Why You Need to Eliminate Parabens from Your Beauty Products

By now most of us realize the importance of understanding food labels. You are what you eat, right? Well, your skin is the largest organ in your body- so the same is true for the products you put in your hair and on your skin. There’s one class of ingredients in your beauty routine that may be cause for concern: Parabens.

Let’s play a little game. Go ahead and check the back of your daily face cleanser in your medicine cabinet, the body wash that’s currently residing in your shower, or the deodorant sitting on your bureau. Have your spotted it yet? Continue to pick up the body “cleansing” items within your home to try and identify how many products that you own contain parabens. Hair products, skin products, antiperspirants, cleansing products, baby products… how many did you find?

Let’s back up a bit here.. what exactly is a paraben? In a nut shell, parabens are a group of preservatives. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “Parabens are used to prevent the growth of microbes in [water based] cosmetics products. Parabens are actually several distinct chemicals with similar molecular structures. Four of these are used frequently in cosmetics: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben. Sounds like it’s used for our safety, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t entirely true. Although parabens exist in nature, methylparabens are in blueberries for example, the ones used commercially are almost always synthetic. Companies use synthetic parabens because they are cheaper and easier to manufacture.

Where are synthetic parabens found? Synthetic parabens are most commonly found in personal care products such as shampoos, lotions, deodorants, body scrubs, lip moisturizers, and makeup. Synthetic parabens can sometimes be found in processed food products and pharmaceuticals. And of course, synthetic parabens can be easily  absorbed through skin, blood, and the digestive system (ugh!).

Why should I avoid parabens? According to the Breast Cancer Fund, measurable concentrations of six parabens varieties have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors (Darbre, 2004). The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics explains it like this…

Of greatest concern is that parabens are known to disrupt hormone function, an effect that is linked to increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. Parabens mimic estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors on cells. They also increase the expression of genes usually regulated by estradiol (a natural form of estrogen); these genes cause human breast cancer cells to grow and multiply in cellular studies [1].
Parabens are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and skin irritation [2]. Since parabens are used to kill bacteria in water-based solutions, they inherently have some toxicity to cells [3].  A 2004 UK study detected traces of five parabens in the breast tumors of 19 out of 20 women studied [4].

According to the Breast Cancer Fund, it’s not just widely found in those with breast cancer…

Parabens have also been found in almost all urine samples examined from a demographically diverse sample of U.S. adults through the NHANES study. Adolescents and adult females had higher levels of methylparaben and propylparaben in their urine than did males of similar ages (Calafat, 2010).

The important thing to note here is that the amount of natural paraben in the aforementioned blueberries is so small that there is no way the body can accumulate the amount of paraben that becomes toxic to us. However, think of the amount of “beauty” products a woman uses over the course of her life.. starting at say, age 12. Likely A LOT. Synthetic parabens tend to stick around and compound within our bodies. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review recommends limiting concentration in a single product. But, this recommendation hardly takes into consideration the fact that consumers are likely using more than one paraben containing product at a time, thus multiplying that concentration with every product used on a regular and semi-regular basis. Let alone the fact that it is only a recommendation.

Now, it has not been proven that parabens cause cancer, but it is believed that it may be a contributing factor.

What steps can I take to eliminate Parabens from my personal products?

1. Take the time to thoroughly check the ingredients of all personal products you have in your home. Toss the ones containing parabens or anything marked as an “E” number- such as E219.

2. Replace the trashed items with products that clearly say “Paraben Free”, “Free of Parabens”, or are not water based and do not have any ingredient ending in “-paraben” on its ingredient list. Do your research ahead of time to find which brands you prefer that do not use parabens.

3. Many organic products have found safe alternatives to parabens that have a shorter shelf life (about 6-12 months), but hey if you really need it, you’ll use it regularly, and likely before the expiration date.

4. Or, try making your own beauty products! As you regular readers know, I like to say that if you can eat it, it’s safe for your personal care use as well! Try mixing various combinations of coconut oil, olive oil, essential oils, coarse sugars and salts, herbs and spices! Do some research, experiment a bit, and have fun with it!

5. Make sure to help aid your body in the detoxifying process by minimizing your exposure, drinking plenty of water, and eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables.

Don’t stress too much about this folks! There are plenty of safe products available to us. If you have spent good money on your current makeup, face wash, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and/or lotion and refuse to throw it away.. fine. As each product runs out make sure to replace it with a paraben free version, slowly but surely. And don’t try to give me the “but the [safer] version is more expensive” excuse, poor quality products are just as, if not more, expensive than the paraben-free stuff, and taken an even greater toll on your health. Your life as a healthy individual is much more important than the $0.35 difference you might see.

As always, feel free to comment below or send me a private email if you have any questions at all!

Enjoy!

 

Sources:

“Campaign for Safe Cosmetics : Parabens.” Campaign for Safe Cosmetics : Parabens. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.

“Parabens.” Parabens. Breast Cancer Fund, n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.

[1] Byford JR, Shaw LE, Drew MGB, Pope GS, Sauer MJ, Darbre PD (2002). Oestrogenic activity of parabens in MCF7 human breast cancer cells. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 80:49-60.

[2] Environmental Working Group. Skin Deep. Parabens. Available online: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ingredient.php?ingred06=704450&refurl=%2Fproduct.php%3Fprod_id%3D17311%26. Accessed December 9, 2008.

[3] Ishiwatari S, Suzuki T, Hitomi T, Yoshino T, Matsukuma S, Tsuji T. (2006). Effects of methyl paraben on skin keratinocytes. Journal of Applied Toxicology 27:1-9.

[4] Darbre PD, Aljarrah A, Miller WR, Coldham NG, Sauer MJ, Pope GS (2004). Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors. Journal of Applied Toxicology 24:5-13.

 

Is Your Thyroid the Culprit?

Happy Thursday!

Sorry I took a break from you last week, but as you can see my writing day was spent revamping my website!

Today’s post is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about for a while now. I’ve been debating it as there’s always a fine line between balancing information privy to my paying clients, and information that every person should know. Of course, I believe that the information I share with my clients is information that all should know.. but you get what I mean. Further down in this article, you’ll see why now is a relevant time to address thyroid health. So, here you have it. Today’s topic is, Thyroid Health: the secret culprit that’s keeping us fat, tired, and sick all the time.

Because the symptoms of low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, are what the every day person would chalk up to “the cost of aging”, it’s hard for people to consider that something’s out of sync. To tell you the truth, the symptoms are so similar to a multitude of other ailments it’s hard for even your doctor to diagnose. Luckily for you, today I will outline some of the symptoms to look for, and some questions to ask your doctor.

Let’s go ahead and start with the numbers. Nearly 1 out of every 5 women, and 1 out of every 10 men suffer from thyroid problems. That equates into about 30 million women and 15 million men. Unfortunately nearly half of those people are either misdiagnosed or unaware altogether (source).

But, what exactly is the thyroid?: The thyroid is “The Master Hormone” that controls everything in our body. Through the hormones it produces, the thyroid gland influences almost all of the metabolic processes in your body (source). Or technically, it is “a large ductless gland in the neck that secretes hormones regulating growth and development through the rate of metabolism” (source).

Which leads us to our next question… what is hypothyroidism?: The cause is a lack of, or underproduction of, your thyroid hormones. A drop in hormone production leads to lower energy levels and weight gain because your body’s energy production requires certain amounts of thyroid hormones (source). The symptoms are:

  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Dry, coarse hair, or hair loss
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • High cholesterol
  • Low sex drive
  • Fluid retention
  • Poor memory
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble losing weight
  • Morning headaches

One obvious, physical sign that I like to look for in my clients is if the outer 1/3rd of his or her eyebrow is receding, or missing. This almost always means they have a low functioning thyroid. As you can see, the above listed symptoms are nothing out of the ordinary for most Americans…so much so that people have a hard time identifying these symptoms collectively.

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Now you might be wondering, what has caused my poor thyroid health? Well friends, here is the relevant part. The most common cause of low thyroid function is: environmental toxins. Such as BPAs (what did we talk about last time!?), plastics, pesticides (hello organic meats and produce), thallates in plastic bottles, parabens in sunblock, lotions, and make-up,  chemicals in our food and water (again, organics is your most accessible solution), and heavy metals such as mercury and lead (do you eat a lot of mercury containing fish, or have a mouth full of mercury fillings?). Have you had a lot of vaccines that contain Thimerosal? This could be a contributing factor as well.

Of course, your diet has a huge influence on your thyroid health. Gluten is one of the largest causes of low thyroid function because it causes an autoimmune reaction against the thyroid. Have you ever wondered why people who cut gluten out of their diet gloat about how they’ve regained energy, cleared brain fog, and/or cleared up the acne on their face.. just to name a few? Gluten is no bueno, my friends. Also, Nutritional deficiencies may be causing or adding to the problem. Iodine, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fats, and vitamin A are all important for optimal thyroid function. Dr. Mark Hyman explains that, “you can’t make thyroid hormone without iodine. You can’t convert the inactive to the active form of thyroid without selenium, and the thyroid can’t work on your cells without vitamin D and vitamin A” (source).

How do I help my thyroid heal? First thing’s first. If you suffer from the above symptoms, you must take a visit to your doctor. It’s important to get your thyroid tested because you may need to be started on thyroid replacement therapy. Luckily, for many that is not the case. Simple diet and lifestyle changes can do the trick. Dr. Mark Hyman suggests you should ask your doctor to preform the following tests (source):

  1. The TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone test
  2. The free T3 test*
  3. The free T4 test*
  4. TPO (thyroid peroxidase) and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. These are an indication of an autoimmune reaction against your thyroid.
  5. Celiac or gluten antibodies or anti-gliadin antibodies, because these also can indicate a gluten problem that can trigger thyroid problems.
  6. Heavy metal testing, because high levels of mercury and lead can trigger thyroid issues, too.

*It is important to get both free tests!

Lifestyle changes: It’s important for everyone, regardless of current thyroid health, to help his or her body by facilitating a healthier thyroid function through these lifestyle choices:

  1. Eat a clean diet, with organics as much as possible-lose the poor quality, processed, pesticide, and chemical laden foods.
  2. Filter your water- heavy metals and toxic chemicals can be found in your tap water. Never consume hot water from the faucet, there are plenty of toxins to be leeched out of your old pipes. Buy an electric kettle, or use a stove-top tea kettle to heat your water.
  3. Eat “safe” fish- certain types of fish contain higher levels mercury, eat those fish minimally.
  4. Minimize your exposure- the skin is the largest organ in the body, and we tend to ignore that simple fact by exposing ourselves to toxins and chemicals. Our skin absorbs whatever is put on it; clean up your makeup, lotions, household products. Experiment with making your own lotions, face wash, and body scrubs by using ingredients your have in your kitchen. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to recognize all of the ingredients, or even better.. could ingest it safely (absolutely not recommending that, but hey your skin is absorbing it all and bringing those ingredients straight into your blood.. just like the way your body processes the foods you eat!).
  5. Clean up your food containers- Just because you made an entirely organic lasagna doesn’t mean you can cook it in aluminum, and then store it in plastic when you’re finished. Don’t fill up a BPA lined water bottle with your clean, filtered water. Just don’t.

Eat foods that support your thyroid.

  • Vitamin D-rich foods such as: mushrooms, sardines, and herring.
  • Vitamin A-containing foods such as: leafy greens and carrots.
  • Iodine-rich foods such as: sea vegetables, “safe” fish, and shellfish.
  • Zinc-rich foods such as: pumpkin seeds and oysters.
  • Coconut oil: this can help reduce the high cholesterol that hypothyroidism creates, and it can also help stimulate thyroid hormone production and increased metabolic function.

The supplemental route:

Many people take supplements regularly, and many don’t. My take is that if you honestly eat as well of a balanced, clean, and organic diet as possible, and you incorporate movement into your daily routine, supplementation will be just that.. a supplemental role to your health. I do, however, believe that for some people, targeting certain functions within the body with supplements is a necessity. For example, I think that all people should supplement with probiotics. I also think that most people should supplement immune and/or thyroid health. Some may need an extra hand in supporting joint health, as some people need some help obtaining a healthy omega balance. It all comes down to the simple notion that you know your body best, and that you need to be present enough in your daily life to know exactly what your body is asking for. Some people need a little extra help increasing thyroid function. Here are a few different supplements that can help your thyroid*:

*Note: choose one, or if you choose to take multiple brands, make sure that the ingredients are different and safe to combine so that you aren’t over doing it.. everything in moderation.

There you have it, folks! I hope this article was informative, and as always please feel free to comment below or send me a direct email with any questions you may have!

Enjoy!

The Harmful Effects of BPA

Hello All!

Hope you are well and looking forward to a relaxing weekend! Today’s article is intended to spread awareness about the harmful effects of BPA. If you follow myFacebook page, you may have seen the link to a news article I shared a few days ago about the latest debate on BPA. The varying opinions and studies on the estrogen-like chemical can be confusing, and my goal today is to help shed some light as to why BPA should be avoided at all costs.

Definition and Application

First, let’s start with a simple definition of bisphenol-A, better known as BPA: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics have many applications including use in some food and drink packaging, e.g., water and infant bottles, compact discs, impact-resistant safety equipment (helmets), eyewear, and medical devices. Epoxy resins are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes (!). It has even been found in certain cash register paper receipts. Some dental sealants and composites may also contribute to BPA exposure (source).

Result of Exposure

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BPA has been widely studied over the past 13 years, concluding a number of different results. The plastic and canning industry will have us believe that there is no harm in the amounts exposed to us in the use of plastic and metal food packaging (hey, having the population aware of it’s toxicity is bad for business!). However, the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older (source).

  • Another report cites 60 animal and human studies, linking prenatal BPA exposure to an increased risk of a variety of health problems, from breast cancer and prostate cancer to decreased fertilityearly puberty,neurological problems (hyperactivity, 4.2 million children in the U.S.) andimmune system changes.

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  • An NYU School of Medicine study suggests, although not proven with certainty, that BPA can be linked to childhood obesity. 22% of teens with the highest levels of BPA in their blood were obese, as compared to 10% of the lowest levels (source).
  • In 2009, the Endocrine Society — a group of doctors and researchers specializing in the hormonal system — called hormone-disrupting chemicals such as BPA a “significant concern for public health,” possibly causing infertility, cancer and malformations (source).
  • The result exposure is especially a cause for concern in pregnant women. A developing fetus is especially vulnerable during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy, says Sharima Rasanayagam, Director of Science at the Breast Cancer Fund. “Everything is being developed, the building blocks are being laid down for future health”. The Breast Cancer Fund report notes that ten studies have found BPA in fetal tissue, including umbilical cord blood, as well as in amniotic fluid (source).
  • Exposure to BPA in the womb raises the risk of certain cancers, hampers fertility, and could contribute to childhood behavioral problems such as hyperactivity. Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., a developmental biologist at the University of Missouri, says BPA is a potential endocrine disrupter by mimicking naturally occurring estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that is part of the endocrine system that controls the development of the brain, the reproductive system, and many other systems in a developing fetus. (Ruth Winter, M.S., 2009, A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, 7th edition)
  • In a separate action, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine also have released a joint report on the broader issue of prenatal exposure to toxins, from BPA to pesticides and other chemicals. That September report notes that in utero exposure to environmental chemicals has been linked to miscarriage and stillbirth, impaired fetal growth and low birth weight, preterm birth, childhood cancers, birth defects, intellectual impairment and thyroid problems. (source)

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How to avoid BPA

  • Avoid canned food and drink. BPA can leach into canned food at levels reaching two hundred times the “acceptable” amount. Substitutes include: fresh or frozen vegetables, tetra packed broths, tomatoes, soups, and beans/legumes, or glass jarred foods such as tomatoes, baby food, juice, and other preserved vegetables such as capers, carrots, pearled onions, etc. Note: some glass container’s metal lids contain BPA.
  • Or, buy BPA-free canned foods when substitutes are not available. Brands include: Eden OrganicsBionatureVital Choice (although not labeled), Wild PlanetOregon’s ChoiceEco Fishsome Trader Joe’s products (canned corn, canned beans, canned fish, canned poultry, and canned beef.. NOT soups and chilis), and Edward & Son’s Native Forest and Native Factor (this is the coconut milk I buy!). Note, some of these companies do not label their products, but you can call their customer service lines and they will confirm it for you. Do your research, folks!
  • Avoid BPA plastics. Check the bottom of plastics for “PC” recycling label #7, this indicates that the plastic is a polycarbonate (note that not all polycarbonates contain BPA, but all BPA containing plastics are polycarbonate, therefore the #7 symbol is still relevant, and best to avoid altogether if unsure).
  • Although I recommend avoiding plastics as much as possible, the safer plastics are marked on the bottom with recycling labels #1, #2, and #4. As always, seek out glass versions or plastics labeled BPA-free.
  • Avoid metal water bottles with plastic coating. Buy stainless steel water bottles that do not have plastic liners.
  • Avoid using old and/or scratched water bottles, and food storage containers.
  • Although I recommend avoiding the microwave altogether, avoid microwaving plastics (as BPA can be easily leached by heat exposure).
  • Use only BPA-free plastic wrap, the Saran brand claims to be BPA-free.
  • Avoid drinking hot water from the faucet. Old water pipes contain BPA to extend the life of the pipes.. BPA is easily leached through heat, so try to heat your water on the stove top or in an electric kettle.
  • Although studies indicate that the main exposure risk in through ingestion, avoid BPA metals and plastics (childrens toys) for other uses as much as possible as well. 27% of the BPA on your skin moves into your bloodstream in about two hours. Because BPA is used to help the ink appear on thermal paper, wash your hands after handling receipts, baggage destination tags, airplane boarding passes, bus and train tickets, lottery tickets, newspapers (the ink), recycled paper products such as pizza boxes. Chances are you touch these items more frequently than you think.

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There you have it, friends! Hope that this article has been informative and helpful to you. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to comment below, or send me an email directly.

Enjoy!

A Case for Grass Fed, Humanely Raised, Pasture Raised, Raw, Organic Animal Protein

Hi There!

As you may or may not know, I am a Natural Foods Chef. What that means in a nut shell is that I was trained on the principle that the quality of our food is the most important factor in how we enjoy our meals for taste, and how our bodies assimilate our meals for health. But, what does quality really mean? Well, it’s a word that can provide different expectations for all, in any given context.

Today I want to explain to you my definition of quality, make the case for why this version of quality really is the best, and help you figure out how to go about replacing your current foods with the better quality alternatives. It’s important to note that today I will be specifically referring to animal protein. And although many of the principles outlined below can be applied to other food categories as well, making a case for healthier animal proteins warrants the attention of it’s own article.

My version of quality is: Grass Fed, Pasture Raised, Organic, Raw, Vegetarian Fed, Humanely raised animal protein.

Just to be as clear as possible, animal protein is how we, in the food industry, refer to any food produced by an animal- eggs and dairy included.

So, what do all of the adjectives listed above actually mean?

Per usual, regulation has done a number on the verbage used in the food industry today. For example, “natural” means absolutely NOTHING when choosing foods for health. By the current FDA definition, eating wood-chips and worms is considered “natural”. Which, is counter-intuitive when you think about it because my very title is Natural Foods Chef. Luckily, “natural” still has a place in conversation.. just not in food labeling. And because the vast majority of consumers rely on food labeling as their sole language to choosing what foods to buy and consume, it is important to know exactly what the FDA’s language really is. This is why, unfortunately, how you spend your food dollars is so political. So, I’m warning you, this article is lengthy and slightly political simply because the discussion cannot be held any other way.

What: Now let’s get back to the most important labeling to look for and buy: (the below definitions are compared to conventionally raised meat)

  • Grass Fed: Beef. Access to the outdoors, sunlight, pasture, exercise areas. Grass fed means that the cattle has eaten grass for the majority or all of its life. Different from Grass Finished which means the cow has been raised on grain and the last few months of its life has been fed grass… some companies use the two interchangeably, make sure to do your research to ensure that it is grass fed versus finished.
  • Pasture Raised: Beef, Poultry, and Pork that has been raised outdoors with access to shelter. Different from “cage-free” or “free-range” which indicates the opposite.. that the chicken is raised in the confinements of a barn or shed, and has access to the outdoors, which is different from conventional farming which has no access to the outdoors. Pasture raising allows animals to access and graze on grass, bugs, and worms. It also avoids the over-crowding that conventional farming practices, which subjects animals to the spread of disease, creates a lack of movement/exercise which causes loss of leg function (due to the rapid growth caused by growth-hormones), as well as removes the health benefits that exercise has on the animal such as warding off said diseases.
  • Organic: All animal protein. No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, GMO and MSG free, no animal by-products or animal cannibalism (yes, conventional pork and poultry feed left over “parts” of animals to their lot), no antibiotics and no hormones (no drugs used to make animals grow faster), no nitrates or nitrites, used 100% organic grain feed (no GMO corn, no pesticides or artificial fertilizers, no protein supplements), allowed to have fresh air, sunlight, freedom of movement, and access to pasture. And, most importantly, the above practices are verified by inspectors.
  • Hormone & Antibiotic Free: Beef, poultry, and pork raised without the use of hormones to stimulate year round milk production (poultry) and rapid animal growth to reduce raise-time (beef and pork). Free of antibiotics is self defined, and suggests the living environment is more tolerable to the animal meaning less exposure to fecal matter, other sick animals, feed that is not tolerable to the animal, and contaminated water.. therefore the animal gets sick less often, has less need for medical intervention.
  • Vegetarian Fed: Poultry and Pork. This is how to specifically avoid cannibal meat, or for example turkeys that have been fed turkey by-products. The reason Beef is not listed here is because it is illegal to feed cows other cows due to the outbreak of Mad Cow Disease that is a direct result of cannibalism in beef production. Unfortunately the “recycling” of animal protein is cause for concern because current conventional practices of raising animal protein allows for the spread of disease, and this method has zero regulation causing potential for terrible virus, disease, and pathogen spreading. This is unfortunately when you see children affected the most: food-borne illness fatality. Honestly, it is more important to buy organic because you avoid this altogether and it ensures the quality of the feed.
  • Raw: Dairy. Raw dairy is not exposed to high heats. An alternative to pasteurizing, or exposing dairy to high heats to kill off harmful pathogens in food. It is important to note here that the pathogens that are in said dairy is due to conventional dairy farming practices… i.e. all of the harmful practices that are being avoided above.
  • Humanely Raised: All animals. Ability to engage in natural behaviors, no confinement, animals less subject to stress which, like humans, takes a toll on health of the animal which can also result in need for antibiotics. A direct attempt to raise animals against conventional or “factory” farming practices. Not just for vegans… this hold significant weight in the health foods world.

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Why: Okay great, so now the definitions are clear. But WHY is it important to purchase these products?

  • Grass Fed: contain 2-4x more omega-3 fatty acids, 4x more vitamin E (2x more than conventionally raised cattle that were given vitamin E supplements), 3-5x more (and one of the richest sources of) CLA-conjugated linoleic acid, very lean (1 serving can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast). Have lower levels of harmful Campylobacter and E.coli, and get sick less often reducing the need for antibiotics and other medication. Switching animals from a grass-fed diet to an all grain diet damages their digestive system, which is remedied with antibiotics in order to prevent sickness or death.
  • Pasture Raised: Same benefits as above, eggs from poultry raised on pasture have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A and 400% more omega-3’s. The average American eats 67 pounds of beef per year, switching from conventional beef to pastured beef would reduce yearly calorie intake by 16,642 calories. Pork has up to 200 percent more vitamin E and up to 290 percent more Omega 3s.
  • Organic: The health benefits are plain and simple here, you are actively choosing not to expose yourself to cancer-causing, pathogen laced foods. Many people misunderstand the importance of organics because of the efforts by conventional farming-supportive corporation’s to displace the validity of organics. For example, if any of you read the totally ridiculous NYTimes article last year claiming that organic doesn’t really have any health benefits, you may have been confused by the true benefits of organics. Essentially this is because large food corporations are actively trying to confuse you into buying conventional products by publishing such studies. The article noted that the macro and micro nutrient profiles are no different between conventional and organically farmed foods. Although I am not totally convinced that this is true, the studies aren’t there yet to prove any different. We organic supporters acknowledge that, and still eat organics. Why? Because those are not the benefits we are seeking in choosing organic foods. I am not eating an organic piece of animal protein to have more protein content than conventionally raised meat. I am eating it to avoid: artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, GMOs, MSGS, animal by-products, animal cannibalism, antibiotics and hormones,pesticides and artificial fertilizers, protein supplements, and the list goes on. Also, I am looking to buy food that is being closely regulated, to insure quality and transparency in production, which cannot be said for conventionally raised animals. Have I made my case?
  • Hormone & Antibiotic Free: If you buy organic this is included, but it’s important to note the health detriments of these drugs in food. “You are what you eat” is true for the animals as well, if they have been raised on hormones and antibiotics you are being exposed to the same drugs just by eating the meat of these animals. Unnecessary consumption of artificial hormones has been linked to cancers, specifically vaginal and breast cancer (maybe some insight to why more and more men are being diagnosed with breast cancer?). The CDC has recently (finally) confirmed that antibiotics used in livestock cause drug resistant pathogens, specifically Campylobacter, Salmonella, E.coli and Shigella.
  • Vegetarian Fed: Again, better to buy organic because it avoids any problems with feed. But, vegetarian feed avoids spreading life-threatening pathogens in animals which then can end up in your food. However, it does mean that the hens have not been let outdoors to peck at worms and bugs.. aka are probably “cage-free” rather than pasture-raised. Just about availability and your buying decisions here.
  • Raw (vs. pasteurized): 100% of the beneficial enzymes available (as opposed to 10% available), all 22 amino acids available including the 8 essentials (as seen in my coconut oil article, amino acids lysine and tyrosine are altered by heat with loss of metabolic availability), all 18 fatty acids are metabolically available (10 essential unsaturated fats are altered by heat), all vitamins provided are 100% available (Fat soluble: 66% of vitamin A, D, E, and F are lost in pasteurization, and an excess of 50% of vitamin C is lost. Water soluble: can result in 38-80% loss), all minerals are available such as calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulphur, and 24 or more of the vital trace minerals (calcium is altered by heat and can result in a 50% or more loss… CALCIUM PEOPLE.. lost in conventional milk production practices… remember when we were told that milk was the most calcium rich food out there? leafy greens my friends, leafy greens. Also mineral digestion relies on the chain reaction of minerals, as well as enzymes present, it’s a dominos effect of mineral loss). Unfortunately raw milk and cheese is not allowed in many states unless you own a share of the animal that is producing the milk, or unless the cheese has been aged a specified amount of time. Another reason to fight back against legislation, big corporation food lobbyists, and conventional farming practices. Check with local farms or your CSA for information about buying raw milk/cheese or purchasing a share in an animal.
  • Humanely Raised: Because humanely raised meat indicates the animal was treated properly, you will receive the benefits of the above listed benefits, as these practices are widely agreed to be “proper” animal farming techniques.

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Price

The next logical question is what is the price you pay for high quality foods. Well, I can make the general statement which I believe whole-heartedly: the upfront investment is what you are investing in your health and your life. I could go on about health care costs as a direct result of conventional farming methods, but I wont. I’ll simply leave you with this: you are what you eat… literally.

If the upfront cost of higher quality foods is something that scares you off, try reducing the amount of animal protein you consume per week, reducing other lifestyle choices such as the costly consumption of alcohol, dining out, or the cost of consumerism(leisure shopping). What about that $100/month gym/yoga/spin membership you are paying for for your “health” but go to 2x a month? Exercise is important but if you’re not using the resource you are paying for, transfer that money to another area of health, and exercise outside, youtube work out videos at home, take the stairs more, go for a walk during lunch, whatever you do continue getting exercise. My argument isn’t to stop exercise, but rather that you’re eating every day, that is your humanly-natured priority, you’re money should go there. I don’t know you or your budget, but I bet if you look deep down you’ll figure out a way to free up a few extra dollars per month for your health.

Brands and farms sold at grocery stores vary from region to region, so now it’s up to you how you spend your food dollars. My general rule of thumb is “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”. Look for companies that proudly display all of their qualities on their packaging, even better look for companies that go into detail about the benefits of how they raise their animals. High quality eggs, for example, often have little flyers inside the carton showing pictures of their farms, the benefits of their practices, and information on how you can learn more about their company. Hello transparency. (I happen to buy Vital Farm eggs.. check it out.)

egg1

Next time you go to the grocery store ask yourself, “What quality meat do I buy?”, ”What farming practices am I supporting by purchasing from these brands/farms?” And, ”What companies are at my grocery store right now that are providing me with higher quality alternatives?”

There you have it. I hope this article has been straightforward, helpful, and more importantly informative to you. As always, leave comments or feel free to email me with any questions or concerns you may have.

Enjoy!

Beautiful, Beneficial Broth

Happy Monday everyone!

Welcome to the official season of Fall! It sure is a beautiful autumn day today here in Maine!

This wonderful Monday continues on with the 4th installment of Inside the Pantry of a Natural Foods Chef and Health Coach. See OneTwo, and Three here! Today’s topic is Beautiful, Beneficial Broth. Did you know that broth is widely considered a Super Food?! Well, if you didn’t you’ve come to the right place.

chicken_broth

When you think “broth” you may think chicken soup, and although there’s so much more to it, that’s okay! Broth is an extremely healing food, and that is exactly why we offer chicken soup to sick loved ones to offer the healing properties of stock.. and why stock/broth reminds us of chicken soup in the first place.

Now here is an important time to note the difference between stock and broth. Stock is unseasoned (aka does not contain salt) and broth has been seasoned (aka has had salted added, and is more enjoyable to eat by itself, for example). Stock and broth are relatively interchangeable in home kitchens, as long as you remember when cooking with it, that broth has more salt than stock. I will be referring to broth in this article because I am suggesting that the below are the benefits that you would receive from consuming broth/stock, which will contain salt and seasonings by the time you are enjoying it! I will refer back to this point in the “buying” section of this article.

Nutritional Benefits:

  • Broth contains gelatin, a form of collagen, which is largely considered a dietary aid because of it’s amino acid profile: arginine (L-arginine), glycine, and proline (L-proline). Did you know that although it takes all 9 essential amino acids to make a protein, all aminos (essential and non-) provide their own benefits for our bodies?
  • Arginine (an essential amino acid, meaning the body cannot produce it) helps the body: heal wounds, remove waste products from the body via supplementing the kidneys, and to maintain immune and hormone function. It also changes into nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Nitric oxide is a powerful neurotransmitter that helps blood vessels relax and improves circulation.
  • Glycine (a non-essential amino acid, aka the body does produce this, making it a great dietary aid) is involved in the transmission of chemical signals in the brain. May help schizophrenia and improve memory. Some researchers think glycine may have a role in cancer prevention because it seems to interfere with the blood supply needed by certain tumors.
  • Proline (non-essential amino acid): plays an important role in combating arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries- a leading cause of heart disease. This occurs when the blood vessels, or arteries, that carry oxygen and nutrients from the heart to the rest of your body become thick and stiff from the buildup of fat on artery walls. Proline aids the body in breaking down proteins for use in healthy cells. In conjunction with lysine, another amino acid, proline is a precursor for hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine. The body uses hydroxyproline to make collagen, tendons, ligaments and heart muscle. Also, a lack of proline in the body might be responsible for strains or tears in soft tissue and slower-than-normal healing.
  • Gelatin supports: skin, hair and nail growth.
  • Gelatin can: improve digestion because it naturally binds to water and helps foods (and toxins!!) move more easily though the digestive track.
  • Gelatin can: aid RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis), Osteoarthritis, and shorten recovery after exercise and sports-related injury.
  • Gelatin is used: to help digestion because the liquid gets absorbed into the body quickly and without much effort. Making bone broth excellent for people with food sensitivities and gastrointestinal disorders because it is usually very safe and tolerable for the body.
  • Broth is used to: inhibit cell inflammation, mitigate cold symptoms, strengthen the kidney, support digestive systems and build blood.
  • Broth helps: the immune system by carrying oxygen to cells in the body.  Minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are essential for maintaining healthy bones and generating energy

Buying information: Although it is ideal to make your own broth from the left over bones and (inedible) parts of your chicken and fish, I understand that not many people are buying chicken and fish in their original whole forms now-a-days. Next time you buy a whole chicken or fish I strongly encourage you throw the leftovers in a pot with your aromatics, aka: a mirepoix “meerah-pwah” (celery, onion, carrots), parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and salt. Cover with water (apprx. 2qts), slowly bring to a boil, and down to a simmer for as many hours as you can! Strain and freeze in individual servings containers and ice-cube trays for easy access.

Now, when buying here are the brands and things to look for:

  • Avoid: boullian cubes.. they’re loaded with MSGs, fillers, and are subject to high heats. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is known as a neurotoxin (read: kills brain cells and damages DNA), an excitotoxin (read: kills healthy cells via overstimulation much like smoking), and suppresses the immune system- yet MSGs are approved by the FDA. Don’t be fooled by “organic” cubes.. they can contain it too!
  • Avoid: canned broth. As with any food item, never buy canned food! Always buy stock/broth (and all packaged liquids) in aseptic carton (such as Tetra Paks) or glass (if possible). Why? because canned foods require or contain: BPA (“bisphenol A.” can cause birth defects, infertility, etc.), artificial preservatives (toxins, “free-radical food”), and are susceptible to lethal bacteria such as botulism…!!!
  • Buy: stock when possible and add your own salt to season (the different between stock and broth is seasoning: salt.. see introduction).. this helps you control the sodium levels, and the quality of salt added.
  • Buy: stock containing the verb-age: organic, free range, low-sodium, and certified gluten free (yes that’s right, you have to actively buy stock/broth gluten free otherwise it is contaminated).
  • My favorite brands are Pacific and Imagine… share with us some of your favorite brands in the comment section below!

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Uses:

  • Soups, stews, broth-y noodles (think yummy soba noodles with bok choy, carrots, shiitakes, and topped off with steaming hot broth and scallions).
  • Rice/polenta/grain cooking.
  • Sauces.
  • Sauteing vegetables without the use of fat/oil, also known as “healthy saute”.
  • Steaming vegetables.
  • Braising greens.
  • Roasting root vegetables.
  • Poaching proteins.
  • Deglazing pans (which is when you add a liquid to the pan/pot when everything starts to stick to the bottom and you want to scrap it off easily to add more flavor to your dish).
  • Reheating liquid (when, for example, you need to add a liquid to reheat or loosen up a leftover soup or entree such as risotto).
  • When you’re sick or feel a cold approaching, try heating 1 cup of broth, fresh grated ginger, thinly sliced garlic, and raw vegetables of choice on the stove top. Bring to a boil then down to a simmer until the vegetables have just softened. Add leafy green such as chopped kale and wilt for 1 minute before serving. Enjoy the health benefits of the extremely nourishing foods you are consuming!

Storage:

  • Use within 2-3 days after opening, or freeze for 6 months.
  • If you’ve made your own, same timeline as above, but store cooled stock/broth in glass jar or container.
  • If store bought, keep in purchased container if it has a screw-on cap, otherwise transfer to a glass jar or container.
  • Bonus tip: if you have a spare ice tray, pour your broth into the tray and freeze for 6 months of easy grab and go use! See “uses” for all the ways you could benefit from ice cube sized portions!

images-1

Well, that’s all I have for you today! I hope you enjoyed the 4th installment of Inside the Pantry of a Natural Foods Chef and Health Coach! As always, please comment with any and all questions you may have, or requests for future posts.

Be Well and Enjoy!

What to know about adding sea vegetables to your diet

Happy Saturday everyone!

I hope you are enjoying the weekend thus far- and welcome back to the third post in the series Inside the Pantry of a Natural Foods Chef and Health Coach! Today’s topic: Sea Vegetables.

3SeaVeg

If you’ve ever enjoyed foods such as sushi or miso soup, or really any other Asian cuisine.. you my friend have consumed a sea vegetable! It may seem a bit odd to refer to “seaweed” as a sea vegetable, but like a vegetable grown in the ground, “seaweeds” are packed full of very special micro-nutrients that are important to have in your diet, and that is why they’ve earned the title sea vegetable. In reality, a sea vegetable is neither plant nor animal, but rather a form of alga!

Sea vegetables are grouped into three general categories: Red, Brown, and Green (no surprise here considering that’s probably what you see on the beaches if you’ve ever visited the ocean!!). Now one thing to note here is that although I reference the seaweed on the shores of our beaches, not all seaweed is meant to be ingested. Just as it goes for wild mushrooms, unless you are an expert in identifying wild species of sea vegetables, you’d better stick to the packages sold in grocery stores.

At this point you may be asking, well what varieties can I eat? So, here it goes.. the most commonly available forms of sea veg:

  • Arame
  • Hijiki (see bottom of this post for information about health concernssurrounding hijiki)
  • Kelp
  • Kombu (a variety of Kelp)
  • Wakame
  • Nori
  • Dulse

Nutritional Highlights:

Sea vegetables offer the largest range of minerals in any food, virtually all of the minerals found in the ocean.. which are conveniently the same minerals found in our blood! All are excellent sources of calcium (no milk mustache necessary!), iodine, sodium. Are a very good sources of folic acid and magnesium. And aregood sources iron, potassium, riboflavin, and pentothenic acid (vitamin B5). Not to mention that sea vegetables contain good amounts of lignans, a plant compound with cancer-protective properties, and funcans, which can reduce the body’s inflammatory response!!!

  • Arame: Contains protein, fat (alpha-linolenic acid.. aka a form of omega-3s), fiber,
  • Kombu: Contains glutamic acid which acts as a natural bean tenderizer- sayonara discomfort (let’s be real, gas) caused by beans!
  • Dulse: Contains protein, fat (EPA and DHA.. aka forms of omega-3s) and fiber.

Health Benefits (aka what the above does for you):

  • Because sea veggies are rich in iodine, they can play a crucial role in supporting thyroid function because iodine is a precursor for making thyroid hormones.
  • May also help prevent cancer by inhibiting lignans from the hormonal signaling of estrogen-dependent cancers.. aka the growth of vessels that feed cancer cells.
  • As stated above, funcan helps reduce your body’s inflammatory response that occurs in our daily lives and from certain lifestyle choices.
  • The folic acid and magnesium levels help act as an excellent protection for the heart and cardiovascular system.
  • Magnesium and lignans relieve the symptoms of menopause.
  • Pantothenic acid and riboflavin are B-vitamins which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Buying:

My favorite brands that are very reputable are Maine Coast Sea Vegetables andSeasoningsEden Organics, and Emerald Cove. Sea vegetables are sold in airtight packaging, as you’ll see below they can be found in sheets, flakes, and powder/crushed, and can be purchased in the form that is most suitable for your cooking needs. They can keep for months if kept airtight without refrigeration or freezing. Once cooked, like many cooked foods, please use within 3 days.

  • Arame: Sold crushed or full (which looks “stringy”, “lacey” or “wirey”). Sweet and mild in taste- great for people new to cooking with sea vegetables!
  • Hijiki: Sold crushed or full (stringy, like the above arame). Strong flavor.
  • Kelp: Sold in flakes or noodles. Medium taste
  • Kombu: Sold in strips or sheets. Earthy flavor.
  • Wakame: Sold in strips or sheets. Medium flavor.
  • Nori: Sold in sheets or crushed/flakes. Mild in taste.
  • Dulse: Sold in flakes and large pieces. Chewy texture and earthy in flavor.

Uses (most common, that is):

  • Arame: Tastes great stir fried with other vegetables and served over brown or forbidden rice.
  • Hijiki: Delicious in cold and warm salads.
  • Kelp: You may remember from my first post that I love kelp noodles… well kelp noodles are a great way to add this nutritious vegetable to any stir fries or cold noodle salads that you may make! Or if you  buy it dried add to salads or as a garnish to entrees.
  • Kombu: Mostly used to season soups and beans. Every time you cook with beans you should add 1/2 piece (or about 3 inches) of Kombu to the pot at the same time as the beans (remember the glutamic acid from above!)
  • Wakame: Most commonly seen in Japanese Miso Soup, this is great to add to all types of soups!
  • Nori: Made famous by Sushi, nori is a great way to make hand held snacks and meals.. and they don’t have to be similar to sushi either! Use it like a wrap, add it like a piece of lettuce, or have fun making your own types of “sushi” with raw or steamed vegetables and condiments such as hummus or guacamole. Or crush up and add to salads.
  • Dulse: Most commonly sprinkled on foods as a garnish or finishing seasoning such as on salads (and this is true for all sea veggies found in flake form!). Next time try to mix it with Himalayan Salt, a little truffle oil or salt, and high quality cold-pressed oil of your choice and drizzle over freshly popped popcorn (yum!). Take up the health notch another step and pop loose kernels via stove top cooking (not the aluminum “camping” packs you sometimes see on the ends of grocery store aisles, though!) and avoid the additives and microwave required by purchasing name brand microwave popcorn.

Safety Concerns: Sea vegetables have little to no safety concerns, although it has been reported that certain types of hijiki have been tested positive for levels of inorganic arsenic- the toxic form of arsenic. Food safety organizations have warned consumers to limit their consumption.

That concludes installment 3, or “What to know about adding sea vegetables to your diet”. I’d love to hear what you think, and am available to answer any questions. And as always, please feel free to comment any product/pantry item information requests you may have!

Series introduction: Inside the Pantry of a Natural Foods Chef and Health Coach

2nd installment: So, What’s all the fuss about coconut oil? The benefits of coconut oil revealed

So, what’s all the fuss about coconut oil? The benefits revealed

Happy Saturday everyone!

I hope you are enjoying the weekend thus far- and welcome back to the third post in the series Inside the Pantry of a Natural Foods Chef and Health Coach! Today’s topic: Sea Vegetables.

3SeaVeg

If you’ve ever enjoyed foods such as sushi or miso soup, or really any other Asian cuisine.. you my friend have consumed a sea vegetable! It may seem a bit odd to refer to “seaweed” as a sea vegetable, but like a vegetable grown in the ground, “seaweeds” are packed full of very special micro-nutrients that are important to have in your diet, and that is why they’ve earned the title sea vegetable. In reality, a sea vegetable is neither plant nor animal, but rather a form of alga!

Sea vegetables are grouped into three general categories: Red, Brown, and Green (no surprise here considering that’s probably what you see on the beaches if you’ve ever visited the ocean!!). Now one thing to note here is that although I reference the seaweed on the shores of our beaches, not all seaweed is meant to be ingested. Just as it goes for wild mushrooms, unless you are an expert in identifying wild species of sea vegetables, you’d better stick to the packages sold in grocery stores.

At this point you may be asking, well what varieties can I eat? So, here it goes.. the most commonly available forms of sea veg:

  • Arame
  • Hijiki (see bottom of this post for information about health concernssurrounding hijiki)
  • Kelp
  • Kombu (a variety of Kelp)
  • Wakame
  • Nori
  • Dulse

Nutritional Highlights:

Sea vegetables offer the largest range of minerals in any food, virtually all of the minerals found in the ocean.. which are conveniently the same minerals found in our blood! All are excellent sources of calcium (no milk mustache necessary!), iodine, sodium. Are a very good sources of folic acid and magnesium. And aregood sources iron, potassium, riboflavin, and pentothenic acid (vitamin B5). Not to mention that sea vegetables contain good amounts of lignans, a plant compound with cancer-protective properties, and funcans, which can reduce the body’s inflammatory response!!!

  • Arame: Contains protein, fat (alpha-linolenic acid.. aka a form of omega-3s), fiber,
  • Kombu: Contains glutamic acid which acts as a natural bean tenderizer- sayonara discomfort (let’s be real, gas) caused by beans!
  • Dulse: Contains protein, fat (EPA and DHA.. aka forms of omega-3s) and fiber.

Health Benefits (aka what the above does for you):

  • Because sea veggies are rich in iodine, they can play a crucial role in supporting thyroid function because iodine is a precursor for making thyroid hormones.
  • May also help prevent cancer by inhibiting lignans from the hormonal signaling of estrogen-dependent cancers.. aka the growth of vessels that feed cancer cells.
  • As stated above, funcan helps reduce your body’s inflammatory response that occurs in our daily lives and from certain lifestyle choices.
  • The folic acid and magnesium levels help act as an excellent protection for the heart and cardiovascular system.
  • Magnesium and lignans relieve the symptoms of menopause.
  • Pantothenic acid and riboflavin are B-vitamins which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Buying:

My favorite brands that are very reputable are Maine Coast Sea Vegetables andSeasoningsEden Organics, and Emerald Cove. Sea vegetables are sold in airtight packaging, as you’ll see below they can be found in sheets, flakes, and powder/crushed, and can be purchased in the form that is most suitable for your cooking needs. They can keep for months if kept airtight without refrigeration or freezing. Once cooked, like many cooked foods, please use within 3 days.

  • Arame: Sold crushed or full (which looks “stringy”, “lacey” or “wirey”). Sweet and mild in taste- great for people new to cooking with sea vegetables!
  • Hijiki: Sold crushed or full (stringy, like the above arame). Strong flavor.
  • Kelp: Sold in flakes or noodles. Medium taste
  • Kombu: Sold in strips or sheets. Earthy flavor.
  • Wakame: Sold in strips or sheets. Medium flavor.
  • Nori: Sold in sheets or crushed/flakes. Mild in taste.
  • Dulse: Sold in flakes and large pieces. Chewy texture and earthy in flavor.

Uses (most common, that is):

  • Arame: Tastes great stir fried with other vegetables and served over brown or forbidden rice.
  • Hijiki: Delicious in cold and warm salads.
  • Kelp: You may remember from my first post that I love kelp noodles… well kelp noodles are a great way to add this nutritious vegetable to any stir fries or cold noodle salads that you may make! Or if you  buy it dried add to salads or as a garnish to entrees.
  • Kombu: Mostly used to season soups and beans. Every time you cook with beans you should add 1/2 piece (or about 3 inches) of Kombu to the pot at the same time as the beans (remember the glutamic acid from above!)
  • Wakame: Most commonly seen in Japanese Miso Soup, this is great to add to all types of soups!
  • Nori: Made famous by Sushi, nori is a great way to make hand held snacks and meals.. and they don’t have to be similar to sushi either! Use it like a wrap, add it like a piece of lettuce, or have fun making your own types of “sushi” with raw or steamed vegetables and condiments such as hummus or guacamole. Or crush up and add to salads.
  • Dulse: Most commonly sprinkled on foods as a garnish or finishing seasoning such as on salads (and this is true for all sea veggies found in flake form!). Next time try to mix it with Himalayan Salt, a little truffle oil or salt, and high quality cold-pressed oil of your choice and drizzle over freshly popped popcorn (yum!). Take up the health notch another step and pop loose kernels via stove top cooking (not the aluminum “camping” packs you sometimes see on the ends of grocery store aisles, though!) and avoid the additives and microwave required by purchasing name brand microwave popcorn.

Safety Concerns: Sea vegetables have little to no safety concerns, although it has been reported that certain types of hijiki have been tested positive for levels of inorganic arsenic- the toxic form of arsenic. Food safety organizations have warned consumers to limit their consumption.

That concludes installment 3, or “What to know about adding sea vegetables to your diet”. I’d love to hear what you think, and am available to answer any questions. And as always, please feel free to comment any product/pantry item information requests you may have!

Series introduction: Inside the Pantry of a Natural Foods Chef and Health Coach

2nd installment: So, What’s all the fuss about coconut oil? The benefits of coconut oil revealed

Inside the pantry of a Natural Foods Chef and Certified Health Coach

I hope you’re all having a fantastic week! I figured this post was best saved for before the weekend because many of you do your grocery shopping on the weekends to prep for the work week ahead. Hopefully this post inspires you to reorganize your pantry or to swap out some of the items that you cook with! This post is the kick-off of my new series about my top favorite health promoting pantry items. After today’s general overview, I will dive into each of my favorite products/food items to explain: health benefits, uses, storage, and buying. I hope you enjoy, and as always, I invite you to comment on today’s post to request any items that you would like me to talk about!

PantrySeries

Also!! I did NOT organize/tidy my pantry for this because I wanted you to see how it looks in reality.. nothing’s every perfect!

Picture 7

First up:

pantry3

So to start, the top shelf of my pantry has two bins. One is a basket full of onions, garlic, ginger, and avocados.. sometimes potatoes, and/or citrus. All shelf stable staples in my cooking. Not only are onions, garlic, and ginger a delicious way to round out the flavors of a dish, they are also: antimacrobial (sickness fighters), quercetin rich (a phytonutrient that is known as an antioxidant cancer fighter.. among a handful of other benefits), nervous system replenishing, digestive stimulants. Can’t ignore that!

The second bin is full of:

  • Sea Vegetables: Other than nori, I didn’t cook much with my sea vegetables this summer  because I tend to use them in soups, stews, or hearty winter meals. Sea vegetables are so mineral rich that they are a great thing to supplement your winter diet.  -keep an eye out for my upcoming post that will dive into the benefits of sea vegetables!

and..

  • Himalayan or mined salt: I hate to break it to you but the ship has sailed on the sea salt fad (no pun intended). Don’t get me wrong, anything is better than table salt, or the salt contained in sodium rich processed foods, but the real mineral benefit comes from deep down in the unpolluted, highly well preserved mountains of the salty waters from thousands of years ago. What are benefits of salt exactly? Himalayan salt helps regulate your body’s blood sugar, water, and PH levels (very important!), it also promotes respiratory and vascular health. – More on this coming soon!

The next shelf down is where I keep liquids, or semi-solids that I use to enhance flavor (sweet, salty, bitter, sour), quick flavor starters (aka cheaters curry paste, or lazy Asian boosts), or to add fat. Note, all of my “cheater flavors” are STILL extremely healthful versions, i.e. free of gluten, refined oils, processed salts, and processed sugar to name a few basic things to avoid. Some of my favorite items from the top left:

  • ZOE Spanish Olive Oil (their Greek Olive Oil is great too)
  • Coconut Secret, both Aminos and Nectar (Note: aminos should be kept in the fridge, this is unopened.. and should be in the “extras” section of my pantry)
  • Vinegars, and infused (high quality) oils
  • Nut/seed butters
  • Raw honey
  • No clue why the capers are there and not in the “extras section”.. but capers too haha

That last shelf you see if full of canned, boxed, and dried foods.. here’s what I always keep on hand up there:

  • Rice noodles (for stir-fries and Asian meals)*
  • Tinkyada GF pastas*
  • Quinoa brand pastas*
  • Kelp noodles (seaweed noodles that are not dried or exposed to high heats/over processing)
  • You also probably are seeing the GF Annie’s Mac N’ Cheese.. not a staple just a random buy for a treat

*Keep in mind that processed grains/flours should be consumed infrequently.. that means all pastas even of the GF variety

  • Canned coconut milk (I’ve been looking for boxed but I don’t believe it exists yet) great for curries and various other Indian cuisine, thickening soups + stews, and for use as cooking liquid *UPDATE: Since I posted this, a peer sent me an Amazon link of tetra-packed coconut milk!!
  • Boxed or packaged ready to use beans (garbanzo, black, kidney, cannellini) for the days when I haven’t had time or planned to pre-soak my dried beans
  • Premade polenta and quinoa polenta blend.. great for lazy day use or preparing a meal in a pinch

Next up…

pantry1

Opened grains and dried beans/legumes are kept in air tight mason jars to extend the volatile shelf lives as much as possible. I highly recommend storing any dried good in these excellent, non-toxic containers. Some of my favorite grains, beans, and legumes?:

  • Garbanzo
  • Black
  • Kidney
  • Adzuki
  • Cannellini (white beans)
  • Lentils of all variety
  • Polenta
  • Short and long grain brown rice
  • Arborio (risotto rice)
  • Quinoa
  • Sushi rice
  • Amaranth
  • Farro
  • Forbidden or black rice
  • GF oats!

Yes, that tub of coconut oil is too big for my liquids shelf! Coconut oil which, along with butter, I use the most frequently in cooking and baking. I will talk about this in more detail on the second installment of this series, coming tomorrow morning!

Moving on…

pantry4

 

The top right section of my pantry is full of dried herbs and spices. I’m currently in the process of replacing the conventional spices for organic. Pretty basic stuff as far as that goes here… my favorite spice is cumin!

Also, don’t be afraid to cook with (high quality) spice blends. Yes, it’s great to create your own spice blends for each meal if you are adventurous and enjoy blending, or go through enough of each spice that they don’t spoil. But in reality, that’s not the majority of us, myself included. Again.. don’t be afraid to cook with high quality spice blends! Add in different spices here and there in addition to your usuals to change up the flavor of different dishes, but don’t worry about using the same few blends frequently! Just make sure they are organic, and contain real herbs and spices ONLY.. no toxic fillers or binders please and thank you!

Now what you are probably seeing that is unusual to you is dried sea vegetables in the form of spice shakers. See above for the benefits of cooking with sea vegetables. I recommend:

  • Maine Coast Sea Vegetables (see the blue container that looks like it has a sky for the label? and the hidden red one behind the ground ginger?)… followed by Bragg’s sea vegetable blends (yellow cap, between the huge tub of cinnamon and the red Maine Coast Sea Veg.) – Again, keep an eye out for my upcoming post about the benefits of sea vegetables!

The last shelf in the above picture is of my shelf stable randoms, and unopened tomato/stock items. I alway  keep:

  • Tomato paste (in a tube for easy portioning)
  • Crushed and pureed tomatoes (preferably in tetra paks.. aka boxes. More on why later..)
  • and, lots of Stock (yes you see chicken stock, yes I am still a vegetarian.. I believe in the health benefits of high quality chicken broth, so I eat it.. there are no rules here!)

And we’re moving on again…

pantry2

This picture is my “extras” shelf. Unopened items that I have an excess of, or that are already in glass jars waiting to be topped off.

By the way I keep all of my nuts, seeds, and opened flours in my freezer, which I will do an installment on, too!

Welp, that’s all folks. I hope that you enjoyed a little look inside my pantry, and that you will be inspired to reorganize and rejuvenate the contents of your pantry! Come back tomorrow for my post about coconut oil!

Enjoy!

2nd installment: So, What’s all the fuss about coconut oil? The benefits of coconut oil revealed