As we enter the New Year, we look at its qualities. We have just completed a 5000-plus year Mayan cycle to begin a new one that has yet to be revealed.
If we consider going from 2012, a 12-year into a 13, it first brings to mind the idea of 12 as the completion or fulfillment number [a dozen articles of food or materials, 12 constellations, 12 hours on a clock, 12 inches in a foot, the 12 tribes, the 12 apostles, etc.]. Next we might consider the “unlucky” number 13. But is it? According to some, it’s a special number that indicates the beginning of a new cycle. And new beginnings can be difficult. And perhaps this initial difficulty explains the negative reputation of 13. However, if we prepare, a cyclical transition can be harmonized and the challenges of a new cycle become less so.
What about the traditional Chinese view of the forthcoming year, which begins on Feb 10th?
According to that system, we are entering into the “water snake” year. The water snake can be understood in terms of the nature of water— receptive, adaptable; and snake—shifting, changing, slithering, dynamic (think how fast a snake can strike). It’s interesting to consider the tissues of the snake, which are filled with omega-3 fatty acids. These are highly adaptable lipids that help overcome inflammation, stagnation and rigidity such as we see in arthritis and cancerous tumors. To summarize the nature of the water snake, we might say in general it represents dynamic change. Are we prepared for 2013 if indeed it challenges us with abundant and rapid transformations?
If we are stagnant and rigid, this year could present substantial problems. However, if we are adaptable and receptive, we may enjoy how 2013 unfolds. Here are 4 nutrition and lifestyle patterns that prepare us for dynamic change:
- Enhance your life a) Open mind and heart: use focusing practices such as prayer, meditation, contemplation, and mantra. With a clear, peaceful mind, most of life’s difficulties become challenging events that are fun and interesting. b) Exercise daily, moderately. Excessive exercise damages our heart tissue, wears out our kidneys and adrenals, and weakens our bones and joints. Insufficient exercise creates torpor and weakness and sets the stage for degenerative diseases. I frequently recommend that my clients go outside at least once daily for a walk or do gardening, qi gong, or other outdoor activity. Breathing fresh air and receiving sunlight, even through the clouds, helps revivify our mind and body. We have discovered recently that outside air is a superb source of beneficial microbes.
- Use pure water in food preparation and drink. Fluoride, which is added to most of the community water supplies, is one of nature’s principle aging and rigidifying factors. Moreover, numerous studies indicate that it lowers IQ (especially in children) and contributes to poor thyroid activity, which in turn, can contribute to excessive weight gain and hormonal imbalances. Chlorine, injected into virtually all public water in the developed world shares a trait with fluoride—it too undermines thyroid activity. And the form of chlorine being introduced into city water supplies in recent years, called chloramine, exhibits an additional property similar to fluoride— it resists evaporation, even in heated water. Purified water can be made with reverse osmosis, distillation, and deionization. To leave beneficial minerals in purified water, read about a new hybrid carbon-ceramic filter here.
Use high quality fats. These are available in grass fed and pastured animals and wild fish. Farmed fish are notoriously deficient in omega-3s. And so are fried fish. To prepare wild fish, poach, boil, bake or thoroughly steam. A water sauté method is to cook fish on moderate temperature with a half cup of water in the pan. [Add no oil.]
If you are inclined to take omega-3 fish oils, please consider krill oil as it is up to 50 times more effective. [Krill is a tiny marine crustacean that is the largest biomass in the world; it is harvested sustainably, and is not endangered, contrary to faulty information.] High quality krill oil is produced by a method known as “Neptune”, listed on the product label. One way to ensure abundant intake of omega-3s that function ideally in the body: simply take one krill oil capsule with your desired quantity of fish oil. The krill oil will encourage the fish oil to function more effectively. Another option is to take only krill oil, and 1-2 daily capsules is optimal for most people.
Plant-derived omega-3 fats are extremely important for modern people because of how cleansing and purifying they are for the liver and other bodily tissues. The highest sources are what I term the Three Omega-3 Seeds: chia seed, flax seed, and hemp seed. I often recommend that clients alternate among these at different meals. Plant and animal omega-3 fatty acids act somewhat differently in the body, and each supplies uniquely important nutrient dimensions; thus many people feel that they benefit from both.
Avoid the bad fats as these make our tissues rigid and bring about degeneration perhaps faster than any other common nutritional mistake. Bad fats include all forms of canola oil, all refined oils (98% of salad and cooking oils are refined), all hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats such as traditional margarines and shortenings, and most oils used in frying and sautéing. Please note that the magnesium stearate and stearic acid added in most supplements—which act to lubricate tableting and encapsulating machines—are hydrogenated fats. Look for supplements without these synthetic, “plastic” fats. Also note that many new margarines and shortenings are no longer hydrogenated, but they all use poor quality refined and denatured oils. How do you know they are refined? Because the oils in them are not listed as “unrefined” on the label.
Similarly, it is important to look for the word “unrefined” on the label of olive oils. Otherwise they can be of poor quality. Other good words on the label are “organic”, “cold pressed”, and “extra virgin”, but none of them indicate quality unless the oil is unrefined. People frequently ask me about brown rice oil, grape seed oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, and almond oil. I rarely if ever find these oils to be unrefined. Therefore I suggest avoiding them unless you discover an unrefined version. [My book, Healing with Whole Foods, has explanations and references regarding the nature of fats and oils.]
- Please, after reading about the food details above, return to # 1 at the beginning… this is how we build a foundation for health… with the open, relaxed mind and integrated body that can manifest an intention that endures.
Next I want to introduce the work of Sharla Chao-Zi Cooper, where she uses traditional healing principles to elucidate the recipe that she offers us. That is, in the West, we normally describe food in terms of nutrient values. Sharla is skilled at this as well, but here provides an alternative view that enables a simple, yet visceral and tactile sense of how foods act in our body. The net effect truly enhances the value and function of her recipe.
The New Year, as practiced by my Chinese ancestors, is such a joyous and festive time filled with gatherings and feasts with friends and family. With all the activity that surrounds a holiday, it is easy to become overwhelmed, uprooted and unbalanced. A common remedy for this is reaching for fatty, salty and rich tasting foods to feel grounded. Although it may feel comforting, over time these salty, rich foods can leave you feeling sluggish and depleted. Give yourself a gift during this festive transition by choosing healthier options that provide energy and balance.
This root mash is a great alternative to traditional mashed potatoes and makes a great starter or side dish. Eating the roots of plants helps nourish our own root system and restores balance. Vegetables such as celery root, parsnips, and carrots grow deep in the ground and act as an anchor, these amazing tap roots also store the water and nutrients that are essential for the entire plant. By eating these roots we in turn nourish our whole system. This dish helps to moisten the Lungs and Large Intestines, nurtures the Spleen/Pancreas, harmonizes the Liver and provides balance for the Kidneys (I capitalize the organ names to refer to their enhanced meanings in traditional Chinese medicine). Adding legumes to this dish provides a plant alternative to butter and cream; when pureed, beans take on a velvety rich flavor that is much more satisfying.
For the Puree
- 1 Celery root, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 Parsnip cup into 1 inch pieces
- 1 Cauliflower head cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 Fennel bulb, top removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 Small potato, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 Cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1/2 of an yellow onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
- Almond or soy milk (easy to make healthy sprouted soy milk)
- Vegetable broth or water
- Pinch of salt and ground white pepper
- 1 cup of cooked white beans, such as Cannelini or Great Northern
A. Put all the cut vegetables, garlic, and onion in a large soup pot and cover with equal parts almond or soy milk and broth or water, until it is just above the level of the vegetables. Simmer over medium low heat for 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. Season with a pinch of salt and white pepper and remove from heat.
B. Using a large slotted spoon, scoop the vegetables into a blender or food processor, add the beans and enough of the reserved cooking liquid to get a thick consistency. You can add more liquids to make this more like a soup for a first course dish. Blend well and pour into a serving bowl.
- 1 Bunch of Brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed of bruised leaves
- 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp unrefined olive oil
A. Steam Brussels sprouts in water for about 6-8 minutes, or until bright green and tender
B. Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and place in a mixing bowl, add the whole grain mustard, vinegar and olive oil, toss gently and spoon on top of puree.