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How to Grow Okra

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Okra (Hibiscus esculentus) is a unique, annual vegetable from the same family as the hollyhock. It is usually the color of fresh corn husks, has the shape of a spike and the texture of a grooved cucumber. When sliced, it may remind you of a tiny star fruit. In this short video, you’ll see how easy it is to add to your garden planting.

Although technically a fruit because its seeds are inside the plant, okra is usually referred to as a vegetable that is also called “lady fingers” in reference to their shape, and comes in more than one variety. It is a favorite in the American South and areas of Africa and the Mediterranean, where it is usually cooked.

As an ancient crop, okra was also used medicinally. The leaves were used for pain relief and urinary problems. Today, it is still used by holistic practitioners to treat lung inflammation and sore throats and to add bulk to stools as a laxative. It may also be effective for acid reflux, cataracts and atherosclerosis.1

Okra is a warm weather crop, easily grown in your garden and can be harvested every several days. The vegetables are easy to use in your meals and the plants look great in your garden as they flower throughout the summer months.

History of the Mighty Okra

Okra goes by a number of other names including bamia, gumbo and ochre.2 The name likely derives from one of the Niger-Congo groups of languages, which became Anglicized in the late 18th century. 

It’s believed okra originated near Ethiopia and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. Cultivation spread the plants throughout North Africa and the Middle East, where the seed pods were eaten cooked and the seeds were toasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute.3

Okra was brought to the Caribbean and the U.S. in the 1700s, either by slaves from West Africa or by French colonists to Louisiana. However the debut in the Western Hemisphere was earlier in the 1600s in Brazil through Africa.4 In the U.S., okra is commonly used in Cajun, Southern and Creole cooking.

Make Your Choice from Several Varieties of Okra

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange lists 36 different varieties of okra you may grow from seed at home. Although most are a deep green color, some varieties are lightly streaked red to full deep red, like the Asian Jing Orange Okra, whose stems are also bright red and the leaves have red veins.5

A typical plant grows to 4 feet in height, but some varieties grow over 7 feet tall. The Clemson Spineless variety accounts for the greatest number of commercial and residential plantings of okra in California.6 The term spineless refers to a relative lack of spines on the pods and branches.

The Star of David is an open-pollinated okra heirloom plant growing 7 feet tall or higher with purplish leaves and chubby pods. Several hybrid plants include the Annie Oakley, Green Vest and 1285. Red colored okra include Red Velvet, Burgundy and Bowling Red.

If you’re looking for an oversized vegetable, try the Perkins Mammoth long pod maturing in 60 days and growing to a height of 6 to 10 feet. The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends the following varieties:7

  • Annie Oakley — This hybrid plant takes 52 days to mature and has spineless pods. It grows to about 5 feet tall.
  • Park’s Candelabra Branching — This plant is a base-branching okra variety, which makes harvesting a bit easier.
  • Louisiana Green Velvet — This hybrid plant is good for larger garden areas. It is vigorous and grows to be 6 feet tall. It is also smooth and spineless.

Take Care of Your Okra Garden

The okra plant prefers dry soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.0. Plants do well in fertile soil with added compost. Whether or not a nitrogen-based fertilizer is needed will depend on the amount of nitrogen already in your garden soil. Too much nitrogen may result in more leaves than vegetables.8

Prepare the area with well-draining soil in full sun. Although they are not wide plants, they do grow tall so be sure to space out the rows 3 to 4 feet apart to allow for plenty of sunshine to get to the lower leaves.9 The okra plant is a warm-weather plant so consider starting indoors three to four weeks before the last spring frost, in peat pots under full light.

Since the growing season is generally 50 to 60 days for okra, you can also start them directly in your garden after the last frost, or under a cold frame three to four weeks before the last frost. Without the cold frame, you must have stable warm weather, and the soil must be warmed to 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.10

Plant the seeds three-fourths to 1 inch deep.11 Seeds may be slow to germinate, but you can speed the process by soaking the seeds overnight in water, or abrading them lightly with sandpaper to break the hard seed coat before planting.12

If you are transplanting okra seedlings, be sure to space them 2 feet apart to provide ample room for growth, and the rows 3 to 4 feet apart. If you’re sowing seeds outdoors, thin the seedlings to allow for similar spacing.

Once the plants have sprouted, remove weeds and mulch heavily to prevent weed growth. At this time you might also side dress the plants with aged manure or rich compost.

Harvesting and Storing Okra

The first harvest from your planting should be ready about 60 days after planting, depending upon the variety you plant. Since the okra becomes hard and woody if left on the plant too long, you’ll want to harvest when they are 2 to 3 inches long. This may be nearly every other day. The vegetables appear on the plant approximately four days after the flower.

Cut the stem of the okra just above the cap with a knife. Some varieties have been bred to snap off the plant when they’re ready to harvest. If the stem is too hard to cut, the pod is likely too old and should be thrown out.13

Remember to use gloves and wear long sleeves when you’re harvesting or caring for your okra plants. Most varieties are covered with tiny spines that irritate the skin, unless you have planted a spineless variety. Interestingly, this irritation does not happen internally when you eat them.

As you are harvesting every couple of days, you’ll want to store the okra until you have enough for a meal. You can place the uncut and uncooked pods into freezer bags and keep them in the freezer for several months and use them during the winter.14 Canned okra can also be used for frying later in the winter (although I don’t recommend frying your foods). The process is similar to canning other vegetables.15

Watch for Pests Through the Growing Season

It’s important to rotate your crop every four years as old varieties tend to have deep root systems. In years when your area has a high grasshopper count, the insects may eat the lower leaves of the plants.16

Other pests and diseases affecting okra plants are aphids, corn earworms, stink bugs and fusarium wilt. Aphids are little green bugs appearing on the top or bottom of the leaves. They are soft-bodied and can survive in almost any temperature zone and multiply quickly, so it’s important to get them under control.17

Look for misshapen, stunted or yellowing leaves and check for the underside as this is where aphids love to hide. If the leaves or stems have a sticky substance it’s also a sign aphids have been drinking plant sap. Try spraying the leaves with cold water from the hose as sometimes all they need is a cold blast to dislodge them from the plant.

You can also try a mix of dishwashing soap and water to kill the insects. Reapply soapy water every two to three days for two weeks in order to completely get rid of the insects. With a large invasion you may try dusting the plants with flour as it constipates the pests and kills them.18

Corn earworms can be deterred by spraying the plants with mineral oil as soon as the silks form; repeat after rainy spells.19 Fusarium wilt is found commonly throughout the U.S. and is a soil-borne pathogen.20 The fungus enters through the root system and interferes with water distribution in the plant.

Symptoms of the disease usually appear in the latter part of the growing season and are first noted at the lower part of the plant. Unfortunately, the pathogen can survive for years in the soil and is often spread by insects and garden equipment.

When possible, plant resistant varieties. Take out the infected growth from the garden and sterilize your pruning shears.21 Use of high nitrogen fertilizers may increase the susceptibility, so a slow-release organic fertilizer is your better choice.

If the disease persists, you may have to remove the affected part of the garden and heat the soil by leaving a clear plastic tarp on the surface for four to six weeks during the hottest part of the year. This reduces many of the pests inhabiting the soil, including nematodes, fungi, insects and weed seeds.22

Powerful Health Benefits Packed in a Small Pod

Okra pods are rich in vitamins and minerals, including quercetin, catechin and epicatechin.23 They are also known to be high in vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. Many health benefits come from superior fiber content helping to regulate digestion and maintain blood sugar levels.

Okra extracts have been used to reduce oxidative stress and insulin resistance in research on pregnant rats induced with gestational diabetes.24 Scientists found the extract exerted potential antihyperglycemic and hypolipidemic effects and also was associated with reduced damage to pancreatic tissue.

In another study,25 researchers found okra may improve glucose homeostasis and reduce B-cell damage in diabetes. A 2018 study26 asserts okra could improve metabolic complications, and if it has a beneficial effect on the pancreas in rats, benefits may translate to humans, as well.

One vital compound found in okra is glutathione. Foods27 containing glutathione fall into two categories: those containing the glutathione molecule and those promoting glutathione production and/or “upload” the activity of glutathione enzymes in your body.

However, the okra must remain uncooked as cooking glutathione foods diminishes the content. Storage methods can affect levels as well. One study shows dietary glutathione intake can lower your risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer.28

An animal study29 observed that it protects against diabetic nephropathy (damage to kidneys due to diabetes) and neuropathy (damage to nerves and eventual renal failure).30

Okra contains a number of valuable nutrients, including fiber. Several of the most prominent must be obtained through food, and if you don’t get enough of them, a deficiency can seriously compromise your health. Five of the most beneficial include:31

Potassium — A mineral as well as an electrolyte, as it conducts electrical impulses through your body, potassium helps normalize your muscle contractions, heart rhythm, blood pressure, digestion, pH balance and more. Since your body doesn’t produce it, you must get an optimal amount from food, while making sure you balance it with your sodium intake.

Folate — One of several B vitamins, this one produces red blood cells, and makes and repairs your DNA. A deficiency can lead to anemia, depriving your cells of oxygen. One of its most crucial functions is for pregnant women as it’s involved with preventing birth defects.

Note: Although many people interchange them, do not confuse folate, which occurs naturally in foods, with folic acid, which is a synthetic form of vitamin B9 used as a supplement and an additive to processed foods.

Calcium — Stored in your bones, calcium works with vitamin D to ensure you avoid brittle, prone-to-break bones. To keep calcium from settling in areas it shouldn’t be and directing it to where it’s needed, calcium also needs vitamin K2.

Vitamin K — A fat-soluble vitamin, it plays a critical role in protecting your heart, building your bones, optimizing your insulin levels and helping your blood to clot properly. Vitamin K can help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple types of cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin C — This powerful antioxidant lessens both the duration and severity of a cold and is necessary to produce collagen, the most abundant protein in mammals, which keeps your skin and tissues firm but flexible. A vitamin C deficiency weakens your immune system.

How to Use and Prepare Okra at Home

Okra produces a sticky, viscous fluid called mucilage under low heat. Boiling and applying the transparent mucilage to your hair as a conditioner may help fight dandruff and give an added shine. Five serving alternatives, with a few twists, are inspired by the Smithsonian magazine:32

  • Fried okra — This is the traditional Southern way of serving okra, involving corn meal and so-called “vegetable oils,” but it’s not the healthiest. If you choose to eat fried okra, be sure to use a healthy cooking oil such as coconut oil instead, perhaps with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese added, and cook it at a lower temperature.
  • Gumbo — One option of using okra in gumbo is to use is for thickening33 for taste and with the obligatory “holy trinity” of bell pepper, onion and celery. This is a Southern staple. In fact, the African name “gombo” is where the recipe was derived. It’s often mixed with meat, tomatoes and bay leaves.
  • Pickled okra34 Using the sweet and spicy variety of okra, this is another way to serve the vegetable, often with dried chilies, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, hot peppers, vinegar, fresh dill, salt and rice wine vinegar.
  • Grilled or oven-roasted okra35 — This recipe can be as simple as dousing clean, quartered okra pods with olive oil and sprinkling them with salt and pepper on a baking sheet, then cooking for 15 minutes.
  • Stewed okra — This is a great way to add the nutrients but with stronger-flavored flavors, such as beef broth, lamb, balsamic vinegar, cloves, tomato paste, garlic, mint leaves and spices, like in the case of banya, an Egyptian meat and okra stew.

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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Homemade Miso Soup With Vegetables

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homemade miso soup

Sometimes when the weather is chilly or you’re simply feeling under the weather, there is nothing better than a warm brothy soup. This miso soup combines nutrient-rich bone broth with the probiotic benefits of miso. And you get the benefits of vitamins and minerals from vegetables too. Make a big batch for the whole family or just one bowl for you!

What Is Miso?

Miso is a potent paste made out of fermented soybeans. But isn’t soy bad for you, you ask? Yes and no. Soy beans, like any legume, contain a large amount of phytic acid which interferes with nutrient absorption. They also contain phytoestrogens, which have their own negative side effects.

However, miso is fermented soy. Fermented foods contain bacteria which has eaten the sugars and starches present in the food. This process preserves the food and also gives it probiotics, enzymes, and additional vitamins. It makes the food more easily digested and the nutrients easier for the body to use.

There are several different colors of miso available, and all of them are just fine for soup making. Generally, the darker colored the miso, the stronger the flavor. I can usually find miso in the ethnic food section of my grocery store, but there are also some good organic options available online.

How to Make a Quick Miso Soup

To make miso soup, add a few teaspoons of miso paste is to a broth with spices and vegetables. Traditionally, dashi, the broth used for miso soup, is made with dried bonito (a type of fish) flakes and kelp. While you are welcome to do it this way, you can also use a good chicken bone broth like the one sold at Kettle and Fire.

Then, just top with additional seasonings, some vegetables, the miso, and sometimes a hard-boiled egg.

One note on adding the miso — it works best if you remove about ¼ cup of the warm broth from the pan and whisk in the miso paste with a fork before returning it to the rest of the soup. Once you add the miso, just warm the soup gently. Don’t boil it or you’ll destroy all the gut healthy bacteria in the miso!

If you’d like to try your hand at making dashi, the traditional fish and kelp broth for miso soup, this video is a good one.

No Time to Make From Scratch?

If you want to make life even simpler, Kettle and Fire also sells a delicious miso soup that’s all ready to go. Just heat it up and add any vegetables you like.

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Homemade Miso Soup Recipe

It’s easy to make miso soup at home using a good chicken bone broth, miso paste, and vegetables.

Ingredients

  • cup chicken broth
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp ginger (grated)
  • 3 mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 TBSP miso paste
  • ½ cup fresh spinach
  • 1 green onion (chopped)
  • 1 egg (optional)

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan, combine the broth, minced garlic, onion powder, grated ginger, and sliced mushrooms.

  • Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes.

  • Allow the broth to cool slightly.

  • Remove ¼ cup of the warm broth to a small bowl and whisk in the miso paste.

  • Return the broth/miso mixture to the pan with the rest of the broth.

  • Turn the heat on low and add the spinach, heating just until warmed.

  • Top with the green onion and hard boiled egg if desired.

Notes

Other vegetables you can add: baby bok choy, daikon, cabbage, kale, chard

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 181kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 163mg | Sodium: 820mg | Potassium: 675mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 35.3% | Vitamin C: 10.5% | Calcium: 5.4% | Iron: 14.7%

Have you ever used miso? What do you do with it?

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