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Paleo diet but it's natural nature food products label labelling

But it’s natural!

If you’ve strayed from the perimeter of your local grocery store, you can’t have missed the endless products screaming at you that they are “natural”. The labels often heavily feature the colour green, which we associate with nature, and may even show images of endless fields in perfect sunsets. Often the packaging will be brown and have a recycled feel – it’s natural after all. Buy it! Buy it!

But what does natural actually mean? If something is natural, it has to be good for you, right? My view of “natural” is something that hasn’t been altered at all and is entirely in its natural state, like an organic banana. A survey last year by the Consumer Reports National Research Centre found that 60% of respondents actively looked out for “natural” labels, with 66% of those people believing it meant the product contained no artificial ingredients, no pesticides and no genetically modified organisms. Surely that’s a pretty reasonable understanding of a “natural” food?
Paleo diet but it's natural nature food products label labelling
Alarmingly there are no official definitions about what “natural” means on food labels, nor are there any Australian food standards governing how and when the term may be used.

Looking in my local Coles supermarket, I found a Jalna Fat Free Natural Yoghurt, in which the first two ingredients are “Pasteurised Skim Milk and Non-fat milk solids”. I also found a Natural Muesli by The Muesli Company, which contains Preservative 220, rolled oats and dried fruits (processes which surely take the raw ingredients away from their original, natural state?).

Another favourite, is Water Thins Natural Mini Crispbread. The ingredients… Wheat Flour, Cheese Powder [Milk Solids, Cheese Solids (Milk, Salt, Starter Culture, Enzymes), Mineral Salts (339, 331), Salt, Food Acid (330)], Salt, Vegetable Oil, Raising Agents (500), Rye Flavour. Salt? Perhaps the salt is natural? And how about Natural Glace Cherries? Guess what they contain? Cherries (60%), Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Food Acid (330), Natural Flavour, Natural Colour (163), Preservatives [202, 211, 220 (contains sulphites)]. So, I suppose they’re 60% natural…

None of the products I’d found mentioned being organic (which is what I’d consider natural) – and as for processed ingredients, additives, flavourings and preservatives, “natural” seems to be a total farce.

So what’s the answer? Well – as I’ve spoken about before – if it has a label, it’s far less likely to be natural and healthy than something with no label. And if the label makes health claims, you should probably not buy it.

What would you expect a “natural” food label to mean? Do you think there should be more rules about the labels food manufacturers are allowed to put on their products?

Did my address where I lived cause my asthma paleo

Did my address give me asthma?

Long before I moved to Australia, I lived in an idyllic rural village in the South West of England, with open views of fields for miles around in each direction. The houses were beautiful cottages made of Cotswold stone, with roses in the gardens – and looked exactly as they would have a hundred years before. The local teenagers hung out by the park on horse-back, and the two big houses hosted annual Summer Supper parties exactly as they had for generations. My elderly neighbour lived in the cottage his mother had been born in.

The village had a quaint old pub, a church, a nursery school, a post box and a play park. On the corner was a farm you could let yourself into, leave a couple of pounds in the honesty box, and help yourself to freshly laid eggs. The nearest shop was about six miles away, which was the closest option for even a pint of milk or load of bread (this was long before I’d ever even heard the word paleo). With miles of public rights of way, it was right in the middle of nature. And unfortunately a great big motorway.

Did my address where I lived cause my asthma paleo

The huge motorway was the main route from London to Wales and dissected the village in two. In the time I lived there, there was only one brief occasion when the constant rumbling of cars and heavy goods vehicles stopped – just for an hour or so. On this one afternoon, the entire motorway was closed after a serious accident. Rather than being blissful, the silence was eerie. Day in, day out, no matter how ungodly the hour, the roar of the motorway never ended. Along with the noise, the motorway covered the windows and walls of my should-have-been-yellow house, with a thick layer of dirt.

On hot days (rare in the UK), the better option was to be uncomfortably hot, rather than sleep with the windows open.

The fields that surrounded the village grew all sorts of different produce and it was fascinating to see a fallow field transform to a field of wheat in a matter of weeks – all from my kitchen window. Every so often I’d see the farm machinery spraying the fields, which would fill the air with a heavy, unpleasant smell for a couple of days. The type of smell you can taste, long before you get close to it.

Half way down of one of the bridal paths, right next to the stream, was a huge steaming pile of (what I eventually learnt to be) human manure. I saw some of the best tomato plants I’ve ever seen growing up from that pile. The smell was one of the most unpleasant I’ve ever encountered, as made clear by my Labrador on her twice daily walks, who would do everything she could to drag me closer so she could have a good roll around in it (fortunately I was onto her and she never got to indulge in her penchant for excrement). Just when the pile looked like it couldn’t get any bigger, it would all but disappear, and I’d notice the smell had moved to the nearby fields, full of produce.

After living this healthy rural lifestyle for a year or two, I had a cold that just never went away. Or rather the cough never went away. No matter how much I’d cough, it would never quite resolve the need for the coughing. Eventually I went to the local-ish doctor (across the motorway, in the neighbouring village) expecting to be given some medication to clear up my cough. Without even getting so far as to see the doctor, a nurse heard my wheezing and coughing and instantly diagnosed asthma. Which I hadn’t realised you could develop, totally out of the blue, at the ripe old age of 23.

With the help of modern medicine, the coughing stopped, and it was manageable*

But I’ve always wondered, did where I live cause me to develop asthma?

If you developed asthma as an adult, what do you think caused it? I’d love to hear, in the comments below.


 

* Several years later (long after I’d left the village) my asthma was instantly cured as a side effect of life-saving treatment I received in a completely unrelated incident.

Grow your own veggies vegetable patch organic gardening Paleo Network

Why I’m growing my own veggies

Just a few weeks ago I converted the old sand pit that the previous occupants of my house had left behind, to a vegetable patch. Well, when I say converted, I mean mixed some topsoil into the sand. I also re-purposed an old archway they’d left behind into a climbing frame for some green beans.

I put in loads of different seeds to see what would work, and basically forgot about them – until yesterday I saw 28 fully grown beans climbing up the arch! The basil is also working well, but it looks like the spinach I planted has been a bit too much of a hit with the slugs.

Grow your own veggies vegetable patch organic gardening Paleo Network

I’d love to become completely self-sufficient, even if just for vegetables – hopefully with a bit more experimentation I’ll be able to plant more of what works and abandon planting seeds that have no chance in my garden.

Vegetables are surprisingly expensive to buy – and there’s no choice. There are perhaps three varieties of tomatoes, one type of zucchini, two spinach varieties – whereas in the real world there are hundreds of varieties. Take the beans as an example, they’re currently about $5 a kilo at my local supermarket (non-organic). I bought the entire packet of seeds for $1.50 and it looks like I’m going to get quite a big crop.

I also love the idea of being able to pick my dinner off the vine/ plant immediately before cooking it. You really can’t get any fresher than that! Of course, I can also guarantee that my veg hasn’t been sprayed with nasty chemicals, so that’s another huge win. And what can be more satisfying than eating the rewards of your labour!

I’m hoping that since temperatures never really get down to a frost here, I’ll be able to grow something all year round. But failing that hopefully with the aid of my dehydrator, some pickling recipes and my freezer, I should be able to wean off buying my veggies from the supermarket.

Whilst I have got a garden, I’m hardly using any space for my veg – if you’ve just got a balcony, or can squeeze in a window box, you’d be amazed what you can grow – give it a try!

I’d love to hear if you grow your own veggies, and what you’ve had most success with! Any tips would be gratefully received!

are you eating contaminated fruit paleo network

Are you eating contaminated fruit?

I’ve bought frozen fruit quite a few times recently. It’s often far cheaper than the fresh equivalent, and it’s far less wasteful, since I don’t eat a lot of fruit. In the summer it’s great for a quick frozen dessert too.

Contaminated Frozen Fruit Hepatitis A Australia Mixed Berry Paleo Network

So I’ve been horrified to read about the recent contamination recall on frozen mixed berries. Apparently certain packs have been recalled due to a potential Hepatitis A contamination. It hasn’t been long since the horse meat scandal, but this seems so much worse, since the only ingredient in these packs is the fruit. With the hose meat contamination, it seemed to be mainly in heavily processed foods.

With illness starting up to 28 days after exposure to the Hepatitis virus, it may not even be clear yet how widespread the issue is. The official advice is now to boil berries before eating – but really, who does this?

The other shocker with this latest recall, is that the fruit in question is from China and Chile. I meticulously check where any fish and seafood I buy comes from, but had naively assumed the fruit would be domestic.

It really begs the question how can the contaminate have got into the product in the first place? Contamination often seems to occur through transfer of fecal matter from an infected person. Unbelievable that in this day and age of health and safety standards that could happen.

After hearing about this latest scare, I’m going to freeze my own fruit from now on. It’s going to be local fruit, washed and organic. It seems to be the only way to ensure you actually know what you’re eating.

I wonder what the next food scare will be?

 

Clean 15 the dirty dozen organic fruit vegetables pesticides paleo network-min

Clean 15… and the dirty dozen (updated list)

Unfortunately so much of the fresh produce we eat isn’t subject to the growing conditions we’d like. Toxic chemicals, such as fertilisers, sewage sludge, pesticides and herbicides can be used during the growing process. Pesticide use is widespread in conventionally grown produce and certain fruit and vegetables are found to have particularly high levels of pesticide residue.

Even washing your fruit and veggies before eating won’t get rid of all traces of pesticide residue. With ADHD, fertility problems, autoimmune issues, thyroid problems and certain cancers possibly linked to intake of pesticide residue, it’s definitely something to be avoided.

Clean 15 Dirty Dozen Paleo Network Organic Pesticides-min

Of course, if we could we’d all grow our own produce, or at the very least buy everything organic… but in the real world it’s not always possible. Every year pesticide residue levels are meausres and an updated Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list is published. The Dirty Dozen list (which has actually now grown to 18 items!) is the high pesticide level produce – and the Clean 15 is the produce with the lowest levels of pesticides. If you have to buy non-organic, try to avoid the Dirty Dozen and pick from the Clean 15 list.

And of course, if you’re buying imported produce, remember the country of origin may have a completely different pesticide regime – so try to buy local!

Here’s the updated lists:

Clean 15

Asparagus
Avocado
Cabbage
Eggplant
Grapefruit
Kiwi Fruit
Mangoes
Mushrooms
Onions
Pineapple
Rock Melon
Sweetcorn
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potato
Water Melon

Dirty 18

Apples
Blueberries
Broccoli
Capsicums
Carrots
Celery
Cherries
Cucumber
Grapes
Kale
Lettuce
Nectarines
Peaches
Pears
Potatoes
Spinach
Strawberries
Zucchini

If you’re on a tight budget, I can’t recommend farmers markets enough – go at the end of the day and you should get some good deals on local, organic produce. Better still, start a small veggie patch – that way you’ll know exactly what you’re eating.

Is your butcher keeping a secret from you

Is your butcher keeping a secret from you?

If your local butcher is anything like mine, they might have a big secret…

Is your butcher keeping a secret from you

Since I moved out of Sydney last year, I’ve struggled to find a good butcher. I used to have an amazing organic butcher just a short walk from my house. My butcher would make me up paleo sausages to my exact requirements (pork and apple were my favourites), order fresh turkey for me (something I find surprisingly difficult to find in Australia) and always had super cheap grass-fed bones I could use for making bone broths.

I’ve not seen words like “grass-fed”, “pasture-raised” or even “gluten-free” at all in my new local shops. It’s not really practical to buy meat in the city and travel back home with it – and I don’t yet have a big enough freezer to buy half a cow from a local farmer. So what’s girl to do?

I’m ashamed to say I’ve been walking past my local butcher for quite a few months without stopping. I glanced at the display and made a lot of assumptions.

Well yesterday, I stopped.

I’ve taken to roasting a piece of pork rind in the oven and filling the tray with veggies to roast in the delicious fat (try it!). Pork rind is really cheap (in keeping with my $50 budget challenge) and using good quality pork it’s a great fat source. Anyway, I couldn’t find any pork rind, so stopped to have a chat with the butcher.

I asked her if they ever get in any grass-fed meat, or can order some – she told me that all of their meat is grass-fed! She pointed to an old black and white photo behind the counter, and explained that her grandfather was in the photo – and that they’ve been buying all their meat from the same local farm for the last three generations. It’s all naturally raised. Could she make me some gluten-free sausages? All of her sausages are gluten-free – she just never uses words like gluten-free or grass-fed because she’s found those words put people off!

What a revelation!

I bought two giant pieces of pork rind for just $3 and am so pleased to finally have a local butcher again.

So if you’ve not found anywhere locally, my advice is this – speak to your butcher. Chances are they too don’t realise how much of a good marketing feature their naturally raised, organic, grass-fed meat is!

Would love to know if you’ve had a similar experience with your butcher too?

paleo diet gut health probotics-min

It’s not just about you…

It may be a little strange to think of, but the body you inhabit isn’t strictly your own. In fact, you’re sharing it with approximately 100 trillion bacteria that colonise your gut – your own unique army of micro-organisms. But it’s not as scary as it sounds, as these tiny creatures control your health in a variety of ways. Firstly, they extract energy from food; the greater the diversity of your gut bacteria, the more effectively you are able to digest nutrients. Gut bacteria break down carbohydrates, and prevent them from being stored as fat – hence the reason there is a direct correlation between insufficient gut bacteria and obesity. They also build your immune system, and are directly linked with your emotional health; restoring gut flora has been shown to boost mood and fight depression.

In the right conditions, you can live in harmony with your gut flora and co-exist very happily. Look after them, and in turn, they look after you. But, create a troublesome environment for them (through inflammation, stress, or antibiotic use amongst other things) and they will be compromised, and in turn, so will your health. Here are a few things you may wish to consider in order to care for your gut flora.

paleo diet gut health probotics-min

Consider a high quality probiotic

The first (and most obvious) thing you can do to support your healthy gut flora is to supplement with a high quality probiotic. This will help to repopulate your digestive tract with beneficial bacteria. Opt for a probiotic with a number of different strains of bacteria, and consider rotating your supplements over time to maintain greater diversity.

If you’re wondering how our ancestors maintained healthy gut flora long before probiotic supplements hit the shelves (or the shelves were even invented) then consider the point below!

Eat Organic Produce

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors’ gastrointestinal tracts would have been teeming with a huge diversity of bacteria, taken directly from the untouched soil in which their produce grew. They wouldn’t have worried about washing their hands after digging for them, let alone washing the produce itself. Modern day agricultural methods and non-organic farming have seen our soils stripped of this bacteria; unfortunately, conventionally grown plants grow in soil that is virtually sterile. The solution? Buy organic, preferably local – and don’t worry about thoroughly washing scrubbing every vegetable. A bit of dirt will only be beneficial.

Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods play a large part in the diet of almost all traditional cultures, and would have further supplemented their gut biomes. Fermented foods like Kombucha, Sauerkraut and Kimchi are rich in beneficial bacteria; and they’re delicious, too. Consider making your own fermented foods, or if you have to buy them, make sure they are unpasteurised so the bacteria remains.

Eat food rich in prebiotics

Just like you, your gut bacteria need to be fed. Feed them the right foods, and they will thrive. Prebiotics are found in foods such as Chicory, Jerusalem Artichoke, Onions, Leeks and Garlic – and they stimulate and nourish the good bacteria in your gut.

Try resistant starch

Much like prebiotics, resistant starch provides optimum fuel for your gut bacteria. Resistant starch is starch that passes through the colon undigested, thus giving the bacteria an excellent food source. Paleo friendly sources of resistant starch include cooked and cooled tubers – especially arrowroot and cassava.

Avoid sugars and high GI Carbohydrates

On the other side of the coin, if you eat a diet high in sugar and other high GI carbohydrates, you are providing optimum fuel for the bad bacteria in your gut (such as Candida). Who knew there were any further reasons to give up the sugar and grains!?

Don’t Stress

Finally, the most important thing you can do to support your gut bacteria is to reduce the inflammation that makes their living environment hellish to live in. Along with a poor diet, stress causes excessive inflammation within the body. Take time to relax, exercise, perhaps meditate – so that your gut bacteria can do the same.

Is your bed bad for your health mattress paleo natural-min

Is Your Bed Bad For Your Health?

Sometimes the simple things that we use in our everyday routine are things that we don’t think twice about – but can be very dangerous. Even more frustrating, when you follow an otherwise health Paleo lifestyle. Have you ever given any thought to the mattress that’s beneath you as you sleep each night?

Mattresses are often made with ployurethane foam (petroleum based material that emits formaldehyde), formalize (which is linked to asthma and lung cancer), and boric acid (roach killer). Formaldehyde is highly toxic and classified as a probable carcinogen. If you have a mattress like this, when you go to bed at night, you are lying in these chemicals. Mattress companies often claim that they have the best mattress – and they mainly focus on comfort. You will see several commercials advertising that their mattress will adjust to your back and help you get a better night sleep, but they never really mention just how clean and non toxic their mattress is, do they?

In 2005 a memory foam mattress was sent in to be inspected and the lab was able to find 61 different chemicals used in the mattress. Comfort doesn’t mean anything if you are lying in a pile of dangerous chemicals.

Is your bed bad for your health mattress paleo natural-min

What are some of the things that these harmful chemicals can cause?

It has been reported that a toxic mattress can cause respiratory problems, reproductive toxicity, allergies, asthma, SIDS, and many more complications. It’s scary to think that going to bed could be a dangerous activity!

Why would companies add these chemicals? They add them because they are flame retardants. In the 60’s, governments insisted that mattresses had to include flame retardants – and they had to pass flammability tests. It wasn’t such a huge problem when they first passed the law, but now companies are using more and more dangerous chemicals. Arlene Blum, a biophysical chemist stated “Instead of adding new fire retardant chemicals that may ultimately be shown to cause health problems, we should be asking whether we need to use these chemicals or if there are other ways to achieve equivalent fire safety.”

The mattresses that are being made today, especially some of the popular memory foam mattresses are considered to be more dangerous than the ones that were made within the past 50 years.

So what can you do about you mattress?

There are some companies that make organic natural mattresses. Before purchasing a mattress you want to triple check what exactly is in it. Some companies claim that they have a natural organic mattress – but are not willing to back it up. Companies have slowly started to realise the dangers that their mattresses are causing and are changing the chemicals that they are putting in mattresses – but this is not happening fast enough.

You are far better off getting a safe organic mattress. There are companies that sell mattresses that are completely natural and toxin free. Organic wool has natural fire resistant properties and it has been successfully used to pass flammability tests.
When you lie down to sleep at night the last thing you need to worry about is if it is safe or not. Night time is when you need to relax both mentally and physically. Don’t let your mattress ruin your health!

What type of mattress do you sleep on? Will you buy an organic mattress when you replace yours?

Do You Really Know What You've Been Eating horse meat scandal paleo diet-min

Do You Really Know What You’ve Been Eating?

Have you read about the horsemeat scandal in the UK? It seems that many products being sold as containing beef, have actually contained horsemeat. More and more products are being discovered across many brands as well as the supermarkets own brands. Most of the products are processed ready meals, with things like lasagne and spaghetti bolognese having been added to the scandal so far. Initially it was claimed “some” of the meat was horsemeat, but now it appears in some cases 100% of the meat has been found to be horsemeat.

Paleo Diet Horsemeat Scandal

One of the French food companies involved in the scandal, bought the frozen meat from a Cypriot food trader, who had bought it from a Dutch food trader, who had purchased the meat from two slaughterhouses in Romania. The French company then sold the horsemeat to a factory in Luxembourg, which was then sold under the Swedish brand Findus. This meat appears to be making it’s way into countless brands and products – with Findus just being the tip of the iceberg.

There is also concern that the horses may have been given the horse drug bute (phenylbutazone), which depending on the source you read, could be very harmful to humans if it gets into the food chain.

What ARE You Eating?

Most of the outrage so far seems to be at the fact that people have been eating horsemeat. Which yes, is outrageous and completely unacceptable (can you imagine if a similar scandal happened with pork?) But isn’t the biggest issue here that no one knows exactly what is in these processed food products? If they didn’t even know (and tell the consumers) that a frozen lasagne contains 100% horsemeat and 0% beef, how can we have any confidence about the other ingredients in the meal?

Even if the “beef” label is right on a product, with so much trading and smoke and mirrors masking the origin of the meat, I think we can be fairly confident a frozen ready meal is never going to contain grass-fed organic meat. In fact, I wonder how many different animals have contributed to the meat found in one ready meal? I guess it could be hundreds.

And what about the other ingredients? Is the tomato base of the spaghetti bolognese mainly tomatoes?  Or is it bulked out with cheaper chemicals? Are the tomatoes that are used organic, or rather grown in glass houses with chemicals to help them grow as quickly as possible. Can we even be certain the tomatoes aren’t genetically modified?

Paleo Diet GMO Tomatoes Ingredients

How Can You Get Confidence About Your Food?

The only way to be certain about what you’re eating is to make it yourself. However busy you are, I don’t think there is ever a good reason to by ready made instant meals. It’s just not worth it. It’s also very important that as well as making your own food, you’re careful about the ingredients you use, particularly meat. It really is worth buying organic, grass-fed, pasture raised meat, from as close to the farm as you can get it (perhaps you can order from the farm directly, or use a local butcher who does). Always ask your butcher where the meat is from and how it was raised – and if he doesn’t know, it’s probably time to find a new butcher.

For most people reading this, ready meals aren’t likely to be an issue. But eating out probably is. It always bothers me that when you eat at a restaurant, or in a food court, the same issues apply. Where do they get their ingredients from? If they don’t make a big thing about their meat being grass-fed and organic, well, it probably isn’t. In the long term, the best thing is to ask in the restaurant. Hopefully this way the message will get through that people care, and want to eat good quality ingredients. There are some good restaurants who pride themselves on their local, seasonal organic produce – you just have to find them.

Isn’t it ironic that the sale of raw dairy, from a small farm with well raised animals, is illegal in many places; yet it seems to be common practice to sell food products without even being able to trace what the contents is, or where it comes from?

What are your thoughts on the food industry and the ingredients they use? And what about the horsemeat scandal? I’d love to hear where you stand, so please share your comments below.

Do You Really Know What You've Been Eating horse meat scandal paleo diet-min

Are your eggs fake stamped free-range organic omega-min

Are Your Eggs Fake?

I was alarmed, but not surprised to read an article in the paper at the weekend about mislabelled eggs.

Apparently a NSW farmer has been fined by the Food Authority for labelling and selling “barn laid eggs” as “free range”. In this particular case it sounds as thought here has been confusion between the farm and the Food Authority over what constitutes “free range” – however, it does raise the question as to how many eggs are dishonestly labelled.

When trying to lead a healthy Paleo lifestyle, choosing good quality ingredients is essential. Without the luxury to grow and rear your own ingredients, you have to take them on good faith. If something says it is organic and free range – you should be able to trust that it is. As well as the potential for fraud at the source of the eggs – in a large store there is also the chance that the eggs could have been swapped by a previous customer.

 

Stamping Eggs

Many countries, including the UK, stamp their eggs. This gives the consumer confidence that they eggs they select are exactly what they get. Fortunately over the next two years similar requirements are being rolled out across Australia. This will certainly help to give back some confidence on the quality of the eggs you choose.

How To Get Good Eggs?

The closer you can get to the source, the better. Keeping hens in your garden might be a bit unrealistic if you live in the city, but try farmers markets – and speak to the farmers. Find out where your neighbours and health conscious friends get their eggs from. When you find good eggs it will be obvious; the shells will be harder and the yolks are often a far richer gold colour. Once you find a good supplier – stick with them!

Are you suspicious about shop-bought eggs? Have you got any sources of great quality eggs? Please share in the comments below!

Are your eggs fake stamped free-range organic omega-min