The holiday season provides us with an opportunity to make a difference in peoples lives. In a special way, your gift choices can bring joy to people with health challenges both big and small.
We founded Verdant Kitchen on the belief that some natural foods have an outsized ability to help promote wellness and to have a positive impact on our lives. We have had the great fortune to help improve the quality of life for so many people over the past few years.
"Chemo patients need these. Nice tin for carry in chemo bag or handbags." Denise H on Ginger Bites
A few days ago I was feeling unwell. I had picked up a chest cold on my trip to the SEMA show in Vegas a few weeks back and try as I did, I could not get rid of it. A course of heavy antibiotics quickly got it under control but let me feeling very nauseous - a few pieces of Bare Ginger every 3 hours I felt no nausea. My problem was a small and temporary one, but it reminded me how disruptive pain, discomfort, nausea, and exhaustion can be. Health issues, even small and temporary ones, can rob your quality of life.
"They make most queasiness during a flight go away without medication for me, which is helpful, but I also keep them in my desk just for snacking." Michelle E. on Turmeric Dusted Baby Ginger.
As excited as I am about great flavor I am more excited to develop products that help build and maintain strong active lives.
Here are a few ideas for you. Our food, supplements, and collections can be a gift in themselves but also consider building your own gift box around your Verdant Kitchen selections. These include simple items you can pick up at any grocery or drug store. Think of things to help stay warm, moisturized, entertained and relaxed. Warm socks, scarves, and soft blankets. Natural ingredient based moisturizes and lip balm. Books and magazines or audio books and subscriptions are always appreciated.
Rather than come up with an exhaustive list, here are some starting point suggestions. Think about your friends and family who may be putting on a brave face but would really appreciate a gift that made them feel brighter and better able to cope with the holidays.
Prescription medications and chemotherapy often cause nausea, low appetite and a rejection of many familiar tastes.
"Ginger Syrup was the only thing that got me through my breast cancer treatments" Meredith on Ginger Syrup in water as a drink to sip.
for higher levels of Ginger consider our Farm Fresh capsules
People who suffer from Motion Sickness - for those who suffer from motion sickness, it can ruin travel. Ginger can help reduce nausea that is the result of motion sickness.
I loved this quote from Katie M
"..not the flavor for me AT ALL, but when I read it’s helpful for morning sickness, I had to give it a try! these are in tiny tolerable pieces and seemed to tame the nausea a bit."
Pregnant Moms often have a unique battle with nausea. We have so many moms tell us that our ginger products really helped them.
Ida M on nausea she suffered during pregnancy.
"Got this to help fight my pregnancy nausea. Love being able to use a natural remedy. The sugar makes it super tasty."
Check out more ideas in gift giving from our blog The Six Essentials for Great Gifts
Let's start with a few dictionary definitions. I'm going to use the word "vomiting" (1) only four times because I don't know now about you but even the saying the word "vomiting" (2) will make me want to (refer to Mr. Barf).
"Nausea - definition: a stomach distress with distaste for food and an urge to vomit (3). I'm not even going to use up my last time with a definition of what comes next. We kind of all know what that means. All jokes aside, when this happens to you, it is anything but amusing. But there's a lot you can do to stop it before it ever starts.
There are a number of things that can cause nausea including food poisoning, a bad taste or smell, fear, drug interactions such as chemotherapy, and motion sickness.
For this conversation, we are going to focus on motion sickness.
NASA is one group that has spent a lot of time studying motion sickness. As a pilot or team member in a critical flight or space mission, motion sickness is not just an inconvenience, it can be life threatening.
James Locke, flight surgeon at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, has been studying the causes of motion sickness. In a recent Scientific American article, he said of his research:
"Despite decades of research, scientists are still not sure exactly why motion sickness occurs—or how. The currently accepted theory is that sensory conflict is to blame.
"Information from both our visual and vestibular systems is processed by the brain to match it all up. Your vestibular system—your inner ear—is tuned to a terrestrial, 1G environment," Locke says. "When you move [yourself] around, changes in your vestibular system match up with what you're seeing. But [riding] in an airplane or car, your inner ear signals that you're moving, but your eye says you're sitting still" because your body is not moving in relation to its immediate environment—such as the seat you're sitting in, the back of the seat in front of you and the floor beneath your feet.
From reviewing a good cross-section of scientific literature it also seems that motion sickness impacts each of us differently. Perhaps 1/3 of people are unaffected. Unfortunately for those who suffer from migraines, they are also more prone to suffer from motion sickness. For others, it depends on the circumstances and someone not usually impacted can suddenly succumb to nausea and vice versa. In addition, there are ways to reduce nausea and as it turns out ways to reduce the likelihood that nausea progresses to vomiting (4th and I'm done).
There are both positive actions we can take and foods, supplements, and drugs that act to reduce the feeling of motion sickness and the unfortunate end result if left unchecked.
Adaption - in many tests people can be trained to reduce motion sickness. Exposure to small and increasing levels of motion can allow people to reduce and delay nausea. I think that if you are a pilot, a professional fisherman, or astronaut this is probably a good idea, but if you are taking a flight or a vacation cruise or are a passenger in a car or bus, adaption therapy may not work for you.
Sync your senses - Since motion sickness is linked to times when our eyes are not in sync with the inner ear, then try and get them back in sync. Try closing your eyes, go to sleep or get where you can see the horizon.
Drugs - There are prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements that have proven effective for motion-related nausea. These include Dramamine and scopolamine among others. While they have shown positive effects, they come with side effects including drowsiness and dry mouth.
Ginger - (botanical name Zingiber officinale) is harvested from the edible underground roots or rhizomes of the perennial, herbaceous plant. Ginger takes around 10 months to grow in subtropical climate conditions. The ginger roots are a complex blend of many bioactive compounds including gingerols and shogaols, which give ginger its warm taste, and resins and oils that give ginger its distinctive aroma. Both sets of compounds have a part to play in reducing motion sickness.
Ginger has undergone extensive testing (and 5,000 years of cultivation and consumption) including peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (the best standard) for a wide range of conditions that lead to nausea. Some investigations have shown strong impacts on nausea, some have shown it to be at least as effective as the leading drugs, but without the side effects, and some have failed to show effectiveness. As we now better understand the variation in nausea from person to person and across time, this is not surprising.
The exact method of nausea relief is not fully understood, but it does appear that ginger affects the tone and motion of the stomach together with a number of key pathways that cause a positive effect by their impact on the brain and nervous system.
The consensus is that ginger is recognized as safe and prevents and relieves nausea and vomiting (oops, an extra one) caused by motion sickness.
Ginger is available fresh, pickled, candied and as cookies, tea blends, preserves, ginger ales and supplements. Each has a different level of ginger and in addition the ratio and absolute levels of gingerols and shogaols. Shogaols tend to be higher in dried ginger, and in studies, shogaols may have a large anti-nausea impact.
There is no established FDA Daily Value for ginger, however, many of the clinical trials use a daily dose of 700-1000 mg of dried ginger powder. With this as a guide, it would equate to the following:
Try to take the ginger 30 minutes to an hour before travel.
Ginger Side Effects - ginger is a potent bioactive spice. Pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, people on blood thinners and other prescription drugs should seek medical advice before use.
Disclaimer - This information has not been evaluated or approved by the FDA and is not necessarily based on scientific evidence from any source. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are intended to support general well being and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease. If conditions persist, please seek advice from your medical doctor.
The days get warmer, the trees bloom, and with that comes a deluge of pollen that can often make us miserable with allergies. There are natural foods, however, that can help reduce the impact of these allergies and the need to reach for synthetic drugs with their many unwanted side effects.
To better understand what is happening in our bodies, and how we can help, let's look at how our immune system works and responds.
The National Institutes of Health has an excellent publication (NIH Publication No. 03-5423) that provides a clear explanation of how our immune system works.
"The most common type of allergic disease occurs when the immune system responds to a false alarm. A normally harmless material such as grass pollen or house dust is mistaken for a threat and attacked. Allergies such as pollen allergy are related to an antibody known as IgE. Like other antibodies, each IgE antibody is specific; one acts against oak pollen and another ragweed."
Our amazing immune systems have fast response mechanisms. Once we encounter an allergen such as a pollen, our B cells make specific IgE antibodies. These antibodies attached to mast cell. These mast cells are the bodies fast allergy storm troopers. Inside them they have granules of histamine and heparin - chemicals that the body uses to speed the diffusion of white blood cells into muscle to help fight against infection. The next time these primed mast cells encounter the same pollen, they release their payload of histamine. When this happens in a cascading way, we can suffer from a major allergic response out of balance with the threat.
There are a wide range of chemicals both artificial and natural that can mediate the action of these mast cells to reduce over-reactions to common allergens. Nature has produced broad classes of chemicals that are particularly effective at stabilizing the mast cells.
Foods high in flavonoids and polyphenols are of special interest. These are some of our favorite brightly colored foods. They include Quercetin, which is found in high levels in the skin of apples, berries and capers; Resveratrol found in grapes, red wine and raspberries; and Curcumin, one key active ingredient in Turmeric.
A lot of study has focused on the role Turmeric can play in the mediation of allergies and inflammation. In recent studies, Curcumin has been found to suppress the IgE-mediated allergic response. It appears that Curcumin has anti-allergic activity - it significantly inhibited antigen-induced degranulation of the mast cells and the release of their histamine.
The effect of Curcumin appears to function to mediate the Mast cell at low concentrations. The Curcumin is naturally manufactured in the rhizome of our organically grown Turmeric and provides its bright orange color.
With this knowledge, we can create allergy-fighting menus that can keep levels of naturally occurring Quercetin, Resveratrol and Curcumin in our blood stream while enjoying delicious, nutritious and healthful foods. Our suggested menu is enhanced for spring with the addition of Turmeric Capsules. It includes allergy-fighting raspberries, ginger, turmeric, onions, capers and apples that will keep you satisfied and ready to face these spring days.
A Daily Menu Packed with Allergy-Fighting Natural Goodness
Lunch - Lox and Bagels with onions and capers
Snack - Red Apple + Ginger Turmeric Green Tea
I wish we had the ability to share aromas online. Today we are fresh grinding our USDA Organic, USA Grown Ginger and Turmeric from our Savannah Organic farm for a batch of Ginger Turmeric Green Tea that will be produced this week in our Organic kitchens in Atlanta, GA.
But back to how it smells. I can't share the aroma, but let me try and describe it.
Our USDA Organic spices, including Ginger and Turmeric, are grown in sandy loams near the coast. They have that terroir. We grow over nine varieties of Ginger and four varieties of Turmeric (and several varieties of Galangal) and each has a unique flavor profile.
Careful processing does not mean low tech. Once harvested and washed, the spices are sliced and carefully raw food dehydrated in atmospheric-controlled rooms. They are then ground in air flow, all designed to minimize heat and maximize the existing essential oils, polyphenols, phytochemicals and other nutrients and functional products. The assault on your senses comes in no small part due to the careful way we prepare the ingredients. At Verdant Kitchen® we believe strongly that the end product can never be better than the ingredients used to make it. Take this concept and walk backward through the process. You come back to the soil, the farm, the seedlings, the irrigation, the harvest, and worry and work to make it the best it can be at every step.
The Ginger - intense citrus, but much more complex. Perhaps a reminder of Bergamot in a morning cup of Earl Grey. Sweet like a Hungarian Pepper. Something complex underneath, something that makes you feel happy, but what is it? Your mouth waters, ginger has that effect. Suddenly you feel it more than smell it. The essential oils are being absorbed and connecting with your brain. You almost sneeze and smile.
The Turmeric - carrots, is it carrots? No not carrots, but perhaps carrots mixed with butternut squash and something else. Savory, similar to the sea breeze from the marsh near the fields. Fresh pepper, a hint of camphor like your Grandma's old cupboard. Something familiar and friendly.
The Green Tea - grassy, fresh a little bitter. We speak a lot about the benefits of Ginger and Turmeric, but Green Tea especially when consumed several times a day has well proven positive impact including clinical research on the reduction of the development of Prostate Cancer. Here is a link to our blog and video on Green Tea and Prostate Cancer.
Together they are a potent blend of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and polyphenols that can provide joy and wellness benefits across a broad range of critical body functions.
Making a cup of this tea could not be simpler. Here is a video where I have used our office Keurig. Use really hot water and let it steep for a few minutes. Some of the active ingredients, especially in the Turmeric, have limited solubility in cold water. The hot water will extract the oils and essential chemicals and provide you with enhanced bioavailability.
Ginger and Turmeric under the Live Oaks - Verdant Kitchen USDA Organic Farm Savannah, GA.
A lot has been said about the trend in warming weather. You can choose to call it climate change or not, but what is fact is that we have seen warming average temperatures for the last 30 years.
Looking across the US we can see this trend as increases in average mean temperatures by state.
You can customize you information at this NOAA site
If seems like every other person I have met in the last week has a cold of some sort. Changing temperature profiles changes disease spread. To focus on immunity and recovery, see FightBack5
We will hear a lot more about climate change and sometimes it seems a bit abstract and difficult to apply to your daily lives. On the farm it is only too obvious. Planting and harvest times are keyed to last frost, first frost and average temperatures. The temperatures and associated rainfall drives insect emergence, which has a very direct impact on quality and yield. Crops that have never been grown in a region suddenly become possible, while long-term staple crops become uneconomic.
Last week in mid-February on the farms at Verdant Kitchen in Savannah GA, the camellias were finishing their flowering. The azaleas were finishing a big bloom. It was 79 F. The weed seeds had shot and clover was 6 inches high and lush.
Farms worry about lots of things, but above all they worry about uncertainty. Uncertainty generally means reduced yields and increased costs. These are costs that in the end are borne by the consumer. We should understand climate change and all do our part to reduce the impact. The consequences of changing climate will hit our pockets and our environment.
We can watch our graphs and first and last frost almanac dates - but just go stand by a flowering shrub. The bees will tell you when it's spring.
Green Tea contains high levels of polyphenols that have been shown in research to contribute to anti-cancer impacts. Prostate Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in the USA, and up to 30% of men 30-40 years show precancerous lesions. Can Green Tea help to reduce rates of death from Prostate Cancer? We will look to see what the research shows. Click here for products included.
In 60 seconds or less, you can brew a delicious cup of USDA Organic tea. If you only do one thing today to step toward wellness - make a cup of green tea. The process of steeping tea in hot water goes back thousands of years. The gentle and enjoyable process helps release the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals in this blend of natural products in a way that is easy for our bodies to absorb.
Google recently released their Food Trends for 2016 . If you were in any doubt about the role food plays in our lives, then look through this report. It is as much a social commentary as it is an aggregate of the thoughts and concerns of millions of people. A contemplation of this report is thoughtfully presented in 2016 Food Trends on Google - The Rise of Functional Foods.
The report caught my attention because it highlights Turmeric as a "rising star" in Google searches (after a long period of being a "sustained riser" on the search engine). It was this opening paragraph that spoke to the intersection of social concerns about our food and diet, the access technology is giving us to food and wellness information, and the ability to customize our lives.
The report stated "The dinner table looks quite different than it did just 10 years ago. For one, there's likely a smartphone next to the fork. And on each plate, there might be a different meal—mom's paleo, dad's vegan, the kids' gluten- and nut-free. At first glance, you might think these changes are unrelated...."
I think that knowledge of what we eat, where it comes from, and how it got to our plate is powerful. The choices we make several times a day about our food are perhaps the most important decisions we make in our lives. Increasingly these are individual choices. As the report points out, we have the ability to customize our food choices and roll them into a meal plan the same way we can customize and organize the apps on our smart phones.
As positive as I feel about the ability to access food information, I have a deep concern. This newfound dietary personalization speaks to our troubled and stressful lives. The fact that over the last five years there has been a 961% increase in the search "what foods are good for acid reflux" speaks to the challenges we face with our lifestyles. It is essential that people use this access to information to lead better, healthier lives.
In his best-selling 2008 book "In Defense of Food", author Michael Pollan does a masterful job of explaining the shift after the Second WW to deconstruct food into its separate components (fat, sugar, salt, calories...) and then recombine these and represent them as a nutritional label. He explains how this was an underlying cause of the widespread obesity and inflammatory diseases that we have seen since.
The problem is that while a natural food diet is in theory a simple proposition, the chemistry of food and the chemistry of our bodies is anything but simple. Break food down into its chemical components, add a few chemists (like me!) plus some good marketing people, and you get the breakfast cereal aisle that’s in every grocery store.
As Michael Pollan points out, the problem is not that we were provided information, nor is it that the information was incorrect. In fact, nutritional labels and particularly Ingredients Panels are a great source of information on prepared foods. Food labels were developed over several decades and represent a good faith effort to provide the current medical science on diets. The problem is that food, real food, is so much more than a few categories listed on a nutrition label. The problem is that “ingredients” can be used to synthesize foods to meet specific marketing objectives. In addition, the "current medical science on diets" has turned out to not always be correct. The beliefs that all fat is bad, that all dietary cholesterol is bad, have turned out to not be correct. My concern is that the access to "Internet quality information" mixed with excellent marketing can be a blessing and a curse. One thing for sure is that food, like fashion, is based on trends that are ever changing.
While food trends change, the body's need for nutrition has remained pretty constant. At Verdant Kitchen™ we have looked to ancient history and some long culinary and health traditions to smooth out the trends. The Rise of Functional Foods is much more of a return to age-old nutritional traditions than it is a new idea.
The key aspects of wellness continue to be:
- Eat food that provides Naturally Complex Nutrition™. That includes the spices like ginger and turmeric, and the colored fruits and vegetables packed with phytochemicals, antioxidants and natural inflammation regulators.
- Pursue an active lifestyle that includes exercise, sleep and joy.
- Be educated and informed. Make conscious food choices.
The "Rise of Functional Foods" is a great example of the positive good that can come from access to food information. Technology builds bridges between people and information that delivers useful knowledge. Functional Foods are a mashup of information between what tastes great and what is good for us. At Verdant Kitchen™, we call ourselves a Gourmet and Wellness company because our core Ginger and Turmeric products stand at the intersection of taste and function like they have for at least 7000 years. An ancient Egyptian may not have recognized the term "functional food," but you can be very sure that they understood only too well the concept.
Another interesting observation to take from the Google articles is people's apparent search for ways to use food and ingredients that may be unfamiliar but have strong functional benefits. A few recipe ideas can help. I would also suggest a couple of kitchen essentials to get you started:
Will we be misled by the overwhelming torrent of food and wellness information that now washes over us? Most certainly we will, but the trends are positive. The Rise of Functional foods is a trend that is worthy of becoming a way of life.
#2 in a 4-part series of discussions, Bodies Out of Balance - Chronic Inflammation, we will look at when there is no balance and our bodies move from health to chronic inflammation.
In the first part of this discussion "A question of Balance - Healthy and Unhealthy Inflammation" we talked about healthy inflammation. The cascading series of steps our bodies take to protect and heal. A rapid automatic and amazingly complex set of reactions designed to find and eliminate the infection or damage that our body has suffered. Lasting from a few hours to several days the results can be unpleasant. It is a fast-paced battle. The enemy (infection or damage) must be dealt with quickly before it overwhelms us. The end result though is a body ready again for activity.
In the second in the series we will look at "Bodies Out of Balance - Chronic Inflammation."
Sometimes the battle does not end. The signals and chemical messages that trigger our inflammatory response do not reduce. The result is chronic or long-term inflammation. Inflammatory disease that in and of itself is debilitating, but also has cascading impacts as the byproduct of these chemical reactions leave our bodies awash in free radicals and toxic wastes. These chemical wastes of the battle further stress our liver and kidneys and cause cascading chain reactions of pain and loss of life quality. So what went wrong with our beautiful and oh so finely tuned defenses?
We can look at three broad categories of the cause of inflammation:
- Autoimmune diseases
A group of diseases where our own immune system triggers and begins to see our health bodies as the target for destruction. The widespread attack on our bodies causes painful chronic inflammation as a byproduct of the disease.There are unfortunately over 80 documented autoimmune diseases that affect some 50+ million people in the US alone. Just a few of these diseases include:
One of the most troubling aspects of autoimmune diseases is that the exact triggers and causes are often little understood. Bacterial and Viral Disease, prolonged stress, environmental toxin exposure all have been linked. Often developing later in life and often running in families these are debilitating diseases.
- A breakdown of our natural response systems
Our bodies natural defensive response can become unregulated or damaged. A most common example are those who suffer from seasonal allergies. Responding to the presence of dust, mold, pollen and spores, our bodies see these mostly neutral substances as invaders and launch a full-scale response with the result of watering eyes, sinus pain and endless sneezing. Medications, foods, environmental toxins can all trigger these overreactions. In some they become chronic.
- Repetitive damage
Runners, tennis players, hikers, factory workers, chefs, moms, truck drivers, the obese all suffer from the repetitive use of specific parts of their bodies. Repeated wear and tear and damage to muscles and joints trigger repeated responses.
Each in their own way have the end result of chronic and often system-wide inflammation and its downstream problems. It feels like we are all doomed, but our bodies have amazing powers of healing and are full of redundant backup systems. Look just at the soldiers in the battle, our white blood cells. An array of specialized warriors, with lives from hours to years, each with a targeted purpose rapidly replaced in our lymphatic and bone marrow systems.
We truly are the amazing assembly of biological systems. Our complexity, that so often leads to disease, can also be harnessed to heal.
Medical science has developed a wide array of chemical treatments, never without their own side effects, often unwanted and damaging. Nevertheless these treatments are a miracle to those suffering chronic pain.
The real question to be asked is not "how do we treat these diseases," but "how do we help our bodies heal from and minimize the impact of these diseases."
As you read the literature, the answers have always been with us. Each one by itself is never a complete solution, and often they are so obvious they are often overlooked and dismissed. They form the foundation of strong disease resistant, faster recovering bodies, with healthy well regulated natural inflammatory responses.
Think long-term prevention. Have a long-term plan. Most times our chronic inflammation results from years of accumulated events, and we will not solve it overnight with one pill.
Remember we "carry our scars," we accumulate the good and bad in our lives. Focus on prevention. Include foods and supplements rich in phytochemicals and polyphenols that help naturally regulate our body's healthy inflammatory responses and soak up the free radicals and help our livers and kidneys quickly and completely tag and eliminate foreign substances that do damage. Turmeric, ginger, red grapes, cabbage, green tea, carrots and a wide range of spices, legumes, nuts and colored vegetables are all part of our long-term battle plan.
The added benefit is that these products, part of our diet for thousands of years, are not only healthful but delicious and bring us the joy of great food and the happiness of friends to enjoy it with.