Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

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In today’s New England Journal of Medicine, a team of researchers reports that people who consume nuts more often are less likely to die of certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory diseases, and Type II diabetes.

Lest you think that this is another one of those small studies that has been over-interpreted, realize that the researchers studied over 118,000 people. They enrolled them in the study, followed their self-report food intake for years, and searched huge databases to track deaths of study participants.

The authors were careful to say that their study was observational and that they therefore can’t claim they’ve proved that nut consumption caused the reduced risk of death. But their conclusion was stated simply and clearly: “As compared with participants who did not eat nuts, those who consumed nuts seven or more times per week had a 20% lower death rate.”

They point out that some actual clinical trials conducted by other researchers show nut consumption does have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance, among other factors.

There’s a neat little three-minute animated explanation from the Massachusetts Medical Society that goes along with the study. You can see it by going here and clicking the Video icon named Nuts and Death.

Nuts are awesome! Pine nuts are slightly sweet and add a hint of flavor to rice or quinoa dishes. Walnuts can be ground up and mixed with eggs or tofu, along with spinach and onions, to make a delicious pate that makes a satisfying sandwich. Pecans are perfect for waldorf salad.  And that’s just the beginning! So treat yourself to some health and go for nuts.

Related links:
Best and Worst Nuts for Your Health
Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health – Mayo Clinic

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Did you know there are over 8,000 farmers’ markets in the U.S.? That’s according to the USDA  and that number represents over 3,000 new ones since 2008, when there were about 5,000. There are over 750 just in California – no surprise, really, since we have such great weather for growing — but New York is not far behind. You can search the directory here  and search by location, what they sell, and what kinds of payment are accepted.

That’s 8,000 reasons to have a week dedicated to the farmers who feed us.

In the East Bay, you can find farmers’ markets in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Rossmoor, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and two Kaiser locations – and that’s just within a ten-mile radius.

So grab your cloth bags, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and head out to the nearest market to get ready for the coming week.

To learn more about what groups are working to heal our food system, check out the following groups at their websites:

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,

Environmental Working Group,

National Farm-to-School Network,

National Young Farmers Coalition,

Sustainable Table,

and the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program.

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On Earth Day last week, some friends and I dined at The Vegetarian House, which is both vegan, non-GMO, and organic. Wait – don’t go yet! Vegan is delicious, and I just found out (again) how delicious!

As you may know, a vegetarian does not eat (dare we say, eschews) meat, fish, poultry – anything that was once a living animal. He or she may eat dairy and eggs. A vegan doesn’t eat these either. Just as carnivores wonder how one can live without meat and dairy, I used to wonder how one lived without cheese. But creative vegans have dreamed up incredibly delightful recipes and menus.

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The six of us chose a variety of dishes and shared, so I got to sample a range of The Vegetarian House’s goodies. I’ll just list a few: Won ton soup (with shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, tofu, cilantro, and more), sweet and sour (pineapple, bell peppers, soy nuggets), clay pot (bean cakes wrapped in seaweed, with gravy and pepper), asparagus (with soy slices, bell pepper, mushrooms), curry masala (jicama, broccoli, shiitake, cauliflower, and more with coconut milk curry sauce) — well, you get the idea. Culinary influences are from China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Middle East, Europe and the Americas

What other earth-friendly practices do they have? Solar panels on the roof, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, local sourcing of ingredients whenever possible.

We didn’t try the desserts but they look tempting (organic tiramisu, carrot cake, banana fritters, etc.). And even raw desserts – strawberry cheesecake, carob mousse pie, and more. Looks as if I’ll just have to go back there and try them all!

520 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose 95112  (408) 292 3798

Berkeley Vegan Earth Day 2013

The Berkeley Vegan Earth Day will be a fun-filled, action-packed day that focuses on the intersection of veganism and the environment. There will be a bevy of knowledgeable speakers, an eco chef battle, interactive Q&As, food demos, a panel discussion, and a film screening of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home.

Location: David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way at Oxford St., Berkeley. Near downtown Berkeley BART.  Time: 11 am to 6 pm.  I’ll be speaking at 12.45 on how people who avoid meat are helping to save endangered species.

  • We will have a series of speakers throughout the day, starting at 11:15 AM sharp.
  • At any given time, there will be two to three speakers or events going on at once, including an eco-chef battle, the showing of the film Peaceable Kingdom, and food demos
  • There will also be vendors selling and/or sampling their vegan and eco-friendly products.  Come hungry!
  • There will be a variety of amazing food for sale, lovingly made by catering companies and restaurants that are a part of this event.  Plus, of course, many items to try out before you decide just how much of it you want to purchase to bring home with you!

Even if you can only attend for a portion of the day, you don’t want to miss this fun, educational, and inspiring event.

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The Great Tomato Plant Sale. That’s the name given by master gardeners in Contra Costa to the plant sale they held yesterday in Walnut Creek. And it was great! I had no idea so many hundreds of people devotedly grew their own tomatoes. One of the many volunteers hosting the event said to me, “Last year, we planted 4,000 tomato starter plants, and sold out in three hours. So this year, we planted 14,000.”

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It’s a good thing they did. When I arrived a few minutes before the official start time, there was a line three deep winding down the block and around the corner. People had come carrying boxes, flats, and other containers because boy, they were ready to start buying! The mood in the line was friendly but slightly competitive, as we all lusted after the rare heirloom varieties that had been advertised.

Tomatoes come in all colors and have snazzy names. Black tomatoes can be had in varieties called Black Cherry, Black Ethiopian, Black Prince, Chocolate Stripe, and more. Yellow tomatoes rejoice in the names of Yellow Brandywine, Wapsipinicon Peach, and Isis Candy. Classic reds are Box Car Willie, Principe Borghese, Red Zebra, and Cuore de Toro. Then there are Sugar Sweetie, Cherokee Purple, Chianti Rose – oh, you get the idea.

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Master gardeners are people who have taken specified classes through university extensions and passed a rigorous exam. If you want to contact Contra Costa Master Gardeners, they are at

CCMG also collaborated with the Contra Costa Times to create a project called Our Garden, where volunteers and master gardeners offer demonstrations and classes every Wednesday from April through October.

Check it out! These people know how to grow and how to teach. Very inspiring. Stay in touch with Contra Costa Master Gardeners so you can plan to attend next year!

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Nature gives us some foods that come in their own packaging – apples, walnuts, bananas, coconuts. You can probably think of some more. Humans have also created some edible packaging, most memorably the ice cream cone. Filmy cling wrap made out of vegetables has been in development for years (I wrote about it in 2002 and again in this space last year), though I haven’t seen any in the market yet.

In another twist, edible plants are being turned into packaging to cushion electronics for shipping.  Let’s just hope we don’t reverse that trend and start eating iphones….

A neat website called, a goldmine of interesting ideas, highlighted a coffee cup that is a cookie you can eat after you’ve finished your beverage. It’s not in production yet, but go here for a photo.

OR you could make your own edible cup. An unnamed culinary genius turned muffin tins over, draped bread or cookie dough over the protruding bulge, and voila! Remove from your oven a set of concave cookies, all ready to be filled with ice cream or quiche or whatever is your personal indulgence. See a neat photo here.