The Courage to be Healthy

Stay healthyHealth is the basis for every human achievement, even when it is poor, in which case it provides a lot less vitality and longevity than when it is good. We should do everything possible to be healthy and to maximize our potential to live and love.

In fact, health is not just a matter of vitality and longevity; it is also a matter of sanity. A sound mind is a complement to a sound body. Furthermore, the one is dependent on the other. Study many health books. They help to  define and meet your nutritional requirements much more wisely.

The body needed a balanced and moderate amount of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, minerals, and vitamins to function well. Correlatively, the foods containing these nutrients have to be properly chewed to aid digestion and absorption (this does not apply to fiber: a type of carbohydrate that the body can neither digest nor absorb). Proper chewing reduces foods to mush and proportionally increases the effect of the digestive juices on them or the availability of the nutrients that are ready for absorption. This simple chore is at the center of life.

To start with, carbohydrates are simple or complex sugars generally obtained from fruit, honey, milk products, beets, rutabagas, potatoes, legumes (beans, lentils, or peas), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and the bread, cereal, or pasta made from these grains. Simple sugars and digestible complex sugars serve as an energy source and participate in the synthesis of DNA and RNA molecules: the genetic information and the genetic messengers that enable the organism to regenerate and reproduce. Indigestible complex sugars, better known as dietary fiber, are capable of promoting the elimination of waste through the intestine. Refined foods are depleted of this fiber, without which constipation is a predictable outcome that bodes ill. Except on festive occasions, resolutely avoid them.

Lipids include two main subdivisions: saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fats (with a phosphoric component in some of them – i.e., in phospholipids versus triglycerides that are pure fats) and cholesterol, which is a singular fatty compound. Like simple sugars and digestible complex sugars, saturated fats and monounsaturated fats serve as an energy source. In addition, they contribute to the integrity of the body tissues. Polyunsaturated fats and cholesterol also contribute to this integrity and are used for a variety of vital functions involving the cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, and immune systems.

A distinctive feature of polyunsaturated fats is their instability. When exposed to heat, light, or air, such as in processing, intense cooking, or prolonged everyday use, they can suffer damage and become harmful. In view of this fact, be careful to eat the foods that contain them – for example, walnuts and seeds, and the oil extracted from either – in their most natural (unprocessed and if possible uncooked) form and fresh (unspoiled) state. When cooking is necessary, as in the case of fish or tofu, which number among these foods, you can resort to steaming or baking in preference to frying and proceed with caution, while avoiding the pitfall of undercooking. Apply the same basic principles to the foods that contain monounsaturated fats, like peanuts, almonds, olives, and avocado, and the oil extracted from any of them, though these fats are less unstable than their polyunsaturated counterparts. As for cholesterol, found exclusively in animal products, and saturated fats, found mostly in land animal products, they have a reputation for causing arterial blockage and organ dysfunction if consumed without restraint. Limit the intake of them by following a largely vegetarian diet where animal flesh is the exception, not the rule. Exercise restraint in the consumption of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats as well. The opposite, like any lack of moderation, is a health hazard.

Now proteins are various macromolecules that comprise a large number of amino acids (nitrogenous molecules that occur in twenty-two different forms). In the course of digestion, these macromolecules are broken down into these molecular components, which act thereafter as raw material or building blocks to produce new molecules or new macromolecules (polypeptides, smaller than proteins, or proteins) that suit our physiological needs in many areas: the metabolism, the blood, the mucous membranes, the skin and the tendons, the muscles, plus the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. These molecular components act so if the body has enough carbohydrates and fats to satisfy its energy requirements. Otherwise, they are stripped of their nitrogenous part and mobilized into satisfying these requirements. This constitutes a waste of precious amino acids and a burden to the kidneys that are in charge of eliminating the free nitrogenous part after the liver has transformed it into urea. As it happened, the main sources of protein – namely, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and the bread, cereal, or pasta made from these grains, together with milk products and eggs – are also rich in carbohydrates or fats. Here the fats that matter are saturated or monounsaturated, whereas the polyunsaturated ones are not a favorable means of satisfying energy requirements, given the many other important roles they played.

Lastly, minerals and vitamins are a group of some thirty substances that complement carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. A deficiency in one of them can hamper a bodily function and jeopardize in so doing the health of an individual. Collectively, as precursors or components of useful agents, or as useful agents themselves, they assist in numerous processes: vision, nerve impulses and neurotransmission, muscle contraction, digestion and absorption, regulation of blood sugar and of the metabolic rate, respiration, energy production, regeneration and reproduction, formation and maintenance of bones and teeth, coagulation, protection against free radicals (noxious atoms or molecules), and immunity. The usual sources of carbohydrates, lipids, and protein already supply minerals and vitamins, all the more since they are unrefined. Refining is a terrible process that depletes fibers and nutrients in foods. Nevertheless, to make sure There is enough minerals and vitamins, round off these usual sources with additional vegetables: carrots, radishes, cauliflower, red cabbage, green vegetables, leafy or non-leafy, garlic, and onions. Drink plenty of water, though not during or immediately after meals lest it interferes with digestion by flooding the stomach. Drinking water typically contains a minute quantity of minerals. Much more importantly, it has the ability to replenish the bodily fluids and cleanse the system of undesirable substances.

In the effort to be healthy, a reasonable diet is not everything. Fresh air and regular exercise ought to form part of this effort. There are two types of exercise; both require stretching, before and after, plus warmup and cooldown periods, to avoid injuries.

The first type of exercise is anaerobic, not dependent on the intake of oxygen. An example of anaerobic exercise is weightlifting. Done frequently, in vigorous workouts, it strengthens muscles and bones. The second and most beneficial type of exercise is aerobic, dependent on the intake of oxygen. An example of aerobic exercise is jogging. Done every day or a few times a week, for at least fifteen minutes (enough to markedly and sustainedly increase the activity of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, responsible for delivering oxygen to the body tissues), it yields numerous health benefits. Besides strengthening muscles and bones, it raises endurance, improves the handling of stress, promotes good mood, boosts the immune function, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, and helps to prevent obesity together with disorders like diabetes and hypertension that often accompany this condition. In a nutshell, fresh air and regular exercise are important aspects of a wholesome lifestyle. They result in someone being stronger, feeling better, and probably living longer.

Grow Your Own Herbs

So many herbs, so many uses

  
Herbs are no doubt among the easiest plants to grow in your garden. Many of them are fairly drought tolerant and have a blooming period albeit short. In addition, herbs lend a delicious fragrance to the garden.

While most herbs are easily grown in containers which is a major plus, if you have space, consider planting an entire herb garden. It needn’t take that much space. A plot of land measuring approximate 200-400 square feet should do you quite nicely. Find out the diameter of a mature plant; obtain some graph paper and sketch out your garden before you dig a single hole. Remember to allow at least 1 foot of space between mature plants for ease of weeding and pruning.

One of the most fragrant herbs to add to your garden is lavender. The scent of lavender in bloom is heavenly and is wonderful for making scented sachets to hang in your closet or place in your dresser drawers. This is the only herb I would suggest you plant as many as you have space for as those sachets make wonderful gifts.

As the song goes, 4 great savory herbs to add to your garden are Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Fresh chopped parsley is a wonder addition to potato and pasta salads, not to mention a lovely garnish for many other dishes. Try drying sage leaves to add to many dishes including stuffing for turkey and chicken. And, both rosemary and thyme are excellent accents when roasting poultry and lamb among other savory dishes.

Tarragon is a wonderful addition to soups and vegetables. This herb is also good in tuna, egg, pasta and green salads. Add when making sauces for fish or chicken, it’s a must for béarnaise sauce.

If you intend upon canning pickled vegetables from your garden or making pretty vinegars for gifts think about planting some dill. While its true you can purchase dried dill weed very cheaply, there is no way you can get a full stalk of dill unless you grow it or pay rather dearly for it when needed in quantity.

In my opinion, no herb garden is complete without chives. In fact, if I could plant only one herb, it would be chives because they are so very useful. While I love green onions, by the time I get around to using them, alas they all but lifeless. No problem with chives growing right outside my door. They not only add that touch of needed green, they also have that subtle onion flavor which is perfect for salads and potato toppings.

Unfortunately, another one of my favorite herbs is not worth planting. Cilantro tends to bolt so quickly you would be lucky to retrieve a leaf or two. Obviously those that grow cilantro commercially know something we don’t know and they aren’t telling. If you figure it out please let me in on the secret. I will let you in on my secret for preserving store bought cilantro, however. Place the bunch of cilantro in a glass of water and cover with the plastic bag it came in. This way, the cilantro will stay fresh and crisp for up to 2 weeks in your fridge.

On a final note, let’s talk about mint. A favorite of mine is pineapple mint. It has a wonderful fragrance and taste and makes a lovely tea and garnish. However, there is a real problem with mint. It’s tangled roots go deep and it tends to try to take over every other plant in the garden. Spray it with Round-up and it comes right back again. Once planted, you simply can’t get rid of it! So, if you want to add mint to your garden, plant it in a container and move the container often enough to insure it doesn’t take root in the ground through the drainage hole in the container.

Plan Ahead for a Great Garden

How to Start a Family Vegetable Garden this Spring | Inhabitots

Every year spring comes and I get so excited to get outside and plant my garden.  I can just taste those fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and all the other wonderful produce that I will grow this summer.

I stop at all the seed displays and see if there is anything new that I want to try and grow this year and take pleasure in my anticipation to dig in the dirt.

I watch the weather and am careful not to plant to soon, I don’t want my plants caught in a late spring freeze of course.  Then the time comes when I just can’t stand it any longer I head to the nursery to buy my plants.  I of course get way too many of everything and then I patiently haul them outside every morning to get some sun and then bring them in each night until the big day arrives.

I get my garden area all rototilled and ready and invest in some plant food to help my little darlings along after I get them planted.  I’ve got my stakes and string ready to make neat little rows of carrots and radishes.  I’ve got my wire cages ready to place over my tomatoes plants and am just itching to get started.

Finally the day has arrived and I can plant my garden.  I start out the morning with enthusiasm and get everything planted just so.  It is a little more crowded than I would like because I seem to always try to fit too many plants and seeds into the area, but I tell myself it will all be worth it.

All through June and July I lovingly cultivate my plants, weeding and watering with a vengeance.  August comes and we are thoroughly enjoying all our fresh vegetables.  But by then it is getting a little hot out and weeding isn’t quite as fun anymore.  Toward the middle of August I have vegetables coming out my ears and it is time to can and freeze all this freshness for winter.

I start out with salsa and then move on to tomatoes and pickles.  Then of course I need to get those strawberrys in the freezer. And I don’t want the corn to get too mature before I get it into the freezer.  After a week or two my kitchen is a wreck and I am tired of spending the last of my summer days inside.  If I never see another tomato or ear of corn I will be extremely happy. Between getting ready for the new school year and freezing and canning all my great produce I am thoroughly exhausted.  Plus it seems like with this heat watering my garden, let alone the lawn is a never ending chore.

But of course we don’t want anything to go to waste so I head down to get more canning supplies and keep at it.  When it is all said and done I have way too much for my family to use so of course I give it away.  You don’t want those vegetables to go to waste you know.

By this time I look out and my peaches and apples seem just right for picking and the process starts over with them.  While I am working on my fruit of course the garden is still producing and even though I quit canning and freezing from there I can’t let it go to waste so I make sure every morning and night I pick what is ripe and give it away to those that will surely appreciate it.  Because by this time the thought of eating anything out of the garden is not very appealing, neither is cooking in my kitchen that has become a canning disaster area.

Then the next big day that I can’t seem to wait for, the big freeze.  Finally my gardening job has ended.  All I have to do now is get everything in the compost pile, re-rototill, and fertilize.

As I look at my kitchen and see all the fruits, vegetables, pickles, and jellies ready for winter I am proud, but really really tired.  I vow next year I will not take on so much.  Last year I went ahead and planned my garden in October and made specific counts of just how much I was going to plant.  I made counts of just how much I had frozen and canned to see just how much we would use in the coming year.  I made little footnotes of my thoughts on the subject as well.

Well spring is approaching, well kind of there is still snow on the ground, and I got out my garden plan and looked at all the produce my family still hasn’t eaten and thought about how much of it I had given away this winter already and thought maybe I should follow this new garden plan as I started to unfold all my notes.  I vaguely remember thinking Pace salsa is almost as good as my own, and who really can tell if the canned tomatoes came from the garden or not after they have been cooked.

I don’t know if I will be able to stick to this streamlined plan when my green thumb starts itching to grow things but I keep telling myself if we run out of salsa, jelly, corn, or tomatoes it won’t be the end of the world.  They are readily available at the grocery store and in the long run may cost less than me putting them up myself. I was totally convinced in October, kind of convinced now, but I am wondering come May if I will be able to stick to it.

I have a feeling when the grass starts turning green, and the tulips show their colors all my best laid plans for a more relaxing late summer are going to go by the wayside.  Oh well, I guess their could be worse addictions.  I wonder is there such a thing as a 12 step program for those addicted to gardening in excess?

Kids Love Gardening

imageApparently, we can see how nature is treated these days.  It is a sad thing to know that people do not pay attention so much anymore to the environmental problems.  What can we do about this?  It’s as simple as starting with the children.  It is good to see the children’s involvement with environment-friendly activities. One such nature-loving activity that children could easily get their hands on is gardening. Why should you consider gardening for your children?

Here are the benefits that gardening could easily provide the children with:

1.  Science
In planting, children are indirectly taught the wonders of science like the plants life cycle and how humans intervention can break or make the environment.  They can have a first hand experience on the miracle of life through a seed.  This would definitely be a new and enjoyable experience for the kids.

2.  Life
Watching a seed grow into a tree is just as wondrous as the conception to birth and growth of a child.  In time, kids will learn to love their plants and appreciate the life in them. Gardening could actually help simulate how life should be treated — it should be with care. The necessities to live will be emphasized to kids with the help of gardening – water, sunlight, air, soil. Those necessities could easily be corresponded to human necessities, i.e., water, shelter, air, food.  By simply weeding out, one could educate how bad influences should be avoided to be able to live life smoothly.

3.  Relaxation
Studies show that gardening can reduce stress because of its calming effect. This is applicable to any age group.  More so, it stimulates all the five senses.  Believe it or not, gardening may be used as therapy to children who have been abused or those who are members of broken homes.  It helps build one’s self-esteem.

4.  Quality Time with the Family
You can forget about your stressful work life for a while be soothed by the lovely ambience in the garden.  You can play and spend quality time with your children.  You can talk while watering the plants or you can work quietly beside each other.  The bottom line is, always do what you have to do, together with your kids.  You might discover a lot of new things about your child while mingling with them in your garden.

Let kids become aware of their environment’s needs. And one way to jump start that environmental education may be through gardening.  It’s hitting two birds with one stone — teach them to respect life while you bond with them.

Zucchini Overload?

USDA summer squash

USDA summer squash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

Dating back to 7000 B. C., zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) is native to Central and South America. Sometimes called by the nickname “Italian Squash,” zucchini was brought to North America by its southern neighbours. Early European explorers introduced zucchini to Italy and other countries in Europe. Italians initially grew zucchini for their sweet, edible blossoms, later the hearty fruits were experimented with producing the delectable dishes that resulted in zucchini being dubbed Italian squash. Up until the 20th Century, most Americans considered zucchini a treat reserved for eating on special occasions and were store-bought instead of grown in gardens.

Part of the summer squash family, zucchini is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron, folate, copper, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorous. Many of the nutrients have been shown to be helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Summer squash’s magnesium has been shown to be helpful for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Together with the potassium in summer squash, magnesium is also helpful for reducing high blood pressure. All summer squash are perfect diet foods – low in calories, sodium, fat-free, and provide a source of fiber. All parts of the zucchini are edible.

How To Grow

Zucchini is probably the best known of the summer squashes. It is a type of narrow squash that resembles a cucumber in size and shape. It has smooth, thin skin that is either yellow or green in colour and can be striped or speckled. Its tender flesh is creamy white in colour and features numerous seeds. Its edible flowers are often used in French and Italian cooking.

Zucchini can be planted by direct seeding or by transplanting young plants that have been started indoors. Seed directly into the ground as soon as the soil reaches temperatures of 60°F/16°C. for vines. Fill the holes with compost and mound slightly. Plant seeds 1in/2.5cm deep.

Zucchini is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes cucumbers, melons, gourds, and squash, all particularly sensitive to frost. Select a sheltered spot, and prepare holes about 12in/30cm in diameter and 12in/30cm deep. Measuring from the centre, space the holes 36in/90cm apart for bush types, 6ft/1.8m apart for vines. To conserve space, squash can be trained over a sturdy trellis, in which case 2ft/60cm between plants is enough.

Zucchini grows best when exposed to 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Regular watering is essential for summer squash. Feed the plants with a high-potassium organic liquid feed to produce a higher yield. Thick mulch added after planting will preserve moisture and keep the fruits from touching the ground where they will become soiled and be exposed to insects and diseases.

Harvesting

The flavor of zucchini is best when it is less than six inches long. They should be firm, but not hard. Zucchini are prolific producers and regular harvesting will promote continued yield throughout the growing season. Harvest by cutting the stems from the plants gently with a paring knife. As they are composed mainly of water, summer squashes dehydrate rapidly. Harvest just before cooking and keep in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag until cooking. Don’t forget that squash blossoms are delicious to eat.

Small summer squashes are used skin and all. Larger squash need their skin and seeds removed: slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Wash summer squash under cool running water and then cut off both ends. You can then proceed to cut it into the desired size and shape for the particular recipe.

In the kitchen, zucchini can be steamed, sautéed, boiled, baked, fried, grilled, and stuffed. Some ideas include: serve raw as an appetiser with a vegetable dip or salad dressing, grate and sauté with thinly sliced garlic, add to breads, muffins, cakes, stews, casseroles, soups, sprinkle grated zucchini or other summer squash on salads or sandwiches. It can be preserved by canning, freezing, and drying.

In the garden, some gardeners let the squashes ramble through the corn patch, where their sandpapery leaves deter raccoons. Good companion plants for zucchini are: corn, marjoram, and nasturtium. Don’t grow zucchini and Irish potatoes together as they are incompatible.

Tips for Container Gardens

My lovely container garden

My lovely container garden (Photo credit: staticgirl)

Dear Dr Mom,

Here are several tips for creating a wonderful hanging basket or container this summer. The first is to use an artificial soil composed mostly of peat moss. Good soils such as Fafard or Pro-Mix use perlite, peat, and other ingredients to produce a soil that will not compact over the summer. Real garden soil compacts and turns into concrete under the pressure of regular watering. And when it does, plant roots stop growing because they require good open spaces to move into and absorb nutrients. Hard, compacted soils do not grow good plants so do not use real soil in your containers. I re-use my artificial potting soil from year to year. I dump it out of the pot. Chew it up with a shovel to cut up all last year’s roots and add approximately 10 % by volume of compost. The compost increases air spaces and gives plants a boost in healthy nutrition.

Feed your plants weekly. Nitrogen, the engine of plant growth, is water soluble and as you water your containers from the top the dissolved nitrogen is leaving from the bottom. I use a fish-emulsion liquid feed with seaweed to provide all the trace nutrients my plants require and recommend it highly. You can use any liquid plant food (like Miracle Grow or Shultz) to promote growth. Compost tea is the Cadillac of liquid plant food and if you make your own compost tea, your plants will respond with bigger and better blooms as well as increased vigour.

And finally, no matter the size of the container, it is important to soak it all the way to the bottom at each watering. Continue watering until water emerges from the pot bottom. This ensures the roots can reach all parts of the container and grow properly.

Money-Saving Gardening Tips

IMGP0854 - vege garden

IMGP0854 – vege garden (Photo credit: RaeAllen)

It’s easy to spend a fortune every year creating a beautiful yard. These five tips can help save you money in both this, and future gardening seasons.

1. Plan your vegetable garden according to what your neighbors are planting so you can share your vegetables when they’re ready for eating. Often I’ve had too many of one kind of vegetable I couldn’t give away because my friend’s were ripe at the same time.

2. Select perennials rather than annuals for your flowerbeds. As they multiply each year, cut them back and exchange with your friends so you both have lovely gardens and save money at the same time.

3. Compost your kitchen scraps, as well as your coffee grounds.  The end result is much better than any potting soil you can ever get buy from a nursery or hardware store. The price is right, and this is definitely recycling!

4. Instead of using mulch, try pebbles or small rocks in your garden as ground cover.  This will save you lots of cash since you won’t need to buy mulch in the spring and fall of every year.

5. Spend more money now by purchasing better quality gardening tools and you will save in the long run.  They will last for years, saving you dollars because you don’t need to replace them every planting season.  Same goes for gardening gloves- make sure you buy the best you can afford so they last all season.

Happy Gardening!