I’m due for a post

I need to post something else here, but I’m so busy.  This semester is kicking my butt.

I’ve been thinking about what subject to cover next.  I think I’m going to cover genetically modified foods and why it’s important to try to avoid them.  It may be a two-part post.  Hopefully I’ll get it up within the next week!

Healthy Recipe: Roasted Tomato and Paprika Soup

Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Super Natural Cooking has a lot of healthful recipes. I hope you’ll check out this cookbook!

In the meantime, I’ve created a video outlining this recipe. Enjoy!

(Giant) Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

I experimented with chocolate chip cookies today and got a good recipe! Note: remember to eat sugar in moderation, so make these cookies and share with friends!

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup butter (I use organic)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
3/4 cup packed organic brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars.  Add in eggs and vanilla.  Incorporate flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Take about 1/8 cup of the dough and roll it into a ball.  (You can also use a medium Pampered Chef scoop for this step.)  Drop onto cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees – 12 minutes for chewy cookies, 15 minutes for crispy cookies.

Enjoy!

Buying Organic

Buying your food organic is a new concept to some. It’s becoming much more popular to buy foods organic. What should you buy organic? What’s OK to not buy organic?

What is Organic?
1. Organic food is grown or raised by a producer who used methods that minimize the negative impact on the environment.
2. It is produced on land free of known and perceived toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers for at least three years prior to certification. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are not used in production.
3. Crops are rotated from field to field. Cover crops are planted (like clover) to add nutrients to the soil and to prevent weeds.
4. Organic meat, poultry, and eggs come from farms that use organic feed. They don’t give any growth hormones, antibiotics, and allow animals space and freedom.

What to Buy Organic
1. Meat. Animals are treated more humanely and eat a better diet. This is ultimately much better for you.
2. Milk and dairy products. There are no growth hormones or antibiotics in the dairy products.
3. Eggs. They are lower in fat and higher in vitamins and omega-3s.
4. Fruits and vegetables that require you to eat the outside. Even after washing the skins of non-organic fruits and vegetables, pesticides can still be left behind. If it can be peeled, it is probably okay to eat non-organic.

Another Option
If possible, rather than buying organic foods, try to buy sustainable foods. These are foods produced from local farms. Sustainable food does not require any certification, but allows you to be able to ask the farmer questions about how the food is grown or raised.

Response: Why do you think it is/is not important to buy organically? Are large organic farms still somewhat industrialized?

Resources
The Issues: Organic

What’s in the meat?

For omnivores, our diet consists in part of meat. But do we really know what goes into our meat?

Factory Farming
Much of the meat we eat today is raised on a factory farm. These farms often house large numbers of animals in very confined spaces. These spaces often allow little room for the animals to move and offer little access to sunlight or fresh air. In many cases these animals are so confined they can’t turn around.

In order to adapt these animals to the farm, they are often mutilated. Chickens and turkeys have their beaks cut off (de-beaking) and cows and pigs often have their tails cut off (docking).

How the Environment Affects the Meat
1. Antibiotics. Animals are often given low doses of antibiotics to ward off diseases. Disease spreads quickly in confined, unsanitary spaces, so antibiotics are given to keep sickness at bay. Hormones and antibiotics are also given to promote faster growth.
2. Waste. A large amount of waste is produced by the large amount of animals, but it is not always treated properly. Lagoons that hold the waste can contaminate groundwater. Some manure is sprayed on crops, but often to excess. This can cause excess manure to run off into surface waters.
3. What they eat. Animals are healthiest when they eat certain foods. For example, cows are meant to digest grass. Pigs can digest grass, grain, corn, soy, and other plants. Chickens and turkeys can eat plants, bugs, and worms. Many factory farms feed their animals the cheapest food including lots of grain, meat from other animals, bits of feathers, hair, skin, hooves, blood, and manure. Much of the grain fed to cattle is conventionally grown; that is, it is genetically modified and contains high levels of pesticides. Cows can only survive on grain for so long without becoming sick. Likewise, hogs need food with more nutrients, like turnips or kale. Factory farms raise them mainly on corn and soy. Industrial poultry farms are known to add antibiotics and additives to their feed and water. This can even include Arsenic!

What to Look For When Buying Meat
1. Try to buy 100% grass-fed (or grass-finished) beef. Grass-fed beef is leaner and higher in omega-3s and vitamin E. Grass-fed dairy products have five times the CLA than grain-fed cattle. These cattle also have a much higher quality of life.
2. Look for free-range chickens. These chickens have 28% fewer calories. Eggs from these chickens have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A, and 400% more omega-3s.
3. Look for USDA certified organic meat. Organic meat cannot include added antibiotics. Animals raised organic also cannot be fed animal byproducts or growth hormones and must have access to the outdoors.
4. Buy from local farms. This way, you can ask all the questions you need to about how the animals were raised.

Response: How do you feel about the treatment of animals and how they are fed?

Resources
King Corn documentary
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Sustainable Table
The Meatrix

Oils and Fats

Oils are made by pressing oil-rich foods until they release their oils. Olives, nuts, sees, and coconut are all pressed for their oils. Those rich in monounsaturated fats can lower LDL levels (“bad”) in your cholesterol.

Everyone needs to eat a moderate amount of healthy fats. Fat helps keep the body insulated and also helps protect vital organs. However, not all fats and oils are equal.

It’s important to try to seek out as many unrefined oils as possible. Heavily refined oils lack much of the original nutritional content due to high temperatures, solvents, deodorizing, and chemical defoamers. The best oils are unrefined, organic, and expeller-pressed. The least processed oils tend to contain the highest levels of polyphenols, which is a powerful antioxidant.

Kinds of fat
Saturated: solid at room temperature. Examples: butter and coconut oil.
Monounsaturated: liquid at room temperature; thickens when chilled. Example: olive oil.
Polyunsaturated: liquid even when chilled. Examples: oils from flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, canola, and sunflower seeds.

Oils to consider
1. Extra-virgin Olive Oil. This is the oil from the first pressing. Look for oils that have been cold pressed, as this is the least processed. EVOO is best in recipes that don’t involve heat, but if you do cook with it, keep it at a moderately low heat. It is rich in omega-9 fatty acids.
2. Coconut Oil. This oil has been given a bad reputation because it is a saturated fat. However, coconut oil has a lot of health benefits. It contains lauric acid, which aids brain functions and helps boost the immune system. It helps promote weight loss, provides an immediate energy source, gives fewer calories than other fats, and protects against a wide range of infectious diseases.

Oils to avoid
1. Canola Oil. There have been many claims about the benefits of canola oil. It is low in saturated fat and has omega-3 fatty acids; however, these fatty acids have been damaged in the refining process. Canola oil is produced from the rapeseed. The rapeseed is a genetically modified seed from the mustard family. Rapeseed oil (canola) contains significant amounts of erucic acid, a poisonous substance.
2. Corn Oil. This oil tends to be refined. Unrefined versions are typically not organic, thus being produced from genetically modified corn.

Response: How do you feel about oils produced from genetically modified foods?

Resources:
Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
The World of Oils

Why Whole Grains?

Why whole grains?  We are recommended to eat 3 servings of whole grains a day.  Whole grains can help prevent heart disease, certain cancers, and type-2 diabetes.  Whole grain products can ALL parts of the grain: the germ (has essential fatty acids and B-vitamins), the endosperm (starchy part of the grain), and the bran (the coating of the kernel with antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber).

So if a product isn’t whole grain, you are left with the endosperm – the starchy part that contains mainly carbohydrates; it also includes some protein and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.  The endosperm provides the fuel for when the germ sprouts, but it doesn’t provide the greatest amount of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients the other parts of the grain provide.

Many refined flours have added vitamins and minerals.  However, this doesn’t make the nutritional content the same as what is found in the original grain.  The health benefits are greater in an actual whole grain than in an equivalent source.

How to know if a grain is whole or not
You will always be getting the whole grain in foods like oatmeal, bulgur wheat, brown rice, popcorn, or quinoa.  This is harder with foods that have been created with flour – like bread, pasta, crackers, and tortillas.

When examining those products, look for the word “whole”.  Also, examine the first few ingredients of the food, as these make up the bulk of what you’re eating.

Flours to consider
1.    Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour: made from soft red winter wheat or soft white winter wheat.  It has a lower gluten protein content, so it works best in recipes that call for a more tender crumb – like cookies, cakes, quick breads, etc.  This can be substituted 1:1 for all-purpose flour.
2.    White Whole-Wheat Flour: can be substituted 1:1 for all-purpose flour.  This flour is not as heavy as traditional whole-wheat flour.

Response: After reading this, do you find it necessary to begin incorporating more whole grains into your diet?  What are some steps you might take to do this?

Resources
Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
Nutrition Diva

High Fructose Corn Syrup: Is There Really a Debate?

Perhaps some of you have seen the new commercials on TV stating high fructose corn syrup is OK to eat in moderation.  Here are the commercials:

Here are the facts about High Fructose Corn Syrup:
1.    Yes, it is made from corn.  High fructose corn syrup was developed in the 1970s to combat the high price of table sugar.  It is made by processing corn starch to yield the glucose and then processing that glucose to yield a high percentage of fructose.  The process itself is very complicated involving the use of three enzymes and other chemicals.
2.    High fructose corn syrup is hard to eat in moderation.  Why?  Because it’s currently in most processed foods today.  HFCS is cheaper and sweeter than sugar.  It also extends the shelf life of foods, thus making it a preservative.  HFCS has twice the fructose of regular sugar, making it a “double danger”.  It’s found in products like soda, bread, pasta sauces, beer, bacon, protein bars, juices, and more.
3.    The difference between sugar or honey and HFCS is how the body reacts to it.  The high amount of fructose causes the body to pump out more insulin to handle the same amount of glucose.  This sort of insulin resistance is seen in Type-2 diabetes.  Fructose can cause an increase in the concentration of uric acid, which can cause heart disease.  HFCS causes our bodies to want to eat more AND causes us to store more fat.

What should our reaction be?
1.    Limit ALL forms of sugar.  HFCS and natural sugars have the same calorie count, so it’s important to limit even natural sugars.  Sugar can deplete B vitamins and promote Candida albicans (Candidiasis), bone loss, and tooth decay (by upsetting the balance of calcium and phosphorus).
2.    Consider nutrition.  It’s far better to be eating more natural foods.  Raw honey has enzymes that help digest carbs and also contains all the nutrients that are found in plant pollens. Your body knows better how to digest natural foods than highly processed foods like HFCS.

Your thoughts? How do you feel about these commercials? What is your view on HFCS? Do you think HFCS is to blame for the obesity epidemic?

Resources:
The Murky World of High Fructose Corn Syrup
Why is it so bad for me?
Sugar Coated
Sugar substitutes

First Post

Welcome to my food blog!  I’m using this as a tool for myself, that will hopefully benefit readers as well. I’ve also created this blog for my High Tech Learning class. This can be used for learners interested in nutrition and food.

I am committed to the “real food movement”.  That is, I strive to eat real food like fruits, vegetables, meats, and whole grains.  I try to stay away from chemically processed foods with preservatives and artificial (and even natural) colorings.  I also try to eat 100% grass fed beef and free range chickens.  This is not to say I don’t cheat with an occasional diet soda, fast food french fries, or chocolate!  I just try the best I can.  I don’t expect people to eat the same way I do, but if you are looking to try, this is another tool to help!

If you’d like a list of resources to learn more about food:
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
King Corn DVD directed by Aaron Woolf

It’s my goal to post pictures of the foods I make, any meal plans I might have, and anything new I’m learning about food.

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