Monday, January 4, 2010

Children's Health

This post is inspired by my two adorable nephews that I spent the last two weeks with. I hope that by learning about how the food we eat affects our  health, that we will make changes for the next generation. 

Children are suffering from a growing epidemic of obesity and other food-related health problems.  One out of four children ages five to ten years have early warning signs for heart disease, such as blood cholesterol or high blood pressure. Obesity rates have tripled in children (aged 6 to 11) and doubled in adolescents (aged 12 to 19) over the past three decades. One in seven young people is obese and one in three is overweight. Childhood obesity is particularly disconcerting given that overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. Dietary changes over this time span include an increase in soft drink consumption, sugary foods and beverages, and the consumption of processed, high-calorie foods.

Children also pay a high price in terms of exposure to pesticides used in conventional agriculture. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences, standard chemicals are up to ten times more toxic to children than adults. They absorb more chemicals, relative to body weight, than adults and their organ systems are still developing and therefore, are more vulnerable to exposure and have difficultly detoxing. Given their vulnerability, it is startling that laboratory tests of eight industry-leader baby foods contained sixteen pesticides, including three carcinogens. Also, blood tests of children aged two to four revealed that the concentration of pesticide residue is six times higher in children who ate conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables compared with those who ate organic.  Organophosphate pesticides (OP) account for half of the insecticides used in the United States and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, were found in the blood of 95 percent of Americans that were tested. OP leves were twice as high in children than adults and exposure is linked to hyperactivity, behavior disorders, learning disabilities, developmental delays, and motor dysfunction.

One of the main sources of pesticde exposure for children in the United States comes from the food that they eat. Sixty-two percent of food products that were tested contained at least three different pesticides. Despite the health risks associated with exposure to pesticides, more than 400 chemicalscan be regularly used in conventionalfarming and more than 300 synthetic food additives are allowed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in conventional foods. None of these chemicals or additives are allowed in foods that are USDA organic. If you have children, please feed them organic whole foods.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Salad

Food is so primal, so essential a part of our lives, often the mere sharing of recipes with strangers turns them into good friends. 
-Jasmine Heiler

This recipe is inspired by my mom--a slight adaptation of one of her many beautiful dishes.  With so many holiday parties this time of year, bring something that will nourish you and the ones that you love.

Mix with Love:
Salad Greens
Persimmons, skinned and sliced
Pomegranate seeds
Cucumber skinned, sliced and cut in half
Avacado, sliced or chopped
Pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
Dried cranberries

Toss with:
Briannas Real French Vinaigrette Dressing (if short on time)
or a homemade dressing  (i.e, mix olive oil, canola oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and a little sea salt).

Vegetarian, Vegan, and Raw Food friendly.


Raw Vegan Chocolate Truffles -- Just in Time for Christmas!

"You can deprive the body, but the soul needs chocolate."

I found this recipe from the Institute of Nutrition blog, a creation of chef Karolina, and brought it to a recent holiday party.  With no dairy or processed sugar and the goodness of raw cacao it was a hit with everyone!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Un-cook time: 20 minutes
Yield: 25 truffles

1 cup cacao powder
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup maple syrup
water (to mix)

Roll in shredded coconut, chocolate nibs, cacao powder, dehydrated cherries or cranberries, or whatever you love!

Directions: Mix cashes in a food processor to a powder, adding water to mix. Add mapple syrup to cashews and process, then mix with cacao powder, refrigerate for a few hours or overnight for best results.

Easy and Delish!

The State of Food in America - Food Additives and Factory Farms

"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are"

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

The modern American supermarket has 47,000 food products.  In an environment where the U.S. food supply provides an average of 3,900 calories a day per capita, we have almost twice as much food as needed to feed the U.S. population.  And yet Americans as a whole, are not stocking up on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Instead they are consuming an increasing amount of processed food "products" that contain harmful additives and are nutrient deficient.

Food dyes are commonly used in processed food and according to new research from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, eight of these food dyes are linked to hyperactivity, impulsivity, learning difficulties, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in many children. The dyes, which are mostly petrochemicals, are often used to stimulate the presence of healthy, colorful fruits and vegetables. In Britain, where the dyes are banned, the food companies have used colorings from real food ingredients, showing that use of the dyes is unnecessary.

The food industry itself is changing; it is moving away from small local farmers and is now largely controlled by a small number of corporations. Over eighty percent of the beef packing market is controlled by four corporations; followed by pork packing (64%), flour milling (63%) and broiler chicken production (56%). McDonalds is the largest purchaser of beef and pork and one of the largest buyers of apples and potatoes, and therefore has significant influence over how the food is produced. As a result, the demand is for cheap meat, irrespective of quality, humaneness nad in many cases, safety.
At this time, the majority of meat and dairy products sold in the U.S. are produced in factory farms where tens of thousands of animals are packed tightly together. The animals produce a large amount of untreated waste, creating large cesspools that eventually wash downstream and lead to environmental contamination of the surrounding community. If vegetables are grown downstream, the waste can cause ecoli contamination--like the 2006 nationwide ecoli outbreak in spinach. The meat itself is also of questionable safety. In feedlots, the animals stand knee deep in their own waste. When they go to slaughter, they are hosed down but is is common for some of the feces to remain on their hides, presenting the risk of contaminating the meat with viruses and bacteria.

To add to the safety concerns, meat coming from these industrial factory farms contain high levels of hormones and antibiotics, which are given to the animals to preempt disease and promote growth; thereby reducing production costs. The Union of Concernerd Scientists reports that seventy to eight four perfect of all antimicrobials in the U.S. are fed to livestock. As a result, humans are developing antibiotic resistance resulting in serious public health concerns. In addition to antibiotics, hormones are used on approximately two-thirds of all cattle; in large U.S. commercial feedlots, their use is almost 100 percent. While widespread in the U.S., beef hormones have been banned by the European Union since the 1980s because of possible risks to human health.

The more we know about the state of our food, the better choices we can make for choosing whole foods that are unprocessed, and meats that are fed an organic diet and are hormone and antibiotic free. The beauty of America is that we have a bounty of healthy alternatives to fill our plates this Christmas!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Health Revolution Petition

If you're like me, you've probably done a fair amount of research on the various health care reform options out there. When I read the Health Revolution Petition, I felt like someone had put words to everything that I have been saying and thinking for the past year. You might wonder why I bring up health reform on a food blog, the reason is that food and nutrition are a central component of our health and must be considered in the discussion.

In summary, the petition is for a voucher system that can be used to cover a variety of wellness options. It promotes health, maintains free choice, eliminates insurance companies, reduces the influence of the drug industry and works to clean up government agencies like the FDA.

I encourage you to visit and sign the petition today.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sauteed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
-Harriet van Horne

If you're like me, you might lust after the beautiful greens at the summer farmers market. When I saw this recipe, I knew it would be a wonderful way to incorporate all of those greens in a healthy, savory dish. Recipe comes from the book "Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness" by Joshua Rosenthal.

1/2 bunch mustard greens
1/2 bunch kale
1/2 bunch dandelion greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup raisins

1. Toast pine nuts on a cookie sheet in a 325 degree oven for 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Wash and chop greens.
3. Heat olive oil.
4. Add greens, sea salt and raisins. Stir and cook for 5 minutes
5. Turn off heat, add in pine nuts and transfer to serve dish.
6. Sprinkle with lemon juice before serving.

Note: I've made this several times with only kale and added lots of lemon juice.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6

Amaranth and Polenta Porridge

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. -Voltaire

For those who want to be more adventurous in the variety of grains they use, or for those with wheat/gluten allergies, this is a delightful porridge to try. Recipe is from "Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness" by Joshua Rosenthal.

1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup amaranth
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pine nuts
1-2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup milk (or non-dairy milk)

1. Heat water with salt to boil.
2. Add polenta and amaranth.
3. Reduce heat and simmer, covered about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. After 20 minutes, stir in cranberries.
5. Taste to see if it's done. It should be soft and creamy.
6. Add pine nuts, honey and milk and enjoy!

Note: I made it without the cranberries and pine nuts and added cinnamon. The texture is different than a more traditional porridge but overall it's more nutritious and fun for the taste buds to try something new.