Nutrition

Growing Sprouts

Sprout TrayI love growing sprouts and have done so off and on for about ten years. This year, however, I stopped for a couple months over the winter. Until I began sprouting again recently, I had forgotten how much I missed sprinkling fresh sprouts on my salads, soups, veggie wraps, and added to stir-fries. I love the variety of flavor, crunch and texture that they add to my meals.

Though the initial costs of sprouters and seeds can be a little steep, the cost per batch of sprouts is quite low and much more economical than the cost of buying wilted, gross sprouts at your local grocer.

Resurrected below is my original article about sprouting, originally posted on AromaWeb in March, 2009. Because so many people aren't aware of how easy it is to grow sprouts (and fascinating/fun for kids to help!), this article deserves to be dusted off and republished. Since the time I first published this article, I've switched to exclusively using the Easy Sprout Sprouter (see link below).


Sprouts: Easy to Grow, Nutritious and Can Be Grown Indoors Year Round

As a former vegetarian, I remain a veggie lover and advocate for consuming fresh, uncooked, organic produce whenever possible. I have enjoyed growing sprouts indoors for almost ten years. Growing sprouts is an easy way to ensure that you eat freshly grown and harvested produce even during the colder months of the year.


The Advantages to Sprouting...

  • Relatively easy
  • Inexpensive
  • Doesn't take up much space
  • Most sprouts are ready to consume in 2-4 days
  • Educational for children

Bioset SprouterI love adding sprouts to my salads, sandwiches, veggie wraps, stir fries, soups and as a garnish. Sometimes, I sneak a small handful of alfalfa or red clover sprouts into my smoothies as their flavor can't be detected once blended.

Sprouts are low in calories and are rich in an array of enzymes and nutrients including vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Compared to sprouts purchased at the store, your own sprouts are fresher and cost a lot less. Since growing my own sprouts, I wouldn't dream of buying sprouts in the store as even their "fresh" sprouts look so old compared to those I grow.


Seeds Suitable for Sprouting...

  • Alfalfa
  • Red Clover
  • Red Lentil
  • Daikon Radish
  • Mung Bean
  • Adzuki Bean
  • Buckwheat
  • Fenugreek
  • Broccoli


Finding Sprout Seeds...

I recommend purchasing your sprouting seeds from well known sources that offer organic seeds. AromaWeb advertiser Mountain Rose Herbs sells a small selection of certified organic sprouting seeds. I've tried several of their varieties including their alfalfa, red clover, red lentil and fenugreek seeds. If you are an AromaWeb advertiser that sells sprouting seeds, let me know so I can update this post to also mention your company.


A Tip about Chia Seeds...

Like flax seeds, chia seeds are extremely mucilaginous. In other words, they become especially sticky once they have been moistened. They're perfect for Chia Pets and they are nutritious, but they won't grow successfully for you if you use a standard sprouter. If you find yourself given chia seeds but don't want to go to the hassle of sprouting them, include them in your favorite smoothie recipe.


How to Grow Sprouts...

To grow sprouts, you will need a sprouter. There are quite a few varieties available. . I use two types of sprouters. The first is the Bioset Seed Sprouter. I also regularly use and now prefer the Easy Sprout Sprouter because it offers better drainage and is easier to clean. For the serious sprout lover, large family or restaurant owner, larger and more advanced sprouters exist.

Although growing sprouts is easy, I'll leave it up to the directions that come with your sprouter.


For More Information...

       

For more information on growing sprouts, consider reading one of the above books.


Growing and Enjoying Peppermint, Spearmint and Other Mint Plants

Peppermint growing against my garage.
Peppermint growing against my garage.  
The middle of June is finally here, and with that, the 25 herb varities that I'm growing this year are beginning to thrive. As an aside, I'm even trying my hand at growing patchouli this year here in Michigan... we'll see how I do. The patchouli plant that I special ordered arrived in weak condition and I'm hoping I can nurture it back to abundant health.

Amongst the herbs I grow each year are mint varieties including traditional peppermint and spearmint. Mint grows abundantly, and one small plant can provide plenty of mint leaves that can be enjoyed fresh throughout the warmer months and dehydrated for wintertime use. Mint plants should be planted where it will not become a nuisance or infringe upon other plants. The mints grow well in containers, and container planting is a practical way to keep their growth under control. I used to do that, but now plant my mint varieties alongside my garage so that I have enough for the mint tea that I enjoy throughout the summer and fall (see below).


Uses for Mint Leaves

There are countless ways that you can enjoy using mint for herbal, aromatherapy and culinary use. Below are a few of my favorites:

Tea:
I love brewing fresh mint tea on early summer mornings. It's light, energizing, uplifting and is great for the digestion. To make tea using fresh mint or other herbs, select and wash about 3x as much fresh herb as you would dried herb (the flavor of dried herbs/teas is much more concentrated and hence, less dried is needed than fresh). Tear fresh mint leaves into small pieces. Tearing the mint leaves allows the mint's natural essential oils to be released. It's the mint's essential oil that is responsible for the plants' distinctive cool, fresh flavor and aroma. Place the torn leaves into empty tea bags or into tea strainers intended for use with loose teas, and place the teabag or strainer into your mug. Then, pour your water over the leaves and allow the leaves to infuse the water for several minutes.


Smoothies or Juice:
If you make fresh vegetable or fruit juices or smoothies, experiment by adding a mint leaf or two.


Garnish:
Garnish ice cream, deserts and your other creations with the striking green leaves.


Mint Herbal Tincture:
Make refreshing room mists, linen and body sprays using your own handmade mint herbal tincture. For more information on making your own herbal tinctures, read AromaTalk's Herbal Tinctures post.


Dehydration:
I grow a lot of herbs for their culinary, medicinal/therapeutic and for the pleasure of seeing them thrive. Dehydrating your herbs is a great way to be able to enjoy abundant herbs during the winter months. There is no comparison between the dried herbs that you buy in tiny (or bulk!) bottles at the store vs. the more intense flavor and aroma of the herbs that you properly dry yourself. I use an Excalibur brand dehydrator that I've had for years because of its design, durability and its adjustable temperature setting that allows slow, even drying of delicate herbs.

Once dried, your mint leaves can be used in your own skin care creations including soaps, exfoliants, and facial masks.


Did You Know?

Catnip is in the mint family. In the UK, my understanding is that it is referred to as Catmint. Cat lovers can grow fresh catnip for their feline friends. My daughter's cat loves it. But be wary, newly planted catnip can be attacked by roaming neighborhood cats, so do try to keep them out of their reach until the plant(s) begin to thrive. How? I'm still trying to figure that one out. ;)


Nutrition Action Healthletter

One of my favorite monthly print publications is the Nutrition Action Healthletter published 10 times a year by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Through its pages, I've learned a great deal about general nutrition, read the finding of recent testing, discovered false nutritional claims promoted by commercial manufacturers, reviewed comparisons between a variety of different prepared foods, drooled over the included recipes and digested all sorts of other helpful information. Resembling a thin, color magazine, it's only about 16-20 pages per issue. Like Consumer Reports, it accepts no advertising.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest describes themselves this way: "The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), founded in 1971, is an independent nonprofit consumer health group. CSPI advocates honest food labeling and advertising, safer and more nutritious foods, and pro-health alcohol policies. CSPI's work is supported by Nutrition Action Healthletter subscribers and foundation grants. CSPI accepts no government or industry funding. Nutrition Action Healthletter, first published in 1974, accepts no advertising.

Subscriptions vary in price depending on current special offers going on, but the typical subscription rate is $10-15 per year. For the best rates, subscribe directly through them. I peaked at Amazon.com's subscription rate for this newsletter and it's nearly double the price. I receive no compensation for sharing my feedback about the newsletter. I just want you healthy! ;)

Learn More About the Nutrition Action Healthletter
View Their Online Archives for Free

Review Nutrition Action Healthletter's Article Indexes:

2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998


Part of My Morning Aromatherapy Ritual: Coffee!

Coffee Beans
Coffee Beans  
Drinking coffee is not a ritual that I classify as aromatherapy by any means, but I love the aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee beans. The aroma is rich, strong and enticing. In its own way, the aroma is soothing despite the stimulant properties of the beans. Until a few months ago, I had never considered the aroma of coffee beans as one befitting my usually strict definition of aromatherapy. Coffee beans, especially the organic ones that I buy, are natural, but of course they are roasted.

Coffee Bean Absolute
  Vial Depicting Coffee Absolute
The oil that is contained within the coffee bean is responsible for its distinctive flavor. Prior to roasting, the beans and the oil derived from them smells quite green and somewhat bitter. In fact, unroasted coffee beans are referred to as green coffee beans. Oil that is extracted from roasted beans possesses the familiar aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. I'm not familiar with the availability of a steam distilled coffee essential oil, but it is available as a CO2, absolute and as a cold pressed oil (AromaWeb advertisers Nature's Gift sells a Coffee CO2 and FromNatureWithLove.com sells both cold pressed roasted and green coffee oils and coffee bean butter).* View AromaWeb's Coffee Bean Oil Profile.


Converting to Black Coffee

Black coffee itself has no calories. Even if you steer clear of specialty coffee drinks and make your own coffee at home, the added calories can add up. Most Americans like to doctor up their coffee with creamers, half and half, flavored syrups, sugar, and so on. A few months ago, I became curious to the number of calories that I averaged per day in adding milk or creamer to my coffee. For me, I used to primarily use fat-free (skim) or 1% fat milk, plus calorie-free Stevia (a subject for a future post). But sometimes I would use sugar-free or fat-free creamers, and that's where the calories, for me, would skyrocket.

I started by taking a look at the actual quantity of milk or creamer I was adding to my coffee. Sitting at the very bottom of my generous mugs, it would look like I only added around a tablespoon but boy was I fooling myself. I discovered that I had been adding a whopping 2oz. per mug (that's the equivalent of 2 tablespoons/6 teaspoons). Yikes. Depending on what I'd add:

  • 2 oz. Skim Milk: 22 calories
  • 2 oz. 1% Milk: 28 calories
  • 2 oz. Name Brand Fat-Free Flavored Creamers: 100-150 calories
  • 2 oz. Name Brand Sugar-Free Flavored Creamers: 60 calories

That is one huge load of calories that I didn't realize I was consuming. Not to mention the added cholesterol, carbohydrates, fat or synthetic ingredients, depending on the option used. Fortunately I usually used organic skim or 1% milk, but that still adds up to a lot of unwanted calories and cholesterol. I'd rather get my calcium from my favorite smoothie (see recipe).

Here's an example of how you can do the math to calculate how many calories you'll save (and the corresponding weight!) by cutting out the high calorie additives.

Scenario:

Let's say that you drink 2 cups of coffee per day and that you add 2oz. of a sugar-free flavored creamer.

Calorie Calculation:

  • 2 cups of coffee per day x 60 calories of creamer per cup = 120 calories a day.
  • 120 calories per day x 365 days in a year = 43,800 calories consumed a year.
  • 43,800 calories in a year/3500 calories in a pound = 12.5 pounds.
    (You gain 1 lb. for every 3500 calories that you consume and do not burn up.)

After I did that math, I couldn't help but convert to drinking my coffee, black. And I find that I savor the flavor more.


For Additional Information on Coffee

If you would like information on the history, varieties and other helpful tips on buying and brewing the perfect cup of coffee, the following book might be perfect for you. I have an older edition of it and learned quite a bit:

Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing, and Enjoying, Fifth Edition


*If you are an AromaWeb advertiser that sells a natural coffee product, please let me know so I can update this post to mention your product.

 


Aromatherapy and Nutrition

VeggiesAromatherapy is a remarkable health modality that can help enhance body, mind and spirit, but our nutritional choices can also dramatically impact our health and emotional happiness over the long term. Even the condition of our skin (our largest organ) and hair is directly related to what we choose to eat and drink.

We can and should integrate the benefits of essential oils and other natural botanicals into our daily routine, but attention to what you eat will work synergistically to help enhance your outlook on life and to effect how your body, skin and hair looks and feels.

I once knew a woman who was thin and appeared to be very fit. She was in her late 40s at the time, and I'll call her Jane. Jane was very energetic, perhaps almost to the point of being hyper. A sweet and attractive lady, Jane had the energy of someone much younger, but the skin on Jane's face, neck and hands made her look like she was in her late 60s. We had a brief but friendly acquaintanceship, and as we got to know each other, I would learn that Jane had severe sleeping problems and an auto-immune skin disorder called Lichen Planus. Lichen Planus is a skin disorder that is somewhat rare and can be much more severe than eczema. In some cases, as in Jane's situation, surgery can be required. Because Jane didn't have to "watch" her weight, she also didn't watch what she ate, and she ate a lot of heavily processed foods. She would eat fast food at least once daily, and I had the impression that many days went by in which she ate at least two of her meals from a drive through paper bag. In Jane's case, she barely ate any fruits or vegetables let alone fresh foods, and she barely ate any foods like salmon that are high in essential fatty acids. I suspect this is why her skin was aged beyond its years and why she may have also suffered from Lichen Planus. My knowledge of Lichen Planus is limited, but in my initial research to learn more about her skin disorder, I found an article that indicated that like eczema, intake of essential fatty acids can prove helpful. Jane's excessive intake of processed foods and minimal intake of fresh produce may have also been directly responsible for her sleeping issues.

Jane has indirectly reminded me of the importance of not just nourishing my skin from the outside, but to be sure to also eat foods rich in EFAs. It's also important to increase one's intake of fresh fruits and veggies and limit processed foods. I have my own personal stories to share about the direct benefits in reducing processed foods/eating raw. I'll share those sometime in the near future.

For more information on essential fatty acids, visit AromaWeb's Essential Fatty Acids article.