The Supplement Pyramid: a new book & giveaway

It’s a question I commonly get: “Do I really have to take supplements? I eat a healthy diet.” The simple answer is “yes.” In addition to eating a healthy diet.  True, my focus is on diet, and how to maintain and manage your health with real food, however, I agree with the reasoning outlined in this book, that depleted soil health, increased toxicity of our environment, daily stress, food additives and unavoidable processed food have worked together to create a situation in which it is nearly impossible to obtain all the nutrients your body would like on a daily basis. That’s where supplements come in.

The more complex answer involves the personalization of what and how much you should take.  The process of personalization can seem overwhelming, and indeed you are certain to come across misleading and conflicting information along the way. To try to simplify the process, I often recommend the Life Extension Foundation (LEF) for well-researched information as well as high quality products.  It is certainly not the only source of independent research and reliable information, but it is one (of several) I use both personally and professionally.

SupplementPyramid_book-500px

The Supplement Pyramid, written by Dr. Michael A. Smith, Senior Health Scientist with Life Extension Foundation, and Sara Lovelady, provides a very accessible, easy-to-read explanation of why supplements are necessary, and how to determine which ones are right for you.  The book includes numerous health quizzes so it doubles as a workbook to help with the personalization process.  The quizzes allow you to evaluate and reevaluate the best combination of supplements through out your life, since your ideal supplement package is likely to vary as you age and health conditions change.  It offers short discussions of many common health conditions (from diabetes to irritable bowel syndrome to cancer) with suggestions for supplements and blood tests to determine your personal needs. Later, the authors guide the reader through four case studies. The book concludes with two useful appendices: a list of eleven recommended nutritional supplement companies (including, but not limited to LEF), and a long list of recommend nutrients with online links for even more information.

Here’s a video sneak peek:

The pyramid structure takes into account three levels of importance when it comes to taking supplements: foundational, personal and optimal.  If you can’t take the full pyramid of supplements (for financial or other reasons), this format clearly illustrates which to forego first.

LEF supplement pyramid

The Supplement Pyramid effectively explains which supplements fall into the Foundational level (for everyone). The next chapter guides the reader through quizzes (personal history and medical evaluations) to determine which supplements best fit into your Personalization level. The final level is about health optimization.  It includes recommendations for supplements which could help you live longer and healthier, such as additional antioxidants, amino acids, or a newly discovered longevity herb.Build Your Pyramid
If you prefer information online, the book’s authors provide an accompanying website, My Supplement Pyramid, with nutrient information and health quizzes where you can take, store and retake (when necessary) your personal information digitally.

In this book, the pyramid shape provides a beneficial structure with which to organize and prioritize your personal supplement regimen. Following the recommendations found on its pages, may result in improved health and/or extended longevity in a solid, long-lasting way not unlike the ancient pyramids (although it is generally believed that pyramids served as monuments to the deceased).

Until recently, the pyramid format was also used by the USDA to help us assemble our meals in balanced combinations from the various food groups.  That graphic was updated to a plate (with the clear visual cue in place), in the hopes of encouraging greater numbers of people to make healthy eating choices. Even if you typically fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables (which, according to Smith, is only true for 1 in 10 Americans), it is still unlikely that all of your nutrient needs will be fully met. That is where this very readable guide brings the pyramid back to the table, and aids you in making the best choices for your dietary supplements.

Dr. Michael Smith has kindly given me a second book to offer as a giveaway.  This easily digestible, handy reference will be sent to one lucky reader (randomly chosen) who leaves a comment. We are eager to hear about your favorite supplement – the herbal or nutritional supplement you wouldn’t want to go without. I have two at the moment: kelp and chia seeds. Please share yours in the comments below, and good luck!

 

Life Extension Foundation sent me two free copies of this book through the Life Extension Blogger Program, with the understanding that I would read and review one and offer the second copy as a giveaway to my readers. The opinions in this piece are all mine.  Other than being a part of their Blogger Program, I am not affiliated with Life Extension Foundation, nor am I being compensated. 

Long Live Grilled Cheese!

A panini, a quesadilla, a tosti, a croque-monsieur, a Welsh rarebit…. it has been thoroughly tested the world over, and has been unequivocally determined: a grilled cheese is a good thing.  In conjunction with Wilson Farm’s Grilled Cheese Weekend (my childhood neighborhood farm and farm stand hosting their First-Ever Grilled Cheese Weekend, March 1 & 2, 2014), I’m having what has become my favorite way to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich.

kimchi grilled cheese

Thanks to a thematic overhaul and a particularly lively addition, the grilled cheese recently jumped up in the ranks of my favorite sandwiches. The new theme is probiotics – those BFF bacteria we can’t live without and live much better with. Filling my sandwich with as much life as possible, I’ve been opting for a true sour dough bread (which is naturally fermented), layered with sliced raw milk hard cheese (naturally cultured Cheddar being the favorite choice in my area), topped with a generous scoop of sauerkraut or kimchi (lacto-fermented cabbage teaming with probiotics), all melted together to the point of perfection.

kimchi

kimchi grilled cheese

Add even more life to your meal, by washing it down with a tall glass of kombucha (a naturally fermented tea), ginger bug, kefir or a lassi and you are in good bacterial hands!

Switching to Switchel

Switchel with lemon

It’s time to bring in the hay.  Not something I am directly involved in, but see happening all around me and am impressed by the long days the haymakers put in.  Something exceptionally energizing must be fueling this operation…

Making hay

As it turns out, haymaking has its own energy drink, or at least, traditionally it did. Switchel has been reached for on hot August afternoons for more than a hundred years in these parts. It is possible that this undeniably refreshing drink made from cold well water, sweet maple syrup, electrolyte-filled molasses and energizing apple cider vinegar, traces its roots back to a similar drink enjoyed in Hippocrates’ day. Oxymel was a medicinal mixture of water, honey and vinegar.  Apparently, we’ve been drinking vinegar for a good long time.

A few years ago my daughter attended a summer camp at Shelburne Museum, called “A week in 1795.” She introduced me to Switchel with the following recipe:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • water, to taste

Combine the vinegar, molasses, maple syrup and ginger in a bowl. Vinegar mixture serves as a concentrate. Combine with water in a glass or pitcher to taste.

I like to make it with seltzer water (store-bought, or made from tap water with the help of a counter-top SodaStream soda maker) for an sparkly effervescent libation.  For the highest nutritional value, I would recommend using raw apple cider vinegar, blackstrap molasses, and grade B maple syrup.  If you want to substitute honey for maple syrup, look for raw (unfiltered and unheated) locally harvested honey as your healthiest option.

switchel front

With an interest in keeping traditional foods alive, the Vermont Switchel Co has emerged on the real food scene. If you are Vermont, make sure to look for her ready-made bottles of switchel on more and more grocery and general store shelves, and on YourFarmstand.com. Her website includes in-depth nutritional information as well as recipes in which to use switchel.

Switchel above

If you’re inspired to mix up a batch of your own, I’ll leave you with another recipe. Today, on a glorious August day, I’ll raise a glass to Scott Nearing (who would have been 130 years old!), and all the back-to-the-land, homesteading, traditional customs and foodways he honored, practiced and wrote about.  Therefore, from his wife’s cookbook Simple Food for the Good Life: Random Acts of Cooking and Pithy Quotations (Good Life Series) here is the Nearing’s Switchel Recipe:

  • 1 quart cold water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

Stir up together and dilute to taste with more cold water. A pinch of baking soda will make it foam up like beer or ginger ale.

Either recipe can be tailored to taste (more or less ginger, maybe a slice of lemon, or a pinch of nutmeg, etc) without skimping on the real food refreshment.  It’s an easy-to-make replacement for expensive, mass-produced and increasingly worrisome (including, – yikes! – death!!) commercial “energy drinks.”

Keep it simple and safe, staying cool and hydrated with real food and water.

Reboot with Joe: From Pharmacy to Farmacy

On Thanksgiving Day, with a freshly made vegetable juice in hand, Joe Cross gratefully declares, “I’m thankful that I got sick, because, if I hadn’t gotten sick, I would have had a heart attack and died.  It was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and get well.”

Now, two years later, Joe is not only fit, healthy and very much alive, but encouraging others (perhaps you too) to join him and get healthy.  His Reboot with Joe program provides free tools, inspiration, recipes and a community of film viewers who are inspired to follow in his footsteps. On the new site, you’ll find these impressive statistics.

As a result of seeing the documentary, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”:

  • 93 million glasses of fresh juice have been consumed,
  • 93,000 US tons of produce have been consumed,
  • More than 6.2 million pounds of weight have been lost,
  • And over 55,000 people are now medication free.
  • Furthermore, the film has been credited with driving the explosive growth in juicing in the past two years. In January 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “Appliance retailers say it has been hard to keep up with demand for juicers since (the film) hit Netflix, in July 2011.”

If you have not already seen the full movie, you can do so here.  The documentary quickly draws you into Joe’s juicy life-changing road trip.  A hundred pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe had been a patient of six different doctors, to no avail, when he decided to resort to a healthy diet. To jump start a dramatic lifestyle change, he took himself out of his regular routine in Australia, and spent two months in the US drinking nothing by freshly squeezed juice, and getting better.

Juicing – not to be confused with mixing up orange juice from concentrate or any of the many juice drinks on supermarket shelves – super concentrates the nutrients of more fruits and vegetables than one could consume in a sitting by chewing. This type of cleanse gives the body a break from heavy digesting and metabolizing, while offering easily absorbable micronutrients and plenty of water for flushing and rehydrating. Looking back to our Paleolithic ancestors who often fasted as food was not always and everywhere available, it’s likely a routine to which we are well-suited. Nonetheless, in our modern lives, most of us have taken up fast food eating fast (as in quickly) instead.  And we have a health crisis to show for it.

Joe starts his healing journey with Dr Joel Fuhrman, who explains that “you don’t get permanently well, if you don’t permanently change your habits.”  With 61% of the American diet being processed, 30% animal products, 5% a white starch and only 5% fruits and vegetables, trading that in for quality time with fresh produce is a drastic change in the right direction.  One from which the less drastic, longer term lifestyle changes will follow.

Along the way, he meets a few people willing to give juicing a try.  One woman, who suffers from migraines, commits to a 10-day fast and enjoys headache-free living.  Joe also meets a truck driver with the same rare autoimmune condition he has. What starts as a chance meeting at a truck stop in Arizona, turns into a beautiful ripple effect story.  After this own healing in well under way, Joe returns to the US to become Phil’s (the truck driver) personal juice-maker and health coach.  Without spoiling too much, Phil, weighing in at 430 lbs and suffering from several painful chronic conditions, commits to vegetables and a juicer and comes out a clear winner.

Both Joe and Phil have powerful personal stories to tell, in which they were able to trade in their costly pharmaceutical prescriptions for farm-aceutical fruits and vegetables and go on to inspire countless others to do the same.  They later attended the same holistic nutrition program I did (Institute of Integrative Nutrition) and through health coaching and the Reboot with Joe program are now supporting many more to get healthy and enjoy life.

Have you tried a juice fast? How was your experience? We’d love to hear your stories and any juice recipes you would like to share. A randomly selected commenter will receive a Reboot with Joe bundle (The Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead DVDcompanion book and Reboot Nutrition Guide with recipes to help you get started juicing!).

Nominating Cauliflower: An Educated Cabbage

cauliflower 3

What will be the trendiest vegetable in 2013 was a recent question in a focus group.   I sat up straighter in my chair. “Trendy vegetables,” I love it already!  That makes vegetables sound as revered as high fashion and haute cuisine.  Cauliflower was declared the projected winner.  It is certainly deserving: not only does it assemble itself like a bouquet of flowers, offer a mild yet complete and comforting flavor, pack an impressive dose of vitamin C, as well as fiber and potassium, and exemplify fractal design, but Mark Twain referred to it as a “cabbage with a college education.”

Generally thought of as a white vegetable, this member of the brassica family also comes in a yellowish-orange, a deep purple and the fabulous knobby green Romanesco variety. This phenomenal mini moonscape vegetable provides the added excitement of a special spiraling pattern.  Who doesn’t want a Fibonacci masterpiece on their plate?

Not sure about the spirals and the Fibonacci sequence?  Vi Hart explains it more precisely and certainly more playfully than I could in the following video. You’ll be counting spirals on pinecones, pineapples, artichokes, sunflowers, cauliflower, etc in no time.

 

With so many ways to enjoy cauliflower, let’s start with one of the simplest, yet very delicious and beautifully presented ways:  Roasted Cauliflower

roasted cauliflower- before

Place sliced cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt into a pre-heated 400˚ oven.

roasted cauliflower-after

Ten or so minutes later, remove the beautifully browned, slightly softened, still crunchy, with a decidedly sweeter and smoother flavor (than when it was raw) roasted cauliflower. Add additional salt or pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Cauliflower also does well as a potato stand-in. Whether you’re cutting down on spuds, avoiding the nightshade family, or just ready to try something new: Cauli-Millet Mashed Potatoes

Cauliflower mash

From The Hip Chick’s Guide to MacrobioticsMillet Mashed “Potatoes” with Mushroom Gravy

  • 1 cup millet, washed
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 2 cups cauliflower, in small florets or chunks
  • sea salt
  • toasted sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 12 button or 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 drop brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons kuzu, diluted in 1/2 cup water
  • scallions or parsley for garnish

Method:

  1. Place the washed millet in a heavy 2-quart pot.  Over medium heat, stir the millet continuously until it dries and then becomes aromatic and ever-so-slightly golden in color.  This can take 5-8 minutes.
  2. And water and cauliflower.  Bring to a boil.  And salt.  Cover and simmer over a low flame for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat.  Put millet through a food mill or blend in a food processor.  Blend to desired creamy consistency.
  4. To make the gravy: heat toasted sesame oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Add onion, salt and sauté until translucent.  Add mushrooms and sauté until soft. Add water and bring to a boil.  Season with tamari, mirin and brown rice vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings to your taste, and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  5. Add diluted kuzu to simmering mixture and stir constantly as the kuzu thickens.

I made a double batch of the “Mashed Potatoes” part of the recipe above, reserving half to use as the topping in a vegan Shepard’s Pie a couple of days later.  My children ate this up so fast….

Cauliflower Shepards Pie 2

A sampling of other excellent cauliflower recipes:

And there are many, many more recipes. What are your favorite ways to prepare cauliflower?

Have You Tried Acai? (Sambazon Review & Giveaway)

Sambazon

Have you tried the much touted acai berry? It has been raved about for its impressive nutritional profile and for its ability to encourage weight loss.  Despite the abundant positive press, I had yet to give it a try.  The Sambazon company offers a full line of acai juice drinks, smoothies and frozen fruit products all with non-GMO, USDA organic, vegan and gluten-free labels. From their website, I learned their drinks come in ten different flavors and blends.  I was only able to find the original flavor in my local health food store, but I imagine larger markets will carry a wider selection.

Although I enjoyed the drink, I found it too thick and too sweet for regular drinking, but when I used it as the base of a slushie, I loved it!  Beyond the product, what really impressed me, is the vision, mission and practices of the company. Sambazon, whose name comes from the Sustainable Management of the Brazilian AmAZON, is thoroughly dedicated to socially and ecologically sustainable development in the Brazilian rainforest while bringing acai nutrition to the rest of the world.  According to their literature, they support two million acres of Amazon Rainforest and over 10,000 family farmers with their berry harvesting and juice making operation.  Their products are certified Organic as well as Fair-Trade.

Sambazon juice (which is not exactly pure acai juice, but a juice drink consisting of acai puree, water, agave, lime juice, natural flavors, soy lecithin, citric acid, and fruit and vegetables juice for color) straight from the bottle was thicker than I would have liked.  I would love to see the juices packaged in glass, as I picked up on the plastic aroma when drinking out of the bottle, and would prefer to move away from plastic packaging whenever possible.  The Acai Original was much sweeter than I think is necessary (or enjoyable). I poured my next bottle over ice, to test it chilled and to see how it reacted to a little watering down. I liked it better. Still finding it thicker than I would like, I realized it was ideal smoothie/slushie/sorbet material. A chilled nutrient-dense tropical berry refresher can be the perfect companion on a hot and humid afternoon, of which, I imagine, there are many in Brazil.

Acai Slushie

Pineapple-Acai Slushie:

In a blender, such as a Vitamix, blend 1 banana, 1 bottle of Sambazon Acai Original, 1/2 teaspoon bee pollen, 5 tablespoons pineapple juice concentrate, 1 single package (or 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds and about 15 ice cubes. Add vitamin supplements, if you wish (I added 2,000 IU of vitamin D and 2 probiotic capsules).  Run the blender until all the ingredients are mixed and the ice cubes have turned to slush.  An incredibly nutrient-filled, tasty and refreshing beverage awaits you.

Acai is celebrated for its high concentration of antioxidants (particularly anthocyanin, which the deep purple color would suggest), fiber and essential fatty acids. The Tropical Plant Database finds acai to be nutritious, but not quite the standout we have been led to believe.  Acai contains up to 4% protein, 25% sugar and trace amounts of calcium, phosphorous, iron, sulphur, vitamins B1, A and E.
A bottle of Sambazon juice contains 10.5 fluid ounces. The serving size and corresponding nutrition facts, however, are for a serving size of 8 ounces.  Something to be aware of if you are checking the label for calorie or sugar counts.  Make sure to add roughly a third more to the numbers if you consume a bottle.

To visit Sambazon online, there’s the company website and their facebook page (including a $1.50 off coupon) and in California, there are now two Sambazon Cafes along the Pacific Coast Highway.  Built according to strict ecological design guidelines, the company’s commitment to doing business sustainably continues. Pull up a chair to a long table (made from reclaimed wood and metal), slide your spoon into a typical Amazonian “acai bowl” of fruit and granola, and allow the rush of nutrients and tropical flavors to sink in.

Or, bring the taste of Brazil to you!  Post a comment below, and one lucky winner (US residents only) will receive three free product vouchers (coupons) plus one of these beautiful wooden bowl and spoon sets (a $45 value). A random drawing will be held on June 30, 2013.

Have you tried acai?  Did you like it?  Any particular products or recipes you would recommend?

Sambazon bowl

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer.  As a Moms Meet Blogger, I agreed to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of the product.  For more information about Moms Meet, go to http://www.greenmomsmeet.com or join the social media conversation using #momsmeet.

Focusing on the Light

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”   – Martin Luther King, Jr.

From time to time life spins out of our control, whether it is a terrorist attack, a terrible accident, a diagnosis, or an “act of God”, and our bodies automatically react with stress. Our nervous system responds with a hormonal release of adrenaline.

Adrenaline works on muscle and liver cells and causes the quick release of glucose into the blood stream as an extra energy source.  It also prioritizes the major organs (the heart, lungs and brain) and sends blood there at the expense of the digestive system.  You may notice a tightening of the stomach and a lack of appetite, heartburn or nausea.

As tempting as it is, try to avoid the adrenaline diet: coffee, cola, energy drinks, until it’s time to try to wind down with alcohol. This liquid diet is often accompanied by quickly metabolized foods such as cookies, donuts, candy, ice cream alternated with chips, fries and other salty snacks.  The body is already revved up, and so for those of us who do not have to jump into the fire to save the victims, we can serve ourselves and others best by staying calm, and not further ramping up our systems with dietary stimulants.

Tip 1- water

Hydration is more important than ever.  Drink plenty of water; sip warm water if you like. Comforting drinks include the well-known chamomile tea, also lavender, valerian, and herbal blends as “Sleepytime” or “Tension Tamer”. Warm milk is known to be soothing.  For a bit of caffeine but without the jitters, turn to green tea, which combines valuable antioxidants with a boost to alertness.

Tip 4- green tea

Since your stressed digestive system can not do its job as well as you might like, choose easy-to-digest foods, such as smoothies and pureed soups.  Create low-glycemic meals (of slowly metabolizing foods), with plenty of protein, fiber and healthy fats such as avocado and coconut.  Sit down, breathe before eating, eat slowly, chewing as thoroughly as you can.  Digestion begins in the mouth, and with a compromised digestive system, use this first portion as well as you can.

maple-squash soup side

As is frequently recommended for all types of stress, breathe deeply, mediate if you can, practice yoga or even simple stretching exercises to help relax your muscles.  Go outside, enjoy a walk or other light exercise.  A full night’s sleep can change everything.  If nothing else, spend time resting while horizontal and without the stimulation of tv, news, messaging, etc.

Aromatherapy and homeopathic remedies can be effective in acute situations. Bach Flower Rescue Remedy is the first to go to. Essential oils of geranium, peppermint, lavender, jasmine, chamomile and lemongrass are comforting.  Additionally, from Holistic Online, “for short-term relief from stress and anxiety: Aconite is the medication (homeopathic remedy) of choice if your anxiety is the result of a sudden fright or shock. If you are grief stricken (such as when one of your loved ones die), the homeopath may give you ignatia. In situations such as stage fright and other anticipatory and performance anxiety, gelsemium is recommended. If you have anxiety accompanied by diarrhea, gelsemium is the preferred choice.”

What to say (or not) to your children? Storytelling friends have started a wonderful subscription story service called “Sparkle Stories.”  Here are their storytelling suggestions to help comfort yourself and your children with a focus on the abundant helpers, goodness and light.