Rootstohealth's Blog

Sprouting Sadness
January 18, 2010, 7:59 pm
Filed under: FDA, Food Safety, Sprouted Grains/Seeds, Sprouts

So you remember my euphoria from last week, when I raked up the courage to try sprouting my own beans and was successful!! I enjoyed adding mung bean sprouts to my meals all weekend, and eagerly got to business trying to sprout my favorite nut, the Almond.

I’ve been following the same instructions as last week, but three days later, and nary a sprout in sight, I got a little curious. I’ve been checking on them quite often, so I don’t think that they failed to sprout because they are too wet or dry….but then a tiny wriggling thought came from the back of my head, and I went to google.

Turns out that little thought was right…. since my almonds are pasteurized, they won’t sprout.

The common claim the FDA makes is that pasteurizing almonds does not affect the actual nut in any way. I did believe this (kinda…) but now it actually makes me a little sad. Because something chemically did change in there.

Now I’ll have to find some other good seed to sprout. Perhaps sunflower?? I’m planning on trying wheat kernels next, then probably soy nuts.

Hopefully those sprouts will work smoothly!


Sprouting Fun!
January 15, 2010, 10:35 am
Filed under: Doing Well at Home, Sprouted Grains/Seeds

In the midst of finals last semester, I discovered Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread. Excellent as toast with a little salt, butter, or peanut butter, it made an excellent study snack. But it also added another reliance on the grocery store…so as I rested over Christmas break, I realized the recreating this sprouted grain bread would be the perfect food project for the semester! I have to bake bread, but, more importantly, first I have to learn how to sprout beans, grains, and nuts.

First: the health facts. Why is sprouted bread the new health craze? Sprouting is essentially taking any nut/seed/grain, soaking it in water, and allowing the seed to germinate – to start growing. By doing so, you awaken the plant from it’s dormant state, and instead of a dried bean or grain, you have an alive little plant. It also changes the chemical makeup inside of the bean, and greatly increases nutrient content. This radio script from Farm International has a nice explanation as well as instructions on how to sprout grains.

I’ve known that sprouts are good for you for a while, but I had two main concerns:
1. I had no idea how to sprout grains.
2. I didn’t really know if I’d like how they tasted.

In tackling number 1, I looked at many website instructions, my mother’s Rodale’s cookbook, and, still confused, settled for this video. Starting about 4 minutes in, he has instructions for sprouting grains in a ball jar. Instead of the mesh he uses to cover the jar, I am using cheesecloth and a rubber band.

As for number 2….have to try it before I know!

I started with Mung beans – it’s touted as one of the easier beans to sprout. It it has been! Kind of fun to see your own little plants growing! And, even better… they taste kind of nice! It’s nice to have something so fresh tasting in the middle of winter! Though, thus far I’ve liked them better when I put them on a little frying pan for a minute and salted them a little….the light cooking makes them a little softer and richer in flavor.

Next up will be soy beans and wheat kernels. I’m really excited for the wheat because the sprouts are supposed to be very sweet – you can grind them up and use them to sweeten bread or other items.

Good luck! If I could figure it out, I’m sure you can too. Let me know if you try it out!

Check your Sigg
January 13, 2010, 8:46 am
Filed under: BPA, Doing Well at Home, Water

I originally bought a stainless-steel, Sigg water bottle 2 years ago because reports were coming out how Nalgene plastic water bottles were made with bisphenol-A (BPA), an organic compound used in many plastic products – including shatterproof plastic. Studies began to show that BPA can be harmful as it leaches from the container to the food or water inside, and then accumulates in your body tissues (which is likely to happen especially if your water bottle or other BPA-lined product it heated), and many people switched to Sigg water bottles, assuming that the stainless steel containers were BPA free.

Perhaps it was presumptive to think so, but it turns out that Sigg water bottles used to be lined with BPA, making them just about as harmful as the Nalgene bottles. They did stop making the BPA lined bottles in August 2008, and if you recently bought a Sigg, you should be fine. You can tell which type of Sigg you have by looking at the color of the rim. If it is a light yellow, you have the BPA free bottle; if it’s a more copper/gold color, it is lined with BPA. Check it out, since yet another study has come out stating that, unlike what many people are telling us, BPA can reach harmful levels in adults, not just children.

Most of the other stainless steel water bottle containers, including those from Klean Kanteen and Earthlust, are BPA free, and Nalgene now makes BPA-free plastic water bottles as well.

This may sound like too much complication for a thing as trivial as water bottles, but having a reusable water bottle like a Sigg or Nalgene is actually good for you in many ways:
1. Saves you money. These water bottles usually cost around $20. With the cost of bottled water these days – it pays for itself in 10-20 uses. Easily less than a month’s worth of water. And if you don’t lose your water bottle, they easily last over a year.
2. Good for the environment. With all we just learned about plastic, do you really want to throw one water bottle a day into a landfill? And, most bottled water is just filtered tap water anyway. For many people in the US, it is not a major improvement over water they can get out of the tap or a Britta filter.
3. Good for you! The most popular weight loss tip today is “drink more water!” If you always have a water bottle on hand, you’re more likely to actually drink something when you’re thirsty, and there’s less temptation to buy soda or juice, since you have free water right in front of you!

I hope now you’re ready to make the commitment to buy a reusable water bottle!!

A bit about coffee and the world economy
January 12, 2010, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Coffee, Economy

A blog post I did for the coffee shop I work at. It’s amazing how much coffee is inundated in the world economy. It’s a more important commodity than many people realize. And if you believe the health benefits touted by the Wall Street Journal, drinking a few cups a day won’t ruin your health, either.

At Joe, we take our coffee seriously. In the past few months, we’ve been meticulously cupping, brewing, and tasting coffee so that we can appreciate the subtle nuances in coffees grown in different regions, at different altitudes, and at different times of the year. But I think it’s important to remember that our rigor is about more than just taste: the coffee industry has a huge affect on the world economy as well.

Until twenty years ago, when the specialty coffee industry began to grow, nations such as the US and England were looking for cheap coffee. This motivation led them to create huge robusta coffee farms in Brazil and Vietnam, decimating the native flora and fauna and unleashing a glut of coffee onto the world market. The surplus of coffee lowered the prices of robusta and arabica beans more than thirty fold, and plunged many farmers and countries, including Nicaragua, into debt. This may sound extreme, but when you consider that 30% of the money Nicaragua receives from foreign exports comes from coffee, or that the Ethiopia’s coffee industry accounts for two-thirds of its economy and employs more than 12 million people, you realize that coffee is a whole lot more than just your morning buzz. Coffee cultivation and processing is the livelihood of millions of people around the world (including the 50 young coffee professionals you see at Joe daily), and choosing your coffee can come with important consequences. As the specialty coffee industry has grown, more small-scale farmers have began to grow coffee using sustainable methods, paying attention to the surrounding areas of the coffee and ensuring that they are harvesting and processing the coffee in the best ways possible, so that the coffee crop tastes better and can be sold for more money.

Buying coffees that are Direct Trade, where farmers are rewarded for growing such great coffee, means that no one is being unfairly treated as the coffee makes its way from the farm to your home. And, you get to support the people who are working hard to bring you that coffee. As R.F. Schumacher says, “Small is beautiful,” and that is certainly proving to be the case for the coffee industry. Sure, buying Direct Trade coffee that we serve at Joe won’t magically reverse over 100 years of exploitation and subsistence farming, but it is a small step. By sourcing, roasting, and selling Direct Trade coffees, companies like Ecco Caffe are making a higher demand for coffee that tastes better and is better for the environment and the farmers who are harvesting and processing it.

Plus, these Direct Trade coffees simply taste amazing. It’s really nice to have a coffee that you don’t have to douse with cream and sugar so that it’s drinkable. These coffees (a shout out to our current Ethiopia Sidama!!) can be sweet, savory, vegetal, fruity, or flowery, all on their own. The coffees we are currently serving are good for your taste buds, but they’re also good for the world you’re living in. By supporting these farmers, you support a better economy and business practices that are ultimately about creating sustainable relationships between the farmer, the roaster, the barista, and the consumer, so that we may all drink coffee with integrity and purpose.

These are the subtle ways that Joe supports your coffee habit.

The Strength of Our Bodies
January 6, 2010, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Cancer, Doing Well at Home

Today’s post is not so much about a physical change as a mental change in my quest for health. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all of my biology and neuroscience classes and other reading I have done, it is the strength and wonder of our own bodies. We are just beginning to comprehend the number of metabolic processes that are occurring every second to keep us alive, and we have yet to find a computer that has the power of the human brain. Yet we all look to external sources to find our health and strength. Yes, blueberries are filled with antioxidants, and exercise can tone our muscles, but this is worthless (to a certain extent) if we don’t believe in our own power.

In Anti-Cancer by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber (a great book, by the way), he talks about the “Type C” personality, those that accept the lot that is handed to them and don’t believe that they have any control over their bodies and their future. It plays into our Western view of medicine — that each of us is on a dangerous precipice, and any sway of wind will throw us down the mountain. In the Ayurvedic system, it’s a little more like being in the valley – that our bodies want to stay grounded and in balance..but if our lifestyle and choices keep bringing us further and further from that balance (up the hill, if you will), we will eventually reach that precipice.

I’m not prescribing any diet plan or spiritual awakening or anything; I just wanted to say take the time today to appreciate and acknowledge the raw strength and power of your own body and its ability to heal itself. It’s pretty amazing, and it may have quite an affect on you and the way you view your health.

New Year, New Thoughts, New Fun!
January 2, 2010, 4:43 pm
Filed under: Welcome!

After a brief (or not so brief) sabbatical, it’s time to start writing again. Not that I wasn’t thinking about the same issues I was writing about before, but I wasn’t taking the time to formally write down my thoughts. However, I think that writing it down could lead to new insights, new ideas and opinions…and since the news on food and health and wellness hasn’t slowed down or gotten less complex in 2009…I think I should keep tackling it in 2010.

In the past year I’ve made more changes and refinements to my diet and exercise regimens, and I’m looking at new ways to keep myself healthy. I’ll be looking more at whole and sprouted grains, attempting another sourdough starter, working on incorporating new spices, sauces, and flavors into my food so that I don’t get sick of repetitive food, planting more vegetables into my little window garden, and (hopefully!) learning a lot more about agriculture policy and environmental efforts happening around the globe, in an attempt to formulate my opinions on viable options for the future of our food system (because it’s pretty obvious at this point that it’s a bit broken).

I’m so excited to get back to it! There is so much to cover! I hope you can join in the discussion!

The Whole Chicken.
September 2, 2009, 8:02 am
Filed under: Doing Well at Home, Recipes

That’s right. I cooked a chicken. The whole bird. I’ve always been scared of roasting a chicken, bones and all…but it’s actually easier than cooking it on stovetop! Season it up, rub a little butter/olive oil, cut up some onion, and throw it in the oven for an hour or so for a 4 lb bird. The hardest part is cutting it up, and even that I think will get easier as I get more practice. I realized that it seems so scary because you don’t have to do anything. You begin with this raw gross thing and voila! suddenly a beautifully cooked, golden brown bird. Amazing!

And delicious. SO delicious. No worries about drying out or burning, it’s food that cooks itself.

Perk number two: the next day you can make great chicken stock! Also one of those recipes that seem scary (you are playing with chicken bones)..but actually involves about 6 minutes of prep work and 3 hours on the stove. And in the end – enough chicken stock to make quite a few soups and make my winter-time rice and quinoa MUCH more flavorful. Plus, chicken stock made from real, nice chicken bones is good for you! Something about the marrow is supposed to impart some health-promoting qualities.

I got both recipes from the Weston A Price foundation website. There are some more recipes on there of things you can do with your whole bird!

So don’t be scared! It’s fun, easy, and delicious! And super good for you too! Now if only I could figure out how to roast a whole pig in my oven….