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Blueberry Soup with Ice Cream!! (kidding: Purple Carrot Soup with Sour Cream = much better :))

Sustainable Health Nutshell: Cook and Eat more of your own food, especially when you get it locally… it’s crazy delicious and easier on our Earth!

Ok, it’s been a while, lots going on, but I wanted to share this recipe as it was so good… Excuse the picture- I almost ate it all before I remembered to take one for you all!

sooooooo yummy!

1. Rough chop an onion, a few garlic cloves and a medium portobello mushroom.

2. Warm some olive oil with turmeric, fennel, cumin, coriander, black pepper, marjoram, and thyme till the spices just start to sizzle.

3. Sautee the veggies, adding occasional splashes of water when the sizzling sound gets too high pitched (= too high of a temp for olive oil- the water keeps it from oxidizing (which causes artery damage and inflammation when you eat oxidized oils) at higher than 212 degrees).

 4. While the onions are softening and the mushroom gives up its water, chop 2 good sized purple carrots, (or one purple and one red) and peel and chop a good sized sweet potato (not a yam if you want the taste and color to be purple and neutrally sweet–a sweet potato is beige outside and off-white inside, a yam is reddish outside and orange inside). Mix a bouillon cube if you like into a glass measuring cup of hot water and let it dissolve. (I only had salt-free vegan cubes on hand and was feeling lazy, but I usually try to use organic ones without palm oil and with less salt, or I forego it and just use more spices!)
5. Add the broth or water and carrots and sweet potatoes (and I had leftover broccoli stems I peeled and chopped and added in at the same time) so all veggies are covered. Bring it back to a boil then lower the flame and put the lid on so the veggies soften.
6. When it’s ready, use an immersion blender (or, “blendy-stick” as I lovingly call mine) and mix until there are still some veggie chunks but the soup is mostly a uniform saucy consistency. While it’s still hot, you can add in a green of your choice- I used arugula, chopped up the tops of a farmers’ market $1 bunch, but the second day I added a ton of cilantro, so you can pick, but I do suggest choosing one (arugula is sweet-bitter, cilantro is sour-bitter, spinach is sweet-astringent) so whichever you’re in the mood for), and if you use something like chard, sautee the stems in with the onion and garlic, and chop the leaves a bit more and let it boil a minute or so to break down the fibers so the texture of the soup isn’t odd.
7. To serve, add a dollop of sour cream and go to town. It might need a sprinkle of salt if you used a salt-free broth, but the sour cream usually takes care of that. If you’re dairy-free, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to brighten it up a bit.
Enjoy! Let me know what variations you come up with! xoxo

Cholesterol: the myths, the truths, the eco-info :)

Sustainable Health Nutshell: use Unrefined Local-as-possible Organic-as-possible olive oil or ghee (clarified butter) for cooking, and add water to your cooking- especially roasting or sauteeing, so the oil you use and the food itself stays below 250 degrees and is therefore less likely to become oxidized and contribute to artery damage and cholesterol plaque buildup (cooking tip: let the 1/4 c or so of water boil off and remove from heat just after to retain the good flavors from the oil and spices you used too!). Avoiding refined and non-organic oils and high temperature cooking (including most processed food) helps save your health and the planet’s at the same time! Read on for the details! :)

Here’s a quick review of the basic info western medicine has to offer. Cholesterol is necessary for life (brain cell development, hormone construction, bile acids, cell walls, etc), but in above-average amounts cholesterol is correlated with heart disease, ‘fatty liver’ disease, and more. Stiff plaques are found in arteries of patients with heart disease and angina, strokes, claudication and certain types of kidney disease. Then there’s the breakdown of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides… We are taught by doctors, the government health agencies, and pharmaceutical companies that if we just lower the bad numbers and increase the good numbers with ‘lifestyle modification’ or drugs (like aspirin and simvastatin), we won’t get those diseases listed above. Well, we might not get them. Well, we might be less likely to get them. Sometimes. Depending on other risk factors. So, no, it’s not a sure thing. Not at all, actually.

Aspirin and Statins both help decrease inflammation in vessel walls that is the main cause of cholesterol plaques first sticking, then growing, then breaking off and clogging a downstream artery with blood clots that tried to repair the damage, thus killing the downstream tissue (this is what’s known as a heart attack). But what causes the inflammation in the first place? Tissue damage (from wear and tear, stress, infection, free radicals, etc) causes the blood vessel wall to send out inflammatory markers, which causes immune cells to come repair the damage. The cholesterol there gets eaten like the rest of the debris from the damage in a regulated manner by the white blood cells. However, if the cholesterol is oxidized the macrophages can’t regulate their uptake, become over-stuffed “foam cells,” and die, leaving an icky yellow streak on the wall of the damaged vessel, and releasing their insides that further break down the vessel wall, causing a thicker scar or ‘atheroma.’ The picture on the previous link gives you an idea of how this can block flow and you can imagine what happens if it gets too big or a piece breaks off and flows down to a thinner part of the artery. Yuck.

Oxidization and free radicals seem to be big keys in all kinds of inflammation (stress-induced, infection, auto-immune, etc). Free radicals are caused by many many things (including our own normally functioning cells), and are typically taken care of by our bodies and are not an issue unless the amount overwhelms our normal processes. Leaving infection and stress aside for the moment, what are our biggest sources of oxidized cholesterol we put into our bodies? Refined foods (that contain oils including trans fats, dairy, or other animal protein processed at high temperatures), charred food (yes, grilled meat… it’s burnt, and the carbohydrates turn to burnt sugar + fat = caramel= yum!= ama/toxins), and oils/fats cooked to high temperature. So what to do? The simplest thing is to stop intaking so much oxidized cholesterol- your body has enough free radicals all by itself to deal with without you overwhelming it. Then there is eating more vegetables, stress-reduction, exercise… today’s post is focusing on oil, though, so here’s the last puzzle piece for making real changes: Cook with water! Anti-climactic, I realize. But by simply adding water to cooking, for example in roasting pans, eggs (poaching), and to stir-fry cooking, you can help prevent the food and oil from overheating and oxidizing and overloading your immune system with extra free radicals.

Yay! But we’re not done. There is actually another piece. This blog is about the environment as well (and yes, you can use used cooking oil for biodiesel, but really we shouldn’t be frying often for the above reasons…), so the type of oil you choose to use, and the type of fats you eat in general are as important as how you use them. Fat is amazing stuff. It holds onto fat-soluble things- like hormones (PCOS and type 2 diabetes), and vitamins, but also things like pesticides. It also tends to concentrate and hold on to those things for a very long time.

So first, imagine a large animal (like a cow) eating a huge amount of non-organic corn, storing all that pesticide residue in its fat (which is mostly of the less healthy types Omega-6 and -9, and which it has more of than normal since cows weren’t built to eat so much carbohydrate at a time, much like people!)… and if you eat a piece of that well-marbled cow’s muscle, including the fat that’s been further oxidized and likely charred on that grill… It’s not so great for your arteries. Food for thought. But what about vegetable oils? Aren’t those “good for you?”

Imagine a field of, say, rapeseed (which originally was too toxic for human consumption until bred out to be lower in acid), even possibly “M” company’s Canadian GMO rapeseed (called ‘canola‘ which rhymes with granola, and sounds quite healthy!). Maybe the field was sprayed with pesticides. The seeds were harvested, cooked to crack the seeds, then pressed, creating more heat, to squeeze more oil out. If it was to be “refined,” then gasoline (hexane or heptane) was put on it to get the rest of the oil out of the seeds. It was then heated again to boil off the gasoline, then heated with phosphoric acid and water to ‘de-gum’ it, and then it was refined with sodium hydroxide (yep, drain cleaner!). Wow. Ok, still not done- in order to bleach it, it was passed through acid which creates peroxides, and finally to deodorize all the oxidization, it was steam distilled up to 518 degrees. Talk about high temperatures. Ew.

So, no, all vegetable oils aren’t necessarily good for you. Basically I’d like you to think about this when you’re choosing what to put in your body- think about not only the potential damage to arteries, but also the pesticides and potential GMO issues in crops used for both animal feed and cooking oil production (corn, soy, and other vegetable oils), and, of course, the petroleum used to bring that oil to you (in the fertilizer of non-organic crops, moving animals around and processing them, and flying the oil to you,… even EVOO from Italy. Jet fuel isn’t so good for the environment either and we have delicious olives right here in California! Arguably still far from, say, Maine… but I’m sure you have cows for making butter and ghee closer! :) ).

Slow down, think, and allow yourself and the planet better health with your choices.