Rise to the Challenge!

Can you take your diet to the next level for 21 days?

October is World Vegetarian Awareness Month. In honor of this annual event, I'm going to make each of you a very special proposal.

I'll tell you about that in a minute. First, I'd like to address a widespread misconceptions that people have about health.

The misconception is the believe in a "single-solution" for health. Much of the chatter about health in our culture revolves around debates about "single-solution" approaches to health. Just embrace the "South Beach Diet" and you'll be healthy. Just take vitamins and you'll be healthy. Just get enough protein. Just drink red wine. Just get exercise and don't worry about diet. Just be a vegetarian.

The reality is that health needs the opposite of a single solution. Health requires a wide variety of factors in the same way that a good symphony orchestra requires excellence from every player, and for all to play in harmony with each other.

If a symphony conductor were to believe that just the woodwinds have to be good, but the rest or the orchestra doesn't matter, he would surely end up conducting some very bad music. Likewise, if you take a "single-solution" approach to health, you'll never achieve it.

All our decisions to some degree sustain or impair us. The impact of our decisions has a snowballing effect in the quality of our overall wellbeing. Eating well, exercising regularly, enjoying your work, living according to your values, maintaining good relationships, managing stress and cultivating compassion all contribute to total health.

Your life is a symphony, and you're the conductor.

In my holistic health counseling practice, I address my clients' whole life. My passion is to educate, inform and, hopefully, inspire people to live a healthy, balanced and happy life.

Life is short. And we must make every effort to live passionately and joyfully to the fullest extent each day -- to live the life we really want. I love seeing my clients transform their lives and enjoy long-lasting health, happiness and real prosperity.

Maximum health requires tailoring your diet, exercise, and other aspects of your life Amira Elganto suit your unique body, activity level, needs, circumstances and preferences. And discovering what's best for you requires experimentation.

So in the spirit of discovery, and in honor of World Vegetarian Awareness Month, I'm challenging you to take your diet to the next level for 21 days.

If you're a vegetarian, can you go vegan and cut all animal products, including dairy and eggs, from your diet for my 21-day-vegan challenge?

If you're not a vegetarian, can you cut all animal meat out of your diet for my 21-day-vegetarian challenge?

If so, can you promise to take your diet to the next level from Thursday, October 11 though Wednesday, October 31?

In exchange for your commitment, I pledge to provide you with two free, one-on-one telephone health counseling sessions plus e-mail support for the three-week period. This offer is for all readers and existing clients. (Please see the next item below, which is a testimonial from one of my clients.)

During those sessions, I'll guide you in tailoring your diet for maximum health. I'll also work with you on all other areas of your life that contribute to both health and happiness.

At the very least, the three weeks will be an adventure. It will raise your awareness about plant foods and prompt you to eat more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

During the three weeks, you'll probably lose weight, sleep better, lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, have more energy and vitality and -- by November -- look and feel better. You'll also learn a lot about health -- and about yourself.

Are you up to the challenge? If so, send me an e-mail at the following address:
[email protected].

Stay motivated - Read health-related research news, events and commentary every day. Check out Amira's Vegetarian Organic Blog.

Embracing the Challenge

"I discovered Amira Elgan surfing the internet in quiet desperation, seeking alternatives to traditional medicine, hoping beyond hope to find some answers to the wonderful phase of life called menopause. Amira’s philosophy jumped out at me, prompting a response and honest analysis of my nutritional choices and the subsequent consequences of my behavior.

"From the moment we spoke on the phone for that initial consultation, I was committed and consumed with the wealth of knowledge that Amira so aptly applied to my situation. The six month program proved to be so much more than nutritional counseling. In essence, it was a pathway to wellbeing that eludes most. Embracing the challenge and convinced by Amira’s own testimony, my journey began.

"I cannot effectively put into words how instrumental Amira has been in my life. Her energy and enthusiasm are infectious. I quickly knew that I wanted what she had! Amira walks the walk and it is a journey you don’t want to miss!

"If you give yourself one thing in this life, treat yourself to Amira! My life will forever be richer, transformed in a way I never imagined. I cannot wait to continue the journey and see what other treasures are hidden within.

"Amira, thank you for your amazing commitment to your profession. You exemplify the true meaning of a wholesome life. I welcome the challenges that our next session will bring for I now know of the glorious rewards that are waiting for me!!"


More To Us Than We Know

“There is more to us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less."

Kurt Hahn

Beetle Juice Anyone?

Natural or not, food and beverage additives are usually toxic and undesirable. In the previous issue of Vegetarian Organic Life, I discuss the dangers of chemical additives in food, which can cause serious damage to our bodies and increase the risk of cancer and other degenerative illnesses.

Carmine and cochineal are food additives considered “natural” by the Food and Drug
Administration because they’re made from insects (ground pregnant female beetles called Dactylopius coccus costa [Coccus cacti L.]).

When manufacturers began to use carmine and cochineal, the FDA considered them safe. In 1998, the watchdog group Center of Science in the Public Interest petitioned the FDA to ban the additives, or at least require manufacturers to list them and their insect derivation.

To make matters worse, these additives are not safe. People can have allergic reactions to the proteins in the beetles and experience adverse reactions, which can even be fatal.

There have been many reports of severe allergic reactions to carmine or cochineal extract. Some get reactions from eating red-colored popsicles, others after eating yogurt colored with carmine. In 1997 there was a written report of allergic reactions by five people after drinking the alcoholic beverage Campari, which is colored with carmine. One required hospitalization and another was treated with inhalers and intravenous antihistamines.

But it wasn’t until 2006, after a decade of reports about the harmful effects these additives that the FDA proposed a rule requiring manufacturers to list them by the
common name, instead of “color added,” “artificial color,” “natural color,” or “E120” in food labels.

Unfortunately, the common names of carmine or cochineal don’t provide a clue as to where those ingredients come from.

The Maya and Aztecs used beetles to color textiles, but usually not food. Peru is now the biggest producer of food dyes derived from Cochineal insects.

If you'd like to avoid eating ground bugs, read labels carefully and don’t buy
packaged foods, candies, baked goods, strawberry milk, berry yoghurts or juice drinks that list “crimson” or “cochineal” or “carmine” as ingredients -- or any products with vague label descriptions such as “confectioner’s glaze.”

There are also other natural food dyes made from plant sources such as carrots, beets and tropical trees, which are considered safe and harmless. Annatto coloring comes from the seedpods of the annatto tree and is commonly found in natural organic packaged foods as well as butter and cheese.

If you’re eating foods that require color added, it might be a good idea to switch to whole and unprocessed foods, which don’t need coloring agents. But when it comes to food dyes, favor beet juice over beetle juice.

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How to Keep Food Clean

Washing your fresh produce and keeping your kitchen clean is important to prevent food-borne illnesses and contamination in your kitchen.

A recent article, written by Allison Aubrey for NPR, talks about the most effective ways of rinsing bacteria and contaminants from fresh fruit and veggies and also shares some interesting findings.

According to the article, the editors of Cook’s Illustrated did a series of testing on produce cleaning techniques. They used whole apples and pears and experimented using four different cleaning methods.

The first method involved antibacterial soap (not recommended by experts due to soap residues on produce), which obviously was a bad idea from the start.

The testers also used the brush scrubbing method and found that it removed 85 percent of the bacteria. The scrubbing method removed slightly more bacteria than just doing a plain water rinse.

Another batch of whole fruits was washed with an acidic solution of one part vinegar and three parts water followed by clean water rinsing. The vinegar and water solution was the most effective technique removing the most bacteria—it eliminated 98 percent of the bacteria.

Smooth skin fruit and vegetables, for instance, can be sprayed over the sink with a spray bottle filled with ¼ cup of vinegar and ¾ cup water followed by a rinse of clean water.

Other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and leafy greens have to be broken into pieces or, in the case of leafy greens, separated and then soaked in the vinegar and water solution in a large bowl.

And what about expensive bottled veggie wash solutions sold at many stores? According to the article, researchers at the Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Tennessee State University conducted comparison testing of “Veggie Wash” and mixed vinegar and water. They found that the commercially sold products are not very effective and are a waste of money.

To prevent food-borne illnesses through cross contamination in your kitchen and bacteria in your produce here are the tips the article lists from the FDA Center for Food Safety as good sanitation practices.

- Keep your hands clean by washing them thoroughly and frequently with hot enough water and soap, especially before and after handling foods, using the bathroom, handling pets or changing your baby’s diapers.

- Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counters with hot water and soap immediately after using them. The article recommends a bleach solution, for disinfecting, applied to all utensils and surfaces, of one teaspoon of bleach in one quart of water. But unless you cook with raw meat, I recommend sticking to the natural solution of one part vinegar and three parts water.

- Wash fresh produce under running water. Use a scrub brush and acidic solutions of one part vinegar or lemon juice mixed with three parts water for added protection. Wash produce before peeling also and dry off with a clean kitchen towel. Bruises and rotted spots on fruit and veggies should be cut out completely.

- Refrigerate or freeze food leftovers as soon as possible after cooking and food is cool but no later than two hours afterwards.


Scrumptious Seitan with Peppers and Tomatoes Stew (vegan)
Serves 6

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Nothing showcases the beautiful bright colors and sweet sundry flavors of seasonal peppers and tomatoes like this delicious seitan stew featuring the wonderful flavors of Latin American cuisine.

This dish is simple and quick to make but has lots to offer as weeknight meal or any special evening. It’s high not only in flavor but also in protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, B complex vitamins, lycopene, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and iron—just what’s good for an optimally healthy body. To make it really festive, serve it with whole grain corn tortillas, guacamole, salsa, pico de gallo, pinto beans or brown rice pilaf.

Cook’s Tidbits:
Chill leftovers to last up to 5 days in the fridge. Mix with brown rice for a second meal or make a sandwich using whole grain bread (bread that is made with sprouted grains and contains actual whole grains is healthiest such as Ezekiel breads)

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients when possible)
2 tablespoons safflower oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 fresh garlic cloves, crushed or finely minced
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut into thin strips
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut into thin strips
1 small green bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut into thin strips
1 small Anaheim pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut into thin strips
1 small Poblano pepper, seeded, deribbed and cut into thin strips
1 pound traditional seitan, drained and thinly sliced (two 8-oz packages)
3 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for more spiciness)
7 fresh medium tomatoes, roughly diced
2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste

1. Heat oil in a large pot or pan over low heat. Stir in onions sautéing for three minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes stirring frequently. Add all the fresh peppers and sauté for 5 additional minutes continuing to stir.

2. Add seitan, paprika, cumin, oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper, tomatoes, black pepper and salt mixing well over medium heat for 3 minutes. Cover with lid, lower heat and simmer for 7 minutes. Adjust salt and black pepper seasoning if necessary and enjoy.

Cook’s Tip:
If different varieties of peppers are not available, substitute with any bell peppers.



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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.

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