WARNING: science-based nutrition will rock your world.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trans Fat, Heart Attacks, and The Death of Real Food: A Short History Lesson

1901: people in the United States ate real food, including real eggs, butter, and lard. Heart attacks? Nobody had heart attacks; no such thing.

1905: Proctor and Gamble invented Crisco, a product made from cottonseed oil; cottonseed oil was originally used for candle manufacturing,  but a young upstart named Edison invented the light bulb. What on earth was P&G to do with its useless cottonseed oil? Put it in a can and sell it as a butter and lard replacement! The first artificial food was born.

1921: the first heart attack was recorded

1950:
400,000 heart attacks were recorded

2009: 700,000 deaths were recorded from heart attacks

Enough with the "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" already! Believe it: the crap's not butter, and it's killin' us, people.  For a short essay on Crisco and other harmful, man-made fake foods, go to http://www.liberationdiet.com/downloads/THE_RISE_OF_FAKE_FOOD_Excerpt.pdf

Cabbage and Eggs for Breakfast

There's good weird, then there's bad weird. Eating cabbage for breakfast falls into the good weird category. High in fiber, vitamin C and several B vitamins, quick sauteed cabbage of any variety is especially good with soft scrambled eggs in the morning; feel free to add a couple slices of  high quality meat candy, AKA bacon.
 
Breakfast cabbage: melt a teaspoon of real butter in a frying pan. Chop Napa or Bok Choy cabbage, and add to skillet when butter is hot. Saute for about two minutes on medium high heat. Remove to plate, add a little more butter to skillet, and cook up a couple of farm fresh happy eggs your favorite way. Add a piece or two of dense, crunchy toast, some organic bacon, and listen: that's the sound of your brain gearing up for the day!

Are Chickens Vegetarians?

No. Chickens eat worms and bugs.
If you buy eggs laid by vegetarian chickens, rest assured: somewhere out there is a marketing genius making money off your ignorance.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Choose

One of these statements is true:
You are what you eat.
The earth is flat.
You decide.

Magnesium: What’s the Big Deal? Crazy People, Listen Up.

 Magnesium is best known as a common treatment for constipation and heartburn, but in the old south, it was also used to cure dandruff and acne, and held the same medicinal status as turpentine. Our great-grands may not have been hip to the role Magnesium plays in maintaining a healthy body, but they respected it as good medicine.

Poor Man Food Magnesium is found in many whole foods, including collard greens – another constant source of nourishment for many poor families in yesterday’s South. Although over-cooked to slimy consistency, the pot liquor never went to waste. A hot skillet of buttermilk cornbread was doused with the liquid, or it was drunk like coffee. A bowl of magnesium-rich pinto beans usually rounded out the meal. Additionally, black strap molasses – a delicious source of magnesium – sat on the kitchen table alongside apple cider vinegar and homemade pickled peppers. Today’s organic gardens are amended to reap the full benefit of soil nutrients, and produce a bounty of magnesium-rich broccoli, spinach, and Swiss chard - considered upstart vegetables to some old gardeners who still prefer the poor man’s dinner of collards, pintos and cornbread.

MAGNESIUM FACT SHEET

Magnesium plays a critical role in cell function, and is necessary in nearly every process in our body. Calcium and magnesium should always be taken together to help regulate nerve and muscle tone. Green leafy vegetables are nature’s best source of magnesium.

Functions
• Relaxes nerves and muscles
• Builds and strengthens bones
• Keeps the blood circulating smoothly
• Helps prevent tooth decay
• Serves as an anti-inflammatory
• Helps prevent insomnia
• With vitamin B6, may be beneficial for autistic children
• Useful in treating menstrual problems by decreasing lower back pain and cramps
• Necessary for calcium uptake

Deficiency Signs
The liver, brain, heart, and kidney are affected first when the body is deficient in magnesium. Signs of magnesium deficiency include the following:
• Muscle weakness, tremor, spasm, and / or loss of sensation in the extremities
• Elevated blood pressure
• Imbalanced blood sugar levels
• Headaches and insomnia
• Psychiatric disorders such as short or long-term depression, delirium and behavioral disturbances

Factors Contributing to Depletion
• Insufficient diet, including food devoid of nutrients (processed, chemical-laden "Frankenfoods")
• Alcoholism
• Diabetes
• Overmedication with antibiotics and diuretics
• Oral contraceptives
• Gastrointestinal disorders
• Bulimia
• Mental and physical stress, including extreme cold, trauma and surgery

Toxicity and Adverse Reactions
Magnesium toxicity is rare, except in individuals with kidney failure. The most common side effect from high magnesium intake is diarrhea.

Nutrient-Rich Food Sources
• Fresh organic greens, including Swiss chard, spinach, collards, kale and mustard
• Summer squash, broccoli, cucumbers, celery, and tomatoes
• Seeds, including pumpkin, sesame, flax (ground), and sunflower
• Green, pinto, and black beans
• Quinoa and buckwheat
• Wild-caught (not farm-raised) salmon
• Organic raw chocolate (cocoa nibs)

Average Recommended Daily Dosage Range
Children age 1 – 13: 80 - 240 mg
Teens and young adults age 14 – 18: 300 – 400 mg
Adults age 19+: 350 – 750 mg
Higher dosages may be indicated for angina, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, hypertension, oral contractive use, osteoporosis, and menstrual problems; please consult your Naturopathic doctor or Holistic Nutrition professional if you suffer from magnesium deficiency signs listed above or for help determining you or your child’s individualized therapeutic dose.

Instructions for Taking Supplemental Form
Magnesium plus calcium and vitamin D is a winning combination because each nutrient enhances the absorption and benefits of the other. Follow label instructions, or your health care professional’s advice.

Reference
Lieberman, S. and N. Bruning: The Vitamin and Mineral Book, 4th ed. (New York: Penguin, 2007)

Monday, March 29, 2010

"The day, water, sun, moon, night...I do not have to purchase these things with money."
           -Plautus


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Raw Beet Salad

















Wash and trim the greens from three fresh beets, saving the beet greens for later (see "How to Cook Greens" post for recipe). Grate the beets, don't worry about peeling them. Add 2 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of fresh or dried dill, and sea salt to taste. For added punch, add some Dijon mustard, or mix the dill with oregano. Serve with your freshly cooked beet greens. YUM!

How to Cook Greens

It's okay to not cook your greens for hours; greens prefer a gentler touch. To all you green-haters: you might like them when they aren't overcooked.

Steamed Collards or Kale: rinse your greens in cold water and trim the leaves away from the hard middle stem, if necessary. Roll the leaves together and cut into medium shreds, or chop them any way you want to. Set your metal steamer in a pot with an inch or so of water. When the water boils, add the greens and cover; set your kitchen timer to no longer than 4 minutes, and 3 minutes might be just right for young tender greens; don’t overcook! Carefully remove the basket from steam. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a little balsamic or apple cider vinegar, and a dash of good quality sea salt. These are delicious for breakfast with a boiled egg and a piece of toast, or leftover cold for lunch. For an extra boost, add as much fresh raw minced garlic as you'd like.

Beet Greens or Spinach: rinse and chop, if needed. The red stems of beet greens are delicious; include them. Cook these greens in boiling water NO LONGER than one minute; both beet greens and spinach contain measurable amounts of oxalic acid which can aggravate kidney or bladder problems; once they are quickly cooked in water, the oxalic acid is removed. Drain, and dress to your taste.
Don't feel like eating breakfast? Drink it, then. Skipping breakfast will make you fat. It's true: skipping meals slows down your metabolism.

WHEY PROTEIN SHAKE
A handful of raw walnuts, a teaspoon of vanilla, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a whopping tablespoon or more of unsweetened, organic cocoa powder, a good quality whey protein powder (Whole Foods 365 brand is affordable and good; so is Earth Fare store brand), filtered water and crushed ice. Throw all these things in a blender, and enjoy. Just think: a chocolate shake for breakfast! How bad can it be? Step up your game: add a spoonful of green powder, or powdered vitamin and mineral supplements.
                   

Anytime Muffins

Gluten-free and vegan with no added fat or sugar! These little gems are delicious and good for you (unless you suffer from fermentation dysbiosis), so they’re one up on Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Read about gluten-free oats here:
http://www.glutenfreeoats.com
Read about vegan here:
http://www.veganvanguard.com/tutorial/tutorial_vegan.html


ANYTIME MUFFINS

Read through the recipe and set up your kitchen work station (bowls, spoons, measuring cups, muffin tin, ingredients, cooling rack, etc) before proceeding. This is a kid-friendly recipe, so let ‘em help!

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin well. I use organic expeller pressed canola oil, or organic coconut oil.

Ingredients
4 tablespoons ground flaxseed (don’t mix this with your dry ingredients)
4 tablespoons water
1 cup organic gluten-free rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill is good)
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup prune juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large grated apple
1 cup organic frozen or fresh blueberries
1 cup raw walnuts, almonds, or pecans, chopped

6-Step Directions
1. Mix the ground flaxseed and water in a medium bowl, and let sit for a few minutes until it’s gooey and thick
2. Mix your dry ingredients together, no need to sift
3. In the flax bowl, add your prune juice, vanilla, and grated apple
4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mix and stir
5. Now, add your nuts and berries
6. Divide evenly into 12 muffins, and bake for 25 or so minutes (you know your oven); let them cool in the tin slightly, then run a butter knife around the edges and gently lift each muffin onto your cooling rack.

Cook's Note
Look: if sweet is your thing, you might be disappointed on first bite. Here’s a trick for you: close your eyes, take another small bite, and chew slowly...amazing, isn't it? Your taste buds dance as your mouth fills with sweetness! If you're still not satisfied, go ahead and drizzle these with maple syrup or honey, or split in half, slather with real butter (don’t insult the muffin with fake stuff), and toast them.

Nutrition Info 
5 grams sugar (from the prune juice and blueberries)
5 grams fiber
170 calories, none from bad fat
23 carbs, but not processed, bad for you carbs

Thursday, March 25, 2010

WTF is Dysbiosis, and Why Should I Care?

Dysbiosis ( diss-bee-OH-sis) means something is out of balance, or not in harmony. When the gut is troubled by dysbiosis, internal organ systems don’t work at peak performance. Fame, fortune, good looks and sweet disposition be damned; if your digestive system AKA your gut isn’t happy, nothing’s gonna work right, including your brain. Imagine the gut as the body’s maternal guiding light. When you disappoint your gut through disrespect and neglect, you’re gonna feel it – maybe not today or tomorrow, but one day soon, and ooh, it might get ugly. See, the gut is the body’s equivalent of Big Momma: big (the size of a tennis court, I’m not kidding), unpredictable (when unhappy, has been known to pistol whip its victim into submission), and hard to please.

Hard to Please? You decided to give up white bread and go for the whole wheat, or eat a big bowl of steel cut oatmeal for breakfast instead of biscuits and gravy – and now you feel like crap! Your joints hurt, and you have chronic fatigue, alternating diarrhea and constipation, and mood swings. Well, you might be gluten-intolerant, meaning you’re sensitive to wheat, rye, and barley. Don’t get excited - switching back to biscuits and gravy isn’t the answer. Make an appointment with a holistic nutrition counselor, or a naturopathic doctor, for advice and support. Unfortunately, your regular medical doctor took only three hours of nutrition in medical school, and isn’t hip to the science of nutrition. Not to worry, the traditional medical community will catch up in a few years, but most aren’t there yet. How much longer are you willing to wait for answers? Go here www.celiaccentral.org to learn more about Celiac disease, and here www.gluten.net to learn more about gluten intolerance.

What about fruit? You’re proud of yourself for switching from your favorite Little Debbie snack cake to a bowl of fresh fruit for your after-dinner dessert, but now you suffer from bloating, intestinal gas, and cramps. Shoot, you felt better when you ate cake and ice cream. Do you go back? No. (Stop whining; of course you can eat cake – best quality, homemade, occasionally.) This one’s kind of easy to figure out. See, fruit is impatient; it wants to get on with the show, play out in the first act, and make a quick exit. When fruit sits on top of a heavy meal, it’s gonna complain because somebody messed with its script. Look at it this way: if fruit is your dessert, definitely eat dessert first!

Are you SAD? For those of us who follow a Standard American Diet AKA SAD, these aforementioned symptoms are nothing new. If your diet has been nutritionally void for years (nabs and diet drinks for breakfast, fast food lunches, and micro-waved something for dinner), then joint pain, gas, bloat, constipation, etc. are likely your most constant companions - just another part of daily life, just another sign we’re getting old. That’s why God made Prilosec and Ibuprofen, right? Unfortunately, dysbiosis isn’t cured, or managed very well, through the miracle of modern medicine. Dysbiosis turns to symbiosis (harmony) through personal effort and lifestyle modification – and the treatment is free and available to everyone, regardless of age, sex, and race. Read a more detailed explanation of SAD here: http://www.naturalnews.com/022331_food_American_diet_standard_american_diet.html

Fermentation Dysbiosis If you suffer from fermentation dysbiosis, carbohydrates are the enemy because your body can’t digest them properly. Main culprits include sugars, fruit, beer, wine, grains, and fiber; these carbs create the perfect environment for a Candida fungi take-over. There’s a war going on - not only in your gut, but also in your nervous system, sex organs, toenails, and eyeballs. Candida in small amounts is normal, but an overgrowth is harder to kill than a yard full of crabgrass; the good news is, Candida can be put in its place. But, you have to make peace with Big Momma to balance, to make it right.

Probiotics A person suffering from fermentation dysbiosis (actually, all dysbiosis) must make several dietary changes if they want to be well. Increasing healthy gut flora through the use of daily probiotics is essential; supplementing with at least five to ten billion live organisms daily is a good place to start. To learn more about probiotics, go here www.womentowomen.com/digestionandgihealth/probiotics.aspx - great info, and you don't have to be a woman to visit. To insure the success of probiotics, it is helpful - and necessary - to completely eliminate all sugar, fruit, alcohol, and grain from the diet for at least three weeks. Three weeks without Mountain Dew might be akin to asking you to sleep on a bed of nails or self-flagellate. Good news: it’s up to you! You get to choose, you’re in control; how well do you want to be? You can manage your health on a good, better, best scale, kinda like buying a garden hose from Lowe’s. If suffering through some gut distress occasionally is no big deal for you, good. But if dysbiosis is getting you down, and you’re tired of dinking around with your health, you’ll want the best.

Shake it, baby! Increasing protein in the diet may help stave off cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods. A great way for fermentation dysbiosis sufferers to start the day is to drink a fruitless whey protein shake (for recipe, see "don't feel like eating breakfast?" post.)

Case Study A client of mine (let’s call her Sophia), was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of eighteen and is now 54 years old. She’s taken many prescription medications throughout the years to no avail; not one doctor ever recommended probiotics, or advised dietary changes to support increased gut vitality. Sophia added probiotics to her diet in March 2009, decreased her junk food intake, added 5 servings of fresh vegetables to her daily diet, and dropped over twenty pounds in four months. Despite the positive results from making a few key lifestyle adjustments, Sophia’s still resistant because "all this nutrition stuff is weird; probiotics must not be important," she says, "if my doctor hasn’t recommended them." She also drinks pasteurized orange juice for breakfast almost every morning on an empty stomach, and refuses it give it up. Sophia has a chronic fungal infection under her toenails, and sometimes emits a yeasty, moldy odor. This is what good’s gotten Sophia; she might want to step up her game to better, then to best.

Recommended Reading
Dr. Liz Lipski, Digestive Wellness
Dr. Michael Murray, Total Body Tune Up

References
Lipski, E: Digestive Wellness, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005)
Murray, M: Total Body Tune Up (New York: Bantam, 2000)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Renewal Challenge March 28 - May 9, 2010

Most of us regard the coming of Spring as a perfect time to deep clean the house by organizing cramped closets, sorting through sock drawers, washing the windows to a sparkling sheen, and scrubbing months of accumulated dust from baseboards. But, we rarely put this much effort into taking care of ourselves. Regarding the changing season, is there a better time to focus on our health than Spring? If you view New Year’s resolutions with more of an “agony of defeat” than “thrill of victory” attitude, a spring renewal offers a chance to regroup, to get back on track.

Many factors contribute to our overall winter season malaise, including a lack of external stimuli like gardening, hiking, and daylight. The natural cycle of hibernation accompanies decreased physical movement. Our psychological hunger for connection to something beautiful and profound is often dampened by a motivational deficit due, in part, to cold weather. We may just have an insatiable desire to hunker down with a good book. Too often, we’ve chosen the cozy lazy boy recliner rather than the tennis shoes, or sought solace in a late-night bowl of ice cream right before bed.

Passing through the holiday season without partaking of our favorite treats was not an option for the vast majority of us. Now, we can’t seem to shake off those extra pounds, although we know in our heart of hearts that at any moment - given the right time - we’ll reach for those tennis shoes rather than the remote control. When the time is right, we think, we’ll feed our bodies the fuel they need rather than the empty calories our minds crave. And we are happy for a moment at the mere thought of these good practices.

Listen to your intuition. The stirring inside you is simply your body asking for attention. You are being called to action by your highest self! As the winter doldrums pass, the Earth makes room for budding maples, soft ground, and the warmth of the sun. Now is a perfect time to follow nature’s cues and join in the celebration! The baseboards can wait. Traditional renewal practices include prayer or meditation, movement, fasting, and giving. These activities – in any form - will jumpstart your mind, body, and spirit into greater health as we head into the spring thaw.

 Begin your Spring renewal by turning the kitchen into your home’s power station. Organize your tools, and box up everything that complicates efficiency. In other words, if you have fourteen dull knives, pick four to sharpen and ten to donate. Purge the twenty-year-old Tupperware collection, cast out the aluminum cookware you’ve been saving for your grandchildren, and move your favorite utensils into an easy-to-reach cabinet. Rid your pantry and refrigerator of negative obstacles as well. Either finish off that container of Chunky Monkey, or watch it melt in the sink. Make a conscious decision not to replace it during your renewal period. Read your food labels. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, remove the offender from your home. Otherwise, the temptation for backsliding may be difficult to overcome. You must take the offensive.

Think of your body as a castle in need of protection. High fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils are deadly enemies of your castle. Gather the sentries, and guard your door with fresh seasonal vegetables, organic raw cheeses, and high quality protein. Befriend kind people who will help you learn the tricks of the trade; cooking nutritious and delicious meals does not require deep pockets or chef’s training. You will be pleasantly surprised by how your efforts - regardless of their breadth - will lead you to discover a newfound joy of good, clean, and affordable food.

Center your daily activities on movement. If you have a sedentary job, stand up every time the phone rings. Walk to the sink and fill your water glass once an hour. Before drinking, whisper a simple thanks to the water for nourishing, replenishing, and cleansing each cell in your body. It will make you smile, and a smile is the best movement of all.

Make your Spring Renewal a time for initiating positive change. It doesn't have to be about deprivation; think of it as taking something back – taking control of your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being! Below are a few tips to help you on your way:

• Set your sights, but be realistic. Baby steps sometimes precede giant leaps; find your stride, and you’ll learn to recognize the beauty in both.

• Choose a theme, or focus. If sugary soft drinks are your demon, take control of this addiction and replace it with water. If caffeine is overtaxing your metabolism, replace coffee with herb tea. If you have read about gluten intolerance and think you may suffer from grain insensitivity, consider undertaking an elimination diet.

• Be prepared for the short-term negative effects of detoxification. You may experience headaches, breakouts, bloating, insomnia, fatigue and irritability during the first ten days or two weeks. Hang in there! Once these challenges pass, you will rapidly move into a phase of high energy and happiness. These positive changes will become your motivation as you continue your quest for renewal.

• Partner with a friend, co-worker, or family member, and stay strong together. Keep out of harm’s way; if your goal is to give up alcohol, stay out of bars.

• Plan on shopping for fresh produce more than once a week. If vegetables intimidate you, ask for help from another shopper, or from the produce manager. People love to talk about food!

• Purchase a metal steamer basket; it will become your best kitchen tool.

• Begin your morning with a glass of water. Eat or drink something your body recognizes as good for it first thing upon rising.

• Move your body through dance, yoga, resistance training or other daily exercise.

• Consider adding probiotics to your morning routine; they will help your gut support dietary changes.

• Weigh and measure your hips and waist on the morning you begin your renewal; then, avoid the scales for at least two weeks - longer if you can. Weigh and measure on the morning your renewal ends, being sure to wear clothing similar to your initial weigh-in (or wear your birthday suit). Weigh on the same scales, and use the same tape to measure. If a friend measured you at the beginning of the renewal challenge, ask the same friend to measure you at the end.

• See your doctor before beginning any new health plan; don’t discontinue any medications without consulting with your doctor first.

Easy Recipes to Get You Started

Good Morning Tea: mix the juice of one lemon with hot water, a small spot of Grade B maple syrup, and a touch of cayenne pepper. Sip slowly and enjoy. Good for the liver!

Energy Bumps: mix 2 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter (read the label – no high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils), a cup of ground raw almonds or walnuts, and a cup of raisins in a food processor. Add more nut butter if the mix is too crumbly. Roll into several bite-sized balls, and dust with cocoa powder. For an extra treat, add cacao nibs to the mix. This recipe can be doubled, tripled and custom-designed. Experiment! Make a batch ahead and keep them in the freezer. This is a sugar-free recipe, but the raisins add sweetness.

Steamed Greens (collards and kale are excellent this way): rinse in cold water and trim the leaves away from the hard middle stem, if necessary. Roll the leaves together and cut into medium shreds. Set your metal steamer in a pot with an inch or so of water. When the water boils, add the greens; set your kitchen timer to 4 minutes; don’t overcook! Carefully remove the basket from steam. Dress with a touch of extra virgin olive oil, a little balsamic or apple cider vinegar, and a dash of good quality sea salt. These are delicious for breakfast with a boiled egg and a piece of toast, or leftover cold for lunch. (Beet greens and spinach are best cooked in boiling water for NO MORE than one minute; these greens contain measurable amounts of oxalic acid which can aggravate kidney or bladder problems; once they are quickly cooked in water, the oxalic acid is removed. Drain, and dress to your taste.)

Beet Salad: wash and trim the greens from three fresh beets, saving the beet greens for later. Grate the beets. Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sea salt to taste. For added punch, add some Dijon mustard or mixed herbs. Dill is grand with beets!

2010 Spring Renewal Challenge: March 28 – May 9

Up for it? Email me if you’re interested in participating in a group Spring Renewal Challenge: lynn@hawthornuniversity.org. You’ll receive a weekly email featuring easy, nourishing recipes, words of encouragement, and insight into how the challenge is being met by others undertaking the renewal journey with you. Safe travels!

The Soy Controversy

There's never been a vegetable grown anywhere on earth that suffers from an identity crisis such as the poor, misaligned soybean. If history can be trusted, the soybean has legendary roots of epic proportion. Originating from China, soybeans received special designation in 2853 BC by emperor Sheng-Nung, who considered them to be one of the five sacred plants (rice, wheat, barley, and millet are the others).

The soybean was introduced to many countries several hundred years ago through sea and land trade routes, but is a relatively new crop in the United States. It arrived as ballast aboard a ship in the early 1800’s, was not planted until 1879 (probably somewhere in Northeastern North Carolina), and was only used as livestock forage until George Washington Carver discovered its value as a protein and oil source. Soybean production had its foot in the door earlier, but didn’t become part of America’s farming culture until the 1940’s.

Processed soybeans are the largest source of protein feed and the second largest source of vegetable oil in the world, and the United States is the world’s leading soybean producer and exporter. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the farm value of U.S. soybean production in 2007 / 2008 was $27 billion – the second highest value among U.S. produced crops, trailing only corn.
Soybeans account for approximately 90 percent of total U.S. oil production, with cottonseed, sunflower, canola, and peanuts making up the other 10 percent. But, food-grade oil production is not the soybean industry’s Golden Fleece; that designation belongs to biodiesel soy oil. According to a new study funded by the United Soybean Board (USB), U.S. soybean farmers have received an additional $2.5 billion in net returns over the last four years due to the biodiesel industry’s demand for soybean oil. In essence, the biodiesel industry has raised the bar for soybean prices beyond wildest expectations, and the only challenge to the industry is the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation to limit the use of vegetable oils as fuel.

The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri says soybean oil will be used for approximately 54 percent of biodiesel produced between 2009 and 2013. An increased demand for soybean oil leads to an increased supply of soybean meal. This byproduct will be used to feed livestock and poultry, as “the swine and dairy industries have had a tough time lately,” says USB Domestic Marketing Chair Lewis Bainbridge. “Every little bit helps in the poultry and livestock industries as far as decreasing their costs. And this demonstrates how biodiesel demand can have a positive impact on this important aspect of our food supply,” Bainbridge continues.

To date, the USB is made up of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. According to current marketing information, the checkoff fund assures a soybean farmer $40 worth of services for each dollar spent. Mr. Bainbridge appears to be quite successful in his effort to market the altruistic side of America’s industrial soybean farmers - and their desire to support their livestock brethren - by increasing the amount of soy meal available for livestock feed (which decreases food cost by approximately $19 per bushel). Soybean production and how it relates to public health and safety concerns are not on Bainbridge’s radar screen; he is simply doing his job, and doing it well by industrial standards.

Far removed from their “sacred plant” designation, soybeans were once thought of as a cheap source of protein for the poor – a meat protein alternative for those who couldn’t afford better. However, as Americans continued to search for the Holy Grail of health, soybeans ascended to the throne again, bringing us one step closer to eternal youth – thanks to savvy advertising, bona fide clinical trials, tofu-eating vegetarians, and passionate alternative health advocates.
So, what does all this mean to the American consumer? For years, we’ve heard about the benefits of adding soy to our diets. Our doctors and friends have suggested soy-based foods and supplements as treatment for menopausal hot flashes, bone health, and cancer prevention, and as a replacement for mother’s milk and cow’s milk. How can something as seemingly innocuous as a simple legume cause so much controversy? Why should we be concerned about increased use of soy meal in livestock farming?

The problems with soybeans are both simple and complex; its transformation from a simple legume with an interesting travelogue to a toxic hydrogenated oil with negative public health effects may not carry the same weight, if history repeats itself, as its ability to not only produce biodiesel, but to save the livestock industry from starvation and ruin as well. Some well known medical doctors, including Dr. Mark Hyman of “Ultrametabolism” fame, heralds soy isoflavones (the disease-fighting phytonutrient component of vegetables) as helping to prevent every known chronic disease of modern civilization. However, he also cautions that soy foods have been said to cause thyroid dysfunction in rats. “The take home message: if you are a rat, stay away from tofu,” he says. “Human studies have shown no significant effect when soy is consumed in normal quantities.” Rather cavalier words from a well-respected doctor with a wide following.

The early excitement over the health benefits of soybeans was due, in part, to the discovery that it is the only plant that can be classified as a complete protein; however, it is so low in two of the essential amino acids that it cannot be considered a complete protein for human consumption. This fact has been conveniently ignored in advertising and promotion of the incredible soybean. Moreover, soybeans are high in phytic acid and contain enzyme inhibitors, which can produce serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion and chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake. To add insult to injury, carcinogens are formed during processing of soy foods, including the ever popular and highly recommended soy milk.

Concerns regarding the dangers of soy haven’t stopped Unilever food scientists from developing a soy-based egg replacer. This new foodstuff, called Alleggra, was rolled out in the United Kingdom in April 2005. Sites are set on the U.S. market; our egg consumption is ten times greater than the UK’s. Tate and Lyle, the North American distributing company for products such as sucralose (Splenda), fat replacers, and high fructose corn syrup, has partnered with Unilever to mass market this new product. The egg replacer, composed of soy protein, whey protein, vegetable oil (sunflower at press), and egg white, is a GM-free product marketed as “a fully functional replacer of egg,” claiming to have 75 percent less saturated fat than an egg, and ten percent more protein. Food makers that use eggs extensively (bakeries, for example) are being counted on to drive profit margins through the roof.

Gavin Hays, chief executive for Alleggra Foods, says, “Alleggra has clear advantages in terms of cost and health.” He continues: “In terms of food formulations, our ingredient can swing an end product in favor of health. Alleggra is not only cholesterol free but is actively cholesterol lowering.” Apparently, this new egg replacement is important enough to have a corporation named after it.
Despite health claims by those who promote both soy and industrial food industries, there is rising concern over the potential dangers of soy, and the apprehensions
are being passionately discussed by health care professionals of every stripe. Even the American Heart Association (AHA) is back-peddling on its original stance regarding the efficacy and safety of soybeans as a healthy food or supplement choice. In a 2006 science advisory, the AHA accessed several studies on soy protein and isoflavones. The association found that, in the majority of 22 randomized trials, the change in cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels were almost insignificant relative to the large amounts of soy protein that must be consumed to show positive results.

The discovery of unusually high levels of isoflavones in soybeans curried early favor with scientists, researchers, and marketers alike. Isoflavones became a buzzword in the soy and medical industries; food and pharmaceutical companies touted soy isoflavones as the new magic bullet, reducing everything from cholesterol to cancer. However, ADA studies now conclude that soy isoflavones do not effect blood lipid concentrations, and may indeed stimulate cancer cell growth in premenopausal women. Furthermore, soy protein and isoflavones have not been shown to lessen symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, for example), and studies touting soy’s ability to slow postmenopausal bone loss were proven to be inconclusive. The safety and efficacy of soy isoflavones for preventing or treating cancers of the breast, endometrium, and prostate are not established, and a possible adverse affect has been recognized.

The biggest and most insidious challenge we face in the future is not the marketing of fake soy eggs, or soy protein shakes, or soy-based hormone replacement therapies. Our watchdogs must be vigilant with respect to increased levels of soy meal being added to livestock and poultry feeds. Exposing the dangers of this and other hidden ingredients in our food supply are of utmost importance, as the health of our nation – now and in the future – depends on a clean food supply. It seems that soybean farming is in danger of becoming just another monoculture industry without conscience, its sacred roots long forgotten.

The Skinny on Fat

Opinions differ on the amount of fat intake needed for a healthy diet, but all sources agree on one important point: a body needs fat! Fat is basic to the structure of cells, much like a foundation is basic to the structure of a building. Many of us misunderstand the concept of good fat, and it can be difficult to explain the chemical complexities in layman’s terms. Learning to navigate through this river of information remains one of the toughest challenges we face when making healthy dietary choices. However, understanding fats becomes less daunting once we’re familiar with a few key concepts.

SATURATED FATS, including coconut oil, butter, and animal fat, have a bad reputation because overconsumption tends to gum up the arteries. Blocked arteries, as we’ve been told, lead to heart disease, diabetes, immune suppression, obesity, and other chronic disease processes. But, overconsumption of many things in the diet will cause imbalances - the poison is in the portion.

Saturated fats provide health benefits when eaten in moderation. In other words, eating a pat of organic butter on a piece of whole wheat toast is healthier than eating margarine, or any butter substitute found in a tub. The saturated fat ingested in butter not only satisfies the appetite, but the body uses this fat to its advantage because it recognizes butter as good. You may have struggled with chemistry in school, but your body understands the chemical structure of butter! If you are a carnivore, grass-fed, grass-finished, and organically fed animal proteins are also viable sources of saturated fats, as are raw, organic dairy products. Worthy of the extra cost, they are meant to be consumed in moderation only. A diet of grilled cheese sandwiches and sixteen ounce steaks is unhealthy, regardless of where the food originates.
Some of the many benefits attained from a diet including a sensible amount of saturated fats are healthy bones and effective calcium assimilation; protection of the liver from alcohol and other toxins, including over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol; and immune system enhancement, meaning they help you stay well.

MONOUNSATURATED FATS are generally considered to be heart healthy, and include foods like olive oil, raw nuts, and avocados – to name a few. In countries where extra virgin olive oil is the predominate fat, rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity, arthritis, and asthma are much lower. However, overindulging in even the healthiest fat will make you sluggish and unhealthy. One half of an avocado pushes the limit on daily fat intake for the average person. So do three tablespoons of olive oil. Again, moderation is key.

POLYUNSATURATED FATS include the essential Omega-6 (linoleic acid, or LA) and Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA) fats. The body can make all the fat it needs from LA and ALA, but it can’t make LA and ALA. In other words, the only way Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats get into the body is through the diet; hence, they are “essential.” Essential means we must have them to live.

Most Americans get more than enough Omega-6 in the diet through meat and oils. However, those of us who follow the Standard American Diet (SAD) may be deficient in Omega-3 because our food choices are nutritionally unsound. Omega-3 foods include raw walnuts, flaxseeds (ground or oil), eggs from happy chickens fed an organic diet, and wild-caught, coldwater fish; even green leafy vegetables provide a small amount of nourishing omega-3 fats.

Many symptoms are associated with Omega-3 deficiency, including aching joints, arthritis, chest pain, indigestion, gas, and bloating, hormone imbalances, constipation, forgetfulness, inflammation, and frequent sickness. For most Americans, decreasing Omega-6 intake and increasing Omega-3 intake would make a profound difference in brain function, heart health, metabolism, and overall vitality. While Omega-3 deficiencies are common in today’s hustle-bustle, fast-food society, Omega-6 deficiencies are rare.

TRIGLYCERIDES are the most prominent form of dietary fat in the human body, and high levels generally correspond with disproportionate Omega-6 intake. An excess of circulating triglycerides indicates an increased risk for heart disease, liver stress, and metabolic syndrome. Any person - regardless of weight - who consumes a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugar will most likely show high levels of triglycerides, as well as high cholesterol. However, the news isn’t all bad! Triglycerides provide a necessary function in the body by serving as insulation for organs and as a source of energy storage. They are an integral part of a balanced and healthy body.

Today’s television advertising leaves the impression that CHOLESTEROL is an evil interloper: always dangerous, but manageable through pharmaceuticals. However, cholesterol plays a vital role in the health of cell membranes and blood vessels. For example, if an artery is damaged, cholesterol acts as glue, actually protecting the tear so the vessel can heal. Not only that, but cholesterol must be present in the body to generate estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone production.
The body can make all the cholesterol it needs, and this is where problems begin for about 30% of the world’s population. Diets high in cholesterol signal the body to decrease its internal production, and, for most of us, the body obeys. However, for the 30% whose body misses the cue, cholesterol levels rise. For most of these people, a high fiber diet made of whole foods, regular exercise, and adequate water intake will effectively lower cholesterol. If these simple supports are ignored, cholesterol levels will continue to climb.

Fiber is needed to transport cholesterol out of the body. Up to 95% of cholesterol can be reabsorbed and recycled if fiber isn’t present in the diet. In other words, cholesterol and other toxins meant as waste are put back into play, and the body becomes sick. Think of fiber as the truck driver who takes your body’s trash to the dump. You want that guy to visit every day.

The process of HYDROGENATION was invented in 1910 when manufacturers discovered how to turn liquid oils into solid fats that didn’t turn rancid. The industrial food industry loves hydrogenated, or TRANS FATS, because they extend the shelf life of their products. For example, if you buy a bag of Oreo cookies today and store them properly, they will still be fresh in nine months (assuming you can hide them from your kids). If you need a visual example of a trans fat in action, place a stick of butter and a stick of margarine outside on a sunny, hot day. The butter melts, and bugs eat it. The margarine retains its shape and nothing will touch it, except maybe your dog. It’s true: margarine is one molecule removed from plastic. People shouldn’t eat plastic.

According to the FDA, trans fats comprise about 2.6 percent of the American diet of adults. Several well documented studies show no safe level of these fats in our diet. In other words, trans fats are ugly and should have no place at anyone’s dinner table, or in any child’s school lunch. They are fake, man-made, hidden toxins, and are found in many of our favorite processed foods. For example, some Little Debbie snack cakes host not one, but two label listings for trans fats. The takeaway is this: consumption of trans fat is a deadly addiction that will eventually destroy the mechanics of the most incredible Mouse Trap game ever invented – the human body. Leave Little Debbie on the shelf.

ABOUT FAT-FREE: If you’re buying fat-free processed foodstuff, please stop. The only reason most of it has any flavor at all is because of added sugar and chemicals. Generally speaking, fat equals flavor, mouth feel, satisfaction. By removing fat from food, you starve the body of a necessary nutrient, which causes binge eating. You cannot lose weight by starving your body of fat. Omega-3 fats actually increase metabolism, therefore supporting weight loss and helping to establish and maintain a healthy weight. Just so you know: Omega-3 fats are not found in McDonald’s cheeseburgers or Baskin Robbins milkshakes, but a well-made pumpkin pie with a walnut crust is chock full of them!

All credible health professionals, regardless of field, agree that trans fats are bad for you. All would agree that the body needs fat for every cellular function – without fat we could not live; and all would agree that some saturated fat in the diet is unavoidable. However, there is passionate disagreement when the discussion turns to quality of fat in the daily diet. For example, Dr. Mark Hyman, author of the best-selling book Ultrametabolism, loves a high fat diet; so does Nourishing Traditions author and dairy advocate Sally Fallon. Although their views on dairy and saturated fat are diametrically opposed, they could be considered members of the same team, as the deepest rift regards quantity of fat rather than quality.
California’s Dr. James McDougall represents the antithesis of high fat philosophy. Although he agrees that whole foods with high concentrations of fat are health-promoting, he is strongly opposed to vegetable oils, including olive oil. In his August 2007 newsletter, he states, “Extraction processes (of oils) have removed all of the other ingredients of the whole food. Thus, free oils are no longer intermixed with the naturally-designed and balanced environment of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other chemicals found originally in plants.” In other words, all bottled oils have been processed and altered from their original state, rendering them useless to the body, and possibly damaging on a cellular level when consumed. What's a girl to do?

All essential nutrients are made from plants with the exception of Vitamin D, which is a gift from the sun, and B12, which is made from bacteria. This includes the essential Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. We, like all other animals, must get these essential fats directly by eating plants, or indirectly by eating animals that eat plants and store these essential fats in their tissues. Remember, we don’t make them. According to Dr. McDougall, our requirement for essential fats is very small; essential fatty acid deficiency is basically unknown in America, unless one is very ill – and even then, one can meet their need through applying small amounts of oil to the skin. Furthermore, he discards the notion of an imbalance of omega-6 to omega 3 as mostly bunk and possibly dangerous to one’s health.

The most obvious red flag in Dr. McDougall’s approach – as well as that of Sally Fallon – is the lack of discussion regarding biochemical individuality, meaning we are all different; when it comes down to the nitty-gritty science of nutritional chemistry, there is a standard approach to be considered, but we all have unique dietary needs. To say that we will all be healthier if we eat more butter, or less oil, is na├»ve, irresponsible, and confusing to the public. A more balanced approach helps to clarify the fat mystery for those of us willing to do the work.

Everything natural to the body’s function was designed to serve a positive purpose, including fat. Good science teaches us that eating a nourishing, nutritional, high fiber diet - complete with healthy fats - will support the body’s desire to be in balance. Say yes to real food!

Food Porn: Little Debbie is a Tramp (from March 2008)

I’m sitting at home on Friday night, researching submission guidelines for a regional magazine, trying to write something funny because they want funny. Trying to be funny is frustrating; after a handful of bittersweet losses and three years into a possible decade of hormonal upset, I’m not feeling so very funny right now. I roll my wheeled yoga kneeler the short distance - two tiles back and three to the left - from the computer to the kitchen counter, and dejectedly pluck parts off a freshly roasted bird cooling at eye level. No need to get up.

I spent the entire afternoon in Harris Teeter, mostly reading labels in the bread section. Regular people don’t have time to do this. But I can do my job better when I know what the hell I’m talking about, and I’m supposed to be an expert at label-reading. Harris Teeter has a decent bread selection if you’re not European or hip to hard-core, whole-grain goodness. Next month, I’ll provide my Wellness class participants with fourteen healthy bread choices - none of which (most people in class will think but will keep to themselves) compare favorably to Bunny Bread when it comes to building a homegrown tomato sandwich slathered with Duke’s mayonnaise. By the way, Duke’s - the only naturally sugar-free mayo on the market - is a true southern delicacy, having been born and raised in Mauldin, South Carolina.

I have to disagree about the Bunny Bread. When it comes to white, I’m a Little Miss Sunbeam girl. An old lover said he slept with the original Little Miss Sunbeam in New York City back in the ‘eighties. He said the same thing about other famous women, and I always doubted his claims. But Little Miss Sunbeam, now, that’s feasible; something about that historic coupling rings true.

I’m a Community Health Educator. That means I teach people how to live longer and feel better, to cop a phrase from the late Dr. Linus Pauling, the world’s first and foremost Vitamin C expert. I personally believe in C, but only take it during the onslaught of a righteous cold. Then I methodically take up to 20 grams (that’s right, grams) throughout the day, and continue the Bowel Tolerance Challenge until an upset stomach tells me to stop. How cool is that? Can you picture the TV commercial? “The side effect of taking a mega-dose of Vitamin C as a cure for the common cold is diarrhea.” Hmmm...no erectile dysfunction or permanent hair loss? Gee. It probably doesn’t work, then.

Today I spent the afternoon in Harris Teeter researching basic food labels. I dream and pray that most people feed their kids sensible food: trans-fat free peanut butter on whole wheat toast with some organic apple slices, homemade chocolate chip cookies baked thin and crispy, a glass of vanilla Rice Dream over ice, magic whole wheat noodles with broccoli trees, olive oil and parmesan cheese for dinner. Really, how long does it take to make these things? And then I realize it’s not so much about timing as about knowledge. I better get my shit together and figure out how to make good nutrition standard practice in every household, and build that practice to the point of desire. Make ‘em want the healthy stuff. ‘Broccoli good, broccoli good,’ says the wee one. And mommy listens.

Eggs: 12 happy organic brown, $4.19; 18 sad white, $2.89; hard sell to a single mom feeding three kids on turnip blood. I make a mental note to mention the local farmer’s market and move on.

Applesauce; canned crushed tomatoes; old fashioned Cheerios… these things are affordable, even likeable… brown rice; balsamic vinegar; olive oil…a little weird for some Southerners, but affordable and user-friendly. I fumble with my glasses and grab my calculator. Are they gonna listen when I tell ‘em that Minute Maid Lemonade has more sugar per serving than Mountain Dew? Just how many more children will be sacrificed to chronic, life-threatening diseases? Water, people!

I’ve been in the store for two hours, and the aisles are getting crowded with the after-work crush. It’s time to wrap this project up - but first a quick visit to the cookie and cracker section. Triscuits make the cut. Wheat Thins, no. Goldfish and Ak Maks are OK. Sorry, no Cheez-Its – what a freakin’ crying shame. For a moment I stand quietly, holding what could be my own box and mourning the loss of Cheez-Its as a revered snack food in my life. In my opinion, Get Your Own Box is the greatest junk food slogan of all time. Cheez-Its go very well with Cheerwine, an authentic Southern soft drink that used to be made with cane sugar - no redundant High Fructose Corn Syrup in Cheerwine – until they copped out.

Can you hear it? An original jingle featuring three hard-driving junk foods takes shape in my snack-deprived brain: Cheez-Its, a Cheerwine and a chewy Slim Jim! I snap my fingers, shuffle my feet; I swoon, I know I do. Crazy? Oh, yeah. I’m brimming over with crazy after two hours of label-reading, and I haven’t reached the cookie section yet.

I’m dead serious about cookies, and so is the Lady in Waiting at the end of the aisle. She smiles innocently, this familiar face; she’s a middle-aged woman now, one who still dresses like a ‘50’s schoolgirl; she encourages grown men to engage in forbidden orgies; she beckons them from their beds in the middle of the night: she’s the obscene snack queen known as Little Debbie, and she’s a torrid food tramp devoid of nutritional value. Her Honeybuns feature not one partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, but two. She might as well be half-naked on a street corner in your neighborhood offering her irresistibly addictive charms to a slobbering, sleepwalking John.

I think about her Nutty Bars – my favorite childhood Little Debbie snack -and I feel the slickness of her waxy fake chocolate in my mouth. I pick up the box, read the label, and wonder if I can advise someone to never choose from Little Debbie’s menu of sheer delights. It feels treacherous, anti-American somehow. She’s so transparent, so truthful. Little Debbie is a hard core food slut, and she doesn’t hide it. She tells the truth in terms we can understand. But I don’t want her in my kitchen. You probably don’t want her near your husband or children.

I head home with organic chicken, a bottle of wine, and a bag of ginger snaps, most of which mysteriously disappear as I ponder, research, and write on this Friday night, as I try to be funny.

PLByrd