especially during holidays, when countries and cultures, old and new, near and far, prepare special, often sweet, treats to celebrate the occasion.
I say partake in this universal tradition and indulge (without guilt!). Accept a small piece of your mom's pecan pie or your grandmother's rugelach, savoring every crumb and valuing the love with which it was made.
I have put together a short, by no means comprehensive, list of foods that can help restore balance during the holidays (or anytime too much sugar, meat or alcohol are ingested). These foods are very alkalizing, helping to counteract the havoc acidic foods can work upon our precious systems.
First, a few words about CHOCOLATE(bitter bliss):
Chocolate should be at once savored for its unique sensuality and respected for its potency. Chocolate is a significant source of, now widely publicized, heart-healthy phenols, thought to counteract plaque build-up and high blood pressure. However, chocolate contains a caffeine-like substance known as theobromine, and so should be eaten sparingly by those with situations that are exasperated by stimulants and, as previously mentioned, respected by all. That being said, in small doses, chocolate imparts a welcome dose of energy and can be unbelievably satiating, comforting and bliss-inducing.
An Exercise in Savoring: Try to allow a small piece of dark chocolate to simply melt away in your mouth. Feel its richness and creaminess…recall its ancient history and status…taste its sweetness, pleasant bitterness and nuances of the terrior from which it was grown. Most importantly, truly enjoy it….
and regarding “NATURAL” SWEETENERS:
"Natural" sweeteners are still SWEET! Yes, they are broken down more slowly relative to white sugar, but they can still cause insulin and adrenaline reactions, compromise the immune system and are incredibly damp producing and acidic. Thus, even maple syrup, raw honey, sorghum, agave nectar and other minimally processed sweeteners should always be used in moderation.
MISO – Miso is a fermented paste with a taste similar to aged cheese and texture akin to that of peanut butter. It is composed of soybeans, koji, salt and a grain. Miso is anticarcinogenic and reduces the effects of radiation, smoking, pollution and other toxins or heavy metals. Different misos vary widely in potency, but generally speaking, the darker the color the more potent the healing properties. In addition to its aforementioned benefits, miso aids in digestion (especially of fats), is a probiotic, a concentrated source of protein (containing all eight essential amino-acids) and is a vegetarian source for vitamin B12.
Before adding miso to any dish, thin it first with a bit of warm water or stock (to avoid clumping). Then add this mixture to the desired dish (which must be below a simmer, or its benefits will be compromised) for no more than one minute before removing completely from the heat. Consume immediately. Make sure to purchase high-quality misos, which are made from organic soybeans, are aged traditionally, and are unpasteurized.
WHEATGRASS - This vibrant green juice is extracted from sprouted winter wheat berries, which are grown only 6 inches before cutting – a time when nutritional value is at its peak. From an Eastern medicine viewpoint, something that grows so quickly and is eaten while young and fresh will carry that life-force and vital energy internally, as you ingest and digest (You can actually watch wheatgrass grow – amazing!). I have read that the vitamins and minerals in 2 ounces of fresh wheatgrass juice is equivalent to that found in 5 pounds of fresh produce. Wheatgrass contains 92 of the 102 minerals found in soil (yes, DIRT happens to be very important matter), along with calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, vitamin C and B (great for healthy skin and teeth!) and chlorophyll.
CHLOROPHYLL helps to cleanse and detoxify the body. It has a similar chemical make-up to hemoglobin and thus can release free oxygen, helping to build red blood cells. Both of these actions help to normalize blood pressure, stimulate healthy tissue growth and improve circulation. It helps remove toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury and aluminum, which unfortunately, are quite prevalent in peoples’ lives (think fillings, deodorant and aluminum foil). Wheatgrass juice is a complete protein boasting an estimated 17 amino acids.
The medicinal properties of seaweed, algae and microalgae are too many to mention here (entire books have been written on this subject). I will say, however, that including sea vegetables in one’s diet, even if only once a week, is a small change that will have a huge impact! Briefly, some of the balancing actions of seaweed include reducing cholesterol, removing metallic and radioactive elements (great to have before and after X-rays or other radiation treatment), detoxifying (seaweed chelates with toxins and discharges them with normal body waste), strengthening digestion, softening tumors or other hard masses, reducing edema, counteracting obesity and enhancing the immune system. Seaweed is higher in vitamins and minerals than any other class of food! It is a significant source of calcium, iodine, phosphorus, sodium and iron, and contains these elements in proportions similar to human blood. It is also extremely rich in protein and vitamins A, B, C and E. There are hundreds of sea vegetables available, but just make sure to purchase those that are wild-crafted from clean coastal areas.
Spirulina is a microalgae with a remarkable chlorophyll content and is therefore alkalizing to the body. It is an excellent source of vitamins and trace minerals, nucleic acids and digestible protein. It has been said to boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, suppress fat accumulation in the liver, prevent tumor formation and growth, and is a great probiotic, enhancing the growth and activity of the beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract. From an Eastern perspective, spirulina is very cooling, and is best used as a summer remedy. People aware of their cold constitutions or damp conditions should use spirulina in moderation. To ingest, simply mix the powder with water, juice or coconut water and stir to combine.
UMEBOSHI – Umeboshi plums are Japanese pickled plums, used as often for seasoning in Japanese cuisine as they are for medicine. These sour plums are sun-dried, then fermented with sea salt and perilla for a year or more. Perilla is an herb that is high in iron and acts as a natural preservative. Umeboshi plums are highly alkalizing and have antibiotic properties. Furthermore, they eliminate lactic acid build-up, enhance digestion, relieve indigestion, boost energy and strengthen the blood. Make sure to purchase high-quality plums or plum paste that is free of all additives and has been stored in a glass container, traditionally fermented for at least a year. The plums and paste keep for up to several years at room temperature.
UME-SHOYU-KUDZU “CURE-ALL” REMEDY
1 SERVING The morning after any good indulgence, when perhaps I feel a bit sluggish, foggy-headed and am suffering other symptoms of a “sugar hang-over”, I reach for this remedy. This easy kitchen tonic is also useful for reducing fevers (it is my chosen medicine during flu season), revitalizing energy and relieving headaches, colds, diarrhea and digestive problems!
1 ½ tablespoons organic kudzu powder (see Sources)
1 ½ cups filtered water or twig tea 1 teaspoon umeboshi paste or ½ pitted umeboshi plum (see Sources)
1 teaspoon shoyu soy sauce, or to taste (alternatively, one can use gluten-free tamari)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed ginger juice (optional – depending on your constitution)
1. Dissolve kudzu powder in 1 cup cold water or twig tea in a small saucepan.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a stainless steel whisk. After ingredients come to a boil, turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer for 1 minute.
3. Once the liquid has turned from a chalky color to opaque, remove from the heat. If desired, thin with remaining ¼ cup – ½ cup water or tea.
4. Drink hot or if you prefer a thicker consistency, eat with a spoon.