Food and Nutrition

One of Life Made Simple’s main goals is achieving well-being through simplicity.  What better way than to talk about how food may affect our well-being.  Evie Pesheva from LMS sat down with Elena Mitova, a  certified nutritionist, to discuss basic ideas about good and bad nutrition.  Take a look!

For more information on Elena Mitova check out her website:


The current obesity epidemic in the U.S. has brought about a surge in the promotion of healthier eating.  Many fast food restaurants have included healthier options on their menus, schools have provided healthier lunch options for students and more and more health food stores are popping up around the country. Some people are taking a further step to a healthier and nutritious lifestyle by juicing. No one knows juicing better than Mama Asantewa whose diet and nutritious lifestyle includes mostly juicing foods. LMS turns to the juice “queen” to find out what foods are best to juice, which ones are most nutritious and about opening her first fresh juice bar in the near future.

LMS: When did your affinity for juicing start?

MA: Well, I come from a family where everything that was ever eaten was cooked. Of course we found out the hard way that this was not the best way to eat when my mum developed chronic “type 2” diabetes. Her doctor had to put her on a very strict diet composed strictly of fruits, vegetables and low-to-no sugar foods as well as cutting out refined foods and foods with a lot of preservatives. So my mum having little time to always eat many different types of vegetables and fruits, found it easier to just juice or blend them.

LMS: What is considered “Juicing”?

MA: I’m glad you asked that because some people confuse juicing with blending and mixing juice. Juicing is the process of extracting and separating the peel from a fruit or vegetable. You can do this by squeezing the actual fruit or vegetable, or by using a juicer. Just throwing fruit and/or vegetables in a blender is not juicing but can still give you great nutritious benefits. With juicing though – because the juice is separated from the skin, you do tend to loose the fiber from the fruit or vegetable as in the case with apples.

LMS: What are the benefits to juicing?

MA: Juicing allows you to absorb all the nutrients and consume an optimal amount of vegetables and fruits in an efficient manner. You can also add more of a variety of fruits and veggies in your diet with juicing. This is one of the main reasons why my mum started juicing. The daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables is at least five servings a day, so as long as you get this you are getting adequate nutrition. But juicing is a great way to easily accomplish getting your nutrients with a quick glass of juice.

LMS: Which juice combinations would you recommend and are there any combinations that should be avoided?

MA: There are some that I personally that I like to juice as a daily juice blend – like carrot, orange and lemon juice with a touch of cayenne pepper (wakes me up), but there can be many good juice combinations depending on a person’s nutritional needs, lifestyle, time of year (what’s in season) and personal taste. For someone who lives in a cold climate may benefit from garlic, ginger or basil based juices as these are warming vegetables. For someone who may have have a cold, getting some fresh vitamin C from a fresh squeezed or pressed orange  may be beneficial. But you want to avoid combining vegetables with fruits as they require different enzymes for digestion. Apples are the exception because they tend to be neutral. You want to be a vegetarian moreso than a fruitarian when juicing and/or eating fruits and veggies because fruits are higher in sugar than vegetables. Like with everything in life there needs to be a balance so try to get a variety of both without excessively juicing.

LMS: You are in the process of opening your first juice bar, tell us how this came about.

MA: I feel that there are not enough places that offer fresh squeezed juice in the city (Chicago). I want to provide a place where people can get a healthy drink on the go and provide a healthier more convenient option towards a nutritious lifestyle. I am looking at locations now for it, but I do know I want it to be centrally located in the city and if it does well, maybe branch out to other cities.

LMS: So what juice combinations can we expect to see on the menu?

Well I haven’t decided on all of them yet but some will be based on the season – for winter months I’ll have more warming based fruit and vegetable drinks like fresh squeezed carrot and orange juice blends, and for summer maybe some fresh berry and tomato juice blends. I will also have wheat grass which has many health benefits.

LMS: For our readers, what will be the name of your juice bar and when do you project it opening?

MA: Currently I have a few names for the juice bar (not patented yet so can’t list) but it would definitely have something to do with the word “juice”, lol. I plan on opening it around springtime of 2011, but I’ll keep you posted!

Life Made Simple is about the simpler things in life and the wonderful feelings and well-being that simplicity can bring. This week we visited a soup kitchen where people come together, not only to eat free organic soup, but to have conversation about current social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues. This soup kitchen is held at the University of Illinois at Chicago every Tuesday from 12:00pm to 1:00pm. Re-Thinking Soup is an organization that focuses on locally grown, simple ingredients for delicious soups, while educating their guests about important current issues.

The first time I visited this soup kitchen was two weeks ago. I walked in through a door posted with a white sign displaying the words “Re-Thinking Soup” in bold black letters.  I entered a room filled with four long tables where people were eating soup from white bowls. On the right, two volunteers stood behind two large metal pots placed on a table and were serving a line of waiting people.  On the opposite side of the room, there was a woman behind a podium who was explaining that the soup served at this kitchen is made with all organic, fresh, and locally grown produce.  The next speaker that day was a woman named Jeannette Beranger, a representative for the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, which is a clearing-house company for information on livestock and genetic diversity.  Mrs. Beranger was present at the soup kitchen via a Skype conference call and she spoke on a current environmental issue.

Tera Lee is one of the founders of Re-Thinking Soup.  That day, she was helping the volunteers serve soup.  I asked how she got involved with Re-Thinking Soup – assuming she was a volunteer.  She laughed and said, “I’m not a volunteer; I’m actually one of the founders.” This made me interested in finding out more about the organization. “Me and my friends began this about three and a half years ago,” explained Tera. “We came to look at the space and they said the director wanted to reinvigorate it because it used to be an old residence dining hall. All the officials came together here and ate every day, so we thought why can’t we have that same process?  We wanted to reference what they used to do, but also bring in modern day issues.”

After the first wonderful experience I had at Re-Thinking Soup, I knew I had to return and experience it again. I not only wanted to have the same experience, but I wanted to learn more about this organization and those involved. I returned on a Tuesday when curry spice pea soup was being served.  This soup was made from mashed peas, water, garlic, ginger, and curry.  Flavors of garlic and ginger gave the soup a delicious hot spice that warmed my body up instantly.  The curry gave the soup a beautiful deep orange that made me feel warm. To contrast this deep orange, the chef threw in what looked like kale green leaves.  Each bowl of soup is served with bread which is provided by Nicole Bergere, who owns a shop called Nicole’s Divine Crackers in Chicago. Bergere grinds the grains, uses all natural ingredients and no preservatives for her baked creations. During this visit to the soup kitchen, I was able to talk to some of those behind Re-Thinking Soup and those who simply enjoy coming on Tuesdays.

Jonathan is a man who has been going to this soup kitchen every Tuesday since 2008.  He says that he enjoys not only coming here because of the free soup, but also because it is an enlightening social gathering.  He later admitted that he also liked coloring with the crayons on the table.

When I re-visited the soup kitchen the following Tuesday, a documentary titled “Flow” was showcased. Every week there is focus on current issues. This film was based on a current environmental issue about water deprivation in other countries across the world.  Tera explained to me that those who run the soup kitchen follow the belief of “eating as an agricultural act.”  This means every bite you take; you are taking a stance on something.  At Re-Thinking Soup, people can come together and work towards being conscious of what they are taking a stance on and allowing into their bodies.  When people come to this soup kitchen, they don’t only come to eat the soup.  They come for the learning experience and desire to know where their food comes from.  Most importantly, they come to take a stance!

Jonathan then smiled and said, “I don’t know how they make this delicious soup with theses fresh vegetables for so many people, but it really makes my day every Tuesday.”

LMS encourages you to take time off your “busy” schedules and enjoy something simple like this soup kitchen that doesn’t cost you anything and the rewards are “enlightening,” as Jonathan said!

Re-Thinking Soup is open to the public every Tuesday at 12:00pm to 1:00pm.

It is located at 800 S. Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60607-7017

For information about volunteer opportunities for Re-Thinking Soup please contact Kelly Saulsberry at or 312.355.4683

Thanksgiving is tomorrow which means there will be a whole lot of cooking and even more eating!  Whether you are a guest bringing a dish to some one’s home or cooking for your own, a seasonal dessert is a must! LMS searched the web for a simple seasonal dessert that had basic ingredients and easy to follow directions.  What did we look for? Some of the Thanksgiving classics; pumpkins and cranberries.  We entice  your taste buds this holiday with….

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

Try this Taste of Home recipe

  • 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
  • Spoon into two greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 70-80 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each).

Baking with Fresh Pumpkin

Big pumpkins, small pumpkins, white pumpkins, Cinderella pumpkins: what’s best for baking?   All Recipes can tell you how…it really is simple!

One way or another after this weekend’s festivities, your house might have an abundance of leftover candy.  You’ve had two whole days to enjoy all the candy you collected so what are you going to do now? Whether you snack on a Snickers in the middle of the night or you pack some for your kid’s lunch, when the chocolate or hard candy is within arms reach you will eventually indulge!

Life Made Simple would like to encourage you to stay healthy and stay away from too much sugar! Here is how….

1) A popular method: take all the candy, dump it in a plastic bag and bring it to your work for many others to enjoy!

2) Donate to a local nursing home or a women’s shelter – everyone enjoys something sweet in moderation

3) Send it overseas to US troops as part of a care package . Just remember chocolate doesn’t travel well!

4) Stash some in your car for emergencies.  This is a great idea for people who are diabetic and need something sugary, fast! You also never know when you might get stuck in the car for hours and a piece of candy will surely give you a boost.

5) As a joke (wink-wink) 😉 bring it to your dental office as front desk decoration. We can all wonder how many brave souls will take candy in front of their Dentist?

Finally, remember it’s always good to give what you don’t want to someone else rather than waste it. Give it, share it- but don’t indulge in it all by yourself or your dental care budget might skyrocket in the next couple of months!


We know that food affects how we feel, and eating the right foods can help us stay healthy. But did you know that certain foods can help fight off diseases? Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, Life Made Simple will take a look at how nutrition and developing a healthy lifestyle, can help prevent and fight (once diagnosed) breast cancer.

Nearly 1 in 4 cancers diagnosed in U.S. women is breast cancer. Because most women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have increased risk factors for the disease, there is plenty that can be done to improve chances of beating the odds.


Diet can be an important health strategy to fight off breast cancer.   Consuming a mostly fruit and plant based diet can contribute to a longer and healthier life. Intake of soy, also has been found to help reduce the risk of the disease’s recurrence specifically in Chinese women. According to a new study by Dr. Qingyuan Zhang of the Cancer Hospital of Harbin Medical University in Harbin China, soy intake in postmenopausal women, had a reduced risk of cancer recurrence. Women were given more than 42.3 milligrams of soy isoflavones a day. Zhang states that isoflavones are a class of phytochemicals – compounds found only in plants, and are a type of plant hormone that resembles human estrogen. By mimicking human estrogen at certain sites in the body, isoflavones provide many health benefits that help avoid disease.
(For premenopausal women, soy had no apparent effect on the risk of subsequent breast cancer).

Other Cancer Fighting Foods include:

Fiber Rich Foods:
A high – fiber and low fiber diet lessens the likelihood that cancer cells will multiply or spread by reducing the amount of estrogen circulating in the blood. High fiber foods also help keep your colon healthy and promote regularity.

Oatmeal (not instant)
Apples (with skin)
Figs (dried)

Immunity Boosting Foods:
These foods are rich in beta carotene that help boost your immune system.

Sweet Potatoes/Yams
Bell Peppers (Orange, yellow)

Vitamin C:
Fruits high in this vitamin such as grapefruits and oranges contain monoterpenes believed to help prevent cancer by sweeping carcinogens out of the body.

Raw bell peppers (red, green, yellow, orange)
Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit)

Vitamin E:
Vitamin E helps regulate blood sugar

Brazil nuts
Brown Rice

Zinc is also an immunity booster and helps with the healing of wounds.

Cereals (whole grain)
Wheat Germ
In addition to fighting breast cancer with foods, there are other preventive steps that can be taken towards living a healthier lifestyle:

Awareness: Early detection of breast cancer is the best way to long term survival. Through regular mammograms and/or performing self-exams and getting regular screenings any abnormalities can be detected sooner, than later. The American Cancer Society recommends women between the ages of 20 and 39 get mammograms at least every three years and women over 40 every year.

Exercise: Because obesity has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer (particularly after menopause), exercising helps maintain a healthy weight and can cut the risk of breast cancer. A recent study conducted by the CDC, found that women who gained 55 pounds or more after age 18 had almost a 50 percent greater risk of breast cancer compared with those who maintained their weight. The study suggests that regular physical activity, regardless of intensity may reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

Diet: It is true that food affects how we feel. Using food as medicine can be a health strategy in preventing or fighting off the disease. A report published by stated that a vegetable – rich diet may reduce the risk of breast cancer by almost 50 percent.

Currently there is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but there are preventive measures one can take. Reducing risk factors include getting regular mammograms, avoiding weight gain, engaging in physical activity, not smoking and being aware of medical guidelines for your age group, ethnicity, and family history. Through prevention, early detection, and quality of life, breast cancer can be prevented and survived.


Living simply has a lot to do with eliminating the unnecessary things in our lives, especially those that aren’t so good for us.  Although many of us enjoy eating meat, a lot of the poultry and livestock we consume, aren’t necessarily what we think they are.

When I visited the Philippines, I noticed that the chickens over there could FLY.  These are not the chickens that so many of us are used to consuming in the United States. Here, many companies and producers fatten chickens with hormones solely for human consumption; therefore, our chickens don’t fly because they are beyond unhealthy.

Knowing this information, I was curious to know how difficult it would be eliminating this food from my life.  I have always had the conception that not eating meat was complicated and only possible if you have  time for it.  I decided to interview someone who adopts the vegetarian lifestyle. Meet Nikki Rivers.  Nikki has been a vegetarian since she was in eighth grade, she is now 24. She explains how being a vegetarian is beneficial, and really not as hard as everyone may think.  Take a read…

When did you become a vegetarian?  Why?
I became a vegetarian in 8th grade because my friend kept bombarding me with PETA pictures.  I’ve always been an animal lover and those pictures sent me over the edge.

What are some changes you’ve noticed in your body being a vegetarian?
In the beginning, I didn’t eat very healthy at all – I ate a lot of cereal and desserts to fill up the void left by not eating meat.  However, once I began investigating in healthier alternatives, I noticed that I had more energy and I didn’t feel as “heavy” after I ate a meal.

What is the best thing about being a vegetarian?
For me, the best thing about being a vegetarian is that I know I am contributing to improving animal welfare, if only in a very small way.

How would you explain a vegetarian diet?  Is it always so hard to find food when you’re busy?
My·diet depends on my schedule.  When I have free time, I can play around with food items like quinoa and tempeh and make fairly elaborate meals that require as much time as preparing meals with meat.  However, when I’m busy, my diet is much simpler – soup, a boca burger, or salad.

A lot of people have the perception that a vegetarian lifestyle is complicated and hard to keep up, what is your take on that?
In order to be a vegetarian, you have to be committed to the reason you became a vegetarian.  I know a lot of people who have given up after a week or a month because it was “too hard.”  But, you have to be patient.  It’s not bad at all once you get used to it.

What is a simple vegetarian dinner you can share with us?

The easiest meal in the world is vegetables and rice.  Just cook some rice, unthaw some frozen veggies, add some seasoning, mix everything together and you have yourself a meal.

Would you recommend others to try vegetarianism?
I think that Americans eat way too much meat – to their own detriment and to the detriment of animals.  I would highly recommend everyone try being a vegetarian, if only to know that they can survive without huge portions of meat at every meal.  It doesn’t have to be permanent, but I think you can learn a lot about yourself and your ability to maintain self-control.  However, everyone has different reasons for becoming a vegetarian and in order to remain a vegetarian, you really have to be committed.

Anything to add?
When I decided to become a vegetarian, I still loved meat.  I still dream about the times that I used to have fried chicken and ribs.  However, I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 10 years now and, despite those urges, I’m happy with my decision.  I feel healthier – especially after hearing about all the hormones and antibiotics pumped into animals.  And, I feel good knowing that I’m not contributing to the horrible treatment of animals that occurs in factory farms.

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