Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Store Fresh Herbs

I have received a lot of fresh herbs this year in my CSA box each week. Unfortunately, I haven't done the best job of using them up quickly enough so some have gone to waste. Here is a short article I found on how to best store fresh herbs for both short and long term use.

Storing fresh herbs is a battle against the inevitable, but here are a few tips for keeping them alive in time for you to eat them up:
  • Set a bushy herb like parsley, cilantro, chervil, or mint in a shallow glass of water and keep it on the counter or in the refrigerator for several days, just like a bouquet.

  • Or, rinse it, wrap it loosely in a paper or dish towel while still damp, and place it (with or without a plastic bag covering) in the crisper or at the bottom of the fridge.

  • Sturdy herbs such as rosemary or thyme can be stored in paper or loose plastic (either keep it loose or puncture some air holes to let out moisture). Or you can simply hang them upside down in the kitchen, where they will dry slowly.

  • Do not manhandle delicate herbs like chives, tarragon or basil. Rinse lightly, wrap loosely in paper and place in a plastic bag in the crisper.

  • Fresh herbs should last about a week if stored properly. If you're at the end of your garden's season and you have a tons of herbs left unused, you can most herbs to have later in the year. If you won't be using your herbs within a week or so, its best to freeze rather than drying.

  • Frozen herbs will keep their flavor for several months. Unlike dried herbs, where the flavor gets more concentrated when drying, frozen herbs can be used in the same proportion as fresh herbs.

To Freeze Herbs:

Method 1:
Harvest the freshest, healthiest leaves.

Wash, if necessary, and pat dry with paper towels

Spread the individual leaves on a small tray or cookie sheet. Freezing the leaves flat and individually will prevent them from freezing together into a brick.

Cover and place the tray of leaves into the freezer

When frozen solid, place in airtight containers and return to the freezer. Once frozen individually, the leaves will not meld together.

Method 2:
Harvest the freshest, healthiest leaves

Wash, if necessary, and pat dry with paper towels

Stuff 2-3 individual leaves or a spoonful of chopped herbs in ice cube trays.

Fill the tray half way with water. Make sure the leaves are down into the water, as best you can.

They will tend to float, but we'll fix that with the next step. Place the half filled tray in the freezer.

Once the ice cubes are pretty much frozen, finish filling the try with water. The leaves will no longer be able to float and should be completely surrounded with water. Now place the tray back into the freezer to freeze solid.

Once the ice cubes are frozen, remove from the tray and store in zip closure bags.

When ready to use, toss the whole ice cube into your favorite stew or dish.

Wish I would have looked this up earlier in the season...
- Shannan

Friday, August 28, 2009

Balancing Your pH

Most of you know that I am working through a course in naturopathy. My latest course is a doozy with a book titled Biologic Ionization. Doesn't that sound fun! It was actually a little more than I bargained for at first, but now that I am almost done it really has been enlightening.

The book describes Reams testing which is all about interpreting your saliva and urine pH to tell where on the acid/alkaline spectrum your body resides. (I'm totally simplifying this.) In a Ream's test which is based on the saliva and urine, the pH should be about 6.4. Why is this important? PH is a measure of resistance. In other words, the pH number tells us how fast or slow energy is moving in the body. Anything above 6.4 means the resistance is too high and energy is moving too slow; anything below 6.4 means that resistance is too low and the energy is moving too fast. When energy is moving too fast or too slow, chronic disease and degeneration of the body begins.

There is a lot of talk about alkalizing your body today. There are even alkaline waters available at most health food stores. This may seem confusing when you note that I said above that the optimal body pH in a Ream's test is 6.4. Again note that this is the pH of the urine and saliva. Blood's pH average is 7.4 which is alkalinic. (The pH scale is from 1 to 14. 7 is neutral. Anything below 7 is considered acidic and anything above is alkalinic.)

Why do we just assume that we need to alkalize more and not try to acidify our bodies? We probably shouldn't just assume, we probably should have some simple tests done, but most assume this because of the Standard American Diet. A large part of what our population eats is processed food, meat, dairy, and fast food. All of these foods are highly acidic. Therefore if you eat a large portion of these types of foods throughout the day, you can assume your pH is probably too acidic. Fruits, vegetables, and some grains move your pH in the alkalinic range and we should be concentrating on eating a large portion of these types of foods.

What are some other ways to shift our pH in the more alkalinic range?

  • Drinking lemon water. Add about 1/2 to 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice to every 10 ounces of water and drink throughout the day.

  • Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.

  • Green Drinks such as freshly juiced lettuces or powders such as barley green, spirulina, greenzone, or manna.

  • Fresh watermelon or even freshly juiced watermelon. Yum!

A Ream's test tells so much more than just the pH. It really gets to the bottom of your body chemistry by providing information on total carbohydrate, pH, conductivity, cell debris, nitrate nitrogen & ammonia nitrogen. From this information a very detailed nutritional healing program can be developed just for you. I would highly recommend having this test done and I look forward to finding someone to perform this test on me soon. I would also like to find a weekend soon where I can take the seminar that provides the training and certification to perform this testing myself.

There is so much great information and natural healing out there. When I read a book like Biological Ionization by Dr. Alexander F. Beddoe, I realize that I've barely scratched the surface in my journey to understanding health and wellness.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide is a weak, nearly colorless acid that was discovered by Louis Jacques Thénard in 1818 ( It's basically made up of water and oxygen. Manufacturers have used this acid to bleach paper products, produce rocket fuel and propel submarines through the water. Hydrogen Peroxide is so versatile that it can also be used for many tasks in your home. (The strength you'll use at home is the 3% grade.)

Here are 10 awesome uses for Hydrogen Peroxide:

1. Whiten Your White Laundry
Pour in a cup of hydrogen peroxide into a washer load of white laundry instead of chlorine bleach and it will whiten your clothes. Don't pour it directly on your clothes. It can fade out the color just like bleach does!

2. Sanitize Your Kitchen Surfaces
Mix up a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and tap water and pour it into a spray bottle. Use it to sanitize your kitchen counter tops, clean appliances and help keep your kitchen germ-free. Note: Mix up only as much as you'll use at one time. If you don't store hydrogen peroxide in its brown bottle, light will break down its chemical makeup.

3. Sanitize Public Drinking Fountains
Did you know you can get contagious diseases like Trenchmouth from using public drinking fountains? Carry a small container of hydrogen peroxide with you so you can sanitize fountains before you drink from them. Just splash some peroxide on the spout and let it set for several seconds. Then turn the water on and let it run to the count of five before you drink from it.

4. Kill Fingernail and Toenail Fungus
Soak your fingernails or toenails in a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide every day and it will kill harmful fungus.

Swish a teaspoon full of 3% strength hydrogen peroxide in your mouth for five to ten minutes every day. It will kill harmful germs and bacteria. It will also act as a homemade tooth whitener!

6. Help Houseplants Grow Healthier
Mix up an ounce of hydrogen peroxide into a cup of water and spray your houseplants with this solution. It will help your houseplants grow greener and more lush.

7. Remove Harmful Pesticides From Fruits and Veggies
Pour a fourth of a cup of hydrogen peroxide into a sink of cold tap water. Place your fruits and veggies in the solution and wash them off well. Then, rinse each piece off with tap water and dry.

8. Clear Up Skin Acne
Use a clean cotton ball to generously dab straight hydrogen peroxide onto skin acne two or three time a day. The peroxide will dry the problem up in no time at all!

9. Remove Waxy Build Up From Your Ears
Tilt your head and use an eye dropper to put three or four drops of hydrogen peroxide into the ear that has the waxy build up. Let it set for several minutes. Then, use a syringe and flush your ear out carefully with warm water. Dry your ear with a soft, clean cloth.

10. Kill Germs in Your Bathroom
Mix together equal parts of 3% hydrogen peroxide and tap water and pour it into a spray bottle. Use this solution to kill germs in your bathroom and keep it smelling clean!

And here is one more dentist recently recommended that I use hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash. Here is how:

Using hydrogen peroxide as mouthwash is simple: just swish some 1% to 3% hydrogen peroxide (straight or diluted in 50% water as was recommended to me) around in your mouth, then spit it out. Like you'd do with any kind of mouthwash, right?

Why 1% to 3%? Some people feel that 3% is a bit strong to use as a mouthwash. You can try 3%, or water it down with some water. (Some 3% hydrogen peroxide with an equal amount of water added will give you 1.5% hydrogen peroxide.)

Hydrogen peroxide as mouthwash will kill bacteria and viruses in your mouth. However, it takes time for hydrogen peroxide to work, so this is not going to remove all the bacteria and viruses in your mouth – it will just lessen them.

Hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash can taste a bit weird. Also, any time hydrogen peroxide is killing germs, it will foam -- so there can be some foaming when you are using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash.

If you want to get at the bacteria in your gums, try it this way: brush your teeth, then floss between your teeth, and then swish with peroxide. This way any gunk is out of the way, and the peroxide can get in to the gums more easily. Swishing for a minute or longer will be more effective than a shorter swish.

I have to say from personal experience, rinsing with hydrogen peroxide gives you that smooth, clean, fresh-from-the-dentist feeling!

- Shannan

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nettle Leaf: More Help for Seasonal Allergies

Stinging Nettle is the common name for this herb. It grows thick along the stream banks and in shaded areas of most temperate climates including Europe, China and North America. The plant has dark green leaves with bristles that transfer irritating chemicals on contact, thus the name Stinging Nettle. When the plant is cut and air dried, the stinging principles degrade substantially and the plant can be used as a medicinal herb.

Nutrients: This herb is very high in many nutrients including calcium, chromium, cobalt, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, selenium, silicon, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin C, and zinc.

Nutritional Healing

  • Nettles is a fantastic remedy for all inflammatory and mucous forming conditions. Allergies, asthma, bronchitis, eczema, psoriasis to name a few.

  • Nettles is a blood purifier. Because of this, it is known to increase the efficiency of liver function. Another great blood purifier is Red Clover.

  • Nettles has diuretic properties which increases the production of urine. It has been known to increase the efficiency of kidney function.

  • Nettles has been included in hair tonics for centuries due to its purported ability to stimulate hair growth. I actually have a friend at work that swears this is true. She used Nettle leaf for a period of time and now has nice thick hair.

  • Nettles also has an effect on the respiratory system treating asthma and bronchitis.

Ways to Use

  • Add a little of this herb to any smoothie recipe. For some ideas check here and here.

  • Make a tea or strong decoction of this herb.

  • Make your own tincture.

  • I recently added Nettles to a tea mix that I am drinking while pregnant. There are so many great nutrients in this herb that it will help nourish the baby and I during my pregnancy.

You could probably find this herb at any local herb store. I purchased mine online at Mountain Rose Herbs.

For more ideas on how to soothe seasonal allergies check out my post on Bach Flower Remedies and Homeopathics.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Healthy School Snacks

Well, the day has finally arrived. My girls officially start kindergarten tomorrow. We have spent the last two weeks running around buying clothes, shoes, backpacks, and lunch bags. Now the real chore...figuring out what to pack everyday for a daily snack and lunches.

As with most families, I am faced with the struggle of providing healthy, good tasting snacks that make everybody happy. I happen to have one child who doesn't like cheese and neither will eat nuts or any kind of lunchmeat. This makes life a little more difficult but there are a lot of great recipes out there to choose from. Here are a few snack items I am going to start with:

Zucchini Bread Tea Sandwiches
These zucchini bread cream cheese sandwiches are a sweet change from the traditional lunch box fare. These zucchini bread tea sandwiches are also delicious for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

4 slices prepared zucchini bread
1/4 cup cream cheese (low fat is okay)
Spread two tablespoons of cream cheese on two slices of the zucchini bread.
Top with remaining two slices of zucchini bread. Slice lengthwise into "fingers."
Zucchini Bread Recipes:

Sunflower Seed Gorp
The Seneca Indians used sunflower seeds to make pudding, gravy, bread, and coffee. Mixed with dried fruit, the seeds also make a sweet and nutty snack.
2 cups raw sunflower seeds
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup raisins
1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries

1. Measure the ingredients into a paper bag, fold over the top of the bag, and shake to mix. Store the mixture in an airtight container.

Green Herb Hummus

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
6 fresh basil leaves
1 medium scallion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Options for dipping: carrot sticks, sliced cucumber and whole-wheat pita chips
DIRECTIONS: Place ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until smooth. Serve with dippers.

And don't forget the old favorites like fresh fruits and veggies, yogurt (frozen yogurt tubes will last in a lunch bag) or whole grain crackers.

Lunch tips that work for us:
  • Have a small thermos handy for soups, spaghetti, and mac & cheese
  • Do a "snack lunch" - a fruit, a veggie, cheese or yogurt, crackers or pita bread
  • Cut your peanut butter and jellie sandwiches into fun shapes like a heart or star (it's just more fun to eat)

Check out Family Fun and Healthy Eats for more great ideas.

- Shannan

Friday, August 21, 2009

Making a Delicious Tamale Pie

Last week I promised some recipes from the Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook that I'm experimenting with and today I'm going to deliver. I've had a lot of fun experimenting with some of the recipes in this book the last two weeks. I should tell you that I am not strictly vegetarian, but have been reducing the amount of meat I eat for health reasons. This book provides wonderful balanced meatless meals whether you are vegetarian, looking for new ideas for Meat Free Mondays, or like me just trying to replace some of your meals with meatless alternatives. Here is one of entree dishes that I've tried and enjoyed.

Tamale Pie


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 cups cooked pinto, kidney, or black beans, drained (see below for how to cook your own)

1 cup diced tomatoes with their juice

1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

Sea salt and black pepper to taste


1 1/2 cups cornmeal

3 1/4 cups water

3/4 teaspoon sea salt


1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese (optional) (I used a little raw milk cheddar and loved it!)

To make your own beans, start the night before by soaking a cup of beans in water overnight. When ready to cook the beans, throw out any floating beans and then rinse the beans well. To cook on the stove-top, add the soaked beans to 3 cups of water and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Beans can be cooked in a slow-cooker as well. For pre-soaked beans, cook in a slow cooker on high for 3-5 hours or on low for 8 to 12 hours. Extra beans can be frozen and then used later to add to soups, stews, casseroles, salads, or burritos.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8 inch square baking pan.

Heat oil in medium-size pan. Stir in onion and saute about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Saute 5 minutes more. Add beans, tomatoes, and corn. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Let mixture simmer uncovered while you prepare crust.

Whisk together cornmeal and water in medium-size pan. Cook over medium heat until thickened (about 10 minutes). Spread 2/3 of the mixture over bottom and up the sides of the prepared baking pan. Pour bean mixture into crust. Top with remaining cornmeal mixture. (Don't worry if beans are not covered completely.) Sprinkle with shredded cheese if desired. Bake 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting.

Make a couple of these and freeze unbaked for a quick meal on a busy night. To reheat, thaw pie in refrigerator then cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake 15 more minutes, or until heated through.

Quick nutrition fact: The combination of corn and beans in this recipe creates a complete protein much like what you see in animal meats.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Super Natural Ingredients

I recently picked up some Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion shampoo and conditioner. It boasts a blend of natural ingredients, along with some unnatural ones as it is a commercial hair care product like cassia, ginger, calendula and aloe vera. Curious to know what these and other natural ingredients contribute to hair and skin products, I compiled the following quick reference (with the help of Real Simple magazine).
  • aloe vera - Good for: As it is anti-inflammatory, it is soothing, toning, protective and moisturizing to the skin.

  • argan oil - Good for: Quenching dryness, minimizing lines and possibly reducing oiliness.

  • avocado - Good for: Hydrating hair and skin. May help cuts heal.

  • calendula - Good for: Apart from the great anti-inflammatory properties, it also has good vulnerary properties (preventing tissue degeneration while arresting bleeding in wounds), making it excellent to help with stubborn wounds, ulcers, bedsores, varicose veins, bruises, rashes, eczema etc.
  • coconut - Good for: Making hair shinier and skin more supple.

  • cucumber - Good for: Depuffing tired eyes and neutralizing oil without overydrying the skin.

  • feverfew - Good for: Soothing irritation and inflammation.

  • ginger - Good for: Added to your bath it stimulates circulation and helps remove toxins from your body. Ginger can also be added to your foot bath to soften the hard skin of your feet as well as deodorize smelly feet.

  • grapeseed - Good for: Helping skin retain firmness.

  • green tea - Good for: Preventing sun damage and treating blemishes.

  • jojoba - Good for: Soothing irritation withn added to typically drying products, such as hand sanitizers and toners.

  • licorice - Good for: Calming inflammation and helping to diminish the appearance of acne scars.

  • olive oil - Good for: Moisturizing skin and healing sunburns.

  • rose - Good for: Softening wrinkles.

  • sunflower - Good for: Protecting skin and hair from sun damage.

And don't forget about the list of ingredients to avoid in your commercial cosmetic products.

- Shannan

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Using Bach Flower Remedies to Treat Seasonal Allergies

Here in the Midwest, we are heading quickly toward fall. Fall bring about many wonderful things including apples, pumpkins, cool nights and fall celebrations, but for many it also means the return of seasonal allergies. For those of you looking for more holistic treatments for those pesky allergies Bach Flower remedies are a wonderful alternative. We've already discussed how homeopathy can help with allergies. For more information on that click here.

Bach flower remedies are a little difficult to describe in the context of a short blog, but I will try to give you a little background information. First and foremost they are made from natural herbal substances such as walnut, holly, oak, and crab apple to name a few. Their purpose is really to treat the emotional aspect of a person and therefore the emotional aspect of a disease or ailment. This may sound strange for most of us, but if you believe like I do, that much of our chronic problems are stress related; and most stress can be tied into an emotion, such as fear, anxiety, or hopelessness. Over time you can see how these emotions could lead to physical distress. You might say then that these remedies are designed to get at the root of the problem.

Now, let's move on to allergies. Allergies are strong reactions that are triggered by certain substances. Our bodies have been previously exposed to a substance (such as pollen, animal hair, food, or chemicals), becomes sensitized, and cannot tolerate that substance anymore. In some cases, these reactions can be very strong and cause severe even life-threatening conditions.

Here are some great Bach flower remedies to try

  • Beech: Beech should be used as a basic essence for treating all allergies and conditions related to intolerance.

  • Crab Apple: Sometimes chronic infections play a role in allergies. They can poison the body and make it overly sensitive. Crab Apple is the most important detoxifying essence.

  • Holly: Holly helps in cases of strong immune reactions. This can be used, for example in severe fits of sneezing, clear cases of irritation, or allergic shock.

You can use the essences alone or combine all three. Look for Bach Flowers at your local natural health store or order them online. Frontier is a place I've ordered them before. Give Bach Flowers a shot - you'll be surprised how great they work.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Benefits of Green Tea

After reading Karla's post on The Anti-Inflammatory Diet last week, I did a little research of my own. I came across Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips by Dr. Weil which gives a very specific outline of what you should eat on an anti-inflammatory diet along with a food pyramid that beautifully illustrates how much of each food group you should consume on a daily or weekly basis.

One thing that jumped out at me was the fact that 2-4 cups of tea are recommended per day. Now the Dr. Weil diet recommends white, green or oolong tea. Personally I am a fan of green tea and from what I have read, that is the tea with the greatest health benefits.

Green tea is particularly rich in health-promoting flavonoids (which account for 30% of the dry weight of a leaf), including catechins and their derivatives. The most abundant catechin in green tea is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is thought to play a pivotal role in the green tea's anticancer and antioxidant effects. Catechins should be considered right alongside of the better-known antioxidants like vitamins E and C as potent free radical scavengers and health-supportive for this reason.

Health Benefits of Green Tea include:
  • Protection from Cardiovascular Disease

  • Protection against Coronary Artery Disease

  • Inhibits Atherosclerosis

  • Thins the Blood and Helps Prevent Blood Clots

  • Minimizes Damage and Speeds Recovery after a Heart Attack

  • Minimizes Damage to the Brain after a Stroke

  • Lowers Blood Pressure and Helps Prevent Hypertension

  • Protects Against Cancer

  • Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Type 2 Diabetes

  • Protects against Kidney Disease

  • Builds Bone

  • Green Tea Provides Bone Benefits Similar to Calcium or Exercise

  • Prevents Osteoporosis and Periodontal diseases

  • Protects the Liver from Alcohol and Other Harmful Chemicals

  • Promotes Fat Loss

  • Increases Exercise Endurance

  • Protects against Cognitive Decline, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease

Click here to

Given the significant benefit green tea can provide, even to those who are not especially health conscious, just imagine its health-protective potential as part of your healthy way of eating!

If you simply cannot start your day without a cup of coffee, try enjoying a cup of green tea at your mid-morning break, with lunch or as an afternoon pick-me-up. You'll quickly discover green tea's irresistible combination of invigorating and calming qualities, plus its delicious flavor, make it one of your favorite healthy habits.

How to Brew Green Tea

Green tea lovers may tell you that the best-tasting green tea is brewed for under one minute with hot water that hasn't reached the boiling point yet. It is also steeped for a short period of time. Boiling water and longer steeping times impart a bitter flavor to green tea.

Researchers, however, have found that using boiling water and longer steeping times increases the amount of polyphenols in the green tea. Polyphenols are the antioxidants in green tea that are responsible for the health benefits that green tea is believed to have.

The results of the studies done suggest that the following preparation guidelines can boost the polyphenol level in green tea:

Size of tea leaves - Small loose leaf green tea is the best choice, because it infuses quickly. Tightly curled or large leaf tea requires a longer infusion time.

Loose leaf vs. teabags - Loose leaves are preferable to teabags. In order to increase the extraction of polyphenols, teabags should be continuously dunked in the teapot rather than left to float on the water.

Temperature - Boiling water promotes the extraction of polyphenols.

Steeping Time - Tea should be steeped for two to five minutes. The polyphenol content of tea increases with steeping time, while a shorter steeping time results in a high caffeine content but low polyphenol content.

Drink up!
- Shannan

Sources:, The World's Healthiest Foods

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

While at my new physician's office last week, I picked up some interesting reading on how to avoid inflammation in the body by eating better. I found the pamphlet very interesting and it got me looking in a few of my other text books to see what else I could find out.

Inflammation is a natural reaction to injury or infection. The affected tissues redden, become warm and tender, and may be painful. In the case of an external injury or bruise/sprain etc., inflammation is a normal process that helps to heal the body. Internal inflammation, however, can be much more serious. Internal inflammation can be brought on by allergies, anemia, arthritis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, Crohn's disease, osteoarthritis, peptic ulcer disease or ulcerative colitis.

A number of medical conditions have been linked to too much inflammation in the internal tissues. These include:

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Cancer

  • Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (emphysema and bronchitis)

  • Asthma

  • Chronic pain

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn's or ulcerative colitis)

  • Alzheimer's Disease

  • Diseases where the immune system attacks the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or scleroderma.

What Can We Do To Avoid Inflammation?

Emerging research is showing that things like stress levels, how much we exercise and what we eat will influence how much inflammation we have in our bodies and therefore our likelihood to suffer from chronic disease. It is possible to eat in ways that decrease inflammation, pain and other symptoms of disease. Many studies have shown that people who eat certain types of foods are less likely to have problems with inflammation. Here are some of the guidelines to follow.

  • Avoid unhealthy fats: Trans-fats and fats that are high in omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation. Better choices are fats like olive oil, butter, or coconut oil.

  • Eat fruits and vegetables: I know, we've harped on this over and over; but a diet high in fruits and vegetables is good for decreasing inflammation. The more servings the better!

  • Eat fiber rich foods: Diets high in fiber are shown to help decrease inflammation. A good goal is about 30 grams a day. Ideal sources are whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

  • Eat more raw foods. A diet consisting of about 50 to 75% raw is recommended.

Eat More of These

  • Foods high in omega-3 fats like cold water fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel); ground flax seeds or flax oil; green leafy vegetables; and walnuts (see Shannan's banana bread recipe - Yum!).

  • Food high in antioxidants like yellow, orange, and red vegetables; dark leafy greens; citrus fruits; black and green teas; and allium vegetables, like onion and garlic.

  • Spices that contain anti-inflammatory compounds: ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, clove, and nutmeg.

  • Herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties: boswellia, willow bark, and feverfew.

Avoid Eating

  • Foods high in trans- and omega fats like red meats (4 ounces of lean meat okay in moderation); partially hydrogenated oils; corn, cottonseed, grape seed, peanut, safflower, soy and sunflower oils; foods with a long shelf life like chips, crackers, and etc; and pork and ham.

  • Foods high in simple carbohydrates. Foods that cause a rapid rise and then drop in insulin levels seem to cause more inflammation. These include white bread or bagels; English muffins; instant rice; rice and corn cereals; pasta and potatoes; and fructose and high fructose corn syrup.

  • Foods that cause allergies and these vary from person to person. Some common ones are dairy, wheat, eggs, artificial flavors and colors, and high fructose containing foods.

Very interesting stuff! I love finding out that I have some control over my future health by making good choices now!

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Healthy Banana Bread Recipe

I had a whole "bunch" of really ripe bananas to deal with this week and although I could have frozen them for smoothies later, I was in the mood for some Banana Bread. I used the following recipe but also added about 1/4 cup ground flaxseed.

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar (or you can also use honey, check out the honey banana bread recipe)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg

1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (4-5 bananas)

1. Mash the bananas and beat the egg. Now mix them both together with sugar (or honey), salt and cinnamon.

2. Now take a large bowl and mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda and the mess you made in step one (just kidding about the mess :) ).

3. Stir and you are done. Now all there is left to do is pour the batter into the bread pan and bake at 350F (180C) for 50 minutes. You can test the bread by sticking a knife into the loaf and if it comes out clean it is finished.

One suggestions, walnuts would have been good as well. Since my kids don't like "chunks" in their bread, I usually grind up the walnuts in a small food processor and then to the recipe. That way you get the flavor and nutrition without the chunks.

- Shannan

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Homeopathy Basics

I had a really interesting and refreshing week last week. A bunch of small things came together and inspired me on my journey to living more holistically. The first exciting thing was a visit to my OB where we (the kids and I) got to see a little glimpse of the newest member of the family. It's always breathtaking to see that new little life that is so small that I'm not always even aware he or she is there - except for the constant nausea and tiredness. I tried to scan the picture to share with all of you, it's a little dark. L. my daughter wrote the little message on the bottom. Priceless.

The next cool thing was meeting my new doctor who is an MD but also trained in many alternative health fields. She has a background in Homeopathy and is currently training in Acupuncture. We had such a great discussion on nutrition and she thoroughly checked my hormones. I shared with her that I'm not a fan of medication and even supplementation - that I would really like to eat better and heal my body nutritionally when possible. She was very supportive of that. I'm going to have her follow me from now on prenatally as I really would love to tap her expertise in nutrition and alternative health throughout this pregnancy. For those of you who live in Michigan. Her name is Dr. Caroline King. She works through the Briarwood Family Medicine Integrative Health and Wellness Clinic.

Next I found a new cookbook that I'm really loving and can't wait to start sharing some new recipes. It's called The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook: Whole Foods to Nourish Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women - and Their Families by Cathe Olson. This book isn't just for pregnancy, breastfeeding, or even just for vegetarians. There are so many great nourishing, simple recipes for people of all ages. I'll share some favorites next week!

Then to end the week I attended a great Holistic Mom's Network meeting on the topic of Homeopathy. (If you read often, you know I'm a huge fan of using homeopathics for healing). Kathleen Slonager, a certified homeopath, gave a wonderful, informative talk on basic homeopathy and how to use various remedies. At the end there was a drawing for a donated basket of homeopathics and I WON! I was so excited to take my beautiful basket of goodies home. These were all donated by Boiron and I'm very excited to have them. I thought I would share the contents of the basket with you. I'm not sure if any of you are interested in using homeopathy for healing, but having a basic kit with the following items is a good place to start. Many purists in homeopathy believe that there is one remedy for every person and the multiple remedy kits you find in the drug store shouldn't be used. I was happy to hear Kathleen tell us that for basic, acute conditions these remedy kits are fine and very successful. If you are suffering from something that is more chronic it's better to call a homeopath like Kathleen and get some professional help to find just the right remedy. For at home use, here are some great things to have around.

  • Calendula Lotion and Calendula Ointment: This is a great natural healing lotion for minor cuts, scrapes, and burns.

  • Bitecare Gel: Soothes and heals insect bites.

  • Arnica Gel: Great for quick healing and relief from minor injuries and bruising. Also good for tired and sore muscles.

  • Optique 1: Relieves minor eye irritation due to fatigue or airborne irritants such as ragweed, other pollens or dust.

  • Summer First Aid Kit: Contains Apis for insect bites; Arnica for minor injuries and bruises; and Nux Vomica for indigestion.

  • Sportenine: This a great one for all of you athletes. It is a remedy designed to help with muscle fatigue and cramps after intense workouts. I love it!

  • Allergy Care Kit: For all you allergy sufferers, this kit contains Apis for itchy allergies; Galphimia for hay fever; and Histaminum for allergies in general.

  • Sabadil: These tabs are also for relief of hay fever or other upper respiratory allergies, itchy nose, sneezing, runny nose, itchy yes and watery eyes.
  • Easy Guide To Homeopathy With Therapeutic Index: I would also recommend having this pamphlet by Boiron around for reference. For only $1.50, it's very helpful when quickly searching for what to use.

Remember Homeopathy is a therapeutic method that uses natural substances in micro-doses to relieve symptoms. They stimulate your body to heal itself naturally without suppressing symptoms.

Leave me a comment in the comments section letting me know which homeopathic remedies are your favorites.

Hope you are all having a great week!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Set A Fitness Goal

I have written a couple times about exercise and how important it is for all of us to do something physical at least a few time a week. Well, I am challenging you to take it to the next level.

Last winter I started running at the gym and set the goal for myself to be able to run 3 miles fairly easily. I thought that is where I should be considering my age and physical ability. I acheived that goal and have pushed on to bigger and better distances. Now in just under two weeks I am signed up to run The Crim, a 10 mile race in my area. And, in October, I signed myself up to run a half marathon, The Brooksie Way. This scares me a little, but I know a lot of people that did it last year and have a lot of friends working toward it this year so why can't I right???

As I was researching half marathon training schedules, I was a little nervous that they were going to expect me to run long distances several times per week, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that shorter runs are an important part of the training schedule. I am not a natural when it comes to running and don't want to injure myself by pushing too hard.

So next time you are contemplating your workout it may be nice to have your own fitness goal. Maybe your goal is to be able to walk a mile, run a mile or to run a marathon. No matter what, it feels good to set goals and reach them. My big advice, make them acheivable. Don't start out with the marathon if you are not much of a runner. That is just discouraging. Take baby steps and enjoy your successes along the way.

- Shannan

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Brewer Pregnancy Diet

When my friend Daedra found out that I was pregnant she offered to give me some pregnancy diet and nutrition advice. Daedra is a Bradley Method Childbirth Class Instructor. I thought this would make a great guest post for all of my readers. Daedra has been teaching the Bradley Method for about 4 years and has impacted many families during that time. She has also attended births and is trained as a doula. She has an adorable 4 year old son and is currently expecting another child in December. Please enjoy her post below and feel free to ask questions in the comments section.

The Brewer Pregnancy Diet

This pregnancy diet is traditionally taught in Bradley Method® Childbirth Classes and was created by Dr. Tom Brewer in the 1960’s. At the time many doctors were trying unsuccessfully to treat pre-eclampsia with medical techniques and Dr. Brewer created a plan to attack the problem at its cause: poor nutrition. During the course of Dr. Brewer’s 12 years of practice over 25,000 women experienced healthy pregnancies with his diet.

The Brewer diet focuses mainly on adequate protein intake during pregnancy. This post will show you all the food categories and the importance of each for the pregnant mom. These food groups are all very important if you would like to stay low-risk and healthy during pregnancy and therefore have a normal delivery.

Proteins are broken down into amino acids by your body and used to repair body tissues and organs. Your baby will be built from these amino acids. Contrary to popular belief, you can not build a baby from the extra stores of fat on your hips (although, wouldn’t that be nice!) Inadequate protein intake can lead to fatigue, swelling, and even a lack of appetite.

The average non-pregnant person needs approximately 56 grams of protein per day. Dr. Brewer recommends the pregnant woman aim for 80 – 100 grams of protein per day. This may seem like a lot of protein to eat in one day but if you consider that a 3 ounce piece of chicken (which is about the size of a credit card) has 20 grams of protein one can easily obtain 80 grams. Oh, and check out a good healthy peanut butter, the one I eat has 10 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons! Yum!

Milk and milk products provide calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. They are important for bones, muscle growth, muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Eating a proper amount from this food group is essential for healthy blood, can ease insomnia, and helps regulate mom’s heartbeat. The Brewer Diet recommends 4 servings per day of milk products.

Eggs provide protein, vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, the anti-infection vitamin. Added together milk and eggs provide a protein, vitamin, mineral and calorie foundation for the rest of the pregnancy diet. The Brewer Diet recommends 2 servings of eggs per day.

Fresh, dark green vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly A and B complex which are necessary to help your body use the protein in other foods. Greens are also high in folic acid which is essential for good growth. Green play a role in the formation of red blood cells and therefore a deficiency could lead to anemia. The Brewer Diet recommends 2 servings per day.

Whole Grains
Whole grains are excellent sources of the carbohydrates you need to fuel your body. If you have too few carbohydrates in your diet your body burns the protein you eat for energy, thus robbing you and your baby of the building blocks for tissue growth and repair. Carbohydrates from whole grains are a good source of B vitamins which are necessary for growth and the normal functioning of nerve tissue. The Brewer Diet recommends 4 or more servings per day.

Citrus and other foods high in vitamin C are important for the body’s manufacture of collagen, the substance that holds tissue together. Without adequate vitamin C your uterus may not perform well in labor, and you will not have a strong amniotic sack (bag of waters). We all know that vitamin C is crucial in the body’s defense system against infection but did you know it’s also improves your iron absorption? The Brewer Diet recommends 1-2 servings per day.

Fats and Oils
Healthy fats and oils such as real butter and olive oil are needed to help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K. Fats and oils also contribute to a fine-textured skin (aka: stretchy pregnancy skin). This food group is a concentrated source of calories, during pregnancy the calorie need is greatly increased to 2500-3000 calories per day. The Brewer Diet recommends 3 servings per day.

Yellow and Orange Colored Fruits and Vegetables
These specific foods are high in vitamin A, which again is known to fight infection. During pregnancy, when the pressure of the growing uterus on bladder is constant, extra vitamin A helps protect mom against bladder and kidney infections. The Brewer Diet recommends 5 servings per week.

A good quality salt such as Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt is an essential nutrient in pregnancy. Cutting back on salt can cause a decrease in the amount of blood circulating through your body and placenta (hypovolemia) thus reducing the supply of nutrients passing to your baby. Too little salt in the diet can lead to leg cramps, fatigue and even swelling. The Brewer Diet recommends salting your food to taste.

Did you know that water accounts for 75% of your baby’s total body weight at birth? Water acts as a solvent and a catalyst for biological reactions. Lack of water leads to dehydration which can lead to a 20% reduction of energy output. Dehydration can also lead to headaches during pregnancy. The Brewer Diet recommends drinking to thirst or approximately 8 – 8 oz. glasses of pure water per day.

It may seem daunting to eat all this food in one day on a regular basis but with the correct tools women who attend a Bradley Method® class become accustomed to the diet and can easily maintain it even when class is complete.

For more information or to find a local Bradley Method® class please visit


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Yummy Granola Bars

Okay, I am completely addicted to the Almond Crunch Granola that Karla posted back in May. I use it as cereal or a crunchy addition to yogurt. I have to say it has become a staple in my diet and I make sure I always have it on hand.

The other day I ran across an episode of the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network where she was making Homemade Granola Bars which look absolutely delicious. The contain a bit more sugar than the Almond Crunch Granola, but will still make a nice snack for the family. We are getting ready for a weekend camping trip and I thought they would even be a nice breakfast treat.

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

This recipe yields 12 to 16 bars.
- Shannan

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ummm...Strawberry Ice Cream

I found a really great wholesome recipe for strawberry ice cream on another blog that I enjoy. Kelly the Kitchen Kop featured this one day not long ago. I tried it and the whole family loved it. In fact, my husband who would never choose strawberry ice cream declared it the best ice cream he had ever tasted. I'm pretty sure that you could substitute other fruits for the strawberries. Blueberries are in season here in Michigan and I might make a batch with blueberries just for fun. What I really like about this recipe is all the wholesome ingredients. It's definitely an occasional treat, but I don't feel so bad when I see all the great whole foods that it contains.

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) ripe strawberries, sliced

  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 1 medium

  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup

Combine these ingredients and stir gently. Let set for 2 hours (or overnight). Strain the berries, reserving juices and then mash or puree half the berries.

In another bowl, mix these ingredients together.

  • 2 egg yolks (I like organic eggs fresh from the farm)

  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot (this is like cornstarch only better for you)

  • 3 cups heavy cream/whipping cream, preferably raw

  • Reserved juices from above

  • Mashed strawberries

Pour all ingredients into the bowl of a 2 quart ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers instructions. About 5 minutes before mixing is complete, add the reserved sliced strawberries.



Monday, August 3, 2009

Veggie of the Month - Carrots

I don't know about your family, but my kids enjoy munching on carrots for a snack or as part of their school lunches. In fact today they requested carrots and ranch as part of their snack to take to cheerleading camp today.

Health Benefits: Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds, and the richest vegetable source of provitamin A carotenes. Carrots' antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision.

Carotenoids and Heart Disease: When six epidemiological studies that looked at the association of diets high in carotenoids and heart disease were reviewed, the research demonstrated that high-carotenoid diets are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. In one study that examined the diets of 1,300 elderly persons in Massachusetts, those who had at least one serving of carrots and/or squash each day had a 60% reduction in their risk of heart attacks compared to those who ate less than one serving of these carotenoid-rich foods per day.

Better Vision: Beta-carotene helps to protect vision, especially night vision. After beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the liver, it travels to the retina where it is transformed into rhodopsin, a purple pigment that is necessary for night-vision. Plus beta-carotene's powerful antioxidant actions help provide protection against macular degeneration and the development of senile cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Carotenoids and Blood Sugar: Intake of foods such as carrots that are rich in carotenoids may be beneficial to blood sugar regulation. Research has suggested that physiological levels, as well as dietary intake, of carotenoids may be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.

How to Select and Store: Carrot roots should be firm, smooth, relatively straight and bright in color. The deeper the orange-color, the more beta-carotene is present in the carrot. Avoid carrots that are excessively cracked or forked as well as those that are limp or rubbery. In addition, if the carrots do not have their tops attached, look at the stem end and ensure that it is not darkly colored as this is also a sign of age. If the green tops are attached, they should be brightly colored, feathery and not wilted. Since the sugars are concentrated in the carrots' core, generally those with larger diameters will have a larger core and therefore be sweeter.

Carrots are hardy vegetables that will keep longer than many others if stored properly. The trick to preserving the freshness of carrot roots is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. To do this, make sure to store them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. They should be able to keep fresh for about two weeks. Carrots should also be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.

If you purchase carrot roots with attached green tops, the tops should be cut off before storing in the refrigerator since they will cause the carrots to wilt prematurely as they pull moisture from the roots. While the tops can be stored in the refrigerator, kept moist by being wrapped in a damp paper, they should really be used soon after purchase since they are fragile and will quickly begin to wilt.

Carrots and Pesticide Residues: Virtually all municipal drinking water in the United States contains pesticide residues, and with the exception of organic foods, so do the majority of foods in the U.S. food supply. Even though pesticides are present in food at very small trace levels, their negative impact on health is well documented. The liver's ability to process other toxins, the cells' ability to produce energy, and the nerves' ability to send messages can all be compromised by pesticide exposure. According to the Environmental Working Group's 2009 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," carrots are among the 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of carrots unless they are grown organically.

What are baby carrots? In North America, baby carrots are grown-up carrots chopped into smaller pieces and peeled. After harvesting, the carrots are washed in chlorinated water similar to tap water and cleaned to remove dirt and mud. Some finished baby carrots are washed, or dipped in a stronger chlorine solution to prevent white blushing once in the store.

Due to the amount of waste in producing baby carrots and the chlorine dipping process, althought it is a little less convenient, the best way to prepare raw carrots would be to buy a bunch of full grown organic carrots, peel and cut them into sticks yourself. I know, it takes a little more time, but they will be better for you and your family!

- Shannan

Sources: Wikipedia, WHFoods

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.