11 Apr
2017

Another Ancient Remedy!

I am beginning to believe that the ancient people groups had some sort of wisdom that we need to somehow regain.  Many of the superfoods had their start with the ancient cultures, and wheatgrass is no exception.

Traced back with certainty to Ancient Egypt and possibly Mesopotamia, wheatgrass was used for positive health and vitality.  While they didn’t have the tools then to determine exactly how their choice in foods specifically benefited them like we do today, they certainly knew what to use!

Wheatgrass did not gain popularity in North America until the early-mid 1900’s.  As with all new and exciting health foods, it was a craze in the beginning that has now leveled off somewhat.  But there are still many that use it and extol its benefits.

Wheatgrass is what it is described to be, the grass of the wheat grain.  It is used primarily in the juiced form, but you can eat the grass if you so choose.  It is harvested before the formation of a wheat grain forms, which is where the gluten would be found, so there is no gluten in wheatgrass juice.  Unless you are allergic to wheat, this should not be a problem for gluten sensitivities.

The Benefits are Legit

Wheatgrass, similar to Moringa, is another superfood that provides a wide array of nutrients.  It is a great source of the minerals potassium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium, dietary fiber, the fat soluble vitamins A, C, E and K, and the B-vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, and pantothenic acid, . Wheatgrass is also a source of protein in a moderate amount, but the protein content consists of almost all of the amino acids.

Wheatgrass juice

Up to three-quarters of the total amount of wheatgrass juice is chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is excellent for the health of the blood by cleansing and detoxifying.  Because it provides fat-soluble vitamins and iron, it also improves the quantity of the blood and overall health of the blood cells.  You have probably seen chlorophyll tablets at your local natural foods store, but you will reap the highest benefit from fresh extract.

Anti-oxidant levels in wheatgrass are also high, improving inflammatory states.  With all of the nutrients and anti-oxidant capabilities, look to wheatgrass to help your body cleanse, detoxify and be healthier!

And while wheatgrass and other superfood/nutrient-dense foods do not “cure” diseases like cancer and auto-immune diseases, they do lower inflammation in the body and provide nutrition that we likely don’t get from the every day diet.  Inflammation is one of the leading contributors to these types of diseases, so adding these foods to your diet will improve your body’s capability to prevent disease.

GMO Watch

Wheat

Wheat grain is one of the crops that is over 90% genetically modified, and since wheatgrass is from wheat, your chances of it being GMO are high.  Be sure all of your wheat products of any kind are non-GMO!

So where do I find it?

Visit my blog on growing greens indoors to find non-GMO wheatgrass kits and supplies!

22 Mar
2017

How do I find Non-GMO meat?

256px-essex_boarThe best source is your local farmer or rancher.  Animals that are 100% grass-fed are the best.

It is important to clarify that some sellers do not consider “grain-finished” the same as grain fed.  Grass-fed animals are sometimes grain-finished to give the meat a milder taste.  The consumption of grains here will still present the likelihood that their grains may be GMO.

Pork and other livestock can be more challenging as many ranchers grain feed their animals.  If you find a local rancher that you are considering purchasing from, ask them the following questions:

  1. Are their animals grain fed?
  2. What specific grains do they feed them?
  3. Do they source non-GMO grains?

Chances are if they do not intentionally source non-GMO grains and their animals are grain-fed, they are feeding GMO grains.  If they do not feed soy or corn, it may be more likely that the meat will not be contaminated but it is difficult to say for sure.

If you cannot find a local source that meets these standards, shopping online is an option.

Find Non-GMO meat online

It’s not as difficult as you might think!

US Wellness Meats is located in Canton, MO.  They provide 100% grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, poultry, pork and rabbit.  None of their animals are fed grains.

Organ meats are also available.  While the thought of eating an organ is not highly appetizing to most, many organs contain a high nutrient base that is beneficial to our health.  Liver and onions is fairly well known to most, and is popular because it is a great source of many vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats, notably iron and B12.

 

 

coombe farm organic
If you live in Britain, Coombe Farm Organics sells 100% grass fed and finished beef, lamb and pork, as well as free-range fed chickens.  Going a bit outside the norm, they also sell fish and shellfish as well!

Their meat boxes are sold with meal occasions in mind (steaks, slow cooker, BBQ), so you have what you need for your meal.

And last, but most definitely not least, is the homemade bone broth.  I will commit myself to a blog at some point in the future about how chicken broth is NOT the same as chicken bone broth, but for now I will tell you that true bone broth offers much more nutrition.

6 Feb
2017

Let the Trees Share their Wealth

Maple syrup is another sweetener whose beginnings were with the indigenous people of North America, and later adopted by European settlers.  Maple was used by settlers primarily as a source of concentrated sugar because cane sugar had to be otherwise imported.

While the retrieval of maple has always been done by boring and tapping the tree trunk, processing methods have been refined over the years.  In the 1850’s, flat sheet metal pans replaced iron kettles for boiling as the increased surface area made evaporation faster.  In 1872, a firebox was developed that shortened the boiling time considerably.  And in the early 1900’s, the bottom of the pan was bent into flues to increase the surface area of heating to further speed up evaporation.

Collection methods have also been modified from buckets to plastic bags, and tractors allow for delivery of larger quantities of maple to the evaporator at a faster pace.  Filtration methods have been developed that eliminate
contamination and heating methods are more efficient.  Plastic tubing methods have been perfected that allow the maple to be pumped from the tree directly to the evaporator.

The Process

Maple tree tap

Making maple syrup is really quite simple.  Sap is collected from the tree, usually sugar maple, black maple or red maple, and heated to evaporate the water and leave a thick syrup.  The boiling process is monitored to ensure that the sugar content is at the correct concentration to prevent crystallization or spoilage.  Many large producers use reverse osmosis to separate the water from the sap.

Maple trees must reach an age of 30 years to be useful for syrup production.  Maple season is typically in the spring, and each tree can be tapped one to three times per season depending on the size of the tree.  Tapping is only productive during the daytime when the sap rises up the trunk with the warmer temperature.

Today, Canada produces approximately 80% of the world’s maple syrup.

Making the Grades

The grading of maple syrup was revised in 2015 to eliminate Grade B and C and create four unique yet overlapping Grades of A.  When you head to your grocer to buy maple syrup, you will now see the folllowing grades:

  • Grade A: Golden Color and Delicate Taste
    • Usually from the first tap in colder climates.  Has a light flavor that can easily be overcome with other
      The Grades

      foods.

  • Grade A: Amber Color and Rich Taste
    • Mid-season tap, more flavorful and well-used in baking and cooking.
  • Grade A: Dark Color and Robust Taste
    • Flavor is similar to that of brown sugar.  Can be used for a tasty glaze for meat or a flavorful BBQ sauce.
  • Grade A: Very Dark and Strong Taste
    • Last tap of the season, the strongest tasting.  The flavor is very similar to that of molasses.

Why is it Good for You?

Maple syrup provides significant levels of manganese and riboflavin with moderate levels of zinc and calcium.  It also contains polyphenols, antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

Its sugar base is comprised of sucrose and water, with small amounts of glucose and fructose.  Maple syrup is a sugar product and is best used in moderation with other sweeteners.

GMO’s may be an issue

Because maple trees have to be 30 years old or more to produce maple syrup, the  likelihood of GM maple trees being introduced to the market is very small.
If, however, you are not buying 100% maple syrup you need to pay attention to the ingredients.  Brands like Aunt Jemima contain zero maple syrup.  Their primary ingredient is corn syrup to make the syrup base, which as you know is derived from corn.  Over 90% of corn crops grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, making it very likely that your “maple syrup” is indeed GMO.

Buying non-GMO Maple Syrup

You might ask yourself why it would be necessary to purchase non-GMO Verified maple syrup when the trees are not GM.  If it is non-GMO verified, it ensures that there are no products used in the process that could potentially contaminate the syrup during tapping or production.

Visit my Non-GMO Maple Syrup Review Blog to find it!

 

 

31 Jan
2017

Sweet Straight from the Bees

When I think about honey, I am reminded of the scene in Fried Green Tomatoes when Idgie waltzes right up to a tree with a beehive inside, reaches in with her bare hands and grabs a chunk of honey-laden beeswax.  She calmly walks away unscathed, while Ruth stands back in awe.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to have such direct access to honey?  If you do, tell the rest of us how wonderful it is in the comments below!

Honey has most assuredly been a part of human food culture since the beginning of time.  Historically, honey has been used for many more uses than solely a food product.  In history, it has been recorded that honey was used for digestive ailments, ulcers, skin ailments and skin burns.  Because honey contains anti-microbial properties it was found highly useful.

Religious significance was also attributed to honey in several people groups.  For the Jewish people, honey is a symbol of the Jewish New Year and is a dip for apples to bring in a new year.  Buddhists use honey in the festival of Madhu Purnima, a day that celebrates when Buddha made peace with his disciples.  In the Quran, honey is promoted as a healing food, and in the Bible there are many references to honey both in the Old and New Testaments, symbolizing prosperity and health.

Classification of Honey

You have probably been to the store and seen quite a selection of honey and wondered why they are different.  Let me shed a little light on this for you!

Honey is classified by the floral source, meaning the flowers from which the bees took nectar.  While is it possible to limit bees to one floral source by containment to produce a mono-floral (one flower) honey, free-living bees feed on many floral sources and produce blended honey (or polyfloral, many flowers).

Filtering honey

Grading of honey is optional for honey producers, so if you do not see a grade on your honey do not be alarmed.
Producers are required to pay a fee for having their honey graded and some simply choose not to do so.  Grading level standards were established by the USDA to establish some consistency of marketing.

Honey is graded based on many factors: soluble solids, flavor, aroma, consistency, appearance of defects, and clarity.  Grade A is the highest quality grade with the best flavor and aroma, least amount of defects and the highest clarity.  Reduced clarity may be from retained pollen, air bubbles or other small particles.

Honey is sold both raw and pasteurized, and both types are graded under the same standards.  Raw honey may be packaged filtered or unfiltered.  Filtering raw honey does not involve heating but will aid in removing some of the particles.

Honey and Your Health

Plant nectar is comprised of sucrose and water, but when the bees harvest the nectar they contribute enzymes that break down the sucrose to fructose and glucose.  Bees make honey with the intent of it being a food source for their hive during the winter months when flowering plants are dead, and fructose and glucose are simple sugars that yield easy energy for the bees.

The nutrient profile of honey varies depending on the source of the nectar, but generally you will find B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, certain amino acids, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.  Honey also contains anti-oxidants that you won’t find in sugar!

As a source of sweetener, on the average honey contains approximately 50% fructose.  All sucrose-based sweeteners have a similar effect on the immune system, so excess consumption of even honey is not recommended.  It is not considered a “healthier sweetener” from the point-of-view of the sugar content.

Raw honey, however, has benefits that sugar does not have.  The sugar content of raw honey is no different that pasteurized honey, but it does retain the enzymes.  It is believed that the enzymes present in raw honey are what give it its anti-microbial properties.  The natural enzymes also allow for honey to be fermented to make honey wine.  This short paper details honey’s enzymes and potential benefits.

Manuka Honey is a True Healing Gift from Nature

Manuka honey is so named from the Manuka bush from which bees retrieve the nectar.  Manuka honey is particularly unique in that its nutrient profile contains up to four times as many nutrients as other raw honeys.  Manuka honey naturally contains more enzymes to create increased antimicrobial properties that exceed other raw honey products.

Manuka Bush Flower
But if you find the right Manuka honey, it contains even MORE enzymes that create natural hydrogen peroxide to give it much more effective anti-microbial properties.  UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor (also called KFactor), is the global standard that identifies and measures the antimicrobial strength of this unique Manuka honey.

UMF honey is also graded based on its UMF factor and benefit to your health.  Grading is determined by comparing the anti-bacterial properties of manuka honey to the disinfectant called phenol.  The following grading scale is:

0-4: Non-therapeutic

4-9: Maintenance level with general honey health benefits

10-14: Supports natural healing and bacterial balance.  This level is considered useful for your health.

15+: Superior levels of phenols that are highly therapeutic but shouldn’t exceed taking 1 tbsp at a time

Genuine UMF honey will be labeled with the UMF trademark label, be from a New Zealand UMF licensed company, have the UMF company’s name and license number on the label, and have a UMF rating number of 5-16+.

To find genuine Manuka honey, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link to my Manuka Honey review blog.

GMO in honey?

It is a possibility.  Bees harvest nectar to make honey, but while they are harvesting the nectar there is a likelihood that they will also carry pollen spores back to the hive as well.  If these bees are feeding on plants that have been genetically modified, they are picking up pollen from GM plants.  Pollen is where the genes for the plant are located, which means that those genes are the same ones that have been genetically modified.

So, as innocent as it seems, bees may very well be depositing GM pollen into the honey to contaminate it with GM plant material.

Research has shown that bees have been found to carry soybean pollen, maize pollen and rapeseed pollen into their hives.  All three of these crops are over 90% genetically modified.

Where to find Non-GMO Honey

Visit my Non-GMO Honey Review Blog to find your perfect honey!  (The bee kind)

Visit my Non-GMO Manuka Honey Review Blog to find this excellent healing food!

 

 

 

27 Jan
2017

Sugar has been Around for a LONG time

Sugar Cane Field
So long, in fact, that we do not know when people discovered how to make sugar from sugar cane.  Historians believe that the sugar cane was first domesticated in New Guinea and spread from there to Southeast Asia and southern China.  The refining of sugar cane to sugar crystals began in India, and by the 6th century sugar cultivation and processing had reached Persia.  Arab peoples always had sugar on their expeditions, resulting in its spread.

Sugar was introduced to Europe and the Canary Islands via the Spanish and Protugese conquests, and Columbus introduced sugar to the New World on his second voyage.

It seems we are not the first culture to have a problem with sugar over-consumption!  Britain, for example, consumed five times as much sugar in 1770 as they did in 1710.  By the end of the 18th century, sugar surpassed grains as the most valuable commodity in European trade.  This speaks volumes because grain was often the primary source of nutrition for many people.  Once the many uses of sugar had been discovered, the sugar market boomed.  Prices soared, making sugar a commodity available for only the wealthy.  Before the boom the majority of sugar came from the West Indies, but island producers from Barbados and the Leeward Islands capitalized on demand soon took the lead in sugar exportation.

Mechanized Cane Crusher

Around the same time, mechanization became a reality in sugar processing much the way it is accomplished today.  It began with the development of a succession of closed heat chambers and evaporators to prevent loss of product, and the centrifuge process developed around 1852.

As we all know, all good things usually come to some sort of demise.  With the combination of depletion of soil from existing crops, the establishment of more sugar plants in the Caribbean Islands, and political unrest, the price of sugar significantly decreased.  What was once a food for the rich became available to all of society.

Sugar beets became a source of sugar in the mid-1700’s when it was realized that sugar beets contained sucrose but commercial production did not occur until the early 19th century in Berlin.  The concept of extracting sugar from beets soon spread to France, Europe and the U.S.

The first successful sugar beet factory in the U.S. was built in 1870 but waited nine long years to see a profit.  By 1914 the sugar beet industry had grown to equal that of Europe negating the need for large imports.

As of 2013, the world’s largest sugar beet harvester was Russia, while the most successful sugar beet harvesters in the U.S. come from the Imperial Valley in California.

Sugar Today

In our current age of sugar-addiction, many of us are always looking for something sweet to satisfy our craving.  The latest statistics tell us that the average person eats 60 pounds of sugar a year, which amount to approximately 16% of our daily food intake, according to the CDC.  Yikes!

And, if you are not highly particular about the type of sugar you eat, most of that sugar you consume will be in the form of white sugar.  As an interesting note, white sugar obtains its white color by exposure to bone char, or cow bones that have been incinerated turning them into a coarse dust.  This acts as a carbon filter of sorts, rendering the sugar crystals white.

Consuming white sugar can have detrimental effects on your immune system, and therefore your ability to fight off infections.  Sugar has a similar make-up to that of vitamin C.  Because of this, when we consume sugar it takes the place of what should be vitamin C in and on our immune cells.  Without vitamin C, the immune cells cannot fight off bacteria or viruses.  This effect on the immune system lasts for several hours after consuming sugar!  So if you consume sugar at regular intervals throughout the day, you are essentially compromising your immune system all day long….if you are sick often you need to consider severely limiting or even completely eliminating your sugar intake.

What About Brown Sugars?

As a processed food, sugar goes through a multi-step process.  Imperial Sugar has created a helpful diagram to understand this process with cane sugar, from which brown sugar is derived.  The shade of the brown sugar is determined by how many filters the sugar is filtered through to remove minerals and impurities.  The fewer minerals that are filtered out, the more nutritional benefit there is in the sugar so I always recommend using brown sugar when at all possible.

The taste will vary quite a bit between darker brown sugar and white sugar as well.  Brown sugars are less “sweet” so they are often not used for baking or beverages.  I personally enjoy using brown sugar in baking because of this very fact (and I feel like it’s better for us nutritionally).

The process is different for producing beet sugar, from which the majority of white sugar is currently made.  Sugar beets slices are first soaked in hot water to extract the molasses.  The liquid is then filtered, leaving the liquid without solids.  The molasses is placed in a centrifuge (a machine that spins at a high rate of speed) where the majority of the molasses is spun off.  The remaining molasses is rinsed off with hot water and the crystals are dried and packaged.

 Watch out for GMO

Single Sugar Beet

In the U.S., 95% or more of sugar beet crops are genetically modified in the form of gylphosate resistance.

Cane sugar has presently not been genetically modified but 70 field trials have been carried out in the U.S. to create GM sugarcane that is resistant to viruses, bacteria and pests, strains that are herbicide tolerant and strains that have a modified sugar content to increase yield.  Because current crops losses are at or exceed 50% due to pests and weeds, genetic modification may very well be on the horizon.

Find Non-GMO Sugar

While you may be tempted to think that using solely cane sugar is a sure way to avoid GMO’s, with the looming threat of cane sugar genetic modification I would suggest seeking out non-GMO guaranteed brands.

Find non-GMO cane sugar on my cane sugar review blog.

 

16 Jan
2017

You know that Christmas is around the corner when you see bowls of mint candies everywhere you go, and maybe if you’re like me it is somewhat of an annoyance when it shows up even before Thanksgiving.  Or, maybe you have a bag or two at home for yourself to complete the holiday season!  While most of us currently know peppermint mostly because of its relationship to candy, its beginnings were much different.

Medicinal beginnings

Mentha piperita, Peppermint

The peppermint plant is a crossbreed between the water-mint plant and the spear-mint plant that was first cultivated in England in the late 1600’s.  Prior to its cultivation, mint was used by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as a cure for indigestion and upset stomach.  It is unspecified if the mint used by the ancients was peppermint; it could have been spearmint or water-mint, but the benefits are the same. After its cultivation it continued to be used for stomach ailments but also became useful for respiratory infections and female hormone imbalances.

In records, peppermint made its official appearance in 1721 in England.  When European settlers came to America, they found that the native peoples were using different species of mint, but began cultivating peppermint and other mint plants they brought with them.  Today, much of the mint in the U.S. is grown in Oregon and Washington where there is a great deal of moisture.  It will also grow well in some parts of Indiana, Michigan, Idaho, South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin.

The beginnings of mint candy and candy canes are rather unclear and elusive.  One commonly heard explanation for the beginnings of the candy cane is that of a Christian man who wanted to create a candy that would clearly present the story of salvation.  The white candy was meant to represent the purity of Christ, and the red stripes represented the scourging Jesus received before His crucifixion, and the “J” shape is the first letter in Jesus.  This has since been determined to be false but is often still told as fact today.

Another folklore explains that in 1670, the choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral in Germany, wishing to quiet the children in his church during the tradition of Christmas Eve, asked a local candy maker to make them sugar sticks.  In order to justify the giving candy to the children, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top, which would remind the children of the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus.  He also used the white color of the converted sticks to teach children about the sinless life of Jesus.  At this time the candy sticks contained no red striping.

So it really isn’t clear why the idea of the candy cane was invented, but we do know that the first candy cane was made by hand.  Machine production began in 1919 in Albany, Georgia with the Mills-McCormick Candy Company, around the same time the red striping was added.  But they still had to be bent by hand when they came off of the machine, causing a considerable loss of product.  In 1957, Gregory Keller patented his Keller Machine, that automated the twisting and bending of the candy.

Today, approximately 1.76 billion candy canes are produced in a year!

Mint will Give you Relief

Peppermint Essential Oil

If you have digestive complaints, mint is a great place to start!  Pure mint essential oil can also be used.  Ingest a few drops in a capsule or rub on the tummy in a carrier oil.

Peppermint oil is sometimes used in topical analgesics as a pain reliever.  Placing a few drops in a carrier oil for dilution to rub on sore muscles can be a great relief.

It also offers anti-microbial properties to help freshen breath and balance the digestive environment.

Use in the air to clean the air and freshen the smell, either in a diffuser or with a couple drops on a paper towel placed wherever it is most useful.

Where to Watch for GMO’s

Sugar, corn syrup and flavorings are the three most prevalent ingredients in generic candy canes.  Sugar and corn syrup are both derived from crops that are largely genetically modified in the U.S., so I would recommend avoiding them when at all possible.

A field trial with GM peppermint was undertaken in 2001, but commercial growth is not yet under consideration.

Where to find Non-GMO Mint Products

Visit my Mint Candy Review blog to find non-GMO candies.

For non-GMO peppermint essential oils visit my review here!

 

 

10 Jan
2017

Why figs?

Figs are tasty little bites containing a considerable amount of fiber to improve the health of the digestive system and potentially help with weight management.  You will also find vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, potassium and chlorine in figs.

Traditionally, figs have been used in poultices on skin ailments.  Fig leaves are also beneficial for diabetics, as they improve blood sugar regulation by reducing the amount of insulin needed.  The nutrients in figs have been shown to improve heart health, kidney and liver function, lower blood pressure, improve eye health, improve bone strength and inhibit the formation of some cancers.

So add a few figs to your breakfast oatmeal!

One of the Oldest Crops in History

The fig tree appears to have been one of the earliest crops intentionally cultivated, having been found in the Jordan Valley 13 miles north of Jericho.  The fig tree is often referenced in the Bible, so it is no surprise that the fig tree was found there.  It is believed that the cultivation of figs predated the cultivation of grain crops like wheat and barley.  The fig tree is in the same family as the mulberry tree.

Figs were a widespread source of food for the Greeks and Romans, with writings by Aristotle and Cato the Elder confirming the importance of the fig for both human and animal nourishment.  The fig tree has since been intentionally cultivated in temperate climates such as Afghanistan, Portugal and India.  Spanish missionaries brought the fig to America in 1769, when they landed in what is today California.  While these were not the first figs to land in America, California was soon found to be an ideal place to grow figs due to its climate.

The Smyrna fig, originating from Smyrna, Turkey, grew well around the San Francisco are because the two cities are located at the same
latitude, making the climates very similar.  While the first Smyrna fig arrived in CA in 1881, it was not successfully cultivated until 1899 when growers successfully introduced fig wasps to carry out pollination naturally.  Wasps and bees are important!

Turkey produces the largest percentage of figs in the world, but California provides around 80% of what is distributed around the U.S..

Figs and GMO

Thankfully, to date it seems clear that figs have not yet become a target of genetic modification.

However, if you are buying dried figs, be sure to check the ingredients.  There are some large-scale companies that will add a light sugar coating to their figs.  This sugar may very well be generic sugar from sugar beets, that may be genetically modified, so use those shopping smarts to check ingredients!

Where to find Non-GMO figs?

Visit my fig review blog for info on where to find figs and fig products!

 

2 Jan
2017

The marshmallow is an old favorite

Althaea Officinalis

Separate the word marshmallow into “marsh” and “mallow” and you derive it’s origin in a sense.  “Mallow” is taken from the mallow plant (Althaea Officinalis), and “marsh” is where the mallow plant prefers to grow.  What we know as the marshmallow originally began with the Ancient Egyptians,  who prepared the mallow plant by boiling pieces of root pulp with sugar until it thickened. Once thickened, the mixture was strained, cooled, & then utilized for its intended use.  It was a food reserved for the privileged, and was used to soothe cough and sore throat, and to improve wound healing.

The beginnings of the modern marshmallow began in France with the whipping of marshmallow sap with sugar, water and egg whites to make Pâté de Guimauve, all by hand.  It was sold as a lozenge in bar form.  As you can imagine, this was very labor intensive and almost impossible to keep up with demand.

Making Pâté de Guimauve

In the 1800’s, the starch mogul system became available and greatly simplified the process of making mallow-based confections.  Trays of modified corn starch were molded with cavities, into which the mallow mixture was placed and allowed to dry and harden.  Very similar to our version of the ice cube tray!  Around the same time, candy makers began to replace the mallow root with gelatin to make a more chewy candy.

In 1954, Greek American Alex Doumak developed the extrusion process to make marshmallows.  The marshmallow material was pumped through extrusion heads to make a long rope, after which is was cooled and cut.  This process is still used today with slightly different ingredients.

Modern marshmallows are made by boiling water, sugar and corn syrup in large kettles up to a precise temperature and for a precise time.  Once cooled to a specific temperature, rehydrated gelatin is blended in, and the mixture is pumped through a blender with air to create the marshmallow fluffiness.  It is cooled further to hold its shape by pumping through a heat exchanger and onto a conveyor belt for cutting and packaging.  Corn starch coats the conveyor belt to prevent sticking, and the cut pieces are tumbled in corn starch to prevent sticking.

 

The health benefits of eating marshmallows

Purely psychological!  They have little to no nutritional value, but I believe firmly in the concept of enjoying a treat now and again.  Making s’mores is a wonderful way to spend time with friends and family by the campfire.

Be on the look-out for GMO ingredients

I am sure I don’t have to tell anyone that consuming too many marshmallows is not the best practice for your health, if for no other reason than the amount of sugar!

As tasty as those little fluffy bites look, GMO ingredients are a large part of the marshmallows you find at the store.

The prominent ingredient to look for is corn syrup.  The average marshmallow is made up of around 60% corn syrup, and 93% of corn crops grown in the U.S. are Ht variety.  So the likelihood that the corn syrup in your marshmallows is GMO is very high.

Egg whites are also used in the making of marshmallows.  While there are some that would debate the concept that feeding GM feeds to animals makes the animal and its products GM, I am of the belief that what the animal eats is what builds it’s parts.  So if the chicken is eating GM soybean and corn feed, its eggs will contain GM residuals.

Sucrose, derived from either sugar cane or sugar beets, is another sweetener used in the making of the marshmallow.  The U.S. produces 70% of its sugar from sugar beets and sugarcane and imports the remaining 30%.  Of the sugar beet crops, 95% of U.S.-grown crops are now genetically modified.  It is impossible to guarantee that the sucrose in marshmallows is not GMO.

Where to find non-GMO marshmallows??

Check out my marshmallow review blog to find the answer!

31 Dec
2016

Anyone besides me used to think that Chiclets were one of the neatest things invented?  I can’t even tell you why I think so…maybe it was because they were small and colorful.  They did taste good!.  I have to wonder if it wasn’t just a convenient distraction for a busy mom with kids.

An interesting history

The history of chewing gum is diverse across many cultures, as many separate people groups used chewing gum from various sources native to their lands.  The ancient Greeks chewed mastic tree bark, the ancient Mayans chewed chicle, the Eskimos chewed blubber, South Americans chewed coca leaves, the Chinese chewed ginseng roots, South Asians chewed betel nuts, the Native Americans chewed sugar pine and spruce sap, and early American settlers chewed tobacco leaves.

While chewing whale blubber sounds rather repulsive, the innate need to chew was satisfied in many different forms.  The first commercialized chewing gum was created in New England in 1848, called The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.  Around 1850, a paraffin-based gum took over in popularity, that was sweetened by keeping a plate of powdered sugar close into which the chewed paraffin was repeatedly dipped.

The first flavored chewing gum was made in the 1860’s made with balsam tree extract and powdered sugar, named Taffy Tolu.  John Colgan, who invented the first flavored gum, also invented the first chicle-based gum and patented the “Chewing Gum Chip Forming Mac
hine” to cut chips of chewing gum from the chicle base.

Modern chewing gum arose when chicle came up to the U.S. from Mexico and landed in the hands of Thomas Adams.  After chicle failed to be a suitable rubber substitute, it instead made its debut as Adams New York Chewing Gum in 1871.  Black Jack, Chiclets and Wrigley’s gums all quickly became successful on the market.  Synthetic gums replaced chicle gums in the 1960’s, as chicle no longer lived up to chewing gum standards.

Health Benefits of Chewing Gum

The benefits of chewing gum can be both physical and psychological.  Physical benefits include decreasing stress, weight managment, improved digestion, and improved oral health.  Chewing gum may also improve memory and concentration, and improves wakefulness.

Chewing gum has been somewhat of a controvertial subject.  Dentists agree that if you chew gum often, choose a gum that is sugar free to avoid dental decay.  The ADA suggests that chewing gum may actually reduce plaque and prevent cavities because it stimulates saliva flow.

On the flip side, for those that have TMJ or other jaw disorders, chewing gum may cause irritation of the disorder and cause further problems.  I know that if I chew gum all the time, my jaw and face muscles begin to ache and sometimes even get a headache.  In short, use your better judgment and listen to your body.

What GMO Ingredients to Look For

Finding specifics about the ingredients in gum is like trying to find a state secret in the Pentagon.  Suffice it to say that there are several possibilities of GMO encounters in chewing gum that you will want to look out for.

The gum base of chewing gum is often made of resin, wax and elastomer.  Wax can be derived from a handful of different sources, including beeswax and vegetables.  Depending on what the bees have been eating, there may be GMO contaminates in beeswax, and vegetables are a potential source of genetic contamination.

Chewing gum softeners may include lecithin, hydrogenated vegetable oils, glycerol ester, lanolin, methyl ester, pentaerythritol ester, rice bran wax, stearic acid, sodium and potassium stearates.  Potential GMO contamination here would be the lecithin (derived from soy), hydrogenated vegetable oil and lanolin, since it is a wax secreted by the skin of wool-bearing animals and what they eat, they excrete.

All of this is not to include the artificial sweeteners and colors and plastic-like materials that contribute to the unknown health consequences of what we put in our mouth.

Where to find Non-GMO Chewing Gum??

Visit my blog to find Non-GMO Chewing Gum!

Why do YOU chew gum?

 

 

29 Dec
2016

While other non-GMO chocolate products are easy to find, chocolate syrup is a bit more challenging.  But I will not be daunted!

 

Chances are if you are a regular natural foods store shopper you have seen Ah’Laska syrup with the polar bear on the label.  Made with organic cane syrup, water, organic cocoa, xanthan gum, citric acid and organic vanilla, this simple syrup will be the perfect substitute for any chocolate syrup!  Ah’Laska syrup earns 5/5 stars for chocolaty goodness!

Find Ah’Laska Chocolate syrup at the lowest price at Thrive Market, or order larger quantities on Amazon for a little extra cost.

 

 

 

Santa Cruz Organics also produces chocolate syrup, but they offer a mint variety as well!  I am a big fan of salt with chocolate…I think it adds a great flavor and that is why I like Santa Cruz Chocolate Syrup.  They too have made a chocolate syrup with a small handful of ingredients: organic invert sugar, organic cocoa, water, organic vanilla extract, salt and xanthan gum.

Find their plain syrup at the lowest price at Thrive Market.  Unfortunately Thrive doesn’t sell the mint variety but it is easily found on Amazon!

All reviews say this syrup is yum, yum, YUM!  4.5/5 stars overall!