Wednesday, August 31, 2011

American Meat... from factory to our plate?

While researching and analyzing foods for my own knowledge and good health, it has come time to discuss the complex topic of meat. I stopped eating meat a year and a half ago because I realized that I became nauseous after eating dinner (which was pretty much the only meal that would include meat). I decided that I would stop eating meat for a while to see if it helped (it did). I thought I would rather cut it out of my diet instead of masking the sick feelings with medicine- which is what most people do. So for one year I ate no chicken, beef, pork or other meat products. (I did however eat fish and eggs.)

How could you treat this guy poorly?
I stopped eating meat before I developed an interest in the quality of the foods that we eat so I wasn't really concerned with why I was feeling nauseous after eating meat. Now I am. After about a year of eating a meat-free diet, I started eating meat every now and again (usually steak) because I just craved it- I would say about 4-7 times a month. In all of my reading, I have come to understand that my food's food is extremely important.

There are several factors on this topic which I would like to bring to the table....

#1 All meat sold at large grocery chains (maybe with the exception of Whole Foods and Fresh Market) is raised on factory farms. The animals are fed an unnatural diet of corn and soy (insert Big Agra Companies) which promotes an unhealthy abundance of Omega-6's fats (pro-inflammation). A seed based diet (corn & soy) is so unnatural for these animals that it causes them to get sick and need antibiotics (insert Pharmaceutical Companies). Then comes the topic of slaughter, which in America is one giant question mark. There is a shroud of secrecy around the practice of slaughtering and multitudes of stories from the first-handers about how horrific it is- you can YouTube those videos and testimony- it's disturbing to say the least.

#2 Animals in the wild naturally seek out the healthiest possible diet that they can find. Cows will eat grass. Pigs will eat grubbs, bugs, and acorns. Chickens will eat insects. There is nothing about factory raised animals that is natural. I am not going to get into the ethical reasons for being anti-factory farming, but there are plenty of them if you want to look into it (look up Eating Animals written by Jonathan Safran Foer). "All Natural" labels on factory farmed meat are contradictory- just like most health labels paid for by the food companies...see my post: FDA & Other Health Associations- I wouldn't trust them.

#3 Don't think for a minute that the animal's food does not effect you after you eat that animal. It is the same concept as high levels of mercury in fish. The large fish (tuna, shark) are at the top of the food chain. They eat smaller fish that have accumulated levels of mercury, who eat smaller fish that have accumulated levels of mercury (you get my point). It is called biomagnification, and guess what? Humans are at the top of the food chain. So the growth hormones and antibiotics that are fed to our cows while they are being milked, and to our pigs before they are slaughtered...end up where? IN OUR MEAT AND DAIRY! Cows for instance are meant to graze on grass. Their digestive system is meant to break down leaves (grasses) not seeds (corn & soy). When a cow is allowed to eat its natural diet it will produce meat that is higher in Omega-3 fats (anti-inflammatory). The same goes for chickens and the eggs that they lay. Fresh-laid eggs, when you crack them, have bright orange yolks that do not break easily. The more orange the yolk, the healthier the chicken.

#4 Small farms still exist. I live in NJ and even we have small farms. I actually visited one last week for a couple of reasons. First was to see how the animals were raised (100% grass fed or not, and came to learn about humanely raised animals). Second was how the animals were cared for (like livestock or pets). Third was how they were slaughtered. Fourth, to see if I could really tell a difference in how the meat and eggs tasted.

I drove up to the farm (a house with gated pastures and pens, chicken coops, and woods) and met the incredibly nice lady who runs the farm...every day. She was a wealth of information and talked almost the entire time she walked me around to meet each and every one of her animals. Every one had a name, a notable personality, a health record, and many were children and grand-children of others. This was all from memory. She explained the difference between the goats and the sheep, the pigs and the chickens in terms of what they ate naturally, what they ate in the winter, and what needed to be supplemented if and when they were sick. The animals on her farm were far more than livestock...they were her pets.

She explained the difference between 100% grass fed and humanely raised animals- humanely raised being that the animals are primarily allowed to eat what they would in nature, only supplemented or given antibiotics in the event of sickness or a serious medical condition, never given growth hormones, and allowed to exhibit natural behaviors. I was able to see the supplemental feed she gives the pigs and chickens. She even ripped off the labels for me to read the list of ingredients (most people don't even do that for themselves, and she was doing it for her animals). I asked her about where she sent the animals to slaughter and to my surprise it was right down the street to a local butcher. Her animals were not sent to feedlots and anonymous slaughter houses.

After my 2 hour visit (4 hours round trip) I had decided that I will never buy my meat from anyone other than a small farmer who is willing to take 2 hours out of their day to speak with a customer about their farming practices and the quality of their meat. I do not believe that my safety is in danger by ingesting meat that comes from a small farmer who may not be under the same regulations as the big guys. AND the meat isn't any more expensive than what you would buy in a grocery store. The only difference is that everything is not available all of the time and I buy in bulk and freeze it because I cannot just run down to the grocery store to pick it up.

BUT the true test was when we cooked it. The meat (uncooked) even looked and smelled different. It was darker in color and did not have that dead animal raw meat smell. We cooked the skirt steak (our absolute favorite) the same way we always sauce, Jamaican curry, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. The meat was more tender and had a completely different flavor than the traditional store bought steak. It was a great eating experience, however it is different when you are eating meat that you know. When you pick up a package of meat at the store, there is no thought of the animal that was raised half way across the country (or possibly the world). I did however think of that while I was eating the steak that was raised in the middle of NJ on the farm that I had visited that day.

Something to think about, but I encourage everyone to explore this subject and look into eating locally for yourselves. Some great websites to find out where you can buy locally and humanely raised meat products are:

Eat Wild
Humane Farm Animal Care

Meat and Cancer Prevention

Everything that I am reading now is focusing on how a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables is the best way to prevent cancer (and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc). There are strong correlations between the amount of animal products Westerners eat and the types of chronic diseases we inflict upon ourselves (that's right I said it- you are responsible for all of the shit you put into your mouth and the resulting sicknesses!) 

So how can I advocate eating meat? Well simply because everyone is not going to be able to or want to go 100% raw. I myself am in the process of increasing the raw factor of my diet (by diet I mean eating habits not Atkins, South Beach or Zone), however I love to eat a nice piece of meat every once and a while, and like to eat eggs and (organic) butter on my whole wheat bread. (This may change once I start seeing results from increasing the raw portion of my diet)

I believe in moderation. If you like something eat it, but in moderation. Over the past year and a half I have drastically cut down on the amount of meat that I consume. I do not want to eat meat every day, but I still eat it every once and a while, and when I do want to make sure it is the highest quality meat I can get my hands on. My sister on the other hand has been a vegetarian for over 10 years now, and she is grossed out by meat. People are different- what more can you say?

But as far as cancer prevention goes...the less meat and dairy the better. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Granola Bars (the healthy way)

Another video from my favorite foodie The Minimalist: Mark Bittman...

Instead of using the rice crispies cereal and granola just toast some plain Irish Cut Oats (uncooked of course) in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes to give them a little crunch.

You can also add in any type of dried fruit (cranberries, dates, figs), crushed up nuts, and some dark chocolate chunks.

A few good soy-free chocolate brands found at Whole Foods are Pure Icelandic Chocolate, Alter Eco Fair Trade Chocolates, Equal Exchange Chocolates, and Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Chocolate Nibs (warning- this particular one does not have any sugar in it so if you eat it by itself it is extremely bitter).

These are a great snack that you can take with you anywhere!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

FDA & Other Health Associations...I wouldn't trust them

On this windy, post-hurricane Sunday afternoon I find myself sitting in bed reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. I have been reading a few pages at a time every night before I go to sleep so it has taken longer than necessary to get through (not because it is uninteresting, but because I am genetically predisposed to falling asleep after reading about 5 pages). I just read something that I would like to discuss, as I brought up the subject of bogus food labels in a previous post about whole grains. Below is the excerpt from Pollan's book:

"When corn oil and chips and sugary breakfast cereals can all boast being good for your heart, health claims have become hopelessly corrupt. The American Heart Association currently bestows (for a fee) its heart-healthy seal of approval on Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, and Trix cereals, Yoo-hoo lite chocolate drink, and Healthy Choice's Premium Caramel Swirl Ice Cream Sandwich- this at a time when scientists are coming to recognize that dietary sugar probably plays a more important role in heart disease than dietary fat. Meanwhile, the genuinely heart healthy foods in the produce section, lacking the financial and political clout of the packaged goods a few aisles over, are mute. But don't take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health. Bogus health claims and food science have made supermarkets particularly treacherous places to shop for real food..."
This brings up a couple of topics. First is the difference between food and food products. Food is, as Michael Pollan discusses in this book, something that your great grandmother would have ate- whole foods and home cooked foods with minimal ingredients. Food products, the majority of what stocks our supermarket shelves, are food like concoctions that have been stripped down of all of the ingredients' natural health benefits so the so called food can last indefinitely on the shelves or freezer. In order to have any "health claim" to advertise on the food products they are then fortified, enriched, and supplemented.

That brings me to the second topic which is the labeling that Big Food companies put on their food products. I am going to seriously try to keep my opinions about how politicians have no business getting involved in what we eat, however I find it extremely hard since the two (government and big food) have become so intimately acquainted in the past century.  I want you to seriously think for a minute...if you are looking at a box of Cocoa Puffs or a package of caramel ice cream that is boasting being heart healthy, DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE IT? Then once you have your answer (hopefully it is NO) take a look at the ingredients list. Is there anything on that list that you do not recognize? that you can not pronounce? that you think may be unhealthy or unnecessary? (I would bet money that your answer to all of them would be YES)


Read labels! Don't be fooled by health claims on packaged food. Spend more time in the produce section!

P.S. I am currently working on a list of food brands that are good for you that have real food ingredients in them. It will be a short list (unfortunately) but I will create a page on this blog listing all of them soon!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Minimalist...a simple inspiration

I was introduced to Mark Bittman by my great friend "little" Lauren one cold day while she was visiting. Lauren has the best way of finding things that are creative and out-of-the-box. I was instantly in love with mark Bittman's style of cooking.

Now not all of his recipes are "cancer prevention friendly", however you could easily alter them to be so. All of his recipes are super simple and very tasty (my personal favorite is the bread-less crab cakes in the first video below).

Bread-free Crab Cakes

The next video is a great way to get a bunch of vegetables in one serving. Just top with whole grain bread crumbles, organic cheese (if you must), drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and VOILA! Totally healthy! You could even pair it with the bread-free crab cakes and you have a great dinner!

Vegetable Torte

His videos can be found on his channel and on NY Times website.

Remember! Many recipes you see can be altered to be completely healthy. Just substitute white flour/ bread for whole wheat or whole grain flour/bread and use extra virgin olive oil or expeller pressed canola oil.

Enjoy! (as little Lauren would say)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Vitamin D- the sun should not be feared

Popular beliefs have scared us into being afraid of the sun. Why? Because cancer and sickness is big business in America (unfortunately). Anti-sun preachers couldn't be more wrong. The act of our bodies turning sunlight into usable nutrients is extremely important to the balance of our bodies. 

"Vitamin D is found throughout the body and acts as a signaling mechanism to turn cells on and off. Right now, the recommended dose from food and supplements is about 400 international units a day for most people, but most experts agree that is probably too low. The Institute of Medicine is reviewing guidelines for vitamin D and is expected to raise the recommended daily dose," says Tara Parker-Hope in her NY Times article titled Vitamin D, Miracle Drug: Is It Science, or Just Talk?

Dr. Holick, also a PhD who is an expert in vitamin D and sunlight, states in his book (referenced below) that it is virtually impossible to get enough vitamin D through eating and/or taking supplements. The best way to get enough vitamin D3 (the kind our body needs) is sun exposure. 

"People’s vitamin D levels are influenced by whether they have light or dark skin, where they live, how much time they spend outdoors and by fish and milk consumption. To raise vitamin D without supplements (the preferred way), a person could increase sun exposure for 10 to 15 minutes a day. Eating more fish can help — a 3.5-ounce serving of wild fresh salmon has 600 to 1,000 I.U.’s of vitamin D — but it would take a quart of milk a day to get the recommended dose of vitamin D." according to Parker-Hope's article. (I wouldn't recommend that)

Your body produces more vitamin D in 20 minutes of full sun exposure than it can effectively use. Your body also has very efficient regulators that get rid of the excess vitamin D so it does not become toxic. The best way to get vitamin d is naturally- from the sun! When taken orally, your body does not process it the same way and therefore is not getting all of the benefits from sunlight. Additionally, there is no regulation mechanism when vitamin D3 is taken orally, and may become toxic if levels are not monitored. 

Your best bet...10-20 minutes of noon day sun (any more than that use sunscreen) or in the winter indoor tanning. (You will have to be the judge of whether you are comfortable tanning or not, although I go at least 3 times a week in the fall, winter, and early spring.) The goal is not to burn, so gradually work up to 20 minutes outdoors or 10 minutes indoors. If you absolutely do not tan and burn easily, the supplements are available. As always talk to your doctor about how much to take and the level of vitamin D in your blood should be monitored closely. 

Health benefits from regular vitamin D3 production in our bodies include:

Mental Health 
I don't know about you but I always feel better after getting a little sun. Do you ever see unhappy people sitting outside enjoying a beautifully sunny day? 

Bone health
"Without the vitamin D that comes from the sun, your bones could not obtain the calcium they need to be strong," writes Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD in his book The UV Advantage: The Medical Breakthrough That Shows How to Harness the Power of the Sun For Your Health.  Vitamin D deficiency can result in lower bone density and an increased risk of bone loss (osteoporosis) or bone fracture because a lack of vitamin D alters mineral metabolism in the body. 
There is also a relationship between low bone mineral density and sedentary life style. This is evident in frail, elderly subjects because they are often vitamin D deficient and lead an inactive lifestyle. 

Immune system

Vitamin D receptors have been shown to increase the activity of natural killer cells.  NK cells play a major role in the rejection of tumors and cells infected by viruses. They kill cells by releasing small proteins that cause the target cell to die by apoptosis (programmed cell death). Your immune system is an integral component of preventing cancer. 


The basis for thinking that vitamin D has the potential to prevent cancer lies in its role in a wide range of cellular mechanisms central to the development of cancer (rapid out-of-control growth of cells). Dr. Holick claims that they (doctors and scientists) "know for sure that increasing vitamin D levels in our bloodstream via sun exposure, and to a lesser extent diet, will help lower the risk of several diseases- especially those caused by abnormal cell growth, such as cancer." In 1998, Dr. Holick proved in his laboratory that when cancer cells were exposed to vitamin D they stopped growing out of control. This is not to say that if you sit in the sun your cancer will go away. Obviously there are other factors involved in "killing" cancerous cells.   

Cardiovascular disease

A report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey involving nearly 5,000 participants found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with an increased risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD). The incidence of PAD was 80% higher in participants with the lowest vitamin D levels. Cholesterol levels were found to be reduced in gardeners in the UK during the summer months. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increase in high blood pressure and cardiovascular risk. Numerous observational studies show this link, but of two systemic reviews one found only weak evidence of benefit from supplements and the other found no evidence of a beneficial effect whatsoever. What is natural for humans? Meaning what did we do before we had science labs and studies? We sat in the sun! 

When in your own research. Find out for yourself whether this controversial topic is really so controversial. I didn't think so. And remember....DO NOT BURN!!!
Some good books on the subject:
The UV Advantage: The Medical Breakthrough That Shows How to Harness the Power of the Sun For Your Health by Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD
Vitamin D3 and Solar Power For Optimal Health by Marc Sorenson, EdD

Monday, August 22, 2011

What the hell am I eating?

Since my last post, I have been reading, cooking, and investigating- alot! I have learned a tremendous amount of information about the food that is available to us. 99.9% of the food we buy is garbage. Even the brands and restaurants that claim "ALL NATURAL" or "HEALTHY" are full of chemicals (literally). I will break it down in future posts, but everyday I learn something new, and today I learned about the vegetable sandwich that I ate for lunch. 

Not actual sandwich, but close

I didn't bring my lunch, and only had a short time to eat. I thought 'what is the healthiest place I can eat within 5 minutes of my office?' PANERA! I got my typical Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich (with an apple). As I was eating it I was looking at what was in it- red onion, cucumbers, tomatoes, red peppers, feta cheese, pesto, and lettuce on bread. Looks healthy, tastes good! There was a spicy something in it that I couldn't recognize so I went to Panera's website. 

Well, on Panera's website you can pick each item to get its nutritional information and ingredients. I have learned that in order to be "eating healthy" an item really should not have more ingredients than I can count on one hand OR ingredients that I cannot pronounce (which goes hand in hand with not knowing what the hell it is). 

Here is the list of items (and brief description of what they are) that I either could not pronounce or didn't know what they were in my VEGETABLE sandwich:

**All information about the ingredients was found on

- Phosphoric acid  is used to acidify foods and beverages such as various colas, but not without controversy regarding its health effects. It provides a tangy or sour taste and, being a mass-produced chemical, is available cheaply and in large quantities. 

- Sodium Benzoate  is a preservative. In combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C, E300), sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate form benzene, a known carcinogen. Wonderful! because this sandwich has ascorbic acid in it!

- Potassium Sorbate is a preservative used to inhibit molds and yeasts in many foods, such as cheese, wine, yogurt, dried meats, apple cider, soft drinks and fruit drinks, and baked goods. Potassium sorbate is considered to be safe because of its long term safety record and non-toxic profile. Potassium sorbate is non-irritating and non-sensitizing. Allergic reactions are rare, and it is well tolerated when administered internally. 

- Malted Flour is a process applied to cereal grains, in which the grains are made to germinate by soaking in water and are then quickly halted from germinating further by drying with hot air.

- Ferrous Sulfate Together with other iron compounds, ferrous sulfate is used to fortify foods and to treat iron-deficiency anemia. Constipation is a frequent and uncomfortable side effect associated with the administration of oral iron supplements. Stool softeners often are prescribed to prevent constipation. Panera should serve a stool softener as a side to my sandwich.

- Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1) is found in a wide variety of foods at low concentrations. In general, cereal grains are the most important dietary sources of thiamine, by virtue of their ubiquity. Of these, whole grains contain more thiamine than refined grains, as thiamine is found mostly in the outer layers of the grain and in the germ (which are removed during the refining process). For example, 100 g of whole-wheat flour contains 0.55 mg of thiamine, while 100 g of white flour contains only 0.06 mg of thiamine. In the US, processed flour must be enriched with thiamine mononitrate (along with niacin, ferrous iron, riboflavin, and folic acid) to replace that lost in processing. So if food manufacturers used whole grains instead of white refined flours there would be no need to fortify them with all of these vitamins. 

- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Riboflavin is yellow or yellow-orange in color and in addition to being used as a food coloring, it is also used to fortify some foods. The milling of cereals results in considerable loss (up to 60%) of vitamin B2, so white flour is enriched in some countries such as USA by addition of the vitamin. The enrichment of bread and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals contributes significantly to the dietary supply of vitamin B2.

Folic Acid (Vitamin B9) is essential to numerous bodily functions. The human body needs folate to synthesize DNA, repair DNA, and methylate DNA as well as to act as a cofactor in biological reactions involving folate. It is especially important in aiding rapid cell division and growth, such as in infancy and pregnancy, as well as in "feeding" some cancers. While a normal diet also high in natural folates may decrease the risk of cancer, there is diverse evidence that high folate intake from supplementation may actually promote some cancers as well as precancerous tumors and lesions. AMAZING! So when you think you are getting necessary vitamins from all of these enriched foods, you are actually increasing your risk of developing cancer. FYI.... spinach, asparagus, beans, peas, lentils, egg yolks, bakers yeast, and sunflower seeds are all sufficient sources of naturally occurring folate. 

- Natural Flavor according to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations a "natural flavorant" is the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or any other edible portions of a plant, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose primary function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. So when I order my veggie sandwich I could actually be eating parts of an animal or fish. Good news for vegetarians and vegans because natural flavoring is in many more foods than you would think!

- Artificial Flavor Flavoring substances not identified in a natural product intended for human consumption, whether or not the product is processed. These are typically produced by fractional distillation and additional chemical manipulation naturally sourced chemicals or from crude oil or coal tar. Although they are chemically different, in sensory characteristics are the same as natural ones. I don't know about you but I love eating chemically manipulated substances that come from crude oil or tar.

- Monoglycerides & Diglycerides are commonly added to commercial food products in small quantities. They act as emulsifiers, helping to mix ingredients such as oil and water that would not otherwise blend well. The commercial source may be either animal (cow- or hog-derived) or vegetable (soy- which is a whole other topic), and they may be synthetically made as well. There are natural emulsifiers such as honey or egg yolks which do not come from unspecified animal parts. 

- Citric Acid is a weak organic acid. It is a natural preservative and is also used to add an acidic, or sour, taste to foods and soft drinks. It is obtainable from lemons and limes. However, most citric acid in the food industry is not extracted from citrus fruit, but fermented by Aspergillus niger mold from scrap molasses, waste starch hydrolysates and phosphoric acid. 

- Polysorbate 60 is one of a class of emulsifiers used in some pharmaceuticals and food preparation. CHEMICAL!

- Glycerin (Glycerol) serves as a humectant, solvent and sweetener, and may help preserve foods. It is also used as filler in commercially prepared low-fat foods, and as a thickening agent in liqueurs. As a sugar substitute, it has approximately 27 calories per teaspoon and is 60 percent as sweet as sucrose. Although it has about the same food energy as table sugar, it does not raise blood sugar levels, nor does it feed the bacteria that form plaques and cause dental cavities. 

- Caramel Color is a soluble food coloring. It is made by a carefully controlled heat treatment of carbohydrates, generally in the presence of acids, alkalis, or salts, in a process called caramelization. Caramel color is one of the oldest and most widely-used food colorings. 

- Potatoe Maltodextrin is used as a food additive. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis (very bad for you) and is usually found as a creamy-white spray dried powder. Maltodextrin is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose, and might be either moderately sweet or almost flavorless. 

- Ascorbic Acid is a sugar acid with antioxidant properties. One form of ascorbic acid is commonly known as Vitamin C. Ascorbic acid is commonly used as antioxidant food additives. These compounds are water-soluble and thus cannot protect fats from oxidation: For this purpose, the fat-soluble esters of ascorbic acid with long-chain fatty acids (ascorbyl palmitate or ascorbyl stearate) can be used as food antioxidants. Eighty percent of the world's supply of ascorbic acid is produced in China. 

- Tocopherols are a class of chemical compounds of which many have vitamin E activity. Recent studies have found that increased intake of vitamin E, especially among smokers may be responsible for an increase in the incidence of lung cancer, with one study finding an increase in the incidence of lung cancer by 7% for each 100 IU of vitamin E taken daily. Synthetic mixtures of Vitamin E isomers are not bio-equivalent to natural mixtures, yet are widely used academically and commercially. Beware of Vitamin E that has been added to foods. If it shows up in the ingredient list, it is not naturally occurring in the food and has been shown to be VERY harmful to our bodies. If you are worried about cancer, as I am, I would urge you to stay far away from foods with Vitamin E derivatives in them. 

- Tara Gum (Caesalpinia spinosa), commonly known as tara, is a small leguminous tree or thorny shrub native to Peru. Tara gum has been deemed safe for human consumption as a food additive. It is used as a thickening agent and stabilizer in a number of food applications. 

- Carrageenan is a vegetarian and vegan alternative to gelatin extracted from red seaweed.

- Phosphoric Acid is a mineral (inorganic) acid. Food-grade phosphoric acid is used to acidify foods and beverages, but not without controversy regarding its health effects. It provides a tangy or sour taste and, being a mass-produced chemical, is available cheaply and in large quantities. The low cost and bulk availability is unlike more expensive seasonings that give comparable flavors, such as citric acid. 

- Malic Acid is the active ingredient in many sour or tart foods. Malic acid is found mostly in unripe fruits, and is the source of extreme tartness in candy. It is also used with or in place of the less sour citric acid in sour sweets and Salt & Vinegar-flavor potato chips. These sweets are sometimes labeled with a warning stating that excessive consumption can cause irritation of the mouth.

- Calcium Chloride is used in canned vegetables, in firming soy bean curds into tofu and in producing a caviar substitute from vegetable or fruit juices. It is commonly used as an electrolyte in sports drinks and other beverages including Smartwater and Nestle bottled water. The extremely salty taste of calcium chloride is used to flavor pickles while not increasing the food's sodium content. 

- Microcrystalline Cellulose is a term for refined wood pulp and is used as a texturizer, a anti-caking agent, a fat substitute, an emulsifier, an extender, and a bulking agent in foods. I wasn't aware that wood pulp was actually an acceptable food for humans? 

Now I know that there are probably trace amounts of these substances in this sandwich, but think about all of the (over) processed/frozen/packaged food that consumes our diets. Some of these substances are put in food so that it has a longer shelf life. That means that the food can sit in a warehouse and then on a shelf for months if not years. And the trace amounts that show up in this sandwich, when multiplied by every single meal that the average American eats (which is complete crap!), turn into a significant amount of garbage that we are putting into our bodies. 

No wonder cancer is everywhere, obesity is everywhere, and people generally look and feel like shit. Take a look around when you are out in a public place and take notice of all of the overweight, frumpy shleps and ask yourself how many fruits and vegetables are they eating? You could probably count on 2 hands the pieces of fruit and/or vegetables that they have eaten in one month (not in a day like it should to be). And the lettuce on their foot-long, over-stuffed Italian sub doesn't count.

Until next time....start eating more fruits and veggies (and not the one's in Panera's Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich)!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cancer Fighting SUPERSTARS!

If you want a quick introduction on the best cancer-fighting foods out there read on! This post references all of the culinary suggestions written about in Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential Foods to Help Prevent Cancer by Richard Beliveau, PhD and Denis Gingras, PhD. Their book does a fantastic job of breaking down how each of these foods fights cancer. The best thing you can do is start incorporating ALL of these foods into your diet EVERY DAY!
"Vegetables from the cabbage family have an almost magical ability to fight against the development of cancerous cells in the body. Of all edible plants, cruciferous vegetables are probably those that contain the largest variety of phytochemical (cancer fighting) compounds with anticancer activity."

Green or white cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, oriental cabbages, mustard plant, watercress, radishes, turnips.

Cooking Instructions: cruciferous vegetables should never be soaked or boiled in water. They should be either steamed or stir-fried. Frozen vegetables are blanched before freezing and loose most of their anticancer molecules. Use fresh vegetables and chew cruciferous very well to release the 
anticancer molecules.

Garlic & Onions
"Garlic and other members of the Allium family slow the development of cancer both through their protective action against the damage caused by carcinogenic substances and their ability to prevent cancer cell growth." 

Garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, chives

Cooking Instructions: the anticancer molecules in the Allium family are released when the vegetables are crushed, chopped, or chewed. 

"Turmeric was already featured in the list of over 200 medicinal plants mentioned in a series of medical treatises dating from 3000 BC. Turmeric has an honored place in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition (from ayur, life, and vedic, knowledge). In the Ayurvedic tradition, turmeric, considered a food with cleansing and purifying properties, is used to treat a wide variety of physical ailments, including digestive disorders, fever, infections, arthritis, and dysentery, as well as jaundice and other problems associated with the liver. Studies showed that the anti-inflammatory molecules in turmeric might (*see note below*) be useful in the prevention and treatment of several different types of cancers, including stomach, intestinal, colon, skin, and liver cancers; the effect was seen at both the initiation and promotion stages of tumor development."

**NOTE: all of these books use the words might and may because there is no "definite proof" however the stats on the rates of cancer in the west (more) vs. the east (less) are proof enough for me to start incorporating these simple foods into my cooking. 

Cooking Instructions: Turmeric needs to be accompanied by black pepper for it to be absorbed by the body. Use in a yellow curry sauce or to season meat or fish. Best with black pepper, garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder.

Green Tea
"Green tea is an exceptional source of powerful anticancer molecules that make it a key feature of any diet designed to prevent the growth of cancer. In spite of their common origins, the chemical composition of green tea and black tea is completely different. In the course of the fermentation process used to make black tea, dramatic changes occur in the nature of the polyphenols (anticancer molecules) that were originally present in the leaves: they oxidize to produce black pigments."

Brewing Instructions: Select a Japanese green tea, which are higher in anticancer compounds, and  brew for 8-10 minutes. Drink within one hour of brewing. Try to drink 3 cups daily. 


"Most berries are an exceptionally abundant source of several classes of polyphenols that possess anticancer potential. Of all the fruits analysed, blueberries are in first place, closely followed by raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries, and far ahead of most of the fruits and vegetables that form a regular part of our diet."

Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, 

Eating Instructions: Eat raw or freeze to use in smoothies. Fresh is always preferred.

Omega-3 Fats
"While the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids obtained through diet by the first human beings was probably around one to one, the ratio has now become more like twenty to one! This imbalance tipped in favor of Omega-6 fatty acids may have negative repercussions on the development of some chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. This is because Omega-6s are used by the body to synthesize molecules that play a role in inflammation, but Omega-3s are needed for the synthesis of anti-inflammatory molecules. Increasing the intake of Omega-3s while decreasing that of Omega-6s may significantly reduce the risk of all inflammatory disease and cancer."

Fresh walnuts, nuts, walnut oil, canola oil, flax seeds, sardines, herring, mackerel, Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout. 

"Lycopene is the pigment responsible for the tomato's red color, and the tomato, whether considered a fruit or a vegetable, is the best dietary source of lycopene. The lycopene of our cultivated tomatoes is unfortunately much lower than that of the original wild growing species. (All the more reason to grow your own heirloom varieties!!) Products made from cooked tomatoes are particularly rich in lycopene. The rupture of cell walls exposed to heat allows for a better extraction of the molecule and causes changes in its structure that let it be more easily assimilated into the body. Fats also increase the availability of lycopene, so cooking tomatoes in olive oil is an excellent way to maximize the amount of lycopene that can be absorbed."

Tomato paste, tomato sauce, ketchup, condensed tomato soup, canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato juice.

Cooking Instructions: Use olive oil when making sauce. Also great with onions and garlic!

Citrus Fruits
"Citrus fruits are essential foods for cancer prevention. This is due to their capacity to act directly on cancerous cells as well as their potential for enhancing the anticancer effects of other phytochemical compounds present in the diet. Citrus fruit consumption, whether in the form of whole fruit or (fresh) juice, supplies the body with an incomparable source of specific anticancer molecules, while also providing the necessary daily requirements of many vitamins and minerals."

Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, mandarins, clementines, tangerines.

(My favorite subject!!)
"Numerous studies have pointed out that people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol on a daily basis have a mortality risk lower than either those who abstain from alcohol or those who drink to excess. Moderate quantities of alcohol (2-4 glasses of wine per day for men and 1-2 glasses of wine per day for women) significantly diminish the risk of death by 25-30 percent, for all causes of death. However, when these amounts are exceeded the mortality risk increases very rapidly. Red wine is perhaps the most complex beverage in all of the human diet. This complexity is due to the long process of grape fermentation, which causes important changes in the chemical composition of the initial fruit pulp, allowing the extraction of 
certain molecules. We should remember that countries where wine consumption has been linked to lower mortality rates, particularly Mediterranean countries, are characterized by a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. These cuisines use olive oil as the principal source of fats and use meat 
only in moderation."

Red & green grapes, red wine (pinot noir), white wine.

"Cacao beans are composed of 50-57% fat. True, these lipids are mostly saturated: 35% stearic acid and 25% palmitic acid. However, a good proportion (35%) is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid found primarily in olive oil and known to have positive effects on cardiovascular system health. Chocolate's principal lipid, stearic acid, is only weakly absorbed into the body, where it is partially (about 15%) transformed into oleic acid by the liver. Thus dark chocolate is a food that can be described as neutral as to its impact on blood cholesterol. Chocolate contains an abundance of polyphenols; a small square of dark chocolate has twice the polyphenol content of a glass of red wine and about as much as a cup of green tea brewed for the correct length of time..... Real Chocolate vs. chocolate candy: Fine dark and milk chocolates have little in common with the products consumed in large quantities by North Americans, which are more chocolate-flavored candies than chocolate. These products contain very little cocoa (federal laws prohibit their being labeled "chocolate"). Instead of cocoa butter, they contain fillers, such as saturated fats. This is why "chocolate" candy, which contains more fats and sugar than does dark chocolate, is a source of cholesterol."

Soy Free Brands: Pure Icelandic Chocolate, Theo Organic Fair Trade, Alter Eco Fair Trade, Equal Exchange Chocolates.

Eating Instructions: Should be 70% cocoa or higher. A few small squares pair great with a glass of red wine after dinner.

NOTE: This book (Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential Foods to Help Prevent Cancer) also devotes a chapter to soy. This is such a complex and controversial vegetable that I will be writing an entire post on it in the future. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Whole Grains: A Whole Big Mess

It is amazing to me that Cocoa Puffs (General Mills) advertises it is a whole grain cereal (in addition to their "Goodness Corner" boasting all of the health benefits of eating a bowl of sugar- RIDICULOUS!!!) . If you read the ingredients, whole grain is actually corn, which is most likely genetically modified, sprayed with dozens of pesticides, herbicides, and god knows what else. Do you want your kids waking up to a bowl of genetically modified corn? (And I haven't even gotten to the sugar or other ingredients)


Whole Grain Corn, Sugar, Rice Bran and/or Canola Oil, Corn Meal, Corn Syrup, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Color Added, Salt, Tricalcium Phosphate, Fructose, Trisodium Phosphate, Artificial Flavor. BHT Added to Preserve Freshness.

Lets break down the ingredient list:


According to Wikipedia, whole grain products can be identified by the ingredients list. Typically, if the ingredient lists "wholewheat," "wholemeal," or "whole corn" as the first ingredient, the product is a wholegrain food item. On the other hand, terms such as "enriched" and "bromated," among others, could indicate that the food lacks wholegrain.
"Wheat flour" (as opposed to "wholegrain wheat flour" or "wholewheat flour") as the first ingredient is not a clear indicator of the product's wholegrain content. If two ingredients are listed as grain products but only the second is listed as wholegrain, the entire product may contain between 1% and 49% whole grain. Many breads are colored brown (often with molasses or caramel color) and made to look like wholegrain, but are not. In addition, some food manufacturers make foods with whole-grain ingredients, but, because whole-grain ingredients are not the dominant ingredient, they are not wholegrain products. Contrary to popular belief, fiber is not indicative of wholegrains. The amount of fiber varies from grain to grain, and some products may have things like bran, peas, or other foods added to boost the fiber content.
In Canada, it is legal to advertise any food product as "wholewheat" with up to 70% of the germ removed. While the resulting product will contain the benefit of fiber in the nutritional information, it lacks the more recently-discovered health benefits of antioxidants found in the wheat germ. Canadian consumers can be assured of wholegrain products by a label stating 100% whole grain wholewheat.
(Original Source: Wikipedia: Whole Grain)
Sugar is sugar. See my previous post on sugar. It is #2 on the ingredient list, which means it is mostly refined (quickly absorbed) sugar.
I love this one- when they do and/or on an ingredient list. To me that says "we ran out of rice bran and/or were too cheap to put good quality products in our food." Even though these two specific ingredients are healthy, I always stay away from and/or's. You should too.
More corn! According to Wikipedia: cornmeal is flour ground from dried maize or American corn. It is a common staple food, and is ground to fine, medium, and coarse consistencies. (Original Source: Wikipedia: Cornmeal)
Here's where we get to the good stuff (the bottom half of the list)... Wikapedia again: Corn syrup is a food syrup, which is made from the starch of maize and contains varying amounts of glucosemaltose and higher oligosaccharides (you need to look that one up...I can't even pronounce it), depending on the grade. Corn syrup is used in foods to soften texture, add volume, prevent crystallization of sugar, and enhance flavor. Corn syrup is distinct from high-fructose corn syrup, which is created when corn syrup undergoes enzymatic processing, producing a sweeter compound that contains higher levels of fructose. (Original Source: Wikipedia: Corn Syrup)
Dutch process chocolate, or Dutched chocolate is chocolate that has been treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color and give it a milder taste compared to "natural cocoa" extracted with the Broma process. It forms the basis for much of modern chocolate, and is used in ice creamhot cocoa, and baking. Compared to other processes, Dutch process chocolate contains lower amounts of flavonols (antioxidants- VERY IMPORTANT IN FIGHTING CANCER / INFLAMMATION / FREE RADICALS). The effect this has on health is disputed. Professor Dr. Irmgard Bitsch of the Institut f√ľr Ern√§hrungswissenschaft, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen claims that the reduction of antioxidants due to the process is not significant and enough polyphenols and procyanids remain in the cocoa. (Original Source: Wikipedia: Dutch Process Chocolate
**I don't care what that one doctor says about what is considered "enough". I want as many naturally occurring anti-cancer molecules in my food as possible. 
Umm, which one?
Tricalcium phosphate can be primarily found in foods. According to, it is used in foods as a solidifying or anti-caking material, as an acid regulator and to boost the calcium amount the food or beverage. Tricalcium phosphate may most regularly be found as an ingredient in dairy products such as yogurt, as well as in carbonated beverages, powder based spices, candies and jelly. (Original Source:  
**I bet General Mills boasts it is "high in calcium" too. By the is proven that regular exercise is a better way to build strong bones than ingesting calcium. Read: Want Strong Bones? Do Excersize.
Sugar that naturally occurs in fruit, however in this case it is in its pure form. Just more sugar.
Trisodium phosphate (TSP, E339) is a cleaning agent, food additive, stain remover and degreaser. It is a white, granular or crystalline solid, highly soluble in water producing an alkaline solution. The item of commerce is often partially hydrated and may range from anhydrous trisodium phosphate, Na3PO4, to the dodecahydrate, Na3PO4·12H2O. Trisodium phosphate was at one time extensively used in formulations for a wide variety of consumer grade soaps and detergents, but ecological problems have largely ended that practice, at least in the western world. Substitutes are not as effective, but the raw chemical can be bought in bulk to add to underpowered detergents. (Original Source: Wikipedia: Trisodium Phosphate)
**WOW, I purchased this stuff from Amazon in its raw form to help clean my clothes better after reading an article about it (See article). On the package it said keep away from eyes, nose, mouth, and if I recall correctly skin. So WHY ON EARTH ARE THEY PUTTING ONE FORM OR ANOTHER OF IT IN KIDS CEREAL?!?!?!?!?!
Do you really want your kids eating artificial anything?
Pronounce that I dare you. Here's what it is: Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), also known as butylhydroxytoluene, is a lipophilic (fat-soluble) organic compound that is primarily used as an antioxidant food additive (E number E321) as well as an antioxidant additive in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, electrical transformer oil, and embalming fluid. (Original Source: Wikipedia: BHT)
**Yummy yummy! 


Unfortunately this is the state of the food industry these days. Lets refine everything down to its individual components and then reconstitute it back into food products. Add in some vitamins that were lost along the way, slap some nutrition labels on it and call it a healthy day! You and only you can make the choice to be an informed eater. READ LABELS! EVERY ONE OF THEM (until you become familiar with the brands that are actually good for you).
Side note: I spent hours (probably close to 30 so far) reading labels of all different food products. There is only one cereal product that I found to be "healthy" so far. Barbara's Whole Wheat Cereal. And not all of them. So READ YOUR LABELS! 
RULE: There should be a maximum of 5 whole food ingredients in whatever you buy processed and you must be able to pronounce them and know what they are.

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