Rootstohealth's Blog

E. Coli grows where??
January 26, 2010, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Beef, Corn, Food Safety, Grass-Fed, Labeling, Organic

I read some articles in the last few days that compared grass-fed beef to feed-lot raised cows. The articles, such as this one in Slate a few days ago state that grass-fed beef supporters say the E. Coli doesn’t actually grow in the stomachs of grass-fed beef. I was under the impression, and perhaps I was mistaken, that the connection between E. Coli and grass-fed beef was that the bacteria was much less likely to be found in grass-fed beef because the cows are given more space and are in generally cleaner conditions than those in feed lots, and because their feed is more closely regulated than feed lot beef. Just to get the clear picture out there… E. Coli CAN grow and live in any cow’s stomach! HThere’s always going to be some bacteria. It’s part of life. The problem is that in feed lot cattle, the living conditions are facilitating E. Coli growth by generally mistreating the cows. E. Coli will happen, but steps should still be taken to prevent their growth (and by more ways than inoculating them). There is an expectation for us to eat germ-free food…it’s never going to happen. The problem is when these germs are in foods they definitely should not be in (i.e., cookie dough…) or when we are exacerbating the problem by the way we actually raise farm animals in this country.

Just like you don’t eat an organic apple for it’s “higher nutrient content,” but rather for the environmental methods by which it’s produced, grass-fed cattle is there to alleviate many worries about feed-lot cattle, not just E. Coli and other food safety issues.

Long story short (can you tell I can get worked up about this??), eating grass-fed beef does not give 100% certainty that you won’t get sick from E. Coli. But your odds probably are a lot higher, and you can at least know that you’re doing better on many other fronts (keeping your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios down, letting the cows eat what they want and are meant to eat, have beef that is free from antibiotics, cows that are eating VEGETARIAN!! (as they should be….), not supporting a very large corn industry, happy farms, happy people, this list goes on…). So eat your grass-fed burger with a little less trepidation than your feedlot burger tonight.


Some bad news for milk and soy
July 2, 2009, 10:43 am
Filed under: Dairy, Labels, Organic, Soy

Marion Nestle posted this morning about Horizon Organic Milk’s new ‘natural’ line of cheaper, conventional milk and the implications for the organic milk industry.  She also mentioned, which I didn’t know, that Silk soy milk is switching from organic soybeans to ‘natural’….another blow the to the industry and for health (see post below about soy).  It’s really too bad, there are enough labeling issues as it is, and throwing in another mysterious label that does not necessary signify a major improvement or difference over conventional milk does not help.  Sounds like a cop-out from two brands that know they have a following from organic milk drinkers, and know they’ll retain most of the customers through the switche (remember, Starbuck’s uses silk soy milk and (if I remember correctly) have little Horizon milk juice boxes in their pastry case.)

Quite a shame.

Soy Confusing…
July 1, 2009, 11:31 am
Filed under: Organic, Soy

I feel like all I’ve been reading about lately in the health world is soy.  Is it a miracle food? Is it a carcinogen? Is it the answer to all of our biofuel woes?

Soy is confusing because it has an estrogen-like effect on the body.  This means that it’s little particles fit into spots in your body that estrogen would normally inhabit, making your body act and feel like it’s producing more estrogen, even if it’s not.  Now, contrary to popular belief, I find it highly unlikely that ingesting soy will make you turn gay…. but it is being found to have a deleterious effect on women’s bodies, especially those at risk for breast cancer and other diseases that thrive on excess estrogen.

That being said, soy beans have been a major portion of the diets of many Asian countries for hundreds of years, without the bad side effects.  Some purport that this is because traditionally, soy has been eaten as a fermented food, in the form of tofu and tempeh, whereas today, we are feasting on soy milk, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, and soy protein powder.  Not to mention the fact that soy lecithan is found as an ingredient in most processed foods (it acts to emulsify the fats and smooth everything out).  Is it soy in general or the overabundance of soy which is negatively effecting our health?

Another issue with soy – it’s the corn of this generation.  Now with government subsidies, soy is ubiquitously grown, and often is genetically modified.  Oh dear.  We suddenly see why soy is showing up in all of our foods, rather like corn and variations of corn syrups and starches.

My take? Fermented soy products are probably better for your than plain soy (just as any fermented product has positive effects on your body, just read Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions).  And I would be more wary of ingesting soy products throughout the day, especially if you have high estrogen (Moderation is a beautiful thing!!) But with what I am learning about the soy industry, I am especially making sure to eat organic/locally grown soy products so that they’re free of pesticides and not grown from genetically modified seeds (whose safety really haven’t been adequately tested).  If you need to cut down on your soy consumption due to a sensitivity, try hemp or almond milk, delicious alternatives that are a little less politically and socially charged at the current moment.

Let me know if you know of any well-designed, conclusive studies on soy consumption on health! Thus far, I’ve only been finding lots of hearsay, and not a lot of answers.

Do it yourself: Ricotta!
June 22, 2009, 6:52 pm
Filed under: Dairy, Doing Well at Home, Organic

I was planning a post based on this press release:  which states that drinking fat-free milk instead of fruit juice at breakfast leads to feeling more satiated and eating less calories at lunch time.  But then I realized – why talk about what I read today, when I can talk about what I actually did today, which is making my own ricotta!

Now this sounds much fancier than it actually is….ricotta is actually one of the easiest cheeses to make.  All you need is some nice good milk (we’ll talk about the best kinds later), a lemon, lime, or vinegar, salt, and a stovetop!

Super simple – just heat up your lightly salted milk, medium high heat, stirring frequently (that part, unfortunately, takes a good 20-25 minutes).  When the milk starts to lightly boil, squeeze some of your vinegar, lemon or lime juice into the milk (I use about 1/4 cup acid per quart of milk), give it a stir to disperse said acid, turn off the stove and let the curds set.  When the curds separate from the whey (you have big white blocks floating in greenish liquid), use a slotted spoon to spoon the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander (or a mesh sieve if you have it) and let excess whey drain off.  That’s it! Simply store it in the fridge when the curds are at the desired consistency! (Let them sit longer for thicker ricotta, shorter for runnier ricotta).  And let me tell you – does it taste good – I have never used vinegar but the lemon/lime impart this light citrus flavor in the cheese that is just lovely.  Plus you feel super accomplished.

Now, today was a big day in my ricotta making because I used a new kind of milk (and here’s where I feel like a goody-goody).  I used Milk Thistle Farm’s Whole, Organic, Hormone Free, Grass-Fed, Unhomogenized, Lighly Pasteurized, Cream-on-Top, Comes in a Glass Bottle That You Bring Back to them to Recycle!!!, Milk!.  ( This stuff tastes good.  They come to the Union Square Market Friday and Saturday, and you will soon understand why each bit of that long title means good things for everyone.

1. Whole milk – yes, more fat; however, this extra fat keeps you fuller longer and tastes better and creamier.  The extra 30 calories probably won’t kill you, and it’ll keep you from rushing to your cabinet for more food.  Plus, being while milk means that it can be 

2. Unhomogenized – milk you buy at the store usually is stirred around at quite high speeds so that all of the little fat droplets are the same size as the little carbohydrate droplets, so the milk doesn’t separate (hence, cream-on-top). First off- whole fat milk is the only kind that can be unhomogenized, because you can only take the fat out of the milk by homogenizing it.  Also — unhomogenized milk is supposedly better for you because it is much easier for your poor intestines to digest! And since most people have a little lactose-intolerance in them, this is definitely a good thing.

3. Organic/Hormone Free – yay! These cows are fed non-GM foods, not given any hormones to pass along to you, and are treated in a kind way!  Organic is an important one for milk ( – a little bombastic, but they get the point across).

4. Grass Fed – these cows are outside! In the sun! absorbing Vitamin D! Which will get passed on to you when you eat this ricotta! (see Sally Fallon’s Traditional Diets). And – being grass fed means that they are not being fed grain and corn, so they’re getting the proper ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, which is very important to our very off-kilter current ratios of the fatty acids.

5. Light Pasteurization – see more from Sally Fallon about the benefits of raw milk, but since it’s illegal in New York State to buy/sell raw milk, we’ll have to stick with slowly and lowly heated milk that will hopefully preserve some of those yummy enzymes.  

6. Glass Bottle- yay! Not throwing out plastic, plus, if I return the bottle to them, I get a dollar back! So they can keep reusing bottles, and my milk becomes a little cheaper!


Wow, that milk actually is worth the title!  Up next for this milk will be trying to make my own yogurt.  Yay Probiotics! 


I hope you can give this recipe (and this milk farm!) a try.  It’s definitely worth the effort when you get to eat warm, freshly made cheese.  (By the way – mix with chocolate chips and sweetener of choice for the most delicious cannoli cream!)