February 29, 2016
I’m so pleased to share an article I wrote which is posted on the fabulous Sonima on the importance of fermented foods. Although ferments have fallen out of fashion in our modern diets, they are crucial not only to gut health, but also to immune function, weight, mental health and more. Enjoy!
From kimchee in Korea to kvass in Russia to dosas in South India, fermented foods are enjoyed almost daily in traditional societies, and now health professionals and enthusiasts are taking interest in the unique health benefits these foods offer.
It was once thought that ferments were used merely as a means of food preservation. For example, in the absence of modern refrigeration, cabbage could be preserved well beyond the growing season in the form of sauerkraut. However, as research on the human microbiome (the ecosystem within the body) progresses, scientists are coming to realize that fermented foods, which are rich in “good” bacteria, also play an important role in maintaining and optimizing our health.
We now know that our bodies are not sterile—far from it. In fact, our bodies contain more foreign bacteria than our very own cells (combined, it is estimated that the bacteria in our bodies could fill a half-gallon jug!). When the microbiome is balanced and this bacteria is present in healthy proportions, these organisms can affect our weight, immunity, mental state, and more. They help us better digest our food, and even synthesize nutrients, such as vitamin K, in our intestines.
November 2, 2015
It is hard to believe I will be done with my graduate studies in nutrition in less than two months. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a free weekend without having to worry about nutritional biochemistry homework, applied clinical nutrition case studies, and other such exciting courses which have become a fixture of my life (actually, I must admit, my inner geek reveled in the work – I love it!).
Probably out of compassion for us stressed out graduate students, my school has also required us to take four cooking lab courses to teach us various ways of applying the nutrition theory we were learning in our kitchens. We literally had a healthy burger module, where “homework” involved an afternoon of making salmon and lentil burgers and other such yummies. Before you get too jealous however, you should also know that cooking chicken hearts was also a part of the curriculum – eek!
While I learned a lot from each of these projects, my favorite cooking module was (naturally) the healthy baking one. I spent an entire weekend in the kitchen producing trays full of deliciously healthy treats as an “assignment” for the class. I think my favorite recipe to come out of that module were these delicious gluten-free and vegan muffins, which are sweetened only with fruit and pure maple syrup. They are comforting (especially fresh out of the oven, on chilly fall mornings), not too sweet, and are a guilt-free way to satisfy a nagging sweet craving. The walnuts, which are processed and used as a flour, create a unique and crumbly texture which I found delightful.
My teacher for the course and the genius who developed this recipe is the fabulous Myra Kornfeld, and I strongly suggest you check out her book, The Healthy Hedonist – I have yet to try a dish created by her that I didn’t LOVE).
Recipe: By Myra Kornfeld, The Healthy Hedonist
Makes 12 regular sized muffins
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup apple juice (I used fresh apple cider, since its in season)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup of ripe bananas (I have found this is usually about 2 bananas, give or take)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees celcius
- Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet or in a cast-iron skillet and bake for 5 minutes, until slightly browned
- Transfer the nuts into a food processor and grind into a flour (make sure not to over-process, or you will end up with walnut butter). A good way to avoid this is to add a bit of the rice flour in the processor to prevent it from becoming a paste.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together: rice flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a second bowl, whisk the juice, maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla until they are combined.
- Next, mix the wet and dry ingredients together until they are thoroughly combined
- Fold the mashed bananas into the batter
- Finally, fill 12 standard muffin tins with muffin liners, and distribute the batter evenly amongt them .
- Bake for 20-25 minutes
- Let cook for at least 15 minutes
October 12, 2015
It might have been quiet around here on the NL blog, but there has certainly been a lot going on behind the scenes! Amongst other things, I have been doing a lot of guest posting, one of which is this article which was featured on The Huffington Post and Sonima. Enjoy!
Many people seem to think of weight management as an equation of calories in minus calories out. The food we eat is factored against the energy burned while exercising and going about one’s daily life. An excess of calories going into the body results in weight gain, a deficit results in pounds shed, and an equilibrium keeps the scale steady. While of course our food and exercise choices play a large role in how much we weigh, there are more elements at play when it comes to keeping weight under control.
Our bodies are incredibly complex. Looking at weight management as a simple caloric equation is almost like enjoying the Mona Lisa through the lens of a magnifying glass: it only allows you to get a really good view of just one part of the entire canvas. Often, in order to get a genuine understanding of what is going on in our bodies (which are all grand masterpieces in their own way), it is important to take a step back and look at the big picture. Our body’s systems are intricately interconnected; there are countless ways that a lack of balance in one area can show up on our waistlines. In fact, difficulty losing weight can be a signal that some area of the body, such as the thyroid, is not functioning optimally. The points that follow provide an overview of a few surprising factors that can make us metabolically more inclined to store body fat.
January 21, 2015
It’s flu season, and we all know that garlic is nature’s answer to almost everything that ails us.
The most active ingredient in garlic, allicin, can perform miracles. Three cloves of garlic has enough allicin to provide the body with the same antibacterial activity as the standard penicillin dose (without the side effects of taking an antibiotic). It is therefore not a surprise that garlic is known to be “nature’s penicillin” (actually, it’s was apparently also referred to as “Russian penicillin,” as Russian medics used it so widely during the second World War).
However, I was surprised to discover that the way we typically prep and cook garlic might actually be destroying it’s medicinal value, and here is why: garlic contains two proteins called alliin and alliinase, and when garlic is crushed and chopped, they are brought together to react and create allicin. Unfortunately, alliinase is heat-sensitive, so if you throw your garlic into a hot pan right after chopping it up, alliinase is destroyed and the two proteins do not have enough time to “mingle” and react to create allicin. Without allicin, much of garlic’s medicinal properties are absent.
Thankfully, there is a very easy way to address this issue: prep your garlic and set it aside before cooking for ten minutes. This is plenty of time to allow alliin and alliinase to react. I try to remind myself to chop up the garlic first as I am preparing my ingredients for a meal, which will allow it plenty of time for it to rest before I dump it into a hot pan.
If you are eating garlic raw (in a salad, dip, etc.), you do not have to worry about this, as alliinase is only sensitive to heat.