a strawberry pickle

My summer berry harvest has been plodding along. I’ve been getting dribs and drabs of strawberries. (Dare I say -thank you Polar Vortex?)

It’s so nice to come back from a walk, poke around in the garden and pull a few berries off their stems. I grab hold of the stalk and bite down just above their frilly green collar. The tiny, warm splash of sour – sweet pulp wakes up my taste buds and I feel like I’m “liven’ off the land.”  : )

I’m lucky to get a small handful of berries every once in awhile and they are prized possessions. Not enough for a smoothie or a yogurt mix in, but enough to remind me how grateful I am to get any at all!

When I bring them in and throw them in my strawberry bowl, and allow them to mingle with their big, brawny, souped up supermarket cousin, I begin to wonder…Why do I eat supermarket strawberries?

berries

I know why. Because I am a spoiled rotten, American consumer who thinks bigger is better, and wants strawberries to be available in my fridge at all times of the year.

There. I said it.

When one looks at the ginormous strawberry compared to the little homemade ones, I can’t help but wonder “what about my antioxidants?” Are they still in there? Are they “souped up” as well? Are they even antioxidants anymore or are they something new -a genetically modified, 2.0 version of themselves? I wonder…is anyone out there studying this?

I am in a pickle, a strawberry pickle!

This year there won’t be enough of the sweet delicate little bumps of red to freeze them, and I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s their time to disappear from my life.

Maybe, I’ll have to accept they are indeed, more powerful than the steroid strawberries. In a tiny, delicate way, they are subtly changing me and my American attitude.

Sometimes, all it takes is a picture!

Advertisements

dark chocolate is helping people walk?

Yes folks, it’s true. (Can there BE any better news?)

First I’ll start with the most recent study…Anyone out there ever hear of PAD? PAD is peripheral artery disease.

According to the American Heart Association, peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the legs, stomach, arms, and head – it occurs most commonly in the arteries of the legs. PAD is similar to coronary artery disease (CAD) and carotid artery disease. Each condition involves a hardening of the arteries which can restrict the blood supply to either the heart or the brain.

People with PAD might also experience a condition called intermittent claudication (IC).  IC involves impaired blood flow to the limbs, especially during exercise. Symptoms of IC during bouts of exercise, specifically walking, include pain (such as an ache, cramp, numbness or sense of fatigue), in the calf muscle, and is only relieved by a short period of rest. This can be frustrating for someone who needs to walk to improve their health and wellness.

That being said, the American Heart Association reports a study from Rome has indicated that dark chocolate has a positive effect on improving artery flexibility and walking autonomy in the PAD patient experiencing IC. Isn’t that wonderful? Dark chocolate is helping people walk. Of course it was a small scale study and yes, they need to research it more. But just think…what about the implications for the rest of us?

There is something in me that loves the fact that dark chocolate is helping people feel better (it’s probably all of the dark chocolate I’ve eaten). These days, I get my dark chocolate in the form of  bittersweet chocolate morsels made with 60% cacao. Yes, I pop a couple of ghiaradelli morsels each night after dinner. I consider this behavior hard core dark chocolate consumption. It’s hard core because I’ve totally given up the chocolate chip cookie ‘package’ that surrounds the morsels. Who needs the extra calories, flour and sugar? I just want the pure chocolate in it’s simplest form.

Need more proof that the dark chocolate truffle you ate after lunch is because your Doctor would recommend it , click on the picture to find out…

 

Why You Should Indulge In Dark Chocolate Daily | healthylivinghowto.com Like we needed an excuse...

 

 

For those of us on the planet who don’t need any more reasons why we should consume dark chocolate, here are a few anyway…dark chocolate does a lot of good stuff for the body. It contains healthy fats and  antioxidants, it has been shown to lower blood pressure and insulin sensitivity, it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and may be therapeutic for fatty livers, lastly (and this is my favorite) – it has been shown to help with resistance to UV damage. Whaaat? Protects us from sun damage? Look out Rocky Mountain Chocolate – my next walk is in your direction!

get out the door with a ‘blueberry smash’

This is my favorite summer breakfast – I call it a “blueberry smash.”

blueberry smash

It’s easy to make, colorful, and has protein which fills me up. If I am not eating it as a grab and go when I need to be out the door,  I add a small yogurt and a glass of juice for a nice sit down breakfast.

Recipe: Toast a slice of whole wheat bread. Smear on about a tablespoon of natural (just peanuts and and a touch of salt) peanut butter, and then smash about 1/2 cup of blueberries over the peanut butter.

Around this time of year, the blueberries are bigger and a touch sweeter and no sugar is needed. If the blueberries are on the tart side, drizzle on some honey.

Blueberries are best in their raw state because they are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential to optimizing health because they help to combat the free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA. In other words, they work to keep the immune system strong. Blueberries are also good for the heart, the memory, the eyes and they lower the risk of some cancers. They contain fiber and are helpful in blood sugar regulation.

I love the little blues so much I planted a bush this Spring – I have a feeling it will be years before I harvest even a full cup. That’s OK because I’ll sample one blueberry every time I am on my way out to a walk and it will be warm from the sun and it’ll squish in my mouth like those sour squirt candies and I will be simply happy!

photo-22
Baby blueberry bush – 2014

antioxidants

I have been very lucky this winter.

There has been no sickness – no cold, no flu, nothing.

I would like to think this is because I have kept my immune system strong with:  plenty of exercise -239 miles since November;  a regular and uninterrupted 8 hour sleep pattern, (which only retirement can provide); and antioxidant rich smoothies, which promote nutrition and health at the cellular level. Let’s face it, me and my cells aren’t getting any younger, so anything that can boost their strength and youthfulness is really what I’m looking for.

Since September, my partner and I have been having a nightly smoothie after dinner. (That’s about 6 months of daily antioxidant intake.) My partner took a nutrition class last year and learned some new information about aging, inflammation, and cells. I always knew nutrition was important for overall health, but I never thought about how particular nutrients positively influence our health at the cellular level. As we age, cells become weak and infirm, just like us. But the good news is, like all of aging, we do have a smidge of influence on our cell health.

While learning about the negative consequences of cell damage, partner became interested in the positive research on the  anti-aging effects of berries on cells. There is some evidence that different types of berries and omega -3 fatty acids can boost the health of killer T-cells (the really important bad-a** cells in our immune systems) and telomeres (cells on the end of our DNA).

Trying to slow down the process of aging is never a bad thing. Here is a look at the functions of these important types of cells.

This is what it looks like when cancer gets smacked down by a T-cell. Press picture to play video.

This incredible video captures a showdown between cancer cells and the T cells that act as the shock troops for your immune system. That's right - you're actually watching a T cell defeat cancer.

Whoa! Talk about dramatic, scientific music!

Alright, how about one more video? (Don’t ya just love this stuff!!)

This video explains telomeres.

After hearing about all of the interesting anti-aging information my partner was learning, I decided it was time to take this antioxidant info more seriously. When I think about it – seeds, berries, fish – this seems to be what humans originally ate on the planet before processed food became the main stay of modern diets. How could it hurt? My weekly shopping list began to include more Omega 3 fatty acids, berries, seeds, nuts, grapes, kale, spinach, fish etc.

To be honest, the easiest way for me to consume all of this – everyday, was to dump it all in a blender. Using a vita-mix blender, the seeds, berries, and greenery get so pulverized you think its just a creamy, purple sweet drink. I am now hopelessly addicted.

In my next post, I will share our antioxidant smoothie recipe. Stay tuned – the best is yet to come!

drink