Monthly Archives: January 2010

Activism Healthy Living Real Food

Michael Pollan on Oprah – Getting The Message Out About Real Food

If you haven’t already began noticing just how much discussion is taking place in the world about how our food is produced, what we are eating, and how it might be killing us – now is the time to start listening.

Michael Pollan appeared on the Oprah Show this week. He is the best-selling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Botany of Desire. His latest book, Food Rules is a simple, must-have guide for anyone who is keen on improving the state of their health. It is a great beginner’s guide for how to get started in removing processed foods from your life and start eating real food.

Unfortunately I missed the show on Oprah this week, but I have watched it in its entirety from recorded material and feel it is  really important to post something about this broadcast. Its message is one of the most important we can hear about the way we view food, and the implications of where our food comes from are far-reaching and have a profound effect on so many aspects of our lives.

Here is an excerpt from Michael’s conversation with Oprah on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010:

Here are just a few of the important points Pollan and Oprah discussed in his interview:

  • In the 60s, people spent 17 percent of their income on food, while about 9 percent was spent on health care; today we spend roughly 17 percent on health care and 9 percent of our income on food
  • Processed foods like low-fat flavored yogurt contain more calories than real, whole milk yogurt
  • Fat doesn’t make us fat! Native Inuit people of the northern regions eat 75 percent fat in their diet – and have virtually no incidence of diabetes or heart disease. Real fats digest and assimilate properly and bring us to a state of health, while fake fats make us sick.
  • “Edible food-like substances” have taken a front seat at the dinner table and in our budgets while real food has become more and more scarce – and heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other degenerative disease are skyrocketing
  • The food industry has successfully convinced consumers that they can provide us with the nutrition we need conveniently, but at the price of our health and well-being and damage to the environment
  • The government subsidizes fake foods, making it not only cheaper for farmers and consumers to produce and eat fake foods, but also creating the illusion of those products being more appealing and tasting better (through engineering of those foods)
  • You really can make a difference when you spend money on food – you are voting with your hard-earned dollars for what foods you want to see available to consumers to buy, and at more affordable prices
  • Counting calories and fats are not going to make us healthy -we’ve been doing that with processed, fake foods for decades and where has it gotten us? Eat real food and it doesn’t matter – your body will get the nutrients it needs to be healthy
  • The interview includes an excerpt from the film Food, Inc. This documentary is an eye-opening look at our food system, including footage of operations that produce chickens and processing plants that package meat, interviews with activists, consumers, and farmers, and statistics and data about the the health implications and environmental impact of the food industry’s stranglehold on our food. If you haven’t yet seen this important film, I highly recommend you do so soon.

What can you do to make a difference AND improve your health? Many people believe they cannot afford to eat healthy food. But there are many ways to accomplish this task. Eating real food can be easier than you think if you look at it in terms of spending more now on real food and much less on health care costs later. Making changes in your eating habits can start with just a few easy steps:

  • Start buying local, sustainable, humanely raised, and organic a little at a time – the most important foods to eat organic and sustainable are foods with fat in them because they are stored in your cells and make a huge impact on your health – meats, dairy products, and oils. If you are on a budget, put those things at the top of your priority, and spend less on your other foods like produce
  • Stop buying processed foods, they are the culprit of many of our health care issues, and buy foods that come from nature
  • If something you are buying has more than 5 ingredients on the label, or you cannot pronounce the ingredients, avoid it. Better yet, buy foods with no ingredient list!
  • If you haven’t already, develop an interest in learning to cook and make foods from home. There are a wealth of resources available to those who feel overwhelmed and are unsure about where to start. Check out our list of resources and recipes geared toward helping you make healthier choices. Visit our home page to find our Amazon book list and different topics about food. Learn about different types of foods, where they come from, and what they really mean.
  • Do you know the difference between grass-fed meat and meat from conventional, factory-farm sources? Read this helpful article to learn more about the health benefits of humanely-raised meats from animals on pasture.
  • Learn about the importance of consuming milk and dairy products from grass-fed cows, which is completely different from conventional milk you buy in the store and from farms who feed their cattle grain, soy, and corn.
  • Once you know more about where our food comes from, consider getting to know your local farmers and food growers. Buying foods from your farmer’s market and merchants in your area gives you more knowledge about how the food you buy is produced – as well as peace of mind and better health.
  • Keep it coming! Go to the Oprah Winfrey web site and leave a comment about this show and very important issue. You can also suggest that other food activists and spokespersons be featured on the show to promote awareness about changing the way our food system works and how we view food. It would be great to see people like Chef Ann Cooper (Renegade Lunch Lady), Dr. Susan Rubin, Nina Planck, or Toni Geraci on the show. These people are all pioneers, educators, and activists who are helping to shape the face of our food system in a positive way.

How are you making a difference in the health of yourself and your family? What steps are you taking or have you taken to change your eating habits, reduce waste, and make your health better?

Green Living Healthy Living Real Food

Tired of Dry Skin? Use Traditional Fats And Oils In Your Diet!

Is your skin dry in the winter? Besides the air being full of static and moisture-depleted which can contribute to irritated skin, we can experience dryness because of three major factors – environmental damage, chemicals we put directly on our skin, and the lack of healthy, traditional fats in our diets.

Water and your skin

Although adequate water intake does affect the overall health of your body – including your skin – by itself, it does not have a direct affect on the moisture content in skin. According to Michelle Murphy, a registered dietitian at New York Presbyterian–Weill Cornell Medical Center, “The water we drink that’s processed internally isn’t going to impact the external look or feel of the skin. Instead, it’s the skin’s outer layer that is essential for keeping moisture in”.

In addition, tap water contains the following elements which can alter the skin’s ability to retain moisture: saline or alkaline minerals, contamination and pollutants, bacteria, chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride, softeners, and purifiers. These substances leave behind a residue that is responsible for modifying the osmolarity of the skin and results in dryness. Osmolarity relates to the skin’s ability to absorb moisture. A major factor in the development of dry skin is this residue from municipal water systems.

The real effect personal care products have on skin

Many products sold to eliminate dry skin actually cause the problem to become worse. And then there are other products claiming to be “natural” or chemical free on the label. Reading the ingredient label will likely reveal otherwise. Becoming a careful label reader in the store will reveal just how many toxic ingredients are in most of the lotions, body creams, and other personal care products you buy to combat dry skin.

Most lotions and body cremes contain emulsifiers (mixing agent) to combine the oils and water that are contained within the product. They also contain preservatives (usually a paraben of some type), and other chemicals that cause more problems than they solve. All of these ingredients clog the pores in your skin and actually cause the top layer to dry out more, thus causing the need for more product to be applied. There are a few reputable and fairly healthy brands on the market, but you should always take care and read the labels first.

Beware of GMOs and soy in skincare products

If you are going to purchase a store-bought product, be sure to read labels and avoid anything with genetically-modified ingredients such as soy, corn, or grains. These items are more often than not from a GMO source, and you cannot be certain that it isn’t unless the label reads “no GMOs” or “no genetically-modified ingredients”. From knowing what I do about soy, even organic soy ingredients are probably not safe on your skin.

Remember, your skin is the largest organ of your body and it can absorb at a much higher rate than your digestive tract. Soy is dangerous to consume because of high phytic acid levels in the bean which inhibit nutrients from absorbing into the body. Although I have not seen any scientific evidence stating that soy could inhibit nutrient absorption through the skin, to be on the safe side, the best course of action seems to be not to take any chances and avoid putting soy on the skin.

Look in your cupboard – natural oils for skin care

One of the simplest topical solutions for dry skin can actually be found in your own cupboard. Olive oil and coconut oils work wonders on dry skin and don’t cost a thing extra other than replacing your bottle of oil when you run out.

Besides being a very healthy, wonderful smelling and tasting oil for cooking, coconut oil is a luscious body oil and will cure dry skin almost on contact. Coconut oil has received an undeserved bad reputation for many years, but it is actually one of the most healthy oils you can use in cooking and for skin care. It also has a higher temperature point at which it can be heated and remain stable, thus making it safe for higher temperature cooking.

Nutritionally, coconut oil is comprised of 92 percent saturated fat. Over two-thirds of this fat appears as medium-chain fatty acids, referred to as medium-chain triglycerides. Its shorter chain fatty acid composition allows efficient metabolization and offers protection for cells against the stress of unsaturated fats within the body. It it also rich in lauric acid, known for its powerful antifungal and antimicrobial abilities. Lauric acid is an essential nutrient for immune system boosting, cardiovascular maintenance, weight control, and general health.

Another amazing oil for the skin is apricot kernel oil. It is rich in body and flavor, and feels soothing and warm on the skin. I have a friend that mixes and creates natural body oil combinations, soaps, and body scrubs who added some rose and geranium oils to my apricot kernel oil and it has the most beautiful smell imaginable.

Your diet and its effect on your skin

With that said – as there are many skin care products marketed toward making our skin softer, firmer, and younger-looking – I firmly believe the winning combination for skin health is a healthy diet with plenty of traditional foods including natural fats and pure, natural oils.

Foods that keep our skin soft and supple, and free from being dry and cracked, include:

  • Healthy organic oils like olive, coconut, palm and palm kernel, pumpkin seed, walnut oil, macadamia nut
  • Cod liver oil – Green Pastures carries an excellent fermented cod liver oil/butter oil combination that is highly nutritious and digestible
  • Real butter from pastured cows
  • Other healthy fats like tallow (from beef), chicken fat, and lard (from pigs)
  • Healthy meats from grass-fed and pastured or roaming-on-the-range animals and poultry or birds like beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, game meats, ducks and geese
  • Eggs from pastured hens
  • Safe-source fish and seafood such as salmon, tuna, oysters, cod, mussels, clams, octopus, or squid
  • Whole, raw dairy from pastured cows – cheese, milk, cream, sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, and kefir

The role essential fatty acids and other nutrients play in skin and general health

Fish oil and other traditional fats like butter, lard, tallow, and meats and eggs from pasture-raised animals and birds are also rich sources of Vitamin D, which has also been reported time and time again as having dramatic effects on diminishing the risk of development of cancer. Traditional fats are essential to protect from bacteria and microbes which can attack the skin and cause irritation or infection.

A proper diet complete with traditional fats including essential fatty acids helps to protect and nourish the skin cell membrane, and maintains adequate levels of tissue hormones known as prostaglandins. Prostaglandins act as chemical messengers in the body, and they are a key factor in regulation of various bodily processes such as pain, swelling, and other forms of inflammation in the body. If levels of these specific prostaglandins become too low for an extended period of time, this can lead to chronic illness and disease.

Because prostaglandins are not stored, you need a continual replenishment from your diet. That’s why essential fatty acids are so important. Many people are familiar with the critical role essential fatty acids play in supporting cardiovascular and brain development and maintenance. Essential fatty acids also maintain skin suppleness and prevent dryness and flaking. When prostaglandins levels fall too low from not enough essential fatty acids, skin problems that result can be dandruff, eczema, redness, dryness, itching, and the appearance of thinning skin. Another sign of low essential fatty acid levels is fingernails that crack or break easily, or hair falling out.

The American diet definitely contains an over-abundance in Omega 6 essential fatty acids. And it’s these imbalances between the Omega 6 and the Omega 3 essential fatty acid ratios which cause a wide variety of health problems – heart disease, skin disorders, obesity, digestive problems, and cancer just to name a few. An overabundance of anachidonic acid from too many Omega 6s becomes leukotriene, a pro-inflammatory chemical which directly contributes to skin problems. The substances known as leukotriene inhibitors, eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) found in traditional fats inhibits the effects of these inflammatory chemicals on our bodies.

How real fats changed my skin

My personal experience with dry skin is that for probably ten years I had been getting terrible, cracked knuckles in the winter time that would bleed. Each successive year it seemed to only get worse. The entire backs of my hands would also be dry with white, patchy skin that felt an awful lot like sandpaper.

During this period of time when my hands were red and dry, the tops of my knuckles actually had the appearance of the skin being stretched over them really thin like an elderly person (I thought they looked like an 80-year old pair of hands, but my husband said I was overreacting). But I was only in my mid-thirties! I didn’t know what to do, but I had to figure out something to make my 80-year old hands match my thirty-something face.

For some years I put lotion on them from the grocery store, which didn’t help. Later I started buying “natural” lotions and skin creams from the health food store. Some of them still contained chemicals and weren’t really helping, so I stopped buying them. One winter I started trying real oils from my cupboard and they felt great. But by then my body was so depleted of nutrients that I don’t think it mattered that I was using real oil on my skin – I finally realized I needed nutrition in my diet to make a real difference.

Now that it’s been almost five years since I first embarked on my journey to eating real, traditional foods, I can finally say for the first time in probably nearly two decades I have soft, healthy looking hands this winter. A few days this winter, I noticed a bit of dry skin creeping in, so I increased my intake of healthy fats and it disappeared. What a relief!

If you have been suffering for years with dry, red, or flaky skin, maybe it’s time to consider a change in your diet. With careful attention to what you are eating, including plenty of healthy foods with the proper ratios of essential fatty acids, you can have healthy skin and avoid dryness and itching that many people are prone to getting during the winter time months. And, you can save money from buying expensive, toxic products that really won’t help your dry skin problem. Save money on your health over the long haul by eating real food!

Do you have dry skin problems? Eczema, dandruff, or any other skin disorder that you have been able to solve with real food? I’d love to hear your experiences!