In This Issue:
4) Recipe: Indian Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions
This is the first time I’ve written since returning to the states, and I’m excited to be back in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a busy Fall, and even though it seems like I just got home, I’ve already begun traveling. I just returned home from the Juice Plus conference in Memphis and it was great to see you there.
I’ll be giving my new talk, “How to Look and Feel Beautiful,” in Tacoma, Washington this week on November 7th. On November 11th, I’ll be speaking in Santa Barbara, California. I’ll also be speaking in Camarillo, California on November 13th. Lastly, I’ll be speaking in Bakersfield, California on November 15th. Click here for more information on each of these events.
I have one other piece of exciting news, which is that I’m working on a new book about beauty and health that I hope to have ready to distribute in time for the holidays. Click here and pre-order your own copy and take advantage of special prices and shipping.
Here’s to your health,
Mitra Ray, Ph.D. and the From Here to Longevity Publishing Team
Stool is Cool: a discussion of elimination
If you were a doc of the old school
You wouldn’t need no fancy tool
One good look at my stool
And you’d mark me for a
Or tell me my diet was pretty
Yes folks, we’re going to do the unthinkable: we are going to cheerfully engage in a frank conversation about poop. Even today, there are doctors around the world who are able to look at a person’s stool and be able to tell what’s ailing them. Your poop says a lot about your diet and overall health, and as unsavory as it seems to contemplate, it’s worth considering how yours looks and feels.
Indeed, your poop is generally a good indicator of how you look and feel. It’s an important diagnostic tool when considering the health of your digestive system, which in itself is linked to the health of just about every system in your body. My friend Sandra Whatmore commented the other day that we are a dehydrated and constipated society and nobody is talking about it.
For the most part, stool is made up of water, fat, fiber, and bacteria. Healthy stool is about 75% water, 1% fat, and plenty of fiber, which makes it soft and easy to pass. When there’s not enough water, not enough fiber, or too much fat, problems abound. Hard stool that you have to push or strain to eliminate is a clear indication that there’s not enough fiber, and probably not enough water, in your diet. This can cause manifold problems such as hemorrhoids and diverticulitis (small hemorrhoids in the intestines). Small, hard “pellets” are also a sign that you need more water and fiber, whether or not they are hard to pass.
Perfect stool should float, should be S shaped or curved (which is how your intestines closest to the rectum are shaped), and should be very soft. Soft, but not sticky or runny. Poop that’s too soft and sticky, or that’s extremely watery, can indicate a diet that’s too high in fat and/or alcohol. That, or there’s some sort of unhealthy bacteria that you consumed, which causes diarrhea. But if it’s sticking to the toilet bowl, it’s sticking to your intestines. Over time it hardens, continues to decay, and you’re literally backed up with weeks-or-months-old food that’s rotting inside you. You should be able to pass stool with little effort, and you should do it at least once a day. Some people poop several times a day, and that’s even better.
You’ve heard me tout the benefits of drinking lots of water before, but I’m going to do it again here. Your intestines pull water from your feces as it travels through your body, so you want there to be more than enough water to make this an easy task. It works as a lubricator (think about what it would be like to go down a slide at a water park without the water), and keeps everything moving smoothly and easily. Too little water and you’ll risk constipation, which brings with it a whole host of health problems beyond the aforementioned hemorrhoids. Among these are fatigue, headaches, compromised immune function, bad breath, varicose veins, indigestion, body odor, and improper absorption of nutrients.
Adequate fiber intake is also extremely important to your digestive (and thus overall) health. The euphemism in dietary recommendations to “eat a diet rich in fiber” is another way of saying that most of your diet should be unprocessed, whole, plant-based foods. The transit time of food through our digestive system is extended dramatically by animal products and processed foods.
If you eat plenty of raw fruits, raw or slightly steamed or baked veggies, whole grains cooked in water (no oil or salt added), and raw nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, and flax seeds, then you shouldn’t have any food hanging out in your digestive tract for too long. As soon as you add processed food, rich foods, and animal products to your diet, everything slows way down and your intelligent liver starts to think too much about what to do (which is a whole other discussion), and the immune system gets stimulated. High amounts of fat and alcohol can lead to diarrhea, while animal protein (including dairy and eggs) and processed food leads to constipation. The fiber in our diets feeds healthy bacteria in our gut, whereas the lack of it makes it difficult to create healthy stool. If your poop is not healthy and takes too long to pass, it will end up as age spots on your face – more on that in my new book.
Good rules of thumb for “cool stool:”
- Drink of minimum of 8 – 10 glasses of water per day.
- Make sure that the majority of your calories come from whole, unprocessed plant-based food.
- Include a variety of grains in your diet, not just whole wheat and brown rice. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) oats, kamut, and spelt are all excellent carbohydrate choices that provide healthy calories, fiber bulk that your intestines need, and give you that full feeling that signals your brain that it’s time to stop eating.
- Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc., are all good for making tasty dishes, especially soups (see recipe below). Limit tofu and other processed beans; eat the whole food whenever possible, rather than a processed version of the food. As an example, organic, refried beans are a processed food, even if you make it yourself.
- Eat at least 5 servings of fruit, and 5-10 servings of vegetables per day. Choose fruits and vegetables in every color of the rainbow so that you can take advantage of the range of antioxidants and phyto-nutrients available to you.
- Eat both raw and lightly cooked (steamed, roasted sautéed in water or broth, or grilled) vegetables. Try tossing some raw kale or spinach into a fruit smoothie in the morning. It sounds odd, but these vegetables don’t have much flavor when eaten raw, and they pack an impressive nutritional wallop, including lots of plant protein. You can get 2-4 servings of vegetables first thing in the morning, and you won’t really even taste it. This is not to suggest that these vegetables don’t taste great, or that you should avoid eating them when cooked. It’s just that people need to develop a taste for them, and the fruit smoothie with some dark leafy greens thrown in allows them to take advantage of the health benefits of these wonderful vegetables even before they decide that they love ’em.
- Most people are eating savory fruits such as cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini or tubers such as potatoes, beets, etc. While these are good choices too, it is the cruciferous vegetables and especially the dark leafy vegetables that contain all the elements of a good diet for the least amount of calories: fiber, phytonutrients, protein, complex carbohydrates and minerals. They also fill you up so you feel satisfied. Consuming them in a green drink in the morning will vastly improve you health quicker than just about anything else you can do.
A warning: your poop will look like what you eat. Don’t be disturbed if your stool takes on a dark green appearance if you start having “green drinks” in the morning, or a reddish hue if you’ve eaten a lot of beets. Similarly, blueberries will make it blue, etc. The green drink will also improve your bowel movements.
Flax vs. Fish
With all of the attention being given to omega 3 Fatty acid supplements, I’ve received many questions about the benefits of flax seeds, flax oil, and fish oils.
Our bodies do not produce the basic precursors for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, so they are called essential fatty acids (EFAs), which means that we need to get them from our food. And you can’t just eat them and hope for the best: these two EFAs must be in the right ratio of about 1:1 in order for cells to function properly.
Having enough and having the right combination of EFAs is the key to combating cholesterol regulation, cell-to-cell communication, hormone regulation, and the workings of pretty much every system in your body. EFAs combat cholesterol deposits in the blood, and as such help to prevent strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, impotence, and just about everything else that good blood circulation would effect. Additionally, EFAs are beneficial to the skin, and contribute to that glowing complexion we’d all like to have.
You can get EFAs from a variety of sources. Many of the questions I have received have been focused on the more widely popular sources of fish oil and flax seeds, so it’s worth considering which of these two you ought to eat.
Flax seeds are superior to fish oil in certain ways. When you eat the entire flax seed, as opposed to just the oil, you’re getting a whole food, which means that the fiber is intact. Flax seeds are excellent for mild to moderate constipation, or for preventing constipation in the first place.
Flax seeds also contain alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and lignans, neither of which are found in fish or fish oils. ALA and lignans block tumor growth and may reduce the risks of many cancers.
One reason that many people turn to flax as opposed to fish is that flax seeds are a sustainable crop, while fish may not be. Global fish stocks are low, and many species have been terribly over-fished. Additionally, deep sea fish are polluted by heavy metals and other deadly toxins. Even though you can find fish oils that have been screened for such toxins, it’s a lot easier to avoid the fish in the first place.
Fish oil is a source of EPA and DHA, which are not found in flax, and thus people often think fish is the better choice. But neither of these are EFAs. The body can make DHA and EPA as needed, which means that they’re not essential fatty acids. The literature will coax people to consume these in supplement form from fish oils, reasoning that as we get older we lose the ability to make them. The reality is that it is not our age but rather a lifetime of poor diet that has us lose the ability to make them.
Eating more plants and avoiding animal products (dairy, meat, chicken, fish, etc.), as well as processed food, will make us “younger” and give us back the ability to make these and so many other critical chemicals that allow the body to work as it should. Taking fish oil is like putting a band-aid on a deep wound. Also, it’s worth noting that there there is a camp of doctors and scientists who are now saying, “Hang on, we changed our minds, we should avoid DHA supplementation because that can lead to more problems in the end.” Band-aids such as these are clearly not long-term solutions.
The best and most economic way to store and eat flax seeds are to buy organic, brown flax seeds fresh in bulk. The golden flax seeds have a better marketing team but the truth is that the brown flax seeds have more omegas and other nutrients. Grind them in a spice or coffee grinder, or Vita Mix, as needed rather than attempting to eat the whole seed, which the body cannot break down. I like to grind about a week’s worth in advance and store them in an air-tight container in the fridge. Adding them to a smoothie or other drink is an excellent way to reap the benefits of flax seeds, since they need to be consumed with water in order to be absorbed.
Every morning I make a smoothie with several fruits and vegetables, and I always add 1/3 cup of ground flax seeds per person when I’m blending the drink. You don’t taste them, and it’s an easy way to get the much needed fiber and EFAs into your diet each day.
See recipes below for the Green Drink that I start each day with. If the idea of eating greens in the morning is unappealing, you can still make a great smoothie with your favorite fruits (fresh or frozen) and the flax seeds. But in a future newsletter and my new book, you will read more about the benefits of a Green Drink for looking younger and feeling great.
Recipe: the Green Drink
In my new book, Do You Have the Guts to be Beautiful?, I discuss that much like the food and drug industries, the beauty industry is full of false information about what’s “healthy”. Dr. Jennifer Daniels, a Harvard educated MD, is working with me and has shared her secrets to maintaining or regaining youthful skin. She and I start every morning with a Green Drink, and I’d like to invite you to try it.
Dr. Daniels and I both use a Vita-mix, which is a super-powered blender that can puree whole foods, including skins, stems, stalks, and other bits that are nutrient dense. However, this can also be made in a food processor or regular kitchen blender. The recipe is open to experimentation — try other greens and fruits as well. I like using frozen banana, and frozen red, seedless grapes. Also, it helps to use chilled, filtered water. Making it cold makes it taste better and stay fresh longer. You can refrigerate up to 24 hours, but I like to drink it when it’s at its most fresh.
Makes 1 Serving
- 3 large kale leaves, chopped
- 2 bananas-very ripe, frozen or fresh
- 1 fleshy fruit chopped (apricot, peach, mango, etc), frozen or fresh
- 1/4c flax seeds
- 1 tsp milk thistle
- Enough filtered water to make it as liquid as you like
Put flax and milk thistle in blender. Blend until powder-like. Add one cup of water and continue blending. Add fruits and vegetables, then slowly add additional water while blending. Blend until liquefied, or until smoothie has reached desired consistency.
Recipe: Indian Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions
With a side salad or other green vegetable this makes for a hearty, nutritious, delicious meal. As we’re heading into the colder months, I like to make stews, soups and curries that can be heated up at a moment’s notice.
Makes 6 Servings
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 cup dried brown or green lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups water
- 1 T olive oil (optional), or vegetable stock
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 – 4 cloves garlic, depending on how garlicky you like your food, thinly sliced
- 1.5 tsps coriander
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/8 tsp cayenne
- Preheat oven to 350
Rinse and drain rice and lentils. Place in large stock pot with water and bay leaf. Bring to boil. Lower heat, add spices, and simmer for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, place onions and garlic in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for ten minutes.
When rice and lentils are finished remove from heat and take out bay leaf. Stir in onions and garlic. Serve topped with fresh cilantro or dill.
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