Healthy Eating Choices - Recipes and Remedies for Everyday Living - Green Tip #21
There was an article in today’s paper about churches going green. Many are saving energy and recycling, while others are taking “green” a step further by growing and cultivating fruits and vegetables. It seems the churches are now aware that not only souls, but the planet needs saving! Awesome!
As you know, sometimes I’m at a quandary as to which topic to tackle in the information I choose to share with you. Many times, I have no idea until a fleeting moment brings clarity to my ever-racing mind. Today’s article in the Orlando Sentinel was my inspiration. In tip numbers five and six I spoke about eating whole foods as opposed to pre-packaged products. A healthy way to tackle your weekly grocery needs is to shop the perimeter of the store. This is where the fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meats and dairy are located. I’ve urged you to be creative in the kitchen, rather than eat out or buy pre-packaged, processed meals. Today, I’d like to take this point a little further by sharing some alternatives I’ve adopted as a result of trying to eat as healthily as possible.
The way of the land
The increasing trend of “going green” in recent years is nothing new. In fact, it is history repeating itself. Once upon a time ago, it was a way of life, until technology came into play and virtually changed the world. Not all for the good, in my opinion, but it’s not my intention to go off on that tangent today! Our ancestors lived off the land. They grew, raised or hunted what they consumed. They bartered with their neighbors for whatever one had and the other needed. Their minds and bodies were not polluted with chemicals and toxic substances or greed. It was a cleaner, purer, kinder way of life. Today, after realizing what we’ve done to our world in the name of profit and gain, having become diseased, obese, cold and uncaring, we’ve discovered if we don’t go back to “the way of the land” we and our planet will soon die. I’ve always said I was born in the wrong era; I would have done just fine in the pioneer days!
I know, I know, I’m rambling again. So, let me get back to the point and share with you some of the methods I employ in an effort to feed my body with as much nutrition as possible, without compromising flavor or taking supplements.
Support local farmers
Many more people are growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs. As a result, more and more farmers markets are dotting the landscape. When possible, support our local farmers and buy from their stands. And please, support our country by buying American grown or raised foods!
When buying eggs and meats, opt for free-range, grass-fed or cage-free, in the case of eggs (pasture raised is even better). At the very least, buy certified organic products. In certified organic farms, the animals are not fed hormones or steroids, which is not only healthier for them and what they provide, but also for our consumption.
If you, as do I, prefer a little sweetener in your coffee, or tea, oatmeal, etc., use stevia instead of sugar. Stevia is a genus of roughly 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family. Stevia, as extracted from the plant leaves, can be bought in boxes of individual packets, or loose. Stevia has 300 times the sweetness of sugar, therefore you use less. I get 3-4 cups of coffee out of one packet. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is safe for diabetics. It also carries zero calories. Sugar, on the other hand, even in raw form, is a crystalline carbohydrate of mainly sucrose, lactose or fructose, derived from cane or beets. We’ve learned in a previous tip “oses” are not good for the body. Although sugar carries only about 16 calories per teaspoon, because it’s an “ose” is affects blood glucose levels, therefore it’s to be avoided by diabetics. Additionally, excessive sugar consumption can lead to obesity and tooth decay. You may not think you consume much sugar because you don’t consciously add it to your foods, but read the labels of everything you buy. Almost everything processed, including breads, contains sugar! Especially read the labels of “low-fat” or “fat-free” foods. You’ll be surprised to find the manufacturers replace fat with sugar! What’s up with that?? I personally don’t see the correlation. And, please, please, please never consume sugar substitutes such as saccharin or aspartame! They are full of chemicals, carcinogens and have been linked to certain cancers and Alzheimer’s Disease!
Although our fruit requirements should come from, well, fruit!, we also consume fruit juice. After all, it’s a healthier alternative to sodas and other sugar-laden drinks. When buying juice, look for 100% juice products, as opposed to those made from concentrate with added high fructose corn syrup. Again, read your labels! Many juice manufacturers today, display “sugar-free or no sugar added” on the front label. Turn the bottle around and read the ingredients. Many times, you’ll find sugar substitutes on the menu. Big no no! Even better, squeeze or peel and blend fresh fruit. You can always add a little purified water to meet the desired consistency.
Oils and butters
Here are some rules of thumb to follow when using oils in food preparation:
- When cooking at high temperatures, such as baking or roasting, and you need to use oil, opt for extra virgin organic coconut oil. Coconut oil, which actually has the consistency and appearance of shortening, is rich in medium chain triglycerides, a type of fat used by the body as fuel for energy. Remember, we need the “good” fats. Coconut oil contains no hydrogenated or trans fatty acids. And a little goes a long way. I put about a teaspoonful in the bottom of the dish when baking fish or chicken.
- When a recipe calls for butter, or you’re frying eggs or just want some on your toast, do not use margarine or the popular spreadable vegetable oils. They contain hydrogenated oils, which are processed by forcing hydrogen gas into the oil. The process was introduced years ago to extend the shelf life of foods that normally spoil after short periods. Hydrogenated oil contains toxic trans fatty acids and have been found to contribute to heart disease, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and diabetes. Again, read your labels! Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils are found in foods you would least suspect! Oops! I’ve told you what not to use but not what you should use! You’ll be surprised to know, that although most fad diets will tell you to avoid butter, that is exactly what you should use! Preferably organic so you avoid the hormones and steroids fed to many cows in order to increase production. (There again, greed is a detriment to our health, in more ways than one!) Please, read your labels. I prefer a more spreadable consistency, so rather than wait for stick butter to come to room temperature, I buy a brand that contains olive oil. The ingredients on the brand I buy are sweet cream, olive oil and salt. It can also be bought unsalted, but I prefer the flavor of salted butter. Butter, while once thought to be a dietetic no-no, is rich in short and medium chain fatty acids.
- When sautéing or using raw, such as in salad dressings, organic cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest option. You should only consume olive oil packaged in dark-colored bottles. Olive oil is high in the omega-3 fatty acids essential to good health. Cold pressed means the oil was not heated over a certain temperature (usually 80 degrees F) during processing, thus retaining more nutrients. First cold pressed is even better. It means the olive was crushed exactly one time in processing. Buying olive oil in dark bottles retards light from compromising its integrity and nutritional value. When sautéing, combining olive oil with butter adds a creamy texture and buttery flavor. Olive oil also has many other uses, which gives me food for a future topic!
Lastly, I’d like to talk about salt. Many people avoid salt, due to its possible water retentive properties and links to high blood pressure. I happen to love salt and have found, thru research, certain salts are not only OK, but contain properties essential to maintaining proper “interior” balance. Of course, as with anything, moderation is the key. Table salt, or refined salt, contains 99% sodium chloride. This can have an adverse effect on your internal system if not monitored. It is sodium intake that we are urged to reduce. Unprocessed, unrefined sea salt, on the other hand is obtained by the evaporation of sea water. Sea salt contains less sodium and naturally procured levels of iodine, which is essential to proper thyroid function. You can buy it in fine or course form. Course sea salt is most natural, flavorful and you can use less of it in cooking, as it has a more prominent flavor. As is best practice, in order to maintain good health and receive the vitamins and minerals our bodies need, eating several servings of fish a week can help maintain good iodine levels. Be careful of the more oily fish, such as tuna, as they can contain high levels of mercury. Salt was considered such a commodity in early times, that it’s been said Roman soldiers were paid with salt. Thus, the phrase, “worth his salt”. Betcha didn’t know that, huh?
That's enough for now
Well, I think I’ve rambled on enough for this week. Make it SOP to feed your body, mind and soul. I’ll see you again next time and remember: keep a smile in your heart and never, ever let the music fade!
Shauna L Bowling
Refining, Defining, or Rhyming
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