Category Archives: gmo


Glucerna – Is It A Healthy Choice?

Meal supplement beverages, such as glucerna, are frequently promoted by doctors for a variety of reasons.  In some cases it may be due to concerns about the amount of protein a patient needs, or if they are a “picky eater” and not getting enough nutrients.  An increasing number of these products are aimed at diabetics, purporting to help them control blood sugar levels.  Sadly these products come with a massive ingredient list and are not as healthy as the manufacturer would have you believe.

What’s in the can?

Glucerna - ingredient breakdown

I’ve chosen Glucerna because it’s one of the more popular products aimed at people with diabetes.  It claims to “Help Minimize Blood Sugar Spikes”, has 190 calories, and provides 10 grams of protein.  Just because something has a lot of protein does not mean that it’s helpful for managing blood sugar.  You need to read the label to see what’s really in that can.

INGREDIENTS:  Water, Corn Maltodextrin, Milk Protein Concentrate,       Fructose, Glycerol, Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharides, Cocoa Powder       (Processed with Alkali), Soy Protein Isolate, High Oleic Safflower Oil.            Less than 2% of the Following: Canola Oil, Soy Oil, Cellulose Gel, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Phosphate, Salt, Choline Chloride,  Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate,      Cellulose Gum, Potassium Phosphate, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Monoglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Liquid Sucralose, Potassium Hydroxide, Magnesium Chloride, Carrageenan, Turmeric Concentrate, Acesulfame Potassium, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, FD&C Red #3, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Chromium Chloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Sodium Molybdate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Phylloquinone, Cyanocobalamin, and Vitamin D3.

That’s  quite a mouthful.  Literally.  So now let’s break down that long list  so you can really understand what you’re getting.

Glucerna ingredients

Sugars

This product delivers 6 grams of sugar per serving.  That’s a lot of  sugar in my book, especially for a beverage that’s supposed to balance blood sugar.   The very first thing that stands out for me on the ingredient list is that the first ingredient is water, meaning that most of this product is water.  

When we go through the list of ingredients we see that it has several different sources of sugar and sweeteners.  To have all of this in a product clearly aimed at people trying to better manage their blood sugar levels does not make sense.

  • Corn Maltodextrin: The corn is most likely genetically modified meaning that this has GMOs in it.  I do not advocate consuming GMOs and recommend avoiding them as much as possible.
  • Fructose: This is probably from either sugar cane, sugar beets or corn.  While I don’t know which one it is I will point out that the sugar beets and corn are most likely to be from GMO sources.  Excess consumption of fructose has also been shown to have a negative impact on the liver.  
  • Glycerol: This is a sugar alcohol which can be synthesized or made from either plant (soy, i.e., GMO soy) or animal (tallow) sources
  • Sucralose: An artificial sweetener which can cause a host of negative health issues including migraines, dizziness, digestive disturbances, and allergic type reactions.
  • Acesulfame Potassium: Another form of artificial sweetener.  Unfortunately studies appear to show that consuming a lot of artificial sweeteners may be linked to weight gain.

Other negative ingredients

  • Artificial flavor:  Made from “proprietary chemical formulations” the actual ingredients are not required to be listed on the label as long as they are considered GRAS.  However, many artificial flavor formulations have been shown to cause nausea, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, chest pain and more.
  • FD&C Red #3: Made from petrochemicals, this artificial dye can have a very negative impact on brain chemistry.  Studies have positively linked inattentive type behaviors, anxiety, and aggression with consumption of artificial food colors.
  • GMO ingredients:  In addition to the probable GMOs found in the sugars listed above, this product also has Soy Protein Isolate, Canola Oil, Soy Oil, and Soy Lecithin.  Soy and canola are two of the most highly genetically modified crops currently out there and should be avoided.
  • Milk Protein Concentrate: Sometimes listed as MPC, this highly processed ultra-filtered product is highly likely to come from cows that have been treated with artificial hormones and antibiotics.  These artificial hormones have been linked to overall immune system issues, metabolic syndrome, and even diabetes.  Overconsumption of antibiotics through animal products have been linked with antibiotic resistant diseases.
  • Carrageenan: is made from red seaweed and is often highly problematic for those who have digestive issues.

Many of the other additives are most probably synthesized versions of the vitamins that they represent, not the forms found in nature which are more readily absorbed by the system.

Overall this is not a product that I would suggest for anyone.  There are too many negative ingredients and I do not believe it’s a product that delivers any sort of health benefit.

Update  

When I posted this on my Facebook page it generated a number of comments asking what would be a good alternative.  If you’re looking for a protein drink there are powders that have a reasonable protein content, far less sugar, and few to no dubious ingredients.   I encourage you to read the label and understand what’s in the can before you make a choice.  The object is to choose one that has no negative ingredients.

An even better choice than a beverage would be the addition of real foods that are nutritionally dense and provide balanced protein without junky ingredients.  One of my favorites is soaked raw nuts or grass fed bison jerky.  My friend and colleague Trudy Scott is a huge fan of tinned sardines.  There are plenty of other options out there if you read the label.

 

Nordic Diet

There’s a new diet trend that appears set to take the world by storm, the Nordic Diet. It appears to be a Scandinavian take on the concepts of the Mediterranean Diet. According to a study published in The Journal of Internal Medicine it lowered cholesterol and inflammation among study participants who followed the plan for 18 weeks.  Without a doubt there will shortly be a book, a cookbook, several websites with recipes, and a new crowd of enthusiasts.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it may not be the right thing for everyone.

The diet does allow for whole grains, primarily rye, barley, and oats, as well as low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, game meats (like moose), fruits, berries, vegetables, and canola oil. While new diet plans always garner a lot of excitement it’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all diet. We are bio-individual creatures and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. If someone is gluten intolerant they need to avoid the rye and barley (and source gluten free oats) allowed in this nutritional plan. Just because it’s part of the diet doesn’t mean it’s the right choice if your body can’t handle it.

I do have a couple of thoughts about this diet and about food trends in general:

  • The Nordic Diet calls for canola oil. In the United States this is not a good choice as the vast majority of it is contaminated by GMO. Some estimates of contamination and cross-contamination are so high that there are those who believe there is no unmodified canola to be found in the U.S.
  • The diet calls for low-fat dairy. This is not a healthy option. Starting with the fact that dairy is one of our few food sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning it needs to be consumed with fat in order for the body to properly utilize it). Vitamin D is also important to help the body properly make use of calcium. When it comes to the old notion that high fat diets cause obesity, recent studies have shown that the opposite is true. In measured studies, those who consumed whole-milk dairy products had reduced risk for obesity.
  • The diet does not, as far as I’ve been able to find, specifically talk about sourcing of food.  While game meat is unlikely to be adulterated with added hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, poultry and fish need to be sustainably sourced.   It’s interesting to note that game meat in general may be gaining some prominence as people seek to avoid meat from animals raised in confined operations.
  • Vegetables and fruits still need to be sourced without pesticide residue and GMO contamination.
  • I imagine that there will be more of a call for root vegetables.  This is a good thing as root vegetables are high vitamins, beta-carotene, and fiber.  [side thought: I’m always surprised when I buy parsnips at the grocery store and the checkout clerk wants to know  what the “white carrots” are.]

With food trends in general I expect we’ll face a year ahead with more, New, BETTER (read tongue in cheek) superfoods that convey all sorts of health benefits.  I’m not a huge fan of seeking those out and quite frankly we have superfoods that are local and easily accessible, there’s no need to keep chasing the latest super ones.

I imagine there will still be some sort of push to get bugs onto the menu and into the grocery stores.  They’re cheap and easy to raise, a quick, convenient source of protein.  I’m not a fan but that’s a personal preference.  I also don’t eat things like squid or eels that doesn’t mean I think they’re dangerous or bad for you.  With anything that we eat we have to look at how it’s raised.  Remember, you are what you eat includes whatever the animal you’re eating ate.

I still believe there’s not enough focus on fermented foods.  These are in a category referred to as functional foods, they have a specific health benefit.  In the case of fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, and lacto-fermented vegetables they add beneficial probiotics to our intestinal tract, helping us to break down our food, boost our immune system and stay healthy.  While I see more and more evidence of some fermented foods I believe we would all benefit from eating more of them.  Ideally we’d learn how to make them at home.

I’d like to believe we’ll continue to see a growing influence of tip-to-tail consumption that will encourage us to eat more fully from the whole animal.  Learning to eat organ meats again, consuming more bone broths, getting away from the white-meat-only-chicken-breast diet that so many of us have become accustomed to.

Whatever nutrition plan lies ahead let’s remember that we need to eat according to the needs of our bio-individual bodies.  Our dietary needs change over time.  We don’t eat the same in our 40’s as we did when we were a toddler or an adolescent.  But however we choose to eat, whatever we’re eating, let’s focus on clean, healthy, sustainably sourced foods rather than jumping from one popular diet plan to another.

photo: PL Przemek

What’s In A Biscuit

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For some reason I’ve been seeing a number of recipes lately that seem to include the use of a can of biscuits.  Maybe it’s because Fall is here and so there are more stews and “comfort” foods being made to accompany the change in seasons.

Truthfully I used to use these a lot myself. Especially when my children were younger. It was an easy to way to get a quick batch of biscuits into the oven to have with dinner. They also made great donuts when coated with cinnamon sugar and fried. Or rolled out they made a quick and seemingly tasty crust or wrap for something.  They even made great snacks when cut into bite size pieces, rolled in melted butter, and sprinkled with parmesan.

Now I shudder to think about eating that and I’m horrified at the thought of all of those chemicals that I fed my children.  For those who can and do eat gluten, if you’re still eating this type of whack-and-bake product it’s truly not a good choice.

Let’s start with the Nutrition Facts:

This label demonstrates one of my biggest issues with how the label works.Screenshot 2014-09-27 10.31.23It doesn’t tell the truth.  Right there on the label we see “Trans Fat 0g.”  That leads us to believe that there are no trans fats.  And since we’ve all pretty much learned that trans fats are bad for you we think we’re doing a good thing by avoiding them.  But are we really?

Not here.

Because when we skip down to the Ingredients List we find the following:

Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Water, Soybean and Palm Oil, Baking Powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda), Dextrose. Contains 2% or less of: Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar, Salt, Vital Wheat Gluten, Mono and Diglycerides, Xanthan Gum, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Yellow 5, TBHQ and Citric Acid (preservatives), Butter, Red 40, Color Added, Natural and Artificial Flavor.

Near the bottom we see Hydrogenated Palm Oil and Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil.  ANYTHING that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated IS a trans fat.  So how do manufacturers get away with this?  Isn’t that lying?  Not according to the standards used for nutrition fact reporting which allow them to say there are no trans fats if there is less than 0.5g per serving.

What is a serving?  It’s what the label says it is.  A portion is what you serve yourself.  Regardless of how many biscuits you eat, even if you just eat one you are still getting trans fats.  Guaranteed.  Because it’s in the ingredients.

And that doesn’t even begin to address all of the other nutritionally damaging ingredients found in this product.

Enriched flour is nutritionally deficient.  Notice all of the ingredients after “wheat flour” in the parenthesis?  Those are mostly B vitamins with some iron that are put back into the flour by Federal mandate.  But the flour is still missing all of the other ingredients which are stripped out in processing.  And then it’s bleached.  Enriched anything is not a healthy choice.

The dextrose is probably from corn and mostly likely genetically modified corn at that.  The soybeans are probably also genetically modified.  GMO foods are simply not a good choice for health.  The citric acid is possibly also sourced from corn and therefore likely to be GMO as well.

Artificial colors, yellow 5 and red 40.  While it may not look like a colored item this canned biscuit product does have artificial colors.  TBHQ, Propylene gycol alginate, artificial flavor, there’s a huge array of chemicals in this product and it’s not something that anyone should be consuming.

Sadly we often think that convenience foods are, well, convenient.  We don’t realize that in order for them to be shelf-stable and ready to go it means lots of chemicals and not a lot of nutrition.

For those who can eat gluten and who want biscuits to go with their meal it’s still possible to have them.  And although it takes a little more work, it’s truly not that much effort and the results are far better (and much better for you) than a chemical concoction from a can.

Soaked Flour Biscuits

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
1 cup organic whole milk
1 tablespoon raw unfiltered vinegar

Mix vinegar and milk together and let sit 5 minutes until milk curdles slightly
Add to wheat and oat mixture, combining thoroughly
Let sit 8 hours to soak

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup organic, unsalted butter, cut into slices

Preheat oven to 450 F
Sprinkle baking powder, salt, and baking soda over the flour mixture
Add butter and gently work butter into mixture to fully incorporate
Don’t over-mix the dough or your biscuits will be tough

Roll dough out on a lightly floured board to about 1″ thickness
Cut biscuits out with a glass that has been dipped in flour (so it doesn’t stick)
Place on baking tray
Bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown

 

 

You Can’t Sue Me Now

General Mills wants to turn Facebook likes into a legal agreement. The company has created a new privacy policy which basically states that anyone who has received “any” benefit from General Mills gives up their right to sue the company.  Even if the product in some way harms them or makes them ill.  General Mills has gone so far as to include giving them a “like” on their Facebook page as a benefit to the consumer.  The concept of benefits also extends to downloading coupons, signing up for contests, or any other form of interaction.  A consumers only recourse if they have an issue with the company will be either a negotiation process with the company or a binding arbitration, with the arbitration team no doubt chosen by General Mills.

Why was this policy enacted?  It appears to stem from an incident where two moms sued the company for deceptive marketing over their use of the term “natural” on a product which contained high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified ingredients.  Last month it came before a judge who refused to dismiss the case so it will be moving forward.

This is not the first time General Mills has been sued for deceptive practices.  In 2012 it was sued for using the word “strawberry” on a fruit roll-up product that contained no strawberries.  The case was settled and General Mills agreed to stop using that word on the package.

So why is there a picture of a Larabar at the top of this post?  Because guess who owns that brand?  In the “Who Owns Your Food” section of The Pantry Principle I share a graphic which highlights just how confusing and overwhelming the web of food has become in this country.  While I’m not sure (because I’m not a lawyer) if this position is defensible, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s stupid.  If you don’t want people to get upset about what you do to your food, don’t do that.  If you claim ingredients which aren’t in there, people have a right to be upset.  If you use deceptive marketing you should not be allowed to get away with it simply to make a buck.  Why defend your position to do the wrong thing?  That makes no sense to me.

And a startling thought that occurs to me, I  wonder if they will extend this legal stance to other brands where the consumer may not be aware of ownership.  So I’m highlighting the brands that I’m aware of which are owned by General Mills below.  Many of them may surprise you.

  • Cascadian Farms Organic
  • Food Should Taste Good (chips/snack product)
  • Larabar
  • Muir Glen tomato products
  • Liberte yogurt
  • Häagen-Dazs
  • Nature Valley
  • And if you’re interested…the list of mainstream Big G products is HUGE.  If you want to see all of them (and there are hundreds) you can look on their website http://www.generalmills.com/Brands

Want to let General Mills know how you feel about this issue? Sign this petition

And then buy a copy of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food.

Update:  After a furious backlash from consumers and an overwhelmingly negative media focus General Mills has reversed itself on this decision.  Their blog post (entitled “We’ve listened – and we’re changing our legal terms back”) claims that “Those terms – and our intentions – were widely misread.”  They also offered an apology.

Whether their lawyers had a specific purpose in mind or if indeed the intent was misunderstood, it is a given that companies are going to spin things their way every change they get.  The most important thing to remember, as far as I’m concerned, is that this once again shows the effect a highly motivated and vocal public can have on corporate policy.  They won’t change and do better unless they believe they have to.

Let’s not forget one of my favorite quotes by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

 

photo: Bradley Stemke

What are Safe Seeds

What Are Safe Seeds?

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Seeds vs. Plants

Spring is just around the corner. Many people start thinking about planting a garden. Dreaming about fragrant, flavorful tomatoes, mouthwateringly delicious sweet corn, and abundance of greens and herbs and more, all from their garden. For some, this thought process is accompanied by doodlings of garden plans, frantic searchings for last year’s crop rotation chart, or just dog-earing a few pages in the latest garden supply catalog.

Some folks will buy seeds. Some will buy plants. But are they, and you, thinking about the environmental and biological impact of the plants? Are you considering non-genetically modified (GMO-free) plants and seeds? If not, it’s time to consider making the switch. Yes, GMO-free can be more expensive. However, it comes with some important benefits.

Understanding the Safe Seed Pledge

But first I’d like to clarify. While organic seeds are great, and in some cases, depending on the crop, necessary, not all crops require it. What is of vital importance is the use of non-genetically modified seeds. In order to support a move away from GMOs, more companies are signing the Safe Seed Pledge.   Created in 1999 it was started as a way for companies to share their position when it comes to genetically modified seeds.  Companies who have signed the pledge, and there are over 70 at this point, pledge that their seeds are free of genetic modification.  The Safe Seed Resource List can be found online at the Council for Responsible Genetics.  At a minimum, safe seeds from companies who have signed the pledge should be what you’re looking for when choosing seeds. Here’s why:

  • Seeds from genetically modified crops are often heavily sprayed with pesticides to keep down the weed population. This pesticide residue has a very sharp impact on the environment.  Increased pesticide use appears to be reducing butterfly populations.  It can also pollute the water and causes birth defects in water animals such as frogs and fish.
  • The most common pesticide ingredient, glyphosate, is a chelating agent and binds with nutrients from the soil, effectively blocking them from the plants. With no nutrient uptake, that means less nutrition in your diet.
  • New studies are showing a significant impact on human health and changes to DNA from exposure to pesticides.
  • Seed crops spend more time in the ground that food crops, this increases the amount of pesticide potentially taken up into the seed and then passed on to you through the food grown from those seeds.
  • Non-GMO crops and especially organic crops are often grown in healthier soil, creating a healthier end product.
  • According to information found from the Institute for Responsible Technology, there are studies which show that animals ingesting GMO diets have organ damage and gastrointestinal issues as well as accelerated aging and infertility.

Starting Your Garden

Starting vegetables from seed doesn’t require a lot of room. Essentially you need a container of some kind, good quality dirt, safe seeds, water, and sunlight. The truth, however, is that many of us feel nervous about how to start a vegetable or herb garden from seed. We’ve gotten so far away from that habit that it seems foreign and perhaps a bit overwhelming.  The following are good resources to get you started:

  • Starting Seeds: How to Grow Healthy, Productive Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers from Seed (Storey Basics)
  • The New Seed Starters Handbook (Rodale Organic Gardening)
  • Seed Starting Kit – Complete Supplies – 3 Mini Sturdy Greenhouse Trays with Dome fits on Windowsill, Fiber Soil Pods, Instructions. Indoor/Outdoor Gardening. Grow Herbs, Flowers, and Vegetables.
  • 4-Tier Mini Greenhouse, Gardman R687 27″ Long x 18″ Wide x 63″ High
  • Winjoy Grow Light, 30W LED Grow Lamp Bulbs Plant Lights Full Spectrum, Auto ON & Off with 3/6/12H Timer 5 Dimmable Levels Clip-On Desk Grow Lamp for Indoor Plants

While it’s certainly easier to plant vegetables are ready to go in the ground, you need to know what you’re getting. If you’re planning to start your garden from plants that someone else has sown from seed it would be a great idea to find out where the seeds originated and if they are part of the safe seed pledge program.  

Source Info:

Koller, VJ, et al. Cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties of glyphosate and Roundup in human-derived buccal epithelial cells. Arch Toxicol. 2012 May;86(5):805-13
Mertens, M, et al. Glyphosate, a chelating agent—relevant for ecological risk assessment?. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018; 25(6): 5298–5317

 

photo:  eco-warrior-princess

“natural” Food Label Under Attack

When it comes to food labeling there is currently a lot of media attention to GMO issues and whether or not GMO foods should be labeled.  So far legislative challenges have either failed or been so severely curtailed as to be very difficult to achieve.  Consumers are very outspoken about their desire for GMO labeling and some retailers have responded by mandating GMO-free products on their shelves within a certain timeframe.  I have no doubt that GMO labeling will happen, it’s simply a matter of time.

But this column isn’t about GMO-labeling.  It is, however, about the label that appears on our food and how it can be manipulated to hide information.  At this point the only ways to avoid GMOs is to purchase foods which are known to not be genetically modified, foods which are labeled by the Non-GMO Project, or to purchase organic for those foods known to be highly contaminated by GMO.  Sadly many people think that the “natural” label also means it is not genetically modified; this is not true and could lead to the purchase of foods with ingredients you do not want to eat. Not only are there very few legal rules regarding the use of the “natural” label, it’s currently under attack.

The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) is a trade organization which is the front group for more than 300 companies in the food business.  Large names such as ConAgra, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, and PepsiCo.  GMA is currently being sued in Washington State amid claims that it illegally hid contributions from large corporations in the GMO labeling fight for Initiative 522. GMA is once again serving as the spokesgroup for it’s member organizations and petitioning the FDA to allow genetically modified foods to be classified as “natural.”   It is important to note that there are very limited rules governing the use of the word natural.  The FDA specifically states, “FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”  Some of the claims made in the GMA’s letter are:

GMA’s members have a strong interest in “natural” labeling for foods containing ingredients derived from biotechnology.  Several of the most common ingredients derived from biotechnology are from crops such as corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets.  There are 26 state legislatures considering whether foods containing ingredients derived from biotechnology should be labeled and whether they are permissible in “natural” foods.  Moreover there are approximately 65 class action lawsuits that have been filed against food manufacturers over whether foods with ingredients allegedly derived from biotechnology can be labeled “natural.”  Given the predominant use of crops derived from biotechnology in our economy as well as consumer and state interest in this issue, whether foods that contain ingredients derived from biotechnology can be labeled “natural” is an important matter to GMA members and one that warrants FDA’s involvement.

This is startling for a number of reasons.  One is that GMA admits that GMO food labeling is an important issue but obviously spins this in their direction.  They are conveniently leaving out the millions of dollars they have already spent in other states to fight against labeling.  Another issue to remember is that if this change were permitted to be amended into the limited definition of “natural” foods, it would be a hidden use as the GMO ingredients would still not be declared on the label.  And lastly is the number of lawsuits and legislative actions currently on the books regarding this issue.  To my knowledge not a single state legislature vote is against GMO labeling.  And it is probable that the majority of the class action lawsuits are against the use of GMO in “natural” food products.

But again, GMA is spinning this in their direction.  They want labeling as long as it is to their benefit and does not allow consumers to truly understand what’s in their food. Genetic modification is not natural.  And while the natural label is so weak as to be close to worthless, it should not be modified or amended to specifically include the use of GMO items. There is no petition or open comment from the FDA at this time regarding this issue.

The only way to stay on top of food labeling and health issues is to become an educated consumer.  One good resource is the book The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food.  Staying informed is the best way to know how to make the healthiest food choices for yourself and your loved ones.

Peaches – What’s In That Can

Thanksgiving is a very special time.  It’s become one of my favorite holidays.  After all, what’s not to like about spending time with people you love, eating your favorite foods, and having a little downtime.  Of course shopping for the holiday feast comes to mind as one of those less-than-fun activities.  Mostly because the stores are crowded, and if you didn’t plan well you’re in the thick of the fray looking for what you need.

This year I wasn’t cooking.  We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter, her fiance and his family.  Our responsibility was to bring mashed potatoes, braised carrots, and homemade cranberry sauce.  I also wanted to bring canned peaches.  It’s a tradition in our family started by my father-in-law.  He likes canned peaches and he always wants them at the Thanksgiving table.  Even though we weren’t spending the holiday with him it’s been adopted as a permanent part of our family tradition.  One which we wanted to share.

I haven’t made canned peaches in a while so we had none on hand.  This meant buying them at the grocery store.  Something I haven’t done in a very long time.  I was stunned by the sheer number of canned peaches available at the store.  I was amazed at the ingredients in them.  I thought I’d share the results of my canned peaches shopping expedition so you can see what’s really in that food.

It’s important to note that peaches are one of the dirty dozen foods (those foods highly contaminated by pesticides).  I did not find any organic canned peaches at my local grocery store.  Also, the notes about these containers do not include the issue of BPA which is often found in plastic containers, the linings of cans, and the lids of glass jars. Therefore all these containers are equal in respect to those issues.

Note: If you want to read the labels you’ll need to click on the images to enlarge them.

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Above you have the information you need to make the right choice for you depending on what’s important to you.  For those who want to take it one step further it is possible to make your own canned peaches.  There are many recipes out there on how to do this, one of my favorites is the Ball Blue Book Honey Spiced Peaches recipe substituting evaporated cane juice crystals instead of white sugar.

Adventures In Australia

This article was contributed by my friend Cindi Hall.  We’ve known each other since way back when, she was one of my first customers purchasing whole ground flours from me and learning how to use them in her kitchen.  Over the years she’s become a great local advocate for healthy eating and avoiding GMOs.  I’m also grateful to say that she’s been a huge supporter of the work and writing that I do.  She and her family went to Australia earlier this year and she was kind enough to write this article and send these great photos.  Sounds like the tucker is pretty good down there.

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When my husband decided to attend a conference in Australia, it was the perfect opportunity for our family to travel with him and experience one of the most environmentally friendly places I have seen. As a woman who tries to eat healthy, cares about the environment, and still has the energy to sit through 36 hours of total travel time, it was the vacation of a lifetime.

We had arrived in Sydney early June 2013, the beginning of Aussie winter. The 70 degree temperatures were warmer than I had expected. Sydney seemed to be relatively clean for such a large city. There were recycle cans on the street with the garbage cans, not much graffiti, and a friendliness that I had not anticipated. Being used to the blank stares of New York people, the Aussies look at you and smile when walking the sidewalks of busy Sydney. This alone was such a pleasure.

As we walked in the city towards their famous Opera House and Botanical Garden, I started noticing all the runner/joggers along Circular Quay. It was a beautiful waterfront that had large areas for runners and people passing by or sightseeing as the ferries come in and out.

The Botanical Gardens, which is free for all visitors, was amazing. Among the beautiful trees and shrubs, there were many people walking and running along the paths. I noticed people sitting on the grass, relaxing and eating lunch. I observed their small coolers and brown bags, instead of the McDonald’s and Starbucks you typically see in the US when people dine in a park. I found this interesting. On the other hand, in Australia where a cheeseburger costs around $30, I think I would be brown-bagging my lunch, too.

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My family and I did enjoy many meals out and paid dearly for them. However, it was worth every dime to eat such healthy meals. I realized that the menus would have small print by certain choices. Terms, such as “grass fed” and “non GMO,” were prevalent. I thought at first it was just the restaurants we chose or perhaps we were in trendy parts of town.

As we walked through the city and its shopping plazas and malls, I did take note of the food courts. There were smoothie/juice bars in all the malls. Also, they were not the kind of smoothie that is made with red liquid from a box (probably laced with chemicals). I watched as they cut up fresh fruit and placed it in a blender or juicer. As I walked through the food courts, which were much smaller than in the US, there were no fast foods being sold. There were fresh sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Yes, there was the usual Chinese food take-out, but not the usual choices of five fast food places, with their grease and carb-oriented meals.

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At one mall, I even spotted a store that sold beautiful fresh fruit and veggies. It was then that I realized something pretty important regarding the Aussie philosophy about health and wellbeing. With their focus on fresh foods and exercise, the people of Sydney could actually eat all those chips (French fries to us here in the States) that are served with each restaurant meal and still not become obese.

We also had the opportunity to fly North to the Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. The first place I noticed in the Sydney airport was The Juice Bar. Again, fresh fruit cut up and put through a juicer. Can you imagine seeing that in an airport, of all places?!

Once we arrived at our final destination of Port Douglas where it is warm all year, similar to Florida, I thought it might be a different story. Port Douglas has beautiful, untouched beaches and gorgeous natural areas. The hotels are not allowed to clean, cut back, or trim the plant foliage and trees in any way. They are permitted to have one narrow path from the beachfront hotel to the beach itself, but everything else needs to remain as is.

While walking the beaches, I discovered that they look very much like those on that old TV show, Gilligan’s Island. Large coconuts fall from the trees and drop to the sand. Also, palm leaves and branches rest on the sand where they have landed from previous storms. Then, I began to notice the people in the area. As it was immediately before peak tourist season, it seemed that most of the people there were locals who were running/jogging along the water’s edge. It was a joy to see people out wind surfing, too. Not eating food sold from the beach concession stand, people were out being active as a part of their normal life style. Come to think of it, I never saw any beach concession stands anywhere. That’s a statement about the Aussie point of view in itself.

While in Port Douglas, we did have our share of treats. Being a major chocolate lover, with no apologies to Mira, I had to try their candy. I tried the same brands as we have in the US: Nestles, Cadbury, and M&M’s. However, I did notice the list of ingredients. In the US, we have High Fructose Corn Syrup and many other words I can’t pronounce or will I even try to spell them. Their candy listed natural ingredients: sugar, whole milk, and cocoa beans. Also, I noticed the menus of places we ate, which featured “Grass Fed,” “organic,” and “non-GMO.” I was happy to see these labels pop up and have the choice of eating foods that were not chemically created. What I really enjoyed most was ordering salad. Their salads were so fresh, crunchy, and beautiful . The Australians seem to take care preparing each meal, as if they have special pride in their healthy masterpiece.

Although I love our country, it was such a pleasure to visit the great country of Australia and to experience the Aussie approach to healthy life styles. I have no desire to continue that day and half total travel time on a regular basis, but I would advise anyone thinking of visiting: Save every dime you can and go to Australia. I hope each person who travels there comes home with a bit of that Aussie sense of preserving nature and a focus on getting real food back in our American menus.

Cool Food App – Ipiit

ipiit

 

I have written before about some of the great foodie apps I have on my phone that are food related.  I’ve just recently discovered a new one that was so cool I had to tell you about it.*  It’s a free app called ipiit, available at the App Store and on Google Play.

Designed to make it easy for consumers to understand what’s really in their food it has a scanner that you use on the bar code.  Then depending on how you have configured your system it will tell you if you can eat that product or not.

When I downloaded the product I was able to go in and configure it for the things I wanted to avoid in food.  They have a number of items and are increasing it all the time.  In addition to covering major food allergies, they also cover a few additives.  My current setup means that I can scan a food to avoid the following:

aspartame, cellulose, HFCS, gluten, milk protein, GMOs.

But the coolest thing, to me, was the ability to then go in to the Request New Preferences section.  I’m hoping that they will add these as soon as possible as there are so many things in that section which I encourage people to avoid.  Not only does this section lists artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners, it lists a wide variety of foods, health conditions and a good range of additives.

I couldn’t wait to go grocery shopping the next day.  At the grocery store I used the scanner to scan items and see what I got.  Just on a whim I scanned a box of Hungry Jack pancake mix.  I got a “Not for you!” warning that offered a number of alternatives that would meet my criteria.  When I tapped the arrow next to the “Not for you!” I was taken to another page which explained why and listed all of the ingredients in the product which participated in that:

  • Corn Syrup HFCS – corn syrup solids
  • Gluten – enriched bleached flour, wheat flour, malted barley flour
  • MSG – sodium caseinate
  • Milk Protein – sodium caseinate
  • GMO – this is not a verified non-GMO product

It did list that the product was both aspartame and cellulose free.

Then when I scanned another product which was not listed I was taken to a page which allowed me to “be a helper” and take three pictures to send to them of the label, the ingredients list, and the nutrition panel.  This is just great.  They are trying to grow their database and allowing consumers to be active participants in understanding what they are eating.  While there are a lot of things in our food that I believe need to be listed in this database, this is certainly a great and very promising start.

Of course having this app doesn’t mean that you don’t need to read the label.  I believe you still really need to know what’s in your food.  To be able to read the label and make educated decisions.  But if you’re in a hurry or are unsure about something this may just be the tool you need.

I’m hoping that as more people use this app they’ll be able to add more and more of the harmful ingredients found in our food and support people in eating well to be well.

 

*Disclaimer:  I receive no compensation from ipiit for mentioning their product, I simply think it’s a great product and want more people to use it.

Factory Farming And Gmo

Over the years farming has changed dramatically.  Shifting from smaller, generational, family farms, that were often handed down and grew a number of different crops to corporate behemoths which grow only one crop, and that is often a commodity crop.  Sadly one of the losses suffered from this shift in the agricultural system is that of a connection to our food.

Most people don’t know who their farmer is anymore.  And there is no accountability for the overuse of chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and genetic modification.  Corporate farming relies on these chemicals and other additives to increase their profits.

Even more disturbing is the challenges that face those farmers who want to produce organic or sustainable crops.  The subsidies currently paid by the government are for commodity crops and tend to favor the large agribusiness corporations.  These subsidies also make it more profitable as larger operations that focus on subsidy crops receive more funds.  This makes the concept of the family farm more difficult as many small farmers appear to no longer be able to support themselves simply through farming.

It is a sad and startling thought (and I am far from the first person to say this) that organic food production used to be the ONLY form of farming.  As chemical fertilizers, pesticides, larger scale operations, and mono-cropping have been developed they have become the norm.  There is an unfortunate side effect of this with regard to our health and the health of future generations.

The time has come to educate ourselves about where our food really comes from.  And to develop a relationship with those who produce it (to the best of our ability — admittedly this is not always possible in all areas for all types of food).  Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to eat multiple meals in one day.  Doesn’t it make sense to feed ourselves well and support those who grow our food so that we can have the best food possible?