Omega 6 Fats Don’t Cause Inflammation?

I’ve written about the Nutrition Action Healthletter several times before. The Healthletter is a publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit health watchdog organization. Anyway, in the June 2012 Healthletter, it was clearly stated that one of the top nutrition myths today is that omega 6 fats cause inflammation. The Healthletter clearly stated that omega 6 fats don’t cause inflammation and they actually are heart protective (read more from the CSPI here).


The Omega 6 Question

Saying that omega 6 is good for you and not to be cautious about consuming it disagrees Continue reading

Warren Kramer – Part Two

I promised another post regarding the visit by internationally-recognized macrobiotic counselor Warren Kramer, so here it is. Overall, I’m just really glad to have gotten the chance to see someone who is such an authority in the healing art of macrobiotics. The appreciation for alternative approaches to health is one of the things that sets The Natural Epicurean apart from what other culinary schools offer, so I’m glad to be a part of the program.

There were a number of highlights from Warren Kramer’s visit that I figured I’d jot down in hopes that it would help me remember them!

  • A healthy person tries to keep empty, not full. Eating just enough to be strong is the goal, not feeling full all the time.
  • People tend to crave more of the foods that exacerbate their current condition. Continue reading

Soup’s On!

Acid-Alkaline Diet

Tuesday we had another nutrition lecture and we discussed the topic of acid-alkaline balance in the body and using nutrition to maintain that balance. Radhia gave us pH strips to test our saliva and urine (testing took place in the privacy of our homes, thankfully ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

The basic idea is that certain foods tend to make your body more acidic and other foods tend to make it more alkaline. The theory’s proponents contend that bodies which are constantly acidic or fighting to reduce acidity tend to be sicker. Therefore, striving for alkalinity is desirable and guess what – healthy foods produce alkalinity: vegetables, most fruits, oats, tea, and other healthy foods. The baddies? Processed oils, dairy foods, meats, refined sugar and salts, etc. There are some unexpected foods — carrots and cranberries produce acidity, rice syrup (fairly sweet) produces alkalinity — but mostly it’s intuitive.

In the body’s fight to maintain homeostasis, it will become weakened and susceptible to a number of disease states.

Below: pH paper roll for testing your pH levels.


Soups Lab

We made a variety of soups today, which was great for me because I haven’t had a lot of experience in soup production.

Below: One team made it’s own chapati from scratch, as shown encircling the bowl below.


Below: Mint-melon soup.


Below: A mock clam chowder made with sauteed oyster mushrooms. The team made a scratch version of Old Bay seasoning to lend a classic seafood soup flavor.


Below: Brian Henderson, who’s in charge of procuring the stock we cook with and who also provides us with helpful coaching during our cooking labs, showed me how to quickly break down an avocado using a technique you probably haven’t seen before…

Below: Corn and quinoa chowder. I made and garnished this one. It had a very good corn flavor and the key was, I think, scraping the corn “milk” out of the cob after cutting off the kernels.


Weird Observation of the Day

In the cooking lab, anytime you touch your face or hair, you have to wash your hands again before touching food. You learn to delay scratching your nose, or at least find alternative ways of accomplishing the goal. Now, even when I am at home, I have strange feelings about touching my face — I’m beginning to think twice before scratching!

Veg on the Table

We got down and dirty with fungus and other bulb-y, root-y plants on Tuesday. I have developed a real appreciation for mushrooms in the past several months, so cooking them in school was a good thing for me.

Did You Know?

Mushrooms don’t use photosynthesis? They get their energy by basically eating away at the matter around them. They are considered parasites – but GOOD parasites because they are instrumental at breaking down and decaying matter, thereby contributing to the Circle of Life (cue the Lion King music ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

You get to participate in the circle of life by cooking them down until tender with some olive oil, adding some stock perhaps, and eating them, herbivore style.

Below: Beech mushrooms. So cute! They actually have little faces that smile at you and sing songs. Not really. Just being silly.


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Get Yer Veg On

Week Five started with a lecture and discussion on converting traditional recipes to healthier and/or vegetarian versions. We discussed definitions of health and how food intersects with health and healing. We talked about the trends in healthier eating and then planned a week-long menu of vegetarian lunches for a hypothetical children’s camp. Making a vegetarian menu for a school would be much harder because of nutritional requirements and it would have taken all day just to do the nutritional analysis. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  It was fun planning a menu and seeing how the other people on my team think – working in a group can definitely produce better results than working alone.


Lab – Vegetables I

We’ve been through Grains, Beans, Stocks, and Sauces. Time to love our vegetables!

Below: My cutting board (left) has the orange zest, which I am learning to always capture in case its needed for garnish, and garlic. Chioggia beets are red and striated; you can see them on the cutting board to the right.



Below: Grating himalayan pink sea salt into an orange ginger dressing for our chioggia beets.


Below: A really good vegetable ceviche created by a classmate. This was another example of a dish that was created outside of our assigned recipes.


Below: My team’s orange-ginger beet salad.


Below: A carrot salad with parsley and mint.


Below: A warm carrot chipotle saute with apricots and pistachios. Yum!


Below: Braised butternut squash.


Below: A beet salad with parsley, mint, and cilantro. I really liked this salad. Beets are really good – spread the word!


A Bit About Beets

Beets are crazy good for you! And fresh beets cooked well taste really good. You can dress them with a sweet or herby dressing and make them even better.

Beets are loaded with fiber and vitamin C. Dr. Oz calls beets a super food because they are loaded with inflammation-stopping antioxidants, which are common in deeply-colored foods like orange potatoes and red beets. Like many root vegetables such as carrots, beets have natural sugars with are enhanced with cooking. It’s not like eating candy, but as Chef Alex told us, root vegetables are often called “dirt candy” because they do have that subtle sweet flavor, which can round out your meal. Once you get off soda, fake sweeteners, and processed sugars, you will be in a better position to enjoy their health-promoting sweetness!


Good News and Good Stuff

Great news! I have agreed to cater a weekend retreat for about 20 people in June. I am very excited thinking about menu options. I love the people involved and I love this idea – it’s the type of work I really want to do.

Another fun tidbit – I am volunteering at Casa de Luz this Friday and I’ll get a free meal at lunch. I’m very excited to get into their kitchen. I love their food and this local macrobiotic restaurant was instrumental in inspiring my career change and attendance at The Natural Epicurean.

I picked up a couple of goodies at my local food co-op, Wheatsville, since they have 10% off during owner appreciation days. I love being an owner of my local food co-op – it makes me feel more a part of the community and I love the idea of community ownership of business. Bonus points if you can identify the device in the photo below, which I was very excited to acquire.


I also decided to try a new calcium supplement. I wanted one with magnesium since Radhia, our nutrition teacher, told us that you should include magnesium in your calcium supplements at a 1:1 ratio. The Rainbow Light brand fit the bill nicely.


William Spear Macrobiotics Class (Part 1)

Living in Austin, TX, has it’s benefits: Cool people like William Spear come to talk about very interesting topics. Mr. Spear is a Feng Shui expert (he wrote a very well known book on the topic, Feng Shui Made Easy) and a long-time practitioner and counselor of macrobiotics. He is staying in Austin temporarily to work on some writing, and he decided to give a series of talks on macrobiotics while he is in town. The talks will occur at Casa de Luz, a terrific macrobiotic “restaurant” in Austin. I noted a few interesting tidbits that struck me from the talk (below the photo).

Below: William Spear explains Macrobiotics whilst I snap a surreptitious photograph.


  • Chew your food a lot. Chewing alkalizes food, which reduces the load on your digestive system. He cited an expression “drink your food and chew your drink” which is to say “chew so much that your food becomes liquid.”
  • The lungs are an important organ for elimination of waste – CO2. The lungs are very active discharging carbon dioxide from 3:00 am and 5:00 am, which is why many people awake during those hours.
  • Good desire for food is a key benefit of the health you can achieve through macrobiotics. Healthy food will make you feel nourished. You will have desires for all normal things at healthy levels.
  • Your body’s organs have natural daily rhythms. Western medicine I beginning to take these rhythms into account when treating organs (administering treatment at certain times of day to maximize impact). Our hearts’ natural rhythms are least active around midnight, and this is not just because we are commonly sleeping – taking it easy is just what your heart “wants” to do at that time.
  • People urinate more in fall due to cooling temperatures. This aligns with macrobiotic principles of contraction/expansion, (although I am not quite sure how!).
  • You should be able to fall asleep shortly after getting into bed.
  • Your body doesn’t need as much food on a macrobiotic diet because your body uses it more efficiently. At first your body may be hungry on a macrobiotic diet, but that is because it is not used to drawing nutrients from food so efficiently. Most of our bodies are accustomed to working very hard for the scarce nutrients in our French fries and hamburgers, so we demand a larger quantity of food.
  • Most degenerative diseases occur not because of deficiency but because of excess.
  • Americans eat 2-3 times more protein than necessary.
  • We know that calcium in a high protein environment (e.g., milk) is not well absorbed. Cultures with lowest consumption of dairy have least osteoporosis. The “fact” that dairy is beneficial to your bones is a big lie perpetrated by the dairy industry.
  • There is no forbidden food in macrobiotics. (There is more to this point, but I don’t think I can do it justice. Basically, you want to shoot for eating in a certain way, but macrobiotics would not specifically prohibit any food, especially if it might be useful for your body and your particular situation.)

What do you think? Do these points make sense? If you attended the talk, what did you hear that you liked a lot?

Christy Morgan’s Mac and Kale

I got a terrific kale recipe from Christy Morgan’s book, Blissful Bites (buy on Amazon), that I wanted to try. Christy, also known as The Blissful Chef, is a graduate of The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts (my soon-to-be-culinary school) and I sampled this dish at the Texas Vegetarian Chili Cookoff in 2011. I bought her book at a recent open house for The Natural Epicurean, and was looking forward to trying this recipe in particular.

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News of the Week (2012-01-28)

I felt motivated by so many articles recently, I thought I’d share some of them:

Book: The Body Ecology Diet

I love reading about nutrition theory and there is no shortage of viewpoints on how to eat healthfully. The Body Ecology Diet‘s focus is on maintaining a healthy intestinal tract populated with beneficial bacteria and void of high levels of unhealthy yeast.


Candida Yeast

The book’s focus is on the condition candidiasis, which is an overgrowth of the yeast candida albicans. Candidiasis is normally recognized as a yeast infection of the mouth, genitals, or other moist areas on/near the outside of the body. Among alternative nutrition thinkers, however, candida albicans is believed to commonly overgrow within our intestines, where it feeds on sugar and is blamed for a number of symptoms. Author Donna Gates writes that given the right conditions, candida puts toxins into your bloodstream, overgrows in the intestines, and can expand into blood and organs causing problems such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Poor memory
  • A spacey feeling in one’s head
  • Muscle aches
  • Constipation and diarrhea (probably not at the same time ๐Ÿ˜› )
  • Impotence
  • Headaches
  • Mucus in stool
  • Food sensitivities/intolerances
  • Chronic rashes/psoriasis

I don’t understand the mechanism by which all of these issues could be impacted by an unhealthy gut, but some of them do make sense to me. For example, I believe that immune reactions I have to certain foods can precipitate “spacey” feelings that I sometimes get in my head, so it’s not a stretch to believe that intestinal health can mediate or cause the same reaction.

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