Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Farmer Brown Went to Town

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Cream of the Crop…Veggies

Now that we’ve taken a look at which fruits you should be buying in organic form, let’s consider veggies.

The following veggies are ones that you really should be buying in organic form…

 

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Celery

More than 95% percent of the celery sampled by the EWG contained up to 13 chemicals….so this is another vegetable that you should buy as organic.

 

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Corn

Even though the EWG considers to be a low-pesticide crop and tests have shown that less than 2% of sweet corn has any pesticide residue, you really should consider buying organic corn.

Why?

Because much of the corn grown here in the United States is produced from seeds that have been genetically modified….and many of us are trying to avoid foods that contain GMOs…and even the USDA doesn’t consider foods that are grown from GMO seeds to be classified as organic.

 

 

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Collard Greens

Collard greens, even though considered on the hardier vegetables, contain high levels of pesticides.

 

 

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Cucumbers

Cucumbers rank among the list of the top ten vegetables that are grown with the highest amount of pesticides.

Not only that, most cucumbers sold in grocery stores have had synthetic waxes applies on their skins—kinda like apples—and this wax, even though it is applied to preserve moisture, often contains a large number of pesticides.

So always buy organic cucumbers…or at least take the time to peel them before using.

 

 

 

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Hot Peppers

Hot peppers, or simply peppers in general, are always best to buy in organic form because they all have been shown to have high levels of pesticides.

 

 

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Kale

Over 92% of conventional kale samples tested positive for two or more pesticide residues…some containing over eighteen different pesticide residues.

A major pesticide to be concerned about when considering whether or not to buy organic kale is the fact that it has been shown to contain DCPA (Dacthal), a substance that has been banned in Europe for at least ten years and is classified as a potential human carcinogen by the EPA.

Sixty percent of these samples tested had traces of this particular pesticide.

 

 

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Potatoes

You would think that potatoes would be hardy enough not to have to buy in organic form, but nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, conventional potatoes have been shown to have more pesticides than any other crop. since they require nutrient-rich soil and are often grown with artificial fertilizers.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Organic or Not…Here I Come

While two of my main goals lately have been to start eating healthier and to stop eating so much processed food, I also don’t want to blow my budget.

And when looking at my budget, one of my major expenses is Groceries.

And as if I wasn’t already forking over enough money on groceries, now that we’re trying to get healthier, I’m expected to spend even more by buying only organic products, right?

 

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What does organic even mean?

We’ve all been taught that buying organic foods is important. Buying organic can protect you and your family from any pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, toxins, antibiotics and other chemicals  used during the growing practices.

But what does “organic” really mean?

Although what’s considered “organic” varies from country to country, it’s typically required that In order for a food to be considered organic, it must be produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), sewage sludge and ionizing radiation.

 

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What does being classified as “organic” require?

Let’s look at a few of the requirements necessary for products to be  considered “certified organic.”

In order for animal products to be classified as organic, the animals cannot take antibiotics or growth hormones, must be fed only organic feed, must spend time outdoors and must have enough space to live comfortably.

Multi-ingredient foods, such as packaged and jarred foods, must contain 95% organic ingredients.

 

 

 

 

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But buying organic can be SO expensive.

Thankfully everything that you put into your cart doesn’t necessarily have to be organic.

There are foods that you should always buy “organic” and other foods you can save money on buying the other stuff.

And thankfully someone else has done this homework for you.

Each year the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization,..working with three organizations—the United States Department of Agriculture, the USDA’s Pesticide Testing Program, and the Food and Drug Administration…conducts tests to determine what are known as the “Clean Fifteen,” a list of the fifteen fruits and vegetables containing the least traces of pesticides, and the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of the twelve fruits and vegetables contain the most. These tests are known as the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

 

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Let’s Go Shopping

Now that we know…thank goodness…that buying organic is not required all across the board…and that someone else has already compiled this list for you, let’s take a look at which items you absolutely should be buying organic and which items you can get by without going organic…so that you can prioritize your shopping and still have the peace of mind that you’re limiting your family’s pesticide exposure…. hopefully saving us all some green when buying our greens.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Great Advice for Buying Grapes

When shopping for grapes, there are three questions that you should ask yourself…

  • 1.  Are the grapes organic?
  • 2.  Are the grapes fully ripe? How can I tell?
  • 3.  What color are the grapes? What’s the difference?

 

 

 

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1.  Are the grapes organic?

One of my goals in adopting a healthier lifestyle and learning how to take care of my newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetic husband is has been to stop eating so much processed foods…

I am slowly realizing that paying the little bit more for organic produce is almost like paying for a more premium grade of gas whenever at the gas pump…you may not be able to tell the difference now…but once the differences start showing up, oh my, my!!!

Buying organic foods lessen your likelihood of exposure to contaminants—such as pesticides and heavy metals.

When shopping for produce and other products that are organic, look for the USDA organic logo.

 

 

 

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2.  Are the grapes fully ripe? How can I tell?

Fully ripened grapes taste the best and have the highest concentration of antioxidants. You can tell if grapes are fully ripe or not by checking to see if the grapes are…

  • firmly attached to a healthy looking stem
  • free from wrinkles
  • intact
  • not leaking juice
  • plump

 

 

 

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3.  What color are the grapes? What’s the difference?

The color of the grape is important for two reasons—first of all, the taste…and then, the antioxidant content.

As far as taste,

  • blue-black grapes are the least sweet…these grapes should be deep and rich in color
  • green grapes are medium sweet…look for green grapes that have a slight yellowish hue
  • red grapes are very sweet…these grapes should be mostly red
  • As far as antioxidants, choose red grapes.

Be sure that the area around the attachment is the same color as the rest of the grape.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Fish…The What

  1. Fish is another food high in antioxidants and other nutritional value, but it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed at the fish counter.

    You want to buy the tastiest, healthiest, and most sustainable choice…but truth is, they all look the same to the normal grocery shopper, right?!

    First we’re going to take a look at the types of fish typically found in a large grocery store.

    Then we’re going to look at the nutritional value of fish.

    And finally some recipes to make with each option…

    So let’s get started…

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    Catfish
    Being from Mississippi, I grew up eating catfish at least twice a month…since most of the catfish sold in the United States are farmed in the Mississippi Delta.
    But this was typically “wild” catfish, which often has a more muddy and stronger flavor than farmed catfish.
    Best for…sautéing or frying

     

     

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    Cod

    Cod has a mild flavor, making it great for a variety of cooking methods—such as sautéing, poaching, steaming, and baking.

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    Haddock
    Haddock…firm, mild flesh that is especially popular in Scotland….and is best for frying and deep frying—(fish n chips, go figure)…

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Halibut

Halibut is typically cut into filets that are firm, meaty, and mild with a low fat content….best for baking.

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Salmon

There are two different types of salmon—Atlantic and Pacific. You will usually find Atlantic salmon at your local grocery store because it is farmed and is available year-round. Atlantic salmon has a meaty texture and mild flavor that is best for grilling, roasting, or broiling.

Pacific salmon—such as sockeye or king salmon—are caught in the wild….making fresh Pacific salmon only available between late spring and early fall (although frozen can be found year-round). Pacific salmon has a stronger flavor than Atlantic salmon and is best for grilling, broiling, or roasting.

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Snapper

Typically you will only find red snapper when you are shopping for snapper…even though there are many different types of snapper that have not been recognized by the FDA.

Snapper can be served either whole or as filets. Be careful when ordering snapper at a restaurant, it will probably be served tail and perhaps head in tow.

Snapper is best for roasting or grilling.

 

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Swordfish

Fresh swordfish is available fresh and typically sold in steaks. It has a slightly sweet flavor and meaty texture that is best for grilling.

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Tilapia

Tilapia has an oily texture and muddy flavor that is bland enough that even those who hate the taste of fish can endure.

Tilapia is best for baking, braising, or poaching.

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Tuna

Most of us have been eating canned tuna since we were born…so I really don’t feel a need to elaborate here.

But it was only recently that I cooked a tuna steak…and man, oh man…ditch the can…

Tuna steaks are typically cooked by either grilling or pan frying.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and just like any other neighborhood…and just like any other neighborhood, the produce bin neighborhood has several families.

Although these families are primarily designed for crop rotation, these families will be a great asset as we start discussing the fruits and vegetables segment of the Raw Foods Pyramid…

…and since we talked about broccoli as being a crucifer…(no, George Bush, not Lucifer….I thought that this might be a good time to go ahead and introduce you to the rest of crucifer’s tribe.

 

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 THE ASTERCEAS FAMILY

This, at least to me, seems to be the miscellaneous category where those vegetables do not belong to any other family all hang out…If you’re a farmer, and know differently, then tell me…but for the purpose of making vegetables in the Raw Foods Pyramid easier to categorize, I’m using this family for my “junk pile.”

Members of this family include…

  • artichokes
  • lettuce
  • tarragon

 

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CHENOPODIACEAE FAMILY

The chenopodiaceae family are typically plants without petals, such as…

  • beets
  • spinach
  • Swiss chard

 

 

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CRUCIFER FAMILY

The crucifer family consists of those vegetables with four petals arranged in a cross shape …with six stamens, including two smaller ones, such as…

  • arugula
  • Asian greens
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • Chinese cabbage
  • kale
  • kohlrabi
  • mustard greens
  • radishes
  • turnips
  • watercress

 

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CUCURBITACEAE FAMILY

The cucurbitaceae family, also known as the gourd family, includes those plants that typically run rampant, climb, or have spiral tendrils. Each of these plant produces their fruits on a long vine with seeds running through the center, usually protected by a hard rind.

This family not only has vegetables as members, but has also welcomed melons and some other large to join their gang…and includes…

  • cantaloupes
  • cucumbers
  • gourds
  • melons
  • pumpkins
  • squash
  • watermelon
  • zucchini

 

 

 

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FABACEAE FAMILY

The fabaceae family, also commonly known as legumes of pulses, includes…

  • beans—all beans…including fava beans, lentils, soybeans
  • peas
  • peanuts

 

 

 

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LAMIACEAE FAMILY

The lamiaceae family are those highly fragrant plants that are often used to make essential oils and herbal teas, such as…

  • lavender
  • lemon balm
  • marjoram
  • mint
  • oregano
  • sage
  • thyme

 

 

 

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LILIACEAE FAMILY

The liliaceae family includes plants with leaves that usually have vertical and very long leaves and flowers with six colorful petals, including…

  • asparagus
  • chives
  • garlic
  • leeks
  • onions
  • shallots
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    NIGHTSHADE FAMILY

The nightshade family includes…

  • eggplant
  • peppers, both sweet and hot peppers
  • potatoes,  but not sweet potatoes
  • tomatoes

 

 

 

 

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POACEAE FAMILY

This family consists of nearly 12,000 species of  “grasses” or grains that are so very important to our every diets, including…

    • barley
    • corn
    • rice
    • rye
    • wheat
    • A few examples: corn, rice, wheat, barley, oats, rye, and millet.

 

 

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ROSACEAE FAMILY

The Rosaceae family consists of herbaceous, woody plants with alternating leaves and pink flowers, such as…

  • apples
  • blackberries
  • cherries
  • pears
  • plums
  • raspberries
  • strawberries

 

 

 

 

 

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UMBELLIFERAE FAMILY

The umbelliferae family consists of those vegetables that produce the vcegetable part that we eat under the ground. Members of this family include…

  • carrots
  • parsley
  • dill
  • cilantro
  • fennel
  • celery
  • parsnips
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

What’s Next?

Everyone seems to be studying and talking about the “Kon Mari” method of organizijng your home…and “Tidying U” has become one of the most watched things on Netflix…

But why does this matter for those who are not obsessive-comulsive…

Actually there are several reasons to take the time, thought, and effort to organize your house, mainly the kitchen.

Let’s take a look at how arranging things and keeping them into order can be beneficial, mainly in the kitchen.

Ability to Actually Get Stuff Done…Taking the time and effort to organize your kitchen will help you complete whatever needs to be done while you are in your kitchen more effectively and efficiently.

Knowing where things are will save you from having to rummage through your drawers to a certain utensil or gazing blankly in your cabinets for that one ingredient lost in the sea of glass jars and bottles.

You will be able to get dinner on the table in so much less time, and this might even make cooking dinner less of a chore and more of something that you actually look forward to. 

Finances…The other day when I was making out my grocery list, I found twelve canisters of breadcrumbs and five bottles on Blue Cheese Salad Dressing. Sad but true..,

By taking the time to organize my kitchen, I should be able to money by knowing what ingredients I already have on hand and not buying duplicates of the same thing,

Home Design/Decorating…How many times have you thought as you cook how much bigger you wish your kitchen were, when all the time your current kitchen would be just the right size if it were only decluttered and well arranged. Taking the time to declutter and rearrange will give you more space as you cook.

The kitchen is the “hub of the home” and the one room that is used most often by friends and family…Organizing this “hub” will be a great first move to creating a more attractive and inviting home altogether.

Also if you take the time to clean and organize your kitchen, other family members will know where things should go and be able to put them where they belong.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Black Strap Molasses—The Why?!

Since I started this journey toward creating a healthier lifestyle for my family, I have begun actually looking at nutrition labels before chunking anything and everything into my grocery cart, especially processed foods. My goal has been to create a Master Grocery List based on what I have learned as I go along.

Just like I did in a previous post on why we should all be eating avocado, this post will highlight the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses in a way that corresponds to these labels.

For years blackstrap molasses has appeared on almost every list of superfoods and been sold on health food store shelves for its many health benefits—including relieving PMS symptoms, stabilizing blood sugar levels, improving bone health, treating symptoms of ADHD,  preventing blood clotting, relieving menstrual cramps, maintaining the health of uterine muscles, combatting stress and anxiety, boosting skin health, promoting the growth of healthy tissues, serving as a natural wound healer, and helping you maintain clear and healthy skin.

So let’s take a quick run-through of the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses based on the elements that make up the nutrition label before we all place blackstrap molasses on our Instacart grocery lists.

 

1. The Serving Size…Obviously blackstrap molasses is actually an ingredient or condiment, not an actual food in and of itself…so you can’t really say what a typical serving should be…but the following statistics are based on 100 grams, or about 1/2C.

 

2.  Calories…One hundred grams of blackstrap molasses contains 290 calories, making it a food with an “average” or moderate caloric content.

 

 

3. Basic Nutrients…Now as for those specific nutrients contained in blackstrap molasses—such as carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar—that all of us typically eat in adequate amounts….blackstrap molasses provides the following percentages of these recommended nutrients to your daily diet…

 

 

a.  Fats…Blackstrap molasses contains zero fat.

 

b. Protein…Unless a food item makes a claim regarding its protein content—such as being “high in protein” or is marketed specifically for infants and children under four years old, this nutrient is often now shown. This is not a big deal because studies show that most of us actually do get enough protein in our diets already…zero protein

 

c. Fiber…Blackstrap molasses contains no fiber.

 

4.  Vitamins and Minerals…Blackstrap molasses has been sold as a dietary supplement for years and finds its way on almost every “official” list of superfoods…because one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses provides up to  20% of the recommended daily value of many important nutrients—including iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B, and manganese.

 

a.  Iron…Blackstrap molasses contains 95% DV of iron per 1/4C. Not having enough iron in your red blood cells can make you feel tired, weak, crabby, lethargic, unmotivated, depressed, and anxious…definitely not something you want to be when you’re fifty years old chasing a “resident four year old.”

 

b.  Calcium…Blackstrap molasses contains a large amount of calcium, which is vital for maintaining strong and healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis.

 

c.  Copper...Copper is important for strengthening  your bones and blood vessels, keeping your nerves healthy, and boosting your immune system.

 

d. Magnesium…1/4C blackstrap molasses contains approximately 68% DV of magnesium. Adequate levels of magnesium are also crucial in preventing diseases like osteoporosis and asthma along with others that can affect your blood and heart

 

e.  PotassiumTwo teaspoons of blackstrap molasses contains 10% DV of potassium. Potassium important for strengthening bone density, helping your blood vessels and arteries to relax, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, cleansing your liver, keeping the body hydrated, and reducing your risk of circulatory problems—such as blood clotting, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes.

 

f.  Vitamin B6…1/4C of blackstrap molasses provides 34% DV of Vitamin B6. This is important for helping to fight and avoid many health conditions—including morning sickness, depression, fatigue, stress,

 

g.  Chromium…Blackstrap molasses also contains a high level of chromium—an essential nutrient involved in controlling insulin, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

 

Finally blackstrap molasses proves to be a great source of organic compounds—such as antioxidants, lactic acid, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

a. Antioxidants…Blackstrap molasses contains many antioxidants, substances that help neutralize the effects of free radicals that have been linked to various health conditions—including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, and cognitive disorders.

b.  Anti-inflammatory…The anti-inflammatory properties in blackstrap molasses are important for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

 

So does blackstrap molasses earn a spot in my grocery shopping app, or not?!

Definitely…Blackstrap molasses is definitely a more nutritious alternative to refined sugar.

Blackstrap molasses has a low glycemic index, which is very important for people with diabetes. Blackstrap molasses helps stabilize blood sugar levels, increases glucose tolerance, balance blood glucose levels, and give us stable energy.

Blackstrap molasses has also been proven to help treat the symptoms of ADD/ADHD…which is very important when you have a “resident four year old” to take care of.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sugar Ain’t So Sweet After All

Another problem with processed foods in that the main ingredient in most of this processed food is a whole lot of sugar. The typical American today consumes seven tablespoons of sugar a day in processed foods, more than half as much as thirty years ago.

Grocery store shelves are crammed with all sorts of foods that contain way too much sugar. Yeah, these foods—such as sugary snacks, refined grains, pizza, canned soup, fruit drinks, canned foods, and sweetened yogurt—might taste better than healthier choices…(no, not might taste better…most actually do).

But are the possible health risks of eating too much sugar really worth that moment of decadence.

For years, nutritional guidelines have focused on saturated fats and cholesterol, but perhaps this has been one huge mistake.

We have found that in order to meet consumer expectations as far as fat content, food companies have added more and more sugar in order to make their foods still taste good. Some of these foods get about 25 percent of their calories from added sugars.

In fact, at least forty percent of the money—more than $1 trillion annually—that we as Americans spend on  healthcare each year are spent treating diseases that are directly related to the overconsumption of sugar. The sugar epidemic in the United States has gotten to the point that the FDA has set an “official” recommendation that we should all be limiting our daily sugar intake to a no more than ten percent of our daily calories.

There are actually many health risks associated with eating too much added sugar. These include…

  • Cancer….Sugar is responsible for an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year.
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Obesity

And remember, just because the ingredient list on any food item that you might be looking at doesn’t actually contain the word “sugar,” there may be tons of sugar in that product anyway.

Food manufacturers like to avoid the taboo word “sugar” by listing ingredients such as…

  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated Cane Sugar
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
Getting Healthy

Fiber—The What?!

Another major nutrient that is missing from processed foods is fiber.

 

What is fiber?

Fiber is part of the cellular wall of  plant-based foods—specifically fruits, vegetables grains, nuts, and beans.

According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences in 2002, the recommended dietary for men aged fourteen to fifty is 38 grams of fiber per day, while women aged nineteen to fifty require 25 grams of fiber.

However, the typical American person on a typical American diet of primarily processed foods will not even come close to amounts.

Fiber comes in two varieties: insoluble and soluble.

Insoluble fiber is the bulky fiber that does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.

Soluble fiber does dissolves in water and helps control blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. Good sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits—such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears. Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Note that there is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar.