Starting in January 2023, Your Nutrition Partner will drop into your mailbox once a month. I will continue to write about achieving good health through diet and thoughtful lifestyle choices.
Remember some of my favorite practices while I am away:
Eat The Rainbow AND Make Sure That It Is Organic!
For most of human history, all agriculture was pesticide-free. This changed dramatically after WWII, when companies that produced chemical weapons for the war began to sell their toxins like nerve gas to farmers to kill off weevils, wireworms and other agricultural pests.
By the 1950’s American farmers were regularly spraying their crops with DDT. We now know that DDT is an endocrine disruptor and carcinogen.
In the 1970’s, Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, revealed the harmful side effects of DDT in humans and wildlife. The public’s outrage at learning of this lead to a nationwide ban on its use in agriculture in 1972. But, by then, scientists had already developed whole new classes of chemicals to spray on produce.
Today, more than 5 BILLION pounds of pesticides are used in farming each year. Unfortunately, a quarter of it is used in the United States.
Pesticides are neurotoxic and carcinogenic. A large meta-analysis in the journal Neurotoxicology found that chronic exposure to some common pesticides significantly increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Studies in adults and children have also linked pesticide exposure to kidney, pancreatic, prostrate, breast, and stomach cancers.
In a 2005 report, the Environmental Working Group found DDT in the umbilical cords of babies before they even took their first breath. These toxic chemicals stick around!
You can greatly lower your exposure by buying organic. A 2015 study funded by the EPA found that consumers who often or always bought organic had significantly less insecticides in their urine. This was even though these people who are buying organic typically eat 70% more produce than people who bought only conventionally grown fruits and veggies.
Drink Plenty Of Water NOT From Plastic Containers
The Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests 3 million fewer people in the U.S. would develop degenerative diseases if they improved hydration throughout life. In one part of the study, researchers analyzed data from 15,792 adults, using serum sodium concentration as a measure of hydration status and lifelong hydration. Humans with less-than-optimal hydration status had increased inflammation and other factors associated with degenerative diseases, including cognitive impairment, dementia, heart failure and chronic lung disease. High blood pressure and diabetes were also associated with hydration status.
Your body needs water for blood circulation, metabolism, regulation of body temperature and waste removal. If you’re dehydrated, even mildly, your mood and cognitive function may suffer. In a study of 25 women, those who suffered from 1.36% dehydration experienced worsened mood, irritability, headaches and lower concentration and perceived tasks to be more difficult.
The 1# risk factor for kidney stones is also not drinking enough water, and there is research showing that high fluid intake is linked to a lower risk of certain types of cancer, such as bladder and colorectal.
Even the risk of fatal coronary heart disease has been linked to water intake, with women who drank five or more glasses of water per day reducing their risk by 41% compared to women who drank less. Men reduced their risk by 54%.
Drink from a glass or stainless steel container. A single plastic bottle will take 1000 years to disintegrate.
According to the Water Project, plastic bottles are overflowing landfills around the world. In the USA there are 2 million tons of discarded water bottles alone. On top of that, 80% of single use bottles ended up on the streets and in nature becoming “litter”.
A test by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed that ten bottled water brands in the USA contained more than 30 contaminants. Among the chemicals found was caffeine, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and minerals including arsenic and radioactive isotopes, fertilizer residue and a broad range of industrial chemicals.
Unlike public tap water, bottled water companies aren’t required to notify their customers of the presence of contaminants in the water. Despite the bad quality of plastic bottled water and the presence of toxins, the average price is 1,900 times more than the cost of a gallon of public tap water.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can get into what we drink and eat from plastic containers. This is especially common with plastic water bottles, which can leach even more chemicals when they sit in a hot car before being consumed or when they are used more than once.
Plastics or cans labeled “BPA-free” claim they are safe. Unfortunately, BPA alternatives like BPS have also been found to be harmful.
Regular physical activity is crucial to our overall health. If you have a sedentary job that doesn’t require you to saw, mow, knead, scrub, walk, bike, carry groceries or kids, dance, or run, you need to make time to take the stairs when you can, work in your garden after work, (or shovel snow in the winter), and get your heart rate elevated.
Do something that engages the cardiovascular system by increasing and sustaining an elevated heart rate. This will cause you to breath harder and increase your oxygen intake. Regular cardio activities can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and help to maintain a healthy body weight.
Weight bearing exercises (if you are not carrying kids and groceries) are essential for bone health and maintaining muscle mass. You do not have to use weights. (Cans of food, jugs of water, or books can all be stand-ins for weights.) Push-ups and squats can be modified to ability. Ask a professional to teach you proper form and devise a program that is safe and personalized. Increased lean muscle mass doesn’t have to mean “big” muscles. Well-used muscles raise metabolism and increase calories burned. Working major muscle groups can help with stability for everyone, not just older adults.
Wear Sunscreen And Sunglasses
After the 15-30 minutes required in the sun (without sunblock) for our bodies to make and store Vitamin D, we need to protect ourselves from the harmful overexposure.
Chemical sunscreens don’t sit on the surface of the skin – they soak into it and quickly find their way into the bloodstream. They scatter all over the body without being detoxified by the liver and can be detected in blood, urine, and breast milk for up to two days after a single application. That would be just fine if they were uniformly safe – but they’re not.
Identifying a Safe Sunscreen:
- The two known safe sunscreen ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and they must be NON-nano-sized.
- The safest is a lotion or cream with zinc oxide. It is stable in sunlight and provides the best protection from UVA rays.
- The next best option is titanium dioxide. Make sure that the product will protect from both UVA and UVB rays.
- SPF protects only from UVB rays. These are the rays within the ultraviolet spectrum that allow your skin to produce vitamin D. The most dangerous rays are UVA. These are the ones that cause cancer and skin damage.
- SPF above 50 tends to provide a false sense of security, encouraging you to staying in the sun too long.
- Higher the SPF does not provide much greater protection. In fact, Consumer Reports found that many sunscreens are far less effective than claimed on the label – 24 of 73 products evaluated offered less than half the protection promised.
The FDA has an acronym for “generally recognized as safe and effective’ – Grase. “Grase” sunscreen products are mineral blockers that sit on top of the skin to physically block the sun’s rays instead of protecting the skin through a chemical reaction to light.
Your sunglasses should block out 99-100% of the UV rays. Remember that if you wear darkened lenses, the pupil opens more to let in more light. If your sunglasses aren’t rated to block UV rays, you might let even more UV rays into the back of your eyes.
Price also doesn’t matter; inexpensive sunglasses do the same job as the expensive brands. Look for a sticker or tag advertising UV protection. Polarization has nothing to do with UV protection. It reduces glare at the beach, in the snow, or out on the water. But they don’t take the place of UV protection. You might see better through them when there’s tons of light around. But they can make it harder to see things like computer screens, smartphones, or dashboards. The size of the lenses does make a difference. The bigger the better!
Get Plenty Of Sleep
- Mood – A solid 7-8 hours of sleep allow your brain time to process your emotions.
- Your Heart – Your blood pressure drops when you sleep, giving your heart a much-needed rest. The less sleep you get, the longer your blood pressure stays elevated.
- Your Immune System – The immune cells of a well-rested body are better equipped to present a healthy response when faced with immune challenges.
- Your Muscles – If you workout hard, you need to give your muscles time to adequately repair. Otherwise, you probably will wake up with sore muscles aching for a day off.
- Your Diet – It is easier to say “no” to sweets when you are saying “yes” to a healthy sleep regime. When you are not getting enough restorative rest, you are more likely to be swayed by the hormones that control your appetite.
- Your Brain – A well-rested brain is better at learning and remembering than one that needs a break. It is simply harder to think clearly when you are tired.
Nutmeg is a spice made from the seed of the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrant), a native Indonesian evergreen tree that is the source of two popular spices: nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is the inner seed, while mace is the red, lace-like substance that covers the seed. Nutmeg is frequently found in desserts and beverages. It can also be used in savory dishes, such as butternut squash soup.
To make nutmeg for seasoning, the nutmeg seeds are dried gradually in the sun over a period of six to eight weeks. During this time, the nutmeg shrinks away from its hard seed coat. The spice is ready when the kernels rattle in their shells when shaken. It is separated from the outer coat (the mace) and sold whole or ground up and packaged.
Nutmeg has a very interesting history, dating all the way back to the 1st century A.D. It was a treasured spice, considered high currency for trade, and was even the cause of war; the Dutch conquested the Banda Islands, which ended in a massacre, to monopolize the nutmeg trade. This resulted in the establishment of the Dutch East India Company, an amalgamation of several Dutch trading companies.
Nutmeg and mace come from the same tree but do differ from each other. The mace, which is the outer coating of the nutmeg seed, is removed first and ground into a red-colored spice, while the nutmeg pit or seed can either be kept whole or ground up. Nutmeg has a milder taste compared to mace and is sweeter and more delicate; mace is a little spicier and can be described as a combination of pepper and cinnamon. Even though they grow as one, they are rarely used together in a recipe.
Nutmeg is rich in antioxidants, including plant pigments like cyanidins. It has the essential oils phenylpropanoids and terpenes, plant pigments, and phenolic compounds, including protocatechuic, ferulic, and caffeic acids. Test-tube studies have also shown that nutmeg extract exhibits powerful antioxidant effects against free radicals.
Nutmeg is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds called monoterpenes, including sabinene, terpineol, and pinene. These may help reduce inflammation in your body. Nutmeg reduces inflammation by inhibiting enzymes that promote it.
Test-tube studies show that nutmeg has antibacterial effects against potentially harmful bacteria, including E. coli and Streptococcus mutans. A test-tube study found that nutmeg extract demonstrated powerful antibacterial effects against these and other bacteria, including Porphyromonas gingivalis. These bacteria are known to cause cavities and gum inflammation.
According to animal research, nutmeg may help boost mood, enhance blood sugar control, and reduce risk factors for heart disease.
Photo Credit: The Spruce / Anatasia Tretiak
How to Buy
Nutmeg can be purchased as the whole seed or ground in a container. Grating the seed directly into a recipe will impart a fresher, cleaner taste than using store-bought ground nutmeg. Whole nutmeg is approximately the size of an apricot pit and will last a very long time while pre-ground nutmeg has a shorter shelf life.
Ground nutmeg is easily found in the spice section of the grocery store. It has been milled into a rough powder form. It looses its aroma quickly. For this reason, ground nutmeg is generally sold in very small quantities. Whole nutmeg can be found in well-stocked supermarkets, gourmet shops, and online.
How to Store
Store ground nutmeg in an air-tight container away from heat, light, and moisture. When stored properly, ground nutmeg will retain its freshness for approximately six months.
Whole nutmeg will stay fresh indefinitely, but should always be stored away from heat and moisture. If you use nutmeg only occasionally, buying whole nutmeg is the best option because each time it is grated it will provide fresh, fragrant, and flavorful spice.
How to Cook
Nutmeg can be used whole and grated directly into a recipe or measured or shaken from a canister of pre-ground nutmeg. To use whole nutmeg, you will need a microplane or nutmeg grater to shave off a small portion of the seed.
Nutmeg is also an ingredient in different spice blends, such as pumpkin pie spice, ras el hanout, and garam masala. It is also sprinkled over a variety of hot beverages like cappuccino.
Spicy Nutmeg Cookies
KindEARTH/ Anastasia Eden
- 1¼ cups oats
- 3 tablespoons ground almonds
- 3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
- 2 heaped tablespoons raisins
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ small ripe banana
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Measure all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
- Mash the banana, add to the bowl and then mix in roughly.
- Make a small well in the middle of your ingredients; add all the wet ingredients into the well and then mix everything together thoroughly. Use the back of a metal spoon to press down and press into the mixture to help the ingredients combine. Be sure that everything is thoroughly mixed, with no lumps of banana or tahini.
- Shape into golf ball sized balls and then gently flatten into cookie shapes about a ½ to ¾ of an inch thick and carefully place on an oiled baking tray (I use parchment paper). If the cookies crumble while shaping, then just compress them more firmly between your hands.
- Bake in an oven pre-heated 375F for about 15 minutes or until the tops are a very light tan.
- Once baked, carefully place onto a cooling tray and allow to cool before serving. They will crumble if you do not let them cool.