July 26, 2016

Gluten Intolerant? Beware Dandelion Coffee.

coffeeGluten Intolerant? Beware Dandelion Coffee. Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but my dad believed dandelions were an absolute scourge. I grew up bewaring them. Like all kids, I wanted to grab a stem topped with a fluffy seed ball and blow. If I did, I’d better do it in someone else’s lawn or there would be hell to pay.

Dandelion coffee sounds as appealing as those fluffy seed balls. It’s herbal. It has no caffeine. It’s popular where all the cool people live. Some would even say it has liver cleansing properties. Roasted dandelion root tastes a bit like coffee and when brewed with chicory has a pleasant sweetness rather than an acidic or bitter aftertaste. What’s not to like?
ball
Sometimes there’s everything to like, but for those of us with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, sometimes there are just too many goodies included. Dandelion coffee is often brewed with barley and rye in addition to chicory root and sugar beets. If you order a dandelion latte in a restaurant, it’s worth checking the ingredients before beginning to sip. If you buy a packaged blend, be sure to read the label.

If you can’t find the perfect blend, you can make your own dandelion coffee. Dandelion roots are best harvested in late fall, winter, or early spring and will produce a more coffee-like flavor when cleaned, chopped, dried, roasted and ground. If you don’t want to dig your own when you’re maintaining the lawn, you can also order the roots from sites like this: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/dandelion-root-roasted/profile. You can add anything you want to your brew. Some popular ingredients are chicory root, cinnamon sticks, and cacao nibs.

While there’s no caffeine in dandelion coffee, the large dose of vitamin B it provides has been reported to perk you up much like a shot of espresso. While I haven’t experienced this, I once accidentally drank too much passion tea in one day and had to take a 5 hour nap. I wasn’t thinking of it as herbal medicine. I just drank it because it tasted refreshing in the summer served over ice. When I started feeling really tired and grumpy and weird, I discovered passionflower had once been approved as an OTC sedative and sleep aid in the US. Hmmm, who knew?

Anyway, I’m willing to believe that dandelion coffee may perk you up when you least expect it. I know those dandelions. They’re sneaky. One day they look like a pretty yellow flower, the next a dangerous ball of seeds that will ruin your father’s yard.
bloom
Eat the greens, pickle the buds, fry the blooms, make some wine if you dare. Just keep in mind when it comes to the coffee, sometimes it’s best to beware.

https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/herbal-coffee/profile

https://www.eatweeds.co.uk/dandelion-root-coffee-recipe

http://www.almanac.com/content/dandelion-recipes-wonderful-edible-weed

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/dandelion

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-871-passionflower.aspx?activeingredientid=871

July 18, 2016

Dehydration Can Increase Gastrointestinal Symptoms and Joint Pain

treeDehydration can increase gastrointestinal symptoms and joint pain. Today it’s 97º with a heat index of 105º. I’ve been without power for the past 4 days since a tree took down my electric lines in a storm. The air is back on now, but it still feels hot in my house. Even minor activity like wiping out the refrigerator I had emptied early in the outage causes me to break a sweat…inside…in the air conditioning. I keep drinking water, but I feel like I can’t get ahead.

With the constant heat and humidity, it’s a continual battle here to drink enough water in the summer. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to become dehydrated. And for someone like me who has digestive issues, dehydration can make them worse.

One of the early warning signs of dehydration is pain ranging from heartburn to gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). If you have Celiac Disease or are gluten intolerant, this pain can be mistaken for a response to an accidental gluten ingestion.

Another indicator is joint pain. The cartilage in your joints is composed mainly of water and, lacking blood vessels, is dependent on water to deliver the nutrients required for maintenance and repair. Dehydration contributes to abrasive damage that happens when cartilage surfaces glide over each other when you bend your arms or knees. Since the inflammation experienced by those of us who suffer from autoimmune disorders often experience joint pain, this too can be mistaken for a problem other than dehydration.

If you feel extra tired or depressed, it can be a reflection of a lack of sufficient hydration. All I wanted to do this afternoon was sleep. I’m certain this was a result of all the hours I’ve spent in extreme heat the past few days without managing to drink as much water as needed. I have functioned through sheer force of will which is absolutely not the healthiest way to function.

When I get too hot, I don’t notice that I feel hungry or thirsty. Sometimes, I have to stop what I’m doing and eat something salty to trick myself into drinking more water.
water
So, how much water is enough?

Of course there’s no easy answer. It depends on size, weight, environment, and activity level. Some experts recommend between one-half and one ounce of water for each pound you weigh every day. That’s 9.375 eight ounce glasses per day on the low end and 18.75 eight ounce glasses or 2.34 gallons per day on the high end for a 150 lb person. Hardly any of us drink 2.3 gallons of water each day!

If you notice that your urine is dark, you have a headache, you’re overly tired or experience the other symptoms mentioned above, increase your water intake and see if the symptoms improve.

Also keep in mind that many fruits or vegetables contain a significant amount of water and are refreshing when served chilled. Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, raspberries, grapes, cucumbers, zucchini, and spinach are all high in water content. A chilled wedge salad or a cup of gazpacho can fill you up and hydrate you at the same time.

As summer moves toward its peak, we’ll all have plenty of opportunity to be reminded to hydrate. For those of us who struggle with gastrointestinal or joint pain, a little extra water may bring us some unexpected relief.

Bottoms up!

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256

http://nutritioninfo.tripod.com/id19.html

July 12, 2016

What We Eat Reflects Our Priorities

scaleLooking back at the horrific events of the past week reminds me that our actions always reflect our priorities – even what we eat reflects our priorities. No matter what we tell the world, what we do sometimes belies our words. Not only can this sometimes confuse those around us, it can hinder us from reaching our goals. No change can come until we have the courage to stare the facts in the face.

There are millions of choices when it comes to food and health. What works for one person may be detrimental to another. We each have a unique ecosystem within our bodies. The only way to know what works for you is to become aware of your body’s signals and educated about the foods you choose to eat.

Keep a food journal for a month and you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your priorities. Sometimes when we express a priority, what we really mean is we feel we “should” focus on a particular thing because of peer pressure or a doctor’s recommendation. It often turns out to mean much less as far as our everyday behavior. Not only does this make us feel bad, it becomes an impediment to making positive change. For example:

If your stated top priority is to limit the sodium in your diet, but you don’t take the time to read the labels on your salad dressing, sandwich meat, cheese, packaged soup, and whole wheat bread, then you will not be able to achieve your goal because you won’t know whether you’re within your limit.

It could be that limiting sodium is not a top priority, but instead falls below work, screen time, working out, or whatever it is that keeps you too busy to read labels. That’s okay. Once you recognize the facts, you are in a great position to make the best choice for you.

muffinsIf your stated priority is to avoid sugar and you continue to eat bread, breakfast cereal, frozen pizza, muffins, ketchup, barbecue potato chips and Ranch dressing, you are choosing foods that contain sugar. Once you recognize this you can decide to: 1)Eliminate these foods and all others that contain sugar, 2)Limit sugar by not eating dessert or “sweets”, but stop trying to avoid it 3)Eat as much sugar as you want.

Any of these choices is okay. Only you can decide what’s right for you. Once you look at the facts, you’ll be able to see how to achieve your personal goals more easily.

If your stated priority is to avoid processed food, but you eat at fast food or fast casual restaurants every day at lunch, then a revision of your stated priority or a change in venue may be appropriate.

If your stated priority is to avoid carbs, but you eat potato chips, drink beer, consume commercial smoothies, or coffee drinks, eat bagels or yogurt with fruit on the bottom, then it’s time to review your priority. It could be that research must take precedence while you learn more about carbs or it could be that you decide you don’t want to avoid carbs other than those from added sugars.

asparagusIf your stated priority is to feed your children real, unprocessed food, but you grab the Lunchables®, packaged mac & cheese, or fruit roll-ups more often than the broccoli, black beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, squash, green beans, and asparagus then perhaps it’s just a goal and not a priority or maybe you believe education, sports, or dance are more essential building blocks for a good life and have prioritized those over real unprocessed food. If so, that’s okay and only your stated priority needs to change.

This flight of fancy may seem unimportant to you, but choosing and owning our choices is the only real power we have in life. You cannot control other people. You cannot control nature. You cannot control what foods make you feel bad. You cannot control all public policy. You cannot control feelings that come rushing from a subconscious trigger. You can control when and how you act on your feelings and you can seek help if prior trauma leaves you doubting your perceptions.

Ultimately, it is our choices that allow us to create the best possible life we can have no matter what uncontrollable or tragic circumstances we encounter. This is true when it comes to diet and health. It is also true in relationships, finances, on the highway, and in a job situation. Changing our lives for the better is always within our power, but it will not happen until we have the courage to observe the facts and tell ourselves the truth no matter how ugly or difficult that truth is. It is at that point that it becomes possible to give up excuses and blame in order to craft the lives we desire.

When I can embrace and accept the things about me about which I feel the most shame, I begin to treat myself as though I matter, my priorities matter, my health matters, and my heart matters. While I hope that this will be valued by everyone I encounter, I know it will not. When my values run counter to yours, I can make a choice to argue with you, bully you, harm you, dismiss you or hear you, inspire you, and have compassion for you. I will not always make the ideal choice. It is then you can have compassion for me.

I wish us all the courage to become our best selves.

July 5, 2016

Lighten Up A Barbecue With a Green Salad

snappy saladToday’s the perfect day to lighten up a barbecue with a green salad. For 78% of us, the 4th of July includes a barbecue. Along with the burgers, brats, hot dogs, chicken, and ribs you’re sure to find plenty of potato salad, baked beans, and corn-on-the-cob. What’s often missing from the table is something light and green. While salad may not be practical for some environments, it can work well at a back yard barbecue.

On a really hot day, cold crunchy greens aren’t just healthy, they’re refreshing. Keep the salad in the refrigerator until the burgers come off the grill, then bring it out so the chill will hold while it’s served. If the refrigerator isn’t convenient, have an ice chest dedicated to salad. Salad dressing can be stashed on ice along with the sodas or beer.

Sometimes I compose a salad in advance. Other times, I serve all the toppings separately and let the guests build their own. When I compose the salad myself, I use ingredients that don’t easily wilt so that I have a longer window to serve a perky salad outdoors.

Chopped Romaine makes a good base. Carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers, radishes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, radicchio, grape tomatoes, sugar snap peas, corn, black beans, pico de gallo, hard cheeses, boiled eggs and steamed asparagus all hold up well.

I like to top a salad with nuts, sunflower seeds or toasted pumpkin seeds, but I wait until serving time to add these ingredients so they don’t get soggy. Crisp bacon pieces are also a great topping added at the last minute.

arugulaStrawberries, blueberries, or blackberries are delicious additions to a green salad, but I usually reserve those for indoor meals rather than a barbecue. The same with arugula, butter lettuce, and chard. It’s easier to control the quality of delicate ingredients at an indoor party.

MIxing fresh herbs in a salad can brighten and heighten the flavor of the greens. While herbs are delicate, cutting or chopping them into small pieces lessens the possibility of a wilted bite. I use parsley, basil, and mint most often, but dill, chives and cilantro are also great choices.

It always seems special to add a homemade dressing. All you need for a vinaigrette is oil, vinegar, and some herbs and spices, citrus, or other fruit for flavor. Sometimes a drizzle of honey adds the perfect touch of sweetness. I usually add a bit of water as well.

There are flavored vinegars and oils available for extra pizazz, but plain old apple cider vinegar and extra virgin olive oil work just fine. Balsamic vinegar pairs well with cherry or chocolate and provides a deeper more caramel note to your dressing. Mirin is light and can be used in place of other vinegars.

A creamy dressing can be made with yogurt, mayonnaise, sour cream or buttermilk. Many creamy dressings use a combination of some of these ingredients. Here’s a creamy dressing I’ve been enjoying atop my salad this week:

Green Goodness Dressing
4 – 6 Servings

1 tbsp Penzey’s Green Goddess Dressing Base
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup real mayonnaise
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp basil paste
1/8 tsp salt or to taste

In small jar, combine dressing base with water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add vinegar, mayonnaise, yogurt, honey, and basil paste. Sprinkle with salt. Put lid on jar and shake until well mixed. Refrigerate.

When it’s hot and muggy outside, I love a cold salad to lighten up a barbecue or any other meal for that matter. Just talking about it is making me want one so I’ll be off to the kitchen now to chop some greens!