Month: October 2016

Spotlight on Sardines

Sardines photoI visited Japan for the first time in 2014, and one of the things I was blown away by the food.

The sushi was way better than I even expected, and I generally ate tons of great food for less than I expected.

But one of my favorite discoveries – and stick with me here – was sardines.

I know!! Who would have thought?

Fuji (a town near Mount Fuji) is famous for its young sardines, also known as “Shirasu.” You can buy them fresh or dried (we went for fresh), and they’re absolutely delicious.

As it turns out, I’d spent my whole life being afraid that I’d hate this little fish, only to find out just how great they are.

What is a Sardine?

There are actually many fish that are known as “sardines,” but they’re all so closely related genetically that they’re usually just considered to be the same fish. These include many small types of herring that are caught at night, when they rise to the surface of the water to eat plankton.

It is said that Napoleon was responsible for the sardines’ rise in popularity, and although sardines fell out of popularity for a short time, they are making a comeback now as more people realize their impressive health benefits.

Are Sardines Healthy?

Oh yes, let me count the ways:

  1. Sardines are packed with calcitriol, a form of vitamin D that regulates cell cycles. Because the disruption of proper cell cycles is what causes cancer, keeping these cycles the way they’re supposed to be is one of the most effective forms of cancer prevention.
  2. Sardines are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Since our diets often contain far too many omega-6s, these healthy omega-3s help our bodies to balance out and reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease.
  3. The most prevalent nutrient in sardines, vitamin B12, clocks in at a whopping 337% of what you need every day! B12 reduces homocysteine, an element that builds up and plays an important role in the degeneration of bone through osteoporosis. So with all this vitamin B12, sardines do their part to support bone health.
  4. Like most other seafood, sardines are generally full of a variety of vitamins and minerals, too numerous to list here.
  5. The protein in sardines provides us with necessary amino acids that build and regenerate our bodies. These amino acids transport oxygen through the body and repair tissue. Don’t forget that amino acids are also responsible for building antibodies, so the huge dose of protein in these little fish also strengthens the immune system.

Many people are afraid to try sardines, mostly because they seem just about as “weird” as anchovies, for no real reason. Sardines have a rich, flavorful taste without a fishy aftertaste, and there’s really nothing unusual about them at all.

But for those of you who have yet to actually sink your teeth into these tiny fish, there are many options.

How to Choose Sardines

If you can’t make it to Mount Fuji, here are a few tips.

  1. Finding actual, whole sardines could be a bit of quest, as they are usually sold only in cans. However, some stores have sardines at the seafood counter, and they are glad to remove the bones for you. You can ask them to remove the large bones and leave the little bones, as cooking the sardines softens them and you don’t even know they’re there.
  2. You also have a lot of options for buying canned sardines. Some of the most common options are sardines in water, soy oil, canola oil, tomato sauce, and olive oil.
  • When selecting canned sardines, make sure to read the labels for information about what they’re packed in. Be sure to avoid those packed in soy oil, canola oil, or tomato sauce with a lot of sugar in it.
  • Generally, buying sardines packed in water is the best bet—you can always spice them up with some homemade Paleo mayo or put them into your next culinary creation.
  • Remember that while sardines are a great snack just by themselves, they can also be used in a variety of dishes and as a salad topper. Try dumping your sardines into a bowl and mashing in some avocado—it makes a great veggie dip!

Issue No. 35

Spotlight on Avocados: The Alligator Pear – or How to Love an Avocado

Avocado photo

Fun fact: The avocado was, at one time, called an “alligator pear” for its dark, rough skin.
Another fun fact: Later, sailors began using the creamy insides of the avocado as a kind of topping on biscuits, called “midshipman’s butter.”
Regardless of what you choose to call it, there’s no doubt that the avocado is an awesome addition to any meal.

So What Is an Avocado?

It seems like a silly question, right? But it’s an interesting one, nonetheless.
An avocado is a fruit, and more specifically, a berry. It’s one of the few fruits (along with olives and coconuts) that has a lot of fat, rather than just a lot of sugar.
The avocado is native to Central and South America, but within the United States, California is the primary producer. Because of its high fat content, avocado is often used as a meat substitute in salads. And, of course, we all know just how important this green guy is in guacamole! But what makes avocado so great?

The Health Benefits of Avocados

  1. Studies have shown that having a hearty serving of avocado reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, a general term encompassing a group of symptoms that increase your risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes. By reducing inflammation in your body, avocadoes ensure that your organs and tissues get adequate blood flow and do their jobs the way they’re supposed to.
  2. Avocadoes contain phytochemicals that, individually or in combination, may help prevent cancer. Research into these potential anti-cancer antioxidants shows that the compounds inside avocadoes help the body to replicate cells the way it should. Since incorrectly replicated cells lead to cancer, making sure that the cells reproduce the right way goes a long way in stopping cancer!
  3. Across the board, avocados have a variety of micronutrients (vitamins C, K, B6, etc.) and a lot of healthy monounsaturated fat.

4 Awesome Avocado Hacks

  1. Mash an avocado into a paste and apply it straight to the skin to treat sunburn and prevent blistering and scaling. But if you don’t have a sunburn, don’t worry! Throw some avocado on anyway to see smooth, moisturized skin.
  2. Toss some avocado, egg, and olive oil together and slather it on your head to repair damaged or dry hair. Apparently (I haven’t tried it), regular use of avocado as a hair product can speed hair growth and treat hair loss. The ancient Egyptians used avocado for this purpose.
  3. If you’re in a pinch, you can use avocado as a butter substitute in recipes. The ratio is a simple 1:1, but there are some other things you may want to keep in mind if you choose to go this route.
  4. Got a great avocado recipe but can’t make it because your avos aren’t ripe yet? Stick them in a bag with an apple or a banana to speed up their ripening! The gases from the ripe apples and bananas encourage the avocadoes to mature quickly.

Whether you choose to eat your avocado or to mash it up and turn it into something awesome, it’ll do your body good no matter what.
So get creative and see what sorts of things you can do with a little of this creamy green goodness!

Issue No. 36

Spotlight on Crab: Is Crab Healthy for Me? Plus, How to Properly Eat a Crab

Crab photo

Two hundred million years is an extraordinarily long time.

Upright ancestors of humans evolved from monkeys just 4-6 million years ago. And we weren’t REALLY human until about 130,000 years ago (at least by some metrics like brain size). But however long it’s been, it’s nowhere close to 200 million years.

Crabs, though, have been crabs for about that long. They were around with dinosaurs, for crying out loud.

I’m a geek for facts like this, but the one that might blow you away is that the largest crabs can measure 12 feet across (from claw to claw). That’s not a crab that would fit in any pot that I have at home.

Why Crabs Are Super Healthy

Crabs are a little bit expensive in the United States (and in most parts of the world). So when we think of crab, we usually think of a delicacy rather than a health food.

And to be sure, crabs are delicious, especially if they’re very fresh.

But they’re also incredibly nutrient-dense, like most other shellfish.

Crabs are very high in zinc, copper, selenium, and B12, all critical minerals and vitamins that we don’t get a whole lot of from other foods. In addition, crab has very respectable levels of most other vitamins and minerals, making it nutritious across the board.

I don’t list any numbers here because it varies a little depending on the type of crab (King Crab, Dungeness Crab, etc.), but pretty much every crab is excellent.

And if you’re worried about mercury (which you generally shouldn’t be, unless you’re eating shark or whale), then rest assured that crab is near the bottom of the food chain, feeding mostly on algae, which means that it’s generally very low in mercury.

What You Need to Watch Out For

Crabs are shellfish, which means that they’re pretty allergenic, and a lot of people have sensitivities to shellfish.

So you need to pay attention to how you feel when you eat crab. If it’s not so great, then that’s probably a pretty good sign that you have a sensitivity and should steer clear.

Also, if you’re going to buy and eat crab, make sure it’s as fresh as possible, preferably alive and just caught from the sea. This doesn’t mean you can never eat frozen crab, but not only will the taste not be nearly as good, but also – like all seafood – as soon as it dies, histamines are released into the meat, making it more likely you’ll have an allergic response to the crab.

If you’re not familiar with preparing and cooking live crabs, here’s an excellent tutorial. It focuses on Dungeness crabs, but could apply to any hard-shell crab.

And when it comes to buying live crab from the store, definitely visit a store that goes through a lot of crab on a daily basis. If the crabs have been there more than a day or so, then they’re probably not fed well and are starting to get malnourished.

Issue No. 37

Spotlight on Garlic

Garlic photoWe all know that the foods we like can change throughout our lives, but one thing I can say for sure is that I grew up loving garlic and just never stopped! As a seasoning and ingredient in soups and on meats, my family always made sure to have that extra pinch; even the smell of cooking garlic was enough to lure me into the kitchen.
Mom had no problem getting me to eat garlic, and that’s a good thing, because this unassuming little bulb of flavor really packs some amazing boosts for your health. A member of the onion family, garlic has been used since before ancient Egyptian times as a seasoning all around the world. However, even more than as a delicious food, garlic has been prized for thousands of years for its medicinal effects, many of which come from antibacterial sulfur compounds (like allicin) that appear when garlic is chewed or crushed. It’s also what gives garlic that delightfully pungent smell.

What’s great about garlic?

  1. It’s very nutritious, packing large amounts of manganese, vitamins B6 and C, selenium, and fiber into that tiny little package. Many other nutrients are also present in garlic; in fact, it has just a little bit of almost everything we need.
  2. It’s full of antioxidants, which combat the damage that free radicals cause in your body by oxidation. That means that, among other things, it can reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  3. It’s a natural disease fighter. Garlic has been shown to effectively combat infectious diseases, which can lead to a healthier, happier life and increase longevity. In fact, people who regularly consume garlic are 63% less likely to catch a cold than those who don’t.

What else can garlic do for you?

  1. It can help to relax your blood vessels and increase blood flow. The red blood cells in your body love to snatch up garlic compounds, turning them into hydrogen sulfide – a proven “cell messenger” that tells your blood vessels to relax. What does that mean for you? It means that garlic helps to lower high blood pressure and reduce the chances of cardiovascular disease.
  2. It can beautify your hair and slow down hair loss. The compound allicin and similar compounds found in other members of the onion family have been proven as an effective treatment for hair loss and a great way to keep your hair naturally healthy.
  3. Garlic can be an easy way to remove splinters (who knew, right?). The plant’s natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce swelling, opening up the injury and allowing the splinter to come free without infection. Place a thin piece of garlic over the splinter and cover with a band-aid. Leave for a few hours or overnight.
  4. It’s a great medicine. This kind of goes in line with #3 above. Since garlic is naturally anti-inflammatory, it can be used to treat any inflamed condition, whether it’s psoriasis, acne, or a cold sore. Direct application of garlic is fine (though it is also naturally sticky – you can use it for glue), or you can make garlic tea.

Garlic is quite a star when it comes to health-boosting plants, whether it’s in a delicious recipe or just on your skin. As you rush out to buy a few bulbs, remember to consider your source: healthy garlic comes from healthy soil! Go local if you can, but no matter what, enjoy your garlic. There are, after all, plenty of things to use it for!

Issue No. 38

Spotlight on Seaweed

Seaweed photo

Three reasons why this seafood is your new best friend: Nori, Dulse, and Gim.

Whatever you call it, seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse.

Although seaweed is eaten around the world, Japan is the country most commonly associated with seaweed consumption. In fact, recent research indicates that the average Japanese citizen’s gut bacteria is specifically adapted to be able to digest more seaweed than most other folks around the world.
Seaweed comes in multiple varieties, but we can break it down more simply into algae of three colors: green (Wakame), red (Dulse or Nori), and brown (Kombu).

Technically the term sea“weed” isn’t correct, because weeds are by definition plants that spread so rapidly they may damage the environment. However, seaweed is a crucial part of the marine scene—it provides both habitat and food for aquatic animals.

Some seaweeds are microscopic, while others are as big as trees and grow in forests at the bottom of the ocean. People have been using this plant for thousands of years; evidence from ancient Rome suggests that people used it to treat wounds and burns, and some signs point to Egyptians using this water plant as a treatment for breast cancer.
Science is rapidly proving that we should be hopping on the centuries-old seaweed bandwagon.

Why Eat Seaweed?

  1. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory. A study showed that green seaweed was effective in reducing joint inflammation in arthritic rats, and it’s likely that we can trace this to the eicosapentanoic acid found in aquatic plants. An essential fatty acid, e. acid has been shown in many past studies to help heal inflammation. This means that seaweed may also play a big part in reducing heart disease and high blood pressure!
  2. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium are just some of the many nutrients you can find in this ocean plant. Vitamins A and C help keep your skin, muscle, and bodily tissues strong and healthy, while calcium not only strengthens bones and teeth but also helps your nerves send messages throughout your body.
  3. Iodine. Seaweed is one of the world’s richest sources of natural edible iodine; humans have a history of being so deficient in it that we’ve had to manually add it to our salt in order to make sure we get enough. Iodine is crucial for your thyroid, which needs the mineral in order to produce and control your hormones. Without enough iodine, your metabolism would get wacky, and if you’re deficient as a baby, studies show that you have a much greater chance of issues with brain development.

How Can I Eat Seaweed?

  1. Wrap it around some sushi. This is one of the most famous ways to eat seaweed, because the sushi itself is so customizable—wrap that nori (Japanese seaweed) around whatever sort of sushi roll you want!
  2. As an ingredient in soup. Try adding seaweed to bone broth for an extra dose of deliciousness. Or you can even create a soup where seaweed is the main ingredient—put some seaweed and shiitake mushrooms together and you’ve got a great veggie soup!
  3. As a substitute for salt. Seriously, try it. You can find dry seaweed in many stores, so just crush it up into flakes and use it as you would salt. The natural flavor of seaweed is inherently a little salty, and you’re not missing out on any iodine by making the switch!
  4. In an omelet. Try putting strips of seaweed in with your egg and mushrooms for an awesome breakfast! You can also do the egg and seaweed combo in a salad if you are so inclined.

Seaweed is versatile in its uses and packed with a huge variety of crucial nutrients, so it’s no wonder that cultures based around eating this plant have a tendency to live longer. Next time you’re at the store, be sure to grab some seaweed (dry or wet are both great!) and get creative with some recipes! Seaweed will most likely be with the Asian food in most stores—usually in the same area where you can find spring rolls.

Issue No. 39

Spotlight on Brazil Nuts

Brazil Nuts photo
Photo by The Travelling Bum

4 Reasons That One Nut May Rule Them All

In general, nuts are quite nutritious. They don’t quite hold up to seafood or organ meats, but nuts are super when it comes to minerals.
However, not all nuts are created equal (or at least, some nuts are more equal than others).

The Amazing Brazil Nut

It might surprise you to know, but Brazil nuts don’t just come from Brazil.
Around 40% of the world’s Brazil nuts come from Brazil. The rest are harvested mainly in Bolivia and the countries surrounding some of the largest South American rivers, including the Amazon. Even today, Brazil nuts are gathered from wild trees in the jungle—how many other wild foods do you eat on a daily basis?
It’s illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree, and many of these trees live to be more than 1,000 years old! They’ve got deep roots that dredge up valuable nutrients from the soil, and those nutrients go right into the seeds where humans can reap the benefits.
These seeds provide so much nutrition that eating just one a day can fulfill your daily recommended amount of some minerals.

What’s So Great About Brazil Nuts?

  1. They’re absolutely packed with selenium. In fact, if you were to hear just one thing about Brazil nuts, it’d probably be related to their selenium content. One serving of Brazil nuts (that’s just 6 nuts) contains 774% of the selenium you need every day. You read that right—774%. Selenium supports a healthy immune system and prevents cell damage due to free radicals.
  2. They contain a daily dose of magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral responsible for hundreds of chemical reactions in your body every day, and what’s even more surprising is that it’s one of the easiest minerals to become deficient in. Studies have shown that people chronically deficient in magnesium are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. But you won’t need to worry about deficiency if you’re eating Brazil nuts at roughly 100% your daily magnesium value!
  3. They’re an excellent source of fiber, which helps our intestines function the way they should. It also helps our bodies to retain more nutrients.
  4. You can use Brazil nuts for a variety of recipes. Try grinding them into a fine powder and mixing that in with a smoothie. Or chop them up and put them on a Paleo dessert. Eat them whole, or toss them with some ghee and broccoli. You could even pop them into some cookies.

What To Watch Out For

1. Brazil nuts are packed with selenium. Didn’t we talk about that before? You bet we did.

The selenium content in Brazil nuts is both a blessing and a curse. While selenium is great, too much of it can be a bad thing. The most common signs of too much selenium in the diet include stomach upset and brittle nails. To avoid this, make sure you’re not eating, you know, a whole bowl of Brazil nuts every morning.

2. Because of the high fat content in Brazil nuts, they do not keep well. They are prone to going rancid quickly, so keep them in a cool, dry place. If they begin to taste bitter, they have gone bad.

Just one Brazil nut a day has been shown to have significant positive health effects.

Remember to store them in a cool place, and remember that some people may have a Brazil nut allergy, just as they would to peanuts. But if you’re able to eat them, Brazil nuts can go a long way toward awesome nutrition!

Issue No. 40

Spotlight on Kefir

Kefir photo
Photo by David Niergarth

Kefir. Is it kuh-FEER? Or maybe KEE-fur? Turns out you can say it either way, but no matter how you choose to say it, it’s an awesome Paleo food, and you should be including more of this carbonated dairy product in your Paleo regimen! This is a beverage that’s been around for a very long time, and people have relied on the benefits of kefir over many centuries.

In fact, the history of kefir follows that of other fermented drinks, originating in an age quite distant from ours—the Babylonians, around 5000 BC. But what on earth is kefir, anyway? This carbonated beverage is milk-based and deliciously fermented; any ruminant animal (one that doesn’t completely chew the greens it eats) can produce the milk used in making kefir. This makes it a popular source of nutrients in many parts of the world, because lots of creatures provide the ingredients necessary—cows, goats, and sheep, to name a few. If you’re brave, hippopotamus milk works too….

Kefir has seen most of its popularity in Europe and Asia, where it is acknowledged for its healing properties. Because bacteria are used to culture the milk (which causes the carbonation), and because these bacteria form a special type of symbiotic colony, kefir is widely praised as one of the world’s most effective probiotics. However, kefir is, after all, fermented milk; that means that it’s going to be a little sour to the taste. But try it if you haven’t yet done so! Its health benefits are well worth learning to love the taste.

What’s in Kefir?

  1. Probiotics. The bacteria in our gut is crucial for us to remain healthy (it can heal us from the inside and help prevent allergies, among other things), and so we need to make sure that we keep those bacteria healthy too. Because kefir is one of the world’s best probiotics, we can be sure we’re taking care of ourselves on the bacterial level!
  2. Vitamin K12. This vitamin is often deficient in the average American’s diet, but it’s so important for our physical wellbeing. K12 makes sure that important minerals like calcium end up where they belong—in our bones, not in our arteries. That’s a big deal, and adding kefir to the diet delivers a hearty dose of this essential vitamin to our bodies.
  3. Lactobacilli. What on earth are lactobacilli? You can think of it like little rod-shaped bacteria, and they go through your body calming down your immune system. That’s actually a good thing! Studies have shown that kefir’s lactobacilli know when your system is overreacting to things that aren’t dangerous (like pollen), and it tells your immune system to calm down. That means that you deal with a lot less inflammation.

How Do I Use Kefir?

  1. Salad Dressings. You can use kefir on top of any type of salad, but try it with fruit salads to experience the complementary sweet and bitter tastes. This is a great substitute for non-Paleo dressings.
  2. Soups. Kefir is a great addition to a hearty soup, and it can add a different taste that contributes a truly robust flavor. Or you can just make an actual kefir soup. Get creative!
  3. In Smoothies. The same unique tastes that make kefir great as a dressing for fruit salad also make it a wonderful addition to a smoothie. Kefir will contribute to a creamy texture and great taste, and you’ll be getting all those great health benefits, too!

Adding kefir to your Paleo lifestyle is a great decision, but do be conscious of your tolerance to dairy. Kefir, for all its benefits, is still a dairy product, and if you have shown previous sensitivity to dairy, you may want to reconsider kefir’s role in your diet. If you are dairy-intolerant, the inflammation you will cause by consuming kefir outweighs the nutritional benefits. But if your body doesn’t mind kefir, get creative and start adding it to your recipes! Your gut will love you for it.

Issue No. 41

Spotlight on Tallow

beef Tallow photo
Photo by thedabblist

The first time I saw the word tallow, my immediate thought was, “Don’t they make candles out of that?” Yes, it’s true—you can make candles and soap out of tallow. But did you know that it’s also a great addition to your diet? Who would have guessed.

But what on earth is tallow? It’s actually the rendered fat from beef and sometimes lamb. The hard, raw fat that’s usually around the kidneys of an animal is called suet, and it’s from suet that we get tallow. A lot of “heart-healthy” advocates like to attack the use of tallow because it’s high in saturated fat, but it’s actually a great choice. It’s also very stable at room temperature, which makes for easy storage and use.

How Do I Use Tallow?

  1. It’s a better way to fry foods. Naturally, we don’t want to use hydrogenated oils for frying, but tallow is a great way to go if you just have to have something fried.
  2. It’s a nice addition to eggs. Seriously, eggs soak up beef fat nicely, so you can add a pinch to your eggs in the morning if you’d like.
  3. Try it with a veggie stir-fry. It goes well with any vegetable, and its flavor is light, so you can use it with ingredients with a delicate flavor that you’d really like to bring out.
  4. Get adventurous and mix it with some avocado oil and essential oils to make a body balm!

As you can see, tallow is a great cooking ingredient, and you can branch out from foods and make other healthy recipes like lotions. But there’s just one problem—tallow can sometimes be hard to find. Local farmers and butchers are a great place to look (ask if you can buy fat trimmings), but once you’ve got the suet, what do you do?

How Do I Make Tallow?

  1. Cut the fat into cubes, being sure to remove ALL muscle and tissue attached to the fat (these materials can ruin your tallow).
  2. For your convenience, freeze your suet for a little bit so that it’s easier

Issue No. 42

Spotlight on Organ Meats

Organ Meats photo

For many Paleo people, the thought of eating the whole animal is an enticing, exciting way to really delve into our old roots as hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gather tribes considered organ meat to be the most prized meat. Nowadays, eating organ meat is seen as gross, tasteless meat. The whole animal means eating the whole thing. Including the organs.

For some, this may be a stomach-churning proposition. But there’s good news! Not only are organ meats some of the best foods you can eat, they’re also easy to make and tasty too. Before we get into all the different ways you can make a meal out of all those organs, let’s review why they’re an awesome part of a Paleo diet.

Why they’re great:

  1. Liver is one of the richest sources of retinol, a form of vitamin A. Retinol a great cancer fighter, and some studies suggest it may reduce the cognitive and physical decline associated with aging. Retinol has also been shown to undo the damaging effects of the sun on our skin. In addition to retinol, liver is a great source of folate and choline, and some studies suggest that liver may be the most nutrient-dense food on the planet.
  2. Heart meat is known for its huge amount of CoQ10, which has been proven effective in both treating and preventing cardiovascular disease. CoQ10 also helps our bodies metabolize energy properly, giving us a boost to go through the day strong and alert, and because CoQ10 is found in every cell in our bodies, its effect is pervasive. Eating heart meat to supplement this vitamin-like enzyme will protect mitochondrial function and keep cells working the way they should!
  3. Kidneys are packed with B vitamins, especially B-12. This will enable your body to make lots of new red blood cells, improving your circulatory health and really amplifying your metabolism. You can also find a good serving of folate in kidney meat, which helps your body create new cells. This means that kidneys are a great food for pregnant women; maintaining proper folate levels has been associated with lower risk of giving birth to a child with autism, as well less likelihood of a pre-term birth.

These are just some of the options for organ meat. You could also consider brains, which are packed with protein and healthy fats, or you might try tripe—the stomach of a sheep, goat, or pig. There are also sweetbreads (which are decidedly not breads at all!) and even tongue. I’ve personally tried testicles as well, so you could give those a shot too!

How to eat them:

  1. In stew or chili. If the thought of eating organ meats churns your stomach, consider making them the base of something else or mixing them in with other ingredients. This is especially true of chilis—it’s hard to notice ground-up heart or liver when it’s mixed with regular ground beef in a delicious chili!
  2. As sausage. You might be familiar with liverwurst in this sense. Try frying patties of liver sausage in butter with seasonings; you may be surprised!
  3. As toppings. Try tiny pieces of organ meat on top of other foods. Throw some thin slices of kidney on top of a bed of salad and see how it adds richness to the dish.
  4. As jerky. Seriously. Heart is particularly good for this, as it’s almost entirely muscle. If you freeze a heart and then cut it thinly, you’ve got some great jerky just waiting to happen!

Organ meats are an awesome addition to a Paleo diet—they’re some of the world’s most nutritious foods, after all. Organ meat can be a little intimidating at first, but you can ease into them by masking them in other foods, like chili. Soon you may be wondering why you didn’t make the change to organ meats sooner, because your body will be thanking you!

Issue No. 44

Spotlight on Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil photo
Photo by mealmakeovermoms

If you’re like most people, when you hear the word “coconut,” you think “tropical.” It may surprise you, then, to learn that coconut oil has been a popular commodity all around the world, from Europe to Africa to Asia, for thousands of years.
In fact, coconuts have had a pretty prodigious history. They were revered as one of the most curative substances in ancient medicine, able to heal anything that ails you, including your spirit and mind. We hear stories of how in World War II, the water of unripened coconuts was used to save the lives of soldiers when IV fluid supplies ran out. Coconut has been center stage for centuries, and it looks like there’s good reason.

Why is Coconut Oil Good for You?

  1. It is a great source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Studies have shown that these MCTs improve mental function and help the brain do its job. In fact, in people with mild or early-onset Alzheimer’s, consumption of MCTs resulted in an almost immediate improvement in memory.
  2. The types of fatty acids found in coconut oil mediate insulin. In other words, coconut oil helps you maintain a healthy blood sugar level, prevents blood sugar spikes, and boosts your metabolism, giving you more energy.
  3. Coconut oil protects your heart. By preventing oxidation and actually reshaping some of the toxic compounds in your body, coconut oil has been shown to have a cardioprotective effect that will not only help your heart function more effectively, but will also cut down high blood pressure.

Coconut oil is a great source for lots of nutrients that your body craves, but did you know that you don’t just have to eat coconut oil in order to get all of its awesome benefits? Turns out there are lots of other uses for this multi-purpose oil.

How Can I Use Coconut Oil?

  1. Cook it. Of course, you are always welcome to use coconut oil as a part of your diet, and it is especially good as a cooking oil. Compared to other types of oils, it does not deteriorate when cooked at high heat, and its flavor is light and mild so that it won’t disturb the other flavors of your food.
  2. Put it on wounds. Seriously. Coconut oil contains antibiotic properties, so you can feel confident putting it on bumps and scrapes to keep them from getting infected. The oil kills microbes and provides a thin protective layer to shield your injury.
  3. Use it as a cosmetic. Coconut oil makes a great lip balm, makeup remover, and lotion. It can soothe sunburns and is a great choice for treating dry skin, especially on the elbows and feet.
  4. Try it out as a hair care product. Instead of putting chemicals on your head, try some coconut oil to tame your frizz and condition your hair. Moisten your hands with it and run it gently through your hair to reduce static, or leave it in overnight and wash it out the next day to feel its full benefits as a conditioner.

Coconut oil has a variety of health-based uses besides just as a delicious treat. Putting it on your skin allows your body to absorb nutrients, too, so try out some coconut oil for whatever ails you!

Issue No. 45

Spotlight on Pistachios

Pistachios photoIf you’re anything like I was when I was a kid, I took one look at the odd green nuts my mom was always eating and thought, “Nope. No way. Those look downright weird.” Turns out I was missing out on one of the greatest sources of nutrients in the nut world! Mom had the right idea all along.
Pistachios originated in the Middle East, and they’re mentioned in a variety of ancient texts, including the Bible. They’ve been a part of the human diet for thousands of years, and their health benefits were widely known and celebrated in some populations. Let’s take a look at just what sort of punch these pistachios pack.

What’s so great about pistachios?

  1. They contain lots of antioxidants and are resistant to oxidation when they’re roasted. This means that not only are they great for you, they also stand up to roasting and won’t come to you pre-filled with toxins from their preparation.
  2. They can help your intestinal bacteria to flourish. Pistachios have been shown to improve intestinal health by encouraging the growth of bacteria that secrete helpful substances.
  3. Pistachios contain nutrients needed by your heart. Consumption of pistachios has been linked with a reduction in cholesterol and blood pressure levels, helping your heart to function at its most effective level.
  4. Because pistachios come in a shell, they are inherently good at preventing you from overeating. This is great, because let’s be honest—downing some delicious pistachios might be too easy sometimes!

What to watch out for

  1. Pistachios contain compounds called fructans. These are not harmful, but some people may find themselves a little sensitive to them, and this could cause some bloating or stomach upset. If your body is telling you pistachios aren’t the best option, listen. This could be why.
  2. While the protein and fiber content in pistachios is great, be careful not to eat too many. This is especially easy if you purchase pre-shelled pistachios. Consuming between ½ cup and 1 cup of (shelled) pistachios has been linked to significant weight gain.

Pistachios are a great addition to any diet, but as with anything else, add them in moderation. If your body dislikes the natural fructans in pistachios, be sure to pay attention to avoid causing unnecessary intestinal inflammation. But for the vast majority of people, pistachios are a phenomenal choice!

Issue No. 46

Spotlight on Bison

Bison meat photo
Photo by telepathicparanoia

If Paleo is all about going back to our roots and chowing down on the things our ancestors ate, then for many of us there’s probably no better animal than the bison, sometimes called “America’s original red meat.” How on earth do you get your hands on bison, though?

The good news is that we don’t need to hunt bison ourselves in order to enjoy everything it has to offer. This red meat is becoming popular enough that suppliers are stocking up, but it doesn’t end there. Federal regulations are doing a great job at preventing antibiotic treatment and feedlot raising of bison, so the meat you get is much less likely to be tainted with the hormones and chemicals we see in beef that has been grain-fed.

Why It’s Great:

  1. Ounce for ounce, bison contains more iron than other meats, including beef. Iron helps keep our bodies stable in a state called homeostasis. This is especially important in the brain; if you’ve got the right balance of iron up in your brain matter, you’re much less likely to develop degenerative mental diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  2. Bison is one place to find some rarer nutrients, like selenium. Selenium protects our bodies from cell damage caused by free radicals, and studies have shown that it can also boost our immune system.
  3. Bison has a nice amount of protein with healthier fats than beef. This makes it a great beef alternative, and many people say it’s richer and tastes better than other meats too!

Things to Know:

  1. Because bison meat contains less fat than its beef counterpart, it’s much easier to overcook. If you’re cooking bison, remember to cut your cooking times and reduce the heat to avoid overcooking.
  2. If there are no local bison suppliers in your area, you can try resources like Allen Brothers or check out the buyer’s guide at National Bison Association to find a shipper near you. Whole Foods has also begun to stock some bison products.
  3. Remember that “buffalo” milk and cheese (sometimes called “buffalo mozzarella”) are not bison products. They are made from water buffalo milk.

Bison is a great way to branch out and add some new food to your diet. As bison meat becomes more available, more and more Paleo-ists will be adding it to their plates, and you should give a try too. Who knows—you may never go back to beef!

Issue No. 48

Spotlight on Food: Hemp Milk

Hemp Milk photo
Photo by davidburn

Lactose intolerance is becoming one of the most common food-related allergies doctors diagnose. For someone whose stomach can’t process milk, either because of its lactose or casein, as well as those who choose not to drink milk due to ethical concerns or because it doesn’t agree with their bodies, a big problem soon crops up—they miss milk! For many of these folks, hemp milk has proven to be a great, satisfying solution. But what on earth is hemp milk?

Rest assured, first of all, that hemp milk isn’t liquefied marijuana or anything of the sort. Rather, it’s made from the seeds of the hemp plant, and many describe its flavor as nutty or creamy. These seeds are known to have a variety of health benefits, but some pointed out in particular studies are worth special notice.

Why Is Hemp Milk Good for You?

  1. It’s loaded with the perfect setup of fatty acids. Those are your omega-3s and omega-6s, but their balance is spot-on in hempseed. This means that this milk is great for your cardiovascular health, not to mention your brain—remember, much of your brain is made of fat!
  2. Hempseed naturally reduces bad cholesterol. What’s even better is that it doesn’t tamper with other important parts of the blood in doing this, such as plasma.
  3. Hemp is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. This reduces vascular diseases like atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries from plaque buildup).

Some of the great nutrients that hemp milk contains include:

  • All 10 essential amino acids (those are the ones our body can’t make by itself)
  • Lots of calcium
  • Potassium (helps with aches and pains!)
  • Iron
  • Zinc (in which many people are deficient)
  • Vitamins A, B-12, and E (which help our immune system)

There are many more—this list gives just a brief overview of the many nutrients we can obtain from hemp milk.
For the more adventurous types, you can also make your own hemp milk if you’re feeling a little unsure about buying it in a store-bought carton. You simply need to blend ½ cup of raw hempseeds (make sure they’re shelled!) and 2 cups of water. Then just give it a pass through a cheesecloth and voila! Chill it for even better taste, but don’t store it for more than about three days.

One word of advice if you’re going to try hopping on the hemp milk bandwagon, though—remember that a fancy label doesn’t mean superior quality. If you’re picking up hemp milk from the store, check the label and be wary of ingredients you can’t pronounce, added sugar, or promises of “low fat” or “added minerals.” As you’ve seen above, hemp milk is easy to make, so if it’s got 20 ingredients, something fishy is going on. And your body probably won’t like it.

Issue No. 49

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