Recently, I’ve had the super fun opportunity to travel to the Big Island for work. It’s an adventure to fly in, source the ingredients (and in the process, get to know the health food store Big Island Naturals), and then cook. If you’re on a neighbor island and interested in having me cook for you, please drop me a line!
Leslie Ashburn #EatLocalHI, Blog, class, community, cooking, cooking class, gluten-free, green, hawaii, health, holistic, honolulu, macrobiotic, Macrobiotic Hawaii, organic, plant-based, sustainable, vegan No Comments
When my friend Ashley sold her share of Baby aWEARness, my space for cooking demos went “aloha”! I was trying not to worry about this (even with all the people asking, “Why isn’t anything on your calendar?” when one day, Melanie Kosaka called me and let me know about her new business Cookspace Hawaii that was coming on-line in the spring of 2013. Holy Wow! What manifesting luck was that?! I recently had my first class there, which was a private corporate bonding event, and this space simply a dream come true. Hope you’ll come check it out on 3/17 when I teach my Go Green Cuisine cooking class!
Vandana Shiva arrived here on Oahu 1/15/2013 hosted by Hawaii SEED to share her wisdom with us about issues central to food sovereignty. She inspired those of us in the room with so much information I could hardly keep up with my note taking! Some of the main points that I gleaned I’ll share here in this post.
Who is Vandana Shiva?
According to Wikipedia, Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than 20 books. She was trained as a quantum physicist and received her Ph.D. in philosophy from a Canadian university. She’s known as a visionary leader and a figure of the world-wide solidarity movement for food sovereignty and has been featured in recent documentary films. She has fought for changes in the practice and paradigms of agriculture and food. Intellectual property rights, biodiversity, biotechnology, bioethics, genetic engineering are among the fields where Shiva has contributed intellectually and through activist campaigns. She has assisted grassroots organizations of the Green movement in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ireland, Switzerland, and Austria with campaigns against genetic engineering. In 1982, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, which led to the creation of Navdanya in 1991, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, the promotion of organic farming and fair trade. For last two decades Navdanya has worked with local communities and organizations serving many men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in conservation of more than 2000 rice varieties from all over the country and have established 34 seed banks in 13 states across the country.
What were some of her key points?
1) ECOFEMINISM: Ecofeminism is the social movement that regards the oppression of women and nature as interconnected. Many of her comments centered on the innate wisdom, beauty, and power in nature. A couple of times while discussing her recommend action steps to make personal change (specifically organic gardening and cultivating a connection with nature), she drew a parallel to the recent gang rape of a young woman in Delhi. She suggested that the so-called “right to genetic engineering of seeds” is the equivalent of this gang rape. Not only is what’s happening with biotech connected to violence against women, but it is also connected to what is happening to other species of our planet, in particular, factory farmed animals. She spoke out against feeding cows corn instead of their natural diet of grass, as well as allowing them to live in such horrifying conditions. She said that to successfully do organic gardening, such as understanding the interconnections between pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies) and the health of the soil and weather are a true science, whereas biotech has absolutely no understanding of this complexity. These companies instead just add inputs (chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers) and overlook nature. The companies take varieties of seeds that have, for multiple generations, been saved by organic farmers and run the seeds through computer programs separating out the gene sequences. She said, for example, that while organic farmers know which of their seeds would be drought tolerant, the biotech industry has no idea which gene sequence is responsible for that particular trait. Irregardless, they create seeds anyway and simply take a gamble on the future of life. The most important part of farming is NOT growing the vegetables themselves, but actually caring for the soil quality (the nutrition the plants get as they grow). In places overrun by seed companies, the soil has no microorganisms, but is rather a cloud of toxic chemicals in the dust that blow in the wind. She suggested that after speaking with the companies, that it sounds like they know exactly what safety issues exist, but they are focused only on profits.
2) Racial Genocide: The other key point that she brought up was that seed companies quite intentionally go to a geographic region and modify the indigenous plants sacred to native people. Much like the US government gave blankets to Native Americans infected with small pox, the seed companies go after the most important plants to indigenous people. In Mexico, they have monopolized corn; in India, cotton, wheat, and eggplant; and in Hawaii, have gone after taro (kalo). Further, there is now only 5% of cotton seed in India that is organic. That’s right, 95% is biotech. She said that the cotton belt is also known as the suicide belt. The seed companies come to the farmer’s land and ask the farmers to “sign on the dotted line”. They deliberately sell the farmers seeds that the seed companies know are going to fail in that region. (Why? Again, profits.) The farmers thus have to buy more seeds, thinking perhaps their failure was just something random that season. Over time, farmer’s inputs go up by as much as 500% as they are purchasing everything they need to grow the crops (fertilizer, seeds, pesticides) putting them into severe debt. What is even more insulting is that they market the seeds to farmers by using Hindu deities. If for example, a seed packet has Hanuman’s image, the farmers often say, “Why would Hanuman lie to us?” By the time the farmers realize that there is no way to pay down their significant debt, the companies come back and seize the land, separating them from all they have ever known, and from their spirituality. The farmers ultimately commit suicide. She said in a place where Hindus believe in reincarnation, there is no longer a place where they can reincarnate to. With this company’s plan, she said, there is no other life. She felt they are waging a war against sacred cultures and that the so-called “science” needs to be taken out of culture. Fertilizers are leftover ammunition from bombs, so this is the science of killing, not life. Monoculture is a recipe for starvation and environmental destruction. (Biodiversity is the opposite of this and what will provide more food and protect the environment, especially with climate change.) The “biotech scientists” they speak of are actually just made up people that claim to be experts. When you actually research them, they do not exist at all. (If you have ever seen the movie The Yes Men Fix The World, they are the antidote!)
3) Health Issues: Ever wonder why so many people are now having gluten issues? One thing Vandana Shiva talked about was how wheat is being cultivated now to yield high gluten. Why? To make more profits. Wheat that is indigenous to the place (in her case, India) is naturally LOW in gluten. Research with animals fed biotech food shows that they die from cancer and lose 50% of their offspring also to health problems.
4) The Right to Ignore Unjust Law: “Progress means thousands of small and medium size sustainable organic farms.” Shiva said that Gandhi has been her inspiration for her teachings and life work. He taught that one need not follow a law that is unjust. In Gandhi’s time, this dealt specifically with salt and cotton. Now in current times, this deals with the right to save seeds. She will save seeds that to her represented freedom, and her dream for 2013 is food freedom zones filled with gardens everywhere. In these gardens we can claim unity which she said rests on biodiversity. Our strength is in the power we share with nature and that the power of non-violence is stronger than the power of violence. The power of money held by these corporations will be defeated by our love of the earth and of each other across the world. Another speaker there, Andrew Kimbrell said, “What can you do? Defend love. We live on love, not efficiency.”
When was the moment in my life where changing my diet made a real results-producing difference? I was thinking back to this, and when my life truly started to become really awesome was actually when I started to eat brown rice. It sounds completely strange and a little woo woo, I know. But here’s the story:
I was living and working in Eugene, OR at the age of 23 and had about the most disastrous break up a person could have; the lowest of moments probably for me by far and I’ll spare you the gory details. I’d get up and walk over to this cafe near my home and order the tempeh chili with brown rice and then go home and go back to bed for a while.
Slowly but surely, I see how my life started getting better. I would never have attributed any changes in my life at that moment in time to having eaten the rice, but now in hindsight, all of the most most profound healing things I did for myself came after that. That time was the vortex, the quantum leap, even though it took time to root, grow, and flower.
The flowers looked like this: I quit smoking, finished my undergrad degree, got an amazing job in the Psychology Department, came to Hawaii to get my MA, and then went to Japan to work and ultimately learn macrobiotics. Along the way with these changes, I started earning more money and found greater inner peace.
The next big quantum leap came when I fully committed to eating a whole foods plant-based diet. That put my journey on warp speed with pretty radical change. Now I suddenly wanted to open a business and do public speaking and actually ENJOYED this. (This surprised me more than anything.) Of course not every moment has been perfection or ideal, but the general trend has been of great personal growth and improvement.
I just can’t say enough about the benefits of eating healthy, even if you do just one thing for yourself. Eating well changes people on a deep holistic level that you would never expect. Whatever you do will sprout and grow into more goodness, perhaps without ever realizing!
What is it about this plant, lemongrass, that is rocking my world right now?! I can’t seem to get enough of this delicious flavor, especially in soup. While sipping my homemade Thai-style vegan Tom-Yum, I decided to look up the health benefits out of curiosity. It’s power packed with goodness! Here’s what a couple of different sites say.
According to, http://www.nutrition-and-you.com,
- “Lemongrass herb has numerous health benefiting essential oils, chemicals, minerals and vitamins that are known to have anti-oxidant and disease preventing properties.
- The primary chemical component in lemongrass herb is citral or lemonal, an aldehyde responsible for its unique lemon odor. Citral also has strong anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.
- In addition, its herb parts contain other constituents of the essential oils such as myrcene, citronellol, methyl heptenone, dipentene, geraniol, limonene, geranyl acetate, nerol, etc. These compounds are known to have counter-irritant, rubefacient, insecticidal, anti-fungal and anti-septic properties.
- Its leaves and stems are very good in folic acid (100 g leaves and stem provide about 75 µg or 19% of RDA). Folates are important in cell division and DNA synthesis. When given during the peri-conception period can help prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
- Its herb parts are also rich in many invaluable essential B vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.
- Furthermore, fresh herb contains small amounts of anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-A.
- Lemon grass herb parts, whether fresh or dried, are rich sources of minerals like potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.”
Another site (indiaparenting.com) says,
- “Helps to cope with fever
- Helps to cope with cough and cold
- Helps to cope with stress
- Makes coping with high blood pressure easier
- It lowers the cholesterol level
- Helps to cleanse the body by eliminating toxic substances
- Cleanses other organs of our body including kidney, pancreas, liver, bladder etc.
- Helps to improve the digestive system
- Helps to improve blood circulation
- Helps to cope with excessive fats in body
- Helps to deal with menstrual problems
- Proves beneficial to cope with acne and pimples”
Definitely glad that I have added this to my diet! Anything left over that I’m not using for soup, perhaps I’ll boil into some tea?
This plant also grows extremely well here in Hawaii.
- Scientific studies are now starting to implicate genetically modified foods to infertility
- Studies show conventionally grown food has lower nutrient value
- High fat and sugar diets lead to obesity, hypoglycemia and diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, digestive distress, among many other common lifestyle related illnesses (Plant-based diets prevent and reverse the same ailments.)
- There are about 5,000 deaths each year from food-borne illnesses like e-coli
- Someone else is controlling your food source! There’s a definite lack of information about what’s actually in the food. Corporations do not often trace back to producers from places like China and it’s nearly impossible for consumers to get this information about all the ingredients in food items.
What’s the cost of getting a serious illness? Besides the financial cost, the emotional cost seems quite high.
Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables are more satiating–they make you feel fuller than junk food even though they have fewer calories.
- Pesticides poison farm workers, the water system, and those who eat the foods
- Eroding soil
- Lost marine life due to soil run-off
- Loss of plant diversity from use of genetically modified seeds and produce
- Risk of extinction to many marine species from overfishing
- Use of machines to plant, harvest, refrigerate, and transport food uses fossil fuels that pollute the environment.
- Small farmers going out of business
- Resources are diverted to purchasing stimulants, depressants, sleeping pills, pain killers, and various other medications to alleviate symptoms
- Use of machines to plant, harvest, refrigerate, and transport food uses expensive fossil fuels
Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined and come to us from as close to the source as possible. In contrast, processed foods are genetically modified, colored, made by synthetic means, or laden with hormone additives. White flour, sugar, white rice, most cold cereals, crackers, and packaged foods are processed, for example, and even the things we tend to buy in Costco out of convenience more often than not have a long list of chemicals, preservatives, and additives. In contrast, think quinoa, brown rice, and other whole grains; a wide variety of fresh organic or minimally processed fruits and vegetables; beans and bean products; nuts; seeds; and natural sweeteners. Food is medicine!
Our health (and that of our families) is compromised every time we open a microwaveable meal, a cake mix, or a processed packaged food. In contrast, when we eat a nutritious and balanced whole foods diet, we are likely to experience a wide range of health benefits – better sleep, improved mood, easier weight management, more energy and the alleviation of a wide variety of lifestyle related illnesses.
The environment: environmental health is also being negatively impacted by industrial food practices
But…. “It’s so expensive.” “I don’t have time.” “It’s too difficult.” “I don’t know how.”
$$ Buy in bulk, buy dry goods like grains and beans, grow your own, cook and eat at home as much as possible. Think about it. How much do you spend on coffee and sugary treats to give yourself energy, aspirin to combat headaches, alcohol or sleeping pills to relax and sleep, or to purchase medication for illness?” What about the cost of a very serious illness? How do you put a value on quality of life? How much do you spend to do other things? How much of your money is spent on things that you don’t really need? Did you know that lentils and brown rice cost about $1.25 per meal on average?!
- How much of your time is spent online? Watching TV? What if cooking this way is easier than you currently think? Are you willing to explore a new belief?
Rather than focusing on what you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat, try adding something new into your diet as often as you can. Buy a new cookbook. Take a cooking class. Cook with a friend. Find strategies to make things easier for yourself, like cooking large pots of soup and freezing it for later, or packing your lunch the night before if you have to leave early in the morning. The benefits are so worth it!
I consistently run into people these days who are truly scared and unwilling to eat tofu! This concerns me as it’s an excellent protein source and Asian countries that consume tofu and other soy products have low rates of breast cancer in particular. Further, I worked for 3 years at the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii in Natural Products and Cancer Biology with a specialist who investigates soy isoflavones. While I was there, I did numerous literature reviews and attended talks on this topic, the vast majority of which suggest that soy is health supportive. (I also have about 5 publications on which I’m a co-author that you can search for in the . I have no vested interest in posting this. I’m not getting paid by anyone!)
From the macrobiotic point of view, I would definitely say that quality and quantity are important. The basic premises of macrobiotics include focusing your diet on ingredients that are local, organic, seasonal, and having plenty of variety.
What type of soy might you be eating, and how much of it? If you’re consuming isolated soy protein, burgers, TVP, sausages, mock chicken or other mock meats, soy cream cheese, soy sour cream, soy yogurt, and other items like that, although they are vegan, they are not whole foods so are best limited or avoided. Processed foods are not health supportive. If you look at the ingredients in those particular food items, you’re going to most likely see a variety of other items that are hard to pronounce. In addition, if they’re not organic, they are pretty much almost guaranteed to be genetically modified.
In contrast, we need to look at how traditional cultures have consumed soy. In this category I would include traditionally made and organic shoyu (soy sauce), tempeh, natto, miso, and tofu.
Here’s a great article that was published in the Dec 2011 Vegetarian Times on p24 that goes through some of the current research on this issue.
For inspiration, here’s a photo of the oven-baked tofu I just made:
Ask the Doc
Soy Takes the Heat
By Neal D. Barnard, MD
Q: Ive heard that soy has estrogens in it. Is that good or bad?
A: Soybeans contain compounds known as isoflavones, whose chemical structure is similar to human estrogens; these similarities cause speculation that soy products might have hormonal effects?feminizing men or increasing cancer risk in women, for example. Such concerns have been put to the test. The results show no negative effects from soy on mens hormonal function; soy does not interfere at all with testosterone or sperm production.
As for cancer risk, several research teams have tracked the dietary habits of people whove developed cancer and those whove remained cancer-free; compiling the results of these studies in 2008, researchers at the University of Southern California found that women who ate a daily serving of soy products had about a 30 percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer, compared with women who consumed very little soy. (A serving is approximately 1 cup of soymilk, 1/2 cup of tofu, or a similar amount of other soy products.) So a modest amount of soy eaten regularly may actually reduce the risk that breast cancer will occur.
Moderate intake may also boost survival in women whove been treated for breast cancer. The Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study followed 5,042 breast cancer survivors for four years. Those who ate two daily servings of soy were about 30 percent less likely to have a cancer recurrence or cancer death, compared with those who avoided soy.
Q: Does soy cause thyroid problems?
A: Not according to the evidence. But if youre hypothyroid?, meaning your thyroid gland acts sluggish, ?be aware that soy products can reduce the absorption of thyroid supplements. If you take these medicines, your health care provider can check if your dose needs to be adjusted.
Q: How can I tell if I am allergic to soy?
A: Like other allergies, a reaction to soy can manifest with hives, flushing, itching, runny nose, or wheezing that occurs shortly after exposure. An allergy can also cause local symptoms, such as swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat, and digestive upset, including abdominal pain and diarrhea. Some people can tolerate modest amounts of soy, and react only when they get too much. In rare cases an allergy can be life-threatening, a condition called anaphylaxis.
Most children with soy allergy outgrow it. But the opposite can occur too. A person can develop an allergy to a food that caused no problem previously.
Doctors can easily check for a soy allergy with skin testing and specialized blood tests. But if you think you might be allergic to soy, you can simply avoid it for a few weeks and notice if your symptoms improve. If so, you can challenge yourself with it later on and see if your symptoms return. Do not try this if your allergy symptoms are severe.
Q: Can I be getting too much soy?
A: Not so far as we know, but theres some benefit in favoring minimally processed soy products; and tempeh are tops, followed by soymilk and tofu. Producing meat substitutes often means extracting and concentrating soy protein, so you??re getting further away from the bean that nature intended.
Monday wasn’t the best day for me, but my father always says, “Get a good night’s sleep. Things will look different the following day.” Hearing his voice, I went to bed early and when I got up on Tuesday and went outside, the first thing I saw was my orchid had bloomed in triplicate! So beautiful! It really was a great way to start the day.
Other simple pleasures of the day came from a phone call from two people who were updating me about their lives, expressing their happiness, growth, and changes. The personal connection and time spent sharing stories as well as celebration of another person’s success was very healing.
Later, I went grocery shopping to restock on staple items and things to cook with this week. For some reason, I’ve been thinking about Turkey, a country I’ve never been to yet, but would really love to see at some point. While I was grocery shopping, I was thinking about Mediterranean food, so picked up a variety of things that sounded good such as olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, local cucumbers and tomatoes, and artisan quality fig walnut bread.
These were transformed into “mezze” for my meal, and for dessert, some lilikoi that a friend shared with me from her garden along with a little bit of dark chocolate. She gave me baby plants that popped up out of her yard, and at long last they are fruiting, so my own will be ripe very soon.
All of the small stuff brightened my day!