Could death from drug resistance be solved through food?

I was browsing through twitter last weekend, and saw the headline “Drug resistance deadlier than cancer by 2050.” I thought I would read something about how our dependence on drugs may not be quite as dependable as we thought. So, this is sort of true.

The resistance in the article pertains specifically to antimicrobial drugs, which help to fight off infections such as strains of E. coli, malaria, and tuberculosis to name a few. However, antibiotics are also used as part of many medical treatments, like hip replacements, Caesarean sections, and chemotherapy. Drug resistance is estimated to have caused about 700,000 deaths this year, and at this rate would cause 10 million by 2050. Yikes!

Not sure what actions will be taken, but I have a potential solution. How about the rice diet? Joking slightly, but I actually learned about a Japanese man (George Ohsawa) that fought off both tuberculosis and malaria through rice and diet. Some of you may have heard of Ohsawa and macrobiotics, the diet he pioneered. No, I am NOT recommending we all start following the macrobiotic diet. My point is that the answer could and likely does lie in what we eat, including where it’s sourced and how it’s processed.

2050 is quite a ways away, so I hope we come up with some good solutions to this deadly issue fairly soon. In the meantime, you can take matters into your own hands and keep your immune system strong by eating smart.

And I’m out,
Peace sign

Is Stevia Safe?

A co-worker just asked me this question, and my answer was “Yes, if it is 100% stevia from the whole leaf plant, otherwise, I’m not so sure.” I shared this link with her, and thought I’d share with all of you as well.

Basically, to be safe, look for “whole leaf stevia” AND NOTHING ELSE in the ingredient list when it comes to buying this sweetener. Oh and also, careful when it comes to products sweetened with stevia…you want to be sure those products adhere to the same rules.

Have a sweeeeet day :)

And I’m out,
Peace sign

Why is dairy so hard to digest?

This is where I started: Why are products such as milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt so hard for me to digest? And, what’s the difference and meaning behind the terms pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, homogenized, GMO, organic, and raw when it comes to milk?

This is what I found: Basically, difficulty with digestion is a result of many factors, and ultimately depends on how the cow is fed, raised and treated before the milk comes out; and, how the milk is processed after milking. Here are some examples to explain what I mean. Milk terminology is no joke. Understanding these definitions alone helps to explain a lot. Here are definitions, with my commentary included of course.

This is what I wondered: If modern milk seems to cause so many health risks and digestive issues, why do we continue to produce and sell milk in this manner? There are several reasons, but I’m not sure how beneficial they are. Like everything, there are pros and cons to consider. I’ll point out a few things, but won’t get into the complexities.

  • Pasteurized Milk: While it may kill dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks such as salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria, it also leads to other serious health issues. It is associated with frequent ear infection, asthma, allergies, skin problems, and digestive disorders (e.g., lactose intolerance) to name a few.
  • Raw Milk: Yes, it does leave us more susceptible to the health risks listed above. However, it is important to recognize that we encounter these risks to an even greater degree through produce and poultry. Raw milk also has several health benefits (e.g., easy to digest, contains fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K and E, improves symptoms of chronic fatigue, and can help fight asthma and allergies).
  • GMO Milk: Milk from cows injected with rBGH, a synthetic man-made hormone used to increase milk production in cows. Milk with rBGH contains elevated levels of Insulin Growth Factor-1, a hormone linked to increased risks of cancer. In addition, these cows tend to develop more udder infections (mastitis), and are given more antibiotics than non-rBGH cows. Perhaps this is why rBGH is prohibited in all nations of the European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and some other countries.
  • Homogenized Milk: Allows farmers to easily mix milk from separate herds; prevents milk cream from rising to the top, which is attractive to the consumer (hmmm, not sure I’m so concerned with the look versus the impact) and allows for a longer shelf-life (i.e., increased access for the consumer and greater sales and profits for industry players); and, allows fat filtration to produce skim milk products such as fat-free, 1%, and 2%. Remember, when we remove the fat, we remove the ability for our bodies to digest fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E. Milk fat may not be your preference, but your body needs fat for proper digestion.

This is what I leave you with: I believe a lot of these processes and decisions initially started because they made good business sense, and now we are realizing the grave costs to our overall livelihood and health. Today it may taste good or increase sales, but tomorrow it leads to a mood swing, the next day we are tired and stressed, and further down the line we develop a chronic disease, our food supply is no longer sustainable, we are getting sicker more rapidly, and drum roll please…our health care costs skyrocket. So what’s the solution? I don’t know, but fixing our food systems, regulations and habits seems to be a good starting point. I am hopeful and confident that we will get back on track; it’s just going to take quite a bit of time.

And I’m out,
Peace sign

Remind me again, why are strawberries good for me?

I always like to do a refresher on the health benefits of certain foods I eat. This morning, I was eating strawberries, and I decided to do a quick search. I like the taste and crunch of strawberries, I know they have immune boosting antioxidants, I remember something about their ability to boost short-term memory, and I learned a while back that they help to reduce stress (which I can definitely use), but what else?

Here’s a great article you can check out to learn more about the health benefits derived from consuming this wonderful fruit, including precautions for some people, and interesting facts. Take a look and let me know what your favorite health benefit is. I think mine may be #8.

Did you know that there are more than 600 varieties of strawberries that differ in flavor, size and texture? Well now you do.

Oh and one last thing, variety aside, this is one of those fruits you definitely want to spend the extra bucks on for organic.

And I’m out,
Peace sign

Food Label Claims

beware-of-food-label-claims-etb-livingNon-GMO, free-range, organic, grass-fed, and natural are common food label claims. It seems as if every day there’s a new “claim.” Whether it’s slapped on a product at the store, listed on a restaurant menu, or publicized in the media, food label claims are becoming ubiquitous.

Greeeaaaat, we are still struggling to understand how to read a standard nutrition label, not to mention decoding the ingredients on the label, and now we’ve got to tackle food label claims too?!? Yes, yes you do. The good news is that many of these claims can be helpful and insightful; the bad news is that many of them can also be confusing, and thus require individual research and learning.

New food label claims are on the rise, and I think the trend will continue for years to come, so get on top of it now! If you want extra brownie points – and you know you do – you should not only learn about current and new food label claims, but also teach and educate others as well.

I’ll help get you get started with these common food label claims from one of my handouts from school (The Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Read, learn, share, and then take a nap.

ANTIBIOTIC-FREE: “Antibiotic-free” means that an animal was not given antibiotics during its lifetime. Other phrases to indicate the same approach include “no antibiotics administered” and “raised without antibiotics.”

CAGE-FREE: “Cage-free” means that the birds are raised without cages. What this doesn’t explain is whether the birds were raised outdoors on pasture, if they had access to outside, or if they were raised indoors in overcrowded conditions. If you are looking to buy eggs, poultry, or meat that was raised outdoors, look for a label that says “pastured” or “pasture-raised.”

FAIR TRADE: The “fair trade” label means that farmers and workers, often in developing countries, have received a fair wage and worked in acceptable conditions while growing and packaging the product.

FREE-RANGE: The use of the terms “free-range” or “free roaming” are only defined by the USDA for egg and poultry production. The label can be used as long as the producers allow the poultry access to the outdoors so they are able to engage in natural behaviors. It does not necessarily mean that the products are cruelty free, antibiotic-free, or that the animals spent the majority of their time outdoors. Claims are defined by the USDA, but are not verified by third-party inspectors.

GMO-FREE, NON-GMO, OR NO GMOs: Products can be labeled “GMO-free” if they are produced without being genetically engineered through the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Genetic engineering is the process of transferring specific traits or genes from one organism into a different plant or animal.

GRAIN-FED: Animals raised on a diet of grain are labeled “grain-fed.” Check the label for “100 Percent Vegetarian Diet” to ensure the animals were given feed containing no animal by-products.

GRASS-FED: This means the animal was fed grass rather than grain. They should not be supplemented with grain, animal by-products, synthetic hormones, or given antibiotics to promote growth or prevent disease, although they may have been given antibiotics to treat disease. A “grass-fed” label doesn’t mean the animal necessarily ate grass its entire life. Some grass-fed cattle are “grain-finished,” which means they ate grain from a feedlot prior to slaughter.

HEALTHY: Foods labeled “healthy” must be low in fat and saturated fat and contain limited amounts of cholesterol and sodium. Certain foods must also contain at least 10 percent of vitamins A or C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber.

HERITAGE: A “heritage” label describes a rare and endangered breed of livestock and crops. Heritage animals are prized for their rich taste, and they usually contain a higher fat content than commercial breeds. These animals are considered purebreds and a specific breed near extinction. Production standards are not required by law, but true heritage farmers use sustainable production methods. This method of production saves animals from extinction and preserves genetic diversity.

HORMONE-FREE: The USDA has prohibited use of the term “hormone-free,” but animals that were raised without added growth hormones can be labeled “no hormones administered” or “no added hormones.” By law, hogs and poultry cannot be given any hormones. If the products are not clearly labeled, ask your farmer or butcher to ensure that the meats you are buying are free from hormones.

NATURAL: Currently, no standards exist for this label except when used on meat and poultry products. USDA guidelines state that “natural” meat and poultry products can only undergo minimal processing and cannot contain artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or other artificial ingredients. However, “natural” foods are not necessarily sustainable, organic, humanely raised, or free of hormones and antibiotics.

NON-IRRADIATED: This label means that the food has not been exposed to radiation. Meat and vegetables are sometimes irradiated to kill micro-organisms and reduce the number of microbes present due to unsanitary practices. No thorough testing has been done to know if irradiated food is safe for human consumption.

PASTURE-RAISED: “Pasture-raised” indicates that the animal was raised on a pasture and that it ate grasses and food found in a pasture, rather than being fattened on grain in a feedlot or barn. Pasturing livestock and poultry is a traditional farming technique that allows animals to be raised in a humane manner. This term is very similar to “grass-fed,” though the term “pasture-raised” indicates more clearly that the animal was raised outdoors on pasture.

ORGANIC: All organic agricultural farms and products must meet the following guidelines (verified by a USDA-approved independent agency):

  • Abstain from the application of prohibited materials (including synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge) for three years prior to certification and then continually throughout their organic license. Prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms and irradiation.
  • Employ positive soil building, conservation, manure management, and crop rotation practices.
  • Provide outdoor access and pasture or livestock.
  • Refrain from antibiotic and hormone use in animals.
  • Sustain animals on 100% organic feed.
  • Avoid contamination during the processing of organic products.
  • Keep records of all operations.

If a product contains the “USDA Organic ”seal, it means that 95 to 100 percent of its ingredients are organic. Products with 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients can still advertise “organic” ingredients on the front of the package, and products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients can identify them on the side panel. Organic foods prohibit the use of hydrogenation and trans fats.

RBGH-FREE OR RBST-FREE RBGH: Recombinant bovine growth hormone is a genetically is a genetically engineered growth hormone that is injected into dairy cows to artificially increase their milk production. The hormone has not been properly tested for safety. Milk labeled “rBGH-free” is produced by dairy cows that never received injections of this hormone. Organic milk is rBGH free. (rBST stands for recombinant bovine somatotropin).

Here’s a great site to refer to. It’s where the content here was actually adapted from.

And I’m out,
Peace sign

Should you go gluten-free?

I often hear people speaking about going gluten-free or eating gluten-free foods. It’s a hot topic these days. We here about it everywhere, whether it’s a celebrity that just went gluten free, the latest gluten-free diet plan or cookbook, or a new gluten-free food product. So should you do it? To answer this question, I think there are two more important questions to consider first:

  • Do you NEED to go gluten-free?
  • What healthy foods should you be eating or are you eating that are naturally gluten-free?

When you walk into any store or market, you are sure to see a slew of packaged products with the words “gluten-free” on them. Although going gluten-free can be beneficial — and for some people absolutely detrimental for their health and survival — unfortunately it is also used as a marketing tactic to sell product. Be wary of that.

Why is this the case? Well, people associate gluten-free with being healthy or losing weight, and as a result feel less guilty when they consume a product that is gluten-free. If a packaged product, healthy or unhealthy, has the words, gluten-free slapped across it, more often than not a consumer will purchase that item. Herein lies the problem. People are making purchasing decisions based on words, rather than the true meaning and implications of those words.

In some cases gluten-free is healthy, but often it’s because those foods were naturally gluten-free to begin with. Vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, beans, fish, poultry, meat, herbs, etc. did not suddenly transform and become gluten-free, they always have been! These naturally gluten-free foods are very good for you, but many of the packaged products are not. There has been an explosion of gluten-free junk foods. Junk food, with or without gluten, should always be eaten in moderation. In fact, the gluten-free junk food may actually have fewer nutrients than the gluten-full kind.

There continues to be new research and learning around gluten, and I am no expert, but here are a few things worth your while to know.

Know what gluten is. Gluten is a storage protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and most oats. Pure oatmeal does not contain oatmeal, however most oatmeal brands on the market today are cross-contaminated with gluten proteins in processing facilities. For example, Quaker Oats states on its website that it cannot guarantee its oatmeal is gluten-free.

Know the difference between celiac and gluten sensitivity. Gluten is problematic for people with celiac disease or with a gluten sensitivity. Celiac is when the person is completely intolerant of gluten. Gluten sensitivity is when someone tests negative for celiac disease, but shows some improvement when gluten is taken out of the diet.

Know how common gluten allergies are. Before you panic about the long list of diseases connected to gluten sensitivity, know a few important stats and facts. Celiac is estimated to affect 1% people in the U.S., while gluten sensitivity is estimated to affect 6-10% of the U.S. population. This means that gluten is safe for 90% of the population! Remember that number please. Gluten gets a bad rap, and for many it is a sensitivity that should be monitored, BUT 90% of people are good to go.

Alright, now that we’ve got that squared away, here are some of the diseases linked to gluten sensitivity: osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy, and autism.

Determine whether you have a gluten allergy. Before you jump on the gluten-free bandwagon determine whether you truly need to. Why? Although it can be worth it, it isn’t an easy diet to follow, and requires lifelong commitment. You must be strict and regimented with what you eat, as the health effects can be quite damaging if you consume the wrong food. Also, you have to be extra careful about balancing nutrients that are lost from gluten-free foods. This is especially important for growing children and young adults, as they need a balanced diet and certain nutrients that adults do not (e.g., dairy). Studies have shown that some children are producing weaker and thinner bones as result of minimizing or removing gluten from the diet.

To add to the difficulty, gluten isn’t necessarily called out on the label. Wheat has labeling laws that require the words “wheat” to be written on the label, but barley does not. You have to look for barley as an ingredient as well as malt, malt flavoring, malt vinegar, beer, or brewers yeast. Oh and you know how some packages have the words “This was produced in a factory that produces wheat”? Turns out this is not regulated; it is up to the manufacturer to decide whether or not to include this information. That means you don’t truly know if traces of gluten (or the amount) are present.

So how do you actually test for this? You can determine whether you have celiac disease through a blood test (it is about 95% accurate), and then a biopsy to confirm. However, remember that you MUST BE EATING GLUTEN for the test to be accurate! Once you’ve tested for celiac and received a negative result, THEN test for gluten sensitivity. Unfortunately, this is not so easy, and at the moment the diagnostic tests aren’t the greatest. Trying out a gluten-free diet for 2-3 months, and journaling about your foods and reactions to them, is probably the best bet.

I leave you with this…

The benefit of all this gluten-free talk. On the plus side, this whole gluten-craze has resulted in people paying greater attention to what and how they eat. Even if people have no gluten issues, this topic has inspired individuals to think about their eating, choose healthier options, and read nutrition labels. These are favorable behaviors that help get people moving in a positive direction when it comes to healthier eating habits.

And I’m out,
Peace sign

Do You Chew Your Food?

Is there a point to chewing our food? Is it important? Yes and yes. There’s a reason we have teeth people.

What happens when you chew?

Let’s talk about what happens when you don’t chew. First, it puts a lot of stress on your digestive system and decreases your energy. This is because your body is overwhelmed with the process of breaking down the large food particles that you didn’t breakdown in your mouth. When you don’t chew, your intestines cannot properly absorb nutrients form the food particles as they pass through. I like how Purdue University Professor of food and nutrition Dr. Richard Mattes explains it (based on a his recent study):

Particle size [affects the] bioaccessibility of the energy of the food that is being consumed. The more you chew, the less is lost and more is retained in the body.”

Second, it prevents your saliva from doing its job. What do I mean by that? Well, believe it or not saliva isn’t simply there to increase your chances of drooling when you sleep. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that are only released when you chew! No chew = no release of digestive enzymes. One of these enzymes is called pytalin, and it is the enyzme that helps us digest grains and carbohydrates. Another is called lingual lipase, and this enzyme helps break down fats.

Lastly, when we don’t chew, we can forget to appreciate and taste the food we are eating. Chewing forces us to slow down. Many of us live busy, active, on-the-go lifestyles, and scarf down our food without thinking. Often we take down the food so we can rush off to the next thing in our day. There’s hardly any time to eat, and now we have to chew?! But, it shouldn’t be that way, and we should take time to enjoy and taste our food. When we bite and swallow we stop our body from thinking. When we chew there is a connection between the stomach and head, creating a more mindful, slow, and satiating food eating experience.

How many times should you chew?

So there isn’t an exact formula or number of times. It is really about making sure the food is paste-like or pureed. If you can still feel pieces of food, you should chew a little more. It also depends on the food itself. For example, you would chew chicken more than lettuce, and lettuce more than yogurt. If I am counting I usually start with 20, and go from there. Sometimes I need up to 50 chews! It is also not uncommon for one to require up to 60 + chews to properly breakdown the food. Once you start to think more about chewing and slowing down when you eat, you will find the process becomes more natural and intuitive. And you get the added bonus of better digestion, feeling full sooner, and more easily managing your portions.

Let’s recap…Why is chewing important and how can one benefit from the act of chewing?

  1. You can absorb more nutrients and retain energy levels
  2. Your saliva can do its job and help you breakdown the food properly so you can digest more easily
  3. You take longer to eat, which can help some to control their portion sizes, and maintain a healthy weight
  4. You strengthen your teeth and prevent plaque build up and tooth decay
  5. You minimize the amount of bacteria lingering in your intestines, which helps prevent gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, and other digestive problem

Think about chewing at your next meal. Why not reap the benefits? It’s free. The only cost is slowing down and taking/making more time to enjoy your meal…and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

And I’m out,
Peace sign