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Archive for September, 2011

In August of 2010, I was at a house party in Upstate New York when I realized that I was most likely gluten intolerant (if not celiac).

For the last 10 years, I had followed a mostly low carb diet. It worked and I considered it a very healthy diet for me. Meats, full fat dairy, lots of fresh vegetables, very few starches and no grains were the basis of my eating plan. I felt good on it. I followed this whenever I could, but when I couldn’t (traveling or eating at someone’s home), I didn’t worry too much about it. During the summer of 2010 though, I was traveling much more than I usually did. And I didn’t have control of my food.

I went to Wisconsin for training. The company that provided the training provided breakfast and lunch. You guessed it, bagels, breads, cereals and pizza. Since it wasn’t politic for me to go out on my own, I ate them. Within 2 days, I was leaving the training room every half hour to deal with stomach issues. I just thought I was coming down with something. But, strangely enough the same thing kept happening every time I traveled.

In August, my boyfriend and I were at a house party in upstate New York. Breakfast was breads and jams, lunch was pizza, dinner was okay. By Saturday morning, I again was spending most of my time in a restroom. As I was dealing with some of the worst cramping I ever experienced, I started thinking about how much I had been sick this summer and started putting two and two together. “I’m most likely gluten intolerant”.

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milk bottle showing cream at the top

Raw Milk in a recyclable glass bottle.

For most of my life, I hated milk. I stopped drinking it at a very young age (basically as soon as I could be stubborn enough that my mother realized that it was a lost battle). As I grew older, I realized that I’m lactose intolerant. How did I figure this out if I stopped drinking milk? Mainly because like all kids, I liked ice cream. I didn’t realize until I was an adult that ice cream gave me tummy issues. Fermented dairy seemed to be fine for me though (as did heavy cream). As I embarked on my low carb diet, cheese took the place of sweets.

As I’ve embarked on adding more local and seasonal foods to my diet, I searched and searched for a source for raw milk. Despite data from the government (CDC) detailing the fact that drinking raw milk or eating raw milk cheeses is safe, neither the CDC or the FDA will admit that raw milk is safe. Consequently, trying to find a source for raw milk is difficult. Luckily for me, raw milk is legal to sell in Pennsylvania and I’m about 35 miles from the border. So yes, its a haul to get it, but its worth it.

There is a petition up on the WhiteHouse Web Site that is asking the Federal Government to legalize the sale of raw milk.  Whether you choose to drink raw milk or not, after reading this post, please consider signing it so that those of us who do choose to do so, can do so. The petition needs 5000 votes to go forward.  Thank you.

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In the last four days I’ve thrown away 5 cups of milk that I was trying to make into the holy grail of low temperature, raw milk yogurt. I’ve been making yogurt for number of years very successfully. Up until about a month ago I was regularly making yogurt with a locally produced milk I bought at Whole Foods which while pasteurized, was not homogenized.

My basic techniques for making yogurt has been to heat 4 cups of milk up to 180° remove the saucepan from the heat and cool down to 100°. After that I inoculate with a half a cup of previously made yogurt and let it sit in my yogurt maker for 12 hours. This has worked successfully for many years and I’ve never had a problem making yogurt this way. Occasionally, I’ll have to replace my starter, usually with a small container of organic, plain, whole milk yogurt from the store. But this is becoming harder to find.

I routinely strain my yogurt to make it thicker. I do not use dry milk products to make it thicker, instead I strain it to remove the whey. This makes a thicker Greek style yogurt. I save the whey from the straining to use when I lacto-ferment. There are various claims that dried milk powder can be bad for you, but the jury is still out. However, since I tend to try to stay with food in as natural state as possible, dry milk powder is not on my radar so I don’t use it.

With the raw milk, I did not want to heat the milk so high, effectively pasteurizing it. Raw milk contains many beneficial enzymes that are destroyed during high heat processes. So I tried, boy have I tried.  (more…)

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Every so often when I find a book that I think people need to read, I’ll post a review.  

Wheat Belly Book Cover

In the 1970’s Dr. Robert Atkins, a cardiologist, published “Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution” after following a low-starch diet based on work  done previously by Gordon, Goldberg and Chosy in an article published in 1963 in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association). Dr. Atkins replaced the idea of starches being an issue with the idea that carbohydrates (especially starchy ones) were an issue. Dr. Atkins diet was controversial to say the least, but regardless of the outcry from the industrial medicine community, it did work.  It worked for many people, including myself. Most of Dr. Atkins research was either ancedotal, or conducted himself.

In 2007, Gary Taubes, a scientific journalist, published “Good Calories, Bad Calories“, a lengthy tome that describes in detail how the medical research into dietary habits does not support the mainstream (media and goverment) claims that fat is bad for you and that carbohydrates are good.  In many ways, Taube’s book provides the links to the research which supports Atkins anecdotal suppositions.  Again, Taubes concentrated on carbohydrates as a whole.

Now, in 2011, another cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, points his finger at a specific carbohydrate, grains, with a particular emphasis on wheat, narrowing the culprit down much further. His book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, is the next step in the realization that processed foods, which are stuffed with cheap, subsidized wheat is the problem. Along with anectodal evidence, Davis provides references to over 250 studies and articles, which bolster his premise.  (more…)

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eggs

Image via Wikipedia

While I was reading an article from Dr. Mercola on eggs last week, I started remembering how eggs have been respresented through my life. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s eggs were vilified, they were the cause of heart disease and you were taking your life into your hands every time you ate one.  The problem is, that like so much of what we are told by the government and the media, the story is much more nuanced than that (and in many cases is totally wrong).

Most warnings about eggs have to do with cholesterol, the fact is that eating something with cholesterol in it will not raise your cholesterol. The two are not linked. According to Gary Taubes in his book, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health, many of the studies done on cholesterol (Framingham) being one, “could not measure either the diet or the cholesterol of the population, or both, with sufficient accuracy to establish the relationship.

So lets simply make a supposition that eggs are not bad for you and may actually be *gasp* good for you.  Does this mean all eggs are created equal?  Heck no.

When you go to the market today, you see a wide variety of eggs (and I’m not talking about brown vs white). You see Cage Free, Free Range, Omega-3 Eggs,  vitamin enhanced eggs.  (Help with Cooking has a good guide to these kind of eggs.)

The issue is that most of the chickens that produce these eggs are raised in conditions that are horrible. And in reality, if the chicken undergoes that much stress,  and as a matter of routine, has antibiotics and arsenic added to its feed, doesn’t that end up in the eggs?

An egg from a chicken that is raised on pasture, allowed to run around and be a chicken and eat the bugs its supposed to eat, actually produces eggs that have specific health benefits. All eggs contain lecithin, which helps us digest fat and cholesterol, and biotin, a B vitamin that helps with skin, hair and nerves. Pastured eggs however, contain more beta carotene, more monosaturated fats, folic acid, and beta-carotene. They are also richer in Omega-3 fats naturally than industrialized eggs. Pastured eggs also have a 1:1 ratio of omega6  fats to omega3 (the recommended ratio), while industrialized eggs have a ration of 20:1.

All eggs (unwashed) will last about about a week out of the refrigerator. Fresh eggs will keep for about 2 months in your refrigerator without much change in flavor or nutrition. (Keep in mind though that an egg from the supermarket took about 2-3 weeks to make the trip to you, so they won’t keep more than a few weeks.

I buy my eggs from a farm where I also purchase my chickens. Although I’m single, I tend to purchase about 5 dozen eggs at a time. I love eggs. On the days I work I take two hardboiled eggs with me for breakfast (I’m at work by 6am). I have eggs cooked in other ways the mornings I am home. Since I don’t eat cereal, eggs are a good way to fill me up and keep me going through my mornings.

Most farmers markets, farm markets and orchards with farm stores will have eggs available for sale.  To my mind, they taste better and I know they are better for us.  So do yourself a favor, read the articles I’ve linked to and have a pastured egg today!

Links

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Patrons of the Hollywood Farmers MarketI grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, a fairly typical child of the early 70’s. My mom, a child of the depression, was much more interested in the price of food, rather than the quality of it. I can’t blame her, most people didn’t know the difference. She wasn’t very fond of cooking, so we had the same quick and easy meals over and over. I didn’t know there was another way of making fish other than batter fried until I moved out of the house.

Growing up in Southern California, I had no idea of the idea of seasonal eating. Everything was seasonal. If I decided on a recipe I wanted to cook, the ingredients were usually at the super market, no matter the time of year as well as our year round farmer’s market in Hollywood. (Think artichokes in winter).

Sometime in the late 80’s I found a book at my local Mrs. Gooch’s (a healthy grocery store soon bought by Whole Foods), it was called “Nutrition”, a pale yellow, almost text book that really talked about the problems with eating processed foods and advocated eating what I would now call, “real food”. I remember the pictures in there were some of the one’s in Weston Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. It made a huge impression on me. Unfortunately, I don’t have the book anymore and since I can’t remember the author, I can’t get another copy. (If someone knows the book I am talking about, please let me know).

In the late 90’s, I was somewhat overweight and failing to lose it. My husband at the time and I went to Las Vegas where his family was. While there, we went to dinner with his brother and sister-in-law. They told us they were on the Atkins diet and could only go to a steak house. No problem there. I saw them order a steak with a side of broccoli and realized that the diet wasn’t as unhealthy as thought. I started on it, and lost 25 pounds. It was at this point that I realized that I needed to do 90% of my shopping around the outside of a store and not through the aisles.

In December, 2001 and I moved from Los Angeles to the Washington DC area. I remember my first visit to a supermarket and how appalled I was at the lack of fresh vegetables. Coming from Los Angeles, I was very much used to eating fresh vegetables at all times. I finally found a Whole Foods market, and while they had a much better selection, their prices were really high. I found myself buying frozen and canned foods, but they had additives and I wasn’t very happy.

In 2005, I moved into my own place, a townhouse in Germantown, MD. I’m very close to the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve, which means I’m near a lot of farms. In 2008, after picking up Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals , I knew that even buying my food from Whole Foods wasn’t the healthy panacea I had originally thought.

I started reading, a lot. This was winter, I started researching CSA’s and farms and farmer’s markets. I bought a freezer. Then I impatiently waited for Spring to arrive. Unfortunately spring arrives in March, but food really doesn’t come out here in quantity until mid May. So I waited a long time, and wow did that first strawberry taste good.

In August of 2010, I realized that I was most likely gluten intolerant, I stopped eating gluten (which was a mistake) and in January of 2011, my doctor chose to test me. I had to start eating gluten again for a month and was sick for not only that month, but 2 months after that (which is why going off gluten before getting the test was a mistake). This has added a new layer of food and health that I’ve had to learn about.

Since that time, I’ve worked on only eating what Nina Planck calls “Real Foods”, foods that have been around for a long time. I’ve found sources for grass-fed meats, pasture raised poultry and eggs, raw dairy and fresh vegetables. I’ve learned preservation techniques and used them extensively. I’ve learned so much along the way and while there is more to learn, I want to help others learn as well.

I invite you to share this journey with me. I plan on using this blog (as well as my facebook and twitter accounts) to share recipes, nutrition information, food related activism, and help for those with dietary restrictions as well as my journey to a holistic health degree.

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