Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Visit Your Local Farmers Market for Health

I believe in whole foods. No not the grocery store sometimes referred to as "whole paycheck." What I'm referring to are fruits and veggies, and animal proteins like free range chicken and beef, without the use of antibiotics, and preferably fed more grass than grains, and wild fish.

Simple meals made with whole foods remind me of my great grandmother's cooking. My great grandmother Margie grew up in Texas, picking cotton in the fields, working hard in the heat of the sun. I didn't know her parents, but I'm sure most of their food came from their farm or one close to home. I can't remember much in their house that was processed food. Most meals consisted of a roast chicken, or maybe a ham or pot roast, and don't forget the mashed potatoes with real butter, and a side of veggies like spinach, green beans or broccoli. One of my favorite memories was of an old-fashioned ice cream maker that she preferred to use when peaches were in season, and man oh man, did we ever look forward to that. There's nothing like homemade ice cream. Cream, milk, eggs, sugar, fruit and salt - that simple.

Margie eventually moved to Long Beach, CA with my great grandfather Alfred, and started a family. She had two boys around the age of 20, and in turn my mom was born about 20 years later. My mom would drive us to visit on weekends, and Margie would always ask my mom, "Are you feeding these skinny girls?" She would feed my sister and I non-stop to try to fatten us bony kids up. We were very skinny girls, and no matter how much we ate, we never gained weight due to our fast-paced metabolisms. Whatever she made for us, they were almost always simple whole foods - usually nothing with more than a few ingredients listed on the label, or no label at all.

Nowadays there has been a sharp increase in the amounts of convenience foods that contain a large list of ingredients; many being sugar or high fructose corn syrup, simple carbohydrates, bad fats and oils like canola and cottonseed that are toxic to our immune systems, and many a preservative or flavor enhancer that overstimulate our nervous systems. Most of these foods are scarce of any real nutritional value and cause your insulin to spike and pancreas to work overtime, which can eventually lead to a host of diseases like diabetes.

I feel most people have lost their connection to whole foods. We have lost our enjoyment of the simple things in life and what it can bring to our health and well-being. It is so easy to go through the motions of visiting a supermarket and mundanely grabbing whatever is on the shelves. We live in a fast-paced society, and these lifestyles are catered to by many a food manufacturer, and mostly to our detriment. We lose sight of what we are putting into our bodies, and this catches up to us in forms of ailments and chronic diseases. And when we start to get sick, we don't stop to think that it could be how we are fueling our engines; instead we reach for a magic pill to cover up the symptoms.

I am a key example of this.  After years of taking too many antibiotics and a diet high in simple starches and consuming more sugar than I realized, my body became unbalanced with systemic candida and I ended up in the hospital due to severe muscle inflammation - resulting in fluid in the lining of my lung.  Fun, eh? Three years later, I am still battling the effects of this today - fatigue and mood swings, memory and concentration problems, and many other symptoms like joint pain. It is very difficult to recover from and I am on a strict diet trying to regain my health.

Nowadays, I want to know where my food comes from. I truly believe that food has a pharmaceutical quality, and you are what you eat. I try to visit a farmers market at least once or twice a month to buy local, organic produce, healthy fats like avocados and nuts, and grass-fed meats and wild fish. I enjoy strolling down the aisles listening to street musicians and conversing with all of the interesting people who appreciate whole foods too.  It gives me a feeling of being part of the community I live in. No matter how urban my surroundings, I find it reassuring that I can go to the farmers market on the weekends and feel like I am in a different world altogether.

On my last visit, I bought grass fed beef to make stuffed cabbage, fennel for salads and stews, crunchy sweet Asian pears, and organic blueberries to add to my almond meal pancakes, gluten free cereals and smoothies. When I was drinking milk (I'm not now due to the sugar content and candida issue), I would buy raw milk from Organic Pastures. I believe that there are many nutrients we miss when drinking pasteurized milk. Curious about raw milk? Check out this site and read about the benefits. Also check out what the highly regarded Weston A Price Foundation has to say.

I try to carry on the traditions of many of the recipes my great grandmother used. I still remember those hot summers when my sister and I would enjoy cool, creamy homemade peach ice cream out of fancy sundae bowls. There were smiles all around. And that's how food is supposed to make you feel - good.