Monday, March 23, 2015

The Never Ending Salad Bowl

I happen to be one of the lucky ones in that my personal and professional goals are in alignment.  One of my goals for myself is the same as my goal for my patients, to promote optimal health through diet and nutrition, exercise and lifestyle, and of course, chiropractic.  Almost everyone who manages to maintain a healthy diet in this hectic, over-processed world has a secret weapon or two.  One of mine is the never ending salad bowl.

Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Eating them in an uncooked state adds the benefit of keeping their naturally occurring enzymes intact as well. Enzymes aid in digestion and a host of other bodily functions, and are destroyed by temperatures above 120 degree Fahrenheit.  As a result, the best nutrition is achieved by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables raw, and one of the best ways to do so is by making salads an integral part of your diet.

You may have heard or read the advice to "eat the rainbow."  They're not talking about Skittles here.  Different vitamins announce their presence in food by their color, so foods that are orange in color tend to be rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, red fruits and vegetables may be good sources of lycopene and so on.  Selecting foods that vary in their natural color adds visual interest to your plate and nutritional diversity to your diet.  The larger the number of different species of fruits and vegetables that you incorporate into your diet, the more likely you are to be getting a full complement of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  If you are not eating at least a dozen varieties each day, you may be missing out.  The never ending salad bowl is a great way to increase the number of fruits and vegetables in your diet, add raw foods, streamline your food preparation and possibly lose weight and improve your health.

You might be thinking that it takes too much time to make a salad every day, or even twice a day, and that's a legitimate concern, but the trick is to be prepared.  Depending upon how much you (and your family) consume and how well your refrigerator keeps produce, you can do most of your prep once or twice a week and have beautiful delicious salads at a moments notice.  Prepare your mixed greens in advance. Avoid iceberg lettuce because it is virtually devoid of any nutritional value.  Make a blend of any or all of the following leafy vegetables: Romaine, Boston lettuce, red or green leaf lettuces like oak-leaf, escarole, frisee, endive, radicchio, arugula, spinach, kale, shredded green or red cabbage.  Use a salad spinner to wash it and spin it as dry as possible.  If you can't spin it dry, it might be better to wash before use, as water clinging to the leaves will speed the lettuce going bad.  If you do nothing else, you will have a blend of several vegetables at your fingertips, going a long way toward meeting your goal of a dozen a day.  If you don't have time for this, use mixed baby greens.

Other vegetables can be chopped in advance and stored in a ready to eat state, or cut as needed.  Avocados, tomatoes and cucumbers are best cut as needed, but carrots, celery, red, white or green onions, bell peppers of any color, radish, fennel and jicama can all be cut, bagged and used as needed.  You can add interest and nutrition with sprouted seeds and beans, fresh herbs, dried or fresh fruits or raw nuts.  Once you've assembled your salad, count up the varieties of produce you've used.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

With all these glorious ingredients at your fingertips, it should be no problem to create a variety of salads on a daily or twice daily basis without taking too much time or getting too repetitive.  If you make a nice salad the cornerstone of your lunch and/or dinner each day, you will automatically consume more fiber and less calories, making it easier to feel full, lose weight and get healthier.  This spring, put a bit more spring in your step by adopting the never ending salad bowl.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Think Globally, Eat Locally

When the whole world seems to be at significant risk from everything from genetically modified organisms to cyber-crime to weapons of mass destruction, does it seem too parochial to be concerned about the origin of your food?  We think it's a good first step, because you have to start somewhere.

Buying locally grown foods is a great way to bring more healthy foods into your diet.  Here on Long Island, locally grown foods are typically produced on smaller, family-owned and operated farms that use farming methods more in tune with nature.  Even if they are not certified organic, locally grown foods tend to be safer.  Because their own families are on the farm, these farmers are less likely to use chemical fertilizers, toxic pesticides, herbicides and other unnatural compounds in their farming practices. 

Local foods are fresher, because they don't have to travel as far, and are more likely to be picked at or near their peak of ripeness than their pale, hard, imported counterparts.  Many of the produce items available in supermarkets have been off the plant for more than a week and traveled anywhere from hundreds of miles to halfway around the planet.  The longer a fruit gets to stay on the tree or the vine, the more fully its flavor, sugar content and nutritional profile get to develop.  Conversely, the longer it is off the tree or vine, and this holds true for non-fruit edibles like leaves and roots as well, the more the nutrients in the food start to break down, making it a less nutritious choice for you and your family.

The reduced distance that your food has to travel helps the environment by cutting down on transportation emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, and your purchase can help the local economy and preserve open space on Long Island and in other regions of New York.  What's not to love?

With the rise of the local food movement and the term "locavore" has come controversy over which is better, local or organic?  Our thoughts on this are if you can get food that is both local and organic, go for it!  You're getting the best of both worlds.  If you have to choose, most often, we would go for local.  Here's why.

We've already talked about the advantages of buying local produce. What does organic mean?  Organic is a term that is government regulated to mean that the food is not the result of a genetically modified organism (GMO), and grown or raised without the use of antibiotics, pesticides or herbicides.  These are all good things, but what is not addressed is the living conditions of the animals, how soon the product is harvested and how far it is shipped.  It is much easier for a huge factory-farm to obtain organic certification than it is for a small family farmer because of the cost of navigating all the regulations.  Local foods may indeed meet the criteria, but just lack the designation.

There was a well-known study conducted at Stanford University comparing the nutrient content of organic foods to that of conventional produce.  They found that there was no significant difference.  That was a comparison of organic vs. conventional produce from huge factory farms and all that was measured was the vitamins and minerals. What was not measured was the pesticide, herbicide and other toxic residue, and local vs. conventional was not tested.  Despite the study's conclusions, we believe that organic is better than conventional, but not necessarily better than local.

We're really excited about our new find on the local food front, and we just had to share it with you. We are going to be a pick-up point for a new service called Farmigo.  You log into their website and choose from a wide variety of fruits vegetables, meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, baked goods, pickles, jams and snack foods that are produced within 250 miles of our area.  You order only what you need, when you need it and pay by credit card. Once a week, it gets delivered to our office - on Wednesday, and you stop by to pick it up.  Prices are roughly comparable to what you would pay at a farmer's market, but you get to shop from home, all year round.  Often, you will save money, because they frequently offer coupon codes with great discounts.

If you are interested and live within an easy drive of Wantagh, NY, you can sign up at:  Use code "FARMIGO40" to get 40% off on your first order. Once we get our little locavore community going, we're hoping to add some local food events.  Give your body the gift of health and join us.

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