MTHFR – A Brief Look

4As promised, I am going to provide a brief outline of the MTHFR gene mutation, and what that means for us.  I am not a doctor, nor have any medical training of any sort.  The information below is simply my understanding of the condition, based on my own internet research.  There are several sites, referenced at the end of this post, that will be able to provide more in-depth information if you’re interested.

Firstly, what does MTHFR stand for?  The full title is – methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.  Unless you’re a scientist or in the medical field, you will no doubt find MTHFR easier to remember, write, and say.

The MTHFR gene produces the MTHFR enzyme, which plays a pivotal role in a process called methylation.  Methylation, which is the addition of a methyl group (a group of atoms) to another molecule, is responsible for a huge array of processes responsible for keeping your body whole, healthy, and functioning well.  Some of the key processes include:

  • Making proteins
  • Utilising antioxidants
  • Assisting the liver to process fats
  • Defence against depression and inflammation
  • Support for immune system
  • Production and breakdown of brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine and melatonin
  • Growth, repair and maintenance of cells and tissue
  • Elimination of toxins and heavy metals
  • Support of adrenal system
  • Supply glutathione, a key anti-oxidant
  • Support our energy cycle

In a nutshell, methylation is a switch that turns genes, enzymes and neurotransmitters on and off.  This can mean turning on or off:

  • Tissue repair
  • Inflammation
  • The stress response
  • The aging process
  • Production of anti-oxidants and amino acids

When someone has a mutated MTHFR gene, the enzyme it produces is defective, and does not function correctly.  This can lead to retention of heavy metals in the system, and high levels of homocysteine.  These build ups can each lead to multiple, and severe, consequences such as:

  • Increased risk of heart disease and thrombosis
  • Increased risk of dementia
  • Build up of stress and toxins
  • Increased risk of arteriosclerosis
  • Fatty liver degenerative disease
  • Anemia
  • Increased inflammation and free radical damage
  • Reduction in the production of SAM-e, which can lead to depression
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Miscarriages
  • Migraines
  • Chemical sensitivities

Other conditions that have been linked to the MTHFR gene mutation include:

  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Parkinson’s
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Heart murmers
  • Asthma

There are a number of forms of the gene mutation, with research only fairly new in this field.  Currently, there are two main positions that are being researched and tested for – C667T and A1298C.  These codes relate to the actual segments of the gene where the mutations can be found.  The terms Homozygous and Heterozygous relate to whether you have received a mutation from one or both parents.

Heterozygous means you have one copy of either the 677 mutation, or the 1298 mutation, plus a normal one from the other parent.  This generally relates to a 40% loss of function of the MTHFR enzyme.  This is the diagnosis that we are facing for Mum.

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So what does this all mean?

Genetic research is still a relatively new field, and therefore treatment is also not fully developed.  Most treatment protocols include the supplementation of the amino acids and anti-oxidants being limited by the mutation, along with dietary changes.  The removal of gluten from the diet, along with most other cereal grains, is a widely used technique.  The GenoType diet is also based on the methylation process, hence why it is also used as a foundation of treatment.

All in all, this will be an ongoing journey and education over the foreseeable future, as new research continues, and treatments are developed.  Come and join the ride if you dare!

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Resources

http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/mthfr/

http://www.mthfrsupport.com.au/

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MTHFR

http://mthfr.net/

http://www.proactivwellnesscenters.com/Hormone-Replacement/mthfr-implications-and-treatment/

Gluten Free Baking Gem – Elana’s Pantry

As with many diets and food allergies, there are a host of websites for each with information, news, ideas and recipes.

One that I found to be very helpful to suit our needs is Elana’s Pantry.  She has the kind of recipes that I like – simple, wholesome and traditional – and her recipes are categorised depending on need.  So whilst all of her recipes are gluten free, I can go to the Egg-Free page and find recipes that are even more ideal.

Of that big batch of baking I did last week, most of the recipes were from Elana’s site.  Most of them turned out well, however my oven is dying, which makes it difficult to maintain the correct temperature.  Many items wind up burnt on the outside yet still raw in the middle.  With perseverance, and returning a few items to the oven, everything came out edible and pretty darn tasty.

The main staple in Elana’s baking is almond flour.  This started me on a hunt – what on earth is almond flour?  Some research and digging led me to the discovery that almond flour is essentially almond meal made from blanched almonds, and ground a little finer.  The result is a crumbly, pale yellow and slightly oily meal.

There is some debate about just how healthy this is, due to the amounts used in recipes.  1 cup of the almond flour is equivalent to about 90 almonds, which you certainly wouldn’t generally eat in one sitting.  Yet you wouldn’t (or certainly shouldn’t) eat an entire batch of biscuits made with that cup of almond flour either.  I believe that the ‘everything in moderation’ rule applies here.  Almonds are exceptionally healthy, with good fats and nutrients.  As long as you eat the resulting baked goods in moderation, you can’t go too wrong.

Butter Cookies

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Fig Newtons

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Muesli Scones

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Healthy Every Day Cookbook

imageSince having our dietary lives upset, I seem to be spending most of my time looking at recipes.  A very timely new cookbook has arrived on the shelves from Australian chef Pete Evans – Healthy Every Day.

I snapped up a copy from Big W, and proceeded to read through and mark off recipes to try.  It’s a very comprehensive book, with lots of extra tips and info.

I have just a few recipes tagged to try – could take me a while to work through them all!

We’ve already tried the quinoa crusted fish – mmm mmm!

Raw Blueberry Pancakes – Recipe

imageI was ecstatic recently to have won an Excalibur dehydrator.  I’d been eying them off, but couldn’t bring myself to purchase one.  I didn’t really have a spare $500 anyway.  And for me, who doesn’t win anything, this was a huge event!

Whilst waiting for its arrival, I went hunting for all of those recipes I’d previously written off due to not having a dehydrator.  I have them all lined up ready to go, though have only made three so far.  The first were a batch of lemon cookies.  They were a little hum-ho, mostly I think because I didn’t have the thermostat high enough.  I also forgot to take a photo, so will post those when I retry them.

Next in line were raw blueberry pancakes – yummo!  Whilst not the light, fluffy traditional pancakes, I found these still to be pretty darn scrumptious, and will definitely be making them again!

Original Recipe from Alissa Cohen

Morning, Noon and Night Pancakes

Ingredients

Makes 10 pancakes

  • 2 cups pecans, soaked for 4 hours
  • 2 cups pine nuts 
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup agave nectar
  • Seeds from 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups blueberries, muddled

Method

  • Put the soaked pecans and any remaining soaking liquid, pine nuts, bananas, agave, vanilla, salt, and ½ cup water in a high-speed blender
  • Blend until smooth
  • Using a spatula, fold in the muddled blueberries.
  • With a ladle, drop ½ -cup measures of the batter onto Teflex-line dehydrator racks, leaving at least ½ inch between the pancakes.  They should be thick like pancakes, about ½ inch thick, not thin like crêpes
  • Dehydrate for 8 hours
  • Flip the pancakes onto clean Teflex sheets and dehydrate for 8 more hours.
  • Cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.

My Notes

Due to the pricey ingredients, I quartered the recipe and made 4 pancakes.  They’re quite filling, so 1 is ample for a serving

I used vanilla extract rather than seeds

I had to research what ‘muddled’ means, as I’m relatively new to the world of fine cuisine 🙂  Basically, lightly mashed

I ate my pancakes with coconut butter, and a little raw honey drizzled over the top mmmmmm

I kept the last pancake until day 4 and it was still fine.  Not sure how they lasted that long though….

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Marinated Mushrooms with Smokey Cheese Sauce – Divine Raw Recipe

imageThis meal does take a little preparation and forethought. It’s more than worth it though!

I left my mushrooms marinating for several hours, and the taste was just heavenly. The cheese sauce was a little excessive though, so I think I’ll reduce the amount by half next time. Unless I want leftovers. Mmm… leftover cheese sauce…that gets me thinking….

Original recipe from The Raw Food Institute of Australia

Marinated Field Mushrooms with Spinach and Smokey Cheese Drizzle

Ingredients

  • 4 large field mushrooms
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup Braggs Aminos (liquid seasoning)
  • ½ tsp dried or fresh oregano
  • 200g baby spinach
  • 1 cup cashews (soaked for a minimum of 20 minutes)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp savoury yeast flakes (nutritional yeast)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 – 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp Himalayan or Celtic sea salt

Method

Mushrooms

  • De-stem mushrooms then place stems, olive oil, Braggs, garlic and oregano in a blender and blitz for a few seconds or until everything is chopped well
  • Place mushrooms on a flat tray, pouring the marinade over them
  • Marinate for around 1 hour or overnight if possible (turning mushrooms a few times so that they are evenly coated and soak up the marinade.)
  • If you would prefer your mushrooms warm, place tray in a very low oven (the lowest temperature it will go) and leave the oven door slightly ajar.  The mushrooms will slowly warm through while marinating.

Cheese Sauce

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth
  • You may have to scrape the blender down in between blitzing if the mixture is too thick. Add a touch more water if required.

 

Assembly

 

  • Place 2 mushrooms on each plate
  • Top with generous handfuls of baby spinach
  • Drizzle generously with smokey cheese sauce

My Notes

Truly, the only adaptation I would make to this recipe is to adjust the amount of cheese sauce

The recipe states it serves two, but as with all recipes from the Raw Food Institute, I tend to halve them, as their portions are very generous, to say the least!

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Raw Taco Salad Recipe – Super Scrumptious

imageI’ve always loved tacos, even though I haven’t actually had them for quite a few years. During the recent Raw Food Challenge I participated in with the Raw Food Mum, many recipes were shared; one of them being raw tacos.

That immediately made me go hunting for a recipe. There are quite a few out there, with a number of variations. I chose this one from Eating Vibrantly due to the ingredients used, and fact that it is in fact a salad. It could just as easily be wrapped in lettuce leaves for a more traditional taco-style format, but salads are usually a tad easier to eat in a bowl!

Original recipe from Eating Vibrantly

 

 

Raw Taco Salad

Ingredients

Walnut Taco Meat (4 serves)

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • ½ packed cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked 2-8h and drained
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
  • pinch chili (or more if you like it hot)
  • pinch cayenne pepper

Cashew Sour Cream (12 serves)

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked 1-2h
  • scant ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ⅔ cup ice

Salad (1 serve)

  • 2 cups rocket (arugula)
  • ¼ cup Walnut Taco Meat
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 tbsp Cashew Sour Cream
  • 1 tbsp spring onion, sliced

Method

  1. Cover the sun-dried tomatoes in water and leave to soak for 2 to 8 hours. Drain.
  2. Process all of the walnut taco meat ingredients in a food processor until well combined, but still chunky.
  3. Blend all of the cashew sour cream ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy.
  4. Assemble salad ingredients in a large bowl (one per person), serve and eat.

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My Notes

This recipe says it serves one, however that would be one very large serve! I halved the recipe, and it fed both of us quite well. There were no leftovers other than the sour cream, which I’m planning to eat with crudités or raw crackers.

I’m not into hot and spicy, so I skipped the chili powder. There was still plenty of flavour though.

I used semi-dried tomatoes in olive oil, so didn’t pre-soak them.

This is one of my new favourite raw recipes, and will certainly be having it on a regular basis!

How to Commit Recipe Murder – Carrot Cake Bites with Orange Maple Frosting

imageA couple of weeks ago I shared a blog from Morgan’s Fresh Kitchen that I thought sounded divine – Raw Carrot Cake with Orange Maple icing – mmm!

I finally had the chance to try it last weekend, and I don’t know exactly what I did, but I managed to butcher it.  My end result looked great, but tasted awful.

As the recipe advises, the mixture can be kept fairly chunky, or blended pretty smooth.  I went with the smooth option, as it appeared that it would hold together better.  I think this was my second mistake — over-blending it. The first mistake, in 20/20 hindsight, was choosing large, mature carrots. They lacked that sweetness of newer ones.

For once I actually followed the recipe to the letter, however the recipe states 8-12 dates.  I went with 10, thinking that should be a happy medium.  Perhaps going with the 12 would have added more sweetness and flavour.

I pressed my mixture into muffin tin holes lined with cling wrap.  This made them easy to remove, and they looked great!  My icing wasn’t as smooth as it could be – it should have been blended for a little longer.  All in all though, I thought they looked wonderful, which is pretty good for me, as food presentation isn’t my strong point.

The taste truly failed to amaze though.  The texture was a little gluggy, and just a bit bland, especially if you took a bite without any raisins in it.  A very big let down after how pleased I was with their appearance.

Never one to give up or throw away food, I decided to try and salvage them.  I ‘dehydrated’ them in my oven at it’s lowest temperature (about 50 C) for an hour.  I then served them drizzled with maple syrup to try and add some extra flavour, and my eggless custard.

I will definitely try them again, and try to figure out just where I went wrong. If you try them, can you give me some pointers please? They look too yummy not to try and master 🙂

Superfood Review – Acai

imageNext in line is the Acai berry (pronounced ah-sigh-ee).  The berry is the fruit of the acai palm, yet another plant native to Central and South America.  The palm grows mainly in swamps and floodplains, and can be found in countries such as Belize, Brazil and Peru.  The fruit is a small, purple berry, similar to a grape, though with less flesh.

Acai has become common over the last decade or so as a supplement or superfood, with claims of anti-aging and weight loss properties.  Whilst some studies have shown that acai is richer in antioxidants than other traditional sources such as cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries, there are limited studies supporting the claimed effects.  Therefore the scientific community is still unconvinced of the benefits of consuming acai.

The nutritional breakdown of the berries show that they have a low sugar content, and contain calcium, vitamin A, aspartic acid, glutamic acid and amino acid, though it does have negligible levels of vitamin C.  Acai can be purchased in freeze-dried powdered form, as well as capsules, or frozen pulp.

I purchased powdered acai, and have been adding it to smoothies.  It doesn’t dissolve, so leaves a slightly gritty texture to the smoothie, similar to if you add seeds prior to blending.  I haven’t found the flavour to be overpowering, though it does give a slight tartness.

 

Superfood Review – Camu Camu

imageNext on my list is Camu Camu, yet another South American ancient food that is now being touted to the Western world as a superfood.

Originating from the shores of the Amazon in Peru and Brazil, it can now also be commonly found in Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia.  The reddish purple cherry-like fruit is generally harvested by native Amazonians from canoes, as the trees grow along the river shoreline. It is a close relative of the jaboticaba and the guavaberry or rumberry, with each tree providing a rich harvest in comparison to its size.

Nutritionally, it has been shown to have an extraordinarily high level of vitamin C, contains amino acids such as valine, leucine and serine, and is also a rich source of flavonoids.

The flesh of the fruit is extremely acidic, so is generally combined into smoothies or ice creams in order to provide sweetness.  Camu Camu is generally found in powdered form, either loosely or in capsules.

I have been adding camu camu to my green smoothies, and haven’t really noticed the flavour at all.  The main purpose I have been using it for is the vitamin C content, especially as we come into winter and the flu season.  I simply don’t have time to be sick!

 

Carrot Cake Bites with Creamy Orange Maple Frosting (Raw Vegan Dessert)

I am so trying these this weekend! They look positively divine!

Morgans Fresh Kitchen

Carrot Cake Bites with Creamy Orange Maple Frosting

Too good to be true.

That’s what you might think upon biting into one of these carrot cake bites. But you would be wrong.

This is the real deal, ladies and gentlemen. You CAN have the best of both worlds. These delicious bite size portions of bliss are made with 100% healthy ingredients!

Carrot Cake Bites with Creamy Orange Maple Frosting

Why would you restrict yourself from delicious food, count calories or eat pre-packaged products when you can make something this incredible with real, whole ingredients?

Here’s a fun fact: all of the ingredients used in this recipe could be were eaten on their own. Can’t say the same for all cake recipes. Spoonful of baking soda or canola oil, anyone?

So what happens when you put all of these ingredients together? Magic.

Carrot Cake Bites with Creamy Orange Maple FrostingCarrot Cake Bites with Creamy Orange Maple FrostingCarrot Cake Bites with Creamy Orange Maple Frosting


Healthy Carrot Cake Bites with Creamy Orange Maple Frosting 

Frosting:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight

Juice from 1/2 orange 

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup…

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