Egg Carton Labels: What do they mean?

Hi wellness friends,

Is it just me, or have you also been bombarded with buzzwords when you’re cruising down the egg aisle? Cage-free, organic, pastured..what do these terms mean? Which eggs are the healthiest ones to buy? And which labels are flat out meaningless?

I put together this guide to help answer some of these questions.

Take a close look! Like me, you might be surprised to find how misleading some of these labels are!

(Click on the image below to enlarge)

Egg Labels

Final thoughts:

The best eggs you can buy are pastured organic eggs from local farms. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Pastured means that the hens laying the eggs are raised on pasture. This means they have access to fresh air, sunlight, and are able to roam around and engage in their natural behaviors. This also means that they are fed their natural diet which includes protein in the form of insects. (You read that correctly, chickens are not naturally vegetarians!)  Tests have shown that pastured eggs are much healthier (higher Vitamin A, Vitamin E, beta carotene, and omega-3 content) than those that are not pastured. For a farm near you, visit http://www.eatwild.com.
    .
  2. Organic eggs are free of antibiotics and pesticides.
    .
  3. Eggs from local farms afford you the ability to both research and ask questions about the welfare of the animals. Plus you are supporting your local economy.

A quick note on meaningless labels:

Terms like “Fertile” and “Natural” are virtually meaningless. They are unregulated terms and tell us nothing about the welfare of the animal (how it was raised, what it was fed). If it’s natural, it must be good for you, right? Nope. I wish it were that simple.

The next time you’re in the egg aisle, don’t be fooled by some of the appealing buzzwords that are thrown at you!

Love and light,

vm

Advertisements

Monday Morsels 3/17/14

Happy Monday and Happy St. Patty’s Day!

Welcome to another edition of Monday Morsels, where I share the last week’s happenings in the wonderful world of wellness (say that three times fast).

Recipe

The Paleo Mom aka Sarah Ballantyne posted a link to one of her recipes on facebook this week.  Sarah is a scientist, wife, mother, blogger, and author who is a passionate advocate of the Paleo diet. She is quite an inspiring individual. By eating Paleo, she lost 120 pounds and was able to discontinue the use of SIX prescription medications. As Sarah has personal experience with autoimmune disease, she writes a lot about the Autoimmune Paleo Diet (AIP). Lots of people with autoimmune conditions, intestinal disorders, or any type of systemic inflammation can benefit from this type of diet. I, myself, have tinkered with AIP and it has helped in my healing. Check out her blog for more info on AIP and other science backed Paleo information! On to the recipe..

Ginger Chocolate Freezer Fudge

This recipe tickled my fancy because I heart ginger.

If there was a “who loves ginger the most” contest, I would be the winner. I love to stir fry with ginger. I love to make fresh ginger tea. I love ginger juiced raw with other fresh organic fruits. I’m starting to sound like Forrest’s best friend Bubba with all of this ginger talk.

I know lots of people can’t stand its strong taste, but I mostly love ginger for its many healing properties. Just to name a few:

  • reduces inflammation
  • reduces nausea
  • aids in digestion
  • soothes an upset stomach

The Paleo Mom’s recipe is well, Paleo-friendly, which means that the ingredients are grain free and squeaky clean. I’ll definitely be giving this recipe a go, and I hope you do too.

Health

Last week, I got in my car after work and was delighted to turn the radio on to hear NPR discussing gut bacteria and Crohn’s disease.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned from my serious health ordeal is the importance of healthy intestinal flora. Your gut bacteria plays a major role in mediating your immune response. We live in a culture where it is easy and commonplace to get antibiotics (aka killers of good AND bad bacteria) to treat just about every little cold.  Taking care of your intestinal bacteria as a means to health and wellness is very rarely talked about in mainstream news. This segment and article from NPR indicates that things are starting to change.

Many people who have Crohn’s disease end up having parts of their digestive tract surgically removed. If more people were aware that gut microbes play a role in their disease, they could address their conditions by taking natural, less invasive routes to healing. As I have said before, many people are thriving on diets that greatly reduce inflammation and support intestinal health, such as the Paleo diet, Paleo AIP, and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

Click here to read or listen to NPR’s segment:

Mix of Gut Microbes May Play Role In Crohn’s Disease

I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you have a great week!

Love and light,

vm

Monday Morsels 3/3/14

.

.

Happy Monday!

For some of the newer readers here, Monday Morsels is a series where I share recent articles or blog posts on the topics of nutrition, wellness, and clean beauty.

Nutrition

Recently, I read an important article written by Chris Kresser that examines the vegetarian diet from a nutritional standpoint.

A large majority of my audience comes from the green beauty community, which is comprised mostly of vegetarians and vegans, so I thought that this would be relevant to share.

Holistic nutrition is my passion and this topic is in line with my nutritional approach.  Although I may be one voice in a sea of many green beauties, I wanted to share my thoughts.

To all of my vegetarian and vegan friends: Although I am not a vegetarian myself, I respect your choice to eschew meat due to ethical, spiritual, religious and social reasons.

The aim of this post is not to convince anyone to eat meat.

The purpose of this post is to raise awareness about the possible negative health implications of a vegetarian or vegan diet, if not properly implemented. 

Many people who choose to adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet do so because they assume that it is healthier than diets which include meat. Many people are not aware of the potential nutritional deficiencies that they may develop.

As a side note, I believe that anyone pursuing any type of diet (meat or not) for the sake of health should have a deep understanding of the implications of that diet.

Chris Kresser discusses this in a fair manner and his article is an important read for those who choose to be vegetarian or vegan for optimal health. I should note that the author is a former macrobiotic vegan. Click here to read his article:

Why You Should Think Twice About Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

The biggest takeaway is that thriving on a vegetarian or vegan diet is possible, but it requires an active and meticulous awareness of the nutritional composition of your intake of food.

I Choose to Eat Meat

Being a green beauty blogger, it’s easy to feel like I am the only meat-eating one. I follow a Paleo framework which is a diet that is based on nutrient-dense whole foods.

Foods That I Eat:

  • Grassfed, pasture-raised, organic meat (I consciously purchase ethically and sustainably raised meat whenever possible)
  • Eggs (ideally pastured)
  • Fish and other seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Starchy tubers (sweet potatoes, taro, etc)
  • Fruit
  • Foods that support intestinal health (bone broth, raw sauerkraut)
  • Traditional, unprocessed fats (grassfed ghee, cold pressed coconut oil)
  • Other nutrient dense foods such as organ meats and fermented cod liver oil

Foods that I Exclude From My Diet:

  • Processed foods
  • Gluten
  • Most grains (except white rice) and legumes
  • Refined oils (canola, safflower, sunflower, etc)

What I Value:

  • Ethically raised animals
  • Local, sustainable, and organic food sources
  • Food that is closest to its natural state
  • Food that nourishes the body, supports long-term health, and prevents illness & disease

Why do I eat this way?

As I’ve mentioned before, in 2013, I became very ill with Histamine Intolerance, Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO), and a pathogenic intestinal infection. At the beginning of my sickness, I was incredibly reactive to most foods.

As I struggled with navigating what I could and could not eat, I dove deep into learning about eating to heal your body. More and more, I came across an underlying theme of the importance of eating for intestinal health by eliminating all inflammatory and irritating foods while incorporating nutrient dense foods.

Lots of people, myself included, have turned to eating a Paleo/ancestral/traditional type of diet to cope with autoimmune conditions like Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s disease, and Celiac disease or to prevent these diseases. Eating this way has helped many people not only cope but also thrive despite their very serious conditions. (Read about Danielle Walker of Against All Grain and her inspiring story here).

Autoimmune conditions are on the rise , and I truly believe that it is due to environmental factors as well as the lack of proper nutrition due to factory farming, GMOs, and the prevalence of highly processed foods.

I feel as though the Paleo/ancestral/traditional diet community is misunderstood by the green beauty community. For a long time, I didn’t know how to share my thoughts about this, but once I read Chris’ article, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity.

Eating a Paleo diet has a lot more in common with living a nontoxic lifestyle than one might initially think.  Both require conscious decision-making with the aim of optimal health. Both are environmentally conscious and value food/cosmetics/products in their purest, most natural forms. Both recognize that conventional food/products contain toxins and have a desire to go back to the basics.

I choose to eat meat in following a Paleo framework as it makes me feel like (and actually become) the healthiest version of me. Eating healing foods while excluding inflammatory foods has helped me heal from the scariest, most life-altering health ordeal of my life. Eating Paleo also upholds certain values of mine such as supporting local, sustainable, and ethical farming and food sourcing.

What about you? How do you choose to eat and why?

Love and light,

vm

Monday Morsels 2/24/14

Happy Monday!

I was MIA last week, and it was because of this:

Tahoe

And this:

Tahoe

And this:

Tahoe

I went to the snow (Lake Tahoe) with a group of 12 people, left the laptop at home, and holed up in a cozy cabin. I felt compelled to disconnect for a bit to live life in the moment. Can you relate?

Wellness

This Monday Morsels features a very important topic: SLEEP.

I don’t get enough of it. Getting to bed by 10:30pm is a goal that I am constantly chasing.

Are you one of those people who believe that you can sleep when you’re dead? I used to be one of these people.

I began looking at sleep much differently about a year ago, when I became ill with Histamine Intolerance (debilitating food and environmental sensitivities), a pathogenic intestinal infection, hormone imbalance, (..and I could go on).

Back then, I was sleeping an average of four hours each night, fighting sleepiness at work and then intensely crossfitting 5 times/week. At the time, I treated my body as an unbreakable machine. Was it a coincidence that I was overworking myself and under resting while I became so very ill? I think not.

It sounds so silly to think that I was doing this to myself, but when I was caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, I truly believed that getting to the gym regularly was benefitting me, regardless of my lack of sufficient sleep. I am learning every day how important it is to be kind to my body, to monitor the different aspects of my wellness, and to listen to what my body needs.

If my story doesn’t compel you to get more Zzs, this article might: 25 Horrible Things That Can Happen If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep.

Nutrition

I’m an “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” type of cook. I get in the kitchen, assess what I have, and concoct it on the spot. I love cookbooks, but I often find myself lacking the patience to work from one on a busy weeknight.

Tonight was no exception. My boyfriend and I made pork chops with caramelized onions and apples sautéed with garlic, ginger, and a splash of apple cider vinegar.

Paleo Pork chop with caramelized onion apple

Pasture-raised Pork Chop with Caramelized Onion, Apple, Garlic, Ginger, and Raw Apple Cider Vinegar with a side of Smashed Cauliflower & Carrot

When he got home, he placed the chops in a brine of salt, pepper, and fresh chopped garlic. An hour later, he seared both sides of the chops, and finished cooking them in the oven.

Meanwhile, I concocted the onion apple topping. I knew pork pairs well with apples, and apple cider vinegar seemed like it would balance out the sweetness. Let’s just say it was an experiment gone DELICIOUS. We MMmm-ed our way through dinner and will definitely be making this again.

The pork chops were from our first box ordered from Marin Sun Farms, which is a Community Supported Agriculture Program (CSA) that offers local, sustainable, humanely cared for, ethical, pasture-raised, grassfed meat. Check them out if you live in or near the SF Bay Area!

Have a great week!

Love and light,

vm

Monday Morsels 2/10/14

As Valentine’s Day rolls in, I thought it would be fitting for this edition of Monday Morsels to discuss…are you ready for it?

Hacking the Secret to Long Term Desire

I saw a very thought-provoking video on YouTube the other day by Shots of Awe aka Jason Silva.

In this video, Jason Silva summarizes Esther Perel’s TED Talk which explores the keys to long-term desire. Esther Perel is a world-renowned therapist, speaker and author.

Takeaways:

  • Most people are attracted to their partners when they are able to view them as a self-sustaining person rather than one half of themselves.
  • You must create space to maintain desire. Perel describes it as looking at your partner from a comfortable distance. You know this person deeply, yet momentarily, they appear a bit mysterious.

So how do you maintain this comfortable space and mystery? And how do you ensure that you are a self-sustaining individual?

An individual can do this by staying connected to their unique identity which is comprised of their own passions, interests, friends, family, and goals.

It can be quite easy to lose your identity in a relationship as you might find yourself wanting to revolve your life around your partner. (I know I’ve definitely done this.)  Staying connected to your own identity makes you a more well-rounded, self-sustaining, fulfilled, and interesting person, which ultimately enriches your life as a couple and is just plain attractive.

I’ve only scratched the surface of Esther Perel’s very thought-provoking TED Talk. You can watch it here.

DIY Raw Strawberry Cream Truffles

Why buy overpriced Valentine’s day chocolate when you can make your own at home? Kassie of Cloudy Apples on YouTube shared a great recipe for raw strawberry cream truffles which include super clean ingredients such as raw almonds, dates, cacao powder, sea salt, and coconut oil. They look delicious. See?


You can find her detailed recipe here.

Enjoy,

vm

Monday Morsels 1/20/14

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Welcome to another edition of Monday Morsels. Hope you’re in for a tasty treat! I’m so corny it hurts, I know.

Nutrition

Liz Wolfe of CaveGirlEats made a scrumdiddlyumptious (technical term) looking barbacoa beef with plantain tortillas.

Are you reading this? Plantain. Tortillas. Let all the paleos rejoice.

This brings me to my obsession with plantains as of late.  A few Sundays ago, I pan fried a ripe plantain in coconut oil, salt, and pepper and served it as a side to go with pastured eggs, bacon, and steamed kale. Delicious. Plantains bring me back to a trip I took with my cousins to Puerto Rico where we ate a lot of mashed plantains aka Mofongo.

And don’t get me started on plantain chips. I know packaged plantain chips aren’t a “health food” per say, but they are a better-for-you-than-most treat to be enjoyed in moderation. Plus, the Inka brand I purchased at my local Whole Foods contains palm oil, which is much better for you than, say, canola or sunflower oil because it’s a more stable fat that can withstand high temperatures without becoming damaged.

Have I talked about plantains long enough? Moving on..

The Balanced Bites Podcast featured Jonathan Bailor, author of “The Calorie Myth”.

This book will cause paradigm shifts in the way people view food.  Jonathan’s message is pure and simple: the quality of the food you’re eating matters. It addresses America’s fixation over calories in vs. calories out and why this way of thinking is not effective or sustainable for long-term health.

Clean Beauty

Johnson & Johnson is taking its first step in removing toxic chemicals from their products.

What’s formaldehyde doing in baby shampoo in the first place? “No more tears”?  How ’bout no more carcinogens, please? I’m glad J&J is taking action to fix this though. It gives me hope that people are catching on and are demanding more from companies as large and as ubiquitous as Johnson & Johnson.

photo credit: kjaerweis.com

photo credit: kjaerweis.com

Britanie Faith of beautybybritanie loves the new Kjaer Weis foundation.

This foundation has been on my radar for a few months now. It’s got clean ingredients and it’s luxurious. Word on the (green beauty) street is it’s got an amazing finish. It’s been highly anticipated in the green beauty community and so far, it seems like it has lived up to its hype. Thinking of purchasing it? You can find it here and here.

Until next time, my wellness friends,

vm

My Wellness Journey and the Paleo Diet

In 2010, when I joined CrossFit, I heard a lot of buzz about this so-called “Paleo” diet. It came off as so curiously trendy. You’d hear people saying things like, “is this Paleo?” or see pictures of pizza on Facebook with captions that read “#not paleo”. Eventually, I wanted to try it out, really more for superficial reasons than anything else. I was already reasonably fit and eating pretty healthily, but I wanted to see what the hubbub was all about. I wanted to lean out and “look good naked”, so thus began my strict stint with Paleo. It lasted for two months, and although it did reinforce my ideas about eating whole foods, and helped to stress the importance of the sourcing of meat and vegetables, adhering to the strict diet didn’t last. This might sound silly, but it bothered me how trendy it was, how restrictive it seemed, and how it glorified bacon so much. I like bacon as much as the next girl, but I couldn’t help but want to separate myself from the meathead ideals that it seemed to project.

Three years later, Histamine Intolerance entered my life like a bat out of hell. Very suddenly, I had seemingly allergic reactions to foods I had always eaten regularly. At first it was almonds, pecans, sesame, and oranges. I nearly fainted at work and my senior manager at the time embarrassingly accompanied me—a grown woman—to the ER. Then pecans sent me to the ER (funtimes). And then there was the time kombucha gave me vertigo. I remember trying to lie down to sleep it off, but every time I closed my eyes, I boarded some zany topsy-turvy roller coaster ride. Black rice and red onions made my heart race. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Extensive allergy tests came back negative for food allergies. It was puzzling and became the scariest experience of my life.

I always had an active interest in wellness. I was an overweight kid in grade school, so throughout high school and college, I relished in learning about healthy foods and implementing them in my life. I was a food enthusiast to the core (refer to previous comment about being a chubby kid) and my childhood was spent watching Jacques Pepin’s KQED cooking shows on Sunday mornings, helping my amazing grandmother whip up delicious dishes, and dreaming of owning a restaurant one day. As a young adult, I regularly made time to take care of my body through exercising, even in the first few years of my very stressful accounting career, often working 13-hour days. For the first time in my life, I felt like food and my own body were turning against me.

The Low Histamine Diet

I eventually found the low histamine diet, which is the only effective treatment for Histamine Intolerance. Without getting too much into it, histamine intolerance is the body’s inability to break down histamine. Your body has a natural response to release histamine in the presence of allergens and in addition, there are many foods that contain histamine. Your body may become overwhelmed with histamine if the mechanism to degrade it (the DAO enzyme) is not functioning properly. When this happens, you can experience a host of seemingly unrelated symptoms such as headache, hives, heartburn, dizziness, difficulty breathing, exhaustion, insomnia, chest pain, tissue swelling, and more.

It’s a tricky condition, as the effect of histamine intolerance is not immediate; it’s cumulative. This is why it’s often referred to as a pseudo-allergy.

For more information about this condition, click here, here, and here.

The low histamine diet aims to reduce the body’s histamine load by eliminating all high histamine foods. These foods include but are not limited to: processed/cured/smoked meats, all fermented foods (wine, cheese, sauerkraut, yogurt, meats), all slow cooked foods, any leftovers, spinach, tomatoes, citrus fruits, MSG, vinegar, chocolate, anything processed or artificial, coffee, and tea.

For seven months, I strictly adhered to this diet. Day in and day out, I cooked all my meals from scratch because I could not tolerate leftovers. I stopped eating out because the effects of it could and would wipe out all of my energy and cause digestive distress for days. I had to say ‘no’ to dinners and drinks with friends, and I felt awkward and isolated at weddings because of my dietary restrictions.

Learning to Thrive

Throughout my journey, I picked up tips and tricks to help myself further progress. On Sundays, I grocery shopped and washed and prepped all of my veggies for the week. I bought the value pack of grass-fed beef, sliced it up, froze it in individual portions, and defrosted each portion as needed for a quick stir fry. I made soup regularly in large batches and then froze them in individual portions to save on cooking time. I ate lots of anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine foods as inspired by Yasmina aka The Low Histamine Chef. I ate foods that supported the stabilization of mast cells (cells which release histamine).

I eventually implemented the low FODMAP diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and the GAPS diet, which can be therapeutic for individuals who are experiencing autoimmune and/or digestive conditions.

As a side note for those who have Histamine Intolerance, are experiencing auto-immunity, or other debilitating conditions, none of this was easy. It was an emotional roller coaster of hope and despair. It involved a lot of trial and error. Good days and bad days. It required a lot of effort and a good attitude. But your health is worth it, so hang in there.

How My Low Histamine Diet Evolved to Paleo

When you are on as restrictive a diet as the low histamine diet, it’s easy to recognize food sensitivities that you normally wouldn’t have noticed. For instance, I don’t have Celiac disease, but I began to notice the digestive distress I experienced when eating wheat and whole grains. Up until this point in my life, I accepted massive bloating after eating certain foods as “normal”. Sure, I complained about it often, but I still fully accepted it as just how my body functioned. I didn’t realize that I could completely remedy the discomfort by avoiding certain foods. Discomfort aside, I realized how serious the effects of gluten could be even for non-Celiacs.

At around eight months, I noticeably progressed. In addition to eliminating certain foods like gluten, I started to add higher histamine foods back into my diet, especially those that supported intestinal health. (**Note: I was ready for this after 8 months of strict adherence to the low histamine diet as well as a commitment to healing via stress reduction, sleep sufficiency, and all other aspects of my life. Everyone is different, so please exercise caution if you have Histamine Intolerance.**)

I dove deep into information on gut health and focused a lot of my energy on preparing and eating nourishing foods that support the healing and maintenance of a healthy intestinal flora, such as 24-hour bone broth, sauerkraut, and kombucha.

The best part of this very challenging year is that I began to develop a perspective on nutrition. I deeply understood and appreciated the role of food in the healing process. I began to fully embody my views of optimal health via eating a nutrient-dense whole foods-based diet. I cooked my meals in stable, natural fats such as coconut oil and ghee. I made sure the meats I ate were grass-fed and organic and the vegetables I purchased were organic and local, whenever possible. I bought pastured eggs if my grocery budget could afford them. *Here’s a tip: the beauty of not eating out allows the high quality stuff to be a bit more affordable.

So Paleo Actually Works

Eating this way began as necessity and will continue by choice. I realized recently that I have inadvertently stumbled back into the Paleo diet that I once tried a few years earlier. As much as I initially wanted to dismiss the diet as a fad, it actually became the diet that worked for me, especially at this very critical point in my life. I initially viewed the Paleo diet as this restrictive way of eating. Now I see it as a way of choosing health. It is a way to intentionally nourish yourself through consuming nutrient-dense foods while eliminating foods that harm you. It’s a way to support local farms and to stop supporting “Big Food”, GMOs, and factory farming.

When I first tried the Paleo diet, my approach and my intentions were all wrong. I didn’t understand why I shouldn’t eat grains or why I should even cook with coconut oil. I just abided by the yes and no lists. If I could offer any advice, it would be to gain a deep understanding of why you are eating the way that you are, whether you’re eating a macrobiotic vegan, vegetarian, or paleo diet. When you are a well-informed individual, it makes your intention much more meaningful and effective.

I don’t consider myself a Paleo die-hard or purist. I eat white rice a few times each week because I tolerate it well and because resistant starch is beneficial for intestinal health. More on that here. Unless I am intentionally doing an elimination diet, I don’t see myself eating 100% Paleo all of the time. I agree with following an Ancestral/Primal/Paleo/Weston A Price/whatever-you-want-to-call-it template but allow myself some wiggle room to indulge within reason.

I’m still reading through Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser, but I can already tell that this book is a sigh a relief. It dispels the notion that the Paleo diet is dogmatic and rigid. Instead, it suggests that the diet should be customized to meet everyone’s needs. For instance, Chris says that if someone can thrive while eating dairy, they should not exclude it from their diet. To me, this makes a lot of sense as I choose to eat this way for optimal health rather than for historical reenactment.

My views on the details of Paleo may evolve as research surfaces and as I begin my nutrition program this Spring. However, this is what has worked for me thus far. I hope this information was helpful to you in understanding the Paleo diet.

Love and light,

vm