The Best of Spring's Super Greens

In most cultures and spiritual traditions, spring is a time of rebirth, renewal and purification; it’s no surprise that farmers markets across the country are suddenly bursting with artichokes, asparagus, arugula, watercress and spring onions. All these vegetables cleanse and prepare our bodies for warmer temperatures. If you are curious about seasonal eating, visit your local farmers market and check out the abundant displays of organic green produce.

If you only see a few of these vegetables in your area, keep checking in at your farmers market, co-op or CSA (community supported agriculture) over the next few weeks: More spring produce gets plucked every day. Here are some gems to look for:

ArtichokesArtichokes
Don’t let the thorny leaves intimidate you! Artichokes peak in the spring and are one of the season’s greatest culinary pleasures; they make an ordinary meal special. At the market, listen for leaves that squeak when pressed together. In a percentage of the population, artichokes’ phytochemical cynarin stimulates the taste buds and brings a sweet flavor to the saliva. The artichoke is an excellent source of inulin, a prebiotic that promotes beneficial bacteria in the gut and aids in digestion. It’s also rich in fiber, antioxidants, potassium and magnesium, which helps keep the heart and other muscles in good shape.

Arugula-Salad2Arugula
Arugula isn’t just another lettuce. It’s a nutrient rich member of the cruciferous family (think broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage), delivers calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C and K, and is believed to protect against certain cancers. Its high magnesium content boosts the immune system, which helps guard against spring colds as the weather transitions from chilly and rainy to warm and sunny. Plus the peppery taste of arugula adds a spark to salads, pestos and omelettes.

Spring Onions and GarlicScallions1
The Allium family is particularly vibrant this time of year, offering young spring onions, shallots, garlic, scallions, leeks, ramps (wild leeks) and chives. All share the antioxidant quercetin, which acts like an antihistamine and helps ease seasonal allergies. This family is also a rich source of glutathione, an antioxidant that Dr. Mark Hyman calls “the mother of all antioxidants.” A reported potent cancer-fighting antioxidant, glutathione is believed to be particularly useful in helping the liver eliminate toxins and carcinogens. 

Asparagus
Greenhouse or imported asparagus can’t match the sweet, tender stalks of freshly picked, organic, local asparagus. Another spring food linked to cancer prevention, asparagus is one of the richest sources of glutathione, which aids in removing toxins and carcinogens. It’s also rich in vitamins A and C, reported cancer-blockers; vitamin K, to help build stronger bones; and asparagine, a natural diuretic.

Watercress

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He revered watercress for its healing properties and had his hospital built near a river (where it flourishes) so he could use it to treat the sick. This crisp and peppery green is not only a refreshing ingredient but also a powerhouse of nutrition with reported cancer fighting properties. Organic, raw watercress is a natural diuretic, helps cleanse the liver of toxins and contains vitamins A and C, several B vitamins, calcium, iron and potassium.

 

Thank you to Lisa Roberts-Lehan from 'Clean Plates' for the fantastic article.

Coconut Oil: Nature's Elixir

Searching for a way to moisturize your skin, put some shine into your hair, and add a hearty boost to your diet? And do all of this with one fabulous and economical oil? Well, take a look at the many benefits of coconut oil.  Referred to as "nature's elixir to lose weight, prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and beautify skin and hair."

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Lauric Acid, which makes up nearly half of the fat content in coconut oil, is a medium chain fatty acid. And size does matter for fatty acids: the smaller the better. Long-chain fatty acids are processed slower because they need to undergo a longer process before being available for use. However, small-chain and medium-chain fatty acids are immediately available for your body to use. And our bodies convert lauric acid to monolaurin which fights viruses and bacteria. 

Dr. Bronner's whole kernel organic virgin coconut oil (VCO) is a personal favorite. This pure, certified organic, raw, unrefined, virgin coconut oil is untouched by heat or chemical treatment before, during or after pressing. Left in its raw state, every living enzyme and nutrient is left intact to nourish the body.

 

Uses for coconut oil:

  • EAT: Coconut oil is an excellent addition for a healthy diet. Virgin coconut oil improves blood cholesterol by increasing ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol due to medium chain fatty acids (the healthier fatty acid). It is the most stable oil to cook with, especially at higher heats. Coconut oil is a terrific alternative to butter and other oils for sauteing vegetables, cooking and baking. Eating coconut oil also contributes to stimulating metabolism and improving thyroid function. In addition, populations that consume coconut oil regularly have lower rates of heart disease due to the oil's anti-viral and anti-microbial characteristics. Because coconut oil is composed primarily of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are burned almost immediately for energy production,  "it's like putting high octane fuel into your car. The car runs more smoothly and gets better gas mileage. Likewise, with MCFAs, your body performs better because it has more energy and greater endurance”, according to author Bruce Fife, of The Coconut Miracle. AND MORE, coconut oil won't produce free-radicals upon heating like other vegetable oils do and it's highly resistant to spoilage so you can expect a long shelf life. Source of vitamins E and K and the mineral iron.
  • SKIN: As a basic ingredient in many soaps, lotions and creams, this multi-purpose and economical moisturizer prevents dryness and flaking of skin. It also works wonders with wrinkles, sagging skin and on age spots. Use it as an after shave or after sunburns for soothing relief, as a diaper slave in place of petroleum-based vaseline, for removal of make-up, to prevent stretch marks and chapped lips. Mix it with baking soda for a natural deodorant and use with sugar in a body scrub for wonderfully smooth skin.
  • HAIR: Extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine, coconut oil is highly effective for treating dry and damaged hair, preventing dandruff and lice and promoting re-growth of hair. Massage scalp with a small amount of oil before washing hair or as a hair mask for several hours for a deep conditioning treatment. Be careful to avoid oil stains on furniture or linens! Also a good way to treat cradle cap and frizzy hair.
  • HEAL: Use as an aid to protect cuts from dust or bacteria and to help spped up the healing process. Coconut oil is also a good natural remedy for bug bites as it helps to stop the itching. For bug repellent, try a mixture of coconut oil and peppermint essential oil to keep insects at bay. Also effective on bruises as it speeds up the healing process by repairing damaged tissues.
  • DIGESTION: The saturated fats in coconut oil have anti microbial properties and help to aid in digestion, soothe acid reflux and help with the absorbtion of vitamins and minerals. The anti-inflammatory and healing effects of coconut oil also play a role in soothing inflammation and healing the digestive tract.

And if that's not enough, coconut oil is ideal to season cast iron pans, maintain the smooth surface of wooden cutting boards or butcher block counters and if you're in a pinch, use it as a gum or goo remover instead of a harsh chemical.

The Power Of Seeds

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Seeds are an easy way to add essential nutrients to your diet. Here are some smart ways to incorporate them into your diet:

  • Sesame Seeds: 1/4 cup delivers 28% of your daily calcium needs, 24% iron, 35% copper and 25% magnesium. Use raw or toasted sesame seeds to make a crust on eggplant, fish or chicken.
  • Pumpkin Seeds: One ounce (160 calories) contain 40% of your daily magnesium needs (which help with muscle weakness). Use them to top your salads or vegetables.
  • Sunflower Seeds: Shelled sunflower seeds contain copper and selenium which help protect your muscles. You get 80% of your required Vitamin E as well - a heart healthy anti-oxidant. Grind shelled seeds in a grinder/processor and use as a spread for crackers.
  • Flaxseeds: One ounce supplies 100% of your daily dose of omega 3 fatty acids and about 10x more lingans (both help heart disease). Look for milled flaxseeds for absorption (whole can be eaten but won't absorb). Add 2T to your pancake batter or oatmeal.

Cancer's Favorite Sugar

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The average American eats 70 grams of fructose per day — a number triple the recommended daily limit.

A study published last summer in Cancer Research shows that fructose is even more of a nutritional villain than previously suspected. More than any other kind of sugar, it appears to trigger cancer cells to divide and proliferate.

Researchers at the University of California–Los Angeles extracted pancreatic tumor cells from patients and grew the cells in petri dishes. They added glucose (another simple sugar long known to fuel the growth of cancer cells) to one dish and fructose to the other. The cancer cells used both glucose and fructose as fuel, but the fructose also activated the cellular pathway that drives cell division while triggering cellular activities that helped cancer cells rapidly metabolize both fructose and glucose. 

The main source of fructose in the North American diet is high-fructose corn syrup and other refined sweeteners, such as sucrose, dextrose and maltose. U.S. consumption of high-fructose corn syrup alone shot up 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990.

Today, the average American eats 70 grams of fructose per day — a number triple the recommended daily limit.

The best way to limit fructose intake is to greatly reduce or eliminate processed foods and sweetened beverages from your diet. But you can further limit your total fructose intake by choosing fruits — like berries and stone fruits — that have lower fructose concentrations, and going easy on fruit juices and dried fruits, which deliver a lot of fructose per serving. Osteopathic physician and New York Times best-selling author Joseph Mercola, MD, suggests no more than 20 grams of fructose per day, with no more than 15 grams coming from fruit.

The Fructose in Fruit

Fruits are good sources of nutrients and fiber, but some contain a significant payload of fructose, too. Here’s a low-to-high listing of some commonly eaten fruits (grams of fructose in bold):

Low

  • Peaches — 1 cup, 154 g — 2.36 g
  • Clementines — 2 fruits, 148 g — 2.42 g
  • Raspberries — 1 cup, 123 g — 2.89 g

Medium

  • Pineapples — 1 cup, 165 g — 3.50 g
  • Grapefruit — 1 cup, 230 g — 4.07 g

High

  • Bananas — 1 cup, 150 g — 7.28 g
  • Apples — 1 cup, 125 g — 7.37 g
  • Mangoes — 1 cup, 165 g — 7.72 g
  • Pears — 1 fruit, 148 g — 9.22 g

Experience Life ~ Jan. 2012

High Calorie Foods That Support Weight Loss

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Some foods we think of as being “high-calorie splurges” actually support weight loss. Take those listed below, for example. They are nutrient-dense and blood-sugar-balancing, and they keep you feeling satisfied for hours. By enjoying moderate amounts of these foods as part of a healthy plant-based diet, you’ll be less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks. And in the end, you’ll probably wind up eating fewer calories, not more.

  • Avocados
  • Sardines
  • Eggs
  • Coconut
  • Full-fat dairy
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and macadamias, and nut butters
  • Seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame