Monday, August 30, 2010

Vitamin D and the Immune System

I am a firm believer in the power of supplements,  and think it's a good idea for everyone to educate themselves both on the merits and the proper use and precautions of available formulas.  In addition to a good multi, an antioxidant (containing A,C,E and selenium), and an EFA, my kids and I supplement with vitamin D, especially during cold and flu season.  Research is strongly in its favor, as briefly outlined by this short article from

(NaturalNews) A new study out of Oxford University pinpoints vitamin D deficiency as a culprit in serious illnesses like cancer and autoimmune disorders. According to the report, which was recently published online in the journal Genome Research, genetic receptors throughout the body need adequate vitamin D levels to prevent these and other serious illnesses from developing.

Multiple sclerosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Chron's disease, leukemia -- these and many more diseases are often caused by a lack of vitamin D. Your genes literally have receptors that need vitamin D in order to properly express themselves. If there is not enough of the vitamin, serious illness is prone to develop.

The Oxford team made specific observations about the importance of vitamin D in the genome regions associated with autoimmune diseases and cancer, noting that the nutrient is absolutely vital in helping to prevent these diseases from forming.

"Considerations of vitamin D supplementation as a preventative measure for these diseases are strongly warranted," expressed Sreeram Ramagopalan, author of the study.

However, current recommendations for vitamin D intake are unacceptably low, and many nations are considering updating their guidelines. The U.S. Institute of Medicine, for example, recommends getting a mere 200 to 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day, an amount far too low to have much therapeutic effect.

Since summer sun exposure creates about 20,000 IU of vitamin D in the skin in just 15 minutes, supplementation with at least 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily, particularly during the winter, is preferable. Healthy blood levels of vitamin D are somewhere between 50 and 80 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), so many natural health professionals recommend having a "25 OH Vitamin D" blood test performed to check these levels.

Sources for this story include:

The original article can be found here.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Homemade Granola

Thanks to my friend Alice for sharing this awesome granola recipe. I followed it as written, except I added a splash of pure vanilla extract and I left out the pecans. DELICIOUS!

Full of fiber, and a good source of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Definitely not low calorie though, so go easy if you're trying to lose weight (and don't make it when you're starving like I did!)


5 cups old fashioned whole oats
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg

Spread oats on rimmed baking sheet, bake at 350 for 10 min. Mix all other ingredients in large bowl, add warmed oats and mix well. Spread again on baking sheet and bake 13-15 min. Let cool and store in airtight container in fridge.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Milk Does NOT do a Body Good

In my last post, I mentioned my belief in avoiding dairy.  This video, from a few years ago, mentions just a few of the reasons why. 

Humans are the only mammals who drink the milk of another species, and the only mammals who drink milk at all past infancy/young childhood.  Besides all the other factors touched upon in the video, our bodies just weren't designed to drink cow's milk.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What's in Your Fridge?

My favorite part about shows like Losing it With Jillian is when she goes through their refrigerators and cabinets and starts pitching the bad stuff into a trash bag.  Some of it is obvious... everyone knows that things like potato chips, cookies, and ice cream are not healthy choices.   When it starts getting interesting to me is when she gets to the less obvious items.   A lot of people don't realize that most crackers, cereals, and breads contain ingredients that make them unhealthy as well;  that many traditional juices, yogurts, and granola bars - yes, even things that are marketed as "healthy" - are overly processed and contain high amounts of chemicals, preservatives, additives, high fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.   It actually makes me a little sad to see people clearly trying to make an effort at weight loss, and stocking their cabinets with *diet* products that will not only hinder their efforts, but adversely affect their health as well.

Let's get food back into our houses!

This is my own fridge, after a recent and fairly typical grocery shopping trip.  In the interest of practicing what I preach,  here's what I believe we could change, and where I think we've gotten it right:

On the top shelf is almond milk, organic skim milk, organic cottage cheese, prickly pear lemonade, and orange juice.  Cow's milk is an infrequent purchase for us.  I actually don't recommend dairy at all, unless it's organic, and even then it's best to use it sparingly.  For me, it's just linked with too many health concerns to ignore, and we were really not designed to digest it.  But, we buy it sometimes for various reasons, so there it is.  Almond milk is a great - and yummy - alternative to cow's milk, and it's a staple for us.  The lemonade is not overly healthy, but it is free from artificial colors and high fructose corn syrup, and is pretty much lemon juice and real sugar.  The kids picked it out as a special treat at the health food store, and it is not a typical purchase for us.

The next shelf has grapes, bread, Smart Balance spread, and eggs.  It took us a long time to find a healthy bread that we love.  It's the store brand of our local health food store, and has just a few ingredients - organic whole grains, honey, sea salt and yeast.  We spend way too much money to get eggs that are organic, free-range, and omega 3.  Just like my meat post, those labels don't always mean as much as we would like them to, but they are a much healthier - and tastier! - egg.  Until we find a local supplier that we like, or get egg-laying chickens to raise ourselves (and please, feel free to email my husband to tell him why we need to get chickens!) these are the next best thing.  As for the Smart Balance:  there are health reasons to avoid butter, and even more health reasons to avoid margarine.  I like Smart Balance because it tastes good, is made with (mostly) healthful oils, and is non-hydrogenated.  Earth Balance is another one that I like, and use when I want something completely vegan  (Smart Balance contains whey).  Both are far from a perfect foods though, and should also be used in moderation.  Also somewhere on that shelf are peanut butter - a brand that contains only organic peanuts and salt, and an all-fruit spread.

Under that is baby carrots, more eggs, and shredded cheese.  I already gave my opinion on dairy, and am noticing there's an oddly high amount of it in this picture!

The drawer below that generally holds tofu and whole wheat tortillas.  Like the bread, it took us a long time to find the tortillas.  Virtually every brand in the grocery store is bad news.  I have made them myself, but have never liked the finished product as well as the kind we get at the health food store.  I'll leave those up to the professionals for now.

The silver bowl is chilling cookie dough.  Yeah that's right :)

There are so many advantages to baking your own treats from scratch!   It's fun, especially with the kids;  they taste better;  and you have total control of the ingredients.   There are no preservatives or chemicals or artificial junk unless YOU add them.  You can make them healthier with whole wheat flour, less sugar, more favorable fats, etc, but even a white sugar/white flour/full fat variety is infinitely better for you than its store-bought counterpart.   They're still not nutritional superstars though, so they're not everyday items.

The rest of the fridge is fresh produce.  A lot of what we buy depends on availability, season, and price, but typically we have a few kinds of leaf lettuce, baby spinach, brocolli, cauliflower,  tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, green peppers, onions, apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, berries.   The more produce in our fridge, the happier I am. 

The biggest thing I'd get rid of, or at least reduce, is the dairy.  I suppose you could take the cookie dough away too, but I'm pretty sure you'd like me a whole lot more if you left it.

**Edited because my husband just pointed out the bottle of beer on the door.  It's not mine.  It's his, all his.  I don't like beer, but if I did, I'd place it in the cookie category... a treat to be had in moderation.  I also don't drink a glass of wine (who me?) a few times a week, and I definitely, definitely don't enjoy a margarita every now and then.**