“Inflammation” is one of those health words that is bandied about all the time… but do we really know what it means?
We think of swelling and the color red… we know it’s not a good thing, and that we want less of it… but the rest is a bit mysterious.
After my recent online Kitchen Chat about Fighting Cancer -- with Food! (you can get the recording here), one attendee wrote, “I wish you could have spent a whole hour talking about inflammation!” Quite right. It’s THAT important. Especially how FOOD fits in, and how we can use food to tone inflammation down.
Let’s take a look.
First, definitions. At it’s best, inflammation is a normal response of the body to injury and infection and an important component of healing.
Vegetables are ALWAYS a good idea, and this post is a good reminder to eat the rainbow! A plate full of color means you are loading up on the important phytonutrients that can do better than anything else on the planet to balance your immune system, reduce inflammation, and make you FEEL better. My advice? Go for it.
For over a decade, I’ve been preaching that you need to love your vegetables, not just endure them. Veggies, and the fantastic array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals they contain, are crucial for brain health, longevity, and cancer prevention, among their many good deeds. Cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower) contain B vitamins that are critical for methylation, for example, a process through which our brains repair themselves. We all need brain repair!
A reader recently asked: what does your plate look like? Great question, and one I can answer in a word — veg-centric.
We could all be eating more vegetables. Tons!
The science is crystal clear that eating MORE vegetables can do each of us a WORLD of good. Increasing the vegetables on our plate points us in the direction of more vibrant health, no matter what our age, gender, ethnicity, or current health conditions.
But isn’t it hard to incorporate more vegetables into your diet?
No! It’s surprisingly easy to fall in love with vegetables and find great ways to use them, because there are a VAST variety of types, colors, textures and flavors to choose from. It becomes more and more exciting the further you explore!
Will I actually feel better if I eat more vegetables?
Yes! And you may be surprised by how fast you actually FEEL better.
At Food As Medicine, where I was Executive Chef for a decade, we offered luncheon buffets full of colorful, organic, largely plant-based dishes. Attendees were often amazed to experience health improvements, some within 24 hours. Elimination might improve dramatically! Focus, mental clarity and overall energy might be discernibly better. Quite impressive results for veg-centric eating in only a few days.
It starts with the “p” word — and that would be “plants.”
A flood of new and surprising research is emerging about the role that plants play in brain health. For example, a study on the MIND diet — a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets — published online in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association — concluded that people who eat more dark, leafy greens at least once a day have substantially slower cognitive decline with age than those who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). Bingo!
Here I am on my soapbox again, talking to you about the importance of plants — for a reason! Whether it’s cancer, longevity, brain health or heart health, you’re going to find that the optimal diet has a lot of the color green in it. Why?
True confessions: I’ve written 4 cookbooks with a 5th on the way (about which, more soon) and I have a personal library of 560 cookbooks. YOU’D THINK I’d know what to cook for dinner, like for the next 2, maybe 3 years?
Good news! Out of sheer exasperation and determination, I have developed superb strategies and time-savers to help us all get dinner on the table AND keep our sanity.
Every minute spent on planning time will smooth out your life in the kitchen.
Once you’ve got a menu in mind and your shopping and prep work done, cooking is a relative breeze. You will be SO impressed with how calm you are in the kitchen, and how much you enjoy it. Cooking can be a meditative, nourishing act -- IF you prepare!
You may even fall in love with it.
Did you know that fresh herbs and spices don’t JUST 10x flavor (as if that weren’t enough), but that they have magical healing powers, too? Many contain compounds capable of modifying gene expression to potentially keep cancer and other diseases at bay, plus providing immune support, controlling inflammation, and warding off bacteria and viruses—i.e., they have superpowers! So we’re not talking just enhancing taste, but improving wellness and possibly increasing longevity when you reach for that spice jar or throw some chopped herbs in whatever you’ve got cooking.
I’m delighted to share one of my favorite posts from the archives on this topic. If you haven’t seen it before, take a few moments to absorb this truly remarkable knowledge developed over the past decade of nutrition research. Plus get 2 superb recipes, including one of my most popular potato recipes ever. Serious yum!
I’ve always followed the food trends—what’s in, what’s out? They can be as trendy and entertaining as fashion. As the new year, new food articles come out, sometimes I laugh and sometimes I grit my teeth. We’re inundated with how to be healthy and hip.
Apparently in 2020:
Here’s the trend I’m seeing: it’s simplifying.
Wouldn’t it be great to take the stress out of going into the kitchen? Make cooking NOT this complicated thing in our lives, especially when there are so many demands on our time?
We’re all being bombarded by a LOT of information, about the planet, the politics, your kids, your dogs… life happens fast, but we have to keep ourselves nourished. We need to find a simple way.
I look back at my first cookbook and think gosh, could I have made this recipe more complicated? With a laundry list of spices, including ⅛ teaspoon of cardamom? Like I couldn’t live without that? I say this as the author of 5 cookbooks and someone who’s helped chefs in restaurant kitchens, home cooks, community cooks… the whole spectrum.
This is my year to crack the code and come up with a formula.
I’m putting it out there, the challenge I’ve set myself that I think will help many of us. What if it could just be simpler?
My hope is that you’ll find serenity in the New Year, the calm within the storm, within yourself.
In this world, we need that calm, centered place!
As I write, I’m looking out at the sky. Moments ago it was pouring down rain. Now there’s a break in the clouds, the light is streaming through, and it’s spectacular!
If we watch and listen, we can find that place again and again.
HEALTH. SERENITY. GRACE.
That’s what I hope you see in the New Year.
It’s that time of year again when we think about how to show our love to family and friends and community, especially those in need. What shall we give? I’ve been thinking that gifts don’t necessarily come wrapped in a little box. Though they certainly can!
The gift of time
Some of the most meaningful gifts are gifts of time, which is ENORMOUSLY valuable.
And then there are chocolates.
What does “enough” mean to you? In what ways do we press ourselves when we’ve already done enough? When we own enough? When we have (more than) enough to do? When we are already...enough?
The recent publication of Shauna M. Ahern’s extraordinary new memoir, Enough: Notes From a Woman Who Has Finally Found It caused me to take a deep dive into the concept of enough, which can involve quite a lot more than you might imagine!
I read the book on the plane on my way to visit my dear mom on the occasion of her 86th birthday (Happy birthday, Ma!).
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy since I have been following Shauna’s writing from her Gluten-Free Girl days up to the present, in which she has established herself as an original and remarkable essayist. Along the way she had a TIA (transient ischemic attack, a stroke that lasts only a few minutes) and it made her reflect on her life and how she was living it.
Can anyone relate to that? We’ve all had something that has led us to re-evaluate or draw a boundary. We’ve said, something’s got to give. Or maybe we’ve outgrown certain things.
Drawing a boundary can allow us to open up and find something more nourishing.
You know how it is when you’re feeling like crap? It’s your body’s way of saying, look, we need a re-boot! Listen to me and just clear your books. We need a rest! You know it and I know it when that happens. The question is: do we pay attention?
I did when this happened to me recently, and I wanted to tell you how I wrangled self-care while feeling lousy.
It’s that time of year, September/October, when we’re transitioning into fall. We’re going from raw foods and the heat of summer to the precariousness of fall, that changes from warm or hot to rainy and cold in the blink of an eye. We’re a little more vulnerable. This is the perfect time to really pay attention to what your body is asking for, and what it’s rejecting!
A one-woman show of my paintings opened at Commonweal in Bolinas, California (August 14 - October 31, 2019) on a Saturday in mid-August. It’s called Daily Bread, from a quote I’ve always loved of Emerson’s: “The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” As I wrote in the introduction to the show,
“The sky is the daily bread of my imagination—always there, ever-changing, never static, vast, wondrous, soul-nourishing, full of mystery and awe.”
Having my own show, at Commonweal, where I had cooked for the Cancer Help Program 20 years ago, was an astounding experience where, in the healing space of Commonweal, my paintings took on a magical life of their own.
I’d never seen these 13 new paintings together before, much less in the beautiful 1,500 square-foot gallery at Commonweal. I couldn’t truly know how they would look and feel until I hung the show in the gallery the Monday before, and until the people were there to interact with them—people who are really special in my life, along with memories of people who have passed.
Have you ever experienced that rare moment when you’ve been around long enough to see signs of system-wide transformation occur before your very eyes? Dear reader, such has been the case with the role of food and medicine in the span of my professional career, during which I’ve devoted myself and my talents towards this very end—bringing science to the table, and food to the treatment plan.
The moment that filled my heart!
My foundation, Healing Kitchens, works with different hospitals and cancer centers to provide culinary content for their patients. We recently accepted an invitation to pay a call at Stanford Health Care. We’ve done some interesting work at Stanford in the past, including online, live and printed material for neuroendocrine cancer patients and for their survivorship program and website. We had modified my Cancer-Fighting Kitchen approach with specific protocols for neuroendocrine and carcinoid syndrome—two very specialized forms of cancer—and word got out. A colorectal surgeon at Stanford putting together a trial for pre-op prep for her patients suggested we meet and talk about the role food can play in patient preparedness and recovery.
The surgeon and her team were curious: what would happen if we have people shift their eating to an immune-boosting diet full of anti-inflammatory foods and also include exercise? Would it help people recover faster and with less chance of complications?
This was MUSIC to my ears! The notion of helping patients BEFORE they go into surgery with food!!!! We introduced her to my famous healing, nourishing Magic Mineral Broth. Oh my gosh, she said, is this a clear broth? I can give this to all my patients!!! Long story short, we’re working on a package to go into this critical trial.
I’m fresh off the plane from Japan, where in addition to sampling the cuisine (see my field report below) we followed the peak of cherry blossom blooms from place to place by train. Peak bloom is only one week, and which week is not entirely predictable. We hit it! And we were utterly and delightfully besotted. :)
Sunny one day, rainy and cold the next. Peaceful, then wildly windy! Warm, then here comes a snowstorm! Spring is so beguiling… and so fickle!
Let’s not forget, we’re in another transition time. Spring is a little bit of a seesaw. So our immune systems can be tricked! We can get colds or leftover remnants of the flu.
It’s been super rainy here in the Bay Area, in fact, super rainy in many parts of the country. And while you may be yearning for those bright, fresh spring greens it isn’t quite time to jump into a big salad yet. But it is a time when you want to perk up and feel a little brighter.
How do you welcome in the green of spring and still successfully juggle all the vagaries of what’s going on outside?
Soup is the answer!
On a recent Sunday, I was in my pantry trying to find baking powder. If you know me, you know I’m not a baker. Soup, yes! Baked goods, not so much. So I have a little bin at the top of my cupboard where I keep less-used things that I have to get on a step stool to reach. I stretched up, got down my little box, pulled out the baking powder… and noticed the expiration date. Embarrassing!
I started going through everything in my cupboard and putting things on the kitchen table. Oh my gosh! I had forgotten about all this stuff. Here’s what I realized: My cooking patterns have changed.
Maybe kids go off to college… maybe you stop entertaining so much, or you start entertaining a lot more! When I’m recipe developing, I explore a dazzling number of ingredients that I certainly don’t need when I’m not. Things change in our lives and in how we cook. We’re always shifting.
When you think of February, do you picture the color red, matters of the heart and that Hallmark holiday right in the middle of the month? I remember those old-fashioned paper valentines! Sitting at the table, filling them out, and taking them to school, one for every classmate. And the cupcakes parents would bring in, iced with colors not found in nature. And those hard little pastel, heart-shaped candies stamped with messages (BE MINE). As I got older, it was all about, am I going to get a valentine from a CERTAIN PERSON? And then, am I going to have a date?
Fast forward: when I was 44, I met the love of my life. And he wooed me by cooking me dinner on Valentine’s Day!
The irony is, Gregg Kellogg does not cook. He can make toast. He can pick up Thai food. He can go to the market with a very specific list, with pictures. He can make a pumpkin pie, too, but that’s it. He really doesn’t cook.
You may not be surprised to learn that when I’m thinking about food to have on hand for the holidays, I’m thinking soup!
This is the time when you’re entertaining both formally and (more often than not) informally. Your kids are home from college, and their friends drop by. Your favorite Aunt just arrived hungry from Cincinnati. The family is suddenly hungry, and a quick, comforting impromptu meal is in order. Soup!
Even when you’re having neighbors over for a holiday meal, instead of always thinking you’ve got to make a big deal, soup and salad with brownies for dessert can be a friendly, even fabulous menu! If you’re doing a buffet or potluck, blended soups in 5-ounce shot glasses can make a very pretty, tasty and unexpectedly warm treat for your table.
It’s such a busy time of year—who needs to make things more complicated?
Here are some of my easy, pretty star-quality favorites for the holidays, from my popular Clean Soups. Make a big pot, serve warm and freeze some to have on hand for those impromptu gatherings.
What’s the reason to buy a cookbook? For me, it’s either because it’s a good story or because the author has something excellent to teach me. My favorite cookbooks become companions in my kitchen, wise chef/authors I commune with to enhance my kitchen creativity. I love books that share a unique point of view, that tell a compelling story, that are beautifully designed and have gorgeous photography.
Here’s my 2018 list of the best of the best! These would be great gifts... or fit rather nicely on your wish list. :)
NEW THIS YEAR
This will fit right in with your life! A total winner.
Thanksgiving can be full of joy, gratitude, warmth, friends, family, and of course, good food! But it can also be an emotionally wrought holiday, especially when it comes to food.
Everyone has a favorite dish they look forward to on the table. Remember Campbell’s Classic Green Bean Casserole, created by Dorcas Reilly, Campbell Test Kitchen Manager, in 1955 that went viral in a pre-internet world? Apparently, the distinctive combined flavors of cream of mushroom soup, green beans, soy sauce, and French’s pre-cooked crispy onion rings has proved unforgettable to a multitude of Americans and is still a staple on Thanksgiving tables.
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