Holiday Spiced Crème Caramel

Made here with full-fat coconut milk so it’s dairy free. I also love this recipe with cow or goat milk (I’ve been known to also use Highlawn Farm half & half for a really rich, indulgent crème caramel…).

The trick to marking a creamy crème caramel is to steam the custard by putting the ramekins, egg cups or cake pan into a larger lasagna-type pan and adding hot water to that larger pan once you’ve put it into the oven.  AND, it’s a life-saver that you can make this recipe way in advance. Crème Caramel keeps in the refrigerator for about a week. Don’t unmold until you’re ready to serve.

Bhindi Masala Chickpea Curry with Ghee

We sampled this out at our birthday party, and it got gobbled up! It was a fave. Was it the Eden beans, the Organic India ghee with its rich flavor and deep golden color, or the Arora Creations Bhindi Masala seasoning mix? My guess they come together in a wonderful, perfect storm… Speaking of seasoning mix, there’s no way I could make this myself. Where on Earth would I find amchur? So I keep a few Aurora packets we sell in the store on hand at home for that last minute “What do I make for dinner tonight?”

2014 Retailer of the Year !!!!

We were thrilled to be awarded 2014 Retailer of the Year (Community Engagement) at Natural Product Expo East. A quarter century as your natural market, and now the 2014 Retailer of the Year (Community Engagement) in the US natural products industry. Thank you for walking through our doors.

Koch Organic Turkeys for Thanksgiving & Much More!

This year we’re proud to offer Koch’s certified organic turkeys from the Koch Turkey Farm. Started in 1939 by Roscoe and Emma Koch, the farm is run by the third generation Koch family who feed their turkeys an all-vegetarian diet. They use no synthetic herbicides or pesticides to grow any feed. Call today to order yours. 978-371-7573. Koch organic turkey, $3.99 per lb. Quite a deal!

Goodies from our kitchen? Absolutamente! Pies (we’re the gluten-free experts and our baked good are the best)! Vegan stuff too. Cobblers. Ginger Crust Cheesecake. Homemade organic cranberry sauce, cranberry crunch and lots more of our seasonal, holiday favorites. To make sure you get exactly what Aunt Gertrude wants, call our kitchen today. You know the drill… 978-371-7573.

INGREDIENTS? We have all the ingredients for your festive, holiday table: Organic chestnuts, clementines, Brussels sprouts, Garnet yams, parsnips, heavenly pears, greens…Hostess gifts like figs and dates and honey and maple syrup and pumpkinseed oil. Chocolate. Candles, pretty soaps.

Get Some Sleep!

A repeat because we all need sleep, especially around the holidays! Adam Stark

A good night’s sleep is absolutely foundational to good health. This isn’t just your grandma talking. The research is there, too. Yes, it’s hard to separate cause from effect, but it appears that insufficient sleep is linked to slower and fuzzier thinking, a weakened immune system, anxiety and depression, weight gain, heart attacks, and fatal car crashes. Not to mention wrinkles.

Wrinkles!

Yet so many of us sleep so poorly, or simply don’t sleep enough.

Debra’s Natural Gourmet Turns 25!!!!

Mark your calendar – Debra’s Natural Gourmet Turns 25! Birthday Party and Non-GMO FOOD FAIR, Saturday October 18. 10:00-2:00. We will have birthday cake and ice cream, of course, but also a ton of our favorite companies sampling food. Come have a great time and help us celebrate! We’re all grown up! And, as a special treat, our birthday party coincides with Discover West Concord Day, which means the whole neighborhood is celebrating…5% of our sales the whole day will go to The Non-GMO Project.

Ethiopian Injera Made with Teff

Did you know that it takes 150 grains of teff, which grows mainly in the highlands of Ethiopia, to equal the size of a kernel of wheat?  Teff is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in calcium, iron, fiber and protein. Because teff is also one of the gluten-free grains, along with amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and quinoa, injera (which is a sourdough bread) doesn’t rise, but once fermented becomes a spongy, interesting flatbread often used as an edible tablecloth to scoop up vegetable stews, meat and juice from tomatoes! 

Stay Sharp: PART 1: Prevention

Natural Medicine to Prevent and Treat Age-Related Cognitive Decline and Dementia

This is one of those topics I’ve shied away from writing about for a long time, mostly because it’s hard to write about without either oversimplifying on one hand, or getting lost in the details on the other. 

There are mountains and mountains of research out there.  And that research is, for the most part, highly nuanced, and still inconclusive.  It’s nuanced because there are so many different kinds of dementia, with dozens if not hundreds of etiologies, and such a complicated matrix of risk factors, it’s enough to make you dizzy.  And it’s inconclusive because of the inherent difficulties in drawing solid conclusions from studies that track people, sometimes for decades, in the messy, confounder-filled Real World. 

Part 2, next month, will talk about treatment.  And it will be easier to write about.

So I’ll do my best.  I’ll talk about five things that I believe can prevent dementia.  I’m going to talk about general health, omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and using your brain.

Vitamix Sale News

For those of you who have been asking, we have more Vitamix 7500’s on the way, and you, too, can reserve a black, white or red one at the extraordinary price of $479.  Call today so we put your name on your new whirlwind of a machine.  This is a great price, and Vitamix has promised they will honor it at least until the end of the year. 

Thoughts about Eden Foods

Eden Foods Puts Their Money Where Their Mouth Is, and Now We Wish They’d Put Their Foot Where Their Mouth Is, But We Still Will Not Boycott Eden Foods

In our industry, there’s a very, very short list of companies that have stood the test of time, managing to grow large and successful without compromising their founding values. Equal Exchange. Organic Valley. Gaia Herbs. Jarrow Formulas. W.S. Badger. Amy’s Kitchen. Traditional Medicinals. Nutiva. Dr. Bronner’s.

These companies were founded by women and men with a vision. For the most part, the same women and men are still there, carrying that vision forward. These are the companies that were formed, not to make a profit, but to make the world a better place. These are the companies that do the right thing, not because it’s good publicity, or a tax write-off, but because it would be unthinkable for them not to. These are the companies that make us proud.

I believe that Eden Foods is one such company.

“Eat Well Be Happy” is television too!!!

Eat Well Be Happy, our great new cooking show on Public Access TV is airing happily in many towns.  Now in Concord (showing Monday at 5:00, Wednesday at 9:00, Thursday at 2:00 and Saturday at 4:00), Littleton (showing Tuesday at 12:30, Thursday at 5:30, Saturday and Sunday at 7:00), Lexington (showing Monday at 1:30, Wednesday at 5:30, Friday at 1:30, and Saturday at 5:30)

Boston has said yes, and other towns are coming on shortly too.  You can help us!  In order to air in Groton, Wellesley and Billerica, we need a town resident to sponsor us.  If you live in one of those towns, would you help us?  Please email me at Debra@DebrasNaturalGourmet.com.
 
We shoot eight more shows in September. 

Pink Stevia Lemonade with Pink Hibiscus Tea

Thanks to Adam, we’ve been enjoying this recipe for some years now.  For those of you who’ve been asking because you can’t find your copy, here it is again.  And, yes, it can also be found in our third cookbook, Blue Ribbon Edition, from our kitchen to yours.

If you don’t know, stevia is a South American herb that tastes much sweeter than sugar.  The good thing is that stevia doesn’t affect blood sugar, is safe for diabetics and contains virtually no calories.  An 8-oz cup of Pink Stevia Lemonade yields roughly 3 calories.  You can live it up, baby! 

Raw Green Soup with Avocado

Greens alkalize the body and detox, always a good thing.  This magical, light raw soup can be eaten room temp, but I like it best cold from the frig.  It’s fun to garnish with nasturtiums or purple broccoli….  Do you need the garlic and lemon?  Well, they help detox, and they also make the soup taste bright.  Why a pear?  It lends a little sweetness without much sugar, a lot of fiber. 

Natural Medicine for Gout

About five years ago, the New York Times published an article chronicling the rising tide of gout in America.  The paper took great pains to point out that this erstwhile “disease of kings” is no longer limited to the kingly, i.e. the wealthy.  Now that the poor and middle classes have access to plentiful rich foods and copious alcohol, gout is well within the reach of the rest of us.  And even among the thin, young, and clean-living, gout appears to be on the rise. 

Ain’t egalitarianism grand?

We get gout when a substance called uric acid, normally dissolved in the blood, crystallizes out of solution on and near the joints.  These crystals are sharp.  One of the first goals of gout sufferers, then, is to reduce uric acid in the blood.

Summer Tomato and Watermelon Salad

Combining tomatoes and watermelon seems to be all the rage today.  Typically such recipes call for adding feta cheese too, but I skip that because I think the feta makes the salad look messy. 

Did you know we can thank the Aztecs for the tomato?  ‘Tis true!  The Italians only got their hands on the tomato in the 1500s.  It’s also true that Europeans and later North Americans believed the tomato poisonous.   In 1820, Robert Gibbon Johnson stood on the steps of a New Jersey courthouse and ate a tomato to prove they were harmless.  Today we know that tomatoes and watermelons are a rich source of lycopene, a red pigment that is a powerful antioxidant.  Lycopene is said to neutralize chemicals that cause oxidative damage and loss of proper cell function, and protects the prostate.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Did you know that flower growers have used molasses to feed the blooms for decades in order to get stronger and longer lasting blossoms?  Molasses supplies trace minerals along with bio-available sugars to feed the plant immediately.   

Fake bees?

This just in from the Boston Business Journal: Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Science got a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation to run a five-year project to build RoboBees. Yep, fake bees to pollinate… Why? 

Endurance and Force: Cordyceps and Creatine / Natural Support for Athletes, and the Rest of Us

Cordyceps: The Oxygenator.  Cordyceps is a rare, high-altitude Tibetan mushroom with a bizarre and disturbing life cycle.  In the wild, a cordyceps spore will float through the air until it lands on an insect.  It infects the insect, sending its mycelium (the “root” part of the mushroom) throughout the insect’s body, killing it and transforming it, at least partly, into fungal biomass.  Then the fruiting body (the above-ground part of the mushroom) sprouts out the insect like creepy antlers. 

And then somebody finds it and does a celebratory dance, because wild cordyceps goes for upwards of $5,000 a pound.  Then they sell it to you, and you eat it, insect and all.  And you get to experience one of the most profound tonics in herbal medicine. 

Mango Berry Chia Pudding

Chia (Salvia hispanica)is fun food!  Man has been eating chia since the Common Era, in other words, way before chia pets were popular in the 60s.  The word “chia” comes from the Mayan word for “strengthening,” and Aztecs used chia to relieve joint pain, for energy, and in religious ceremonies.  Today we know that chia seeds are a rich plant source of omega-3’s, and three tablespoons of the seeds yields 200 mg of usable, absorbable calcium.  High in fiber?  Absolutely.

Roast Eggplant Hummus Sandwich

Eggplants are rich in compounds that protect them against stressors like bad weather, bacteria and fungi. Does that mean eating eggplants helps us stay healthy too?  That would be my guess!  While this recipe makes a delectable sandwich, you could skip the bread and make a composed plate instead with a dollop of hummus, slices of eggplant, a scoop of the cuke olive salad, and somewhere potato, eggs and pickles.

Vitamin Angels

Thank you to everyone who shopped the day before Mother’s Day, a benefit day for Vitamin Angels.  We were able to send Vitamin Angels a check that allowed them to reach an additional 5,000 children with the essential nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. Vitamin Angels recently visited beneficiaries in Honduras and found children thriving after having received a 25-cent dose of vitamin A.  Together, we done good!  Check out http://www.vitaminangels.org/field-stories.

Flaming Diablo, Death Stomach!

Acid reflux is properly called Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD.  It’s a pain to pronounce, and it’s a pain to live with.  It’s also dangerous.  Beyond the immediate symptoms – and these can vary widely – GERD also turns out to be one of the biggest risk factors for esophageal cancer. 

So what is GERD, exactly?  GERD is a condition where acid escapes up out of the stomach, and into the esophagus.  While the stomach is lined to protect against corrosive acids, the esophagus is not.  Damage ensues.

Two favorite products: Rooibos Tea & Active Manuka Honey

Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea is red tea from South Africa, and we’ve carried it since 2001. We love all our organic rooibos teas (we have bulk red tea and red tea in tea bags; we have some red tea in tea bags in combination with other plants and herbs too). One tea box says, “Since the turn of the century, rooibos has been treasured as an elixir for the mind, body and spirit.

Our own TV show!

We’ve got shows in the can. Local friend, Nancy Kaplan, has played the music for our theme song. My brother, David Stark, has done some fun graphics, and we’re shooting four more cooking shows at the beginning of May. Not long now until our cooking show will air. What’s the show called? Eat Well, Be Happy!  Eat Well, Be Happy has been our motto since the store opened in 1989….We are as excited as you are and can’t wait to let you know when. Any town that has public access TV can have and air our show. Stay tuned….

Cooking Contest!

Many of you, our customers, are fabulous cooks. How do we know? Well, over the years, we’ve all exchanged recipes and cooking ideas and they’ve been great. So, to celebrate warmer weather, we’re holding a cooking contest!  

Achoooo! (or How to Deal with Seasonal Allergies)

A healthy immune system is a wonderful thing. It identifies invaders in the body – viruses, bacteria, etc. – and then attacks and gets rid of them. At least, that’s what happens when everything goes smoothly.

But, things don’t always go smoothly.

Sometimes the immune system gets confused and attacks things that don’t need attacking. Chaos ensues.  

Shredded Beets with Grapefruit, Pomegranate Molasses & Sumac

This recipe is refreshing, somewhat tart, and loved by people who don’t ordinarily like beets. I think beets are just born to marry grapefruit, and this recipe will give you the chance to see why and to try pomegranate molasses and sumac, two favorite ingredients that we do, of course, sell at the store.

It goes without saying that you’re getting more nutritional bang for your buck (and no pesticides or herbicides) when you use organic grapefruit and beets, right? Did you know that beets will not only enrich tired blood, but help support a healthy liver and healthy circulatory system?

Dushenka Ani Silberfarb’s Almond Milk

Adam says, “Dushenka, author of The Model Vegan, really explores and tries to figure out how to innovate around food and recipes. (She’s making her own carob chips now!) Here’s her version of almond milk that is spectacularly good, using our almonds and our new nut milk bags.”

Says Dushenka, “I wanted a milk-like substance so that I could make hot carob milk for Elena, my daughter. The recipe on the nut milk bag called for soaking the almonds longer than any recipe I’d seen before, and it used less water too. I increased the soaking time even more, and we loved the results!”

Cultured Veggie Spring Detox Salad

Cultured veggies are sort of like pickled veggies, except better and more delicious. Instead of preserving vegetables by pickling them in vinegar, culturing involves live healthy bacteria – sort of like the bacteria that turn milk into yogurt. They help digestion and they help immunity AND instead of just trying to preserve the healthiness of the vegetables with vinegar, they enhance they healthiness of the veggies! The Farmhouse Culture brand, which is new in our store, says, “Happy Kraut, Happy You.”

Here’s An Easy Spring Detox

An oldie but goodie from 2005 by Debra

In the old days, people used to fast at the change of the seasons to rid themselves of internal pollutants that feed into everything from Candida, fatigue, allergies and damaged immune systems. Fasting is one of the oldest therapeutic methods known to man or woman.

Because it takes energy to process what we eat, when we don’t eat, or when we eat lightly, the body has energy left over to detox, to rid itself of junk we have inside that may be causing little and not-so-little problems. The body can concentrate on fighting illness instead. Fasting gives our most overworked organ, the liver, the chance to rest and do its job better.

I like to think that fasting can do for our bodies and for our liver what an oil change can do for our cars.

Dukka With Just About Anything

Dukka comes from the Arabic, and it means to pound. Since we’re not pounding, but using the food processor, this is quick and easy to make. Traditional dukka in the Middle East, is like our Mrs. Dash, and goes on everything!

Do use whole, brown sesame seeds so you get twelve times more calcium than you do from hulled, white sesame seeds. The whole, brown sesame seeds you find in our bulk bins are also a fraction of the cost of those little packages of the white ones you find in supermarkets.

How do I use dukka? I may coat fish, chicken or tofu with dukka and roast my dish in the oven, or sprinkle dukka on food like scallops or beans after I’ve stir-fried them. I love this mixture to jazz up a baked potato, or on sunny-side up eggs, or shashouka. Dukka is great on sautéed veggies, winter squash, or sprinkled on salads. The easiest way to use dukka is to simply add some to extra-virgin olive oil in a little bowl to make a wonderful dipping oil.

INTRODUCING DEAN’S BEANS BULK COFFEE!

We had a great run with Benbow’s Coffee Roasters out of Maine. And we’re still going to keep many of the old flavors in bags for you die-hard fans. But we’re switching to Dean’s for our bulk bins because:

  1. Dean’s supports Fair Trade and social justice like nobody’s business
  2. Dean himself gave an awesome speech at the MA state house in favor of mandatory GMO labeling.
  3. Dean’s roasts locally in Orange, MA.
  4. Dean’s is revolutionizing bulk packaging with new flavor-seal compostable bags

…and the big one: Dean’s was our staff favorite, solely based on taste, beating out its closest competitor by about two-to-one

Six Ways to Eat Better, Without Really Changing What You Eat.

The foods will be different, but they'll taste the sameSound too good to be true? Read on…

1. DON'T JUST EAT FOR YOUR OWN HEALTH, BUT EVERYONE ELSE'S HEALTH, TOO.           

Compare a chocolate bar from fairly-traded cocoa, to an "identical" chocolate bar, made from the "same" chocolate harvested by child slaves. It may or may not be better for you, but it's definitely better. We’re talking about Fair Trade here, and it’s important where you can get it, but it's especially important with coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, and bananas.  Fair Trade is only one of many ways we can eat “better.” We can buy food from a farmer we know treats her land well. We can buy from a kitchen we know treats their staff well. By making the right choices here, you preserve land, support communities, and encourage meaningful lives. (Yes, really!)

And then, there are organics… While scientists still debate the value of organics for the consumer (I'll get into that later), no sensible person should debate the value of organics to the environment, and to the farmers raising the crop.

Simple Immune System Gruel

I found this simple recipe for koji (Japanese gruel) in my files at home and it reminded me that sometimes the simplest foods are what do a body good. That the old time remedies really work. They not only soothe, they make us well. Their very simplicity is in itself calming and healing.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup

January is national soup and national oatmeal month. Two of my favorite comforting foods in the dark of winter. And because a darker version of something is almost always better for you than its lighter cousin, it’s wonderful that we’re getting black beans, orange sweet potatoes, green veggies.

We call sweet potatoes “yams” (i.e. red garnet yams), but actually sweet potatoes and yams are different plants, and what we grow here are really sweet potatoes. Yams, grown primarily in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Latin America are tougher, drier and not as sweet as sweet potatoes.  

Should you use organic ingredients? You’ll get more bang for your buck, more nutrition if you do. So start by scrubbing your sweet potatoes. Don’t peel them because there are vites in the skin! Nutritional yeast? Gives a slight cheesy flavor, is rich in the B vitamins (nerve and stress vitamins), and helps prevent the breakdown of collagen.

Magnesium Stearate: Not Toxic, Not a Problem

I haven't really wanted to address the issue of magnesium stearate until now. (In fact, I'm not especially keen on addressing it even now…) But it has been a decade since the first time I heard someone say that this additive was "toxic," and "synthetic" and "blocks the absorption of your nutrients." And people are still saying it. So, here goes.

Although, if you want to skip the entire article, the gist of it is simple: magnesium stearate is safe, and even beneficial, period.

Before they're assembled into pills, most supplements and drugs exist in powder form. And as those powders travel through the pill-making machines, they can clog and clump, and gum up the works. Magnesium stearate is added to the powders to keep them flowing smoothly. Of course it is possible to make pills without magnesium stearate, but it's harder, it takes longer, and it costs more.

Butternut Squash Succotash with Smoked Olive Oil

Adam said, “Many of us don’t know succotash except for Sylvester the Cat’s exclaiming ‘Suffering Succotash!’ back in the days of Looney Tunes.Actually, succotash has been around a lot longer than even Sylvester.An old Native American dish (its name derives from the Narragansett work for boiled corn kernels) the dish has come to mean any rustic bean-and-corn stew.Succotash colors look a lot like autumn, but its warming, hearty simplicity are perfect for deepest winter.”

Does local economic health = heart health?

Like you, I was sad to read that Dabbler’s, a store in West Concord, is going out of business. And I grieve that others in our surrounding communities may have to close too. I fear that newspapers as I know and love them, newsprint and all, are going away. My world, our community is changing, and my heart hurts.

Need BodyWork? Need Gifts?

IIn the spirit of the essay above, I managed to buttonhole these four bodyworkers in the store (and I know there are tons more excellent bodyworkers in the area, so accept my apology in advance!). The four below enthusiastically want to offer you, our customers (just mention Debra’s Natural Gourmet) 20% off an Introductory Session and 20% off Gift Certificates

Winter Wellness for Kids

Let me say right off the bat, there's almost nothing you could give an adult for a cold or flu that you couldn't also give a child.I mean, of course use your common sense, and adjust doses accordingly.But physiologically, once they're on to solid food, kids’ immune systems aren't that different from ours…

So why do kids get sick so much?First of all, their schools and preschools are perfect incubators for germs.Secondly, they tend to be immune to less than an older person, who has already been exposed to more.It's interesting to see how this plays out: kids in preschool get more colds than kids who stay at home.But by the time those kids all get into the 1st grade togethger, the numbers flip: kids who went to preschool, who already were exposed to more, get sick less than their classmates who never had that exposure in the first place.

Buckwheat Kasha, Those WOW Mushrooms & Brussels Sprouts

Kasha (aka buckwheat) is not related to wheat, is gluten-free, and come from the sorrel and rhubarb family (it’s not even a grass). Rich in the B vitamins, which nourishes our adrenals, buckwheat is hearty, filling, and great survival food. It has been said that those who ate buckwheat after the Chernobyl incident fared much better because buckwheat supposedly pulls excess radiation out of the body.

Don’t like mushrooms? You might fall in love with them here because they taste so great! These medicinal mushrooms are said to enhance the immune system, regulate blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and more. The Chinese revere shiitakes and maitakes as nourishing and increasing vitality. Maitakes are said to be redeemed their weight in silver.

Cranberry Maple Fig Filling

This makes a great pie or tart filling (for a raw or prebaked crust).  I love it alongside my Walnut Surprise Cookies too (see this recipe and some of the variations on this theme in our Blue Ribbon Cookbook: From Our Kitchen to Yours!) It’s also a wonderful chutney-like “compote” served with a dollop of whipped cream, ice cream, coconut ice cream, etc. Easy, breezy to make. Minutes….

Just three figs are said to provide a whopping 30 grams of good carbs along with B vitamins, calcium and potassium. They’re good for muscle function and bone health, and a rich source of soluble pectin fiber.

L-Theanine from Green Tea Helps Eight-Year-Olds Sleep, College Students Focus, Grown Men Relax

L-theanine has been a "big deal" in the natural health world for a number of years now, as a nutraceutical "chill pill" that calms you down without making you drowsy.  It helps you relax, but leaves you alert. Unlike a lot of pharmaceutical calmatives, it also appears to help learning, and protects the brain.

Despite all that, I never wanted to write about theanine until recently. I just wasn't ready to jump on the bandwagon of yet another new thing, largely because I already had my herbs, and I trusted my herbs. And why would I want to mess around with this newfangled nutrient if my herbs already worked?

Well, it's time to jump on the bandwagon. For one, theanine really does work, quite well in fact… Not only do I hear it from customers and other healthcare practitioners, but every few months, it seems, there's another clinical trial.

And it has side benefits, as you'll read below. 

Remembering Summer: Corn, Bean and Cucumber “Ceviche”

Ceviche typically means raw seafood pickled or marinated in lime or lemon juice with olive oil and hot peppers. Here, we’re marinating veggies and stealing the word because we like the concept, the way it sounds!

Make sure your corn is organic, or make sure your favorite farmer has not used genetically-modified (GM) seed. GM food is being linked, more and more, to illnesses, allergies and digestive disorders. Nor do you want the pesticides used on GM crops, glyphosates. Why not make sure all your ingredients are organic?

Science Fiction and GMOs

In March of this year, Whole Foods Market announced a commitment to full GMO transparency by giving their suppliers five years to source non-GMO ingredients, or to clearly label products with ingredients containing GMOs.

Well, that’s good for the rest of us because Whole Foods has clout. As a national, natural products supermarket chain, when Whole Foods says something, many manufacturers jump.

What are GMOs anyway? They’re Genetically Modified Organisms that result when genes from one species of bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, or even humans, is forced into the DNA of another species. This does not occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. GMOs are like science fiction!

Health Myth: I Can’t Take Vitamin K if I’m on Coumadin

Probably the number one safety concern I hear from customers is the one where you're supposed to strictly avoid vitamin K – and especially supplements containing vitamin K – if you're also taking the drug Warfarin (Coumadin). As with many misunderstandings, there's a kernel of truth here. But it's still a misunderstanding! Not only is it okay to get a little vitamin K every day from a multivitamin or other supplement, it actually helps the Warfarin work better.  

Let me explain.

Vitamin K, among the many things it does, helps blood to clot.[1] Warfarin, on the other hand, interferes with vitamin K with the intention of keeping blood from clotting. So, at first glance, it certainly looks like a bad idea to combine the two! 

Bear with me.

Kelp Fettuccine with Nori Cashews & Broccoli

Kelp noodles are a gluten-free, guilt-free “pasta.” Here’s what Sea Tangle, the company which makes kelp noodles under their name and under the Goldmine name, says:“Kelp Noodles are a sea vegetable in the form of an easy to eat raw noodle. Made of only kelp (a sea vegetable), sodium alginate (sodium salt extracted from a brown seaweed), and water, they are fat-free, gluten-free, very low in carbohydrates and calories. Their form and neutral taste allow for a variety of uses including salads, stir-fries, hot broths, and casseroles…. Best of all, no cooking is required. Rinse and add to any dish. They are ready to eat!”

How many calories do these puppies contain? The entire 12 ounce bag contains only 18 calories. Wow.

Pumpkin with Quinoa, Lentils and Roasted Austrian Pumpkinseed Oil

Roasted pumpkinseed oil is made from an Austrian pumpkin whose seeds have no hulls! The oil is a dark color, and is extracted by drying, crushing and mixing the seeds with water and salt to make them more digestible, then roasted at low temperature to evaporate the water. Once dried, the seeds are pressed to extract the oil. It takes five pounds of roasted seeds, or about 35 pumpkins to produce one liter of oil! High in mono-unsaturated fats with goodly amounts of vitamins E, B1, B6, A, C and the mineral zinc, pumpkinseeds and their oil are said to be effective in the treatment of prostate problems and help reduce cholesterol. The oil is sensitive to heat, so don’t cook with it. It’s fine to drizzle on after cooking.

Reishi: King of the Forest

Guest Column by Tyler Gisleson

Reishi mushroom is a superior tonic herb sharing the ranks with elite Chinese herbs like ginseng, deer antler and cordyceps. It’s arguably the most spiritual herb in the entirety of China’s medicine cabinet!

When walking in the woods in mid-summer, it’s an experience to lay eyes on a fully matured patch of reishis. These red and woody ‘shrooms are unlike anything else you’ll find in these northeastern forests – they’re almost alien looking. And based on some info I’ve learned from popular mycologist Paul Stamets they may actually be originally not of this world at all, which could explain their eccentric appearance (Paul theorizes that mushrooms may have floated through the cosmos to join us on Earth [no kidding!]).

Overcome Carb & Sugar Cravings

by Debra Stark

According to nationally reknowned, locally-based Dr. Mark Hyman, family physician and a four-time New York Times bestselling author, we’re battling a “diabesity” epidemic. Diabesity, he says, is when our bodies move from balanced blood sugar to insulin resistance (the state when our cells become numb to the effects of insulin and need increasing amounts of it), to full blown diabetes and obesity.

Diabesity occurs, Dr. Hyman says because we’ve drugged our cells with too much sugar and starch (yes, this is an oversimplification on my part…).

Chimpanzees Prefer Organic

I loved this when I read it in the Natural Foods Merchandiser back in 2003, and love it still today! It reminds me that we’re not as smart as we think we are… “Chimpanzees can tell the difference between organic and conventional fruits.”

Pink Stevia Lemonade with Pink Hibiscus Tea

Thanks to Adam, we’ve been enjoying this recipe for some years now. And I run the recipe each summer because people ask me to. And, yes, it can also be found in our third cookbook, Blue Ribbon Edition, from our kitchen to yours.

If you don’t know, stevia is a South American herb that tastes much sweeter than sugar. The good thing is that stevia doesn’t affect blood sugar, is safe for diabetics and contains virtually no calories. An 8-oz cup of Pink Stevia Lemonade yields roughly 3 calories. You can live it up, baby!

Tomato Beet Salad with Sumac & Pomegranate Molasses

A perfect Mediterranean summer salad! It’s gorgeous to look at and delicious to eat.

You can find sumac in our bulk spice bins. Don’t know what it is? Sumac is a fruit of the genus Rhus, which is ground into a purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. It adds a lemony taste, and is lovely with salads or meats, or as a garnish on hummus or rice.

Dr. Tori Hudson Wants You to Have a Happy Period!

Fourteen years ago, I was driving from Seattle out to the Oregon Coast. Actually my girlfriend at the time was driving, when I yelled “Stop!”  That’s probably not a good idea when someone else is driving. That’s how accidents happen.

But I’d just seen a sign out the window, on a quaint but unremarkable wooden home, that said it was Dr. Tori Hudson’s clinic. I knew Dr. Hudson from her Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, as well as a monthly column she wrote on women’s health for a magazine called the Townsend Letter. I knew she was a professor at the preeminent naturopathic medical school in the world. At least in my mind, she was a celebrity. And there was her clinic, tucked away without any fanfare, and – this has never stopped impressing me – despite her fame and success and credentials, she was selling chopped firewood from the porch on the honor system.

Fiber, Part III, Final!

I had originally planned to close out this epic three-part article by going over the hundred-and-one source of fiber. But I changed my mind. First of all, it would kind of overwhelming. And also, I figure if you already understand the differences between soluble and insoluble fiber, you can probably figure out all you need to know about most fiber-rich foods just by reading the nutrition labels.

  So instead of a big long list, here are four especially noteworthy source of fiber.

Warm Potato Lentil Salad with Greens

This is a variation of Amanda’s (Amanda left our kitchen when she had baby Carly) Green Potato Salad with Cilantro and Spinach featured in our Blue Ribbon Edition cookbook. This time of year is perfect for potato salad, and including lentils adds loads of nutrition too. Try this recipe, you’ll love it!

Fiber, Part II

Last month, we looked at what fiber is, and touched on what it does. I explained (or at least I tried to) the differences and similarities between soluble and insoluble fiber. This month, I want to explain why the differences between soluble and insoluble actually matter, and then get into specifics on:

  • detoxification and liver health
  • weight management
  • cholesterol and heart disease
  • regularity and colon health
  • diabetes and metabolic syndrome

Finally, next month, I want to go over specific types of fiber, and fiber-rich foods.

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber: Toxins, Regularity, and Blood Sugar

Soluble fiber is like a sponge. It attracts liquids, expands, and thickens. It's good at absorbing things, and generally taking up space.

How to avoid eating genetically modified food

Wondering how to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in your food, worried about the new reports that show our gut flora are being affected by them? The short answer is, Buy organic. Buy products verified Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project because you’re not a science experiment. We’re doing our best to make sure we only carry safe products for you.

Asparagus Parsnip Soup with Dill and Pine Cone-Smoked Olive Oil

This soup is light, light, light, but the parsnip gives body, and together with the asparagus and celery yields a lovely, complex flavor. Add the pine cone-smoked olive oil and, oh my! Somehow, someone has hit upon a method for gently smoking the extra virgin olive oil with pine cones without exposing it to heat, light or air, any one of which can degrade olive oil. It’s the stuff of dreams…

UNDERSTANDING FIBER

Fiber is arguably our most important nutrient. (Except, by strict definitions, it isn't actually a "nutrient.") So, does it really prevent cancer and heart attacks? Help us lose weight? Keep us from feeling tired? Detox the liver? Make the world a better place? And what about soluble fiber vs. insoluble fiber, etc.?

Bear with me: this is going to be a multi-part article! But trust me: it'll be worth it. Once you understand fiber, you’ll understand one of the big concepts about diet and nutrition.

NOTE ABOUT CHANGING PRICING AND DISCOUNTS

 EFFECTIVE JULY 1.

Including the senior citizen discount (a.k.a. “Wisdom Discount.”)

There’s good news, and bad news. More good news than bad news, for most of us. The good news first:

We are lowering the pricing on the Debra’s Natural Gourmet brand protein powders by an average of 25%. This isn’t a sale, it’s a permanent price drop. Yeah!

Oh, No! Nail Fungus…

Shortened oldie but goodie by Debra. Long version available in store

What is nail fungus? Typically caused by microscopic organisms with the sweet name of “dermatophytes,” nail fungus manifests as discoloration and thickening of the nail, most commonly the toe nails. When you’ve got it, sandals are out because the nails are unsightly, and as they thicken, nails also become deformed. Wearing shoes can be an exercise in torture, and the nails can separate from the nail bed.

Vitamin Angels

Thank you to everyone who shopped the day before Mother’s Day, a benefit day for Vitamin Angels. We were able to send Vitamin Angels a check that allowed them to reach an additional 5,000 children with the essential nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy. Vitamin Angels recently visited beneficiaries in Honduras and found children thriving after having received a 25-cent dose of vitamin A. Together, we done good! Check out http://www.vitaminangels.org/field-stories.

Persian Delights with Saffron and Preserved Lemons

This recipe is equally delicious with chicken, seafood (I’ve used scallops, shrimp and fish fillets), or tofu. If you’re using chicken, my favorite is Eberly’s because of the flavor. If using tofu, The Bridge is nice and firm. When using another tofu, the extra-firm Nasoya, for instance, take it out of the package, put it next to the sink and put a cast iron skillet on top for about an hour to press out some of the water.

You get to use saffron, which is the most expensive spice in the world because it is harvested by hand with tweezers for a yield of two threads per plant! It does impart an indefinable something wonderful. Of course you can substitute a pinch of turmeric, which is called “poor man’s saffron.”

Case Files: Leaping*(Soaring)

USES: Creating and sustaining both physical and mental energy. Sleep deprivation, and associated brain fog. Athletic performance (endurance more so than strength training: hiking, running, team sports, or just yard work). Altitude sickness. Chronic lung weakness. Acute stresses to the system. General fatigue.

Roughly 2/3 of Leaping*(Soaring) is an extract of Cordyceps, a rare, high-altitude mushroom which is one of the most prized treasures of Tibetan medicine. Within 30 minutes, Cordyceps begins to increase oxygen uptake from the lungs. With oxygen, every metabolic process runs more smoothly.

I was originally taught how to use Cordyceps by my friend, the herbalist Paul Gorman, on a hike in the Cascade Mountains in 1999. High above the world, I felt the air, gorgeous and green and blue and clear and clean, fill my lungs with energy. No adrenalized jolt, no caffeine buzz, just pure calm energy. (On the way back down, we found a sunlit grove full of Reishi mushrooms. That’s the day I fell in love with herbs).

Dressed-Up Veggies with Sumac, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Goat Cheese

Sumac is a fruit with a lemony taste. Used as a spice in the Middle East, the berries are ground into a purple powder that not only adds flavor, but eye appeal. It’s lovely with salads or meats, or as a garnish on hummus or rice.

Traditionally, sumac was used as a medicine for things such as promoting healthy digestion, easing upset stomachs, and reducing fevers. Today, research has found sumac to have antimicrobial properties, and in one experiment, when it was added to the drinking water of animals, their DNA oxidized less.  It can also simply be used on the table as a condiment to replace salt and pepper.

Building Strength and Vitality with China’s Premiere Fire: Deer Antler

A guest column by Tyler Gisleson

Deer and elk antlers are the fastest growing bone/organ in the entire mammalian kingdom: these amazing horns grow and fall off in an annual cycle (every year!) The most dominant and sexually active male stags produce the largest crown of branchy horns atop their majestic heads. The ancients saw this natural magic as a powerful symbol of regenerative strength. This is why the people of China and Korea have used antler as food and medicine since recorded history to promote strength & virility.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TMC) deer antler is a profound and legendary tonic herb, held in the same regard as Ginseng and Reishi mushroom. It is said to be the "Premier Fire" or the "No. 1 yang jing substance" in the entire TCM pharmacopeia (yang being the fiery, male, strengthening aspects of the herb; jing being the physical life essence in our bodies). Traditional uses for deer antler include treating low back pain, weak knees, infertility, senility, premature aging, exhaustion, impotence, and arthritis amongst many more. In a healthy body, it can promote or enhance physical athleticism, longevity, strength, beauty and willpower. [editor’s note: wow!]

Five-Minute Coconut Curry

March always seems a month of bluster and storm, just before spring, when you crave food that is warming, fragrant and all in one pot. I made this recipe for some friends recently, and they loved it. If you have the ingredients on hand, it really does take only five minutes to put in the pot.

Don’t worry about using coconut; it’s not bad for you. Here, we’re using a full-fat canned coconut milk with no additives; full-fat so you get the beneficial, special medium-chain triglycerides (fats) that burn efficiently in the body and that are satisfying and energizing too. So here goes…

Shingles, Cold Sores, Mono, Chicken Pox and Herpes

The title says "shingles, cold sores, mono, chicken pox, and herpes," but that's a little misleading. Actually, shingles, cold sores, mono, and chicken pox are all different types of herpes infections. But since most people hear "herpes," and think only of sexually transmitted diseases, I'm giving this article a title that hopefully won't scare too many people off.

How herpes works: Viruses — all viruses, not just herpes — don't really "do" much as they float around the bloodstream or in the tissue fluids. They don't eat. They don't generate energy. They don't move under their own power. They don't attack anything. They just… float. That is, they float until they manage to stick to a host cell and get inside. Inside the cell is where they reproduce, and do their damage. 

Viruses – all viruses, not just herpes — are unable to reproduce on their own. Instead, they trick their host into doing it for them. Once inside a host cell, the virus splices its DNA into the host’s DNA. So when the machinery of the host cell does its normal job and transcribes its own DNA, the viral DNA gets transcribed along with it. (It's sort of like sneaking couple of pages into a stack of papers someone is about to run through a Xerox machine).

Green Giant Blueberry Chia Smoothie

I’m in the mood for ice cream, and this is like a big bowl of soft, melty blueberry ice cream without the guilt or calories. I’ve been eating this every morning lately, after having taken a break from smoothies. Enjoying it, every spoonful, too! What’s more, I made it for several groups in the community, The Weeds and Seeds group in Carlisle, the Men’s Group at the Trinitarian Church, and The National Charity League (a wonderful group of moms and girls). The most amazing reaction was from the men’s group. They were aghast when they saw the kale going in the Vitamix, and surprised that they wanted seconds.

Resolution: Be Nice(r) to Other People

Is there really an herb for this? How quickly does it work? And how can we slip it into someone else’s coffee without them noticing? 

Okay, in all seriousness, it isn’t that easy.  Yes, there are herbs that can help. But none of them are magically effective. None of them take the place of those major life changes we might want to prescribe for others, or perhaps reach out and grasp for ourselves. None of them can accomplish what meditation, mindfulness, or a solid night’s sleep can. Having said that…

That Old-Fashioned Remedy: Castor Oil

Most of you are familiar with my article on dry eyes and castor oil. (If you’re not, talk to me!) You know I’m a castor oil fan and always have a bottle on hand at home. But last month, Susan Feist, LMT of Concord Sports and Therapeutic Massage was in our store and spoke about her experience with castor oil.

Well, she got me all excited again. I can’t wait to try castor oil for more things!

Winter Squash Soup with Lentils

Because squash seed oils are damaged by high heat, don’t cook with them, but do try them as a dipping oil for bread, use as the oil in a salad dressing (see the recipe for raw kale salad in our Blue Ribbon Edition Cookbook), drizzle over rice, potatoes, mushrooms, poultry, or whatever else you choose.

Are these oils healthy fats? Absolutely. The Styrian pumpkin, for instance, was developed in Austria, back in the 17th century, and early growers discovered that the green seeds of the Styrian pumpkin prevented bladder and prostate problems, and eliminated intestinal parasites (one wonders how they discovered that!).  Austrian farmers grew these pumpkins for the seeds and oil from the seeds alone. Today we are lucky to have growers like Stony Brook Farms in the Finger Lakes Region of New York who continue the tradition. I absolutely love their squash seed oils! (Yes, we do sell these.)

Tamiflu®: A Cure for the Flu?

You’ve seen the ads the last few months: Tamiflu® for flu symptoms. “Because there’s no such thing as a little flu.” They don’t use the word “cure.” But the implication is clear. You get Tamiflu® from your doctor, and it helps.  Unlike chicken soup, bed rest, aspirin, and herbs… Because the flu is serious, and Tamiflu® is serious medicine.

Well, I’m here to say, not so much. 

Which might not be so surprising: the guy who works in the health food store says not to take a pharmaceutical drug! But please understand, I don’t walk around hating pharmaceuticals. I use aspirin when I need to. I believe that statins are effective. I’d argue that antibiotics are one of the great developments of the last century. Etc.

So, having established my credibility (I hope!) as fair-minded and non-partisan, allow me to say I believe Tamiflu® is a bad idea. How bad of an idea is it? That’s a hard question to answer. Not because the data aren’t there, but because Roche Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes and sells Tamiflu®, has been first hiding, then withholding, that data for more than a decade now. 

What an honor!!

The Boston Business Journal’s Top 100 Women-Led Business list has our name on it again this year. We are so pleased, and we know we couldn’t have gotten there if it weren’t for each and every one of you who come through our doors. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We wish you and yours a happy, healthy December. We hope 2013 will be the best year ever for everyone.

David did not triumph over Goliath

The labeling of genetically engineered food. California voters rejected Proposition 37 by 53.1% to 46.9%. Chemical and food company giants outspent proponents 10 to 1 during the campaign. Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Yogurt, Chairman of Just Label It called the spending spree an "an unequal contest between the single voter and corporate money." Don’t despair, polls still show that 90% of American consumers support labeling of GE foods. The fight is not over!

Seated Next to Typhoid Mary?

Debra Stark (published originally in 2002!)

Don’t you wonder why everyone doesn’t get sick when the cold and flu is going around? It boils down to how healthy your immune system is and whether it has the strength to stop those invading bad bugs.

I rarely get a cold and ‘tis true (for the record!) that I’ve two brothers who do get sick. What do I do when I feel a tickle in the throat or stuffiness of the nose? Short of downing a bottle of brandy (which a college roommate in the 60’s assured me was the cure), I do just about everything below. And I keep “doing” for a few days after the bug seems gone so it won’t come back and say, “Gotcha!”

A Pinch of Salt?

- Debra Stark (this appeared first in the Concord Journal)

I’ve been wondering for years whether salt, whose overall intake has maintained steady despite all the warnings (if it’s not in our packaged food, we’re adding it ourselves at the table), is really bad for us, or whether it’s just the refined salt that has done us in.

Does the kind of salt we add to our food make a difference?

Before we are born, we float in the womb in sole (so-lay), an ancient Celtic word for the watery-salty solution that comprises our bodily fluids. Those same Celtic ancients believed that sole came from the ocean and that we are all born from the same fluids arising from the same soul… Poetic, isn’t it?

So, back to salt. Yes, we need it live, but it can also harm us when we use too much.  

Hors d’Oeuvre Mushrooms à la Grecque

This is a 30-minute hors d’oeuvre, a wonderful thing in a season that is rushed. Not much muss, definitely gourmet. Will they say “Wow!”? You bet! And if you don’t want to use it atop bread, you can fill phyllo cups or spoon over beans, a grain, fish, or eggs. Spoon over polenta or pasta, roll in steamed chard leaves. Or serve as a side dish as is. Top a mixed green salad. Your way, babe.

If you want to know something of the history of mushroom, they go way back. Mushrooms were prized by the Pharaohs as a delicacy, by the Greeks to provide strength for warriors in battle, and by the Romans who served them only on holidays because they were regarded as a gift from God. The Chinese treasure mushrooms as a giver of health and protector of immunity.

Don’t like mushrooms? Use this method to sauté sliced Brussels sprouts. Or use this method and flavoring to prepare grated butternut squash and sausage….

Paleo Apple Chocolate Fudgies

Paleo means “prehistoric” or “primitive,” and now there’s the Paleo Diet, sometimes called the Primal Diet or Caveman Diet. The idea is, everything you eat has to be made from something a caveman or cavewoman could’ve eaten. So fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, fish and meat, honey and olives and herbs and spices, are all fine. But beans and grains, which have to be processed and prepared, are off limits. Dairy is off limits, too, because it comes from a domesticated animal. (You can't really milk something wild…) And of course partially hydrogenated soybean oil and Red dye #5 are strictly verboten.

Of course no true caveman or cavewoman gathered around the cave fire, eating a "fudgie" made in a food processor with cacao from Africa, apples from Kazakhstan, and maple syrup from Vermont!

Ten Reasons to Choose Non-GMO

What are GMOs? Genetic Modification (GM) is when genes from one specie of bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans, are forced into the DNA of another specie. GM crops share two main factors: they’re engineered to survive application of weed killers and their altered genes produce poisons to kill bugs. An example: Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready soy beans.

Since GM soy came on the market in 1997, allergies to soy have risen 50%. There are scientists who state things like 1/3 of ladybugs who ate aphids who fed on GM potatoes became sterile and many more of them died.

Where does the Research Stand? Random Questions, Inconclusive Answers… Plus: Unsubstantiated Opinions!

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Vitamin C, Dr. Oz, and more!

How bad is high-fructose corn-syrup? Is plain sugar that much better? When we’re talking about long-term health, we really want to see long-term trials. We want to follow identical people with identical diets, whose only difference is what kind of sweetener they consume. But those trials don’t exist. Who would pay for them? Who would sign up for them? Who would stick to them? And would they even be ethical?

So right now, the evidence is based on blood work and epidemiological observations. Blood work is great, but in the end, it’s all circumstantial, and can only hint at long-term, real world outcomes. Epidemiological research is great too, but it’s also limited. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never really have two “identical” groups, with only one difference. In this case, maybe the people who consume a lot of HFCS also eat less vegetables, or consume more caffeine; or consume the exact same number of calories… only more of them in liquid form; or they cook less at home, and it turns out the act of cooking itself is somehow valuable.

Get Some Sleep!

A good night’s sleep is absolutely foundational to good health.  The research is there (although yes, it’s hard to separate cause from effect on this one) that insufficient sleep is linked to slower and fuzzier thinking, a weakened immune system, anxiety and depression, weight gain, heart attacks, and fatal car crashes.  Not to mention wrinkles! 

Yet so many of us sleep so poorly, or simply don’t sleep enough.

How much is enough?  Obviously, people vary.  But in 1910, before light bulbs and radios in every home, before computers and television, Americans reported sleeping over nine hours a night.  Even today, people living away from these distractions – scientists above the Arctic Circle in winter, lab subjects without windows and clocks – tend to average between 8.5-10.5 hours of sleep a night.

Jambalaya Any Way You Want

Jambalaya is a dish that starts with the New Orleans trinity of diced and sautéed onions, celery and green or red bell peppers.  Traditionally, it has savory meats and rice too; some cooks add seafood.  Wikipedia says that jambalaya was first made in Louisiana by homesick Spanish conquistadors, who missed paella.  The French added a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.  Folks from the Caribbean sprinkled in their spices.  Today, in modern Louisiana, Creole jambalaya, includes tomatoes, and Cajun jambalaya does not. 

Scanners are coming!!! New Point of Sale System

We loved the way The Wool Pack in Acton introduced their Point of Sale System (POS) to their customers.  Here’s what they said, “The tables have turned, figuratively speaking.  For years, we have been recognized by our customers for our levels of understanding and patience…But now it’s your turn.  We implemented a new POS with bar codes and quick scanning. 

Help for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is tricky.  Basically, you show up at the doctor’s office with lower GI symptoms – alternating constipation and/or diarrhea, gas and bloating perhaps, maybe bowel pain and cramping that goes away when you have a bowel movement – and when the doctor can’t diagnose anything else wrong with you, it gets called IBS.

IBS is a not a structural disorder, but a functional one.  There’s nothing physically wrong with your gut – nothing injured, eroded, or inflamed – it’s just acting wrong.  All of which makes IBS hard, not just to diagnose, but also to treat, since there’s nothing physical you can go in and actually heal.

Summer Garden Gazpacho with Greens

Gazpacho, a Spanish word, typically means a cold soup with vegetables. The original version consisted of  veggies pounded with bread, garlic (a must!), olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, which was then thinned with water. Gazpacho with tomatoes is relatively new, believe it or not.  Here I’ve used lemon and/or lime instead of vinegar, and saved tomatoes to slice and plate with fresh mozzarella.

Lentils, Sweetest of Delicacies

By Debra Stark

Martha Rose Shulman, food writer for The New York Times, says that if you have lentils, you have dinner.  She’s right, and lentils have been around forever.  In the Old Testament, Esau traded his inheritance to Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup.  Believed to have originated in central Asia, lentil seeds have been found around the world, some in Middle Eastern agricultural villages that date back to 6,000 BCE, and in Egyptian tombs to 2,400 BCE.  Did you know that in those days, lentils were not only eaten, but used as packing material?  It seems 2.8 million pounds of red lentils cushioned an obelisk that traveled from Egypt to the Vatican City where it still resides in front of St. Peter’s Basilica! 

Oldie but goodie

What kind of salmon are you eating?  Thomas May, a writer we’ve met at trade shows, wrote an article entitled, Farmed Salmon Found Higher in Pollutants, which says don’t eat salmon raised in ocean net pens because their diet of concentrated fishmeal pellets contains high levels of toxic chemicals which may pose a health threat to humans.  In addition, those farm-raised salmon (also called ‘Atlantic Salmon’) don’t get the same exercise the wild critters do, and are flabby with the wrong kind of fat.  Studies show Atlantic salmon don’t have the healthy omegas their natural counterparts do.

Elena’s Easy, Breezy Summertime Dip

Elena Volkova made this in our store, and everyone loved it. There’s perfect balance between sweet and salty, and Elena says if you’re taking the Chinese approach, this is wonderful over bitter, dark greens.

Did you know that cashews, native to the coastal areas of Brazil, were taken by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century to other tropical regions of the world such as India and Africa? According to an internet site, The World’s Healthiest Foods, “The cashew tree has always been a prized resource owing to its precious wood, cashew balm and cashew apple, but the cashew nut itself did not gain popularity until the beginning of the 20th century.” We’re lucky we live in modern times then, aren’t we?

Grocery Store Tours

Do you walk into our store and feel overwhelmed? Our local friend, Hilary Boynton, Certified Holistic Health Counselor, offers hour-long tours of our store. You’ll discuss what's on our shelves and Hilary will share tips on quick, healthy cooking strategies. You’ll get simple recipes and handouts. Mother of 5, Hilary is passionate about food. Call her today at 978-580-1616. Hilary charges $50 for an hour tour, and it’s worth it! (Feel free to talk to our knowledgeable staff as well.)

Little Chew Salad

This salad keeps everyone happily chewing, which means you get the pleasure of each other’s company around the table for longer than it takes to wolf down a burger and fries. That’s only one thing I like about Little Chew. The colors, textures and yummy taste are other reasons to make this. And of course the health benefits of this salad are enormous (it’s all those cruciferous veggies, edamame and garlic).

Just in case you don’t know (now you will!), edamame are the young, tender, green soybeans. High in protein (a half a cup yields 11 grams of protein), that protein is “complete,” meaning they contain nine essential amino acids the body needs. Edamame are low in fat too.

What’s the “Best” Antioxidant?

A Little Background, and a Few Lessons Learned from the USDA ORAC Database

You’ve probably heard of free radicals and antioxidants by now. In case you haven’t, here’s the quick summary: a free radical is a rogue chemical compound buzzing with unstable energy. If the free radical gets close to another molecule, the energy instability may “jump” to the other molecule, making it a free radical. And of course, as a free radical, it can pass the instability on to yet another molecule, and then another… and another… 

So there’s a chain reaction, sometimes described as a “molecular game of hot potato.” Only this game of “hot potato” leaves destruction in its wake: molecules transformed into free radicals can be damaged or broken, sometimes permanently.  

Bibimbap

Bibimbap is a Korean stir-fry with a fried egg on top. This is my easy version that takes about 20 minutes from start to serve. Some may want to fry the eggs separately, but this method works fine for me. If you’re a vegan, use smokey tempeh strips instead of eggs.

Italian Chestnut Flour Bread

How many of you have tried this oh-so-easy recipe? Yes, it appears in our third cookbook, The Blue Ribbon Edition: From Our Kitchen to Yours, but it’s simply too delicious not to nudge you again. Try it at home! As I said in our 3rd cookbook, chestnut flour is mentioned in print as far back as the 16th century in Italy when the chestnut was often referred to as a “grain that grows on a tree.” Chestnuts were survival food. In the mountain regions of Italy, the nuts were used fresh during season, and then dried and ground to make flour so there would be food when it was snowy.

Yes, Cold Coffee, Says Jocelyn

I admit it. I’m a coffee snob. My love affair with coffee goes back to my years in Paris during the ‘70s, when my lips first uttered the words “un café, s’il vous plait.” I can live without many of life’s pleasures, but I cannot, no, I will not live a life without coffee. It has to be organic, strong, and smooth like velvet.

Can Magnesium Make You Smarter?

We all want a pill that will make us smarter. And natural medicine has a lot to offer… sort of. There are herbs and nutrients that can help us focus, eliminate distractions, reduce cognitive fatigue, pick us up, calm us down, help the brain develop in infancy, and maintain its function into old age.

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that can help an otherwise healthy adult (or child): someone without problems, without distractions, without fatigue. In other words, there are herbs and nutrients which can bring us back towards “normal,” but not a whole lot that can make us “better.”

Enter the mineral magnesium.

Ask Gracie

More than half a million Americans received angioplasty in 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available). This invasive procedure involves inflating a thin balloon in a narrowed artery; a stent (a wire mesh tube) is often then left behind to keep the vessel open.

When used during a heart attack, angioplasty can quickly open a blocked artery and save lives. However, oftentimes heart disease patients receive angioplasties and stents when there is no heart attack, even though a new analysis of eight clinical trials involving over 7,000 people found that “Initial stent implantation for stable CAD (coronary artery disease) shows no evidence of benefit compared with initial medical therapy for prevention of death, nonfatal MI, unplanned revascularization, or angina.”

Mary Jane’s Gardening Handout & Rescue Remedy for Seedlings

Growing veggies? Pick up one of Mary Jane’s handouts on gardening hints. We’ve run it in our newsletter in the past, and I re-read it each year before I plant. It’s great! Concord citizen, Debbie Bier, said she waters her seedlings with water made magic (my words) with a few drops of Rescue Remedy. Her pictures of the seedlings that got the Rescue Remedy enriched water and the control group that did not were astounding. Rescue Remedy is, of course, one of the Bach Flower Essences.

Summer Plant, Winter Worm or Cordyceps Mushroom for Energy and Stamina, Revisited

In 1993, the Chinese women’s track team shocked the world when its runners set 5 new world records at the Olympic Games in Beijing. The team tested clean for performance-enhancing drugs, but the coach later disclosed that he had given his athletes at least one (entirely legal) performance-enhancing substance: the medicinal mushroom, Cordyceps.

Cordyceps is a rare, high-altitude fungus, and one of the most bizarre entries in the Materia Medica. In the wild, Cordyceps spores float, dormant, until one is lucky enough to land on something fertile, usually a caterpillar. The spore infiltrates and parasitizes the caterpillar, transforming the host tissue to fungal tissue, and eventually killing it. Then the fruiting body (the “above-ground” part of the mushroom) sprouts out of the head like antlers. Hence the names “Caterpillar Fungus” and “Summer Plant, Winter Worm.” 

Armenian Keofta with Pine Nuts

I’m sorry I don’t remember who suggested we make keofta in our kitchen. Well, we don’t at present, but I had fun fooling around at home with the recipe given to us. I like the one below, and think it’s a winner. Keofta is simple, peasant food, something like a hamburger made with peas or lentils, and I’ve gussied it up a bit here with pine nuts and raisins. Leave those out, and the dish is very economical too.

Golden Potato Salad with Greens, Goat Cheese and Oil-Cured Olives

Buttercream potatoes are small, tender, new, yellow potatoes. Around 1-inch in diameter, they really do taste buttery. You can boil or steam them, but roasting tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper produces a particularly delicious side dish. Because they’re softer than other potatoes, they tend to break up when tossed in potato salads, so they go beautifully with the greens used here (arugula and kale) because those hold their shape.

Goat cheese is easy on the digestive system (unless, of course, you can’t do dairy), and it’s delish to boot. Use the Beldi oil-cured olives here, and you’ll be addicted. Yes, they’re pitted, which makes life easier.

Time for the Spring Cleanse, 2012 Edition

We are surrounded by toxins: pesticides, car exhaust, cosmetics, disinfectants, medications, heavy metals, and thousands of other chemicals you’d be hard pressed to identify, let alone pronounce. Then there are the toxins we produce naturally: hormone excesses, metabolic wastes, and the byproducts of normal metabolism. On any given day, they’re not enough to kill you. But they take a toll.

Internal cleansing is one of the most time-honored concepts in traditional medicine. Periods of cleansing are central to Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine, Native American medicine, traditional European and South American herbalism, and to most religious faiths too (all those ritual fasts and sweat lodges). Yet cleansing is a concept we’ve mostly discarded in this age of quick-cure pharmaceuticals.

Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products

Recently, a study, “Arsenic, Organic Foods, and Brown Rice Syrup” was released online in a journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The study sent shock waves that resulted in articles in every paper in the country. This is what Adam wrote in response.

“It has been acknowledged and understood for quite some time now that arsenic contamination is a near-universal issue in rice, much the same way mercury contamination is a so common in fish.

“Of course we still eat fish. We just try and choose fish that’s as clean as it can be.

“The issue with rice is it’s a wet crop. It grows underwater. If the soil it’s grown in contains high levels of arsenic, that arsenic dissolves in the water, and then rice is very aggressive about absorbing it.

Maitake Mushroom Asparagus Sauté

I made this on New Year’s Day, and it was a hit. People asked for the recipe, though one person said she couldn’t believe “those ugly mushrooms could taste that good!”  Yes, I used organic ingredients…

The ruffly-looking maitake translates as “dancing mushroom” in Japanese. Eaten for more than 3,000 years, maitakes were an alternative currency in Japan, worth their weight in silver. Since they often grow to 50 pounds, it’s said that people danced for joy when they found maitakes. Maitakes go by other names too, and one of my favorites is “hen of the woods,” because it tastes a little like chicken.

Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil

Which omega-3 supplement is going to win the throwdown?

Seems like you can’t turn on the teevee these days without someone touting a tiny, easy-to-swallow capsule of krill oil which will supposedly does everything fish oil does, and more. But – and I know this may come as a shock to some of you – some of the advertising on teevee can be a bit misleading, putting clever catch-phrases before facts, hype before substance.

This is something I’ve learned watching the presidential primaries.

ANYWAYS, let’s get down to it: krill vs. fish: what’s the difference? (Oh, and in case you wondering, krill are tiny, Antarctic, shrimp-like creatures). Both fish oil and krill oil contain compounds called “omega-3s,” short for “omega-3 fatty acids” (which may sound like a futuristic marketing term, but is in fact chemistry nomenclature to describe the structure of the molecule).

Natural Relief for Acne

It’s been almost ten years since we last covered acne in this newsletter. Now, a new decade, a new generation… time to cover the subject again.

Now that some of us are “all grown up,” it’s easy to forget how bad acne was, how miserable, how awful, how flat-out tragic every pimple and blemish could be. But they were, and for the next generation, they are. Research now shows that even moderate acne is associated with levels of anxiety and depression normally seen in chronic, debilitating illness. Let’s take acne seriously!

Three Lentil Vegetable Soup

There’s probably no such thing as an original lentil soup recipe. That’s because lentils are found in every country, eaten by every people. Wikipedia says, “The plant likely originated in the Near East and has been part of the human diet since the aceramic (non-pottery producing) Neolithic time … With approximately 26% of their calories from protein, lentils are rich in protein…”

Jim’s Better-Than Traditional English Christmas Pudding

A Child’s Christmas in England

By Jim Leahy

“One Christmas was so much like another in those years…”  A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas has become a fond tradition for me in the 27 years I have lived in Concord, attempting for myself to recall the lost world of a receding childhood romanticized by selective memory and an ever-present love for the family that we once were. My father, grandparents, uncles, aunts, “alas no longer whinnying with us,” live on in remembrance of Christmases past.

Holiday Delight Chocolate Truffles

You have no idea how many different directions I went this month trying to come up with a recipe I loved using Linn’s whole sesame tahini.  I tried a winter salsa (many times, many variations with and without cranberries!), a sticky rice ball with dipping sauce, a new immune boosting soup with Linn’s tahini stirred in, and roasted veggies with a tahini sauce.  After having to eat way too many experiments, here’s a simple recipe that is divine.

Debra’s Chocolate Dipped Figs with Almonds

Figs have been here since 2900 BC when a Greek King claimed they were an antidote for all ailments.  Pliny, the Roman physician and writer said figs increased the strength of the young and preserved the health of the elderly.  According to a column in Food & Nutrition News, figs contain calcium and lots of potassium, which is crucial to the control of blood pressure, and are an excellent source of fiber.

Seth Kirschner’s Umesho BanchaTea

Seth Kirschner, who visits our store to represent many companies, among them one of our favorites, Eden Foods, said “When I was a child and had an upset stomach, my mother used to make me a hot drink that helped tremendously.  The drink was water with Eden umeboshi plum and/or plum paste to taste, Eden tamari and/or Eden shoyu to taste, Eden kuzu root and fresh grated ginger.  It’s the best and it really, truly works!

The Sunshine Vitamin, Part 2

We make vitamin D in our skin using a type of solar radiation called ultraviolet B (UVB).  Unfortunately, UVB is filtered out by the atmosphere.  As the Earth tilts on its axis in winter, the sun’s rays travel through more atmosphere to get to us, and more and more UVB is filtered out.  Some estimates have it that, in our part of the country, we simply do not make vitamin D during 4-5 months of every year.  Even in summer, morning and afternoon sun has to angle through more atmosphere, filtering out most if not all UVB.

Dark-skinned people have an especially difficult time using UVB.  Which isn’t surprising when you think about it: after all, dark skin is built-in sunblock!  In the Boston study, for example, black women averaged half the blood D levels white women did[1].  Obviously, supplements are especially important here.

The Sunshine Vitamin, Part 1

People call vitamin D the “sunshine vitamin” because we make it when sun hits our skin.  Which makes it technically not a vitamin (vitamins, by definition, cannot be made by the body, but must be obtained through the diet).

The whole “vitamin/not vitamin” thing is one of many misconceptions we’ve held about this crucial nutrient.  We’ve also been wrong about how much to take, what kind to take, and what it does for us when we take it.  Which is to say, we’ve been wrong about just about everything about vitamin D!

Coconut Manna Chocolate Mousse

Dairy free, gluten free (check your vanilla too), egg free?  Yes. Fat free?  Not even close.  But the creamy decadence has healthy properties too.  Here’s Adam’s bit from another newsletter.  But isn’t coconut full of saturated fats?  Why yes, it is.  And aren’t saturated fats bad for us?  Well, yes and no.

Sweet Potato Sun-Dried Tomato Houmous

Adapted from a recipe found in an old 2006 issue of Delicious Living.  Yams (or sweet potatoes) are one of my favorite foods.  And they’re #2 on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s list of veggies in terms of overall nutrient content.  They are a food that fuels workouts too because they have all those good carbs.  (A four-ounce sweet potato contains only 143 calories, but has a whopping 28 grams of the right kind of carbs that give energy.)

Kelp Forest Noodles

It’s all about simple.  This is tres simple and tres delish.  If you haven’t discovered kelp noodles or Austrian pumpkinseed oil, well, now’s your chance.  I’m enamored of both.  Kelp noodles are virtually calorie-free, entirely gluten-free, have a pleasant, neutral taste and are said to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.  The alginates in kelp lower the mercury load in the body too.  They can be used raw, right out of the bag, or served hot with your favorite pasta sauce.  Ain’t that grand?!?

The Stay Healthy Care Package for College Students

“Take the Health Food Store with You!”

It can be a tough transition going from the home you grew up in, to a dorm or an apartment.  It can be tough leaving behind that old, familiar pantry stocked with your nutritious favorites to nutrition sourced from the cafeteria or the corner store.  It can be tough trading in your organic shampoo and conditioner for something bright pink and toxic.  Not to mention how tough it can be, at least for some of us, to shop, cook, and clean for ourselves at all!

Garlicky Radish Salad

This recipe appears in our last cookbook, The Blue Ribbon Edition…Ben Jonson, a contemporary of Shakespeare, suggested radishes be eaten before tasting wine to cleanse the palette.  I’m not sure how he arrived at that conclusion!  Historians tell us that radishes were first cultivated in China, and then popular in Egypt where they were fed to the slaves to keep them strong and healthy.

Debra’s Tamale Pie (An Old But Goodie)

From 1989. It fell by the wayside, until Roxanne and Alyssa resurrected it and suggested we serve it this year at Tastes of Concord. Not only was this dish a hit, but meat eaters couldn’t believe it was vegetarian!

TVP is a high-protein product made from soybeans used in lieu of meat. Is soy in favor or out of favor? Adam called my attention to an article written by Ray Sahelian, who said, “Breast cancer survivors, have, for years, been advised to avoid soy foods and supplements because of estrogen-like effects that might theoretically lead tumors to grow. This has never made sense to me since I have followed the research on this topic for a couple of decades and have not seen any proof that this is advice is warranted. A new study of more than 18,000 women shows that consuming soy foods does not increase risk of breast cancer recurrence, and that soy has anticancer properties, antioxidants, nutrients, micronutrients, or vitamins that may contribute to its beneficial effect on health.”

Hydrogen Peroxide

… Debra Stark

I’ve long suggested hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to help cure toe nail fungus, and many of you have our toe-nail fungus handout. My mother used hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash, and she also mixed it with baking soda to make her own toothpaste because of its antiseptic properties. Over the years, too, I’ve read things on line about hydrogen peroxide and been intrigued.

Prenatal and Infant Nutrition: How Smart, and For How Long?

There’s been a fair amount of research showing that pregnant women who consume fish oil and fish liver oil have babies that come out smarter.  But what, exactly, is a smart baby?  And does a smart baby necessarily grow up into a smart adult?

A few years ago, a group of Norwegian researchers published the four-year follow-up of a trial where pregnant women were given cod liver oil starting a few months into their pregnancies, and continued a few months after giving birth.  (There was, of course, a placebo group).  So the infants got fish oil both in the womb, and while breast-feeding.  The paper was published in the prestigious medical journal Pediatrics.

Brainy, Bright Beet Salad

So much is written about beets these days.  According to a new study in the journal, Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, consuming high concentrations of dietary nitrates found in beets, celery, cabbage and some lettuces, can help keep brains healthy. The study found that drinking 2 C of beet juice at breakfast for just four days increased blood flow to the brain’s frontal lobes.  Degeneration of those lobes is linked to cognitive impairment.

ASTHMA

Asthma is a disease where the microscopic airways of the lungs become inflamed and constrict, limiting airflow.  Once diagnosed with asthma, someone is generally considered to “have” it, even if they go weeks, months, or even years in between attacks.

Prevention the Big Picture: Since asthma is a lifelong disease, preventing it i.e never getting it in the first place can save a person from decades of gasping, wheezing, coughing, medication, anxiety, and physical limitations, not to mention potentially tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses.

This is a big, big deal!

An A-Z Guide to Sweeteners, Part IV, the end

Finally, the conclusion of a guide to sweeteners.  To repeat: There is no sweetener that we can consume in vast amounts.  None.  There are certainly some that are better than others.  There are some that even have side benefits.  But the take-home message is still “eat sweets in moderation, if you eat them at all.” 

According to the U.S. government, Sugar is defined, not by its agricultural origin (i.e. what plant or animal it comes from), but solely by its chemical formula.  The formula is C12H22O11.  The chemical is called sucrose.  And it doesn’t matter whether it comes from sugarcane, sugar beets, some other plant, or a lab it’s all “sugar.”  (…and then it gets confusing, because the word “sugar” refers not just to sucrose, but also to a class of compounds called “sugars,” [note the plural] which includes sucrose, plus fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and many more which are found naturally in sweet foods.  This is why you might see an ingredient list that doesn’t include “sugar,” but a Nutrition Facts panel that still lists “sugars.”)

An A-Z Guide to Sweeteners: Part III

To repeat: There is no sweetener that we can consume vast amounts of with impunity.  None.  There are certainly some that are better than others.  There are some that even have side benefits.  But the take-home message is still “eat sweets in moderation, if you eat them at all.”

Saccharine (benzoic sulfimide): No other sweetener on this list has been through as many ups-and-downs in the mind of the public.  Saccharine was discovered by accident in the late 1800s by a scientist working on coal tar derivatives.  It was largely ignored until the sugar shortages during World War I, then quickly embraced as a diet and diabetic sweetener.  By the late 1970s, however, the FDA was set to ban saccharine as a possible human carcinogen (the FDA is required to ban from sale any food known to cause cancer in lab animals).

Alyssa’s Yummy Edamame

Alyssa in our kitchen says, “Edamame, fresh soybeans, are a delicious and low-fat source of protein.  When the kitchen inherited a giant box of edamame we got by mistake, I had the opportunity to create this recipe to use them up!  I’ve adjusted the amounts so you can make this at home.”

Scallops in Bed with Amaranth

We’re so happy the sustainably harvested, best-tasting-ever scallops from Port Clyde are back.  Last year we ran out and had to wait until the season came around again.  This year I personally plan to buy enough so I have a supply in my home freezer…

What do I like about Port Clyde scallops besides the terrific taste and sustainability?  They’re chemical-free.  No sodium triphosphates (STP) added.  STP makes seafood soak up extra water (increasing the weight of the seafood up to 25%).  Why pay for all that extra water at seafood prices?  Why eat yet another chemical Mother Nature didn’t put there in the first place?  Yes, my cooked scallops do weep a bit, but I don’t care.  The flavor is clean and sweet, the texture beyond compare.

An A-Z Guide to Sweeteners / Part II

To repeat: Let’s get one thing out of the way right at the start: there is no sweetener that we can consume vast amounts of with impunity.  None.  There are certainly some that are better than others.  There are some that even have side benefits.  But the take-home message is still “eat sweets in moderation, if you eat them at all.”  Now onto more sweeteners alphabetically.

An A-Z Guide to Sweeteners

Let’s get one thing out of the way right at the start: there is nosweetener that we can consume vast amounts of with impunity. None. There are certainly some that are better than others. There are some that even have side benefits. But the take-home message is still “eat sweets in moderation, if you eat them at all.”

Easier said than done, of course. Sweets just taste so good. There’s a reason for this. We crave sweets, like we crave fat and salt, because the taste represented a scarce and valuable commodity to our ancestors. And since, thousands of years ago, our ancestors hardly ran the risk of getting too much of these things, our taste buds and our brains were programmed to seek out as much as we could get.

Goldenberries

(Also known as Incan Berries or Cape Gooseberries)

One of the superfruits. Indigenous to South America, goldenberries were brought to South Africa in the 1800’s and are grown today in countries far and wide such as China, England, Scotland, Norway and India. Rich in vitamin C, Ayurvedic medicine (the medicine of India) says goldenberries flush toxins from the body, improve immunity, increase vitality, and strengthen teeth and nails. For a fruit, they are said to have a surprising amount of protein and even contain some vitamin B-12.

Self-Care: Can We Prevent the Seven-Pound Gain?

Debra Stark from the Concord Journal

The days are cooler, so I’m thinking “turkey.” I bet you are too.  Before we know it, Thanksgiving and then it’s already New Year’s Day.  Lots of gatherings around the groaning board with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Did you know the average adult gains seven pounds during the holidays?

Articles give helpful hints to avoid over-eating and gaining weight like, “Eat protein before leaving home.” “Take smaller portions.” “Eat slower!”  “Hold a glass of soda water so you aren’t tempted to eat too many crackers with brie or drink too much wine.”

I’m not good at following that kind of advice because I love food.

Yankee Maple Flan

I prefer yams or sweet potatoes to pumpkin because you don’t have to peel them, and they’re more vibrantly colored.  Even though sweet potatoes are related to morning glories, and yams are related to the lily and grass families (and are drier and starchier), I use them interchangeably.  I love the red Garnet yams!

Melty Cheese, Squash and Chickpea Delight

In a study published in the December 2006 Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 47 adults participated in one of two eating plans (5 weeks duration) that provided the calories sufficient to maintain their current weight, one plan supplemented with equal calories of cooked chickpeas, and the other with cooked wheat.

The chickpea-supplemented diet resulted in a significantly higher drop in total cholesterol, which was largely due to a 4.6% drop in LDL “bad” cholesterol.  Beans do us good.  Eat more of them!

Calcium and Heart Disease?

The British Medical Journal reported on July 29 that calcium supplements, normally taken to decrease the risk of fracture, may also increase the risk of heart disease.

This is not (as some have suggested) an attack on natural medicine by the so-called “medical establishment.” This is actually good, solid research. With, however, a big asterisk attached to it. Let me explain.

Seafood Salsa

I first made this recipe with shrimp, for a staff make-your-own taco party. It was a hit.  I made it the second time for friends with scallops, which was scrumptious too.  Here it’s made with Port Clyde sustainable chowder pieces (the “hamburger of the sea world,” says Adam).  This is delicious too and perfect for a light summer repast.  We have Port Clyde chowder pieces in 1 lb packages in our freezer.  And, yes, we’ve plenty.  Make this with wonderful organic and local tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, peppers, onion and cilantro!

Natural Medicine for Gout

About a year ago, the New York Times printed an article chronicling the rising tide of gout in America.  The paper took great pains to point out that this erstwhile “disease of kings” is no longer limited to the fat, old, alcoholic and wealthy.  Now, the skinny, young, clean-living, and impoverished can get it, too.

Ain’t egalitarianism grand?

Gout used to be considered the disease of kings because it is (often, but not always) linked to rich foods, alcohol, and obesity, all of which used to be the sole province of the upper classes, but now well within the grasp of us all.

Summer Lemony Cauliflower Bean Salad

The word cauliflower means “cabbage flower.”  It’s one of the few vegetables I find it hard to grow because in buggy New England the worms always seem to win, and eat before I get to.  Maybe I’ll have better luck next year if I refer to the great gardening book we have called Tiny Game Hunting.

The GAO Report on Herbal Dietary Supplements

(Part II of last month’s regulatory drug versus supplement coming next month…)

In May, the Government Accountability Office of the United States Congress released a report on herbal supplements, alleging that they are often marketed deceptively, and contaminated with the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury[1].  The report was authored by Stephen D. Kutz, the GAO’s Managing Director of Forensic Audits and Special Investigations.

Of course the report got a lot of press.  Once again, herbal supplements were made to appear scary, dangerous, and here’s that word again unregulated.

What’s This I Hear About A Prescription Fish Oil?

If you’ve turned on your television at all during the last few months, chances are you’ve seen a few dozen commercials for a product called Lovaza “the only FDA-approved medication made from omega-3 fish oil!”  The ad makes sure to point out that Lovaza is not available in health food stores.

Of course, omega-3s from fish oil are available in health food stores just none of them are called “Lovaza.”  So it begs the question: what, exactly, makes Lovaza so special? 

Chewing Gum for Physical & Emotional Health

I’m always on the lookout for cheap and easy ways to deal with complicated and intransigent situations.  So I was thrilled to see research where teenagers did better in math class when they chewed gum.

108 middle-schoolers were randomly assigned to either chew gum or not chew gum during math class, and while they were doing their homework[1].  After 14 weeks of “treatment,” the students who had been assigned to chew gum did better on a standardized exam.  According to their teachers, they paid better attention in class, needed less breaks, and were less fidgety.  And they got better grades.  Granted, the research was funded by the Wrigley (chewing gum) company, but it still seemed fairly sound.

A Tale of Two Red Beets

One raw, one cooked.  Two beet recipes where beets are scrubbed and grated (no need to peel).  Can you choose to make both recipes with raw beets?  Make both with roasted or boiled beets?  Yes, yes, and yes!  The only advice I give here is to use a food processor so the grating part is as fast as 1,2,3.

I love red beets because they are satisfyingly sweet, have lots of fiber and good carbs.  They also enrich blood, are antioxidant-rich and you can buy them inexpensively year-round.  I also love to grow them!

Violet Rice and Confetti Vegetables

Ifugao violet glutinous rice, which you can find in our bulk bins, is still grown and irrigated on the same rice terraces that were constructed in the Philippines by people called the Ifugaos more than 3,000 years ago. Their efforts, it is said, match the effort that went into building the Egyptian pyramids.  Located in the mountainous province of Ifugao, these rice terraces with thousands of adjacent fruit trees were built by the people for the people (unlike many wonders built for kings or the wealthy).

Red Lentil Soup with Butternut Squash

Every March, I remember all over again that March can be awful because weather is often cold and snowy, or dreary and rainy.  It’s not winter, and it’s not summer or even spring.  That’s why soup is perfect in March, and sharing soup with friends takes the bull by the horns.  Sharing soup helps keep the moody blues* away.  The aroma of soup and laughter around the table is the best medicine of all.  Who then cares about bad weather?!?  We take heart knowing spring is on its way.

NAC: One of the Best Supplements

For immune function and detoxification, plus liver health, mental health, and general health

For a while now, the amino acid derivative n-acetyl-cysteine (“NAC”) has been one of my favorite supplements.  It’ll decongest you, cut your cold or flu by about half, raise the antioxidant status of your liver and lungs, protect your kidneys from chemical injury, support detoxification of everything from mercury to acetaminophen to alcohol, and protect your eyes from degenerative damage.

So, yes, I liked NAC.  I took NAC.  And I thought I knew all there was to know about NAC (well, within reason, of course…).

Kelp, Lecithin, Raw Apple Cider Vinegar and Vitamin B6 (KLB6)

Somebody asked me recently, “What the heck is KLB6?”  Still around after all these years, this formula is an old-fashioned diet aid was all the rage when I was in college in the 60’s.  KLB6 is shorthand for kelp, lecithin and vitamin B6.  Our house brand formula also contains apple cider vinegar, but I guess that doesn’t fit easily shorthand into the name, does it?

Today, people still come in and say the combination helps them lose weight.  It’s not a magic bullet, but it does help, they say.  How can that be?  Here are some thoughts…

Miso Ginger Slaw

This new recipe is a result of a group effort back in our kitchen.  Thanks to Piera, Alex (Alex Mong who never liked cabbage until this!) and Amanda, the kitchen not only came up with this delish slaw, but had the wild and creative idea to use it in a Miso Tofu Wrap, a popular new sandwich.

Sticking to that Darn Diet!

I’ve been blessed with a digestive tract, immune system, and metabolism that let me eat however much I want, of whatever I want, whenever I want. I know not everyone is so lucky.  There are lots of people who look around a grocery store or at a restaurant menu, and see, instead of possibilities, forbidden fruit.

Some are simply looking to lose weight.  Others are dealing with a food allergy, or multiple allergies.  Others have decided to go vegetarian, or raw; or their child or spouse has.  There are the Candida diets, and the low-residue, low-sodium, low-fat diets.  There are the countless people newly diagnosed with celiac disease.  I could go on.

Cranberry and Blueberry Pomegranate Sauce

So easy! Keeps for weeks in the fridge. I like to store in old glass peanut butter jars. Goes with more than turkey… in fact, this fruit sauce is so right for this time of year because it goes with just about everything. For instance, do you have company and want to make oatmeal or hot cereal more special? Top with this sauce. Want to perk up an entrée and add a spark of color at the table next to the dish of green beans? Put this sauce in a pretty bowl and place on the table. Need another dessert offering? This makes a great one alone or topped with whipped cream, ice cream or a dollop of crème fraîche.

Osteoporosis: Supplement Company Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

Osteoporosis: Supplement Company Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is, Offers Unprecedented Guarantee

About two months ago, supplement manufacturer Garden of Life came to market with a new kit for osteoporosis called “Grow Bone.” On paper, it looked as good as anything I’d ever seen: well-researched sea algae-derived calcium, highly-absorbable magnesium, boron, strontium, silica, vitamin K2, and 1,600 iu of vitamin D3.

But the ingredients list was only the second-most impressive thing about the product. What really blew me away was the guarantee.

Vegetable Mélange

For the vegetarian and the carnivore.  Both will happily eat this…

Everyone knows what an onion and a potato are. But tempeh? Tempeh is a fermented, natural soy product that is high in protein and usable calcium.  Traditionally, tempeh is made from whole soybeans fermented with rice or millet wrapped in banana leaves.  Made under controlled conditions today, it’s still the fermentation which makes tempeh easy to digest.  That said, tempeh will never replace chocolate mousse in the popular mind.

Lomatium Root: Possibly the Best Anti-Viral

Lomatium Root (Lomatium dissectum, formerly Leptotaenia dissecta syn. multfida)OTHER NAMES: Fernleaf Biscuitroot, Desert Parsley, Indian Parsnip, Toza Root

Lomatium may very well be the best antiviral we have. It’s certainly the best and strongest I’ve ever used both topically and internally, and especially for the lungs. So why haven’t you heard of it?

Butterbean and Green Bean Soup

Butterbeans are a tender, smaller variety of lima beans.  I always keep a can of Eden butterbeans at home to throw into soups or stews.  They’ve light, flavorful and cute!  Paired with green beans and peas here, they’re perfecto.  This is nice transitional recipe so good for fall when it’s either glorious and sunny, or just the opposite rainy and cold.

The Ten Healthiest Foods

I’ve never done a Ten Healthiest Foods list, mostly because I don’t believe in them.  Well, I guess I’m a hypocrite now!

Here’s how this is going to work.  I’m not going to limit myself to ten.  I’m just going to keep writing until I use up my three pages.  I’m going to exclude foods that feel more like supplements (so no spirulina or hawthorn berry); brand-name products (Manna bread), and foods that bear too disturbing a resemblance to the ectoplasm in the movie Ghost Busters.

Melatonin: The Hormone for Sleep

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland at the base of the brain. We can also get it in supplements. When light hits our eyes, we shut down melatonin production; when it’s dark out, we start making it again. Melatonin synchronizes our wake-sleep cycles to the cycles of light and dark/night and day. It tells us when to sleep.

Melatonin is what biologists call “highly conserved,” meaning that even as species have evolved, the gene for melatonin has not.

Egg and Veggie Dinner in a Flash

I love to feed people, but like you, don’t have time to fuss in the kitchen.  I got so many rave reviews about Dinner with a Friend (my March 2009 newsletter recipe) and pleas for more easy dinners to make in a flash.   So have fun with this meal.  Again, it’s nothing fancy, but is yummy, colorful and healthy too.
You can make good food fast.  You can have homemade on the table in 30 minutes.

Mystery Plant Makes You Psychotic!

This month, we’re playing a guessing game. And if you guess right, you get a free Jennie’s macaroon. Really: just come in and say you got it – we’ll believe you – and we’ll hand you your macaroon.

So here’s how it’s going to work. I’m going to give you the description of a medicinal plant from www.LiveStrong.com (a health website affiliated with Lance Armstrong, but owned by social networking giant Demand Media). You just have to guess what the plant is. And here’s the big hint: you already know this one. Chances are, you’ve ingested it. Many times. Although you probably thought of it as a food, rather than a medicine. (Here’s the other big hint: it gets an honorable mention next month on my list of the “Ten Healthiest Foods.”)

I’ll quote the LiveStrong entry in its entirety, editing out only two give-away sentences about where it grows, and how it’s used as a food. Good luck.

Jim’s Kidney Bean Empanadas

I’ve been making this recipe for years. It’s great in winter or summer, and my wife and I, and my book group (five hungry men), love them. The combo of organic grains, beans and vegetables satisfies. Which beans to use? Eden beans are cooked with kombu, which makes them more digestible, and Eden doesn’t use bisphenol-A to line their cans. Lin’s Farm tahini is made from whole sesame seeds so you get a lot of calcium. For the pie crust (I first discovered this basic pie crust recipe in 1976), add water to the dough until it reaches earlobe consistency. The result: a great pie crust and a pair of sticky, doughy ears.

Açaí: The Amazing Amazonian Scam Berry

Okay, so here’s the deal: there’s this berry called the açaí berry, it grows on palm trees in the Amazon basin, and if somebody hasn’t already tried to convince you that it’ll help you melt away the pounds, cleanse your colon, energize you, and/or supercharge your sex life, you probably haven’t turned on your television, opened your e-mail, or even glanced at a newspaper in the last six months.

So does it actually do all that?  Uh… no.

The Green Organic Potato Salad

I love this recipe by Amanda.  The website, “WhatsCookingAmerica.net” has wonderful information about potatoes such as archaeologists working in Peru and Chile found potato remains dating back to 500 B.C.E.  The Incas of Peru not only grew and ate potatoes, but buried them with their dead, so revered were they.  Potatoes were also dried and carried on journeys to eat on the way or make into stew.  Each year, I look forward to the new crop of yellow potatoes and love the purple ones too!

Greek Yogurt (Fage) with Za’atar

An easy, easy, easy summer dish around which to build an even easier summer meal.  What is Za’atar? Otherwise known as “The holy hyssop,” it’s a Middle Eastern seasoning mix made from hyssop, Israeli sumac (different than American sumac, which cannot be eaten), sesame seeds, sesame oil, wheat bran, parsley and sea salt.  Refrigerate after opening to keep fresh.  I fell in love with Za’atar in Israel over 20 years ago.

Greek yogurt is to die for.  Like sour cream, only better because it’s got gut-friendly, probiotic bacteria.

Makes about 1 cup

1 7-ounce container Greek yogurt 1 tablespoon Za’atar
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling 2 tablespoons pine nuts

Using a rubber spatula, spoon out delicious, thick Greek yogurt onto a dinner-size plate.  Swirl Greek yogurt so plate is covered, leaving ½”clear from sides of plate.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with Za’atar and pine nuts.  Serve with whole grain pita or veggies.

How to make this a great summer dinner?  Put out on table with a plate of sliced red, yellow and orange tomatoes garnished with chopped fresh basil, a bowl of taboulie and chose a pitted, oil-cured black olive that you’ll find in our grab-and-go refrigerator case.   Put out a plate of cucumber rounds and those same whole grain pita wedges.  Voila!

If you want to make this meal more substantial, grill chicken or shrimp and sprinkle with Za’atar.  Or mix a can of organic black beans and 2 cups organic corn (fresh or frozen).  Season with Za’atar.

How else to use Za’atar?  Liz (who used to work in our kitchen but now works with Heifer International) used to say she loved to drizzle veggies with olive oil, grill them and sprinkle with Za’atar.   Liz’s favorite way to use Za’atar was to mix a spoonful into Bariani olive oil and use as a dipping oil for bread or crudités.  Adam absolutely loves Za’atar on eggs.

From the horse’s mouth (as they say!)  Tsippi, ­ wife of Nimmi Lasman, who sells us this product, says to cut pita bread into wedges, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with Za’atar and then toast in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes.  Cool and serve nice and crunchy.  Nibble on pita wedges, or dip in our hummus.

Okay, maybe we’re jumping the gun a little when we suggest ripe, summer tomatoes and garden-fresh cucumbers, but they’re coming, they really are!  I put a vegetable garden where my front lawn used to be.  Did any of you do that this year?  It’s lots of fun.  Especially for the bunny rabbits…!

Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Three-Toed Sloth Flu

Public Health bulletins are sounding more and more these days like a Dr. Seuss book, evocative less of mass pandemic death than whimsical barnyard shenanigans.  And yet we’re being told to fear mass pandemic death sort of I mean, we’re not supposed to panic or anything….at least not yet.

It can all be very confusing.

Spring Dandelion Avocado Salad With Crispy Tempeh

Another creative, delicious recipe from Amanda.  We all know dandelion is used as a spring tonic, liver-cleansing.  But did you also know that the USDA ranks dandelion in the top four green vegetables in overall nutritional value?  Dandelions are said to be nature’s richest green vegetable source of beta-carotene, from which vitamin A is created. They also are particularly rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the B vitamins, thiamine and riboflavin. So eating dandelions in the spring does your bod a world of good!

Say Good-Bye to Winter Salad

It’s too early for tomatoes, zucchini are still expensive, and we aren’t ready for cold salads.   In April, we get one rainy day; one sunny, gorgeous day.  Weather is still all over the map, but no matter what, it’s cool enough to turn on the oven, roast vegetables, and dream of summer!  What are you planting in your garden this year?

Healthy Bites In Cambridge For Less Than $10

I live in Cambridge, and I love my city, its staggering diversity all tucked away in assorted nooks and crannies.  But I realize that for many of my suburban friends, a trip to The City is a big deal, sometimes overwhelming.  Hopefully, this will help.  Here are some healthy meals, all under $10, for your next foray into the urban environment.  Travelling North-to-South…

Dinner With A Friend

Recently I invited a friend to dinner.  I was delayed at the store and got home literally five minutes before she arrived at my house, and we were heading out to something that evening, so time was of the essence!  Well, dinner was on the table in 30 minutes and my friend kept saying, “I can’t believe you made dinner that quickly.”  Roasting the chicken is why it took that long, and it occurred to me many people bring home “fast food” because they don’t think they can make good food fast.  Here’s the dinner I made that evening.  Nothing extraordinary, as you’ll see, but yummy, colorful and healthy too.

Beautiful Hair and Nails (and Skin and Bones, too…?)

There are a lot of products out there claiming (or at least strongly implying) that they’re going to make you a whole lot prettier.  When it comes to hair and nails at least, there are two that actually work.  One makes your hair and nails stronger; the other, makes your hair thicker and fuller.

Hair and nails are created by living tissue, but they’re not alive themselves.  There’s no blood flow, no enervation, no metabolism.  Lucky for you, or your next hair cut would hurt worse than a root canal.

Living tissues can absorb nutrients, metabolize them, and use them to improve themselves.  Tissues that are not alive, on the other hand, cannot.  Of course if you improve the health of the living tissues that make nails and hair, the nails and hair they make will be healthier.

Homogenized Plastic Mass: It’s What’s For Dinner

I’m not completely opposed to junk food.  For example, the occasional leftover French fry scavenged from the plate of a dining companion, or the deep fat-fried Snickers-bar-on-a-stick at Redbone’s in Davis Square, Somerville.  Those, I feel, are worth it.

But for the most part, I just wonder why.  I mean, really, why eat most of the crap that’s out there?  Having been raised on good food, I’m constantly amazed that people would crave, say, a Fenway Frank over the much-more-delicious Coleman organic hot dog.  Or a white-flour-Crisco-crusted corn-syrup Cool Whip pie, over something with whole grains and actual fruit and soaring peaks of whipped cream.  For the most part, natural which is to say: “real” just tastes better.

Broccoli With Pine Nuts

From Amanda.  Simple and delicious.  Beautiful to look at.  And don’t you find when you eat this way that you feel full, but not too full, and you don’t feel thirsty afterward either!  Amazing how changing what one eats and including more vegetables in one’s diet really does change the way you feel.  It’s as if one’s insides are hydrated and pampered.  Broccoli, green beans or zucchini aren’t spinach or kale or collards, but you will make Popeye proud.  Can you use leafy greens in this recipe?  Sure.  Remember you’re in charge in the kitchen and you can make whatever floats your boat!

Moroccan Lentil Vegetable Soup

Ready in 15 minutes, this is fast food the natural way!  Lentils are eaten around the world, at least twice a day in “any self-respecting Indian household,” says Kavita Mehta, founder of Web-based Indian Foods Co.  Eaten everyday in Morocco, too, but especially during Ramadan, they not only taste great, but give us protein, cholesterol-lowering fiber and more nutrition for their size than almost any other food.  Do they contain iron and B vitamins?  Yes!  These cute little pulses come in all colors and are easy on the pocketbook too.  A handful feeds many.  This soup helps whittle down your waist too.

Fascinating Factoids and Random Research

Fish Oil Helps You Lose Weight: Researchers earlier last year published the results of a trial in which 232 overweight people (average age 31) were put on a low-calorie diet.  Roughly half the people also received a low dose of 260 mg omega-3s from fish oil supplements daily.  The other half got a moderate dose of 1300 mg a day.

The trial went on for eight weeks. In the final two weeks of the trial, the researchers began measuring the subjects’ feelings of satiety immediately after meals, as well as two hours later.  Conclusion: the people who were taking the higher dose of fish oil felt more full, more satisfied after even a portion-controlled weight loss meal.

Buckwheat Blinis with Mushroom Caviar

From Amanda.  “Have you ever made blinis?  They’re a yeasted savory pancake, traditionally served with caviar and crème fraiche.  This version with mushroom caviar is fun to make (and gluten-free because buckwheat is not related to wheat and is actually a fruit).  Use any mushrooms you like, and get creative with seasonings too.  Make these for your next party!”

Arthritis, Part 2

Last month covered the various types of arthritis, diet, and what the docs like to call “lifestyle.”  This month we focus on supplements.

If this even attempted to be a comprehensive listing, we’d be going on for pages, and pages and pages.  Instead, let’s talk about a few supplements which really work, and then cover a few that don’t really work, but which are being heavily marketed and promoted.

The Best Cookie

The Walnut Surprise cookies in my first cookbook are, surprise! not brownies.  Unprepossessing, they are delicious and always a hit.  The best cookie ever.  But now I use the basic formula to make great flourless and gluten-free cookies.  I love the fact, no matter which variation, all it takes is a bowl, wooden spoon, and a strong arm.  (Read, too, later in this newsletter about coconut sugar, suitable for diabetics, perfect for these cookies, now available in our bulk department.)

Ouch, Ouch. Arthritis

There are 101 different kinds of arthritis, and 101 ways to treat each one.  Rather than try to go into all of that here we don’t want to get arthritis in our typing fingers! this is going to be a quick, hopefully simple, guide to some of the most basic concepts, and the most effective ways of treating this disease.

WHAT IS ARTHRITIS?  Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, causing pain, inflammation, stiffness, and eventual destruction of joint cartilage.  The most common kinds are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  It is possible to have more than one kind at once.

Autumn Carrots and Squash

Serve this over lentils, rice, millet or quinoa.  Below, I’ve used black lentils because the contrast is striking, and because I like lentils!  All you butternut squash lovers out there, I don’t begrudge you the squash, but I have a hard time finding time to peel and cut squash.  If I can’t buy it already peeled and cubed, I use yams instead, which are just as healthy but a little sweeter.  I cannot tell a lie.

Economic Sanity and the Price of Cheese

I promise next month to get back to normal topics of conversation in these letters: lungs and livers, your bellies and innards, and wonderful herbs and vitamins which make them shiny!  Next month, I promise.

The other day as the store was about to close, I turned to the fridge to make my important decision for the evening: what kind of cheese to buy to melt over my broccoli, black beans, and diced tomatoes for dinner?  It was down to two finalists — Neighborly Farms organic, pasture-fed Green Onion Cheddar; and the 5-Spoke Farms organic, raw, pasture-fed Herbal Jack.  It was a close race although I eventually did give the edge to the Herbal Jack.  But then my practical side kicked in: maybe I should get the Organic Valley product instead.  Not a bad cheese by any measure.  Heck, it even won an award.  But more importantly, Organic Valley is a large operation, with an efficient supply chain and distribution networks, and centralized production facilities — in other words, Organic Valley was going to be cheaper.

Only it wasn’t!  Organic Valley’s price had just gone up.

1,4-dioxane

We shop in the store, just like you do, because we believe in natural and organic, because we want to leave the planet a better place, and because we want our families to be healthy and happy. When we put a product on the shelves, it’s because it’s something we might want to buy! So it was especially upsetting to read the Organic Consumer Association’s (OCA) report on 1,4-dioxane on “natural” bodycare and household products. But we trust the OCA, a watchdog and advocacy group with more than 500,000 members. This is no trade organization or industry mouthpiece; in fact, the OCA often directly opposes powerful interests in the organic industry.

Pineapple Macadamia Slaw

I was one of the lucky ones who got to attend Amanda’s cooking class in September (thanks to Lindsay for stepping in and helping out too).  Every dish was great creative and gorgeous, as you can see by the following recipe.  (The next “secret ingredient” class taught by Amanda and Lindsay will feature hot peppers.  Yes, you should sign up right away because it will fill up fast.)

Himalayan Red Rice Salad

Amanda says that this whole-grain rice tastes great, looks awesome, and cooks in only twenty minutes.  Himalayan red rice is an ancient short-grain rice grown 8,000 feet up in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.  Irrigated with 1,000-year old glacier water rich in trace minerals, this exotic rice has a nutty flavor, soft texture and beautiful red russet color.  So sayeth websites that rave about the rice.  And, yes, we stock it in our bulk bins.  A hand-crafted, heirloom rice, grown without pesticides and herbicides.  You’ll like it!

Food that is Black

By Adam Stark

A few months ago, I came across a news item claiming that the newest food trend in Japan is black food: black sesame seeds, black rice, black vinegar, black soybeans, etc.

Well, that piqued my interest.  I mean, don’t get me wrong: I hear about a different food trend every week, and I tend to ignore most of them (Microgreens, anyone?  Cod liver oil-infused potato chips?  How about a nice bottle of micro-cluster water suffused with color energy and Universal Love Vibrations?) Black food may or may not be an actual trend in Japan I don’t know; I’ve never been there but at least this one would make sense.

Take Vitamin D, Live Longer

For years, people didn’t pay much attention to vitamin D.  We knew that adequate levels were important to prevent osteoporosis, rickets, and other bone and joint diseases.  And that was about it.  Get enough, but not too much, and that was about that.

The last few years, though, vitamin D has been thrust into the limelight as a sort of nutritional superstar. We now see that it prevents kidney disease, birth defects, chronic muscle pain and weakness in the elderly, seasonal affective disorder, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, and maybe even autism.  Plus probably heart disease and cancer as well.

Pink Stevia Lemonade

Thanks to Adam, we’ve been enjoying this recipe for some years now.  We love this recipe so much that we put in our third cookbook, The Blue Ribbon Edition: From our kitchen to yours.

We all know stevia is a South American herb that tastes much sweeter than sugar.  The good thing is that stevia doesn’t affect blood sugar and is safe for diabetics.  It contains virtually no calories.  An eight-ounce cup of Pink Stevia Lemonade yields roughly 3 calories.  You can live it up, baby!

Tapioca Chocolate Pudding

Amanda started making this old-fashioned, light, comfort food in our kitchen, and many of you have asked for the recipe.  Well, here it is.

Tapioca is made from the cassava root.  Cassava grows well in poor soil, is resistant to drought and can live without fertilization, which makes it a godsend in hot climates.  It is a staple crop in Asia and Africa, where its roots produce more food per energy unit of land than any other staple crop!  Nutritionally, cassava is often compared to potatoes, but with twice the fiber and much more potassium.

It’s a Summer Salad!

Five minutes is all you need for this dish.  The only ingredient needing advance prep is the spelt berries.  I often cook up a pot-full when I’m reading the Sunday paper to use during the week, or to freeze in two-cup portions for future use.  So invite neighbors for dinner.  Don’t worry about slaving over a hot stove.  Added bonus?  This dish uses up prolific summer squash or zucchini.  Recipe look familiar? It’s because I ran a variation on this theme about five years ago!  We made this recipe in our cooking class, “Light and lively grains for summer!”, and it was a hit.  It will be in your house too.

Chia, Oh Mia

We can’t keep Chia in stock.  Chia has been on Oprah.  The Chia of Chia pets, you ask?  Well, yes!    Chia, a member of the mint family (it’s also gluten-free), grows from the Mojave Desert to Argentina.  The Aztecs relied on Chia, and Native Americans of the Southwest and California Coast cooked Chia seeds with water to make gruel, or ground the seeds into flour for baking.  Soaked in water, Chia gels up, and was used for poultices.  Chia seeds mixed in water kept a man going on a forced march for 24 hours because it was (and still is!) so nutritious.

Anne’s Gluten-Free Rice Bran Muffins

Teff is a grain native to Ethiopia, and a nutritional powerhouse smaller than a poppy seed.  If you’ve ever had injere, Ethiopian pancake-bread, you’ve had teff.  In the recipe below, you can sub potato starch for the corn starch, but don’t use potato flour, which is made from ground whole potatoes, rather than just their starch.  If you use potato flour, your muffin will tastes like a potato, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Spicy: Part Two

The Peppers: Once, when I was a kid, my mother had a friend, and her friend had a son, and when my mother hung out with her friend, I was expected to hang out with the son.  Well, I found this son to be particularly annoying.  And in my youth, I was not very tolerant of being annoyed.  At the time, we had a little hot pepper plant in a pot in the windowsill.  I remember being told that this variety was the second-spiciest pepper on Earth.  I have no idea if this was true or not, but it certainly packed a punch.  So one day, when this kid was annoying me (again), I suggested he take a taste from the “dwarf Australian pear plant.”

As I recall, he got blisters on his tongue.

Hot peppers can definitely pack a punch, especially for those who haven’t built up much of a tolerance.  Those of us who have, however, love them, the spicier the better.

The Psychographics of Breakfast Cereal

Ah yes another piece for which I must write a disclaimer!  To whit: “my opinions here in no way reflect those of anyone else on staff, or, indeed, on Earth.  Also, they don’t reflect Debra’s, yet she is still kind enough to print them.  Cheers.”

Did anyone else catch that article in the New York Times[1] about how what you eat, and where you buy it, predicts how you’re going to vote in the presidential election?  Good stuff.  To be honest, part of me resents the way the spin-meisters and sales consultants intrude on our privacy, observe and record, cut and splice everything we do, for the sole purpose of turning it back on us.  But an even bigger part of me is simply fascinated.

Almond Kelp Noodle Salad

Amanda adapted a recipe from a package of Sea Tangle kelp noodles, and her rendition is below.  She says, “This lively and delicious salad will surprise everyone when you tell them the ‘noodles’ are actually mineral-packed sea kelp!  Jazzed up with sesame oil and lemon, this dish tickles and brightens the palate and satisfies a salt craving without weighing down your system.”

Kelp noodles are gluten-free, and very low in carbohydrates and calories.  Their texture is chewy, and you can use them anywhere you’d use pasta.  They are, for those of you who follow a raw food diet, raw and ready to use right out of the bag.  Ingredients?  Kelp, water, sodium alginate (from brown seaweed).

Spicy !!!

I suppose the icy depths of winter would be a more appropriate time to cover herbs that are heating and spicy.  But now is when the mood strikes, so, here goes.

Actually, summer might not be such a bad time for this, after all.  Traditional South American, Asian, and Indian cultures don’t back off the spice just because the temperature is rising.  On the other hand, the Eskimo’s aren’t exactly known for their spicy cuisine (or much any cuisine, for that matter).  Kenyon also points out that cayenne pepper sends circulation to the surface.  It might make you feel warmer, more flushed for a bit, but in the end it might cool you: heat at the surface is more easily dispersed than heat at the core.

Sesame Corn Crisps with Hemp

Recently, I started making my mother’s corn crisps again.  This recipe, which appears in our first cookbook now called If Kallimos Had a Chef, is even more fun and delicious with the addition of hemp.  Why hemp seeds?  Because they are a nutritional powerhouse with easy-to-digest protein and lots of fiber.  Hemp is also an excellent source of essential fatty acids, phytosterols, carotenes, vitamin E and vitamin C, and chlorophyll (helps prevent bad breath).  But so we don’t fall into the trap of defining food by nutritional attributes instead of taste and pleasure, how does hemp taste?  Like sunflower seeds.  Nice nutty flavor.  Delicious.

Granmisto di Funghi with Chickpeas, Basil and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, originate in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Today, everyone everywhere eats them.  Why is that, aside from the fact they taste good?  Well, they’re high in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and decreases insulin requirements for people with diabetes.  They contain protein, calcium and iron (isn’t that a surprise?)  You get nutrition and de-li-tion all for a fair price, even if you don’t cook the beans yourself.

Moroccan Stew with Rice and Millet

A satisfying, simple vegetarian stew served over whole grains.  Of course you can add tempeh, tofu, shrimp, chicken, lamb, beef or chickpeas.   Millet is one of those under-utilized grains that is alkalizing, easy on the digestive system, somewhat foreign to us, but “friendly” when combined with something we already know and love like rice.   Too many ingredients?  Not really.  Lots of spices, but the veggies and grains are “ordinary” and I bet you have all these ingredients in your kitchen as a matter of course.  Yes, I do use organic veggies, and if you can, you are getting higher nutrient values.

Lowering Your Cholesterol, Part II

So I talked about food last month, and tried to dispel some of the myths about what you should and should not eat.  This month, I’d like to recommend five ways to use supplements to reduce cholesterol.  As always, I like to start with the ones that are the most holistic, that have the most side benefits, that best promote a state of general health in addition to dropping your cholesterol.  For those who prefer the quick fix, I’ll eventually get to the ones that are quick and easy and efficient, and can drop your numbers in two or three pills a day.

Georgian Red Lentil Soup

Soups are perfect for those with allergies because they can easily be made without wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, or other foods that are so difficult for many.  And soups are comfort food when it’s dark outside.  Here’s another soup from me to you this January 2008.  May 2008 bring you and yours health and happiness!

We’ve become addicted to maitake mushrooms, also called ‘hen of the woods’ or ‘dancing mushrooms’.  Why are we addicted?  Not only do they have an amazing taste and firm texture, but maitakes are one of the most revered deep immune tonics in Chinese medicine.  In Japan, doctors use maitakes to lower blood pressure, boost immune systems (again), and, as Adam wrote in our March 2006 newsletter, maitakes regulate blood sugar, protect the liver and taste a little like chicken.

Lowering Cholesterol

I’ve been putting off writing this one for years.  First of all, it’s an enormous topic: you can reduce cholesterol levels by decreasing absorption, increasing excretion, reducing the rate at which it is reabsorbed once it’s been excreted, by preventing it from sticking to blood vessel walls, or by reducing the production of cholesterol in the liver (which is where most of our cholesterol comes from anyways not from what we eat).  Then there’s the issue that high cholesterol can be secondary to diabetes, constipation, liver impairment, inflammation, mismanagement of calcium, infections in the blood vessel walls, and/or sitting on your couch more than you ought to.  And then there are the further complicating factors such as “good” and “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.

But let’s put all that aside for the moment, and just talk about lowering cholesterol, plain and simple.  Let me start by dispelling a few myths.

Amanda’s Cocoa Butter Almond Financiers

Which she made for me with the following note:  “To one fearless leader from one leerless feeder.”

What is cocoa butter?  The natural fat of the cacao bean (from which we get the incredible stuff known as “chocolate”).  Do we sell it?  But of course.  Cocoa butter has a melting point just below average body temperature, which is why chocolate remains solid at room temperature, but melts in your mouth. Cocoa butter gives a smooth texture to so many confections containing chocolate, and is often used by culinary experts (ahem, now you’re one).

Simplest Dessert Ever

This is a repeat of one of my (it’s Debra again!) favorite desserts (to complement just about anything).  No mess in the kitchen, and nutrient rich.  And what a concept — a dessert that keeps those you care about healthy!  

We all know dried fruits like apricots, peaches and prunes have lots of fiber, which is especially helpful at the holidays, and also are rich in iron, which means they’re good for relieving anemia too.

Think Sharp!

We have more than an entire shelf’s worth of brain supplements at the store, and all sorts of stuff on other shelves, too, that people take to be smarter.  And most of them, frankly, won’t do much for you at least not if you’re basically okay to begin with.  It’s only when you head off into senile dementia, or start having strokes (or are looking to prevent them, years or decades down the road), that most of these really kick in.  There are also some nutrients which help people with ADHD, or soothe the endless worries that interfere with normal concentration.  But if you don’t have these problems, they won’t help you much, either.

There are a few things, however, which work even for normal healthy people.  Here are five of the best.  In no particular order:

Wild Rice & Purple Potato Pancakes

Wild rice is expensive, but is special and perfect for holidays like Thanksgiving or Chanukah (which starts December 4th this year).  Wild rice is not a grain like other rices, but a seed.  Go figure!  Just like buckwheat is not a grain, but a fruit….  Wild rice kernels are unpolished (so you get every drop of nutrient this seed provides), and the flavor is nutty with a nice chewy texture.  Wild rice gives us copper, fiber, folate, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, vitamin B6 and zinc!

Weight Loss, Part 2

This is an article on weight loss.  I last covered the topic for the May, 2001 newsletter.  Yet just recently, it has recently been called to my attention that the first article did not entirely solve the problem… That first one was called “It’s May Already, and I’m Still Too Fat For My Bathing Suit!”  I’m going to call this one:

Weight Loss, Part 2

So I was leafing through my old copy of Nutritional Biochemistry, hoping to glean some pearls of wisdom about the subject.  Instead, I came across one of the most medically pompous statements I’ve ever seen.  And I hope it amuses you as much as it amused me: “It is customary for people to self-diagnose obesity, i.e., whether one is underweight or overweight.  A self-diagnosis might be expected to be inaccurate because the measurement of body fat requires special tools.”

Would one of those tools be a scale?  A tape measure?  A mirror, perhaps?

Baked Apples with Macaroon Filling

It must be fall because the new apple crop is in!  Apples are winners when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease, says a new study of more than 34,000 women. The findings, published in the March, 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, noted apples are a rich source of flavonoids and fiber (richest in the skin).  Unfortunately, in conventionally-grown apples, the skin is also the part most likely to contain pesticide residues and/or be covered in petroleum-based waxes.   Which means, of course, that eating organic apples is the way to go since we want that extra nutrition and fiber found in the peel, don’t we?!?   There are myriad other reasons to eat apples so we are healthy and wise too.

New Research on Food: Additives and Hyperactivity

A study published just last month in The Lancet, England’s most respected medical journal, has confirmed that artificial food colorings and preservatives make children hyperactive.

Many of you saw this, I’m sure.  It was front page news.

However it hardly came as a surprise to anyone who has followed the issue over the last 34 years.  It was back in 1973 that Benjamin Feingold, Chief of Allergy at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, first announced that roughly 2/3 of his hyperactive patients improved when put on a diet free of artificial additives.  A number of clinical trials quickly followed to test Feingold’s theory.  Many supported the theory, which came to be called the “Feingold Hypothesis.”

Wild Mushroom Stir-Fry

Asiago is an Italian company, and we’re pleased as punch to carry their frozen, mixed porcini, oyster, shiitake and nameko mushrooms.  Adam introduced this product to me, and we both love how easy it is to make dinner by just adding a few other ingredients!

Mushrooms lack chlorophyll, which means they don’t produce food for themselves through photosynthesis.  Instead they absorb nutrients from compost, leaves, decaying wood, and soil. Wild mushrooms, like those Asiago uses, provide a more intense and exotic flavor, and I like to think more nutrients since that’s usually the case with wild foods.  We all know we need to eat our greens, so make it a habit to throw in veggies like the spinach in the recipe below with your mushrooms.  If you like a chewier mix, chop up kale and stir that in instead of tender spinach.  Or collards or broccoli.

The Many Benefits of CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 is a chemical naturally found in every cell of our bodies.  Indeed, its name in older biochemistry texts, ubiquinone, reflects the fact that it’s so very ubiquitous.  CoQ10 is needed for the generation of energy inside our cells[1].  And obviously, energy is essential to normal functioning of the body.  We don’t blink an eye or think a thought without energy.  Our hearts don’t pump blood, our livers don’t cleanse blood, and our lungs don’t oxygenate blood without energy.  So it’s no surprise how much CoQ10 can do for us.  What is surprising, however, is that when it comes to actually feeling energetic vigorous and alert CoQ10 generally does not do much for people.  Sure, I talk with people now and again who take CoQ10 and do feel physically and mentally energized, but they’re in the minority.  Most of CoQ10’s benefits remain hidden.

Kurt’s Pecan Pesto (a summer recipe)

I fell in love with Kurt’s recipe back in the summer of 2002. Kurt is baking bread at the Orchard Hill Breadworks in VT.  He swings by from time to time bearing the gift of whole grain loaves baked the old-fashioned way. 

Kurt writes, “One time Adam asked the Gaia Herb rep what the best herb for general health was.  The rep said basil and explained to us that it was the best overall tonic for the body.  Pecans in this recipe add healthy fatty acids to the mix, and of course there are all those benefits that come from fresh garlic.  If raw olive oil (like Bariani olive oil, which we carry) is used, this pesto can be a 100% raw recipe.  Could this be the healthiest recipe ever at Debra’s Natural Gourmet?

The Super-Juices: Goji, Noni, Açaí, Mangosteen, Pomegranate

In the world of vitamins and minerals, herbs and oils, green foods and high-tech antioxidants, superfruit juices are a relatively new development.  But in the last decade really, in the last few years they’ve leapt into the mainstream with a vengeance.  Noni was first, after a woman got on the Oprah show and swore that it cured her of everything.  Then followed goji and mangosteen, pomegranate and acai, each one hyped as better than the others, a panacea, a miracle.

Garlic Gold Pita Crisps and Guacamole

A meal in itself with some ripe summer tomatoes.  I’d add olives and those little pickling cucumbers too.  Organic chicken on the grill….. Or Steady Lane Farm hamburgers or steaks….

Seven Oaks Ranch, the maker of Garlic Gold products, is nestled in the Ojai Valley.  The Ranch grows and distributes organic produce such as tomatoes, Meyer lemons, Hass avocadoes, and, of course, garlic.  Proponents of sustainability, Seven Oaks utilizes solar electricity to power the ranch along with a long list of cutting-edge sustainable farming practices.  We’ve sold their products for years and hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do!

Summertime Red Pepper, Chickpea, Hemp and Black Olive Spread

I keep trying to figure out ways to use hemp and pumpkin seeds because they’re both so healthy, but hemp sounds “sexier”, so it’s in the title here.  I read that hemp is the “next flax” because it’s another rich, rich source of essential fatty acids.  Ruth Shamai of Ruth’s Hemp Foods says, “So that’s one-third of its composition (essential fatty acids).  Another one-third consists mostly of fiber, both soluble and insoluble.  And it’s also one-third protein.”

Multiple Sclerosis in Natural Medicine; Part II

Inflammation: Imbalances in the immune system cause MS, when rogue immune cells infiltrate parts of the nervous system and attack.  The weapon used in this attack is inflammation.  You can reduce this inflammation by rebalancing the immune system (see part 1), or by addressing the inflammation directly.  Or, of course, by doing both.

Most people think that the idea in reducing inflammation is to slow the progression of the disease.  While that’s true, reducing inflammation should also help one of the major side effects of MS, namely, depression.  There are quite a few research papers published specifically examining where the depression in MS comes from.  Are MS patients depressed simply because MS is, well, depressing?  Or is depression an actual symptom of MS?  It now looks like depression is a symptom of MS, and inflammation is largely responsible for it.

Multiple Sclerosis in Natural Medicine

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a progressive, inflammatory disease that attacks the central nervous system: the brain and spinal cord.  Specifically, MS degrades the myelin sheath, the fatty insulating layer which encases our nerve fibers, and which facilitates speedy and coordinated transmission along neural pathways.  As you can imagine, when these transmissions get messed up, a lot of stuff we take for granted gets messed up as well: thinking, breathing, movement, speech, balance, sensation, and control of autonomic bodily functions.

Chicken or Tofu with Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence originated in southern France, and includes herbs found in the region: rosemary, basil, marjoram, thyme, sage, savory, tarragon, bay, fennel and lavender. We have two different mixes in our store, one by Frontier Herbs and Spices, and a second lovely version made by Jean Louis of A Touch of Provence, located right here in Concord.

Oh Those Dry Eyes!

by Debra Stark

For years I’ve heard people talking about dry eyes.  I never understood the problem until one morning (yes, it seemed to happen overnight), I woke up, rubbed my eyes, and the eyes went into spasms.  It felt as if grains of sand were stuck there.  My eyes streamed and my nose ran in sympathy.  While the spasm subsided, the eyes hurt the rest of the day….as if they were stuck with a splinter.  They were red, irritated and the socket ached.

Rainbow Chard Salad

In May, I feel in transition mode, not wanting heavy, cooked wintry dishes, but not ready yet for summer corn or salads made from ripe tomatoes.  This easy salad, which can be a meal, suits my fancy in spring.

Did you know that chard actually came from the Mediterranean and Asia Minor?  That while it cooks and looks a little like spinach, it’s actually related to beets?  Indeed, in Israel, the greens are called “beet leaves”.  And, if you eat mesclun, a mix of baby greens, you’ve been eating chard raw already.

Three Crops Where Pesticides Hit Hardest

We all want to eat, and live, organically.  But we don’t not always.  Even the best of us cuts corners every once in a while.

Bearing this in mind, various scientist and activist groups have taken to publishing top-10 lists, ranking the worst foods for pesticide residues.  The higher the levels of pesticide residues on a food, the more important for us to eat it organic, or not at all.  So we’re warned off of conventionally grown strawberries and raspberries, peaches, spinach, carrots, grapes (and raisins), winter squash (especially in baby food), and more.  Not only are government regulations often inadequate to limit pesticide residues; often, when these foods are tested, residues are found to exceed even the lax government guidelines.  It’s shocking how often this is allowed to happen.  (And I wonder once again why the vitamin industry alone gets labeled as “unregulated.”)

Toxicity of Genetically Modified Corn in the American Food Supply

Research published just last month now strongly links a variety of genetically-engineered corn to liver and kidney damage in rats, as well as elevated triglycerides, and changes in weight between the sexes.  The particular variety of corn, Monsanto’s MON863 is approved for human consumption in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the European Union.

How (you might ask yourself) could MON863 possibly have been approved for human consumption?  Well, there’s an interesting story here.

Kale Provençale Salad with Lentils

Mother Earth Magazine lists kale as one of theThirty-Three Greatest Foods for Healthy Living.”   Grown in Europe since 600 B.C.E., kale was the most common green vegetable, and in Scotland, kale in one dialect meant food, and the expression “to be off one’s kail” meant to feel too ill to eat.

The Importance of Probiotics

Contrary to popular belief, bacteria aren’t all bad.  In fact, there are all sorts of bacteria which live on us, and in us, and actually do us a world of good.  The majority live in our digestive tracts, where they help us digest food, excrete toxins, and keep our immune systems up and running.  These so-called “friendly flora” are known as probiotic bacteria.

Probiotic bacteria can help control specific health conditions, but also general long-term health.  In terms of specific health conditions, probiotic can reduce lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea thrush, and colic[1].  Longer term, probiotics help bolster our defenses against infection (everything from colds and flus, to food poisoning, to vaginal yeast infections, etc.), may lower cholesterol, and appear to significantly lower cancer rates.

So how do we get these good bacteria on our guts? 

Herb Roasted Sausages and Butternut Squash

Perfect for days that are still cold and often blustery.  We often are able to get peeled, diced organic butternut squash on organic produce day, which makes this dish a five-minute snap to prepare for the oven!  Of course you can halve, peel and cube your own squash, or substitute diced yams.

Vegetarian?  Substitute any one of the fake sausages we carry.  Jim’s favorite is the Beer Brats.

Eating for BEAUTY!

This is an article about skin.  Not “problem skin,” but skin that glows with health, and ages well.  It’s about thick, luxuriant hair, and strong teeth.

The idea here is that our outsides reflect our insides.  Lynne Lori Sullivan, who works with this and other health topics, says she has very sensitive skin and likes it this way: “I’m glad to be a canary in a coal mine.  If I take a misstep if I eat a Boston cream donut, or trans-fats the next day or two, I break out.  I know that inside the body, things are hardening, things are going wrong.  My skin keeps me on track.”

Three Recent Breakthroughs with Osteoporosis

(The breakthrough getting the most press these days is vitamin D3, but we covered that over a year ago.  Archives on this and other cutting edge natural treatments for osteoporosis such as strontium and vitamin K2, plus bone basics, can all be found in our newsletter archives). 

A study published last October in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who consumed four or more cola drinks a week had lower bone densities than women who did not, regardless of other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and calcium intake.  Men, oddly, did not appear to be affected.  The study, spearheaded by Katherine Tucker of Tufts University, relied on dietary questionnaires of over 2,500 people.  Although it was not entirely clear why cola appeared to lower bone mineral density, Dr. Tucker theorized that it may be the phosphoric acid.  Other sodas that did not contain phosphoric acid did not appear to lower bone mineral density.

Get Skinny, Be Strong, & Live Forever?

It’s interesting to follow the research on “up-and-coming” supplements as it develops over a number of years.  You start with one or two intriguing (but inconclusive) test tube studies, watch it move on to a few small animal trials, then wait for the big human trials that will either prove or disprove all the hope, hype, and conjecture.

How to Research Health and Medical Information

In the more than five years I’ve been writing this column, I’ve covered topics ranging everywhere from allergies and weight loss, to hepatitis and cancer.  And I’ve been flattered that so many people have read what I’ve written, and taken it seriously.  Nevertheless, I’ve always wanted to write a column on how to find information yourself.  Now, in this last column before the printed version of the Debra’s Natural Gourmet newsletter goes to paid subscription (still free on-line), seems like as good a time as any.

Please be warned: this will be a very opinionated column!

Fiber for Weight Loss

Actually, fiber is for a lot of things.  That title was just to get your attention.

Of all the changes we have wreaked on traditional diets over the last hundred years, our drastic reduction in fiber intake might very well be the most significant[1].  Not only have we turned away from fiber-rich plant foods, but the plant foods we do eat are often “refined” to remove their natural fiber, leaving us with bland, malleable white bread, white rice, and white pasta.  We even refine our vegetables, removing the nutritious peels from carrots and cucumbers, and foregoing fresh tomatoes for bottled tomato sauce (made without tomato skins and seeds) ladled over white pasta.

How to Pick a Multivitamin, Part 1

I just counted: we have 104  different multivitamins.  This guide should help you make sense of them all.    

Tablet or Capsule, etc.?  First of all, this is not a quality issue.  Claims that liquids absorb better, or that tablets “go right through you,” etc., are mostly nonsense.

The only issues here are personal preference and convenience.  Compared to capsules, tablets are cheaper and can hold more stuff.  On the other hand, they’re harder to swallow, and need more time to digest, so it’s especially important to take them with food.    

High Blood Pressure, Part II

Part I covered lifestyle and diet (including culinary herbs like garlic and stevia).  This month: supplements.

There are literally dozens if not hundreds of supplements that can help with blood pressure.  This won’t be an exhaustive list!   Please bear in mind, some of the strongest herbs for reducing hypertension, such as Indian snakeroot and foxglove, can be dangerous if used incorrectly.  Only use the really strong stuff like the herbs just mentioned if you’re working with someone who has experience with it.

High Blood Pressure

The higher our blood pressure, the harder the heart has to work.  Over time, this enlarges the heart, which is not a good thing.  Chronic high blood pressure hardens the arteries and increases our risk of heart attack, aneurysm, and stroke.  The kidneys, which filter the blood, can also be damaged.  The risk of glaucoma is increased.

Five Foods You THOUGHT Were Unhealthy

 (and now you’re going to be thrilled you can eat!)

CHOCOLATE: You’ve probably have heard the snippets on the nightly news: “Chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease.”  “Chocolate protects against cancer.”  “Chocolate reduces the appearance of wrinkles.”  Which would seemingly be our cue to start eating some.  But there’s always something in the news anchor’s tone of voice (a tone usually reserved for human interest stories like somebody’s pet cat that can play Mozart on the trombone), which implies that, as interesting as the story may be, we shouldn’t take it too seriously.   

The Liver, Part 2

A few months ago, I started an article on the liver.  I basically spent about two-thirds of a page trying to convince everyone how great of an organ the liver is, and how we should take care of it even when we don’t have any specific problems, then said “to be continued…”  Well, here’s the continuation:

Before we get into the specifics of how to support the liver, we should understand how the liver actually detoxifies things.  The liver performs this seeming magical task in two stages, aptly named phase I (also called cytochrome p450) and phase II (a.k.a. conjugation).  In phase I, toxins are made more chemically reactive; in phase II this increased reactivity is used to react the toxins with a “chaperone” molecule – in a sense, “chemical handcuffs.” 

Crunchy Toasted Garbanzo Beans and Pistachios

Satisfying trail mix. Try it, you’ll like it! And, of course, the variations are endless. Yes, it’s a little spicy (you can make it to suit your taste buds), but remember that cayenne pepper increases circulation. Nuts like pistachios as part of a balanced diet can lower blood pressure in folks with hypertension. Lots of fiber, protein and good fat in this mix too!

Are You Stuck With Damaged Genes?

by Debra Stark

In Jack Challem’s book, Feed Your Genes Right, Mr. Challem says nutrition feeds our genes, which not only are found in every one of our 70 trillion cells, but which contain the basic biological instructions for everything from eye color to the risk of heart disease and other disorders.   “Instructions, encoded in the long strands of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that form genes, program everything that happens in your body. They tell heart cells to beat rhythmically and brain cells to store memories. But when genes and their DNA become damaged, information becomes garbled and disease can be one of the consequences.”

The Most Precious Spice in the World

The saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) is a rare purple flower that grows in Iran, Greece, Spain, Morocco, and parts of India.  As many as 75,000 flowers – a football field’s worth of intensive cultivation – are needed to produce a single pound of saffron, which must be harvested by hand!

Saffron is the most precious, the most expensive spice on Earth.  But don’t let that scare you: as renowned naturopathic doctor, Bill Mitchell, is fond of pointing out, “Two cups a day of saffron tea still cost less than a double latté.”

The Liver, Part 1

When you stop and think about it, all the stuff that goes on to keep us alive is pretty amazing.  And I’m not even talking about the wonder of reproduction or the miracle of consciousness, but about the everyday nitty-gritty that keeps things running.  The heart pumps (and we don’t notice), the lungs inhale and exhale (and we pay them no attention), our jaws chew, our salivary glands produce saliva, our stomachs churn, and our digestive tracts take it from there.  All of it running on autopilot, while our “higher” thoughts are free to contemplate poetry, or revenge, or a cheeseburger. 

Random research from 2005.

87% less colic, 50% less booze, 27% more breast cancer, 60% less ovarian cancer, 56% fewer colds (that get better 35% faster); and why spicy olive oil is better.

56% Fewer Colds: Every now and again, researchers decide to mix up some ginseng with human immune cells in a test tube, and see what happens. Inevitably, nothing happens. So the researchers conclude that ginseng is useless for the immune system. Then they publish their findings.

The day we bought our space

The day we finally bought our space and became masters of our own destiny, it occurred to me: we have 68 different kinds of lip balm.

The day before, when everything was still up in the air, it occurred to me: this place feels like home. On that day, a customer came up to me and told me that the store was an “anchor” in her life, a safe place, a constant. She could always count on us to be there. And by that, I gather, she didn’t just mean be in a place, but to be there, for her, in ways that were unnamed-able.

I told her I felt the same way.

The Sunshine Vitamin, Part 2

We make vitamin D in our skin using a type of solar radiation called ultraviolet B (UVB). Unfortunately, UVB is filtered out by the atmosphere. As the Earth tilts on its axis in winter, the sun’s rays travel through more atmosphere to get to us, and more and more UVB is filtered out. Some estimates have it that, in our part of the country, we simply do not make vitamin D during 4-5 months of every year. Even in summer, morning and afternoon sun has to angle through more atmosphere, filtering out most if not all UVB.

The Sunshine Vitamin, Part 1

If I had written this article on vitamin D just a few years ago, I would have struggled to fill a single page. I might have said a little about D and osteoporosis, and mentioned the importance of sunlight, and then that would have been that. But the last few years have seen an explosion of research on D, suggesting that it not only helps with the bones, but also maintains muscles strength as we age, elevates mood, lowers blood pressure, and halts autoimmune disease, including multiple sclerosis and type I diabetes.

Moreover, that it strongly reduces the risk of over a dozen kinds of cancer.

How serious is the killer bird flu?

A lot of people are panicked about the avian flu, so I want to make one thing very clear to start out with: a pandemic is not inevitable. In fact, as things stand right now, it seems unlikely. As far as we know, avian flu has jumped the species barrier from bird to human only a few dozen times, and human-human transmission doesn’t seem to be a threat. Of course that could change if the virus mutates. And if it ever does become easily transmissible to humans, we could have a serious problem. As many as half the people who have caught the avian flu have died of it.

New Breakthroughs with Depression

Okay, so the title is a little misleading. Most of this article is going to discuss fish oils, which we’ve known about for a few years already. The rest is going to touch on the Mimosa tree, which the Chinese have been using for a few millenia, but which I just learned about… Anyways, they’re both new to this newsletter, so let’s get started.

Bright Eyes, Part 2

Cataracts, Macular Degeneration, & Diabetic Retinopathy

Cataracts: In the front of the eye is a lens, like the lens on a camera: it focuses light images so they can be sent to the brain. Cataracts are “spots” or “stains” in the lens. Vision loss depends on the size, shape, color, and location of the cataracts.

Cataracts can occur for a number of reasons. Most are attributed to aging. Others are a long-term complication of diabetes. Understand, however, that neither age nor diabetes make cataracts inevitable.

Bright Eyes!

About two years ago, I was asked to speak to Peg Morse’s[1] Vision Group at the Newbury Court retirement home. It turned out to be the worst talk I ever gave.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always enjoyed speaking with Peg. And the other people who came were also nice, attentive, and engaged. For my part, I showed up prepared, with an outline, notes, and even a diagram of the eye. So why did this talk go so badly?

Longevity for the Ones You Love

I’m dating an herbalist now, and she’s pretty amazing. (She’s also going to be reading this). Her training, her philosophy is all about herbs, straight from Nature, prepared the way our ancestors prepared them. I, on the other hand – I love the herbs, too; don’t get me wrong – but I also think nutraceuticals are great. She says nature never intended us to have 1,000 mg of vitamin C, or high-dose B-vitamins, or even standardized herbal extracts: they’re not really “natural.” I say, “Natural, schmatural – so what? Who says we can’t improve on nature?”

Discussion ensues. We’re both opinionated people.

Surviving the Next Two Weeks

The holistic approach to dealing with intense stress isn’t to survive it but to remove yourself from it whenever possible. But sometimes, no matter how calm and in-touch-with-nature you are, two or three weeks just come out of nowhere and hit you like a ton of bricks – you’re dealing with sleep deprivation, overwork, physical and emotional exhaustion. You can’t concentrate, you can’t get to sleep, your blood pressure shoots through the roof, and it seems like every time somebody sneezes you catch their cold.

Anxiety and Panic,Part II

Last month’s newsletter talked a bit about anxiety and panic, touching briefly on the differences between the two.  It also included a fair amount of talk about “lifestyle” factors – those indirect but very real contributors to anxiety and panic.  Much of the article was drawn from an interview with Janet Beaty, a local naturopathic doctor.

Anxiety & Panic, Part 1

Anxiety, simply put, is worrying.  And we’ve all done that!  Anxiety disorders, however, are when we worry for no good reason, or the worrying doesn’t go away, or takes over our lives.  Anxiety-related disorders are the most common psychological diagnoses in this country, outstripping even depression. 

Getting Some Sleep!

(The list of natural medicine treatments for insomnia could easily number into the hundreds, and that’s not an exaggeration!  This short little two-page article is going to be far from an exhaustive survey!)

Before we even get into the pills and powders, I should point out a paper published in the January, 2003 issue of the Journal of Psychosomatic Research[1] which compared a wide range of conventional (drug) therapies with various behavioral therapies, such as biofeedback and relaxation techniques, in people with chronic insomnia.  It turned out that the drugs and the behavioral techniques worked equally well, except for in one instance (sleep latency) in which the behavioral therapies actually worked better.  Popping a pill may be easier – pharmaceutical pill, herbal pill, whatever – but it usually won’t work any better than learning how to sleep again! 

Rethinking Vitamin E

A few months ago, a controversial paper was published in a generally reputable medical journal[1], which seemingly condemned vitamin E as not only useless, but potentially dangerous.  This paper is at odds with the hundreds of other papers that have been published in hundreds of other medical journals, which seemingly confirm that vitamin E is safe and exerts strong protective effects against a variety of diseases.

It would be wrong to simply ignore the negative paper.  In truth, it represents good science – although as usual the conclusions drawn from it in the press have been oversimplified, alarmist, and way off base.   

How Not to Get Sick This Winter, Part 2

There are 101 ways to approach winter wellness, and 1001 products you can use.  It’s enough to make your head spin!  I’m going to try and simplify things here, and present a relatively straightforward program.  In short, I’m going to tell you what I do when I’m trying to stay well.  But before I begin, please understand two things.  First, this program is just a foundation: you should feel free to add additional things to the mix.  And secondly, these aren’t the only solutions.  There are a lot of great things out there I won’t even mention.

How Not to Get Sick This Winter

(With a special note about antibiotics)

When I first sat down to write this, I was just going to talk about my 5-point herbal wellness plan, and how important it is now with the flu vaccine shortage. But then I figured I ought to write about stress… which meant writing about adaptogens… then a couple of paragraphs for antibiotics… By the time I was done with all that, I didn’t have any room left for the immune-boosting herbs! So that will be next month (and if you can’t wait, we will have copies to hand out in November, as well as Debra’s classic “Seated Next to Typhoid Mary?” handout).

Essential Fatty Acids: An Overview

By Carolyn Soderstro

Confused about essential fatty acids (EFA’s)? It’s pretty hard not to be because much of the information out there is inaccurate, incomplete or wrapped around an advertisement for a particular product. Here are the basics together with answers to some of the more common questions we’ve been asked.

Why do we need essential fatty acids?

Whey: A Superior Protein

When people come into the store and ask, “What’s good for energy?” 101 possibilities come to mind.  There are so many herbs and superfoods, high-potency vitamins and state-of-the-art supplements to choose from.  Well, I love all that stuff, I really do.  But before you move on to the ginsengs and Coenzyme Q10s of the world, take care of the basics.  And nothing is more basic than protein.

Prenatal and Infant Nutrition

In the early 1930’s a dentist named Weston Price traveled to Switzerland to disprove a theory. At the time, most people believed that tooth decay and other dental problems had nothing to do with diet, but rather, with “race mixing.” The theory was, if your mom was Spanish and your dad was Irish, you’re teeth would come out funny. Price, on the other hand, believed it had everything to do with nutrition.

Organic and all those other labels; What Do They Mean?

Organic: Most of us have a rough idea what organic means: grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, on land that has been clean for at least three years. No sewage sludge as fertilizer, no genetically modified organisms (GMOs: see below). Food must not be irradiated. For animal products, no anti-biotics or synthetic hormones, and the animals must be fed organic feed containing no animal by-products. (A recent amendment to national organic standards allows animals to be fed non-organic feed if it costs less than half of organic feed).

Natural First Aid

For bumps, bruises, burns, bites, sprains, broken bones, and getting trampled by an elephant.

Heat or Ice? At least once a summer I jam a finger playing basketball. Within minutes, the finger turns a sickly purple-red and swells up to twice its normal size, and then I can’t move it for a week.

Or at least that’s what used to happen before I took icing so seriously. Now I rush for ice the instant I get hurt, and it makes all the difference in the world. Within a day or two, I get my full range of motion back. It doesn’t swell up nearly as much, and it heals a lot faster.

Treating Cancer with Natural Medicine: Part II

Treatment Target #5 – Oxidation: Chemotherapy and radiation kill cancer cells; the problem is, they also kill the healthy cells of the body. Antioxidants protect the healthy cells of the body from chemo and radiation; the problem is, they may also protect the cancer cells… As you can imagine, then, using antioxidants alongside conventional therapies is controversial.

Treating Cancer with Natural Medicine: Part1

Cancer is the taboo topic in health food stores. Sure, we’re always eager to talk about prevention, but when it comes to treatment, we shy away from concrete statements. We do this because, while many of us have considerable knowledge about the herbs and vitamins in question, we rarely have an in-depth understanding of the 101 different kinds of cancer, or the finer points of chemotherapy drugs. We’re reluctant to share what we know because we are all too aware of the limitations of that knowledge, and of what is ultimately at stake.

Thyroid Dysfunction

Ever since we hosted Mary Bove’s talk about the thyroid in January, people have been coming in saying how sorry they were to have missed it ? and do we have something like lecture notes from the talk? Unfortunately, we don’t.

Although I can’t cram into two pages what Mary Bove covered in an hour-and-a-half, this should be a start. If you want to learn more, check out the chapter on “Hypothyroidism” in The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Murray and Pizzorno; and Ryan Drum’s extraordinary article on the internet at http://www.partnereartheducationcenter.com/thyroid1.html. We’ll have a couple of paper copies of this at the store as well.

PMS, Part II: Fish Oil, Progesterone, and Cramping

Another month, another topic, and yet another opportunity to write about fish oils. Truly nothing in natural or conventional medicine (with the exception of exercise, stress reduction, and a balanced, whole foods diet) is as effective in preventing and treating so many conditions! While there is, for any given condition, something that works better for that specific condition than fish oil, I always recommend fish oil first because its “side effects” include reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and depression.

Natural Support for PMS

Many women experience what they call a Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS. For a few days before their period, they may become angry, moody, irritable, tired, and/or depressed. Some women report water retention and bloating, breast pain or tenderness, headache, digestive problems, and/or food cravings. These symptoms last a few days to a week before their periods, and go away within a day or two of their period starting. While certain medical problems, such as asthma, migraines, and epilepsy may also get worse around the time of a woman’s period, these don’t officially qualify as PMS. Menstrual cramps and fibrocystic breast disease also are not considered PMS, because they don’t occur before (pre) menstruation. These two will be covered next month.

Freedom of Speech and Your Prostate

Over the past few years, a group of doctors, supplement manufacturers, and concerned citizens have been waging a legal battle against the U.S. Food & Drug Administration which will ultimately determine our freedom to receive accurate, scientific information about our health. Although the specific court case concerns using an herb for prostate enlargement, it has the potential to set a precedent which could rock the entire healthcare system in the country.

Heartburn: Reflux & Ulcers

I promised I’d talk about the use of antacids and acid blockers for reflux and ulcers as “one of the top-ten health misconceptions” in this country today. So here goes.

Acid reflux is properly called Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD. In GERD, acid escapes out of the stomach and into the esophagus, the tube which delivers food down to the stomach. This is a problem: while the stomach has a strong lining to protect itself from corrosive acids, the esophagus does not. Even relatively mild acid can damage the delicate esophagus.

THE TOP 10 HEALTH MISCONCEPTIONS…according to me!

After more than two years of writing these health columns for the newsletter, I’m finally going to have a little fun, get a little preachy, and offend some people. I can’t wait to get started! But before I do, the following disclaimer: these are my opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of anyone else at the store, including management (Debra). Some people, including friends, people I respect, are going to disagree with some of these (see #3 and #6). But that’s their problem, because as long as I’ve got access to this soap box, I intend to use it for all it’s worth. So, in no particular order, here goes:

Arthritis, Part 2: Rheumatoid Arthritis

While osteoarthritis (OA) is a simple matter of wear-and-tear on the joints, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a little more complicated. In RA, the immune system gets involved. It may be oversimplifying things to simply say the immune system “attacks” your joints. But basically, that’s what’s happening.

Arthritis Part 1: Osteoarthritis & Joint Repair

Osteoarthritis (OA) is pretty simple. Basically, there’s wear-and-tear on our joints, which is balanced by certain maintenance processes. As long as maintenance can keep up with the wear-and-tear, we’re fine. But as we get older, maintenance slows down while wear-and-tear doesn’t. So the joint starts to erode. This is when OA starts. Younger people can also get OA if they put an unusual stress on their joints. This is a problem for certain athletes, especially power lifters. (Please note: it isn’t your bones which are eroding in OA, but the cartilage which cushions the ends of the bones. Osteoarthritis needs to be treated differently than osteoporosis!)

Osteoporosis Breakthrough!

A few months ago, when I wrote the newsletter article on osteoporosis, I barely touched on vitamin K. All I said was: “You need it to move calcium around your body. If you eat a good serving of green vegetables a day, you’ve pretty much got it covered. Some people do benefit from taking extra.”

Apparently, I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Fats & Oils, Part III: Omega-6 fatty acids, and EFA balance

Plus: EFA’s against osteoporosis, PMS

The newsletter two months ago covered some basics of fats and oils. Last month covered the omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA’s), found in fish and flax oil (among other places), and how they combat inflammation and help prevent some of our most devastating degenerative diseases. Finally, I’m going to wrap up the topic of fats and oils with the other family of essential fatty acids, the omega-6’s.

If you remember, omega-3’s come in different forms. Some omega-3’s, from vegetarian sources, are really just raw materials. Before they can be used, the body has to perform a series of chemical reactions, which convert them into more useable forms. But omega-3’s from animal sources are already in the more useable forms. The body can use them quicker and more efficiently.

Fats and Oils, Part II: Omega-3’s from Flax and Fish

How they help cure almost everything – really!

People say omega-3’s are good for the skin. People say omega-3’s are good for the heart. People say they’re good for arthritis, colitis, osteoporosis, brain function, allergies, eczema, and asthma, too. And you know what? People are right.

If I had to make a list of the top five supplements that are good for just about everyone, omega-3’s would be on the list.

Understanding Fats and Oils, Once and For All: Part One

Part I: the basics, plus oils for cooking

When you hear about fats and oils in the news, it always seems like the focus is on avoiding them. Advertising trumpets “low fat” this and “fat free” that. Now, many of us are beginning to understand that not all fats are bad for us. (Our store has always understood this!) Some of us may have even heard that certain fats are good – even essential! – for us. But more than any other health-related topic, it seems, fats and oils are still a source of confusion and misinformation.

There’s a lot of complicated chemistry behind fats and oils. If you want to get into more detail with the chemistry, ask me or Carolyn, or check out Fats and Oils, by Mary Enig; Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, by Udo Erasmus; or a biochemistry text. We have a number of these resources in our reference library.

SUMMER PLANT, WINTER WORM

About a year ago, I went hiking with my friend, Paul Gorman. Normally when I go hiking, I’m the one who has to slow down so that people can keep up with me. But Paul is such an incredibly strong hiker, I quickly found myself struggling to keep up with him. I was out of breath, tired, and sore. That’s when Paul offered me the cordyceps.

Depression, Part 3: Herbal & Aromatherapy

The herb St. John’s Wort (Hypericum Perforatum) is a safe and effective antidepressant with a long tradition of use, backed now by strong research. It has few side effects, if any. But before I get into the research, let me quote my favorite herbalist, Michael Moore, from his Medicinal Plants of the Pacific Northwest: (He does have a tendency to be opinionated…)

Depression: Part Two: Amino Acids and Depression

Part I reminded us walking in fresh air, sharing food with friends simple pleasures help stave off depression, and that a balanced, whole foods diet is essential to maintaining good mental health.  The book, Natural Prozac by Joel Robertson and Tom Monte, does a wonderful job explaining the role of food in controlling depression.  We ended last month on the subject of nutrients that can help and had covered 5-HTP, which is a precursor to serotonin.

Tyrosine and Phenylalanine, Precursors to Catecholamines:   Most of us have heard about serotonin, the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter.  But serotonin is only part of the equation.  Other neurotransmitters, called catecholamines, also elevate mood, but in a different way. Serotonin helps us feel relaxed, calm, and at peace with the world, and catecholamines provide pizzazz, get-up-and-go, etc. While the research on 5-HTP as a serotonin precursor is fairly compelling, that on the catecholamine precursors is not.  There have been few studies, with mixed results.  I have known a few people over the years who have sworn by tyrosine and/or phenylalanine, but they were in the minority.  

Depression, Part One: lifestyle, diet, philosophy

As the joke goes, a man visits his doctor. “Doc,” he says, “I’m feeling kind of blue.”

“Tell me more,” says the doctor.

“Well,” says the man, “just this week I got fired from my job, I found out my wife was cheating on me, my 15-year-old flunked out of school and started selling drugs, my daughter is pregnant, my dog died, my car got wrecked, I’m being sued, and my house burned down.”

“Hmmm…” says the doctor. “This sounds like a classic case of serotonin deficiency to me. I prescribe Prozac.”

There is a running debate as to whether people are depressed due to what’s going on in their lives (“situational depression”), or whether it’s simply a matter of brain chemicals (“endogenous depression”). Ultimately, it works both ways. Our situations and how we perceive them create certain feelings and emotions, which in turn lead to an imbalance in brain chemicals. And an imbalance in brain chemicals leads to certain feelings and emotions, which in turn effect the situations we put ourselves in. You see the way they feed off each other. You see how it can form a vicious cycle. So while the original trigger for depression may have been either situational or endogenous, depression often evolves into a complex combination of the two, where the one feeds off the other and vice versa.

Dealing with Acne

Acne is one of those things that doesn’t really hurt and probably won’t kill you, but it can still make your life pretty miserable. But there are some things you can do about it. And you don’t have to be a teenager either.

If you look closely at your skin, you’ll see thousands upon thousands of pores. What you can’t see is that inside these pores there are tiny, little sebaceous glands that produce an oily substance called sebum, which helps keep the skin moist and protected. Acne occurs when the pores get clogged, the sebum can’t get out, and the whole thing swells up like a balloon ready to burst. (Testosterone, produced by both males and females, increases sebum production, which is why teen-agers with those mythical “raging hormones” are usually the hardest hit). On top of that, clogged pores make an ideal home for a bacterium called Propionibacterium acnes, which colonizes the pimple and causes the area to become inflamed. (Almost all of us have this bacterium on our skins, but we don’t all have acne: the underlying problem, then, isn’t the bacterium’s existence, but that conditions exist which allow it to overgrow).

Many acne treatments focus on killing this bacterium. That’s what all those Benzoyl Peroxide products (i.e. Oxy, Clearasil, etc.) do. Doctors may also prescribe systemic antibiotics. These are often quite effective, but they have some drawbacks. First of all, systemic antibiotics kill off the “friendly” bacteria that live in our guts. (This is a big deal! The friendly bacteria help us digest and absorb food, lower cancer risk and cholesterol levels, improve immune function, and control the growth of “unfriendly” bacteria and fungi). If you just took antibiotics for a week or two, this wouldn’t be so bad: just tough it out, then take probiotics to replenish the friendly bacteria afterwards. But if you’re taking antibiotics for a couple of years… Secondly, there’s a risk that bacteria will develop resistance to the drugs. Thirdly, there are occasional side effects. And finally, the antibiotics do nothing to change the underlying problem.

Another prescription is Accutane, a synthetic version of vitamin A (natural vitamin A may also work). While this is often the single most effective treatment, it’s dangerous because of the extremely high doses that must be used. First of all, there is the issue of severe birth defects if the user becomes pregnant. Then there are all the other symptoms of Vitamin A toxicity. And finally, Accutane use has been correlated with higher rates of depression and suicide. If you want to use Accutane or high-dose vitamin A, please do so only under the supervision of a doctor.

I think that the cornerstone of any acne treatment regimen should be the mineral, zinc. Zinc helps the immune system fight off bacteria, is needed to process fats and oils in the body, and helps process testosterone. 13- and 14-year-olds have the lowest zinc levels of any age group, and acne sufferers are even worse off, with less zinc in their blood, hair, nails, and skin compared to others their own age. When you see this, and then remember how important zinc is for normal growth, wound healing, brain chemistry, and liver health, you’d probably want to take zinc even if it weren’t going to help your acne!

The fact is, zinc should help, although, depending on how you look at the research, this is still controversial. On one hand, there are quite a few studies which show zinc to be just as effective as antibiotics in treating acne, with fewer side effects. But on the other hand, there are studies which show zinc not to be effective at all. Why the discrepancy? Well, earlier studies used poorly-absorbed zinc sulfate and showed little or no effect. More recent studies, however, have had much better results using the better-absorbed zinc gluconate or effervescent zinc sulfate (which chemically reacts in the fizzy drink to form zinc citrate and tartrate). Some forms of zinc which are absorbed even better are zinc picolinate and zinc mono-methionine (“Optizinc”). Although they haven’t been researched in terms of acne specifically, it would be reasonable to assume they’d work even better.

I’d take 30 mg of zinc, twice a day. Zinc makes some people nauseous on an empty stomach, so take it with food. Also, zinc can displace copper from the system. If you drink tap water, which is copper-rich, you probably have copper to spare. Still, you might want to take a zinc-copper combo, just to be safe.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) can also help acne. A study dating back to 1942(!) gave B6 to 37 acne sufferers, and a placebo to 35. The B6 users started on 25 mg twice daily, but went up to 50 mg 5 times daily if the lower doses weren’t working. 24.3% of the B6 users showed “complete clearing” and 51.5% showed “definite improvement”; versus 0% and 20% respectively in the placebo group. B6 helps balance hormones levels, therefore it might be especially useful for women whose acne flares with monthly cycles.

It is believed that essential fatty acids from flax oil, fish oil, etc. can also help with acne. But while there’s some indirect, circumstantial evidence that sort of points in that direction, there isn’t anything concrete yet. So, should you take them? Well, they’re good for you. There’s evidence they help with ADHD, and a million other things, too. Bearing all that in mind, and considering that they might help, you should probably try them out. (And tune in next month, when fats and oils will be the topic!)

“Blood-purifying” herbs are often recommended for acne. The term “blood-purifying” means different things to different people but in this context, I’m referring to herbs that “cleanse the blood” by promoting detoxification via the liver and colon. (After all, acne can be exacerbated by toxins in the bloodstream). Herbs on this list include burdock, yellowdock, dandelion (the root more than the leaf), and oregon grape root. Much like the EFA’s, there isn’t a lot of hard evidence here, but I have personally seen them work, and heard from quite a few customers that they work. Instead of picking just one herb, you can take a combination formula: “Dermacomplex” from Rainbow Light is a good one in tablet form; the Milk Thistle/Yellowdock combo from Gaia, and the Dandelion/Milk Thistle from Herbpharm are good liquids.

You should give all these – the zinc, B6, and herbals – three months to work, although they’ll often work sooner than that. The herbals may make acne worse for a few weeks until it starts clearing up. And beware cystic acne, where the pimples grow down into the skin instead of coming to a head. This is the kind of acne which can cause permanent scarring. Certainly no reason not to try nutritional therapies here, but you might also want to go see a good dermatologist.

Of course don’t overlook topical treatments. First, gently cleanse the skin twice a day to keep the pores clear. And look for tea tree oil products. Tea tree is an effective disinfectant (active against 27 of 31 strains of P. acnes), but not as drying as benzoyl peroxide. In one study, a solution of 5% tea tree oil was almost as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide against mild acne. And since tea tree is gentler on the skin, you can usually go stronger than 5%. You can find plain tea tree oil, facial washes, creams, etc. Perhaps my favorite products are the blemish sticks put out by Burt’s Bees, Thursday Plantation, and Arkopharma. They all contain tea tree and other essential oils in little containers the size of tubes of Chap Stick. In addition to tea tree products, people really seem to like the zinc cream we sell. Sulfur-based acne soaps, like the Derma-Klear soap from Enzymatic Therapy, are also quite good.

Finally, food can play a major role. Of course conventional wisdom says to stay away from fatty, oily foods in general, but as we’ve seen, some oils are actually considered beneficial. Certainly, fried and hydrogenated oils should be avoided. They interfere with the body’s ability to use the good oils, and can bog down the intestines. But I’ve never seen any evidence that good, clean, health-promoting oils such as olive oil, sesame, or pumpkinseed oil promote acne.

Perhaps most important to avoid is sugar. Researchers have found more sugar in the skin of acne sufferers versus controls, and trials have shown that insulin injections (like diabetics use to lower their blood sugar) can clear up acne. It has also been reported that the mineral chromium, which helps the body use insulin and thus lowers blood sugar, can treat acne as well. Interestingly, there was a study that showed eating protein helped acne – or at least that’s what the authors of the study said it showed. If you actually look at the study, the people who ate the most protein also ate the least carbohydrates (including sugar!)

The ideal diet for acne would include lots of vegetables, fish, and lean meats. Fruits and whole grains are also okay. Refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar, and sweet drinks, including juice), should be avoided when possible. And stay away from those bad fats. Make sure there’s enough fiber and plenty of water. Take a multivitamin, too.

…. Adam Stark

Why is sugar bad for you? What are the alternatives?

Sugar in foods is dangerous for a number of reasons. First of all, it feeds Candida yeast. As many of us are beginning to learn, the human gut is home to billions and billions of bacteria and yeasts, some good and some bad. Candida is a normal part of the gut flora, and as long as it stays under control, it’s not a problem. But sugar feeds the yeast, allowing it to overrun the good bacteria in the gut. When Candida gets out of control, the overgrowth can lead to a host of symptoms, including fatigue, gas, bloating, various skin conditions, chronic sinus infections, headaches, and recurrent vaginal yeast infections.