The Power of Garlic

Garlic is an extremely powerful herb AND vegetable (in case you were wondering, like I was, what it classifies as), and has been used medicinally in many societies throughout history. Ancient Egyptian texts hold evidence that garlic was fed in large amounts to the working class, presumabely to garuntee their ability to work harder and longer. The most important medical text of the era included garlic as a prescription for a variety of ailments, including abnormal growths, circulatory issues, and parasitic infestations. InAncient Greece, garlic formed an important part of the military diet due to its association with strength and health. It was even fed in large quantities to the first Olympians in history! Hippocrates, who was widely seen as the father of medicine, advocated eating garlic as it helps cleanse the body and assists one in healing pulminary issues.

Today, garlic is still used by natural healers, and widely considered one of the best flavor enhancers to cook with! You may be nervous about eating garlic because of the smell, but have no fear! I eat an abnormally large amount of garlic and I promise I still have friends.

So, you are now probably thinking, what’s so great about garlic? I’d be glad to share with you some of the benefits:

1. Garlic contains a lot of vitamin C, which we all know has many health benefits. It’s an antioxidant, which is great for your skin in countless ways, it improves the body’s iron absorption abilities, it treats the common cold as well as the not-so-common scurvy, and even has been shown to reduce the chances of certain types of breast and mouth cancer!

2. It has been used throughout time to treat impotency with, ehm, you’re ‘little man,’ guys. Of course, you don’t have that problem, but for future reference or maybe for a friend…

3. It can reduce your LDL, the bad cholesterol, and therefore helps with cardiovascular disease and its prevention altogether.

4. It strengthens your immune system! It’s that time of year folks, the time where everyone seems to be getting sick. Don’t be ‘everyone,’ be a healthy YOU! Eat garlic! It may sound dreadful, but eating a few cloves or even a head of garlic as soon as you feel yourself getting sick will knock any unwelcome visitors right out of your body.

5. It has antibacterial properties, and so any fungal or bacterial vaginal infections will say bye bye with a good old dose of garlic. When Crushed, minced, chopped, or broken in any way, garlic release Acillin, which is a natural antibiotic. The Acillin also helps with hair loss! Looking to regrow? Rub some freshly chopped garlic cloves over your scalp! (Tip: Mince the garlic and let it sit 15 minutes before you eat it, this lets the antibacterial enzymes become activated and therefore it is even more effective.)

6. With ample amounts of vitamin B6, garlic has been shown to help with cancer prevention of many types.

7. Enhancing the level of insulin in the blood helps the blood sugar levels stay balanced in your body, and garlic does just that!

8. With its high level of antioxidants, garlic can also help clear up your acne. Eating it is effective, but if you’re looking for a natural topical treatment, chopped garlic cloves can do the trick! (Tip: Tea bags are also high in antioxidants and can also help when applied topically. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, and can also be effective in reducing the size and redness of any zits.)

9. Apparently, it has even been shown to help in weight loss! If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, add a little garlic to your diet everyday and watch your fat stores shrink.

10. Got an eye sore of a cold sore? Apply some crushed or chopped garlic directly on it and watch it disappear!

*Don’t be fooled – garlic powder and tablets do NOT posses all of these health benefits. To get all the good things garlic has to offer, you must use fresh garlic. I know it’s more work, but it’s infinitely worth it; it even tastes better!

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a note on carrots

I’d say this is pretty close to common knowledge now, but just in case you haven’t heard yet, there’s no such thing as baby carrots. To make baby carrots, food companies buy big carrots and put them through all sorts of processes to make them look the way they do, including soaking them in (an FDA approved amount of) chlorine to clean them. It’s less chlorine than you would put in your pool, so it is safe to eat them still, but the more natural root would just be to buy your own big carrots and cut them up yourself. Not only does cutting out the middle man (probably) save some of the nutrients in your carrots, but carrots also taste fresher when you peel and cut them yourself. Just don’t forget to wash them!

…but don’t forget your soul

My last post was about how you can help yourself by eating for your skin. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t practice self discipline 100% of the time, so eating for my skin isn’t something I obsess about all day, every day, but I do try and do my best. Having said that, I am ADDICTED to mac & cheese, love pizza, and don’t mind a fat, juicy pulled pork sandwich with a side of fries every once in a while. In case you didn’t see the pattern, I love salt. So yes, I encourage you all to eat for your skin and overall general physical health, but don’t forget about your soul! I believe it’s usually okay to eat anything, as long as you do so in moderation, so try not to become so crazy about your food that you never indulge! Indulgence is important. Too much is glutinous, but just a little is what will help keep you sane.

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eat for your skin!

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and certainly one of the most important: it protects your insides from all the evils in the world! The way I view my relationship with my skin is like this: it helps me out all day, every day, so I may as well do what I can to help it out when possible. Skin becomes beautiful and healthy from the inside out, so although washing and moisturizing it certainly does good things for it (as long as you’re using all-natural, mild products – I like Burt’s Bees), it is what you put into your body that has the most profound effect on your skin. I’m not saying I’m perfect and eat for my skin all the time because I love greasy pizza and french fries as much as the next person, contributing to oil buildup in pores and causing sallower looking skin, but I do what I can. Most of the time, I’ll only allow myself one treat meal like that a week, which (hopefully) doesn’t hurt too much. On other days, I’m pretty conscientious of what I put in my body, and am often thinking about what will do good things for my skin. Serendipitously enough, eating for your skin helps you get a variety of other nutrients necessary for the rest of your body, so eating for your skin isn’t only for your skin, but for your overall health! Here are some suggestions of things to eat to try and help you on your way:

1. Antioxidants: Antioxidants are substances that help protect your cells against free radicals, which are molecules produced naturally in the body from processes such as digestion but are dangerous because they can damage cells and have been linked to heart disease and cancer. The free radicals are looking to take electrons from other molecules, which sets off a chain reaction of stealing electrons, and the original free radical ends up leaving a path of broken and misshapen cells in its path. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, making it unnecessary for them to steal from other molecules, and therefore saving the skin cells that would have potentially been hurt by the free radical.

  • Where can I find them? blueberries, cranberries, peaches, sweet potatoes, artichokes, avocados, cinnamon, garlic, thyme, green tea, black coffee, red wine, dark chocolate

2. Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fatty Acids: These are essential fatty acids that Americans tend to lack in their diets. They smooth out skin, reduce inflammation, and help erase spots. Added bonus: they also really help along your digestive system!

  • Where can I find them? sardines, salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, fish  oil (Usually, I would recommend trying to get all of your nutrients from your food, but unfortunately essential fatty acids aren’t ver abundant in what we eat. For these, I think it’s quite acceptable to take a supplement, I take flaxseed oil every day!)

3. Vitamin C: This well-known and always talked about vitamin not only helps prevent colds, but stimulates collagen production, which helps smooth out wrinkles and give your skin a full, youthful appearance. Vitamin C also helps catalyze the production of scar tissue, meaning it helps repare your skin when something happens to it. There have also been studies linking Vitamin C to sunburn reduction and reduction of the long-term effects on skin from the sun.  Added bonus: it is an antioxidant! If you’re eating Vitamin C, you’re neutralizing some free radicals!

  • Where can I find it? citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, red and green hot chile peppers, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kiwis, clementines, strawberries

4. Lycopene: Lycopene is a phytochemical, meaning it is found in plant foods. I’m sure you’ve heard about the dangers of UV rays with respect to our skin, but in case you didn’t already know, UV rays create free radicals, which, as you now know if you didn’t already, damage cells. Lycopene helps eliminate these free radicals like antioxidants do, and therefore help protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun. It also helps significantly in protecting against sunburn.

  • Where can I find it? the most common way to up your lycopene intake is to increase your tomato consumption, but it can also be found in guavas, watermelon, grapefruit, dried parsley and basil, and chile powder

5. Iron & Folic Acid: Without enough of these substances, your skin has the potential to turn sallow and pasty.

  • Where can I find them? iron: mollusks, red meat, egg yolks, liver, beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, dark leafy greens. folic acid: spinach, collard greens, asparagus, broccoli, papaya, orange, lentils, pinto beans, avocado, brussel sprouts

6. Selenium: This nutrient is important in helping prevent free radicals caused by the damaging UV rays from the sun, as well as preserving elastin, which keeps your skin smooth and tight.

  • Where can I find it? canned tuna, brazil nuts, shellfish, liver, fish, sunflower seeds, bran, bacon, lobster, crab, shrimp

MM Local

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I just got a new job! Officially my first “real world” job, I am now a sales ambassador for MM Local, a company based in Boulder, CO that buys local, organic produce from farmers along the Front Range, cans it with minimal additives, and sells it all year round. Essentially, their mission is to become the leading national brand for authentic local food and inspire other communities to adopt the same values. I’m very excited about this job, as I will be doing demos at places like Whole Foods Market and get to spend days at farmer’s markets when they open back up for the summer!

mm local jars

I’m really excited about this job for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I think one of the most accessible ways to help not only our planet, but ourselves, is localizing food production and consumption. This would significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels at multiple levels, including those of production and transportation of goods. It would also cut the majority of processed foods out of our diets because we would be eating fresh, whole foods rather than packaged foods high in sodium and saturated fats. This is what I hope to teach people in my life, and I want to help our global society move towards sustainability, which starts at the local level. On top of that, I get free samples to eat! I just got jars of pickled beets, curried beets, tomatoes with rosemary, two different types of applesauce, and our mild pepper blend. I’m starting to cook with them and learn which ingredients go well with other things, which is not only fun for me but will help me with my job when I get questions about how to use the ingredients! I’ll keep you guys posted on the recipes I find and come up with. Wish me luck!

Delicious and Nutritious… Pizza?

Like I said before, so many of my culinary creations come out of the fact that my fridge is eclectically stocked and I need to use some ingredients. I’m still truckin’ through those lentils and spinach and so tonight for dinner I came up with something new (and fantastic!). I will absolutely be making this one again. Here’s my dinner tonight!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C cooked lentils
  • handful spinach
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • (~1/4 C) tomato sauce
  • grated cheese (I like cheddar jack)
  • piece of bread (I like oat nut, but any bread will probably do)

Directions: Dice tomatoes to about the size of a thimble. Add olive oil and garlic to a pan; after heating, sauté tomatoes until they’re just about the softness you’d like, and add spinach. Continue cooking until spinach is just wilted, and add tomato sauce to pan. Add however much you like, I only used a little because there are also diced tomatoes, it’s just nice for the herbs and flavors. Continue heating until you feel all the ingredients have mixed together well. If you used a clove or chunk of garlic that is still visible, remove and throw it away. Now, take your “sauce” off the heat and put it onto your piece of bread. Sprinkle with cheese, and put in the oven on about 400 degrees until bread is toasted to your liking, and enjoy. 🙂

Make it What You Want: Tomato Soup

Living in my own house has given me so many opportunities to become more creative in my culinary endeavors. Although I eat out probably about five times a week, I cook quite often and really enjoy it. I don’t always have all the ingredients I need to make specific recipes, so I often just look at what I have in my pantry and mix things together that sound good to me. Today, I really needed to use up some lentils I cooked last week, so here’s what I came up with!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Campbell’s Tomato Soup
  • approx. 1 C cooked lentils
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • ~ 1 handful of spinach
  • 1 C diced tomatoes

Directions:

Make tomato soup according to the directions on the can. Pour in cooked lentils. Set to side. In a pan, pour a little olive oil and add crushed garlic (~ 1/4-1/2 clove, depending on personal preference). Add diced tomatoes to pan and sauté for a few minutes until almost cooked to desired softness. Add spinach to the pan and sauté until just wilted. If there is a lot of olive oil in the pan, drain out. Otherwise, add everything in the pan to the tomato soup. Heat again to desired hotness and enjoy!

As you can see, I used the soup as a base and added ingredients I already had. You can do this with anything, though! I was thinking next time I might add garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and broccoli (and maybe cheese?); or maybe even a little chili powder, some black beans, and corn! The possibilities are endless, comment with your brilliant ideas! 🙂

P.S. It’s always yummy and even more wholesome to crush up some whole grain crackers on top. 😉