Tag Archives: Food

Real School Food

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School is back in session. All the parents are sighing with relief; the kids are excited to see their friends. All is well….or is it?

If you agree keeping a close eye on your child’s nutrition and health, you know that is easiest done when they are eating at home. When they leave the house and go to a friends or with grandma & grandpa, you can only hope what you’ve taught them will carry them through all the temptations. I guess that goes for everything, not just food.

My parents see nothing wrong with happy meals or even ice cream for dinner. Lets just say, this is them in grandparents mode because as a child I’d have to sit at the table until my meal was eaten. Blah! Some of my son’s friends are the same way. Pizza, burgers, treats. All that is fine once in a while. However, I would kind of like to enjoy these treats with my son (yes, selfish) and I’d like a bit more control over what he eats and when. So, school is tough.

With over thirty kids in his class and less than thirty weeks in a school year, you can imagine just how often a birthday is celebrated in class. Add in teacher given treats and holiday parties and you have junk food galore. All this is not taking in account school lunches because my son takes a packed lunch. I just don’t trust the quality of school lunches, plus he is picky.

The average kid is taking that good ole average lunch. A sandwich, piece of fruit, a baggie of carbs and probably a juice box. Every once in a while, or everyday, you also throw in a little treat. This can be a decent well-balanced meal. I say “can be” because let’s be real, a slice of lunch meat on white bread, bag of Doritos, some fruities and a Capri Sun and maybe an Oreo, won’t win any healthy lunch awards. I’m not even going to go into my thoughts on Lunchables. But, you can pack healthy.

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Compared to the average school lunch, your average brown bag will be healthier. Plus, you can control the quantity and quality of foods you pack. Even with the new formulated school lunch, kids are still given highly processed food-stuff. Yes, they might have a salad bar, but when I have visited during lunchtime, I have yet to see a kid fill their plate with veggies. Not to mention, at our school, they “helpfully” add ranch dressing to all the lettuce beforehand, making your choice there limited. Again, bonus points for the salad, but by adding a jug of ranch they sort of kill that one.

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With the new school lunch menus, the average calorie intake is between 550-850 or more. Just for lunch. On this new plan, many kids are complaining they are still hungry so schools are now opting out of the Obama lunch program and are reverting back to larger, more filling lunches at over 1200 calories per meal! The newer lunches are bringing the nutrition closer to the prison meal, sad sad sad, where the older lunches were severely behind JAIL food!! What?

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The new program does have its positive notes. Some of the offered foods are locally sourced. Kids are “suppose to” take at least one fruit or veggie. Sadly, this has been translated into far more waste than ever before.

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When all the treats start rolling into the classroom, it’s tough to monitor. You don’t want to tell your child not to take one. Poor kid didn’t do anything wrong. However, the average cupcake has — grams of sugar. Now, with everything being store bought, that’s a difference from when we were able to bring homemade.

Treats might not be so bad if portions were considered. However, everything is oversized, extra sweet and pure junk. The average cupcake has about 20 grams of sugar. I’ve yet to see a kid bring fruit in as their birthday treat. My son included. It’s not like there is abundance of “healthy” bakeries out there making homemade like treats. They are out there, but it can be expensive when trying to feed about 40 little mouths.

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Then there is the treats shared on the bus, after-school munchies and finally at night, dessert. When you think you are about to treat your child to something yummy, chances are they’ve already had their fill. Getting to go out for a treat is just more sugar in their tummy.

Some families do watch what they serve. However, sometimes that means they will bring in fat-free, or sugar-free items which means now your child may be getting chemicals and preservatives that perhaps you don’t really love your kiddo eating.

It’s important that as parents we continue to watch what our kids eat, even when outside the home. It has a way of adding up and we don’t want our kids super-sized!

Good luck to another school year!

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What are they feeding us?

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I read constantly. I will read any book that happens to get in my reach or happens upon my nook. I finish every book I read, no matter how bad it might be. I love to edit and research and learn. When I find a topic that interests me, I like to look at it from all angles before forming an opinion. Even after I have an opinion, I’ll change my mind if I learn more or differently. I am not without fault, sometimes I get it wrong. Very wrong.

I use to believe that I couldn’t make a difference. Now I am ashamed I might have passed that thought to my son. Each person does make a difference.

I use to think one didn’t matter. Such as, one more time won’t hurt; just one will be fine. Boy, was I wrong there too. One becomes two, two becomes a dozen, a dozen morphs into hundreds and if you allow yourself to just “one more” or into thinking one doesn’t matter….it does!

I use to say that it didn’t matter if I bought this or that because it was already made, already there. It’s not like my getting it made a difference. Like my dollar spent even counted.

I bought the name brand products. I loved junk food. I liked the ease of popping something into the microwave or grabbing “food” in a drive up for dinner. The speed dial of pizza delivery. The Standard American Diet…..sad.

Then I woke up. From a nightmare.

My health was horrible. My crohn’s was flaring like never before. I was dropping weight, taking meds, pleading with doctors to not hospitalize me.

My husband was overweight. He was worn out, grumpy, depressed. He slept with a CPAP. His days of Ironman Triathlons were done. His back hurt, his feet hurt.

My son was tired all the time. He didn’t want to do anything anymore. His energy level was dropping along with his spark. He munched on the crappy snacks I provided then chowed the crappy dinner I served.

We were all starving. Starving not just for REAL food but for life.

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I took my love of reading and went crazy. I have read dozens of books about food and diet. We’ve made some huge changes — that have actually been easier than you’d think.

My crohn’s isn’t perfect but I don’t expect it to be. I push my limits with my new diet. I don’t just eat white processed foods. I am trying to expand my diet to a plant-based diet full of variety. I lost 50 pounds in the process.

My husband has dropped over 70 pounds (and not by pooping like me) by changing the way he sees food. He eats only plant-based meals. His diet is most easily defined as strict vegan. Zero animal products or by-products. He’s thin, fit, exercising comfortably. He’s running races, cycling, swimming, all in preparation for a triathlon at the end of the summer. I can describe him as an athlete again. He sleeps without the loud machine and looks 10 years younger and refreshed. His work has improved. He quality of life has dramatically improved. All he did was switch to an all plant diet. It is an amazing and formation. I wonder how I’ve changed? I know I have…..

His transformation has been so inspiring that my son and I are trying desperately to mimic him. We are just such picky finicky eaters that we can’t eat the variety my husband eats yet. YET. We are working on it. With my crohn’s, I do add in and try new foods a bit slower but I’m doing my best without pushing myself so far I flare. With that, I am encouraging my son to try new foods. He has been so great at trying, unfortunately, he hasn’t liked much he tries….still, baby steps.

After eliminating the junk food, stopping all the fast food and educating our whole family more, we are all improving in leaps and bounds. My son is active again. His skin looks terrific and his smile charming. His outlook is very positive. He is so supportive of the plant powered diet that I love listening to him explain the benefits to an adult. He’s very passionate about health and food and quality.

Let’s pause on that word. Quality. That word is what made me grab my iPad and start tapping away at this post. Quality.

What the hay is up with GMO and other “food” like crap we are buying, eating, and serving to those we love? We are not educated on what GMO is or does unless we go look for the imformation ourselves. My father was agreeing with me when we talked about how horrible it is. Then I realized, he thought companies had to inform us when they used GMO ingredients. Nope, not in America. He was floored. He is a very intelligent man. He watches the news, reads the paper, he is well-informed. So how did he miss that? How did I?

Until recently, I couldn’t have told you what GMO even stood for. Yet now after learning more, I still can’t explain to my son why these big ass companies feel the need to use these products. Beyond greed, it doesn’t make sense. Have you ever tried explaining something to a child? Where you can slide stuff by some adults, maybe sway the story, leave out parts you don’t agree with or don’t understand; you tell that same story to a kid and they’ll call you out. They question the simplest things and man, they want answers!

So, in my research (and its far from complete), I’ve learned that big companies will bury the facts so deep that you start to believe what they want you to believe. You can easily fall into the trap of believing that you need meat twice a day (gotta get that protein) or that milk, it does a body good. You might even feel comforted that good ole McDonald offers more healthful choices now. Maybe you don’t feel GMO is damaging us. Or maybe you don’t think that children are effected by all the hormones in meat and dairy. Perhaps you haven’t heard of BVO or care much about essential amino acids. Maybe you are still sipping that diet soda hoping to lose some weight. No worries, we’ve all been there. Sometimes, I don’t feel that far off from all that.

Baby steps! My researching is opening my eyes. I’m teaching my family. I’m choosing where I want to spend my dollar. I’m not accepting just “one more”. I am done ignoring the facts. I am done with the excuses. I am looking for answers in that straight forward nature frequently reserved for kids and old folks. I’m making changes that will benefit me, my family, my community, my world. Because, I do make a difference. My dollar counts. My vote counts. My life relies on me making the right decisions. My health is too precious for me to keep ignoring it all. Hopefully, I can inform others of what I know, what I learn through websites, publications, news stories and my beloved reading. I learn so much from those I follow on twitter. I truly feel it’s a give and take exchange of knowledge. I learn from you while sharing what I know.

Together, we really make a difference.
Really.

Can I be a Real Vegan?

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I’ll be the first to admit my food choices usually suck. I’ve done some research and know how important eating healthy is. I’m the pickiest eater ever and I also have Crohn’s. Not every food choice I make, I can tolerate. What to do?!

My husband is vegan. My son is as picky as I am. We’ve watched enough documentaries and read enough books that I feel bad when I eat poorly and feel guilty when I feed my child poorly. We have improved a little. At least we don’t eat any fast food anymore!

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Here is a glimpse at our weekly groceries.
Our old  batch would have been full of name brand junk food!

My Crohn’s started its most recent flare about 9 months ago and has only improved by baby steps. I’ve lost a bunch of weight and after living a life determined to lose weight, I’m actually insanely now trying to hold on to the weight I’m at.

Losing weight is real difficult. I’m finding maintaining a weight is just as hard, especially when the weight came off fast and due to illness.

As my guts start to settle down and accept food, I’m being careful what I introduce. I’d love to go vegan and get quite a chuckle out of myself when I say that. I wouldn’t miss the cheese but ice cream, I’ve tried coconut “ice cream” and it’s nothing like real creamy good ole ice cream. Although, I do like sorbet….

I somewhat enjoy meat. I say somewhat because if I stop to think at all about it, especially when it’s still raw, my stomach turns and I really don’t want to eat it. Once it’s all cooked, it’s hard to resist. Somewhat.

I adore the Hungry for Change (www.hungryforchange.tv) advice of adding more and more “good” foods to replace all the “bad” choices. I’ve been trying that. As I add something like kale to my salad (has to be in teeny tiny pieces) then that’s replacing just plain green leaf or romaine. However, I don’t think that line of thinking is going to get me to my goal of being a vegan.

I highly doubt I will ever add so many veggie meals that one day I decide not to make my great grandpa’s beef stew. I’m going to have to give up animal products. Then, as I pathetically try to find foods I like, I’m bound to try and like something I can add. I hope.

What I afraid of? I love to blame my disease for my pickiness. Oh, my guts don’t like that. That definitely wouldn’t settle well. Ahhhh, but most things I have never even tried. My fear of food isn’t limited to healthy foods. I don’t like (read: I’ve never tried) any dipping sauce besides ketchup. No ranch, no sour cream. I don’t like (never tried) any toppings for burgers, or salad dressing besides 1000 Island. In fact, I have only ever eaten apple, strawberry or coconut cream pie. I’m too scared to try cherry, probably because I’ve never eaten cherries. I don’t like trying new ice cream flavors, candy bars, drinks. So the likelihood of me trying a vegetable has always been slim. I haven’t even tried hiding anything green into my fruit smoothie.

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I’m going to jump in, give up meat. That way I’m part way there. If I reduce my animal products like cheese and butter, then I’m even closer to my goal. My husband has asked me why I can’t do as he did and just jump straight into being a vegan. I’m scared. When I look for advice on picky-eaters, I get advice I can’t use on myself. I don’t want to make an avocado a face with cauliflower hair. I don’t see how I could sneak food into my own meal, what cover my eyes as I put in something slimy? I did read you shouldn’t bribe a kid with money, although a few weeks ago my husband paid me $10 to try asparagus and that worked, kinda. I tried to so I could claim my ten bucks and even sorta liked it. Not enough, I’ve eaten it again. Maybe, I should pay myself but that might also be an easy out, I mean, it’s still my money whether I eat it or not…..ohhhh, why was my mom picky and let me get away with eating Mac n Cheese all my life?

I’m part of a generation that’s been told what nutrition you need and how to look for that on the side of the box. Only lately, is it that I’m looking at things I don’t want included or better yet, buying items without a barcode. Being brought up with this mindset, I’ve been convinced, even though my research shows otherwise, that I won’t get enough nutrients if I give up meat.

I’m well aware that by eating a well-rounded vegan diet, a person will easily get all the necessary vitamins and minerals, protein, calcium, all that besides B12. However, that is what makes me fear being vegan: well-rounded. Well-rounded? I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean a salad of green leaf with a couple of hidden pieces of kale and a carrot.

As long as I eat meat and animal products, I’m going to have this internal battle at every meal. I look at my husband’s colorful plate then look at my plate full of different white and beige and pout. I really want to eat what he is eating.

My son is just like me. He’s declared himself a vegan just about five times a week. Only, he’s afraid to try new foods too. He eats what I eat.  I have so many reasons (read: excuses) why I just don’t like (read: won’t try) certain foods.  They are lame ones, but I got a ton of them.

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I make a bunch of different veggie burgers for Mr Vegan,
Sir Picky and I don’t eat them (yet)

I also know there is a bunch of hypocrisy when I say I want to be vegan but then also feel better about eating only locally grown, grass-fed meats. The local cows don’t like that. I’m also aware that by saying I’ll eat vegan most of the time isn’t right. I mean, is it ok for a heroin junkie to just relapse once a week? OK, meat isn’t heroin but some would argue it’s a darn good comparison.

I also worry that by being vegan, I’ll need not only to try new foods but try things like faux meat, vegan cheese and things that are mimicking a non-vegan food. That sort of grosses me out. I mean, if I have trouble understanding mixing peanut butter with jelly, you can imagine my not being keen on tofu.

Last night, I did more research and made some tough decisions and without even thinking, sat down with a bowl of ice cream to think it over. That was one guilty snack. Guilty because if you do care about weight loss, then a midnight snack isn’t healthy. But more so because I was literally online researching vegan choices while I ate!

I’ve got to make the jump. The guilt will only get stronger.
Wish me luck!

Planting herbs in containers

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As I do my reading, I’ve been trying to be really aware of where my food is coming from. I shop as local as possible, hit the farmers market, head out to the nearby farms, and buy from companies that are close. I try to get foods that are in season and fresh, organic is a bonus. While my husband is a vegan (yes, that dreaded v-word again), my son and I still eat meat. I feel (mostly) OK about that, because all the meat Sir Picky and I eat is from a local meat market that butchers meat fresh from a local family farm. I really am trying. So…..what about my spices?

I’ve decided to see if I can pull off growing my own herbs in some backyard containers. I looked on the Internet for local sources of good soil and starter plants. Luckily, I found some that were grown just a few miles from my home. I picked up some containers on sale. Grabbed some soil and compost and got it all ready to replant.

Now, I’m far from a gardener. In fact, looking at my thumb right now and it’s not even slightly green. But I have been growing mint for several months, which made me optimistic until I found out they grow like weeds. (Tastes great in lemonade or mojitos though)

I chose a small selection of herbs, trying to select ones we would actually use. I got basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. I also grabbed some more lavender for my backyard (great to add to the dryer cycle). I also bought a larger variety of rosemary for maybe toasting on the grill. Then, my son picked out a grape vine (eek) and a pink blueberry bush (?). Both are super anti-oxidants and I have hope that maybe my son and I will like blueberries better if they are pink. It could happen. Hopefully, all this has a better ending than my poor pathetic apple tree my son talked me into a few summers ago.

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I picked out these herbs with their health benefits in mind, but also how likely it was I would cook with them. OK, mostly based on which ones I had heard of and would cook with….but the health benefits actually rock!

ROSEMARY

Rosemary has many health benefits besides smelling great and making you happy. It’s tagged for helping people with their memory, migraines, pain (especially joint pain), is an anti-inflammatory and boosts your immune system (great for crohnies). It also has anti-bacterial qualities as well as help balance out your digestive system (yea). It helps with colds and congestion and has anti-aging qualities. All in all, great enough, I bought two!

THYME

Some consider thyme essential for good health. Besides preventing cancers and promoting good health, it is packed, and I mean PACKED with minerals and vitamins. Plus, lots of recipes team thyme up with rosemary.

OREGANO

Oregano has lots of bacteria fighting elements as well as loaded with vitamin K, Iron, and full of fiber. It’s a powerful anti-oxidant that also has lots of Omega 3.

BASIL

This is another herb that works as an anti-inflammatory. It stops some icky bacteria, promotes healthy bacteria we all need, all while packing in vitamin A, magnesium and increasing your blood flow. Without basil and oregano, your spaghetti sauce would just be plain ole tomato sauce (whoa, look at me all spicing up my foods).

PARSLEY

This little green sprig is actually rich in vitamins. Remember that old dude in the restaurant who would chew on it after dinner? Maybe you called him grandpa. Well, he had the right idea except maybe hide it into your salad for a fresh taste. It’s not only an anti-inflammatory herb, it boosts your immune system, helps even out your nervous system, reducing stress and joint pain while preventing some cancers. Full of vitamins and minerals, it’s powerful stuff. One of the vitamins it has a lot of is vitamin B12, hello vegans!

Now, I know what you are thinking. Ok, these little herbs are great, but how much do you think I’m going to eat? Does it matter how healthful these are or aren’t? Yes! I know you are only going to sprinkle some here, add a dash there, but wouldn’t you rather get some awesome benefits from these herbs than not get any at all? Heck, yea! I personally want to add things onto my plate that will help me, no matter how trivial it may seem. It all adds up!

I’m pretty excited and can’t wait to start cooking with my new treasures. They look cute and smell great, in fact, I’d love to roll around in the rosemary for awhile! (Don’t worry, I didn’t) Now I have real plants, real herbs and I will really know where and how they grew when I eat them.

Have a healthful day!

Trying new (super)foods

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Well, last night, true to my word, I tried some new foods. Instead of my normal salad of green leaf and carrots with my dressing on the side, I tried kale, spinach, green leaf with red peppers and cucumbers. I learned that really anything is edible with 1000 island dressing. Probably not ANYTHING!

My husband started getting fit again at the beginning of the year. I have been in a long flare up since last fall, so I was ready to try something/anything to get my stomach to chill out. After reading a few books (dozens) and watching some documentaries (tons), my husband went vegan. Ok, that is not what he calls it because I guess the “v” word makes people think of dirt-eating hippies or something. He eats a whole-food plant-based diet. Yea, that was easy explaining to my mom, who months later still doesn’t seem to understand why he isn’t eating steak. Or butter. Or eggs. The list goes on.

Going whole-food plant-based (dang, I might just use vegan, what the heck!) brought a whole new realm of recipes and lingo and conversations to the table. Literally and figuratively. My son, Sir Picky and I love love love the idea of not eating meat. But in reality, eliminating meat takes about half our foods away. So while I understand my husbands adoration for all things Engine 2, I’m going the more Hungry for Change route of adding new foods not eliminating. Hence, my wild salad! (baby steps)

Now, I’m trying hard to bake and cook without any animal products and trying to add foods while getting away from food-like processed nightmares. Still, super-foods? Goji sounds very Zsa Zsa Gabor; Spiralina is not Tinkerbell’s unknown sister; and there is no Big in front of Maca. What are these little treasures and what do they do?

Goji berries
You can find these in a dried form similar to raisins or as a juice like acai. Filled with antioxidants and rich in vitamin A, these little treats are suppose to help boost your immune system as well as make you a happy, calm, more athletic, mentally stable person that sleeps great. Wow is all I can think as I grab to try one. Not bad! It’s a yummy little berry very much like a cranberry/raspberry, only in raisin form. A little sweet, a little tart. Also known as the wolfberry, how can you resist? I have cooked with these for Mr Vegan but hadn’t tried one….I know, it’s a berry but it was still new. I’ve baked these into cookies and energy bars. I have tossed them into his salads. He also tosses them into his cereal. I can see why now. The only thing I did notice was a slight aftertaste of tea. Maybe, this was because I found these in the bulk tea section or because they are often used in tea. Here’s how:

* * * GOJI BERRY TEA * * *
Boil a mug full of water. Add in a small handful of dried goji berries and let it soak. The berries will rehydrate and become plump. Remove them at that time then enjoy them as a snack while you sip your fresh healthful tea.

Spiralina
This strong smelling powder is also found in the bulk section. It is super rich in protein and essential amino acids, as well as many vitamins and minerals. The research shows Spiralina is superior to plant proteins such as that from legumes. Protein-wise it is also very comparable to meat, eggs and milk. Calcium-wise, it has over 20 times more than milk. The list of all the health ailments it could help is impressive. From preventing toxins in the heart, liver, kidneys and many other organs. Again, Mr Vegan has this stuff. I can honestly say I have only seen him use it twice. It’s really pretty it the jar but man, does it stink. Sorry, but it does. Now, I am reading that you use it in smoothies, shakes and pretty much in anything you can stomach. It smells fishy but they say that it can taste differently depending on the source it came from. Spiralina from a fresh water pond should have a less harsh smell and taste. I’m not sure where ours comes from, but I just can not bring myself to try it. UPDATE: as I typed, my husband cracked a joke about me trying this. Then he proceeded to make the following recipe, probably thinking he could talk me into tasting it “for my blog”. UPDATE on the UPDATE: I tried it! It wasn’t horrible. Maybe over ice on a hot day, it could even taste good(?), maybe. After being mildly harassed, even by Sir Picky who gagged at the smell, I took TWO sips with a straw and can honestly say, if you want to drink Spiralina, it can be done.

* * * STRAIGHT SPIRALINA with HONEY * * *
1t Spiralina
1t Raw honey or agave
Fresh lime or lemon

Mix the spiralina and honey with just enough water to make paste when mixed. Once you have your paste, fill your glass up with water and squeeze a fresh lemon or lime. Instead of lime, you can also try cinnamon. Enjoy (?)

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Maca
Seriously, after not trying Spiralina, I felt guilty so I wanted to jump into the next supplement on my list; Maca. After researching and getting page after page explaining that it is an “acquired taste” and that it comes in pill form that “might” help. While it appears fairly safe, there is many warnings about it (goiters, eek). I have gathered that if you are looking for something to help with moods or something to boost your vitamin B12 (vegan alert) and proteins, this might help you. While good ole Maca-Maca is suppose to boost your libido, there really isn’t much proof in it. Again, I could be talking myself into not even having to try it since I am not a vegan looking for an aphrodisiac.

Next on my list: Chia Seeds (these I like)

Recommended websites:
Engine 2 Diet this website has great recipes and their books super resources.
Hungry for Change this website is one of my favorites. They have a documentary that is so good, I’ve watched it several times (Netflix!). I also have their book. They are the sister site to Food Matters who happens to have a great video on SuperFoods ~ ow.ly/lTMaF

Currently Reading: Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (@michaelpollan)

Have a healthful day!

Please note: everything has some risk, so research how something may effect your own health and talk to your doctor before trying any new supplements or vitamins. Some foods may also interact to certain medications.