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Posts from the ‘natural food’ Category

Worth writing a novel about

Please make sure you check out the gallery pictures closer to the end!

Latvia is a place I come from. Most of my family still resides there but I went for a chance to change my life dramatically a bit more than 13 years ago and relocated to Canada. Everything was different, I had to adjust myself, learn a lot and, basically, I can say I’m fine by now. It feels like I started fresh at the age of 46 again.

Time passes so fast, but there are things which I miss a lot while in Canada. I definitely miss my mom, my daughter, grandchildren, my sister and also friends. The other thing which is quite important and which I miss every time I go to the grocery store is Latvian food. I miss the huge variety, the very natural produce, wild mushrooms, wild berries, endless salads, soups and deserts. I miss dairy products and the huge selection of fresh-water and salt-water fish which we do not have in Canada, and it is hard to live without their cakes, pastries, pies and all the stuff that comes on the table just rarely, but makes all the difference. For instance, black or rather grey peas with crunchy bites of Latvian bacon and kefir, or thousands of dishes made of Latvian cottage cheese which is always excellent quality compared to what I have when I can find it in Canada. I mean the raw, nothing added, nothing removed cottage cheese. Their daily bread selection is worth writing a novel about: from dark rye and carrot bread baked using ancient Latvian recipes to all kinds of white, dark bread made with or without seeds and from all kinds of grains. The freshness is breathtaking, and so is the taste. I have always hard times finding a good quality bread at home, it goes bad and stale next morning, and it usually falls apart. My guess is: it consists of hardly anything, but costs a lot.

Therefore, I try everything Latvia can offer, and that is plenty. Neither I want, nor I intend to avoid such a delicious pleasure: it is a feast from the day 1 of my stay here until the dinner before my flight back home.

As I walk along the Central Market (I came here with just one intention: to take a few pictures because this is sort of very large farmer’s market, the largest in Europe), my eyes run all around and it’s great I’m not hungry because otherwise I’d end up buying too much stuff. Most people, however, prefer the ecologically clean product stores. Prices are quite high in stores which offer organic, biologically and ecologically clean produce and all kinds of other foods, and frequently above the affordable level, but still: Latvians take food seriously and they can certainly choose something great even when the wallet is not that full.

There is something else: traditionally Latvians do gardening, even these who live in the downtown of Riga, usually have some out-of-town place where they can grow something. Latvia did a lot of farming in the soviet times, and it was actually quite agricultural outside the biggest cities. The first Latvian Republic before the World War II was famous for its fantastic dairy products, bacon, butter, meats and produce. Although, agriculturally used land and the number, as well as size of farms have decreased, the need for good quality food is the same. People know what is good, Latvians know what delicious and fresh means, and therefore, the food quality standards remain high.

If you are wondering what I mean with all this praising, I do suggest you stop by in Latvia for the greatest and cleanest foods one can try. It’s worth it. I did not notice where their fast food places were, I know there are some, but people who think about their health won’t eat in such places. I personally never learned loving fast food, I don’t think they are popular here because everything is geared towards healthier, fresher, cleaner and less processed.

I have taken pictures also of smoked fish and meats, and these are certainly not for daily consumption, they are not part of a healthy diet, however, small bit here and there cannot harm. They taste incredibly good. If you have never tried, you won’t know how delicious these things are: smoked fish and chicken especially, and I miss such treats a lot. Some fishing villages still smoke fish like Latvian fishermen did 200, 300 and more hundred years ago.

Caraway seed cheese is my favorite, it always has been. When I was 12 or so I worked at a dairy plant during the summer (all kids worked). I had to help by preparation of caraway seed cheese. It was warm and so yummy that I never forgot this taste. The only place I get it as I like is Latvia. I tried to make my own in Canada, but milk and cottage cheese were totally unsuitable: they are too processed and do not have the same properties, so, I did not get very good caraway seed cheese. Dairy products are definitely bad and low quality in Canada. I sometimes wonder: why wouldn’t they go to Latvia, for example, and learn how to achieve greatness in dairy products. It’ s not going to happen because their profits come always first.

Well, wild mushrooms and wild berries are something Ontarians do not get to see or taste. Some might, but it’ s not everybody by far. Mushrooms are still in season, but there are less and less berries in the forest because fall sets in sooner in Latvia than in Canada.

mouth-watering Latvian dairy products

Meats and smoked meats

Fresh, live and smoked fish

A few veggies (because they looked so nice) and some wild berries and mushrooms

I actually wanted to publish separate posts about separate food groups, but time is really short, so I will leave you with these pictures and I am going back home soon.

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Avoiding harmful chemicals and making good choices to quench our thirst is a big deal

While standing in the grocery store line, it’s impossible not to pay attention to what people are putting in their shopping carts. There is pretty large crowd which walks around the store with flyers in their hand looking for deals and discounts. Well, it’s not that the best products or the freshest ones get into this flyer, but we can sometimes get promotional products at very inexpensive prices. However, the most deals are offered for unhealthy and processed food and drinks.

I would say there’s a reason why soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi and Sprite family drinks are banned from schools and their neighbourhoods in quite a few European countries. My native country Latvia has always been strict with such foods and drinks, the positive side is that we didn’t even see them or know they existed until borders were opened in 1991, and the Latvian market was flushed with North American chemical foods and fast food places appeared. We had practically no obesity and related issues until the era of imported stuff begun. Believe or not unlike in Canada, real dairy products are still available in Latvia. It’s always up to consumers because manufacturers will try to meet the demand. When consumers show their dissatisfaction with chemically enhanced food, manufacturers and food producers have no other way, but to offer food and drinks which are in line with healthy eating guidelines and which are compliant with restrictions in use of chemical ingredients.

I’ve read in some surveys how people who told Coke was a total poison and Pepsi was a pure junk were attacked. That makes one wonder: are there really too few obesity, type 2 diabetes, digestive and heart and blood vessel associated diseases and cases yet? Isn’t there proof enough that not real food, proteins, carbohydrates and fats make a person sick, but their chemical substitutes and surrogate ingredients? Nobody would need to ever diet or fight the unwanted pounds if all of a sudden fast food, processed food and chemically produced food and drinks disappeared. However, that is NOT going to happen because profits always come first. There is a wide range in standards for chemicals and their maximum contents in food products. Therefore, the choice is ours: we all can exclude chemicals, fast food and processed foods from our menu. To some extent at least, because vegetables, fruit, berries, herbs and organic products are still a subject to standards, and these standards allow for plenty of variation. Organic DOES NOT mean the product is completely free of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. Organic means the amount of harmful chemicals meets the stated limits.

It has been abnormally hot in Canada, Ontario for the last 2 weeks. We are expecting one more heat wave. Everybody will need to quench their thirst, and everybody will have a choice: use pure water, mineral water or fruit flavored water for hydration, or just grab some soft drink, milk shake and juice. When we talk about hydration, there is nothing better than PURE water. There simply isn’t. For quite a few reasons: for its chemical formula, for the fast absorption rate, for its friendly attitude towards our cell structure and for its lack of chemicals (however, some tap water can contain a lot chlorine, even antibiotics, even metformin which is blood sugar lowering drug, even residues of very harmful chemical elements: everything which does not degrade naturally and fast within the source of drinking water). We are very fine when we use MODERATE amounts of water because overdoing anything has bad consequences (hyponatremia or deficit of sodium in the blood stream). Everything else will have some additional something: juice is too high in sugar, soft drinks are high in sugar and mainly consist of chemicals, milk shakes and ice-cream based drinks have way too many calories. The only thing we actually need is to hydrate ourselves and maintain a good functionality, isn’t it? We don’t have to intake as many calories as with meal for this purpose.

How about kids? Kids will use whatever their parents are offering them from early childhood. When the family does not use soft drinks, kid will never have cravings for them. When the family is not addicted to sugars and fast foods, kid will never know such disorders as type 2 diabetes even exist. Some parents are very worried that child does not eat enough. Well, normal kid will not starve himself to the point when some disorders occur. Kid could be reluctant to drink enough water, though. I also told this in my previous post: making fruit flavored water with colorful slices of citrus fruits is a good idea because this type of drink does not raise the content of sugars noticeably, but hydrates well. Nobody has appetite when the blood glucose level is too high. We humans are having lots of signals in place to know when we are hungry (and being hungry is really good, but not starving), therefore, if kid has had some sugar-rich food or drink before, they will not be interested in eating normal meal. Adding colored ice to such drinks is also a nice thing: we can freeze small mint leaves in ice cubs, we can freeze tea and juice to add to water, it looks very attractive.

My photos of fruit flavored water and ice

Fruit flavored water

Colorful, fresh and healthy

Mineral water good choice to quench our thirst

Mineral water: good choice to quench our thirst

Add fruit and ice to regular bottled water

Add fruit and ice to regular bottled water

Sparkling mineral water

For people who want to stay away from alcohol: using sparkling water with lime and mint allows to get rid of cravings for alcohol

Still life with water and fruit

Fresh and delicious: what’s not to like?

I’m always embarrassed how when we have to stop on the roadside while travelling for some snack these places always will push one to have a Coke or Pepsi with food, but when I ask whether they have sparkling water or mineral water, they quite often don’t. Well, I usually get by asking for water with lime.

Stay hydrated and use healthy water to quench your thirst!

Fruit flavored water ideas and how much water is healthy

It has been hot and very hot recently, we had a heat warning in place and I believe we are all aware how important it is to keep ourselves hydrated. People use all kinds of liquids to quench their thirst. However, using soft drinks, beer, milk shakes, especially the very sweet ones, will make us thirstier than we were.

Water is the most essential substance of the body, and therefore, it needs to remain within a healthy range in order to keep our body functioning properly. Our body has many signals, we just have to listen to these signals and replace the lost amount of water when we feel thirsty. However, that will depend, as well. Diabetics will feel thirsty always when the blood sugar is too high, that is a body signal to alarm that glucose rates are running high.

Moderate use of water is good for everybody, but the type of water is definitely a very private choice. People tend to follow all kinds of misleading advices; there are many very wrong ones on the internet, as well. Briefly saying, one has to know his own condition and use any substance responsibly, whether that is sugar, salt, water, juice or alcoholic beverages.

I would think that people who already have too much weight are staying away from sweetened drinks and especially in hot weather because their body already functions in a stress mode. We have to pay attention to heart palpitations, dizziness, fatigue, headache and similar symptoms; therefore carrying a bottle of water with us is a good idea for anybody, but especially for people with some disorders. Water has a very simple chemical composition and therefore is absorbed fast: the first portion already after 5 minutes, the main part within 15 minutes, but a complete absorption is achieved after approximately 1.5 hours. Our body uses pure water, and that explains why normal amounts of it decrease the feeling of thirst. However, we should always use water in moderate amounts. Our kidneys can only process a certain amount of fluids and water within an hour, when we are exceeding about half a liter in hour we are asking for trouble.

Testing brain response to drinking water, scientists found that our brain has a positive response and creates feeling of satisfaction only during the moment when we are quenching our thirst. Pressuring oneself to use more water than advisable (woman a bit over 2.5 liters and men about 3.5 liters during 24 hour period in conditions when activity level and sweat production is fairly high) makes no sense (I am not referring to people who do sports). Our kidneys will have to work in extreme stress conditions and when the amount noticeably exceeds the amount our kidneys are able to process we will experience a situation when the electrolyte (salt and mineral) content in the blood is severely diluted, resulting in extremely low sodium levels in the blood. This condition is called hyponatremia. The outcome can be fatal. One should never ever participate in any drinking competitions, even when it is something as innocent as water. If this person stays alive, kidney failure is inevitable.

Many conditions including congestive heart failure, liver and kidney failure, pneumonia and drinking abnormal amounts of water in a short period of time are commonly associated with a low sodium concentration in the blood. Therefore, be aware of how much of water is healthy for your personal health condition. Too much is never good, as we know keeping everything in balance never harms.

Will people who prefer just soft drinks fall in love with water? You could certainly try serving them as fruit water and slightly fruit flavored water. Kids especially love the multicolored fruit slices in their cups and glasses. It looks festive and attractive. I personally never use any sweeteners with fruit water or similar water based drinks. Citrus fruit adds so much freshness and flavor to these simple drinks that it is impossible not to try some. We can use different ice: freeze tea or diluted juice, place a mint leaf before pouring in water for freezing. I have taken very many pictures, I will continue with one more post how we can teach children to love water and how such a great habit makes our life easy.

Amazing water water with fruits

I prepared ice, mineral water and water and sliced some orange, lemons, limes and cucumber. I have mint and lemon balm in my backyard, so I got some leaves, as well.

Refreshing water

Such water looks great and is delicious and refreshing

There are always things one can add to enjoy such a simple natural drink

How to make water with fruit

Pleasure to look at, pleasure to try

Water with lemon, orange and lime

Lots of freshness

Amazing water millions of variations

I combined cucumber slices with lime, also adding a small bit of lime juice and some mint and lemon balm leaves here and there. There was no sweetness, but this water was extremely refreshing. The newest research tells us cucumber flavor alone is calming and makes us feeling more pleasant.

How to make delicious natural fruit water

Lemons, limes and oranges are simply fresh; I think this is always the brain reaction towards citrus flavors.

There are millions of options and combinations, and all of them are good!

Next post about mineral water and water for kids

Why wonder-diets don’t work?

The reality of today is as follows: we have forgotten why we have to eat, instead we are getting obsessed with what, when, how, how much, where to eat. There are many millions of diets and food recommendations, no surprise we get easily lost.

Healthy diet

Why don’t the wonder diets work and why aren’t we all physically and mentally fit and living very long, peaceful, enjoyable life? Based on so much research and findings, it’s about time we should be getting to the point that every single person who follows all countless suggestions about what to eat and what to avoid should be getting extremely healthy and free of diseases and health related problems. In fact, the health situation is becoming worse and worse and we never thought cancer would be present in newborns, yet it is, and in multiple hard to cure forms and very rare forms.

It is very logical to conclude, that something does not add up and something must be profoundly wrong.

fresh vegetables

The first reason why many diets don’t work is that they may be suited to the person/persons who tried them, and they are completely useless or even harmful for you, me or whoever else. How so? Just like our DNA is absolutely unique, everything else about particular person is absolutely unique. While all humans have lots of similarities, they also have plenty of distinctions. Our DNA is much older than our personal age or the age of our closest relatives. It has the knowledge of things we might have no clue about.

Therefore, the main principle in choosing our food should be to use such products which suit the health condition, age, life style and activity level, any existing physical or mental problems and is as natural as possible and is also easy enough to find, get and prepare. That’s theoretically, but practically we should follow more our own feelings, listen to our body, make conclusions and correct our previous mistakes. That means, not everything which is good for some celebrity is good for you or me, that also means that not everybody should or can be a vegetarian, vegan or use any other restrictive food choices, unless clinically indicated. Clinically indicated is: tests are done, and the condition has been confirmed. That means not to base the exclusion of some important food and nutrients just because some other people think they feel better using that type of diet.

Balance and moderation is what nature teaches us. Balance in everything, because it is so easy to overdo with good things and even excellent things.

Healthy habits

The second principle which applies to food, and especially nowadays: we should always choose everything in its most natural form: plants as plants, vegetables as vegetables, grains as grains, etc. The less unchanged something is, the better. What do the grocery stores offer? Those are for the most part already processed foods, packed foods, products with something added, something taken off. Lots of as if improved products: with different flavors, in different colors. There are obviously vegetables and fruits, but I would like to ask: how much of nutrients are you getting when buying your vegetables and fruit at the closest supermarket? Place like Wal-Mart? They’re always busy. The answer is: very little. These vegetables will even look good, they might have some flavour and attractive fragrance, but if they have traveled for thousands of kilometers and then have spent quite a time in storage and sorting departments, it is very unlikely they will have the same amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as the small while ago picked ones.

The most over-used descriptors for food are: fresh, natural and organic.

Organic vegetables

By a short definition natural is present in or produced by nature, and it could no way contain additives, chemicals, sweeteners, flavorants, taste enhancing substances, added vitamins or any substances which were not present in this product when found in a natural environment. Organic food in the context of regulations is food produced in a way that complies with organic standards set by national governments and international organizations. These standards greatly vary, there are very distinctive approaches for labelling handling and other procedures as organic. Therefore, organic might cost a lot more, but it does not necessarily mean it is free of pesticides, chemicals or other harmful substances. Basically, organic food would be food which is grown and processed in accordance with standards in that particular country or region and the company putting it out on the market has the certificate.

Vegetables from the garden

What do we choose? Whether organic or not: the freshest and the least processed. I suppose, if we could, we would grow every single product in our backyard. The quality of some stuff is so low in Canada, that I have been seriously thinking about baking my own bread.

Nutrition and fresh vegetables

The attached pictures are from the local farmer’s market. Well, it is a better choice than supermarket, but there is no guarantee you are getting all nutrients you think you are. I will continue in some other post.

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