Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nitrites vs Nitrates

When Aerro's doctor recently told me he must avoid all nitrites, I knew that once again, I was going to be doing a lot of research. Research that I would share in basic terms with the general population. See, the lining of his stomach has a hard time breaking down nutrients so we have to keep things as pure and as chemical free as possible for him. It's not that hard, really. Just a lot of home cooked goodness and almost no processed foods.
But what made a nitrIte so bad? And how was it different from a nitrAte? He was allowed nitrAte foods, but not nitrIte ones. Well, after a meeting with a dietician, reading definitions in books, and some articles from reputable sites online this is what I discovered.

Occurs naturally in fresh foods such as spinach, celery, beets, lettuce, etc and not harmful to the body. Vitamin C and D contained in the food helps to absorb the nitrate so it's an ok thing to ingest in it's pure, fresh form. Nitrates relax veins and blood vessels, so a lot of times, people with heart problems are told by their doctors to eat nitrate rich foods.

Salt has been used to cure meat for ages. The discovery that the nitrate in salt combined with the bacteria in meat produced a compound called nitrite totally changed the curing process. Nitrites are now formed chemically and used to cure meats. The typical curing process is now a chemically made nitrite mixed with salt for flavor, sugar to offset the salt, and a whole host of natural and artificial flavors to produce the taste people are accustomed to. A simple problem is this. When nitrite is heated, it can for a nitrosamine which is a carcinogen. Carcinogens are associated with cancer and a whole host of other health problems.

This article from the Cancer Prevention Coalition totally blew my mind. Read it!!\

So what has nitrites? Lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon, cured fish meat, and others. And what to do about it? Simple. Buy nitrite free meats. Your local grocer has them. They're usually in the health food refrigerated section and are clearly labeled. Do they taste any different? Not usually. I haven't noticed a difference when it comes to being nitrite free. Nitrites give meat it's pinkish color, so the bacon, meat, dogs etc you buy will be *gasp* brown. Oh the horror! =) They're double the cost, but if you eat them half as often, no big deal, right? 
And that's what I've learned about Nitrates vs Nitrites. All thanks to my son who, by his little health issues, is prodding me to further educate my own self. And pass on what I learn to you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cow's Milk

We drink milk like crazy over here. Awhile back I was enlightened to the bad in hormone milk. Many cow farms use the hormone rBGH in their milk to make cows produce a lot more milk. This in turn is detrimental to the cows. They develop infections and diseases more readily and that is then transferred into their milk. That's where pasteurization comes in..but more on that later
Thankfully, after a lot of public outcry, the use of this artificial growth hormone has dropped considerably but not entirely. Read your labels!

In my opinion, raw or gently pasteurized milk is best. Standard grocery store milk is so pasteurized (boiled) that it lacks most of what made it good in the first place. According to research, proteins, enzymes, immune factors, hormones, vitamins, and minerals are altered or entirely destroyed with high heat pasteurization. If milk is gently pasteurized, the heat is only high enough to destroy normal bacterias that can (but are not always) possibly be present. If you are buying commercial milk, then pasteurization is necessary to avoid undue illness. But if  you can get good, raw or gently pasteurized milk  from a local, trusted dairy, why buy commercial stuff when it clearly is not as good for you?

Organic, grass fed cows milk is significantly higher in good fatty acids (omega-3), antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. What cows are fed impacts their milk in a very big way. If you feed them genetically modified corn or grain and pump them full of hormones and antibiotics, they aren't going to produce nutrient rich milk. But if you allow them to feed on what nature intended, an array of organic grasses and grains, the milk they produce will be considerably higher in nutrition and quality.

Another whole topic in regards to milk is the homogenization.  You can read all the scientific jargon like I did or just read my cliff note style in lay-man's terms definition. Simply put, they blast the fat that would normally settle, into the milk molecules. Sounds harmless enough, right? Not so. Your body can't break down the fats like it's supposed to so therefore, this milk fat can build up in your arteries which we all know is not a good thing. (One reason why whole milk gets a bad rap...it's really NOT bad for you!) It also increases allergic reactions to milk. Non-homogenized milk is easily digested by your body. No real surprise, though, right? Natural is always best! Even my husband who is intolerant to commercial lactose can digest raw milk with zero discomfort.

And so, until I have a cow of my own, I and my family will enjoy Pure Eire milk. Grass fed, organic milk from a local farm I trust. If you are a milk drinker, do your research and find a reputable farm or company near you! You won't regret it and your health will benefit from it! Sure, it's more expensive, but the saying "you get what you pay for" is true here. I feel good knowing that I am supporting a small, family farm who's goal is to produce the most nutrient rich milk they possibly can. And I feel good knowing that's what my family is getting. The best available to me.

(more cool milk reviews & articles to come!!)

Baltic Amber

Along with my journey into eating healthier, I am always looking for ways to just LIVE healthier. Especially when it pertains to my children. So when Aerro came along & started having teething pain, I started my research. I wasn't comfortable giving the typical Tylenol/Motrin/ Teething Gel. I try to avoid putting such concoctions into my little's bodies as much as possible. That is when I discovered Baltic Amber.

I know there are alot of people writing on Baltic Amber online but it is always nice to hear first-hand accounts from someone you know! SO. This is for the people who know ME and want to hear a review from a person they know! 

This site (click me!) has awesome information on what exactly Baltic Amber is and how it does what it does. 

What do I know, though, from personal experience? It really does control teething pain. And I'm not the only mom to say so! Since I've used it, many other moms have gotten back to me saying how amazing it works on their own kids. Moms I know. Not just an "online statistic" though those are numerous and believable, too!

The coolest part, though?

My mom. She has had an amazingly quick onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Crippling and painful, it has attacked her wrists and ankles/ feet the worst. When I told her about trying BA, she was willing to give it a go. No harm in trying! She got two for each wrist and noticed after a few days that she was gaining mobility in them more. 

Now, this could have been due to her herbs, too, she thought. Not one for wearing any form or watches or jewelery, she was annoyed with having a bracelet on each wrist, so she transferred and only had them on one wrist. 

I kid you not, the next morning she woke up with mobility in the wrist that had the amber on it and was perfectly stiff in the other wrist. Wow! That alone made her realize that the BA was actually working. So, she went back to having one on each wrist and after a day & night, both wrists were back to being functional! 

She has since gotten them for her ankles, too, and I'm super excited that she has found something that reduces the inflammation in her joints thus enabling her to have mobility she once didn't have! And that's without any meds...just natural Baltic Amber.

So, that's my review. It makes my babies happier, and it has helped my mother's arthritis tremendously! 

Sweet Vienna and her Baltic Amber necklace (child size) wrapped around her wrist...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Sugars: the good and the bad

I don't like extremest. You know, the ones who say all red meat is bad for you, or to avoid carbs, or to be a vegetarian, or the ones who say eat only raw foods. You catch my drift. The ones who choose to eliminate certain foods for their own reasons. I don't think foods should be regulated like that. I think we have taste buds (and canine teeth!) for a reason. To enjoy a whole variety of foods. Some in moderation, others in plenty. 

Well, in the moderation column of my imaginary book in my mind, sugar is written. 
I don't think all sugar is bad for you. I don't think small bits of refined sugar is deadly. I think it should be enjoyed in moderation

The biggest proof to me, though, that large amounts of refined sugar is not good for your body is what happened when we eliminated it completely for a time. For the first time, my husband did not get strep. 
Strep=bacteria. Bacteria <3 Sugar.
Take away the sugar, and that little bacteria+sugar= <3 relationship ends. Kaput. 

I had to read up, though, for hours and hours on just what my husband could eat. And this is what I found.

The life cycle of sugar.
Cane is harvested and pressed between rollers to extract juice. Juice is heated at high temperatures to form crystals. Crystals are spun from juice. Crystals are treated with chemicals to bleach and refine into table sugar. (That's the cliff notes version...you can find more in depth research online)

White Sugar: 
Processed, bleached, treated with chemicals. Depresses your immune system. Interferes with your body’s natural chemistry. Promotes obesity. Raises insulin levels. Increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Nutrient deficient.

Brown Sugar:
White sugar with a tad of molasses added, though not enough to make it considered any healthier.

Raw Sugar:
Slightly less processed sugar, with parts of the molasses retained. 

Sucanat+Rapadura (what I choose to cook with)
Sugar in its most natural form. It is extracted from the sugar cane and the freshly squeezed juice is evaporated. Only the water is removed. This process preserves all of the molasses and makes it the most healthy form of sugar.

Alternatives: (natural..don't even get me started on the fakes like sweet and low, etc.)

Stevia: A newcomer in the health world, stevia has actually been around for a long time. Is it good for you? The jury is still out, but some reports state (mayo clinic, ehow, webmd) that stevia may contribute to infertility, low blood pressure, and can cause nausea and muscle aches. In lab tests it showed reproductive harm to male rats. Pregnant and nursing women are cautioned to avoid it's use until it has been further tested. The European union and Canada have not permitted it's use in their countries.

Honey (my favorite!): Never goes bad. (really!) Laden heavily with vitamins and minerals. Is metablized slowly so your body can use every bit for a long lasting natural sugar energy. Reduces fat storage. Does not ferment in your stomach (like white sugar) but instead, kills bacteria.

Raw Maple Syrup: Great source of zinc and magnese and good for your heart as well as your immune system. Natural, lightly processed form of sweetener. 

Agave: Agave, like stevia, is controversial. Some say it's a perfectly wonderful sweetener. Others, not so much. After further research, we have chosen t not use it. This article will tell you why. He says it much better then I could. ----> Article <-----

So. There's my take on sugars. We choose to use honey and raw maple syrup for our sweeteners with the occasional sucanat (rapadura). So, am I an extremest who things all sugar should be banned? Nope. Because I enjoy the occasional candy bar, sugar cookie, piece of cake, etc. And my kids like a lollipop every now and then. But that's it. It's about finding  the perfect balance of health and splurge. I don't believe in being restrictive with my kids, but the bulk of their "sweets" will be healthy and from natural, pure sources that are good for you!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why I Won't Use Crisco

 First of all, I'd like to say that I do my best to eat as little refined foods as possible. I like my food to be as close to the original state as possible. That being said, what do do with lard or shortening? It's great for pie crust. It makes yummy biscuits. And cookies! It's also a great greaser for many things. But really, it's not good for your body.
As of 2010, Crisco consists of a blend of soybean oil, fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils. 

A little information on hydrogenation for you.

Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. The fatty acids in the oil then acquire some of the hydrogen, which makes it more dense. If you fully hydrogenate, you create a solid (a fat) out of the oil. But if you stop part way, you a semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil that has a consistency like butter, only it's a lot cheaper.

Unlike butter or virgin coconut oil, hydrogenated oils contain high levels of trans fats. A trans fat is an otherwise normal fatty acid that has been "transmogrified", by high-heat processing of a free oil.
Worse, most partially hydrogenated oil is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. That's a problem, because soybean oil depresses the thyroid--which lowers your energy levels

This article really breaks down why trans fats are bad for you. 
What are Trans Fatty Acids?
They are man-made or processed fats, which are made from a liquid oil. When you add hydrogen to liquid vegetable oil and then add pressure, the result is a stiffer fat, like the fat found in a can of Crisco. Trans fats are also called hydrogenated fats.
Why are They Bad for You?
Trans fats pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats, which were once believed to be the worst kind of fats. While it is true that saturated fats -- found in butter, cheese and beef, for example -- raise total cholesterol levels, trans fats go a step further. Trans fats not only raise total cholesterol levels, they also deplete good cholesterol (HDL), which helps protect against heart disease.
What Harm do They do to the Body?
The stiffer and harder fats are, the more they clog up your arteries. Artificial trans fats do the same thing in our bodies that bacon grease does to kitchen sinks. Over time, they can "clog the pipes" that feed the heart and brain, which can lead to heart attack or stroke risk.

What do I use?
Enter: Palm Shortening.

It is non-hydrogenated and contains no trans fatty acids. It is also a good source of antioxidants and MCT (medium chain trigylcerides) known to speed up the metabolism.
So it's a natural, good for you, and a great substitution for all your fake lard (crisco) needs! 
It makes flaky pie crust, awesome biscuits, great cookies, and it's an amazing greaser. =) Definitely a staple in this house!

This is the kind I buy. 
Image of Organic Palm Shortening from Tropical Traditions. Certified organic Palm shortening is a healthy subsitute in your favoite bisquit recipes for hydrogenated shortening.

Give it a try! You probably won't be disappointed. Your body sure won't be! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Ease & Benefit of Fresh Milled Flour

Some people ask me why I bother grinding my own wheat. Well, aside from the economical aspect (so much cheaper in the long run!), there is the health factor to consider.  

Flour is used in most all baking. Pancakes, breads, muffins, cookies, tortillas, etc, and when a food is used so widely, it is best to make sure it has as much nutrition as possible in it.

Typical, store bought flour or bread is mostly devoid of nutrients, and the nutrients it does have are added artificially, by mandate of the government, because of the manufacturing of the flour. 
This is a good chart showing the nutritional difference between freshly milled flour and store bought flour. 

Whole Wheat Flour
All Purpose Flour*
Total Dietary Fiber
Pantothenic Acid
Vitamin B6
Vitamin E
Total Fats

Your average bag of white flour in the store starts out with a whole grain. They then remove the wheat bran, the middlings, the germ, and the germ oil. What is left is a nutrient deficient calorie that we have acquired a taste for. It is a root cause for many health issues including diabetes, hypoglycemia, and digestive problems.  The four parts that are removed are good for so much! Just take a look. 

The bran: high fiber, assists the body to more rapidly remove wastes, toxins, and debris from the colon
The middlings: high percentage of minerals and vitamins.
The germ: lowers cholesterol, reduce constipation and digestion problems.
The oil: very high in vitamins

With just the removal of the bran, this white flour is not easily digested. Although this flour is convenient, has a very long shelf life (hello, preservatives) and does bake up good tasting foods, it is devoid of nutrition. Just the commercial milling process results in a loss of  at least 22 of the 26 known vitamins and minerals.

This is an amazing photo depicting the beginning, what is removed, and the end result.

Now, I along with a lot (say most) people enjoy fluffy, white breads, cookies, pastries, etc. But just because it tastes good doesn't mean it is good for you. And my entire goal here is to be as healthy as possible, with room for a bit of junk.

So what kind of grains DO I mill?

 Hard red wheat is great for all yeast related cooking. It raises well, and produces a hearty bread.

 Soft white grain is great for cookies, muffins, cakes, etc, and yields a softer pastry. Not to be used in yeast recipes, though! It's my favorite for pie crust.

 The mill I have attaches to my Bosch mixer. Super convenient and grinds about a cup per minute. See? hardly any more work! Maybe an added ten minutes to my entire bake time.

Bosch MUZ7 GM2 Grain Mill

 I still occasionally do bake with refined flours. I'm not an extremest, you know, but I do want to raise a healthy family, and this is just one small switch I'm ok with doing. Baking my very own bread and pastries  with the best flour I can possibly use; fresh milled grains fairly bursting with vitamins, minerals, and the essential nutrients needed to digest it all properly.

Besides, it's an adventure and an education for my kids! Getting the grain, grinding it, mixing and kneading it with other ingredients, raising it, and baking it into whatever we so please. I know where it came from. I know what it contains. Right down to the wheat germ oil. =)