a medical librarian's adventures in evidence-based living
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Genetically Modified Crops include Bt (Bacillius thuringiensis) Cotton & Corn, and Herbicide-Tolerant (HT) Soy, Cotton, and Corn. Almost All Soybeans Grown in the United States are Now Genetically Modified.
If you received this post via email, click here, to get to the web version with all the links, & to watch "Genetic Roulette"
GMOs in the Grocery Store? What Does It Mean, Exactly?
A little back-story, to get you started.
“Genetic modification” refers to the manipulation of DNA by humans to change the essential makeup of plants and animals. The technology inserts genetic material from one species into another to give a crop or animal a new quality, such as the ability to produce a pesticide.
These DNA transfers could never occur in nature and are not as precise as proponents make them sound.
Some genetically modified crops have been engineered to include genetic material from BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacterium found in soil.
Inserting the Bt genes makes the plant itself produce bacterial toxins, thereby killing the insects that could destroy it. The first GM crop carrying Bt genes, potatoes, were approved in the United States in 1995. Today there are Bt versions of corn, potatoes and cotton.
Roundup-Ready crops — soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton, alfalfa and Kentucky bluegrass — have been manipulated to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broadleaf weedkiller Roundup.
The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says that, in 2010, as much as 86 percent of corn, up to 90 percent of all soybeans and nearly 93 percent of cotton were GM varieties.
You’re eating genetically modified foods almost daily unless you grow all of your food or always buy organic."
The pros & cons of GMO food are more than I could begin to tackle in a single blog post.
To get a handle on the concerns with the pervasiveness of GMOs in our food supply--YOU, dear reader, should you choose to accept this assignment--will have do some homework. But, no worries. All the assignments are listed below.
Frankly, the whole GMO issue is something I haven't paid all that much attention to.
That's is--until recently.
The published research into the potential adverse health effects of GMO-foods is on the scant-side, because companies like Monsanto don't have to give out their seeds to be tested. Corporate patent laws protect them from scrutiny.
But, reports from respected physicians, veterinarians, botanists, agriculture researchers, policy makers, government scientists, and farmers present a whole laundry list of worrisome side effects:
Livestock illnesses & malnutrition caused by eating GMO soy & corn (Don Huber, PhD, professor emeritus, Purdue University)
Pet illnesses, especially of the GI tract, from consuming corn or soy pet food
Birth defects in birds & amphibians; cancer, endocrine disruption, DNA & developmental damage to mammals exposed to low doses of glyphosate (that's the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide, Round-Up which is used as part of the whole package when farmers use Round-Up resistant seeds) (Check out the 2011 Report "Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?--a report by 8 international scientists)
Increases in animal infertility, reproduction disorders, & birth defects.
Increases in human food allergies & digestive disorders, like leaky gut--especially in infants & children. (Dr. Michelle Perro)
Increases in inflammation caused by GMO allergies & the toxins "genetically embedded into GMO plants"
Animal liver & kidney toxicity from GMO corn
Possible autism spectrum connections
Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder from Bt-embedded plants, which causes "honey bee dementia"
Intestinal permeability caused by the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is genetically implanted into seeds to kill insects. Bt may also be responsible for changing healthy human microflora in the gut.
Autoimmune disorders caused as a response to ingesting an "unnatural gene-modified food"
Infants & children are more sensitive to GMO's in food & formula because of their fast growth rates, high metabolisms, & low body mass. Consider the widespread exposures to GMO-soy formulas like Similac Soy, Gerber Soy, Enfamil soy, & Walmart Soy. Sadly, the WIC soy formulas are all GMO. Non-GMO or organic brands are fine.
So, how is it possible that there is so little published research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human & animal health, considering that GMO-seeds now totally dominate the farming industry?
Turns out, the FDA allowed Monsanta to conduct its own research prior to approval of GMO seeds in the 1990's. That's right! No independent investigators. Monsanto did their own research in-house. And none of the studies were long-term, which would be necessary to show any connection to cancer, birth defects, or reproductive disorders. In fact, there was only one human feeding study conducted, prior to approval of Round-Up ready soy seeds.
The FDA policy commissioner at the time of GMO approval was Michael R. Taylor, who had previous ties to Monsanto as their legal counsel--and has had a revolving door of positions between Monsanto, King & Spalding, a law firm representing Monsanto, & the FDA. Right now, he's the FDA's "Food Safety Czar".
"As the system now stands, biotech companies bring their own research to the government body overseeing their proposed products. The agency may be the US Dept. of Agriculture, the federal Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency.
These government bodies do no independent studies on the safety and efficacy of the proposed products. Instead, they rely strictly on the research conducted by the companies.
"We don’t have the whole picture. That’s no accident. Multibillion-dollar agricultural corporations, including Monsanto and Syngenta, have restricted independent research on their genetically-engineered crops,” wrote Doug Gurion-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in a February 2011 Los Angeles Times op-ed piece.
“They have often refused to provide independent scientists with seeds, or they’ve set restrictive conditions that severely limit research options.”
Honestly, the whole corporations-versus-consumer-versus-the-FDA-&-the-USDA controversy is so shrouded with secrecy & accusations that it's hard to get a bottom line on the real risks of GMOs to our health & our environment.
My bottom line: I'm not a GMO fan. I'm concerned. I'm going to make every effort to avoid the stuff. Why wait until it's too late?
Why Not Watch Jeffrey M. Smith's Documentary, "Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives" and Decide About GMO's for Yourself?
Do Not Miss This One!!! It's a worthwhile investment of 1 hr and 24 mins. And besides, it's free online from Sept. 15-22nd only. So don't put this off for too long.
You'll find the link to this disturbing documentary,here. Sorry, I couldn't insert it into the post.
The Lab Rat & I watched "Genetic Roulette" last night. It's a new documentary that "reveals the serious health impacts of genetically engineered foods in our diets." No coincidence that its release is timed to the upcoming California Proposition 37 to label GMOs in food.
We were spellbound--glued to our chairs. Now we "get" what GMO seeds are all about--as well as their potential for harm to humans, animals, & the environment.
Scientists, veterinarians, physicians, policy makers, & farmers, together make one heck of a convincing case against GMO foods-& the biotech invasion into the food industry. But, decide for yourself.
I admit it--I was a little skeptical that it might be sensational pseudo-science. I was wrong (unless someone I respect & trust can convince me otherwise).
Frankly, I was unaware of the health ramifications & the lack of scientific oversight of the GMO industry--by the FDA or the USDA before viewing this documentary. This is one complex story.
Do yourself & your family a favor & watch this film--and then decide for yourself how closely you want to start reading food labels.
There's an accompanying phone app & a shopping guide that you can download to check out which foods are non-GMO. The Lab Rat just checked out his Wheat-a-Bix & then went through the fridge reading labels.
Mark Bittman gets to the bottom of the consumer's "Right to Know" Proposition 37--making GMO food-labeling a law. This quick-must-read explains the big Food-Labeling Fight in California. Big-Agra vs Consumers
How many of us want to know if our food is genetically engineered?
A whopping 91% of Americans--crossing all political party lines. (65% of California's are for Prop 37, 20% against, 15% undecided)
Who's fighting the Proposition 37 in California's Nov. 6th election with tens of millions of $$$?
Monsanto & whole lot of food manufacturers. Why? Because "as California goes, so goes the nation."
"Prop 37 isn’t a ban on foods containing genetically engineered material; it’s a right-to-know law.
Big Food is worried that this is the thin edge of the wedge, and I (Bittman) hope they’re right. If we win the right to know what’s in processed food, we might be inclined to demand to know how other food is produced. (You might think of Prop 37 as the anti-ag-gag law.) If genetically engineered food is so terrific, persuade us; if it’s not, well, fine. In any case, it should be up to us to buy it or not, but first we have to know what it is.
I (Bittman) want to know — quite technically, in all the detail available — how my food is produced, and I’m far from alone. We’d be able to make saner choices, and those choices would greatly affect Big Food’s ability to freely use genetically manipulated materials, an almost unlimited assortment of drugs and inhumane and environmentally destructive animal-production methods."
The Murky Money Story Behind the Funding for the Stanford Organic Food Study
I believed the article's disclaimer: "The authors received no external funding for this study." But, who funds Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, & who funded the researchers' study?
"A simple look at FSI's 2011 annual report shows that it is funded by Cargill and others who have a strong financial interest in Monsanto, McDonalds, Walmart, and other businesses that profit from industrial food practices.
Before you head out to the market, check out this slide show (in Watson's Huff Post article) to see how the Stanford Institute that funded the study gets its money and to see some of the other reasons to choose organic when you can. Tell us which ones you would take with a grain of salt."
Check out: "Uneasy Allies in the Grocery Aisle," by Stephanie Strom, September 13, 2012, New York Times. Get a better handle on the key players fighting the GMO-Labeling California ballot issue, Proposition 37.
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On Thursday, my husband forwarded this to me at work.
The message: What were you thinking when you added this to our Netflix queue? Another loser movie?
Me: Not me. You must have added it! You probably heard about it from one of your gardening magazines or when you were doing research for your insect presentation. Why would I order a movie about bees?
Lab Rat: Definitely not me! You added it.
Turns out--it was me. As I wrote this post, I realized I added it months ago from a recommendation by Frederic & Mary Brussat.
Saturday Afternoon - Sitting in Our Lush Sunny Backyard
We grabbed books, the newspaper, and sank into lounge chairs to enjoy the sun and the quiet of the late afternoon. Son #2 enjoyed a Green Smoothie along with Chex Mix--a old-time favorite comfort snack of his.
It was peaceful, relaxing, delightful. But, not completely silent.
Lab Rat: What's that noise? Do you hear it?
Me: Yeah. What's that noise? It's so loud.
Lab Rat: Bees. Honey Bees. Don't worry, they won't bother you a bit. They're just busy at work.
Sunday Evening: We Watched the Queen of the Sun
Beekeeper and healer Sara Mapelli performs with 12,000 bees in a scene from Queen of the Sun
"Queen of Sun explores the varied reasons for colony collapse while providing a road map for combating it: the eradication of monoculture farming, abandoning the use of pesticides that end up harming bees more than the pests they're meant to eradicate, and stopping migratory beekeeping that truck bees all over the country, killing millions in transit and stressing the colonies."
The honey bees had us completely under their spell for 1 1/2 hours!
I still had no idea which of us had added The Queen of the Sun to our Netflix queue--but, what a winner this documentary was.
Beauty, science, nature, spirituality, gentle caretaking, man's misguided interference and a serious warning to the world. An ancient insect is now in peril.
If you're a gardener. If you love flowers. If you love fruit. If you're intrigued by the intricate symbiotic nature of nature. If you have concerns about pesticides--add Alzheimer's for bees to your worry list. If you want to know how genetically-modified (GMO) seeds are made--and what their impact might be on our environment & future food production--this will be an eye-opener. If you had no idea how miles and miles of fields planted only with one crop--like, corn and soybeans--can harm bees--you'll find out. If you had no idea that bee hives are now trucked thousands of miles in order to pollinate crops--and even bees are being fed high-fructose corn syrup. Or that there's such a thing as artificial insemination for Queen Bees--and there's a price to pay for messing with Queen's sex life!
You'll want to watch this movie.
But, is it boring and dry? Another gloom and movie, that should have been called, "Bee-pocalypse"?
Not at all! Gorgeous flowers. Some zany characters. Fascinating beekeepers & scenery from Italy, France, New Zealand, Oregon, and even the Bronx. An entomologist. A physicist. Biologists. And your eyes will be opened.
"QUEEN OF THE SUN: What Are the Bees Telling Us? is a profound, alternative look at the global bee crisis from the award-winning director of THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN.
Taking us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, this alarming and ultimately uplifting film weaves together a dramatic story of the heart-felt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers around the world.
This spellbinding film explores the long-term causes that have led to one of our most urgent global food crises, illuminating the deep link between humans and bees.
The story unveils 10,000 years of beekeeping, highlighting how that historic and sacred relationship has been lost. Inspiring and entertaining, QUEEN OF THE SUN uncovers the problems and solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature."
Don't Just Take My Word About How Good This Movie Is
“A remarkable documentary that's also one of the most beautiful nature films I've seen.” - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“Revelatory! Honey has never looked so delicious. Or so precious.” Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times - Critic’s Pick
"Visually sumptuous...lovingly shot, near-psychedelic imagery, which serves as an unusually visceral reminder of the rich variety in nature—and what’s at stake if bees bug out for good, Village Voice
“An inspiring documentary, one of the best films of 2011.” Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice
“A creative exploration of the global honeybee crisis replete with remarkable nature cinematography, some eccentric characters and yet another powerful argument for organic, sustainable agriculture in balance with nature.” -Alissa Simon, Variety
"Bee Movie is no B Movie. Whether or not you like honey on your morning muffin, you ought to be concerned with the health of the nation's bees." -Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle
“Colony Collapse Disorder should be a planetary wake up call akin to Rachel Carson’s 1960s pesticide expose Silent Spring.” David Lamble, Bay Area Reporter
“Beautifully blends poetry and science to tell the story of what may be the most important co-evolutionary bond on Earth… Queen of the Sun's optimistic tone suggests solutions will flower from the seeds of new perspectives.” - Rick Marianetti, The Examiner
“I never thought that a documentary about honeybees would make me both laugh and cry-but filmmaker Taggart Siegel’s Queen of the Sun is one such film.” -Dennis Hartley, Hullabaloo
Big Vegan's Creamy Triple-Mushroom Fettucine - Is It an Immune Booster Shot?
If you received this post via email, click here to get to the web version--there are videos you won't see in your email.
My husband & I returned from a jam-packed wonderful Wellness Forum Weekend late on Sunday afternoon. After 3 days of sitting, listening, and taking pages of notes I was glad to be home. And I was so happy that we had a big pot of Sweet Potato Spinach Soup in the fridge for dinner.
Strange factoid: Both of us are used to eating so much food at home, that we both lost weight on the meals served in the hotel--in just 2 1/2 days. I was disappointed that Chef Del wasn't able to prepare the meals, as he did last year. He's an amazing chef. This was a hotel's version of plant-based fare.
Biggest surprise: I got to meet some HHLL readers who attended the conference and introduced themselves to me. This was so much fun for me--delightful--and totally unexpected! It was a pleasure to meet, talk, and compare notes with everyone. I met readers from Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Idaho, California, and Connecticut. Hope I'm not leaving anyone out. Thank you so much for taking the time to introduce yourselves and stopping by to chat. I only regret that we couldn't talk longer.
Lots to report on what I learned at the conference. But, you'll have to wait until later in the week.
The most practical "I can take-this-back-home-and-use-it" information came from:
Janice Stanger, PhD: "Ten Dangerous Nutrition Myths" - I thought I would know everything on this list--I was wrong!
Janice Stanger, PhD: "It's Toxic Out There: Seven Steps You Can Take Now to Protect Yourself and the Planet" - Except for BPA and teflon, I kind of turn a blind eye to the info on toxins--but Janice definitely opened my eyes. Think air fresheners, pesticides, household cleaning products, cosmetics, shampoos, body lotion, hair dyes, scented candles, mercury, and more.
Gene Baur: "Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food" OK, I've got to admit, before hearing Gene, this was the talk I was least interested in. But, Gene is a compelling speaker who just laid out the facts & photos about what goes on in factory farming. Think Food, Inc. Frankly, it's hard to ignore what he had to say--and he made some good arguments about the free-range & pastured livestock industry, as well. It's not as idyllic & pastoral as I thought it was. His bit about dairy cows was particularly disturbing, and all new information for me.
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr: "Yes, You Can Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease" OK, I've heard this talk at least 4 different times--in short, medium, long, & one-on-one versions. But, it was still a research-packed talk that helps reinforce what I already know--and I still came away learning something new.
Ann Esselstyn: "How to Set Up a Kitchen to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease" - More reinforcement to carefully read labels, add greens every chance I can, skip the desserts, and keep a lid on the nuts! I hope I can have half as much energy as Ann does when I'm her age. She's a testament to the plant-based diet. And who do you think I saw at my early Monday morning yoga class? You guessed it!
Thanksgiving is Around the Corner! Let's Talk Recipes for the Holiday Weekend
Thanksgiving is fast approaching--and I just have to share three new recipes that have knocked-my-socks-off since returning home on Sunday! And it's only Tuesday! You just might want to try them out on your guests over the long holiday weekend.
Creamy Triple-Mushroom Fettucine--This just might be one of the best dishes my husband has ever made. It's from Robin Asbell's Big Vegan.
Sweet Potato, Spinach, Fire-Roasted Tomatoes, & (a little) Peanut Butter Soup It's from Quick-Fix Vegan.
The Janice Stanger Research Connection to These Recipes
According to some of the research presented by Janice Stanger at the Wellness Forum's Fall Conference, each of these recipes brings a little something to the table when it comes to giving us an immune-boost.
Two of the recipes contain mushrooms--the evidence for their immune-boost is mostly preclinical, in the test tube, culture dish or animal stage. We'll have to wait a bit for the randomized-controlled human trials. But, there's no harm in getting a head start, in case the preclinical studies pan out some day. Mushrooms have been used medicinally in many traditional cultures for years.
The soup recipe is filled with vegetables high in anti-oxidants, and they are cooked quickly, retaining their immune-boosting benefits. This is research you can take to the bank.
Janice Stanger's Myth-Buster #9 - Chicken Soup Is the Best Food If You Have a Cold, But It's Not Because of the Chicken!
Check out the title of the study Stanger shared with us. It was published in 2000 in the prestigious respiratory medicine journal, Chest. And then it was re-published in Chest's 75th year commemorative issue in 2009! This article has been a long-time favorite.
Special Report: Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro (in the test tube or culture dish). Rennard, BO, et al. Chest 118(4):1150-1157, October, 2000. Want to read it? Here it is!
Here's the research behind what makes chicken soup good for the common cold:
Back in 2000, Barbara Rennard & her colleagues tested each component of a special recipe for Grandma's Chicken Soup. One at a time they tested each ingredient of the soup to see which one had the strongest effect on inhibiting the immune response that's responsible for our miserable cold symptoms.
Which ingredient do you think had the most potent effect on inhibiting neutrophil migration?
1 large Sweet potato
5-6 celery stalks
1 bunch of parsley
Salt & pepper
Turns out, all the anti-inflammatory action of the soup came from its lightly cooked vegetables--not from the chicken. The chicken broth had no benefit at all on inhibiting neutrophil chemotaxis. Zippo. That is...until the vegetables were added to it.
All the benefits of the broth on human immune cells came from the vegetables--and cooking them just 8 minutes was the optimal time--just until they were tender.
Take home message: Don't overcook your vegetables!
"That some interaction takes place during the cooking seems likely as the soup acquires maximal inhibitory activity shortly after adding the first group of vegetables.
While still active, inhibitory activity does decrease slightly during the later stages of the preparation.
The current study demonstrates a statistically significant inhibition of neutrophil chemotaxis by (vegetable) chicken soup in vitro. This was not an "in vivo" (human) trial.
[Just to be perfectly clear] The current study assessed a single measure of the inflammatory response, migration of neutrophils."
If you want an extra immune system boost--Dr. Stanger recommends you think about adding more mushrooms to your meals.
They've got more than 300 compounds that will increase the production of white blood cells and boost your immune system. The #1 mushrooms for boosting immunity are: shiitake, maitake, & reishi, but, even white button mushrooms have recently been shown to have plenty of immune-boosting power. Check out this article, "The Effects of Mushrooms During Inflammation," BMC Immunol. 2009 Feb 20;10:12. You can read it here.
So, here's the interesting way mushrooms work in the presence of disease--they seem to promote an appropriate immune response--inhibiting tumor growth or even destroying disease-causing microbes--but leaving healthy cells or beneficial bacteria alone.
Here's an example:
In a recent study of treatment for gingivitis (gum disease), researchers tested a mushroom extract against mouth bacteria. Then they compared the results to what happens when a commonly used gingival mouthwash, chlorhexidine, is used.
The cholhexidine killed both the gingival-causing bacteria, as well as the benefiical bacteria in the mouth.
The mushrooms, on the other hand, had an appropriate immune response--and killed only the gingival-causing bacteria.
Read the full article here. Ciric, L. et al "In Vitro Assessment of Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula edodes) Extract for Its Antigingivitis Activity," J Biomed Biotechnol. 2011; 2011: 507908.
As much as I'd like to believe that mushrooms can perform magic on humans, at this point in time, most of the immune-boosting mushroom research is being done in the test tube, the culture dish, or on animals. I checked PubMed, The Natural Standard Database (the authority on integrative medicine , Sloan-Kettering's Integrative Medicine Database, & more).
The results are positive, but we'll have to wait to see the randomized-controlled human trials, for the final word. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if we see something positive--not as a cure--but as an immune-booster.
As for me, I'm going to add mushrooms whenever I can--they taste great, and I'm betting they're health-promoting.
Looking for some other natural cold or flu-fighting tools to put in your arsenal? Read this HHLL post from 11/09:
Immune-Boosting (Maybe In Vitro) Creamy Triple-Mushroom Fettucine (from Asbell's Big Vegan)
Creamy Triple-Mushroom Fettucine
Creamy Mushroom Sauce for the Fettucine
Browning the Sliced Seitan for the Fettucine
A big thank-you to MLB, a blog reader in Philly who recommended Robin Asbell's Big Vegan to me. So far, everything I've made from it has been amazing. And I only have 348 recipes to go.
We had this for dinner last night and I just couldn't believe how fabulous it was. It's got a dense, rich, and creamy sauce with just a hint of wine & spice. The seitan provides just the right texture & mouth feel--not to mention, it's a huge protein boost.
If you want to get fancy, sprinkle a teaspoon of toasted chopped walnuts on top.
This recipe just jumped out at me when I leafed through Lair's cookbook. It takes all of ten minutes to prepare--and it's star ingredient is French Lentils--one of the best beans out there. High in taste, iron, protein, the amino acid lysine, and fiber. This dip is loaded with flavor & keeps in the fridge for about a week.
I've served it as a dip, and a sandwich spread. Add a little avocado, tomato, lettuce, sprouts, & roasted red pepper and it can't be beat for a fast nutritious lunch. It's last minute pantry food.
I've since shared it with my kids, the healthy librarians at work, and some of my friends--and now with you. But thank Cynthia Lair, not me.
Everyone seems to add their own special flair to it. Mary, the librarian added the chipotle, and I'm now adding it to mine! Snez added a green onion.
Warning: You must use French Lentils. Not brown. Not red. Only French. If you're lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe's, use their already steamed, long-shelf-life lentils that come in a light blue box. You'll find them either in the produce or the meat & cheese refrigerated cases. These are French, and they really speed up the prep time.
Last thing: It really works best to make this in a processor, although a VitaMix will also work--it's just harder to clean out.
Get a copy of the recipe on one page here.Note: When I made this on 11/22/11 I noticed I had forgotten a key ingredient--1 tablespoon of lower-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)--and I didn't mention that the pepper in the recipe was ONLY if you weren't using the chipolte. Sorry, if I ruined anyone's recipe! My recipe has now been corrected--and it tastes delicious!
Nutrition info is based on three servings for the recipe
Healthy Librarian's French Lentil Dijon Sandwich Spread
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 3%
Movies for Grown-Ups - Two I've Recently Seen That I Can't Stop Thinking About
Click Here to Get the Trailer If You Don't See It on Your Screen
In a Better World
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Three Recipes on My Tentative Thanksgiving Menu
These three were recommended by MLB in Philly. She LOVES the mushroom soup, and the waldorf salad. She hasn't tried the chocolate-pumpkin bread pudding, but the NYT's Tara Parker-Pope swears by it.
What has happened to us? Despite the most advanced medical technology in the world, we are sicker than ever by nearly every measure.
Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population.
About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels.
Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.
Could it be there’s a single solution to all of these problems? A solution so comprehensive but so utterly straightforward, that it’s mind-boggling that more of us haven’t taken it seriously?
-Forks Over Knives, a documentary that explores the evidence of "food as medicine", coming March 11, 2011-
If you received this post via email, Click Here to get to the web version & all the links.
For my 1/29/11 updated post about the film when I saw it at a "Big Screen" sneak preview--click here
I can say this wholeheartedly. When this movie comes out this summer, make sure you see it.
Their evidence speaks for itself. A whole-foods plant-based diet can prevent, and often undo all the damage that our "too-rich diets of affluence" have caused: obesity, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, many cancers, hypertension, strokes, and osteoporosis.
Campbell & Esselstyn were both born in the early 1930's. They both grew up on farms. Eating beef and drinking milk was what they knew. But by the 1980's both men, one a Cornell University research scientist and the chair of the division of Nutritional Sciences, and the other, a Cleveland Clinic surgeon, had turned their backs on their past, and were advocating a whole-food plant-based diet.
For Campbell--getting enough animal protein--enough milk and meat was important to good health. Back then he believed milk was nature's most perfect food. In fact, his original research was on the optimal feed for animals. But, he's a scientist--so in spite of his background and his original biases, when all the evidence started pointing in the direction of animal protein as the cause of many of our chronic diseases, he set out to investigate--first to the Philippines to find out why so many children there were mysteriously being diagnosed with liver cancer, then by conducting numerous laboratory studies on the effects of animal protein on cancer, and finally traveling to China, to conduct the largest "living human laboratory" epidemiologic study ever designed.
Campbell's conclusion: There is not one single mechanism in a plant-based diet that is responsible for its health promoting effects. It's not about individual nutrients. It's the 100,000 chemicals from plant foods that work together synergistically that bring about good health. Good nutrition supported by exercise, water, and sunshine is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a biological symphony.
"People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease...People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored."
"I know of nothing else in medicine that can come close to what a plant-based diet can do."
"I can say this with a great deal of confidence. Our national authorities are simply excluding this concept of nutrition from the debate in order to protect the status quo. If everyone would do this, we'd cut health care costs by 70-85%."
-T. Colin Campbell, from Forks Over Knives-
"The major message from the China Study--is the only message--a plant-food-based diet, mainly cereal grains, vegetables & fruit, and very little animal food, is always associated with lower mortality of certain cancers, stroke, and coronary heart disease."
--Dr.Junshi Chen, Senior Research Professor, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Beijing, China, and co-investigator of the "China Study" with Dr. T. Colin Campbell-
For Esselstyn--trained as a surgeon, and trained to treat disease by cutting it out--he chose to specialize in breast cancer surgery. But in the 1980's he was "increasingly disillusioned by what he was not doing-- never curing the underlying disease, never doing anything to help prevent it in the next unsuspecting victim".
That led him to delve into the research of populations with low incidences of breast & prostate cancer--and then on to populations with low incidences of heart disease--and then noticing the dramatic rise and fall of heart disease in war-time Norway when the Germans commandeered all of Norway's beef & dairy cattle for their own troops. He connected the dots--to the inescapable conclusion that animal protein was disease-causing, while plant protein was not. The result turned into the initiation of the longest-running study (over 20 years) of heart disease reversal based on a diet devoid of animal protein--just beans, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit--hold the oil, please.
"Some people think the "diet" is extreme. Half a million people a year will have their chests opened up and a vein taken from their leg and sewn onto their coronary artery. Some people would call that extreme."
"The elephant in the room when we talk about stents and bypass surgery--those procedures don't protect from new heart attacks. Stents & bypasses are used to treat large arterial blockages. Yet according to many research studies only a small percentage of heart attacks are caused by the largest build-up of plaque. The rest are caused by the more numerous newer blockages that are far more inflamed and much more likely to rupture than the larger older, more stable plaques. So this is why those procedures don't treat the disease. They are treating the symptoms."
--Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn--
Why do I personally find the work and message of Campbell and Esselstyn so compelling?
They have the scientific evidence. Campbell came to his conclusions from the scientific research route. Esselstyn came to his conclusions from the clinical research route.
They are both in their mid-seventies, and they are no longer beholden to any academic, medical, or governmental institutions--nor are they concerned about damaging their reputations--they are free to speak the truth. They aren't motivated by financial gain, or fame. They are unassuming, approachable, and motivated only by wanting to share what they have learned. They don't have to do this!
Bottom line: These two (and their families) are poster children for a plant-based diet. At 77 & 76 Campbell & Esselstyn are both slim, healthy, with stick straight posture, brimming with vitality, articulate, with busy writing, speaking, teaching, & research schedules. Campbell still runs--not walks--he runs. Esselstyn, at 76, swims a mile a day, lifts weights, and bikes 3 days a week. Ann Esselstyn, also in her 70's, practices yoga, weight trains, and runs. I don't know about you--but to me, that says it all.
If you don't have the time to read Dr. T. Colin Campbell's The China Study and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn's Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, do yourself a huge favor & go see this film. For me, Forks Over Knives did what these books could not.
You'll get a chance to hear Dr. Esselstyn's heart-disease-study patients tell their stories--how their lives were given back to them in a way that surgery and drugs could not.
You'll travel to China with Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his Chinese colleague Dr. Junshi Chen and you'll be able to really understand the depth, breadth, detail, and eye-opening evidence of their work in China--Diet, Life-Style, and Mortality in China: A Study of the Characteristics of 65 Chinese Counties. Cancer & heart disease are diseases of lifestyle, not genetics.
You'll clearly understand how the China Study, together with Campbell's work in the lab, and in the Philippines brought this former farm-boy to the inescapable conclusion: animal protein above 5% of calories can turn on cancer cells. Plant-protein will not.
You'll understand how U.S. government policies affect the foods we eat, the Food Pyramid recommendations, the subsidies our farmers receive, the food that is fed to our school children and to the military. And you'll get an insider's look into how these policies are shaped by business and farm financial interests--not our health interests.
You'll meet 2 people with serious health issues, who aren't exactly the "picture of health" in spite of conventional pharmaceutical-based medical care. And you'll see how they turn their lives around on a whole-foods plant-based diet.
Even Lee Fulkerson, the writer & director of the film, finds out that he isn't immune to the damage caused by his fast-food over-caffeinated diet. Overweight, hypertensive, tired, with elevated cholesterol, and a dangerously high CRP score (a marker for inflammation), these conditions vanish after just 13 weeks on a plant-based diet.
You'll meet Dr. Ruth Heidrich, a triathlete who is now in her mid-70's. At 47 years old she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones and one lung. She thought she had a healthy diet: lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, chicken, fish, and low-fat dairy. Instead of conventional therapy she chose to participate in a research study based on a no-added-oil vegan diet. Her only changes were cutting out dairy, chicken, and fish. Constipation, dandruff, depression, and arthritis became history--along with the breast cancer. She went on to compete in multiple Ironman Triathalons (winning a gold medal in her age group) and marathons, and in 1999 she was named one of the "10 Fittest Women in North America". Now in her mid-70's she's still vegan, still swimming, running, biking, and weight-training and looks fantastic. She has a family history of osteoporosis--but without any medications her bone density continues to increase. Read more here.
Yep, I know this sounds like snake-oil, but let the evidence speak for itself. Two years ago I made the switch over to plant-based and now it's just part of my routine. I can't see any reason to go back.
The Real-Time Health Turn-Around of Lee Fulkerson, Joey of Tampa, and SanDera of Cleveland
To be honest, I'm a skeptic at heart. I never fall for magical transformations with pills, supplements, or diets. I need to see the scientific evidence. And I need to understand the mechanism behind how something works.
But, for me, absolutely nothing beats the triple punch of: scientific evidence, understanding the mechanism of action, and seeing a real person's successful transformation.
Meet Lee Fulkerson, the writer and director of Forks Over Knives
On a typical morning he'll drink 2 Red Bulls, 18 ounces of Coke, and a breakfast of fast food. Not a morning person, he relies on caffeine before he can even think.
He's overweight, over-caffeinated, and often fatigued.
Blood pressure of 142/82, weight of 231 pounds, cholesterol of 241, and LDL of 157, resting pulse of 92, and a CRP (measure of inflammation) of 6--which puts him in the high risk category.
Soon after ditching the caffeine, and learning to eat whole plant-based food, Lee starts to eat more often, feel much better, lose weight, have more energy, and he actually starts getting up earlier.
After 13 weeks on the plant-based diet take a look at Lee's numbers:
Weight: 211 pounds (was 231 pounds)
Blood Pressure: 112/70 (was 142/82)
Resting heart rate: 60 (was 92)
Total Cholesterol: 154 (was 241)
LDL: 80 (was 157)
CRP (marker of inflammation) 2.8 (was 6)
He's not on any medications, and his health risks are now significantly reduced--just by changing his diet.
Meet Joey, owner of a landscape company in Tampa, FL
He describes himself as, "Living to Eat"
In 2004 his cholesterol is dangerously high at 320
His blood sugar was a hazardous 480, making him a type-2 diabetic and a prime candidate for a heart attack or a stroke.
He was put on multiple medications--9 pills, 2 injections. His daily regimen was 2 pills for the diabetes, 1 for cholesterol, 1 for high blood pressure, and twice a day injections of Byetta for the diabetes. He's spending $150-200 a month on medications after insurance.
Four years after being on these medications he continues to be overweight, feels tired all the time, and hates being on all these pills. He complains of low energy, ringing in the ears, sinus problems, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughs, indigestion, reflux, loose stools, diarrhea, bloating, and has trouble losing weight. A total of 27 medical concerns.
He meets with Drs. Matthew Lederman and Alona Pulde who teach him how to shop and prepare plant-based meals. Their joint goals are: Get off all medications, sleep better at night, stop feeling tired all the time, stop feeling rundown, lose weight, and reverse the medical diseases that can be reversed.
After only 8 weeks of switching to plant-based eating, Joey is off all of his medications, feeling more energetic, and he has started to run. He's feeling good all the time! At the start of his diet, his weight was 220. 8 weeks later, it's down to the 180-185 range--which makes him lighter than he was 20 years earlier.
After 22 weeks on the plant-based diet take a look at Joey's numbers:
Weight: he's lost an additional 28 pounds--his before and after pictures are nothing short of amazing
Medical complaints: 26 out of his 27 medical complaints are gone
CRP: down to normal
Blood sugar: they are down, and continue to come down daily
Cholesterol: in the normal range, and less than when he was on medication
Blood Pressure: it's now normal, and even on medication it was elevated
He's off all of his medications, his numbers continue to improve. He looks almost unrecognizable from a mere 22 weeks ago. He feels energetic, and in control of his health.
Meet SanDera, a mother of 5 in her 30's who works for a diabetes out-patient clinic.
In October 2008 she was stricken with a strange illness. She suddenly couldn't talk, had cold sweats, and fatigue. Diagnosis: hypertension and type-2 diabetes.
She was treated with expensive prescription drugs--but she continued to eat the foods she knew she shouldn't eat.
She was referred to Dr. Esselstyn who educated her about the relationship of diet to diabetes, and coached her towards a plant-based diet. After years of eating fatty foods (like KFC, fries, biscuits, & more) the switch to plant-based was not an easy journey for her.
The diet had an almost immediate effect on her health. Her blood sugar immediately dropped.
Two months into the diet, the effects were dramatic. Her blood pressure was great. Her blood sugars were in the 80s & 70s. When it dropped into the 60s she became alarmed, and visited her diabetes educator who told her, "That's wonderful. It's a normal blood sugar. It means your pancreas is working."
Ironically, SanDera works at an outpatient facility for diabetics, but the treatment that worked for her was outside the established medical system.
Her sluggishness disappeared. She felt in control, and felt she was now finally tasting & enjoying the fruits and vegetables she was eating. She was able to eat to fullness, bring down her blood sugar, and still lose weight. After 8 weeks she was down 30 pounds.
When she approached her primary care physician about stopping her meds, she asked SanDera, "What is that doctor trying to do? Take you off your medication?" SanDera said, "Yeah. I'm hoping that's the goal."
After 20 weeks on the plant-based diet SanDera had lost 45 pounds. She had reversed her diabetes. She was off her medication, she had lots of energy, and most importantly of all--she felt in control of her health.
Forks over Knives Trailer(click here if you don't see the video)
For more information on this upcoming documentary go the Forks Over Kniveswebsite
Keep an eye out for Forks Over Knives opening this summer. It's sure to stir up some controversy.
"The greatest gift that you could possibly give to your family--you can make them aware of this incredible power to avoid life's most painful events. You just don't have to have those kinds of events."
1. Nitric oxide is absolutely essential to vascular health--a finding that won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1998.
2. It relaxes blood vessels, selectively boosting blood flow to the organs that need it.It prevents white blood cells and platelets from becoming sticky, and starting the buildup of vascular plaque. It lowers blood pressure.
3. But with every meal of processed oil, dairy or meat we eat, within minutes there is damage & injury to the "life jackets" of our vascular health--which is the single layer of endothelial cells that line all of our blood vessels.
4. The essential building block for nitric oxide production is an amino acid that is found in rich supply in plant foods.
5. And what can you eat to insure that your endothelial cells will have the raw materials to produce this healing nitric oxide? Beans & leafy greens. Load up on kale, collards, Swiss chard, bok choy, & beans and you will be well on your way to healing the linings of your blood vessels.
6. Dr. Esselstyn's patients who adopted a strictly plant-based diet brought about rapid restoration of their endothelial cells' capacity to manufacture nitric oxide--and restore circulation.
If you received this post via email, click here for the web version.
Lately, I've been craving Swiss chard. It's in my shopping cart every time I go to the grocery store--and believe me--I go to the grocery store a lot.
Provencal Greens soup--made with just Swiss chard, dandelion greens, leeks, and vegetable broth. Can't get enough of it. Click here for the recipe
So when I saw Martha Rose Shulman's recipe for a Sardine and Chard Gratin in the New York Times on March 29, 2010 I knew I was going to give it a try.
Now that was a pretty crazy thing for me to do--because number one: I've never let a sardine pass my lips, ever! Sardines were my dad's all-time favorite food--but as a kid, their fishy smell and the whole slimy look of canned sardines sent me running out of the kitchen. And number two: I rarely eat fish these days.
And for years I wouldn't give Swiss chard the time of day, either! My father-in-law LOVED Swiss chard, and grew it in his summer garden before he retired to Florida. He was always trying to get me try his chard. Never even took a single bite.
Now it's always in my fridge, and I blend it into Green smoothies, saute it with garlic, and use it anyway I can think of. Love it. If only my father-in-law could see me now.
As soon as I read that Martha Rose Shulman's gorgeous gratin would take 3 pounds of Swiss chard to make--I was bound and determined to give it a try--in spite of those sardines.
My dad and my father-in-law both died from massive strokes--long before we knew a thing about nitric oxide, Swiss chard, or omega 3s. If only they had known what we know now.
I made my chard gratin when Passover ended--and I could top it with bread crumbs.
"Chronological age should no longer be viewed as an irreversible cardiovascular risk factor. The concept of "vascular age" may be a more useful construct in determining vascular risk.
Accelerated vascular aging and the "age related" vascular disease processes of hypertension and atherosclerosis are associated with impaired endothelial nitric oxide bioavailability at relatively early stages.
Pharmacotherapeutic intervention aimed at improving endothelial nitric oxide bioavailability has the potential to alter these related disease process."
And who says you need a drug to improve endothelial nitric oxide bioavailability? A plant-based-diet with plenty of Swiss chard, kale, collards, bok choy, legumes, and beans does a fine job--without the side-effects! Just ask Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. if you don't believe me.
As for the Gratin--it was everything Martha Rose Shulman had promised:
"This is unbelievably easy to make and so delicious I can hardly believe it's made with sardines from a can. The recipe is a simplified version of a traditional Provencal dish made with fresh sardines and spinach You can easily throw this dish together on a weeknight."
For the vegans who are reading this--please forgive me for the sardine slip-up. That's what happens when you're "veganish". I still do occasionally eat fish--about once every-other-month. Blame it on my 8 day Passover fast from beans, grains, legumes, and rice. I needed some protein.
But honestly, I loved those sardines! I truly am my father's daughter. And eating them made me think of him and put a big smile on my face! Sis--have you ever tasted sardines?
And I know I will also lose points for including a recipe that requires a bit of olive oil to give it a true Provencal taste. And I'm sure it could be left out.
There's no denying that cold-water fish contain heart healthy omega-3s that have been shown to lower triglycerides, decrease inflammation, as well as reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. And even the Environmental Defense Fund puts sardines into the "eco-best category. Because they are lower on the food chain they have less contaminants.
This dish is dedicated to my Dad who loved sardines, and my father-in-law who loved Swiss chard. And now I finally understand why.
Dad's Sardine and Swiss Chard Gratin
adapted from a recipe by Martha Rose Shulman
1 3.5-ounce can boneless, skinless sardines packed in olive oil (Martha recommends 2 cans of oil-packed--no need)
1 3.5-ounce can boneless, skinless sardines packed in water
2 1/2 to 3 pounds Swiss chard (about 3 bunches) stemmed--but leave a few inches of stem intact--and wash carefully
1-3 tsp. of olive oil--your choice (Martha uses 1 TBS.)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray a 2-quart
gratin or baking dish. (I used a 10 inch square baking dish) Drain the sardines over a bowl, and separate
them into fillets. Set the oil aside.
2. While the chard is still wet from washing, heat a
large, heavy skillet over high heat. Working in batches, pile a few
handfuls into the pan and stir until the chard begins to wilt. Cover
the pan for a minute, then uncover and stir the greens until they have
wilted. As each batch collapses, transfer it to a bowl. When you have
wilted all of the chard, rinse briefly with cold water, squeeze out
excess water and chop medium-fine.
3. Either heat the olive oil (not the oil from the sardines) (or use 1/4 cup of vegetable broth in lieu of oil) in the skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring,
until tender, about five minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt, stir in
the garlic and thyme, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to
a minute. Add the chopped, wilted chard and salt and pepper to taste.
Stir together for one minute until everything is blended. Add the milk,
and stir together for about one minute until you no longer see liquid
in the pan. Remove from the heat. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper.
4. Spread half the greens in the bottom of the baking
dish. Top with the sardine fillets in one layer. Drizzle a tablespoon or less
of the oil from the can over the sardines (or skip this all together), then top with the remaining
greens in an even layer. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs well with a small amount of oil--either the reserved sardine oil or fresh olive oil, before sprinkling the crumbs over the chard.
5.Place in the oven, and
bake 15 minutes until sizzling. Serve hot or warm.
Yield: Serves four to six.
Advance preparation: You can assemble this up to a day ahead of baking. Keep well covered in the refrigerator.
Nutritional count is based on 4 servings per recipe.
The Healthy Librarian's Dad's Sardine and Swiss Chard Gratine
A magazine, a popular book, and a podcast. End result: I increased my understanding of the benefits of antioxidants and organic produce, I learned the best way to eat my fruits and veggies (who knew?), and I now have Glassman's terrific cheat sheet for plotting a way to get her recommended 30,000 ORAC points a day--it's an easy method to make sure I get the most bang for my nutritional buck.
Because of my car ride "entertainment"--O, NPR, & the O2 Diet--I've added, subtracted, and rejiggered some of my daily diet routines. I've added 3 cups of green tea, for one--and I'm following up tough work-outs with an antioxidant-rich smoothie & extra sleep. Plus, I'm making an effort to include lots of cinnamon, curcumin, and oregano into my cooking.
Lots of info to share--so I'll just cover the "what's new to me" highlights.
What I Learned About Organics and Antioxidants from Nina Planck
NIna Planck is both a food writer, and an advocate of "real food", farmer's markets, and organic produce. She wrote her article in O in response to a report released last year by the British Food Standards Agency that pronounced organic food to be no more nutritious than the conventional variety. Organic advocates claimed the report was flawed, incomplete, and biased.
Here's Planck's case for organic produce:
The French Agency for Food Safety: organics have more antioxidants, heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, iron and magnesium than conventionals
The British Food Standard's Agency: organics have more magnesium, zinc, antioxidant phytochemicals, like polyphenols & flavonoids than conventionals
A 5-year 33 university study sponsored by the European Commission--believed to be the largest study of its kind--found organic cabbage & potatoes have more vitamin C--and organic tomatoes have more nutrients overall.
My eye-opening finding from Planck's article: How Using No Pesticides Increases the Antioxidant Content of Fruits & Vegetables
"A lack of pesticide exposure is an important reason organic produce has higher levels of beneficial antioxidants like vitamin C--which fight the free radicals implicated in aging, cancer, and heart disease.
Antioxidants are actually part of a plant's own defenses. In fruits and vegetables, these bitter elements help fend off attacks by bugs and fungi.
Organic crops contain more of these compounds because they have to work harder to protect themselves--with no man-made pesticides to the rescue.
In addition, organic produce is free of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which can also weaken plants' health. Nitrogen produces a watery, sugary cell sap that compromises the plant's ability to build its immune system.
Plants that come to rely on the chemical can no longer fend off pests naturally. Crops that are treated with the synthetic fertilizer also have overly leafy growth and poor flavor, as farmers have long known. That's because the plants' natural immune system of antioxidants is what makes produce aromatic and savory.
In other words, a healthy plant makes a healthy meal--and a tastier one."
Bottom Line: Plants do a better job of building up their own immune systems with antioxidants to fight of disease, fungus, and pests when they're grow organically--without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
I don't usually buy organic--but Planck's article is making me rethink that habit.
What I Learned From NPR's "Your Health" Podcast, "The Nutrient Detectives--How Do They Know?"
1. The Beta-Carotene Fat Connection: (Yes--I already mentioned this in the olive oil post) To best absorb antioxidant carotenoids we need a little fat in the form of some nuts, seeds, or olive oil when we eat our fruits & vegetables--according to Wendy White, a professor Human Nutrition at Iowa State University.
Carotenoids are the pigments responsible for red-, yellow- and
orange-colored fruits and vegetables. And carotenoids are also found in
dark green vegetables such as spinach. The compounds convert to Vitamin
A in the body, and studies have found that carotenoids have
antioxidant activity which may help protect our cells from damage caused
by free radicals.
Human studies have linked high consumption of fruits
and vegetables to reduced risk of cancer. White's salad study at Iowa State found that volunteers who ate full-fat dressing absorbed the most
beta-carotene. The reduced-fat dressing eaters had substantially less
absorption of beta-carotene. And the fat-free dressing salad eaters
had no absorption of the beta-carotenes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004 Aug;80(2):396-403.
2. Chop up your fruits & vegetables into tiny pieces for better antioxidant absorption. According to Dr. White, the finer you can chop up your vegetables the more you can increase the nutrient absorption-- because it breaks down the plant material, aka cellulose.
"When we chew a salad, we often don't do an efficient job of crushing every cell; about 70-90% of the cells are not broken open. As a result most of the valuable nutrients contained within those cells never enter our bloodstream and are lost.
An even more efficient way to ensure you receive these needed nutrients is using a blender (think VitaMix) to puree raw, leafy greens. The blending process aids your body in the work of breaking down and assimilating nutrients. It guarantees that a higher percentage of nutrients will be absorbed into your bloodstream."
-Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Eat For Health-
3. Raw Isn't Always Better. Heat isn't always destructive to antioxidants. When it comes to absorbing fruits & vegetables with beta-carotene and lycopene--think carrots and tomatoes--cooking actually aids absorption, because it softens the plant material, and releases their nutrients. It just so happens that lycopene & beta-carotene are very stable antioxidants that aren't harmed by heat.
4. What's the best cooking method to retain antioxidants? According to a recent study in the Journal of Food Scienceclick here microwaving is the winner when it comes to preserving nutrients--because it's mild, quick, and it preserves the water soluble nutrients like vitamin C & B. Boiling is the worst method--water is definitely not the cook's "best friend".
5. Measuring the antioxidant content of fruits & vegetables at the USDA Research Center in Beltsville Maryland. James Harnly is the guy who measures the phytonutrients for the USDA ORAC Index--using a complicated freezing, drying, grinding, liquid chromatography process. It turns out--and most of us already know this--the fruits and vegetables with the highest antioxidant content are blueberries for their flavonoids; the Brassica family vegetables, like kale, cauliflower, and broccoli; the deep purple vegetables like eggplant for their anthocyanins; and apples for the flavonols in their skin.
According to Harnly, when it comes to most fruits--the flavonoids are mostly in their skins--think apple & orange peels. Whatever you do--don't throw away the peels. Although researchers know that antioxidants are beneficial, how they work to prevent and neutralize free-radical damage is still an unknown. Harnly guesses that it will likely turn out to be part of some sophisticated cascading effect going on in the body--that needs antioxidants to get started.
Using Keri Glassman's O2 Diet and Her ORAC Lists to Fine-Tune Your Diet
I just happened upon Glassman's book while browsing the New Book shelf at my local public library. She's a registered dietitian with a New York City nutrition practice, and she's also a nutrition contributor to the CBSEarly Show.
What's the ORAC Index anyway?The ORAC Index was
developed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture with the help of the
top nutrition scientists in the country. It ranks 277 foods by
antioxidant content--their ability to either destroy or neutralize
disease-causing free radicals. Since oxidative stress caused by free radicals is likely to be one of the factors which plays an important role in the development of chronic and degenerative diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and neuronal degeneration--the ORAC Index is definitely a number to pay attention to
when choosing your foods. Click here for the USDA ORAC Index Fact Sheet
But if you took a look at the USDA's ORAC Index of foods you would scratch your head and wonder, "OK, so now what am I supposed to do with this?" It definitely ranks the foods--but all the foods are ranked using a quantity of 100 grams--a meaningless measurement--nothing close to normal people portions. It doesn't give us a clue about how to compare blueberries to apples to spinach in terms of portion size. But Glassman spells it all out.
Keri Glassman made the ORAC Index usable because she took the USDA numbers and converted them into ounces and then converted them into normal people portions. Thank you, Keri Glassman!
I love her game plan of using the ORAC Index points to shoot for 30,000 points a day to make sure you're eating a variety of "high-achieving" fruits, vegetables, legumes, carbohydrates, beverages, and spices everyday.
Why 30,000 Points a Day, You Ask? Here's What Glassman Has to Say:
"Researchers have just begun to scratch the surface of antioxidant research; there are now literally hundreds of studies linking antioxidant-rich foods to better health, including everything from reduced heart disease to a decreased likelihood of cancer.
And while taking too many antioxidant supplements in pill form may be harmful, there's absolutely no downside to consuming more nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Although the current recommendations are that we eat between 3,000 and 5,000 ORAC points a day for optimum health, why not get all you can?
30,000 ORAC points will boost the antioxidant power of your blood at
least 10 to 25% percent according to some of the original ORAC
research. Click here
Don't forget that you still need to eat a balanced diet. Sure you could get to 30,000 easily on nothing but artichokes, blueberries, and hot cocoa. But that's not a balanced diet, and you'd be cheating yourself out of the wide variety of nutrients out there."
Easiest way to reach 30,000 points a day?
Drink a Green Smoothie! I calculated that my daily smoothie made with 1/2 an apple, 1/2 a grapefruit, 3 cups of kale, 1/2 cup of blueberries, 1/2 of a kiwi, 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice, and 2 carrots, comes to about 17,710 points! Who knew?
Add 3 cups of green tea a day for 9,000 more points. I've never been a tea drinker until now & the scientific research on the benefits of green tea is extensive.
Add a cup a black beans for 15,600 additional points. Kidney beans, pinto beans, & lentils--they're all outrageously high in ORAC points.
Great tips from the O2 Diet
Intense exercise actually weakens your immune system, putting you at risk for getting sick for a full 72 hours after each workout--so, to counteract the effect of an intense workout-- Glassman recommends increasing your antioxidant intake to 50,000 points and getting an extra half hour of sleep. Sounds like a plan.
Oatmeal is brain food. This complex carbohydrate helps to produce the feel-good chemical serotonin which has antioxidant properties, and helps ease that "stress-out" feeling. Studies show that kids who eat oatmeal (with 600 ORAC points) for breakfast stay sharper throughout the morning. No wonder I love my morning crockpot steel cut oats--made with dried fruit that kick up the ORAC points another notch! Click here for the recipe
Turmeric/Curcumin, the spice that gives curry its yellow color is a well-known antioxidant--which not only helps in the prevention of Alzheimers, it's recently been shown to reverse impaired cognition and neuronal plasticity caused by stress. Click here Turmeric clocks in at 3,500 ORAC points per teaspoon. I've been taking a 500 mg capsule of curcumin daily, ever since a Columbia University neurologist specializing in Alzheimers told me he takes a teaspoon of turmeric a day.
A Sampling of the O2 Diet's ORAC Index Points
Glassman's book has a full list of the ORAC points of common foods by serving size, and she generously makes these lists available on her website. Click here for the ORAC point guide. Click here for the ORAC calculator
Top Foods in the ORAC Index
Fruit/ Serving/ ORAC Value
Blueberries 1 c= 9,700 Cranberries (raw) 1 c= 9,600 Red Delicious apple 1= 7,800 Blackberries 1 c= 7,700 Granny Smith apple 1= 7,100 Raspberries 1 c= 6,000 Strawberries 1 c= 5,400 Gala apple 1= 5,200 Pear 1= 5,200 Fuji apple 1= 4,700 Dried Fruit/ Serving/ ORAC Value Cranberries, dried 2 Tbsp= 2,100 Prunes 3= 1,900 Currants 2 Tbsp= 1,100 Raisins 2 Tbsp= 600
Wine (Incorporate alcohol as a conscious indulgence.) Sangria (See recipe on page 98 of the O2 Diet) 4 oz= 11,900 Cabernet 5 oz= 7,400 Red 5 oz= 5,700 Rosé 5 oz= 1,500 White 5 oz= 600 Tea (Drink up—no calories here!) Green tea 1 c= 3,000 Black tea 1 c= 2,700 Other herbal teas 1 c= — Juice (to be consumed in lieu of whole fruit) Blueberry juice 1⁄2 c= 3,600 Pomegranate juice 1⁄2 c= 2,900 Concord grape juice 1⁄2 c= 2,900 Prune juice 1⁄2 c= 2,600 Red grape juice 1⁄2 c= 2,300 Cranberry–Concord grape juice 1⁄2 c= 1,800 White grapefruit juice 1⁄2 c= 1,500 Cranberry juice 1⁄2 c= 1,100 White grape juice 1⁄2 c= 1,000 Orange juice 1⁄2 c= 900
I couldn't make it to the free screening of Food, Inc. when it first came to town--I had to go to an event that served barbecued ribs & chicken. (oh my!) I passed my tickets on to Fran & Joyce.
They went into this well-done documentary not knowing what to expect--and came out shocked, a little queasy, concerned, disturbed, with their heads spinning and ready to rethink meat.
But this movie is not about the evils of beef, chicken or pork! In fact--grass-fed, pasture-raised, small-farm-raised would be just fine. It's about how our whole food industry has changed for the worse since 1970--and No One Is Paying Attention.
I finally got to see the film on Sunday. That night I called my kids & said, "You have to go see this movie!"
The film's promo says it all:
How Much Do We Really Know About The Food We Buy At Our Local Supermarket & Serve To Our Families?
You'll Never Look At Dinner The Same Way
In Food, Inc.,
filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry,
exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the
American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory
agencies, USDA and FDA.
Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a
handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health,
the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our
We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork
chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go
bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that
causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually.
riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an
epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc.
reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how
it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going
David Edelstein of New York Magazine Says It Best
David's experience echoes mine 100%. Do No Miss This Movie!
"After an hour and a half of sighing, wincing, and clucking over the manifold outrages portrayed in Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc.,
I gave up the thought of “reviewing” the documentary and decided,
instead, to exhort you:
See it. Bring your kids if you have them. Bring
someone else’s kids if you don’t.
The message is nothing new if you’ve
read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation or Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma
(both are in the film). But every frame makes you choke on your
popcorn—if for no other reason than the focus on
government-underwritten corn and the companies who put it into
everything from soda to Midol to the gassy, E. coli–ridden
bellies of factory-farmed cows.
The sheer scale of the movie is
mind-blowing—it touches on every aspect of modern life. It’s the
documentary equivalent of The Matrix: It shows us how we’re
living in a simulacrum (a sham--a vague likeness), fed by machines run by larger machines with
names like Monsanto, Perdue, Tyson, and the handful of other
corporations that make everything.
We humans can win, but we
should hurry, before Monsanto makes a time machine and sends back a
Terminator to get rid of Schlosser and Pollan."
— David Edelstein
A Snapshot of the Images I Will Never Forget
The giant dark filthy foul-smelling football-field-sized chicken houses filled with 40,000 or more birds pumped up with pharmaceuticals, standing in excrement, with bodies grown unnaturally fast, and breasts so large their tiny legs can barely hold them up.
Cattle living in giant feeding lots, packed in head to rump, pumped up with antibiotics to kill the diseases caused by being unnaturally force fed corn when they're meant to graze on grass in open fields. Meat carcasses coated with excrement that could never be sanitized enough to kill the germs they might harbor. Oh--but don't worry--now there's a company that washes hamburger with ammonium hydroxide to kill the buggers--Beef Products, Inc. (BPI)--winner of the 2004 Food Quality Award.
The abused illegal immigrants working in deplorable dangerous meat packing plants--a new class of indentured servants--that have no choice but to keep silent about what's going on at their workplace--or risk deportation. No need to worry about unions.
The family farmers that are no more. They are essentially factory workers, the new indentured servants, working for the 4 or 5 beef, poultry or pork industrial producers. Borrowed to the hilt, to the tune of $500,000 on average, and making about $18,000 a year.
The chicken excrement runoff from these huge chicken houses that is polluting our fields, rivers, & streams. The Chesapeake Bay Fiasco--click here.
The low-income families that find it more affordable to feed their families for $15.00 at McDonald's, than to buy broccoli and apples. Result: epidemic obesity & type-2 diabetes, even in kids. Saving money on food, but making it up in health care costs.
The healthy 2 1/2 year old who died suddenly after eating an E coli-tainted hamburger while on a family vacation. The meat could have been recalled. It wasn't.
The number of food industry execs and lawyers who end up serving in high government offices in the Department of Agriculture, the Food & Drug Administration, and the Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas-for instance). We don't stand a chance.
Just see the movie!!
Check out the Food, Inc. website and you'll be Hungry for a Change. Click here. Priceless quote from Mr. Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council:
"What these systems of intensive production accomplish is to produce a lot of food on a small amount of land at a very affordable price. Now somebody explain to me what's wrong with that!"
Joel Salatin, organic farmer, owner of Polyface Farms in Virginia:
"When you add up the environmental costs, recycle costs, health care costs, the industrial food is not honest food. It's not priced honestly. It's not produced honestly. There's nothing honest about that food."
Cage-free, pasture raised chickens at Stone Barns, New York
Poultry farmer Lee Richardson, cleaning up after a flock was sold. (Baltimore Sun photo by Doug Kapustin / May 29, 2008)
Frontline's Poisoned Waters
Here is the one advantage to having the cheapest version of cable TV--the one
that ONLY includes the free network stations.
The selections are so
bad, that you actually opt to watch PBS--which is how I
got to see Pulitzer-Prize winning Hedrick Smith's investigative
examination of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay & the Puget Sound.
Frontline: Poisoned Waters aired on Tuesday night April 21, 2009.
Here's my testimonial:
normally, my husband would be sacked out by 9:30 pm on a Tuesday night,
but this program kept him up until 11:00 pm. Check it out online at
the Poisoned Waters website.
I Thought We Cleaned Up Our Waterways Years Ago
So, what has happened since the 1970's when the public demanded action to clean up our waterways? Nixon's EPA sued big polluters, tackled auto emissions, and DDT.
What's changed since then? Our waterways were supposed to be fishable & swimmable by 1983 and 25 years past that deadline we aren't even remotely close to success.
Hedrick Smith spent 18 months looking into our crown jewel waterways, the Chesapeake Bay & the Puget Sound and in the end he was shocked at what he discovered. As he says, "The worst pollution is invisible. The water looks OK, but it's not." And Smith is plenty worried for his grandchildren.
Fresh clean water is a resource we can't live without and after watching Frontline, it's clear that no one with clout is minding the store.
And this problem isn't going away anytime soon. Here's just a sample of what I learned about our nation's water supply:
1.The Chesapeake Bay & Puget Sound are just the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to our nation's water supply.
2. Agriculture is the biggest threat to our clean water--the animal waste & chemical runoff. Who would have guessed?
now occupy 40 percent of the Chesapeake Bay in the summer--vast areas
where not a single crab or fish or blade of precious bottom grass can
live because there's no oxygen to sustain life. These dead zones are rapidly growing
and not just in the Chesapeake.
4. The reason: The tremendous amount of chicken manure runoff. There isover 1.5 billion pounds of it a year that makes its way into the Bay. It's the main source of the excess nitrogen & phosphorus that just sucks the
oxygen right out the water--creating these Dead Zones. And Perdue chickens have something to do with it. That's more manure than the human waste of New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco & Atlanta put together. But human waste gets treated--animal waste doesn't. And the same problem exists from the hog, cattle & poultry farms all over the country.
5.For a graphic that illustrates the size of the animal industry, courtesy of NYT's Mark Bittman, click here--and notice the number of chickens we're consuming!
6. Our drinking water
is a toxic soup filled with drugs & chemicals that our out-of-date water
treatment plants were never designed to filter out.
Consider this: The U.S.
Geological Survey has been testing rivers and drinking water all over the
country. Tests of the water before it enters the Washington D.C.
aqueduct have found 85 worrisome chemical compounds--that's before the water was treated.
The tests of the water after it was filtered
still contained two-thirds
of these chemicals. And this water is going straight into the homes & businesses of over a million
people in the D.C. area. When one of the scientists working with the USGS was asked if she drinks the D.C. water, she answered, "No, I woudn't drink that water."
7. Researchers with the National Institute for Environmental Health Studies & Johns Hopkins University's School of Public Health
know that many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors that kill
fish, cause mutations in frogs, lower human sperm count, threaten human
health, increase the risk of breast cancer, and are responsible for
male genital anomalies in infants. And this isn't limited to the Chesapeake Bay area. The USGS study has found the same contamination in tests all across the country.
8. The Pristine Pugent Sound?
Not exactly. Most experts in the environmental community think the Puget Sound is in
terrible shape and that we have less than a generation to clean it up.
The Orca whales are already seriously threatened by the contamination.
There's the oil and gas run off from highways and based on actual
sampling in the Puget Sound basin, it's
estimated that the volume of oil that is carried into the Puget Sound by
stormwater runoff is equal to the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound.
And the Puget Sound is a hot spot for PCBs from left-over asphalt and industrial sites
and the Boeing Shipyard contaminants....and the list goes on and on. Want to know more?
The Endocrine Disruptors. Evidence accumulates that manmade chemicals, known as endocrine
disruptors, are causing abnormal mutations in marine creatures. Does
that mean they're having an impact on human health? Read what the experts have to say.
“For the first time in American history, our generation was at risk
of having a shorter lifespan than our parents. And it was because of
what we ate.”
—Curt Ellis, KING CORN filmmaker
This documentary, filmed & produced by two likable college buddies, is a must see! It's about a serious subject - how a simple innocent plant - commercial corn - has contributed to the demise of the family farm, the rise of the factory feedlot, the increase in obesity, the development of Type II diabetes at young ages, the growth of the fast food industry, the invention of high fructose corn syrup, the increased use of animal antibiotics, and the rise of inflammatory Omega-6s in our food supply. And 1973 is the year it all began. Whew, that's a mouthful!
If you've wanted to read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, and didn't have the time to spend reading it--do yourself a favor & watch this enormously engrossing entertaining "Cliff Notes" version of Pollan's award-winning book. It's only 90 minutes long!
My husband was a little skeptical when I brought this film home, but we were hooked from the start! I may never again let corn-fed beef or chicken pass my lips. Grass-fed, yes. Corn-fed, no. And finding grass-fed anything is near impossible these days!
I don't want to spoil any of the surprises, but just to let you know---the road to our industrial food supply fiasco began somewhere around 1908 with the Nobel Prize winning invention of nitrogen fertilizer. Fast forward to 1973 and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz comes up with a well-intentioned plan to stop paying farmers to not plant--and to start subsidizing them to grow as much corn as they can. And the rest is a story you won't read in a history book. The Law of Unintended Consequences!
"Behind America’s dollar hamburgers and 72-ounce sodas is a key ingredient that quietly fuels our fast-food nation: corn. In KING CORN
, recent college graduates Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis leave the east
coast for rural Iowa, where they decide to grow an acre of the nation’s
most powerful crop.
Alarmed by signs of America’s bulging waistlines, the filmmakers
arrive in the Midwest enthusiastic about their new endeavor. For their
farm-to-be, they choose a tiny town in Floyd, County, Iowa—a place
that, coincidentally, both Ian and Curt’s great-grandfathers called
home three generations ago. They lease an acre of land from a skeptical
landlord, fill out a pile of paperwork to sign up for subsidies and
discover the U.S. government will pay them 28 dollars for their acre.
Ian and Curt start the spring by injecting ammonia fertilizer, which
promises to increase crop production four-fold. Then it’s planting
time. With a rented high-tech tractor, they set 31,000 seeds in the
ground in just 18 minutes. Their corn has also been genetically
modified for another yield-increasing characteristic: herbicide
resistance. When the seedlings sprout from Iowa’s black dirt, Ian and
Curt apply a powerful herbicide to ensure that only their corn will
thrive on their acre......" Read more about the film on the PBS Independent Lens Web Site
The Web Link for the 2 minute preview is here if you aren't seeing the video.
You'll find the film at Netflix, some public libraries (but not many), and on the Independent Lens of PBS.
Ian Cheney & Curt Ellis are a charming refreshing departure from the attack-dog style of Michael Moore. Their moms must be awfully proud of them!