October 2007 Archives
A new book called Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce and Childhood in the Age of the Internet by Kathryn C. Montgomery (an expert on children, teens, media and online marketing at American University’s School of Communication) claims that online and in-game advertising by junk food companies are partly to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic. Children have become a "coveted consumer demographic" by advertisers, she says. "Kids are constantly exposed to [junk food] ads and pester their parents into buying the unhealthy foods or, having money of their own, kids completely bypass their parents and purchase the items themselves."
In the biggest study of its kind ever conducted, scientists have discovered that foods "contain up to 40 per cent more nutrients if they are grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides." The study, which was conducted at Newcastle University and funded by the European Union and food companies, found that the "health benefits were so striking that moving to organic food was the equivalent of eating an extra portion of fruit and vegetables every day."
Food chain Trader Joe's announced Friday that the company plans to stop selling single-ingredient products made in China over customer concerns about food standards in that country. The chain will continue to sell products that have multiple ingredients when some of them are from China. I applaud the company for taking this step, call on Whole Foods and other chains to do the same, but I also call on these stores to stop selling all products made with any ingredients from China until some credible, accountable organization can be set up to verify food quality and safety there. At present, there is none.
20 Ways to Eat Healthy On a Budget; Why Healthy Food is the Least Expensive; Quinoa: The Mother of All Grains; Golden Twinkie Award for Dieticians of Canada; and the Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week: Ejotes Deliciosos (pictured). All that and more in this week's issue!
(From the Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter) Quinoa (KEEN-wa), my favorite grain and possibly the most nutritious on Earth, is an ancient Incan food from the Andes in South America. This wonder grain was considered sacred by the Incas, who referred to it as “chisaya mama,” which means “the mother of all grains.” I agree. It’s certainly revered in my kitchen and often reigns on my dinner table.
This super grain contains complete protein, providing a good balance of amino acids including lysine, methionine and cystine. Quinoa provides more calcium, magnesium and potassium than most other grains. It’s also high in fiber and rich in iron and vitamins B. Quinoa is a great addition to a healthy diet and is super easy to make. No need to complement it with beans but you can to boost protein content for body building.
Quinoa provides complete protein meal all by itself -- a perfect gift from Mother Nature. It has no gluten, it’s easy to digest and makes an excellent substitute for other grains -- especially rice. Any meal that includes rice can be made better, faster, cheaper and more nutritious by substituting Quinoa.
Quinoa should be staple food of every kitchen and should be part of healthy eating plan. I’ve written about it before. But I just can’t stress enough about how delicious, nutritious, simple and quick to make it is. Everyone can benefit from eating this amazing grain -- even diabetics. Need I say more?
A quarter of a cup of Quinoa has 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat (20 calories from fat and 0 grams of saturated fat), 5 mg of sodium, 29g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 0g sugars, 6g protein. Most health food stores carry Quinoa in individual packages or in bulk. I buy it through my food coop buying club in bulk (5 or 25 pound bags).
You can eat Quinoa as hot cereal, in salads, in soups or on its own. To cook, rinse 1 cup of Quinoa thoroughly or pre-soak in a bowl with water for 15 minutes then rinse and drain. Add to 2 cups of water or vegetable stock in a small pot or pan. Cook over medium heat until it begins boiling, reduce heat to low, cover with lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add seasoning if desired and fluff with fork (not spoon).
(From the Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter) The conventional wisdom that healthy food is more expensive than "conventional" food (adulterated, mass-produced, junk and industrial food) is a myth. Don’t believe it.
On the societal level, unhealthy food is far more expensive than healthy food.
Hidden costs come in the form of pollution and harm to the environment caused by artificial fertilizers and contaminated water systems from conventional agriculture and animal factory farms.
If you haven’t already, I recommend that you read Michael Pollan’s book, the Omnivore’s Dilemma. Although I have some issues with the book, I believe Pollan has made some important contributions in raising the public’s awareness about our food chain, factory farming and how corn is in everything we eat and drink. Even the animals raised for meat are fed corn, with 80 percent of corn produced in the U.S. ending up as livestock feed. The rest is added to soda, burgers, chicken nuggets, chips, white breads, candy and all junk food in fast food restaurants and processed foods in grocery stores.
Many don’t realize the importance of the U.S. Farm Bill, which is a nasty form of corporate welfare responsible for providing tax-funded subsidies to giant conventional agribusiness corporations. The government takes billions of dollars from you and me in the form of taxes, and uses that money to artificially lower the price of industrialized or conventional food -- much of it supporting low prices for the junk food that causes our many epidemics of cancer, obesity and diabetes. This transfer of wealth from the public to the junk food giants makes us lose sight of the fact that we are not paying the true dollar cost at the store. For junk food, we pay for part of it at the store or restaurant, and the rest we pay at tax time.
There are hidden costs not obvious to the general public or the uninformed consumer. If you’d like to learn more about the cost of real whole foods versus the cost of conventionally produced foods that are subsidized by the Farm Bill, I strongly recommend you read an insightful article written by Pollan for the New York times on this subject. This article is incredibly eye-opening, and will change forever the way you look at our food supply.
We are paying a very heavy price for unhealthy food -- and will pay even more over time.
Healthy food is cheaper on the personal level, too.
If you define "food" based only on one metric of nutrition -- calories -- then it's possible to argue that junk food or unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food. Yes, if you want to maximize calories per dollar, junk food is the way to go. But why use calories as the metric? Are you really trying to maximize your calories?
What about vitamins and minerals per dollar? Antioxidants per dollar? Fiber content per dollar? Phytonutrients per dollar? Using these more desirable metrics, healthy, organic, vegetarian food is the cheapest food you can buy.
It’s vital to accept that food is central to health and overall well being. Being healthy without eating healthy is just crazy talk. The negative effects of unhealthy foods may be minor in the short term, but the cumulative effects are devastating.
People eat junk food to save money. But what's the cost of chronic fatigue? Obesity? Heart disease? Cancer? Early retirement? Early death?
You will pay far more in the long run for unhealthy food than you will for good food.
We seem disconnected from the reality of what real food is. Burgers, deep fried chicken, hot dogs, deli meats, fries, chips, soda, donuts, white bread, white pasta, white flours or any other of thousands of processed foods filling the shelters at grocery stores looks like food, but is really a global science project. Such "food" is cheap because it is garbage. It provides little or no nutritional value and it’s usually loaded with sugar, bad fats, preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors, GMO’s, pesticides and more, all of which are seriously detrimental to our health.
Healthy food is inexpensive when you consider the hidden cost of adulterated conventionally grown food. Seitan, for example, is typically sold in 8 oz packages for $3.49 or so per package. One pound comes to $7 making it the single most expensive vegetarian protein available. But higher-quality lean meats and other animal proteins are also expensive and often cost more than $7.00 per pound.
The total cost of the seitan meal I featured in a previous issue, for instance, would cost roughly $15 to make but would also provide six generous serving or eight smaller ones. One meal made with one of the most expensive vegetarian proteins comes to $2.50. That’s not expensive. Going to McDonald’s costs you more at the cash register -- plus more at tax time and more at the doctor's office.
Organic tofu is also a great vegetarian source of protein and is significantly cheaper than any type of meat at only about $1.50 to $2 per pound. You can’t beat that -- lots of nutrition for little money.
Soybeans are subsidized by the government but only the ones mainly used to feed animals raised for human consumption. Organic (not genetically modified) tofu is not subsidized.
Tempeh is also very inexpensive. All vegetarian unprepared protein sources made from whole food sources are far cheaper than animal protein.
Some of my recipes also call for quinoa, which is about $1.50 per pound at Trader Joe’s. One pound will give you about 16 servings, that’s less than .09 cents per serving! Other recipes call for beans; again, depending on the type of beans, the price per pound varies between 0.70 cents to $1.79 per pound.
Nutrition education and meal planning are essential in making healthy food choices as well as fiscally responsible ones. As consumers we have to keep abreast of how our food system really works to have clear understanding of not only the role food plays in our lives but also the role we play in our own health.
Is healthy food expensive? It doesn't have to be. And, in the final analysis, is really the least expensive food you can buy.
A recent and hilarious "Dilbert" cartoon mocks corporate management attitudes about health. Click here for the rest of the strip.
New research shows that eating garlic is effective for lowering high blood pressure and protecting against cardiovascular disesase. The health benefits from eating garlic result when garlic is metabolized by the body and compounds in garlic enter the cardiovascular system, interacting with red blood cells. This interaction triggers a release of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a toxic compound that smells like rotten eggs, which help relax arteries. As we get older, our bodies produce less H2S. The study was conducted by the Univerity of Alabama Birmingham and funded by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. But keep in mind that researchers used fresh raw garlic equivalent to two cloves. Forget garlic pills, they don't work. Make some hummus with fresh extra raw garlic or dressings with fresh garlic and you'll get enough H2S to keep your heart content.
A compound called lupeol, which is found in mangoes, grapes, strawberries, vegetables, olive seed, figs and saw palmeto, has been found to slow or kill the growth of cancer cells in the nose, oral cavity, throat, voice box, thyroid and salivary glands, according to research at the University of Hong Kong. Such cancers are typically caused by "smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, chewing betel nut and diets rich in preserved foods, like salted fish," according to a Reuters article.
The National Park Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have collaborated with the non-profit organization, SafeLawns.org, to make four acres of the National Mall in Washington, DC, ORGANIC AND SUSTAINABLE -- as a demonstration of how everyone with a lawn can help protect the environment by going organic. (Note: This post supports Blog Action Day!)
According to a recent survey by Scarborough Research, San Francisco and Seattle have the highest percentage of organic consumers with 35 and 32 percent, respectively. Not surprisingly, the survey also found that, "organics consumers are 272 percent more likely than the average consumer to have shopped at Whole Foods during the past week. By contrast, they are 21 percent less likely to have shopped Wal-Mart Supercenter during this timeframe." To find out how other cities rank check out the above link.
A new documentary called King Corn tackles one of the central realities of what's wrong with our food supply: subsidised corn. As the movie's Web site says, "The breadth of the problem is now clear: the American food system is built on the abundance of corn, an abundance perpetuated by a subsidy system that pays farmers to maximize production.... In 2005, federal subsidies spent $9.4 billion in taxpayer money to promote corn production." As a result, the site says, "Almost everything Americans eat contains corn: high fructose corn syrup, corn-fed meat, and corn-based processed foods are the staples of the modern diet..." The movie opens today, but will reportedly be broadcast in the U.S. on PBS in April, 2008. Enjoy the movie trailer!
According to a recent article, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) says that ten percent of American schoolchildren are vegetarians. The ADA says that "a vegetarian diet can lead to deficiencies in vitamin b12, calcium, iron and protein -- nutrients vital to growing children" and that "parents need to make sure their kids eat a varied, balanced diet and get regular checkups." according to the ADA's spokesperson, "If you're deficient in protein it would impede your height, your muscle mass, your bones and the way your body functions, your ability to fight disease." All true. But the potential nutritional deficiencies possible in vegetarian diets is not what’s plaguing American children. Obesity is. Obesity among school age children is growing at an alarming rate. For the first time in history, many parents are likely to survive their obese children, who develop diabetes and heart disease at very young ages. Kids spend less time exercising and more time in front of the TV eating larger amounts of food they see advertised while watching TV. And that’s not including the additional time they spend in front of computers and video-game consoles. The ADA needs to get real, and spend more time advocating vegetarianism and less time scaring people about its so-called dangers.
A company called EDS described a vision of the shopping cart of the future, which could help shoppers buy food more mindfully. The cart would have a built-in screen and barcode scanner. By scanning foods as they are placed into the cart, the screen would display not only nutrition information, but also the environmental impact of that food.
The California Department of Public Health has issued warning against consuming contaminated Soy Deli tofu products as part of an earlier recall in September of products from manufacturer Quon Hop and Co. The contaminated products may have been distributed to supermarkets and health food stores in the Midwest and West Coast including Albertsons, Andronico's, Lunardi's, Mollie Stone's Market, Pavilion's, PW Markets, Ralphs, Safeway, Save Mart Supermarkets, Stater Bros., Vons and Whole Foods Market. The recall includes "baked tofu in five spice, hickory, honey sesame, teriyaki and savory flavors, mesquite smoke tofu, Hawaiian style fried tofu, nigari vacuum-pack tofu, original, garden, barbeque, teriyaki and Cajun burgers all with date codes on or before Jan. 28, 2008. It also includes water-packed tofu in orange, blue and red, Quong Hop water-packed tofu in red and nigari tofu all with date codes on or before Nov. 28." There are no reported illnesses thus far but an "infection from the bacteria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women" and symptoms include fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
An Ohio State University study suggests that powerful anthocyanins, responsible for the deep dark blue, purple and red colors in fruits and vegetables, may lower the risk of colon cancer. These potent compounds found in cherries, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, purple corn, elderberries, eggplants and other red and purple produce, were found to slow the growth of cancer in rats and human colon cancer cells. According to the researchers, “all fruits and vegetables that are rich in anthocyanins have compounds that can slow down the growth of colon cancer cells, whether in experiments in laboratory dishes or inside the body.”
This week's recipe: Scrumptious Seitan with Peppers and Tomatoes Stew, a delicious, Latin-inspired and -- as always -- vegan dish. It's simple and quick to make, and high in protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, B complex vitamins, lycopene, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and iron. Plus, how to take your health to the next level, how to avoid food coloring made from beetles, and more!! Click here to read it online. Go here to subscribe FREE!