A blog about nothing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

DRY TIMES


In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for California, which has seen many a dry day for three years running. He asked residents to cut water consumption by 20 percent.

Six months after the government mandate, a survey was released that showed the Golden State had actually used 1 percent MORE water in the month of May, than the previous three-year average for the same month. So much for heeding the governor's bidding. And thus California remains stuck in a historic shortage.

How bad is it? Reservoirs are dwindling and the Sierra Nevada is melting. Time magazine reports that the drought will cost the state more than $2 billion this year. What else do officials have up their sleeve to awaken in Californians the pressing urge to act? Curbs on lawn watering and other outdoor uses carry fines of up to $500 per day. Of course the fines' real value is less enforcement than awareness. And officials recognize that what is required is for people to have a change of heart, or else the next drought will devastate California.

It is time to recognize one huge and largely ignored source of water consumption. Namely the production of animal protein for food. Factory farming swallows a tremendous amount of water. John Robbins notes in several exceptional books that cutting back on meat consumption would save much more water than any other measure, given that the water required to produce just ten pounds of steak equals the water consumption of the average household for a year. Not only that, about 70% of the water used in the 11 western states is dedicated to the raising of animals for food. This is not taking into account the pollution that occurs from manure run-off, which renders clean water undrinkable and further reduces the amount to go around.

And just where do factory farms exist? Below is a map of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in America. The redder the areas the greater the concentration of animals, meaning the higher the water expenditure. Note that California has huge blocks of red areas.
usa_meat_map
 
Why isn't factory farming, and all the burgers, dogs, chicken wings, and turkey dinners implicated in the drought besieging our fine state? Could it be that the powers that be are diverting our attention? It can't be something so simple as an oversight, could it? But if so, let's open our eyes and face the music (that's a mixed metaphor we recognize, but the point stands).
 
And so, while it is certainly prudent to save water by reducing the time spent washing cars, by watering lawns at dusk or dawn rather than in the heat of day, and investing in a low flow shower head, cutting back on meat consumption is where the real money, and water, are at.
 
But until "officials" including our governor adopt dietary changes necessary to improve the environment, relying on the government who is under the sway of major lobbyists to see the elephant in the room is a lesson in frustration.  But you have the power. Consider that each person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. The USGS water science school tells us that the largest use of household water is to flush the toilet, and after that, to take showers and baths. Cutting down water usage by 20 percent would mean 20 less gallons used per day, or 10 fewer toilet flushes, or 5 fewer minutes in the shower assuming you used a water-saving device. But have you ever refrained from flushing the toilet after peeing? It stinks!
 
When you consider that a lb of beef requires 1800 gallons of water to produce, the biggest help you can be at the individual level is to forego the meat and instead eat your greens and sweets and beans and seeds. By substituting out the 5 oz of chicken breast you normally have for lunch and instead enjoy an equal amount of beans or a piece of tofu (chicken: 468 gallons of water per pound, soybeans 206 gallons per pound), you save 80 gallons of water. Just in one meal. No time spent shivering in the shower or browning your toilet rim, no parched plants or dirty cars involved. If everyone markedly reduced consumption of flesh foods and eggs and dairy or stopped eating them altogether, the 20 percent goal reduction would occur overnight. California would soon be an oasis! Just a simple substitution, which not only will save the state, but serve your health.

Do your part and beat the meat. Tell a friend.




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM


The ancients say that you cannot look directly at the sun. It is only through a veil that the sun's rays can be glimpsed, dimmed as it were, through the shadows it casts. The real world, what we take for real, is the product of the veil of Maya (a Sanskrit term meaning illusion) which sweeps over the one true reality, which cannot be glimpsed but only felt, like the sun's rays, like my friend's dream, because we are it. We are the light, God.

The dreams we have while asleep are of the same level of reality as waking life. One is a night dream, the other a day dream. The only real difference being the length. Day dreams last longer and have the appearance of continuity, while night dreams are disconnected, but the internal logic and seemingly real quality is the same, as is the unreality. Think of a blank movie screen. That is the reality (God). The images that flit and flash upon the screen? Waking (or dreaming) life.

Which raises the question why dream at all? Why this experience of life? Well, why go to a movie? Ultimately, it is to be entertained! To have a good time (which occurs less and less in the current blockbuster age of superhero sequels and kiddy cartoons, but that's another topic). Life is not for the living but for the dreaming. For the fun. It is said that the Creator and Master of the universe created the world for sport. In this story (of waking life) you are not only the viewer but the experiencer as well. You get to live the role that was written especially for you. We are all Clark Gables and Betty Davis's...of life!

But it is important to remember the unity of spirit that underlies everything, for that way how can you experience hatred or animosity but only love? When beyond the veil of Maya all is ultimately one, when the lights go out what you are left with is the picture screen, when you see God in all and all in you, how can you experience anything but love. Ah, there the solution to the riddle of life lies. For love needs an object, and so the one becomes the many. It's all for love. Ah, love! Ah, life!

You can read about life's mysteries in ancient books. All the world's major religions have them, and the Vedas predate all other scriptures and are considered the breath of the divine revealed, but more important than any book, than even the guidance of a teacher, is direct experience. In order to know God, you must be what you seek! Which is surprisingly simple, since you are it already. You are the goal!

Many people report out of body experiences, encounters with deceased loved ones, depersonalization, derealization, fainting spells, waking dreams, sleep-paralysis, some drug-induced, some not. We have all at one point or another had the feeling that what we take for the real is actually unreal, that there is a deeper level that daily life with its focus on externalities and its preoccupation with rituals and chores and pastimes, seems to ignore.

That reality that pervades everything is what is meant by the term God, though even to name it is to limit it. It is what is. In the Bible it is summed up with the words, "I am that I am." In Sanskrit, "So-ham."

To achieve that unity with your surroundings, an existence without boundaries, is to have a glimpse of Self-realization. Then the goal is to extend that fleeting glimpse of your true nature, throughout life. Life's purpose is the unification of spirit and matter.

Living in such a way, seeing God in every being and all beings in you, how can you experience hatred, jealousy, or rivalry? By training yourself to feel God in everything, by going beyond the mind, you merge in the divine. You may fear losing your individuality, but what you gain in totality is well worth it.

Happy dreaming.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BE FREE

Philosophers and spiritualists alike have debated the concept of free-will since time immemorial. So much so that the debate has even been given its own name: the free-will problem. Rationalists believe in it, determinists do not.

According to the philosophy heavy-weight William James, free-will is a positive principle, a virtue whereby man's dignity is increased. Man's power too, for free-will is the power to choose. Determinists deny free-will. They say an individual originates nothing, but merely transmits to the future the whole push of the past cosmos of which he is so small an expression. The determinist, stripping man of his creative principle, can be said to diminish man to the level of automaton or impotent beast conditioned by education and upbringing, imprisoned by ignorance, and buffeted by fate.

But philosophers of many schools agree that our philosophical views define us as individuals and direct the course of our life (determined or free as it is). Which way do you stand? If everyone were truly free, and able at any time to do whatever they wished, would not the result be utter randomness? If I chose to yell at the top of my lungs, and so did you, and everyone else in the room, to flood it in babble, who could stand to remain amidst such discord? We follow norms, and rules, and society's expectations. Even if given a free choice between a or b, between pizza or French fries, or apples and oranges, isn't the choice an illusion, already determined by what we were given as children, by our particular preferences nurtured over time and even influenced by genes? And isn't an all-powerful God, who transcends time, being omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent as religion says, able to see the universal past present and future and thus able to know your choice before you make it, which would make your actions, in God's eyes if not your own, already pre-determined?

If our acts were predetermined, if we merely, in James's words, "transmitted the push of the whole past forward," how could we be praised or blamed for anything, but only agents without responsibility? But where would we be if we had free-will? If a free act is a novelty, which comes not from me, the previous me, sets of preferences and opinions that I was a moment ago, but out of thin air as it were, how can I, the previous I, be responsible? How can I have any permanent character that will stand still long enough for praise or blame to be awarded and deserved? The day becomes a jumble of disconnected beads as soon as the thread of inner necessity is removed.

I won't belabor you with the intricacies of the free-will problem, and James in his excellent book Pragmatism certainly waxes verbose in his treatment of this and other important issues. But if having no free-will makes you sad, have no fear, for science (of all things) may have come to your rescue.

A recent article in Scientific American sheds some new light on an age-old issue, by studying the behavior of schools of fish.

School of barracuda

A certain breed of minnow displays synchronized swimming so intricate as to easily qualify for the Olympics if fish could enter the games. The ability of these fishes to move in harmony has long fascinated researchers, who have developed several ways of describing in scientific terms how schooling works. Minnow seem to work en masse, as if with a group mind, not dissimilar to the way the bulls run and buffalo stampede. Each fish's movement seems to be influenced, determined as it were, by the movement of those around it, so that the body of fish can move as one.

At least to the untrained eye. Then researchers tried something interesting. They taught a few fish to swim toward a light for food, then returned these beacon fish to the larger school. When the light went on, the trained fish broke toward it, triggering a cascade of responses that resulted in the rest of the school falling behind the leaders and swimming towards the light.

Now imagine yourself, through studying under a teacher, reading of your own, through meditation, turning the attention inwards, etc., finally seeing the light (that shines within). To the larger school of individuals in your society, you would be considered free (not going with the trend). And after a while, others in your particular sphere will follow the leader to the light. That is the power of free thought, to change the course of your destiny and perhaps the destiny of others as well.

In the words of the spiritualist Krishnamurti, "Society teaches people how to make money but not how to live.... The stream of culture may change its course through a few awakened people. These are not strangers but you and me."

Seek the light that lies within and maybe save the world.

Monday, July 28, 2014

THE HEART'S MALADY

Sadness. At some point or other nearly everyone suffers its symptoms. Fatigue, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, appetite changes, listlessness, restlessness, hopelessness, even thoughts of death.

Mental disorders have reached epidemic proportions, affecting some 60 million Americans in any given year. Chief among them, depression is a major cause of "lost years of healthy life" worldwide. Two-thirds of people suffering from depression do not seek necessary treatment. And those who do are often consigned to the psychiatric ward or clinician’s couch, loaded with psychotropic medication whose side effects are worse than the symptoms they treat, and branded for life with a condition for which the medical establishment says there is no cure.

But this is untrue.

Sadness is a symptom of a spiritual crisis afflicting humanity as a whole. It is not a sign that something is wrong with you, but that something could be profoundly right!

Overcoming depression - not with drugs or talk therapy, but by turning the attention inwards, from the unreal to the real - is an essential step in the fulfillment of your destiny and the purpose of Earthly existence. It is by going beyond the source of sorrow, the mind, that you realize the bliss which is your true nature. The Vedas say:
 
“Even as a mirror with dirt begrimed
Shines brightly once it is well cleaned,
So too the embodied soul, once it has seen
Self as it really is,
Becomes one, its goal achieved, from sorrow free.”
 
The Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) tells us this:
 
"The greater you are, the more you need to search for your self. Your deep soul hides itself from consciousness. So you need to increase aloneness, elevation of thinking, penetration of thought, liberation of mind - until finally your soul reveals itself to you, spangling a few sparkles of her lights.
 
"Then you find bliss."
 
How to do this? Strip your body from your soul, as if you do not feel that you are clothed in matter at all - you are entirely soul. By sitting in silence and achieving the calm of deep sleep while conscious, you achieve conscious immortality, which the Bible calls Holy Spirit.
 
Meditation, oneness, Self-realization, Holy Spirit. The names may be different, as are the religions that propound them, but the state is the same. It is who you are, and the Earthly life is the place to realize your true nature, and the time is now.
 
It is said that in this quest for the Self that lies within, a teacher can be helpful, as are books. But most important of all is your power to turn your attention away from the world of the senses and in quiet concentration fix your awareness within. Be as you are.

Friday, July 25, 2014

THE ULTIMATE GOAL

Detail of Plato and Aristotle from The School of Athens> by Raphael
In his allegory of the cave, which appears in Plato's Republic and gets mentioned in August's issue of Scientific American, the Greek philosopher tells of prisoners who have spent their entire lives chained to the wall of a dark cavern. Behind the prisoners a flame burns, and between the flame and the prisoners parade objects that cast shadows onto a wall in the prisoners' field of view.
These two-dimensional shadows are the only things that the prisoners have ever seen - their only reality. Chained as they are to the wall they cannot perceive the true world, a realm with one additional dimension to the world that they know, a dimension rich with complexity and - although they don't know it - capable of explaining all that they see. The source. Plato was on to something.

According to scientists at the University of Waterloo who have propounded what is known as the theory of the holographic universe, we are the prisoners.

We may all be living in a giant cosmic cave created in the very first moments of existence. Before the big bang there existed an additional dimension of space. At present the phenomenal universe, that which we perceive, appears to us to exist in three dimensions of space and one of time. But as the theory goes, the three-dimensions are merely the shadow of a world with four spatial dimensions, our universe coming into being during a stellar implosion of a greater suprauniverse, that created a shell around a black hole, our universe being that shell. The big bang and all that came from it, is a holographic mirage from another dimension. What is a hologram?  It is a three-dimensional image with no independent reality. You may remember Coachella in 2012, when the rapper Dr. Dre dreamed of bringing the long-dead star Tupac Shakur back to life, and true to the vision, there the rapper's image appeared performing next to the likes of Snoop Dogg. Was the rapper brought back to life? No. Through holography, involving lasers and lights, only his image was.

In much the same way, the manifest universe is unreal. This according to leading scientists. What you take for reality, flesh and blood, house and home, doesn't really exist at all! It is a reflection of a larger reality that we are only beginning to realize!

This raises what is at first a seemingly unrelated question. Can one be scientific and yet spiritual? It seems that with this holographic theory, the two worlds are closer than ever to reconciling. For millennia the Eastern cosmology has held that the manifest universe is unreal. The analogy is this: imagine you are in a dark room and see a rope on the ground which you mistake for a snake. You are afraid until the light in the room comes on and you take the rope for what it is. The world in which we live is the imagined snake. The real universe is the rope.

Like the lullaby, life is but a dream. Waking reality is only as real as the visions we have while asleep, which is to say unreal.

To unshackle oneself from the cage of the mind, turn the attention inward to the only thing you can vouch for being real. The consciousness that you are. This is in line with the ancient philosophy that we are satchitananda. Existence, consciousness, bliss.

Someday scientist may prove that the four-dimensional posited universe is a holographic image of something else, revealing yet another layer of unreality, adding one more mirage into the mix. Focus on what you know, and that is that you exist. All else follows from there, but don't chase it because it may lead to a black hole.

When Plato's prisoners emerged from the cave into the light of day, the sun's rays burned their eyes. As their sight adjusted, the prisoners were initially only able to make out shadows and reflections. Soon they could see the heavenly body itself. Finally, they correctly concluded that the luminescent orb (the sun) was the author of all that we see, in other words that sight was possible by the sun's light. The light that makes possible the mirage of the manifest universe, according to the mystics, is the divine spark that shines from within. The sun lies within you! It's true, and now science is on your side. Open your mind and see.

This begs the question: Does the sun see its own light, or does it just shine? Can it know night when everywhere it goes day breaks? Instead of open your mind and see, we might rather say open your mind and be.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

THE UNIVERSAL CURE


Within a few decades even the winter years will be warm by historical standards, and the "new abnormal" will start across the tropics, where species are least able to adapt to even small variations because they are so used to a constant climate.

Since many biodiversity hotspots - the places richest in species - lie near the Equator, the temperature rise could threaten a large number of land and sea animals as soon as the late 2020s, sharply curtailing species diversity with sweeping ramifications. And yet some scientists still dismiss as unproved the many and frequent climate effects caused by warmer weather, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. But global warming is real. Scientists may disagree about how severe future weather changes will become, but one thing is pretty clear: to a great degree it's man-made, much of it caused by carbon produced by fossil fuels.

Between the middle of the 18th century and 2012 more than 365 billion metric tons of carbon was released into the atmosphere, according to an article in this month's Scientific American. What's your carbon footprint?

But skeptics argue that climate change is not our only problem, and we do not have unlimited resources required to make sweeping changes in how we live. In 2012 in Copenhagen more than 50 economists evaluated 39 proposals on how best to solve the world's most pressing problems. Issues included malnutrition interventions, research and development to increase crop yields, early-warning systems for natural disasters and low-cost drugs for acute heart attack. Global warming barely cracked the top 10.

What do all these issues have in common? They are all related to diet.

It may seem an oversimplification, but extreme measures such as geoengineering solutions, which the Copenhagen experts recommend devoting $1 billion towards, and green energy technology, and other techie solutions to keeping the planet cool are not really needed if we change the way we eat.

Now some experts argue that if you are malnourished and diseased, what the climate will be like at the end of the century is not a high priority. But what if the same thing that causes climate change also contributes to malnourishment and disease, and by addressing the cause of these and other problems you have an instant cure-all? 

Consumption of animal food, particularly those products derived from factory farms, is the cause of all the world's woes. Consider:

Meat is a great carbon emitter. A 2006 UN report showed that global emissions from all livestock operations account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, even more than cars, trucks and planes. It takes three units of fossil-fuel energy to produce one unit of food energy on average among all agricultural products. But for industrial meat, the ratio can be over thirty-five to one.

Raising animals for slaughter contributes to the prevalence of diseases. The modern intensive confinement production systems is stressful for food animals, and that stress increases both the shedding of pathogenic bacteria and the level of stress hormones that make their way into the food. The use of antiobiotics to prevent disease and stimulate growth in cows and chickens and other animals causes diseases such as MRSA which are highly resistant to treatment and can be deadly in humans.

Twice as much land is used for pasture as is used for crops. What need do we have for increasing crop yields when there are millions of square miles currently used to fatten cows and other farm animals that could instead be used to grow fruits and vegetables and other plant foods, far more nutritious than animal protein, and lower in fat.

More people die of obesity related illnesses than from starvation and malnutrition combined. In obesity, high-fat animal products are largely implicated. Reduce the consumption of meat, cheese and eggs in favor of sweets (fruit) and greens (vegetables) and win the battle of the budge while eliminating world hunger simultaneously

Convinced yet?

Let's go back to some of the top 10 problems the Copenhagen convention focused on. Early warnings for natural disasters? There will be fewer tornadoes and hurricanes as we change our diet, reduce carbon emissions and the world cools. Heart disease? High fat diets are strongly associated with heart attacks, and no drug on the market, or surgical intervention, is as effective as dietary changes in treating this disease, which currently stands as the number 1 killer in America.

So why oh why is the discussion of global warming usually limited to reducing time in your (hybrid) vehicle when the focus should be placed on what's on your fork? In the debate over what to do about climate change and other pressing issues, the elephant in the room, our insatiable appetite for flesh and the widespread ramifications of what we eat, gets largely ignored. Maybe if more plant-eaters are on such panels the dietary changes would receive the attention they deserve. We are running out of options and time.

But until you get elected to a panel of one to decide the fate of the planet, choose plants.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

21st CENTURY INHERITANCE

Conventionally, inheritance has been defined as the phenomenon by which an offspring inherits genes encoded in DNA, half from its father, half from its mother. Now it appears that environmental influences can permanently alter which genes are turned on without changing the code itself. Such "epigenetic" changes can even be passed down to future generations. Some of these environmental factors include pollutants, stress and diet. It may be true that the health of your offspring can be affected by what you and even your ancestors as far back to your great grandmother were exposed to during your reproductive years.
Epigenes are outside the DNA but exert effects on how genes are expressed, particularly by influencing which proteins get made. Epigenetic marks include methyl, acetyl and other chemical modifications, as well as how tightly DNA loops around structures called histones. Scientists have known this for quite some time. Fogging with the insecticide DDT, a common mosquito-control practice in the 1940s and 50s, might have caused epimutations that persist even in some babies born today. Indeed in lab animals exposed to the chemical, more than half of the fourth-generation great-grandpups developed obesity.

Jet fuel, insect repellent and BPA and phthalates - chemical components of food containers and tooth fillings - have also been shown to induce a variety of heritable disorders in fourth-generation descendants, such as pubertal abnormalities and obesity. Though the chemical doses in these studies are much larger than one would typically receive from a contaminated environment, in the case of BPA, blood levels similar to those measured in pregnant American women induced changes in descendants out to the fifth generation which included spending less time exploring their environment.

And evidence on the effects of human exposure are not lacking. In 1976 an explosion at a chemical plant in Italy exposed residents to high concentrations of the industrial byproduct dioxin. In 2010 researchers reported that the exposure led to decreased fertility, a tendency to be overweight as well as thyroid abnormalities in subsequent generations. Thus, although shifts in lifestyle and food availability no doubt account for much of the increase in obesity, diabetes and other diseases of plenty over the past 50 years, it is conceivable that ancestral exposures to toxic chemicals have increased our susceptibility to such diseases.

Epigenetic effects play a crucial role in aging and cancer as well. And it is worth noting that epigenetic changes appear to occur 1,000 times more frequently than the classic mode of inheritance driven by mutations in DNA.

We can't always control our exposure to environmental pollutants present in air and water, but eating organic, shunning animal products (which concentrate chemicals in fat) and avoiding plastic containers are useful measures for minimizing contact with culprits.

Eating healthy and exercising could swing the epigenetic shift in your favor. If you increase your metabolic rate naturally by upping your lean body mass through plant foods and regular workouts, perhaps these habits will induce epigenetic changes for a fast metabolism that you then pass down to your child of the future. A trait we'd all like to be born with.

So remember, you are not just living cleanly for yourself. You are what you eat, but your kids and grandkids could be as well.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TYPES OF BODY FAT

For quite some time science has recognized the existence of two distinct types of body fat.

 
White fat, the kind that makes your buns jiggle, is tough to get rid of. Too much of it increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Each white fat cell stores energy in the form of a single large, oily droplet but is otherwise basically inert. Because the metabolic rate of white fat is slow, the more of it you have, the fewer calories you burn.

Brown fat, in contrast, contains many smaller droplets, as well as chestnut-hued metabolic machines called mitochondria, the cellular powerhouse that burns up brown fat to generate heat. Until recently it was believed that brown fat was found exclusively in babies. Babies, who have not developed the ability to shiver to maintain body temperature, rely on thermogenic deposits of brown fat to stay warm. These deposits typically accumulate in the neck and around the shoulders.
 
 
Investigators assumed that all brown fat disappears by adulthood, but new findings reveal that adults have brown fat too, and that increasing it, or converting white fat into brown fat, can alter metabolism in a way that leads to weight reduction.

Of course this has spurned scientists to search for the magic pill that activates brown fat, but till now the efforts have proven futile. Thus far the easiest way to get brown fat revved up and burning in the adult body has been by exposing people to low temperatures.
 
In a 2012 study, experimenters clad volunteers in a cold suit that circulated water with a temperature of 64.4 degrees and then made them sit down and wear the suit for three hours. The temperature was cold enough to stimulate brown fat without being so cold as to induce shivering, which on its own burns calories. Sure enough, subjects burned an extra 250 calories compared with those who were inactive at more typical indoor climates. 250 calories does not seem like much, but over a month that translates to a couple lbs, or over 20 lbs per year of pure fat burned. In addition, researchers learned that brown fat's benefits extend beyond fat-burning. Brown fat preferentially burns triglycerides in the blood, reducing levels that otherwise might lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
 
Scientists believe that low temperatures increase the activity of a gene named UCP1, which helps convert white fat into beige fat. Beige is a mixture of brown and white. Part of the reason for the obesity epidemic, in addition to unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle, could be lack of exposure to temperature variation. Most of us spend most of the day indoors in a layer or two of clothing and with the thermometer set to a comfortable 75 degrees. Comfortable, but not cool enough to induce a calorie burn.
 
If blasting the air conditioning or wearing a cold suit just to burn a few hundred calories doesn't sound like fun, take heed. We've got one more trick up our sleeve. The old-fashioned calorie burn.

Like slow temps, exercise has also been shown to increase UCP1 activity in brown fat, making it more active which results in more calories burned during activity and at rest. What's more: As you age, the quantity and efficiency of mitochondria decrease, due to the body's waning ability to make an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which functions to increase mitochondria in muscles. Since mitochondria are responsible for burning fat and sugar for energy, anything that inhibits them interferes with this ability and lowers your metabolic rate, leading to weight gains and weight-related health problems.
 
It turns out that exercise increases AMPK, which means that exercise's ability to keep you lean is two-fold. Not only does it activate brown fat, but it also turns on the mitochondria body wide - preventing you from...getting wide. Add to this the innate calorie-burning that comes from moving around, and you have a happy triad. Feel the burn today!


Monday, July 21, 2014

ACTIVATE YOUR INNER GENIUS

Rain Man, the movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, brought to popular attention the existence of savant syndrome, in which people with autism display exceptional intellectual or artistic gifts from birth.
Acquired savantism is an alternative form of the condition in which a person spontaneously develops nearly-genius levels of artistic or intellectual skills - such as ability to paint, play music or do complex mental calculations - after experiencing some form of brain injury. For example, Jason Padgett was mugged and sustained a severe concussion. A college dropout who before the injury described himself as "math-averse," he later developed astounding abilities in math and physics and now draws fractals and takes upper level science courses just for fun. Tony Cicoria, an orthopedic surgeon, was struck by lightning in 1994, after which he became obsessed with a desire to play classical music, hearing symphonic strains in dreams. With no formal training, he went on to write a 26-page concert piano piece as effortlessly as if he were taking dictation. Similar stories have occurred to people after getting hit by baseballs and suffering hemorrhages, which until recently had defied scientific explanation.

We now know that accidental genius, as it is called, results from diminished activity in some brain areas (those damaged in a fall or blow) that is combined with a counterbalancing intensification in others, especially the right brain, which processes spatial information. Scientists can now duplicate the phenomenon by applying transcranial magnetic stimulation, which temporarily unleashes savantlike abilities, allowing subjects to solve puzzles and perform better in various tests.

The question arises whether a technological suution is an absolute prerequiste to becoming an overnight genius. It is well-known that assiduous practice of an artistic skill suffices to allow us to switch on the more creative right side of the brain and thus explore undiscovered artistic capabilities, but this takes a huge amount of time, as in 10,000 hours, if you believe Dr. Anders Ericsson. But researchers are now suggesting another means of turning on your inner brilliance, and it's a lot easier on your stopwatch.

In a word: meditation.

Meditation allows one to better focus on a task at hand, removing background noise, as it were, an increasing problem in this technologically-driven age. And meditation can raise intelligence levels and skills at tasks in a fraction at the time required by practice alone. This is particularly relevant in the current age, one in which has witnessed what author Michael Harris in his new book calls the "end of absence." While the daily barrage of texts, tweets and e-mails brings us information, connection and entertainment, it also takes something away. The average kid spends 8 hours a day on devices. The average friend texts their near and dear 50 times a day. And since we're talking about averages: on average, 48% of Americans don’t think that technology has made their lives any easier or more simple! What were are left with in a computer-driven world are just more distractions. Distractions bring a deficit of silence and solitude, a heavy price for our plugged-in lives. Why be average.

To combat the relentless onslaught of (largely useless) information besieging us on all sides, the author advises readers to hold on to downtime, daydreams and stillness, and what better way than meditation? Why does meditation work? Think of computers. We all know what happens when your laptop runs too many programs or its hard drive gets filled. It slows down or even crashes.

So how to clear your inner ard drive, close some programs and "defragment" your mind, as it were? Easy as 1 2 3.

1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, eyes closed.

2. Clear your mind of all thought by first watching your thoughts as they arise,. Don't judge them, just watch. Separate your true self from the thinking mind. Remember this analogy. Clouds form and dissipate in the sky, seeming to arise from nothing and to return to nothing. Be the sky. In other words, be the ever-widening space in between thoughts, and get comfortable simply being. Some advocate deep breathing or recitation of a mantra to help quiet the mind, and you may or may not find this useful.

3. Stay in that state until you feel a sense of calm wash over you. You should feel weightless, as if you are floating. Formless, and totally free. Then remain there for as long as you wish - minutes, hours, the adepts do it for whole days (something to work towards).

Take the calm you achieve through meditation with you throughout your day. It can be used to enhance performance in daily activities and provides stress reduction benefits as well. Remember, bliss is your natural state. Just think of how happy babies are.

Let that be you.

And if you can, ditch that device!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

SECRETS OF LONGEVITY

                        Alexander Imich            
Meet Alexander Imich, the world's oldest validated male supercentenarian. He turned 111 on Feb. 4 (a fellow Aquarian, thank you very much). Born in Poland in 1903, he currently resides in an Upper West Side apartment in New York. He became the world's oldest living man a short while ago when the previous record-holder, Arturo Licata, died just days before his 112th birthday.
 
“Not like it’s the Nobel Prize," Imich remarked after being pronounced oldest man alive by the Gerontology Research Group. “I never thought I’d be that old.”
 
So what's the supercentenarian's secret? Here's what he told the New York Times in a recent interview:
 
• Not drinking alcohol.
• Quitting smoking.
• Playing multiple sports, including running and swimming.
• A diet "inspired by Eastern mystics who disdain food," the Times said. (This is not exactly true: Eastern mystics were known to subsist on roots, tubers and other plant matter in minimal quantities while Imich's diet includes modest amounts of some animal foods.)
• Good genes.
 
And finally,
• Not having children.

While having children has actually been shown to increase lifespan (while possibly also causing the formation of gray hairs, at least in the opinion of our father), such a view as Mr. Imich's, if shared by the world at large, would certainly do a lot to curtail overpopulation which is 7 billion and counting. There is expected to be 9 billion people on Earth by 2050, which raises the question: how are we gonna feed 'em all?

National Geographic claims to have the answer. It says that with an increase in the world's population of 35 percent by 2050, crop production will need to double. Why? Production will have to far outpace population growth as the developing world grows prosperous enough to eat more meat.

But we have a better idea. Change dietary patterns.

Since most land is used as pastureland over cropland, and much of cropland is used to feed the animals that then graze on pastures, if we as a world stop eating animals, then more of the cropland can be used to grow plants to feed people, as can much of the pastureland as well.

Feeding the world is not a problem if humans eat as nature intended. Of course this is often neglected in articles on food shortages and global warming, since the articles are often written by meat eaters who like everyone cherish their habits and guard them jealously.

But we are primates remember, and are fashioned to consume the foods that our ape and gorillas and other furry-chested cousins consume: sweets, greens, seeds - and some beans because they are inexpensive, environmentally friendly (as nitrogen fixers) and tasty too.

Do your part in the fight against world hunger today. Choose plants.

Friday, July 18, 2014

HEART HEALTH


Recently a close high school friend delivered some pretty heavy news. Having experienced several bouts of chest pain while mountain biking, he went in to see the doctor at the urging of his wife. A series of tests revealed that his left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) was 100% occluded (blocked). The LAD artery supplies blood to the walls of both the left and right ventricles, the heart chambers responsible for pumping blood to the body, including the lungs, brain, muscles and other organs. This phenomenon - a totally blocked main artery - is called a widow maker, since most don't live to tell about it. The reason why our friend wasn't dead was that the occlusion had developed slowly over the course of several years, which gave his body the chance to adapt. By adapt we mean develop corollary circulation, little blood vessels that grow out of a blocked artery to circumvent the blockage and maintain adequate perfusion of the heart. Our friend - we'll call him Pedro - was just over 40.

His question was, "Why me?"

Pedro had always exercised regularly, engaging in consistent cardio such as running and bike riding to supplement regular weight-training sessions. Over the years he had even competed in a handful of triathlons and obstacle races. After his diagnosis and treatment - he required a stent placement and will be on blood thinners and statins for the rest of his life - members of his immediate family, including his older siblings, went in and got tested. This is standard medical practice as heart disease runs in Pedro's family. His father had died of a heart attack when Pedro was in his early teens. One sister was a bit on the heavy side, with the classic pear-shaped body, fuller in the hips and thighs. She had never been much of a fitness enthusiast. To Pedro's (but not the doctor's) surprise, his sister's test came back negative. Despite her being overweight and out of shape, her arteries were pristinely clean.

So, back to Pedro's question: "Why?"

For one who was getting the recommended amount of exercise, we must look beyond fitness to evaluate the cause of his severe vascular disease. Surely family history is not to blame given his sisters' clean bill of health. And so we come to diet. What was Pedro's diet like? Carnivorous to say the least. Pedro likes to call himself a follower of the bodybuilder's diet, lean meats and complex carbs. But even so-called low fat animal products - skinless chicken breast and turkey burgers, which had been Pedro's staples since our days in high school - are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Add to this the fact that with each passing child (Pedro is a father of three) came more indulgence in cheat meals, which meant lots of pizza and other treats that kids love to eat. Ironically, Pedro's weight didn't change from the 200 pounds he was as high school prom king (he stands 6'1''), but over the years I watched as his body mass altered considerably. Despite his regular workouts, by the time he reached his mid thirties he had lost the dense muscle mass he sported in his teens, with shoulders like boulders and pecs like slabs of granite. As is the case with many in middle age, Pedro had become a bit on the doughy, pouchy, paunchy side, with an increase in his waist circumference as quantifiable evidence of the fact. In other words, though his weight remained constant, his body fat percentage increased, and the increase came mostly in the form of visceral fat. Between the age of 20 and 40, Pedro had become the dreaded apple shape. Fat accumulated in the lower body (the pear shape) is subcutaneous, while fat in the abdominal area (the apple shape) is largely visceral.        


Visceral fat is located deep within the midsection. It coats the major organs - the liver, heart, lungs, and digestive tract. Visceral fat is highly metabolically active, churning out inflammatory substances called cytokines that can wreak havoc on the body's organs. These chemicals - for example, tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6 - increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing cellular sensitivity to insulin, blood pressure and blood clotting.

Scientists don't know exactly what causes people to lay down visceral fat, but most fingers point to a high-fat diet as the culprit. All the exercise in the world fails to cancel out the overwhelming effects of dietary indiscretions. And this is understandable. Consider that a slice of regular crust pizza contains nearly 300 calories, the amount you burn on a 3-mile jog. One medium chicken breast also contains 300 calories, including saturated fat and half the day's upper limit of cholesterol (150 grams). And it is precisely excess calories, particularly saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as trans fats found in hydrogenated vegetable oils, that likely give rise to this deadly form of fat.

To trim the tummy, experts recommend both diet and exercise  But while it takes at least 20-25 minutes to cover 3 miles on foot, most can shovel a slice of pie down in a tenth of the time. And so for many, especially a busy father of three like our friend P, cutting down on empty calories seems a far more effective method of keeping visceral fat at bay.

The good news is that visceral fat yields fairly easily to dietary modification, with benefits ranging from lower blood pressure to more favorable cholesterol levels. Which means far fewer pizzas for our friend.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

HEALTH STARTS IN THE WOMB


Despite recent fitness and plant-based trends, globally people are exercising less and eating more fattier, saltier, calorically-dense, sugary food. This type of diet is a recipe for several diseases. Obesity rates in wealthy nations are plateauing, but developing countries are now getting fatter and sicker due to the influx of cheap calories from overseas (America). Indeed obesity has doubled in the last three decades. As it stands nearly 1.5 billion adults are overweight, and 500 million are obese. One fifth of kids aged five to 17 are overweight, most of them living in developing countries. Obese kids become obese adults, and this excess weight contributes to diabetes and heart disease. Astoundingly, over half the world's population lives in countries where obesity kills more people than undernutrition and starvation combined. This is frustrating given that obesity is avoidable. But in a cruel twist the cheapest foods (vending machine fair, fast foods) are often the most calorically dense. Retail prices of fruits and vegetables rose by almost 120 percent in a recent 15-year period, six times the rate of soft drinks and three times more than fats and sweets. Those living in poor neighborhoods are hit by unhealthy offerings on every side: "dollar" menus at fast-food joints and corner stores that sell cheap snacks. A far cry from the farmers' markets found in higher-rent neighborhoods, these.

Is there a way out of this mess? Sure, education on healthy eating and initiatives that promote these habits at home, at school and in the community help, but if the only affordable food available is high-fat animal protein or refined grains, such efforts do little good. And so it is that in the U.S., the poorest have the highest rate of obesity. And farm subsidies for corn, soy and other grains have boosted the production of increasingly affordable processed food, to which high fructose corn syrup is added to further decrease its already insignificant nutritional value.

Companies led by Danone and Nestle are getting behind initiatives to reduce fat, added sugar and salt content of foods and while this is certainly a step in the right direction, the obesity epidemic is already so serious that what may be needed is to set limits on the sale, distribution and advertising of unhealthful foods, ala the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which was implemented in 2005. Or perhaps certain foods, including animal products produced via factory farms, need to be prohibited altogether. Smoking is not illegal. You can light up if you're over 18. But you can't buy heroin, cocaine or crystal meth from a licensed vendor or at your local corner store. These drugs require prescriptions, and in some cases (as with crystal meth, bath salts, and other designer drugs) are absolutely illegal with no therapeutic purpose because they are universally deemed unhealthy. The same could be said for empty calorie foods, recipes for myriad health woes.

If the idea of a ban on soda, chips and pig ears doesn't appeal to you, then change your habits, especially if you have young children or are considering raising kids.

According to the Institute of Medicine, cardiovascular disease risks start early in life. Infants born to obese mothers are at higher risk of obesity. By two years of age, an infant's weight is already highly predictive of obesity risk as an adult. Mothers: breast-feeding decreases obesity risk for your child and helps to control maternal weight. Diet patterns are imprinted in the first 1,000 days of life, beginning at conception, as the fetus is influenced by the foods mom consumes. Healthy or unhealthy habits start at home, influenced by cooking methods, choosing fresh over packaged foods, limiting snacks and sitting down to dinner as a family. Changing established poor habits is a greater challenge than eating good clean food from the get-go, so don't let vices creep in. Focus on whole, unpackaged plant foods for a healthier you, family and society as a whole.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

HIGH PROTEIN DIET TO BLAME FOR WRESTLER'S ILLNESS


If you follow sports you have probably heard of Brock Lesnar, a behemoth of a man (6'3'', 290 lbs) who has dominated everything from world wrestling to pro football to mixed martial arts and I'm sure will some day make it to the big screen, maybe in Expendables 13.

Lesnar has pounded into submission many a meaty man, but an intestinal disease recently left him begging for mercy. Diverticulitis is the name of the condition characterized by outpouching of the colon. These pouches can get inflamed and infected and as in the case of Lesnar lead to abscess formation, which causes high fever, weight loss, unbearable pain and is a surgical emergency. Lesnar lost some 40 pounds during his convalescence. The culprit? In Lesnar's words:

“What got me here was a total protein diet, not enough fiber, and that’s where I was,” Lesnar said.
“I’m a carnivore. I’m not a big fan of PETA. I’m a member of the NRA, and whatever I kill, I eat. Basically, I was just for years surviving on meat and potatoes. When the greens came by, I just kept passing them.”

You see, the human colon is nearly five feet in length and requires a heavy dose of fiber to help move contents through. Without enough ruffage (and meat has no fiber) the GI tract is forced to work overtime, contracting and contracting to push stool through to the anus, which causes it to become weak and the pouches to form and become inflamed, etc.

A note to carnivores and omnivores around the world. If you are abiding by a meat-heavy diet, it may lead to short-term weight-loss or muscle gains, but as in the case of Mr. Lesnar, you could be courting diseases not the least of which are intestinal. Other maladies associated with such a dietstyle include cancer and heart disease, the nation's biggest killers. So what did Lesnar do?

“I totally changed my diet, got on some natural healing medicine, and was just doing a lot of praying. I had a lot of people praying for me."

And so should you. If you're not into prayer, trust in plants. Go Paradigm.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

BODYBUILDER'S DIET

 

Bodybuilders have some of the most muscular bodies in sports, with slabs of muscle for arms, shoulders and thighs, washboards for stomachs, narrow waists, tight glutes, and heart-shaped calves. Of course they spend a great deal of time sculpting their granite frames in the gym, mostly with heavy sets of barbell and dumbbell movements but also with some machines and cardio thrown in. But what serious muscle heads are most known for is their clean and simple diet. Clean in that it involves few added ingredients and fats. Simple in that the typical meal includes only three ingredients - protein, starch, and green vegetable.

And this is the trick to their shredded physiques. Sure, many cycle steroids into the mix, but without a clean diet consisting of meals shaped by protein source, starch source, and green vegetable, all the hormones in the world won't cut you up.

And while the bodybuilder's fare of choice includes copious quantities of flesh foods and staple grains like rice, there is a grain-free vegan variety we'd like to share. Simply substitute out the animal protein and sub in beans, which are high in protein. Chickpeas, blacks, pintos, kidneys, lentils or other, choose your fav. And instead of the staple rice, include either potato (sweet, white, or red) or quinoa. The green vegetable can be anything from broccoli to spinach, kale, chard, asparagus, green beans, Brussels sprouts, or other.

Together these three ingredients - bean, green, and tuber or seed - round off your feast. Eat this meal at least once per day, for lunch or for dinner. Because animal protein, even lean cuts, is often high in fat, include some avocado with your greens for some flavorful fat. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

THE FUN FACTOR

The sages say that life is a game, that our true nature is bliss (joy). And indeed play is part of our fundamental makeup. We all come into this world loving to have fun. In fact, children will amuse themselves whether they live in a suburb or a war zone. The urge is so strong that kids even made up games in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Sadly, once a person achieves adulthood, the impulse to frolic and laugh has largely been conditioned out. In fact, researchers believe that diminishing classroom playtime could be responsible for the recent rise of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And the recent surge in apps and video games to stimulate the brain - which are usually played while sitting or lying down - doesn't address the real issue: we are not meant to be so sedentary, and the best games should involve movement as well as intellectual engagement.

Indeed play stimulates the cerebellum, which is involved in balance and dexterity, and influences higher centers like the frontal lobe. But you can't rely on modern society to provide you with playtime. Gone are the days of grade school PE. Play is not included in the workday make-up. Exercising in novel ways brings a surge of euphoria-inducing chemicals not seen with more traditional workouts like the jog and push-up. Remember, burpees and breaststroke didn't exist from time immemorial. They were invented. And you can be the genius that creates a movement or exercise all your own. Start with your body, the best toy, and move in ways that feel good. With a little ingenuity and a sense of adventure - and down the road maybe a tractor tire, kettlebell, sandbag, muscle rope, medicine ball, jungle gym bars, water jug or utility bucket - you can bring the joy to your exercising life, and from there let it permeate the rest of your day. Now go play!

Monday, July 7, 2014

KICKSTART YOUR METABOLISM

Many people seek out foods or supplements purported to “speed up metabolism” or “burn fat.” Maybe you're one of them. If you are, we've got news for you.

While it is true that many vegetables - including cucumber, celery, onions and leafy greens - are so low in calories that digesting them requires more energy than they supply, not even these negative calorie foods can match the impact on metabolism achieved with regular exercise.

Consider that you burn, at rest, 60 calories in one hour, and that you burn 100 calories by covering 1 mile on foot. It follows that if instead of sitting and watching your favorite sitcom, you were to go outside and walk/jog/run for this same length of time, even at the relatively slow pace of 10 minutes per mile, you would cover six miles and expend 600 calories by the time the show is over.

In other words, when you run, your metabolic rate is 10 times as fast as at rest, and possibly more, as energy expenditure increases progressively at higher speeds. In other other words, the faster your run, the more fuel you burn.

Let's look at this another way. In just 3 hours, a running man (or woman) burns the amount of calories (2,000) that it takes a resting person a full 24-hour period to expend. Lesson to be learned: if you want a fast-metabolism, get moving.

The champion of exercises, running is simple, effective and convenient. Anthropologists believe that the human form is a function of our ancestors' need to run. Whether running in search of food or so as not to become food, we ran. A lot. In fact, it was not uncommon for prehistoric man to run as much as 16 or 20 hours each day.

Over long distances, humans can outrun the fastest animals, at times even beating the horse, as the annual Man Against Horse 50-mile race in Arizona has shown. Other evidence - that we walk on two legs, have little body hair and lots of sweat glands, in addition to a nuchal ligament and a mobile 1st vertebral joint - all points to the same thing: We were born to run.

Now, you've probably been told not to run. Maybe you've even said it. Running will ruin your joints, some say. Others have remarked: I used to run, but it broke down my back. In fact, the opposite is true: today's set-up is totally unnatural. The sedentary life is ruining us. Sitting at a desk is leaving us stiff and bent over. We get old because we stop running. And recent research supports this, showing not only that running is not hard on the joints, but that it actually protects the joints! If you're not convinced, here's another link.
 
Running is our natural state, and yet few do it enough if at all. Instead, we spend 8 hours or more each day at the desk and in the car, with additional time slouched on the couch and scarfing grub at the table. Added to the 8 hours we sleep, this amounts to 16 to 20 hours per day or more spent on our backs and backsides. Back in Nature, we used to run that much!

Run any place, any time. Do it indoors or outdoors, rain or shine. At the park or in the mountains, up a hill, on a track, around your block or on your treadmill. All you need is the spirit of adventure (shoes are optional). Run soft and straight. Keep your head steady and let your arms gracefully sway at your sides as your feet touch down quickly and turn over rapidly. If this seems like too much instruction, just take your shoes off and run in the grass. Perfect form will come naturally.

An aside: we used to hate running. Even running so much as the President's mile, back in middle school, caused endless suffering. Well, not endless, but 8 minutes, which is how long it took to accomplish that grueling feat back then. But for those to whom running does not come naturally, take heed: running can be an acquired taste - like wine, or oysters, only better for you, and without the hangover or bad breath.
 
If you're still not convinced, try this: go to the park or beach, take off your shoes, and feel the breeze. Pavement awaits!
 
 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

SUMMER FUN WORKOUT ROUTINE



It's that time of year. Summer is here. And if recent temps are any indication, it's going to be a hot 3 months. Which may require you to cut down on your training - that is, if you are like us and prefer training outdoors but don't much enjoy the sweltering heat. Of course you can always just drink more water, but even the pros have off seasons, and what better time than summer to reduce your training volume in favor of other pleasurable past-times (margaritas at the beach, anyone?). In other words, to beat the heat, brevity is best. And with a little wisdom and judiciousness, you can cut back on the sweat-producing activities without gaining pounds, losing fitness or being racked with guilt. If you follow this simple routine, you may even make gains that translate to improved performance in your exercise(s) of choice. We call it the 4321 rule. 4321 equals summer fun.

FOUR
Four runs. There's no escaping the jog, even in recovery months, since running forms the basis of many sports, burns more calories than most any other activity, can be done anywhere, requires minimal equipment, and is free. But if the idea of slogging through 2-hour long runs in the dog days of summer doesn't make you jump for joy, we feel you. Instead, reduce time pounding the pavement, and focus on speed. Four runs of 20 to 30 minutes each are enough to keep the wheels turning and the calories burning.

THREE
Three rides. Since biking is an exercise that is enjoyable even in warm weather - can you feel the breeze? - ramp up the bike rides. Invest in an entry-level road bike if you don't have your own wheels, or hit the trails on a mountain bike. The gym's lifecycle is an option, though try to keep the image of rat on a treadmill out of your mind. And why aren't you outdoors!

TWO
Two resistance sessions, each of 10 sets each. This can be any combination of bodyweight exercises, resistance band movements, or weights. Each session should take you about 20 minutes, which is about a minute for the set and a minute of rest in between. Aim for 3 exercises of 3 sets each, plus a warm-up.

ONE
One rhymes with fun, and use this workout to make like a kid and play. Join a game of pickup hoops at the park, visit your nearest yoga center, skateboard, run stairs, jump rope, take a swim, go roller skating. Houseclean, garden, go take a hike (we mean that in a good way!). Whatever you do, the focus should be less on a workout and more on the pure enjoyment of celebrating movement. Keep your breathing at a conversational rate - but don't try to talk in the water or you could wind up with a mouthful - of chlorine, that is. In the pool, mum's the word!

Each workout should take you a maximum of 30 minutes. 4+3+2+1 adds to a perfect 10. Ten workouts each week require only 3 to 5 hours. Because they are short and sweet, combine workouts - say a bike followed by a run, or either followed by weights. Doubling up allows for the coveted rest days and (enter drink of choice here). Have one for us!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

CHICKPEA FUDGE

When looking for grain-less desserts, you'll find beans are a common ingredient, indeed they occupy the centerpiece in gluten-free chocolate puddings, brownies and other dainties. But all too often other ingredients like eggs and butter feature prominently in these dishes, making them calorie bombs that sit in your gut like leaden weights and sap you of all your energy. Not exactly summer fun. And even vegan varieties of bean desserts can go heavy on the added sugar, oils, and nuts. So let's make it real simple, shall we? Even the strictest diet could use a little variety, and a hearty chickpea pudding makes a nifty addition to a dinner, eaten as a side or afterwards as a dessert. Chickpeas? Yes chickpeas. AKA garbanzos, they are a savory source of many nutrients. While chickpeas are commonly eaten with a dash of salt, say in hummus, they pair nicely with sweets making them perfect for dessert. Here's the recipe:

1 large can (22 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and strained
6 tbsp. cocoa powder
4 pitted dates
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 dash of stevia

Add these 5 ingredients together in a food processor or vitamix and blend until smooth. Your sweet tooth will be satisfied as will your desire for hearty comfort food that sticks to the bones, as they say, with a fraction of the fat of traditional puddings, and lots and lots of protein and fiber. You'll find this pudding tastes a bit like fudge. Cut into squares or roll into balls, chill and have with sliced banana for a real treat. Whoever thought naughty could be so nice???