Vitamin D and Disease

Death numbers through chronic illness associated with vitamin D deficiency, are conservative in this article. There are at least twenty types of cancer now known to be associated and many other diseases. Fifty years ago vitamin D was all about  bone health – the absorption of calcium and prevention of rickets. Fifty years from now, we will know more and it will be worse – more cancers, infections, autoimmune diseases etc. Vitamin D is vital to life.

We now know that there are various forms of vitamin D (D3 being the most bio-available and D2 less so) and that this “vitamin” is a steroid hormone – not a true vitamin. As a hormone, it can penetrate virtually every cell in the body (and therefore affects every system) and influences our DNA. In other words, it is essential for life and health. It was the sun that brought us life on this planet (and a couple of other things) – and not surprisingly, the sun remains the best source of vitamin D3 but has many other health benefits too.

Vitamin D deficiency in the mother (maybe father too) affects unborn children – please read the article.

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Couple of things:
If you intend to take a supplement (always best to sunbathe and it’s free), please take vitamin D3 plus K2 as they work in tandem. (In supplements it is often D2, so check the label for “D3″.) Also make sure your magnesium intake is good. (Organic tomatoes, spinach and other green veg, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds).
Our vitamin D source is SUPPOSED to come from the sun – that’s nature at work. Fortunately, we can store lots of it so we sunbathe (safely – see this post) in the summer and our D stores and food tide us over winter.
Vegetable sources of vitamin D is in the form of D2. Grazing animals can easily convert this to D3 – which is why animal sources are the best. Our ability to make this conversion is tenuous and cannot be relied upon.

Good food sources of vitamin D3 – organic wherever possible:
Eggs from pasture-raised hens (they need vitamin D too!)
Butter from grass-fed cows (and they do!)
Lard from outdoor pigs (err..see above)
Fats and offal from all outdoor animals
Full cream milk and cream (best raw)
All full cream cheeses but Brie, Gouda and some blue cheeses have K2 also.

Isn’t this the easiest “vitamin” in the world to find?

 

 

Nutrition For Children

My daughter’s friend works in a children’s nursery locally to me. She suggested to the manager that it might be beneficial to the parents and staff, if they had some help with planning meals for the children and understanding what nutrition means for them. As we all know, feeding children nutritious food can be challenging! The mum’s were great and I have to hand it to them, they are really doing their best. It was great to see a good turn-out too. These mums really wanted to extend their knowledge.

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The variety of nutrients for a child is the same as for an adult, but some become more important. Adults need to maintain their health but children need to grow satisfactorily. Nutrition for both is vitally important but as adults, we can change little about our structure. Children are forming their structure, so for their future health and mental development, certain nutrients are paramount.

 

There are nine essential amino acids for building bodies

Growth requires building blocks and these come from proteins and fats. Proteins are made up of amino acids and there are nine which are essential – the body cannot make them so they must be taken in the diet. There are another eleven that we need but the body can synthesize these. The essential amino acids are easily obtained from animal proteins, as they contain all nine together. Vegetarians must be aware that these are not present all together in vegetable proteins. Beans or nuts should be eaten with grains at the same meal for all to be present. Better still, dairy products and eggs should be a major part of the diet.

 

 Animal fats make hormones, line our cells and more

The fatty acids from fats are another vital component for our structure. They line our cells, supply much-needed cholesterol, contribute to our immune systems and make hormones to name a few. Quite apart from these physiological requirements, fats make food taste good. Our taste-buds have a purpose – of natural foods, they tell us what we need. Unfortunately, we can fool our taste-buds when all food groups are mixed together – as in a cake for example. They detect the fat and protein (eggs and butter) but get confused with the addition of carbohydrates (sugar and flour). That doesn’t mean we should never eat cake (perish the thought!). What we need to remember is that we can easily overeat these mixed foods, which can be detrimental to our health. If you try to overeat double cream – lovely though it is – you won’t be able to eat much or you will be sick! The body has these mechanisms in place to ensure that we stay healthy.

It is also worth remembering that butter or cheese mixed with well-cooked vegetables not only makes them taste better to a child, but also helps release nutrients and their uptake.

Animal fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, E and K2. These vitamins work together to channel minerals into bones and teeth. They allow absorption of calcium and other minerals, direct them to the skeleton and set the minerals into the bone. All of these stages are vital. Cheese has everything needed for this process. So simple!

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Carbohydrates can be included but they are not “essential”

Carbohydrates are the food group to be wary of. They are reduced to sugar by the body for easy absorption.  Children need energy but they will get some from fats. Including a few potatoes at dinner, a couple of slices of sourdough bread (easier to digest) for lunch, or a bowl of porridge with cream in the morning is fine. Please take care though – it is easy to add too many of these foods into the diet, leaving no room for those they really need. There are no essential carbohydrates.

 

Other foods

Vegetables are always difficult for children. To be honest, if they are eating meat, liver, fish and lots of animal fats, they will come to no harm without them. However, we want to get them used to eating some as they do have lots of nutrients for us. Cook them well, add butter or cheese, make pureed soups or a frittata.

Drinks can be an issue for children. Sweet fizzy drinks should not be introduced. Milk can be great for children but please buy organic, unhomogenised or preferably raw milk if you can find it. Encourage water drinking, very weak tea or at a push, very dilute apple juice.

The sun

Not food, but still nutrition. Let children play in the sun with no sunscreen and very little clothing for a while. They must not burn, but they will get a huge dose of vitamin D3 which no food can supply. Don’t be afraid of it – if there were no sun, there would be no us. We need it!

One last word, please buy organic food whenever possible. Children do not need pesticides, herbicides, antibiotic and hormone residues. They need nutritious, fresh, preferably local foods that will only do them good, not harm.

 

Recipes for Nutrient-Dense Foods

Bone Broth/Stock  -  Chicken Liver Pate  -  Sourdough Bread  -  Frittata  -  Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Pots  -  Gozitan Rabbit Stew  -  Italian Meat Loaf  -  Sauerkraut
Lamb Stew

 

Bone Broth/Stock

  • Bones from the butcher (with marrow and bits of meat if possible), sawn into pieces
  • Water
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt to taste
  • Peppercorns
  • Clean vegetable trimmings
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon duck/goose fat or other animal fat

In a hot oven, roast the bones for an hour with the fat. This will add colour and flavour to P1012280the finished stock but it is not essential.  Put the bones in a stockpot with all the other ingredients except the salt. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down.  Put the lid on and simmer very gently for at least four hours but as long as is possible. (Or simmer overnight in a slow-cooker.) Strain the stock. The salt can now be added. (If you are making a pureed soup, dig the marrow from the bones and add this too.)

At this point you can either continue to make soup or you can store it for another time. If you wish to do this, return it to the cleaned pot and boil rapidly until reduced by half. Allow to cool then refrigerate/freeze. If freezer space is limited, continue boiling to reduce even further then cool and put into ice-cube trays to use as “stock cubes”. To may prefer to leave out the salt before doing this.

When using the stock at a later date, return it to its original quantity with water/milk/other liquid before making the soup/gravy/sauce – or if you have frozen cubes – just add one or two to your gravy.

All bones can be used for stock making so don’t throw away the bones from Sunday’s roast. Chicken and other poultry carcasses can replace meat bones – just put them in a bag and give them a good bash with a rolling pin to save space. Make sure to use everything including sinews and skin. Why not ask a fishmonger for fish heads/bones/shells from crabs etc. and make a fish stock?

Whilst this is time-consuming, there is nothing like the taste of homemade stock and the nutritional benefits are enormous  – lots of minerals, especially calcium are made available in this way. It can be a great source of glucosamine and chondroitin, often taken in supplement form by those with bone/joint problems. There will also be an easily assimilated form of protein making soup made from bone stock an ideal food for those with poor appetites, suffering illnesses or convalescing. You won’t get all this from a regular stock cube!

 

Chicken Live Pate

  • 400g organic chicken livers, chopped
  • 175g organic butter
  • 2 tblsp dry or medium sherry or brandy (optional but nice!)
  •  ½  medium onion. chopped
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

Melt the butter in a pan and add the chopped onion. Cook until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, chicken livers, salt, pepper and thyme and cook until the livers are just LiverPatedone. Add the sherry or brandy if using. Pour into a blender and puree until smooth.    Divide into three small dishes or ramekins. Decorate, if wanted, with small bay leaves and juniper berries. Cool then refrigerate or freeze.

This recipe takes twenty minutes only. It tastes divine especially if served with oatcakes, sourdough toast or with celery to dip in. Loads of vitamins – especially the B range and the so-important fat-soluble ones. Impress your guests!

 

Sourdough bread

Sourdough is much more digestible than the usual variety making it more suitable for Sour Dough Breadthose for whom bloating is a problem. You shouldn’t eat a whole loaf at one go though, no matter how tempting! No baker’s yeast is used, just the natural yeasts from the air plus the pro-biotic lactobacilli. These organisms work together, neutralising the “bloat” factor and lightening the dough. This is the original way of bread-making – the way it’s been made for thousands of years.

My recipe makes a dense tasty and moist loaf – similar in looks to the one in the photograph. It’s superb toasted – but you will need to give it twice as long in the toaster than usual bread and is good for open sandwiches. There are numerous recipes on the net, using many different flours – there’s something for everyone. Don’t give up if it’s not successful on the first go – practice makes perfect!
The first stage is to make the yeasted starter and this takes two weeks. After that, as long as you have remembered to keep back some of the activated mix, it takes about two days from start to finish but only five minutes at a time for preparation.

The Starter

Stage 1: 100g organic rye flour + 100ml water. Mix in a glass/ceramic bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place – work surface in the kitchen in the summer or above a radiator/in the airing cupboard during winter.
Check daily. If it has a whitish film on it this is o.k. If you see any other colour, throw it away and start again. When it is ready for the next stage it will show some bubbles and smell vaguely of beer.
Stage 2. Throw half of the mix away or on the compost heap. Add 100ml hand hot water and 100g rye flour.
Stage 3. Next day. Throw away all but about 100ml of the mix then add 100ml hand-hot water and 100g rye flour.
Stage 4. Continue this daily for two weeks. As long as the mixture is bubbly and smells like a brewery, it is alive and kicking. If there is black mould or other coloured fluff, bin it and start again.

The bread

Stage 1. Morning of first day. Add 100ml warm water and 100g mixed organic rye and kamut/khorasan flour to the starter, cover loosely with film or a damp cloth and leave in a warm place.
Stage 2. Evening of the first day. Put two tablespoons of the activated mix in a clean screw top glass jar and put in the fridge – the starter for next time. Put the rest into a glass/ceramic mixing bowl and add 300ml warm water and 250g mixed flours as above. Stir lightly and cover. Leave overnight.
Stage 3. Morning of day two. It should now be puffed up and very beery! To 500ml warm water add 2 teaspoons Celtic sea or Himalayan crystal salt and a teaspoon honey (preferably organic). Stir this into the mix and add sufficient flours. a little at a time, (I can’t give you an amount as the consistancy is more relevant than the quantity)  to make a stiff, sticky mixture, still just stirable, that is well blended but not kneadable. The nearest likeness I could suggest would be a rich fruit cake mixture but with a yeasted texture.
Stage 4. Divide between two greased bread tins. Cover lightly and leave to rise for 4-6 hours until it has risen and levelled itself. There is no hard and fast rule here – I have left it as long as 8 hours on a cool day.
Stage 5. Set the oven to 180 degrees or gas equivalent and put the loaves in the centre immediately. Set the timer for 45 minutes. After this time, increase to 200 degrees and leave for another 5-10 minutes.
Stage 6. Remove from the oven and leave for 10-15 minutes then turn out to cool completely.

I usually cut each in half and freeze them until needed. I love this bread toasted, left to cool then smothered with good golden butter. This recipe gives quite a sour flavoured loaf but it is beautifully offset by the butter. Please don’t use margarine!

If you like the taste of flavoursome rye, use mostly that. If you like a less intense flavour, use more kamut. Sometimes I add about150g spelt grain (dry weight), washed, soaked for 24 hours, boiled for 40 minutes, drained and cooled, at stage 3 for a different texture and flavour. Each time you need bread, remove the starter from the fridge, add 100ml warm water, pour into a bowl then add 100g flour, and off you go again.

 

Frittata

  • 6 large organic eggs
  • Olive oil or butter. Salt and pepper
  • Cream
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 150g leftover veg or a mixture of peppers, courgettes (grated and squeezed of excess moisture), aubergine, tomatoes, mushrooms etc.
  • 80g approximately of grated cheese – any type to your liking

Melt 25g butter or a tablespoon of oil in a 25cm frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. If you are using fresh, uncooked veg add this now also. FritattaWhen soft, increase the heat a little.  Beat the eggs with 2 tablespoons of cream and season with salt and pepper. Tip into the pan. Grate the cheese on the top and cover the pan with the lid. Turn the heat down to below medium and cook until set. Allow the frittata to cool in the pan then run a knife around the edge and tip on to a plate. Refrigerate. Feeds 2-3 people

Be creative – add garlic/herbs/flaked salmon/chopped salami/prawns/smoked haddock/well-drained cooked spinach – whatever you want! It can live in the fridge for a few days and you have instant lunch for you or the hungry hordes when they come in from school/work – although you may need to make a bigger one if there are lots of you!

 

Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Pots

We all need a treat once in a while and this does the trick. Made in no time, tastes gorgeous and just wait for the compliments!

This will make 4-6 little pots depending how big they are. I have occasionally strayed from Chocolate Potsthe recipe when I didn’t have any brandy. Once I used a tablespoon of chocolate extract (to be found in supermarkets with the vanilla extract) and on another occasion I used the finely grated rind of a washed organic orange. Both very good but the brandy’s best!
With regard to nutrition – all the good stuff from the eggs plus fat soluble vitamins A, D and K.There may also be some benefit from the chocolate – antioxidants. This recipe without doubt has the bliss factor!

  • ½ pint single cream
  • 200g plain chocolate (minimum of 70% cocoa solids)
  • 2 (preferably organic) egg yolks (and two stiffly beaten egg whites if you want mousse texture)
  • 3 tbsp / 50 mls brandy (or orange juice)
  • 20g butter

Heat cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan until almost boiling.  Break up the chocolate and add,  then stir until melted.   Add egg yolks and brandy and beat lightly to combine ingredients.  Cool until just warm then beat in the butter. Stir in the egg whites if using. Pour into ramekins and refrigerate until cold and set.

 

Gozitan Rabbit Stew

Whilst I was on holiday in Gozo, I found a delightful restaurant, serving excellent home-cooked, nutritious food. The proprietors have kindly given me the recipe and permission to add it to my collection of recipes. This stew was my favourite!

  • 1 medium rabbit, jointed
  • 2 sliced onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Olive oil (or better – duck/goose fat)
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • Mixture of white wine and vegetable stock/bone broth – just enough to almost cover
  • Mushrooms
  • Small new potatoes (optional)

Wash and dry the rabbit. Heat the olive oil or fat in a large pan and fry the rabbit with the garlic and onions for ten minutes, turning occasionally.
Add the wine/stock, salt and pepper to taste and the mushrooms and potatoes if using.
Either cover with the lid or cover tightly with foil and cook for an hour on a low heat.

Serve with seasonal vegetables. Perfect and delicious nutrition!

 

Italian Meat Loaf

  • 1kilo minced beef (preferably organic)
  • 250g chicken livers – minced or finely cut with scissors (definitely organic)
  • 250g good pork sausage meat
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Italian herbs or use selection oregano/marjoram/thyme/rosemary
  • 1-2 teaspoons Himalayan or Celtic salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • large handful Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 50g porridge oats or 1 tablespoon psyllium husks
  • 60g butter
  • optional – 2 chopped chillis

Fry the onion and garlic in the butter until soft (add chilli too if using). Cool slightly. Put 2014-08-04 15.31.15everything into a large bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Divide between two greased loaf tins or two pudding basins. Cover tightly with foil. Cook for around an hour at 170 degrees. Serve straight away with mash or jacket potato (sweet potato?)  or if wanted cold, cool in the dishes then run a knife around and invert on to a plate. Spoon the juices over the “loaves”. Refrigerate. serve with salad and a jacket potato or some lovely bread with butter.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is not a food you would immediately think of as “gourmet” or even as a health food, but I would like to change that on both counts. If you like trying new things, you must give it a go. It is both easy and cheap (get the kids to do it!) to make and it’s good for you – loads of beneficial microbes for pennies!.

Years ago, we had no refrigeration – indeed some primitive people still don’t – so other ways of preserving good nourishing food had to be found. In fact I would argue that it is the way we are supposed to eat many vegetable foods as for much of the year there would be little vegetation.

In our gut we have trillions of bacteria to break down the foods that we eat. Unfortunately we are not that well equipped for digesting vegetable matter, having a much shorter colon than true vegetarian animal species – and it is in the colon that this fermentation takes place. By fermenting prior to eating, we make vegetables much more digestible as well as increasing the absorbable vitamin content and getting a healthy dose of probiotics.

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Sauerkraut – jazzed up a bit!

  • 1 organic small solid green or  white cabbage, shredded
  • 3 organic garlic cloves crushed
  • ½ small organic onion thinly sliced
  • 3 organic chillis sliced thinly (or more if you want!)
  • 1 thinly sliced red pepper
  • 1 large organic carrot, grated
  • 2 teaspoons  organic oregano or other Mediterranean herbs
  • 2 teaspoon Celtic sea or Himalayan crystal salt
  • A spoonful or two of the whey that occurs with natural yogurt or a couple of teaspoons of the liquid from the previous batch of sauerkraut
  • A little spring water

Put everything in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Put your hands in and squish it (kids will love this bit) until lots of the juices have run from the veg. Leave it half an hour then have another go.
Now cover the vegetables entirely with a plate or shallow bowl and weight it down so that they are covered with their own juices. If not completely covered, add a little spring water but only a little – more juice will come from the vegetables eventually. Cover the whole thing with a towel and leave in a warm place (in the kitchen or maybe an airing cupboard) for about 5 -7 days – until a bit fizzy. Try it from time to time and give it a stir.
If you see any mould – remove it. If you see a thin white film, this is fine.
Decant into glass jars – Kilner jars are good – pack it in. Refrigerate or leave in a very cool place. (I would suggest standing the jar in a bowl – sometimes it leaks!) This will keep almost indefinitely but I would suggest using within six months. Add to salads or just with cold meat for a really tasty and very nutritious lunch!

Try other mixes or individual vegetables – get creative and do your health a favour too!

This is really quite addictive and if you get the “bug” have a look at this: Wild Fermentation  

 

Lamb Stew

  • 800g scrag end of lamb or mutton, bone in
  • 30g dripping
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • A mixture of veg in bite-sized chunks -  1 large carrot, 1 parsnip, 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary and/or thyme
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt to taste and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour (or omit if you are excluding grains)
  • Water or bone broth
  • Handful of barley or rice (or omit if you are excluding grains)

It is unlikely that you will find scrag end of lamb or mutton in a supermarket. Phone a butcher and request it. Serves 4

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the dripping and fry meat until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add all the vegetables and fry, stirring for about 3-4 minutes. Add flour (if using) and cook another minute.
  3. Add sufficient water or broth to just cover veg, plus herbs, salt and pepper to taste and stir until thickened slightly.
  4. Return the meat to the pan, bring to the boil then reduce heat to a slow simmer.
  5. Cook for at least 2 hours, adding the barley or rice (if using) )for the last 40 minutes Stir from time to time.
  6. Serve with veg of your choice.

You can add dumplings too for the last 20 minutes, if you wish to make it go a bit further. This is a good recipe for a slow-cooker – follow maker’s instructions.

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The “Buzzword” Vitamin

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When I started my nursing career in 1973, I was taught very little about nutrition. Vitamin D was to help calcium into the bones for growth and strength and really, it had very little other use. Also – it was called vitamin D only – not D2 or D3 as you may have heard more recently.

This is yet again, the problem with science – it seems helpful until the next bit of science comes along and changes everything. So at this time we are aware that there are two forms of vitamin D that have some importance for us as humans – D2 and D3. D2 is present in plants and not as bio-available to us as D3, which is obtained from animal sources and the sun. Another recent discovery is that in order for vitamin D3 to be used properly, vitamin K2 needs to be present. And vitamin A. And several minerals..

I named my business “Your Good Health – Naturally” for a very specific reason which I am sure you can guess. If we eat the diet we are programmed for and emulate (impossible to live the exact same life) the lifestyle we evolved with, we get what we need for life, health and reproduction. And this is in spite of the constantly changing “evidence” that science brings us.

I suspect that over the next decade, we will see vitamin D split into other analogues. New science is already showing that vitamin D from the sun is water soluble and can travel easily in the blood, but vitamin D from food is fat-soluble and in fact, needs fat for its absorption if it is contained in non fatty sources (eg. vegetables). I wonder how long it will take before science shows us that it is also used differently in the body!

It wasn’t so long ago in our history that we spent a great deal more time outside. Children played outside in all weathers. When I was young, we had two TV channels and no computers to keep us indoors. We saw the sun at all times of the day and no sun-screen was applied, since it hadn’t been invented. Sun-tan lotion (to attract the sun to make tanning quicker) was around in the 1960s as I remember and we were encouraged to be in the sun as it gave us vitamin D. What on Earth has gone wrong? People of the western world are now vitamin D deficient – to epidemic proportions.  If we are to remain disease-free, things have to change.

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So why do we need vitamin D? Before I address that, I must first emphasise that nutrients work together, not in isolation. The trouble is, when we hear that something is good for us, we then overdo it – “if some is good, more must be better”. We often buy supplements. but please, get professional help with this if you intend to take them. Vitamin D3 on its own can be harmful. Vitamin D3 helps the absorption of calcium but is is vitamin K2 that directs it to bones and teeth – away from arteries where it causes damage.

We now know that vitamin D3 (which is the form our bodies use easily) is needed for countless processes in the body. In fact, the bottom line is that we cannot live without proper levels of vitamin D.

(The UK RDA for vitamin D will protect against bone diseases but we need far more than this for optimum health. If half an hour in the sun can produce 20,000 units of vitamin D in our skin, the UK RDA, at a mere 2-400 units, is woefully inadequate.)

Children and babies have died from this deficiency and adults become ill and die from the diseases that are associated with the deficiency – but their conditions are rarely attributed to it as blood levels of vitamin D are not routinely tested. Due to all the known processes in the body where vitamin D3 takes a part, it is not difficult to imagine what might happen if it is not present in the needed amounts.

Immunity is compromised along with all that this entails: pathogenic infections are not effectively fought; potentially cancerous cells may not be destroyed; asthma and eczema are more prevalent as are other allergies; incidences of gut problems such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are more evident as are the symptoms in established disease.
Interestingly, the incidence of malignant melanomas (which some authorities believe to be due to the sun’s rays) are less common in those with optimum levels. There are about twenty different types of cancer that are known to have a connection with vitamin D deficiency.

Bone density is severely compromised without adequate levels of vitamin D.  Rickets is the name for this condition in children and osteomalacia in adults. Babies have been known to be born with the condition and their bones remain fragile instead of being strengthened by mineral deposits. This condition at its worst is incompatible with life. The condition is evident as the legs become bowed in children and adults. Osteoporosis is also a bone thinning disease where vitamin D deficiency may at least in part, be implicated. Don’t forget the K2 too!

It is now thought that vitamin D3 is involved with cholesterol regulation, the occurrence of mental disturbances such as dementia and depression, heart disease and the onset and progression of multiple sclerosis.

Such terrible consequences from a deficiency that is entirely preventable – for free. In Britain, during the months of April to September the sun rises high enough in the sky for the UVB rays (which are the ones needed to form vitamin D3 in our skin) to reach us here in the Northern Hemisphere. UVB rays are short in comparison to UVA rays – which are available from dawn to dusk. The easiest way to gauge if the sun is right is to look at your shadow. If it is shorter than you are tall, the UVB rays are present and you can strip off! Be sensible here – if your skin is fair, five minutes a side is sufficient. If you have black skin, you must start with about thirty minutes a side. Unfortunately, black-skinned people suffer the most in the Western world as it takes that much longer for the UVB rays to penetrate. It is none-the-less, absolutely vital they sunbathe if they are to stay healthy. The amount of sunshine needed to be effective, also depends where you are. The more northerly the position, the longer it will take and if you are on holiday in the Med, less time will be needed. Your skin should be slightly pink, not red. Do NOT go to sleep in the sun – you are very likely to burn! After this time, it is best to cover up or sit in shade but if you must, use a sunscreen that is as natural as possible. The usual sun-screens have many unpleasant and damaging chemicals in them. Your skin will quite happily absorb these into your body where they have absolutely no place. (Best to use water only for showering after sun exposure, to prevent washing away those precious skin oils.)

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If your ancestors were from the Northern Hemisphere, you are adequately equipped for life here. The fact that our livers can store huge amounts of vitamin D means that even though there is no UVB sunlight during the winter months, we will be fine if we have adequate stores. If we haven’t, maybe a D3 and K2 supplement would be useful for a few months. Please seek advice regarding this.
People whose ancestry is nearer the Equator should take extra care. The storage space for vitamin D may not be the same as people from more northerly climes, due to the intensity, frequency and duration of sunlight in equatorial countries.  Nature doesn’t change what it does very quickly, meaning that we have to.

There are many foods that contain vitamin D. D2 is present in leafy green vegetables but some people have trouble converting it to the D3 that is needed for humans and some other mammals. To maximise the absorption of D3 from plants, serve vegetables with a knob of butter or in a creamy sauce. Animal foods that are rich in D3 – eggs, full-fat dairy, offal, shellfish and other surface swimming fish. Meat (and especially offal) that has the highest levels of D3 will be from animals that are reared outside on pasture where they can eat grass and weeds that contain abundant D2 which they will convert to D3. These are foods that are nutrient-dense all round and should be included in our diet anyway.

In 2012 we had a lousy summer. During the winter of that year, I dropped my “no supplements” rule and took a D3/K2 supplement until April. Maybe there are some occasions when it is a good idea, as the above, but also you might want to do this if you have dark skin or if you have not been able to sunbathe much when the sun was out. To me though, ”naturally” is always the best.

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What’s in Your Shopping Basket?

We all know a bit about how to eat properly don’t we? The trouble is that when we are faced with doing the food-shopping, it is tempting to go for the foods that are quick and easy or cheap. The pennies have to be watched, but please, not at the expense of health!

A few tips for sensible healthy shopping – some you will know and some you won’t.

  1. Animal fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K2. These are vital for good health but miss out on them as we believe fat is bad for us or that vegetable fats are healthier. These notions are absolutely untrue. Animal fats are the way to go in order to keep hunger under control. (After all, how much butter can you eat before feeling full up?!) Fatty cuts of meat are cheaper than lean and satisfy much quicker. Try a slow-roasted pork shoulder – delicious, filling, healthy and leftovers for sandwiches or salad the next day.
  2. Buy fruit and veg in season and preferably not in big supermarkets. Kale is in season now and is one of the most nutritious vegetables. Cook until fairly soft – it has a better flavour at this stage – but use the cooking water for gravy or soup.
  3. Plan your meals for the week ensuring there is little or no waste. This I cannot stress enough. Throwing food out is just not an option. If you see that there are a few vegetables looking past their best – make minestrone, serve it with some grated cheese on top and scrumptious bread on the side!
  4. Look for meat on its sell-by date. Use it on the day or freeze straight away.
  5. Don’t be tempted to buy ready-meals. They are cheap and often nutritionally poor foods made palatable by flavourings, sugar and salt. Make your own “ready meals” by doing a mammoth (get the kids involved) cooking session and dividing into portions for times when you really can’t be bothered to cook.
  6. Learn to cook offal. It is cheap and wonderfully nutritious, but always buy organic. If you are unused to liver, try making pate – there is a recipe in Food for Thought on the website.
  7. Use butter and cream in cooking. This enhances the nutritional profile of food but also adds a luxurious taste. Put butter on your veg to increase the uptake of vitamins.
  8. Use tinned oily fish for lunches and salads. Lots of calcium (as long as the fish is not filleted) and omega 3.
  9. If you don’t already, learn to cook!

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To summarise, these are some of the foods you should have in your basket for nutrients and your pocket.

  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Vegetables – especially the green leafy ones and salads, avocados
  • Fatty cuts of meat, chicken on the bone (make stock from the bones) and offal
  • Tinned sardines and wild salmon
  • Eggs – lots of them!
  • Natural cheeses – not processed. Gouda has good levels of vitamin K2.
  • Bread but not the cheapest please! Spend a little more and buy sourdough/pumpernickel/ or organic seedy breads. Better still, make your own sourdough – recipe on the website.
  • Fruit in season
  • Natural whole milk yogurt
  • Organic, unhomogenised milk or better still, find a local raw milk supplier for the best nutrition.

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Of course it is best to buy organic but if you really cannot afford it, please buy the best you can afford. Farmer’s markets are a good place to buy real food. Wash fruit and veg thoroughly if they are not organic. In fact, fruits are best peeled.

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The “Wise Traditions” Conference Part 1

After the two days at the Weston A. Price “Wise Traditions” conference, my head was buzzing – so much information to assimilate and figure out how to use this in my practice. Some of the topics discussed reassured me that I am on the right path with the treatment I advise. The “usual suspects” for disease came up often – low blood vitamin D levels in the western world, low-fat diets contributing to poor health, the detrimental effect of polyunsaturated oils and of course, the importance of a good microbiota – the colony of microbes in your gut. All the things I bang on about constantly!

DSC_6904Chris Masterjohn, talked about the importance of “Meat, Bones, Organs and Skin for Mental Health”. I am far from being a scientist so I won’t go into details here for fear of getting it wrong! Suffice it to say that there are substances in these foods that work together and in a domino effect, promoting the proper function of brain chemicals – proper functioning brain chemicals – proper functioning brain!
He also highlighted, chemically, what can go wrong for vegetarians. He was vegetarian/vegan for many years, believing that this was the healthy way to eat. His health suffered and his teeth began to rot due partly to the lack of fat soluble vitamins and the amount of grain he was eating. He began researching and came upon the Weston A. Price Foundation. Read more about this here.
There is some evidence that vegetarians suffer mental disorders more frequently than meat-eaters.
His second lecture was about how heart disease and degeneration are related to the nutrients in food. The most important message was about anti-oxidants. Most of us have heard this term and understand that they are needed to help our health, but I think the main message for me was that yet again, they do not work alone but need other compounds to do the job. I feel justified in my stance – I very rarely advise supplements for just this reason. If you take a supplement in isolation, at worst it could be dangerous and at best it can be pointless. More about supplements here.

file9121341856730Philip Weeks gave a talk about adrenal exhaustion, brought about by chronic stress. We all know that it is damaging, but even I was shocked at just how badly the body can be affected! Rather than summarise the talk, I found this on his website which explains.

Next week I will conclude this blog.

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Weston A. Price and the “Wise Traditions” Conference

I feel enlivened and motivated by the nutrition conference I attended recently. The Weston A. Price Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to the dissemination of good nutrition research and much of this is available for free on their website. This is no-nonsense, easy to understand information which is based upon the traditional growing of food and its preparation. It is about real food – meat and eggs from pasture reared animals, fresh vegetables grown in properly nourished soil and without pesticides, naturally fermented foods and lots of wonderfully rich dairy products from cows fed their proper diet – grass.

file000121540238Weston A. Price was a Canadian dentist during the early years of the 1900s. His interest in health grew from peering into people’s mouths. He became aware that some people had crowded teeth and narrow dental arches (thus requiring a brace – see left) and others had wide arches and flat uncrowded teeth (see below). These dental arches also determined the shape of the face – narrow and pinched or wide and open. He began his research by travelling the world and interviewing primitive people about their diet and lifestyles. Whether it was the North American Indians, the people from isolated villages in Switzerland, the Inuit or the New Zealand Maori, his findings were very similar. These people had happy dispositions regardless of their relative poverty, had wide faces, good teeth free from cavities, bodies free of chronic illness and were resistant to infectious diseases. All of this gave him the basis for his book – Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Cutting a very long story short, he learned how vital it is for the diet to be rich in the file00051763508fat-soluble vitamins A and D and K2 (although K2 was named much more recently – he called it  X -factor.) These are vitamins that are abundant in butter, fish eggs, shellfish, raw dairy and organ meats and the peoples that he studied always consumed large amounts of some of these – the Swiss mainly dairy and the Inuit, organ meats. The fat-soluble vitamins work together to build bones and tissues as they are meant to be and a lack of them causes structural problems. Another aspect which he observed was the correct preparation of grains and legumes. Without this preparation, they do not yield their nutrients effectively and can in fact, prevent the uptake of other nutrients. They can also cause digestive distress.

The Weston A. Price Foundation was set up by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig in 1999. Its intention is to build upon the knowledge of Weston A. Price and spread it far and wide. It is (in a very small way!) my intention too as you will see from my other blogs.

Next week I will tell you a little of what I learned at the conference.

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Change4Better or Change4Worse?

No doubt you will have seen the government’s Change4Life campaign this year. It is a subject that the government tackle most years, the focus being slightly different each time. The website tells you how many have signed up, but of course, not how many have dropped out.

There is absolutely no doubt that the health of the nation has to be addressed, but it is sad that the supporters have had their two-penn’orth.  Have a look at the partners.  In amongst some well-intentioned organizations you will see, Pepsi, Danone, Mars, McCain and Unilever (Flora and many more brands). Some of these are billionaire multinational conglomerates. Why are they here? I could speculate but I think it is better if you do the thinking.

file000342738006The overall recommendations fall short of a healthy diet and the “swaps” are downright wrong. Being generous, there are degrees of “healthy diet”. No doubt the recommendations would improve the health of some, but why give false information? Far better we learn the truth about food from day one and frankly, saying that sugar-free fizzy drinks are better than their original counterparts is just wrong. This is literally swapping one range of illnesses for another. Not only is the sweetener aspartame (Canderel pink) dangerous to health, but sweetened foods and drinks can also lead to obesity and diabetes.

“Watch out for the hidden nasties!” is the catch-phrase that is used on the Change4Life website. But what about all these “nasties”? Artificial flavours, colours and preservatives abound. We should not be advocating changing sugary drinks for artificially sweetened drinks. We should be suggesting swaps that contribute to our health. Water (even fizzy water), tea, milk and fermented milk drinks give us true hydration and positive nutrition. (Even water contains minerals.) Here are the ingredients for Diet Pepsi:
Carbonated Water, Colour (Caramel E150d), Flavourings (including Caffeine), Phosphoric Acid, Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Acidity Regulator (Sodium Citrate), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Citric Acid, Contains a source of Phenylalanine.
…and for water:
Water

And what about the low fat swaps? If you believe that we need to restrict saturated fat, you are likely to go along with these recommendations. The advice is to choose low-fat dairy products – semi-skimmed milk, low fat cheese and yogurts. When you do this, you lower the intake of saturated fat – and thus the all-important fat-soluble vitamins – but increase that of potentially toxic additives! This is a list of the ingredients for Shape (owned by Danone)low-fat mango yogurt:
Yogurt (Skimmed Milk, Skimmed Milk Concentrate, Milk Proteins, Yogurt Cultures), Water, Mango (6%), Fibre (Oligofructose), Stabilisers (Modified Maize Starch, Carrageenan), Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Acidity Regulators (Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate), Flavouring, Colour (Paprika Extract).
…and for Total Greek yogurt:
Pasteurised Cows’ Milk, Milk Cream, Live Active Yoghurt Cultures
To me the swap should be to full fat natural yogurt – not a yogurt brimming with artificial ingredients.

There is another advertisement that troubles me – for Cheese Strings. I don’t have huge issues with this product but there is a statement on screen, “Children should consume no more than a small matchbox size piece of cheese a day and low fat choices are more suitable.” I cannot find the origin of the statement and neither do Ifile0001486924909 agree with it.  As always, it is your whole diet which makes a difference to your health – for better or worse. Singling out one food like this is a very poor way to educate us about nutrition. For all the information this provides, as long as there is one matchbox sized piece of cheese in your child’s lunchbox, it would be fine to put in a bag of crisps, a chocolate biscuit and a bottle of pop. Full fat cheese is a wonderfully nutritious food and inexpensive too. Most children find it very palatable (the taste-buds doing their job) so it is a great addition to a lunch box. For a primary school child – a bread wrap with cheese and salad, a natural full fat yogurt with a little apple puree stirred in and a bottle of water makes a good nutritious and substantial lunch. Add a few squares of chocolate if you want as a treat – (NOT the whole bar!)

To promote healthy eating, Change4Life’s campaign encourages the change to low fat and artificially sweetened food and drinks, from their full-fat and sugary counterparts. This is not the right way. Changing to a diet of whole fresh foods is the right way. I normally advise organic food but small changes are easier to manage. One step at a time!

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Thinking of Becoming Vegetarian? Please Read!

Fancy being vegetarian or vegan? There are some extreme diets too such as fruitarians and breatharians which are both self explanatory and have little to recommend them! Before embarking on any diets, it is as well to keep some facts in mind. So often decisions are made on limited knowledge and in the case of what you eat, this can have serious consequences for your health.

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The definition of “diet”, from one source is “the usual food and drink of a person or animal” but so often it is synonymous with weight-loss regimes. The trouble is, most of us are unaware of what our “usual” diet should consist of! It does not matter where in the world you are from, we all need the same nutrients – although how we obtain them is often different. Therefore the diet of humans has to be one which provides all the nutrients that have been shown to be necessary for growth and health.  Sound reasonable? I would add here that necessary nutrients are being discovered all the time and for this reason, your main source of nutrition has to come from the food you eat, not from supplements.

Currently, there are about fifty known nutrients – too many to list here! However, there are some vital facts that must be taken into account.

  • Nutrients work together, not independently.
  • If you are ill, some nutrients may not be absorbed properly.
  • Some foods inhibit the uptake of certain nutrients.
  • Some foods use the available nutrients for their own metabolism thus robbing the body.
  • Some foods, whilst being sound nutritionally, will only give these up when properly prepared.
  • Where and how your food is produced will determine how nutritionally valuable it is.

I will just talk about the not too extreme form of vegetarianism. Those that adopt this way of eating do so for three reasons generally – religion, animal welfare and health. The first is difficult to argue so I won’t! All I will say is that I have been contacted several times by people needing help with gut issues who are from this category. 1008594_80327405The animal welfare reason is one I do sympathise with as I was vegetarian for ten years during my early adulthood for this cause. It is possible to be healthy if you are in this category but care must be taken with food choices if all nutrients are to be obtained. Those who choose vegetarianism for health reasons are often the ones who can succumb to ill health due to the wealth of misinformation that is currently available. These people often choose low-fat food options, eat lots of grain products and never venture out into the mid-day sun. They usually take supplements and they can be found at the gym or pounding the pavements several times a week. I am sorry to generalise but I have met these people during the last twenty-plus years of giving health advice as a nurse. This is not lifestyle which provides optimal health.

There is much that can be done to improve the usual vegetarian diet but it takes a little more thought and food preparation than for the meat-eaters. Here are some points to consider:

  1. Vitamin B12 is the most problematic vitamin for vegetarians (and especially vegans). It is only bio-available from animal products and although it is present in some vegetable matter, it is in the wrong form for humans. Your diet must contain pastured organic eggs, milk and cheeses (preferably raw) and fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir.
  2. Many vegetarians will eat copious quantities of grains and these are the foods which rob the body of nutrients, especially if not carefully prepared. The same is true of legumes which often feature as a source of protein in vegetarian diets. Click the highlighted words for information regarding preparation.
  3. When you eat large amounts of grain, your vitamin C requirement is increased. Obtain this from salads and vegetables rather than from lots of fruit and juice which will increase your sugar intake.
  4. Grains change to sugar in the gut which can lead to insulin sensitivity and diabetes.
  5. Meat, its fat and offal contain the fat soluble vitamins which are vital for the lining of cells, hormone production and integrity of the gut lining. When these are not eaten the diet must include eggs, cheeses and plenty of deep yellow butter.
  6. The body needs copious amounts of vitamin D3 which must be obtained from the sun.

My recommendations for a healthy diet and lifestyle can be found here.

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“Treat” Recipes!

Treat recipes – but still really good nutrition!

Yes, the ice-cream is a treat food but you can enjoy it with a clear conscience – your heart is being looked after and you are getting lots of wonderful (almost magical) fat-soluble vitamins. Even the maple syrup is good for you in small doses!

Banana breadThe banana cake is a recipe I have messed about with for some time and now it is perfect!  It would be fine as banana bread too – just omit the honey. It would be a really good “quick meal” and it’s very portable. For me it is a change to eggs or a big breakfast but there are lots of other times to enjoy this. It’s great for taking with you as a late breakfast whenever you don’t want to eat or don’t have time first thing in the morning. Children’s and spouse’s lunch boxes can be made more interesting and nutritious with its addition (but include the recipe for children’s lunch boxes or you’ll be accused of providing poor nutrition for your child!).
Lastly, try changing the honey to molasses and the cinnamon to a tablespoon of powdered ginger..

 

Maple Syrup Ice-Cream (Makes 1 litre)

300ml whole organic milk
200ml organic maple syrup
500ml organic double or sour cream (preferably raw)
6 organic egg yolks (whisked)

Bring the milk and maple syrup to almost boiling point. Add a couple of ladles to the egg yolks and mix well. Add this slowly to the hot milk and over a medium heat, stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens slightly taking care that the yolks don’t scramble!). Strain into a bowl, cover, cool then chill until you are ready to complete the ice-cream.
Thoroughly mix the cream into the custard. Pour into an ice-cream maker and churn until partially frozen. Pour into a freezer container and continue freezing. If you do not have an ice-cream maker, pour the mixture into a freezer container, freeze until the edges of the ice-cream have frozen then turn out into a bowl and whisk thoroughly. Repeat this once more.
To serve, remove the container from the freezer about 15 minutes to thaw slightly before scooping. If this is not the best ice-cream you have ever tasted, I’ll eat my hat! Remember though, the best results come from the best ingredients.

 

Banana Bread

6 large eggs
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¼ – cup honey (or a little more if you like “sweet”.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut oil/butter, melted
¾ cup coconut flour (This is the one I use.)
½ cup almond flour (NOT ground almonds. This is the one I use.)
2  teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch salt
4 very large bananas or five medium ones frozen, defrosted and mashed (don’t drain them)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a loaf pan.
Beat the wet ingredients together thoroughly then sieve in the dry ingredients. Beat until blended.
Bake for 40-55 minutes until the loaf has darkened to very deep gold and the loaf is fairly firm. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
Butter thickly!

Can be frozen – in slices if you prefer.

These look expensive but remember, they are food – real nourishment and not just a snack.

 

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