Ramen is a Superfood

“Medicine in a bowl” – perfect for the season where germs are circulating. Boosting our immune system is a wise approach. This soup, served piping hot is packed full of functional and immune-enhancing ingredients. Eating warming foods this time of the year is an excellent way to eradicate illness as temperatures in the environment drop because according to Chinese Medicine, temperature plays a key role in health and immunity.

Other key immune-boosting ingredients in Jesse’s Shoyu Ramen recipe:

Bone broth: Although the research on bone broth is relatively inconclusive. Researchers from the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha found that chicken soup, when prepared in the traditional manner, decreased the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.

Shitake mushrooms: Shitake mushrooms contain an immune-boosting ingredient called lentinan and research has shown that Shitake mushrooms can boost the activity of natural killer cells, which destroy the cells that have become infected with a virus.

Kimchi: The major ingredients of kimchi are cruciferous vegetables and other functional foods such as garlic, ginger, and red pepper powder. When these ingredients undergo fermentation the fermentative byproducts significantly improve their immune-boosting capabilities

Cabbage: Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and contains antioxidants and polyphenols that help reduce inflammation in the body and protect against free radical damage. It’s also a great source of vitamin C which helps to enhance immune function.

Seaweed: Stimulates the immune system and guards against dermatitis, obesity, heavy metal poisoning, depression, congestion, and anemia.

Garlic: Garlic has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, and is thought to help lower blood pressure. Garlic contains allicin, which has cancer-fighting potential and antioxidants and organosulfur compounds that may block carcinogens from forming.

Foods for Prana

Prana, or chi, describes life force and the energy that exists in all living things. By harnessing the power of “high vibration” food we can increase our prana. There are many ways to supports this concept through the food we eat,  start following these 3 ways:

1. Raw Food: There are living enzymes that are present in raw food that can help improve mood and lift us out of the dreary winter blues! Juicing is a great way to incorporate raw food into the diet because it maximizes nutrient intake without a lot of fiber providing immediate sources of nutrients and energy.

2. Variety and colors: Variety can be achieved by incorporating lots of color into our diets. The different colors present in food represent different phytonutrients that provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Each of these colors and nutrients works synergistically with each other to provide maximum benefits.

3. Sprouted Foods: Sprouted foods are more nutrient-dense than non-sprouted foods and contain amino acids that are absent in refined grains. Sprouted grains also retain their natural enzymes which are beneficial for digestion. Try sprouted your own grains to increase the nutritional value by soaking them overnight!

To improve our own life force, make sure to incorporate raw foods, sprouted foods, and colors!

Foods for Mind, Mood and Stress

Our topic today is nutrition for mind/mood and stress relief. And while there are some specific food and nutrients that can support mind and mood there are a lot more foods that can do just the opposite and excaccerbate stress. Pretty much anything that our bodies don’t recognize as food (like a corn dog) will activate the stress response in the body – which is also an inflammatory response. Interesting that the acronym SAD stands for Standard American Diet as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Food that is loaded with chemicals, preservatives, is highly processed or sugar-laden promotes stress, depressive moods, and lowers our vibration and energy levels. Our body knows just what to do with an avocado – how to break it down and assimilate it. Our bodies are extremely challenged by a hot dog. It’s really not food, it is so highly altered from the way nature intended that the body does not even recognize it as food. So if we follow the simple guideline of eating minimally processed whole foods and limit sugar and artificial sweeteners we are well on our way to nourishing our bodies and minds in positive ways.

Aside from whole foods to benefit our minds and moods – our brains love fat – why? The brain is mostly fat and each of our brain cells is surrounded by a layer of fat called the phospholipid layer. Studies show that consuming healthy fats (specifically omega-3) can protect against cognitive deterioration. They can also positively influence mood, personality, and behavior. Also mono-unsaturated fats like avocado, olive oil have a positive effect on brain chemistry – they also satiate us – which is in itself a happy feeling. Fats to avoid are the artificial ones like trans fats and partially hydrogenated fats found in commercially prepared baked goods and fast food.as well as too many omega 6 fats found in vegetable oils.

Of course, we know that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables are good for us – but the reason is that they are packed full of anti-oxidants that dis-arm harmful molecules called free radicals, as well as provide fiber for healthy digestion and important vitamins and minerals that the entire system needs to thrive. So eating “the rainbow” and get as many colors on your plate is a great way to ensure feel-good hormones and being activated.

Stress eats up the body’s supply of B vitamins and some of us genetically have a hard time converting our B vitamins to the active form the body can use. Sources of good quality animal protein, as well as beans, legumes, dark leafy greens as well as fruits and vegetables, are good ways to assure we are well supplied in B’s.

Even if your methylation processes are hindered genetically you can help the process along by eating a whole-food, non-processed food diet, and adding a lot of these foods: Asparagus, Avocado, Broccoli Brussels sprouts green, leafy vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, lentils) and rice.

Eating Seasonally, Organically & Locally

Menu 2’s theme highlighted the benefits to our health and wallet by eating seasonally, organically, and locally. Eating foods at the peak of ripeness enhances flavor and nutrition. When food is locally sourced the transit time is reduced, and the cost savings are able to be passed on to the consumer. Purchasing local organic produce also promotes sustainable farming practices and builds community.

Another premise of promoting sustainability includes decreasing waste. When buying foods locally less packaging is needed. Arrive at the farm with a cotton tote and you just eliminated much of the packaging, labeling, and bags that are often used in grocery stores. Another way to decrease waste is to not waste food. Not one piece of the beautiful Pacific caught halibut used on menu 1 was wasted. After the halibut was filleted the remaining pieces were smoked with wood, rendering a delicious smoky sea flavor profile that had us all at an oceanside campfire

1. Carrots – Carrots are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber. They are also a rich source of the antioxidant beta carotene which promotes vitamin A production, essential for healthy eyes. Carrots can be found year-round, but the more colorful varieties tend to be more prevalent in spring and summer.

2. Kale – Kale is a nutritional powerhouse and has more than deserved its honorary label as a superfood. It is high in vitamins and minerals, but compared with other leafy greens, kale’s oxalate content is very low. This allows for its calcium and iron to be more absorbable. This delicious and versatile green can be eaten cooked, raw, or blended into smoothies for a delectable flavor combination with your favorite fruits.

3. Tomatoes – Tomatoes are the premier dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits including lowering risk factors for cancer and heart disease.

4. Leeks –This sulfur-rich vegetable has a much sweeter, subtler, and sophisticated taste than garlic and onions. Sulfur rich foods support the detox pathways in the liver and aid in the body’s abilities to heal and repair. October through May is the peak season for leeks.

5. Hummus – Hummus is a great plant-based protein source and simple to make at home from ingredients that most of us have on hand. Hummus is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and high in fiber to support healthy digestion.

Cooking for Nutrient Retention – Braising

Nutrient Retention and Cooking Techniques

Are raw vegetables healthier than cooked? Do certain cooking methods destroy vitamins? The answer is yes, all cooking methods alter the nutrient content of foods, and some are better for retaining certain nutrients than others.

The first thing to consider is what foods are in season. This will help determine the best cooking method.

Raw, lightly steaming, sautéeing, and quick grilling techniques for the spring and summer are most supportive to the body. Use fast cooking methods during these seasons.

Slow cooking methods like braising, crockpot cooking, and roasting are perfect for root vegetables that are in season in the fall and winter. Use slow cooking methods during these seasons.

Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamin B, can be lost during the process of cooking in water. Instead of remaining in food, these vitamins can leech into the water. If you choose a water-based cooking method, like boiling, save the water and use it! On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin K fare better during cooking.

Always include a variety! Utilizing different types of cooking techniques will ensure that the body gets a variety of nutrients.

Complex Carbohydrates

Did you know that your fuel for physical activity mainly comes from carbohydrates? But there are two types of carbohydrates you should be aware of – complex and refined. Our bodies process these two different energies in different ways, so it’s important to understand how they work.

Complex Carbohydrates come from whole foods like whole-grain flours, quinoa, nuts, starchy vegetables, and even seeds – these foods are fiber-rich and extremely high in vitamins and minerals.

Refined Carbohydrates come from processed food such as white flour, sugar, chips, cereals, and other fast foods. These refined carbohydrates provide minimum nutrition value while increasing your caloric intake.

Complex carbohydrates are important for us all, especially for the highly active like endurance athletes, these nutrient-dense carbs are digested slowly allowing our system to absorb the maximum amount of nutrition and useable caloric energy. Vegetables that are high in complex carbohydrates like parsnips, beets, potatoes, carrots, and squash. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Sprouted and whole grains, which are enzyme-rich and more digestible, are also a great source for long-burning energy.

When your energy dips, it’s tempting to reach for junk food, like sugary drinks, chips or processed snack bars, consider instead an apple, carrots or nuts – and drink plenty of water! Think about your energy in a 24-hour cycle, fueling the body with nutrient-dense, fresh foods throughout the day to maximize energy efficiency all day long.

Be mindful of what you eat and nourish yourself!

Benefits of Oregano & Thyme

Why it matters

There are herbs that are used for cooking which have value beyond providing nutrition and making food taste good. Some herbs, like thyme and oregano, are also used for medicinal purposes. Thyme has antibacterial and antifungal properties that speak to its medicinal value. It has been used throughout history to prevent poisoning and infection before antibiotics existed. It also provided some protection against spoiled meat and food-borne illness. Oregano in the form of oil has antibacterial functions as well, in addition to antiviral and antifungal properties. Additionally, both thyme and oregano help to protect against free radical damage and prevent inflammation in the body.

Putting into practice

As an antimicrobial, thyme can help protect against a sore throat and prevent food poisoning from contaminated produce. You can wash your produce in a solution using 1% thyme oil to reduce the chances of foodborne illness. Carvacrol, present in the oil of oregano and thyme oil, can enhance mood and protect against tumor formation.

Take away

Thyme and oregano are simple to grow in a windowsill or porch! Oregano oil is available in concentrated oil form or in a capsule. Both thyme and oregano can easily be incorporated in many different meals.

Cooking for Healthy Holidays

Happy Holidays everyone! Welcome to the season of giving and eating! Many of us are hosting dinners, parties and making gifts of food for family and friends, so this is an opportune time to slow down and take a deeper dive into what is actually in the ingredients and food we are offering.

Food manufacturers love to sneak in additives, chemicals, preservatives, and plenty of excess sugar in foods that are labeled or considered relatively healthy like breakfast cereal, yogurt, snack, and protein bars, as well as ketchup, sauces, and dressings, to name a few. This all started with the low-fat craze in the 1950s and hasn’t really slowed down since. Not so coincidently, this was also the genesis of the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the US.

In terms of hidden sugars, there are a couple of things consumers should consider in order to make sensible choices – and to be able to enjoy granny’s apple pie and cookies without the consequences. Truth is our pancreas can only process roughly 30 grams of sugar a day – so choose wisely. If you start the day with sweetened yogurt and a banana you have already met your quota.

However, if you start the day with some protein, healthy fat, and a small amount of carbohydrate, you can perhaps make room for a small slice of granny’s pie. Sugar is sugar – it comes in many different names – 61 at current count. So this is a gentle reminder to read food labels and specifically note the serving size and grams of sugar to avoid hidden sugars so you can quite literally, “have your cake, and eat it too.”

B Vitamins

We typically think of the energy value of food in terms of calories. However, there are very important vitamins in minerals that when present in our food, help with the conversion of calories to sustainable energy. When we eat food that lacks these nutrients, we are consuming what is commonly referred to as ‘empty calories.’

If we fill up on empty calories often, we are likely to fatigue at certain times of the day and may reach for coffee or sugar to help us make it through the day. This is part of the reason we have an overeating epidemic in the USP: if the food we eat lacks the necessary nutrition, we often overeat to compensate. This can be easily remedied if we consume foods with these essential vitamins that give our bodies the energy we need to make it from one meal to the next.

The B vitamins B1, (thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), and B6 (pyridoxine) and B5 (Pantothenic acid) help facilitate the production of energy from the foods we eat, and 2 other B vitamins, folate, and B12 play important roles in making blood cells which transport oxygen needed in energy production.

The two B vitamins we are likely to fall short of when we age are B6 and B12. In addition, stress and vigorous energy can deplete our B vitamin stores. Vegans and vegetarians can be specifically challenged in getting their vitamin B12 needs met as this is found only in animal-derived foods. Menu 4 includes plenty of Vitamin B rich foods, making this menu a great study in plant and animal protein B vitamin support.

1. Cabbage – Cabbage is a good source of B6 and folate. Just one cup of cabbage contains about 10% the RDI for folate and 6% RDI for B6.

2. Butter lettuce – Butter lettuce is a good source of a wide variety of B vitamins. Two cups of butter lettuce contain 32% RDI for folate, 6% RDI for B1, 5% RDI for B2, 4% RDI for B6, and 3% RDI for B5.

3. Mushrooms – Mushrooms are an excellent source of B-complex vitamins including B3, B2, B5, B1, and B6. A one-half cup serving of mushrooms contains more B3 (niacin) than any other B-vitamin, providing up 1.2 mg of this vitamin.

4. Black cod – Black cod is a superb source of B vitamins including a whopping 109% RDI for B12, 10% RDI for B3, 9% RDI for B6, and 8% RDI for B5.

5. Quinoa – Quinoa is technically a seed – not a grain and is gluten-free so it is an excellent choice for people who are challenged by grains. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 19% RDI for folate, 11% RDI for B6, and 12% RDI for B2.

Dietary Cholesterol

When it comes to nutrition, we are inundated with contradictory information. This is made even more confusing to the general public by way of the media and health organizations. One of the greatest sources of confusion is dietary cholesterol. For years, we have been told that if one has elevated cholesterol, they should then avoid foods that are high in cholesterol. Very compelling research in the past decade has debunked this myth. We have learned that foods high in cholesterol, and foods high in saturated fat do not have a direct correlation to high blood levels of cholesterol.

Approximately 20% of the cholesterol in the blood comes from the food we eat, whereas the other 80% is made in the liver (1). The body also regulates the amount of cholesterol it makes based on how much it takes in through the diet. When we eat more cholesterol, our liver makes less, and when we do not eat enough, our liver makes more. It is important to fully understand cholesterol and not deem it the bad guy. Cholesterol is vital to our health and wellbeing.

New scientific studies have determined that trans-fats, partially hydrogenated oils, sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and processed foods, are the real detriments to abnormal lipid values, not foods high in cholesterol. From a nutrition perspective, we know that all animal protein contains cholesterol. Fiber helps bind LDL (often referred to as the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and help to remove it from the body to prevent its reabsorption.

Therefore, eating a mostly plant-based, fiber-rich diet that is void of processed and manufactured fats and sugars can allow even those with high cholesterol or high triglycerides to enjoy moderate amounts of animal protein, or cholesterol-rich foods. The portion size here is key – most of us need no more than 2-4 oz of animal protein with our meals. Menu 4 contained eggs and chicken (with the skin) coupled with plenty of fiber-rich veggies to help break down the cholesterol – a perfect meal, even for those who have been told they have high cholesterol.

Eggs – 1 egg yolk contains approx 200 mg of dietary cholesterol. If you eat only 200-300 mg of cholesterol a day, your liver will produce another 800 mg from raw materials such as fat, sugars, and protein.

Chicken with skin – In addition to making cooked chicken juicier and more flavorful, chicken skin is mostly monounsaturated, in the form of oleic acid. Oleic acid, also found in olive oil, is known for beneficial effects on cholesterol.