Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cuban Dinner & BEANS!

I want to share with you what has been one of my favorite dinners lately. While I don't put myself in any boxes by labeling myself vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist, etc., I absolutely prefer those types of foods. To my great pleasure, all desire for meat, including big, juicy hamburgers, has vanished. A common concern about becoming vegetarian is getting enough protein. Many people don't know where to turn for protein other than to meat. I used to feel this way since I would suffer from low blood sugar, resulting in emotional distress when I had not received sufficient amounts of protein. But today, I find myself very satisfied on a vegetarian/vegan diet. If you would like to eliminate much of your meat consumption but don't know with what to replace it, I would like you to consider the bean.

Today, I want to tell you about the bean and how it can be properly prepared so you can consume it happily with comfort. But first, as I promised, my latest favorite dinner: The Cuban Plate! This will get your mind open and mouth watering for those beans!

There are four different components to prepare, but it is really quite simple once you get to it.

Cuban Black Beans:

  1. Prepare about a cup of dry black beans through proper rehydration and heating technique as described later in this article. This will take some planning ahead of time.
  2. Once you have your beans ready to go, sauté about a half an onion and 3 cloves of garlic (both minced) in coconut oil
  3. Add the prepared beans to the onions and garlic
  4. Add about 2 teaspoons of cumin, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, and 3-4 dashes of apple cider vinegar
  5. Heat through and let the flavors mingle a bit
  6. Add sea salt to taste

Spanish Rice:

  1. Measure white rice and water according to package directions (typically a ratio of 1 part rice to 1 1/2-2 parts water)
  2. After you bring the water to a boil, add a whole, un-peeled clove of garlic and a chunk of onion
  3. Add 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
  4. Add 2-3 threads of saffron
  5. Cover and simmer according to package directions


This recipe comes from and can be prepared ahead of time or while the beans and rice are cooking.

  • 2 tomatoes (choose two varieties).
  • 1/2 onion (your choice of color).
  • 1 pepper (your choice of type and temperature).
  • 1 clove garlic.
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems).
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice.
  • 1/2 Tbsp olive oil.
  • 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar.
  • 1/2 tsp cumin.
  • 1/2 tsp coriander.
  • 2 ripe HAAS avocados
  • 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

  1. Mince garlic, cilantro, cumin and coriander.
  2. Add lemon, oil and vinegar to spice blend.
  3. Dice tomato, onion, garlic and add to spice blend.
  4. Add the avocados and blend ingredients together with potato masher
  5. Top with lime juice and salt.

Coconut Fried Plantains:

Save preparation of this component until last. It should only take 10 minutes maximum.

Buy a plantain from the grocery store that looks very very ripe. I am talking about one that looks beyond your comfort level for normal banana consumption. It should have quite a lot of black on the skin. Even plantains that are completely black are still good. If you get one that is very yellow or green, it will not have any flavor, will be very tough, and will be very disappointing.

Once you have your nearly black plantain, heat a good amount of coconut oil (2 Tbsp, perhaps) in a skillet to medium temperature. While your pan is heating, cut a skin-deep slice all the way down the length of the plantain. From there, you can lop off the top and start peeling off the skin. I like to cut the plantain into wheels about 1/4"-1/2" thick.

Lay each slice in the heated coconut oil and turn them over on their other side when they get to be a toasty, golden brown. When both sides are toasty, serve 'em up!

Combine all four of your attractive dishes on a plate, garnish with cilantro and lime wedge, and enjoy immensely!

Now that your mouth is watering for some delicious cuban black beans, let me talk to you further about the virtues of beans and how they should best be prepared for optimal digestion and assimilation of the nutrients.

What is so great about beans?
  • They are extremely inexpensive! $2-3 per lb. dry weight = $0.50/ lb cooked!
  • They have high protein content. Black beans contain 15 grams of protein per cup.
  • They possess in abundance minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus
  • They contain B vitamins such as folate and thiamin
  • They are high in soluble and insoluble fiber!

Now that we know why beans are so great, what is the digestive challenge all about?

Legumes as well as grains and seeds possess certain anti-nutrients that allow the seed to survive through the winter and preserve itself until the proper environment for sprouting presents itself. These anti-nutrients are phytates and enzyme inhibitors. Phytates bind to minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium and prevent the absorption of the minerals in the body. Enzyme inhibitors block the enzyme's activity, which is to assist in the breakdown and digestion of the protein, sugars, and phytic acid. Beans possess complex sugars (oligosaccarides) that cause digestive discomfort frequently experienced when consumed, hence their reputation as the musical fruit.

The solution around these complications is the use of water, heat, and time! With a few hours of planning you can sprout the bean, which will activate the enzymes to assist in the breakdown of the oligosaccarides and eliminate the phytic acid.

Just follow these steps:

  1. Cover the beans in four times their weight in warm water (between 90 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit). The water should also be slightly alkaline, if possible. Rehydration will take between 1 to 4 hours. The enzymes need plenty of time to do their work breaking down the complex sugars and phytic acid. You may let the beans soak overnight for convenience.
  2. Drain the beans then cover them again with 4 times their weight in water that is heated to 147 degrees Fahrenheit. It is at this temperature the enzymes work the most efficiently. However, for simplicity, generally warm water will still do the trick. Just remember that the enzymes are destroyed at 150 degrees. The soaking also assists in eliminating the sugars as they diffuse out of the bean. Changing the water multiple times will further the diffusion of the sugars out of the bean. A useful tip is to add a strip of the sea vegetable kombu (member of the kelp family) that will help alkalize the water and add alpha-galactosidase, the enzyme which assists in the digestion of the complex sugars.
  3. After soaking, drain the beans well, add them to a pot with more water, and bring them to a simmer. Adding kombu again will eliminate any oligosaccarides still lurking. Cook the beans until tender.



Sunday, February 8, 2009

Inflammation and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Scientific research is finding a link between inflammation and a host of seemingly unrelated diseases. The list of inflammation symptoms is long and varied. Some include asthma, diabetes, depression, heart disease, obesity, arthritis, Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, and acne. Possibly, one of the greatest causes of inflammation is an imbalance of essential fatty acids.

The overview on inflammation

Inflammation is a process by which our body's white blood cells and chemicals protect us from infection and foreign substances. Sometimes, the immune system inappropriately triggers an inflammatory response when there is no foreign substance to fight off. This describes autoimmune diseases; the body's normally protective system is causing damage to its own tissues. The body responds as if normal tissues are somehow infected or abnormal.

Inflammation can affect any part of the body including joints and organs. Symptoms can vary widely depending on the affected organ. For example, inflammation of the lungs manifests as asthma.

Inflammation is caused by many things ranging from physical injury to long-term chronic health conditions. An imbalance of essential fatty acids is a huge contributor to inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation while omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. An appropriate ratio of these essential fatty acids is near 1:1. The American diet tends to contain 11-30 times more omega-6 to omega-3 because of widespread use of vegetable oils and high consumption of fast food and processed food. This is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.

Promoting Healthy Inflammation Response With Omega-3 Fatty Acids

If you are suffering with an inflammatory condition, I urge you to NOT use prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs as treatment. Prescriptions will not make the condition better and probably make it worse. Thousands of Americans die each year by internal bleeding from taking anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs). Vioxx alone managed to kill more than 50,000 Americans. Instead, treat your illness naturally by increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 can be found in foods such as walnuts, flax seeds, and fish.

I strongly recommend adding a high quality, potent omega-3 supplement to your diet. A great way to do this is to grind flax seeds and add them to your food (smoothies, granola, homemade energy bars, etc.) It is important, however, to freshly grind the seeds yourself and use them soon thereafter. The Omega oils are delicate and immediately begin to go rancid when exposed to heat, oxygen, and light. You can slow the process by keeping the groud flax seed or oil in a dark, sealed, and cooled container. But optimally, you would eat them ground freshly that day. A trusted source of flax oil and other Omega fatty acid products is Barlene's.

The reason we grind the seeds rather than eat them whole is so the body can actually get at the essential oils. If eaten unground, the seeds will pass right through the digestive tract whole.

More specifically I recommend using the product Moxxor. I stand behind this product for many reasons. It only contains three potent ingredients and no fillers. The ingredients in order of volume are

  • Green-Lipped Mussel Oil

  • Deep Marine Oil from the Hoki Fish

  • Grape Seed Extract

Green-lipped mussel oil has been scientifically proven to be 200 times more effective than other fish and seed oils to achieve an anti-inflammatory action. The mussels are grown and harvested sustainably in their natural environment in the pristine fjords of New Zealand. These green-lipped mussels are not "fed" anything by humans; they merely filter the sea water, taking in the minerals and phytoplankton, and concentrate the nutrients which become the mussel itself. The oil that is extracted from both the mussels and Hoki fish is free of heavy metals and contaminants found in most sea food today. Also, the oil is EPA and DHA omega-3, which is the form that can be immediately utilized by the body. Seed oils (walnut and flax) are ALA omega-3, which requires the body to perform a metabolic process before it can be of benefit. The oil is cold processed; heat is not used in any way which would damage the delicate lipids and destroy the health supporting properties. These marine oils are stabilized by the grape seed extract. The grape seed extract protects the oils from oxidation. These three ingredients are combined in a specific ratio for maximum absorption.

Besides a healthy inflammatory response, omega-3 fatty acids contribute to

  • Healthy Skin and Hair

  • Cardiovascular Health

  • Improved Cognitive Function and

  • Balanced Moods

You can purchase Moxxor HERE.