Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Apr 17, 2017

How I Reversed My Diabetes

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Shortly before Christmas 2016, I had blood tests performed for the first time in about 8 years. I'd switched doctors - and it turns out, my new doc was much more on his toes than doctors I'd seen previously. He called me a few days after my appointment and gave me some bad news: I had type II diabetes - and I had it bad. My blood sugar was 260, and my A1c test, which indicates what a person's blood sugar has averaged in recent months, was 9.5%. At 9% medical guidelines say to put the patient on insulin.

I was shocked. In fact, I was so upset, I mistakenly hung up on the doctor before he was done speaking with me!

But unfortunately, this wasn't my first brush with diabetes.

Beginning to Understand Messed Up Diabetes "Science"

Eight years earlier, while pregnant with my second child, I'd been diagnosed with prenatal diabetes - a type of diabetes that only strikes pregnant women, and then (usually) disappears. (Though having it means you're at higher risk of developing type II diabetes later in life.) At that time, I had to be medicated, and went through all the standard nutritional training that's given to diabetics of all types.

I had a terrible time getting my blood sugar under control, and I remember thinking, "Carbohydrates turn to sugar in the body. What if I just lower my daily carb count?" So I did, and my blood sugar improved...but my dietitian freaked out and told me I had to eat more carbs. Once she ordered me to go home and eat three cups of popcorn. "It will be good for you," she insisted. I did as ordered...and got very sick, my blood sugar skyrocketing.

In fact, every time I followed the dietician's advice - which was just standard American Diabetic Association stuff - my blood sugar got worse. When I ate lower amounts of carbs, my blood sugar improved. I hated being medicated while pregnant, so eventually I just stopped telling the dietician I was eating fewer carbs, anyway (one piece of bread a day, no pasta, no rice, and no popcorn). My blood sugar stabilized (though it was still high) and my baby was born healthy.

And yet, my doctors scolded me, saying, "If you just eat the way we tell you to, you'll avoid getting diabetes later in life." When I explained that previous to my pregnancy I ate just the way they were telling me to eat now, they looked at me incredulously.

A Whole Food Diet Wasn't Enough

Fast forward to my recent diagnosis. I'd been eating a whole foods diet for a long time - and a lower carb one at that. I avoided wheat and rice, though I did not entirely omit them from my diet. I ate tons of veggies, and rarely ate fruit or sweets. So I was frustrated when my doctor said, "You really need to stop drinking soda."

"Doc, I never drink soda. Not even diet soda."

"Well you need to stop eating sweets."

"Doc, I very rarely eat sugary things. Not never, but rarely."

"Well, all that processed food..."

"Doc, I almost never eat processed food!"

When I explained how I did eat, he was surprised. We concluded that my genes play a big part in my diabetes, since there is type II on both sides of my family. (In fact, everyone on my father's side has type II - even the thin folks. Yep, you can be thin and still get type II diabetes.)

But then my doctor said the words that changed everything: "Look into a keto diet."

The Key Diet for Diabetics

I'd heard of the ketogenic ("keto") diet before. I knew it was "another low carb diet," but didn't know anything beyond that. In fact, I figured it was pretty much the same thing as the Atkin's diet (which, incidentally, was the only diet I ever successfully lost weight on...and trust me, over the years I worked hard at soooo many diets!).

So I went home and started Googling. Fortunately for me, I ran across a fantastic Facebook group called Reversing Diabetes. Here I learned that it wasn't just a keto diet I needed - it was a therapeutic keto diet that was required. If I followed that diet, I learned, I could, like many thousands of other people, reverse my diabetes.

Happily, the diet was pretty effortless for me. I cut all wheat and rice from my diet. I cut all fruit. I chose only lower carb vegetables. I made sure I ate only moderate amounts of meat. (There is some controversy about whether or not high amounts of protein can cause problems for diabetics.) And the biggest change? I dramatically increased the good fats in my diet. In fact, healthy fats (like olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, bacon drippings, and lower carb dairy like butter, cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, and cream cheese) now made up 70% or more of my diet!

For most people, all that fat is a hard thing to wrap their mind around. But study after study shows that "good fats" are GOOD for our bodies. (I'm not talking about unhealthy fats - processed polyunsaturated fats such as corn, canola, soybean, peanut, sunflower, and grapeseed oil, or processed trans fats, like margarine and vegetable oils.) In fact, countless studies show the saturated fats that have been demonized in recent years are even good for you. (Read more about healthy vs. unhealthy fats here.)

The amazing thing about this was that unlike every other diet I had ever been on, I'm not hungry all the time. I feel totally satisfied, even with smaller meals. In fact, I often skip lunch because I'm just not hungry.

The Results of Keto
Left: Before keto. Right: 25 lbs lighter after 3 months...and still losing!

And doing this therapeutic keto diet (also called "Low Carb, High Fat," or "LCHF"), here were the results:

* Within a few days, my blood sugar had dropped to the low 100s - not quite "normal," but much better and definitely out of the immediate danger zone.

* Within about a week, my blood sugar was in the 80s and 90s; that's generally accepted as totally normal!

* After three months, I'd lost 25 lbs. and three clothing sizes. The weight just melted off. I've always struggled with my weight, but this weight loss was effortless!

* After three months, my cholesterol, which had been a bit high, was normal. My bad cholesterol was down and my good cholesterol was up.

* After three months, my A1c was 5%. NORMAL! In fact, according to my blood work, I no longer have diabetes!
 
Of course, there is no cure for diabetes. I am still diabetic. If I change the way I eat, my blood sugar will rise again. BUT as long as I continue to eat therapeutic keto, my blood sugar will remain in the normal zone. Without medication!

Living with Keto

Can I live with this diet for the rest of my life? Absolutely, unequivocally YES! I feel full and energetic and well. Do I miss some foods? Occasionally. If I have cravings, which isn't often, it's mostly for popcorn. (I think because it's hard for me to get enough salt in my diet...because when your body starts burning fat instead of clinging to it, it also stops clinging to salt; so you need to consume more salt while doing keto.) Eating flavored pork rinds (I know! I can hardly believe I eat them, either!) totally wipes out that craving. And fruit. How sad is it that I finally got the fruit orchard I've longed for and now I can't eat the fruit?! But I can eat some low carb berries, like raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, in small quantities. And, joyfully, I enjoy and appreciate them more now than I used to.

Most of all, knowing that I'm preventing all the horrific complications of diabetes, including:

* Heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke
* Loss of vision
* Nerve damage and loss of limbs
* Kidney disease
* Hearing impairment
* Gastroparesis (slow emptying stomach)
* and Alzheimer's disease

gastroparesis
gastroparesis
is all I need to keep me on track! If I'm ever tempted to stray, I just remind myself of the very real fact that carbs/sugar are poison to my diabetic body. I really have no desire to eat poison.

This is so do-able. Many thousands of type I and type II diabetics have done it.

But What About the American Diabetes Association?

I know some diabetics who go on therapeutic keto and get their blood sugar down like mine, only to have their doctor tell them they must eat more carbs because their blood sugar should not go below 7%.

Huh???

Notice that the doctor clearly understands that more carbs equals a higher blood sugar count.

Also notice that the doctor doesn't want his patient's blood sugar to be normal. (Normal is 5.7% or lower, folks.)

How can this be? I can't get into the minds of these doctors, but my opinion, and the opinion of Dr. Bernstein (who is a type I diabetic who was the first in modern times to write about how low carb diets control diabetes), many doctors see diabetics as cash cows. Get some diabetic patients, and you're in for years of expensive medical treatment due to direct treatment and complications. I hate to think any doctor would put his financial gain over the health of his patients, but I can come up with no other reason why doctors would insist their patient's blood sugar should be above normal. (By the way, my doctor is not that way. He celebrated with me when my blood sugar returned to normal.)

What about the American Diabetes Association? Why do they advocate a high carbohydrate diet for diabetics (even while mentioning that carbs raise blood sugar)? Again, that's tough to answer. Certainly plenty of research shows that high carbs equal high blood sugar in diabetics, while low carbs equal low blood sugar in diabetics. So one has to wonder if the ADA is also playing the money game. Are pharmaceuticals funding the ADA? I don't know, but it sure makes me wonder.

Frequently Mentioned Concerns

But going into ketoacidosis is deadly!

Yes, it can be. But fortunately ketoacidosis is something completely different from from going into ketosis, which is what you do on a keto diet. Learn more about the difference here.


But you have to eat carbs or your body shuts down!

First of all, no healthy diet should have zero carbs, because you'd be unable to eat any vegetables. Secondly, you do not need to eat carbs. If you reduce your carb intake, your body simply starts making it's own carbs! And it starts burning fat instead of carbs. Don't believe me? Check out these sources:

BioMed Central: "Very low carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass"

Huffington Post: "Actually, You Don't Need Carbohydrates for Energy"

Graeme Thomas: "Are Carbohydrates Essential Or Not?"


Do you get enough nutrients without eating fruit?

Yes! Eating a good mix of lower carb veggies gives me all the good vitamins and nutrients I need.


But fruit is good for you!

Sort of. Fruit is full of sugar, which is why historically it's been treated like a dessert. Yes, it has nutrients in it, but nothing you can't get from vegetables and animal-based foods. And yes, it has fiber. But that does not take away the high amount of sugar/carbs the fruit has, and the fact that they affect your blood sugar.


But low carb diets count net carbs!

Most low carb diets do; that's true. They go by the theory that fiber in food "cancels out" some of the carbohydrates - so eaters subtract the fiber from any given food's carb count. This is why some people refer to certain recipes as "zero carb" even though they clearly have carbs in them.

The problem is, the carbs in such foods still affect your blood sugar. Fiber may delay your blood sugar reaction, but there is still a reaction. So while counting net carbs might be fine for non-diabetics, it's a no-no for diabetics.


But how can you lose weight while eating all that fat?

Because you've been lied to. In the 1980s, dieticians demonized fat, but the science was based on now-acknowledged made up stuff and some very dubious studies. And did you know that one of the big pushers of the modern low fat diet/whole grains movement, Nathan Pritikin, discovered, (according to Sally Fallon in her landmark book Nourishing Traditions), that a fat-free diet lead to many medical problems, including depression, difficulty concentrating, mineral deficiencies, hardened arteries, and weight grain?

Fallon also points out that fat wasn't officially blamed for heart disease until the 1950s. Since that time, "the proportion of traditional animal fat in the American diet declined from 83% to 62%, and butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to four." And yet, the rate of heart disease and obesity became epidemic during that same period.

Natural fats are good for you. Your body needs them!


But you'll die of heart disease eating all that fat!

Actually, no. The world's top cardiologists now say dietary fat has nothing to do with heart disease. In fact, they say healthy fats can improve your heart health and that carbohydrates are probably more to blame for heart disease. This, this and this are just three of the many studies that have come out in recent years that support these claims.


I could never eat such a restrictive diet.

Actually, unless you eat anything and everything, you already eat a restrictive diet. :)  But truly, I don't feel deprived. One of the joys of adding fat back into your life is that everything tastes so good! As any good chef will tell you, fat equals flavor. And there is such a wide variety of really delicious food you can eat on this diet, it's hard to feel deprived.


Get real; what's most challenging about this diet and how have you overcome these things?

I haven't had a ton of cravings, but when they hit, they hit hard. I already mentioned my popcorn craving and how flavored pork rinds vanquish them. (They have to be flavored for me to find them edible. I'm going to experiment with making my own, more wholesome flavorings for plain pork rinds.) I also sometimes really miss the freshness of fruit in my mouth, even though I really never ate much fruit until we moved to our new homestead last year. I overcome this by knowing the exact carb count of cherry tomatoes (1 per tomato), and often have 4 or so for a snack. I also cautiously eat a few strawberries or raspberries now or then. Chocolate cravings at that time of month are challenging, too, because I think I'm allergic to Stevia (I feel lousy after eating it), and I just can't make myself eat bad-for-you artificial sweeteners. I plan to experiment with some other natural sweeteners (like Erythritol) soon. When I was sick a few months back, I craved carbs - I suppose because that's what I grew up eating while sick. I learned to make "90 Second Bread," which has only 5.7 carbs per serving.

Another challenge is eating out. We don't do it often, and if we go to an American style restaurant, I'm just fine. But if my hubby craves Chinese or Mexican? Yikes. Recently, I picked what I thought would be an okay meal at a Chinese restaurant: beef and green beans. But it spiked my blood sugar; it had a sauce, which I'm sure had either sugar or flour or both - even though I questioned the waitress about any sugars or flours in the dish and she assured me it would be without them.

People tend to think family gatherings would be challenging, but I'm blessed with a family that understands the seriousness of diabetes and tries to make sure there's something I can eat at all gatherings. If you're not so fortunate, plan to bring keto food to the gathering, or eat before the gathering.

Further Reading

The Skinny on Fat
Why the War on Fat Was a Huge Mistake
23 Studies on Low Carb and Low Fat Diets 
The Ketogenic Diet 101
A Guide to Healthy Low Carb Eating with Diabetes
Facebook's Reversing Diabetes Group Files 
My Facebook Group of Keto Recipes (Very Low Carb/Keto/LCHF Recipes)
My Pinterest Page of Keto Recipes (LCHF Diabetic Recipes)
Diabetic friendly recipes on this blog
Signs You May be a Diabetic


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor should anything on this website (www.ProverbsThirtyOneWoman.blogspot.com) be considered medical advice. The FDA requires me to say that products mentioned, linked to, or displayed on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this web site is designed for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified medical advice or care. There are no assurances of the information being fit or suited to your medical needs, and to the maximum extent allow by law disclaim any and all warranties and liabilities related to your use of any of the information obtained from the website. Your use of this website does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. No information on this website should be considered complete, nor should it be used as a substitute for a visit to, consultation with, or the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider.

Mar 20, 2017

The Best - and Cheapest! - Produce to Buy in Spring

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full 
 information. Thank you for supporting this site!

When I tell people about my success with the keto diet - how I reversed my diabetes, normalized my cholesterol, and have lost oodles of weight - the first thing I hear is something congratulatory. The second thing I hear is that they are shocked I can loose weight and get healthy on a high fat diet. And the third thing I hear is how expensive my grocery bill must be. I will no doubt address #2 sometime soon, but today I want to address #3, to which my normal response is: "Au contraire!"

My grocery budget has not gone up since going keto (or even since going whole foods, which is what I did for years before being diagnosed with diabetes). Good, healthy food does not have to be more expensive!

Sure, it helps that a keto diet is high in good fats. Fats, among other things, are filling, so I eat less now than I used to. But I'm also a sales watcher, a price book keeper...and I shop for produce seasonally.

There are a lot of good reasons to buy in-season fruits and vegetables: Better nutrition (some studies show that growing produce out of season reduces their nutritional value); energy saving (out of season produce is usually flown or trucked into your area from a warmer clime); and, yes, saving money (in season produce is less expensive than fresh produce that's out of season).

The problem is, Americans are so used to seeing all their fruit and veggie favorites in the grocery store all year long, most don't know which ones are naturally in season at any given time of the year.

So let me help you out.

Produce that's in Season in Spring
(March, April, May)

Throughout this post, I offer recipes to try with each vegetable or fruit. If a recipe is mentioned, but there's no link to the recipe, you'll find it in my cookbook A Vegetable for Every Season (available in both paperback and ebook format). It's only $2.99 for devices, folks!

http://amzn.to/2nAHakd

Carrots
Carrots are a veggie that take months to grow from seed to store, and the cool months are when they are usually pulled from the ground. They are high versatile - a good snack or salad fixing when raw, sweet and wonderful when roasted, and easy to toss into a savory pie, soup, or stew. And - happy dance! - they are kid-friendly.

Some of my family's favorite carrot recipes:
Fermented Pickled Carrots
Carrot Fries
Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
Carrot Chips
Glazed Carrots (pictured)


Radishes
Don't skip past this one because you hate those peppery red balls. First of all, there's more than one kind of radish, and they aren't all strongly flavored. Secondly, people are doing some creative things with radishes - including using them as a low carb potato substitute! (I haven't tried that yet myself, but here's a link.)

Some of my family's favorite radish recipes:
Radish Chips
Pickled Radishes (pictured)

Peas
These family-friendly veggies are at their sweetest and best at this time of year.
Some of my family's favorite pea recipes:
Easy Garden Snap Peas
Roasted Peas
Green Peas, Mint, and Tomatoes





Beets

As a cool season crop, beets will be out of their prime soon! Grab 'em while you can!
Some of my family's favorite beet recipes:
Easy Refrigerated Pickled Beets
Russian Borscht with Beets
Beet Cake (pictured)

Asparagus
Spring is the time to eat asparagus. The later in the year it gets, the thicker and more woody asparagus gets. (It may seem counter-intuitive, but thinner asparagus is more tender.) We eat it often roasted, but it's also wonderful a myriad of ways.

Some of my family's favorite asparagus recipes:
Cheesy Baked Asparagus
Asparagus Chicken Stir Fry (pictured)
Smokey Grilled Asparagus

Cabbage
There's a reason cabbage is connected to St. Patrick's Day; it's cheap at this time of year! It also goes a long way at the table, and lasts a long time in the fridge.
Some of my family's favorite cabbage recipes:
Bubble and Squeak (pictured)
Small Batch Fermented Sauerkraut 
Borscht (Russian cabbage stew)Braised Red Cabbage

Greens
All types of greens, including lettuce, collards, kale, beet greens, radish greens, chard...They are highly versatile. Eat baby greens fresh in salads, or stir them into stir fries, casseroles, and egg dishes, or saute them on the stove top.
Some of my family's favorite greens recipes:
Sauteed Greens (works with any type; pictured)
Kale and Roasted Garbanzo Salad


Broccoli
If you love it, now's a great time to eat it. At the grocery store, be picky and choose only broccoli with tightly packed florets and beautiful color.
Some of my family's favorite broccoli recipes:
Chicken and Broccoli and Stuffing
Parmesan Roasted Broccoli (pictured)
Broccoli Tots


Cauliflower
The great cauliflower shortage seems to be over, and prices for this versatile veggie are inexpensive again. Eat it, well, like cauliflower, or use it to mimic pizza dough, garlic bread, rice...
Some of my family's favorite cauliflower recipes:
Cauliflower Chowder (pictured)
Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cheddar Pasta Salad
Mashed CauliflowerCauliflower Tots
Healthier Cauliflower Alfredo
Better-Than-Twice-Baked-Potato Cauliflower






Avocado
Here's a fruit that is an excellent source of good-for-you fats. My kids love to eat it plain; I just cut it up into chunks for them.
Some recipes I want to try:
Avocado Greek Salad
Creamy Avocado Pesto


Brussels Sprouts
A lot of people think they hate Brussels sprouts. I think they are nuts :)  But, truly, if you hate them, try eating them fresh from the garden. Store bought Brussels sprouts, by comparison, are bitter. Our favorite ways to eat Brussels sprouts are steamed, roasted in the oven, or cut in half and cooked in a skillet.
Some of my family's favorite Brussels sprouts recipes:
Skillet Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Parmesan Sauce
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (pictured)

Leeks
If you've never cooked with leeks, don't be intimidated. They are basically a weird looking onion, and can be used just like one. They do, however, have a more mild flavor than the spherical onions you're probably used to.
Some of my family's favorite leek recipes:
Cock-a-Leekie Soup (a Scottish Chicken and Leek soup)
Potato Leek Soup

Mushrooms
Mushrooms sprout up when the weather is wet, so spring is their last hurrah.
One of my family's favorite mushroom recipes:
Roasted Lobster Mushrooms (pictured)

A recipe I want to try:
Creamy Garlic Parmesan Mushrooms

Parsnips
They may look like anemic carrots, but parsnips are better, in my opinion! They have a unique flavor that is excellent roasted or added to stews.
Some of my family's favorite parsnip recipes:
Parsnip Fries (pictured)
Parsnip Cupcakes

Mar 6, 2017

Why You NEED a Meat Thermometer

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 Growing up, my mother never used a meat thermometer - so I guess it's no surprise that when I grew up, I didn't either. Instead, I cooked meat the length of time the recipe stated, and then cut the meat a little bit to see if it looked cooked thoroughly. Nowadays (thanks to my superb barbecuing husband), I know there are several problems with this method:

* Different ovens and stoves cook at different rates (faster or slower), so even if you follow the recipe exactly, your cooking time may be different.

* Small changes in temperature - for example, medium temperature as opposed to medium high temperature - make a big difference in cooking times, too.
* Cutting open meat to test for doneness makes the meat more prone to drying out - even if you only do it once.

* Not using a thermometer often leads to either dry, over-done meat that no one enjoys eating, or under-done meat, which can pose a health risk.

By simply using a meat thermometer, you can avoid all that and get perfectly safe and wonderfully edible meat every single time.

What Kind of Thermometer to Use

If you're really serious about cooking, a Thermapen is considered the thermometer to have. All the pros use it because it's accurate, reliable, and gives a quick reading. However, Thermapens are pricey. So I use a less expensive model. Currently, I have a Taylor digital thermometer that cost under $9 - and I'm happy with it.

Whatever brand you choose, just be sure it's actually a meat thermometer, not a candy or oven thermometer. I also recommend choosing a digital instant-read thermometer, since it will save you time in the kitchen and do a much better job of giving an accurate temperature on thin cuts.

How to Use a Meat Thermometer

1. First, read the instructions that come with your thermometer. Every model has slightly different instructions on accurate use. (Keep the instructions, too, and refer to them now and then.)

2. Test the meat shortly before you think it will be done. (Some digital thermometers can stay in the meat the entire time you're cooking. If you have this type, insert it as soon as the meat goes in the oven or pan.)

3. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. Don't let it touch fat, gristle, or bone, or you won't get an accurate reading. (For whole poultry: Insert the thermometer in the inner thigh area, near the breast.)

4. Once you have a reading, remove the thermometer and wash the tip in hot, soapy water.



What Temperatures To Aim For

The USDA has a handy chart of the safe minimum temperatures for all meats. I printed this out and keep it in my recipe binder. Other ideas for keeping the chart handy include laminating it and taping it the inside of a kitchen cupboard; taping it to the inside cover of your favorite cookbook; or keeping the chart in a container that also holds your meat thermometer.




Oct 4, 2016

Why Organic...Isn't

Nobody wants to hear this. Perhaps that's why most in the media don't report it. And trust me, I know how frustrating it is to be a mom wanting to keep her family healthy only to discover everything she thought about healthy food is wrong. It's a bitter pill, but it's the truth: Organic produce often isn't. At least, not in the way you think it is.

I've long preached that store bought organic food isn't all that. But for some time now, I've been learning about disturbing trends in the organic world. Stuff that actually could be hurting your family's health.

Sometimes They Lie

When I was researching my ebook Grow the Dirty Dozen, I learned there have been instances of farmers being caught using synthetic chemicals on their certified organic crops. For example, in 2011, the Pesticide Action Network discovered that a group of "organic" California farmers were dousing their strawberries with synthetic fumigants. Sometimes farmer's cheat. Imagine how many times they don't get caught.

In addition, as the New York Times pointed out in 2011, many seedlings and stock plants that are purchased and grown by organic farmers are exposed to loads of man made chemicals before they reach organic farms. Farmers know they aren't purchasing organic stock, and they continue to buy conventionally grown seedlings because they think they are less likely to become diseased. Still, there you have it: Your supposedly organic food that's actually been exposed to man made chemicals.

Sometimes Natural Isn't Best

But perhaps a bigger problem among organic farmers is that their produce is sprayed with natural chemicals. That's right. One can safely say that all the organic produce in your grocery store is sprayed. It's only considered organic because those sprays are considered natural.

Here's the problem, though, Not everything that's natural is safe for human consumption.

For example, a common "organic" spray called rotenone-pyrethrin is linked to Parkinson's disease. (And it's a well known fish-killer, too.)

It gets worse.



Conventional, non-organic lettuce, for example, is sprayed once or twice during its lifetime - only when the farmer thinks it's needed, since sprays are expensive. On the other hand, organic lettuce might be sprayed 5 - 10 times with a natural, organic spray like rotenone-pyrethrin. Why? Farmers often “have to use a lot of the natural pesticides because they break down faster,” says Linda Chalker-Scott, a professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Washington State University. “One of the benefits of some of the more traditional synthetic pesticides is that they have been manufactured to be more effective at lower doses.”

The USDA has tested such lettuce and found that pesticides are 10 times (or more) prevalent on the organic lettuce than on conventionally grown lettuce. Many other studies show similar results on other types of produce.

And let's remember why farmer's use pesticides: to kill insects. Pesticides are poison, and some of the same poisons that kill insects have the potential to do harm to humans, too. And, it seems, many organic pesticides are rated with a higher level of concern by the EPA than many synthetic pesticides. (See chart here.)

They Linger

Here's another problem with organic produce. According to Science Daily, "an undergraduate chemistry student, in a...small-scale study, recently screened veggies for a number of banned pesticides and made an interesting discovery: The chemicals showed up on both conventionally grown and organic veggies—in roughly comparable amounts. In fact, organic carrots had higher amounts of some chemicals than the conventional vegetables did." Other studies support these findings.

Turns out, many banned chemicals stay in the soil. Some for many decades. Yet the USDA calls a farm organic if it's been synthetic-free for only three years. And so supposedly "organic" produce may contain synthetic chemicals.


What to Do?

I know; it's depressing. All you want is to feed your family food that's grown the way God intended. But the truth is, as long as we embraced mega farms and mono crops, farmers are going to have to spray our food. So what can you do?

First and foremost, I recommend avoiding grocery store produce; the produce found there is most likely sprayed with something.

In an ideal world, you would grow all your own produce. That way, you'd know exactly what's been put on it. If you don't already, I strongly recommend that you grow what you can - even if that means merely growing a few pots of lettuce on your porch.

For the produce you can't purchase, seek out local farmers at farm stands and markets. But just don't buy blindly. For one thing, a lot of local farmer's produce isn't organic. For another, you'll want to ask the farmer about his or her farming practices. Has her farm always been organic? If not, how long has it been organic? Does she use organic pesticides? How often does she use them? All this, asked in a polite way, is valuable information any decent farmer should be willing to share.

Finally, some of you are probably wondering if you should bother to buy organic at all. Sometimes I wonder this, too! But here's at least one reason to stick with organic: Only organic produce is 100% guaranteed not be GMO.


Photos courtesy of macor / 123RF Stock Photo


Jul 25, 2016

Sorting the Fruit Harvest - An Easy, Practical Method to Avoid Waste

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

When you buy fruit, even in bulk, the sorting has already been done for you. You just pick the fruit
that looks freshest, pay, and you're done. But when you have even one fruit tree, you'll soon discover you need to put a little more thought into gathering fruit. The method doesn't have to be complicated or terribly time consuming, but if you sort your fruit, you'll waste a lot less of it, and preserving it through freezing, dehydrating, canning, or cold storage will be much easier. Here's how I go about sorting our fruit.

Step 1: Windfall

When I gather the harvest, I always look for windfall fruit first; this prevents me from stepping on it and making it inedible. ("Windfall" just means fruit that has fallen to the ground due to wind or ripeness.) Some windfall fruit is too rotten or squashed to do anything with; I leave that on the ground for the critters and the soil. If you prefer, you can compost it. But if you gather windfall fruit every day, you'll find much of it is still useful. Don't worry if it has some bruised spots, bird "bites", or other less than pretty parts. You will cut those parts away later. I like to put all the windfall fruit into a separate bucket or bowl. (And, by the way, collecting windfall fruit is an excellent job for kids!)



Step 2: Harvest the Tree

Next, I like to gather everything I can reach by hand, then use our fruit picker for the rest. If you want, you can try to sort the fruit as you pick, putting the very ripe (its-gonna-be-bad-tomorrow) fruit in one bucket and the rest of the ripe fruit in another. I prefer to get all the picking done without sorting, so I put all the picked fruit into one bucket (or more, as the size of the harvest dictates).

Step 3: Check the Ground Again

Often as I pick fruit, more fruit falls from the tree, so after harvesting the tree, I look around on the ground again for good fruit and place it in my harvesting bucket(s).
Sorting a plum harvest.

Step 4. Final Sort

When I bring the fruit indoors, I put the windfall fruit aside and separate the fruit that's super ripe (its-gonna-be-bad-tomorrow) from the rest of the ripe fruit.


Ta-da! I'm done sorting!






What to Do With Sorted Fruit

Super ripe (its-gonna-be-bad-tomorrow) fruit: Eat it within hours; or prepare it that day in a dish (like cobbler or pie); or preserve it. Super ripe fruit is, in my opinion, best preserved by making jam or maybe pie filling. However, I usually freeze the fruit whole and make jam or filling when I'm not so overwhelmed with preserving the rest of the harvest.

Windfall fruit: This type of fruit often has bruising, so it's also good for jam, pie filling, or (in the case of apples) applesauce. Or, eat it within hours of picking off the ground.

Ripe fruit: Eat fresh, whenever possible. I recommend sorting through the ripe fruit every day, to look for fruit that is getting super ripe. Always eat this fruit first, or freeze it, or preserve it in some other way so it doesn't get wasted. Ripe fruit is also excellent for dehydrating; canning whole, halves, or in slices; or freezing in slices.

A Note About Harvest Abundance 

Recently, a reader commented that I should give much of my fruit to charity. We do give away some of our harvest, but we also think long term about our family's needs. Many Americans think only about the food needed for today or tomorrow - or maybe for the next two weeks. But homesteading philosophy dictates we think ahead at least a year. So yes, we have too much fruit for our family today, but we don't have too much fruit if we think in terms of the year. The reason I preserve so much while the harvest is ripe in the summer is that this food will be our fruit when fruit is no longer in season. This way, we aren't encouraging the modern idea that food should be shipped or trucked thousands of miles to us, and we know we can always have healthy fruit that hasn't been sprayed with chemicals or canned with unwholesome ingredients.

May 4, 2016

How to Make Popcorn Without a Microwave

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 At my house, popcorn is it's own food group. My picky eater will eat it every time. My always-starving boy finds it a filling, inexpensive snack. And I love that popcorn satisfies my crunchy, salty cravings without bad fats or gluten. Normally, I like to DIY air pop our popcorn in the microwave, but once we move into our tiny house motor home, I won't be able to do that. (The microwave/convection oven combo in the coach specifically comes with a warning not to. And you do know that store bought microwave popcorn not only has unhealthy fats, but the chemicals in the bag are known to cause cancer, right?) So I'll be popping our popcorn on the stove.


If you've always had microwave popcorn, you may be totally unaware that it's just as easy to make popcorn on the stove top using an ordinary pan with a lid - or, if you prefer, a whirly-popper. Some people actually prefer stove top methods, and I admit, the popcorn does seem to have more flavor when made this way.

How to Make Popcorn with an Ordinary Pot

What You'll Need:

about 3 tablespoons oil (I use olive oil, but I know people who love their popcorn made with coconut oil)
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
3 qt. pan with a lid (a heavier pan works best)
Sea salt
Butter (optional)

How to do It:

1. Place the pan over medium high heat and add the oil. (If using coconut oil, allow it to melt completely.)

2. Put about 3 kernels of popcorn into the pan. Put the lid on the pan.

3. When the kernels pop, add the remaining popcorn kernels. Put the lid on the pan and remove the pan from the burner for 30 seconds.

4. Put the pan back on the stove. Once the kernels start popping, shake the pan back and forth on the burner. (This helps prevent burning.) Keep the lid ajar just a little, to allow steam to escape.

5. When the popping slows down to one pop every two or three seconds, remove the pan from the stove. Remove the lid and pour the popcorn into a bowl.

6. If desired, drizzle melted butter over the popcorn. (I don't do this.) Season with salt.


Making Popcorn with a Whirly-Popper

I grew up making popcorn in an ordinary pan, but just recently, I found a whirly-popper at a church rummage sale. It was 75 cents. It came home with me. And I have to say, we love it! I think it does a better job than the pan method, and is a bit easier, too. You don't have to shake the pan or try to keep the lid ajar. Here's how you do it:*

1. Pour about 3 tablespoons of oil into the popper. Place the pan on the stove over medium high heat. (If using coconut oil, wait until it's totally melted before proceeding to the next step.)

2. Add 1/2 cup popcorn kernels. Shut the lid.

3. Slowly rotate the handle on the popper. In about 5 seconds, the handle should make a full rotation. This stirs the kernels and prevents burning.

4. The kernels will start popping. Keep turning the handle. Once you feel resistance when turning the handle, stop and remove the popper from the stove.

5. Pour the popcorn into a bowl. If desired, drizzle with butter. (Again, I don't do this.) Season with salt.

So, so, SO good!

* Always follow the manufacturer's directions, which might vary a bit from these steps.