Containers of “green smoothie” ready for serving and freezing.
When I attend environment industry events these days I’m often approached by people who ask me for an update on the “cancer prevention diet” I introduced to readers in a series of online articles a couple of years ago.
A woman at a recycling conference most recently asked me how things were going, and wondered if I might post the recipes for my basic green smoothie and homemade granola.
So, here you go readers: a quick update and the list of ingredients you can print off for your shopping trip, or simply scroll through on your smart phone. Please share this with anyone in your family who’s interested in healthy eating (and especially a partner who does most of the cooking!).
By way of background, my philosophy on a healthy diet is based on a a few simple concepts, drawn from extensive reading and personal reflection:
I loosely subscribe to the “paleo” diet philosophy, meaning simply that because human beings evolved over millions of years as hunter gatherers, our bodies are best suited to digest and metabolize the fruits and vegetables, berries and nuts that were freely available over the millennia, with a bit of meat we were able to scavenge or hunt sometimes. (Some people think the paleo diet means eating a lot of meat, like Fred Flintstone and his brontosaurus steaks, but I disagree; meat would have augmented the ancient diet, but would not have been its chief ingredient.)
By extension, my approach is to avoid or minimize cereal crops invented in the Neolithic period, and especially to avoid the chemically-saturated and processed products of very recent times. In practice, what does this mean? Basically I don’t buy bread, bagels, rice, pasta or anything made from dough like pizza or cookies. I’ll consume these sometimes in restaurants, but they rarely cross my doorstep. I follow the axiom that when I do eat these things, I avoid “white” and go for “brown” (meaning I seek whole grains). I avoid all packaged, pre-cooked foods, especially of the ilk that one microwaves. Such foods are loaded with chemicals, GMOs, unhealthy oils and fats, and other stuff best avoided.
I sometimes think of my diet as “Mediterranean-Paleo” as this reflects my interest in food that tastes good; this phrase keeps me focused on what I should eat without trying to remember the long list of things to be avoided. Think of what a Greek peasant living on an island eats: if you were only to copy that, you’d be well on your way to a long and healthy life, as statistics show those folks live the longest, healthiest lives of anyone on the planet. They typically remain fit and vigorous well into their 70s, 80s and beyond. (Interestingly, their children who move to Athens or other mainland cities and start eating a more North American-style diet quickly fall victim to the same cancers, heart disease and diabetes, etc. as the rest of us.) Put another way, if you eat a lot of salads and fish, you’re doing well.
I’m like most people in that I can’t remember all the scientific details about what good things different fruits and vegetables do for me, nor do I need to. And I don’t have time to make complicated vegetarian recipes (although I’m slowly learning a few). Once I realized what I needed to put in my body, I needed to figure out the most convenient, efficient way to achieve that — so that I’d actually do it, and not procrastinate! (That’s the beauty of the system I outline below — anyone can do it and it’s dead simple.)
Too many people focus on “calorie counting” which is essentially the “right answer to the wrong question.” Your body needs nutrition, not calories. If you look after your nutritional needs, the caloric intake will look after itself! (Many people are “overfed yet starving” in our society, meaning they stuff their stomachs with empty carbs until they feel full — for a while — while every cell in their body screams out for vitamins and minerals. You need to reverse this pattern and feed your cells nutrition. A problem I have with certain weight loss plans is they focus too much on calorie budgets, not nutrition.)
Finally, a word on stress and immunity. While I believe what we eat is an important factor in the prevention of cancer and other diseases, it’s all for nought if one lives a completely “adrenalized” life! Constant stress from work and worry releases cortisol and other “fight or flight” chemicals into the body all day, and these are real killers. (You can read about cortisol here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortisol) You’ll notice many folks who live this way are constantly coming down with colds and flues. (I’ve only had one serious cold in the past ten years, and one serious flue in the past 20 years.) You need to slow down, make time for regular exercise, walk a lot, and (seriously) take up meditation, even if it’s just 10 minutes per day. Think of those Greek island farmers and their more relaxed pace of life. (I’ll save related information on chronic iodine deficiency and the importance of having an alkaline body for another post.)
Oh, and “cheats” — I have to mention those! This is not about being perfect; it’s about being healthy (or healthy-er). None of this means that I “never” eat fast food, that I “never” have a bag of chips, that I “never” enjoy beer and wings at the pub, or a Sunday morning greasy spoon bacon and eggs extravaganza! Of course I do! It’s just that those things are exceptions, not my daily pattern.
Okay, now to the diet and what you need to do.
Nothing I list below precludes you serving any kind of meal you want, but your typical day will begin with a bowl of granola with non-dairy beverage in place of milk. A coffee or tea is fine.
Lunch is going to be a large serving of smoothie, and/or perhaps a bowl of soup.
Dinner is usually going to be a salad (e.g., Greek, avocado, etc.) and sometimes soup; occasionally also meat (e.g., fish or chicken cooked on the barbeque or George Foreman grill).
I won’t belabor things by offering salad recipes, as these are available elsewhere. But I will mention a couple of quick tips. Avocados are incredibly healthy and have the “good” kind of fatty oil. (Many women unfortunately avoid avocados because they got the simplistic information that they’re fattening.) Go for dark greens like spinach and kale. (Forget iceberg lettuce.) And avoid commercial salad dressings. I was disappointed when a friend pointed out to me recently that a “big name brand” Greek salad dressing I’ve bought for years contains a glycol preservative that’s chemically similar to what’s in automotive windshield wiper fluid! So read your labels carefully!
And buy organic: organic produce is widely available now in supermarkets, not just specialty stores. It’s important that you avoid foods that have been sprayed with chemical pesticides. The cost of these items is only nominally more than non-organic. (Note that if you must, you can forgo organic for some items with thick skins like avocados that internalize less chemical spray. But organic bananas are often almost the same price as non-organic, so why skimp?)
Buy local when you can. This is not just about creating a sustainable economy; not only is food from further away more likely to be chemically sprayed and irradiated — it loses a lot of its nutritional value being shipped thousands of miles in refrigerated trucks and stored in regional and local warehouses before it arrives at your local store.
Green Smoothie recipe
Okay, let’s get down to business.
Let’s start with the “bad news” and get it out of the way.
Although you could make do with a conventional blender, you’re going to get frustrated right away with the lumpy or granular texture it yields. You and your family aren’t going to drink smoothies that taste like liquid salad. And a small Nutrimix blender, while good for making single-shot drinks, isn’t going to allow you to make the large amounts of smoothie (for later consumption) you need to have all this be convenient.
So, you need to buy a Vitamix or Blendtec industrial-power blender. You can research other brands, but everyone I know who does this stuff seriously owns one or the other brand. (I own a Vitamix and I like their no-hassle replacement warranty.) Expect to pay $400 to $700 for this equipment, but remember, you’ll have it for the rest of your life! (You’re going to want the blender jars for both wet and dry blending, too.)
Here’s what you do.
Set aside and hour or two on a Sunday afternoon, after you’ve bought the ingredients below, and have a couple of large glass or non-BPA plastic containers handy, because you’re going to make several batches at once: one container for immediate consumption and one or two batches for freezing.
I usually start with a base of store-bought carrot juice (not from concentrate), but you can also use filtered water, almond milk, “Coconut Dream,” hemp drink or another healthy non-dairy liquid.
Do NOT use yoghurt! Do not use any dairy at all! I won’t get into detail here but, notwithstanding the horrible life of dairy cows, milk is bad for you in general: the idea that it’s a good source of calcium is BS: your body receives it as an acid and actually leaches calcium from your bones! (The goal here is not, by the way, to make something that tastes like a creamy milkshake that you’d buy at McDonalds, although it will still taste good.) Also, do not use soy milk! Non-fermented soy is unhealthy and has been indicated as a potent precursor of breast cancer in women! (Spread the word!)
Next, chop up fruit and vegetables into big chunks to add to your blender. I sometimes use a Cuisinart-style food processor for some items, but that’s not strictly necessary. I usually include big handfuls of the following items in my blender drinks (organic as much as possible):
Parsley (smaller amount)
Blueberries (often a bag of frozen wild blueberries or raspberries, etc.)
Apples (one or two)
Oranges (one or two)
Spirulina (powder — note that all these powders are available at Bulk Barn or similar bulk stores, and many pharmacies or specialty stores)
Vega One (powder, fruit flavour — a couple of heaping tablespoons to each blender jar — make sure you buy the “complete meal” version and not the pre-workout shake)
Greens Plus (powder — a couple of heaping teaspoons)
Ashwagandha powder (one or two heaping teaspoons)
Maca (heaping tablespoon — a powdered Peruvian root)
Hemp oil (tablespoon or so with each blender jar — be sure to buy organic cold pressed from a high-turnover source like a hemp store, where possible)
Coconut milk (from a can or fresh whole coconut)
Chia seed (heaping teaspoon — powdered from Bulk Barn or grind in your dry blender)
Pumpkin seed (a heaping teaspoon — grind in your dry blender)
Citric acid powder(add a teaspoon to each storage jar to act as a preservative)
The above list is fairly complete but by no means all that you can put in your smoothies! You can experiment by adding other ingredients or deleting certain ones. This is just my basic recipe.
Note that I do not add bananas at this stage as they tend to “turn brown” in the container and spoil the taste of a stored smoothie! I add bananas sometimes when I pour single-servings from the larger container, and give it a quick blend in my Nutrimix or Magic Bullet single-serve blender
I blend all these ingredients until the mixture is quite smooth. Since I often like to make large amounts at one time and store some in the freezer I find myself juggling various batches and pouring them from one container to the other until they’re fairly uniform.
Another reason I make large batches is that it’s difficult to fit all these ingredients into, say, one small Nutrimix single-serve blender. If you have time to make smoothies every few days, or even once a week, there’s a slight benefit in not freezing batches. But remember, it’s more important that you do this than being “perfect” about it!
Note that the above recipe yields a “fruity” flavour that most people will find very agreeable. I find that the beets neutralize the strong flavour of the spinach and kale, etc. and that overall the fruit ingredients balance out the flavour of the vegetables. This stuff does not taste like medicine, and even my kids like it!
About a month’s worth of homemade granola.
People don’t do themselves any favor eating cereal with milk, or toast or bagels in the morning, especially when served with cheese or juice made from concentrate: the latter is essentially pure sugar (fructose) which helps convert the carbohydrates in the bread or cereal into blood sugar, which is then stored as fat on the belly. You can lose weight and interrupt this vicious cycle by eliminating the bread and lame juice, and eating homemade granola instead. This is far cheaper than buying store-bought granola and brand-name cereals. It’s very easy to make (easier than smoothies!) and can be made in large batches that will serve you for a month or longer. Best of all, you control the ingredients!
I start by laying out some large mixing bowls (often I use salad bowls too) into which I pour various ingredients, most of which I buy at Bulk Barn. (Many bulk stores carry ingredients formerly only available at health food stores, at a significant discount.) I shake and stir these, and mix in certain powders or items I’ve fractionated in my dry blender.
Nuts are the main ingredient of my granola. I include all kinds of nuts except for peanuts. (Peanuts can develop an invisible fungus that’s highly carcinogenic.) It’s important to buy organic nuts where possible, and as unprocessed as possible. That means nuts that have not been “blanched” or roasted or cooked in any way. Where possible I buy nuts that are already in pieces or small bits (which saves me processing them). I avoid certain nuts like Brazil nuts that may have a bitter flavour.
Ingredients include the following:
Pumpkin seeds (a small amount processed in my dry blender)
Chia seed (which can be purchased already powdered, or processed in my dry blender)
Coconut (shredded or powdered, as unprocessed as possible)
Dried fruit (e.g., strawberries, wild berries, mango, etc.)
Maca powder (small amount)
OPTION: Bulk granola (see note below)
Homemade granola is fun to prepare and experiment with. If you have young children, involve them! There’s not a lot that you can do “wrong” so feel free to add or delete items from the list above, which is just a guide.
The point is, this is your main source of nuts and dried berries, and it tastes delicious. Avoid adding anything that tastes bitter, or contains too much moisture (as you need this stuff to store well and not rot).
While it’s not necessary, I sometimes add a portion of bulk store granola just to change up the texture a little; I don’t have an allergy so don’t mind getting some dried oats and other ingredients from such products, such as hemp. Just read the label to make sure you’re not buying junk, and buy organic if possible. (If you’re getting resistance from children eating this stuff, I don’t see any harm in mixing in some regular cereal to make it more appealing to them. Again, this is not about “perfection.”)
Serve this with non-dairy liquid. If you’re used to milk, you’ll be amazed how quickly you get used to almond milk or Coconut Dream and other substitute products. For convenience I buy these from the organic section of my supermarket, but I eventually plan to make my own almond milk, which simply requires soaking the almonds overnight (to soften them) in water, processing them in my blender, and squeezing out the “milk” using a “nut bag.”
I have more to say about healthy eating but I think this is enough information for one article, and contains most of what you need to get going, or tweak your already healthy diet. If all you do is eat this granola for breakfast, have a smoothie (as described) for lunch, and focus on soups and salads for dinner, you’ll be 90 per cent of the way there to achieving a near-perfect diet. In my books, that’s good enough. Remember, most of this food is uncooked and ground up, so the full vitamin and mineral content is bio-available to your body right away.
As a bonus, I believe that unless a person has a serious glandular problem, it’s virtually impossible to remain overweight on this diet. (If you remain overweight on this diet, you should talk to your doctor, and seek guidance from a nutritionist, naturopath and/or herbalist.) This is a permanent lifestyle change, not a yo-yo up-and-down fad diet.
Importantly, you’ll know that you’re doing your utmost to prevent cancer establishing a foothold in your body, and you’ll be reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes and a range of other afflictions that plague our society. Why wait until you get a frightening diagnosis to make these changes? Do it now! It’s easy!
Some chicken and vegetable curries I made in my slow cooker. I serve these (and soups) sometimes to break up any monotony from salads. I freeze meal-size portions for later use.
In a future online article I’ll explore and explain some of the interesting powders and “super foods” that have become available in the North American market. The daughter of a good friend of mine operates a pioneering business exporting Maca and various “Inca super foods” from Peru, and I’ll be interviewing her for an expert perspective. I’ll also be writing about how to detoxify your body.