All posts by Mira


About Mira

Mira Dessy here. If you enjoyed this article why not get more information with my free newsletter, Food News You Can Use. Every Tuesday you'll get an email filled with updates about what's happening with our food. I do the research so you don't have to. Join us at http://bit.ly/Food-News - See more at: http://www.theingredientguru.com/2016/11/antibiotic-weedkiller/#sthash.TtExRlDs.dpuf

sugar health war

The War On Sugar

As consumers start to pay attention to sugar consumption and more organizations and communities begin to tax excess sugar, industry giants are trying to fight back. The most recent effort is Coca-Cola’s funding of a study that claims lack of exercise and excessive screen time is to blame for the obesity crisis.  The study further states ‘more work need[s] to be done’ when looking at the influence of diet on obesity. 

The sugar misdirection

While exercise is definitely important and needs to be part of a healthy life, this study is very deceptive. It seeks to shift attention away from diet and from what’s in our food (added sugars are astronomically high in our diet at this point). It redirects the issue in a way that absolutely infuriates me. Corporate interest is in making money. They do that by spending tens of millions of dollars to figure out not only how to make a product that is addictive and nearly irresistible, then they spend even more money to figure out the psychology behind how you buy and to entice you to purchase their product. The outrageous part is when they then claim they have no impact on your health, it’s completely up to you to make the choices not to consume their product. When they take it one step further by funding studies that support the sale of their products and influence reported results that distance them from any responsibility for the impact on health? That’s unconscionable. While I agree it is a personal responsibility to watch what you eat, I maintain that it’s very overwhelming for the consumer who is surrounded by this sort of corporate deception and manipulation.  In the case of this most recent study, leaked emails reveal that, despite stated claims to the contrary, Coca-Cola contributed funding to the study and had a big hand in helping to design it. 

It’s happened before

This is not the first time corporate funding has co-opted research. Last year Coca-Cola and Pepsi were found to have funded a controversial study that claimed diet drinks were better than water for weight loss. But it doesn’t stop there. Coca-Cola clearly and openly funds many major health organizations such as The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, The American Cancer Society, and The American Academy of Pediatrics. When they fund the research these organizations do there is bound to be some sort of a bias in their favor. If, as it appears in this recent case, they have a hand in designing the study as well as funding it, that makes the results even more questionable.

There is a war on. When it comes to your health and the information you need to make informed, educated decisions you can’t rely on headlines. The news media is looking for soundbytes. They’re relying on our inattentive, 3-second-goldfish-mind, to just run news blurbs past us and then move on to the next thing. 

We have to go deeper than the headline news ticker. You need to know who funded the study, who designed it, was there any potential for influence for corporate gain, and is it solid science. This is not the first time this has happened in the war on sugar. It’s not even the first time that there’s been an all-out assault on convincing consumers that an ingredient which is bad for them is actually not so bad.  I’d like to take you on a small journey to the past; looking at a different ingredient war.

What’s wrong with HFCS

At this point we know that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is bad for us. It’s damaging to our liver, contributes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 

Invented in the 1970’s it was approved for use in food by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1983. It was seen as a safe sweetener and began to find it’s way into a wide variety of foodstuffs, juices, desserts, baked goods, and more. HFCS as an ingredient sometimes appeared in on the front of the label.

As over the decades evidence began to show up revealing that it was not as benign as we had been lead to believe. As more consumers began to push back against consuming HFCS the Corn Refiners Association began to push back. They started an ad campaign, “What’s wrong with High Fructose Corn Syrup.” You know those commercials. Someone offers another person a popsicle and the person it’s being offered to says, “No thank you, that has high fructose corn syrup in it.” The person offering it says, “So? What’s wrong with that?” The other person then stands there looking stupid as if they have nothing to say. Unfortunately we now know that there is a lot wrong with HFCS and it should not be part of our diet. But they put it in everything. It’s in sweet things like jams and applesauce. It’s even in savory things like condiments. It even appears in some commercial vitamins.

When the ad campaign was not as effective as they hoped the Corn Refiners Association pushed to have the name changed to Corn Sugar. Their thinking was that this would seem more benign that HFCS and be more acceptable to consumers. As I wrote in The Pantry Principle, that effort failed. HFCS is still the occasional subject of articles that claim it’s not any worse for you than sugar. But now the ads have all but disappeared. The front of package labels say No HFCS in bold letters. 

Fighting back

It took over 40 years to get to where we are now with HFCS. There’s no telling how long it will take with sugar.

I promise you it’s a war; one that the manufacturers will defend as vigorously and as long as they can. Sugar taxes and clear labeling cuts into their profit margins. That’s enough to make them misdirect and engage in morally questionable practices like funding misleading study results.

Don’t be fooled by the headlines. You can make a change for yourself and choose health. Read the labels. Be aware of how much sugar you’re consuming and where that sugar comes from. The more you learn about the different types of sugar and it’s effect on the body the more you will be able to look past the manufacturer manipulation and misdirection. The more you will be able to eat well to be well.

 

Related Links
Channel 4 dispatches: Secrets of Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets
Coca-Cola ‘spends millions on research to prove that fizzy drinks don’t make you fat’
Consumption of high fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in obesity
The role of high fructose corn syrup in metabolic syndrome and hypertension
High-fructose corn syrup-55 consumption alters hepatic lipid metabolism and promotes triglyceride accumulation

 

Building healthy habits with food journaling

5 Key Benefits Of Keeping A Food Journal

If you’re trying to lose weight, improve your health, or prevent disease, you must to take a closer look what you’re eating (and what you’re not). And there is no better way than keeping a food journal.

In fact, I require all of my clients to keep food journal. And here are my top 5 reasons why:

Compares Perceptions to Reality

Keeping a food journal is truly the only way to determine whether or not your perceptions match reality. Many people think they’re eating healthy, but often find it eye opening when they see their food intake on paper. Because it’s not just about what you eat. It’s also about your eating habits.

Helps to Improve Your Diet

When you keep track of what you eat, you get a more detailed picture regarding your nutritional intake. For instance, are you eating enough protein? Are you eating too much sugar? Is your diet lacking sources of healthy fats?

Thus, you can use your food journal to help create a more balanced and nutrient-rich meal plan. And this will help you look and feel your best.

Helps Break Unhealthy Eating Habits

A good food journal keeps tracks of what you eat, but also how much you eat and when you eat.

You might learn that you eat more when you’re dining with others than solo. Or, maybe you’ll notice you always reach for sugar in the mid-afternoon. Seeing these patterns will help you make the necessary changes to break any bad habits.

For example, maybe you need to be more mindful when eating out with friends. Or, maybe you need a more balanced lunch to ward off your 3:00 PM sugar craving.

Identifies Potential Food Allergies, Sensitivities, & Intolerances

Even the healthiest foods can wreak havoc on some. Thus, for weight loss and optimal health, it’s really important to learn what foods work for you and what foods don’t.

Food allergies involve the immune system and reactions typically occur within two hours. On the other hand, non-immune related food sensitivities and intolerances are much more common and their reactions are usually delayed (up to 48 hours). Thus, they’re much more difficult to detect.  

However, using a food journal allows you to look back at your food intake should you start experiencing unexplained symptoms.

In some cases a food journal might help you realize that cheese causes you to bloat, which may be a sign of a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance.

Common symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Excess mucus
  • Nervousness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Itchy or dry skin
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Night sweats
  • Food cravings
  • Acne
  • Brain fog

Connects the Dots Between Food and Your Health

What we eat affects every aspect of our physical and mental health. We can’t expect to eat poorly and feel great. Some foods may energize you, while others drain you. And some foods may lift your spirits, while others weigh you down.

Thus, by examining your food journal, you can learn a lot about how food affects YOUR body and mind. And once you connect these dots, I guarantee reaching your health goals will be much easier.

Food Journaling Tips

Food journaling may seem time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. While you certainly can carry your journal around with you, you can also take a picture of your meals and snacks with your phone and send them to your self with notes about your energy level and mood before and you ate. Then, each night before bed you can use your photos and notes to complete the food journal.

In Conclusion…

Keeping a food journal is one of the best strategies you can implement to help improve your diet, break bad eating habits, prevent disease, and successfully achieve all your health and wellness goals.

So what are you waiting for? Download a free copy of the food journal I use with my clients are start tracking your progress today!

 

 

Jell-O Simply Good (or Still Just As Bad?)

Kraft recently released a new line of “Jell-O Simply Good” products. According to them, they are “delightfully honest” and “made with the good stuff.”

However, I found several questionable ingredients still lurking inside. Let’s take a look…

A Closer Look at the Ingredients in Jell-O Simply Good

Cane sugar is the most abundant ingredient in this product (19 grams per 1/2 cup serving to be exact). And it’s most likely made from genetically modified and pesticide laden sugar cane.

Gelatin gives Jell-O its gel like consistency. And it can be a health promoting ingredient if sourced from grass-fed and pastured raised cows. However, in this case, the source of gelatin is unknown.

Dried strawberry juice provides a “natural” flavoring. But, it doesn’t add any nutritional value. In fact, it only adds more sugar.

Adipic acid gives Jell-O a bit of tartness. While it is an organic compound, adipic acid is the precursor of nylon. And it rarely occurs in nature.

Disodium phosphate helps control acidity. Scientists synthesize it by combining phosphoric acid with a sodium compound. According to the Environmental Working Group, sodium phosphates may increase one’s risk of heart and/or kidney disease when consumed in excess.

Sodium citrate also controls acidity. And it is generally considered safe in small doses. However, it’s most likely made from genetically modified corn. Thus, those with corn allergies should avoid products with sodium citrate.

Natural flavor additives lead consumers to believe the flavor is all natural. However, this is far from the truth. While the final product is derived from something found in nature, chemical solvents are used to manufacture them. Further, food companies are not required to disclose the actual contents of natural flavors. Thus, we’ll never really know!

It’s also worth noting that Jell-O Simply Good truly gets its flavor from these “natural” flavors as opposed to strawberry juice. Juice is actually quite bland and its flavor diminishes over time. On the other hand, scientists specifically design natural flavors to be potent and shelf-stable.

Fumaric acid is another additive used for tartness. In general, small quantities are considered safe.

Turmeric oleoresin is supposedly a “natural” coloring agent made from turmeric. However, volatile chemical solvents are used to make it. And when fed to rats and mice in this study, it had carcinogenic effects.

According to the same study, consumption of turmeric oleoresin was also associated with a higher incidence of stomach ulcers and inflammation of digestive organs.

And in case you’re wondering, human safety studies don’t exist. They wouldn’t be ethical. And this is true for most food additives.

Vegetable juice is used for coloring in this product. And it’s relatively benign. However, the type of vegetable juice used is unknown. And the vegetables are most likely grown with pesticides.

Jell-O Simply Good versus Original Jell-O Mixes

The main difference between Jell-O Simply Good and the original Jell-O mixes is the removal of artificial flavors and dyes. This is a step in the right direction. But, far from “simply good” or “delightfully honest” in my opinion.

Other than the flavors and colors, the products are almost identical. Both have questionable additives, zero nutritional value, and an abundance of refined sugar.

A Healthy Alternative

real gelatin peach gummiesAs previously mentioned, gelatin can be a nutritious addition to your diet. However, quality matters. I recommend using a clean, no additive gelatin made from grass-fed and pastured raised cows.  My preferred brand is Vital Proteins.

Here is a fun recipe you can use to make homemade “jello” gummies with fresh juice and natural sweeteners.

Do you already use gelatin? If so, what are your favorite ways to incorporate it into your diet?

Ingredients Based On Corn

 

Corn is one of the most highly genetically modified (GM) ingredients in the United States.  For that reason I encourage people to eat organic corn in order to avoid the GM contamination as well as the high levels of pesticide that are one of the results of genetic modification.  

There are six forms of corn – dent corn, flint corn, flour corn, popcorn, sweet corn, and zein. Most people don’t think about the different forms when they’re buying fresh, frozen, or canned corn at the grocery store.  Those are easy to identify.  And corn, corn flour, corn starch, or corn syrup are easy to identify by reading the label.  The challenge however is that corn can be turned into a rather startling variety of ingredients that make an appearance in every single food category at the grocery store.

For those trying to avoid GM corn, or those who have a food sensitivity to corn, it’s not always easy to know which ingredients got their start from corn.  Use this list as a resource to help you know which products to buy organic or, in the case of a food sensitivity to corn, avoid.

Corn-based ingredients

  • Ascorbic Acid – also sometimes listed as vitamin C
  • Baking Powder – this may contain corn starch
  • Brown Sugar – made from white sugar with caramel coloring added 
  • Calcium Citrate – also known as ‘calcium salt of citric acid’ 
  • Caramel – coloring agent frequently used in soft drinks.  Can be made from cane sugar but most commonly made from corn; a known carcinogen
  • Cellulose – a form of plant fiber (note: this ingredient can also be made from wood) 
  • Citrate – this sour flavor enhancer comes in several different forms: Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate, etc. 
  • Citric Acid – made by adding the mold Aspergillus niger to a base of corn steep liquor, molasses, hydrolyzed corn starch, or other cheap sweet solutions
  • Corn
  • Corn Meal – as well as being used for cooking, corn meal can be used for dusting baked items
  • Corn Starch – may be found in OTC tablets
  • Corn Syrup – may be found in liquid OTC medications such as cough syrup
  • Decyl Glucoside – often found in shampoo and other personal care products
  • Dextrin, Maltodextrin – used as a  thickening agent for condiments, frozen confections, and other foods
  • Dextrose (glucose) – found in sweets, may also be present in processed meats
  • Ferrous Gluconate – an ingredient found in black olives
  • Flavoring – Artificial or “Natural Flavors” may be corn based
  • Golden Syrup 
  • Honey – HFCS is sometimes fed to bees causing their honey to then have corn in it
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Iodized Salt – Dextrose may be added to iodized salt to help stabilize the iodine 
  • Lactic Acid 
  • Magnesium Citrate – Magnesium salt of citric acid
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Malic Acid
  • Malt/Malt Flavoring
  • Maltitol – a sugar alcohol made by hydrogenating maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Mannitol – This sugar alcohol is often blended with corn-based sugars
  • Methyl Gluceth – a cosmetic emollient
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) – MSG can be made from corn
  • Polydextrose
  • Polysorbates (i.e. Polysorbate 80)
  • Potassium Citrate 
  • Powdered Sugar – may contain corn starch
  • Saccharin
  • Sodium Citrate 
  • Sodium Erythorbate – may be made from beets, corn, or sugar cane
  • Sodium Starch Glycolate – may be made from corn, rice, or potatoes
  • Sorbitan – made by dehydrating sorbitol  
  • Sorbitan Monostearate – may be found in various types of yeast (baking, brewing)  
  • Sorbitol – this sugar alcohol often appears in diet candies or gum, can also be in oral care products
  • Starch – unless otherwise specified (such as potato starch) this is probably corn starch
  • Sucralose – Splenda is often made with dextrose or maltodextrin 
  • Sweet’N Low – made with dextrin 
  • Vanilla Extract – may be made with corn syrup 
  • Vinegar, Distilled White 
  • Xanthan Gum – often grown on a base of corn or corn sugar 
  • Xylitol – can be made from birch or corn, in the US it is frequently corn
  • Zein – used in time-release medications

 

 

January Kitchen Cleanout

If you’re like me the thought of a new year brings hopes for shiny and new beginnings.  Part of that includes the kitchen.  After all it really is the heart of the home.  But the kitchen and pantry tend to get cluttered over time.  The disorganization and clutter happens slowly.  We become so accustomed to it that we don’t even realize how out of order things have become.  Disorganization makes it overwhelming when you’re trying to cook or meal plan. 

A fresh start

With the beginning of a new year is a great time to make a fresh start. Time to get rid of everything that’s getting in the way of your organized, healthy kitchen.  Once it’s cleaned out, you’ll find it easier to make wonderful, healthy meals to feed yourself and those you love.  I love cleaning out my kitchen and always set aside some time in the first week of the year to get things back on track.  After all of these years I’ve gotten to a point where it’s quick and super easy.  In order to help you enjoy a sparkly fresh start with your kitchen I’ve made this handout.  With just 15 items it’s a simple and easy to understand way to get your fridge, freezer, pantry, and kitchen ready to go for the year ahead.

A kitchen cleanout can seem a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.  Break the task list down to make it easier on yourself.  Set your timer for 30 minutes and go down the list.  At the end of 30 minutes you’re done for today (or do another 30 minutes if you’re feeling motivated).  With just a few cleanout sessions you’ll be amazed at how organized your kitchen is.  Before you know it you’re ready for the year ahead.

 
january-kitchen-cleanout

You can get free copy of this printable here.

mindfulness, the word of the year

The Word Of The Year – Mindfulness

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of choosing a word to serve as my intention for the year.  This year the word is mindfulness.  As I go through each year I reflect frequently on my word and see if I am meeting my reasons for having chosen it.  

Choosing a word

In past years it has sometimes been a struggle to come up with a word.  There are so many to choose from! And finding just the right one that resonates is not as easy as you might think.  Usually I wind up taking the time from Christmas until somewhere after the New Year to identify a word.

This year, as I worked on my new book on meditation I kept coming back to the word and it really resonated with me. Each time I thought about it, wrote about it, saw it on my desk or my computer it caught my attention and made me stop for a moment. 

I realized that it flows well from my previous word of Focus.

The dictionary defines mindfulness as

noun
1. the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.

2. Psychology.

  1. a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them:
    The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
  2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique

 

Benefits of mindfulness

One of the things that appeals to me about choosing this word is how much it resonates with our need for self care.  When I work with clients I encourage them to be more mindful about their eating which, of course, has an impact on health. I encourage some sort of self care practice, breathing, meditation, yoga, all of which require a degree of mindfulness.

Moving forward into the new year there will be more of that.  Both for them and for me.  While I am a holistic health practitioner and I support others to achieve their wellness goals, I know I benefit from these practices as well.

The truth is that mindfulness is a very supportive piece of our overall health and wellness.  Studies have shown that it can help lower stress and reduce blood pressure. This, in turn, is good for heart health. [1]  Mindfulness can also help with nutrition, satiety, and even weight loss.  There are a number of studies about this and even a book on the subject

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the year ahead I’m looking forward to deepening my own sense of mindfulness.   And I’m excited to share with others, supporting them to develop their own mindfulness practices as part of their wellness plan.

Words from past years

If you’re interested these are the words that I’ve chosen in the past.  I find it fascinating to look back at previous years, at the reasons I chose certain words and reflecting on the growth that brought to my life.

I’d like to encourage you to pick a word of your own. It’s an interesting exercise and can have some amazing results. If you want to take it one step further you can even go to OneWord365 and put it out there into the universe.

* * * * *
Resources

[1] Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension 

 

Goals Not Resolutions

 

What’s in a resolution

With the New Year fast approaching many people sit down to make up a list of resolutions. This year I will…..

  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Exercise every day
  • Eat right
  • Give up junk food
  • Insert your favorite resolution here

The problem with the concept of a resolution is that we go about it the wrong way. We write down the results we are looking for not how we plan to get there. We craft ultimatum statements and that ultimately sets us up for failure.

In order to be successful with your anticipated changes for the new year consider setting goals instead of creating resolutions. Goals are a desired outcome. They are not as finite as resolutions. If you do not live up to your resolution frequently you are left feeling discouraged and possibly have a loss of self-appreciation or self-confidence. You’re also more likely to abandon it altogether (and perhaps any other resolutions that you formed at the same time).  With goals, however, the end result is planned for but not mandated. Along the way there may be reasons that you did not achieve your goal which you can examine and reconsider.  Or the goal may need to be modified along the way; because it’s a goal there’s room for that.

Creating goals

When creating goals there are a few things to consider. Because it’s one of the most commonly chosen resolutions, we’ll use an example of losing weight as a goal. Most people simply say that they will lose weight. They do not put qualifiers on the statement and do not think about how they will achieve their goal. Being prepared to think all the way through the goal helps to increase awareness and mindfulness and can increase your motivation and ultimate success.

  • What is your anticipated goal – to lose weight
  • Why do you want to achieve this goal – to look and feel better, so clothes fit better, to improve health
  • How much weight do you want to lose – is this goal realistic
  • How long do you think it will take you to achieve your goal – set realistic expectations for appropriate weight loss (you cannot lose 10 pounds in two weeks)
  • What are the steps required to achieve this goal – how will you have to change your nutritional plan and modify your eating patterns to achieve your goal
  • When do you plan to start the first step – choose a time that is workable, don’t start the day after a huge holiday party when you are not focused
  • What do you need to do to start that first step – do you need a support person, a program, a goal buddy, or a written plan

Be realistic

Don’t overwhelm yourself by setting too many goals at once. If you decide that in the next two weeks you are going to lose 20 pounds, start a new high-intensity exercise program, and give up your daily fast food run you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. When we try to do too much without planning and awareness we can be setting ourselves up for failure. On the other hand, reasonable expectations and a well-thought out plan can be the cornerstone to your success.  And don’t discount the need for a deeper level of support.  A friend or family member who can serve as an accountability buddy, or working with a coach who can nurture you and design a program that works for you.

Above all remember to be kind to yourself. A goal is a hoped for achievement. If you do not master your goal it is not because you have failed. It simply means that you were not able to get to where you thought you might. This gives you an opportunity to re-evaluate your goal and see if it needs to be adjusted or modified.

Most importantly, when working toward a goal remember to stop occasionally, look back at how far you’ve come. Perhaps you’ve lost less weight than you had hoped for but you’ve made significantly healthier food choices. Maybe you haven’t been able to get to the gym every day like you had hoped, but when you do go you are feeling stronger and have more endurance. These are accomplishments to be proud of. Pat yourself on the back, review your plan and keep working towards your goal.

The Gratitude Issue

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” -Albert Schweitzer

I thought I would write about gratitude.  Mostly because that’s what’s on my mind right now.  We’re at that annual cusp from old year to new.  That time when so many people make resolutions, often unrealistic and undefined.  And by doing so set themselves up to feel bad about themselves later.  There are a number of studies that show how beneficial a gratitude practice can be, mentally, emotionally, and physically, to support our overall health and wellness.  

The gratitude jar

I believe anytime is a perfect time to think about gratitude.  But I especially love this ritual that I’ve built up over time around creating an abundance of gratitude in my life.

For the past few years I’ve had a jar sitting next to my desk in my office.  When I have a moment of gratitude (and it can be for anything, not specifically for work, personal, others in my life) I write it down on a little scrap of paper and throw it in the jar.  I confess that I try to find colorful scraps of paper because it’s more fun that way.  I don’t go back through the jar throughout the year, I just keep filling it up.

Come New Year’s Eve while I’m waiting for the countdown, I open the jar and empty it out.  I unfold all those pieces of paper and savor reading them one by one.  I do this by myself, but you may choose to do it with friends or family members too.  It can be fun if it’s a group jar or if several people bring their jars and go through them together.

I find I do remember many of them, but what always strikes me is the number of things that I forgot about.  Every. Single. Year.  These are moments I was grateful for when they happened, but in the hustle and bustle of everyday life they slipped into the back of my memory and got buried there.   In opening this jar and going through them, I am grateful for those moments again.  

Some people write all of their gratitudes down in a book that they keep from year to year.  I have another friend who glues down all her little scraps into a composition book of gratitude.  I don’t do any of those things, mine go into the compost bin.  But I truly love this ritual look back over the year.  This ability in spite of any challenges or low moments we may have faced to see so many wonderful things.  So many reasons to be grateful.  

Once the jar is empty it almost seems to sparkle as I set it next to my desk to begin again.  And it brings hope and a cheerful spirit as I anticipate the year ahead.  

Cultivating a habit of gratitude

Being grateful doesn’t always come easy.  For some reason we are surrounded by a culture (and a news media) that brings out the worst in us.  Often we get so overwhelmed that we allow the negative things to strongly influence how we percieve what is happening around us.  Amidst the explosions of stress, worry, and overwhelming circumstance, the little sparks of gratitude can sometimes get lost.  Just as we learn to read and write and do any of the other things we’ve learned to do in life, so too we need to learn to cultivate the habit of gratitude.  

Below are some of my favorite resources and  articles on the topic.  I am not going to lie and tell you that I live in that blissed out place that is continual gratitude.  I don’t.  I sometimes struggle to get there, to get anywhere close to being grateful.  And yet I know I have to very much to be grateful for.

Yes we can get overwhelmed, sometimes we get lost.  But I have come to believe that by remembering that concept of gratitude and by trying to pay attention to it I am happier overall.  And so I’ve collected these resources and I have my ritual of the gratitude jar.  I’m excited and looking forward to what this new year will bring.

As we transition to another year I hope that whatever the year ahead holds for you it also brings happiness, health, contentment, and peace.

Gratitude resources

How To Be Grateful To People We Don’t Like – Learning to look at negative situations and focus on the good things we have can help us achieve a transformational shift. Admittedly this is not always easy to do, but sometimes having a resource we can turn to the guide us toward this can be helpful.

Gratefulness.org – A wonderful website offering videos, audios, articles, a virtual labyrinth, and virtual candles you can light. This is one of my favorite resources.

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life – A good article about gratitude with some information about how studies showing how it can improve your life.

Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy – A few suggestions for ways to add a gratitude practice to your life.

Stumbling Toward Gratitude – The end of this article sums it up well, ” There are no miracles. … There are no long-term quick fixes for happiness, so if you become a more grateful person and you add [these] exercises to your repertoire, you’ll be different six months or a year from now.”

9 Ways To Cultivate Gratitude – Nine suggestions for ways to cultivate gratitude (and avoid focusing on criticism or complaints)

A Serving of Gratitude May Save The Day – This New York Times article has some great suggestions and offers gentle ways to get started

And here’s a video on gratitude that I found moving.  Thanks to my Aunt for sharing it just when I needed it.

How Gratitude Affects the Human Body

From Visually.

Cream Of Whatever Soup

It’s winCream of mushroom soup - Campbellstertime and meal planning seems to turn to soups, stews, and casseroles.  For a lot of people that includes taking a shortcut by using some kind of creamy soup as one of the ingredients in their recipe.  Unfortunately while this seems to save time it’s actually not a great idea.

What’s in that soup can?

When it comes to canned products there are number of ingredients that are used in order to make the product more shelf stable. Or they’re added because they’re cheaper, easier to source, and more convenient for the producer.

For a lot of people using cream of potato/mushroom/onion/whatever in a recipe is something that they have a difficult time giving up.  Just adding milk to the recipe doesn’t really seem to work out too well as it’s too much liquid.  So they make a lot of changes but hold on to their creamy condensed soup-in-a-can.

I’m not only talking about Campbell’s here.  All of the canned soup companies use these types of ingredients in them.  This just happens to be the one that I’m talking about for the purposes of this article.  Remember, if you’re going to buy canned soups you must read the label and avoid negative ingredients.

Luckily you don’t need to rely on the can.  But let’s start by looking at what’s in that can and then I’ll share my favorite cream of whatever soup mix recipe.

Ingredient breakdown

Cream of mushroom soup ingredients - Campbells

  • Funny enough even though it’s condensed soup the first ingredient is still water.  That means you’re paying a lot for all of these ingredients but mostly water
  • The vegetable oils include corn, canola, and soy, three of the most genetically modified foods on the face of the planet.  GMO foods are not a great choice for health, you can read a brief blurb about it here
  • Modified food starch is often made with corn (making is a GMO) and can be more difficult for your digestive tract to process
  • Monosodium glutamate can cause a wide range of health issues.  In this particular can it’s there as monosodium glutamate, but may also be present as part of the “yeast extract”
  • Soy protein concentrate is obviously made from soy and is therefore a probable GMO ingredient. Extracted from defatted soy flour there may be a concern about pesticide accumulation during the concentration process as GMO crops tend to be heavily sprayed with glyphosate
  • Dehydrated cream is most likely to be from cows treated with rBGH, an artificial hormone linked to increased risk for diabetes, cancer, and several other heath issues.  It’s also been shown that cows treated with rBGH have a higher risk for mastitis and infertility
  • Flavoring is a very generic term and we don’t really know what it includes

Homemade alternative

Instead of reaching for the can, consider making your own cream of whatever soup mix.  Because it’s a powder it is shelf stable for quite some time and you can make enough to always have on hand for your favorite recipes

Cream of Whatever Soup Mix
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups powdered organic milk
  2. 3/4 cup organic cornstarch
  3. 1/4 cup organic bouillon powder or organic bone broth powder
  4. 2 tbsp dried onion flakes
  5. 1 tsp dried basil
  6. 1 tsp dried thyme
  7. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. To use simply mix 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups of cold water in a saucepan
  2. Cook and stir until thickened
  3. If desired add 1/2 cup of additional items such as diced mushrooms
  4. Can also add directly to a casserole calling for cream of soup
Notes
  1. Store in an airtight glass jar
  2. Keeps well for 3-4 months
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
 
Enjoy using this and be sure to share your favorite recipes that call for cream of whatever soup mix below

Antibiotic Weedkiller

 

Understanding glyphosate

There’s an increasing amount of attention to how harmful glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round Up) is.  Roundup is not only used as a weed killer, it’s now also being used as a desiccant, to dry crops before harvesting. Currently sprayed on wheat, oats, and beans, Monsanto additionally recommends it for desiccant use on flax, non-GMO canola, Non-GMO soy, peas, lentils, and sugar cane.  This increases our exposure to glyphosate dramatically.  

Not only are crops grown with genetic modification to allow for large scale use of Roundup as a weed killer, these crops are being dosed with extra applications before harvesting.  Non-GMO crops can be exposed to Roundup through wind-borne and insect-borne exposures.  Unfortunately, with the use of Roundup as a harvesting agent, now even non-GMO crops may be purposefully sprayed.  For some crops this could mean as many as three deliberate exposures to glyphosate.

Impact of glyphosate

Leaving aside the fact that Roundup is not an effective weed killer1 there are a wide range of issues regarding it’s use

  • large scale harm to the environment2
  • it adversely affects mineral content of the crops3
  • increasing evidence that it causes gut health issues and can damage DNA4
  • the World Health Organization has deemed it a probable carcinogen5

there’s one fact that most people don’t realize.  First developed as an antibiotic, glyphosate was not as effective as it’s developers intended. However they realized that it had potential as an herbicide and a new product was born.  Decades later we are dealing with an increasing fallout in terms of exposure, the impact on the environment, and the increase in illnesses linked to glyphosate exposure.  Increasing numbers of the population are experiencing issues with gut health, autoimmune system challenges, food allergies and more.  Issues that at their root have to do with the very nature of an antibiotic, to kill cells.  Yet we continue to bathe our crops, and our planet, in this persistent, endocrine disrupting, harmful product.

A new herbicide

So why do I mention Roundup?  Because it’s happening again.  Scientists in Australia have discovered that the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin (commonly known as Cipro) appears to be an effective herbicide.  According to Dr. Josh MyIne from the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Western Australia, “It kills plants in a very similar fashion to the way it kills microbes, by binding and interfering with an enzyme called gyrase.”  This may wind up being a case of history repeating itself.  Once again we potentially have an antibiotic being used as an herbicide.  Doubtless it will come with claims that it will be harmless to humans once it’s used for an agricultural purpose.  As we are learning from glyphosate.  This is not true.

Dangers of Cipro

What makes the use of cipro especially concerning is that it belongs to a particular class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones.  While a potent and effective antibiotic, this class of medication has a high potential for toxic side effects including pain, depression, CFS, thyroid issues, and more.  I learned a startling amount of information about how harmful these medications can be from The Anxiety Summit Season 4 where my friend and colleague, Trudy Scott, the Food Mood Expert, spoke at length with fluoroquinolone toxicity patient advocate, Lisa Blomquist.  

As yet we have no idea what the potential for harm is from converting antibiotic cipro to an herbicide.  But if we take a lesson from the previous example it does not look promising.  Unfortunately the potential exists for cipro to be brought to agricultural use without examining any of those issues.  

 

 

 

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Glyphosate-resistant Weeds: current status and future outlook
The Environmental Impacts of Glyphosate
3 Damaging Effects of Roundup (and its active ingredient glyphosate)
4 Gut-Wrenching: New Studies Reveal the Insidious Effects of Glyphosate
5 IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides