Having learned nothing from the harm done by factory farming (which many would argue has damaged public health, animal welfare and the environment) the USDA is now giving a green light to industrial producers to meddle with our food system, once again. Against opposition from consumers as well as consumer advocates and environmentalists, the USDA has given way to industrial aquaculture to label farmed fish that doesn't feed on 100% organic or wild feed as "organic." I guess this is just business as usual--laxed regulations designed to promote big business at the expense of public interest. What's next, "organic" genetically modified, cloned fish?
Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have discovered that a molecule in both meat and dairy products can make cancer more aggressive. The molecule, called N-glycolylneuraminic acid, or Neu5Gc for short, is a sugar molecule that cows produce but that humans do not. It can, however, be incorporated into human tissues through the ingestion of meat or dairy products. When that happens, the human body develops an immune response to it that can lead to chronic inflammation. Researchers figured that the Neu5Gc molecule must somehow benefit tumors, so they tested it. Sure enough, half of the experiment's mice with tumors were introduced to the anti-Neu5Gc antibodies the human body produces, and developed far more aggressive cancer than the mice without.
An inspired blog post I read recently, shows that U.S. households spend a higher percentage of their dollars on cheap packaged junk foods than anything else. The blogger observed people's shopping carts full of foods and decided to add up some data gathered by Nielsen about Americans' grocery shopping habits. Not surprising, the data reveals the food choices behind the pandemic of lifestyle related diseases caused by the cheap calories we consume. According to the data, the average American spends $1,321 on packaged foods (snacks, soda, etc.), $309 on frozen foods, $112 on meat, $215 on alcohol but just $91 on fresh produce. I buy the majority of my food at my local Farmer's Markets, the health food store and through my food-coop group. While the health food store sells a lot of processed and convenience foods, they carry healthier versions of what their conventional counterparts sell, even when these carry some organic options also. In my experience, most people's carts at the health food store contain a combination of produce, grains, beans and also quite a few processed, packaged and canned items. Some time ago, I was looking for ripe avocados and found myself looking in the local conventional super market. It was a surreal experience. I was almost in tears because it was so schocking and painful to see that the majority of people, with children, had shopping carts full of cheap toxic foods that come laden with artificial additives. It was truly overwhelming for me to witness this and I was overcome with sadness because I'm sure that in most instances, these peope simply don't know how harmful these "dead" foods are. They don't know how bad what they are buying is. I decided to take a walking tour through the isles of the grocery store and noticed that the food prices, in many instances, are even higher than, for example, Whole Foods Market's 365 Organic Everyday Valueģ brand foods. Conventional grocery stores teamed up with industrial food manufacturers really stick it to uninformed consumers who pay a higher price -- both in food costs and in poor health.
I spent 5 hours yesterday making a 10-dish, 100 percent plant-base, farm fresh, homemade Thanksgiving meal from scratch in honor of my sister-in-law and her family who will be departing for an African adventure Saturday. They won't be back until after Thanksgiving and I really wanted them to enjoy a Thanksgiving celebration in advance. I've also had clients asking me about preparing a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving, so I took this opportunity to develop and test new holiday recipes Iíve been working on. And I must say, they turned out really well. My guests, who are not vegetarians, absolutely loved the food and were raving about it.
This delicious and out-of-this-world butternut squash and chickpea stew with wonderful and healthful Indian spices will definitely spice up your day. Rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, this meal will give you a nice boost to your immune system and loads of energy! It's in the latest issue of my Vegetarian Organic Blog newsletter!
According to research by the Centers fro Disease Control, the rate of new cases of diagnosed diabetes among adults has increased by more than 90 percent in the last decade. The alarming increase of new cases went from 4.8 per 1000 people from 1995 to 1997 to 9.1 cases per 1000 from 2005 to 2007 in 33 states. Lead data analyst, Karen Kirtland, Ph.D. stated that, "this study demonstrates that we must continue to promote effective diabetes prevention efforts that include lifestyle interventions for people at risk for diabetes. changes such as weight loss combined with moderate physical activity are important steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk for developing diabetes." I couldn't have said it better myself. We call diabetes a preventable disease because it is caused by the absence of healthy foods and daily exercise, which what our bodies are designed for. And it doesn't happen overnight. Our bodies resist for many years, but there is only so much abuse they can take. It's a disease of choice. We choose it every time we decide to eat processed industrial food laden with unhealthy pesticides, fats and additives, void of real nutrients and cooked in a way that is toxic. The good news is that even people who have diabetes can control it and even reverse it by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. The body is an amazing machine and very rewarding when given what it needs to do its job as it's meant to do.
Despite the frightening economic woes we're facing, and although not as vibrant as I hope some day it will be, the organic movement is alive and well. Pursuing organic is not a fad, a luxury or a practice reserved for the elite, like some claim, but rather a matter of health for consumers and sustainability for the environment. More than a matter of health, itís a matter of survival. I feel optimistic when I see that, despite efforts of big conventional corporations, government agencies who cater to corporate America and our broken food system that's dependent on fossil fuel, organic is more relevant, and to some extend, more prominent than ever before. With just about one week left to the presidential election, the issue of the U.S. Farm Bill has not been discussed by either candidate. But sometimes the actions of a presidential candidate's wife can provide important insight. I was pleased to learn that Michelle Obama mentioned in an interview that she buys organic foods and fresh fruit for her family. This might be an indication that her husband may share her same value system. And, the fact that Barack Obama drinks organic tea might be further hint that he is aware of the superiority of organic food. Having any other new president will be a step in the right direction. But having a president that at least knows that organic is better gives me hope. Recently, Michael Pollan, author of the best selling book, "the Omnivore's Dilemma," wrote an open letter called, "Farmer in Chief," to the next President of the U.S. in, which he eloquently and articulately outlines a proposal with strategies for sustainable agriculture. Pollan effectively makes the point that food policy is in many ways the underlying cause of what's wrong with all the challenges that the next administration will face, not unlike how processed foods are the underlying cause of the top four killer diseases in the U.S. Pollan systematically shows the connection between the outdated farm bill (providing subsidies to rich corporation in the food commodity industry), the food policy (responsible for our broken food system responsible for cheap toxic calories), the dependency on oil for the entire industrial food system (from growing methods to production and transportation), the crisis in health care (unaffordable and focused on treatment rather than prevention) and national security (how terrorists could easily attack us using our food supplies). Pollan proposes what he calls the Sun-food diet, food that's grown with sunlight rather than fossil fuel. His insightful solutions include using the power of the sun to grow food, decentralizing the food system and changing America's food culture through education about why and how to grow and cook food. I applaud Pollanís efforts to plant seeds.
Ten Surprising Ways Food Affects Health; How to choose and care for healthy cookware; Grow food instead of a lawn; and the Vegetarian Organic Blog recipe of the Week: Morning Muesli! (If you'd like to get this free newsletter in your e-mail inbox, click here to subscribe!
Consumer Reports posted some findings from a report on the health benefits -- or lack thereof -- of industrial breakfast cereals. Here's the good, the bad and the ugly about their report. The good: Consumer Reports does a nice job on two fronts. First, they highlight how extreme the sugar content is in some cereals. Two major brands are more than half sugar, and nine brands are more than 40% sugar. Obviously, this is candy, not breakfast. The other good thing about the report is that they actually prove that printed serving size is on average different from the serving sizes people actually eat. They found that, on average, children served themselves over 50% more than the serving size printed on the box. The bad: Consumer Reports then goes on to essentially recommend several cereals because they have a little less sugar and a little more fiber. They recommend Cheerios, Kix, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Life cereals, despite the fact that all contain white sugar or corn syrup, most or all are made with genetically modified grains and all are processed beyond recognition. The ugly: Consumer Reports completely failed to even mention that healthy cereals exist at all, or that you could easily make your own healthy cereals. Are industrial, processed, genetically modified breakfast cereals really the only choice? This is why you should never rely on a publication like Consumer Reports for health information. They tend to point you toward middle of the road between health and sickness. Why not point you toward total health? Now, if you'll excuse me. I'm going to go have breakfast now. Cheerios? Don't think so. Never going to happen. I'm making myself a whole grain muesli of organic oats, dried organic fruit bits and raw walnuts from my local farmer's market, organic sunflower seeds, organic ground flax seeds, sliced organic bananas and freshly made raw cashew milk. It will have zero sugar, massive amounts of dietary fiber, phytochemicals, natural vitamins and minerals -- and it will taste far better than any cereal you could buy in a box. (Picture shows this morning's breakfast.)
In this issue: My travels in Greece (in search of the elusive Mediterranean diet); the truth about soy; the wonderful world of ginger; and this week's Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week: Attica Lentil Soup! Read it here. Subscribe free here.
I'm a big advocate of walking for exercise, stress release, mental stimulation, feeling invigorated and generally healing what ails you. I've talked and written extensively about how practicing a healthy and active lifestyle is key to health and happiness. Now, a major and large-scale 25-year study of 77,782 women by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that leading a healthy lifestyle, including keeping your waistline in check, exercising, avoiding smoking and eating healthy food do, in fact, keep you from dying prematurely. Essentially, doing what we've been designed to do instead of living an artificial life full of artificial ingredients, junk foods and remaining out of touch with the world of physical activity what causes chronic illnesses and early death. According to researchers, "Even modest lifestyle changes such as 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) per day significantly reduced risk of premature death."
Native to South America, pineapple guavas (also know as feijoa sellowiana and guavasteen) are newly in season. I picked some up at my local Farmer's Market yesterday. These egg-shaped fruits are green in color and feel firm to the touch, so it's hard to tell that they're ripe and ready to eat. The farmer I bought them from waits for the fruit to drop on its own from the tree as that means they're ripe. She was giving samples and I liked the tangy flavor. She told me that most people scoop out the pulp, but that it's good also to eat the skin. I tried that, and found it chewy and kind of gritty but with good flavor. If you can get your hands on pineapple guavas, give them a try -- and give your palate a chance to become acquainted with new exotic flavors.
It's amazing how many people suffer from cardiovascular problems these days. I know of people in their 20's and 30's who are already experiencing high blood pressure or hypertension as the direct result of bad food and poor lifestyle choices. Recently, a dear friend of mine who suffers from hypertension asked me about what to do to improve her condition without relying on the prescription hypertension drugs she has been relying on, and suffering the side effects of. What's interesting is that she happens to be an amazing cook and very knowledgeable about healthy food. She prepares all her own healthy organic meals and exercises regularly. I asked her to tell me what she eats. She said salads, vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, lean meats, chicken and eggs. I made some simple recommendations (she's not a client, just a friend), such as to stop eating eggs or eat egg whites only, eat more dark leafy greens, only eat wild fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon, eat three tablespoons of ground flax seeds mixed with meals or beverages daily and replace most animal protien with plant protein, including beans and grains such as quinoa, wild rice or millet. After about a month after making these small adjustments to her diet, and increasing her cardiovascular exercise, my friend's blood pressure is already much lower. I see these kinds of results with my health counseling clients all the time. But the reason I'm mentioning my friend's case is that so many people believe that they they're already doing all they can. Although my friend already ate a healthy diet, there was still room for improvement. There is always room for improvement. The amazing part is that very minor diet modifications and a little more exercise did more to lower her blood pressure than all the medications she was taking. If something is ailing you, there's a very good chance that food and lifestyle changes, rather than drugs that often come with unpleasant side effects, can either cure you, or improve your ailment naturally. Even if you know a lot about food and are already eating a healthy diet.
I write about health and food. My husband Mike writes, too, but about technology. Every once in a while, our areas of specialization overlap. Today Mike wrote about our daily walks together. While walking, we listen to podcasts, talk (both on the phone and to each other) and do other things. By using technology, we combine learning, talking and exercise -- and save a lot of time. You can, too. Here's what my husband wrote about what he calls a "cell phone-based exercise program."
Your mom was right: eating your fruits and veggies is good for you. Researchers agree that flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables help protect health. In a recent study conducted by scientists in Italy, results show that flavonoids (antioxidants compounds found in plant foods) may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. Some 21,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year. Only about 6,000 will survive five years or more. There is no question that whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and seeds are good for us. The question is: Why are we eating processed and adulterated foods instead of fresh, raw, whole organic produce when we know that one causes cancer and the other protects us from cancer? What this really means is that our bodies are designed to be sustained by a diet consisting of mostly plant-based whole foods. The conspicuous absence of healthy foods makes us sick. Put another way, eating 8 to 10 servings of fruits and veggies along with beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds will give your body what it expects to receive to its job defending itself from constant attacks from toxins and free radicals responsible for causing cancer and other illnesses. Add daily exercise into the equation and you' are not only equipped with a strong immune system but also with overall optimum health.