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The Magic of Medicinal Mushrooms January 22, 2013

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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The mushrooms you love so much may be better for you than you know.

Evidence of the curative effects of mushrooms dates to prehistoric times in Africa, Egypt and Mesoamerica, depicted by hieroglyphs and petroglyphs, and two types discovered in pouches found in 1991 on the body of a 5,000 year old European, Oetzi the Iceman. The West has acknowledged the powerful use of mushrooms as medicine, but most of the globe has worshipped–often literally–the fungi for millennia.

Medicinal mushrooms possess latent cancer preventive properties. Studies in Japan and Brazil strongly indicate that regular consumption over prolonged periods significantly reduces cancer incidence. One Japanese epidemiological survey over a period of 14 years revealed that cancer rates of workers at medicinal mushroom farms were 1 in 1,000 compared to 1 in 600 for the general population. A mixture of the active ingredients from different mushrooms maximizes the immune response by providing multiple stimuli to the body’s natural defenses. Cancer Research UK also found increasing experimental evidence that medicinal mushrooms demonstrate both high anti-tumor activity and restricting metastasis of tumors. They even reverse the harmful effects of radiation and chemotherapy.

Reishi mushroom. Photo by Eric Steinert.

Reishi mushrooms are the oldest in Traditional Chinese Medicine, still widely used today.
Photo by Eric Steinert.

Reishi has been rated the top medicinal herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years. So highly valued, it was traded for its own weight in gold and available only to Emperors. It is still the most important herb in Asia, where the focus is on preventive medicine as opposed to the West’s reactive. It contains over 200 active ingredients and unique compounds that are the most biologically active from any plant source. Reishi is normally taken as an extract because it is a very tough, woody mushroom and difficult to digest raw. Its dynamic antioxidant action and immune stimulating effects make it so treasured.

Nearly any type of common mushroom you choose to incorporate into your daily life will have a multitude of medicinal effects, most of them supremely positive. Raw mushrooms dried in the sun will multiply their stores of vitamin D for up to one year. Vitamin D deficiency accounts for many symptoms of decreased health including death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children, cancer, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis.

Fresh mushrooms are readily available and easy to incorporate into any diet. Exotic Asian varieties now normally found on supermarket shelves (shitake, maitake, oyster and enoki) have anticancer properties, lower cholesterol and strengthen the immune system. Common varieties such as button, Portobello and crimini contain some benefits (Portobellos have high potassium and B12 levels) but also naturally contain substances that in large doses may increase tumor risk in animals. These should always be consumed thoroughly cooked, broiled or grilled to decrease the toxins and ease digestion.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, natural medicine researcher and father of nutritarian eating, provides us with a longevity equation: H=N/C or healthy life expectancy is proportional to the lifetime intake of micronutrient diversity and quantity per calorie. His advocacy of micronutrient-rich diets is featured in Whole Foods Markets and inspired millions to consume anti-cancer foods as part of their regular diets. According to Dr. Fuhrman,

Mushrooms block tumor growth and have anti-estrogenic activity. Frequent consumption of mushrooms, approximately one button mushroom per day, has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 60-70%. Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast cancer particularly because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Mushrooms are one of the very few foods that inhibit aromatase, and several varieties of mushrooms have strong anti-aromatase activity, including the common varieties like white button and Portobello mushrooms.

Other North American mushrooms contain health benefits too. You may have seen these while hiking:

Cauliflower mushrooms contain chemicals which enhance the immune system and have anti-tumor properties. Photo by Nick Valdez.

Cauliflower mushrooms contain chemicals which enhance the immune system and have anti-tumor properties.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

shaggy mane

Shaggy Mane’s polysaccharides and triterpenes fight cancer and existing tumors, stabilize blood pressure and keep blood sugar even. It benefits asthma, anxiety, diabetes, hepatitis, and leukemia.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

Earth Star Mushroom

Earth Star mushroom spore dust is used in TCM and applied externally to stop wound bleeding and reduce chilblains. Also prohibits tumor growth and has spurned research interest for immunomodulatory and antitumor properties.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

chanterelle mushrooms health benefits

White Chanterelles, indicative of healthy, old-growth forests, contain protein, vitamins B and D, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. Minerals include potassium, copper and selenium.
Photo by Nick Valdez.

Magic Mushrooms

Use of psilocybin or magic mushrooms is often found in ancient records of spiritual and shamanistic rituals. Unlike manufactured psychotropic drugs (LSD), these mushrooms do not technically cause hallucinations, but alter perceptions of objects and time. They are non-addictive but can quickly become tolerable, lessening the effects with increased use. They are not known for their health benefits.

Today, psychotropic mushrooms are foraged wild and easily cultivated. They are ingested raw, added to stews or sauces, or steeped into a tea, causing long-term feelings of well-being. A 2011 Johns Hopkins study found that just one dose of this created personality shifts in “openness,” abstract ideas, creativity and aesthetics lasting up to one year. Each participant in the study relayed this as a life-changing experience for the better. Mushrooms were administered in a hospital setting with two people acting as guards over a period of eight hours. This is breakthrough news, as it was previously thought that personality was a set determinant. In the study, 60% of participants were markedly changed with a single high dose of psilocybin. (Note that psilocybin is illegal, classified as a Schedule 1 substance by the DEA.)

Amanita,

Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, psychotropic Amanita muscaria is popular but not often consumed due to its toxicity and unpredictable psychological effects. Often brewed as a tea for entheogenic use, its personality effects can be depressant or ultimately positively life-changing.
Photo by Steve Childress.

“Renaissance Mycologist” Paul Stamets walks us through the science, history and future of our world with mushrooms in this incredible TED talk.

Warning

Research well whatever type of mushroom you eat and consult your doctor before making changes to your diet. Many varieties will react adversely with prescription medications. There are several types of lethal mushrooms, often ingested due to misidentification. White and yellow Amanita phalloides are responsible for the majority of mushroom deaths every year. Cooking poisonous mushrooms will not release their toxins and will remain deadly.

Related Reading

South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

North American Mycological Association

American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

“Healthy” Mushroom Recipes

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Neurogastroenterology: The Study of Our Second Brain January 1, 2013

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thEarly in embryogenesis our brains and our gut are formed from the same tissue mass with one half becoming the central nervous system and the other the enteric nervous system, connected by the vagus nerve. Half our nerves are located in our brain, and half in the gut which translates into a lot more than feeling butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous.

This enteric nervous system is comprised of one hundred million autonomously functioning neurons, neurotransmitters and proteins with the ability to communicate with the central nervous system through the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system. Coupled with the intestinal microbiome, it’s been coined our “second brain” by Dr. Michael Gershon, professor of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City in 1988. What we put into one brain drastically affects the other.

If we add the nerve cells of the esophagus, stomach and large intestine, there are more nerve cells in the gut than there are in the entire remainder of the peripheral nervous system. Nearly every chemical that controls the brain in the head has been identified in the gut, including hormones and neurotransmitters.

Flora, the microorganisms that typically inhabit a body organ, while plentiful, have not evolved enough to withstand processed and junk foods. Intestinal flora is also destroyed by considerable amounts of stress, alcohol, and antibiotics which will leave a body more open to infection.

Brain/Gut Disease States

Nearly 60 million people suffer from digestive issues, often resulting from poor management of the second brain. Many are temporary ill feelings, while others are chronic and debilitating. The brain/gut connection has spurned interest in new research and procedures.

Gastrointestinal: The gut produces 95% of mood-stabilizing serotonin. So when it’s not functioning properly, our moods will show it. Conversely, when brain chemistry is off-balance, the bowels will suffer. Nearly 90% of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and non-ulcerative dyspepsia suffer from some sort of mental anxiety (or worse). These patients also frequently encounter abnormal REM sleep and wake feeling fatigued. These sleep disorders are often treated with low-dose antidepressants, regularly prescribed to treat IBS, depression, PTSD and bacterial infections.

Diabetes: Now epidemic in many countries, diabetes’ side effects can be devastating to the body, and treatment and utilization rates are drowning health care resources. The race is on to find new methods to slow glucose production to decrease related morbidity. Clinical trials show that fats activate a subset of nerves in the intestine, signaling the brain, which then signals the liver, to reduce glucose production. This helps to slow the production of sugar in the body. Now the gut, instead of the brain, will be the target for new therapies.

Anxiety and Depression: Antidepressant drugs commonly cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea and constipation. This is because they inhibit the uptake of serotonin, normally calming to the digestive tract. Morphine and heroin act on the central nervous system and attach to the gut’s opiate receptors, producing constipation. The gut also produces benzodiazepines, chemicals that relieve pain and are found in anti-anxiety drugs like Valium. In extreme pain, the gut over-produces these chemicals and sends them to the brain. Stress signals are sent to the enteric nervous system, slowing digestion while the intestines painfully contract.

GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or heartburn): Prevalence of GERD has increased 50% in the past decade, affecting 20% of adults. Stress, a common cause of acid reflux and chronic heartburn, excites areas of the brain that make esophageal pain receptors more active. These patients often have a drop in prostaglandins which coat the stomach lining and protect it from acid. Anti-inflammatory drugs reduce production of prostaglandins, which is why this class of drug commonly causes ulcers and nausea. Add alcohol to stress, and the increase in stomach acid weakens the esophageal sphincter allowing caustic acid into your upper GI tract.

Settle Your Stomach

Try incorporating these into your lifestyle for good gut/brain health:

  • Probiotics
  • Turmeric
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Kefir
  • Ginger
  • Eliminate fatty foods and caffeine (try calming herbal teas, like chamomile)
  • Stay hydrated
  • Improve posture

What’s your gut feeling?

Related Reading:

Lipman, Frank, MD, (2011) Revive: Stop Feeling Spent And Start Living Again.

The Gut-Brain-Liver Axis: A New Option to Treat Obesity and Diabetes? (www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)

Foods that Fight Heartburn (www.LIVESTRONG.com)

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

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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.

Related articles

July Foodie Penpal Reveal Day July 31, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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This is not within my realm of public health posts, alas I have signed up with Foodie Penpals and must reveal the contents of the box I received this month on this, my only blog.

And I’m excited to share it with you!

Foodie Penpals is a fun foodie exchange initiated by Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean blog. Lindsay will pair you up with a sender and a recipient, minimal rules, and tons of fun if you like sending packages to and receiving them from complete strangers.

This month, my Foodie Penpal was Chelsea from Troy, NY. I was surprised with a big box stuffed with goodies tailored to me. Yes, it’s true!

Foodie Penpal, vegan snacks, healthy diet

Chelsea went to her local Farmer’s Market where she finds Flour City Pasta from Rochester, and generously sent me 2 packages of unique pastas: chipotle shells and bon vivant orzo.

Chipotle shells, Bon vivant orzo

Here’s the bon vivant orzo prepared with the included recipe. This uses mushrooms, pine nuts, shallots and snow peas which I harvested from my garden, and a splash of lemon juice. Delish!

Vegan, healthy side dish

She also included 2 organic, vegan snack bars. Recently vegan, believe me, I have tried numerous vegan bars just in the hopes of saving a few hours of chopping and chewing. I haven’t found one that was actually palatable. But when I tasted and then gave my kids a bite of these bars, I heard, “Yumm-o! Let me have the rest of that awesome bar!” I had to reply that no, it was really just for me. That’s how fantastic the chocolate and peanut butter bars are. I will be on the lookout for Good ‘n Natural Fruit, Nut & Seed Bars to keep all of us happy.

vegan snacks, vegan diet

No, they’re really just for me.

It takes some moxie to send coffee to a Seattleite, but it’s like she already knew me inside and out. Chelsea sent Mocha Java from her fave coffee shop and nailed it. Totally my complete order. And it is perfect. She included a coffee-to-go mug and 2 reusable canvas bags for groceries as she knows we like to keep it green here in the Emerald City.

Chelsea was a sweetheart to stick to my dietary preferences and I loved having a bite of Troy right here in my own kitchen all the way across the country. Her lovely letter explained her choice of items on a personal level. Thank you, Chelsea!

Comment to let me know if you decide to sign up to be a Foodie Penpal. It’ll bring a welcome, quaint, yummy box to your door every month.

Is The Food Pyramid Killing Us? May 21, 2012

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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

SoulVeggie

Control Your Diet to Control Your Alleriges March 28, 2012

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seasonal allergies, flowering trees, diet, hayfever,

Choose an anti-inflammation diet to help control allergies

I spent the entirety of last weekend outside, one day at a 9-hour outdoor seminar and the other day at my son’s 3-game baseball tournament. Generally allergy-free, by the middle of the second day, I was sneezing, coughing, eyes watering like crazy, and had the worst nasal congestion I’ve ever experienced with runny nose. I used up 3 little packages of tissues in about 20 minutes. I couldn’t wait to get home to my remedies. Sound familiar? What do you do? Take Antihistamines? Visit your specialist for immunotherapy? Are you more likely to take a holistic approach to strengthen the immune system and avoid OTC medicine side-effects?

The Diet|Allergy Link

Many of the foods we eat produce a direct response from our bodies. What we put into our gut is processed by our liver. These two systems work well together even when dealing with all the unnatural foods and other odd “invaders” we send down or breathe in. Occasionally, they become overwhelmed and things they normally handle well, like pollen, become too big a job.

What To Eliminate From Your Diet

The milk protein, caseinOne symptom of seasonal allergies is inflammation. We can usually feel the pressure in our heads, but it lingers around the rest of our body as well. It is often present in people with asthma, diabetes and other autoimmune disorders. Casein causes inflammation and produces mucus even if there is no dairy allergy present. Removing it from the diet completely is especially helpful for managing the common triad of allergies/eczema/asthma. Be wary of non-fat and non-dairy items and read the labels. Some cheese substitutes made from soybeans and almonds may still contain casein.

Protein. Vancouver’s Dr. Andrew Weil, who writes weekly for the Vancouver Sun, advises reducing the amount of protein consumed. “I believe that high-protein diets irritate the immune system in some people, aggravating allergies and autoimmune diseases. Because proteins are the components that make an organism unique, the immune system reads them to decide whether materials in the body are ‘self’ or foreign. When the immune system is overactive, as it is with an allergy, flooding the body with animal and plant proteins may confuse it further and may make resolution of these conditions less likely. I have found that low-protein diets can be helpful to people with chronic allergies and other immune-system problems.”

Sugar. Just 3 ounces of sugar can suppress the immune system within 30 minutes, and up to 5 hours. Given that the average American eats three times that amount in a single day, eliminating or even reducing sugar intake can significantly boost your immune system.

Gluten. Foods processed from wheat, barley and rye can produce excess mucus in the nasal cavity which is not drained from the nostrils. This stagnated mucus is a fantastic environment for encouraging fungi, viruses and bacteria growth resulting in sinusitis. Read labels and stay away from semolina, starch, bulgur, gram flour, bread crumbs, bran, spelt, couscous or high protein flour. [Note: it can take up to 4 weeks for your body to rid itself of gluten residue.]

What To Add To Your Diet

Cold water fishHaddock, tuna, salmon, cod, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish also contains these acids, but not as much. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and when consumed regularly can be effective in treating hay fever, sinusitis, hives, eczema. Asthma sufferers will notice an increase in open airways. [Note: avoid omega-6 fatty acids. These have the opposite and adverse effect of causing inflammation, and are found in sunflower oil, mayonnaise, prepared salad dressings, and fast foods.]

Vitamin C. This is actually an antihistamine in itself. The plus side, though, is that it does not damage the liver as OTC antihistamines can, and it can strengthen the immune system. Foods rich in Vitamin C are broccoli, shallots, yellow onions, oranges, kiwi, strawberries and bell peppers. Raw fruit smoothies are a great way to get more Vitamin C, especially if you make them yourself so you can be sure nothing is added which might hamper the benefits.

Local bee products. Honeybees pollinate all sorts of blooming plants and trees. Apiary products in your area will contain a minute amount of the specific pollens that you encounter every day. Eating 1-2 tbsp. of local honey or bee pollen daily will naturally build up your immunity to these flowering varietals.

In The News

Two interesting studies have linked diet with disease in newborns, or the likelyhood of disease developing during childhood. One study showed that an apple each day during pregnancy will significantly reduce the risk of wheezing and asthma developing. And a diet regularly including fish will dramatically decrease incidence of eczema, even from birth.

Another study in the same publication touts the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. This diet is heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil and fish, and extremely low in red meat. It was reported that children are 66% less likely to have itchy eyes and runny nose, and the incidence of asthma, at least on the island of Crete, is nearly zero.

Related Reading:

Mediterranean Diet May Prevent Allergies

OAS and Out With The Fruit Bowl (at least at my house)

Bee Pollen: Superfood

My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods for Disease Prevention

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

Posted by acroanmph 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

My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods for Disease Prevention February 3, 2012

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Scoot over broccoli, almonds and green tea! While we’ve always loved you for being healthy, you just don’t cut it anymore on my Superfood list.

Any search on the internet will include these foods among about 20 others, but my Superfoods qualified for the list by being either 1) rare [I love trying exotic foods]; or more importantly, 2) a whole food high in phytonutrients which not only act as antioxidants but are essential nutrients. Essential nutrients are required for normal body functioning, but cannot be synthesized in adequate amounts, and must be obtained from a dietary source. Processed or cooked foods have lower levels of phytochemicals and contribute to an increase in preventable disease. Your physician may be able to manage or treat disease, but prevent it in the first place by controlling what’s in your power–starting with your diet. So, in an effort to put your health in your own hands, try out my list of Superfoods for disease prevention.

1) Blue-Green Algae or Spirulina: Used since the 9th century, it’s about 60% protein, 7% lipids, and contains all essential amino acids. It’s better than meat or dairy products, and is superior to most plant products such as legumes. Photosynthesis in cyanobacteria produces oxygen. Cancer cells cannot thrive in oxygen-rich blood, or in alkaline conditions. Six species, however, are susceptible to toxic contaminants and may quickly grow into algae blooms, so be careful where you get yours, or use a supplement. Look for cyanobacteria.

alaskan salmon, superfood, weight loss, diet2) Wild Alaskan Salmon: Maximize your benefit by eating this at least twice each week. Not any Atlantic or farm-raised salmon, but fresh Alaskan salmon whenever you can find it. The omega-3 fatty acids are powerful for heart (reduces risk of heart disease by 38% and heart attack by 60%) and brain (decreased risk of Alzheimers, asthma and behavioral conditions present in children, and depression and other psychiatric disorders) function; perfect for pregnant moms for healthy development of fetal brains and retinas. It is always delicious. It is usually expensive. The alternative is paying for disease treatment, which is more costly [in dollars and quality of life] in the short- and long-term.

bee pollen, honey, superfood, allergies, health3) Bee pollen: My regular readers may already be familiar with a previous post on this topic, but the benefits were so extreme and numerous that I could not include them all without multiplying the length of my post by about 3. So, to recap — this is assimilated into the body naturally at the cellular level. It is the only existing compound which scientists have not been able to reproduce in the laboratory. It is 40% protein, is high in B-complex vitamins, as well as A, C, D, E; contains 27 mineral salts and over 5,ooo enzymes necessary for healing and digestion; and contains 96 known nutrients. It aides in so many health issues (strengthens capillaries, improves cholesterol and complexion, reduces risk of prostrate cancer and supports sexual and reproductive function, calms allergies, and even contains natural pheynlalanine which curbs appetite) and much more. This is one amazing Superfood. Get it. Eat it. Up to one tablespoon per day. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you, and try one grain of the pollen first to see if you suffer any anaphylaxic reaction. Where to buy: Bees In The Burbs.

4) Cacao: First used in Mexico, Central and South American cultures, the bean of this small evergreen tree is high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, fiber, iron, magnesium, chromium, zinc, vitamin E, and flavinoids. It does not contain vitamin C as previously thought. When the seeds are roasted, they lose some of their nutrients and this processed form is called cocoa. Most developed nations process it even further, reducing the health benefits and contributing to our overall fat intake. The Archives of Internal Medicine reported that cacao is 14 times better at lowering blood pressure than red wine, and 21 times more effective than green tea. It’s a natural muscle relaxer, especially for asthma, and has been used to treat edema or swelling from fluids. It increases oxygen in the blood so it reduces risk of heart disease and cancer, and increases blood flow to the brain. Where to buy: Theo Chocolates.

watermelon, superfood, health, diet

5) Watermelon: Not just a snack! Locally-grown is best. Otherwise, just know that this Superfood is one of THE healthiest fruits. It contains the highest amounts of lycopene. Yes – much higher than tomatoes! Lycopene is an antioxidant which fights against heart disease and cancer, especially prostate cancer, and inflammatory diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. It contains vitamins A, B6, and C for improving tooth and gum disease, and macular degeneration. It helps heal wounds and is a natural energy booster. Also high in potassium, watermelon can help control blood pressure and possibly prevent strokes. It relaxes blood vessels which contributes to a “Viagara effect.”

6) Kamut: Allergic to wheat? Kamut is a unique high energy grain reported now as “the wheat you can eat.” Athletes also prefer this type of wheat as it contains 65% more amino acids than common wheat, more lipids and fatty acids, and is 40% higher in protein content. It is a good souce of selenium, zinc and magnesium. Kamut has an interesting back story. “Following WWII, a US airman claimed to have taken a handful of this grain from a stone box in a tomb near Dashare, Egypt. Thirty-six kernels of the grain were given to a friend who mailed them to his father, a Montana wheat farmer. The farmer planted and harvested a small crop and displayed the grain as a novelty at the local fair. Believing the legend that the giant grain kernels were taken from an Egyptian tomb, the grain was dubbed ‘King Tut’s Wheat.’ But soon the novelty wore off and this ancient grain was all but forgotten. In 1977, one remaining jar of ‘King Tut’s Wheat’ was obtained by another Montana wheat farmer, who with his son, an agricultural scientist and plant biochemist, soon perceived the value of this unique grain. They spent the next decade propagating the humped-backed kernels originally selected from the small jar.” They are naturally resistant to insects and disease–if one stalk is effected, the others remain healthy. Kamut is a registered brand which is available as a cereal, in breads, pancakes, waffles, cookies, pasta, bulgar and couscous.

cinnamon, diabetes, obesity, sugar, superfood, health, diet7) Cinnamon: Nearly everything sold in grocery stores today, besides fresh produce and meat, has added sugar. This even includes low-calorie and low-fat foods and health food bars. Bagels. Campbell’s soup. The added sugar takes many forms–fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, lactose and maltose. This, imo, has lead not only to an increase in type 2 diabetes and obesity, but to a national sugar addiction. These added sugars instruct the body to hold on to fat instead of burn it, and have a disastrous effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. There is only one natural product to counter this – cinnamon! You may have been unaware of this and that is because it is not man-made and drug companies cannot profit from cinnamon. Studies show that even one gram (less than 1/2 tsp.) of cinnamon per day reduced blood sugar by 20%. The recommended amount is up to 6 grams which can reduce blood sugar by 63%. It mimicks all the positive effects of insulin and encourages uptake of glucose. Take cinnamon before, during, or after a meal when blood sugar levels are highest. Minimize or eliminate processed foods from your diet and use cinnamon regularly. You will see and feel the difference!

8) Maqui Berry: Originating from rainforests of Chile and Argentina, the composition of the purple Maqui berry (or Chilean Wineberry) has twice as many antioxidants as other berries, including the Acai berry. It promotes cardiovascular health, immune system, skin, bone and joint health. It is also a great detoxifier and will help jump start a weight loss regimen. The berry is available in many forms, so if you’re like me (which you’re probably not) and not fond of berries, look for it in supplement form from a knowledgeable practitioner as it is common to find weaker strains of the berry or supplements of less-than-optimum strength.

9) Quinoa: Often served at our table in place of rice, Quinoa is an ancient Incan grain which is a complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids) packed with phytonutrients. It is an extremely rich source of manganese and magnesium, folate and phosphorous, it assists the body to fight migraine headaches, diabetes and athlerosclerosis. It protects mitochondria from oxidative damage and is therefore recommended for reducing several types of cancer. When eaten in conjunction with fish, preferably wild Alaskan salmon, it can reduce by 66% wheezing and incidence of asthma, especially in children.

alliums, onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, superfood, diet, health10) Alliums: This is the onion group which includes shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic and chives. We often incorporate their pungent flavor in cooking, but how are they beneficial for health? They are high in antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activity which reduces blood platelet aggregation and hyperlipidemia, and helps heal colds and coughs. The phytochemicals are released upon chopping or crushing. They enhance thiamin absorption and lower blood pressure. This group is occasionally contraindicated for people taking certain diabetic therapies, so check with your physician before regular use.

Some of my Superfoods are best locally purchased and not from major supplement stores. Ask a holistic health practitoner, or click on the links to some fantastic small business retailers, select wisely and eat purposefully. Bon appetit!

The Trouble With Nightshades November 19, 2011

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , ,
9 comments
Nightshades, alternative health, arthritis

Beware of nightshades

Got aches and pain? Eliminating nightshades from your diet for a full 3 to 4 weeks is likely to provide total relief.

What are Nightshades?

Nightshades are part of the Solanaceae family of plants including tomatoes, tomatillos, hot and sweet peppers (not black pepper), potatoes (but not yams/sweet potatoes), eggplant, huckleberries, tobacco, pimento, paprika and cayenne, Tabasco sauce, and the poisonous belladonna and mandrake.

This ominous-sounding group of vegetables contains alkaloids, which can exacerbate arthritis, muscle tremors, paralysis and difficulty breathing. For especially sensitive people or those allergic to nightshades, these alkaloids can be fatal. For the rest of the population, it may encourage joint inflammation resulting in arthritis, of which there are about one hundred varieties, gout, or digestive problems and GERD, eczema and psoriasis. Alkaloids cause the bones to excrete calcium and other minerals and trace elements from the body.

Unless we are making a conscious effort, we are eating a much higher concentration of nightshades than we are aware. Nightshade spices are in most processed grocery store foods, including mayonnaise, salad dressings, salsa, and mixed spice packets just to name a few. But it’s also because we subconsciously seek them out because we crave them. They are high in potassium and counter the high sodium content in animal foods, i.e., meat and potatoes; cheese pizza with tomato sauce, etc. Unknowingly, we search for food combinations to make the appropriate balance.

The degree to which people can be affected by nightshades varies by individual and no medical research has definitively proven nightshades to cause or inflame arthritis, but testimonies and physician trials have shown enough relief that many medical practices recommend nightshade elimination from diets. Even a small amount ingested can cause minor irritations to death, depending on the individual.

Thousands of people who regularly received cortisone injections for arthritis pain relief have been able to discontinue the shots after three to four weeks without eating tomatoes, salsa, potatoes, eggplant and cayenne pepper.

Interesting Stats

  • Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery: Of the 52% rigidly on the diet [without nightshades], 94% reported complete or substantial relief of arthritis.
  • Dr. Bruce Ames/Dr. Swirsky Gold: In a poisoning associated with a school lunch program, 61 of 109 school children and staff in Alberta, Canada, became ill, most within 5 minutes, after eating baked potato.
  • Potato neurotoxins have been shown to cause birth defects in rodents.
  • Positive correlation of appendicitis incidence rates with potato consumption.

Nightshades have been used and referenced in shamanism, witchcraft, and murder. They come with a history of both mystical danger and scientific caution. Some of the alkaloid properties have been used as anesthesia, and they are still a basis for potent narcotic medicine and sleeping pills.

It’s worth taking a nightshade-break in your diet for a few weeks to see if you feel better. I wouldn’t be surprised if you did! If you absolutely cannot, cooking the vegetables will reduce alkaloids by nearly half.

Related Reading:

Calcium For Bone Health: Not What You Thought

Tomatoes Are Evil

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