Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sneaky Nutrition Part I

Doesn't that sound terrible to have to use sneaky and nutrition in the same title? I mean really, nutrition should never be sneaky. It should be right out in the open and whole nutritious food should be celebrated! Unfortunately that is not how it works in the land of children. Children eat for completely different reasons than adults do. It starts as hunger for them and then it's a feast of the eyes and nose. If it looks pretty and smells fragrant you are in. That is why the shelves in your grocery store are lined with brightly colored boxes of dyed food that contain less than zero nutrition and yet they are bestsellers. So I thought it might be fun from time to time if Shannan and I shared some ways that we are "sneaking" in some nutrition at home.

Some of my latest adventures include:

  • Adding avocado to tuna fish. Now the first hurdle to overcome of course is getting your child to eat tuna. I have one who like myself loves tuna and she and I have it quite often. The other day I took a few slices of avocado and mashed it in with the tuna. It make it really creamy. L. was a little skeptical as she didn't like the way the avocado smelled, but I told her it was very healthy and she would love it. She ate the whole sandwich and declared it the best tuna sandwich ever! By the way, avocados are chock full of nutrition with at least 20 different vitamins and minerals. It's also a great source of monounsaturated fat (the good kind) which helps with absorption of those fat-soluble nutrients and gives you tons of energy to conquer your day.
  • Letting them eat shelled peanuts on the kitchen floor. This one was a little more difficult for me, but it worked. I want the kids to eat more nuts and whole grains. Unfortunately, nuts are small, brown, hard, unattractive, and don't really smell great. Therefore they are not interested! So, I had a crazy idea to buy peanuts in the shell and let them peel them open and eat them. It worked. They had so much fun tearing into the peanuts that they didn't realize how many of the little peanuts they were consuming in the process. Of course I had a bit of a mess to clean up, but nothing a dustpan and broom couldn't handle. Hopefully they will realize how much they really like peanuts and I won't have to let them shell them forever! Peanuts by the way are a wonderful source of plant protein with 6.7 grams in an ounce. They are again a wonderful source of monounsaturated fat. Peanuts are a great source of fiber. One handful of peanuts contains 9% of your total fiber intake for the day. Wow! They also contain a ton of vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
  • Adding dates to our Green Smoothies. We continue to love making Shannan's Green Smoothies and I'm always experimenting with new things to add. This week I added three or four dates to the smoothie and blended them in. Those dates increased the sweet factor by 100%. L. couldn't believe I was letting her drink something so sweet. Dates contain about 20 vitamins and minerals and a surprising amount of protein. They contain 2g of protein for every 3-4 ounces of dates. I know commercial smoothies contain alot of sugar and the kids love that. If you add some dates to your smoothie they will not miss the sugar and the nutrition they will receive from the dates is fantastic.

Well that's it for now. We will keep you updated as new sneaky nutrition tips become available! Until then, Happy Sneaking!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Benefits of Juicing

I find it curious that since I have made my interest in holistic nutrition known, several people, friends of mine, have asked me if I am doing anything crazy with my diet. My response is "if eating more vegetables and fruit is crazy, then I guess I am." And in my quest to add more whole plant foods to my diet, I have been juicing which provides not only an easy way to consume large amounts of vegetables and fruits, but has numerous health benefits.

If you are looking for an easy and effective way to do something good for you body, consider the health benefits of juicing. Juicing is preparing and drinking fruit and vegetable juices, and the many health benefits of juicing far exceed those of eating solid fruits and vegetables.

For one thing, the body can quickly absorb larger amounts of nutrients from juices than from solid foods because the process of digestion that is necessary when you eat whole foods is bypassed. Raw fruits and vegetables contain many substances that enhance health, and juicing benefits the body by providing the most concentrated and readily absorbed source of these substances.

Another one of the major health benefits of juicing is that it is an easy way to get beneficial enzymes, which are primarily found in raw foods, into the body. Enzymes in fresh fruits and vegetables have the vital role of converting food into body tissue and energy. Enzymes are also involved in metabolism, so one of the more valuable health benefits of juicing is that it can increase metabolic rate. Juicing also ensures that the body is getting sufficient amounts of phytochemicals, substances in plants that are considered among the most powerful ways to fight disease. While most people do not eat enough raw fruits and vegetables to obtain the amount of phytochemicals that would make a difference, it is relatively easy to drink enough juice to obtain sufficient amounts of these powerful nutrients. In addition, antioxidants and other immune enhancing properties are concentrated in juices.

Juicing can therefore help to accelerate recovery from illness. In fact, juicing with specific combinations of fruits or vegetables can target particular conditions and improve or alleviate symptoms.

Among the most interesting health benefits of juicing are its anti-aging benefits and its potential for alleviating symptoms of depression. The effects of juicing on depression are accomplished by providing a concentrated source of minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, and folic acid. Deficiencies of these nutrients are associated with symptoms of depression.

Further, the concentration of antioxidants in juices combats the damaging effects that free radicals have on skin and muscle. Juicing can help keep skin free from wrinkles and muscles well toned. In addition, increasing the intake of antioxidants by juicing can slow the onset of age-related illnesses.

In conjunction with its positive effects on health, the benefits of juicing also include the fact that it is relatively cost effective and convenient, especially if you prepare your own juices. By staying healthy as a result of increasing your intake of fresh juices, you can also reduce the need for expensive medications. Since there are no side effects associated with juicing, you can drink as much juice as you are able to tolerate, thereby maximizing health benefits. There are many tasty combinations of fruits and vegetables, and the variety of juices that can be prepared are likely to keep you in the habit of juicing once you realize the many health benefits that doing so can provide.

Juicing Tips

1. Use organic vegetables whenever possible. If organic is not available, wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before juicing.

2. Drink fresh juice right away in order to receive the maximum nutritional benefits. Nutrients begin breaking down immediately. Juice can be stored in an air-tight container filled to the top for up to 24 hours if necessary.

3. In general a pound of produce will give you a cup of juice.

4. Rotate the types of vegetables you are juicing to receive the maximum health benefit.

5. Celery, cucumber, cranberry and watermelon can help reduce water retention.

6. Green leafy vegetables are highly recommended. Try Red leaf lettuce, Green leaf lettuce, Romaine lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Chard, Parsley and Cabbage.

Happy Juicing - Shannan

Source: http://www.bestofjuicing.com, http://www.best-juicing.com, http://www.healingdaily.com/

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Klean Kanteen

Now that Christmas is officially over I can write about a product I'm really excited about. I purchased a few for our parents and didn't want to ruin the Christmas surprise! :)

Klean Kanteen's are 18/8 food-grade stainless steel beverage containers that come in 12 oz., 18 oz., 27 oz., and 40 oz. sizes. I received a stainless steel beverage container awhile back and love it. I can refill it with filtered water and carry it with me everywhere. I feel good about not throwing away plastic bottles and I don't worry about harmful chemicals leeching from my drink container. Did you know that 38 billion plastic water bottles are thrown out every year and only 23% are recycled. It makes so much more sense to me to refill a safe container that I can take with me and not have the waste of throwing out bottles.

For all of you fellow frugal minded folks like myself consider this. A bottle of water can cost anywhere from $.20 a bottle (a flat at Costco) to $1.00 (vending machine or at the health club). These bottles cost from $14 to $18 depending on the size and where you purchase. If you previously drank 2-3 bottles of water a day you will have paid for your purchase of one of these bottles in as little as 6-30 days. After that you are saving money by reusing a Klean Kanteen and you aren't adding more waste in a landfill somewhere. It's also really nice not to lug that big flat of water home anymore!! :)

Because your Klean Kanteen is made of food-grade stainless steel you can fill it with any type of beverage as the metal itself is safe and will not leech any harmful chemicals or toxins. Click here to read more about storage container material concerns. Klean Kanteens are easy to clean. They are dishwasher safe or can be washed with a mild soap and bottle brush.

One disappointment I had upon receiving my Klean Kanteen's was to find that they are manufactured in China. My concerns with this include fair trade, possible contamination with lead or other materials, and I'm very pro-American labor and American products. Unfortunately Ethos and Sigg (two of Klean Kanteen's biggest competitors) also manufacture in China so we don't have alot of other options. Klean Kanteen reassures it's customers that they participate in fair trade and maintain a set of prudent checks and balances to ensure that their products are produced safely and sustainably. Representatives of Klean Kanteen visit China several times a year to meet with management and many of the workers at production sites. They also allow major retailers to inspect their factories themselves. In addition, Klean Kanteens are laboratory tested on a regular basis to monitor product content and quality. This is particularly reassuring if you purchase a painted bottle - no lead!

If you are interested in purchasing, check out their website. You can order directly from their site or you can find a retailer in your area. Also check out the cool accessories that go with these bottles. They have tons of different caps to choose from including a sports cap, stainless steel flat cap, they even have a sippy top cap. They have insulators, nylon slings, and a bike cage that fits the Kanteen. They even have a stainless steel Wine Karafe. Cool stuff! Do something for yourself and for the environment. Check out a Klean Kanteen today.


Friday, December 26, 2008

5 Foods Pregnant Women Should Eat Organic

This doctor was on CNN's House Call a couple weeks ago and I thought it was very interesting so I am passing it along. Although the article is focused on pregnant women, I think we could all use this information.
- Shannan

By eating strategically we can reclaim our streams, our food, and our future. Here’s my take on the top five organic food choices a pregnant woman can make for the sake of her baby and the health of the planet:

If you eat beef during pregnancy, I strongly suggest choosing organic beef. The meat from grass-fed, organically raised cattle tends to be leaner overall and has about five times the omega-3s of its conventional counterpart. In contrast, a 2007 study published in the Oxford journal Human Reproduction linked mothers who ate beef from conventionally raised cattle during pregnancy with lower sperm counts years later in their adult sons. The men in the study whose mothers ate conventional beef most frequently had sperm counts that averaged 24 percent lower than their counterparts, and they were three times more likely to be infertile. The authors of the study believe the added hormones were the culprit.

If you drink milk, opt for organic. Milk from organic, pasturefed cows is produced without antibiotics, artificial hormones, and pesticides, and can also provide extra omega-3s and beta-carotene. I find that when women start making organic choices for themselves and for their families, they often intuitively start at the top of the food chain with organic milk. They understand that the foods they eat and the medicines they take will often get into their breast milk, so they easily make the connection that the medicines and foods given to dairy cows may affect their family’s health. They prefer avoiding the routine use of antibiotics, artificial hormones, pesticides, and genetically modified feed. And I agree. Recent USDA monitoring data found that 27 percent of the conventional milk samples contained synthetic pyrethroid pesticides. By contrast, lower levels of the pesticide showed up in just 5 percent of the organic samples.

When making the switch to organic vegetables, be sure to put potatoes on your shopping list. As the number one consumed vegetable in the United States, conventionally farmed white potatoes also have one of the highest levels of pesticide contamination. So by switching to organic, you can make a big difference in two important ways: by lowering your own exposure to chemical pesticides and by using your consumer clout to create a bigger market for the organic version of this popular veggie. And be sure to eat the peels! That way you will get all the available nutrients, including high levels of potassium and Vitamin C.

Among fruits, I would start with apples. Based on head-to-head, controlled studies, organic apples tend to have higher nutrient levels and taste better than the conventional variety. And sadly, conventionally grown apples are one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits tested by the USDA. They are a major source of exposure to organophosphate pesticide, a chemical linked to decreased intelligence and increased attention problems in kids and hormone problems in adults.

Products made from organic whole soy beans can be a wonderfully nutritious food. Unfortunately only a tiny fraction of the nation’s soy crop is currently organic. And to make matters worse, 87 percent of the conventionally grown soy I the United States is genetically modified-and most of the domestic crop. What’s more, in recent years, soy has been the domestic crop most contaminated with organophosphate pesticides. Yes it’s hard to avoid soy - it’s found in virtually any processed food you eat these days, from soup to nuts. The only way out of this situation is to make sure that the processed foods you purchase are organic. That way you’ll know that any soy you’re eating wasn’t genetically altered, and wasn’t grown with pesticides. So be sure to check the label before you buy.

– Dr. Alan GreeneDr. Greene is the author of Raising Baby Green, founder of http://www.drgreene.com/, chief medical officer of A.D.A.M., chair of The Organic Center, a member of the advisory board of Healthy Child Healthy World and clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University's Packard Children's Hospital.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Deciphering Food Labels

I don't know about you, but I get a little confused by some of the food labels these days. My eye tends to gravitate toward things that say organic, natural, hormone-free, but what does it all really mean? Below is a list I have compiled that may help decipher all of the packaging we are faced with each day.

Conventional - product or produce is made conventionally with commonly used pesticides, chemicals, herbicides, fungicides, etc.

Transitional - product is working toward certification process and is in the three-year period where they are meeting organic standards in practice but cannot be certified until the land or the products produced form produce or wheat from that farmland have been in practice for at least three years. This helps ensure that the chemicals previously used are dissipating for the soil. Farmland used to grow the produce must be free of chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, etc) for at least three (3) years. During the three year period, they are considered "transitional" and before that they were simply conventional.

100% Organic - exclusively organic ingredients or single ingredient products like eggs, fruit or vegetables. These items can carry the USDA Organic seal.

Organic - 95% of the product is made of organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). These items can carry the USDA Organic seal.

Made with Organic Ingredients - ingredients are 70 - 95% organic; organic ingredients are specified on the label.

Less than 70% Organic - product has some organic ingredients but less than 70%.

Natural - does not mean organic; natural simply means that there are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives in that product and that it is minimally processed. All produce and one ingredient items like eggs, beef and chicken are "natural" so this means almost nothing.

Free Range - does not equate to organic. Usually used for poultry or eggs, this means that they have some access to roam. This does not necessarily mean outdoor pasture.

Hormone-Free - does not mean organic. The animals were not given hormones, like growth hormones, usually applies to dairy cows and cattle.

Certified Naturally Grown - The Certified Naturally Grown label is used on items produced on smaller farms that grow using USDA Certified Organic methods and sell locally; it's like USDA Certified Organic Lite. This non-profit labeling program does away with the high cost of certification and the mountains of paperwork required to track crops from seed to sale in order to be labeled USDA Certified Organic. Small-scale farmers that use this eco-friendly label do so to emphasize the natural farming methods used to grow your food.

Fair Trade Certified - The Fair Trade Certified label helps to ensure that farmers are paid fair, above market prices for their products. It also guarantees that farm workers are paid fairly for their labor. Buying Fair Trade Certified employs sustainable farming practices, which protects everyone's health and helps preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations. Look for this label on coffee, teas, chocolates, bananas, sugar, cocoa and even honey, as well as imported commodities.

Sources: www.deliciousorganics.com and http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/Food-Label-Decoder-451003

Friday, December 19, 2008

Red Raspberry

My latest course from Trinity is called Herbal Preparations and is based around the fantastic book by Max G. Barlow called From the Shepherd's Purse. So now I'm all excited about talking about herbs again and want to share a few favorites with you.

One of my favorite herbs and one that I think women of all ages should have in their pantry is Red Raspberry. (Rubus strigosis, Rubus idaeus L., Rubus leucodermis, or Rubus villosus). Red raspberry can be found throughout the entire United States and is adept at growing in almost any climate. You can find this bush growing wild or in cultivated gardens. The bark,leaves, roots and berries are all used in herbal preparations.


Red raspberry ranks high in iron, manganese, niacin, calcium, magnesium, selenium, vitamin A and vitamin C. It also contains vitamin B, vitamin D, vitamin E vitamin F, potassium, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus.

Natural Healing:

Red Raspberry, because of it's unique combination of nutrients, shows an affinity for the uterus. Listen to this incredible laundry list of ways this herb can help women of any age. Red raspberry can alleviate female abdominal cramps, reduce menstrual bleeding, alleviate morning sickness (especially when combined with peppermint), stop false labor pains, tone the uterus in preparation for childbirth, reduce labor pains, ease childbirth, increase and enrich the milk supply of a nursing mother, strengthen the uterine wall, and reduce hot flashes.

Red Raspberry can also promote healthy nails, bones, teeth and skin (it's the calcium); stop diarrhea; heal canker sores, mouth sores, and sore throats when used as a gargle or mouth rinse; balance hyperglycemia and mild high blood pressure; and treat colds, flu, and fevers.

How to Use:
  • As mentioned before...I like to use about an ounce of herb in a smoothie or sprinkle a little on a salad. This herb in the leaf form is perfect for either of these choices

  • Make a tea or standard infusion to drink. See directions below.

  • For constipation mix an ounce of Raspberry Leaves and 1 1/2 ounces of flax seeds and prepare a standard infusion.

How to prepare a Standard Infusion:

A standard infusion is simply another term for tea and is one of the easiest ways to take herbal remedies. The usual ratio of herb to water is 1 1/2 ounces of herb to 1 quart of water. Here is my favorite way to make an infusion or tea.

  1. Place ground herb into a teapot, suitable glass, or stainless steel container.

  2. Pour in just enough cold water to moisten the plant material.

  3. Bring distilled water to a boil and pour over moistened herb. Do not bring the herbs themselves to a boil.

  4. Let steep for 15 minutes, then pass tea through a strainer. Standard infusions do not last long and should be discarded after several hours.

I think I might just head out to the kitchen and brew myself a pot of this wonderful herb right now. By the way, for those of you who live nearby...I have a ton of this in my pantry if you would like to try it. If you don't live locally, try Frontier or Mountain Rose Herbs. They sell very high quality herbs.



Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. New York, New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 2006. ISBN 1-58333-236-7

Barlow, Max G. From The Shepherd's Purse. Hong Kong: Asiaprint Limited, 1990. ISBN 0-9602812-0-7.

Lepore, Donald. The Ultimate Healing System. Orem, UT: Woodland Publishing, Inc., 1985. ISBN 1-885670-08-7

Pedersen, Mark. Nutritional Herbology. Warsaw, IN: Wendell W. Whitman Company, 1998. ISBN 1-885653-07-7

Shook, Edward E. Advanced Treatise in Herbology. Warsaw, Indiana: Wendell W. Whitman Company, 1999.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Community Supported Agriculture

While my days are currently filled with holiday preparations, slush and snow, I thought to check into my local organic farms and started investigating which one I would like to purchase a share of next year. The vision of taking the girls to pick up our box of fresh fruits and veggies on a warm summer day really gets me excited! I know that is a little weird, but I don't love winter and it started really early around here this year. Therefore, I embrace my visions of warmer days.

In case you are new to it, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way for the public to establish a direct relationship with local farms to purchase a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a particular farm, you become a "member", "shareholder" or "subscriber"of the CSA. Most CSA farmers prefer that members pay for the season up front and they are currently filling membership for 2009, although you can find some that offer a payment program or will accept monthly or weekly payments. The CSA season generally runs from late spring through early fall. The weekly produce you receive depends on what is grown at the farm you choose and what is in season.

So how do you find a local farm? Check out Local Harvest. This site allows you to enter your state or zip code to find farms in your area along with a description of each farm and contact information. In addition, you can find on-line stores, farmer's markets, restaurants and grocery/coops.
This is a great way to cut down on trips to the grocery store, get a variety of fresh organic fruits and veggies and support your local farmers. In addition, many farms also offer fresh, organic eggs, poultry, goat's milk, fresh flowers, etc. at an extra charge.

Note: The only criticism I have heard from people who have previously subscribed to a CSA is that there are often a lot of greens in the box that they don't know what to do with. My suggestion, put them in your Green Smoothie!

- Shannan

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Aluminum Cookware

About half of all cookware marketed today is made of aluminum or a teflon coated aluminum. It's twice as hard as stainless steel, it conducts heat 28 times faster than glass, and it's nonstick for life. It has seemingly revolutionized the way we cook, but there are some serious questions being raised about the safety of this metal. Aluminum is a toxic metal and not one that the body needs.

What happens to food when it is cooked in Aluminum?

When food is cooked in an aluminum pot a reaction occurs between the pot and the food, causing the aluminum to displace many of the other metal minerals the food may contain, such as, iron, zinc, manganese, chrome, magnesium and copper. Your body doesn't receive the beneficial metals (minerals) that it needs and instead receives the toxic aluminum which accumulates in the brain and nervous system tissues. In addition foods cooked in aluminum produce a substance that neutralizes the digestive juices, leading to acidoses and ulcers.

Highly Acidic Foods will also cause the same reaction...

It isn't just cooking in aluminum that causes this to happen though. Aluminum storage containers, utensils, serveware, and drinkware will all react in the same way when they come into contact with a highly acidic food. Examples of highly acidic foods are coffee, cheese, meats, black and green tea, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, turnips, spinach and radishes.

Aluminum Toxicity has been linked to several conditions...

  • Research has linked Aluminum toxicity to Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Downs, and Epilepsy due to it's accumulation in brain and nervous system tissues.

  • The presence of aluminum especially in the brain, blocks the normal reactions that involve the mineral zinc and can manifest as a zinc deficiency.

  • Aluminum is excreted through the kidneys so toxic amounts of aluminum may impair kidney function.

  • Other possible problems include colic, gastrointestinal disturbances, poor calcium metabolism, extreme nervousness, anemia, headaches, decreased liver function, forgetfulness, speech distrubances,memory loss, softening of the bones and weak aching muscles.

Other cookware to avoid:

  • Avoid the use of Teflon as it's a toxic chemical coating. The pan that the Teflon coats is usually aluminum and if you've ever owned anything Teflon it isn't long before the Teflon is flaking off into your food (bad) and exposing the aluminum below (even worse).

  • Avoid enamel pots as these usually contain cadmium which is also a toxic metal.

  • Plastics are also suspect for cooking and especially microwaving. When heated the plastic will leech several things not the least of which is the BPH which has been linked to infertility and several other problems.

The best materials to use for cooking and storage

So what should you use for cooking and storage. Stainless steel is always a good choice. Stainless steel is a combination of iron and chrome. Both of these minerals are essential minerals to the body. Glass or Corning Ware are also good choices.

What can you do to rid your body of aluminum

One big thing you can do to get rid of aluminum in the digestive tract is to eat apples. The pectin in the apples actually binds with metals in the colon and excretes them from the body. The herbs burdock root echinacea, ginsent, gingko biloba and fiber when taken regulary are good for blocking damage to the body by toxic heavy metals and radiation.

So you probably don't need to run out and buy all new cookware (although Christmas is coming...), but as you replace things in your kitchen try to replace with metals or glass that is kinder to your body!


Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription For Nutritional Healing. New York, NY: Penguin Books Ltd., 2006. ISBN 1-58333-236-7.

Lepore, Donald. The Ultimate Healing System. Orem, UT: Woodland Publishing Inc., 1985. ISBN 1-885670-08-7

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sinus Rinse

For the past two years it seems that everytime I get a cold it turns into a sinus infection. By my last visit to the doctor for yet another antibiotic, I asked what I could do to curb this cycle out of pure desperation. The doctor really didn't offer any solutions, but the nurse returned to the room a few minutes later and suggested using a sinus rinse/netty pot as she does.

I have to say I was a little grossed out by the thought of rinsing my nasal passages, but I was willing to give it a shot. So, I headed to my local Walgreens and found the NeilMed Sinus Rinse Kit. The kit includes a special bottle and 50 premixed packets of nasal rinse made of USP Grade (99.9% pure) Sodium Chloride & Sodium Bicarbonate Mixture (pH Balanced, Isotonic & Preservative & Iodine Free). It also comes with directions which I read thoroughly before attempting the rinse. Once you have the bottle you can just purchase a 100 pack of the premixed packets.

The first couple times I tried this, I can't say I liked the feeling. It was basically like getting water up your nose when you are swimming. But, once I perfected my water temperature (you want it on the warm side, but not hot), I became addicted.

Now, I rinse everyday in the shower and have not had to go as far as getting an antibiotic since I started this ritual. This doesn't mean I have gone cold free, but I have been able to get over it on my own which I think is great!

Happy rinsing, Shannan

Friday, December 12, 2008

Join a Food Coop

About 2 years ago I joined a food coop where I live. At that time I really wanted to make the change to eating more natural and organic foods, but couldn't see paying the high prices that I encountered at most grocery stores. I met the leader of my coop, E., through a friend of a friend who had referred me for an unrelated reason. Through the course of our conversation E. told me about the coop and invited me to join and check it out. There has really been no end to the benefits of joining this group. Being a part of a coop allows access to high quality food at low prices and access to a whole group of people who care about their health and want to make better choices. The friendships I have made in my coop have challenged me, allowed me to learn more, and try products that I may not otherwise have been exposed to.

When I joined this coop we were, in the words of one of the members, a "buying club". We had a distributor that we ordered most of our food from and on a given night we would all gather to sort and claim our food and then go home. In the last few months our coop has been changing in a very exciting way. We unfortunately lost our distributor that we loved dearly to rough economic times, but this forced us to be more independent and creative in the way that we obtained our food. Now each member of the coop has a vendor that they procure food from for the group and on delivery night we all bring something. My vendor is an awesome farm in Michigan that grows all of their own organic grains and beans and grinds their own flour. We have a place for frozen organic blueberries and cherries; certified organic meat; organic apples and cider; a cheese place that offers raw milk cheddar; raw goat's milk; raw cow's milk; a place in California that sells raw nuts, nut butters and other raw items; a natural and organic bread company; and the list goes on. Doesn't that sound awesome? I will, as time allows, feature some of these places in this blog for you to check out.

I know the coop idea sounds like a lot of work, but there really are some great benefits to shopping in this way over strictly using a grocery store or health food store. I get to shop from roughly 17 vendors that I trust and "know" through the coop, but I only have to do the research and work with one vendor. I can't emphasize enought the importance of knowing your farmer when possible. Almost daily you hear of tainted meat, produce, milk products, and etc. from media reports and it's comforting to know where the majority of your food is coming from and know you can trust their farming practices. Another benefit is the savings that you realize by buying in bulk directly from the vendor. There isn't a food store markup. Just last night I picked up some beautiful frozen organic cherries from the coop and the price was at least $.15/pound cheaper than frozen non-organic cherries in the grocery store. Wow! Lastly, joining a food coop allows relationships with people who are interested in the same things you are and they can encourage you and teach you along the way on your path to better health.

Unfortunately most coops including the one I belong to don't advertise so finding one may prove challenging. Check with local organic growers as well as in local health food stores. Even better, grab a group of friends that are interested in changing how they eat and start your own coop. Google organic and your state and see what you find. You may be surprised to find you have some great resources right in your own back yard. I did find a web site called Local Harvest where you can enter your zip code and get a list of local farms, coops, and resources. Please feel free to email me any questions or concerns regarding coop membership and I will try to point you in the right direction.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Start Strong

I truly look at every new day as a fresh start when it comes to diet and exercise. As I find my way through this transition to a healthier whole food diet, I experience downfalls on certain days or certain times of the day.

It takes time to incorporate new habits into your everyday life and eating is a huge part of our daily routine. Where am I at? Well, I start each day strong with a healthy breakfast, go to the gym, have my green smoothie right when I get home and eat a healthy lunch. It is the afternoon that tends to be a problem for me. That is when I want something sweet and will make poor choices (like digging into the leftover Halloween candy). By dinnertime I am usually back on track since I planned for that meal earlier in the day.

So what is the solution? If you have a difficult time of the day like I do, we all know that planning a not-so-bad snack is the key. That is my goal for next week. I need to find a few things that will satisfy my sweet tooth without blowing my whole day.

There was a time when I would have beat myself up or felt very depressed for falling off the diet or exercise wagon, but that just isn't productive. If you are having a hard time, take a moment to identify either the time of day or maybe the temptation or the excuse for not exercising. You know what is going on with yourself so work on solvng the problem, but give yourself a break too. At least you are trying!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Supplementation

Very soon I am going to want to do a few posts on how to tell if you are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals and how best to correct those deficiencies through good nutrition and herbal therapy. I thought it might be helpful to talk about vitamin supplementation in general first though to give you a little background. If you have walked into any drugstore or health food store all the little bottles lining the shelves with every vitamin, mineral, and enzyme know to man can be a little overwhelming to say the least. What is the best supplement for vitamin C, folic acid, iron, or lactase??

Nutrients such as vitamins and minerals do not exist in a vacuum in our bodies. They all work with other nutrients and perform complex chemical reactions to build new tissue, heal our bodies and keep organ systems functioning. My daughter recently drew a picture of the inside of the human body based on her perception. She drew a stomach with an elevator that went up to the mouth. When the stomach was full the elevator stopped working and there you have it. Very funny! Sometimes I think the supplement industry would have us believe that our bodies are just that fragmented. As if the body has various storage units for vitamins and minerals and when say our magnesium unit is empty; we just drop in a magnesium tablet and there you go. Rudolph Ballentine, MD says in his book Diet and Nutrition: A Holistic Approach that "We have created a bizarre situation in which our food is fragmented and sold to us in bits and pieces so that we are faced with the impossible task of trying to reassemble what amounts to a biochemical Humpty Dumpty." The real story is that in order to assimilate one nutrient several other nutrients are needed. Let me give you an example. Did you know that magnesium is much more effective when taken with vitamin C? Oranges, lemons, grapefruits and green leafy vegetables are all rich in vitamin C and magnesium. Zinc is much more effective when in the presence of phosphorus and foods such as sunflower seeds, brazil nuts and peanuts are rich in both. You see where I'm going with this...just taking a single nutrient supplement does not ensure proper absorption and use of that nutrient in the same way that eating a whole food does.

Through my study of nutrition and naturopathy, I would first recommend eating eat a well-balanced diet of whole foods. If you are experiencing symptoms that correspond with a deficiency of a vitamin or mineral, first research what foods are rich in that vitamin or mineral. Next, take a look at herbs and see if there is one that is particularly high in that nutrient. Herbs can be made into tea, added to smoothies, or sprinkled on a salad. Lastly, look for supplements in a health food store that are whole food supplements or made from herbal sources. I like to follow a good, better, best philosophy when making any changes for the benefit of your health. In this circumstance, good would be changing from synthetic vitamins (what is that stuff?) to a natural vitamin. Better would be changing to a bottled whole food or herbal supplement. Just read the label and see what the main ingredients are. Best would be eating high quality food or herbs rich in the nutrients that you need.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Amazing Herbs

I love working with dried bulk herbs. I know that sounds odd, but the more I learn about herbology through my naturopathy course, the more I really appreciate the value of using whole herbs for both nutrition and natural healing.

From time to time, I will probably devote an entire blog to the virtues of one herb and I know you will be as amazed as I at what these little plants can do. Herbs can actually affect changes in the body to allow the body to heal itself. Herbs are usually very mild and require long-term use to affect change, but are one of the best ways to practice preventative medicine and increase your quality of life.

Another thing I love about using dried bulk herbs is that they are so inexpensive. I can buy a whole pound of dried herb for $5-$10 and it will last me for months, while a supplement with the same herb in it can cost $20-$30 dollars for a one month supply.

You might be wondering what to do with bulk herbs or how to use them. I find the easiest ways to use them are to make tea, add them to smoothies or sprinkle them on a salad. For tea, I just pour hot water over 1-2 teaspoons of herb and steep for at least 5 minutes or more. Shannan has a great smoothie recipe that I’m sure she will be sharing here on the blog and sometimes I just add a teaspoon of dried bulk herb in the blender to add a little more nutrition. Putting some herbs in a smoothie is a great way to get some added nutrition to your children as well. They won’t even know it’s in there.

If you are wondering where to purchase dried bulk herbs try
Frontier or Mountain Rose Herbs.

Now, which herb should I tell you about first…

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What is Organic?

No matter where you shop, you have no doubt noticed more and more organic food showing up in the produce, dairy, meat and even the canned food sections of the store. Many people are confused about what organic actually means and whether or not it is worth the extra cost.

By definition organic foods are produced without the use of conventional pesticides and artificial fertilizers, free from contamination by human or industrial waste and processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. If livestock are involved, they must be reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones and generally fed a healthy diet. In most countries, organic produce may not be genetically modified.

Up until WWII, organic was the "conventional" practice as it was the most common way to farm. Since WWII, the uses of synthetic chemicals and toxins have become commonplace which means that much of what we eat has been treated with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals. This 'cocktail' of chemicals affects our fertility, development, health and longevity.

The good news is that organic farming is on the rise. Organic farmers work with the natural ecosystem to improve the soil and deter pests. They rotate crops between fields and have diversity in their farms. Organic farmers plant certain flowers and bushes to attract helpful insects that will eat or deter pests that might otherwise eat crops; conventional farmers use chemicals to do this. Organic farmers work with nature to replenish the soil.

Healthy soil is key to healthier food. Organic farmers work to create healthful soil. Worms and microorganisms work to keep the soil strong. The soil then feeds the plants and actually creates food with more nutrients.

So, yes, organic is important for our health and the health of the earth.

Over the next few weeks I will discuss organic eating a bit more specifically including which veggies and fruit absorb more chemicals and in turn are more important to buy organic, as well as the importance of organic meat and dairy products and how to decipher organic labeling!

For more information check out http://www.organic.org/.

- Shannan
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog is intended to replace the advice of a physician. We recommend consulting a physician before embarking on diet changes or a fitness routine. In addition, we recommend that you thoroughly research alternate points of view and make your own decisions as an informed consumer. You are ultimately responsible for your health.