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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Those Delicious Yogurts

January 5, 2012

Tags: food, herbs, arthritis, baby, bacteria – starter for yogurt, bones - strong, bovine growth hormone, bowel bacteria, Bulgaria, calcium, calf, California, calories - counting, cancer cell, chicory root, coconut, cow, craving, crockpot, dairy, depression, diabetes, East Coast, fat, fillers, flavors, fruit, goat, Greece, growth hormone, growth spurt, heart disease, honey, inflammation, Israel, Jordan, labels – reading, infant, kid, lactobacilli, lactose, lamb, legumes, low fat, milk, milk protein, mineral, mother’s milk, milk sugar, nuts, organic, plant kingdom, probiotics, skim milk, sheep, sugar, Syria, tapioca, temperature, thermometer, Those Delicious Yogurts, Turkey, vegetable, yogurt

A whole fifteen minutes I must have stood in front of the yogurt section in the refrigerated part of the natural food store, reading labels and deciding what to buy. My natural inclination is the one with cream on top – they are so unspeakably yummy!

Which means that all the “skim milk” and “low fat” varieties are out for me. I also don’t like anything added – no fillers, no flavors, no fruit, not even simple honey. I want the real thing. Already, I have few items to look at.

What I found out from the labels:
• Greek yogurt does not come from Greece
• Bulgarian yogurt does not come from Bulgaria
• Middle-eastern yogurt does not come from Syria, Israel or Jordan
• Goat yogurt always seems to have tapioca in it
• Sheep yogurt has the highest fat contents (good for my brain that craves fat all the time!) – but I could not find one any without fruit or honey. I will look around for a plain one.

Of course, I’d always choose organic since I don’t want added bovine growth hormones in my yogurt – it’s bad enough that milk (cow, sheep, goat, mother’s – whatever) already comes with a wallop of natural growth hormones. Why? Because milk was invented to let tiny babies (calves, lamb, kids, human infants) grow very fast in the first few months of their lives. I don’t need to grow anymore – in neither direction – and I rather don’t have sleepy cancer cells in my body wake up and indulge in a growth spurt. This thought actually made the whole yogurt idea rather unappetizing. Especially, if one considers that they also provide tons of inflammatory milk proteins, which give us arthritis, depression, diabetes, heart disease, cravings, and so on.

You already know that I don’t buy into the myth that dairy gives us needed calcium. Those, and all the other minerals to build strong bones come from the plant kingdom: vegetables, legumes, herbs, nuts, fruit.

It doesn’t mean that I am not still dreaming of creamy yogurt. Not to mention that they contain probiotics – healthy bowel bacteria.

Finally, I came across coconut yogurt, which I had never seen before. Again, that one contained fruit and chicory root extract. But it gave me an idea: I can make my own!

Years ago, traveling in Turkey, a chef (God bless him!) showed me how to make yogurt: Bring a pot of milk to nearly a boil (to kill bacteria) – 90 C, or around 190 F – and keep it there for about twenty minutes, let it cool down so that you can touch it, add a spoonful of yogurt that provides starter bacteria, wrap the pot into a towel and cover it in your bed. Hours later, the pot of milk has turned into wonderful yogurt.

Starter bacteria can also be gotten from those probiotic capsules: I have some with those Bulgarian lactobacilli; they can be whipped into the milk.

Two secrets for making yogurt:
• Keep every item you use very clean (preferably by heat treatment in boiling water) to keep out “bad” bacteria
• The desirable temperature in your bed (or in a “cooler”, or in a rice cooker) is between 37 C (ca 100F) and 55 C (ca 135). Higher, and the “good” bacteria will die; lower, and they will not multiply.

Coconut milk contains no milk sugar – lactose. So, in the production one has to add a spoonful of table sugar for the processing, as the bacteria need food to thrive and divide. Make a small batch – full-fat yogurt contains a heap of calories (even that I never count calories!).

Unfortunately, I have to wait a month, until we will be back at the East Coast. There I have a crockpot, which I will try. And I will use the thermometer I bought here to measure the temperatures in my Californian pool … I will report!

A Hodgepodge Letter From Jerusalem

May 31, 2011

Tags: food, order, America, appetite, archaeology, architecture, Armenian Christian, Berlin, books, Catholic - Italian and French, cauliflower, chopped liver, Christian faith, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, community, Copts, David – King, detoxifying organ, Dinner Plate, Eastern Church, family, Florence, Food Pyramid, Greek Orthodox, history, Holy Land, hope, individualism, Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish life, Letter From Jerusalem, liver, Muslims, New York, peace, Peace for the World, portion size, religion, Russian Orthodox, salad - fresh, Sidney, stones, synagogue, Western Church

If you think that America is a melting pot – Israel is the most colorfully mixed country, the loudest and the most silent, the most hilarious and the saddest.

Jerusalem is the most beautiful city in the world. I know you might fight me over this – and I have indeed seen beauty all over the world. The bustling daring of New York, the lovely harbor of Sidney, the classical stones of Florence, the young energy of the new Berlin – you get it.

Jerusalem has something else: An ordinance in place for many thousand years – precisely since King David, I was told – that every house in the city has to be built of the local stone, at least the façade. The house might be an old synagogue or a modern high-rise - they all are clad in the same white-golden sandstone; even most pavements use this stone. When one approaches the city from afar, it looks like a dream dwelling: a white city shimmering on the hills.

That this thousands-of-years-old ordinance is still in place shows a will to community: The individual burgher might have preferred a modern glass building or a brick castle; nevertheless, he abides by the rules. Compare an American town with billboards and every-which style of architecture: There the individual will wins out, under all circumstances. I can’t make up my mind, which one I find the more useful guide pole – individualism or communal thinking - but I know that Jerusalem is singular, and beautiful.

Another thing I like about Jewish life: They cherish family, books, history. We all should live thus (I am saying this knowing full well that family life can be stifling, even in the best of cases).

Certainly, you want to hear about the food here: A meal starts with several fresh salads. The other night, with little appetite, I ordered only two appetizers: cauliflower and chopped liver. The cauliflower was delicious but so gigantic that I shared it with the whole table, ate until I was bursting – and then there was some left over. The chopped liver was a mountain into which I could only bore a little hole – and nobody wanted to share; I have a thing going for liver since childhood, but mostly avoid it now as liver is the main detoxifying organ in the body – even of a cow. Nobody at the table seemed to share my liver thing …

Our Government plans to abandon the Food Pyramid (about time!!), and replace it with the Dinner Plate. So, my Israel proportion shock comes just in time: For healthy nutrition you need to know really only two basics:

1. Freshness – everything you eat should have grown somewhere.
2. Portion size – your meal should fit on a small dinner plate. If you have to lose weight, make it a breakfast plate; they are smaller. No snacks – that goes without saying.

And a last observation from Jerusalem: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is owned communally by several branches of the Christian faith: Western Church (Italian and French Catholic) and Eastern Church (Copts, Armenians, Greek and Russian Orthodox). And if I believe the tour guide, it is a mess: Those Churches are in constant fight over every inch of the church – so much so that the key is kept in the hands of a neutral third, the Muslims. It says something about religions if the message of Peace for the World is not heeded in the very church building it once started (or presumably started – history and archaeology are messy in the Holy Land).

In the Knesset, I heard the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, give a speech in Hebrew. I did only understand two words: Tikwa and Shalom – hope and peace. Good enough for me.

Dead Sea Story

November 23, 2010

Tags: order, food, water, alcohol, auto-immune diseases, barley, bowel health, cake, citrus fruit, coconut oil, coffee, cookies, Dead Sea, Dead Sea Story, dairy, eczema, fish oil, gut health, Israel, nuts, oats, probiotic, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, rye, saltwater, soy, Standard American Diet (SAD), sun, wheat, yogurt

Years ago, I found myself in a hotel at the Dead Sea in Israel. The hotel also catered to patients, because it has been shown that sunlight and saltwater improves such conditions as eczema and psoriasis.

The hotel had an excellent buffet with all kinds of healthy vegetables and gorgeous fruit. For me most striking observation was that the patient group flocked around cheese, cakes, cookies, pizza, lasagna, spaghetti with meatballs, and bacon, whereas the other travelers delved into the abundance of fresh foods. In addition, the patient group was visibly more overweight than the others. I had a hard time not pointing out to every patient the damage they were doing to their bodies just as they were seeking the healing waters of the Dead Sea.

You go online for eczema remedies, and you find a thousand products screaming “Here! Buy me!”

This is my simple advice:

1. Get rid of anything you might be allergic to. – Some researchers deny that allergies play a role – I don’t agree with them; but let’s not call it allergies then, but food intolerances. Because in many cases, food intolerance plays a role in psoriasis and eczema – and the Standard American Diet (SAD) is especially at fault. The offending foods? The list I gathered from my patients is long, and dairy for sure tops it. Citrus fruit, wheat (and, by association, barley, rye, oats), soy, nuts have been most often the culprits in my patients. Coffee (including caffeinated) seems to trigger eczema too.

2. Use coconut oil on the affected, itchy, thickened skin. Coconut oil is anti-bacterial, soothes the itch and helps the poor skin to heal.

3. If you can afford, vacation at the ocean. Moderate sunlight and saltwater do miracles for posriasis and eczema.

4. If you want to go the extra mile, get a good probiotic (bacteria that are helpful for bowel health – but not frpm yogurt, take capsules) to heal your gut, and take fish oil capsules against inflammation.

Often this works also for rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases, too. An additional biggie in psoriasis is alcohol – avoid it.

Some other ideas why people now get eczema are that babies are brought up in a too clean environment, and that emotional issues play a role. The first we can’t do anything about once you are grown-up. The emotional issue – well, we all still struggle to grow up, don’t we? Can’t hurt to work on that.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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