Sugar and Plain and Simple

vegetables

Eat more vegetables and less sugar.

“Sugar feeds cancer,” she wore a kind of frank-looking expression, a sum-it-all-up in a few words kind of expression. I’d not heard her words of wisdom until after I’d already been treated for cancer, but they struck me to the quick. Sugar, I thought! Not my good friend sugar! Yes, in every form sugar feeds cancer. It could be refined white sugar so prevalent in processed foods, raw cane sugar, agave, honey, even fruit and  fruit juice. Sugar is actually bad for most things: cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, lethargy, blah, blah, blah. So, plain and simple, it is a wise thing to reduce our overall sugar consumption.

We tend to make getting rid of sugar in our diets very complicated. We use substitute sugar replacements or some type of natural sugar like honey or agave. Stevia is the new sugar substitute that has some positive health claims. However, using these “better options”  does nothing for reducing our appetite for sweet foods, and sometimes can even make it worse. Sugar substitutes tend to rev-up a taste for sweetness.

The recommended daily amount of sugar for adults is about twenty grams or nine teaspoons which is not very much. Just one sugary drink can put us over this limit. Replacing what we eat on a daily basis with foods very low in sugar can reduce our overall dependence on sugar. Choose to eat more vegetables than fruits. Skip white rice, bread, and pasta (our bodies process sugar from these foods) and eat greens and beans and a smaller portion of whole grain foods. Use unsweetened almond or soy milk in smoothies instead of fruit juices or milk and yogurt (these contain milk sugars). Instead of using sugar and sugar substitutes, use fabulously sweet fruits like dates, bananas and mangoes to sweeten smoothies and desserts, and healthy fruit juices like carrot juice for soups. It is still sugar but our bodies are so much better at processing natural sugars and it reduces our desire for bakery foods and other sweet confections that are best saved for special occasions. Withdraw symptoms from sugar are miserable: headaches, stomach huger feelings, digestive discomforts, dizziness, a weak and shaky feeling and/or just an overwhelming malaise. It’s the body’s way of saying, “This is hurting me.”

The same sick feelings and even the same diseases we attribute to too much sugar occur with too much stress. Stress is the flight or fight feeling we get when we are under pressure and at its foundation is fear: fear of failing, fear of losing a job, fear of getting mugged, fear of losing our friends, fear of divorce, fear of consequences, fear of dying, fear of blah, blah, blah. We fret and worry over things we have done and said, over disappointments in life, and outcomes of our reckless actions. We mess up time and again–even over the same stupid stuff, or we watch the people we love suffer from our own bad choices. We get to the point where we just can’t function as well as we used to under this constant stress and guilt. God tells us to “fear not” and “cast all our anxieties on Him” but can we?

Those feelings of fear and worry, of guilt and self-reckoning though are not brought on by our own wisdom. When we actually see how far we fall from perfect, it is a gift of discernment from God. It is the kindness of God that leads us to where we can see that we have messed up. We know something is wrong. It occurs at the beginning of repentance and trust. It is the proud and guiltless person who is lost, not the one who sees his error and is sickened with fear, worry and anxiety. Those humble folks who know they will never measure up are the ones that belong to Him. God is calling us: It is a simple as that. God has made us this way, plain and simple but we make ourselves very complicated. Forgiveness is not something we earn; it is a gift and it starts with that sick, I’ve-really-messed-up-this-time feeling. It is like the little boy who falls and suddenly sees he’s made of flesh and blood because it is pouring out of a wound, that jumps up and goes running to his father for comfort.

“Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” — Jesus, Mark 2:17

Transforming Diet and Faith

Recent data concludes that eating large amounts of animal protein is harmful. Animal proteins are acidic and too much can force our bodies to alkalize the acid by leaching calcium from our bones. This is just as true for beef as it is for dairy. Eating lots of yogurt or drinking lots of milk gives the body a lot of protein and calcium but it is also acid-based and requires neutralization. Vegetables, beans and nuts can be a source of protein and calcium without the ill effects of saturated fat and acidic overload.

The diets we grew up with are based on old information. For example, eggs and bacon in the morning, a meat sandwich in the afternoon, and steak and potatoes in the evening can prove acidic and problematic, and as we grow older it can clog arteries with cholesterol and calcium to form a sticky substance known as plaque. Newer dietary information draws a strong correlation between nutrition and health (The China Study), and reveals that our daily intake of plant-based proteins should exceed animal proteins for longevity and health. A small amount of meat for flavoring a meal of vegetables, grains, and beans should be our goal.

This is a big change for us and requires a whole new way of cooking. It can be downright depressing to give up daily meat-based foods because our reference points on leafy greens, beans, and vegetables are so limited. However, our bodies were made for eating plants and our taste for leafy greens and other vegetables will quickly expand as we try new recipes. Many times we try to white-knuckle through a diet to lose a few pounds, counting points or calories until a meal is  more like a math problem. Changing to a plant-based diet is nothing like going on a diet and more like discovering a whole new world of food that is more delicious and with more variety. But best of all, you can eat as much of it as you want without gaining a lot of weight. We will wonder why it ever took us so long to change.

Religion can be just as bland and canned as the vegetables I ate as a girl. How can we meet an ever-present Savior? Like our meat-based diets, we must change our old practices. Christ did not come to guide us through a life without struggle as this world would have us believe. In fact, through struggle we find Him. If we can come to Christ daily asking for the strength we need to persevere through struggles, while we seek to live like Him and in service to others, His presence becomes palpable, and He opens our hearts to joy and gratitude over even small events.

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

Alternative to Fish Oil and The Calling

Men and fish: a long relationship

Men and fish: a long relationship

Fish oil is getting a second look these days in the form of a scowl. A recent study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center claims a man with high levels (taking daily supplements or eating fatty fish three times a week) of Omega-3 fatty fish oils is 2/3 more likely to develop the fatal type of prostate cancer. More studies will be need to confirm the association with fish oil and prostate cancer because this study did not take into account other risk factors. However, the news out there is disturbing for all those men who are taking the supplement, my husband included.

There is a plant-based alternative to fish oil in the form of marine algae. Plant-based omega-3 supplements are not the same as fish oil supplements and do not contain the fatty acids associated with prostate cancer. Plant-based omega 3 is a different type of omega 3, not nearly as strong as fish oil, but a diet high in flax seeds and oil, green leafy vegetables (my favorite), walnuts, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, soybeans, and other omega 3 foods while staying clear of foods high in Omega 6 (vegetable oils, grain-fed meats, egg yolks, and most processed foods) should keep us covered in health.  If you are a fish, meat and dairy eater, grass-fed beef and dairy products made from grass-fed cows is a great choice over the conventional grain fed products. The grass-fed products retain a healthy omega 3 to 6 balance which benefits the consumer as well. And, wild-caught salmon is still the omega-3 heavyweight champion.

Here is my favorite dish to keep my husband heart-healthy in omega 3s: saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms in a small amount of canola or olive oil on low heat for about 30 minutes. Add piles of green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, chard, etc.) and cook until wilted. Serve over brown rice sprinkled with sesame seeds and tossed in Flax oil and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.

Just like eating what we think is healthy one day and finding out it is not healthy the next day, some worldly things can seem fine one day, and very disappointing the next. As Christians grow older, we see we are different from others in our thoughts and in our habits. Things we did in our youth can set like well-rooted weeds later on that we want to get rid of.  These weeds can take the form of something perfectly fine for others to do, and yet we know that God is calling us to a higher ground.  We may even struggle and pray about how different we feel from others, sometimes we stray away because the calling seems impossible, but it is not impossible for God, and the benefit is to experience a greater sense of the peace of His Kingdom, that is, His presence in our lives. This struggle to grow increasingly closer to the Kingdom each day is a strong one and is pleasing to God, but His calling can also be very challenging and cause a lack of peace in our lives if we try to ignore it. It is a good thing that God is pleased even with a weak repentance when it is sincere.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45 & 46

Nutritarian Quest for High Nutrition and The Color Purple

I recently read an article in the New York Times regarding the amount of nutrition in various types of vegetables. Evidently since the 19th C, “we’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of fruits and vegetables.”

The first genetically modified food was corn and it was produced to decreased the sharp yellow color and increase the sugar content, hence the sweet white corn we find in the grocery stores today. In fact, most of the conventional white corn found in stores today is 70% less nutritious than yellow corn, and 99% less nutritious than blue corn. Who has blue corn? I’ve never seen it but for in the fall with Indian Corn and it is dry. I have found it to pop but I’m not sure if the popping process doesn’t destroy some nutrients.

My lovely daughter likes to work the produce section of her store and often comes home with some very interesting foods. I am surprised to see purple potatoes and carrots. These have more than twice the amount of nutrients than our white and orange brands. Have you ever eaten a crab apple? I have not but they contain thousands of phytonutrients that our conventional apples do not.

Foods found in the wild have more phytonutrients than the pampered plants of today’s corporate farmer. These less popular brands still contain the disease-fighting nutrients that allow them to grow in natural conditions. Try eating dandelion leaves and arugula. These greens have more antioxidants than the more popular greens like iceberg lettuce and even spinach. Select blue corn meal, blue or purple carrots, and scallions instead of yellow onions. Use lots of herbs since these have not been “domesticated” or modified by modern farming, and eat grass-fed meats. All of these foods still contain the disease-fighting nutrition our bodies need.

Like conventional farming, modern Christianity has put a gloss over the Gospel message to make it easier to “swallow”. This sweet message lacks the passionate love of a man who was fully God and lived among us and died for us when we were weak and filled with evil thoughts. He was our disease/sin fighter, our holy and pure brother that we in our anger and lust for self, crucified. We are hopelessly bent on evil but for the saving grace of the Holy Spirit who comes to reside in us and help transform us into what God created us to be. He is not with us to make our lives sweeter like white corn, but to grow character into us, to temper us as in a refining fire. Trust him because there greater things ahead than just this evil world. The color of Christ is purple for His passion.

“we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.“–Romans 5:3-5

Alkaline Proteins and Visionary Prayer

A plant-based diet that is slightly acidic will require more protein than a plant-based diet that has achieved alkalinity. If we do not eat enough protein, our muscles suffer for it since that is one place our bodies will get needed protein missing from our diets.

Most animal proteins are highly acidic and need alkalizing foods to balance out the net effect of a meal. Low sugar and high water content alkaline vegetables will balance out the acidity of animal proteins. Livestrong.com offers some great choices: celery, cucumber, iceberg lettuce, tomato and zucchini, broccoli, green cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant and spinach. These vegetables served with a small amount of fish, chicken, or meat can alkalize your meal.

If animal proteins are not an option for you, many vegetables have a protein content with varied amino acids, making it important to eat a large variety of vegetables to get all the amino acids our bodies need. Try roasting a variety of vegetables tossed in olive oil in a low oven (325) for about 20 minutes. Make sure not to blacken any by picking out vegetables done before the rest, like broccoli.

Most beans are acidic but high in protein. They need to be balanced with alkaline foods in the meal. For example, beans with garlic and onions over steamed kale. Beans are a staple protein for vegetarians and Dr. Fuhrman recommends eating them every day.

Glutinous grains have a protein content but are acidic unless they are sprouted. Sprouts are one of the few alkaline proteins. Health food stores sell sprouted grains but sprouts can be made at home. Vegetable and seed sprouts are usually eaten raw; other sprouts should be lightly steamed. Read more about sprouting.

Changing from our acidic, Standard American Diet, to a healthier one can seem overwhelming but don’t give up. Visualizing a new you with a  lifestyle that is energizing and healthy is important. Hold on to the vision you have of what you want to become. Having a vision like this is an important gift to you.

That gift of the new you is God’s grace to you. No matter what your religion or even if you have no religion, God’s grace offers you hope for tomorrow. Envisioning is a powerful tool you can use to reach towards that tomorrow you hope for. For Christians, envisioning can become a prayer exercise, offering to Christ your hopes for becoming the person God created you to be.

Sometimes in prayer we have no words to speak but our emotions reach out to Christ through the Holy Spirit that abides within in us and this Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26). Open your conscious to Christ’s holy love that lives within you by envisioning a healthier you (or someone you love). Envision His coming when there will be no more tears, no more death, and no more illness, and you will find that the peace of Christ will dwell richly within you.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20 & 21

Nutritarian Public Enemy #1: Sugar

A school project showing the amount of sugar in beverages.  Knowledge is power at any age. Choose wisely.  (Facebook: Inspiration For Mind Body)

A school project showing the amount of sugar in beverages.
Knowledge is power at any age. Choose wisely.
(Facebook: Inspiration For Mind Body)

Sugar is poison to our bodies. A new study shows that high fructose, fructose, and sucrose are directly related to type 2 diabetes. Dr. Lustig’s video explains the reasons why we should avoid these sugars that are so toxic and why consumption of refined sugars can cause a host of health issues.

A recent New York Times article, “It’s the Sugar, Folks,” preps us for some very interesting upcoming activity concerning the government regulation of these sugars, an ingredient that is found in almost all processed foods at a quantity that is now known to be toxic. Processed foods use high doses of salt and sugar to cover the lack of taste in processed food, foods that we sell worldwide. In addition, a new study also from the NY Times, reveals that the Mediterranean Diet is very beneficial for those with heart disease.

As more reliable and true nutritional information falls into the hands of the public, we are faced with some very big decisions. Let’s have faith that we will work together to create nutritionally sound food supplies, especially for low and moderate income families. Right now cheap food is often processed food.  Good nutrition takes time, money, and will power when all around us we see tasty sodas, salty snacks, and sugar-laden desserts. We are at a turning point when demand for healthy food may well take precedence over our addictions to sugar and salt. Health-oriented markets like Whole Foods is a reflection of a more health conscious society.

Eating is often social. Nothing beats a good meal with good friends and family. The same is true of spirituality. We were made to worship with others. The Christian Church is the bride of Christ, that is, we who worship together are the Lord God’s most beloved and intimate relationship.  The meal that reflects the deep love that Christ has for his church is the bread and wine given to us the night Jesus was taken to be hung on a cross.

Creating a spirituality out of solitary prayer and study is like eating a meal of Twinkies. It tastes sweet but it will not get us through the day. We need each other, we need to love and be loved. We were not created to be alone, but to serve one another with holy reverence and respect in the arena of Christ’s holy church. So many times we get our feelings hurt or we feel ashamed of what we have done or not done, and we give up before we can realize the power of forgiveness and healing. We limit ourselves when we avoid committing to a church for whatever reason (and there are many reasons) when it would ultimately generate authentic Christian relationships for us, including a more authentic relationship with Christ. As Benedict J.  Goreschel in Spiritual Passages writes, Christ’s last discourse to His disciples makes clear that in a divine way He thought it better to love (His church) and lose than not to love at all.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy

— Ephesians 5:25

Nutritarian Eating and A More Abundant Life

Read can labels for sugar and salt (sodium) content.

Read can labels for sugar and salt (sodium) content.

Eating is not just about satisfying the stomach or pleasing the tongue. For the nutritarian, food is a means to an end and that end is health. Dr. Fuhrman will tell you that when you begin the nutritarian life, it will not please the tongue at first, but it will fill the stomach. He has a nifty diagram of a stomach full of greens compared with a stomach empty but for a small amount of oil (fat) at the bottom, an amount that is in equal caloric measure to the stomach full of greens. Yes, you will fill your stomach but your tongue will be shouting for fats, salt, and sugar.

But not for long. When I first cut down on salt, before I became a nutritarian, I tasted a donut only a few weeks into my salt ban, and I could not believe how salty it was. This is true, and other foods as well surprised me by their salt content. Foods I never related with salt had a salty taste to them that I had never tasted before. This will happen if you quit salt. Sugar I am certain is the same though this is a much more difficult taste to tame for me.

Taming the tongue of its driving demands for salt, sugar, and fats, brings us to a place where fruits and vegetables are so much more delicious. When the tongue is free from its bondage to addictive additives that are in processed foods, the tongue can  taste the subtle flavors in natural foods. Processed foods are infamous for adding salt which is a preservative and sugar for taste. So, in your striving to become a nutritarian, try to stay clear of processed foods, including bakeries, fast food restaurants, and the grocery store’s “middle” isles where cans and boxes of processed food are located.

Our religion is often the same as our addictive eating habits in wanting to satisfy our cravings for God by performing rote acts of faith as if these acts of faith are the ends in themselves. Acts of faith like prayer, church services, meditation, praise, singing and other creative pursuits (like writing 🙂 ) are not the ends we seek.  What we seek is to draw closer to the Lord and we use these acts of faith to pursue Him. We fall short when we fail to wait upon the Lord for his response to our acts of faith. Our God can communicate to us through scripture, nature, other people, even animals. He can come into our thoughts through meditation, prayer, exercise, song, and anytime we are open to Him, but we must believe that He exists. No one can please God without faith for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Our world is deceptive and some people do not seek or believe in the spiritual or metaphysical world, and yet the Bible clearly states that there is a spiritual world we cannot see. For those who believe in Christ, we are a new creation and we are reborn into that spiritual world. God brings all things into Himself, that is, He brings us into Him where He is in the spiritual world. He does this through the Holy Spirit who lives in us if we believe in Christ. He shows us glimpses of this spiritual world if we will just wait for the Lord’s response to our acts of faith. Do not give up hope and do not despair by performing acts of faith that seem to have no response from God. In this world and its “tangible only” doctrine of science that counts spirituality as foolishness, we often fall prey to doubt, but the truth is that we who are reborn into this spiritual world are like stars of light in the darkness.

So let’s have faith that he will answer and respond to us. For the Lord our God is pleased to reveal himself to us and he is eager to show us wonderful and marvelous things that we know nothing about. (Jeremiah 3:33) We do not put our faith in the tangible world. Instead, we reach into the light and power of Jesus Christ who is our savior, and through our acts of faith, we draw closer to him that we might know and believe in His great power to transform us and our world.

Happy New Year Resolutions: Making each year better one year at a time

This year I resolve to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables because the larger the variety of these foods, the better. Combinations of vegetables like tomatoes and broccoli, garlic and onions, and greens with calcium rich foods are healthier than eating any of these separately. There are some specific health issues in my house that call for specific foods. For example, the cruciferous vegetables have strong anti-oxidant qualities that help fight cancer cells and tomatoes are good for heart health so we will be eating more of these.

A second resolution is to eat more beans rather than whole grains because they are good at reducing sugar levels in the blood–this is good news for diabetics. Cancer is fueled by sugar so it is good for me to stay away from it. Dr. Fuhrman’s recent blog encourages the eating of beans, legumes, and lentils over whole grain foods like brown rice and whole grain bread because beans are much more powerful at producing good health. In fact, a cup of beans a day improved health in just three months.

My third resolution is to drink three 4 oz cups of green tea each day. I am reading David Servan-Schreiber’s Anticancer: A new way of Life book. Drinking green tea can reduce my chance of recurrence by 50%.

I hope I can keep these three resolutions and stay away from sugar which is really hard for me. Transforming our diets from cancer-feeding to cancer-fighting requires a lot of change. The standard American diet (SAD) of fast foods, large quantities of protein from animal sources, and sugary staples like white rice and white bread (think pizza) will cause cancer and heart disease to soar in this country. When I first realized I had cancer I was amazed! I thought I was eating pretty well when in fact I was ill-informed and ignorant of some very basic nutritional information. Why? Because it is not taught in schools and in homes where convenience foods have taken the place of healthful meals. Even our government standards for healthful eating are swayed by economic and commercial self-interest. There is an incredible amount of misinformation out there and no one will find the real truth about what is good for their bodies unless they are willing to really investigate.

This is true of religion as well. There are many religions and many truths, many scriptures, and many prophets. Which one is true? Which one pleases God, if there even is a God. We will not know the truth unless we look for it.

Here is a reliable test for truth: The truth will set us free. Free from what, we might ask? Free from condemnation because if we really look at ourselves we will see that we fail to do good. Maybe we can keep up the good work for a short time but eventually all of us fall short of where we should be. To be human is to be flawed. We are not divine but there was one man who was: Jesus and he set us free from having to offer routine sacrifices for our shortcomings. Instead, he is the ultimate sacrifice and we are free to stumble and fall into His arms. He catches us and puts us on solid ground. He gives us a means by which we can transform ourselves, he gives us a truth to live by (the Bible), and he gives us comfort in knowing that he loves us enough to die for us to bring us eternal life.

We can change our diets. We can learn to eat healthfully in the new year. Through prayer and meditation, God can help us to live happy, healthful lives. He does not want us to be sick and overweight. Seek God, and you will find him. Put your life in his hands and let him help you transform your diet, your life, and your purpose this year. We don’t have to “clean up our acts” to come to him. He takes us as we are because he knows us even better than we know ourselves.

Merry Christmas: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

treats

It is amazing that there are so many sugary, yummy, chocolaty treats at every turn in the day. Before I had cancer, I would not have hesitated to take a taste of each and every one. I was always careful not to eat too much but I would gladly trade my lunch for a couple of brownies and cookies at Christmas time. I’m more careful now.

But why shouldn’t I still eat what I want for these few celebratory days? So I do; my choices are just a little different. I have dried fruit, a whole pound of General Tso’s Vegan chicken at Whole foods, and today I am busy making stuffed onions with spinach with my daughter who is making stuffed mushrooms. She is a vegetarian and so we bought some dal burgers which I have never tried but I think will be great. For my two meat-eaters I bought grass fed rib eye stakes and a couple of organic Cornish hens–might as well buy as healthy a meat as possible for the very special men in my life. I have fallen prey to some treats and I will have the chocolate hazelnut torte for Christmas day dessert (oh, well!) but I still feel good about how much I have improved from past years.

My new sweet treat: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. Bake a sweet potato, cut it in half, scoup out most of the potato part, add a tablespoon of coconut oil and a tablespoon of coconut manna and mash all together. Put the mash back into the potato skin, sprinkle with garam masala, and bake until warm (350)

God made a choice too. He chose to come to us as a small, delicate, baby born in a barn full of lambs. No doubt some of those lambs would ended up as sacrificial lambs, just like our Jesus. My daughter told me she was blown away by the immense humility of an all-powerful god being born as a helpless infant. Not only that, but the helpless infant would give up his life, a final blood sacrifice, so that we could have hope in this world. How precious is the story of Christ! Who could imagine such a lovely and grace-filled event? Even now, I cannot fully grasp what He did, what He does every day, and what He will do when we all are reunited with Him. But one thing I know: He is with us. God Bless you this Christmas Day!

An Old Fashioned Christmas Recipe that’s Fun for Kids

almondsAt Christmas it is important to have special foods to celebrate the holidays, but nutritarians come up against a wall of sugar and unhealthy fats when it comes to holiday treats. If you are on a weight-loss plan, it would be a good idea to have something you can enjoy that is still within your diet restrictions.

Roasted almonds are a healthy recipe that is fun for kids to make and one that we can all enjoy. Buy 2 pounds of raw almonds (costs about $10 where I live) and throw them in boiling water for five minutes or until the skin loosens from the nut. The skin on nuts inhibits digestion so it’s an added benefit to remove it. Drain and set in a bowl with a small amount of warm water so the skins won’t dry. Take a nut in hand and “pop” off the skin. Watch that the nut doesn’t go flying across the room. (My beagle sits right by my side when I do this, ready to catch an escaped nut.) Prepare a separate bowl of blanched nuts for each child who wants to participate. After all the nuts are skinned, dry them out in a dehydrator or in an oven at the lowest setting. Check them every few hours. It can take all day to dry out nuts. If you prefer, let the skinned nuts dry out on the counter. When the nuts are dry, coat them with a healthy oil like almond or olive oil, and roast them in a medium oven (350). I have a convection roaster and it only takes about 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven when they turn slightly golden. Let them cool. Spice them with whatever you like, hot or sweet, or with just a little salt. I like to sprinkle them with organic kelp granules which are naturally salty and provide a lot of iodine.

Just like Christmas’ sweet treats, the holiday itself can become overly sentimental, sweet, and rushed with meaningless activities so that afterwards we feel let down and depressed. A simple way to counteract all of the distractions at Christmas is to add one more, but make it meaningful and ritualistic. We can pray each night at sundown, or make small, daily donations to a different charity, inviting God to lead us in our choices. We can keep a purse of “joy” filled with small bills ready to handout whenever we are asked (Salvation Army is always around town). We can choose to meditate for twenty minutes every day, perhaps by listening to softly sung Christmas carols. Whatever you do, don’t let the beauty of the holiday slip away. Think of the lights on the trees and in the stores as small reminders of the light of Christ in us and all those who love him. Remember that this child we celebrate has conquered sin and will come again to vanquish death. He is our King and this sparkly, tinsel time of Christmas is like costume jewelry compared to the riches of his restored earth. Praise God, everyone is celebrating “Christmas”, even non-believers (Luke 19:40)! Christ is a powerful force in this world (1 Corinthians 4:20).