Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tip #31: Get acquainted with the raw foodists

Puttanesca Ravioli from Catch a Healthy Habit, Fairfield, CT
I first learned about the raw food diet when I started researching green smoothies and I read about Victoria Boutenko and how her family reversed severe ailments like diabetes by switching their diet to a raw, plant-based diet. I honestly thought that they probably were really strange people, as the whole idea not only sounded insane but also clearly very difficult.

Over the years I kept hearing more about vegan raw foodists, and how they all sounded very happy and healthy (NPR "The raw food movement"). I still was quite skeptical until I heard about a BBC show called "The truth about food" which had a segment (called "The evolution diet) in which 9 people were put in a zoo and fed only fruits, vegetables, nuts and honey. The results of their 12 day experiment  were nothing short of astounding: a 23% average drop in cholesterol, their blood pressure went from 140/83 to 122/76 and they also lost almost 10 lbs per person (although that was not the intention of the experiment). I saw a summary of the show on our TV and what surprised me the most was not even those shocking numbers, but the fact that these people, who were regular, completely normal people, said that, after the second day, they experienced a sense of total happiness, resulting on complete cooperation among themselves, which was actually not what the producers had expected (they thought it could become another awful reality TV spectacle with people fighting because they missed their burgers and fries).

I'm still not sure that doing a 100% raw food diet is feasible or convenient for me. I did try it once for 3 days, and I did like how I felt. But the point of this tip is that, by looking at the way raw foodists prepare their food I have learned immensely and I think anyone can benefit from it. They believe that when we cook our food, we lose their enzymes, and that we really were meant, as animals, to not eat cooked food. From everything I've read, this makes sense. In general, I think we should eat things that are as close as possible to their original state. And, although you also get great benefits from soups and bean stews, it is true that some forms of cooking, such as grilling or charring can cause cancer. So, I think its is a good idea to add more raw foods into our daily routine, and this is quite easy if you start by just making sure you have a big salad every day.

But I've also learned from raw foodists that you can make absolutely delicious things without the need to cook. We are lucky were we live that we have a raw food restaurant, Catch a Healthy Habit, which is absolutely wonderful. Although I have yet to taste something I didn't like, my absolute favorite is their Puttanesca ravioli. The mixture of flavors, olives, capers, tomato, is just exquisite. And here are two websites that I use regularly, particularly when we are invited to our friends houses for dinner and I like to make some type of dessert for myself:
And one thing that has been very helpful in my case is that I have learned to substitute for things I cannot (or shouldn't) eat. For example, in order to control my blood sugar level, my nutritionists recommends that I only eat 3 servings of grains a day (about 1 1/2 cups, eg. 3 pieces of toast or just a cup and half of rice. A day. Yes, quite awful). This was really hard to do at the beginning, but now I, for example, eat a leaf of lettuce instead of corn tortilla or raw zucchini spaghetti, instead of pasta, etc. These are actually surprisingly delicious. I learned about these options through the raw food recipes.

What about you? Have you ever been to a raw food restaurant? Do you have a favorite recipe? Let me know!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tip #30: Drink Green Tea

Today, a short post. I had just decided to write about green tea this week when I got this newsletter in my e-mail:

By the way, that's another newsletter that I highly recommend subscribing to, this time for health. So, if you click on the link above and read it, you can see that green tea can lower your chances of a stroke, or heart disease, have less cognitive impairment in old age, younger cells, etc. There seems to be a lot of research about green tea that proves it is really an amazing drink, even for strange things like genital warts or Gorlin syndrome, whatever that is.

I remember, right after my diagnosis, a good friend recommended I start drinking green tea. But, of course, I didn't pay any attention. I had tasted it, didn't like it. Why bother. But then, I started reading about green-tea any time I investigated about cancer, and most places that I trusted (or all of them, really) recommended green-tea. Finally, even my nutritionist actually "prescribed" it: three cups, daily, as food (not supplement). Ok, I got the message. So, I started drinking it, and, of course, I cannot say for sure what it has done for me, but I now like drinking tea even better than water. I brew some before going to work, put it in a big glass container and drink it even while I'm teaching.

If you don't like green tea that much, there are now many flavored versions that are no so bad. I like several Yogi green teas, one of them even has amla in it, so you can multiply the antioxidant punch. And if none of the green teas convince you, you should try hibiscus tea or chai tea, which are also full of wonderful properties (according to Dr. Greger, my go to guy for nutrition information). Just remember not to add milk, as apparently cow proteins bind up all the good phytonutrients of tea.

Do you have a favorite green tea?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tip #29: Buy cute underwear

Last year, one of the members of the "Metastatic Breast Cancer Babes" in the Crazy, Sexy, Life Community just said casually that Victoria Secret was having a sale of 5 panties for $26. This was among messages of what chemotherapy to do next, how to deal with pain, how do you tell your kids, etc. In other words, not related at all to the main purpose of the community. And yet... What happened was kind of funny. First, one other lady mentioned she had indeed followed the advice and bought some panties, then another, then one more, and then, me. And you have to understand, I'm not a sexy panty kind of person, not even a printed panty kind of person. Or I wasn't. Until I got my panties from Victoria Secret, pretty, cute, different, colorful and maybe, one or two, even sexy (OK, one).

And I really was happy. And I think the other ladies were too. I don't know their reasons (although I do believe that this instance provided a moment of  normalcy, which is one of the things you most miss when you are ill. Here we were, just a group of 40 or 50 something ladies, giggling and getting excited about a silly thing like underwear. Yoo hoo! We were NORMAL!). But, in my case, this was also a moment of lightness, of fun, of adventure, even, as I had never given importance to my underwear.

And, interestingly enough, the effects of clothes on people have been studied by psychologists, and there is even a term, "enclothed cognition," which covers the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes. We seem to add symbolic meaning to the clothes we wear. To prove this theory, two groups of students had to complete an attention test. Both groups were asked to wear a white lab coat, but one group was told that the white coat belonged to doctors and the other one was told it belonged to painters. The first group, indeed, did much better than the second group. Isn't that crazy? So, the first group thought they were smarter, and acted that way.

All right, so I think that maybe I just must have added some symbolic meaning to the underwear. It gave me power, the power to be healthy, or at least to think and act like I was. A bit like Superman's cape but in reverse. Not supernatural powers, but just natural.

OK, but what about the rest of you? Most of the people who read this blog don't have an illness (I do believe I know all of you, love you all, and thanks once more for reading, you always make me happy) but I still think the tip applies to everyone. Underwear is not too expensive and it's kind of fun to buy, so the experience itself may be good. But also, you can, as we have seen, attach any meaning to it, and because it is hidden, it does feel like you have those special powers right there, just in case they may be needed.

Options: top for men, bottom for women
And, I'm lucky enough to know two people who have just launched an underwear line, HIPSTRIPES, which actually is underwear with a message, as you can see from the picture, besides being very high quality. And, this month they have a free-shipping offer (by the way). What do you think of their product? It definitely works well with the psychological theories we just saw, only this time it is even more clear as to which meaning we need to add to it. They are also looking for ideas as to what other messages they can include. I think I would like to see something like "I'm worth it and I like it that way," for example, and I'm sure they would sell a lot of  "f**ck cancer" ones, although I wouldn't buy that in one in particular. I prefer positive messages. :)

What do you think of my tip? Have you actually tried it? Did it work? Let me know your thoughts and also if you have any possible messages for my good friends at HIPSTRIPES!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tip #28: Get Inspired (II)

What could be easier than getting daily doses of brief inspiration right into your e-mail inbox? I started looking for inspiration when I was diagnosed, something to take my mind away from my situation, even for a second, and little by little, I now have quite a long list of these subscriptions. Here are my favorites. Most are short and can definitely be skipped if pressed for time. Some are really silly, some are a bit more serious. I used to read the Connecticut Post in the morning, now I really prefer my e-mail. :)

Daily quote from the Law of Attraction  Although I definitely do not agree with some of the tenets of the Law of Attraction, these little nuggets that I have now been receiving for more than a year make me always think. I do feel they do help me and I like the slightly cheesy blue ocean picture that comes with them.

Rick Hanson Just One Thing Newsletter  I found out about Rick Hanson thanks to a friend's comment on this blog (which made me really happy). He is a psychologist who combines science with traditions like Buddhism to give practical advice to rewire our brain with simple, easy practices. I have to admit that this newsletter is a bit too long for me, but when I do read it, it's very helpful. I now subscribe through my Google Reader to his weekly one minute videos in  which fits better with my "let's do things kind of quickly" aspect of my personality.

An example of Daily Now e-mail message

Daily NOW Moment These are written by Elisha Goldstein, another psychologist who uses mindfulness to treat his patients. You have an example here. I really like that they are very varied and some of them are quite humorous as well, but always useful. I have used some of them already in this blog.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, author of the book by the same name, in which she actually researched happiness from many points of view. Her webpage is full of interesting things. I also subscribe to her blog through my Google Reader, but her e-mails tend to be just a quote, sometimes a link to a video (like this one: Short and sweet.

Here are two more which are longer postings and more sporadic, as they are really blog posts, similar to what you get when you are subscribed to my blog. I still prefer to have them in my e-mail, rather than in Google Reader, because I feel they are then part of my "life" that way, as if, in a way, these people were my friends and were sending me e-mails. Kind of silly.

The Minimalists Two young guys decide that their corporate job did not make them happy and started searching for true meaning in more simple things. I admire what they have done with their lives and I'm also reading their book, Minimalism, Live a Meaningful Life, to see if I can learn to have a more simple, less cluttered life (as you can see from my long list of e-mails, I'm not really doing that well).

In Over Your Head  I discovered this blog after I read somewhere that the author had read a book every week and that he also walked the Camino de Santiago (not at the same time). All that, plus the title of the blog made it a winner for me. Lots of swear words here, but I'm always impressed with his ideas.

And one more thing, just in case you haven't had enough already:

Brain Pickings This is a curated site by Maria Popova, a journalist, where she collects interesting items from many different fields, but always valuable and beautifully presented. I have subscribed to their weekly newsletter, although her postings are so popular that I tend to have read about them on Twitter before I get the Sunday e-mail. The only problem I see with this newsletter is that it's so long. I usually just have time to glance through it, get amazed at the fact that somebody found so many incredible things and then move on.

Do you have any recommendations for me? And, most importantly, do you understand now why I never reply quickly to my e-mails?

Lots of love.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tip #27: Include cruciferous vegetables in your diet

I really believe that sometimes we make a mountain out of many things in life when we really don't have to. One of these is definitely diet. We worry whether we should become vegan or paleo or Atkins or whatever, and we get so concerned about doing it 100% that we end up failing because it's just too hard, we feel deprived of too many things. So I think a better approach is to try to add new things into our diet instead. One of the things you should definitely add and have most days is cruciferous vegetables.
My nutritionist recommends for me that I eat at least one cup a day, cooked or raw, so I've been doing that for more than a year and it is definitely not very difficult to do. From what I've read, even if you do this two or three times a week, you are already adding great benefits to your health.

Cruciferous vegetables have been called the "Super Veggies" for all the benefits they provide, such as fiber, vitamins, and other disease fighting phytochemicals. They.have the most powerful anticancer effects of all foods, both for prevention as well as for people in my situation. One great thing is that there is so many of them, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, arugula, bok choy, etc. In Wikipedia, they list an impressive thirty seven! It is then very easy to add to your diet without being bored by just one thing. There are days when I am running around, with no time for anything, so I just add my daily cup (this time raw) to whatever main dish I'm eating. I particularly like arugula or broccoli sprouts for this purpose. It really has been one of the easiest things to do in terms of changing my diet.

Another thing is that variety of fruits and vegetables is also as important (or more) as quantity, as we can read here, Fighting Inflammation with Food Synergy, and having such a long list of veggies in this family makes changing things often quite easy.

Here you have more information about them:

And here you have some recipes that I like:
  • Cauliflower Risotto. This is one of my favorites ways to eat cauliflower, and if you chop it in the Vitamix (by dropping big pieces into the machine while running), it is really easy to make.
  • Braised Bok Choy (at the end of article).
  • Basic Low Fat Coleslaw.
  • Kale chips. I came up with this recipe trying to imitate Brad's Raw Kale chips. I use a dehydrator that we were given as a gift many years ago, but I think they could be made in a regular oven as well, just in very low temperature for several hours. My kids love them. That says it all.
  • Peppery Salad dressing. This dressing is based on the Kale chips recipe. It does not have any cruciferous vegetable, but I like it with arugula, cauliflower or broccoli, and thus, you combine some of the most packed with antioxidant vegetables there are.
Do you have any other great recipes that we should all know about? Let me know!

photo credit: Esteban Cavrico via photo pin cc