Sunday, March 27, 2011

How Ginger Got Her Groove Back!

Queen Ginger has been an on-again, off-again yogini for quite some time, but lately, it's been more off.  Her blood pressure and back problems have made some of the more aggressive modern yoga practices more painful for her than they are worth, and she often found herself frustrated and disillusioned.

Today, however, she discovered "yin yoga", and could not be happier!  It's the perfect path for this time in her life, and she's excited to be able to share it with you!  Since many  with high blood pressure are encouraged to get more exercise, yin yoga is perfect for us all!

As you probably know, "yin" and "yang" are the opposing energies of "chi".  While a discussion of the properties of yin and yang are far beyond the purpose of this blog, for our purposes, "yin" is the more passive, gentle energy, and "yang" is a more active, strong energy. 

Most of the modern "commercialized" forms of yoga you hear so much about these days (Bikram, Barkan, ashtanga, etc.) are all very "yang" forms of yoga, designed to strengthen muscles and challenge respiration.  Like all exercise, these active forms of yoga cause a temporary rise in blood pressure, and, especially when performed in a super-heated room, can cause some anxiety and difficulty for those with hypertension.

The theory behind yin yoga makes perfect sense for those with hypertension, as well as for anyone with physical limitations that make other forms of exercise difficult.  Yin yoga focuses on connective tissue, rather than muscles, so poses are taken slowly, held longer, and released gently.  In a well-instructed class, the attention is focused  on finding a position that can be held comfortably for the length of the asana, as opposed to correcting students in order to achieve a "perfect" form. Taught correctly, the class is challenging, rejuvenating, and remarkably relaxing!

Here in Houston, Queen Ginger was introduce to yin yoga by Darla Magee, a remarkable teacher with experience teaching many forms of yoga.  I've practiced with Darla for years, and have found her to be a most attentive instructor and truly a caring soul.  By introducing yin yoga to her beautiful private studio here in the Heights, Darla will bring yoga, exercise, and enlightenment to a whole new realm of individuals who have had trouble finding a sustainable exercise program.  

But please don't think this is some "Golden Girls" type geriatric class, with canes and walkers parked at the door! Yin yoga is  perfect for preventing injury for those who perform other more strenuous forms of exercise or sports, and people of all ages, shapes, and physical condition will benefit from the stretch to the ligaments, the flow of the chi, and the cleansing of the mind and soul as they reach gently into the deep, long postures. Because the postures are long and stable, the practice is incredibly relaxing, and after the class, it almost feels as though you've had a massage from the inside out! Since Darla's yin classes are available on Sunday afternoon, they are the perfect way to clear your mind and transition from the weekend and prepare for the week ahead!

If you're in the Houston area, you owe it to yourself to give yin yoga a try!  If you're reading from afar,  click here to see if there's a yin yoga class near you!

What Does the Label Say?

A lot, as the Low Salt Queen has recently learned!  Aside from the obvious listing of the various nutritional values, the wording and structure of a product's label is governed in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.  The FDA has strict guidelines for the way products may be labeled, and sometimes what the label doesn't say can be as compelling as what it does say! 

Here are the FDA Regulations for general product claims, and specific claims for sodium. You can click it to "embiggen":

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Starting with the Basics!

The Low Salt Queen's first trip to the grocery store yielded a plethora of goodies to stock the larder!  As a young princess, I remember the Queen Mum's frustration in the '70's and 80's as she try tried to find product's without added salt to feed her aging King. Back then, they were few, and hard to come by, and often of questionable quality from unusual brands.

Today, most grocery stores offer at least a basic selection of products suitable for a low salt diet.  Most cities now have a Whole Foods Market, and although we've all heard the legendary "Whole Paycheck" nickname, this store, and others like it, are a godsend for anyone trying to reduce their sodium intake! An internet search reveals an abundance of sites offering low-salt and no salt products, and The Low Salt Queen intends to explore many of those in the coming weeks and share her findings with you! 

On this first mission as The Low Salt Queen, I was looking mostly for basic pantry items to replace the many hidden sodium sources that lurk there. Our goal, of course, is to find the foods with the most nutritional benefit with the least amount of sodium. Knowing the health history of the Royal Family, as well as her own blood chemistry stats, the Low Salt Queen's ultimate goal is to achieve a sodium intake of around 1,500 mg per day. She is willing to accept baby steps on her way there!

Reading nutritional labels proved, as she suspected, to be an exercise in frustration! There are so many variables in the way foods are labeled, nutrients are measured, and servings are estimated!!  There were a few things that she had to learn along the way:

SODIUM FREE means there are fewer than 5mg of sodium per serving.  These foods are obviously great to find.  Most of them occur in the "fresh food" aisles that form the perimeter of most grocery stores.

VERY LOW SODIUM mean 35mg of sodium or less.  This is the label one would seek for condiments, spices, flavorings, mixes, etc.

LOW SODIUM means no more than 140mg per serving.  These labels are about the best one tends to find on chicken broth, beef broth, etc. 

LIGHT SODIUM means at least a 50% reduction in sodium when compared to a similar "standard" product.

REDUCED SODIUM means a 25% reduction in sodium when compared to a similar "standard" product.

NO SALT ADDED means that no salt was used in the processing of the food. If the food contains more than 5mg of sodium per serving, the label must state "not a sodium-free product". No Salt Added is the label to look for on canned goods.

The Low Salt Queen was extremely pleased to find no salt added varieties of the most important canned pantry staples at Whole Foods Market.  Using NSA Black Beans, NSA Corn, and NSA Diced Tomatoes, as well as a can of standard Rotel Tomatoes, a lime, and some spices, the Low Salt Queen was able to create a Black Bean and Corn Salsa that tasted great and has only  81mg of sodium per 1/4 cup serving, making it a LOW SODIUM food! 

In a colander, drain

1 can NSA Corn
1 can NSA Black Beans
1 can NSA Diced Tomatoes

In a glass bowl, combine the 1st 3 ingredients with 1 can Rotel Tomatoes with Chilies and the juice of 1 large lime or 2 small limes. 

Stir in:
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 Tbs chopped garlic
1 tspn cumin
1 tspn cayenne pepper
1 tspn Mrs. Dash seasoning

For Salsa Fresca, refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.  Serve as a dip with NSA tortilla chips, use as a topping for salads or tacos, or use as a filling for a delicious omelet!

For Canned Salsa, simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While salsa simmers, sanitize 6 1/2 pint Mason jars in boiling water, along with 6 lids and 6 rings.  To preserve, drain jars and fill within 1/4 inch of rim. Wipe rim with a clean paper towel, apply hot lid, and secure with ring.  Boil prepared jars in boiling water bath for 15 minutes, ensuring jars are covered by at least 2 inches of boiling water.  After 15 minutes, remove from water bath and cool until lids "pop", indicating a sanitary seal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's a NEW DAY for Queen Ginger!

Today begins a NEW JOURNEY for Queen Ginger Grant... a journey of respect for her FABULOUS body, respect for the miracles of physiology, and respect for the limitations that progressing age places on our mortal systems!

"Miss" Ginger weighs in at a whopping 235 lbs, with a blood pressure reading of 140/80... this is with 3 blood pressure medications in her daily pile of pills.

Her doctor has told her if she does not reduce her BP to 120/80 "yesterday" she will endure irreversable damage to her arteries that will result in a devastating stroke.

Queen Ginger is not scared to die from a stroke.  If the good Lord called for her tomorrow, she would go willingly into the fold to live her hereafter, knowing that she has fulfilled her purpose on Earth with dignity and joy! She's not scared to die of a stroke-  it's the thought of surviving one that has prompted her to begin this journey, and this blog to work with others to explore the world of eating without salt!  If Queen Ginger were incapacited by stroke, there's no one to care for her. She would become a ward fo the state. God knows what attrocities she would be forced to endure in the hands of the State of Texas and its world reknowned welfare system!!

But Queen Ginger won't have to suffer all of those indignities, because we are going to work through this together! As Queen Ginger denounces her "Top Chef" foodie lifestyle,  we will explore low salt, low sodium options for healthier, better eating on a sustainable basis!

By sharing links, recipes, resources, and inspiration,  Queen Ginger hopes to make her life better... but why stop there?  By sharing what she learns, and through networking and interaction, she hopes to make life better for many others, as well?

Who's with her?