Happy Labor Day!
What are you up to this long weekend?
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We're getting things done around the house, and catching up on Netflix movies. I've been on an Audrey Hepburn kick as of late; I love watching film star beauties of the 1950s. When I need beauty inspiration, they're it.
This afternoon we'll also be carrying something tasty across the street to our neighborhood's 29th annual(!) Labor Day pot-luck. It's always fun to see everybody and meet someone new
Oh, but our favorite thing of all? We have family visiting this coming week, and mid-week we're excited to host them for dinner. So we've been pouring over our favorite cookbooks and planning an extra special menu.
A few ideas on our shortlist? Something with tomatoes, this riff on sweet potato fries, an unusual salad, and spiced honey cake from September's Bon Appetit
In the meantime, the continuation of a short series about the world of supplements.
Part I included information about the sources of raw materials, manufacturing practices, and if the companies are regulated. Other topics included the anatomy of a supplement, common additives (there can be a lot!), and different things to look for if you're feeling overwhelmed by all of the choices out there.
Natural vs. Synthetic – Is there really a difference?
If the question were posed to a chemist, they'd say natural and synthetic nutrients are essentially the same, contained within their molecules are exactly the same elements.
According to Judith DeCava, author of The Real Truth about Vitamins and Antioxidants, there's a bit of a catch. Though the chemist is technically correct, the molecular structure of the synthetic does differ from that of the natural, as its elements are arranged in a slightly different way.
The chemist may argue that this re-arrangement is inconsequential, although it's our body which casts the final vote, and it appears it can tell the difference. Case in point?
Natural vitamin E, its three times more absorbable than its synthetic counterpart (Kedar Prasad .. Vitamins in Cancer Prevention & Treatment). In fact, as a general rule, natural ingredients have better absorption rates than their synthetic counterparts. Probably because they likely have some valuable co-factors that will aid in this absorption.
Note to self: Be on the look-out. Just because it's a natural product, doesn't mean it won't have other unnatural ingredients added to it. Things like fillers, binders, and artificial colorings (see Part I)
Packaging and Labels – What to look for
Reputable companies will clearly state on the label if the products contain binders or fillers, excipients, lubricants, disintricates, colorants, sweeteners, flavors, or coating material. (The best won't use any of these)
As you read the label, there are a couple of dates you'll want to be on the look-out for. The best companies will include both the date the product was manufactured, as well as a lot number. This will be extremely important if you're buying fragile supplements like essential fatty acid oil.
Even if you're not buying something fragile, the date is still matters. For example, vitamins gradually lose their potency over time, with most having a shelf life of one to two years.
Don't purchase a product if it doesn't have an expiration date. (This date is generally 18-24 months following the date it was produced). As a rule of thumb, a supplement should be 100% potent right up to the expiration date. You'll want to toss anything within six months of its expiration date. ( Except in the case of probiotics, those you don't want to use after they've expired)
Also, the label should list each nutrient it contains, along with the amount. For example, does it merely say “calcium .. 500mg?” as opposed to “calcium citrate .. 500mg?” If they're specifically not listed, that's a product to pass on.
Then there's the container itself. It should be one that's been designed with an eye toward the preservation of its product. Opaque or dark-colored containers are preferred, as most nutrients can be degraded by exposure to light, heat, or moisture.
What is The National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) and how do they help us know if the products actually contain what it states on the label?
What are good manufacturing practices when it comes to supplements?
Why aren't supplements labeled with the conditions they could help us with?
With my husband marking lots of travel days on the calendar this month, I wanted something portable and tasty he could take along in the car. Looking to Heidi Swanson for inspiration has never steered me wrong.
These are a bit different, in the best of ways, with their muffin-like in shape, reminding me of a cookie when it comes to substance. She packs them with nuts and flax seeds, sweetens them with natural sugar and maple syrup.
The oats on top form a crust that's fun to break off bit by bit. The interior crumb, while softer, is dense and made for chewing.
The verdict is still out if these make for a better breakfast, snack, or dessert. They're light enough to be eaten after breakfast without messing with lunch, yet strong enough in sweetness to pass for dessert.
ps: You can read more about supplements in Part I | Part III of the series
References used for this series: Navigating the Labyrinth: 3o Things You Need to Know About Nutritional Supplements by Jack Challem .. The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book by Shari Lieberman .. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements by Michael T. Murray .. Foundations of Nutritional Medicine: A Sourcebook of Clinical Research by Melvyn Werbach and Gail Leibsohn
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~ Adapted slightly from Supernatural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
Oatcakes with Pecans
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 2 cups spelt flour or whole wheat pastry flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
- ¼ cup flax seeds
- ¾ cup pecans, chopped
- ⅓ cup coconut oil
- ⅓ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup natural sugar + more for sprinkling (Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Preheat the oven to 325° F.
- Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan.
- Combine the oats, flour, baking powder, salt, flax seeds, and pecans in a medium-sized bowl.
- In a small saucepan over low to medium heat, combine the coconut oil, butter, maple syrup, and sugar. Stir until the butter just melts, and sugar has dissolved, but don't let the mixture get too hot (or it will cook the eggs on contact in the next step!)
- Pour the coconut oil mixture over the oat mixture and stir a couple of times. Add eggs, and stir again until everything comes together in a wet dough.
- Spoon evenly into muffin cups, filling them almost all the way. (Optional: sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the tops for additional texture and sweetness.)
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edges of the cakes are deeply golden. Allow the pan to cool for a few minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the cakes to loosen them. Tip them out onto the rack, and allow to cool before serving.