Tag Archive | nutrition

Postnatal Depletion—Even 10 Years Later

This is a really interesting article, and I can’t help but notice the similarity between the symptoms of what the author calls ‘post-natal depletion’ and ME/ CFS/ Fibromyalgia – doctors and scientists and article writers are constantly coming up with new theories,  but given that I got ill right after giving birth in 2003 (and the fact that I have had 9 pregnancies altogether, and at least 5 of those were back-to-back without a break), I wonder whether this might more readily explain how and why I became ill. And perhaps suggests a way forward to get healthy again.


Studying Health and Nutrition the Fun Way, and Swedish Välling

We are on a bit of a ‘health-kick’ here right now – we’ve invested in a juicer, a manual grain-mill, and we are sprouting seeds, making coconut yoghurt and kefir, brewing kombucha, and having all sorts of fun! My 12yos is even growing wheatgrass to juice (they love the whole process! Though I am the only one who is willing to drink the stuff!)

I discovered that grain is easier to store for longer than flour, and there are advantages to milling your own grain in that the nutrients present in the flour begin to dissipate following the first 48 hours after milling. I’m reading a book called “Nourishing Traditions” which talks about the necessity of soaking grains the old-fashioned way, so we’ll try that some time too.


This got me to thinking about Välling – the staple drink for babies in Sweden. I assumed it was something you had to buy ready-made, like rusks (does anybody remember having Farley’s rusks for breakfast?!) But then I found a really simple recipe:

Skrädmjölsvälling 1port


Skrädmjöl 2-4 tsk
Vatten 2 dl

Gör så här

Koka upp tillsammans under omrörning och söta gärna med honung eller fruktsaft. Önskad mängd vatten kan naturligtvis bytas ut mot mjölk.

Basically, what you do is boil 2-4 teaspoons of flour, it can be wheat, whole wheat, rye, or oats, with 2dl water or milk. Stir constantly. Add salt and sugar (honey) if you want to and think the taste requires it.

Basically, I don’t recommend it – paediatricians in the UK and the US (and, I suspect, the World Health Organisation) don’t recommend wheat for babies under 8 months old, and don’t recommend putting any cereal, no matter how thin, in a baby’s bottle due to the risk of choking. Not to mention, don’t ever give babies salt! (And no honey before 8 months either.)

Another interesting fact that I discovered when my brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease is that it is a disease commonly found in Swedish people among others, and the suggestion at least on the Swedish side is too early introduction of wheat – before a baby’s digestive system is mature enough to stop the wheat particles from entering into the bloodstream.

Nevertheless, Välling is something so homely and comforting I can’t imagine Swedish people giving it up any time soon!

If you’re in the US, you can try and buy Välling at http://www.scandiafood.com/ (Just don’t give it to your kids) 😉


[Originally posted on the Svengelska Hemskolan blog]

p.s. Although I do love the book Nourishing Traditions, and I’m completely sold on the idea of the necessity of raw fermented foods in our diets, NT also advocates the ‘old fashioned’ eating of meat. I accept that there’s a valid health argument in the book for questioning our modern diets (the chapter on fats makes really interesting reading), but I reject its conclusions on ethical grounds.  So if you’re vegan/ vegetarian, you might want to be aware of that before thinking about purchasing the book.

Just Cook for Kids Week 5

The Just Cook for Kids – Child Nutrition course from Stanford School of Medicine via Coursera has now finished (I’m not sure, but I think new people may be able to sign up before the end of February, but if not I’m sure they will run it again).

So, week 5 notes as follows:

5.1 Basic Concept: How to Work Around Food Allergies

This was a short video which mentioned several different kinds of allergies (peanuts, treenuts, eggs, milk, gluten, soy, fish and shellfish) and although it addressed the additional difficulties children with allergies have in school such as bullying, and talk about how to work around these issues, there was not a lot at all about the healthy food alternatives to replace these allergens. A little bit of a disappointing, missed opportunity I think.

5.2 Focus Point: Reading Nutrition Facts Labels

This video went through everything you can expect to find on an American food label (there are slight differences with UK labels – for example, fibre and carbohydrate are counted separately in the UK). We were advised to keep an eye on overall calories, fats and sugars (and avoid trans-fats), and to avoid too much sodium, and too much protein. I did not discover why ‘too much’ protein might be troublesome until I watched the optional video on Metabolism. (Basically, protein eventually gets converted to bodily fat if more is consumed than is needed for energy.) Maya mentioned that although vitamins and minerals are ‘good’, they don’t make the food healthy overall if it’s full of unhealthy ingredients, so beware of ‘healthy’ claims.

5.4 Basic Concept: Food’s Environmental Impact

This was a re-cap of previous videos. It emphasised that 30 times the amount of greenhouse gases are released in the production of meat compared with lentils, along with water demands and antibiotic use (see notes from previous weeks). It needs to be remembered though that this is American-style CAFO mass-produced meat rather than grassfed meat. I would like to know how that more healthy method of production compares.

5.6 Focus Point: Understanding Taste and Flavour

Again, this was a re-cap of previous videos, emphasising that the freshest, locally grown will be of the highest quality. But Maya also looked at the theory of different taste sensors on the tongue and mentioned that 80% of taste is actually related to the sense of smell.

Recipes included: Stew, salad dressing, roasted vegetables and crepes.

Although I didn’t like it right at the beginning, it really grew on me and I enjoyed it so much that I’m sad that it’s over.

I do think that it is a little too easy for anybody who has already had an interest in or studied nutrition, but it would be a good basic refresher course or a complete introduction. I certainly would have wanted a little bit more detail about micro-nutrients but it’s obviously not intended for people who have studied nutrition before.

For people who, like me, have studied nutrition before, I would recommend the optional videos in order to make the most of the class. Once you have signed up, the course materials remain available to you indefinitely.

Just Cook for Kids Week 4 Notes

4.1 Basic Concept: Growing a Kitchen Garden

Maya emphasized how good home-grown fruit and vegetables are, and how easy it can be, and how children who are involved in growing their own food tend to make better dietary choices.

4.2 Guest Appearance: Rita Botini – Growing a Kitchen Garden

We were encouraged to grow herbs such as basil, thyme and so on. Maya and Rita made it sound easy but I have never had very much success with gardening so far. One thing Rita did that I hadn’t seen before was to cover the pot in clingfilm to simulate greenhouse conditions until the shoots show through. So I will try again to develop my green fingers 🙂

4.3 What does Organic mean?

Maya emphasised that ‘Natural’ has no specific definition and mustn’t be confused with ‘Organic’ which is mandatorily defined as containing no synthetic pesticides, fertilisers, genetically engineered crops, or ‘sewage slops’ What? I have never heard of ‘sewage slops’ being used in growing food! Does that mean human sewage?! I am shocked. I hope that is an American thing and that the UK is more strict. I will have to investigate that…

4.4 Basic Concept: What does ‘locally grown’ mean?

Maya mentioned that ‘locally grown’ should mean within 100-400 miles, but I’m not sure whether that is a mandatory definition. The best way to be sure that something is locally grown is to buy from farmers or at farmers’ markets. Advantages of buying locally grown include the fact that less travelled food will be fresher and have a lower carbon footprint. Food bought in season is also usually cheaper than imported, out-of-season fruit and vegetables in the supermarket. And then where the money goes was considered: a $1 to a big corporation goes towards overheads and owners/ shareholders with a small percentage going to employees and an even smaller proportion to the farmers. Whereas a $1 at a farmers market goes straight to the farmers which supports the local economy.

4.5 Focus Point: Healthy people = healthy planet

Modern methods of raising meat are very bad for the environment. Grass-fed, organic, traditionally raised meat is a closed loop system, where the sunlight feeds the grass, the cows eat the grass, and the cows’ manure fertilises the grass. Modern American methods, where the cows are stalled (in a ‘CAFO’) en-masse and fed corn (which is not good or natural for them, but is cheaper! But the corn is also grown using fossil fuels) has an enormous environmental cost overall. Even the manure, which in the natural system is a perfectly helpful component, becomes a problem. And then, due to living in such unnaturally close quarters, CAFO cows are subject to more diseases requiring more antibiotics. 80% of antibiotic use in the US is used on cattle.

The conclusion was to limit red meat in your diet, preferring lean meat instead, and choose more veg. But I would say rather, choose grass-fed organic red meat.

4.6 Focus Point: Sustainable Eating

Going on from the previous videos, it was mentioned the deleterious effect of pesticides and fertilisers which are not only troublesome in the right amounts, but they are generally overused to the extent that excess runs off the fields and ends up in the water and when it runs into the sea it creates dead zones where there is not enough oxygen to support marine life. I had heard of these ‘dead zones’ but I had no idea that they were created by pesticides and fertilisers. Very sobering.

4.7 – 4.9

Three recipes this week: a basic, interchangeable soup recipe, basic how to cook fish (using a mayonnaise-based sauce or other ‘marinades’) and steaming vegetables with a basic white sauce.

The course videos are here, but the optional videos aren’t included. I’m not sure if they are available elsewhere, but they are very good and thorough and would be of interest to anybody with a serious interest in Nutrition.

How Cooking Can Change Your Life

I just wanted to share this video, narrated by Michael Pollan, that Maya Adams posted as I think that this ultimately is the take-home message of the Just Cook for Kids nutrition course: eat whatever you like, as long as you cook it yourself (and that way moderation is easy).

Just for Kids Week 1 summary and Week 2

I’m doing several courses now, so I’m struggling a little bit to fit everything in, along with my everyday life and work, so this will be just a brief overview.

Week 1

I was a bit disappointed with week 1 the first time I watched the videos as it seemed overly simplistic, but I decided to make the most out of this free course, and watched a second time, taking notes and interacting with other students using Twitter (using the #JustCook hashtag) and facebook (on the official page and a private discussion group.)

Week one emphasised moderation and balance, and the benefits of eating together as a family. The fact that children who eat at home together with their family and parents at the table have ‘better emotional health’ was quoted several times. I have no doubt that it is true, but it would have been helpful to have a link to a solid study that supports that conclusion.

Recipes included fruit / yogurt smoothie, vegetable stir-fry, and ‘egg-in-a-hole’.

The final video of week 1 was a summary defining the problem of the ‘epidemic of obesity and disease’ and attributed these to packaged, processed foods and the changes in the culture of eating.

Week Two

The first video of the second week addressed what balance and moderation means in practice. Then each video has been a focus on each group of macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins etc.) I was very pleased on balance with the way Maya Adams approached the topic of fats, as it is a controversial issue. Her emphasis was on natural rather than man-made fats. The issue of sugar was addressed in video 2.5. Maya Adams acknowledged that some scientists have been calling table sugar a toxin. Nevertheless she advised that, in moderation, it is acceptable. More emphasis on sugar on its natural fruit forms, with its fibre intact (and also less processed brown sugar) might have been a good thing. Video 2.7 looked very basically at the glycemic index, and it was briefly touched upon that foods with a low glycemic index include fibre, protein and healthy fats but it didn’t go into much detail about why or how these foods are lower (fibre and protein especially slow glucose down).

Recipes this week included oatmeal (porridge), home-made pasta sauce and almond cake.

The final video again was a focus on moderation. Maya said that, with moderation as your rule, no food need be banned, and if you need rules, check out Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules” (which I plan to check out). I loved this quote as well: “Even the practice of moderation should be approached with moderation!”

Just Cook for Kids

I decided to sign up for the Just Cook for Kids course on Nutrition from Stanford via Coursera on a recommendation – partly just for fun (nutrition is a subject I have studied informally for years and health is an ongoing interest for me), and partly because it has been so long since I did any formal study that I thought it would be a good idea to get as much practice in as I can before I start my formal studies with the OU.

Week one consisted of 10 videos, a few of which included practical cooking activities, a quiz and a survey.

The actual nutrition component of the course so far has been extremely basic, only covering macronutrients, apparently wholly in agreement with the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations (which, for anybody who has looked at nutrition in-depth, and the role of grains and carbohydrates, are worth questioning) and I was shocked and dismayed when white sugar was recommended as one of the basic staples of healthy cooking!

I seriously wondered who the course was aimed at, since the recommendations to avoid processed foods, cook from scratch, and eat vegetables are so basic, I am pretty sure everybody knows it, but the figures on obesity and ill health are so shockingly high, the message obviously isn’t getting through.

I thought rather than do nothing but criticise, I would try to make the most of it and “take the meat, and leave the bones”.

Course notes to follow.