Intact Grains vs. Whole Grains

by | Nov 29, 2010

Photo by Venex_jpb

Photo by Venex_jpb

If there is a single subject that befuddles the health-conscious eater, it is undoubtedly carbohydrates.

Most of us have seen the impressive results of at least temporarily restricting carbs, but studies examining the long-term effects of carbohydrate restriction are often ambiguous. Also, while some experts argue fervently for a low-carb lifestyle, some nutritionists still warn about the dangers of eating too much fat or protein.

So how do we know what to believe?

A full examination of the science behind carbohydrate metabolism is beyond the scope of a single blog post, and is in fact not entirely understood by the scientific community (for a thorough review of this topic read Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I have reviewed here).

However, there are a few things we do know about carbohydrates that are worth pointing out.

Lesson 1: Refined grains contribute to nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

It is universally agreed in the nutrition community that refined, processed carbohydrates are the worst things to eat on the entire planet.

And it is impossible to overstate how remarkable this is.

The nutrition community is one of the most disagreeable bunches in all of science. But across the board–from vegans like Colin Campbell to carnivores like Robert Atkins–not a single one of them considers processed carbs to be nutritionally neutral. They all consider them dangerous.

Without question, refined carbohydrates contribute to poor health.

Lesson 2: Vegetables protect against nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

Where things start to get more complicated is with unrefined carbohydrates, and the various iterations of this definition. There is ample evidence that the carbohydrates contained in vegetables are not harmful, and possibly beneficial.

To call these vegetable carbohydrates “fiber” is to oversimplify the science, but suffice to say that vegetables are good for you and contribute to your good health.

This is also generally agreed upon.

Lesson 3: Whole grains are different from intact grains.

Few people will argue against my first two points. But bring up whole grains and you will unleash a fury of controversy. Some people believe whole grains to be the cornerstone of any healthy diet, while others consider them superfluous and possibly detrimental to good health. You can find dozens of PhDs and MDs to back up your claims no matter what camp you align with.

So why is there so much disagreement? What does the science say?

The problem is that nutrition science conducted in free-living humans is virtually impossible to interpret. This is largely because the studies are so difficult to control and people’s behavior and self-reporting are so unreliable. Another problem is that the definition of “whole grains” has been watered down to a point where it is virtually meaningless.

One reason whole grains are hard to identify is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has created a definition that is friendly to food companies, but not to consumers.

The FDA requirements for a manufacturer to use the term “whole grain” on its label (along with the respective health claims) are as follows:

“Cereal grains that consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis - should be considered a whole grain food.” (emphasis added by me)

Get it? To be considered “whole,” grains do not actually have to be intact.

Thus food manufacturers create products using this loose definition to their advantage, demolishing grains as normal, then adding back the required ratios of grain parts (germ and bran) to meet the standard.

This is how products like Froot Loops get spiffy health labels claiming they lower heart disease when any unbiased nutrition scientist would agree that, with 41% sugar by weight, Froot Loops almost certainly contribute to heart disease.

On the other hand, there is compelling data that intact whole grains contribute to better health.

Lesson 4: Eating grains is a personal choice, not a nutritional imperative.

The good news is that it is really easy to tell the difference between fake “whole” grains and intact whole grains. If a food actually looks like a grain (i.e., it retains its original form and bran covering), then it is an intact grain. If it looks like a Cheerio, chip, loaf of bread or pasta with a “whole grain” label, then it is a fake whole grain.

People following a primal or paleo diet will argue that this difference is irrelevant and that all grains (and legumes?!) are unnecessary for good health. Personally I disagree, but remain fairly neutral on the personal choice of removing grains from the diet entirely.

Grains do not appear to be necessary for survival (Inuit tribes survive without them), but optimal nutrition may require slightly more effort than would be necessary following a traditional balanced diet.

This is generally how I feel about all healthy, restrictive regimens such as vegetarian, vegan and raw diets. You can make it work for yourself if you are willing to make sacrifices and put in the effort.

However you should be aware that for many people, myself included, cutting whole grains out of your diet completely is extremely difficult and, if you ask me, unnecessarily painful.

Conclusion

When making food choices about grains, the critical question is not whether or not a food is “whole” grain but whether the grain is intact. For this reason, it matters very little if you substitute “whole grain” products for regular refined products such as pasta.

Examples of intact grains are oats, barley, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa (sort of) and faro. White rice is not a whole grain, and is closer to a refined grain than a whole grain.

For optimal health, processed and refined grains should be eaten very sparingly. Small amounts such as those eaten in traditional cultures can be part of any healthstyle, but including them is a personal choice that will depend on your own goals and preferences.

The irony is that if you are able to remove processed foods from your diet, the way you eat could probably be described as low-carb. But this label really undermines a healthstyle based on real food.

Though I eat relatively few grains compared to most Americans, I cringe when I see the shining example of low-carb living, The Atkins Diet website, with images of fake pancakes and pasta plastered all over it. If that is what low-carb is, I want nothing to do with it.

Processed food is still processed food, whether the carbohydrates have been synthetically removed or not. Stick to eating real food and you’ll never have to worry about carbs.

Do you count your carbohydrates?

Originally published November 25, 2009.

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Farmers Market Update: Thanksgiving Leftovers

by | Nov 28, 2010
Romanesco and Sweet Potatoes

Romanesco and Sweet Potatoes

Is Thanksgiving the official end of autumn? Because it sure feels like it.

The farmers market felt very different today than it did just a few weeks ago. Most of lingering summer vendors have finally packed up their wares for the winter. The only autumn fruits left are apples, persimmons, pears, quince and a few grapes. Luckily, citrus is poised to jump right into its place.

Fuyu Persimmons

Fuyu Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Naturally the weekend after Thanksgiving few people opted to visit the farmers market in the rain. These are my favorite days at the market, since it’s so quiet it is easy to talk to vendors and discover new things. A calm day at the market is a rare and wonderful treat.

Autumn Citrus

Autumn Citrus

There are a few special items available right now that will only be around for a little while. Feijoa, or pineapple guava, are delicious little green fruits that grow locally this time of year. I also found someone selling fresh ginger roots, stems and all.

Ginger Root

Ginger Root

Pineapple Guava

Pineapple Guava

Now is also a great time to get fresh seasonal nuts like walnuts and chestnuts.

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Chestnuts

Fresh Walnuts

Fresh Walnuts

One of my favorite things about the approach of winter is all the delicious winter veggies that are on the horizon. Vegetables tend to be overshadowed by the abundance of sweet berries and stone fruits in the summer, but in the winter vegetables are really the stars of the show. The cold stresses the veggies, causing them to condense their flavors and natural sugars.

Pumpkins and Padrons

Pumpkins and Padrons

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Brassica, also known as cruciferous vegetables, are truly special this time of year. Examples of brassica are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, etc. Root vegetables (like fennel and potatoes) and winter squash are also awesome right now. I included my favorite cauliflower recipe in this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

Fennel

Fennel

In the late fall I’m particularly excited about the Brussels sprouts that you can sometimes find still on the stalk. If you have never liked Brussels sprouts, try giving them another chance this year. Make sure you get very fresh ones (on the stalk if you can find them) from the farmers market, and buy the smallest ones you can find. Then try this recipe for Brussels sprouts with walnuts and bacon and come back and tell me what you think. Even Toaster likes Brussels sprouts.

Toaster With Sprout

Toaster With Sprout

Brussels Sprouts Stalks

Brussels Sprouts Stalks

Last but not least, now is your chance to get Super Mario sized porcini mushrooms. Fresh porcini are a delicacy, and worth experimenting with if you can get your hands on them.

Giant Porcini

Giant Porcini

What are you eating this weekend?

If you would like to share your own local farmers market with Summer Tomato readers please click here.

Today’s purchases:

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Let’s Make The Perfect Farmers Market Bag

by | Nov 22, 2010

I’ve talked before about how much thought and preparation I put into getting all my farmers market produce home undamaged. Though the tactics I use work decently well, they are by no means perfect and are more than a little bit of a hassel.

To address my farmers market bag problem more directly I’m partnering with Quirky, and we need your help. Call upon your inner super genius to help us design a new farmers market bag that will let me shop at the farmers market without coming home to a bag of crushed tomatoes.

If you aren’t familiar with Quirky, they turns great ideas into amazing products. For this Brief project they have been cool enough to wave the normal submission fee. So if you have an idea for a revolutionary new farmers market bag, submit it at Quirky by next Monday. The winning design will be chosen on Friday, December 10, and will be produced and sold to shoppers.

Submit your ideas here

Learn more about the Quirky process here

The official write up on my project is below. Watch the video for more info about my bag problem.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Brief #9: Let’s Make The Perfect Farmers Market Bag

For this week’s Quirky Brief, we’re partnering with Darya Pino, a San Francisco-based scientist, foodie, and writer. Her popular blog, Summer Tomato, offers tips and advice on healthy eating, especially for foodies in urban areas.

When we first met Darya, she told us all about a food shopping problem that drives her crazy. Whenever she shops at her local farmers market, she inevitably comes home to bruised produce.

She’s taken to bringing two separate bags – a big one for heavy stuff and a smaller one for delicate fruits and veggies — along with a Tupperware set for isolating vulnerable produce and a handful of biodegradable plastic bags for separating purchases.

Four different products, just to go shopping? There’s gotta be a better way to port produce.

Quirky community and Summer Tomato readers, let’s unite to create the perfect farmers market bag.

We flew out to San Francisco to check out the problem firsthand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and we captured the crux of it in the video. Watch it, and once inspiration strikes, head to the Invent tab on Quirky.com to submit your idea for free!

Submit your ideas at Quirky

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Farmers Market Update: Switzerland

by | Nov 21, 2010

Lausanne, Switzerland

Liz O’Sullivan is an Irish expat who has been living in Lausanne for the past six years. A full-time foodie, she moonlights in the IT department of a large manufacturing company in the Lausanne area to feed her (food) habit.

Farmers Market Update: Lausanne, Switzerland

by Liz O’Sullivan

This week, the farmers market update comes to you from Lausanne, a wonderful place nestling on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

Here we are on Google Maps: Lausanne

This is an outdoors market held year around on Wednesdays and Saturdays – yes, even when it’s snowing!

The market is located near the old town of Lausanne, in close proximity to the cathedral and the town hall. One of the fun things about this market is the vibrant atmosphere – people treat it very much as a social occasion, and it’s usual to see cafés thronged with people taking a coffee and a croissant as a break from their morning shopping.

Unlike in the US, it’s not usual for farms here to have a website – we ‘re lucky if stalls display their name. A phone number is a bonus! Local producers usually operate on a very small scale, and often have a limited assortment of goods on sale.

While last weekend brought us beautiful, sunny (and unseasonable) weather, today showed that Autumn has mostly definitely arrived. The delicate, fragrant Summer produce has been replaced by delicious autumn vegetables such as pumpkins, potatoes and onions, and these walnuts and chestnuts, the latter simply waiting to be roasted.

Pumpkin

Nuts

Or how about some leafy green fresh herbs to go with the pumpkin?

I eat mushrooms every other day, can’t get enough of them. I like to to sauté them in a little olive oil and some ground spices. Right now, the choice is huge, but I have a weakness for the chanterelles (the yellow ones in the foreground). The mixed mushrooms in the background are a composition of Autumn chanterelles, ceps, morels, brown mushrooms and more.

Apples

Mushrooms

I love apples and this time of year brings its own varieties, such as the almost-forgotten pinova – a sweet-tasting crunchy variety. I also found Golden Victor, Boskoop and Conference pears.

The Lausanne market isn’t just about fruit and vegetables, it’s also a place for bakers (small, non-commercial ones) to display their wares. My favorite baker offers a wonderful choice of artisan breads such as spelt, olive and sun-dried tomato or bread with sunflower seeds, not to mention croissants, brioches and other tempting treats.

Cheese

Bread

Although Switzerland is a small country with an area of only 15,940 square miles, every canton (a mini-version of the states in the US) boasts its own specialities of cheese, dried meats, biscuits etc., and these are commonly sold at weekly markets. I’m Irish, cheese is part of my heritage and I can never resist trying new varieties. So I was delighted to find goats’ and sheep’s cheese from the canton of Fribourg (Freiburg) on display.

And, last but not least, we would not be in Switzerland if this were not on sale too.

Chocolate

What I bought:

  • Sunflower seed breadrolls (Boulangerie Genoux)
  • Chanterelles (Tschabold mushroom farm)
  • Pumpkin, basil (Domenico Capellano)
  • Gruyère cheese, one round of soft goat’s cheese (Fromagerie Alain Macheret)
  • Potatoes, onions, broccoli (Domenico Capellano)
  • Chocolate (I know, I know ;-)

If you’d like to share your farmers market with Summer Tomato readers, please click here.

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For The Love Of Water

by | Nov 19, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

Yesterday was my birthday so I didn’t take the usual 3 hours to write up today’s link post. As always, you can find all the stories I love over at Digg.

I turned 31 this year, which feels slightly less significant than turning 30 last year. So in order to make it more meaningful I decided to donate my birthday to Charity Water.

Charity Water builds wells for children and families in Africa that do not have access to clean water. It’s an amazing organization, and if you enjoy this blog and care to give back any donations would be much appreciated.

Donate here

Thanks for another great year here at Summer Tomato and have a lovely weekend.

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5 Hallmarks of a BS Diet Plan

by | Nov 17, 2010

Photo by Arun Katiyar

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that most diet plans out there are full of it. If they worked, a third of us wouldn’t be classified as obese.

But if you’re trying to get healthy and lose weight, how can you tell the healthy diets from the lousy ones?

Bad diets that are designed to slim your wallet rather than your waistline actually have a lot in common. If you see any of these hallmarks of a BS diet plan, hold on to your credit card and run the other direction.

5 Hallmarks of a BS Diet Plan

1. Single case studies and lots of testimonials

People who don’t have evidence to back up their claims often rely on personal testimonials instead. Testimonials are accounts by people who have supposedly used the product and had incredible success. But in many cases, these stories are better described as uncredible than incredible.

The reality is that it’s fairly easy to get people to say/do/look exactly the way you want. Sometimes the testimonials are made by paid actors who are lying for profit, other times the quotes are simply taken out of context and exaggerated. It is even possible that some of the testimonials are true, but that the person giving them doesn’t understand the true ramifications of the results they are seeing (or will only see those results for a short time).

The point is that individual case studies rarely reflect the true effectiveness of a product, and are hand-selected to make the product look good. Because you can be sure that if the seller had real statistical data on his product’s effectiveness, he would be using that instead.

2. Black and white rules

One of the easiest things to do to lose weight is follow a set of very strict rules for a set amount of time. Limiting calories in and increasing calories out will make just about anyone lose weight for a little while, so even ridiculous plans like the Twinkie diet can seem effective for a short period.

But very few individuals can maintain a strict diet permanently, and I would argue that this should not even be your goal. A healthy eating plan must have flexibility, since everyone has different personal and dietary needs. If a diet has too many rules, it isn’t going to be your salvation.

3. Angry proponents

Rational people don’t get upset when someone disagrees with them. When you see health advocates defending their diet as if it were a religion you can bet there’s a bigger, more personal reason for all the commotion.

While it is great to be passionate about the way you eat, if supporters resort to name calling and hate blogging there’s likely more dogma than truth in whatever they’re selling.

4. Truthiness

Is that data you just told me, or just a bunch of sciencey words that explain your opinion? Don’t be fooled by a scientific theory about why a diet works. If you can’t find numbers to back up that information, then the diet is still a hypothesis and not a proven therapy. People love to tout our need for dietary “enzymes” or what we’ve “evolved” to eat, but I’ve never seen any evidence suggesting these things are true.

5. Fantastical results

Does that diet sound too good to be true? It probably is. There are many ways to induce rapid, dramatic weight loss, but unless the plan is sustainable the weight will come back. Don’t be lured by the promise of quick, amazing results. Look for plans that encourage improving habits and are designed to keep weight off permanently.

How do you identify a BS diet plan?

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Puppy Weekend

by | Nov 14, 2010

There isn’t a farmers market update today because I’m out of town and am having technical difficulties with my camera. But this week I actually have something better than vegetables: puppies!

For those of you who haven’t been following along on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, our new labradoodle puppy Toaster arrived on Friday night. And yeah, he’s the cutest thing in the universe.

Unfortunately, I had to get up early the next morning to catch a flight to visit my family back at home. Amazingly, there are puppies here too! Our German shepherds had their own litter of puppies last week. They just opened their eyes yesterday.

As my dad says, “They’re so freakin’ cute! AND adorable! AND they love to cuddle!”

So as awesome as vegetables are, I figured I might as well share some puppy pics today instead.

Happy weekend!

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For The Love Of Food

by | Nov 12, 2010

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Next week I’ll be celebrating my 31st birthday. If you appreciate the work I do for this site and would like to give back, I’m donating all cakes, presents and well wishes to Charity Water. Charity Water helps bring clean water to children and families in Africa who desperately need it. Follow the link to learn more.

http://mycharitywater.org/darya

How to make food taste better without cooking skills, the best geek food article of all time and why Twinkie’s won’t make your life better.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For a complete reading list join me on Digg. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the Week

What inspired you this week?

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Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – It’s NEAT!

by | Nov 8, 2010
By regelzamora

By regelzamora

Today’s guest post is by Travis Saunders, MSc, Certified Exercise Physiologist. Travis and his colleague Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D, MSc, are both PhD trained scientists who have a fantastic blog over at PLoS Blogs, Obesity Panacea.

While Summer Tomato is more food-centric, Obesity Panacea focuses on exercise and physiology.  Perfect match, right?

I asked Travis if he would be kind enough to write a post on how to get more exercise without having to actually go to the gym (NEAT), something both busy and lazy people alike can appreciate.

Personally I’m a big believer in NEAT. A year and a half ago I stopped taking BART to work and started walking instead. To my surprise this added only 5 minutes to my commute time and is infinitely more enjoyable.

Even though I already logged 4-6 regular cardio and strength training workouts per week, this added mileage caused me to drop another 3-5 lbs that has never come back. It also gives me time to listen to my favorite podcasts!

But what is NEAT exactly? For that I’ll turn the mic over to Travis.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – It’s NEAT!

by Travis Saunders

For decades, we have been told of the benefits of physical activity, and with good reason – regardless of body weight, people who exercise live longer, healthier lives than people who don’t exercise.

In the past, the focus has been on performing structured sessions of moderate or vigorous exercise (e.g. 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise on a bike or treadmill).

While intense physical activity has a tremendous health impact, a growing body of evidence suggests that accumulating short bouts of low-intensity physical activity throughout the day can also have substantial health benefits, which may even rival those associated with more vigorous sessions.  This low-intensity physical activity is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT.

The concept of NEAT was proposed by Dr James Levine, who defines it as:

“…the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than volitional sporting-like exercise. NEAT includes all those activities that render us vibrant, unique and independent beings such as dancing, going to work or school, shoveling snow, playing the guitar, swimming or walking in the modern Mall.”

I can understand why some people would be skeptical that activities like gardening or mall walking could have a measurable impact on health.  After all, those things aren’t exercise, right?

Fortunately, it turns out that the body doesn’t care whether those activities are exercise.  James Levine’s work has shown that NEAT burns an average of 330 calories per day in healthy individuals (and up to nearly 700 calories/day in some people!), and that obese individuals perform drastically less NEAT than their lean counterparts.

Levine has also made convincing arguments that NEAT could burn up to 1000 calories per day when properly incorporated throughout the work day.  These results suggest that NEAT can burn a tremendous amount of calories, which has obvious implications for weight maintenance and obesity prevention.

But the other key benefit to increased NEAT is that it reduces sedentary time, itself a strong predictor of both death and disease.

Independent of total physical activity levels and other risk factors like abdominal obesity, recent evidence suggests that time spent being sedentary (e.g. sitting or lying down) is a strong predictor of metabolic risk, as well as mortality.  This means that regardless of how much they exercise, people who spend more time sitting are at a higher risk than those who sit less.

New research has even shown that merely taking more frequent breaks from sedentary activities (e.g. standing up) is also associated with reduced metabolic risk and abdominal fat levels.  The reasons for these associations are still being worked out (it probably is to due to changes in LPL and glucose transporter protein activity in skeletal muscle, which are altered by even short bouts of inactivity), but the findings are consistent and have been observed in both adults and children.  Since NEAT includes activities like standing and walking, any increases in NEAT will obviously result in reductions in time spent in sedentary activities.

So, how can you reduce your time spent being sedentary and increase your NEAT levels?  Luckily, it’s not very hard.

Here is a brief list, and for more suggestions, please read “10 Ways to Become More Active”, which can be found on Obesity Panacea.

6 Ways To Get More NEAT

1. Buy a Pedometer

Pedometers are beeper-sized devices which are worn on the waist and keep track of the number of steps taken each day.  They are cheap (a good one costs about $20), and are a great way to assess your level of NEAT.  Each week, try to increase your daily step count by 1,000 steps/day, with a goal of reaching at least 10,000 steps per day.  Friendly step-count competitions with co-workers can also be surprisingly fun, and are a great way to promote increased physical activity within the office environment.

2. Take the Stairs

This one is obvious.  I can’t tell you how often I see people taking the elevator up or down one single floor.  It doesn’t save any time, and it deprives people of physical activity.  You don’t have to walk up twenty flights of stairs to make this worthwhile – try to walk up at least one flight, and down at least two, and build up to more flights as you feel up to it.  If you have to go further than you can walk comfortably, take the elevator the rest of the way.

3. Active Transportation

Walk or bike to work and when performing errands whenever possible.  If that is not an option, consider taking public transportation, which almost always involves a short walk at both ends of the trip.  And if you absolutely have to drive, park as far from the door as possible.  It might only add 5 minutes of walking to your day, but that’s 5 minutes you wouldn’t get otherwise.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

This sounds odd, but it’s a trick that I’ve been using for years. If you are constantly sipping water throughout the day, you are going to have to pee at least once every couple hours. Every time you have to pee, you have a guilt-free excuse to go for a 5-minute walk to the washroom and back! To crank it up a notch, use a washroom in another part of your building, which may give you an opportunity to use the stairs as well.  It’s easy to forget to take a 5-minute walk-break every hour, but it’s impossible to forget to go pee.

5. Have “Walk” Meetings

These types of meeting are becoming increasingly popular at my workplace.  Think of all the times that you need to have a 5-10 minute chat with another co-worker or superior.  Instead of doing it at your desk (and potentially annoying your colleagues), why not talk while casually strolling down the hall?  This is another great way to accumulate activity without even noticing that it’s happening.

6. Walk During Your Lunch Break

If you are one of those lucky individuals who has a daily lunch break, why not use it for a short walk?  A ten or twenty minute walk on a daily basis can add up over time, and you’ll almost certainly feel better than if you spent your whole break sitting at your desk.

These are only a few examples, but I hope they illustrate how easy it can be to incorporate more NEAT into your daily life.  Give it a shot, and good luck with your healthstyle!

Let’s have a big round of applause for Travis!

Originally published at Summer Tomato on October 19, 2009

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Farmers Market Update: Chicago

by | Nov 7, 2010
mums and pretty pumpkins

Mums and Pretty Pumpkins

I’ve been itching to get a post from the Chicago Green City farmers market and now thanks to Sharon Steed we finally have one!

Sharon is a writer from Chicago. She loves health and fitness, cooking, and Twitter (@sharonsteed). She also has a blog where she writes about writing, social media, the internet and how those three things relate to the current season of the Real Housewives (and her favorite of the moment is Lisa from Beverly Hills).

Farmers Market Update: Chicago

by Sharon Steed

You never really know what kind of weather you’ll have in Chicago – especially on the second-to-last day of October. Just a few days earlier, a lot of the city was in t-shirts and flip flops. So when I ventured out to Green City Farmers Market’s last outdoor day of the year in gorgeous Lincoln Park, I only know one thing for certain: it would be windy.

Green City is the only year-round farmers market in the Chicagoland area. From mid-May through October, the market is outdoors right next to Lake Michigan and a short walk south of Lincoln Park Zoo. From November to just before Christmas, it heads indoors to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum right across Clark Street.

This particular day was pretty special; it was the last outdoor day of the season, and it was the day before Halloween. I got a huge dose of the chilly lake-effect winds, young families and their furry companions, and adorable princesses and “little monsters” running around everywhere. Sun and blue skies (in October!) made for a truly beautiful fall day in the city.

Bok choy and Celeriac

Bok choy and Celeriac

kale

Kale

I love green leafy vegetables. And I usually try to start my day with some sort of green smoothie. Kale, chard and spinach are three of my favorite. Walking around the market, I saw a lot of barrels and bags filled with greens and root vegetables. Of course, I took a few bags of spinach home.

Looks Like Fall

Looks Like Fall

I love summer. But foods like these make me happy to live in such a beautiful city where I can see the seasons change and taste delicious, flavorful fall foods. And I never get tired of colorful flowers, especially when the temperature drops below fifty degrees.

Onions

Onions

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

The kohlrabi and onions were right next to each other in the middle of the market. After a talking with a local market goer, I found out that kohlrabi is a part of the cabbage family that can be green (as shown) or purple. I had a taste of one at the market; it’s similar to a broccoli stem but not as tart and slightly sweeter.

Honey and Apple Butter

Honey and Apple Butter

Fresh Cranberries

Fresh Cranberries

I’ll admit it; I willingly give anything with “butter” or “honey” as an ingredient a try. I munch on almonds and cashews all day, and I prefer honey or agave nectar as a sweetener to sugar. So when I happened upon this table with Amish apple butter and honey, I was all in. The cranberries were just so vibrant looking that I couldn’t walk by without at least taking a picture. And they remind me of Thanksgiving: my favorite holiday.

Gourds and Pumpkins

Gourds and Pumpkins

Bee On Apple

Bee On Apple

I found this little bee shivering on some pretty delicious looking apples right as I walked into the market. I guess no one gave him the memo that Indian summer was over!

What I bought:

  • five golden delicious apples
  • Homemade Amish apple butter
  • one bag of baby spinach
  • one bag of savoy spinach
  • two red sweet potatoes
  • two sun gold red tomatoes

A few tips:

  • Parking in Lincoln Park is insane, especially on a good-weather Saturday morning. So instead of paying $9 to park in the lot, ditch the car and take public transportation. The Lincoln Park trolley runs every Saturday down Stockton Drive, and it’s free. Or, take the red line, get off on Clark and Division, and walk a few blocks north to the market. There’s also the 22 Clark, 36 Broadway, 73 Armitage and 151 Sheridan buses that all stop nearby.
  • Layer up, especially during a month not named July or August. Chicago weather is terribly unpredictable. And since the market is literally in Lincoln Park’s namesake and a few steps from Lake Michigan, brisk winds are always a strong possibility.
  • Green City is a twice-a-week market: Saturday and Wednesday mornings from 7am to 1pm from May to October, and 8am to 1pm from November to the end of the year. And the indoor market is right across Clark Street from the outdoor market. They share a  parking lot ($9 after validating), and public transportation is the same.
  • One of the best things about the location of Green City is that it’s right in the middle of one of the best parks in Chicago. Lincoln Park Zoo is a few steps north, walking/jogging paths weave throughout the expansive green space and North Avenue beach is a short walk east. There’s also plenty of space for a post-market picnic, baseball or just a nice walk with your family.
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