Starting in the 70s and then really taking off in the 80s it was decided that fat was the ultimate culprit for bad health. Sadly, this was a misnomer and led not only to the increase in sugar intake for most Americans, but also a switch away from good fats to really horrible ones. So lets cover what are good fats and why do we need them?
First we’ll talk about why we need fat in our diets:
There are 3 major reasons that I like to talk about, and really I think it’s all the convincing that anyone should need!
(1) Some very important vitamins that our bodies need to thrive are fat soluble. What exactly does that mean?
Definition: A vitamin that is soluble in fat solvents and oils (lipo-soluble). They are absorbed with ingested dietary fat, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in moderate amounts from the gastrointestinal tract. Present in minute amounts in various foods, these vitamins are essential to maintaining normal metabolism and biochemical functions; fat malabsorption may result in fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, K, F.
In a nut shell, it means your body can’t make use of that particular vitamin unless it’s coming in with fat. If there’s no fat, then the nutrient will pass right on through and you’ll never gain any benefit from it. A good example of this is vitamin D in dairy products. If you eat non-fat yogurt, all that lovely vitamin D in the dairy is unusable for your body. Even if they fortify your milk or yogurt, unless there’s fat there, it won’t matter.
(2) The correct combination of fats can help reduce your body’s inflammatory response; thereby helping to reduce your risk of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
(3) And most importantly, your brain is about 60 percent fat, and without healthy fat in your diet it won’t have the necessary fatty acids it needs to function and thrive. Pretty simple right?
Which fats do we need to consume and which should we avoid?
1. Saturated Fats
Saturated Fats were one of those that got a bad name for itself back when the low-fat diets took hold. Sadly, this misconception is still going strong today even though research has shown time and again that saturated fats, when consumed from healthy sources, are not bad for you.
There are more than a dozen different types of saturated fat, but you predominantly consume only three: stearic acid, palmitic acid and lauric acid. It's now well established that stearic acid (found in cocoa and animal fat) has no adverse effects on your cholesterol levels, and actually gets converted in your liver into the monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. The other two, palmitic and lauric acid, do raise total cholesterol. However, since they raise "good" cholesterol as much or more than "bad" cholesterol, you're still actually lowering your risk of heart disease.
The key with saturated fats is to find the right source. Sources of healthy saturated fats include:
2. Monounsaturated Fats
Olive Oil and Canola Oil are your two most common in this category. Olive Oil can be very good for you, but many experts (including me) now advise you to stay away from Canola Oil (which turns out to be a modified and highly processed version of rapeseed oil – you’ll hear more about that below).
Two things to keep in mind when consuming olive oil: (1) cold-pressed extra virgin is the best; and (2) it damages at a relatively low heat. This means it's amazing in things like salad dressing, but that when cooking with it, use only at lower temperatures. If you’re looking for a good higher heat cooking oil, try coconut or avocado oils, grass fed butter, lard or ghee instead.
3. Trans Fatty Acids
This is a fat that is artificially made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils in order to make them more solid (Partially Hydrogenated Oil), making trans fats your main fat culprit for bad health. Many studies have linked trans fats to an increased risk of heart disease. They also work on clogging your arteries and increase your chances of diabetes…among other health risks.
You will mainly find trans fats in processed foods and restaurants – particularly deep fried food. So look at your ingredients list or ask your restaurant what they use. Companies like them because they have a long shelf life, can be used more than once in a deep fryer and add a flavor that is appealing to most people.
There are also naturally occurring trans fats found in very small amounts in animal products. The research hasn’t come in yet on the effects of these trans fats. But since they’re in such small quantities, are naturally occuring and unprocessed, and nobody advocates going and eating a whole cow every week, they’re not typically thought of as a concern.
4. Omega 3 & Omega 6 (which fall under the category of polyunsaturated fats)
Most of you have probably heard of the importance of consuming your Omega’s, but this really is specific to Omega 3. There are actually 3 main types of omega fats in our diet: Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. In this article, I'm going to focus on Omega 3 & 6 (Omega 9 we can make ourselves and comes out as a wash in terms of consuming it in our diet - so we'll just leave it there). However, a serious health problem for most Americans is the skewed ratio in their diet of Omega 3 to Omega 6. Ideally, the ratio would be 1:1, but unfortunately, the average American consumes somewhere between 1:15 and 1:20. What’s the difference between the two?
Omega 3: There are both plant (ALA) and animal – mostly fish (DHA & EPA) sources of omega 3. It turns out that we don’t need a lot of ALA unless it’s converted to DHA, and our bodies aren’t very good at doing that. Therefore, animal sources are those that hold the most powerful health benefits.
Omega 6: The bulk of Omega 6 in our diets comes from vegetable oils (Palm, Soybean, Rapeseed & Sunflower). While it’s found in a whole host of other food too (some nuts, seeds, fruit and meat), these sources offer Omega 3 as well in a healthy ratio with Omega 6 thereby negating the negative effects. In fact, Omega 3 & Omega 6 interact with each other in our bodies, providing competition in a sense. So when our ratio is healthy, then we actually get the benefits of Omega 3. When the ratio is out of whack, we lose.
What does Omega 6 do?
Recap: Fats to consume, fats to avoid
***You’ll notice that all the animal based fats are from sustainable and range/pasture sources. That’s because what an animal eats makes a substantial difference in the makeup of the meat they become. Eating conventionally raised animals doesn’t provide the same good fats. ***
Find other resources and research here:
It's no secret that most of us eat a too many treats, drink a little more than normal, and generally are fairly merry and bright with our food during November and December (seriously... we can't just pretend it's only on the holidays can we?). And most of this overindulgence comes down to 1 thing: a lot more sugar in our lives. Even if it's in the form of breads, pastas, crackers, etc., our body reacts to it in just the same way as those of us who reach for the chocolate, cookies and pies. And it's addictive! It can be hard to break the cycle of eating the extras and we find ourselves snacking more, always feeling munchy, or wondering what we can go grab to eat next.
You might also find yourself not sleeping as well, dragging your feet in the morning when the alarm goes off, feeling more moody or irritable, having a hard time around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and wondering how in the world you'll make it to the end of the day, or like your brain is moving in slow motion. If any of these symptoms ring true for you, the likely culprit might not be what you think... it might just be all that extra sugar carbs!
When I detox every January, I'm always so thrilled with how I feel even just a few days into the process. It is truly impressive how quickly your body will recover from sugar overload and what those changes look like. Sure, you might loose a few pounds in the process (even as many as 7 or 8 in 2 weeks!), but other changes might be more unexpected: improved sleep, better moods, no afternoon lull, reduced cravings, eliminated snacking, improved brain function and alertness, and waking feeling refreshed and ready to go.
You might be thinking, Kia, seriously? How can eating some extra pie and ‘stuff’ really do all that? You’re crazy! Well, for better or worse, I’m not crazy (at least not in that way), and there’s now plenty of research linking sugar/starchy/processed carbohydrate intake to all of these symptoms and more. Here are just a few of the ways sugar messes with us on a daily basis:
(2) Sugar can drive our serotonin (your happiness hormone) out of whack.
How? When we eat sugar, it drives up serotonin levels and then depletes the hormone leading us to feeling low, sad, sluggish, tired and depressed. So what do people often do? Eat more sugar to increase serotonin levels again leading to a vicious cycle. And in the end, our bodies will often just give up and not make the hormone in the quantities that we need, thereby leading people to eat even more sugar/starch in attempts to make more serotonin.
(3) Increase Risk of Heart Disease.
A 2014 study found that just one 12-ounce can of soda a day (or equivalent) added enough sugar to a person's diet to boost their odds of developing heart disease by a third. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1819573)
(4) Overconsumption of Food or Leptin Resistance.
Leptin is a hormone that tells you when you’re full/had enough to eat. People who consume too much Fructose fail to get this signal and in turn, tend to overeat. http://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/295/5/R1370
When we eat sugar, our insulin spikes. When it falls again it leaves us feeling like we need to eat more, even though our body doesn’t actually need any more calories. When people switch out high sugar foods for nutrient dense foods, they often find themselves eating less overall, simply because the food you’re eating is fulfilling your body’s needs.
(5) Increased Body Fat.
A 2010 study in children showed that too much fructose cause visceral fat cells to mature (aka, belly fat) (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-06/tes-fsm062010.php)
Relating to the overconsumption of food that comes with eating too much sugar, you can ask yourself, what happens to this extra food? Well, calories that are not utilized for energy are stored as fat for future use. So all that extra eating, even if it’s a non-fat diet, will be stored by your body as fat.
(6) An Increase in Your Body’s Inflammatory Response.
The details can get complicated quickly, but in a nut shell the consumption of sugar can lead to improperly digested food which then leads your body to react to that food as an imposter, triggering your bodies natural inflammation response. Depending on where this occurs in your body, it leads to a whole host of inflammatory diseases: Arthritis, Leaky gut syndrome, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Eczema, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac, Asthma, Allergies, just to name a few…
(7) Toxic Effects on Your Liver
Similar to excessive alcohol consumption, regardless of physique. Even those who didn’t consume too many calories and were trim still showed the same negative effects on their liver. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/98/2/349
(8) Increase in susceptibility of cancer
There is a strong connection between insulin resistance and cancer; specifically recent studies suggest that insulin resistance is connected to a cells increased susceptibility to cancer formation.
There’s been a few studies showing that breast and colon cancer patients who consumed larger amounts of starch and sugar had worse outcomes with regard to their cancer. The theory being that at least some types of cancer cells feed off of the sugar (and starch) that we consume. http://ict.sagepub.com/content/4/1/25
(9) Cognitive Decline and even Dementia
More research is coming out showing the relationship between sugar consumption and the aging of our cells, and has more recently been linked to deficiencies in memory and overall cognitive decline.
Research is also showing the correlation between Type II Diabetes and Alzheimer's. Both diseases stemming from insulin resistance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4191295/
(10) Premature Aging
Ground breaking research has discovered that non-vegetable carbohydrates directly affect specific genes that govern youthfulness and longevity. The original study looked at roundworms (they lived 6x longer than normal when they cut out all non-veggie carbs, and kept their youthful vigor until the end). This work has now been repeated around the world with other animals (rats, mice and monkeys). We also carry these same genes, which lead us to believe that the results would hold true for us as well.
And the list goes on...
The bottom line is, that this is true for EVERYONE who over indulges in sugar, no matter your overall health or your body physique. So don’t be fooled into thinking that sugar doesn’t affect you. It does. And at some point in time it will catch up to you and show you just what it’s doing.
So why not join me! No matter who you are, or your life circumstances, swearing off sugar and starchy carbohydrates for a couple of weeks will benefit your health. It’s a certainty! How much, and in what ways will depend on you. Come check it out here, and find out just how freeing it can be to not be dependent on sugar anymore. Your future self says ‘Thank You’! And who knows, it might just be the game changer you’ve been waiting for.
“Bone broth isn’t just broth. And it isn’t just soup. It’s concentrated healing.”
– Kellyann Petrucci
When we talk about food being the best medicine, bone broth is near (or at) the top of the list. And the beauty is that it’s not hard to make. The key though, is the ingredients you use. But we’ll talk about that later. Right now, let’s talk about the reason we should all be consuming this amazing tonic.
9 Reasons Bone Broth is AMAZING!
1. Helps heal your gut. The gelatin in bone broth (a hydrophilic colloid) helps to seal the lining of your gut by protecting the mucosal lining.
2. Promotes healthy digestion and nutrient absorption. The gelatin also keeps your digestive juices where they’re supposed to be, aiding in the digestion of nutrients.
3. Reduces inflammation. Which for many of us is a major key to health. Bone broth is a natural supplier of glucosamine, which can help stimulate the growth of collagen and reduce joint pain. It is also full of amino acids that have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects (glycine, proline, and arginine).
4. Encourages bone repair and growth. The calcium, magnesium and phosphorous are great for healthy, strong bones.
5. Helps prevent and fight disease. Not just an old wives tale, research has shown that soup indeed has medicinal qualities for fighting infection by reducing the number of white blood cells (which cause flu and cold symptoms).
6. Good for strong hair, nails, and healthy skin. Both the gelatin in bone broth and the broths ability to stimulate your own production of collagen increases the strength and health of our hair and nails, and can reduce wrinkles and increase firmness of skin.
7. Helps you relax and maybe even get a better night sleep. The amino acid glycine has been found to have calming effects, which can help lead to relaxation and better sleep.
8. Better than supplements. Bone broth is cooked at a relatively low heat, which preserves the nutrients in a way that high-heat extraction used for many supplements doesn’t. It is also more comprehensive in it’s makeup of nutrients as it’s made from whole foods, and isn’t just the parts that we’ve deemed as the “healthy” bits.
9. It’s cheaper than buying broth, and very easy to make. As long as you can get your hands on good bones and a crock pot, the set up takes about 15 minutes and then you just leave it be until it’s done (4-48 hours). And it’s a lot less expensive than buying cartons or cans of broth, which don’t have nearly the same health benefit!
So, how do you make this magical potion? If you search online for bone broth recipes, you’ll find oodles of them. But they all have a few key components: Good bones (i.e. from free-range, organically fed animals is best), a few veggies, water (filtered if you have it), and time in a slow-cooker (4-48 hours depending on the type of bone you're using). You can cook bone broth on the stove, but then you have to be home and watching it occasionally which can be a hassle considering how long it cooks. A slow-cooker or crock pot allows you to set it up, and walk away until it’s done. Here’s my go-to recipe:
Chicken bone broth:
Dump everything into your slow cooker except the fresh herbs. Turn on and leave for 6 - 8 hours. Add the fresh herbs in for the last hour. You will likely notice some frothy bubbles at the top of the pot after a few hours. Scrape this up with a large spoon and discard. It’s normal, and totally fine.
When it's done cooking, strain through a colander, and distribute the liquid into quart jars to refrigerate or freeze. If freezing, make sure you leave enough space at the top for the liquid to expand, and freeze with the lid off to avoid the glass breaking. If you have a dog, you can throw the cooked gizzards onto their food for a seriously tasty treat. And I can usually pick off enough meat from the discarded bones to make a chicken soup.
For other types of broth (beef, fish, pork, etc.) I follow the same recipe but you’ll need to increase the time the bigger the bones. Fish bones (using a whole fish is the best) = 4 hours; Pork & Beef bones = 24-48 hours. Large bones should be hollowed out by the time you’re done cooking them.
Don't be shy! If you have questions feel free to leave them in the comments below, or shoot me a note. But I promise you, if you give it a try, you'll be so happy you started this habit of broth making. The broth is delicious! Much better than anything you could buy in a store. And it will likely become a staple in your house like it is in mine!
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it means that generally, work/life has been busy and generally rewarding! But it’s bad, because, well, I miss it. So here we are, all of a sudden in January, a new year is upon us! How crazy is that.
With January always comes the sometimes abrupt and shocking return to routine after the holidays. Even if you don’t participate much in holiday life the over indulgence, friend and family gatherings, kids out of school and general over stimulation is hard to ignore completely. This can lead to crawling our way into January wondering where the extra 5lbs and sleep deprivation came from and why we didn’t notice it creeping up on us earlier. But it also gives us the perfect opportuity to implement realistic resolutions to kick start our new year. So why not give that exercise routine a shake up and get yourself into a grove that will last all year.
Here are four critical tips when figuring out a good exercise routine for yourself. (And this applies to beginners and advanced fitness gurus alike.)
1. Mix it up!
Most of us think of cardio workouts as the “go to” exercise, and yes, it’s a good place to start, but it is not the ONLY thing you should be doing each week. There are 4 areas of exercise: (1) aerobic (cardio), (2) anaerobic (strength training), (3) flexibility (increasing range of motion), and (4) stability (balance and core), and EVERYONE should be doing at least one thing in each category…every week.
Why you ask? Many reasons. First, if you all you do is run or bike or practice yoga, then inevitably you will end up with injuries, and there will be aspects of your health that you are completely ignoring. To keep things simplified (because lets face it, most of us don’t have a ton of time to devote to this), there are many activities that will cover more than one area of exercise.
For example: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is both an aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Plus it activates your core muscles as well. Here’s one of my favorite beginner guides to HIIT (http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/06/21/interval-training.aspx)
Yoga and Pilates can also be workouts that cover a wide range. Some yoga classes will offer a workout in all 4 areas (increased heart rate over a long duration; strength training of certain muscle groups; encouraging a wider range of motion; and a core workout). If you’re unsure what your exercise class is doing for you, just ask your teacher. And if they don’t know? Well… they should. Tell them to go find out and get back to you.
You can also call me and we can figure out the best type of routine for you!
2. Build rest to your routine
With 4 different types of exercise to cover, and endless choices within each type, it probably feels like you could spend your whole life exercising and you might just cover the basis, right? Well, the next key is to make sure you’re scheduling in rest as well. What??? Rest??? Crazy right? But, the fact of the matter is, if you workout the same muscle groups and in the same way every day, you won’t allow your muscles to repair themselves, and in turn, this will lead to injuries, or in some cases, a weaker body than what you started with. Rest doesn't mean just go and be lazy and sedentary all day... Rest, in this case, refers to giving muscle groups a chance to recover from a workout. However, the best way to rest is usually a mild activity: restorative yoga, walking, neighborhood bike ride, etc.
Now, the type of workout really dictates the amount of rest (i.e. time off for a muscle group). But the general rule of thumb is the more intense the workout, the longer the rest needs to be. Take the HIIT I referenced above. It’s a major workout, and if you tried to do that everyday you’d run into serious trouble. It’s recommended that you take at least 2 days of rest in between each HIIT. And that goes for strength training as well. And in between those intensive workouts is a great time to get in some work on your core and flexibility. Or just take a walk to let your muscles work, but not so strenuously.
3. Get enough protein
Here’s a rule that most people either don’t know, or generally forget about. To skimp on protein is to deprive your body of the building blocks it requires for building and maintaining strong and healthy muscles. The CDC currently recommends that we eat approximately 0.8g/kg/day of protein. This works out to 45-60g per day. Now, here’s why I think, for many of us, this number is too low. When the CDC is making these recommendations, they are thinking of the 'average' American who, frankly, is eating a terrible diet. Processed foods, meat from CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Opperation), fast food, huge amounts of sugar, and a sad amount of fresh veggies; all of which lead to an overconsumption of calories, period. So for these individuals… then yes, 45-60g is fine, along with a reduction in pretty much everything else (except veggies!).
However, if you’re exercising regularly, then research shows us that this may not be enough protein. One key is to find good sources of protein to consume: beans, lentils, sustainable seafood, range meat, eggs, yogurt & cheese (from range cattle), nuts & seeds. There is research that recommends your intake to be closer to 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day. If you’re an endurance athlete (running, biking, hiking), then focus on the lower end of this range; if you’re main focus is strength and power training, focus on the top end; and for intermittent (i.e. soccer, basketball, HIIT), you should sit somewhere in the middle. Here’s a great journal article for reference: http://www.jissn.com/content/4/1/8
What does this look like?
170 lb individual doing intermittent exercise: 170lb = 77kg x 1.7g/kg = 131g/day
130 lb individual doing endurance training: 130lb = 59kg x 1.4g/kg = 82g/day
In terms of how to get this? Here’s the protein amounts of some good sources:
4. Sleep is one of the greatest healers
Finally, we sometimes need to be reminded of the importance of getting good zzz’s at the end of the day. I know that sometimes it can feel like a waste of a perfectly good 8 hours (I mean, come on! Think of all the things we can get done during 8 hours!). But the truth of the matter is, there’s a good reason we’re supposed to spend a third of our life sleeping. It’s not just because we get tired, and we’re not just wasting time.
We do some of our most important work while we sleep… and if you don’t, then your body will suffer. Aside from being hugely detrimental to your brain, lack of sleep also prevents your body from recovering fully in between your workouts. This is the time that muscles repair themselves and build strength from those great workouts that you’ve started. And this includes your heart as well (your most important muscle!). So make sure you don’t skimp on sleep!
Here’s a great quote from the sleep foundation that I use regularly: “The one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping, far from being “unproductive,” plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.”
Feeling motivated yet? Coming up with a productive, healthful and easy to stick with fitness schedule can be daunting. When you tackle this, try to factor in the 4 tips mentioned above, and if you’re feeling stuck, drop me a line. I’m always happy to help!
Milk… It does your body good?
Dairy. Ah dairy. For most of us, even if it doesn’t agree with our digestive system, we still seem to consume it… a lot. In milk, yogurt, cheese… And when you think about it, dairy really is everywhere. I love dairy, and as a mom with two young kids who can use all the good fats they can get, I’ve been fine with them drinking milk and consuming large quantities of yogurt. I was excited a year ago when our CSA started delivering bottled milk from a nearby small family farm. Not only was I supporting a local small farm, but also I love bottled milk. It’s got a great fresh taste and there’s almost no waste. And this farm is wonderful: They reuse their water 4 times before discarding it, they use the cow patties to manure their fields, they built (and repair) their buildings with recycled materials, and they’re good to their cattle. All in all a win-win situation, right?
Sadly, no. I recently talked with them and found out that their cattle are fed alfalfa hay/corn silage (aka all dried) mixed with grains/by-product feed. What’s the big deal about this you ask? Even with most organic cows milk, there’s a certain amount of feed used for the cattle. The difference is that organic milking cows are required to have 30% of their Daily Matter Intake from pasture during the pasture growing season (minimum of 120 days). Now, 120 days might not seem like a lot, and it’s true. Most pasture farms in California (read that as Northern California) exceed that by a HUGE number, but in other parts of the country where snow covers the ground for a significant chunk of time, or in my neck of the woods where it’s beyond dry for great stretches of time and green pastures are hard to come by, 120 days is pretty good.
So why is pasture raised cattle important for milk? Well, I found an article (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857247/) looking at the nutritional quality (and specifically the fatty acid (FA) content) of organic vs. conventional milk to find my answer. It was a study that took samples of organic and conventional milk from small farms throughout the country, every month for 18 months.
Here’s the summary of the important findings:
1. The FA content in conventional and organic milk didn’t change throughout the year and the total amount wasn’t significantly different between the two types. However, there was a significant (and in my opinion very important) difference between the makeup of FA in conventional and organic milk. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids (ω-6/ω-3) was 2.3 for organic and 5.8 for conventional (other studies have this closer to a ratio of 7 or 8 for conventional, but because of the nature of some of the conventional farms in this study, their average ratio was lower – you’ll see why below).
When looking into the importance of FA content in your diet, the ratio really matters. Too much of one family of FAs can interfere with your ability to metabolize the other. An ideal ratio is 1 to 4x more ω-6, but the typical American diet has 11 to 30x more ω-6 (hypothesized as a significant factor in health related disorders, specifically inflammations disorders), which is why you hear so many touting the ω-3 content of certain foods… overall, we’re lacking.
2. I also liked the 18-month longitudinal aspect of the study. Studies looking at beef samples have noted the rapid drop off of some nutrients when grass-fed cattle are ‘grain finished’ before slaughter. So this was a good way to see if this occurs in milk as well during the months when even grass-fed cattle are indoors. It turns out, for milk, the FA content and ratios (omega 6:omega 3) stayed fairly consistent throughout the 18 months. The only thing to take a significant hit was the CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which is thought to be a potential potent anti-carcinogen. The study shows that during the winter months, the level of CLA in organic milk drops significantly (within a month of transitioning to grain or dried grass). Conversely, it increases rapidly again in the spring. There isn’t a confirmed recommended amount of CLA, and my understanding is that it’s something you need to get from natural sources. Comparing that to conventional milk, organic has significantly more CLA during the pasture months, and just slightly more during the ‘off season’.
3. Finally, it is important to note that this study is really more about the feed of the cattle as opposed to the “organic” label. In fact, one of the authors admitted as much in response to a comment, and he stated that a more appropriate title would have been "Required Pasture Feeding of Organic Production Enhances Milk Nutritional Quality by Shifting Fatty Acid Composition: A United States–Wide, 18-Month Study." The study was partially funded by Organic Valley, so the organic reference in the title was obviously important. Organic Valley (http://www.organicvalley.coop), is a coop of small farms (over 1000 of them) located all over the U.S. I think they’re a great company, but even so, when I see a direct interest has funded a study I want to check it out more. To do that, I started looking at other papers researching the effect of feed on FA content in cattle.
I found two articles (looking at beef, as opposed to milk), coming at the topic from completely different sides, and coming up with the same conclusion. One was a review of many articles and was a great find (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846864/#!po=78.0000). This article looks at many different nutritive qualities of beef and compares grass fed/finished and grain fed/finished cattle. I’ve put some of the major findings in a table below. You can check them out there.
The other was an article looking at the ‘optimal’ number of days for cattle to be grain fed after a grass diet in order to reach premium grade status without adding excess fat; i.e. to achieve the “best marbling“ of the meat, which turns out to not be a great thing when it comes to nutrition (http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/71/8/2079.full.pdf). The comparison group was the grass fed/grass finished cattle, and they too found a better FA ratio in the grass group than the grain groups (they had samples every 28 days of grain finishing, up to 196 days). Both papers identified a 30-day window of grain finishing that doesn’t hugely affect the nutritive quality of the beef. In other words the highest quality in terms of nutrition would be “grass finished” cattle. However, 30 days or less of grain finished is ok. It’s not until after that time when FA ratios really go south, and you start loosing other major nutrients as well. But, unless you know your farmer, there’s no way to know how long the cattle were grain finished, so talk to your stores, your farmers, and everyone else, so you can figure it out!
But I digress. Coming back to milk, it was with a heavy heart that I discontinued receiving bottled milk from our CSA. I understand the farms reasoning: given the amount of water needed to produce green pastures in this part of the world, it is amazingly difficult to pasture raise cattle, especially given the difficult water situation we’re facing right now. And I believe they’re doing their best. But for my family, my first priority is health, so if we’re not getting health benefits from milk, we’ll stop using it. So, we’re back to getting organic milk from the supermarket (also from a family farm, but not bottled and not quite as local), which really isn’t a bad option, but I do miss the bottles.
MUFA: Monounsaturated Fatty Acid
TVA: Trans Vaccenic Acid (A precursor to CLA & Omega 3FA)
SFA: Saturated Fatty Acid
IMF: Intramuscular Fat
CLA: Conjugated Linoleic Acid (a MUFA)
PUFA: Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid
ω-6: Omega 6 FA
ω-3: Omega 3 FA
Kombucha: Do you dare?
I’ve been reading a lot about fermented foods lately and I have to admit, I’m intrigued. They’re packed with natural probiotics and aid in our absorption of the nutrients in our food. My personal opinion is that the short cuts on food production and preparation are playing a large role in the general demise of our health and natural food fermentation is one way of getting back to natural food preparation.
It turns out, that if you look for the right things, there are actually a lot of different fermented foods to choose from (but you have to be careful. Some previously fermented foods are now made in a way that doesn’t include the fermentation due to the risk of bad bacteria being added in). I happen to love yogurt and my family uses it almost daily (especially in the hot summer months for yogurt/berry smoothies), but as with most things, in my opinion, variety is the spice of life. Well, unless I wanted to up my intake of wine, beer or authentic sourdough bread, I was pretty much stuck with yogurt for my regular intake.
Enter Kombucha. I heard a lot during it’s rise in popularity a few years back but was always turned off by the price and didn’t have the time to try it on my own. But then, a good friend of mine said that she had just gotten a starter kit, but decided to not keep it going. Would I like it? Uh… yes please! Now to be honest, there’s not a lot of research out there on Kombucha. The general consensus is that as long as it made correctly it’s not harmful, but the health benefits are yet unknown (assuming of course there are some). My interest and reason for going ahead with this project are more spurred on by my general belief in raw/fermented foods (i.e. apple cider vinegar, natural yeast), and my love of making things myself.
So I’ve embarked on my first journey of making Kombucha. I bottled my first batch a few weeks ago (Yum!) and have my second brewing (this time starting with ginger peach black tea to try a new flavor). I also started my “Scoby Hotel” with the extra Scobys that form each time you make a batch. It is amazingly easy to do and you can find wealth of information online (see below). My favorite resource is actually the journal article written up for the FDA (top link under ‘how to make Kombucha’ below).
A few words of caution: It’s tempting to want to refrigerate your unused Scobys, but in all I’ve read it’s actually a good way to weaken your Scoby and risk unwanted bacteria from entering the mixture. A healthy (warm) Scoby will be a good mix of bacteria and yeast and will fight off unwanted bacteria much better than a Scoby weakened by colder temperatures. Also, make sure you’re disinfecting everything you use when making it (by boiling utensils and containers, NOT using actual chemical disinfectant), just like you would when canning, or making jams, etc. If you start with a sterile environment, you’ll be much better off. And in making Kombucha, the most important thing to monitor is pH levels (tea starts at 5 and over the fermentation time should drop to somewhere between 2.5 & 4.2. If it drops too much or too little then you have problems). Finding a way to test at home is a good idea. If you have the correct pH levels, then you’re going to be pretty safe. Of course, you can always go out to the store and buy some… just be prepared for sticker shock (and make sure you look for raw varieties – pasteurization is just a fancy word for making something sterile, thereby getting rid of all that potentially beneficial bacteria).
Next up in the vast world of fermentation… learning to bake using sourdough starter instead of active dry yeast (I’m learning this might make a huge difference in digestion), and finding local raw milk to start making my own yogurt. Wish me luck!
Kombucha/Fermented Food resources:
How to make Kombucha:
For a Scoby Hotel:
The idea for this work came when I moved, with my husband and two young children (then 6 months & 3.5 years), from Berkeley, CA to Three Rivers, CA. In other words, moving from a city where you live within an hour of millions of people, to a small town of just over 2000, which also happens to be 30 minutes from the next small town. Needless to say, it was a change.
Now, I’m not a person who is averse to change, and a lot of it has been very positive. Jonny was no longer working on his Ph.D., which meant no more all nighters; we were no longer crammed into a 700 sq. ft. space; and I no longer had to work full time, which meant I could focus more on myself, my kids and my love of cooking.
But there are many things I miss: Giants games, being within an hour of my brothers and parents, working (I know… the lack thereof is also a benefit, but I am a people person, so shush), and the access to some of the most amazing food in the world. Seriously.
It seems like there are more farmer's markets in the east bay than cities. Pick a day of the week and you can find one. We were lucky enough to live walking distance to two! Plus I could walk to our health food store (which incidentally also had a kick ass butcher), a local bakery, and Trader Joes (I still miss TJs). Shopping was easy! I never had to plan meals more than a day ahead. Fresh veggies and great meat were no problem… But things have changed.
Now living in a small rural community, our closest farmer's market is 35 miles away, there is one (very small) grocery store in town, and any significantly sized food outlet is a 45 minute drive (and even then, they pale in comparison to places like TJs, Whole Foods, or the Berkeley Bowl). For the first few months we lived here our food bill was HUGE, and I felt like I did nothing but drive everywhere! Trying to figure out where to buy things was a challenge, and even though we’re spitting distance to the central valley (one of the countries most prolific farm regions), finding farm fresh produce and meat seemed impossible. I have to confess, I went a little nuts.
But my persistence and scouting paid off: I found a local CSA, which not only delivers fresh fruits and veggies, but also bottled milk from a local dairy farmer; I made friends with the owners of a farm stand that is located closer to my home than the grocery stores where I can get basic local veggies & eggs (farmed by one of the local highschool ag classes!), and I found the best place to buy organic meat, chicken & fish (would you believe that most of what I buy comes from Costco!).
I also modified my cooking habits to begin with raw, whole foods. And the end result? I cut our grocery bill by 20%, and instead of having to make a 45 minute drive (each way) to our closest city on a weekly basis, I only go once a month, which has saved a lot of money on gas as well. Now this took a serious amount of dedication and planning on my part, and I have to plan out my meals by the week; but now that I’m in a routine, it’s really no big deal. Sure, there are times I get home and could kick myself that I “forgot the coffee”, because there’s no going back for a while, but I’m getting better.
Going through this transition has made me appreciate eating fresh, healthy food even more. And I know that it’s something that everyone can do, at least in part, no matter where you live, or what your situation happens to be. So I hope you’ll join me on this journey to eat locally when possible, and find your own healthy options where you live. Who knows… it saved me money, maybe the same will happen to you! And if you need a helping hand, just call! That’s why I’m here.
Now I just have to figure out how to survive 4 months of 100 degree weather every summer. But that’s a different story…