Archive | February, 2012

Just in Time for Lent…I’m a Jain!

25 Feb

On Thursday I was able to start plotting the concepts behind my March diet: a vegan diet based on Jainism.  How appropriate that the last recipe I posted was Indian.  Jainism is an ancient Indian religion based wholly on nonviolence or ahimsa.  Jains believe that ALL living beings have souls and that the only way to save your own is by protecting others.  Once you understand the dietary restrictions behind Jainism, you will laugh at the dietary “sacrifice” of Christians.  You call eating fish on Fridays sacrifice?  Child’s play!  I had only learned about Jainism within the past year, but its principles intrigued me.  Whereas many of the other religious diets I looked into only required moderate restraint, Jainism delves into an entirely different realm of thought towards eating.

I (technically) grew up a Catholic.  I went to Sunday school, received my first communion in second grade, and confessed my sins to a priest (once – because I’m that innocent ;-)).  As I grew older, I gradually became aware of the ideas surrounding lent.  In my family, I was never expected to shun meat on Fridays or give up any sort of luxury for 40 days.  However, I do remember giving up cookies one year in high school (by choice!) in observance of lent.  This may sound like an easy task, but I worked at Subway.  I received credits toward free food during every shift that I worked.  Slightly undercooked M&M cookies (and cookie dough) were easily accessible and tasted divine to my youthfully unrefined taste buds.  Those cookies are manufactured to be addictive!  But I digress…

Traditionally, all Jains are vegetarians.  Slaughtering animals IS violence and therefore, not consistent with the ahimsa philosophy.  Modern Jains may and probably should be vegan due to concerns with the way dairy products are now produced.  Since pregnant cows are necessary for a constant milk supply, a continual onslaught of baby calves are the result.  Male calves are sent to the veal industry where they will be fattened up and slaughtered at a young age.  Female calves will follow in their mothers’ footsteps, providing milk until “spent” and then will be sent to slaughter.  It is a sad fact in today’s society that you simply cannot separate the milk and meat industry.  They are one in the same.

Strict Jains take these notions even farther by considering the lives of plants and microorganisms.  For example, root vegetables are not consumed.  One reason for this is that by uprooting an entire vegetable, you are essentially killing the plant.  The other concern is harming the life that exists on those roots, disturbed by such an invasive retrieval.  If you think this is intense, keep reading…

Fermented foods are forbidden, because they contain an abundance of microorganisms.  The longer a food ferments, the more life created in the process.  Ancient teachings dictated a specific method of filtering water, so that microorganisms could be returned back to the water.

While all of these practices may sound extreme, I find their purpose most endearing.  What is so wrong with a group of people who are more concerned with saving a potato than killing a soldier in the name of that religion?  What is so crazy about the idea that plants and bacteria are life forms worthy of our respect?  Without plants and microorganisms, we die.  True story.  Without animal products in our diet, some people are able to not only survive but THRIVE.  Just some food for thought.

Many modern Jains eat root vegetables out of social convenience.  However, traditional orthodox Jains do not.  I have decided to follow a semi-strict vegan Jain diet.  I will exclude root vegetables and fermented foods but will not be following any special water filtration process.  This ancient concept isn’t that applicable to today’s plumbing systems anyway.  I also intend to shake things up a bit by experimenting with a 1-week (minimum) raw foods diet and a 1 day fast.  Jains fast often, so I didn’t think I could properly appreciate a Jain diet without at least 1 organized fast during the month.

Off the Menu: (All bold items are those that I currently eat on a regular basis and will be the hardest for me not to eat!)

*Dairy products: all dairy products are forbidden on a vegan diet (milk, cheese, ghee, butter, ice cream…you get the idea).  Vegetarian Jains may eat cheese and yogurt.  However, they must be freshly prepared on the day they are eaten & no animal rennet may be used to produce them.  Animal rennet is sometimes used to produce cheese and is generally derived from the veal factory.  (See what I mean?  You CANNOT separate the two!)  Luckily (I guess?), most non-organic cheese nowadays is made with genetically modified rennet. Yum! (Sarcasm)

*Grains: no grains are explicitly forbidden

*Vegetables: most root vegetables (carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, rutabaga, radishes, yams, Jerusalem artichokes, fennel, onions, shallots, leeks, water chestnuts, lotus root, daikon, etc.), mushrooms (some are parasites), cauliflower & broccoli (tiny insects can get stuck on their velvety surfaces and not be removed in spite of careful washing), eggplant (see multi-seeded fruit & vegetable explanation below), hot peppers (chiles, jalapeneos, etc.) in moderation (see description of Rajasic foods in “fun stuff” category below)

*Fruits: figs (inhabited by wasp species), Jack fruit & other fruits/vegetables that “bleed” upon cutting are sometimes considered unappetizing (I still find tomatoes sexy, so I’ll keep eating those! :)), very orthodox Jains do not eat multi-seeded fruits such as guava (may contain worms – although again, with modern farming practices, probably not).  I won’t be avoiding guava, but I won’t be seeking it out either.

*Meat, poultry, eggs & fish: absolutely no foods from this category

*Legumes/beans: beansprouts are not allowed as they are a “living” food and eating them kills the whole plant, tempeh and miso (fermented soy products)  Damn!  A third month without being able to try tempeh bacon?!

*Spices & herbs: ginger root (dried ginger powder is apparently okay?), garlic, cayenne pepper, chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, moderate amounts of black pepper (This is going to be really weird for me.  I LOVE black pepper!), sea salt/table salt allowed only in moderate amounts; traditionally, spices needed to be freshly ground and used within a few days.  In modern times, these restrictions are quite unrealistic for the majority, so I will not be restricting my use of any allowed pre-ground spices.

*Condiments: soy sauce, tamari, vinegar (fermented products + alcohol = microorganism murder)

*Food additives/misc: gelatin (often derived from calve hooves), leftovers (since leftovers contain more microorganisms than freshly prepared foods – I am seeking middle ground here by allowing myself to eat leftovers from one day prior but nothing beyond that), cassava (starch sometimes used in gluten free cooking). Eating after sunset – this restriction is based on ancient principles as well.  Eating at night (when food was foraged & prepared by fire) meant that bugs/other creatures were more likely to be harmed during this time.  My understanding is that modern and especially Western Jains often forgo this rule.  I have recently become very disciplined about not eating within 3-4 hours of bedtime and will continue this trend.  However, since I live in the tundra and must work the hours I am assigned, it will be necessary for me to eat some meals when it is dark outside.

*Fun Stuff: sugar, (many Jain recipes that are readily available on the internet contain sugar, but I find this to be a bit of a hypocrisy.  It should be obvious that refined sugar is by no means necessary for survival.  There is absolutely no justification for consuming sugar other than for the sake of pleasure.  Another issue to consider is that sugar is sometimes refined using bone char from animals.  For this reason [and my health], I have decided to continue to avoid refined sugar for the next month), honey (belongs to the bees), alcohol (alcoholic beverages are considered non-vegetarian because of FDA allowed additives that may be derived from animals – is NOTHING safe in this messed up food industry?!);  foods/beverages that are stimulating are called Rajasic and are considered destructive to the mind-body equilibrium – this includes coffee, caffeinated tea, soft drinks, & chocolate (I’ll just keep making Derek eat chocolate in front of me so I can live vicariously through his experience 😦  This is how I survived a chocolate-less Valentine’s Day!)

All of these restrictions are followed to a greater or lesser extent by individual Jains.  Some Christians eat meat on Fridays during lent and some Jews eat pork whenever they feel like it.  Religious eating customs fall along an individual spectrum of dedication.  Please do not disregard Jain beliefs based on personal prejudice.  Of all of the religions that I have ever encountered, Jainism seems to fit my moral beliefs the closest.  To be frank, you shouldn’t need a God to tell you not to be an asshole, and humans are not as cool as they think they are.  Plants, animals, and bacteria make us what we are.  I do not believe we have the “right” to impose upon the lives of any creature for any purpose other than survival.  Overeating is a fun pastime for most Americans (including myself), but it is based on pure gluttony.  Eating things that bring us pleasure but harm ourselves, other living creatures, and the environment has nothing to do with survival.  Alright…I’m getting all riled up and preachy, so let’s wrap this up!

If you’d like more information about veganism and/or Jainism, you should check out this awesome video from a Houston JAINA convention in 2011:–w&feature=related.  Make sure to watch all three parts.  It’s very informative and thought provoking.  If anyone has any thoughts relating to ethics intertwined with religious diets, I’d love to hear it.  Ask questions.  Tell me what you think.  Let’s start a dialogue!


Yeast/Mold/Candida Diet-Friendly Recipe: Chana Masala!

22 Feb

I know what most of you must be thinking.  Chana ma – who – a?  Chana masala is an Indian dish which features chickpeas in a spiced tomato sauce.  If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating it, I HIGHLY recommend you give this recipe a go.  It’s truly amazing!  If you’ve had the pleasure of eating chana masala in the past, I strongly recommend you try out this recipe as well.  It’s time to honor those tomatoes I missed so dearly during the month of January.  The original recipe was found at: .  I modified the recipe just slightly and made a smaller quantity.  As much as I would have loved to eat the larger quantity, I was low on ingredients.  This recipe yields about 3 or 4 servings.  Enjoy (and feel free to invite me over for dinner should you decide to make this ;-))

Chana Masala: Part 1 – The Spice Blend:

*2 tsp cumin

*1/2 Tbsp coriander

*1/2 tsp ground turmeric (what gives curry its yellow tint)

*1/4 tsp fennel seeds, chopped

*1/4 tsp cardamom

*1/8 tsp cinnamon

*Pinch ground cloves

*1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional & more/less to taste)

*1/2 tsp garam masala (optional but awesome)

Chana Masala Part 2 – Ingredients + Directions

*1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil

*1 small/medium red onion, sliced in medium pieces

*1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

*2 large cloves garlic, minced

*1/2 heaping Tbsp minced fresh ginger

*2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

*1 1/2# tomatoes, diced (~3 medium tomatoes)

*Fresh black pepper

*1/2 tsp salt

*2 cups prepared chickpeas(or 1-15-oz can chickpeas) – I recommend the dried chickpeas from scratch since they are the star of the recipe, but if canned means you’ll actually make it, then go that route!

*Juice of 1 lime

*Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions: Preheat a large pan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, mix together the spice blend in a small bowl.  When the pan is hot, saute the onion in the coconut oil for ~10 minutes until nicely browned.  While onions saute, prep the other veggies.  Add garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes & saute until fragrant ~30 seconds.  Add the cilantro and saute until wilted.  Add spice blend & toss to coat the onions, lettting the spices toast a bit(~1 minute/so).  Add the tomatoes & mix well.  Add salt, pepper, & chickpeas.  Cover the pan and bring the heat up a bit.  Let cook a few minutes at this higher heat.  Remove the lid and cook for 20 more minutes on low heat, so that the flavors meld and the sauce thickens.  Add lime and lemon juice.  Let sit for 10 minutes or so off the heat before serving.  Serve with brown basmati rice & garnish with cilantro.  I have been allowing myself ~2 cups of whole grains per day and 1 1/2 cups legumes per day on this diet.  I ate 1 cup of the masala over 1/2 cup of rice and found it to be a perfect ratio!

It’s food like this that gives me hope!  An existence without sugar or animal products doesn’t seem so bleak with meals like this around.

Sugar-Free Valentine’s Day Treat!

14 Feb

My original plan was to bake something for this month’s special occasion: Valentine’s Day.  However, since I am unable to use any refined grains or sugar, specialty baking sounds too complicated for my busy life at this time.  This may be my first Valentine’s Day that will not include chocolate.  I’d be lying if I said I don’t mind.  I still miss chocolate, but that is not an option this month.  This doesn’t mean I can’t share a delicious recipe though!  Here is a smoothie recipe I came across during my quest for candida-friendly recipes:  As usual, I changed the amounts just slightly based on my experiments with the original recipe.  It is quite tasty and just the right amount of sweet.  Enjoy and Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂

Avocado Apple Smoothie

*1 medium avocado, peeled and chopped, pit removed

*1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped

*Juice from 1/2 small lemon (more/less to taste)

*1-2 cups of water (based on desired thickness – P.S. If you only use 1 cup and par-freeze the creation, you get soft-serve apple avocado ice cream. You bet I tried this! Mmmm)

*Fresh mint leaves (to taste/as a garnish)

Blend all ingredients until smooth/desired consistency reached.

I didn’t add anything else, but if it’s not quite sweet enough for your sweet tooth, feel free to add some Stevia (Just make sure the brand you buy is filtered properly!  Otherwise, it can leave a bitter aftertaste.)

40 Reasons to Eat Quinoa Instead of White Bread

13 Feb

Please don’t assume that white bread isn’t detrimental to your health just because it isn’t refined sugar per say.  The body responds to refined grains and sugar in a similar fashion.  This is partially due to a lack of fiber slowing down the release of glucose into your bloodstream.  Some of you may not be happy to hear this, but as Michael Pollan says: “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead”!  Even “fortified” grains lack many of the original nutrients of the whole grain.  Fiber and magnesium are just two examples of these missing elements.  Magnesium insufficiency in the general public is quite common AND is a known contributor to insulin resistance.  See how nature has us taken care of?  Whole foods = optimum health.  Period.  End of story.  Many folks seem resistant to this way of living.  When I explain that my diet consists mostly of vegetables, grains, nuts/seeds, beans, and right now, small amounts of fruit,  some assume that means deprivation.  On the contrary, I must argue that with the wide variety of vegetables, grains, and legumes I consume, I eat more species in one day than most Americans eat in a week, possibly even a month.  Remember that food variety in America is often an illusion.  Just because a bag of potato chips has added salt and vinegar doesn’t mean that you aren’t still just eating fried potatoes.  Most foods in this country consist of the same few animal ingredients (dairy, chicken, beef..) and rearrangements of wheat, corn, and soybeans.  The sooner we admit the sub par nature of sugary cereals with sprayed on synthetic vitamins (yes that’s how vitamins are added to cereals), the sooner we can realistically tackle the sad fact that this nation is nutrient deprived and marching towards chronic disease one bite at a time.  P.S.  If you really want to lose weight, try substituting all refined grains with whole grains and limiting your sugar intake.  I’d be surprised if you didn’t lose at least a couple of pounds by following this approach.  Sugar/refined carbs = insulin spikes = fat storage.

36. Sugar can suppress the immune system.

37. Sugar can cause hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.

38. Sugar contributes to the reduction in defense against bacterial infection (infectious diseases).

39. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function, the more sugar you eat the more elasticity and function you loose.

40. Sugar may lead to chromium deficiency.

41.  Sugar may lead to cancer of the ovaries.

42. Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose.

43. Sugar intake is associated with the development of Parkinson’s disease.

44. Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.

45. Sugar can weaken eyesight.

46. Sugar raises the level of  neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

47. Sugar can produce an acidic digestive tract.

48. Sugar can cause premature aging.

49. High intake of sugar increases the risk of Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

50. Sugar can cause changes frequently found in person with gastric or duodenal ulcers.

51. Sugar can cause gallstones.

52. Sugar can cause heart disease.

53. Sugar can cause appendicitis.

54. Sugar can cause multiple sclerosis.

55. Sugar can cause hemorrhoids.

56. Sugar can cause varicose veins.

57. Sugar can elevate glucose and insulin responses in oral contraceptive users.

58. Sugar can lead to periodontal disease.

59. Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.

60. Sugar contributes to saliva acidity.

61. Sugar can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity.

62. Sugar can lower the amount of Vitamin E (alpha-Tocopherol  in the blood.

63. Sugar can decrease growth hormone.

64. Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.

65. High sugar intake increases advanced glycation end products (AGEs)(Sugar bound non-enzymatically to protein)

66. Sugar can interfere with the absorption of protein.

67. Sugar causes food allergies.

68. Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.

69. Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.

70. Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.

71. Sugar can impair the structure of DNA

72. Sugar can change the structure of protein.

73. Sugar can cause emphysema.

74. Sugar can cause atherosclerosis.

75. Sugar lowers enzymes ability to function.

76. Sugar can increase the body’s fluid retention.


You’ll notice that some of the items on the list are basically rephrasing other items on the list.  For example: #52: “Sugar can cause heart disease” and #70: “Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease”.  Heart disease = cardiovascular disease (without the fancy medical term).  I have to say I’m a little disappointed by this.  It seems as if the author was fishing for ways to make the list as long and alarming as possible.  I don’t see this as necessary.  It’s clear that there are plenty of reasons to avoid eating sugar.  If the list was only made up of 50 reasons, that would still be impressive to me!  Making things look worse than they really are can tamper with credibility.   I’m going to continue to share the remainder of the list.  Just keep in mind that some repeats are likely.

Sugar-hatin’ fun fact: In some areas of Afghanistan, sugar is locked up as it is considered to be a narcotic. 

Other sources:

Bennett, C. (2007) Sugar Shock! (Can’t remember the pg number but it’s where I found the sugar-hatin’ fun fact.  You’ll just have to trust me ;-))

Breedon (PhD, RD), C. (library patron by the way! :)) (2010) “Thinking About OTHER Nutrition Issues in Diabetes”.  Sanford Health handout. Pgs 4-5.

10 More Ways Sugar May Be Sabotaging Your Health

7 Feb

26. Sugar can cause hypoglycemia

27. Sugar can cause cataracts

28. Sugar can raise the adrenaline levels in your body

29. Sugar can cause dyspepsia (indigestion)

30. Sugar can cause inflammation

31. Sugar can cause free radicals & oxidative stress

33. Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in the body

34. Sugar can cause arthritis

35. Sugar assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida albicans (yeast infections)

It takes a very long time to search for supporting articles for each of these statements, and I’m feeling lazy today.  All resources used by the original author of this list can be found at:  It should be understood that many of these claims can be traced back to studies that make specific links between sugar and its effect on the body.  For example, the fact that sugar can cause arthritis is tied to sugar’s ability to create an inflammatory state in the body.  Sugar’s effect on fertility and libido stems from its ability to alter sex hormones.  Some items on this list apply more to people who suffer from diabetes and lack the ability to process sugar as effectively as non-diabetics.  Some folks are better equipped to handle sugar than others.  The important thing to note is that regardless of this fact, refined sugar is NOT GOOD for anyone and has the potential to harm EVERYONE.  In the spirit of all this sugar “hatin”, I thought that I would share this with everyone:  An article just came out entitled “The Toxic Truth About Sugar”.  The above link is in reference to that article.

…You Are My Candy Girl and You Got Me Worried For You…

4 Feb

11. Sugar can be addictive (TRUST ME!!!)

12. Sugar can cause copper deficiency

13. Sugar can contribute to alcoholism/alcohol cravings

14. Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines

15. Sugar malabsorption appears to be a common factor in  IBS

16. Sugar can lead to binges/overeating

17. Sugar has been linked to a higher incidence and worse outcomes for scizophrenia

18. Sugar may be a factor in learning disorders

19. Sugar can induce cell death

20. Sugar can cause hypertension

21. Sugar can wreak havoc on your sex hormones and as a result…

22. Sugar may increase the likelihood of acne

23. Sugar can contribute to infertility–facts.html

24. Sugar can increase the risk for PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)

25. Sugar may be a factor in the development of uterine cancer

Still want that bowl of ice cream?  I don’t…

Template list ideas from:

Honey……Ah Sugar Sugar…

3 Feb

Day 2 without sugar.  So far so good.  I did experience some massive fatigue this afternoon, but it’s hard to tell if that was sugar withdrawal or simply due to a lack of sleep.  My sleeping habits have been a little wonky lately.  I’ve decided to make it a ritual on this blog to share what I eat the first and last day of each diet.  So here yesterday’s food log:

What I ate my first day on a yeast/mold allergy + candida restricted diet

Breakfast: Homemade hummus (YES!!!) on a brown rice cake with baby spinach and fresh parsley; handful of almonds

Midmorning snack: Smoothie made with spinach, kale, strawberries, and fresh ginger root; handful of macadamia nuts

Lunch: Mung, adzuki, & pinto beans mashed & mixed with radishes, bean sprouts, arugula, tahini, jalapeneo, & tomato – some wrapped inside a toasted Nori sheet (seaweed used for sushi), the rest eaten on top of yeast-free sprouted rye berry bread; I also had a non- “chewable” B12 supplement that I decided was now going to be “chewable”.  I just snuck it into one of the bites that I took, but I didn’t notice any awful bitter flavor at all.  Success!

Supper: My favorite food in the whole entire world! – quesadillas with avocado, black olives, red, orange, and yellow pepper, red onion, lime juice, & fresh cilantro on toasted sprouted grain tortillas.  Before I started eating vegan, this recipe included pepperjack (my favorite) cheese.  Keeping with the tradition of a fatty spicy topping, I slathered on a thick layer of a spicy macadamia nut spread [Recipe to follow!]

How about that?  Day 2 and I already have a recipe to share?  Heck yea!

Macadamia Nut Dip -(From:

1 cup macadamia nuts (soaked for 2 hours)

1 med-large tomato (I used a raw tomato but the original recipe recommends roasting/steaming the tomato until it is slightly soft)

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

1 clove of garlic

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Juice from one small lemon

Salt to taste

Blend in a high-speed blender/food processor.  If you are using a blender, you may need to add just enough water to make everything blend nicely.

Now, back to sugar!  I have come across an impressively long list entitled “141 Reasons Why Sugar is Ruining Your Health” by Nancy Appleton, PhD.  I intend to cover as many of these as I can during the month to 1) Increase awareness as to all of the health implications sugar can have.  Hint: There’s more to it than bad teeth and fat tummies & 2) Keep my inspiration high, so that the inability to eat sugar doesn’t bum me out.  We’ll need to cover about 5 a day, so let’s cover the first 10 shall we?

Reason #1: Sugar can cause tooth decay (We should all know this already which is why I wanted to just get it out of the way)

Reason #2: Sugar has been linked with asthma (This one hits home, because I was just diagnosed with asthma this past Spring)

Reason #3: Sugar can damage the pancreas

Reason #4: Sugar can raise your triglycerides (The stuff you DON’T want!)

Reason #5: Sugar can lower your HDL cholesterol (The stuff you DO want)

Reason #6: Sugar contributes to obesity (Again, this should go without saying)

Reason #7: Sugar may age our skin due to collagen changes

Reason #8: Sugar can contribute to diabetes (Duh)

Reason #9: Sugar can cause a fatty liver (fructose is metabolized here!)

Reason #10: Sugar can cause depression (I can vouch for this one.  I used to get sugar cravings so terribly that I would feel downright depressed until I could get my next fix.  Yes, it’s as bad as it sounds.)

There you have it folks.  Sugar =garbage health.  To be continued…