Saturday, March 13, 2010
Every time you and I spend money on food, we are literally speaking with our dollars. We are deciding what kinds of foods we want to put into our bodies, we are making choices which move the food industry, and we are letting distributors know what types of food products we want more of. And although we might not truly perceive how our personal choices affect change, every time we spend money on food items, we are making a statement.
According to The New Yorker, the average American spends $5,267 per capita on health care and an average of $6,133 on food costs annually. Yet, there is much scientific research and evidence proving that the more nutritionally sound our food choices are, the more we contribute to our health and well being while reducing medical expenses. Unfortunately, our current eating trends are the source of many medical maladies.
When evaluating the Standard American Diet (SAD), evidence shows that it is high in animal fats and high in unhealthy fats--both saturated, hydrogenated. It is also low in fiber, low in complex carbohydrates, and low in plant-based foods. In other words, most Americans exist on a diet full of carbohydrates (processed grains, cereals, pasta, breads, cookies, cakes), processed meat products, and consume relatively few fresh fruits and vegetables. Ironically, this type of diet is the exact opposite of what doctors and food nutritionists recommend for a healthy, active lifestyle.
Research also shows that the Standard American Diet is a major cause of many diseases which include Obesity, Heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and certain cancers. SAD can also cause a wide range of other symptoms such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Depression, etc. In my opinion, it is rather contradictory for a country whose population has access to the healthiest and disease preventing foodstuffs, to advertise and sell even more foods that are profit driven and not health promoting.
Although the United States has spent more money on cancer research than any other country in the world, the Standard American Diet contributes to the very diseases that money is being spent to prevent. Yet, the time has finally arrived when more and more people are waking up and realizing just how unhealthy their diets and lifestyles truly are. Consumers are changing their spending habits and are incorporating more healthy foods into their diets.
Yet, unfortunately our food system is set up for consumers to easily spend their money on highly processed, unhealthy convenience foods. A trip to the grocery store shows that 9 out of 10 items available are less than par when it comes to being healthy. This is evidenced by the plethora of packaged foodstuffs on many aisles and a much smaller fresh fruits and vegetables section. Yet, as more citizens are demanding healthier choices, positive changes are being made.
The Daily Collegian Online reports, "Nationally, farmers markets have increased in popularity during the economic downturn. At a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern, farmers markets have been able to prosper as a source for "healthy, fresh, locally grown food." The number of farmers markets has increased to over 5,000 nationwide in 2009 and this trend continues to grow.
This is a positive sign that consumers are learning to speak with their dollars. They are demanding fresh, organic, and locally grown foods, which are proven to be more nutritionally sound than conventionally grown products. They understand the importance of making a connection with the farmers who grow their food and they are able to see and taste the difference between produce that was harvested close to purchase time.
"I think people are more aware that their food isn't checked like it used to be, so if people want fresh and healthy, they buy locally." Once consumers realize the improvement in both taste and in nutritional value of their food, they begin moving away from shopping in grocery stores and want to buy as fresh as possible. It is truly a good sign that more and more people are beginning to understand how what we eat is truly the foundation of our health and wellbeing.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Food, as our life source, is truly amazing. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it provides us with vitamins, nutrients, and other elements essential to our growth and well being. Food also supplies us with energy; it brings us pleasure, and is absolutely necessary for our survival.
Through the ages, man has enjoyed countless feasts in the company of others. Not only are meals shared between members of a family, but food is frequently consumed at important gatherings, social functions and community events. Yet, even when one dines alone, the serving of food has been “touched” by countless people along the way. From Farmhands and Artisans, to Professional Chefs and Home Cooks--all are operating with the goal of providing mouth watering foodstuffs for consumption.
While industrialization has provided us with inventions to make our lives easier, food manufacturers have also followed suit. Meals that once took hours or even days to prepare and enjoy are now being served in fractions of the time. And although it is rather convenient to dine on a meal which takes minimal effort and preparation, by making “speed cooking” a regular occurrence, not only do we decrease nutritional value, but we cease to make the indispensable connection between our food and our health.
Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to see people eating while they are watching tv, driving, and even standing up. And as is evidenced by the food establishments on nearly every street corner, our society is definitely consuming lots of fast, convenient, highly-processed foods. Plus, with our ability to prepare meals more rapidly, we have also sped up our eating pace at home. Today, many meals can both be cooked and consumed in under 30 minutes, so there no longer appears to be any reason to contemplate or appreciate the real importance of the food on our plate.
On a deeper level, what we have actually done over time is to replace deliberation and special occasion with effortless convenience and speedy delivery. It seems as though we have virtually lost the capacity to sit and experience meals in a slow, enjoyable nature and to truly understand the importance of eating nutritionally sound foods in community with others.
Yet, the more we learn about the healing properties of foods, the more it is evident that our fast-paced society needs to take a closer look at the foodstuffs we put into our bodies and how they affect us to our very core. Not only that, but we also really need to understand how eating a wide variety of food serves its own unique purpose and that there are so many tasty choices which are truly healing in nature.
In my opinion, dining shouldn’t just be about filling our gut with the most convenient item we can get our hands on, it should be about thoroughly nourishing our body, mind, and our soul. We should make it a point to choose fresh, healthy ingredients and become educated about what we are putting into our bodies. It is imperative that we learn to value our own health and well-being and choose foods that support us.
Prior to eating, we should also take the time to pause and acknowledge our food so that we can make a connection with honoring the gift that lays before us. Therefore, even if one is currently stuck eating food in the “fast lane,” simply slowing down and giving attention to each meal before it is eaten, as well as while it converts into energy and sustains our life, we may come to understand how eating food is something that should not be taken for granted.
Monday, September 7, 2009
My mother’s side of the family has always held the viewpoint to steer clear of all medical doctors unless it is of the utmost emergency--using prevention over prescription as their central belief system. Whereas, my father’s side always smoked, drank, ate unhealthily, and spent countless hours in the doctor’s office trying to rectify a history of “bad living.”
Thankfully, both of my parents learned to embrace the healthier of the two lifestyles and I was taught to think positively about my own health and well being. In my recollection, it was very rare to see my parents with an illness other than the common cold--and even that was atypical. Moreover, my parents always involved my brother and I in physical activities such as swimming and sports, and our family, as a whole, continues to be quite active.
However, in today's society where millions of dollars are spent on medical bills, and prescription medication use is at an all time high, it appears that taking a pill to remedy health issues has become the norm. Yet, if more people realized that it is possible to make positive changes without the ongoing advice of a physician, they could become empowered to take charge of their own health and well-being.
Research shows it is becoming more and more evident that dietary habits are one of the most important influences regarding our health. Studies examining the health of populations routinely prove that diets based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans live longer.
According to Goveg.com, "Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including our country’s three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes." What's more is that the consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products has also been strongly linked to "osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, asthma, and male impotence." Scientists have also found that “vegetarians have stronger immune systems than their meat-eating friends; this means that they are less susceptible to everyday illnesses like the flu."
Therefore, a higher intake of fruits and vegetables directly correlates to a lower risk of illness due to increased amounts of antioxidants, fibers, and essential fatty acids that directly contribute to good health.
What are Antioxidants?
Because oxidation occurs when cells interact with oxygen, this produces some type of change. The cells may either die, as seen in rotting fruit or they may be replaced over time by fresh, new ones, as when we cut ourselves. "This birth and death of cells in the body goes on continuously, 24 hours a day. It is a process that is necessary to keep the body healthy," reports researcher Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition at
However, while our body processes oxygen very efficiently, it is possible for 1 or 2 percent of cells to become damaged and turn into free radicals, which can then become problematic. "Antioxidants work to stop this damaging, disease-causing chain reaction that free radicals have started. Each type of antioxidant works either to prevent the chain reaction or stop it after it's started, Blumberg explains.
It is a proven fact that oxidation happens to all cells in nature-- including the ones in our bodies. “To help your body protect itself from the rigors of oxidation, Mother Nature provides thousands of different antioxidants in various amounts in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes” Medicinenet.com. Therefore, when your body needs to put up its best defense, antioxidants are vital to your health.
Why is Fiber Important?
Eating fiber can have lots of healthy benefits. It is known that there are two different types of fiber - soluble and insoluble which serve your body in different ways.
Soluble fiber can be digested by your body, and may help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is a naturally occurring fatty substance that can clog up your arteries if you eat a diet that is too high in fat. Beans, oats and lentils are good sources of soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber can't be digested. It passes through your gut without being broken down, and helps other foods to move through your digestive system more easily. Insoluble fiber keeps your bowels healthy and helps prevent constipation and other digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Wholemeal bread, wholegrain rice, wholegrain breakfast cereals, and fruit and vegetables, are all good sources of insoluble fiber, reports Stanford Wellsphere.com.
What most people don't realize is that fiber is only found in foods that come from plants and is not found in any other types of food such as meat, fish or dairy products. This may explain why most people do not get the daily recommended amount of 18g.
Are All Fats Bad?
The truth of the matter is that we all need fats. According to Healthcastle.com, “Fats assist with nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, maintaining cell membrane integrity, etc.” However, when consumed in excessive amounts, fats can contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Yet, some fats promote health while others increase our health risks. The solution is to replace bad fats with good fats in our diet.
There are two types of Good Fats: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Nuts such as peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil are high in monounsaturated fats. Also, Polyunsaturated fats lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Some examples of polyunsaturated fat food sources include soybean, sunflower, fish and corn oils.
There are also two types of Bad Fats: Saturated Fats and Trans Fats. Saturated fats are known to raise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Trans fats were a result of scientists beginning to "hydrogenate" liquid oils so that they can uphold better in food production process and provide for a better shelf life. Trans fatty acids are formed as a result of hydrogenation. They are found in many commercially packaged and fried foods, such as fries from some fast food chains, packaged snacks, vegetable shortening and stick margarine.
Making Healthy Choices
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
When most people think of “farm-fresh” eggs, the picture that comes to mind is one of hens roaming freely, scratching, pecking, and contentedly laying eggs.
However, in today’s society where egg production is in full force, this peaceful image is a far cry from reality. According to Factoryfarming.com “There are more than 325 million egg laying hens in the U.S. confined in battery cages — small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up in rows inside huge warehouses without access to natural sunlight.” The egg-laying hens contained within these cages have space approximately the size of an 8” X 11” piece of paper, where they are jam packed against each other. This leads them to rub up against the sides of the cages causing cuts, abrasions and feather loss. The birds are also unable to scratch and peck at the ground without their feet getting caught in the wires because they are living in such an unnatural environment.
Under a natural, free-range farm setting, hens can establish a "pecking order" and none of the hens are in jeopardy so long as they can easily move to a different area. Under a high-stress, high-density environment, a natural pecking order cannot be established and the sharp beaks of hens can result in injury (and death) to large numbers of birds. These conditions cause them to peck excessively at each other due to frustration and monotony.
Consequently, to keep the hens “safe” from each other, they go through the process of “debeaking” when they are young chicks. This is an awfully painful process where the beaks are seared off with a hot torch or chopped off with a machine leaving only the short stub of a beak. The hens are then forced to live the rest of their lives without a complete beak intact and many are also subjected to painful toe removal, as reported by the FDA.
Another common practice used by major egg producers is “forced molting” which is basically a condition when hens are “starved for profit.” According to United Poultry Concerns Website “In nature, birds replace all their feathers in the course of a year to maintain good plumage at all times. A natural molt often happens at the onset of winter, when nature discourages the hatching of chicks. The hen stops laying eggs and concentrates her energies on staying warm and growing new feathers.”
Sadly, the egg industry exploits this natural process by forcing an entire group to molt simultaneously. This is done to obtain several hundred additional eggs from the overly exhausted hens, because it is thought to be cheaper to "reuse them to death” rather than have the hens lay eggs in connection with their natural cycles.
To trigger the physiological shock of the forced molt, food is withheld for no less than five days and as long as fourteen days. Many hens die during the starvation process, but survivors may be force-molted two or three times, based on economics. “At any given time, over 6 million hens in the U.S. are being systematically starved in their cages,” reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These inhumane practices are all in the name of mass egg production and greed, and the heavily strained hens are unable to produce eggs in this manner for very long and are soon put to death.
According to Factoryfarming.com, “After one year in egg production, the birds are classified as 'spent hens' and are sent off to slaughter. Their brittle, calcium-depleted bones often shatter during handling or at the slaughterhouse. They usually end up in soups, pot pies, or similar low-grade chicken meat products in which their bodies can be shredded to hide the bruises from consumers.”
What’s more, is that for every egg-laying hen cramped in a battery cage, there is a male chick killed at the hatchery. And because genetic selection plays a part in chickens being bred for maximum egg production, these breeds do not grow fast enough to be raised profitably for meat. Therefore, “male chicks of egg-laying breeds are of no economic value, and they are literally discarded on the day they hatch — usually by the cheapest, most convenient means available. Thrown into trash cans by the thousands, male chicks suffocate or are crushed under the weight of others or being ground up alive,” states factoryfarming.com.
Today, a visit to any supermarket will provide consumers with an overwhelming array of egg choices--such as white, brown, organic, cage-free, free-range, Omega 3’s, traditional, etc. Yet, is paying top dollar for a dozen eggs the answer to a “guilt-free” purchase? The unfortunate answer is, No.
After researching a variety of egg brands--many of which state that their "happy hens roam freely in barns" and eat an "all-vegetarian diet", it appears most egg manufacturers are using these terms loosely. For example, Rock Island and Judy’s Family Farm Organic Eggs (both produced by the same company), Trader Joes Organic and Free-Range options, and Safeway’s Organics, all utilize debeaking practices on their hens, and even when they make claims of “cage free/free-range,” the birds still have little room to move around and have limited or no easy access to the outdoors.
Unfortunately, with the food industry's big business practices, egg producers are able to advertise that hens are "cage-free" or "free-range" if they simply provide a small opening or window in the wall of the warehouse giving "access to the outdoors." However, when millions of hens are packed into the area, they still cannot move around “freely,” even when there are no cages present. Additionally, the use of terms such as "cage-free" and "free-range" are neither adequately defined nor strictly enforced by the FDA, so these labeling lies can mislead consumers into paying more for a product based upon false claims.
With all of this information to take into account, what is a conscientious consumer to do? Of course, choosing options other than consuming eggs is best. Plus, research on vegetarian and vegan diets shows that eggs are not a required food source, and there are a wide variety of healthy alternatives. And although it may seem an easier solution to skip a morning meal of scrambled eggs, most people are not familiar with how to substitute eggs when cooking or baking. Yet, there are many products that work just as well, if not better--and all are definitely more healthy than eating eggs.
According to Mayoclinic.com, “In baked goods, try commercial egg replacers — such as Ener-G egg replacer; or you can use the following to replace one egg: 1/4 cup whipped silken tofu or 1 tablespoon milled flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water. Also, unsweetened applesauce and ripe bananas make excellent choices. Plus, for an egg-free omelet you can use tofu instead of eggs.”
Yet, if one still insists on having their eggs and eating them too, the best option is to purchase fresh eggs from a local farmer’s market where it is possible to get to know the farmers on an intimate level and learn about ethical choices being made. In so doing, consumers will support small, local farms instead of large, inhumane factory farms. Plus, every time a dollar is spent on sustainable, earth-friendly food products, in turn, one less dollar is spent on conventional, inhumane, manufactured goods--and this is an "egg-cellent" option for all.
**Egg buyers can also visit Sustainable Table’s Website, enter a zip code and find local, sustainable, organic food in their area using the Eat Well Guide.
**For more information on egg substitutes in baking visit About.com
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Milk, which is defined as an opaque white liquid produced by the mammary glands of female mammals, has been the subject of deliberation among both conventional doctors and holistic healers alike. Mother’s milk serves the purpose of providing proper nutrients to newborns. However, throughout all mammalian species, once the young reach a certain level of development, mother’s milk is no longer needed. Nonetheless, humans cease drinking the milk of our own mothers and turn to the milk of other living creatures--all in the name of obtaining the daily recommended allowance of protein and calcium.
According to Harvard School of Public Health, “Calcium is important. But milk isn’t the only, or even best, source.” Calcium and protein are easily obtained from many plant sources. For example; eating a cup of broccoli provides approximately the same amount of calcium as drinking a glass of milk. The experts at Harvard School of Public Health also report that, “Dairy products can be high in saturated fat as well as retinol (vitamin A), which at high levels can paradoxically weaken bones.”
It’s no wonder that there are so many questions around drinking a glass of milk. For one, there is the ever growing debate over the use of genetically engineered Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Additionally, our good old public broadcasting system has been threatened to suppress pertinent information surrounding the negative findings on the use of growth hormones. This is a well known practice used among big businesses that are out to make money off of keeping the public uninformed.
What’s more is that the happy, healthy cows pictured on most dairy products are actually false advertisement. Most dairy cows are subject to horribly inhumane treatments. Not only are they packed into cramped, unsanitary quarters, but the baby calves are ripped from the mothers at a young age, so the milk can go to humans and not to the intended recipient--their own calves. Additionally, mama cows, which hardly see the natural light of day, are hooked up to massive machines that pump milk in a vigorous and rough manner, unlike the caring hands of most farmers. Often times, the combination of rBGH and over-pumping of milk leads to the formation of painful ulcers and sores full of puss, which form on the udders of the cows.
According to www.milksucks.com, “One culprit causing the hundreds of millions of pus cells in every liter of milk may be “bovine growth hormone,” the Monsanto chemical company’s growth hormone marketed as Posilac. Because cows are not built to produce vast amounts of milk, they are prone to a painful udder infection called mastitis. When they are milked, pus and bacteria from the infection flow right along with the milk. Researchers estimate that an ordinary glass of milk contains between one and seven drops of pus. This isn’t just disgusting—it can also be dangerous. Pus can contain paratuberculosis bacteria, which are believed to cause Crohn’s disease in human beings.” These ill conditions are treated with large does of antibiotics, which are proven to be found in the very milk intended for human consumption.
Sustainabletable.org states that, “Cows forced to produce unnaturally high quantities of milk can become malnourished because they lose more nutrients through their milk than they ingest in their feed15, and are therefore more susceptible to disease. In addition to artificial hormones, factory farms also use such methods as selective breeding, feeding dairy cows large amounts of grain (instead of grass), and exposing cows to longer periods of artificial light to make them produce more milk. Cows put under large amounts of stress do not live as long as cows that are not stressed.”
Furthermore, one of the largest producers of organic milk, Horizon Organic, was found by the USDA to be perpetrating fraud and violating organic standards. “This giant agribusiness enterprise, with majority ownership by Charlesbank, the investment arm of the Harvard endowment fund, was found to have illegally confined their cattle to feedlots, depriving them of fresh air and healthy grazing conditions as required by law,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. In addition Kastel stated, “
On another note, many vegetarians are unaware of the ingredient, rennet, which is used in the process of making cheese. Although there are now three types (animal, microbial, and vegetable) most rennet is still derived from animals. The process of creating rennet involves killing young calves, which usually end up as veal, and emptying the 4th stomach of its contents. This is done prior to drying and then mixing the stomach with water and whey. The resulting blend helps in the coagulation of milk to make cheese. What's more is that the "loose" guidelines of the FDA do not require the disclosure of which type of rennet is used in food products. Therefore, rennet is often disguised under the description of “enzymes” on cheese and dairy package labels, so most vegetarians are not informed of what they are eating.
There is continuing debate around the value of milk and dairy products. However, the benefits of eliminating these items from my own diet led me to experience increased feelings of well being and happiness, and brought an end to my frequent incidence of stomach ailments and the overproduction of mucous. Plus, I also benefit from the awareness that I no longer partake in practices known to cause unnecessary suffering to animals. Therefore, living dairy-free has become the perfect choice for my body and my soul. Maybe one day you might want to give it a try yourself........
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Shortly thereafter, I found a young couple and their dog playing with several balloons, so I assumed that they were the rightful owners of this lost one. As I tried to return it, the two doggie masters were not really interested in getting the balloon back. As a matter of fact, they seemed not to care where the remnants might even end up---laying like a piece of discarded litter on nature's path, or possibly, in the stomach of one of the ducks feeding there in the creek, or any number of unplanned destinations that non-biodegradable rubber just might find its way to.
It was in this moment I was reminded that we never truly know what the actual consequences of our daily choices are. It also occurred to me, that no matter how well meaning we think we are and how hard we try to walk lightly upon this planet, we are prone to causing death and suffering without essentially intending to.
I will list just a few examples of what I am trying to convey right here:
• Shopping at Best Buy, Wal-Mart and even Trader Joes for the cheapest deal on an item which was created by the sweatshop labor and suffering of a human being in some other part of the world View Article
• Driving in a vehicle or flying in an airplane and sucking down gallons of gasoline which are obtained by a costly and murderous war View Article
And Another Article
• Sipping on a cup of hot java, where the beans used to create it are picked by farm workers who earn .04 cents for every $4.00 cup we drink View Article
• Eating conventionally grown, non-organic food items which are sprayed with chemicals and insecticides that kill millions of birds annually and cause cancer or other harmful side effects in humans View Article
And Another Article
• Buying and wearing an expensive piece of jewelry that was obtained by raping and ruining many parts of this precious earth while also causing the miners to work and live in substandard conditions View Article
• Taking a vacation to exotic locations where human impacts, pollutants, and waste runoff generate mass destruction of pristine areas View Article
• Indulging ourselves on meals such as Sushi which leads to the overfishing of populations such as the Blue Fin Tunas, which are caught by using non-sustainable methods and killing more sealife than is necessary
• Using disposable chopsticks at every visit to an Asian restaurant causing massive deforestation View Article
• Ordering from a fast food restaurant where a burger is created using meat which comes from mega farms and slaughterhouses contributing colossal amounts of pollution to the environment View Article
This list is just a mere drop in the bucket of mankind’s potential for destruction. We are, therefore, we destroy!
Please feel free to contact me with any additions to the list, relevant comments, or opposing viewpoints. I feel that the more cognizant we can become; the better it will be for the plane and all of its inhabitants as a whole.
In your freetime, you can also read just for fun (really, for FUN!) about the TOP 10 WAYS TO DESTROY THE EARTH on LiveScience.com
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Meet Your Meat!! (Watch Video Here)
Sometimes I come into contact with people who question my reasons for not eating meat. Or, for thinking I'm not getting enough protein, or whatever else they have been lead to believe. But in instances such as this, I defer to educational videos, which are essential teaching tools in expressing the true realities of a majority of animals that are devoured by the very people questioning me.
There is a saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words." This is true, however, in this instance, moving pictures with added dialogue and commentary will even better assist you to visually experience and become a part of what is really going on behind the "meat scene."