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Farming For Our Future November 29, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Global Health, Public Health.
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More households turn to growing their own food as unsustainable food production practices ravage large crop lands.

We’re on track to deplete the earth of it’s ability to produce food.

Global crop land increased by 12% but agricultural production by 150% over the last 50 years. We’ve managed to keep barely ahead of the curve for overall food production. But not sustainably. The projected world population growth will pass 9 billion by 2050, and that means an increase in food production by 70% and better methods of distribution to meet the food security demand.

Agriculture’s continued dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels for production/fertilizer/irrigation, machinery, processing, transportation, packaging and marketing has direct and unsustainable consequences for farmlands. A recent United Nations study indicates that “all continents are experiencing land degradation, with particularly high incidence along the west coast of the Americas, across the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe and North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and throughout Asia. The greatest threat is the loss of soil quality, followed by biodiversity loss and depletion of water resources.”

Farmed animals consume 70% of the grains produced on U.S. farms. Droughts have already caused food riots and war in recent years. Irrigation currently accounts for 70% of all water use and 19% of farm energy use in the U.S. Once groundwater sources are depleted, the amount of land available for cultivation will diminish substantially. Groundwater levels of the North China plains have declined to the point where rice production, which accounts for 90% of water usage there, are overexploited and now scarce.

Maintaining and improving ecosystems, including coastal habitats and oceans is also critical, as TIME reports

“The world has ignored the ominous constellation of factors that now make feeding humanity sustainably our most pressing task – even in times of economic and climatic crisis,” writes Professor Cribb. But Professor Cribb  isn’t the only scientist clamoring for politicians to take climate change seriously. In a recent study by the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, it warned of a potential mass extinction as the number of ocean dead zones – waters starved of oxygen – increase at an accelerating pace.  The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research also put out a study that shows the increasing likelihood of frightening changes to rainfall, water supplies, weather systems, sea levels and crop harvests by the end of the century.

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/12/07/impending-crisis-earth-to-run-out-of-food-by-2050/#ixzz2DSOyogVl

Progress exists somewhat in alternative forms of energy– nuclear, coal, wind and solar–but none produce liquid fuels. Countries gather regularly to discuss these impending changes, but have yet to enact solutions on the largest crop lands.

Transitional Farms

Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute, a Chapel Hill, NC educational farm and sustainability living center, was established by Tim Toben, an eco-revolutionary who believes sustainability will require more personal responsibility and that farms will be plentiful in rural areas by 2050 as Americans minimize their grandiose lifestyles out of necessity. This transitional farming is self-sustaining and, he believes, is likely to become the new American Dream.

What kind of connection do you want to have with your food? Will you make any changes to help ensure our planet is able to produce enough food for us in the next decades? Would you live in a cob cottage or stop eating industrial meat in order to preserve the land?

Related Reading:

The Future of Farming: Eight Solutions For a Hungry World (www.popsci.com)

Investing In Ecosystem Services Can Boost Food Security, Raise Incomes (www.un.org)

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (www.peakoil.net)

Regreening Africa (www.thenation.com)

Children of Our Fields (www.acroan.com)

Hidden Hunger in the Heartland (www.acroan.com)

Location, location, location! The High Cost of Living in a Food Desert (www.acroan.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related articles

August Foodie Penpal Revealed August 31, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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August was my second month participating in the Lean Green Bean’s fun Foodie Penpal Program. Lindsay will pair you up with a recipient and a sender and the anticipation of the foodie box brings great excitement to the household. Katie from Knoxville, TN sent a lovely box to us!

vegan snacks

Katie included a lovely note describing all the great treats in our box. She is excited to have a new Trader Joe’s in her town (as would I be, as some of you know), and relied on it to find foods suitable for a vegan diet. She did a great job!

Trader Joes marshmallow treats

We were all pleased with the brown rice vegan marshmallow treat bars. As you may know, regular marshmallows are made from gelatin, the collagen being derived from meat by-products. I’ll spare you the rest of the details here, but we found these to be a yummy alternative.

trader joes wasabi seaweed

Hold onto your hat when you eat these wasabi seaweed snacks, because they’ll blow your head clean off! These aren’t made with “just a hint” of wasabi, they’re for the die-hard fans. But like Katie mentions in her note, they are curiously addictive. She suggested adding them to a salad, and I also used them to spice up a coconut milk soup.

vegan snacks

Ah, a huge bag of roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds! This was most welcome to everyone in my family. Most salted nuts in the stores are just too dang salty, and we cannot usually find unsalted ones unless we buy them in bulk, which we do occasionally. We snack on these at my son’s baseball games, and add to many regular dishes. It’s nice to have such a big sack.

vegan snacks

Whoever came up with the name “Dark Chocolate Dreams” Peanut Butter was spot on. It IS dreamy and this was fun for us to try. The only chocolate I allow in the house, if any, is dark. You can imagine the scrambling that took place to be the first one to try it! The jar did not last long.

And, inside this handy smoothie travel cup which I like very much, Katie included Good ‘N Natural and Luna bars. These I had to declare were only for the Foodie Penpal participant of the house. ;)

Katie admitted in her note that adhering to a vegan diet was tough and I agree, so it was really great of her to find these new snack foods for us. If you’d like to see what her Foodie Penpal sent to her, visit her blog. Thank you, Katie!

 

Control Your Diet to Control Your Alleriges March 28, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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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

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

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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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!

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