ImageMy sweet neighbor, who grew up in Bosnia, recently brought me a entire fermented head of cabbage, their version of (pre-shredded) sauerkraut. I don’t know the exact method, but as I understand it, cabbages are cored and then salt is poured into the core holes (filled to the top). After a few days, those cabbages are immersed in water/brine and stored in crocks or barrels for approximately six months. The taste is incredible and so much better than store-bought sauerkraut.

The kraut I make is available to eat in just four or five days. Although my sauerkraut isn’t quite as good as my neighbor’s, it’s still really good. I mix a packet of yogurt starter into a huge bowl of shredded cabbage (two heads, green or purple or a combo), add lots of salt, pack the mixture into jars, sprinkling salt between layers, and let the kraut sit for four to six days before refrigerating. FYI, the sauerkraut lasts a very long time in the frig. I don’t know how long as I’ve never had any go bad. Check online for exact recipes.

According to naturalnews.com, “Cabbage offers a host of health benefits. It is high in vitamins A and C. Studies have shown the cruciferous vegetables can help lower cholesterol levels. Cabbage also provides a rich source of phytonutrient antioxidants. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory properties, and some studies indicate it may help combat some cancers. However, this already helpful vegetable becomes a superfood when it is pickled.” http://www.naturalnews.com/033659_sauerkraut_health_benefits.html#ixzz2XAOUAt3x

Sauerkraut “contains plenty of probiotic bacteria and large amounts of vitamin C, as well as vitamin K, B6, folic acid, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and magnesium.” http://youqueen.com/life/health/5-health-benefits-of-sauerkraut/

In “Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods,” Sandor Katz writes that “Eating fermented foods live is an incredibly healthy practice, directly supplying your digestive tract with living cultures essential to breaking down food and assimilating nutrients. …Quite an awesome array of medical studies have identified specific anti-cancer and other disease-preventing properties in fermented foods.”

Our friends Pam and Lee eat a bit of sauerkraut before each meal to aid digestion. I like to add kraut to green salads or eat it with avocados. Best of all, homemade sauerkraut adds delicious flavor to cabbage rolls and Reuben sandwiches. How do you use sauerkraut? Please share!

 

 

Blowing in the Wind

A spring wind blew a couple pieces of trash my direction this week, wrappers for stuff I don’t normally eat. I was intrigued by the list of ingredients printed on the packaging for these supposedly healthy Imageitems. The fruit snack didn’t have a whole lot of ingredients, but the first two items were sugars and the third was apple puree concentrate. Dietary sugars totaled 13 grams per individual serving (10 in a pack).

The other wrapper was for a yogurt-flavored granola bar. Besides the carbs in the grains, the sugary substances in that snack include: brown sugar (2 uses), high fructose corn syrup (3 uses), honey, glucose syrup, sugar (4 uses), corn syrup (4 uses), sorbitol, Dietary sugars, 11 grams; sugar alcohol, 2 grams (sorbitol).

I was surprised that these items have about the same amount of sugars. However, the fruit snacks come 10 to a pack, so multiply those sugars by 10. Same thing with the calories. The fruit snacks have 80 calories per serving (but I suspect most people eat all 10 pieces) and the granola bar (one serving) adds up to 150 calories.

Even if you eat yogurt in its natural state (without imbedding it in a granola bar), label reading is important. Whether sold in the dairy section or the natural foods section of the grocery store, most brands of yogurt contain added sugars. But non-sugared varieties are available. You just have to look for them.

If you want a healthy snack or would like to add flavor to your yogurt, this is a great time of year to pick up fresh fruit. Eating healthy is possible — and delicious.

Germ Warfare

MH910215967Way back in 1980, Dr. Paul Brand and author Philip Yancy released “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” a a beautiful book that details the incredible intricacies of the human body. I’ve wanted to reread the book for years and finally picked it up again this morning. Here’s an interesting comment from the first chapter that I think is even more relevant today than it was 30 years ago.

“The quantities of bacteria viewed through the first effective microscopes so overwhelmed scientists that subsequent generations have lived in vivid awareness of ‘germs.’ Astute promoters market disinfectants to sterilize our environment, but too often the germ-killer, merely a cell-killer, also destroys the body’s good cells. Today we need better publicity for our bodies’ able defenses and perhaps less fear of germs–the average American household is in more danger from chemical germ-killers than from germs. I prefer to leave the battle to my own cells.”

Besides the fact that hand sanitizers do little to prevent illness and studies suggest that triclosan, a chemical used in some sanitizers may be dangerous, soap and water remains our best tool for cleanliness. Also, “A 2009 study by Northwestern University found that kids raised in ultra-clean environments may have higher levels of inflammation as adults, which could boost risk for heart attack, stroke and other dangerous disorders.”

A crucial aspect of destroying bacteria is that we can easily kill the good along with the bad. University of California, San Diego professor Dr. Richard Gallo says that “stripping our hands of all bacteria also strips us of some of our natural defenses against other infections.” Instead of depending on germ killers to protect your family, build immunity with healthy living.

See the Dr. Sears article below for information on supplements and foods that enhance good health. Also be sure to get plenty of exercise and fresh air. This is a perfect time of year to step into the sunshine!

http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/hand-sanitizers-healthy-or-hype

http://biology.about.com/od/microbiology/a/handsanitizers.htm

http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/family-nutrition/foods-boost-immunity/8-foods-boost-immunity

http://www.10news.com/news/study-hand-sanitizer-also-kills-good-bacteria

Hope for Dementia

My mother had Alzheimer’s for several years before her death. As those of you who’ve Imagewatched a loved one lose contact with reality know, dementia is not fun. But now there’s hope.

A recent Bloomberg News report details a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that says “vitamins B6 and B12 combined with folic acid slowed atrophy of gray matter in brain areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease.” The study tracked 156 people ages 70 and older and “found that the amount of gray matter declined 5.2 percent in those taking a placebo, compared with 0.6 percent in those who took the vitamin cocktail [of B vitamins].” (I feel sorry for those in the placebo group!)

The article also reported that dementia drugs like Aricept may ease symptoms but they don’t slow or cure the disease. That was certainly the case with my mother. In fact, she suffered some of the many possible side effects of the dementia drugs. I, personally, would rather supplement my diet with vitamins than take my chances with those drugs.

Check out this list for foods that contain B vitamins (and note that they are mostly fresh, unprocessed foods):

http://healthmeup.com/news-healthy-living/vitamin-b-complex-food-sources-of-b-complex-vitamins/19378

 

Kombucha Fizz

Months ago, I promised to write about my kombucha tea brewing experience, but I haven’t kept that promise. Something about finishing Winds of Freedom, the sequel to my first novel (Winds of Wyoming), and getting it ready for publication…

At the moment, a proofreader is going through the final version of the story and a graphic designer is working on the cover (it’ll be a beauty!). If aMH900325508ll goes well, Winds of Freedom should debut on or before July 1st, yay. Wow, I just realized my freedom title will release just in time for Independence Day. Great timing, even if it was unplanned. J

Back to the k-tea. Last fall, a young man at the local farmers’ market who was giving away samples of his kombucha tea told me to keep notes regarding the fermentation process. Great idea, but I didn’t do as he said, so I can’t give you a blow-by-blow account—which you probably didn’t want, anyway.

My advice for those wanting to create their own delicious brew is to read all you can from the library and on the Internet regarding the dos and don’ts of kombucha. Plenty of information is available, if you look for it. You’ll find that making the tea is easy and fun—and cheap.

Cost is a big factor for many brewers. Last I looked, k-tea in the stores averages $3 per bottle. The same great taste can be achieved at home for pennies a cup. Not only does the tea taste good, the health benefits have been touted for generations. Some say kombucha aids digestion and immunity, helps with weight loss, stress and energy levels, detoxifies the liver, restores hair color and even counteracts hangovers. Many other positive results are reported at sites like http://www.kombuchakamp.com/health-benefits-of-kombucha.

On the other hand, you’ll find professionals who warn against kombucha. http://www.naturalnews.com/035316_Kombucha_tea_dangerous_health.html

Back to my brewing experience, which seems to change with each batch of tea. I’ve learned that the fizzy taste I like requires more brewing time in the winter than in the summer. I also learned that using molasses instead of sugar to feed the SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) is a bad idea. The surface of the mold created by my experimentation could have rivaled Mars in color and texture. But it was interesting! Also, separating a daughter SCOBY from the mother too early results in a weak, ineffective “mushroom” that doesn’t have the power to ferment the tea properly.

I have also experimented with different teas and a variety of additions to the bottled tea. Fruit pieces, like currants, can be dropped into the bottles for a slightly different flavor. Ginger root chunks add tang to the taste.

Although I haven’t seen any major health changes after consuming kombucha for several months (or noticed that my gray streaks have darkened), I can say I like the taste and appreciate the probiotic boost to the beneficial bacteria in my digestive tract as well as the enzymes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals present in the brew. I also feel energized when I drink the tea.

Next time, I’ll fill you in on my sauerkraut adventures!

MH900382575One more blog about germs, and I’ll quit (smile). In an article our newspaper borrowed from The Saturday Evening Post, author Sharon Begley says when we “disrupt our ‘human microbiota,’ we do so at our peril.” She goes on to state that the war on germs, one armed by antibiotics and other anti-microbials, is harmful to beneficial germs as well as disease-causing microbes.

According to Begley, “For every one human cell, there are an estimated 10 single-cell microbes in us or on us–at least 100 trillion in all.” Many illnesses are associated with an imbalance of those microbes, including asthma, chronic sinusitus, excessive appetite, hardening of the arteries, Crohn’s disease, and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and obesity.

The article suggests we purchase antibiotic-free meat and ingest antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. I would add – find a good-quality probiotic product and avoid antibacterial soaps and sanitizers. Give the good guys a chance to do what God created them to do for your body!

The Suds Solution

More sanitizer thoughts from Dr. Douglass:

Plain old soap and water is far more effective than hand sanMH900402119itizer at keeping your paws clean and germ-free. And it’s practically worthless against the norovirus that’s sweeping through hospitals, schools, and cruise ships right now.

In one recent study, hospitals where alcohol-based hand sanitizers were heavily used were actually six times MORE likely to have a norovirus outbreak than hospitals that used plain old soap and water.

Read the entire article at: http://douglassreport.com/2013/03/04/hand-sanitizer-doesnt-work/

You’ve probably heard the debate regarding the safety of antibacterial soaps and Imagewondered what is true and what isn’t. Well, here’s the scoop.

According to Drs. Oz and Roisen (You Docs), triclosan, “one of the most potent antibacterials found in…household products,” can affect the heart muscle. In addition, the chemical “disrupts hormones and can damage reproductive systems.” Triclosan also pollutes the environment and promotes antibiotic resistance. (http://www.realage.com/blogs/doctor-oz-roizen/)

The YouDocs’ advice? Read labels! Additive-free soap is just as effective as antibacterial soaps for killing germs. (Idaho Statesman / September 2012)

But, buyer beware! Besides being added to soaps and body washes, triclosan can be found in “toothpastes and certain cosmetics, as well as furniture, kitchenware, clothing and toys.” The chemical was registered as a pesticide in 1969 but is now included in a wide, wide variety of unrelated products. (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/29/triclosan-in-personal-care-products.aspx)

MightyNest, a website where parents can research product safety for their families, reports that “triclosan has the following effects on human health.

  • Abnormal endocrine system/thyroid hormone signaling.
  • Weakening of immune system.
  • Children exposed to antibacterial products at an early age have an increased chance of developing allergies, asthma and eczema.
  • Uncontrolled cell growth.
  • Developmental and reproductive toxicity.

(http://mightynest.com/learn/research-by-concern/dangers-of-triclosan)

MightyNest suggests we clean counters with plant-based solutions like vinegar, lemon and essential oils, wash children’s toys in warm soapy water, and use antibacterial hand soaps made with essential plant oils, like thyme and fennel. “Tea tree, grapefruit and pine essential oils are also naturally antimicrobial.”

DailyGreen.com quotes Dr. Stuart Levy, director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, who says “people who are exposed to household germs usually develop stronger immune systems and are healthier overall. Aim to be clean, not germ-free.” I like that philosophy! (http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/green-products-services/antibacterial-soap-55073001#ixzz2LHoToFBI)

The Daily Green author, Diane MacEachern, advises we shift our spending to safe, eco-friendly cleansers and personal-care products such as the following:

(http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/?URI=%2Fbrowse.php%3Fcategory%3Dtoothpaste)

A NaturalNews.com author says “thyme has recently been proven to be an even more potent antibacterial agent than many chemicals commonly used in soaps and hand cleansers.” The article also lists essential oils of lavender, rosemary and peppermint as well as citrus oils. One important cleanser the writer, Danna Norek, mentions is hot water, which is “the most simple, readily available way to help rid surfaces of bacteria and other surface contaminants.”

(http://www.naturalnews.com/036215_triclosan_antibacterial_alternatives.html#ixzz2LHx4Y7a7)

I’ve used many of the above natural products and can report they work great. What natural products do you use? Becky