Limes & Tangelos & Pears, Oh my!

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker, let’s call her J, on Thursday about fruit. Apparently, in a meeting, someone mentioned that fruit should be eaten alone and not until 4 hours after a meal.  This is something I learned 6 months ago in my detox class and have been practicing since (but generally I say 2-3 hours not 4). There are many thoughts about fruit combining from the many food modalities. Some agree and some disagree. Some are based on more intuitive reasoning while others are validated by science. This theory on fruit is generally proven by both thoughts. Ayurveda and modern science supports this.  Ayurveda believes that fruit is best in the morning and separate from other foods.  Modern science explains that fruit decomposes or breaks down quicker than any other food and should not be eaten in combination with other foods to gas and indigestion.  If you eat fruit after a large meal, like say a hamburger with fries and a chocolate shake, the hamburger, bun, and fatty shake will be digested first. During the time that those components are being digested (let’s not even start at how big a food combining no-no that meal is), your banana is sitting in your esophagus rotting away. This starts to cause gas and indigestion and you’re most likely not going to get all, if any, of the nutrients from the fruit at that point.
So, after my convo with J on Thursday, I thought I would send her an email with some links on food combining charts.  She responded and asked “Can you tell me again why it matters what combinations of foods we eat?”  Here below is my response. I apologize for the choppy writing but I was writing it at work ;)

Well, there are a combination of reasons.  One is the enzymes that it takes to digest the food, second is simply being able to digest the food.  I’m very logical when I think of our bodies so excuse me if I don’t get a specific body part or nutrient correct. 
I’m going to TRY to be short and sweet with this but the answer to that question is multi-faceted:
  1. Enzymes: your body needs enzymes to digest food.  We produce a good amount of enzymes ourselves.  Also, raw foods have enzymes in it but once we heat/cook our food up to about 117 degrees we kill the enzymes-hence the popularity of a raw food diet.  When the food we ingest does not have the enzymes to digest it, we have to produce it. This takes some time and is taxing on the body.  I also think that when some enzymes are present, others are not. I have to brush up on some of this info.  A little good to know-amylase, the enzyme that breaks down starches, is only produced in the mouth, so chew your bread, oatmeal, etc. more.
Oh that brings me to another point-Americans tend to INHALE their food.  Larger food chunks going down to the stomach have to break down to smaller pieces before being broken down to the nutrients. So chew your food.
  1. Digesting: So combining foods can affect a lot of things including your energy level and nutrition absorption which can stem from how you digest your food.
a. Energy level: So your body spends A LOT of energy on digesting your food.  Proteins are very difficult to digest b/c of the amino acid chains that make up protein.  Your stomach has to take apart and rearrange the chains to make them appropriate for your body.  Plus most of the protein we eat is cooked which means more enzymes.  And there is info on how carbs and other things break down, but the long and short of it is that there are 1) certain foods that are plain bad for you; 2) the more food you eat, the harder it is to digest and 3) the more variety in the foods you eat, the harder it is to digest.  Think about the concept of food coma.  It’s not fictional. Try to think of the last time you had food coma-it probably wasn’t after have a large green salad or place of fruit, but probably after you had a plethora of foods (e.g., Thanksgiving dinner).  These large meals really affect our energy levels or even smaller meals with 10 different ingredients can do that
b. Nutrition absorption: I don’t know enough about this to say a lot but basically eating certain foods can together can inhibit the absorption of nutrition.

Hope this was helpful and a stepping stone to discovering what food combining is all about.  I’m going to start my warm-up classes so look for future posts!

Until next time,
Eat fruit, but only alone!


when life gives you lemons...

I participated in a cleanse in April to reset my diet, especially after a lackadaisical and gluttonous winter. It was held at Back Bay Yoga, one of the awesome studios in Boston that I frequent, and lead by an instructor who is self-taught in Ayurveda. She had the participants apply some Ayurvedic principles to our diets and our lifestyles. To put it simply, Ayurveda is the scientific arm of yoga developed over the thousands and thousands of years that yoga has existed. One of the more known areas of Ayurveda is diet and health. I will definitely delve more into this topic but I don’t want to stray away from the original intention of this post. And that is to tell you about a nugget of information that I learned and have practiced almost everyday since April-lemon tea.

I start everyday with a lemon tea concoction which I have named my “lemonaid.” I use it to wake me up and to get my digestive system going. There are so many cleansing properties to the drink. Also, two added bonuses are that 1) I start the day by hydrating myself with about 1.5 cups of water and 2) in the winter, I will start the day feeling nice and toasty. Not that kind of toasty! I mean nice and warm from my favorite ingredient in the drink-cayenne pepper!

So how do I make this drink?

Well first, I juice half of a lemon-organic if possible-then I add about a teaspoon of raw honey and a couple of dashes of cayenne pepper. As you get used to the drink, you can adjust the amount of each to taste. Next, I fill half of my mug with filtered water from my fridge and then fill it to the top with boiling water. Ultimately, you want the water to be warm in order to gain the most benefits from it. I unfortunately do not have a thermos to keep water warm in my apartment so I boil the water and mix. Now, the reason I mix it in that order is because the direct heat from the boiling water can destroy the enzymes in the lemon and raw honey. This may be taking it a little too far but in my mind, I’m preserving some of the nutrients. Lastly, I drink it with a straw due to the acidity of the water.

As I mentioned, there are many cleansing properties to the drink, specifically from the lemon and cayenne. I don't have all of the medical/scientific reasoning behind it but this post from Making Love in the Kitchen nicely spells it out. For those looking for another resource for alternative health advice, methods, and recipes, I highly recommend this site.

I think it is pretty impressive that I have been so diligent with drinking this water. But the key to it is to go slowly, take it one day at a time. I feel that adopting a healthy lifestyle is a process. If you change it all at once, it will be too overwhelming. Start by introducing small changes that you can dedicate yourself to. Eventually, it will become a (healthy) habit. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Just hop back on the wagon the next morning. Rome wasn’t built in a day-how do you expect to change your lifestyle in a day?

until next time,
make lemon aid!


paul pitchford& veggies

And there goes the summer…and a little bit of fall...needless to say, it’s been a little crazy around here. Summer was full of activity and before I knew it, it had come and gone and most of September involved a 3-week trip to China! Now, it’s back to reality, back to a regular schedule and also, (hopefully) back to a regular blogging schedule.

Last post, I said I would speak a bit what Paul Pitchford lectured on during the IIN Open House.

Paul started the lecture by saying that he turned vegan overnight and has never looked back. Sounds pretty impossible and in my opinion, it is. Most people cannot accomplish a drastic change in diet like. Especially in the Western world. But Paul went on to say that although his diet transformed overnight, he spent 6 years preparing for that change. His preparation took place in 2 areas of his life before he even touched his diet. The first was intuition and awareness which he achieved through contemplation and self-reflection. So much of changing oneself is changing the mental aspect. I don’t have any more notes about this but I think that he was referring to intuition and self-awareness. Not only gaining a better understanding of what your body needs vs. what society says it needs, but also understanding where you stand in this world. Second was physical activity. He focused on physical activity because doing so helps strengthen digestion which in turn helps you absorb nutrients more easily. He made a point to say that physical activity doesn't mean you need to run a mile. Walking and gentle exercises like some forms of yoga are great places to start. The beautiful thing is walking and yoga can help you with intuition and awareness as well as your physical wellbeing. The last component to his change was the diet itself. Becoming intuitive does not only mean becoming in touch with yourself but also with the world around you. An awareness of equilibrium and morality is achieved. This is where a vegetarian diet comes into play. Being vegetarian is (traditionally) non-harmful and harmonious with the world.

The bulk of his lecture was a comparison of the Mediterranean and Japanese diets. He focuses on these two diets because it appears that two islands in those regions have attained the “fountain of youth.” In Crete and Okinawa reside two of the oldest populations in the world. Being a centenarian on those islands is almost normal! The Mediterranean and Japanese diets are very similar in principle-heavily based on fruits and vegetables and local food. He cited studies showing the benefits of the Cretian and Okinawan diets. He also spent a good amount of time describing T. Colin Campbell's work, The China Study, the largest, longest running, and most comprehensive population health study. The study shows a correlation between a typical traditional Chinese diet, which is heavily based on vegetables, and good health. Even with higher levels of healthcare and the “modern” lifestyle in the West, the Chinese have lower levels of cancer, heart disease, and get this, osteoperosis! The US’s meat-focused diet, including milk, is the root cause of the aforementioned “dietary diseases” (a term Paul used that I will be stealing :) among many other sicknesses. Paul states that the perfect diet is a fusion of the Okinawa and Crete diets, two islands known for their inhabitants who live very long lives. This diet is one of fresh fruit, full-fat goat or sheep cheese and yogurt, little red meat, local, organic food, fermtened foods, sea vegetables, fermented soy, and little dairy.

I definitely recommend that you read The China Study, especially for those who are more comfortable with science than logic when it comes to health. You don’t have to be a PhD to understand what Campbell is saying and the study is not sponsored by some no name company or Vegetable Farmers for America (aside: anyone ever see those corn syrup commercials that are sponsored by the Corn Growers of America??). Three prestigious schools, Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, have been partners in this study.

I hope this post has enlightened you on a little bit of what one of the biggest names in health thinks and also on a resource that you can tap into at home to understand a more of the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Look for more posts in the future about Paul Pitchford as I received his book, Healing With Whole Foods, for my birthday and will be diving into it as I prepare for my classes.

until next time,
eat more veggies!