chemical-free


An important study about human exposure to bisphenol-A or BPAs and phthalate or DEHP was released this past week.

First the bad news: BPAs and DEHP are chemicals used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It has long been known that chemicals leach out of plastics and collect in the human body, but up until recently it was believed that the amounts were safe. (Really? Who decides that any amount of chemicals collecting in our bodies is safe?)

In recent years that assumption has been questioned as the chemicals have been linked to numerous health issues including cancers, heart disease, diabetes, male infertility and prostate problems, and brain development issues in fetuses, infants and children. The chemicals act as hormone disruptors.  Previous studies have shown that 90% of us have BPAs and DEHP in our bodies!

The majority of human exposure to BPAs and DEHP comes from diet: food and beverage packaging and storage.

Now, the good news: the study found that subjects were able to significantly reduce the presence of these chemicals in their bloodstream by eating less food from plastic containers and metal cans.

What can you do to minimize your exposure to BPAs? Following are 10 tips:

  1. NEVER microwave food or beverages in plastic containers. Heating plastic increases the leaching of chemicals. The term “microwave safe” means the container won’t melt in the microwave. It has nothing to do with whether it’s safe for you.
  2. Replace your plastic food storage containers with glass. I have found great sets at both Costco and Target for under $20. Not only are they safe, but they look much nicer than plastic and hold heat longer.
  3. Stop buying plastic bottles of water. Instead buy a stainless steel bottle (be sure it’s not lined with plastic). Not only is it healthier, it’ll save you money.
  4. Pack lunches in stainless steel thermos containers (again not plastic-lined).
  5. Use fresh fruits and vegetables and dried beans rather than canned whenever possible. Second best option is buying brands that do not use linings containing BPAs. Some vegetables–especially tomatoes–are difficult to find without BPA (the acid causes the metal cans to rust). Can your own tomatoes at the end of the summer.
  6. Freeze fruit and vegetables in the summer and fall for use throughout the winter.
  7. Replace plastic cups, dishes and utensils with glass or ceramic. If you aren’t willing to get rid of your plastic dishes, avoid putting them in the dishwasher or microwave and throw them away if they are scratched or chipped.
  8. Use wax paper or aluminum foil instead of saran wrap and plastic bags.
  9. Use canning jars to store food.
  10. Replace your plastic baby bottles with glass ones, and buy toys made of natural materials whenever possible (rather than plastic).

Be well!

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photo courtesy of Highview Pastures

Although I don’t buy 100% organic produce (probably closer to 85-90%), I do try to buy 100% organic and grass-fed or free-range meat. Not only does it offer significant nutritional advantages over conventional meat, I believe it provides a better life for the animals.

Conventionally raised animals are typically fed a diet comprised mainly of grain and corn. Like humans, animals that eat a high carbohydrate diet are less healthy than those that eat more vegetables. The animals are also usually crowded into factory-like farms, whereas grass-fed and free-range animals are allowed to move around more freely and maintain their natural behaviors.

Grass-fed meat is healthier. It contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat while its overall fat content is lower. Grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been linked to easier weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Additionally, overuse of antibiotics in livestock can result in antibiotic-resistant strains of infections. (Actually the issue isn’t even confined to livestock.  A study published in the Journal of Environmental Quality found that when vegetables were grown in fertilizer derived from the manure of antibiotic-fed livestock, the vegetables absorbed antibiotics.) And, although it has not been clinically proven, many believe hormones in meat and dairy contribute to early onset of puberty in girls (early puberty has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer later in life).

To protect us as much as I can, I buy all of my beef  from Cedar Summit farm in New Prague, Minn., my Thanksgiving turkeys from Highview Pastures farm in Farmington, Minn.(by buying directly from the farm I end up paying pretty close to what conventional meat sells for at the grocery store), and my chicken from either The Wedge co-op or Kowalski’s.

Recently, however, I was at Super Target getting some other things (Super Target has great prices on Amy’s Organic Kitchen line) and noticed the Gold’n Plump Natural chickens. Hormone and antibiotic-free (but not free-range), I decided to give it try. It was priced well and I figured it would save me a trip to the co-op. And, it was hormone and antibiotic-free–which seemed to me the most important things to avoid.

(Side note: I make a whole roasted chicken almost every week. Not only do we love it, I use the rest of the meat for pasta, quinoa, pizza and other dishes through the week. I freeze the carcasses to make chicken stock (which I use to cook brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, etc) and soups. I’ll be teaching/presenting this concept of  “A Week in the Life of a Chicken” on Sunday May 1 with my friend and colleague Jen Antila of Catalyst Cooks.)

I didn’t really give the source of the Gold’n Plump chicken much thought as I prepared it for roasting (easiest recipe EVER–see below) nor as I brought it to the table. As soon as I began to carve it though, the difference was obvious. The chicken was far fattier than the free-range ones I usually buy. Once we started eating, the difference was even more clear. It had far less flavor than our usual chickens.

So, while I saved myself about a $1.50 on the Gold’n Plump chicken, I got less actual meat, less flavor and less nutrition. I won’t be doing that again!

Easy Easy Roasted Chicken

  • whole chicken
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • carrots
  • onions
  • potatoes

Drizzle bottom of roasting pan with olive oil and then place the chicken into the pan (I truss my chicken, but it’s not necessary.). Chop veggies into approximately 1-1/2-inch pieces and place around the chicken. Drizzle veggies and chicken with olive oil and generously salt and pepper. Place in preheated 380-degree oven for approximately 1-hour (depending on size of chicken–internal temperature should be 180F). About 15 minutes into baking time, I add 1 cup of water to the roasting pan which keeps everything moist.

Enjoy and be well!

As I finished up CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse this past weekend, I found myself thinking about–you guessed it–coffee. No longer thinking about the fact that I couldn’t partake, but instead thinking about whether I would make it a regular part of my morning routine or remain caffeine-free.

Like so many people, I was stuck in the All or Nothing mindset. Either coffee becomes the start of everyday or I give it up completely.

Unfortunately, neither extreme sounded very appealing.

My body is no longer addicted to caffeine and I feel really good. I don’t want to feel as though I need my morning coffee to function. On the other hand, I really do miss it. And I really do get pleasure from it.

While struggling is probably too strong a word–it’s certainly wasn’t overtaking my life–I was devoting more thought and energy to the subject than it deserved.

I was stuck just like so many who don’t adopt healthier eating habits because they don’t want to completely give up the “junk” they love.

On about the third day of my internal debate regarding coffee, I told myself to snap out of it. Loosen up. Be more flexible. Find some middle ground.

I truly enjoy my morning coffee. It gives me real pleasure. But, I don’t need to drink it everyday and I really don’t want to be addicted to caffeine.

So, I compromised with myself. I am now a 2-3 morning per week coffee drinker. The other mornings I drink my cranberry tea (which I’ve actually come to enjoy–but not as much as coffee).

The best of both worlds: I still get to enjoy my coffee, but I’m not dependent on it.

Be well!

Yesterday was my first day back to eating solid foods after three days of only vegetable broth. I am now into the third and final phase of CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.

The first phase was eliminating all processed food, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, corn, meat and dairy for 5 days.

The second phase–designed to continue cleansing your system, restore the ph balance in your gut, and provide rest to your digestive system–was making and eating several nutrient-dense vegetable broths for three days.

The broth phase went really well for me and I didn’t feel at all overwhelmed with hunger. Unfortunately, the skies dumped almost 20 inches of snow on the Twin Cities so I wasn’t able to get the rest that is recommended for the phase–someone had to shovel the driveway (four times, but who’s counting). Still, I felt good.

Yesterday, as I started Phase III, I was back to hyper-clean eating. In Phase III, we begin introducing the foods we’ve eliminated back in our diets one at a time to determine whether any of them cause discomfort or other issues. Incredibly, I ate very little yesterday despite having not eaten solid foods for more than 72 hours.

I just wasn’t hungry. And, I recognized that.

One of the things many of my wellness clients have shared when we begin working together is that they don’t really know when they are hungry. They either don’t feel it or can’t recognize it. I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the subject, and I believe the lack of hunger recognition has two main causes: 1) We, especially women, spend so much time thinking about how much and what we should be eating, we can no longer separate our brain’s messages from our body’s. Thus we don’t recognize our body’s hunger or cravings; 2) We consume so much stuff our bodies don’t recognize as food (food processed beyond recognition, preservatives, perticides, etc), that our bodies send mixed messages.

When I cut out most processed food several years ago and went back to eating organic whenever possible, I definitely noticed an improvement in my hunger and thirst recognition. It still wasn’t totally clear though. I have often recognized that I need water because of a headache or feeling tired rather than because I felt thirsty.

Since beginning the cleanse, I actually feel thirsty. And hungry. My body’s hunger and thirst signals are clearer than they have been in years. There is no questioning when I feel hungry or thirsty.

So last evening, even though I’d found what looked to be a fabulous recipe for slow cooker chicken chick pea stew that fit the parameters of the cleanse, I had some blackberries and a peach instead. I just wasn’t hungry enough to eat the stew. (Actually, I did take a bite just to taste and it was an amazing recipe–I’ve posted it below.)

The stew can wait. Be well!

 

Slow Cooker Chicken and Chick Pea Stew (from About.com)

Prep Time: 15 minutes   Cook Time: 6 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and cut into pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 15-ounce can reduced-sodium garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Preparation:

Coat a 3-4 quart crockpot with nonstick cooking spray. Combine spices and sprinkle over chicken thighs. Add onions, carrots, and crushed garlic to the crockpot. Lay chicken thighs on top, followed by chickpeas and canned tomatoes.Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serves 4-6

Something amazing happened yesterday.

Well, actually it didn’t happen yesterday. It’s happened over many years, but I recognized it yesterday. While chatting with someone about the Wellness Cleanse I’m doing, he asked me whether I had lost any weight. At that moment it occurred to me that my weight wasn’t even a consideration in my decision to take on the Cleanse.

And that, my friends, is pretty darned amazing. While my weight stopped ruling my life several years ago, I find it amazing that it truly wasn’t even a factor in my decision to participate in CorePower Yoga‘s Seasonal Wellness Cleanse.

It’s amazing when you consider that for most of my life (I first believed I was fat in 2nd grade), almost all of my choices and behaviors were somehow related to my weight–either directly in an attempt to control or reduce my weight, or indirectly as I tried to manage my obsession with my body and my weight, and my disordered eating. What I ate, what I wore, which activities I participated when, whether I went to social engagements, who I spent time with, you get the picture. So this moment was truly amazing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy to drop some pounds while on the cleanse. I currently weight just about 20 pounds more than I did just before I became pregnant with Grace almost 11 years ago, and I’d love to get back to that weight. But I’m not willing to compromise my health and wellness–physical, emotional, mental, interpersonal or spiritual–to get there. I have honestly learned to feel comfortable in my body and have developed incredible respect for it. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s beautiful. Wow, I just said that!

On a side note, I have weighed myself most days of the cleanse. Not because I am concerned with losing, but because during days 2-4 I felt really bloated and was curious as to whether I had gained weight. I wasn’t freaked about it, just curious. I had not gained. And today I’m at the bottom of my normal 5-pound range. I suspect I will lose weight on the cleanse, since I’m just heading into our 3-day broth phase, but I’m not concerned about it one way or the other. I know my body is getting healthier and that is truly my goal.

Speaking of the Broth Phase, I just finished chopping tons of veggies and putting them in the crock pot for the Alkaline Broth. I made the Bieler Broth yesterday. I’m looking forward to giving my digestive system a rest without depriving my body of the nutrients it needs.

In other good news, all of my aches and fatigue have subsided and I’m back to feeling energetic…and happy. For a couple of days there, as my body worked to release and then eliminate toxins, I felt pretty sad. And, perhaps most importantly, I found a morning beverage I like (not as much as coffee, but at least I’m not cursing every sip). Hot water with lemon, honey and a splash of 100% pure cranberry juice. It’s actually pretty good.

But I still miss my coffee. Be well!

P.S. Thanks to my friend Rita at Yum Yoga! for the photo of Bieler Broth.

So here I sit on Day 4 of my Seasonal Wellness Cleanse. Instead of enjoying my usual morning coffee, I’ve got a cup of hot water, lemon juice and raw honey Note I didn’t say I’m enjoying the water, lemon juice and honey. I’ve just got it.

It’s actually not bad, but I can’t say I don’t miss my coffee.

In this first phase of CorePower Yoga‘s 15-Day Seasonal Wellness Cleanse, we eliminate all processed food, wheat, gluten, corn, chocolate, dairy, sugar, alcohol, soy and red meat. (I’ve chosen to eliminate all meat for the duration of the cleanse as well.) No special supplements or herbs, just eating a plant-based, very clean diet. The theory behind the cleanse is that eliminating most of the toxins our body deals with regularly allows the body to eliminate the toxins that have accumulated.

Nothing on that list concerned me much except the coffee (okay, and the alcohol, but not as much as the caffeine). I start most days with 1/2 pot of coffee. And, I LOVE my morning coffee. I look forward to my quiet time with my coffee. It seriously might be my favorite time of day. Hot water, lemon and honey is somehow just not the same.

I paid the price for my coffee love on Monday with a headache that almost took my breath away by bedtime. Despite not being a bath person (I think my last one was just after giving birth 10 years ago), I actually took a bath Monday evening (with epsom salts which is said to help remove toxins from the body) to try to help things along. And it did seem to help.

I have to admit I’m pretty amazed at the results of the cleanse so far, although I’m not feeling the positive benefits yet. Instead I’m experiencing aches, acne and fatigue. This is apparently due to my body releasing toxins and is to be expected in the first days of the cleanse. (I guess it’s kind of like when you clean a closet–you sometimes have to make a bigger mess before you can really start the cleaning.)

My legs and lower back have been especially sore, as well as my right ankle–which I broke last May. And I have been exhausted by 6 or 7 pm. This despite a lighter than usual exercise regimen–yoga, walking and short runs.

There is no doubt that something is going on in my body and I’m encouraged by that. According to the program leads, discomfort typically improves after the third or fourth day and then participants feel loads of energy. I am looking forward to that. Which will be just in time for the broth phase that starts on Day 6!

Be well!

My head itches as I type this. No, I don’t have lice. At least not at the moment. So far (knock on wood), we’ve been lice-free this year. Not so last. Three separate times last year.

I’m scratching my head (literally, not figuratively) because I just read a blog post from a mom trying to rid her house of the little buggers. Just like I begin scratching every time a letter comes home from school announcing that yet another child’s parents have discovered the creepy crawlies in their angel’s hair.

Since I’ve been through the process and done a fair amount of research–believe me, it’s hard not to become obsessed when you find bugs in your kid’s hair–I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned.

First of all, traditional lice treatments are pesticides. I’ve read enough about the health consequences of humans being unintentionally exposed to pesticides  to know this isn’t a good idea. I’m not too excited about applying them directly to my child’s scalp. Research has shown that pesticides and other toxins can enter the body through the skin.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly to some, pesticide treatments aren’t working. According to the National Pediculosis Association (NPA), lice seem to be developing a resistance to traditional treatments. This makes sense, since the treatments typically kill only the bugs, not the eggs. I remember enough from high school and college biology to conclude that the surviving eggs would build resistance to the treatments.

The first time lice visited our home, I immediately looked for a more natural treatment and have found several that work. None of them eliminate having to scour the scalp at least daily for nits and remove them manually, or wash bedding and clothing, and vacuum furniture, but these kill the bugs and aren’t toxic.

Tea Tree or Melaleuca Oil kills the bugs on contact. It’s actually kind of fun to watch the bugs fall off the scalp as you apply (not night-out-on-the-town-kind-of fun, but when you’re in the throes of lice, you’re fun threshold goes way down). I apply the stuff directly to the hair and scalp and leave on overnight. Wash and comb (using a nit or very fine-toothed comb) hair in the morning, carefully removing any and all nits. I usually do another tea tree oil treatment 3-4 days later. Nit picking (yep, that’s where the phrase comes from) should continue daily for at least 2-3 weeks. We use tea tree shampoo as a preventative as well. (You can find tea tree oil and shampoo at natural food stores, coops, etc. and of course from Melaleuca.)

Olive oil or mayonnaise can kill lice by suffocating them. The head and hair need to be completely coated for at least 4-5 hours. I haven’t tried this one, but know several who have had success with it. Most of them have used a shower cap and slept with it in their hair. The plus to this is that it is better for your hair than tea tree, which can be pretty drying. Wash hair the next morning and, of course, nit pick!

Lice Ice is a natural product that also kills lice on contact (tea tree oil is one of the ingredients). It’s a hair gel that you apply to the scalp and hair and leave on for at least 15 hours (overnight). Like tea tree oil, Lice Ice kills the bugs on contact and then, as the gel hardens, suffocates the nits/eggs. Diluted in water, Lice Ice can also be used as a preventative measure. The only place I’ve found Lice Ice locally is Kowalski’s, but it can be ordered from the company’s website.

In light of resistance to traditional lice treatments, the NPA offers the following advice to parents:

  • Stop using the pesticide treatment if it doesn’t appear to be working. Repeated use of pesticides can cause a variety of health risks.
  • Never use dangerous remedies such as lindane, kerosene or pet shampoos.
  • Never use lice spray which are marketed for use on bedding, cars, rugs, garments and furniture. Vacuuming is safer than sprays and equally effective. Because head lice will not survive without human blood, parents need not obsess about housecleaning and bagging of toys, pillows, etc. Instead, devote your energy to removing lice and eggs from the scalp and hair.
  • Removal is crucial and can be difficult. Head lice move very quickly through hair and can be difficult to see. It may be helpful to have two people checking and, and because it’s so easy to miss a nit or a bug, continue checking for 2-3 weeks after treatment.
  • Check your children fro lice often. Treatment is much easier and effective if it is caught early.

We’ve found that keeping Grace’s hair in a ponytail while she’s at school seems to reduce contact with others. It’s also important to remind your kids not to share hats, combs, jackets, etc with their friends and classmates.

Be well and bug free!

 

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