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Archive for October, 2011

The cold season is upon us. Try as we might, we can’t escape it. We can however, fight.

There are a variety of foods and herbs that help to boost the immune system. I have created a broth that packs a serious punch. I have been making this broth for years and my family and myself have benefitted greatly from it. There are very few colds in this house.

Healing Broth –

  • Chicken carcass – roast a chicken covered with herbs, lemon zest and garlic. Enjoy and save the rest in the freezer for later.
  • Whole onion – you can save the cut ends from the weeks chopping too and put them in a container in the fridge or freezer. Along with these veggies:
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Celery stalks – the leaves are great too. Don’t throw them in the compost pile.
  • 1/2 c Shittake mushrooms
  • 5-10 Garlic cloves – I love garlic so usually go heavy and it’s great for killing harmful bacteria.
  • 2 T Rosemary
  • 2 T Thyme
  • 3 Sage leaves
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 2 T Echinacea root powder
  • 2 T Burdock root
  • 1 t Black Pepper – I like mine a bit heavy on the pepper so might use a bit more than this, but start here and test it.
  • 3 T  Sea salt – more to taste as needed

*You can use a variety of vegetables and herbs in this.  As I stated above, I save all the ends and bits from chopping veggies during the week, including the stalks from herbs like rosemary and thyme, and put them in a large freezer bag or container. I save them until I have the time to make broth. I like tumeric in this sometimes as well! Make a variety of flavors from this basic recipe.

Place all the ingredients in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 12-24 hours. If the water level sinks below the top of the ingredients you can add more water. The longer it simmers and more it reduces the stronger it will be.

It’s that simple. Allow the broth to cool, then strain. You can use it right away or put in storage containers and freeze. I save the plastic containers from things like bulk olives and garlic. They work perfectly. You can also use freezer bags. Fill them, being sure to get all the air out. Then lay them flat in the freezer. Once they are solid you can stand them on end in a freezer drawer like file folders. This works great when making different flavors and recipes. They are easier to sort through. I often try to reuse plastic freezer bags by washing and drying them. This however, won’t work for these. They often split. So when thawing these be sure to do so in a large bowl. Don’t forget to label with date and flavor.

You can also add a bit of organic raw apple cider vinegar for an extra boost. 1/4 cup. It does change the flavor slighty and isn’t loved by all, however. If you don’t have burdock or Echinacea (you can use the pill form by just opening the capsules) you can skip it and still get a very healing broth.

This broth is very good on its own. Just heat and serve to those with colds and flu. It’s great for healing upset tummies too. Serve it regularly to help boost immunity and prevent infection. It’s great for getting those healing herbs into little ones. If the broth is too strong on it’s own for them, just water it down a bit. Using it as cooking water for pasta will help too! – for those extra finicky ones.

Now for the really good stuff. Mushrooms have incredible healing and defense properties!! The more “wild” the better. Shiitake mushrooms have the most healing properties. They are actually believed to have better effect than most prescription drugs! You can even buy tinctures and sprays made from mushrooms specifically made to help boost immunity and fight infection. Those white button mushrooms hold little nutrient value… but I like them none the less so do often add them to this soup.

Mushroom Soup –

  • Healing broth
  • Shittake mushrooms
  • Oyster mushrooms – dried or fresh
  • Button mushrooms
  • And any other mushrooms you like! Dried or fresh
  • Onion or shallots – or a bit of both. Onion has great healing properties.
  • Celery
  • Carrot – I had some left over shredded carrots, squash and zucchini from another dish the last time I made this. It was fantastic. Use what you have!
  • Pasta – Use any small variety you prefer.
  • Fresh herbs – rosemary, thyme, sage. You can use dried as well.
  • Black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 3 T Olive oil

Saute onion, carrots, celery in olive oil until just tender – 4 minutes. Add garlic and herbs – 2 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms – 2 minutes. If you like your mushrooms softer add with garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth. Bring to near boil and reduce to simmer. Add pasta (optional) at the boil and allow to simmer until the pasta is cooked through.

If you want to make a large batch of this to freeze, cook pasta separately and add to serving or smaller portions. Allowing the pasta to simmer a bit in the stock will add better depth of flavor.

Have mushrooms threatening to spoil?
Don’t throw them out! Spread  them out on a baking sheet, place them in the oven on the lowest setting and allow them to dry. This could take several hours, but will be well worth it!

It’s very easy to make your own stock or soup and far better than that stuff you get in a can. Oh, and it’s cheaper too! Take care of yourself and your family with just a little effort.

Live Well!
~S

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Iron

So you are pumping iron, but are you getting enough in your diet?

Iron deficiency can cause a variety of ailments including anemia – or too few red blood cells, fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, irritability and dizziness. Growing children, adolescents, elderly, menstruating and pregnant women need more iron in their diets than others. Also at risk are vegetarians, long distance runners, athletes and those working out heavily, and those recovering from surgery.

A quick look  at iron… The body needs iron to make the oxygen carrying proteins myoglobin and hemoglobin. Iron also makes up many of the proteins in the body. There are two types. Heme and nonheme. Nonheme iron is contained in plant-based foods. Heme iron is contained in animal based foods like meat, poultry and fish and is more easily absorbed. You can increase the absorption of nonheme iron by consuming it with foods high in Vitamin C.

So what are foods high in iron?

  • leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, turnip and mustard greens
  • green peas
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • beans
  • whole grains – wheat, brown rice, oats
  • fortified cereals
  • potatoes with the skin
  • apricots
  • figs
  • raisins
  • prunes
  • almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • eggs – most in the yolk
  • poultry
  • beef and other meats
  • fish – especially salmon and tuna

You can also increase your iron intake by cooking in cast iron cookware. An iron supplement can be taken but should only be used as a last resort.

BUT– some foods inhibit the absorption of nonheme iron, so if you eat a vegetarian or mostly plant-based diet you must consider your iron intake more closely. Foods that might inhibit iron absorption are –

  • Polyphenols- coffee, black and Pekoe tea, red wine
  • Phytates- whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Calcium rich foods and supplements
  • Milk protein

You can reduce this however by consuming fermented foods, Vitamin C rich foods and soaking legumes.

Another BUTYou can get too much iron!
AH! I know. It’s too much!! But here’s the thing, our bodies can become overloaded with iron. This can cause many of the same effects as too little. More importantly, some researchers believe that too much iron could increase the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

How do we get it right?
A well-balanced diet is key. Making sure you consume a wide variety of foods is ideal.

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following:

Infants and children:

  • Younger than 6 months: 0.27 milligrams per day (mg/day)
  • 7 months to 1 year: 11 mg/day
  • 1 to 3 years: 7 mg/day
  • 4 to 8 years: 10 mg/day

Males:

  • 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
  • 14 to 18 years: 11 mg/day
  • Age 19 and older: 8 mg/day

Females:

  • 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
  • 14 to 18 years: 15 mg/day
  • 19 to 50 years: 18 mg/day
  • 51 and older: 8 mg/day

For vegetarians and vegans the recommended daily allowance is 1.8 times greater:
Adult males: 14 mg/day
Adult females who are menstruating (not pregnant): 32 mg/day
Adult females who are post-menopausal: 14 mg/day

Women who are pregnant or producing breast milk may need different amounts of iron. Ask your health care provider what is appropriate for you.

Start by taking a good look at your diet. Do you consume a wide variety of these foods? Do you have any of these symptoms? Here is a link to The Iron Content in Foods. Take a look to help you determine just how much you are getting. Or seek the advice of a nutrition specialist to help you review your diet. Keeping a food journal for a week can offer great benefit. We often think our diet looks far different than it really does. This is also greatly beneficial for looking to shed pounds. And don’t forget… every bite counts! So be sure to log even the smallest portion.

The best way to know if you are lacking  in – or have too much – iron is to be tested by your doctor. You can also do a quick test yourself to see if perhaps you are anemic. It isn’t 100% but could help you determine if you need to go see your doctor right away. Pull down your bottom eye lid. If the color around your inner eye is not pink – is very pale –  you could be anemic.

The bottom line is paying attention to your body will help you live your best life! Take care of it. You only get one shot.

Live Well!
~S

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Bentonite.

You aren’t going to believe this. I nearly didn’t myself! Had I not seen it with my own eyes.

My husband had a ganglion cyst. A hard lump on his wrist from an old injury. Out of no where it had started to grow. From something barely visible to, over the next few months, about the size of a small marble. And stayed like that for some time. Then it started to grow again! And I got worried. But after a couple of weeks it just stayed the same. About the size of a large marble. It didn’t get bigger, it didn’t get smaller. I… was still concerned. So I started researching this thing.

Remedies included everything from surgery to smashing it with a large book! Um… ouch. No thank you. And then there was Bentonite. I’ll be honest, I had heard of the stuff, but only briefly and knew little about it other than it’s proposed detoxifying effects. But what the hell. Let’s give it a go.

I approached my husband with this  brown bottle of chalky white liquid and a tablespoon. Use to my antics and surprised more than a time or two by their effectiveness, he decided to go along. But that isn’t the crazy part. He took one dose. One. That evening. And when he came home the next day… the thing had shrunk by more than half!!! Serious! Barely visible. He took another dose that evening and one more the following morning and the damn thing was gone in two days! Two days. Three doses.

But that’s not all. He had been having some digestive issues (sorry babe). I’ll save you the details, but ….but…. those cleared up too!!! These issues had been plaguing him for years. Consistently. And then suddenly he was back to normal.

You see, Bentonite naturally detoxifies the body. It pulls harmful toxins out!

Bentonite is a mineral source, a clay, that traps and binds unwanted substances and promotes their excretion. It has been used for centuries by indigenous cultures and animals around the planet. Animals in the wild have been observed licking the clay as part of their diet and rolling in it to find relief from injuries.

According to the Canadian Journal of Microbiology, bentonite clay can reportedly absorb pathogenic viruses, as well as herbicides and pesticides.

So how does it work?
When Bentonite clay absorbs water it expands and opens like a sponge. Toxins are drawn in through electrical attraction and bind. The Bentonite is then eliminated from the body with these toxins bound to its surfaces.

Bentonite can be used as a detox, laxative and colon cleanse, to treat IBS, diarrhea, bloating and gas…. and ganglion cysts. I have read accounts of people saying that their allergies have been reduced and eliminated from its use. It even has claims to increased energy!

I have read claims from parents of children with Autism and Aspergers that they have seen positive developmental and behavioral results when using Bentonite clay!!!

Bentonite is also used in skin care products and treatments for eczema and acne. It has been said to positively treat wounds and sores like cold sores. It treats oily skin both internally and externally. It is even used for hair! As a deep conditioner, it removes build up without stripping it of moisture.

Although there have not been serious adverse effects, Bentonite should not be taken by pregnant women. It should also not be taken within a few hours of any prescribed medicines or supplements for it could cause them to be ineffective. Also, be sure you are using Calcium Bentonite. Sodium Bentonite should not be used internally.

Bentonite clay can be taken internally in liquid or capsule form. It is recommended to start with 1 tablespoon daily over the course of one week and can be increased to no more than 4 tablespoons a day. In my experience, 1-2 tablespoons daily is plenty. When taking 2 space them one in the morning and one at night. Best taken on an empty stomach with water or juice. This can be part of your regular colon cleansing regimen, allowing for better absorption of nutrients due to its intestinal cleansing and regulating effects. Remember, a healthy gut is a healthy you!

A lot  of time has passed and the cyst has not returned. The digestive troubles have stayed mostly at bay. He is so in love with the stuff he takes it regularly. And he feels great. And I am taking it too!

Live Well!
~S

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We go through a considerable amount of wine in this house. I confessed my love of Vino in my last post, so in keeping with the theme, I thought I would tell a bit about all those empty bottles that pile up.

Waste not friends!
I have a slew of ideas to use those empty bottles to save them from the recycling bin and even save a buck by substituting them for something you don’t have.

  • As a replacement for a rolling-pin! Many years ago I lost my rolling-pin in a move, but who needs it? I love rolling out fresh pasta with a well enjoyed, empty bottle of vino.
  • Pounding out meats like chicken cutlets. You don’t need a mallet. I prefer to place the subject between two layers of plastic wrap. Then, get out the days aggressions.
  • Rub out those sore muscles. Sure you can purchase any number of contraptions in sporting stores or online, but an empty wine bottle works great. The top adds a great handle (stay clean with me here) and the hollow in the bottom  helps too. After 11 hours in 5 days in the gym this week, not including time spent with clients, you can be sure I’ve been using it.
  • Candle holders. Some tapered candles shaved to fit in the top and you have gorgeous decor for tables or lining walk ways. You can also make torches out of them with a wick and some lantern oil.
  • Glasses. You just need a glass cutter, make one score around the area you want to cut and pour over some very hot water alternated with cool and the glass will separate, leaving a rather clean edge. Just a bit of sanding and you can actually drink from it safely. You can also use this idea for hurricane style candle holders by cutting the bottom off and placing a votive underneath. Also works great for a flower vase. With a glass cutter the options are endless here! Hanging lanterns, suspended torches, planters, bird feeders….
  • A water pitcher on the dinner table. I prefer the clear bottles for this.
  • Water plants with these Plant Nannies. Or just use as a watering “can”.
  • Gift packaging. Clean them out and fill them with candy. Print out a great label and tie with a bit raffia.
  • Oil storage. I buy large cans of olive oil then fill a wine bottle and top with a liquor bottle pour.
  • Storing salad dressings. Mix them up and pour them in.
  • Decorative lighting. With a glass drill bit, make a small hole in the back, thread white christmas lights through the hole and there you have it.
  • You can add some drama to your garden by putting them on sticks stuck in the ground.
  • I’ve even seen chandeliers made from them. I may very well make an attempt at this… if and when life slows down long enough to devote such time to a project.

What do you use them for?

Live Well!
~S

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Do you love vino as much as I do?

Red. White. I don’t discriminate ….unless we are talking moscato and reisling. Or any sweet wine. Bleck.

Really though, it’s something I can’t live without. It completes me. [so cheesy, yet so true]

Italians, it’s a staple in their diet. Consumed with nearly every meal. Visit the hills of Tuscany and you will find hard-working, tough, strong men and women dedicated to the land they nurture and that which nurtures them, all devouring vats of the stuff. Sardinia, Italy is a mountain village where researchers of lifestyles of the healthiest people on earth encountered a 102 year old man who still hikes 6 miles everyday!

Icaria, Greece is a tiny island where  there are 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease, and almost no dementia. The people of Greece have been known to be some of the healthiest on the planet. 1 out of 3 of its habitants living past 90.

Along with living closer to the earth, eating a diet based on home or locally grown foods high in plant-based nutrition, working hard everyday and getting constant exercise, lowers levels of stress due to a more relaxed way of thinking and a more simplified being – there is vino!

You’ve heard that wine is high in antioxidants. It helps fight cancer, reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol. But did you know that research has found that red wine has the world’s highest known levels of antioxidants? Or that it is recommended that you drink red consistently? 1-2 glasses daily. Sweet Jesus, thank you.

So, there you have the nutritional values, but I feel there is something more. Something perhaps less popular in belief and certainly arguable on some levels. The emotional value.

A table of friends, the laughs are some how deeper over a shared bottle. A romantic evening more amorous. When I share a bottle with a friend
the experience seems to take on a new life. Different from all others.

There is something warming about vino. Other than the intoxicating effects. There could be very real connections with mood stabilization. The relaxing effects of wine are substantial. And I feel there is a very distinct correlation with wine and these cultures. These cultures are also some the happiest in the world. They live differently, they think differently, they feel differently. And I am a firm believer that the way you feel has everything to do with the way you live, the way you look and the state of your physical being.

But there can be problems!
And a very important reason for this post.

You have to remember the negatives of wine. As with all things. Moderation is key. There are calories in each glass that need to be accounted for. You can’t drink a bottle every night and treat it as if you are just getting that many more antioxidants. Weight gain and bloating can and will occur with over consumption.

And of course there is the very real concern that you can become addicted. It’s alcohol. Of course you can. Do you find yourself feeling cranky before your evening glass? Do you get anxious or irritable on those days you don’t drink? Are you drinking a bottle or more on many occasions? Do you wake the following day to a mess of emotions and troubles to attend to?  You might be becoming reliant. Be honest with yourself.

Most importantly, you can’t just drink vats of wine and think you are great simply because the Italians do it. You have to consider the difference in lifestyle. The consistent hard work and exercise, the diet rich in vegetables, the low stress life style, the dedication to family. Did you know that the average working American parent spends just 47 minutes a day engaged in childcare? (Childcare Stats) While these other cultures dedicate their lives to family. Career, money, status, these all being so very important to your average American, are not the basis of life in these cultures. And I believe this has so very much to do with the difference in their happiness and their quality of life versus ours.

Furthermore, anyone taking MAOI’s should not consume foods high in tyramine, an amino acid, such as red wine. And many other medications can cause adverse effects with the consumption of alcohols, as you well know. Some mental and emotional health conditions can be negatively effected also, of course.

So consider the big picture for the sake of your health and your family and friends. There is much talk about the many wonderful benefits of wine on one’s health, but it’s not a free for all. Reaching your goals of achieving a slim and healthy body can be helped and hampered by the beloved vino.

Drink up friends! But be responsible. And please pass the vino!

Live Well!
~S

Photo courtesy of askmen.com

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It’s practically an institution.
The freshly powdered baby bottom.

Any mom knows the love of snuggling with that sweet little bundle. Freshly bathed, lotioned and powdered. The smell is something that stands the test of time. 20 years later you can still recall the scent with such clarity that if you close your eyes you could actually be holding that precious package.

Body powders have been quite popular with adults as well. Many use talcum powder on their bodies for scent and to help with sweating. It is often used when bikini waxing.

But did you know that talc could cause cancer?
A study conducted by the American Cancer Society revealed that woman who applied talcum powder to their genital area were at a 50-90% higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Those numbers are staggering! The risk is simply too high to ignore.

There are a number of other options. Search for a product that doesn’t contain talc. California Baby and Burt’s Bees offer some great non-talc powders.

Or you can make your own non-toxic baby powder!

  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 10-15 drops of essential oil – choose whatever scent you prefer or mix a few to make your own scent

Place the powder in a mason jar large enough to allow plenty of empty space for shaking. Add the oil directly to the powder or to an absorbant pad like a cosmetic puff. Put the cover on the jar and shake… and shake. Allow to sit for 24 hours and shake again. The more you shake the more you will mix the scent through out the corn starch and reduce clumping from the oils if not using the pad. I don’t bother with the pad myself. I just break the clumps up and shake until it is smooth.

Live Well!
~S

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This morning I received the following question on my personal facebook page. I thought it important to address it here.

“What are your thoughts on artificial sweeteners and health?”

I believe entirely in whole foods. Artificial anything I would avoid. Artificial sweeteners are made from sugar alcohols, causing a reduction in caloric intake and glycemic response over natural sugars. Many are not completely absorbed in  our body. This alone can cause digestive troubles. They are actually chemicals that were being developed for another purpose! Scary. There are a variety of types of AS’s. Each with it’s own list of harmful side effects.

Saccharin (sweet and low) for instance has been shown to cause cancerous tumors. Aspartame (Equal) symptoms include headache, dizziness, mood disorder, digestive issue, fatigue, memory loss, fibromyalgia, pain, numbness, anxiety, multiple sclerosis… and on and on. Including increased hunger! They are all carcinogenic and they are all man-made chemicals.

Splenda, supposing to be “most like sugar”, or sucralose is made when sugar is treated with trityl chloride, acetic anhydride, hydrogen chlorine, thionyl chloride, and methanol in the presence of dimethylformamide, 4-methylmorpholine, toluene, methyl isobutyl ketone, acetic acid, benzyltriethlyammonium chloride, and sodium methoxide, making it unlike anything found in nature. It was discovered when trying to create insecticide! It actually contains 96 calories per cup because of added dextrose and maltodextrin but is allowed to make claims of being calorie free because the sucralose itself is calorie free! Trust in marketing? It affects the absorption of medicines and harms good bacteria in the gut.

Unfortunately, there are even fitness professionals touting the stuff simply because of the caloric reductions. I say, you are always best to leave them from your diet. You are better off using a natural sweetener, honey for instance, and simply reducing the amount you consume! And then perhaps working a bit harder to make up for it. Agave nectar is a great substitute. It too has a reduced glycemic response and is NOT made in a lab! Keep in mind, the studies that have shown these substances to be perfectly safe have been mostly funded by the companies producing them. Places like fitness magazines that tout these products, they too are supported by the marketing dollars of these companies. My opinion is STAY AWAY!!! There are natural options. Why risk your health over your waist line?”

In addition –

I can’t claim that I have never consumed any form of artificial sweetener. I still do occasionally, as a matter of fact. I do so in the occasional use of protein powders. Therefore, I opt to use them only when I have little option other wise. I prefer to get my protein, all of my nutritional needs for that matter, from natural sources.

I lived for more than 5 years at roughly 6-8% body fat with full six-pack abs, while training heavy, and only slightly more on a regular basis surrounding those years, without the use of artificial sweeteners, so it can be done. I assure you. And it is not simply the result of genetic make up. I did get rather fat not that long ago from a series of events including a broken foot resulting in lack of exercise, a busy career causing poor eating choices and stress and in all, living other than I knew I should. You don’t need the chemicals companies and magazines rave about and push on you. They want to sell products to make money. And just because someone is jacked and ripped does not mean they are truly healthy! What is happening on the outside is not a direct reflection of what is happening on the inside.

Really though, aren’t we all just pawns in the game of marketing and research? Unless you have performed the testing yourself you are simply at the mercy of someone else’s idea or belief. I prefer myself, to stick with what is offered naturally over that of the creation of scientists in a lab.

That said, I also believe there to be a large difference in the lifestyle of the average person and that of those who make fitness a way of life. The use of such a product is quite different in a protein shake and say that of a can of soda. However, I believe more in adding an extra workout or self-control in the form of say a half serving rather than a whole, over chopping up recipes with chemicals like Splenda.

But that is just the opinion of a sorta crunchy trainer with uncommon views on many subjects. The choice of using artificial sweeteners is strictly yours, but do your homework and ask yourself… Why is it necessary? Can you be the size and shape you hope without cutting corners and risking your health? Is the slight benefit in calories truly worth the risk? Is being thin worth cancer? The real truth is these products have not been around long enough to actually be properly tested.

Great question!

Live Well!
~S

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