Thursday, January 31, 2013

Unexpected Benefits of Paleo + Raw Foods

I started testing out a paleo + raw foods strategy purely for health reasons, but have seen it has many other unexpected benefits that I thought would be helpful to share. The foods I’m eating nowadays don’t rely on technology/electricity as much as in the past. On the ‘Standard American Diet’, loosing electricity for more than a day would have presented some real food challenges for me. Even with electricity and running water, I would have probably exhausted my pantry supply in under a week if I were unable to visit a store – and it would not have been a particularly pleasant week. Nowadays, I think I have at least a two to three week supply of food and water on hand without any extra preparation. Pretty cool!

Each month, I buy a case of avocados and coconuts from my local ‘New Seasons’ store because they offer a huge bulk discount. I’ve found these keep great in the fridge and can use them all up before they spoil. In the winter, I don’t even need the fridge; they keep just fine in the garage.

Typical bulk quantity costs:
36 large organic avocados : $40
20 mature organic coconuts : $32
Update 3/18/2014: Buying wholesale directly from a produce distributor in your city to save even more $$.

I also started making sauerkraut this past year as a cheap alternative to probiotic pills. (The last bottles I bought were on sale for $25 for about a month’s supply, and the probiotic dosage in pills-form can be around 100x less than with raw sauerkraut.) With homemade raw sauerkraut, I can hear the mixture bubbling periodically, so I know it has active cultures (unlike the pills, where you are just hoping). The fermentation process also makes more nutrients available and more easily absorbed (For cabbage-based sauerkraut, this is the case for vitamin C in particular). Store bought sauerkraut is pasteurized (unless it specifically says 'raw'), which kills the probiotics.

There are many resources online for fermentation recipes, but here’s a basic recipe for sauerkraut:
  • Cut up some cabbage
    • I’ve just used the food processor lately.
  • Sprinkle some salt over the leaves
    • I use sea salt or Himalayan salt over the cabbage shreds : rule of thumb is about 1 tbsp per cabbage, but I’ve been using a bit less lately. Salt prohibits bad bacteria growth and helps the cabbage leaves release their juices.
  • Beat up the leaves a bit to further release more of the juices
    • I use a wooden rolling pin.
  • Fill a fermentation pot
    • I bought the 10L variety (Harsch Gairtopf) on Amazon, or you could just use mason jars ... just make sure to use a plastic lid since the metal will corrode when the sauerkraut becomes acidic during the fermentation process.
  • Make sure the juices cover all plant materials.
    •  or add some additional salt brine if there’s not enough cabbage juice.
  • Leave it alone for at least a week.
    • I usually have mine going for about 3wks or so as I rotate the batches.
    • I think you need to periodically release the pressure every few days if using a mason jar.
  • Once it’s fermented as much as you want, you can put it in the fridge to stop the fermentation process.
    • Using my big fermentation crock (with the water channel to allow gasses to escape without letting air in), so far, I've never had a batch with any mold on top. Apparently if you see mold on the top, you can just scrape it off and that's all there is to it. Anything under the liquid is preserved by the fermentation process.
So basically, I have on average a gallon of sauerkraut available that does not need refrigeration.

Growing Sprouts / Greens Indoors
Sprouting is also fantastic for additional nutrients that do not need refrigeration – only a bit of clean water every day. There are also lots of resources online about sprouting, but the basic idea is:
  • Soak you sprouting seeds overnight – my favorite lately is fenugreek
    • I usually order about 5lbs of sprouting seeds at a time
  • Drain the water thoroughly the next morning (if you’re using a mason jar, you could put some cheese cloth over the top with a rubber band and let it drain at an angle in the sink). Lately, I've been using the 'Easy Sprout Sprouter' from Amazon.
  • Preferably cover the seeds or keep them out of sunlight to speed up growth.
  • Rinse the seeds in the evening, and leave to drain overnight.
  • Repeat each morning and evening until the sprouts are the size you want.
  • I like to wait until the two leaves pop out of the shell; putting them in the sunlight will cause the leaves to get really green. (Chlorophyll for the win!)

Spring Water
I have also been incorporating additional water sources by collecting 15 gallons of spring water from a nearby spring (I wish I could opt out of the fluoride added to our tap water 'for your safety'.)  The spring I visit is on the way to the beach, so I usually make a fun trip of it. I used to find the nearest one to me.  For me, I’ve decided it’s worth a risk to drink the water directly from the spring, but definitely use your own judgment. These were the encouraging signs to me: The spring I collect water from is in the middle of a mountainous uninhabited forest area, the water gushes very quickly, it was very cold, and there is usually a lineup of cars with people waiting to fill their bottles.

Storing spring water in plastic containers is not ideal (even BPA free plastic has some kind of xenoestrogen that will leach into the water). I do take plastic 5gal bottles with me in the car to collect the water just because it’s about the max I can lift fully loaded. When I get home, I have big glass containers where I store the water long term – usually takes me about 2wks to drink it.

  • I have quite a few bags of dried fruit on hand (Costco sells organic figs, and some other online stores have dried organic peaches, etc…)  
  • I usually have some packs of salt-cured organic olive
  • I buy the largest quantity available of sockeye salmon fillets from to save on costs (it was 13.5 lbs for $225 with shipping). So on average, I also have a decent quantity of fish on hand.
So, between the extra water, coconuts, avocados, sauerkraut, sprouts, dried fruit, olives, and fish (it’s sushi grade if there’s really an emergency), I realized that without a scramble to specifically prepare for an emergency, I have potentially a two-three week buffer where I think I can get enough calories and nutrients for basic needs. I have realized more and more that the raw foods / paleo lifestyle is freeing me from many dependencies that I thought were unavoidable in the modern world. I love this increasing independence and hope these ideas help you as well!

by Laura A Knauth

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