Archive for the ‘Healthy lifestyle’ Category

From the needle, to the bark, to the pollen, to the nut… Pine Trees have so many uses!

Pine Needles- more that mulch!

Pine Needle Tea has been around for a very long time and offers lots of great health benefits. It is a rich source of Vitamin C and Vitamin A. In the earlier settler days, the Native Americans gave the settlers Pine Needle as a preventative and cure for scurvy caused by lack of vitamin C in the diet.

Pine needle tea is especially beneficial for such respiratory problems as colds and congestion. Mainly used to treat coughs and colds, the vitamin C you get from the pine needles is great for every day consumption. A cup of pine needle tea may supply five times as much vitamin C as you would get from one cup of orange juice. According to the Mayo Clinic, recent research indicates that vitamin C may have a wide variety of health benefits including helping to treat urinary tract infections and colds and aiding the absorption of iron. Pine needles are strongly aromatic and even just inhaling the vapors from the tea may break up mucus in the lungs.

While camping this weekend we were surrounded by lots of pine trees. We were very excited to be able to make Pine Needle Tea! Here is how we did it:

  1. Collect a handful of pine needles (look for the younger needles, the new grow this the best to use)
  2. Break them into smaller pieces (breaking the needle also releases the nutrients into the water as it steeps)
  3. Add to boiling water and allow to steep for about 20 mins (longer for more flavor)
  4. You can strain the needles out if desire, but I like to chew on mine after I am finished.

The tea/needles has a strong citrus taste.  You can even add some honey to sweeten it up!

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Pine Bark- this tree is not only used for building!

Both the rough outer bark layer and the main woody part of the tree commonly used as lumber is non-living material. The “inner bark” or “phloem”; the actual living part of the tree is edible. This inner bark carries nutrients from the needles and roots throughout the tree.

Fry the bark for a tasty and very healthy chip! (you can even dry roast for a longer harvest)

To harvest the living bark for food you will need a fresh tree. As soon as the tree falls or is cut down the clock is ticking; wait too many days and the bark will become very difficult to remove from the rest of the tree. However on a fresh live tree the bark is easily removed in large slippery sheets.

The first step is to remove a slab consisting of both the rough outer bark and the living inner bark from the woody trunk of the tree. Simply use a chopping tool to cut a straight line completely through all the layers of bark right down to the hard wood. Then slide the edge of a tool into the cut you made so that it is forced between the bark and wood. Work the edged tool back and forth as you pull the loosened bark with your other hand. The bark is easily removed from the wood since the space between is exceedingly slippery.

The most edible and tasty part of the inner bark is that which is closest to the hard woody part of the tree. The portion of the inner bark closest to the wood of the tree has an almost sweet taste.


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From my love of  garbanzo beans spawned my quick addiction to hummus. It has become almost a staple in the house, eating it on a salad, in a sandwich, or as an appetizer. It is so versatile and quick and easy to whip up.

Next up in the kitchen came my love for sprouting seeds… so why not combine all my powers, and celebrate my love for two items? I introduce to you, Sprouted Hummus.

For more info on sprouting seeds, see our previous post. Sprouting Seeds, an easy way to unlock even more nutritional value!

The first step is to sprout your beans. It took a little longer than the seeds normal would take, and I did them a little bit different, using a glass jar and cheese cloth. It is recommended that during the sprouting process, you keep them out of the sunlight.

I soaked them for about 10 hours in water, during this time, the chickpeas took in a great deal of water. This causes the bean to think that it is being planted in the ground, and germination begins. Enzymatic inhibitors shut down, and the enzymes present in the garbanzo bean turn proteins into amino acids (garbanzo beans contain all 8 essential amino acids!), complex carbohydrates are broken down into simpler, more digestible starches and natural sugars, and nutrients like vitamins B, C, and E are produced in great numbers.

After soaking them, I drained them and placed them in the glass jar covered with cheese cloth. I rinsed and drained them two times a day and allowed the sprouting to begin! After about 3-4 days I was happy with the sprouts on the beans and ready to make my hummus. (If you are not ready to make your hummus, you can place them in the fridge. This will greatly slow the sprouting process, and will allow you to keep the garbanzo beans for up to a month.)

Sprouted Hummus:

  • 1 cup garbanzo beans sprouted
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • A few tbs olive oil, i think more is better!
  • 2 tbs tahini
  • Cumin and Sea Salt to taste

When your sprouts are about 1-2 cm long they are ready! In a food processor combine your garbanzo beans, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Next add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until evenly combined. For a creamier hummus, add more olive oil or water until its your desired consistency.

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Sprouted garbanzo beans are an excellent source of protein, and their delicious, nutty — almost grassy — flavor helps to make this raw hummus a real crowd pleaser.

Experiment with other flavors, like red pepper or sun dried tomatoes!

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Are you leery about having a slice of bread, or bowl of pasta? With all the hype of the role of gains in weight gain, it is easy to see why. However, there is a lot we need to understand before ditching those dinner treats.

In order to bake your bread and eat it too, we must understanding the difference between whole grain and refined grain is a good starting point. The truth is, the grains that make up the typical American diet are highly refined. Many people think that whole wheat is a much “heavier” grain and contains more crabs, therefore turning to the “refined” grains. This is where grains get their bad wrap. Health problems such as Obesity, Diabetes, Hypoglycemia, Heart Disease, Bowel Cancer and Tooth Decay are just some of the major diseases on the rise since the introduction of white flour in the 1900’s. Many nutritionists agree that white flour and other refined foods are largely responsible.

Refined vs. Whole Grain

 Refined, processed grains are stripped of most of their nutrients, as the bran and the germ are removed.  This is done in order to be able to preserve the grain for longer.  When commercially making white flour, over half of the vitamins B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fiber are lost. Modern milling of whole cereal grains puts the kernel through a high-heat milling process that removes the germ and bran (which contain 90 percent of the nutritional content of the kernel), leaving only the endosperm (starch). The result is “refined” flour. Although this results in an easier flour for cooking, it strips it of all the good stuff. So you’re basically eating gluten and starch when you eat products off the shelf.  For PR purposes, you’ll see breads and cereals claiming to be “enriched with vitamins and minerals!” Meaning that some of the nutrients such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and iron, are added back. However, Usually only 2-4 of the missing vitamins and minerals can be replaced and enrichment does not restore insoluble fiber and other nutrients that are lost during the milling process.

Whole grains contain the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. Because they have not gone through the refining process, they are good sources of fiber, B vitamins, iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium. They also contain the plant chemicals called phytochemicals, which are believed to have many health-promoting effects.

Now that we have determined the difference in refined and whole grains, we can take it a step further with sprouted grains! Sprouted grains, unlike processed grains, are extremely nutritious and provide a valuable part of any healthy diet.

Sprouted Grains

Sprouted grain differs from whole grain in three fundamental aspects: 1) sprouting activates food enzymes; 2) sprouting increases vitamin content, and 3) sprouting neutralizes antinutrients like phytic acid which bind up minerals preventing your ability to fully absorb them.

When grains, seeds and nuts are germinated, their nutritional content changes and, as they are generally not cooked, they retain their natural plant enzymes. As well as retaining the enzymes, they also retain the nutrients that would otherwise be destroyed by cooking.  Sprouted grains, seeds and nuts also encourage the growth of good bacteria, help to keep the colon clean, and are high in protective antioxidants. (Check our our post on sprouting seeds for more information on how to sprout your own.)

Sprouted wheat is highly nutritious and surprisingly sweet. It is much easier for the body to digest since much of the starch is changed into vegetable sugars. They are also low GI, so they are digested more slowly by the body, keeping the blood sugar levels stable for longer, making people feel more satisfied.  (Leading to less snacking)  It is interesting to note that the more highly processed a food is, the higher GI it is.  A loaf of white bread is significantly higher GI than a loaf of sprouted grain bread.

What is GI?

If you are like me, I had only heard of the words Glycemic Index and thought it only related to diabetics. The fact of the matter is, it relates to everyone. The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs – the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels – is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss.

Visit the GI website for more information

Moral of the story:

You can Sprout your grains, and Mill them too!
Take your health into your own hands. The more we rely on grocery store shelf products, the more fat we add to our diets. Once we slow down and get the facts, we can start replenishing our body of all the good stuff it’s missing. Even if milling and sprouting are not up your alley, know what you put into your body. Read the labels of the stuff you are buying.

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