Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avoid These 7 Foods and You're Off To A Healthier New Year

How healthy (or not) certain foods are—for us, for the environment—is a hotly debated topic among experts and consumers alike, and there are no easy answers. But when Prevention talked to the people at the forefront of food safety and asked them one simple question—“What foods do you avoid?”—we got some pretty interesting answers. Although these foods don’t necessarily make up a "banned” list, as you head into the holidays—and all the grocery shopping that comes with it—their answers are, well, food for thought:

1. Canned Tomatoes
The expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bispheno l-A

The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Acidity -- a prominent characteristic of tomatoes -- causes BPA to leach into your food.

2. Corn-Fed Beef
The expert: Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of books on sustainable farming

Cattle were designed to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. A recent comprehensive study found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

3. Microwave Popcorn
The expert: Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group

Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize -- and migrate into your popcorn.

4. Non-organic Potatoes
The expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board

Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting.

5. Farmed Salmon
The expert: David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany

Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT.

6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones
The expert: Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

7. Conventional Apples
The expert: Mark Kastel, codirector of the Cornucopia Institute

If fall fruits held a "most doused in pesticides contest," apples would win. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides with Parkinson's disease.

Article by Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief, PREVENTION
Source: Yahoo Shine November 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Start an Eco Tour In Your Neighborhood and Share Your Ideas

This past Sunday I was lucky enough to catch the East Side Eco Tour, an open house of sorts where visitors get the chance to tour “10 forward thinking homes” in my local area. The idea, set up by Farm Feliz, a local organization thats mission is “homegrown action for a better neighborhood” is simple. Find ten local homes that have taken steps toward living with a smaller environmental footprint, open them to the public, and have folks come and check them out.
I’ve been involved in many environmentally themed educational activities, and this one was by far my favorite. While going to hear a lecture is great, and watching educational documentaries visually informative, the eco-tour was a chance to see what real people are actually doing, and right in my own back yard. The houses varied from the modern to older homes, from homes that have had complete remodels to homes that have had simple changes made, and everything else in between. Some homeowners allowed walk-throughs with signs here and there and were open to questions, while others gave 10 minute walking tours answering questions as they went.

As we walked through the different houses, we were treated to gray water systems, both hand built and professionally installed, photovoltaic systems, tankless water heaters, low VOC paints, cork flooring, waterwalls, and even composting toilets. It was a great treat to be able to see these systems in place, hear what the pros and cons were from the actual users (not salesman or engineers) and see how some folks went one way and others went another.

I think my favorite moment was when Sara, a divorced mother of one confided in me that she uses her composting toilet for liquids but couldn’t get her mind around using it for solids. She pointed out that that was where she drew the line, but she still saves thousands of gallons of water by what she is doing. It was this kind of end user honesty that made the tour so helpful. Many of us want to try different changes in our homes, but are afraid to do so because of the hidden pitfalls we may not see. The eco-tour allowed average people the ability to ask questions of those who have gone before and see the fruits of their labours up close and personal.

Now I know a lot of people who are reading this may not live in communities that have something like the Eco Tour. So why not start one yourself? Get together with your local home-owners association, chamber of commerce, or even just post something up at the library. Seek out others who have made steps towards decreasing their homes footprint and share the information. While it may seem like a lot of work, and I’m sure it was, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming if everyone chips in and helps. And remember, since most people are just beginning on this road, you don’t have to live in an Eco-castle to share ideas. Even a simple composting set up has value to people who haven’t seen one, and believe me, they’ll have questions.

As for me, I think the best two things that I took away from the tour were a website that lists all of the government rebates available around the country for environmental retrofits, and enough knowledge to finally install a gray water system on my washing machine.

Very cool stuff indeed….to the hardware store!
Dave Chameides is a filmmaker and environmental educator. His website and newsletter are designed to inspire thought and dialogue on environmental solutions and revolve around the idea that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. "Give people the facts, and they'll choose to do the right thing."


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Study Shows US College Students Active in Promoting Sustainability

But study says universities are not responding to Generation E

College students across the U.S. are increasingly involved in green movements from organic farming to the development of clean energy, says a non-profit environmental group.  But according the National Wildlife Federation's recent study, colleges and universities are not always responding to their students' interests.

Sophia Maravell is enjoying a break from college to work with her father Nick.  He has a large organic farm in Adamstown, Maryland.  This year they planted corn and soybeans, but they also raise chicken and cattle. Sophia is an active member of the organic movement at college.

"There is a huge youth movement, at least in my school, Colorado College," Maravell said. "And I have witnessed it across a lot of schools, back to earth movement of organic farming."

Sophia says the organic movement is key to sustaining the environment and the human race. She says her organic garden at college is selling vegetables to the college catering service. "I think we are thinking ahead of a lot of older people in the society, and I think this is a global movement," she added.

Sophia has visited organic farms in Europe and India. She complains that her school does not offer the classes she and other students would like to take. "We wanted to get a little more hands on knowledge because our school wasn't really offering those kinds of courses or classes, so we wanted to not just sit around and read a book but actually do something," she said. 

Sophia is not alone.  A recent study by the National Wildlife Federation concludes that although students are increasingly committed to sustainability, universities are not responding in kind.
Julian Keniry, with the National Wildlife Federation, directed the study. "What we have found is that there is great and growing interest in greening the campus operations  but what we are not seeing is a high level of interest around integrating sustainability in the classroom," she said.

The study is called "Generation E: Students Leading for a Sustainable, Clean Energy Future"

The E stands for ecology, sustainable economics and social equity.

The study looked at 160 college campuses where students are active.  

"After 20 years of working with students, we are seeing unprecedented levels of engagement and creativity like we have not seen in 20 years," Keniry stated. "This is echoing the civil rights movements and the peace movements of the 60s and 70s."

For example, these students from all over the country show their clean energy projects every year in Washington DC.

Recently, in the capital, students at the Solar Decathlon showed solar homes they built themselves.  

"Students are stepping up and leading in unprecedented ways and for every obstacle you can come up with there is a student group really confronting that obstacle in ways that can be adapted to other settings," Keniry said.

Keniry says students across the country have organized green gatherings, pushed for change in local regulations and promoted organically grown food at their schools.  She says youth movements have also become politically active, promising to vote after looking at a candidate's record on the environment.

Reported by Zulima Palacio | Washington, DC

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to Avoid Feeding Your Children With Toxins

Every day, we battle with making the right food choices for ourselves and especially for our young children. The unscrupulous world of business is producing tons of delicious artificial foods that are full of toxins and chemicals. Our children are attracted to the tastes and colors of all the processed foods, so much so that they grab and put them in their mouths. Even the 'fresh and natural foods' are affected by high levels of pesticide and chemical residues.

Nothing is really safe. Different foods are polluted with different toxic residues. In a Consumers Union report, popular fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, cantaloupes and winter squashes have toxic residues that exceed the safe levels. They are not only unhealthy for children to consume, even the adults will be 'poisoned' by these 'natural' foods.

One of the ways to prevent your children from eating high-residue foods is to wash and peel suspected toxic foods. A better option is to buy organic varieties of high-residue produce. Here are some steps that you may want to consider so as to protect yourself and your family from toxic foods.

Avoid Highly Processed Foods
Avoid foods that are highly processed, especially those with added artificial flavoring and colors. The reason is because most of these artificial additions have coal tar in them. Foods that need bright colors to attract consumers may have food dyes extracted from coal tar. The medical world has confirmed that coal tar in foods is one of the primary causes of various cancers.

Avoid buying processed foods because they have been transformed by various chemicals. Some of these chemicals can cause many types of cancer in the internal organs. Read the labels of all products. In Asia, many processed foods are packed with monosodium glutamate (MSG) which is bad for the body. Some medical reports have stated that MSG is responsible for endocrine disorders, neuro-degenerative disease and even brain damage.

Avoid 'Old' Frozen Meats
Processed meat products that are stored for a long time in deep freezers, such as salami, bologna, sausages and other delicatessen products, contain a preservative and color fixative known as sodium nitrite. This chemical is commonly used to prevent the growth of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum which is responsible for botulism. Sodium nitrite has an extremely toxic profile. It can cause colon cancer when the stomach acid reacts with it to form the highly toxic nitrosamines.

If you really like to eat processed meats, then it may be advisable to buy directly from the butcher who makes these in his butcher shop. The other way is to buy ground mince and make them yourself. At least, you are sure that you are not feeding yourself and your family with the dangerous sodium nitrites.

Natural Sweetness
Popular artificial sweeteners such as NutraSweet and Equal may seem beneficial to diabetic patients but they can also be dangerous. According to some medical reports, these artificial sweeteners have aspartame which is known to cause various  medical problems. Aspartame contains 50% phenylalanine which is an essential amino acid found in proteins. Researchers believe that when phenylalanine is combined with the other amino acids, it is beneficial to the body. However, when consumed in its isolated form, it causes side effects. In more extreme cases, the toxic effect of phenylalanine causes an alteration of brain's normal functions and thus behavioral changes. There are quite a few reports about serious side effects such as headaches, dizziness, menstrual problems, symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis or Fibromyalgia.

A good sugar substitute is stevia. This South American herb is 30 times sweeter than sugar and it does not have the negative properties of sugar.The sweet glycosides found in the leaves of the stevia plant cannot be metabolized by our digestive system. Thus the caloric intake is zero. The blood glucose levels of diabetics or pre-diabetics are not negatively affected.

Organic Foods
Begin your healthy lifestyle by gradually converting to eating organic produce. In Malaysia, there are more and more organic stores offering a wide range of fresh and packaged organic products. Reduce the risks of ingesting toxic chemicals which are found on conventionally grown vegetables and fruits. You must have read that Singapore, from time to time, rejects truckloads of vegetables from vegetable farms in Cameron Highlands or other areas. The reason is that the toxic levels of the chemicals found on the vegetable are outside the approved healthy standards.

Imagine, feeding your children with fruits and vegetables that are laced with poisonous toxins. These chemicals are harmful to the body and will cause nerve damage, cancer and Parkinson' disease. Pregnant ladies are known to suffer from miscarriage or have babies with birth defects when their bodies have high levels of food toxins.

The best option is to buy and eat organic. Malaysia has free-range chickens that live on grass and organic grains. These chickens can be accepted as organic meats. In other countries, there are free-range cattle, pigs, goats and sheep. Hormone-free food is the best. Buying meats that come from conventional sources can be harmful. A dangerous artificially created hormone known as diethylstilbestrol is found in almost 85% of all meats sold in USA. Chances are this hormone is also found in most meats sold in Malaysia. This hormone is responsible for cancer of the breasts and reproductive organs.

To keep your children and family members safe, start buying organic produce now. You should cook organic, grow organic garden and visit your local organic farms. Support the organic movement and tell someone about the benefits of consuming organics.Start having a really healthy life with organic now.

Written by Bert Kang


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