"Whole food cooking acts as the foundation of physical vitality, and works to balance us in mind, emotions, and spirit."

Which kind of Omega 3s are best for You?

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Salmon Salad pretty

Most of us now know that omega 3 fatty acids are seriously lacking in the standard American diet. They’re very important for brain and nerve function, heart health, beautiful skin, strong immunity, hormone balance, anti-inflammatory effects, anti-cancer effects, and many other bodily functions. Indigenous people’s diets are rich in omega 3s because the fats, oils, nuts, seeds, and grains they eat are fresh, whole, and unrefined.


The refining process that ingredients in packaged, fast, and restaurant foods go through exposes the fats in these foods to heat, pressure, and oxygen, which causes them to change molecularly and sometimes oxidize, or “go rancid”, which eradicates the benefits of the omega 3s in these foods.

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Guidelines for Glorious Greens

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Arame Eggs & Avo & VeggiesI believe that the three, most important, first steps toward establishing great health are: 1) getting enough water daily, 2) getting enough dark leafy greens daily, and 3) quitting refined sugars then eating low glycemic. Last month, I shared strategies on how to get enough re-mineralized water daily. So, this month, I’ll share the healthiest ways to prepare all kinds of greens (including the Asian Greens!); why some leafy greens are best for the body when eaten raw, and why some are healthiest when at least lightly cooked. Yay!

Whether it be a big pile of steamed dino kale drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil, or a huge green salad with chopped dandelion greens, I feel so alive, so alert, and so much energy just from eating my greens daily! In fact, eating way more greens was the very first step I took about 15 years ago, when I had no energy and several health issues. When I simply started eating a big spinach salad every day, my energy level shot up by about 50%! Wow! “Greens, Glorious Greens! Life-Giving Sustenance!”

All greens have tons of fiber, minerals, and chlorophyl. Chlorophyl mirrors human blood almost exactly in it’s molecular structure, so it helps cleanse and re-build the blood. Live green salads are alkalizing to the body’s pH, and they’re full of fiber and living enzymes, both of which aid digestion. Greens rejuvenate us, period.

It’s important to maintain the body’s naturally alkaline pH balance to maintain good health, energy, stamina, and general vitality. I remember one of my teachers saying, “…disease cannot take root in an alkaline environment.” He recommend eating an 80% alkaline-forming diet, and limiting acid-forming foods to less than 20% of the diet. Acid-forming foods include: all forms of sugar, alcohol, commercially produced meats, refined salts, white flour products, pasteurized dairy, and packaged/processed/restaurant foods in general. When we eat mostly whole, alkalizing foods like seasonal vegetables, beans, millet, quinoa, nuts, avocado, pasture butter, organic eggs, and grass fed meats, there’s less room in our stomachs for the refined, acid-forming foods, which makes the gentle transition to a whole foods diet way easier than most people think!

Dark leafy greens are a big part of what’s missing in the Standard American Diet. The cruciferous (broccoli family) dark leafy greens like kales of all kinds, collard greens, Brussels sprout greens, broccoli greens, cauliflower greens, and cabbages are 1) very alkalizing to the blood, 2) contain potent anti-oxidants, and 3) are brimming with bio-available, food-state vitamins and minerals. The darker the color of the greens, the more minerals they have! I believe that these cruciferous greens are absolutely the most nutritious of all the greens because of their density of minerals, and their strong, anti-cancer properties. I’ve experienced that the crucifers are easiest to digest when eaten at least lightly steamed (or rubbed with coarse sea salt and olive oil). These methods help to break down the copious amounts of sulfur they contain, as sulfur is very difficult for the body to digest.  

Raw, green lettuces are also very alkalizing to the body, contain minerals, and have a cooling effect on the body. So, raw greens are best eaten more often in the spring and summer (the time of year when lettuces naturally grow), or when you’re feeling too warm. These types of greens don’t contain too much sulfur, so they’re easy to digest when eaten raw: all lettuces, baby spinach, turnip and radish greens, dandelion greens, baby bok choy, baby tatsoi, baby mustard greens, and watercress.

“What about beet greens and chard?”, you ask. There’s a substance called oxalic acid that’s found in large amounts in mature spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, parsley, and Swiss chard. There’s a sensation associated with eating oxalic acid heavy veggies; it’s a feeling like the enamel is coming off of your teeth (similar to when you bite into a lemon). When these types of veggies are COOKED, oxalic acid binds with minerals in the intestine, and inhibits their absorption. If these types of veggies were cooked and eaten daily, they’d eventually contribute to mineral depletion. The great, recent news on this subject, is that when eaten raw, the living enzymes in the plant’s tissues help break down the oxalic acid, which leaves the minerals free to go to where they’re needed in the body. So, eat mature spinach, beet greens, rhubarb, parsley, and Swiss chard RAW. Other than eating these types of greens raw, there are two more ways oxalic acid can be neutralized: 1) by cooking these vegetables with kombu sea vegetable for at least 20 minutes, and 2) by fermenting (culturing) these vegetables in beet kvaas, sauerkraut, or kimchee.

A wonderful new addition to my health-arsenal of greens, are the Asian greens! Va and Ivorrie at the Wednesday morning market in Arroyo Grande, and Tou at the Saturday morning market in SLO, bring a beautiful, varied selection of Asian greens to us, such as Kang kong (water spinach), bittermelon leaf, amaranth greens, basil, long bean, daikon radish, singua, okra, shanghai bokchoy, lemon grass, dill, and yam leaf.

Their booths are in the North West corner of each market. I asked them which types can be eaten raw vs. cooked, and started including Asian greens in my salads ands stir frys. The yam leaf, amaranth greens, and water spinach are super mild, and will disappear into salads without a clue from picky eaters. The okra greens are mild too, and they have a slightly slippery texture (mucilaginous), just like their fruit. Turnip, radish, and mustard greens are slightly spicy, and the more mature (bigger they are), the spicier they get, so watch out!

For a full color guide to all the Asian greens including:
Latin name, also known as names, flavor, texture, how they’re best cooked, when they’re available, and where to find them, check out:

Here’s a brief summary of which types can be eaten raw, and which types should be cooked:
Asian Greens which can be eaten raw OR cooked
yam leaf, radish greens, turnip greens, amaranth greens, fava greens,
malabar spinach, mizuna, snow pea shoots, water spinach, napa cabbage, BABY bok choy, BABY tatsoi, BABY yu choy, & BABY mustard greens

Asian Greens which need to be cooked
chrysanthemum greens, chinese celery, chinese broccoli, AA choy, kokabu greens, bitter melon vine (bitter melon vine is usually made into a medicinal tea for diabetics who are NOT on blood sugar lowering drugs)

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NOPALES: Our Local Super Food!

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Nopales1You may have seen them for sale at Mexican markets, on produce stands at the swap meet, and even in the produce section of many grocery stores; beaver tail-shaped cactus leaves called “nopales”. For years, I would pass by these unappealing guys, but I always wondered what they tasted like. I also wondered how in the world one could possibly work with them!
Nopales aren’t actually leaves, but they’re the soft stems of the underdeveloped prickly pear cacti. What would be considered the leaves, scientifically speaking, are the spines…go figure! Many people are only familiar with the prickly pear fruit themselves, which taste like a cross between watermelon and strawberries…Yum!
Okay. Either green or purple, nopales are roughly the size of a person’s hand, and, when cooked, they have a consistency somewhere between green beans and green peppers. Native to Mexico and Central America, they’re regularly added to eggs and steak stir fry.
Nopales have a wide range of health benefits. They aid in weight loss, regulate blood sugar, prevent cancer, improve skin health, protect heart health, regulate and improve digestion, boost the immune system, optimize metabolic activity, build strong bones, cure insomnia, and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Wow!
A couple of months ago, my dear friend Terre Dunivant (gaiagraphicsLINK), asked me if I had ever eaten nopales raw or cooked. She said that she had a ton of them in her yard if I ever wanted any. She said that they’re spectacularly healthy, as they’re brimming with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and many other phyto-nutrients. Even after hearing about these awesome health benefits, when I pictured the cactus paddles in my mind, I shied away from working with those spines. I said, “I love you Terre, but thanks anyway!”
Then, just last week, I was at my cooking demo booth at the Wednesday morning market in Arroyo Grande, right across from sweet Lupe’s produce booth. Lo and behold, I saw that she had 3 ziplock bags of de-spined and diced nopales for sale for just $3/bag! My eyes kept going back to those neatly diced nopales all morning. When there was a lul in the crowd, I walked over to ask Lupe about them, and she let me taste a piece raw. It was crispy and watery and surprisingly tangy, which tells me they’re full of vitamin C. I was immediately turned on. I thought, “what a refreshing element to a summer salad these would make!” I was also super excited by the idea of finally learning to cook with them.
To guide buyers in cooking them, Lupe had a small, laminated sign that told us to put them in a saucepan with a bit of salt and simmer them for 10-20 minutes on low heat until they let go of their water. Then, one can drain them and easily saute them with onions, eggs, stir fry, meats…anything! “Oh Boy!” I thought, “the possibilities are endless…let the adventure begin!”

Nopales & Caramelized Onion in Scrambled Eggs:
I brought the diced nopales home and did exactly what Lupe’s sign had instructed. Then, I set them aside, and sauteed a large diced onion in my favorite cast-iron skillet in about 2Tbsp nitrate-free bacon fat. When the onion started to brown and caramelize, I threw in the simmered and drained “nopalitos” along with: 1/2tsp each turmeric, cumin, and coriander. I stirred everything together, then covered the pan and let it simmer for about 4-5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so. On the side, I had whisked about 4 eggs with about 1/2tsp sea salt until they were frothy and fluffy, then I poured the eggs over everything and scrambled the whole ensemble together for a lovely, pre-Cinco de Mayo breakfast!

Here’s a link to the many details of the heath benefits of nopales:

A Few Words of Caution:
Due to nopales ability to regulate and affect blood sugar levels, they can sometimes make people hypoglycemic, and they should also not be consumed excessively before an operation, since they makes it difficult to control glucose and blood nutrient levels.

Integrity note from Courtney:
Since I finally ended up cooking with nopales last week, I just had to write about the experience for my May newsletter, instead of writing about the various kinds of dark leafy greens and the healthiest ways to prepare them, as I said I would do this month in last month’s newsletter. For this, I apologize deeply. And, I intend, in June, to finally bring you the reasons why some kinds of greens are best for the body when eaten raw, why some kinds are best when at least lightly cooked, and why some kinds are best when fermented. Thank You So Much for your readership, your time, and your patience!


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          me at ASHHot summer weather is fast approaching, and hydrating your body well doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s what I’ve learned about most efficient water assimilation, and establishing a routine to get enough water daily.

          Getting enough water daily, getting enough greens daily, and quitting refined sugars are, what I believe, the most important first steps toward establishing great health. So, next month, I’ll share the healthiest ways to prepare all kinds of greens; why some kinds of greens are best for the body when eaten raw, why some kinds are best when at least lightly cooked, and why some kinds are best when fermented.

          Okay. Let’s talk about water! I grew up drinking refrigerated colas when I felt thirsty (as nearly everyone did who lived in hot, Southern California weather). But these days, whenever my stomach gurgles, instead of asking myself if I’m hungry, I now ask myself if I’m thirsty. And, I find that the lemon-water going down my throat is usually, exactly what my body was asking for.

          How much water should we be drinking daily? Many doctors are now recommending drinking more water daily for nearly every disease. It’s a fact that most modern people are chronically dehydrated, as processed foods contain little or no water, and are also dehydrating. A diet of mostly processed foods can cause many different bodily organs to shrink and shrivel over time. Scary!

          From my studies and personal experience, I believe that each of us should hydrate with about ½ of our ideal body weight in ounces per day (maybe a little less in the wintertime, and a little more in hot summer weather, or with physical exertion or sweating). Some people think we should only drink when thirsty, but most modern people’s thirst mechanism has been stunted from a lifetime of dehydration.

          When I started drinking about 70 ounces of re-mineralized water daily (I weigh 140lb), I began to feel SO MUCH BETTER! I had more energy, I craved fewer carbohydrates, my bowels became unconstipated, my headaches and my allergies reduced significantly, and I even lost weight! By the way, all this happened to an even further degree, along with even more signs of increased vitality, a few years later, when I decided to cut refined sugars out of my diet.          

          Okay. Back to water. A realistic starting point for most people, is to start out drinking 8-16oz of water at one time, especially if larger amounts are difficult. As a person begins to hydrate their body regularly, they’ll feel thirsty more often, and then they’ll gradually be able to drink more at one time.           

          When is the best time to drink water? It’s ideal to drink at times other than when we eat, so as not to inhibit digestion. You see, drinking more than 4oz with a meal will dilute your valuable stomach acids and enzymes. So ideally, you’ll want to hydrate between meals, with 16-24oz of re-mineralized water, 4-5 times a day.

          My current routine is to drink about 32oz throughout the morning (usually lemon-water), as I usually feel dehydrated when I wake up. Then, I’ll eat breakfast when I feel hungry, and then, a couple of hours after breakfast, I’ll drink another 32oz or so. According to food combining principles for best digestion, after a meal it’s best to wait at least 90 minutes before drinking a large amount, and after drinking a large amount, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes before eating.          

          What do I mean by re-mineralizing? Re-mineralizing water means adding trace minerals (aka: electrolytes) to it. This is important to do because straight H2O (distilled water) doesn’t actually hydrate the body well. In fact, straight H2O can actually pull minerals from the body as it passes through. Think about it; water comes to us naturally in wells and streams where minerals are present. When water is void of minerals, the body can’t utilize it efficiently. By re-mineralizing your water, it’s like you’re making your own GatorAid, but without the sugar!

          What to add to your 16oz glass of water to re-mineralize it (choose one)

  • 1/16tsp (pinch) of sea salt (Celtic, Himalayan, Portuguese, or Real Salt brand)

  • juice from a lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit

  • 1-2tsp of raw apple cider vinegar

  • 2oz any 100% fruit juice

  • 2-3oz soak water from soaking sea vegetables for cooking

          All of these listed above contain trace minerals. I like adding lemon juice to my water, as it takes my thirst away immediately and is gently cleansing to all my organs. Raw apple cider vinegar is more strongly cleansing, very alkalizing to the pH, aids digestion, helps prevent arthritis crystals from forming when taken regularly, and has many other benefits. But those with weakened or sensitive kidneys should use apple cider vinegar sparingly. Whole sea salt is great to replace bodily electrolytes in the summer, or when working out and sweating lots. Also, sea salt is best for containers which can’t be rinsed or washed regularly, because salt inhibits bacterial growth. 100% fruit juice is tasty, but is usually too sugary for those with candida overgrowth symptoms (which is most North Americans).

          Water Sources: Tap water is usually swimming with both chlorine and fluoride, both of which are very bad for nearly every system in the body. Water vending machines outside grocery stores are not very thorough at completely cleaning these elements out of municipal tap water. So, get your water from a good reverse osmosis filter, purifier, distiller, micro-filter, or from a good water store like my favorite: Central Coast Pure Water in the Laguna Village Shopping Center at Madonna Rd and LOVR. The sweet man who runs the shop is named LaLo, and I totally enjoy seeing him regularly when I bring my BPA free, plastic bottles into his store about once a week for a refill. He is totally helpful, very funny, and has become one of my dearest friends.

          Best Water Containers: Try to use glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bottles to store and carry your daily drinking water on the go. By the way, I’ve found that most stainless steel water bottles eventually give the water a slightly metallic taste, especially if you’re adding sea salt to re-mineralize it. So, I like using a 32oz glass mason jar for my purse.     

          If you use big polycarbonate bottles to fill up at a water store as I do, get the new ones labeled BPA-free. And NEVER buy or drink water sold in convenient, low-grade plastic bottles (labeled on bottom as #7 or lower) because they leach toxic plasticides (toxic chemicals such as BPA, and even synthetic estrogens) into the water, especially if the bottles get warm in the car.

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Immunity Secrets

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Hey! I didn’t get sick this season!
Since last fall, even with sick people all around me with various colds and that long-lingering flu that just went around, I haven’t yet gotten sick. I know, as arrogant as it may seem, I feel that I’ve no need to knock on wood here because I’m continuing to build and bless my immune system with several of the key diet and lifestyle factors for strengthening immunity.
One trick that’s worked for me for many years now, is, before I’m exposed to any viruses, to simmer three magical, yet common herbs to make about a week’s worth of immune-boosting tea to store in the fridge to drink about 3 times/day. I sometimes remember to do this in the early fall, before I even hear of anyone getting sick, but usually, I’m fervently rooting through my stash of herbs right after I hear of a sickness going around the community. I’ll simmer a pot of this magical tea, to drink continuously for about a week, and then I’ll make another week’s worth, and then another. This has always worked for me to ward off contagious illness for months on end, when I have the discipline to actually do it for about 3 weeks at the start of the “sick season”.
Fennel & GreensI probably have a head start in maintaining a strong immune system compared to most people  though, because I practice a whole food diet and lifestyle, which happens to dovetail beautifully with the keys to developing strong immunity (listed below). I eat an alkalizing whole food diet, I drink 3-4qts of lemon water (or any kind of re-mineralized water) daily, I eat live cultured probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchee, I eat plenty of vitamin C rich foods throughout the day, I usually make sure I get to bed early and I often lie down for 20 minutes in the early afternoon to re-charge my batteries, I get plenty of exercise swing dancing and riding my bikes and horses, and I use compassionate communication principles in my relationships.
You know, and I know, that self-care takes time and that there aren’t a lot of shortcuts to good health. But I’ll bet you want that magic tea recipe anyway, right? Okay. Just blend equal parts (about 3Tbsp each) dried elderberry, dried astragalus root, and dried lemon balm leaf in a reusable cloth tea bag, and simmer for about 15 minutes in 3qts filtered water. Drink a cup or so warm and some at room temp throughout the first 24hrs, and store the rest in the fridge for drinking a cup about 3 times per day over the next  week or so. Then make another 3qt batch and drink it for another week. Repeat again, so that you’re on this tea for about 3 weeks at the start of each cold / flu season, for greatly improved immunity throughout the entire season. Yay! Remember that we often tax our immune systems throughout the holiday season with refined pleasure foods, alcohol, staying up late, family stress, and less time for self-care. So, be sure your self-care / immune-boosting deposits greatly outweigh your taxing withdrawals.

8 Keys To Developing Stronger Immunity:
1) eat lots of greens & alkalize the body with 80% of diet whole foods and green veggies, and only 20% of diet refined foods, meat, alcohol, sugar, etc.
2) eat probiotic foods or good quality probiotic supplements
3) eat food-state Vitamin C throughout the day (lemon juice, kiwi, tomato, peppers, cabbage, etc)
4) get good sleep in a dark room – try to rise and fall with the sun as much as possible
5) exercise regularly with an activity you love to do
6) drink 3-4qts re-mineralized water daily
7) practice having healthy relationships
8) herbs: elderberry, astragalus, echinacea, garlic, ginseng, lemon balm, and mushrooms: reishi, shitake & maitake

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