Green Gold: Avocados

March 2, 2012

One of the most valuable discoveries ever: our neighbor has an avocado tree—and they're the best we've ever had. And the neighbor doesn't even eat them! We've stuck green gold. Our family eats a lot of avocados—even before they were free (in any case, we believe good food = good investment). And avos are one of the fatty fruit foods that we especially recommend as a staple to newbie vegans to satisfy that "heavy, full" feeling that some people seek when they are transitioning. We say eat as many avocados a day as you want!

However, the question always arises, "But aren't avocados fattening?" A couple short answers:

A) Plant food contains no cholesterol. Only animal fat causes harmful side effects. Raw plant fats will not make you gain excessive fat. In fact, your organs recognize plant fat differently than animal fat, using them properly instead of attacking them as toxins.

B) Fatty fruits like avocado, olives, and coconut contain lipase, an enzyme that helps burn body fat. We don't carry much lipase in our own fat cells, so introducing it into our systems through raw plants helps metabolize cooked/animal fats stored all over our bodies.

C) New vegans who think they're craving protein are generally missing high quality fats, which contain more calories and thus prolonged energy. We hope you'll look at "good" fats in a whole new light. They're hugely beneficial—from providing essential fatty acids and antioxidants to slowing the release of sugars into the bloodstream, to aiding bone formation and remineralization. They even help our cells in defense against pollution.

So eat it up...we're off to raid our neighbor's yard (and on that note, you might want to check out Fallen Fruit, neighborhood maps of fruit trees growing on public land...AKA free.)

To learn more, check out Sunfood Diet Success System by David Wolfe.

How Processed Food is Changing the Shape of the Human Head

February 6, 2012

Leonardo Da Vinci

After an enlightening conversation with a myofunctional therapist about her work, I've been doing some fascinating reading—Daniel Lieberman's Evolution of the Human Head.

According to human history, we living today have gone soft. Somewhere down the line, between 250,000 and 1.5 million years ago, we decided it was more efficient to cook our food—less chews per bite, less force per chew. Cut to today: we've gone too far.

The average person's food is mostly cooked, blended, boiled, baked, ground, or mechanically processed in some way before it's eaten; all meat and dairy animals have been bred to have soft, chewable muscle tissue (on the extreme end, think veal—kept chained and still until young slaughter); fluffy "foods" like Twinkies and Wonderbread require little chewing at all. Plus, we hurry through meals—at least relative to primates who spend half the day eating—and thus chewing.

We don't eat like we used to. Wild animal meat is tough and elasticy, hard to break through without the teeth of a true carnivore, which we do not have. Even chimps, who eat colobus monkeys from time to time, can spend up to 11 hours chewing a few kilograms of meat, with a measly return of about 300 k/cal per hour. Wild meat—what we'd be eating if we were carnivores out in nature, is nothing like the meat people eat today (no one ever mentions this when they argue that eating meat is natural to humans).

So what has been the result of going soft? The act of chewing— using force and strain ("mechanical loading"), create osteoblasts ("bone blasts") that trigger stem cell growth in the jaw and bone tissue—just like weight-bearing activity helps builds bone mass. Eating soft food, even in one person's lifetime, contributes to narrower jaws and dental arches, crowded, smaller teeth, over and underbites. Our processed diets are actually changing the shape of the human head!

Today, orthodontic devices like retainers, expanders, and braces are nearly a right of passage rather than an exception. And dentists routinely remove wisdom teeth due to impaction even just the probability of impaction. Only about 2% of of preindustrial populations had tooth impactions vs. 24% of modern humans. We actually don't chewenough to accommodate the teeth we grow! That means our change in diet is rapidly exceeding our evolution! Which makes other consequences so obvious—for example, it seems our bodies are rejecting today's average diet and chemical overload. Cancer has now become the #1 killer in America, surpassing heart disease.

Lieberman, D.

My conclusions: Obviously, lay off processed foods. You'll ACTUALLY be helping the future of the human race. And whether you're a raw foodist or cooked vegan, chew some tough food! Especially kids who are growing! Use your teeth to crush food that takes some effort—seeds, nuts, carrots, celery; shear and tear down the cellulose in those leafy greens, grind that laver seaweed! And skip meat. We never had the teeth for it, and what you get today is nowhere near what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have been eating anyway. Happy chewing!

Sweet and Savory Spiced Kale

January 16, 2012

Before we were vegan, neither Bua nor I had ever had kale. Now, 16 and 9 years later, respectively, our weekly farmers market purchase usually includes 4-10 bunches. And it's not just us vegans (though I do believe we are responsible for the trend). This deep, hearty green has become the new romaine apparently. Our basic raw kale salad recipe is still great, but if you're looking for a new variation, try this Indian-spiced dressing:

Coat chopped, raw kale with olive oil.
Add sea salt and Braggs to taste (or shoyu), and a good dose to taste of both turmeric and cinammon.
Mix and bruise until kale is soft, or mix and let sit to soften.

Turmeric is known in Ayurvedic and other natural medicine traditions for it's anti-cancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties (which applies to pretty much every disease or malady one might have)—all in all, a great thing to have in your spice pantry and weekly repertoire. Read a great description of the benefits here. Cinnamon as well is considered to have beneficial properties for the digestive, circulatory, and respiratory systems.