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CSA: From the Farm to Your Door

Did you know produce delivered to the grocery store is at least a week old? At best, your getting week-old produce that has become devoid of vital nutrients. This could explain why your spinach spoils before you have a chance to eat it. One way to boost the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables is to subscribe to a CSA farm. CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, is a program that allows the consumer to support a local farm and obtain fresh, seasonal produce for a small subscription fee. It’s a win-win.

This week my first box of organic produce was delivered to my doorstep from CSA farm, Farm Fresh To You. I was so excited to see what goodies I received; I was like a little kid on Christmas morning! I found yams, avocados, broccoli, apples, lettuce, collard greens, mint, rainbow chard, carrots, onions and strawberries. The produce looked so tasty it was hard not to munch as I put things away.

Tips for Keeping Your Greens well, Green:

It can be overwhelming when a large box of produce is delivered, so, I like to turn on my favorite tunes and get right to work. The first thing I do is properly wash the grit away from the veggies. Remember CSA provides the freshest produce available so be prepared to wash away a little extra earth and possibly some natural pest control: ladybugs. Fun fact: ladybugs are natural enemies to several insects that destroy beautiful crops. You may use a veggie wash for roots, tomatoes, apples and other fruits that you eat the skin of. Personally I find 365 Fruit and Vegetable Wash from Whole Foods does the trick. I also have a brush to really scrub away excess dirt.

Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, lettuces, collard greens, chard and herbs are a bit trickier. I recommend separating the leaves and rinsing well with cold water or using a salad spinner. Make sure you remove any excess water. Then wrap the bunch with 1-2 dry paper towels depending on how large the bunch of greens is. The result: leafy greens available as you need them during the week, that stay green!

I like to rinse the herbs then pat dry. Line a tupperware with a paper towel, and cut or tear off the leaves into the container. Herbs can add a punch of nutrients and flavor without added calories. Sprinkle in salads, add to soups or roasted vegetables for a kick.

Having ready-to-eat veggies on hand makes cooking more enjoyable. So I take 15 minutes at once instead of 5 minutes each time I prepare something during the week. Hopefully this time saving tip will encourage you to eat more veggies! Try Fresh Farm To You and get $6.50 off your first order with promo code: 4089.

To find a local CSA, farmers market check out Local Harvest for resources.

So Fresh and So Clean

After a night of sleeping, our bodies become dehydrated and full of metabolic waste produced as cells repair during the night. Instead of relying on coffee first thing, take pleasure in a glass of energizing lemon water. Upon rising, I enjoy a mug filled with cleansing hot water with lemon juice and some zest. I find this hydrating beverage helps my body to wake up and feel rejuvenated.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, read on:

• Lemon water promotes weight loss by suppressing the appetite and increasing the metabolic rate. It also contains pectin, a soluble fiber that keeps you feeling full.
• Lemon juice enhances digestion.
• It keeps your skin radiant due to a high vitamin C content and antiseptic properties.
• Lemon is full of antioxidants that oxygenate the body and fight the aging process.
• It cleanses the liver and kidneys as well as maximizes enzyme function thereby dissolving toxins.
• Lemons are mineral powerhouses, full of the electrolytes: magnesium, calcium and potassium. These minerals create an alkaline pH or healthy environment in the body.
• Don’t forget the zest! Many of the flavonoids, or antioxidants, are in the skin.
• Limonene, found in the white spongy part, has anticancer properties.

Convinced now? Try it- juice a bag of lemons into ice trays, zest some peel and freeze. When you wake up, boil some water then add a cube. It’s as simple as that! As a bonus, the lemon cubes cool the boiling water to an ideal temperature. So start your morning right with some warm lemon water. Your mind and your waistline will thank you.

Drink up!!

Eggs

How to select and store

Did you know that the eggshell represents the breed of hen that laid that egg?

When purchasing eggs, it’s best to go with an organic farmer that states they have pasture-raised hens. These happy hens eat a natural diet such as seeds, grass and insects that give their eggs an extra nutrient kick. Some research claims pastured eggs have 10% less fat, 40 % more vitamin A and 34% less cholesterol and twice the amount of vitamin E and omega-3’s than factory farmed eggs. Yes, these eggs come with a price tag but you will be supporting your local farmer and saving your body from unwanted pesticides, antibiotics and saturated fat. You may try eating eggs less often when eating a higher quality such as the pastured eggs. Organic free range eggs are probably your next best bet. These hens are fed an organic diet and have time to go outside.

Avoid commercially raised eggs that come from chickens in tight quarters. Factory farmed hens are fed antibiotics and pesticides to prevent unwanted infection and to promote growth. Not to mention they are typically fed an unnatural diet of bio-engineered corn. Chickens then convert the starch into pesticide laden saturated fat that ends up in the yolk, then in your arteries. As stated in “eggs and cholesterol”, saturated fat has a greater impact on heart disease than dietary cholesterol.

Store eggs point down in the refrigerator, but not in the door, to preserve freshness. This is because eggs exposed to changes in the air temperature spoil faster. And I’m sure we are all guilty of standing in front of the fridge while deciding what to eat… I know I am!

 

Eggs

 

Eggs have had a bad rap but lately they’ve been making a comeback. Not only are they a low cost, convenient food but they provide nearly every nutrient humans need to thrive. Think about it, an egg is a little container full of nourishment for developing chickens. To that end, they must be nutritious!

For nice breakfast ideas try Lorin’s Egg Stack or Easy Huevo Rancheros.

Nutrient Profile

One large egg contains:

  • 72 calories
  • 6.3 grams of protein
  • 212 mg of cholesterol
  • 5 grams of fat
  • With only a trace of carbohydrates

Eggs are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin B12, thiamine and biotin. The egg yolk is one of the few foods that has natural occurring vitamin D. Depending on what the chickens are fed, some eggs contain omega-3 essential fatty acids. Eggs are also rich in heart healthy nutrients betaine and folic acid. Not to mention mineral rich full of selenium, phosphorus, sulfur and iodine. All exceptional vitamins and minerals required for vitality.

Health Benefits

Eggs and Cholesterol

During the 1950’s egg consumption dropped drastically. Since one egg contains 212 mg of cholesterol, they were thought to be a contributing cause of heart disease. However, while egg consumption was on the downturn, heart disease was on the upswing. Only a small amount of dietary cholesterol actually enters into the bloodstream. In fact, saturated and trans fats have a much greater impact on cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol.

Several recent studies illustrate the consumption of eggs to actually lower the risk of heart disease instead of contributing. Furthermore, a study published in The Journal of American Medical Association, demonstrated that people who reported eating four eggs per week had lower mean serum cholesterol levels than those who ate one egg per week.

Eggs and the Brain

Eggs are an excellent source of choline, a key component in fat-containing cell membranes and the brain is made up of about 60% fat. There are two primary molecules that make up the majority of the brain’s total mass and choline is a major substrate for both as well as one of the brain’s key neurotransmitters.

Choline is highly productive in the process of methylation. In methylation, methyl groups are transferred to carry out different processes. Examples of methylation are communication in cells or turning on certain genes in our DNA.

Eggs and Weight Loss

Starting your day with ample protein is essential to revving metabolism. In a randomized controlled study, 160 overweight men and women were divided into two groups; one ate a bagel breakfast and the other a breakfast with 2 eggs for 8 weeks along with a low fat diet and 1,000 calorie deficit. As a result of the trail; the egg eaters lost almost twice as much weight, experienced increase energy levels and an 83% decrease in waist circumference than the bagel eaters. As a bonus, there was no sign of an increase in blood levels of total, HDL or LDL cholesterol or triglycerides in either group. Meaning, healthy individuals can enjoy eggs without risking a heart attack.

Eggs and the Eyes

Lutein is one of the carotenoids known to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. It may be more readily available in eggs than other sources such as leafy greens due to the fat and choline content.

 

Moral of the story: Eat more eggs!

 

References:

Ballesteros MN, Cabrera RM, Saucedo Mdel S, Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol does not increase biomarkers for chronic disease in a pediatric population from northern Mexico. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct; 80(4): 855-61. 2004. PMID: 15447890.

Dhurandhar N. Vander Wal J, Currier N, Khosla P, Gupta A. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. The FASEB Journal. 2007; 21:538.1. 2007.

Ensen HH, Batres-Marquez SP, Carriquiry A, Schalinske KL. Choline in the diets of the US population. NHANES, 2003-2004. The FASEB Journal 2007; 21:219. 2007.

Howell, W.H., D. J McNamara, M.A. Tosca, et al. Plasma lipid and lipoprotein responses to dietary fat and cholesterol: a meta analysis.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1997; 65(6): 1747-1764.

Hu, F.U., M. J. Stampfer, E. B Rimm, J.E. Manson, A/ Ascherio, G. A. Colditz, B. S. Rosner, D. Speigelman, F. E. Speizer, F. M. Sacks, C.H. Hennekens, and W. C. Willet. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. Journal of the American Medical Association 1999; 281(15)-“ 1387-1394.

Hu F.B., Stampfer MJ, Rimm E.B., et al. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999; 281:1387-94.

Spring Cleaning- My First Week of Detox 360°™

Feeling fatigued, experiencing headaches, food allergies and brain fog; I realized my toxic burden was overflowing. I was in need of a spring-cleaning, literally. Ergo, I began the Apex Energetics Detox 360°™.

By any means this is not a fast or liquid diet. The best part is you’re encouraged to eat! This carefully designed program is multifaceted, hitting detoxification from several angles. Through a hypoallergenic diet, homeopathic drainage formulas and healthy lifestyle practices, this program lays a foundation for optimal health.

In preparation for the month ahead, I cleared my schedule and drafted a grocery list. Fine tuned nutrition is key for proper detoxification. The liver, kidneys, lymphatic system and skin are key players in the detoxification process and require an array of nutrients to function advantageously. Hence, Detox 360°™ provides recipes and meal plans revolving around organic vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and health shakes.

Step one was to fill my house with energy boosting, detox-friendly whole foods. My grocery cart was like the rainbow, so colorful. I had an array of fresh vegetables and fruits. I opted for frozen fruits for shakes because they are easy to manage and won’t spoil.

Red– tomatoes, rhubarb, cranberries, beets, strawberries, and frozen raspberries.

Orange-oranges, carrots, yams and frozen peaches.

Yellow lemons and bananas.

Green– kale, kiwis, collard greens, apples, dandelion greens, broccoli, Swiss chard and herbs.

Blue– blueberries and frozen blackberries.

Purple– potatoes, peppers, onion and cabbage.

The best thing to do while detoxing is to ABP- always be prepared! In order to prepare my house, I cleared it of all temptation. This was easy for me to do because I don’t usually eat “non-foods.” I define a non-food as something that takes more nutrients to digest than it provides. Examples are chips, cookies, muffins, ice cream and most packaged or prepared foods. Of course there is an exception every rule and you can find natural or healthier versions of the foods mentioned above, I’m referring to conventional versions. I decided to cook a couple of dishes at one time to prevent any slip-ups. I also kept snacks with me while I was away from home (smart tip for everyday living). Staying hydrated is also important to ease the elimination of toxins. To that end, I would steep several teas at once in jars so I could take them with me while on the go. In addition to teas, I drank at least 2 quarts of filtered water each day.

 

The first week is considered the preparation phase. It is meant to gradually prepare your body and mind for deep cleansing. Guidelines- 3 meals, 1 shake as a snack and homeopathic drainage drops. Begin reducing consumption of dairy, alcohol, stimulants, grains, nuts and seeds.

I was aware of the possible symptoms I might experience going into the program. Symptoms of detoxification include: headaches, fatigue, irritability, restlessness and cravings. I planned the program so my “start day” was on a Friday in order to rest over the weekend. Good thing because the first two days I was extremely exhausted. To top it off, I woke up with splitting headache both days. I really took it easy, rested and drank a lot of water. Before bed I enjoyed a relaxing mineral bath and a good book. I found these actions reduced my symptoms.

Day three was a good day. I felt great! I was active with my two adorable dogs and even had an hour long workout. Day four the dreaded brain fog set in and unfortunately lasted the rest of the week. Since I was experiencing brain fog before, it was severely intense. I met a friend for lunch at the Betelnut and was able to order with ease. Day five was little rough. I experienced a symptom trifecta, fatigue, daylong headache and irritability. The liver is the seat of anger in Traditional Chinese Medicine, so these sentiments were bound to surface sooner or later! I made a special trip to the gym to sit in the sauna. Sweating is crucial in getting the toxins out. Saunas and steam baths increase circulation and speed up the elimination process. The last couple of days my energy began to stabilize, headaches were gone and I was able to exercise without feeling exhausted.

Today, day eight, I woke up feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Energy is up, happiness is restored and I’m excited to take on the next three weeks.

Coconut Oil, Water and Milk

Coconut Oil

Studies have shown coconut oil promotes weight loss and protects against heart disease. Though it is primarily saturated, the MCFA are easily absorbed and used as energy. When selecting coconut oil be sure to select an unrefined, food grade version. Avoid hydrogenated coconut oil like the plague. Hydrogenated oils are partly responsible for clogging arteries. High quality coconut oil is odorless and tasteless. So, if you don’t prefer the taste of coconut, don’t fret!

Uses
Due to the fact coconut is primarily saturated, coconut oil is heat stable making it great for cooking at medium to high temperatures and baking. Try it in the shrimp n’ scallop stir fry or gluten free brownies. Coconut oil can also be used topically for a soothing, nourishing substitute for lotion.

Nutrition Data
1 tablespoon has 120 calories, 14 grams total fat, 13 grams saturated fat and 1 gram monounsaturated fat.

Coconut Water

Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside young coconuts. During times of war people in these regions used coconut water intravenously in place of saline solution and blood plasma. It is a very low calorie and fat source. Coconut water is a good source of five essential electrolytes: potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorous and magnesium; and is thought to be an excellent sports recovery drink for this very reason.

Uses
Enjoy coconut water after a strenuous workout or as a refreshing cold drink on a hot day! Personally, I like to use coconut water as a base in my smoothies. Try in in the tropic thunder smoothie.

Nutrition Data
1 cup has about 45 calories, 4 of which coming from fat and 6 grams of natural sugars.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk comes from the grated meat of a coconut and has a rich, creamy texture. Therefore, just like the meat, the milk has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Coconut milk is also known to have a laxative property due to the oil content.

Uses
Found in a can, it is often used in general cooking, deserts and to thicken sauces. Add a couple of tablespoons to your morning oatmeal or enjoy a coconut milk tapioca pudding after dinner. You may also buy refrigerated coconut milk that has a consistency closer to bovine (cow) milk for cereals.

Nutrition Data
1 cup has about 550 calories, 515 calories coming from fat and 8 grams of sugar.

References:
Kaunitz, H., C.S. Dayrit. “Coconut Oil Consumption and Coronary Heart Disease.” Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine 1992; 30: 165-171.

St-Onge MP, Jones PJ. Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue. International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders, 2003 Dec; 27(12):1565-71.

An Asian Twist on Gluten Free

I met with a dear friend of mine for lunch today at Betelnut of San Francisco. I haven’t been there in years but it has always remained one of my favorite restaurants, and for good reason. Not only is the food extremely tasty, but you can sit outside and people watch as you eat. There is always something happening on Union Street. You will find people walking their cute dogs, entertaining little children or you can just sit back and enjoy the style of good ol’ San Franciscans!

Usually, I am a bit nervous of finding options at restaurants that fit my dietary needs, but as you know life in San Francisco is about eating out! Luckily, Betelnut has several options for those in the same boat. The restaurant has a gluten free menu, most dishes are dairy free and you can request nut free for those with a nut allergy. So I say, “go for it!”

My friend and I ordered three yummy plates from the g/f menu and followed the tradition of eating family style. Places like Betelnut are enjoyed to the max when you are able to try a little of everything.

We started with the 5- spiced garlic edamame and asked for part of the order steamed plain. The edamame was nothing special and there are probably better options to start with. But it was quick so if you’re hungry it’s nice to have something on the table while you figure out what else to order. We proceeded to enjoy the green papaya, shrimp, grapefruit, herbs and “nuoc cham” salad. I must say this salad is a staple at the Betelnut. I have been ordering this dish since my first visit. It is fantastic! Both flavorful and healthy. Since we ordered from the g/f menu, the chili sauce came on the side for my company, as she is not g/f. It added a punch of flavor, which she said complemented the dish very well. Next we relished the “yee sang” dish served with yellow tail jack, seaweed, chilies, and peanuts with a lemon plum dressing. It was a party on the tongue! It is served rare so if you’re not a fan of sushi, stay clear of this dish. Otherwise, enjoy. To complement our lunch we opted for a nice warm white tea, served in a cute caste iron teapot. It was just what we needed to take off the famous San Francisco chill.

Who says you have to sacrifice flavor when eating gluten free? Our meal was extremely healthy; full of vegetables, lean proteins and one of the most flavorful lunches I’ve had in some time.

Coconut

Coconut is a little gem, full of health promoting properties. About 20 billion coconuts are grown annually. The three top producing countries are the Philippines, India, and Indonesia. Coconut is considered a staple used in traditional medicines and cuisines of these countries. In the Philippines, the coconut tree is referred to as “the tree of life” because the tree provides shelter, food and many products in between.

Parts of the Coconut

The tree itself reaches about 100 feet tall with about 20 large leaves; each about 10-15 feet long, sprouting out the top. Within these leaves are clusters of coconuts. Inside the pale, green husk you will find a fibrous layer that protects the white flesh, surrounding sweet nectar known as “coconut water”. In some nations, like the Philippines, the entire tree is used to make an infinite list of products. To learn more click: http://www.pca.da.gov.ph/tol.html.

The fleshy meat is ground up to make coconut flour, ground up then strained to make coconut milk, fermented from coconut milk to make coconut oil, dried and shredded to make a yummy snack or used in nourishing beauty products.


Coconut Health Promoting Properties

Coconut oil is antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal thanks to the high content of lauric acid, about 50%. Another potent source of lauric acid is found in mother’s breast milk. Lauric acid helps protect you against bacteria, viruses and strengthens the immune system. Capric acid makes up about 7% of the fat in coconut oil, has been shown to have antiviral properties against sexually transmitted diseases. Thailand has the lowest cancer rate out of 50 countries surveyed by the National Cancer Institute and uses coconut in almost every dish. Coincidence? I think not.

Additional studies have shown coconut oil to protect against heart disease and reduce white fat stores.

Coconut and Weight Loss

For starters, it is made up of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) that don’t require bile for digestion. Therefore, coconut is easily digested and is an ideal fat to incorporate into the diet for those who have a compromised digestive system. Additionally, MCFA are immediately used for energy, making it a powerful weight loss food. A study from the Journal of Nutritional Science Vitaminology, 2002 found that MCFA have more of a thermogenic effect than their longer counterparts which are stored as fat more readily. The thermogenic effect essentially raises your body temperature; increase metabolic rate and energy levels.

Nutrition Facts

For ½ half cup of fresh coconut there are 140 calories, 120 calories from fat and 2.5 grams of sugar.

Though it is not a low calorie food it has a beneficial effect on heart disease risk factors, fat-burning qualities and is a tasty snack. Nosh on a handful of dried, shredded, and unsweetened coconut when you find yourself reaching for a cookie. It will fill you up without sending your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride, like the cookie would.

References:

Enig, Mary G., and Sally Fallon. “Know Your Fats- and Your Nutrients.” Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats. New York: Penguin Group, 2005. 61.

Kaunitz, H., C.S. Dayrit. “Coconut Oil Consumption and Coronary Heart Disease.” Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine 1992; 30: 165-171.

St-Onge MP, Jones PJ. Greater rise in fat oxidation with medium-chain triglyceride consumption relative to long-chain triglyceride is associated with lower initial body weight and greater loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue. International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders, 2003 Dec; 27(12):1565-71.

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