Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Archive for the ‘Pesticides’ Category

Processed Foods and Relationship to Disease


My “food hero,” Michael Pollan gives a compelling speech about the dangers of cooking and the processing of food. Pesticides, GMOs, and processing methods of prepared foods are contributing to the increase in disease.

It boils down to eating food as close to its natural state, and cooking the food yourself.

And he provides a realistic way to make it happen.

Listen up!

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/04/13/watch-this-video-youll-never-eat-mcdonalds-french-fries-again/

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What About Genetically Modified Foods? (GMO’s)


There is much debate lately about genetically modified food. The discussion is about whether or not to label such foods. Big food companies don’t want labeling. Why not? Because it is BIG business. Most corn and soy products are genetically modified. The issue in producing these foods is that foods are modified with genes from other species to increase shelf life, resistance to insects, increase size and improve appearance. 

Allergies are on the rise, and GMO’s are suspect. If you eat corn (to which you have no allergy) that is modified with a gene from another organism that you are allergic to, you will appear to be allergic to corn. Whatever your position on the use of GMO’s foods is, be informed. A new documentary called Genetic Roulette is available free online from September 15 through September 22. Here is the link. Watch it and decide whether you want to eat these foods, but more importantly, decide if the pubic has a right to know so they can make their own decisions.

http://www.GeneticRouletteMovie.com

Labeling: Truth or Dare?


So many claims are on the labels of foods these days. Do you really know what they mean and if it is worth paying more? Or if the claims are true or meaningful? Marketing people are very smart when it comes to pushing our buttons. I see this evidence in the glut of gluten free foods. Many people believe it is simply healthier to go gluten free, because it is the latest “thing.” I hate to break it to you folks, but it’s a marketing ploy to sell designer food. As a matter of fact, gluten contains a lot of nutritious stuff and you WANT it in your diet – unless of course you have Celiac disease (only 1% of the population does) or a gluten sensitivity. Cutting any nutrient out of your diet to be chic is plain stupid.

So what about all the buzz words like organic, sustainable, free-range, etc.? Are these things regulated in any way or can anyone slap it on a label? Here is a little primer on these terms as it applies to meat products. I will follow in a later post with information on other products.

The term organic has the most teeth. Organic meats have to be antibiotic-free and the animal must be fed a pesticide-free vegetarian diet . They must have free access to a pasture. The feed cannot be genetically modified. The Department of Agriculture has strict guidelines that must be followed in order to label meats organic.

If an animal is truly free-range, it may be healthier. It will usually be fed better food, and because it roams freely, it develops more muscle fiber with more omega 3 fats (good for you).  The USDA does not have standards for this definition however, merely requires that the chicken has access to outdoor space. There is no language on beef or other meats at all.

Since grass-fed is also not defined or legislated, a farmer can call his animals grass-fed if it ate grass once. If the producer is honest, he might actually allow his animals to feed on grass all the time – but how do you know where your steak came from anyway? Grass-fed animals have less saturated fat and higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, making it healthier. It is not desirable to everyone (taste-wise) since it is the marbled, high fat content most Americans want. These guys are lean machines, and a little tougher.

There is no legal definition for sustainable. It means in theory, that the animal (usually used to describe fish however) was raised with concern for its welfare, the producer used natural resources wisely and was provided a fair wage.

So, if you think these are worth paying more for without getting all the facts, I have a bridge I’d like to sell  you.

 

 

We Have a Right to Know. Thank you Connecticut.


The Department of Agriculture opposed Connecticut’s move toward requiring manufacturers to disclose when food is genetically modified. Some feel that modified foods increase the risk of allergic reactions and other health problems. On the pro side, modification can increase nutritional value and make hardier plants, requiring less pesticide. Whatever the argument for or against, the principle that most interests me is that we be allowed to make up our own minds. The government should not allow food manufacturers to dictate whether it is important for consumers to know how their food is produced. Consumers have been increasingly vocal about their desire to know where their food comes from, how it is produced and if it is safe. They have a right to decide what is acceptable to them. Only with labeling, can they have the information they need to make these decisions.

So, hooray to Connecticut’s Environment Committee for voting 23-6 to approve a measure to require labeling. While there will be logistical challenges to label in some states and not others, it is only through grass roots efforts (by consumers) and political support (our legislators) that we can force issues that are important to us. Twenty other states are also considering this legislation. With Connecticut leading the charge, it is more likely others will follow, putting pressure on the FDA to act. I am proud to live in this state and know my elected officials are working to dignify consumers by requiring the information we need to make our own choices.

Supplements: What you don’t know


I heard a radio ad yesterday claiming men could regain their virility if they took their product, a testosterone-like formula. WOW! Their marketing department really knows how to get a man to part with his money fast! But is it true? Is it safe? Will it react negatively with any other medications or conditions that man may have in addition to low libido? Do they care?

Supplements were created to provide nutrients people could not get enough of with normal food intake. As we began to rely on heavily processed food, we lost many natural nutrients. We began fortifying and enriching our foods with the very vitamins and minerals that were lost in the processing. (Hence, a good argument for returning to whole, unprocessed foods, but that’s for a future blog entry.) Supplements helped cure conditions of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. They came into existence for excellent reasons. But what happens when the free market sees it as a big money-making opportunity? In our culture of “more is better,” does this apply to supplements too?

Most people don’t realize a very few important things: (1) there is such a thing as a toxic level for certain vitamins and minerals, (2) some minerals interfere with how our body uses the nutrients we take in and (3) the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate supplements the way drugs are regulated. When you buy a drug, the quantities, effects and trials ensure you are getting what you think you are getting. When you take a supplement, it is truly “buyer beware.”

Many reputable supplement manufacturers follow good manufacturing practices (GMP), which are industry defined. The government regulates supplements like it does food, which only ensures that they are produced under sanitary conditions and are produced consistently. There is no guarantee of safety, that they contain what the manufacturer claims they do, that they are free from harmful substances like pesticides (in herbals) or lead (if produced outside the US where manufacturing and labeling is even less reliable). You really can’t be sure what is in that capsule you are taking, in hopes of keeping you healthy. If you are sure it makes you feel better, remember the placebo effect can be a factor too.

There is no testing requirement and no warning of side effects, long terms affects, food or drug interactions, or precautions, like there is with drugs. There is no guarantee of consistent quality and there is no guarantee that the supplement does what it promises to do.

This is not to say that supplements don’t have their place or that some manufacturers are more reputable than others. But when dallying in  self-prescribed pharmacopeia, one must know it is not without possible harm or even danger.

Wash Your Fruits and Vegetables


It may not occur to you to wash your produce, but think about it: It comes from the field and may be commercially washed BEFORE it is handled by packers, is transported in dirty trucks, then handled by market workers and shoppers testing for ripeness. Maybe even sneezed on. UGH!

A Tennessee State University study found that the home vegetable bin is the dirtiest part of the refrigerator! There may be up to 2 million bacteria per gram, yeast, mold and other germs on a head of lettuce! What to do?

Wash with tap water to cut bacteria up to 98%.

Fruits and vegetables with edible skin should be washed under running water for 30-60 seconds according to Brendan Niemira, P.hD., a scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Use fingers or a soft vegetable brush and the water will carry away any bacteria.

If there is an inedible peel, use a sturdier brush and wash for the same length of time. Even though you won’t be eating the skin, piercing it to cut it up will introduce whatever is on the outside, onto the edible portion.

Natural, Organic or Processed?


Since much of the terminology used in food advertising is not regulated, manufacturers are able to make very misleading claims. To understand better some of the definitions and limitations to the truth about these claims, see this article:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Natural+doesn+mean+good/5303918/story.html

While organic food is defined with a little more integrity, it is not cut and dried. Also, organic is more expensive, so save your dollars for when it really counts. Eating your fruits and vegetables is important to your health – and usually overshadows the risks posed by pesticides. For the most part, fruits and vegetables with a thick skin or rind that will be peeled can be safely consumed. In any case, always wash the surface before breaking the skin or you risk getting bacteria from the outside on the part you will consume.

Each year, a list of the cleanest and dirtiest (referring to pesticides) is published. Here is a link to the recent list:

http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

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