The Mind Diet 

The right diet makes you healthy. But what about "mental junk food" -- stress, pain and fear?

Vegetarian Organic Life talks a lot about diet -- how to get rid of the bad food and bring in the good.

For total health, a parallel process needs to happen with our minds. We need to learn how to put our minds on a diet, getting rid of harmful, recurring thoughts and emotions and replacing them with constructive, healthful mental activity.

What's on the menu? Generous, frequent helpings of meditation.

Our lives sometimes feel chaotic and out of control. Suffering and agony are part of being human.

The most common reaction to the inevitable pain of existence is escapism of one form or another. Drugs -- including alcohol, prescription medications and illegal narcotics -- are the most common and harmful means of escape. TV and other Amira Elganfrivolous entertainment, gossip and other diversions, overworking, shopping -- even surfing the Internet -- are also employed in the universal desire to cope with the pains and stresses of our lives.

There is a better way: We can learn to nurture our minds, bodies and spirits with simple and effective meditative techniques. We do not and cannot control what happens in the world. But we can control our reaction to it.

Sitting meditation, yoga and tai chi incrementally improve your ability to cope with pain, and maintain a clear mind even in the midst of chaos and crisis. That ability gives you the strength to reject escapism and look reality in the face at every turn.

Achieving a clear, peaceful state of mind through meditation also helps you stay connected with fellow human beings -- especially loved ones -- during both good times and bad. 

The more we calm our minds, the more we develop our ability to understand the way the world works -- and accept it. This gives us a doorway to open our hearts and become more loving and compassionate toward ourselves, other people and even our enemies.

Meditation is a gift only you can give yourself.

Through the wisdom of physically nurturing your body with wholesome foods and exercise as well as emotionally nurturing your mind with stress management techniques like yoga, tai chi and meditation, you can discover the true potential of your own being to experience inner peace and loving relationships even -- or shall I say, especially -- in times of hardship.

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Food for Thought

Tofu, one of the healthiest foods on earth, is available at all health food stores and many regular grocery stores in the refrigerated section.

Organic tofu is the best tofu you can buy. Avoid tofu made with genetically modified soybeans, which are widely used in most conventionally produced soy products. Tofu may come packaged in water, vacuum-packed, aseptic container and in bulk in tubs of water. (See last week's column to learn about the different kinds of tofu.)

The firmness of tofu depends on how much liquid is pressed out as the curds are compressed into a block.

Regular tofu will last in the refrigerator until the expiration date. Open tofu packages, however, should be used right away for best consistency. Once open you can also store it in water in a tightly closed container so it won’t absorb any surrounding odors and flavors. Try to use it as soon as possible—it will only last a few days. Regular tofu can also be frozen and last a few months (this will change the texture to a spongy consistency). To freeze packaged tofu, open it, cut it into slabs of about a half inch thick, let it drain on a cutting board lined with paper towel or a non-fiber shedding cloth. Store it in an airtight container or wrap in plastic and freeze. Thaw at room temperature or in the fridge, drain once more and use within two days.

Silken tofu can be found in the refrigerated sections of health food stores or may also come in aseptic containers that don’t require refrigeration. Once open, however, it must be placed in the fridge but it will only last a couple of days. Silken tofu should not be frozen.

Baked tofu comes in many flavors such as teriyaki, Italian, Thai, etc., and is readily available at many health food stores and supermarkets to be eaten right out of the package by itself and sliced or cubed to use in salads or sandwiches. It can also be cooked and added to meals and recipes that call for regular tofu. As I said in a previous issue, White Wave baked tofu is my favorite.

If time is not an issue, you can bake your own, which is a good way of using up tofu that’s about to expire.

Since tofu will absorb any flavors you can prepare marinades using your favorite spices and seasonings with dressings or sauces to achieve different types of world cuisines tastes. For Italian flavor for example, create a marinade using olive oil, basil, oregano, tamari sauce, garlic and your favorite tomato sauce or even pesto sauce. Here is how:

Baked Tofu

20 or 16 ounce package of firm or extra firm tofu (drained)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable broth or stock
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon safflower oil
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
3 cloves fresh minced or pressed garlic

1. Cut tofu into half to one inch thick slabs and let it drain covered on a cutting board lined with paper towel or a non-fiber shedding cloth for a couple of hours.

2. Repeat the draining process but this time line with new paper towels with a large platter, cutting board or cookie sheet, placing the tofu slabs flat on top. Cover tofu with using new paper towels or non-fiber shedding cloth and place a cutting board on top for added weight and maybe even a heavy book on top of board to press out excess liquid and moisture from tofu. Let it sit for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine water, broth, tamari, oil, lemon and garlic mixing well.

4. Arrange tofu slabs flat (without stacking) on a large glass baking dish and pour marinade spreading evenly over tofu. Cover and refrigerate overnight for best results (but no less than 4 hours) turning tofu once or twice.

5. After marinating is done, preheat oven to 350ºF. Meanwhile, oil lightly a baking sheet. Take the tofu out of the fridge, remove it from the marinade in a glass dish and place it on an oiled baking sheet. Bake tofu for 30 minutes and then turn it over. Bake for another 30 minutes or until it looks brown and feels firm. Serve hot or let it cool at room temperature and refrigerate for later use.

Words of Wisdom

“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year's course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word 'happy' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

Carl Jung

The Research Department

A preliminary study at the University of California, San Diego (conducted by meat-eating researchers) shows that a non-human molecule naturally occurring in beef, pork and milk gets into the human body when eaten and builds up in tumors over time. They also discovered that the body produces an immune response against the molecule. The highest amount of the molecule was found in red meat, according to the researchers.

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Miso and Noodle Soup (vegan)
Serves 6

As a nutritious lunch or dinner, this simple but hearty tasting noodle soup is good for you and tastes fabulous.

About the ingredients:
- The Japanese style Udon noodles have a thick texture, are made from wheat and are available at health food stores, Asian markets and Trader Joe’s.

- Miso, rich in B vitamins and protein, is a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It is a fermented soybean paste made by combining cooked soybeans with koji (a mold, which is cultivated in a soybean, barley or rice base) and salt. The basic categories of miso are barley, rice and soybean. Miso is sold in a variety of flavors and colors, which is determined by amount of soybeans, koji, salt used and length of time it is aged (6 months to 3 years). The lighter color miso varieties are sweet and mild and the darker colors have strong flavors. Though it may be used in soups, dressings, sauces, dips, condiment, main dishes and marinades, it should be used in moderation as it’s high in sodium. Miso can be found in the refrigerated sections of Asian and natural health food stores. Westbrae Natural is an excellent brand.

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
Water for boiling noodles (1 gallon)
2 tablespoons unrefined safflower or canola oil
4 fresh garlic cloves
1 small onion peeled and cut in 4 pieces
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
4 cups fat free vegetable broth or stock
3 cups water (a little more if desired)
20 ounces fresh firm tofu, finely cubed (about 3 cups of ¼ inch cubes)
7 tablespoons white miso paste (mild or mellow)
1 large carrot washed, peeled with ends trimmed and cut in 5 pieces
7 ounces Udon noodles (about ⅔ of package)
⅓ cup fresh chives or green onions (scallions), finely chopped

1. In a large pot, boil water for noodles. In a separate large pot, heat oil over low heat. Meanwhile, process garlic and onions in the food processor or blender until very finely chopped. Add garlic and onion mixture to oil sautéing over medium heat for 5 minutes.

2. In the meantime, mix and dissolve peanut butter with ¼ cup of the vegetable broth. Add peanut butter mixture, water, tofu and remaining broth to garlic and onions stirring well.

3. Take about 1 cup of liquid from the cooking broth and in a small bowl combine broth and miso paste mixing well with fork or small whisker. Add miso mixture to tofu and broth. Cover and continue to simmer over low to medium heat.

4. Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling water per package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place carrots in food processor and finely chop. Add noodles and carrots to miso soup cooking for 6 minutes. Add chives stirring well. Serve and garnish with additional chives if desired.



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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

Copyright© 2003 - 2009 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.