There is an old saying that “you are what you eat”. We hear it often and maybe it has begin to become a bit watered down (by overuse) but really it is quite a truthful statement. Nutritionists like to repeat this quote over and over again to get across to people that food choices are directly linked to our health and to our quality of life. The food that we eat and all of the nutrients contained therein are what provide the building blocks for new cell growth. Cells die off daily and are replaced with new cells. Our bodies are always replenishing and regenerating and that process cannot happen efficiently without the best building materials. Empty calories or substandard food will only ensure that our foundation for health and wellness is weak.
The same applies to the animals that we consume. Many factory farm operations feed their animals foods designed to fatten them up quickly with empty calories so that they can be slaughtered at ever increasing rates. Their goal is not to turn out a healthy animal…just a fat and meaty one. They are fed genetically modified crops that are heavily sprayed with pesticides and often they are fed foods that not appropriate for their digestive systems. Cows for instance are meant to eat grass and roughage but in factory farms they are forced to eat grains such as corn. The sugars in corn increase the fat content unnaturally and they cause illness and disease. Some cows have even been given candy when corn prices are too high! Chickens are shut away indoors and kept from the greens they love so much. We have also heard horror stories for years that diseased animals who die in factory farms are recycled as food for the remaining ones.
If you are what you eat, then what do we hope to become by eating animal products that come from factory farms?
This is a scary thought and it is one that paved the way for the rebirth of the grass fed and pastured foods movement. Many consumers are no longer comfortable eating factory farmed meat and eggs. Instead they are seeking out beef from cows who are allowed to graze freely and eat the healthy food that they were intended to eat. These same folks also buy farm fresh eggs from farms where the chickens are cage free and allowed to roam and eat grass, seeds, bugs, fruit, and other foods more natural to them.
People who want grassfed and pastured products aren’t being snobs or prescribing to some kind of elitism. We hear all the time that paleo (which centers around wild, grassfed, pastured foods) is elitist. But is it really being snobbish and elitist if you want to consume healthy animals?? No.
Grassfed meat is lean and has a fat content that more closely resembles chicken or wild game. This actually helps to improve your cholesterol levels instead of raise them. While it is low in the bad fats associated with high cholesterol, it is very high in the good fats, the omega-3 fatty acids. All of the nutrition from the pastures they graze translates into lean cuts of meat and delicious milk that are nutritionally superior and much healthier for your family.
Pastured eggs are said to have about 20 times more omega-3 fatty acids than their factory farmed counterparts. The moment you crack open a pastured egg you can tell from the dark orange yolk that you are eating something rich and full of nutrition. They also taste infinitely better than conventional store bought eggs. Once you try them you will be hard pressed to ever go without again.
We truly are what we eat and if we choose to eat animal products then would be wise to choose the healthiest and most nutritious animals… grass fed and pastured.
How to Find GrassFed, Pastured Foods:
Check out what you have locally available. The web site Eat Wild should be your first stop. It will tell you all the places in your area where you can get these products. Within seconds of checking my own locale I was linked to sources for chickens, eggs, rabbit, duck, cows, pigs, milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc. All come from grassfed, pastured, or wild animals.
If you cannot find much locally there are places to buy online such as US Wellness Meats.
To your health!
When you think of gelatin you probably think of jello in all its crazy colors and think…tasty but not very good for me. Or maybe you think of Julia Child’s famous aspic recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking…mmmm meat flavored jello. Yeah, no thanks.
So it may surprise you to know that gelatin has health benefits that you should not overlook. Bone broth is all the rage right? Well gelatin should be too. In fact it is found in homemade bone broths, in small amounts. We just need more of it. What is gelatin? It is derived from collagen obtained by boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones of animals. It may sound kind of gross but it packs a punch.
Some of the major health benefits derived from eating gelatin are as follows:
Metabolism & Weight Loss: Gelatin contains arginine and Glycine and they both help support the body’s metabolism. They help us to build muscle (which means we are burning more calories) and they help us convert glucose to energy rather than fat. By eating gelatin you can make gains within a strength training program (and get stronger) and also lose weight if that is your goal.
Joint Conditions: Gelatin is a product which might be able to help people suffering from stiff or sore joints, especially before the condition worsens. Since it has a lot of amino acids it acts as an important component in the prevention of degenerating cartilage. If your parents or grandparents suffered from joint pain or arthritis than you need to take preventative measures.
Skin Health: Beauty products that have collagen in them are in high demand. Collagen helps to plump our skin up, make it more firm, and make it look and feel more youthful. These products are largely useless though because collagen is too large to be absorbed by the skin. We can however get benefits from dietary collagen…aka gelatin. Many people report that their skin looks and feels more youthful and healthy immediately after introducing more high quality gelatin into their diet. It is also supposed to help with loose skin and wrinkles.
Strong Hair & Nails: Keratin is the key structural component of our hair and nails. Gelatin is also a source of this important protein and it can vastly improve the appearance of your hair and nails as well as improve their strength. In short, gelatin is a powerful beauty tool.
Digestion: Gelatin can help with digestion by giving the foods we consume a smooth passage through our digestive tract.
Cellulite: Of course this cannot be proven but gelatin is gaining traction as a way to combat cellulite nonetheless. It makes sense because collagen helps to plump and firm our skin. If it can help with wrinkles than why not those unsightly skin dimples?
So now that you know why you need gelatin how do you get more of it the diet…short of aspic and jello? Easy. Try adding high quality gelatin to:
Warm cereals – oatmeal, cream of wheat
Soups and stews
I recommend Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin. It is much higher quality than the cheapy stuff you find at most local grocery stores. You want gelatin from pastured cows not from factory farmed, sickly animals.
To your health!
I am making chicken soup for my hubby on this fine day because he is sick. Poor guy.
I wanted to make it extra nourishing so I am adding lots of veggies and herbs and of course TONS of garlic. Peeling garlic on the other hand is one of my least favorite things to do. In fact I will usually settle for 2-3 cloves instead of the whole bulb (which is how much I love garlic) just because of my disdain for peeling it.
This morning I was determined to add that garlic though because it does wonders for the immune system with its ample supply of vitamin C and vitamin B6. It’d be good for my sick hubby and also the rest of the household, who don’t want to get his illness.
I recalled the video below of a chef who shows how to peel a whole head of garlic in seconds and I always wanted to try it. Today I did and was pleasantly surprised to see that it actually does work. It’s amazing! Happy Garlic Day!
The only downside is that I feel kind guilty dirtying two bowls because I want to get out of some grunt work but if it means I will cook with garlic more, I can live with that.
Most parents try to ensure that their kids are not eating massive amounts of sugar. It can make it incredibly hard for kids to maintain a healthy body weight…a HUGE problem in this country and in many parts of the world (obesity epidemic). It also makes it hard to stay well. Sugar knocks out your immune system whenever you eat it for up to a couple hours. This is like leaving the front door wide open and this is also why so many kids get sick this time of year. They are more likely to be eating candy, cookies, and other celebrations foods. Thus it is obvious to most parents that we need to keep an eye on sugar intake.
It is getting harder and harder to do this though. Sugar isn’t just in candy, cookies, and cakes. Sugar can also be in ketchup, bread, and fruit juice. Which brings us to drinks. Many drinks marketed to kids are loaded with huge amounts of sugar. Single serving juice boxes and pouches, soda, and freezy type drinks sold at gas stations and fast food eateries all come to mind. We instinctively guess that there is sugar lurking in these types of drinks but how much sugar there actually is can be shocking.
The video below from Brita shines a light on the issue. Most parents would never allow their kids to eat that much sugar and yet they may actually be letting them drink it. GULP.
What do you think? Exaggeration or right on the money?
This post is sponsored by Brita.
In real food circles you will hear all sorts of varying opinions about supplementation. Some claim that if your diet is healthy enough you will never need to supplement. Others (like myself) feel that supplements can close some nutritional gaps and fix deficiencies and are therefore beneficial. I think the key thing to remember is that supplementing with various vitamins and minerals does not excuse us from trying to eat as healthy and as nourishing as possible. It merely gives us an edge in a world where soil is nutritionally depleted, farming practices are shady, and foods are less nutritious than they used to be. I choose to tackle the issue of nutritional deficiencies from both sides…healthy, nutrient dense foods that are grown as responsibly as possible AND nutritional supplementation.
With the above mentioned challenges it is easier than you might think to be missing some key nutrients from your diet, even if you think you eat pretty healthy. If you are eating the SAD (Standard American Diet) than the news is even worse. Here are 5 common nutrients that many of us miss and steps we can take to fix these deficiencies.
Calcium – We don’t just need calcium when our bones are growing. We need it throughout our lives to keep our bones strong. A huge part of this is exercise and strength training, which many people make less time for as they get older. We can get some calcium from dairy products as all the magazine ads for milk would have us believe but we do not need low fat dairy and we probably consume too much milk/dairy. Try getting most of your calcium from leafy greens (spinach, collards) vegetables (broccoili), nuts, and seeds.
Magnesium – Calcium and magnesium actually go together like peas and carrots so if you are deficient in one than you are likely deficient in the other because they work as a team to build strong bones and flexible muscles. A magnesium deficiency can actually cause all sorts of problems. In fact, it regulates more than 325 enzymes in the body and the most vital of those are ones that help to produce, transport, store, and utilize energy. You can get it from leafy greens and veggies, nuts, and seeds (just like calcium). Because absorption can be problematic a supplement is never a bad idea and a topical oil is also very handy.
Vitamin B12 – Many of us are B12 deficient…some studies have shown about 40% of us have below optimal levels. It is tied directly to the health of our nervous system as well as red blood cell production. Those at greatest risk are plant based diet supporters because B12 can ONLY be found in animal products. This is probably why anemia is so common among vegans. The best sources are clams, fish, and liver meats. Because a leaky gut can make it hard for even meat eaters to get enough B12, a supplement may be in order.
Vitamin D – This all important vitamin helps with bone health, immunity, and it lowers our risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Very few foods in nature contain Vitamin D though. The best sources would be fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel. Small amounts are in beef liver and eggs yolks. Other than that your best bets are lots of regular sunshine, a 600 IU a day pill, and/or cod liver oil.
Vitamin E – This one is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals and reduces risk of certain cancers but because of the fat phobia that exists many are missing out. Good sources include nuts and seeds, nut butters, leafy greens, broccoili, red bell peppers, and seafood.
It’s a good idea to think about nutritional deficiencies when doing your meal plans so you can try and tackle them to the best of your ability and make sure certain foods appear each week. I would also not be afraid to close some gaps with supplements if you feel inclined. It is easier than ever to access supplements in your local health food stores or you can buy vitamins online from Golden Glow or other reputable sources. Most of us agree that our health is our wealth so making sure we have all our nutritional Ts crossed with a good diet first, then with a little outside help, just makes good sense.