Monday, April 27, 2015

What's with the Coconut Oil Hype?

I am not sure where this whole coconut oil craze has emerged from on its high horse, but I am getting a little annoyed with all of its undue hype.

Hint: The secret miracle of coconut oil is that it is not a miracle.

I have previously blogged about cooking oils and briefly touched on coconut oil, but I feel with all of this flurry of coconut oil rubbish, it is time to revisit it. I mean, this coconut oil craze even has the audacity to infiltrate my office via an intern. I have managed to bite my tongue on the issue (for once in my life, right mom?) thus far, but I at least wanted to take the opportunity to educate the rest of you. 

The Claims
Most coconut oil zealots claim that it is some sort of magical cure all. Case in point, this infographic…

Now, I will give them the claims about improved skin care and hair care because that is derived from applying it directly to your skin or hair; the rest are from consuming it and are unproven and in some instances just down right ridiculous. I mean coconut oil preventing type II diabetes and curing heart disease…really?!? My favorite line is under the Infections box, “may destroy bacterial & viral infections like…hepatitis C and even HIV.”

Is coconut oil healthy?
Just about all of the health claims regarding coconut oil are not supported by (good and unbiased) research. To help cover some of these points, watch this video…

Should you be using coconut oil?
I am going to give you three simple rules to help you determine if you should be using coconut oil or not.
  1. Would you add butter to it? If you would not add butter to whatever food it is that you are thinking about putting coconut oil in, then you are just adding in unnecessary calories,thus being silly.  
  2. Are you lactose intolerant or have issues with dairy? If you answered yes, I will let you use coconut oil instead of butter and not judge you for it.
  3. Do you think you are better than everybody else? If you answered yes, you may want to consider using coconut oil, but I will judge you.

Breaking it down
Don’t feel pressured to use coconut oil because it is trendy; it is not really any healthier than butter. Maybe Paula Dean has been on to something all these years…

Next time you hear one of your friends or a random stranger raving about how they put coconut oil in their kale, apple, banana, chia seed, flax seed, hemp milk smoothie, just ask them why they didn't use butter instead of the coconut oil and watch their reaction. If you really want to see some positive changes in your health, eat your fruits and vegetables. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go see what other nutrition advice I can glean from Paula Dean and make the intern wash her mouth out with soap. Until next time!

Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What to do if you encounter a Vegetarian

I have another confession. I occasionally write about bacon and meat, however, I don’t actually eat them...that’s right, I am a vegetarian. GASP! Now before you write me off as a crazy hippy, hear me out. Now, I am not the type of person that is going to shove it down your throat and condemn you for eating meat ( I will however shove it down your throat that you should eat your fruits and vegetables); being a vegetarian is a personal decision. I just want to take this opportunity to educate you all on the matter because pretty much anytime I disclose that I am a vegetarian, it’s like playing 20 questions. Now, I don’t mind fielding these questions unless I get questions like this…

Anyways, I thought I would take the opportunity to field some of these questions for you.
Note: For the purposes of this blog and life the term meat includes the following: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, any flesh of an animal.

What is a vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian/lacto-ovo-vegetarian?
Let’s first start with defining all of these for you, so that you can vaguely know what you are talking about the next time you encounter one of these...
  • Pescatarian: The only meat they eat is fish. They may or may not eat milk, cheese, eggs, and other dairy.
  • Ovo-vegetarian: Does not eat meat but does consume eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarian: Does not eat meat but does consume milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: Does not eat meat but does consume milk, cheese, eggs, and other dairy products. Technically this is what I am and I would venture to say this is what people mean when they say they are vegetarian.
  • Vegan: Does not consume any animal derived product. This include honey, dairy, eggs, etc. Sometimes vegans will also not wear leather, wool, silk, etc. since it is derived from animals. Additional foods that often contain animal products include marshmallows, jello, gelatin, etc.

Now this is where it gets interesting. To start with, not all vegetarians are vegetarians because we think that animals are our friends…

Other reasons for going vegetarian include:
  • Religious: Some religions not only encourage vegetarianism, but require it, such as Jainism. Religions that encourage it include Hinduism, and Buddhism, and Seventh Day Adventist.
  • Environmental: Raising animals for food requires a lot of land, food, energy, and water in addition to the pollutant byproducts that are produced by animal agriculture. According to the Water Education Foundation, it takes 2,464 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, compared to 25 gallons for a pound of wheat. Also of note, is that the meat industry contributes to global warming by being the number one producer of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Cows are the biggest contributor to this and yes, methane is released when cows burp and fart…

          Some organizations dispute this and claim that vegetarianism is actually worse for the                         environment. I am by no means an environmental scientist and this is the most unbiased article           I could find on the topic. 
  • Health: Vegetarian diets are typically lower in saturated fats (the “bad” fat) and higher in fiber. This equates to a lower risk for developing heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.  Some studies have also found that vegetarians live longer. 
  • Animal Cruelty: Don’t worry, I am not going to go all PETA on you and post gross pictures of suffering cows. I will however just post this…

         Personally, I grew up on a farm and have participated in the butchering of chickens and                        witnessed my “pet” cow be butchered. His name was White Sox. My parents lied to me when I            asked over a  dinner of steaks shortly after his butchering if I was in fact eating White Sox.                 They assured me that they had in fact traded in White Sox’s meat for that of another cow’s. Did            this scar me and cause me to become a vegetarian? Nope.
  • Cheaper: This one is probably not a shocker; fruits, vegetables, eggs, legumes, etc are cheaper than meat. That is unless you buy everything organic but for more info on that check out my previous post.
  • To annoy people: Just kidding at least this is probably not the case in most instances but I cannot speak for all vegetarians.

So….What do you eat?
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just eat salads; I said I was a vegetarian, not a rabbit.  I eat anything that doesn’t contain meat. Instead of focusing on what I can’t eat, let’s rephrase the question to what I can eat. Obviously this includes fruits and vegetables, but also eggs, cheese, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, grains, tofu (no vegetarians do not eat this as much as people tend to think that they do), and so on and so forth. I think why people can’t seem to get past the “what do you eat” question is because Americans place so much focus on meat being the golden child of every meal. With that being said, I would like to share you with a video that I found highly entertaining about If Vegans Said Stuff Meat Eaters Said... 

Vegetarianism…the wrong way
Now, some foods are naturally vegetarian like chips, cookies, cake, French fries, etc. I mean Cookie Monster is technically a vegetarian...

That’s not quite the way one should do vegetarianism. Since vegetarians eliminate meat and other animal products there are some minor nutritional concerns. One of the most prevalent questions that I get is where I get my protein from. Getting enough protein is the least of my worries. There are eggs, soy, dairy, nuts, legumes, seeds, and yes even fruits and vegetables contain some protein as well.
Things to be more mindful of include: iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 (especially if you are vegan), and calcium (again especially if you are vegan). However, vitamin D you can get from the sun and it is fortified in other foods and iron is found in plenty of non-animal sources such as spinach and raisins.

Breaking it down
I am not going to preach that everybody should be a vegetarian. I only ask that you be more cognizant of what you are eating and of course for you all to eat more fruits and vegetables. Now, I may be weird, but it is not because I am a vegetarian. Maybe it’s from the emotional scarring of eating my pet cow; I don't know but I am working with my therapist on that one :) For more information on vegetarianism that isn’t too off the wall or biased, check out The Vegetarian Resource Group. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go do my part to prevent watermelons and other fruits and vegetables from taking over the world. Until next time!

Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gardening Part Deux

I have blogged about gardening in my previous blog post, Gardening: Get Your Grandma On, but after my exciting weekend of “farming,” I decided to revisit the topic. (Note: My version of farming is the four vegetable plants and four herb plants that I grow in containers on my patio. Why yes, I am thinking about getting a tractor J ) For those of you youngens, yes this is what happens to you when you get old. Oh and this happens too…

Oh and this…

Anyways, back to gardening...

Why should I grow my own produce?
Well I could ramble on in complete sentences but that does not match my current mood, so I am going to leave you with bullet points:
  •     Cheaper than buying fruits and veggies (especially if you buy organic
  •     Better for the environment
  •     Taste better
  •     Why not?!?

Beth’s Gardening Tips
Let me preface this section with this. I am no gardening expert, but I do play one on tv.
      Sunlight: One of the biggest things to consider is sunlight. Most plants need about 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, so if you live in a heavily wooded area you may be out of luck. It is best to select an area that faces east, west, south to ensure your plants will get enough light. If you are directionally challenged, use Google maps to figure it out.
      Water: Make sure you water your plants using potable water (city water or water out of your spigot). Established plants should be watered every other day or every third day. If your plants start to look limp, you should probably water them. It is best to water plants in the morning.
      Soil: Your plants will only be as healthy as the soil you put them in.
      What to plant: Here in Charlotte, if you plant watermelon in the fall you are just setting yourself up for failure. Just because you can get a watermelon year round in the grocery store does not mean they grow all year round here in Charlotte. I will give you a resource with more detail, but to be brief your summer crops include tomatoes, summer squash, cucumber, melons, and peppers. Fall crops include fall/winter squash, apples, pumpkins, kale, and so on. Not much grows in the winter besides hearty, dark leafy greens. Spring brings strawberries, asparagus, and lettuces.
      Space: Different plants need different amount of plants. Before you go throwing 10 tomato plants in one pot, do a little research and maybe even read the seed packet or those little sticks that they stick in the seedling soil. Just a thought.
The above tips just scrape the surface of all things to consider when gardening. For more information, check out this great resource from Friendship Gardens:

But Beth, I don’t have a lot of space
Neither do I! Luckily, for people like us, if your look up container gardening on Pintrest there are tons of cool ideas.

Local Produce on Campus
Well Beth if you are such a hippy why don’t we have any locally grown fruits and vegetables in our dining halls?!? I would say touché, but I will not because the world of food and the food industry is very complex. We actually do have some local produce in our cafeterias, albeit not consistently and is not marketed as such for a myriad of obstacles. However, even though it is not marketed as such, I am willing to bet my first unborn child that our sweet potatoes were grown in North Carolina. Dorky fact of the day: North Carolina produces over 40% of the nation’s sweet potatoes.

Anyways, incorporating more local produce into our food system is something I have been toying with since I began this job a little over a year and a half ago, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can find Cloister Honey, Smokey J’s Salsa, Roots & Branches Artisan Crackers, and Uncle Scott’s Root beer in both of our convenience stores on campus.  

Breaking it down
Whether you have a black thumb or green thumb, or are old, young, hippy, not a hippy, country bumpkin, city kid, give gardening a try. Is it the most exciting thing in the world? Nope, but it is pretty painless and…

Plus, you can get your organic produce without the hefty price tag. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go plant my bacon seeds.

Until next time!

Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,


Tuesday, April 7, 2015


I was having a hard time trying to think up what I was going to blog about this week and then I serendipitously got a text from my mother and it all just came together! Nuts! To be fair, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and the stuff my brothers and I did growing up was enough to drive anyone crazy. Not sure about you all, but we enjoyed playing Smart Mop and pouring all sorts of stuff on the floor to clean up…except for we didn’t have the Smart it didn’t work out so well.

Anyways, I thought I would take this week’s blog to capitalize on this thought and blog about nuts.
I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that you all know what a nut is and that you can probably name a few of them off the top off your head. What most people probably don’t know is some of the health benefits of nuts, so I will help you out.

What’s so special about nuts?
As a vegetarian one of the questions that I get without fail, is how I get enough protein. Well it just so turns out that nuts are a great source of protein! In addition, depending on the nut, they are good sources of certain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). For example, Brazil nuts contain an entire day’s worth of selenium in just one nut. Since there are a ton of different types of nuts, I am just going to leave this little infographic here…

One of the other points of interest with nuts, is that they do contain fat...

Now before you swear off nuts just because they contain fat, the type of fat they contain is a good type of fat. Some nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are actually even a good source of omega-3s (which yes, is a good fat).

Wait…are they going to make me fat?!?
No. Eating too many calories and not exercising makes you fat.  Yes, you could gain weight by eat 10,000 calories a day of nuts, but you could also do so by eating 10,000 calories a day of carrots (unless you are an ultra-marathon runner).  If you want more info on this, check out this previous blog post of mine on how eating fat does not make you fat

What about flavored nuts?
They can be delicious, but watch out for high amounts of sodium and added sugar.

How can I incorporate them into my diet?
Now, I am not really the type to wake up early to allow myself time to sit and eat breakfast in my house, so I usually end up grabbing something to eat in the car. That being said, I usually keep a bag/huge container of trail mix in my car, which is chock full of nuts.  Other ways include adding them to cereal, yogurt, salads, pasta dishes, Asian dishes, etc. Yes, you could put them in desserts, such as cookies, to make them a little bit healthier, but at the end of the day a cookie is still a cookie.  

Breaking it down
Nuts are healthy. They are a good source of protein and other vitamins and minerals. They do contain fat (the good fat)...

so don’t eat a whole five pound bag in one sitting. Well I am off to think up new ways to irritate my mother. Until next time!

Keep it Fresh,
Keep it Green,