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Local and Organic Produce

I have long been a proponent of eating organic, locally grown foods. Not only do they generally taste better, but they often have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals. But the advantages don't stop there. Local farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture groups provide food choices that haven't been shipped from thousands of miles away, so less gas and pollution goes into getting you your meals. Look for local farmers’ markets and agriculture groups in your local paper or on the internet. Bon appetite!


4 Reasons to Eat Celery

Celery: One of those vegetables that people seem to either love or hate, remains a versatile kitchen staple. A biennial plant, celery is in the same family as carrots, dill and fennel. It is an excellent source of vitamins C and K, and its active compounds, pthalides, may help lower blood pressure. Celery has long been associated with dieting due to its natural diuretic effects (and its low calorie count). This crunchy green is also rich in potassium and sodium - important in regulating fluid balance and stimulating urine production. Celery is as at home in soups, stews and stir-fries as it is in salads or spread with natural peanut butter. Always seek out organically grown celery, as pesticides are commonly used on conventionally grown varieties.

Try Barley and Vegetable Soup with celery - a tasty, healthy fall classic.


Fighting Fatigue?

Persistent mild fatigue or a chronic lack of energy due to day-to-day stressors or hectic schedules can affect your productivity. You can help address fatigue or lack of energy by keeping your blood sugar levels stable, getting enough rest and exercise, and considering these supplements and herbs:

  1. Magnesium and calcium. Oral magnesium supplementation has been shown to help reduce symptoms of fatigue, especially for those with low magnesium levels.
  2. Coenzyme Q10. This vital nutrient is involved in cellular energy production throughout the body.
  3. Cordyceps. A traditional Chinese medicinal fungus that may help fight fatigue and boost energy levels. It is used as an energizing tonic and to help increase aerobic capacity and endurance.
  4. D-Ribose. A five-carbon sugar used in the generation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), it helps maintain energy production in cells and can be especially beneficial for those with chronic fatigue.
  5. Ginseng (American or Asian). Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) are used for stimulant and adaptogenic (stress-protective) properties, respectively.
  6. Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus). A woody shrub from northeastern Asia with properties similar to those of ginseng, it has a long history of use to maximize athletic performance. Studies show that eleuthero can help enhance mental activity as well. 
  7. Arctic root (Rhodiola rosea). An adaptogenic herb that helps prevent fatigue, stress and the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation.
  8. Vitamin B complex. B-vitamins act as cofactors in many metabolic reactions and assist in the metabolism of carbohydrates into energy.

3 Reasons to Eat Swiss Chard

One of the dark, leafy greens that nutritionists frequently recommend, Swiss chard is similar to spinach, kale and collard greens. Tall and leafy with a crunchy stalk, chard is slightly salty and a tad bitter, and works well with fish and vegetable dishes. But what makes chard so compelling is its nutritional profile:

  1. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, K, C, E, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and iron.
  2. Its combination of nutrients, phytonutrients and fiber help to prevent digestive-tract cancers, including colon cancer
  3. It is a good source of osteocalin, necessary for bone health

If you are unfamiliar with chard, try substituting it in recipes that call for fresh spinach or other greens. Experiment with seasonings, and you will likely find chard to be a welcome addition to your healthy diet.When choosing Swiss chard look for stalks and leaves that are paler in color, as white chard tends to be the most tender. And if you’re looking for an easy vegetable to grow, chard needs little care and thrives in almost any climate.

More info - How to grow Swiss chard, and a delicious greens recipe: Hot and Sour Greens.


Mediterranean Stuffed Grape Leaves 

This easy, exotic Greek treat makes a fine appetizer, but it can also be enjoyed as a side dish with lunch or dinner. The raisins and mint give the rice a sweet and aromatic taste, and the simplicity of chive "ribbons" wrapped around the grape leaves dresses them up a bit. For hors d'oeuvres, use 36 leaves and 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling for each leaf.

2 cups vegetable stock or purified water
1 cup brown rice
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup grated radish
1/3 cup chopped scallions or green onions
1/2 cup minced celery
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup currants or yellow raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch salt (optional)
1 tablespoon capers

36 grape leaves

1 bunch chives
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice


1. Bring the stock or water to a boil in a large pot. Add the rice and salt. Reduce heat and simmer, covered with a tight-fitting lid, for 45 minutes. All the water should be absorbed. Fluff the rice with fork.

2. Mix together the rice and all the other filling ingredients in a large bowl, tossing thoroughly with a spoon.

3. Rinse the grape leaves. Spread the grape leaves out and spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of the filling on the end of each leaf, and then roll up, folding the outer edges in.

4. Take three 5-inch-long chives and dip briefly in boiling water to make them more pliable. Tie them around each stuffed grape leaf.

5. Place the leaves in a small casserole dish and drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon juice over them. Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes at 350° F. Serve warm or cold.

Makes 36 grape leaves - 3 per person.

Food as Medicine: Brown rice, which provides much of the stuffing in this recipe, is a significant source of manganese, a mineral that helps the body to produce a crucial antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD helps to protect mitochondria, the energy producing parts of cells, from free radical damage.

This recipe is from THE HEALTHY KITCHEN - Recipes for a Better Body, Life, and Spirit by Andrew Weil, M.D and Rosie Daley (Knopf)


5 Ways to a Healthy Immune System

The immune system is your body's natural defense network - when it is weakened or compromised, you are more susceptible to disease and infection. You can encourage your natural healing response by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, managing your stress levels, and with the prudent use of supplements, including:

  1. A daily antioxidant. A quality antioxidant supplement can fill nutritional gaps (even in a healthy diet) and help support overall immune function.
  2. Astragalus. This root of a plant in the pea family has antiviral and immune-enhancing properties and a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to ward off colds and flu.
  3. Echinacea. The dried root and leaves of the purple coneflower can help stimulate immune activity and boost resistance against bacteria and virus.
  4. Immune-enhancing mushrooms. Maitake, reishi, agaricus, and enoki all provide immune-strengthening benefits. Combination products are often more effective than individual species.
  5. Arctic root or rhodiola. Also known as "golden root" or "roseroot," this is traditionally used in Eastern Europe as a general tonic and can help reduce the harmful effects of stress on the immune system.

Weight Loss Tips: Setting a Good Example

As a parent or grandparent, setting a good example is important. This is especially true around the dinner table, since children tend to pick up eating habits from the family routine.

Try the following - your family may not even know they are eating more healthful meals:

  1. Incorporate a vegetable into every meal. Peas, broccoli, asparagus, red, yellow or green bell peppers, spinach - you name it, vegetables provide nutrients and fiber.
  2. Use more beans and legumes, and less meat. Chickpeas, lentils and beans of all types are good sources of fiber and protein. Use my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid to learn more about healthy varieties of these pantry staples.
  3. Serve up whole grains. Brown rice and bulgur wheat provide a delicious, grainy taste and texture - and have more fiber and protein than their white counterparts. Choose true, relatively intact whole grains like these over grains that have been ground into flour.
  4. Switch sweets. Instead of soda, stock the pantry with sparkling waters. Pour fruit juice into a pitcher and dilute it to lessen the sugar content. Stock your kitchen with fresh, whole fruits, and leave the cookies in the store.

Responsible Garbage

Reconsider what you throw away: An old bulky computer monitor, dead batteries, unused paint … we have all had something environmentally unfriendly to toss. Unfortunately, landfills aren't usually equipped to handle this type of toxic trash. Thoughtless dumping can lead to mercury, lead and other substances leaching into the ground - and into groundwater.

Next time you have something to toss that may be toxic, whether it's unused prescription medications or printer cartridges, call your city or town department of waste management or check online - most municipal governments have websites. These sources can provide you with local contact information detailing how and where to safely dispose of just about anything.