Sea Salt, Revisited

I got some questions after my post on salt last week, so I wanted to take the time to follow up with some answers. If you missed the post on salt, here’s the short version: unrefined sea salt contains all of the minerals and micronutrients of the sea – over 80 total! Refined sea salt contains only sodium and chloride – everything else is destroyed in the processing and refining of the salt. A diet that includes unrefined sea salt can help us maintain healthy levels of important minerals and supports a balanced body.
Below are some of your questions with my answers. I hope this helps clear things up!

Is there iodine in unrefined salt?
Unrefined salt does contain iodine, however not as much iodine as you’ll find in iodized salt. But, iodized salt contains so many other additives that are harmful to your health. The purpose of adding iodine to regular refined table salt is to promote thyroid health and prevent iodine deficiencies. However, some doctors believe that the amount of iodine in refined table salt isn’t enough to make a positive difference in thyroid health anyway. Not to mention all of the minerals and trace elements you are missing out on by not consuming unrefined salt. Iodine can also be obtained from foods like kelp, yogurt, milk, eggs and strawberries. Kelp is great for salads and soups – it has a nice salty taste and contains many important minerals from the sea. If you are concerned about your iodine levels, iodine supplementation is also an option. Signs of a possible iodine deficiency include fatigue, weakness, depression or weight gain.
Where do I find unrefined sea salt?

In Denver, I get my unrefined sea salt from one of our health food stores (Whole Foods, Vitamin Cottage, etc.). However, you can also find them at smaller specialty or gourmet food stores. Another option is to purchase your salt online. This is something I’ll probably start doing, because you can buy in bulk and save a lot of money. Some good websites include Celtic Sea Salt or SaltWorks.

Is all white salt really refined?
No, you can find white unrefined salt. When I wrote that while salt = refined salt, I should have been more clear. The white table salt you find absolutely everywhere, at every restaurant or fast food place, is refined. Most unrefined salts are not completely white but rather some shade of off-white, pink or gray. The really pure whiteness of refined salt is due to bleaching, so unrefined salt is generally not so white.

If it isn’t labeled as unrefined OR refined, what is it?
If I came across a salt that was unlabeled, I would assume it was refined and move on. Unrefined salt is considered a specialty food and companies that sell it take pride in the fact that they are providing customers with the highest quality salt available. Therefore, they are eager to let you know that their salt is unrefined, unprocessed and does not have any additives. Read the labels carefully and don’t hesitate to do some research yourself on the internet if you notice any strange ingredients or additives.

Do I need a salt grinder?
It’s up to you! You can purchase unrefined sea salt that is finely ground, coarsely ground, or in big chunks. Obviously the larger chunks will require a grinder. It might be fun to have both – use the pre-ground salt most nights and save the salt grinder for your dinner parties. I would certainly be impressed if I was at someone’s house and got to grind my own salt for my meal!! But, you do not need to buy a salt grinder in order to have good quality unrefined sea salt.

Some pretty cool salt grinders:
Left: Peugeot Salt Grinder, found here; Right: Alessi Marc Newson Gemini salt grinder, found here.

I hope this helps! Remember, eat salt in moderation but don’t cut it out completely. The minerals in salt help us absorb other important nutrients and stay healthy. If you are extremely active, it is even more important to include salt in your daily diet.

Have a great weekend guys!


Water-Soluble Vitamins, Part 2 of 2

A continuation from yesterday's post on water-soluble vitamins...

Vitamin B6: This vitamin is used to help more than 60 different enzymes function properly. It helps with cell multiplication (so it’s really important during pregnancy), immunity, and healthy skin and red blood cells. Deficiency symptoms of vitamin B6 include depression, convulsions, anemia, cracked lips or tongue, and eczema. Vitamin B6 is especially important for people with asthma, PMS, carpal tunnel, depression, morning sickness and kidney stones. The best food sources are brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, walnuts, lentils, brown rice, garbanzo and pinto beans, bananas, avocados, kale, and spinach.

Biotin: This B-vitamin helps us manufacture and utilize fats and proteins. Like niacin, it is crucial for healthy metabolism. Biotin is manufactured by gut bacteria in our intestines, but we can also get it from foods such as liver, soybeans, walnuts, pecans, oatmeal, almonds, cauliflower, mushrooms and lentils. Signs one may be deficient in biotin include dry and scaly skin, nausea, and hair loss in infants 6 months and younger.

Folic Acid: This important vitamin is necessary for DNA synthesis and cell division. Therefore, it is vital to the proper development of a fetus and all pregnant women must ensure they are obtaining enough folic acid. One important thing to note: the folic acid is needed most by the fetus in the first few months of pregnancy; therefore, any female who plans to get pregnant must increase folic acid intake prior to getting pregnant to ensure ample supplies are available. This is why many doctors recommend a prenatal vitamin before actual pregnancy. The best food sources of folic acid are brewer’s yeast, soy flour, liver, kidney beans, lima beans, asparagus, lentils, walnuts, spinach, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, almonds and dried figs. Folic acid deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency. This is partly because alcohol and many prescription medicines prevent proper absorption of folic acid, and heat and light easily destroy folic acid. Signs of deficiency include poor growth, diarrhea, anemia, gingivitis, depression, insomnia, irritability, and fatigue.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 works with folic acid to synthesize DNA and red blood cells. It is found only in animal foods, and the best sources include lamb or calf liver, clams, sardines, trout, salmon, tuna, eggs, beef, and cheeses. This vitamin differs from the other water-soluble vitamins in that it is stored in the liver, kidney and other tissues. Therefore, deficiency symptoms may take years to show up. These include pernicious anemia, impaired nerve function which causes numbness or pins-and-needles feelings, or mental fuzziness similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

Now we’ve covered all the fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Hopefully this gave you more insight into why you need to include these in your diet, and which foods you should focus on to ensure you are not becoming deficient.


Water-Soluble Vitamins, Part 1 of 2

Hi guys! Check out PWN blog featured in Urban Baby Gourmet’s March/April newsletter! If you scroll down to the “Blogs We Love” section, you can read about it. I am so honored to be featured and cannot wait to have these great Denver ladies guest blog at PWN in a few weeks! To all the Denver moms out there – you will absolutely LOVE their business and their products.

I hope the information on fat-soluble vitamins yesterday was helpful. Today, let’s move on to water-soluble vitamins: the eight B-vitamins and vitamin C. Just to be clear up front, I will give you the names of the B-vitamins. Some have multiple names so it can be confusing, but here they are: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid, B6, folate, and B12. Vitamin C is sometimes referred to as ascorbic acid.

Whereas fat-soluble vitamins travel through our lymph system before being absorbed into the blood, the water-soluble vitamins go directly to the blood. They travel freely without need of transporters. Since they are water-soluble, they are stored in the watery parts of the body, and the kidneys function to excrete any excess in the urine.

Remember when I told you that fat-soluble vitamins are stored for long periods and you can go months or even years before becoming deficient? Well, that’s not the case with water-soluble vitamins. They are needed every few days, and preferably every single day. Since they are not stored for very long and are excreted through our urine, we need to replenish often. Therefore, it is easier for someone to become deficient in their B-vitamins or vitamin C.

Below is a very brief overview of each of the water-soluble vitamins. I’m going to give you half today, and half tomorrow, so as not to overwhelm. Each one is important – take note of which foods these vitamins are concentrated in and try to include them in your diet each day.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C’s primary function is to manufacture collagen, which is the main protein substance for the human body used in things such as connective tissue, cartilage and tendons. It is also a strong antioxidant. The best food sources of vitamin C include broccoli, brussels sprouts, peppers, potatoes, guava, kale, parsley, waterress, red cabbage, strawberries, papaya, spinach, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and calf’s liver. Exposure to air destroys vitamin C content in foods, so try to eat quickly after you slice. And if you’re eating lunch at a salad bar, keep in mind that most of the fruits or vegetables you are choosing have probably already lost almost 50% of their vitamin C content (disappointing, I know!). The major deficiency symptom is scurvy (bleeding gums, poor wound healing, extensive bruising). Other signs of possible vitamin C deficiency include depression, hysteria or susceptibility to infection.

Thiamin (B1): Thiamin is necessary for brain energy and mental function. Signs of a thiamin deficiency include mental confusion, muscle wasting, fluid retention, high blood pressure, and difficulty walking. The best food sources of thiamin include brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pecans, split peas, millet, pistachios, oatmeal, whole wheat flour, cashews, brown rice and garlic. Alcohol and the tannins in coffee can both destroy thiamin completely, so try to consume separately.

Riboflavin (B2): This vitamin is used in energy production and protection against free radicals. Deficiency symptoms include cracked lips or corners of the mouth, sensitivity to light, cataracts, burning or itchy eyes, and anemia. The best food sources of riboflavin are brewer’s yeast, calf liver, almonds, wheat germ, wild rice, mushrooms, millet, kale, cashews and broccoli.

Niacin (B3): Remember when I talked about metabolism a few months ago? Niacin is a key nutrient used in metabolism. It also helps regulate blood sugar and high cholesterol. Food sources include brewer’s yeast, wheat bran, peanuts, wild rice, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brown rice, and almonds. Signs you may be deficient in niacin are dermatitis, dementia, and diarrhea.

Pantothenic Acid (B5): Pantothenic acid helps us utilize fats and carbohydrates to produce energy during metabolism, and also to manufacture adrenal hormones and red blood cells. Deficiencies are very uncommon, because its food content is so high. Foods containing pantothenic acid include brewer’s yeast, calf liver, peanuts, mushrooms, split peas, pecans, soybeans, oatmeal, sunflower seeds, lentils, cashews, broccoli, brown rice, avocados, and kale.

That’s enough for one day… more tomorrow!


Fat-Soluble Vitamins

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks in my nutrients class learning about fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. It’s important to understand how these different types of vitamins work inside our bodies, so I am going to give quick overviews of each – fat today, water tomorrow.

The four fat-soluble vitamins are vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. ADEK: pretty easy to remember.

Fat-soluble vitamins are obtained from our food. They travel through our digestive tract and then are absorbed first into the lymph, then into the blood. They require bile for absorption. Bile is produced in the liver but stored in the gallbladder, and is made up of water, cholesterol, and other bile acids and pigments (note: you NEED cholesterol to produce bile and absorb these 4 important vitamins!).

Many fat-soluble vitamins require protein carriers to help transport them once inside our blood. These vitamins are stored in our fat cells and are not readily excreted. Rather, they remain stored in our fat cells for weeks, months or even years. The positive aspect of this is that if we go through a period of poor nutrition, whether it be because we are sick or on vacation or just too busy to prepare nutritious food at home, our body can dip into the stores of vitamins A, D, E and K and use them to support our health. The downside of these vitamins being stored for longer periods of time is that it may take months or years for a deficiency to show up. If we are not obtaining enough vitamin E from our diet, or not absorbing it properly, our body will just dip into our stores and we may not know for months or years that our current diet is not supporting our health properly. Also, because fat-soluble vitamins are stored for so long, risk of toxicity can be higher.

The last thing I want to point out before giving some information on the four vitamins is this: in order to store these vitamins, we must include fat in our diets. The no-fat diet trend that has been around for a while now is (in my opinion) bad because people who eliminate fat from their diets completely will be unable to absorb and store fat-soluble vitamins, and will eventually become deficient and create a body that is out of balance. I’m not saying we should all overdose on high fat foods; however, it is okay, and even GOOD, to eat some fat with your vitamins – olive oil, butter, nuts, etc. This will help ensure you are able to fully utilize these vitamins. Don’t be afraid to make your own salad dressing with some olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. The fats are good! If you stick with the highly processed, store-bought fat free dressing, you may be denying yourself some important vitamins.

Here is a basic overview of each of the fat-soluble vitamins:

Vitamin A: Helps with vision, maintenance of the cornea, health of skin cells, bone and tooth growth, reproduction and immunity. Top food sources include calf liver, chili peppers, dandelion root, chicken liver, carrots, dried apricots, collard greens, kale, sweet potatoes, parsley, spinach, mustard greens, mangoes, cantaloupe and broccoli. Signs of a vitamin A deficiency include night blindness, dry eyes, and impaired immunity. One test my teacher told us about is the light switch test: Go into a room that is dark but not too dark, meaning you can still make out shapes, etc. Turn on the light switch and then immediately turn it back off again (so the light is only on for a flash) and notice how quickly your eyes readjust to the shapes in the dark. If they adjust quickly and easily, you have enough vitamin A in your diet. But if they take longer to adjust and you are blinded for a few seconds, you may be deficient.

Vitamin D: This is an important vitamin for bone health in that it stimulates the absorption of calcium. It also has anticancer properties. Food sources of vitamin D include fortified foods (milk, cereals, etc. – however, I recommend sticking with whole food sources), and also natural food sources such as cod liver oil, cold-water fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring, butter and egg yolks. The best source is, of course, sunshine! But remember that even an spf 2 sunblock will prevent vitamin D from being absorbed through your skin, so you must be outside with no sunblock for 15-30 minutes (depending on your skin type) before applying sunblock. Signs of vitamin D deficiency include rickets in children, and lack of bone strenth and joint pain in adults.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is used as an antioxidant in our bodies – it stabilizes cell membranes and protects the fatty acids from lead, mercury, and other toxins such as chemicals and drugs. Food sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, whole grains, asparagus, avocados, berries, green leafy vegetables and tomatoes. Cooking and processing of foods greatly reduces their vitamin E content. Signs of a vitamin E deficiency include nerve damage, muscle weakness, poor coordination, involuntary movement of the eyes, and anemia.

Vitamin K: The main function of vitamin K is the synthesis of blood-clotting proteins and bone proteins. Top food sources include kale, green tea, turnip greens, spinach, broccoli, lettuce cabbage, watercress, asparagus, oats, green peas, whole wheat and green beans. Gut bacteria can also produce vitamin K, so a deficiency is rare. However, deficiency symptoms would include easy bruising, appearance of ruptured capillaries and hemorrhaging.

Tomorrow we’ll tackle the water-soluble vitamins and in the meantime, get your vitamins A, D, E and K… and don’t forget the fats!


Calf's Liver

Many of you have heard the phrase “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize.” Michael Pollan has said this, but so have countless other health and nutrition enthusiasts. It’s simple advice and it makes sense: most processed foods, like Doritos or Hostess cupcakes or flavored yogurt, were not around when our grandparents were young. They may have cooked with more butter and used heavy cream in more of their recipes, but let’s face it: they still ate much healthier than people do now. They ate whole foods, and were more likely to eat locally grown and produced foods because that was what was available to them. More meals were cooked at home, and kids were not eating fast food.

Last night Ed and I ate a dinner that our grandparents would definitely recognize: calf’s liver. My Nutrients teacher talks a lot about liver in class. She eats it often, and a few weeks ago she sent us her liver recipe. When Ed and I were at Denver’s indoor farmer’s market, we purchased a bag of frozen calf livers from a Colorado, grass-fed beef farm. Liver from a grass-fed calf is free from toxins and the best type of liver to consume. It provides more nutrients per gram than any other food that exists!

Liver is extremely nutrient-dense. One serving contains almost 700% of your daily vitamin B12; 600% of your vitamin A; over 200% of daily folate; 130% of vitamin B2 (riboflavin); and very high amounts of copper, selenium, zinc, tryptophan, protein, vitamin C, vitamin B3 (niacin), phosphorous, iron, and vitamins B5 and B6. And all of these nutrients are packed into a mere 180 calories. Can you see what this is such a powerful food!? It is a great way to replenish if you haven’t gotten sufficient vitamins due to illness or travel. The B-vitamins are crucial for all of your body’s metabolic processes, and are associated with lower cancer risk. The folate is great for women before, during and after pregnancy. The iron in calf’s liver is a very usable source, meaning our body will recognize it and utilize it properly.

So, even though I’ve never tried calf’s liver and the thought of it was a little scary, I was completely convinced and even excited to try it after I learned all of these health benefits. The recipe is fairly easy but still full of flavor and it makes a great meal.


1 lb pastured beef or bison liver, sliced or cubed

1 large onion, chopped

1 large red pepper, seeded and sliced

1 slice pastured bacon, chopped (optional)

Handful of dried figs (about 10-15), stem removed, cut in quarters

½ juicy orange (or one whole lime – orange for a sweet taste, lime for a tart taste)

2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Handful of pine nuts (optional – We used almonds because we didn’t have pine nuts)

½ tsp Celtic sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Dash of balsamic vinegar

2-3 tbs stable cooking oil – ghee, coconut oil, butter, etc.

Heat large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot add bacon and cook until tender (not crispy). Add ½ of the cooking oil – heat just to melt. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent. Add red pepper, figs and pine nuts. Sauté until peppers are soft (not mushy), 5-6 minutes. Push vegetables to outside of pan leaving an empty hole in center.

Add the remaining oil. Melt and add liver. Cook until just browned through, maybe 3-4 minutes (it goes pretty fast, don’t over cook or it will become tough). Incorporate cooked liver with the vegetable/fig mixture. Squeeze orange or lime juice (catching the seeds) over the mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Adjust seasoning to taste if needed. Stir another brief minute to incorporate flavors. Serve immediately.

We forgot a few ingredients but followed this recipe for the most part. Ed was already a liver-lover, so I was the wild card this time… and I loved it! I even went back for more. I definitely want to try to make this every few weeks so we can replenish our stores of all the important nutrients. Plus, it’s an easy dinner. I recommend trying it at least once. It’s so good for you, how could you not? Find a place in your city where you can buy calf’s liver from a grass-fed cow or buffalo – most likely a farmer’s market or health food store. Let me know what you think!

We’d love to try a liver mousse at some point too… not quite as healthy but would make a great appetizer if we’re entertaining!