Saturday, December 31, 2011

21 Day Fast: Prep Day 2

This morning I'm starting off with orange juice blended with jackfruit and berries.  I took my supplements as well.  I've decided that I'm not going to take my supplements during my fast with the exception of phytoplankton.  I really want to give my body a chance to cleanse and detox, but adding a few drops of concentrated phytoplankton will ensure that I'm getting minerals, vitamins and other phytonutrients.

As today is my last day to eat solid food, I plan on eating salad only.  The rest of my food intake will be either juice or blended food.  When preparing for a juice fast or any kind of fast, it is important to reduce the amount of food you eat in the days preceding the fast.  Light meals, preferably raw are best.

For my fast, I plan on drinking citrus juice (more emphasis on grapefruits because they have less sugar) in the morning.  Throughout the day, I can have as much green juice as I want.  Water will also be an important part of the fast, so I just bought 20 gallons of pure water.  I will also include herbal teas that help with digestion and detoxification.  Ginger and mint are great examples of supportive teas during a fast.  I'll probably also do one or two ounces of wheatgrass juice every day.

Because I'll be getting all the nutrition I need from the juice and phytoplankton, I plan on continuing my exercise regimen.  I usually have a lot of energy by the third or fourth day of the fast, so I may be able to move my workouts to the next level.  This will help keep my metabolism up and shed more weight.  Every couple of days, I will weigh myself to see how much fat I've lost.

So, tomorrow is Day 1.  Wish me luck!  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Friday, December 30, 2011

21 Day Fast: Prep Day 1

So, today I drank a lot of liquid.  In the morning, I had my typical cacao drink, which is made from a blend of herbal teas steeped in water.  I blend the tea with cacao powder, raw vegan protein powder, maca, and stevia.  This was a good sustainable meal for several hours.  After a couple of hours, I drank water with Camu Camu powder and MSM to give my immune system a real boost.  With so many people getting colds and flus right now, I'm taking a lot of antioxidants.

In the afternoon, I squeezed some oranges.  I added some frozen berries to the orange juice and blended it all in the Vitamix.  This is one of my favorite blended drinks, and again there are a lot of antioxidants available in this drink.

By dinnertime I was very hungry and I made a huge salad.  On a bed of romaine lettuce, I added avocado, tomato, carrots, cucumber, red bell pepper, and olives.  I poured a light apple cider vinegar dressing over it and enjoyed it thoroughly.

A couple of hours after my salad, I went to the gym and got some cardiovascular exercise for about 30 minutes.  After a nice sweat in the sauna and a hot shower, I'm ready for bed.  I'm feeling good about doing a juice fast.  I should be able to break into it easily.  See you tomorrow.

Mystic Merman

Thursday, December 29, 2011

21 Day Fast: Introduction

Well, after not blogging much over the last couple of weeks (lots of time with family and friends), I'm back into my regular routine again.  Working out at the gym today felt amazing.  I had a lot of energy and went full force for an hour and a half.  It's wonderful, because it feels like I'm developing habits that are going to be with me for life.

As part of my New Year plan, I've decided to participate in a 21 day juice fast with possibly thousands of people around the world.  My good friends at Kale University ( are also going to be fasting.  It will be great to have their encouragement and inspiration during the juice fast.

Follow me over the next 24 days as I document everything about my juice fast.  I'll be taking a break from the normal blog schedule to focus totally on the juice fast.  I hope you learn something and maybe become inspired to start your own cleansing routine.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Jump Your Way to Better Health

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the lymphatic system and the importance of keeping it clean and moving. One of the things I mentioned was jumping on a trampoline.  Small trampolines (or rebounders) are reasonably priced, easy to store and provide exercise that is safe and fairly easy. While you can certainly raise your heart rate on these little devices and give yourself a great cardiovascular workout, there are numerous benefits to rebounding, even if you only do it for a few minutes several times a day.

Research shows that your body is in a state of weightlessness (zero gravity) right at the top of the bounce.  Then when you hit the trampoline, the gravitational pull is up to three times that of gravity.  The zero gravity effect appears to strengthen the immune system and slow aging.  The gravitational pull has all the benefits of jogging and other high impact sports without the risks of damaging the joints and ligaments.  Some proponents and researchers even claim that it's the only form of exercise that affects every cell in the body.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, rebounding gets the lymph moving which can accelerate detoxification in the organs and cells.  Every bodily fluid moves when jumping, so the immune system, the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, and the digestive tract are all stimulated and boosted.  It also can reduce body fat, strengthen the heart and help fight against diseases like diabetes.

Ironically, one of the best exercises you can do is also one of the easiest.  Rebounding is something that anyone can do, even children and the elderly.  For people who have severe pain, especially in the joints, light jumping can help strengthen the muscles over time without heavy impact.  Many people enjoy watching a movie or listening to music while they rebound.

If you have had challenges with finding an exercise that is easy yet effective, I highly recommend looking into getting a rebounder.  They can really enhance your health.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Interval Training

Several months ago, I was exposed to a type of interval training in an article from Dr. Mercola.  In it, he explained a method to increase metabolism, burn fat and maximize your workout.  I began to incorporate this into my workouts over the last few months and have had great success with it.  As with any new exercise program, check with your health care provider if you have any serious health challenges.  And, as always, be wise about your decisions.

Basically, interval training is about adding bursts or high intensity periods to your workout.  For most trainers, this mimics sports, which are never one steady, continuous movement.  From a natural view, this also mirrors what animals in the wild do.  Although many species of animals walk, crawl or fly for long distances when they need to migrate, their normal daily life consists of slow, then fast movements.  This variety creates powerful muscles and strong cardiovascular systems.  Wild animals don't get beer bellies.

With this type of training, you can also cut your workout time down, so there's less excuses.  Twenty minutes of cardiovascular with five thirty second bursts at maximum intensity burns more calories than 40 minutes of low intensity exercise.  Also, by engaging your muscles during the high intensity periods, more energy is required for repair after your workout, which means you will continue to burn fat hours after exercising.

When choosing to incorporate this type of exercise in your regimen, start off slowly.  For example, if you use a treadmill, walk or jog at your normal speed for three minutes to warm up.  Then, at three minute intervals, increase your speed for thirty seconds to about 80%.  If you feel exhausted or lightheaded, slow down.  Do not overdo it.  Once you build up strength and stamina, you can increase the intensity to 90 or 100%.  Give yourself time to move in that direction.

If you want to lose weight or increase the results your getting from your workout, it may be worth it to give interval training a try.  There are several methods available online, so look into them and try different ways.  Once you find one you like, do it for a few weeks then try another one.  Don't get into a pattern.  The body likes variety.  Be healthy.

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: The Dressing Makes the Salad

One of the staples of a raw, vegan diet is the salad.  This versatile dish never gets old and it's a healthy way to add fresh, seasonal vegetables, roots, greens, sprouts, seeds, and even fruit to your diet.  Almost every raw fooder I know eats salad nearly every day.  With year-round access to a variety of food, you can make your salad different every day. For example, right now, I am adding cranberries, persimmons and pomegranates to my salads because they are in season.

But what really makes or breaks a salad is the dressing (at least for me).  Your dressing can also change from day to day.  There are some basics to making a good, raw salad dressing.  Most dressings have oil, salt and vinegar.  This is easy to imitate with raw food.  Make sure to use unprocessed sea salt, virgin and cold-pressed oils and only apple cider vinegar.  I also like to use nut butters, lemon and herbs.  In place of salt, I sometimes also use Nama Shoyu (a non-pasteurized, fermented soy sauce).  Here is one of my favorite salad recipes:

Mystic Merman's Creamy Garlic Dressing

1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp Nama Shoyu
1 tbsp tahini (you can also used almond butter or other nut butters)
1 garlic clove
Dash of sea salt
Dash of oregano (or preferred spice)

Blend all ingredients (a small blender is best) together until smooth and creamy.  Mix with any salad recipe.  Enjoy.

When you get good at it, you can really start to create some great dressings.  Over the years, I've created some masterpieces and some duds.  Be brave and experiment.  You never know what you will come up with.  Be healthy.

Mystic Merman

Monday, December 12, 2011

Manic Monday: Yoga for Stress Relief

One of the main themes for Manic Monday has always been stress management.  The reason I talk about stress and its management so much is because it truly has the most profound effect on our mental and physical health. There will always be situations that are stressful, but that doesn't mean that we have to react to them and then carry that stress around with us all day long.  Holding onto stress keeps us from focusing on the beauty of life and the precious moments that make life great.

One way to address the stress in your life and learn how to release it is through yoga.  This ancient practice is far more than just an exercise.  The Indians consider it part of a holistic practice that includes physical postures (asanas), ethical disciplines, mental imagery, breathing techniques and much more.  What you see in books and magazines (the asanas) are only just one part of a complete practice of self development.

For stress, any of the yogic practices can be beneficial.  I discussed some breathing techniques used in yoga in a previous post.  Conscious breathing can help the body and mind relax, offering relief from a stressful life.  The asanas, which are like meditative movements, have also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.  In fact, there are studies which show that yoga actually lowers cortisol levels in the body.  The effort involved in learning and practicing yoga is fully worth it.

If you don't have the time or money to take yoga classes at a studio with a qualified teacher, you can pick up a book or video that teaches some basic techniques and simple asanas and breathing exercises.  Although it is recommended to find a qualified teacher, you can learn some basic things on your own.  Spending just 15 to 20 minutes a day can have a huge impact on your levels of stress and ability to relax.  Think about doing yoga three times a week and meditating or breathing on the other days.  Your mind and body will thank you.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Superfood Sunday: Marine Phytoplankton

Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to have access to and try dozens of different superfoods.  Many of these have made such a difference in my health that I incorporated them into my daily routine.  However, one superfood really stands out among all of them.  The first time I tried Sunfood's Marine Phytoplankton, I knew this was something special.  Almost immediately, I noticed a shift in my energy levels, mental clarity, and alkalinity.  After a couple of years of use, I can sincerely say that phytoplankton is one of the best superfoods I've ever used for overall health.

So, what makes phytoplankton so special?  Well, phytoplankton is literally the foundation of the food chain in the ocean.  Everything in the ocean depends upon its existence.  Naturally, you can expect that a food like this would be packed with nutrition.  And of course, it is.  Like many other types of algae, the blue-green varieties of phytoplankton contain high amounts of chlorophyll.  Additionally, there are 90 or more ionic minerals, powerful antioxidants (specifically the blue pigment), essential fatty acids (EPA and DHA), and numerous vitamins and other phytonutrients.  In fact, you could consider phytoplankton one of Nature's perfect foods.  If you had to pick 5 or 6 foods to live on for a long period of time, choosing phytoplankton as one of them would be very wise.

With all of this concentrated nutrition, it's no surprise that recent studies support a host of benefits to your health.  The EFAs contribute to brain and nervous system health.  High quality antioxidants enhance the immune system and fight free radical damage.  The blue pigment contains anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant support.  Also, phytoplankton has high levels of chlorophyll which is known to help with digestion, detoxification, assimilating minerals, forming red blood cells and fighting infection.  It's truly a powerhouse of nutrition and deserves to be called a superfood.

Of course, I highly recommend using Marine Phytoplankton from Sunfood. This plankton is grown in large vats in the sun within an environment that mimics its natural environment.  This ensures maximum nutritional quality without the dangers of ocean pollution.  It's the purest and most concentrated form of phytoplankton available.  It's also very easy to take.  I usually pour one dropper-full into a small glass of water first thing in the morning.

If you are not already taking this amazing whole-food supplement, I highly recommend trying it for a month and observing any differences in your health, energy and well-being.  Be healthy.

Mystic Merman

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Keeping the Lymphatic System Clean

Your lymphatic system is closely related to your circulatory system.  Lymph, a clear fluid containing white blood cells, comprises about 50% more of your bodily fluids than blood.  This important fluid and system help with transporting nutrients to the cells, keep your immunity strong and maintain proper fluid levels in the body.  The lymph nodes and connecting vessels act like drains to remove excess fluid from organs and tissue.  Without it, you would blow up like a balloon with edema.  

Unlike blood, the lymphatic system doesn't have an organ pumping it through the body.  In fact, lymph moves very slowly compared to blood.  Movement relies on breathing and muscular/skeletal movement.  Consequently, a sedentary life means a poorly functioning lymphatic system.  This can lead to many problems, including skin issues, weak immunity, and eventually chronic diseases like cancer.  

So, there are several ways to keep your lymphatic system clean.  First, make sure your diet is high in fresh, organic, raw plant-based foods.  Natural foods, especially greens and high-water-content foods, clean the lymph on their own.  A processed foods diet creates more gunk for the lymph and body to deal with.  Add a sedentary life on top of that and you have a recipe for disaster.

Getting up and moving is one of the best things you can do for your lymphatic system.  Weight-bearing exercise like walking, running or hiking is best.  If you have a trampoline, the bouncing movement can really wake up the lymphatic system.  Some studies have shown that lymph movement increases by as much as 15% during exercise.  This may be another reason that people who exercise don't get sick as often as sedentary people.  

Finally, there are herbs and detox programs you can do to stimulate the lymph.  Most of the herbs that cleanse the liver also function as lymphatic cleansers.  Consider doing a week cleanse with herbs like dandelion, burdock, nettles, wild indigo or chicory.  Also, sitting in a hot sauna or steam room can help.  

Whatever you do, make sure to consider the effects of your choices on this important system.  The more care you give to it, the better it will serve you.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Maximizing Your Metabolism Part II

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about increasing your metabolism through exercise and diet.  However, as we age, our bodies naturally begin to move toward a more catabolic (breakdown) rather than anabolic metabolism. While diet and exercise help, sometimes they might not be enough.  After 40, many people have a more difficult time exercising because of pain, slow recovery or lack of energy.  I'd like to talk about a few supplements that might help if you are in this situation.  As always, check with a qualified health practitioner if you are not healthy or if you are taking any medications.

I've talked a lot about antioxidants over the last couple of months.  Well, here they are again.  Taking an antioxidant formula in addition to eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help reduce free radical damage and boost the immune system.  This will help with faster recovery and more energy.  Be sure to choose a whole food supplement without fillers.  Also, make sure there is a variety of antioxidants (flavonoids, vitamin A, C and E, anthocyanins, etc.).

Another challenge of getting older is blood sugar imbalances.  If our blood sugar is out of whack, this can affect our energy and our eating habits.  Reduce or eliminate sugar and sweets from your diet.  If you have serious issues, try to even avoid too much sweet fruit and focus more on vegetables and good fats.  Chromium is an essential mineral for helping the body to maintain normal blood sugar levels.  Find a good chromium supplement at your health food store and incorporate this into your diet.  Many studies have found that most Americans are deficient in chromium.

Next, consider taking a good B complex, or at least Vitamins B6 and B12.  B vitamins are important for many functions in the body, including energy production and metabolism.  By taking a whole food, plant-based supplement, you are ensuring that your body is getting these important vitamins.  You may notice a big difference in your energy and mood almost immediately.  I certainly did.

A few more supplements you may want to consider for your metabolism and overall health are Coenzyme Q10 (a powerful antioxidant found in the mitochondria of each of your cells), Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) (another antioxidant that may also help with weight loss), and 7-Keto (a DHEA metabolite that can help with energy and metabolism).  Be sure to stick to the recommended doses and do your own research on these supplements to find any personal contraindications.

If you're not getting the results that you want with your health and your exercise routine, supplementation might be the answer.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Raw Pizza Bites

I'm sure at some point in most people's lives, there is a love/hate relationship with pizza.  For me, this relationship lasted for years.  When I was a meat eater, pizza was a staple food.  When I became vegetarian and even vegan, I was not willing to give it up.  However, pizza has always made me feel less than excellent.  In fact, most people I know enjoy gobbling down two, three, four, or more slices of pizza, but pay dearly for it for several hours or even days.

So what's wrong with pizza?  Traditional pizza is full of bad fats, sugar, gluten-ridden dough, toxic salts, pasteurized dairy, and a host of other bodily assaults.  It's probably one of the worst food combinations imagined right behind doughnuts.  And many think that pizza is a balanced meal, containing all the food groups.  When I was in elementary school, I remember my teacher saying how great it was.

While it's possible to eat healthier pizza made from whole grains or even gluten-free dough, natural, sugar-free sauce, etc., it's a stretch to call any pizza a health food.  But, never fear; there is a way!  Introducing Raw Pizza Bites.  This is one of my favorite recipes.  It takes some time, but you can make several batches and they will last for weeks.


One large eggplant
One tablespoon of salt
1/2 cup of olive oil
One garlic clove minced

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices (you should get between 15 and 20 slices).  Place in shallow glass pan and cover with oil, salt and garlic.  Set aside for one to two hours.  Note: Massaging oil and salt into the eggplant can make it softer and easier to dehydrate.


One and 1/2 cups of fresh tomatoes
One and 1/2 cups of sun-dried tomatoes (soaked)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of fresh chopped basil
1/2 teaspoon of fresh or dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon of fresh or dried oregano
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Topping ideas:

Marinated mushrooms (marinate mushrooms in Nama Shoyu, olive oil, salt and garlic)
Sliced, raw olives
Fresh basil leaves


Take eggplant slices out of oil mixture and dry off with paper towel.  Place slices on a dehydrator sheet or wax paper.  Cover each slice generously with pizza sauce.  Top with any desired topping or toppings!  Dehydrate at 120 degrees for 12 hours on sheets or wax paper.  Remove and place on mesh sheet and dehydrate for another 12 hours or until desired crispness.  The longer you dehydrate, the longer they will last (unless you eat them all!).

So, that's a great pizza recipe.  It has no flax seeds and kids actually love them.  Enjoy and be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Superfood Sunday: The Incan Goldenberry

Another nutrient-rich berry that grows in South America is the goldenberry, also known as the Inca berry or cape gooseberry.  The goldenberry is actually part of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, with a remarkable resemblance to the tomatillo.  When ripe, the fruit is a bright yellow/orange color, which reveals its antioxidant status.

Goldenberries are usually sold dried.  They have a sweet tart taste and are very chewy, making them a wonderful snack or addition to a trail mix.  Like tomatoes and other nightshade fruit, goldenberries have dozens of small edible seeds.  When dried, they are about the size of a large raisin.  I recommend getting them from a trusted organic supplier that ensures low-temperature drying to preserve the many nutrients found in this super berry.

The tart taste of this berry would have you guessing that they have a lot of vitamin C and you would be right.  In addition to vitamin C, goldenberries also have a lot of vitamin A, minerals and a good amount of protein.  The orange color is due to the class of antioxidants known as carotenoids, which are great for the immune system, the eyes, and fighting inflammation and free radicals.  Research also suggests that goldenberries have polyphenols (another group of powerful antioxidants) and may help fight diabetes.  Of course, the Peruvians used this medicinal fruit for a host of ailments.

Because it has a pleasant flavor, most people enjoy eating goldenberries right out of the bag.  However, feel free to add them to a berry smoothie, sprinkle on a morning granola or cereal or add to a trail mix for a day trip.  Don't miss these tasty, nutritious berries.  Enjoy and be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Friday, December 2, 2011

Free Friday: Progress Update

I just wanted to take a moment to update my blog on my progress.  I've been feeling great lately, and I'm very excited to share my successes and progress.  One of my major personal goals is to help other people achieve better success in their lives through better health, energy, outlook, and community.  However, I know I need to be well on my way there in order to make an impact in other people's lives.  Well,  these last few months are moving me in that direction.  I know there will always be ways to improve the quality of my life, but it feels like I've finally crossed a threshold where my life has more joy than pain.

My mental attitude has shifted majorly in the last couple of months.  I find myself complaining less and letting go of irritations more easily.  I focus more on the positive things that are happening in my life and allow any negative behavior to just be, not giving it much energy at all. A lot of this, I feel, can be attributed to my better diet and my exercise routine.  I'm eating less food daily because the food I do eat is dense and nutritious.  Sometimes, I still overeat or snack when I'm not hungry, but I'm moving in the direction of a healthy relationship with food.  I am exercising 6 days a week, changing up the routine to give my body a full spectrum workout.  Tonight, I ran most of a 5K in Balboa Park, which was quite an accomplishment for me.

My goals for the next three months through winter include losing more fat and gaining more muscle, eating four to five small meals a day of only raw, dense, plant-based foods and superfoods, fitting yoga or meditation into my schedule at least four times a week, continuing to read cutting edge books and websites about health, nutrition, fitness and happiness, and starting a nutrition course online.  By making an effort every day to take care of myself, my goals are fruiting and my life is blossoming. How amazing to be a human being!  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Detox Lemonade

So, I discovered an easy and tasty way to include medicinal herbs in my diet.  I was watching "The 7 Deadly Sins of Nutrition" with Dr. Joe Esposito, and he recommended this great idea.  It's so easy and delicious, I can't believe more people haven't discovered this.  Basically, you just make ice cubes out of freshly squeezed lemons, water and any fresh herbs you want to add to your diet.

Fresh herbs are always better, but they don't always stick around in the fridge for very long.  How many times have you bought ginger, burdock root, fresh mint, etc. and found it wilted at the bottom of the produce drawer weeks later?  Now you can use those fresh herbs in a blended lemon tonic that you freeze in your ice cube trays.  Once a day, you can throw a couple of ice cubes in water and have a refreshing, tangy treat that's great for you.

There are dozens of fresh herbs available at natural food stores and farmer's markets.  Some of the most medicinal are ginger root, garlic, turmeric, burdock root, aloe vera and green herbs like mint, cilantro and basil.  You might have to experiment to see which flavor combinations work for you, but enough lemon can make almost anything palatable.  If your not happy with the flavors, add some stevia or other natural sweetener.

Here's what it's my freezer right now: lemon, ginger, turmeric and spring water ice cubes.  Lemon is a great detoxifier and immune builder.  Ginger has numerous health benefits including anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, and anti-spasmic (calms the stomach) properties. Turmeric is what makes curry yellow.  It's one of the most revered herbs in India and is now gaining recognition in the West.  It's anti-inflammatory properties are nearly unprecedented.  Also, there are ongoing studies with cancer patients that look very promising.  It's also known to detox the liver and keep the heart healthy and strong.

To make my ice cubes, I squeezed six lemons and added the juice to three cups of water.  I sliced about one inch of fresh turmeric and one inch of fresh ginger and added these to the mix.  I blended them at high speed until smooth and then put into my ice cube trays.  You should be able to make two to three ice cube trays.  Feel free to experiment with different herbs and combinations.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Monday, November 28, 2011

Manic Monday: Keeping Positive

One of the biggest drains on our mental and physical energy is negativity.  Have you ever noticed that when you're around people who complain a lot, you feel very tired and sometimes even depressed?  Negative people can sometimes feel like energy vampires.  If you pay close attention, you will find that many people tend to focus on the negative a lot, and you might even be one of them.  If you are, that's okay.  Don't beat yourself up about it.  It's easy to fall into a trap of complaining and negativity, especially when it's all around you.

On the flip side, there's the overly positive person that seems to be almost out of touch with reality.  They take positive thinking and a good attitude almost to an extreme.  This can also be exhausting.  Life is full of ups and downs and we all need a little bit of balance.  However, keeping positive about the events in your life without entering into a denial phase is possible and healthy.

Reacting negatively to situations blocks creativity and reason.  Finding a solution to the problem or challenge becomes more difficult and delays results.  On the other hand, putting on a fake smile and pretending that the problem will just solve itself because of positive thinking is lazy and just as useless.  Positive thinking means finding a way to think positively about the situation so you can change it or accept it.  Usually, this requires a shift in your perception about the problem.  What lesson can I learn from this?  How can I transform this into something that is beneficial and useful?  Asking these kinds of questions will help you to relax, but will also open your mind up to solutions.

For chronic problems (money challenges, complaining, addiction, etc.), there are many tools that can help you move toward your goals.  As we discussed in an earlier blog, writing down your goals is a great way to get focused on what you want.  Also, affirmations and visualizations before, during or after meditation can be extremely beneficial in focusing on the positive and moving toward what you want.

Remember that being more positive takes practice just like anything else.   Start to notice how you feel when you or other people are negative.  When you notice this, change your perception to something positive without going into a fantasy land.  Focus on the source of the negativity but create a positive view of it.  Over time, this will become easier.  You'll soon find that you'll start to attract more positive people, feel better about yourself, have a better view of your future, and react better to stressful situations.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Pure Purple Passion

Since I am on my juice feast now, I though I'd share a blended drink I often have in the afternoons.  Because I work at a raw food business, I usually ask other people to pitch into a commune of food and make this for four or five people.  In last weeks blog, I shared the morning cacao drink I make for the phone staff at Sunfood.

This recipe (like all my recipes) changes almost daily.  It depends on what I have and what is in season or available.  However, there are some basic rules for Pure Purple Passion.  First, the base is always fresh squeezed citrus (usually at least 75% orange, with the rest made up of grapefruit and lemon).  Blended into this are high antioxidant frozen berries, and any other berry powders available.  The idea here is to find deep, dark purple or red fruit, which are rich in the anthocyanins, polyphenols, flavonoids, and other powerful antioxidants. The citrus is high in Vitamin C.  Together, this makes a great immune building drink.  If you do this a few times a week, your chances of getting sick can be greatly diminished.

So, here is an example of a version that I made this week (remember, this is for four people):

2 quarts of fresh-squeezed organic orange juice
2 cups of grapefruit juice
the juice of one lemon
1/2 cup blackberries
1/2 cup huckleberries (I picked these wild in the summer, so you can substitute blueberries)
1/2 cup Salal berries (also picked wild, substitute black cherries)
1 tablespoon of Acai powder
1 tablespoon of Maqui berry powder
1 teaspoon of Camu Camu powder

Place all items in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Note, if the berries are frozen, this makes for a nice cool smoothie.  Enjoy and be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Monday, November 21, 2011

Manic Monday: Laughing the Worry Away

They say that laughter is the best medicine and maybe it really is.  Think about the people that you enjoy being around.  Do they make you laugh?  Do you make them laugh?  My best friend and I are always laughing when we're together.  I sometimes think that we wouldn't have been such great friends all these years if we didn't find each other's humor . . . well, humorous.

So, what does laughter do for us?  Well, according to research, laughter is good for the mind and the body.  A good belly laugh can relieve tension and stress, keep you emotionally "tuned" to others, and uplift the mood.  There is also evidence that it lowers blood pressure, relaxes the blood vessels making it good for the heart and the brain, enhances the immune system and releases feel-good hormones like endorphins.

In social settings, laughter brings community to the workplace.  Often times, working environments create conflict and hierarchy challenges.  By bringing humor into these situations, the environment becomes more conducive for resolution and teamwork.  If you want to relax tensions at a company meeting, try to make everyone laugh.  It often changes the dynamic of the whole meeting.

We can all laugh more, so seek out opportunities to laugh.  The internet is a wonderful place to find humor that matches yours.  Animals and children never fail to make us laugh.  They can both teach us a lot about spontaneity and being in the moment.  Also, notice how you feel when you hear an infectious laugh.  We all know at least one person whose laugh is contagious.  It's healthy to seek out people who like to laugh and have a playful spirit.

Maybe most important is the ability to laugh at ourselves.  Don't take yourself too seriously.  Lighten up and enjoy life.  Your mind and body will thank you.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Superfood Sunday: Antioxidant Superfood Powerhouse #1

Wow!  I just realized that I haven't posted on Superfood Sunday for the whole month of November.  I guess my Sundays have been full of activities, keeping me from the computer.  So, I've been thinking a lot about antioxidants lately.  The books that I've been reading on longevity really stress antioxidants for several reasons.  First, modern society exposes us to a huge amount of free radicals, more than humans have ever been exposed to in history.  Second, our food is highly deficient in antioxidants.  Our ancestors ate a wide variety of wild food; in fact, modern hunter/gatherers have been documented consuming up to 75 different plants in one day.  That's a far cry from the 5 to 10 domestic plants we all eat every day. 

So, I'd like to focus on food that is really high in antioxidants (polyphenols, anthocyanins, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, selenium, etc.) for the next few Sundays.  In one of my first posts, I did mention my favorite high-antioxidant berry, Camu Camu.  Berries (especially wild) are notorious for having a high ORAC value, which is the system of measurement for antioxidants.  Recently, I discovered a berry that is higher in antioxidants than any berry that's ever been tested.  The Maqui Berry. 

Indigenous to Patagonia (the temperate forests of southern Chile and Argentina), the Maqui Berry (Aristotelia chilensis) or Chilean Wineberry is a deep purple berry that is in the same family as the blueberry.  Because it is a relatively new superfood to the world market, limited tests have been administered.  However, some companies are already reporting ORAC levels that are up to 10 times that of a blueberry.  The purple pigment in the berry comes from the polyphenols called anthocyanins, one of the most powerful of all antioxidants.  Research shows that these antioxidants protect the immune system, clean up free radicals, protect the DNA, prevent poor eyesight, and a host of other benefits. 

Unlike other wild berries, Maqui berries have a wonderful taste that doesn't require masking of the flavor.  A cross between a blueberry and an Acai berry, the Maqui berry has a rich, sweet flavor that blends well in smoothies or can be sprinkled on raw granola or coconut kefir. sells a high-quality, freeze-dried, organic Maqui berry in powder or whole berries.  I highly recommend trying this amazing superfood.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Friday, November 18, 2011

Free Friday: The Truth About Fragrances

At my job, a temporary employee worked down the hall for about a week recently.  His cologne was so strong that it felt like I was walking into a gas chamber every time I passed his office.  This may seem dramatic, but many other employees noticed it too and we complained.  Unfortunately, we don't have a strict policy about fragrances and laws about allergies to fragrances are not very clear.  This issue has come up before and some have complained about discrimination.  So, I'd like to compare this to another issue that is similar to me.

Up to the late 1970s, it was legal to smoke in most office buildings, restaurants, bars, and other public places.  Working environments became the first places (besides hospitals) that began to ban smoking inside.  The obvious reason here involved the non-smoker.  Sure, a person has a right to smoke if they want, but should other people be subjected to that smoke all day long while they're working?  Of course not.

You may not see the parallel here, but it's definitely there.  Most fragrances have neurotoxins that affect the person wearing perfume or cologne, but also disturb anyone else trapped in the same room or office.  The US Department of Labor lists complaints about fragrance allergies on their website including headaches, nausea, breathing problems, difficulty concentrating and tingling of the lips and skin.  They recommend education in the workplace, but there is little talk about creating state or national bans on fragrances in the workplace.

If you wear commercial fragrances, you might want to think about what you're doing to your own body as well as those around you.  I once heard a popular health speaker mention an interaction with a woman while he was doing a book signing.  A cloud of toxic perfume surrounded her as she told him that she always has headaches.  He suggested that she stop wearing perfume immediately.  A year later he ran into her again and she said that she took his advice and the headaches disappeared.

There are other things a person can do to make sure they smell pleasant.  There are natural essential oils that are very concentrated, so only a little bit needs to be applied.  Also, a cleaner diet means a cleaner body.  Cutting out foods that build up toxic waste helps reduce body odor and brings out the more natural smells of the body that should never be offensive.  Covering the body with chemicals, in my opinion, is far more offensive anyway.

So, until there are laws banning toxic fragrances from public places, let's all do our part and contribute to cleaner workplaces.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Juice Feasting

I know last Thursday's post was about water and I was going to continue that, but I'll finish the water post next week.  This week, I've decided to focus on juice feasting.  As some of you may know, I did a juice fast about two months ago.  I lost around 25 pounds and got rid of the inflammation in my foot.  Since then, I have been working on staying on the raw food diet.  It's been great, but the weight loss has slowed down.  Even with the working out and the supplements, I still feel like I need to continue with my cleansing process.  It's like my body is used to years of slow metabolism and sedentary lifestyle.  Juice feasting is just the thing to kick it into high gear.

So, what's the difference between juice fasting and juice feasting?  Well, in juice feasting you add some additional foods to your juice.  This means that your diet is mostly juice, but you can add things like hemp or coconut oil, bee pollen, MSM, algae powders or liquids, cleansing products, etc.  It's a personalized plan, but the added things should be to support cleansing and/or remineralizing your body.

I was first introduced to the idea of juice fasting several years ago through a website called  David Rainoshek has an entire 92 day plus program for a protocol that he designed through years of experience.  I was able to do the program for a couple of weeks, and it felt great.  I've always wanted to take on the 92 day program, because that's when the great benefits hit.

One of the success stories I read was from Angela Stokes.  She lost over 100 pounds on a raw vegan diet, but it all started with juice feasting.  In fact her 92 days covered Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's Day.  With these holidays right around the corner, I am inspired to follow in her footsteps.  So, today is Thursday and I'm going to prepare myself for this over the next few days.  Officially, I'm starting on Monday, November 21st and I'll attempt to go the full 92 days.  If I go the full time, my last day would be February 21st of next year.  I'll blog about it occasionally on days that seem appropriate.  Wish me luck!  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Maximizing Your Metabolism Part I

Because of the results I'm getting from the protocol I'm doing, my interest in metabolism and energy has been piqued.  By increasing our metabolism, we create more energy, burn more fat and live longer.  Basically, metabolism boils down to how your body uses the macronutrients of fat, carbohydrates and protein to make energy.  We need energy for every process in the body, so this is essential for everything, not just exercise.  As we age, our metabolism slows down, but there are ways to increase it.

Exercise remains the undisputed champion for increasing metabolism.  While cardiovascular exercise is great for burning calories, interval training and weight lifting are best.  When we break down the muscles through intense exercise, the body requires energy to build the muscle back up, which in turn burns calories.  So, after a hard workout, our bodies continue to use energy for up to 24 hours.  In fact, people who have leaner, more muscular bodies actually burn calories doing nothing.

In addition, getting enough sleep has been shown to increase metabolism.  While you sleep, your body is still performing many functions, which uses up calories.  If we cheat ourselves of sleep, we disrupt this balance and actually burn less fuel.  Reducing stress and learning to relax also lowers cortisol levels, which can help with metabolism as well.

From a nutritional standpoint, eating right helps the body to become more stable and function properly.  Raw, organic plant-based food gives energy, digests more fully, keeps the body's systems balanced and elevates the mood.  When you feel better, you want to move more, which creates more energy for more movement and more joy.  It's a wonderful cycle that can easily be started.

Next week, I will talk about supplements for maximizing your metabolism.  There are several things that have been shown to work with athletes and have been working great for me.  Until then, get out there and move that body.  Life is waiting for you.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Raw Food Diary (Or What I Ate Today)

For today's post on food, I thought I'd describe the food I ate today.  Every person eats differently, and raw foodists are no different.  You may find that what I eat in a day really doesn't work for you.  Some people do better with more fruit, while others need a lot of greens and fat.  I try to eat a balance of the three.  Today's diet is not always typical of what I eat.  Sometimes, I have a good day where I really stay on track, but there are days when I don't eat very balanced.  Today was a good day.

Upon arising (like every day), I drank a large glass of water to stimulate my digestive juices after a night of fasting.  Then, I drank two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (raw and organic), which helps to keep the acids in my stomach active but balanced.  This morning, I also had a small cup of rejuvelac (more on this another day) for the probiotics.  Then, I was off to work.

At work, I usually take supplements with water while my computer is warming up.  I know that I'm very fortunate to work at Sunfood, and I definitely take advantage of it (in a grateful way).  This morning, I took chlorella tablets, Pure Synergy's Bone Renewal (I love this product), DHEA, Chaga (a medicinal mushroom), CoQ10, Astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant),  and B vitamins.  This might sound like a lot, but these are all food-based supplements that the body can use.  This protocol is really working for me.  I will talk about some of the products on future Superfood Sundays.

By mid-morning, I'm usually ready for something substantial.  Almost every day, I make a raw cacao drink for some of us on the phone staff.  Today, my tea was made from manzanilla berries, Goji berries, Chanca Piedra, Dong Quai, and Cat's Claw.  To the tea base, I added cacao powder, Sun Warrior raw protein powder, maca, kelp powder, agave and stevia.  I blended this up into a nice warm chocolate drink.  This is great drink for energy, mental clarity and dense nutrition.

For lunch, I made a big salad.  Today's salad included romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red bell pepper, fennel root, dinosaur kale, olives, avocado, nutritional yeast and Bragg's Ginger Sesame Dressing.  I had this with a kombucha and was very satisfied.  Later in the day, I snacked on a persimmon and some pineapple guavas.  Before leaving for my hike, I had some fresh orange juice blended with frozen berries.

For dinner, I'm having another blended drink.  In my Vitamix at home, I blended kale, guava, persimmon, fennel, tomato, garlic, ginger, mixed frozen berries, banana, spirulina and water.  This is a very satisfying green smoothie.  I won't need anything to eat for the rest of the evening and can go to bed without anything heavy to digest while I'm sleeping.  I do always try to drink a glass of water or two in the evening as well.

So, that was my day.  It's not always this focused, but I'm really working on having more days like this.  My health and happiness really blossom when I'm eating optimally.  It's worth the effort it takes to stay on track and I'm worth every moment of energy.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Monday, November 14, 2011

Manic Monday: The Miracle of Meditation

The many benefits of meditation are no secret to most of us.  Thousands of articles have appeared in the last couple of decades highlighting the personal experiences of meditators and dozens of scientific studies that have been done.  Across the board, everyone agrees that meditation is beneficial in many ways.

Stress grips most of us daily.  At the end of the day, we just want to relax and unwind.  But, most of us don't find a way that is actually beneficial.  New findings from studies are telling us that sitting in front of the television for several hours every night is not good.  Not only does it make us fat, but it also makes us more materialistic, disturbs our sleep and makes us less intelligent.  Sitting in front of a computer all night is really just more of the same.  The fact is that these activities do not relieve stress and may even contribute to it.  

One thing that we can do to relieve our stress is meditate at least once a day.  Like the breathing exercises from last week, even ten minutes of meditation can be very beneficial.  According to an article in Psychology Today, neuroscientists found that meditation moves brain waves from the right frontal cortex (the stress area) to the left frontal cortex (yep, the calm area).  They also found "less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear."  Other research findings have suggested that meditation increases gray matter, makes people calmer and happier, and can help improve performance at work or school.  With all these benefits (and no know negative effects), it's amazing that more people aren't meditating.  

Of course, like anything that is really good for you, meditation requires a bit of effort and habit formation.  There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of different meditation techniques from ancient traditions to modern hybrids.  Some may be more effective than others, so give a few techniques a try.  The most basic forms in almost every tradition start with focusing on the breath.  Take one of the breathing exercises from last Monday's post and begin there.  If you are counting your breaths, just concentrate on the numbers, relaxing your mind and letting other thoughts come and go.  

Eventually, you may want to try more advanced meditation techniques where you learn to just sit and be without any thoughts.  While this takes months or even years of practice for most, the benefits to the mind and body are astounding.  The only way to get there is to take the first step.  Remember, every journey always begins with the first step.  So, start tonight before you go to bed.  Sit on the edge of your bed or in a chair and stop your mind for a couple of minutes by focusing on counting your breaths.  Notice how you feel when you finish.  Beginning a practice in meditation is one of the best things you can do for yourself.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sexy Saturday: Caffeine Makes You Fat and Sick

In recent years, the media has flooded us with new stories and studies about the benefits of coffee.  After all the research telling us that coffee causes a plethora of health challenges, we're suddenly supposed to believe that coffee and caffeine are actually beneficial.  Where are these studies coming from and who are we supposed to believe?

Coffee is most of the developed world's drug of choice.  In America, an estimated 80% of adults drink coffee.  That number is rising though because teenagers are one of the primary targets of coffee marketing now and can often be seen at your neighborhood Starbucks.  While the focus of this article is really caffeine, coffee weighs in heavily because it's the primary source of caffeine for most of us.  In fact, coffee contains more than two times the amount of caffeine as black tea and almost ten times the amount found in dark chocolate.  100 milligrams of caffeine a day should be considered a bad habit; most people drink two, three, four even five times that amount.

Many of these articles tell us that if we drink coffee black with no sugar, it's really a healthy drink.  While it may be better than soda, this information is misleading (some would say deceptive).  The articles claim that coffee has a lot of antioxidants, can increase metabolism and moves the bowels.  The truth is that there are better places to get antioxidants, it wreaks havoc on your metabolism over time and it irritates your bowels. Over the last couple of days, I have read a lot of information about caffeine and coffee from several sources.  You decide what is true.

The book I'm reading right now really sums up all of the information I have read in the last week about caffeine and coffee.  In The DHEA Breakthrough, Stephen Cherniske explains the devastating effects of consuming caffeine for decades.  Long-term caffeine use can cause anxiety, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, mood swings and the list goes on.  One of the main reasons for this, according to Cherniske, lies in the evidence that caffeine raises our cortisol levels (stress hormone) and lowers our DHEA levels (a hormone that may be responsible for keeping us young among other things).

Here's how it works: Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, putting us into a state of stress (you've heard of the fight-or-flight response).  This pumps cortisol into the blood stream, raises blood pressure, dilates the eyes, increases the heart rate and puts us on alert.  This is the reason most of us think that coffee gives us energy, but what it's actually doing is robbing of us energy.  Another thing that happens during this time of chemically-induced stress is that the body floods the blood with glucose and fat to deal with whatever stressful situation is at hand.  Later this means that our bodies have to deal with more sugar and fat than we actually burn, which increases the risk of diabetes and obesity.  Think about it.  If coffee were a great diet drink, most Americans would be thin.

After learning this information, I'm seriously reconsidering consuming any form of caffeine including green tea. To me, it's apparent that caffeine works against us in achieving a great state of health, balance and natural beauty.  If we want to have energy every day, it needs to come from this state, not from artificial or even natural stimulants.  If you drink a large amount of coffee or other caffeinated beverages daily, please consider reducing or eliminating them.  Be healthy.

Mystic Merman

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Water, the Great Purifier Part II

As promised, I'd like to finish last week's blog about water.  As discussed, the more fresh, raw food you eat, the less water you need to drink.  Water from organic fruits and vegetables is the best source.  However, it's important to stay hydrated, so having a bottle of water around is essential.  I do recommend drinking a glass or two of water first thing every morning.  It helps to regulate your body temperature and gets the bowels activated after a night's sleep.

Most people get most or all of their water from beverages like coffee, soda, tea, juices and energy drinks.  Most of these are filled with caffeine, salt, sugar, chemicals or all of the above.  Sports drinks (which many people consume when their bodies need water more than ever) are poisonous liquids disguised as healthy drinks.  Just pick up a bottle and read the label.  If you really care about your health, you will learn to avoid drinks that are stimulants or for taste only.

If you are addicted to unhealthy drinks, it may take some time to get used to drinking water on a regular basis.  If you drink coffee or tea, try drinking it with less or no sugar.  Slowly cut down on the amount and increase the amount of water you drink.  If you do like tea, try herbal teas or green tea without sweetener.  I like to add mint to other teas to add flavor.  If it's soda that you love, try fresh squeezed juices like orange or apple for the sweetness.  Soda comes out on top of the worst things you can put in your body.

So, what kind of water should we drink.  We all know that tap water is "safe," but is it healthy?  Probably not.  Most cities now dump fluoride in our water supply and treat it with chemicals.  Distilled water might be the cleanest water available, but many experts say that it is completely devoid of minerals and is dead.  There are hundreds of bottled waters to choose from at the store.  They all claim to have the best water on the planet.  One water is completely purified; another water comes from a pristine spring; and yet another is melted off an ancient glacier.  These companies are all trying to sell their products, so who do we trust?  Is it necessary to buy bottled water?  Should we invest in a home water purifier?  Is so, what type?

Many of these questions are still unanswered in my mind.  I continue to review all the information out there and make choices based on logic and personal experience.  Personally, I think that most tap water is not great for drinking.  The best source of water is spring water right at the source, as long as there is no chance of contamination from agricultural runoff or industry.  High mountain springs contain fresh water that is filtered through the ground, has minerals in it and has a good pH balance (not too high, not too low).  Glass is always preferable, but food-grade plastic works as long as the water is consumed fairly quickly.

I would recommend finding a company that delivers fresh spring water from your local mountains.  Ask them if they have glass.  Also, find out if they have an analysis online or on paper that shows the mineral content, microbes, pH and anything else important.  Finding great water is not always easy, but it's worth the effort.  You're worth the effort.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Could Swimming Be the Perfect Exercise?

If you don't know me personally, you might be wondering about my nickname Mystic Merman.  Well, at Sunfood (where I work), we sell a lot of superfood.  Because we all eat superfood every day, many of us have adopted superhero names.  Due to my love of swimming and being in the ocean, my superhero name is Mystic Merman.

Ever since I can remember, I've always loved the water.  My mother took my brother and I (or more often we dragged her) to the beach on many summer days.  While other kids played in the sand, I spent most of my time splashing in the waves.  I always loved the silence and magic of being underwater and I became a great underwater swimmer in the ocean or in pools.  As I grew older, I became interested in bodysurfing, ocean swimming and free diving.  In fact, for me, there is no exercise I enjoy more than swimming.

Swimming has many benefits as a form of exercise.  By learning different styles and strokes, you can exercise nearly every muscle in your body.  The front crawl and the breast stroke are great full body workouts, but you can isolate legs and arms by using one without the other.  In addition to a muscle workout, swimming provides excellent cardiovascular and lung exercises.  Depending on how hard you push yourself, swimming can burn a lot of calories.

Other benefits of swimming that may not be as obvious are advantages over other forms of exercise.  Because of the nature of water, exercising in it has very little impact on your bones and joints.  It's the perfect exercise if you're overweight or suffer from arthritis or stiff joints.  Also, because your body is able to move more freely in the water, it's a great way to increase your flexibility.  I love spending time after a swim stretching my muscles in the water.  Additionally, swimming is a great way to keep from overheating when exercising.  This can be priceless when you are just starting out.  Nothing is more discouraging than feeling like you're going to faint from heat as you pound the treadmill.

According to Discovery Fit & Health, there are studies about swimming that suggest that it can improve your cholesterol, lower your risk of diabetes, reduce stress (it's a great meditation), and help you live longer.  With all these benefits, swimming just might be the best form of exercise out there.  So, do yourself a favor and start swimming a couple of times a week.  If you don't know how to swim, look into free or cheap swimming classes.  You'll be glad you did.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Caesar Salad with Croutons (Raw, of Course)

One of my all-time favorite salads has always been Caesar Salads.  I used to eat them all the time before I became a vegetarian, thinking that I was eating healthy.  When I first went vegan in my early twenties, I discovered that these salads were not only non-vegan, but they weren't even vegetarian.  The dressing almost always has eggs and anchovies.  Fortunately, I learned how to make a healthy vegan version, croutons and all.

When I first went raw in my early thirties, there was no way I was going to give up my Caesar Salads.  Of course, this was ten years ago before you could just look up a raw recipe online or browse the book section at your local Whole Foods Market.  So, I had to do some experimentation to come up with a good Caesar Salad and that's what I did.  The croutons came later, but they were certainly a welcome addition.  Here is my recipe:


One whole avocado
3 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp of Nama Shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce)
1 Tbsp tahini
1 glove of garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dulse granules
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground mustard seed

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth (you may have to add a bit of water to get it to blend).  Set aside.

Parmesan-style Cheeze

1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1 Tbsp sea salt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until fluffy like grated cheese. Set aside.


1/2 cup sunflower seeds (ground into a flour in food processor)
1/2 cup flax seeds (ground into a flour)
2/3 cup clean water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp rosemary (fresh or dried)
1 tsp oregano (fresh or dried)
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp of sea salt

Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  Place mixture on dehydrator sheets or wax paper spreading out for 1/2 inch uniformity.  Place in dehydrator at 120 degrees for 24 hours.  (Times may vary depending on machine and desired consistency).

To make your salad, chop one head of romaine lettuce and place in a large salad bowl.  Add dressing and croutons and mix well.  Sprinkle cheeze on top and serve.  Serves three to four.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  I know I do.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Monday, November 7, 2011

Manic Monday: Breathing Exercises

Last month, I wrote a blog about breathing and its importance in our physical and mental health.  Today, I'd like to give you a few breathing exercises I've used over the years to help relieve stress, relax the body, control the mind, purify the blood and just be.  Some of these I learned from practicing yoga, but others I learned from workshops or my own experimentation.  Try the ones that sound appealing to you and find a couple that work. For all of them, find a quiet place and sit comfortably on a chair or some pillows.  If you need to, support your back on the chair or a wall, but don't slouch or lean.  Sit straight up, erect but relaxed.

In yoga, breathing is often called Pranayama (although the meaning and practice of this word is much deeper).  Breathing is at the heart of every yoga posture and practice, so it's essential to learn from the beginning.  One of my favorite exercises when I studied yoga was Alternate Nostril Breathing.  In this technique, your right hand should face you and be in Vishnu Mudra, which means your index and middle finger are closed, with your thumb, ring and little finger extended (try it now; it's harder than it sounds).

Close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in through your left nostril for a count of six.  Close your left nostril with the other two fingers (holding your breath) for a count of six.  Remove your thumb from your right nostril and breath out for a count of six.  Close your right nostril again with your thumb, holding your breath for six.  Release your thumb again, inhaling through your right nostril for a count of six.  Hold the breath at the top again for six.  Then, release the left nostril and breath out for six.  This is one complete cycle.

The times of breathing in and out vary depending on the teacher.  You can change the times for yourself finding whatever is more comfortable or increasing the time to challenge yourself a little.  According to yoga tradition, this can benefit the mind by balancing both sides of the brain.  Many yogis believe that this exercise increases both logic and creativity, while relaxing the mind and the nervous system.

Another breathing exercise that is simple and effective is diaphragmatic breathing.  Here, you want to breath into the belly until it is fully extended and then continue to fill up the upper lungs.  This fills your lung capacity, which can bring more oxygen to your blood and clean your lungs.  Be sure to breathe in through your nose.  When you breathe in, picture relaxing light and color filling up your lungs and dispersing to your body.  When you exhale (through you mouth or nose), release the air slowly while imagining that tension, toxins and negativity are leaving your body.

Cyclical breathing is similar to the yogic breathing technique above, but without the hands.  For this exercise, you breathe in, hold the breath, breathe out and hold the breath for the same amount of time.  For example, breathe in for a count of eight, hold the breath at the top for eight, breathe out for a count of eight, then hold the breath again for eight.  Once completed, you start the cycle over again.  This takes some practice, so some people may get lightheaded at first.  Don't overdo it.  Start with a small number and work up to longer periods.

With all these exercises, start with at least five minutes a day in the morning or evening.  Once you begin to see the benefits of breathing exercises, you will probably want to increase the time to 10 minutes, then 20 minutes.  Two ten minute sessions a day is ideal, giving you maximum benefits.  And remember to breathe throughout the day, especially during times of stress.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free Friday: Buying Local for You and the Earth

With all the political and economic changes happening worldwide, I've been thinking a lot about how I spend my money.  Sometimes we might not feel like we have a voice on the worldwide political stage, but every time we use our debit or credit card, we are saying something very powerful.  Whatever we all support everyday grows and becomes stronger. Whatever we choose to walk away from weakens or becomes something else.

In terms of food, most of us in developed countries have access to amounts of food that are unprecedented in history.  We can eat vegetables from California, seafood from China and wine from Chile all in the same meal.  Grocery store aisles are lined with every imaginable food from all parts of the world.  Your pasta may be grown in China, processed in a plant in Taiwan and delivered from a warehouse in Minnesota.  While most of this food is cheap and easy, there is a cost associated with it.

The amount of energy that it takes to grow, process, package and ship products that are sold in today's markets is not sustainable.  Shopping at places like Walmart for food, clothing or supplies places great stress on the environment and resources like energy and food.  In the film Walmart: the High Cost of Low Price, Robert Greenwald documents the devastation that companies like Walmart do to local businesses and communities.  This is just part of the story.  There are also cheap labor, energy consumption, accusations of abuse on foreign soil, and the list goes on.  And this is just one example.

In this age of globalization, another movement is gradually taking hold.  More and more concerned citizens are buying local.  When we buy our food from local, organic farmers, we reduce our carbon footprint greatly.  In addition, we are helping to support local families and businesses.  These farmers are usually more concerned about preserving the land they use.  They also use less water and cause far less pollution than large corporate farms. Buying organic means that we are not contributing to all the chemicals that pollute our water and soil.

As far as our health is concerned, buying local and organic has several benefits.  First, consuming organic food creates less toxins that your body has to get rid of.  It also means that you are likely eating higher quality food that contains more minerals and vitamins. Second, eating food that is grown locally (especially in your own backyard or windowsill) ensures that you are eating seasonally, which is better for the body.  Finally, by going to farmer's markets or local grocers, you are connecting with your community which is good for everyone's health.

If you have the time and energy, you might want to even consider joining your community's gardening co-op.  Many cities now have community gardens in which anyone can learn to garden and connect with other growing enthusiasts.

Whatever you decide, make a conscious effort to think about every purchase you make. Where does this item come from?  How much energy did it take to get it into my hands?  By making better decisions, we can all create a better world now and in the future.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Water, the Great Purifier Part I

When I first started this blog, I wanted to write something on water right away.  However, this topic is complicated because water is the most important element for our bodies, yet there is no clear consensus about how much to drink, when to drink it and what is the best source.  Since I am not an expert on water, my only hope here is to give you a better understanding of the information available and let you decide what works best for you.  Like anything regarding your healthy, you should empower yourself by getting the information about water and making the best decisions for yourself.

First, let's cover some of the facts.  Your body is made up of (on average) 60% water.  Every function, movement and system of your body depends on water.  Water transports nutrients, regulates body temperature, flushes waste out of the body and so much more.  Replenishing your body with water is essential to health and survival.  Dehydration causes numerous health challenges ranging from constipation to headaches to fatigue.  Most of us have experienced relief from certain ailments by drinking a large glass of water.

The most commonly reported study about how much water to drink apparently told us all to drink 8 glasses of water a day.  However, dozens of other studies from sources like the Mayo Clinic and the British Medical Journal claim that this is nonsense and there is no scientific evidence to back it up.  In fact, they say, drinking too much water can actually be harmful.  The fact is there is no magic number.  Everything depends on your body, your diet and how much exercise you get (stopping now to drink a glass of water).

From a raw food perspective, water needs change based on the amount of fresh, raw food we eat.  If your diet is 80% or more fresh raw food, your need for water is going to be much lower than a person on the Standard American Diet (SAD).  Fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts, and leafy greens contain Nature's perfect water.  Plants distill water as they pull it up from the earth.  Nothing is more hydrating than eating a fresh melon or peach.  Plus plants are full of salts, minerals and carbohydrates that can hydrate better than just plain water.

So, the key here is to learn to listen to your body.  If you are very active, make sure you drink water before and after exercise or strenuous activity.  If your diet gets poor due to stress or holidays or time, make sure to compensate by drinking water, especially in the morning when you first wake.  But, do yourself a favor and add more raw food to your diet.  This will help the body stay hydrated, clean toxins out of your body, keep you mineralized and give you more energy.

Next Thursday, I'd like to continue this topic, moving into a discussion about the best sources of water and what to avoid.  Until then, stay hydrated and be good to yourself.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Hiking for Health

One of my favorite forms of exercise is hiking, and I try to do it a couple of times a week.  Hiking provides many  healthful benefits like cardiovascular exercise, fresh air, stress reduction, and a connection with Nature.  Even if you live in the city, hiking trails surround most of the cities in the world, usually around lakes or in preserved parks and beaches.  If you're not familiar with trails in your area, simply search the internet for hiking trails plus your city or area.

As long as you are doing a short hike (two hours or less), hiking remains one of the least expensive outdoor activities available to us.  All you need is a good, comfortable pair of hiking shoes, a bottle of water and clothes for the weather and climate.  If it's a sunny day and you have sensitive skin, you should either cover up as much as possible or find a good natural sunscreen.  If you are unfamiliar with the plants in your area, you might want to wear long pants and sleeves.  There's nothing worse than an unwanted encounter with poison oak or ivy.  Getting to know the plants in your area can be fun and  fruitful.

Because hiking is an aerobic exercise, you should pick a trail that matches your current level of fitness.  Ascending 1000 feet on your first hike might prove very difficult and discouraging.  Most hiking books and internet sites will tell you if a trail is easy, moderate or challenging.  Start with an easy trail and work your way up to the more challenging trails.

When hiking, I try to always focus on my breathing and let my senses take in the beauty of Mother Nature around me.  After a stressful work day, spending time outside melts away the days tensions and worries.  The fresh air cheers me up and enhances my state of well-being.  I also try to avoid trails that are close to streets or heavy traffic.  When I make it to the top of a trail, I spend some time consciously breathing and enjoying the view.

So, if you've never really given hiking a chance, commit to once or twice a week.  You might find that it's an enjoyable form of exercise that gives you a workout and clears your mind of stress and anxiety.  There's probably more trails around you than you are aware of , offering variety and beauty.  Be good to yourself.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Mock Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Well, I know I haven't posted for a few days, but I have a good excuse.  I've been out hiking, attending raw potlucks, spending time with my family and laughing my ass off.  On Saturday, I attended a raw potluck/Halloween party at my friends' house.  Their were a lot of fabulous costumes and a professional entertainer that performed a special, scary show.

Although the entertainment stole the night, the food came in a second close.  Attendees created some tasty dishes this time.  There were a couple of great salads, raw carrot cake and pumpkin pie, veggies wraps and even some fresh carrot juice.  I have to say, though, the dish that disappeared the quickest was my Mock Mashed Potatoes and Gravy.  I've made this dish before, but this time it turned out better than ever.  And it's the perfect fall recipe.

Once again, this recipe comes from one of my favorite raw recipe books, Rawvolution by Matt Amsden.  There are two parts to the recipe: the mashed "potatoes" and the gravy.  As always, make sure your ingredients are fresh and organic.  Enjoy!

Mashed "Potatoes"

2 1/2 cups cauliflower (ground in a food processor)
1/4 cup raw macadamia nuts (ground in a food processor)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 small clove of garlic
Ground pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until the mixture has a fluffy texture like mashed potatoes.  Top with ground pepper.

Mushroom Gravy

1/3 cup coconut water
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cup of mushrooms (white or portobello)
1/4 cup tahini
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Nama Shoyu
1/2 stalk celery
1/4 carrot
2 tbsp chopped yellow onion
1/4 red bell pepper
3/4 tsp sea salt

Blend all ingredients together in a high-speed blender until smooth.  Poor over mashed "potatoes" and enjoy!

Be Healthy!

Mystic Merman

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Therapy Thursday: Heavy Metal Detox

Mounting evidence over the last couple of decades suggests that modern humans are exposed to a larger amount of heavy metals than ever before.  Metals and metal compounds like arsenic, mercury, and hexavalent chromium are just a few of the known carcinogens that we may be exposed to daily.  Living in the city certainly increases your risk of exposure, but even people in the country are at risk.  Water tables near industrial areas can become contaminated; air pollution from cars, aircraft and factories increase metals in our air; food supplies are increasingly at risk of contamination; and certain occupations heighten employee danger of exposure.

The fact is we are all exposed to these metals at some level daily.  Within alternative health fields, many experts recommend doing a heavy metal detox once or twice a year.  If you're really concerned, search online for possible symptoms of mercury, lead or other metal accumulations.  You may need to be tested for levels of metals in your body before deciding what kind of detox program you want to start.  However, if you just want to safely eliminate heavy metals a couple times a year, there are several things you can do.

There are several herbal cleanses available online.  How effective these are and the quality of them is something you will need to research.  Alfalfa and cilantro are two herbs that you can use at home to help remove metals.  Both have been studied for their ability to chelate metals from the body.  Other herbs that apparently can remove metals are burdock root, garlic and onion.

Two other products are worth mentioning here: chlorella and zeolites.  Chlorella is a blue-green algae like Spirulina, but is considered the most effective algae in removing toxins and metals.  Zeolites are made from volcanic ash and sea water and have been clinically proven to remove metals and other toxins from the body. I suggest researching these products and finding a good source.  Assisting the body in getting rid of toxins is almost always a good thing.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Workout Wednesday: Eating and Exercise

Countless articles and books examine what we should eat to improve our bodies and gain muscle, lose weight, become more flexible, etc.  Experts in every field have suggestions about what to drink before and after a workout, what kind of recovery food we should eat and where the best form of protein is found.  This blog is not meant to be comprehensive, because this is a complex subject that could fill a book.  I'd like to just give some basics on the subject from a raw, plant-based diet perspective.

First, we should all learn more about our bodies.  We can do this by paying attention to it during different times of the day and after we've made any kind of change.  For example, when you workout, notice how much water you drink before and after.  Is this satisfying?  Do you feel dehydrated at anytime?  Because each of us is different, it's important to find out what works for you.

Eating before exercise can cause issues for many people.  Most fitness experts warn against eating a large meal, but some agree that eating a small snack is okay for some people.  The fact is that the energy required for a workout comes from carbohydrates and fat that are stored in your muscles, liver and cells.  There really is no reason to eat before working out, unless you have blood-sugar issues.  However, there are some superfoods that you can drink with water that can give you a little boost of energy.  I prefer a little maca in water before I go on a hike or head to the gym.

It's also important to remember to hydrate before working out.  Be sure to drink pure water from a trusted source.  If you are hiking or working out in the heat, make sure to have extra water with you.  Working out while dehydrated drains the body and increases your risk of injury.  After exercising, continue to hydrate to help your body eliminate lactic acid, which can build up in the muscles from exercise.

Most information about diet and exercise places a huge emphasis on protein.  There's no reason to downplay the role of protein in our diet; after all, amino acids are the building blocks of life.  But there is a myth that you can't get enough protein from a plant-based diet.  Health magazines push high-protein diets like Atkins and the South Beach diet, encouraging people to eat more animal products and turn away from bad carbs like bread and pasta.  On a raw diet, the goal is to eliminate all of these foods and get our nutrition from non-processed plants.

If you do work out frequently, your calorie and protein needs are going to be higher.  Living on salads and fruits can get one into trouble nutritionally.  The goal here is to consume calories from a variety of foods.  Green leafy vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, fatty fruits like avocados and olives, coconut meat and oil and superfoods like Spirulina, sea vegetables and Chlorella are great sources for protein and fat.  Fruits and vegetables, sprouts, juice and smoothies can provide healthy carbohydrates that give energy.  If you tend to lose weight easily, increase your intake of protein and fat.  One of my favorite protein products is Sun Warrior protein powder, which is raw and vegan.  It's a very digestible form of protein that is great for post-workout recovery.

The important thing here is to pay attention to your own body.  Experiment with different foods and amounts. Find out what foods slow you down.  Are you more flexible when you eat greens or fat or a combination of both?  You know your body better than anyone, so start listening to it.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Green Smoothie Fields Forever

Growing up, we were all encouraged to eat our greens.  For most of us, we gagged them down until we eventually got used to them.  Watching Popeye eat spinach never tricked a single kid I knew into liking it.  But, is it normal for children to have an aversion to green foods?  It may be, but in my experience, kids that are raised from the beginning on whole, natural foods tend to be more open to green vegetables.  Could it be that eating processed grains, sugars, fats and denatured proteins distorts the taste buds and the sense of smell?

Regardless of the answer, as adults, we all know (almost intuitively) that greens are healthy and important in our diet.  Modern research certainly supports this, and we can all attest to how eating cabbage, spinach, kale, leafy lettuce, etc. makes us feel.  Greens are loaded with bone-building minerals, vitamins, complex carbohydrates, protein, and chlorophyll.  Some research suggests that greens contain cancer-fighting properties, protect the heart from damage, and help digestion.

While green juice provides a lot of absorbable nutrients, most of us don't have a lot of time to juice every day.  Well, that's all changed.  The Green Smoothie Revolution has arrived and it's now easier to get your greens then ever.  One of the biggest promoters of raw, green smoothies is Victoria Boutenko and her raw family.  Victoria goes into great detail about the benefits of greens and how to create awesome green smoothies in her book, Green Smoothie Revolution.

When creating your own green smoothie, it's important to find a combination that you'll like.  Pick one or two greens (leafy salad greens are milder are good to start with), but always rotate your greens (all plants have some anti-nutrients that can build up if eaten daily).  In a blender, place a handful of greens, a seasonal fruit (banana, mango, apples, etc.) and water.  Blend until smooth and enjoy.

Over time, you'll learn what tastes good to you, but you might want to start reducing the sugar and get used to eating more green tasting smoothies.  One of my favorite combinations is celery, kale, cilantro, parsley, apple and banana.  Sometimes, I even throw in some ginger or garlic for a little kick.  The key is to be creative so you can find combinations that you like.  If it's torture, you probably won't continue doing it.  So, go out and buy some greens and join the Green Smoothie Revolution.  Your body will thank you.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Superfood Sunday: The Power of Maca

High up in the Andes, an ancient radish grows above 10, 000 feet and is revered by the people of this area.  Like many foods that grow in extreme conditions, Maca has developed unique superfood qualities that help humans adapt to stress in the environment when consumed.  These foods are commonly called adaptogens.  Ginseng is another popular example.

Adaptogens help to balance the body's systems, and Maca is well-known for its effect on the hormonal system and is commonly used for libido.  Beyond its reputation as a sex herb, maca also stabilizes the nervous system, the cardiovascular system and the lymphatic system.  Athletes often take the herb for energy and bodily stress reduction.  In fact, the ancient Incas are reported to have used Maca before going into battle.

Because Maca can stimulate the body, I recommend taking it in the morning.  The flavor is strong and pungent, so most people have to find a way to use it that agrees with them.  Personally, I prefer to blend it with raw cacao (chocolate).  Cacao is also somewhat stimulating, so this is the perfect morning drink.  Usually, I make about 12 ounces of tea (use different herbs daily like mint, Cat's Claw, Holy Basil, etc.).  I put the warm tea in a blender and mix with one tablespoon of cacao powder, one teaspoon of Maca, and a little sweetener.  This creates a rich, dark chocolate drink that tastes good, nourishes the body and gives sustained energy for hours.

Like most superfoods, start off with a small portion and work your way up to a full dose (one to two teaspoons a day).  You may find that Maca does wonders for your health.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sexy Saturday: Take Care of Your Skin and Health with Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has a long history of use in many parts of the world.  It comes from the flesh of the mature coconut and is extracted using hot or cold methods.  By far, cold processing yields a better quality coconut oil.  The oil is very heat-stable and is commonly used for cooking.  It can also be used on the skin as a moisturizer.

In the middle of the 20th Century, coconut oil began to get a bad rap for internal use, due to it containing a high amount of saturated fat.  Some of you may remember eating theater popcorn that was popped in coconut oil.  The smell and taste were unmistakable.  By the end of the 70s, though, that was history and popcorn was never the same.  During this time, all saturated fats were lumped into the same category and authorities urged the public to avoid these fats.  Because coconut oil was easily replaced by other "healthier" oils, it received the worst rap, and animal fats continued to be eaten with great zeal.

Fast forward a couple of decades and new research reveals something totally different about coconut oil.  Virgin (not hydrogenated) coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids, which are much easier for the liver to digest than other fats.  Founder of the Coconut Research Center, Bruce Fife is considered one of the world's experts on coconut oil.  The author of several books and essays on the miraculous oil, Dr. Fife concludes that coconut oil taken internally and used externally contains numerous healing qualities.  Some of its notable properties include being antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory.  Research also shows that it can help the liver, blood sugar, intestines, immune system, thyroid, and kidneys. It's actually good for the heart too, which is the opposite of what was believed 50 years ago by Western medicine.

One of the best kept secrets about coconut oil is its effect on the skin.  When applied to the skin, coconut oil can protect it from free radicals and slow aging.  It's also one of the best moisturizers, healing dry skin, even helping with severe skin issues like psoriasis and eczema.  As a person who likes to go in the sun a lot during the summer, I have found no better oil to heal my skin after a long day of sun.  Any light burn quickly heals and turns into a tan.  If your skin is not too sensitive to the sun, you can even use coconut oil as a natural sunblock as it protects the body from UV rays.

When choosing a coconut oil, be sure to find a company that uses a cold, centrifugal process.  Also, make sure the oil is unrefined, with no added preservatives or chemicals. has a great, truly-raw coconut oil that you can eat or use on the skin.  If you have never indulged in this oil, do yourself a favor and try it.  Be good to your health and your skin.  Be healthy!

Mystic Merman 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Free Friday: Sugar Me Sick

According to a 2009 report by the American Heart Association, Americans guzzle 22 teaspoons of sugar a day EACH!  Most of this comes from soda and candy.  One soda alone carries around 8 teaspoons of sugar.  Alarmingly, teenagers raise the average for Americans by consuming up to 34 teaspoons of sugar in one day.  Recommendations from the AHA allow 6 to 8 teaspoons of sugar a day, depending on your size.  Personally, I think the goal should be 0.

Processed sugar comes to us in many forms: white sugar (from cane or beets), corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and many other disguises in our food.  It's hiding in almost anything packaged like cookies, crackers, pasta sauces, peanut butter, salad dressings, mayonnaise, you name it.  Even bread, meat and soup can be loaded with sugar.

So, what's the problem with sugar?  Well, humans haven't been consuming these quantities of refined sugars for very long, so the long-term effects are just beginning to occur to us.  Many experts blame high consumption of refined sugar for a plethora of diseases.  Diabetes is the most obvious, but many recent studies indicate that sugar may play a huge role in hundreds of other diseases.

In her book Lick the Sugar Habit (which I highly recommend), Dr. Nancy Appleton references dozens of studies that implicate sugar in connection with cancer, heart disease, obesity, tooth decay, mineral deficiencies, depression, intestinal disorders, free radical damage, constipation, asthma, and the list goes on.  With as much sugar as humans consume daily, it would not be surprising if scientists soon discover that sugar is the main problem in most chronic diseases.

Why wait until science clearly tells us what we all already know?  Refined sugar is toxic and contributes to disease.  Cutting this out of your diet in all of its forms will do nothing but contribute to your health and well being.  As humans, we should be getting healthy sugars from fruits and vegetables.  Concentrated, denatured sugar is nowhere to be found in nature.  Even honey is a rare treat for an animal in the wild that dares to penetrate a beehive.

If you have a sweet tooth, learn to enjoy foods that are naturally sweet (like fruit and dates).  If you have to have sweets, find ones that are sweetened with less harmful sweeteners like agave, coconut palm sugar or stevia (ultimately, the goal should be to avoid any form of concentrated sweetener).

I would also recommend learning to enjoy the other flavors that food has to offer.  Bitter is a taste that most people stay away from, but you can develop a taste for slightly bitter foods by introducing them with other foods like in a green smoothie.  Sour, salty, spicy, pungent, and astringent are some other tastes that can be enjoyed.  Learning to enjoy flavors can be exciting with plant foods, because there is so much variety.  Be adventurous!  Enjoy food.  Be healthy!