Saturday, August 28, 2010

Start Your Fall And Winter Vegetable Garden - How To Build A Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Box

Just 4 weeks ago after planting starts.

Bolt top 4' board first, in place, after setting 8' boards.

We used 4 inch timber screws for fastening.

Place gopher wire on bottom. An inside brace prevents warping.

Put down weed cloth and fill box with organic garden mix.

Believe it or Not, It's Time to Plant a Fall and Winter Garden
With record heat around the country, it's hard to think about a fall and winter garden. But since our vast landscaping project prevented me from having my usual summer garden, I'm particularly excited about planting now. Especially since we just finished building new above ground vegetable boxes!

How we Built our Garden Boxes
I should actually call this, "how to build a garden box that would withstand an 8.0 earthquake". Doug likes things to be sturdy so this box uses some heavy-duty lumber but it should last a long time. Here's how we built our 4 x 8 box:

What You'll Need
* (Five) 4 foot redwood 2x8's (4 for the sides and 1 for the inner brace)
* (Four) 8 foot redwood 2x8's
* 7 to 16 feet of redwood 4x4
if you set the 4x4 18" into the ground and go to the top of the box, you'll need almost 16 feet.
If you just set the raised bed on the ground with the 4x4 running flush with the bottom and going all the way to the top, you'll need 7 feet.
If you set the raised bed on the ground and have the 4x4 run flush with the bottom and go 2 inches from the top, 6 feet will do. See discussion below.
* 8 1/2 feet of 4' wide gopher wire (optional)
* Enough weed cloth to cover the bottom
* 4 dozen 4" timber screws
* Electric drill
* a level
* PVC and drip hose for irrigation (optional)

How we Built the Boxes
I'm sure there are many ways to do this but this is how we built our 4 x 8 box.
The 4x4 Posts
All boards are fastened to the 4x4 posts.
You need to make some structural and cosmetic decisions before cutting it.
* Remember when measuring the length of the 4x4 posts, the box is 2 boards high. Each 2x8 is around 7 1/4 inches high so your box will be about 14 1/2 inches in height. Be sure to measure your lumber as size varies with different lumber suppliers.
* Do you want the box set into the ground for stability? If so, cut the 4x4 long enough to extend into the ground. We have ours set 18 inches into the ground. Not sure we needed to do that but like I said, Doug likes things sturdy!
* Do you want to see the 4x4 post in the corners when looking at the box from the top? If not, measure the 4x4 so that it is 2 inches lower than the top. When the dirt is in the box, you won't see the 4x4. If you don't care, and in fact, want the 4x4 to extend to the top, measure the 4x4 from the top.
Bolting the 2x8's to the 4x4 Posts
* Bolt the cut 4x4's flush with the ends of the 8 foot 2x8. After bolting to both ends, bolt one post in the middle. You can do this with the lumber flat on the ground.
* By bolting to the ends of the long board, the width of the box will be less than 4 feet. This allows the gofer wire to go up the sides of the box.
* If you have extended the 4x4's into the ground, now is a good time to set the boards into place. Measure to see if they are the appropriate distance apart and make sure they are level.
* Bolt the top 4' board to the 4x4 post attached to the 8' boards. Then bolt the second 4' board below it. Do the second side. You now have a box!
If you are hand watering, nothing needs to be done. If not, get your PVC pipe trenched under the box before the next steps. Don't forget to test it out. We stubbed it out into the corner of our boxes. Later we'll attach drip hose.
Protecting the Box
To avoid gophers eating our vegetables (yes, they love to get their 5 to 9 servings a day) and to avoid weeds or old tree roots, we did the following:
* Lay down gopher wire cutting closely around the 4x4's and bending it up around the edges. If possible, staple it to the inside of the box.
* Lay down weed cloth over the gopher wire making sure to cover the entire inside of the box.
* Cut a 2x8 the entire width of the box. Place it in the middle of the box up against the sides of the middle 4x4's. Bolt to the 4x4's. This will keep the box from warping outward.

Now It's Time to Fill the Box and Plant
Get a good organic planting mix rich in rock dust and green compost.
In northern California, good fall veggies to plant include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, onions and various root vegetables. Unfortunately I couldn't fill all of those in my new garden boxes but I did manage to get in quite a few.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Low Sugar Vegan Mixed Berry Crisp With Strawberries, Blueberries And Raspberries - How Berries May Prevent And Reverse Age-Related Memory Loss

5 cups of mixed berries provides brain healthy polyphenols.

Berries act as "Housekeepers" for the Brain
In a recent study presented by Shibu Poulose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, it was reported that berries, and possibly walnuts, activate the brain's natural "housekeeper" mechanism that removes toxic proteins linked to memory loss and mental decline due to aging. Cells in the brain called microglia act as housekeepers. They remove and recycle debris that could end up interfering with brain function.
"But in aging, microglia fail to do their work, and debris builds up", Poulose says. "In addition, the microglia become over-activated and actually begin to damage healthy cells in the brain". He goes on to explain, "our research suggests that the polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect. They seem to restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries".
So eating lots our favorite berries may help our aging brains stay healthy and young!

How do Berries do this?
Poulose reports, "the good news is that natural compounds called polyphenolics found in fruits, vegetables and nuts have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect that may protect against age-associated decline". He and James Joseph, who died June 1, 2010, did some ground-breaking research on how antioxidants in fruits and nuts prevent cognitive decline due to aging.
In a previous study, they showed that feeding laboratory rats a diet containing 2% extract of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries resulted in a reversal of age-related declines in brain function.

What other Foods are Rich in Polyphenolics?
Besides berries and walnuts, Poulose encourages people to eat other fruits and vegetables that contain polyphenols emphasizing the importance of consuming the "whole fruit" that contains hundreds of plant-chemicals.
Polyphenols are found in many rich colored foods.
Besides berries, other fruits include dark grapes, cherries, apples, dark plums and citrus.
Most vegetables provide polyphenols, especially ones that are brightly colored - red, orange, blue, yellow, purple and green.
Whole grains, beans (especially soybeans) and nuts are good sources.
Coffee, tea (especially green tea), red wine and chocolate also contain good amounts of this important plant chemical.

Here's a healthful and delicious recipe that contains many of these high polyphenol foods and takes advantage of all those fresh berries that are in season! Besides polyphenols, each serving provides nearly 5 grams of fiber and over 700 mg of omega 3 fatty acid.
Feel free to change the relative amounts of the berries or to substitute different kinds. Just make sure you end up with a total of 5 cups of berries.


Vegan Mixed Berry Crisp
[serves 8]
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat)
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup English walnuts, chopped
3 tablespoons organic cane sugar
4 packets Stevia extract (optional, for added sweetness)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Earth balance (vegan buttery spread)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine berries in a 9X13 inch pan. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, walnuts, cane sugar, stevia extract and cinnamon. Cut in buttery spread until the mixture is crumbly.
Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the berries.
Bake for 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.

Per serving: 226.4 calories, 12.1 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.6 g protein, 26.9 g carbohydrates, 4.8 g fiber and 734 mg ALA omega 3 fatty acid.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Are You A Health Food Junkie? A Review of Dr. Bratman's Book, "Health Food Junkies: Orthorexia Nervosa: Overcoming The Obsession With Healthful Eating

Are we Health Conscious or Health Food Junkies?
I came upon the book, "Health Food Junkies" by Dr. Steven Bratman that discusses people's obsession with healthy eating. My first reaction to a book like this was disbelief. After all, two thirds of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese and diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are sky rocketing. Is obsession with eating healthy food a rampant problem that needs to be addressed? Dr. Bratman seems to think so. He even came up with the name, "orthorexia nervosa" for this made up disease. Since I devote this blog and much of my life to this topic, I went ahead and read the book to see what he had to say. I must admit the book was thought provoking and made me aware that some people truly do cross the line from "eating for optimal health" to "obsession". I dispute, however, where that line is. I'm sure Dr. Bratman would consider me and many of my followers to have this dreaded condition. Later we'll take his questionnaire to see just how far gone he thinks we are.

What is Orthorexia Nervosa?
According to Dr. Bratman, orthorexia nervosa is a fixation on eating healthy food. A person with this condition spends most of his or her time planning, thinking about and preparing meals fixated on the quality of the food. All other joys in life are abandoned to pursue the perfect diet. This behavior often leads to unhappiness, social isolation and sometimes, ironically, poor health.

How Dr. Bratman Overcame this Disease
This book was, perhaps, a cathartic work for the author as he described his own battle with being fixated on eating healthy food. In his past, Dr. Bratman tried many different diet regimens like raw food, macrobiotics, and others. In each, he followed their principles to the max until his life was totally controlled by food. His obsession is well described when he tells the story of having to leave the company of good friends in order to eat an avocado at it's perfect moment of ripening.
His struggle came to an end after a series of life altering events.
First his guru abandoned his desire to become a fruitarian because of a revelation which he shared with him. "Rather than eat my sprouts alone, (by the way, fruitarians eat fruit, not sprouts), it would be better for me to share a pizza with some friends".
The second event occurred when he graciously accepted and ate a piece of processed cheese offered to him by an old man he was visiting as a volunteer. Instead of making Dr. Bratman ill, as he expected, it surprisingly cured his head cold.
But what really turned him around was his dining experience with a Benedictine monk. Instead of the monk sharing his self discipline, he persuaded him to pig out on Chinese food and ice cream.
It was at this point I was wishing that the library had a copy of this book so that I would not have had to spend $16 to read this story.

Are You A Health Food Junkie? Take the Test
I'm sure the author wrote this book in order to shed light on an obsession that he himself struggled with for so many years. Trying to quantify the point at which a person goes from having a passion for healthy living to having an eating disorder, Dr. Bratman developed this questionnaire.
According to Dr. Bratman, if you check yes to 2 or 3 of these questions, you have at least a touch of orthorexia nervosa. You are real in trouble if you score 4 or more. I'm sure many of my followers, myself included, are ready to be carted away to health food rehab.
Take the test! I'll take it with you!

1. Do you spend more than three hours a day thinking about health food? (For 4 hours, give yourself 2 points). He includes time spent shopping for food, cooking, reading information on health and discussing it with friends.
Besides trying to be healthy, I'm Italian. I bet most Italians spend 3 hours thinking about preparing their next meal and what wonderful, fresh ingredients they will use. Then add the time they spend in the kitchen with their family cooking while enjoying a glass of wine, it's pretty easy to rack up 3 or more hours. I guess I'm already in trouble as I immediately racked up 2 points.
2. Do you plan tomorrow's food today? Dr. Bratman thinks that getting pleasure from thinking about a healthy menu in the future is terribly wrong.
OK, chalk up another point for me. Of course I plan meals! How does he think I worked for 30+ years while putting healthy food on my family's table. I guess I would have scored better if I picked up Happy Meals from McDonald's on the way home.
3. Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it? To the orthorexic, hunger itself is secondary. The "meaning" of food is what makes them desire it.
I don't eat JUST to satisfy my hunger. I try to plan delicious meals that are also nutritious. What's wrong with trying to achieve both pleasure and virtue? I'll take a half point on this one.
4. Have you found that as the quality of your diet has increased, the quality of your life has correspondingly diminished?
No. As the quality of my diet has improved throughout the years, I feel more energetic and am better able to handle the stresses of life.
5. Do you keep getting stricter with yourself?
No points here. I actually have gotten more relaxed in my eating throughout the years and allow myself to occasionally indulge. This has totally surprised my daughter who has often told people that I had the will power of a monk. But in the past, I have been guilty of this. I also see this a lot with raw foodists who feel that becoming 100% raw is nirvana and will avoid a dish even if it only has a few drops of vanilla extract or a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. I think this is going too far.
6. Do you sacrifice experiences you once enjoyed to eat the food you believe is right? One of the examples he uses here is a person who avoided marriage with someone they loved because he ate the wrong food.
I'll take a point here. Yes, I sacrifice experiences like downing a bucket of KFC or eating cheese cake.
It's also funny that he used the example of not marrying someone who ate poorly as if that should be of no concern. Eating habits are important and when you think of how many meals you share with your spouse, this is a very key issue, especially if you are really into health. It's hard to watch someone you love slowly kill themselves with poor food choices and other bad habits.
7. Do you feel increased sense of self-esteem when you are eating healthy food? Do you look down on others who don't?
Chalk up another point for me here. This is a little embarrassing to admit but yes, I feel really good about my myself when I prepare a delicious and nourishing meal for my family. And yes, I get disgusted when I see an morbidly obese person who probably has or will soon have type 2 diabetes and heart disease eating huge quantities of really unhealthful food.
8. Do you feel guilt or self-loathing when you stray from your diet?
I'll only take a half point here since I do feel a bit guilty if I eat bad food but I would hardly call it "self-loathing". I'm getting better at allowing myself to occasionally indulge without the guilt.
9. Does your diet socially isolate you?
No, not now. But there have been many times in my life when my diet was so strict, my family and friends were afraid to invite me over to dinner. But being more relaxed and polite doesn't mean you have to abandon your diet, especially if it means a lot to you. If you are a strict vegan or vegetarian, there's nothing wrong with telling your host in advance or bringing over a veggie burger and a meat-free side dish when going to a BBQ. Dr. Bratman, however, would think this is a clear sign of orthorexia.
10. When you are eating the way you are supposed to, do you feel a peaceful sense of total control? Dr. Bratman feels that many orthorexics feel that since they cannot control what life brings them, they can control what they eat. This is their mechanism to deal with life which can be "complicated, unpredictable and scary".
No points here for me. I just enjoy controlling what goes into my body. To the extent that nourishment allows me to better deal with life is just a bonus, not a means of "total control".

So, how did you do? Are you going to join me in health food junkie rehab? I scored 6 points which would clearly classify me as orthorexic. I think Dr. Bratman has quite a bit of work to do on his criteria. Better yet, he should throw it in the trash and stop trying to make up diseases. There are plenty of real ones that need attention.

Dr. Bratman Bashes Raw Food Diets
The part of the book I take the most issue with is where he describes different healing diets and declares them "a path to orthorexia". He is especially critical of Raw Food Vegan Diets.
He makes raw food vegans sound like cultists longing to purify themselves and "float free", unable to deal with the "weightiness of human life". He portrays raw foodists as those spending their lives nibbling bland raw fruits of vegetables and taking frequent enemas and colonics.
Perhaps twenty five years ago, when Dr. Bratman experimented with this diet, raw foodists exclusively munched on greens and carrots but you only have to look at some of the Raw Food Recipes on this and other blogs to know there is no deprivation involved in a raw food diet. Anyone who has attended a raw food pot luck or gone to a raw food restaurant would agree that you certainly would not come away feeling light enough to float away!

Dr. Bratman has similar out of touch descriptions of other popular eating regimens including macrobiotics and food elimination diets for allergies. He actually puts them in the same category as a beer and pizza diet! His point here being that any diet has a chance of curing someone if they believe in it. However, by lumping a ridiculous beer and pizza diet with diets based on whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, he has totally ignored the diets' nutritional benefits.

I'm sure you are as anxious for me to finish this review as I was to finish this book.
The book is an easy read and contains some interesting and sometimes amusing stories. How you react to this book and how much you may benefit from reading it will depend on your personal relationship with food.
If you are on what Dr. Bratman considers an extreme diet but feel that it has improved your health while allowing you to enjoy a balanced life of good food and good friends, you will think that the author is out of touch. You may also feel, as I did, that Dr. Bratman is perhaps more influenced by his own inability to avoid food obsession.
As a nutritionist, the book gave me a window into extreme food obsession. If this is a topic that affects you or your loved ones, it's worth reading but do so with a grain of Celtic sea salt.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Make Healthy, Dairy Free Ice Cream In Less Than 30 Minutes - Vegan Mango Peach And Strawberry Ice Cream Recipes

Vegan strawberry ice cream

Cuisinart ice cream maker

The ice cream is sweetened by a few dates soaked in milk.

The ice cream maker is filled with the mango-peach mixture.

Vegan mango peach ice cream

Delicious Dairy Free Ice Cream
I just bought a Cuisinart ICE-30BC 2 quart ice cream maker. I can't eat dairy so I thought I'd buy some equipment to help me make some healthful, dairy free ice cream. Well, it turned out to be the best $68 I ever spent! When I looked at the recipes that came with the machine I started to wonder if it was possible to make a tasty frozen dessert without the cream and the sugar but after experimenting a bit and trying some tricks passed on to me from my friend Bernadette, I quickly came up with a few delicious recipes.

Healthful Ice Cream
Most ice cream is loaded with cream, sugar, corn syrup, egg yolks and some even have artificial coloring.
Along with that come calories, saturated fat, cholesterol and tons of carbs. I won't try to convince you that Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry's taste bad. We all know how easy that finely tuned combination of fat and sugar goes down. But wouldn't you rather be able to eat something that delicious without the guilt? OK, maybe you don't have any guilt. Let me phrase it another way. Wouldn't you feel good about serving a delicious ice cream to your family knowing that it's as healthful as a bowl of fruit and a glass of dairy free milk? And if you are vegan or lactose intolerant, wouldn't it be nice to be able to enjoy ice cream again?

Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw Vegan Options for Making Healthful Ice Cream
These two recipes use unsweetened soy milk as a base. But you have many options. Just experiment using healthful ingredients that you enjoy the most. For example:
* For other vegan options, try almond, rice, coconut or hemp milk instead of soy milk.
* For a raw vegan dessert, use a raw nut milk like Raw, Fortified Almond Milk in place of the soy milk. You could also use macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, cashews or other raw nuts.
* If you eat dairy and just want a healthier ice cream, use 2% organic milk or plain yogurt or kefir instead of soy milk.

Strawberry Ice Cream
Ben and Jerry's strawberry ice cream has 230 calories, 13 grams of fat (9 grams of which are saturated), 65 mg of cholesterol, 26 grams of carbohydrates and 25 grams of sugar per serving. This recipe has one third the calories, one tenth the fat (almost none of which is saturated), zero cholesterol and almost half the carbs and sugar. The sugar content comes from fruit, not refined sugar or corn syrup! The creamy texture comes from the added banana. The fresh fruit gives the added benefit of 2.4 grams of fiber per serving.

Mango Ice Cream
Haagen-Dazs mango ice cream has 250 calories, 14 grams of fat (8 of which are saturated), 85 mg of cholesterol (from cream and egg yolks), 28 grams of carbohydrates and 27 grams of sugar (from refined sugar and corn syrup). This recipe is less than one third the calories, only 1.3 grams of fat (only 0.2 grams of which is saturated), zero cholesterol, and less than half the carbs and sugar. The creamy texture in this recipe is from the mango. This recipe also provides two and a half grams of fiber.

Best the Same Day
Because of the low fat content, this ice cream tends to freeze pretty hard so it's best to serve it as soon as you make it. But it's not much of a concern since you probably won't have much left over. If you do have left over ice cream, put it in the freezer. Check out my technique of freezing left over ice cream in my Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream post.

Add a Shot of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
If you are trying to get more omega 3 fatty acids in your diet, add 2 tablespoons of flax oil to the mixture at the same time you add the fruit to the blender. It doesn't affect the taste at all and you get a whopping 1.8 grams of ALA Omega 3 fatty acid to each serving! Can this delicious dessert get much healthier??


Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream
[makes 8 servings]
3 pitted Medjool dates (soaked in soy milk below)
2 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk, or other milk
2 cups strawberries, cleaned and cut in half
1 medium banana, peeled and cut into 4 pieces (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

An hour or more before making the ice cream, soak the pitted dates in the soy milk. Keep refrigerated.
In a high speed blender, blend the dates and the soy milk until smooth. Add the strawberries, banana and vanilla extract. Blend until smooth. Add to the ice cream maker and process until frozen. Serve immediately. This takes around 25 minutes. To cut down the time you can freeze the fruit before blending.

Per serving: 73 calories, 1.3 g fat, 0.2 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 2.6 g protein, 14.6 g carbohydrates and 2.5 g of fiber.


Vegan Mango Peach Ice Cream
[makes 8 servings]
3 pitted Medjool dates (soaked in soy milk below)
2 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk, or other milk
2 peaches, peeled and sliced (about 2 cups)
1 large mango, peeled and sliced

An hour or more before making the ice cream, soak the pitted dates in the soy milk. Keep refrigerated.
In a high speed blender, blend the dates and the soy milk until smooth. Add the peaches and mango. Blend until smooth. Add to the ice cream maker and process until frozen. Serve immediately. This takes around 25 minutes. To cut down the time you can freeze the fruit before blending.

Per serving: 78.5 calories, 1.4 g fat, 0.2 g saturated fat, 0 g cholesterol, 2.6 g protein, 16.1 g carbohydrates and 2.4 g of fiber.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dr. Michael Klaper Tells Raw Food Vegans What They Need To Know About Vitamin B12 At Raw Health Expo

This vegan lemon basil pesto contains B12-rich nutritional yeast

The Truth Is Refreshing at Sebastopol Raw Food Expo
On July 31st and August 1st I attended the Sonoma County Raw Health Expo in Sebastopol, California. I haven't been to a raw food expo in a while. What I noticed this time was that the speakers were more realistic and forthright in their opinions about the few nutritional risks of a 100% raw food diet. In the past, many of the speakers would insist that everything that anyone could possibly need can be obtained from raw, live plants. I spent years studying this question. In fact my PhD dissertation topic was, "The Nutritional Adequacy of a Raw Food Vegan Diet". In this I concluded that you could not get adequate amounts of vitamins D and B12 from raw plants alone. For these you must supplement or eat foods that contain them. I also concluded that careful meal planning was required to ensure the adequate consumption of vitamins E and B2, calcium, iodine, iron, zinc and the amino acid, methionine. Since that study, I would add today that although the omega 3 fatty acid ALA is easily obtained in the raw food diet, the more important DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids are not. Although these are said to be manufactured by the body from ALA, it is now known that in most people this process is very inefficient and some people cannot make this conversion at all. A person who is on a 100% raw food diet for an extended period of time should have their blood tested for all essential vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, especially if they are pregnant or breast feeding.

Dr. Michael Klaper, a specialist in vegan nutrition, gave an excellent talk on vitamin B12. He clearly stated that you cannot get vitamin B12 from plants, period. There are several myths held by some of the early raw food pioneers that Dr. Klaper dispelled.
Myth Number One: You could get sufficient amounts of this nutrient from the B12 produced in your intestines by friendly bacteria.
Truth: Although it is true that bacteria in your intestines produce vitamin B12, it is produced well beyond the point where it would be absorbed.
Myth Number Two: B12 can be found on vegetables that are not washed because the bacteria-enriched dirt would supply adequate amounts of this critical nutrient.
Truth: This may be true in developing countries where unwashed vegetables are fertilized by human manure but it is not true in industrialized countries.
Myth Number Three: Raw food vegans who haven't supplemented in years but show no deficiencies are OK.
Truth: Vitamin B12 is stored in the body and only a small amount of it is lost each day. It could take years for a person to develop a severe deficiency. Unfortunately, when it does, it could be irreversible.
Here are more highlights from Dr. Klaper's talk:

Why We Need Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is required for:
* Production of red blood cells. Deficiency leads to anemia.
* Healthy nerves and spinal cord. Deficiency could lead to irreversible spinal cord damage.
* Healthy brain function. Deficiency leads to dementia.
* Detoxification of homocysteine. Deficiency leads to elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine which can damage arteries and lead to cardiovascular disease.

Are There Vegan B12 Sources?
The only real natural source of vitamin B12 are from microorganisms and the animals that consume them. There are no reliably good "natural vegan sources". It was once thought that tempeh, tofu, miso, shoya, tamari and umeboshi plums were sources but further analysis found no significant B12. It was also thought that seaweeds, algae, chlorella and spirulina were high in B12 however, it was found that they actually contain B12 "analogues". These analogues are structurally similar to vitamin B12 and can actually block the B12 receptors and increase the risk of deficiency.
Dr. Klaper recommends getting vitamin B12 from multiple sources like Vegetarian Support Formula Red Star Nutritional Yeast and B12 supplements. The most absorbable form of B12 supplements, according to Klaper, is hydroxocobalamin, and he recommends taking 5 micrograms daily or even a monthly injection.

The Most "At Risk" Individuals
Dr. Klaper said that the people most "at risk" for vitamin B12 deficiency are long term vegans and infants of vegans who are breast fed. He very strongly warned, "If a vegan nurses their child without taking vitamin B12 they are putting their child at risk!"

A big thanks to Dr. Klaper for his honesty and for spreading the word on this very important matter. It is easy to get swept away with being raw and wanting to do absolutely everything in a natural way. But vitamin B12 deficiency is very real and very dangerous.

For a raw food recipe that uses vitamin B12-rich nutritional yeast, see my Raw Vegan Lemon Basil Pesto with Raw Zucchini Spaghetti.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Jennifer Cornbleet's Raw Vegan Jumble Berry Upside-Down Cake A Big Hit At Sonoma County Raw Health Expo

Jennifer's latest book on raw desserts.

Jennifer Cornbleet at Sonoma Country's Raw Health Expo
Once again, Jennifer Cornbleet whips up a dish in minutes in front of an adoring crowd at the recent Raw Health Expo in Sebastopol. Jennifer has always been one of my favorite raw chefs and has been the inspiration for many of my healthful raw recipes. What sets her apart is her ability to make delicious dishes in minutes, not hours, and without the use of fancy or expensive equipment.

At this raw food demonstration, she made a beautiful upside-down cake with a mixture of seasonal fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. She did this at the very end of the discussion of her latest book, "Raw For Dessert", in which this recipe can be found. As the time keeper started flashing cards saying, "15 minutes left", then "10 minutes left", I kept wondering when she was going to make this cake? Finally, with only 5 minutes to go she began whipping up the raw crust and scooping berries into a pan. Minutes later, after pressing two layers of berries and 2 layers of crust into a parchment lined cake pan, she quickly ran a knife around the edges, turned the pan upside down and voilà, a beautiful dessert! I will definitely be serving this at my next dinner party!

But How Healthful is this Cake?
Although raw desserts tend to be high in fat and calories, the ingredients of dates, nuts and coconut are natural, unprocessed and free of cholesterol. Jennifer points out that in raw recipes these ingredients take the place of processed sugar, high cholesterol butter and white flour found in traditional cake recipes. I did an analysis of the nutritional content of her recipe and found the recipe to be under 250 calories per slice (pretty good for a rich cake). Though high in fat (16.2 g of fat, 6.9 g of which is saturated), the fats come from omega 3 rich walnuts and tropical oils. In fact each slice has a whopping 1.3 grams of omega 3 essential fatty acid. In addition, each slice provides over 5 grams of fiber, far greater than what you would find in a traditionally made cake. I wouldn't call this cake a "health food" that you should consume everyday, but for a special dessert, this fresh and delicious dessert is a keeper.

With Jennifer's permission, I will share this wonderful recipe with you. Here it is!


Jennifer Cornbleet's Jumble Berry Upside-Down Cake
From her book, "Raw For Dessert"
[One 6 inch cake makes 8 servings]
The Berries
1 cup fresh blueberries
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon light agave syrup (optional)
The Shortbread Crust
1 cup unsweetened shredded dry coconut
1 cup raw English walnuts (unsoaked)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 pitted Medjool dates

Place the berries and agave syrup in a mixing bowl, toss to combine and let sit for 5 minutes. She left out the agave syrup during the demonstration and I don't think it's necessary either. But the agave will make it sweeter and juicier.
To make the shortbread crust, place the coconut, walnuts and salt in a food processor fitted with the S blade. Process until finely ground. Add the dates and process until the mixture begins to stick together. Don't over-process. Set crust aside.
Line a 6 inch cake pan with parchment paper. Place half of the berries on the paper and top with half of the crust, distributing it evenly. Press down with your hand to compact. Repeat with the remaining berries, and then cover with the remaining crust. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours before serving.
To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a serving plate upside down on the cake pan. Invert, then lift the pan off. Remove the parchment.
Covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator, Jumble Berry Upside-Down Cake will keep for 2 days.

Per serving (with agave syrup): 247.4 calories, 16.2 g fat, 6.9 g saturated fat from tropical oils, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.2 g protein, 25.4 g carbohydrates and 5.4 g of fiber.

Per serving (without agave syrup): Reduced to 239.9 calories, 23.4 g carbohydrates and the rest of the nutrient values are the same as above.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

An Update On Breast Cancer And The Consumption Of Soy Foods

The Confusion Regarding Soy Products and Breast Cancer
I've been asked my opinion about this topic many times. And because I have several dear friends who are breast cancer survivors, I am intensely interested in any new information that might shed light on the consumption of soy foods and the risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Depending on who you talk to, you may hear that soy products are beneficial in reducing the risk of breast cancer or you may hear that soy products can have the opposite effect. I've always thought that soy should be beneficial. After all, according to the World Health Organization, in the U.S., where soy consumption is relatively low, 21.2 women per 100,000 have breast cancer. But in Japan, where the consumption of soy is much higher, the incidence is only 8.6 per 100,000 females.
Concern about eating soy foods comes from the fact that they are high in phytoestrogens which are chemically similar to the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is associated with breast cancer development so by connecting the dots one would easily come to the conclusion that soy might also increase the risk of this disease.

Results From a Recent Study
More than 5,000 women in China diagnosed with breast cancer participated in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study. It was found that women who ate in excess of 15 grams of soy protein a day had about a 30% lower risk of recurrence that those women who ate less than 5 grams per day. The most significant result of the study is that the benefits of soy foods were evident in both women with estrogen receptor positive and negative breast cancer. Most doctors presently tell women who have have estrogen receptor positive breast cancer to avoid soy products completely. This study may change that directive. The benefits of soy in reducing recurrence and death were also found in both women who used tamoxifen and those who did not.

Other Things to Note
Women in Asia generally consume soy in a very lightly processed form such as miso, soy beans, tofu and soy milk. They do not generally take soy supplements or eat highly processed soy found in fake meat products. They also consume soy foods throughout their life.

How Much Soy Protein is in Food
To find out how much soy protein is in food, check the label. If the food has an FDA-approved health claim on the label, it must contain a minimum of 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving. The FDA has approved the health claim that "25 grams of soy protein may help reduce the risk of heart disease".
For information on soybean nutrition, check out the National Soybean Research Laboratory. According to NSRL, the amounts of soy protein in commonly available foods are as follows:

* 1/2 cup (86 g) of cooked, mature (yellow) soybeans provides 14.3 grams of soy protein
* 1/2 cup (90 g) of edamame (green soybeans) provides 11.1 grams
* 1/2 cup (83 g) tempeh provides 15.8 grams
* 1/4 cup (43 g) soynuts provides 17.0 grams
* 1/2 cup (126 g) firm tofu provides 19.9 grams
* 1/4 cup (25 g) defatted soy flour provides 11.8 grams
* 1 cup (245 g) soymilk provides 7.0 grams
* 2 tablespoons (34.5 g) miso provides 4.1 grams

Talk to your Doctor
Although this study indicates that traditional soy foods may be both safe and protective against breast cancer reoccurrence, you should talk to your doctor about adding these products to your diet. To reference this study, See JAMA 2009 Dec 9;302(22);2437-43. Shu XO, Aheng Y, Cai H, et al. Soy food intake and breast cancer survival.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Rachel's Powerballs - A Healthful Raw Food Vegan Dessert Or Lunchbox Snack

Use large, unsweetened coconut ribbons or flakes, not shredded

Process dates, cashews and coconut until mixture sticks together

Rachel's company Jonny Sport makes high-quality vegan bags

About This Recipe
While dinning at a Portland restaurant, (See my Review of Portland's Blossoming Lotus), I met a very lovely woman named Rachel Elizabeth who was sitting at the next table. Since I wanted to take as many pictures of their dishes as possible without ordering everything on the menu, I asked Rachel if I could photograph her food also. We ended up having a very nice visit during our lunch. We shared raw food and other vegan recipes and talked about my blog and her company. She runs a local business in Portland that makes very high quality vegan bags. The name of her company is Jonny Sport and everything they make is manufactured in Portland. It is refreshing to see someone creating local jobs while providing an alternative high end bag for people who avoid using any animal products.
Long story short, this is one of the recipes that Rachel shared with me. It's a little dessert ball made from raw cashews, Medjool dates and dried flakes of coconut. What gives them a burst of flavor is a sprinkling of course salt on top of each ball. Rachel calls them "Powerballs". They make a great dessert or mid-day snack for the whole family. They are delicious and so easy to make.
Thank you Rachel for this wonderful recipe!


Raw Vegan Powerballs
[makes 2 dozen]
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and quartered (about 15)
1 cup raw cashew nuts
1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut ribbons or flakes
1/2 teaspoon brown rice syrup or agave nectar
Some course salt for topping

Place dates in a food processor with an S blade. Process dates briefly until they are chopped. Add cashews, coconut flakes and brown rice syrup or agave nectar. Process until the mixture sticks together. Roll the mixture into 24 balls. Put some course salt in a bowl and push the top of each ball into the salt until a little sticks on top (you don't need much). The salt really brings out the flavor so don't omit it. Refrigerate the balls for several hours before serving.

Per serving: 84.2 calories, 3.7 g fat, 1.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 13.5 g carbohydrates and 1.8 g of fiber.