Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is a Hamburger as Bad as a Hummer?

It's refreshing to finally see the attention that mainstream media is paying to the huge effect that meat-based diets are having on the environment, and that these truths are not confined to sites like This article by mentions removing beef from our diet as one of the most important things that we can do for the environment:

Beef. It's What's Not for Dinner.

Meat production causes more environmental harm than any other food -- from the fertilizer (usually derived from fossil fuels) to the feed (enough to feed dozens of people) to the greenhouse gases (yes, cow burp is potent).

Suzanne Shaw from the Union of Concerned Scientists explains that most of our cattle come from Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) that don't work with nature: They confine animals away from grazing, they feed them food that isn't natural to their diets, they create huge amounts of waste that doesn't become fertilizer for farms but often runs off into waterways, contaminating drinking water and killing fish and other aquatic life.

If Americans just cut back on the amount of meat we eat, it would have a huge impact on global warming emissions nationwide. Follow Michael Pollan's mantra: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He means real foods -- that is, unprocessed foods like those your grandmother would recognize.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Super Foods

After watching the documentaries The Future Of Food and Earthlings, which deal at length with showing us the effects and the suffering generated by the unconscious, and oftentimes cruel way in which we produce our food, I have slowly been incorporating new eating lifestyles into my diet, including not just vegetarianism but living foods.

Rawfoodists are people who believe that the ideal is to eat food that is raw, or living, and largely plant-based: the living foods lifestyle is based on a diet that includes plants, seeds, nuts, ripe fruits, raw vegetables. Marine plants and vegetables are included in this diet.

Their argument for this has to do with the fact that our ancestors evolved on this diet, and that when most vegetables are cooked, many essential nutrients and enzymes are destroyed. This is true, for example, in the case of tomatoes which, when cooked, lose their vitamin C content, which is a mood booster that strengthens the immune system. Raw tomatoes, by the way, are a lot tastier than cooked ones.

Another lifestyle that has been gaining momentum argues for the consumption of superfoods: these are foods that offer a ridiculously high nutritional value, and therefore provide people with much more energy and are more efficient than the traditional SAD diet. SAD is an acronym used among rawfoodists which means 'Standard American Diet'.

I want to share this with my readers because I'm a Gaudiya Vaishnava (we're better known as the Hare Krishnas), and I strongly believe and have observed the significant effects that the things that we eat, and even the manner in which we prepare or cook them, can have on our moods and our states of consciousness.

Our bodies already have the wisdom to heal themselves, to work at an optimum level, and even to produce ecstasy - not just orgasmic ecstasy, but religious experiences of altered awareness that can be cultivated through yoga.

What I've learned studying the science of yoga is that there is no supernatural: spirituality is natural. All of these ecstatic and religious experiences happen within the body: they entail the proper use of attention, of breath, and millions of chemical processes which occur at the cellular level and are beautifully detailed in the film What the Bleep Do We Know!?, and in the book Ecstasy Is a New Frequency, by Chris Griscom.

Hence, naturally, we can understand the importance of the quality of fuel that our body burns: the consumption of efficient foods increases our body's ability to function at all levels, and even to produce higher, happier, more alert and alive moods. Simply scientifically observing how the body behaves after each meal and snack will make anyone aware of this.

I have felt it most with raw cacao and with yerba maté. Processed cacao becomes chocolate, which is a universally known food, but few people know that cacao in its raw form is the most nutritionally rich food in the planet. When processed, cacao loses a huge portion of its nutritional and medicinal value. In addition to this, raw cacao has a negligible, almost non existent, amount of caffeine, and it's good for the heart and brain.

Raw cacao, by itself, is bitter but flavor is easily enhanced. When consuming cacao, I usually either eat the raw cacao nibs (they're basically raw chocolate chips) with a sweetener (either agave nectar or honey). I've also discovered that they can be eaten with other nuts or raisins. A simple mix of unsalted, roasted peanuts with raw cacao nibs tastes great.

Yerba maté is also bitter, but much more enjoyable (although some people say it's an acquired taste). This Amazonian herbal concoction is the green tea of South America. It's so rich in nutrients that it can be used to replace a meal. Many dieters use yerba maté for these properties. Many asthma patients also attest to its health benefits.

There is also a cultural layer to the superfoods phenomenon: new traditions are entering American culture via these foods. Maté, in the traditional way, is sipped through a straw (the bombilla) from a gourd, which is known as the maté, proper. The South American ritual of sharing the maté among friends follows its own protocol. It's like sharing the pipe of peace, or perhaps like the Asian tea ritual, but it's more of a social event and a bit more informal.

The mood enhancing ingredient in cacao is theobromine. Theobromos literally means 'food of the Gods'. Cacao was said to be brought to Earth by the Gods of the New World. It has a very interesting history: its beans were used as currency and were considered sacred by the Aztecs.

In the case of yerba maté, its mood enhancing compound is mateine, a peculiar South American herbal version of caffeine, which is very similar to caffeine but does not produce its negative side effects such as heart palpitations and nervousness. People with cardiac health issues who must avoid caffeine often replace it with maté.

These chemicals (mateine, theobromine) produce a natural high; a lucid, alert state of mind that I've often felt at the temple while chanting the mahamantra. They're the dietary equivalent of the runner's high. One feels alive, full of energy, and genuinely happy.

Some of the most opulent meals that I've ever prepared, used quinoa. It's a versatile Peruvian seed which looks and is used as a grain but has a mild nutty flavor. It is cooked in the same way we cook rice or couscous, it's a complete protein, rich in minerals, easy to digest and takes a very short time to cook. I've noticed that I feel very satisfied after eating quinoa, and that I tend to eat less often.

In my kitchen, I have color-coded quinoa preparations. My favorite recipes are green quinoa (with cilantro and spinach), golden quinoa (with corn), and quinoa with gandules. These are all based on Latin American rice recipes which have been adapted to use quinoa instead of rice.

My white quinoa, or coconut quinoa, I have to say stands out as well in terms of flavor, but I do not make it as often. It is similar to rice pudding, and it's a decadent desert that one never has to feel guilty about.

Because there is already so much information about these and other superfoods out there on the internet, I will not elaborate any further, except to use a metaphor that super-food guru David Wolfe used once: super foods are like the super heroes of the food industry. They're exceptionally nutritionally rich, strong and powerful, and they save people's lives.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Like a gold ring in a pig's snout ..."

Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

Proverbs 11:22

According to this article, Miss California USA paid for Miss California Carrie Prejean's breast implants just weeks before the competition.

Her big boobs, however, did not save her from her own outdated bigotry. After expressing anti gay feelings, she lost to a more intelligent contestant.

Update 1: Citing allegations that the current Miss California breached her contract, the head of the Miss California USA organization Shanna Moakler has quit, saying that she no longer believes in the organization. In addition to her same-sex marriage comments, there emerged semi-nude photos which Donald Trump did not find "racy enough to warrant her dethronement" ...

Update 2: ... but then finally (June 10th 2009 update), she was let go due to breach of contract.