Health and Wellness

Bone broth: health benefits?

Does bone broth actually have any health benefits?


A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews Book

I’m sharing another part of  chapter from my book, A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews. This chapter is where I get geeky.

In the book is info on the difference between broth, stock, and bone broth, and between white and brown stocks (for now we’re just calling it bone broth). Included are instructions for making bone broth with a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or stock pot with poultry, fish, or ungulate (animals with hooves) bones. And, I have six ideas of where to find bones, if you don’t know where to get them.


Bone broth is a bit of a buzzword. Trendy cafés serve flavoured bone broth to go and it is celebrated as a magic heal-all. Others scoff at broth as a fad of plaid-wearing hipsters or dismiss that any health benefits can result from drinking it.

Is the bone broth worth the fuss, not to mention the extra time and energy that goes into making it (or buying it)?  Click to continue reading

How to Live as a Big Family in a Small Space

6 people in 70m2

A few years ago I returned to Canada for a visit. I woke up at my sister’s house and looked out the window – everything seemed so BIG compared to Europe. Beefy trucks with bulky snowmobiles were parked in front of massive houses.

Now, I admit that I miss trucks. On the very rare occasion that I see one here, I wish I could buy one. I would seriously love some snow (although my type of sledding usually involves walking uphill).

But the huge houses…I’ll leave them. My dream house, for our family of 6, is about 110 m2 (1180 ft2). My dream house also has innovative furniture, like a desk on hydraulics that transforms into a guest bed without disturbing the stuff on the desk. (You can find more of my house aesthetics on Pinterest on the That Someday House board, as well as some separate bedroom boards.)

Right now though, I don’t have the fancy furniture or even custom storage. I’ve got 6 people in 70 m2 (750 ft2). I’m not crazy organized or a great housekeeper, but we manage to live in our home fairly comfortably. Click to continue reading

Sitting: The Silent Killer

sitting the silent killer

It sounds like an exaggeration, that sitting is killing us. But it’s true. Studies have demonstrated over and over again, that sitting is bad for our health, from increasing cardiovascular  disease to impairing the  utilization of fats properly.

From sitting, you say? Yes, it was surprising to me too.

And even if you get in your half hour (or more) of exercise a day, it doesn’t undo the negative effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time.

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Baek (White) Kimchi

Kimchi, a Korean fermented pickle, is well known for it’s red colour and spicey flavour. This version of kimchi, baek means white, is actually probably older than the better known version, but just as delicious.

kimchi text

In my hometown in Canada, there has been a Korean restaurant or two at all times in the last 15 years or so. Buses full of Koreans come on tours through the Rocky Mountains, and they stop at the Korean restaurants, keeping the business running in a small town. These restaurants were my first introduction to metal chopsticks (harder than wood), lettuce rice wraps (so good), and sweet potato noodles (love. miss.).

My parents knew the owner of one of the restaurants, and my father called  her  up when we went there once as a family on one of my visits home. For us, she cooked real Korean food as opposed to the versions made for an American palate. What. A. Feast. Little dishes of various condiments, marinated beef still on the hot plate, dandelion kimchi, and those amazing noodles. The table was covered with various dishes that we shared. I rarely go to restaurants and am even more rarely impressed, but I still have visions about that meal.

Kimchi is a staple in Korea and I think it’s the cat’s meow that a fermented veggie is a national staple. According to a video I watched, 94% of Koreans have it every day, and 96% make it themselves instead of buying it in a store.

(What if 96% of North Americans and Europeans made their own yogurt? Or sauerkraut? Dreaming…but I digress.)

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A Scientific Look at the Benefits of Probiotics

I’m concentrating on probiotics and fermenting for the month, and this is the first installment, here is an index I’ll add posts to as I publish them. I wanted to write an epic thorough post on probiotics, complete with scientific references and explanations. The problem is, that’s called a book. For now, please accept this truncated and incomplete version. I’ve tried to include ample sources to demonstrate that the immense importance of probiotics is not some hippy-feel-good theory, but grounded in science.

A Scientific Look at the Benefits of Probiotics

I’ve long known that ‘probiotics’ were good for you in a general way, hearing advice to take them after antibiotics. We are, however, discovering functions of probiotics that are actually fundamental to our well being, as opposed to being a nice thing to have. Studies and experiments are continually discovering new ways that these little bugs benefit the human host and I think we are just starting to uncover the tip of the iceberg.

Probiotics are mostly bacteria, with a few kinds of yeast, that populate our bodies. We tend to concentrate on the ones that reside in the gut, but beneficial bacteria are also present on all the places of contact with the ‘outside’ world, including skin, eyes, genitals, and breastmilk. For our purposes, we will focus on beneficial flora in the gut.

Technically, probiotics are defined as “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” by the World Health Organization. This definition is mostly in reference to supplements and advertising claims, so that ‘probiotic’ on a label must have scientific evidence of some health benefit from the strain of bacteria or yeast that is being promoted. With an estimated 1000 species of beneficial flora residing in or on the human person and however, there is much more research before all the health benefits that do exist are found out. And of those 1,000 species of beneficial bacteria in the human ‘eco-system’, each of those species has multiple strains, each of which can have a different influence on the human host.

As an example of how much we don’t yet know, the second most common bacterial species listed in the American Gut Project ( a project examining swabs/samples from a variety of people mostly in the United States) doesn’t have a name – in fact, it doesn’t even have a named genus. And the most common bacteria mapped by the American Gut Project is practically non-existent in the Hanza tribe of Tanzania, a group still living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This study, as well as other, indicates that the composition of an individual’s microbes is dependent on that individual’s diet.

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31 days of Probiotics and Fermenting


31 Days of Probiotics and Fermenting, index

I’m so excited (yes, that’s how geeky I am)!! This month is all about probiotics and fermenting here on Almost Bananas.

I’m taking part in 31 Days, a writing challenge to write every day for the month of October. Take a look – it looks like there are some amazing month long topics.

I’m not off to a very good start – between puking kids and falling asleep putting toddlers to sleep, I’m already behind. But, something is better than nothing, no?

I’ve long known that probiotics are good for you, in a sort of general that-nice type of way. In a ‘you should take a probiotic supplement when you take antibiotics’ type of way.  Increasingly, however, we (as in science and nutrition) are discovering how important probiotics really are and how fundamental they are to health in ways that we never thought of. Who would have guessed that probiotics could effect behaviour and food allergies?

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