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Archive for the 'Nutrition and Health' Category

Nutty Autumn Millet

As the mornings get chillier, breakfast ’round these here parts keep getting warmer.  Exhibit A: Millet.  Note the heavenly glow.  It’s a godsend on cold days.

Millet is a filling whole grain, high in magnesium and niacin for a healthy heart and improved cholesterol levels.  It cooks reasonably quickly, it’s easily digestible, and it’s generally safe for people who have a lot of allergies or reactions to food.  It’s also a happy sunny color.  I like it.

This is one of my on-the-fly recipes, which means I made it up this morning while peering into cupboards to see what we had.  Although I have a nice, long shelf groaning under the weight of a plethora of cookbooks, I have figured out over the years that, overall, recipes aren’t as important as being comfortable in the kitchen and knowing a couple things about nutrition.

Yup.  I can tell you this because I’m not planning on publishing a cookbook.  I’m more interested in getting more people comfy with food and cooking.  To that end, I’m giving you a front-row seat today into the workings of my noggin.  Pull up a chair.  Can I get you some spiced cider?

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How to Read a Label, Pt 1: Fiber and Sugars and GI, Oh My!

Here’s something that shouldn’t come as a shock to you (not least because it’s one of my favorite talking points): Processed foods are generally a bad idea.  Even when you think they’re a good idea, they probably aren’t.  You’re better off skipping the heavily-processed cheese-filled crackers and the store-bought cookies, and you’ll also benefit from making your own pasta sauce and soups.

In an ideal world, maybe we’d have all have the time and energy needed to be make our own bread and paint the Mona Lisa.  Unfortunately, there’s a lot going on.  Sometimes, you really want chili, and you forgot to plan ahead and soak the beans, or you just don’t have the 20 minutes you need to pressure-cook them.  So…canned beans.  Should it be done?

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Healthy Produce on a Shoestring: When to Pay Extra

One of the ways to protect your health while working within a tight budget is to prioritize which items are most important to get organically or sustainably farmed.  The Environmental Working Group has identified 12 fruits and vegetables most contaminated with pesticides–these are the ones you don’t want to get in the store if you don’t know how they were grown.  Here’s an excerpt of the information on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen–just follow the link here to read the whole list.

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Looking for a Local Harvest

It’s game day here at the Simple Spoonful! Woot! Here’s how to play: Print out a blackline world map with all the countries. Now, truck yourself over to your nearest large chain grocery and take a good look at the produce section. Pay special attention to the stickers on the produce or the information on the plastic clamshells in which the berries or tomatoes come. Every time you can identify where the produce is coming from, you get to color in that country (or state, in the U.S.) on your map. You might have to ask a produce worker where certain things are coming from if you can’t tell–try it! It’s fun.

Oh–just to boost the fun factor, let’s say every time you find something grown in your home state, you get an extra 500 bonus points.

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“But How Do You Get Your Protein?”

I can pretty much guarantee you that this is the single question most heard by vegetarians across the country. As a group, that is. I am sure if some individual vegetarian has a tattoo of the London Underground in a conspicuous place or a wonky name like Hoover McFiddlewarts, questions regarding such will probably trump the protein issue. But I digress.

We Americans love protein. It takes a starring role at the dinner table, and most people believe it is the primary source of the American talent of growing so big and strong. We worship protein as the driving force behind Olympic athletes, NFL linebackers, and The Rock’s bulging biceps.

Speaking of which…can you smell what The Rock is cooking for dinner?

Here’s a hint: it’s probably not grilled tofu with a side of spinach. To the best of my knowledge, the Rock’s massive physique is a product of an omnivorous diet. When most people think of famous vegetarians, they think of waify Natalie Portman or whip-thin Tobey MaGuire as a jockey in Seabiscuit.

However, Angela Basset is also the product of a vegetarian diet. Hello, muscles.

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Vegetarianism 101: The Up Side for You

Looking at the details of the meat-packing industry, the importance of consuming meat from naturally raised, antibiotic-free animals with space to move around becomes obvious. However, raising animals this way means it takes longer to grow them to the desired size for slaughter and you need a lot more space for them to feed on grass. For that reason, buying organic, grass-fed beef or organically raised pork or poultry in the grocery store can be prohibitively expensive for people on a budget. Plus, the “organic” label is far from perfect where meats are concerned. After all, hopefully you’ve surmised by now that feeding a cow organic corn doesn’t improve its health much.

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Vegetarianism 101: Your Health

Someone cover the ears of the beef lobby. (And the pork lobby.) I gots something to tell you.

Ready? Okay.

Meat isn’t good for you. In fact, substantial evidence has been mounted showing that, as a cornerstone of your diet, it’s actually harmful for you.

When I say meat is harmful for you, I’m talking about “modern meat,” the kind fed whatever is cheapest and gets the meat to market fastest, the kind produced in produced in factory-like operations, the kind kept in such close, crowded confines that cutting beaks and tails is routine. I’m not fixated on saturated fats and cholesterol when I say this. Honestly, I think that meat raised under certain conditions can be a healthful food, especially for certain individuals. However, that is not the way the meat industry is run in this country.

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Vegetarianism 101: The Environment

In the past five years, there has been a reawakening of environmentalism. People are switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, thinking about where they set their thermostats, and trying to conserve gas. The number one reason driving these changes (besides the fact that they can help you save money) is the Dreaded Greenhouse Gas Bogeymen and how said bogeymen influence global warming.

Don’t get me wrong: I think global warming is an issue that we absolutely need to be responsible about. However, there’s a lot more to keeping earth healthy for us and other species than just greenhouse gases and global warming. I’m talking water quality, air quality, soil quality. I’m talking biodiversity on land and in the water. One thing Al Gore didn’t mention in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, is that reducing your meat consumption or becoming vegetarian will cause perhaps the single greatest impact in reducing stress on the planet.

What's the carbon footprint of the livestock industry?

What is the carbon footprint of the livestock industry?

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