Archive for the ‘Health Tips’ Category

Steroid-free Chicken

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Read carefully the above menu description for Five Spice Chicken.  Does this  strike anyone else as weird and unappetizing?  While I’m pleased the chicken is steroid and antibiotic free, what a commentary that we have to write that on a menu description.  All chicken should be steroid and antibiotic free, but the reality is conventionally grown chicken is injected with growth hormones and antibiotics and often tainted with harmful bacteria.  The steroids are used to make them grow quicker and plumper, and the antibiotics are a preventative measure to counteract the problems of being raised in confined quarters on big factory farms.  Furthermore,  conventional chicken feed is loaded with pesticides.  All of this is passed onto us when we eat conventionally raised chicken.

The good news is that we are aware now of these problems and healthier choices do exist.  The many healthy choices you find in a supermarket however, can be overwhelming, confusing, and often without proper varification. Below is a list from Consumer Reports explaining the various labels, which you should find helpful.

Organic: In order to be labeled “USDA Organic,” the chicken had to have been fed not just a vegetarian diet, but a diet that does not include any genetically modified ingredients or toxic synthetic pesticides. It also means that antibiotics can not be used for anything other than medically necessary antibiotics (though some may argue that there are farmers who stretch the boundaries of what is medically necessary). However, chickens can be provided with antibiotics during their first day of life; the drug-free rule kicks in the day after the shell breaks open.

Organic certification, which requires annual inspections, mandates that access to the outdoors be provided for the chickens, but sets no specific standards for the size of the outdoor area, the size of the door leading between inside and outside, or the amount of time the birds spend outdoors.

No antibiotics: These chickens are never given antibiotics, including in the egg. That said, there is no inspection process to verify this label before it is employed.

No hormones: This label can be used on all conventionally raised chickens in the U.S. as the use of hormones in not allowed in the production of chickens for market. So if you see “no hormones” on a label, it just means “chicken.”

Cage-Free: Another label that is just touting the industry minimum, says CR. “No chickens raised for meat in the U.S. are kept in cages. Neither does it mean that the birds have access to the outdoors.”

Free-range: The only difference between conventionally raised chickens and free-range is that the chickens have access of some sort to the outside. Once again, there are no standards for size of the outdoor area or for the door to the outside, and inspections are not required to use this label.

No GMOs: To get the “Non GMO Project Verified” label, the chicken’s feed must be comprised of less than 0.9 percent of genetically modified crops. Verification is required for this label.

Natural: CR dubbed this one “the most misleading label” of the bunch, as more than half of the survey respondents said they believed “natural” meant the chickens didn’t receive antibiotics or chow down on feed containing GMOs. 42% of respondents said they thought the term meant the chickens were raised outdoors, while 1-in-3 said they thought it meant the same as “organic.” The only substantial requirement for “natural” chicken breasts is that they contain no artificial ingredients, but even then there is no process to verify this claim. 

 

If you haven’t already seen it, I urge you to watch Food Inc, an eye-opening documentary exploring the way food has changed in the last 50 years and not necessarily for the better.  It’s well worth the watch.

The bottom line when eating chicken? Eat locally grown and organic whenever possible, as with most foods.

 

Some information compiled from: http://consumerist.com/2013/12/19/organic-chicken-is-different-than-antibiotic-free-and-natural-means-nothing/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen

 

Whenever possible, eating organic food is always preferable.  Organic food is grown without chemical pesticides, may contain more natural antioxidants and nutrients linked to reduced risk for cancer, stroke, and heart disease, and tastes more flavorful.  But, organic food is usually more expensive than conventional food and many people can’t afford it.  While I still maintain you can’t afford not to eat organically (it’s cheaper than the doctor),  I of course understand.  That’s where the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15” guidelines developed by the Environmental Working Group come in handy.  The EWG is a non-profit watchdog organization, which uses “the power of public information to protect public health and the environment” and “empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment”.

The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables most heavily sprayed with pesticides – they contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving – and the ones you should always buy organic. These foods are most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides. They are, starting with the worst:

  • apples
  • strawberries
  • grapes
  • celery
  • peaches
  • spinach
  • sweet bell pepper
  • nectarines – imported
  • cucumbers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • snap peas – imported
  • potatoes

+ 2 more

  • hot peppers
  • kale/collard greens

 

The Clean 15 are the fifteen fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticides and not necessary to buy organic.  They are, starting with the best:

  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • cabbage
  • sweet peas – frozen
  • onions
  • asparagus
  • mangoes
  • papaya
  • kiwi
  • eggplant
  • grapefruit
  • cantaloupe
  • cauliflower

The organic food market is growing and organic foods are now easily found in conventional grocery store chains as well as natural food markets.  To be sure the produce you choose is organic, check the sticker on the fruit or vegetable. If the code number starts with a “9” ,then it is organic.

Next time you go grocery shopping, bring your Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen shopper’s guide.  You’ll find it’s cheaper than you think to eat safely!

Visit the Environmental Working Group website to download the EWG Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce and to see their full list of all 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data. Their website also contains shopper’s guides to safe cleaning products, safe cosmetics, safe sunscreen and a variety of other important topics.

 

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Information compiled from ewg.org.

 

Eating Fish Is More Complicated Than You Think!

 

Fish is not a health food, according to Dr. Furhman, a board-certified family physician, NY Times best-selling author, nutritional researcher, and an internationally recognized expert on nutrition and natural healing.  He maintains, “If you eat fish regularly, your body is undoubtedly high in mercury, which can damage the heart and brain. Pregnant women may compromise their babies’ brain development by mercury exposure associated with eating fish, and eating more fish is also associated with increased breast cancer risk.”  He recommends to either avoid fish or eat it no more than once a week and choose those lowest in mercury such as flounder, scallops, trout, sole, squid, wild salmon or sardines.

Fish is a healthy and delicious alternative to meat and obviously some choices are safer than others.  Still, reading Dr. Furhman’s report is jarring.  I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website, which helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans and for consuming safe fish, to read their recommendations.

The Seafood Watch program categorizes fish into “Best Choices”, “Good Alternatives”, and which ones to “Avoid”.

Their Super Green or “Best Choices” lists seafood that meets the following three criteria:

  • Has low levels of mercury
  • Provides at least 250 milligrams per day (mg/d) of omega-3s
  • Is classified as a Seafood Watch “Best Choice” (green)

Best Choice List includes:

  • Atlantic Mackerel (purse seine from Canada and the U.S.)
  • Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
  • Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
  • Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
  • Salmon, Canned (wild-caught, from Alaska)

Next Best choices:

  • Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
  • Sablefish/Black Cod (from Alaska and Canadian Pacific)

Click here for the “Good Alternatives” and “Avoid” list, as well as a seafood search for detailed information regarding specific fish.  You can actually download seafood watch lists for your  region of the country.  

The “Best Choices” list isn’t very long.  Sadly, eating safe, nutritious food is getting harder.  Staying informed by reading information from trusted sources is one solution, eating local, organically grown whole food is another.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Information compiled from:  peacefuldaily.com and

http://www.seafoodwatch.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_recommendations.aspx

 

Have You Joined a CSA Yet?

 

CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture, have grown in popularity over the years. In a CSA, consumers can buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. The farmer offers a certain number of shares, or boxes of vegetables or other farm products to the public. Customers in turn pay in advance for a share and receive a box or bag of seasonal produce each week during the farming season.  There are several different CSA formats – half shares, seasonal shares (with more produce grown in hot houses, you can now get winter shares), biweekly shares, or market shares where you choose your own produce. Fish, local meat and flower CSAs are also available.

 

 

There are advantages for both the farmer and the consumer with the CSA model. For farmers, they receive early payment, which helps with their cash flow at a lean time of year, and they have the chance to meet the people who eat the food they grow. For the customer, they eat just picked produce, which is at its most flavorful and nutritious. They are often introduced to different kinds of produce and new preparation ideas. They have the opportunity to get to know the farmers who produce their food, a rare option today with conventional supermarkets where produce is cellophane-wrapped and has traveled 1500 miles from farm to plate.

I’ve been a member of several CSAs over the years, but the spring CSA I am participating in now is clearly the most unique. Fresh produce is limited in spring in New England, but my CSA bag is full of thoughtfully chosen and healthy items.   Run by a nutritionist and her farmer boyfriend, Nicole Cormier and Jim Lough, their bags of “locally sourced, fresh picked, handmade, sustainably grown, non-toxic, real food” are designed to be nutritionally complete.  They contain items like sunchokes, pea greens, fresh chevre goat cheese, homemade almond milk, local cornmeal, black beans, herbs, spices, honey, farm fresh eggs and locally grown mushrooms and grains. I have received locally made skin salves, delicious homemade granola and dried fruits, green juice drinks and even a locally made reusable sandwich and snack bag.  Nicole also includes recipes and nutritional information.  Her CSA model is a little different from the typical one in that she uses many farmers who all grow something different.

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I can hardly wait to see what’s in my CSA bag – it’s apparent each bag is packed with love and care. Check out the CSAs in your area. You’ll not only enjoy eating the freshest and most nutritious produce possible, but the convenience of pre-chosen food too. And, you’re helping to support local farmers.

Information compiled from http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ and deliclioiuslivingnutrition.com.

 

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Try Oil Pulling!

I recently discovered oil pulling.  Oil what?

Oil pulling is an age-old remedy started in India thousands of years ago that uses oil to clean, detoxify, and nourish teeth and gums; it also whitens teeth. Oil pulling removes excessive and bad bacteria from your mouth, which also helps with detoxification of the entire body.  It is well known that bacteria in the mouth can lead to other health related problems besides gum disease.

 

How Do You Do It?

Basically you swish a teaspoon or two of oil – coconut, sesame and olive oil work best – in your mouth for up to twenty minutes.  Ten to fifteen is okay too, but twenty is optimal to break down plague and root out bacteria.  After you spit out  (in a paper bag if you are concerned about your plumbing), rinse with warm salt water and brush as usual.  Oil pulling is best done first thing in the morning before breakfast.  Twenty minutes is a long time to spend swishing, so I use that time to go about my morning routine, all while swishing, and before you know it you’re done.  My husband loves the quiet while I swish!

 

How Does It Work?

Unlike mouthwash, oil is viscous and therefore picks up saliva and pulls out bacteria while it works its way deep into the crevices of your gum tissues. The oil cuts through plaque and removes toxins without disturbing the teeth or gums. Be careful not to swallow the oil because you will reintroduce the bacteria back into your body.

 

My dentist always mentions my inflamed gums and deep pockets, so I decided to give oil pulling with coconut oil a try. photo (4)It takes a little getting used to, but it’s not bad.   I swished for several weeks before a second appointment with my periodontist. She noticed that my gums were less inflamed than previously, and when I mentioned that I had been oil pulling, which she had never heard of, she wouldn’t exactly attribute the decrease in swelling to the oil pulling.  She did say however, to keep it up if I thought it was working.

Oil pulling is an easy practice to help heal teeth and gums and one that possibly benefits your entire system.  I love how clean and glossy my teeth feel after swishing too!  Why not give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

Information compiled from http://wellnessmama.com/7866/oil-pulling-for-oral-health/ and http://coconut-oil-pulling.com/.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

 

Safely Protect Your Baby’s Soft, Sweet Skin

All new parents want the best for their baby, including the skin care products they use on their baby’s soft tender skin.  Skin is our largest organ and it’s important to choose the safest and most non-irritating products.

Small, developing bodies are more susceptible to the dangers of toxins than adult bodies; their young organs are less capable of processing chemical additives, which can potentially cause damage or disease in the future.    Because they are so small, they are more exposed to chemical contaminants in the air, water, food and personal care products than adults.  Below are a few tips on how to choose the right products.

  • Read the labels and avoid hard-to-pronounce ingredients like Bronopol, DMDM hyhantoin and fragrances found in baby wipes, or BHA, boric acid and fragrances found in diaper creams. There are several safer and non-toxic or organic baby care products available, as well as lots of easy recipes online for making your own, like baby wipes for example.
  • Save your baby the exposure to so many ingredients (and yourself some money) by using fewer products. The fewer the better. Do you really need baby lotion, baby oil, baby powder (see the next tip on powder), baby bubble bath, baby shampoo, baby soap, baby wipes and diaper cream? It’s just marketing and cute packaging that makes us think we have to have a different product for each application.
  • According to the consumer watchdog organization, Environmental Working Group, when it comes to baby powder, “skip it! Just like auto exhaust or secondhand smoke, tiny airborne particles can damage baby’s delicate, developing lungs.”

Those same tips are true for skin care products for all ages!  To check the toxicity level of the products you use for you and your baby, click here.

Feel good about giving your baby the best possible start to life!

Information compiled from ewg.org.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

Healthier Holiday Baking

 

What’s the holiday season without cookies, cakes, candies and other unhealthy treats!  Baking holiday goodies is part of the tradition, and a perfect family activity. While I totally believe in a little splurging, there are healthy baking substitutes where no one will know the difference.  I’ll skip the tip about substituting black beans and dates in place of chocolate when making brownies!  (However, if it sounds appealing, email me and I’ll send you the recipe – my husband loves them!)

 

Supermoist banana and almond cake.

  • Use coconut oil in all recipes calling for butter, shortening or vegetable oil.   It’s an ideal all-purpose cooking oil and has 100% less cholesterol than butter.   It contains the same medium-chain fatty acids found in mother’s milk essential to optimum health and disease prevention.
  • Olive oil is a good cooking oil too and makes a delicious, guilt-free dessert.
  • Substitute flours made from nuts and healthy whole grains, like almond meal walnut meal or quinoa, considered one of the world’s healthiest foods due to its high nutritive value, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Nuts are super high in Omega 3’s, the right fats your body and brain needs.
  • For recipes calling for peanut butter, try healthier almond butter instead.
  • For a more nutritious sweetener, use honey, agave, maple syrup, molasses or organic cane sugar instead of refined white sugar.
  • Use almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
  • When baking with chocolate, try chocolate with at least 60% cocoa powder– it’s healthier and rich in cancer-fighting anti-oxidants.  Organic is preferable too!  (Cocoa powder is chocolate pressed free of the fat of cocoa butter.)
  • Moisten cakes and cookies with applesauce, mashed bananas or pureed pumpkin for extra nutrition.  Add nuts, dates, and other dried fruits to your baked goods.
  • Nutrient-rich chia seeds are a good thickener and make a yummy pudding!

Feel a little better indulging this holiday season with some of these baking tips.  Email me your healthy ideas too!  Have fun!

 

Listed below are three simple recipes for healthier holiday treats.

 

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

INGREDIENTS:

2/3 cup regular olive oil, plus more for greasing (don’t use extra virgin)

6 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons best vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups almond meal (flour) or 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch salt

1 cup superfine sugar (or organic can sugar)

eggs

1 X 9-inch springform cake pan

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the pan with a little oil and line the base with parchment paper.

Measure and sift the cocoa powder into a bowl or pitcher and whisk in the boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolaty, just runny, paste. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then set aside to cool a little.

In another smallish bowl, combine the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) with the baking soda and pinch of salt.

Put the sugar, olive oil, and eggs into the bowl of a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes, until you have a pale-primrose, aerated, and thickened cream.

Turn the speed down a little and pour in the cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in, you can slowly tip in the almond meal (or all-purpose flour) mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the sides are set and the very center, on top, still looks slightly damp. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.

Let it cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, still in its pan, and then ease the sides of the cake with a small metal spatula and spring it out of the pan. Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm. Delicious with ice cream too!

 

Coconut Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups grated or shredded coconut, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 cups coconut oil, 3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt and set aside.  Blend coconut oil, eggs, sugar, and almond extract.  Mix wet and dry ingredients together.  Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Flatten balls to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until pale tan. Transfer to wire racks to cool.  Each cookie contains 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil.

 

Date Balls

Simple to make and just as satisfying as a usual holiday cookie, date balls are perfect to bring to a party.  They are a great energizing snack too!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups raw almonds
6  dates
1 – 3 teaspoons vanilla extract (add 1 tsp at a time until there is a light vanilla flavor)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional to roll balls in after; sesame seeds are good too)

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor outfitted with an “S” blade, or a heavy-duty blender, process almonds until coarsely ground. Add the dates and extract and process until mixture sticks together. Form the mixture into tablespoon size balls and roll in coconut or sesame seeds.

From deliciouslivingnutrition.com.

For more green living tips, go to greenwithbetsy.com.

 

 

 

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