Friday, February 28, 2014

Cleaning Up Our Diet: Chapter 7 Eggs

Posted by Paulette

I believe that nothing happens by accident. I promised that my next post would be on eggs, and then I got sick...eating eggs.

I get back to that story is just a little bit. Have you ever eaten an egg fresh from the nest? Last July our family bought five Muscovy Duck hens and one drake. My hope was that we would get fresh eggs every day.
 They're all grown up and some of them are even laying eggs. 

On January 3rd we found our first egg. We were so excited. It was like Christmas all over again. I boiled that first egg and cut it into 6 pieces so that everyone (except Daddy, who wasn't home) could have a piece. It was delicious!
Have you ever eaten a fresh egg? They lack that sulfur taste that many grocery store eggs have. The yolk in a duck egg is larger than those found in eggs laid by chickens.

This is a bonus for people, like my daughters, who only want to eat the yolk!
We got a few eggs after that, and then all of a sudden, it seemed to stop. Then one night while rounding up the ducks to pen them up, I noticed one of the hens was missing. I grabbed a lantern and went searching. I found her under a bush. And she did NOT want to move. A pair of pruning shears was produced, so that I could get under the bush to get her, and guess what I found? A baker's dozen eggs! I took all but one. 
Since then, I've learned that ducks are smart. They count their eggs, and when they have enough, they will lay on them to hatch. My little hen wasn't laying eggs long enough to hatch them, but she's going to be a great momma some day. Since then, I have learned to replace eggs that we've taken with fake ones. Otherwise she goes on strike! Even that has to be done with care, because she will sit on those darn fake eggs and starve herself to lay them. I never knew how smart bird could be. 
There are now about 5 nests that we check daily for eggs. 
In December, we added to our flock with 5 chicks, all hens.
 This new addition to our backyard farm was more costly. When we purchased the ducks, we did it a little at a time, spending $20 a duck. building their pen cost only about $7 and their bath tubs were only $6 each. But the chicks needed a heat lamp, and a coop and special feeding apparatus. The chicks themselves cost $50 for 5, at 4 weeks old. They can be cheaper, at younger ages.
But this post is supposed to be about EGGS, not BIRDS. Right? So why, you may be asking yourself, did I spend so much money and time on acquiring my own layers? 
First of all, there was the nutritious factor. Eggs at the grocery store are on average 45 days old before you bring them home. 
Hens in a poultry farm are kept in small boxes, raised on GMO feed, fed antibiotics to keep them from getting ill in such close quarters. They often have their beaks filed down, so that they can't injure the other birds.
 My birds are free range. They eat the scraps from the kitchen as well as wholesome feed. They also eat all of the weeds and are great insect control.
Lastly, I want my children to know and respect where their food comes from. I love to see the joy in their little faces when they find an egg. 
So, for you analytical types, here's the comparison of duck to chicken eggs:
 Now, if you're still reading and not bored to tears by now, I'll share with you how I got sick eating eggs. For a week, every  time I'd eat our homegrown duck eggs, I would react as if I'd been poisoned. At first I thought I'd had the stomach flu. It came on slowly. But when it happened 2 more times after eating the eggs, I realized that it must be the EGGS! 
Now, I may be allergic to duck eggs. This isn't much of a tragedy. I can still eat chicken eggs. But the problem may be the feed. I started the ducks on game bird feed starter, which is medicated. I didn't realize this until my friend pointed it out. Being a novice, I didn't realize that you're supposed to change to a layer feed a month before they lay, which is at about 6 months of age. I've changed their feed, and have located a source for GMO feed. I am so excited!  Of course it costs more, but, not as much as buying free range GMO free eggs.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cleaning Up Our Diet: Chapter 6: Milk

posted by Paulette

You would think that there wouldn't be much to say about milk. But after doing the research, I was blown away by the information. Two years ago when I'd been allergy tested, my panel said that I was allergic to cow's milk. While my family was still drinking cow's milk from the grocery store, I was trying out alternatives.

There were so many choices in alternative milks. I tried hemp milk. 
 It had a grassy taste to it that I didn't like. Moving on.

Then soy milk got it's chance.

We liked the taste. The vanilla was like eating melted ice cream. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that there were several reasons why we shouldn't be drinking this milk. The first one, was because it's made of soy, which has phytoestrogens. It's a plant based estrogen. It's not a good idea to mess with mother nature. Excess estrogen in women can cause perimenopause symptoms, and in men it feeds prostate cancer. I don't even want to think of what it was doing to my boys while in adolescence, while their bodies are changing! The other reason to avoid it was because much of the soy grown in the US is GMO. Silk specifies on their products that they are non GMO, but they are also one of the companies that fully support Monsanto, the company that engineers GMO seeds. I'm not sure I can trust their non GMO claims.

Then we tried coconut milk.
One of the reasons this one appeals to me, is that there are so many brands. You can buy it refrigerated, or in shelf stable cartons. It's delicious! And you can get it flavored with vanilla and sugar, or plain. Using milk in cartons reduces exposure to BPA which can leach from cans into the milk. This milk is also very high in calories, so it's a treat, not an every day, or even twice a day thing for us. We may have some in some herbal tea, or maybe even a glass when we are eating spicy foods to calm down the heat in our mouths.

Rice milk is also a yummy alternative to cow's milk.
It tastes yummy, but as far as the nutritive value, I found it lacking. It can also be bought in a shelf stable packaging.

Almond milk is delicious, can be bought refrigerated and in shelf stable packaging and has good nutritive value. At one time I thought I might be allergic to tree nuts, and so avoided this milk. But time soon showed me that there was nothing to fear, and we began drinking it again. It's the best substitute to use when baking because it has a flavor that's closest to cow's milk, and when unflavored, can even be used for gravies and sauces.

And now we come to my favorite, goat's milk.
I was first introduced to goat's milk when I began my search for milks. I'd tried powdered in my baking, and I'd found that the canned milk was excellent for soups and macaroni and cheese. And the Goat's milk yogurt was awesome! I had to hide it from David, my husband. To drink, though, I found that it had a slightly tangy taste. And then my friend gave me a sample of the milk from her goats, and it was creamy and delicious! I was sold! Later I found out that there were many benefits from drinking raw goat's milk. Too many for me to detail here. But there's a few articles floating about the net, if you care to read them.

It's more expensive that the above alternatives. I pay $4 a quart. We get 5 quarts a week for our family of 7. It's usually gone within the first two days. When I bring it home everyone gets excited to have their first taste. It's by far, the best alternative. 

We no longer drink cow's milk. I've since discovered that the dairy industry does some pretty dastardly things. The cattle are fed corn, which is GMO, and they are given antibiotics on a regular basis. Recently most dairies stopped giving their cattle BGH (bovine growth hormone) to up the milk production. It was causing male children to grow breasts! It is common for milk to have a certain amount of puss in it. It's allowed. Nasty! And the reason for pasteurization is to kill the bad bacteria present in the milk, which also kills the beneficial bacteria, leaving it a blank slate to grown bad bacteria again. Anytime I hear the slogan from the 90's "Milk, it does the body good." I think YUCK!
Since there are so many alternatives, we don't miss it. We do still eat cheese. It's a whole different product, changed by bacteria and enzymes.

I am not a healthcare professional. Any information expressed in this blog are the opinions of it's author, and are not a cure for disease.

Next time: Eggs

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cleaning up Our Diet: Chapter 5. Sweet!

posted by Paulette

This is a sticky subject to talk about. Pun intended. My Mom would be so proud of me. Hee hee!
 Sugars are one of those things that suppresses the immune system.
It leads to insulin resistance.
It promotes inflammation in the body.
It can lead to weight gain when ingested.
It contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In fact, our livers process fructose very similarly to the way they process ethanol. Lustig calls fructose “alcohol without the buzz.”
It appears to act like fertilizer for cancer cells.
High fructose diets decrease HDL levels, while reducing the diameter and increasing the density of LDL particles.
Glucose and especially fructose can bond to – glycate – proteins and lipids without proper enzymatic control.

With all of that to think about, why would anyone who was looking to better their health still want to eat the stuff? 
Is it reality to think that you can omit it from your diet all together?
People already think that we're strange for all of the changes that have been made in my family. AND, I have children.
I once knew a family who prohibited their children from having chocolate. Do you know what the children did? Every time there was an opportunity to eat chocolate outside the supervision of their parents, they ate as much as they could.
 Realistically, I want my children to have a normal life. But I want to offer them better choices than what most Americans eat.
Sooo. I will be sharing some of the alternatives I have found to granulated sugar and high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup.
There are so many varieties of sweeteners available.
 But, first, we need to unveil the fakers.
Stevia has become a popular no calorie sweetener of choice. Do not be fooled by the labels. Just because something says it's an extract or that it's pure, doesn't mean that it is. Some kind friend recently dropped off a bag of Pure Via at my house. The first ingredient was maltodextrin, not stevia. Truvia pretends to be stevia. It's so processed it's not anymore. Any of the Stevia products that claim that you can use it spoon for spoon like sugar, is not pure stevia.

My first experience with stevia was when as friend of mine brought over a cheesecake made with it. It had a slightly bitter aftertaste. That is true stevia. It's not granulated like sugar is. It's powdery. It is derived from an herb, and was sold as a dietary supplement before it came to the market as a sweetener. And watch out! If you use too much, it's NASTY! It will ruin whatever you put it into. My kids once thought it was powdered sugar, and tried to add it to peanut butter to make a candy. Boy! Were they surprised!
 Speaking about powdered sugar. I don't buy it. It's granulated sugar with cornstarch added. I know it's a main ingredient for making frosting, right? I make my own. Put the organic cane sugar in the blender and grind it to a powder and add either arrowroot or tapioca starch in equal amounts and you have powdered sugar. Just a little precaution to avoid GMO corn.

Please read the following article about the process to get the product they call stevia. Looks like even the white powder and liquid are derived using toxic chemicals.

How about Maple syrup? I'm not talking about Aunt Jemima's or Log Cabin. Those are corn syrup with maple flavoring and caramel coloring (which is a carcinogen, by the way). I'm talking about the stuff that's expensive. Like $6-$8 for less than a pint.

True maple syrup isn't as sweet as sugar. It's derived from the sap of the Maple tree. It has been concentrated into grades. Grade A is what is used for pancakes. Grade B, less common, would be used for glazing a ham. It has a stronger flavor.

Since this sweetener has a distinctive flavor, we use it only when we can let it shine. We love it on sweet potato casserole, and in oatmeal.

Molasses is another syrup with a distinctive flavor. It comes from sugarcane, and actually has the benefits of providing minerals, iron, calcium and potassium, as well as being sweet. I use this for barbeque sauces, and in baking products when I want that molasses taste. By itself, it's not very sweet. I usually use it with another sweetener, like brown sugar.
 I briefly mentioned raw honey in my last post. This is another sweetener that you'll need to vet out. I get my raw honey from a local source. Therefore it has pollens from my area, which help to inoculate me from allergies. Raw honey also has naturally occurring enzymes, which aid in digestion. However, if your honey is not organic, your bees may be dining on high fructose corn syrup, which is nasty for a variety of reasons. First of all it's so processed that it's a concentrated form of sugar that the body doesn't digest well. And then, there's that awful GMO thing, you know I hate.

Back to the good sugars!
Organic evaporated cane juice is the closest to the granulated sugar that everyone is used to. Why use this instead? Because there are no insecticides, herbicides, and it's not bleached. Basically it's the kind of sugar that was used hundreds of years ago, when it was so expensive that people has safes to keep it in. Yes. It's that good.

Organic brown sugar is similar to the above, but has more molasses content, making it a bit moister, and has a bit of that distinctive flavor.  also called turbanado sugar, or sucanat. All have varying degrees of molasses left in them.

This next one is my new favorite sweetener. It's Organic coconut sugar. My kids tease me that my favorite food is the coconut. Our pantries are full of coconut derived products.
Coconut sugar is not very sweet. It has a smokey earthy flavor that is perfect for curries and cooking meats. Think barbeque sauce. 

Since using alternative sugars, I've noticed that our appetite for it has decreased.  We've become very sensitive to sweet stuff. In this case less is more, isn't it?

I am not a healthcare professional. Everything shared in this post is the experience of myself and my family, and is not intended to cure disease. (Take it like you want it.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cleaning Up Our Diet: Chapter 4. Probiotics

Posted by Paulette

This post may not be for everyone. I believe that probiotics are essential for good health. They boost the immune system by allowing the body to get the nutrients needed from the foods we eat. GMO (genetically modified organisms) containing glyphosate kill off the natural bacteria in the gut! Replacing those bacteria is so important.
 An easy way to incorporate probiotics into the diet is to eat yogurt. My children love it! I like to buy Greek yogurt because the protein levels are higher, since it's been strained. I don't have to strain mine, because when I make it, I add more milk powder. 
 This is one of those things that's pretty hard to mess up. I make it in mason jars in a cooler overnight. My kids prefer the store bought stuff, but when money is tight, I pull out some food storage milk powder, and mix some of it up. They'll eat it with vanilla and raw honey, or with jelly. When I do buy yogurt, I am careful to read labels. Many of them contain thickening agents, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors. The ones that don't can be rather pricey. So I have my sources at Winco and Trader Joe's for the best quality and taste. And they're 1/3 to 1/2 the price of the trendy brands.

A few years ago, my mother turned me on to a concoction of apple cider vinegar and honey in water. You should use the vinegar with the "mother" still in it. This the the bacteria that changed the juice into vinegar. There's a short slide show, touting the benefits of apple cider vinegar.
Adding raw honey to it makes it more palatable, but also ups it's immune boosting abilities. 
"Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It promotes body and digestive health, is a powerful antioxidant, strengthens the immune system, eliminates allergies, and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. Raw honey's benefits don't stop there. Raw honey can also stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves, and it has been used to treat ulcers. Raw honey is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory and has been known to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma."
Kombucha is a fermented probiotic drink made from tea (black, green, or white) and sugar. The scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is what does the magic. In about a week or two, your sugary tea turns into a vinegar that is full of goodness. It can be flavored in the second fermentation. 
 This is also something that can be bought ready made at most health food stores. It can get expensive, though, since it's $3.50  a bottle. 
Making your own is the most cost effective way of getting it, and you can control the ingredients, using organic teas and sugars.
Each new batch makes a baby scoby, so there's plenty to share.
I've had some issues making my own at home. It's very susceptible to growing mold. I've recently had some success with water kefir in my bedroom closet, and so I may try a batch there.

Which brings us to my favorite probiotic of all, water kefir.
 When done right, flavored water kefir tastes like soda pop. Even unflavored, it has a taste that's similar to a sparkling cider. It's simply made with water, sugar, a little baking soda, sugar and kefir grains. I don't know of anywhere that sells water kefir, and that's really too bad, because as I've said, It really is the best of the probiotics. 
Unlike the scoby, you can eat the grains that grow from making water kefir. They taste slightly yeasty. Happy grains like minerals found in molasses, or an egg shell. There are plenty of sites that teach how to brew water kefir, and sell grains. The best way to get them is free, from a friend who brews their own.

Then there's always probiotics in a capsule. DoTerra has a really good one. They call it PB Assist. 

See that little green pill? The outside is actually clear with another capsule inside it. That's where the probiotic is located. The outside layer contains a prebiotic.
It contains 6 live strains of bacteria.

So, if you're the kind of person who doesn't like smelly things, this may be the way to go for you. I like to cover all my bases, and so I consume at least two servings of these brews, pills or concoctions a day.

I am not a health care professional. I am merely sharing my experiences and those of my family.

Next time: Sweet!