Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Benifuki Green Tea - A Natural Way To Control Allergy Symptoms

Benefuki Green Tea contains Methylated Catechins.

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Developing Holistic Solutions
In the U.S., disease is addressed, for the most part, by pharmaceutical companies hoping to profit on the sale of drugs. Controlling allergy symptoms is a big business. Antihistamines, nasal sprays, eye drops, oral and nasal corticosteroids are just some of the medications sold to the 50+ million people who have some sort of allergy.  

I find it incredibly interesting and heart warming that in Japan they complement their pharmaceutical industry with government sponsored holistic research. They have an organization called the National Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science (NIVTS). This organization was given the task to determine if tea could help alleviate allergy symptoms. After conducting research from 1996 to 2000, they found something that worked!

The NIVTS invented a species of tea called Benifuki. Although it was originally created as a black tea, they discovered that if Benifuki was processed into a green tea, it developed compounds called "methylated catechins" that suppressed histamines. Histamines, as you know, are what causes allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes, sneezing, runny noses, etc. 

You can find Benifuki as a powdered green tea. It comes in individual servings and can be stirred into a cup of hot or cold water. 

These individual packets are convenient to take with you anywhere

They Really Help!
The ultimate test is my husband. He's a wine grape farmer and spends most of his days outside. He then spends the rest of the evening sneezing and blowing his nose as he's got pretty bad allergies. So I was thrilled when he agreed to throw out his zyrtec (which wasn't working anymore) and try Benifuki. Since he drinks about 8 cups of green tea a day anyway, substituting a few cups of Benifuki was a no brainer. 
After taking just 3 cups of Benifuki a day, his allergies symptoms improved. He was so pleased, he just ordered a bunch more! 

Update on Recommended Amount
We wrote to Den Shirakata, of Den's tea, to ask for the optimal amount of benifuki to control histamines. He claims that it takes 40 mg of methyl catechin to effectively suppress histamine. This would require 5 individual packets per day.

Where to Buy
My favorite on-line store for all my green tea is Den's Tea. You can buy their Powdered Benifuki  for $9.50 per 20 individually wrapped 0.4 gram servings.

How to Use
They recommend stirring one packet into 5 ounces of hot or cold water. I throw mine into my smoothie or just make a cup of hot tea with it. It has a lovely, mild flavor. If you suffer from allergies and love green tea, you should give it a try!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why Hemp Should Be Part Of Your Diet! Hemp Seeds, Hemp Oil, Hemp Milk And Hemp Ice Cream - It's Heathy, Vegan And Gluten Free!

There are many delicious ways to consume hemp!

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A Food For Long Life
Hemp is one of the best sources of nutrition on the planet. It is definitely on my list of "Foods For Long Life". Unfortunately many people are not familiar with it as a food. In fact, many people get it confused with marijuana and think that it can get you high! 

Because hemp is in the same species as marijuana, Cannabis sativa, it has been caught up in the war on drugs and is no longer grown in the U.S. Before 1950, it was grown here commercially and used for such things as textiles, paper and food. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp! Banning hemp today because it has a minuscule amount of THC is like requiring someone be 21 to buy vanilla extract because it contains alcohol! Over 30 industrialized nations, such as Canada, distinguish hemp from marijuana and freely cultivate it.  Hopefully someday our farmers will be encouraged and not prohibited to grow healthy crops like hemp instead of millions of acres of King Corn. But even though our farmers cannot grow this wonderful plant, we can thankfully buy food products made from imported hemp.

Great Source of Protein
Everyone knows that eggs are a great source of protein. But did you know that 3 tablespoons of delicious, nutty hemp seeds have the same amount of protein as 2 hard boiled eggs? And, without the cholesterol!
And hemp seeds contain all the essential amino acids making it a "complete" protein. In fact, I think hemp seeds are one of the best sources of vegetarian protein there is.

3 tablespoons of raw, shelled hemp seeds provide:
174 calories
11 grams of protein
Zero cholesterol

Source of ALA Omega-3 Fatty Acid 
There has been a great deal written about how the Standard American Diet is devoid of beneficial omega-3 fatty acid and abundant in omega-6. Many experts associate this imbalance with the increase in illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. A healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 4:1 or less. The American diet is more like 20:1. 

Many seeds have an unfavorable balance of omega-6 to omega-3, except for our other wonderful power seeds, flax and chia that actually have more omega-3 than omega-6! Unfortunately many seeds and seed oils have a much higher amount of omega-6 than omega-3. For example:
* Sunflower seeds have over 300 times the amount of omega-6 than omega-3.
* Pumpkin seeds have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 114:1.
* Sesame seeds have a ratio of 57:1.

Although there are many other reasons to continue eating these healthy seeds, you should be careful not to consume their oils and not to eat too many seeds without balancing them out with foods high in omega-3. Hemp oil and seeds, on the other hand, have an optimal ratio of about 3:1!

Unlike chia and flax seeds which require soaking or grinding to make them edible and to get their benefits, hemp can be eaten "as is". Sprinkle over salads and desserts or eat them right out of the bag!

Hemp Oil
This lovely oil is delicious in salad dressings. Because omega-3 fatty acids are destroyed by high heat, never use hemp oil (or flax seed oil) for cooking. Substitute canola or olive oil with cold-pressed hemp oil in any salad dressing recipe.

Hemp oil has a beautiful dark green color.
It's lovely nutty flavor is great in salad dressings.
Each tablespoon provides 2.5 g ALA omega-3.

Hemp Milk
Being lactose intolerant, I'm always looking for a good non-dairy milk. Hemp milk, whether you buy it or make it, is a good candidate. Living Harvest, Tempt is my favorite commercial hemp milk. But you can also make your own if you have a good blender and a nut bag (or cheese cloth).

Tempt is my favorite commercial hemp milk.
It  provides over 1 gram of ALA omega-3 per cup.
It comes in several flavors.

To make your own hemp milk, just blend:

1/2 cup of raw hemp seeds
4 cups of filtered water
4 to 8 drops of stevia 
Pinch of salt, if desired

Blend until smooth in a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix or a Blendtec. Filter through a nylon nut bag or strain through a double layer of cheese cloth.

Blend hemp seeds with water, stevia and salt
Pour into a nut bag
Strain and squeeze out milk
Pour and enjoy!
It settles in the refrigerator so stir before pouring.

Hemp Ice Cream
Living Harvest also makes a delicious non-dairy ice cream. Although it is certainly not considered a "health food", it is a great substitute for a dairy-based ice cream. Unfortunately this product doesn't contain significant amounts of omega-3. 

To make a healthy ice cream with omega-3, just use Tempt Original or Vanilla Hemp milk, or home-made hemp milk, as the base for any ice cream recipe. Last night we made strawberry ice cream by blending:

2 cups of fresh sliced strawberries 
4 dates soaked in 2 cups of hemp milk
2 tablespoons of cold-pressed hemp oil

After blending, we placed the mixture in a Cuisinart ice cream maker for 30 minutes and voila, incredible healthy strawberry ice cream!

Home-made strawberry hemp ice cream

Lots of Choices
Whether you sprinkle hemp seeds on a bowl of fruit, blend hemp milk into your smoothies, make a balsamic vinaigrette using hemp oil or just drink a tall glass of cold hemp milk, it would truly do good things for your body to add this healthful food to your diet. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fruit Salad With Avocado, Hemp Seeds And English Walnuts - A Healthy Breakfast Or A Food Combining Faux Pas?

Must I always eat fruit alone?

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Food Combining
Back in the mid-80's I read the book, "Fit for Life" by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond. This was my first introduction to what is known as "food combining". I am mentioning this not because I'm endorsing or denying the benefits of carefully combining certain foods, but only because this recipe would be frowned upon by those who follow the strict guidelines of food combining.

For example, the number one rule of food combining is to eat fruits alone. Since fruit takes little effort to digest, they say that they should not be combined with more concentrated foods which stay in your stomach longer. There is a lengthy list of other rules on the order in which you should eat or combine foods. To follow these guidelines, one would have to quit their jobs and focus all their attention on how to properly plan their meals.

Here's my bottom line on this. If you are fairly healthy and eat a plant-centric diet of easily digestible foods, I don't think you have to pay that much attention to this. Eating shouldn't be this difficult. Of course if you are ill and your body has little energy to properly digest foods, then one should do everything possible to facilitate digestion. But when health conscious individuals ask me if they should food combine or eat according to their blood type or follow some other complicated food plan, I usually tell them not to stress out about it. Eat sensibly, listen to your body and adjust accordingly.

Back to the Fruit Salad
Now the number one problem with eating fruit by itself is that within a very short amount of time you'll be hungry again. You might even get a bit shaky from all the sugar in the fruit. Adding some healthy fat and protein to the salad will make you feel satisfied longer, even if it flies in the face of proper food combining. 

One delicious way to add good fat to a fruit salad is to add an avocado. Another way of adding good fat to the fruit salad, in addition to protein, is to add raw hemp seeds and English walnuts. Hemp seeds are one of the best sources of vegetarian protein with 5 teaspoons of hemp seeds providing as much protein as a hard boiled egg! And, of course, hemp seeds and English walnuts are excellent sources of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Put them all together and you have a satisfying fruit salad that delivers 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 1.7 grams of omega-3 fatty acid. And you won't be hungry in 30 minutes!

Here's an example of a fruit salad with avocado, nuts and seeds but feel free to substitute apples with pears, mango with peaches or papaya and grapes with a banana or strawberries.

Mixed Fruit Salad with Avocado, nuts and seeds
Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
Makes 4 servings

1 cup diced mango
1 apple, cored and diced with skin
1 cup seedless red grapes
1 California avocado, peeled, pit removed and diced
1/4 cup raw hemp seeds
1/4 cup English walnut pieces

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl and toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 232.8 calories, 14.6 grams fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 1.7 g ALA omega-3 and 6.0 g omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 6.1 g protein, 22.7 g carbohydrates and 4.8 mg sodium. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract - It's Easy And It Makes A Great Gift!

Make your own vanilla extract with a pod and some vodka!

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Vanilla Beans
If you're like me, you probably go out and buy vanilla extract. I never even thought about making it myself. I must admit, I've always been a little intimidated by vanilla beans because I had no idea what to do with them. Then one day I read a column by Martha Stewart talking about how easy it was to make your own vanilla extract. Just split a bean, soak it in vodka, and voilà - vanilla extract. I thought, I can do that! 

Where to Buy?
I was so excited about doing this, I ran out and picked up the first vanilla bean I could find. It was a single bean wrapped in plastic and stuffed into this tiny spice box. I don't remember what it cost, but I do remember being a bit surprised at how expensive it was. 
The second time I made it, I was determined to find nicer beans. I found OlilveNation, an on-line website that sold vanilla beans in bulk. I bought 16 beans for $14.95, less than $1 per bean. It was a great deal except I don't know what I'm going to do with all of them. Spoiler alert: guess what everyone's getting for Christmas! By the way, OliveNation also sells 7 beans for $9.99.

Most of the world's vanilla is the variety "V. planifolia".
It's commonly known as Bourbon or Madagascar vanilla.

How to Make Vanilla Extract
You'll need a small glass vessel with a tight-fitting lid and 1 vanilla bean per 1/2 cup of vodka.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp paring knife.
Loosen the seeds with the tip of the knife.
Measure out 1/2 cup of vodka. No need to break out the good stuff. Save the Kettle One for your martinis and cosmos.
Place bean and vodka in a small jar with a lid.
Soak for 1 to 2 months.
This picture was taken after 3 days.
Swirl gently once and awhile.
After 6 to 8 weeks, the vanilla is ready to use.
Remove the vanilla bean and refrigerate.
It's good for a year!

What a Great Gift Idea!
You can either make up a big batch of vanilla extract and put it in a cute jar for a gift. Or give someone a cute jar with the vodka and vanilla beans already starting to soak, with some instructions (when to remove the pod, etc.) and let them watch it diffuse into vanilla extract. I think that might be more fun. 

Give a beautiful glass container with beans, vodka and some instructions.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Raw Vegan Cilantro And Pepitas (Pumpkin Seed) Pesto On Gluten-Free Pasta - Perfect For Cinco De Mayo!

Raw Cilantro and Pepitas Pesto on Gluten-Free Pasta!

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A Great Dish for Cinco de Mayo!
Whip up this delicious raw pesto in minutes and either serve it as a dip or stir it into a half pound of hot pasta for a delicious entree. This pesto brings together cilantro, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and lime, all commonly used in Mexican cuisine. 

Why it's Healthy
There are a few things I did to this recipe to make it healthier than most pesto recipes.
* The pesto is raw and stirred into hot pasta - not cooked.
* I use cilantro which has been found to remove heavy metals like mercury, lead and aluminum, from the body.
* For the nuts, I use raw pepitas (sunflower seeds) that are packed with vitamin E.
* Raw hemp oil is used to add omega-3 fatty acids to balance the high omega-6 content of the pepitas.
* Instead of parmesan cheese, I use vegetarian formula nutritional yeast, packed with critical vitamins.
* I use my very favorite gluten-free pasta made from quinoa.

Cilantro and Pepitas Pesto on Gluten Free Pasta
Pesto: Raw Vegan, Gluten Free
Pasta: Vegan, Gluten Free
Requires a Food Processor with an S blade

1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons raw pepitas (dried pumpkin seeds) plus a few for garnish
1 (4 oz) bunch cilantro, cleaned with stems trimmed
4 teaspoons vegetarian formula nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons cold-pressed hemp oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces gluten-free pasta (such as Ancient Harvest Quinoa Garden Pagodas)

To make the pesto: With the food processor running, put the clove of garlic through the shoot and process until it is chopped.

Add the pepitas and process until the are coarsely ground.

Coarsely ground pepitas (sunflower seeds)

Place the cilantro on top of the pepitas (save a little for garnish) and then add  the nutritional yeast, hemp oil, lime juice and salt and process until somewhat smooth, scraping down the sides when necessary.

Put the cilantro in first so the other ingredients don't fall directly to the bottom.

Remove the pesto and place it in a small cup or bowl and set aside.

Set aside the pesto and cook the pasta.
Or, serve it as a dip.

Cook the pasta according to directions. 

This GF pasta maintains its texture when cooked "al dente".

Drain the pasta and put it back into the pot while it is still steaming. Spoon on the pesto and stir until the pasta is well coated. 

Spoon cilantro pesto onto the steaming hot pasta.
Stir until well coated.

Serve in 4 bowls and garnish with a few pepitas and chopped cilantro.

Serve with a cold Dos Equis beer and have a Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

Per serving: 315 calories, 11.8 g fat, 1.3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 136 mg omega-3 and 1512 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 8.1 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber and 309 mg sodium.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Great News! Now You Can Get Vitamin D From A Delicious Plant Source! Vegan Mushroom Gravy Recipe Using Dole's New Portobello Mushroom Powder Packed With Vitamin D2!

Get 600 IU plant-based vitamin D from each serving!

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I've Been Waiting For This!
This is perhaps one of the most exciting foods/products I've come across in years. It ranks right up there with chia seeds and hemp oil. 

One subject I write about frequently is how critical vitamin D is to our health. Besides being required for bone health, deficiency of this important vitamin is linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, arthritis, cognitive impairment, depressed immunity and more. Even though the body can make vitamin D through exposure to the sun, it often isn't sufficient and most people in the world are, in fact, woefully deficient. I often say that one of the cheapest ways to improve world health is to hand out vitamin D supplements. But many of my readers dislike taking supplements and would rather get their vitamins through food. Unfortunately there are few food sources of this vitamin other than certain fish and fortified milk.

In November of 2010, I blogged about research where they discovered that mushrooms, much like our skin, can create vitamin D when exposed to UV light. In fact, Monterey Mushroom company started selling high vitamin D mushrooms shortly after that. You can read the entire post, "Vitamin D - Do the New Recommendations Fall Short? What Vegans Need to Know about Vitamin D".

Well the mushrooms were a good idea but not very convenient and probably not easy to find. But recently I came across an amazing new product from Dole - Portobello Mushroom Powder. Using Portobello mushrooms that were exposed to UV and subsequently ground, they created a convenient powder that blends easily into soups, gravies, sauces, stews, stuffing, pasta and rice dishes and more. Each teaspoon delivers 600 IU of vitamin D (the current RDA)!

Dole's Portobello Mushroom Powder
available for purchase on their website.

How Its Cost Compares to Other Food Sources
A 3.25 ounce jar of Portobello mushroom powder costs $8.37 from their website (shipping was free). There are about 56 servings per jar so to get 600 IU, the current RDA, of vitamin D2 is 15 cents. Not bad!
* To get a similar amount of vitamin D from canned sockeye salmon, you'd have to pay around $4.00.
* You'd have to drink about 5 cups of fortified soy milk to get this amount which costs about $1.25.

How it Compares to Supplements
Vitamin D supplements are fairly inexpensive. 
* Deva (vegan) 800 IU tablets are 6 cents apiece.
* Natures Life (vegan) 2,000 IU tablets are also 6 cents apiece.
* Carlson 4,000 IU D3 (not vegan) drops are also 6 cents apiece.

As a food source, this mushroom powder is the cheapest way to get your vitamin D. Supplements are less expensive, especially when you consider than 600 IU is not the optimal dose, especially for those who are deficient. I personally try to take 4,000 IU per day. But this powder is a GREAT way to get more vitamin D into your family's diet. And did I mention - it's DELICIOUS!!!

Is it Raw?
The label states that it is raw. That said, I cannot yet recommend this for raw diets. Portobello (and even white button) mushrooms contain hydrazine's, a potentially carcinogenic substance that is deactivated upon cooking. I don't think eating a few white button mushrooms is all that dangerous but portobello powder is quite concentrated. So, at this time, I recommend this product only in cooked foods. I have written to the Dole institute to get their opinion on this and will report back if and when I get a response.

Here's what I made last night. I boiled and mashed a combination of russet and sweet potatoes and covered them in this yummy gravy.

Pour this healthy gravy on potatoes, vegetables, rice, pasta, quinoa, polenta, tofu and more!

Portobello Mushroom Gravy
Vegan, Gluten Free
[Six (1/3 cup) Servings]
600 IU vitamin D per serving

1 cup unsweetened, unflavored soy milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon Earth Balance buttery spread
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons Dole Portobello Mushroom Powder with vitamin D
1 cup veggie broth *
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste
* If you make broth from a bouillon cube, you may not need additional salt

In a small bowl, stir cornstarch into soy milk until dissolved. Set aside.

Heat Earth Balance in a small saucepan on medium low heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Quickly stir in mushroom powder until onions are coated.

Add broth, garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Bring to a boil.

Stir the cornstarch and milk mixture. Add to the pot and stir well. Lower the heat.

Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened. Serve.

Per serving: 59.5 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.8 g protein, 6.1 g carbohydrates, 0.7 g dietary fiber and 230 g sodium (assuming 1/2 teaspoon salt).