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Bacon and Sperm Quality

Bacon and sperm quality

The bacon world (yes, there is a bacon world) is buzzing with the results of a recent Harvard study that claims eating bacon lowers the quality of sperm.  As an outspoken nutritional defender of bacon, I had to put my two cents in here and caution people not to throw the bacon out with the bath water (hardy har har).  Most bacon on the market today is highly processed, full of nitrates, and sourced from pigs that have been raised in toxic confinement conditions requiring the use of antibiotics and fed a nutritionally deficient diet full of genetically modified and pesticide-rich soy.  There is no question in my mind that this type of bacon, and particularly the nitrates used to preserve it, would harm sperm quality.

However, if you are able to purchase bacon that is nitrate-free and sourced from healthy animals that have been raised on chemical-free pasture (grass), then your bacon may be supplying a shot of beneficial saturated fat, which is important for fertility.  Obviously you would need to also eat other foods that help normal cellular production and fertility such as vegetables and seafood.  That is just part of being a human being!  But “as part of a balanced breakfast”, bacon may still be a helpful thing to eat as long as it’s the right kind.

While doing some quick research to respond to this study, I came across an interesting tidbit on nitrates.  I believe it’s mostly the nitrates in processed meats (bacon, sausage, lunch meat) that are harmful to sperm because you need selenium (found in Brazil nuts and seafood) and vitamin E (found in olive oil and avocado) to detoxify nitrates.  Interestingly, selenium and vitamin E are both absolutely essential to producing healthy sperm.  I found an animal study which showed that testosterone levels (both in blood and semen) were significantly lowered in rabbits when their intake of nitrates was high…and I don’t want to know how they harvest semen from rabbits.  The interesting part of the study was that researchers were able to “significantly increase” testosterone and fertility – without reducing nitrate intake – by supplementing those animals with vitamin E, selenium, and vitamin C (found in citrus, broccoli, and organic red bell pepper).   My point here is not to say “keep eating low quality bacon, just take supplements with it” but to say that even if you have been eating nitrate-rich foods and are having fertility problems (I always say a prayer for Jared from Subway when I see those commercials and think of how many years he ate nitrate-filled cold cuts for a primary protein source), there is hope for you!  The human body is very smart and can recover from almost anything if we give it the right tools.  And I’m holding fast to the assertion that one of those tools is an occasional serving of high quality bacon.

October 16, 2013   8 Comments

The Best Way to Cook Bacon…is in Water???

My blog software has a function that tells me what search terms bring people to my website.  Despite the numerous entries I have written on health, children, pregnancy, and nutrition, the #1 search term that brings people to my site is still “the benefits of bacon”!!!  This tells me that even if I posted the cure for cancer, the answer for world peace, or the quantum formula for staying young forever naturally, you people would all just scroll down until you found more info on bacon.  And that is why I love you.  So, to give the people what they want I thought I should share with you the bizarre discovery that I made last night – the best way to cook bacon is in water!

I buy the natural, nitrate-free bacon in bulk at the Whole Foods butcher counter because it is $8.99/pound versus $8.99/ half-pound shrink-wrapped package in the cooler.  The only downside to this is that the butcher counter bacon is like 3 times thicker than normal bacon which means I either cook it for a ridiculously long time on low heat resulting in a not-burned but rock hard carbonized piece of bacon or I cook it at higher heat for less time which results in partially charred bacon with completely raw fat.  Neither of these options helps my reputation for burning food, which started in college when I set a piece of toast on fire in a friend’s toaster oven and which continues to current day with my toddler staring up at me with his big eyes and furrowed eyebrows while I cook, pointing at the pan and saying repeatedly, “Mommy it’s buh-ning, it’s buh-ning.”  Parenting is hard enough without the commentary, thank you very much!  So last night, planning BLT’s for dinner, I decided to get educated and googled “best way to cook bacon” while nursing my 6-month old (really, what did we do before smart phones?  Figure things out on our own?).  I found this video:

“Super Quick Video Tips: How to Make the Most Perfect Bacon Ever”

If you don’t have time for the 1-minute video or if you’re at work and shouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place let alone watching a video about bacon on company time, here’s the summary:

  • Put bacon in skillet, cover with water (like 1-2″ of water).
  • Heat on high until water boils, then turn down to medium high.
  • Once water has evaporated turn to medium low and keep cooking until bacon is to your liking.

The results were perfect! The bacon was crispy, not burned, and so good that my toddler and I ate almost all of it before my husband came home from work so I had to pretend like grass-fed hamburgers with bacon crumbles (made from the 1 piece of bacon left after our mother-son bacon rampage) were what I was planning for dinner all along.  Poor guy.

September 10, 2012   1 Comment

Finally, a Purpose for Ridiculously Tiny Crockpots!

As a person who can never turn down free kitchen gadgets from friends who are moving or trying to get rid of clutter, I have assembled a collection of those 16 ounce “Little Dipper” crockpots for ants that come free with the normal size crockpots.  Each time I accept another free tiny crockpot, it is wrapped in the original packaging, which means that my friend never used it in all the years they had it in their possession.  Despite this, I get visions in my head of an amazing Mexican-themed dinner party with several flavors of homemade cheese dip being kept warm in the little baby crockpots, all snuggled in a row.  Well, after 2 years of storing a family of tiny crockpots still in their original packaging in my cabinet, I have finally come up with a daily use for them – making oatmeal!

My husband leaves for work pretty early and I always want to send him off with a warm breakfast (especially during the winter when it gets down below 70 degrees here in Honolulu at night – freezing!) but there’s no way that this pregnant lady with a toddler is going to get up early enough to make something fresh for my hard working honey.  He really loves oatmeal and it’s actually quite a healthy and filling breakfast if it’s prepared properly by soaking before cooking to reduce levels of phytic acid (a nutrient blocker that makes grain difficult to digest).  Here’s what I do:

  • Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oats in the crockpot and add twice as much water.  I like to use steel cut Irish oatmeal but just get whatever you can find at the store that seems the least processed.  If you are a gluten-free person make sure the oats are labeled as “gluten free” because many times, oats and gluten-containing grains are processed on the same equipment so there is cross-contamination.    Gauge how much you soak based on how much cooked oatmeal you want – using 1/4 cup of oats will expand to about a cup cooked, and 1/2 cup will expand to about 2 cups.  If you have time, let this soak for a few hours.  I like to put this on before I make dinner since I’m in the kitchen anyway.  Once in a while I don’t have time for this step so I skip right to the next one and my husband seems to survive okay!
  • After the initial soak, dump out this water and then add about 3 parts of water to 1 part of soaked oats.  You can also add a dash of buttermilk or whey if you have it to help make the oats even more digestible.  I add a pinch of Celtic salt at this stage to increase the mineral content, and a dash of cinnamon so the kitchen smells warm and comforting when my husband wakes up to eat.
  • Plug in your tiny crockpot and let cook overnight!
  • In the morning, mix with any toppings that make you happy to be awake: butter from grassfed cows, coconut milk, minimally processed cow’s milk or cream, chopped raw nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, raw honey, shredded unsweetened coconut, chopped dates, apple sauce, protein powder – whatever your heart desires.  If you’re more of a savory person, you can also mix an egg and some bacon or sausage in for a salty pudding reminiscent of a big hairy Irish man.
  • Fill crockpot with water to soak so it’s easy to clean up and use for the next day, unless you’re like me and have several tiny crockpots that can be switched out so there’s no hurry to clean up the used one and it can just sit on the counter taking up space and waiting to be washed.  Not that I ever do that.

If any of you readers out there have uses for tiny crockpots (other than cheese dip, I figured that one out already) please share them in the comments section!  I love finding new and exciting uses for all my kitchen gadgets.

December 7, 2011   2 Comments

Are you a member of the cool club?

I don’t normally write posts like this, but I wanted to make sure all you lovely readers out there knew that for the rest of October the Weston A. Price Foundation is undergoing its yearly member drive.  The WAPF is a truly amazing organization that has impressed me over and over again for their ability to take biochemical truths and turn them into simple guidelines that make health available to people.  Plus, they scientifically support my innate love for butter and coconut!  If not for their impact on my life as a nutritionist, you might be stuck reading boring drivel about the benefits of a fat-free diet and why margarine is a great idea.  But instead, as my sister once told a well-meaning guy friend who pinched her side and pointed out a little embellishment to her curve – the fat is the flavor!  So, add some flavor to your life and support this foundation so they can keep getting the word out about the importance of clean food, healthy fat, and a traditional, nourishing diet.  For only $40 a year you get access to the members only section of their website, a copy of their annual shopping guide booklet, and a quarterly magazine that contains interesting and entertaining info and is great to read at the beach, on the train (or in the bathroom – wherever you do your heavy reading is your business).  If $40 is out of your budget, they actually have a discounted rate of $25 for people with lowered income due to disability or unemployment.  And I promise I am getting no commercial benefit or kickback from this – I just renewed my membership today under my new name and thought I would take the opportunity to let you all know about it also.  So join if you can, and if you can’t then at least check out their website, so that you can put on a Utopian white shirt and join the clip art circular group hug containing a disproportionate amount of Asians that is pictured above and know that you are now a member of the cool club.

October 21, 2011   No Comments

Low-Allergy Baby Formula Recipe

This week I received several requests from friends with babies asking for help finding something to supplement their breastmilk supply, which may have decreased since they returned to work or may not be enough to keep up with their babies’ growing needs.  The priority for these mothers and for me is to help them get their supply up by making that they are drinking enough water, eating enough healthy fat, and using herbal teas or tinctures to promote milk supply.  In addition to this, they may want to take their baby in for an osteopathic or chiropractic evaluation to see if any cranial work needs to be done to improve the sucking reflex – I actually had a miraculous experience with this recently that I hope to blog about in the future.  If after these two measures there still is a need for a supplemental source of nutrition, I would recommend the recipe below.  I created this by looking into the chemical composition of human breast milk on the USDA nutrition website.  Interesting reading!  From there, I put together a list of ingredients to mimic the composition of breast milk as closely as possible while using healthy, low allergy, and easily obtainable ingredients.  I also added an infant probiotic to supply healthy bacteria, one of the most important things a nursing child gets from its mother.  The base for the formula is coconut milk, which is very low allergy and supplies brain-boosting fats as well as lauric acid, a fatty acid found in breastmilk that protects against infection, especially from viruses.  This is by no means a recipe that should be a child’s sole source of nutrition, but it makes a great supplement to babies who are breastfeeding or on formula and also to toddlers in place of other milks.  If you are a parent looking for formula recipes that can safely supply everything your baby needs (but that are a little more complicated to make), I suggest visiting the Weston Price Foundation’s formula recipes web page.  Here is the recipe, I would love any feedback from parents out there who try it!  Some of the ingredients in it are practitioner-only supplements so if you have a hard time finding them, feel free to contact me and I can help you find a practitioner in your area or if you are a client of mine I can just have it drop shipped to you.

Low-Allergy Baby Formula Recipe

In a sterile quart-sized Mason glass jar, combine the following:

  • 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk, preferably Native Forest brand (they don’t use BPA in can lining)
  • 1 heaping Tbsp unsweetened, unflavored whey protein Dairy free babies can use an equal amount of unflavored rice protein or pea protein
  • 5 Tbsp. Lactose A note about lactose: Lactose is the primary form of sugar in breastmilk and it has special nourishing qualities for the brain and the healthy bacteria in the gut.  Lactose also has the benefit of being one of the least likely sugars to promote tooth decay.  Many babies who are allergic to cow’s milk formulas can still handle pure lactose as long as their gut bacteria is healthy because the most allergenic item for a baby in cow’s milk is the casein protein.  I know 5 Tbsp seems like a lot!  But if you’ve ever tasted breastmilk you’d know it tastes like melted ice cream :).  For toddlers this amount can be decreased to 3 Tbsp.  Parents of babies who are truly lactose intolerant can use 4 Tbsp of Grade B maple syrup instead to supply the carbohydrate content – this is a much better choice than the white sugar and corn syrup used in many dairy-free infant formulas.
  • 1 tsp Standard Process Calcium Lactate Powder (preferred) or 1/2 tsp KAL brand Dolomite Powder
  • Contents of 2 capsules Allergy Research Group Dessicated Liver from grassfed cows
  • 2 tsp Udo’s Infant Probiotic powder
  • 2 tsp liquid Cod Liver Oil, either Nordic Naturals or Carlson or 1 tsp Green Pastures Brand
  • 1 large egg yolk (for children over 4 months only) from a healthy chicken that has been raised on pasture.  This supplies cholesterol, arachidonic acid, and other nutrients that are extremely important for brain growth.  I boil the egg for 3 1/2 minutes (just long enough to harden the white but not the yolk) then peel, and release just the yolk into the formula.  This is optional and can be omitted for egg-free babies as long as they are getting healthy cholesterol somewhere else, such as in grassfed butter or meat.
  • Distilled or Reverse Osmosis water to 4 cups

Shake to combine (using one of those springs that comes with protein powder shakers
can be really helpful).  Will keep in fridge for up to 48 hours.  Formula will separate, so shake before pouring into bottle or cup and gently warm to drinking temperature in a warm water bath or bottle warmer.

 

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This recipe is intended to supplement a nursing or formula-fed child’s diet.  It is not intended to be a complete replacement.  This blog does not replace the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner.  Jessica Stamm assumes no responsibility for the reader’s interpretation of the contents of her blog.

September 9, 2011   39 Comments

The Nutrition of Pie

For some reason, since adding the Ask Jessica feature to my website I have gotten an inordinate amount of questions regarding the nutritional benefits of pie.  I don’t know what it is about my website that attracts so many over-the-top pie lovers, but I’m thankful for the business!  Even if some of you are creepily serious about your pie questions.  Here’s one of my favorite pie-related questions so far.  And honestly, if I get any more questions about the nutrition of pie I’m going to have to open up an entirely new page on my website because it seems that my readers care way more about pie than they do about any health topic I could write about!

Q: What kind of pie should I make? Fruity, nutty, chocolatey or custardy?  Please assume all ingredients are organic, if that helps.

A: Each type of pie you have listed has its own benefits, so why don’t I help your decision making process by listing them out below.

  • Fruity: Fruit pies contain (you will never guess) – fruit.  And fruit, being a natural produce item, has plenty of health benefits depending on which type you use.  Blueberries have been found to contain antioxidants that protect the brain, cherries contain natural pain relieving compounds and may help promote a good night’s sleep due to their melatonin content (especially tart cherries), and apples have been shown in some studies to keep those pesky doctors away (and they also contain trace amounts of chromium, a mineral that helps to balance out the insulin your body is releasing in response to a huge slice of sugary pie).  The downside to fruit pies is that they normally require the use of cups and cups of sugar.  I have found that adding a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of lemon juice helps reduce the amount of sugar you need to make the pie tasty.  You can also try substituting xylitol (natural sugar from birch trees) for all or part of the sugar in your recipe.  Just make sure that you work your way up to it – lots of xylitol in one sitting eaten by people who are not used to it may cause loose stool due to its laxative effect and may also cause a runny nose or general unwell feeling since it kills off excess yeast in the body, leading to detox reactions.  From personal experience, I have to warn you not to make a pure xylitol apple pie for your husband without telling him lest he dominate the ENTIRE pie in one sitting and then blame you for his explosive diarrhea the next day at work.
  • Nutty: Nuts contain healthy fats and also protein, both of which are very beneficial.  The downside with nut pies is that they require even more sugar than fruit pies to make them taste like a pie and not a 1970’s granola bar.  Most nut pie recipes (such as pecan pie) also require the addition of corn syrup which is not an ideal sweetener due to the fact that it mostly comes from genetically modified corn and if you have ever researched the subject or have seen the documentary King Corn, the idea of corn syrup would just give you the heebie jeebies.  You could try substituting stevia and/or honey for the sugar and corn syrup but I don’t know if that would crystallize properly.  At any rate, if you must make nut pie try using sucanat or another form of natural cane sugar that still contains the trace minerals and look for organic corn syrup, which actually does exist (Wholesome Sweeteners brand makes a variety).
  • Chocolatey:  I can only assume you are referring to a chocolate pudding type of pie here?  In that case, I would have to point to chocolate’s antioxidant properties which are highlighted over and over again especially in women’s health magazines since most writers rightly assume that the majority of women are addicted to chocolate.  My theory on this is that women especially crave chocolate because it is a source of magnesium (the mineral that balances out calcium levels) and most of us get a lot of calcium since we live in fear of bone loss but not quite enough magnesium to balance this out since there is not much press on the subject.  Magnesium is found in green vegetables, so somebody should start paying celebrities to pose for ads of them with green vegetable moustaches to bring more light to the fact that magnesium is just as important as calcium.  But back to your pie – the nice thing about pudding pies is that homemade pudding contains milk compounds and starches that have been shown to improve quality of sleep.  But if it’s chocolate pudding, the caffeine naturally present in chocolate may affect this a bit.
  • Custardy: Custard pies are made from eggs, the whites of which are an excellent source of protein and the yolks of which are an amazing storehouse of B vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and healthy cholesterol.  To get back to your original question, if I were to decide your pie fate I would pick a custard pie simply because eggs are so incredibly good for you.  Custard pies also contain milk, which may give you some of the milk pudding effect listed above.  And I would think that stevia, xylitol and/or sucanat would blend seamlessly into a custard pie.

June 13, 2011   2 Comments