Sweet Sunday: Cocoa-Coconut Cookies

I had a very proud moment not long ago when my almost four year old asked me, “Mama, what’s an Oreo?”  Of course that was followed by, “Can I have one?”  I have to say that my little ones are amazingly understanding when I explain that a certain food isn’t healthy or isn’t something we eat.  Either they really trust me or they know on some level that those foods make them feel bad.  Maybe a combination of the two.  I keep wondering when they are going to start to fight me on it though.  As I’ve mentioned before I do make exceptions for very special occasions, but I also realize that this can be a slippery slope and I have to draw the line somewhere.  A play date or a visit with a relative (while special) is not a special occasion that deserves cake and cookies every time.  There’s definitely a cultural perception that sugary treats are a right of passage for kids and it’s not always easy to “shelter” them from the constant offering of non-nutritive (a.k.a. junk) food or the marketing that perpetuates the idea that it’s “normal.”  One thing that helps is keeping homemade, sweet treats on hand on a pretty regular basis.  Consequently I’ve come up with an arsenal of semi-healthy recipes that I can pull out when I’m starting to feel like the Big Mean Mommy Who Always Says No. Continue reading

Fringe Fitness Friday: Just Breathe

© Gloria-leigh | Stock Free Images

Have you ever had a friend say to you (with frustration), “I eat well, I exercise, I get good sleep, but I still don’t feel well?”  Maybe you’ve even said it yourself.  These are all important pieces of the wellness puzzle and they are all great.  Sometimes you stumble about the perfect combination and any dis-ease you are feeling disappears.  Some of us have to uncover those missing pieces.  Those hidden, internal stressors that may create symptoms or even sabotage our other efforts. Breath is one of these things.  We all know that we need air to live, but most of us leave it at that.  Breath is like food, however…the source and the quality  mean everything!

Continue reading

Wednesdays Without Barcodes: Teriyaki Bird Food

I have to admit, when snacking off the grid I sometimes feel like I eat a lot of bird food…so sometimes I have to get creative.  Nuts and seeds, when properly prepared are wonderful sources of healthy fats, complementary proteins and a host of micronutrients.

Sunflower seeds provide significant amounts of vitamin E, magnesium and selenium.  These nutrients are known to calm and detoxify the entire body, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and help prevent heart both heart disease and cancer (source).

Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are another super seed which are known for promoting prostate health, increasing bone density and reducing inflammation better than pharaceuticals!

“The healing properties of pumpkin seeds have also been recently investigated with respect to arthritis. In animal studies, the addition of pumpkin seeds to the diet has compared favorably with use of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin in reducing inflammatory symptoms. Importantly, though, pumpkin seeds did not have one extremely unwanted effect of indomethacin: unlike the drug, pumpkin seeds do not increase the level of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in the linings of the joints, a side-effect that actually contributes to the progression of arthritis.” (source)

Birds must be amazing healthy little critters, but I bet they are jealous that they don’t have these tasty seeds!

TERIYAKI BIRD FOOD
Ingredients

  • filtered water
  • 1 – 2 TBS Celtic sea salt
  • 1 lb raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 lb raw pumpkin seeds
  • 15 – 20 dates, soaked and drained
  • 1 TBS ginger
  • 2 TBS crushed garlic
  • 2 TBS soy sauce (use tamari for a gluten free version)

Preparation

  1. Place seeds in a large bowl and cover with filtered water.  Add 1 – 2 TBS of Celtic sea salt and soak 8 hours or overnight.  Drain.  Should be about 8 C soaked seeds.
  2. About an hour before seeds are done soaking bring a pot of filtered water to a boil and then remove from heat, add dates and cover.  Allow dates to soak for 1 hour.  Drain.
  3. In a food processor, process soaked dates until a smooth paste forms.
  4. Add ginger, garlic and soy sauce and continue to process.
  5. Scrape paste into bowl with soaked and drained seeds and mix well to coat.
  6. Place on non-stick dehydrator sheets and dehydrate for about 20 hours at 115° degrees. Or use the oven method (below)*.
  7. Store in air tight glass jars.

Eat Well, Be Well (Tweet, Tweet),
April

*OVEN DEHYDRATING METHOD
Spread items to be dehydrated out onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and place in the oven.  If you have a convection setting use it, if not, prop the door open using a small metal object such as a measuring cup to allow air to circulate.  Dehydrate at 150° (or your oven’s lowest possible temperature) for 8 – 12 hours or until crispy.  You will lose some of the enzymes with this method, but will still have a yummy treat!

This post was shared on Read Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Mama…Can We Erf?

© Theodor38 | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

It’s 100° in the shade in my neck of the woods.  Just thinking about going outside makes me sweat.  Yet my kids don’t seem at all fazed by the heat and they want to be out running in the grass every waking hour…sans shoes of course.  I have to remind myself that they are intuitive little beings and they know on an unexplainable level that absorbing direct sunlight, breathing fresh air and making contact with the earth are essential to our well-being.  They are unaffected by socials mores, weather and even safety.  It feels good, so they want to do it.

Earthing (or erf-ing to those 4 and under) is simply making contact to the earth with your skin.  A relatively new word, but certainly not a new concept.  Our primal ancestors wore no shoes and they slept on the ground.  They made contact with the earth 24/7.  Now, we live in insulated homes, wear insulated shoes, drive insulated cars, and work in insulated offices.  If we’re lucky we get a week at the beach to get grounded each summer.

Earthing & Health:
When we touch the earth we absorb trillions of negatively charged ions into our body and research has shown many benefits of Earthing including
  • Powerful antioxidant effects
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Shifts autonomic nervous system to parasympathetic “mode” ( this is the calming, “rest & digest” part)
  • Reduces stress
  • Thins blood by reducing blood viscosity
  • Normalizes cortisol rhythm and melatonin secretion (improves sleep)
  • Speeds healing time

Dr. Daniel Chong reports that his patients have less pain, increased healing and better sleep when they Earth regularly.

Earthing & EMFs:  some evidence suggests that Earthing may reduce negative effects of low-frequency EMFs (this is the kind that comes from devices in the home.)  Because we are 70% water, body voltage changes as you get closer or farther from an electrical source.  The voltage of the earth is 0 and when we make contact we return to 0 voltage as well…we literally ground ourselves.
Some recommend digging a hole in the ground or sand and lying in it…below the surface earth’s you escape the EMFs and can really experience the grounding benefits of the earth.  Now there’s something to add to the honey-do list!

So next time your little one asks to take off her shoes and run in the grass keep in mind the importance of touching the earth and how much we have to learn from those little cavemen that run around our house.

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

This post was shared on Monday Mania with The Healthy Home Economist

For more information go to Earthing.com and read Earthing by Clint Ober.

The Cabbage Song

Pound the cabbage.
Pound the cabbage.
Add the whey
and caraway.
Then you add the salt.
Tell me what you get.
Sauerkraut, Sauerkraut.
To the tune of Frere Jacques

Yep, we’re the freaks that make up songs about stuff like sauerkraut.  Actually the first time we sang it my now 3 year old sang “sauer-crap” which I thought was hysterical!  She didn’t get it at the time, but I couldn’t help myself…I had to record it!  We’ve been making it for years and the kids have been helping since they were old enough to “pound the cabbage.”  And what little kid doesn’t love to pound stuff right? Put that energy to work! Continue reading

To B or Not to B: Micronutrient Deficiencies and Supplementation

© Dudau | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
I was so caught up in the Real Food Summit last week that I hardly had time to post about it.  If you didn’t get a chance to check it out, you can purchase all 27 lectures plus a boatload of bonus materials for what I think is a steal considering the wealth of information that was covered over those nine days.  Anyway, one of the most interesting presentations, in my opinion, was given by Mira & Jayson Calton and was about micronutrient deficiency.  This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I’ve had some personal experience with deficiencies despite my real food diet.  It happens…to most of us in fact.  And whether we realize it or not our cells pay the price.  Never forget, we live and die at the cellular level.

Eating with the Season: Zucchini Pancakes

Got summer squash coming out of your ears?  Here’s a wonderful recipe (adapted from allrecipes) for zucchini pancakes that’s great for breakfast lunch or dinner!  Substitute any type of cheese you like.  Top with fresh sliced tomatoes, a fried egg or both…you can’t go wrong! 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup sprouted flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil (enough to generously cover the bottom of the pan)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and then add the zucchini, onion, flour, cheese, and salt. Stir well enough to distribute ingredients evenly.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop zucchini mixture by heaping spoonful, and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden. Add more oil as needed.

 

Eat Well, Be Well,
April
 

Wednesdays Without Barcodes: Creamy Dill Sauce

© Tanyae | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

If you’ve been as inspired as I have by the Real Food Summit and you are trying to incorporate more fish into your diet, here’s a quick and easy sauce that goes great with almost any fish and includes dill, which is a great herb on so many levels…and it’s in season!

“Dill’s unique health benefits come from two types of healing components: monoterpenes, including carvone, limonene, and anethofuran; and flavonoids, including kaempferol and vicenin. 

The monoterpene components of dill have been shown to activate the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps attach the anti-oxidant molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that would otherwise do damage in the body. The activity of dill’s volatile oils qualify it as a “chemoprotective” food (much like parsley) that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens, such as the benzopyrenes that are part of cigarette smoke, charcoal grill smoke, and the smoke produced by trash incinerators.” (source)

INGREDIENTS:
1 C full fat sour cream
3 – 4 TBS chopped dill
1 TBS prepared horseradish
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients and taste test.  Adjust dill and horseradish as needed.  That’s it…easy peasy!  Serve with fish or veggies.

Eat Well, Be Well,
April

This post was shared on Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop

One Fish or Two Fish: A Balancing Act

© Softdreams | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos
I’ve been on a sort of vacation from myself lately…which we all need now and then.  Just to step out of our own heads for a bit and completely relax.  (Not so) coincidentally, this coincided with our family’s beach vacation where I had very limited access to the internet and very plentiful access to sugar, carbs and other naughty foods.  I survived, and so did my kids.  I’m not advocating a regularly scheduled food free for all…but sometimes it’s nice not to think about what I have to soak or ferment or feed for a little bit.
Anyway, we are back to home cooked meals and reliable internet and just in time for the Real Food Summit.  If you haven’t heard about this, please check it out and register now.  You’ve missed the first day but there are still eight more days of free real food lectures from some of your favorite doctors, authors, nutritionists and bloggers. 
I’ll be tuning in whenever I can and I’ll try to report back on some of the more interesting sessions.  Yesterday one of my real food heroes, Chris Kresser, gave a wonderful presentation on the importance of eating fish and seafood.  I’ve been meaning to do a post on this for a while now but his presentation gave me the inspiration and the information to make it happen! 

Along with being a great protein source, fish and seafood are the only dietary source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids as well as hard to find nutrients such as selenium, iodine and vitamin D.  
Omega-3:
Omega-3 has become a household word, and we all know how important omega-3 fatty acids are for good health but just to sum it up for you:

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation. (source)

However, it’s a bit more complicated than just getting your omega-3s…
Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio:
Traditionally we had diets high in omega-3 and low in omega-6 fatty acids…a ratio roughly between 1:1 & 3:1.  Many feel that this ratio helped protect us from modern diseases of inflammation.  When the industrial revolution made it easy to process grains and seeds, vegetable oils began to be marketed as healthy alternatives to animal fats.  Around this same time, industrial farms were popping up and moving their cattle to a grain based diet.  This diet makes beef disproportionately high in omega-6s.  Today the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in most American diets is somewhere between 10:1 & 25:1.
So this begs the question…
What’s the Problem with Omega-6?
Omega 6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory.  Because they compete for the same conversion enzymes (the little guys that help to convert omega-3s into EPA & DHA), a diet high in omega-6s will essentially steal the conversion enzymes away from the omega-3’s and the body will have difficulty converting the essential omega-3s after a while.   This creates a chronic inflammatory environment in the body and makes us prone to modern diseases of inflammation such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression and anxiety to name a few. 
“The increase in world linoleic acid consumption—that’s omega-6—over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression and cardiovascular mortality.” –Dr. Joseph Hibbelen, NIH
It’s no secret that omega-6s have this affect.  In fact, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories work to  “reduce the formation of inflammatory compounds that are derived from omega-6 fatty acids.”
Now back to the fish…
What About Nuts & Seeds?
While foods like walnuts and flaxseeds are sources of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) these sources are not converted efficiently in humans.  Less than 5% of ALA converts to EPA and less that 0.5% of ALA converts to DHA.  If a person has other disease factors (stress, nutrient deficiencies etc.) that conversion may be even lower.  Several studies have found that ALA supplements do not raise DHA levels significantly and that nutrient deficiency further decreases conversion.  Therefore, it may be wise to consider including animal sources (i.e. fish) of omega-3 in your diet lest you find yourself in a chronic inflammatory state.
 
Other Benefits of Fish:
Most people are deficient in the following micronutrients which are all found in fish and seafood:
  • Iodine:  supports thyroid function, metabolism, gut function & immune health
  • Selenium:  important antioxidant enzyme which regulates thyroid and increases immunity.  FYI Brazil nuts are the highest source of this nutrient!  Because selenium binds with mercury, mercury containing fish are not a good source, but the flip side of this is that the selenium protects us from the oxidative brain damage associated with mercury ingestion.
  • Vitamin D:  strengthens bones, balances the immune system and lowers disease risk.  We can get this from the sun but conversion is not the same for everyone.  Inflammation and obesity can prevent proper conversion.
How Much Fish and What Kind?
If you eat a lot of processed foods, cook with vegetable oils and eat at restaurants a lot your omega 6s are likely very high.  In this case you are going to need to eat a lot of fish to balance out the omegas in your diet.  If you have a more whole food diet, Chris Kresser recommends 1 lb of cold water fatty fish/week.  These are the highest in the long-chain omega-3 fats and include:  salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Is It Safe:  What About Mercury, Dioxins and PCBs?:
Mercury is definitely a neurotoxin and we should limit exposure (especially if pregnant or otherwise at risk) however, some of the mercury hype is not entirely accurate because it ignores the role of selenium.  When selenium and mercury are present together the mercury can not bind to body tissue.  There are very few fish that have a “Negative Selenium Health Benefit Value” (SeHBV) meaning that they have more less selenium than mercury.  A few include: tarpon, marlin, swordfish, shark and pilot whale.
Dioxins and PCBs are other toxins that should be avoided, as they have a strong link to cancer, but fish are not a high source of these chemicals.  In fact, factory beef and chicken have a much higher level of these toxins.  Research shows that the small risk of these toxins seems to be outweighed by the benefits…specifically the protection against heart disease. 
Can I Just Take Fish Oil?
You can, but it’s not as effective.  Our body wants to absorb nutrients from whole foods…it’s how we are made.  One study found 9 times more absorption of DHA & EPA from whole fish than fish oil supplements.  Also, fish contains other nutrients not present in fish oil. 
What About Overfishing?
As with all food choices, know your source and support sustainability in anyway you can!  The Marine Stewardship Council’s Fish to Eat guide can help guide your choices.
Eat Well, Be Well,
April
 
For more information here is a great article by Chris Kresser.
This post was shared on Monday Mania with The Healthy Home Economist.