaked grass. One way or another we are all consuming Sun. Many diseases are attributed to a lack of sun, which gives us all Vitamin D. Numerous research findings point out that autoimmune illnesses are more prevalent in areas with less direct sunlight, like New York City.

In The Vitamin D Solution, the author points out that people with low levels of Vitamin D are more likely to contract the type of skin cancer that can spread. While those with higher levels of Vitamin D are more likely to contract topical cancers that are easily controlled. This fact really surprised me. That a lack of sun, as opposed to an over exposure to sun, leads to more detrimental skin cancer.

Through my own experience, I have learned the many benefits of 15 minutes of sun a day. I don't think I'll ever be a sun bather and don't think it's healthy any way. This winter I'm skipping covering my face in Clinique City Block before heading for the subway. I'm lucky if I even get 15 minutes of sun on a winter day in the city. To be sure I can catch every single ray, you'll find me walking on the sunny side of the street.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Special Needs Eater

Last week I was in the Santa Monica/West Hollywood area for a commercial shoot. The nice thing about being the client when you're on production is that you're well catered to. During casting call-backs, I was feed a delicious raw, vegan and gluten free lunch from Planet Raw. The dish I inhaled was some sort of vegan sushi. The guys at casting didn't know the dish's exact name. I perused Planet Raw's menu and can't determine which of their five sushi rolls I had. I recall seeing cilantro and avocado. The dish looked something like:

Before heading to call-backs, the producer, art director and I hit Whole Foods. I purchased a gallon of nose water, which is distilled water. I have to use the pure stuff in my sinuses to ensure that I don't accidentally flush bacteria or a virus up into my cavities. I also hit the smoothie bar where I ordered a kale, banana, strawberry smoothie. The liquid seemed to counteract my lack of sleep, which became a constant theme as insomnia set in.

One evening the agency took the client to Boa for dinner. A steak and seafood house isn't necessarily the best dining option for a vegan. However, the list of veggie dishes was encouraging. The producer had phoned ahead and mentioned my dietary needs. After taking everyone's drink orders, the server excitedly said to me, "I love serving people with special needs." I wasn't sure if I should laugh or feel embarrassed and hide. Since the server had inserted her tip in her mouth, I just sat there and placed my order.

Twenty minutes later a huge plate filled with sauteed local wax beans and tomatoes, sauteed mixed mushrooms, sauteed spinach and a baked potato topped with roasted garlic arrived. Honestly, it was more food that I could handle. All the veggies were tasty. I managed to have about three bites of the potato since the other dishes really filled me up.

Since I was traveling, I hadn't packed my Acidophilus or Evening Primrose supplements which require refrigeration. As the days went on, my gut became incredibly unhappy. I'm not sure if it was the ingestion of allergens like nuts. Bouts of gas and unrest became a regular occurrence. I was so uncomfortable. My belly looked prego. My digestive enzymes and HCL didn't help.

After a rough night of sleeping on the redeye, I returned home to my apt in the city. I swallowed a double dose of Acidophilus and Evening Primrose. I ate a bowl of g-free rice crispies with flax and then took a two hour nap. I woke up to a normal belly once again.

Maybe the server at Boa was right, and I am a special needs dieter. Next time I travel, I'll be sure to purchase locally all my daily supplements so I at least appear normal. Then again, is there a normal?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Food Journal

If you're wondering how I'm spending my free time these days, picture me having to do something  tedious and annoying. Not taxes. Although I am attempting to add up all my tax deductible expenses. Due to all my food related allergies, I've begun keeping track of everything I eat along with any symptoms I experience.


While this isn't the least bit fun, there is a reason. My doctor said if I do enough detective work, then I can figure out some of the foods that are more troublesome than others. My doctor can then prescribe de-sensitizing drops to specific foods. So instead of celery making me wheeze and develop thick mucus, it could actually just be a food I am able to eat free of ramifications.

Honestly, I feel like every single food is an issue. But since one vial of de-sensitizing drops for a specific food costs $70, I have to choose wisely. And, I'm not even sure if my insurance will cover this medical expense. Being able to openly welcome food without fear of it doing something evil to me is worth every penny.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sick Signs Mean Healthy

Currently, I'm totally absorbed in Fasting and Eating for Health by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It's my Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I highly recommend the book. One passage I found incredibly enlightening is about toxicosis, which is the retention by the body of elements that are foreign to normal cellular function.

Something that really annoys me is being jammed into a crowded, sweaty subway train. The train is so tight that my left elbow is wedged between my back and some guy's buttocks. And then someone nearby begins coughing uncontrollably. I can see the germs serpentining around all the people and finding a way inside my nose.

The book highlights the fact that the coughing I find so annoying is actually a sign of health. It's the body's way of keeping the lungs clear. The book elaborates:

A healthy body may cough, sneeze, develop a fever or a rash, and even produce mucus (my specialty) or diarrhea in its attempt to rid the system of unwanted retained waste.

Haven't you always wondered why you get diarrhea? It's just the body's way of saying, "Get the hell out!" Makes it seems ok unless you're on an airplane or out of toilet paper.

Another interesting point the book makes is that often chronic smokers will say they feel fine. They exhibit no symptoms of coughing or trouble breathing. It's when they stop smoking that they begin to feel bad, by developing a cough and lots of mucus. This is the body's way of cleansing itself once given a chance to focus energy of this task.

I still don't feel good about people coughing or sneezing on crowded trains. However, lately I feel better defended from sickness. I think my combination of ingesting more greens either in juice or food plus a vegan diet is equipping my body with an arsenal of antioxidants and other goodies. So grab your green tea or green juice and jump on the nearest crowded train.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Vegan Grand Slam

Not sure if you've heard, but Venus Williams is adopting a vegan diet. She was recently diagnosed with Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder marked by pain in joints, dry mouth and eyes. I feel for. Acquiring a number of weird and debilitating symptoms is incredibly trying and annoying. Based on my own experience, I've found a vegan diet to have a calming and healing effect on my body. I see improved health and energy headed Venus' way. And possibly a vegan recipe book co-authored by Venus headed our way.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Iyengar Yoga Class

One of my goals during my ten-day holiday break was to check out a yoga class or two at New York Sports Club, the gym I belong to. So last Thursday night I attended the Iyengar Yoga class. I had no idea what Iyengar is, involves or likes for dinner. 

According to the club's website: 
Iyengar Yoga focuses on the subtleties of each posture. Postures are held much longer so that students can focus on their precise muscular and skeletal alignment.

Other than standing in line at Fairway, I really don't know much about alignment. So, the class description sounded great. 

Upon showing up to class, I explained to the instructor that I suffer from carpal tunnel, making downward dogs really painful for me. The instructor said we wouldn't be doing any down dogs. Instead, the class would focus on the back. 

I've exercised at NYSC for ten years. I usually use the treadmill, stationary bike or jump rope as well as strength train with free weights. I've always been happy with the gym. However, my yoga experience at the club was dirty and cold. It was about 30 degrees outside and 30 inside. At one point I had to touch the back of my hand to my foot. It was like touching a corpse. I was freezing. Secondly, the studio is used by other classes that require people to wear shoes. Unlike yoga studios, which don't allow shoes to be worn, so are able to maintain some level of cleanliness. Basically I was lying on an icky, dirty floor. 

The class spent some time on the bow pose. I probably looked nothing like the picture below. I imagine my bow looked more like a shivering, squashed banana covered in floor dirt. Nevertheless, I found the pose as well as class challenging and different. Two things I was looking for. Also, the class reminded me just how stiff I am. 

The day after taking the class, my legs were incredibly sore. I saw this as a positive. So, my second class, although not exactly what I had in mind, has inspired me to give yoga another chance. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The 30-Day Vegan Challenge

I recently finished reading The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. The book outlines in steps how to transition from a meat and dairy based diet to one revolving around fruits, veggies and grains. The book is full of beautiful food porn, a multitude of vegan recipes and easy to digest information and advice. Every time my son saw the book he'd say about the author's cover photo, "That's mommy's friend." The author, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, is a sparkling example of a vibrant, healthy and passionate woman.

As I read the book there was one phrase that made me cringe. The author referred to eating dairy, butter and cheese as animal secretions. While it's true that these foods are secretions, I think this word is gross and off-putting. I like to think, as Anthony Bourdain often says, that the dinner table is the great equalizer. As long as a restaurant offers a menu that caters to veggie and meat eaters alike, that everyone can dine together and get along. If I were to use the term secretions, I think my cheese-eating friends would feel pretty uncomfortable.

I understand that the author is trying to make the point that we tend to disassociate chicken tenders from the living, breathing animal that the crumb-covered nuggets come from. She also points out that for a cow, goat or sheep to supply milk, it has to be pregnant. These animals are impregnated yearly and their calves are taken from them immediately. Truly upsetting. The book paints a vivid picture and then offers an alternative diet along with recipes.

I didn't originally adopt a vegan diet for ethical reasons. I did it because dairy makes me incredibly sick. As I educate myself about the differences between the Standard American Diet and a plant-based one, it becomes easier for me to associate a block of cheese with an animal doped up on hormones and antibiotics, who has basically no freedom to enjoy life or even to nurse and love her own baby.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year. New Juice.

The view outside all four windows from my apartment isn't a huge selling point. Although, the fact that each room has a window is a big plus, according to realtors. There's no Empire State or Chrysler Building to behold. Or even an interesting neighborhood side street. The best I can see is a water tower and a strange man I often find staring back through his window in my direction. This is why I turn my focus to creating good stuff to see inside my apartment. For example, feast your eyes on this:

I took a departure from my usual green concoctions and created something pink to drink. This juice is a blend of one pomegranate, six apples plus one lemon. Pomegranate is packed with lots of good stuff. The juice I made is tart, sweet and delicious. I feel like every cell in my body is awakened upon downing a glass. I can't say the same for the view through my windows.

Happy New Year!