Archive for September, 2011

Fermentation: Best Way to Preserve Food

September 27, 2011

I first made sauerkraut in 1983, using a recipe I found in a book. This was “wild” fermentation, with just salt and cabbage. The first batch was excellent; the second, a failure. I chickened out, started making pickles with vinegar, and canning tomatoes and chutney. Now, many years later I’m back to making fermented foods, but this time I’m using whey, a lacto-fermentation starter that pretty much guarantees that your batch will come out fine.

A couple of weeks ago I joined some friends at the Lama Foundation where we presented a workshop on preserving food and traditional food preparation. The next few blog posts will be about fermentation: why it is so great, how to do it, and some excellent recipes (milk, meat, vegetables, drinks).

Why is fermentation the best way to preserve food? Three main reasons: the food ‘s nutritional value is actually increased during the fermentation process; it doesn’t take fancy or expensive materials, nor electricity to make or store; and it lasts a long time (but you are going to eat it up before it ever gets too old).

So stay tuned for a fall extravaganza of fermentation: and no, this is NOT alcohol, and NOT vinegar, but rather lactic acid / old timey fermented foods like our “great grandparents” used to make. Delicious, easy, safe and fun.

Raw vs Cooked

September 21, 2011

This is one of those times that our Western linear/duality mindset can create problems. Some people seem to do better on raw diets, others on cooked, still others (and perhaps the majority) want both in their diets. In general, vitamins and enzymes are higher in raw food; however, certain other nutrients are higher when food is cooked.  Many traditional cultures eat certain foods raw in season, while other traditional healing systems say that raw food should only be eaten in the middle of the day, or if one’s constitution “safely”enables one to do so. For many folks, too much raw food can create loose stools; conversely, not enough may contribute to constipation. Once again, balance, and discovering our own bodily wisdom will enable each of us to eat healthily.

Here are some interesting scientific findings regarding raw and cooked food (all coming from the database  ):

milk is much more effective a increasing weight in very low birth weight babies.

eggplant may have a higher antioxidant capacity than raw eggplant.

artichokes profoundly increases the bioaccessibility of health-promoting,
antioxidant constitutents.

vegetables increases the antioxidant capacities of carrots, courgettes
(zucchini), and broccoli.

cooking increases glucose, insulin and C-peptide responses and lowers satiety
and beta carotene levels versus raw ones.

infants show improved growth when receiving mother’s own raw milk compared with
pasteurized donor milk.

and cooked garlic have comparable effects on reducing indices of

broccoli results in faster absorption, higher bioavailability, and higher peak
plasma amounts of sulforaphane, compared to cooked broccoli.
 …however, you if are hypothyroid, you’ll want to cook your Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, etc., as they are goitrogenic (thyroid-depressing) when eaten raw.

cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens,
kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage.

milk consumption (relative to boiled) is inversely associated to asthma, atopy
and hay fever.

and speaking of raw milk, I’ve been eating yogurt and kefir made from raw goat and cow’s milk for over 12 years….and pasteurized milk used to make me ill. One of my earliest memories from childhood was of my mom catching me pouring milk down the laundry drain! After that, I got milk with chocolate in it so I would drink my milk…

Here are some great links to the current “raw milk controversy” from :

Why all the hub-bub about raw

By now you have probably learned about the
FDA’s long history of criminal action, such as conducting illegal,
armed, SWAT-style raids on farmers, cancer treatment pioneers, dietary
supplement manufacturers and private buying clubs such as Rawesome Foods. (Read
more here: )

What the FDA isn’t telling

The FDA has long waged
a campaign of fear and intimidation against natural product providers for the
sole purpose of crushing the natural products industry and thereby handing Big
Pharma a monopoly over disease treatment medicines.

This pattern of government tyranny and monopolistic
practices aimed against innocent Americans and small business owners is
now robbing you of your access to the incredible health benefits of
unprocessed dairy.

You’ll understand why raw milk considered such a threat to
the FDA’s campaign of disinformation after you listen to these
incredible audio lectures.

In this comprehensive lecture set — equivalent to seven
audio CDs and five PowerPoint presentations — you’ll learn about the privileged
status of raw milk in Europe, and you’ll understand more than ever before
why raw milk delivers superior nutrition over processed,
pasteurized “dead” milk.

Click here to learn more
about this audio collection and the real reasons you should be drinking raw

 Bon appetite! 

A Good Night’s Sleep: Essential for Health

September 17, 2011

This seems self-evident…and yet research studies consistently show that we are sleeping 1 to 2 hours less a night than previous generations. We are also being exposed to artificial light late at night, which interferes with our sleep patterns. Here are 2 recent studies that show how important sleep is to 2 growing populations. First, if you have high blood pressure, check out this article  HERE . If you are diabetic or have heart disease (or are at risk) then please read HERE .  For those who want to know more about our circadian rhythm, you’ll want to read HERE .

As the seasons start changing, sleep patterns may become slightly disturbed. Some folks need to eat a small protein/fat snack before bed to keep their blood sugar regulated. Others just need to eat a meal 2 hours before bed. There is research that shows that for many (especially people with adrenal fatigue), the hours before midnight are “better” for quality sleep than after midnight. Like with diet, there isn’t a “one size fits all”; however, if you are experiencing sleep difficulties, try a few of these easy inexpensive possibilities: 3 mg of the hormone melatonin about one half hour before bed; no television or computer work an hour before going to sleep; reading with a full spectrum light bulb; sleeping with eye shades if you can’t make your bedroom completely dark.

And yes, there are many helpful herbs; however, I find that they should be used only if the above suggestions don’t work. As for essential oils, lavender, sweet marjoram and bergamot are very beneficial. Some folks use one scent and others may need to rotate. Just a drop or 2 on your pillowcase can ease your way into sleep.

Snack Manufacturers Know What They Are Doing

September 9, 2011

Here is some great insider info compliments of my intern Brittany DeNoon.

My introduction to the practice of reading labels began as an employee at Frito Lay/Pepsico headquarters in Plano, Texas. For over two years I worked alongside food scientists, engineers and marketing staff in the Research and Development (R &D) division. It was there I learned how ingredients are required to be listed on product labels (starting with the main ingredient, by weight, and continuing in descending order). So I learned how to change the first ingredients of a label list with a simple recipe reformulation. But perhaps the most important thing I learned was how corporate interests can insinuate themselves into their employees’ consciousness and ethical systems. In other words, the scientists I worked with put Frito Lay’s bottom line ahead of their knowledge of nutrition.

During my time with Frito I worked mostly with Quaker on a granola bar redesign.  As a strategy to keep sugars or sweeteners from the being the “first” on the ingredients list, our formulas used a variety of sweeteners like fructose, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup solids. By using an array of processed sugars, “granola” could then be legally listed as the product’s main ingredient (even though “granola“ itself was a combination of oats and sugars). We did this often and with many other products. Label altering was/is a conscious and common practice in the food industry, often exchanged as brilliant information by those responsible for it’s discovery.

In addition to my lab lessons, all of the R& D employees I interacted with were active and conscious about their decisions and schemes to hoodwink the consumer. Intelligent scientists (many with degrees in nutrition), engineers and business people (almost all Ivy Leaguers) were pursuing the corporate climb. They knowingly worked in a place where innovations like the ingredient list loophole provided advancement and pay increase opportunities. I listened to the marketing department pitch how to make products seem more wholesome and healthy. I recall a particular strategizing session on how to hook “stay at home moms” to buy cookies as a healthy snack. Marketing was aware that many consumers were starting to read food labels. This also came just before the phase out of hydrogenated oils in snack foods. Frito’s marketers were psyched that they were ahead of the curve here; however, they had no compunction of putting in more sugar as they removed hydrogenated oils.

When it comes to food additives, Frito’s scientists were much more secretive….For example, when I asked about soy lecithin, I was given the explanation of it’s emulsifying properties needed to make the product “work” better. But when I asked about a particular chemical that I couldn’t even pronounce, they became evasive, and I was made to feel as though I asked too many questions.

It’s been almost 10 years since my time at Frito, and I am wondering what else they are now adding to their snack foods, and what effect it is having in people’s bodies.

This blog was written by Brittany DeNoon, who is currently interning with me here at Iris Herbal the week of Sept. 6th. She has a Master’s degree in Women’s Studies, and wants to be an organic farmer. Go  HERE to see Brittany’s blog about her travels (she just got back from a stint in Korea teaching English to primary school children).

Acid / Alkaline

September 3, 2011

One of the most important tenets of holistic/alternative health is eating a healthy nutritious diet. The devil in the details is primarily regarding what makes a food group fall into this category, as well as how much of that food to eat. The concept of acid and alkaline is starting to crop up in my research more frequently, and includes studies and experience from medical doctors as well as alternative practitioners.

A good introductory article explaining this concept can be found HERE . Be sure to read down at the bottom about his rebuttal of a “Quackbusters” article, which helps make the concept even more understandable.

One of the most intriguing research articles I’ve come across is about cellular pH. You can read about this  HERE .

And wouldn’t you know, I can’t seem to find my reference for the third piece of recent findings…sigh; however, what this entailed is a study that shows how lack of stomach acid, or stomach acid that is too high in pH, can lead to an overall acidic environment in the body. In other words, as we age, our stomach acid can weaken, and what we mistakenly think is some kind of over-acidity is actually an under-active acidity that fails to fully digest protein, which leads to all kinds of problems as the not-broken-down-enough food heads south.

If you have trouble digesting protein (and sometimes fat), which is often a feeling of over-fullness in the stomach (sometimes accompanied by moderate pain, but really doesn’t feel like reflux) after a high protein meal, try a Betaine HCl-Pepsin supplement whenever you eat protein, especially meat or fish. After 27 years of being a vegetarian when I began eating meat I couldn’t digest it. A protease and lipase (protein and fat) enzyme helped, but it wasn’t until I added Pure Encapsulation’s Betaine HCl-Pepsin (made from beets, not synthetic, and no fillers) that I could finally eat cooked protein. This supplement also helps one utilize/absorb calcium, B12 and iron. Call Cathy toll-free @ 877-286-2970 for more info on ordering.

Lastly, in my research I have found that many alternative practitioners/sites go by the “ash” method of determining acid and alkaline values (including the article first cited); however, many of the holistic medical doctors are using the newer “PRAL” values. Yes, it can be confusing. Go  HERE  for an excellent quick explanation of the difference between the two, with lots of good links to better lists of how foods are either acid-forming or alkaline-forming in the body as we digest that food.