Tag Archives: nutrition

A Stay-At-Home Mom’s Diet Enters Medical Research

gottschall

 

 

 

When I used to work as a physician, I wondered what it’d be like to stay home with the kids full-time. Some moms would say, “I HAVE to work. My kids drive me crazy.” I always thought to myself that I’d still like to try it and see. Maybe crazy is a state of bliss that I’d like quite a lot.

I did get to stay home, and to my chagrin, I did fall into crazy. Crazy nutrition. At first, I honestly did wonder if I had taken neurotic to its pinnacle, but I kept reading and reading. And over the short four years since I began having any interest in nutrition at all, other than having the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, there have been some major upheavals in medicine regarding nutrition, particularly regarding fat and cholesterol. But I know there will be more.

One upheaval that intrigues me, because I swear real food is pixie dust, is doctors using a real food diet to throw inflammatory bowel disease into remission without medicine. At Seattle Children’s Hospital, researchers are reversing serious cases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease using the exact same voodoo, or pixie dust (if you prefer), diet that Elaine Gottschall, a stay-at-home mother of two, used in the 1950s to save her 8 year-old daughter’s life from near-terminal ulcerative colitis. The diet, called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), was the last hope that Elaine had for possibly saving her child’s colon, maybe even the child’s life itself. Permanent poop collection bag? Death? How about we try this weird diet.

Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas’s Stodgy, Misinformed Diet

The SCD is not a new diet. It has been around in some form since approximately the 1920s, when Sidney Valentine Haas, MD was using it on his celiac and severely afflicted gastrointestinal patients.  At this time, there was no known celiac disease and gluten connection. Dr. Haas, using close observation skills and taking good patient histories (all things falling into disfavor in today’s medical climate), felt that starchy carbohydrates and table sugar were bad for his patients. So he developed a diet which removed starchy foods and sugar, making it inherently gluten-free and grain free. He found that his patients did fine with fruit, and he strongly encouraged bananas, and he even thought there was something special about the banana.

His “banana” diet was pretty popular and was used to manage celiac disease until the gluten connection was verified. Then, Haas and banana diets fell into disfavor, ridicule even. However, Dr. Haas, a reportedly kindly man who lived into his 90s, never acquiesced that gluten elimination should be the sole treatment of celiac disease. He remained adamantly suspicious that most starchy carbohydrates were problematic and needed removed for a time (not a lifetime). He genuinely believed in his diet, and if you read closely, he is scorned for never succumbing completely to the hypotheses that gluten is the sole problem for celiac patients.

(Now, I don’t know whether he was right or wrong about gluten. I DO KNOW that there are celiacs who follow a STRICT gluten-free diet, never eating away from home, and I know they still have abdominal issues. So, perhaps his intuition is not as laughable as it seems. Perhaps, as time passes and we learn more, we will find facts that make him more right than wrong. I don’t know. History repeatedly shows genius in ridicule, and maybe there’s more to treating celiac than just taking away gluten.)

A Doctor -Shopping, Stay-at-Home Mom
elaine_04

This photo of Elaine Gottschall came from http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.com, the official Breaking the Vicious Cycle and SCD website.

 

The SCD would  have probably stopped right there if it hadn’t been for Big Magic (you really should read the book by this title, very good). Elaine Gottschall (now deceased, 1921-2005) called herself an ordinary, happy, stay-at-home, 1950s’ mom. She had two young daughters. One of her daughters, Judy, began experiencing incapacitating gut issues and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the tender age of four years old. Little Judy was so sick and malnourished by the time she was 8, she had stunted growth and even her neurological system was shutting down. Elaine and Herb were told their daughter had two options: colon removal or death. Elaine wouldn’t hear it and refused to take death or colectomy (colon removal) as an answer for her daughter if she could do anything about it.

So she did what all desperate patients do (or parents of patients), she doctor shopped. After much doctor shopping and no hope in sight except surgery, an acquaintance of a friend pointed her to an outdated, nearly ancient physician. She finally landed in the arms (figuratively) of our now 92-year-old Dr. Sydney Valentine Haas. He started her daughter Judy on his version of what is now the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Her daughter improved dramatically within days and even more in the months that followed, living a full life, even being able to eat a very diverse diet eventually.

Humiliating Success

Dr. Haas died within two years of meeting the Gottschall family. Would his diet die with him? No. Elaine Gottschall made it her mission to understand that man’s diet, even going back to school and earning degrees in biology, nutritional biochemistry, and cellular biology. If this diet helped Judy live and get her life back, she wanted to know why and share it with the others who were sick. Many times she wanted to give up, but her husband was convicted that the world needed this information that would be lost without Dr. Haas, and he knew Elaine was just the woman to do it.

Herb encouraged Elaine to write a book eventually called Breaking the Vicious Cycle, do health consults, and speak. She functioned at a grassroots level, and she touched thousands of lives, helping people turn their health around with the SCD. But, sadly, she could never break through to medical circles. Her daughter said: “She also wanted the acceptance from–if not approval of–the medical mainstream, which she never got. She was told stories by mothers who said their doctors would refuse to treat their children if they followed her diet…”

Doctors refusing to treat patients if they tried this diet? A diet that has now entered the halls of medical research with initial success? Elaine’s diet brought success to many suffering patients, but the patients’ doctors wouldn’t have it. How could a simple diet help? How could a stay-at-home mom know what she’s talking about? Who was she to challenge medical management?

Because of Elaine’s tenacity and courage (and ability to persist despite medical contempt), people today may have an opportunity to try diet over drugs. Some doctors are listening to patients and trying the SCD in clinical research. (See my last post.)

Elaine, Herb, and Judy (their daughter), thank you.

Closing

The SCD studies are small and sparse, but they’re pretty remarkable, especially in kids, whose healing capacities are always amazing. IF diet makes a difference, then I think Elaine Gottschall is right, the only way it’s going to get to medical doctors is if patients keep showing them. Dr. Suskind’s studies from Seattle are shedding some light, but they’re so small. With just a snap or a new successful medical discovery, his work will be trampled over forever, as Dr. Haas’s almost was.

Did Dr. Haas have it ALL right? No. Did Elaine Gottschall? No. Does the doctor named Natasha Campbell-McBride (who has taken Elaine Gottschall’s work further in her clinical practice, renaming her diet GAPS)? No. Does Dr. Suskind, a researcher using SCD in his studies? No. But continuing to cut out colons and continuing to prescribe immunosuppressants without ever trying significant dietary modification such as the SCD is irresponsible and, to me, unethical. Medical doctors maliciously, scornfully, and condescendingly name-call and ridicule diet theories they don’t agree with like pompous elitists. And guess what! When we do that, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and the public follow along. Then, we end up in a big mess. Like Days of Our Lives. Please stop the division.

You are never too small. You are never too insignificant. You are always enough. Your experience is for you. Your experience is for others. Live boldly with love and compassion.

Even your cooking can change someone’s life.

Ciao.

Terri

Sites and links I followed for information, which should always be verified before you even think about trusting anything…

Frontiers in Celiac Disease, pages 5-7: https://books.google.com/books?id=gqaDD3jkcfYC&pg=PA6&lpg=PA6&dq=haas%27s+banana+diet+celiac+disease&source=bl&ots=pPA2rdAt9_&sig=tgEgHivZWbdeSKX5j1Dajx243Iw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi1xNTukc_RAhVG4IMKHdtmBKo4ChDoAQglMAI#v=onepage&q=haas’s%20banana%20diet%20celiac%20disease&f=false

http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/p/about-the-author/

Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet by Raman Prasad

Cleaning the Kitchen

398px-gray_vacuum_cleaner-svgCleaning up your health (and life) is like cleaning up the kitchen.

If my kitchen is a disastrous trash-dump mess, and I only unload the dishwasher, is the kitchen clean?

No.

If I proceed to sweep the hair and crumbs off the floor but leave the watermelon sticky-juice, is it clean then?

No-ooo.

Well, what if I wipe the bacon grease off the stove top, too? Then is it clean? I mean, come on! I have swept the floor, unloaded the dishwasher, and now the stove top is clean.

How much more must I do?

Counters? Tables and chairs? Mop? The inside of the refrigerator? Sort through those bills and catalogs I’m never really ever going to look at?

Gee. Slave driver. I’d hate to live with you.

Deep Cleaning

People frequently tell me, “I’m trying so hard, and I just can’t [insert phrase such as lose weight, feel happy, be nice to my husband].”

Stop.

Think of the kitchen. Have you “cleaned the kitchen?”

When it comes to something you really want, you can leave no stone unturned. No refrigerator door left unopened. No backsplash unwiped. The kitchen isn’t really clean till you’ve opened every cupboard, wiped down each sticky light switch face plate, put the shoes all away.

If you’ve not reached your health goals (or life goals), then ask yourself, “Is my kitchen really clean?” Is there an area I’m leaving unchallenged?

Sleep. Check.
Eating vegetables and fruits. Check.
Avoiding sugar and processed foods. Check.
Outdoor activity. Check.
Strong relationships. Check.
Forgiveness of yourself. Forgiveness of others. Check.
Minimizing alcohol and caffeine. (And cigarettes and other substances Mother Teresa might frown on.) Check.
Acceptance of an area in your life. Check.
Sunshine and fresh air daily. Check.
Getting your sweat up every now and then. Check.
Taking alone time daily if needed. Check.
Minimizing your schedule. Check.

And so on.

Warning: The Closet Effect

Don’t get sidelined by the closet effect.

Sometimes, as changes are made, things feel temporarily worse. It’s like when you clean out the closet. (I know it’s time to clean a closet when things fall on my head. You know that feeling when everything in your house seems to be falling on your head? I hate that feeling.)

Have you ever cleaned a closet and torn everything out of it? There are piles all over the place, and somehow, cleaning the closet made THE WHOLE HOUSE a mess! How does that happen? Some things to Goodwill. Some things to your sister. Some things to the trash. (Ooh, I’ll keep this Def Leppard tee-shirt.)

In order to REALLY clean the closet, you’re guaranteed to make a bigger mess. Guaranteed. Why in the heck did you decide to clean the closet, stupid? (Because of that breathless sense that makes your heart sing when you open the door, not to chaos, but to competency and efficiency and order.)

So when the going gets hard, when you feel like you fix one thing only to have another break, don’t despair! Slowly, like a gutted closet or a nasty fridge, things will come around if you persist and seek the right things.

When it comes to health, the body cleans out a closet, only to make a mess downstream. So you have to help it out in that area too. It’s like tailoring a suit to fit you. Nip and tuck.

Norwex Power To You

Today, whatever it is, I encourage you to not give up. Motivation. Attitude. They count. They are truly the difference between success and failure. As you move through challenges in your diet, life, exercise plans, relationships, look for those little areas you can clean up a little.

Then, scrub on. (Anyone use those Norwex cleaning cloths?)

Keep it whole. Keep it real. Keep it simple.

Terri

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gray_vacuum_cleaner.svg

 

 

 

NINE Fantastic Tips to Get and Keep Your (Stubborn) Family Eating Whole, Real Food

MG Diet Disgust Photo 1

Originally, my family initially cut out all processed foods, grains, and dairy for my health, but the unexpected improvements to each family member that followed were eye-opening!

My family wasn’t exactly clapping or panting eagerly like bushy-tailed puppies to eat in this new way. Pant. Pant. Pant. “What’s for supper tonight, Mom? We’re so excited to eat cut apples and oranges for dessert again.” Pant, pant.

Uh, no.

Instead of cute puppies, think Jurassic Park—where that little, deadly dinosaur, the dilophosaurus, would stare, posture, and then spit and attack swiftly. That’s more like it…

So how can you keep the dilophosauruses from spitting in your face and killing your efforts? How can you get panting puppies drooling over dinner?

Sheer tenacity. Don’t give up and use every tactic in the book. Listen to me. Insulin pumps and bypass grafts aren’t pretty. Your family can dig in their heels in denial till they’re knee deep in China, but the fact of the matter is that diet matters

Check out my NINE TIPS to get and keep your family eating good, real, whole foods by clicking here to go to the full article, “Does Your Family Have Diet Disgust?” It’s in Molly Green Magazine, and they display it with such nice graphics.  Below, I’ve given teasers from each of the methods.  So, if you have a moment, click on over and read them in their entirety!  All the photos here come from Molly Green Magazine (click here to see the magazine cover).

(As always, you know I care about people feeling good and functioning well so they can live their lives with fullness, richness, and contentment.  And I’d write no matter what, but from Molly Green Magazine, I do get a free membership for contributing.)

1.  The Cry-and-Speak Method

If you’ve stood with your head bowed, scraping what you thought was a perfectly good meal (which required effort to make!) into the trash while the cupboards are raided for some immediate post-dinner potato chips… (more)

2.  The Raised-Voice Method

…Sometimes, don’t ask me why, people just don’t think you’re serious until you raise your voice… (more)

3.  The Long-Route Method

What about eating out… (more)

4.  The Hiding Method

People like familiarity, and hey, we should have the comfort we expect in our own homes… (more)

5.  The Out-of-Groceries Method

…You’ll be reminded ten times when you’re out of crackers, and you just say, “Okay. Thanks for telling me.” You don’t need to say more. And you don’t need to buy any more either… (more)

6.  The Don’t-Mention-It Method

My kids informed me that they wished I hadn’t told them we were changing our diet. They suggested that if I had done it slowly and methodically, they probably would not have noticed… (more)

7.  The Involvement Method

If your husband doesn’t normally eat fruit, before you head to the store, ask him, “Which fruit do you want me to get for you…You’ll be surprised what a pointed question like that does to the psychology… (more)

8.  The Recognizing-Needs Method

It’s normal to have some food absolutes. Foods you can’t live without. (And foods you can’t live with!) Identify those for each family member, and allow for those, especially at first… (more)

9.  The Familiar Method

Make familiar recipes that require no or only subtle changes to be healthy. Some recipes are super easy to adapt! The recipes that don’t taste the same when adapted? Skip those for a few months or more. Come back to them later and try them again; you’ll be surprised how taste buds adapt. Some people just need familiar foods, not exotic experiments… (more)

 

What do you think?  Do you use these methods?  What I’d leave out?

Eat well.  Be well.  And if you were following the last few posts, you know I have to say, “Think well.”

Warmest wishes.

A Kid’s Conversation on Butyrate (Fiber–To Way Oversimplify)

A trashcan at a food court in Salt Lake City, Utah

A trashcan at a food court in Salt Lake City, Utah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Whatcha’ doin’?”
“I’m reading about butyrate.”
“What’s butyrate?”
“Oh my goodness.  It’s amazing.  Do you remember those little bacteria I told you about that live in your colon?”
“Uh-huh.”
“Well, lots of fruits and vegetables and certain foods have this stuff called fiber.  And a there’s a special kind of fiber your body can’t use.  [Resistant starch for those of you who want a more intellectual conversation.]  But those bacteria take this special fiber, and they use it for food!  Then, they make this stuff called butyrate, which they can’t even use!  And guess what!  Our body likes butyrate!  Our colons eat up that butyrate and use it for food and energy, and it helps the cells fight infections and cancer.”
“So, they eat the trash we can’t.  Then, we eat their trash, and it helps us?”
“Yes.  That’s right.  Even the body recycles.  So that’s why we have to eat fruits and vegetables [and for those who know, also beans, lentils, and I have to keep working on my butyrate post…].”

♦♦♦♦♦

I am reading and working on a butyrate post, a short chain fatty acid that the bacteria in your colon make–much to your benefit–the bacteria making butyrate that is–not my article.  I have told myself I can’t post anything else until I finish it.  But it’s Monday.  And that’s the day you all read blog articles, based on statistical analysis.  So I hate to let an opportunity slide.

My kids just woke up.  I try to read and blog in the morning before they wake up, which luckily for me as homeschooled kids, is quite a bit later than most other kids.  They file into our schoolroom where I read and write, one by one, in the morning to see what I’m doing.  Today, I was very happy that I was reading about butyrate.

I try to almost never use the word “healthy” when I talk to my kids about food choices.  If I have to use the word healthy, it means I don’t understand why it is “healthy.”  I HAVE to be able to tell them what it is that makes a particular substance beneficial or NOT beneficial.  And I have to be able to see the food from all angles:  psychological angles, physical angles, physiologic angles,  net-gain versus net-loss angles.  If I have to say “healthy for you” or “that’s not healthy for you”–I don’t understand the food well enough.  They’ll never stick with it all their life, which is what I’m trying to do here for them.  If you haven’t explained to your kids that you are SO lucky to have bacteria in your colon, you have missed a HUGE chunk of their nutritional education.  That’s a great thing to tell them, and then you can use conversations like this, which happened this morning in our home.

It’s time to take back our kids’ nutrition.  Take it back from the boxes and packages.  Take it back from the commercials.  Take it back from the schools.  Take it back from the well-meaning dance teachers, coaches, and Sunday school teachers.  (Ouch.  That sounded really harsh.)  Take it back from convenience.  Kids’ bodies and brains function way better on whole foods without dyes and preservatives.  You can do it.

Terri

“Milk and Cookie Disease”

wpid-IMAG1990.jpgThe Mr. Homeschooling Doctor loves to find articles for me.

Today’s article was:  ‘Milk and Cookie Disease’: The new childhood health condition caused by diet.

It’s a nice, vague little article in which Julie Wei, MD, pediatric otolaryngology, suggests that too much dairy and sugar, particularly before bedtime contributes to chronic sore throats, runny noses, stuffy noses, constipation, and tiredness in the pediatric population.

Conversation tonight then centered in our home around how “us doctors are gettin’ there.”

S-o…

S-l-o-w-l-y…It’s embarrassing at how slowly, really.

We have two issues.  First, food intolerances to things like wheat and dairy are significant in the population, yet unrecognized.  Second, most children are eating way too many dairy, wheat, and sugar products at the expense of vegetables, fruits, and meats.

Our children are suffering (obesity, poor concentration, allergic rhinitis, constipation, reflux), and we adults, who are struggling too, continue to feed them food items they do not need, at the expense of their health.  Why?  Because it tastes good?  They beg for it?  It’s a part of childhood?  A kid almost has to have diabetes before we’ll consider it okay to not feed him a cracker, juice, soda, cookie, cupcake, or ice cream snack.

I’m asking you to stop.  Take the high road.  The road less traveled.  The hard road.  If you’ve read this, you’ve heard it from a doctor.  I’ll stand on doctor ground tonight.  After seeing the changes in our home, I’m that concerned and passionate about this topic.

Our kids need us to reign in their soda, snacking, and poor food habits.  Maybe it’ll get us to thinking about what we eat, too.  A very good thing.

“Wei (MD) recommended her patients eliminate all dairy and sugar before bedtime, and  their symptoms improved significantly…Five-year-old Jonathan Giambrone is one of these children. A heavy snorer since  he was a baby, his enlarged tonsils and adenoids made it difficult to sleep…he would pick foods that were easy to swallow, like yogurt, smoothies,  applesauce and cottage cheese. And every night he would drink chocolate milk  before going to sleep…

After learning about Wei, Giambrone cut down on  Jonathan’s nighttime snacking and allowed him to drink only water before  bedtime.  ‘In a three week period, we noticed a substantial difference,’  she said. Jonathan also had his tonsils and adenoids removed two weeks ago,  which Giambrone hopes will make even more of a difference.”

Why not try a dairy elimination for two weeks, not just nighttime elimination?  And how about trying to take out dairy BEFORE the surgery?  What if…

At the end, the article makes a stab at constipation, a problem we found to be directly cured by dairy elimination in our home.

It’s nice to see articles relating symptoms to food, but we still have a long way to go.  I understand that gluten and dairy are staples, but if we can’t tolerate them, there are PLENTY of other very nutritious food sources.  If we’re concerned about vitamin D, calcium, B vitamins, and fiber, let’s enlist the help of a nutritionist for patients.  Even if patients are tolerant, most of them could benefit by leaning a lot less on grains and dairy.

By the way, not that it matters, and it’s probably quite evident by my simple operation here, I do this on my own.  I have no sponsor.  I have no web programmer.  I don’t get money for any of this, from any source.

Food matters.  Like a drug, foods treat us each differently.  Take only what you need, and watch for side effects.

Terri

Read full Milk and Cookie Disease article:  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/07/14/milk-and-cookie-disease-new-childhood-health-condition-caused-by-diet/#ixzz2Z4QoeRdi

The Smell of Heaven

wpid-IMAG0807.jpgIf heaven has a smell, I know it is that of the steam rolling out of a maple syrup shack in the late of winter.

My dad and uncle work together each year to make maple syrup, as their grandfather did before them in the very same woods.  As I write, they are “boiling” maple sap now in a sugar camp far, far away.

“Maple season” (or “sugar season”), the brief time when sap runs through the tree and can be made into syrup, occurs usually in late February or early March.

As winter loosens its grip on nature and mud makes its first appearance, sugar, stored as starch in the maple tree’s roots, begins to rise through the trunk to the limbs of the tree to feed the developing buds.  Freeze at night and thaw in day.  Freeze at night and thaw in day.  A cycle of freezing and thawing promotes the sap’s running through the tree.  During this time, and this time only, can sap be tapped from the tree for maple syrup; one year this may be late February and another year it may be mid-March.001

The number of days or weeks a sugar season lasts will be uncertain and controlled by the temperatures; a few degrees up or down can shut the sap running off.  If it freezes too hard at night, the sap may not run.  If the day is too warm, the sap may not run.  Once the trees bud, you’re done for sure.   Completely predictably unpredictable, even when you think it’s predictable.  Life.

“Tapping” the trees refers to drilling a hole in the tree and placing a spigot to drain the sap water into a bucket or into tubing.

Great Grandpa Grover collected sap in buckets, but Dad and my uncle use tubing to drain and run the sap from the tree to large collecting tanks set throughout the woods.  The “woods” is a large stand of trees and is frequently called a “sugar bush”, although “sugar bush” can also imply the building the syrup is boiled in too.  Tubing runs like a giant spiderweb networking the forest.

wpid-IMAG0711.jpgBefore tubing can be run, a 3/8 inch hole is drilled into healthy mature sugar maple trees, which are usually anywhere from 40-100 years old and at least 12 inches in diameter.  More than one hole may be drilled in a tree, depending on its size.  The hole does not damage the tree, and it seals up without ill effect.  Apparently other maple trees(such as silver maple) can be tapped besides sugar maples, but I don’t know about that.  We and most other people use sugar maples.

After the hole is drilled, a spigot (or spile) is inserted.  If a bucket is to be used, it is hung now and the top is covered to keep out unwanted debris and animals.  Otherwise, tubing is connected to the spigot to drain the sap.  The clear sap water, which is nearly tasteless and only has a suggestion of sweetness, runs through the tubing to other tubing until, ultimately it drains into large collecting tanks placed throughout the woods.

The sap that has collected in the holding tanks must be tranported to the building with the evaporator.

Our “camp”, the building with the evaporator where the sap is boiled, is at the edge of the woods.  Periodically 004during the day the level of the collecting tanks in the woods are checked.  My dad or uncle will take an ATV through the knee-deep mud to do a “tank check”.  I smile when I think of the exasperation in my uncle’s voice when he comes back from a tank check, and the sap has surprisingly overflowed the tank.  When a tank is full, a tractor (it has to be International for this family) pulling a transportable tank will be taken back to transfer the sap from the collecting tank to the transfer tank drawn by the tractor.   Back at the camp, the sap is now again transferred into a tank inside the sugar house (the building with the evaporator).

The evaporator condenses 40 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of maple syrup.

wpid-IMAG0810.jpgThe sap flows into a large evaporator pan that sits over a rip-roaring firebox fed by wood.  Sometimes the fire blazes so hot, the doors burn red.  The size of a sugar camp’s evaporator varies.  Some don’t even have an evaporator but do it in a pot over an open fire.  Mom and Dad’s honeymoon was spent in New York searching for a new evaporator for the sugar camp.  The two didn’t even make it to the Statue of Liberty.  But I believe they got the evaporator.  The evaporator is a series of pans with channels allowing the syrup to flow in such a way that there is more control over thewpid-IMAG0797.jpg syrup’s development and temperature.  At the start, it’s clear sap water, only 2-3% sugar.  By the end, it’s delicious smelling syrup.  A “hydrometer” is used to determine the density of the syrup and thus the sugar content.  Sap becomes syrup at 219.5 degrees fahrenheit and 67% sugar.

It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap water to make 1 gallon of syrup.

Because you have to wait for the daytime temperature to bring about a thaw and cause the sap to run, maple syrup is usually made in the evening and night.  The atmosphere is warm and cozy.  Family, friends, and neigbors stop in and visit while roasting hot dogs, pork chops, and hamburgers on the hot doors of the stove.  Aunt Holly’s “sugar candy” occasionally graces the buffet.  Syrup is made late into the night and wee hours of the morning, always carefully monitored.

Canning it Off

Our evaporator has a faucet at the point where the sap becomes syrup.  The syrup can be taken out.  It is poured through a cheesecloth into a wpid-IMAG0800.jpgfinishing tank, where it is reheated to boiling and canned (or bottled) off.

Sugar is Sugar is Sugar but…maple syrup is unique.

While I mostly think that “sugar is sugar is sugar”, maple syrup does have the advantage of providing in a 1/4 cup serving:

  • 100% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of manganese
  • 37% of your RDA of riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • 18% of your RDA of zinc
  • Magnesium, calcium, and potassium run about 7% of the RDA

There are 50 calories per tablespoon or 217 in that 1/4 cup serving.

Now, I am not telling you to do this in any way, shape, or form.  Remember, I’m a stay at home, homeschooling mom.  But my mom used to give us kids maple syrup in our milk when we were constipated and swears by it.  I think I had it daily–now I know it was the dairy–but that’s another story.

As I regulate all sugar in my house, I place our maple syrup in a condiment squirt bottle and try to ration it like crazy, using as little as possible and then adding more if needed.  It is not allowed on SCD and GAPS because the sugar content is mostly sucrose, but once you move past the year or two on your diet, give maple syrup a thought.  It makes great barbecue sauce and baked beans.  On my grain-free waffle recipe, it’s spot on.  Yum.

What’s the Grade?

Maple syrup is graded, and the grading system varies whether it’s from Canada (who produces 80% of the maple syrup) or from the United States.  Now everybody has their preferences, but if you ask me, skip the “light” and “fancy”.  You might as well buy Karo corn syrup.  The rich, magnificent maple flavor that you want comes in the “lower” grade syrup.  The cheaper syrup!!!!  (But obviously make sure it IS REAL MAPLE SYRUP!)  When I tell Dad I need syrup, it’s the dark stuff he gives me.  Save that light stuff to sell to people who don’t know better.  I get fussy if he gives me the light stuff; it’s a little runnier, clearer, and although sweet, there’s very little maple flavor.

Interestingly, grade cannot be controlled or made by the maple farmer.  It is Mother Nature.  Certain soils and trees produce more or less light syrup.  Certain weather conditions over the year influence grade production.  How much the farmer gets of what grade will change from year to year.  And usually the earlier in the season the syrup is made, the lighter the grade.  It is lighter earlier because the first runs have the higher sugar content and thus don’t have to be boiled as long. By the time the end of the season arrives, the sap’s sugar content is down a bit and so it must be boiled longer, condensing all the nutrients that impart that delicious, rich MAPLE flavor–not to mention more “nutritious”, as far as sweeteners go!

History of Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is characteristic of the North American continent.  The legend tells that an Iroquois chief’s wife discovered a trough of maple sap, either in an old hollowed stump or underneath where her husband had thrown his tomahawk into a maple tree.  She used the sap as water to boil some meat, and the rest is history.  Although Benjamin Franklin wanted to make America self-sufficient sugar-wise on maple syrup rather than refined white sugar, that never panned out.

wpid-IMAG2381.jpgMy mom and dad use maple syrup liberally.  Once opened, store maple syrup in the refrigerator.  If the sugar crystalizes on the bottom, heat the syrup and it will dissolve again (or fish the crystallized chunks out and eat them like candy). 

  • Pancakes, waffles, and French toast
  • Oatmeal
  • Ice cream
  • To sweeten applesauce either before or after canning
  • To top fresh sliced bananas with a sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Mix into baked beans
  • Great for barbecue sauces
  • Mix with unsweetened almond butter along with a little vanilla and salt]
  • Drizzled on top of meat loaf so that as it bakes it caramelizes
  • Use interchangably with sugar when baking, but you must reduce the liquid content by 3 tablespoonsful.

Closing Remarks

Although this article is about maple syrup, really it is about family.  I have the best family in the world.  We’re crazy and nuts, but I cannot tell you how I will always cherish the time spent with my dad, sisters, aunt, uncle, cousins, and now my wonderful husband and children during syrup season.  Mom always stayed home if she could.  I always wondered why.  Now that I have three of my own, I know!  Free night for mom!

I cherish the memories of “sugar season”, and it warrants a special trip home.  I’m telling you , there’s nothing finer than a night at the sugar camp with my family.  I hope that you, too, will find a special time to spend with your children, that they might share it with the world someday in their own way.

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Sources:
Dad
http://www.purecanadamaple.com/benefits-of-maple-syrup/maple-syrup-nutrition/