Anchors Anchored in Health
As you well know, good journalists are trained to ask relevant questions, dig deep for facts, and check the reliability of their sources. For Columbia news anchors (and avid health enthusiasts) Dawndy Mercer Plank and Alicia Barnes, these skills come in handy as they explore a plethora of information associated with the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Dawndy, Co-anchor for WIS News 10, and Alicia Barnes, Co-anchor for ABC Columbia, are regular customers at Good Life Café. Their passion for healthy eating has inspired us for a long time, so we asked if we could report on them for a change! Their story is good news, especially for those who want to lose weight and overcome health issues, but don’t know how or where to begin.
Alicia was overweight during her childhood. She ate many “Standard American Diet” (SAD) foods, and often ate what she wanted, and as much as she wanted. Over time her body experienced typical SAD results like weight gain, lack of energy and lowered immune function.
Years later, while living in San Diego, Alicia switched to a plant-based diet. The same year she was named the town’s “Favorite Female Newscaster,” her news show was cancelled. It was an ideal time to prepare her mind, body and spirit for her next assignment. She had heard about the Tree of Life Center, a holistic wellness center in Padagonia, Arizona, and enrolled in their two-month program.
Alicia worked in their organic garden and discovered the healing powers of fruits and vegetables. She immersed herself in all the goodness they had to offer and began to notice changes in her body. Her skin became clearer and more radiant. She didn’t have the usual fatigue, brain fog, blues or cramps that many pre-menopausal women experience. She also experienced a natural total-body cleanse and began to lose weight. At the end of her stay, she left the Center inspired, fully committed to a lifetime pursuit of optimal health.
Alicia was determined to apply as much as she could in the next place she would call home. By the time she arrived in Columbia she was eager to seek out restaurants devoted to clean eating. However, she discovered that while Columbia had many restaurants that served a great Reuben sandwich and other SAD items, the city lacked a variety of choices for those who prefer a plant-based diet. She was thankful for Earth Fare and Rosewood Market, which were among a handful of health-oriented businesses in the Midlands.
At the time, Sharon Wright prepared raw meals in her home and delivered them to health-conscious friends. Sharon is well known for her ability to prepare amazing vegan cuisine! Alicia heard Sharon’s name come up often and occasionally saw her at Earth Fare. In 2001, when Sharon opened Good Life Café in West Columbia, Alicia became a regular customer. It was a bit of a drive, but Alicia felt it was well worth it.
In March of 2014, the café moved to Main Street, down the street from Alicia’s studio. Monday through Friday, Alicia could count on Sharon and Good Life Café to provide nutrient-dense choices, but the weekends were more of a challenge. At home she did not stick to the same healthy regimen. For example, she prepared healthy salads, but drizzled bottled salad dressings over the top, making it counter-productive. She noticed that she felt much better when she stuck to the food at Good Life Café.
In April of 2014 Alicia decided to “ramp up” her commitment to healthy choices seven days a week. Today, she depends on Good Life Café for most of her food and rotates through the menu. Her favorites are the tacos and kale salad (two wildly popular dishes), the Jerk Burger and Acai Bowls. Sometimes she lets Sharon create something tailor-made for her. The portions are always generous, so there is usually enough food for a take-home meal. Her husband Jacob John has been known to sneak her leftovers from the refrigerator!
The café’s Acai Bowls are loaded with nutrients that fuel the body and mind for hours. Alicia has one mid-afternoon so she can remain mentally sharp until her evening program begins at 11 PM.
When Alicia introduces others to healthy eating, she shares information at a measured pace. She lets others guide according to where they’re at. Because some people become overwhelmed with unfamiliar foods and new information, Alicia suggests that people take baby steps, like omitting some harmful foods and ingredients while introducing nutrient-dense foods.
If you are an “all-or-nothing” type, you may enjoy Alicia’s blog (http://www.blanca101.com/21daychallenge/2015/4/14/it-started-as-a-21-day-clean-eating-challenge) where she journals about her 21-day Clean Eating Challenge. You’ll read helpful tips, see photos and follow Alicia’s weight loss progress. You’ll also see what and when she chose to drink and eat each day. You’ll discover that Good Life Café supplied most of what she needed and enjoyed, and the same still holds true today.
Alicia Barnes is a classic example of how utterly different your everyday life is when you adopt a plant-based diet. If you frequent Good Life Café or other places devoted to wellness, you’ll meet countless others who are equally inspired, and who trumpet this life-changing message!
As an avid marathon runner and health enthusiast, Dawndy was intentional about trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. She stayed up on the latest recommendations and tried to avoid foods that were harmful. To cut down on fat, she reached for fat-free items. She shopped the interior grocery store aisles and did her best to make good choices. This was especially important to her after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer years ago.
In 2010 Dawndy registered for a four-week Alive Again, LLC nutritional boot camp offered by Leré (La-RAY) Robinson, a well-respected nutritional coach and speaker in Columbia. The schedule covered a wide range of wellness topics, including proper food combination, how to read food labels, common food additives and preservatives, the benefits of whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts, alternatives to dairy, the difference in safe and hazardous food packaging, and much more.
Dawndy wanted to make the most of her time. Going into the boot camp, she felt she had a basic understanding of things. She showed up at every class prepared and eager to learn more and apply what she learned. There were recipes, raw food classes, smoothie demonstrations, instructional times, and wellness-centered field trips.
During the last week Leré took the class to read food labels. This was where Dawndy experienced a major epiphany in what it means to truly seek healthy food products. For the first time, she learned about common food additives and how some additives appear harmless, but are ones to avoid. She learned about BPA chemical liners in cans, and why BPA leaching in canned food or microwave popcorn is harmful to the body. Leré showed examples of healthy packaging alternatives available at health food stores, and in the organic sections of mainline grocery stores.
Using her new knowledge, Dawndy adjusted or replaced much of what she ate and drank. She learned what, how and when to eat for optimal performance and endurance. For example, she found that eating pea protein was better for her than whey protein. She discovered that AIM’s whole food Peak Endurance powder with electrolytes was better for her than a popular energy drink marketed to runners. She also discovered that a mostly raw plant-based diet with some of the superfoods, seeds, nuts and legumes yielded dramatic results.
Like Alicia and others who switch from a SAD diet to a clean, plant-based raw food diet, Dawndy saw changes in her skin, energy, weight, endurance and mental clarity. As the pure foods went in and the residual toxins were swept out, her body systems were nourished and cleansed and she was transformed from the inside out.
The boot camp ignited a desire in Dawndy to delve even deeper into her understanding of the benefits of a raw plant-based diet. She was “all in” after that, ready to reach higher in her pursuit of optimal health. As an avid researcher, she has spent countless hours reading about nutrition, attending more classes or lectures, and speaking with others who are knowledgeable.
In 2013 and 2014, Dawndy and her husband Craig attended an annual multi-day wellness conference in New York led by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn. Dr. Esselstyn earned his undergraduate degree at Yale, and is a world renowned surgeon who trained at Cleveland Clinic and served there since 1968. His extensive biography may be found at www.dresselstyn.com.
When Dr. Esselstyn discovered the major role plants play in preventing disease and restoring health, he devoted himself to educating others, including doctors and other health professionals around the world. For three days, Dawndy and Craig “drank from a firehose” during the many lectures and workshops devoted to the benefits of plant-based nutrition.
With every new dive into the wondrous, life-changing world of plant-based eating, Dawndy continues to be refreshed. Like Alicia, her enthusiasm is contagious and draws others to her, and her to others who share in a desire to learn more. Dawndy speaks about her journey at events throughout the Midlands. She has developed a list of resources to share with others when they want to know more. It is a working list that grows right along with her continued research. We’ve included it at the end. Perhaps it will serve as a great jumpstart to your own quest to know more and grow in health!
We hope you’ve been inspired by Alicia and Dawndy. We sure have!
We have yet to meet an unchanged, unhappy person who made the switch from SAD to clean eating.
Even those who have tried just one meal during just one visit to Good Life Café have reported a difference after their meal. Reports like “I wasn’t bloated or lethargic” come in all the time. Hard-core carnivores who fear spinach, kale and all things green arrive as skeptics, often coerced by family members who crave a meal with nutrients. We smile when we see their expressions of surprise and total satisfaction. And we love to welcome them back as repeat customers! Some are many pounds lighter, minus a few medications, and minus a few health problems. This opportunity to impact people’s lives in such a beautiful and positive way keeps Sharon Wright and Good Life Café doing what they do.
In the book of Psalms there is a verse that reads, “Even the rocks cry out.” It appears that our cells cry out, too.
Anne Buck for GLC
Note: We thank Alicia and Dawndy for their amazing and tireless work during and after the tragic and historic SC flood.
EXPERTS in PLANT BASED EATING:
(Google these people for a wealth of information. You may want to follow some of them on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to their newsletters or blogs.)
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
Colin Campbell, Ph.D.
Dr. Michael Greger
Dr. Joel Furhman
John McDougall, MD
Dr. Neal Barnard
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD
Eat for Health by Joe Fuhrman, MD
My Beef with Meat by Rip Esselstyn
Whole by T. Colin Campbell, PhD
Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, MD
The Forks Over Knives Plan – a 4-week Meal-by-Meal-Makeover http://www.amazon.com/The-Forks-Over-Knives-Plan/dp/1476753296 by Alona Pulde, MD and Matthew Lederman, MD
RECIPES AND COOKBOOKS:
Forks Over Knives Cookbook by Del Sroufe
The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook by Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn
The China Study Cookbook by LeAnne Campbell and Steven Campbell Disla
Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Forks Over Knives Recipe App – $3.99
Happy Cow – $2.99
Forks Over Knives
Forks Over Knives: The Engine 2 Diet
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
The Gerson Miracle
The Future of Food
Vanishing of the Bees
Dying to Have Known
What’s On Your Plate?
To Market to Market to Buy a Fat Pig
Killer at Large
The 2015 Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival
Six years ago Master Gardner Ryan Nevius and friends at City Roots gathered for a potluck to taste heirloom tomatoes. With their tomatoes they brought a shared enthusiasm and support for variety in heritage tomato seeds, open pollination, and local farmers. Guests understood the incomparable taste of homegrown! It was a wonderful time, small and intimate, and it’s no wonder that from this magical gathering such an extraordinary seed was born—a seed that has developed strong roots, and has yielded much fruit in Columbia!
That following year Nevius and others turned their memorable potluck into a small tomato festival held on the grounds of City Roots, a certified organic urban sustainable farm in the heart of Columbia. To their surprise, they were swamped with enthusiastic tomato lovers! Large attendance numbers required them to form a waiting line and gradually admit late arrivers as others left. Year after year it continued to grow. Six years later, the event continues to capture the hearts and imaginations of thousands.
Presented and founded by Sustainable Midlands, The Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival is “a celebration of locally grown food—the people who grow it, the restaurants who place it on their menus, the markets that sell it, and the people who eat it!”
Folks, this will be one fun festival, with something special for everyone! Music lovers will want to visit one of the two music stages where Bryson Jennings, Liz Brennen, Emily Hearn, Palmetto Blue, and Willie Wells and the Blue Ridge Mountain Grass will perform. Festivities also include craft beer and a craft beer garden, a “Show Us Your Tomatoes” photo contest, mouth-watering food from local restaurants, and special tomato-themed foods and drinks like stuffed tomatoes, tomato salads and Conquest Brewing Company’s Tomato Beer. Grownups may want to try a festival Bloody Mary featuring, of course, none other than the star of the festival! At 5:30 PM, the Tap That Keg event will occur. Prefer lemonade? Then you may want to quench your thirst at the fresh-squeezed lemonade stand! If you are a food truck aficionado, then you will love choosing from one of the festival’s food trucks!
There will be many fun and creative games to entertain the kids, including Bean Bag Toss, Face Painting, Tomato Bobbing, Ring toss (age 3 or older), Healthy Food Mural (age 3 or older), Vegetable Bingo (age 3 or older), Giant Kerplunk (age 4 or older), and Hula Hoop Madness (age 4 or older). Parents, this is a great opportunity to reinforce the wonders and worth of fruits and vegetables, local foods and sustainable farming!
New to the festival is “Scrumptious Art” presented by Gallery West and other artists. Festival-goers will find beautiful paintings and hand-crafted items, including ceramics, jewelry, soaps, and much more!
The 2015 Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival will be held this Saturday, July 16th from 4:00-9:00 PM at City Roots Urban Sustainable Farm located at 1005 Airport Blvd. in Columbia, SC. Tickets can be purchased at Rosewood Market & Deli and Whole Foods Market ($10), online at http://tastytomatofestival.com/festival/tickets/, or at the gate ($15). Children 12 and under are admitted free if accompanied by an adult. The entrance gate is a cash-only gate. For convenience, an ATM will be stationed outside the gate. Handicap parking will be at Gate 1 and handicap-accessible portable toilets will be available inside the gates. Pets are welcome, but shaded areas are limited. Cyclists are encouraged to arrive on bicycles and use the bike corral, or take advantage of free bike valet check-in sponsored by Cycle Center Columbia. Those arriving by car will find open parking in the areas surrounding City Roots.
Included in the ticket price is a chance to taste heirloom tomatoes from 4:00-7:00 PM during the home-grown contest. Heirloom tomato growers bring their finest to be judged! The contest, sponsored by Roger’s Heirlooms (www.RogersHeirlooms.com), is a favorite at the event! You may also want to tour City Roots Urban Sustainable Farm! Personally, I love to buy my fresh lettuce and sprouts at City Roots!
To learn more, find (and “Like”) The Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, or view a few festival promo clips on YouTube.
Kudos to visionary Ryan Nevius and her wonderful team at Sustainable Midlands! We are incredibly fortunate to have this caliber of an event right in our own back yard! To learn more about Sustainable Midlands, go to www.SustainableMidlands.org or call them at 803.381.8747.
Whether you say, “toe-MAY-toe” or I say “toe-MAH-toe,” it matters not! This Saturday afternoon, let’s all put on our walkin’ and dancin’ shoes and head to the 2015 Palmetto Tasty Tomato Festival! To jump-start your day with some fun, you could start out at Soda City Market, then grab lunch or a cold press juice or a smoothie at Good Life Café, peruse the nearby shops, and then re-join the fun at the festival!
Anne Buck for GLC
Before and After Story: Chisolm Crouch
Sharon Wright, Good Life Café Co-owner and Executive Chef, loves to slip away from her office or kitchen and greet her guests. For one special diner on one memorable day, Sharon’s personal touch was far beyond what many in the restaurant business would describe as excellent service. For first-time customer Chisolm Crouch, Sharon’s greeting was the first stepping stone to a whole new life.
Chisolm had Leukemia when she was a child. To help lift her spirits, her mother taught her how to cook. Like many, Chisolm often turned to food for comfort. Her mother prepared nutritious meals for her family, but Chisolm also ate fast foods, processed foods, foods high in refined sugars and calories, meats with added hormones or antibiotics, and altered or over-cooked foods. Through the years this took a toll on her health.
A few years ago Chisolm’s weight approached 300 pounds. She had a number of health problems including insomnia, anxiety, depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, and heartburn. Her mother was always supportive and one day she suggested they try Good Life Café.
When Sharon Wright visited their table, she told them about their cold-pressed juices and the benefits of a juice cleanse. She also explained the ways various juices help the body. Inspired, Chisolm and her mother purchased an assortment of Good Life Café juices and decided to spend that weekend doing a cleanse. During the weekend, Chisolm avoided solid foods and drank only the juices and water. She slept or rested as her body flushed out toxins. By Monday she had lost 12 pounds and began to feel better.
This sparked a desire to keep going! On Tuesday, Chisolm accompanied her mother to the gym. With her mother’s continued support, she returned the next day, and then the next. Her one-day-at-a-time plan added up to weeks of exercising that became easier and easier! She soon developed a habit of exercising and continued to feel better and lose weight.
During the next year Chisolm was consistent with her exercise plan. To boost her efforts toward better health, she omitted junk food and extra empty calories, and ate three meals a day that usually included a meat, a carbohydrate and a vegetable. She also ate other nutrient-dense foods like yogurt, berries and nuts.
Today Chisolm is the catering liaison at Whole Foods Market, a natural and organic grocery store in Columbia. Last year her store held a 28-day Engine 2 Challenge. Participants abstained from all meats, oils, salt, processed foods, refined sugars and alcohol. During the Challenge Chisolm noticed it was easier to walk, run or perform any type of exercise. She slept better, had more energy, and had better mental clarity. As her body healed and symptoms disappeared, she discontinued her medicines* including Adderall, Nexium, Metformin (a pre-diabetic medicine), and an anti-depressant. Because so many things changed for her, she decided to permanently adopt a vegan lifestyle.
Chisolm regards processed foods as food products, rather than true food. At Whole Foods Market, she is surrounded by a myriad of healthy choices. Nutrition, quality and flavor are easily accessible to her, and she is no longer drawn to foods that have little or no nutritional value, and that once contributed to her weight and health problems.
Chisolm has walked in the shoes of those who feel overwhelmed and discouraged. But she is living proof that taking one day at a time and setting one goal at a time can melt away discouragement as easily as it melts away extra pounds and many health problems. Chisolm started off by setting small goals. Her first goal was to run to the stop sign, then to the next stop sign, and the next, and so on. Blocks turned into half-miles and half-miles turned into miles. She began to join organized runs, like the first 5K race she ran with her father. She ran the Cooper River Bridge, a 10K in Charleston. In November of 2014 she ran the Rock ‘N’ Roll Savannah Half Marathon. Chisolm finished an hour behind her “extreme athlete” brother, but her goal was to complete the race, not qualify for the Boston Marathon. For Chisolm, it is not about how fast she can run, but the fact that she is off the sofa, setting and meeting goals, and crossing finish lines!
Chisolm is adamant about the need to exercise! She stresses the importance of carving out time for ourselves. She says, “Be selfish, and take care of yourself! Don’t look at these huge numbers, like 50 pounds, but look at one pound at a time.”
Chisolm prefers to exercise when there is a lull in the gym, or early morning, when the sun is barely up. She has lost 100 pounds, but she’s still a bit self-conscious. She wants to lose 50 more pounds to reach her goal.
To avoid mental frustration, Chisolm keeps the focus on eating right and exercise, and not on the scale. There are days when the scale doesn’t reflect any weight loss. But over time the weight continues to come off. She used to weigh every Friday, but now she only checks her progress once each month.
Chisolm can’t remember the last time she was sick, or the last time she saw a doctor. She still does an occasional juice cleanse. She’s thankful for Sharon Wright and Good Life Café, and often tells others about the restaurant.
Good Life Café is glad to have been a part of Chisolm’s journey! We know many will be inspired by her story. If you want to follow her lead and begin your own journey to good health, make one of your stepping stones a visit to Good Life Café! If Sharon isn’t preparing or plating her famous kale salad or another incredible item on the menu, she will join her wonderful staff in welcoming you!
*It is recommended that you consult your doctor before you make any major changes in exercise or diet, and before stopping medications.
Anne Buck for GLC
Soon after I moved to Columbia in 2003, I asked a friend to tell me about the grocery stores near my house. She named the national food chains and added, “There’s also Earth Fare, a health food store on Devine.” I had driven by Earth Fare. I pictured aisles stocked with peculiar “off” brands, so for the next six years I continued to snub this wonderful store and others like it. Sadly, while cancer was quietly lurking in my body, I was missing out on an abundance of exceptional foods, including the anti-inflammatory herb known to the nutrition savvy as turmeric.
I now frequent all the health food stores in my town and turmeric is a star staple in my home! This morning I made a smoothie with homemade almond milk, strawberries, banana, rhubarb, chia seeds, turmeric powder, a pinch of black pepper (for turmeric absorption), coconut oil, pea protein powder, and Berbere Ethiopian seasoning (an anti-inflammatory spice blend). As you can see, I think a little outside the box when I make smoothies.
In my ongoing effort to increase my chances of survival, I research nutrition and integrative medicine. I listen to lectures and converse with people who do the same. One day I attended a lecture on inflammation presented by Dr. James Hébert, the Health Sciences Distinguished Professor and Director of the South Carolina Statewide Cancer Prevention and Control Program. Prior to his talk I was unaware that while one may have no evidence of inflammation outwardly, high levels of inflammation may be wreaking havoc at the cellular level.
Dr. Hébert spoke of the role inflammation plays in disease formation. He named foods and other factors that either contribute to, or fight, inflammation. We saw data that revealed the low rate of disease in populations that routinely incorporate anti-inflammatory foods in their diets. He shared his recipe for Chai Tea, with its many spices and inflammatory properties. He also encouraged each of us to learn our “C-reactive protein (CRP) level, a marker of inflammation. I learned that we should strive to have a level as close to zero as possible.
After further research I asked the doctor to include this test during my next routine blood work. “A zero. No problem,” I thought, as I rolled up my sleeve for the nurse. “I’m eating pretty clean these days!” Well, I was in for a big surprise! To my dismay, I was a five!
That prior year I had become lazy about my diet. I was eating some foods with refined sugar and allowed snacks like potato chips and French onion dip (my weakness) to creep back into my diet. I wasn’t exercising, and I was probably stressing out about something silly that I have since forgotten. This was a recipe for inflammation.
After my test result, I quickly changed my diet. I compared lists of anti-inflammatory foods and began to eat those foods. I made Dr. Hebert’s tea (also with turmeric) and began to sprinkle turmeric powder in salads and on lightly steamed cauliflower drizzled with cold-pressed olive oil. I also made a few other positive changes.
A few months later I had my CRP level re-checked and again I was astounded! This time it was only .08. I have had it checked twice since then. Each time, it has remained between .08 and 1.1. It seems to trend up or down based on how diligent I am with sticking to anti-inflammatory foods.
For thousands of years turmeric has been used in India and in Chinese medicine. It is at the top of anti-inflammatory food lists. Its profound and positive effects on population groups where turmeric is widely used (like southern India) have caught the attention of researchers at hospitals and clinics throughout the world. Thousands of peer-reviewed articles have been written on the heels of countless scientific tests. Researchers are looking at how the properties in turmeric may prevent or stall diseases and conditions like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, depression, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic pain, and Alzheimer’s. While experts agree that much more research is needed, many are excited about the healing potential of turmeric.
Fresh turmeric rhizomes (underground root-like stems) are part of the Curcuma longa plant. They are sold in the produce section of most health food stores and some mainline grocery chains. You’ll often find turmeric near the ginger, another anti-inflammatory root herb in the same family. Turmeric’s skin is dark and tough. It is nubby and crooked like ginger and its flesh is deep orange. Fresh turmeric should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks (make sure the root skin is dry).
Dried ground turmeric is a rich yellow color and is sold in bulk bins at most health food stores and on spice aisles in most grocery stores. Ground dried turmeric should be stored in a cool, dark place (but not in the refrigerator), in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. It is very susceptible to light and heat, and should be stored correctly and used within six months.
Good Life Café exists to help others achieve better health. They love to hear customers share how their lives changed after they began to incorporate living foods into their diets. Last week a woman shared how her life-long pain from arthritis significantly decreased after she switched to a steady clean, mostly raw diet filled with anti-inflammatory foods. She recently heard about Good Life Café and is super excited to have a place where she can enjoy so many wonderful foods that contribute to good health.
Good Life Cafe’s menu reflects their commitment to nutritional excellence. Come experience a freshly blended smoothie! I recommend The Joint Power with—you guessed it—turmeric!
Anne Buck for Good Life Café
The Wonders of Watermelons
There is much more to a watermelon than meets the eye — and taste buds. This popular summer treat is loaded with thirst-quenching surprises. The vitamin B6 in watermelon juice increases brain power! This is just one of the many wonders of watermelons. I’m enjoying a bottle of Good Life Café Watermelon Juice with Cilantro as I write. This could be very helpful!
Let’s start with the once-lowly rind that is gaining the respect of a growing number of folks who are discovering its health benefits. I’ve always worked my way through the juicy red flesh until the red finally gave way to the white of the rind. As I headed for the trash can or compost bin, I had no idea that the edible rind houses 95 percent of the nutrients. This is a classic example of the many hidden wonders of the plant kingdom.
The rind has concentrated amounts of the amino acid, citrulline, which the kidneys and other organ systems convert to arginine. Arginine, also an amino acid, is important for cardiovascular health and many other metabolic processes. One particular enzyme takes arginine to produce a molecule that relaxes muscles. Because of its positive effect on the heart and blood vessels, watermelon juice is gaining in popularity among athletes who want a lowered heart rate, less muscle fatigue and improved endurance.
I was surprised to learn that there are more than 1,200 varieties of watermelon. The color of the interior flesh may be red, yellow, orange or white, depending on the type of melon. As a watermelon ripens, its flesh becomes deeper in color and levels of the carotenoid lycopene increase. There is much data on the scavenging power of lycopene as it hunts down free radicals. In one cup of watermelon the amount of lycopene is an impressive 40 percent higher than that of an uncooked tomato (a nightshade fruit). This is especially good news for those who have a sensitivity to fruits and vegetables in the nightshade family.
Another wonder of the watermelon is the seed. It has received a bad rap from people (like our moms) who warned us that a swallowed seed results in a growing watermelon! Watermelon seeds are considered a nuisance for many, hence the rise in seedless watermelon sales. Like the rind and flesh, the seeds are packed with goodness! Watermelon seeds can be juiced with the rinds and flesh (best to juice organic rinds), to yield nutrient-dense juice.
Watermelon seeds are a good source of protein and healthy fats, and also have some essential minerals. Sprouted watermelon seeds (that have been soaked in water) are easier to digest and have boosted nutrient density. Sprinkle a few atop your salad, or add some to your fruit or trail mix. Instead of snacking on unhealthy processed chips, consider trying the sprouted watermelon seeds! They are crunchy and very satisfying. I like the Go Raw Sprouted Watermelon Seeds sold at The Fresh Market. I store them in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity.
A watermelon ceases to ripen after it is cut from its vine. For maximum health benefits (and flavor) it is best to choose a fully-ripened watermelon. There are several ways to determine a melon’s ripeness. Perhaps the easiest method is to examine the underbelly. If a watermelon sat in the field for the optimal length of time, its belly will have a creamy-yellow spot. It would be helpful to us weaklings if watermelons were displayed yellow-belly side-up! However, for visual appeal, merchants often show the more attractive sides. An unripe melon will have a white or pale green spot, so you’ll want to pass that one up!
Out-of-towners who don’t have the convenience of Good Life Café may want to try Tsamma™ (pronounced s-amm-a) watermelon juice from Frey Farms. This week I spoke with Tsamma™ Founder and Frey Farms President and CEO, Sarah Frey, who spoke about her company’s delicate processing method and her commitment to quality. Sarah sits on the National Watermelon Promotion Board and she knows watermelons. She shared a few fun facts (Abraham Lincoln christened his namesake town, Lincoln, IL, with watermelon juice), and personal testimonials her customers conveyed to her. Among her favorites is the story of a woman who drank Tsamma™ while receiving chemotherapy. She said the watermelon juice eliminated the chemo’s metallic aftertaste and lessened the body aches that followed her infusions. (If you are receiving treatment for cancer or if you have a health condition, consult your doctor before introducing any new food.)
These are just a few wonders of the watermelon! I encourage you to use this blog post as a springboard to discover even more fascinating facts. The complete nutritional profile is quite extensive!
I hope I’ve whet your appetite for a fresh bottle of chilled watermelon juice with lime or cilantro at the Good Life Café, or their fresh fruit salad side dish bursting with lycopene-rich watermelon! Now that you know the creamy yellow-belly trick, maybe you’ll try your hand at selecting the perfect watermelon at your favorite produce market.
July is National Watermelon Month. Not all festivals are in July, but for a complete listing of watermelon festivals throughout the country, go to: www.watermelon.org/festivals.
Anne Buck for Good Life Café
Why I Went “Green”
Dear Good Life Friends,
Although we have different journeys and perspectives, we’re linked by a universal desire to feel well and learn new things. This space is dedicated to the pursuit of these worthwhile goals. Here, I’ll explore relevant topics, report on exciting events at Good Life Café and in our community, and pass on new discoveries as researchers and other experts grow in their understanding of whole foods. I also want to share “before and after” stories that will inspire! As I go out into the community I will look for these inspiring stories from people whose lives changed dramatically after they significantly changed their eating habits.
And so, I begin with my own story…
In 2009 I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. I suppose many factors contributed to the weakening of my body’s terrain. My grandmother died of breast cancer. I experienced long-term trauma in my childhood. I spent 16 years as a flight attendant, where many days were fast-paced, and stress levels fluctuated from moderate to high. I often scarfed down processed airport foods like hot dogs, pizza or nachos during 10-minute turns. So often, I had that revved-up feeling from stress as I wolfed down junk food while standing up. There was no rest, few nutrients, and little chewing.
One day a flight attendant offered to share her raw food. After I declined she advised me of my need to eat healthy foods. I shut the conversation down quickly out of disinterest. No doubt, my cheesy, sugary, greasy airport food was waiting for me in the back galley! It would be many years before I ventured beyond the occasional side dinner salad and can of Le Sueur peas.
In the fall of 2009 the plant kingdom made a very grand entrance into my life, thanks to a man’s persistence. After he asked about my eating habits, he told me that my chance of survival would increase if I would drastically change the way I eat. He gave me websites and videos and followed up each week, eager to hear what I learned. But I didn’t go to his links, and the videos sat there for weeks, unviewed. Finally I looked into it because he spent so much time and effort. I thought I’d visit a few sites and then politely shut down that conversation, too.
So here I am, hundreds of websites, books, articles and conversations later. I love to peruse the aisles in health food stores and hear others talk about clean eating, and how their lives changed. I notice that many of the regulars have little body fat and clear skin. They even seem more serene. Perhaps these outward appearances are indicative of body systems brought into balance.
I am now a believer! I have a high regard for the plant kingdom, and for my oncologists, and for every nurse, technician, and staff member at every clinic or hospital that has participated in my progress. I especially thank our Creator, whose brilliant ways are unsearchable, as evidenced by the complexity and interdependence of living organisms.
I never imagined six more years could be possible for me until I read personal accounts from around the world. Among them is the story of Columbia’s Norman Arnold, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1982. After he was given six months to live, he embraced a holistic regimen and is still alive. These jaw-dropping, spirit-soaring stories give us hope!
I realized that food could also be medicine and medicine could also be food (adapted from Hippocrates’ famous quote). I quit the Standard American Diet “cold turkey” during my second month of chemotherapy and targeted cancer drug infusions. During the last four rounds of chemotherapy I pored over more books and articles and struck up conversations as often as possible. Everything I learned drew me in more to a plethora of information that offered hope upon hope.
At each oncology visit, I was required to disclose every new food (herbs and all) in my regimen. Some foods, herbs and supplements can cause problems (sometimes serious or fatal) when combined with certain medications, so this was crucial that I reported and that they cross-checked.
After five months, the six tumors in my liver and dozens of cancerous lymph nodes no longer appeared on the scans. My doctor said what we were doing together was working!
During my treatments, before Good Life Café was launched, Sharon Wright delivered some of her raw meals. Her food looked as if it belonged on the cover of a classy gourmet magazine! People said her food was incredible, and they were right!
Sharon flows in a rhythm of love for living foods and a genuine care for others. She wants others to experience good health! She shares and teaches what she knows, whether one-on-one or at her gatherings of hungry-for-health listeners.
Good Life Café is a beautiful place, with mouth-watering, fresh, living food presented in beauty. Come find nourishment! Join us for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or for a bottle of fresh juice or a thick, satisfying smoothie. Join us for one of our lively entertainment nights! I hope you ask for me. If I’m not out and about, I would love to extend a warm welcome!
Anne Buck for GLC