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.

Enjoy

 

 

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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

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.

Step by Step

Change may come to you in trinkets and I hope it adorns your life gracefully.  ~Dodinsky

Sometimes the most lasting change is the one that comes in bits and pieces.  This is my plan and hope for what lies ahead. My family is an ordinary family. We work hard. We eat sometimes what is most convenient. We love each other deeply.  We long for time to spend together, but never seem to find enough of it to completely satisfy. Sometimes our intentions are outweighed by our lack of motivation. We have recently discovered that life is a gift, a precious gift. And time will stop for no one.

I am a mom of 4 amazing kids – the eldest has married a wonderful husband and lives not to far away. My second is an independently minded young man of nearly 20. He feels strongly about what he feels strongly about and doesn’t care much about the rest. My two youngest – age 12 and 10 are busy growing into their own special personalities and still have time to embrace new ideas without too much friction. At least I hope so!

Amongst our group is one who hates vegetables as if they were meant only for torture and death; a man who loves meat (When we met he said,”Please know this now – I’m not one for rabbit food. I like my meat and potatoes.”); one who loves all things sweet – and given the chance will partake without thought to as much as possible; and one who, though given the gift of an athletic body, doesn’t give much thought to what she eats. Then there is myself.  A 44-year-old woman, who has always desired a healthy lifestyle – has had short moments living in one, and has recently been faced with and healed of a life altering disease. 

The challenge is ahead: educate this bunch properly -above and beyond the “you should’s” to the “understand why  you should” and coax them gracefully into a new healthier lifestyle.  I’m committed, and they are at least semi-willing.  

 So here we go!