Most of us know the best way to get Vitamin D is through exposure to the sun.
Adding Vitamin D to my diet has been a top concern lately. I live in the cold North East where below zero temperatures have made it challenging to head outside this winter. Even when I do spend time outside (I’m an avid skier) I’m covered head to toe so there’s no chance of daylight hitting my skin. I used to be forced to head outside a few times a day when our dog was with us. Now I find myself in my office or at the gym, running from my car to a warm building.
Even when I’m more likely to spend time outside in the sun I’m still covered from head to toe in sunscreen. So the likelihood of the sun hitting my skin at any time of the year is slim.
What is a Vitamin D Deficiency?
It is estimated that 30 to 100% of Americans, depending upon their age and community living environments, are deficient in Vitamin D. And more than half of all American children are vitamin deficient.
How to Add Vitamin D to Your Diet
Vitamin D is essential for bone health, cold prevention, fighting depression and more. If sunlight isn’t in your future there are a few other ways to add this critical nutrient.
Salmon is my favorite sources of this nutrient. One serving of salmon contains more than the suggested daily value. Make sure to use wild caught salmon.
The Vitamin D in an egg comes from its yolk so it’s important to eat the entire egg to get a portion of your daily dose. Use organic eggs when you can.
Specific types of mushrooms are grown in ultraviolet light and will produce this vitamin. Sun-grown brands are the only mushrooms with this nutrient, with shiitake mushrooms being one variety with a high level of Vitamin D.
Cod Liver Oil
This one doesn’t sound appetizing, but one tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 1,300 IU’s which is about twice the recommended daily allowance.
I’m not a fan of anything canned because of the BPA concern. Also tuna can contain mercury. But three ounces of light tuna in water has 154 IUs of Vitamin D, which is about 1/3 of the daily recommended dose.
Although not high in this vitamin, cheese does contain some. On ounce of swiss cheese contains 12 IUs, which is about 4 % of the daily value.
Fortified Foods. As you can see, there aren’t many foods that naturally contain Vitamin D. There are plenty of foods on the shelves of your market that have been fortified including milk, orange juice, cereals etc… Please know that Vitamin D doesn’t naturally occur in these foods, and has been added during processing.
In my opinion it’s best to get your Vitamin D from natural sources and small amounts of sun.
When my kids were really small, we had a lot of fun with the pronunciation (or mispronunciation) of these three foods. Edamame was called “ate-a –mommy” for many years. Quinoa was pronounced “king-wop” and Tempeh was “that stuff”. We have come a long way and I think we finally have the pronunciations down pat. While working through the correct food speak, we also worked hard to incorporate these three foods into our eclectic and healthy diet.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)
As much as quinoa looks like a grain, it isn’t actually a grain. It is a seed from a broad-leafed plant that is closely related to beets and spinach. Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain. It’s also perfect for those on a gluten free diet. It’s high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, and is a source of calcium, B vitamins and fiber. It can be prepared in many different ways. The most simple is preparing it in a similar fashion to rice.
The taste and texture of quinoa is a bit like brown rice crossed with oatmeal and a hint of nuts.
Tempeh is relatively new to those of us in the west, but it’s been a staple for hundreds of years for many living in Asia. Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a rectangular patty. The consistency is similar to that of a veggie burger. Many use it as a meat substitute in dishes. I’ve used it in chili, stir-fry and on the grill. As with any soy product, it should be eaten in moderation.
Tempeh has a textured and nutty flavor. I like to add tempeh to my favorite marinade and stir fry them together.
Edamame is by far one of my kid’s top side dishes-probably because they are so much fun to eat. Edamame is just a fancy name for boiled soybeans. They technically aren’t considered a vegetable, they’re a legume. The beans are boiled in their thick pods and a little coarse salt is sprinkled on top. After they are cooked the green edamame are popped out to eat. Sometimes they can fly pretty high-depending upon who’s doing the popping. Edamame are chock-full of protein, fiber and Vitamin A and C.
The soybeans are crunchy and delicious. Add a little coarse salt to taste and you won’t be able to stop eating them. As with any soy product, edamame should be eaten in moderation.
Have you tried edamame, tempeh or quinoa? What’s your favorite way to eat them?
Disclaimer: Before adding any soy to your diet please check with your physician to make sure it’s appropriate for you.
I’ve always found the cooking oil aisle at the market to be one of the most impressive and overwhelming aisles to walk down. The shelves are lined with every imaginable variety of oil – peanut, olive, canola, vegetable and coconut –and each type has a few different brands and sizes.
When cooking with any oil it’s important to not heat it beyond its smoke point — the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke and discolor. Using cooking oil above its smoke point can generate toxic fumes and harmful free radicals. Most labels on bottles of oil will give you the smoke point temperature for that particular oil. All oils offer different benefits. Some are better for baking and some for salad dressing.
Here are a few cooking oils that are a chef’s best friend (there are a few affiliate links below):
Coconut Oil is a subject of much debate in the cooking community. Why? Coconut oil has a high level of saturated fat. Federal dietary guidelines recommend that consumers limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of daily calories. But nutritionists tell us that not all saturated fats are the same. The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which increases levels of good HDL and bad LDL in the blood. When you buy coconut oil try to organic when you can.
Suggested use: cooking at high heat
Olive oil is considered by some to be the healthiest oil because it provides a mix of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It can also be obtained in a very pure minimally processed form, which is a healthier version than a processed olive oil. Olive oil has a fairly high cooking temperature and adds great flavor to many dishes. Olive oil would be best for cooking at medium heat.
Suggested use: light cooking or sauteing, salad dressing and other low temperature recipes
If there are no nut allergies in your family, peanut oil is the perfect choice for cooking. It has a high cooking temperature and is great for frying or any type of cooking at high heat.
Suggested use: stir frying, deep frying or cooking at high heat
Canola oil sometimes gets a bad rap. It comes from canola seeds. They are a genetic variation of rapeseed that was developed in the 1960s. It’s a good source of monounsaturated fats, the kind which can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. The problem with canola oil is most canola oil is genetically modified(93 percent in the U.S.). If you are going to use canola oil make sure it’s certified organic.
Suggested use: baking and stir frying at lower temperatures
Whatever type of oil you choose look for oils that are minimally processed and organic whenever possible. Also look for glass bottles over plastic to avoid potential leaching of toxic chemicals.
What’s your favorite cooking oil
Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links. If you use them a few pennies will go back into this blog. Thank you for support! All opinions are my own.
As Hanukkah (the Jewish festival of lights) settles in for eight days tonight at sundown, traditional Hanukkah foods find their way onto tables around the world. It’s surprising to many that much of the food we eat is already vegan without even putting forth an effort. Tweaking simple, traditional Hanukkah recipes into vegan and vegetarian dishes is an easy way to make a big impact on your health and the health of the planet.
Why vegan or vegetarian?
Vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat, fish, fowl, or, in some cases, any food derived from animals, as eggs or cheese.
Veganism (vegan pronounced VEE-gun) is a type of vegetarian diet that excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all other animal-derived ingredients.
Veganism, the natural extension of vegetarianism, is an integral component of a cruelty-free lifestyle. Living vegan provides numerous benefits to animals’ lives, to the environment, and to our own health–through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The UN estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change. Each year the average American eats 200 pounds of meat. Eating a plant-based diet isn’t just kind to animals and good for your health (and waistline!), it’s also the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
In the spirit of a green and healthy Hanukkah here are a few recipes for traditional Hanukkah foods in their vegan form.
Vegan baked latkes. Jewish or not, these traditional Hanukkah potato pancakes will work year round. They won me over because they are baked rather than fried. Use organic ingredients for an extra dose of healthy eating. Serve them up with some applesauce and you can’t go wrong.
Vegan sweet potato latkes. It’s challenging to find a vegan latke recipe since most call for eggs. This recipe changes up the traditional latke recipe and uses flax meal, sweet potatoes and buckwheat flour.
Think about what you’ve eaten this week. If you’ve eaten any processed foods that weren’t certified organic (guilty!)then they probably contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Today over 70 percent of corn and 90 percent of soy are genetically modified, and these two crops form the basis of a typical American diet.
Genetically Modified Organisms (also called GM, GE or GMOs) refers to crop plants that are consumed by animals and/or humans that have been tweaked or modified in a lab to boost desired traits such as: the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide, disease resistance and improved nutritional value. These results have no health benefit, only an economic benefit to the company producing them.
Food with GMOs looks and tastes the same, but it’s not the same. Food producers have been altering and messing with our food with the blessing of the FDA, but without our permission.
GMO labeling isn’t required in the US. Does that bother you?
It bothers me. We have the right to know what’s going into our food-don’t we? Yet In the US the FDA doesn’t require the labeling of GMOs in food ingredient lists. If we take a look at our friends in the EU and other countries -GMO labeling has been the norm for years.
GMOs place organic crops at risk
The USDA continues to support deregulation of crops such as alfalfa, corn and sugar beets. This deregulation creates a real risk for cross contamination. Pollen from GM crops and trees can contaminate nearby crops and wild plants of the same type, except for soy, which doesn’t cross-pollinate. We can bid farewell to our organic crops if GM crops continue to grow.
Dangers of GMOs
The effects of GMOs haven’t been studied in humans. Pretty scary to imagine what they are doing to us since we do know what GMO’s are doing to lab animals:
Toxic and allergic reactions
Sick and dead livestock
Damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.
How many times have you heard someone say: “I don’t remember kids having food allergies when I was growing up”? Maybe GMO’s are the cause or at least a factor in this surge of food allergies, environmental allergies, ADHD and other diagnoses.
What can we do to avoid GMO’s?
Our pocket books can do some of the talking since food buying power has a tremendous impact on our food system. If we continue to support sustainable farmers we are sending a message to those producing foods that are NOT sustainable -letting them know that we don’t want them.
Mooove over cow milk, there are some new (and not so new) milk choices in town. Many people are opting for dairy free milk alternatives and fortunately there are some great options out there. With just as much calcium and vitamins in milk alternatives, there are a variety of reasons for steering clear of dairy.
Why Stay Away From Dairy
Allergy or intolerance to dairy.
Dairy can cause excess mucus.
Cows are given steroids and other hormones to plump them up and increase milk production-if you’re not drinking organic milk these toxins could be passed on to you in a glass of milk.
The pasteurization process removes vitamins, proteins and enzymes while killing potentially harmful bacteria.
Rice milk is a staple in our home. We stopped drinking cow’s milk when two of our children were diagnosed with seasonal and food allergies. We’re not completely dairy free-the kids still eat dairy filled cheese, yogurt and ice cream (I’m in on this one too). It is generally organic, enriched with vitamins and calcium and has no added sugars.
Almond milk seems to be the most common nut milk-found on many store shelves. Occasionally I spy hazelnut and cashew milk. These are all great alternatives to dairy (provided there is no concern of a nut allergy. CAUTION: Most nut milks have added sugars unless they are labeled unsweetened. Opt for the organic nut milks to avoid any pesticides and other toxins.
Careful with this one-there is sugar added to most soy milk (Silk has all natural evaporated cane juice). Soy milk does have lots of protein and calcium. If your soy milk isn’t organic there is a good chance that the soy has been genetically modified. The Silk soy milk label also contains an allergen warning “may contain almond, coconut” so be careful if there is a nut allergy (or soy allergy). I don’t like the taste of soy milk, but your taste buds may have a different opinion.
Hemp Milk is made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground into water which turns into a creamy, nutty drink. It is made from the same plant used to make marijuana. Don’t get excited-the seeds don’t contain any THC delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of marijuana. Hemp milk also contains 10 essential amino acids, making it a good vegetarian source of protein. It is a bit thicker than soy milk and rice milk.
Whether you’re drinking cow’s milk or a milk alternative, always try to drink organic milk produced without synthetic chemicals, hormones or antibiotics.
What type of milk do you drink? Have you tried any milk alternatives?
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[Top photo used under Creative Commons from James Lee/Flickr]
[Rice Milk photo used under Creative Commons from Andrea_44/Flickr]
Photo used under Creative Commons from Ace Solid Waste
Every year people get rid of billions of tons of trash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of garbage a day, or a total of 29 pounds (13 kg) per week and 1,600 pounds (726 kg) a year. All of this garbage has to go somewhere and that somewhere is usually a landfill. We are running out of space!
Where does all this garbage come from? Most of the stuff that we send off to landfills comes from single-use products and product packaging. Our society is all about disposability- “use-and-toss” products are filling our garbage cans. Let’s face it, we are a trash culture. The only way to reduce the amount of garbage we contribute to landfills is to learn how to reduce our consumption of use-and-toss products.
Check out these 20 things you can do to reduce your trash:
Let me know which are keepers……..
Paper towels-try out a cloth that can be washed.
Paper plates and cups-use the real deal whenever possible or opt for reusable.
Silverware-metal is the way to go.
Plastic grocery bags-reusable bags are a great alternative.
Bottled water-reusable bottles will hold all sorts of drinks.
Individually packaged snacks-buy snacks in a regular sized bag and put single servings in reusable bags.
Disposable Napkins-try reusable.
Plastic baggies-replace with reusable bags that can be washed.
Garbage bags- try to reuse bags that are not messy inside by emptying the garbage out and reusing the bag.
Cotton balls-try using a cloth instead.
Printer cartridges-get the old ones refilled rather than buying new cartridges.
Batteries-invest in rechargeable batteries instead of disposable batteries.
Mail-opt to receive statements and bills electronically when possible.
Bubble wrap-Beth at Fake Plastic Fish suggests trying to reuse something you already have for packaging-try newspaper or old rags.
Plastic wrapand foil-use a container with a cover instead for food storage.
Aluminum foil-use a pot with a cover or for storage, use a glass container.
Razors-get reusable instead of single-use razors.
Liquid hand soaps in plastic containers-get a few reusable, decorative containers and refill them.
Disposable diapers-consider changing to cloth.
Juice boxes- although easy and convenient these boxes could take 300-400 years to decompose in landfills and they are not recyclable. Reusable bottles are the way to go.
Don’t forget to recycle. Such simple ways to make every day earth day!
I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.