Thanks on Sunday: Cortelyou Market’s fresh baked goods. Spelt banana muffin sweetened only with agave? Yes please.
Gratitude this morning: Park Slope livin’! I won’t be in this hood for much longer so today I decided to check out a few of the local perks. A stack of pancakes, bottomless coffee, and a few moments in an antique store. Tres Slope.
Spelt, an ancient cereal grain, is a distant cousin to wheat. It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Use spelt flour as a substitute for wheat or white flour when baking bread. Because spelt flour contains gluten, you are less likely to compromise the texture of baked goods. Compared to wheat flour, spelt flour is richer in many nutrients, such as protein and minerals.
High in Niacin
Spelt flour provides approximately 5.5 mg of niacin or vitamin B3 per 100-g serving, 5 percent more niacin than hard winter wheat flour, according to an article published in 2008 in the journal “Acta Scientiarum Polonorum.” The recommended daily value for niacin is 20 mg. A 100-g serving of spelt flour meets 27.5 percent of the daily value for this nutrient. Like other B-vitamins, niacin aids in energy metabolism. It also has additional functions in the human body, such as helping to make sex and stress hormones in the adrenal glands. Niacin is also needed to improve circulation and reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.
Rich in Minerals
According to an article published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” in March 2005, when researchers analyzed and compared nine dehulled spelt samples to five soft winter wheat samples, they found that the spelt offered a higher amount of certain minerals, such as copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. These minerals are naturally high in the bran of the spelt grain. The human body needs these micronutrients to perform a variety of functions and to support healthy nervous, cardiovascular, skeletal and immune systems.
Spelt flour has a high water solubility, making it possibly easier to digest for those with a wheat intolerance. Spelt and whole spelt flour offer more soluble fiber than both standard and durum wheat flours, according to an article published in “Food Chemistry” in March 2000. Soluble fiber is particularly beneficial for lowering blood cholesterol and regulating blood sugar levels, according to MayoClinic.com
Just about every health magazine and column has offered up an article on the benefits of eating omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in chia and flax seeds, and – wait for it – the oil of a bearded seal. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to just pop a pill and know you’d be in brainiac mode all day?
These points I’ve heard and pondered before, but in an article from Alice G. Walton over at Forbes (I subscribe to her feed, not the magazine), we’re introduced to a recent study from UCLA that also shows how sugar could actually make us dumber. In the case of rat subjects, problem solving skills took a measurable plunge when given a diet higher in fructose over the course of 6 weeks.
Though we may not have fully come to terms with it, in theory we know that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an adversary of health. Lots of work has been done looking at the effect of fructose on weight, liver function, diabetes risk, and even the growth of cancer cells. But not much has looked at the role of fructose in brain function, until now. Researchers have just reported that among the list of bodily ills that fructose contributes to, it may also “make you dumb.” Luckily, eating a diet rich in the healthy omega-3 fatty acids seems to counteract this phenomenon.
In the new study, UCLA researchers had rats spend a few days learning to navigate a maze. Then some of the rats ate diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids or deficient in them; some rats also drank a fructose solution in the place of their regular drinking water. After six weeks on their respective diets, the team put the rats back in the maze to see how well they recalled it.
The superfoods mixes listed above came highly recommended by Natural News, but do a bit of research on your own if you’re serious about upping your green intake without having to gnaw on salads all afternoon. There are hundreds of brands out there, especially now that so much research is being published in the mainstream about the benefits of raw foods, juicing, and nutrition in general.
As beneficial as these drinks are, what’s even better – they actually taste delicious!
Being the young whippersnapper of a country America is, innovation and trailblazing are two of our favorite pastimes. The teddy bear, the French dip sandwich (a misleading name, I know!), the crash test dummy and the cryotron. Making new stuff is cool. Hey, didn’t we invent “cool,” too?
When Paul Berg genetically engineered the first organism in 1972, he opened doors in countless fields: biology, medicine, agriculture, the list goes on and on.
But what’s the deal with GM – genetically modified – foods? Is it the wave of the future, the solution to production shortages? Or could it be a decision with painful repercussions in the long term?
Just to be clear, I am straight-up biased on this subject. My instincts tend to paint a surrealist portrait of the nu-American dystopia – quadruple turkey chins, corn-textured thighs, raging rivers of carbonated blood coursing through paper-thin vessels. Something about the idea of totally man-made food feels wrong. Like nuclear energy, surgically-implanted identification chips, or Frankenstein. One day it may all be mainstream and safe, but thankfully I won’t be around to see it come to that.
All imagination (and perceived ancestral wisdom) aside, I’m also big on facts. This is a pretty new subject I’ve been considering, but seeing as I’m back in the States, where about 70% of the foods on our shelves are GM, it’s time to take a closer look (Europe reluctantly eats only about 5% GM foods, by the way).
Will New York be next? And why hasn’t the FDA required this kind of labeling for the health of our entire nation? Oh wait, that’s because it’s run by former CEOs of billion dollar food corporations that continue to feed Americans potentially poisonous foods year after year. (“How the bottom-line bottomed-out our health” – the topic of a completely different blog all together!)
Recent research from a group of French scientists hired by an anti-GMO organization found that GM corn from Monsanto (surprise!) caused tumors in rats. Massive. Nasty. Tumors.
Granted, the rats were prone to tumors, genetically. So are many humans. While this study may only translate as a warning for tumor-prone people, it still sounds like a reasonably important message to hear.
Read up, eat up and live well, my friends. It may sound daunting, like everything out there is bad for you somehow, but grocery outlets like Trader Joe’s (relatively affordable), and your local farmer’s markets are great places to invest in good fuel for your body. It may not be easy to escape GM foods (and foods made with GM products) in the States, but it’s becoming more and more possible.
Whilst doing some research for a potential job lead, I came across this interesting article that’s made me suddenly crave a big cuppa mate . . .
Compounds in Mate Tea Kill Colon Cancer Cells, in Vitro Study Shows
ScienceDaily (Jan. 23, 2012) — Could preventing colon cancer be as simple as developing a taste for yerba mate tea? In a recent University of Illinois study, scientists showed that human colon cancer cells die when they are exposed to the approximate number of bioactive compounds present in one cup of this brew, which has long been consumed in South America for its medicinal properties.
“The caffeine derivatives in mate tea not only induced death in human colon cancer cells, they also reduced important markers of inflammation,” said Elvira de Mejia, a U of I associate professor of food chemistry and food toxicology.
That’s important because inflammation can trigger the steps of cancer progression, she said.
In the in vitro study, de Mejia and former graduate student Sirima Puangpraphant isolated, purified, and then treated human colon cancer cells with caffeoylquinic acid (CQA) derivatives from mate tea. As the scientists increased the CQA concentration, cancer cells died as a result of apoptosis.
“Put simply, the cancer cell self-destructs because its DNA has been damaged,” she said.
The ability to induce apoptosis, or cell death, is a promising tactic for therapeutic interventions in all types of cancer, she said.
de Mejia said they were able to identify the mechanism that led to cell death. Certain CQA derivatives dramatically decreased several markers of inflammation, including NF-kappa-B, which regulates many genes that affect the process through the production of important enzymes. Ultimately cancer cells died with the induction of two specific enzymes, caspase-3 and caspase-8, de Mejia said.
“If we can reduce the activity of NF-kappa-B, the important marker that links inflammation and cancer, we’ll be better able to control the transformation of normal cells to cancer cells,” she added.
The results of the study strongly suggest that the caffeine derivatives in mate tea have potential as anti-cancer agents and could also be helpful in other diseases associated with inflammation, she said.
But, because the colon and its microflora play a major role in the absorption and metabolism of caffeine-related compounds, the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects of mate tea may be most useful in the colon.
“We believe there’s ample evidence to support drinking mate tea for its bioactive benefits, especially if you have reason to be concerned about colon cancer. Mate tea bags are available in health food stores and are increasingly available in large supermarkets,” she added.
The scientists have already completed and will soon publish the results of a study that compares the development of colon cancer in rats that drank mate tea as their only source of water with a control group that drank only water.
This in vitro study was published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, vol. 55, pp. 1509-1522, in 2011. Co-authors include Sirima Puangpraphant, now an assistant professor at Kasetsart University in Thailand; Greg Potts, an undergraduate student of the U of I; and Mark A. Berhow and Karl Vermillion of the USDA, ARS, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois. The work was funded by the U of I Research Board and Puangpraphant’s Royal Thai Government Scholarship.
So the cleanse is over <insert satisfied grin here> and with closure comes perspective!
I can’t help but think about how dietary cleansing fits into the big picture. Clearly, there is a complex mind-body connection, but does food play an integral role in a spiritual life?
Fasting is a typical practice in Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Judaism, Baha’i Faith and Sikhism. Before I left the UAE, colleagues were preparing for Ramadan, 30 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset with no water, by fasting twice a week. Not an easy practice through the hot summer days. Nothing is to pass the lips of the devout, not even a kiss.
To abstain from some or all food and drink for certain periods of time in the name of appreciation for the Divine is as old as the faiths themselves.
Even if you’re not a particularly religious or spiritual person, there are obvious physical and psychological benefits to fasting from some (or all) foods for a certain amount of time – in the safest conditions, of course.
As far as the fasting-spirit connection goes, I’d think logically, if you believe in a Divine or a spirit, if it’s good for the mind-body, then it must be good for the soul. They’re all part of the same continuum.
For me, all acts in life are, in as much as I am able to be consciously be aware, ideally executed as an offering to something greater than myself. In this way, each act is also a means for personal growth – acting with awareness ain’t always easy! If something is to be done with consideration, sensitivity, kindness and grace, laziness is hardly an option. But as anyone who knows me will attest, that’s more of a goal than a reality most moments!
There’s a part of me that finds comfort and joy in paying homage to the Divine – and if such a thing exists it must be ever-present both within and around me. Sometimes, I see the Divine simply as a concept, a human construct of sorts, to try and better understand the Universe, in all its beauty, its sometimes confounding sense of “fair,” and of course, the ever-dangerous question “why?”
But this is the subject of another blog/rant! Back to the cleanse . . .
The oft overused statement “Your body is a temple,” as much as it may initially connote conceit to some, can be very valuable as an approach to nutrition.
If you met God, would you offer her a twinkie?
A Yogic Diet
According to traditional yogic nutrition guidelines, yogis are to consume only “sattvic” foods, that is, foods that provide healthful energy and lead to a balanced state of clarity. Sattva is one of three kinds of “gunas,” or tendencies of nature; the other two are “rajas,” and “tamas.”
Rajasic foods are those that over stimulate the body or mind, like coffee and tea, eggs, garlic, onion, meat, fish and chocolate, as well as most processed food. Where there’s an active lifestyle, it may not be detrimental to one’s peace of mind to consume such foods, though it should be done in moderation.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the tastiness of this group (except for meats), so abstaining can be tough. It’s easy to give up garlic and chocolate when it’s not available, if you’re in an ashram or a spa. But in everyday life, it ain’t so easy!
After the two-week cleanse, I took my first bite of chocolate – a dark blend from Lindt with whole roasted hazelnuts.
I had a quarter of a bar – followed by such an extreme reaction, I’m a little scared to nibble again! Dizziness, inability to write, and a full body high I’d not experienced for a long time! Whew, somebody pass me some water . . .
On the opposite end of the spectrum are tamasic foods, those inducing a heaviness of the body or a dullness of the mind. This would include alcohol, leftovers, and overripe or spoiled foods.
Sattvic foods include all fruits and vegetables, which is perfect for this cleanse, as well as nuts, whole grains, legumes and dairy. Generally, if it’s fresh, agreeable and nutritious, you’re in the sattva zone!
So my cleanse has certainly fallen under the category of “sattvic.” And with a few exceptions, and the occasional boogie juice, I generally eat a sattvic diet on a daily basis. Eliminating dairy, grains, legumes, and most nuts on this cleanse was the big change – and this is where “renunciation” came into play.
It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct. Sigmund Freud
Renouncers in yoga are called “sannyasins,” practitioners of the “casting down” or “laying aside” of all worldly concerns and attachments. It’s an attitude to life at the margins of Indian society, acceptable in the post-householder final stage of life, after children have left and the material world becomes less of a necessity.
Much to the dismay of Hindu authorities, the practice is often adopted by younger practitioners, leading to abandoned families and fields, as well as kingdoms of the past.
There are two ways to approach renunciation: followers of a Mythic tradition would leave everything behind without any concern for the future, while the Tantric, Sahajayana and Integral schools allow for a metaphorical renunciation as an inner, or mental act. The practitioner lets go of all attachments of the mind, including the ego, but is free to remain a householder. (Feuerstein, 2008)
Some would say the cleanse isn’t “renunciation,” as defined from a traditionally yogic point of view. I didn’t leave everything behind to eventually become a wandering sannyasin.
Sill, I have adopted, over the years, an attitude to life, which is healthily detached from many things – availability (or lack thereof this year!) of particular foods, the absence of a kitchen, or with whom I share my meals.
I’m happy to eat with people or alone whatever is available and not torture myself by thinking about what meals I could be having instead. In a social situation, I sometimes fall into the old habit of fanaticizing about meals I’d like to cook, share or munch. But that’s more a means of relating than actual attachment to the food.
Fact is, I’ll never stop being a foodie and find endless delight in the art of cooking!
It’s a Wrap
Day to day, I’m clearly more of a renouncer of the metaphorical bend. And that’s all good.
Both approaches have seen praise and criticism, but Krishna, in the Baghvad Gita, makes a much stronger case for the metaphorical approach. Mere abandonment indicates a practitioner still thinks the senses abide in the sense objects. That by eliminating them, she is somehow eliminating the act, and therefore the desires themselves.
But the practitioner who continues to act, and simply assigns all actions to the Absolute ,“is not defiled by sin, just as a lotus leaf is not stained by the water.”
In that case, I think I’ll just have me some ice cream, and do it in the name of the Lawd! ;)