Vitamin Me

Vitamins. They’re cheap insurance against so-so diet & lifestyle choices. Vitamin E, in particular, is known to be a very powerful, anti-aging, cancer-fighting, heart-protecting antioxidant, so Dede & I have always been diligent about taking that supplement. We started getting out supplements from

But I’d never thought much about the source of the vitamins we take, just focusing instead on faithfully taking them every day. Then last week, I read that while the natural vs. synthetic forms of most vitamins are usually chemically identical, Vitamin E is quite different. Maybe I’ve been hanging around pharmacists too much, but this really picqued my interest so I dug in and read a lot more. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned:

“Vitamin E” is the collective term for a family of eight compounds: four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, & delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma & delta.) Tocopherols are the most studied components of Vitamin E as they have the highest bioavailability.
vitamin e capsule
Our bodies have specific binding & transport proteins for using natural, food-based Vitamin E and largely ignores all other forms. Okay wait, that bears repeating: your liver actually works to rid itself of synthetic Vitamin E as quickly as possible! In effect, synthetic Vitamin E is all but worthless.

What’s more, I discovered that synthetic Vitamin E is derived from petrochemicals (via an unholy-sounding chemical reaction between TMHQ with isophytol) and includes BHA and BHT, nasty petroleum-based preservatives which are believed to be carcinogenic. (These are also found in lots of highly-processed foods like snacks & packaged baked goods, all the more reason to avoid those whenever possible.)

So, natural Vitamin E is 3-4 times more efficient and is the only form you should take!

But how do you know what you’re buying?

It’s easy to determine which type you’re getting once you know what to look for: natural forms of Vitamin E have d- before the compound name (for example d-alpha tocopherol) and synthetic forms are labeled with a dl- prefix.

Some practical tips gleaned from the head-scratching scientific hooey I read:

  • Even with the natural forms of Vitamin E, many capsules supply only the alpha compound but studies indicate that a “mixed” formulation that includes the other three types of tocopherols is far more effective.
  • If you take both Vitamin E and iron supplements, take them at different times of the day. Also, inorganic forms of iron (such as ferrous sulfate) destroy Vitamin E but organic iron (ferrous gluconate or ferrous fumarate) leaves Vitamin E intact.
  • Taken on an empty stomach, Vitamin E’s absorption is reduced by an average of 50%, so this supplement is best taken with some food.
  • To get more of this vital vitamin via the food you eat, go for leafy green vegetables, tuna, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, sweet potatoes, kiwi, tomatoes, peaches, and grapes.

The Crust of the Matter

Ever heard of Smucker’s Uncrustables for kids? These frozen peanut butter sandwiches (of dubious nutritional caliber) come in a variety of flavors, are made from whole wheat or white crustless bread, and are thawed out an hour or two before lunch or snacktime.

I bring this up because earlier this week I read a brief post over at Bargain Briana about a kitchen tool that lets you make your own Uncrustables-style sealed pocket sandwiches. I read the article and promptly left a comment hoping to generate a little discussion on the broader topic of cutting crusts. Frankly, I’m kinda miffed that Briana apparently not only opted to toss out my comment, but didn’t even email me. Okay, fair enough—her blog, her prerogative. Perhaps she just didn’t want to get mired down in the dicey, controversial waters of crust-cutting. So, I thought I’d broach the topic here:

Let’s not mince words: I’m opposed to the idea of cutting crusts off of sandwiches for kids on a number of levels:

  1. Babies don’t come out of the chute with an inbred hatred of bread crusts; parents implant that notion. Why foster the idea that crusts are bad?
  2. Crust-cutting not only creates more work for harried parents, but unnecessary waste as well. Why instill the expectation that someone will always gladly take the time to needlessly trim off and discard an otherwise good portion of a sandwich?
  3. The crust is the most nutritious part of bread, containing 8 times more antioxidants and more dietary fiber, which helps prevent colon cancer! Why wouldn’t you want your kid(s) to have the full benefit of the foods you’ve chosen (and paid hard-earned money) for them to eat?
  4. And lastly, in support of my pro-crust position, I offer the following:

    If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars [and] heavens.
    —English poet, Robert Browning (1812-1889)

  5. But maybe I’m missing something here. Is there a valid reason for crust-cutting that simply eludes me? Am I some kinda retrograde Luddite or just being downright negligent by not trimming the nefarious crusts off of Liam’s otherwise delicious sammiches?

    So, what do you think? Do you cut the crusts off of your kids’ bread?

When Life Gives You Trees, Make Firewood

It’s been suggested that chopping down a tree in barren West Texas could be considered a sin.

Well brother, if that’s true, we are sinners!

Unquestionably, the biggest, most aggravating, ongoing chore we’ve had since moving into our wonderful Kirkwood Manor has been keeping the swimming pool clean & free of debris. The big old oak tree in the back yard was perpetually dropping something—we were overwhelmed with bucketloads of leaves back in March & April, pesky little pods scattered by the handfuls daily during Spring & Summer, some kind of cottony fluff started falling during late Summer, and of course there were a couple of different types of seeds & acorns that dropped off the tree almost all the time (for which the neighborhood squirrels were very thankful). Especially bothersome, the high tannin (yup, the same acidic compound that gives your mouth that dry, puckery feeling when you drink wine) content causes oak debris to quickly leave nasty rust-colored stains in the pool and surrounding decking.

Even beyond the constantly-falling tree debris, the tree’s roots had already caused some minor damage to the concrete formliners and decking that the previous owners had patched up. There was every reason to believe that the this would only continue to worsen since the tree was just a couple of inches from the decking and less than 6′ from the pool itself. And I’m a little surprised that this hadn’t already caused any problems with the pool’s plumbing (which is the case to call plumbing service for Mesa, Arizona | Whitton Plumbing). Really, whoever had the pool installed should’ve removed the tree at that time.

But maybe worst of all, the big oak tree almost completely shaded the swimming pool except during early morning and evening hours, so even at the peak of Summer in triple-digit West Texas heat, the water was still a bit chilly.

Even as much as Dede & I both really hated the thought of getting rid of  big, thriving healthy trees, we finally decided that, for the sake of enjoying the pool and prolonging the life of the pool plumbing & filter equipment with just a 1-time-a-year plumbing expert check — and preserving the pool cleaner’s (that would be me) sanity — the tree needed to go. So, last week, I found a really nice tree guy, Seth Moore, who had the gear to tackle the job, offered to do it for a reasonable price and came highly recommended; and also he knows how to do garbage disposal repair And down the mighty oak went…

oak tree

The mighty oak tree in its previous glory

cutting down an oak tree - day 1

Tree removal progress – Day 1

About halfway through Day 1, I got a call from Seth reassuring me that, “The firemen said there’s no problem. These things just happen.” I instantly had visions of smoldering embers in a pile where our new house had previously been. Fortunately, the house was in no danger, but the tip of a large branch had snagged a nearby high-voltage power line and snapped it, causing all manner of chaos. Fire department crew and electric company linemen in large “bucket trucks” ascended on the scene to restore service to the neighborhood.

When we came home from work that day to survey the progress, we saw a whole row of birds perched on the nearby power line—yeah, the very same one—and I’m fairly sure they were cussing us fiercely over the loss of their beloved tree.

cutting down an oak tree - day 2

Tree removal progress – Day 2

Keen-eyed readers will also notice that the pool water went from sparkling, clear blue to a brackish, black swampy catastrophe by day 3. Yup, there’s nothing like a 40′ tree’s worth of sap, sawdust, and stray clippings to thoroughly wreck a swimming pool. So, the cleanup begins again. Seems even on its way out, that danged ol’ tree was determined to get one last cruel dig at me!

oak tree removed

Day 3 – All gone!

What else is left in the wake of this carnage? Lots of firewood! My best guess is that we probably ended up with well beyond a full cord of wood but from according to what we’ve heard & read, it probably won’t be “seasoned” enough to use in the fireplace for nearly a year.

oak firewood

oak firewood

Wonder if this is going to negatively affect my Arbor Day Foundation membership…