Friday, April 30, 2010

Homemade Soaked Granola Bars

Granola bars are considered a healthy snack by many people - they usually contain oats, nuts, dried fruits and other things that are good for you.  But most of the processed bars also contain a lot of things that are very bad for you.

Let's look at Nature Valley's 100% Natural Chewy Trail Mix - Fruit & Nut bars. 

Ingredients:  whole grain oats, high maltose corn syrup, rice flour, raisins, almonds, honey, sugar, roasted peanuts, fructose, sunflower seeds, canola oil, cranberries, maltodextrin, soy lecithin, salt, malt extract, baking soda, natural flavor, and mixed tocopherols.
That's EIGHT different sugars in one little granola bar.  Yikes!

What about something that is considered a little more healthy - Kashi's TLC Chewy Granola Bars Honey Almond Flax?

Ingredients:  rolled grain blend (hard red wheat, oats, rye, triticale, barley), roasted salted whole almonds, brown rice syrup, soy protein isolate, soy grits, evaporated cane juice crystals, chicory root fiber, whole flax seeds, evaporated cane juice syrup, rice starch, corn flour, honey, expeller pressed canola oil, vegetable glycerin, oat fiber, natural flavors, evaporated salt, Kashi seven whole grains sesame flour (whole: oats, hard red wheat, rye, brown rice, triticale, barley, buckwheat, sesame seeds), molasses, soy lecithin, peanut flour, whey protein isolate.

Only FIVE sugars in this one.

But the sugars aren't the only unhealthy thing about these "healthy" snacks.  They both use genetically modified ingredients, canola oil (at least Kashi's is expeller pressed), and those mysterious "natural flavors" that could include just about anything.

Your best bet is to make your own granola bars.  I found a wonderful recipe here that I decided to modify using soaked grains and nuts.  Remember that it is always important to soak your grains, nuts, legumes and beans before consuming them!

Here is how I made my chewy granola bars.  To make my recipe you will need a dehydrator.  I will also warn you that I didn't measure anything - you can't really mess this up, so just use as much as you want of each ingredient.

Step 1:  Soak some organic oats, raw almonds, and raw sunflower seeds for 12-24 hours.  The longer you soak, the better.

Step 2:  Drain and rinse your ingredients and then dehydrate them for a while.  I did it until the oats were half dry.

Step 3:  Pulse your almonds in the food processor.

Step 4:  Toss your oats, almonds, and seeds into a large mixing bowl.  Add your dried fruit - I used raisins and chopped dried figs.  Add your sweetener - I used raw, local honey

Add your fat - I used coconut oil so that my dairy-allergic son can eat them, but butter would also taste great.  Add anything else you want - I used cinnamon and flax meal. 

Step 5:  Mix.  Skip the spoon and just use your hands - it's much easier.

Step 6:  Put some wax paper on a flat surface and plop your ingredients on top.

Step 7:  Put another piece of wax paper over your ingredients and roll them until they are the desired thickness.  I like mine thicker.  Just remember that the thicker they are, the longer they will take to dehydrate.

Step 8:  Peel off your top layer of paper and cut your bars with a pizza cutter.

Step 9:  Transfer your bars to the dehydrator and turn it on until they dry.  It took my really thick bars about 6 hours to completely dry today.

Step 10:  Enjoy!

Here is a picture of one of the thin ones for the children and the big, thick, Mommy-sized bars :)

It's as easy as that - a fresh, healthy snack for your family without all of the nasty additives, preservatives and sugars. 


Non-GMO Shopping Guide

Click here to dowload a free Non-GMO Shopping Guide put out by The Center for Food Safety.

You can learn more about the guide here.

To learn more about genetically modified foods, watch this film.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coconut Oil

I became a big fan of coconut oil a few years ago, when I discovered that it helped my Crohn's symptoms.  Originally, I was concerned about the amount of saturated fat in the oil, but the more I researched it, the more I realized how good it actually is for you.

Coconut Oil Myths

Modern nutritionists try to tell us that eating plant-based oils are best for us, because they are unsaturated fats.  They do this because there is a fear that all saturated fat contributes to heart disease and obesity.  While most of the saturated fats in our diets do contribute to those health problems, it is the hydrogenated oils that are the contributing factor.  Throughout history there are populations of people that have lived off of natural saturated fats, like butter and coconut oil, without having heart problems like we see in our culture.  The butter and coconut oil are not the problem, the hydrogenated items like margarine are.

Here is a prime example of the misinformation I'm talking about.  How can an organic, pastured egg or fresh, wild-caught seafood be harmful?  A better list of fats, in order of best to worst for you, can be found here.

Sure, if someone eats nothing but butter and coconut oil all day long, their heart is going to pay the price.  But if you're eating a healthy, balanced diet full of organic fruits, veggies, grains, and meats, and staying away from the processed foods that are full of saturated fats, butter and coconut oil are actually very good for you.

Even though soybean, cottonseed, canola, sunflower, and safflower oils may appear to be healthier because they do not contain saturated fats, there are other factors to consider.  Most of these oils are derived from genetically-modified sources.  They are usually rancid due to their extraction processes, and wreak havoc on our digestive and immune systems.  If not rancid prior to consumption, they will oxidize inside our bodies due to the heat.  Coconut oil does not become rancid easily, and in fact can be held at room temperature for over a year without showing any signs, because of antioxidants.

The health benefits of coconut oil

Antimicrobal/Antiseptic - Coconut oil contains 40% lauric acid, the anti-viral component of breast milk. Our bodies convert the acid to a substance that protects us from infection.

Disease-fighting - Due to the high lauric acid content, coconut oil helps fight current illnesses.

Thyroid-Stimulating - Coconut oil stimulates the thyroid, giving you more energy and helping you lose weight.  Animals fed coconut oil are more lean, active, and have higher appetites.  This is why most farmers feed their animals diets that are high in unsaturated fats - they fatten them up with less food because of the anti-thyroid effects.

Anti-Aging - Due to the thyroid-stimulating properties of coconut oil, there are an increase of anti-aging steroids, pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA - which help prevent aging and degenerative diseases.

Anti-Cancer - Animals fed diets high in unsaturated fats have more tumors.  Researchers have also noted that incidences of cancer have increased when native populations are introduced to our American diets.

Digestive -  Due to its antimicrobal properties, coconut oil fights indigestion and assists in the absorption of nutrients.

Skin and Haircare - Coconut oil is an excellent conditioner that helps repair damaged hair and fight dandruff, psoriasis, eczema, etc.  When applied to the skin, it also helps to heal a bruise more quickly and can treat rashes, like diaper rash and yeast.

To learn about the many other benefits of coconut oil, click here.

How to use coconut oil

Besides the uses for skin and hair listed above, coconut oil can also be used for a variety of other purposes.  It is a natural, safe alternative to other unnatural sexual lubricants, which contain many toxins.  You can also simply apply a generous layer of the oil to cuts and scrapes to provide a protective barrier that will also heal the wound.

Coconut oil is solid when at room temperature, so when cooking with it, you may need to soften it first.  I use it in place of butter in all of my baking recipes, as a dairy-free alternative for my allergic son.  The oil has a sweet taste that makes it perfect for sweets and breads.

I also use my coconut oil in place of butter or cooking sprays in prepartio for baking.  I just scoop out a small amount and smear it all over my pans and dishes in the same way I would use butter.

The bottom line

Most nutritionists have it wrong.  While their intentions are good, their focus in wrong.  Sure, we should all be trying to limit the amount of saturated fat in our diets, but we should be doing it by actually limiting the amount of food we eat, not by maintaining the same excessive diets and simply replacing the fats with unsaturated ones.  Those unsaturated fats pose entirely different health risks.  We need to also look at the health benefits of eating saturated fats in moderation.

So enjoy your butter and coconut oil - just don't overdo it.  Your waistline, immune system, heart, thyroid, skin, hair, colon, cells and taste buds will thank you!

Edited to add:  You want to use virgin coconut oil, not the refined types.



" - Coconut Oil: Why It Is Good For You." - Research on Coconut Oil's Benefits. Web. 29 Apr. 2010. .

"Health Benefits of Coconut Oil Organic Coconut Oil Organic Oils." Organic Facts Home. Web. 29 Apr. 2010. .

Rubin, Jordan. The Maker's Diet. Lake Mary, Fla.: Siloam, 2004. Print.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Homemade Menstrual Cloths

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would tackle the sensitive issue of menstrual pads and tampons.  Feminine hygiene products contribute to our overall wellness in many ways.  Lots of us use cloth diapers on our children for the following reasons, but we never think to do the same thing for ourselves.

First, their use is expensive.  The average woman in the United States will spend over $2500 on pads and tampons in her lifetime.  That is money spent every month that could be put toward buying ourselves healthier foods or other items necessary for our wellness.

Billions of pads and tampons, as well as their plastic wrappers, clutter our landfills every year, leaching toxins like dioxin into the soil, air and water.  But disposal is not the only factor to consider, because the manufacture of these items also takes a toll on our environment.

The main reason we should all be concerned with the use of disposable pads and tampons is their impact on our health.  A sanitary napkin is made from chlorine bleached wood pulp, the absorbent gel in the center of the pad is made from a plastic, and the leakproof barrier is made from a polyethylene film.  These are not things that we want pressing up against our most sensitive body parts for weeks at a time.  Studies have shown that we may be affecting our reproductive health and fertility by doing so.

Tampons are also made from bleached wood pulp and are even more dangerous, because they are used internally.  They block the flow of air to the vagina, allowing bad bacteria to grow and leading to infections and diseases, like Toxic Shock Syndrome.

The production of the ingredients used to make these items releases nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and other toxic gases into the atmosphere.  These toxins have been known to cause cancer and birth defects in humans.

Cloth Menstrual Pads are a safe and easy alternative.  They can be laundered with your clothing, or if you are cloth diapering, simply throw them in the wash with your diapers.  You can carry a wet bag for when you leave the house just like you do with your diapers.

Cloth pads can be purchased online - do a google search for mama cloth or cloth menstrual pads and you will find websites offering a variety of products.  My favorites can be found on Etsy

But even a novice seamstress can create a basic menstrual pad from recycled items in less than a half hour!  If I can do it, anyone can.  I don't measure or make sure my seams are straight, because I figure something you are going to bleed on doesn't need to look pretty.

How to make a homemade pad in ten minutes:

Pick your fabric.  I like to use flannel because it is soft and absorbent.  It's easy to find old flannel shirts or pajama pants at the thrift store or in your own closet.  I've even made some out of my husband's old flannel boxers.

If you can't find any used fabric, most stores have a remnant bin where you can get scraps for very cheap.  This quarter yard of flannel was less than a dollar and I can get at least two pads out of it.

Cut two large ovals.  I don't even bother measuring, because they don't need to be pretty.  I just make sure that they are wide enough to make wings.

Select the fabric for your "insides".  I had a bunch of old, birdseye prefold diapers that make a perfect absorbent core.  If you don't have diapers, an old dishtowel, handtowel or even a few layers of flannel will work just fine.

I cut the edges off of my prefolds so that just the center is left behind and fold it in half.

Sew down the center of your "insides" and attach them to one of your ovals.

Sew the two ovals together inside out.  Leave an open end, which will be sewn together after you have flipped it.

The edges of your flannel will fray after the first wash, so you will need to take some scissors and clean them up.

Sew the sides to make two channels and your wings.

If your wings are large enough to fold underneath and touch, you can add the snaps directly to the wings.  Otherwise, you may need to add some fabric for the snaps.

I made this pad extra thick so that it can be used for nighttime.  I wanted my wings to be thick and to stay pressed against my skin while I'm wearing it, so I added some fabric underneath the pad for my snaps on this one.

It may be bulky, but it will do the trick, and it cost me less than a dollar to make.

To make a postpartum or heavy flow pad, I used two prefold diapers stacked directly on top of each other. 

To make a pantyliner, I used one prefold that had been cut in half.

You can also use velcro instead of snaps.

Or you can create a pocket that can be stuffed with the correct amount of padding for your flow.

I have made several different types and my favorites so far are the ones that have snaps, because I can feel the velcro when I sit.  I also prefer having two channels instead of three, because I feel like it makes the pad fold more comfortably when I move.  Sewing a circular channel on the pad also makes it feel really comfortable.  Regardless, the feeling of the flannel against your skin is 100x better than that scratchy plastic stuff.

My next step is to start creating "all-in-ones" out of old underwear. I feel like it will be much easier to just throw them on with the pad already attached than to worry about snaps.

If you are interested in some real patterns that will make you a better looking pad, I suggest this website - Adahy's Cloth Pad Patterns.

If pads aren't for you and you are looking for a safe alternative to disposable tampons, check out Diva Cups.



"Sanitary Napkin." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. .

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Whole Soy Story

After a visit to a homeopathic doctor in 2008, I discovered that I am soy intolerant, a diagnosis that has changed my life in many ways.*  I used to be a sushi addict and my mouth still waters at the idea of a spicy tuna roll dipped in soy sauce, but then I remember the days following my sushi binges and how the soy sauce would leave me curled in the fetal position on the floor of my bathroom, writhing around in pain. 

I also was a vegetarian for nearly ten years prior to this diagnosis.  I lived off of tofu burgers and veggies shreds.  As soon as I learned that the soy was making me sick, I had to completely change my lifestyle and begin eating meat again.

A few months prior to my diagnosis, it was also discovered that my older son, Gabriel, had a soy allergy.  His first bottle of soy-based formula caused a severe allergic reaction.

Because of this our home has been soy-free for nearly two years, except for a couple of foods that my husband enjoys to have around as snacks.  Gabriel and I are also unable to eat food that has been prepared at restaurants, because the only items on the majority of menus that do not contain a soy product are plain fruits and veggies that haven't touched the grill (which is usually covered in either margarine or soybean oil).

It is estimated that nearly 70% of the foods on our supermarket shelves contain soy.  It has become filler that is used in just about everything, because it is cheap.  But what's even worse is that over 60% of the soybean crop in the United States is genetically modified.

One day Adam heard a news story that linked soy to hormone imbalances in men, specifically that eating high levels of soy causes men to produce more estrogen, leading to a whole host of health problems.  That was the final straw - all of the negative information I had been hearing about soy made me want to learn more about why it is considered a "healthy" food in our culture.

I finished reading The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN and I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the food.  The book gives a background on how this crop that historically was used as a cover crop to enrich soil, became part of a health-food craze in America. It also breaks down all of the health concerns about eating soy.  I recommend the book for anyone interested in learning why you shouldn't be consuming this food in the amounts that we find in the average American's diet.

I just wanted to highlight some of the interesting things I learned while reading the book:

The study that really made soy a healthy food in America showed that the Japanese (who eat 30 times the soy we eat) have lower rates of breast, uterine and prostate cancer.  What the media coverage of this study failed to also tell us is that the Japanese have higher rates of esophageal, stomach, pancreatic and liver cancers.  Asians also do not eat soy in the ways we eat it.  They leave the soybean intact in fermented products like miso, tempeh and natto. 

The FDA approves soy protein as a heart healthy food but it is also found on their "Poisonous Plant Database."

Soybean oil is a mosquito repellant.  It actually kills the mosquito, which makes you wonder what it does to your insides.

People who eat ground meat with textured soy protein extenders (this is what is served to our children in school) lose 61% (at a 3:1 ratio) and 53% (at a 2:1 ratio) of their ability to absorb the iron from the meat.

Here are all of the toxins and antinutrients that soy contains: 
  • allergens
  • goitrogens - cause thyroid damage
  • lectins - cause immune system reactions and play a role in allergic reactions because they destroy intestinal mucosa.
  • oligosaccharides - cause bloating and gas
  • oxalates - prevent the absorption of calcium and linked to kidney stones
  • phytates - leads to poor growth and anemia.  Levels are higher in soy than in any other food.
  • isoflavones - cause reproductive damage
  • protease inhibitors - cause gastric distress, poor protein digestion, cancer, and damage to the pancreas.  Many foods contain them (grains, nuts, seeds, some veggies, etc.), but cooking deactivates them.  They are at higher levels in soybeans (and even higher in GM beans) and are more resistant to neutralization through cooking.
The scariest information to read was about soy-based formula:
  • The isoflavones in the formula effect hormones and can cause developmental problems in the reproductive system.  They also put children at an increased risk of thyroid problems (hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroid disease). 
  • Infants fed soy formula also produce more gas (CH4 and H2S), which has been linked to intestinal disorders, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's Disease. 
  • Scientists have suggested expensive techniques that would neutralize the phytates in formula, but the industry prefers to go the cheaper route and enrich the formula with zinc, iron and calcium to compensate.  They are required by law to do this. 
  • Iron absorption from soy formula is 27%.  It is 65% in breast milk, 60% in whey formula and 46% in casein formula.
Something I learned from the author's website - "The Israeli Health Ministry has issued a health advisory warning that infants should not use soy formula. So have the British Dietetic Association, the New Zealand Health Ministry, and the Swiss Federal Health Service."
Soy lectin may contribute to Type 1 Juvenile Onset Diabetes because it destroys pancreatic cells that secrete insulin.
Asian monks used to eat high levels of soy because it was known to lower their libido.
I have also read before that animals that are fed diets high in soy fail to thrive and show signs of malnutrition.  They also have a shorter lifespan and produce less offspring. 

When I put all of this information together, it's a no-brainer for me.  It's yet another reason to make sure the food I am feeding my family isn't processed and is prepared properly (soaked, cooked properly, etc.).  Since cutting out soy from my diet, I have not had a major flare-up of my Crohn's Disease and have been able to stay off of toxic drugs like Prednisone.  I think I now know why!

If you are interested in learning more about soybeans, I suggest reading this book!


I was not contacted by anyone to review this book.  I just enjoyed it and wanted to share some information with my readers.

*Diagnosis made through IgE fecal test.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How To Make Homemade Mayo

If you're like me, you probably have a lot of Easter eggs left over from the holiday and you aren't really sure what to do with them.  Egg salad is always the obvious choice, but using mayonnaise is so unhealthy.  Here are the ingredients in common types of mayo and other salad dressings.

Hellman's Real Mayonnaise Ingredients: soybean oil, water, whole eggs and egg yolks, vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, natural flavors, and calcium disodium EDTA.

Soybean oil is the worst type of oil for you.  Surely the types that contain olive oil are better for you, right?

Hellman's Olive Oil Mayonnaise Ingredients:  water, oils (soybean oil, extra virgin olive oil), vinegar, whole eggs and egg yolks, modified corn starch, sugar, salt, lemon juice, (sorbic acid, calcium disodium EDTA), xanthan gum, citric acid, natural flavors, oleoresin paprika, beta carotene.

What about salad dressings?

Miracle Whip Ingredients:  water, soybean oil, vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, eggs, salt, mustard flour, artificial color, potassium sorbate as a preservative, paprika, spice, natural flavor, dried garlic.

And the soy-free alternatives?

Hain's Safflower Mayonnaise Ingredients:  expeller pressed safflower oil, whole eggs, grain vinegar, water, egg yolks, sea salt, dehydrated cane juice, spice, lemon juice concentrate, honey, d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E), rosemary extractives, natural flavor, paprika extractives.

They are full of sugar, emulsifiers, coloring agents, preservatives, and chelating agents, as well as the mysterious "natural flavors".  Yuck!  Calcium disodium EDTA has to regulated by the FDA to only be used in certain amounts, because it is a toxin.  Why would we want that in our food?

When making salads I like to make my own mayo.  This recipe tastes great in things like potato salad and egg salad, but does not spread well on sandwiches.

Homemade Blender Mayo

1 egg
2 T lemon juice or vinegar
2 t paprika
2 t dry mustard
2 t salt
2 t honey
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all of the ingredients except the olive oil to a blender or food processor and start.  Slowly add the olive oil as the ingredients are blending.

Egg Salad Recipe

For my egg salad I doubled the recipe and used apple cider vinegar instead of lemon juice. 

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Add your eggs.

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Add chopped veggies and stir.

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Serve on homemade sourdough bread.

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