Healthy Cooking for Fall, by Val Wilson

When cooking tasty fall dishes it is important to use rich, aromatic seasoning to satisfy our taste buds. We have been enjoying the light fare of summertime foods and now it is time to add more seasonings and richness to our food. In the fall we turn our ovens back on and enjoy casseroles and start to crave warming soups.

Two important seasonings we can enjoy in the fall are toasted sesame oil and tamari. Toasted sesame oil has a nutty, earthy flavor that works very well when sautéing. A unique natural by-product of sesame seeds, sesamol, protects sesame oil from oxidation. This means the oil is less subject to rancidity and loss of flavor over a period of time. Toasted sesame oil is also high in linoleic acid, one of the three essential fatty acids our body cannot produce. Tamari is a wonderful, salty condiment used to flavor all kinds of dishes. It is simply the salty liquid that comes from the fermenting of soybeans. Good quality tamari contains enzymes and amino acids that aid in digestion. Tamari also has the unique ability to neutralize the extremes of being over acidic or over alkaline. The lactic and phosphoric acids in tamari absorb excess of being over alkaline. And the saline nature of tamari acts upon acid foods to neutralize them. When shopping for tamari it should be wheat free and naturally fermented.

Brown Rice, Tempeh and Squash Casserole

3/4 cup brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
2 cups water
1 package tempeh
1 onion (diced)
4 cups butternut squash (cut in cubes)
3 cups chopped portabello mushrooms
5 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup tahini
2 T. tamari

Pot boil the two rices in the 2 cups water for one hour. Steam squash until fork tender. Sauté the onions in toasted sesame oil and a dash of tamari until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for just one more minute. When done, put in a large bowl. Using the same pan sauté the mushrooms, when done add to the bowl. Still using the same pan, brown the tempeh in toasted sesame oil and tamari, and add to the bowl. Whisk together the sauce ingredients and add along with the rice and steamed squash to the bowl. Add spices and mix all together. Pour into an oiled casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncovered.

French Onion and Black Bean Soup

2 onions (thin half moons)
toasted sesame oil
8 cups water
3 (15 oz.) cans of black beans (drained)
6 T. tamari
1 tsp. basil

Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website; to purchase her new cookbook, Perceptions In Healthy Cooking Revised Edition, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, Facebook, Macro Val Food. 

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2007 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Why I Don’t Use Agave, by Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk

The agave craze has caught on in the world of natural cooking and healthy eating.  Agave is a honey colored liquid that tastes sweeter than sugar, is gluten free, vegan and low on the glycemic index.  Because of its glycemic index rating, it is often marketed as “diabetic friendly”.  What you might not know about this sweetener is agave nectar is basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as health food.  The high level of synthesized fructose puts people at risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.  Sally Fallon, nutrition expert and author of “Agave Nectar: Worse Than We Thought“, found that obese individuals who drink fructose-sweetened drinks with meals have triglyceride levels 200 times higher than equally obese individuals who drink glucose-sweetened drinks.  

Agave is not natural

Agave was developed in the 1990’s primarily in Mexico.  There actually is no such thing as agave nectar.  The sweetener is made from the starchy root of the yucca plant.  In order to produce agave nectar, the leaves are cut off the plant once it is between 7-14 years old and juice is expressed from the core.  The juice is then filtered, heated (to hydrolyze the polysaccharides into simple sugars), then converted in to liquid nectar using caustic acids, clarifiers, and other chemicals.  The end result is syrup that’s 70%-92% pure fructose- an even higher amount than high fructose corn syrup, which contains 55% fructose.

The Burden of Fructose

Glucose is metabolized by every cell in the body for energy production.  Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver, putting a significant burden on an already taxed organ of detoxification.  Animal studies have shown that livers of animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty cirrhosis of the liver.  The same studies also show that consumption causes insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and hypertension, all of which are leading causes for the chronic health problems Americans face – obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

If diabetes and coronary artery disease don’t scare you, fructose has also been associated with cancer.  Many researchers believe that it is sugar in the modern diet that provokes cancer growth.  Studies have shown that having insulin resistance actually promotes tumor growth.

What to use?

Honey and grade B maple syrup, used in moderation, appear to be the sweeteners our bodies are best able to deal with and also contain additional nutrients.  Both have more complex flavors than cane sugar so people tend to use less. This is really the only difference between the sweeteners because your body processes all forms of glucose in the same way.  If you’re on the GAPS or SCD diet, honey and dates are best because they are simple sugars.  And of course, eat whole fruit in moderation.

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk is a licensed Naturopathic Physician (ND) specializing in integrative primary care medicine.  She is a current faculty member at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and sees patients privately at Apis Integrative Health in Marquette, MI.  

This article was reprinted with permission from the Winter 2013 – 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Anti-inflammatory Diet, by Jessica Nagelkirk

Today’s research shows a clear link between our health and the food we eat.  Poor nutrition choices and hidden food allergies over-stimulate the immune system causing an inflammatory response.  At first the inflammation causes changes in how the body functions creating symptoms like joint pain or mood disturbances.  Over time, chronic inflammation can cause physical changes in the body, leading to irreversible joint damage, heart disease, or even cancer.

Try to eat only the following foods for 21 days and see how you feel:

Steamed vegetables:

  • The primary reason for steaming vegetables is to improve utilization and/or availability of nutrients.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables that you tolerate, excluding members from the nightshade family that are know to be inflammatory like tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
  • Avoid use of aluminum cookware or a microwave.

Grains & Legumes:

  • Allowed grains are millet, basmati or brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, oatmeal, barley, buckwheat, rye, and teff.
  • Allowed legumes are split peas, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, soy beans, mung beans, garbanzo beans, and adzuki beans.
  • Many people feel best when they eliminate grains and legumes completely.  Check out the book Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo for awesome grain-free recipes.


  • Eat fish, preferably deep-sea fish such as salmon, halibut, cod, sardines, tuna, and mackerel.
  • The fish should be poached, steamed, or broiled.


  • Eat only white meat from free-range or organically grown chicken.  Do not eat the skin.
  • The chicken should be baked, broiled, or steamed.


  • Eat 1-2 servings of fruit like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or apples


  • Very small amounts of maple syrup or honey may be used.
  • Absolutely no sugar, NutraSweet, or any other sweetener is allowed.

Dr. Jessica Nagelkirk is a licensed Naturopathic Physician (ND) specializing in integrative primary care medicine.  She is a current faculty member at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and sees patients privately at Apis Integrative Health in Marquette, MI.  

This article was reprinted with permission from the Fall 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.