Every Little Bit Counts

My daughter and I have a saying… “Do it in stages” – and this helps with making big lifestyle changes as well as conquering those projects that overwhelm.

While I don’t always hit the mark on all fronts nutritionally-speaking,  the goal of creating a healthier environment for my family is still going strong.

I have come across a couple of simple changes which can help to improve our health overall and both have to do with detoxification. I always thought detoxification involved nasty tasting drinks, painful massage or worse. I’m happy to report that there are less dreaded things we can do to remove some of the nasty stuff our bodies come into contact with.


Air Purifying Plants

I have never had a green thumb – My plants often have near death experiences and  I have joked that I am well acquainted with plant resuscitation. Now I have a new motivation for paying better attention to my green friends.

My school lessons taught me well about the benefits of green for the purpose of carbon dioxide removal, but I wasn’t aware that plants are also good for removal of toxins as such as  formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and others.

1. Bamboo Palm: According to NASA, it removes formaldehyde and is also said to act as a natural humidifier.
2. Snake Plant: Found by NASA to absorb nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde.

3. Areca Palm: One of the best air purifying plants for general air cleanliness.

4. Spider Plant: Great indoor plant for removing carbon monoxide and other toxins or impurities. Spider plants are one of three plants NASA deems best at removing formaldehyde from the air.

5. Peace Lily: Peace lilies could be called the “clean-all.” They’re often placed in bathrooms or laundry rooms because they’re known for removing mold spores. Also known to remove formaldehyde and trichloroethylene.

6. Gerber Daisy: Not only do these gorgeous flowers remove benzene from the air, they’re known to improve sleep by absorbing carbon dioxide and giving off more oxygen over night.


Now that your air is pure, how about removing some heavy metals from your body?  Research has shown that parsley and cilantro are excellent at detoxifying heavy metals from your body. There are many articles on the benefits of parsley and cilantro on the web  – http://www.mnwelldir.org/docs/detox/cilantro.htm http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/cilantro-chelation-therapy-heavy-metal-detox.html for example- and the possible health benefits range from fewer bouts with colds and flu,  less build up of plaque on blood vessels (heart and brain benefit) as well as possible removal of cancer causing free radicals.

Cilantro is excellent in salad, thrown into soup and green curries, and as pesto to spread on bread, tossed in pasta or stuffed into a chicken breast.

Heavy Metal Detox Pesto Recipe – (Thanks to Homesteading/Survivalism page on Facebook)

Heavy Metal Detox Pesto Recipe:
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup Brazil nuts (selenium source) or macadamia nuts
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (cysteine source)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (zinc, magnesium sources)
1 cup fresh cilantro (coriander)
1 cup parsley
2/3 cup cold pressed olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice (Vitamin C source)
Big pinch of sea salt and or dulse flakes to flavor.
Soak the seeds and nuts overnight to release the enzyme exhibitors. Process the parsley, cilantro (coriander) and olive oil in a blender until chopped. Add the garlic, nuts, and seeds, salt/dulse and lemon juice and mix until the mixture is finely blended into a paste. Store in dark glass jar. It freezes well also if need be.





Revving up the old engine!

Here we are 6 months post surgery and it’s time for me to take stock.

Life’s demands have returned to normal. It’s amazing how everything can slow to a snail’s pace when emergencies hit, yet when the crisis has passed and all of those demanding responsibilities wake from their sleepy slumber (or maybe it is an anesthetic unconsciousness!) it again becomes difficult to control one’s time.

I hope I am not alone in this struggle. Those things which are good, and right and in this case, healthy, don’t scream as loudly as those things which demand me. And keeping them in their proper place is really a battle.

Which is why today is stock taking time!

My goals for my family’s life are:

To eat healthier food

To eliminate and control those habits which are not healthy

To make myself and my family MOVE – not only exercise, but just be more active

To be more available to my kids for school and social activities


Thankfully, many of the changes I have made are still in place – despite my becoming victim to the tyranny of the urgent.

  • More Veggies
  • More Water
  • Less Fat
  • Less red meat

However, in the spirit of confession, I admit that we have slipped in a few areas – the activity level needs improvement and I haven’t made the time to plan properly for healthy meals. We are a bit like a sputtering engine in this area.  Our intentions are good, and we embrace the ideas and make plans to walk every day, go to the gym 3 x a week and to have more family activities away from home. I organize and shop for healthy meals and have delicious meals just waiting to be made….  Unfortunately, our business needed our attention – and longer hours – and more energy… leaving little for all this idealistic idea. Getting the necessary things done quickly and going to bed early sounds so much more appealing!

This idea of a sputtering engine has made me think that, as with a car who when sputtering either has contaminated petrol, or air in the fuel system, I need to do two things:  Get rid of that which is making me sputter AND rev my engine.  A forced input of energy that will eventually clear the system of the nasty stuff and give me the boost I need to move more efficiently.

It’s good to take stock – to have a look at what has crept into life uninvited – and what has disappeared that was sorely needed.  Just as with my business – our annual stock take is this month – I need to check the storeroom, move out what has sat there too long, and bring more of the good stuff in.

In in this spirit, it is Thursday – my day off.  I haven’t taken it in 6 weeks, but with the support of my hubby am resuming today 🙂  And I’m off to the gym with one of my pals – shared accountability and a little fun while we sweat.  Life doesn’t have to control me – I’m in the driver’s seat.



Things are about to get a little steamy

Now, now.. Don’t you go thinking the worst! This is a family blog 🙂

I am 7 weeks post surgery now and 6 3/4 weeks into my committment to permanently change my family’s lifestyle.

So far accomplished:

  • Water source improved and water consumption increased.
  • Soda pop reduced to a rare treat.
  • Juice as fresh as possible (though we mourn the demise of our standard issue juicer and are saving up for an industrial one).
  • Whole grains, seeds and nuts are a part of the daily diet and we are slowly replacing all those refined flour favourites with whole grain replacements.
  • Vegetables are a bigger part of our diet, and we are slowly getting everyone in the family on board. Even my darling Veggie-hater son is slowly coming around (slowly, mind you!).
  • Small container garden has been planted and is producing. First harvest of leafy greens is just around the corner.
  • Take-aways and convenience foods, are almost completely eliminated. I say almost because I have promised the kids that we are about changing our daily diet – and a very occasional pizza or chicken burger is allowed.
  • Red meat consumption is down, and we’ve found a source of free-range, hormone and animal by-product free chicken (Yippee!)

It’s great to see progress… but there is still so much ahead.  This has been all about gradual change, so this isn’t discouraging.  However, I don’t want to lose momentum!

Next on my list is to buy a steamer (ah! now you get it!)  I have done a lot of reading about the nutrients in our food. Some information I knew already, some information gave me greater clarity

Interesting to note: the 3 main enemies to vitamins and minerals are heat, water and oxidation

Oxidation: Vitamins A, C and E are most prone to oxidation. The longer food is stored, the more surface area that is exposed to air and light, the less Vitamin C there is likely to be.  Vitamin A and E are also victims of oxidation. Cool, dark storage helps to slow this natural process.

Heat: The degree of destruction depends a) cooking time b) whether heat is distributed evenly and c) most importantly the temperature.  20-70% of the nutrient content of leafy vegetables is lost in cooking

Water: Minerals and water-soluble vitamins leach into cooking water. The more water used and the longer the cooking time, the more this will occur. High temperatures can even destroy some of the vitamins, though not the minerals. Loss of nutrients in boiled foods tends to be around 20-50%.

Why steam? Steamed foods tend to keep the temperature at the core of the food lower for longer, retaining more of the vitamin and mineral content in the food. It doesn’t take much water to accomplish the cooking process – and anyone who has had steamed broccoli and carrots over boiled know the colour and flavour are so much stronger.

Why not microwave? In vegetables, there is little loss, because the microwaves vibrate the water content in the food. However, essential fats are rapidly destroyed, so it’s advised to not microwave foods with oils, nuts or sees.

Basically I feel that if I am going to the trouble to purchase organic food, grow what I can and keep my fridge stocked with fresh goodness – I want those precious nutrients! Our bodies need them – our cells demand them and I want to give my body all the fight it can have to ward off what attacks it.

Here are some great tips offered by Patrick Holford in his book The Optimum Nutrition Bible 

  • Eat foods as fresh and unprocessed as possible
  • Keep fresh food cool and in the dark in the fridge in sealed containers
  • Eat more raw food. (This is why I love juicing!)
  • Prepare foods cold where possible and heat to serve
  • Cook food whole as possible – saving slicing or blending before serving
  • Steam or boil with as little water as possible – and save that water for stock (Yum!)
  • Fry as little as possible and do not overcook, burn or brown your food

Did you say “organic”?

Let me start by explaining – Before moving to South Africa, I lived in Portland Oregon. That is Portland, land of all things natural. When the rest of the U.S. was busy buying dot.com stock and huge SUV’s, Oregonians were dabbling in alternative energy and pushing recycling. Recycling? Most were still trying to get a grip on Woody the Owl telling us to “Give a Hoot, Don’t pollute” by not throwing our candy wrappers on the ground. Available way before it was trendy were items that were “free-range”, “organic”, using methods that had the smallest “carbon-foot print” possible.

Then we moved… to Africa. South Africa is not exactly third world, however it’s thinking in 2004 was not exactly globally protective. I often got dirty looks when I hooted my car horn at the pick-up full of workers throwing their styrofoam lunch containers overboard.I admit, I abandoned for sometime my recycling habits as well as the energy spent in choosing my purchases according to environmental awareness, but even still missed the easy access to alternatives to the pre-packed, processed and steroid injected options available in the supermarkets.

Enter the big scare – my diagnosis – and my realization that my lazy lifestyle most likely contributed to my sickness. Voila! The motivation returned! Yes, it’s good for the planet, and it’s part of our being good stewards of all we have been so graciously given.. but the personal motivation got me off my backside at last.

South Africa does have one great advantage – the “supermarket” syndrome is fairly new. And this means we have Fruit and Veg markets, Butcheries and Bakeries who still specialize in what they do. So it is with this knowledge that I marched through my local “fruit and veg” on the hunt for what I thought would be not too difficult – organically grown veggies.

Alas, organic was not to be found, so in my “never say die” attitude, I decided I needed a garden. Problem? Yes.. I have no garden space… and where I do have beds, I have dogs – busy dogs, bored dogs…. naughty puppy dogs.


I do have however, one little corner of my property that is gated, and paved.. and this is where my little baby container garden was born. It’s by no means something that would make “Farmer Jones” proud, but for me… seeing it come to be has given me a sense of satisfaction that even finding the perfect Organic Farm couldn’t provide.

A work in progress, I already have bigger plans for next year including two raised beds and if I am really lucky to find someone to help, a vertical bed or two. And this year, I’m teaching Thuli, who helps me at home, to garden as well.

Only time will tell if the spinach, beets, beans and tomato grown will appeal to my veggie-hater son, but I am very pleased to say that I know where and how they were grown, and will be able to eat them without concern about what made them grow.



What motivates a person to make radical changes that last? Benefits and Rewards?  Fear? Feelings of lack of control?  I always wanted the benefit and reward of a healthy body, but it never motivated me enough. I, of course, have always wanted to lose weight, and “healthy” seemed the right way to do it. But didn’t hold for long. I knew all along that it was “good” to eat healthy..to exercise..to live a less than stressed out lifestyle. But it never motivated me enough to change.  Sadly, it seems that it was the fear, lack of control and knowledge I gained in reading up on my diagnosis that finally motivated me to make the changes to my and my family’s lifestyle.

It’s been 5 weeks since my surgery – and in that time I have learned a fair bit about the “fuel” we consume – I have also had the fright of a lifetime with my diagnosis and I certainly felt that I needed to take responsibility for what I was exposing my family to with our habits and lifestyle.

But now it’s 5 weeks later.

Life is settling back to its usual routines. My schedule is beginning to fill again. Convenience is the dark temptation that looms when things get hectic.

But thankfully I am not the same person. The factors that first motivated me have changed me and my perspective. I cannot go back to the “old me” who somehow had fooled herself into thinking that our habits and lifestyle weren’t THAT bad.

However, this hasn’t prevented me from an occasional stumble.And thankfully, the progress that we have made has given me a new “normal”. So, when I caved this week after a hectic day at the office, followed by a crazy afternoon running errands with the kids and still faced with an evening social at my house –  I stopped at my “old” favorite take out place and purchased the “healthiest” thing on the menu (chicken burger on a new healthy looking bun),my taste buds immediately picked up the imitation flavor, the added salt and the oilyness of the nasty stuff they call sauce. I ate it – I was hungry – but had a headache of note the next morning.

Maybe now that the fear and feeling of the lack of control has passed, I have a more solid motivation – knowledge. I know what that stuff does to a body-and I even have proof. And as I continue to retrain the routines to allow for time to prepare and plan – and I see the results of a well fueled family – this will keep us motivated to keep it up.

Veggie Power! The Goal: Healthy Cells!

I have to tell you… all those tense moments sitting at the dinner table as a kid…with my mom telling my brother, sister and me to eat our veggies… really did sink in – at least partially. I have always felt that eating the “5 a day” fruit and veggie would benefit us nutritionally. The challenge has been the effort.  It takes time to buy, store and peel – never mind properly cook those little power packs. So, in the reality of my life, it was often forgotten. Excuses such as “no one will eat the salad.. and there are tomatoes in the spaghetti sauce” and “just tonight, we will just have potatoes with our meat” became more than rare occurences. This has now changed. My view of food is different now – and I realize that my food must fuel me – not just fill me.

The next challenge – now that we understand about the importance of water, and have addressed the whole grain issue in our diet – is to add more vegetables to our diet.

And despite my best efforts to teach my children that veggies were there friends (we had almost every video tape of Veggie Tales; we called broccoli “little trees”; we bragged about how Popeye had big muscles because of the spinach and Bugs Bunny had great eyesight because he ate carrots).. 1/2 of my 4 children are not veggie lovers… one of them is a self-proclaimed veggie hater.


I have had a new visual picture form from the reading that I have done about what makes us susceptible to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Our innocent but oh-so-important cells are being inundated with all kinds of toxins in our daily lives. In addition to this, we are not giving them the basics to keep them strong. 

It’s almost as bad as expecting a horse to keep ploughing but refusing to give him the food and water to carry on. Through the generations, our cells have become genetically weaker thanks to our environment – and add to this a poor diet of fast good and no exercise – and what hope to we have to live to a healthy old age?

So, fuel them up we must! And fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list thanks to their concentrations of the most important vitamins and minerals.

In addition to all the benefits of vitamins and minerals (which could fill a book, never mind a blog post), antioxidants are very important in helping to keeping our cells healthy and happy. “Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals.” 1  Free radicals, or oxidants, damage cells causing cancer, artery damage, aging and inflammation and originate from pollution, radiation, fried and burnt foods, sunlight and combustion.  The super hero foods with antioxidant nutrients are continuing to be found to be key in preventing and possibly fighting diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Hypertension, Infertility, Macular degeneration, Measels, Mental illness, Periodontal disease, Respiratory tract infections and Rheumatoid arthritis.

In addition to antioxidant nutrients, God has given us veggies and fruits that are super-packed with Vitamin A, C and E, Minerals Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Iron and Manganese which help to fight those nasty free radicals.

Here’s my plan:

  1. While I was recovering from my surgery, and preparing for chemo, I dived right into juicing. A delicious way to digest fruit and veg in its best form – raw. It was a perfect answer for the nausea I was suffering from – and I could just imagine all those vitamins and minerals strengthening my weak cells. Breakfasts will soon feature a small glass of a new concoction for each of my family members. It may have to be bar room style shots of goodness complete with a “ready… one, two, three.. chug!” but it’s going to happen.
  2. The freshest veggies from my own small container garden – you can follow my progress my becoming my friend on Facebook and joining my “Container Gardening for a Healthier Life”
  3. Surreptitiously adding vegetables to any recipe I can – including quick breads and muffins, sauces, casseroles and even desserts if I can get away with it
  4. Keeping stock of nibble sized fruits and veggies for easy snacking.

This is probably going to be the biggest challenge I will have, next to family exercise. But with a little ingenuity, a positive attitude and some good solid facts behind me, there might just be a good chance of success!





Top 10 Antioxident packed foods:

  1. Blackberries (5.75 millimoles per 100g serving)
  2. Walnuts (3.72 millimoles per 100g serving)
  3. Strawberries (3,58 millimoles per 100g serving)
  4. Artichokes (3,56 millimoles per 100g serving)
  5. Cranberries (3,13 millimoles per 100g serving)
  6. Raspberries (2,87 millimoles per 100g serving)
  7. Blueberries (2,68 millimoles per 100g serving)
  8. Cloves (2,64 millimoles per 100g serving)
  9. Grape juice (2,56 millimoles per 100g serving)
  10. Cranberry juice (2,47 millimoles per 100g serving)

1 http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/antioxidants

Not so subtle fibre

In our quest to eat more nutritious foods, I have subtly (or so I thought) been adding bran and whole grains to our diet. At the moment, I am not quite up to making bread, so I have switched out our previous choices (“Best of Both” by Albany which advertises that it has the benefits of whole wheat, while looking almost like white; Brown bread – which seems to be a coloured white bread in texture; and whole wheat, which actually had very little in the way of texture, save a few seeds…) to “health bread” – packed full of seeds, whole grains and additional fiber.

If you have read my previous posts, you know that I have a son who has very strong opinions, especially about his food.  He has decided that he doesn’t at all care for the health bread, and will rather by his own white bread.  

 Round One of the Conversion Bout goes to “Old Habits That Die Hard”

This week, I substituted our usual morning muffin with a bran muffin with fresh chopped apple baked inside.  My kids all partook without hesitation

Round Two goes to “Mom’s Clever Ingenuity”

However, my two youngest came home from school that day with complaints. My youngest exclaimed “Mom, if that was somekind of a crazy experiment – it worked. I have been having problems with gas all day!  I had to keep squeeking my chair on the floor to cover the sound!”  oh dear…

Finally, this morning I decided to make the family favorite: flapjacks.  Only I called them Flapjacks with a Twist.  I substituted 1/2 the flour with ground oats and sauteed apples and honey instead of providing the usual syrup.  Hubby loved them, Daughters ate them happily (only after my sugar addict complained that I wouldn’t provide the powered sugar she prefers on her flapjacks). Son of Strong Opinion, however, declared them as terrible… ate an egg and walked out of the kitchen still hungry.

This may be a long long road for some in my family…. 🙂

Here is what I have learned about the importance of whole grains and fibre in the diet….

  • Refined wheat flour has 24 nutrients that are removed in the refining process, yet only 4 are replaced (iron, B1, B2 and B3)
  • It helps to keep the digestive tract and liver healthy which offers: healthy skin; lowered risk of bowel disease such as appendicities, diverticulitis, colitus and bowel cancer; lowered risk of diabetes.
  • It keeps energy levels up by slowing down absorption of sugar into the blood.
  • Soluable fibre absorbs water and will help control your appetite – that is one reason that 1/2 cup of oats can sustain while 1 1/2 cups of boxed cereal leaves you hungry (sugar also plays a role).
  • Wheat bran can actually reduce the absorption of essential minierals including zinc because of the presence of phytate – an anti-nutrient.
  • Ideal fibre intake should be not less than 35 grams per day, which is attainable from a healthy diet without additing extra fibre.
  • Ideal fibre sources include: oats, beans, seeds, fruit and riaw or lightly cooked vegetables.
  • Overcooking food destroys fibre content.

So, good news for my dear children: our new healthy diet will cover most of the fibre you need. Bran muffins will not be a regular offering. And you won’t need to squeek your chairs in class.


Water – Not just for swimming in

Water – one of the basic necessities of life. Something that is perhaps easy to take for granted.

This is the first big change we are making in our home.

There are two basic issues that I am contending with:

a) are we consuming enough water daily?

b) is the water we are consuming good for our bodies?

The facts I always knew included:

  • our bodies are 66% water
  • we should drink 8 glasses of water
  • water cleanses the body

What I didn’t know:

  • Drinking more water than you need can actually tax your kidneys
  • The roles of water include flushing the kidneys, dissolving minerals and acting as a delivery system, lubricant and temperature regulator
  • Mild dehydration can lead to constipation, headaches, lethargy and mental confusion (Ah! at last I have a proper reason for my foggy brain!)
  • Dehydration increases risk of urinary tract infection and kidney stones
  • Thirst kicks in when you have lost about 1 and 2 percent of body water, but is often mistaken for hunger
  • Conditions such as gastric ulcers, joint pain,asthma and allergies can be linked to chronic low-level dehydration

We definitely need to consume more water in our household!

As a result I am trying the following tactics:

We have installed a water cooler – tastier water, and more fun to pour for the younger ones 🙂

A variety of yummy things for water enhancement are available in our fridge including fresh mint, sliced lemons and even strawberries when they are in season.

A lovely BPA free plastic water bottle accompanies my girls to school

In my case, not only was I not drinking enough water, but much of the water I was drinking was tap water.  I am not one to buy the water purifying company’s hype about desolved solids (are desolved solids still called solids??), however I did read that tap water not only can lack some of the minerals we require, but it can also contain estrogen, or xenoestrogen which can cause an imbalance of hormones in the body, increasing the risk of hormone related cancers. There is some disagreement as to the source of this estrogen is, but either way it’s not good.  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/143994.php   http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/12/estrogen-in-water-birth-control-agriculture.php

Sadly my research into estrogen in the water has also revealed that plastic bottles – especially those marked as a plastic type 7 in the recycle triangle – can also leech xenohormones into the contents. This was of course after I installed my nifty new water cooler.  Embracing my decision to make small changes over time, this knowledge will have to work its way into my plan at a later stage.  Perhaps we will eventually have to install a reverse osmosis filter on our water taps… one day.