Category Archives: nutrients

On My Mind Monday 05.22.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  This is what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, health, and holistic living.  Read what’s on my mind.

Testing Antioxidant Power of Foods –   The concept of antioxidant powders or beverages may sound great, but we are still moving away from the idea of whole foods.  Not even all whole foods are perfect as many of them contain enzymes that interfere with bioavailability if not soaked or fermented.  As the article itself states, “Blueberries have one of the highest scores—6,000 to 9,000 a cup, and more for wild-type berries. But the berries’ colorful anthocyanins may not be well absorbed by the body, scientists say. Raw broccoli, they add, has a score of 1,400 a cup, but it contains a powerful antioxidant booster that isn’t recorded by the lab test.”  My suggestions:  Don’t rely on a can for all of your nutrients and eat a varied, balanced, nourishing, whole food diet.

Foodiodicals – This collection of foodie magazines and concepts sounds amazing and intriguing.  Going beyond the typical grocery store food magazines, or those who love food and love reading about food – those who are obsessed with food, it looks like there’s a lot more out there than one might think.

Mario Batali Spending $31 Per Week On Groceries – This is in response to the Food Stamp Challenge. I did this a while back as did a few of my friends.  It’s an eye opening experience.  For me I also realized how, unless you know how to shop and cook well, you are not going to be able to eat as well as you would like.  There’s also a huge divide in the foods which are subsidized (and therefore cheaper)  and those which are not.  Batali remarked, “We want people to think about calling and talking to their representation about cuts to the Farm Bill and the food stamp program.”  I would like to encourage folks to read the book Hope’s Edge by Frances Moore Lappe.  There are a lot of amazing stories in it about food and our diet.  One that really stuck with me over the years was the story of Belo Horizonte, Brazil which established the practice and belief of “Food As A Right.”  As I re-read the story I’m struck by how simple the concept is and how powerfully it can work.

Everything You Thought About Pricey Health Foods Is Wrong – This goes back to something I’ve been saying for a while.  If you look at the nutrient density of what you are eating, that’s how you determine your spending.  The picture in this article says it all. I don’t know about you but I would be a lot more satisfied with the serving of strawberries than potato chips.

This is an older video but definitely one worth watching. If an 11 year old child can get it, why can’t those who produce our food?  Birke Baehr is now 13 years old and still going strong with his mission as a sustainable food advocate.


On My Mind Monday 4.23.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same thing two weeks in a row.  This is a snapshot of what I find interesting; health, nutrition, and holistic living.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

The mother who stood up to Monsanto in Argentina – Monsanto and their agrochemicals are not only problematic here in the US, but are having a hugely negative effect around the world.  We often don’t hear much about what is happening in other countries, sometimes leading us to believe we are the only ones fighting.  Sofia Gatica plans to take on Monsanto not only in Argentina, but all across South America.

Canadian nutrition labels often misleading – This is, to put it bluntly, extremely frustrating.  Calories, fat, sugar, were all potentially understated.  And positive ingredients were possibly overstated.  This means that some foods looked far healthier than they actually are.  If you can’t rely on the nutrition label to accurately relay the facts of the food it becomes even more difficult to make appropriate choices.  Whole food still is the best way to go.  However we live in a real world and that does include the influence of other foods.  The label is one way to help you navigate prepared or processed foods.  Unfortunately it appears that this was widespread across a wide variety of manufacturers.  Kraft and Heinz were included, but so were companies such as Eden Organic, Kashi, and Amy’s Kitchen.  While the issue will hopefully be resolved, this situation does beg the question, what about the other locations where these companies sell their products.  Like the United States.

Football fields to farms – Given how committed many schools are to their football teams this article caught my eye.  Becoming partners in the community and helping to support agriculture in an area that was classified as a food desert, the college is making a difference.  Even better they have added farming as part of the curriculum so their students can learn how to take care of the land.  Knowledge that they will surely take with them when they graduate.

A week in the life of a food stylist – I’ve always been interested in food photography and food styling.  I’m not very good at it and really appreciate the beautiful work of those who are.  But the truth is sometimes a little sad because the food isn’t always how it appears.  “1:40pm: We got some sad mangos today. It happens. I had to give them a soak in water with a little bit of food coloring added to so that I could boost the color and “mango-ness” of them.” Artificial colors…rats.

Fermentation – that’s on my mind a lot as I make fermented foods such as kefir and fermented vegetables.    I was really pleased to come across this BBC Radio 4 program on The Fermentation Revival which included some members of the UK chapters of the Weston A. Price Foundation, an organization which promotes traditional foods, as well as an interview with Sandor Katz.

Here’s a video of Sandor Katz demonstrating making fermented saurkraut.

Two books on fermentation that have recently come out which need to go on my purchasing list:

Wardeh Harmon is a wonderful and knowledgeable traditional foods expert who I met at the Wise Traditions Conference 2011 in Dallas.  It was great to get to spend a little bit of time with her at the conference and I’ve enjoyed following her online.  The book looks great and is sure to be a wonderful addition to any traditional, nourishing foods kitchen.

If you’re going to get into fermenting foods I strongly recommend that you purchase a set of pickle weights made by my friend Sandy Der.  I bought mine two years ago and love using them.  They’re cute, functional, and work very well.

And if you want to get serious about fermenting foods you’ll need to pay a visit to the nice folks at Cultures for Health, they’ve got just what you need to get started.  My water kefir culture, also known as tibicos, came from them and is going strong.  I’m thinking about separating some of them to try to make ginger beer which my husband used to drink as a kid and loves.


New Healthy Indulgence

Photo credit: Nevit

I’ve only recently returned from California where I spent several days with my Mentor Helayne Waldman, working with her on her upcoming book.  It was truly wonderful to spend the time with her, we got so much accomplished and she is just an amazing person to hang out with.

As a nutrition professional she also pays a lot of attention to food and the holistic concepts of mindful and enjoyable eating.  Liz Lipski, one of my nutrition heroes, says that we frequently fuel our bodies the way we fuel our cars – stop -gas -go.  I think she’s right and I definitely agree with the idea that mealtimes and enjoyment of meals should be more than just refueling.  Helayne and I certainly enjoyed some wonderful meals together, always making time to stop, take a break and enjoy our meals (both the preparation and the eating) in the midst of working.  As a foodie person I think it’s great fun to learn new ideas and new recipes from other foodies.

While I was visiting, Helayne introduced me to a new healthy indulgence; it’s so delicious I just have to share.  I’ve been enjoying it every day since I got home.  It’s a great start to my morning and a satisfying addition to my usual alkalizing water, herbal tea, green tea routine.

As a disclaimer…the links to Amazon are through this blog.  If you purchase them through the link I do make a few pennies via my affiliate account.

The drink?  Equal parts of Capra Mineral When and Dandy Blend mixed together with hot water.  Then topped off with some sort of dairy alternative. Almond milk or coconut milk are great, for a really decadent treat drop a dollop of Coco-Bliss vanilla ice cream in there.

In addition to being tasty there are some other nutritional benefits to using goat whey.  It is alkaline, has a good electrolyte balance and contains over 20 different minerals.  Goat milk, and whey, is much easier on the digestive system than cows milk.  Many people who are lactose intolerant of cows milk are able to take goats milk, and whey, without a problem.

Dandy blend is a gluten-free powder containing water soluble extracts of dandelion, chicory, beets, barley and rye.  While barley and rye contain gluten the way they are processed to obtain the water soluble extracts leaves all of the gluten behind. The company was kind enough to share that they test with Elisa Technologies Laboratory on a regular basis to ensure the gluten free status of their product.  It has good levels of both major and trace minerals plus the liver and blood support provided by dandelion.  The company promotes it a a coffee alternative for those trying to get off coffee.  Having not had coffee for over 12 years that’s not really an issue for me but I will say that it is delicious.

Added together I feel that the Mineral Whey and Dandy Blend drink in the morning provides me with a great mineralizing, alkalizing boost to my day.  While I’m currently drinking it as a warm beverage I can see where it might be a great substitute for iced lattes, added to smoothies or other such drinks.  If you have any ideas or recipes to share please let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

Microwave Ovens

Popcorn   |  Fir0002

This post started off innocently enough as a Facebook post in response to a question about if and how I use my microwave oven*.  The posting engendered a lively response from a number of people but brought up more questions.

Generally I use Facebook for quick links of interest, small notes and updates, that sort of thing.  I try to use this blog for longer responses so that they can be found from the tags rather than getting lost in that endless chronological feed.

Because the answer was more than a quick response I decided to move it over here to the blog.  I’d like to thank those Facebook fans who shared their answers, it enabled me to write a thoughtful, supported response about the issue.  The section marked Addendum is where the answers grew into this post.  I’d truly like to keep the discussion going…let me know your thoughts, how you use your microwave oven and/or if you are considering changing what you do based on the information you find here.


I just had someone ask me what I use my microwave oven for. Here goes:

  1. microwaving sponges to kill bacteria – two minutes every morning
  2. proofing space for rising bread – it’s a perfect draft free space
  3. draft free space for making sprouts
  4. warming oven for waffles and pancakes – I put a cooling rack in there and then pile the waffles and pancakes on the rack.  The proofing box space keeps everything warm and moist, the rack keeps the ones on the bottom from getting soggy
  5. to heat my buckwheat filled neckwrap when I need a hot pack – great for a sore back, sore neck, or to warm your feet in bed on a cold night

Honesty requires me to admit I rewarm my tea in it and my husband loves it for reheating leftovers (I prefer steaming on the stovetop). But we don’t cook in it and if it weren’t built in I might consider doing without it.

What do you use yours for?


So a couple of important comments came up prompting me to add to this note:

1.  Microwave popcorn.  I’m really sorry but this is a bad bad bad bad bad idea.  And did I mention that it’s bad?  Why you ask?  Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a known cancer causing teflon agent.  Admittedly all of the studies have only been done it rats but it’s generally true that if it causes cancer in rats it will cause cancer in humans but that’s another subject and I won’t go there right now.  That bag lining is the same material that is in teflon pans. I tell people to throw out all of their teflon cookware and invest in non-teflon.  I rarely tell people to throw things out but this is one area where I feel it is never to soon to abandon the stuff.  The problem with PFOA’s is that when you open that hot steamy bag of popcorn you are exposing yourself far more than when you cook on a teflon pan, through the steam and through what has leached into the popcorn itself.

According to one scientist, “It is estimated that microwave popcorn may account for more than 20% of the average PFOA levels measured in American residents.”

Not only that there’s the “butter” (in quotes because it isn’t) which is linked to lung disease in factory workers exposed to the vapors.  This is from the Diacetyl which is so toxic that “Significant new information regarding the health effects of diacetyl and food flavorings containing diacetyl (FFCD) affects the information that must be conveyed to employers and employees under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication standard.”

Bottom line:  shift to hot air or stove-top popped popcorn and don’t eat the microwave stuff.

2.  Cooking. Microwave ovens work differently than other cooking methods and there are some health risks that go along with it.  A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that cooking meat in a microwave oven does not kill bacteria (in this case salmonella).  The study concluded, “Compared with conventional methods of reheating, microwave ovens had no protective effect in preventing illness. To prevent outbreaks such as this one, care must be taken to assure that food is both properly cooked and handled and properly reheated.” 

Another study, from CEBAS-CSIC in Spain, comparing various cooking methods and their effect on the nutrient status of food showed that steaming is the best way to cook vegetables. The worst is to microwave them; more nutrients are lost during the microwave cooking process.

Cooking in a microwave oven has also been shown to convert B12 to the inactive form thereby depleting its bioavailability by denaturing up to 40% of it in the food.  We all need B12, if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan this is even more critical.

To be fair all methods of cooking will reduce nutrient status somewhat, that is part of the process from heat.  And if you are steaming, especially vegetables, you would be well served to drink the nutrient rich broth that remains behind.  But overall microwave ‘cooking’ is, in my book, not a good idea.

So the end result?  I certainly have no complaint with people wanting to reheat their food or beverage in a microwave oven.  I do, however, think it’s not a good idea to cook in it.  And I think if you are re-heating something you are best served to remove it from any plastic or coated surface, put in it ceramic and use the oven that way to avoid any potential fumes or chemical leaching.

*  A small nerd-humor note.  I find myself consciously referring to microwave ovens as microwave ovens rather than as ‘a microwave’, ‘the microwave’, etc.  The reason?  My husband delights in telling me that “Microwaves are itty bitty little particles that you cannot see.”