Monday, March 29, 2010

Be a Supplement Skeptic

Did you all read the recent news about Fish Oil products being tainted with PCBs -- even when the label claimed the products were tested, pure and safe? This is just one more expose' in a long line of supplement crimes. Lead in children's vitamins. Fungicides in Ginseng products. Pesticides in Alfalfa tablets. The alarming levels of toxins found in supplements manufactured in China. And the list goes on.

On March 2nd, an environmental consumers group, Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, sued fish oil supplement merchants for covering up the fact that their products contained toxic levels of PCBs. This took place in California, which requires a warning label anytime a product contains toxic ingredients.

Who did they sue? Omega Protein, the world's largest producer of fish oil products. They manufacture products for Twinlab, GNC, Rite Aid, CVS, Now Health Group, Pharmavite and Solgar.

So far, Mateel has only tested 10 Fish Oil supplements and has found toxic levels of PCBs in all of them. They plan to continue testing products and adding companies to the lawsuit as they discover who is marketing contaminated fish oil supplements.

Now, this is the thing that really stuns me. Either Omega Protein didn't test their products and still labeled them as pure. OR, they did test them and labeled them as pure anyway. Either way, this is another evidence that the supplement industry is not to be trusted.

You see, as consumers take daily doses of contaminated products, toxin levels build until serious problems arise. And supplement users usually take supplements trusting they will do their bodies good and not harm.

I encourage you to be a supplement skeptic. It is tempting to just pick up your supplements when you see them on sale at your local grocer or drug store. But that is simply not safe. You can not trust labels.

I've seen way too many news stories like this one -- where supplements companies truly endanger our health in the name of good health.

Only buy from a trusted source. One that can prove their rigorous quality control, that openly invites the public to check out their manufacturing processes, that tests their products so that they can guarantee their purity and effectiveness. A company that gives a 100% money back guarantee on every product.

I have posted before that Shaklee is my supplement company of choice. Read (here) to see how they passed my three critical questions for all consumers to ask supplement companies. If you're really interested in finding good supplements, I encourage you to read through all the posts under my supplement topic. You can also check out my Shaklee website for what makes Shaklee unique.

For your health,

Note: I have posted before about why I am a Shaklee Independent Distributor. Click here to read that post.

Friday, March 26, 2010

This Isn't a Real Post

I halfway composed a post entitled "Be a Supplement Skeptic" earlier this week. Yesterday was the day to complete it. But my laptop died (again... I have strong opinions about a certain brand now). I didn't have the time to finish it on the dinosaur computer we keep just for emergencies. Really, it took thirty-five minutes just to load my email!

So, today was the day to complete it. But as I sat down at the dinosaur, Tickle, who was supposed to be napping, started a horrendous coughing fit. The other children ran to get me, fearing for her life. It turns out she got out of bed to get her barrettes off her dresser. Then ate one. Then gagged until she got it up. With oranges and cheese that were not quite digested.

Why do I share this with you today? Well, first, you'll have to excuse me from a real post today. Cleaning up the mess took most of my computer time. And the dinosaur is taking the rest.

Second, lest you think I am one of those moms who has it all together - who has nice, orderly days homeschooling perfectly behaved and attentive children - I give you a real story. Life is messy sometimes. Even in my home.

And, I just remembered I forgot to thaw out beef for our Pakistani Kima tonight. I have to go put some in a sink of cold water before I completely forget again.

Happy weekend! and hopefully the real post will be finished on Monday,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Giveaway Winner, Important Co-op Information, and More Random Thoughts That Don't Fit in Another Post

I love bullets. Do you? They keep random thoughts so orderly... Here goes:

  • First, the winner of TrueLemon's World Water Day giveaway is Christie. (If you do not get my email with instructions, please email me: ae @ Thank you to each reader who left a thoughtful comment about what we can do to help make clean water available around the world. I encourage each of you to take a look a the comments and jump into the action.

  • Next, I have had so many of you comment that you would like to be involved in whole food co-ops in order to make healthy foods more affordable. Well, I just ran across this website. Check it out to see if there are any groups near you!

  • Do you remember a while ago when I told you about my friend with the eleven year old Wendy's hamburger? Well, Fox News tells of a similar experiment with a Happy Meal. It never spoiled, which breaks my Food Selection Rule of Thumb. Read the story (here).

  • Three of my children caught a cold this past weekend. What do I do for them in order to speed their recovery? Read this former post.

  • Also, this time around I used a product called Xlear with Tickle. (The product was a generous sample sent to me for review by GS Schwartz & Co.) Her runny nose only lasted two days, while Spiderman and Witzy are still hanging on to theirs (fourth and third day, respectively). Could the difference be the Xlear? It is hard to say for sure, but I will be trying the product again next time I encounter a cold... let's hope that it's a while down the road.

  • Anyway, the product is worth checking out. Xlear is an "all-natural nasal spray with Xylitol, a healthy alternative to over the counter products and overused antibiotics." The bottle of nasal drops seems like it would last forever... and it only costs $6.99. You just give a few drops twice a day to clear the sinuses. The active ingredient is Xylitol, which is a natural sweetener found in plants and fruits. The Xylitol soothes and moisturizes nasal passages and rinses away bacteria, pollutants and allergens. Supposedly, it is a good preventative measure, although I have not used it that way. It seems logical though that rinsing the nasal passages clear daily would prevent most illness.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Making "Refried" Beans

My children really love bean dip. Really love it. With non-GMO corn chips, of course. But regular cans of refried beans contain MSG, and organic cans are way too pricey. So we make our own. Here's what we do:

First, we start by sorting through a 2-pound bag of pinto beans, taking out any bad beans or rocks. Yes, we find rocks in the beans sometimes.

Next, we leave the beans to soak overnight. Place the beans in your crockpot. Fill the crockpot with water. Add two tablespoons of plain yogurt (or lemon juice) to break down the phytic acid, make the beans more digestible, and make the nutrients more available. Cover and leave overnight.

The next morning, rinse the beans and place them back in the crockpot. Cover them with chicken stock so that the stock just barely covers the beans. You can also use beef stock, but it gives a stronger flavor. This time around I used some chicken stock that my sweet sister-in-law brought to me.

Add about two tablespoons of chili powder, one tablespoon of salt, one tablespoon of garlic and two teaspoons of cumin. (Of course, if your stock is highly seasoned, you'll want to cut down on those seasonings.)

Let the beans cook on low for 12 to 16 hours. I cooked these for about 16 hours. Store the beans AND cooking juice in the refrigerator until ready to make into Bean Dip.

To make the bean dip, first make your "refried beans" by putting your cooked beans and the cooking juice through the food processor in batches. Here Spiderman has done the first batch and you can see the beans that are left in the pot ready for processing.

Boys love power tools. And power appliances. Spiderman is a very willing kitchen helper if it involves the food processor. Here is the first batch of "refried beans" he made. This is when they are quite warm. They get a little more firm as they cool. If you like your "refried beans" even more firm, leave out a bit of the cooking juice.

Next, we mix the beans with salsa and cover the mixture with cheese. That's what Tickle is doing below.

Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is soft and bubbly. Serve with non-GMO corn chips. The 2-pound bag of beans made enough for our family to have bean dip for a Saturday lunch, to take to a church pot luck the next Sunday, and for another lunch (just the kids and me) on Monday.

I hope you enjoy this healthy alternative to an all-time favorite party food!

For more Real Food ideas, check out GNOWFGLINS (God's Natural, Organic, Whole Foods Grown Locally, In Season) Tuesday Twister Blog Carnival.

Monday, March 22, 2010

World Water Day Giveaway

I recently posted about the health importance of "drinking plenty of good, clean water." I am sure you realize that doing so is a luxury that is not readily available worldwide.

Today is World Water Day -- set aside for the purpose of creating awareness of the need for clean water around the world. Please take a moment to visit the World Water Day website to familiarize yourself with this cause.

TrueLemon is also doing their part in creating awareness today by offering a giveaway to my readers.

What is TrueLemon? True Lemon is a healthy crystallized water enhancer sweetened with Truvia (natural stevia). Add TrueLemon to a glass of water to make a refreshing substitute for sugary drinks. True Lemon's ingredients are 100% all-natural and make water a more appealing option without making it unhealthy, or "sugaring" down water's natural goodness. TrueLemon also markets TrueOrange and TrueLime, two more natural flavor options for your good, clean water.

The winner of today's giveaway will be sent 20-count boxes of TrueLemon, TrueOrange and TrueLime... 60 refreshing beverages just in time for outdoor weather! (You can tell what is on my spring-fevered-mind!)

To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment on this post. Tell me what you know about getting clean water into needy hands around the world. What organizations or causes do you know of that are in action, ready for us to take part? (Here one of my family's favorite ministries. Their Jesus Well project is a perfect opportunity.)

This giveaway will close tomorrow (Tuesday, March 23rd) at midnight. I will select and notify a winner (using a random number generator) on Wednesday. This giveaway is open to US residents only.

But this is the best part: EVERYONE is a winner with TrueLemon. Samples are available for everyone! Do you want to try TrueLemon? Click here for your free sample. I haven't tried this product yet myself, but I look forward to my samples!

Observe World Water Day. Grab a glass of water. Practice gratitude. Think about how you can do your part.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Links Worth Reading

Is it looking like spring where you are? The weather here in my part of Georgia is absolutely beautiful... makes me giddy!

In my reading over the last few days, I found a few articles that I think you may find interesting.

First, you have heard me talk of soaking grains to neutralize the phytic acid... sounds technical... and what's the health benefit, anyway? Well, here is a very helpful explaination. Click here to read.

Second, many of you have mentioned that you would like to start making sourdough bread. Here is a great primer, including some sourdough waffles. I haven't tried them yet, but I think this post is very informative (though long!). Click here to read.

Last, Genetically Modified Foods are a great concern of mine. I have talked about the book Seeds of Deception before. Now, here is a very thought-provoking perspective on the subject. Note that I do not necessarily agree with all the ideas in this article or on this webpage, but this article made me think. Click here to read.

Coming up on Health Begins With Mom this week:
  • Be a Supplement Skeptic
  • Making Refried Beans
Happy Spring!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Favorite Healthy Treat

My friend Jonesey has had an ingenious week on her blog Jonesville. She has been hosting a Week O' Favorites. The comments have been very entertaining, both writing them and reading them... So here's my question for you...

What is your favorite healthy treat? And what about your kids' favorite treat? Please share!
As for me, I love, love, love dark cherries... even dried cherries... especially when they are covered in dark chocolate, but I'll enjoy them any way they come.

My children really enjoy string cheese. But Rainbow says her favorite snacky treat is Blueberry Yogurt. And Spiderman pipes in with "Trail Mix!"

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Next Step Thinking

I'm thinking along the lines of next steps toward greater health. The health journey requires us to take steps forward. Even if they are just baby steps, we need to be making progress. So, what next steps do I need to take?

First, I am back into the swing of meal planning, budget grocery shopping, and food preparation. However, I have noticed a price increase at Earth Fare. They do have some "fare deals," which are items at nicely competitive prices. But all other products seem to be continually going up in price.

For example, when we moved here nearly five years ago, we paid $1.19 for a package of Garden of Eatin' tortillas. A few years after that, I noticed the price jumped to $1.59. That was a considerable jump, but doable. Then, on a recent trip to Earth Fare, I saw the price jumped again to $2.49! That is not doable.

Here comes my next step thinking... Instead of just maintaining my old shopping habits, I need to think of what needs to happen next. I need to find a better source for some of the food we purchase from a store.

Do any of you shop at Whole Foods? There is a Whole Foods about 40 minutes away from me. It might be worth a once a month trip if I save a decent amount of my grocery money. So, my next step is to take a exploratory trip to Whole Foods.

What about for your family? What needs to change in how you plan and provide meals for your family? What could you do better? What is your next step?

Same topic, different slant... I am pleased with how my exercise plan has unfolded over the last week. I can feel my core muscles gaining strength. I can see progress. So, I'm asking myself, what do I need to add in next?

We could ask ourselves this with our diet, our lifestyle habits... What can we learn next? What can we do better? Take a look at this list of progressive changes and make a note of what you can change next. Leave a note in the comments and let me know your plans!

The health journey requires us to take steps forward. What next steps can you take?

On to the next step,

Photo Credit: Peter Suneson

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Always Drink Lots of Good Water

I went to a small liberal arts college. I finished my math major in my junior year, which left a year's worth of required credits in the subject of my choosing. I decided that Studio Art would be a fun challenge, and ended up with six hours short of a studio art major.

Because it was a small liberal arts college, I had the same few teachers for all my art classes. There was one in particular who was incredibly talented and remarkably quirky. He didn't actually "teach" his studio classes. We were required to attend at the allotted class meeting time. However, he might or might not show up, except on critique days.

When he did show up to browse around the easels, check our progress, and offer helpful advice, he always walked in shaking a cup of ice water. Always. Shaking a cup of ice water. And his first words were predictable, "Always drink lots of good water," as he walked and shook his cup of ice water.

I cannot hear the sound of ice clinking in a cup without hearing his voice, "Always drink lots of good water." I wish I could put a recording of it right here. You would think the enunciation and vocal inflection to be catchy as well.

So, are you drinking enough good water?

How much is enough? A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight in half. The result is how many ounces of water you should drink each day. So, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 70 ounces of water daily. This translates to 8.75 - 8 ounce glasses of water... but I'm sure your body wouldn't mind if you just aim for between 8 and 9 glasses of water each day ;-)

If you exercise frequently, if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you drink caffeinated beverages, your body needs additional water. On the other hand, consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, even stock-laden soups, will decrease your body's need for water.

Just pay attention to your thirst. And remember to drink as soon as you are thirsty! Delaying can turn off your thirst mechanism and keep it from signalling properly. Some other thirst signs to pay attention to are dry mouth, brain fog, muscle fatigue, lethargy, irritability, headaches and dry skin.

But why drink water? What's the big deal? Well, just about every body part, system, and function depends on water. Especially important is your brain and nerve function. You probably knew that 75% of your brain is water. When we don't drink enough water, our cognitive ability is affected. "The dehydrated brain causes the release of cortisol. This stress hormone, which is also linked to an increase in fat storage and muscle depletion, can negatively affects the brain's capacity to store and create information." Interesting, don't you think?

With all the information and details I have to keep straight, my brain needs all the help it can get! Plus, I am nursing. So I drink lots of good water. It is not easy for me to remember to drink, but I am doing better.

Always drink lots of good water.

For your health,

PhotoCredit: BlueGum

Monday, March 8, 2010

Two Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Thanks to Rainbow's birthday wishes, I now have photos for two healthy breakfast's to share with you! They both contain eggs, which I do consider healthy. (Read why here.)

The first recipe for Egg Toasters, is very simple and easy to prepare... especially if you have a large electric griddle. The second, for Breakfast Burritos, requires some more kitchen time. However, it is still a simple recipe to follow. And, it can be made ahead and popped into the toaster oven in the morning for a super quick, warm breakfast. Breakfast Burritos are great for the car too!

Egg Toasters

For Egg Toasters, start by punching holes in sliced bread with a cookie cutter. Rainbow picked heart shapes, but you can use any cookie cutter, or even an upside down glass, to make a hole in the center of each slice of bread.

Second, butter the bread and place on a griddle warmed to medium heat. I butter one side, place it on the griddle and then butter the top. Crack an egg into each hole. We break the yolks because we don't like runny eggs, but you could leave it whole if that is how your family prefers their eggs.

Once the eggs have set, flip the Egg Toasters over and grill on the other side until desired doneness.

Butter the cut-outs on both sides and grill them as well. (I had to do my hearts separately because they wouldn't fit on my griddle.)

Voila'. Breakfast is that simple! My children just love these.

Breakfast Burritos

For breakfast burritos, start by sauteing finely diced onions and peppers in several tablespoons of oil over medium heat. (Use more oil than you would normally use because you don't want the eggs to stick when you add them into the pan.) Here I used both coconut oil and butter. You might also want to use diced mushrooms, diced zucchini, or any other vegetable you'd like.

When the vegetables are soft, add beaten eggs. (Here I am making 11 burritos and so I used 14 eggs... 11 is a weird number, but I had two different brands of tortillas, one package with six and one with five.) You might also want to add some meat. Here I used preservative free bacon that I found on good sale, but we have also used leftover chicken, taco meat or even preservative free ham before.

Once the eggs are well cooked, put a generous scoop of the scrambled mixture and some cheese in each tortilla and wrap them tightly. Place on a cookie sheet. Warm in the oven until the cheese has melted, about fifteen minutes. I cover them lightly with foil so that the burritos don't get crispy.

Or, you can wrap them individually and keep them in the refrigerator to heat each morning.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Breastfeeding, Clogged Ducts, Mastitis and Lecithin

What a title! I've got a lot to say on the subject, but I'll try to be brief...

First, I have only one comment on breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is best. However, as Sally Fallon Morell wisely points out: a mother's breastmilk can only be as nutritious as her diet. Where else would the nutritious components of mother's milk come from?

Second. Have you ever had a clogged duct? I am assuming that all women who nurse have experienced this discomfort at some point. Often it is due to engorgement, constrictive clothing or sudden changes in the baby's nursing habits. But, you know, sometimes you just get them for seemingly no reason at all! At least, that has been my experience. But then again, I do have an abundant supply of milk, so maybe I am prone to plugged ducts.

Which leads me to my third thought. Have your clogged ducts ever turned into mastitis? YIKES STRIPES. Talk about an all of a sudden, on your back, roaring fever! Not fun. Especially because there is a baby (and possibly other children) to take care of while you feel so rotten.

I have had mastitis with all of my five babies. It never lasts long because when I notice the clogged duct and the fever just beginning to take hold, I take mega doses of Vitamin C, Nutriferon and Garlic. That seems to wipe out the mastitis within 24 hours, and then I only have the clogged duct to massage away.

Well, after having mastitis twice in the first six weeks of Tickle's life, I asked myself "WHY?" Why does my milk clog? Is there anything that can be done to prevent the clogged ducts and the subsequent mastitis? I emailed the La Leche League and received a very helpful answer.

I was told that Lecithin works to prevent milk from clogging. Lecithin is a common food additive that is used to emulsify. It keeps the fats and oils in mother's milk suspended evenly, which makes the milk less sticky.

I started taking a daily dose of Lecithin and had no more clogged ducts for the remainder of my nursing relationship with Tickle (from six weeks to eighteen months).

Fast forward to last month. Superman was three weeks old, and I got mastitis. I took care of it quickly. Then, the next week I got it again from a clogged duct on the other side! Again, I took care of it and stopped to ask myself "WHY?" I felt a little dim-witted. I had not remembered the Lecithin until after two cycles of the crazy fever! Sheesh.

I started up on Lecithin again. Hopefully, my results this time around will be the same as with Tickle. At least, so far I haven't had a clogged duct again.


Today is my sweet Rainbow's 10th birthday. As usual, she is choosing her meals for the day. (Read my theory on that privilege here.) Time permitting, I'll be posting the recipe and photos for her Egg Toasters breakfast and her Breakfast Burrito supper on Monday. Yes, I am allowing her to have eggs at two meals! She only has one birthday a year. :-)

Here is a photo of this precious girl holding her baby brother the first week of his life:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pomegranate Power

We all need more antioxidants in our diets! With all the free radicals that we are exposed to in our modern world, we need all the help we can get. So what are free radicals? And what do antioxidants have to do with it? Here is a simple explanation:

"Every day, your body is exposed to free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage the cells in your body in a process often referred to as oxidative stress. Where do they come from? Everywhere. Not only does your body produce them as part of normal metabolism, there are also many external sources such as air pollution, alcohol, pesticides, sunlight, tobacco smoke, drugs and fried foods. Even our stressful lifestyles are related to excess oxidative stress. That’s where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants are scavengers that neutralize free radicals. Although your body produces its own antioxidants, they are often insufficient to protect against the total oxidative stress we all experience. In fact, scientists have already linked free radicals to many different types of diseases. Consuming a diet rich in natural antioxidants, like those that come from fruits and vegetables, may help protect against free radical damage."

I frequently talk about how important it is to eat a diet full of a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Each unique fruit and vegetable has a unique spectrum of antioxidants. So variety (and volume) are important in order to get the most antioxidant benefit.

Today I am glad to tell you about another way to boost your antioxidant intake. The generous people at Pom Wonderful recently sent me a case of their Pom Wonderful juice to sample. It is 100% pomegranate juice with absolutely no unwanted ingredients. Nothing but the good stuff. And did you know that POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice has been shown to have the highest Antioxidant Potency Index among several healthy beverages (red wine, Concord grape, blueberry, acai or cranberry juices) as measured by a composite of the four leading antioxidant capacity assays? Read the study.

For all the wonderful health benefits, pure pomegranate juice is quite tart. It's yummy, but bold. We have been adding it to our smoothies for our breakfasts. We find that its strong flavor holds up in any recipe while other fruits and yogurt tame the tart. Here is our favorite recipe:

  • 2 cups of plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup Pom Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
  • 1-2 Tbsp. raw honey
Stir vigorously. This makes a great drink, but we have been putting it in a bowl with soaked granola for a healthy take on "cereal and milk."

Also, if you want to make a frozen pomegranate treat, put the three ingredients listed above with 2-3 frozen bananas in a blender. Blend thoroughly for a soft serve ice cream consistency.

For your health,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Get In Shape, Girl!

You do remember that commercial jingle, don't you? Or, does that completely date my decade?

Anyway... I am now ten weeks postpartum. Here is a picture of The New Little Guy on his two month birthday. Pretty cute, huh?

See his bib? Well, he almost always wears one. Because he spews like a volcano! (Thankfully, it is getting better.) And most of the time, unlike in this photo, his bib migrates around to his back so it resembles a cape. All that to say, he has earned a blog name. He is the caped wonder: Superman. The perfect sidekick for our dear Spiderman. Although, we did wonder if we should rename the boys Tornado and Volcano...

On to my subject for today: Getting in Shape... whether you are, like me, getting back into shape or whether you are just beginning a habit of exercise.

It has been over three months since I have exercised. And that is just way too long! I mentioned before that Superman preferred to lie transverse in the womb. This put incredible stress on my hips and made it impossible to exercise without ruining my mobility for the rest of the day. Then, there was the cesarean recovery... And now, it is time. I can tell that the "idle months" have negatively effected my posture, my stamina and my muscle tone. It is time. I know I will feel more vitality and strength once I get started.

Although, I am not ready to jump directly back into my old routine. My old plan is too intense for my recovering core muscles. Eventually, I'll get back to that plan. But I've gotta start somewhere!

I've been searching online to find some more moderate core exercises to get me started. I know me, and I know that without a plan, I will not be consistent. And without being consistent, I will not see results.

After looking at WAAAAAYYYY too many sites, I found this program to be the most realistically helpful. Technically, it is a postpartum program. But I think it would be beneficial for anyone jumping into an exercise routine. Start at the top and find out where on the progression you need to begin your program.

Remember, a strong core is so important. Your balance, posture, agility and range of motion all depend on your core muscles. Whether you start with these exercises or with a more advanced program, make time *almost* every day for strengthening your back and abdominal muscles.

In addition to the core exercises, I am going to work up to doing intervals on my elliptical machine again. I would love to be outside walking! But, the weather and daylight don't permit that quite yet. I am very much looking forward to it though!

With my nights still quite unpredictable, I don't know how many mornings I'll be able to follow the plan. But I am starting small, with just 15 or 20 minutes of workout time. Hopefully I will find three or four mornings a week for fitness. What about you? What are your exercise goals? Do you have a good routine? Please share what works for you in the comments!