Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Healthy Addition to Your Family's Diet

If you have never heard of quinoa (KEEN-wah) you aren't alone. This grain like seed has been a staple in the diet of natives of the Andes Mountains for thousands of years. Recently brought to America for cultivation, quinoa has a number of amazing health benefits and its versatility makes it easy to add to any diet.

The quinoa plant prefers high elevations and poor quality, somewhat alkaline soil. It doesn't require much water and likes arid climates. Because the seed is coated with a bitter tasting resin called saponin, it doesn't fall prey to the depredations of birds or insects making it very easy to grow. Quinoa is also called goose foot due to the shape of its leaves which resemble the webbed feet of geese. It is related to swiss chard, spinach and beets.

The quinoa seed is high in protein, about 14% to 18%. Unlike grains, the protein found in quinoa is complete. It also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It is high in amino (fatty) acids. In fact, quinoa is one of the most complete foods on the planet.

Quinoa can be used in place of rice or couscous as a side dish. It has a mild, nutty flavor. There are many varieties, but the three best known types are the white, black and red varieties. There are slight differences in the taste of each variety. The texture of cooked quinoa is light and fluffy and it has a slight crunch. It is very easily digested and is suggested as a grain substitute for people on special diets for gluten intolerance, celiac disease and autism.

You can add quinoa to casseroles soups and stews or you can cook it like rice as a side dish. Added cold to salads, it can be combined with legumes like chick peas to enhance their protein. It also enhances the protein of other grains when mixed with them. Quinoa encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract and it contains fiber for good intestinal health.

While quinoa which is sold commercially has usually been rinsed, it is wise to rinse it again before cooking to make sure there is no residue of saponin. Saponin will create a suds in the water and it is bitter to the taste. Quinoa can be cooked like rice, two parts water to one part quinoa. Add the quinoa to boiling water and reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. You may substitute fruit juice for the water for a sweet tasting, healthy and delicious alternative to oatmeal.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cultivating a Healthy Mindset

I went out my front door to go for a walk and I took a gander at my front yard. It is springtime and many of the bushes and plants are flowering. We have opted against using herbicide so our yard is home to a variety of beautiful wildflowers. However, the word got out to the weeds about this safe haven, and they dot the landscape as well.

I postponed my daily jaunt and took a few minutes to pull weeds. This has been a learning experience for me as there are quite a variety of weeds in the yard. At first it was difficult for me to distinguish between a wildflower and a weed. Sadly, I must confess that a few desert daisies, lupine and penstamine suffered an early demise due to my horticultural ignorance.

While I was weed plucking it occurred to me that my thoughts are a lot like the vegetation in my yard. There are plants that provide beauty, shade and inspiration. And then there are the weeds. If left unnoticed, the weeds can choke the life out of some of the other helpful plants. However, we have a home owner's association, so I know it would never come to that. The more likely scenario is we would get a notice about the weeds, followed by a fine.

Interestingly enough, a lot of weeds are easy to distinguish. Just like ugly thoughts, speech and actions, they have bristly stems and leaves that hurt others when they come too close. Their nastiness serves as a form of protection. I have heard individuals defend their negativity in a similar way. A thorny disposition can become a barrier to keep people at bay.

Weeds, like nasty thoughts, speech and actions, will multiply if left unchecked. That is why it's best to learn to distinguish the naughty little buggers early on and get rid of them before they turn into towering trees.

However, a negative mindset, like some weeds, can be difficult to identify. Gardening and cultivating healthy thoughts, speech and actions takes work. However, over time, if you work at it, you will see a positive result.
Your wishes, good, bad or indifferent, become your brain's programming. So why not try for something that will bring you joy? That does not mean that everything wonderful you wish for will instantly become reality. But if you surround yourself with positive thoughts and begin a course of action to achieve the things you want in life, you will move your life in a happier direction.

The first step in erasing negativity is by transforming thoughts, words and actions from negative to positive. Each thought, however fleeting, each word and the intent behind it, as well as our daily actions have certain repercussions. Whether or not you believe in the laws of karma is really unimportant. The result is the same. Negative thoughts penetrate the mind and slowly start to color one's perspective of the world.

Disparaging thoughts can spread like a cancer and slip into your speech, and eventually manifest in unproductive and harmful actions. Many individuals, especially those who have suffered a loss, are largely unaware of how negative they have become. It is a habit. And habits, if not changed, become a way of life. Confucius said:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Each of us is in charge of our own destiny. We can work to cultivate a positive outlook, or we can adopt a victim mindset and let weeds of negativity take root in our lives.
Remember, erasing negativity is no walk through the park. It's like weeding a garden. It takes work, but it becomes easier over time. The choice is yours. Either way, please remember: You reap what you sow.