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Category Archives: Nutrition
We’ve covered a lot in the last 10 posts, that’s for sure. If you’re feeling any information overload or are concerned about the choices you’ll make from here, just keep this in mind…
Just one small step to more healthy living is an important one. And as you make each new step, the next one becomes even easier. You don’t have to have all the answers before you start because you’re going to learn as you go along. And besides, only you can decide what is right for you.
Whether you start a vegetable garden, decide to raise chickens or rework your budget so you can start eating more organics foods, these are all steps in the right direction.
Start by looking at local resources in your neighborhood. Look for farms, you-picks, seed banks and even educational opportunities available to improve your lifestyle. Some of the resources I’ve mentioned in the past few posts that might help you include:
- The EWG Dirty Dozen – find out which fruits and vegetables are most likely to have the highest and lowest use of pesticides.
- Find farmer’s markets, restaurants and grocery stores that sell organic food using Local Harvest.
- Look for you-pick opportunities – just check if they’re organic.
The next step is up to you. I know you’ll be glad you took it.
There’s an interesting trend happening in natural and organic living. People who tout the consumption of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, also seem to consume a lot of supplements. I’ve had many people ask me about this. If you’re living a healthy lifestyle, why do you need supplements?
It’s a very good question.
Many people living an organic lifestyle cite depleting soils, premature picking, cooking, processing and other factors as decreasing the nutritional value of our food. But here’s my take on it. If you’re eating healthfully, exercising regularly and unless you have specific health issues, supplementation may not be necessary.
Supplements are big business. Whether they’re synthetic or they’re natural (if you do take them, go natural), it’s a business that must convince the consumer they need their product. It’s a decision that each person needs to make for themselves and it’s important to remember that having too much of certain vitamins and minerals can actually be harmful.
And more importantly, supplements can be very expensive and you need to decide carefully if they need to be in your budget.
Many people claim they’ve never felt better when taking a specific natural supplement for a specific purpose. That’s absolutely wonderful and if you’re getting the results you are looking for, more power to you. Just realize that some supplements can create dependence and even though they’re natural, can harm you.
Recently Dr. Oz shared some tips for considering supplements:
- Choose single ingredient supplements
- Do your research thoroughly
- Beware of trendy supplements
And here’s how I approach it:
- Eat more raw food: The more raw fruits and vegetables you eat, the more nutritional value you can pack in. Cooking strips food of vitamins and minerals, so while you may still eat the same amount of cooked food, you’re reducing the benefit you receive.
- When you cook, eat real food, not pre-made processed food. Cooking your own food ensures you can use more wholesome ingredients and use cooking methods that retain the most nutritional value possible.
- Stay active. A lot of your health depends on staying active. You can take all the vitamin supplements in the world, but you still need to get moving. Exercising gives you more energy and can give the same type of boosts that supplements can, but exercise is truly natural.
- Pay attention to your body. Eating and living healthy isn’t a foolproof way to stay healthy, unfortunately. So do pay attention to your body and seek medical advice, where needed.
- Sleep well. A lot of the reason we feel run down is because we simply don’t get enough sleep. Make it a priority and organize your day, giving yourself plenty of wind down time so you can get a proper night’s rest.
And finally, if you’re concerned, you can get tested. There are blood tests that you can get to ensure your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals. Go ahead and get one. You might be surprised that you’re as healthy as a horse. And if, heaven forbid, you’re not, you can take action on those findings.
An interesting thing happens when foods aren’t laden with artificial preservatives or any unnecessary processing.
And that thing is they don’t last as long as less natural options.
Add to that, the fact that organic foods tend to be more expensive, any spoilage can be very costly. So considering all this, here are some things to keep in mind when storing your organic foods.
1. Buy produce in season. Out of season fruits and vegetables generally have a longer travel time, so that can reduce the amount of time you’ll be able to keep them before they spoil. Local produce is also often cheaper and it helps ensure maximum nutrient content. When produce is shipped long distances, it is often harvested just a little earlier than it normally should be.
2. Wash your produce. Never assume that the lack of pesticides means produce doesn’t need to be washed. Dirt can still have bacteria and other harmful substances.
3. Whole fruits can be stored in the usual manner. Use your crisper or storage containers in your fridge. Of course, some produce like bananas, avocados, tomatoes, potatoes and onions shouldn’t be refrigerated. If you cut up any fruits or vegetables, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
5. Store grains like flour and pasta in airtight containers. It will keep longer if you store in the fridge (up to 6 months) and even longer in the freezer (up to 1 year).
6. Fresh meat and poultry needs to be used fairly quickly. Large cuts last up to 4 days; items like steaks, chops and chicken pieces last up to 3 days; and ground meats should be used within a day or two.
7. Freeze meats that won’t be used right away. Do the same for excess fruits and vegetables you won’t be able to use. Make sure all products you freeze are in airtight packaging. When using storage containers, make sure to fill them as full as possible, so buy a variety of sizes for best results. Any extra air in your container can contribute to freezer burn.
8. Canning is another possibility for organic produce. You can create jams, pickle a variety of items, make compotes, can fruits and vegetables in water and more. Of course, do note that the high temperatures in canning can affect the nutritional quality of your produce.
9. Dehydrating food can also help with preservation. Dehydrated fruits make a great on-the-road snack, instead of processed food items. In addition, dehydrated produce is excellent for emergency kits, camping trips and more.
However, you store your food; include a date on foods you store. This will give you an idea of when foods might spoil and which items should be used first.
If you’ve done any research into organic milk, you’ll find many articles claiming that there is very little difference in the quality of the product when compared to regular or conventionally-produced milk.
This research is based on the study of the end product, but to make an informed decision, you need to investigate the way milk is produced.
You may have also seen dairy labels that say “rBGH-Free” or “rBST-Free” and immediately below, you’ll inevitably see the disclaimer, “No significant difference has been shown between milk from rBGH [or rBST] treated and untreated cows.”
This disclaimer a result of a lawsuit Monsanto (remember them?) brought against Maine’s Oakhurst Dairy. In the lawsuit, Monsanto objected to the use of the statements “rBGH-Free” or “rBST-Free” because it implied that it was undesirable.
See Monsanto created this synthetic hormone that allows cows to produce more milk and for longer periods of time and, they wanted to protect it. The hormone is actually banned in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and a number of European countries. Thank goodness, public pressure has also pressured some retailers not to sell milk made with the hormone.
These hormones produce more milk, but they cause a number of problems for cows including the higher rate of mastitis, which is an inflammation of the udder, often caused when milk supply is not fully expressed. To help prevent mastitis and the resulting puss that gets in the milk supply, cows are given a large amount of antibiotics, adding even more foreign substances to our milk.
Then when milk is ready to be processed for human consumption, it goes through pasteurization. Milk is pasteurized to kill potentially harmful materials that are introduced to livestock directly, like antibiotics or through a less than sanitary collection process.
One of the worst things about the pasteurization process is that it kills the nutritional value in milk and instead of just getting rid of harmful bacteria; it also gets rid of beneficial bacteria. The sad thing is many minerals are added in after the pasteurization process when they could have been found in the milk naturally. Add to that, pasteurization has been linked to allergies, poor digestion of milk products and even heart disease.
So does organic milk solves the problems?
Well, it’s really not that simple, so let’s walk through it.
Cows that produce organic milk are grass fed, rather than fed unnatural grains like their conventional counterparts. That’s a good start. They are also hormone and antibiotic free, so that’s another check in the column for organic. The problem is, a lot organic milk is also pasteurized, killing nutrients and making it harder to digest.
Your best bet really is to purchase raw organic milk. Raw milk contains more minerals than pasteurized milk. It also has 20 amino acids and contains beneficial enzymes. It can be expensive, but it’s milk in its natural form and provides the most health benefits. It also isn’t available everywhere, and is only permitted for sale in 28 states, so it’s not always easy to find. When you can’t find it or if it’s cost-prohibitive, you may want to consider what you’re putting in your body when you consume regular milk.
If you’ve ever been to a farmer’s market, no doubt you’ve come across vegetables labeled as “heirloom.” Heirloom is such an elegant words and it refers to something valuable passed down from generation to generation.
But if heirloom vegetables are so valuable, why do they look so darned weird?
Simply put, heirloom vegetables are a specific variety vegetable that has been grown for many years and is open –pollinated. This is in contrast to hybrid and GM (genetically modified) vegetables. Heirlooms themselves are not necessarily organic, but when you grow them using organic techniques, they most definitely are.
Because they aren’t modified or cross-pollinated to produce new desirable traits, they may not look as pretty as the produce we’ve come to expect at the grocery store. But the good news is they are usually quite delicious. They are also often selected for their ability to withstand extreme weather and produce high yields.
To understand this a bit better, we need to look at 3 types of vegetables, or more specifically, 3 types of seeds. This information will help you in deciding what type of produce to buy and then, in a later post, will be useful if you are trying to grow your own produce as well.
- Heirloom Seeds: These are seed varieties that have been cultivated for many years, passed down from generation to generation, having fairly predictable results from crop to crop.
There is no agreed upon age required for these seeds, but some suggest 50 years, while others say it should be 100. A lot of people agree upon a date of pre-1945 because that marks the end of World War 2 when growers started hybrid experimentation.
- Hybrid Seeds: Hybrids sometimes occur naturally and other times, intentionally to acquire specific characteristics and hybrid seeds often produce high yields. It’s the cross-breeding of two species to produce a new plant. Hybrids can produce great results, but are problematic when home growers or small farmers want to use the seeds from their hybrid crop to create new crops. Seeds from a second generation hybrid plant simply do not produce predictable results. Thus, hybrid seeds are usually purchased again for each planting.
- GMO Seeds: Then we have the GMO seeds that are the intentionally genetically modified to produce very specific results. It’s the actual transfer of DNA from one organism (not necessarily other plants) to another to get those results. There are a number of debatable issues in regard to GMO ranging from ethics to ecology to economy.
For the purposes of my posts here, we all need to be aware that GMOs threaten the existence of organic crops through cross-pollination. Add to that, when large GMO producers like Monsanto hold patents on their seeds, they readily bully and sue smaller farmers when their GMO seed has been found to cross-pollinate with the crops of these smaller farms. Many of these farms simply cannot afford to fight these legal battles and are forced to either shut down or comply with buying their seeds from the GMO producers.
Earlier in 2012 a lawsuit including nearly 300,000 American farmers was launched against Monstanto and its practices, but the suit has been denied. The lawyers representing the farmers issued an appeal in July to take Monstanto back to court. Where this goes, is unknown, but it makes the protection of heirloom seeds even more important.
So the next time you see that gnarled carrot or misshapen tomato at the farmer’s market, consider giving it a home. This is the type of produce we need to support if we want to sustain organic cultivation.
Before you go out and buy a bunch of organic foods blindly, let’s really sit down and talk about what organic means.
According to Wikipedia organic foods are “Foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.”
So organic food leaves out the things I talked about a couple of posts back. Organic foods are void of pesticides and fertilizers. They aren’t irradiated or processed chemically – all important stuff.
However, the word “organic” is not a legal term in the United States, so sometimes it seems quite meaningless. In the United States, the legal term for organic food is “Certified Organic.” Food can be certified by the USDA when it meets certain conditions set out by the National Organic Program (NOP).
Certified Organic produce must be grown using organic methods without chemical pesticides, genetically modified ingredients or petroleum or sewage-based fertilizers. It also can’t be processed with irradiation or contain prohibitive preservatives.
Certified Organic livestock must not be given antibiotics or growth hormones. They also need to have access to the outdoors.
When it comes to processed Certified Organic foods, 95% of the ingredients must be grown organically to contain the seal. And if a label says it is “made with organic ingredients,” it only needs to be made of 70-95% organic ingredients.
Food that bears this certification seal is generally thought to provide the consumer protection, but it’s not without its critics. Critics are concerned that the regulations deal with the way the food is grown, but offers no guarantee of the quality of the product. There are also reports that the certification standards are lacking and that includes a 2010 report from the Inspector General.
So what does this all mean for the consumer?
1. Products, especially non-food items, can be labeled as organic, but don’t meet the appropriate guidelines. Non-food products are not subject to the Certified Organic standards.
2. The guidelines may not be enforced properly, causing some foods to be labeled as Certified Organic when they really shouldn’t be.
3. Food that is organic may not actually be certified because the grower chooses not to get certified or isn’t able to get certified because they produce less than $5000 in products each year.
What can you do?
Given all these potential problems with organic labeling, it’s natural to wonder if it’s all worth it. The key is to read labels and be aware of word play. Stating things like “made with organic ingredients” is a typical way of making something sound good, when it may not be quite what it seems. Above all, know where your food is coming from, buy locally and do your homework.
A lot of people tell me they love the idea of organic food and would start eating it in a heartbeat but their budgets simply don’t allow it. It’s true that organic food can cost considerably more than conventionally grown food…absolutely. The one glimmer of hope is that there has been a downward pricing trend as organic foods became more popular. Still, the prices aren’t low enough for many people, so how can you eat organic when you’re on a budget?
Here are a few ideas you can start with.
- Start with one thing at a time. Going organic doesn’t mean you have to go all or none. Take small steps to where you want to go. I also recommend downloading the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Dirty Dozen list that shows you the produce that is most likely to be grown with the most pesticides, so either avoid those or purchase them organically. The list includes items like apples, bell peppers, peaches, potatoes, blueberries, spinach, celery, strawberries and more. They also keep a list of produce that is least likely be grown with as much pesticide, so you may not have to rush into organic versions of those.
- Buy from farmers markets. There are many organic options at farmer’s markets and they are often more affordable than organic fare found at regular supermarkets. You can search Google for “[your town] farmer’s market” or use the Local Harvest website to find markets in your area.
- Cut out expensive, processed foods. While processed foods may seem like a great deal because they save time and they appear to be inexpensive, they often don’t provide a lot in the way of portion size or nutritional value and can really eat up a food budget if you rely on them. Try reducing the amount of processed foods you buy and eat more nutrient dense whole foods. It’s good for the budget and good for your health.
- Stock up when things go on sale and then can, dry or freeze it. It’s the same money-saving concept that people have been using for years and you can apply it to organic foods as well. Invest in a food dehydrator, canning equipment and freezer-ready containers, so you can store organic foods for later eating.
- Make it a goal to eat a fully local and/or organic meal each week. It’s an idea borrowed from TheDailyGreen.com and it’s a good one. If you just try for one meal, you’ll be making a difference without a lot of cost. Plus, leftovers and extra ingredients can be stretched out to additional meals.
- Eat more vegetarian meals. I know it’s scary for some meat lovers, me included, but eating more meatless meals gives you so much more money in the food budget. Or if you’re not ready to do vegetarian, consider using smaller portions of meat in your meals. Try things like stir fries and similar meals where meat is simply an accompaniment, rather than the main focus of the meal.
- Pick your own. Don’t be afraid of a little manual labor. Using “you pick” opportunities allows you save a lot of money and stock up for canning, drying and freezing. You can pick a variety of fruits and vegetables. You can look for you picks in your area by visiting PickYourOwn.org, but do confirm they are organic growers first.
Every little bit helps and the better you get at picking the right foods, the more affordable it can be. And remember, the long term health benefits of eating more naturally will likely save you plenty in health costs in the long run.
Just one thing before you head out and stock up on everything…we should talk about what organic really means and we’ll do that in my next post.
It seems like everyone is talking about organic foods like it’s some kind of buzz word or status symbol. I suppose for some, it might be. But for many of us, it’s a way of life that takes us back to a more natural way of living and farming. One that has been destroyed by the machine food production has become today.
Now, I don’t mean to sound like one of those doom and gloom, anti-establishment types. I don’t disparage anyone for choosing the foods that they do. Sometimes it’s an economic necessity. Other times it’s simply not having enough information about what’s really going on with our food. Sometimes it’s just apathy.
“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.” ~ Helen Keller
I’m not sure what I can do about the apathetic, but for people like you who may have budgeting obstacles or are trying to find more information about what’s going into you bodies, I am here to help.
So the first natural question is…why go organic?
Organic eating has a number of benefits and here are just a few of them:
- Organic produce is free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Even if you wash your produce, you cannot remove all these harmful chemicals that can affect your nervous system, cause cancer and more. Also consider that conventional farming which uses harmful chemicals can contribute to the contamination of our water supply, so supporting organic, you are also supporting a cleaner water supply for all.
- While people may not be quite as concerned, eating organic can help you avoid foods that have been irradiated. Government bodies tout the irradiation process as helpful in reducing harmful bacteria, preventing spoilage and increasing shelf life of foods. However, irradiation reduces the nutritional value of your foods and there is growing concern by researchers that the process may not be as safe as previously thought.
- Avoidance of genetically modified foods or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). While huge biotechnology companies like Monstanto will have you believing that they are increasing the viability of crop growing, there are long-term dangers in GMOs that have caused them to be banned by much of Europe and Japan.
- Organic livestock is fed its natural diet, rather than potentially contaminated grains, antibiotics and hormones. This is in contrast to conventionally-raised livestock that get hormones to help them grow faster and antibiotics are given en masse as a preventative measure to illness. The scary thing is that the preventative measure may be necessary given the poor hygienic conditions of the animals. With organic, animals are raised more humanely and more naturally, eliminating the need for these potentially dangerous situations for both livestock and human.
- Organic growing contributes to improved soil quality. A lot of people don’t realize it, but our soils are so depleted that we no longer get the nutrients we did from our foods a few decades ago. In order to obtain the certified organic label from the USDA, soil must be free of prohibited chemicals for three years and the increased soil quality is a necessary goal for organic farmers. To learn more about a variety of soil studies, check this out.
- Organic farming is more wildlife friendly. From animals to plant species, a more natural ecology is supported through organic methods. There are many studies supporting this including a study from the University of Oxford that found that there is increased biodiversity on organically farmed land.
- Buying organic allows you to support your local economy and farmers. This is good for you because you get fresher foods and also reduces the pollution that results from food transport.
There are so many reasons to go organic and this post touches on just a few of them. Here’s the most immediate one that people can really appreciate. Organic foods simply taste better. This is real food, free of all unnecessary human interventions and inventions. It’s nature’s perfection and once you try it, you probably won’t want to go back to your other options.
Of course, this still leaves the issue of cost and how organic food seems unaffordable to many families today. Well, that is exactly what we’ll be talking about in my next post.
If you’ve ever thought about going organic, you’ve probably had a few questions on your mind.
What does organic really mean?
How can it benefit you?
And can it really be done on a budget?
Well, I’ve enlisted a special guest for our site here and her name is Grace Simpson. She’s very educated about organics and is great at helping people get their feet wet into a more natural way of eating.
She’ll be here for the next little while sharing great advice and tidbits, so I’ll let her introduce herself…
Hi, I’m Grace. I’ve been studying organic living since the USDA introduced national standards in 2002 and my family has been eating fully organic since about 2006. This subject means a lot to me because I want my family to have the healthiest meals possible. A few other related subjects that I feel are important are our nation’s health, our wildlife and the sustainability of food production.
Even though certified organics have been around for a decade, I know there are still a lot of questions surrounding organic food. That’s why I am so happy to be here to talk about many of those concerns people have.
Here’s what you can expect in the next few posts:
- Why eating organic is important…to you and the world around you.
- How to introduce organics, even if you’re on a budget.
- What does organic really mean and are you really eating organic?
- We’ll also discuss issues surrounding, meats, and produce in more detail.
- Being your own source of organic foods.
- Do you need supplements?
We’re going to cover a lot, but remember, as you start consider the organic lifestyle; you don’t have to do this all at once. Just take it one step at a time adding healthier options slowly and keeping this great earth of ours in harmony.
you can make a pumpkin pie using canned or fresh pumpkin. Here is a recipe for a 9-inch pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin, but you can substitute canned if you like.
-1 pie pumpkin, 6 to 8 inches in diameter (you can substitute a butternut squash if you can’t find a pie pumpkin)
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon each of ground cloves and allspice
-1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-2 large eggs
-2 cups of soft, cooked pumpkin
-1 12-ounce can of nonfat evaporated milk
-1 9-inch pie crust, unbaked
Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and insides. (Save the seeds! Dry them and feed them to the birds, or roast them and eat them yourself.) Place the pumpkin halves cut-side-down onto a casserole dish with a cover (you can use 2 casserole dishes, one for each half, if you need to). Poke the skins of each half with a fork several times. Cover and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about an hour.
When the pumpkin is baked and cool, pour off any excess water and set it aside. Then scoop out the soft flesh and puree in a blender or food processor. Add any pumpkin water as necessary to get a smooth, creamy texture. Alternatively, you could use a food mill.
In a mixer at medium-high speed, mix 2 cups of pumpkin with the evaporated milk, vanilla, and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the spices and salt and mix. Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. When the pie is done, a knife inserted in the middle will come out clean.