Monday, December 12, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I look forward to this post-Thanksgiving soup almost as much as all the special dishes prepared for the holiday itself. I have fond memories of my mother picking all the leftover meat off the turkey and starting the bones to simmer in a large pot on the stove, while the last dishes were washed and second rounds of pumpkin pie were lazily served.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
The mercury levels gave gotten so high that 15% of all newborns in the US have dangerous levels of mercury in their blood, putting them at risk for neurological defects, according to the EPA in February of 2004. In that same year the FDA put out a Public Health Advisory stating that women of reproductive age should not consume swordfish, shark, mackerel, or tilefish due to levels of mercury deemed unsafe for human consumption.
Article at a glance:
- Which fish are safe to eat?
- What should you do if you love to eat fish?
- What are the symptoms of mercury toxicity?
- How can you find out if you have mercury toxicity?
- Can mercury be cleaned out of the body?
Mercury in history
The term “Mad Hatter” was used to describe the behavior of hat-makers contaminated with mercury in the 19th century. At the time, a mercury solution was used in the curing of animal pelts. Poor ventilation meant the hatters were breathing in the fumes, and residues of this highly toxic metal accumulated in their bodies.
Mercury accumulates in the liver, kidneys, brain, and blood. Even very low levels can affect the development of a fetus or infant.* At high levels, it may cause kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, and genetic damage.*
Where is it coming from?
Nowadays, coal mine clouds blanket most of the United States. Seeping from coal and oil-fired electric plants, their smoke infiltrates the air, as well as our streams, lakes and rivers. Thus, humans and other living beings are exposed to mercury through the air we breathe and the water we drink—it even laces the best organic foods. We really cannot avoid this exposure. Amalgams and vaccinations are also sources of mercury exposure that need to be evaluated. The major source of contamination for humans, however, is the consumption of mercury-laden fish and seafood.
Are you a sushi lover? In 2010 the New York Times tested 44 pieces of sushi: they found 8 pieces that exceeded the legal action limit set by the FDA of 1.0 parts per million (ppm)—meaning they were not safe for consumption. That same year, Gotmercury.org did an undercover survey of fish being sold in sushi bars, supermarkets and farmers’ markets. The results were unsettling:
- 1 in 3 fish purchased in supermarkets exceeded the legal action limit set by the FDA.
- Almost 20% of tuna sold in sushi bars were over the legal action limit.
- Almost 20% of all sushi sold was over the legal action limit.
- Out of 184 samples of fish taken, all had detectable levels of mercury averaging 0.5 ppm.
Mercury toxicity in humans
Symptoms of low-level mercury poisoning can include:
- Hair loss.*
- Memory loss.*
- Mental instability.*
- Compromised immunity.*
- Numbness in arms and legs.*
- Learning disabilities.*
- Central Nervous System Damage.*
- Reduced motor skills.*
- Depression, anxiety, and other psychological effects.*
How do you determine your mercury levels?
If you are an avid fish eater and have any of the symptoms mentioned above, get a blood test to confirm your mercury levels. Also, gotmercury.org has a mercury finder that can help determine your potential risk according to your fish consumption (note this is not an accurate alternative to a blood test). It is also a great website to learn about the impact of mercury on wildlife and the environment.
Can mercury be removed?
If you have mercury poisoning, stop eating fish! Studies show that once we stop eating fish the mercury levels in the blood come down on their own. But mercury has a proclivity to store in the fat cells and in the brain, liver, and kidneys. So while the blood might show reducing levels it may still be hiding out in the fat cells. Thus, it is important to help chelate this stored mercury out of the fat cells and out of the body.*
Chelation: the process of removing heavy metals from the bloodstream by means of a chelate: a food or nutritional agent that attaches and removes heavy metals from the body.*
The best food-based chelators for mercury and other toxic metals are garlic, cilantro, andchlorella*. If you insist on eating fish or are concerned about mercury toxicity, include these foods regularly in your diet.
- Garlic has been shown by researchers to be beneficial in the management of heavy metal toxicity—especially lead, cadmium, and mercury.*
- Cilantro suppresses the deposition of lead and appears to aid in removing mercury from aqueous solutions.*
- Chlorella is a green algae that has demonstrated the ability to uptake toxic metals and thereby decrease their re-absorption in the gut.*
Protect yourself and your family: A consumer guide to mercury levels in fish
The list below details the amount of various types of fish that a woman who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant can safely eat, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. People with small children who want to use the list as a guide should reduce portion sizes. Adult men and women who are not planning to become pregnant are less at risk for mercury exposure but may wish to refer to the list for low-mercury options.
Protect Yourself… and the Fish!
Certain fish, even some that are low in mercury, are poor choices for other reasons, most often because they have been fished so extensively that their numbers are perilously low. These fish are marked with an asterisk.
This list applies to fish caught and sold commercially. For more information about fish you catch yourself, check for advisories in your state.
Least mercury—Enjoy these fish:
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
Moderate mercury—Eat six servings or less per month:
Bass (Striped, Black)
Croaker (White Pacific)
Tuna (canned chunk light)
Weakfish (Sea Trout)
High mercury—Eat three servings or less per month:
Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
Sea Bass (Chilean)**
Tuna (canned Albacore)
Highest mercury—Avoid Eating:
**Fish in trouble! These fish are perilously low in numbers or are caught using environmentally destructive methods. To learn more, see the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute, both of which provide guides of fish to enjoy or avoid based on environmental factors.
***Farmed Salmon may contain PCB’s, chemicals with serious long-term health effects.
The data for this consumer guide comes from two federal agencies: the Food and Drug Administration, which tests fish for mercury—and the Environmental Protection Agency, which determines safety of mercury levels for women of childbearing age.
The consumer guide is categorized according to the following mercury levels in the flesh of tested fish:
Least mercury= Less than 0.09 parts per million.
Moderate mercury=From 0.09 to 0.29 parts per million.
High mercury=From 0.3 to 0.49 parts per million.
Highest mercury=More than .5 parts per million.
Sea Turtle Restoration Project: seaturtles.org
Natural Resources Defense Council: NRDC.org
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
As I strap my baby daughter to me and fit her with a hat, I snap the leash on the dog and set out for our late-morning walk. Today is recycling day I notice as I walk up the street which was once nothing more than a narrow dirt road lined with white pines. I can't help but peer into the blue boxes perched on each side of the smooth pavement as we stroll by. It happens this way every other Tuesday; I casually glance at what each household has consumed over the last two weeks and inevitably end up pondering our food system.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Last Spring, a fellow blogger graciously asked me to guest blog on the topic of creating a healthier kitchen. Since its content is helpful for the goal setting nature common to the changing of seasons, I have reposted the article below.
What goes on in the home kitchen is truly the foundation of personal health. My friend Kelly likes to say, “What we eat in private shows in public.” Now, as we are all sheepishly picturing the large bowl of ice cream we made-out with last night before bed, this phrase can go the other way as well. When we treat ourselves to satisfying food that nurtures us and keeps us healthy, this shows too.
I like to approach this topic by leaving guilt at the door. In my practice as a Personal Health and Nutrition Coach, I have seen how culturally acceptable it has become to beat yourself up in hopes of becoming the person you desire. To be honest, I have never witnessed a more counter productive way to create healthy change. Guess what? It’s okay to like your thighs. Yes, your thighs as they are right at the moment, not your thighs six months from now. Let’s get real for a sec: aren’t you glad you have them?
The kitchen is a powerful place, as the home cook is a powerful person. The moment we begin cooking more for ourselves at home, we take the reigns. Regardless of where you live, or however many options there are in your city for eating out, a home cooked meal trumps all. Here’s why: the ingredients used in restaurants need to meet many goals before nourishing your health. Restaurants are businesses, kept in business by turning cheap product into something that tastes good to the unsuspecting eater. Same is true for packaged products. “Cheez Its” are not sitting on the shelf to keep you feeling your best. They are there because they are convenient, crunchy, salty and thus can turn a profit.
By contrast, the ingredients we choose to stock our home pantry can be chosen with greater things in mind.
Following is a top ten guide to help you transform your kitchen into an oasis where healthy meals are born. When I say healthy, I am not suggesting you eat soy noodles and steamed broccoli three nights a week. No. I encourage you to eat foods that satisfy you. That speak to who you are. That are colorful. Honor your heritage. Make your family draw in a deep breath when they walk into the house.
You can begin by nixing the nutritionally faulty fat-free trend. Use high quality olive oil and butter. Explore new foods. Have fun. Include the family. This is the beginning of a true love affair with flavor, sitting down to savor, and leaving the table feeling fulfilled in every sense of the word.
1. Put It In A Ball Jar:
This may seem strange as the number one suggestion, yet storing most of my pantry items in half gallon ball jars encourages me to buy in bulk. Packaged items such as crackers, chips, cereals and cookies essentially are not food, they are just crunchy filler. By foregoing these items and their nutritionally empty profiles, you can make space for whole grains, dried beans, nuts, a variety of flours, seeds and spices. Storing food in jars also helps you see what you have at a glance while keeping the shelves organized.
2. What Goes In Your Cart Goes In Your Mouth:
As mentioned before, packaged items represent quick and easy nibbling. If such convenience items are in the house, they will get eaten, regardless of all the promising you’ve made to abstain. If an item goes into the grocery cart, it will eventually make it into your mouth. This brings me to my next tip. . .
3. Make A Grocery List and Stick To It:
Before shopping for groceries, make a list to help keep you on track with your intentions. It is a good idea to think about what items you want in your home, write them down and stick to it. Grocery store marketing is a slick device designed to encourage impulse buying. A list will help guide you beyond these hurdles.
4. Eat Before You Shop:
As with making a list, shopping on a full stomach will help you make wiser choices. I remember when I was a little girl grocery shopping with my Aunt one day after church. We were both hungry, and somehow came home with a whole chocolate cake amongst our other items. Had we taken the time to eat lunch before cruising through the aisles, that cake wouldn’t have made it into our cart.
5. Linger In The Produce Section:
It is so easy for us to fall into the habit of buying the same produce week after week. Carrots, celery, onions, etc. Yet, as the seasons change so does variety. It is wise to think about what is fresh and locally available. Take time to explore new foods, this will help you grow as a cook.
6. Find Your local Farmer’s Market:
Farmer’s markets are the key to reclaiming your health. Locally and seasonally grown/produced foods are far superior to anything you can find in the grocery store. Granted, not all foods found at all farmer’s markets mean they are healthy, but the chances are greater. Get to know your local producers. They will become the backbone of your health. Knowing who grows your food will create more meaning and community behind the meals you prepare. Fresher food means more flavor too, making your job in the kitchen almost effortless.
You can find your local market with a simple google search. Bring cash (not all vendors are set up to accept credit cards) and canvas bags to haul your tasty loot.
7. Enjoy The Process:
Cooking can be a chore for some and a creative outlet for others. Whichever category you fall under, we’ve all got to eat. Try reshaping the way you look at cooking. Turn on some music, maybe sip a little wine and enjoy yourself. The more you do, the better your food will taste.
8. Invest In A Good Knife:
Part of enjoying the cooking process is having the right tools to make the job successful. Contrary to what many may think, one good kitchen knife is all you need to begin. I highly recommend Global, Wusthof, or Henckel brands.
9. Stock Up On Fermented Foods
Almost every culture across the globe historically enjoyed a variety of fermented foods from kim chi to sauerkraut. Fermented foods are not only some of the most nutrient packed foods out there, they are wonderful accompaniments to home cooked meals. Look for locally made fermented items such as lacto-fermented pickles, kraut, miso, or kefir. You will learn to crave the briny, sour taste of such beneficial foods.
10. Quality Is Key:
I often hear how expensive organic or high quality foods tend to be. Here is the thing: organic foods or foods produced using ethical/quality methods are not expensive, it’s that the rest of the food out there is artificially cheap. The food industry has done an excellent job filling foods with chemicals, fillers and colorings which make the final product unrealistically inexpensive, and very dangerous to our health. Remember, most products are sold to make a profit, not to help us maintain our health.
By investing in high quality food, we are single handedly doing the most to invest in our long term health. Cheap processed food makes us feel cheap and processed. Eating this way will land us in the doctor’s office where we will have to pay for medical care. So think of it this way: you can spend your dollar on flavorful food or pills. It’s that simple.
11. Turn Off The Food Network.
I love Top Chef as much as the next person but this is not real life. Home cooks need not be discouraged by flashy food challenges and glossy editing. Real cooking is messy. It has mistakes. Rice will occasionally burn. It’s okay. Go easy on yourself.
Cooking shows can inspire, but they can also make us feel under qualified to cook. Cooking is for anyone and everyone. For kids, for elders and everybody in between.
Make your kitchen a place where you want to be. Spend time there and watch your health transform.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
This bowl of freshly harvested blueberries will be the last of the season. I polish them off with a pang of sadness as the pregnancy of late summer comes to a close. Though I get a little bummed watching another season come to pass, this is a time to recognize abundance.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The perfect activity while the baby sleeps, the onions are cleaned (stalks and roots removed) and ready for the fry pan. Last season I posted on the health benefits of onions, re-posted below.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
I figured there are enough red, white, and blue recipes floating around foodie cyberspace today, so at risk of being taken as unpatriotic (quite the opposite is true, I will be playing with sparklers and barbecuing this evening like most my fellow Americans) here is a simple recipe to compliment your festivities, along with a few thoughts:
Monday, June 27, 2011
The hottest item to hit the farmer's market scene: Poussins. About as large as your hand, these young pasture raised chickens from local East Fork Farm yield tender, dark, succulent meat with gelatin rich bones. One bird is ideal for a single serving and best eaten with your hands, a delicacy well suited for a lively dinner party. A perfect match for roasted early potatoes and braised garden greens. Bon appetit!