Archive | July 2013

5 Things About Yoga That Just Aren’t True (And The Cats To Prove It)

Huff Post

You know, you know. There are so many benefits of yoga: It can relieve stress and anxiety. It cansoothe your headaches. It can even make you smarter.

But for first-timers, yoga can be absolutely intimidating. Those virtuoso yogis always seem to be balancing on their heads while playing a ukulele in one hand and writing poetry with the other. Or something like that.

Before you write off yoga as a practice for your artsy, flexible friends, take a moment to reconsider. You don’t need to be able to do a headstand to reap the benefits of the ancient art. To equip you with the facts, we asked yoga instructors Vyda Bielkus, co-founder of Boston’s Health Yoga Life, and Eva Norlyk Smith, managing editor forYogaU Online, to help debunk some common yoga myths. Discover some yoga truths below, then let us know why you like to get bendy in the comments section.

You Have To Be Flexible To Practice
flexible cat

“It’s really not about what the posture looks like from the outside,” adds Smith. So if your pose doesn’t mirror your agile neighbor’s, you needn’t worry. “There is an important process that happens no matter where you are in the posture — yoga is an exploration of what your body is capable of doing, and how you can transform your body over time.” As Dr. Judith Lasater puts it, “Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.”

Yoga Is Expensive

You argue your wallet can’t handle a $30/class yoga habit, and that’s certainly fair. But paying out of pocket per class is not your only option. Both Smith and Bielkus mention community and donation-based classes that don’t cost a thing. Many studios promote monthly packages and discounts: Once you find a class you love, you can take advantage of its special offers. Bielkus says her studio offers a volunteer program: Yogis can volunteer to clean, maintain or do administrative work in exchange for classes. If this option interests you, ask your teacher about the possibility after class.

You can even bring your practice home, once you get the basics down. “You don’t have to go to a studio all the time,” Bielkus says. “It’s good to get a sense of what you’re doing in a class,” and revisit for a refresher every now and again.

Lastly … ever heard of Groupon (and other similar services)?

Yoga Doesn’t Count As Exercise
Tired cat
This simply is not so. Take the right kind of class and you’ll leave covered in sweat. “There are some types that are as aerobic and challenging as any workout you can find,” says Smith. Bielkus agrees: “Yoga definitely counts as exercise … It works on all of the body systems, like the nervous system, the cardiovascular system — it’s a total body workout in that regard.” There are more athletic styles — like Vinyasa and power yoga — where you’ll experience an immediate increase in your heart rate, but even some breathing techniques, like kundalini, will have you sweating pretty quickly, Bielkus says.

Yoga Is Boring

Blasphemy! You just haven’t found the right class yet. Some classes are set to club music. If that’s not your thing, try a class above the ground or in the ocean, if you dare.

But lest you think yoga needs flashy add-ons to keep it interesting, our yoga experts explain: The root of the practice is anything but boring. “Yoga is all about what happens inside,” Smith says. “It is the constant exploration of the finer nuances in your body, and the reaction your body has to different postures.” Yoga means you’re always learning. Again, it’s all about finding the class and instructor that gets you ticking. “If the teacher has an inspirational message that speaks to you, you’ll keep coming back,” Bielkus says.

You Have To Have A Spiritual Side
This is Opie.
Does that opening chanting and om-ing discourage you from yoga? You’re not alone, so luckily there are plenty of classes that do without any of these kinds of exercises. If your class does sneak in a hum or two, don’t freak: Bielkus suggests viewing the chanting as an exercise in getting to know your own voice, or as a practice that connects you with your community.

And, while yoga developed from spiritual roots, there are endless class offerings that have nothing to do with religion. “I think that most people coming to yoga classes in America today are not coming for any spiritual intention,” Bielkus says. Though the instructor suggests you might accidentally happen upon your spiritual side if you keep up with a practice. “I think that yoga can lead to being a little more inquisitive about your own journey through life — maybe purpose and meaning will become more of a focus for you [since the practice often has you turning inward], but it really doesn’t have to.”

For more on yoga, click here.

Slaughterhouse Safety Ignored…What’s in Your Bacon?

Morning Veda Healthies, 

This year’s report on the safety and humane slaughter of Pigs is frightening. Bruce Friedrick, Sr. Director for Strategic Initiatives and Farm Sanctuary, discusses the numerous violations in pig slaughterhouses and the food contamination that results. For Veda Health followers eating meat, this is an important issue to address for your diet. Please consider the source of your meat/pork, local humane animal farms and possibly cutting down or eliminating meat from your diet.

Be well and namaste, Julie

USDA Inspector General: Food Safety and Humane Slaughter Laws Ignored With Impunity

Bruce Friedrich

Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives, Farm Sanctuary

Posted: 05/28/2013 8:23 am

Two weeks ago, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General released a report that, once again, proves that our food system is broken: First, FSIS doesn’t meaningfully attempt to stop repeat violations of food safety laws. Second, it has allowed a 15-year-old pilot program with faster slaughter and fewer inspectors to proceed without review. Third, it all but ignores its humane slaughter mandate. Remarkably, unless you read Food Safety News or the agricultural media, you will have missed this extremely damning report.

First, FSIS’ food safety oversight system in pig slaughterhouses is completely broken. Out of 44,128 identified violations of food safety laws at 616 slaughterhouses over four years, there were just 28 plant suspensions, all brief. Over these same four years, FSIS didn’t reach enforcement stage 5 or 6 even once. OIG offers some stomach-turning examples of illegal activity that warranted but did not receive suspension, including:

    • At a South Carolina slaughterhouse, FSIS issued more than 800 violations, including fourteen for egregious violations like “fecal contamination on a hog after the final trim,” almost 100 “for exposed or possibly adulterated products that had ‘grease smears’ or ‘black colored liquid substance’ on processed meat,” and 43 for “pest control problems, such as cockroaches on the kill floor.” This plant was not suspended even once.
    • At a Nebraska slaughterhouse, FSIS issued more than 600 violations, which included 50 repeat violations for “contaminated carcasses that included ‘fecal material which was yellow [and] fibrous’ on the carcass.” FSIS never even reached enforcement stage three, notice of intended enforcement, let alone suspension.
  • At an Illinois slaughterhouse, FSIS issued more than 500 violations, including 26 repeat violations for “fecal matter and running abscesses on carcasses.” Yes, FSIS found fecal matter and running abscesses on carcasses 26 times. Nevertheless, FSIS never even got to stage three on its 6-stage plan.

Second, fifteen years ago USDA approved a “pilot program” to speed slaughter lines and reduce inspector numbers in some plants, but it never bothered to see how the program is working. Remarkably, the slaughterhouse with the most violations was such a plant, “with nearly 50 percent more [violations] than the plant with the next highest number.” One of these plants doesn’t even require manual inspection of viscera, a requirement at the other 615 pig slaughter plants, because “some signs of disease and contamination can be detected only through a manual inspection. Examples include … parasites within the intestine, and inflamed or degenerated organs that are unusually sticky to the touch or excessively firm.”

Third, even top FSIS personnel don’t understand what the Humane Slaughter Act requires of them. Decisions are “inconsistent, lenient, and endorsed by district officials.” OIG officials visited just 30 plants, each for no more than 30 minutes, and yet they still witnessed multiple instances of animals regaining consciousness after “stunning,” for which the inspector-in-charge chose not to issue a report (as was legally required). “If this occurred when our audit team and FSIS officials were present, we are concerned that this might be more prevalent when the plants and inspectors are not being observed.” The OIG also reviewed violation reports for these 30 plants and found that of the 158 violations, there were 10 egregious violations that did not result in suspension, as is legally required. As just two examples:

    • At an Indiana slaughterhouse, a worker shot a pig through the head with a captive bolt, which “lodged in the hog’s skull. The hog remained conscious and aware while the plant sent for another gun, which was about 2 minutes away. The second gun also appeared to misfire causing the hog to squeal, but it remained conscious and aware. The hog then managed to dislodge the first gun from its skull. Ultimately, a portable electric stunner had to be used to successfully render the hog unconscious. Following this incident, FSIS cited another violation for a hog regaining consciousness on the rail. The plant was not suspended for either egregious incident.”
    • At a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse, “a hog that had been stunned and bled regained consciousness. The hog was able to right its head, make noise, kick, and splash water in reaction to being placed in a scalding tank.” Yes, this poor animal was placed, throat slit open but conscious, into scalding hot water. “The inspector only issued an NR. The plant was not suspended.”

Additionally, OIG interviewed 39 inspectors at the 30 plants they visited; one-third said they would not even issue a noncompliance report if they witnessed a conscious animal on the bleed rail (which legally requires suspension). OIG noted that similar inspector confusion regarding their basic legal obligations was clear in reports from GAO and OIG in 2010 and 2008, yet nothing has been done to rectify the situation.Every year according to the CDC, there are tens of millions of cases of food poisoning, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths. The agency charged with reducing these numbers is doing, according to its Office of the Inspector General, a pathetically bad job.

Every year, roughly 150 million cattle and pigs are slaughtered in our nation’s slaughterhouses, and the one measly law that attempts to ensure some small decrease in their abuse is all-but-ignored by the agency charged with enforcing it. Even their top personnel don’t understand what it says.

Want to stop eating contaminated food and take a stand for compassion at the same time? Please consider eliminating meat from your diet.

Let’s talk about FAT…Part I – Snacking


Greetings Veda Healthies!

This is the first of a series of articles on one of our most challenging subjects, FAT. Most of us struggle to keep our digestion in check, our metabolism at its highest and fat in low amounts on our body frame. Well, if you have ever wondered about the frequency of meals per day debate, here’s some info for you. This article helps outline how modern day medical experts and studies are revealing wisdom about fat metabolism that Ayurveda has advised on for centuries. 

Put simply, Ayurveda aims to sync our bodies with Nature’s body clock. This means that our rising, meals and sleep are governed by the moon, sun and seasons. When optimizing our digestion and elimination, it’s best to eat with the strength of the sun. This typically means a light breakfast around sunrise, solidly balanced meal at about noon and light, soupy dinner prior to 6pm, WITHOUT SNACKING. Yes, folks, I said No Snacks. It may seem like a foreign concept given Western medicine’s prescription for the past few decades, but more and more studies are reinforcing Ayurveda’s no snacking policy.

The few overall findings from the studies to date show:

1. Total Caloric Intake for the day affects baseline metabolism

2. Eating 3 meals a day without snacks increases the rate of calorie-burning immediately after eating, which naturally rises as the body processes food

3. People eating 3 meals a day appear to feel fuller, have fewer cravings and do not desire to partake in late night eating

4.*The body has the opportunity to enter into fat metabolism rather than burn glucose/carbohydrates if meals are eaten 4-5 hrs apart

Remember, Ayurveda is flexible and customizable to different body types. Consider that most pitta and kapha body types can benefit from this way of eating whereas vatas may be the exception and require natural snacking on fruit as mentioned later in the article.

So, I encourage you to be open-minded about 2-3 meals a day. Perhaps even try it out and see if you experience any benefits. Enjoy the info and be well.

= ) Namaste, Julie

Snack attack: ‘Grazing’ used to be king, but now experts say it slows metabolism, and can cause tooth decay and diabetes


For years, nutritionists have been telling us to graze – eat little and often – to keep up our energy levels and as a tactic to avoid overeating unhealthy food.

The problem with grazing is that many people ignore the bit about eating only a little, hearing only the message to ‘eat often’ – the result is we’ve become a nation of snackers. 

Furthermore, we’re snacking not on healthy foods, but on chocolate, crisps and other calorie-laden products.

SnackingBetween meals: Experts now believe that we should go back to three meals a day, and cut out the snacks in between. (Posed by model)

Clearly, eating lots of junk food is not good for the waistline. But now, some experts believe that the very principle of eating between meals – whether it’s healthy or junk food – is the real problem.

They say snacking makes us even more hungry; it also interferes with the body’s ability to burn fat, leads to obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as tooth decay.

What we should really be doing, it seems, is going back to three proper meals a day, with no snacks in between.

‘For many, snacking is a major cause of weight gain,’ says Professor Stephen Atkin, head of diabetes and metabolism at Hull York Medical School.

Adds Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at Glasgow University: ‘Snacking gives us extra calories and the fact is, extra calories make us fat.’

But not only are snacks often highly calorific; eating all day also undermines our body’s ability to burn off fat.

ApplesIf you must… Too many people are eating chocolate and crisps, where the perfect snack remains fruit and nuts

When we eat, our body releases insulin – a hormone that helps carry sugar into the cells to burn as energy. This sugar energy will keep us going for around three hours, after which our bodies will start using energy from our fat stores.

If we can hold out for four to five hours between meals, we burn more fat. ‘Fat is burned as soon as your carbohydrate stores fall and you start the mobilisation of fat for energy,’ explains Professor Atkin.

Snacking also means that organs such as the liver and pancreas are under greater stress, as blood sugar and fat levels stay higher throughout the day, says professor Sattar. This also increases stress on blood vessels and, perhaps, the heart.

‘In my view, the ideal would be not to snack at all,’ adds Professor Atkin. ‘It’s normal to feel hungry before a meal.’

Many people believe that if they don’t eat little and often they run the risk of becoming hypoglycaemic – when blood sugar levels become low, causing mood swings, lightheadedness and feeling shaky.

The theory is that eating six small meals a day keeps blood sugar levels stable. However, while cases of genuine hypoglycaemia exist, they are rare and should be carefully checked by laboratory tests.

In fact, unless you are diabetic, your body is very good at regulating blood sugar itself and there’s no need to eat constantly, explains dietician Lyndel Costain. 

‘We can actually go a long time without eating,’ she says. ‘Assuming you’ve had a reasonable meal, you can go four or five hours without eating. 

‘And if you start to feel hungry, it will be because most of your food has been digested and your internal appetite regulators are sending messages for more food.

‘But your blood sugar won’t go down so low that you have a hypo, unless you have a genuine problem with your blood sugar.’

Indeed, rather than stabilising blood sugar levels, snacking on sugary, high-carbohydrate foods is more likely to make them fluctuate wildly – which can make you feel more, rather than less hungry.

As nutritionist Zoe Harcombe explains: ‘If you eat cake or biscuits, the high sugar content causes you to release too much insulin and your blood sugar ends up lower than it was before you ate, as your body tries to compensate for the sudden sugar intake.


‘So, although you might feel great 15 minutes after eating, 40 minutes later you will start to feel tired and hungry again. And after 90 minutes you’ll feel ravenous, so you’ll eat another high-sugar snack.’

Snacking is also bad for our teeth. When we eat sugary foods or fruit, the pH in our mouths becomes more acidic and this is when tooth erosion and decay begin. our mouths remain in an acidic state for about 20 minutes before returning to a neutral pH, says Janet Clarke, from the British Dental Association.

‘The more often we eat, the more frequently our teeth are attacked and are likely to decay.

‘For this reason, I have an apple and an orange on my desk which I shall eat as part of my lunch, rather than a mid-afternoon snack.

‘But I would hate to put people off eating fruit as a snack, as it gives you fibre and vitamins and is healthier than biscuits or cake,’ she says. 

Of course, the problem is that the urge to snack is hard to resist, says Professor Sattar. ‘There are so many snacks and temptations around these days. You go into a garage to buy petrol and you’re faced with aisles of sweets.

‘You miss breakfast and you can buy a bacon sandwich on your way into the office – the availability of calorie-laden snacks is a far cry from 25 years ago. But it’s essential to change our way of eating.’

If you must snack, Professor Atkins says that the worst thing you can do is to eat on autopilot.

‘Snacks are readily available and we are all very busy. So it’s easy to eat when you’re doing something else without thinking about what you’re eating – then you accidentally overeat.’

Most of us are guilty of this from time to time. We might have an important work deadline, or a big family event to organise and so, feeling busy, buy snacks from vending machines, have a muffin with our coffee, or eat endless biscuits to keep ourselves going.

But we’ll probably end up overeating by doing this.

A French study found that women who were distracted while eating notched up more calories.

The researchers at the Hopital Hotel-Dieu, Paris, observed a group of women whom they described as ‘restrained eaters’ and who watched their weight.

The scientists discovered that if there was a distraction such as television, the women ate significantly more calories. one way to help you to get through to your next meal without snacking is to eat lowglycaemic foods at mealtimes such as porridge, baked beans, lentils and yoghurt, which release energy slowly and so keep you feeling fuller for longer. 

And if you get really desperate, swap to low-calorie snacks. ‘If you don’t have the wi l lpower, make healthy snack substitutions instead,’ says Professor Atkin.

This means swapping cakes and biscuits for fruit. ‘It will take about four weeks to get used to it, but after this time you’ll find it easier, and snacking on fruit is an acceptable life-long eating programme.

Professor Sattar, who has a family history of type 2 diabetes, has trained himself to snack on low density calories such as fruit and have less high-density snacks such as chocolate. ‘This change took several months, but I now eat a quarter of the cakes and biscuits that I used to,’ he says.

Savory Sunflower Seed Dressing with Herbs!

Veda Healthies!

Here’s your chance to put living food into action. This sunflower dressing recipe gets even better if you soak the seeds overnight in a drop of lemon juice to remove the phytic acid and begin the germination process for the seeds. Also, swap out the agave for some maple syrup or palm sugar for better blood stabilization. Super yummy. Enjoy!

by GENA on FEBRUARY 7, 2011


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As you all know, I’m fanatical about raw dressings. Salad and raw veggies are at the base of any semi-raw diet, and they’re a lot tastier and more fun when they’re slathered in dressings that are delicious. I have so many I love (my soon to be updated recipe tablists just a few), and they all add different character to my nutrient dense salads, my raw collard wraps, and my veggie dipping plates. They range from the rich (raw caesar) to the light (zucchini dressing). This one is a perfect in-between: the sunflower seeds add creaminess, but it’s not overly thick, and the flavors are light and bright from lemon and fresh herbs. Enjoy it on any salad, or as a tangy and refreshing vegetable dip.

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Savory Sunflower Seed Dressing with Herbs (Raw, Vegan, can be gluten or soy free depending on whether you use nama shoyu or tamari)

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1 cup water
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Bragg’s, nama shoyu, or tamari
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried dill OR basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp minced garlic

Put all ingredients in a high speed blender, and blend till creamy and smooth.

I think it goes very nicely over broccoli and tomatoes—a little mid-morning snack made from crudité platter leftovers from last night’s party!

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Here’s a portable portion that I’ll be taking to campus for tonight’s dinner (salad with dressing; raw sunshine burger), which takes place in my chem auditorium lecture:

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If you don’t have mini tupperware containers for dressings, I really recommend getting some—or, a more health and environment friendly option is to get mini Ball canning jars.

Carob – The Chocolate Substitute!

A recent comment on the chocolate posting led me to post some info on natural Carob. Here are 2 articles that help outline some of its benefits. Highlights include using Carob as a substitute for Chocolate for those who are intolerant or on a diet. Thanks Tia!

The Many Health Benefits of Carob to the Human Body

by Maia Appleby, Demand Media

Add carob powder to milk to make a beverage similar to chocolate milk.
Add carob powder to milk to make a beverage similar to chocolate milk.

Carob is a versatile plant that can serve as a substitute for chocolate for people who are allergic to cocoa or dairy products. Sold in health food stores in bulk and in ready-made products, carob is high in protein and phytonutrients that may protect you from cardiovascular problems and help you maintain your weight.

Chocolate Alternative

Carob is a nondairy alternative to chocolate, offering an option to those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies. It is lower in fat, calories and caffeine than chocolate, so it can be a beneficial substitute if you are trying to lose weight. It is bitter as a stand-alone ingredient, however. When researchers from Purdue University substituted milk chocolate with melted carob chips on unsalted pretzels, they found that taste testers preferred the sweeter dark and milk chocolate over carob but concluded that adding a sweetener to it may make it more palatable.

Fiber and Cholesterol

Eating foods with carob fiber may help lower your cholesterol. In a 2010 “Plant Foods for Human Nutrition” journal article, researchers gave either a placebo or a compound with insoluble carob fiber to 88 people with high cholesterol levels. Those who took the carob fiber lowered their total cholesterol levels by about 18 percent and their LDL levels by approximately 23 percent. They also had lower triglycerides than the placebo group, whose members did not experience any significant changes to their cholesterol levels.


Carob flour is a safe option for diabetics. Each pod from the carob tree contains seeds that growers use to make a gum-like substance called tragasol, which is often used as a stabilizer and thickener in foods such as baked goods, ice cream, salad dressings, sauces, cheese, deli and canned meats, jellies and mustard. Once the gum has been extracted, growers use the seed residue to make carob flour, 60 percent of which consists of protein, according to Purdue University.

Protection Against Cancer

Carob may help prevent some types of cancer, according to German researchers who published a study in the journal “Food and Chemical Toxicology” in 2003. After examining carob fiber, they found 24 polyphenol compounds, 26 percent of which were flavonoids, plant-based compounds with powerful antioxidant properties. It also contained a significant amount of the antioxidant compounds myricetin and quercetin. The researchers believe that carob fiber’s high content of these phenolic antioxidant substances may give it cancer-preventing properties.


Although some people chew carob fruit as a sweetmeat, its pods are also processed to make flour that is similar to cocoa powder, which you can use to make a beverage similar to chocolate milk or hot cocoa. You can combine carob powder with wheat flour for baking. A finer version of carob flour is also used for confections, such as candy bars. A thick syrup can also be derived by grinding the pods and boiling them in water. In Spain and Germany, people substitute coffee beans with roasted carob seeds.


Cooking or baking with carob instead of cocoa may be the healthier choice.
Photo Credit chocolate image by Horticulture from
Carob is a naturally sweet bean-like pod that grows alongside small flowers on trees throughout the world, according to the NewCrop Resource from Purdue University. Originally used as feed for livestock by the Greeks, its use and consumption expanded into Morocco, Spain and Italy. Its current use is more versatile, as it is typically processed into a cocoa-type flour that is used to flavor sweets. The pods may be ground and boiled in water to produce a thick syrup, and the seeds may be used as an additive to commercial bakery goods, ice cream, salad dressings, sauces, and other food products. Its use and consumption provide various health benefits, so be sure to consult your health-care provider or nutritionist for more information.


Eating carob regularly provides the body with various health benefits, according to One of the benefits of carob in the diet is its effects on digestive health. Carob helps to regulate the digestion process, while serving as a natural anti-allergic, antiseptic, and anti-bacterial agent. It contains tannins that are rich in gallic acid, which give it its beneficial effects. Additionally, carob provides powerful anti-viral benefits that supply the body with essential antioxidants. This is especially beneficial for people who are suffering from diarrhea, as it reduces acid production and combats related ailments.


In addition to providing health benefits for digestion, carob is an effective agent for regulating blood glucose levels, according to the Prepared Foods Network website. Carob contains fiber that naturally helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which is especially beneficial for people with diabetes. Carob is primarily comprised of insoluble dietary fiber; however, it has similar health benefits to those of soluble fibers. As an insoluble fiber product, carob helps water bind in the digestive tract, which enhances the health of the intestinal tract and regulates blood glucose levels. The effects of carob on the glycemic index may also be powerful, but this is still being studied.


Carob is rich in dietary fiber, which is primarily insoluble, but offers similar effects to those of soluble fiber. According to the Prepared Foods Network website, carob’s health effects include the ability to naturally lower harmful cholesterol levels. This effect is especially beneficial for people who suffer from high cholesterol levels, and are therefore also at risk for heart disease. The cholesterol-reducing effects of carob may stem from its naturally high levels of lignin and polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that are commonly found in plant-based foods. These antioxidants work by binding to stomach acids and cholesterol in order to help them pass through the body and be excreted.