How do preservatives work?

I accidentally left a loaf of store bought bread out on the counter for about six weeks. (I only buy it when my grandkids are coming over and somehow it got pushed over out of sight.) Anyway, that loaf of bread still looked perfectly good.

I threw it away.

My normal homemade whole wheat bread would have been moldy and inedible. What made the difference?

Food preservatives.

Food preservatives keep bacteria, mold and yeasts from breaking down our foods. Food preservatives are what allow packaged foods to sit on the shelf or in our pantries or even out on the counter for an extended period of time and still look pretty.

Isn’t that a good thing?

Well, think about digestion. As long as we only want our foods to look good in the package, preservatives might be a good idea. But we now know that the good bacteria, mold and yeasts in our guts are what break down our foods so they can release the nutrients we need. And preservatives block bacteria, mold and yeasts—so, if we want our food to be broken down into the building blocks and nutrients necessary for good health, we shouldn’t be using anything that blocks the gut from doing its job. In terms of health and nutrition preservatives are a really bad idea.

Just one more thing to think about. Just one more reason to avoid processed foods.

Hotels and hygiene/BnB’s and bacteria

I run a little BnB in the guesthouse behind my home—my tiny hotel as my grandson calls it. I am always surprised at how many guests sleep either on top of the comforter or under the comforter but on top of the sheets. What is the reasoning in that?

In any reputable hotel or BnB, the bed sheets are changed after every guest. The sheets are the cleanest part of the bed. The comforter, duvet, or bedspread is not washed as often. And the top covering is exposed to everything in the room. People sit on the bed with the bedspread on. They set their luggage on the bed, they eat, drink and apply make up on the bed. I know because I have cleaned off every one of those things and more from the bedspread.

Nevertheless, unless it is actually soiled, I do not wash the comforter/duvet in my little hotel as often as I wash the sheets. And I guarantee that the hotel staff do not wash bedspreads nearly as often as they wash the sheets. Even when guests have obviously not slept between the sheets, I wash the sheets. The sheets are always the cleanest part of the bed. Sleep between the sheets.

My granddaughter and I shared a room in a BnB not long ago and she was reluctant to sleep in the bed. When I asked her why she replied that other people had slept in the sheets. Of course they had. But they had also eaten from the dishes in the cupboards, used the glasses and silverware, sat on the chairs and couches. The sheets were the least of her problem.

This information did not reassure her. Now she wondered if it was safe to eat off the dishes. And maybe with good reason. If a guest uses a glass, rinses it, and returns it to the cupboard, chances are it won’t be washed with hot soapy water. The same goes for silverware and plates. A germaphobe doesn’t stand a chance in a hotel room!

And, that’s not all. It is likely the cleaners use the same rag and spray to clean the kitchen counter as they use to clean the toilet. You just have to hope they clean the counter first. Disgusting? Yes, but for some reason most folks think more about the sheets than the counter tops.

What to do? If you’re worried about germs (and who isn’t in this post COVID world?) take a little cleaner with you. Spray the counters before you get settled. (They’re probably fine, but just in case.) If you’re worried about germs, wash the glasses and silverware before you use them and leave them out for the cleaners when you leave. They might wash them with hot soapy water or even sanitize them with a dishwasher.

And just to be extra safe, sleep between the sheets!

Sources of Omega 3 fatty acids

Basil, Fresh   358
Broccoli   105
Catfish   201
Chia Seeds20,000
Clams   320
Atlantic Cod   180
Crab   468
Fish Sticks   260
Halibut   529
Leafy Greens   204
Lobster    96
Mahi Mahi   158
Mussels   887
Olive Oil   863
Oysters   780
Alaskan Pollock   560
Salmon, wild 1,184
Salmon, farmed3,003
Scallops   412
Shrimp   376
Swordfish   938
Albacore Tuna   976
Skipjack Tuna   304
  • How much omega 3 do we need each day? Estimates and recommendations vary widely. But we probably need between 2 and 4 grams daily. That is, to be clear, 2,000 to 4,000 mg/daily.
  • Some of the plant sources look amazing! But, when are you going to consume 4 ounces of olive oil, or fresh basil for that matter. Many spices contain omega 3 fatty acids but we use them in very small amounts. That’s okay! Use them.
  • Swordfish, shark, king mackerel and golden bass all contain high levels of mercury. While mercury can be a problem with seafood, it is not a problem across the board. Be careful what you select.
  • Albacore tuna contains more mercury that light or skipjack canned tuna.
  • What about flaxseed? Its numbers really seem too good to be true, and unfortunately it is not a recommended source for omega 3 fatty acids. Flaxseed is a terrific source of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. ALA is an essential omega 3 fatty acid because we cannot produce it in our bodies. Unfortunately we don’t really need ALA. ALA does however, break down into eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, which we can use and do need. Good, right? Well, our bodies can only manufacture a small amount of DHA and EPA from ALA. The leftover, unusable ALA in flaxseed is known to cause inflammation. And, more bad news, flaxseed is a source of both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Because it provides us with so little usable DHA and EPA, and because both ALA and Omega 6 fatty acids are inflammation causing, I suggest avoiding flaxseed as a supplement or as an additive. Don’t let the numbers fool you!!
  • Sprinkle anchovies on your pizza, snack on walnuts, add chia seeds to your smoothies, cook with olive oil, and EAT seafood!

The sunshine vitamin

A recent study done in Copenhagen shows that vitamin D is not only good for our bones, it is essential for our immune system to function properly. Essential—when a T cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen in our body, that T cell sends out a signaling device otherwise known as a vitamin D receptor. The receptor searches for vitamin D because without it the T cell cannot activate.

Nobody wants an inactive immune system and yet over 40% of the population is deficient in this important vitamin. Well, actually vitamin is a misnomer in this case. Vitamin D is actually a steroid with hormone like action that regulates the functioning of over 200 genes in our bodies. It is essential not only to the immune system, but to maintaining strong bones, teeth and muscles. It functions in regulation of mood and fertility. And more.

Vitamin D is manufactured in our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Only about 20 minutes a day of direct light is enough to produce all the vitamin D we need. But it needs to be direct light, preferably between 10 AM and 2 PM for best results, without sunscreen. Yes, unfortunately sunscreen blocks our ability to produce vitamin D.

Take a risk, sit out in the sun sunscreen free!

What are other risk factors for vitamin D deficiency?

1. Obesity: Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. In an obese person, there may not be enough vitamin D in the bloodstream even though there appears to be plenty in the body.

2. Ethnicity: Darker skin absorbs less sunlight and so manufactures less vitamin D.

3. Age: As we age our skin thins and is less able to manufacture vitamin D.

Fortunately vitamin D is available through our diet. Our skin produces vitamin D3. Dietary D3 is available only from animal sources. Fatty fish are the very best source of vitamin D3 outside of the sun.

Egg yolk is another good source. Remember, eat the whole egg. While egg white is a good source of protein, the vitamins, minerals and fat we need are concentrated in the yolk.

Finally, there are supplements. Take D3 supplements. D2 is not as effective. D2 is found in plants and is slightly different from what we manufacture in the sun. Our self-manufactured vitamin D is twice as effective in the body as even the best supplements. So, supplements are less effective by half or more.

Finally, one interesting note on vitamin D from plant sources: it comes mainly from mushrooms and yeast. But mushrooms are the only plant that contain ergosterol—the precursor that converts sunlight into vitamin D. Slice your mushrooms and place them in the sunshine for 15 minutes and you will double the amount of dietary D2 available. Isn’t that amazing?!

Then cook them up with some fatty fish and eat out on the patio!!

Gut balance

Do you ever feel bloated, queasy, stuffed? Do you suffer from heart burn Maybe (most likely) your gut is out of balance. Why?

Gut balance or imbalance is what it is because of what we feed it.

Vegetarians, omnivores, pesquetarians, and folks who eat a diet high in animal fat, sugar and processed foods all have very different microbiomes. The microbiome—all those little bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses, good and bad, down in our gut—adjust and adapt to what we eat.

Eat a lot of meat? You’ll have lots of bile digesting microbes. But, bile tolerant microbes tend to be inflammatory. Ouch!

A diet high in sugar and refined carbs is the best diet possible for candida and the health problems that come with it.

Vegetarians have a greater number of microbes to digest starches and break down fiber.

From our gut’s point of view, whole vegetables and whole grains are the best food sources for overall good health and well being.

But, the microbes that are good at digesting veggies and whole grains can’t survive very well if your diet is filled with unhealthy carbs—sugar and white flour for instance.

The same is true for the inflammatory bile-tolerant microbes. If you eat mostly plant food, the bile tolerant microbes can’t survive. Good bye inflammation.

I’m not suggesting we all become vegetarians. But, if you want a balanced microbiome you have to balance what and how you eat. How?

Add more fresh vegetables and whole grains. Cut back on meat, animal fat, sugars and white flour. Does this sound crazy? No! It’s crazy not to eat healthy. Everything we eat feeds the microbiome and the microbiome in turn produces hormones, neurotransmitters, and a healthy immune system, plus so much more. How we eat determines how healthy we are, how much energy we have, how good we feel.

Everything we eat feeds the microbiome. So do you want to feed the good bugs or the bad bugs? Change your diet, change your gut.

And when you change your gut, you will change your life!

Strength, muscle, and diet

Everyone knows it takes protein to build muscle. But is that the whole story? Our bodies are more complex than we may once have believed. Our muscles do need protein, but not just protein, and probably not in the amounts most people think they need.

An interesting study involving almost 3,800 people over a twelve year period, reported in the Harvard Men’s Health Journal that eating leafy greens improves muscle function and increases muscle strength.

Leafy greens? Yep, especially lettuce, spinach, arugula, and kale. So don’t give me any “I’m not gonna eat that rabbit food,” remarks.

Apparently nitrates in leafy greens convert to nitric oxide in the body and act to increase blood flow to the muscles, among other benefits. The benefits are remarkable and measurable even in people who don’t exercise!

It takes about 90 mg of nitrates daily to feel this beneficial effect. That’s only about a cup of leafy greens. Other good sources of nitrates include broccoli, cabbage, radishes, and beet root.

Eat up your leafy greens and feel strong! The added strength also manifests as better balance and endurance. Both good.

Read more in my book Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom, by Karen Hopkins. Available on Amazon

Telomeres and Aging

Wouldn’t it be great to look and feel young and vibrant into our 70’s, 80’s and even our 90’s? What is it that causes aging, wrinkles, a lack of energy and vitality?

While there are doubtless many answers to these questions, the telomeres, the small end caps on our chromosomes, seem to hold part of the answer. As we age the telomeres become shorter. Or as the telomeres become shorter we age. Regardless, scientists now know that a number of things cause shortening of the telomeres. Unsurprisingly, these are the same factors that contribute to overall poor health. You’ll get a double whammy of a benefit as you make changes. So, if you want to live a long and healthy life, you need to consider and avoid these telomere affecting factors.

What are they: Obesity, stress, alcohol use, smoking, air pollution, and low levels of physical activity.

None of us are going to live forever, but we can live better Our potential longevity, as measured on each and every chromosome in our body, is impacted by our daily choices and habits

What to do? Take control!

  1. Eat a healthy diet. Avoid sugars, and refined white flour. Eat whole foods, vegetables, fruit and grains. Add fish. Be sure you have plenty of protein and fat every day. Yes, fat is essential. Drink water.
  2. Reduce stress. Easier said than done. Meditate. Love those around you, forgive readily.
  3. Quit using alcohol. It’s a hand sanitizer. It kills the good bacteria as well as the telomeres in your body.
  4. Don’t smoke.
  5. Air pollution is a global problem. Try to minimize it in your own surroundings.
  6. Exercise regularly. Walk, enjoy the sunshine or the rain. Your body will thank you for many years to come.

An eating plan for improved health and well-being:

  1. Eat whole, non-processed foods
  2. Avoid refined foods including white flour and all refined sweeteners
  3. Use cold pressed, non-processed oils. These include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and others.
  4. Use fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, not canned.
  5. Include protein and fat at every meal
  6. Eat fish at least 3 times a week.
  7. If you’re unsure read labels

For more tips read my book: Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom by Karen Hopkins available on Amazon

Count Nutrients, not Calories

Tests done with lab animals show over and over again that when animals are fed foods low in nutrients but high in calories, they will overeat in an effort to satisfy their nutritional needs, consuming an exorbitant number of calories to the point of obesity. Of course neither overeating nor low nutrient foods are good for the lab animals. And they are not good for us humans. Yet we are continually offered foods low in nutrients, even essential nutrients, and we continue to consume them.

What foods or nutrients do our bodies need? The big groups include protein, fat, carbohydrates, water, and fiber. The micro groups include vitamins and minerals. Foods low in either of these groups are low-nutrient foods. They do not satisfy our body’s needs.

Let’s compare low nutrient vs high nutrient foods:

Low Nutrient foods include:High Nutrient foods include:
Carbonated and sugary drinksWater
White flourWhole grains
Sugars (including agave syrup)Honey and maple syrup
Heat processed oilsCold pressed oils
Processed foodsFresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
White riceBrown rice
Artificial sweeteners and additiveseggs and dairy products

I’m sure I could expand this list but if like most Americans you consume mostly low nutrient foods and struggle with weight loss you might consider what your body actually needs and is trying to tell you.

Look for my book Eating the Lord’s Way: A Step-by-Step Guide to Living the Word of Wisdom, by Karen Hopkins. Available on Amazon.

Alzheimer’s Disease/Type 3 Diabetes

It has been suggested in the past that the same diet that leads to Type 2 diabetes can also lead to Alzheimer’s Disease. Now a study adds new evidence.

Alzheimer’s is increasingly referred to as insulin resistance of the brain. Want to keep you wits about you? Stop eating sugar!

Sugar is in almost everything! Stop drinking sodas. They are one of our worst offenders. Then check every label. Avoid processed foods.

Eat whole foods—salads, whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish. We have lots of healthy choices. Protect your brain and body! Cut out the sugars!!