Archive for the ‘meat’ Tag

From Pre-Pre to Pre   1 comment

I am now switching from pre-pre-pregnancy mode, to pre-pregnancy mode. “Pre-pre-pregnancy” was what I called the period of time when we hadn’t started trying yet, but were getting ready for pregnancy. I made a number of changes to diet and lifestyle during this time, and there were some minor other things like buying a house :-). Originally I figured this phase would last 6-months, since my husband promised me that we could start trying at the beginning of 2010. But with the sloooooooow progress that comes with buying a short sale, at the beginning of the year we were still waiting to hear from the bank. I was not at all comfortable getting pregnant while experiencing the psychological stress that comes with being unsure of our current (previous) living situation and being unsure if and when our offer on the house would be accepted, combined with the stress of being completely swamped at work and slightly out of my comfort range.

Most of my efforts in the pre-pre phase were devoted to getting my hormone levels under control. My previous naturopath theorized that I had leaky gut and my body was reabsorbing too much estrogen. The indicators for leaky gut were hormonal (cyclical) acne and a variety of food allergies. He prescribed some dietary changes, but I couldn’t commit to the more drastic dietary changes (completely eliminating white bread and pasta), and the homeopathic remedies were insufficient. The tests that my new naturopath prescribed included a month-long hormone test, which found that my estrogen is off the charts high while my DHEA (precursor) is within normal range. That would be consistent with the theory that my body isn’t making extra estrogen, it’s absorbing it.

Even before seeing the new naturopath I tried using my hormonal acne as a gauge for getting my hormones in check. My strategy was five-fold:

  1. Decrease (added) sugar consumption to the recommended 5 tsp/day. This took all of two weeks of keeping track of my sugar consumption to realize that most days I wasn’t consuming more than 2 tsp of added sugars.
  2. Eliminate (to 95%) meat and dairy that are not rBST-free (synthetic growth hormone). We were already essentially hormone-free at home, with organic milk and yogurt, mostly organic or hormone-free cheese, and only hormone-free meat. What made this step big is that I included food eaten outside of the house (restaurants, etc.). I’ve been able to keep this one up pretty well over the last year, but I have gotten a little bit more lax on cheese and the occasional run to Coldstone Creamery. I’m hoping that the bacteria that make the cheese will have metabolized more of the residual rBST. It is absolutely painful not being able to order beef or lamb in most restaurants, though.
  3. Overcome my cracker addiction. I used to eat so many boxes of crackers at work and at home, and most of them were made from white flour. But with the cold turkey approach, I got over that. First at work, and then at home. It was hard, but a year later I am quite happy. Even when I was really stressed right after we closed on the house I didn’t relapse into the comfort of crackers. I am so very proud of myself.
  4. Increase my fruit and vegetable consumption. This went along with overcoming the cracker addiction since I replaced snacking on crackers with snacking of fresh vegetables. Needless to say our grocery store budget went down and our farmer’s market budget went up.
  5. Go to sleep between 11 and 11:30. My understanding is that the liver regenerates at around midnight, so this strategy was on the theory that I wanted a really well-functioning liver to remove excess hormones.

My new naturopath added a couple of supplements to go beyond what dietary changes can do. Glutamine powder in my smoothies should help the walls of my digestive tract to heal, thus preventing leaky gut. Another supplement supports metabolism of hormones. She wanted me to take that one for two full months since it takes a couple of months for hormone levels to adjust, but that two month mark will be right after I expect to ovulate next. Hopefully it’ll be good enough.

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Posted October 2, 2010 by mayakey in food, health, pre-pregnancy

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And That’s Why I Aim For 95%   3 comments

It’s confession time: I ate a “conventional” cheeseburger yesterday.

I had blood drawn twice in less than 24 hours (two different tests, one at my new naturopathic doctor’s office and one at a clinic where my insurance will pay the lab bill), and after the second time I realized that it might be a good idea to consume some iron, but we don’t currently have any red meat in the freezer (not that we would really want to cook it anyway, in this 100 degree heat). Since I was going to have to buy lunch anyway I decided to enjoy an In’n’Out burger. It was the first such burger I’ve had in almost a year and the last such burger that I’ll probably eat for the next couple years. Boy was it yummy.

So what’s wrong with the burger? Well, for most people, nothing. But last fall I committed to 95% elimination of meat and dairy containing synthetic hormones as one of the first steps in my pre-pregnancy prep. Why 95% instead of 100%? Because 100% is unrealistic. I’m not about to research (and then remember) every single cheese in the Whole Foods cheese display to figure out which are European, which are organic, and which are conventional. I feel really weird eating my leftovers at staff meetings or vendor presentations where everyone else is eating free pizza or whatever. I don’t want to inconvenience other people, just myself. And there will always be situations where the lines are gray, such as yesterday’s iron vs. beef-that-was-fed-artificial-hormones. What 95% does include is only hormone-free meat and dairy at home (that commitment actually dates back to 2001 when I first moved out on my own), and avoiding “conventional” meat and dairy when not eating at home.

I originally went hormone-free on two grounds. First, I was concerned that there may be some influence on my adult-onset acne from the residual hormones in the meat and dairy that I was consuming. Second, I was concerned about the health and welfare of the cows fed the artificial hormones; and how degraded health might affect my food in other indirect ways. On the first point, there is some scientific debate about whether/how much artificial hormones and related compounds pass into the meat/milk, whether/how much is destroyed by the human digestive system, and whether there is any effect from that small dosage. But I cite the Precautionary Principle. I’ve seen enough research results over the years to make me want to be wary, especially when it comes to a fetus that will spend 9 months immersed in my body and exposed to my body burden. That future fetus is the reason for ramping up my commitment to avoiding synthetic hormones. Since I’ve been told that it takes several months (on the order of three) for hormones to stabilize/be removed from the body, I decided to eliminate potential bad-actors well before we actually start trying to get pregnant.

Just in case anyone wants to know: US regulations allow synthetic hormones to be given to dairy cows, beef cattle, and lamb, but no other form of meat. Use of synthetic grown hormones (specifically rBST, recombinant bovine somatotropin) is not allowed in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or Japan. The first synthetic hormone was developed in 1994, and before that natural hormones were expensive and rarely used. For a few months in early 2009, the US imposed a luxury tax of 100% on some European goods and 300% on Roquefort cheese, supposedly in retaliation for the EU ban on imports of beef and dairy from cows given growth hormones.

Posted June 30, 2010 by mayakey in food, health

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With a Side of Meat   4 comments

“Eat less meat” We’ve all heard that before. But why is this such a challenge in our society to begin with? I got to wondering that a while ago and I realized that part of the issue could be the way we view meat in relation to our meals. Generally in American society most meals are planned around meat. What’s for dinner? Chicken. Steak. We eat more protein than we need. The starches and vegetables alongside the meat are often sort of considered second class citizens. But meat isn’t a god, or the sun, or a child; the world does not revolve around meat. It is just a class of ingredient. Also, the recommended serving size for meat is something like 3 or 4 ounces (that “pack of cards” guideline), but face it, that’s hard to do when the meat is the center of the meal.

My thought – relegate meat to side dish status, not necessarily main dish status. Use meat as ingredients to augment the other foods on the plate. These aren’t exactly crazy concepts, but I think the general attitude is the challenging part. At home we usually follow this since we usually plan vegetarian meals and then sometimes decide to add some sausage. Occasionally I’ll get a beef or lamb or buffalo craving and then we’ll usually get some ground or cubed meat to add to something. There is the rare occasion when we decide to buy steak or pork chops or something similar and then plan a meal around it. Somehow I often find that the meals planned around a piece of meat are less fulfilling then meals that just incorporate the meat.

Changing my attitude should make eating out at restaurants a little healthier (only a little, though, I just don’t have that much self control) and cooking for Game Night less terrifying because I will commit to no longer trying to make the meat a star ingredient. And for everyone who cooks a big holiday dinner, take some of that turkey pressure off and accent all of the other million dishes on the table. Is this a doable attitude shift for many people? What do you think?

Posted June 24, 2010 by mayakey in food

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Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Meat   2 comments

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her new book. I’m taking the challenge and posting my results here. The first week was a self-exam, the second was about shopping, the third was about fruits and vegetables, and the fourth is about meat. I haven’t read her book, so the challenge is limited to what she posted in her blog.

The first part of the meat challenge is easy for my husband and I. Eat less meat. Check. We rarely cook meat for dinner more than once a week at home, and usually cooking meat entails throwing one sausage apiece into a stir-fry or having a sausage on the side of some other dish. When we go out for dinner (once or twice a month, typically) we do eat meat most of the time, and when we go over to our friends’ house every Saturday dinner always revolves around meat. My lunches rarely include meat since I’ve stopped eating frozen lunches, and my husband’s lunch varies as far as the meat content goes.

Conscious shopping for meat has been a priority for me for about a decade, but I didn’t really buckle down and get really serious until the last year. When I bought meat previously (at the grocery store) it was always organic, but I didn’t make sure that it was free-range (which is a totally meaningless word anyway). Now the only beef I buy is grass-fed. Thankfully I never buy chicken so I haven’t had to figure out a way to buy good chicken (my understanding is that most of the chicken labeling is green washing).

We recently got two beef vendors at our farmer’s market; and at least the first one is grass-fed organic local beef. We have purchased a couple of packages from them so far, and plan to continue doing so. There is no other meat sold at our farmer’s market. I believe that there is a meat CSA or cooperative near Sacramento, but we don’t eat enough meat (or have freezer space to store) right now to justify such a regular source of meat. When we move into our new house I understand we will inherit a chest freezer from my in-laws and will hopefully soon be able to fill it with a half or quarter cow (or any form of meat other than poultry). I do need to ask questions at the grocery store when I buy pork, lamb, or buffalo to verify that the meat is consistent with my values, so that is my challenge for now. I find raw chicken disgusting and plan to continue avoiding it for the foreseeable future, so I don’t have to think about that labeling mess.

A note on the sausage. We buy all of our sausage from Whole Foods, sometimes fresh and sometimes packaged, so it’s at least not the worst sausage. I personally give sausage a lot of leeway since I consider it to be my carcinogen of choice (some people smoke, others tan, I eat sausage). I am honestly afraid to ask too many questions about the sausage ingredients since I don’t want to restrict my choices. I also have no intention in the near future of trying my hand at sausage making. So not practical for my life right now.

Posted May 9, 2010 by mayakey in food, organic, shopping

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Inflammatory Meats and Carbs   1 comment

One of the purposes of a detox is to assist the body function by temporarily reducing levels of chronic inflammation (giving the body a break). Chronic inflammation can be caused by stress or diet, among other things, and can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or cancer (among other things). Dietary contributors to inflammation include meats that are high in omega-6 fatty acids and refined carbohydrates, hence eliminating meat and refined carbohydrates (including sugars and white wheat flour) during a detox.

Omega-6 fatty acids, like omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for the body; but the ratio of omega-6 to 3 should be around 4:1 and the wonderful American diet typically ranges from 10:1 to 30:1. Excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids are converted in the body into hormones that can contribute to inflammation (go to Wikipedia’s omega-6 fatty acid page for a more technical description). Grass-fed meat and poultry raised on high omega-3 seeds actually have a more favorable ratio of omega-6 to 3, but for the purpose of the detox significantly reducing meat consumption and eating more fibrous foods for a period of a few days is ideal. (Note the similarity between the detox diet and a healthy diet.)

Refined carbohydrates (aka sugars) also contribute to inflammation in the body because of uncontrolled reactions of sugars with fats or proteins (as opposed to the controlled reactions that are necessary for healthy cell functioning). For more technical blah blah check out Wikipedia’s pages on glycation or advanced glycation end products. When I say “refined carbohydrates” I mean anything with a high glycemic index, meaning anything that rapidly converts to sugar during the digestion process. This includes almost every wheat-based product in your average grocery store. In my second grade class we did an experiment where we chewed a saltine for a minute without swallowing and experienced the taste change from salty to sweet. The concept was mind-blowing to me as a 7-year old, but now it helps me to understand what a carbohydrate really is (something that ultimately breaks down into a sugar). During the detox, therefore, consumption of foods with a high glycemic index is significantly reduced, and consumption of foods with a low glycemic index is increased. (Again, note the similarity between the detox diet and a healthy diet.)

Posted May 1, 2010 by mayakey in food, health

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