Top 5 Ancestral Arab Foods to Prevent Dementia

Originally published on Arab America, a national organization founded with the purpose of promoting an accurate image about the Arab American community and the Arab world.

Modern allopathic medicine offers a great deal to us in the intervention, prevention, and reversal of acute and chronic diseases. On a whole, we enjoy a much longer life expectancy than our ancestors. But perhaps there is still much to learn.  A great deal that modern medicine still cannot fully address in informing the quality of our prolonged lifespans. The practice of aging gracefully, with dignity, and vitality.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 47.5 million suffer from dementia worldwide and there are 7.7 million new cases every year. The WHO predicts may double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.

Our ancestors knew a little something about improving – and celebrating – the quality of our lives. The Arab or Mediterranean diet, now considered the gold standard in nutrition for its track record in cultivating longevity and optimal health, is distinguished by its whole grains, legumes, and freshly foraged greens simmered in generous amounts of olive oil and garlic.

And perhaps these ancestral prescriptions for living, complete with traditional foods of the Arab diet, offer much more wisdom than previously thought. And modern science is just beginning to confirm what our mothers and grandmothers already knew.

1.  Swirls of Olive Oil

Source: Medical News Today

A staple of the Arab and Mediterranean Diet, olive oil is a high quality monounsaturated fat rich in Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) – that is, fatty acids that your body does not naturally produce – like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. An elixir, a life force unto itself, olive oil not only nourishes our senses and enhances the flavor of traditional Arab dishes, but it is also vital to: improving digestive function and nutrient absorption; promoting healthy skin and hair; increasing satiety between meals (which (reduces mindless snacking); and supporting cognitive brain function, with improved concentration, mood, and memory.

Researchers are now establishing the correlation between low fat diets and the increasing rates of ADHD in children and Alzheimer’s in seniors.

The human brain, after all is almost 60% fat and we need healthy amount of high quality fats from dietary sources to maintain the balance of fatty molecules and promote optimal cognitive function into old age.

2. Fish of the Mediterranean

Source: Food Network

While our ancestors enjoyed chiefly plant-based diets of freshly foraged greens, whole grains, and beans, they regularly indulged in heart-healthy fish, rich with polyunsaturated fat and the long chain fatty acids vital to cardiovascular health and cognitive function. In particular, small oily fish like mackerel and sardines are particularly rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are effective in preventing brain atrophy and slowing cognitive decline. A recent study concludes that people who regularly eat fish have more voluminous brains than those who do not—preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Remember, if the human brain is mostly comprised of fat, and we need a healthy amount of high quality fat from dietary sources to promote healthy cognitive function, then the essential fatty acids  found in fish offer a vital lifeline to slowing cognitive decline and aging gracefully.

3. Sprinkles of Za’atar

Source: Spice Trekkers

A staple in the Levantine kitchen, za’atar is a traditional, dare we say even magical,  spice blend typically crafted of wild thyme, oregano, sumac and toasted sesame.

Research confirms that za’atar herbs offer significant health-enhancing properties, since sumac, thyme, and oregano are full of flavonoids, organic compounds that are important dietary sources of antioxidants that can protect cells from damage.

Particularly, carvacrol, a chemical compound found in thyme and oregano, has been found in a recent study to positively affect levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine — which regulates in the brain’s rewards system — and serotonin, which is supports optimal learning and healthy mood.   Additionally the compound has been proven to alleviate symptoms of dementia in Alzheimer’s.

In a recent post in The Salt, NPR’s food blog, the author recounts folk tradition from certain parts of the Middle East that suggests that za’atar has brain-boosting properties. So much so that Syrian children are often encouraged to sprinkle the spice blend on meals before exams.

4. Spoonfuls of Honey

Source: David Wolfe

Ah, honey, another elixir of the gods. The golden, naturally sweet indulgence long praised by our ancestors, from ancient Sumeria and into the modern age, for its nutritional, therapeutic, and cosmetic applications.

Raw honey, which contains naturally anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-histamine qualities, also possesses nootropic or cognition enhancing effects, such improved memory. Research suggests that the polyphenol constituents of honey can counter oxidative stress, restore cellular antioxidant defenses, and support cognitive function.

In a randomized, placebo controlled, double blind, 5 year pilot study conducted in Iraqi research hospitals at the University of Babylon, researchers successfully utilized honey as a preventative therapy against dementia and cognitive decline.

And yet another reason to indulge in honey, the sweetest, most magical of natural medicines.

5. Walnuts

Source: Authority Nutrition

Another rich source of polyunsaturated fat and long chain omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts have long been celebrated for their positive impact on cardiovascular health. A recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles, posits that adults who consistently eat walnuts can improve their cognitive function. In fact, researchers concluded that adults who consumed walnuts consistently demonstrated greater cognitive function than those who did not, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

I might also offer the qualitative observation that walnuts even look like brains, which gives us energetic clues about their healing properties.

Above all, our ancestors knew, and modern science continues to confirm, that in addition to a diet nutrient-rich plant-based diet, factors that contribute to aging gracefully with vitality include a healthy active lifestyle with nourishing connection to our communities and spiritual practices.

To Your Health!

HeyDahls: Honoring Your Moon Time with April Ramee

For this week’s HeyDahls question, I’ve asked my friend and DC herbalist April Ramee of Antler Alchemy to join me as a guest expert on moon cycles and feminine rhythm and flow.

Q: My PMS pains are getting worse. Pre-period symptoms begin 10 days before my cycle and I experience intense pain and cramping all over my body. I have had cramps all my life but it has been getting worse after 30. My doctor says I should take painkillers or get on the pill.  Do you have any diet or lifestyle recommendations to relieve painful PMS?

A: Thank you for writing in. The PMS symptoms you are experiencing are perhaps manifestations of more systemic chronic inflammation.  And like many chronic inflammatory disorders, there is no quick fix here. The path to healing these symptoms will be a process of slow, deliberate, patient embodiment. So, I’ve asked my girl April to join us in fielding your question. Take it away April!!

 

HeyDahls: Moon Cycle with April Ramee from Dahlia Shaaban on Vimeo.

Sacred Moon Time

by April Ramee

There are many ways to nourish the body, soul, and mind during menstruation or I like to call it, the moon time. This term is used because similar to the moon a woman has a cycle that lasts between 28-32 days. During the time of mensuration there can be pains, aches, and discomforts. This stems from many different reasons such as hormonal changes, diet, stress, and sometimes more serious issues such as dysmenorrhea, fibroids, endometriosis, imbalanced hormones, and more. Today I will discuss some lifestyle recommendations, herbs, and supplements. While this list is short, there are more herbs available and I suggest meeting with an herbalist to discuss which ones are right for you.

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Most importantly is diet. Eating the right foods for your body is the most important aspect of life and thank your lucky stars you have found Live Deliciously. In general, avoiding foods that are processed and high in sugars and gluten is beneficial for the moon time, which can be challenging if your comfort foods are in that list.

Sleep! Get rest. I know this can be challenging but lack of sleep can create higher stress, which is also high on the list to avoid in life. Stress harms our body in so many ways and creates imbalances. These imbalances can cause a more painful moon time.

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Change your products to organic or the cup. The extra pesticides and materials that are in our tampons and pads can cause irritations and sensitivities which may play out in cramps and painful menstruation. Not to mention, they are harmful for the environment as well. With a cup you decrease your dependency on needing a store every month for tampons or pads and can form a deeper connection to your cycle.

Now that we cover a short basics, let us dive into the juicy part, the herbs, because quite frankly, avoiding stress, eating the best, and changing our products does not happen all at once, but if we support ourselves with herbs we can move slowly into more changes.

  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) – an herb best for nervous tension and cerebral overstimulation. Sedates without causing drowsiness and works wonders on spasms. A wonderful choice for the woman who is over worked, unable to sleep, stressed, and having spasms, uterine congestion, painful cramping, and more.
  • Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) – The name of the plant speaks to the mother or the womb. This plant is a sedative in the mint family that is calming to nervousness due to female hormonal changes and a heart tonic. A bitter herb that relaxes the uterus helping with cramps, pelvic inflammatory disease, irregular menses, nervous tension, spasms, and more. **Not recommended during pregnancy**
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – A favorite herb of mine that is for the wounded warrior, which means it has a deep affinity for the blood. Not only is this herb great for starting your menses it helps stop it if there is too much blood. Wonderful remedy for inflammation of the ovaries, menstrual cramping, endometriosis, fibroids. Every woman should have this herb on stock in multiple forms for any wound and cycle times.
  • Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) – A sweet, astringent herb that tones the uterus and intestines rather than relax which may be needed for those women with irregular flow, pain due to uterine weakness, and diarrhea.
  • Nettles (Urtica dioica) – While this plant is not normally known for menstrual pain, it is a wonderful nourishing tonic for the well being of the blood, kidneys, and more through providing iron, magnesium, vitamin b, a, d, and other minerals. The best way to drink this herb is every day in an overnight infusion.

As always with the diverse world of plants, there are more healing allies available but these are some of my top favorites. Visit your herb store for the plants to enjoy in a tea, infusion, or tincture. You can dive into one plant and take notes on how the plant effects your cycle. Or due to the complexity of humans and our needs, you may need other supporting herbs in conjunction of one of the above, check in with your local herbalist on the best combination for yourself.

PMS; Food (9)

 

If you have any questions, concerns, recommendations write to April Rameé the founder of Antler Alchemy an herbal apothecary and clinical practice in Washington, DC.

 

 

 

 

 

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HeyDahls: But Seriously, How Do I Cook Whole Grains?

Q: Why do you have to rinse farro and quinoa? And how important is it to do so?

-Kaitlin, Raymond, Maine

A: Thank you for your question Kaitlin!  Mind if I let the tribe in our connection?

Kaitlin is one of my dearest friends from college and now an incredible, loving mama to two beautiful young children: Charlie, almost 4, and Lucy, almost 2, and another small one on the way. Blessings abound!!!

As she and her family explore the wonderful world of whole grains beyond rice, they have been enjoying quinoa and farro (a.k.a “party rice” at the dinner table, which, is adorable).

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Farro shown here with Dahlia’s Anti-Inflammatory Spice Trifecta of Turmeric, Cinnamon & Allspice

So I receive Kaitlin text’s this week: Why do you have to rinse farro and quinoa? And how important is it to do so?

Not only do you want to rinse grains thoroughly to remove any sort of impurities from transport and storage in processing facilities, but you want to soak them!

Two major reasons I explain:

1) Better Consistency

When you soak grains, it softens the fiber and make it easier to cook through them consistently.  This way you won’t get end up with grains that are mushy on the outside and still chewy, or uncooked on the inside.

2) Easier to Digest

Whole grains like brown rice often contain Phytic Acid, which can act as an anti-nutrient, and block the absorption of other nutrients like calcium, iron, and zinc into the bloodstream upon digestion. It is therefore important to thoroughly soak and rinse grains in water to remove volatile compounds like phytic acid from grains.

Additionally, for those who are not yet used to consuming whole grains and beans, it may be a lot for the their digestive systems to process all that unrefined plant-based fiber to start.

It is especially important to soak and soften the fiber from whole grains and beans to make it easier for our digestive systems. Otherwise things can get, errr, explosive if you know what I mean.

How long do the grains need to soak?

So then I get the follow up text from Kaitlin. How long do do the grains need to soak.

Well, I explain, each grain can get away with different soaking times.

Bulgur, or cracked wheat, can get away with a 5-10 minute soak. Wild rice, on the other hand, needs more like 45 minutes or so.

spectrum

I created a handy infographic, offering a spectrum of soaking and simmer times for some of my favorite whole grains out there. And my favorite method of preparing grains, as my mama taught me, toasting them up in oil and aromatic Mediterranean spices. Ancestral, old timey traditions.

Test it out the method. Let me know your thoughts.  Seriously. Mama loves feedback from the Tribe.

 

 

 

 

 

The Patriarchy Within

continuum

Originally published on Continuum Collective, a global think tank devoted to intentional, authentic, and interconnected feminism.

Where Does the Patriarchy Live?

It is a month after Trump’s inauguration in the District. I find myself in sacred ceremony, a gathering of seekers and yogis – those creating space in their lives for healing and greater consciousness. Many of us are there to burn through the trauma of past lives. To break away from destructive cycles and create empowered possibilities for growth.

Our facilitator sets intention for the ceremony with an inquiry: Where does the patriarchy live?

Over the past 50 years, we have seen an unprecedented consolidation of the world’s wealth in the hands of an elite few, a result of economic policies created by an inherently patriarchal world order.  Not simply in America, but the world over, the alarming income disparity has devastated the economic security and livelihoods for many working and middle class families.

Trump’s election to the highest political office in the US is indeed a populist response, a referendum on the failings of the status quo and global economy to provide security and dignity for those left behind.  Many cast their vote seeking to break the system, a brick through the window of the establishment.

The irony, however, is that Trump is the ultimate embodiment, a surreal avatar of patriarchy in its most oppressive and depraved manifestations. Subjugation of women, minorities, and vulnerable populations. Brazen, kleptocratic plundering of government resources for personal gain. Short sighted exploitation of the Earth.

And yet, many of those who voted for Trump, many who live in parts of the country decimated under these oppressive economic policies, still seek out a patriarch for protection, for deliverance into dignity.

How can the patriarchy be both the source of and the solution to our suffering?  And isn’t this inherently the nature of the toxic cycles in which we can find ourselves trapped?

So the facilitator asks: Where does the patriarchy live within us? Within our belief systems? Within our bodies?

Where do we still give away our power and agency, and ask patriarchs to protect us? To deliver us?

Unrooting the Patriarchy Within

In my own practice of embodiment and the cultivation of nourished lifestyle, I continue to seek out and purge where oppressive remnants of patriarchy live within my body, within my psyche. I continue to observe all the societal conditioning that has asked me to shrink to fit.

I observe residual body image issues and the constriction of breath around my belly, a result of societal conditioning that I, as a woman, ought not take up too much space.

I observe a distressed relationship with male gaze, the most depleting of intoxicants.

I observe fear around stepping into my voice. Fear that I am not ready, that I do not know enough. Or conversely, fear that my voice, in its intensity, power, and experiences, will overwhelm my audience, particularly men.

I observe beliefs around marriage and family as an indicator of success as a woman. And that the institutions thereof will deliver me to safe, grounded space. And the gilded cages I have walked into as a result.

The Patriarchy within Modern Health

My nutrition and lifestyle work, it is slow, deliberate, and patient. Live Deliciously is my unique vision, my method, to help clients cultivate nourished lifestyle through food, rhythm, and connection.

Perhaps it is a particularly feminine approach to cultivating health. And perhaps the greatest challenge in my work is uprooting and shifting the patriarchal paradigm of healthcare towards empowering personal personal agency.

We operate in a culture that drives stress and addiction, and then shames us for the health challenges we experience as a result.

Most of us are up against tremendous challenges and overwhelm in our daily lives that it can feel impossible to break toxic cycles and create a way out.

And a diet and fitness industry has built up around us, ready to capitalize on that shame and exasperation. They sell us unsustainable quick fix solutions that are intent on keeping us confused and unhealthy for recurring business.

There is a lot of money to be made in playing into the unhealthy binge-purge paradigm that dominates American diet culture.  The supplement and juice companies that dominate the ‘detox’ industry peddle their products and ultimately train people out of their intuition around healthy lifestyle.

And when we continue to fail- to maintain healthy weight or energy levels, to relieve stress and anxiety – we then turn to a medical industrial complex of insurance and pharmaceutical companies that is, again, invested in keeping us unhealthy and disempowered.

We seek out pills and procedures, modern day sacraments and rituals administered by a new priest class of doctors and healthcare professionals, in which we continue to step out of our own agency, and outsource it to patriarchs.

I’ve stopped calling myself a healer… I don’t want to have dominion over people in a way that removes them from their own agency.

I’m a teacher. I work with clients to step into their agency as their own healer. I inspire them with practical, actionable, and exciting steps to shift behaviors around healthy eating and lifestyle.

And I remind myself- and often – that any advice I am quick to give others, is what I need to embody in my own life. Again and again and again. Only then can I invite others in.

 

Perhaps it is ancestral feminine practice, conjuring, rising, swelling up against the patriarchy. Slow, deliberate, patient embodiment.

The Magic of an Arab Woman’s Kitchen

Originally published on Arab America, a national organization founded with the purpose of promoting an accurate image about the Arab American community and the Arab world.

It is said that when a woman cooks, she transmits magic through her fingertips and into her dishes to nourish loved ones.

It’s Women’s History Month and at Arab America, we’re honoring the women who have been the custodians, the fire keepers in the traditions of the Arab kitchen, in its beauty, simplicity, and comfort.

I don’t recall when I started following my mom around the kitchen; I was maybe six or seven years old. I followed the magic, excitement, and deliciousness of it all, while always keeping watch and waiting to jump in. I learned her secrets through whispers and winks, as well as hands-on practice.

Then I started following the women of my extended family, and The Honorary Tantes of the larger Egyptian community of Northern New Jersey around their kitchens.

As families, we all took turns gathering in homes sharing potluck feasts, always trying to find room on the table for dishes and chairs for the people that kept streaming in. There was always so much food. It miraculously seemed to multiply to feed a tribe. Macarona Bechamel. Roasted meats. Grapeleaves and mahshi. Stuffed savory pies. An occassional salad. Weekend miracles in magic and tribal provisions.

And it’s a magic that we as Arab women know a lot about. But it’s not just magic, is it?

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It’s work – a woman’s work – and care, an everyday labor of love. It’s often conscripted and taken for granted.

Growing up, I learned the little strategies and secrets of the women in my family to prepare feasts for large groups of people, even on short notice: batches of rice and lentils already prepared for the week; pantries stocked with plenty of dried beans, nuts, spices, and jams; lebneh, cheese and fruit in the fridge; and pita bread and sweets in the freezer. Courting the unscripted, the women were always prepared.

Amal, Warren, and I had one of those days at the Arab America office in downtown Washington, DC recently, where I came to volunteer for a couple hours.

I showed up to the office with kale, homemade lebneh (strained yogurt), chickpeas, and a wild rice blend.

Amal pulled out the za’atar, sumac, olive oil, tomatoes, cucumbers, pita bread, and fruit from the office kitchen.

We created feast: an Arab-inspired kale salad with wild rice and sprinkles of sumac and lebneh, adorned with sprinkles of za’atar, chickpeas, and swirls of olive oil.

They told me it was their 41st anniversary of the day they first met on the Ohio State University campus.

Amal and I smile at the ways that we, as Arab women who grew up in the kitchen, are perhaps intuitively prepared for impromptu feasts of celebration.

My feast with Warren and Amal David, pictured here in their office in Washington, DC.

My feast with Warren and Amal David, pictured here in their office in Washington, DC.

We never know when we’ll make a fattoush or tomato cucumber salad or tabbouleh. We never know when we need to make a spread with lebneh, hummus, and fresh pita bread. But we always know to keep sprinkles of za’atar, cumin, and sumac on hand.

When Amal and Warren marveled that I made my own lebneh, I observed that perhaps it was a perfect metaphor for my vision of planned culinary adventure inspired by my Arab heritage: incredibly easy to make, but just requires a little time and attention. And lots of love.

I told them straining the lebneh is the easy part. All you need is a fine mesh strainer and cheesecloth. Time and gravity take care of the rest.

But the real fun is using that lebneh to preserve your own cheese. I learned the patient craft of mouneh from my teacher Sawsan Shaaban in Lebanon when I volunteered with Souk el Tayeb, a Lebanese organization and brainchild of Kamal Mouzawak that preserves and celebrates Arab culinary traditions and community.

She taught me the slow, delicate, attentive rhythm of preparing jars of mouneh, and helped me breathe into patience with the craft.

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In her book Day of Honey, my friend Annia Ciezaldo describes the importance of mouneh as a culinary art to store fresh fruits and veggies from the garden and wilderness that can survive the winter and hard times. The word mouneh not only refers to the tradition of making the food, she explains, but also encompasses an entire way of life in which families and communities gather to jar these foods over coffee, tea, and village gossip. It’s a medium to exchange tales of life and love. In the end, each family can leave with batches of jams, lebneh, pickles, and more that the collective hands of their community created.

In this season of celebrating women, thank the women closest to you for all the everyday nourishment and love they offer, and the traditions they keep alive. Not just in words, but offer help in the process from meal prep, to entertaining, to clean up – jump on in.  At the very least, take on dishes.

These practices of support can themselves become revered traditions, as we create space for the women we love to smile into the gratitude of her tribe and the magic she nourishes.

Tricia, Eternal

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Tricia at Common Good City Farm, her community garden space; Photo cred: Ashley Litecky Elenbaas

I’ve been reflecting a lot more on the practice of immortality.  Beyond vanity.  Beyond seeking youth for the image of it. But tending to the true immortality of the spirit.

Understanding that we are eternal.

And understanding the expression of that truth not only in our daily lives and practices, but in the creation of legacy. And those we entrust to be the bearers of that legacy.

When I heard Tricia was first missing I was in Jersey, in my aunt’s home, hanging out in the kitchen as she made baklawa, my grandmother’s recipe. She had lost her daughter, my cousin Nouran, 11 years ago. Suddenly. Violently. We buried her the day after she passed according to Islamic tradition. (الله يرحمها)

My niece Lily, first in her generation of our family, was born as we returned Nouran back to the Earth. Nouran: In Arabic, her name means light.

As I read news of Tricia, we felt it. We knew the horror what could be. We paused and prayed she would be found safely. Otherwise we were silent.

I’ve observed my family’s practices of immortality, keeping Nouran alive. Nourishing and creating space for her spirit. The pain never truly goes away for them, transformed only in moments of intention and ritual.

The next morning I get up to see Jasmine’s email. Tricia had left her body. (الله يرحمها)


I knew Tricia through the community. Not very closely, but I enjoyed her energy and wisdom and levity with each encounter. Her radiance. Her light.

She is a woman who created roots and cultivated the earth, and brought life and green space into fruition in a way I deeply admire.  She inspired so many and brought communities together through her creativity and her teachings.

There is something that happens in these tragedies, moments of chaos and darkness. We need to make sense of it. Create order.

We demand to know what happened. How and why. We make monsters. Someone must atone.

We live in a culture where we feel entitled to information so we can assess and plan and prevent and punish and exact justice based on information we may never know.

Always seeking outside of ourselves for answers. Mass media consumption. Approval addiction.

And so much of our yoga practice teaches us to go in. Dive inward with curiosity. And surrender to the inquiry and that which has yet to be revealed.. If we are eternal, then at the very least that eternal nature deserves inquiry.

But in many of our yoga communities we participate in a modern day manifestation culture that can be emotionally violent.

This tyranny of Positive Thinking in which we create pressure to be happy all the time.  If we are not happy, we are simply not choosing happiness. We are not doing the inner work. An inner conflict unresolved. We are not manifesting.

We have bastardized understandings of the Laws of Attraction.

Good things happen for those doing the inner work.

Bad things happen to those who are not doing the inner work. Or those who are not careful in public spaces. Or fill in the blanks with any sort of pre-packaged shaming narrative designed to rationalize away the emotions we can’t sit with.

It’s spiritual victim blaming, isn’t it?

By the time something so truly awful happens, we can lack to tools to process it, we struggle to make sense of it.  Staring into this horror of the human experience, there is no making sense of it.

We can’t even begin to understand what happened to Tricia in those final moments. Or if there was a way to prevent it. We simply do not have access to this information. Not just yet. Not from external inquiry anyway.

This week at Yoga District, I began my classes asking students to join their voices in a round of ‘Om Nama Shivaya’ invoking the name of Shiva, Hindu Deity of Death and Destruction, Creation and Rebirth. I then asked them to come into child’s pose, prostrating to the earth, compressing their forehead and stimulating their 3rd eye center, this seat of inner wisdom and clarity in the body.  Wisdom that can only arise from surrender, submission into inward inquiry.


 

I landed back in DC just 45 minutes before her memorial and candlelight vigil Tuesday night.

We were invited to bring in plants and readings for her in offering.  I searched through one of my favorite books, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, a treatise, a manual on the practice of immortality. I tried to find the perfect passage, the exact words that I thought would honor her.

When I think of Tricia, I think herbs and blossoms. Brought to fruition by roots she laid down, nourished by light.

In his book, Robbins describes the evolution of human consciousness, from the reptilian mind of our earliest ancestors- cold, greedy, consumed with survival. To the mammalian mind – warm, generous, nourishing survival of a tribe. To the floral mind –  transcendent, consciousness set ablaze beyond the temporal with sensory perception of light.

“Since all matter is condensed light, light is the source, the cause of life. Therefore light is divine. The flowers have a direct line to God that an evangelist would kill for.”

Tricia knew about floral consciousness. Embodied it in her daily practice of courting the eternal.

Her presence in our lives and her teachings awakened something inside of us.

In her practice of immortality, she lived in her creative power and gave permission for her students and her neighbors and community to step into theirs.

She chose communities that she intuitively entrusted with her legacy, nourishing her spirit and her teachings.

She cultivated the earth, life that lives beyond her.

And she transcends beyond the temporal.

Everything alight.

Nourishment, Beyond the Image of Things… and Tailfeathers

Hey Heya!

It’s been quite a 2016, dontchathink?  For me personally it has been a transformative year, in which I have stepped more into the power of my voice and my story.  Shifting patterns of shrinking and people-pleasing and approval addiction.  And receiving help without feeling ashamed and fighting back.

tailfeathers

And understanding that my voice, beyond my image – in its intensity, its silliness, and its experiences -is more powerful than I often I understand.  And sometimes, often, it scares the shit outta me.

The momentum of the LD Tribe, a closed FB community, this past year has inspired me  in unlocking my own voice in this work.

Knowing that the Live Deliciously vision of food as an integral part of a nourished, connected lifestyle not only resonates with this tribe, but has inspired members in their own paths.

And in this project of unlocking my voice, I’m launching a Live Deliciously podcast in 2017. Stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, check out this diddy below, messing around with co-conspirator Dustin Canter.

Topics include:

  • Spirit animals and tailfeathers with Eric Schwarz
  • Food as part of a nourished, connected lifestyle
  • Beyond the Image of Things
  • Indulgence of Senses and the Limbic System

Love love!

Heydahls: An Ode to Fats

Q: I’m confused. Whenever I think about healthy eating, I think about cutting out fat and low fat diets. I try to cook with as little fat as possible and do not add too much dressing to my salads because I worry about high blood pressure and cholesterol. But now I see coconut oil is trendy and you seem to use a lot of olive oil, even butter, in your dishes. Is that healthy?


 

A: Thank you for writing in! And yes, many health conscious folks are confused about fats.  As you know, I believe very deeply in indulgence. And like most of the good things in life, it’s quality, not quantity…

Perhaps one of the most satisfying tastes to our palette, fats enhance the flavor of whatever we are eating.  In fact researchers are now considering ‘fat’ to be the sixth basic taste- in addition to salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (earthy/savory… like mushrooms).  When foods rich in fat hit our palettes, they have a very calming effect on our nervous system, creating feelings of comfort and satisfaction.

Our ancestors intuitively knew that foods rich in fat not only satisfied hunger, but provided enough energy and caloric substance to stave off hunger between meals.  They also knew that the use of fats provided the basic culinary function of distributing heat, so our dishes cook evenly.

Modern research is confirming that high quality fats not only nourish our senses, but they are vital to digestive function, nutrient absorption, healthy skin and hair, increasing satiety between meals (reducing mindless snacking), and supporting cognitive brain function, with improved concentration, mood, and memory.  

Many phytonutrients in our foods – especially the fat soluble variety like Vitamins A, D, E and K – are only bioavailable during the digestive process when we have high-quality fats in the mix.

But how did we get so scared as a nation of having fat in our diets?

Fat Phobia and the Mis-Education of a Nation

I grew up in the 80’s when nutritional education in this country was dominated by the low fat diet paradigm.  I was part of a generation of Americans who was raised in fear of fats, thinking that eating fats made you fat.  And that all fats, but especially saturated fats, increased your risk of cardiovascular disease.

In turn, we cooked with as little fat as possible thinking we were saving our hearts. We bought processed ‘stuff’ in which natural fats in food were removed for us in factories somewhere and in their place they added… artificial sweeteners of various varieties and other unpronounceable food additives that were designed in laboratories somewhere to prolong shelf life or cheaply add flavor where otherwise we were eating cardboard.  We bought skim milk, low fat Snackwells cookies, and Lean Cuisines.

Then something happened to us as a nation.

We carbo-loaded on ‘diet food’ – rice cakes and unsatisfying frozen dinners with less than 7g of fat – that, unbeknownst to us, metabolized in our bodies as refined sugar.  We couldn’t stop snacking. We never felt satisfied or nourished with what we ate because the fats that normally cue satiety in our brains were missing in action.

We increasingly struggled with overweight and obesity. And with all of the refined sugars in our diets, we developed insulin-resistance, a metabolic precursor for Diabetes, pre-Diabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Additionally, researchers are now establishing correlation between low fat diets and the increasing rates of ADHD in children and Alzheimer’s in seniors.

But there’s a Better, More Delicious Way to Stay Healthy

While I am skeptical of the Paleo Diet and its historical underpinnings, I think it is on to something.  We can learn a great deal from the nutritional wisdom of our ancestors and their diets.  And not just the diets our paleolithic ancestors, but the traditional diets of more recent ancestors.

One element that many traditional diets around the world share is an inclusion of more plant-based and unrefined, whole foods. And generous amounts of healthy fats to enhance taste and digestibility of those nutrient dense foods.

The Mediterranean diet, now considered the gold standard for its track record in cultivating longevity  and optimal health is distinguished by its whole grains, legumes, and freshly foraged greens simmered in generous amounts of olive oil and garlic.

Like most of the good things in life, it’s all about quality, not quantity. Indulge wisely.

Be informed

When choosing from healthy fats, be sure to get these fats from as much as possible from organic, unrefined sources.

Monounsaturated fat

Source: Top Natural Remedies

Source: Top Natural Remedies

  • Think olive oil, avocados;
  • When using olive oil, look for cold pressed, extra-virgin, and cook at low to medium heats for longer periods of time because it has a lower smoking point. If it passes that smoking point in the cooking process, it can have an oxidizing effect in our bodies. Better yet, olive oil is a great base for salad dressing
  • Avocados- Alligator pear, poor man’s butter, whatever you call it this fruit is highly detoxifying source of micro-nutrients and healthy fats.
  • These fats are known to reduce LDL, the ‘bad’ cholesterol associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Polyunsaturated Fat

sesame-oil

Source: chakraenterprises.com

  • Sesame oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil, walnuts,  salmon, small oily fish like mackerel and sardines
  • These fats contain long chain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids vital to cardiovascular health
  • When cooking with these oils use low heat or no heat at all because they already have an unstable molecular structure and oxidizes very quickly, which can create inflammation, the silent precursor of metabolic dysfunction and over time chronic disease.

Saturated Fat

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  • Coconut oil, avocado, butter or ghee (butter in which milk solids have been removed) and other dairy products, nuts and seeds
  • Coconut oil is king: antimicrobial, antibacterial and anti-cancer properties. It improves digestion, nutrient absorption and digestive health. Additionally, its medium-chain triglycerides are fatty acids that provide energy and boost metabolism, making it ideal for weight management.  Look for organic, cold pressed and unrefined.
  • When using animal sources of always opt for quality- organic and ethically sourced.
  • These fats are best for frying and baking at high heats because they have a very stable molecular structure and very high smoking point.

Fats to avoid

canola

  • Trans-fat a.k.a. partially-hydrogenated (margarine, Crisco) appears in a lot of processed, packaged foods..
    • Seriously don’t use or consume. Ever.  They do not naturally appear in nature.  They were created in laboratories by artificially saturating otherwise liquid forms of fat, making them into solids.  to increase the shelf life of the foods.
  • Canola Oil- There is no canola plant in nature.  It is a genetically modified food (GMO) produced by scientists in the 70s create a cooking oil with an artificially high smoking point.

To Your Health!

I hope you’re inspired to explore  a well-balanced diet that supports optimal health and vitality is one that is rich in plant-based foods, veggies, especially dark leafy greens, fruits, and whole grains.

And ALL of the healthy fats that help make it indulgent along the way.

 

Immunity, A Practice

Q: What do you recommend we do to stay healthy and beat colds? I’m currently drinking some fresh turmeric ginger tea but wondering what else I can do.


A: Hey hey love!  Thank you for your question.  It gets to the very heart of healthy lifestyle.  What can we do keep our immunity strong? And the answer lies in our daily rhythm and functional health.  That is to say, our metabolic and digestive function.  And the cultivation of balance.

We always want to think of cultivating balance by responding to our environments and the season we are in.

We are entering into the season on the wind. Cold, dry, increased air element- (Vatta in Ayurvedic medicine), which means that it is important to slow down, ground our energy, stay warm- in our diets, in our lifestyle.

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I personally am someone who has increased air or vatta energy in my body to begin with.  Highly creative, prone to anxiety and addictive behavior… I’ve always had work hard to ground, slow down, be more intentional.

Winter can be especially compromising for my immunity. As a kid growing up, like clockwork, I would get bronchitis every January until my mid-twenties when I really focused on daily self care and balance.

These are some of my most helpful strategies for protect immunity in challenging winter days.

Sinus & Oral Hygiene- Irrigate & Lubricate

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Because winter is cold and dry, it is important to make sure the sinuses don’t overly dry out.  When they do, our bodies overcompensate and overproduce phlegm, creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and increased risk of sickness.

I follow an Ayurvedic regimen- from gargling salt water, to oil pulling, to sinus irrigation and lubrication to keep my sinuses clean and healthy. Try to do this at least once or twice weekly as prevention.  And when you feel like your immunity is compromised, do it immediately.  I swear that I have stopped colds dead in their tracks after feeling at initial tickle in the back of my throat or ear.

Stay Grounded

Holidays can be a stressful chaotic time. And stress is perhaps the most caustic toxin in our bodies- creating an environment of increased oxidation and compromised immunity, leaving us vulnerable to sickness.

Find calm, quiet time when possible amidst the excitement of the holiday merrymaking circuit.

I recommend a daily meditative practice of just 10 full mindful breaths each morning, or whenever you need, before bouncing out the door and starting your day.

Eat Grounding Foods Like Root Veggies

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Because winter is a cold and dry time, you want to enjoy a diet rich with warm, grounding, lubricating foods in the digestive tract to create balance and support immune function.

Now is not the time to get into a raw foods/juicing diet.  These feeds are inherently cold and will only exacerbate an imbalance in cold winter days.

Root veggies on the other hand- beets, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, sunchokes, and so forth – are energetically grounding, literally harvested deep down from the nutrient-dense soil of the earth.

And wouldn’t you know, nature provides us these foods in abundance during the cold, dry  fall and winter months as an antidote cultivate balance. There is great wisdom in the natural cycles of the earth!

Keep Your Core Warm and Strong

Your core is the energy seat of power, wisdom, gut intuition and immune function in the body.  Attending to its optimal function and vitality is *everything* when it comes to your everyday health.

Keep your belly warm with layers.

Do core work to keep your metabolic fire strong and support strong digestion and immune function.

Recently I’ve been opening my yoga classes with kapalabhati or breath of fire practice designed to fire up into the power of the core and warm the body. If you want to get into more core focused group exercise classes like pilates and what not, that cool too!

Hot Water Hydration

hotwater

While I do love anti-inflammatory turmeric ginger teas, I recommend a hydration practice of plain hot water when possible in this season. At least room temp but ideally hot water- the same temperature of your gut – to keep metabolic function strong.

Cold water can be especially disruptive for digestive function.

Plain hot water, without lemon, without honey, without cayenne.

But why plain? Well, your digestive system must work harder to extract all the additives from the water and get it back to the base H2O that comprises most of your body composition. Drinking plain hot water is like an ambrosia bath for your vital organs and digestive system.

And that’s what I got ma!

 

 

 

Ana’s Retreat into Light

There is something you notice about Ana when she walks into a room. Her radiance. Quiet confidence.  Well-measured sense of grace.  She has been a regular student in my Yoga District classes. She joined me and Eric on our final day retreat in 2016, during an emotionally intense time for many in the District. It was just four days after Trump’s election as the next U.S President.  In the midst of the storm, she retreated into calm .  

This is her story.


 

The retreat was a great program all together.

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It started with a mini tour of Dupont Farmer’s Market, where I got some delicious veggies and cheese, while following Dahlia around. We were a small enough and big enough group to keep it at the same time personal and entertaining.

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After wandering around all kinds of apples, radishes, mushrooms and greens I had never heard of before, we took a short walk to Rock Creek Park. Simple introductions and a few minutes in silence followed our arrival at the park, and then we started to silently walk along a small path by a creek.

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The day was perfect, the air was crisp and the sun was shinning through the autumnal leaves. There’s something magical about being in a group and being by yourself at the same time. There’s the singularity of each person’s energy, and a whole bunch of sensations and feelings brought by the dry leaves cracking beneath your feet, the sound of the running water, the wind, and the always inspiring trees.

I had had a difficult week and my mind kept turning in unpleasant circles, but there I suddenly remembered Mary Oliver’s poem When I am Among the Trees and that ending:

“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine”

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And that was it. I was happy again, because it’s hard but it’s also that simple.
Could I have done that by myself? Yeah, eventually… but Dahlia, Eric and the whole group were the ones that made it possible that day. Sometimes we forget what we already know. Sometimes we need others to quietly remind us.

Then we had some awesome yoga practice on the grass while the sunshine kept us all warm and one last short walk to Studio Q for a yummylicious lunch.

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I am not a cook, but the simplicity and yet amazing results of Dahlia’s cooking formula has inspired me since then. I am certainly eating way healthier now and also not starving myself, which I just can’t anyway.

Seriously, what a great day! I got so much more than what I was expecting. Thank you!

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Ana in the front, second to right