July 5th

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It’s Saturday, July 5th and for some reason I feel compelled to see the garden at the school. I usually take a (sometime) leisurely 2-mile walk with my pet, Joe Dawg, but feeling I guess a little fleet of foot and bored with the same old walking routine, I set out for Nolan Elementary-Middle School. Part of my walk is very familiar still as it is the path that I used to walk, morning and evening, on my way to accumulating 10 miles a day. Joe made this trip with me one time last year, so it was like his first time all over again. We stopped at nearly every telephone pole, flower bed, shrub and weed on the way there. Fortunately, no other dogs were out at the time we were walking, so there were no conflicts encouraged by Joe Dawg’s aggressiveness.

Arriving at the school, with the sun peeking over the tree tops, the garden kind of had the look of the opening scenes from the movie Camelot…it was so lush looking, so green, so rich and deeply hued. I was a good 50 yards away and like a movie camera my gaze fell on all of the beds in order from left to right. Even at that distance I could see activity in each bed. As I neared I could see a watermelon vine was trailing along the top of one bed. There was kale that we had already started to harvest. The strawberries were doing well, but unfortunately, we didn’t get every ground cherry that dropped from the stalk last year. The kids liked them, but I don’t think Ms. Bonnie (Bonnie Odom-Brown/B.E. Culturally Exposed) will be too happy to see them. The potato bed, which is the bed that most captures your attention from afar, is magnificent. It is full of leaves and flowers that let us know that there is a lot going on underground. A close visual second, right now, are the squash plants. They dominate the bed and are bearing fruit that are ready to be picked. In total we are growing a very wide variety of plants.

The Nolan Elementary-Middle School 2014 “Planting the Seeds” garden includes…
• Green Cabbage
• Red Cabbage
• Collard Greens
• Mustard Greens
• GRP Greens Mix
• Broccoli
• Dinosaur Kale
• Curly Kale
• Garlic (3 varieties)
• Onions (2 varieties)
• Potatoes (3 varieties…Red, White and Yellow)
• Sweet Potatoes
• Green Beans
• Yellow Wax Beans
• Sugar Snap Peas
• Watermelon
• Strawberries
• Eggplant
• Tomatoes (8 varieties)
• Romaine Lettuce
• Salad Bowl Lettuce
• GRP Lettuce Mix (Mesclun)
• Spinach
• Beets
• Radishes
• Carrots
• Ground Cherries
• Green Peppers
• Yellow Sweet Peppers
• Red Sweet Peppers
• Hot Banana Peppers
• Habenero` Peppers
• Jalapeno Peppers
• Rosemary
• Parsley
• Basil
• Sunflowers (2 varieties)
• Wildflower Mix
That’s a total of 40 vegetables (includes squash and zucchini) and flowering plants in 13 beds that students from the 3rd grade up to the 8th grade are managing. If everything grows as planned it will be a wonderful year. We do have to thank our friends at Keep Growing Detroit for the majority of the seeds and plants.

One thing that this year’s garden has had going for it has been the weather. It has been perfect since the month of May. We’ve had plenty of sunshine and just enough rain for everything to grow well. The moderate weather has been a boon to us as so far as we have had neither extreme heat nor continuous days of rain.

We have also had great support from our annual sponsors, Maura Ryan-Kaiser of Snelling Staffing Services and Mark Guimond from Michigan First Credit Union. Snelling employees are out there every week lending their assistance, doing whatever is needed. They are great role models for the kids.

So this is where we are as of the July 4th weekend. We are not growing corn (knee high by the fourth of July) but many of our sunflower plants are about 18 inches. Everything is green in our world and it’s fabulous!

Evening Pictures (I had to come back without the dawg)
Click on each picture to enlarge.

 

Camelot?

Camelot?

The closer we get, the better it will look!

The closer we get, the better it will look!

Watermelon and Zuchinni

Watermelon and Zucchini

Beets, Tomatoes and Spinach

Beets, Tomatoes and Spinach

Spinach and Tomatoes

Spinach and Tomatoes

Ground Cherries and Strawberries

Ground Cherries and Strawberries

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Potatoes

Potatoes

Green and Red Cabbage

Green and Red Cabbage

Broccoli

Broccoli and Collard Greens

Big Lot at ground level

Big Lot at ground level

Potatoes...another look!

Potatoes…another look!

Squash

Squash

 

World’s Turning…Keep Growing Detroit

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If you are as behind on somethings as I am, then you might not have heard about the changes that have taken place within the Detroit Agriculture program/organization aka The Greening of Detroit.  The 2013 Garden Resource Program is now being coordinated and directed by a new group, Keep Growing Detroit (KGD).  The good thing is that KGD is made up of most of the same people we were working when it was called the Garden Resource Program (GRP).  Yes, Lindsay, Eitan and “Tee” (Tepfirah) are still around but it looks like there are several new faces that are mixed with the old.

Why the change?  I really can’t say.  It is hard to ignore how political urban gardening has become so maybe this was brought about because there was a need to have one group focus solely on the political issues while the second focused exclusively on gardening.  I would have to say that out of the gate the KGD is doing a fine job.  There are a few things that are not the same but those I believe are cosmetic issues and it won’t be too long before they find their stride again, internally and externally.

I don’t make it habit to do financial appeals on my site but in this case I will make an exception.  If you are looking for a worthy non-profit to donate to, become a member of the Keep Growing Detroit organization.  You do not have to live in Detroit to be involved in their efforts to support urban gardening.  All it takes is a $10 donation.  If you would like to give more I am sure that they would accept it.  They are a great group of dedicated people that work real hard to improve the resources and lives of Detroiter’s, young and old.

The Garden Resource Program coordinated by Keep Growing Detroit, supports over 1,400 gardens and farms across our community and is made possible through the collaboration of hundreds of community-based organizations and residents.  And, though, you may support some of their collaborators and support organizations, there is nothing wrong with contributing directly to this group.  All it takes is a phone call to (313) 757-2635 or email to: keepgrowingdetroit@gmail.com.  Your donation may make it possible for them to continue their seed/crop distribution program, field trips, horticultural/agriculture education series, Grown in Detroit, while they continue to provide garden-related resources and materials to their members throughout the city.

Keep Growing Detroit is one of the few programs where you can actually see your dollars of support hard at work.  It is hard to drive anywhere in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park and find a garden (school, community or family) that has not benefited from having an association with the program.  They have my support…can you give them yours?

Please send your checks to…

Keep Growing Detroit 76 E. Forest Ave.  Detroit, MI 48201

Keep up the good work, folks!

 

The Other Side of the Plate — The Meat!

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Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP s...

Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP standards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regular readers of this blog have experienced my thoughts, as well as others, on food (primarily vegetables) and nutrition.  So, today, after hearing about so many stories about “mystery meat” or “pink slime”, I thought I would help the meat industry by pointing out that all meat ain’t all bad!  Just like everything else we consume we have to continually be on the watch as for how our food is handled and prepared.

Because I am not so smart that I am an expert on everything I went online to WebMD and found a great article that was packed with a few things I needed to know.  You know how it is, you are at the supermarket in the meat department and you’ve got several choices to buy for your dinner.  The label on the chicken breast package says “Natural”, so do you think that it never had plastic surgery?  What does “Certified Organic” mean in the beef section?  Is it the same certification that is used in the produce department?  So, thanks again to WebMD we will all be able to make the smart choices when buying meet.

Grass-Fed and –Finished (beef, lamb, bison)

Grass-fed animals eat nothing but their mother’s milk, fresh grass and cut hay for their entire lives versus animals raised conventionally, which graze until they reach a certain weight, then are sent to feedlots, where they are “finished” on grain diets until they reach market size.

Health BenefitsSome research suggests that grass-fed meats are richer in omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than those raised on grains.

Eco-benefits:  Grass-fed-meat farms voluntarily certified by the American Grassfed Association (www.americangrassfed.org) do not use antibiotics (which can end up in water systems) or grains (which require land to grow them and fuel to transport)

Is it regulated?  A definition of “grass-fed” proposed by the USDA is still in a comment period.  Many, including the AGA, consider the USDA’s proposed definition too lax as it allows for hormone and antibiotic use and some grain feeding.

Keep in mind:  “Partially grain-fed” means cattle are grain-finished.  Not all grass-fed beef is organic.

Certified Organic (beef, pork, lamb, bison, poultry)

Organic standards prohibit all use of antibiotics and hormones.  (Hormone use in poultry and pork production—even conventional—has been banned since 1959.)  All food is vegetarian and certified organic—including pastureland—which means that it is not treated with pesticides or herbicides and cannot be genetically modified.  Animals have access to pastureland, sunlight and enough land for exercise, and grazing is done in a manner that does not degrade the land through erosion or contamination.  Animal cloning is forbidden.

Health benefits:  Since USDA-certified organic labeling requires that animals be traced from birth to slaughter (including feed sources and medications), problems related to animal diseases and human food borne illness can easily be traced to the source.

Eco-benefits:  Organic Standards ban the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, which leach into groundwater and ultimately end up in public water supplies.

Is it regulated?  The USDA regulates the Certified Organic standard and independent agencies that conduct farm inspections.

Keep in mind:  Organic doesn’t necessarily mean grass-fed, however certified organic livestock generally graze on open-range land three to six months longer than conventionally raised livestock to reach market size.

Certified Humane (beef, pork, lamb, poultry)

This label guarantees that animals have freedom to move and prohibits crates and tie-downs in stalls, as well as, artificial means to induce growth, such as continuous barn lights for broiler chickens.

Eco-benefits:  Certified Humane prohibits the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, two factors in groundwater pollution.

Is it regulated?  Yes.  Certified Humane standards are endorsed by several animal-rights organizations, including the ASPCA and the Humane Society.  Producers are audited by third-party groups.

Keep in mind:  This label does not mean animals are certified organic.

Natural (beef, pork, lamb, poultry)

No additives or preservatives were introduced after the meat or poultry was processed.  (Certain sodium-based broths can be added to poultry and pork and be labeled “natural.”)  This term does not ensure organic feed.  The term “natural” is often confused with “naturally raised,” a term proposed by the USDA that would mean the animals were not given antibiotics and/or growth hormones.

Health benefits:  natural meats have no nitrites or nitrates, preservatives that have been linked in some children and women to various types of cancer.

Eco-benefits:  “Natural” has no substantial environmental benefit.

Is it regulated?  It is a term defined by the USDA but not regulated

Keep in mind:  “Natural” alone says nothing about how an animal was raised.

Most consumers—including myself—don’t have as many options when buying produce or meat.  Urban supermarkets focus strictly on what is selling or what the community buys as a whole.  The shelves are not loaded with esoteric items like pine nuts or artichokes and as for the meats; your best hope is that it is fresh and safe.  But as the urban culture changes and their tastes expand, it can’t be too far off that we will find ourselves having to make the choices that are presented here.  So continue to read the labels so that you will make wise choices on what you are eating and feeding your family…Bon Appetit!

All Good (?) Things Come To An End!

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It’s Tuesday, October 30, 2012 and I am enjoying fresh vegetables from my organic garden.  Just yesterday I cooked collard greens, boiled potatoes, cornbread with a side of slice tomatoes for my mom.  The greens and the tomatoes were from my garden.  After that super hot and drought-like summer, I am totally amazed that there is anything out there, let alone it being edible.  In addition to the greens and tomatoes, I’ve got yellow squash, peppers, and tomatillos “on the bush” too, so to speak.  This is in spite of the pronounced chill in the air that we’ve had since the middle of September, with a few exceptions.

I know I said I wasn’t going to keep track of what I harvested but I decided to do it anyway.  I am a fool in love when it comes to gardening and it didn’t make sense to abandon the process for one year just because this summer didn’t turn out as well as the year before.  But all things considered, it wasn’t a bad year…it was a good year and if things had been slightly different I would have had a great yield.  At the end of the day my yield was off nearly 45% from the previous year

Vegetable                                                 2011                2012                Diff +/-

 

Cabbage/Greens/Lettuces/               31.5 lbs.        21.3 lbs.          -10.2 

Broccoli

 

Beans (all varieties)                            16.3 lbs.         2 .4 lbs.          -13.9

 

Peppers (all varieties)                        19.75 lbs.      12.53 lbs.      -7.22

 

Tomatoes (all varieties)                      121.47 lbs.   66.54 lbs.     -54.93

 

Tomatillos                                                9.01 lbs          4.84 lbs.         -4.17

 

Zucchini/Squash/Cucumber               22.5 lbs        22.63 lbs.     +0.13

 

Onions/Shallots                                      9.0 lbs.        .25 lbs.             -7.75

 

Herbs                                                        1.0 lbs           0.625              -0.375

 

Totals                                                      230.53 lbs       132.16 lbs.      -98.37

 

Surprised?  Yeah, so am I!  I am surprised that it did so well. There are some very unique things going on which I should explain so that the numbers make more sense to you.  For example…

  1. I didn’t plant as many tomatillo (2 vs. 4), pepper (24 vs. 51) or tomato plants (34 vs. 34, of which only 14 were not cherry/small tomatoes vs. 5 in 2011) as I did in 2011.
  2. I didn’t plant onions.
  3. My zucchini yield was off this year but the yellow squash made up the difference.  Cucumber yield was about the same or slightly more.
  4. Cabbage production was down significantly (small heads) whereas the greens and broccoli were up.  I did not plant any head lettuces just the leafy varieties.
  5. The bean output was just pitiful.  More plantings than in 2011 and far less yield, the worst ever in 6 years.
  6. 2011, I literally went crazy…planting and cramming as much into the garden as I could.  And when I ran out of room I bought pots and bins.  The goal was to not have to work as hard in my garden this year as I did in the previous year.  I think that there is a happy medium and I am confident I will find it in 2013.
  7. I hand-watered the garden. I didn’t want to water the weeds (which, thankfully I didn’t have many)!   I hand-watered in 2011 too, but it got to a point that I had to use the hose.  2012, though I had fewer plants they needed just as much attention.  Look at the number of plants (see point #1) I had in both years.  Hand watering takes time!  I felt like I was working myself like my mother likes to work my “government mule” ass.  I overworked myself in 2011 and wasn’t going to make the same mistake in 2012…and yet I watered AND WATERED!  I was averaging between 90 – 100 minutes every 2 or 3 days through the middle of August.  Hot days took longer.  The plants looked like they were doing great even with the heatwave, but with the notable exception of the tomatillo plants, which unexpectedly grew to nearly seven feet tall, they were all rather spindly and ultimately kind of weak looking.  But like I said, the numbers were there but the size and weight wasn’t.

In spite of the overall low production, I did have a spell there, for a while, where my dining room table was loaded with vegetables of all kinds. There was more room out of the refrigerator than in so anything that didn’t have to be refrigerated right away stayed out.  My plan was to can and freeze as usual, but there was an insufficient amount of the tomatoes I wanted to can and not enough beans to do a proper freezing project with.  When I did manage to freeze something it actually seemed like it was a lot but in reality I spent only three days in the kitchen, which I intentionally spread out over the days.

I did eat more of the veggies this time.  Since preserving them wasn’t going to work, I took the time to enjoy my garden in the moment…most of the time the veggies were picked that very day.  I had something substantial from the garden every two to three days.  I highly recommend the GRP (Garden Resource Program) Salad Mix of lettuces and their All Greens Mix (great for stir-frys).  I got compliments from everybody that I shared produce with and in spite of my low yield I still shared a lot.  Rotating at the top of the popularity list were the Purple Cherokee Tomatoes, Collard Greens, and the Cubanelle, Sweet Banana and Yellow Hot Peppers.  I had never tried to grow the Cherokee tomato variety nor had I ever had a Cubanelle pepper.  The peppers grew to a very nice size and the tomatoes had a very unique and sweet taste.  Anybody living in Detroit that owns or plans to start a garden should check out the Garden Resource Program at www.detroitagriculture.net.  It’s a great program and resource.

Another pleasant surprise was the shallots!  I didn’t think that I grew that many (20 oz.) but I have been using them about once a week since they were harvested at the end of July.  This was also the first year that my green bell peppers grew to size.  I only had 6 (out of 8) plants that actually grew some and they were beautiful.  I ate these while I froze the Cubanelle and the Sweet Banana peppers.  I was afraid to attempt to let them mature to red because I thought I was pushing my luck with the squirrels.  But, ultimately, I had nothing to worry about.

I had fewer problems with the squirrels due to the inflatable snakes I had in the garden.  In fact, I didn’t lose one pepper to the squirrels and at the worst I probably lost only about 4…maybe 5 tomatoes before the “I didn’t care” mentality took hold (October 20th).  Even now, the squirrels avoid going into the garden…hahahaha!  The garden was also fenced all around, so I didn’t have problems with rabbits either.  The sad thing was that my birds didn’t stop by and visit.  I always thought that the birds came from miles and miles away and I really enjoyed the different colors they brought to my window throughout the day.  But the snakes kept them away too.  Oh well, I guess it was the appropriate trade off, because there is a particular type of black bird that would come into my garden en masse and they would be as destructive as the squirrels.  They loved to attack any green shoot coming out of the ground and fight amongst the squashes.  But this, the year of the snakes, meant no birds…ces’t la vie!

So all in all, I enjoyed this year’s garden very much and I am sorry to see it end.  As I conclude this blog on Monday, Nov. 5th, I am proud to say that I got the most out of it I could.  Imagine picking hot and sweet peppers and tomatillos as late as Nov. 4th.  I had tomatoes out there were still ripening too!  They were small but not much smaller than the heat stricken tomatoes I had in the summer.  And I will concede that they didn’t taste as good either, but still…man…it’s “freakin” November and I was pulling healthy productive plants out of the ground.  What a summer (climate change and all) and what a fall…all good things (?) do come to an end!

P.S. I can’t wait until next year!  I have already planted nearly 60 cloves of garlic of four different varieties (Music, Japanese, Kilarney Red and Chesnok Red) in two 20 ft. long rows.

Thanks to John Adams, Jenni Littsey, and the Garden Resource Program for helping to make this year’s garden fun!

Green Thumb? Maybe…Maybe Not!

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This year has proven to be a real challenge for gardeners and farmers around the world.  Though there are a lot of people (mainly politicians) that want to discredit all notions of global warming there are a lot of signs or indications, whether it be heavy snowfalls, severe rainstorms or the consistent high heat  and drought-like conditions, that point in that direction.  You’d have to live on another planet not to be aware of the impact the climate has had on cost of living now and perhaps into the future.  Fruits and vegetables are going to cost more this year.  Our feed crops for animal consumption have been hit pretty hard too.  Creating a domino effect that virtually ensures that the meat we eat, beef, poultry and pork, will cost more.

If you have been watching our local and national newscast, you have seen how the high temperatures of this summer have affected the crop production in many of our key states.  The corn in Indiana is about half the size it should be.  Wheat production in many of the plain states is way off.  High heat and the lack of rain has been a recipe for disaster.  And what is truly amazing is that despite or inspite of the extreme weather conditions, weeds…and I do mean WEEDS,  continue to grow and do very well.  The lack of rain or watering has not stop the weeds from “uglying” up our lawns, gardens or indoubtedly our farms.   Maybe weeds will be the crop of the future.

Many of my friends have asked how I and my garden are dealing with the summer of 2012, so I have quite a few pictures I would like to share with you all that show how I am handling things.  I must admit my green thumb feels like it’s only a green pinky.  I do not believe I will have the same production from my 2012 garden that I got from the 2011 effort.  Tomatoes are smaller, bean production is off and some things like carrots never sprouted.  Afraid that my zucchini and squashes were parched, I probably over watered them.  Even plants, like peppers, that typically enjoy hot weather conditions are undersized.  My expectations are so low as of now, I am seriously considering putting away my scale (courtesy of the Garden Resource Program) for the summer.  Gardening is a lot of fun, but it is a lot of work too.  I have worked harder to have fun  this year than any previous year.  And even with all of my whining and complaining I still believe it will be worth it.

Stage One – June

I am off to a good start…

Check out that soil!

New fencing to keep out the rabbits and the squirrels…hahaha!

So much promise…so much to look forward to!

Stage Two – The Beginning of July

The first week of July…Nice!

After this, virtually no rain for the rest of the month!

Stage Three-The End of July

Cucumbers…looking good!

Yellow Wax Beans

Now, I know you are all looking at this and saying what in the H*** is he talking about?  Well, there are times when even I look at it and ask myself the same thing.  But don’t let the green grass fool you.  It is brutal out there…absolutely brutal.  Some plants are doing very well and some are well below normal expectations.  I have re-planted beans three times.  My pole beans are a total disaster.  The yield from my zucchini and squash, as previously mentioned, is so low it is almost disgraceful.  I do have to accept the fact that somethings, especially the weather, are totally out of my control.  Oh, but I will more than make do though.  Again, as previously noted, my lettuces and greens are doing exceptionally well.  It still looks like I will get a lot from my Yellow Wax Beans.  All varieties of my tomatoes will ultimately do well…they just won’t be as large or as plentiful as they have been in the past.  My peppers, all types, will have a banner year.  So I will survive, but the price for surviving has gone up…way up.  Because to get what I have, I have had to work twice as hard this year to get even close to the output of previous years.  That’s right…twice as hard!

Is it worth it?  Easy answer…”Yes it is!”  Since I preserve a lot of what I grow, I will appreciate my efforts whenever I go to my freezer and pull something out that I grew this summer.  Plus, the most significant benefit will be the money saved.  A quick visit to my local supermarket has already proven that too.  Prices are already starting to rise while the quality, unfortunately, is going down.  Growing my own is still the best way…the most cost efficient way to eat fresh, quality food on a daily basis.  Without a doubt it has been a struggle this year…a real test of my green thumb (and the rest of my fingers).   But guess what?  I can’t wait until next year.

Related articles on this site…

  1. Compost Tea…A Most Beneficial Brew!
  2. I Thought That All Dandelions Were Good For Was Making Wine!
  3. 10 Things That Successful Gardeners Know or Do!

Are you having problems with your garden this year?  Drop me a line…misery loves company!  Also, the people at the Greening of Detroit are a good resource for dealing with problems you might have with your garden.  Contact Lindsay Pielack (313) 285-2300 or go to www.detroitagriculture.net.

Going Rogue…With A Raw Food Diet!

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Around this time last year I was having a conversation with a very talented friend that lives in Canada about gardening and one of the subjects that was discussed was why we were into gardening.  I stated my reasons which all sounded like the tried and true textbook reasons of a health-conscious man but my friend said that she was motivated because she wanted to focus on embracing a raw food diet/lifestyle.  She went on to recite a particular passage from the bible that Genesis 1:29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.  You shall have them for food.”  The implication is that we are to eat these things raw, without cooking or processing. Cooking is unnecessary!  Well for me, I thought that what I was doing with a lot of the food from my garden, some of which I ate raw, had me positioned to reap a lot of the benefits of a raw food diet intentionally or coincidentally!

But a television talk show showed me that I could do even better with greater benefits.

The Raw Food Diet vs. Diabetes

On a recent weekday afternoon I stumbled upon a segment on the Dr. Oz talk show where he and his guest had an animated conversation about the benefits of a raw food diet (more will be said about the benefits later).  The guest referenced/used a video that is called Raw for 30 DaysRaw for 30 Days is an independent documentary film that “chronicles six Americans with diabetes who switch to a diet consisting entirely of vegan, organic, live, raw foods to reverse diabetes naturally.”  More can be found, along with a trailer for the video, at: http://www.diet-blog.com/07/raw_for_30_days_can_diabetes_be_cured.php.

On this site you will learn that there are three variants of raw food diets: vegan, vegetarian and raw animal food diets.

  • Vegan raw food diets focus solely on fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.  No animal products are consumed.
  • Vegetarian raw food diets consist of primarily of plant foods, but also include foods like dairy, honey, and eggs.
  • Raw meat diets focus on consuming animal products that can safely be eaten raw, such as organ and muscle meat, raw dairy, and sashimi (raw fish), but also includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but not grains. 

The Benefits of A Raw Food Diet

According to the site Death to Diabetes the health benefits of a raw food diet are:

  • Increased energy
  • Stabilized blood glucose levels
  • Improved skin appearance
  • Better digestion
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of cancer

The raw food diet contains fewer trans fats and saturated fat than the typical Western diet.  It is also low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, and health-promoting chemicals called phytochemicals.  At least 75% of food consumed should not be heated over 116 degrees F. 

These properties are associated with a reduced risk of the abovementioned diseases.  A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of a raw food diet lowered plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations

There are specific cooking techniques that will make your food/meals more digestible and add variety to your diet.  Techniques, such as…

  • Sprouting seeds, grains and beans
  • Juicing fruit and vegetables
  • Soaking nuts and dried fruit
  • Blending
  • Dehydrating food

Here’s a short list of some of the equipment you will need to effectively execute a raw food diet.

  • A dehydrator, a piece of equipment that blows air through food at a temperature less than 116 degrees F.
  • A good-quality juice extractor for juicing fruit and vegetables.
  • Large glass containers to soak and sprout seeds, grains, and beans
  • Mason Jars for storing sprouts and other food

There are a few precautions for those interested in undergoing a raw food diet regimen.  The diet may not be appropriate for:

  • Children
  • Pregnant or nursing women
  • People with anemia
  • People at risk for osteoporosis

People also need to be aware that certain nutritional deficiencies can occur on the raw food diet, including:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • B-12 (The Journal of Nutrition study found that a raw food diet increased levels of homocysteine due to vitamin B-12 deficiency)
  • Protein
  • Calories

Critics of the raw food diet say while its true that some enzymes are inactivated when food is heated; it doesn’t matter because the body uses its own enzymes for digestion.  In addition, cooking makes certain phytochemicals easier to absorb, such as beta-carotene in carrots.

Obviously, this is one diet that is probably easier to do living on the west coast where access to a multitude of fresh vegetables is easy.  But it does make sense, even if I don’t go all the way with it.  One of the best reasons for having an “organic garden,” is that I can go out anytime and pluck something off of a bush or vine and pop that sucker right in my mouth where the flavor explodes on my tongue and makes my nostrils swell and my eyes bulge…not really, but it is pretty close to that.  You really can’t go wrong, since a diet that follows the recommended nutritional guidelines includes a lot of the strategies used as the basis of a raw food diet, any diet filled with high levels of fruit and vegetables along with properly prepared and portioned meat servings will position you to have a long and healthy life.

Nutrition…Are You On The Right Track?

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Are you one of those people that believe that you have no control over what you look like?  It’s all about genetics, right?  Body fat, high blood pressure and diabetics are the result of family history and like the course of mighty rivers…you can’t change it.  Well, though it is true that certain illnesses and diseases are genetic, there isn’t anything that says that there’s nothing you can do to alter the track that your parents and their parents before them put you on.  Nothing at all.

Let’s see a show of hands…”How many of you actually know what you are eating?”  “How many of you know that good nutrition is essential for keeping your body performing at its peak potential?”  “How many of you know that your nutrition affects every part of your body, from your bones and muscles to your skin, hair and eyes?  Hell, even your sex life?  Regardless of your answers to the questions (you may be one of the smart ones), there are plenty of studies that show that we as Americans are losing the war against fat and unhealthy living.  What is the 10th fattest state in the country?  What’s the second?  The first?  (The answers can be found at the end of this article.)  I don’t think that you will be surprised by the answers because no matter where you live you see unhealthy people doing unhealthy things to their body…and loving it.  Now I am not talking about momentary or infrequent lapses.  We all have a crazy craving every once in awhile.  Sometimes it is better to indulge that whim rather than let it gnaw at you until you eat too much or you eat too fast (remember that anti-acid commercial).  What I am talking about are the things that people do because they really do not understand how good or bad it can be to eat certain foods on a regular basis.  What can they do?  What can you or I do?  We can teach ourselves and our children about good nutrition and the benefits from eating sensibly and responsibly.  It is easy when you understand how to establish smart guidelines with the information that you have.  What information and where do you get it from?  Read on brothers and sisters…read on!

March is National Nutrition Month and a lot of people from the healthcare field to insurance companies and the food distribution network want you to increase your awareness about the benefits of good nutrition and to enjoy more nutritious foods.  For most of us, it starts with reading the labels on the food that you buy.  Most of the healthiest foods you can eat come without labels; vegetables, beans/legumes and fruit just to name a few.  Where most of us run into trouble are the packaged goods.  Prepared or processed foods that are loaded with substances or components that either help to preserve the food or to make it taste better.  It’s important to read the labels so that you know what these foods are giving you…what are you getting too much of and what are you not getting enough of?  Once you make label reading part of your food decision-making process, and your children’s too, you will be the recipient of several “hidden-in-plain-sight” benefits, from weight management to smaller grocery bills because your meals will be more substantial and you won’t have to eat as much. 

The Six Building Blocks To A Healthy Diet

  1. Choose Heart-Healthy Grains

 Replace refined white grains with nutrient-dense whole grains, such as:

  • Whole grain cereals, like granola
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Multi-grain breads
  1. Eat more Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Most adults should have the equivalent of 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day.  Dark green, leafy veggies like kale and broccoli provide a lot of nutrients and are easy to steam or sauté.  Fresh fruits like apples, berries and bananas are packed with vitamins and make great snacks and desserts.

  1. Power up with Protein

Protein is a key building block of muscles, tissue, bone, blood and other organs.  But some proteins, like red meat, also contain a lot of solid fats, so choose your proteins carefully.

  • Go with lean proteins, like seafood or ground turkey when choosing to eat meats.  Avoid bacon, sausage, marbled red meats and other fatty proteins.
  • Snack on protein-rich nuts like walnuts, pistachios and almonds.
  1. Trim the Fat

It may be easy to grab a quick cheeseburger when you’re on the go, but it’s not quick or easy for your body to digest.  Reduce the fats you consume by:

  • Choosing a veggie burger or salad instead of meat burgers.
  • Substituting low-fat or non-fat milk and yogurts for regular dairy products.
  • Grilling, baking or steaming your foods instead of frying or using heavy oils.
  1. Ditch the Sugars

Foods that are high in sugar are also often high in calories that can lead to weight gain.  Research shows that being overweight or obese increases the risks for diabetes.  Reduce sugar intake by:

  • Tossing out the sodas and substituting sparkling water.
  • Trying sugar-free desserts (sugar-free pudding or yogurt, or fruit salad, for example).
  • Substituting protein snacks, like almonds, for sweet desserts.
  1. Make it Fresh

Cook meals at home from fresh, whole foods, instead of eating out or eating prepackaged meals.  That way you can better manage the levels of salt, sugar and other hidden additives that are so prevalent in restaurant or processed foods.

Another thing you should be aware of is that good eating habits not only help maintain proper weight and healthy hearts, but it will also help the health of your teeth.  In planning whole-body nutrition, people should consider foods and liquids that counteract tooth-harming acids, provide vitamins and minerals that support healthy teeth and repair damage and stimulate the flow of saliva.  Unhealthy teeth and gums can have a serious impact on the whole body.  Gum disease in particular is linked to diabetes, among other health problems.  So your menu should include foods rich in the vitamins and minerals that make up teeth, including vitamins A, C and D, and calcium and phosphorus.  These nutrients can be found in healthy foods such as beef, eggs, potatoes, spinach, fish, fortified cereals, tofu, leafy green veggies, poultry, whole grains and beans.  Many nuts contain tooth-friendly vitamins and minerals also.

Cheese is especially good for teeth, providing calcium and other tooth-building material, and also by stimulating the flow of saliva.  High-fiber fruits, veggies and grains are also great for the mouth, because they physically scrub the teeth.  Fruits do contain sugar, but they also have high water content that helps counterbalance the sweets.  High-fiber foods also require longer chewing time, which again stimulates the flow of saliva.  Saliva is the first line of defense for your teeth as it neutralizes acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, and also contains minerals that replace those leached away by bacterial acids.

Good nutrition includes high-fiber fruits, veggies and grains.  These foods are also great for the mouth, because they physically scrub the teeth.  Fruits do contain sugar, but they also have high water content that helps counterbalance sweets.  High-fiber foods also require longer chewing time, which stimulates the flow of saliva, the first line of defense for your teeth.  Saliva neutralizes acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, and also contains minerals that replace those leached away by bacterial acids.

Water, whether for the whole-body nutrition or oral health, is the primary element.  It’s the main component of saliva and is vital to tooth and gum health.  It rinses food and sugars and works to prevent tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel.

Want to learn more?  Then feel free to check these out…

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics http://www.eatright.org/

National Nutrition Month (video)    http://youtu.be/Ez8NzO8oq

National Nutrition Month Challenge

“Where Do Healthy Kids Eating Habits Begin?  Why At Home Of Course!

Fit and Fab Living (website)

Metz Culinary Management Properties Promotes Healthy and Balanced Diet

Aramark Celebrates National Nutrition Month

Kikkoman Celebrates National Nutrition Month

Answers to the Fattest State Questions…

1.   Mississippi

2.   Alabama

10. Michigan

Sources:  Healthyroads, a subsidiary of American Specialty Health Incorporated – Healthyroads.com.  
                  Dr. Edward Camacho, D.D.S, Cosmetic Dentistry of San Antonio, Texas

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