Apple, Raspberry and Ginger Kvass

I admit. Even for the most committed health nut out there, drinking water gets old. And I dunno ‘bout you, but I usually crave a little fizziness in my beverage. There just is a ‘je ne sais quoi’ that even the best tasting water can’t deliver.

But, as we know, sodas are not the solution. Looking for the childhood enjoyment I remember, I have occasionally tried one of those fancy sodas sweetened with cane sugar. Always in vein; I just can’t stomach that much sugar at one time, even when I really want to.

And whereas there are new, creative choices in the market — kombucha, coconut water, various probiotic beverages — they are not always available — lemme just say that you won’t find kombucha even in the fanciest market in Colombia — and they are also NOT cheap — you’ll have to drop an average of $3.50?! for a 16 oz bottle of one of these “healthy” beverages in Whole Foods.

Meanwhile there is a whole universe of truly healthy beverages awaiting in your kitchen, if only you’re willing to wear your experimenting apron for a little bit.

I’m talking about lacto-fermented, AKA cultured, beverages.

My interest in lacto-fermentation has only grown over the years, along my love for digestive healing. Lacto-fermentation enhances the nutrient availability of foods and produces friendly bacteria that we all need more of.

I just love nursing jars containing all different mixes of veggies and tasting them every day, until they reach my desired sourness. I must confess though, that now that I’m single, I just don’t get to make them as much as I used to.

But the beverages? That’s another story. I find certain advantages to them over the kraut.

  1. They are easier to make. They require less preparation than the veggies, as you’ll see below.
  2. They are easier to consume than lacto-fermented veggies. Even though no one said you MUST eat it with your meal, not a lot of people would go for a bite of kimchee by itself. But a beverage is welcomed almost any time of the day, along with a meal, or on its own.
  3. They can really fulfill your crave for a tasty, refreshing drink. You’re gonna have to try to see what I mean…

Peaked your interest? Good! Here are directions for three different ones for you to try:

1. Fermented cabbage juice.

Fermented cabbage juice —  FCJ, for short — is no more than the little juice you get when you ferment sauerkraut, but the juice itself is such an incredible health tonic that it deserves to be fermented on its own. Besides, this way you can get the goodness even if you don’t like sauerkraut.

Over time I’ve learn to LOVE the flavor of FCJ. Its intense bite shakes up my body and wakes me up! — not to mention it’ll melt away the toughest sugar craving I might get. Of all the lacto-fermented foods I’ve had, FCJ is now my favorite both for its flavor and its benefits.

To make FCJ, you’ll need… well, cabbage juice. If you don’t have a juicer, you can try blending the cabbage with just enough water to get the blender moving and straining the juice. I’ve never done that with cabbage specifically but I’ve done it with other foods, always with OK results.

From one cabbage you’ll get anywhere between one and three cups of juice, depending on the size and freshness of the cabbage and the quality of your juicer.

Pour your juice in a glass jar, leaving at least 1-inch of space from the top to avoid spills, and cover with lid. The juice will ferment on its own if you leave it in a warm place for a minimum of 3 days; it is not a bad idea, however, to use a starter, especially until you get familiar with the appearance and taste. The first starter I tried was — as it seems fit — sauerkraut juice, and I’ve also used whey with satisfactory results. You could also try a commercial veggie culture starter like this one. Keep in mind that a starter will accelerate the fermentation process. Just taste your juice every day until it reaches your desired flavor. Then refrigerate.

When there is about 1/4 of liquid left over, replenish with more cabbage juice and let the fermentation cycle run again. This is fun!

*Warning: Introduce FCJ s.l.o.w.l.y — as you should do with any probiotic food — incrementing by half tablespoons every few days, until you reach about 1/2 cup a day — that’s a therapeutic dose. You can dilute it with equal parts of water if the flavor is too strong for you. I also use FCJ in place of vinegar in my salads and as a condiment in my soups — warm soup, that is. Remember that ferments are very sensitive to heat.

**Another warning; FCJ might not be the best for people with low thyroid function. No one knows for sure what happens to goitrogens in the fermentation process.

**A nice tip: If you use a juicer, don’t throw away the leftover pulp. It makes the best dehydrated chips! I mix the pulp with curry powder and salt to taste, spread it thin over parchment paper on a baking sheet, cut it as if making crackers and leave it in the oven at the lowest possible temperature for 4 to 6 hours.

2. Fruit kvass

You might be familiar with beet kvass and/or original kvass — which is made from grains — but I personally never cared for any of them. Yeah, I know that beet kvass just like FCJ, has crazy healing properties — including being a powerful liver detoxifier — but it just doesn’t do it for me, you know?

But fruit kvass? Well, that’s a different story. The first time I tried the apple,raspberry and ginger kvass recipe on the GAPS book, I was like, wherehaveyabeenallmylife, oh wonderful libation! It’s good stuff!

If you don’t have the book, I’ll give you my short version.

Get a nice wide mouth liter/quart bottle. Take an apple, quarter it and toss it in the jar, along with a handful of raspberries and a tablespoon of shredded ginger. Add 1/2 cup of whey and fill the jar *almost* all the way up with *filtered* water. Cover with lid, leave in a warm spot for a few days — you getting the hang of this? — and when done, transfer to the fridge. Strain to serve, placing the fruit back in the jar. You can refill the water and let the fermentation process run a few times until the fruit gets spent.

You can also try pear, strawberries and mint. Or peaches, cherries and chamomile. Many fruits would work here! Hmmm… probably not banana… As for the benefits? Well… probiotic, probiotic, probiotic! And deliciousness.

3. Fermented grape juice.

One day I got thinking… hmmm… I wonder if I can lacto-ferment grape juice before it starts to become wine. So I tried. And ended up with a nice, fizzy juice just lightly sweetened with no palatable alcohol. A successful experiment, I’d say.

Get some nice organic and seedless grapes — unless you don’t mind pitting them or if you plan to juice them, as opposed to blending them. Throw 3 hearty handfuls of these in your blender and enough water to run it. Fill your handy liter/quart jar with this grape smoothie and add filtered water to fill the jar if needed.

For this, you definitely need a starter or else the juice will probably start to turn into alcohol before the lacto-fermenting bacteria have a chance to do their thing due to the high content of sugar. In this occasion, I used the contents of two Jarrow probiotic capsules as I wanted to make sure I’d introduce enough bacteria. I use probiotic capsules in fermentation frequently. It’s one not-very-scientific way to test probiotic supplements, but hey, makes sense to me.

If you don’t have a probiotic supplement handy — or if you don’t want to risk it — you can try using a considerable amount of whey — 1 cup per litter, I’d say — and perhaps a little salt just to keep those yeasts under control during fermentation.

Just as with the other beverages, leave in a warm spot for a few days and transfer to the fridge when the sourness is to your liking. Keep in mind that the more active the fermentation process, the more production of gas. You might want to loosen up the lid very slowly! Strain to serve.

There you have it. Three ideas you can copy or modify to come up with your own fermented beverages. Fermentation is definitely an art. It’s never a fixed process and it requires an experimental spirit. But it can be really enjoyable and the health benefits totally pay off.

If you, like me, have gotten a little lazy about fermenting veggies — or you have never tried making any ferments — give fermented beverages a shot. They’re super easy to make, healthy, and delicious!

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The Secret to Healing Your Body

by Andrea on July 10, 2012

in Healing

My mom suffers from chronically high blood pressure. She has since she was pregnant with my brother, who is now 31.

My mom managed her hypertension by following the traditional doctor’s indications — medication and a diet low in salt and fat — pretty rigorously for years, and whereas these measures kept her numbers within a “healthy” range, this kind of treatment never leads to improvement. If she stopped taking medication, her blood pressure would raise again.

For a long time my mom never thought too hard about her medical care, but things started to change because she got very, very sick. So sick, she feared she was going to die. She had a degree of fatigue she could only explain as feeling like her body was slowly shutting down. She thought she would die on her sleep.

Many doctors’ appointments and tests afterwards, no one could explain to her what was going on. Highly intuitive as she is, she felt that somehow the medical establishment was killing her. She decided she needed to change her strategy all together.

She stopped going to regular doctors and looked for an alternative solution in energy medicine. Thankfully that worked! Just as quickly as she recovered her health, she lost the little faith in conventional medicine she still had left.

Turns out that the combination of a new diuretic drug her doctor had put her on with the very strict low salt diet she was following were demineralizing her body at a pretty fast rate. And yes, at that pace, she would probably have died quickly, had she not decided to radically change her course of action.

Ironically, the recovery treatment was fairly simple. Some tweaks on her diet — she needed salt!! — plus a few IV’s with bio-available minerals brought the relief, in less than a week, that months of constant doctors visits couldn’t.

My mom didn’t get “cured”, however. She still suffers from hypertension. But that episode helped her understand that the prospect of taking medication for the rest of her life was not only unappealing, but in fact, unsustainable. The need to work towards healing, rather than managing her symptoms forever, became evident.

So, how has my mom’s life changed? How’s aiming for healing different from managing her symptoms? Especially because, as of now, she is still taking medication?

The most important shift she experienced, was of perspective. My mom had given into the idea that she would take medication for the rest of her life, and that there was nothing she could do to change that. But now, she can consider a different reality in spite of what the doctors said for years. She is pushing herself out of her comfort zone, and she has faith it’s worth it.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many people who for one or another reason, went through a similar paradigm shift. They were forced to search for an alternative solution to their health problems, because they came to understand that the standard ones weren’t sustainable.

But there’s no healing magic pill…

Healing takes time and patience. It requires that you start thinking longer term than you probably ever have: How is what I am doing, or eating or thinking NOW going to affect me tomorrow? What about next week/month/year?

In order to heal, you need to consciously re-evaluate your priorities. How are you investing your time/money/energy? Why? What are the things that truly matter in your life?

Healing the physical body can’t happen in the physical plane alone. It is a process that involves all your being — the way you feel, think and act. Healing is reinventing yourself.

And there’s also plenty of frustration…

You may start working with a holistic practitioner of some sort. They say you need to change your diet and focus on your stress management. That alone is overwhelming, but you try your best. You feel somewhat better, but it’s not enough. You may try acupuncture, homeopathy, or chiropractic. You experience some recovery, but it certainly doesn’t seem proportional to the amount of work you’re putting in. And maybe, just as in my mom’s case, you cannot wean yourself off medication as you had planned…

You doubt yourself. Why can’t I get well? What am I doing wrong? Is this diet really helping? When can I stop the meds? Will I be able to, ever?

And there are setbacks. Something that seemed to be working, after a while, just doesn’t any longer and you have no idea why. And that happens again. And again. More doubts creep up on your mind.

How long is this going to take? 6 months? A year? Five? No one can say for sure. Sometimes it seems like you were doing better when you were eating your takeouts, drinking your coffee and unconsciously popping your pills.

Believe me, I hear you. But, as I ask my mom when she gets discouraged, just how long has it been? In her case, over thirty years. That’s how long her body has relied on medication to regulate her blood pressure. It’s been about five since she considered to change her course and no more than two since she became really proactive about it. After the changes she’s made, she is on half the dose of a less concentrated drug than what she was taking two years ago. What about you? Healing takes time!

Treating chronic conditions with medication and doctor’s nutritional indications — given the poor understanding of nutrition that most doctors have — doesn’t lead to improvement, but merely to maintenance of the disease. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s unacceptable, because I know that the body is an incredible machine, that’s constantly rebuilding itself.

So, what’s the secret?

There is no secret. But if there were one, I’d say it is to accept that healing is a journey, not a destination. Your health will improve over time, if you work at it. You might even get off of medication sooner than you thought you would. And you will get to know yourself better than you ever did. Become an advocate for your own healing and a witness of your progress. Not only will you get healthy but you will create a richer life experience for yourself in the process.

No one says it’s easy, but it is totally worth it. And you deserve it.

Do you or anyone close to you defied the medical establishment and found your way to the amazing self-healing capacity of your own gorgeous body? Will you inspire others by sharing your experience in the comments?

This is for you P. My heart is yours.

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Hi! This is the third part of our GAPS lesson. You can find part one here and part two here.

3. Recuperate the population of healthy micro-flora in your gut.

As I briefly explained in this blog post, there’s a constant battle in your body between the good, beneficial flora and the bad, opportunistic flora, and if you’re less than healthy, then the bad guys are winning at the moment. You have what’s called gut dysbiosis.

In the GAPS approach, as you add the nourishing foods that heal the gut and you eliminate the foods that feed the bad guys and make you toxic, those bad guys become debilitated. It would be the perfect strategy, except, you can’t starve the bad flora alone. Just like using antibiotics will kill ALL bacteria, good and bad, so will trying to starve them affect all of them.

Which is why it is so extremely important to repopulate the body with good, healthy bacteria — I can’t emphasize this enough! Of utmost importance!!! Critical!! Muy importante!!

So, howdoyadothat?

(Have I mentioned that the thing I love most about this protocol is its simplicity? I know it doesn’t sound or look simple when you’re just getting familiar with it, but once you understand the principles behind it, you can easily see how everything fits together, logically. Just for the record…)

This repopulating with healthy flora happens two ways — fermented foods and probiotic supplements. That’s all.

The thing is, our health has always depended to a large extend on our contact with the bacteria in the “outside world” to feed our internal ecosystem. For most of our evolutionary history, direct contact with the soil was our primary source of healthy flora. Nowadays we don’t really have that relationship with the soil, and even those few who do, don’t benefit from it because our soils are depleted of nutrients and good bacteria. This is one of the reasons why GAPS conditions are unfortunately, dramatically on the rise.

Moreover, all traditional societies knew of the importance of consuming fermented foods. We find examples all over the globe — from fermented dairy products to lacto-fermented vegetables, fermented grain foods and fermented (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) beverages.

In adding fermented foods to your diet, you are recovering not only your health, but important traditions that have been almost completely forgotten (I dunno ‘bout you, but knowing this is pretty exciting — and motivating — to me).

What fermented foods are used on GAPS?

* Lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits and their juices
Things like sauerkraut, kimchi, fruit chutneys, relishes and fermented cabbage juice. Any low-starch vegetable and most fruits can be lacto-fermented.

* Fermented dairy
Mainly kefir, yogurt and fermented cream. These must be fermented for at least 24 hours to ensure that all the lactose has been broken down by the lacto-fermenting bacteria. Cheese can be introduced slowly after some healing has occurred.

* Alternative kefir and other probiotic beverages
Beet kvass and other kinds of kvass, fermented with whey, probiotics or another starter. Fermented tomato juice. Coconut water kefir or grape juice kefir fermented without sugar.

* Fermented meats
Gravlax. Fermented small fish, like sardines or herring. Fermented red meat.

Probiotics

Ideally, we’d replenish all our beneficial flora with fermented foods exclusively, but that’s a little unrealistic for GAPS patients, and quite honestly most people are so deficient in good bacteria sources that taking a probiotic supplement is almost always a good idea.

There are thousands — maybe millions — of probiotics in the market. How do you choose one that is right for you?

There is no straight answer to that question, but from the GAPS point of view, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • A good probiotic should many different bacteria strains. Most probiotics contain just two or three different ones.
  • A good probiotic should provide at least 8 billion bacteria per gram.
  • The manufacturer of the probiotic should test every batch for strength and be always available to publish the result of the tests.

The two most widely used probiotics for GAPS patients are Bio-Kult and GutPro

This one area is tricky to navigate on your own. If you are using probiotic therapy to rebuild your internal ecosystem, then it’s best to consult with a knowledgeable practitioner — hello! over here! — to determine an appropriate brand and dosage for your needs.

More about probiotics here and here.

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One of the critical transitions people experience when they decide to embark on the GAPS journey — or SCD, Paleo, or some other ancestral diet-based healing protocol — is the complete absence of baked goods. You might find yourself desperate for a cookie, or with a nagging feeling of incompleteness for the lack of bread. Initially, it gets tough.

There’s however, an alternative: we can use nuts and seeds instead of wheat or other grains, and honey or dried fruit, instead of sugar, to make our own baked goods. It works great and it’s actually easier than gluten-based baking.

In this class we’ll make:

  • Two different kinds of pizza — choose your favorite!
  • Paleo/GAPS brownies
  • Grain-free/sugar-free carrot cake
  • Banana nut flourless clafouti

We’ll also explain the basic technique to make nuts and seeds digestion-friendly, the differences between regular baking and baking with nuts, and how to modify for vegetarian and dairy-free diets. All the recipes are GAPS legal and Paleo friendly.

When?
Class #2: Saturday April 21st. 3 pm to 6 pm

Where?
25th St between 6 and 7 ave in Manhattan, NY.

How much?
Only $45

 

**RSVP by making your payment**
You will receive an email with the exact address and other details after RSVPing.

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Herbed Seed and Nut Crackers

by Andrea on February 23, 2012

in Recipes

Herbed Nut and Seed Crackers

I have been gluten-free for many years, and grain-free for almost two. I usually do pretty well in the craving department, but sometimes a celery, or a carrot stick, no matter how crunchy it might be, just doesn’t do it. I WANT crackers! I’d been wanting to create a very nutrient-dense, GAPS-legal cracker that tasted really good, and I think I got it. I liked these crackers with olive tapenade and with a yogurt dip, but my favorite combo was with butter and a little sauerkraut on top. Yummy!

Herbed Seed and Nut Crackers

Prep time:30 min
Baking time: 20 min +/-

Ingredients:
Soaked and dehydrated nuts are best, but raw will do.
* 1 cup sunflower seeds
* 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
* 1/2 cup almonds
* 1 to 2 eggs
* 1 to 2 tablespoons lard or another healthful animal fat, melted
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon each dried parsley, oregano and dill
* 1/4 teaspoon powdered garlic
* A pinch or 2 cayenne pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
* 1 to 2 tablespoons water

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Grind sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds in the food processor (I like to do them separately so that I can control the texture better, but you can do them all together, especially if you have a really good food processor). They won’t become a powder but more of a sand-like texture.

3. Dump the seed/nut mixture into a mixing bowl — or continue mixing in your food processor, again, if it is pretty powerful. Once you add the eggs, the mixture will get kind of hard to incorporate.

4. Stir the salt, herbs, spices and baking powder into the nut mixture.  Add eggs — one by one — fat and apple cider vinegar — a little at a time — while stirring. You are looking for the closest to pie-doughy consistency you can get. It might take less or more of the liquid ingredients. Add a little water if needed. But don’t worry! You can still make great crackers if the dough gets more sticky than planned.

5. Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a piece of parchment paper (I like this one).  Cover the dough with a second piece of parchment, and roll it out into the closest to a 1/8″ thick rectangle you can get it — the thinner the dough, the crunchier the crackers.

6. Carefully remove the top piece of parchment and cut the dough into squares with a knife, or a pizza cutter if you have it.  Place parchment with dough in a cookie sheet and repeat the operation with the second half of the dough. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Keep an eye on it! Any nut baked good burns easily.

7. Let the crackers cool down. Separate the parchment as you break them following your cut. Enjoy!

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Cider Braised Beef Shanks

by Andrea on February 22, 2012

in GAPS,Recipes

braisedshanks

Of the muscle meats, the shanks — the lower part of the leg of usually a cow, pig or lamb — is my favorite. Besides being full of connective tissue — we want this for digestive health! — when cooked with enough time and patience, it becomes tender and full of flavor. Delicious!

It is even better with the bone — this is what Italians call osso bucco. The marrow inside the bone is a true super food and it lends incredible flavor and texture to the stew. Besides, this is a pretty inexpensive cut. What else do you need? After you eat this, you will start thinking that steak is really overrated (I think so).

You can braise with any liquid you have around — water, stock, vinegar, wine, beer, or a combination. I had some really good cider in my fridge, so I thought why not?! I’m sure it’ll work just fine. The result was far beyond fine. I polished it off as if someone was going to steal it from me ;-).

This recipe is especially good for people on GAPS who need to eat more carbohydrates.

Cider Braised Beef Shanks

Prep time: 15 min
Cooking time: 3 hours, largely unattended
Servings: 2-3

Ingredients:
* 2 bone-in beef shanks (1.5 to 2 lbs)
* 4 cups apple cider
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 inch ginger, minced
* 1 onion, chopped
* several sprigs of parsley
* 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
* 3 bay leaves
* 1/2 cabbage, chopped
* 3 cups chopped carrots
* Salt and pepper to taste
* Lard, or another healthful animal fat to saute
* High quality mustard to serve

Directions:
1. Salt and pepper the shanks. In a heavy-bottom pan — a dutch oven, if you have it, is the best — add sufficient fat to sear the shanks in batches (you can skip the browning, if you are in the beginning stages of GAPS).

searedshanks

2. Once the meat is done, deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of apple cider and scrape up all the brown bits. Add onion, garlic, ginger  chili flakes and salt. Saute until soft.

3. Add the meat back into the pan and cover with cider — you can add beef stock if you want. Since I had the bones with marrow, I didn’t find it necessary. You can also add some water if the cider is not enough. — Add bay leaves and parsley sprigs. Cover the pan and braise in low heat for at least 2 hours. The meat falls off the bone and the marrow melts into the stew when done.

4. Take the meat and bones out. Check the bones for any marrow that might still be there and put that back into the stew. Add carrots and cabbage and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

5. At this point you have two choices. You can simply put the meat back into the stew, warm it up thoroughly and serve.

Or you can blend about 1/4 of the stew, mix it back with the rest of the stew and let it simmer for 15 minutes before warming up the meat. This results on a stew with more body, in the absence of a thickening agent.

6. Serve with mustard on the side. This one paired incredibly well ;-)

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Well, hello there. This is the second part of our GAPS lesson. You can find part one here.

2. Remove ALL the stuff that’s difficult to digest and adds toxicity to your body.

Recovering your digestive (and subsequently the rest of your) health using the GAPS protocol requires that you avoid some foods, if only for a period of time.

In order to understand why, we need to have a brief biology lesson.

Say hello to… the enterocyte!

The inside walls of the intestines are not straight and smooth as you might have imagined. They look more like a carpet, covered by villi — think hair-like formations. Those villi are in turn covered by enterocytes, which are epithelial — think brick-like — cells.

Looks like this:

OK. Now, enterocytes have in turn some “hair” of their own — called microvilli. These tiny hairs are super-duperly important as they are the place where enzymes hang out and coming the time, attach to food particles to make nutrients. These nutrients are then assimilated into the blood stream by moving along the tight junctions between the neatly lined-up enterocytes and cross the intestinal wall.

Enterocytes have a very short life cycle. They work pretty frickin’ hard, so it is veeeerrry important that they are always healthy and strong. Each enterocyte is born deep at the bottom of the villus and, in the few days that it takes it to make its way to the top of the villus, it’s already old and weak. It dyes and gets shed off, adding to the stream of matter that will get eliminated from the body.

That’s how it works. When it’s working.

But what happens when it’s not?

Several things. None of them good, unfortunately.

One of the roles of the intestinal flora is to protect the integrity of the epithelial wall which means that if the intestinal flora is unhealthy, the unprotected enterocytes become really weak. Some digestion-critical enzymes are produced only in the microvilli. If the enterocytes are weak, then lots of nutrients are NOT getting broken down appropriately and are entering the blood stream partially digested. These partially digested molecules are toxic to the body.

As the enterocytes degenerate, they start to die before they can be replaced, leaving holes in the epithelial wall. Stuff that should stay inside the intestines starts to leak out and stuff that should stay out, starts to come in. And this happens simultaneously with the progressive degeneration of the gut flora. Can you see how this is a HUGE problem?

So the criteria we use to determine which foods to avoid is: those which are difficult to digest, feed the unhealthy bacteria and will most likely cross the gut wall partially digested. By avoiding those foods, we are giving the body the best chance to start repairing the gut.

Which foods?

Processed foods
There are many reasons why no one should eat processed foods. They are devoid of life and offer the body no significant nutrients but instead, rob it of  its energy and nutrients in order to get digested (or as digested as they will in any case). Most of them have plenty of chemicals that a weak digestive system can’t handle. Also, you can never be sure of any hidden ingredients, cross-contaminants, or molds they might contain.

If you want to heal your body, you must fall in love with fresh foods and with cooking.

Sugar and anything made with it
I’m sure you know lots of reasons why you shouldn’t eat sugar. Lack of digestibility is yet one more.

Sucrose is a disaccharide and we need those precious enzymes that live in the microvilli to break it down into glucose and fructose, so it can be absorbed into the blood stream. Sugar is also a most favorite food of unhealthy bacteria, parasites and fungi that we want to move out of the body. As I said before, honey — which is easy to digest and absorb — is the only sweetener that’s welcome in this approach.

Grains
All grains and grain-like seeds — millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat — contain long chains of carbohydrates and starch that are difficult to break down and digest, even if they are soaked and fermented before cooking them. Grains can be part of a healthy diet, but not for someone with gut dysbiosis. First we heal the gut walls, then we introduce grains if that’s what we want.

Side benefit? Removing all grains makes a diet truly gluten free.

Beans
Same thing here. Beans also contain long chains of carbohydrates and starch that a depleted gut wall can’t handle, so they must be out for a period of time. Lentils, lima beans and dried split peas, which contain much less starch than the rest of legumes, are allowed in advanced stages of the diet, after there has been significant recovery.

Soy beans and soy products are also on the avoid list.

Starchy vegetables
By now you’re probably thinking “You crazy? There’s no way that…”, but alas, I believe I am still sane. This starch and complex carbohydrate issue requires attention. We want to maximize gut healing and remember, it’s not forever. So, ahem… Potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, arrowroot, taro and other starchy roots are out. But hey, most other vegetables, including carrots, beets and winter squashes, are OK!

Lactose and anything that contains it
Lactose is one of those difficult to digest carbohydrates, so regular milk and regular dairy products are not allowed in the diet. However, as you may know, lacto-fermentation breaks down lactose — and also casein — making them very digestion-friendly so homemade, thoroughly lacto-fermented dairy products made with high quality milk are not only OK in this approach, but encouraged.

And that’s it! If you are just getting familiar with GAPS, this list — I know — seems overwhelming and impossible to comply with, but believe me, it just takes a little getting used to. It can be done and the rewards are priceless!

Next, we’ll be talking about point 3: recuperate the population of healthy micro-flora in your gut.

Don’t forget to comment and ask your questions down there. ’Till next time!

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Lengua en Salsa (Beef Tongue in Tomato Sauce)

by Andrea on January 30, 2012

in Recipes

I grew up eating organ meats. My mom used to cook liver, kidneys, tripe and more. But tongue was only for special occasions. I loved it!

So recently, and inspired by the prospect of a whole group of traditional foods enthusiasts sharing dishes, I took on the challenge of reviving my mom’s tradition of cooking tongue. Turns out it’s MUCH easier than I thought. And everyone liked it! Most people thought it didn’t taste much different than other meat and the texture was nice and soft. Several “delicious!” were announced.

Eating organ meats is a good thing. Often, they are rich in nutrients that muscle meats lack. Also, because they are not very popular, they tend to be very inexpensive — a great way to have quality, nutrient-dense food in a budget. There’s an ethical reason to eat organ meats as well. Conscious omnivores must make an effort to use as much of the animals we consume as possible. It is VERY important to consume organ meats only from healthy, pastured, grass-fed animals!

Cooking tongue

As I said, cooking it is really easy! I think the most difficult part is to get over the looks. Here is what it looks like raw:

Well, this one was actually sort of pretty. I got it all cleaned and neatly packaged from Fleishers. I paid $11 and it weighed 2+ lbs.

You only need to put it in a pot, cover it with filtered water — and several bay leaves, if you have them on hand — and boil it ’till it’s done! That takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a regular pot, or about 45 minutes in a pressure cooker. It’s easier if you do this a day or 2 before you’re serving it, because you can let it cool down right in the pot.

Once it’s cold, the outer skin will come right off, with no effort whatsoever. The resulting stock is totally usable, so save it!

At this point, you can treat it like any other stew meat, keeping in mind that tongue benefits from bold flavoring. Since I was making my version of Lengua en Salsa, I sliced it.

Can you even say that’s a tongue anymore? OK. Here’s the recipe:

Lengua en Salsa (Beef Tongue in Tomato Sauce)

Prep time: 15 min
Cooking time: 30 min
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:
* 1 beef tongue (2 to 2 1/2 lbs) cooked and sliced
* Tongue cooking stock
* 1 small can of tomato paste (like this one)
* 3-5 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
* 1 onion, chopped
* 2 ribs celery, chopped
* 1/2 red pepper, chopped
* 1/2 to 1 jalapeño, minced
* 2 big carrots, cubed
* 2 medium-size potatoes, cubed (for GAPS-legal version, double the amount of carrots or add some squash instead of potatoes)
* 1/2 cup green olives
* 1/2 lb white mushrooms, sliced
* 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each dried parsley, rosemary and oregano
* Salt and pepper to taste
* Lard, or another healthful animal fat to saute

Directions:
1. In a heavy-bottom pan — a dutch oven, if you have it, is the best — add sufficient fat to saute garlic, onions, celery, red pepper and jalapeño. “Sweat” the veggies until they are nice and shinny.

2. Add tongue stock and water, if necessary, to complete about 10 cups of liquid. Add tomato paste and dissolve well.

3. Add carrots and potatoes. Bring to a boil and let simmer until these are “al dente”.

4. Season with dried herbs, salt and pepper.

5. Add mushrooms, olives and tongue. Heat thoroughly. Correct seasoning and serve, or better yet, let simmer in very low heat for another 10 minutes, turn heat off, let it rest and serve it the next day.

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Double-cooked Brussels Sprouts and Green Beans

by Andrea on December 22, 2011

in GAPS,Recipes

I made this simple dish for a potluck last week and it was a big hit, so instead of describing it to each person who asked, I thought, well… I’ll just publish it in the blog!!

Double-cooked Brussels Sprouts and Green Beans
Prep time: 15 min
Cooking time: 20 min
Servings: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
* 1 lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut in 1 1/2 inch-long pieces
* 1 lb Brussels Sprouts, bottoms trimmed and cut in half
* 2 slices of high-quality, nitrate-free, thick-sliced, or 4 of thin-sliced bacon, cut in bite-size pieces (this one and this one are GAPS-friendly).
* Lard, or another healthful animal fat to saute.
* Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Blanch the veggies: bring sufficient water to a boil in a big pot. Add enough salt, so that the water is salty. Cook veggies in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and immediately put the veggies in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process and keep the bright green color. Strain again, once completely cooled off.

*I always blanch vegetables separately because each vegetable takes a different time to cook. In this case, because they are both green vegetables, I recycled the water I used for the green beans to blanch the Brussels sprouts. Sometimes, I blanch veggies a little over the “all-dente” point, so that they can develop some sweetness. I think this is a good practice for people with a low digestive fire, including those following the GAPS protocol.

2. In a big skillet, fry the bacon pieces over medium heat to render the bacon fat. Using a slotted spoon, take the bacon pieces out, once they are done to your liking.

3. Add green beans and Brussels sprouts to skillet and mix until all the veggies are thoroughly covered with fat. Add more lard, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and warm thoroughly. Add the bacon pieces back. Mix and serve hot.

* You could use sausage or chorizo, cut in small pieces, if you can’t find good quality bacon. Just make sure to add enough fat to saute.

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Last time I was telling you how all diseases actually do start in the gut and the story of Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, the creator of the GAPS concept (a condition that establishes a connection between the functions of the digestive system and the health of the body, including the brain) and more importantly, the GAPS healing protocol.

However I haven’t said anything about the protocol yet. Lucky day! We’ll start now.

The GAPS healing protocol consist of 3 components:

  1. Diet
  2. Supplementation
  3. Detoxification

Diet is the most important part of the protocol. You could take the supplements and detox until you are blue in the face, but if you don’t follow the diet the impact in your health will be minor.

BUT if you only followed the diet rigorously… Ah! Then you would experience substantial improvement even if you didn’t take the supplements or did the detox. I’m not saying those things are not important; they are. But please understand that the life-changing power of the GAPS protocol lies in the diet.

So, what should a person with GAP syndrome eat?

The capacity to digest and assimilate food is greatly affected in people who suffer from GAPS — remember that we’re talking about a digestive condition — and therefore they are severely malnourished.

The 3 instances of a healing diet for people with GAPS are:

  1. Eat ALL the easy-to-digest, nutrient-dense food you can.
  2. Remove ALL the stuff that’s difficult to digest and adds toxicity to your body.
  3. Recuperate the population of healthy micro-flora in your gut.

Easy peasy! Well, not exactly. You know how they say the devil is in the details? Totally applies.

Today we’ll talk about the fun part…

1. Eat ALL the easy-to-digest, nutrient-dense food you can.

ALL means that, in this approach, there’s no portion control what-so-ever. We rely on the body’s innate wisdom to tell us when to stop eating. In fact, a huge percentage of “GAPSters” (that’s the cool name for people on the GAPS diet) actually struggle not because they eat too much, but because they can’t bring themselves to eat as much of the good food as they need for recovery.

What kinds of nutrient-dense foods are we exactly talking about?

First and foremost, animal foods. The effect of vegetable foods in the human body is first cleansing, and then filling, but not nourishing. The human digestive system assimilates nutrients the most effectively and effortlessly from animal foods. Of course not all animal foods bring the same level of nourishment and digestion ease. That’s why the GAPS protocol is very specific. Here are the details:

All kinds of bone and meat broths and stocks.
Water is the perfect vehicle for the minerals, proteins and fats in the bones, muscle and connective tissue of the animal to get absorbed when digestion and assimilation are weak. If we drew the GAPS food pyramid, broths and stocks would be at the base.

The most common animal to make stock is chicken, but you can use whatever is most convenient to you. The most nutrient-dense stocks are made with bone, connective tissue and some meat as well; cheaper cuts like chicken wings, backs and feet, or oxtails, or shanks are the best to make broth.

Where do you start with broths? It depends. Someone who’s really sick might only tolerate chicken broth made with pasture-raised chicken, free of soy and corn, so that’s where they need to start. Most people tolerate a wide variety of stocks, so choices depend on their own convenience and their taste buds.

This is a great blog post on broth making for GAPS:
http://www.wholetraditions.com/blog/2009/04/making-broth-for-gaps.html

Homemade soups with meat and vegetables
Whatchado with all that broth you’re making? Most of it will go to soup making. By adding vegetables and the same meat and connective tissue you’ve used for the broths, you can build delicious and highly nourishing soups. GAPS patients must eat soup everyday and some must do it several times a day. Soups may be blended if you prefer, thicker or thinner, more complex or very minimalistic. It really doesn’t matter much as long as you are getting those nutrients into your body.

Eggs
Eggs — specifically the yolks — might be the easiest-to-digest-food in the planet. They are also highly nutrient-dense, especially if they come from pastured chickens. When doing the introduction GAPS diet, patients eat egg yolks first and once they are well tolerated, they start eating whole eggs.

What if you are allergic to eggs?
Anaphylactic reactions to eggs are quite rare and, just like any other anaphylactic reaction, they require quite a bit of work to be overcome —if they will at all. However, intolerances to eggs are fairly common. Follow the GAPS process and, trust me, you’ll be able to tolerate eggs in no time.

Meats
All kinds of meats, poultry and seafood are allowed on the GAPS diet, but again, we prefer inexpensive cuts that contain plenty of fat and connective tissue. Steaks should be a rare luxury; muscle meat is just not as nutrient-dense — or as flavorful — as the more humble cuts. We make our best effort to get the highest quality meat and seafood we can find and afford — organic, pasture-raised, wild, etc. However, lack of access to this sort of ingredients shouldn’t be an obstacle to do the diet. If you can’t find the really high quality meats, then you make do with the best you can find.

Preserved meats like sausages, bacon, or cold cuts are not allowed in the diet, simply because of the preservatives and chemicals they may contain. You can, however, make your own versions of preserved meats using only salt, pepper, spices and herbs to flavor them.

Dairy
Fermented dairy products are important in the diet because they provide much needed health-promoting micro-flora to the body. However they must be made at home to ensure a proper fermentation cycle and introduced in very specific ways. Ghee, sour cream, kefir and yogurt are allowed, but they should be made at home from raw and grass-fed milk, cream and butter if possible, or from pasteurized organic ingredients as a second best option. Hard cheeses are introduced in later stages of the diet, followed by soft cheeses, fresh cream and eventually, raw milk without fermentation.

Just as with eggs, people usually overcome lactose intolerance when they stick to the GAPS dairy introduction tightly.

Fat
I mentioned it already, but I just want to highlight the fact that all sorts of fats from healthy animals are not only allowed in this approach, but necessary for the healing of the digestive system. Lard, tallow, chicken fat, duck fat, goose fat, butter, ghee… Bring’em all!

Honey
Honey is really the only sweetener welcome on the GAPS diet. Most other sweeteners are composed of disaccharides or more complex chains of carbohydrates and therefore too difficult to digest (more on this coming soon). Honey is made out of fructose and glucose, which are monossacharides that a weak digestive system can handle. Unheated (raw) honey, which besides sweetness adds wonderful nutrients to the diet, is always best.

OK. As you can see the GAPS diet makes use of plenty of animal foods. But wait. There are vegetables too! Let’s move on.

Non-starchy vegetables
One criteria you need to keep in mind throughout the process of healing your digestion, is the complexity of the molecules of carbohydrates you eat. As I mentioned already, a weak digestive system can’t break down disaccharides or more complex chains of carbohydrates. GAPSters become experts at discerning this (I will explain in detail soon. Promise).

For example, winter squashes are mostly made of simple carbohydrates and therefore they are allowed on the diet. However sweet potatoes, which many people associate with winter squashes, contain starch, so they are a no. Carrots and beets? Yes. Parsnips and potatoes? No.

All members of the brassica family — kale, collard greens, cabbage, broccoli, etc. — are OK, as are all onions. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, mushrooms, and all other non-starchy vegetables are welcome.

Whereas some raw vegetables might contain more nutrients than cooked, that becomes irrelevant if the digestive system is too weak to handle them. All vegetables get really well cooked in the beginning stages of the diet (remember those soups with vegetables we talked about?) and the fibrous parts get discarded. As the healing progresses and the digestion improves, the person is more able to handle raw vegetables and salads and they can be introduced gradually.

Lacto-fermented vegetables
Just like dairy, lacto-fermented vegetables are highly important in the diet. Lacto-fermentation pre-digests the vegetables and enhances their nutrient profile. More importantly, they provide the healthy kind of micro-flora that we all desperately need.

The first non-dairy, lacto-fermented food that is introduced in GAPS is sauerkraut juice. We then introduce sauerkraut, and from then on, there is a wide variety to try. Pretty much any non-starchy vegetable or its juice can be fermented.

Fruit
Virtually all fruits are acceptable in GAPS, as long as they are ripe. The reason for that is, again, the complexity of the carbohydrates. For example, green bananas contain plenty of starch that breaks down into simpler and simpler carbohydrate molecules as they ripen. Therefore, unripe bananas are not GAPS-friendly, but yellow bananas with plenty of dark spots on the skin are OK.

In an ideal world, all the fruit we consume would be tree-ripened but it’s unrealistic to think we can find such luxurious foods easily. Do your best to allow time for ripening, ideally in a warm place — my fruit spot is a basked hanging in front of a window that receives morning sun.

Just like with vegetables, fruit is introduced slowly and initially, the patient might only tolerate it cooked. Avocados are an exception. Ripe avocados are full of great fats and enzymes and they are preferably introduced pretty early on in the protocol. There’s also a variety of lacto-fermented chutneys and beverages made with fruit that are great additions to the GAPS diet. Dehydrated fruit with no sugar or preservatives added is also allowed.

Nuts and seeds
Pretty much all nuts and seeds — even peanuts, which are actually a legume — are allowed on the diet. Nuts and seeds share a lot of characteristics with beans and grains — they are all seeds after all — which means that it’s best to process them with care and eat them in moderation.

Nuts contain lots of nutrients, but they also contain enzyme inhibitors and antinutrients. The diet allows raw nuts, but if you want to maximize nutrition and digestibility, get in the habit of soaking and dehydrating them. This is important especially for GAPSters, who usually rely on nuts heavily.

Tons of recipes have been adapted for the diet using nuts, dried fruit and honey to make baked goods and desserts. This will give you room to play and not feel deprived, but you need to be careful and eat these in moderation. After all, we do need to unhook from sugar consumption!

Beans
Some beans, which are low in starch, are allowed after a lot of healing has taken place. Just like nuts, they must be properly prepared and consumed in moderation.

Salt, herbs and spices
Plenty of salt, please! Salt is essential for digestive healing to happen. All natural — as in… natural, you know? — herbs and spices are allowed in the diet, so you can always make your food taste good!

O’righty… I think that’s it. As you can see, there’s a wide variety of foods the GAPS healing protocol allows for, so OK; it might not be easy peasy BUT it is (as my client Carolyn said) totally doable and totally worth it. Next we are going to talk about the not so fun: what you need to avoid and why.

Don’t forget to comment and ask your questions down there. ’Till next time!

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