Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Margarine deception

"Discover the simple goodness of Land O'Lakes. Fresh, wholesome and real, Land O'Lakes provides pure, fresh taste for people who strive to keep life uncomplicated and appreciate life's simple pleasures."

I laughed out loud when I first read this phony baloney description in my in-laws' fridge. It still shocks me how food companies can get away with writing complete BS on their packages. I haven't yet figured out what people think they're gaining by eating margarine (or similar products) instead of butter. This margarine actually has the same number of calories, the same total grams of fat, and only four grams less of saturated fat than regular butter (which is actually a very bad thing, not good the way we have been taught). Not to mention NO NUTRIENTS (the added vitamin A is synthetic and completely useless to our bodies if not actually harmful). All you have to do to realize what's really in this sorry excuse for a buttery spread is to look at the list of ingredients: soybean oil processed in three different evil ways makes up the first FOUR ingredients, along with water. By now we know that the words "hydrogenated" and "partially hydrogenated" are a big clue that this is not a health food, yet they appear THREE times on this one small package. (To add insult to injury, the oil is extracted through a less-than-natural process from genetically modified beans. These are beans that even animals know not to touch.)

If you're wondering what really goes into the stuff you are putting on your toast every morning and on your mashed potatoes every night, read on (and keep in mind that pretty much the same holds true for all the fake "butter-y" spreads out there):

This excerpt is from the article, Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry.

"Manufacturers cannot use liquid oils in baked goods or frying, and they are not spreadable. So to harden the liquid vegetable oils to make margarine and shortening, they put the oils through a process called partial hydrogenation. To make margarine or shortening, first the oil is extracted under high temperature and pressure, and the remaining fraction of oil is removed with hexane solvents. Then the oils are steam cleaned, a process that removes all the vitamins and anti-oxidants, but of course, the solvents and the pesticides remain. These oils are then mixed with a nickel catalyst and put into a huge high-pressure, high-temperature reactor. What goes into the reactor is a liquid, but what comes out of that reactor is a semi-solid that looks like grey cottage cheese and smells terrible. Emulsifiers are mixed in to smooth out the lumps. The product is then steam cleaned a second time to get rid of the horrible smell. Then it is bleached to get rid of the grey color. At this point, the product can be used as vegetable shortening. To make margarine, they add artificial flavors and synthetic vitamins. You may be comforted to know that manufacturers are not allowed to add a synthetic color to margarine. So they add annatto or some other natural coloring. It is then packaged in blocks and tubs. Advertising promotes this garbage as a health food."

And yet, they're calling the results of this extremely complicated, unnatural process "simple goodness" and claiming that it's "pure and fresh"! In my opinion, using the words FRESH, WHOLESOME and REAL within 10 miles of this product is an absolute outrage. Of course it isn't only advertisers promoting this "garbage" as a health food -- doctors push it all the time. That's why my in-laws stopped using butter and started using margarine about 30 years ago when they moved to the U.S. from Mexico. And it wasn't long before they switched from lard to corn oil. Maybe next time we'll talk about how corn oil is made -- it will have you looking for a pig in no time.

In the meantime, let's take a look at all the fabulous health-supporting stuff found in old-fashioned raw or cultured butter from grass-fed cows:

Nutrients in Grass-Fed Butter

Fat-Soluble Vitamins: These include true vitamin A or retinol, vitamin D, vitamin K and vitamin E as well as all their naturally occurring cofactors needed to obtain maximum effect. Vitamin A is more easily absorbed from butter than from any other source, and provides a wonderful bright color without the use of dyes. Fortunately, these vitamins survive pasteurization. They are needed for:
⁃ proper growth
⁃ healthy bones
⁃ brain/nervous system
⁃ reproduction
The Wulzen factor ("anti-stiffness" factor) - Ever wonder how people used to continue working on their farms, cooking, knitting, and stoking the fire until they died in their 80s or 90s? By eating butter!
⁃ found in raw butter, cream, whole milk (and raw animal fats)
⁃ protects us from degenerative arthritis
⁃ protects against hardening of arteries
⁃ protects us from cataracts
Activator X
⁃ powerful catalyst that helps the body absorb and utilize minerals
⁃ found in organ meats from grazing animals and some sea food
⁃ especially good source is butter from cows eating green grass
⁃ disappears from the butter when cows are fed cottonseed meal or soy
Fatty acids
⁃ perfect balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids
⁃ antimicrobial, anti-tumor, and immune-system-supporting properties
⁃ lauric acid is highly protective (found also in breastmilk)
⁃ butyric acid unique to butter - anti-fungal properties
⁃ these saturated fats are absorbed directly from the small intestine to
the liver and provide quick energy for the body (NOT STORED AS FAT!)
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
⁃ strong anti-cancer properties
⁃ encourages buildup of muscle
⁃ prevents weight gain
⁃ disappears when cows are fed dry hay or processed feed
⁃ natural component of butter
⁃ helps our bodies absorb and metabolize cholesterol and other fats from
⁃ cholesterol is needed for our bodies to produce a variety of steroids
that protect against cancer, heart disease, and mental illness
⁃ our bodies manufacture hormones from cholesterol using vitamin A
⁃ breastmilk is also naturally high in cholesterol because it's
essential for growth & development
⁃ protects against gastrointestinal infections, especially in babies &
the elderly
Trace minerals
⁃ many trace minerals from the earth, such as manganese, zinc, chromium,
iodine (butter is a wonderful thyroid-supporting food for people
without access to seafood!)
⁃ extremely rich in selenium (a trace mineral with antioxidant
properties), containing more per gram than herring or wheat germ!

MARGARINE -- Ingredients: liquid soybean oil, water, hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, buttermilk, salt, contains less than 2% of: hydrogenated cottonseed oil, soy lecithin, sodium benzoate (preservative), vegetable mono & diglycerides, artifical flavors, beta carotene (color), vitamin A palmitate.
Price tag: $6.29/lb.
Externalized costs: nearly-irreversible damage to the earth from growing huge monocultures of genetically modified soybeans (loss of topsoil, soil depletion, poisoning of the air, land & water supply by chemical pesticides and fertilizers, destruction of wildlife and ecosystems); irreversible genetic pollution from GM seeds spreading and inter-mixing with regular crops as well as getting into the water supply; potential allergic reactions (possibly fatal) from eating GM soy; pollution from farming machines, refining, processing, and shipping the product; heavy use of fossil fuels; poor health; tax dollars used to support huge soy agribusinesses and monoculture-raising farmers.
Benefits: food corporations get richer & contribute more money to the campaigns of people who will perpetuate this system.

Price tag: $10/lb. & 16% delivery charge.
Externalized costs: pollution caused by driving a small truck for two hours to deliver to the consumers.
Benefits: land that is well-protected, fertilized naturally, and properly used & cared for; happy cattle; small, thriving family farms; healthy, delighted customers!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happiest day of my (thyroid's) life!

Imagine that two years ago you had developed a serious medical condition which required that you take medication every day FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Imagine that you had serious misgivings about taking this type of synthetic medication every day, and that in recent months you had started feeling jittery and anxious every time you took it. Imagine further that this condition was related to having a compulsory c-section with your first child, that it put the chances of having a normal (vaginal) birth with any future children in jeopardy, and that it was affecting many aspects of your body chemistry, from sugar handling to dental health.

Now imagine that someone (in this case a nutritional therapist) told you that you showed absolutely no signs of hypothyroidism, that it didn't appear you actually had this condition anymore, and that you should listen to your body about what you felt was best as far as taking medication went. How great would you feel?

Well, this is what happened to me this week and let me tell you, I feel GREAT!!!! Being labeled with the condition of hypothyroidism and having to worry about all this stuff has not been fun at all. For the past 8-10 months I have worked really hard to get my diet under control. For those of you who have been following along, you know how much time and effort I put into creating our family's meals. It hasn't just been a philosophical exercise for me, though, and it hasn't been only about wanting to raise a healthy baby or about wanting to eat only foods from local farms. All these things have been part of it, but at the heart was my desire to be completely healthy and not have to go regularly to the doctor or take daily medications.

From my research into thyroid conditions I have learned about everything that can negatively affect our thyroid health (for me the two biggies were birth control pills and soy foods), and also about how to heal my thyroid. Focusing on high-quality animal fats has been an incredibly important part of this (butter from grass-fed cattle is a thyroid-supporting food); I've also recently started making stock from the carcasses of whole fish as the fish heads contain the thyroid gland and serve to nourish our own thyroids. Cutting out sugar, strictly limiting sweet foods (even natural ones like honey and fruit), avoiding soy, using only Celtic sea salt, and cutting out almost all white flour have been crucial as well. I also practice fertility awareness now instead of taking the Pill, and I feel much better physically than I have in years.

If you can believe this, in the past when patients were aging prematurely or always fatigued doctors would prescribe raw thyroid sandwiches and the patients would perk up in no time! I have no desire to eat raw thyroid glands from animals, but I think I can continue to incorporate butter, sour cream, the occasional grass-fed sirloin steak, and yummy eggs from pasture-raised chickens into my diet without too much misery. :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Easiest-ever chicken liver paté

Liver is not something many of us eat on a regular basis, and most of us have some bad memories of being force-fed it as children (I had a particularly fraught relationship with liverwurst). Like it or not, though, liver is hands-down the most nutritious commonly-known food we have here in the U.S., practically dirt-cheap, and, as demonstrated by the sumptuous creaminess of French patés, it is definitely something that can please the gourmet as well as the nutritionista! This recipe is easy to make, requires very few ingredients, and can be enjoyed by you and your little one for a snack any time. When sourcing your livers, keep in mind that the liver stores toxins as well as nutrients, so be sure to get organic! Or buy from your local farmers' market or through another reputable vendor (farmer with pastured chickens). Small-scale local farmers are happy to do custom organ meat orders as well, but they may need to be placed a little in advance. Chicken liver has the flavor most of us are accustomed to, but you can also try other varieties.

You will need:

-1 lb. thawed chicken livers
-1 medium chopped onion
-1/2 cup red cooking wine (or a red wine of your choice)
-several tablespoons butter
-fresh or dry herbs to taste (such as dry mustard, dry dill, rosemary, and thyme)
-unrefined sea salt & black pepper

First, melt a large pat of butter in a hot pan and sauté the chopped onions until glossy (you may use shallots instead, and add chopped garlic if you like). While they are cooking, remove any connective tissue attached to the livers (try to be delicate while separating - liver tears easily). Add the wine and the livers, then simmer til most of the liquid is evaporated. The livers should still be quite pink inside -- the longer they cook the more "liver-y" they taste! If they are cooking too fast don't worry if all the liquid hasn't evaporated, but go ahead and remove from heat (if you're concerned, you can taste the liquid at this point to ensure that the alcohol has boiled away). Add generous dashes of dry mustard, dill, and rosemary, a large pinch of sea salt, and plenty of fresh pepper. Then pour everything into a food processor or blender (if lots of liquid is left, leave most of it out until you are sure about the consistency). Blend until smooth, then add several more tablespoons of butter, blend, and season to taste. The mixture will be fairly liquidy, but it will firm up in the fridge.

Refrigerate in a tightly sealed glass container (such as Pyrex). Paté is still good until it smells off or grows mold -- so about 2 weeks. You can also freeze half for later in a glass dish. Enjoy on toasted whole wheat sourdough, but be sure to butter the bread first. Since we use unsalted butter, my ritual is: toast bread, spread thickly with butter, add a sprinkle of sea salt, and spread thickly with paté, then slice in half. This makes a fabulous lunch with some fresh or fermented veggies and a glass of raw milk kefir. Babies enjoy eating it warm from a spoon. Bon appetit!

Remembering pregnancy cravings

Many of us -- pregnant or not -- try hard to follow diets that we believe are healthy or ideal, all the while denying what we deeply long for. I was following a vegetarian diet for the most part during my pregnancy, but my body drove me on a few occasions to break my own rules.

One day I smelled bacon that was being cooked at a street cart, and I promptly went and purchased a package of bacon, cooked most of it, and ate several strips. I still wasn't satisfied, though, until I realized what I really wanted was the liquid fat in the frying pan! After eating many spoonfuls I felt much better. Several months later I learned about the profound need for vitamin D and fat during pregnancy and realized that what my body really wanted was good old-fashioned bacon fat (also known as lard!) which has traditionally been high in vitamin D (animals raised outside in the sunshine will store lots of vitamin D in their fat). During my pregnancy I ate in a way that I believed was very healthy, but I now see how what I was eating -- and not eating -- was closely linked to the issues I faced, including hypothyroidism, extreme foot swelling, strong cravings for starches and fried foods, and, worst of all, my inability to dilate during labor which resulted in a c-section. (More on this later, but I should just mention that swelling and cravings for processed carbs like white bread and pasta are both signs of protein deficiency. Too many processed foods and sugars, too much soy, and too few high-quality fats in the diet are linked to thyroid dysfunction.)

There was also the occasion where I walked a mile in the dark and cold to buy fast food fried chicken! I shudder as I remember this, but I was absolutely DRIVEN! I only wish that I had known then what I know now, because I would have definitely been able to feed myself and Oliver far better, and would have had a happier time of it.

After the birth, though I still wanted to remain a (sometimes cheating) vegetarian, I asked my mother to make me steak every day for lunch for a week. I found out several days later that I was very anemic, but I really didn't need a blood test to know that I could not deny my need for meat -- I was incredibly weak and utterly exhausted, and the meat definitely helped. The beef that I ate was standard grocery-store fare, which makes me wonder: if I had known how much more satisfying grass-fed meat is at that time, perhaps I would have made sure I got this instead, and maybe the cravings for it would not have lasted as long as they did. It's interesting to consider.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Peach ice cream

This batch came out great! The perfect proportions seem to be:

2 cups cream (we use raw cream -- whole milk will also work)
2 egg yolks (from pasture-raised chickens which don't have salmonella like the factory-raised ones)
1/4 cup unprocessed maple syrup (grade B)
2 lbs. ripe peaches (skinned, pitted, and chopped very small)

Freeze the inner crock of the ice cream maker for several days for best results. Then assemble it, plug it in, turn it on, mix all the ingredients together & pour them in. Add the stirring blade and lid, and let it work its magic for about 20 minutes. If you freeze the crock sufficiently long, the ice cream will come out perfectly. We transfer the churned ice cream to shallow plastic containers for freezing, but you can eat it right away if you like (though it will be very soft).

Making ice cream using only fresh ingredients and seasonal fruit has taught me two important lessons:

1) it's really important to use plenty of fruit! I've learned this the hard way.
2) what we've come to think of as "ice cream" (i.e. the kind you get from a carton or on your cone at the store) actually bears very little resemblance to the real thing.

It's a little like how we've come to think of the creations at McDonald's as hamburgers, whereas a real hamburger made from actual ground beef will taste very different. Even when you use plenty of fruit, homemade ice cream just isn't going to have that uniform "fruit" flavor we've come to expect. It's absolutely delicious - but in a different, more wholesome, less overwhelming way. I now realize that even the more natural kinds of commercial ice cream have got to be chock full of flavorings or they simply wouldn't taste like much of anything (after all, when was the last time you found fruit listed as the first ingredient on the side of your carton?). Ice cream made the way I've described would come at a very premium price. These ingredients (all sourced from local farms) cost us about $12 ($5 for the cream, $6 for the peaches, $1 for the maple syrup & eggs) and make about a quart of ice cream which lasts us usually 2-3 weeks (when you're eating nutrient-dense meals you don't feel the need for as much dessert). With the standard markup found in stores, and factoring in all the costs of the factory, workers, power, packaging, shipping, advertising, stocking, checkout, and the plastic bag to carry it home in, it is a wonder to me that we can buy some very cheap brands of ice cream at the store for $1.99! In fact, when you consider all the costs I've just mentioned, doesn't it kind of make you wonder about the quality of the ingredients going into your family's mouths at dessert? They are probably of extremely inferior quality, but made to taste delicious with lots of flavorings (and don't forget, natural flavorings are allowed by law to be 49% MSG, a potent neurotoxin). Doesn't it make you feel a little creeped out to think that what you're experiencing as "strawberry" or "vanilla bean" is actually just your brain sensing a chemical compound concocted in a laboratory?

I don't usually advocate buying lots of gadgets or consumer goods, but if your family eats a lot of ice cream it is definitely more than worth it to invest $50 in a good ice cream maker and find a local source of raw milk or cream. Ice cream made this way is a dream come true: dessert that's actually good for you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Poem for a thoughtful time

"Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection."
— Wendell Berry

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fast food hates fat tax

Interesting video from CNBC indirectly related to the proposal to tax soda. The two guests featured, COO and CFO of Chick-Fil-A and Jason's Deli respectively, are happy to admit that lots of kids are obese and diabetic, but they believe "personal responsibility" is the culprit, not the fast food and junk food companies. I liked how the anchor pushed them on this. The best line is when the Jason's Deli CFO says yes, sugar and salt are addictive, but people have to "be aware" and make responsible choices. "It's about education, about educating people about what they're putting in their bodies." They are quick to assert that Washington didn't create this problem, and Washington isn't going to solve it. [Of course, as soft drinks have the highest profit margin of anything on the typical fast food menu, it's no wonder the big chains won't budge on this issue!]

When we consider that 43% of the American increase in caloric intake since 1970 has come from soft drinks, I would argue that Washington actually did create this problem -- namely, by subsidizing the corn industry which produces high-fructose corn syrup. Soda is undeniably extremely harmful, even deadly, so why is it even still allowed on our grocery store shelves and in our schools? Why is raw milk illegal in most states (unless sold right off the farm) but soda is everywhere -- and CHEAP to boot? It makes me so angry to think that some of our family's tax dollars are going to SUBSIDIZE American obesity and diabetes by way of corporate greed.

Anyone else out there angry about this?