Drink to Your Health with Chamomile

Many benefits to drinking chamomile tea.

The weather is becoming cooler, so now is the time to curl up with a romantic movie and a hot mug of chamomile tea.

Chamomile known for its calming and relaxation effects has several other health benefits too including stomach aches, digestion and congestion.

Read more about the Benefits of Chamomile Tea and enter the giveaway by November 23, 2011 too!

**Do not drink chamomile tea if you are allergic to the flower or any plant in this category. Consult with your doctor if you have questions about chamomile.**


Healthy Living and a Vegetarian Lifestyle

I found this article from the Yoga Journal, if you don’t subscribe to this weekly journal, I highly suggest you do. Not only is it packed with yoga exercises and scrumptious healthy recipes, but it also provides articles about greener living and whole body wellness.

Periodically, I will post a vegetarian or vegan recipe that I have tried since I am trying to reduce my animal consumption and increase more local foods as well as vegetarian dishes on a daily basis. I’m doing pretty good, I’ve cut out beef and pork completely. (Ok, so I ate it once or twice last month, but only because I had nothing else in the freezer!) I still eat chicken, but not as frequently; fish and dairy too are still a staple in my diet too.

I love history too, so when this article appeared in my email, I had to share it with you too. Maybe it will change your perspective about your eating lifestyle.

The Roots of Vegetarianism

Ask any number of yogis to describe their diets and you’ll likely get responses as varied as the styles they practice. Many traditionalists see yoga as being inextricably linked with the meatless path, citing numerous ancient Indian texts to prove their conviction. Others put less stock in centuries-old warnings like “the slaughter of animals obstructs the way to heaven” (from the Dharma Sutras) than in what their bodies have to say. If eating flesh begets health and energy, they argue, it must be the right choice for them–and their yoga.

Today’s range of dietary habits might seem like a recent development, but delve back into the historical record and you’ll find a long tradition of ethical wrangling with respect to animals. Indeed, the different stances yogis now take on vegetarianism reflect just the latest turn in a debate that started thousands of years ago.

The Past-Life Argument

The history of vegetarianism in India began in the Vedic period, an era that dawned sometime between 4000 and 1500 b.c.e., depending on whom you ask. Four sacred texts known as the Vedas were the bedrock of early Hindu spiritual thought. Among those texts’ hymns and songs that described with reverence the wondrous power of the natural world, we find a nascent idea that sets the stage for vegetarianism in later centuries. “The concept of the transmigration of souls… first dimly appears in the Rig Veda,” explains Colin Spencer in Vegetarianism: A History (Four Walls, Eight Windows, 2002). “In the totemistic culture of the pre-Indus civilization, there was already a sense of oneness with creation.” A fervent belief in this idea, he contends, would give rise to vegetarianism later on.

In subsequent ancient texts, including the Upanishads, the idea of rebirth emerged as a central point. In these writings, according to Kerry Walters and Lisa Portmess, editors of Religious Vegetarianism (State University of New York Press, 2001), “gods take animal form, human beings have had past animal lives, [and] animals have had past human lives.” All creatures harbored the Divine, so that rather than being fixed in time, life was fluid. (A cow alone, notes Spencer, held 330 million gods and goddesses. To kill one set you back 86 transmigrations of the soul.) Again, the idea that the meat on a dinner plate once lived in a different–and possibly human–form made it all the less palatable.

Dietary guidelines became explicit centuries later in the Laws of Manu, written between 200 b.c.e. and 100 c.e., say Walters and Portmess. In this text, we discover that the sage Manu doesn’t find fault just with those who eat meat. “He who permits the slaughter of an animal,” he wrote, “he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, must all be considered as the slayers of the animal.”

The Bhagavad Gita, arguably the most influential text of the Hindu tradition (written sometime between the fourth and first centuries b.c.e.), added to the vegetarian argument with its practical dietary guidelines. It specifies that sattvic foods (milk, butter, fruit, vegetables, and grains) “promote vitality, health, pleasure, strength, and long life.” Bitter, salty, and sour rajasic foods (including meat, fish, and alcohol) “cause pain, disease, and discomfort.” At the bottom rung lies the tamasic category: “stale, overcooked, contaminated” and otherwise rotten or impure foods. These explanations have endured, becoming the guidelines by which many modern yogis eat.

Spiritual Contradiction

The case for vegetarianism mounted as centuries passed, while another practice–animal sacrifice–persisted alongside it. The same Vedas that extolled the virtues of the natural world also emphasized the need for animal sacrifice to the gods. The uneasy coexistence between India’s emerging inclination toward vegetarianism and its history of animal sacrifice continued over hundreds of years, says Edwin Bryant, professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University. Oftentimes the conflict played out in the pages of the same text.

The sage Manu, for instance, condemned recreational meat eating, stating, “There is no greater sinner than that man who…seeks to increase the bulk of his own flesh by the flesh of other beings.” But orthodox followers of Vedic culture–including Manu–were “forced to allow the performance of animal sacrifice,” Bryant notes. Ultimately, the discomfort that many in ancient India felt about animal sacrifice helped fuel the demise of the practice.

Some orthodox traditionalists, for instance, felt uncomfortable challenging the ancient texts on the issue out of respect for what they believed were the writings’ divine origins. However, they did condemn everyday meat eating, adding a number of conditions to animal sacrifice so that “the practice accrued ghastly karmic results that far outweighed any benefits gained,” explains Professor Bryant in A Communion of Subjects: Animals in Religion and Ethics, edited by Kimberly Patton and Paul Waldau (to be published in 2004).

Others simply deemed the ancient texts outdated, and went on to form groups such as the Jainas and the Buddhists. No longer bound by Vedic authority, Bryant says, they “could scorn the whole sacrificial culture and preach an unencumbered ahimsa,” or doctrine of nonviolence. This concept of ahimsa, championed by Mahavira in the sixth century, has emerged at the core of the vegetarian argument in modern times.

Some later Indian sages strengthened the case for vegetarianism. Swami Vivekananda, writing a hundred years ago, pointed out the communality we have with other animals: “The amoeba and I are the same. The difference is only one of degree; and from the standpoint of the highest life, all differences vanish.” Swami Prabhupada, scholar and founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, offered a more stark pronouncement: “If you want to eat animals, then [God] will give you… the body of a tiger in your next life so that you can eat flesh very freely.”

In most cultures today, the rights of animals have at least prevailed over the ritual of sacrifice, if not meat eating. Scores of yogis live and eat with the understanding, as expressed by B.K.S. Iyengar, that a vegetarian diet is “a necessity” to the practice of yoga. But other, equally dedicated yogis find flesh a necessary fuel, without which their practice suffers. Those yoga enthusiasts still on the fence when it comes to the meat question should take heart, however. It seems that a thoughtful, deliberate, and at times even challenging consideration of vegetarianism is very much in the spirit of the Indian spiritual tradition.

Contributing Editor Jennifer Barrett is editor of The Herb Quarterly. She lives in Connecticut.

Healthy Living Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

How to Save on Healthy Food, So You Can Eat Better

What you don’t know about eating healthy is that it doesn’t have be an expensive chore.

Natural Home Magazine teaches us all how we can enjoy a healthy lifestyle without spending a lot of money on organic and local food choices in your area. If you always thought (like I did) that buying wholesome nutritious food was expensive, you’re in for a surprise!

1. Shop local farmer’s markets and roadside stands (even from your neighbor’s garden) when it’s in season (and the cheapest) and plan to can or freeze what you can’t eat right away.

2. Do shop natural and organic food stores to buy common staples of food in bulk to keep on hand especially pastas, rice, cereals, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices as well as frozen fresh vegetables that you can’t otherwise buy in your area.

3. Cook larger quantities of food and freeze it to use later. Invest in quality glass or BPA free plastic containers to keep food fresh and to prevent freezer burn.

4. Keep nutrient-rich foods on hand that will satisfy food cravings, but won’t inflate your calorie count or fat intake. Buy or make treats that are packed with nuts, seeds, whole grains like oatmeal and flax seed that will fill up quicker than processed sugary treats.

5. Buy more beans. Buying an assortment of beans either dried or canned cost much less per serving. They are also loaded with potassium and fiber that will satisfy your hunger and are healthy for you.

6. Stock up on protein rich foods that are both nutritious and low cost. Foods include eggs (farm fresh are the best ones), bananas, potatoes (red, yellow or blue retain the most nutrients), bulgur, and non-fat plain yogurt.

7. Buy small quantities of fresh meat, vegetables and dairy on a weekly basis. Use all of it, so you are not wasting food and money. Cook and freeze it if you are not going to use it within a week. Prepare fruits and vegetables the same day you buy them, so they are ready to use when you need them and for kids to snack on after school or in the evenings.

8. Plan weekly meals including snacks and desserts. Buy food according to your meal planning to save money. Shop what’s on sale and use coupons whenever you have them.

9. Keep a record of your food spending. I walk around the grocery store with a calculator to monitor how much I am spending and what I have budgeted for food and I only shop twice a month. I have managed to cut my grocery bill in half by doing this.

If you follow these tips for buying healthy and locally grown foods, you’ll be living a better life too.

Try nutritious and delicious recipes from these recipe books:
Mediterranean: The Low-Fat No-Fat Cookbook
Anne Sheasby,(Southwater, 2009).
Casual Entertaining,
Ross Dobson, (Ryland Peters and Small, 2009).
Vegetarian, Linda Fraser, (Hermes House, 2002).

Blue Potatoes Provide Extra Nutrients in Healthy Meals

Yes, Virginia, There Really are Such Things as Blue Potatoes!

No, these farm grown potatoes do not contain a chemical dye or have a color deficiency. These are called “blue potatoes” even though they give off a purplish color. There are several varieties of potatoes including blue, purple, red, white and yellow.

We have all heard that white starchy foods, like potatoes, are not good for our health; however, according to one article,

“vibrantly colored vegetables are often more nutrient-packed than ones with tamer hues, and that holds true for potatoes as well. Red and bluefleshed potatoes, get their color from pigments called anthocyanins. In other foods, like grapes and berries, these anthocyanins have been shown to protect cells against oxidative damage, which is responsible for many age-related diseases.”

Blue potatoes are more healthy than their white counterparts.

Blue potatoes taste just the same as regular white potatoes, but they do retain their antioxidant capacity according to one researcher. Blue potato chips can be found in some grocery stores as well. Try using blue potatoes in place of regular white potatoes not only will your healthy recipe have color, but you will also have added nutrients. Try one of my favorite recipes, Veggie Friatta with blue potatoes.

It is recommended that you either grow your own blue, purple or red potatoes in your garden or buy them from area farmers, so that you receive the best tasting blue potatoes and the freshest. Buying local also saves energy, fuel and cost.

You can still buy blue potatoes, however, you probably won’t be able to buy the seeds until Spring 2011. I recommend Star Gazer Perennials because they are a certified organic seed reseller.