A few years ago, I made the decision to eat much healthier. I had multiple health problems, and was taking several medications daily. Once I got pregnant with my 3rd child, I immediately decided to stop taking all the pharmaceuticals, including supplements like fish oil and Vitamin C. There are no definitive studies on the effect of any of these on an unborn baby. I knew that the risk for potential detriment wasn’t worth it to me. Also, while all those pills may have helped a little, they certainly didn’t cure my fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic back pain from scoliosis, etc.
I opined that anything could be made from scratch rather than buying it in a package. After all, how did people make that things before the advent of food factories? Packaged foods are high in preservatives, “natural” and artificial flavors, etc.; I knew that couldn’t be healthy. Thankfully, there are some healthy alternatives that you can buy, but they are often much more costly. So I was on a mission! I tried my hand at nearly every packaged food we routinely bought. I found that some things were too time consuming, especially for feeding a lot of kids (crackers, especially graham crackers!), some were quite fun to try (hot dog buns!), and others have become such favorites that I have the recipes memorized (biscuits, pancakes, tortillas).
A couple weeks ago, I decided to use some organic cucumbers we had recently bought to make pickles. I don’t have canning equipment, but I remember my grandma making “refrigerator pickles”. So I set out to find a recipe! Here is my version (because I never follow a recipe exactly):
– cucumbers, thinly sliced (I left the peel on mine, because I like the taste and am aware of the fibrous benefits of it!)
– onion, sliced
– salt and pepper
– white vinegar
1) Fill a large jar (I used an empty pickle jar that I had cleaned out) about 3/4 of the way with the cucumber slices. How many cucumbers you’ll need depends on how big your jar is and the size of the cucumbers!
2) Add slices of onion to the jar until it’s nearly full.
3) Pour in about 1/4 cup sugar and about 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper.
4) Fill the jar with white vinegar, put the lid on tightly, then shake and turn the jar to mix thoroughly until you don’t see any more sugar granules.
5) You can eat the pickles right away, but let them sit in the fridge overnight for a fuller flavor! They should stay good for at least 10 days in the fridge.
I also made a small jar of pickles, using a large cucumber from our garden! I made those pickles the same way, except I also added a clove of garlic, chopped into little pieces. These pickles are very tangy! For a sweeter taste, add more sugar.
When I placed the jar in the fridge next to the store-bought jar of dill pickle slices, my 9 year old daughter immediately said, “What’s wrong with those pickles?” The most obvious difference is the green color that the store-bought pickles are tinted with. I told her to read the label and spot the differences between our pickles and the store-bought ones:
I can’t find anything that says calcium chloride is dangerous to consume, but it does pose a danger to the workers who add it to food products.
Turmeric oleoresin is a derivative of turmeric, a spice that has many health benefits. Changing the spice, however, seems to be a bad idea. A two-year study of the effects of ingesting this additive has shown an increase in carcinogenic activity and an increase in the formation of ulcers, among other things. (So why is it still being used? Good question!)
Polysorbate 80 is a common food additive that has been shown in various studies to decrease fertility in female rats and increase and/or exasperate bowel problems. (Why is this additive still widely used? Maybe you should be asking yourself what the FDA actually does.)
“Natural flavors” sounds innocuous, but could literally mean almost anything.
…artificial and natural add-ins might trick you into expecting flavors out of your foods that don’t exist in real life. “The goal is to make a short intense flavor that quickly dissipates so you come back for more,”…
This article does a great job of explaining what the terms “natural” or “artificial” flavors mean.
Straight from the FDA:
The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.
Research about the food dye yellow #5 (tartrazine) is hard to find, if it exists. I did find this study, which states:
As tartrazine belongs to the azo class, it is still a possible food carcinogen. Other studies with different doses and schedules, observing their effects associated to other carcinogens should be carried out if their safe use is to be recommended.
It is known to cause allergic reactions in at least .1% of people, and is potentially linked with an increase in ADHD symptoms (which could explain the boom in this “disorder” being diagnosed, as more and more children consume packaged foods instead of whole foods).
When all is said and done, it is also worth noting that the pickles in my fridge come from India. If you’re at all concerned with the use of fossil fuels, the treatment of factory workers in other countries, or building a stable local economy, you will agree that buying jars of pickles from India is a bad idea.
In light of all this, I do believe I will be making my own pickles from now on. Even using non-organic cucumbers to make refrigerator pickles throughout the year has to be better than buying these jars full of known carcinogens. I can only hope that my formerly massive pickle consumption hasn’t already sealed my fate.