Tag Archives: vegetables

Why calories should be ignored…

It has been months since I did a lesson on my course. My excuse is that I have been busy, and while that is definitely true, I feel the need to get back into the studying groove.  This morning, I picked up my next Nutrition lesson to discover… it is all about calories.

calories

Reading through the study lesson, it soon became clear that my attitude to calories (I don’t think they tell you the whole story and frankly are nothing more than numbers in a chart)  is absolutely right.  Did you know that the calorie data on the sides of the packets are calculated by either burning the food in a vacuum and measuring the energy output (ummm…. Our bodies are not in a vaccuum… and my body might not use the food like your body does.  Hell, I have conclusive proof that my body doesn’t work like ANYONE else’s body does!), or by estimating the calories on the basis of the weight of protein, carbohydrates and fats in the food.  Hang on.  Estimates?  People are making decisions about how much to eat on the basis of this information.  I want actual figures thank you very much.  And anyway… won’t one sort of carbohydrate burn differently than another type of carbohydrate?  Calories are inherently garbage and should be ignored.  Entirely.

No

So, yes, needless to say I am a little hot under the collar about all this calorie garbage.  I know it is fashionable to use calories to dictate your food intake.  But proper nutrition is about more than the number of calories in and the number of calories you use.  Whilst I agree that there needs to be a deficit of calories in order to lose weight, just ensuring that you get 1700 calories a day is not a sure fire success guide to weight loss.  If it was, I would look very different.

vegetables

No, proper nutrition is about using your noggin, using your own knowledge and working out what works for you.  For example, I know that for me, fat is rarely the issue.  Usually the problem is more likely to be sugar.  Hey, I am pre-diabetic and have been for 2 decades now, so that isn’t too weird.  It is almost to be expected.  So, I take very careful note of the sugar content of low fat foods.  Quite often food manufacturers will take out fat and add in sugar in order to make them taste better.  Sneaky swines that they are.  I also know that my body likes to have fruit and vegetables.  My body objects to having too much bread and yeasty or malty things in there too.  So, in the end, I eat a healthy and nutritious diet because I know what my body likes and what it doesn’t.  It is pretty simple when you get right down to it, isn’t it?

calories meme

But calories?  No.  Calories are a measurement used by scientists and they have no relation to eating properly or not eating properly.

No I have got that off my chest, perhaps I can get on with my lesson and answering the questions properly?  Here’s hoping anyway!

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Biodynamic Gardening and the effect of the solar eclipse

First, I must apologise for silence this week.  It has been hugely busy all week, and the days I would usually write a blog have been taken up with dealing with gas men quoting for boilers, delivering Easter treats to Godchildren and then trying to catch up on the chores which have been left alone while doing the other things.  This madness is not going to let up over the weekend, but I thought while I wait for the next gas man to arrive, I would write a blog post.

eclipse

As I am in the Northern Hemisphere and in Europe, as I type, we are in the process of experiencing a solar eclipse.  The last time there was such a visible spectacle was in 1999, and I remember being part of the awed crowds watching the process (through appropriate methods to safeguard the eyes, of course).  As far as I can tell, if you have seen one eclipse, you have seen them all, so I am not that concerned about the whole process (though it is interesting watching the birds and the squirrels in the garden – they are very confused indeed!) but one thing that did get the old grey cells exercising was whether the solar eclipse would effect biodynamic gardening methods.

veg patch

You may not know about biodynamic gardening, but it is a subject that is really peaking my interest at the moment.  I am not sure if I am going to pursue it, but I want to know more, and so I have been doing a bit of digging around on the internet.   I found a really interesting article in the Daily Telegraph (interestingly, printed on my birthday in 2009) which detailed the writer’s experience with biodynamic agriculture.  It was an enlightening read (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/6202917/Why-biodynamic-gardening-makes-sense.html) .

This form of gardening was promulgated in 1924 by Austrian Rudolf Steiner, and is effectively a process to deepen our understanding of the life forces that underlie nature’s processes in order to produce food of the highest quality.  I can’t help thinking that it is gardening on the same basis that healing using herbalism is for medicine.  Supporting the life force in order to get the best result.  I guess that might make me sound supremely “crunchy” but it makes sense to me.

lunar planting

Most people are aware of the organic principles of natural sustainability and not using any chemicals.  Biodynamics requires a very strong basis of organic husbandry combined with a few practices that “normal” gardeners might find to be a bit odd, including planting according to a lunar calendar, preparation of the soil in particular ways and clearly,  very open mind!

I recall that the Royal Horticultural Society did some field trials using chemical, organic and biodynamic methods and the results were quite remarkable.  Biodynamic planting, according to the lunar calendar, really made a difference to the health of the plants and the yield they produced.  Something definitely works then even if we aren’t sure what.

What about the solar eclipse?  If the moon moving through various constellations has such an impact, what about the moon moving across the sun, obliterating it from sight?  From my research it is considered sensible to leave all gardening alone for a while – though to be honest, a lot of the sites I found were less than fullsome in their explanations.

biodynamic books

I think that I need to do a good deal of research into the methods of biodynamic horticulture before I decide whether to make my vegetable and herb patch a biodynamic experiment.

Mind you, if I could find a method of biodynamic pest control which meant that slug and squirrels went elsewhere for their snacks, I would be on it like a flash!    I would also be more than happy to be called “loony”.

Eating right and feeling calmer…

Can you tell that managing stress is really up there for me at the moment?

stressed comic

I know it seems like I keep harping on about it, but I am really aware that January is a stressful month for many people.  In my life at the moment, I am desperately attempting to get organised so I can cope if I go back to work, plus I am preparing for a job interview and I am painting the hallway in the new house.  I need as much help as I can get in managing those stress levels right now.

Getting stressed and anxious is less about what is happening outside, but more about the reaction inside.  But managing the stress levels and anxiety is not just regulating your reaction; what you eat can have a major impact on how you feel when confronted with those ARGH moments that we all get from time to time.

no sugar

The bad news is that the things you might think would work a treat (sugar, chocolate, chips) are precisely the things you should avoid.  They actually stress your nervous system and therefore should be avoided at all costs.  The good stuff though, the stuff which supports your nervous system, is the stuff you know you should be eating.  Ideally you should be eating alkalizing foods like fresh sprouts, high quality protein, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, root vegetables and cultured milk products such as yogurt, kefir or buttermilk.  Lemons are good as well as grapefruit, nuts and seeds.  If you want to have a healthy nervous system, then you need energy, and these foods will provide that.

The other things you need to do is to add calcium to your diet.  You need calcium to have healthy nerve function, and this is what we are aiming for.  If you have too little calcium in your blood, then you might be nervous, irritable, get muscle spasms, get muscle cramping, be hyperactive and probably not sleep very well.  Thankfully getting calcium in the diet is fairly simple.

green leafies

Obviously dairy products helps.  It helps more if they are cultured.  Plain milk has surprisingly little calcium in it, so choose yoghurt instead.  You can also eat lots of green leafy vegetables such as spinach. chard, broccoli, turnips greens, kale, beet greens and parsley.  Surprisingly large amounts of dietary calcium can be found in seaweed as well.  To be honest, taking in calcium rich foods is going to have very little effect unless you also have adequate levels of Vitamin D.  Either get out into the sunshine, no matter how cold or watery it is at this time of year, or take a supplement.  I take a supplement with added calcium in it.

If you are feeling like things are all getting on top of you and you are struggling to cope, then you might want to consider making a high quality calcium tea.  You take 1 part horsetail, 1 part nettle and 1 part oats.  Combine the herbs, pour boiling water over them and leave to steep for 5-15 minutes, depending on how strong you like it.  Strain the herbs and add honey to taste and then drink it all up.  If that doesn’t sound appetising (and to me, it really doesn’t!) consider taking some herbs with high quality calcium in them.  Chickweed, Amaranth and Dandelion Greens are good sources, must so are Mustard Greens, Horsetail, Nettle, Oats and watercress.  A lot of those will be easier to get hold of come the spring!

Still, there are a lot of lovely foods to choose from.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

autumn

And annoying neighbours burning wet leaves and effectively smoking you out of your own garden.  I tell you, if I wasn’t so tired from all I have done today, and interested in rotting my leaves down for soil improvement purposes… I would return the favour.  When their washing is on the line.  Just saying.

Anyway… Autumn is officially here.  The nights are drawing in, the leaves are turning brown and falling off (they don’t really turn pretty colours in the UK… they just go brown and hit the deck), and in theory, the garden should be full of stuff to harvest and store for the winter.  Obviously, this year we haven’t had a chance to really get our garden producing anything much because we haven’t been in it long enough.  I can tell you we have had a lovely crop of tomatoes, our chilli peppers are looking great, we have some aubergines (eggplants) coming on in the greenhouse, we have had 6 cucumbers from 1 plant, which I think is pretty awesome… Over all, I am really happy with what we have managed to produce.

pretty veg patch

But… ooh the plans that I have.  First of all though we need to dispose of a box hedge which is in the way, and then I am going to dig myself a veg patch.  We are going to grow those veggies which we love to eat – peas, beans, courgettes, pumpkins, onions, lettuce, radishes, potatoes (but in bags, not in the ground), carrots (the same as the potatoes), beetroot, spinach, maybe I will try some brussels sprouts (though maybe not… cos they can be tricky little blighters.)  The patch is going to have a border of dwarf fruit trees (which we already have and which are currently in pots) and a little fence as well – with strawberries growing by the little fence as well.  Can you picture it?

One of the beds which currently houses a whole load of fuschias (shudder – I loathe the things) and other assorted items which have self seeded there, will be cleared and it will become my medicinal herb bed, with a backdrop of the most gorgeous peonies.  Lots of lovely things will grow there… and will no doubt feature in future blog posts as well!

shrbbery

All of the specimen plants which can be moved, will be transplanted across the lawn to the perennial border.  That needs a serious haircut on all fronts.  And I have some bay trees which have got all wild and wooly this year and need significant taming.  (I wish it looked half as nice as the one in the picture at Sheringham Park!!  Maybe in a few years time…!)

So, autumn might be the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness… but it is also the time for fervent planning and plotting, as well as dreaming of future produce.  So tonight I shall dream of full cornucopia… and a medicine cabinet full of home made remedies.

Raspberries, raspberries, raspberries.

I LOVE them.

allotment raspberries

The smell, the taste (especially the taste), how they grow, the variety you can have, their long season… I love it all!  In fact, there was one occasion my mother in law gave me a supermarket plastic bag filled with them.  On my 30 minute drive home, I managed to eat all the raspberries in that bag.  I looked like a small child with them smeared all over my face when I got back to my house!  Ooooh but the tasted so nice.  Sure, the little seeds that get in your teeth can be a little bit annoying, but I’ll cope with them.

 

I know I have written about raspberries before.  I remember being shocked at how powerful they are, so I won’t repeat myself.  Have a search through the blogs and see what you can find.

backgarden raspberries

In other news, I am considering how much of our fruit and vegetable requirements we can actually grow ourselves. I love using produce from the garden to use in our meals, and if it is literally outside the back door, all the better.  We have four raised beds, as well as a little plot we have ear marked for being our vegetable plot.  I reckon we could grow carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce, peas and beans.  We might be able to get some potatoes in the growing bags, and maybe some parsnips as well.  I would love to grow some courgettes (zucchini for my North American readers) and maybe a squash or a pumpkin.    Not sure there would be enough room to do all that though.  Might need some careful planning and clever use of space.  As well as all of that, there is also the chance of using the allotment.

allotment

I am not sure if my readers in North America know what an allotment is, but basically, it is land held by the local government authorities which is given over for people to rent small parcels of it and grow their own fruit and vegetables on it.  My husband and I got one about 10 years ago, and after we cleared it and grew stuff on it, we sort of sub let it to my Father in Law.  He has done amazing things with it, and it is very productive.  After going up there and picking the raspberries and some strawberries (and having huge fun doing it) I am rather wondering if I should suggest we take responsibility back from him for its upkeep.  I am happy to share the produce with both my in laws and my Mum when she moves up here (very soon, hopefully).

 

Do any of you grown your own?  What do you like to grow particularly?  And what is very successful in your plot?

 

Organic food should cost LESS not MORE (something of a rant…)

Here is a mystery of the modern world… if organic farming is so good for us and it is going back to how things used to be done, why on earth is it so expensive to buy enough organic veg to actually FEED a family?!    I am not talking about the half dozen carrots, half a dozen apples, and a cabbage which some people assume is enough for a family of four.  I am talking about enough veg for everyone to get 8-10 fruit and veg a day, never mind the 5 a day we are supposed to be aiming for.

organic veg box

I have had one week of a delivery of veg, fruit and meat from a well known UK organic supplier.  Having done extensive research, I thought I had got a good deal.  I had done my sums and I thought we could afford it.  Well, even after one week, it is entirely clear to me.  We just can’t.  We have a choice of either eating like birds (which is not going to happen in a house of healthy appetites) or increasing the food budget in the house by 3 times.  We simply cannot afford that.  Needless to say, we are not having 2 weeks of the organic fruit and veg box.

 

I am cross.  Actually slightly more than cross.  I get that organic farming is labour intensive.  I have had an allotment.  You need sweat to get it right, with a bit of blood and tears thrown in.  But, to my simple accounting mind,  if you are not throwing expensive fertilizers or pesticides on the produce, how come it is so expensive?  I am pretty sure organic farmers still use mechanised equipment to plough the fields and furrows, just like the agribusiness farmers do, and I know that organic farmers can actually get higher yields than their non-organic counterparts.  They have a greater risk of blight and disease, but why am I, the innocent consumer, paying a premium for a risk that might not effect the farmer in the first place?

organic farming

Am I being naive here or am I missing an important part of the organic farming business model that I know nothing about?  I am pretty sure they don’t have highly paid people working in the fields weeding and harvesting.  And to be honest, labour costs have to be the only cost which is bigger for organic than for non-organic agriculturists.  I would be delighted if someone could tell me otherwise.

 

I think the problem comes down to what my Dad used to call “perceived market value”.  Somewhere in the late 80s at the dawn of the organic revolution, someone somewhere said to themselves “Ooh… hang on… we can charge people an absolute fortune.  There are fewer costs here, but if we charge them more, people will pay it because they want organic.”  And the really annoying thing is that people actually DID that.  We bought the hype.

hype

Well, for my family, we are going to HAVE to go unorganic and get our vegetables at the supermarket with all their chemicals and pesticides and food miles.  Either that or attempt to start a market garden ourselves.  That might be a little much for even me to bite off and try and chew.  I really don’t wear my underpants on the outside of my trousers (despite what you may have heard!) … as long as I can grow some stuff to supplement the groceries, I will be happy.

 

Still cross.  But happy.

 

 

 

What a morning…

Hubby and I had a meeting with the social worker this morning and it was one of our more stressful occasions in this adoption process.  Needless to say at the end of things I feel kind of anxious and really pretty dreadful.  It got me thinking.  Is there anything herbal which can help address anxiety and panic attacks?

panic

I am very lucky, because I have never had a proper, full on panic attack.  People report different symptoms, but often shortness of breath, the idea that you are going to die, feeling like the world is piling in on top of you in about one second flat, are all reported as symptoms.  That does not sound enjoyable in the slightest.  I usually just get anxiety attacks.  For me, these are characterised by me thinking the absolute worst about everything all the time and getting stressed about things that are totally outside of my control.

chamomile

According to my research, there are some natural things that can help with anxiety and panic attacks.  The first of these is Chamomile.  Without doubt it is far and away the best herb to deal with anxiety.  A cup of chamomile tea is just the ticket, but you can also use lavender aromatherapy oils in a burner, or St John’s Wort as a supplement, or Valerian root as a tea as well.  However, one word of caution.  If you are already on anti-anxiety medication be sure to check for interactions just to be on the safe side.  It also goes without saying that you shouldn’t just stop your ongoing medication either.

 

Research has found that Magnesium is necessary in the body to dissipate the effects of traumatic stress that can occur as a result of intense fear or anxiety.  It also helps to undo the bad programming in the brain from previous attacks and can help to create a new brain response to triggering issues.  If you think you might be magnesium deficient, then see if you can get a blood test to make sure, but if you want to keep those levels up, eat lots of green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  All of these are excellent sources of magnesium.

oily fish

Our old friends the Omega 3 fatty acids are back again.  They can reduce the effects of stress and anxiety by nearly 20%.  You can either eat more fatty fish or you can take supplements.  It can also help with systemic inflammation over the whole body which can also result from extended periods of stress or anxiety.

 

In addition, change your diet to one full of vegetables with less meat and dairy, reducing fat and sugar as you go, and you can give your GABA levels a boost.  GABA stands for Gamma-amnobutyric Acid, and apparently it helps to calm the firing nerves in the central nervous system.  If you don’t have enough of it, you can experience manic behaviour, alcoholism, anxiety or restlessness.  Also, try and cut out a lot of caffiene from your daily routine.  It is one of the main food triggers for anxiety along with Glutamine.

broccoli

Isn’t it strange?  When feeling anxious, don’t reach for the chocolate.  Reach for the Broccoli.  Anyone got any spare?