kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

In May of 2019, I wrote the blog, Household Cleaning Products, where I guided you away from toxic supplies to healthier alternatives. There is no need to add back into your house toxic sprays, wipes, scrubs or polishes even during the coronavirus outbreak.

“There are many bad things about the coronavirus, but there is one good thing: It is not very hardy,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an expert on infectious diseases and a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health.

Catherine Roberts, associate health editor at Consumer Reports suggests that you focus on faucet handles, doorknobs, stair rails and countertops. Best practice is to disinfect these surfaces several times a day. Roberts suggests making a checklist of all the places you want to clean, so you don’t forget any of them. But commercial disinfecting products contain “pretty serious chemicals,” she warned. “They’re actually EPA registered pesticides…”.

Soap and water works the best. The soap removes the viral particles that have attached themselves to surfaces – that is to your hands, face or countertops – and suspends them in the water, so they can be washed away. Use the soap you have at home now. Any dish or hand cleaning soap or all-purpose household cleaner from Clearly Clean, Restore the Earth, Seventh Generation, or Earth Friendly will perform the job well. I have a spray bottle with Thieves Household Cleaner, a splash of vinegar, water and 20-30 drops of a combination of lemon oil and Thieves oil from Young Living. I spray everything from my keys to the counters, doorknobs, and faucets with it many times a day.

Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist and a member of the American Chemical Society, said most of the cleaning products we call soap are actually detergents that not only remove the germs from surfaces, but also kill them.

“The virus has an outside coating, and the stuff inside — DNA or RNA — is what actually causes the disease. It’s kind of like the casing on a bomb or torpedo,” Sachleben explained. “For a virus, that coating is a protein, and the soap or detergent break up that coating, so the virus spills its guts and falls apart.”

Hydrogen peroxide is as strong as bleach but breaks down harmlessly. 

When you look at the chemical makeup of hydrogen peroxide, it is pretty much water with an oxygen atom making it H2O2 rather than H2O. Hydrogen peroxide is active against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and spores. Cleaners that contain hydrogen peroxide are recommended for killing viruses and pathogens such as those that cause the flu, H1N1 and oral streptococci. The Centers for Disease Control says 3% hydrogen peroxide “is a stable and effective disinfectant when used on inanimate surfaces.” Research has also found it to be effective in disinfecting fabrics used in hospitals such as bed sheets and surgical equipment.

You might run across an alternative, accelerated hydrogen peroxide (AHP), sold under the brand name Rescue and some others. Compared to pharmaceutical grade 3% hydrogen peroxide, AHP works much faster, so you don’t need to wet the surface for as long. AHP can kill viruses in as little as 30 seconds. This is harder to find and the 3% does the same job.

Hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning places that store food and dishes. Just spray the appliance outside and in, let the solution sit for a few minutes, then wipe clean. Hydrogen peroxide loses it’s oomph quickly when it’s exposed to air or sunlight, so keep it in the brown bottle it came in until you’re ready to use it.

Using peroxide is easy:

  1. Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the spray bottle or screw a spray top onto the bottle it comes in.
  2. Spray down the hard surfaces in your bathroom, kitchen, living room and bedrooms you are trying to disinfect (tubs/showers, trashcans, doorknobs, toilets, sinks, etc.).
  3. Allow the solution to bubble on the surface for 5 or so minutes.
  4. Wipe off.

To clean and disinfect your floors:

  1. Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water in a bucket.
  2. Mop as usual.
  3. Let dry.

It is important to remember that hydrogen peroxide has bleaching qualities. Therefore, you’ll want to test it on colored and wood floors before using it.

In addition to spraying on surfaces, you can create a disinfecting soak of 3% hydrogen peroxide.

  1. Fill a cup or bucket with hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Soak your thermometers (only the tips of digital ones), children’s toys, toothbrushes, retainers, etc., for 10 to 20 minutes.
  3. Dry and use as usual.

While hydrogen peroxide works great on its own, you can mix it with other household items to enhance it’s cleaning power and give it a scent. To make fresh-smelling cleaners, follow this recipe:

  1. Mix 1 cup of peroxide and 2 cups of distilled water in a spray bottle.
  2. Add 10 drops of lemon essential oil or 2 teaspoon of lemon juice. You can also try Thieves from Young Living, or use lavender or tea tree oils.
  3. Shake to mix.
  4. Clean as usual.

Not only does the oil add a fresh scent to the cleaner, but the acid in lemon can also help to break down scum and grim for bathtub or toilet cleaning. Lemon oil is antimicrobial. Tea tree oil has powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a fantastic natural remedy and safe cleaner. Lavender oil is antibacterial and Thieves essential oil is supposed to help keep you from getting sick by killing germs. Packed with powerful, germ-killing essential oils, the Thieves line helps eliminate airborne bacteria and boost the immune system. (Thieves (Young Living) line has the essential oil, a household cleaner, a hand spray and wipes, toothpaste, body soap, fruit and veggie soak and much more.)

Hydrogen peroxide isn’t just for wiping down surfaces, you can use it on fabrics too. However, before you start spraying it on colored fabrics, which it can bleach, remember to test an area. Use hydrogen peroxide to:

  • Remove stains from clothes and furniture. Just spray it on the area and blot.
  • Add 1 cup to a load of diapers to disinfect, deodorize, and whiten them.
  • Put a cup in with your whites to disinfect and brighten them.

Cleaning with hydrogen peroxide has several advantages. The most important one is that it is safe to clean with since it is a non-toxic substance. It won’t hurt the environment or cause pollution, yet it is a strong disinfectant. Therefore, you can use it to clean your child’s clothes and a dog’s bed.

Peroxide has a lot of cleaning and disinfecting benefits and is safe alone. However, it is important to be careful about what you mix peroxide with. For example, both peroxide and bleach along with peroxide and white vinegar should not be mixed together in the same bottle. This is due to the adverse reactions that the mixture creates. You can, however, use vinegar then follow up with peroxide for extra disinfecting action. For example, vinegar followed by peroxide can be a powerful germ-fighting duo for your sink or toilet.

  1. Place the vinegar in a spray bottle and add a spray nozzle to a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Clean the area first thoroughly with soap and water, and then spray the surface with either vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and wait five minutes, then wipe clean with a cloth.
  3. Then repeat this process with whichever one you did not use first.

The only caution that you’ll need to take with hydrogen peroxide on hard surfaces is your countertops. If they are made of marble or granite, using hydrogen peroxide once in a while is okay but not for continual use. This is because it is slightly acidic and can break down the finish. Additionally, it does have bleaching agents and can cause discoloring.

Because of hydrogen peroxide’s chemical qualities, there are some surfaces and materials that will be damaged by hydrogen peroxide. Do not use hydrogen peroxide on anything made of:

  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Copper
  • Galvanized steel
  • Natural stone
  • Plastic that is porous
  • Rubber
  • Silver
  • Wood
  • Zinc

It’s also important to test out a bit of hydrogen peroxide on a surface first if you have concerns. It has been known to discolor some surfaces, even ones that it is safe on, so it’s best to do a quick test before applying it all over.

Onion

Onions belong to the Allium family of plants, which also includes chives, garlic, and leeks. These vegetables have characteristic pungent flavors. The medicinal properties of onions have been recognized since ancient times, when they were used to treat ailments like headaches, heart disease and mouth sores.

Onions vary in size, shape, color, and flavor. The most common types are red, yellow, and white onions. The taste can range from sweet and juicy to sharp, spicy, and pungent.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, China is the biggest producer of onions worldwide.

Onions are nutrient-dense, meaning they’re low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals. One medium onion has just 44 calories with plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Onions are particularly high in vitamin C, a nutrient involved in regulating immune health, collagen production, tissue repair and iron absorption. Vitamin C also acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body, protecting your cells against damage caused by free radicals.

Onions are also rich in B vitamins, including folate (B9) and pyridoxine (B6) which play key roles in metabolism, red blood cell production and nerve function. Onions are also a good source of potassium.

Onions contain antioxidants and compounds that fight inflammation, decrease triglycerides and reduce cholesterol levels. In fact, they contain over 25 different varieties of flavonoid antioxidants. Recently, health researchers have noted a relationship between messaging molecules called oxylipins and high cholesterol management. A 2016 study in the journal Redox Biology found that consuming onions increases oxylipins that help regulate blood fat levels and levels of cholesterol.

Onions’ anti-inflammatory properties may also help reduce high blood pressure and protect against blood clots. Quercetin is a flavonoid antioxidant that’s highly concentrated in onions. Since it’s a potent anti-inflammatory, it may help decrease heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure. A study in 70 overweight people with high blood pressure found that a dose of 162 mg per day of quercetin-rich onion extract significantly reduced systolic blood pressure by 3–6 mmHg compared to a placebo.

A study in 54 women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) found that consuming large amounts of raw red onions (40–50 grams/day if overweight and 50–60 grams/day if obese) for eight weeks reduced total and LDL cholesterol compared to a control group.

Red onions, in particular, contain anthocyanins, special plant pigments in the flavonoid family that give red onions their deep color. Multiple population studies have found that people who consume more foods rich in anthocyanins have a reduced risk of heart disease. Additionally, anthocyanins have been found to protect against certain types of cancer and diabetes.

Eating vegetables of the Allium genus like garlic and onions has been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, including stomach and colorectal. A review of 26 studies showed that people who consumed the highest amount of allium vegetables were 22% less likely to be diagnosed with stomach cancer than those who consumed the least amount. A review of 16 studies with 13,333 people revealed that participants with the highest onion intake had a 15% reduced risk of colorectal cancer compared to those with the lowest intake.

A study in 42 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that eating 3.5 ounces of fresh red onion reduced fasting blood sugar levels by about 40 mg/dl after four hours. Specific compounds found in onions, such as quercetin and sulfur compounds, have antidiabetic effects.

Quercetin has been shown to interact with cells in the small intestine, pancreas, skeletal muscle, fat tissue and liver to control whole-body blood sugar regulation.  Quercetin extracted from onions seems to be a particularly powerful way to fight bacteria. Test-tube study demonstrated that quercetin extracted from yellow onion skin successfully inhibited the growth of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). H. pylori is a bacteria associated with stomach ulcers and certain digestive cancers, while MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that causes infections in different parts of the body. Another test-tube study found that quercetin damaged the cell walls and membranes of E. coliand S. aureus.

A study in 24 middle-aged and postmenopausal women showed that those who consumed 3.4 ounces of onion juice daily for eight weeks had improved bone mineral density and antioxidant activity compared to a control group. Another study in 507 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women found that those who ate onions at least once a day had a 5% greater overall bone density than individuals who ate them once a month or less. This study also demonstrated that older women who most frequently ate onions decreased their risk of hip fracture by more than 20% compared to those who never ate them.

Onions can fight potentially dangerous bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Bacillus cereus. Onion extract has been shown to inhibit the growth of Vibrio cholerae, a bacteria that is a major public health concern in the developing world.

Onions are a rich source of fiber and prebiotics, which are necessary for optimal gut health. Prebiotics are non-digestible types of fiber that are broken down by beneficial gut bacteria. Gut bacteria feed on prebiotics and create short-chain fatty acids, including acetate, propionate and butyrate.

Research has shown that these short-chain fatty acids strengthen gut health, boost immunity, reduce inflammation and enhance digestion. Consuming foods rich in prebiotics helps increase probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains, which benefit digestive health.

While not especially serious, eating onions can cause problems for some people. The carbohydrates in onions may cause gas and bloating, according to National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Onions, especially if consumed raw, can worsen heartburn in people who suffer from chronic heartburn or gastric reflux disease, according to one 1990 study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Eating a large amount of green onions or rapidly increasing your consumption of green onions may interfere with blood thinning drugs, according to the University of Georgia. Green onions contain a high amount of vitamin K, which can decrease blood thinner functioning.

It is also possible to have a food intolerance or an allergy to onions, but cases are rare, according to an article in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. People with onion allergies may experience red, itchy eyes and rashes if an onion comes into contact with the skin. People with an intolerance to onions may experience nausea, vomiting and other gastric discomfort.

To avoid “onion breath,” eat a sprig of parsley, or rinse your mouth with equal parts lemon juice and water, or chew a citrus peel.

How to Buy

When you buy onions, be sure to look for firm onions that are free of cuts and blemishes.

There are two main classifications of onions: the green onion (or scallion) and the dry onion.

Green onions are often eaten raw on salads or used as a garnish. Scallions, or green onions, are actually immature yellow, red or white onions, harvested before the bulb begins to form. “Spring onions” and “salad onions” are other names for immature onions.

Shallots have a distinctive taste, but the flavor is closer to that of mature onions than to that of scallions.

The dry onions have a juicy flesh and are covered with a dry papery skin. They come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and flavors.

If a recipe just says “chopped onions” buy the “yellow” onions. 88% of all onions eaten are the yellow onion. Another type of yellow onion is the Vidalia onion which is the sweetest and juiciest of them all. Red or purple onions, another example of the dry onion, are often eaten raw or on salads and hamburgers.

How to Store

It is an urban legend that cut onions are a magnet for bacteria and viruses. In fact, the cut surface of an onion is acidic and has sulfur compounds which inhibit bacteria and mold. This means it’s perfectly fine to hang on to a leftover onion, whether you’re dealing with half an onion, slices or chopped bits. Store your extras in a sealed container in the refrigerator, and use them within 7 to 10 days. This advice comes directly from the USDA and the National Onion Council.

Sweet onions, produced in early summer, have a high moisture content, so they don’t store well. To extend the storage life of sweet onions, the National Onion Council recommends wrapping each onion in a paper towel and keeping them in your refrigerator. Even if you do this, you’ll still need to use your sweet onions within a few weeks; all that moisture makes them prone to mold. Toss (or compost) your onions sooner, if you see signs of mold.

The pungent onions harvested in late summer and early fall can be stored for months. They contain sulfurous compounds (the stuff that makes you cry when you cut them) that help to preserve them. To maximize their storage life, store your dry bulb onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated spot. Do not store them in plastic bags; they need to be able to breathe.

How to Cook

If cutting onions makes your eyes water, a really sharp knife actually makes a difference. Some say “the sharper the knife, the less you cry.”

Peeling the onion under running water can help a little if the onion is really bothering your eyes.

Slicing onions makes you cry because when you cut into it, the onion produces a sulfur-based gas. The gas reacts with the water in your eyes and forms sulfuric acid. To rid your eyes of this irritant, your tear ducts work overtime. For fewer tears, try moving your face farther away from the onion so the gas disperses before reaching your eyes. Another suggestion for reducing tears is to first chill the onions for 30 minutes. Then, cut off the top and peel the outer layers leaving the root end intact.

Here are some ideas for incorporating onions into your diet:

  • Use raw onions to add flavor and crunch to your guacamole recipe.
  • Add caramelized onions to savory baked goods.
  • Combine cooked onions with other vegetables for a side dish.
  • Add thinly sliced red onions to your favorite salad.
  • Make a fiber-rich salad with chickpeas, chopped onions and red peppers.
  • Use onion and garlic as a base for stocks and soups.
  • Throw onions into stir-fry dishes.
  • Top tacos, fajitas and other Mexican dishes with chopped raw onions.
  • Make a homemade salsa with onions, tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
  • Prepare a hearty onion and vegetable soup.
  • Add onions to chili recipes for a flavor boost.
  • Blend raw onions with fresh herbs, vinegar and olive oil for homemade salad dressing.

Best Black Bean Soup

Julia Moskin

10 Servings

Ingredients

FOR THE SOUP:

  • 1 small (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo  – If chipotle chiles are unavailable, use 1 tablespoon each ground cumin and ground coriander. (Add to vegetables at the same point in the recipe, in Step 3.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 pound dry black beans (do not soak before measuring)
  • 2 quarts table vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Red wine vinegar, to taste

FOR THE PICKLED ONIONS AND GARNISHES (OPTIONAL):

  • 1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes
  • Salt
  • Sour cream Full-fat coconut milk can also make an excellent sour cream replacement in baked goods. Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for every cup of coconut milk to mimic the sour taste. Tofutti makes a vegan sour cream.)
  • Whole cilantro leaves
  • Thinly sliced fresh chiles
  • Sliced avocado

Instructions

  1. Empty the can of chiles into a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth, scrape into a container, and set aside. Put on a teakettle of water to boil, and keep hot.
  2. In a large, heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrots, onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Pour in wine and let simmer until pan is almost dry and vegetables are coated. Add jalapeños and cook, stirring, just until softened, 2 minutes. Push the vegetables out to the edges of the pot and dollop 2 teaspoons of chipotle purée in the center. Let fry for a minute and then stir together with the vegetables.
  4. Add beans, stock, oregano and bay leaves. Stir, bring to a boil, and let boil 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partly covered, stirring occasionally and adding hot water as needed to keep the soup liquid and runny, not sludgy. Continue cooking until beans are just softened and fragrant, 1 to 2 hours. Add salt and pepper and keep cooking until beans are soft.
  5. Meanwhile, make the pickled onions, if using: In a bowl, combine sliced onions, lime juice and a sprinkling of salt. Let soften at room temperature until crunchy and tart, about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze dry in paper towels and refrigerate until ready to serve. If desired, chop coarsely before serving.
  6. Adjust the texture of the soup: The goal is to combine whole beans, soft chunks and a velvety broth. Some beans release enough starch while cooking to produce a thick broth without puréeing. If soup seems thin, use an immersion blender or blender to purée a small amount of the beans until smooth, then stir back in. Continue until desired texture is reached, keeping in mind that the soup will continue to thicken as it sits.
  7. Heat the soup through, taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, drops of red wine vinegar and dabs of chipotle purée.
  8. Serve in deep bowls, garnishing each serving with sour cream, pickled onions, cilantro leaves, sliced chiles and avocado as desired.
This will freeze well. Make the full recipe!

Resources

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