Tag Archive | vegetables

Awesome Asian Kale Salad

Recipe (vegan, sugar-free & gluten-free)

I have made this salad several times, doubling the recipe, and taken it to parties.  Amazingly, even though most people would say they don’t like kale, (especially raw kale), this salad is completely devoured within an hour of setting it out.  And many people demand to know the recipe.  So, here it is…

SALAD:

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, thinly sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and shredded
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds

DRESSING:

3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1.5 Tbsp sesame or canola oil
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp Bragg’s Aminos (you can use Tamari or Soy Sauce instead, if you prefer).
1.75 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or brown rice vinegar)

1. Combine kale, carrots, and bell pepper in large bowl.
2. Prepare the dressing.  In  a small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and mix well.
3. Pour the dressing over the kale mixture and marinate for at least 1 hour.  The longer the salad marinates, the stronger the dressing flavors will be, and the softer the kale leaves will become.
4.  Toss with pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds before serving.

(Note:  if you really want the kale leaves to be soft, you can get your hands into the mix, and massage each leaf with the dressing, being sure each surface is well coated, before leaving it to marinate).

Enjoy!

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM

Plant-Based Meal Ideas

As I teach my patients the benefits of a more plant-based diet, many are at a loss for how to create plant-based meals.  Below are some meal suggestions that may make this transition easier.

For health, we need to increase vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, fiber and water, and to decrease processed foods, refined grains, sugars, animal products, dairy, hydrogenated oils (ie. trans fats), excess salt, artificial sweeteners and chemical additives/preservatives.  So, be sure to read labels to avoid these unnecessary ingredients.

See how many different colors of vegetables/fruits you can get into one meal.  Eat a rainbow variety of whole foods daily, with at least one green veggie during at least 2 meals per day.  And have fun creating new, tasty dishes!

BREAKFAST OPTIONS:

High-fiber, low-sugar cereal with milk alternative (like soy milk, rice milk, almond milk or coconut milk) and fresh or dried fruit (like grapes, peaches, berries, raisins, prunes, figs) and/or nuts.

Whole grain cooked cereal (like slow-cooked [not instant] oatmeal, brown rice, oat bran, creamy buckwheat or rice bran cereal) with fresh or dried fruit and/or nuts.  With or without milk alternative.

Congee.  (see Easy to Digest Foods post).  This is a thin porridge used in China as a breakfast.  You can make it from 1 part any whole grain, cooked overnight in a crock pot with 5 parts water.  You can add fruits, vegetables, herbs or spices to give it interest.

100% whole grain bread/toast with natural peanut (or almond) butter and/or low-sugar jam, unsweetened applesauce, fruit puree, or raw, local honey. (no artificial sweeteners).

100% whole grain pancakes with unsweetened applesauce topping, or raw local honey, and fresh fruit.

Fruit smoothie from the blender.  Example: 1 banana, 1 cup berries, 2 large handfuls spinach, 1 cup water. You will only taste the fruit, but will also get the benefits of the greens!   (There are hundreds of smoothie recipes online. The best choices are “green smoothies” which contain green veggies, but taste like fruit.  See Green Smoothie Post and Green Smoothie Recipes for more info. )

Green Puddings – similar to green smoothies, but made with less liquid and are poured over fresh fruit and nuts.  (See Green Pudding Recipes).

Leftovers from dinner.

LUNCH  & DINNER OPTIONS:

Salad with lots of fresh vegetables, and perhaps fresh or dried fruits, seeds or nuts.  Choose a non-dairy based salad dressing like a vinaigrette, a ginger dressing, a lemon-tahini dressing, hummus, salsa, guacamole or just squeeze of lemon.

100% whole grain bread, pita, flatbread or tortilla, or soft corn tortilla with any combo of vegetables, beans, guacamole, hummus, salsa, tabouleh, or veggie burger patty.

Make pizza from 100% whole grain bread, pita, or flatbread, with marinara sauce and chopped vegetables, dried Italian herb seasoning and optional cheese alternative (soy, rice or almond).

Soup with a vegetable broth, tomato base, or bean base, such as minestrone, vegetable, black bean soup, vegetable barley, lentil soup, squash soup, vegetarian chili, etc.

Baked potato or sweet potato, or baked winter squash with non-dairy toppings (like guacamole and/or salsa, or cinnamon on the sweet potato or squash.)

Steamed or sauteed vegetables with garlic and spices, by themselves, or served over brown rice, millet, or quinoa, or wrapped inside of a whole grain tortilla, pita or soft corn tortilla.

Brown rice, millet, or quinoa with any combo of beans or vegetables, and any variety of non-dairy sauce such as salsa, tomato marinara sauce, curry sauce or Oriental style tamari, teriaki, or Bragg’s Aminos.

Pasta made from whole grain, corn, quinoa or brown rice with marinara sauce, steamed or roasted vegetables, or chopped fresh vegetables.  Wilted spinach is an nice addition to warm pasta dishes as well.

SNACK OPTIONS:

Fresh whole fruit  – apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, berries, plums, prunes, figs, etc.  Dip fresh cut fruit in peanut or almond butter.

Nuts: like walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, etc.  (Avoid those with excess salt or flavorings.)

Fresh cut cucumbers, celery, bell peppers or carrots dipped in hummus, guacamole, natural peanut butter or almond butter.  Apples with peanut/almond butter and cinnamon.

Natural tortilla chips (baked, not fried), with salsa, hummus, beans or guacamole.

100% whole grain bread/toast with natural peanut butter and low-sugar jam, unsweetened applesauce, fruit puree, or raw, local honey (no artificial sweeteners).

Baked potato or sweet potato, or baked winter squash with non-dairy toppings (like guacamole and/or salsa, or cinnamon & honey on the sweet potato or squash.)

Smoothie or pudding from the blender (See Breakfast options).

BEVERAGE OPTIONS:

Purified water  (drink 2 to 3 quarts daily, depending on your size and activity level).

Non- Caffeinated Herbal Tea or Red Tea (this counts as part of your purified water intake).

Green or White Tea (home brewed, not pre-made).

Black Tea (home brewed, unsweetened, or sweeten it yourself with stevia, xylitol or honey. Limit to 2 cups daily).

Organic coffee (limit to 6 oz daily).  Organic decaf coffee (limit to 12 oz daily).  (Use soy, almond or coconut milk creamers).

Fresh squeezed fruit and/or veggie juices (no sugar added).  Dilute all juices with water to 50%-25% strength, to reduce the blood sugar spike reaction.  (It is better to eat the whole fruit or veggie!)

If you drink alcohol, limit to 2 or 3 drinks per week.  (The best choice for most people is red wine.)

FOR WEIGHT LOSS:  (in addition to the suggestions above…)

Eat more fibrous vegetables, greens, whole beans and fruits than grains, starchy vegetables, or potatoes.

Avoid all processed foods, such as breads, crackers, tortillas, nut butters, jams, cold cereals, veggie burgers, cheese alternatives and milk alternatives, etc.  Aim to eat foods only in their whole, natural state.

Avoid all sugars, sweeteners, alcohol and white flour products.

Avoid fats and oils in cooking, sauces and dressings.  Limit nuts to 1 oz. daily.  Limit avocadoes to 1/4 daily.

For more resources to learn about plant-based meal options read any of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s books, and see the Educational page on Nutrition on this blog.

Happy Eating!

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM
727-475-4710

Nutrition, Part 3: Animal Foods in the Diet

excerpts published in Tampa Bay Wellness, June 2011

Nutrition, Part 2 discussed Nutrition from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) viewpoint.  The TCM recommended diet is: Whole foods with about 80-90% of the diet as vegetables, cooked whole grains and beans/legumes; 5-10% fruit and nuts, and 5% animal-based foods.

Animal-based foods in TCM:

The TCM recommended diet includes small amounts of animal-based foods. They are not the central part of any meal; instead, they are an occasional accent in meals that are vegetable and whole-grain based. Why so little? Because animal-based foods are rich and heavy, and according to TCM, this makes them likely to promote pathogenic Dampness-formation in the body, contributing to a myriad of diseases. (See Part 2 for explanation of Dampness).

But, animal-based foods are not entirely excluded from the TCM diet, because it is thought that, in small amounts, they help build more Qi and Blood in the body. The TCM diet is what I most often recommend; it is relatively easy to implement, and it is far superior to the standard American eating pattern, so the majority of those who adopt it experience marked health improvements.

However, for myself, my family, and for those seeking a more profound level of health, who feel they are up to it, I part from TCM on the issue of animal foods, and prefer a 100% plant-based (vegan) diet, with no animal-based foods at all. This is due to 3 main health-related reasons:

  1. The poor Qi quality of animal-based foods: Current animal-rearing practices are so unhealthy that, in my opinion, the Qi in these products has been rendered more harmful than helpful.
  2. The latest research shows that animal-based foods contribute to several disease processes in the human body, including heart disease and cancer.
  3. Modern nutritional research has found that consuming animal-based food is unnecessary for good health.

Let’s explore these, one by one:

Reason 1: The Poor Qi Quality of Animal Foods:

Up until about 60 years ago, all animal food products were inherently organic, free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and grass-fed. Because food animals ate their natural diet of grass, meat was rich in omega-3 fats (which help reduce inflammation). They were also leaner and, from a TCM view, their meat had better Qi, because they lived much healthier and happier lives than their modern-day counterparts.

In stark contrast, the meat, dairy and eggs that are available today, as a result of being fed an unnatural diet of grain, sugar, soybeans and animal-byproducts are filled with omega-6 fats (which promote inflammation), have a higher percentage of saturated fat, and fewer beneficial elements.

Many livestock, poultry and egg-laying hens do not have access to fresh air or sunlight.  They are also kept in such large numbers, small cages, and close quarters that they lack the ability to stretch their limbs, turn around, or perform natural behaviors.  All of these conditions create physical and psychological abnormalities leading to disturbing aberrant behaviors toward themselves and each other.

These animals are also unable to move away from their own or each other’s excrement, creating hygiene problems. To combat the spread of infection, ranchers use frequent doses of antibiotics on all of their animals, sick or not, which contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria, and exposes people who consume meat and dairy to these antibiotics and super-bacteria.

Because meat and dairy producers make more money by increasing production volume and speed, food animals are treated with various growth hormones. We ingest these with their meat or dairy, and they wreak havoc with our bodies, including our endocrine (hormonal) systems.

These animals live very unnatural, unhealthy, and unhappy lives. In my opinion, the Qi coming from these foods cannot be healthy enough to benefit our own Qi, but instead places a burden on our health.

What about Organic, Grass-Fed or Free-Range?

While these are certainly better, there are some factors to consider. Hundreds of labels can be found in grocery aisles for “healthier” meat, eggs and dairy. It is difficult to know what they really mean. For example:

Several companies have created their own agencies to certify their meat organic, setting and breaking their own standards as they see fit. Even if the label says “USDA Certified Organic,” (no antibiotics or growth hormones), it doesn’t necessarily mean grass-fed, free-range, or given the environment to perform natural behaviors.

Likewise, if the package says “grass-fed”, it doesn’t necessarily mean organic, free-range, or even that the animal was fed only grass. Many cattle start out on pasture for their first 6 – 12 months before spending the rest of their lives on a feedlot; some companies label this “grass-fed.”

With the exception of live poultry, the USDA has no regulations on the terms “free-range” or “cage-free,” so all egg, beef, pork, and lamb producers can use these labels freely.  The only requirement for “free-range” poultry is that it had access to outdoors for some unspecified amount of time (5 minutes qualifies) each day.

As you can see, no label addresses everything, and every label is subject to misinformation or misinterpretation.

If you do choose to eat meat, eggs or dairy, it is really best to find a local, organic farm/ranch that you can actually visit, to learn about their specific animal-rearing practices, so you know for sure what you are getting.

What about Seafood?

Farm-raised sea foods are also raised in overcrowded conditions, routinely medicated with antibiotics, and fed unnatural diets that change the balance of beneficial nutrients. In fact, farm-raised salmon are so unhealthy that their flesh is grey, so dye is injected to make them appear pink.  Even wild-caught seafood is risky, since nearly all fish-supporting waters are now contaminated with mercury, dioxins, and hundreds of other toxins from industrial pollution.

If you do choose to eat seafood, then wild-caught, smaller fish are the best choices.  Avoid the large species like tuna, swordfish, and shark, as their large size means they have had more time to collect more toxins in their tissues. Smaller fish like anchovies and sardines have lower concentrations of toxic elements.

Reason 2: Animal-based foods are harmful:

Research shows that eating animal-based foods, even in small amounts, contributes to many diseases common in Western culture, including heart disease and cancer. Here are just a few examples:

In his book, The China Study, which involved a 20-year long look at 6500 people from 65 counties across China, T. Colin Campbell, PhD states, “Consuming animal-based protein increases blood cholesterol levels.  Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol also raise blood cholesterol, although these nutrients are not as effective at doing this as is animal protein.” Also, “In rural China, animal protein intake averages only 7.1 gr/day whereas Americans average a whopping 70 gr/day….Even these small amounts of animal-based food in rural China raised the risk for Western diseases.”

Dr. Campbell also found, that casein, the most abundant protein in cow’s milk, is a strong promoter of cancer cells, in all stages of cancer development.

Dr. Neal Barnard reports on a Japanese study that women who follow meat-based diets are eight times more likely to develop breast cancer than women on a plant-based diet. Harvard studies show that regular meat consumption triples colon cancer risk while a Cambridge University study links dairy products to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Studies of the Seventh-day Adventists found that those who avoided meat altogether showed significant reductions in cancer risk as compared to those who ate modest amounts of meat.

Reason 3:  Animal-based foods are Unnecessary:

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including…vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and….are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

Dr. Benjamin Spock, in the latest edition of his world-famous book, Baby and Child Care, advocates a vegetarian diet for children, and no longer recommends dairy products after the age of 2. He says that children who grow up getting nutrition from plant foods rather than meats are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer.

Good sources of amino acids (protein) are green and leafy vegetables (yes, really! Green plants provide protein to animals as muscular as bulls and horses). Protein is also abundant in beans (including soy), lentils, and nuts.  If you are a bodybuilder or otherwise require more protein, great vegan protein-shake powders made from pea, rice and hemp proteins can be found online and in most health-food stores.  Some recommended brands are Life Basics, Plant FusionVega, and Sunwarrior.

Rich sources of calcium are found in green and leafy vegetables (such as kale, collard greens, swiss chard, turnip greens), beans, dried figs, tofu and broccoli.

Rich sources of iron include dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, swiss chard and beet greens.  (In fact, my own blood iron levels increased when I switched to a vegan diet!)

Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and extracts of algae (the type most used in infant formulas, since it can be cultivated in clean fermentation tanks).  Other beneficial fats include avocados and nuts/seeds.

Lastly, I recommend taking a high quality multi-vitamin/mineral (whether you are vegan or not).  Crop soils have been greatly depleted, so most all of our food is much less nutritious than it used to be. A high-quality, plant food-based multivitamin will help ensure that you are not missing anything, including B-12. Recommended brands include New Chapter and Garden of Life.

Conclusion:

While I greatly respect Traditional Chinese Medicine’s nutritional tenants, and use most of them in my clinic, my modern-day perspective has me conclude, for the reasons listed above, that animal foods are unnecessary, and actually dangerous (especially those that are available today) to optimal health. Instead, I prefer a whole-food, 100% plant-based diet.

Some people, though they have a desire to eat more plant-based, find it difficult to implement or maintain it at 100%.  If this is the case for you, please resist the temptation to feel that you have failed or could never do it.  Every plant-based meal you eat helps your body.  Just do the best you can, and stay positive.  Many people find that as they eat more plant-based meals, their tastes begin to change, such that they don’t really enjoy meat like they used to, and they actually start to crave vegetables.

If you have an interest in moving toward a plant-based diet and would like further guidance, check out the Plant-Based Nutrition books, websites and videos listed on the  Nutrition – Educational Resources and the Plant-based Meal Ideas pages on this blog.

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM
727-475-4710

Nutrition, Part 2: Nutrition in Oriental Medicine

excerpts published in Tampa Bay Wellness, May 2011

Nutrition, Part 1 introduced the idea of nutrition as medicine, and explained the value of consuming whole foods instead of processed or refined foods for health.  Now we will explore what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has to say about nutrition.

TCM Theory in a Nutshell

TCM views a person as a complex network of interrelated energetic systems, which include our organs, glands, cells, hormones and neurotransmitters, as well as our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs. Our physical, mental and emotional health is a direct manifestation of the functioning of these systems, and of the interrelationship between them. The quality of these interactions ultimately determines the quality of our overall Qi (“chee”), or vital life energy.

Chinese Medicine’s view is that all disease and illness stems from a disruption in the natural state of harmony between these systems and energies; a breakdown in the natural balance, or homeostasis in this network that makes up the whole of what we are.

Therefore, TCM focuses on re-establishing balanced relationships in the body, so that it can more quickly and easily heal current ills and avoid future ones.  A diagnosis in Chinese Medicine is a description of the specific type of imbalance, or “pattern of disharmony” that needs to be addressed.

TCM Nutritional Therapy

Nutritional therapy is one branch of TCM, which also includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, bodywork therapies, and gentle exercise. Just as specific acu-points and Chinese herbs can be used to treat individual TCM diagnoses, so can specific foods be used (or avoided) for their particular effects.

TCM classifies foods according to their effects on the body in several ways.  One is by thermal nature; each food can be grouped according to its post-digestive effect on the body, regardless of its physical temperature:  Cold, Cool, Neutral, Warm and Hot. (For clarity, when referring to the TCM concept, I will capitalize the word).  Another classification of food is flavor:  Bitter, Sweet, Salty, Spicy/Acrid and Sour, and the absence of flavor, Bland.

Each taste has a specific action on the body, and the stronger the flavor, the stronger its action. For instance, the Spicy flavor has a thermal nature of Hot or Warm; the spicier the food, the Hotter its post-digestive effect on the body.

Ideally, we should all be eating a balanced combination of (or moderate amount of) each flavor, of foods from the Neutral, Slightly Warming and Slightly Cooling thermal categories, though this balance changes depending on each individual’s condition.

Knowing how much an individual should be eating from each food classification is specific to his/her TCM diagnosis. To give a simplified example, people with very weak digestion who get chilled easily and have low energy should focus their diet on Warming, slightly Sweet and slightly Acrid foods. People with stronger digestion who tend to be hot, and have considerable inflammation need to consume more Cooling, Bitter and Sour foods.

In order to receive the most benefit from TCM Nutritional therapy for your health condition, I encourage you to seek the services of an acupuncture physician trained in TCM nutritional therapy. However, I will review some of the important key concepts here, which apply to most everyone, regardless of their individual diagnosis.

Digestion According to TCM

The quality of our digestion is paramount to our health. If we have poor digestion or absorption, we will not derive maximum nutritional benefit from food, no matter what we eat.  Therefore, TCM seeks to optimize digestive function and energy, referred to as the Spleen Qi (“chee”).

What does the spleen have to do with digestion? Well, “Spleen” is actually short for “Spleen-Pancreas.”  The ancient Chinese were actually referring to the two organs as one. Therefore, all of the functions that modern medicine ascribes to the pancreas and to the spleen (along with several other functions) are associated with the Spleen in Chinese Medicine: which includes digesting food, absorbing nutrients, regulating blood sugar, assisting immune system function and influencing the quality of the blood .

According to TCM, if our Spleen Qi is optimal, our food will be digested easily and we will have minimal food sensitivities, plenty of daily energy, a balanced metabolism and a healthy body weight, naturally.  Spleen Qi is so highly regarded in TCM that there is an entire school of thought which says nearly all chronic disorders can trace their origins back to the inhibition of the digestive Qi.

100 Degree Soup

To borrow from Bob Flaw’s, The Tao of Healthy Eating, our digestive system must transform the food we eat into a 100 degree “soup” before it can be broken down and used. The more our food is like a 100 degree soup before we eat it, the less stress it places on the digestion. This is why it is so beneficial to thoroughly chew our food, warm it in our mouths, and mix it well with saliva before swallowing. It also explains why TCM recommends eating warm soups, broths, and porridges, and sipping warm teas, especially for people with weak Spleen Qi.

 Avoid foods which are Iced, Frozen or Chilled

When we douse our 100 degree soup with chilled or iced foods or beverages, we can greatly impair our digestive function and weaken the Spleen Qi. The TCM diagnosis known as “Cold in the Middle” can create symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating and cramping, watery diarrhea with undigested food in the stool, and vomiting. Over time, consuming iced or frozen items can contribute to long-term digestive difficulties as well as certain gynecological disorders.

Instead, it is preferable to drink warm or room-temperature beverages, primarily between meals, and avoid frozen desserts.

Moderate your Intake of Raw Foods

Most raw foods, including fruits and vegetables, are found in the Cold or Cooling thermal categories. Just as iced foods tend to put a chill on our 100 degree soup, so do many Cold category foods.  However, we shouldn’t necessarily avoid all raw foods. Raw vegetables and fruits are filled with beneficial vitamins, minerals, fiber and enzymes. The amount of raw food that is appropriate for a given individual is determined by his/her specific condition and TCM diagnosis.  This, again, is where the concept of moderation is important.

Some raw foods, however, are actually Warm category foods, such as garlic, onion, chive, ginger, chestnuts, pine nuts and walnuts.  So, when other raw foods are eaten, it is advisable to combine them with some of these Warm category foods to counter-balance the Cold nature of the raw foods.

Cooking vegetables Warms their thermal nature by partially breaking down (or digesting) the tough cellulose walls that surround each plant cell, so the nutrients inside are more accessible. Simply steaming, lightly sautéing or tossing them into a hot broth for several minutes can be enough to make them easier on the Spleen Qi.

Another way to energetically Warm your raw fruits and vegetables is by putting them though a blender. Green smoothies are a quick, easy and tasty way to increase your intake of whole fruits and vegetables, and blending helps to break down the tough cellulose walls that lock away the abundant nutrients. However, blending is not as Warming as cooking is, so I recommend adding a dash of Warming ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, or clove to your smoothies.

Avoid Foods Which Produce “Dampness

In TCM, pathogenic Dampness refers to a murky type of residue that is a bi-product of incomplete or poor digestion. In TCM, a food is placed in the Dampness-producing category if it tends to burden the Spleen Qi digestive function such that Dampness is formed.  In fact, Dampness can be formed anytime the Spleen Qi is weakened.

According to TCM, Dampness accumulation in the body can manifest as water retention, excess body fat, excess mucous, yeast or bacterial overgrowth or infection, watery discharges, feeling of heaviness or stifling, certain types of headaches, and muzzy-headedness. Long-standing Dampness can eventually congeal into “Phlegm” which, according to TCM, can cause myriad other accumulation or congestive disorders including cysts, lipomas, nodules, tumors, arthritis, allergies, asthma, coronary artery disease, obesity and even psychosis.

If we are eating only whole foods, we are already avoiding many of the Dampness-producing foods; the more processed or refined the food, the greater its tendency to produce Dampness. This includes milled grains (flour) and bread. Rich, heavy foods tend to create Dampness, as does overeating at meals, eating too frequently and overdrinking of alcohol.

Milk, as lactation from another species of animal, is designed by nature to be made for baby cows (or goats), not humans, and it just so happens that dairy products are among the most Dampness/Phlegm-producing, mucous-forming foods that we consume.  (Non-dairy alternatives, made with rice milk, almond milk, or hemp milk are healthier options.)  (For a short video on how Dairy foods create pathogenic Phlegm in the body, click here.)

Sugars, sweeteners, and fruit juices have too much concentrated Sweet flavor, which depletes the Spleen Qi function and adds to Dampness.

Wheat also tends to produce Dampness; the recent boom in gluten-free products is a result of more people finding that they feel better by eliminating wheat.

Other Dampness-producers are eggs, concentrated fats and oils (including nut butters and fried foods), and meats, especially pork and beef.

Minimize Foods Which are Energetically “Hot

While a small amount of Hot category foods can be helpful to our 100 degree soup to balance Cold category foods, and for those with very Cold or weak digestion, too much Hot category food can cause an imbalance known as “Stomach Heat” which may show up as stomach pain, acid reflux, heartburn, ulcers, and ravenous appetite.

This pathogenic Heat can combine with Dampness in the body and migrate to other areas causing inflammatory problems such as gallbladder disorders, constipation or diarrhea, hemorrhoids, inflammatory bowel conditions, arthritis, gout, urinary or gynecological problems, skin conditions, migraines, sleep disturbances, and emotional imbalances such as a “Hot” temper.

In addition to Spicy foods, other Hot category foods to use sparingly are lamb, venison, chicken, and coffee. Cooking methods that typically add too much energetic Heat to foods are grilling, barbecuing and deep frying. (Better alternatives are sautéing, boiling, baking, roasting or toasting).

 Emphasize Foods that Nourish the Digestive Qi

The basic TCM recommended diet, listed from most to least amount:

[  Fresh, cooked vegetables

[  Cooked whole grains

[  Cooked whole beans/legumes

[  Raw vegetables

[  Fresh fruit

[  Nuts

[  Animal Products (fish, meat, dairy)

Vegetables, cooked whole grains and beans/legumes should make up 80-90% of the diet; fruit and nuts 10-15%; and animal products only about 5%.

To further enhance digestibility, the whole grains and beans may be sprouted before cooking, and nuts may be soaked or roasted.

While this diet is very similar to the Macrobiotic diet, (literally meaning “Grand Life” diet) which was created using many TCM nutritional tenants, it is also remarkably aligned with those recommended by modern, physician-researchers such as Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Neal Barnard, T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D, and others: all of whom advocate eating a diet based on vegetables, beans/legumes, whole-food starches, fruits, nuts and seeds, and while minimizing or eliminating processed, refined foods, sweeteners, fats, dairy products and animal foods.

This type of diet has repeatedly been found to reduce rates of and progression of (and in some cases actually reverse) heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other degenerative and auto-immune diseases . We will further explore these modern-day, nutritional researchers, along with their findings and recommendations in Part 3.

Qi Quality of Food

Another factor of importance in TCM nutrition is consideration of the quality of energy (Qi) that exists in the food we put into our bodies.  We are nourished not only by the molecular structure of foods, but also by their Qi. The higher the Qi quality in the food, the more beneficial for us.

The quality of a plant’s Qi is dependent on the quality of the soil, air, water and sunlight in which it grows. The quality of an animal’s Qi is directly linked to the quality of the environment, food and water that is provided, as well as the animal’s interactions with others.

The fresher, healthier and less processed that a food is, the more beneficial Qi that food contains and contributes to our bodies when we eat it. Here is a useful way to envision this concept:  Put a food in water, and see if it shows any signs of life. For example, we can put a freshly cut kale leaf or celery stick in water, and for a time the stem will continue to draw the water in and keep the leaf fresh, (like a bouquet of flowers).

Similarly, we can put raw whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds in water, and they will begin to sprout, as will the seeds from fresh fruit:  there are living processes still happening in that food, meaning there is higher quality Qi in the food. This is the best time to prepare and eat it, because this living Qi will be imparted to our own bodies.

The more time that lapses between harvest and consumption, and the more refined or processed, the less living Qi a food will have. This is why it is best to eat whole foods which are seasonal and locally grown, so they can be harvested when they are ripe and avoid losing vital Qi as they are shipped long distances to our local markets. This is also why it is better to avoid “seedless” varieties of vegetables and fruits, as well as foods that have been irradiated or genetically modified.

For more information about Nutrition in Oriental Medicine, see the books listed on the Educational Resources- Nutrition page of this site.

Part 3 will discuss the TCM viewpoint and the modern nutritional research regarding animal protein in the diet.

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM
727-475-4710

Nutrition, Part 1: Nutrition as Medicine

excerpts published in Tampa Bay Wellness, April 2011

He who seeks medicine and neglects his diet wastes the skill of his doctors.  - Chinese Proverb

A very common topic of discussion in my clinic is nutrition:  Part of my health history intake is asking about the patient’s diet, and I very frequently make nutritional recommendations to assist their health goals.

In addition, I am often asked about what is the healthiest way to eat.  It used to be mainly a weight-loss related question, but now it seems to also be people who are struggling with severe health problems such as cancer, auto-immune diseases and chronic degenerative diseases.  I find it encouraging that people are starting to acknowledge the quality of their nutrition as a fundamental source of their health or disease.

Nutrition as Medicine

The quality of what we consume directly affects our state of health. Depending on what we choose to eat, our diets can be medicinal or harmful. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, knew this. He is famous for saying “Let food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be food.”

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has also known this for centuries (actually millennia, to be more accurate).

In fact, of the Eight Branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine, nutrition is one of the most powerful, and certainly is the one that each of us has the most control over on a daily basis, since we all need to eat multiple times daily. Perhaps you’ve not thought of nutrition as medicine before now, but it is an important concept in TCM.

Healthy nutrition provides the foundational energy and substance which nourishes, heals and sustains our bodies in a state of vibrancy and health; poor diet depletes, harms and toxifies our bodies, causing myriad symptoms and diseases.

Just as the roots of a tree need to be healthy and strong so that they can provide optimal nutrition to the rest of the tree, we need to provide our organs and systems with optimal nutrition to heal and maintain our own strength and vitality. And, just as a house must be seated upon a strong foundation in order to have integrity, we need ensure our own foundation with sound nutrition.

Whole Foods

Before delving into the deeper principles of health-promoting nutrition, we must first eliminate the fast food, junk food, preservatives, chemicals, and excess fats and sugars in our diets. We cannot help our bodies become and stay healthy if we are regularly eating these types of foods. It is essential to learn to read food labels, and stay away from products that contain ingredients that are not recognizable food names, and chemical-sounding names.  Like Michael Pollan says, “If a 3rd grader can’t pronounce the ingredient, don’t eat it!”

The first, simplest and most profound piece of advice for building health through nutrition is to eat whole, unprocessed foods. Whole foods are those that are recognizable in their natural state: whole vegetables and fruits, such as apples, carrots, cucumbers and spinach; whole, unprocessed grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, corn and oats; whole cooked beans, whole nuts and seeds without oils or flavorings added.

Whole foods contain all types of vitamins, fiber, minerals, and health benefiting phytochemicals that number in the hundreds, or even thousands, that work synergistically to nourish us.  Many of these compounds have been found by modern science to protect us from cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases.  Many others of these phytochemicals modern nutritional science hasn’t yet even identified! No one yet knows what other kinds of beneficial and vital properties they carry, or how they all work together synergistically to benefit our bodies.

It makes the most sense to give ourselves every advantage in the quest for excellent long-term health by consuming as much of the beneficial elements as we can in the foods we know are health-promoting. The best way to do this is by eating them in their whole-food form.

In addition to the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, the fiber in whole foods slows the absorption of glucose, which helps keep the blood sugar steady, preventing diabetes. It also provides volume to food, to satisfy the appetite without adding calories.

Fiber helps to prevent heart disease by binding cholesterol for excretion. It also absorbs toxins in the digestive tract, provides a mechanical means by which to sweep wastes out of the intestines (which decreases risk of colon cancer), provides bulk to the stool, and exercises the smooth muscle tissue in the intestinal walls to keep them toned and well functioning, preventing diverticulosis.

With all of the vital functions that dietary fiber has, it makes no sense to eat foods that are refined, which means the fiber (and most of the vitamins and minerals) has been removed.

Processed foods made with refined ingredients such as white flour, sugar, white rice, and oil, which include most breads, pretzels, chips, crackers, cakes, muffins, and pastries are not whole foods. Their base ingredients have been stripped of any nutritional value they once had, they have little or no fiber, and they add a lot of sugar, fat and chemicals that wreak havoc with our physical health and negatively impact our mental and emotional outlook (not to mention our waist lines.)

Moderation

The ancient Chinese said that moderation is the key to good health. They were not referring to a moderation of junk foods, chemically-laden foods or processed foods, because these did not exist then. For the vast majority of our existence here on earth, humans only had access to whole foods, (which were organic, by the way) and yet the ancient Chinese still preached moderation. This is interesting to consider, since many Americans think a diet of whole foods (especially organic) is extreme.

So what were the ancient Chinese referring to by “moderation”?  This will be discussed in Part 2.

For more information on Whole Food nutrition, see the Whole Food Websites and Video resources listed in the Education Resources – Nutrition page of this website.

Nutrition, Part 2 will focus on Nutritional Therapy in Oriental Medicine, based on the physiology of digestion from a Chinese Medicine point of view.

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM
727-475-4710

The Goodness of Green Smoothies

We all know we need to be eating our greens.  But, let’s face it, how many of us are getting even 2 servings of dark green leafy veggies per day, much less the recommended 4 to 5 or more?  Okay, let’s back up a minute, why are greens so good for us anyway?

Why Greens?
It turns out that green “leafies” are actually one of the BEST foods for human beings! Why? Leafy greens are full of live enzymes, vitamins, alkalinizing minerals, antioxidants, fiber, amino acids (yes…there is protein in greens!)  and chlorophyll:  all of which are wonderfully nourishing and protective for human tissues and detoxifying at the same time.

Chlorophyll is what gives the leaf it’s green color and, interestingly, the chlorophyll molecule is only slightly different from the hemoglobin molecule (the molecule in human blood that carries oxygen to all of our body cells).  Chlorophyll is known to stop yeast and fungus growth in the digestive tract, counteract toxins and radiation, de-activate many carcinogens, counteract inflammation, and promote healthful intestinal flora.

Greens help nourish, strengthen and heal every organ system in our bodies, as well as support the natural detoxification and cleansing mechanisms that we are born with.  They give us more energy, cut cravings for sweets and stimulants, and prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.

In Oriental Medicine, greens are said to build Blood and improve the functioning of the Liver, which is responsible for removing toxins that come from the external environment and from our own body’s metabolic and hormonal processes.  This results in greater energy, better hormonal profiles, less depression, less PMS, luxurious hair, strong nails and dewy skin, as well as  better overall health in general.

If you are looking to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way, greens have the highest nutrient density of any foods on the planet.  This means they pack the highest nutritional punch with the lease amount of calories. The more greens you eat, the easier it will be to lose those extra pounds.

Why Smoothies?
So, now that we know we need to be consuming a LOT more greens, how do we get them into our diets easily?  The answer is Green Smoothies:

  1. Green Smoothies are very tasty!  There are a lot of smoothie recipes out there.  Some are fantastic, and some are truly awful. On the Green Smoothie Recipes page, I have listed some tried and true recipes that my family loves, and you can experiment with making your own.  Initially you will want more fruit than greens, in order to “hide” the green flavor.  But as you become a seasoned smoothie drinker, you will likely find that you actually enjoy the refreshing green taste, and will want to experiment with more veggies and less fruit.
  2. Green Smoothies are easy to digest, because they are blended.  The blender does a far better job at chewing up the plant cellulose than people can really do themselves.  Many people who can’t digest salad can often digest some green smoothie, especially if some warming digestive spices are added, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or clove. However, in order to further assist your body in optimally digesting such a large amount of concentrated nutrition, it is advisable to drink your smoothies slowly, and mix each mouthful with some saliva, as you would if you were chewing it.
  3. Green Smoothies are convenient!  A great, “grab and run” item on your way to work or school.  They stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  4. Green Smoothies are quick and easy to make, requiring no special or expensive kitchen equipment other than a blender, which most people already own.

Why Not Juices?
Some health-conscious people who are familiar with green juices may be asking, “Why smoothies and not juices?” Well, there are several reasons why I prefer smoothies over juices:  the Number One dietary priority that I recommend is to consume Whole Foods.  Whole foods are those that are as close to their natural state as possible. For example, whole grain brown rice, as opposed to white rice, and 100% whole grain bread, instead of white bread, which has been stripped of its fiber and its natural vitamins and minerals.  Any type of food that has been processed or “refined” is no longer a whole food.

Whole foods contain all types of vitamins, fiber, minerals, and health benefiting phytochemicals that number in the hundreds, if not thousands, many of which modern nutritional science hasn’t yet even identified.  Why not give ourselves every advantage in the quest for excellent long-term health by consuming as much of the beneficial elements that we can in the foods we know are health promoting?  The best way to do this is by eating them in their whole-food form, and this includes fruits and vegetables.

While juicing does create a drink that is full of vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals, it strips the fiber out of the plant. In this modern culture, where people are already not ingesting enough fiber, it makes no sense to strip it away.  Fiber helps bind toxins and wastes that have been excreted from the liver and gall bladder (such as excess hormones and cholesterol), and it helps sweep toxins, waste products, bad bacteria, yeasts and fungus from our intestines, while toning the intestinal muscles and walls.  Fiber also slows down the absorption of the natural plant sugars, so that they don’t unnaturally spike the blood sugar. Juice does none of this. (Plus, juicer machines are very expensive and time-consuming to clean!)

Basic Customizable Smoothie Recipe:
I’ve been making green smoothies for myself and my family for years, and we love them. They are a regular part of our diets, often substituting as breakfast or a snack, or a light dinner. They make us feel cleaner, lighter and more energetic, and even help eliminate sugar cravings.

There are many green smoothie recipes on the internet and in books.  Some are great, and some are not. I will give you my basic version here, which you can customize:

2 large handfuls greens (spinach, romaine, leaf lettuce, etc….mix it up!), 1 banana or 1/2 avocado (for creaminess), 1 cup fresh or frozen berries, peaches or pineapple, 1 cup water.  (Optional: 2 dried dates, soaked in water for 1 hr).

Blend until smooth and enjoy!  They are sweet from the fruit, with no need for sugar, sweeteners or dairy products.  For a creamier smoothie, simply add more banana or ½ avocado, or 2 tsp of hemp hearts (hemp seeds).  Simple, yummy and wonderfully nutritous!  Aim to drink at least 4 cups per day (32 oz).

Be sure to change up your greens every few days, so that you can benefit from the nutrition in a variety of greens. And skip the iceberg lettuce since it has significantly fewer nutrients than any other leafy greens.

Lastly, try to use organic produce when possible. Organic food is less toxic, tastes better, and is more nutritious than conventionally grown produce.  But it is still much better to eat conventionally grown produce than no produce at all.

For more info on Green Smoothies, check out the book & website Green for Life, by Victoria Boutenko, the website by Robyn Openshaw at www.greensmoothiegirl.com, and www.incrediblesmoothies.com.

Dawn Balusik
727-475-4710