Organic Diet Step 1: Oils and Fats

When making a clean green start in your diet, the most important place to start (in regards to your health) is with the oils/fats you consume.

Clean Starts

  • Change from margerine and conventional butter to organic butter or imported grassfed butter (Kerrygold) (conventional butter was listed recently on a list of top ten most toxic foods, yet organic butter has been consumed liberally by some of the healthiest people groups on the planet)
  • Change from hydrogenated oils (crisco, deep frying, or in prepared baked goods) to organic coconut oil, organic palm oil, organic butter, or organic lard/tallow
  • Change from vegetable oils (soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil) to olive, coconut, peanut, and sesame oils for low heat sauteeing, or use walnut, olive, avocado, or flaxseed oils for salad dressings (all organic cold pressed)
  • Supplement Cod Liver Oil and Flax Seed Oil for essential fatty acids, and inflammation reducing Omega 3 oils (buy from a company which tests CLO for purity, and keep oils in the refrigerator and use quickly as they become rancid easily)
  • When thinking of oils and fats, remember that most prepared and processed foods have some type of fat in them. Read labels so that you can avoid toxic fats such as hydrogenated oils and vegetables oils heated to high temperatures. Even at cool temperatures, long shelf lives of some prepared foods mean that good fats have gone rancid before you open the box.

Buying Tips

When buying oils, look for glass containers, as plastic leaches into oils/fats at a much higher rate than even into water based foods. Colored glass is best, as light will cause oils to become rancid as well as heat.

Trader Joes has an excellent price on quality/organic butter, and a good price on organic olive oil. I have found the best price on organic olive oil at the Grocery Outlet, although it can be hit and miss.

Tropical Traditions is an excellent source for organic coconut and palm oils, with the best price being a large order to split with friends. In the the Portland are, the Alberta Co-Op is a good place for this quality and price on coconut oil.

The Why

Bad oils are toxic for the body, as they:

  • contain concentrated amounts of pesticides and other toxic and hormone disrupting chemicals
  • contain improper balances/deficiencies of omega fats (good, inflammation reducing fats)
  • have already been damaged molecularly by high heat (or will be if you cook them)
  • soy, corn, and canola oils lead the pack in tons of pesticides and bleaching agents used in production

In contrast, Good Oils are health promoting, as they:

  • Allow us to absorb the important fat soluable vitamins from our food and the sun (vitamins A, D, E, K)
  • Allow us to absorb the minerals in our foods (mineral deficiency is common, with obesity/cravings an indicator of body need)
  • Give a wonderful sense of satiety and slow carbohydrate/sugar absorption which helps to avoid blood sugar spikes and leaves you fuller on less

In recent years, the vegetable oil lobbys have “framed” butter and other natural saturated fats as unhealthy. Don’t believe the propaganda…it is for their profits, not your health. You can get the real story at the Weston A Price foundation.

Dish Detergent: Eat It and Breathe It

OK, so I don’t really think you should eat or breathe your dish detergent, but you could be doing so already.

Dishwasher Detergent

It is common for some residue to be left on dishes coming from the dishwasher, and while the dishwasher is running, a great deal of steam is being put out into your home environment. If there are toxic ingredients in your detergent, guess what you’re ingesting and inhaling?

I switched from “standard” Costco brand dishwasher detergent to a natural one a few years ago when I read that cancer patients should have their dishes run through the cycle without detergent to avoid the tax on the immune system. Well, I didn’t think taxing the immune system was a good idea for the rest of us either. So I tried a dish powder from BioKleen. It worked OK. I switched to the Trader Joe’s brand for a better price, and I think that it may be the exact same product (TJ’s uses other manufacturers in some of their private label goods).

After months of using these cleaners, I noted a few things:

  • Pro: there was no bleach odor coming from the dishwasher while it ran.
  • Con: the glasses began to have a white residue build up on the outsides (bottoms), and sometimes had small granules of white powder on the inside.

I could scrub that white film off by hand (totally planning to do this when the kids leave for college . . .) but the granules inside? We might be eating that if I don’t wipe each time. So recently I switched to liquid dishwasher soap.

A friend who had just switched to the BioKleen liquid dishwasher soap warned me that it wasn’t getting her dishes clean, so I bought the Seventh Generation product which smells like grapefruit.

I think it is working well, although I noticed that I have to rinse and brush my silverware clean of stuck-on food, as there are no granules to act as an abrasive for scrubbing them off.

It also looks to me like this detergent may be slowly removing some of the white film from my glasses, but I may just be imagining it.

When you look for a detergent, make sure it is free of chlorine bleach, phosphates, and EDTA. All are toxic, both to your home environment/family and to everything living downstream from you.

Dish Liquid (for washing by hand)

Here’s some good news: of all the soaps and cleansers in our homes, the liquid dish detergent we use for washing up by hand is likely the least toxic if it does not have Triclosan in it (the FDA just recently stated that, based upon animal studies, there is valid concern that Triclosan can have an impact on the endocrine (hormonal) system). Otherwise, this can happily wait for replacement until you’ve run out of your current soap.

I have been quite happy with the BioKleen Dish Liquid. Lovely fragrance, cuts grease but doesn’t strip my hands, and foams up well. Get it at 15% off from iherb.com; I get mine through my local food co-op/drop for greater savings.

Tip: In addition to washing up dishes and other kitchen surfaces, dish soap works well to get oil stains out of clothing (think butter and peanut butter stains on kid clothes). Dawn detergent is the BEST for this, as it is an awesome grease cutter, but it’s not a natural product, so if you use it avoid touching it to your skin. Use your dish liquid full strength on the stain, let set for half an hour, rinse in the sink, then launder. Dish liquid is far too foamy for washing machines, so never add it to your load or you may have a huge mess on your hands!

Plastics, the Numbers Game

Plastics are really convenient, especially in the kitchen. However, there has recently been a lot of question about how safe it is for them to be in contact with so much of our food. The nation of Canada recently banned the use of PVC in baby bottles/cups, making it the first nation to officially acknowledge the growing body of evidence that shows plastics are making their way into our bodies.

Human hormones are nearly all manufactured (in our bodies) using fats, so it should come as no surprise that the addition of synthetic oils, such as plastic residues, can interfere with normal hormone processes. We would be wise to avoid these toxins much as possible.

Plastics of all types seem to leach into foods more when they are heated, subjected to harsh cleaning agents, and left in contact with wet or oily foods for extended periods. Some  safer ways to use plastics:

  • Never microwave. Ever.
  • Don’t place in the dishwasher, rather hand wash with warm water and mild dish soap.
  • Limit exposure to wet and greasy foods. Remember, plastic is made from oil (petroleum), so food grease becomes like a solvent for it, with the residue entering the food. Refrigerate/freeze wet or greasy foods in glass containers, rather than plastic bags.
  • When using plastic wrap over a dish, don’t allow the wrap to touch the food inside.
  • If you can “smell” plastic, you are actually smelling it off-gas. Avoid using actively off-gassing plastic with food, even dry foods.
  • Don’t store drinking water in a plastic bottle. Choose stainless steel or glass for your sports bottle.

Best Choices for Food Storage

The safest material for food storage is glass. Virtually non-leaching, it has stood the test of time. Fortunately, it is readily available, and inexpensive. Canning jars are an easy, flexible solution for pantry, fridge, or freezer. There are also several lines of glass products made specifically for food storage, some with snapping plastic lids (choose from the “safer” list on the lids, and avoid letting the food touch the lid).

Purchasing food canned in glass jars, rather than tin cans, is the best choice when available. Although tin is not considered toxic to humans (it’s a trace mineral we actually need in small amounts), most people in developed countries have elevated levels of this mineral, likely from tin cans. Of even greater concerns is the plastics used to line/seal tin cans; whether they are on the “safer” or “to avoid” lists below, it is likely that there was heat involved in the processing and the food has absorbed some amount of plastic.

Safer Plastic Choices:

Select safe plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2, and #4) and polypropylene (#5), which require the use of less toxic additives. They also are non-chlorinated. Where do you find these numbers? Turn the item over and look for the symbol.

Plastics to Avoid:

Avoid choosing products that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6), and polycarbonate (#7) which often are found in baby bottles or sippy cups.

What to do with these unsafe plastics? If the containers are useful for storage elsewhere (garden shed, etc.) consider reuse, otherwise recycle before they can be accidentally returned to use in the kitchen (baby cups).

Cloth Wipes for Diapering

Of all the baby care products which I believe commonly give the most toxic exposure to babies, disposable wipes top the list (it’s a close contest with lotion/chemical sunscreen).

I had carefully chosen every natural shampoo, soap, and lotion for my first two babies. So imagine my horror when my third baby was 6 months old and I finally turned over the Huggies wipes to read the ingredients. I discovered a list of chemicals I wasn’t comfortable with, including methylparaben, which I knew to be highly associated with breast cancer. And, whereas I only bathed my babies once or twice a week (thereby minimal exposure to baby shampoo), I wiped this concoction on their genitals several times a day! (Note: don’t be fooled by the “Natural Care” line from Huggies . . . the addition of Aloe and Vitamin E hardly makes up for the all the chemicals still in them.)

I looked into “natural” wipes, and these are an OK option if you can afford the price. I still buy Earth’s Best wipes or Seventh Generation wipes from luckyvitamin.com for keeping in the diaper bag.  But I felt that these would be too costly for daily use, and on the raving recommendation from a friend, I plunged into cloth wipes.

Actually, I plunged into cloth diapering, but that is the subject for another post. Even with a paper diaper, cloth wipes are a huge step away from chemicals for your baby. And it’s really simple.

  1. You’ll need to obtain the wipes themselves. I purchased organic cotton flannel wipes, which are just a piece of flannel with the edges serged. A friend made nearly the same thing by zig-zagging inside a pinking-sheared edge, cut from an old receiving blanket. That is far more economical than the $1 each which I paid. I have 12 of these, and they work better than any disposable wipe I’ve tried, including Huggies with their thick texture. I also have some polyester terry “baby washcloths” in my stash . . . I don’t think they work quite as well, but I already had them, so they are a fall back. My latest addition has been Kissaluvs Terry Wipes, which are amazing for messy diapers. The thick cotton terry loop really does clean up really, really well. I have 6 of these. The number you need on hand will depend on how many you use per change, and how often you do laundry. With roughly 24, and doing laundry every 2-3 days, I’ve never run out.
  2. You’ll need a way to wet the wipe. When I first started with cloth wipes, I tried loading them into the old Huggies tub, and spraying them down with my wipe solution. However, they tended to get sour in the bottom of the container before I could use them. Now I keep the dry wipes in a stack at the changing table, and either wet one in the sink with warm water, or squirt one in my hand with my wipes solution. (I’ve also heard of spraying the bum directly.)
    I make my solution in a squirt-top bottle (most moms will have that peri-bottle that came home with them from the hospital) with water and lemon witch hazel. I fill the bottle nearly full with water, then squirt a little witch hazel in the top, shake, and the whole thing is a smell-great cleansing solution. (Note: witch hazel feels great on healthy skin, but if your baby develops a rash/broken skin it could sting; in this case, go to something more mild, like natural baby wash/shampoo in the water, or just plain water.)
  3. Since you aren’t disposing of these wipes, you’ll need to launder them. If you plan to use cloth diapers, process them right along with them. If you are using paper diapers, then rinse poopy wipes out in a utility sink before adding them into the load with underwear. To keep things sanitary, I wash our family’s underwear separate from kitchen towels and napkins. The underwear load (which would include your wipes, and any other baby clothes which have succumbed to a wet-through or blow-out) should have an initial wash cycle in cold, with half the detergent amount. This is to wash out the fluids/solids still on the fabric. Then a full wash cycle in the hottest water your machine will set for, with half the amount of detergent, and a scoop of oxygen bleach for sanitation. Line dry in anti-bacterial sunshine, or in the dryer on hot.

Indoor Air Quality: Home Smog

Reports (like this one from the EPA) are that the air inside our homes is likely more toxic than that outside; that’s pretty serious considering what attention is given to city smog reports. Also, it’s serious because this is the air we breathe at least 1/3 of our lives. Since I’m a stay at home mom, for me that’s more like 90-95% of my time.

What causes indoor air pollution?

  • Any kind of toxic chemical that is used in your home (think pest poisons, construction sealants, formaldyhyde off-gassing from your cabinetry, cleansers, detergents, chlorine from hot showers, paint and craft supply fumes, fumes from attached garages, fumes from gas burning appliances, etc.)
  • Molds, mildews (look around window, in showers, under sinks, in basement)
  • Dust (which mites live off of in carpets and bedding)

Yuck! And I live here? Yes, so what can I do?

Obviously, cleaning up our act in regards to chemicals, installing a CO2 detector, and cleaning up problematic mold spots and dust collectors are good starts. (Leave your shoes at the door and wet-mop the floors weekly.) And, living house plants actually clean the air around them as they “breathe.” But to quickly clean up the air in your home:

  • Open the windows. (Wait, it can’t be that simple?)

Yes, if we would just open the windows for an airing for a few minutes each morning, that would change our indoor environment dramatically. I don’t do this on the coldest days as I’m wary of losing the heat, but the rest of the time you will notice that a cool breeze blowing out the stale air for 10 minutes or so doesn’t make the things in the house cold, and the temperature is able to rebound quickly.

So simple. So start.

How to get a Really Clean Bathroom (without asphyxiating yourself in the process)

Everyone knows how to clean a bathroom, right? Just grab your aerosol can of mega-disinfectant, spray everything in sight, wipe with a paper towel, swish the toilet with a brush, and shine the mirror with a fragranced blue liquid, and you’re done.

Perfectly clean. Or is it?

In addition to the sizable amount of grime left behind by this method, numerous toxic chemicals are left on the surfaces of your fixtures for hours or days. Not to mention all the dangerous vapors you had to inhale as you sprayed those products.

What if we cleaned our dishes this same way; some disinfectant spray and a paper towel for all the silverware and glasses after a party? Yuk, I’m not sticking that in my mouth. Although I never plan to put my mouth on my toilet, the same concept holds true: a soapy water wash is a cleaner clean.

It’s time for a new paradigm in bathroom clean.

A non-toxic clean:

  • Isn’t complicated, you’ll use items already in your kitchen
  • Can be much more affordable than using standard chemical products
  • Means you will remove the grime and odors, not cover them with disinfectants and fragrances

Read my post on Washing the Bathroom to get a blow-by-blow (albeit mundane) how-to on getting a really clean bathroom.

Step 2: Preclean Vanity

  • Before actually cleaning the vanity area, it is necessary to remove all the stuff that can makes its way onto the countertop; put away personal care products, medication, toothbrushes, and jewelry. Move candles and/or any other decorative items to a different area so they are protected and you can clean under them.
  • Next, spray the mirror and vanity with the vinegar water, and buff with a dry rag. If you notice streaks on the mirror, this is from the previous glass cleaners you have used which leave a film. You can add a small amount (1/8 tsp) of liquid castile soap or liquid dishwashing soap to your vinegar spray and this should help wash away that old film. Next time you make up your vinegar spray it should be unnecessary to add this.
  • Once the mirror has been shined, wipe the counter clean of dust, cosmetic spills, and hair, thoroughly rinse rag in the sink.

Go to Step 3: Wash Vanity and Sink.

Step 4: Mop Floor

Note: this recipe is suitable for vinyl flooring. Check out cleaner recipes for tile, wood, and linoleum. If you have carpet in your bathroom, I highly recommend replacing it right away with a hard surface which will not harbor bacteria, biological waste, and dust mites. In the meantime, vacuum for dust and lightly spray with vinegar water to reduce urine odors.

Prepare a mop bucket with 4-6 quarts warm water and 1/2 cup vinegar.

  • Vacuum or sweep entire floor, removing the wastebasket and other items on floor.
  • Using a rag wet in the bucket solution and wrung out, wipe floor surface, starting at the bathroom door and working towards the toilet.
  • Continue to rinse the rag in the bucket as you clean, paying attention to the edges of the floor and baseboards as these are dusty areas. You may want to fold an old towel/rag for your knees to rest on, and to use to wipe up any water left behind.
  • The greatest amount of bacteria and grime will be in immediate area around the toilet, so it makes sense to finish with this area rather than spreading the grime around the bathroom.

Go to Step 5: Wash Toilet.

Step 5: Wash Toilet

  • With floor rag, wash the exterior of the toilet tank, continuing to rinse the rag in the bucket.
  • Pay attention to the area where the toilet is bolted to the floor. This make require multiple scrubbings to come clean. Wash as far as you can reach around the back of the bowl, and in all crevices.
  • The baking soda which you left in and on the toilet at the end of your precleaning will help to deodorize and scour away mineral deposits. Wash the entire inside of bowl, using the rag and soda to scrub under the lip where stains are not visible from overhead. Flush, holding tightly to rag to rinse it. Repeat soda scrubbing if necessary. For tough mineral deposits, a scouring stick will do the trick; removing the water from the bowl may be necessary to allow it to work effectively.
  • Once the cleaning rag has cleaned the toilet/toilet area, it is fully soiled, and should be laundered and disinfected before it is used again for cleaning. The solution in the bucket should be discarded and the bucket washed out.

Go to Step 6: Hydrogen Peroxide Spray.

Step 6: Hydrogen Peroxide Spray

For those of you who are worried about vinegar not being a strong enough disinfectant, a final spray of hydrogen peroxide should assure you that your bathroom is really, really clean. Or use my favorite: Thieves household cleaner from Young Living. Once diluted, it’s even cheaper per bottle than peroxide.

  • look for 3% hydrogen peroxide (easy to find at drugstores) and pour this at full strength into a clean new spray bottle.
  • purchase Thieves household cleaner wholesale from Young Living and mix with water as instructed on the bottle, to medium dilution.
  • after your bathroom fixtures have dried completely of the cleaning solutions you used, spray them with the hydrogen peroxide.
  • allow to dry without wiping it.

Go to Step 7: Natural Fragrance.