health

Hot Potato

Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to…

Did you know how healthy potatoes are? I’m not talking about diced, shredded and fried (although undeniably Delicious). I’m referring to the low-cal (about 110 calories in 1 medium) naturally gluten-free vegetable with more potassium than a banana, 45% of your daily intake of vitamin C, 10% of vitamin B6, zero fat, zero cholesterol that contains essential minerals like magnesium and zinc to mention a few. We all know the story: eat your potato while drinking a glass of milk and live forever! Or at least avoid scurvy. But seriously, with necessary blood aids like iron and much needed digestive assistance from fiber (of which sadly our diets are greatly deprived), it just might be what the doctor ordered. That is of course baked- to maintain the most nutrients. (Save the sticks of butter and cups of cream for special occasions 😉 ) And if I may, please make sure you buy organic- not crazy hi-bred weird GMO who knows what they are potatoes, because I can’t vouch for those.

Serves 4-6

2 1/2 pounds -about 10-12 medium Potatoes (Russet, Idaho, Golden, Red…)

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1-2 Tbsp Course Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375°. Wash, scrub and rinse the potatoes. Remove any eyes or blemishes that you don’t want to eat. Dry the potatoes completely with a towel. Brush on the olive oil (a little goes a long way) or get messy and use your hands to cover the skins. Generously sprinkle the potatoes with the course salt. (Do not be afraid of this- the Kosher course salt is not as “salty” as fine salt. If you are using regular table salt, go easier obviously… I trust your judgement.)

Place potatoes on a baking sheet. I like to cover the sheet with Silpat or parchment paper for easier clean-up. Bake for an hour (sometimes 15-20 minutes more if using large potatoes) until skin is crispy and inside of potato is tender. Eat just like this, or with a pat of butter and a little salt and pepper, or with a dollop of sour cream (or plain yogurt if you’re eating clean) or crumbled bacon if you’re feeling wild. I’ll stop. You know what you like.

For more information on the healthiness of potatoes along with recipe ideas check out potatogoodness.com or an interesting article on the health benefits at livescience.com.

21 Days of Crazy

Alright so I’m using the term “crazy” loosely. I mean I guess it’s only if you think getting healthy is deranged. Or trying something new in fitness and diet to bring balance and wellness is cuckoo. But I’ll be honest and tell you I’ve never been so nervous about a dietary commitment in my life. When my 30 year old sister told me she wanted to do the “21 Day Fix”, and that she wanted me to do it with her, I jumped on board. “Who can’t do something for 21 days?” she asked. Did I mention I am almost a decade her senior? But I’ve been wanting to shed some baby weight for a while. It’s particularly disheartening since I’ve practically gained 20 pounds since my lowest number on the scale after having my fourth child. I’d like to place the blame on a few different reasons. Yes, I have hypothyroidism. Yes, I have PCOS (confirmed even after my last pregnancy; which BTW could be a post in itself… because everyone loves to read about other peoples’ trivial health woes). And not to name names but I have a finger pointing at a little food blog I’ve come to know too. But in reality, I need to take responsibility- and I know what I have to do; especially with a few odds stacked against me! I need to concentrate on eating healthy and exercising, because -as I have admitted in the comments section of a previous post- I will be 40 next year. And I have 4 little children, the youngest who will be 2 this year… I owe it to them, and myself to try hard.
I have followed multiple plans before, but not with such limitations on food and never with this strict of an exercise regimen. Which I realize is major. I have exercised in the past… but not quite like this- not since high school anyway; which wasn’t because of a diet. Anyway it’s all new. And let me tell you what I like about my new endeavor: They list all of the foods, along with portions, that we can have. So initially you’re like “Wow, look at all of this food!” instead of focusing on what you can’t have. Mentally I appreciate that. When I look closer at the plan, I can see it has eliminated refined sugar, white flour, butter, etc.. It limits the amount of starches and healthy fats I can intake everyday. The plan encourages lean proteins and definitely more vegetables than I eat on a regular basis. Actually, that seems to work for me, because if I am counting calories I am often likely to cut out nutritious food to save 100 calories on something sweet; which isn’t necessarily bad, except I have a tendency to rob myself of nutrients that could actually make me feel better for “empty calories”.  Something else I like, as opposed to other popular plans I’ve tried, is there is no calculating, just measure and stick to the list. But the best part is, if there is something I really want, I tell myself “Eat that in your 7 days off!” Because the program, if I should choose to stick with it after my committed 3 weeks, is 21 days on and 7 days off. So I don’t feel like I have to banish some of my favorites or deny myself treats for the rest of my life. The idea is that if you are  eating right and making healthy choices the majority of the time, you will reap the benefits. Of course you’re not supposed to go bonkers during you’re time off. Am I going to eat fettuccine Alfredo and onion rings? Maybe. Just probably not all at once, and in moderation, because who wants to squash all of the hard work they just put in? Not me!
Here’s the skinny: (haha) This morning was 1 week in. I’ve lost 2.4 pounds and even more excitedly 2 inches down in the stomach. I still have a way to go before I reach my goal, but I am doing something to get there. Is it easy, no. Is it doable, yes. So I’m doing it, because I can; and really that’s something to be grateful for… but not nearly as gratifying as the results. I think I might just be crazy enough to stick to it a little longer. 😉

Loving Lately 🐝

Loving Lately: Honey

My husband has a great boss name Jason; who happens to be friends with a guy named Terry; who happens to be the president of the Michigan Beekeeper’s Association. Recently Jason gifted us a beautiful large jar of Terry’s Lazy T’s honey. How fortunate are we?

Honey, also referred to as liquid gold, has been used in the kitchen as a natural sweetener for ages. But did you know that it has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that have made it extremely useful for medicinal purposes as well? Many people believe it is a viable solution in dealing with allergies. Bees collect pollen which is then used to make the honey. The small traces of pollen that remain in the honey are comparable to vaccinations in that once consumed your immune system builds antibodies to the pollens. This is just one of the reasons why buying local honey is so important. It can help you build up tolerances to common allergens in your own area!

The sweet nectar in honey is loaded with antioxidants that have been linked in studies with promoting healthy brain function and boosting memory. In addition, honey has been successfully used as a cough suppressant and topically useful for treating minor burns and wounds. No wonder it’s considered so valuable!

For more information about the Michigan Beekeeper’s Association and keeping bees click on www.michiganbees.org

Organic Vs. Non GMO

By now you know that I’m an advocate for organic eating. Trust me I understand economics (well enough anyway) to know that it’s not always the “affordable” option. But I do feel strongly that it is an important issue. I say with every recipe “as organic as possible,” because I believe every bit matters. We don’t even know what we are doing to ourselves (as in mankind) with all of the crazy things we are putting into our food and therefore into our bodies. Information is knowledge… (as long as it is truthful and accurate.)

Ok, enough from me. I came across this article from a food blogger making great strides in the world. Most recently she was a part of the movement to get Starbucks to take the harmful artificial coloring out of the pumpkin spice latte (it wasn’t adding flavor). And a catalyst in getting Subway to list their ingredients and remove the dangerous chemical azodicarbonamide from their bread. Bravo! (BTW that chemical is used for making yoga mats and shoe rubber, is not supposed to be eaten, and was only in bread served in North America, not Australia, EU or the UK. Thank you FDA.)

There’s a lot of confusion and debate about what non-GMO and organic labels really mean.
The labels are very different! It’s crucial to understand the difference if you want to pick out the healthiest and safest food for you and your family. Every time we decide to buy a product, we are supporting so much more than our bodies. We are shaping the landscape of the entire food system – everything from the environment, land, air, water to the farmers themselves. And this is why I want you to know the truth about the “Non-GMO” label and what it really means.

What exactly does the “Non-GMO Project” label mean?
The “Non-GMO Project” label only verifies that a product doesn’t contain genetically modified (GMO) ingredients (or technically less than 0.9% GMOs). While that is good, it’s not the whole story about what the product contains, how it was produced, and where it came from.

But when I have a choice, I always choose organic food because of these reasons…

10 reasons why “Organic” beats “Non-GMO” every time:

1. Certified organic foods are also non-GMO.

2. Organic crops cannot be grown with synthetic pesticides, and contain much lower pesticide residues overall.

3. The most widely-used herbicide on the planet – Glyphosate (Roundup) – is prohibited on organic crops.

4. Organic ingredients aren’t processed with toxic hexane.

5. Organic crops are prohibited from being fertilized with sewage sludge.

6. Organic meat isn’t produced with growth-promoting drugs, like ractopamine.

7. Organic animals aren’t fattened up with growth-promoting antibiotics.

8. The non-GMO label claim is unregulated.

9. Organic foods prohibit many of the chemicals known as “obesogens” that trigger our bodies to store fat.

10. By choosing organic food you’ll automatically avoid most of the “Sickening 15” … Chemicals like synthetic preservatives, synthetic pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics are not used in organic food…

For the original article and more information check out foodbabe.com

Also this Sadie’s Nest post was updated and amended from the original as Subway has removed azodicarbonamide from their bread! Hurray! Next maybe they will offer organic options?

Turmeric: For Body and Mind

Turmeric has a warm bitter taste and enhances the flavor in mustards, butters and cheeses. It’s known for its deep yellow color and is also used in dyes. It comes from the root of the Curcumalonga plant and the main spice in curry. Turmeric is used in many cuisines world wide, most commonly known in Indian food.

Turmeric has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Also called “Indian saffron,” Turmeric is high in Manganese, Iron, vitamin B6, fiber, copper and potassium. Medicinally it is used for arthritis, colds, headaches, heartburn, stomach pain, intestinal gas, diarrhea, menstrual problems, jaundice, liver problems and gall bladder disorders. Even more impressive is that turmeric is also used for lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It contains curcumin, believed to be more potent in its concentration. The volatile oil fraction, curcumin, is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric that has proved in many clinical experiments to be as potent as the drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as the over-the-counter anti-inflammatory Motrin, without the side effects! Unlike drugs linked with major toxic effects (intestinal bleeding, ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, etc.), curcumin produces no toxicity.

The curcumin in turmeric has powerful antioxidant properties that are able to neutralize free radicals (chemicals that cause a great amount of damage to healthy cells and membranes as they travel through the body). These free radicals are responsible for joint pain and inflammations that eventually cause damage to the joints. Pure turmeric (containing the highest rate of curcumin) is used to treat bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis. And may also block the progression of multiple sclerosis. Combatant against free radicals, it is linked to those with higher frequent use of turmeric having lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer.

Growing evidence shows that turmeric provides protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that in elderly Indian populations where turmeric is consumed commonly and frequently, neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s is very low. A major factor thought to be responsible for neurodegenerative disorders including dementias like Alzheimer’s is free radical injury. It is believed that curcumin plays a role in triggering the protective system that produces bilirubin, which protects the brain from such injuries. With significant studies done, long time use at hand and no side effects it’s all win as far as I can see.

Food for thought (pun intended)… eat your turmeric!

Some suggestions for incorporating tumeric into your diet: Add to egg salad, lentils and salad dressings; Mix brown rice, raisins, cashews, turmeric, cumin and coriander; Grams’ Curry Dip; Curry BLT

And if those aren’t your thing they sell turmeric capsules at health food stores, on-line and at Whole Foods; ranging in price from $14.99 – $49.99. Just make sure you look for pure turmeric, it has the most curcumin.

Sources for this essay include WebMd, whfoods.org, and Whole Foods.

Allergy Induced Eczema?

About two weeks after my son was born, he began to develop a red sandpaper like rash on his face. Our pediatrician said it looked like eczema and suggested moisturizing the area with Aquafor. A week later, his scalp and side-burn areas of his face were secreting a yellow discharge of some sort, along with the persistent rash still on his face. To the doctor’s eye it looked like “cradle cap gone wild” and she suggested an over the counter dandruff shampoo. Sadly, this only seemed to inflame the rash, and things were getting dismal. In the mean time we were trying everything we could find, by research and suggestion, to no avail. Aveeno Baby Eczema lotion, Eucerin Baby Eczema lotion, organic coconut oil (a natural anti-fungal moisturizer,) cotton clothing only, no contact with perfumes or dyes, hypoallergenic all natural baby soaps, etc., no matter what we tried, he was getting progressively worse. (Warning: some of these pictures might be disturbing.)

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Food allergies were ruled out at this time because the affected area was limited to his face and scalp, so if it were allergy related at all, it seemed to be something he was coming into contact with. By eight weeks old he was oozing so profoundly from his head that I was changing his saturated (around the neck) clothing and cloth diapers, we kept under him as a cotton barrier, three times a night. We decided to take him to a pediatric dermatologist. Thankfully, we live not too far from the University of Michigan hospital. We called through Mott’s, the children hospital and set up an appointment.

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I was hopeful as the resident was asking questions about his health. I relayed every bit of information I could think of. “No, he didn’t look like this at birth. Yes, he has been exposed to illness; his siblings are on antibiotics for strep throat. Yes, he did have an antibiotic at about 4 weeks for dark green boogers. Yes, the condition has begun to spread onto his shoulders and leg…” Two more doctors came in, examined him from head to toe and discussed his condition. They decided it was atopic dermatitis (eczema) and sent us home with a topical steroid and an oral antibiotic. It was a 10 day treatment with a follow-up in about 2 weeks.

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Relieved to have expert diagnosis, we started the regimen. To my great relief he started to improve within 24 hours. By two days he looked clear, and we seemed to have gotten through it! Whew, what a nightmare! But by day four into our new routine, his face began to break out. By day seven he looked about the same as when we had brought him in. We were back to constant surveillance, never to be left unattended for his incessant scratching. Well, thankfully, we had this scheduled follow-up appointment.

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Upon our return to the U of M Dermatology department, we were again questioned by a new resident and examined by two new physicians (apparently one of our first doctors was on vacation). They discussed in Latin terms amongst themselves, what they thought was going on. They apologized for any rudeness. Whatever, I mean do your thing. Just help my baby, and I’m good. It was decided that he had two overlapping conditions, the afore mentioned atopic dermatitis and a seborrheic dermatitis (in the family of cradle cap). Ok, just tell me what I need to do. In addition to the topical steroid, they added an anti-fungal lotion and shampoo and sent us home, no follow-up necessary.

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Immediately upon first application of our new products, Noah had a crazy reaction. His redness and irritation was magnified. And that’s when it dawned on me; they don’t know what’s going on with him. They’re just guessing! So, what am I doing to my son? Experimenting? I was completely depleted and very worried. (Disclaimer: I believe the U of M Health Systems is loaded with talented doctors that do much good. This is just my experience as one of their patients.) I decided I should call their office and let them know what happened. The woman who answered the phone said most of the physicians had left for the day, and advised me to stop treatment (the best advice given out of that whole office). She let me know that someone from the Dermatology department would call me the following day. The next day a resident did call me back; I explained what happened and asked him his thoughts. He replied that he had not seen Noah, and couldn’t say. Okay, well certainly he must have our file with the opinions of his colleagues in front of him. So, I continued to say that Noah had been diagnosed with atopic and seborrheic dermatitis and I was wondering if the anti-fungal treatment for the ‘seborriheic,’ however it’s pronounced, could have upset the ‘atopic’ part. I mean, that seems pretty straight forward to me, right? I assume he did go to medical school after all. But nope, he couldn’t answer that either without having seen him. Well then why (I thought to myself) couldn’t one of the two other residents or four residing physicians that had seen him have called me back??? Next, I kid you not, he asked in the most dismissive way “So, what would you like to do? Make an appointment?” I answered that I guessed so, to which he stated “I’ll have the scheduling department give you a call.” By the time they called, I had changed my mind.

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Noah was now three months old, and no better. I made an appointment with our family dermatologist who it first glance said Noah is allergic to something you are eating. She advised that I stop nursing- to be continued later, and introduce a non-dairy hypoallergenic formula (Nutramigen) into his diet. She recommended that we also add probiotic into his diet, due to the antibiotics he had been given in his short amount of being, and suggested adding a small amount of hemp oil into his bottles to start moisturizing from the inside out. And although I was heart broken about possibly being the source of his problem, I appreciated the less abrasive approach. She asked about his stool, no one had done that before either. Yes, it was a mucous type diarrhea since birth, unlike the ‘mustard curds’ of my previous children. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? She explained that what is going on in the tissue outside of his body was happening on the inside too. That made sense, duh!

To speed things along, I will say that even with the strides made, my son was still in a bad condition. It seemed hopeless. At this point we were struggling to grow skin on his cheeks. His skin tissue was in such disrepair that the slightest wipe from his mitted hands would scrape it off. It was an endless cycle. It was at this time my dear friend, saw an article with a picture of a baby girl, whose face looked just like Noah’s. The doctors at Children’s Hospital in Detroit had diagnosed her with a milk allergy and staph infection. Detroit? That was practically in our back yard! We took him there the next morning.

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Right away, the ER department took a culture of his skin. They were surprised that it hadn’t been done before, and so were we. Sure enough, Noah tested positive for a staph infection. Thankfully it was a common strep, the type that can be found on most normal skin, and easily treatable. It’s just that he had no barrier on his skin. As it turns out (from blood tests, also not previously done) he also had an extremely weak immune system and is highly allergenic.

By doing extensive (heartbreaking) testing, they doctors at Children’s Hospital were able to eliminate life-threatening illnesses (that I don’t even want to mention and am well aware there are many children unfairly suffering from) and less serious conditions, such as a zinc deficiency. We are continuing to work with dermatologists, allergists, etc. and Noah seems to be stabilized. He is by no means out of the woods, so to speak, but he is not getting worse and alas that is progress.

I wish I could describe this happy ending full of great results. Unfortunately, it seems that it is very difficult to determine allergies at his age, and truly is a trial by error situation. So, for the time being he gets a daily bath or more (of just water, no soap, no bleach), and moisturized (by vasoline, which yes, is petroleum based, but is 1 ingredient to simplify things) from head to toe several times a day. He takes allergy medicine around the clock and gets topical steroids and a topical antibiotic as needed. I brush my teeth one handed, vacuum with the Bjorn, and swaddle him to change his brother’s diaper. My four year old daughter holds his hands, while I run to the bathroom and I schedule my showers by visits from grandparents. I cut his fingernails and change bed sheets every three days. I literally sleep holding his hands, and still wake up in a panic that he has scratched his face. (As a side note, related to allergens and sleeping: have you ever seen those blown up pictures of dust mites? Whoa, that’s enough to give a grown woman nightmares! Change your sheets people, just sayin’)

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For what it’s worth, this is my story. We do have some better days than others. I am perplexed that in this day and age, they still don’t have answers or remedies for things like this. And I am resigned to the fact that God has us going through this trial for a reason. So for now, we just keep on keeping on. I have been told that many children are able to grow out of this, and I am remaining optimistic. If anyone can relate, I hope you can find solace in knowing that you are not alone. If anyone has knowledge and experience to share, my ears are wide open!