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Keepin’ It Real (with Real Food) October 23, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Wednesday, October 24 is Food Day. Join in this second annual national event where thousands of businesses, coalitions and other participants are holding Food Day celebrations to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food. 

Food Day, Food Pyramid Killing Us, diet, nutrition, USDA, agriculture, corn, grocery, government

Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day has become a movement to increase awareness of the usual unhealthy American diet which is leading to our top three causes of death and other forms of morbidity.

Our nation’s food system is not focused on promoting health, but maintaining agribusiness and food production as cheaply as possible. Fellow blogger, Ellice Campbell of Enlightened Lotus Wellness, just published a worthwhile post, Corn And It’s Stranglehold on the Food Industry. Also, have a look at The Trouble With Corn Subsidies. About 75% of all grocery store food products contain some form of corn (not the sweet kind that we enjoy during the summer) and high fructose corn syrup. This is creating a sugar addiction among our children and is one factor contributing to increased diagnoses of diabetes in adults and children, not to mention obesity. I find this to be an outrage.

What we put into our bodies is 100% up to us! Just because cheap and processed foods are available everywhere we look, does not mean we must succumb to eating them. As one of my blog readers previously commented, “Eat what you want–no one is forcing you not to.” Every time we eat and every thing we eat is completely our choice. I feel this is too fundamental to blog about, but as a nation, we are clearly not making the best choices.

Of course this has implications beyond personal diet and disease. According to CSPI, only minor amounts of Farm Bill funding support organic and sustainable farms, while those growing the crops most harmful to us reap the major funds. We have allowed our government to carry on this way for decades. Food production methods are harmful to workers, animals and the environment.

How will you celebrate Food Day? Click the link for inspiration, activities, recipes and a zip code map to see what is offered in your area. Or, take a page from their school curriculum, eat real around your dinner table and discuss healthy eating and where your food comes from.

Eat Real, y’all. Practice mindful eating and the world will be better off. Really.

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Is The Food Pyramid Killing Us? May 21, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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diet, nutrition, food pyramid, heart disease, stroke, hypertension

Two groups of food pyramid promote leading causes of U.S. deaths

Hang in there with me for just a few minutes, folks.

The leading causes of U.S. deaths are heart disease, cancer, respiratory ailments and stroke. Right? In the vast majority of cases, these are attributed to poor nutrition, not genetics. What food groups do we as a nation consume the most? Meat and dairy. Consumption of which foods increases at the same rate as chronic disease and fatal illness? Meat and dairy. What are two of the main food groups the Food Pyramid encourages us to eat as part of our daily diet? Meat and dairy. Why would an agency of the federal government urge us to consume the two most unhealthy foods as part of each meal? (defended my 10-year old son).

Welcome to the Western diet, Western diseases and the cozy kinships within the USDA, a not unbiased agency which regulates and promotes their own interests. According to Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM),

The USDA’s statutory duty is to foster and assist in expanding uses in moving larger quantities of agricultural products throughout the private marketing system to consumers in the US and abroad. They compromise consumer health in favor of promoting specific food products.

The US spends more money on health care than any other developed nation, yet we have among the highest rates of preventable disease. Our convenient diets are nutritionally deficient, being high in fats, sugar, salt and animal proteins, as brilliantly researched by Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s famous 20-year China Study, and his subsequent work with the esteemed surgeon, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives. Their independent and collaborative science illustrates that our bodies are engineered for optimum performance with plant-based nutrition.

For over a century, the USDA dietary guidelines have included meat and dairy as the primary sources of protein and calcium. A previous post, Calcium for Bone Health-Not What You Thought, details a direct correlation between animal-based calcium consumption and increased rates of osteoporosis.

The federal government is considering regulating our diets in an effort to tackle the obesity epidemic, especially in children, due to the amount of time spent and number of calories consumed during school hours. This is an appalling notion. There is obvious conflict mandating compliance with National School Lunch Program menus, and providing the very guidelines which promote obesity-related illnesses. Regular lunch entrees in my school district include corn dogs, breaded and fried chicken patties, breaded and fried chicken nuggets, fried mozzarella sticks, cheeseburgers and pizza. Always available: milk, ice cream, unhealthy snacks and drinks in vending machines. By contrast, a regular French school lunch in the town of Barjac, for example, consists of coleslaw, mussels mariniers, sautéed potatoes, and an organic, locally grown pear for dessert. Water and baguette are standard at every meal, of course. Karen LeBillon’s book, French Kids Eat Everything, details fundamental differences in their approach to school lunches. Menus are decided by regional school administrators and parents, there is no national food program, and there is a national ban on vending machines.

Each one of us is in control of our own health destiny. A plant-based diet not only prevents what’s killing us, but can reverse it. Dr. Esselstyn was shunned by the USDA after reporting his results, and the Food Pyramid still contains meat and dairy. In his TED talk, he explains our top killers are food-borne illnesses.

Your food choices are 100% up to you. What will you choose to eat today?

*           *           *

Forks Over Knives is streamable from Netflix. It just might save your life.

Related Posts:

My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods For Disease Prevention

Location, location, location! The High Cost of Living in a Food Desert

Trickery, Manipulation and $50: A Plan for School Cafeterias

The Kind Diet


Location, location, location! The high cost of living in a food desert. February 9, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health.
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Food desert, Health, Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Grocery, Produce

Food Desert

How far do you live from a large supermarket? What if you only purchased foods you were able to carry either by walking or using public transportation? What if there was a McDonald’s one block over? How is your health affected?

These are questions posed around the communities of food deserts, areas in industrialized nations which are not close enough to any nutritional food retailer. In urban areas this is usually measured at one mile away, in rural areas, about ten miles. Existing stores in these areas carry high-priced, unhealthy options. In many cases, these are the only options.

Health Hazards

The high-fat and sugar content of the foods sold at convenience stores or small “grocers” (term used as loosely as possible) is causing an increase in disease in lower socio-economic communities where large supermarket retailers will not build for lack of profit. Consumers in these low SES minority neighborhoods show an increase in meat and processed foods, and much lower intake of fruits and vegetables, but are spending 37% more on food in general. This contributes to spikes in obesity, diabetes, sugar addiction, malnutrition, and heart disease.

As of 2011, the USDA underestimates about 2.4 million Americans living in food deserts. Factors not included in this measure are access to transportation, barriers for the elderly, food price, crime rate, and ethnic disparities, leaving the actual number of people at risk of food insecurity to be much higher. One study (Policy Link and The Food Trust, 2010) showed that in New Mexico, the same cart of groceries costs $85 for rural residents, and $55 for urban residents, a common disparity in relative costs. About a quarter of the people who qualify for welfare and food stamp programs live in food deserts. In fact, according to Mari Gallagher, founder of National Center for Pubic Research, USDA food stamp retailers provide more barriers to nutritious foods than fast food retailers.

Health, nutrition, diabetes, produce, obesity

Food Desert Locator

Food Oases

Several states are seeing community-level interventions which pair public and private finances to significantly undercut costs and losses to supermarket chains. Co-ops are useful in promoting local growers, and farmers’ markets, although costly, also increase access to food. Community currency has been shown to boost profits in both of these endeavors. Even community gardens strengthen community and social support while providing access to nutritious foods. About 20 grants exist to help individuals and communities afford healthy food projects.

Please click the link below to watch what Karriem Beyah has done for an urban food desert in Chicago’s South Side:

Urban Deserts: Fresh-Food-Free Zones TIME.com

What can your community do?

Related Posts:

Hidden Hunger In The Heartland

Hidden Hunger in the Heartland May 3, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Help the heartland

American farmers produce food for our nation and several others, yet it is many of these very people who wonder where and when they will have their next meal.

U.S. households receiving food from a food pantry nearly doubled between 2007 and 2009, resulting in 14.7% food-insecure people, or over 40 million, the highest rate since 1995. One-third of these are children.

In many of these towns, lack of access to food and constrained resources create continued hardships for families. In the best of times, both parents are working long weeks but the income still places them below the poverty line. Childcare is hard to find and more expensive, transportation is poor, the cost of gasoline is prohibitive, rates of unemployment remain high and levels of education low. Daily, these families make the difficult decision of whether to buy food or pay for bills, medications, gas, or daycare.

The poverty-hunger-disease cycle exists not only in developing countries, but also in the rural US. The World Health Organization states that malnutrition is the gravest single threat to health, and the largest cause of child mortality. The affordable food is high in fat and otherwise not nutritious. This leads to an unvaried diet of poor sustenance high in simple carbohydrates resulting in increases in chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Overeating after skipping meals places a great deal of stress on the body, but is a common practice for parents who pass on two meals each day for the sake of their children.

Nutrition is most essential for the first three years of life. During critical growth periods, malnourished children have slower growth and inhibited brain development, greater susceptibility to obesity, lower academic achievement, a greater need for mental health services and inability to cope. These problems increase the likelihood of dropping out of school, inability to find a job, lack of health care and an increase in substance abuse.

Thousands of these farmers live on land which has been in their families for five or six generations. Often, their parents survived on food stamps so the way of life is familiar and hard to escape. Of course we can’t approach this subject without bringing up the Farm Bill. Here’s what David Beckmann says about it in an interview with Bill Moyers. Note this interview was conducted in 2008, during the middle of the spike of food bank usage, and before the new Farm Bill. The stated statistics are even higher today:

The National Association of Letter Carriers with Campbell Soup is sponsoring a Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, May 14. Leave food donations next to your mailbox to be picked up by letter carriers and taken back to the postal station where they are sorted and delivered to local food banks. This is the largest one-day national food drive, receiving 77.1 million pounds of food in 2010. America’s Grow A Row campaign encourages each family with a garden to plant an extra row of produce to donate to a food bank this summer as fresh food is in great demand.

Amid the recent weather calamities making life much more difficult than it already was for the heartland, let’s make helping those who grow our food a priority. Where would we be without them?

How to help:

Stamp Out Hunger in the heartland on May 14, 2011 with Second Harvest.

Feeding America.org


SNAP (food stamp) eligibility site.

Bee Pollen: Superfood March 14, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Bee pollen: most complete food source on earth.

I first became aware of bee pollen when one of my children was prescribed it to treat allergies by our holistic health practitioner. Bee pollen works as an antihistamine and so is beneficial for almost any type of allergy, especially seasonal allergies such as hay fever. A dark vial contained the tiny yellow balls, which were delicious.

Benefits of bee pollen have been cited in ancient Egyptian and Chinese tribal texts as a cure all, health fortifier, anti-aging compound, used to enhance physical and mental well-being.

The most famous report of extreme longevity has been among the Abkhazians, in the Caucasus Mountain Range of Georgia. While claims of living to ages 125-150 appear erroneous and undocumented, it is true that a great deal of the population live to over 100. A major staple of their diet is honey, many descend from generations of beekeepers.

Because bee pollen is assimilated into the body naturally at the cellular level, benefits are noticed after just a brief period of regular use. Men aged 40-45 can benefit from bee pollen by greatly reducing their symptoms or risk of developing prostate cancer, and both men and women find it supports sexual and reproductive health.

Nutritional Properties

  • Bee pollen is 40% protein
  • Contains high proportions of B-Complex vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C, D, E
  • Contains 22 amino acids, 27 mineral salts, and over 5,000 enzymes necessary for digestion and healing
  • It is 15% lecithin which increases weight loss and improves cholesterol counts
  • Contains 96 known nutrients

Other Benefits

  • It is rich in the bioflavonoid rutin, which strengthens capillaries
  • Improves complexion
  • Provides an increase in natural energy with a build-up over time
  • Can improve developmental problems in children
  • It’s natural phenylalanine curbs appetite
  • May be taken daily

Tips & Warnings

  • Production of pollen in the hive includes a fermentation process which allows it to last forever within the hive. Once removed from the hive, it should be stored in the refrigerator as heat destroys many of the enzymes.
  • Severe allergic responses including anaphylactic shock may occur. Test with one pollen grain, and if you suffer no adverse reaction, increase dosage to an optimum amount of 1 tablespoon per day. Check with your doctor before taking bee pollen.

Interestingly, honey is the only existing compound which scientists have not been able to reproduce in the laboratory.

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