Selenium benefits and sources

Brazil nuts in a pod. Isn't this cool?

Brazil nuts in a pod. Isn’t this cool?

 

Today I wanted to share about selenium benefits and sources. Trace mineral selenium is one of the nutrients that we need in small amounts every day. It is actually a paradoxical element – if we are deficient in it, we can experience many deficiency symptoms, but if we get more than we need either from food or supplements, we can experience symptoms of toxicity.

Selenium functions and selenium benefits

Trace mineral selenium has many functions, and researchers are finding more of its roles everyday. First of all, selenium works like an antioxidant and slows down the biochemical process of aging, that is, the loss of youthful elasticity. This process is enhanced by vitamin E, another important antioxidant.

The antioxidant effect of selenium also supports the cardiovascular system and protects against cancer. Did you know that low levels of selenium in soil are associated with higher risk of cancer? The soil is important here because the vegetables that we eat only have adequate amounts of selenium if they are grown in selenium rich soils. Other studies have found that low soil levels of selenium are associated with higher risk of heart disease. One study about angina found that, when patients took 1 mg of selenium together with 200 IU of vitamin E, almost 100% of patients experienced reduced symptoms. The group on a placebo did not experience much benefit. (Source – Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M. Haas, MD).

Keshan disease, that comes about because of severe selenium deficiency, was discovered in Keshan, China. People with this disease, usually children and women, suffer from enlarged heart and cardiovascular inefficiency. People in Keshan treat this condition with a herb named astralagus, which concentrates selenium from the soil.

Selenium also protects us from toxic effects of heavy metals and other chemicals. People who get adequate levels of selenium in their diet (for adults, this is between 55 and 200 mcg of selenium per day), experience less toxic effects from smoking, alcohol, oxidized fats, and mercury.

Men need a lot more selenium then women because this element is important in male fertility.

However, scientists are still not sure if selenium actually causes infertility – but they do know it can prevent it.

Selenium is also needed for making the most active form of thyroid hormone. That is why anyone with thyroid problems should consider if their selenium levels are low – that is, do they get enough selenium in their daily food?

Selenium Sources

As mentioned above, the amount of selenium in food depends on the soil where the food was grown. This differs in different regions and from country to country. Also, lots of selenium is lost when the food is refined, for example, in white flour. It can also be found in some water sources. Breast milk contains a few times more selenium that cow milk.

The following products are considered to be abundant in this important trace mineral:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Onions and garlic
  • Rye bread
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Oatmeal
  • Mushrooms

If you want to make sure you get enough selenium in your diet, it is important to eat a variety of fresh foods. If for some reason you can’t do that, hold a bowl of some Brazil nuts on your counter and eat 1-2 (no more) of these nuts a day. One Brazil nut has about 50 mcg of selenium, an amount that is recommended for the maintenance of adult health.

What is the best supplement for selenium?

If you are looking for a selenium supplement, make sure you get organic selenium (selenocysteine or selenomethione forms). Make sure to take it with vitamin E since the antioxidant effects of selenium and E are synergistic.

If you get sodium selenite form, make sure you take it in the absence of vitamin C, since it seems to combine with this form of selenium and make the selenium made by this interaction less absorbable and even (possibly) more toxic.

There are good brands available on iherb.com and the prices are at least 30% less than in local health foods stores. (Just make that if you are ordering from Canada, select the cheapest shipping option if you do not want to pay custom fees at the door.)

How much selenium is too much?

With respect to selenium toxicity, research have shown that taking about 1 mg (1000 mcg) of selenium daily for extended period of time did not show any negative effects. It is really possible that in our current environment we need more than 100 mcg to get its antioxidant, anticarcionogenic, and immune boosting benefits.

Image source http://www.flickr.com/photos/travfotos/6329777977Some links in this post may contain affiliate links, to help support this website. Thank you!

Grain free and egg free crock pot cabbage rolls

savoyvabbage

 

 

I modified my regular cabbage rolls recipe for a personal cooking client, who has rice and egg sensitivities. It turned out pretty well actually and got rave reviews.

The recipe:

Ingredients

Filling:

12 leaves savoy cabbage
1/4 cup tomato sauce or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lb lean ground beef
1 cup cauliflower rice – cauliflower florets grated by hand or in food processor
2 tablespoons arrowroot flour (this replaces an egg)

Sauce:
1 cup water + 4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Steps:

1. Bring a pot of water to boil, immerse savoy cabbage into it. Boil for 3-4 minutes until leaves soften up. Remove the cabbage, and cool for a while. Take out the leaves.

2. Combine filling ingredients together.

3. Cut out the big vein in a cabbage leaf (on the bottom). Put about 2-3 tablespoons of filling into the middle of a cabbage leaf (right above the cut out vein), fold in sides and roll ends over the filling. Repeat until you ran out of filling, while putting each cabbage roll into a crock pot.

4. Combine the sauce ingredients.

5. Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls.

6. Cook the dish on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. Or, you can bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a baking dish covered with foil for 1 hour.

They can be frozen as well (for individual servings if you wish), then defrosted for 24-48 hours in the fridge, and reheated at 350 Fahrenheit  for 15-20 minutes.

Bon appetit.

image source:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/suziesfarm/7204654250/

 

5 tips for having a healthy and smart baby

Stork & Baby

 

Since a few of the people I know are pregnant or planning to have a child soon, I thought the subject of this be about how to naturally support your body so you can give birth to a healthy, happy and smart child.

 

1. If you have delivered premature babies before, or have had some miscarriages, visit your medical doctor or naturopath and ask them for a test to check your thyroid gland and other hormones. It is common for women with certain hormonal imbalances to experience miscarriages, premature deliveries, and stillbirths.

 

2. Stop using oral contraceptives at least six months before conceiving. The Pill depletes women of folic acid, vitamin B2, B6, B12 and vitamin C. These nutrients are extremely important for the baby’s development, including their intelligence. Actually if you look at the handouts about oral contraceptives, the companies include a warning about women conceiving within six months of discontinuing the product.

 

3. Include lots of eggs and fish (especially sardines) in your diet. These foods are the richest dietary sources of phosphatidyl choline, a nutrient about which recent research have shown that including it during pregnancy can result in “genius” offspring.[1] The children will have better learning ability and memory recall – and these qualities will persist into old age.

 

4. Avoid gestational diabetes (high blood sugar in pregnancy) by avoiding refined carbohydrates like white sugar, white flour, and other processed foods.  Gestational diabetes might increase the chance of the baby developing diabetes later in life. Include foods rich in vitamin B6, like meats, wheat germ, egg yolks, dried beans walnuts, garlic, bananas, avocados, spinach and bell peppers. B6 supplement is also a safe way to prevent or even treat gestational diabetes. [2]

 

5. Do not be scared to include butter and cheese and kefir (preferably organic and pasture-fed, and if you are not allergic to dairy) for a great source of vitamin A, which is needed for the proper utilization of protein, minerals and water-soluble vitamins by the body. Dentist Weston A. Price, the first author who inspired me to change my family’s health, traveled the world in the 1930s and studied how people stay healthy. On his travel to Swill Alps he actually observed that the butter from cows eating rapidly growing grass was considered a sacred food, and very important for pregnant women. He also observed that in some districts of Africa young women were required to use the products from pasture-fed cows months before they could be married, in order to prepare their bodies for healthy and smart babies.

 

For new mommies in Waterloo Region, Ontario, I offer a postpartum personal cooking service where I create nutrient dense meals to support your healing and lactation.


[1], 2 Holford, Patrick. Optimal Nutrition for the Mind. 1. Laguna Beach: Basic Health Publication, Inc, 2004. Print.

Kefir Jello

 

3108174445_899057fce4

Don’t know what to do with  all the kefir that you’ve been making? I use kefir for lots of things – in baking, marinating meats, smoothies. I actually stopped buying yogurt and sour cream at the store, since kefir provides me with so many uses (I found that if you make it with whole milk and add extra cream, it will be almost as thick as sour cream).  Recently, I have been experimenting with making home-made jello. I had an idea of making kefir jello and it turned out pretty good and I could not get enough of it – a nice change from drinking kefir.

 

Ingredients:

1 cup kefir

3 tablespoons maple syrup

gelatin – 20 grams (I used this gelatin and a kitchen scale to measure)

any kind of fruit or berries (except kiwi and pineapple) – blackberries are very nice in this recipe!

 

Method:

1. Put gelatin into small pan and cover it with water. Let it stand for about 15 minutes.

2. Put the pan on low heat and let the gelatin dissolve completely. Do not bring to a boil.

3. Mix kefir with maple syrup.

4. Put some berries or other fruit  in a bowl where you want jello to set.

5. Let gelatin cool a little bit, and mix it with kefir.

6. Pour over fruit and put into the fridge to let set -it sets within an hour.

What are some of your favorite things to make with kefir?

 photo credit - http://www.flickr.com/photos/fortinbras/3108174445/

Top 6 Benefits of Kefir

Kefir Grains

Because recently I have become obsessed with all things fermented – kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, etc – I’m thrilled to share the many healthful properties of fermented foods. This post will be about a certain fermented milk called kefir.  This fizzy beverage is very popular in Russia, southwestern Asia and Eastern and Northern Europe, and according to scientists, kefir consumption strengthens the immune system and has been found to contains anti-cancer substances (http://www.naturalnews.com/024477_kefir_bacteria_probiotics.html).

Kefir is made with using kefir grains to culture any kind of milk – be it dairy (goat, cow, etc) or nut milks like coconut and almond.  Kefir grains look like miniature cauliflowers, as you can see in the picture above, or the image below in my plastic strainer.

Kefir grains

Kefir Grains – goat milk kefir

By incorporating kefir into your daily diet, you can reap the many unique benefits of this self-carbonated drink. Here they are:

1. Kefir is full of beneficial organisms which, unlike the substances in yoghurt, actually colonize your gut. That is why it is so important to include kefir if you are trying to  restore your intestinal flora or if  your are recovering from a serious illness or being treated with antibiotics.

2. Milk fermented with kefir grains is actually made a lot more digestible, so even lactose intolerant people can drink it.

3. Kefir is rich in tryptophan, and essential amino acid (building block of protein) that is responsible for keeping the nervous system healthy. I drink a cup of kefir before bed to ensure a good night’s sleep!

4.  Kefir is also rich in a few B vitamins which are needed for so many functions of our bodies, such as skin, nervous system and digestive system. Why spend the money on synthetic B vitamins?

5. Kefir has a mild laxative effect so it really makes a healthy drink if you suffer for constipation..I noticed it can literally help you go after each meal, which is some say is the ideal!

6. Apart from health benefits, drinking kefir can save you money if you buy good quality probiotic supplements. About a cup of kefir contains 2.5 trillion beneficial organisms. One capsule of man-made probiotics contains about 15 billion organisms.  Since a bottle of GOOD quality probiotics may range from $15 to$ 50,  it makes sense (and cents) to ferment your own drink full of LIVE beneficial organisms.

Kefir is very easy to make, and it is also sold at stores. If you want to control the ingredients of kefir though, make your own. All you need is a tablespoon of kefir grains, a glass jar, 3-4 cups of any kind of milk, and waiting time (about 24 hours). If you take care of your grains properly, they will last you for life. You can order the grains here: KEFIR GRAINS.

Personally, I make it with organic goat milk I get at a health food store.  My next mission will be to make it with coconut milk.

Are you making your own kefir? If yes, please share your experiences and the kefir benefits you have seen. Personally, after making and drinking kefir for about a month, I am experiencing better mood, clearer skin and better digestive health! It is so true to say that the gut is the seat of all wellness!

Marina, holistic nutritionist

First photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnystiletto/6969824366/

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Natural Remedies for Plantar Warts

Are you looking for natural remedies for plantar warts? Have you tried over the counter salicylic acid peels, freezing at the doctor’s office, the duct tape method, garlic, and other methods? Plantar warts are stubborn little guys – they may last from up to a couple of months to 2 years. They also make it very uncomfortable to walk if they are on the bottom of your feet.

I have caught a plantar wart virus in the gym I think, and it has been there for a few months before I got tired of it.  I did try the duct tape method, acid peel (which made my foot a mess) and even tried rubbing the yellow juice of  the celandine herb, which grows in my backyard. I also tried really watching my diet and any kind of sugar intake. Nothing really helped. The worst part of having the warts on your foot is that it is hard to walk long distances in any kind of shoes, it hurts very badly after a while. So I avoided walking for that reason – biking was ok though, since you do not put pressure on your foot that much.

Then I remembered when my 5 year old daughter got a plantar wart a couple of years ago, our naturopath at the time gave her homeopathic thuja pellets. They worked like a charm – the wart fell of within a few days. I did not find any pellets in my herb cabinet, so I decided to get the thuja herb extract instead. I took about 30 drops 3 times per day, and within 1 week the plantar wart diminished in size and within 4 weeks went away. At first when I started taking the extract, during the night the foot area near the wart was painful and itchy, I guess because it started working?

So from now on, thuja herbal tintcure will be another remedy in my natural medicine cabinet!

Update (March 2014): I have found a topical natural treatment for plantar warts as well. My daughter had one on the inside of her thumb. I did not want to give her thuja extract as it has alcohol in it, so decided to try something else after reading about on the net (don’t remember where). Basically, I picked up lemon essential oil at the health food store, and put a couple of drops of it on the wart and covered with a band-aid, just before she went to bed. We did this maybe 3-4 times, and by 4th time the wart turned black, and within a couple of weeks fell off.

Don’t know where to buy herbal thuja extract and lemon essential oil? I love buying my supplements and herbal tinctures on iherb.com.

I would love it if you share what you have found successful for getting rid of plantar warts?

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ndrwfgg/105793115/

Spelt Flour and Yogurt Pancakes

This spelt flour and yogurt pancakes recipe is based on recipes in a book that I have called Breakfasts wtih Blender Batter Baking Allergy Alternatives
I have been searching for and experimenting with a good pancake recipe that my kids will finally love and will ask for again and again. And this one finally fits the mark, they love it! The kids even eat these pancakes cold for snack, without any maple syrup! Also really easy to make, all you need is:

1/2 cup spelt flour

1 cup natural, unsweetened yogurt

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs, free run

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

coconut oil to cook in

Method:

1. Before going to bed, mix together spelt flour, yogurt, vanilla, and olive oil. Cover with cloth, leave at room temperature and let the flour soak overnight.

2. In the morning, separate egg yolks from egg whites. Blend egg yolks with salt, add to spelt-yogurt mixture. Beat egg white until stiff, but not dry.  Fold beaten egg whites into the batter gently.

3. Heat pan with coconut oil in it, and add tablespoons of batter to it. Cook first side until babble appear, then flip and cook another side.  I found that covering the pancakes in the last minute of cooking them cooks them up faster. The pancakes will be light and kind of sour, which my kids and I love even when they are cold, without any syrups! Also, they provide lots of protein and healthy fats from the 4 eggs and yogurt.

Enjoy!

Natural Remedy for Impetigo, and other tips

About 3 years ago, my daughter developed impetigo spots on her face. At first I thought they were some kind of pimples but when the spots started to grow and ooze a sort of yellowish liquid, I took her to the doctor. He said it was impetigo. This is the first time I heard about this bacterial skin infection.

Impetigo very contagious and spreads fast if the other person has an open wound. My youngest daughter ended up getting it on her finger which she hurt and had a scratch. That was a scary sight – the skin on the finger literally started peeling off, so she had to use antibiotic cream. I also got impetigo under my armpits (I think because I had a scratch there from shaving).

This year, the same daughter came home with a little spot by her little finger. I thought it was just a scratch. But once again it started growing and itching, and I realized it must be impetigo again. I did not want to use antibiotic cream this time, but wanted a natural remedy for impetigo, so without delaying,  I instead put a couple of drops of liquid iodine on a cotton ball and held it on the spot for about a minute. I did the same before bed. The next morning, the spot seemed to dry out a bit. I put some iodine on again. By the third day, the spot was completely healed, no oozing anymore. The crust fell off within the next 2 days.

I was so happy that we did not have to go through 4+ weeks of impetigo spots on almost everyone in our family, like we did 3 years ago. My daughter ended up having only one spot, and with the help of iodine, which kills bacteria on the spot within seconds, we got rid of it fast.

The other things that helped:

  • Oil of oregano, 2 drops in lots of water every day
  • Replacing ALL towels in the home with paper towels until the impetigo was gone for good. This is a very important step to stop the spread of skin bacteria from person to person.
  • Not letting my infected daughter share a bath with my other daughter
  • Putting a small band aid on my daughter’s impetigo spot, and changing when needed

Marina

Don’t know where to buy liquid iodine? I love buying my supplements and herb tinctures on iherb.com

Liver cake

Liver CAKE you say? Yep, and very good one at that! You don’t really taste the liver in it and that is why my kids actually eat it. I first tried this liver cake this summer, when my Ukrainian sister-in-law made it for our family get together. Everyone loved it, including the kids, and she did tell me the recipe but I did not write it down, I just figured I will make it myself someday by experimenting since it is very similar to making crepes.

Liver is a very rich source of vitamin B12, which is needed in the production of the myelin sheath around the nerves and the conduction of nerve impulses. Myelin sheath is the insulation that protects the nerves and helps them to conduct messages.

B12 deficiency is actually becoming an epidemic, if you read this article here: http://chriskresser.com/b12-deficiency-a-silent-epidemic-with-serious-consequences

Liver cake

Instruments

food processor

Ingredients

1.5 cups of beef liver (chicken will work well as well)

1 onion

1 egg

sea salt, about a teaspoon and ground black pepper

1/4 cup flour (I used buckwheat)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

milk, about 1/2 cup or more to thin the batter out (experiment! that is what I did)

coconut oil, ghee or butter

For spreading each liver “crepe”:

some mayo, preferably homemade, sautéed onions and/or mushrooms, or chopped hard boiled eggs as an alternative

Method

1. Put half the onion, liver, salt, pepper, egg, flour, milk, baking powder in a food processor and process it until it will become smooth. Strain it through a sieve to get rid of hard bits.

2. Pour the batter into a mixing bowl.

3. Chop the rest of the onion and start cooking it in a pan with some coconut oil, until it is browned and fragrant. You could also add chopped mushrooms to the onion to cook them together.

3.  Heat some coconut oil, butter or ghee in a another pan. Pour about 1/3 cup of liver batter into the pan and let cook on one side for about 2 minutes or until you can turn it with a spatula. Turn it over, and cook an extra minute or so.

 

4. When one “crepe” is done, put it on a plate and spread it with a tiny bit of mayo, and sautéed onions from the other pan.

5. Keep doing step 3 and 4 until you run out of batter. Do not worry if the crepes are not uniform in size! :)

6. Spread the top crepe with some mayo and sprinkle with some fresh herbs. I used parsley which is still growing in our backyard in this cold weather!

7. Serve by cutting into cake pieces. This is good warm, but it is also delicious when cold.

Eat your liver!

Marina

Get rid of head lice with neem oil

n=Neem Oil for Head Lice

In January, our family had experienced an infestation of head lice. We are not sure where it came from. My daughter was scratching her head for about two weeks and some white stuff was coming out from her hair, and I was totally sure it was dandruff. One day though my mom-in-law decided to check if there is something more serious – and lo and behold, two fat bugs fell into the bathtub while grandma was combing my daughter’s hair. It was so gross, this is the first time I have seen head lice in my life. When I told my parents about it, my dad said the last time he even heard about head lice was in hunger stricken Soviet Union where he was a child in the 1960s. After talking to people though, I found out that head lice is a really annoying problem here in Canada – but no one talks about it much.

I guess kids spread it in school – but then I have the thickest and the longest hair in my family so I wondered if I had brought it from a plane or a hotel on a recent trip to a tropical country. We will never find out, but here is what we did to get rid of it in about four days:

1. Get a nit comb from a local pharmacy. If you are not sure where it is, just ask the pharmacist. We got one at a local Wal-Mart for about $8. Use it every day to comb out any nits, nymphs and the big bugs. The comb works like magic! Just stand above the bath tab and let the lice fall into it. To check if the stuff that is falling out is a nit, try breaking it with a back of your fingernail – it will make a popping sound.

2. If your kids are not against cutting their hair short, do it.
This will speed up the process of getting rid of these nasty creatures. You do not have to shave heads though! I cut my hair short because it was very hard using the comb on thick hair, and grandma cut the kids hairs because they could not be patient while me combing out their long hair.

3. Get a bottle of neem oil from a health food store or an Indian store. The health food store neem oil might be more expensive. I had my bottle of neem oil from the summer – I bought it at an Indian grocery store to use as a natural pesticide for our arrow-wood tree whose leaves were being destroyed by some disgusting bugs. I think it cost about $3. Basically, the function of neem oil is to mimic insect hormones which send “mixed messages” to the head lice and as a result they cannot eat, breed and reproduce (unhatched eggs stop developing as well). Also, many chemical head lice treatments on the market lead to the development of resistance in future generations, but neem oil does not.

4. Make a solution of 2 parts olive oil to 1 part of neem oil in a dish and put it all over the child’s hair. The smell will be strong but it is tolerable. I used about 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon neem oil – but this was on short hair. Cover the head with a shower cap and let it stay for about an hour. At first, my daughter objected to wearing a shower cap but I went to a dollar store and got a package of shower caps in different colors. She was very excited about wearing a pink one!!! Wash the hair later with a hand washing liquid soap to break through the neem oil and the olive oil.

5. Use the nit comb and the oil solution on every member of the family (even if they are not scratching yet) because the head lice spread from person to person if in close contact.

6. Wash all bedding every day on a sterile cycle. This takes time and effort but will help to get rid of the insects a lot faster. Also, put ALL the stuffed toys your child plays with in plastic bags, close them tightly and hide away for about 2-3 days. This will make sure the head lice will die because they cannot live without food (i.e. – our blood). Do not forget to wash jackets and hats and clothes as well.

7. Vacuum everyday and also keep the kids home from school until you cannot find any lice and their eggs on the nit comb or in the bathtub where they are supposed to fall while you comb.
8.While doing research on this subject, I found that if you use a conditioner after you shampoo your hair, you are less likely to catch any lice because the conditioner will make the hair slick and the insects will not be able to hold on to your hair with ease.

For our family, the above approach got rid of all the lice and their eggs in about 4 days. The neem oil solution works wonders – I only had to apply it about three times to my two kids and myself. However, do not forget to use your comb for a couple of weeks more to make sure no lice are left in your hair, once every three days or something.

No sure where to find neem oil?  I purchase any natural product I need at iherb.com. Here is a great brand of very affordable neem oil.

What do you use to get rid of head lice and have you ever used neem oil to get rid of it?