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What if your daily routine could heal you to the point that you no longer needed aspirin for headaches you no longer have? Or lower your blood pressure, normalize your blood sugar, clear your arteries, help you sleep, reduce your stress?

What if your food choices reduced your grocery budget, made your skin glow, kept your kids healthy, happy, and eager and able to learn in school?

Our selections are too often made not by considering how much they will cost us down the road but by what they cost us now – cheap, overly processed food-in-a-box, meat and milk from factory-farmed animals raised in confinement (because it’s cheaper and more convenient for the “farmer”), “energy” bars and trendy “energy” drinks (they claim to give us quick nutrition or all day energy), bottled water (because we no longer trust what comes out of our taps) that turns out to be tap water….

But many of us haven’t yet found one of the most powerful cost-reducing tricks on the menu – joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. By “buying into” a local farm that grows our produce or raises our chickens or beef we can significantly reduce our yearly grocery bill. I just signed up for One Straw Farm’s CSA for $425 for the growing season from June – November, and my one share will feed four people all summer (about $71/month for six months, or less than $18/week for FOUR people! $4.50 per person per week!). Greens, tomatoes, squashes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, radishes, lettuces, strawberries, melons, and a few things I am not familiar with (forcing me to try new things…), and my costs were reduced by half while I ate better than I ever have. I saw my migraines disappear to the point that I no longer have to take the expensive medication I was on. I’m not even buying over-the-counter pain relievers (I make fresh ginger tea instead)! Obviously, this makes me very happy…

If One Straw Farm is not the CSA for you, google CSA and find a farm in your area. Many farms have extensive websites that describe what they do, how they do it, and even provide recipes for the more unusual produce they grow. One Straw has a blog that keeps us up to date on what affects our deliveries, such as weather, critters that may eat “our” food before it can be harvested (we got a lot of greens last year, because their groundhog population had eaten “our” other crops….). Having a closer relationship with our food and the people who grow it gives us a greater appreciation for the work involved in lovingly bringing healthy meals to our families.

One of the most meditative experiences we can build into our days is that of preparing a truly nutritious meal from fresh, locally grown ingredients. It only takes a minute or two to slice some fresh kale, onions, or mushrooms to add to our scrambled eggs in the morning (from a local egg farmer of course) or our rice in the evening. And by sauteeing our veggies in sesame oil or ghee (clarified butter) which has been infused with healing spices like coriander, turmeric, or cumin (or all three!) we can reduce inflammation in our arteries while adding rich flavor to our meal. Don’t be afraid of the fat! It’s important for that full satisfied feeling, for assimilation of fat-soluble vitamins, for getting us to our next meal so we don’t snack on junk food in between meals…

In Ayurveda, ghee is considered important for bringing the healing properties of spices into our cells. The clarification process removes the sugars from butter which then makes the butter stable at room temperature (no refrigeration required!); this means that ghee does not burn when cooked, nor does it go rancid quickly like other oils might. Ghee is also a highly saturated fat, which is not a bad thing – this saturation is what makes it stable and solid out of the fridge and keeps it “good”.

Rancidity occurs when oxygen molecules bind with the fat or oil to make it go “bad”. Rancid oils (the polyunsaturated ones, which have “open” spaces in their molecules) bind readily with oxygen, and since most processed foods use these oils, chances are that processed food is already rancid by the time you buy it. Doesn’t that sound yummy? And, that rancidity is what creates inflammation in your body, which causes heart disease and other ills.

I remember that my grandparents cooked with lard (a highly saturated fat from pork), used lots of butter on bread, made the best fried chicken, and the veggies came from the garden just outside the farmhouse, picked fresh (the peas were sweet enough to eat raw!). And they stayed healthy as long as they ate that way. In Asia, coconut or red palm oil is used, and traditional societies there also have low rates of heart disease (it’s only recently, as they shift to a Western lifestyle, that they are now experiencing “our” diseases).

Just by changing how we eat, how we cook, what fats we use when we cook can go a long way towards reducing inflammation while improving the taste of our food. At the same time, our health improves and our medical costs are sure to decline. I went from seeing a neurologist (for the migraines), my primary care doctor, a naturopath, acupuncturist, and physical therapist (I was a mess…. more on that later) to keeping the PT and the acupuncturist, with a consultation with the Ayurvedic consultant at Kripalu (where I am studying Ayurveda). This year I do not expect to meet my $2500 deductible on my health insurance where in previous years I was spending $5000 or more on health care.

When we look forward to a fresh-cooked meal made with high-quality traditional fats, spices, and main ingredients we can really focus on the experience of tasting, smelling, and fully digesting our food. By scheduling regular meals with our families, we also keep the tradition of sharing the experience with others, staying in touch with each other, infusing our meals with love and compassion.

The ancients said “we are born of food”. We in America amended it to “you are what you eat”.

Either way, wouldn’t you rather be made of the highest quality ingredients?

July 2018
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