Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Keeping Balanced in Changing Times

As I write this, it's still unknown whether the current federal budget crisis will reach resolution in Washington. All sorts of dire predictions have been offered as to what we might expect should the government default on its debts next week.

No one knows for sure what it might mean, and Americans are nervous. At a time when many people are out of work with little prospect of finding a job, on top of that, we'll all likely face higher interest rates on home mortgages and credit cards.

In a few weeks, we may not be comfortably settled in to a past routine of paying bills and going shopping. As fragile as our economy is, it wouldn't take much of a shift to change the way we all operate.

Not much we can do about that ~ but we can control what we eat.

Our priorities may become immediately clearer ~ and those would be to take care of our health and choose good food to eat. All the stuff we surround ourselves with will be quickly devalued if we don't have our health or good food.

Fortunately, it's more affordable to eat well than it is to eat junk. The reason for that is good food satisfies hunger, but junk leaves us craving more. That's probably why it's easy to consume a lot of processed food and sugary drinks during the course of a day.

The unknown is always scary ~ but if we can keep body and soul together, we'll get through it. Keeping ourselves well nourished is an important part of that.

Pay attention to what you eat. It just might be money in the bank!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another Frugal Meal

Few things are as emotionally sustaining to me as good food.

And that's generally all it takes to boost my mood and remind me how blessed I truly am.

At times when I'm tempted to measure happiness by my financial security, or lack thereof, I'm reminded that much of the world lives hand-to-mouth every day. And then I focus on preparing a meal that truly nurtures me, and I realize I really do have all that I need.

Like this morning when I looked into the vegetable bin of my refrigerator and pulled out a couple of carrots, some celery, part of an onion, some asparagus, and some cabbage. I diced the vegetables and scooped them into my crock pot, along with some vegetable broth, a couple cups of water, some basil and Italian seasoning, some frozen corn and a few black beans, and some salt and pepper. A few hours later it was ready to eat for lunch.

My husband then chopped the remaining asparagus, cabbage, and celery, and added a couple cans of beans, some chopped cilantro and red peppers, and mixed it with some barley he had cooked earlier. It was a raw salad that only need a sprinkle of vinegar and some lemon or lime juice for flavor. That was dinner, along with a small filet of tuna, seered on either side for a minute or two and sliced into thin strips.

All those vegetables left me feeling full and satisfied ~ and they were just sliced and "put together" ~ without using a recipe.

 It's a reminder that eating well is really eating simply.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts Over Supper

As I watched the commentators lay out their dismal projections should Congress not act in time to avert a major economic crisis come August 2nd, I thought about what adjustments we might all have to make if things took a turn for the worse.

I'm sure we can't imagine the ramifications.

All of a sudden, things on our wish list to buy evaporate in light of what we need to survive.

That's simple. We need shelter and we need food.

I thought about that as I ate a dish of sauteed Swiss chard and onions flavored with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, and tossed with some linguini, with a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese on top. It cost pennies to prepare, and I have to say it was delicious.

Chard ranks higher than most vegetables in nutritional content. It's also easy to grow, and if it's protected and covered, it can survive well into the winter. Good to know.

As I savored that simple, very satisfying dinner with a glass of red wine, I realized we really don't need all that much. As long as you have olive oil and pasta in your pantry, you can easily prepare a combination of a variety of sauteed vegetables to mix with it ~ pretty much whatever you have available.

We need to be mindful of those things ~ how little we really need, and what's really important ~ our health.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

People Need Absolution ~ Not Reprimand!

So this proclivity to eat more bad stuff than good stuff is something we've come by honestly.

Does it feel like your brain is on autopilot as you repeatedly dip into that dwindling pile of salty, greasy potato chips? Researchers in California and Italy report that when rats were treated to fatty food, chemicals in their gut were released that made them feel "high". The conclusion is that certain foods set off strong chemical reactions in the body and the brain.

Don'tcha think?

Advertisers appear to have been onto that for awhile. Americans are addicted to that stuff, so they overeat.

Dr. David Kessler presents a lengthy argument to that effect in his book, "The End of Overeating." He lays out our path to addiction via a food industry built on sugar, fat and salt, that later expanded its financial horizons with the ability to chemically engineer just about any taste. Thus, because those chemicals accumulate as toxins in the body, we became chemically addicted. 

So what role does good 'ol will power play in all of this? Probably in the decision whether or not to buy, but not when it's already sitting in a bowl in front of you. In that situation, most often you can be well on your way through several helpings before you realize it ~ unless, of course, you've taken time to notice what you're really hungry for.

If we're feeding cravings, we'll still be hungry ~ for whatever it is we're hungry for ~ nutrition, conversation, love, job satisfaction, less stress  ~ any of those, and more.

We seek to be nurtured, physically and emotionally. But the fatty food choices aren't going to satisfy that. That's not reason for guilt.  The key is to notice and be aware.

Once that awareness is there ~ the choices are much easier.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's a Gut Issue

What  does your gut tell you?

Turns out, much much more than you think.

Studies strongly suggest that obesity may be strongly linked with what type of microbial activity is going on in our intestines. The theory now is that disease begins and finds resolution in the gut, because that's where our nutrients get absorbed and put to work ~ that is, if there's enough healthy bacteria there to do the job.

The interest in raw foods comes into play because raw foods in their purest state promote those healthy colonies of microbes that are ultimately essential to good nutrition. Toxins from processed foods and poor cooking create a sludge that interfers with the proliferation of that necessary bacterial activity, and it upsets the body's metabolic balance.

All those fiberous fruits and vegetables help sweep that sludge away to promote a climate where those probiotic microbes they deliver can survive and thrive.

They in turn provide a set point for optimum health.

Hippocrates must have intuited as much when he said: "Let food be they medicine and medicine by thy food."