Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I have always said that if I was stuck on a deserted island and could only pack one item to bring with me, I would probably pick vinegar. Not only is it edible, and would be a wonderful addition to the vegetable diet I would probably be eating on the island, but it can be used for a variety of medicinal, cleaning and grooming purposes.

What is vinegar?

Vinegar is made from the fermentation of ethanol (sources are usually wine, cider, beer or other fermented liquids), which produces acetic acid.

What is the difference between the different types of vinegar?

-Balsamic vinegar comes from fermented white grapes and is the most expensive and usually the best quality vinegar. This is because it is aged longer than other types of vinegars. It has a sweeter taste and thicker texture, and is usually used in salad dressings or as a dipping sauce for breads.

-Red and white wine vinegars come from wine or champagne and are usually used for salad dressings and marinades.

-Apple cider vinegar obviously comes from cider and has a mild taste. It is also good for salad dressings.

-Rice vinegar comes from rice and has less acidity than other forms of vinegar. It is used in many Asian foods.

-Malt vinegar comes from barley and is commonly used on potatoes and fried fish.

-Distilled white vinegar comes from grain alcohol and has a very unpleasant taste, making it more popular as a cleaning agent. It is rarely used in food.

In what ways does our family use vinegar?

  • I make many homemade salad dressings using mostly balsamic and apple cider vinegars.
  • We always have malt vinegar on our potatoes.
  • Adam loves to make homemade sushi with rice vinegar in his rice (it makes it stickier).
  • Vinegar is also used in our kitchen for fermenting and pickling.
  • Whenever I have non-organic fruit that has a visible residue (especially with apples), I make sure to soak them in a vinegar wash.

Cleaning - I gave up on commercial cleaners when I was pregnant with Gabriel. I had read somewhere that pregnant women shouldn't use harsh cleaners, especially bleach, while pregnant and figured that if it wasn't good for my unborn child it probably wasn't good for anyone. We replaced all of our household cleaners with either vinegar, baking soda, or a combination of the two. Not only does the vinegar disinfect (kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs/virsuses), but it also neutralizes odors and removes mineral deposits. We use it to:

  • clean carpet messes by covering the area with baking soda, letting it dry, vacuuming the dry soda and then spraying the area with straight vinegar.
  • shine windows.
  • sanitize toys and other surfaces the children touch, like high chairs and changing tables.
  • remove residue from kitchen appliances.
  • clean tubs and countertops. I like to use straight distilled white vinegar for these chores, but some people prefer to dilute it with water. Using it with baking soda (to scrub the surface) is really effective.


  • I add a cup of distilled white vinegar to my load of cloth diapers to help disinfect.
  • Vinegar also can replace liquid fabric softener in your laundry, because it reduces static cling. Don't worry, you can't smell the vinegar afterwards.


  • Spraying your hair with vinegar before you get out of the shower will help get rid of some of the build-up in your hair (the same way it removes build-up in household appliances) and make it shinier.
  • Some people use vinegar as a deodorant, but I have not had luck with it.


  • Whenever I have a mystery rash, I cover it with a little vinegar. This helps dry out the rash.
  • It can also take the sting out of big bites.
  • Although I have never used it in this way, I have read that vinegar can also be useful in treating jellyfish stings.
  • Adam swears by his apple cider drink. Whenever he feels like he needs a quick detoxification, he will add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink it.
  • Vinegar has been proven to lower cholesterol.
  • It removes warts.
  • You can clear up ear infections by rinsing the ear with a vinegar solution.

Gardening - Vinegar can be used as a weed killer. Just be careful - after cleaning out my son's kiddie pool with vinegar in my front yard last summer, I noticed that it killed all the grass in the area.

I don't know what I would do without these products in my home. They are a natural alternative to many harmful chemicals and I feel safer knowing that my cleaning closet contains items that will not poison my children if they were to come in contact with them.



"All About Vinegars - Vinegar Types - Using Vinegar in Cooking and Baking." Busy Cooks Quick and Easy Cooking and Recipes. Web. 30 Dec. 2009. http://busycooks.about.com/od/quicktips/qt/vinegartips.htm.

"Vinegar -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 30 Dec. 2009. ..

"Vinegar Kills Bacteria, Mold and Germs Healthy and Green Living." Care2 - largest online community for healthy and green living, human rights and animal welfare. Web. 30 Dec. 2009. .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ways To Increase Your Veggie Intake Without Tasting Them

With a two-year-old in the house and a husband who likes his dinners consisting of at least 60-70% vegetables, meal-planning can get somewhat difficult. Like many toddlers, my son does not enjoy anything green on his plate, so we have to get sneaky with our cooking.

Add greens to your foods.

Leafy greens, especially spinach and collard greens, have become a staple in this house for many reasons. They are one of my superfoods, because they are high in so many essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium. Since Gabriel is allergic to milk, we have to make sure he is getting enough calcium through the foods he eats.

Greens are also very easy to hide in our food. We hide them in our noodles and just about any dish we make with ground meat, like meatballs, meatloaf, tacos, spaghetti, etc. You can't really taste the greens in the food, which is why Gabe will gobble these dishes up without caring that there is something green on his plate.

Add pureed veggies to your dishes.

Another method for hiding veggies in your food is to include pureed versions in your dishes. Over the summer I bought extra produce at the Farmer's Market and made/froze homemade baby food for David, but later decided not to introduce solid foods until after he was 9 months old. By the time he was eating solids he wasn't very interested in the pureed versions and went straight to finger foods. This left me with gallons of frozen squash, apples, pumpkin and pears in my freezer.

The baby food is made by softening the veggies (I prefer to steam them to maintain more of the vitamin content) and then blending them in the food processor. Then I spoon the puree into ice cube trays and freeze them. Once they are frozen you can break the cubes apart and store them in freezer bags.

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When preparing your dinner, just throw a few cubes into the dish (each cube is approximately 2 tablespoons).

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They will melt down and you will barely taste them in your meal.

You may not have a picky toddler in your house, but perhaps you have a spouse that doesn't like to eat veggies. Maybe you have extra produce that will go bad soon and you don't know what to do with it. Or perhaps you are just looking for ways to increase your vegetable intake without having to eat salads at every meal. Pureeing, freezing and sneaking them into your food is a perfect solution!

As always, make sure your produce is locally grown, organic, and in-season.


Recipe for the meal shown above:
Brown one pound of free range turkey with baby spinach, carrots, celery, fresh parsley, 2 cloves of garlic, 5 cubes of squash, sea salt, and some
pure olive oil (make sure it is regular olive oil, not virgin or extra virgin).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Natural Deodorants

A few months ago I decided to ditch my normal deodorant/antiperspirant and find a more natural alternative. My main reason for wanting to switch was because of the aluminum found in most women's anti-perspirants. Many men's brands do not have aluminum, but all of the common women's brands do.

Aluminum is a toxin that has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease, brain disorders, respiratory disorders and even cancer. Some scientists believe that the increase in breast cancer could be due to the fact that the aluminum blocks the lymph nodes near the breast, causing toxins to pool there.

There isn't enough concrete evidence at this point to directly link the chemicals in deodorant to anything for sure, but I just don't feel safe testing my luck.

I had tried to switch deodorants during my last pregnancy and found that nothing was working as well as my normal brand. But recently I decided to give all of the brands I had purchased a try again.

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Here are the aluminum-free brands I tried and the results (safety scores come from the Skin-Deep Cosmetic Safety Database - the lower the score, the safer the product):

JASON Natural Cosmetics Deodorant Roll-On - Aloe Vera

Safety Rating - 4

Effectiveness - The product smells wonderful, but left me feeling wet and sticky all morning long. It never completely dried after the initial application and was pretty ineffective.

Tom's of Maine Long-Lasting Deodorant - Apricot

Safety Rating - 2 (The database did not having a rating for this specific scent, but all other deodorants by Tom's of Maine scored an average of 2)

Effectiveness - The product smelled wonderful and worked well for a few hours, but wore off quickly. Frequent reapplication would be necessary for the product to be effective.

Nature's Gate Grapefruit and Wild Ginger Deodorant

Safety Rating - 5 (The database did not having a rating for this specific scent, but all other deodorants by Nature's Gate scored an average of 5)

- I did not enjoy the smell of this product and it was completely ineffective, even with frequent reapplication.

now Personal Care Nature's Deodorant Stick

Safety Rating - 0 (The database did not have a rating for this specific brand, however other sticks with the same ingredients scored an average of 0)

- The product was very effective for several hours after the inital application. Frequent reapplication would be necessary for the product to be completely effective.

I wasn't happy enough with any of the brands to use them on a regular basis, so instead of wasting more money on other "natural" brands, I decided to make my own.

My first trial was with baking soda. I simply applied a thick coating to my underarms after I got out of the shower and let it soak in. The results were not very good - it was itchy and gave me a rash that looked like I was burned. I had the same results with an application of witch hazel and then another with vinegar (both of these wet options also made me smell even worse than I would have if I skipped them).

So, my final experiment was to just stop using a deodorant completely. I started doing this about two months ago. I'm not going to lie - during the first few weeks I smelled really bad! I had to "freshen up" multiple times throughout the day and try to mask the odor with essential oils. But, after about a month I noticed that the smell had started to get better. (I realize that one can get used to their own smells, so I made sure to check with Adam to make sure I wasn't just immune to it.)

I've also noticed that my scent changes based on the foods I eat. If I put junk into my body, especally sugar, I smell bad the next day. So long as I eat natural foods I am usually safe.

If I shower every day and freshen up on days I sweat more than I normally would, I don't notice a bad smell at all.

Everyone's body chemistry is different, and what works for one person isn't going to work for everybody, but if you're willing to experiment a little and possibly smell for a short period of time until you find the right fix, you can find a way to stop clogging your lymph nodes with toxins!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Are fever-reducing medications necessary?

This cold and flu season, do yourself a favor and allow your body to use it's own defense mechanisms to fight off sickness. Many times we rush to take over-the-counter medications in an effort to treat the symptoms of an illness, but what we are really doing is just prolonging the sickness and not allowing our bodies to work the way they should to recover more quickly.

What is a fever?

A fever is a sign that your body is fighting off a virus or germ. It is a defense mechanism - just as many food items are heated to kill bad bacteria, your body heats itself to kill bad bacteria.

Many viruses thrive and multiply at our body's normal temperature - 98.6 - so a fever is a sign that your body is doing it's job and attempting to kill any invading pathogens.

Is a fever dangerous?

It can be.

In an adult it usually doesn't become dangerous until it reaches 103. In small children, 101 is usually a cause for concern.

What can happen if you let a fever go untreated?

A rapid rise or fall in temperature can cause febrile seizures in children. Gabriel had this happen to him when he had roseola, which is very common, but also very scary.

But other than that, a fever generally does nothing but cause discomfort for you. It may give you the chills or make you sweat, but it isn't going to hurt you. In fact, if the fever is doing it's job, it is actually helping your body heal faster by killing off the virus.

If fevers help us, why do people take medication to lower fevers?

Generally, our society is scared of having a fever, even low-grade ones. Many people believe that if you let a fever go untreated you could cause brain damage and other problems in children. While fevers should always be monitored in children and shouldn't be allowed to get too high, it is doubtful that a fever is the cause of any damage that could happen when you are sick. Usually, the illness that causes the fever is what does the damage - the fever is just a side effect of the illness.

Many health care professionals will advise you to take something to bring down your fever, but what we forget is that doctors aim to treat symptoms, not the cause of your illness. Treating the fever makes you more comfortable and many times there is no treatment for the virus you have. But by being uncomfortable for a short period of time and not treating the fever, you can possibly reduce the length of time you are sick.

I have been told many times to alternate between acetaminophen and ibuprofen if my children were to spike a fever. This is very common advice for pediatricians to give, especially younger doctors. But this advice has led to an increase in accidental overdose in children and isn't fully supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Why are you so anti-medicine?

It's not the medication that scares me, it's the inactive ingredients in them. Here is a list of the ingredients in Children's Tylenol Suspension Liquid - Cherry Blast flavor:

Anhydrous citric acid, butylparaben, FD&C Red#40, flavors, glycerin, high fructose corn syrup, microcrystalline cellulose and carboxymethyl cellulose sodium, propylene glycol, purified water, sodium benzoate, sorbitol solution, sucralose, xanthan gum.

I find many of these ingredients unnecessary and extremely unhealthy. The red dye has been known to cause many health problems. Click here for a list.

Sure there are dye-free versions of these medications available, but they still contain the high fructose corn syrup, propylene glycol, butylparaben, citric acid, and other extremely unhealthy ingredients.

When my children are sick and fighting off pathogens, I don't like polluting their immune systems with even more toxins to fight off. It seems counter-productive.

What does your family do if one of you has a fever?

We monitor the fever and only give fever-reducing medication if our temperatures rise to dangerous levels (103 for adults and 101 for children). We take temperatures often so we know exactly what is going on.

For a low-grade fever we generally do nothing at all but give lots of cuddles and hugs as needed.

We recently purchased a Vick's Forehead Thermometer, and although it was an expensive investment, it was well worth the money. We found that other cheaper digital thermometers were inaccurate and non-digital thermometers took too long/were too hard to use when holding down a squirmy baby. The forehead thermometers give an accurate reading (we compared it to the readings at the doctor's office), can be taken while a child is sleeping, and alert you when a fever is dangerous.

If a temperature lasts more than a few days and it is "showing", we know it is a sign of infection and we make sure to call the doctor. By showing, I mean that we are feeling run-down and tired with the fever. Many times you can have a fever and not even be aware of it.

We do not dose our children with medication prior to getting a vaccine like many doctors advise, because we feel it could interfere with it and could be too many toxins for their bodies to handle at once. Since I spread out vaccines and only give one per visit, my children have never needed a dose of medication due to the effects of the shots.

We treat the discomfort of the fever by giving warm baths, wearing appropriate clothing and using wet washcloths on the forehead. We also make sure to increase our fluid intake.

Stay safe this cold and flu season!! We hope that you don't get a fever anytime soon, but if it happens make sure to give your body a chance to fight it off naturally before taking any medication.



"Fever: Treatments and drugs - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living - MayoClinic.com. Web. 12 Nov. 2009. .

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Movie Recommendation - Food, Inc.

Food, Inc., a new documentary exploring the American food industry, was just released on DVD yesterday. I have been anticipating the release of this movie for months and made sure we got the one and only copy at our video store yesterday.

I thought the movie was very well-made and inspiring. As with any documentary, there were a few parts that were a bit too "Michael Moore" for me - for example, making a political point as a cow is being tortured in the background - but for the most part I felt it was informative.

The documentary covers pretty much every aspect of our nation's food industry - labeling, health issues, political issues, big business, the organic sector, etc. - with the overall goal of showing you exactly how your food gets to your grocery store.

I have to warn you though, some of the footage is graphic and disturbing, especially the scenes on the chicken farms and in the slaughterhouses. I also found footage from the food processing plants where they showed how the filler that is in 70% of store-bought ground beef is bathed in ammonia to kill e-coli equally horrifying.

There was only one part of the movie that I found to be completely hypocritical and worthy of a huge eyeroll from me, and that was when they were interviewing Gary Hirshberg from Stonyfield Farms. They showed how Gary started out in the industry with the intention of creating organic, wholesome food for people, probably while living out of a Volkswagen bus. Then as Gary goes on bashing capitalism over and over again, he then shows us how his little organic company has now been bought by Dannon yogurts and is sold in WalMart stores across the nation. I'm pretty sure capitalism has been good to him.

But then they showed an organic farmer named Joel Salatin, who treats his animals with care and has the health of his customers at the top of his list of priorities. He says that when you start thinking too big and increasing the size of your food operations, you start sacrificing the integrity of your product, and the health of your customers.

For me, this information couldn't have come at a more relevant time, as yesterday our state (Ohio) just voted on and passed an issue allowing an amendment to our Constitution, creating a board of industry professionals to determine best management practices for our state. Our state will now have farmers, college professors, elected officials, and others who are in bed with these huge corporations making decisions about what is best for our health and safety when it comes to our food (although I'm sure the bottom line will be their true priority).

So the point of the documentary, and the inspiring part for me, was the statement at the very end of the film - you have the ability to vote on these issues three times a day, as you are purchasing, preparing and eating your meals. You can choose to support these huge corporate farmers, who pollute the environment, treat their animals with absolutely no respect, exploit their workers, and focus on their bottom line (instead of your health) OR you can "vote" for safe, local, fresh foods from farmers like Joel Salatin.

In Ohio yesterday, my vote may not have mattered, since an overwhelming majority of citizens decided to support corporate farmers, but I will continue to vote each and every day as I prepare healthy meals for my family and choose to only spend our hard-earned dollars supporting people who value life the same way we do.

Learn more about what happened in Ohio with Issue 2 here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Oil Extraction Techniques

There are different extraction processes for making an oil from a fruit, vegetable, nut or seed. You may have seen the words "expeller-pressed" or "cold-pressed" on a bottle before and wondered what that meant.

The cheapest and most common method for extracting oils involves heating the seed to an extremely high temperature and crushing it, thus causing exposure to even more heat through friction. Any oils not obtained through the pressure are treated with a hexane solvent, some of which remains on the oil even after it is washed away.

The high heat from this process creates free radicals and destroys the antioxidants that normally protect us from them. And although hexane levels are generally low in the oils, hexane poisoning can cause muscular and vision problems.

Another extraction process is called expeller-expression. In this technique the seeds are drilled and exposed to lower temperatures. Some expeller-pressed oils are still treated with hexane. This is why it is important to make sure your oils are organic.

Cold-pressed oils are those that have not been exposed to high temperatures, but there is little regulation in the United States as to what defines a high temperature. Some expeller-pressed oils are not considered cold-pressed.

Why does it matter how the oils are extracted?

As I mentioned before, organic expeller-pressed oils are not treated with chemicals, additives or preservatives. But these oils are also healthier because if stored correctly they are not rancid like oils made from other extraction processes. Most oils turn sour when they are exposed to too much heat, light or oxygen. So, the bottles of oil on the grocery store shelf are usually rancid before you even open them, making them full of free radicals and bad for your intestinal health. The oils generally don't smell sour because they go through a deodorizing process.

Tip: Always remember to store your expeller-pressed oils in a dark container in the fridge so you limit their exposure to light and heat.

To see a chart of oils from best to worst for you, click here.



Fallon, Sally. Nourishing traditions the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Washington, DC: NewTrends Pub., 1999.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Homemade Crackers

I am working on a series of posts comparing the ingredients of popular store-bought foods to homemade versions. Having a child with severe food allergies, it is important that I make the food we eat in my own kitchen, where I can control what is actually in it.

Knowing what is actually in the foods you eat is very important. Many times successful marketing tricks consumers into believing a food is healthier than it actually is.

Here are some examples:

Triscuit Crackers Baked Whole Grain Wheat Rosemary & Olive Oil

The words baked, whole grain, and olive oil might make them sound healthy, but here are the ingredients: WHOLE WHEAT, SOYBEAN AND/OR PALM OIL, MALTODEXTRIN, SALT, SPICES (INCLUDES ROSEMARY), MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (FLAVOR ENHANCER), ONION POWDER, NATURAL FLAVOR, OLIVE OIL.

Olive oil is listed as the very last ingredient. The oils actually used to make the crackers are soybean and palm oils - two of the cheaper and unhealthier oils on the market. The crackers also contain maltodextrin to make them crispy, MSG to enhance the flavor, and "natural flavors", which can mean just about anything.

Wheat Thins Crackers - Hint of Salt


The first ingredient is enriched wheat, despite the fact that the packaging makes you think they are using quality wheat. These crackers include sugar, malt syrup AND high fructose corn syrup, as well as ingredients to make them a more appealing color and emulsifiers to make it all mix better.

Throwing together a batch of homemade crackers takes less than five minutes and helps you avoid eating all of those unhealthy ingredients. Here is what you need:

1 cup organic flour (I have used whole wheat and spelt flour, but any type would work)
1/4 t. yeast
a dash of baking soda
salt (as much as you like)
1/2 cup water
1 t. butter or the oil of your choice
any spices or flavors you prefer (rosemary, garlic salt, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, pepper, seeds, etc.)

Combine the flour, yeast, baking soda, and salt. Add your spices. I like to use rosemary and/or garlic salt. Then add the water and either butter or oil. (Remember not to use extra virgin versions while baking if you are going to use olive oil. Learn why here.)

Roll the dough onto a cookie sheet and score it with a pizza cutter or knife. You can also use cookie cutters to make fun shapes for kids. Sprinkle extra salt if you like your crackers salty.

Bake for ten minutes or until crispy at 400 degrees.

And there you have it! Organic, preservative-free crackers in less than fifteen minutes. They taste to me like a cross between the two crackers listed above - they have the flavor of the triscuits (if you use rosemary as an ingredient), with the texture of a wheat thin.


- Jessica

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Food Combinations For Optimal Health

Several years ago Adam and I noticed that the order in which we were eating our foods was having an effect on our digestion. At the time I was reading The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin, which talked a little about food combining diets. We looked into it briefly and made a few changes to our diets - mainly eating our salads and fruits first so that they didn't sit and rot in our stomachs after we were done eating. Adam noticed a change in his digestion immediately.

On the way home from work a few weeks ago, he heard a radio program by Dr. Ann Wigmore about food combinations and it reignited our interest in the topic. Many of the things we have learned during our research over the past few weeks has been very interesting.

Fun food-combining facts:

Eat Vitamin C with Green Tea because it increases the absorption of the antioxidants in the tea. For example - squeeze lemon into your tea.

Eat Vitamin-rich foods with Fats because many essential vitamins (especially A,D and E) are absorbed best by the body when eaten with fats. For example - cook your vitamin-rich veggies in an oil.

Eat Garlic with Fish because studies show the garlic helps lower the LDL-cholesterol in fish oil.

Eat Turmeric with Black Pepper because the piperine in the pepper increases the anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and tumor-fighting effects of the turmeric.

Eat Rosemary with Grilled Meat because the herbs antioxidants soak up the carcinogens in the meat. Eating cruciferous vegetables with grilled meat is also recommended. Read more about that here.

Eat Leafy Greens with Citrus because Vitamin C helps your body absorb plant-based iron. For example - squeeze lemon on your spinach.

Eat Oatmeal with Vitamin C because the combination of the phenols in both foods stabilizes LDL cholesterol. For example - squeeze an orange into your oatmeal.

Other Food Combination Rules:

These are based on Dr. Ann Wigmore's program.

1 - Eating one food per sitting is always best.
2 - Melons should always be eaten alone.
3 - There are three kinds of fruits - acid, subacid and sweet. Never eat acidic (orange, grapefruit, pomegranate, strawberry, pineapple, tangerine, lemon, lime, and kiwi) and sweet (banana, dates, raisins, papaya, fresh fig, grapes, persimmon and other dried fruits) together.
4 - Don't mix fruits and veggies, except for tomatoes.
5 - Don't mix starches and proteins, because starches create alkali in the stomach, while proteins create acid - they neutralize one another and make digestion difficult.
6 - Don't drink while eating because it dilutes your stomach acid and enzymes, making it harder to digest food.
7 - Eat raw foods before cooked.
8 - Only eat one type of protein per meal.
9 - Don't eat milk with meat.
10 - Don't drink wine with ale or beer.

Some of these things seem like common sense, but others go against everything our society teaches about healthy eating. We have always been told that you should eat a well-balanced meal, complete with protein, carbs, fruits, veggies and a large glass of water to keep you from overeating. This research by Dr. Wigmore shows that doing so causes serious digestive problems, which may be the reason that the average American walks around with nearly 5 pounds of undigested, rotting meat in their system.

We hear a lot about how eating small meals, or grazing, throughout the day is a great way to keep your metabolism burning, but it may also be a good way to follow these food combination rules. Eating one item at each sitting, several times throughout the day, may be the best way to keep your digestive system healthy.

I realize that there are a lot of different rules out there and it is really hard to keep them all in mind when you are planning a meal. I think that every little bit helps and if you can remember to do a few of them at a time it is better than not doing any of them at all. Eventually the rules will become easier to follow as you slowly incorporate them into your diet.



"Ann Wigmore and the Hippocrates Health Program." Reasonably, Rationally, and Realistically Raw. Web. 20 Oct. 2009. .

"Healthy Food Combinations." Buzzle Web Portal: Intelligent Life on the Web. Web. 20 Oct. 2009. .

"Healthy Food Combinations: Men's Health.com." Men's Health - Men's Guide to Fitness, Health, Weight Loss, Nutrition, Sex, Style and Guy Wisdom. Web. 20 Oct. 2009. .

"Vitamin C May Boost Absorption of Green Tea's Antioxidants." Alternative Medicine - Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Medicine. Web. 20 Oct. 2009. .

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Superfoods

Organ Meat (especially liver)
Wheat Germ
Leafy Greens
Sunflower Seeds
Squash and Pumpkin (the fruit and seeds)
Rice Bran
Wild Game Meat

I have been on a prenatal vitamin for nearly three years now, but am unable to take most prescription strength types because they contain either soy or a stool softener that can upset my Crohn's Disease. I have found a few OTC vitamins that seemed to work well in the past, but lately they have been upsetting my stomach.

Because of this, I decided to start researching what exactly these vitamins contain. I discovered that most of the brands you find on the store shelves are synthetic - vitamins created in a laboratory from coal tar derivatives, which are not absorbed by your body in the same way as vitamins from natural plants and other materials. Even when the vitamins say they are coming from natural sources, we don't know exactly what that means. For example - Vitamin E often comes from soybean oil (most likely genetically modified at that).

So, I've made a decision to stop taking vitamins and to focus more on getting my vitamins from the food I eat. This decision lead me to NutritionData, a website that allows you to search for foods that contain high levels of certain vitamins and minerals. From the lists they provided, I weeded out the processed and enriched foods to find the raw foods containing the highest levels.

While looking at the lists I created, I noticed that many of the same foods were appearing over and over again. Organ meat (especially liver) was found on 46% of the lists. Leafy greens (especially spinach) and wheat germ were on 36%, while sunflower seeds and mollusks were on 32%. Squash and pumpkin seeds were on 27% and the following foods were on 18% of the lists - rice bran, wild game meat, eggs, lentils, and nuts.

So I am now considering these foods my "superfoods" and am going to make an effort to include them in my diet as much as possible. I've always known that I need to eat these foods, but never really knew why until now.

Here are the specific lists:

Foods high in Vitamin A -Leafy greens, Carrots, animal liver, Broccoli, Asparagus, Cabbage, prunes, Okra, Leeks, Kiwi. Full list found here.

Foods high in Vitamin B6 - hot peppers, Paprika, Summer squash/zucchini, Watercress, Bell peppers, Turnip greens, Bamboo shoots, Spinach, Okra, Garlic. Full list found here.

Foods high in vitamin B12- Mollusks, Animal liver, Crustaceans, Animal heart, Fish, Wild game meat, Eggs, Milk, Beef, Poultry. Full list found here.

Foods high in Vitamin C - Bell peppers, guavas, Currants, Hot peppers, Orange peel/oranges, leafy greens, Broccoli, Kohlrabi, Papaya, lemons. Full list found here.

Foods high in Vitamin D - Cod liver oil, Fish, Oysters, Eggs, Cheese, Milk, Mushrooms, Clams. Full list found here.

Foods high in Vitamin E - Wheat germ oil, Hazelnut oil, Almond oil, Sunflower seeds, Paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, grapeseed oil, Almonds, Flaxseed oil. Full list found here.

Foods high in Vitamin K - Kale, Swiss chard, Dandelion greens, Collard greens. Full list found here.

Foods high in folate - Yeast, Animal liver, Beans (mothbeans, chickpeas, cowpeas, mung beans, etc.), lentils, Giblets, Wheat germ, Peanuts, Sunflower seeds, Spinach. Full list found here.

Foods high in calcium - Whey, Milk, Cheese, Seaweed, agave, Grape leaves, Flaxseed, Leafy greens. Full list found here.

Foods high in iron - Whale/seal/walrus meat, Animal spleen, Animal liver, Seaweed, Clams, Yeast, Pumpkin/squash seeds, Sesame seeds, Bell peppers. Full list found here.

Foods high in magnesium - rice bran, Seaweed, Wheat bran, Pumpkin/squash seeds, Flaxseed, Brazilnuts, Sesame seeds, Beans (yardlong, cowpeas, hyacinth, etc.), Sunflower seeds. Full list found here.

Foods high in zinc - Oysters, Wheat germ, Agave, Animal liver, Pumpkin and squash seeds, Beef, Wild game meat (bear, caribou, bison, elk), Lamb, whale. Full list found here.

Foods high in potassium - Palm hearts, Beans (white, lima, black, etc.), Molasses, Wheat bran, Nuts (pistachio, ginkgo, chestnuts, etc.), Lentils, Arrowhead, Wheat germ, Sunflower seeds. Full list found here.

Foods high in phosphorus - Rice bran, Smelt, Seeds (pumpkin, squash, sunflower, etc.), Wheat bran, wheat germ, Cheese (Parmesan, goat, gruyere, swiss, etc.), Cashews, Oats, Walnuts, durum wheat. Full list found here.

Foods high in copper - Animal liver, Oysters, Seaweed, Dried shiitake mushrooms, Sesame seeds, Nuts (cashews, brazilnuts, walnuts, etc.), Lobster, Sunflower seeds, Lentils. Full list found here.

Foods high in manganese - Rice bran, Wheat germ, Nuts (hazelnuts, pine nuts, etc.), Oats, Mussels, Maple syrup, Bulgur, Spelt, Grape leaves. Full list found here.

Foods high in selenium - Nuts, Mollusks, Animal kidneys, Animal giblets, Durum wheat, Sunflower seeds, Wheat germ, Kamut, Animal liver, Fish . Full list found here.

Foods high in choline - Egg, Organ meat, Whey, Beef, Game meat, Pork, Veal, Animal fat, Milk, Beef stock/broth. Full list found here.

Foods high in beta carotene - Grape leaves, Carrots, sweet potatoes, Leafy greens, pumpkin, Squash, Cabbage, Plums, Peas, apricots. Full list found here.

Foods high in lycopene - Tomatoes, Watermelon, Grapefruit, Asparagus, Red cabbage, Carrots, Chicken liver. Full list found here.

Foods high in Betaine - Quinoa, Spinach, Beets, Kamut, Bulgur, Amaranth, Tilapia, Oat bran, Beef, Game meat. Full list found here.

Foods high in Pantothenic Acid - Rice bran, Organ meat, Whey, Egg, Shiitake mushrooms, Wheat germ, Lentils, Peanuts, Cheese. Full list found here.


Note - on NutritionData, I used the Nutrient Search Tool and sorted for foods highest in a particular vitamin or mineral based on levels per 100-gram serving.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Deciphering Food Labels

Over the past few years it seems like the labeling of "natural" foods has gotten more and more confusing. As it has become cool to be "green", corporations are spending more and more money marketing their products as "green" and "pure", when in reality there is nothing natural about the products.
The words "organic" and "natural" as they apply to food have basically become a joke. There is little regulation by the FDA concerning the labeling and evaluation of products and many laws exist that prohibit truthful labeling by farmers.
My intent in this post is to break down some of the common food labels so that you can make better, more informed decisions at the grocery store, and not fall prey to this marketing game.
Natural/All-Natural - According to the USDA, this means that the item does not contain synthetic or artificial ingredients/preservatives and is minimally processed. There is no regulation concerning the use of antibiotics, hormones, and chemicals. There isn't a certification process for labeling, so essentially this label means nothing and the FDA currently does not have plans to establish a clear definition or monitor the usage of these terms in food labeling.

Organic - There are four separate categories in organic food labeling:
  • 100% Organic - refers to single ingredient foods, like produce and dairy products. May bear the USDA seal.
  • Organic - refers to foods containing more than one ingredient. 95-100% of those ingredients must be organic. May bear the USDA seal.
  • Made with organic ingredients - refers to foods containing more than one ingredient. 70% of those ingredients must be organic. May not bear the USDA seal.
  • Contains organic ingredients - Foods with less than 70% organic ingredients. May not bear the USDA seal.

Look for this seal on "100% Organic" and "Organic" foods:

Grass-Fed - This label means the animal was raised primarily on a pasture. There is no regulation concerning where and how long they are allowed to graze.

Eggs - The labels on eggs bought in the grocery store can be very confusing, because there are so many words used to describe the living conditions of the birds, as well as their diets.
  • Certified Organic - The chickens are required to have outdoor access, but there is no regulation concerning the length of time and conditions. The birds must be fed a vegetarian diet, without pesticides and hormones. A third party verifies compliance.
  • Free Range - This usually means the birds are kept in a barn or warehouse uncaged and have some outdoor access. This label tells you nothing about the diet of the bird. There is no USDA standard, therefore a third party does not verify compliance.
  • Cage-Free/Free-Roaming - The same as free range, except the chickens usually do not have outdoor access.
  • Vegetarian-Fed - The chickens are fed a vegetarian diet, not necessarily organic. There are no restrictions on the living conditions of the bird.
  • Natural - Essentially, this means nothing.
  • Fertile - The hens lived with roosters. This label tells you nothing about the diet of the birds.
  • Omega-3 Enriched - The birds are fed a diet enriched with things like flaxseed and algae.
Non-GMO - Non-organic food products are not required to be labeled as made with genetically modified ingredients in the United States. In Europe, Australia and Asia, there are restrictions on labeling and some countries have gone so far as to prohibit the sale of GMO foods. There are no set standards for labeling and auditing products that contain the words non-GMO in the United States at this time.

  • rbGH-free - Milk that does not contain the recombinant bovine growth hormone. In Ohio it is illegal to label milk as "rbGH-free". It must instead be labeled "from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones" and must also contain a disclaimer stating that milk from cows injected with hormones is the same as milk without the hormones, even though it is not true.
  • Pasteurized - This means the milk is heated to kill all bacteria.
  • Ultra-pasteurized - The milk was heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for several seconds.
  • Homogenized - Milk that has gone through a process to keep the fat from separating.
  • Raw - Milk that is neither pasteurized nor homogenized.
  • Stickers beginning with the numbers 3 and 4 - conventional produce. This is produce that is grown using pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals.
  • Stickers beginning with the number 8 - genetically modified produce.
  • Stickers beginning with the number 9 - organic produce. This does not mean the produce is 100% free of pesticide residue, but does mean that the levels are significantly lower than conventional produce.
What does all of this mean to my family?
We try to purchase most of our produce, meat, milk and eggs from local farmers, so we know for a fact where it is coming from, the living conditions of any animals, the diets of the animals, and whether or not the food it truly organic. It seems to be the only way you can really know for sure, since food labeling can be very deceptive.
When shopping at the grocery store I tend to ignore all labels and focus more on the ingredients. If I pick up a processed food that says "organic", I know that up to 5% of the ingredients can be non-organic. You can usually spot them, as they are labeled as "natural flavors" or something similar. Those natural ingredients can be anything from MSG to GMO-soy, so I try to avoid products that contain them. I buy products that contain ingredients I can pronounce and that I know are good for me.
I also pay attention to the labelling of non-organic products. For example, most brands of organic milk are ultra-pasteurized. I refuse to drink ultra-pasteurized milk and usually drink raw milk from a friend's cow. But when we run out of raw milk and need something in a pinch, the milk from a local dairy farm that our grocery store sells is simply pasteurized, and the label also says that it does not contain any antibiotics or hormones. So, I prefer to purchase the non-organic milk (which also costs half as much as the organic).
The point is - read your labels. Don't just trust the front of a box or a TV commercial to tell you whether or not a product is good for you. Read the ingredients and research the companies from which you buy your food.


"A Brief Guide to Egg Carton Labels and Their Relevance to Animal Welfare ." The Humane Society of the United States. Web. 20 Sept. 2009.
"Food labels what do the numbers mean? Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients Find Articles at BNET." Find Articles at BNET News Articles, Magazine Back Issues & Reference Articles on All Topics. Web. 20 Sept. 2009.

"Organic Food Labels: What does it all mean?" Seattlepi.com Blogs. Web. 20 Sept. 2009.
"What do food labels really mean? GreenCityBlueLake." GreenCityBlueLake Advancing sustainability in Northeast Ohio. Web. 20 Sept. 2009.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Dangers of Rice Milk and Rice Cereal

I wrote recently about our switch to hemp milk as a cows' milk alternative for Gabriel. Because hemp milk is hard to find where I live, we have still been giving him rice milk every now and then. Today I learned a startling fact about rice milk and will no longer be feeding it to anyone in my family.

Studies were done in early 2009 by the European Food Standards Agency on 60 samples of different rice beverages. Since this study came out stores in countries across the UK and even China have stopped selling many rice beverages and rice cereals marketed toward babies and small children.

Arsenic is found in many foods in both organic and inorganic forms. Obviously, the organic form is not as harmful, however, long term exposure to the inorganic form (often used as a pesticide) is proven to be a carcinogen. For some reason rice tends to contain higher levels of the inorganic form than many other foods.

Even the organic brands of rice milk contain high levels of arsenic in this study.

Conclusion of the study:

Daily consumption of rice drinks in quantities similar to the average consumption of cows’ milk (one glass, approximately 200 millilitres by adults or half a pint, approximately 280 millilitres by a toddler/young child) would lead to an additional daily dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic. This increase is minor for adults and young persons and they do not need to change their diet. This increase in the intake of inorganic arsenic could be up to four fold for toddlers and young children (ages 1- 4.5 years) if rice drinks are consumed instead of breast milk, infant formula or cows’ milk. Therefore the Agency advises against the substitution of breast milk, infant formula or cows’ milk by rice drinks for toddlers and young children. All other consumers do not need to change their diet. Parents of toddlers and young children who are currently consuming rice drinks because they are allergic to or intolerant of cows’ milk are advised to consult their health professional or dietician about suitable alternatives to cows’ milk.

You can read the complete study here.



Arsenic in Rice Drinks. European Food Standards Agency. http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/fsis0209arsenicinrice.pdf Web. 10 Sept. 2009.

Urban Homesteading

My aunt recently sent me this link to this wonderful video about an urban homestead, showing how one family was able to create their own little family farm in the middle of a concrete jungle.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Local, In-Season Produce

There are many benefits to buying local produce. You are supporting local farmers, helping the environment by buying items that didn't use large amounts of energy to be transported before sold, and saving yourself a ton of money. Most items at the farmer's market cost much less than "fresh" fruit at the grocery store.

The main reason I enjoy buying local produce, however, is the nutritional benefit. You may wonder, what's the difference between an apple bought at the store and an apple bought locally?

Well, most store-bought apples were picked before they were ripe, making them less nutritious. They are then transported from where they were grown (many times in places like Mexico, Florida and California) causing the vitamins to slowly deteriorate due to exposure to air, light and temperature changes. Sometimes the fruit will be gassed with an ethylene gas (a naturally occurring ripening agent) in order to improve color or to ripen the fruit before it goes on the grocery store shelf.

Most local produce you find at the farmer's market, however, is picked the day of sale, at it's ripest point, and sold just hours later.

A great way to save money while purchasing produce is to get involved in CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which will allow you to buy a "share" in a farmer's crop and receive a weekly selection of what has been harvested. For more information and to find a CSA near you, click here.

Something to also remember while you are shopping in the summer is to buy double so that you can freeze, can or dehydrate fruits and veggies for use during the winter months.

If you do need to buy produce at the grocery store during the winter, try to buy frozen. The produce that is used in the frozen foods section was generally picked when it was riper than the "fresh" fruit. Canned produce from the grocery store should be avoided because the lining of the cans is full of a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA).

Also, if you are purchasing from an unknown vendor at the farmer's market, make sure you ask them where their produce is grown. There are many vendors out there that scam unsuspecting shoppers by purchasing produce from the same places the grocery stores get theirs and pass it off as local.

And as always, make sure your fruits and veggies are free from pesticides and other chemicals, and are not hybridized or genetically modified.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Movie Recommendation about GMO Food

The Future of Food is a documentary about genetically modified food. It discusses the history of GMO foods in America, the patenting of life, GMO labeling (and why the US is the only country not requiring it), farming subsidies, and sustainable agriculture. Although most of the documentary talks about the political issues surrounding GMO foods, it also discusses how GMO seeds are made, the health effects of GMO foods and the importance of organic farming. Skip to around 25 minutes, one hour and the last ten minutes for more health-related information.

I found the parts discussing allergies to GMO foods really interesting, and how it is difficult to tell whether someone is having an allergic reaction to the actual food or just the GMO version. As the mother of a child with multiple food allergies, it would be helpful to know whether a food is GMO or not. I am wondering why the United States does not require this?


Pastured Beef

With the creation of factory farms, the diet of the cow has drastically changed. Cows are fed a soybean/grain feed, that is too high in protein for their livers to handle and is full of pesticides. Subsequently, only 5% of the cows that are slaughtered have livers that can be eaten. These cows eat this meal not in an open pasture, but rather in cement feedlots, where they have to be given steroids and antibiotics, as well as synthetic vitamins, in order to stay healthy. All of these toxins are then found in the milk and meat of these cows.

Cows that live in confinement survive an average of 1.8 lactations (births) before they are sent to be slaughtered, whereas cows that are grass-fed/pastured live 10-12 years and usually birth 8-10 calves. This is because a diet of natural grass is much healthier for the cow (and in turn for us) than a diet of grain.

Pastured cow milk contains high levels of vitamins A, D, and E, as well as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). This acid is known to protect lab animals against breast cancer. It also increases metabolism, promotes muscle deposition vs. fat, lowers cholesterol and insulin resistance, and boosts the immune system.

Pastured beef contains a better mineral status than grain-fed beef, with especially high levels of zinc and magnesium. Beef is good for your nervous system and heart because of it's vitamin B12 and carnitine content. The palmitoleic acid in beef prevents virus growth and helps with weight loss.

For years we have been told that red meat is bad for you and that it should be avoided for a healthy diet. But, I feel that this only applies to the meat from unhealthy, grain-fed cattle. When cows are given a chance to feed on highly nutritious grass, especially in the spring and early summer, they are much healthier and produce a leaner meat that does not contain the fat that confined beef contains.

A couple of facts about cooking beef:

Don't let the internal temperature of your meat cook above 212 degrees. This makes the meat harder to digest and can allow pathogens to grow in your colon.

Limit your intake of grilled meat, because the flames synthesize the hydrocarbons in the meat (carcinogens). Eating broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, lacto-fermented veggies, or relishes with your grilled meat will help to neutralize these carcinogens, because they contain lactic acid.

The taste of grass-fed beef and butter:

It took some getting used to when we first starting eating grass-fed beef. It gives off an "earthy" smell while cooking and tastes oily, almost like fish. But after eating it for a while, we now prefer the taste to the meat you can buy in the grocery store. It has a better flavor and is much leaner.

The butter from pastured cows is amazing. It is flavorful and sweet, especially in the beginning of the summer.

Where you can find pastured beef and butter:

Try your local farmer's market or health-food store. Even if they don't have it there, if you ask around you can usually find someone who knows a farmer selling it.

Remember that the organic meat in the grocery store, although usually free of antibiotics, hormones and steroids, is not necessarily pastured. Many times that just means the cows were fed organic grain that was free of pesticides.



Fallon, Sally. Nourishing traditions the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Washington, DC: NewTrends Pub., 1999.

Rubin, Jordan. Maker's diet. New York: Berkley Books, 2005.

"Health Benefits of Conjugated Linoleic Acid." Natural Health Information Articles and Health Newsletter by Dr. Joseph Mercola. 19 July 2009 .

Rubel, William. "Homemade Butter: The Best You'll Ever Have." Mother Earth News June 2009.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How To Make Homemade Cream Cheese and Whey

Place a strainer over a bowl and lay a piece of cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel over the strainer. Take your homemade yogurt and pour it into the cheesecloth.

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Cover the yogurt and after a few hours, tie the cloth to a spoon and hang over a glass container so you can see when it is done dripping.

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When it is done dripping (it took mine 9-10 hours) you have cream cheese and whey. I strained approximately 2 cups of yogurt and got 1 1/4 cups of whey and about four ounces of cream cheese.

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The cream cheese will last for one month in your fridge and the whey has a shelf life of six months refrigerated. I had my cream cheese with some jelly on toast for breakfast and it tasted different than store-bought cream cheese - slightly more sour - but it was still delicious.

Facts about whey:

Ever wonder what the gelatinous goo on the top of your yogurt is? Well, that is whey. Don't throw it down the sink - make sure to mix it back in with your yogurt, because it is really good for you.

Whey is a very high source of natural food sodium, which keeps your joints healthy and your ligaments elastic. It is also high in vitamin B12 and many minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, calcium and phosphorus.

Whey is also great for digestion because of the probiotics. Add one tablespoon to your water and drink three times per day.

If you add homemade whey to your jars of fruits and vegetables it provides lactobacilli, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and increasing the shelf life.

Whey is a complete protein, containing all of your amino acids, which is why it has become increasingly popular among bodybuilders as a protein powder. To get one tablespoon of dried whey protein powder you would need 2 quarts of regular liquid whey.

Whey can be made into ricotta cheese by heating it, allowing it to ferment, and separating the curds.



Fallon, Sally. Nourishing traditions the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Washington, DC: NewTrends Pub., 1999.

Jensen, Bernard. Food healing for man. Escondido, CA: B. Jensen, 1983.

"How to Make Ricotta Cheese: 9 steps (with pictures) - wikiHow." WikiHow - The How-to Manual That You Can Edit. 07 July 2009 .

Friday, July 3, 2009

How To Make Homemade Yogurt

Heat one quart of milk on the stove top. For raw milk - do not heat past 110 degrees or you will kill the active cultures.

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Once the milk is heated add 4 tablespoons of yogurt with live cultures or a yogurt starter package. We used plain yogurt that was pasteurized (do not use ultra-pasteurized). For future yogurt batches you can use the yogurt you have already made.

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Mix the yogurt and milk well and pour into a glass container.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and turn off as soon as it reaches the temperature. Wrap your yogurt container in a towel and place on a cookie sheet in the oven for at least 8 hours. You may need to preheat the oven a few times during that time to keep the oven warm.

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Refrigerate overnight before eating. Add fruit, maple syrup or honey to sweeten and enjoy!

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It can also be made in a thermos or crockpot:

  • Fill the thermos with boiling water until it gets hot. Pour out the water and fill with milk/yogurt mixture and let it sit for 8 hours.
  • Here is a crockpot recipe.

How To Make Homemade Raw Milk Butter

Let your milk sit in the fridge for a while so that the cream rises to the top.

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Skim the cream off of the top and place in food processor.

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Add salt if you like your butter salted. Turn the processor on for a few minutes.

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It's that easy - Homemade Raw Milk Butter:

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Make sure you drain all of the buttermilk. It will last for approximately one week in your fridge.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hemp Milk

We have been researching milk alternatives ever since we met with Gabe's nutritionist, who told us that the rice milk we were giving him was inadequate in fat and protein.

Here is a chart I made comparing the amount of fat and protein (in grams), as well as the % RDA of calcium in 8 ounces of each type of milk:

As you can see, the nutritionist was correct - rice milk and almond milk do not compare to any of the other alternatives in terms of fat and protein. Even soy milk falls short in fat. But what surprised me most were the levels in hemp milk, an alternative I had never heard of before.

After doing a little more research about hemp milk I discovered that it is not only high in fat and protein, and contains half of your daily calcium, it also is:

  • high in omega 3/omega 6

  • contains no cholesterol

  • a complete protein, containing all of the essential amino acids

  • contains potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, and more (sounds better than my prenatal vitamin!)

And don't worry, it does not contain THC.

Hemp milk just became popular a few years ago and is growing as an alternative to dairy, soy, and almond products for people with allergies and intolerances.

I also discovered that rice milk and soy milk can contain phytates (which block the absorption of certain nutrients) and oligosaccharides (which cause gas and stomach problems). Hemp milk does not.

So we switched Gabe over to hemp milk several days ago and he seems to be enjoying it. We are still adding probiotic powder to his breakfast drink and a liquid calcium supplement to his dinner cup to compensate for what it is lacking.

The only brand that we found in our local grocery store was HEMP Dream, made by the same company that makes Gabe's rice milk. It was costly (nearly $6 for 32 ounces) and doesn't contain the same amount of calcium as other brands, so I don't know if we will stick with it.

I have heard good things about the taste of Living Harvest Hemp Milk, which can be ordered here for a very reasonable price. But, the nutritional label shows that it only has half of the protein of other brands.

Manitoba Harvest offers several varieties that are cheaper than HEMP Dream, but also do not contain the optimal amount of calcium.

We are still shopping around to find the right product for Gabe, but are thrilled to know that there is an alternative out there that can give him everything that cow's milk can!



"The Benefits of Organic Hemp Milk Natural Health & Organic Living Blog." 02 July 2009 .

Friday, June 19, 2009

Soak Your Oats!

Oatmeal is a wonderful food - it is heart-healthy and high in vitamin B, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. But, the oats are also very high in phytates/phytic acid - a form of phosphorus that inhibits the absorption of many of those healthy vitamins and minerals, and over the course of time can cause deficiencies.

All you need to do to maximize the health benefits of your oats is soak them in warm water with an acid base during the night and they will be ready to eat in the morning. You will find that soaking them makes them cook almost as quickly as instant oats.  Suggested acid bases are - whey, yogurt or other fermented dairy products, or if you're allergic or intolerant to dairy you can use lemon juice or vinegar.  Add 1-2 tablespoons to your bowl of water and oats.

The same should be done for all grains, nuts, legumes and beans to maximize vitamin and mineral absorption.

I have to admit that I am really bad about doing this, because it requires planning ahead, and that isn't one of my strengths. But it is so important to do, as studies are showing that the buildup of phytic acid is causing vitamin deficiencies in many people. Remember that most of the processed foods on the grocery store shelf that contain grains, nuts, beans and legumes are not soaked!



Fallon, Sally. Nourishing traditions the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Washington, DC: NewTrends Pub., 1999.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How Safe Are Your Cosmetics?

Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database

The above link is to a cosmetic database that ranks each product on a scale of 1-10 and categorizes by low hazard, moderate hazard and high hazard. It also lets you know what the ingredients are and if they are linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergies/immunotoxicity, irritation and whether there are violations, restrictions & warnings out against the product. Alternative, safer products are also listed for you.

We discovered a few months ago that the expensive, "non-toxic" soap we were buying for the boys scored in the moderate category. So much for "all-natural"!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Olive Oil

Have you ever noticed how sometimes when you are cooking with olive oil it ends up smelling and tasting funny? You could be using it incorrectly. Extra virgin olive oil has become a staple in most kitchens and on shows like Rachael Ray you can see her frying just about everything up with EVOO. What these shows fail to tell you is that cooking with olive oil at too high of a temperature makes it less healthy and possibly rancid.

Olive oil is decently healthy - on the nutritious fats/oils list it falls somewhere in the middle - at the bottom of the good list (ranked from best to worst):

  1. Ghee and butter
  2. Duck fat
  3. Chicken fat
  4. Lard
  5. Beef tallow
  6. Coconut oil
  7. Palm kernel oil
  8. Palm oil
  9. Olive oil
  10. Safflower oil
  11. Sunflower oil
  12. Cottonseed oil
  13. Peanut oil
  14. Corn oil
  15. Canola oil
  16. Soy Oil

The bottom four are pretty much unfit for human consumption, which is ironic because if you pick up any processed food item in the store you can pretty much bet it will contain one of them. Soy oil is found in 70% of store bought food. And you may be thinking "she's just saying that because she can't have soy", but if you think about it - why are these oils used in all of our food? They are the cheapest. And why are they so cheap? Because they are genetically modified and less nutritious than the other fats and oils. Also, their extraction process makes them rancid. But I'll save that for another post.

Like I said, olive oil is decently healthy. It's high in antioxidants, omega acids, oleic acid, vitamin E and enzymes. But in order to reap these benefits, you must use it correctly.

Different types of olive oil:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - oil from the first cold-pressing, that is made without chemical or high temperature extraction methods. Has an oleic acid level of <1%.
  • Virgin Olive Oil - also from the first cold-pressing and made from the same extraction methods as EVOO. Has an oleic acid level of <2%.
  • Pure Olive Oil - blend of VOO and refined olive oil. Same acidity as VOO.
  • Light Olive Oil - contains very little if any EVOO.

Don't let the "light" labeling fool you - all of these oils have about 125 calories per tablespoon.

So, what's the point of all of this? If you are buying extra virgin olive oil because it is better for you than the other types of olive oils, but then using it for high-heat cooking or baking, you are basically paying more for the oil but then defeating the purpose. You are paying extra to make your oil rancid and less nutritious.

How the different oils should be used:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil/Virgin Olive Oil - use as a salad dressing, marinade, or sauce. Add to your food after it has been cooked.
  • Classic Olive Oil - use for sauteing and grilling.
  • Light Olive Oil - use for baking and high-heat cooking.



Feister, D.O., Wayne A. "Fats and Oils." Weston A. Price Meeting. Lima.

"Types of Olive Oil." Explore Crete, guide for real Crete. 08 June 2009 http://www.explorecrete.com/nature/olive-oil-types.html#extra_virgin_olive_oil.

Fallon, Sally. Nourishing traditions the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Washington, DC: NewTrends Pub., 1999.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Recent studies have shown that taking at least a tablespoon of local honey each day can help with seasonal allergies. Because bees pollinate local plants, the honey contains small amounts of those allergens. Scientists believe that by taking in these small amounts your body will eventually build up an immunity to them (think of it as a natural allergy injection).
To maximize the health benefits, look for honey that is produced locally and that is raw and unpasteurized (or has not been heated over 117 degrees). High heat kills the enzymes that help with digestion. You can usually find it at your Farmer's Market or a local health food store.
Other benefits and uses for honey:
  • Helps heal a sore throat - Adam's favorite - Hotty Totty: cup of hot tea with honey, lemon and a shot of whiskey
  • Can eliminate the bacteria that cause diarrhea, as well as salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, and cholera
  • Improves brain function
  • Aids in predigestion because of it's high plant amylase - the enzymes break down starchy foods like breads.
Warning: Do not give honey to children under the age of one. They do not have enough stomach acid to break down the bacteria in the honey.
How it's working for us:
I like to take my honey with my tea. I grew up preferring the taste of table sugar in my tea, so the honey took some getting used to, but now I can't drink it any other way. Gabe gets his honey in his oatmeal every morning. I add about a tablespoon to his bowl after it has been cooked. Neither of us have needed OTC allergy medications since beginning this (which is quite something, considering that I have always had bad allergies and as a child I had to get weekly allergy injections to help with my allergy symptoms). Adam has not had the same luck yet with the honey - and still requires some medications to deal with his allergy flare-ups.
My Favorite Cookie Recipe - Using Honey:
Given to me by my friend and doula
Mix 1.5 t. baking soda and 1 T. milk. Beat 2 eggs; add 1/2 c honey, 1/2 t. vanilla, 1/3 c. butter, and 1 c. natural peanut butter; Mix well. Add 3 c. quick oats. Stir together. Drop onto a cookie sheet and flatten. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until light brown.
Fallon, Sally. Nourishing traditions the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Washington, DC: NewTrends Pub., 1999.
Rubin, Jordan. Maker's diet. New York: Berkley Books, 2005.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


We would like to begin this blog with what we think is one of the most important keys to good health – probiotics.

Probiotics are supplements given to mimic the beneficial bacteria/intestinal flora we all have in our bodies. As a result of antibiotic use, many of these good bacteria are killed, causing what scientists believe to be a host of problems. Even if you aren’t taking antibiotics prescribed by your doctor for an illness, antibiotics are found in our drinking water and most of the meats, eggs, and dairy products we consume. Also, the pasteurization process and other modern food preservation techniques have caused the natural probiotic content of our foods to decrease, leaving many people deficient.

Benefits of probiotics:

  • Strengthens the immune system by creating a healthy balance of flora

  • Helps prevent and treat leaky gut syndrome/diarrhea

  • Helps to balance Candida levels in the body, which prevents and treats yeast problems (vaginal yeast infections, thrush, etc.) and UTIs

  • Treats IBD and IBS – inflammation of the colon

  • Reduces the recurrence of bladder cancer

  • Helps speed up the recovery of intestinal infections

  • Prevents eczema and other allergy symptoms

  • Believed to treat food allergies and intolerances

Ways to take probiotics naturally through your food:

  • Cultured/fermented veggies – sauerkraut, fermented sweet potatoes, pickled ginger, beets, etc.

  • Fermented beverages – kefir, natural ginger ale, kombuca, kvass – even some beers and wine

  • Unpasteurized milk and other dairy products (aged cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt)

  • Miso

You can find many recipes for these items in Jordan Rubin’s Maker’s Diet or by doing a simple Google search.

How our family uses them:

Adam prefers to get his probiotics naturally through food. He begins every day with a large bowl of all-natural plain yogurt, sweetened with honey. He also eats a lot of homemade fermented veggies – especially sauerkraut and pickled beets.

I used to drink raw milk and other dairy products daily, but since having my second baby I have been finding it harder to make the trip to get my milk on a regular basis. I now take a supplement two times per day if I haven’t eaten a probiotic-rich food in its place. I take Solaray’s Multidophilus 12, because there is no soy in the capsules. I began taking them about a year ago and since I have not had a flare-up of my Crohn’s Disease, made it through an entire pregnancy without a yeast infection or UTI, and have nursed a baby for four months without any thrush. The probiotics are also transferred through my breast milk to David, which I feel is a great preventative measure for seasonal and food allergies on top of being good for his overall health. Breast milk already has probiotics, but taking the supplement increases the amount he is receiving.

Gabe takes KAL Dinosaurs Baby Bifidactyl in powder form. I mix ¼ teaspoon into his rice milk with his morning drink. He began taking this approximately 4 months ago. At the time we began to notice that he had really bad breath (a sign of poor digestion). Within 3 days the bad breath was gone. He has also made it through the spring without needing any OTC allergy medications.



"Probiotics: What are they? - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living - MayoClinic.com. 30 May 2009 .

Rubin, Jordan. Maker's diet. New York: Berkley Books, 2005.