Why You Shouldn’t Use Conventional Sunscreen (And What to do Instead)

This post was originally published in July of 2014. It has since been updated and re-purposed.
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I used to spend a LOT of time in the sun. Between competitive swimming and water polo in high school, life guarding nearly every summer as a teenager, and years of shameless sun bathing in an all-out effort to become the darkest version of myself possible, I’ve definitely had more than my fair share of sun exposure.

Looking back on my years of reckless sun worshiping, I kick myself. Not just for spending more than a healthy amount of time in the sun, but more so for not paying any attention to all of the dangerous chemicals that I regularly applied to my body and face (thinking it was the healthy thing to do).

I’m talking about harsh acne creams, unnatural tanning oils, and…dun dun dun — sunscreen.

“But you NEED sunscreen! Without it, you’ll get skin cancer and die!”

That’s what I thought too. So I spent the majority of my life covering myself in misty clouds of chemical-laden aerosol sunscreen spray in an effort to prevent sun damage and skin cancer.

Back then, I had no idea that everything I had been told about sunscreen and sun exposure was wrong.

All of us have bought into the anti-sun hype at some point or in some way. We’ve been religiously slathering on the ‘screen and spending more time indoors than ever before, yet skin cancer rates continue to skyrocket.

We live in a society that’s civilized beyond common sense. And instead of taking a reasonable and sane approach to subjects like food, medicine, and sun exposure, we rely on quick fixes and listen to what “experts” say we should do to be healthy without ever digging any deeper or figuring out what our bodies intuitively need.

Many of these quick fixes have been created with a greater interest in our bank accounts than in our health. And they just can’t compete with a good ol’ fashioned natural approach to health and wellness.

Conventional sunscreen is one of the quick fixes I’m talking about. It really isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s a lot worse (and more dangerous) than it’s cracked up to be. Here’s why:

  • Sunlight is good for you (in moderation). Unprotected sun exposure stimulates Vitamin D production within the body. Vitamin D is a big deal. Trust me — you don’t want to be deficient. Sunscreen blocks the UVB rays that are responsible for stimulating Vitamin D production. Constant use of sunscreen = not enough Vitamin D.
  • No sunburn DOES NOT = no sun damage. As I wrote in a recent post, “Sunscreen is great at blocking the UVB rays that cause us to burn (and produce cancer-fighting Vitamin D). But it does almost nothing to protect against the UVA rays that penetrate much deeper than UVB rays, damaging skin cell membranes and the DNA inside.”
  • Conventional sunscreen is not safe. It contains a number of harsh, hormone disrupting and cancer-causing ingredients that we thoughtlessly slather all over the largest organ on our body before venturing out into the sun. And ingredients like Oxybenzone, Retinyl Palmitate, and Titanium Oxide aren’t the only culprits. According to Chris Kresser,

    For one sunscreen that was analyzed for aluminum concentration, a single application would provide 200mg of aluminum. (1) Another concern is that, as an oxidant, the aluminum in sunscreen might contribute to oxidative damage in the skin, increasing the risk of cancer.

Sunshine is indeed a wonderful thing, but too much of it can also be damaging.

We all have occasions that require us to spend prolonged amounts of time in the sun. And when covering up or finding shade isn’t an option, using a product that offers sun protection is definitely the way to go.

You might be confused (and rightfully so), as I just finished pointing out the dangers of conventional sunscreen. The important word here is conventional (Banana Boat, Coppertone, Bullfrog — I’m talking to you)!

But not all sunscreen is bad.

Sunscreens made from natural, non-toxic ingredients that use non-nano Zinc Oxide as the main active ingredient can be a great option for days when we spend long periods of time in the sun.

Non-nano Zinc Oxide protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Non-nano (or non-micronized) means that the particles are too large to be absorbed by the skin. Because of the large particles, sunscreens with non-nano zinc oxide may leave a slight whitish film on the skin. And since the large particles sit on the skin and aren’t absorbed, they do a much better job of protecting against UVA and UVB rays than products that contain nano particles.

A few years ago, I started making and using my own sun lotion with only a few simple and effective ingredients (coconut oil, mango butter, shea butter, non-nano zinc oxide, arrowroot powder, beeswax and essential oils). And after a lot of prodding and encouraging from my husband and other family members, I finally started selling it (along with a number of other products) on our family farm’s website (you can check out Primally PURE Outdoor Lotion and the rest of the Primally PURE line by clicking here).

Of course, you don’t have to buy my products in order to get adequate protection. You can also purchase non-nano zinc oxide and add it to your favorite lotion or creme. Or experiment with making your own using some or more of the ingredients listed in the paragraph above!

But if you don’t want to deal with the hassle and uncertainty of doing it yourself and want a silky smooth product that’s made with organic and fair trade ingredients (and lots of love) I would highly recommend checking out Primally PURE Outdoor Lotion.

Have you tried making your own sunscreen? Or do you already have one that you love? Let me know with a comment!

9 Tips for Real Food Newbies

When I first started this blog, one of my good friends asked me to write a post about how to get started with eating real food (also known as the paleo diet). It took me almost a year, but I finally did it! Yay!

Switching from the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) to eating real, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods is hard. It can be extremely challenging to change our habits and ditch the “you must eat 6-8 servings of whole grains a day” mindset that has been ingrained into our psyches for decades.

And as you probably already know, the idea that “food” made in a factory is better for us than food found in nature is just plain WRONG. That’s why myself (and hundreds of thousands of others) have been able to thrive on a diet of real food. And while giving up “healthy” whole grains, pasteurized dairy, and other processed foods may sound kind of insane and incredibly inconvenient at first, it’s actually SUPER simple.

I absolutely LOVE this cute info-graphic from Real Food Liz, which breaks down the concept of eating real food perfectly.

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Pretty cool, right? What I like about this way of eating is that it just makes sense. No gimmicks, nonsense, sales tactics, or false promises. Just real information for real people.

But because the paleo “diet” isn’t a quick fix or easy solution, it does require some time, work, and commitment (especially in the beginning). Here’s some tips on how to make the transition towards better health easier.


9 Tips for Real Food Newbies

  • Tip #1: Start slow. Committing to a complete overhaul of your eating habits is a huge shift to make. And if you’re confident in your ability to do that all at once, awesome!

    I didn’t have the discipline to switch to real food overnight. Instead, it was a process that took about 6 months for me to make and really stick with. I started by just going gluten free, then grain free, and finally dairy and legume free (but have since added some raw dairy back into my diet).

    If you’re comfortable with making a 180-degree switch to real food as fast as possible, that’s GREAT! But if not, don’t feel bad about doing it in stages.

  • Tip #2: Focus on what you CAN eat, not what you CAN’T. At first, paleo can seem more like a long list of “don’ts” rather than a new and exciting way of eating.

    Try not to get overwhelmed by all of the things that are suddenly off limits. Because even though it may not seem like it at first, the list of foods that are okay to eat is a pretty darn extensive. And if you need help finding creative ways to make real food-friendly meals, click here for a list of my favorite healthy cookbooks!

    General rule of thumb: If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!

    General rule of thumb: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!

  • Tip #3: Don’t stress. Stressing over food choices (or anything) is arguably just as harmful as a poor diet.

    Try not to worry too much about what is and isn’t okay to eat at first. The longer you eat real food and educate yourself on its benefits, the easier it will be to make nourishing and healthy choices. And after awhile, it will become second nature.

  • Tip #4: Pay attention to your body. Your body will undergo a lot of changes as you start feeding it differently.

    Pay attention to how this new way of eating affects you. Do you have more energy? Are you less susceptible to getting sick? Has your mood improved? These subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) positive changes will make your new lifestyle all the more rewarding and easier to stick to.

  • Tip #5: Don’t get discouraged. You may not see/feel changes right away. And especially if you make the transition slowly (which is totally OK), you may not get the results you want as quickly as you’d like.

    When I started eating real food, the changes I noticed were subtle, yet encouraging. And it wasn’t until I went “all in” with a strict 30 days of paleo that I felt/saw changes that were truly remarkable.

    If experiencing change is taking time, don’t panic. Stick with it! And if you start to really feel frustrated with your lack of progress, consider seeing a trustworthy medical practitioner to help you along in your journey.

  • Tip #6: Use resources. There are SO many wonderful resources out there (books, foods, gadgets, etc.) aimed at getting YOU healthy. I made a list of my favorites a few weeks ago — click here to see it!

  • Tip #7: Look at ingredients, not calories. This is a tough one for a lot of people, and it takes time to stop obsessing over how many grams of fat are in coconut milk or how many carbs are in a banana.

    While calories do matter, they’re not nearly as important as the ingredients in our food. And when we eat the right foods (that don’t contain cheap chemical colorings, appetite stimulants, fillers, preservatives, etc.), we allow the body to naturally regulate how much food it needs and when to stop eating.

  • Tip #8: Join a challenge group. For many of us, it helps to have support and encouragement from others when making a major lifestyle switch. That’s why it can be very beneficial to join a challenge group that comes with built-in support when making the shift towards real food.

    I can’t recommend 21 Day Sugar Detox program enough. If you’re someone who struggles with sugar and processed carb cravings (like I did), this program might be a great option for you.

    Click on the banner below for more information on the program and how to get started!

    Balanced Bites

  • Tip #9: Don’t beat yourself up. You WILL make mistakes. It’s going to happen. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it does.

    Instead, try to understand the factors that led to you eating [insert unhealthy food here] and think about how to better prepare yourself next time. And if all it comes down to is that you, as an adult, chose to eat something that wasn’t necessarily the best thing for you, who cares! Accept it and move on.

Thanks so much for reading! Anything you’d like to add to the list? Feel free to share a tip or story from your real food experience in the comments section below!

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.

Why I Stopped Caring About Being Skinny

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During my late teens and early 20’s, I desperately longed for a slim waistline, lean arms, and a bunch of other idealistic things that I thought were important at the time.

But since I’m not naturally built like a stick, getting the slim figure I wanted was a struggle. And I was willing to try just about any diet or quick fix I could find in order to achieve a body type that I was never meant to have.

It didn’t help that during the times I was able to get down to what I thought was my ideal weight (which usually only lasted a few months or as long as I could stand to deprive myself before going on an eat-everything-in-sight binge), I would always get positive feedback from others.

Isn’t it funny how skewed the correlation is between how healthy we are and the amount of fat we have on our bodies?

By most people’s standards, it probably seemed like I was healthy and thriving when I was at my thinnest. But in reality, I was more unhealthy than I’ve ever been during those times.

I was sick with a cold or sinus infection at least every other month, had constant stomach issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation), and terrible allergies. I got very little sleep (4-7 hours most nights), and energy drinks were the only reason I was still able to get up for class in the mornings.

But instead of focusing on improving my health, I continued on in my futile attempts to control my weight the only way I knew how — restrictive and nonsensical fad diets.

I jumped on a number of different bandwagons (cabbage soup diet, the Kellogg’s cereal diet, Atkins, etc.) hoping they would help me lose that extra 3 pounds (or whatever trivial number my heart was set on losing at the time). I did obscene amounts of cardio just to stay thin and had no interest in lifting weights or getting stronger — because then I might get bulky, and that was definitely not something I wanted.

Before I continue, it’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with being skinny, doing cardio, etc. But the reasons behind why I was doing these things, the way I was doing them, and my mindset at the time made for a disaster that it would take me years to fully recover from.


Skinny Doesn’t Always Equal Healthy

Weight and body fat can certainly have an impact on health. There’s no denying that. But it isn’t always so black and white.

Like I said above, I was actually pretty unhealthy during the times when I looked my “best” (by other people’s standards). Today, I weigh a good 10-15 lbs. more than I did when I was at my thinnest. A lot of that is muscle, but not all of it. And I’m a-okay with that! These days, performance-based goals (like how much weight I can overhead squat) are a heck of a lot more important to me than appearance-based goals.

And you know what else? I actually like myself.

But let’s back up a bit. In a way, I’m glad that I was so set on getting skinny at one point. Because if it wasn’t for my desire to lose weight, I never would have found paleo.

Yes — I’ll admit it. I started doing paleo to lose weight. That was pretty much all there was to it. And although the concept of eating the sorts of foods our ancestors ate for thousands of years made a lot of sense to me, my true intentions didn’t go too far beyond shedding belly fat and getting a thigh gap.

Making the transition to paleo was hard. And I wasn’t able to do it all at once. Instead, I started by just going gluten free. Within a few weeks, I lost 5 lbs. This was encouraging. But what really had me excited was the difference in how I felt (something I didn’t even know I cared about until I experienced what it was like to not feel like crap all the time). I was no longer constantly tired. My digestion was improving. My allergies were getting better.

For the first time ever, feeling good started to matter more than looking good.

This motivated me to take my new “diet” to the next level and eliminate all grains, dairy, legumes, and processed junk. After 30 days of this, I knew there would be no going back. Ever. My energy was through the roof. My digestive system started functioning how it was supposed to. My allergies ceased (only to flare up again after moving to a farm, but that’s another story). Colds and infections became rare occurrences. My mood improved. I could really go on and on.

Real food transformed my health in big ways. But it also changed my relationship with food and how I saw myself. It empowered me to stop chasing society’s impossible ideals of perfection and start appreciating, loving, and supporting my body and health in ways I had never even conceptualized before making the switch.


Negative Self-Talk — Breaking The Cycle

Goals based on negativity and self-sabotage will never yield positive results. For awhile, my dieting philosophy was based on a series of successes, rewards, failures, and punishments which usually went something like this: If I ate the wrong thing or too much of something, I forced myself to do an extra 30 minutes on the elliptical, another mile of running, or extra of whatever else I was into at the time.

But if had been “good”, I would allow myself to have a treat of some sort. At one point, I’m embarrassed to admit that I even printed out a picture of myself (one that I thought I looked fat in) eating a piece of cake and hung it up on the back of my bedroom door to remind myself of what I didn’t want to be.

So trust me — if I can break free of self sabotage, so can you. Here’s how.

  • Don’t punish yourself. Exercise shouldn’t be used as a means of self-discipline, just as industrial garbage crap food shouldn’t be thought of as a reward. Eating too much didn’t make me a bad person or less worthy of being happy and feeling good about myself, but that’s exactly the association I used to place on it. (All. The. Time.)

    This sort of thinking leads to a downward spiral of emotional distress surrounding food choices where every slip-up is blown way out of proportion. Placing that much pressure on something that should be a positive experience is no way to get healthy. In fact, it’s extremely un-healthy.

  • Eat real food. Once I learned and experienced the power of real food, it completely changed the way I felt about health and body image. And it wasn’t long before I no longer wanted to eat garbage! It wasn’t that felt like I couldn’t or that I was scared to gain weight. But once I began listening to my body and paying attention to how certain foods made me feel, it became pretty easy to avoid fake, processed foods.

  • Don’t call yourself fat.There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight (if necessary), but calling yourself derogatory names isn’t the way to do it. I used to complain about being fat all the time, as did many of my friends. But once I made the decision to end the negativity I directed at myself on a daily basis, my self-confidence skyrocketed. I stopped resenting my body for everything it wasn’t, and began appreciating it for everything it was.

I’m not perfect. I don’t make the best food choices 100% of the time. And while there are many foods that I always avoid (soda, Twinkies, Frosted Flakes, etc.), I thoroughly enjoy eating gluten-free pizza once or twice a month or having ice cream every once in awhile.

Stressing over food choices and body image is no way to live. And while it’s important to eat well for health purposes most of the time, it’s also critical to be okay with those times when we eat foods that aren’t necessarily the best thing for us. The human body is incredibly resilient. And in most cases, it can handle the occasional treat or indulgence.

Negative thoughts and self-sabotage will always lead us down the wrong path. But once you accept, appreciate, and love your body for the brilliantly designed masterpiece that it is, it will love you back in ways you never knew were possible.

10 Simple & Cheap Ways to Boost Your Health in 2015

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You avoid fast food and processed junk. You don’t eat grains. You always chose butter over vegetable oil, and you try your best to eat animal products that were responsibly and healthfully raised. And if you don’t, you may want to check out this post, this one, and this one.

If you’re already doing these things, great!

But if you’re doing all of this and a) still aren’t seeing/feeling as many changes as you’d like or b) want to feel even more amazing, this list is for you!

This isn’t a do-or-die list. And although I’ve seen big improvements in my health from incorporating each of these habits into my lifestyle, I don’t do most of these things every day or even every week.

I DO however, try my best to be mindful of them and add them into my schedule whenever possible. And the more mindful and aware I become, the more often I remember to act on each of these health-promoting habits.

So I figured, what better time to revisit them than the new year? Since most of our bank accounts are pretty much empty after the holidays (or maybe that’s just me), I chose things that don’t cost a whole lot. So here goes — I hope these will help you as much as they’ve helped me!


10 Simple & Cheap Ways to Boost Your Health in 2015

    Image courtesy of nomnompaleo.com

    Image courtesy of nomnompaleo.com

  • #1: Drink Bone Broth. I’ve sung the praises of this magical bone-juice many times on instagram and in my newsletter. (Did you know that I have a newsletter? It’s great — you should definitely sign up for updates!).

    Since bones are cheaper than meat, bone broth is one of the most cost-effective ways to add nutrients from healthy, pasture-raised animals into your diet. These nutrients include gelatin (good for joints, hair, skin, nails and gut), minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, as well as the amino acids glycine and proline.

    I usually make one batch of bone broth every week and a half or two weeks, which makes enough for my husband and I to each have one small cup per day.

    This awesome recipe from Nom Nom Paleo will walk you through the process of making bone broth at home (it’s super easy)!

  • #2: Take Apple Cider Vinegar. Organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (I like this brand) has been shown to kill bad bacteria, improve insulin sensitivity, and aid in digestion (among other things).

    I take a teaspoon in the morning and before bedtime most days and have also had success using apple cider vinegar to treat infections. It also makes a great toner when mixed with water!

  • #3: Go Outside. Not only does being outside in natural sunlight provide us with immune-boosting vitamin D — it also makes us feel good. For more information on why we so desperately need sunlight (in the right amount), check out this post.

  • #4: Eat Sardines. These little fishies (skin, bones and all) are rich in hard-to-find nutrients like omega 3, zinc, taurine, selenium, vitamin D, and much more! Even The New York Times thinks you should eat them!



    Plus, they’re inexpensive and PACKED with protein. Vital Choice is an extremely reputable & responsible seafood company with an AMAZING selection of tasty, wild-caught Portuguese sardines to choose from (click on the banner above for 10% off your first order)! I usually go through 2-3 packages of this super-food every week!

    Traditional Medicinals Tea

    Traditional Medicinals Tea

    #5: Drink Tea. I just started getting more into teas after listening to to Dr. Terry Wahls’ Ted Talk and podcasts in which she has appeared as a guest (her story is amazing — definitely check it out). Dr. Wahls is a big proponent of getting as many species (plant and animal based) into your diet as possible.

    This really resonated with me. There are so many different organisms out there, each with their own unique nutritional profiles. Why not try to take in as many of those nutrients as we can?

    And one of the ways to do that is by drinking teas. I really like Traditional Medicinals Tea. They have a ton of top-notch organic teas that can be found online and in most health food stores. Since I recently started cutting back on coffee, I’ve been drinking a water/full-fat coconut milk mixture with honey and Traditional Medicinals tea in the morning — heaven!

  • #6: Move Your Body. This one is obvious, but it can also be a challenge, especially for folks with office jobs (been there).

    While organized, planned, intentional exercise is great, it isn’t always a possibility for everyone. The most important thing here is to be aware of your body’s innate desire to move, and find creative ways to let it do so throughout the day. That could mean taking a walk on your lunch break, lifting weights, doing yoga, or using a makeshift stand-up desk for part of the day while taking regular breaks to stretch. Do something.

  • #7: Swish Oil Around in Your Mouth. This is something I’m planning on getting back into the habit of doing over the next few weeks. Oil pulling is the ancient practice of swishing oil around in the mouth (I use coconut oil) for 15-20 minutes before spitting it out.

    Because oil dissolves oil, oil pulling is said to remove bacteria, plaque, and toxins from the mouth. Many also believe that oil pulling has a cleansing effect on the rest of the body as well (this post from Wellness Mama explains the process and benefits in detail).

    While I can’t speak to the science of oil pulling, I can attest to the fact that my mouth has NEVER felt more clean than it did when I used to oil pull every morning before brushing my teeth. Never — not even after a cleaning from the dentist!

  • #8: Take Epsom Salt Baths. Stress management is an extremely important part of achieving optimal health that gets put on the backburner far too often.

    One of the ways I like to manage stress is by taking 30 minute baths with epsom salt and essential oils. But for the sake of frugality, I’m just going to focus on the epsom salt this time.

    In addition to being a big time stress reliever when used in a bath, epsom salt is also rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to promote restful sleep, eases muscle cramps, enhances circulation, and MUCH more. And since up to 80% of Americans are deficient in this important mineral, chances are you could be one of them. Epsom salt baths are an easy and inexpensive way to get magnesium and de-stress. It’s a win-win!

    Liver smoothie shots with mint leaves.

    Liver smoothie shots with mint leaves

  • #9: Eat Liver. Liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet. It’s rich in all kinds of things that we WANT in our bodies. Things like vitamins A, D, E, and C, B-vitamins, amino acids, and too many minerals to list.

    There’s only one problem with liver…it doesn’t taste all that great. At least I don’t think it does. If you like it, I’m seriously jealous of you.

    Since my main goal when eating liver is to get it down fast and taste as little of it as possible, I ALWAYS take it in the form of a raw liver smoothie shot (recipe by Real Food Liz — I highly recommend it), which I try to take a few times a week. Since taking liver shots, I’ve noticed an improvement in my energy levels and skin health. And when I go too long without it, it becomes very apparent that I’m missing out on its long list of nutrients.

  • #10: SLEEP. Remember what I said at the beginning, about this not being a do-or-die list? That doesn’t apply to this one. Aside from oxygen, sleep is the most important thing needed for survival. Not food. Not water. SLEEP.

    The bad news? Most of us don’t get anywhere near enough of it, which can (and often does) cause problems like weight gain, heart issues, depression, and more. The good news? Sleep is 100% FREE! And there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep (to find out what they are, take a look at my post: 6 Ways to Get Better Sleep (Naturally)).

    Learning to be more intentional about getting enough sleep has probably had a more positive impact on my health than any other lifestyle change I’ve made (including diet and exercise). I encourage you to make sleep a priority in 2015 — your body, mind, and emotions will be happy you did.

Now I want to hear from you! Are you already doing some of the things on this list? What else would you add?

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.

4 Unexpected Uses for Activated Charcoal (#2 is My Favorite)

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I haven’t ever written an entire post singing the praises of one “thing” (aside from product reviews).

But since activated charcoal has so many wonderful uses that aren’t talked about too often, I really wanted to share them with you!

My first experience with activated charcoal (which I’ll refer to throughout this post as AC) happened about a year ago when I came down with a nasty bout of food poisoning. Instead of seeing a doctor or taking medicine, I decided to consult Dr. Google on what to do. I probably typed in “natural remedies for food poisoning” or something like that.

One of the first things that popped up was activated charcoal (charcoal becomes “activated” when oxygen is added to it, increasing the charcoal’s porosity and surface area).

I had heard of people with alcohol poisoning having to take large amounts of charcoal in hospitals to get it out of their system, so it kind of made sense that it would help to remove the food poisoning toxins from my body. So my husband drove me to Sprouts to buy a jar of activated charcoal, and I took 2 capsules right away.

I don’t remember exactly how quickly I started feeling better, but it was faster than I ever would have imagined it to be. A few hours later, I took 2 more capsules. By the time I fell asleep and woke up the next morning, I was pretty darn close to feeling 100% back to normal!

Clearly, I was on to something with this charcoal stuff.

Because it’s extremely porous in nature, activated charcoal is able to attract and hold onto material and debris within its pores. It isn’t absorbed by the body — but it does bind to and eliminate toxins within the body. Pretty cool, right?

It’s important to note that activated charcoal can also bind to good things that we WANT in our bodies (vitamins, minerals, etc.) and shouldn’t be taken on a regular basis or with supplements/vitamins/prescription medications.

AC is fairly inexpensive and can be a lifesaver in many situations (which I’ll discuss below). And since a little bit goes a very long way, activated charcoal lasts a LONG time. I’ve been using the same jar I bought a year ago and still have quite a bit left (but I’m actually pretty excited to run out so I can upgrade to this ultra-pure stuff).

Here are some of the more unconventional ways I’ve found activated charcoal to be extremely useful.

  • #1: Ultra Cleansing Face Mask. Since my teenage years, my skin has never been all that great. And although I’ve definitely experienced less breakouts since going paleo and making other lifestyle changes, my skin is still far from flawless.

    But activated charcoal is helping to change that.

    Just as AC binds to toxins inside of the body, it does the same on the outside — which is why I LOVE using it as a super deep cleaning face mask. Since I began using activated charcoal as a facial mask (about 2 months ago) I’ve already noticed a major shift in the cleanliness of my skin. My pores appear to be smaller and less filled with gunk.

    To make it, I just mix one opened capsule of activated charcoal powder (or 1/2 teaspoon) with about 8 drops of water (so that it has the consistency of a paste — not too cakey and not too runny). Then mix and apply — easy! I leave the mask on for about 30 minutes before thoroughly rinsing it off with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

    *WARNING: Activated Charcoal is extremely messy, but it does come off of most surfaces if washed right away. Be careful not to touch your face or let your face touch anything when wearing the mask. In fact, you might want to wear an old t-shirt when handling activated charcoal powder. I also recommend applying the AC mask right before a shower so that it will be easier to wash off.

    And if you have big pores (like me), the Activated Charcoal may temporarily “stain” your pores for up to 48 hours, giving them a darker, more obvious appearance than normal. This isn’t very noticeable and will always go away, but it’s something to consider (especially if you decide to apply the mask before an important event).

  • #2: Zit Spot Treatment. I wrote the rough draft for this post 3 weeks before actually publishing it. And in that 3 weeks, I discovered this use for activated charcoal (one of the few times I’ve been thankful for my tendency to procrastinate).

    After doing some good-for-the-soul indulging over the holidays, I’ve noticed at least one pimple popping up every couple of days since then. It’s been slightly disheartening, but I have no regrets — it’s good to indulge every once in awhile!

    The first time I noticed a new pimple brewing, I decided to slather it with activated charcoal. And I really chunked it on. In the paragraphs above, I mentioned how I usually use one capsule of AC (mixed with water) as a mask for my entire face. But this time, I used one capsule (also mixed with a few drops of water) just for my pimple and the surrounding area. I left it on for about 30 minutes before washing it off, and was shocked by what happened next.

    This next part is kind of graphic and gross, but it’s the truth. And I don’t know how else to describe it.

    The puss from inside of my zit was sitting on top of my skin, and the pimple itself had all but disappeared. The charcoal literally pulled the toxins and puss right out of my skin within only 30 minutes — a process that would have normally taken 2-5 days to happen by itself!

    I was shocked, amazed, and excited. Ever since that day, I’ve used AC as a spot treatment on 4 zits that I’ve had since then (told you I indulged) and the same thing has happened. Every. Time.

    Now do you see why #2 is my favorite? :)

  • #3: Natural Teeth Whitener. I used to be a total Crest Whitestrips junkie. I probably wore them twice a year for about 6 years. And boy, those things WORKED. They made my teeth so white they were almost blinding. But as part of my relatively new decision to cut toxic chemicals out of my life, I have (somewhat reluctantly) stopped using Whitestrips.

    For about a year, I struggled to find a healthy way to make my teeth sparkly and white without the use of products that contain toxic chemical ingredients. And then I found this post from Wellness Mama in which she writes about using activated charcoal as a teeth whitener.

    Natural Teeth Whitening with Activated Charcoal

    Natural Teeth Whitening with Activated Charcoal

    The jist of the post is this: Because of its ability to bind to toxins and other materials, activated charcoal can help to remove discolorations and stains on the teeth, leaving teeth cleaner and more white than they were before.

    For the last few months, I’ve been brushing my teeth with a mixture of about 2 tablespoons baking soda, 2 tablespoons redmond clay, and a few capsules of activated charcoal powder. I only do this at night, and then brush with my usual toothpaste in the morning. I’ve been super happy with the results and SO wish I had taken before/after pictures!

    It’s no Crest Whitestrips, but it’s the best way to naturally whiten teeth that I’ve found so far!

    *Important Note: I only recommend using this mixture once a day and for about 1 week on, 1 week off.

  • #4: Bug Bite Be-Gone. This was probably the most astonishing experience I’ve had with activated charcoal to date. A few months ago, I got a pretty gnarly bug bite on my forearm.

    I have no idea what it was from, but it was huge and red. And it wasn’t going away. After a few days of not being able to move my wrist more than a 1/2 inch in any direction due to the extreme swelling, I decided to experiment with my trusty activated charcoal. I made a paste of AC mixed with a few drops of water and applied it to the bite. I covered it with a very large bandage to keep it from getting all over my bedding and left the paste to sit on my arm overnight.

    When I woke up, the swelling had gone down significantly and I could move my wrist around like a normal person once again! I applied the paste again the following night and didn’t need to do anything beyond that as my bug bite had already healed faster than I’ve ever had a bug bite heal (and I’ve had many — I’m one of those people who bugs love).

CLICK HERE TO BUY ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

Do you think all of this sounds crazy? Or are you dying to add activated charcoal to your personal care routine? Have you tried using activated charcoal in other ways not mentioned above? Let me know by commenting below!

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.

Why Coca-Cola’s Fairlife Milk Isn’t so Fair

Image taken from Fairlife.com

Image courtesy of Fairlife.com


When my husband mentioned that Coca-Cola had broken into the milk business (during a long drive up to Nor-Cal to visit family for Thanksgiving), I was intrigued. Coke is making milk? It seemed pretty strange.

I immediately started researching, spending the remainder of our drive scouring the web for information about Coke’s new milk product called Fairlife (launching early 2015).

What I found was a mess of misleading and deceptive marketing — all wrapped up in a pretty package that’s advertised as “purely nutritious” milk. But it’s not — not even close.

Not because it’s made by Coca-Cola. And not even because of their controversial pin-up advertisements. I’ll get to all of Fairlife’s flaws (and there are many) in a minute. But first, let’s talk about what Fairlife is.


What is Fairlife?

Fairlife is a lactose-free “super milk” that contains 50% more protein, 30% more calcium, and 50% less sugar than regular milk.

Even though this hot new product (a joint venture between Coca-Cola and Select Milk Producers), won’t be available in most stores until early 2015, it’s already making headlines nationwide. According to this article from Business Week,

Unlike soda, the U.S. milk industry remains highly fragmented with few recognizable brand names. In fact, store-brand milk accounts for almost one-third of milk sales, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. With Fairlife, Coca-Cola is looking to use its marketing prowess to change that — creating the “Coke” of milks.

Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, expects Fairlife to “rain money” once it’s established in the marketplace. “We’ll charge twice as much for it as the milk we’re used to buying in a jug,” Douglas said.

Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures (the largest raw-milk dairy in the United States) isn’t quite buying it. “It’s a dead-end venture,” he said. “Our core consumer wants unprocessed, whole, delicious, easy-to-digest full-fat raw milk from a farmer they know and trust.”

I tend to agree with him.

Not just because I’m a fan of Organic Pastures, but mainly because I get kind of annoyed whenever a big, powerful company tries to trick people into thinking that something they have created is better than what nature has already perfected (whole, raw, organic milk from happy cows that live outside and eat grass).


5 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Drinking Fairlife

Let’s get one thing straight. Companies are certainly free to sell whatever they want. And I am by no means on a mission to turn people away from a product just because I don’t like it.

But once I really started looking into Fairlife and the claims attached to their products (via their website and from speaking with a Fairlife representative on the phone), I felt that some light needed to be shed on their extremely misleading marketing messages.

Because it doesn’t strike me as fair to manipulate consumers with good intentions into buying something that they think is healthy (when its really anything but) — especially at twice the price of regular milk!

Here’s why Coca-Cola’s Fairlife Milk is anything but fair:

  • #1: It’s not innovative — it’s Frankenmilk. Fairlife prides itself on being at the cutting edge of milk-making with their “innovative” filtration process. From their website:

    Our milk flows through soft filters so that we can concentrate the good stuff – like protein and calcium – and filter out the fat and sugars. That allows us to bottle only delicious, nutrient-rich milk – with no added protein powders or synthetic junk.

    This video further explains how their filtration process works:


    All of this will probably sound really good to a lot of people, which is part of the reason why it irks me so much. Everything in nature is put together for a reason. And the naturally occurring nutritional components in the foods we eat work synergistically to provide us with whole foods that are healthful, nourishing, and safe to eat.

    When we start deconstructing these foods, picking and choosing what to leave in and what to take out, we open the door for problems to occur. Numerous studies have proven parts of certain foods to be harmful when consumed in isolation (without the same vitamins, minerals, fats, etc. found in their natural food form).

    For example, T. Colin Campbell proved in The China Study that the milk protein casein caused cancer in rats. But the milk protein whey (conveniently left out of The China Study) appears to be effective in protecting against cancer.

    I’m certainly NOT claiming that drinking Fairlife will cause any kind of sickness or disease. But when it comes to deciding what components should and shouldn’t be in milk, I think we’re better off trusting nature over Coca-Cola.

  • #2: Factory farming is not sexy. It takes a lot of guts to try and manipulate folks into thinking that factory farming is cool and progressive (as opposed to cruel, inhumane, bad for the environment, unhealthy, etc.) but that’s just what Fairlife does in this video…




    Showing the words “we believe in better farming” next to a picture of an adorable calf trapped inside of a cage is a total joke — one that I don’t think many people will fall for.

  • #3: Fairlife’s FAQsyikes. Some of these literally made me LOL. This one was my favorite:

    fairlife
    If cows could talk, I seriously doubt they would tell you that they prefer the “luxury” of an artificially lighted indoor feed lot to to being outside on fresh pasture — but that’s just me.

    UPDATE (2/9/15): Fairlife has since removed this FAQ from their website, but has NOT changed their farming practices.

  • #4: Highly pasteurized does not equal healthy. Milk is at its best in a natural, raw, unpasteurized state.

    Pasteurization exists to destroy dangerous germs found in the milk of cows that are raised irresponsibly in feed lots. Although pasteurization does destroy the bad stuff, it messes with milk’s nutrient profile and wipes out much of the beneficial bacteria found in milk. For this reason, many people who can’t digest pasteurized milk are able to tolerate raw milk with no problems.

    Fairlife takes this unnatural process one step further and pasteurizes their milk at an even higher temperature than ordinary milk. This process (advertised as another one of those progressive, cutting-edge innovations) is said to give Fairlife a longer shelf life than average milk.

  • #5: “From Grass to Glass” — really? This probably won’t come as a surprise, but Fairlife’s cows do not eat grass or spend ANY time on pasture throughout their entire lives (a Fairlife rep confirmed this for me over the phone).

    Image courtesy of Fairlife.com

    Image courtesy of Fairlife.com


    So why do they use this phrase to describe the their milk? Good question.

    Fairlife’s “from grass to glass” promise really has nothing to do with grass. Instead, it’s a phrase used to describe their process of growing their own crops for their cows. According to the Fairlife rep I spoke with, the company grows a mixture of GMO corn, soy, alfalfa, and grains that is used to feed their cows.

    From grass to glass? Not quite. But it has a nice ring to it and will surely catch people’s attention.


    The Bottom Line

    The people behind Fairlife are smart. They know what people want. And these days, more and more people want to eat real food that was raised responsibly, ethically, and healthfully. This is a good thing.

    But what bothers me the most about Fairlife isn’t that their milk comes from cows that are housed indoors, fed grains and GMOs, and given antibiotics. And I don’t really give a hoot that their Frankenmilk is ultra-pasteurized.

    What really irritates me is how Fairlife is taking advantage of the “real food” movement by selling people on the idea of transparency, simple ingredients, better farming practices, etc.

    But that’s all it is — an idea.

    Failife isn’t selling milk. They’re selling consumers all kinds of happy, feel-good terms without actually delivering any of them. Seems pretty unfair if you ask me!

    What’s your opinion of Fairlife? Did you find their methods of marketing as disturbing as I did? Let me know with a comment!

The Problem With GMOs

People tend to get pretty worked up over GMOs. Some say they’ve revolutionized the food industry in remarkable ways, while others are up in arms over their existence and how prevalent they are in our modern food system.

This extremely polarized issue is surrounded by a ton of confusion, misinformation, and greed.

And a big part of this confusion begins with the question, “What is a GMO?” as well as the more basic question, “What does GMO stand for?”

Sadly, most people (even/especially those who are opposed to consuming GMOs) have no idea how to answer either one of those questions. And this short video from The Jimmy Kimmel Show proves it. If you have a sense of humor, this is a must-watch.

Hilarious as it is, this video is a good reminder to all of us that when taking a stance on anything, it’s always good to know why we are upholding that decision/belief. And that starts with getting informed (while this post certainly isn’t the final word on GMOs, it’s a start. The references listed at the bottom will provide you with even more information on the subject).

In order to be an informed consumer on the issue of GMOs, it’s important to first know what a GMO is. To put it simply, a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is a plant or animal that has been genetically altered with DNA from another other plant/animal, bacteria, or virus. According to Chris Kresser,

Genetic modification involves the transfer of genes from one species of plant or animal to another, using techniques that can cause mutations in the genome that may have unintended consequences for the crop’s safety. The imprecise rearrangement of genes can create new proteins in these plants that may trigger allergies or promote disease. Our immune systems often do not recognize these new proteins and may mount an immune attack against them if they enter our bloodstream intact. These unintended gene transfers, along with those that are intended, can lead to significant changes in gut and immune function, and may have long-term consequences that are not yet known to the scientific and medical communities.

GMOs are already in roughly 80% of processed foods in the United States. And as of Dec. 2011 , GMOs were also in

  • 94% of soy crops
  • 88% of corn crops
  • 90% of cotton crops
  • 90% of canola crops

These percentages have undoubtedly increased since 2011.

Most GMO crops are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide (like Monsanto’s Roundup), which has increased the amount of herbicides being used on crops by millions of pounds and has also contributed to the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds.

Other GMO crops (corn and cotton) are tampered with using the gene of a bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a pesticidal toxin in every single cell of the plant. The Bt toxin breaks down the gut of the insect, causing a blood infection that eventually kills it. Several recent studies have also linked the Bt toxin to decreased immune function in mice, the premature death of human cells in vitro, and liver and kidney damage in mice.

What all of this means for humans who consume GMO crops isn’t exactly clear, which brings us to my next point…


Why GMOs Scare the *bleep* Out of Me

GMO advocates argue that there’s no evidence of GMOs being harmful to humans. But that’s just the thing — there’s NO conclusive evidence either way because there here have been no long-term studies on the side effects of GMOs on humans.

There IS however, plenty of evidence to suggest that putting GMOs into our bodies probably isn’t such a good idea (like the Bt toxin studies cited above). Here’s a few more examples:

  • 50% more people became allergic to soy in the UK soon after genetically modified soy was introduced.
  • Mice that were fed experimental GM peas began also reacting to a variety of other foods. The scariest part? The peas had already passed all of the allergy tests normally done before a GMO makes it on the market. Only an advanced test (which is never used on the GMOs we eat) revealed that the peas could be unsafe.
  • Rats fed GM potatoes had partially atrophied livers that were also smaller in size than those of their GMO-free counterparts.
  • Mice had less babies that were smaller in size the longer they were fed genetically modified corn.
  • Shepherds in India reported a 25% death increase in their sheep after they had grazed on genetically modified Bt Cotton crops after harvest. The sheep experienced symptoms that included reddish and erosive lesions on the mouth, blackish diarrhea, and death within 5-7 days.

And if you’re more of a visual learner, this infographic from seedsnow.com a great job of illustrating the issue.

GMO-Fact-sheet

Scary as it may be, this information still doesn’t tell us enough about GMOs to prove that they’re unsafe for humans to consume. And finding studies that do might be nearly impossible, as scientists cannot publish independent research on genetically modified crops without first receiving permission from corporations that sell GMO seeds.

This gives the agritech companies that make GMO seeds complete control over the research, which could explain why there have been no conclusive studies proving that GMOs can have negative side effects on humans (see what I meant when I said greed was involved)?

The bottom line?

GMOs are NOT natural. And whenever we humans try to outsmart nature, we fail.

Our health has suffered ever since we as a society decided that manufactured, processed food-like products were healthier than real, whole foods. It took us awhile to realize it (and most still haven’t) but many of us are finally starting to turn a corner and revert back to eating the sorts of foods that kept our ancestors healthy and disease-free.

So instead of making the same mistake with GMOs (and waiting decades for their health hazards to surface and become common knowledge), I suggest avoiding them as much as possible.


What You Can Do

There are currently no labels to make consumers aware of products that contain GMOs, at least not in the United States (64 countries around the world have already made it mandatory for GMO foods to be labeled).

But the good news is, we still have some choice in the matter.

Those who follow a paleo/primal lifestyle (free of processed foods as well as corn and soy — two of the most common GMO crops in existence) will naturally consume less GMOs than those who eat a S.A.D.(Standard American Diet). Eating Organic produce also ensures that your fruits/veggies are free of GMOs.

Meat can be tricky. It’s an industry with a lot of loopholes and not much regulation. And as I’ve said in the past, the ONLY way to know your meat is to know your farmer — like, on a first-name basis. Always ask tough questions and visit the source if possible.

Or you can be like the guy from the video and only worry about it after you get sick. KIDDING! Please don’t do that. 😉

Those are my recommendations. Now I want to know what you think! Do you avoid GMOs? Why or why not?

More resources on GMOs:

Health Risks Associated with GMOs by the Institute for Responsible Technology

Yes on Prop 37 – Label Genetically Modified Food by Lisa Bronner

Are GMOs Safe? by Chris Kresser

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Eggs

pasteurized eggs

A few weeks ago, Farmer Paul created a facebook post that generated quite a bit of attention, both good and bad.

In the post, Paul shared his annoyance with a carton of eggs he had seen at Albertsons. On the carton, the words “pasteurized eggs” were placed directly over a large, colorful image of fresh grass and sunshine.

Don’t see what the big deal is?

Think about it this way. Do you think the hens who laid those eggs are out roaming free on pasture, pecking for bugs and fresh vegetation?

Not even close.

But do you think that many people will see those eggs, immediately fixate on the picture, and buy them thinking that they’re getting “pasture-raised” eggs?

Yes — for sure.

I can’t tell you how many people come to us wanting “pasteurized” eggs/meat, thinking that pasteurized means pasture-raised. And not knowing the difference isn’t a matter of mental constitution, as one facebook user commented. With all of the label games companies are playing these days, it can be extremely difficult to know what’s what (especially for those who are relatively new to the whole real food thing).

Not only are labels severely misguided, but so are many basic facts about eggs in general. And since I don’t really like being lied to and wasting money on fancy labels and “facts” that make about as much sense as Britney Spears’ decision to shave her head, I feel compelled to speak up about the many marketing schemes, misinformation, and lies associated with eggs.

Of course, it isn’t my job to tell you what kind of eggs to buy. But given the vast amount of public confusion on the topic, I do want to help you discover the truth so that you can decide for yourself what is (and what isn’t) worth spending extra money on.

So without further ado, here are 10 surprising things you didn’t know about eggs.

1) Brown eggs aren’t any healthier than white ones.

White eggs can be extremely nutritious just as brown eggs can be extremely non-nutritious (depending on the hen’s feed and living conditions). The ONLY determining factor in the color of the egg is the breed of the chicken.

*Interesting fact — you can tell what color a hen’s eggs will be by the color of her earlobes. For instance, a hen with white earlobes will lay white eggs, while a hen with red earlobes will lay brown eggs, etc.

2) Free-range/Cage-free doesn’t mean much.

These meaningless, feel-good terms really get my blood boiling.

Why?

Because they’re a total joke.

To see what I mean, check out this picture of an unspecified “free-range” chicken farm that we recently posted to the Primal Pastures Instagram account.

freerangechickens

Even though these chickens are living inside of a grow house packed full of 30,000 birds, they can still be classified as “free-range” if they’re given ACCESS to the outdoors. Access time is not specified and it doesn’t matter whether or not the birds ever actually go outside on fresh pasture (providing the grow house isn’t surrounded by dirt, which they typically are).

The definition of “cage-free” is even more laughable. According to the USDA,

This label indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.

Hmmm…sounds pretty much identical to the way conventional chickens are always raised — in an enclosed building with access to food and water. Definitely not an “upgrade” that’s worth an extra buck or three at the supermarket.

3)…Neither does Organic.

The Organic label certifies that the hens were fed an organic feed, free of unnatural fertilizers or pesticides — but that’s about all it’s good for.

Organic chickens can (and almost always are) crammed together in grow houses and never allowed the opportunity to go outside to act like chickens and peck for bugs and grass.

4) All eggs are hormone-free.

This would be a convincing selling point for eggs, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s illegal for poultry to be given hormones in the U.S.

In fact, egg labels that brag about their “hormone-free” status are required to follow that claim with a statement that says, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones”.

5) Vegetarian-fed isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Chickens are NOT vegetarians. They’re omnivores — just like us!

And when left to their own devices in the wild, chickens get plenty of creature protein in their diets (usually from bugs and sometimes from the remains of deceased animals).

While the “vegetarian-fed” label does ensure that the hens weren’t fed animal by-products, it also guarantees that they weren’t raised outside on grass. Because if they were, there’s no way they wouldn’t be chowing down on insects on a regular basis.

6) Dirty eggs? No problem.

At Primal Pastures, we frequently sell eggs lightly spotted with dirt and/or grass. It may seem gross to some, but there’s a reason for it.

All eggs come out with a natural protective coating called a “bloom”. The bloom seals the pores of the eggshell and protects the egg from harmful bacteria and moisture loss.

Most major commercial egg operations wash their eggs, stripping them of this natural protective barrier. Not only are these eggs washed, but often bleached (pretty troubling considering how porous egg shells are without the bloom) so that the consumer can take home a very pretty (but extremely unnatural) egg that’s more susceptible to salmonella and other pathogens.

Some conventional eggs are re-coated with mineral oil or wax in an effort to replicate the bloom. But let’s be honest — when have man-made interventions ever worked as well as the real deal?

7) Pastured eggs don’t need to be refrigerated.

Because of their bloom, unwashed pastured eggs can be safely kept out of the refrigerator for up to 3 months!

But the law does require all retailed eggs to be refrigerated (even pastured, unwashed ones) and I wouldn’t advise putting most eggs anywhere other than the fridge — unless you raised them yourself or know and trust your farmer.

8) Pastured eggs are healthier.

Eggs that come from pasture-raised hens contain 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta-carotene, and 4-6 times more Vitamin D than standard store-bought eggs (even if they’re Organic and/or free-range).

9) Watch for these 4 things.

  • Yolk color. While the color of the yolk does matter (vibrant orange yolks are generally considered to be more nutritious while pale yellow ones are thought to be the product of unhealthy hens), it isn’t everything. Egg yolk color can be easily manipulated with certain foods and additives, something that many commercial egg operations know and have been taking advantage of for years.

    In contrast, healthy pastured egg yolk colors can vary greatly depending on the season and other environmental and lifestyle factors. If you’re interested in learning more about the determining factors involved in yolk color, this article from Modern Farmer offers some incredibly interesting commentary on the subject.

  • Shell strength. Healthy, pastured hens should produce eggshells that are more firm and tougher to crack than conventional eggs.

    Since pasture-raised hens consume a diet naturally rich in important eggshell-boosting minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, and manganese), it makes sense that taking in these nutrients would result in tougher, more durable eggshells.

  • Yolk firmness. The yolks of pastured hens are generally more stable, tougher to break, and “stand up” better than their conventional counterparts.

  • Taste. Pastured eggs taste BETTER — plain and simple.

By themselves, the factors listed above don’t mean a whole lot. A broken egg yolk doesn’t always mean that your egg isn’t healthy, and a vibrant orange yolk doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

Almost all of these elements can be manipulated by producers, but usually not all at once. If you’re getting eggs from a trusted source that meets all of the requirements listed above most of the time, you’re probably in good hands.

10) Pasteurized eggs aren’t healthy.

In case I haven’t already picked on the egg company from the beginning of this post enough, I’ll go ahead and top it off — not for the sole purpose of bashing them (I doubt this post will put any kind of dent in their sales), but simply to educate and inform.

The company defines their pasteurization process as a “gentle warm water bath” that heats the egg “to the exact temperature needed to destroy all bacteria” within the egg.

The idea of killing all of the bacteria in eggs for safety reasons sounds nice, but completely neglects the innate defense mechanisms that eggs are naturally equipped with (like the bloom).

The pasteurization process also wipes out all the good bacteria within the egg (some bacteria is necessary for proper digestion) and could also have a negative impact on the egg’s vitamin and mineral content.

There’s one thing that pasteurization and the other misconceptions listed above all have in common. They’re products of a culture that continues to (unsuccessfully) try to out-do what nature has already perfected.

So instead of working against nature (and failing) doesn’t it make more sense to work with it in order to achieve optimal results — from a nutritional, humane, and environmental standpoint?

We think so. That’s why our hens spend their days running around outside, on fresh grass, foraging for bugs and worms (and they lay nutritious and delicious eggs that prove it)!

But you don’t have to get eggs from us in order to reap these benefits! EatWild.com is an excellent resource for finding local, sustainable egg and meat farms (but be sure to also do your own research on whatever farm you buy from). You may also want to consider raising your own backyard hens — a practice that’s becoming increasingly popular these days.

Whatever you decide to do, please don’t buy free-range eggs from the store. Seriously. There’s better things to waste your money on! 😉

Was any of this information news to you? Disagree with any of the points listed above? Let me know with a comment!

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6 Ways to Get Better Sleep (Naturally)

Beautiful young lady sleeping with husband on bed

You’re probably sleep-deficient.

It’s nothing personal. But as 63% of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep (7-9 hours for most people), there’s a good chance you’re one of them.

Maybe you’re really busy and find yourself constantly cutting into your sleep time in an effort to catch up on life. Maybe you’re desperately trying to get better sleep, but are having trouble falling asleep at a decent hour.

Or maybe you honestly don’t think sleep is all that important.

If you’re struggling with either the first or second issue (or both), the list of tips below should help you get back on track. But if you fall into the third category of doubting or denying the importance of sleep altogether, please watch this TED Talk by Dr. Kirk Parsley. Actually, you should probably watch it no matter what your current stance on sleep is. Seriously. Just do it.

And if you reeeally don’t have time to watch it, know that lack of sleep….

  • Increases risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression
  • Raises likelihood of getting in an automobile or workplace accident
  • Can cause weight gain
  • Contributes to learning and memory problems
  • Increases overall likelihood of mortality

Clearly, sleep matters — more than just about anything else. With all of that in mind, here are 6 ways to naturally get better sleep.

  • SLEEP TIP #1: Limit blue light exposure at night. This is a tough one to avoid — and I’m just as guilty as the next person of parking up in front of the computer, watching late-night TV, or staring at my phone long after the sun has set (sometimes all at once —eeek)!

    Using these types of blue-light devices after dark can throw the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle for a loop, as it is primarily controlled by light entering the eye. According to Chris Kresser,

    Research has demonstrated that nighttime light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin, the major hormone secreted by the pineal gland that controls sleep and wake cycles. Therefore, a reduction in melatonin at night is associated with subjective levels of sleeplessness. But melatonin suppression has far worse consequences than simply poor sleep outcomes: it has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer, impair immune system function, and possibly lead to cardiometabolic consequences such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease. With serious consequences like these, preventing melatonin suppression should be a top priority in anyone’s healthy lifestyle.

    Way back in the day, it was pretty difficult for folks to throw off their circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle). Once the sun set, there wasn’t really much to do other than hang out and wind down around the campfire with family and friends — and then go to sleep.

    Today is a different story. And there are plenty of modern distractions to keep us wired and awake for unnatural amounts of time. So how do we get around this? We can try our best to dim, limit, or completely avoid using electronic devices after dark. And if that isn’t an option, pick up a pair of these bad boys.

    Since blue light is primarily responsible for disrupting circadian rhythm, these amber-lensed glasses significantly cut down on blue light exposure for the user. They also limit most blue light wavelengths from household lighting (which can also be problematic).

  • SLEEP TIP #2: Get more sunlight. A recent study of 49 day-shift office workers (27 in windowless workplaces and 22 in workplaces with windows) compared sleep/activity levels within the two groups.

    The results showed that the workers with windows received 173% more natural white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night (they also tended to be more physically active and happy).

    These results aren’t surprising.

    Just as too much artificial light can be problematic, inadequate levels of natural sunlight can be equally destructive. And considering how much we’re cooped up indoors these days, it’s no wonder we as a nation are so sleep-deprived! Without enough sun exposure to naturally regulate our bodies’ circadian rhythms, falling asleep (and staying asleep) can be challenging.

    I’ve noticed this to be true in my own experience as well. On chicken processing days or other occasions when I find myself working long hours outside, I sleep like a baby. Every time.

    Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to quit your day job and become a farmer. Even small lifestyle adjustments can result in big improvements. Things like taking a short walk outside during your lunch break, taking up an outdoor hobby like gardening, or simply choosing to eat your lunch outside every day are all examples of how to capitalize on getting enough sleep-promoting sunlight. Just 30 minutes of exposure to natural sunlight per day is enough to make a huge difference for most people!

  • SLEEP TIP #3: Save stimulating tasks for the morning. Once I get started on a task that I find to be engaging or interesting, it’s difficult to abruptly get my brain to stop. So in order to prevent it from ever getting to that point, I try to refrain from engaging in mentally stimulating tasks after sundown.

    For the sake of sleep quality, it’s usually better to work hard during the day and save more relaxing activities for the night time. Spending time with family, doing easy household chores, or taking an Epsom salt bath with candles (my favorite) are all good ways to wind down before bed time.

  • SLEEP TIP #4: Exercise (but not too close to bedtime). We as humans were designed to MOVE (and that doesn’t mean moving from your bed to the car, the car to the office, the office back to the car, followed by the couch, and then back to the bed).

    Without engaging in some level of movement throughout the day (the more the better, but don’t go overboard), your sleep will suffer.

    This doesn’t need to mean running 10 miles or doing 100 pull-ups. It simply means that you shouldn’t sit down all day long — or even most of the day. And if you’re able to fit a workout, run, yoga session, or walk into your routine, that’s even better!

    But exercising too close to bedtime can be problematic. Cooler body temperatures are associated with sleep onset and it can take the body up to 6 hours to come back down to a normal body temperature after exercise.

  • SLEEP TIP #5: Eat/drink the right foods. Food and drink choice can also have a huge impact on quality of sleep. Caffeine, in particular, can make a big difference for some people…and I’m definitely one of them!

    I didn’t start drinking coffee until about 2 years ago. But once I started, I couldn’t imagine facing the day without my cup of buttery smooth coffee (even though it was wreaking havoc on my sleep). I finally decided that the joy and happiness that came from coffee wasn’t worth sacrificing my sleep over — so I gave it up. Now, that’s not to say that I’m never, ever going to drink coffee again — it’s just not going to be an every day thing for me anymore (sad face).

    Other caffeinated beverages can have similar effects on people. So can caffeinated foods like chocolate (sad-er face). This article by Laura Schoenfeld speaks to other important nutrition/sleep components such as eating more protein early in the day and more carbs later on, having a cup of bone broth before bed, and not eating too much too late.

    *Bonus Sleep TipMagnesium (an important mineral that promotes restful sleep) supplementation can also be helpful in improving sleep quality. I spray this stuff on my feet and forearms most nights in order to absorb adequate levels of this important nutrient that most Americans are deficient in!

  • SLEEP TIP #6: Prioritize Sleep. None of these tips matter if you’re not willing to make sleep a priority. And even if you are insanely busy, I’m willing to bet that there’s something you can cut out of that crazy schedule of yours and replace it with more sleep.

    Because whatever you’re cutting into your sleep time for won’t be nearly as enjoyable if you’re sleep-deprived (even if you think you feel fine).

Many of the tips listed above have been huge factors in getting my sleep cycle back on track, but it’s something I still struggle with from time to time. I’m sure there are loads of other helpful sleep tips that aren’t on this list, so be sure to tell me about what’s worked for you with a comment!

Other Helpful Resources

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Grass-Fed Beef (And What to Do Instead)

feedlotcows

I know what you’re thinking.

“You guys SELL grass-fed beef, and now you’re telling us not to buy it!? What’s going on here?”

Hear me out — I’ll make my point soon. But first, let me clear up some of the confusion that this post’s title has probably already caused.

Cows are indeed supposed to eat grass — not the genetically modified corn/soy/grain mixture they’re given in feed lots. Grass-fed beef contains 2-5 times more omega-3s and 2-3 times more Conjugated Linoleic Acid (a polyunsaturated fat that’s high in antioxidants and protects against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer).

In addition, the extraordinarily higher antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content of grass-fed beef compared to grain-fed beef isn’t anything to scoff at. According to Chris Kresser,

Grass-fed beef also contains significantly more of the antioxidants vitamin E, glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase than grain-fed beef. These antioxidants play an important role in protecting our cells from oxidation, especially delicate fats in the cell membrane such as omega-3 and omega-6.

Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene also work together synergistically to protect the meat itself from damage during the journey from butcher to plate.

Sadly, grains aren’t the only harmful substance fed to factory farmed cows. It isn’t uncommon for cows in feedlots to also be given candy (often jumbled up with the wrappers), stale pastries, rotten potatoes, and other harmful industrial products that are extremely damaging to the health of the animals (and the humans who eat them).

Cows fed grain-based diets are also known to develop unnaturally acidic gut conditions — an environment that has allowed E. coli O157:H7 to thrive (and kill those who consume it in the form of under-cooked hamburger). Researchers have demonstrated that when cattle were abruptly switched from a high grain diet to a forage-based diet, total E. coli populations declined 1000-fold within 5 days.

You probably already know all of this. And that’s why you’re most likely already buying grass-fed meat from the supermarket.

So why the confusing title? Because grass-fed beef isn’t always exclusively grass-fed.

In fact, you might be paying upwards of $4 extra per pound for beef that’s not a whole lot better than the stuff that comes from feedlots.

The Grass-Fed Fallacy

Almost all cows raised in the U.S. were grass-fed at some point, but only a small percentage of the beef produced in the U.S. is actually grass-finished. The overwhelming majority of cows that were once grazed on pasture are sent to a feedlot to be fattened up with grains and synthetic growth hormones for the last portion of their short lives.

Companies who label their meat as grass-fed should know this, as the USDA standard for grass-fed beef demands that “grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal.”

While the “lifetime” part of the standard is good, there’s another part of this sentence that deserves a closer look — “and forage.”

Although forage (hay) is technically grass, it’s grass that’s been cut, dried, and stored for an indefinite period of time before being used as cattle feed. Some would argue that grass and forage are one and the same, but that just isn’t the case. Imagine if (instead of consuming fresh, whole vegetables) you only ate veggies in a dried-up powder form for the duration of your life. Do you think you’d be as healthy? Heck no! Forage is definitely a step up from grain, but it can’t compete with a natural diet of fresh grass.

And since forage-fed cows aren’t required to consume a single blade of fresh grass for their entire lives, the’re often kept in feedlot-like conditions — not exactly what consumers picture when they think of “grass-fed” cows.

Primal Pastures Cows

What Grass-Fed SHOULD mean (Primal Pastures cows)

But it gets worse — there’s another loophole in the USDA’s standard that should cause us to further question how healthy “grass-fed” beef really is. As pointed out by David Maren of Tendergrass Farms in his guest post on Mark’s Daily Apple,

One of the problems with the USDA definition for grass fed beef is that it has a loophole that allows for the use of grain “to ensure the animal’s well being at all times during adverse environmental or physical conditions.” One local grass fed beef company here in Virginia once disclosed to me that they have an internal policy with regard to this loophole that allows their farmers to feed up to 2% of the animal’s weight in grain per day during the winter months. Assuming that their cows weigh about 1000 pounds and given the fact that there are about 5 “winter months” in this part of the country, their policy would allow for each grass fed cow to be fed about 1.5 tons of grain per year. Amazingly, it can still be marketed as “grass fed beef.”

Sketchy practices such as these are more of the norm than the exception when it comes to the “grass-fed” beef market. And even when grass-fed beef is actually grass-fed, the standard says nothing about a number of additional factors that have a dramatic impact on the cow’s health. Things like…

  • Hormone & antibiotic intake. Unless also labeled organic, it’s perfectly permissible for grass-fed cows to be given antibiotics to prevent infection and synthetic hormones to promote faster growth.

  • Quality of life. The USDA standard requires that grass-fed cows must “have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.” Hmmm. Sounds a bit like the “cage-free” scam, which requires that chickens have “access” to the outdoors, which (for most large scale operations), means opening a window in the feed house for a few hours out of the day. My point is, there’s plenty of room for deceptive interpretation in this sentence.

  • Toxin Exposure. Even if grass-fed cows ARE actually eating grass, that grass is probably being treated with herbicides and fertilizers on a pretty consistent basis. YUCK.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Organic Shmorganic.

The organic label does matter, but not as much as one might assume. Though the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) prohibits the use of hormones and antibiotics in organic animals and ensures that the animals’ feed has not been treated with pesticides or harsh chemicals (both of which are absolutely important), it misses other critical markers of health.

For one, it’s acceptable for organic cows to live in feedlots. The fact that the NOP does not allow organic cows’ time in the feedlot to exceed 120 days is of little consequence, as most non-organic cows are also grazed on pasture for the first part of their lives and are then moved to feedlots for about the same amount of time to be fattened up before slaughter.

Cows labeled organic aren’t always fed a natural diet of grass that’s necessitated by their species. And more often than not, organic cows are raised on corn, soy, and other grain mumbo jumbo. And by now, we’re all familiar with why that’s a BIG no-no!


Moral of The Story

Labels can be tricky. Even the term “pasture-raised” (often thought of as the final word when it comes to completely natural, beyond organic meat & one of the ways we describe how we raise our meat at Primal Pastures), doesn’t always mean what you think it does.

Because there’s no legal definition of the term, pretty much anyone can claim to produce “pasture-raised” beef (even if it’s really anything but) and suffer no consequences for the misinformation.

With all labels (grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised, etc.) most companies and industries will jump through any loophole they can if it means making things easier and more cost-effective on their end, making it extremely difficult for the consumer to make smart decisions.

We’ve been lied to, deceived, and scammed into spending our hard-earned dollars on products that aren’t what we think they are.

This issue extends much further than grass-fed beef, which is only one symptom of the dishonesty and greed that has dictated the direction of our country’s food system for far too long — but that’s a topic for another day.

Fortunately, there’s something we can all do about it. It’s up to US to vote with our forks (and knives) by making educated decisions about what we eat and where our food comes from.

This means finding your local farmer, doing the research, asking the right questions, and visiting the source of your food if necessary in order to ensure that the beef you’re buying was fed organic grass, never given hormones or antibiotics, and lived a happy life on the pasture with plenty of room to roam.

There’s nothing worse than spending big bucks on fancy labels and empty promises. Most small, local farms know and understand this and are more than willing to go above and beyond to reassure their customers of the natural, ethical, and sustainable nature of their farming practices.

At Primal Pastures, we offer detailed information on the living conditions of our animals, daily phone/email support, farm tours, and ways to make buying good meat affordable.

Buying meat in bulk is definitely the most affordable (and fun) way to go. But it can also be super intimidating — mostly because it’s hard to know how much freezer space you’ll need in order to store your meat.

That’s why we just launched an amazing deal to make buying quality meat even MORE simple, efficient, and cost-effective for our neighbors in So-Cal. It involves a brand new deep freezer, free delivery, and a lot of high quality meat at an affordable price (click here for more info on the deal).

If you aren’t in So-Cal and can’t buy from us, don’t worry! Head over to EatWild.com to find a sustainable, beyond organic farm near you (but remember to do your own research as well).

Have questions or comments? Be sure to let me know your thoughts on the information presented in this post in the comment section below!