Don’t give up on organic food, our experts urge

Don’t give up on organic food, our experts urge

Sep 5, 2012 10:30 AM

A new review of previous research on organic food is getting a lot of media attention for concluding that the published literature “lacks strong evidence” that organic food is significantly more nutritious than conventionally grown food. But news reports covering the findings may be oversimplifying or distorting what the study really found, according to our in-house experts, and consumers shouldn’t be misled into believing that there isn’t a benefit to paying more for organics, particularly for certain populations.

The review, conducted by researchers at Stanford University, was a meta-analysis of data from 240 studies comparing organically grown versus conventionally grown food. Seventeen of the studies were done in humans; the rest looked just at the foods themselves. The researchers looked at three main variables: health outcomes, nutrient levels, and levels of contaminants, including pesticide residues. They concluded that “the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods,” though consuming them “may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

But the study has serious limitations, several of which the authors acknowledge. Among them:

The analysis included plenty of studies that did find a nutritional benefit to eating organic food, such as higher levels of phosphorous and phenols (a type of antioxidant compound) in organic produce and more omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk and chicken. Some other studies weren’t able to identify a benefit, meaning the findings overall were heterogeneous, or mixed—which is very different from “no benefit” across the board.

Only three of the 17 human studies in the analysis looked at health outcomes, and two of those focused on allergies in children—an odd metric for comparing organic to conventional diets, since there’s no reason that organic diets should correlate with fewer allergies. “That isn’t part of what organic food production even is and it isn’t surprising to learn there may not be any difference” in the rates of allergies between children who eat organically and those who don’t, says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of consumer safety and sustainability for Consumer Reports, adding that it was interesting that the authors also found one study that did suggest a benefit, for childhood eczema.

It could take many years for the cumulative effects of pesticide buildup in the body from eating conventionally grown food to show up. Cancer risks, for example, are calculated over long periods of exposure to carcinogens. The human studies in the Stanford analysis lasted at most two years.

The study downplays the importance of the prohibition of antibiotics in organic agriculture, which can help counter the serious public-health problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Such bacteria have increased greatly in prevalence in recent years, possibly due to the routine use of antibiotics in conventionally raised farm animals. Indeed, the meta-analysis determined that conventionally produced chicken and pork had a 33 percent higher risk for bacteria that’s known to be resistant to at least three antibiotics.

The perception of better nutrition is only one reason that people might choose to eat organically. Even if the research in that area remains murky, it’s clear that organic diets provide less exposure to pesticides and antibiotics, two potential safety benefits, and that organic agriculture is better for the environment. A nationally representative poll of Americans conducted by Consumer Reports earlier this year found that 86 percent want their local supermarkets to carry meat raised without antibiotics, and the majority said they’d be willing to pay extra for that feature.

“Organic was meant as a healthier way of farming that is good for the environment—and that has been proven true,” Rangan says. “Fewer pesticides and antibiotics, 100% organic animal feed (which cannot have poultry litter and other animal byproducts), hygiene management on the farm: These are all healthier practices for the environment and in some cases, humans too. In fact, we are learning more and more about the benefits that organic farming and sustainable agricultural practices can have on the health of people.”

Bottom line: We stand by our long-held advice. It’s worth it to buy organic versions of the foods that are likely to have the highest levels of pesticides when grown conventionally, as well as organic poultry and milk, to reduce exposure to antibiotics. Those choices are especially important for pregnant women and children.

via Don’t give up on organic food, our experts urge.

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One Small Change: Eat Better and Eat More at the Same Time | Healthy Eats

One Small Change: Eat Better and Eat More at the Same Time

by jmachowsky in Healthy TipsComments (3)

Ever wonder how some people can just eat  all day and never gain weight? While some are just born with a naturally high metabolism (thank your parents), the vast majority of us frequent eaters must choose foods that give us the nutrients and energy we need to function throughout the day for less calories.

Notice it’s not about less food, but less calories. “Nutrient density” represents a food’s nutrient bang for its calorie buck. Understanding nutrient density and learning how to choose nutrient dense foods is the key to eating better . . . and more.

An example: Let’s say you want a snack. Consider one of these three options:

A candy bar

A low-fat yogurt, medium peach and a few almonds

15 baby carrots, a whole 10 oz. package of cherry tomatoes, a full bunch of celery and a couple tablespoons of hummus or low-fat dressing

You could eat the first option very easily and possibly still be hungry (or crash) an hour later. You’d probably be satisfied with the second.  How about the third option, sound like a bit much? Sound like it’s impossible to eat at one sitting? That’s the point.

All three of these snacks have one thing in common: the calories; each has about 250-275.  But the second two options provide you with a lot more food to eat than the first. Which means you can eat a bunch more throughout the day and have the same or fewer calories. And when you eat fewer calories than you burn, you lose weight.

Furthermore, nutrient dense foods provide you with tons of nutrients (i.e. water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc.) that help keep you full and prevent you from “crashing” during the day. And you get to eat more of them every few hours to boot. You can truly never go hungry again, as long as you choose the right foods.

So what are the most nutrient dense foods?  That’s right, fruits and veggies (maybe the example gave it away?).  For some of my clients, our initial goal is to eat more fruits and veggies, rather than eliminating any foods. By eating more produce, you will likely eat better anyways since they:

Displace other, higher-calorie foods from your diet.

Leave more food over at meals because you got full sooner.

Are less affected by temptations and cravings since the fruits and veggies help stabilize your blood sugars and reduce hunger pangs.

Even if you don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables all the time, ask yourself at every meal: “What can I get more nutrients in for fewer calories?” Sometimes it’s as simple as ordering a leaner cut of meat or getting a baked potato without as much butter, sour cream or bacon.

My challenge to you: For the next month, have at least one fruit- or vegetable-based snack every day. Some example would be celery and hummus, an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter, carrots and low-fat dressing or low-fat yogurt with some berries.

Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, author of Savor Fitness & Nutrition wellness blog and avid proponent of MyBodyTutor, a health coaching website dedicated to helping people stay consistent with their healthy eating and exercise goals.

via One Small Change: Eat Better and Eat More at the Same Time | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog.

6 reasons to give up diet soda | Well+Good NYC

Do you have a dirty little dietary secret? And is it called Diet Coke?

For lots of healthy types, the frequently stated fact that Diet Coke might be “empty calories” actually goes down just fine compared to office cupcakes, which they’re not regularly scarfing.

And reaching for a diet soda fits nicely into the “allowable-exceptions” category of a healthy New York lifestyle. You know, along with a glass of Sancerre, the occasional dinner at Eataly, and watching the Real Housewives.

But should you allow Diet Coke a free pass? (Ditto: Housewives.)

Studies abound that caution against drinking diet soda

While sipping diet soda seems harmless, especially in the context of a generally healthy life, a surprising number of substantial studies show the opposite, that drinking Diet Coke and Aspartame can greatly interfere with your health.

As Dr. Helen Hazuda, professor of medicine at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, found last year, “[Diet soda] may be free of calories, but not of consequences.” And she wasn’t talking about the caffeine.

Interpreting the data of two studies, Dr. Hazuda pointed out that it caused a blood sugar spike in mice, and suggested that diet sodas may inhibit the signal that tells you when you’re full.

Here are 6 more reasons to give up diet soda:

1. It messes with your skin. Diet Coke lowers your pH levels, which can cause acne, and zap you of radiance. We need a high level of alkalinity for our bodies to be healthy and expressed in our glowing complexion, explains Dr. Jeanette Graf, author of Stop Aging, Start Living: The Revolutionary 2-Week pH Diet. As Dr. Graf told us recently, “If there’s one thing you should never consume, it’s soda. Soda is an extreme acid-forming substance which will lower your pH level dramatically.”

2. It alters your mood. The mood-food connection is ever-rising, and Aspartame in Diet Coke can really do a doozey on those with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Aspartame is also on an EPA list of potentially dangerous chemicals contributing to neurotoxicity, right under Arsenic. So that’s kind of saying it could alter your brain, too.

3. Weight gain and belly fat. Ironically, we actually gain weight from Diet Coke. Two servings or more a day increases waistline by 500%, found two 2011 studies conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

4. It causes diabetes and heart disease. When waist circumference (belly fat) increases, this contributes to diabetes and heart disease, which a 2010 study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine confirmed.

5. It makes your kidneys sluggish. Diet soda may interfere with the kidneys, found the Harvard Nurse’s Study, which reported a 30% drop in kidney function with just two servings of diet soda each day.

6. Aspartame’s been linked to cancer. A lot. Aspartame is “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA while substantial data has shown its link to cancer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) cautions against Aspartame because it’s poorly tested, and contains three well-recognized neurotoxins. Aspartame was found to increase cancer risk if exposure begins in the womb, reported a study at the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center. And various studies have linked lymphoma and tumors in rats. And beware the BPA of cans and caramel coloring, reports Grist.

Kind of takes the fizz out of it, right?

Do the best experiment out there—the one on your own body. We dare you to lower your soda intake for a week and see if you notice any changes in skin, weight, or mood. Report back in the Comments! —Jennifer Kass and Melisse Gelula

via 6 reasons to give up diet soda | Well+Good NYC.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List

Personal note – while I post about reducing pesticides and GMOs in your diet, and I do try myself, I can’t say I’m perfect. Still I think it’s good to have these things in the back of your mind. For me I’m moving slowly with the change as I find ways that work for myself.

by Elizabeth Renter

Genetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environment, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear of these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try to find other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, it’s non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer’s markets where you can be ensured that the crops aren’t GMO. Even better, if you are so inclined: Start organic gardening and grow them yourself. Until then, here are the top 10 worst GMO foods for your “do not eat” GMO foods list.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List

1. Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you’ve watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. “As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn,” and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto’s GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.

2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, there was 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate sprayed on soybeans alone.

3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, genetically-modified sugar beets were introduced to the U.S. market in 2009. Like others, they’ve been modified by Monsanto to resist herbicides. Monsanto has even had USDA and court-related issues with the planting of it’s sugarbeets, being ordered to remove seeds from the soil due to illegal approval.

4. Aspartame: Aspartame is a toxic additive used in numerous food products, and should be avoided for numerous reasons, including the fact that it is created with genetically modified bacteria.

5. Papayas: This one may come as a surprise to all of you tropical-fruit lovers. GMO papayas have been grown in Hawaii for consumption since 1999. Though they can’t be sold to countries in the European Union, they are welcome with open arms in the U.S. and Canada.

6. Canola: One of the most chemically altered foods in the U.S. diet, canola oil is obtained from rapeseed through a series of chemical actions.

7. Cotton: Found in cotton oil, cotton originating in India and China in particular has serious risks.

8. Dairy: Your dairy products may contain growth hormones, since as many as one-fifth of all dairy cows in America are pumped with these hormones. In fact, Monasnto’s health-hazardous rBGH has been banned in 27 countries, but is still in most US cows. If you must drink milk, buy organic.

9. and 10. Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Closely related, these two squash varieties are modified to resist viruses.

The dangers of some of these foods are well-known. The Bt toxin being used in GMO corn, for example, was recently detected in the blood of pregnant women and their babies. But perhaps more frightening are the risks that are still unknown.

With little regulation and safety tests performed by the companies doing the genetic modifications themselves, we have no way of knowing for certain what risks these lab-created foods pose to us outside of what we already know.

The best advice: steer clear of them altogether.

via Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List.

Nutrition For Skin Collagen | LIVESTRONG.COM

Had a fun question about nutrition and skin collagen. While we haven’t learned about that yet in my classes, I thought this was an interesting article about it.

Nutrition For Skin Collagen | LIVESTRONG.COM

Photo Credit Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

Collagen is the elastic-like fibers that make up the dermis, the layer of skin underneath the topmost layer of skin. Certain factors, such as aging, smoking and lack of sleep, can cause the collagen to break down. This results in sagging skin and wrinkles. Fortunately, positive nutrition choices can help improve and rebuild collagen.

EAT MORE FISH

The Good Housekeeping website suggests eating more cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. These types of fish contain large amounts of protein, which makes up collagen. In addition, cold-water fish contain a fatty acid called omega-3. This fatty acid helps boost collagen production, helping it to stay plump and improving the texture of the skin. For maximum benefits, eat at least two servings of cold-water fish per week.

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WATCH WHAT YOU DRINK

Dr. Albert Kligman in the book “Prevention’s Healing with Vitamins” explains that alcoholic beverages can actually dehydrate the skin, damaging collagen and causing skin irritation, wrinkles and puffiness. Instead, concentrate on drinking at least four glasses of water every day. If you are exercising or sweating heavily, drink more water. Staying hydrated can replenish the skin’s moisture, helping collagen to sustain any damage caused by poor dietary choices or daily environmental exposure.

EAT SOY

Add more soy to your diet. Soy can be found in a variety of products such as meat substitutes, cheese products, beverages, shakes, cereals and nutrition bars. Soy contains an isoflavone called genistein. Genistein can not only help boost collagen production, it can help block the enzymes that attack and break it down. In addition, soy products can help improve collagen that was damaged by aging or excessive sun exposure.

EAT VITAMIN-C RICH FOODS

Vitamin-C rich foods, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, red bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, oranges and other citrus fruits, are essential to collagen. These types of foods can help rebuild and maintain collagen, helping to reduce signs of aging. Vitamin C is especially important if you smoke. This is because cigarette smoke tends to deplete the body of vitamin C, break down collagen and promoting wrinkles and other skin problems.

via Nutrition For Skin Collagen | LIVESTRONG.COM.

Some basics on Vitamin A…

Moving into the fat soluble vitamins which are A, D, E and K. They differ in many ways, but the most important is that because they are stored in our liver and fat tissue our bodies will pull from storage if we don’t get them any given day. The negative to this is that because they are stored the risk of toxicity is greater than water-soluble vitamins and also you can go sometimes years without knowing you have a deficit.

There are three forms of vitamin A – retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. Beta carotein is a precursor to vitamin A.

Its major roles in the body are: vision (maintains your cornea); protein synthesis and cell differentiation (helps maintain your epithelial tissues which include things like your skin and GI tract and glands. Epithelial tissues are on all body surfaces – inside and out) and supports reproduction and bone and tooth growth.

Some deficiency symptoms are night blindness, corneal drying and a host of other cornea problems until blindness; and impaired immunity.

Toxicity can lead to reduced bone density, liver abnormalities and birth defects.

Sources: fortified milk and milk products, eggs, liver, dark leafy greens, vegetables (squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin), deep orange fruits (cantaloupe, apricots)

Experimentation time! Beets…

20120801-111050.jpgSo in honor of finally making it to my local green market, I decided to pick up a vegetable I’d never prepared before – but love – beets.

Apparently they’re one of those “power” foods. Here’s why:

  • high in vitamin C, potassium, niacin, pantothenic acid, and B-6.
  • Raw beets are high in folates
  • low in calories
  • contain phytonutrients which provide antioxidants and help inflammation
  • recent studies have shown regularly consuming them can shrink tumors
  • some great other facts found here
  • Also their greens have great nutrition too! (next step for me will be figuring out what to do with those…)

So since I’m new to cooking beets I decided to go easy!

  • I cut off the tops of the beets, coated with olive oil and tossed into the oven at 425 for 40 minutes or until tender. (I had no idea what that meant, so I poked mine with a knife and it went in easily.)
  • Let cool, rub off skin (I used latex gloves. Don’t need red hands at my shoot tomorrow…)
  • and chop into cubes. Voila!  From there I’ve seen recipes saying to splash with lemon juice or toss in some goat cheese or feta. Have fun with it. (yeah I really just said to have fun with beets…)
  • Ps – it’s jack russell approved. 

Dietary Fiber: Insoluble and Soluble Fiber

What’s the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?

Insoluble fiber stays mostly intact in your GI tract, adding bulk and pushing things along. Helps prevent diverticulitis. (Little pouches int he lining of your GI tract that can collect food)

Sources: whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and turns into a gel (ever try Metamucil and let it sit for more than 10 seconds?) The gel slows down digestion and makes you feel fuller. It also helps blood sugar levels and aids in reducing cholesterol. 

Sources: oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.

How much? 

The USDA currently recommends about 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories a day.

Daily Vitamins – don’t over do it – Women’s Health Magazine

Daily Vitamins: Don’t Overload Your System

Dietary supplements are easy to overdo, make sure you know the proper dosage

At the rate vitamins and minerals are being added to food, it won’t be long until fortified Jelly Bellys hit the market—oh wait, they already have. The National Institutes of Health warns of the dangers of too many vitamins. “Quite a few people who take a multivitamin and eat a healthy diet are getting twice what they need,” says Diane Birt, Ph.D., director of the Center for Research on Botanical Dietary Supplements at Iowa State University. And that can be dangerous.

Here are five nutrients people often get too much of. Check out the dosage you’re getting from the fortified foods you eat and the vitamins you take and make sure your intake falls within the recommended range for dietary supplements<.

Calcium

RDA 1,000 mg

Top Limit 2,500 mg

The risk Watch out for calcium-fortified Tums or calcium-fortified chocolates. Too much calcium can lead to kidney stones, calcium deposits in your arteries, and, ironically, weakened bones. That’s because an excess of calcium prevents absorption of other nutrients necessary for bone health, such as magnesium, says Mark Woodin, Sc.D., professor of epidemiology and environmental health at Tufts University in Boston.

Beta-Carotene

Recommended daily amount (RDA) not established

Top Limit not established

The risk Smokers (and inhalers of secondhand smoke) beware: When beta-carotene taken in supplement form mixes with cigarette smoke, it changes from an antioxidant that wards off cancer to a harmful pro-oxidant that ups the risk of lung cancer. Get the nutrient through foods like carrots and sweet potatoes rather than pills.

Iron

RDA 18 mg

Top Limit 45 mg

The risk Studies show that high blood levels of iron (found in meats, spinach, lentils, and soybeans) may be a risk factor for heart disease. Iron also competes with important minerals like copper for absorption in the body, says Roberta Anding, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Vitamin A

RDA 700 mcg

Top Limit 3,000 mcg

The risk Too much vitamin A can cause liver problems, diminished bone density, and birth defects, says Martha Belury, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at The Ohio State University. Since you get the vitamin A you need through foods like milk, eggs, carrots, and peppers, a supplement isn’t necessary.

Zinc

RDA 8 mg

Top Limit 40 mg

The risk An overdose of zinc can lead to upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle spasms. It isn’t hard to max out when some lozenges for cold relief deliver between 46 and 50 milligrams a day, according to ConsumerLab, an independent firm that verifies commercial claims.

via Nutritional Supplements: Dietary Supplement Guidelines | Women’s Health Magazine.

Some basics: on vitamin C

Roles:

  • as an antioxidant. It loses electrons which are taken up by free radicals and stabilizes them. (which can lower your risk of cancer)
  • Helps in iron absorption
  • helps in collagen production – which most of us know is in our skin, but it’s also a structure in your teeth and bones that calcium and other minerals lay on top of.
  • During times of stress on the body – infection, injury, your boss breathing down your neck and spiking your cortisol – your immune cells use more oxygen, which produces free radicals to demolish offending viruses and bacteria. Vitamin C helps neutralize extra free radicals, so you do need more during these times.

Recommendations:

  • 200 mg at a time. The rest is flushed out.
  • Sources: fruits and veggies but especially dark green veggies (bell peppers, kale and broccoli), strawberries and citrus, pineapple

Fun (gross) fact – scurvy, which occured to many sailors onboard for long periods of time, was due to the lack of Vitamin C. Ships would run out of fresh fruit and vegetables in the beginning of the journey. The reason one of the symtoms was tooth loss was that the collagen would break down in their teeth. Aar!