Monthly Archives: May 2010

Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Common Myths About Food & Nutrition

www.mypicshares.com

Are you a person who believes low-fat foods are healthier than those with fat in them? Have you ever starved yourself or limited your calories thinking that if you did this, you would lose weight? It has become a common misconception that if people eat low calorie and fat-free foods they should be able to lose weight because they are eating less fat.

Although in theory, this sounds like a logical conclusion, nothing could be further from the truth! With that idea in mind, have you ever wondered whether the food in your kitchen that reflects those ideas is healthy to eat? It can be confusing to try and sift through all the information available on food and nutrition. So much is available. How do you know what to believe? Don’t worry, I’ll answer this question later on in this post.

Right now, let’s go over some of the most common myths about nutrition as well as detailed explanations as to why those are untrue.

Here’s a short quiz you can take to determine how nutritionally aware you are about the foods in your kitchen:

  • Do you count calories?
  • Do you believe “lean meats” are healthy to eat?
  • Do you believe red meat is not healthy to eat?
  • Do you eat soy products because you’ve been told they are health foods?
  • Do you maintain a vegan diet?
  • Do you eat boxed cereals because the labels read “low-fat”, or “high-fiber”, “all-natural” or “no sugar added”?
  • Do you believe eggs and butter are bad for your health?
  • Do you choose vegetable oils because you have been told they are healthy to consume (canola, cottonseed, corn, and safflower oils)?
  • Do you take synthetic vitamin/mineral/dietary supplements to “fill in the gaps”?
  • Do you pay no attention to organic, sustainable, antibiotic/hormone/spray/pesticide-free meats and produce because conventional is “cheaper” and “it doesn’t really make a difference”?
  • Do you buy processed foods such as enriched breads, crackers, cereals, bagels, English Muffins, pretzels, rice cakes, tortillas, croissants because you believe they are low-fat and healthy?
  • Do you eat highly-processed lunch meats, sausages, hot dogs and other similar items?
  • Do you eat products containing hydrolyzed and/or textured proteins  or protein powder (read the labels on the foods you buy and see if you can find either of these two ingredients)?
  • Do you buy “food” and “protein” bars and powdered drink products because you believe they are an acceptable substitute for a real, balanced meal?
  • Do you believe that raw milk is unsafe to drink, and pasteurized is superior?
  • Believe salt is bad for your health?

If you answered no to most of these, hopefully you are on the right track!

If you answered yes to more than 2 of these questions, it might be time to re-evaluate what you are keeping in your cupboards and refrigerator.

Here are some things you may not know about the food you eat:

  • Fats and cholesterol are healthy and necessary for your health. All humans need real, unadulterated fats in their diets. Fats contain some of the most necessary nutrients and enzymes for us to maintain all types of bodily functions – even more than many vegetables, believe it or not!
  • Butter is good for you! A slice of real butter is delicious, filling, and provides Vitamins A & D, and K, and also Omega 3 essential fatty acids – especially butter from healthy cows on pasture.
  • The kind of meat you eat is important – learn the differences between conventional and sustainable-raised, grass-fed meats. Conventional meat is really the culprit of many of our health problems.  Animals in conventional environments are usually fed grain, soy. These animals are not made to eat these substances – but should be eating grass instead. As a result, animals become ill and often develop the pathogenic variety of E. coli and other diseases, are administered antibiotics to keep them from getting sick, are given growth hormones to make sure they grow fast enough to turn a profit quicker. The balance of Omega 6s to Omega 3s in conventional meat is grossly out of balance, and eating this kind of meat causes degenerative disease over time.
  • As a rule, supplements don’t replace healthy eating - but sometimes we need them, and if you are going to take them, good quality is critical!
  • Remember when grandma used to give you cod liver oil? Cod liver oil with butter oil is really good for you, and is an important source of Vitamins A & D. Cod liver oil with butter oil contains the important Vitamin K2 that is so lacking in much of our diets. Fermented cod liver oil is the best type of this oil to consume.  Here is a great resource of information on the importance of cod liver oil in our diets.
  • Sprouted, soaked, and fermented grains, nuts, and seeds are more digestible to the human body.  Howevergrains have been the cause of many modern health issues from weight gain and heart disease to behavior disorders and autism, to bone problems and digestive disorders of many kinds. Wonder why so many people have wheat and food allergies, and why obesity, heart disease, and other illnesses are so prevalent? In modern times, the grains most of us consume are processed and extruded. Extrusion involves grains being forced through a very small hole in a machine and subjected to extremely high temperatures, which damages the grain. For thousands and thousands of years, our ancestors prepared grains by soaking and sprouting to increase the digestibility of these foods.  When eaten sparingly and properly prepared, grains, nuts and seeds can be a part of a healthy diet. Still, some people cannot tolerate grains at all for any reason. You might be one of those people. Read this post: The truth about wheat and grains: are they good for your health?  Also read The big gluten-free lie which talks about why gluten-free products often aren’t a better choice. 
  • Cheap food is not really cheap – cheap foods are full of chemicals and toxins, and are not really food – so you can eat it all day and not be full. We are seeing more and more of these foods on recall lists every day. Eating these kinds of foods will actually result in a net deficiency of nutrients stored in your body. We also pay more for these foods when we are taxed in the form of government subsidies.  The more cheap, processed foods you eat, you will spend more money for conventional health care costs, medication, etc. and you’ll end up spending more anyway.
  • The Food Pyramid (designed by the USDA) actually tells us to eat the wrong foods! UPDATE: As of Summer 2011, the USDA changed their recommendations yet again. The Food Pyramid has now been discarded and in its place is now My Plate – an even more ambiguous and vague recommendation about what we should eat to be healthy. These new recommendations say  absolutely nothing about healthy fats, which are absolutely critical to all aspects of health.
  • The most unhealthy oils to consume are those that are promoted by the medical/health/food industries, and also are the cheapest (such as canola, corn, sunflower, peanut, cottonseed, and soybean) - and you will find these everywhere you look : in grocery stores, restaurants, and in processed foods everywhere. These oils are deodorized, subjected to high-heat temperatures, and are usually rancid by the time they reach the shelf. They are also often from genetically-modified sources and contain too much Omega 6 essential fatty acids which cause inflammation and disease. They contain polyunsaturated fats that are easily damaged in cooking. They are not traditional fats and should be avoided at all costs.
  • The healthiest oils are virgin and extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oils from a sustainable-source. These oils are extremely healthy and contain various nutritious elements. Coconut oil is high in healthy saturated fat and lauric acid which helps the body deal with viruses and bacteria such as influenza, herpes, cytomegalovirus, and even serious auto-immune disorders such as HIV. It is a great natural antifungal and antibacterial food.  Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat (Omega 9 essential fatty acid, and helps to maintain balance between Omega 3s and 6s), and antioxidant value (from Vitamin E).  It helps to keep digestion healthy to prevent colon cancer and gallstone issues. Palm oil is a healthy saturated fat and also contains the ever important cancer-protecting Vitamin E, which is also critical for protecting arteries and brain cells.  Best bets for oils are are organic, cold-pressed, extra virgin, unfiltered, handcrafted, and sustainable-produced.
  • Soy is not a health food unless it is in fermented form. Ninety percent or more of soy sold on the market is highly-processed, industrial waste – and beyond that can cause severe disruptions in the body in the reproductive, digestive, endocrine, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. Soy milk, cheese, fake meats, most tofu and soy sauces, soy “mayonnaise”, and soy filler ingredients you will find on the market are not good for your health, despite the claims made by food companies on labels. Natto, tempeh, and miso that are naturally fermented are good choices for health.
  • Table salt is an industrial waste product - the heating process during refinement takes temperatures upward toward 1200 degrees in processing, which destroys the majority of naturally-occurring elements. Mostly comprised of sodium chloride and no more than one or two other elements, table salt is toxic to our bodies. Unrefined sea salt has a balance of trace minerals our bodies need, which we currently don’t get from many of the foods we eat. Because conventional farming methods destroy our soil and mineral levels, the earth becomes depleted of many important nutrients that would otherwise greatly improve the nutritional content of foods that are grown (produce, grains, legumes, etc.) and raised to graze (animals for meat and meat products). The best choice is a good quality unrefined sea salt. Read this post about how the food industry labels products with terms like “low-sodium” or “no salt” as a way to convince you they are healthier than their sodium-filled counterparts.

Overwhelmed? Confused? You are not alone!

Manufacturing and processing methods remove nutrients from foods and denature them so that our bodies cannot recognize those substances. Modern food processing uses heat, pressure, and industrially-produced oils and fats to make foods more convenient and easier to package and sell. If your digestive system cannot absorb something, it will have a difficult time delivering something nutritious that will actually do your body benefit. What’s more, these foods can actually increase the toxin load and deplete existing nutrients, which cause long-term health problems.

Remember at the beginning of this post – I asked a very important question - how do you know what to believe?

When you aren’t sure, a good rule of thumb to follow is that if your grandmother doesn’t know what it is, you probably shouldn’t be eating it!  People have eaten real, traditional foods for thousands of years and survived very well.

It’s only been in the last 160 years or so that human beings have developed processing and automation to mass produce packaged foods. And yet since that time, disease rates and illnesses have changed considerably. For example, our records in the study of heart disease show that death from heart problems was a rare occurrence in pre-industrial societies.

Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution (19th century), the incidence of heart disease began to increase sharply, and since then more people have died from heart-related disease.  If you are a person that needs statistical data to be convinced, just take a look at this graph of statistics on heart disease from Google showing heart disease rates since the 1860s to now. It’s quite startling to see the change in this disease since that time on this graph.

If you are new to real and traditional foods, here are some great starter articles that can help you understand all the different types of foods, what to buy and what to avoid:

What are traditional foods? 

How well do you know your food? Find out!

Find out what’s in my kitchen:

My kitchen staples – how I keep my family healthy

What’s in the food you are eating?

Fortified and processed foods: are label claims about nutrition true?

Organic is only part of the story

Reading labels in the store – don’t be fooled by marketing lingo!

Does the Food Food Pyramid give good recommendations?

 



Activism Healthy Living Kids & Junk Food Real Food

Does Fund-raising for Disease Pay Off?

www.mypicshares.com

Have you ever wondered why there are so many causes, events, and fund-raising efforts going on for various diseases and disorders? Since I was a child, I have watched campaigns go on for these causes, and wondered why progress never seems to be made. Even when I was younger and pretty unaware of health, I puzzled over these fund-raising events and wondered whether the efforts were doing anything to cure disease.

Increasing rates for conditions like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are at the forefront of dialog and efforts in health communities worldwide. According to the following sources, these conditions are either increasing or not improving:

This New York Times article reports that cancer rates have been dropping since the 1990s from where they were in the 1970s, and the reason for the decline in diseases is attributed to prevention, early detection such as via mammograms and colonoscopies, and people abandoning poor lifestyle choices such as smoking. But do those activities really have a significant impact on health problems?

When we hear people talk about prevention, we don’t hear enough dedicated or serious discussions of how the food we eat or the products we use can affect our propensity to develop disease. Most of the topics center around eating lower-fat and lower-cholesterol foods, eating more vegetables and fruits, and more whole grains.

Very little of what people talk about in health communities takes into consideration the sources of our food, the quality of the food being eaten, and the fact that fats and cholesterol actually play a major role in the prevention of disease. And we certainly don’t hear much about personal care, household, commercial, and other products might alter the ability of our bodies to ward off disease and illness.

Nutrient deficiencies and how it affects health

If what we eat and nutrient-depletion isn’t an issue as so many people claim (or, as it is often absent from conversations about health), consider the following information about Vitamins A, D, and K:

This recent article from AOL News reveals that sunscreen may actually be increasing cancer rates, rather than preventing them. This idea goes against conventional ideas about wearing sunscreen – something we’ve been told for decades as the most important defense against sunburns and skin damage that can lead to skin cancer.

The article focuses on the main suspect of the believed reason for increase in skin cancer – the products reviewed contain high levels o f Vitamin A (used as an antioxidant). For years doctors have warned patients about the risks of “overdosing” on various nutrients such as Vitamins A and D.  And yet recently, we’ve been hearing media reports telling us that Vitamin D is vital to health. And it’s true. Vitamin D is critical to immune, bone, cardiovascular health.

Both Vitamin A and D are fat-soluble vitamins. That means in order for the body to properly absorb them, healthy animal fat must be present in the diet. Did you know that synthetic Vitamin D and naturally-occurring Vitamin D are not the same substance, and that when an individual takes too much synthetic Vitamin D, levels in the body can become toxic?

The same cannot be said about proper levels of naturally-occurring Vitamin D from the sun and from healthy foods such as fermented cod liver oil, dairy products, and meats and fats from healthy, grass-fed animals on pasture. The other critical component to health that is rarely mentioned is Vitamin K, which works synergistically with Vitamins A and D. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, “Vitamins A and D tell cells to make certain proteins; after the cellular enzymes make these proteins, they are activated by vitamin K. This synergy explains reports of toxicity from taking vitamins A, D or K in isolation. All three of these nutrients must come together in the diet or the body will develop deficiencies in the missing activators.”

According to the Vitamin D Council, the United States is experiencing a major deficiency in Vitamin D. If you are deficient in Magnesium, Vitamin D deficiencies can become acute. In our country, 57 percent of medical inpatients suffer from this deficiency, and 58 million American children are also deficient in this nutrient.

Modern diets don’t come close to including these important combinations of real nutrients that fight disease and illness.  If we are so grossly deficient in these nutrients, just stop and think how many other nutrients we might be lacking in our diets and the real impact this has on health.

Why fundraising for disease doesn’t pay off for those who actually need it

What exactly are the goals of organizations trying to raise money for disease prevention and research? Let’s take a look at some of the organizations putting their efforts toward “curing disease”:

Cancer

Susan G. Komen Foundation: their efforts are far-reaching and massive. In many major cities, you will see ads for “Race for the Cure”. There are calls for donations everywhere. And where does the money go? Money to put toward more research and drug development, and procedures that are supposed to cure cancer. How exactly is this accomplishing the goal of finding a cure? Surely, if we keep throwing money at this problem, someday a cure will be found and people will no longer have to suffer from cancer, right?

This year, Susan G. Komen formed a partnership with KFC to sell chicken in their Buckets for the Cure campaign, with part of the proceeds from the buckets going toward cancer research (a total of 50 cents per bucket to cancer research). The basic concept is quite laughable, but millions and millions of people are buying into this cause. Their goal? Raise 8.5 million from the sales of fried chicken.

What a brilliant public relations move this is for KFC, who sells industrial food to billions of people. No doubt, they will get a lot of credit for this from the mainstream media, medical and health authorities, and other influential entities. KFC will sell more chicken and everyone will “feel good” knowing they are supporting cancer research. So when you buy buckets of chicken from KFC, your hard-earned money is going towards supporting a corporation selling toxic food-like substances to the masses under the guiles of supporting health. It’s really quite ironic, isn’t it?

It’s not too surprising that KFC is involved in a scheme like this, they are first and foremost a corporation with a primary purpose to make money. But it’s quite another matter entirely that the Susan G. Komen Foundation has allowed their name to be used in conjunction with such an effort to sell crap food under the auspice of raising money to cure a fatal disease.

Diabetes

Diabetes has a similar movement with The American Diabetes Foundation at the helm, and you will see organizations and fund-raising events going on annually in many regions to raise money to combat this disease.

Their web site provides many statistics and numbers of people who get the disease. But the web site has absolutely nothing about prevention of the disease other than to donate money for research, and provides a link to another page, Stop Diabetes where you can add your name to a list of people who want to stop this disease. People are working night and day to maintain this web site and generate names, and request donations to stop a disease that is essentially caused by poor eating habits.

And are cures being found? Just how much money do we have to donate, fund-raise, and collect to find a cure for these diseases? I propose that these organizations and fund-raising efforts are not doing the job they are intended to perform – that the money being generated from these causes goes to fund more research for drugs, procedures and surgery to combat these health issues. What evidence are we actually seeing that this is working? Do people who receive drugs and surgery for cancer, multiple sclerosis, Diabetes, and other chronic and terminal illnesses really receive benefit and recover?

The results from an inquiry by the Department of Radiation Oncology, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Australia, into the contribution of chemotherapy to 5-year survival in 22 major adult malignancies, revealed a shocking statistic:  The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA.” [Royal North Shore Hospital Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol) 2005 Jun;17(4):294.]

Allergies and asthma

There are even organizations that raise money and awareness for asthma and allergies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation has a web site with all types of resources and information on becoming an activist for these health issues. There is an entire page devoted to information about new laws, petitions, and the latest news in activism for these issues. Guess what you won’t find there – any information about how the industrial food system or substances in the environment might be contributing to these issues. No prevention, no proactive measures are mentioned. There is, however, plenty of information and discussion about “treatments” and “management” programs for asthma and allergies.

The World Allergy Organization has a long list of important doctors, scientists, and university professors leading the board of directors. There are also forums, conferences, and regular meetings going on to discuss the topics of allergies. Basically, a lot of money, effort, and scientific research going to find a “cure”, but no mention of the real cause. I guess somehow the people running this organization assume that people can continue eating toxic food and being exposed to toxins in the environment, and the day a miracle cure is found, the world will be “saved”.

What’s the solution?

Although I won’t claim that there is any absolute cure for any disease, I know from my own experience, my own research, and the testimony of others that a healthy lifestyle with a diet full of real foods certainly will go a long stride to help prevent and avoid disease.

Before I eliminated processed foods from my diet, I had many health problems that plagued me on a daily basis. All the drugs that were prescribed to me never helped my situation, and in many cases, made problems worse. By the time I saw a nutritional therapist I was desperate for help. She told me if I hadn’t changed the way I ate I was headed for cancer and other degenerative disease. She was seeing hundreds and hundreds of clients who were in the same condition.

I know one thing for certain – medication doesn’t prevent disease. Medications are man-made substances from laboratories that are intended to eliminate symptoms that occur because of some problem in the body – often caused by some type of deficiency. Drugs also have a long list of side-effects. On the opposite end of the spectrum, food contains naturally-occurring nutrients that keep body functions in optimal states to prevent disease from starting in the first place. Real food heals and has no side-effects.

Can the same can also be said for many natural treatments? Even though they might be better for people than toxic medications, is the root cause of the problem actually being addressed? Can an herbal treatment, homeopathic treatment, or “natural treatment” like acupuncture or chiropractic care actually “cure” a disease or ailment?

In some instances, I believe a natural treatment can aid in the body healing itself. But if the body lacks the foundational means to generate healing because of a deficiency, or if it is overloaded with toxins – for example, as in problems with the digestive tract (which is the foundation for all health), a treatment, whether complimentary or allopathic, is probably not going to solve the problem. I know this first hand because I have taken both, and my general experience is that if my diet is poor, no amount of “treatments” is going to make my problem go away.

Here’s example: when the body’s largest digestive organ – the liver and its auxillary organ, the gallbladder – become filled with toxins and rendered unable to keep the body healthy, drugs definitely don’t help, and natural treatments may or may not work. If your liver and gallbladder are full of stones and toxins from a poor lifestyle (one of the main culprits of disease in the body), the answer lies in a detoxification regimen that will eliminate stones and toxins from these organs. The liver and gallbladder have a major job of keeping your health in optimal condition because they process everything you eat.  Your healthy diet will only help your body so much and you will only be able to absorb a certain amount of what you eat if you have liver and gallbladder stones in your body.

When we begin to understand the origins of disease and what causes them to occur, we can understand how to preserve and maintain health. No amount of fund-raising, research, or new drug development will accomplish this task.

Who is ultimately responsible for your health?

Modern medical wisdom tells us that we should place our health in the hands of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals like dietitians, scientists, fitness instructors, and personal trainers. Do you feel as though the advice you’ve been given by people in these fields has improved your health? Why or why not? When you are prescribed medications for health problems, do these drugs make your problems go away, or do you find that you don’t get the results you want?

Many people have experienced frustration and lack of solutions while under the care of conventional medical professionals. What about when you have taken decisions regarding your health into your own hands? Have you had better results?

How many billions and billions of dollars have people raised in the name of research and funding to “cure” diseases and ailments, and  just how much more money do we need to raise to find a miracle drug or “cure” for the diseases that plague us? Is it possible that no magical cure exists, but that what we really need to do is to employ prevention and preventative measures in our viewpoints and daily habits toward keeping ourselves healthy?

There is no such thing as perfect health, but by living a healthy lifestyle and putting things in and on our bodies that are as natural as possible, we can go a long way toward keeping ourselves from experiencing the massive disease rates as we do in modern society.

Want more information on how diet and food can affect your health?

Your diet and disease

Guest post: Kathryne Pirtle on celiac disease, nutrient-dense and traditional foods, and Dr. Weston A. Price

Is reactive medicine cheaper than prevention?

Want health care reform? Start with the food system!

This post is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read all the other great real food posts there.