Tuesday, October 30, 2012

gmo: what you need to know

As election day draws nearer there is an enormous amount of attention being paid to what the voters will do at the polls.  California is in the forefront of the move to label GMOs in food.  Other states have considered it but as of yet none have actually passed such a bill.  The general thinking is that if one state passes this legislation manufacturers will be forced to change all of their labeling nationwide in order to not have to create two forms of packaging.

The battle has been heated and intense with both sides contributing money to try to reach out to California voters and garner their support.  The chain of food ownership has become startlingly clear as the Cornucopia Institute put together this infographic showing who contributed what to the campaign.  Consumers were truly able to see that although companies like Cascadian Farms Organic, Larabar, and Kashi have a reputation as being consumer friendly and producing clean products, they are in fact owned by major corporation such as Kellogg and General Mills.  These giant food producers have a vested interest in maintaining our state of ignorance and have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to convince consumers to vote against GMO labeling.

This is not just an issue that we face here in the US.  All over the world governments and consumers are rethinking the use of GMO.  Just last month Russia suspended the use of GMO corn after a controversial French study showed ill effects in lab animals.  This study has since been brought into question however many of the issues it raised are valid and warrant further study.

This is not, however, the first time that there have been issues with GMO corn.  Back in 2005 there was a German study which showed severe health effects and damage to the liver and kidneys causing the German government to call a halt to the use of the corn.  A 2009 study done in Austria showed that there was a link between GMO crops and a decline in human fertility.

In August of this year two Australia farmers began to travel around New Zealand educating farmers against GMO crops.  As is the case here in the US, those that do not want GMO crops have no recourse if their fields are "accidentally" contaminated.  However there is no way for them to protect against wind, flood, and animals carrying seed.  All of these are potential methods of contaminating crops.  Monsanto has a known reputation for suing farmers for theft if their fields become contaminated, even if this contamination is against the wishes of the farmer.  The only way to protect against GM is to keep it out of the country.

In this video (1.5 hours but worth watching) Jeffrey Smith, the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology talks about GMO crops and their effects.

You can also watch the movie The World According to Monsanto to learn more.

If you want to read further about GMOs consider the following books:
At this point it may be difficult to stop the spread of GMO crops.  I believe it should be stopped and I believe it should be eradicated to the best of our ability.  But even more importantly I believe that we should have the right to know what's really in our food.  I will be watching the election to see what happens in California.  I will be hoping that Californians lead the way in supporting our right to know what's in our food.

photo: faul

Monday, October 29, 2012

on my mind monday 10.29.12

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 health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Tofu allowed in school lunches - This is concerning for a couple of reasons.  The first being that soy products are one of the most heavily GMO contaminated crops in this country.  I'm guessing that schools won't be providing organic soy for school lunch.  Another concern is that too much soy is not healthy for you, especially if it's not fermented.  And yet we're going to feed it to our kids.

Medium or Large? - As I've shared before, we're REALLY BAD at "consumer math."  We think we know what we're doing but we trust the label a little too often.  When given the same size cookie but told it's medium, rather than large, we eat more.  The endless bowl of soup experiment showed that we really do eat with our eyes.  We need to be more mindful of what we eat, not only for food content, but also for amount.

Heading into the winter months more people have been asking me about drying, or dehydrating, foods. Living in Texas I can't dehydrate by drying in the sun; it's too humid here.  I air dry herbs inside my home and for other foods we use an electric dehydrator.  Here's a video with a succinct explanation about the process.

Two good resource books on dehydrating foods (and using them in recipes) are The Dehydrator Bible and Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Book.  Those who follow a raw food diet tend to use the dehydrator as a cooking method so looking at those books and recipes may be helpful as well.

One form of dehydration is to bake in the oven.  This recipe for these amazing looking beet chips is a great way to eat this this tasty, good for you root crop.  High in folate, manganese, fiber, potassium, vitamin C beets are easy to add to the diet.  So tasty any way you serve them (but especially in chip form) you'll be wanting to grow your own.

Friday, October 26, 2012

vitamins and minerals for a healthy immune system

In today's busy world, staying healthy is very important. Day-to-day stress can leave people feeling run down and low on energy, especially if their dietary needs are not met. Many people with fast-paced lives opt for fast food instead of a home cooked meal. The downside of fast food is that it's often high in fat and calories and low in the recommended amount of daily vitamins and minerals a person needs in order to stay healthy. With winter just around the corner, cold and flu season is on its way. Individuals with lowered immune systems can be especially susceptible to these pesky viruses. Support your immunity by building up your vitamin arsenal. In taking supplements as directed, you can defend yourself this winter by giving your immune system the boost it needs.

Vitamin C is one of the most beneficial vitamins of the entire vitamin spectrum. It is found in a variety of fruits (strawberries, oranges, and kiwis) and vegetables (bell peppers, brussel sprouts, & broccoli), and can be taken daily in capsule or chewable tablet form.  Vitamin C gives a boost to the immune system, which is why it is known as a common remedy for winter colds. It also assists in cell renewal and works as an antioxidant, helping the body rid itself of toxins that can also contribute to low energy and chronic health problems.

Zinc is a mineral that is well known for its immune boosting properties, but zinc also offers a long list of incredible health benefits. Research has proven that zinc is a very important element to the health of human beings, and even a minimal deficiency can contribute to various health issues. Zinc is a potent antioxidant, and antioxidants have been shown to lower cancer risks as well as renew cells and tissues. Zinc also assists in hormone and endocrine function. Low zinc levels can contribute to premature aging as well as well as lower natural energy levels. Probably the most common foods that include zinc are: low fat roast beef, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and peanuts. People can also easily get the daily requirement of zinc by taking a multivitamin that contains this mineral.

Vitamin D is essential for health, and getting fifteen minutes of sun exposure each day allows the body to absorb this amazing vitamin and utilize its health benefits. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which contributes to strong and healthy bones and a healthy immune system. It also works to regulate blood pressure, reduce respiratory infections, fight depression and improve cardiovascular strength. To make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D eat fish like mackerel, sockeye salmon, herring, catfish, or tuna fish. If you do not like fish you can also consume eggs or shiitake or button mushrooms.

These vitamins and minerals can all be consumed individually or in multivitamin form. Multivitamins contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, and are a convenient way to get everything you need in one dosage. By incorporating these vitamins into your daily routine and taking them as directed, you will be able to protect yourself during cold and flu season, and you will also be contributing to your overall body health and future wellness.

Contact Mira to learn how you can $AVE on professional grade, high quality supplements.

Elissa Pitney studies health and wellness and is working towards becoming a personal trainer. When not working out and watching what she eats, she enjoys mountain biking and spending time outdoors.

photo:  William Brawley

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

five awesome benefits of sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are inexpensive and nutritious. Commonly labeled as yams (although they are not the same), sweet potatoes are a great addition to your diet needs and offer superior benefits to your health and weight control efforts. Here are some of the benefits of sweet potatoes: 

Good for the heart Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin B6 which helps the heart by protecting the arteries and blood vessels. Vitamin B6 inhibits the buildup of homocysteine, keeping arteries and blood vessels healthy by allowing the blood to flow freely.

Sweet potatoes are also rich in potassium that helps reduce blood pressure by eliminating excess sodium build up, promoting fluid balance. Your body needs potassium, an electrolyte, to keep natural heart rhythm and promote normal central nervous system function.

Rich in fiber Sweet potatoes contain more than twice the fiber content of other types of potatoes. It can contain as much 7 grams of fiber and is a great addition to any meal. High-fiber foods help you control your weight better because they burn more slowly and efficiently compared to low-fiber foods.

Sweet potatoes have both soluble and insoluble fibers. Soluble fibers form a gel and slow digestion down. It delays the emptying of your stomach which makes you feel full longer. It helps control weight, maintains healthy blood sugar levels, and lowers LDL cholesterol.

Insoluble fibers benefit the digestive system by providing a laxative effect and adding bulk to your diet. They remain relatively intact as they pass through the digestive tract, speeding up the passage of food and waste through the gut.

Rich in Vitamin A Also known beta carotene, vitamin A is an important antioxidant. A medium-sized sweet potato contains more than enough of your daily vitamin A needs. It helps the body fight off many forms of cancer.

It also protects the skin from sun damage. Eating the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A helps increase the skin's resistance to harmful UV rays. It helps repair the damage done by excessive sun exposure. It is also excellent for eye health, preventing vision loss and macular degeneration.

Source of Manganese Manganese is an important trace mineral needed for proper carbohydrate metabolism, promoting healthy blood sugar balance. It helps suppress your appetite to prevent you from overeating.

Manganese is also a cofactor in enzymes needed in chemical reactions for energy and antioxidant utilization. It is also used to treat anemia and severe premenstrual symptoms.

Provides Vitamins C and E Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamins C and E. Both are antioxidants that play a vital role in preventing many diseases and contribute to longevity.

Vitamins C and E are important components in skin and hair beauty products. Sweet potatoes, being rich in vitamins A, C, and E help in keeping us healthy inside and outside.

How to prepare sweet potatoes Here are some of the healthy ways you can prepare your sweet potatoes:

  • Bake on a sheet at 400°F oven for 40-60 minutes. 
  • Boil or steam, peeled or unpeeled; 5 min for small-sized and 30 min for medium-sized. 
  • Add to soups and stews. 

Simon Bukai is the President of VISTA Health Solutions, an online health insurance marketplace aimed at finding affordable health care solutions for individuals, small business owners and the self employed.

photo: Albert Cahalan

Monday, October 22, 2012

on my mind monday 10.22.12

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 health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Eat your kale - many of us don't get enough of those dark leafy greens.  This article talks about some of the health benefits and reminds us that, like everything else, there needs to be some moderation in our consumption of dark leafy greens.

Eat more kale - of course the title above is similar to Bo Muller Moore's Eat More Kale campaign.  (For those of you who don't know, Bo has been issues a Cease and Desist order in an act of corporate bullying by Chick Fil-a who claims that their consumers would be confused between their Eat Mor Chik'n and his Eat More Kale -- I don't know about you but if I was one of their consumers I'd be insulted by that.)  He happens to have a few friends who love kale and have shared some delicious recipes, check them out.  And while you're at it, consider buying a t-shirt.

Students Donate Leftovers - There are a lot of things about this story that bother me.  While I'm glad that someone has come up with a way to take unwanted food and give it to those who are hungry, I find it mind-boggling that students are forced to take food they don't want.  What kind of message does this send?  It encourages waste.  The legislation in school districts that prevent the distribution of whole, clean food once it's been taken needs to be changed.  The solution seems straightforward, let's use common sense.

Ugly Fruit and Vegetables - Due to the drought grocery stores in England have been forced to accept less than perfect looking fruits and vegetables.  While it's not good that there's a drought and with it a growing food shortage, I think this has some positive aspects.  It will teach people that food doesn't have to look perfect to be edible.  Hopefully it will also open doors to more locally sourced, less big-agri-business perfection at the grocery store, and by extension on our tables.  The peppers that I pick from my garden are bumpy, lumpy and not so pretty.  But they sure taste good.  The ones at the grocery store are frequently beautiful to look at but less than flavorful.   Hopefully people can learn to accept that it doesn't have to look like it belongs in a stylized food photo shoot to belong on our table.

Cheese Smuggling - unlike the millions of dollars of maple syrup recently stolen in Canada this theft scheme did not happen as planned.  Apparently involving cross-border sales of cheese the Department of Homeland Security managed to break up the smuggling ring and put a halt to the operation.  Apparently many of the Canadian pizza shops claim they turned down the U.S. cheese because it was inferior (making me wonder just how much better Canadian mozzarella really is).  More importantly the fact that food thefts are increasing highlights the rising costs and increasing food insecurity.

Bleah! doesn't even begin to describe my reaction to this video.

photo: mconnors

Saturday, October 20, 2012

five fabulous fall foods

Summer, that season of fresh salads, greens, berries, and melons all bursting with healthful vitamins and nutrients, has passed. Autumn, however, also please our palates, providing us with different gifts of nature. There are many seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are just as tasty as summer while delivering different health benefits. Here are some fabulous fall foods (depending on your location) and their health benefits.

Tomatoes - This berry provides high lycopene content, that rare plant pigment which imparts their red color to tomatoes and other fruits . According to several studies lycopene can prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, and appears to protect us from harmful ultraviolet radiation. In addition to lycopene, tomatoes are high in potassium, fiber and vitamin C, helps to strengthen the immune system before the influenza season.

Cabbage - High in fiber, which supports digestion, can lower cholesterol, and provides cardio-protective benefits, cabbage is also rich in antioxidants which can protect the body against many types of cancer (including breast, prostate and ovarian cancers). Another benefit of this versatile benefit is that cabbage juice has long been known for it's healing effects on stomach ulcers.

Persimmon - Another berry, persimmons are high in fiber, and antioxidants. They also provide vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and iodine. Persimmons can provide a fair number of health benefits from lowering blood pressure to being cardioprotective to it's anti-tumor benefits. However, persimmons are also high in glucose and sucrose making them a poor choice for those suffering from diabetes.

Turnips - A root vegetable containing potassium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, sodium, iodine and manganese, turnips are anti-cancerous while their high fiber content make them a great choice to lower cholesterol and support a healthy digestive system. One of the great things about turnips are that you can eat the greens as well as the roots, making them a versatile food to add to your diet. And those greens are just as loaded with nutrients as the roots, containing vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Turnip greens are even high in calcium making them a good choice to support bone health.

Beetroot - Another root vegetable which has edible greens, beets are highly anti-inflammatory and support detoxification in the body. Beetroot is high in folate, manganese, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C while the greens are a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytonutrients which are especially supportive of eye health. While almost all products can be found in stores throughout the year, for freshness and higher nutritional content it is important to eat seasonally.

Adding these autumnal foods to your diet is not only tasty and easy, it's also good for you.

Korah Morrison has been working as a freelance writer for over 2 years. She writes essays on various topics at Essay-Point.com and loves her work.

photo:  Jean-Pol Grandmont

Thursday, October 18, 2012

un-stuffed cabbage casserole

Piece of Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole
slice of un-stuffed cabbage
This post, and delicious recipe, are from my friend Robin Horn over at Seasonal Eating.  A foodie from a very young age, Robin lives in Santa Cruz, California and is a proponent of seasonal eating and CSAs.  

Cabbage is coming into season and there are so many delicious ways to serve it.  While I love stuffed cabbage I confess that the time it takes to make all those little rolls (especially compared to how quickly they get scarfed down) is somewhat of a deterrent.  This seems like a tasty solution; and since it makes 12 servings it would be great for a big family gathering (or for delicious leftovers).

Someday I will make stuffed cabbage leaves, the delicious galumkis that my mother and grandmother used to make…sort of. The family recipe was never written down, so this is a project for when time, patience, and creativity are simultaneously expanded. In the meantime, working on my cooking goal of 
exploring my Polish cooking roots, I found a Weight Watchers stuffed cabbage casserole, and set out to make a no-beef, more easily prepared version.

First Mix in Spices, Rice, Onion & Carrot
Because the original recipe had a number of cabbage leaves wrapped around one mound of filling, it was tricky to cut and serve—and to fill in the first place. So, I simply chopped all of the cabbage and put half in the filling and half beneath the filling, where all the juices from the filling drip down deliciously.

I topped the filling with a thin tomato sauce. Originally I tried a layer of cabbage on the top, but the tomato sauce dried out instead of flavoring the cabbage. So I replaced this layer with a few thin cabbage strips. The meat and rice filling right below the tomato sauce draw the tomato flavor down into the casserole because the uncooked rice is “thirsty.”

Mixing Meat with Liquids
Next Mix in Tomato Sauce, Egg & Broth
While not as time consuming as stuffed cabbage leaves, there are many steps in this recipe and it must cook for 1½  hours. Just like stuffed cabbage, the leaves must be precooked. Save time by having two people chop veggies, measure and mix meat filling ingredients,  make the sauce, and assemble the layers.

You can use lean ground beef in this recipe if you prefer. I added paprika from my family recipe. You could choose various herbs, garlic powder, and/or a hint of cayenne. If you’re braver than I am, you can blend the meat mixture with your hands, like my Mom did. It’s faster, and if I’d had some latex gloves, I would have tried it.
[note from Mira:  I find it's simple to mix meat mixtures like this in my blender.  And since I'm often working with cold ingredients I don't get that chilled effect on my hands which I find unpleasant.]

Mixing Cabbage with Meat
Last Mix in Cabbage
Un-Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
serves 12

~ 2 ½ lbs. cabbage
1 lb. ground turkey
2/3 cup shredded carrot
½ cup minced onion
½ cup brown rice
½ tsp. salt
1½ tbsp. paprika
1 large egg
1¼ cup chicken or veggie broth
24 oz jar tomato sauce
2 tbsp. wine vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
olive oil for greasing pan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove 3 outer leaves from cabbage to make the strips of cabbage for the topping. 
Cut remaining cabbage into quarters without removing core.

Boil each quarter cabbage in water until tender, about 5 minutes. 
Drain well and cool. 
Chop cabbage quarters into ½ inch dice, discarding cores. 
Boil the 3 cabbage leaves in water 3 - 4 minutes, until tender. 
Remove with slotted spoon, drain and cool. 
Cut out rib and make ½ inch strips of soft parts. 
Dice ribs with quarter cabbages.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put ground turkey into bowl and break up into pieces with wooden spatula. 
Mix in carrot, onion, rice, salt, and paprika. 
Beat egg together with ¼ cup broth till smooth. 
Add this mixture and ½ cup tomato sauce to meat mixture and beat till evenly blended. Mix in half of the cooked chopped cabbage evenly.

To make the sauce, combine the remaining tomato sauce with wine vinegar and sugar.

Spreading Tomato Sauce Over Meat and Cabbage
Make An Even Layer of Meat on Cabbage
Lightly oil a 9” x 14” baking pan. 
Spread the remaining half of the cabbage in the bottom of the pan. 
Pour the remaining (1) cup of broth around the edges of the pan. 
Spoon on the meat mixture. 
Smooth out with a rubber spatula to make an even layer.

Place the cabbage strips across the top, leaving space between them.
Pour tomato sauce over top of meat mixture and cabbage strips and spread into even layer.

Bake for 1½  hours. 
Let stand at least 20 minutes before serving so liquid is absorbed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

on my mind monday 10.15.12

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 health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Dehydration can affect your thinking - In addition to all of the other ill effects of dehydration now there's one more to add to the list.  It can affect your cognitive processing.  This can become an issue as we age since our thirst mechanism can decline over time.  As the saying goes, "If you're thirsty, you're already down a quart."  While that may or may not be entirely accurate, it is true that by the time you feel thirsty your body is already somewhat dehydrated.  Avoid this by getting into the habit of sipping throughout the day to stay well hydrated and healthy.

Seven Steps For Instant Calm - In our busy, over-scheduled, modern lives we often find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.  Here are some simple tips to remind us of those small things that we can do to help us recenter.

Why We Get Colds - There are actually a number of reasons why this happens, we're run down or our immune system is low, we're overweight, or we consume too much sugar (it suppresses the immune system).  It turns out that cold viruses also do better when humidity levels are low.  To help support the immune system consider adding more garlic to your diet, getting off the couch, checking your vitamin D levels, and cutting back on sugar.

Sugary drinks cause weight gain - I'm a little surprised that anyone thinks we still need to do studies on this.  Sugary drinks are nothing more than liquid candy.  They represent empty calories that do are not filling and contribute excess intake without any nutritional content whatsoever.  I wonder if they keep doing studies on this because so many of us are so addicted to our sugary drinks that we keep hoping for a different answer.

An old-fashioned drink is back in style - Mead is making headlines.  Made from a honey base it has a unique flavor, just like wine or beer, depending on where it's made and the ingredients that go into it.  While I've not made it nor tasted it, this certainly sounds interesting and I'll be watching to see if this is another locavore food trend that spread across the country.

photo:  mconnors

Friday, October 12, 2012

swiss chard two ways

The other night I picked the last of my Swiss chard from our garden for dinner. It's one of my favorite dark leafy green vegetables. Antioxidant rich, loaded with vitamins K, A, and C, Swiss chard also provides a healthy dose of magnesium. Often when we eat it I make a simple sauteed greens. This time, however, I wanted to do something different and came up with these two recipes, using the entire leaf. 

Although most people throw out the stems, they are delicious and can be cooked a variety of ways. These are the two recipes I created using all of the Swiss chard. I can't wait to plant more and enjoy this again.

Braised Carrots and Swiss Chard Stems

½ onion, diced
8 carrots, sliced into ½ inch pieces
Stems from Swiss chard, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup water
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large pan melt butter
Saute onions until starting to turn golden color
Add carrots and Swiss chard stems
Stir to coat with butter
Add water and bring to a boil
Reduce heat and cover
Cook until carrots are tender (about 15 minutes)
Add salt and pepper to taste

Creamed Swiss Chard

Large bunch of Swiss chard
½ cup boiling water
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup organic sour cream
 ½ cup organic whole milk
sea salt and fresh ground nutmeg to taste

Trim stems from Swiss chard
Cut leaves into 1” pieces
Wilt in boiling water until limp
In a large saucepan melt butter
Saute onions and garlic until onions start to turn golden color
Whisk sour cream and milk together
Pour over onions and heat until just starting to bubble
Add wilted Swiss chard leaves
Bring to a boil, stirring frequently
Reduce heat to just under boiling
Cook 5-7 minutes until sauce thickens slightly
Add sea salt and fresh ground nutmeg to taste

photo: Dinkum

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

updating pbj

When I was a kid one of my favorite sandwiches was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  My preferred version was the ones I got at my friend Donna's house where her mom used a creamy peanut butter.  I don't remember the brand but I remember preferring it to the all natural, fresh ground peanut butter we had at home.  She also used squishy white bread (probably Wonderbread) which I never got at home and adored.   Donna and I would make our sandwiches with enormous amounts of peanut butter and a large heaping of jelly (usually grape) oozing out of the edges of the sandwich.  We would lick the edges to "clean it up" and then bite into a sandwich so thick and sticky that our mouths were somewhat gummed shut.

Over time my tastes have changed and that pbj has gone through several modifications over the years.  At one point I was making ezekiel bread; grinding the grains and legumes myself to make the flour before I baked the bread.  This deliciously robust-flavored bread happens to make a fabulous, filling choice.  I also, over time, lowered the amount of sugar, salt, and added fat in my peanut butter by making different choices.  Then, eventually, I switched altogether and began to use fresh ground almond butter from the machine at my grocery store.  I find it amusing that although I thought the fresh ground peanut butter of my youth was not that good, I've come full circle and now love the crunchiness and true flavor of fresh ground nut butter.  And while I love jam it's usually either handmade or a purchase that is whole fruit, no added sugar or other chemical ingredients.  But even that has now changed and I often find myself mashing up fresh berries with a tiny drizzle of honey as the "jelly" in my sandwich.

These days, due to digestive challenges, I find I do better avoiding gluten and so, unable to, as yet, make a good gluten free ezekiel-style bread I am using a brown rice bread which is very satisfying.  But I've changed the sandwich again and now often have it open face using one slice of bread, some almond butter (just almonds, nothing else), a few mashed berries, that drizzle of honey and it's just as satisfying and comforting as the pbj of my youth.

I suspect that because the changes were gradual and because they were choices that I made, this seems perfectly reasonable to me.  I'm equally certain that if I had abruptly changed from that fluffy air bread, sugar-laden, oily peanut butter, and over-processed grape jelly to today's version I would not have been a happy camper.   While I know it's not the sandwich of my youth, it's what I reach for when I want that kind of food.

Our food is what we think of it and how we see those emotional connections and associations.  What have you changed and yet it's still the same?

photo: Renee Comet

Monday, October 8, 2012

on my mind monday 10.8.12

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 health.  Here's what's on my mind.

MSG Wastewater As Fertilizer - I was stunned recently when I read that the wastewater from MSG production could be used as a fertilizer for corn.  Knowing how bad MSG is for human consumption it is startling to realize that it may be creeping into our diet in other ways.  I have as yet been unable to determine if it is allowable for use on organic corn.

Eat Fish Low In Mercury for Heart Health - We all know we're supposed to eat more fish.  It's good for our heart, it's good for overall health.  But fish, especially some of the larger fish like shark, king mackerel, and swordfish, tend to be high in mercury which we need to avoid.  Check out the Food and Water Watch Seafood Guide for tips about making healthier seafood choices.

Here's a cartoon that I find amusing about this issue (with thanks to The Deconstructionist Zone):

Differences in taste sensitivity - According to this article obese children and adolescents have less taste sensitivity which can lead to obesity.  This is the exact opposite of other research which shows that those who have more or highly sensitive tastebuds, supertasters, can be obese.  While this is confusing it does show that how we taste can have an effect on our ability to enjoy our food and ultimately on our weight.  But enjoyment of food is, and should be, about more than just taste.  Learning to enjoy the smell, the setting, the textures, the experience of our food is important.  Learning to eat mindfully is a habit we should cultivate.

Berries can slow cognitive decline - Apparently eating between one half to one cup of berries per week over an extended period of time (up to 2.5 years in the study) appear to have a positive effect.  This is believed to be attributable to the anthocyanins.  Whatever the reason, it's delicious and easy to do.  Just be sure to choose organic blueberries and strawberries whenever possible to avoid pesticides.

What I'm Reading:

The Winky-Eyed Jesus and Other Undescribables - Scott Wayland's entertaining description of his cross country human-powered recumbent bicycle journey across the United States.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

but i need milk for calcium, don't i?

I have some clients who need to avoid dairy products.  Invariably when they find this out their first question is "Don't I have to drink milk to get calcium?" or "But how will I get my calcium?"

Calcium is important in the diet, not only for healthy bones and teeth, but also to support nerve and muscle health as well as for blood clotting.  However it doesn't just come from cows (or goats or sheep or camels or any other milk giving mammal).

Most people think calcium is synonymous with milk.  They've been so sold by the Milk Producers Federation that they feel they've gotta "get milk."  However, milk, and other dairy products, are not the only way to add calcium to the diet.

For those who can't drink milk there are alternatives such as almond, soy, oat, hemp, and rice.  And while the calcium and protein content of alternative milks vary (and is mostly added) it's important to remember that there are ways to get calcium without drinking milk, eating other dairy products, or drinking alternative milks.

As a means of comparison, whole milk provides 110 mg of calcium per 100 gram serving.

Other sources of calcium include:

sesame seeds - 989 mg per 100 g
sardines - 382 mg per 100 g
almonds - 266 mg per 100 g
flax seeds - 255 mg per 100 g
turnip greens - 190 mg per 100 g
brazil nuts - 160 mg per 100 g
collard greens - 140 mg per 100 g
spinach - 99 mg per 100 g

photo: Stefan Kühn

Monday, October 1, 2012

on my mind monday 10.01.12

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 health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Women who read nutrition labels are slimmer - Supposedly several new studies who that women who read nutrition labels have either a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) or are nine pounds lighter than those who don't.  There are other studies out there which look for connections between label usage among mothers and BMI in their children.  I am skeptical of the numbers quoted here as I don't believe the connection is quite as clear cut as the article would have you believe.  I am, however, a huge proponent of learning to read the label and truly understand what you are reading.  That should, in theory, help people potentially lose weight.  It will, in actuality, help them to understand what is in their food.  Hopefully that knowledge will encourage them to make healthful choices.

Ingredient Delivery - Similar to a service I wrote about a while back where the take-out restaurant would, for an extra fee, bring you the dirty dishes to go with your meal so it looked like you actually cooked.  This service however just brings you all of the prepared food.  Apparently it comes all ready to go in the oven so you can actually cook it, but you don't have to shop, slice, and dice.  I'm glad to see that the options are local and organic but wonder if there really are that many people who will utilize something like this.  It will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend.

Drought tolerant corn? Not really - Monsanto is apparently at it again.  The USDA approved this GM corn in December of last year and then admitted that it doesn't work well.  So why did they approve it in the first place?  These types of useless modifications are only one small part of the reason we should not be playing around with our food like this.  I believe that the more modifications we release into the environment the higher the potential damage to non-modified crops from cross-breeding.  I also believe we are giving up too much control of our food to one company and that is not a smart idea.

Pink Slime Manufacturer Sues  - Who are they suing?  Well, it appears just about everyone.  ABC News, Diane Sawyer, several ABC reporters, a former USDA scientist.  They're even suing a couple of guys who used to work for them.  Apparently if you can't convince the public that your product is suitable for consumption and they stop buying it, you sue the folks who told people what was really in their food.  They are suing for $1.2 billion dollars (yes, that's billion with a B).  But if people don't want your product and you created all kinds of hokey spin around it and that still didn't work what do you hope to accomplish.  People are STILL not going to eat your product.  It will be interesting to watch this one unfold in the news.

Milk's Nutritional Value Debated - There is a huge misconception about milk and dairy products in this country.  We somehow have come to believe that we need dairy products in our diet in order to get enough calcium.  The truth is that we don't have to have dairy and there are other food sources of calcium.  There are also a lot of people who are sensitive to dairy products, who have lactose intolerance, and, if you're not drinking organic milk, it comes with a hefty dose of hormones and antibiotics.  I'm not saying we should not have any dairy whatsoever.  I'll be the first to admit that I love my organic whole milk yogurt.  However, if you want to make sure you are getting enough calcium in your diet and you don't like or consume a lot of dairy it's not a problem.  Consider adding sesame seeds, tahini (sesame seed paste), sardines, and dark leafy greens.

photo: mconnors