Seven Liver Healthy Foods

Short of joking about the occasional weekend damage, many of us never really give much thought to one of the largest and most important organs in our body. Our liver has numerous functions including, but not limited to, break down and build up of essential nutrients such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Our liver helps produce digestive enzymes, sex, steroid and stress hormones, is integral in maintenance of our blood sugar, and has at least 300 other essential functions.

In terms of long-term health, the wellness of our liver cells in many ways equals the expression of our overall health. The toxins and chemicals we are exposed to day to day, intentionally or not, can tax our detoxification organs, including our liver. It is worth taking the time to provide our system with nutrients that help enhance the well functioning of our liver.

Wherever possible it makes sense to both reduce our toxic load by minimizing or limiting our exposure to harmful toxins and chemicals, and to provide our system with an abundance of nutrients that help our liver perform its job. Not surprisingly, it is nearly impossible to find a vegetable or fruit that does not asist the function and maintenance of a healthy liver. Eat your favorite local fruits and vegetables and consider incorporating the following seven powerhouse foods into your eating for healthy liver function.

Garlic: Garlic contains numerous sulfur-containing compounds that activate our liver enzymes, which are responsible for flushing out toxins from the bod. This bulbous relative of the onion also contains allicin and selenium, two powerful nutrients proven to help protect the liver from toxic damage and aid it in the detoxification process.

Grapefruit: Grapefruit is rich in natural vitamin C and antioxidants, two powerful liver cleansers. Like garlic, grapefruit contains compounds that boost our production of liver detoxification enzymes. It also contains a flavonoid compound known as naringenin that causes the liver to burn fat rather than store it.

Green Tea: Green tea is loaded with catechins, a type of plant antioxidant that has been shown in studies to eliminate liver fat accumulation and promote proper liver function. This powerful herbal beverage also protects the liver against toxins that would otherwise accumulate and cause serious damage.

Green Vegetables: Leafy green vegetables such as bitter gourd, arugula, dandelion greens,spinach, mustard greens, and chicory also contain numerous cleansing compounds that neutralize heavy metals, which can bear heavily on the liver. Leafy greens also eliminate pesticides and herbicides from the body and spur the creation and flow of cleansing bile.

Avocado: Avocados are valuable in helping our liver burn fat rather than store it, and helping to reduce LDL and raise HDL levels in the blood. Moreover, avocado contains nutrients that make up the precursor for one of the most potent antioxidants in our body, glutathione.

Glutathione is needed by the liver to repair cells and clear toxins from our body. People with chronic liver disease are found to be low in glutathione levels.

Walnuts: Walnuts, which contain high levels of l-arginine, an amino acid, glutathione, and omega-3 fatty acids, also help detoxify the liver of disease-causing ammonia. Walnuts also help oxygenate the blood, and extracts from their hulls are often used in liver-cleansing formulas.

Turmeric: Turmeric, one of the most powerful foods for maintaining a healthy liver, has been shown to actively protect the liver against toxic damage and even regenerate damaged liver cells. Turmeric also boosts the natural production of bile, shrinks engorged hepatic ducts, and improves overall function of the gallbladder, another body-purifying organ.

Wherever possible choose local and/or organic versions of the above. This can make a big difference as spray-free fruits and vegetables are up to 70 percent higher in the beneficial antioxidants.The longer fruits and vegetables travel, and the more heavily they are sprayed, has a direct effect on the content of beneficial nutrients. Interesting, research shows, the harder our plants are challenged to fight for their own survival, the greater the level ofantioxidants present in the plant. The more they are sprayed, the more they can depend on the spray for their protection and slack off on the production of antioxidants. Like the plants, when we slack off on the production of whole fresh foods, and choose to depend on a primarily refined and processed diet base, it has a negative effect on our own survival. Small changes to diet can translate to a much greater ability for our body to thrive and adapt to our environment. Start with the liver-friendly seven and begin to enjoy how your system thanks you.

Inga Witscher: Organic Farming Rocks!

inga witscher

By:  Jan Carroll

Inga Witscher, host of Wisconsin Public Television’s Around the Farm Table, has been farming for nine years and now runs a thirty-acre certified dairy farm, milking eleven Jersey cows with the lower-tech bucket milking system. She is a fourth-generation dairy farmer, and it was her dad who talked her into moving to West-Central Wisconsin and trying her hand at this farm. The family had lots of experience with big vegetable gardens and an organic creamery as she was growing up. She was not sure about the new venture at first,but it didn’t take long before she felt at home. “I just fell in love with it. It completed me,” she said.

Witscher uses managed intensive grazing for the cows, a method that involves moving the cows to new pasture every twelve hours. This gives each patch of pasture a forty-day rest. Milk from her farm is shipped to Westby, Wisconsin, where it is made into butter, cottage cheese, and cheese and then sold in the Madison area. Witscher notes that even her cows eat locally, since she supports local farmers by buying hay and grain from them.

As a kid, Witscher says, everything the family ate was off their farm. She feels the trend toward organic sustainable farms that serve local markets will continue to grow because people are becoming more aware of it and more educated about it. She feels small and midsize farms will guide the community supported agriculture (CSA) movement. Although it can be an adjustment learning to eat some of the new foods you receive in CSA, she adds that “CSAs are great, because they push you out of your comfort zone.” Also, kids are growing up with fresh organic local food as the norm, so they will expect the same as they grow into adults who buy produce and other farm goods. “Wouldn’t it be great if we got rid of labels of local and sustainable because they had become so common?” she wonders.

Living in the city, it can be hard to connect with local organic farmers. Besides looking for them at area farmers markets, Witscher offers three ways to cultivate relationships with your local farmers:

  • Throw a local-food potluck party, where each guest brings some local organic food or a dish made with a local organic food.
  • She advises, however, to remember that these are working farms, and although farmers love to have you stop by, they will be taking time away from their work to talk with you, so limit your time there, bring a small token of appreciation like a bottle of wine, or offer to help with tasks around the farm, like weeding the garden. Leave your dog at home!
  • Invite local organic farmers to speak to your group or at your event or dinner party. This is nice, she adds, because it allows farmers to get off the farm.

Witscher lists two challenges to small and midsize organic farmers. One is the lack of available land. She’d like to increase her herd to fifty cows, but she’d need more land to do so, and it’s hard to come by. If you can find afordable land, if it hasn’t already been transitioned into organic land, that process takes three years, which is quite an investment since it is expensive to convert regular land to organic land. That process of going organic is also an emotional commitment for the farmer because it can often mean you lose the camaraderie of local conventional farmers. Second, she agrees that organic food often costs more, but she explains that is because the cost of farming is high, especially organic farming. But, she says, even though the cost of organic milk is high, there is a huge demand for it. There aren’t enough organic farmers producing organic milk to meet demand. Witscher says she strategizes often about how to make the farm more financially feasible.

In looking to the future, Witscher would like to have better communication and mutual learning opportunities between organic and conventional farmers, to get to know and interact “just as farmers,” sharing ideas such as cover crops to prevent erosion. In organic farming, “the soil is the foundation of everything else,” she explains. From there, the main thing is to make sure the cows are happy and relaxed, and then fewer other issues arise healthwise. She is happy to report that women “are the fastest growing sector in agriculture,” though it has taken a while to become accepted.’

Season 3 of Around the Farm Table will be on public television later this fall, probably in October sometime. Check local listings for day and time. Witscher says the goal of the program is to promote original local products and to show people what those products are like and how to use them, with recipes and ideas. By visiting and featuring organic farmers from all over the state, Wisconsin viewers can become more educated, and hopefully this will encourage them to try more local foods! Witscher loves the way the program “connects the consumer to the farmer.”

Winterizing Your Perennials

By Ben Polzin, Down To Earth Garden Center

Winterizing your perennials garden doesn’t have to be a big job, especially if you take little steps all year to prepare your plants for whatever nature gives us. The most important task is getting any diseased foliage cut back and removed to prevent any unwanted diseases or insects from overwintering in the plant or soil. Spending a little time in the garden this fall will help your plants reach their potential next year. It’s a great time of year to be out and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of fall. Relax and enjoy the task; it’s the one chance you have to do a cleaning job that stays done for six months.

► How do I know what my plants need? While some varieties of perennials may need more protection than others, all of them will benefit from your attention
► When should I cut back my perennials? Most perennials are cut back after we have had a killing frost in the fall. This usually occurs in early October. It is important to clean off all plant debris after the frost to help minimize soil-borne diseases.
► What kind of protection should I provide? Most perennials simply need a good layer of mulch applied late in the fall. The purpose of mulching in this case is to protect the crowns of the plants from the alternate freezing and thawing that occurs very late in fall and in early spring. It is important that the ground be allowed to get cold before mulching, so wait until early to mid-November before covering the plants. Ideally an inch or two of frost in the ground is best.
► Are some mulches better than others for perennials? There are several mulches that work well for winter protection of perennials. Straw, hay, and leaves are the most common.
► How much mulch should I use? A layer 4 to 6 inches deep is best for most perennials.
► Are there any perennials I shouldn’t mulch? Bearded iris should either go without mulch or be mulched extremely late. The iris borer seems to be worse on mulched plants, especially those mulched early. If you have had any disease problems with your peonies, leave them unmulched as well.
► Should I continue to water in the fall, even after a killing frost? Making sure your perennials stay WELL watered until the ground freezes is important to successful wintering. Quite often we go through several dry weeks late in October. If the soil is dry an inch or two below the surface, give the area a thorough soaking.
► Can I divide or move my perennials in fall? Many perennials can be divided or moved in fall. Generally if a perennial blooms in spring or early summer, it can be divided or moved in fall. If it blooms in late summer or fall, it is best divided or moved in spring. There are a few exceptions, of course. Irises and day lilies prefer to be divided in August, and a few plants with taproots don’t ever want to be disturbed.
► When can I remove the mulch in the spring? Wait until all the frost is out of the ground before removing the mulch. If it gets very warm early, you may want to pull back part of the mulch, but leave at least 2 to 3 inches.Some gardeners leave mulches in the beds, just pulling them back away from the crown of the plants. This adds organic matter and helps suppress weeds. Mulches that have been removed can be composted.

Flouride in Your Water – Is It Safe?

cute_tooth [Converted]The debate over community water fluoridation has been in the news, but how did the practice start? “In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first city inthe United States to fluoridate itswater,” says the website for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP, www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/index.ht). “As of 2012, more than 210 million people, or 3 in 4 Americans who use public water supplies, drank water with enough fluoride to prevent tooth decay,” claims the CDCP, which also says that fluoride in the drinking water contributes to a 25 percent decline in tooth decay.

But why did communities ever start adding fluoride to their water? In the early 1900s, there were communities in the American West where the children were developing a brown staining of their teeth that came to be known as Colorado Brown Stain. Through the studies of various dentists and public health workers, it was eventually discovered that this staining was caused by high amounts of fluoride in the drinking water in those communities. Instudying Colorado Brown Stain, researchers concluded that although the teeth had brown discoloration, the teeth were also more resistant to tooth decay than normal. Once they figured out that too much fluoride was causing the tooth staining,they sought to determine what levels might provide decay prevention without also causing staining. When a level they considered safe was set, many communities began adding it to their drinking water in hopes of preventing tooth decay. Currently 70 to 75 percent of American communities add fluoride to their drinking water.

The CDCP’s website notes that there is no federal requirement to fluoridate water. Instead, that decision rests with each local municipality, or in some cases it is mandated by state law. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency sets the standards for drinking water safety, and that agency determines how much fluoride is safe in community water supplies.

But not everyone sees community water fluoridation favorably, and many are questioning whether any amount of fluoride in water is safe.

The Fluoride Action Network (FAN) (http://fluoridealert.og/issues/water/) asks why US communities fluoridate their water when many developed nations do not, including Japan and most of Western Europe, noting that tooth decay rates are lower in these nations (that don’t fluoridate their water) than here in the United States. The FAN website says, “Fluoridating water supplies is an outdated, unnecessary, and dangerous relic from a 1950s public health culture that viewed mass distribution of chemicals much differently than scientists do today.”

Dr. Joseph Mercola, along with many others, sees the origins of water fluoridation in a diferent light than does the CDCP. He considers the fluoride that is added to community water supplies a “waste product of the chemical fertilizer industry” (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/25/5-fluoride-free-victories.asp). There are also those who argue that a massive PR campaign convinced people to accept the fluoridation of their water.

Dr. Mercola explains some of the health risks that several studies have shown result from water fluoridation: “There areat least 25 studies showing that fluoride reduces IQ in childre. There is not a single process in your body that requires fluoride, but swallowing this toxin has been found to damage your soft tissues (brain, kidneys, and endocrine system), as well as teeth (dental fluorosis) and bones (skeletal fluorosis).

The FAN website explains that “in recent years, communities throughout the United States and Canada have started to reassess the conventional wisdom of fluoridating their water. Many of these communities, including over 150 since 2010, are reaching the obvious conclusion: when stripped of its endorsements, well-meaning intentions, and PR-praise, fluoridation simply makes no sense.” Cities that have discontinued fluoridating their water include Portland, Oregon;Wichita, Kansas; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Motivation for doing so comes partly from a desire to save money and balance budgets, but is largely due to a good deal of skepticism about the claimed benefits of fluoride. Local, Chippewa Falls and Altoona are not currently adding fluoride to their water.

John Laughlin IV, with local Health Centered Dentistry says, “I would encourage anyone who is drinking fluoridated water to do their own research to find out if they think it is the bet thing for them. Given the history of how our water came to be fluoridated, I think there are significant questions for even n-scientists to give us pause and rethink this practice.”

Eating Healthy Keeps the Body in Tune

By Susan Kasik-Miller, registered dietitian with HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital

When people learn that I am a registered dietitian for HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital, the questions come fast and furious: What should I be eating? How can I be healthier? What the heck is quinoa? Is chocolate really that bad for you?

Choosing the right foods for a healthy lifestyle can be a daunting task, but it’s worth the time and effort. “Healthy” food does share a direct correlation to good health. Study after study shows that a good diet does lead to better health. Eating a balanced diet has proven to diminish complications from chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and a whole host of others.

But what is healthy food, and what constitutes a good diet? The quick answer is fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.

Some might recall the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid from decades ago. The pyramid got a face lift in the form of a dinner plate. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to view the updated dietary guidelines now recommended by the USDA. Building a healthy plate not only requires edibles from the major food groups, but also portion mindfulness. The USDA gives tips and techniques to keep portions under control, which keeps calories within the suggested range for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To build a healthy plate, make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, switch to a low-fat milk, and vary protein choices. Cut back on foods that are high in fats and added sugars and salt. We all know that fat and sugar aren’t good, but what’s with the salt? Sodium is not so great. Many things change in the body when an influx of sodium is consume —fluid retention, an increase inblood pressure, and the kidneys have to work overtime, just to name a few. We’re not talking about table salt, here. Well, we are, but the few shakes you put on your green beans isn’t the problem. It’s the sodium found in the can of green beans.

“But wait,” you say. “You just told me to eat more vegetables.”

Yes, but be aware of the sodium that comes with canned or processed foods. If you are only able to purchase canned vegetables, then canned vegetables are better than no vegetables at all. However, if you are able to visit the local farmers markets in Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, and Menomonie to purchase fresh vegetables, you will be able to avoid added sodium.

The key is to buy fresh if possible, and if not, look at the package. Think about what’s in there. Avoid salty snacks and processed food like chips, sausage, and ready-to-eat frozen meals (I like to call them “heat and eats.”). Stay away if possible.

In my profession, I work with people who are sick with heart disease or cancer. They’re looking for any way to feel a little better physically and mentally. I think one of the things about a healthy diet is that people who are battling a disease feel more in control when they make good food choices. Some patients have said that fueling their bodies with better food makes them feel that they are able to control a portion of their well-being—that they are able to control what’s next in life.

When we think of good health, we think of the body, but some patients have found that eating well also helps one’s mental state. The mental aspect is important in any kind of treatment the patient endures.

And when healing from surgery, eating healthy helps the body heal.

Getting adequate amounts of calories and nutrients fuels the body to heal. Low-fat meats and dairy products are imperative to the healing process. A wide variety of foods coupled with fruits and vegetables that are at their peak of ripeness is important. I always suggest vegetables, beans, eggs, dairy, fish, chicken, beef,and pork as well as wild game and venison if available.

Those are excellent sources of low-fat protein filled with iron. I’ve heard all of the excuses in the book as to why people do not follow a healthy diet. The number one excuse is that people can’t afford it, and for some people that is legitimate. But many people buy foods that aren’t cheap—they drink a six to twelve-pack of soda daily. That $3 or $4 could be spent on vegetables at the grocery store, or a sack of potatoes at the farmers market. Again, if buying fresh isn’t an option, canned or frozen vegetables are inexpensive and better than other options.

It sounds silly, but remaining healthy is the best way to stay healthy. Share a healthy eating mindset with your friends and family. Make it a continued goal from day to day, week to week. Eat bad-for-you foods in moderation, but always keep healthy eating at the forefront of the mind, and your body will thank you for life.