In recent years, there have been tons of talk–and much study done–on “superfoods.” The latest is the tamarind (Garcinia cambogia) (here’s a great series from Dr. Oz on the latest potential dieting wonder: 1, 2, 3), but there have been others. Acai, amaranth and quinoa, coconut (milk, oil, palm sugar, etc) and so on. It seems like the list is growing into an endless one.

I’m beginning to feel a bit skeptical about all of this for one reason: the marketing schemes. There has been so much money thrown out there, labeling snacks and foods on the grocery shelves as superfoods, it boggles the mind. The other day, I saw chocolate-covered acai berries. Yuuu-um! But are they really all that healthy for you? I mean, considering how much sugar, GMO soy, and milk are put into chocolate-covered items these days, are you really getting the benefits of the berry (and cocoa), or are you being sold on this idea of superfoods somehow equating to an answer (or cure) for a problem that may have a simpler–though by no means easier to follow–solution?

Here’s a great example of marketing schemes regarding the Paleo Diet. (The video is about 22 minutes long.) This diet is one of the big fads and I can see why. People want to get back to the roots of food and food culture (and I think that’s fantastic). The Paleo Diet looks like a great way to do so, right? But as Christina Warinner points out, archaeological evidence (and, honestly, some common sense) don’t really back up the claims.

There’s another great point that Warinner makes: all these superfoods we have available to us is a result of modern technology, be it transportation or farming development. In ancient times, this wasn’t possible. People ate seasonally with periods of feasting and famine. Having studied Classical literature in college, I can also add that I believe that people ate far more plant-based foods than meats for the simple, straightforward fact that meats–particularly those discussed in such diets as Paleo–were expensive to rear, keep, and purchase. Ancient peoples needed cows to do farm labor and provide milk. To slaughter one meant there was something important to celebrate. (The Biblical Tale of the Prodigal Son comes to mind.)

But back to superfoods. Do I think they’re awesome? Yes. Do I think they have potential for helping people stay healthy? Of course, but then I think that a vast majority of foods, when consumed whole (or as unprocessed as possible) and in moderation, do.

Food is our natural medicine but, again, this can be a double-edged sword. Too much of a good thing might lead to disease. (Sugary substances, anyone? And in case anyone’s ever wondered, I have a sweet tooth so avoiding the intake of too much sugar can be a struggle for me.)

While I post articles and links to blogs that interest me, I never recommend a specific diet or way of eating. For me, I’ve found that gluten-free eating combined with whole foods is the best way to stay healthy. This may not be for everyone. What I think is clear, however, is that people need–and want!–to take control of their food sources, the processes under which that food goes to make it to the grocery store, and how they approach the dinner table. They’re tired of big companies telling them what’s healthy; they want to make that decision for themselves. Some of the best ways to accomplish this are:

  • Grow a garden
  • Go to farmer’s markets
  • Learn how to can, dry, and preserve foods for “famine” spells (i.e. winter and spring)
  • Eat seasonally
  • Find nearby farmers who raise their meats and produce ethically, without chemicals (if that’s a big deal to you), and purchase from them
  • Learn about portion sizes–your food will go farther, you’ll buy and waste less
  • Pick and choose your indulgences; if more than one, alternate between them
  • Minimize boxed and process foods–not only will it reduce your grocery expenses, it is environmentally more friendly, better for your health, and allows you to get in touch with food and food culture again (a very satisfying experience, I must say)
  • Meal plan and cook at home for the majority of your meals
  • Decide what kind of eating is best for you and your family

As always, when new products with fabulous claims come out, do your research. A lot of claims are pushed over the top–sadly, a lot of companies, even those promoting natural lifestyles, lie. Remember that the ultimate way to stay healthy is to live with moderation in mind, staying active and taking control of the things you can, enjoying life as it comes, and remembering that gratitude, happiness, peace and love are the foundations for a better life.

Eat to taste food rather than worry about what’s going into your body. Sadly, one of the ways food companies keep customers buying their products is because they create fear. Fear about themselves, their waistlines, etc. Don’t buy into it. Free yourself from it. Educate yourself on foods and reacquaint yourself with the kitchen. It’s an eye-opening, lip-smacking experience that will have you begging for more (real food)! And if superfoods fit into your budget and dietary requirements, so be it!

Posted on Facebook by YogaFit

Posted on Facebook by YogaFit

August 2013 Recipes

August 22, 2013

I don’t know about you, but I have a hankering for Fall to roll around. I got to thinking about pumpkins and pumpkin season–specifically the place where we can go to harvest our own–and am suddenly in the mood for all the yummy Fall foods that are out there. Still, summertime rolls on but thankfully I stocked up on canned pumpkin before the store ran out. So I made this delicious gluten-free pumpkin scone recipe, substituting only cornstarch for the tapioca starch and trying various levels of xanthan gum (4 tsp as recommended, but also 3). And the glaze is super-easy to make and adds that extra touch of sweetness–used cinnamon rather than pumpkin spice: yum yum!

 

But for those of us not ready to move on toward the fall harvest yet, here are some great recipes tested and tried on several food blogs I like best:

 

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Loaf

Raspberry Cream Parfait

Eating Grain Free (recipes and resources)

How to Store Bulk Foods

Eating for Beauty (article)

10 Reasons to Love Sprouts

Dairy-free Smoothies

25 Ways with Zucchini

Lemon Meltaway Cookies (raw or baked)

Tomato & Olive Pizzettes with Quinoa Crust

 

One last tip: if you get a chance, visit local farmer’s markets! Now is the best time of year to take advantage of the huge quantities and varieties of produce available for minimal prices! Enjoy the time out and eat delicious food!

Chia Seeds

August 15, 2013

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a food-specific focused post. I thought I’d go over the basics of chia seeds as they’ve become all the rage. They’re being added to everything from smoothies to comprising their own health bars. (Please note, link is an example recently brought to my attention; I have not tried the Health Warrior’s bars and do not recommend any one brand/source of chia-based products.)

 

So what are chia seeds? Formerly used by Aztec warriors on long marches for energy, they are high in protein and contain all the essential amino acids, as well as alpha-linolenic acid and fiber. They also form a gelatinous paste when mixed with water/wetness due to a form of natural mucilage (type of soluble fiber) and therefore chia seeds become a great thickener agent for our favorite foods, like pasta sauce and wintertime soups. (Source: Wellness Foods A to Z, by Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the Editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter; 2002, p. 523)

 

Interestingly, although the claims of it helping with weight loss may not be true, there are signs that consuming chia seeds improves heart health. They also are a great grain substitute as it is a much healthier whole grain. According to WebMD’s article (above), two two-Tablespoon doses of chia seeds also have more antioxidants than whole foods like blueberries. Other benefits include regulating blood sugar levels, it’s gluten-free, and contains minerals that may help prevent hypertension.

 

Here is a lengthy, but informative, review of the safety of chia seeds as a food ingredient conducted by the European Food Safety Authority. After some excellent charts and discussion, which includes how chia seeds can be produced (rather eye-opening for those who want organically-grown, ethically-produced, fair-trade products), their conclusion is that a 5% maximum intake in breads would pose no threat to public health.

 

So what is the current conclusion on chia seeds? There are some studies suggesting that it may help metabolic disorders. At present, it is mainly seen as a great source of fiber and antioxidants, which is a great reason to incorporate them into one’s diet. The rest of the claims, sadly, may be good advertising–the jury is still out on it’s cancer-fighting and weight-loss benefits.

Cloth Diapers 101

August 8, 2013

I have been looking forward to writing this post for some time but have refrained from doing so until I’d ordered my cloth diaper “starter” kit. Well now I have! I cannot wait till my order arrives.

And I have the feeling that a lot of you just went, why the heck would you try such madness? Aren’t babies hard enough? YOU’RE GOING TO BE IN CONTACT WITH BABY POOP!!!!

Lets get real, folks. Poop and babies go hand-in-hand. So do the vomit and the other not-so-adorable messes infants make. These are part and parcel of being a parent. It doesn’t matter if you’re using disposables or cloth, at some point you’re going to touch the good-ol’ gross Number Two.

But it’s old-fashioned, you say.

First off, I’m going to shock the pants off some people. Cloth diapering isn’t like it used to be. It’s no longer the flats or pre-folds and waterproof pants people used to put on their kids, though those can still be used. The art of folding diapers has taken on a whole new dimension, from cool folds like origami to no folds whatsoever. And there are devices out there that can help minimize contact with the dreaded Number Two. But more on that in a bit.

Linked to Wikipedia article, Diaper

Linked to Wikipedia article, Diaper

Lets look at the pros and cons:

Pros

Cons

  • They are an up-front expense, anywhere from $300-$1000 depending on the process chosen and/or how the diapers work for that child. It’s estimated that you need at least 20-25 diapers to start.
  • CDing is child-specific, meaning that you have to find what works. This can mean buying new diapers if those already purchased don’t work.
  • Due to washing and drying, CD’s still have an impact on the environment. Again, it’s how you choose to go about the process. CD’s require preparation for maximum absorbency, at least 3 washes and as many as 10, depending on the fabric. Also, CD’s generally require specific laundry treatments and different detergents. At times, they may require stripping, a process to get rid of the stench that may build up.
  • There is no way around the Ick Factor. Before laundering, you’ve got to handle the mess.
  • Out and about? You’ve got to carry dirty diapers back home in wet bags.
  • The options can be overwhelming.
  • They do take longer to put on.
  • Often you have to check on what ointments are good to use with cloth diapers, as many of the traditional brands used to target rashes reduce diaper absorption.
  • A lot of babysitters and child care facilities won’t accept cloth diapers.
Found on Wikimedia Commons

Found on Wikimedia Commons

So why did I choose cloth? First and foremost, my husband and I are looking at the future, not only where we’ll probably end up in the next two years but also about how many children we may have. Despite the up-front costs, CD’s are just more cost effective for our limited salary.

Most of all, I like knowing what will be against my baby’s skin. With more and more information coming out all the time about chemical compounds and the poisons we’re acquiring in our bodies, I like the thought of being able to reduce the amount of toxins that my baby will absorb through their skin. I also hate the thought of disposables bursting–which does happen–and leaking out the absorbency beads or materials used. I like knowing that I’ve made the decision about what’s going on the baby’s skin rather than a company seeking to make a fortune.

Did I mention they’re adorable?

Did the environment come into my decision-making process? Sure. Who doesn’t want to be green? I don’t like the idea of the amount of disposables that end up landfills (with their contents still within them) which then take an additional 200-500 years to break down. I feel like the extra washes (I plan on line drying as much as possible) are a good trade off, especially when there are inexpensive eco-detergents out there specifically designed for CD’s (and my HE machine).

How did I go about choosing what I’d do and what I’d buy? I started as most people do these days and browsed the web. I came across two excellent diaper reviews: the first gets scientific while the second includes a husband’s opinions. Both take a long time to read but are quite in-depth and worth the time if you’re undecided on which direction you want to go and/or what you want to buy. Here’s also another mom’s choice, the why and the how. (She also has a great baby wipes recipe linked to this article in case you’re interested in making your own. Yes, I plan on doing so. I’ve always hated the feel of store-bought baby wipes, and hate how babies cringe when they’re used; plus they dry out skin.)

SoftBums Omni Shell, found on Kelly's Closet

SoftBums Omni Shell, found on Kelly’s Closet

I also polled my friends who CD. I asked them what brands they prefer and what styles of diapers they use. The overwhelming majority of replies stated they used pre-folds and covers, but most also used a combination of diapers instead of limiting themselves to one type.

I went to websites and researched their products, read what the reviewers had to say. Among them were FuzziBunz, bumGenius, GroVia, Blueberry, gDiaper, Econobum, and cloth diaper-selling websites like Kelly’s Closet (my personal choice), Cotton Babies, Green Mountain Diapers, and Cloth Diaper. My advice: read the reviews, and read a lot!

What did I end up buying? Knowing that I’m not entirely certain of what diapers will work best for my kid, I did what most of my friends suggested. I purchased quite a few pre-folds, most of which are made of Indian cotton but also some which are made from hemp and bamboo (for maximum absorbency) and a few covers. I’m fortunate enough to have a mother-in-law who wants to sew diaper covers, so more are on the way in the mail.

I also queried my husband about what he wanted. I want him to be able to withstand the process enough to be able to stick with it. (The idea of baby poop doesn’t thrill him.) His response: KISS–keep it simple, stupid. So in addition to the pre-folds, I purchased several one-size, pockets, and all-in-ones of various brands (those with the highest ratings and most often recommended by my friends) in order to get us started. I also purchased a snazzy diaper sprayer attachment for the toilet, a necessity according to my husband (and what’s kept at least one of my girlfriend’s CDing).

Bummis organic cotton unbleached pre-fold, found on Kelly's Closet

Bummis organic cotton unbleached pre-fold, found on Kelly’s Closet

Are these all the diapers I’ll be purchasing? No. I intentionally bought one or two across many brands in order that I might find what worked for my baby. I looked at sales too. With the pre-folds, it helped keep the costs down, and since I plan on doing a baby shower back home after the baby’s born, it’ll give me time to figure out what works so that I can ask for more of those diapers I love best on my CD registry. I also plan on buying a cloth diapering book to learn more about it.

My best advice to parents considering diapers for the first (or maybe the third) time is to do your research and consider your own personal requirements. Do keep in mind that you will come into contact with urine and poop. It’s inevitable.

So is the learning curve babies give to parents. While it can be frightening, it’s also going to be thrilling. Embrace the fun, accept the hardships, and acknowledge what you can (and cannot) handle. In doing so, I believe you’ll make the best decisions for your family.

Other Helpful Links

Green Mountain Diapers: How to Use Cloth Diapers

Kelly’s Closet: Cloth Diapering Information

Cotton Babies: Cloth Diaper Basics

Dad’s World (Hub Pages): Daddy’s Guide to Cloth Diapers

YouTube: 5 Cloth Diaper Pre-fold Folding Options, Origami Fold (flats), Airplane Fold (flats), A Day in the Life of a Cloth Diapering Mom (Part 1, Part 2)

Dirty Diaper Laundry: Cloth Diapering on a Budget (articles)

Real Diaper Association: How to Switch to Cloth Diapers

My Cloth Diaper Stash: Favorite Budget-friendly Cloth Diapers

The Humbled Homemaker: How to Build a Modern Cloth Diaper Stash–On the Cheap

Diaper Junction: Cloth Diaper Vacations

Diaper Swappers

Diaper Shops

Kelly Wels Website

Changing Diapers (can be found on Amazon, at Kelly’s Closet, and elsewhere–highly recommend this easy-to-read book!)

NOTE: I do plan on blogging about my experience sometime down the road!

August 2013 Articles

August 1, 2013

Phew! I hope the summer is going swell! As I said last week, it’s been hot in my piece of the world. (I think the heat is almost all I talk about, sadly.) Well, needless to say, it’s time to inundate you with a few great articles and links I’ve discovered this past month 🙂 I hope you find them as informative as I have.

 

Please always leave requests for posts or things you’d like me to research! I’m always open to suggestions.

 

Are Your Clients Going Primal?

Bending American Food Culture

How Turning the Food Pyramid on Its Head Can Help You Slim Down

The “Heart” Facts about L-Carnitine

Apple Cider Vinegar

Is Getting Enough Sleep More Important than Getting Enough Exercise?

Nut- and Egg-free Breakfast ideas

How to Host a Summer Vegan Cocktail Party on the Cheap

Juicing vs. Blending

ACE to Help Veterans Start New Careers (this one is near and dear to my heart, as my husband serves in the military…please pass around the word!)

Put the “Fun” into Functional Training

Awakening Yoga Flow Experience (40-minute video)

Osmia Organics (new cosmetics site I discovered this week with some great articles to boot, written by creator/owner whose also a doctor)