Tag Archives: Healthy eating

rAWWWW Nuts!

Looking for a nutritious snack option?

Since we have been eating healthier and removing pre-packaged, processed food from our pantry and our diet, we are in need of finding alternatives. Nuts in moderation are a fantastic option. Even better- Raw Nuts! The roasting process can trigger the release of harmful chemicals in some nuts, like acrylamide in roasted almonds. So it’s best to eat them raw.

health benefits of raw nuts
photo credit- Steffen Zahn, creative commons

Eating raw nuts can reduce your risk of developing serious chronic diseases. These little gems can reduce the risk of diabetes, lower blood pressure, lower weight, reduce waist circumference and increase heart health.

Will eating nuts make you fat?

It’s a myth that eating foods high in healthy fat will make you fatter. In fact, it’s better to eat nuts that things with more complex carbs. According to this study, people who ate a low-calorie diet that included almonds vs. complex carbs, the almond group had a:

  • 62 percent greater reduction in their weight/BMI
  • 50 percent greater reduction in waist circumference
  • 56 percent greater reduction in body fat

Another study in the journal Obesity also stated that eating nuts two or more times per week was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain.

Which nuts are best to eat?

Look for raw & organic nuts. Note: peanuts are not nuts, they are legumes. They’re also apparently one of the most pesticide laden things you can eat.

 Some of the best nuts for your health are:

Almonds: almond skins are rich in antioxidants, phenols and flavonoids which can help prevent cancer and promote healthy aging. (In North America, nearly all almonds are pasteurized even if they’re labeled raw.)

Walnuts: help get those free radicals and reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancers. For further reading, check this article out about how the FDA says walnuts, broccoli and some other foods should be labeled as a drug for their healing properties!

Pecans: With over 19 vitamins and minerals, these babies can lower bad cholesterol and promote healthy arteries.

Soaking nuts, especially walnuts, can make the flavor better. It can also increase the enzyme activity which increases your body’s ability to absorb their nutrients and digest them. Soak nuts from anywhere between 20 minutes to 2-3 hours, then discard the water. Even better, soak them overnight in glass, not plastic.

Some nuts are more suited to roasting than others. For example, the health benefits of cashews are not greatly reduced with roasting.

 My favorite place to get nuts, raw or roasted, is in the bulk bins at Sprouts. There are an abundance of choices. Try them all and see what you like best. My favorite is Macadamia Nuts! I pretend I’m in snacking in Hawaii whenever I grab a handful.

Two Months in Review

It’s been two months since I first visited EWG.org and read about the different chemicals and carcinogens that are added to almost everything in our lives. Today I’d like to take a look at what changes we’ve made so far and how they’ve affected us.

My main motivations for changing to a more healthy, all-natural lifestyle are to try and reduce asthma and allergies suffered by my youngest son and me. I’ve been learning about how much disease in America is preventable with good diet and exercise. Cancer struck very close to home a few months ago too.

warning labelHow many times have we read a label that states that the product we are using in “known to cause cancer” and yet we go ahead and purchase and use it in our homes? How many products do we apply to our skin, our face, our clothes, our dishes, that are absorbed into our bodies that are harmful to us? I’m taking a more thorough look at the ingredient labels. I’m educating myself on what I’m purchasing. I hope to drastically reduce the amount of harmful toxins, chemicals and carcinogens that leech into our bodies.

This journey began two months ago, not long after I returned from the funeral of a dear friend and college volleyball teammate who died of breast cancer. She left behind a two year old daughter, a loving husband and many family and friends who just couldn’t believe that this vibrant, healthy, athletic young woman lost her life so early.

First, I made a list of every product I had in my bathroom. There were about 16 different things I’d put on before I even had my first cup of coffee in the morning between face soap, moisturizers, shampoo, make-up and the cleaners I had in there. I did this for each room in my home and came up with an extensive list of personal care and cleaning products.

Then, I looked up each product on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, and Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. I wrote down the grades of each product from A to F, just like in school. Almost everything was an F, even the baby laundry detergent that I once bought for my newborns. I was shocked.  There is extensive information on what ingredients cause what harm and I focused closely on which things caused asthma.

After I learned what to avoid, I wrote down next to each of my old products a newer, healthier alternative to use. This has been an ongoing project. I’m still working my way through the list. I’m interested in making a healthier home. I’m also interested in being as frugal as possible. I didn’t just want to throw everything out. I returned unopened products to the store. This gave me about $85 to buy newer, healthier products. There are a great deal of household products that are simply and easily made out of cheap ingredients already in your pantry, namely baking soda, vinegar and honey.

So far, I’ve been using 7th Generation for my laundry and dishwasher and that’s working out nicely. I briefly returned to soap nuts for laundry, but was a little disappointed. I had one load that didn’t smell too fresh. I’ll give them another go down the road. I’m a little concerned about smelling okay since I’ve also changed my deodorant and gotten rid of most fragrance in our cleaners. I’ve asked a friend to let me know if I start smelling “crunchy”. Haha. But so far I’m okay.

I clean my sink with baking soda and vinegar now instead of my old abrasive cleaner and it works like a charm.  I made a solution of all-purpose cleaner and put it in the “GreenWorks” spray bottle. I was shocked to learn that “GreenWorks” got an “F” too! My new disinfecting spray is made of :

1/2 tsp castile soap
3 Tbs white vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda ( I haven’t found washing soda yet)
2 cups hot water

I use this to clean my counters, table, walls, bathrooms, etc. It works great. I’m not a huge fan of cleaning though and pretty much think of it as a complete waste of my time. However, I don’t like to live in filth, so I’m always reaching for that perfect balance: having a clean home and not spending time cleaning it. This is impossible of course, because I have three little boys. It’s like living with little tornados of grime & Legos. Cleaning is a losing battle, but at least it’s more healthy now.

I changed my make-up, moisturizer, face wash and deodorant. It’s working okay. I still have about the same amount of acne, but that might be caused by the change in my diet. I’m eating less processed foods and meat and much more veggies. I’m wondering if all the nuts and avocados I’ve recently been devouring is adding to my youthful looking skin. By “youthful” I mean acne like I’m still in high school. It’s never gone away. I’m getting by without prescription medication for it now. I was on that for the past few years. So it’s improved. I’d just like it to be gone completely. Same thing with allergies in the spring. They’re still there. We’ll see if they’re less severe this year. I just started my sneezing and itchy eye routine this week.

The houseplants I purchased weeks ago are (all but one) still alive. This is a miracle and I’m very pleased with this. I don’t have any way to measure how clean our air is. But supposedly the plants are cleaning it. Asthma does seem to be a little better around here, although both my son and I still need inhalers occasionally.

We’ve been eating much healthier. Unfortunately my sons are not quite as excited as I am about all the new vegetable recipes I’ve been finding. I keep hoping their taste will adjust and they’ll start loving cilantro, avocados, quinoa and sweet potatoes. I’ll just keep trying new things. I hate to admit how poorly I was cooking for them this past year. It was a difficult year personally and dinners suffered. There were plenty of nights when we ate pizza or chili mac and there was no veggie on the plate. Now there are mostly veggies on the plate with a little pasta or fish.

How about you dear reader? Have you made any new healthy choices recently. I’d love to hear about it.

Food for Better Health

There are a lot of different “experts” declaring what we should be eating these days. I’d like to eat things that make me more healthy, as opposed to less healthy. This seems all very simple and basic, but we’ve come a long way from real food in our culture. So it takes a bit of digging, a bit of education, a bit of research to figure out what I should be feeding my family.asparagus

I’ve read quite a few books on the subject of food. I get turned off by diet books because I’m not changing what I eat for the purpose of losing weight. I just want to put healthy things in my body and into my kids.

The Paleo diet is not for me. I’m sure it’s healthy, and maybe if I was more motivated to make drastic changes immediately I would do it. I’m looking to make sustainable changes for the long term. I still want to be able to order something at a restaurant occasionally. The Whole Thirty does a good job of explaining the Paleo diet if you want to look into that book.

I just started reading The Daniel Plan, by Rick Warren. The basic gist of that diet is to eat real food. I like that. Stuff your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Not the packaged, processed stuff we consume lately.  I’m also looking at the Mediterranean diet, which is also referred to sometimes as the Biblical diet. They all seem to be saying the same basic thing:

 Eat whole, real food- fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, eggs, beans, some lean beef and chicken. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables.

When buying these fruits and veggies, it helps to know which of these are best for you. Look at the Glycemic Index, the nutritional value, etc. Then look at how it’s grown. Some fruits and veggies are grown with a lot more pesticides than others. How can you keep track of all this. Please, let’s just keep it simple!

The Environmental Working Group developed an app that makes one thing easier. Each year they list the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15”.  I can’t remember all of this and I’m not able to buy every single thing on my grocery list organic. So I downloaded this handy app that tells me which are the best foods to buy organic. This free app is called “Dirty Dozen” and it serves as a handy reference while cruising the produce aisle. For example: get your apples organic but it’s okay to get your pineapples and asparagus from the regular section.

There is an app like this for buying skin care and cosmetics too. It’s called “Skin Deep”. You can scan the item you’re contemplating purchasing and see how it rates health wise for you.