Thursday, August 23, 2018

Common Nutrient Deficiencies

     Many of us are aware that the modern diet we commonly have here in America is a bit off. Either because of the amount of pesticides we use for our crops, or because of the sheer dependance we seem to have on overly processed foods. However, many of us also don't follow these thoughts to the deficiencies that this diet causes. So I decided to share with you a few common nutrient deficiencies we are seeing here in modern America.


     Iron is essential to good health. It's one of the main components in red blood cells, and is what binds with hemoglobin in order to transport oxygen to cells. It also helps to regulate cell growth and differentiation.  Women of childbearing age are particularly prone to iron deficiencies, or anemia, because of their menstrual cycle. However preschool aged children, vegetarians and vegans, as well as pregnant women are also susceptible. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, tiredness, weakness, weakened immune function, and impaired brain function.

Food Sources:

     There are two types of iron. Heme iron is the most easily absorbed and utilized form of iron. It's found only in animal foods, but is highest in red meat, dark-meat poultry, organ meats (such as liver), mussels, oysters, clams, and sardines. Non-heme iron is found in both animal and plant foods. It may be more common, but it's much harder for our bodies to absorb and use. This form of iron is most readily found in beans (legumes), seeds, greens, and dried fruit. To help the body be able to use non-heme iron more readily, combine these foods with foods high in vitamin C (strawberries, bell peppers, citrus fruit, etc) or other acids (vinegars, tomatoes, etc).

Other Ways to Increase Intake:

     Try using cast iron pots and pans in your cooking. This will naturally add iron to your food. Also, Stinging Nettle (Urtica doica), Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus), and Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) are a few herbs that have a great iron content. Try brewing a nourishing infusion with these herbs.


     Iodine is essential for proper thyroid function. This may seem like a trivial thing, but the thyroid controls quite a bit in the human body. Thyroid hormones control body growth, brain development, bone maintenance, metabolism, and helps regulate quite a few reproductive processes. Low iodine may even be related to fibromyalgia, dry skin, reduced alertness, and certain cancers.

Food Sources:

     Iodine is found in every food source, however it's typically found in very small quantities. However, good sources of iodine can be seafood, raw dairy and eggs, and seaweed. Several countries have added iodine to table salt as a way to fight iodine deficiency. 

Other Ways to Increase Intake:

     Since iodine is found in the soil, if the soil is low in iodine the crops grown in that soil will be low as well.  It's hard to determine what may be a good vegetable source for this nutrient because of this. However seaweeds and algae such as Spirulina, Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus), and Kelp (Saccharina latissima) can go a long way to supplement your iodine intake.

3-Vitamin D  

     Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is produced out of cholesterol in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for bone strength, immune function, brain health, and healthy moods. Since this vitamin is synthesized in our own bodies, you'd think we wouldn't have problems with deficiencies, however this deficiency is one of the highest in the world. There are quite a few factors in this. Scientists and doctors say that we only need 20 minutes of sun exposure for our bodies to make all the vitamin D we need, but even if we stay out in the sun, we don't get that sun exposure. We use sunblock which actually keeps us from absorbing the correct UV light that we need for the synthesis of vitamin D. Our sun exposure needs to be unprotected to get the right amount of UV. Also, our bodies need calcium and magnesium in order to properly use vitamin D, since these two nutrients are also common deficiencies, this makes it really hard for our bodies to use vitamin D correctly, and puts us at risk of calcium and magnesium deficiencies on top of that.

Food Sources:

     While we do make this vitamin in our own bodies, there are some food sources. One of the best sources of vitamin D is mushrooms. These little fungi also synthesize vitamin D by using sunlight. This makes the vitamin D found in mushrooms more readily available for our own bodies to use. We can also find vitamin D in dairy, eggs, and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, etc).

Other Ways to Increase Intake:

     It's very difficult to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through diet alone. Try going outside, in direct sunlight, without sunscreen, for 10 minutes a day. You can also increase the amount of vitamin D found in your mushrooms by exposing them to direct sunlight for up to 30 minutes before you cook them.


     Calcium is super important for bone growth, development, and health. But not only that, calcium is used all over the body, as a signaling molecule, allowing our heart, muscles, and nerves to function correctly. It also helps regulate the acid in our digestive tract. Excess calcium is stored in the bones, and when our diets are low in calcium, our bodies remove the calcium stored in our bones. This is why the number one symptom of calcium deficiency is osteoporosis. Other symptoms include severe muscle cramps, and abnormal heart rhythm.

Food Sources:

     Dairy is one of the best known sources of calcium in the diet. However, dark leafy greens, boned fish, wheatgrass, the pith of citrus fruits, and carob are also good sources of calcium.

Other Ways to Increase Intake:

     Horestail (Equisetum arvensis), Oatstraw (Avena sativa), and Nettle (Urtica doica) are good herbal sources of calcium. However, calcium is fairly hard to extract, so using these herbs to make a nourishing infusion may be the best way to use them for calcium supplementation.

5-Folate or Folic Acid 

     Folate is a major nutrient. It aids the formation of red blood cells, the replication of DNA, and the breakdown of both protein and amino acids. However the most critical role this nutrient takes is in the early stages of pregnancy. Folate is essential in the early formation of the embryo, even before most women know that they are pregnant. This is why women who are trying to conceive should be taking folate supplements. Several studies have shown that women with folate deficiencies are much more likely to give birth to children with brain defects.

Food Sources:

     One of the most commonly known sources for folate in the diet are dried beans (pinto, kidney, soy, lentil, etc). You can also find decent amounts of folate in green leafy vegetables and nutritional yeast.

Other Ways to Increase Intake:

     Herbs can also be a great source of folate. Nettle (Urtica doica), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), and Oatstraw (Avena sativa) are three herbs high in this nutrient. Try consuming a nourishing infusion made with these herbs to help boost your daily intake.

     I hope this brings awareness to you and your family.  If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.


7 Common Nutrient Deficiencies; Know the Signs: Every Day Health:

7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common: Healthline:

7 Common Vitamin Deficiencies: Better Nutrition:

10 Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies: Vitamins and Health Facts:

11 Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies: Dr. Mercola:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Introduction to Campfire Cooking: Foil Packets

     My husband and I love hiking, camping, and all kinds of outdoor activities. However, we live in Florida and it gets pretty hot here in the summer. We tend to slow our outdoor activities down a bit starting in mid June until the temperatures reach reasonable numbers again (we especially avoid 3 digit numbers). Even though it's still hot here, we're starting to gear up for the fall camping season. So I thought I might share some tips for campfire cooking, and a few of my favorite recipes.

     I tend to prefer to stick to simple meals when I camp, less clean-up and more time enjoying nature is a good thing. I actually prep (and in some cases even pre-cook) most of our meals the week before our trip. One of my favorite things to make are foil packets. You literally chop up a bunch of vegetables and/or meat, add in a it of butter/oil and some seasonings, and wrap them up in foil (make sure to close your packets on the top so the juices don't leak out into the fire). Now, if you don't want to deal with the waste, you can always just pack up the chopped vegetables and sautee them in a pan. But I often have to deal with picky eaters and foil packets are a bit more customizable. If person A doesn't like beets, but person B loves them, you can easily make them separate meals. Or if person C is the only vegan in the group, you can easily make all their food vegan friendly while not making the others have to worry about it. Foil packets are also super easy to cook in just about any situation. If there's a fire ban because of drought conditions, you can still cook the foil packets in a camp oven or in a pot on the camp stove. Oops, you forgot to pack your campfire grill? No problem, put the foil packets next to the fire (or directly on top of the embers) and they'll cook just fine! 

     While you can put whatever ingredients you want into your packets, I figured I'd share a few of my favorite recipes with you guys.

1.   This is a great breakfast idea, and can be made gluten free and vegan friendly by using GF bread and coconut milk. This one is not good to make completely ahead of time, but you can prepare the dry ingredients in foil packets, mix the wet ingredients in a different container and just add the wet ingredients to each packet at your campsite. This recipe makes 3 adult servings (or 2 adults and 2 kids).

Foil Packet Blueberry Bread Pudding

½ cup Whole Milk or Coconut Milk
½ cup Heavy Cream or Coconut Cream
4 eggs or 4 tablespoons ground Flaxseed and 9 tablespoons Water
¼ cup Plain Greek Yogurt or Pureed Silken Tofu
½ cup Sugar (or Honey)
¼ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
¼ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Fresh Blueberries
8 slices of Bread

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a blender and blend well. Store in a seal-able container (one that has portions on the side makes cooking much easier at camp) in your cooler.  Cut up the bread into ½ inch cubes. Portion the cubes, and blueberries, equally into 3 foil squares. Seal the squares on the sides and top, but make sure you can open the top again at camp. When you are ready to cook them, open the packets and pour in the wet mixture, evenly into the 3 packets. Carefully stir the mixture in each packet and close them up. Allow the packets to rest for about 5 minutes before cooking. They take 25-35 minutes to cook. Don't place them on direct heat or you will burn the bottom. You also don't have to flip them as long as the packets are sealed well. Remove them from the heat and enjoy!

* You can also try this recipe using any fruit you want, try sliced bananas or strawberries for a different treat!

2. I grew up eating these as often as my dad would make them. They're super great in an oven, but they're best over an open fire, not to mention they're really easy to make. Make them ahead of time to save on prep, or make them at your campsite.

Sweet Onions

4 large Sweet Onions (I prefer Vidalia Onions for this)
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
*optional 4 teaspoons White Wine, Veggie Broth, or Beer

     Peel the onions, leaving the root ends intact. Cut a thin slice from the top of each onion and cut a small hole in each. Cut into quarters, leaving the bottom ½ inch uncut. Place each onion on a square of foil and drizzle olive oil, and sprinkle salt and pepper, into the center of the onions. If desired, also drizzle wine, broth, or beer into the holes. Close up the foil packet tightly. Grill over indirect heat for 45 minutes.

3. This recipe is great for all the vegan's in the camp. It's also super versatile, try adding in some tempeh or chicken. Or maybe try changing up the veggies a bit (add some hot peppers or take out the corn and add 1 cup of chick peas instead). 

Mixed Veggie BBQ

1 cup of chopped Bell Peppers (Red and Yellow are great for this)
1 cup chopped Onion
1 cup Baby Carrots
1 cup cubed Potatoes (about ½ inch cubed)
1 cup Baby Bella Mushrooms
1 Corn Cob, sliced about 1 inch thick
2 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 teaspoon Soy Sauce or Liquid Aminos
2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 teaspoon Paprika
¾ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Black Pepper

     Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and give it a good toss. Divide the mixture equally between 4 pieces of foil. Close up the foil and place over indirect heat for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Enjoy!

4. This is a crowd-pleasing dessert, and it's super easy and fast. You don't need to prepare this ahead of time. For added fun, try bringing other toppings (marshmallows, blueberries, strawberries, trail mix, granola, etc) and let everyone stuff their own bananas. If you don't have a grill for over your fire, place these babies next to the fire, or in the embers for about 7-8 minutes (or until they're nice and gooey).       

Banana Boats

4 unpeeled Bananas
8 teaspoons Dark Chocolate Chips or Carob Chips
¼ cup Pistachios (or any nut you like)
¼ cup Raw Honey

     Place bananas on a 12-inch square of foil, shaping the foil around the bananas to help them sit flat. Cut each banana lengthwise, about ½ inch deep, leaving ½ inch on each end uncut. Gently pull the bananas open, creating a pocket. Drizzle a little honey into the pockets and fill with chocolate and nuts.  Gently wrap foil around the bananas, closing the packets. Grill them for around 5 minutes. 

     In any of these recipes, feel free to change the ingredients around. Play with different herbs, veggies, and fruits. Have fun, play around, and let me know what you think below!

Thursday, August 9, 2018


     What is blue-green, packed full of nutrients, and native to some of the most beautiful places on Earth? Spriulina. This algae is reported to be one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth. It's even being studied by NASA, to grow in space. But what other benefits does it have?

Medicinal Uses:

Nutrition- A single tablespoon of Spirulina contains 4 grams of protein, 15% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of Riboflavin, 11% RDA of Thiamin, 4% RDA of Niacin, 21% RDS of Copper, and 11% RDA of Iron. It also contains a good amount of magnesium, potassium, manganese, healthy fats (omega-3s and omega-6s), and just about every other nutrient necessary for us.

Detox- Spirulina is super effective at detoxing heavy metals from the body, especially arsenic. It also helps reduce the symptoms of radiation sickness.

Candida- Candida is present in every part of the human body. It's necessary for a healthy balance of our microbiome. However, when it gets out of control, it causes major problems such as yeast infections. It's even been linked to several autoimmune disorders. Spirulina, however, helps keep Candida under control.

Sinuses- Allergic rhinitis, triggered by environmental allergens (pollen, animal dander, etc), is the inflammation of the nasal airways causing an excess of mucus production which can lead to stagnation and infection. Spirulina has been shown to reduce that inflammation, preventing the production of excessive mucus. 

Natural Energy Boost- Not only does Spirulina help improve our nutritional intake, it also helps to provide a natural energy boost. It also helps improve muscle endurance, making this a great supplement for athletes.

Cardiovascular Health- Spirulina is great for your cardiovascular system. It lowers triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) while raising HDL (good cholesterol). It also protects LDL and keeps it from becoming oxidized, preventing a number of cardiovascular diseases. Spirulina also reduces blood pressure and helps to prevent the onset of anemia. 

Cautions- Some people may have an allergic reaction to Spirulina. People with phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid Spirulina. Spirulina should also be avoided by people with autoimmune conditions, as it could trigger a flare-up. It can also cause harmful interactions with certain medications used to treat inflammatory disorders.

     I only included a basic introduction to this curious little plant.  I hope you have learned a new appreciation for Spirulina.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


10 Health Benefits of Spirulina: Healthline:

Spirulina (Arthrospira Platensis): Ayurveda Medicare:

Spirulina Benefits: Dr. Axe:

Spirulina Benefits: Wellness Mama:

What is Spirulina?: Chinese Herbs:


Greetings from the Bat Lady!

     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...