For your listening pleasure…

PodcastsIf you’ve been wanting to learn more about health, but not so much into doing lots of research or reading, this post is for you!  While I love reading & highlighting a good health book now and then, I don’t always have the time or energy for it.  I love listening to podcasts during my commutes to (1) avoid annoying radio commercials and (2) to encourage and remind me to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Here are a few of my favorite podcasts & some episodes I found interesting to give you a place to start:

  • Underground Wellness – By far my #1 pick… I love everything I’ve listened to and there are years worth in the archive.  It’s hard to pick, but here are a few of my favorite episodes: Deep Nutrition with Dr. Cate Shanahan, MORE Deep Nutrition, The Coconut Oil Miracle with Bruce Fife, Heal Thy Mouth with Will Revak of OraWellness, Genetically Modified Foods with Jeffrey Smith, The Hormone Cure with Dr. Sara Gottfried, Gerald Roliz: Ex Pharma Sales Rep Tells All.
  • Wellness Mama – I love Katie’s blog, so of course love her podcasts: How to Know if You Have Gluten Sensitivity, Micronutrients & Healthy Fats, Can Cavities Remineralize?, Reversing Infertility & PCOS Naturally
  • The Primal Blueprint – Interviews with health experts and narrated articles from Mark Sisson’s super popular paleo blog
  • Bulletproof Radio – Best enjoyed with a cup of bulletproof coffee: Dr. Cate Shanahan and Bulletproofing the NBA, Hashimoto’s: The Root Cause, Dr. John Salerno: Holistic Medicine, Heavy Metals & Allergies; Dr. Daniel Amen: Alzheimer’s, Brain Food & SPECT Scans
  • Balanced Bites – Two gals talking about modern real-food living: Women’s Health, PCOS & Body Image with Stefani Ruper; Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue with Laura Schoenfeld
  • The Fat-Burning Man – Abel James experienced quite the life change by transitioning to a “wild diet”: Raw + Paleo for Your Dog, Dr. Alan Christianson: The Adrenal-Reset Diet

Do you have any others to recommend?

Happy listening!

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Easiest Egg Drop Soup

Egg Drop SoupWith all this rain lately, I’m all about eating soup like it’s cold outside. I recently discovered (out of necessity- aka no groceries) a super easy recipe for those days you don’t feel like cooking or just need a quick immune boost.

This version of egg drop soup is quite healthier than the sodium-filled version you’ll find at your local take-out spot, but still packs all the flavor and lots of protein. The base is bone broth – one of the four pillars of authentic world cuisine; here’s quick summary of why it is so healthy:

Animal bones contain a protein molecule called glucosamine.  Glucosamine, the main ingredient in arthritis meds and joint supplements, helps build and repair joints and also triggers the growth of new collagen. Collagen provides structural support for our bones, tendons and ligaments, and gives our skin shape, texture and youthfulness. By simmering the nutrients out of the bones, joints and cartilage slowly, you are able to safely extract the minerals and vitamins (magnesium, vitamin D & calcium) and make a bone broth filled with glucosamine & collagen – these not only help prevent issues, but also rebuild and repair your skin, hair, bones & arteries.

You’ll also notice that this recipe is completely soy-free.  I went soy-free a couple of years ago to avoid the effects that the toxic processing & GMOs were wreaking on my hormones.  Read more here.

Ingredients:

Simply put a bowlful of bone broth in a pot and bring to a boil.  While you’re waiting, crack open your eggs and whisk them in a separate bowl. Once the broth is boiling, add the salt and coconut aminos.  Then, turn off the heat (if using an electric stove top, also remove from the burner).  Next, put the whisk in the broth and start swirling the liquid as you slowly pour the eggs into the center of your cyclone. You’ll see that the eggs cook immediately, but not too much that they’re scrambled. Ta-da – you’re done.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

Summer Reading List

Reading in the SunWith summer just around the corner, I’m dreaming of days by the pool reading and soaking up the vitamin D.  While I typically opt for the easy-to-read young adult dystopian novels (yes, I am a teenage girl, apparently), I’m also excited about the health books I have on my reading list.  For those of you looking for some non-fiction book ideas,  here are a few old favorites on my bookshelf or ones that I am currently reading (and will be writing about very soon)!

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food – This book changed the way I think about food and my health and was the ultimate inspiration for this blog.

The Coconut Oil Miracle – This was a fascinating read since I had absolutely no clue of all the health benefits that coconut oil could provide.  Read my summary here.

Your Body’s Many Cries for Water – Wow… if anything will convince you how important it is to drink water, it’s this book.  You’ll be surprised how many health problems are a simple result of chronic dehydration – read more in this blog post.

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It – A controversial read that attempts to debunk the calories-in, calories-out theory. Read my review here.

RX: Charcoal – Would you ever eat charcoal?  Read about why charcoal is now a staple in my medicine cabinet here.

It Starts With Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways – I’m halfway through this book and planning to do the Whole30 “diet” this summer… I’ll let you know how it goes!

Healing Oils of the Bible – Just started this book and I am already so inspired.  If you are theologically-minded and want to learn more about scriptural healing, this is a must-read.

Nourishing Wisdom: A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well-Being – One of the hardest things about the transition to a healthy diet has been self-control and our relationship with “good” and “bad” food.  I’m interested to read the author’s take on how we eat being just as important as what we eat.

Essential Oils Pocket Reference – Not really a sit-down and read kind of book, but if you have essential oils, I promise you can’t live without it.  Organized by symptom, you can figure out how to use oils to promote healing.

The Holistic Dog Book: Canine Care for the 21st Century – I’ve always been intentional about feeding my dog the best food and making holistic medical choices for her, but after she got really sick a few weeks ago, I’m more motivated than ever to make sure she has the chance for optimal health.  This book is going to help me make the transition to a raw food diet.  I will certainly share what I learn soon for all you dog-lovers out there.

Bookshelf

Which one of the these books interests you the most?  What are your favorite health & wellness must-reads that I missed?

*The book links above are affiliate links, which means I make a very small commission if you purchase that product.  I sincerely appreciate your support to keep this blog going!

Soy it ain’t so…

No more soy!

Thanks to the marketing efforts of the soy industry in the U.S. (we are the top producer of soy, contributing around 35% of the world supply), we’ve been deceived into thinking that soy is a phenomenal health food. It’s supposed to be heart-healthy and keep you young. Vegetarians rely on it as a protein source. It’s a widely available alternative for those with lactose intolerance. And the Japanese, whose diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world, have eaten it for years. Unfortunately, the truth is that it’s cheap, easy to process, and therefore has great margins for making money, hence the pervasive marketing. Even worse, it’s toxic to our bodies when not prepared or grown appropriately. Bad news is that the toxic kind is how it’s currently produced and consumed by all of us today.

Soybeans contain two chemicals, goitrogens and phytoestrogens, that affect your thyroid and sex hormones. Traditionally, the Japanese would soak and ferment the soybeans before using them, which neutralizes these harmful chemicals and creates tasty and healthful miso, tofu, etc. But now, in commercially made soy products (even in many of those organically grown), the fermentation process is skipped because it’s cheaper & quicker to do so; instead it is hydrolyzed, a process that does not remove the toxins. So the soy sauce, soy milk, infant formulas, soy protein bars, tofu and most processed products you buy in stores and eat at restaurants are passing those chemicals straight to your body. These chemicals cause thyroid (regulates growth, metabolism and energy levels) issues, like hyper/hypothyroidism and thyroid & pancreatic cancer, as well as reproductive organ problems for both men and women. Soy is also one of the most common allergens, especially among infants and toddlers.

In addition to the fact that already-present chemicals are not removed, the toxic solvent hexane (a chemical by-product of gasoline refining) is used to process soy proteins. Hexane can cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive issues, and adverse effects on the environment.

Even worse, 90% of soybeans are genetically modified, a serious health issue I discussed at length here. The GMO quality of these beans only adds to the health effects, now being linked to sterility and infant mortality.

Seeing a trend here? I don’t know about you, but when I learned about all this, I was immediately motivated to remove soy from my diet. Personally, I saw amazing changes in some hormonal issues I was suffering from within just a few weeks (starting with getting rid of my daily soy-protein bars at breakfast). Here’s a few suggestions to get you started:

  • When shopping, go for fresh foods instead of processed items. If you do buy packaged (even organic), look at the ingredients label and avoid these substances: soy, soy protein (isolate/hydrolyzed), soy lecithin, hydrolyzed plant/vegetable protein, monoglycerides, MSG, and soybean oil
  • If you are lactose-intolerant or vegetarian, go for cashew, almond or, my favorite, coconut milk. I find that unsweetened, full fat coconut milk tastes the most similar and works in recipes as an easy substitute – plus it makes delicious and healthy whipped cream!
  • Start your babies off right – most infant formulas contain GM soy. Breast-feeding is best, but if you must use formula, you will have to make your own, find a local goat farm for milk, or participate in a milk sharing program. Unfortunately, there are no soy-free options available for sale in the United States, but you can import from Europe (Holle brand in Germany).
  • Attention meat eaters: many fast food restaurants put soy flour and soy protein in their meat and buns, among other things…
  • Lastly, you can still enjoy those tasty Asian dishes with traditionally fermented soy sauce instead. I have found it at every grocery store I’ve visited and I actually like the taste better. Here’s one brand to try.  Or, you can use coconut aminos, which has a very similar taste and is completely soy-free.

I’d love to know… Is this the first you’ve heard about the dangers of soy? Will you try removing it from your diet?

Fabulous Fermentation Week – Kombucha Home-Brew

Kombucha Bottles

In the healthy food blogosphere, this week is known as “Fabulous Fermentation Week” and I thought this would be the perfect time to share my recent experimentation with fermentation and all benefits it has to offer!  When you think of fermented foods, mostly likely only pickles and sauerkraut come to mind, but actually many of our favorite foods & drinks were created through fermentation – wine, beer, coffee, yogurt, cheese and chocolate.  It’s a process discovered thousands of years ago, probably by chance, as a preservation method that happened to add nutrients in the process; it has provided profound health benefits to humans for generations.  Defined by Webster’s Dictionary, fermentation is “an enzymatically controlled transformation of an organic compound.”  Dr. Cate describes it best in Deep Nutrition – “With an arsenal of enzymes, microbes can break down toxins that might otherwise sicken or kill us outright, turn simple sugars into complex nutrients, make vitamins our diets might otherwise lack (such as K2 and B12), and wage chemical warfare on would-be pathogens.”

One main benefit to fermentation is that it produces live cultures with good bacteria – probiotics – that work with our immune system to fight the bad bacteria – pathogens – that attack our system and cause allergies, autoimmune diseases & inflammation.  Many of us are consistently lacking enough probiotics in our system, and therefore have poor-functioning immune systems – story of my (former) life.  By incorporating probiotics into your diet, you’ll quickly see great changes to your digestive system.  Whenever I have an upset stomach, I go straight for pickles or kombucha (before you ask – no, they’re not pregnancy cravings) to feel better fast. Probiotics are also really essential when you are taking antibiotics.  Antibiotics kill bacteria with no discretion – the good and the bad.  Without replenishing the good kind, you are compromising your immune system even more, opening yourself up to more infection (and yet I’ve never had a doctor tell me that).

While you can certainly take pricey probiotic supplements to boost your system, you could also start eating fermented foods like (raw, unpasteurized) yogurt, real (no preservatives) pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut OR by drinking delicious kombucha.  For those of you who have never heard of it – kombucha is a probiotic-rich, fruity, naturally carbonated beverage that you can find in lots of different flavors at your local grocery or health foods store.  It’s a great substitution for those of you who are addicted to soda, and you can even use it as a cocktail mixer – I tried some gin in a ginger-blueberry kombucha last week and it was pretty awesome.  What you might discover is that it’s also pretty expensive – around $3-4 per bottle.  I had always heard that it was easy and cheap to make it at home, so I decided to try it. And wow, definitely lived up to that promise.  The hands on time for this was maybe only 20 minutes spread out over 2 weeks. Some of the fermentation processes are a little gross, but nothing that you can’t handle!

I started with an organic home-brew starter kit from Kombucha Brooklyn.  However, all you really need to get started is a 1 Gallon glass jar, which you could find at a local beer home-brew store, a piece of cotton & rubber band, and then some organic unflavored tea and cane sugar. What makes the magic happen is something called a SCOBY – symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast – which is basically a strange, disc looking thing you put in your jar of sweet tea and let ferment.  You can get a SCOBY online, in the starter kit, or, if you live in Austin, I can give you one from one of my batches! Once you start with one, each batch will produce another so that you can continue brewing and never buy again.

First, you boil 4 cups of filtered water.  Take off the heat and add 6 organic, unflavored black or white tea bags.  Let steep for around 20 minutes, then add 1 cup of organic cane sugar and stir.  Once dissolved, add 8 cups of cold, filtered water and pour into your one gallon jar.  After that, you simply add the SCOBY with 1.5 cups of kombucha liquid from your last batch (or that the SCOBY comes in). Cover with the cloth and rubber band and then put into a warm, dark place where it can breathe – as long as you don’t keep your house super cold, it’s fine anywhere but your pantry or by a window. Let sit for around 2 weeks and watch a new SCOBY grow  as your kombucha ferments. After that amount of time, taste your kombucha to see if you like it… taste will tell you when it’s done (I like mine sweet, rather than sour).  When done, simply take out the SCOBYs and set them aside with 1.5 cups of the liquid.  Pour the tea into bottles – I used 6 old 16oz bottles I had saved.  If you want to add a flavor,  you must do it after fermentation, during the bottling process.  I used dried mango, raspberries and ginger & blueberries for 3 different kinds.  Once in your bottles, put the lids on tight and let sit out of the fridge for 3-5 days so that it will carbonate.  After that, refrigerate and enjoy your refreshing & healthy beverages!

*If you’ve never tried Kombucha before, I recommend you go to the store now and buy some! Austin’s local Buddha’s Brew is the sweetest, so it’s a good starting point to get used to the flavor – the honeydew flavor is my absolute favorite.

What’s your favorite fermented food or drink?  Have you ever tried kombucha?

For more fermented food recipes, you can find the participants in Fabulous Fermentation Week at My New Roots.

A Whole Chicken for Your Nest Egg: Bone Broth

Crockpot Bone Broth

We typically think of cooking an animal only for its meat, but we’re missing some of the best part!  French culinary masters consider stock/bone-broth to be a kitchen essential in flavoring soups, rice, sauce, gravy, and much more. Our ancestors survived on hearty broth made from bones, especially during the winter when fresh food was hard to come by – our bodies have gotten used to the nutrients that animal bones provide and depend on them to grow, repair and function.  This is just one of the many reasons I’m not a vegan.

Animal bones (and the marrow) contain a protein molecule called glucosamine.  Glucosamine, the main ingredient in arthritis meds and joint supplements, helps build and repair joints and also triggers the growth of new collagen. Collagen provides structural support for our bones, tendons and ligaments, and gives our skin shape, texture and youthfulness. While collagen injections may make the Real Housewives’ lips temporarily plump, consistent regeneration of the collagen in your skin, hair, bones, arteries and more can only come from making it part of your diet. I don’t know about you, but as I age, I want to look and feel young… here’s to a retirement full of active travel and less wrinkles! The good news is that natural collagen and glucosamine are an easy and tasty addition to your diet, and will not only help prevent issues, but also rebuild and repair. By simply simmering the nutrients out of the bones, joints and cartilage slowly, you are able to safely extract the minerals and vitamins (magnesium, vitamin D & calcium), as opposed to the high-heat damaging methods used in making glucosamine pills.

So here’s how I make my weekly bone broth: After I cook my whole chicken, I put the bones back in my crockpot, along with 8 cups of filtered water. I roughly chop any mix of the following to add to the pot: onion, celery, beet greens, carrots, garlic, leek or fresh herbs. You can also add a couple tablespoons of white wine or apple cider vinegar, as the acid in those liquids helps get more minerals from the bones.

Bones + Veggies in Crockpot

Simmer on low for around 4 hours.

Broth after 4 hours of simmering in crockpot

Then strain and transfer to a BPA-free container.  Use within a couple of days from the fridge, or store in the freezer.

Broth

You can use it in any recipe that calls for chicken broth, as a soup or gravy base, to replace water when making rice delicious or drink by itself. And of course, you can do the same with beef bones or fish bones for different broth flavors.  Considering how expensive a container of broth costs, this is a great deal – plus, no chemical preservatives or flavor additives!

A special tip for dog owner’s: I sometimes add a little broth to my puppy’s food to help her joints and she loves it! But, be sure not to use any onion in that batch as it is toxic to dogs).

Sources: Wikipedia searches of collagen & glucosamine and, of course, Deep Nutrition.

A Whole Chicken for Your Nest Egg (Part 1)

Whole Cooked Chicken

Looking for a way to save a little money each week?  Did you know that you can buy a whole chicken at the grocery store for almost half the price per pound that you can buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts?  Since we eat chicken more than any other meat in our home, this is a great deal for our budget.  Plus, you can get WAY more nutrients & meals out of a whole chicken with the skin and bones still attached.  More for less?  I don’t see a downside here…

As I’ve mentioned before, slow-cooking meat on the bone is a tradition for a reason. You need only taste some delicious BBQ ribs that have been on the smoker for 10+ hours or the juicy Thanksgiving turkey that Grandma has been basting all day.  So, why is it that meat tastes better when cooked this way?  Nutrients take time and moisture to be released.  When you overcook meat, it becomes tough because the fat, protein and sugar within the meat get fused during the heating process and destroy the nutrients, causing reactions between them that form carcinogens. You can avoid this by making sure your meat stays moisturized during cooking (basting, slow cooking, stews, pressure cooking).  The water molecules tenderize the tough proteins and keep them from fusing together. They also work at the connective tissue in the cartilage, skin, bone and ligaments to release molecules that help our joints and minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, etc.  The great taste comes from the itty bitty peptides that are formed as water molecules chop the proteins small enough to fit our taste buds.  Need one more reason to keep the skin on? The fat sits right underneath the skin in birds – fat gives us energy, helps our cells rebuild and allows us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. This natural, healthy fat is different than sugar in that it doesn’t cause an insulin release (hello weight gain). However, it’s important that you buy organic meat; because pesticides on the plants animals eat accumulate in their fat, you need to buy organic to avoid these chemicals (and much more).

Each week, I buy a whole, organic chicken (remove and save giblets).  I usually season with salt and pepper and some fresh herbs, but you can find recipes online for adding other ingredients for different flavors.

Seasoned raw chicken in crockpot

I put it in my crockpot on low for around 4 hours (it depends on your crockpot temp so basically until meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees).  After letting it cool a bit, I take the meat off the bones. You can find YouTube videos showing you how if you’ve never done it before – I promise it’s easy and not as gross as it seems. And just look at how much meat I have for the week:

Cooked Chicken

Now, I always have this ready to go for quick meals – add some fresh veggies, put it in a salad or add to a soup. The actual hands-on time is only 5 minutes to start and then 10 to take the meat off the bones. I save the bones and put them right back in the crockpot.  In part two, I’ll explain how the bones give us even more nutrients and help create a staple of culinary technique.

Note: If you typically don’t like dark meat (like my hubby), try using those pieces in soups or other dishes, instead of by themselves.  I’ll admit I always hated dark meat until I started using organic meat – it doesn’t seem to have the same type of fatty texture that’s always disgusted me in the past.  Try it and see what you think!

Source: I simplified the scientific process of hydrolytic cleavage, or hydrolysis.  You can learn more about it online or from Deep Nutrition.