What to do with vegetable scraps if you don’t compost…

What should you do with your vegetable scraps if you don’t compost?  Eat them!  Seriously!!  Instead of placing them in a compost pile you can turn them into a rich vegetable broth. 

Often there are carrot tops, onion peels, celery bottoms, tough broccoli stems or asparagus bottoms that are not fit for putting into your actual meal.  The list is practically endless.  Place any portions, that are not rotted or too dirty to clean, in an airtight freezer bag and save the scraps until the bag is full.  It may take a week or a month to fill but when it is, just place all the frozen bits into a soup pot, cover with water, and let simmer until all the veggies are limp and colorless.  At that point you’ve extracted all the flavors out of the vegetables and into the water.  Once it’s cooled it can be strained, the solid parts can then be placed into the compost pile, and the strained liquid portioned out into freezer containers.  Common portions are two or four cups but it can be any amount you please. Label and date the containers then keep them in the freezer for up to 6 months.  You’ll never want to buy store bought broth anymore! 

Feel free to add whatever herbs and spices you love.  I personally don’t add salt or any herbs or spices because I  one day I might make a hearty Cajun chili with it and the next a light miso soup. This is a great way to use up the scraps and get a little extra nutrition into whatever you make!

Large Pot of Vegetable Broth
Rich vegetable broth made from frozen cooking scraps.

Kitchen Dancing and Family Meal Planning

Some of the happiest memories in my life are of the whole family gathered in the kitchen.  Cooking, singing, laughing, dancing (we actually called it kitchen dancing), and a whole lot of love!  Food is not only a source of nourishment and provider of health, it is also a source of pleasure and a bonding element in relationships.  Cooking for two can be romantic, relaxing, and a form of entertainment.  Even cooking for one can provide a meditative calmness and a sense of nourishing the soul as well as the body.  Yet, I know so many families that forget to share food together and they feel that cooking, grocery shopping, and meal planning are a chore and a waste of time.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

We all have to eat.  We all want to be healthy.  Why not make healthy eating a celebration?

Here are some tips on making that weekly meal plan seem a little less daunting:

  • Since many hands make light work, have a family discussion about who will take on which jobs. Aside from creating the weekly meal plan there are many other tasks such as doing the shopping, chopping, cooking, storing, clean up, etc., that each family member can contribute in executing.  We all have strengths and weaknesses so let everyone choose their own task.  If there is argument about who does what assign the jobs and rotate them weekly.
  • Make a list of food preferences, aversions, and dietary needs of the family. It is important to choose foods that everyone actually likes eating, otherwise waste will become an issue.
  • Keep things simple. Find healthy recipes that are fast and easy to make.  Choose breakfast, lunch, and snack items that are portable so you are ready for those days when everyone is on-the-go.
  • Make shopping fun! Go to the store when you are least stressed and hurried.  Take a shopping partner with you to shorten the time if it’s a big load.  Make a game of finding the foods on the list when you are with children.  Send each child (age dependent) to find the foods they like. Also, let your eyes feast on the beautiful colors in the produce section.  There is natural beauty in the foods that are nutrition dense.  Once a week try a new fruit or vegetable.
  • Dedicate one day of the week for food preparation. When the whole family joins in it can be fun.  Keep the electronics off and play music.  Let each family member pick a few working songs to keep motivation up.  When the foods are finished, portion them out into single serving containers for meals on-the-go or freeze larger portions for family meals later in the week.

We are more likely to eat healthy, regularly, when foods are selected, purchased, and prepared before the week begins.  Planning ahead can help you create a healthy food environment that eases temptations for fast foods, impulsive snacks, and wards off cravings.  Spending time on a healthy eating plan is probably one of the best life investments a body can make.  Healthy living really can become fun, especially if you dance in the kitchen.

Gut Microbiome

U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bacterium, Enterococcus faecalis, which lives in the human gut, is just one type of microbe that is being studied as part of NIH’s Human Microbiome Project. Source: https://irp.nih.gov/catalyst/v21i6/the-human-microbiome-project

Yep, the studies are underway.  It’s a possible bridge in the knowledge gap between disease and diet. I’m pretty sure this will be the hot topic for nutritionists in the near future and even fuel for new fad diets.

Quoted from Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease by Matthew J. Bull, BSc, PhD and Nigel T. Plummer, PhD (Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Dec; 13(6): 17–22.):

“The bacterial cells harbored within the human gastrointestinal tract (GIT) outnumber the host’s cells by a factor of 10 and the genes encoded by the bacteria resident within the GIT outnumber their host’s genes by more than 100 times. These human digestive-tract associated microbes are referred to as the gut microbiome. The human gut microbiome and its role in both health and disease has been the subject of extensive research, establishing its involvement in human metabolism, nutrition, physiology, and immune function. Imbalance of the normal gut microbiota have been linked with gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and wider systemic manifestations of disease such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and atopy.”

There is a necessary balance of microbes to maintain a rich microbiome.  Not only the type of microbes but also the quantity of microbes found in the gut are important. The newest investigations are exploring how the bacterial balance in our digestive tract affect our well-being.  Findings reveal that a healthy gut is important in stabilizing weight, controlling cholesterol, decreasing inflammation, strengthening the immune system, and a slew of other benefits.  “The ‘Western diet’, rich in animal protein, fats and artificial additives, and lacking in fibre, beneficial microbes, plant phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, is thought to drive these conditions by encouraging gut dysbiosis. Evidence from recent dietary intervention studies suggest adopting a plant-based, minimally processed high-fibre diet may rapidly reverse the effects of meat-based diets on the gut microbiome.” (Tess Pallister and Tim Spector. Food: a new form of personalised (gut microbiome) medicine for chronic diseases? – Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine; 2016, Vol. 109(9) 331–336).  So, what should we be eating more of to support our gut microbiome? Probiotics, prebiotics, and phytonutrients.  What should we reduce? Animal fat/protein and processed foods.

Probiotics are found in fermented foods like miso, kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, and sauerkraut or kimchi (not pickled, there is a difference).  Most of these can be used as condiments in cooking or consumed alone.  Preboitics are produced in the body from soluble and insoluble fiber.  Both types of fiber are available in whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.  The prefix phyto is Greek for plant, thus, phytonutrients are nutrients found in plants. There are over a thousand known phytonutrients to-date and there are many yet to be revealed.  The benefits are still being discovered but some common phytonutrient groups are polyphenols, carotenoids, flavonoids, and curcuminoids.  Many of these nutrients/chemicals benefit the microbiome as well as the entire body.  Prebiotics, probiotics, and phytonutrients are all derived from plants.

Animal products are the core of a Western diet.  It is common knowledge that the typical ‘Western’ diet increases chances of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.  It is an animal based diet, low in fiber, and high in processed foods. While meat may be a great source of protein, B vitamins, and minerals it should not be the focus of the diet.  Animal fat and protein require the release of more bile acids for digestion.  The Western diet is low in fiber which is needed to bind with the bile acid.  When the acid is not bound to fiber and removed it increases cholesterol levels.  Animal products don’t have to be eliminated, just reduced to make room for more plant foods.  Processed foods can wreak havoc on a body.  Most processed foods contain food additives and preservatives to extend shelf life, improve stability, add color, and enhance flavors.  Emulsifiers are used to blend water and fat but increase inflammation in the lining of the intestinal tract which affects nutrient absorption.  Many other food additives have been found to be harmful in ways that may not affect the gut microbiome specifically but are certainly worth avoiding.

Not all of this is exactly cut-and-dried.  Every ‘body’ is different – different genetic tendencies, different food preferences, different chemical balances, different lifestyles, etc.  Scientific studies reveal that a healthy microbiome for one person may have different attributes than those of another and they may change over a lifetime.  Still, the overall picture stays the same.  Eating a plant-based diet will supply a human body the most important macro and micro nutrients needed to maintain wellness.  We don’t have to become vegan or vegetarian to gain benefits and we don’t have to be lulled into the newest diet trend.  Just learn to love the foods that love you back and your whole body (including your microbiome) will thank you for it.

Foods to ease anxiety and depression.

So, here are some quick dietary tips that will help ease anxiety and depression.  More and more studies are being conducted that show a strong link between diet and anxiety/depression symptoms.  Diet won’t cure anxiety or depression but it certainly can help!

Avoid/reduce: fried foods, coffee (and caffeinated drinks), dairy products, refined sugars, and alcohol!

Increase:  fresh fruits and veggies, water intake, magnesium rich foods, tryptophan rich foods, Vitamin B rich foods, and omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Tryptophan rich foods:  nuts, seeds, soybeans (edemame, tofu, soymilk), beans and lentils
  • Magnesium rich foods:  green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, black beans, dark chocolate (85% with less sugar)
  • Vitamin B rich foods: nutritional yeast, green leafy vegetables, wheat germ,  fortified cereals
  • Omega-3 rich foods: chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseed (oil, or meal), Smart Balance butter replacement

Magnesium and the B vitamin group are the most important to consume daily. If you don’t think you can get them through your diet perhaps consider using supplements.  Eating a dark-green leafy salad everyday with pumpkin seeds, nutritional yeast, and walnut oil with a little vinegar might do the trick!

Here are some links to articles written about food and mood:

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-based-diets-for-improved-mood-and-productivity/

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/gut-feelings-probiotics-and-mental-health/

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/food-mental-health

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/gut-feelings-how-food-affects-your-mood-2018120715548

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/food-and-mood-is-there-a-connection

Nutrition: what is the right thing to do and how can it be done?

The right thing to do:
There is no argument about what the human body needs to be healthy. The USDA has recommended dietary guidelines for men and women of all ages. Doctors and scientists all agree on the basic macronutrients, micronutrients, and phytonutrients that are required to maintain health. The macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) are the fuels needed to keep the body moving. The micronutrients such as vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, K along with minerals calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc., and all those antioxidants in phytonutrients are not debated about their importance to maintain healthy function. Problems arise when the balance of nutrients are altered by improper food choices. Sooner or later disease and illness are to follow. This is when fixes are sought out and cures chased after. Studies targeted at one component of nutrition often lead to dietary trends and fads or miracle supplements are created as treatment. By eating foods as close to natural as possible with minimal processing and eating a mostly plant-based diet the human body will acquire all the basic nutrition it needs to maintain health.

How it can be done:
Lifestyle change. Doh! Right in the gut with that response! Nobody wants to hear that and nobody wants to do it, but that is exactly what it takes to feel good and be healthy. It doesn’t have to be all at once. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Baby steps toward permanent change can be easy. A very simple first step is to incorporate ½ cup of beans a day and remove one serving of an unhealthy choice (like soda or chips). Once that change has been made and accepted add one serving of berries a day and remove another serving of an unhealthy item. Keep the forward momentum, one food item at a time, and keep building until the nutritional minimum requirement for health is met. Baby steps. Success breeds success. Before you know it you will be eating a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle, warding off PREVENTABLE diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, while reversing obesity. Though every human body needs the same nutrients every person has different needs, wants, likes and dislikes. The change one person makes may differ drastically from another. Everyone has a unique starting point but the end goal is the same – health. If you would like help with an individualized plan, some guidance, or just friendly support we are here to assist.

Give us a call at 262-443-0859 or shoot us an email at globalavida@globalavida.com.