Sweet 2016

Happy New Year!

This year, on New Year's Day, my family began our 16 hour drive home from Florida. We had an awesome vacation: 85 degree temperatures, loads of sunshine, daily walks on the beach, beautiful birds and other wildlife, sunning and swimming in the pool, fresh fish for dinner. Despite all this, we're happy to be home again. And happy to begin a new year.

2015 was tough. I experienced many losses. But sometimes in life there must be losses in order to make room for something (or someone) new to arrive. I believe I now have more love in my life than ever before, despite the loved ones I lost in the past year. While we are in the midst of grieving our losses, it is not always apparent how those gaps are going to be filled. But new love sneaks up on us when we least expect it.

I'm predicting 2016 will be sweet.

Have you ever noticed how we use the word "sweet" to describe things that are nice, or desirable, or excellent. And we use the word "bitter" or "sour" to describe things we dislike and wish to avoid. We are programmed to like sweetness and dislike bitterness. But when it comes to foods, a little bitterness isn't a bad thing.

I learned this from an episode of the Diane Rehm Show on NPR (during our LONG drive). Scientists have recently discovered that vegetables with a strong, bitter taste--like broccoli, collards, kale, dandelion greens--contain compounds that help us fight off disease. (Beyond the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants we already knew about!) Bitter greens do this by stressing our cells with small amounts of toxins. Our cells become stronger by dealing with these toxins and thus become better equipped to deal with other stressors.

If you haven't already made your New Year's resolutions, you might want to consider eating more dark green, bitter vegetables. Because of the unusually warm winter we've been experiencing so far, I still have kale, collards, arugula, cilantro, and broccoli growing in my garden so I'm all set.

Some other foods to add to your diet this year might be avocados, garlic, and turmeric. Avocados are excellent for the liver (important for those of us who tend to abuse the liver!) and have been shown to ward off liver diseases such as hepatitis. Garlic is a natural antibiotic and is best eaten raw or very lightly cooked. Turmeric has been shown to prevent and even reverse cancerous growth. You can easily add this yellow spice to anything from meatloaf to smoothies to warm milk before bed.

I'm looking forward to a year full of sweetness, along with a few bitter greens. I wish the same for you!

(Thanks to my daughter Sophie for the beautiful photographs!)