Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lessons Learned on the Healthy Feeding of Your Family

Kathryn Griffin

I went to the grocery store today, determined to be a label sleuth, and bring home healthier food for my family. I have to say, it was a lesson in near-futility. In my quest to limit foods with unpronounceable ingredients and/or high fructose corn syrup, corn or soy as a primary ingredient I made sure to wear my glasses so I could read the fine print. What I learned from this experience is...unless we plan to completely stop eating, there is just no way to entirely cut these things from our diet. I was forced to put a lid on my "all or nothing" mentality, and vow simply to choose items with the least amount of unpronounceable or unhealthy ingredients.

Generic vs. Name Brand?

I did learn something fairly interesting; I was shopping at our local grocery store, and, after comparing labels diligently on peanut butter and mayonnaise, found that the store brand of both items contained substantially less of the "bad" stuff than my old standbys, Jif and Hellman's. Sad, but true. Those particular generics were also significantly cheaper, but I can't give the final thumbs up until I've tasted them. I'm wondering if all the stuff we "shouldn't" be eating is what makes things taste good! Anyhow, I've shifted my expectations a bit, and am now going to simply read labels and try to make the best choices available while edging away from highly processed anything.

Fructose vs. Sucrose

I'm kicking around the idea of making a personal commitment to completely do away with high fructose corn syrup in my own diet for a whole month, but haven't quit waffling about it. I'm sure everybody's seen the commercials (sponsored by the corn industry, of course) where one person says they don't want to eat the popsicle because it contains high fructose corn syrup, and the other one claims it's identical to "real" sugar-this is not strictly the truth. Food and beverage manufacturers began the switch to HFCS in the 1970's after discovering processed fructose was not only cheaper to make, but nearly 20 times cheaper than table sugar. This switch has drastically changed the way Americans eat, and today the number one source of calories in the U.S. is high fructose corn syrup. Half the participants in a study group were given soft drinks containing HFCS showed greatly elevated levels of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Health Concerns

Even though HFCS is chemically similar to table sugar (sucrose) the difference occurs in the way HFCS is processed, causing it to metabolize to fat in your body much more quickly than any other sugar. Because most HFCS is consumed in liquid form, the negative metabolic effects are magnified. High fructose corn syrup has been definitively linked to diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. When you consider the large percentage of America's population who are overweight, you have to wonder if the HFCS products have something to do with that. The more vocal critics of HFCS argue it contributes to weight gain by affecting the normal appetite functions and that it may be a source of mercury, a known neurotoxin, while proponents continue to tout its safety.

The Jury is Still Out

As a further insult, the corn from which HFCS are made is most all genetically modified, which, of course, brings its own set of health concerns. Sodas are the primary source of HFCS; since I'm not much of a soda drinker, that's not a big concession for me, however lots of other products contain this potentially harmful stuff as well. (bread, cereal, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurt and soup, to name a few) Consider this quote from Mike Adams, and you, like me, will likely be filled with dismay.

"Diabetes is caused by the consumption of soft drinks, high fructose corn syrup, refined white sugars, refined white flour, processed grains, processed carbohydrates and other processed foods. Subsequently, if you teach people to stop eating these foods, you in essence destroy the diabetes industry. And yes, it is a hugely profitable industry, just like the cancer industry." Mike Adams,The Seven Laws of Nutrition

Kathryn Griffin is a partner in J.T. Liberty Solar and has written extensively on solar as well as environmental and sustainability issues. If you'd like further information on turning your home into a model of self-sufficiency, check out http://www.thesolarpowerinstallers.com. If you are interested in reading about how to survive the coming hard times, take a look at http://www.surviving-hard-times.com.

The Top 10 Foods to Keep You Young

Lynn Maison


The basics of a perfect anti-aging diet would include lots of fresh fruits and veggies, solid amounts of whole grains and fiber, and oily fish 2 to 3 times a week. Cutting back on fat and sugar-laden foods is an important step in keeping you looking and feeling both healthy and young. Besides these basics, though, there are other foods you should be considering to help maximize your anti-aging strategies. Here are the top 10 foods to help keep you young.

Avocado

Although most people think avocado is a vegetable, it's actually a fruit loaded with monounsaturated fats, which the body needs to combat high cholesterol in the bloodstream. Avocados also are a great source of Vitamin E, which helps minimize visible signs of aging, and have tons of potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, lessens water retention, and can even help with muscle cramping.

Berries

Any sort of dark berry -- think blueberries, blackberries, or even black grapes -- are loaded with phytochemicals. These flavonoids act as heavy duty antioxidants that help the body fight off free radicals that can cause visible aging on the skin.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, kale, turnips, cauliflower, and radishes help your body vanquish toxins, and have even been shown to minimize the risk of some cancers. You do need to cook these vegetables lightly and for as short a time as possible -- long amounts of cooking or boiling will destroy the healthy enzymes they offer. Try steaming them or eating them raw in a salad for maximum impact.

Garlic

While garlic may or may not help you fight off Dracula, researchers have found that eating just a single clove of garlic daily can help you stave off both heart disease and some cancers. In fact, one study showed that post-menopausal women between 55 and 69 had a whopping 50% less chance of being diagnosed with colon cancer when they added garlic to their daily diets. Studies have also shown that garlic can help maintain or lower cholesterol levels, and can even thin blood more efficiently than a daily dose of low-strength aspirin. Great news for people with a history of heart disease or heart attacks in their family!

Ginger

Ginger has been used for centuries as a digestive aid in many cultures, and can also help relieve arthritic aches and pains. After all, it's hard to feel your anti-aging diet is really working if your bones still creak!

Nuts

Although nuts are high-calorie, high-fat foods, they also contain rich amounts of minerals -- particularly walnuts, which can help provide everything from zinc, potassium, iron, and more to your daily diet. Think of walnuts as nature's supplements, and incorporate them into your diet by sprinkling them on salads or cereals. Nuts can also act as a digestive aid and help shore up your immune system, as well as help lower high cholesterol levels.

Soy

Soy products, especially fermented soy products, are an excellent choice for menopausal or post-menopausal dietary plans, since they maintain a woman's estrogen levels and can ease hot flashes. Soy consumption has also been linked to lower rates of heart disease, Alzheimer's, and even osteoporosis and brittle bone syndrome.

Whole Meal Pasta and Rice

Complex carbs like whole grain pasta and rice help you feel full and stay active throughout the day, as well as deliver solid boosts of fiber and iron to aid your digestive system. Look to add brown rice in particular to your daily routine, since it offers a good amount of B vitamins that can boost energy.

Watermelon

This low-calorie, high-water fruit contains loads of vitamins A, B, and C -- plus the seeds offer minerals like zinc and selenium, which is a known free-radical fighter. Add chunks of watermelon to your smoothies, or mix with feta cheese for a light vegetarian salad.

Water

There's no doubt that a full 8 glasses of water daily will go a long way to maintain your body's health and vitality. Minimize your consumption of sugar and fat-laden drinks, tea, or coffee, and instead reach for low-fat or skim milk, flavored water, or fresh juice as additional liquid replacements. You can also add more H2O to your diet by eating high-water fruits and veggies like cucumbers, melons, lettuce, or tomatoes.

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