Friday, January 30, 2009

My Personal Health Journey

I think it is time for me to share about my personal health journey. Would you like to know a bit more about me? Personal stories can get long. I'll try to keep mine to the point. But I hope that the portion I share encourages you to make good health choices... choices to give your body the nourishment it needs to keep you well.

I haven't always been well. In fact, I started my independent life with a very skewed picture of what health is. I realio trulio thought that Snickers were healthy because they were packed with peanuts. And I realio trulio thought that Tang was the same nutritionally as Orange Juice. I was a total sugar and caffeine addict, squeezing in foods laced with these stimulants at every meal. At the same time I also practiced disordered eating. I went on and off starvation diets so that my body was deprived of any consistent nourishment.

Eating like that took its toll on my body. My immune system was shot and I succumbed to all sorts of viruses. My bones and teeth were demineralizing. I had fractured bones and holes in my teeth to prove it. At 20 years old, I had joint pain, cysts and crazy allergic reactions to very odd things. I'm keeping it brief here, so I won't go into all details. Suffice it to say, I was a health-wreck. And believe me, our physical health dramatically effects our emotional health!

After a very scary wake up call, I began to wonder why my body was deteriorating so fast. I found What the Bible Says About Healthy Living and bought it on a desperate whim. All that Dr. Russell said was shockingly opposed to my previous thoughts about nutrition. Yet it all made perfect sense. I began immediately to change my eating habits. And, I noticed improvement in my health.

Fast forward four years and two babies later. I began to lose my hair. The majority of postpartum women go through a shedding time a few months after delivery. I considered this as the cause for my hair loss. But I kept losing hair. I was losing it in gobs. And I noticed that I wasn't really recovering from my c-section. I continued to be greatly fatigued. My muscles felt like lead. My brain was in a perpetual fog. I lost my ability to follow conversation and to stay awake as long as my children. And I kept losing my hair!

I saw doctors, doctors and more doctors... both allopathic and alternative health practitioners. I had tests, tests and more tests. Every doctor could tell me what it wasn't but none could tell me what it was. Even the holistic therapies made no noticeable difference. This debilitating fatigue lasted over four years. I lost 75% of my hair volume. Meanwhile, I was still eating an impeccable diet.

During those years, I had also been taking various health food store vitamins... at no small cost! I read about vitamin deficiencies but thought that couldn't be my problem since I was taking expensive supplements. I switched them out from time to time, but never saw any improvement.

Fast forward to my introduction to Shaklee. It was actually the toxin-free cleaning products that first drew my attention to Shaklee. Since I was very health-conscious, I wanted our kids to grow up in a safe environment and I decided to give Shaklee's Get Clean a try. Then I began learning about their supplements and what makes them unique. I didn't think they could be that much different than my other supplements. But I gave them a try as I did everything else that had the potential for healing.

This brings me pretty much to the end of the story. Within two weeks of starting Shaklee's multi-vitamin and B Complex, my hair stopped falling out and I began to feel alive again. Within two months I was daring to call myself normal. Could it be that I, who was so well-nourished, was vitamin-deficient? Could it be that my body was displaying signs and symptoms as a call for nourishment above my stellar diet?

In looking back, I can see that my body was so seriously depleted from my years of negative nutrition that, after two babies, my systems began to shut down. I may have been getting a dosage of nutrients from my food sufficient for the day, but NOT to make up for lost ground. And I may have been getting some help from the supplements I was taking, but I have learned a lot about why the vitamins I was swallowing were not being used by my body... I'll have to post soon about how to read vitamin labels.

I'm not claiming that vitamins will heal all diseases. I'm just sharing my story and saying that maybe, just maybe, your body is where mine was in crying out for good nourishment.

A thought to consider: Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling said, "Recommended daily allowances only give levels of vitamins and minerals that will prevent death or serious illness from vitamin deficiency. To get real health benefits from vitamins, you need to get more than just the minimal recommended amounts."

Another important consideration: "It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4 (KJV)

(By the way, I would much rather write then publicize my blog. Marketing isn't a strongpoint of mine. So, if you have enjoyed reading my posts and you know other women who might benefit from the content... would you mind passing along my link? Thanks so much for helping me!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Coconut Corn Muffins

It's been a long time in coming... but I'm posting a photo! YAY... this is big news for me, you see... because I am the world's worst at remembering to take pictures... and really, my wonderful husband took this one so I can't even take the credit.

These are the Coconut Corn Muffins we ate with our supper last night. Here's the recipe:

  • 3 cups of corn meal (buy organic, not from GM corn)
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Sucanat or Rapadura
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Mix these dry ingredients together; then mix in:

  • 2 cups Real Milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup EVOO (that's Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

Spoon batter into muffin tins sprayed with EVOO cooking spray. Bake for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. This recipe will make 24 muffins, even though my picture doesn't show them all. You know what my theory is: make some for now AND some for later.

Serve these up with some good ol' crock pot beans and you've got a wholesome, frugal meal. I made black beans seasoned with salt, cayenne and cumin. It wouldn't be totally nourishing to eat this fare every night, but our family has made the commitment to eat one cheap meal per week so that we can use the money we save in other ways.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ten Simple Steps to Reduce Body Burden: Step Seven

Have these steps to reduce Body Burden been helpful? I hope so. I know that no one can do it all... at least right away... but even making a few changes is ever-so-beneficial. If you haven't made any changes yet, today's the day! Review the previous six steps and choose at least one to implement in your family life.

Without further ado, here is Step Seven:

Try to get the plastic containers out of your kitchen and replace them with glass containers.

What's so bad about plastic? Did you know that plastic continuously gasses off toxic fumes? Not good. These chemical fumes have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and increase risk of cancer. We can't stop the world's plastic dependency, but we can reduce the amount of plastic that we use in our kitchens (and the amount of plastic our children play with -- see Melissa and Doug's options). When we store food in plastic, the toxic fumes from our containers, plastic bags or plastic wrap soak into the food we will later ingest. Yes, these are small amounts. But, they do add up. And, over time, they become part of our total Body Burden, which can have a huge effect on our health.

What can you do? You can start by using old baby food jars, peanut butter jars and spaghetti sauce jars for keeping leftovers. You can also purchase a glass storage container set for food that doesn't easily store in jars. I found a pyrex storage set at a kitchenware outlet for an amazing deal. I have been very pleased with it. If you take a lunch to work or send a lunch with your kids to school, consider purchasing stainless steel containers for food and for water.

Bottom line. If you can't do an overhaul and replace all your plastic containers, you can at least stop heating food in plastic containers. This is a must. When plastic is heated, the chemicals leach out at a greater rate. Use pyrex or corningware for heating instead.

There is so much more to say about plastic. I encourage you to take five minutes to learn more. Read this exceptional quick-reference at LifeWithoutPlastic to learn what types of plastic to stay away from and to see more tips for living plastic-free in the kitchen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ten Simple Steps to Reduce Body Burden: Step Six

Let's get back to reducing Body Burden. This is such an important topic. When we are looking at our future health we've got to take into consideration the cumulative effect of the toxin buildup in our bodies. This is especially important for our children who will be exposed to more toxins over their lifetime than any other generation to date. They will have to take on the repercussions of 80,000 new chemicals invented in the last three decades! If you haven't yet read about Body Burden and the first five steps to reducing it, read here.

Here's Step Six:

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid processed foods. Even better, choose organic and locally grown meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables.

Besides Steps One and Two (which are changing to toxin-free cleaning and laundry products), this is my favorite. How can I have a favorite step? Well, I mean that these particular steps are both highly effective and easily accomplished. Really, reducing the toxins in our homes and the toxins we directly ingest would significantly decrease our overall Body Burden. Buying toxin-free carpets, mattresses and electric cars may not be quite as doable.

Have you ever noticed that most of the REAL food in the grocery store is around the perimeter? The produce is on one side, the meats and dairy around the back. And usually the Natural Foods are next to the produce. For the most part, you'll find boxes and cans of highly processed foods in the middle aisles. Obviously, we find Toilet Paper, Brown Rice and Natural Peanut Butter on these aisles so we can't skip them all together, but here are a few tips for navigating the grocery store without bringing home toxins.

First, make a menu for the week and a shopping list to go with it. Take the time to write down snack options as well since this is an area where we reach for lots of processed foods.

Second, only buy the things on your list! This is good for your budget and good for your health.

Third, always peruse the perimeter for Manager's Specials. Even if I don't have beef on the menu, I will look at the organic meats section for discounted items. I make use of my freezer by purchasing organic meats and dairy when they are a day or two before sell-by date. I stock up when it is cheap so I won't have to pay full price when I need it right away. I have also found amazing deals this way in the Natural Foods section. Like I said, stock up when it is discounted and you won't have to pay full price later.

Last, don't just browse up and down the aisles. You don't find Manager's Specials there since highly processed food just doesn't seem to get to the far-off-sell-by date! For the aisle foods on your list, go directly to the item and on to the next. Seem simple? Maybe, but it saves a lot of extra buying.

In selecting whole foods, don't forget that all things do not have to be found in a store! I purchase eggs from a local friend (thanks T!), cheese from a wholesale Amish dairy (no website available, but email me for a phone number), chicken from a local friend (thanks B!), milk from a local food Co-Operative, produce from a different organic co-op, and bulk food from here. In doing so, I save money over buying these items at a grocery store, plus the food is fresher and contains none of the toxic processing additives.

To find your own resources, start with this website. Next, start making phone calls to locate your nearby farmers. You can start with the farms listed in the phone book and ask a lot of questions! Often you can find a magazine listing local farm resources at health food stores. In the summer, visit farmers markets and talk to the growers about where they get their year-round food. It takes a little work, but it will make a difference for your family's health (and for your budget!).

Last, but definitely NOT least, I want each of you to comment about your tips for finding healthy food. I know there are a lot of websites and resources I don't know about. Let's share them with each other!

Monday, January 26, 2009

For a Not So Guilty Treat

I've received requests to post my Sweet Roll recipe. Since this recipe did not originate with me, I'll have to give credit where credit is due. When we lived in Tennessee, there was a sweet family at our church with three older daughters that I really enjoyed spending time with. One of the first times I had them over for tea, they brought a pan of freshly made sweet rolls. Wow... they were good! I asked for the recipe... and the rest is our family history. We make them for company and on special occasions and everyone always wishes I made more than 12! Thanks, Courtney, Amanda and Hannah :)

So, here's my Healthy For You Sweet Roll Recipe:

4 cups of whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cup hot water
2 Tbsp EVOO (that's extra virgin olive oil)
3 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast

The above ingredients can go in a bread machine dough cycle, in a mixer or worked out by hand. Slightly more flour may be necessary to make a workable dough if you use freshly milled flour. I knead mine in a mixer for about four minutes, but it would take about ten if you were kneading by hand. You want the dough to form a smooth ball.

If you are using active dry yeast, let the dough rise for about 30 minutes. If you use instant yeast, you can skip the first rise. Roll the dough out to a rectangle shape. It will be about an inch thick, 8 inches tall and 24 inches wide, but don't get perfectionist with it : )

Spread the rectangle with softened butter. It will take a few tablespoons. Sprinkle with Sucanat or Rapadura and cinnamon. Roll up the rectangle so that you have a 24 inch long loaf. Cut this long loaf into 12 swirls. Place in a sprayed 9x13 baking dish. (I use an EVOO cooking spray.)

Turn your oven on to preheat, but turn it off after about two minutes. Let the sweet rolls rise in this warm oven for about 30 minutes. When you see that they have gotten fluffy, turn your oven on to 350 degrees and bake until they are barely browned on the top. This will take 20-25 minutes. Don't preheat the oven... the rolls will continue to rise as the oven warms up to temperature.

While they bake, mix up a glaze. Start with 1 cup of powdered sugar. You don't have to use the white stuff... even this part can be healthy. You can purchase powdered Rapadura at Health Food Stores or you can put regular Sucanat through a food processor to achieve a powder. Add a tsp of REAL vanilla (Did you know artificial vanilla flavor is made with the same chemical they make antifreeze from?) and a tablespoon of milk and mix it to a smooth glaze. You can substitute Orange Juice for the milk if you want a vanilla-orangey-hint to the sweet rolls. After they cool for about ten minutes, pour on a glaze. Serve while warm and soft!

Okay. I know my blog needs photos. But I am so bad about remembering to take pictures! Just ask the grandparents... I should have taken a photo of our rolls the other night. So sorry. I will try to remember to take pics of the recipes I post. And when I get a picture of these sweet rolls, I can add it into this post for future readers...

Note on Jan. 28: My sweet friend Wendy sent me this picture after making these rolls at home. It's hard to top that kind of friend! Thanks Wendy : )

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Great Food Sale! (Revised)

Hello Weekend Readers! Here is a link to the information and coupon code for 40% off food from Amazon. I have purchased lots of organics from them before. They always have free shipping! Thank you to Happy Housewife.

The expiration date for this coupon code is February 8th. I'll post once I've done my shopping to share the deals I found.

Friday, January 23, 2009

IS Coconut Oil Healthy?

I was asked in an email about the nutritive qualities -- well, actually the potential hazards -- of coconut oil. The medical establishment has disfavored this fat (as they did butter and eggs in the past) and has publicized studies showing that such saturated fats can lead to heart disease. The saturated fat controversy is huge. But, I am going to do my best to keep this post from getting too long. I know I've written a lot this week. Take heart! I have some easier reads coming your way next week ; )

As I've mentioned before, I am not a medical professional. In answering the coconut oil question, I will share some information I have gleaned from extensive reading. However, if after reading the material you don't come up with the same conclusions, follow your own assessment of the information rather than mine.

I'd like to start by looking at coconut oil with the Three Principles presented by Dr. Rex Russell in What the Bible Says About Healthy Living. By the way, I've got some fantastic news. (Thanks T!) A cookbook based on this book is soon to be released. I can't wait to get my hands on it! I'll post when it's available.

1. Eat What God Made: Natural foods are way beyond science's understanding. They contain properties that are just now being discovered... and some that we don't even know we need to discover yet! When we isolate a part of a food, as in soy protein isolate or fractionated coconut oil, we remove the nutritive properties that were placed with it for a good reason. Unfortunately, a lot of the studies on coconut oil have used a fractionated product.
2. Eat It As Close to How God Made It As Possible: When we use high heat in refining and processing, or when we add chemical solvents or end-product preservatives and deodorizers, we sometimes end up reconfiguring proteins, fatty acids and other nutrients. We destroy all together certain nutritional properties like enzymes and phytochemicals. Again, we need to look at the studies on coconut oil and separate out those conducted with highly refined, rancid and chemically laden products (which, sad to say, is most on the market). Please do stay away from all refined or hydrogenated coconut oils found in coffee creamers, candy coatings, confections and other highly processed foods.
3. Everything In Moderation: Even if we establish that coconut oil, cold-pressed and not chemically treated, is healthful, we must use it in moderation.

So what IS healthy about coconut oil?

There is a lot of information out there claiming that coconut oil has miraculous healing properties and can eliminate hypothyroidism, promote weight loss, and the list goes on. I do know that unrefined coconut oil has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, but I can't support other healing claims since I don't see explicit evidence supporting them. However, I can describe briefly what a few components of coconut oil are and how they may effect your health.

Keep in mind, again, that I am only discussing possible benefits from cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil. I don't see any benefits (only hazards) from the other stuff.

Surprisingly, coconut oil contains no cholesterol. Click here to see the USDA National Ingredient Database information.

A unique characteristic of coconut oil is that it contains what are called medium chain fatty acids, or medium chain triglycerides. Most other plant derived oils contain longer chain fatty acids, or triglycerides (LCTs). LCTs are typically stored in the body as fat, while MCTs are burned for energy. Interestingly enough, the average triglyceride level of the American population grew at an alarming rate as saturated fats fell out of favor and were replaced by refined vegetable oils.

Another beneficial component of coconut oil is lauric acid. The only other source of lauric acid is mother's milk. This particular fatty acid chain is what gives coconut oil it's antimicrobial and antiviral properties. As superbugs are becoming more prevalent, coconut oil is being singled out as a possible source for a viable solution.

But does coconut oil contribute to high cholesterol and thus to heart disease?

"Congress held hearings in 1988 to discuss the safety of tropical oils. Dr. George Blackburn, a Harvard medical researcher, testified that coconut oil has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol, even in situations where coconut oil is the sole source of fat. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop dismissed the entire attacks on coconut oil as “Foolishness,” and continued to say “but to get the word to commercial interests terrorizing the public about nothing is another matter.”" Brian Shilhavy.

Just as I believe it is important to seek peer-reviewed, published scientific studies to prove claims made by supplement companies, those of you who want to read more technical information on this subject will want to take a look at this list of peer-reviewed studies on coconut oil. For any of you who feel like a bit of science jargon today, you can read some thought-provoking coconut oil information (including thoughts as to why coconut oil has received such criticism) here, here and here.

So, without running the risk of turning this email question into a mini-thesis, I'll just make one more recommendation: If you would like to read further about how fats impact your health, I recommend Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol by Mary Enig.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pancakes All Day!

I mentioned before that keeping wholesome foods accessible is a key to raising healthy children. When good things aren't available, we reach for something less nutritious.

I have found that one of the best snacks to have on hand is pancakes! Here is my slightly sweet pancake recipe. There's a bit more sweetener in it than in other recipes. That is so the kids eat them plain. There's not always time to pop them in the toaster and pour on the REAL maple syrup. This version will go well plain, with peanut butter, with fruit-sweetened jam or rolled up with honey.

Slightly Sweet Pancakes

3 cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour **
1 Tbsp aluminum-free baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/2 of Rapadura, Sucanat or other natural sweetener (If your littles are acquiring a taste for healthy food, start with 1/2 cup and eliminate a Tbsp every time you make the recipe.)

Mix these dry ingredients together.
Add in:
3 eggs
3 cups of Real Milk (If I don't have milk, I use thinned down yogurt and this makes an even fluffier, tangier pancake.)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 EVOO (that's extra virgin olive oil)

Whisk this all together. The recipe makes about 36 pancakes.

** If you're using whole wheat flour from a bag, you might have to add some additional liquid since my milled flour is not packed-down. Also, if your children are just getting used to whole wheat, use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 unbleached flour. When they are ready, you can reduce the amount of unbleached flour until you've got them enjoying 100% whole wheat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

So What Is Health, Anyway -- Part III

This is Part Three in a series of thoughts. Please read Part One and Part Two of "So What Is Health, Anyway" before reading this post.

In the two previous posts, we have established that:
1. Health begins at the cellular level. When a cell has adequate building materials (vitamins, minerals, proteins, water) it can reproduce itself, based on the stored DNA blueprint, as a vibrant and healthy cell. Healthy cells = healthy tissues = healthy organs = healthy systems = healthy YOU.
2. On the flipside, if the proper building materials are not there, that cell will make a weakened version of itself.
3. HOWEVER, the DNA is still in place and the weakened cell can, with the proper nutrients, replace itself with a vibrant, healthy cell.
4. In our modern world, diet alone is not sufficient to supply our cells with these necessary building materials.
5. We must use supplements.

But aren't supplements dangerous? I mean, haven't you read the news lately! The contaminations alone are astonishing!

Yes, we do have to choose very carefully. Before taking any supplement, do some research. Ask these three questions of EVERY company you buy from:

1. What are your standards for purity? Can you show me evidence of raw ingredient testing, manufacturing standards testing AND final product testing for purity?
2. What guarantee do you have that what is on the label is actually in the bottle, post-manufacturing? Do you run end-product potency testing?
3. What peer-reviewed, scientific studies do you have to show that your product will actually perform the desired or advertised outcome?

I've done a lot of searching! I've done a lot of research! Like I mentioned before, I had the time to invest in making informed decisions. You may not have that kind of time, so I would like to help you out in telling you what I found.

Shaklee is the only company I have found that answers the questions I have listed above. In fact, you don't have to make phone calls, write letters, or chase down knowledgeable people to find them. (Such has been the case in trying to find out information from other companies.) The following is what they post on their webpage, and they have the documentation to back all these claims up.

A health and nutrition leader since 1956, Shaklee continues to champion solid, scientifically backed product choices rather than "risky" trends. Shaklee has invested over $250 million in exhaustive product research and development, and clinical trials. Each year, approximately 83,000 laboratory and quality assurance tests are performed on nutritional products and their ingredients alone! Shaklee products are the result of a painstaking process of scientific review and assessment of third-party research and independent clinical studies by our expert Health Sciences group. Shaklee also consults a Scientific Advisory Board, a team of nationally recognized scientists from some of America's leading academic and medical institutions. Each product must perform to a standard of excellence. Each product must deliver the correct dosage of key ingredients, based on clinical research. Each product must start with the finest raw materials and be formulated to deliver consistently. Shaklee utilizes the best nature and science can provide. That means no shortcuts.

Bottom line best thing about Shaklee: they have a 100% money back guarantee! They've done their testing. They know their products perform. They back it with a complete satisfaction guarantee.

I share all this with you because I know how frustrating it can be to find good supplements. I went through years of searching and I hope my findings will benefit you as well! I will post soon about my personal experience with expensive but ineffective supplements...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So What is Health, Anyway -- Part II

This is a continuation of my previous post asking the question, "So What Is Health, Anyway?" If you haven't yet, please take a moment to read that post...

Now that we're thinking on the cellular level, we can talk about rebuilding health. I'll say at the outset that rebuilding health is totally possible. I have heard scores of testimonies about people completely recovering from MS, Endometriosis, Crohn's Disease, Cancer, Heart Disease... and the list goes on. These people made one very pivotal change in their thinking: they saw that health originates from the cell. Seeing that the cell was miraculously designed to reproduce itself healthy and strong according to the stored DNA, they decided that they needed to supply their cells with all the building materials necessary to regain health. And, it worked!

But let me also say at the outset that I am not a medical professional. I have done a lot of research, but I don't have a medical degree. What I am attempting to do here is compile masses of information for your benefit, not give professional medical advice.

So... rebuilding cellular health... what does that mean for you? Well, you may not have a debilitating disease. (If you do and you would like to hear thoughts geared specifically toward your condition, please email me.) But each of us needs to consider that we are either building future health or tearing it down according to the nutrients we are providing our cells. Our cells will have the proper building materials to replace themselves with vibrant copies, or they will be shortchanged and have to make weakened versions of themselves. This is true concerning our children as well -- even more so because they are not just maintaining their number of cells, they are rapidly growing! Consequently, it is especially critical for our children to obtain the proper cell building materials.

Where will we find these nutrients? Can't we just eat five fruits and vegetables a day, add in some whole grains and lean meats and be done with it? Unfortunately, in our modern era, complete nutrition from diet alone simply is not possible -- unless every single meal of every single day is a perfect nutritive power-house of organically produced, minimally processed, fresh from the farm foods totaling more than 3500 calories a day!

For several years, I thought diet alone was enough to supply our cells with ample building materials. Then, I was faced with a chronic health condition (stay tuned for more about this in future posts) that was obliterated with the introduction of some very real, very pure nutrients (more about this too). I began to see that while we live in a comparatively wealthy country, we also live in a malnourished country.

Did you know that:

  • A USDA study showed that only 4% of Americans are getting even the minimum recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of all their essential vitamins.
  • A US government survey found that out of the 21,000 people surveyed, NOT ONE OF THEM manages to eat the RDA of the ten basic nutrients studied.
  • On any given day, 91% of Americans do not consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.
  • Because of modern agriculture, your food doesn't have the nutritional value it did in even the recent past. For example, you'd have to eat 60 servings of spinach to get the same amount of iron you would get from just one serving in 1948. And, you'd have to eat 25 cups of spinach to get one day's recommended allowance of Vitamin E.
  • 65% of Americans don't get the minimum daily requirement of Zinc. Zinc is essential for your immune system and hormone production.
  • In 1997, the Western Journal of Medicine published a study showing that $20 billion in hospital charges could have been prevented simply by taking vitamins and minerals. This doesn't include doctor visits or over the counter remedies... or missed work.
  • Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling said, "Recommended daily allowances only give levels of vitamins and minerals that will prevent death or serious illness from vitamin deficiency. To get real health benefits from vitamins, you need to get more than just the minimal recommended amounts."
As a nation, we are not making good choices about our food. We are malnourished even though we are well fed. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is comprised of

  • over processed food with chemicals and preservatives added
  • altered fats which create free radicals that damage our cells
  • meats and poultry injected with hormones and antibiotics
  • produce that is harvested early, sprayed, transported and stored nearly demolishing its nutrient content
  • food, water and air that is contaminated with toxins and chemicals

We critically need to supply our cells with the proper building materials so that we can create a healthier life. Our food sources are just not measuring up. Supplementation has become necessary. But how do you pick a supplement? Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and are potentially very dangerous! I'll be answering this question in my next post... so stay tuned.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The What and How of Yogurt, Plus a Bonus Recipe!

I received an email earlier today about making yogurt. As I started to type out the information, I decided to share it for every one's benefit. The friendly bacteria found in yogurt is a necessary component of good health. People Groups spanning the entire course of history have included some form of cultured food in their diets. A proper balance of Friendly Bacteria in the colon has been found to control yeasts and other harmful pathogens, produce certain B Vitamins, aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, and establish a strong Immune System. Like I said, it is one very significant part of a healthy body!

Can you make yogurt?
It is actually a lot more simple than most people think. I have friends that even make it without a yogurt maker. You can use the pilot light in your gas oven for the right temperature. Or you can wrap a quart jar in a heating pad. I do use two yogurt makers, which keeps things very convenient. I'm thankful for my appliances!

Here's what I do:
  • Heat two quarts of real milk to 180 degrees.
  • Cool to about 112 degrees.
  • Mix a portion of the warm milk into 1/4 cup of yogurt, either from your previous batch or from store bought plain yogurt. (I use store bought yogurt for a starter about every sixth time. And, usually, I can buy that yogurt on Manager's Special at my grocer's so this is not a significant extra cost.)
  • Mix that mixture into the rest of the warm milk.
  • Culture for 14 hours. (The proper instructions say to culture for about 8 hours, but we like tang! and lots of friendly bacteria.)
One of my children's favorite breakfasts is Orange-y Yogurt with granola sprinkled in. Since our yogurt is a nicely thick consistency, I can mix about 2 cups of it with a cup of Orange Juice. I add in a couple of swirls of honey and stir it until smooth. Yum-O. : )

A word about commercial yogurt. If you do not make your own, use only plain yogurt purchased from the store and add in your own sweeteners and fruit. The amount of sugar or artificial sweeteners in flavored yogurt feeds the unfriendly yeasts and bacteria in your system and negates the benefits of the friendly bacteria.

When eating daily yogurt is not a possibility or when we need extra Immune Support, this is the probiotic we use. It has a triple coating "to protect beneficial microflora during the rigors of shipping, storage, and the acidic journey through your stomach. Other products claim live microflora at the time of manufacture, but [this one] guarantees the delivery of live microflora to your colon." My children are able to swallow this tiny pearl as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hope for Hopeless Chocomaniacs

There are those who are hard core health nuts. I've been there. I've been religiously meticulous about keeping every potentially harmful delicacy from my mouth. There are two drawbacks to this approach. First, this greatly limits your social circle. Everyone sidesteps having you in their home fearing that they will offend your eating habits. Second, this greatly limits your sphere of influence. I am aware that my previously fanatical choices painted a picture of perfection that caused people to throw in the towel rather than make healthy choices that fit into their lives. Fanaticism can be downright scary. I would rather be an inspiration for other people's health success than a source of overwhelming defeat. That may seem extreme, but I'm speaking from experience. Demonstrating a graceful serenity in making wise choices inspires others where perfectionism inspires fear of failure.

So what does that have to do with chocolate? Well, after my years of absolutes, I can enjoy chocolate for its healthful benefits. I'm not talking about M&Ms or Hersheys (because milk in chocolate can prohibit the absorption of the beneficial antioxidants). But REAL chocolate has its perks. And it tastes good. If you're a chocomaniac like myself... if you're looking to bridge the disconnect between health and decadent chocolate... try these recipes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can Health Nuts Drink Coffee?

Thank you for participating in my coffee poll! For the record, I fall into the "I drink the standard one to two cups a day" category. I would say one cup, but, technically speaking, a cup of coffee is only 6 ounces. And the mug I drink from (specially designed with a photo collage of my littles) is a 12 ounce cup. Does that mean I drink two cups of coffee a day?

Here is the question of all questions: How can I drink coffee -- with my resolve to be healthy and help others be healthy and all?

And here is my answer: I drink NutriCafe. First, it tastes so totally delish... nothing like your grocery store brands but a whole lot more like a starbucks type brand. Second, it is a low-acid bean so I am not wreaking havoc on my digestive system. Third, it is infused with nutritional extracts that boost immunities and increase stamina. Fourth, it is a bean that contains about 1/2 the caffeine as other brands of coffee.

If you're a coffee drinker, you just have to find out more! Right now, if you buy any four bags of coffee beans, you get a bag of coconut palm sugar free... great way to sweeten your coffee without refined sugar. They've also got a coconut milk powder that seems to be a good solution to the over-processed, fractionated, sugared-up options for creamer out there. I'll tell you if it's good. I plan to order some with my next batch of coffee beans.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On Goal Setting and Realistic Planning

I know that we are already two solid weeks into the New Year. However, I think this is an even more suitable time to set some goals than the first day of the year is. There is so much festivity involved in ringing in the New Year. In all the hype, it is hard to make determined, rational goals. Our expectations are kind of out of whack. Now that we’ve returned to the normalcy of life, we can evaluate what changes we can reasonably make.

So, if you’d like, take a moment to rethink the "resolutions" that popped into your mind over the New Year. Have you been sticking to them? Are they even stickable? Do you need to refine your early thoughts in order to develop them into truly helpful goals?

Healthwise, what areas do you see that need your attention? Once you have a general idea in your mind (drink more water, lose some weight, exercise regularly, eat healthier, be consistent with my supplements), you can break it down in to doable steps. I encourage you to take the time to determine these mini-goals. With these in place, you are much more likely to reach your long-term resolution than if you just had a general thought in place.

Let’s take an example for clarification.
If your general idea is that you want to exercise regularly, you could follow these steps to make your mini goals:

  1. I currently exercise sporadically, at best.
  2. I would like to finish the year exercising four days a week for 30 minutes at a time.
  3. Break this general goal into mini goals.
  • Through the rest of the winter, I am going to exercise twice a week. That’s not hard. I should be able to stick to it.
  • When spring comes, and the weather beckons me outside, I will add in another day per week, totaling three days of exercise.
  • By summer, the weather will be very hot and so I will need to exercise early. I will challenge myself to add in the fourth day anyway.
  • If all is going well, I will maintain my four-day a week routine through the fall. If the heat of the summer has slowed me down, I will up my routine to four days a week and stick with it to finish the year strong.

You could easily add more detail into these mini-goals, such as what types of exercise you will do each day.

But here is an important key: Anticipate your roadblocks and address them from the beginning. If you’ve prepared yourself to deal with barriers, you are more likely to overcome and meet your goal.

You can follow this type of outline to refining any of your health goals. The bigger the goal, the more mini-goals you should lay out along the way.

We all have areas that need improvement. I think it is important to always be making progress. It is way too easy to just stagnate. But we have to be proactive about our health. It takes more effort to be healthy! I challenge you to make a change to improve your health this year. And, in order to make the change stick, take 15 minutes to write down some mini-goals. You’ll be glad you did.

"The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." Michelangelo

Monday, January 12, 2009

Making Wholesome Food Accessible

As I was chopping apples and carrots this morning, I thought of you all. If you're like me, endless food preparation can feel tedious at times. But let me encourage you that making wholesome food accessible by keeping up with preparations IS WORTH IT!

I have been setting aside a block of time on Monday morning to do some basic food preparation for the week. With great music playing, my children involved in other duties, and Tickle "keeping me company," I prepare apple slices and carrot sticks; I wash and trim other fruits and vegetables for convenient additions to meals; I boil a dozen eggs; I make a couple of quarts of yogurt; I stir up the peanut butter... and so on. Yes, it is tedious, but IT IS WORTH IT!

All week long I am recurrently thankful for this time that I invested in preparing. If Monday morning is not doable for you, perhaps you could set aside some on Sunday evening to make these preparations. I know from experience (and you probably do too): if wholesome food is not convenient, you'll grab something else that is!

Here are a few more ideas:
  • Make pancakes over the weekend, but triple the recipe so that you have leftovers for a while. Pancakes are the perfect answer to "I'm still hungry. What else can I eat?" My kids love them straight out of the fridge, but it is nearly as quick to stick them in the toaster and spread them with PB or jam (fruit sweetened, of course!).
  • Pop a few batches of popcorn to have as a handy snack. Aren't your kids ALWAYS looking for something else to eat?
  • Have an evening set aside for baking. I do this on a night that my husband and son are out. We girls postpone the supper cleanup until we have mixed up some granola, made some power bars, baked bread or muffins... not all at once though. My "secret" is to always triple recipes. I make one batch for now and two to freeze. This way, I only have to bake one or two things a week.
  • Gather a few things that your kids love to eat like peanuts, raisins, cereal bites, dried apples, dates, other nuts, even a few pretzels. Baggie it all up so that it is handy for the-grab-a-snack-while-you-head-out-to-ballet-or-karate days.

I hope to post my pancake, granola and power bar recipes soon. And I also plan to give you my thoughts on why an egg a day is so valuable for our children. So thanks for coming back to check on my blog! And, seriously consider taking time each week to do your food prep. You'll be so glad you did, even if you're not while you're working. If we moms don't make wholesome food convenient, we will find it so much harder to be healthy for the long haul.

"She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness." Proverbs 31:27

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ten Simple Steps to Reduce Body Burden: Step Five

I'm getting back to the subject of reducing Body Burden today. Remember, Body Burden is the total amount of chemicals and pollutants present in our body at any given time. Our goal here is to try to reduce the toxins we have control over... without becoming obsessive about all the ones we don't. We need to think about our children's futures. They will come into contact with all sorts of toxins. But we can reduce the cumulative effect of these toxins by making smart choices now. If you haven't yet, I recommend taking the Body Burden Quiz and reading the first four steps in reducing Body Burden.

Here's step Five:

Pay attention (without freaking out) to the toys you buy for your kids. Avoid lead paint and soft plastics that contain phthalates.

Didn't this one fall in a timely manner? Read here about one way to look at the CPSIA. I totally agree that children need to be protected from the proliferation of toxins in their toys, clothing, high chairs, and so on. But, I do see some faults in the proposed government regulation.

That being said, what should we parents be doing? Well, my favorite idea is to reduce the amount of toys the children have... plastic or otherwise : ) I see my children greatly benefit from an afternoon outside, totally free from toys of any kind. Given enough practice, children will come up will all sorts of pretend games. And, they'll even find the props they need to enliven their games. Creativity takes practice, but it breeds bright, content children as well. And, then there are books! My favorite job as a parent is reading aloud from exciting and stimulating children's literature.

A second idea is to search for locally-made or hand-made toys. The internet is replete with small eco-friendly toy businesses. Or, you could shop your local craft fairs.

In looking for toys, check to see what is made in the USA. We really enjoy Melissa and Doug products. (See our faves in my Amazon Store.) They make everything from Tool Sets to Puzzles, Dollhouses to Jewelry Kits. Really, you could keep your children entertained for their entire childhood just with M&D toys! Even when Thomas the Train was recalled for lead paint, M&D had a safe option. Read their Toy Safety Statement.

What's so bad about phthalates? Read about it on EWG's enviroblog.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sugar Fasting

Have you ever taken a Sugar Fast? After all the company and celebrating of the holidays, I took the opportunity to go on a week long Sugar Fast. This isn't my first or my longest. But, I still consider it a very useful exercise. Here are a couple of reasons why:
  1. Sugar is a toxin. Our body doesn't see it as food. It must deal with it as a poison and use all its detoxification mechanisms to rid itself of the substance. It is nice to give your hardworking body a break.
  2. Sugar is an immune suppressor. Performance of white blood cells is diminished after consuming sugar or artificial sugar substitutes. It is estimated that your white blood cells decrease by 30% after 6 tsp. of sugar and by 65% after 12 tsp. of sugar. Did you know that a 12 oz can of soda can contain 10-12 tsp. of sugar! Considering that it is cold/flu season, it is good to give your body a chance to rebuild its forces.
  3. Sugar is empty calories. It simply adds calories without adding nutritive value to our daily diet. So, after a season when most of us put on a couple of pounds, it is helpful to let your body drop the extra caloric intake.
  4. Sugar can be addictive. Yes, it really can. The book Sugar Blues, cites several studies in support of this fact. (I've put it in my Amazon Store so you can reference it conveniently.) It is beneficial to break even small addictions so that we are free from compulsory eating.
  5. Sugar is hidden everywhere! Most of us don't realize just how often we feed our bodies sugar. It is in spaghetti sauce, regular peanut butter, even most packaged crackers! Taking a Sugar Fast enables us to check just how often we are eating sugar. It is an eye-opening exercise, even if we normally eat well and just lighten our discipline for the holiday season.
  6. Sugar takes our body's glucose levels on a roller coaster ride. This wreaks havoc on our pancreas and other regulatory agencies. They can get worn out too! So breaking our sugar intake gives our body a chance to stay on an even keel.

My body is happier and healthier for the break from sugar. So, here's my challenge: take a Sugar Fast. Even if it is only for a week, you'll strengthen your discipline, become aware of just how much sugar your family consumes, and give your body a healthy boost. When your fast is over, you'll have the chance to cautiously reintroduce sugar, and maybe you'll even make a sugar reduction habit for life!

Disclaimer: While I have gleaned useful information from Sugar Blues, I cannot endorse all of the author's comments.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Purpose-Driven Blogging

All truth be told, my time to contemplate New Year's Resolutions, New Goals, or really anything at all has been slim. It's been a very eventful few weeks for our family. However, I have at least been able to consider my purposes in the activities I give my time to. I figure, at the very minimum, I should question whether or not I am filling my time wisely. Maybe in the future I will be able to delineate some more specific goals, but for now I'll have to content myself with reduced reflection time.

So, I asked, why am I starting this blog? Here's how I answered myself:

"Remember ten years ago when you were newly married, expecting a baby, and totally inept when it came to pulling together any nourishment for your budding family? You had the time to read, read, read. You had the time to experiment in the kitchen and evaluate all sorts of ideas and theories. You started making healthy changes when you had TIME. What a unique situation you were in! This is simply not the case for most women today who want to help their families become healthier."

Do you find yourself wanting to learn, but unable to invest huge chunks of time in research? My purpose in blogging is to write down what I have learned in concise, readable bits. This way you can learn without the stress of doing it all at once. I hope that you can use what I write to increase your understanding of wellness and to make small changes in your family's habits. Small changes add up over time. My purpose is to encourage, inspire and educate -- day by day and bit by bit.

That being said, TIME is something I do not have a lot of ten years later. That was a luxury of the past, for which I am very thankful. So, while I really want to be blogging all the time, I can only blog after being faithful to my other daily purposes. Thanks for understanding my time constraints! And thanks for checking back and reading often! And, as always, I really appreciate your comments and emails; hearing back from you reminds me this IS a two-way communication.