People tend to be black and white when it comes to soy: Either they’re telling you it causes breast cancer, or pointing you to the health and longevity experienced by the Japanese, heavy soy eaters (at least until recently).
The studies are inconclusive: some point to benefits, while others point to potential harm. In the case of breast cancer, the isoflavones found in soy which mimic estrogen, have been both accused of causing and/or proliferating cancer, as well as potentially preventing it.
When in doubt we like to see what our favorite alterna-docs are saying. Dr. Andrew Weil is pretty pro-soy in its wholer-food forms (that includes tofu for him), while Dr. Oz recommends eating it in moderation until there’s more conclusive research, also stressing that people avoid the overly-processed “frankensoy” products, sticking to tofu, miso and tempeh.
For my part, as I’ve discussed in the past, finding easy protein sources that aren’t either filled with toxins, genetically modified, or wreaking havoc on the environment, is tough. I’m a big fan of sardines and mackerel now, which took some palate training. And I do eat tofu about once or twice a week, and enjoy a good miso soup or salad dressing as well, now and again. In other words: moderation.
But for you full-time vegetarians out there, I can imagine the soy thing gets awful tricky. Do you eat it? And have any of you seen differences in your hormones, skin and/or menstrual cycles when you do eat soy versus when you don’t?
Sometimes anecdotal evidence is the best thing we’ve got!
Last week my phone died. For the astroheads in the audience, let me tell you, it was classic Mercury retrograde: I was on a work trip to San Francisco, and the little metal bit inside my Blackberry that “receives” the charge pretty much snaps. I can’t find an external battery charger (they no longer exist, even chez Radio Shack), the Apple store has no iPhones for my network that day, and nobody in the office has a Blackberry battery (because I kind of work for a tech company, and I’m kinda the oldest person there, ergo they all have iPhones).
Long story short, I end up phoneless for a few days. It’s a small disaster, because I don’t receive an important UPS shipment, but I survive. Also, I love it.
A few days without a phone feels like a hall pass. Nobody knows where I am! Free woman. No point being anxious. Of course, the idea that I’m somehow being tracked by anyone is a fabrication of my own making, but it’s an illusion that a lot of us live with in our current state of constant contact. In his amazing book, Spontaneous Happiness, Dr. Andrew Weil postulates that modern technology and the way we communicate with each other through it, plays a big part in the dramatic rise in depression (and other types of anxiety disorders too). The short of it being that our brains have not actually evolved to handle the current onslaught of (often useless) information. While many people pride themselves on multitasking, apparently that’s an illusion too: The old noggin has only evolved to do one thing at a time, so we essentially jump from one task to the other and back again creating, among other things, a kind of mental (emotional, psychic) burnout.
There’s definitely more to it than that, and you should all read the book, but it certainly makes one consider that spending less time with your smart phone, would be a very smart idea indeed.
I now have an iPhone. (Sorry, this really is not supposed to sound like an ad—for the record, I don’t care so much what kind of phone I have, but it’s become necessary for work. And OK, I felt a little peer pressure.) My favorite thing about this new device is not that I can ask it questions or write emails without typing. For whatever reason (or whatever preference setting I haven’t figured out) it does not alert me every time I get a new text or email (or tweet of FB message). It only updates when I actually pick up the thing and touch it. While I thought I would hate living without that little blinking red light alert of my previous gadget, I’ve come to realize that this is a HUGE blessing. For starters, I’m not distracted every two seconds. I’m less grabby with my phone. I’m also probably less rude when I’m with people.
On occasion I have experimented with actually shutting my phone down, which I think is a great idea. But I also realize that that in itself can cause added stress. So with this new phone, I’m trying to build a new and healthier relationship. You know, better boundaries. We’re less attached to each other. I leave it in the other room often. I don’t ever sleep with it by my bed unless I have an early flight to catch. And while it’s really good at surfing the web, I generally don’t need to do that when I’m not on my computer.
It makes me a bit depressed (and anxious) just to think about how distracted we all are, and how we’re losing our capacity for spontaneous connections out in the world because we’re so deep in our private tech bubbles. I’m as guilty as the next person, which is why I want to make a concerted effort to use my phone only in the ways that serve me best.
How attached are you to your gadget? And do you ever take a timeout?
P.S. Stress is just one of many reasons to create some better boundaries with our phones, more to come in Part 2.
After last week’s conversation, it’s pretty clear that everyone draws their dietary lines differently. But over the past decade we’ve noticed the rise of a certain trend that we call “vegans who eat fish.” What gives? On the one hand there are the convincing health (and environmental) benefits of a plant-based diet, extolled in The China Study and elsewhere. On the other, nutrition heros like Dr. Andrew Weil continue to make strong arguments for eating fish, particularly the kind high in omega-3s.
Instead of choosing, some (including Bill Clinton) have opted for the hybrid diet—a.k.a. vegans who eat fish, and preferably the sustainably sourced kind. Which takes me to sardines—a new obsession. As I mentioned last week, I’m going through a period right now where animal protein seems crucial to my health. Fish is a regular go-to, but like so many foods these days, it’s also a minefield. If it’s not mercury levels, it’s over-fishing. When it’s not over-fishing, it’s the carbon footprint of sushi.
But because I believe most things Dr. Weil says, after several false starts I have finally come around to sardines in a big way. Here’s why you may want to as well… Or have you already?
1. They’re low on toxins. Because they’re little and low on the food chain, sardines don’t contain all the scary environmental chemicals found in bigger fish.
2. They’re high in omega-3s. Good for your brain, great for your skin, proven to fight inflammation, omega-3s may be the closest thing we have to a silver bullet in the food-as-medicine world.
3. There are lots of them. In fact, according to Weil, we have twice as many sardines today as we did 100 years ago. Unfortunately, that’s because we’ve overfished their predators.
4. They contain vitamin D. Many people are vitamin D deficient, and it doesn’t occur naturally in most food. While doctors are still debating just how much we need, sardines are a healthy way to get this super-vitamin without sitting in the sun (which makes dermatologists cry).
5. They taste better than tuna. Everybody knows that fat makes things yummier, and those super-healthy fats in sardines give them a satisfying flavor that you only get from tuna when you drown it in olive oil and mayo.
6. And they stink less too! It’s true that we’ve called them “stinky sardines” in the past, but compared to canned tuna or salmon, sardines are actually the least offensive on the olfactory front.
Here’s how I do mine:
—I buy a skinless, boneless variety in olive oil (I like the one at Trader Joe’s)
—I drain them and then add a bit of Vegenaise (the soy-free one), a tsp of dijon, some chopped green onion, capers, pepper, salt, and a hit of Tabasco
—I mash that together and spread on toast, wrap it in cabbage, eat it with a cucumber, whatever’s handy and good
Have you made friends yet with this sustainable superfood? If so, when, and how do you do yours?
Sea vegetables have come up a lot this last week and—to cut right to the beauty benefits—several people have told me that they can prevent, and even reverse, gray hair. In fact, during a panel discussion on health and natural beauty at the wonderful RakSa wellness center (if you live in LA, you must go) one woman in the audience seemed to have proof right there on her head. While her ends were white you could clearly see that her roots were growing in brown—yuh huh!—and she chalked it up to seven months of heavy dosing on kelp.
Now, I’m am by no means telling you that you can reverse your gray hair with some seaweed. While I’m excited to learn more about this supposed phenomenon—and we obviously both believe strongly in the powers of diet on appearance—I don’t have the slightest clue if it’s a reliable method. (PLEASE share in the comments if you know anything about this.) But it definitely got me thinking about sea veggies!
Seaweed, whether we’re talking dulse, kelp or good old nori, is an acquired taste. And even though I like it, I’m not always up for a full mouthful of the stuff—seaweed salads have been known to set off my gag reflex in the past. But these vegetables of the sea contain all kinds of wonderful nutrients, including A, C, E, B complex and B12 as well as calcium, potassium and iron. They even contain some omega-3 fatty acids. I got that straight from Dr. Weil, so. Of course, these nutrients are especially important if you lean more towards vegetarianism—but everyone can benefit!
That’s why I picked up the super convenient, organic and tasty Sea Seasonings pictured above. I’ve seen these at most health food stores and they are downright delicious. They are also a great low-sodium salt substitute if that’s important to you. I like them sprinkled on all kinds of things but here’s a simple salad recipe that works great…
Cucumber, tomato, avocado, chopped green onion, lettuce of your choice.
Dressing (for one serving):
Combine about 1 tbps olive oil, 1 tsp bragg’s, and a splash of an acid you like (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar all work well with these flavor profiles). Add some black pepper if you want but you won’t need salt.
Toss your salad and sprinkle it with the dulse, kelp (or both) and a teaspoon of nutritional yeast if you have it.
This salad will seriously up the nutrition value of any meal. And if you’re looking to turn it into a full on vegan lunch or dinner, you can toss in some brown rice and a protein of your choice. I know tofu and seitan are controversial but I still have them on occasion.
Are sea vegetables a part of your diet? And more importantly: Do you know anyone who’s reversed gray hair with them?
I’m at a conference hosted by Dr. Andrew Weil, a kind of hero of ours who, at 70, embodies the idea that if you eat an antiinflammatory diet, get a lot of sleep, exercise, meditate and eat mushrooms, you’ll be just fine. (Not that kind of mushrooms, you guys! Though, hey.)
This is the Nutrition and Health Conference in San Francisco, where doctors, nurses, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals (with a few journalist interlopers) come together to learn from the best of the best in integrative medicine.
It’s like being in college and taking classes with all tbe best teachers, back to back to back, in two packed days.
Some topics came up over and over: plant-based or mostly plant-based diet. Another? The idea of food and good nutrition as…medicine. “Eat your medication,” one guy said.
So we want to know from you. Do you believe that proper nutrition is nature’s best medicine? And further, because nothing looks better than health: Do you think food and nutrition affect your looks?