Saturday, January 2, 2010

New year, new foods

I have become more and more aware this year of the chemicals used in traditional farming and food processing. The growing number of ailments associated with these types of foods has caused me to make dramatic changes in my food choices. I have to thank my little guy for making me aware of these problems as we weeded out the foods that cause him so much digestive and mental turmoil. The more I look at foods and how they get to our stores, the more I am concerned with the entire system. From the drive to do things as quickly and efficiently as possible, to the notable connection between the FDA's approval/disapproval of products that help/hinder our health and the financial benefits they are associated with, there is cause for concern. Then there are the drug companies benefiting from our illnesses and the complications their drugs cause. Its all intertwined and it makes me pause for thought.

Just last week a dear friend discovered he had a mass in his chest. In order to do the PET scan they have him drink a sugar solution to excite the cancer cells. Then they can see them better. So sugar excites cancer?! Why is it that I don't hear that in mainstream media? Maybe because sugar is in could damage the sugar industry... what about the poor beet farmers, dont forget the corn industry and their coveted corn syrup(which is just like sugar by the way...). Lets all feed our cancer cells so then the cancer treatments, drugs, and detection machines can be sold. And don't forget that sugar reduces your immune system, so those extra colds you get are surely going to help someone as well; they need to make money too you know. If you think about it long enough, you can get pretty frustrated...but I digress...I didn't start this entry to complain about all of that. I am going to talk about my New Year, New Food resolution. Its really something I have been doing all along, but now I plan to be more resolute about it :)


1. Canned Tomatoes
I can tomatoes, so normally this wouldn't be an issue, but since I coupon as well and will buy a can of tomatoes when its nearly free and cheaper than it is to can them myself, this needed to be decided.
Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A notes the dangers of canned tomatoes. Have you ever noticed that some of your canned products have a white lining? This resin lining contains bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Acidity -- a prominent characteristic of tomatoes -- causes BPA to leach into your food. So in addition to the canned tomatoes, I will probably avoid  canned(not jarred) spaghetti sauce as well...even when its free...

2. Corn-Fed Beef
The expert: Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of books on sustainable farming notes a particularly obvious but overlooked point: Cattle were designed to eat grass, not grains(or candy wrappers or chicken feathers or scrap meat...but I digress again). Farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. It also allows them to keep the animals in a more confined area. You need a lot of pasture to feed a lot of cows. More animals in less space for less time equals profit. A recent comprehensive study found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium. So meat can also be good for you?!? We have bought our meat for years from a local beef farmer. I know his cows are out on pasture and I know I can trust his products. I usually buy his meat in bulk to save some money but I have been known to take a coupon and buy a package of beef at the local grocery that came from who knows where and has who knows what in it. All for the sake of a dollar. I am resolute in thinking more about the safety of the meat and not the savings and if I can't get the safe meat, I will resolve to eat something else.
3. Microwave Popcorn
Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group
says chemicals including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize -- and migrate into your popcorn. I had switched to microwaving it in a special microwave bowl, but I know there are many other reasons to avoid the microwave altogether...I am not necessarily there yet. I will stop buying (or should I say getting free) microwave popcorn. We still have a microwave. These days it primarily heats my mother's cup of coffee and while I do heat my rugrat's foods on the stove whenever possible,  I still see it used for convenience. However I will share that I secretly hope it breaks because we can't afford a new one and we would probably get used to not having it after a while. Is that wrong?
4. Non-organic Potatoes
The expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board
Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. That's a lot of chemicals. Organic potatoes are way more expensive and a lot of times, I can't find fresh ones...however, I learned that you can grow them fairly easily and they make bags you can use to grow them on your patio or deck, so I intend to grow my own whenever possible and stock up on organic potatoes when they are on sale and fresh. They store well in a cool basement or root cellar and I dehydrated quite a few this year for hashbrowns and stews.  Of all my new resolutions, this one seems like the most-likely-to-succeed.
5. Soda
Okay, I admit it, I drink soda. I even go so far as to drink diet soda. Pretty bad huh? I can't help it. I have quit before and then I start up again. Its a bad addiction that I can't seem to shake. I know its bad for me. I know it ruins your teeth and in my case causes my arthritis to flair up and yet I drink it. I know it aggravates stomach linings and literally sucks calcium from your body. All bad...and so I attempt again to kick the habit...right after I finish the bottle of Diet Coke on my counter from the New Years Eve party... :P
6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones
Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. Since the milk is then heated at high temperatures, they can leave all that in and just keep milking those poor cows. rBGH also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Kudos to Ingles for taking a step toward safer foods and using rBGH FREE milk. Despite the fact that the FDA makes them say its no safer than regular milk on their ads, I applaud them for making that decision. I hope that many other companies follow suit in the new year.  For more on milk, see the Real Milk site or google rBGH milk for a real eyeful. Did I mention that the rBGH comes from Monsanto? Must I go there??
7. Conventional Apples
If fall fruits held a "highest exposure to deadly chemicals contest," apples would win. And increasing numbers of studies are linking a higher body burden of pesticides with Parkinson's disease. Anybody want that for the new year? I intend to go completely organic here. We eat a lot of apples and so I would like to think making this small change would have big benefits. Organic apples are readily available and taste fantastic. Why not give them a try? Consumer Reports investigated organically grown foods in its February 2006 issue and concluded that you should by Apples and 11 other produce items organic as often as possible. They listed these 12 items as the most pesticide-laden crops on the market. Apples were number two on the list! Other list-makers were bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries.
This list of fruits and vegetables was developed by researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The full up-to-date list of 43 fruits and vegetables is available here. You can download a pdf wallet guide of the most and least pesticide-laden produce at this site. Washing all vegetables/fruits is a good idea to get rid of other nasties that are always possible on both organic and non-organic produce, but you cannot wash off pesticides, so the safest bet is always organic.

So, that's my resolution. What's yours?

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