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Cutting Out the Sugar

Posted By Carol Hunter, Monday, December 7, 2015

When I was growing up, there was no better lunch than a grilled cheese sandwich coupled with a bowl of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. Today, that meal continues to provide much comfort for me. Although, now the cheese is processed from cashew nuts and the soup is homemade. For the moment, back to tomatoes, as there was such a bumper crop this summer. I am busy preparing various tomato dishes. My recipe this month is so simple, I am almost embarrassed to offer it, but it’s too delicious and nutritious to neglect: my homemade tomato soup, minus the sugar.

What I have begun to realize is that just about all prepared foods, even the ones made with organic ingredients, contain “organic cane sugar.” That might sound good, but it’s not. We are deluged with too much sugar in our diets today. Maybe Americans are so programmed to the taste of sugar, we have trouble getting along without it. Unfortunately, the taste for it begins in childhood with the cereals and many other products containing sugar. As early as I can remember, those around me were pouring sugar on grapefruit, cereal, oatmeal, and other foods. I think there is a place for sugar, let’s say, in a piece of chocolate or some type of dessert, but do we need it in breakfast foods, lunch meats, and dinner entrees?

A realization I had when I first started drinking almond and coconut milk was that it was too sweet. First, I bought the Silk Almond Milk Light which provides 40 calories per serving. When I tasted it, I could tell immediately that it contained sugar. Then, I noticed that the original Unsweetened Silk Almond Milk contains 30 calories per serving with no sugar.  Now if you are a consumer, you might just think, as I had, that the Light version would be healthier than the original. Not! In addition, I had bought Raw Meal by Garden of Life along with Raw Protein by Garden of Life in chocolate (my fav) and was planning to whip up my liquid breakfast with some Silk Almond Chocolate Milk at 100 calories per serving. Yes, it contains cane sugar ( 17 grams/serving), but for meal substitution, perhaps that’s not too worrisome. My argument is not one of calories although that matters down the road. My point is about taste and how we Americans are programmed from an early age to love sugar.

When you’ve been literally blasted by sugar your entire life, what happens when you try to eliminate it from your diet? Nothing earth shaking if you are getting enough fiber, thank goodness. The worst of it is that you miss that sugary taste and that might be what drives you back to your old habits. Yes, at first, the taste seems bland or even unpalatable.  But if you persist, you will soon find yourself preferring the non-sugar version! Keep at it, and keep away from the inside grocery aisles, because the majority of   prepared food contains sugar.

Even frozen organic foods contain sugar. I had some Amy’s frozen dinners, because there are days when work leaves me depleted, and I simply need some sustenance without cooking it myself. I really like Amy’s vegetarian products, so I bought the Thai Red Curry frozen dinner. It would have been wonderful if not for one thing: it was sugary and sweet. When I am eating my entree, I don’t want it to taste sweet.

When we indict individuals about their weight gain, diabetes, and unhealthy lifestyles, we had better examine the food manufacturing in our country. Not many live on a farm anymore and are able to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables. We depend on large manufacturers to give us the nutrition we need. Sugar is a common ingredient, and unless we protest, it will not change.  We do not need to be consuming the current amounts of sugar that are routine ingredients in most, but not all, packaged foods.  My disclaimer is that I do not mean to pick on Silk and Amy brands. They simply serve as examples of many other health oriented products. I will continue to buy them myself, and especially like the Silk Original Unsweetened Almond Milk and Amy’s soups and chili.

Last month, I talked about making the switch from the omnivore to the herbivore diet. Here are my conclusions, at least at this time. I have made many changes. I had stopped eating meat, cheese, dairy, and other meat based foods, such as eggs, for a period of several weeks when I had an intense craving for meat. Since it was my birthday, I had a rib eye steak on the grill and it was great. Since then, I have not had any meat and don’t miss it, but I know down the road, I will.  Here is how I envision the dietary habits of our cavepeople, which teach us the following: most of the diet was plant based—greens, nuts, berries. What drove those people to hunt? Was it a basic biological drive to avert anemia? Killing an animal for food was not foolproof, and my guess is it did not happen often. So my educated guess is that prehistoric man was an omnivore, primarily eating plant based foods but eating animals on a sporadic basis. Why would I think that? We do have canine like incisors, designed to tear flesh. So a healthy diet always seems to come back to common sense. The mainstay should be plant based interspaced by an occasional meat based treat, like a small bite of real cheddar cheese!

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Tags:  diabetes  foods  nutrition  organic  soup  sugar  tomatoes 

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Is Organic Gardening/Farming Really That Much Better Than Non-Organic?

Posted By Carol L Hunter, PhD, PMHCNS, CNP, Monday, April 6, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 2, 2015
The promise of spring is a gift; a gift that instills hope into all of us. March is our gateway month when garden plans are laid down and seeds planted indoors. This month we celebrate heirloom seeds and organic gardening. We are showcasing some of the devoted folks who give us those rare, yet hardy heirloom seeds so that we may harvest vegetables that contain the flavor and nutrient content of plants that have survived and flourished over the long haul. The designation “organic” has largely become a legal term. To qualify as a “certified organic” farm, gardeners must present a ream of paperwork over a three year period. It can be a daunting proposition. But for those of us who are not operating a business but want the best that nature has to offer, there are many inventive methods for “organic” gardening.

Is organic gardening or farming really that much better than non organic? Let’s examine some of the data to help us make our decision. A good place to begin is to read Our Stolen Future, published back in 1996,a book that presents an astonishing story of just how toxic our environment has become, particularly in terms of the impact of hormone disrupters and implications for future generations. You can find information on the website : www.environmentalhealthnews.org and www.ourstolenfuture.org. Unfortunately, the battle continues today as the FDA refuses to ban bisphenol A (BPA), a compound found in polycarbonate plastics and the lining of food cans. When it comes to farming, exposure to pesticides is a grave concern. Organic farmers must comply with regulations to avoid the use of such contaminants. Some novel methods for insect control are simple yet effective. A spray bottle of water mixed with hot green chile juice or cayenne pepper can do the trick. Some insects like tomato worms can be picked off by hand although such a task would not be welcomed by all.

When I interviewed Julie, owner of Annies HeirloomSeeds.com, it would be hard to walk away without becoming a believer in the goodness of heirloom seeds. Julie told a story from about 5 years ago when a tomato blight decimated the tomato crop in Michigan. Among the hybrids she had planted, there were some heirloom plants sprinkled throughout. Although the heirlooms eventually succumbed, they survived long enough to produce a crop of cherry tomatoes, holding out a good three weeks longer than the hybrids. Friends and neighbors couldn’t believe it as most of the state lost its tomato crop that season. Heirlooms have survived for many years, at least fifty or more, and over the course of their propagations the plants have fought off a variety of insects and blights, only to become stronger and more resistant to disease. In addition, heirlooms contain more sugar than hybrids and with the sugar, greater nutrient content. Julie and Scott’s farm is on an island in Lake Michigan and there are benefits to being off the grid, so to speak. “We don’t have to worry about our neighbor’s corn field cross pollinating with ours.” The goal is to continue to produce the pure genetic characteristics of the heirloom seeds.

Annie’s offers a variety of different seed packages for every type of gardener. If you have never gardened before, do not despair. Even if you live in New York City, you could have a window or rooftop container garden that would prosper. Here are a few of the collections available for purchase: Beginner’s Garden Collection, Southern Homestead, Northern Homestead, Master Homestead Garden, Asian Garden Collection, Summer in Italy Garden Collection and Mexican Salsa Garden Collection, just to name a few. Depending on what part of the country you live in, advice from a professional about preparation of the soil would be a good idea. Here in New Mexico, we have heavy clay soil in the green belt and sandy soils on the mesas. Last year I used a product from Back to the Earth called Cottonburr Blend, a natural compost soil builder designed to loosen clay soils and increase moisture retention. It worked well in my area which is about a mile from the Rio Grande River. Along with basic soil preparation, don’t forget the fertilizer. I use a 2-1-1 premium all purpose fertilizer called “Yumyum Mix” by Soil Mender Products out of Tulia, TX. I was pleased with the results and will use it again this year.

Another great way to begin gardening is to have a small culinary herb garden as close to the kitchen as possible. Last summer I had an amazing basil plant that grew to about two feet tall and was beautifully bushy and pleasing to the eye. A few snips with a pair of scissors before dinner added an incredible flavor to many summer dishes. Annie’s offers a basic culinary herb collection as well as a gourmet culinary herb collection. Herbs are not just pretty and tasty. Thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano and cayenne are all excellent detoxifiers in the body. Julie has graciously allowed me to present her recipe for pesto sauce, a wonderful unique sauce with that wonderful basil aroma, perfect for pastas and fish. This is an interesting variation on the classical Italian recipe. Julie uses sunflower seeds and arugula but encourages her customers to “think outside the box” and experiment with different herbs and nuts or seeds.

Sunflower seed, basil and arugula pesto sauce:

2 cloves garlic
½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup packed fresh arugula
¾ tsp. sea salt
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup sunflower seeds
“In a food processor, mince the garlic with the basil, arugula and salt. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream and continue processing until well blended. Add the sunflower seeds and process until the seeds are finely chopped. Serve over pasta, or as we love it, over fish. Local Michigan Lake Trout is our favorite, but salmon would be excellent as well,"

Courtesy of Annie’s Heirloom Seeds. You can order a seed catalog at www.anniesheirloomseeds.com or call 1-800-313-9140. For those who can’t plant a garden this season for whatever reason, please support your local growers. With your zip code, you can find them at www.localharvest.org and sign up for their newsletter.
Bon appetite!

Tags:  farming  gardening  nutrition  organic  pesticides  sunflower 

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Chelation Practicum and Certification

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