Monday, September 24, 2012

on my mind monday 09.24.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Before we get into the collection of news for this week I wanted to let everyone know that the Cookie Naming Contest is still going on.  Naming suggestions have been collected for a week.  It was great fun seeing all of the responses coming in.  Entered in submission order they're available in the online survey for you to vote for your favorite cookie name which will go in my book, The Pantry Principle.  The person who submitted the winning name will also receive a batch of this cookie personally baked by me.

Placebo or not acupuncture helps with pain - A lot of people turn to acupuncture for help with a variety of issues including pain.  Because it is considered an alternative medicine practice it is not always well accepted.  However in studies covering 18,000 people it appears to have a positive benefit.  California is looking at passing legislation that would make acupuncture a required-to-be-covered health benefit.  Stay tuned to see how this treatment option may become more accepted and more available.

The benefits of middle age fitness - Just as it is with dietary changes, when making changes to your physical activity level, it's never too late.  Obviously the more you take care of your body, keep it active, feed it healthy choices, the better it will work for you.  But if you've stopped those things and want to start again...right now is the best time.  "Moving out of the least fit category [only requires] 20-30 minutes of walking on most days of the week."

Your Dental Hygienist Will Be Happy - It turns out that in addition to making them look good and helping us to have clean smelling breath, regular dental cleanings (or scalings) appear to help reduce the incidence of  strokes and other heart diseases.  Another study looked at regular brushing habits and found a positive correlation with reduced rates of dementia.  Looks like keeping those pearly whites in good shape is a significant part of your self-care health plan.

Non-vegan Bananas? - It doesn't exist yet but there's a possibility that it will.  Apparently a new coating has been developed which may extend the shelf life of fresh produce.  It's made from chitosan which is a product from the shells of shrimp and crabs.  For those people who have life threatening allergies to shellfish this is highly problematic.  Not only will it remove their ability to eat anything coated with this product.  I have to wonder about the transfer factor.  If another shopper touches that product and then touches something else will there be a transfer of the coating onto the supposedly uncoated product?  Chances are high that the answer is yes.  Given that an allergy to shellfish is one of the most common allergies in the United States, this could potentially be quite problematic.

Fall is here and in many parts of the country that means apple picking season.  Here's a fun video with a good looking recipe.  Most people think of farm to table as meaning meat products.  But it also applies to produce, herbs, and other foods.  Anything that you take straight from the producer to your home and your table.  I love the use of dates in the crust of the crumble.

Photo: mconnors

Thursday, September 20, 2012

soup, pregnancy, and asthma

The news reports a scientific study currently underway in the United Kingdom to determine if vitamin E consumption in pregnant women can help reduce rates of asthma in their babies.  Initial positive findings are apparently supported by similar studies in the United States and Japan.

What I love best about this study, no matter what the outcome proves to be, are the following two statements:

        "altering nutrition during pregnancy could positively impact on a child's susceptibility to asthma."

        "I wondered whether it might be the other nutrients that go with vitamin E in food that may be
          responsible for the effect."

Whole food nutrition.   What a concept.  This is what I believe in, what I teach when I work with people.  To have science supporting the idea of nutrition as a whole rather than as individual, manipulated nutrients, is wonderful.  And long overdue.  There is a big difference between the concept of nutrition and that of nutrients.  There are many many examples of how nutrients (in whole foods) work together to support each other, making them more bio-available and supporting the body.  Taking a single nutrient by itself may not confer enough of the benefit -- the body often cannot utilize it fully.

This particular study is not the first one that points to a connection between pre-natal nutrition and asthma.  Back in 2007 there were studies which showed that pre-natal maternal consumption of fish and apples reduced not only asthma but also allergies in children.

One of the scientists in the 2007 study stated, "Foods contain mixtures of nutrients that may contribute more than the sum of their parts."  As someone who works with a wide range of clients who have a variety of health issues, I have seen the benefits of switching to a whole food diet.  I have also seen how dietary changes can positively impact bio-individual health challenges for my clients.  While I believe we often tend to take the most simplistic view of our food by deciding that a particular supplement or nutrient will be the answer, it is the synergistic combination of what we eat that has an impact.  If vitamin E has a beneficial effect on diminishing the likelihood of asthma in children I believe we should be encouraging the consumption of a balanced diet that includes vitamin E rather than supplementing a wide variety of consumables to create "pregnancy" foods.

So while I understand the creation of the 'super soup' mentioned in the article above, in order for the scientists to control the study as well as possible, I sincerely hope that the outcome will be to encourage better, more positive, whole food nutrition changes.

Which foods are higher in vitamin E?  Sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, and mustard greens, asparagus, almonds, and bell peppers.

photo: slightly everything

Friday, September 14, 2012

cookie contest

We're having a contest!

I was so excited about reaching the funding goal for my book, The Pantry Principle: learning to read the label and understand what's really in your food, that I created a new cookie. Now I'm looking for a name and I've decided to ask for your help.

I'm asking you to submit your ideas for names for the cookie, you can leave a comment below. I'll collect all the suggestions for one week. At the end of the week I'll create an online poll and open it up to votes. The winning cookie namer gets bragging rights and their name suggestion printed in my book. As an added bonus, I will bake them a batch of cookies and personally deliver or mail (U.S. and Canada only) them to you.

The main ingredients, in no particular order, are:

coconut oil
shredded coconut
and sucanat

Have fun!

I'm looking forward to seeing what creative ideas come out of this.

national honey month

September is National Honey Month.  That sweet, drippy, delicious treat.  Honey comes in many different flavors depending on where the bees collected the nectar.  Monofloral honey such as orange blossom, tupelo, buckwheat or clover may be more expensive due to the difficulty of limiting the bees access.

While there are lots of different ways to use honey, one popular usage at this time of year is to make Honey Cake.  This dessert is typically served for the Jewish New Year,  Rosh Hashanah.  This year the holiday starts at sundown on Sunday, September 16.

Honey is often seen as a healthier alternative to sugar although it is important to note that it is still a sweetener, is fairly high in fructose (approximately 38%), and should be consumed in moderation.

Raw, local honey is considered by many to be the best form.  Raw honey is not heated or pasteurized, therefore the enzymes remain intact.  It is also considered more desirable by those who have allergies as it appears to be helpful in reducing allergic symptoms and chronic sinusitis.  Local honey has regional pollens in it making it beneficial for helping with local pollen allergies.  One new study even suggests that honey has potential as an additional therapy for "the management of chronic diseases associated with oxidative stress."

photo: akarlovic

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

fresh - a review

by ana sofia joanes

Almost every day we are learning more and more about our food. Sadly much of the time the news is not good. Headlines blare about contamination of packaged foods, the bad health effects of artificial colors or artificial sweeteners are highlighted. The media loves to play up the bad news.

Luckily for us there is a small but growing movement pushing for change regarding our food. Fresh is the latest in this genre of movies providing us with a look at what organic, sustainable agriculture can to do help promote a better impact on the environment and on our health.

Monday, September 10, 2012

on my mind monday 09.10.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition and holistic living.  Here's what's on my mind.

Meditation in the corporate world - According to this article more major corporations are recognizing the value of having employees take a break -- to meditate.  Meditation is known to have a variety of health benefits including lowering blood pressure as well as allowing the mind to refocus.   While we don't teach meditation techniques (and there are many) in the US, it may be something that becomes more and more common in response to this sort of corporate acceptance.

A new twist on urban gardening - in Chicago city lots are not just being used for urban farming.  Some are being converted to orchards where heirloom varieties will be grown.  The time investment to plant, nurture, and eventually harvest an orchard is significant.  The hope is that residents and even restaurants will be able to use and eat these heirloom fruits.  This will be an interesting project to watch, it could be a novel way for other cities to make use of public spaces.

Corn syrup in what? - This very cheap sugar finds it's way into an amazing array of foods, even those that would not necessarily be thought of as sweet (such as pizza).  The only way to avoid it in your food is to read the label.  Another important thought to remember, corn is one of the most highly genetically modified crops in the US.  So any products with corn in them (unless marked organic or non-gmo) are quite possibly genetically modified.

National Yoga Month - is September.  And there are lot of different kinds to choose from.  Yoga is a great form of exercise for people who cannot do impact exercises all the way up to those looking for a vigorous workout.  It also offers a wide range of health benefits.

Calorie restriction may not extend life - starving mouse studies seemed to indicate that mice fed 30% less than "normal" lived as much as 40% longer.  There are a number of people who follow calorie restriction in the hopes that the results will be the same for people.  Recent studies appear to indicate that it doesn't work for Rhesus monkeys.  However the monkeys did have a better quality of life with lower rates of diabetes and cancer.  I wonder what would happen if results were examined again to look at the quality of the food that the monkeys ate.

It's back to school time.  Unfortunately for a lot of teens and older kids that may mean a temptation to reach for energy drinks to try to stay on top of their hectic schedules.  Unfortunately this is not a good choice.  Here's a video from my friend Karen that talks about energy drinks and their effect on the adrenal glands.

photo:  mconnors

Thursday, September 6, 2012

detox your body the food way

After yesterday's post on BPA many of you may be wondering what you can do to support your body and your health.  Long time readers will know that I encourage cleaning up the chemicals in your diet, eating whole foods, and the use of alkalizing beverages and foods.  I am not a fan of painful detox methods, extreme caloric reduction, or detox methods which cause you to feel ill.  I believe you should not feel badly, physically or mentally, while trying to support your body during a cleanse.

It is possible to eat well and support your body and good health while adding detoxifying foods.  This top ten list gives you my suggestions for foods and supplements to add to your nutritional plan.

  1. Cilantro - an excellent and tasty way to cleanse the body, ridding it of heavy metal accumulation.
  2. Cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, cabbage, rutabaga, turnip, and radishes all support the liver which is important for detoxification.
  3. Fiber - supports a healthy digestive system which in turns helps with elimination when transporting toxins out of the body.  Good fiber choices include beans, fresh ground flax seeds, and whole grains.
  4. Folate - found in dark leafy greens, calves liver, lentils, beans, and asparagus, has been shown to help counter the effects of BPA in the system.
  5. Garlic - high in sulfur garlic helps to dilate the blood vessels so they don't get blocked, it's also anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
  6. Green tea - high in anti-oxidants it supports the liver and helps with hydration.
  7. Lemons - have an alkalizing effect on the system, also add the juice to foods rich in iron to increase bio-availability.
  8. Wheatgrass - an excellent detoxifier that is also high in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.  
  9. Selenium - helps to rid the body of mercury while protecting against free-radicals, found in codfish, tuna, egg yolks, beef, shitake mushrooms, lamb, and Brazil nuts.
  10. Water - pure, clean water helps to flush the body of toxins.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

organic or conventional?

The news headlines are once again blaring headlines about no significant nutritional difference between conventional and organic produce.  At a base level that appears to be true.  Foods grown in similar soil will have similar nutritional benefits.  The plants are only able to get so much out of the soil.

However, and this is not disputed in the new but certainly seems to be minimized, the chemical residues are higher for conventionally grown produce.  This is because in order for food to be considered organic there is a standard which prohibits the use of a vast array of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  That chemical burden on your body can be considerable.  This alone makes it worth purchasing organic, especially for the "dirty dozen," those fruits and vegetables most likely to be highly contaminated by pesticide residue.

There was a modest mention made of the fact that organic produce appears to be higher in antioxidants.  Since antioxidant value was not considered as part of the overall nutritional value of the food this appears to have been discarded as a strong reason to purchase organic.  There are, however, a growing number of studies which show that antioxidant value is highly beneficial for the body, especially when it comes to a wide number of diseases and health conditions.

Another important fact to consider, which the articles don't discuss, is that organic produce is not allowed to be genetically modified.  Given the number of genetically modified crops (and the growing number under application for approval) it makes sense to purchase organic in order to avoid that in your food.

And a final thought on this issue, which the articles tend to gloss over, is that meat and dairy products from organically fed animals (meaning the animals are not allowed to be given added hormones, antibiotics, and are not allowed to be fed genetically modified or pesticide laden foods) do have significant differences.  Organic animal production means the animals are not allowed to be given added hormones, antibiotics, and are not fed genetically modified or pesticide laden foods.  The antibiotic issue is an important one for animal products.  When we eat continual low level antibiotics it is bad for our overall health and can encourage bacteria to become anti-biotic resistant.

Organic dairy products are measurably higher in protein and beneficial fatty acids.  Eggs also have a better fatty acid profile.  Studies show that organic meat is lower in fat and has a better overall fatty acid profile making it a healthier choice for consumption than conventionally raised animals and animal products.

Ultimately the choice of what to eat and how to spend your grocery dollars is up to you.  But before you make those choices make sure you have all the facts, not just a scaled down "no nutritional difference" newsbyte.

Monday, September 3, 2012

on my mind monday 09.03.12 - the bpa issue

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It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Due to links forwarded and suggested by several readers this week has become the BPA Issue.

BPA ban in baby bottles - 41 months (nearly 3 1/2 years) after they were first asked to ban BPA the FDA has agreed to ban it in baby bottles and sippy cups.  It's better than nothing but this is a move that comes very late and doesn't go far enough.  Hopefully this is just the beginning and will pave the way for all Bisphenol products to be removed from any situations where they can come into contact with food.