Category Archives: Health Articles

Omega-3 Lemon Balm, Hemp, & Flax Pesto Spread – Vegan

lemon balm pesto

Winter has been very mild here in central Florida this year. My herbs still look great. After pruning back my basil and lemon balm plants, it appeared that it was time to make pesto again. Pesto is one of my favorite sauces! 🙂

I do have one problem with traditional pesto recipes – not only do they contain a lot of oil, they contain a lot of olive oil. Most people have been led to believe that olive oil is a “health food”, and that just isn’t the case. Most plant based oils have omega fatty acid ratios that favor omega-6 and lead to inflammation. As I have a history of inflammatory disease, I try to eat very little oil, but when I do need to use a little in a recipe, I opt for flaxseed oil, which is very high in omega-3 fatty acid, making it an anti-inflammatory food. Flaxseed oil is a little pricey though, so in order to reduce the total amount required in the recipe, I make a thicker pesto spread instead of a sauce. It is wonderful in sandwiches!

lemon balm hemp flax pesto spread

Another ingredient in traditional pesto, which is problematic, is pine nuts. Standard variety pine nuts have THREE HUNDRED TIMES more omega-6 than omega-3. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, the Mediterranean variety of pine nuts is much better with a 1:30 ratio. It is significantly better (10 times to be exact), but still very high. We can do even better than that be replacing the pine nuts in traditional pesto with hemp seeds. Hemp seeds have a 1:3 ratio – 10 times better than even the Mediterranean pine nuts. They also have a nutty flavor that compliments the flaxseed oil nicely. By replacing pine nuts with hemp seeds, we have literally made the omega fatty acid ratio of the nut/seed component in recipe one hundred times better

lemon balm hemp flax pesto spread

The last ingredient that I have replaced in this recipe is the cheese. There is a lot of controversy regarding the health benefits of dairy when all factors are considered (whether or not it is from grass fed animals, whether it not it is pasteurized, etc.). Regardless of these things, I’m allergic to it, so dairy is a non-negotiable ingredient exclusion for me. Instead of cheese, I use nutritional yeast in this recipe. It is an inactive yeast that contains all essential amino acids, and multiple B-vitamins. Some brands, like Red Star Nutritional Yeast, are also fortified with B-12. 

lemon balm hemp flax pesto spread

It’s also REALLY good in sandwiches.

gluten free vegan panini sandwich

Omega-3 Lemon Balm, Hemp, and Flax Pesto
This recipe has just a hint of lemon balm, and a few other key ingredient changes that create a much healthier omega fatty acid ratio than traditional pesto.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups basil (replace up to 1/4 cup with lemon balm, if desired)
  2. 1/4 cup flaxseed oil
  3. 1/4 cup hemp seed
  4. 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  5. 3/4 tsp sea salt
  6. 1 TB Trader Joe's "21 Seasoning Salute" (or your favorite garlic or Italian-inspired spice blend)
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until an even, but slightly chunky, consistency is achieved.
Notes
  1. I used lemon balm to replace some of the basil because I had it in my garden, but you don't have to do that for this recipe. It adds a nice hint of lemon to the recipe, but is not necessary.
  2. I experimented with the Trader Joe's seasoning mix since I had swapped out a few other ingredients, but you don't have to use it. You can use a garlic powder based seasoning blend or an Italian-inspired spice blend of your choice, and it would probably still taste great.
A Taste of Two Plates http://tasteoftwoplates.com/

Breakfast Wheatgrass Juice Shots

Ah, wheatgrass juice, my old friend… we meet again. =D 

My husband and I love to watch food documentaries and tv shows about food and culture. Our areas of interest within the topic of “food” vary pretty dramatically though. One theme we both really enjoy though is travel and sampling of local foods from different regions. I think we’ve both got a bit of wanderlust, or maybe just some nomadic tendencies. 

We recently watched a show covering the immense variety of different food offerings available in Los Angeles. The host tried high end dining, fast food, and even made a stop in to see “Mr. Wisdom” out there. He’s a Hare Krishna practitioner who offers vegan food, wheatgrass shots from grasses that he grows himself, and rejuvelac. My husband knows of my fondness for wheatgrass juice and my dislike of rejuvelac, so I think this part piqued his curiosity. 

I do occasionally grow wheatgrass, but not too frequently. It’s hard to keep the cats from eating all of it, and we have three of them now! Whenever we make a pilgrimage out to our semi-local Whole Foods, I usually like to pick up some of the locally grown wheatgrass so I can juice it at home. I hadn’t intended to pick any up this time, but he actually said he might like to give it a try! So, of course, I enthusiastically picked up the big bag. =P

This morning, before work, I juiced a shot for myself and a half shot for him since he’s never tried it before. The Hippocrates Institute recommends 2 ounces of wheatgrass juice twice a day for health and healing. Because it stimulates the liver to rapidly cleanse and detox the body, it is best to start with small amounts and work up to the recommended amount.

I remember the first time I tried it, I somewhat arrogantly thought that because I ate a healthy and healing diet already that I could jump right in with a larger amount. I had a shot and a half and I felt like I was going to throw up within an hour of drinking it. It’s really potent! I have no problem with this amount now. 🙂

The Hippocrates Institute recommends drinking it undiluted on an empty stomach, but I just can’t handle the flavor straight, so I drink it with fresh organic apple and/or cucumber juice. My husband saw the shots out while I was still juicing the apples this morning and asked, “So, this is what I’m supposed to drink?” I told him he could wait for the apple juice, but he just picked it up and shot it, seemingly unbothered. I suppose I should have expected that from a guy who drinks strong black coffee without batting an eyelash. Meanwhile, my “supertaster” taste buds make me want to gag if I try to drink it straight. 

Health Benefits of Wheatgrass Juice

Why is this such a healthy habit to get into? According to the Hippocrates Institute, wheatgrass contains:

  • twice as much vitamin A as carrots
  • more vitamin C than citrus
  • the full spectrum of B vitamins
  • calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus in balanced ratios
  • all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein
  • 20% of calories from protein
  • enzymes that protect us from carcinogens and help the body to remove toxic metals

Here are some other health benefits (source: http://www.organicauthority.com/health/15-uses-for-wheatgrass-juice.html):

  • stimulates circulation
  • improves digestion
  • treats arthritis by means of the chlorophyll reducing inflammation
  • increases oxygen supply to bodily tissues, which facilitates cellular regeneration
  • helps the liver to detoxify the body more efficiently
  • stabilizes blood sugar
  • improves complexion through cellular regeneration – in addition to drinking it, you can put it directly on your skin to heal sunburns faster, treat discoloration, and heal wounds faster
  • helps to prevent cancer by cleansing and oxygenating the blood
  • improves immune function

Additional Wheatgrass Resources

Bottoms up! =D

Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from Cornell

Certificate of Completion in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell

Today, I have officially completed the certificate program in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell.

I should have significantly more time to work on some new recipes for the blog now – recipes that are even healthier, focusing completely on the whole foods that are the best for nourishing our bodies and preventing diseases. 🙂 <3

Radish and Caraway Gazpacho + Heart Disease

Raw Vegan Gazpacho Soup

This is a difficult recipe post for me to make. I am a little behind in my recipe postings for two very good reasons:

  1. My grandfather is in the hospital dying of heart disease. He was an active man who was never overweight.
  2. I am working to complete a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University.

The course material is very timely for me. We have been extensively covering the role that diet plays in the development of heart disease and cancers, the two consistent top causes of death in the United States. These are diseases of affluent nations. The richer we are, the poorer our diets become, full of processed foods and animal proteins.

The Heart Disease Epidemic

According to the CDC, about 600,000 people die from heart disease in the US per year. That is 1 in every 4 deaths. This is an epidemic. Conservatively, the CDC says that about 200,000 (1/3) of heart disease deaths are preventable with diet. However, based on the lifetime work of T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China StudyWhole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, and The Low-Carb Fraud, he estimates that a full 90% of heart disease is preventable with the proper diet. The more calories we take in from unrefined plant foods instead of animal proteins and processed foods, the less we die from heart disease and cancer as a species. 

Heart disease deaths vs intake of plant food

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr, a respected surgeon who directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, has had great success in halting and reversing heart disease among inoperable patients. His patients, “…agreed to follow a plant-based diet with <10% of calories derived from fat. They were asked to eliminate oil [except flax seed], dairy products … , fish, fowl, and meat. They were encouraged to eat grains, legumes, lentils, vegetables, and fruit. Cholesterol-lowering medication was individualized. The only goal was to achieve and maintain a total serum cholesterol of <150 mg/dl”.

He has also written a great article about abolishing heart disease on Dr. Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies website. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Autopsies from soldiers in the Korean and Vietnam wars revealed an 80% rate of coronary heart disease. The median age was 20. 
  • A study of autopsies from accident, homicide, and suicide victims aged 16-34 revealed heart disease in every single one.
  • When the Nazis invaded Norway and seized all of their livestock, the people subsisted on whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Their rates of death from heart disease and stroke plummeted, but went back up to pre-occupation rates when their livestock was returned. 
  • As Western culture has permeated into Asia, these countries have started to adopt our bad dietary habits. They are shifting away from strongly plant based diets and starting to consume more animal proteins and processed foods. Coronary artery disease is predicted to become the #1 global disease burden by 2020.

The Hearth Healthy Diet

Based on the work of these men, and many others on the forefront of this research, the ideal diet for human health is a whole foods plant based diet. We receive the right balance of macronutrients automatically when we eat whole unprocessed foods grown from the ground. Dr. Campbell’s latest book, Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, spells it out:

The ideal human diet looks like this: Consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible (‘whole’ foods). Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil, and sugar. Aim to get 80 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 percent from fat, and 10 percent from protein.

Note: Dr. Esselstyn noted that the exception to the rule for oils is flaxseed oil, as it is the only one that contains more omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acid.

I am starting to incorporate more of these practices into my own diet, as I am constantly looking for ways to continue improving my own health. Going forward, more effort will be made for my recipes to follow the protocols outlined above that science is validating are correct for our species. 

Heart Healthy Gazpacho with Radish and Caraway
Serves 2
This is a heart healthy variation of gazpacho, which incorporates radish and caraway seed for a subtle punch of flavor. It follows the low fat whole foods plant based approach for heart health as outlined by the research of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell, PhD. The only acceptable oil to use in small quantities is flax seed oil, which contains more omega-3 than omega-6.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cucumbers
  2. 1 red bell pepper
  3. 1/2 small red onion
  4. 6 radishes
  5. 5 medium sized vine ripened tomatoes (I grew mine!)
  6. 1 clove raw garlic (probiotic upgrade: 5-6 ACV fermented garlic cloves)
  7. 2 TB flax seed oil
  8. 1/4 tsp sea salt
  9. 1/2 tsp caraway seed
  10. 1/4 tsp cumin
Instructions
  1. Finely chop 2-4TB of each vegetable and set aside to stir into the soup.
  2. Add everything else to a high speed blender (Vitamix is my preference) and blend thoroughly until everything is smooth and well incorporated.
  3. Pour into two large bowls and sprinkle the chopped vegetables in.
Notes
  1. Makes two large meal-sized servings or 4-6 appetizer/side servings.
  2. I also tried the soup with a quick pesto recipe (basil, flax oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic, sun dried tomato, hemp seed, and some nutritional yeast), and mixed it in. Two thumbs up from my mom and sister.
A Taste of Two Plates http://tasteoftwoplates.com/