BY LINDA EGENES

Deborah MadisonFor more than 30 years Deborah Madison has championed home-cooking that is colorful, healthy and gourmet-good. Madison, who has won the James Beard award, the Julia Child award and other awards for her cookbooks, traveled to Fairfield in May to speak at the annual EcoFair at Maharishi University of Management. It turns out that Madison has roots in Iowa—her father was born in Burlington, and she visits here yearly as a board member of Seed Saver’s Exchange in Decorah. Her book Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets was newly released in paperback in May. Here she talks to Radish readers about the book, farmers’ markets, and local foods. 

Why is buying local so important?

Deborah Madison: It’s important for a lot of reasons. Right now we’re seeing the costs of transporting food in our pocket books. But more importantly, the experience of going to a farmers’ market to buy local food is more satisfying and connecting. You see your friends, you see the people who live in your community, you see the people who grow your food, who might also be your friends.  It’s an experience of connectedness, which I think that Americans in particular are lacking.  The experience of walking down the aisle of a big supermarket with a cart is one of the saddest chores that we do, whereas going to the farmers’ market is a pleasure.

And the other reasons?

Deborah Madison: Another reason is the quality of food is so much better.  When you taste broccoli that’s fresh and picked the day before and it’s in season, it’s nothing like we get in the store. It’s sweet, it’s delicious. You’re gaining more flavor and with more flavor you’re getting more nutrition.  And for foods that need to be picked closer to their ripeness to really taste good, like figs, apricots and tomatoes—that can happen at a farmers’ market but it can’t happen in a supermarket where shipping is involved. It’s just better food, it tastes so alive.

Finally, it’s important to buy local because it’s a way of keeping money in your community, which is especially important in the rural agricultural sectors. It’s a more healthy situation for us to pay our neighbors for services instead of always seeing our money go far away to some big corporation down the road.

What were your favorite Midwestern farmers’ markets you visited while you were researching Local Flavors?

Deborah Madison:   I actually have three that I love, each very different from each other.  One was St. Paul’s, which is crowded, vibrant and bursting with an interesting combination of modern farmers and traditional Midwestern growers. I also enjoyed the Madison, Wisconsin, market, where a local chef and I started at 6:00 a.m., which helped avoid the crowds.  I loved the feeling of the market, which is situated around the perimeter of the State Capitol, with lawns and trees. The quality of the food at both markets was amazing.

The third market,  in Decorah, Iowa, is the opposite of the other two. It’s tiny but I always find many interesting things to take home, foods that we don’t have in New Mexico, whether it’s ground cherries or jams made with local fruits. It’s friendly and relaxed, with interesting people. I remember a man who had ground his own corn and it was absolutely delicious to cook with, it had so much flavor and vibrancy.

What were the most unusual locally grown fruits and vegetables that you came across in your travels across the country?

Deborah  Madison: In the St. Paul market I must have taken 150 pictures of amazing eggplants in purple or gold or with green stripes, even bright orange ones, grown by Hmong  farmers. And there was the most amazing tropical smell—it stopped me in my tracks. It turned out to be a fragrant melon called passport.

How far should we be taking the local foods movement? We can’t grow oranges in Iowa, for instance.

Deborah Madison: It’s a challenging question to think about. It’s useful to think about what should be bought locally: your lettuce should be local, for instance, as wherever you are it can be grown nearby. When it’s something that can be grown where we live, I see no excuse for getting it from California. If you can get wonderful apples in Iowa, then you don’t have to buy apples from Washington and New York State.

What can Iowans do to support the local foods movement?

Deborah Madison:  Iowans can support the local foods movement by buying foods that they know are local. There are active Buy Fresh Buy Local chapters throughout Iowa.  Certainly if you have a farmers’ market you can support local growers there. Sometimes your local co-op will feature local food. And you can always ask for local food. We have to be active consumers. We have to buy it, speak up and ask for it.

Crostini with Roasted Eggplant and Pine Nut Puree

makes 1 cup puree

If you have a chance, make this puree using the pale green or white eggplants or the violet Rosa Bianca—all of which are delicate and sweet. You can make it all in a large mortar or a food processor.

  • 1 pound eggplant or a little more
  • olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • seas salt and freshly ground pepper
  • fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped opal basil, plus basil leaves for garnish
  • 12 slices toasted baguette or crackers

 

Preheat the broiler. Peel the eggplant and slice it into rounds about ½ inch thick. Brush both sides of each slice lightly with oil, set on a sheet pan, and broil about 6 inches from the heat until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn and brown on the other side. When done, stack the eggplant slices so that they’ll steam and finish cooking. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat until golden. (If using walnuts, toast them in the 350º oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until fragrant.)

Pound the garlic and pine nuts with ½ teaspoon salt until smooth. Coarsely chop the eggplant, then work it into a somewhat rough puree with the pestle or in a food processor. Add a little lemon juice ot sharpen the flavors, taste for salt, season with pepper, and stir in the herbs. Spread the puree on the toasted bread or crackers, garnish with a basil leaf, and pass around as an appetizer.

 

Redbor Kale with Red Beans, Cilantro, and Feta Cheese

Serves 4

A limited cupboard can sometimes prove an asset. I had dark red kidney beans from a California market, feta cheese, cilantro, and what seemed like an armload of Redbor kale. They worked well together, much to my surprise. In truth, any variety of kale is fine here, and so is chard and other greens, such as collards.

  • 1 ½ cups dried kidney beans, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon thyme leaves
  • sea salt
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 large bunch kale (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to finish
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

 

Drain the beans, cover them with plenty of cold water, and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that rises to the surface, then add the herbs, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and all but ½ cup of the onion. Lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 1 ½ hours.

Slice the kale leaves from their stems with a knife. Chop coarsely into 1- or 2-inch pieces and rinse well. Bring a few quarts water to a boil; add salt and the kale. Simmer until tender 5 to 7 minutes, then pour into a colander to drain.

Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add the remaining ½ cup onion and ½ cup of the cilantro. Cook over medium heat until the onion has softened, about 10 minutes, then add the kale and the beans with enough of the cooking liquid so that there’s plenty of sauce. Simmer together for at least 10 minutes, then serve garnished with crumbled feta cheese and the remaining cilantro.

 

Tomato Juice Sipped Through a Lovage Straw

Imagine having your own fresh tomato juice. Strained but not cooked, the juice has a consistency far lighter than what comes out of a can. It’s especially fine if you can sip it through the hollow stem of lovage, yet another good reason for having a lovage plant in the garden.

  • 1 pound ripe, juicy tomatoes, any color, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup ice
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • 2 lovage stalks, fennel stalks, or lemon basil sprigs for garnish

Puree the tomatoes and ice in a blender, then pour through a strainer. Add a pinch of salt, some pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Let stand for a few minutes for the air bubbles to dissipate, then pour 2 glasses and serve with the lovage straws or her sprigs.

Linda Egenes is a freelance writer who enjoys her local farmers’ market in Fairfield, Iowa.

All recipes are from Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets, Broadway Books

(I originally wrote this article for Radish Magazine, August 2008. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, is the New York Times bestselling author of Body-for-Life for WomenFight Fat after Forty, and Fit to Live. Dr. Peeke is a Pew Scholar in nutrition and metabolism, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, Fellow of the American College of Physicians, and a nationally recognized expert in nutrition, fitness, and public health. She is WebMD’s lifestyle expert, host of Discovery Health Channel’s Could You Survive series, and spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine’sExercise is Medicine global initiative.

Her latest book, The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction (Rodale), a New York Times bestseller launched on The Katie Couric show, explores the new brain science behind food addiction—offering a step-by-step detox and recovery plan to rewire the brain for healthy eating. Here she talks about the value of the Transcendental Meditation technique in strengthening the prefrontal cortex to overcome food addiction, a topic she also addresses in her book.

Enlightenment: What motivated you to write THE HUNGER FIX?

Dr. Peeke: For years I have listened to my patients referring to their eating problems using a drug vernacular. “I need another hit,” they would say, “Withdrawal is killing me,” or “I need to score some more.” In the back of my mind and that of my colleagues, I wondered if there was an addiction going on here.

Dr. Pam Peeke

“There’s not a single thing
we do that doesn’t involve reward… Reward drives behavior.”

At that time we had some compelling science that suggested a food and addiction link. But I needed more. I waited somewhat impatiently until there was a critical mass of data from neuroscientists and then wrote the book to translate this groundbreaking information for people in a way that can help them.

The first chunk of new science presented in the book—based on NIH research by Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and others—is a real game-changer: Food addiction is real. For that matter, at the Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, D.C., last May, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, stated in her keynote address, “Obesity can be caused by any combination of factors. For some it’s an addiction like smoking.” That was a first from such a high-ranking government official.

The Hunger Fix is a game-changer. No longer will people be foisted into a one-size-fits-all approach to weight management and wellbeing. Instead, we have now discovered a new category of folks, those with an issue with food and addiction, who need a more customized and individualized approach to their problem.

Enlightenment: How does something as natural and necessary as food become addicting?

Dr. Peeke: There’s not a single thing we do that doesn’t involve reward. Some rewards are obvious, like “Let’s go look at this beautiful sunset.” Another obvious reward is the bliss I feel when I do TM. Reward drives behavior. And if we didn’t have certain rewards, such as sex and food, we wouldn’t be here today. To survive, we have to procreate and we have to eat.

Food is meant to be palatable, rewarding, and pleasurable. We love the smoothness of fat, and consuming it helps us survive in times of famine. That primal reward and survival system has been working beautifully for thousands of years.

Then something happened: we changed up the food supply. Food companies wanted to provide products for a mass population, and in order to do that, they manufactured, refined, and processed foods—and in doing so got further and further away from whole foods. What then appeared on shelves were so many what I call “science fair projects,” foodlike products that contained chemicals and preservatives to keep food shelf-stable. Most importantly, these products were also loaded with added sugar, fat, and salt—the “hyperpalatables”—to increase the reward and pleasure derived from consuming them.

“Food is meant to be palatable, rewarding, and pleasurable. We love the smoothness of fat, and consuming it helps us survive in times of famine. That primal reward and survival system has been working beautifully for thousands of years.”

We all love treats—my grandmother made some killer oatmeal-raisin cookies that to this day I can still taste. It was a special occasion when she went to all the trouble to make them from scratch. I wasn’t drowning in these cookies 24/7. A treat is meant to be consumed occasionally and thoroughly savored and enjoyed. And they weren’t overly sweet or covered in glaze and goo. They were just plain old oatmeal cookies, but they were considered a treat.

In the reward center of the brain, the pleasure-reward neurotransmitter, dopamine, was secreted when I ate that first oatmeal cookie. And once you taste the waters, you never forget them. So when my grandmother would say she was coming over with oatmeal cookies, I didn’t even have to eat them. The cue alone—knowing that that oatmeal cookie was on its way over to me—was all I needed. My reward center lit up like Kyoto at night. Research now shows that it’s actually the cue, not the consumption, that produces the highest levels of dopamine. The very anticipation is what lights up our reward center.

Now what if I added more fat, more sugar, as in a Ho-Ho or a Hostess Cupcake? After I taste it, it is seen by my brain as hyperpalatable—that combination of super-sugary, super-starchy, or super-salty—way over my poor little grandmother’s oatmeal cookies. My reward center has been hijacked by these uber-palatable food products.

My brain can handle having a nice treat with controlled combinations of sugar and fat once a week. But what if these hyperpalatable treats are now available 24/7, and are so ubiquitous and cheap that they’re accessible to everyone at every economic level? In some people, repeated exposure to these foods results in a feeling of being out of control, often leading to overeating and sometimes binging. I refer everyone to the newly developed Yale Food Addiction Scale to examine their own relationship between food and addiction. I would wager that most people of all sizes have some issue due to the environment within which we live and work.

“The brain can’t handle the tsunami of dopamine. Over-stimulated and organically destabilized, it reacts by decreasing the total number of dopamine receptors.”

All right, so going back to my brain. What happens if I’m overexposed to these hyperpalatables?

The answer is that this overexposure results in organic changes in your brain—the exact changes that happen with any addiction. First of all, the brain can’t handle the tsunami of dopamine. Overstimulated and organically destabilized, the primal survival mechanism protecting you from this wave of dopamine results in a downregulation (decrease in the number of dopamine receptors) so that you cannot perceive the overstimulation. You’ll then feel some reward but not the over-the-top levels.

That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news. By reducing the total number of dopamine receptors, you experience much less pleasure and reward when you actually consume these hyperpalatables. This drives you to reach for more and more to quench that thirst for the “high” you normally got from that food. But it becomes the itch you just can’t scratch. You need more and cannot derive the level of reward you’re desperately seeking. Thus begins the classic vicious cycle of addiction to anything, whether it be food, drugs, or alcohol.

Enlightenment: What is the role of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in addiction?

Dr. Peeke: The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the chief executive officer (CEO) of the brain—the part of the brain that reins in addiction’s three I’s: impatience, irritability, and impulsivity. NIH’s Dr. Volkow also refers to the PFC as the “brain’s brake” because it helps us say “no” when we need to and maintains vigilance to keep us on track with healthy lifestyle choices. It helps us exert will power, as well as “won’t” power, as we strive to say “yes” or “no” to lifestyle choices.

In people with addictions, the PFC is damaged and impaired. This has been noted in fMRI and PET scan studies in which we can clearly see the deactivation of the PFC and orbitofrontal areas of the brain when someone is in a full-out active addictive state. The revolutionary studies performed by neuroscientists like Gene-Jack Wang at the Brookhaven National Laboratory have laid down the foundation for understanding how any addiction, including that to food, affects the PFC.

So when the CEO of the brain is impaired by addiction, moderation is a moot point. You cannot ask someone to implement moderation when they are in an active addictive state. With an impaired PFC, the correct decisions cannot be made. It’s important to note here that knowing you may have an issue with food and addiction is not an excuse not to do anything. On the contrary, enlightened with this new knowledge, you must take action to get off the bingeable hyperpalatables that lead to loss of control—and to learn how to live lifelong recovery without them.

If your reward center has been hijacked, the solution is to reclaim your brain by using your brain, specifically, the PFC. It’s imperative that through the detox and recovery program, you strengthen and actually grow a smarter brain to help guide you and maintain that all-important daily vigilance.

This is, as with all addictions, a challenge. Food addiction is more challenging than other addictions because we live in a virtual mine field of cues to eat the hyperpalatables. This is why it’s so important to power up your PFC.

Enlightenment: How do you do that?

Dr. Peeke: The main thing we do to augment PFC function is meditation. When I read about the TM technique in my friend Norman Rosenthal’s book, Transcendence, I was amazed by the research.

Dr. Pam Peeke

“In my study, the TM group found it much easier to say ‘no’ when confronted with cues. Indeed, what they found was that the bliss,
the calm, the peace becamethe reward. It became a healthy fix.”

Because no one had looked at food addiction before, I did a couple of pilot projects, using people with food addictions as subjects. I found that TM practice had a profound influence on the ability to maintain vigilance and calm. It also helped people do the one thing that is so difficult in addiction—to adapt to life’s stresses without resorting to self-destruction. People with addictive tendencies have trouble adapting to life’s stresses without defaulting to their addiction.

TM helps them stay on track by augmenting the PFC. People have to face food cues and temptation every single day, and with TM, we’re giving them a powerful mental tool. Unless you live a Thoreau-like existence, cues abound, and you have to have the most powerful brain possible to get through. Neuroscientists have noted activation of the PFC during TM practice and a dampening of the fight-and-flight response in the brain. This is solid science demonstrating the powerful effect of TM on PFC function.

You cannot do this without meditation. I’ve made that extremely clear in my book. In my study, the TM group found it much easier to say “no” when confronted with cues. Indeed, what they found was that the bliss, the calm, the peace becamethe reward. They were doing a switch-off from false fixes (the hyperpalatables) to healthy fixes.

They also came to realize that meditation had to become an integral piece of their life—not a little extra attraction when they thought it was a good idea. And when they did it regularly, when their PFC became more optimized, their ability to rein in impulsivity and to remain focused was greatly enhanced. It just made it easier for them all the way around.

Enlightenment: In your book you talk about the three pillars of the hunger fix: mind, mouth, and muscle. What about the other two—mouth and muscle?

Dr. Peeke: The book teaches you how to do direct battle with the hyperpalatables. You have to go through a little withdrawal, but we make it so easy to kill the carb cravings by eating protein-fiber combinations, by eating every three to four hours, and by using recipes that make whole foods taste as good as the hyperpalatables. In a way our nutritional program, which highlights dopamine-building foods, acts a bit like methadone—helping people gently detox off their false fixes and transition to the healthy fixes.

As for the “muscle” part, we present extraordinary data that when you are physically active—forget the Olympics here, I’m talking about assuming the vertical and walking every day—you actually induce neurogenesis (growing more brain cells and new pathways) while dampening down and sometimes shutting off high-risk genes. Regular activity, for example, deactivates the most powerful gene for obesity, the FTO gene, by 40 percent. So you’re not condemned to a life of obesity and the metabolic syndrome. You’re growing a bigger, smarter, more focused brain while improving body health and wellbeing.

That’s also why one of my book’s mottos is Big Brain, Small Waist. The sharper your PFC, the smarter your decision making.

Enlightenment: Is “dampening the FTO gene” epigenetics?

Dr. Peeke: Yes. My entire plan in The Hunger Fix is based upon epigenetics. To put it simply, epigenetics is a brand-new scientific field that’s probably going to be the biggest game-changer of the century. It game-changes because we thought DNA was our destiny—but we were dead wrong. Now we know that it doesn’t matter what DNA you were born with—you can dramatically alter it with your lifestyle choices. Whether you were born with a genetic tendency toward any addiction, or picked it up from your environment, you can alter your own destiny through healthy lifestyle choices. DNA is no longer destiny. Every lifestyle choice you make is. That’s the essence of epigenetics.

“Whether you were born with a genetic tendency toward any addiction, or picked it up from your environment, you can alter your own destiny through healthy lifestyle choices.”

Scientists have now identified how your genes can “talk” (that’s called genetic expression) to the rest of the body differently. To be able to give out directions to build a bigger brain. To be able to induce neurogenesis, which is the creation of more brain cells. To be able to create more neuropathways and circuitry. To be able to supervene over the old, addictive neurocircuitry.

By changing lifestyle habits—mind, mouth, and muscle—you’re able to imprint on your epigenome, which is then expressed to the rest of your body and results in these extraordinary changes, which are then passed to your children. That’s how powerful this is. Your children inherit your lifestyle.

I’m not saying you can wipe out the fact that you are genetically predisposed to heart disease, but what you can do is dampen that gene. It’s never gone, but following this plan will help you live longer.

Enlightenment: As a physician and leader in the field of healthy living, would you recommend the TM technique to everyone, even those without food disorders?

Dr. Peeke: Absolutely—you want to build a strong foundation for the most powerful brain possible. The smarter you are, the more vigilant you are, the better your decisions, and the better your body composition, and the more optimal your health and wellbeing.

I don’t care what your weight is, you’re going to be healthier and make better choices for yourself. I would recommend TM to anyone of any age so they can gift themselves with that transcendence, with that cerebral integration, with more optimal brain functioning. And with the ability to be rewarded with the bliss, the calm, the expansion of the mind that you experience when you do TM. That’s the healthiest fix of all because that will help direct you to the other healthy fixes.

Dr. Pam Peeke and The Hunger FixI just interviewed Dr. Pam Peeke about her new book, The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction, and I have to say it was one of my favorite interviews of all time. Known as the “doc who walks her talk,” she is also a marathon runner, NIH researcher, host of Discover Health TV’s Could You Survive and WebMD’s lifestyle expert, and NY Times best-selling author. She’s super-energized and super-fun. What writer wouldn’t love an interview that gets interrupted by a call from Dr. Regina Benjamin, our nation’s surgeon general, which Dr. Peeke answers with an animated, “Hi, Girlfriend!”

Dr. Peeke is all about science and The Hunger Fix has three “new chunks” of science, including the revelation that food addiction is real. If you’ve ever wondered why diets don’t work, read this book. It explains how the reward centers of the brain react to sugar in the same way as cocaine (and in fact, recent research shows that sugar is MORE addicting than cocaine, Dr. Peeke says) and cause us to eat more and more and more.

 

Dr. Pam PeekeThe solution she serves up in The Hunger Fix is to reward your brain and body with “healthy fixes,” activities like exercising and eating tasty but whole food that do battle with the “hyper-palatable” junk foods that are so addicting and so destructive to our brains and bodies. She goes deeply into the research on the Transcendental Meditation technique, citing augmented growth of the prefrontal cortex with regular practice. The real solution to addiction, she says, is to grow the strongest prefrontal cortex possible, so you can make the right choices and just say “no” to the constant cues that bombard us every day and make us want to eat, eat, eat. And, as she points out, the bliss and calm of meditation becomes the reward.

One of my favorite new chunks of science that she talks about is DNA. “We used to think that DNA was our destiny, but we were dead wrong,” she says. Now science tells us that walking every day can dampen the FTO gene (known as the “fat” gene) by 40%. Lifestyle changes can change our gene expression and that change can be passed on to our children. Wow. Now that’s a good reason to live a healthy life if I ever heard one.

She also explains why, in scientific terms, “eat less, move more” is not enough to reverse food addiction. And she offers specific ways to rescue a hijacked brain, overcome food addiction and lose weight the healthy way and keep it off.

Whether you’re looking for great science, great recipes or effective solutions to runaway eating habits, you’ll find what you’re looking for in The Hunger Fix. The book, to quote Dr. Peeke, is a game-changer.

Buy the Hunger Fix

Find out if you have a food addiction by taking this quiz

Click to hear Dr. Peeke talking about her TM practice

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