A Little Oil and A Little Faith

“I never fry with oil. I use broth or a little water.” My girlfriend recently declared war against her bathroom scale and her growing wardrobe, growing in size that is, from an 8 to a 12. She had it with the disappointing reflection in her mirror, with her decreasing health and declining feeling of wellbeing, and she was sharing with me one of her secrets to her success: no more oil.

Imagine a tablespoon of oil. Now imagine a tablespoon of oil in a fry pan and compare it to the amount we really use. Imagine a tablespoon of salad dressing. Now compare that to the amount we use on our salads. Most likely what we actually use is more like two tablespoons, maybe even three. Oil is calorie dense and one of the most likely contributors to our increasing weight gain. Get rid of the oil and lose weight, gain health, and feel better.

Cuisines across all nations use oil. I recently experimented with a cookie recipe using teff flour, a North African cereal grain, and a half a cup of oil, among other ingredients. I just wanted the benefit of the calcium in the teff flour so I left out the sugar but I never considered the oil. The recipe turned out nicely and I started eating it for breakfast. After a few days, I noticed I had gained weight and, knowing the only thing I changed in my diet was the teff flour recipe, I realized that the oil in it was the most likely culprit.

Like salt, oil can enhance the flavors in a recipe. Oil is also one of the tools used to enhance the flavors in processed foods. The more oil, the more taste and the more fat. Dr. Furhman has a neat little diagram of a stomach filled with 400 calories of oil compared with 400 calories of greens and vegetables. The difference is striking as the stomach is quite empty on 400 calories of oil, while quite full with 400 calories of vegetables. The point is that we are still hungry after eating 400 calories of oil because our stomach are still empty, while they are completely full after eating 400 calories of greens and vegetables.

Oil is rich and eating fried or oil-laden foods causes us to overeat. Too much of this type of eating can sicken us, give us stomach aches, and over a period of a lifetime, create some pretty serious illnesses for our heart and arteries. Oil is fat and though some are more healthful than others, a little oil goes a long way. Think one tablespoon; not three.

A little faith can go a long way too. Faith, like oil, enhances the flavors in life. But how do we begin to have faith in our scientific world? People often scoff at religion for its fairytale-like stories of miracles and heaven where angels sing in the clouds. How do we take the historical Jesus seriously? Just wondering if he really existed has stumped some folks. However, virtually all historians agree that he did exist. The historical events in the New Testament line up with other historical texts, and references to Jesus can be found in texts other than the Bible. Making the assumption that Jesus actually lived is not much of a leap. A lot of experts agree that he did walk the earth once upon a time.

But what a walk. Accounts of Jesus in the Bible have him walking on water, feeding thousands with only a couple of loaves of bread and two fish, and even raising people from the dead. And healing? It seems like that’s all Jesus did wherever he went. Is believing all that accredited to faith?

I’d say faith begins with believing that Jesus lived and then died specifically as a sacrifice for sinful man. That’s not much of a leap either since crucifixion in Roman times was a common punishment for crimes, and in Jesus’ case, for blasphemy–claiming to be God.

So imagine Jesus who was a good man by anyone’s standards, letting himself be punished for crimes he did not commit, the crime of hatred toward him, and declaring right up to the end that he was dying for the very folks who were killing him. Now imagine Jesus embodied the soul of God who willingly endured a physically cruel and ultimately fatal punishment to save us from an equally cruel and fatal spiritual punishment so that He could love us forever, even while we were hating him. Going from the first image to the second is the first leap of faith, a fairly large one because it requires the acknowledgement that we are prone to evil and deserve punishment.

The belief that the historical death of Jesus met all the requirements for God’s justice against the evil in this world will flavor our lives with joy and comfort because we can approach God in peace and speak to Him as our own dear Father. Acting out that tiny bit of faith does enormous things to our lives, but getting there requires a good look in the mirror.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:10-11

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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

Nutritarian Umami Foods and Pure Goodness or Coincidence

Cool photo by Tobacconist University Taste College

Cool photo by Tobacconist University Taste College

You have heard of sweet, salty, bitter and sour tastes but I recently learned of another taste: umami, meaning delicious. This taste is intriguing and occurs in several types of foods naturally. It is close to salty but more savory, and tastes rich with a delicious and lasting aftertaste.

Tomatoes are umami and also rich in lycopene which may help to lower cholesterol levels. Sweet potatoes are umami and filled with vitamins and minerals to help our heart health, bone health, and even mental health. Other umami foods are seaweed vegetables, some meats and shell-fish, soy sauce,  and green tea. We can also combine foods to create umami flavors.

I have some favorite umami foods. I love the combination of flax oil and Bragg Liquid Aminos. This dressing is good with cooked and raw greens. Wakame sea vegetables are incredibly delicious on salads and roasted vegetables. Coconut mana can add an umami flavoring to foods. Try it on sweet potatoes and popcorn, and your kids will say, “OOOh, Mommy!”.

We can put a little umami in our faith too, by giving God the credit when a more secular view would call the event good luck or coincidence. When I first found out I had breast cancer, it was raining hard and had been all day. I was driving home from work and the song, Light Up the Sky by the Afters came on the radio. The negativity of my mindset that day made me scoff at the boldness of someone actually asking God to light up the sky to show her that He was with her, but the Holy Spirit that resides within me spoke out in my thoughts and told me to ask Him. So I did. I prayed that God would show me that He would be with me through the coming trial. I said it with anger and resentment, but I meant it. I really wanted to know He would be with me. The moment I said it, it stopped raining, and the sun poked through the clouds! It remained sunny the entire drive home and when I went into my house and looked out my window, the clouds and rain had returned.

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6). We can put a little umami in our lives by trusting that God works for the good of all of us. Believe that He wants to communicate with you in signs and wonders and maybe even ask Him those daring questions. I did and it made a world of difference to me on that dark day.

Do you have an umami faith event or food you would like to share?

Hunting for Hidden Salt and The Sermon on the Mount

Take the refined salt and toss it. It is no good for you. It is striped of all the minerals our bodies need, it may promote high blood pressure and calcium loss in bones, and it is ruining the true taste of salt. Buy sea salt and sea seasonings (photo). They have the minerals we need, they taste good, and they promote good health when used in healthful amounts.

A healthful amount of salt is approximately 2,000 milligrams per day. Our salt intake can quickly rise if we are eating processed foods, so be careful to check labels. Salt is added for a preservative and also to disguise the lack of taste in processed foods. Look for “no salt added” or “low sodium” on the label. For example, soy sauce is very salty.  One tablespoon is 920 mg of sodium (Kikkoman). The low sodium brand is only 525 mg for the same amount. Low sodium teriyaki sauce is only 320 mg. When comparing sodium content on labels, check the serving size. Bragg’s Amino Acids is a soy sauce alternative and looks like less sodium than lite sodium soy sauce but the serving sizes are different. Bragg’s is 160 mg for 1/2 teaspoon while sodium lite soy sauce is 525 for 1 tablespoon.

Check the sodium content of doughy foods like donuts, bread, rolls, crackers, and biscuits which can have from 200 to 400 mgs of sodium per serving. Pizza, cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, most canned foods, and fast foods contain high amounts of sodium. Condiments and salad dressings can quickly add over 200 mgs of salt per serving (and we know those servings are small compared to what we really use). Restaurant foods also add salt. Most restaurants have a nutrition page on the their website which lists the sodium content of their foods.

The best way to monitor our salt intake is to cook without salt and only add salt at the table. Stay away from processed foods and drink lots of water, but check bottled water labels for salt, too. Once we back off of all this salt, the true taste of salt will be far more pleasing.

The Sermon on The Mount is known for the words of wisdom Jesus spoke when he first began his ministry. In the very beginning of his sermon, Jesus tells his disciples they are like the salt of the world but cautions them not to lose their saltiness because nothing can make them salty again. Jesus’ disciples would one day preserve the message of Christ to all the world, that is, that Jesus was the sacrificial lamb, the ultimate and last blood sacrifice for sin. If we live a life a goodness without belief in Christ, it cannot preserve us for eternal life. Just as salt that was contaminated with gypsum was used for keeping pathways free of vegetation and nothing else, so does a good life without belief serve only as a pathway here on earth. The message of Christ is salt for all mankind, it is the Good News and the pathway to eternal life.

Have you ever run into someone who threatens you with hell? Or someone who tells you that despite your belief and your attempts to rid yourself of sinful actions, that your are headed straight to hell? These folks have lost their saltiness and have forgotten the message of Christ that brings life to those who are reconciled to Him. They are looking at you with a worldly view.

Wherever we find ourselves, Christ can meet us there. You do not need to become perfect first!  Faith in Christ covers you like a robe, so that God sees the Holy Spirit in you and this Spirit cries out to Him. Trust in His love and it will compel you to try again, not out of fear of damnation, but out of the love He bears for you. The love of Christ in your life is like putting salt on your food: He makes our ordinary, dull, every day lives something much more, something quite delightful. Believe in Him and the sin you struggle with today will melt away like snow in the spring that is here in the morning and gone by afternoon.

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

Matthew 5:5

spring

Discerning What is Nutritarian Food: Soy Products and the Dark Forces of Evil

Soy can lurk in unlikely places

Soy can lurk in unlikely places

The only dietetic advice my oncologist gave me was to stop eating soy. The thought that soy was bad for me never entered my mind until then. When I googled “Is soy bad for me,” I found a resounding “YES!” Soy is big business and touted as healthful but there are some very unhealthful aspects about soy.

Soy contains plant estrogens that can increase the level of estrogen in your body. This is bad news for women because some common types of breast cancer feed off of estrogen. Phytoestrogens in soy can also lower testosterone levels. In addition, soy is thought to interfere with thyroid functioning. Like most grains, soy contains lectins and phytates which also interfere with digestion. Fermenting soy can reduce the toxicity, but it is still wise to eat only small amounts of soy, preferably in the form of miso, tempeh, and nato. Really, all grains should be eaten in moderation.

Trying to discern what foods are nutritious is often a walk in the dark. I had gone through several health diets before I found Dr. Fuhrman’s. When I stumbled upon his wisdom, I knew he stood squarely in the light of truth for me. I don’t think I would have recognized the truth without experiencing the previous diets. These were, The Hallelujah Diet (raw food), The Whole Grain Diet (a very weird trip), and the Alkaline Diet. Except for the whole grain diet, I found Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian diet to be somewhat supportive of the raw food and alkaline diets, but providing much more flexibility and a wider variety of nutrition.

Finding out that foods I thought were healthy to be not so healthy was devastating, overwhelming me with a lack of will power to quit eating or drinking them. I loved soymilk. I used to drink the sugary vanilla kind (of course!). I still have trouble saying no to soy milk at Starbucks. Temptation to eat or drink the wrong things even when I know they are bad for me, reveals to me a flawed nature, a bent towards unhealthy living.

Once, when I was sitting at a table with several people headed for jail time, one young man talked about how as an eight year old, he used to steal cigarettes from his mom’s purse and smoke them. This was exciting to him at that age and almost impossible for him to stop. He said he knew because of this that there was something seriously wrong with him. I’ve known a lot of kids in my life and I know this is not so very unusual.

Jesus said we need to be reborn and He died on the cross for our seriously wrong nature, so that his own spiritually healthy body could be reborn in us. Recognizing the bent towards wrong-doing our physical nature possesses is the first step to finding the truth. Paul said that he did not do as he wanted to do, but did what he hated, and that only Christ could free him from his wrong-doing. Later, Paul explains how being reborn spiritually can transform us so that we are free from the devastating pull of our physical natures, and we can begin to grow and mature into spiritual beings aligned with Christ.

Christ’s spiritual transformation leads me to seek out healthy ways of living, including my diet. I earnestly seek to find out what is healthy and often pray for discernment because big business and years of lies have obscured the truth from me. In fact, I believe that the dark forces of evil have led us into disease and early death because of our human nature’s greed for more at the expense of others, and our natural propensity towards gluttony. When I look soberly at myself, the truth is devastating, and I know, like the young man who spoke out, that there is something seriously wrong with me. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. – Psalm 51

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.