MTHFR Gene Mutation: Dietary and Testing Recommendations

by Catherine M. Haug,  Aug 12, 2017; updated May 4, 2019

The MTHFR gene is important because it is involved in the necessary conversion of  one amino acid to another: from homocysteine to methionine. The gene mutation means this conversion is not made in our bodies, so we must rely on increasing dietary methionine and the dietary changes to provide sufficient methionine. [I discuss this in more detail later in this article].

Symptoms resulting from this gene mutation include: lingering fatigue, fogginess, anxiety, sleep issues and inability to deal with alcohol and other toxins effectively. (paraphrase of a quote from Dr. Doni Wilson, 4).

The mutation can result in a buildup of homocysteine, which is associated “with a higher risk in cardiovascular disease. This also affects the conversion to glutathione, which the body needs to remove waste and which is a potent antioxidant.” (4)

One important thing you can do to avoid most of the consequences of this mutation, is to avoid supplemental “folic acid,” which is a synthetic and mostly inactive form of vitamin B9 (folate). Instead, look for supplements that contain “methyl-folate.” Because the mutation also affects vitamins B6 (pyridoxine) and B-12 (cobalamine), look for supplements that contain the methyl-versions of these vitamins as well.

  • Includes: 1. More about the MTHFR gene and gene mutations; 2. Recommendations from Chris Masterjohn, Ph.D.
  • See also: 1. Diet and Health Menu;

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Food Combining: Acidifying and Alkalizing Foods

by Catherine M. Haug,  January 2009; updated May 2019

For optimal health, our bodies should be slightly alkaline. There are three fluids for which pH (measure of acidity/alkalinity) is extremely important.  The pH of the first 2 is very slightly alkaline; the third is neutral:

  • blood: the body goes through heroic efforts to keep the blood in a very narrow range, between pH 7.35 and 7.45, in order for oxygen transport to work properly;
  • extracellular fluid – the fluid that bathes all cells of the body – affects the ability of cells to function properly. For example, take-up of nutrients from the fluid. the pH is tightly regulated at 7.4, similar to blood.
  • Intracellular fluid is also important, but it is maintained at neutral, 7.0

The foods that we eat, and their combinations, affect the pH of these body fluids.

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Rendering Lard in a Crockpot: The Process

Fat in crock, with lid

by Cat, October 23-24, 2o10 on The EssentiaList; copied on Cat’s Kitchen, May 3, 2019; all photos by Cat.

Back in July 2010 I posted Rendering Lard – the Perfect (& Original) Shortening on the sustainability blog, The EssentiaList, which covered the following topics:

  • What is Lard?
  • What’s Good About Lard
  • How to Render Lard
  • Storage & Shelf Life
  • Where to Obtain Lard for Rendering (in the Flathead Valley, MT)

In this post, I detail the process that Shelli R. and I used to render 10 pounds of pork fat from Farm to Market Pork (2). We decided to try the crockpot method following instructions in “Livin’ High on the Hog: How I Rendered my own Lard” (1), and take photos along the way. We did this in Shelli’s kitchen using three crockpots.

See Rendering Lard, Suet or Tallow for a summary of the method; what follows in this post provides all the details, including photos of each step.

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Rendering Lard – the Perfect (& Original) Shortening

Cooled lard in molds

by Cat, 2o10 on The EssentiaList; copied on Cat’s Kitchen, May 2, 2019 (photo, right, by Cat, originally for The EssentiaList)

Back in your grandmother’s (or great-grandmother’s) time, lard was a common staple in everyone’s kitchen, used for tender & flakey pie crusts, melt-in-your-mouth cookies and cakes, frying, deep frying, a spread on toast (like butter), and more. But in more recent times, it has been maligned, along with all animal fats, as an artery-clogging nightmare. It does not deserve this reputation.

[I firmly believe it has gotten a bad rap because the powers-that-be want to push us into using fats/oils from vegetable sources so they could sell more seed. But that’s another topic altogether…]

What is Lard?

Lard is the fat from hogs, in both its rendered and unrendered forms, and comes in three grades: (1)

  • Leaf lard is the highest grade, and comes from the visceral fat deposit surrounding the kidneys and inside the loin, and has the least ‘pork’ flavor.
  • Fatback is second grade,  the hard subcutaneous fat between the back skin and muscle of the pig.
  • Caul is third grade, and comes from the caul, which is the fat surrounding the digestive organs.

Lard is a great shortening for baked goods, especially pie crusts, and for frying; in fact, it was the original “shortening.” It can also be used to make soap, as grease (for some uses), and for a primitive oil lamp.

It can also be used to coat eggs (in the shell) after washing, as it provides a similar protection as the coating provided by the hen.

What’s Good about Lard?

Its superior flavor, especially leaf lard, and a relatively high smoke-point, makes it ideal for frying and deep-frying.

It has a favorable fat composition (40% saturated, 48% monounsaturated, 12% polyunsaturated) that is very similar to human body fat, and is considered easier for us to digest. It is very high in vitamin D, a nutrient much in the news these days for its health benefits, and one most of us are deficient in. (2)

Compare with Vegetable Shortenings

  1. Coconut oil is made up of short-chain fatty acids that are important for health. But coconut oil melts at warmer room temperatures, so is not good for some baking uses such as pie crust. It is good for frying, and is a good fat for recipes that call for vegetable oil, if you melt it first.
  2. Palm oiis a mostly-saturated type of vegetable shortening, that has not been chemically altered. It is very solid (hard) at room temperature, so is not easy to work with in baked goods and pastries, but it is good for frying. However, vital tropical rainforests are being decimated to plant palm oil trees.
  3. Common vegetable shortening (Crisco, etc.) is chemically modified to make it solid at room temperature. As such, it is comprised of either
    • trans-fats (from partial-hydrogenation of the original vegetable oils); or
    • interesterified-fats (chemically removing the fatty acids from the triglyceride, hydrogenating some of them to be saturated, then reattaching them to the triglyceride).

Trans-fats have been implicated in heart disease and other health issues, and must be listed on the label. Interesterified fats have been shown to be even more dangerous than trans fats, especially for sugar metabolism (diabetes, etc.), but are not required to be listed on the label. (4)

Commercially Processed Lard

When the bad news about trans-fats reached mainstream media, grocery stores around the country stocked up on those 1-pound boxes of commercially-processed lard (Armour, etc.). This could certainly be used in a pinch, but note that it has been treated with bleach and deodorizers. To improve its shelf life, and to allow it to be kept without refrigeration, some of the fat has been fully-hydrogenated, converting it not to trans-fats but to saturated fat, in a process related to interesterification (see above). This process also deactivates the vitamin D.

By far, the best lard is that which has been freshly rendered and stored properly (see below).

How to Render Lard

There are many websites that offer great descriptions of the method for rendering lard, so I won’t go into the details here. I can recommend these websites, with great photos:

  • Stove-top and oven methods; these blog posts have great comments:
    • The Nourishing Gourmet: How to Render Lard (2)
    • Lehmans Country Life: Rendering Lard: A First Timers’ Guide (3)
  • Crockpot method:
    • Real Food Mama blog: How to Render Lard (in a crockpot) (8)
    • Livin’ High on the Hog: How I Rendered my own Lard (pdf file) (10)

For the crockpot method, you put the fat into the crockpot with a little water (optional), cover the pot, turn it on, and wait until the fat is rendered. No spatters, burns, etc.. Then strain and pour it off into storage containers.

Shelli R and I tried the crockpot method, with great success; see Rendering Lard in a Crockpot: The Process for instructions and photos. For a printable version, see Rendering Lard in a Crockpot(pdf). (Copy these to Cat’sKitchen)

Storage & Shelf Life

Lard ready for storage

(photo, left, by C. Haug; Shelli did all the work)

After rendering and straining the fat, you will want to store it.

The main issue with lard (and all edible fats) is the potential for rancidity (from oxidation). So it’s very important to keep it away from light. It can pick up odors from other things, so it should be in a container with a good-fitting lid, or tightly wrapped in parchment (don’t use waxed paper while the lard is still warm), then stored in a cool, dark place, especially for long term. Wrap in freezer paper (see photo) for freezing.

Another consideration is to keep it away from mice, as they love lard! This is where glass jars with lids come in handy… (5)

Write the rendered date on the container, to help you keep track of which to use first.

Storage containers

Good storage containers include: a ceramic crock or wrapped in parchment paper. If you keep it in glass canning jars (with lid), put them in a refrigerator, cabinet or carboard box to protect from light.

I would not keep it in plastic (like yogurt containers or plastic wrap) because as a fat, it will leach fat-soluble toxins from the plastic.

To use parchment paper, line a bread loaf pan with the paper (like a mold), then pour in the liquid lard and let sit until cooled. Then fold the paper around the block. A butter mold could also be used (instead of a loaf pan).

If you plan to use it frequently (several times a week), and your kitchen stays cool (below 75º F), you could keep some in a crock with a lid for several weeks, or up to 4 months in ideal conditions (5,6). But if your kitchen gets above 75, store it in the refrigerator or other cool spot.

Lard cans are another option; however, the solder contains lead, so be careful and choose a can with a ceramic coating on the interior. Some have a chemical coating, but this is a type of plastic and could leach toxins into the lard.

Long term storage

It will keep in the refrigerator 9 – 10 months, and in the freezer for up to a year; after that, it could go rancid. (6) For freezer storage, I recommend wrapping pound blocks in parchment, and then in freezer paper, for easy stacking.

If your basement or root cellar stays cool during hot weather, it will keep similar to in a refrigerator, but do keep it away from light.

Clarify lard for reuse

In researching the crockpot method for rendering lard, I came across this great site that provides many good links on rendering lard and also for clarifying lard for reuse; from Well Tell Me: Rendering Lard Info and Questions” (9). The best of these is:

  • Grandpappy Info: How to Render Animal Fat, or Clarify Used Animal Fat (12)
  • E-How: How to Clarify Fat (13) and Bartelby: Cookery (14) (scroll down to How to Clarify) detail a method using a potato.

Where To Obtain Lard for Rendering

The Farm Hands Map (15B) indicates the following farms that raise and sell pork in the Flathead Valley (Montana), and may also sell lard for rendering:

  • Farm to Market Pork, Inc
  • Louden Riverside Farms and
  • Manning Farm.

Other possibilities in the Flathead are meat processing businesses including (11):

  • Frank’s Meats in Pablo, (406) 675-2550;
  • Frey’s Meats and Custom Cutting in Columbia Falls, (406) 892-2226;
  • Lower Valley Processing south of Kalispell (16);
  • M & S Meats in Rollins (17);
  • White’s Wholesale Meats in Ronan, (406) 676-0082.

For our rendering experiment, Shelli R. and I bought our unrendered lard (ground fat) at Farm to Market Pork, outside Kalispell. As of July 2010, their price is $1 per pound; minimum order is a 5-pound block, which will produce 2 – 3 pounds of rendered fat. [See Rendering Lard in a Crockpot: The Process for our process and photos!]  <copy this page to catslkitchen, and update the link

References

  1. Wikipedia on ‘lard:’ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lard
  2. The Nourishing Gourmet: How to Render Lard
  3. Lehmans Country Life: Rendering Lard: A First Timers’ Guide
  4. Nutrition and Metabolism
  5. Discuss Cooking: Discussion Forum on Lard Storage
  6. Community Awareness Preparation: Discussion forum on Lard Storage
  7. The New Resilient: Make Your Own Lard
  8. Real Food Mama blog: How to Render Lard (in a crockpot)
  9. Well Tell Me: Rendering Lard Info and Questions(great links & discussion)
  10. Livin’ High on the Hog: How I Rendered my own Lard by healthybratt (pdf file)
  11. Montana Meat Processing Companies
  12. Grandpappy Info: How to Render Animal Fat, or Clarify Used Animal Fat;
  13. E-How: How to Clarify Fat
  14. Bartelby: Cookery
  15. Farm Hands, Nourish the Flathead
    1. Home: nourishtheflathead.org/home/
    2. Farm Hands Map: nourishtheflathead.org/map/
  16. Lower Valley Processing: lowervalleyprocessing.com/
  17. M & S Meats: msmeats.com
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Ketogenic Diet: Carb/Protein/Fat (CPF) Counters (Tables)

by Catherine M. Haug,  June 22, 2013; updated Apr 2019

These counters provide nutrient information: (carbs, protein and fat) for various categories of foods (See “Includes” list below). Note that two types of carbs are indicated in the tables:

  • Total Carbs, which include all forms of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fiber; and
  • Net Carbs, which exclude fiber. Only Net Carbs is used to calculate calories in each food (for my tables).

I use an acronym for net grams (g) and calories (cal) by nutrient type: CPF for Carbs/Protein/Fat per listed serving size (oz, cups, etc). For example, 1 oz of ground beef has CPF=0/7/5 grams, which is 0 g net-carb, 7 g protein and 5 g fat in 1 oz of ground beef. I will be adding foods to the charts from time to time, and updating the pdf files accordingly.

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Roasted Greek Salad

By Cat, April, 2019 (Image, right, from Wikipedia Commons)

Pistachios in shells

I love Greek food! and the traditional Village Salad (Horiatiki) is essential for a good Greek meal. But when I saw this roasted version, my curiosity was aroused.

It includes panic bread crumbs, which I would avoid because I’m doing keto, but I could include the crumbs if I serve the salad on a cyclic keto “Feast” day. I also love pistachios, and their higher fat content would offset the carbs in the crumbs.

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Ketogenic Diet: Daily Outline

by Catherine M. Haug,  June 22, 2013; updated Apr 2019

This article is about the regular Keto diet (not the CKD version).

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Healthful fatty foods and oils (and not-healthful fats to avoid)

Avocado Signature

By Cat, April 2019 (Image, right, from an article on Signature Foods; link has been lost)

I’ve been working on moving my health articles from my old iWeb site to this blog; in that process I review and update each article with new or changed information. I used to have a list of foods rich in healthful fats on my Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) page, and decided to add info about the fatty acid contents of each. That made the post too long, so I have moved it to this new posting, leaving just the list of foods on the CKD page. I also include a list of the un-healthful fats and the types of food that contain them, on this new posting.

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Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) and Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy (MMT)

by Catherine M. Haug,  July 2017; updated April 2019

July 2017: I started the ketogenic diet in 2013, giving up all sugar/starch-containing foods (except for fresh fruits). That wasn’t so hard, because after the first 2 days of the diet, I stopped craving sugar; and while the diet has improved several aspects of my health – such as I no longer have dark circles under my eyes – I still have a way to go. I’ve not lost weight, which was a minor goal, and more importantly, my energy has not improved, and my memory issues are still there.

So after reading two articles by Dr. Mercola (1A, 1B) that include the importance of Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy (MMT; changing from pure keto to a cyclic keto diet (CKD) once you body has reached ketosis), I decided to give that a try. I added whole grain bread or porridge and higher-carb fruits (apple, banana) 2 – 3 times a week to my daily regimen. I also reduced my protein consumption as recommended by Mercola’s articles.  I did not reduce my fat consumption on those days (except the fats associated with my primary protein sources: eggs, dairy, and meats).

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Detox Diet Considerations

by Catherine M. Haug,  July 2007; updated Feb 2017; Apr 2019

There are many foods that can aid the elimination of heavy metals, or help detox from the effects of heavy metal toxicity.  There are other foods that should be avoided, as they increase toxic load, and may also contain toxic levels of heavy metals.  The following article is mostly from the Jigsaw Health website (1B).

Feb 2017 update: I originally wrote this article with a focus on detoxing from effects of heavy metal toxicity. But these same considerations would apply to any reason to detox.  For example, detoxing from effects of cancer or other disease, a food sensitivity, pharmaceuticals, or just a bad diet.

  • Includes: 1. Diet Considerations; 2. Foods That Help Treatment and Detox; 3. Foods to Avoid; 4. Other Diet-Related Precautions; 5. Diet Considerations for Treatment of Autism;
  • See also (this site): 1. Diet and Health Menu;
  • Resources, other sites: 1. Wellness Education Center (WEC), Kalispell MT: (4); 2. The Truth About Detox (5A); 3. Detoxification for Cancer Patients, with Dr. Antonio Jimenez (5B); 4. Detox Smoothies e-Book: Detox Smoothies by Dr. Pompa (6) also contains link for saved pdf version

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