Wednesday, May 30, 2012

roasted corn salad

roasted corn salad
I love summer and summer food.  For me there is nothing better on a hot day than a quick simple barbecue with lots of tasty side salads.  My sister-in-law is a genius at the side salad thing, probably because she grew up in Texas where all my friends seem to be good at that.   Me?  Well, it's a learned thing, mostly started by her generous gift of two cookbooks loaded with salad recipes.

This is my latest creation.  It was late by the time we ate and I was too hungry to stop and get out the camera.  When I remembered to take this picture there was, I kid you not, only three spoonfuls of salad left.  That's how good it is.  The general family consensus is that it's a keeper.  Hope you think it is too.

Roasted Corn Salad - 5-6 servings

3 ears of corn
1 red bell pepper diced
3 spring onions, cleaned and diced
1/2 cup celery diced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 small bunch of cilantro minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small lime juiced
sea salt and pepper to taste

Shuck the corn and cook in a pot of water until just starting to boil
Remove from the water, pat dry and place on a medium high grill
Turn corn occasionally to prevent burning
     (although my guinea pigs family says the darker bits are tasty too)
When corn is slightly browned all over remove from grill
Using a sharp knife remove kernels from cob and place into a bowl
Add bell pepper, spring onions, celery, garlic, and cilantro
Mix well
In a separate container whisk together olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper
Pour dressing over corn salad and toss well to coat evenly

Monday, May 28, 2012

on my mind monday 5.28.12

news | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting regarding food, nutrition, and holistic.  Read what's on my mind.

Flame Retardants Could Affect Our Bodies For Generations - The more we pollute our environment, sadly, the more we pollute our bodies.  And the effect is cumulative (and in some cases exponential) from one generation to the next.  In her book Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape The Rest Of Our Lives author Annie Murphy Paul talks about how the placental barrier is not as impermeable and protective as we had previously thought.  And with the growing number of chemicals in our environment our bodies are taxed even more.  As the article highlights, there are a growing number of studies that show the results affect DNA and last for generations.  This is a very scary issue and one that needs to garner more attention both from the public and from industry.

The Garden Summer - a new twist in reality t.v., the main person invited four other people to join her in living on a farm.  None of them had any experience.  The documentary highlights their journey.  I would be interested in seeing the movie although I'm not sure how wide the distribution will be.  I envision this as a modern day version of Frontier House, a PBS series where several families were given a little training and then put into a setting reminiscent of the late 1800's.  It's a sobering thought, however, that so many of us no longer know how to raise our own food and how to live a more environmentally connected life.

Sunflowers to clean radioactive soil in Japan - The fallout from Fukushima is serious and likely to last for generations.  I was glad to hear that phytoremediation (the use of plants to clean up the soil) was an option being encouraged in this disaster.  Apparently this method was used after the Chernobyl accident back in the late 1980's.  In addition to sunflowers other plants such as mustard, alfalfa, fennel, and barley are effective choices.  One important issue is the fact that plants used this way cannot be consumed due to the high level of heavy metals they extract from the soil.  I am a little puzzled that Japan is asking local citizens to grow sunflowers and then plans to harvest the seeds and plant them at Fukushima.  To my mind it would make more sense to ask for donations of sunflower seeds from around the world and the phytoremediation could be started one growing year earlier.  Research on the internet, however, failed to turn up an address where sunflowers seeds could be sent.

Tainted Spinach Detected By A Program Budget Cuts Will Axe - Given the increasing number of food recalls and contamination issues I am very surprised to see that this program will be going away.  The governmental agencies already do a poor job at monitoring the food supply, I have to believe this will only make the situation worse.  The best solution in this case is to consider shopping more locally and get to know your farmer.  Know where your food comes from and how it gets to you.

Composting is wonderful; it's almost magical how you can take leftover coffee grounds, egg shells, potato peels, lawn clippings and other green matter and turn it into a high quality dirt so your garden will grow better.  We've finally discovered (after three prior attempts) how to keep the dogs out of the compost bin (really they're pigs in disguise).  An off-the-ground tumble style container.  Locked behind a gate.  We're finally starting to generate enough decent compost to be able to use it in the garden and that's a great thing.

What I'm reading:

Savor by Thich Nhat Han This is a book incorporating information about nutrition with the practice of mindfulness as applied to weight, health, and our relationship with food.  An interesting blend of science and spiritual practice I am enjoying it so far.\


Thursday, May 24, 2012

what's in your vitamins?

gummi bears | photo: Pumbaa80
Not that long ago I was working with a client, we were having a Pantry Party.  For those who may not know, a Pantry Party is where I come to your house and we play in the pantry.  Working with you, based on your health goals, we go through the contents of your pantry and I help you understand what may be in there that really isn't food.  We talk about ways to get rid of those non-food choices, suitable substitutions, and overall nutrition education.  I love Pantry Parties, they're a lot of fun, and my clients love them too.

This particular client happened to keep their vitamins in the pantry.  At one point, as we were talking about a number of the negative ingredients in various food items,  I happened to grab one of the vitamin bottles.  That vitamin bottle brings us to today's blog entry.

It's important for you to understand that nutrition applies not only to food; it applies to whatever you put in your mouth.  If you eat it or ingest it in any way, you need to be aware of the ingredients that are in it; because if it goes into your mouth it gets into your system.   This includes Food, medicine, vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste.

I am going to focus on one particular vitamin here but this information and thought process would apply to any supplement.  First, I will start by saying I do not get the gummy-bears-as-vitamin concept.  Sure it sounds good in theory, make vitamins fun and perhaps more people will take them.  But vitamins are not candy and we should not be thinking of them as equivalents.

I am, admittedly, a huge proponent of food as medicine; however I do recognize the potential need for supplementation.  My theory is supplement, replete, and stop (having corrected the diet along the way).  Gummy vitamins/supplements fall very low on my list because all of that sticky, candy residue stays on your teeth and creates a perfect environment for bacterial growth.

I know, I know, some of you are going to complain that gummy candies are fun and I shouldn't be such a spoilsport.  I get that they're tasty and the chewiness is fun.  But every day?  Not a good habit to get into in my book.

This particular vitamin is meant for adults.  It's a calcium supplement with vitamin D3.


On the plus side:

  • Taking calcium with D3 is a good choice, the D helps the body to properly utilize the calcium and D3 is the better choice over D2.  
  • This supplement uses maqui berry (also known as Chilean winterberry) juice concentrate for color.  A good choice because it's a fruit, however why go all the way to Chile?  Why not use something like cherries or blackberries?  
  • The tricalcium phosphate is meant to provide the calcium supplementation.  There is some debate about which forms of calcium are best, but leaving that out of the discussion this is not an unreasonable form.

And that brings us to the negatives with this product:

  • The very first ingredient is corn syrup which is essentially a sugar.  
  • The second ingredient  is sucrose, also known as table sugar.  
  • If we look at the nutrition label we see that this product provides 7 grams of sugar for two gummies.  That's as much sugar as a 3.5 ounce cheese danish (not that I recommend you eat the danish either).
  • The artificial flavoring, Yellow #6 and Red #40 are definite negative ingredients. 

As many readers know, I am strongly opposed to artificial flavors and colors.  The colors are made from petrochemicals.  There is landmark study which shows a significant response among children who consumed artificial colors.  I feel, quite strongly, that artificial colors are not good for anyone, child or adult, and need to be removed from our food.  There are plenty of natural food color alternatives.  But that's a blog post for another day.  If you don't want them in your food (and believe me, you don't) then you certainly don't want them in your vitamins.

Inert or neutral ingredients would be the water, sodium citrate, citric acid and pectin.  These are used to make the form, or body, of the candy.  The citric acid is for flavor, the pectin is what makes it gummy.

Overall that makes this not a great choice if you are looking to supplement your calcium.  Considering the food as medicine concept, it is important to remember that if you eat right you can, in fact, support your health with food.  One study from 2007 concluded that, "Calcium from dietary sources is associated with a shift in estrogen metabolism toward the active 16α-hydroxyl metabolic pathway and with greater BMD and thus may produce more favorable effects in bone health in postmenopausal women than will calcium from supplements."

Am I telling you not to take supplements?  Absolutely not, that's a decision that you need to make for yourself, in combination with all of your health professionals.  But I am strongly suggesting that instead of trying to supplement your calcium with candy you may want to consider adding foods that are high in calcium to your diet.  Obviously this includes dairy, but for non dairy sources consider the following foods:

     salmon, sardines, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, okra, white beans, broccoli,
     Brussels sprouts, and sesame seeds

Update:  I just found this article stating calcium supplements may not be good for your heart, possibly even leading to cardiac arrest.  Especially if you are a woman.  The article points out that the body handles calcium very differently (and very well) when it comes from food sources.  The rush of calcium to the system from supplements however may not be so beneficial.  One of the study researchers, Dr. Ian Reid was quoted as saying,"A reassessment of the role of calcium supplements in osteoporosis management is warranted."

Want to connect with me for a Pantry Party?  Send me an email.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

another helping of meat glue?

meat glue | photo: the bovine
First it was pink slime. And no matter what anyone says I do not believe that is something that should be considered fit for human consumption. But I've already written about that.

Now we have "meat glue." Approved for human consumption by the FDA, allowed in Canada, and defended by the American Meat Institute it is made from something called transglutaminase.   Used to put together pieces of meat, this powder can be used to make them look like a better cut of meat. It is also used to improve the texture of certain foods.

According to my research, transglutaminase, or meat glue, can be found in processed meat and other foods such as imitation crabmeat, fish products, and ham.  However it's not just used for meat and can also be used in those food products where a gelling process is needed such as cheeses, jellies, yogurts, or frozen desserts.  Meat glue is made utilizing Streptoverticillium mobaraense.  What is S. mobaraense?  Apparently it's a micro-organism that secretes transglutaminase.  I'm not exactly clear on how the process works but that is the condensed version.  Anyone who would like to dig through the more extensive explanation can find it at the American Society for Microbiology.

One complaint is that producers may be selling cheaper cuts of meat as a higher grade because it looks like something it's not. This is a valid point; it would definitely be a reason to get upset for being overcharged by a producer making cheap cuts of meat pieces look like a very expensive filet.  Searching the web it appears that one area where this may happen is buffet restaurant settings.  Those places where you can get as much filet mignon as you want for one low low price.  Apparently there's a reason that price is so low; it may not be what you think it is.  I want to point out, in all fairness, that there is a big kerfluffle about this issue but so far I have not found any legal cases where a producer or seller is being charged with this practice.

The health challenge is potentially different.  The use of meat glue means that there could be a higher risk for bacterial contamination due to the increased number of surfaces.  The more surfaces, the more area for bacteria to live.  For those consumers who like their meat less well done this creates more risk.  If the meat is not fully cooked (i.e., rare rather than well done) the joined parts may not reach a temperature capable of killing bacteria. With the new meat nutrition labeling requirement we should be able to see if transglutaminase is used on the meat at the grocery store.  However, I have yet to see a single package that is using this new labeling.

Made by Ajinomoto, the same company that makes MSG, I would like to point to a few other health issues that concern me.  The picture above is a packet of meat glue powder.  It comes with a dose of maltodextrin and sodium caseinate.  Maltodextrin is corn based so there is probably some GMO exposure as the use of organic corn would not make financial sense.  Sodium caseinate is a milk protein  and according to Truth In Labeling always has free glutamic acid making it a form of MSG.  Additionally there is a possibility that the milk used to obtain the protein has rBGH in it, a hormone that makes cows give more milk.  That's a whole blog post in and of itself, but the bottom line is you don't want to consume rBGH.  The issue at hand is the possible reaction to corn or dairy that could be brought about by ingestion of meat in those with high level food sensitivities.

How to avoid meat glue?  That appears to be a little trickier.  I have been extra diligent about reading labels at the grocery store lately and have not seen transglutaminase listed on any ingredient labels.  For meat products I believe the answer to be the purchase of organic meat or to buy from a trusted source.  Kosher meat is not exempt from the use of meat glue as there is a kosher version available.  Otherwise, until meat labeling actually happens, and unless they include transglutaminase on the label, you won't know.  For other products I don't have an answer at the moment.  Purchasing organic dairy, which I recommend anyway, is a good option.  But until this product is properly labeled or removed from the food supply we may not know if we are ingesting it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

on my mind monday 05.22.12

news | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  This is what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, health, and holistic living.  Read what's on my mind.

Testing Antioxidant Power of Foods -   The concept of antioxidant powders or beverages may sound great, but we are still moving away from the idea of whole foods.  Not even all whole foods are perfect as many of them contain enzymes that interfere with bioavailability if not soaked or fermented.  As the article itself states, "Blueberries have one of the highest scores—6,000 to 9,000 a cup, and more for wild-type berries. But the berries' colorful anthocyanins may not be well absorbed by the body, scientists say. Raw broccoli, they add, has a score of 1,400 a cup, but it contains a powerful antioxidant booster that isn't recorded by the lab test."  My suggestions:  Don't rely on a can for all of your nutrients and eat a varied, balanced, nourishing, whole food diet.

Foodiodicals - This collection of foodie magazines and concepts sounds amazing and intriguing.  Going beyond the typical grocery store food magazines, or those who love food and love reading about food - those who are obsessed with food, it looks like there's a lot more out there than one might think.

Mario Batali Spending $31 Per Week On Groceries - This is in response to the Food Stamp Challenge. I did this a while back as did a few of my friends.  It's an eye opening experience.  For me I also realized how, unless you know how to shop and cook well, you are not going to be able to eat as well as you would like.  There's also a huge divide in the foods which are subsidized (and therefore cheaper)  and those which are not.  Batali remarked, "We want people to think about calling and talking to their representation about cuts to the Farm Bill and the food stamp program."  I would like to encourage folks to read the book Hope's Edge by Frances Moore Lappe.  There are a lot of amazing stories in it about food and our diet.  One that really stuck with me over the years was the story of Belo Horizonte, Brazil which established the practice and belief of "Food As A Right."  As I re-read the story I'm struck by how simple the concept is and how powerfully it can work.

Everything You Thought About Pricey Health Foods Is Wrong - This goes back to something I've been saying for a while.  If you look at the nutrient density of what you are eating, that's how you determine your spending.  The picture in this article says it all. I don't know about you but I would be a lot more satisfied with the serving of strawberries than potato chips.

This is an older video but definitely one worth watching. If an 11 year old child can get it, why can't those who produce our food?  Birke Baehr is now 13 years old and still going strong with his mission as a sustainable food advocate.


Friday, May 18, 2012

revisiting granola

Talking with my mother the other day the conversation turned to granola.  Mostly because I was making some.  I have a basic recipe that I use, changing it up as needed or as whimsy strikes.

I was low on molasses and didn't have quite enough.  Spying the pomegranate molasses I have from Turkish cooking classes I asked if she had ever used it and did she think it would be a good substitute.  She hadn't used it so I tasted it and realized that it was probably more tart than I would like in my granola. So extra honey it was.

"I never make granola," she said, "I make muesli."  I suddenly realized that I'm not sure what I make.  It's not really granola because it doesn't have the hard, crunchy bits that so many people like in granola (mostly because I use less sugars).  However muesli, isn't baked at all.  Rather it's mixed together - flaked grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.  Some people add sugars to it but I prefer to leave those out.  When you want some you put it into a bowl, cover it with milk or yogurt and let it sit in the fridge overnight to soak.  You can eat it without soaking but if you do soak it you get a great consistency and high digestibility. When I make muesli I usually top my soaked bowl of goodness with some shredded apple, a pinch of cinnamon and a dusting of fresh nutmeg.

Although I can soak my granola it certainly doesn't form the same consistency as muesli because of the sweeteners and the oil.

Over time I have modified the original recipe and I no longer bake in the fruit.  If I want fruit I'll add it at the time I serve it which makes things easier for everyone.  I have, however, started adding in a lot of seeds to help boost the nutrition.  Often my base recipe now includes sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds; all raw and unsalted of course.  This batch however is sesame seeds only since when I went to make it I discovered that the pumpkin and sunflower seeds had been raided for hamster treats. (And, quite frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about that.  But that's probably a story for another time.)

 I was trying to decide what to call this cereal I make. It's probably somewhere in between granola and muesli.  Muesola sounds silly.  On the other hand gruesli sounds completely unappetizing.  I think I'll  stick with calling it granola and leave well enough alone.

Here's the base recipe for both with instructions below:

4 C. flaked grains - oats, barley, quinoa, your preference
1 C. raw, unsalted nuts, chopped - my favorites are pecans or almonds
1/4 C. flax seed, ground
1/4 C. sesame seeds
1/4 C. raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/4 C. raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds

Mix ingredients together well
Store in an airtight container

If making muesli:

Place 1/3 C. of the mixture into a bowl
Add 2-4 T. of dried fruit
Mix in 2/3 C. milk, yogurt, or apple juice
Cover and place in fridge overnight
In the morning top with 1/4 apple, grated and spices

If making granola:

Preheat oven to 350F

Put dry mixture into a large 9 x 13 casserole dish

In a sauce pan mix together
1/3 C. honey - I prefer raw and local
1/3 C. molasses
1/3 C. coconut oil

Heat in a small pot until just starting to bubble
Pour mixture over base recipe, coating evenly
Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to avoid burning

Pull mixture out of oven and sprinkle with 2 t. vanilla extract, incorporating well

Let mixture cool completely before storing in an airtight container

To serve:

Place 1/3 C. of mixture into a bowl
Add 2-4 T. dried or fresh fruit
Mix in milk to desired level

Thursday, May 17, 2012

meditation for children

meditating | photo: Beyond My Ken
Recently I saw this article online, Why Our Children Should Be Taught To Meditate In School.  This falls into the 'why didn't I think of that' category.  If I had known or thought about this I would have encouraged my children to learn how to meditate when they were younger.

In our ever-increasing-speed society children are being encouraged toward more distractibility, more tools, more stimulation.  There's no down time.   Ghandi once said, "There's more to life than increasing it's speed."  Somehow I don't think our modern society is listening.

 This point was brought forcefully to my attention by the deluge of commercials I have been seeing about internet speed including this latest one by AT&T


Everything is "so [insert number] seconds ago."  I know it's meant to be amusing but it highlights the problem that we face staying focused in our daily lives.  Everything is presented as needing to be instant, now, online, immediately.  It's no wonder that rates of hypertension are rising among our young people.  They're being stressed, pressured, and sped up beyond reasonable limits.  I personally believe this to be true for adults also.

Instead of joining in to the overwhelming frenzy for fast everything,  perhaps we need to re-evaluate things and slow down just a bit.  If we taught kids how to meditate in school it's possible that their minds could stop spinning to frantically.  They could learn how to recenter themselves and focus.  And what a great tool to be able to take forward into adulthood.

For those of us who are already adults and feeling overwhelmed?  Stop for a moment.  Take a few deep breaths.  That in and of itself is a good beginning.  Need some guided resources?  Here are a few to get you started:


Treasure those small quiet moments.  Seek them out.  Teach your children to do the same.  I think the world will be a better place if we do.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

breast is best

breastfeeding | photo: Jerry Bunkers
With all of the recent hullabaloo about breastfeeding because of the recent cover on Time magazine I wanted to share a few thoughts.

My kids are grown and I am no longer breastfeeding. While I did not breastfeed them for the extended periods of time mentioned in that article, I certain support those who can and do.

I am upset about the picture chosen but I am sure it was chosen for shock value.  No one I know has their child stand on a chair to breastfeed.  It is a cuddly, bonding experience.  The magazine cover is very militant in attitude (down to the cammo pants the child is wearing) and does not look comfortable or close knit for either one of them.  I think it gives people the wrong attitude about breastfeeding in general and extended breastfeeding in particular.

 Not every mother is able to breastfeed, but this post isn't about that. It's about how important breastfeeding is and how we need to get over ourselves and our squeamishness about it.  In other parts of the world breastfeeding is encouraged and is practiced for extended periods of time.  Here we get too wrapped up in the fact that these are breasts which are seen as a primarily sexual part of the body.  But while playing with boobies can be fun, let's remember that their primary function is to feed an infant.  Something that our bodies can do so very well and with wonderful purpose.

In our country the formula companies push their product over breastfeeding.  Not because their product is better (it isn't) but because that's what makes them money.  They have subsidies, spending our tax dollars, to back their product and get it into the hands of new mothers making it seem like a positive choice.  Combine this with what appear to be our general uncomfortableness with the concept of breastfeeding in public and far too many people feel that this is somehow a shameful practice.  One that perhaps should be carried out furtively. In dark corners.  Under blankets.  I believe this seemingly prim attitude toward breastfeeding needs to stop.  Let's be healthy, supportive, nurturing, and above all, nourishing for our babies.

The truth is that breastfeeding is the best, most positive first option for babies and young children.  For newborns, breast milk is the only way that immunoglobulins are passed from the mother to her baby.  Specifically IgE which is the one that regulates certain allergies, and IgA, which protects the lining of the intestines.  Both are critical to our lifelong health.  Sadly the lack of both is on the rise in our country with a corresponding increase in the number of children with allergies and other health issues.

Breastfeeding is also good for the mother.  It releases oxytocin which is a hormone that promotes relaxation; in other words it can help lower stress.  Other studies show that women who breastfeed have a lower incidence of breast cancer.  Two great benefits for mom while simultaneously providing lifetime benefits for baby.

When I was pregnant my mother gave me a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.  It was a great book, I learned a lot from it, and I believe it helped to get me and my first child off to a good start.  I want to encourage others to read it, to share it to help themselves and others.  I want to encourage people to seek out their local La Leche League, to learn more about breastfeeding, and to find friends and support for themselves and their family.  

Most importantly, I want to encourage people to breastfeed their babies.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

on my mind monday 5.15.12

news | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  This is a collection of what I find interesting in health, nutrition and holistic living.  Read what's on my mind.

Healthy Supermarket Shopping - While it might not be possible to have a nutritionist on hand at every trip to the market, this study shows that additional information and knowledgeable staff could help shoppers to make more healthful decisions."  Marketers deliberately crowd their packaging with healthy seeming claims or vague information that consumers think means it's a good choice.  This is why I love my Pantry Party service.  When I go to the grocery store with people they learn how to evaluate this information and how make those healthy changes.  You don't need to take a nutrition professional with you every time, but at least one or two trips with someone to guide you can be a good idea.  If you're looking for help at the grocery store let me know.

Keeping a Food Diary Doubles Weight Loss - This has been shown in studies time and time again.  part of the reason is that it involves mindfulness.   How many people remember what they had for breakfast last Tuesday?  If you write down what you eat you are able to be fully aware of not only what you eat but how much and how often. This technique also works for helping people learn to stay hydrated.  If you need to account for your fluid intake you'll realize if you need to drink more because you are keeping track of it.  There are lots of Food Diary Apps out there.  If you don't have a smart phone or other electric device just use a piece of paper or an index card.  I have some people who choose to use one index card per day; others use a piece of paper folded into quarters which gives you 8 writing spaces and holds a week's worth of information.  Whatever tool works for you, use it, the important thing is to keep track.

Fix Your Form: Pushups - Okay, confession time. I can't do pushups very well and I don't like to do them.  And yet I'm willing to complain about my "wings" while not doing anything to support good arm health.  This article reminds me that I need to pay attention to my form, revisit my copy of JJ Virgin's Six Weeks To Sleeveless and Sexy, stop by One Hundred Pushups, and get back on track.  I'm doing full out pushups, not on my knees.  Initial score: 7

What Would Be In Your Healthy Vending Machine - I don't eat from vending machines.  The food is, to put it bluntly, crap.  Lots of ideas about healthier choices run through my head every time I come across a vending machine and I mutter to myself, "Why don't they have [insert good option here]."   What would be in YOUR healthy vending machine? How to grow mint.  I always shudder when I see people who have planted mint loose and free in their garden.  It tends to go wild without much provocation; I'm reminded of my garden in Ohio where I learned this sad fact.  I planted lemon mint, spearmint, and peppermint in a garden bed, next to each other.  Over the next two years it completely took over the bed, choking out everything else.  And my mint sauce for ice cream?  Well, let's just say lemon-spearmint-peppermint sauce is a little too unusual for most palates.

On My Reading List:

Food Bites: the science of what we eat - I've just requested this book from my local library.  It is supposed to answer questions about food safety, labeling dates, how it's made and more.  Some of the categories, like fermenting and probiotics, appeal to me.  Others, Kool Aid vs Tang?  Not so much.  But it should be an interesting read.  I'll keep you posted.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

the whole food guide for breast cancer survivors

For all of those out there who have survived breast cancer there is now a book, The Whole Food Guide For Breast Cancer Survivors, that goes beyond primary treatment and survival.  With the information in this book you can learn how to support your body, to be can be healthy and strong using nutrition and a holistic health focus.

Covering a wide variety of topics including environmental risk factors, understanding hormones, glucose and metabolism, chemical exposures, and even a thorough explanation of those nutrients and foods which are highly supportive to health, this book covers the broad spectrum of what you need to know.  Providing background material and in-depth studies the work is well-supported and scientifically grounded.

Written in a straightforward and easy to understand manner the book provides a solid foundation of knowledge for anyone wanting to gain a deeper understanding of how their food affects their body and their health when breast cancer is involved.  It also includes a wide variety of delicious recipes, the foundations of eating for health, a sample meal plan, and ideas for incorporating these healthy and delicious food choices into your diet.

It isn't, however, just a discussion of nutrients and chemicals; the book also points out various types of therapy, diagnostic tools, and laboratories that offer additional or alternative treatments for breast cancer.  There are educational resources including books and support organizations.  The resource section even lists a number of retreats that are specifically for breast cancer patients, survivors, and some are also for family members.

If you or someone you love is a breast cancer survivors, this book would be a great resource.  But it's not just for survivors, it would also be an excellent roadmap for those who may discover that they are at risk for breast cancer.


ct governor goes against citizens

I was stunned to receive an email from the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT).  In the email they shared that Connecticut, which was poised to become one of the first States to approve Mandatory Labeling for GMO, had an abrupt reversal by the Governor and his attorneys.  According to IRT an overwhelming number of Connecticutians and a majority of legislators were in favor of this labeling.  The Governor, however, has removed a section of the bill that would require the labeling and the bill, in effect, has no power.

I grew up in Connecticut.  My husband and I moved back there a couple of times when the situation permitted.  Although I now live in Texas and love my life here, when people ask me where I am from, the answer is Connecticut.  I was pleased to see that this small State (third smallest in the nation) was poised to make such a historical, watershed moment happen.  And then it didn't.  It makes me wonder who else was present in that room with Governor Malloy and his legal staff.

I wrote to the Governor because I want him to know that this is wrong.  We have the right to know what's in our food.  We are demanding to know what's in our food.  Because I believe in and want this mandatory labeling to happen I am sharing my letter:

Re:  GMO Labeling

Dear Governor Malloy, 

As a former resident of Connecticut I was excited and proud to see the State that I consider my home state to be on the forefront of this important issue.  I confess that I personally do not like or agree with the use of GMO products.  However I also feel that it is important to clearly label these products so that those of us who want to know can be aware of it's presence in our food.

This current situation reminds me of the of the issue with labeling of rBST milk when there was an enormous legal battle against farmers and dairy producers who wanted to mark their milk as free of this hormone.  Ultimately they were allowed to mark their products as free of this added hormone along with a disclaimer which stated "No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows."  The consumers, however, were able to make a decision on their own because they knew what was in their food.

Monsanto is responsible for rBST.  They are also the largest single GMO producer in the world.  I believe their goal is to prevent people from knowing which foods contain this manipulation because their corporate profit line is believed to be far more important that the rights of consumers who want to know.

Governor Malloy, I urge you to stand up for the rights of those you represent and allow this legislation in it's original form to pass.  It is your responsibility as their elected official to represent that overwhelming majority of your citizens who want to know.


Mira Dessy

Monday, May 7, 2012

on my mind monday 5.6.12

news | photo: mconnors
It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in health, nutrition, and holistic living.  Read what's on my mind.

Fois Gras Wars - The point in this article is well made.  Instead of focusing on a small niche product, we need to be concerned about the "billions of chicken, hogs and cattle that are rushed through the industrial grinder."  I'm not sure why there is such a backlash against organ meat in this country, and not just fois gras, but all of it.  As the Weston A. Price Foundation promotes and teaches, organ meat is a healthy choice.  Many of us have lost the appreciation for the whole animal and for responsibly raised meat.

Eyeless Seafood For Sale - The environmental hazard of the BP oil spill continues to have an effect on the environment.  With a wide number of mutations still occurring it is mind boggling that these mutated shrimp, crabs, and other seafood are being sold for consumption in the grocery store.

Pesticides Scaled Up - Now that the use of Monsanto's Round Up has caused pesticide resistant weeds apparently the answer is to create a "superweed strategy" and up the chemical warfare.  I do not believe this is the answer.  I believe that this is absolutely the wrong path, we are poisoning our environment and destroying our eco-system by engaging in this sort of chemical warfare.  Working with nature in an organic, sustainable fashion is how we achieve the aims of agriculture, not increasingly upscaled chemical attempts at dominance.

More nutri-washing - Burger King is promoting it's "cage free pork."  A terminology that has a lot of people scratching their heads.  Why?  Because there is no such thing.  Cage free poultry mean birds that are raised in a cage free (although not necessarily unconfined) environment.  Pasture raised means they are free to run around at will.  This is a term that Burger King has come up with to try to make themselves look good.  Even if the term becomes defined in some way I strongly doubt that it will include avoidance of CAFO pork production.  Any time a company touts these sorts of initiatives it is important to learn to look critically at not only what they are saying, but what they are doing.

How Chemicals Affect Us - Haya, one of my readers, brought this article to my attention.  It talks about the endocrine disruptors that are all around us.  It's difficult to understand how in spite of the evidence these chemicals are still allowed.  BPA is one of the biggest endocrine disruptors out there.  I've written about plastics before, and there are some simple things that you can do to avoid BPA however you can also change your diet.  Nutritionally one big thing that you can do is to make sure you are getting enough folic acid in your diet as it appears that folic acid can switch off the genetic effects of BPA in utero.  While there are no specific studies to date of folic acid helping to clear the body of BPA it makes sense that including it in the diet would be a reasonable thing to do. The best food sources of folate are: calves liver, dark leafy greens, lentils, pinto beans and chickpeas.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

nutritional boost for almonds

raw almonds | photo: Sanjay Acharya
I am a big fan of raw nuts because they are a versatile way to add some nutrients into your diet.  Almonds are one of my favorites.  High in magnesium, manganese and vitamin E, they are a great source of heart healthy monounsaturated fats.  They are also good for helping to stabilize blood sugar and have been shown to lower the glycemic index of your meal when eaten as part of that meal.

As healthy as they are, as much as they are an amazing nutrient dense food, almonds can be made even healthier by the simple means of soaking.

When you soak almonds you break down the enzymes in the coating which can interfere with the bioavailability of some of the nutrients.  When those enzymes are removed the nutrients are more easily absorbed by your system.

Just as with beans and seeds, you can also sprout almonds which further increases their nutrition.  The act of sprouting helps to break down the indigestible sugars (those are what cause many of us to have gas when eating beans or nuts).  Sprouting also increases the nutritional content as the bean, seed, nut, prepares to grow.  And sprouts are more alkalizing which is good for our body.

So how do you soak almonds?  It's quite simple.

2 cups almonds
Place in a jar and cover with 4 cups of water
Let sit on the counter overnight
In the morning drain them well

At this point you can pat them dry and then store them in the refrigerator or you can dry them lightly.  I prefer to use my dehydrator, if I'm making a lot of nuts, or dry them in an oven set to 180F.  Then I can dry them in my pantry.

It doesn't really get any easier that that.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

fitness fun for kids with busy parents

family fitness | photo: Evil Erin

This is a guest post by Jeff Wise, the founder of My Family Exercise. Jeff believes, as I do, that family fun and exercise is important for the health of all members of the family.  He has created a line of ebooks and a Kids Health Club membership site to help children and parents decrease stress and improve physical fitness in a fun way.  For more information about Jeff and his programs you can visit his kids health and fitness blog or for daily advice follow Jeff on Twitter.

Even for a family like mine, with a stay at home mom and a work at home dad, life is still quite busy. There are errands, events, trips, and schooling just to name a few of the daily activities. Even if the whole family is home all day there are any number of things to do around the house every day with cleaning, laundry, and did I mention kids? Put it all together and it can sometimes be a challenge to get fitness on the calendar.

We are a very health conscious family; having studied health, nutrition and fitness for many years. We want to be able to serve one another and our community for many years to come. This means we’ve got to eat healthy foods daily and participate in regular exercise. I’ve found some really easy and fun fitness activities for kids that we, as parents, can teach our children while we're having fun too. You may look at some of these activities and consider them normal, or see them as nothing new. However they may be new ideas for your kids and these activities will encourage physical exertion and family fun.
Fresh air and sunshine, combined with physical activities, make for happy, healthy kids. I’m all for traditional exercises for kids but there are other opportunities as well:

1. Find a public playground – Kids love playgrounds and so do parents. It’s a great chance for kids to climb, slide, run and use their imaginations. Playgrounds can also give parents a little mental and physical break (as long as the kids are old enough to play without parental supervision).

2. Stroll through your neighborhood – If you haven’t figured it out yet, the walking possibilities are endless for families. After a busy day, this option is the most accessible. It can easily be done after dinner. And, since you’re not going far from the house, you can really do it throughout the year.

3. Go ice or roller skating – This activity helps with coordination and muscle strength. It also gets kids' heart rates up. Just make sure they wear safety padding.

4. Set up a relay race in your home or outside – Designate a starting and ending point. Have them run around furniture, crawl under tables or jump over objects. The path can change with each race.

5. Do yard work together – Kids can really learn the value of hard labor by working in the yard. Teach them how to pull weeds, plant flowers and even mow the lawn. My favorite idea is something I hope to start soon now that warmer weather is coming. How about planting and working on an organic vegetable garden? Not only do you get the benefit of exercise and outdoor activity, think of all the delicious vegetables you'll get to enjoy.

Again, these may seem normal and not traditional in the exercise sense, but kids love it and it keeps them active; something we want on a regular basis. Your kids aren’t going to do pushups and other traditional exercises (which they may see as boring) every day so why not have fun with these fitness activities for kids?

Make a date with your kids and plan an activity each week. Be sure to put it in writing; as busy parents it’s easy to forget or put something off unless it’s written down right in front of us.