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Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

 

The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, cholesterol level maintenance, weight loss, boosted immune system, proper digestion and regulated metabolism. It also provides relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, and cancer, while helping to improve dental quality and bone strength. These benefits of this oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and their respective properties, such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial and soothing qualities.

Coconut oil is used extensively in tropical countries especially India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Philippines etc., which have a good production of coconut oil. At one time, the oil was also popular in western countries like the United States and Canada, but there was a strong propaganda campaign in the 1970s spread by the corn oil and soy oil industry against coconut oil. Coconut oil was considered harmful for the human body due to its high saturated fat content until the last decade (2000s) when people began to question the claims of the propaganda. Next, let’s look into some more details of how coconut oil works in our body.

How is lauric acid used by our body?

The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which is supposedly helpful in dealing with viruses and bacteria that cause diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV. It also helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria monocytogenes and helicobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia.

As a result of these various health benefits of coconut oil, although its exact mechanism of action was unknown, it has been extensively used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system. The Coconut Research Center has compiled a list of potential benefits of coconut oil in both traditional and modern medicine.

Before we move on to the benefits of coconut oil in detail, we should first understand its composition.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

Hair care: Coconut oil is one of the best natural nutrients for your hair. It helps in healthy growth of hair and gives your hair a shiny quality. It is also highly effective in reducing protein loss which can lead to various unattractive or unhealthy qualities in your hair.

Coconut oil is extensively used in the Indian sub-continent for hair care. Most of the people in those countries apply coconut oil on their hair every day after bathing or showering. It is an excellent conditioner and helps the re-growth process of damaged hair. It also provides the essential proteins required for nourishing and healing damaged hair. Research studies indicate that coconut oil provides better protection to hair from damage caused by hygral fatigue.

By regularly massaging your head with coconut oil, you can ensure that your scalp is free of dandruff, even if your scalp is chronically dry. It also helps in keeping your hair and scalp free from lice and lice eggs.

Coconut oil is therefore used as hair care oil and is used in manufacturing various conditioners and dandruff relief creams. Coconut oil is normally applied topically for hair care.

Heart diseases: There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for heart health. This is because it contains a large quantity of saturated fats. In reality, coconut oil is beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in actively preventing various heart problems like high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. The saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful as you commonly find in vegetable oils. Coconut oil does not lead to increase in LDL levels, and it reduces the incidence of injury and damage to arteries and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis.

Skin care: Coconut oil is an excellent massage oil for the skin as well. It acts as an effective moisturizer on all types of skin, including dry skin. The benefit of coconut oil on the skin is comparable to that of mineral oil. Fortunately, unlike mineral oil, there is no chance of having any adverse side effects on the skin from the application of coconut oil. Coconut oil therefore is a safe solution for preventing dryness and flaking of skin. It also delays the appearance of wrinkles and sagging of skin which normally accompany aging. Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections. For that exact reason, coconut oil forms the base ingredient of various body care products like soaps, lotions, and creams that are used for skin care. Coconut oil also helps in preventing premature aging and degenerative diseases due to its well-known antioxidant properties.

Weight loss

Coconut oil is very useful for weight loss. It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. It is also easy to digest and it helps in healthy functioning of the thyroid and endocrine system. Further, it increases the body’s metabolic rate by removing stress on the pancreas, thereby burning more energy and helping obese and overweight people lose the weight. Hence, people living in tropical coastal areas, who use coconut oil every day as their primary cooking oil, are normally not fat, obese or overweight.

 

Immunity

Coconut oil is also good for the immune system. It strengthens the immune system because it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which research has supported as an effective way to deal with viruses and bacteria that cause diseases like herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV. Coconut oil helps in fighting harmful bacteria like listeria monocytogenes and helicobacter pylori, and harmful protozoa such as giardia lamblia.

Digestion

Internal functions of coconut oil occur primarily due to it being used as cooking oil. Coconut oil helps to improve the digestive system and thus prevents various stomach and digestion-related problems including Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The saturated fats present in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, and parasites that can cause indigestion. Coconut oil also helps in the absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Candida

Coconut has been shown to prevent and even cure candida. It provides relief from the inflammation caused by candida, both externally and internally. Its high moisture retaining capacity keeps the skin from cracking or peeling off. Further, unlike other pharmaceutical treatments for candida, the effects of coconut oil is gradual and not drastic or sudden, which gives the patient an appropriate amount of time to get used to the withdrawal symptoms or Herxheimer Reactions (the name given to the symptoms accompanying body’s rejection of toxins generated during elimination of these fungi). But, in the treatment of this condition, people should systematically and gradually increase their dosages of coconut oil and shouldn’t initially start with a large quantity.

Healing and infections

When applied to infected areas, coconut oil forms a chemical layer that protects the infected body part from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Coconut oil is highly effective on bruises because it speeds up the healing process of damaged tissues.

Infections: Coconut oil is very effective against a variety of infections due to its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil kills the viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, SARS, and other serious health risks. It also kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and gonorrhoea. Finally, coconut oil is also effective in the elimination of fungi and yeast that cause ringworm,athlete’s foot, thrush, and diaper rash.

Other

Coconut oil is strongly recommended for a number of other benefits that are explained below. Using coconut oils has been shown to mildly help the following:

Liver: The presence of medium chain triglycerides and fatty acids helps in preventing liver diseases because those substances are easily converted into energy when they reach the liver, thus reducing the work load of the liver and also preventing accumulation of fat.

Kidney: Coconut oil helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases. It also helps to dissolve kidney stones.

Pancreatitis: Coconut oil is also believed to be useful in treating pancreatitis.

Stress relief: Coconut oil is very soothing and hence it helps in removing stress. Applying coconut oil to the head, followed by a gentle massage, helps to eliminate mental fatigue.

Diabetes: Coconut oil helps in controlling blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also promotes the effective utilization of blood glucose, thereby preventing and treating diabetes.

Bones: As mentioned earlier, coconut oil improves the ability of our body to absorb important minerals. These include calciumand magnesium which are necessary for the development of bones. Thus, coconut oil is very useful to women who are prone to osteoporosis after middle age.

Dental care: Calcium is an important component of our teeth. Since coconut oil facilitates absorption of calcium by the body, it helps in developing strong teeth. Coconut oil also stops tooth decay.

HIV and cancer: It is believed that coconut oil plays an instrumental role in reducing a person’s viral susceptibility for HIV andcancer patients. Preliminary research has shown an indication of this effect of coconut oil on reducing the viral load of HIV patients (Reference).

Coconut oil and Alzheimer’s disease: The research conducted by Dr. Newport states that coconut oil is useful in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Apart from this there is no scientific evidence or traditional knowledge of coconut oil being used for treating Alzheimer’s. In fact, it is not traditionally thought that coconut oil helps in boosting the function of the brain in any form.

Why is coconut oil solid?: Unlike most other oils, coconut oil has a high melting point – about 24 to 25 degrees Celsius or 76-78 Fahrenheit. Therefore it is solid at room temperature and melts only when the temperature rises considerably. Hence, if you buy a bottle of coconut oil and find it solid, don’t immediately assume that there is some problem with it. Coconut oil is often in this form, and obviously, don’t keep it in your refrigerator.

How to use coconut oil?: If you are using coconut oil for topical purposes, especially hair care, just melt the oil (if it is solid) by keeping the bottle in the sun or soaking it in warm water. You can also take some coconut oil out and put it in a small bowl and heat the bowl over a flame (don’t use a microwave). Then, take the oil on your palm and apply it to your hair. If you want to use it for internal consumption, simply replace butter or vegetable oils with coconut oil in your recipes. Remember, you don’t need to completely switch to coconut oil, because then you will lose the other benefits of more traditional oils and dairy products.

Can I use coconut oil for cooking?: Yes, in most of the tropical coastal regions, people use coconut oil for cooking.

Varieties of Coconut Oil

There are primarily 6 varieties of coconut oil that you will find on the market. These are pure coconut oil, refined coconut oil, organic coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, organic virgin coconut oil and extra virgin coconut oil.

Pure Coconut Oil: This oil is our most well-known old friend. It is extracted from dried coconut kernels, which are also called copra. It is crude, unrefined and without any additives. It is mainly extracted by compression of copra in a mill, either driven by bullocks or by power. However, the variety extracted by bullock driven oil mills is preferred. Pure coconut oil has multiple uses such as edible oil, massaging oil, hair oil, cosmetic usage, as well as medicinal and industrial use.

Refined Coconut Oil: This is sometimes also called the RBD coconut oil, which is an abbreviated form for refined, bleached & deodorized coconut oil. As the name suggests, this type is obtained by mechanically and chemically refining, bleaching and deodorizing the crude coconut oil, to make it thin, colorless, odorless and without any type of particle (such as proteins) suspended in it. What we then get is only pure saturated fats.

Virgin Coconut Oil: Virgin coconut oil is derived from the milk obtained from fresh coconut meat, and not from copra, by processes like fermentation, centrifugal separation and enzyme action. Care is taken to use no or as little heat as possible in the extraction of this oil. Produced in this way, the oil tastes and smells the best and is laden with antioxidants and medium chain fatty acids. It also has remarkable anti-microbial properties. This is one of the most respected and trusted varieties of coconut oil.

Organic Coconut Oil: The coconut oil that has been extracted from coconuts obtained from coconut palms raised only on organic manure and no synthetic fertilizers or insecticides. The production of organic coconut oil is also completed without involving any chemical in its extraction or processing. This is another well-respected variety of coconut oil. Organic coconut oil forms an integral part of a number of organic cosmetic products such as organic soaps, organic skin creams and lotions, organic snacks and thousands of other similar products. Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: This type of oil is basically virgin coconut oil produced from the organic coconuts, in an organic way. This is perhaps the best and purest form of coconut oil one can imagine, but it is rare.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: Among all the varieties of coconut oil, this is the most challenged and controversial variety, as its very existence is doubtful and the name hardly makes any sense. Furthermore, there are no set standards for virginity of coconut oil. Moreover, reputed firms and governmental bodies are still hesitant to say anything on the matter, nor are they selling it. Basically, further research is definitely required.

The properties of coconut oil do not differ much with their varieties and remain more or less the same. So, think well and make a wise decision before you decide to purchase one of the varieties.

Buying Coconut Oil

First of all, you need to decide why you need coconut oil and where you are going to use it. Your choice should be based on your need, like whether you want it for edible purposes or as a carrier oil to be used in aromatherapy, for massaging, for weight loss, or for medicinal purposes. As mentioned earlier, there are different varieties for different purposes. Their properties do not differ much, unless they are mixed with some base or additives that do not contain 100% coconut oil. Below is a list of such purposes and the type of coconut oil to buy.

Purpose————–Preferable Type to Buy

Cooking————–Refined Coconut Oil

Weight Loss———Virgin Coconut Oil ( I use this type for everything, including cooking)

As a Carrier Oil—–Virgin Coconut Oil, Fractionated Coconut Oil

Good Health———Virgin Coconut Oil, Organic Coconut Oil

Massaging———–Pure Coconut Oil, Refined Coconut Oil

Hair——————–Pure Coconut Oil, Refined Coconut Oil

Medicinal uses—–Virgin Coconut Oil, Virgin Organic Coconut Oil

Furthermore, before you buy coconut oil, you should keep in mind that for edible and therapeutic uses, refined coconut oil is the best as it is hygienic and clean. Unrefined coconut oil is good for external applications like hair care and skin care.

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Lemon Fish “Picatta”


(Recipe for 2 servings)

 

Ingredient Amount
Haddock, cod or hake, raw 16 ounces
flour, sprouted 1/3 cup
Salt, table 1/2 tsp
Oil, olive 1 tbsp
Bouillon, chicken 3/4 cup
Juice, lemon

Capers

3 tbsps

¼ cup

 

Directions

Mix flour and salt. Rinse fish in water and pat dry with paper towel. Dredge fish in flour mixture.

Heat oil in skillet. Brown fish bout 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Add chicken broth, lemon juice and 1/4 c capers to skillet, scraping any brown bits from pan and stirring them in.

Simmer to reduce sauce to almost half.

Place fish back into pan and simmer about 3-4 minutes.

 

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LIFEWISE MEAL IDEAS

Planning meals is crucial to healthy eating. It does not have to be a multi ingredient recipe or anything high maintenance.
No matter how easy the meal, it must be thought of in advance; you need to take something out of the freezer, and also need to be sure you have the starch and veg to go with it. NEVER plan a meal without vegetables. They are the easy part. You can always keep frozen green beans or California mix stocked. Fresh broccoli is quick and easy. Carrots and turnip last weeks in the fridge.
Slowcookers are must for the busy working mother. Get it all ready the evening before and plug it in in the morning. Always use the low setting if it’s going to be on for 8 hours, or it will be overcooked.
A take out night or two is ok! Make it a cooked roast chicken with baked potato and a garden salad, or a low fat Sub or wrap.
Below are some easy ideas for meals:
Roast a chicken or turkey on the weekend; you will have leftovers for lunches and possibly Monday night supper if you start with a large enough bird/roast.
Pita or flatbread pizzas. Protein will be cheese and chicken or burger.
BBQ’d burgers on silver hills buns with salad or coleslaw/broccoli slaw or salad.
Simple bbq’d or broiled cuts of meat with veg and baked potato.
Shrimp or scallop stir fry with arctic garden stir fry frozen veg. (of course you can use chicken or meat, but the fish can be thrown in from frozen if you haven’t taken anything out of the freezer in advance)
FISH like haddock is so quick and easy, always have some in your freezer.
Tacos/fajitas…leftover or precooked breasts, sliced peppers, onions etc and salsa and a bit of grated cheese and low fat sour cream! Add a salad or some slaw!
Recipes; there are many, if you have planned properly you will have ingredients to at least 2 for the week (chicken pot pie, sheppards pie…)
Slow Cooker: recipes such as cabbage roll casserole or lasagna to name just a couple. OR, just cook your meat, and do the veg and starch when you get home.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be complicated or fancy. Can be basic and easy. Just PLAN IT!!

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HONEY

Use honey for all of your sweetening. Do not touch artificial sweeteners or sugar (natural or not). 1 teaspoon of honey is only 15 calories, and full of health benefits. Read on and you will be sold!

When we look at the word “raw”, we associate it with the preservation of important vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Just as raw vegetables are preferable because of their nutritional content, the same is true of honey. Raw honey is honey that has not been heated, pasteurized or processed in any way. The differences between raw and pasteurized honey are substantial. Raw honey is an alkaline-forming food that contains natural vitamins, enzymes, powerful antioxidants and other important natural nutrients. These are the very nutrients that are destroyed during the heating and pasteurization process. In fact, pasteurized honey is equivalent to and just as unhealthy as eating refined sugar.

Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It promotes body and digestive health, is a powerful antioxidant, strengthens the immune system, eliminates allergies, and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. Raw honey’s benefits don’t stop there. Raw honey can also stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves, and it has been used to treat ulcers. Raw honey is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory and has been known to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.

Raw honey purchased from a local source is an excellent way of treating seasonal allergies. Local honey is preferred for treating allergies because the likelihood is great that it will contain small amounts of the specific pollens an individual may be allergic to.
Raw Honey is an effective natural remedy for a variety of conditions

For centuries, honey has been used to treat all sorts of ailments. It can be applied topically to heal wounds and rashes, or it can be taken internally to treat infections and address other health concerns. Although there are numerous remedies, the following are popular remedies for common everyday conditions.
For skin burns, rashes, and abrasions, place a honey poultice over the affected area.

Raw honey is also an effective treatment for acne. A small amount placed on blemishes and acne nightly will often clear the skin in a short period of time. Washing your face with honey will also leave you with sparkling, clean, soft skin.

Raw honey’s antibiotic properties are effective in treating colds and sore throats. Raw honey coats the throat and reduces irritation. For blocked sinuses, mix a teaspoon of honey in a pot of hot water, put a towel over your head, and just inhale the steam.

To treat allergies, take a teaspoon of raw honey a couple of times a day starting a few months prior to allergy season.

The many varieties of honey

There are many varieties of honey, some of which are used to treat specific health conditions. Manuka honey has strong anti-bacterial properties and is used to treat a variety of conditions which include colds, sore throats, indigestion, stomach ulcers, and acne.
Acacia honey cleanses the liver, promotes intestinal health, and reduces inflammation in the respiratory tract.
Buckwheat honey, a strong tasting and dark honey, has strong antioxidant properties. Unfortunately, Buckwheat Honey is very scarce, especially in the United States. An alternative would be Red Gum Honey that also has strong antioxidant properties.
Eucalyptus honey can be used to prevent colds and headaches.
Heather honey has been used since ancient times for its medicinal properties. This honey contains a high level of protein.
Linden honey is known for its sedative and antiseptic properties. It is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, colds, coughs, and bronchitis.

WHAT/WHERE TO BUY HONEY ON PEI

Sobeys- Island Gold

Superstore- Presidents Choice Organics Unpasteurized

Island tailored Meats- Island Gold (jars and 5-10 lb pails)

Farm Gate from your friendly neighborhood/country beekeeper! Ask around…Stan Sandler/Murray River, Liquid Gold, Rustico are 2 sources on PEI

N.B. Stevia is a non toxic, zero calorie sweetener that s not bad for you, and may be used when you are eliminating sugar from your diet completely.

How to use honey (other than the obvious J )

  • Apply honey liberally on a wound to speed healing.
  • Apply honey to a rash, burn or scrape, and cover loosely.
  • A tsp taken 3 times per day can help prevent seasonal allergies.
  • A tbsp of raw honey sprinkled with cinnamon taken 3 times per day can boost the immune system and fight off a cold or sore throat.
  • A spoonful of honey can soothe a cough caused by a tickle or sore throat.
  • A couple of tablespoons of honey stirred into hot tea can lessen the symptoms of a cold or flu.
  • Honey mixed with equal parts coconut oil makes a wonderful skin conditioner.
  • Some studies say that honey can help control blood sugar fluctuations.
  • Raw honey increases the production of antioxidants in the bloodstream.
  • Recent studies proved that honey reduced overall cholesterol levels when taken daily.
  • Honey applied topically to a wound or incision moistens the skin and helps prevent or reduce scarring.

 

Recipe: Homemade Cough Syrup

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons, scrubbed and thinly sliced (organic please, or buy the organic juice)
  • 6 tbsp of grated ginger root (grate from frozen on fine side of grater)
  • Honey as needed

Directions

  1. In a glass jar, layer the lemon slices and grated ginger until the jar is full.
  2. Pour honey into the jar, using the blade of a kitchen knife to move the lemon and ginger around and make room for it.
  3. Store it in the fridge for at least 2 weeks before using it.  Then, take 1-2 tsp 3 times per day, as needed, for coughs or sore throats

 

You can also stir a few tablespoons of the syrup into hot water for a homemade “Neo-Citran”-style hot drink without all the nasty chemicals. It is delicious as an evening tea; also great for digestion.

When you feel nauseous, drink this instead of sugar laden ginger ale!!

Lemon juice has valuable liver cleansing benefits, and is alkalizing for the body. Ginger is anti-inflammatory, great for digestion and alkalizing. Consider starting your day with this nutrition packed beverage. You can have your CUP of coffee or tea afterwards!

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100 Calorie Snacks

We all like to nibble a bit at night; not because we are hungry, but usually because we just want to! Here are some ideas to keep those snacks to a healthy limit!

100 Calorie Snacks

BEST

100 grams flavored greek yogurt

2/3 c Plain 0-2% Greek yogurt

1 oz light cheese

10 brown rice crackers with humus or salsa

4 c air popped corn with olive oil spray and seasoning

1/3 c 1% cottage cheese with 1/3 c peach or pineapple or ½ chopped apple and cinnamon

2 ryvita or 4 melba with humus or salsa

1 Silver Hills toast with jam (or ½ bagel)

100 calorie piece of 70% dark chocolate

½ c plain greek yogurt + ½ chopped apple, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon walnuts

NEXT BEST

100 Calorie snack bag (any)

4 c microwave light popcorn

25 special K chips

25 Gaytan Baked Cheese Puffs (Bulk Barn)

100 cal’s Baked tortilla chips with salsa

3 ginger snaps or Simple Pleasure cookies

1 Skinny Cow Ice cream treat

½ c frozen greek yogurt

 

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Brussells Sprouts Chips

Surprisingly delicious…you don’t have to like Brussells Sprouts to like these! Same thing can be done with Kale, which can now be purchased ready to go (President’s Choice Organics)

 

Brussels Sprout Chips

2 cups fresh brussels sprouts leaves (outer leaves from about 2 pounds of sprouts)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive or melted coconut  oil

Sea Salt

spices of choice for additional taste (optional)

 Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash brussels sprouts and trim away the ends of the stems, and peel off the outer layer leaves.  Discard any discolored or wilted leaves.

In a large bowl, mix the leaves with olive or coconut oil.  Season with sea salt and other spices (of choice) to taste.  I used a little garlic powder and a dash of paprika.  You could add a variety of spices to change these little chips up.

Line a large (or two) baking sheets with parchment paper arranging the leaves evenly in a single layer on sheet.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crispy and brown around the edges.

 

Free food!!

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Rice and Arsenic

I came across this article and found it interesting enough to share…I will watch for results from further studies and keep you posted!

Important to note that if you buy organic rice there will be no pesticide use, therefore less arsenic. Also, rinsing your rice and using alot of water (cooking pasta method) will also help…read on….

 

 

Getting Arsenic out of Your (and Your Kids’) Diet

SEPTEMBER 20, 2012

 By Sonya Lunder, EWG Senior Research Analyst and Dawn Undurraga, EWG Nutritionist

 

Although scientists and government regulators have long known about the ever-present threat of arsenic in our diet and water, it was unsettling when two major reports came out on the same day (Sept. 19) reminding us of the risk and the need to do what we can to minimize it.

Yes, arsenic. It’s a naturally occurring mineral with a long history as a murder weapon, and, paradoxically, as a medicine, too. In some parts of the world, contamination levels are so high in food and water as to cause epidemics of skin, bladder and lung cancer. In the United States the effects might be harder to see, but they are still there. In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that people drinking arsenic-contaminated water at 10 parts per billion would have a 1-in-300 risk of developing cancer over their lifetimes. Recent research suggests that people ingest about that much arsenic in a just a half-cup serving of rice, not an unusual amount for millions of Americans.

The two new reports came from the US Food and Drug Administration and the highly regarded Consumer Reportsmagazine, and both focused on the worrisome amounts of arsenic in rice and popular rice-based processed foods.

Environmental Working Group agrees that there’s reason to be concerned. Many rice-based foods and some fruit juices have arsenic levels much higher than are allowed in drinking water. And contrary to some denials from the food industry, the contamination does include the form of arsenic that poses a serious risk to our health. It’s long overdue for federal agencies to set health-protective limits on arsenic in food, but they are not moving quickly.

In the meantime, here are some easy-to-use tips on how you can reduce your, and your family’s, exposure:

  • Limit rice consumption. Try alternative grains such as quinoa, barley, grits/polenta, couscous or bulgur wheat.

The testing done by Consumer Reports confirmed that rice has much higher concentrations of arsenic than other grains, fruits and vegetables. That’s partly because rice is sometimes grown in fields that have been treated with arsenic-based pesticides in the past, but in many cases it’s because rice plants have a natural tendency to take up and concentrate naturally occurring arsenic in the soil and water. The FDA says it needs to test 1,000 more rice samples to clarify which rice-growing areas present the greatest risk of contamination. But consumers can take protective steps while theFDA collects data and ponders regulation – a process that could take years.

  • If you’re preparing rice, rinse it thoroughly. Boil brown rice in a lot of water (as you do with pasta).

There’s good research indicating that you can lower the amount of arsenic in rice by 30-to-40 percent if you take this simple step (the more water the better). Unfortunately, white rice doesn’t hold up well to this kind of cooking, but you can reduce arsenic levels somewhat by rinsing white rice before you cook it.

  • Vary your diet. Look for alternatives to rice-based processed foods such as breakfast cereals, rice flour, rice pasta, rice cakes and crackers.

Growing awareness that many people are sensitive to the gluten in wheat-based processed foods has led to a proliferation of rice-based products, but they’re not the only option. Good alternatives to Rice Krispies-type breakfast cereals include toasted oats, puffed corn or whole grains such as millet. You can also find flour mixes that contain no rice or gluten for baking.

  • Limit products that list rice syrup as a sweetener.

You don’t think of rice as a component of snack and nutrition bars, but a recent study by scientists at Dartmouth College found high arsenic levels in processed foods sweetened with brown rice syrup, which are often aimed at the “natural” foods market. EWG has concerns about the study and its interpretation in the media, the underlying issue of brown rice syrup remains. Read labels to avoid this sweetener wherever possible.

  • Check your drinking water.

Arsenic taints drinking water in many parts of the United States. Check EWG’s Tap Water Database to see if it’s been detected in your water. If you drink well water, contact your local health department to find out if arsenic could be a problem in your well, or get it tested – it’s not expensive and it’s worth the investment.

What parents can do to protect babies and children:

  • Instead of rice cereal as the first solid food for babies, try orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes and squash, bananas and avocados.

Parents were once advised to start infants with fortified rice cereals, which were touted as non-allergenic and nutritive, butnutritional guidance is shifting. With some exceptions, parents are no longer being encouraged to delay introducing potentially allergenic foods. Soft fruits, vegetables or even meats are great first sources of complementary nutrients for a breast- or formula-fed baby.

  • Switch to non-rice baby cereals such as oatmeal or mixed grains.

Powdered cereals are convenient and often used to thicken baby purees, but Consumer Reports found more than 95 parts per billion of arsenic in every brand of infant rice cereals it tested, nearly ten times the legal limit for drinking water. Look for non-rice whole grain or oat cereals, or make your own by blending oats in a food processor and then cooking them with water.

  • Limit certain fruit juices to a maximum of one-half to one cup a day.

Arsenic-based pesticides were used on fruit orchards in the early 1900s, and soil contamination remains an ongoing source of arsenic in tree fruits and grapes. Testing shows that some samples of apple, grape and pear juices and juice blends have moderate amounts of arsenic. And there’s another reason that pediatricians recommend limiting any and all juice in children’s diets: They’re high in sugar and can crowd out other foods that provide essential nutrients.

  • Avoid brown rice syrup as a sweetener in processed kids’ foods.

The arsenic in rice is concentrated in rice syrup, which is sometimes used as a sweetener in snack bars, non-dairy beverages and one brand of toddler formula. In previous testing, the one toddler formula made with rice syrup, Nature’s Gate toddler formula, had high concentrations of arsenic in its dairy- and soy-based formulas. Consumer Reports noted that the company has recently found a source of rice syrup that is processed to remove arsenicfor its dairy-based formula. (Look for use-by dates of January 2014 for Dairy with DHA & ARA, or July 2015 for Dairy.) Apparently the company has not yet addressed the issue of arsenic in its soy formula.

  • Do not use rice milk as a dairy substitute for cow’s milk.

Britain’s Food Safety Authority cautions parents to avoid rice milk as a dairy alternative for toddlers from age 1 to 4½. Consumer Reports tested two common brands for arsenic and found that all samples exceeded EPA’s drinking water limit of 10 parts per billion. The range in rice milk was 17 to 70 parts per billion.

Look for other non-dairy drinks and make sure they don’t list rice syrup as a sweetener. In many cases, dairy-sensitive children can be given water and other dietary sources of calcium instead of a highly processed dairy substitute.

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