Monday, September 29, 2008

Toxic Chemicals in Antibacterial Soaps, Toothpaste

Do you use a lot of personal care products? A dangerous chemical called triclosan, contained in many products including toothpastes and antibacterial soaps has been found to promote cancer. The ingredient is not only unhealthy for humans, it's also unhealthy for the environment. Careful reading of ingredients shown on labels of all products will enable you to avoid this toxic chemical.

According to Natural News, "When tap water meets toothpaste, the triclosan reacts freely with the chlorine in the tap water to become chloroform (a chlorinated aromatic) and is similar to the dioxins found in the compound Agent Orange. It's a chemical reaction occurring right in your mouth while you brush your teeth." Once you rinse it out you are still at risk. Studies reveal this chemical remains in the mouth for up to 12 hours and is easily absorbed into skin on the tongue and through mucus membrane areas in the body. At greatest risk are children who are more likely to swallow toothpaste during teethbrushing.

Best alternatives are environmentally-friendly brands such as Logona or Mint-T-Fresh. Also, try using baking soda and food grade hydrogen peroxide. For soaps, natural bar soaps are best; avoid pump soaps in plastic containers as most of those contain chemicals and emulsifiers. A good pump soap brand is Dr. Bronner's (check out their other products as well).

Do Away With Dryer Sheets

Do you use dryer sheets in your dryer? While this practice may cause your clothing to have a "pleasant" smell or even diminish static cling, there are serious health risks to using these products. Like most detergents, dryer sheets come from non-renewable, petroleum-based products.

Dryer sheets contain phthalates, a common industrial chemical used in PVC, plastics, solvents, and synthetic fragrances. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors which are linked to problems of the reproductive system, including decreased sperm motility and concentration in men and genital abnormalities in baby boys. (As a side note, the average sperm count of a man has decreased significantly since the 1940's.) More recently they've also been linked to asthma and allergies.

It may seem like an impossible thing to do, but try drying your clothes without dryer sheets. Another alternative is to hang your clothing and other articles to dry outside in your yard and let the solar power of the sun dry them. I've personally washed my family's clothing in safe, non-toxic laundry detergent and used no dryer sheets for almost ten years. Our clothes never contain static and have a genuine "clean" smell that is free of chemicals and perfumes. Our culture is so used to having products around to solve all our problems, but what actually ends up occurring is that often these products cause a great deal of problems which outweigh the benefits of using them in the first place.

For more information about phthalates, visit the Environmental Working Group.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Health Benefits of Organic

Do you eat organic foods? Purchase organic products? Much controversy exists over whether organic is really better for health or not. But consider this:
  • Conventional products and foods receive exposure to toxins that organic varieties do not such as pesticides, herbicides, added chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and other unwanted substances that adversely affect health. Even if the argument stands that organic foods contain no more nutrients than conventional, avoiding these other substances is important for health.
  • Organic farming is a sustainable activity in that it replenishes the soil of lost nutrients and minerals. Feeding the soil with organic matter instead of ammonia and other synthetic fertilizers has proven to increase nutrients in produce, with higher levels of vitamins and minerals found in organic food, according to the 2005 study, “Elevating Antioxidant levels in food through organic farming and food processing,” Organic Center State of Science Review (1.05).
  • Many conventional crops come from seeds that are genetically modified. Just over a decade ago, no genetically modified foods were part of our food supply; today more than 30 percent of our cropland is planted in GMOs.
  • Purchasing organic products helps ensure the success of smaller, more sustainable family farms. Certified-organic family farms provide twice the benefit to the economy: they are profitable and farm in harmony with nature. This is true whether the farm is a 3-acre orchard or a 4,000-acre wheat farm -- organic is a beneficial practice that is genuinely family and earth-friendly.
  • Eating organic promotes the reduction of farmland pollution (i.e., waste produced from factory farms, which makes an incredible impact on the environment)
  • Certified organic and sustainable farming practices favor humane treatment of animals on their premises, whereas factory farm environments sole purpose is to maximize profits.
Using caution when purchasing "organic" is advised however, because many large corporations are now capitalizing on using the term "organic" in their marketing to sell products. Large corporate "organic" outfits can claim to use organic farming practices in their methods, but may or may not be consistent with what is really considered organic. Do research and read labels. Smaller, sustainable operations are more likely to practice in accordance with rigid standards of what it means to farm in harmony with nature and land stewardship than larger companies.

For more information on organic and sustainable farming practices, visit Sustainable Table.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Information You May Not Know About Soy

Do you consume soy regularly? If so, you should be aware that in 2002, two U.S. senior government scientists, Drs. Daniel Doerge and Daniel Sheehan, discovered that chemicals in soy could increase the risk of breast cancer in women, brain damage in both men and women, and abnormalities in infants. Here are the findings and outcomes from their research:

  • The scientists chose to go against FDA colleagues and oppose its decision to approve a health claim that soy lowered the risk of heart disease.

  • They wrote an internal protest letter warning of 28 studies revealing toxic effects of soy, mostly focusing on chemicals in soy known as isoflavones, which have effects similar to the female hormone estrogen.

  • These doctors discovered research which clearly reveals a connection between soy and the ability to cause health problems in human beings.

  • Soy can cause health issues in animals including the changing of sexual development of fetuses and causing thyroid issues.

  • Some studies reveal that chemicals in soy can cause a rise in the development of estrogen-dependent breast cancer.

According to the letter they wrote:

  • 'There is abundant evidence that some of the isoflavones found in soy demonstrate toxicity in estrogen sensitive tissues and in the thyroid.'

  • 'During pregnancy in humans, isoflavones per se could be a risk factor for abnormal brain and reproductive tract development.'

According to one of the scientists, parents who allow their children to drink soy milk or formulas "are exposing their children to chemicals which we know have adverse effects in animals. It's like doing a large uncontrolled and unmonitored experiment on infants.'

The soy industry maintains that these findings shown in animals have no application to the health of human beings. Remember that the amounts of soy consumed by people in Asian countries is much less than those levels in the United States and other developed countries. It is also important to note that the type of soy consumed in Asia is generally from the whole soybean, whereas the soy we are consuming in the U.S. is more often than not a processed soy such as in soy cheese, soy milk, tofu, veggie burgers, and similar food products. Another consideration is the amount of soy consumed by cattle for feed in factory farm environments, which are slaughtered for food and is consumed by human beings.

For more information about soy and the dangers of its use, visit Soy Online Service.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Butter is Good for You

Do you eat butter or a butter replacement product? If you are eating butter replacement products, you should be aware of the effect these have on your health.

Margarines and other similar products are processed foods. They are created chemically from refined, polyunsaturated oils. The process which changes normally liquid oils into a spreadable form is called hydrogenation (also known as a trans-fat). Ironically, there is great movement on the market today to eradicate hydrogenated oils and trans fats from many products, yet natural saturated fats continue to be blamed for health issues.

Butter replacement products contain vegetable oils that have been modified to give the oil the same properties of a fat. This process is used to make shortenings, margarines, and a variety of butter substitute items. The process of modifying vegetable oil in this manner is referred to as interesterification. According to Natural News, this process "involves taking a batch of vegetable oil, to which we add an enzyme that acts as a catalyst. The catalyst causes the separation of a triglyceride molecule into a glycerol and 3 fatty acids.

After breaking the triglycerides molecule apart, the factory can re-configure the fatty acid molecules – combining any three Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 9, or Saturated molecules, in whatever combination they seek.

Depending on this combination, ie. the percentage of lighter Omega 3 or 6 versus the heavier Omega 9 and Saturated molecules, the hardness of the fat will be determined. The interesterification process can produce any type of fat or oil. This includes heavy fats suitable for deep-frying, semi-solid fats to make margarine, or liquid oils for bottling; the end result is a product that has an indefinite shelf life, targeted at the unsuspecting consumer."

Consuming these processed substances can actually cause the very health problems for which butter is criticized. In general, it is best to avoid any foods containing butter replacement products. The natural Omega 3s occurring in organic butter are essential to health and help regulate cardiovascular function. Butter also contains Vitamin A which is important for thyroid and adrenal glands, and has been associated with heart and blood vessel deformation of the heart in infants born from mothers with Vitamin A deficiencies. Vitamin E is also found in butter, and both Vitamin A and Vitamin E are critical in antioxidant power to keep the body from developing disease.

Use care in selecting good quality butter. Organic is best, and raw butter is a bonus. Try Organic Pastures or U.S. Wellness Meats.

To learn more about the health benefits of eating real butter, visit the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Avocado and Coconut Oils - Super Oils for Health

Looking for good oils to improve health? Oil from avocado and coconut alike are extremely beneficial to consume. Eating whole avocados and using unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil for cooking needs are two great ways to get essential fatty acids necessary to maintain health.

Avocados contain a superior oil that is comprised of about 70 per cent monounsaturated fats. This oil is one of the most plentiful sources of beta-sitosterol -- clinically proven to reduce levels of unhealthy cholesterol. Avocados also contain lutein -- a nutrient that protects against cataracts. This delicious fruit is a a good source of Vitamin E and the mineral potassium, which helps maintain optimal blood pressure levels and protects against circulatory diseases. Eating avocados provides the correct type of Omega 6s - something we receive too much of in other forms from processed foods in the Western diet.

Although coconut oil falls into the category of saturated fat, this is the type of saturated fat which is actually healthy to consume. Too much saturated fat increases risk of health problems such as heart disease because it raises levels of unhealthy cholesterol. The difference between the saturated fat in coconut oil and that in processed foods such as desserts and breads is that it exists in an alternate chemical form and is processed easier and and sent directly to your liver to be converted to energy.

Approximately two-thirds of coconut oil consists of Medium Chain Triglycerides. These MCTs are comprised of lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid. These essential fatty acids and their corresponding monoglycerides are powerful antimicrobial agents and are effective against a wide range of pathologic bacteria, viruses, fungi, and yeasts.

Research has shown that the type of fat found in coconut oil speeds up metabolic function, and therefore is a calorie burner. As long as you eat the correct types of saturated fats in moderation, such as coconut oil (and avocado oil), your health will maintain its proper levels of calorie intake per day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Calcium and Health

Are you getting enough calcium in your diet? Don't rely on pasteurized dairy as a reliable source for obtaining enough calcium. Pasteurized dairy actually causes current stores of calcium in the bone to be leeched out. Because pasteurized dairy has been heated up to destroy "bad" bacteria, beneficial nutrients, proteins, and enzymes are denatured and rendered harmful to the body and do not properly absorb. Good sources for calcium include:
  • Almonds
  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach, bok choy, kale and Chinese Mustard greens, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli
  • Fish such as salmon (wild caught from Alaska) and deep-sea sources like sardines and anchovies
  • Raw dairy products such as milk, cream, butter, and cheese
Most people do not receive adequate calcium in their daily diets and should consider taking a supplement. Use caution when taking calcium as it also must be accompanied by a magnesium component for proper balance and absorption. Selection of good products is important because many are inferior and won't provide the right type of calcium needed. Calcium citrate is the optimal chemical composition of calcium. Check labels on products.

Try Solaray or Lifetime liquid calcium supplements. Liquid is great for children and has a pleasant taste. Check with a qualified health care practitioner or at a health food store to find out which calcium supplement is ideal for you and your individual health. As always, when you are choosing supplements, the condition of your digestive system is critical to determine what you need to take. If your digestion is damaged, like most people in developed countries, you will need different type of supplementation than a person whose digestive tract is healthy. Always take calcium at night for maximum absorption, and before or after a meal is ideal.

Beware of "fortified" and processed foods claiming to contain high amounts of calcium. These "foods" are dangerous to consume and won't provide proper nutrients to your body. Watch out for the following:
  • Pasteurized, low-fat and non-fat milks and dairy products (cheese, yogurt, etc.)
  • Orange juice
  • Soy milk

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Some Facts About Milk

Do you wonder where your milk comes from? Why do dairies pasteurize milk? Here is an interesting story as found on the Organic Pastures web site:

"In the 1800s, many US dairies began commercially producing low quality raw milk in the inner cities of Boston and New York and others. These Brewery dairies would feed their cows very poor quality "brewer's mash." The resulting milk was very weak and nearly blue from lack of protein, mineral, and fat content. This occurred during the Jamaican rum embargo. During this same time period, the dairy industry did not use or have access to refrigeration, stainless steel, milking machines, rubber hoses, hot water, or chlorine as a sanitizer. TB and Brucellosis were rampant (not to mention horse manure on the streets, flies, and lack of public sanitation and sewage) and the cows were milked by hand without mechanical machines. The cows stood in manure and there was no access to pasture (sounds like some factory dairy farms of 2005). The resulting unhealthy milk from these sources literally killed millions. The heating of milk to high temperatures reduced this horrible blight. During this same time period, milk from the countryside taken from pasture grazed healthy and clean cows was the best medicine of the day. In fact, the Mayo Clinic used this high quality country raw milk as a basis for many disease curing therapies.

This was the untold story of raw milk. Because of pasteurization successes, commercial interests prevailed and all dairies (the good, bad, and the ugly) then began to pool their milk so that "nobody would die," even if milk quality was very poor. This was great news for milk mass marketing, and creameries created high profits. These pasteurization practices continue today with the chief benefit being extended shelf life. These modern dead milk products now cause allergies and lactose intolerance to huge sectors of the population. Current (PMO) Federal standards for pasteurized milk permit 100,000 bacteria per ml for milk going to be pasteurized with as many as 20,000 injured or living bacteria to be alive after pasteurization, and this may include pathogens (this is arguably the reason why milk is pasteurized). California standards for raw milk require that milk sold for raw consumption have fewer than 15,000 live bacteria per ml and no pathogens. Organic Pastures Dairy averages about 1500 beneficial living bacteria per ml (and never a human pathogen)."

To learn more about the amazing benefits to your family of raw milk and raw milk products, visit Organic Pastures.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gallstones and Your Health

Do you suffer from gallbladder pain or gallstones? Many doctors suggest eating a so-called "low-fat" diet and if trouble persists, having the gallbladder removed (cholecystectomy). Doctors also tell patients that gallstones usually cannot be avoided, but actually, this is not the case. The gallbladder has long been thought to be an organ we can live without, but research shows that removal of this important organ can actually lead to health issues including diarreah from constant bile dripping into the small intestine which can lead to colon and bowel cancer.

It is true that gallstones develop over many years' time. Gallstones are a result of eating poorly and are caused by a buildup of unwanted substance and toxins from the diet. Lifestyle habits are the best deterrent against gallstone development as well as many other illnesses and diseases. Here are some tips if you are sufferer of chronic gallbladder episodes:
  • Make an appointment to see a qualified health care practitioner that knows how to treat gallstones holistically. He or she can recommend the proper dietary supplements necessary to bring your gallbladder back to health. In many cases, a malfunctioning gallbladder is a result of improper diet and lack of necessary nutrients in the diet to keep the gallbladder functioning properly.
  • Eat a healthy diet with healthy fats - whole dairy, natural, grass-fed meats and poultry that do not contain hormones, antibiotics, or chemicals, and safe choice fish.
  • Eat plenty of organic vegetables, fruits, and raw foods.
  • Make sure to maintain adequate levels of purified water daily.
  • Maintain a consistent schedule of moderate exercise - such as walking briskly or cycling 4 to 5 times a week. Exercise helps maintain healthy insulin levels and benefits your pancreas, liver, and gallbladder by helping to regulate blood sugar levels and metabolic rates.
  • Many gallbladder "cleanses" and flushes are useful in eliminating gallbladder issues. To learn more about these activities, visit Sensible Health. It is recommended to consult a knowledgeable health care practitioner to guide you through this process and to use the correct type of flush.
  • Remember that low-fat and non-fat foods and dietary habits will cause failure of the gallbladder.
For more information about gallstone problems, visit Alternative Medicine and Health.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Spirituality and Health

Do you have some type of spirituality in your life? Evidence suggests that adhering to some type of spiritual belief system is beneficial to health. "Spirituality can affect the physical and emotional health of patients in quite significant ways," said Dr. Harold G. Koenig, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center.

Spirituality is defined as the way you find meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace in your life. Many people find spirituality through religion. Some find it through music, art or a connection with nature. Others find it in their values and principles.

It is unknown how spirituality affects health, but many people believe the spirit, mind, and body are intimately connected. When you tap into that connection, you can be in tune with your body more effectively and alter your state of health merely through activities that are spiritual in nature such as prayer, meditation, and similar exercises.

You may or may not be able to cure an illness, but efforts spent improving spiritual health can actually help you feel better, prevent various health problems, and help you and family members or friends deal more positively with with death, disease, and stress.

Learn to identify and cultivate hings in life which promote comfort and peace for you individually. Make time each day to participate in a few minutes up to an hour or so of time spent engaged in one of these activities whether it be solitary or with a group. Here are some ideas:
  • Nature walks
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Attending services
  • Yoga
  • Reading inspirational material
  • Deep breathing
For more information on how you can explore your spirituality as related to health, visit Spirituality & Health

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Improving Your Sleep Habits

Do you stay up late at night to try and get some personal time? Personal time is important, but so is a good night's sleep. If you are staying up all hours of the night and then dragging yourself out of bed the next day to get to work, school, or other obligations, perhaps it's time to change your habits.

Instead of going out late at night or watching television, try winding down quietly at home with some relaxing music and low lights. Read a book for fifteen minutes, have some herbal tea, and then settle into bed before it gets to be much past 10:00 p.m. Make certain your room is well-ventilated and completely dark. If you have trouble falling asleep try turning on your radio for five minutes to a station that plays classical music and lying quietly. Breathe deep and move all thoughts of things you have to accomplish tomorrow out of your mind. Relax your muscles and get into a comfortable position. Don't forget to turn off your radio before falling asleep. Nighty-night!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reduce Your Grain Intake

The Food Pyramid recommends eating 5 - 11 servings of grains daily. But did you know that consuming this amount of grains on a regular basis can actually be harmful to your health? Here's why:

The consumption of grains in modern society is vastly different from how people in the historical past have eaten. Grains are not the same as they once were; grains have been bio-engineered to contain higher levels of gluten, and thus contain less protein. Gluten causes health reactions in many people, and because grains and grain products are so ubiquitous in our food supply stores and our culture as a whole, we are finding these intolerances to be more and more pervasive. The lower ratios of protein to carbs and the frequency with which we eat these substances has caused a fundamental shift in what our bodies are getting out of this food. Grains -- and in particular, the processed varieties that most of us eat on a daily basis -- are chock full of Omega 6 essential fatty acids - so much that we are overloaded on this EFA and the result has been heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and an array of other health issues. We are not getting enough of the the balancing Omega 3s in our diets because we are eating more grains, and less grass-fed meats which contain proper amounts of this EFA.

Another important health consideration is that grains are high on the glycemic index, which causes the digestive system and especially the pancreas to work harder. The more this continual strain is placed on the pancreas and liver to process these high amounts of carbohydrates, the greater the risk of developing insulin resistance and eventually Diabetes. Diets rich in complex carbohydrates such as fresh, organic produce, healthy, grass-fed meats and poultry, and small amounts of healthy, whole, sprouted grains are most beneficial to health.

To learn more about why eating grains can harm health, visit: Your Hub, Denver and Dr. Mercola.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Healthy Alternatives to Soda Pop?

How much soda pop do you drink? What about your children? Soda pop received the boot from school vending machines, but watch out because the beverage industry has only replaced the revenue they lost out on from eliminating soda with sports drinks such as Gatorade and “enhanced” VitaminWater. The companies who make these beverages, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, have spent a fortune billing them as “healthy.” However, advocates for informed public health argue that the content in these beverages of high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, and sodium should easily place them in the same category as the soda drinks and disqualify them from being stocked in vending machines.

Children will drink these beverages because they are sweet and are made popular by advertising and marketing. Children won't think twice about the fact that these drinks are not any healthier than their fizzy counterparts -- they'll just pop the coins in the machines and drink up. It's unfortunate that companies are not required to tell the truth on their products, or even worse, that they are allowed to sell such items in the first place. It is products like this and many others that are leading to the decline in our health -- and the worst part is that it is helping to set up our children for lifelong health problems including Diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

The human body needs water - and a lot of it. If you weigh 100 pounds, you should drink half of your weight in ounces each day -- so 50 ounces total. If you are currently not drinking enough water, you should work your way up gradually to avoid kidney trouble. Here are some ways to keep your child away from these dangerous drinks:
  1. Help your children stay away from sugary, chemical-filled drinks by not purchasing these products to have in your home.
  2. Limit as much as possible the amount of drinks like these your child has outside the home. If you can, pack your child's lunch. Send only water to school.
  3. When your son or daughter goes to family or friend's houses and you are not together, let your friends and family members know that you don't want your child to consume sugary drinks (except on rare occasions).
  4. Encourage your child to drink water when he or she is away from home and not under your supervision.
  5. Have conversations with school staff about removing these drinks from vending machines if they are available in your child's school. Get involved locally to help change requirements about what's served at school.
For more information about sports drinks and sodas, visit the Doc Shop.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Children and Diesel Exhaust Exposure

Have you considered the risk to your child's health when exposed to diesel exhaust? Clean School Bus USA is a program designed to reduce exposure received by children to exhaust from diesel-fueled buses, and the amount of air pollution created by these vehicles buses. Consider this:

  • 24 million American children ride school buses daily
  • Students spend, on average, about an hour and-a- half each day in a school bus
  • School buses drive more than 4 billion miles each year

The safest transportation method for children to get to and from school are school buses. But pollution emitted from older diesel vehicles has serious health risks for everyone, especially children. Children have smaller bodies and absorb greater amounts of the chemical as compared to adults. Reducing pollution from public school buses should be a priority, and if a concerted effort is made by all we can assure that school buses are also a clean way for children to travel to and from school. By aligning partners from from education, business, public-health, and transportation organizations, Clean School Bus USA is working toward the following goals:

Diesel exhaust can exacerbate health conditions such as asthma, allergies, and respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and sinusitus.
What can you do to help?
  • Limit the amount of time children are spent on buses and waiting for them outside of idling vehicles
  • If your child must ride a bus, encourage he or she to sit toward the front of the bus, if possible. Less exposure to carcinogens occurs toward the front of the bus.
  • Talk to bus driver and administrative staff at your school to encourage that vehicles are turned off while waiting for children to load.
  • Request that your school district to replace diesel buses with alternative-fuel buses
  • Write to your congressman or woman about these issues and get involved locally
  • Ride your bike to school or walk with your child to save gas and cut down on air pollution
What are some good alternatives to diesel-powered buses? Vehicles using compressed natural gas and propane are much cleaner and just as reliable, and these are used pervasively for city transportation. More school districts everywhere are switching to these types of vehicles. As research on alternative fuels and technologies increases, additional alternatives -- including battery or fuel-cell-powered buses and vehicles using a mixture of batteries and fuel -- may be coming soon.

For more information, see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Watercress and Lung Cancer

Watercress? Yes indeed! Consuming a bowl daily of this fantastic relative of the mustard green family could lower your risk of lung cancer according to John La Puma, MD, author of ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine.

Research reveals that among smokers and nonsmokers, those who regularly consumed approximately a cereal-bowl's worth of fresh watercress daily for 8 weeks showed lower levels of DNA damage to white blood cells. Smokers experienced the most marked change. According to La Puma, the isothiocyanates in watercress have a powerful effect of supressing a potent cancer-causing agent found in tobacco. And like many greens, watercress has extremely high nutritional content. This fabulous plant is loaded with vitamins and necessary minerals such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and lutein, as well as mustard oil.

Best sources for watercress? Try your local food growers and merchants in places such as the farmer's markets. Also look for watercress in health food stores.

Here is a great recipe for Watercress Salad. Here is another for Avocado and Watercress Salad. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Avoid Excessive Drinking

Do you consume more than one alcoholic beverage a day? If so, you may be at risk for increasing your chances of developing liver or kidney disease or cancer. One a day is fine (two for men), but anything beyond that can cause health problems.

In addition, alcoholic binge drinking has been connected to sugar addiction. Alcoholic beverages contain high amounts of processed carbohydrates and studies show that children who consistently eat poor diets and are nutritionally deficient in younger years are more likely to develop alcoholic habits and tendencies during adolescence and young adult years.

For more information about alcohol and the sugar connection, visit Agriculture Society and read our article that was featured in the October 2007 issue of Healthy Beginnings magazine.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Best Bets for Eating Out

Eating out can be expensive, and is often unhealthy. There is never any way to control all the ingredients of food when eating out – simply because you are not the one selecting food for the meals. Now there are more and more restaurants who serve organic and natural foods. But by and large, most restaurant owners have a bottom line to consider – the cost of running their business. As such, most of the food they purchase for their restaurants will be the variety that is not as high quality as you would choose for meals at home. In fact, much of what you will eat at restaurants contains ingredients that are incredibly unhealthy to eat. The reason for this is that foods which have the longest shelf life will probably be staples in a restaurant for maximization of profits.

One of the things you will absolutely have to give up if you are going to eat a truly healthy diet is fast-food restaurants. Fast-food restaurants are the bottom of the barrel, no matter how much they try to convince you with clever marketing that they have changed many of their menu items to healthier choices. Fast food restaurants are infamous for using fillers, chemicals, hydrogenated oils and altered fats, and unnaturally high does of sugar and carbohydrates.

Many other restaurants serve plenty of fast-food type fare, so choosing menu items for those who are accustomed to eating these types of items may be difficult at first. Do not be fooled by media advertising used by fast-food chains to entice you to eat their food…they use all kinds of buzz words such as “healthy”, “fresh”, and “natural” when in reality, the ingredients they use are probably the worst possible selections you might come across and many of them are processed. Anything processed should be a red flag for health. Many of these foods contain toxic ingredients that can actually cause allergic reactions and a variety of health issues. Here are some unhealthy choices available at restaurants when eating out:
  • Hamburger and hot dog buns (and often the meat inside those buns)
  • Bagels
  • Pita Breads
  • French fries
  • Pasta
  • Focaccia breads
  • Potato chips, tortilla chips (corn and flour)
  • Flour and corn tortillas
  • Tater Tots
  • Many soups - as they can contain hydrogenated oils, damaged fats, flour, and chemicals
  • Meats and/or poultry full of chemicals, steroids, nitrates, or hormones
  • Salad dressings - most dressings are horribly unhealthy, but if you can get olive oil and vinegar you are good to go. It is very common for restaurants to use soybean oil or canola oil in vinagrette dressings.
  • Dairy products
Of course, you don't often know the source of foods you eat in restaurants. Because finding this information out is time consuming and most people don't want to bother, you can avoid overloading your body with more toxins and chemicals than necessary by sticking to the following foods, when possible. Naturally raised meats are harder to come by, but are becoming more and more common:
  • Beef, naturally raised(grass-fed)
  • Potatoes and some rice (brown, basmati, and wild are the best)
  • All Vegetables and fruits, either raw, baked, roasted, sauteed, or steamed - salads or cooked
  • Meatloaf (without bread)
  • Roasted chicken, naturally raised (pasture-raised)
  • Healthy fish
  • Roasted turkey, naturally raised (pasture-raised)
  • Ham, bacon, or pork naturally raised with no nitrates
  • Lamb (grass-fed)
  • Wild game meats
  • Raw Vegetables and cooked vegetables (salads and otherwise)
  • Naturally produced dairy products
  • Salad dressings that are oil and vinegar-based - if in doubt, ask about what type of oil they are using
If you are going to eat out, simply avoiding any fast-food selections at all is your best bet. There are plenty of other choices that are both healthier to consume and taste better.

Best choices at restaurants are always proteins such as meat, fish, and eggs. If meat is organic and grass-fed, that’s a plus. Fish selections that are wild are usually superior to farmed, although in some cases farmed can be acceptable. For a pocket-guide to safe fish choices, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium site. Although not always the case, local and independent establishments tend to use locally-produced foods more than chains. If you eat at a local restaurant, you are much more likely to find local foods on the menu than at restaurants such as Red Robin, Olive Garden, or Johnny Carino’s.

Nearly any type of vegetable besides french fries, hashbrowns, or tater tots is a good choice. Even a baked potato or mashed potatoes are fine in moderation. A good rule of thumb is to try and eat raw vegetables at every meal, but a variety of raw and cooked is good as well. This may seem like a limited selection, but there really are many choices you can make at restaurants that will allow you to stay within your lifestyle goals.

Unless noted (which is rare), most dairy is a bad idea to consume in restaurants because they use the cheapest variety they can find, which means the milk, cream, butter, cheese, sour cream, and other items are pasteurized, low or non-fat, and probably full of antibiotics, steroids, other chemicals, and hormones. The best type of dressing you can get on a salad is oil and vinegar, such as most types of vinaigrette (some may contain undesirable oils such as soybean, cottonseed, or canola; if in doubt, ask). Although some vinaigrettes contain unhealthy oils, Ranch, thousand island, blue cheese, and other similar dressings are also loaded with these oils, processed dairy, sugar, and chemicals that you’ll want to avoid.

A good way to have an impact over what foods restaurants serve where you eat is to make comments to the staff and even talk to the manager or owner. Tell them that you'd like to see healthier choices on their menu and would especially like to have offered healthy, local, and organic choices as well.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Read Labels!

Do you often see the word "organic" on products you purchase? Beware, that even when something states that it is "natural", "healthy", or "organic", often, these products may actually not be any healthier for you than their conventional counterparts.

Many products, such as crackers, cereals, fruit snacks, candies, desserts, breads, chips, and related items are just as unhealthy to consume as those manufactured with toxic ingredients. For example, a box of "organic" cereal can contain as much sugar, fillers or other ingredients such as soy, dairy, or nuts that have been processed in an unhealthy manner, and are not any healthier to eat. Read labels. If you are in doubt, don't purchase the item.

Eating "organic" cereal in place of Fruit Loops or Cocoa Puffs may very well not be better for your body because a majority of those cereals still contain processed ingredients that are unnatural, sugar, and allergens. Instead, try eating eggs with sprouted grain toast and real, raw butter and some fruit. Vegetables are a great and nutritious addition to eggs in the morning and are especially tasty with some salsa. Try switching from your normal breakfast of sugar, chemicals, and carbohydrates to a meal with real food and see what a difference it makes.