Superfoods for You!

Kefir: It’s kind of like yogurt, but it has more protein and less sugar. It does, though, have that same creamy texture, great taste, and the helpful probiotics of yogurt. Those probiotics are a healthy type of bacteria that strengthens your immune system. Kefir can be substituted for yogurt in salad dressings and other recipes. It can be found in the dairy aisle of your grocery store.

Jicama: It’s a root vegetable and has a slightly sweet taste and a crunchy texture. It also has insulin, which can help get rid of belly fat and promotes good bacteria in the gut. Jicama also has a lot of vitamin C for boosting collagen and fighting wrinkles. It can be eaten raw or stir-fried. You can find it in farmers markets and Mexican groceries.

Chia:
It’s jam-packed with fiber, calcium, and omega-3s, as well as iron, which some women can be low in. Sprinkle on salads, soups, cereals, or to thicken stews. Find it at natural or whole food groceries.

Black garlic: Due to fermentation, the garlic acquires a sweet, caramel-like flavor, and the natural antioxidants are double those found in regular garlic. It’s great in lowering cholesterol and preventing cancer. And—it doesn’t give you icky breath!

Kelp: It’s loaded with vitamin K, calcium, and other nutrients that are powerful agents against breast cancer. It also has a type of fiber that blocks the development of fat. Good in meatballs and soups, or try kelp noodles (www.kelpnoodles.com).

Nutritional yeast:
Low calorie and cheese flavored, what’s not to like? It’s also full of protein and B vitamins for energy, de-stressing, and preventing chronic diseases. Use as a dairy-product substitute, for example sprinkle some on baked potato, popcorn, or pasta. Find it in health food stores.

Barley: The starring nutrient in barley is niacin, which promotes healthy hair and skin. It also fights cancer and keeps cholesterol low. It’s a great substitute for pasta, rice, or oatmeal. You can usually find it in the baking goods section of the grocery store.

Seven Liver Healthy Foods

Short of joking about the occasional weekend damage, many of us never really give much thought to one of the largest and most important organs in our body. Our liver has numerous functions including, but not limited to, break down and build up of essential nutrients such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Our liver helps produce digestive enzymes, sex, steroid and stress hormones, is integral in maintenance of our blood sugar, and has at least 300 other essential functions.

In terms of long-term health, the wellness of our liver cells in many ways equals the expression of our overall health. The toxins and chemicals we are exposed to day to day, intentionally or not, can tax our detoxification organs, including our liver. It is worth taking the time to provide our system with nutrients that help enhance the well functioning of our liver.

Wherever possible it makes sense to both reduce our toxic load by minimizing or limiting our exposure to harmful toxins and chemicals, and to provide our system with an abundance of nutrients that help our liver perform its job. Not surprisingly, it is nearly impossible to find a vegetable or fruit that does not asist the function and maintenance of a healthy liver. Eat your favorite local fruits and vegetables and consider incorporating the following seven powerhouse foods into your eating for healthy liver function.

Garlic: Garlic contains numerous sulfur-containing compounds that activate our liver enzymes, which are responsible for flushing out toxins from the bod. This bulbous relative of the onion also contains allicin and selenium, two powerful nutrients proven to help protect the liver from toxic damage and aid it in the detoxification process.

Grapefruit: Grapefruit is rich in natural vitamin C and antioxidants, two powerful liver cleansers. Like garlic, grapefruit contains compounds that boost our production of liver detoxification enzymes. It also contains a flavonoid compound known as naringenin that causes the liver to burn fat rather than store it.

Green Tea: Green tea is loaded with catechins, a type of plant antioxidant that has been shown in studies to eliminate liver fat accumulation and promote proper liver function. This powerful herbal beverage also protects the liver against toxins that would otherwise accumulate and cause serious damage.

Green Vegetables: Leafy green vegetables such as bitter gourd, arugula, dandelion greens,spinach, mustard greens, and chicory also contain numerous cleansing compounds that neutralize heavy metals, which can bear heavily on the liver. Leafy greens also eliminate pesticides and herbicides from the body and spur the creation and flow of cleansing bile.

Avocado: Avocados are valuable in helping our liver burn fat rather than store it, and helping to reduce LDL and raise HDL levels in the blood. Moreover, avocado contains nutrients that make up the precursor for one of the most potent antioxidants in our body, glutathione.

Glutathione is needed by the liver to repair cells and clear toxins from our body. People with chronic liver disease are found to be low in glutathione levels.

Walnuts: Walnuts, which contain high levels of l-arginine, an amino acid, glutathione, and omega-3 fatty acids, also help detoxify the liver of disease-causing ammonia. Walnuts also help oxygenate the blood, and extracts from their hulls are often used in liver-cleansing formulas.

Turmeric: Turmeric, one of the most powerful foods for maintaining a healthy liver, has been shown to actively protect the liver against toxic damage and even regenerate damaged liver cells. Turmeric also boosts the natural production of bile, shrinks engorged hepatic ducts, and improves overall function of the gallbladder, another body-purifying organ.

Wherever possible choose local and/or organic versions of the above. This can make a big difference as spray-free fruits and vegetables are up to 70 percent higher in the beneficial antioxidants.The longer fruits and vegetables travel, and the more heavily they are sprayed, has a direct effect on the content of beneficial nutrients. Interesting, research shows, the harder our plants are challenged to fight for their own survival, the greater the level ofantioxidants present in the plant. The more they are sprayed, the more they can depend on the spray for their protection and slack off on the production of antioxidants. Like the plants, when we slack off on the production of whole fresh foods, and choose to depend on a primarily refined and processed diet base, it has a negative effect on our own survival. Small changes to diet can translate to a much greater ability for our body to thrive and adapt to our environment. Start with the liver-friendly seven and begin to enjoy how your system thanks you.

Eating Healthy Keeps the Body in Tune

By Susan Kasik-Miller, registered dietitian with HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital

When people learn that I am a registered dietitian for HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital, the questions come fast and furious: What should I be eating? How can I be healthier? What the heck is quinoa? Is chocolate really that bad for you?

Choosing the right foods for a healthy lifestyle can be a daunting task, but it’s worth the time and effort. “Healthy” food does share a direct correlation to good health. Study after study shows that a good diet does lead to better health. Eating a balanced diet has proven to diminish complications from chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and a whole host of others.

But what is healthy food, and what constitutes a good diet? The quick answer is fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.

Some might recall the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid from decades ago. The pyramid got a face lift in the form of a dinner plate. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to view the updated dietary guidelines now recommended by the USDA. Building a healthy plate not only requires edibles from the major food groups, but also portion mindfulness. The USDA gives tips and techniques to keep portions under control, which keeps calories within the suggested range for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To build a healthy plate, make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, switch to a low-fat milk, and vary protein choices. Cut back on foods that are high in fats and added sugars and salt. We all know that fat and sugar aren’t good, but what’s with the salt? Sodium is not so great. Many things change in the body when an influx of sodium is consume —fluid retention, an increase inblood pressure, and the kidneys have to work overtime, just to name a few. We’re not talking about table salt, here. Well, we are, but the few shakes you put on your green beans isn’t the problem. It’s the sodium found in the can of green beans.

“But wait,” you say. “You just told me to eat more vegetables.”

Yes, but be aware of the sodium that comes with canned or processed foods. If you are only able to purchase canned vegetables, then canned vegetables are better than no vegetables at all. However, if you are able to visit the local farmers markets in Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, and Menomonie to purchase fresh vegetables, you will be able to avoid added sodium.

The key is to buy fresh if possible, and if not, look at the package. Think about what’s in there. Avoid salty snacks and processed food like chips, sausage, and ready-to-eat frozen meals (I like to call them “heat and eats.”). Stay away if possible.

In my profession, I work with people who are sick with heart disease or cancer. They’re looking for any way to feel a little better physically and mentally. I think one of the things about a healthy diet is that people who are battling a disease feel more in control when they make good food choices. Some patients have said that fueling their bodies with better food makes them feel that they are able to control a portion of their well-being—that they are able to control what’s next in life.

When we think of good health, we think of the body, but some patients have found that eating well also helps one’s mental state. The mental aspect is important in any kind of treatment the patient endures.

And when healing from surgery, eating healthy helps the body heal.

Getting adequate amounts of calories and nutrients fuels the body to heal. Low-fat meats and dairy products are imperative to the healing process. A wide variety of foods coupled with fruits and vegetables that are at their peak of ripeness is important. I always suggest vegetables, beans, eggs, dairy, fish, chicken, beef,and pork as well as wild game and venison if available.

Those are excellent sources of low-fat protein filled with iron. I’ve heard all of the excuses in the book as to why people do not follow a healthy diet. The number one excuse is that people can’t afford it, and for some people that is legitimate. But many people buy foods that aren’t cheap—they drink a six to twelve-pack of soda daily. That $3 or $4 could be spent on vegetables at the grocery store, or a sack of potatoes at the farmers market. Again, if buying fresh isn’t an option, canned or frozen vegetables are inexpensive and better than other options.

It sounds silly, but remaining healthy is the best way to stay healthy. Share a healthy eating mindset with your friends and family. Make it a continued goal from day to day, week to week. Eat bad-for-you foods in moderation, but always keep healthy eating at the forefront of the mind, and your body will thank you for life.

Not Just a Fad

By Beth Martin, Just Local Food Cooperative

Eating a diet in rhythm with the seasons just makes good sense.  Especially when you consider that most Americans are quite literally starved for the nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables.  Seem impossible?  Consider this, according to New York Times best selling author Dr. Mark Hyman, “ a whopping 92% of us are deficient in one or more nutrients at the recommended daily allowance (RDA) level.”

The Standard American Diet, rich in heavily processed packaged and fast foods (can we even call these things food?) and empty of fresh fruits and vegetables results in vast nutrient deficiencies that create most of the health issues we see today.

Good for Your Health!

Fruits and vegetables are at their peak flavor and nutritional content when they are ready to be harvested.  Most foods begin to lose nutrients almost immediately after harvest.  For example, spinach and green beans lose two-thirds of their Vitamin C within a week of harvest, according to the University of California, Davis.   By eating locally grown (ideally organic) foods this means you will be eating not only more flavorful food, but you’ll boost your nutrition.

Eating a seasonally based diet with lots of variety throughout the year is the “cornerstone of preventive medicine,” says Preston Maring, a doctor at Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center in California.   Study after study have documented  the benefits of eating an in-season, plant-focused diet—reduced risks of cancer and heart disease, increased longevity, improved cholesterol, improved vascular health, increased bone density and weight loss, to name a few.

Good for Our Community/Local Economy!

There are many options for purchasing locally grown foods.  The farmer’s market or CSA share is always a great place to start.  Another year-round option is your local food co-op.  Food co-ops, like Just Local Food, build relationships with local farmers and provide them access to market and offer a healthy price for their products.  Local food co-ops are able to work with smaller growers because we don’t demand volume like bigger grocers.   For every $1.00 you spend at a local food co-op, $.38 stays in our local economy.  This may not seem like much but it has huge economic impact.  And we all know a strong local economy is the key to thriving community.

Good for our Earth!

When you support small farmers who nurture their land through sustainable farming practices you are investing in more nutrient dense food for everyone while ensuring our small farmers continue to have a viable way of life.   Modern commercial farming focuses on quantity, not quality – at the expense of soil quality – resulting in less nutritious food.  For example, modern wheat and barley have 30 to 50 percent less protein than they did in 1938.

Nutrition is more holistic than just calorie counting and adding up nutrient levels.  When you enjoy locally grown foods you nurture a connection to the natural world that is good for our bodies and our souls.  According to Herbalist and physician Aviva Romm, it’s a “way of loving and caring for ourselves and others that allows us and those we serve to reach our fullest potential”.

A Brief History of Tea

by Amber Erickson Gabbey

All tea, shockingly, comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. But from that one plant come thousands of varieties to choose from. Tea is the second most common drink worldwide, only behind water, but if you don’t know what you’re looking at, tea shopping can be a stressful experience.

All varieties of tea boil down to five basic categories: black, white, green, and oolong. The fifth, not really a tea at all, is herbal. Making different teas from the same plant is the result of production, including the part of the leaf used and how the leaves are heated and cooled. This production process turns one single plant into teas that, when steeped, vary greatly in flavor, color, caffeine, aroma, and benefits.

From the medicinal perspective, tea has long been considered beneficial (with the science to back it up) for weight loss, preventing cancer, and preventing heart disease. The main benefit in tea comes from the antioxidants, which work to find and destroy cancer cells. Green tea, specifically, is considered a natural solution to reduce blood pressure, improve oral health, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Now, let’s break down these five kinds of tea to further explain. Note, the market these days includes a lot of blends—either different types of tea, or tea leaves with flowers, other plants, or fruits.

Black tea has a characteristic dark color and when steeped, a high caffeine count compared to other teas. Black teas can have a quite strong and pronounced flavor. Black teas are best steeped under boiling water for several minutes. These teas are often served with milk and sugar. Here are a few common kinds of black tea:

• English Breakfast
• arl Grey (black tea with bergamot oil)
• Chai Tea
• Pekoe
• Darjeeling
• Irish Breakfast

White tea has a characteristic softness, from production to flavor. White teas are made from minimally processed young shoots from the tea plant and steep to a light color. White teas are commonly mixed with fruit and flowers, like jasmine, peach, melon, or lavender.

Green tea has a characteristic yellow-green hue and a soft, earthy flavor. But don’t let that fool you; green teas can be intensely flavorful. To steep green teas, pour hot (but not boiling) water over the leaves and let sit for up to three minutes. Be careful not to over-steep green teas. Here are a few common kinds of green tea:

• Gyokuro
• Longjing
• Bi Luo Chun
• Sencha
• Matcha

Oolong tea is most known for being less strong than a black tea but more robust than a green. This is the tea you are drinking in Chinese restaurants that you may think is black tea. The characteristic flavor and scent profile of oolong is flowers or fruits, and many other styles, like Darjeeling, Earl Grey, and Assam, can be made into an oolong style. Steep oolong in hot (not boiling) water for up to ten minutes.

Herbal tea is not really a tea after all. This type isn’t made from the leaves of the tea leaf and contains no caffeine. Herbal tea is made with naturally caffeine-free plants, flowers, and fruits. Some common herbal tea (also called herbal infusion) flavors include chamomile, peppermint, echinacea, ginseng, hibiscus, lemon, ginger, raspberry, nettles, rosehips, tulsi, etc.

If you love tea but find yourself going back to the same kinds, use this opportunity to try something new. If you like green tea, try white or herbal. If you like black teas, try an oolong, or try something totally outside your comfort zone. There are thousands of tea varieties and blends on store shelves right now. Have fun with it.

Some of Our Favorite Tea …

Our Picks:
• Organic African Nectar
• Orange Dulce
• Organic Spring Jasmine

Mighty Leaf Tea supports the fostering of long-term prosperity for artisans and their communities locally, regionally and globally in tea-growing regions through monetary program support. We also promote and encourage sustainable farming and production methods for tea-growing regions around the world through corporate partnerships and sourcing practices. More at Mightyleaf.com

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Our Picks:
• Tutti Fruiti
• Lemon Spearmint Energy
• Brain Booster
• R&R

Herbal tea works with the body in an all-natural way to promote balance and good health. Almost any herbal leaves and roots can be made into tea.

Every blend of Urbal Tea is designed to assist in the healing, nourishing and preserving of the entire human body. All of the herbs contain numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and each blend targets a different ailment or need. Meant to be enjoyed every day, Urbal Teas provide a bounty of nourishing herbal infusions to benefit the entire body and soul. A local Milwaukee, Wisconsin company – much more at urbalhealth.com

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New:
TEA BAGS – SAVORY TEA

Numi’s SAVORY TEA combines real organic vegetables, wild herbs, decaf tea and aromatic spices for a satisfying experience. Inspired by recipes from around the world, these satiating veggie-spice-tea blends are rich in flavor, yet light enough to enjoy any time of day. It’s not quite a soup, but more than a tea. Enjoy a comforting cup of garden goodness one savory sip at a time!

Numi inspires well-being of mind, body and spirit through the simple art of tea. Our company is rooted in the principle of creating a healthful product that nurtures people and honors the planet. In all of our company initiatives, we strive to foster a healthy, thriving global community while bringing you the purest, best-tasting organic tea. Much more at numitea.com

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Our Picks:
• English Breakfast
• Earl Grey Supreme
• Organic Bangkok
• Japanese Secha

It is not only the Harney mission to deliver quality tea products to their customers, but also to educate the world of tea history and taste. Whether through their dedicated customer service team, their published guides to tea drinking, or their two tea tasting shops, the Harney & Sons team works to pass on their passion of tea to a wide audience. From lugging heavy tea filled chests down their basement stairs, to stocking shelves at Targets nationwide, Harney & Sons remains committed to delivering their customers a superior tea drinking experience. More at harney.com

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Our Picks:
• Genmaicha Green Tea Blend-Organic Japanese
• Chocolate Chai Tea Blend-Organic and Fair Trade
• Tropical Coconut Oolong Tea Blend
• Pu-erh Bordeaux Tea Bag – Organic and Fair Trade

Rishi Tea has imported premium organic tea under strict European Union Organic standards since 1999. We were among the first to earn organic certification and at the forefront in the advancement of Fair Trade Certified tea, becoming one of the highest payers of social premiums from the sale of fair trade tea. The fair trade projects we have established, as well as those we partner with, directly support a better life for the tea-farming families and their communities.  Much more at rishi-tea.com