Is The Food Pyramid Killing Us? May 21, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Cancer, Diet, Forks Over Knives, Health, Heart disease, Nutrition, Plant-based diet, Public health, USDA
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?
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Forks Over Knives is streamable from Netflix. It just might save your life.
Tags: Diabetes, Diet, Food Desert, Grocery, Health, Heart disease, Nutrition, obesity, Produce, Sugar Addiction
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.
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.
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:
What can your community do?
My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods for Disease Prevention February 3, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: Diabetes, Diet, Food, Health, Heart disease, Heart health, Personal Health, Phytonutrients, Superfood
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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
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.
7) 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.
10) 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!