Is Kale Toxic?

Kale

I overheard someone talking to her friends about an article in a health magazine that said Kale was toxic. They were concerned because they had all been juicing kale daily to improve their health.

Ever since kale became the faddish superfood, people have been eating high amounts of it assuming it would make them extra healthy. More is better….right?  The answer is “NO”.

The most recent study that’s gone viral is a report of people who eat kale taking in toxic levels of heavy metals, the worst of which is called thallium. They even threw out lead and arsenic as a concern.  Heavy metal thallium toxicity, according to the study, causes fatigue, digestive issues, neurological issues, and skin and hair problems. Metals like this are found naturally in the soil just like all the minerals we like to take supplements for, including iron of which are necessary nutrients for the human body.

Keep in mind this was one study and there is not a lot of supporting documentation to justify such broad claims. This should, however, make you think about how much kale you are actually eating.

Besides the heavy metal issue, past studies found eating too many cruciferous vegetables can result in Hypothyroidism. Kale is part of the cruciferous family along with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts.  Goitrin seems to be culprit but there are others that also have the same effect.

Vitamins and minerals are essential to a healthy body. They are found in the soil and are taken up by the plants that you eat. You can’t live without them. Different plants draw up different compounds and you take those in when you eat them. The key is to eat everything in moderation and have a wide variety of foods. This will minimize your risk of toxic buildup of any one item.

If you enjoy your kale and aren’t diagnosed with toxicity, don’t stop eating it. Watch how much kale you are you taking in and maybe expand your horizons. There are many other healthy greens you can buy that are not only good for you, they may bring another mineral to the table that aren’t getting in and will improve your health even more!

Healthy, Colorful Peppers, Sweet or Hot

peppers

We’ve finally reached the time of year when wide arrays of peppers are starting to show up in the grocery store and farmers market. Peppers have different colors, shapes and sizes, and it’s difficult to tell which are sweet and which are flaming hot! One thing they all have in common is they are a healthy addition to your menu and compatible with most all prescription diets.

Where did peppers come from? There is prehistoric evidence that peppers possibly originated in Peru and worked their way through South America where they were widely cultivated. Christopher Columbus brought peppers to Europe and gave them their name.

Peppers are low in calories, low in fat and low sodium.  Like most produce they are high in fiber which may be helpful in weight loss. Oranges are not always the best sources of vitamin C. Peppers are found to be one of the top food sources with red peppers containing higher amounts than the other colors. They also contain Vitamin A, K and B6 along with Thiamin, Niacin, Folate, Potassium, Manganese, Magnesium and Copper.

Peppers are loaded with phytochemicals that act as anti-inflammatories and compounds responsible for the heat in peppers are found to increase metabolism which may help you lose weight. They are loaded with Beta-Carotene which has been found to reduce cancer risk and the B6 is good for heart health.

If you live in an area with hot summers, peppers are fairly easy to grow. They are from the same family as tomatoes so you can follow the same instructions to plant and grow. They are best bought as transplants unless you are experienced with growing your transplants early indoors from seed.  Harvest peppers when the color is vibrant for the one you are expecting. It’s easy to get eager and pull peppers too early but you will be disappointed in the flavor. Like tomatoes, peppers will ripen after they are picked, but they will not be quite as tasty as if you waited.

Peppers store very well and I’ve found they last a few weeks before they start to get soft if you store in sealed containers in the refrigerator. You can use peppers in salads, stuffed and baked or diced, sautéed and added to sauces for Mexican food, Italian food and in chutneys that you can use for many things, including topping baked meat or fish. Roasting is popular and is an easy way to use and freeze peppers for winter use. Just cook them in a roasting pan in the oven, peel off the skin and freeze in freezer bags until you need them.

Along with the health benefits, the wonderful, colorful pepper is so versatile in look, flavor and use that you can’t resist making it a regular part of your eating lifestyle.

 

 

 

How to Win in the Mosquito War Zone!

Thanks dr_relling for this incredible photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/agder/
Thanks dr_relling for this incredible photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/agder/

It’s been a very wet spring and now the summer is adding a lot of heat! The mosquitos are coming in full force! Being a gardener, I’m frustrated trying to dodge these little vampires and tired of applying ointments on the bites. On one count I found 45 bites that had accumulated over a week. It’s a distraction from what should be enjoyable and unfortunately getting out in the garden daily is necessary.

Mosquito bites aren’t just an annoyance it’s also a health risk. If a mosquito has bitten something with a virus or parasite, it can be transferred to you when it bites you. Some diseases that have been known to be of concern are West Nile virus, malaria, yellow fever and encephalitis. If you are allergic to the bites you can also get Skeeter syndrome.

In order to keep my sanity I did the research on how to prevent mosquito bites and I want to share it with you.

Mosquito bites come from female mosquitos only. They are attracted to your exhaled breath of carbon dioxide and also the heat of your body. When they suck your blood, some of their saliva enters your body. The reaction you have is a result of their saliva. If you are actually allergic to the proteins in their saliva, you may have a lot of reddening around the bite, hives or even a fever. Over the counter topical creams, lotions, ice or antihistamines can be used to treat the bites.

Let’s talk prevention. Being health conscious, I’m not fond of soaking myself in bug repellent. Studies show that none are proven to work except for DEET. I’ve tried almost all of them at this point, including the fans. I’ve found they all help a little and anything is an improvement. So, if you are afraid of chemicals, use the all-natural, or use the heavy duty version on your clothes only. Here is a list of actions that I’ve found really made a difference. I actually saw dozens of mosquitos investigating me, but not landing for a meal. My last trip outside resulted in only one mosquito bite.

  • Dress in long sleeves, long pants and socks regardless of the temperature.
  • Wear loose clothes, it will make it hard for the mosquito to reach the skin.
  • Wear a large brim hat to protect your head, ears and partially your face.
  • Wear light colors (apparently mosquitos are attracted to dark colors).
  • Spray the best bug repellent you can find all over your clothes, not your skin.
  • Use an all-natural or herbal repellent on any exposed skin.
  • Eat a lot of garlic.
  • Limit your time outside to sunny, windy or colder days (mosquitos like warm weather but not direct sun or wind).
  • Buy clothes specially made for mosquito areas, including netting.
  • Get rid of standing water where mosquitos breed.
    • Bird baths (change water daily)
    • Clean out gutters
    • Garbage piles
    • Yard debris
    • Unmaintained garden beds
    • Low points of the yard (level them or put in drains to draw water away)

Hopefully this arms you to win the war!

Make your own Simple, Healthy Frozen Fruit Bars

Fruit pop

It’s getting hot outside and you just want a healthy refreshing way to cool down. Are you tired of the sugary old popsicle standby? Have I got the easiest, healthiest option for you!

One of the latest trends is real juice frozen fruit bars. Unfortunately, you will find sugar or syrup as a main ingredient in most of them.  It’s also not clear where all the ingredients come from. Was the juice made from fruit that didn’t make the fresh grocery produce cut? Some farms sell their lower quality fruit as a cheaper grade and it’s usually purchased and used commercially in baking, flavorings and other cooking.  If you eat organic there are very few frozen pop options, and if you do find them, they are expensive.

The best way to control your cost and quality is to make your own frozen fruit bars. Most culinary stores sell molds for frozen pops, but you can make your own using small paper cups and food grade wooden or plastic sticks. I’ve even seen people use small plastic spoons.

Once you have your molds, all you need to do is pick what type of juices you want. Nowadays you can find a wide assortment, especially in your health focused grocery stores. I have a juicer I like to use but I also combine with bottled juices to get the flavors I want. For instance, coconut is one of my favorite flavors but I can’t really juice a coconut. I use canned coconut milk or water. I also use apple juice as an additive to sweeten more tart fruits like raspberries. If you don’t have a juicer you can use a blender.

Using a juicer or blender can result in a thicker juice, almost like nectar. Adding a little apple juice can improve the texture without drastically changing the flavor. Using juice with a little fiber or a nectar quality gives your bars a softer, thicker texture. If you prefer a very hard, ice like pop, use only strained juice. My favorite frozen fruit bar flavor is nectarine. I juice 2 organic nectarines and then add a little organic apple juice to thin to a good pouring consistency.

After filling in the molds, put in the pop sticks and put in the freezer. A few hours later, you have a healthy, tasty, refreshing pop to cool yourself off!

Making your own frozen fruit pops isn’t just healthier, it can be a lot of fun! Get creative! I’ve seen a lot of different recipes online. Look them up!