Raw? Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto-Ovo? Pescatarian? Mediterranean? There have been so many diets promoted in natural health circles in America over the last decades. It seems they all have various benefits. And the one thing most have in common is the avoidance of consuming of cows and pigs.
Red meat and pork have no known health benefits. The animals are treated brutally and killed in a gruesome bloodbath that is easy to ignore because so few have witnessed our fellow mammals’ slaughter. Those who are employed to do the dirty work get very low wages and often incur injuries because of the size and weight of the animals and the speed of the work. It is very difficult to watch. Even when Cargill, one of the largest meat processing companies in the nation, allowed Oprah Winfrey into a couple of sanitized areas of a processing plant, they did not allow her cameras to film a cow being killed. Out of sight means out of mind.
We are very fortunate that there are so many other things to eat! This meat can feel energizing because of all the adrenaline in the animal when it is killed, and there is iron in blood and flesh, but there is also iron in spinach, dried fruit, and lentils. There is a tradition of the hunt and the roast, and this holds a special allure and place in our hearts. However, when you realize that is far from how the animals get to our plates nowadays, the romanticized vision vanishes.
One hamburger can contain up to 100 different cows. The US kills 35 million cows a year, and 13,200 pigs an hour. That is a lot of bloodshed, death, and killing. What would our country be like if that stopped? Our cardiovascular health would improve, as would our regularity. Less suffering for the animals coincides with less suffering for humanity.
If you would like to see what really goes on behind the closed doors of the slaughterhouse, it is a great motivator for change, although very sad to watch:
These videos have a louder volume, so you may wish to mute (this also makes them more bearable to watch):
This was filmed at Agriprocessors which was the largest (Glatt) Kosher meat producer in the United States, and the only one authorized by Israel’s Orthodox Rabbinate to export beef to Israel, before it was shut down in 2008 by inspectors (best to mute):
Thank you for being willing to read this, and watching some of the videos. I know it is very difficult to consider this topic because for so long we have been removed from the reality of it and since we were children we were taught to eat a certain way. Make sure to be gentle with yourself and go slowly when making changes in eating habits. Perhaps begin with a “meatless Monday.”
This film describes the positive environmental impacts that forgoing meat just one day a week can make:
For a well done documentary about one man’s journey with this issue, watch this clip:
Another inspiring story with regards to getting back to a plant-based diet is that of Dave the trucker. He was dying when he decided he had to tackle this problem head on:
Even the Mayo Clinic recommends “meatless meals”:
Recent articles in the LA Times and the Huffington Post lend weight to this conclusion:
Because of all the droughts we have been having in the US, the cattle are starving, and the herds are shrinking:
Cows are very gentle creatures. There is no skill or chase in hunting them. They are docile pacifists who give their milk and eat grass. They hurt no one, and do not deserve this torture. Pigs frolic and forage, are as sociable and intelligent as dogs, and genetically are surprisingly similar to humans (more so than any other domesticated animal):
The slaughter house is like hell on earth. It is time for the madness to end. It does not have to be this way. Humans have freedom of choice, and when we know better, we do better. And when we learn, we care.
These items can function in place of meats in traditional American recipes when needed, they’re pretty tasty, and the most popular ones are available at supermarkets:
I had a great experience when I asked my supermarket to carry a natural product they did not already have, and they now stock it in the store – thank you Vons!
If you are taking medications or have had surgery, please consult your doctor before making any changes in your diet and only undertake such changes under her/his supervision and monitoring. This is because dietary changes can lessen the need for certain medications. Also, listen to your body – if you need red meat, eat it. If you can avoid it when possible, and still feel good, please do. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as medical advice.
2 cups raw hazelnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours, drained and rinsed
½ cup raw cacao powder
2 Tbsp – ¼ cup coconut nectar/maple syrup/raw honey/raw agave (to taste)
¼ tsp (or more) pink Himalayan or sea salt (to taste)
¼ – ½ cup milk alternative (I used homemade unsweetened vanilla brazil/hazelnut milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract (omit if using vanilla almond milk)
Optional: 1 tsp coconut oil
Nutella hazelnut-chocolate spread is delicious. That is a fact.
Unfortunately, store-bought Nutella is highly processed, with unnecessary amounts of refined sugar and oil. This recipe is a way to enjoy the hazelnut-chocolatey goodness in a raw, more healthful way.
Soak hazelnuts for at least 2 hours. Drain them and rinse thoroughly.
Throw hazelnuts in the food processor. Add the cacao powder, optional coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Add the milk alternative until desired consistency is reached. Next, slowly add the sweetener, tasting as you go. Lastly, add the salt. Make sure to blend everything very thoroughly.
Spread on bread, crackers, or even on raw desserts! Throw in a blender with a frozen banana, almond milk, and ice for a Raw Nutella smoothie.
Melissa Farris attended the California School of Herbal Studies in Sonoma County, California over a decade ago, and has never looked back with her medicine making ever since! She now owns www.VeriditasBotanicals.com which is an entirely organic line of therapeutic blends of essential oils. They smell amazing! Plus they actually work.
Essential oils are very precious remedies for our bodies and spirits. The sense of smell is evocative, supportive, and cleansing for the emotions as well. Synthetic scents, although initially pleasurable, are generally neurotoxic. Her natural combos are wisely constructed to work on common health challenges like eczema, sinus congestion, and menstrual cramps. The Mayo Clinic is currently doing case studies on three of the Veriditas Wellness Formulas.
Out of a concern for the earth all herbs used to make the oils are grown without pesticides, and the oils are free of adulterants. This is important as well because what we put on our skin gets absorbed into our bodies. Melissa says, “We believe that when we support small organic farms we are taking a revolutionary stand to promote healing of our bodies, the earth, and local economies.”
The oils are reasonably priced, considering the quality and effectiveness, and available online or at select
health food stores!
(Adapted from Russell James)
1 head of dino (black) kale
¼ tsp sea salt
½ cup cherry tomatoes
¼ raw sunflower (or hemp) seeds
A few grinds of black pepper
1 small avocado or ½ a medium avocado
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cumin
½ Tbsp Bragg’s Aminos (or tamari, or low-sodium soy sauce)
½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp tahini
1-2 tsp coconut nectar (or raw agave, or raw honey)
Last night I developed a craving for raw kale salad, but I wanted something different and more interesting than the typical tahini-lemon-soy dressing that I usually default to. I took raw chef Russell James’ recipe as inspiration and changed up the dressing.
First, wash the kale. De-stem it, and chop into smaller strips. Place in a bowl, and add the sea salt. Massage kale thoroughly until it wilts, and looks tender. Add in tomatoes and seeds.
Place all dressing ingredients into a blender (or use a whisk), and mix well.
Spoon dressing into salad, grinds in pepper, and mix everything together thoroughly. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so before eating.
(image borrowed from ohsheglows.com)
1 ripe, frozen banana
2 bunches of fresh spinach
½ an avocado, chilled
1 tbsp chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
½ cup unsweetened coconut water
1 tbsp whole coconut milk
3-5 ice cubes
Optional (for added electrolytes): ½ tbsp lemon juice + ½ tsp sea salt
I’m on a smoothie kick at the moment… Here is a cooling and moisturizing smoothie that’s perfect if you’re feeling hot and dried out.
Freeze banana beforehand. Mix chia seeds with almond milk and set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Start by blending the frozen ingredients, slowly adding the chia seed mixture. Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly.
Feel free to add additional greens if desired. Try some celery, cucumber, kale…
(image borrowed from ohsheglows.com)
1 ripe frozen banana
2 dates, pitted & soaked
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
1tbsp whole coconut milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
1tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Dash of cinnamon (omit if you’re feeling overheated)
3 or more ice cubes (depending on desired frosty-ness)
This is something I created out of necessity as I do with many of my raw food concoctions. I wanted a cooling, hydrating, quick-and-easy pick me up I could have in the morning after my workouts. This smoothie is incredibly functional:
Banana—Very cooling, replenishes with potassium and natural sugars.
Dates—Replenishes with potassium and natural sugars.
Chia Seeds—Combined with the liquid, they are hydrating. They also provide Omega 3s.
Raw Almond Butter—Natural protein for muscle recovery and healthy fats.
Coconut Milk—Very cooling, with healthy fats.
In terms of the apple cider vinegar, don’t worry—you can’t taste it. It’s just a little trick to round out all the sweetness in the smoothie.
The night before, chop up one large, very ripe banana. Seal in a Ziploc bag and place in the freezer.
When you wake up in the morning, start soaking the dates.
Immediately after completing your workout, get to work. It’s important to make this smoothie as soon as possible after your workout, to reap its full benefits.
Put chia seeds in a cup, and pour in almond milk and coconut milk. Stir and stick in the fridge for 10 minutes. This way, the chia seeds soak up the liquid, and will help thicken the smoothie when blended.
Once the chia seeds have plumped up into a “gel,” combine with all ingredients in blender. If you have a weaker blender, start with the ice, then the banana, then the remaining ingredients. Blend forever… or until very well blended.
Note: I am not a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, or medical health professional. This is advice from personal experience, knowledge, and research.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, foods and beverages have inherent thermal properties—either cooling or warming. This can be invaluable knowledge in . As someone who struggled for a long time with unrelenting heat, TCM really changed my quality of life. I can wear layers of clothes now. I can sit in a heated room, and not have to leave as often to cool down. I can drink hot beverages. Most importantly, I know what food and beverage choices to make in the moment to address my temperature.
Here are some quick and dirty guidelines of what to avoid while trying to stay cool:
-Overly processed, “fast” foods, will most always be heating. Of course, there are many other reasons why I would seriously advise against eating these foods, but if you’re trying to stay cool, especially stay away from these foods. This also includes processed sugars, such as candy bars and soda.
-Coffee—very warming. If you want a little boost in the morning, try green tea instead. It’s actually cooling. You can make a green tea latte by brewing two teabags, adding some raw agave nectar or raw honey to sweeten, then a milk alternative like almond, coconut, or rice milk.
-Alcohol—probably the most warming thing you can put in your body. Advertisements have cemented the “cold beer on a hot day” image in our head, but if you’re trying to stay cool, it is the last thing you want to drink.
-Cigarettes—you’re basically inhaling fire. This should be a given.
-Any spices or hot peppers, garlic, onion, mustard but especially ginger. Ginger is seriously warming.
-Red meat and Lamb—go for tofu, fish, or chicken instead.
I’ve just told you what to avoid, now here’s a quick breakdown of foods and drinks that will help cool you down:
-Herbal Tea—even if it’s hot! Peppermint and Dandelion are the most cooling. For a super-cooling tonic, I like making Peppermint-Dandelion iced tea: double the amount of teabags per cup, and steep for at least 20 minutes. Then add plenty of ice, a little raw agave to sweeten, and a little coconut milk.
-Coconut—anything coconut-related is very cooling, unsweetened (this is important) coconut water, milk, or meat. Get a whole coconut, crack it open, drink the water, and eat the meat.
-Greens and Vegetables—most are cooling, and most effectively when eaten raw or lightly steamed. For greens, go for: kale, spinach, chard, and seaweed (but not mustard greens). For vegetables: cucumber, celery, lettuce, cabbage, asparagus, and broccoli. Always choose organic, when possible.
-Fruit—Bananas are one of the most cooling things you can eat. Uncooked avocados are great, and will also help if you’re feeling dried-out. Apples are a great choice as well.
-Grains—especially whole wheat, barley, and millet. Cook up a mixed grain bowl with steamed veggies and tofu.
Just to clarify, these are only guidelines. I’m not saying that you have to give up your favorite foods, beverages, and spices completely. I want you to enjoy your favorite things. Hopefully, this blog has given you a better understanding of how to use food and drink to regulate your body temperature and stay comfortable. I urge you to approach those daily decisions with a mindfulness of your body and how what you eat and drink will affect you.
Lastly, if you’re cold—have some warming food or drink! Eat or drink ginger, use plenty of spices.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a concept which stems from Buddhism, but has been widely adapted by Western psychology. Mindfulness can be described as an awareness of the present moment; the practice of cultivating awareness of the body, breath, and mind with the intention of being completely present, moment-to-moment. The goal is to be able to experience and observe emotions and sensations in the body, without having to identify with them (i.e., be controlled by them).
When managing your day-to-day life, keeping yourself in the present moment is crucial. Staying present and grounded can prevent you from getting completely lost in your emotional experience, and losing control of your actions and behavior. It is possible to learn to experience these strong and uncomfortable emotions and sensations in the body, and greatly lessen the amount of suffering that they cause.
What can you do right now?
Here are two simple practices you can start to work with right now: Mindfulness of the body, and Mindfulness of the breath.
Sit upright. Sense the soles of your feet on the floor. Focus on the sensation of contact with the floor. Keep your focus here, and explore. Do the sensations change? Do different areas of the bottom of your foot feel different on the floor? You can practice this standing as well: waiting in line, on a crowded bus, wherever.
Start tuning in to the sensation of your breath. Notice its natural progression; the rise and fall of the abdomen as you inhale and exhale. Don’t manipulate or change your breath, just gently track and follow it. If this starts to feel too complicated, just back off and go back to the body.
You can use these practical tools whenever, wherever you are to bring yourself back to/anchor yourself in the present moment. These can be especially helpful to stay grounded when you feel increasing anxiety or depressive feelings and thoughts.
What’s the next step?
Meditation is the primary tool for practicing mindfulness.
There are several resources for this. For some basic, introductory instructions on Mindfulness Meditation (a.k.a. Insight or Vipassana), go to: http://www.spiritrock.org/page.aspx?pid=573.
Next, search online to see if there are any meditation centers in your area. There are several different styles of meditation: Insight Meditation (a.k.a. mindfulness or Vipassana meditation) is what you should be looking for. One of the best resources for assistance is Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin, CA. They are a hub for Insight Meditation, and can assist you in finding a meditation center near you. For example, here in the Venice/Santa Monica, CA we have InsightLA (insightla.com). When I lived in San Francisco, I meditated with SF Insight (sfinsight.org).
Books can be a useful introduction to meditation, especially if a nearby meditation group isn’t easily accessible. Though, I strongly recommend primarily learning meditation in person. Teachers such as John Kabat-Zinn, Sharon Salzberg, or Jack Kornfield all have good introductory books on meditation.
Start experimenting with a daily meditation practice. Even if it’s only 1 minute a day when you first awaken—you can build from there. My hope is that this may offer you some relief from anxiety and depression, help you feel more relaxed and grounded, and give you some tools for facing everyday struggles.
1 small block pre-baked tofu (Trader Joe’s Teriyaki is good)
1 medium red garnet yam
¼ bunch dino kale
1 cup Shitake or white mushrooms
1 large carrot
3-4 cloves minced garlic or 2 tsp jarred minced garlic
1 tbsp (plus extra for marinade) Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce (or Trader Joe’s Soyaki—same thing)
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup (for tofu glaze)
This is a great little wholesome, flavorful bowl that covers most of the nutritional bases. There’s protein from the tofu, vitamins and minerals from the vegetables, low Glycemic Index carbohydrates from the yam, and flavor for your mouth. As always, I made this with produce from the farmer’s market, which I highly recommend. Yes, it’s better for you, but if anything, the flavor is leaps and bounds above what you would get at the supermarket. So, if a farmer’s market is something that’s available to you, please take advantage of it.
A little preface: with the tofu in this recipe, I used Trader Joe’s pre-baked tofu to make it a little easier. You can use extra firm uncooked tofu, but you’ll want to press it, marinade it for longer, and add about 10 minutes to the broiling time.
The night before (several hours before is ok), marinate pre-cut tofu in a few tablespoons of Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce. Turn pieces over halfway through marinating.
Once you’re ready to cook the meal, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Wash all veggies.
De-stem and chop kale. Chop mushrooms and carrot.
Very finely mince garlic (obviously skip this step if using jarred garlic).
Once oven is done preheating, wrap the yam in tinfoil, and place in the oven.
Bake for about 50-60 minutes. Check by quickly the yam—it should be very soft.
Take out the yam, but leave the oven on, and turn to broil.
Brush tofu with agave nectar or maple syrup then pepper. Place in a small baking pan (or oven-safe bowl), and cover with tinfoil.
Broil tofu for about 10 minutes (if using uncooked, 15-20). You want it to be nice and browned on the outside, a little crispy.
As tofu broils, steam veggies—about 6-8 minutes. You want them tender, yet crisp. You’ll know once they’re done, because the kale will have less of a bitter bite to it.
Take everything off heat. Unwrap the yam from tinfoil. Peel off the skin, and place the flesh in bowl. Add the garlic, tahini, and 1 tbsp of Soy Vay. Also add a dash of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper. With a fork, mash and whip the yam with added ingredients.
Add in the vegetables and tofu. Mix well with a spoon. You may want to add more tahini, Soy Vay, garlic, or salt to taste.
This is something that I rustled up last night after I surveyed what I had purchased from the farmer’s market this weekend. I approach cooking as I do my life—a little bit of planning, and a lot of spontaneity. Probably a little too heavy on the spontaneity, which lends to a lot of risk (in both areas)… Anyway, I decided to make a raw kale salad, which is something that I make often—but I wanted to mix it up (terrible, unintentional pun).
1 bunch of raw kale, rinsed, de-stemmed, and chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup shredded cucumber
½ cup raw corn
½ cup medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp raw agave nectar or raw honey
1 blood orange
Combine kale, carrots, and cucumber in large bowl.
In a separate, small bowl, combine olive oil, soy sauce, raw agave. Cut blood orange into quarters, and squeeze juice into dressing. Remove seeds with a spoon. Whisk everything together.
Pour dressing over salad, and massage into kale for 3 minutes or so, until kale is tender.
Add corn and dates, toss. Add sea salt, garlic powder, and pepper to taste. You might even want to add a final splash of soy sauce—trust your taste buds. For something even more filling, toss in some chopped walnuts.