Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chocolates - Be Thoughtful on Valentine's and Every Day

Cacao is a lucrative crop for the big companies and harvested by small communities that have very little and need the work. Because of that, they have no trouble clearing acres of rainforest or seriously trimming the upper trees to grow cacao just so they can feed their family on the meager wage they receive from the big companies. As you can imagine, the birds and animals living in that area lose a home and many die in this process. This not good for the future of our planet (don't get me started on carbon emissions that occur when trees die, and how we lose the carbon eaters - the trees - when we cut them down.)

Ironically, full-sun cacao trees are actually more susceptible to disease and insects (well, the birds left) so harmful chemical pesticides must be used, and of course those drain into the adjacent rainforest nearby. Some of these chemicals do end up in the resulting chocolate that we consume as well.

Since it's all about the money-making crop, conditions for workers are not safe. Their wage is well under the poverty level. Even more shocking, slave labor is sadly not uncommon. The Ivory Coast (where most cocoa is grown) is notorious for using children slaves working in uncomfortable conditions under the hot sun harvesting chocolate for yes, even U.S. owned companies. According to Treehugger: (linked below and picture courtesy)
International Labor Rights Fund filed suit against Nestlé in Federal District Court on behalf of a class of children who were trafficked from Mali into the Ivory Coast and forced to work twelve to fourteen hours a day with no pay, little food and sleep, and frequent beatings. What was Nestlé's response to court questioning? "We are only buyers of a product.”
Fair-trade chocolate offers the workers a fair wage so they don't need to destroy forest. A fair wage allows communities to flourish with schools, clean water, and food. Shade Grown and Bird Friendly is not just for coffee, look for that in chocolate too. This means that the upper trees are trimmed very little allowing the canopy for nesting birds and other wildlife. Just 50 of us buying one bar of Fair Trade Chocolate each week instead of other chocolates will help maintain an acre of wild lush forest and jungle.

In our family, if it's not organic or fair trade, we just can't enjoy it. It is easy to pass on the Hershey's kiss and snack bar at the bank counter when you know what's behind it and what you are saying you support by taking one. Even my kids don't ask for one because they have a deeper understanding and appreciation for how one little motion, our act, has an impact on the lives of others and our planet. Well, maybe they don't have a true understanding but they know it's not something we do and that we make choices like that to better the planet and that's good enough for me!

We all know that chocolate, dark chocolate, contains three times the potent (flavanoids) antioxidants that fight aging and disease than that of green tea and twice that of red wine. Plus chocolate helps calm stress by relaxing blood vessels and improving blood flow. It makes us feel good since chocolate contains phenylethylamines. Fair Trade Organic Chocolate supports your health, our environment, the lives of others, and makes us feel even better.

Chocolate to Save Forests?, National Geographic
The Bitter Truth about Chocolate, Treehugger
Chocolate Buying Guide, The Green Guide

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lean & Green: How to Live Sustainably on a Budget

This is a very stressful, yet hopeful, time in our lives. Due to the economy, we are forced to make changes in what we buy for our family, but can we also choose what's best for the planet? "Green" seems to cost more, it takes time to learn and implement, it requires that we focus and prioritize. It may not seem like the best time to go green and eat healthier, but this is actually the perfect time to get healthy, heal our environment, and save money!

Especially under times of stress, we need to keep our immune system strong to ward off disease. Disease costs money, so there is a real savings there (avoiding doctor bills, medicines, days off) but it's deeper than that because without our health, we have nothing. Being healthier keeps us within our budget. Making changes that impact our health, in turn, helps heal our environment. And the truth is, choosing healthier options for our body and planet does NOT have to cost more; there are ways to save money while making good choices. We can tighten our belts and still eat delicious nutritious food that allow us to tighten our belts a notch as we get healthy and lose weight.

Support your body to do it's job to keep you healthy by:

1. Eating well
2. Sleeping
3. Exercising
4. Being Optimistic
5. Loving
6. Using Safer products On & Around Your Body

1. Eating Well.

This is the cornerstone of good health. We get more bang for our buck (more nutrition, less toxins) by choosing organic food, but many times they are more expensive than conventional (that was the point of the industrialization of food, to make it cheap, and they succeeded: cheap to make, cheap to buy, empty calories, not as nutritious, and really not even that delicious when you take the time to taste it) so it's important to remember why we buy food, not just to quell the pangs of hunger, but to nourish our body and family, to keep us healthy, as a delicious pleasurable experience.

In the U.S. we seem to think of food as an afterthought. We rush to a fast food place when we are starving or munch on things out of a bag. Sadly, we have the highest incidence of obesity, diabetes, and serious illness. We just don't care about what we eat. We care what we look like so we spend money on cars, and clothes; but food impacts how we look even more, yet oddly we don't give that the same attention. As Americans, we spend just over five (5%) percent of our income on food we make at home, that's lower than ever before and less than any other country. We need to put our home-cooked meals back on the front burner.
  • Make a decision on what to switch to organic or grass-fed or at least free-range, antibiotic-, and hormone-free for certain items your family uses most. You don't have to change over everything at once, and you shouldn't, that's setting yourself up for failure. But don't let that stop you completely either. Start with something. My rule of thumb is simple, make the small changes that have the biggest impact for your family. If your family eats a lot of dairy, go organic on that and grass-fed preferably; if you eat a lot of peanut butter, there we go; if you eat lots of meat, choose grass-fed instead; if you eat lots of bananas, choose organic even though those are no longer at the top of the list for having the most and worst pesticides (I say to choose organic despite that because, well, we don't wash banana skins and our kids tend to eat a lot of them which means a lot of those pesticides in their little bodies. You can't always go strictly by "the list" but it's a good guide. Always look at what YOUR family consumes most and particularly what the little ones are eating.) It's different for every family so take a good look at your groceries and what you are actually eating (versus tossing into the garbage) and choose organic or grass-fed and preferably local for those items. As an added benefit, by switching to organic for the things you need most, demand will help those prices come down.

    Choosing organic is a better "bargain" since organic foods are more nutritious than conventional, offering more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This makes sense since good soil creates good quality produce. Ounce for ounce you get more nutrition in organic food making them a better value.

    Being frugal in food does not mean buying cheap, cheap is empty calories not nutritional calories. Instead buy wisely and eat less of the more costly things. When you look at the per pound cost of packaged items versus organic whole real foods, you will see that fruits, vegetables, milk, even some cuts of meats are less costly than packaged conventional foods. The University at Buffalo conducted a study in 2002 where families swapped their calorie-laden pre-packaged foods for real foods like fruits, vegetables, and other healthful options. The result? They reduced their food bill and their weight! Save money, get healthier and save the planet, all at the same time!

  • Find and frequent a real local farmer's market or join a CSA. I say real because a real farmer's market is where real farmer's set up tables to sell what they harvest. Throughout the country, there are many now that are setting up tents of things they buy from distributors. Those are NOT farmer's markets. You may still be able to get a good deal there if you are prepared and have comparison shopped; and you have to trust the person selling it. Better to support your local hardworking farmers. Meet the farmer's in your area, talk to them to find out if they are certified organic or not and if not, why not. Find out how they manage their farm. Some farmers might use organic practices but are not certified while others, even though small, may be using heaps of chemicals and pesticides so take the time to chat. Find out about season and harvest times and what they grow. Visit the farms if you can.

    Once you find a farmer's market with local organic (even if not certified) options, make this a weekly tradition with your family for eating healthy and meeting others in your neighborhood who share your values.

    A CSA is Community Sponsored Agriculture. That's where you will buy a share of local seasonal produce for your area and support the local farmers in your area.

  • Buy in season. Be wary of temperature fluctuations which can cause prices to rise (for example, Florida strawberries and peppers were hit hard by the cold snap, expect those prices to rise due to limited supply.)

    Seasonal produce is less costly. You can even buy in season and freeze or can it for later! Speaking of freezing, check the freezer section for organic fruits and vegetables, their per pound price is usually less, especially off-season. (Be sure to recycle that plastic bag!)

  • Plan your Menu & Cook at Home. Nothing will help you save money more than cooking at home. There are so many sources for recipes, easy and fast, or slow and elegant. The way to learn and get better is to practice and plan. Plan what you'll make for each meal during the week. Plan your meals around what is in season, on sale, and less expensive. Knowing what you need each week, based upon season and availability, allows you to stick to your budget and save money.

    Instead of planning a meal around the meat, try planning it around a veggie, beans, or whole grains since those are less expensive. Use meat as the "side dish" or use it to enhance the meal rather than as the main staple.

    There are other benefits to eating at home as a family including better communication, bonding, good self-esteem, good behavior, better grades, getting to know one another more, trying new foods or taking adventures together to other countries through food.

    Enjoy eating with friends or cooking for friends. Have friends over for a potluck dinner. Plan a meal swap group. This way each person gets to make their specialty and you get other home-cooked meals ready for you to heat and serve on nights you are too busy to cook yourself.

  • Join a buying club or food co-op. That's where the buying power of many is pooled together to buy in bulk at drastically discounted prices. You can share a 25lb bag of rice amongst your group or boxes of fresh produce. If one doesn't exist around in your area, start one. If you need help on how, let me know. If you don't have time but still want to join, I can help you coordinate it. If you are in Florida, join us in Annie's Organic Buying Club.

  • Print coupons. It's never been easier to get coupons and yes, they even exist for organic brands. Search their web site. Companies are happy to help you choose their products. Many times just sending a thank you or making a suggestion for a type of product will prompt them to send you a coupon! However, you do not need to buy a product just because you have the coupon. You can still afford to be picky, and well you should, this is for your health and the health of your family - that's an important job! Get coupons from your favorites including:
  • Shop Sales, Buy by the Case, Comparison Shop, Buy in Bulk, Choose Store Brands, & Shop Discount Stores. Comparison shop for the things you need most. Organics go on sale. They even move to discount stores like Big Lots. Stock up when you find a great bargain but check dates; organic and natural products tend to have shorter expiration dates so buy only what you'll use in time. Look for store brands that are usually less expensive but just as good a quality. Shop for items in bulk. I'm not a big fan of those bulk bins (with people stick their hands in and you never know how long it has been sitting there) but if they offer a bulk bag that you can purchase, do it! Many times local grocery stores will take pre-orders for certain items and only charge a marginal increase over wholesale, ask about that possibility.

  • Grow it yourself. No matter where you live, you can grow something. Grow herbs, grow vegetables, grow something that you will enjoy to enhance your cooking. You'll also be teaching your children a valuable lesson in working the earth, even if it's just in a window box.
Instead of putting on "recession pounds" by eating cheap food, now is the time to eat less, lose weight (for those of us that need to do that), enjoy time with our families, learn about food, and eat well. It's time to get back to the basics of enjoying life. Eating well involves: Sitting with your family for meals. Learning new recipes. Cooking meals at home. Cooking more from scratch with whole real foods. Limiting pre-packaged and processed foods. Limiting restaurant food and take-out. Choosing natural, grass-fed, and organic foods, especially for those things your family eats most. Enjoying really delicious food prepared with love and care. Taking pleasure in nourishing your family and seeing them enjoy the real food you have prepared together.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Peanut Butter Scare

A staple of our childhood has been tainted. And because of our massive industrialized food system, this is having an impact on many (43 to date) states and a variety of brands. Big brand names have been voluntarily recalling products. We are warned not to eat foods containing peanut butter until the salmonella contamination is resolved. Sadly, this isn't new. 2007 had a recall of peanut butter for the same reason. But maybe this isn't the only reason to be concerned about peanut butter.

Traditional peanuts are grown with a lot of nasty chemical pesticides. Organic brands are not.

Most conventional peanut butters contain added sugar, hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, and/or other emulsifiers. Natural brands are simple, just peanuts and salt, but remember, then the oil will naturally separate and you'll have to stir it up.

Most importantly, when peanuts grow in certain climates they can harbor aspergillus flavus, a mold not visible to the naked eye that may contain carcinogenic aflatoxin, a mycotoxin. In particular, this aflatoxin has been linked to hepatitis, liver cancer, and lowered intelligence. Evidence suggests it is the leading cause of liver cancer in China and Africa. OSHA requires people working with peanuts to wear face masks so they don't breathe in too much of the mold. Most traditional peanuts come from China; there can be big temperature fluctuations in transit which can encourage mold growth. Roasting does kill the mold but not the aflatoxin and the longer the nut butter sits on the shelf, the more aflatoxin can multiply. Because of this, oddly enough, "fresh ground" peanut butter sitting out at the grocery store has the highest levels (up to ten times than of sealed brands) of aflatoxin.

Dry arid climates, like the Valencia peanuts grown in Arizona, do not harbor this mold. By choosing an organic brand from a dry climate we are saving pesticides from entering our environment and toxins from our body. Arrowhead Mills and Maranatha are two brands I trust. Refrigeration slows down the growth.

Our choices? If your family eats a lot of peanut butter, make a change for a big impact on their health. You can just avoid peanuts and peanut butter altogether because of the risk or we can all make choices to lessen our risk.

Whole peanuts: obviously don't eat them if they don't look good or are old; like nuts and whole wheat flour, I store them in my freezer to preserve freshness.

Peanut Butter:
  • choose an organic brand of peanut butter to lessen chemical pesticides in our planet and bodies,
  • with all natural ingredients that do not contain hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, sugar, emulsifiers, trans-fatty acids, and that long list of ingredients we can't pronounce for a more wholesome food,
  • in a brand where the peanuts are grown in a dry arid areas (like Arizona or New Mexico) instead of warm, moist, humid climates or look for a "aflatoxin-free brand"
  • that has been sealed from the manufacturer, not the "fresh grind your own" found in the health food stores, and not one that has sat in the store for a long time in order to lessen potential growth of the aflatoxin;
  • store in your refrigerator to further slow down potential aflatoxin growth once you open it, but do that after you stir the oils and nut butter back together (or pour off the oil and stir in macadamia or walnut oil instead for a better omega 3:6 ratio) and
  • enjoy in moderation instead of every single day.
Actually a legume, not a nut, peanuts are a pretty inexpensive source of protein (you can add even more protein by adding Brewer's Yeast to your peanut butter.) They are low on the glycemic index, contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, contains niacin, vitamins B6 & E, fiber, magnesium, and the same antioxidant found in grapes and red wine, reservatol, which can lower our risk of some cardiovascular disease. And let's face it, Peanut Butter is yummy - that sticky spreadable goodness is delicious on the classic PB&J, or in sauces, soups, smoothies, and bakery items. There is no reason to stop enjoying peanut butter, just make some changes to get the benefit and minimize potential harm.

Peanuts are a common allergen like soy, wheat and dairy. If you are allergic, look for alternative nut butters like cashew, almond, walnut, and tahini (sesame seed) nut butters, and be sure to read ingredients carefully as peanuts are in many processed foods. Aflatoxins can also be found in corn, wheat, milk, soybeans, rice, nuts and cotton (which is used to make cottonseed oil, an unhealthy oil found in many processed foods). Corn, for example, is in so many products from the grain-fed meats we eat to the processed foods on the shelf, and conventional corn in the U.S. is GMO, we should actually work to limit our intake of that more than peanuts but that is more complicated so we do what we can. More on how to do that later.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chocolate Brownies

More baking today - we needed chocolate bad and decided brownies would meet our craving. But I didn't want to deal with melting chocolate so I looked for a recipe that used Cocoa Powder instead. I made these courtesy of Alton Brown with some modifications. Love that there was only 1/2 cup of flour in the recipe but I goofed and only put in 1/4 cup. It's almost like a flourless torte. And we made two 8x8 trays with the batter so we doubled the servings or halved the calories for one brownie but they were not very thick. I also cut the sugar considerably by not packing the brown sugar and only using 1/2 cup of Sucanat instead of a full cup of regular white granulated sugar, this cut the calories too and made it a very chocolatey decadent brownie.

Preheat oven to 300F

Beat together with a whisk:
4 organic large Eggs
1 cup of organic Brown Sugar (not tightly packed)
1/2 cup of Sucanat (this compliments the brown sugar nicely)
Beat this together for 5 minutes until it doubles in size and gets lighter in color.

Melt & Mix together:
1 stick of organic Butter
1/2 cup of Coconut Oil
1 cup of fair trade Cocoa Powder (not dutched)

Once that cools add 2 Teaspoons Vanilla.

Slowly stream the melted butter mixture into the egg mixture with the whisk beating at medium/low (you don't want to get chocolate all over the kitchen!)

Just as the the mixture comes together sprinkle into it:
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I actually used salt flakes from the Murray River in New Zealand) and mix briefly to incorporate or simply fold into the batter.

Pour batter into 2 buttered and floured 8x8 baking dishes or better yet, into one 9x13 baking pan. The recipe said to bake for 45 minutes (mine were done in 40 minutes since I had split the batter up) until almost done (toothpick will come out with some parts sticking to it.) The recipe is particular to cool them in the pan completely before cutting or they may fall apart. Of course we couldn't wait and the picture above are just hot out of the oven - they held together fine and were very moist and flavorful.

Since I had split it into 2 pans, I got 18 (9 per pan) decent size brownies. By cutting back on the sugar and putting the batter into two pans, we decreased the calories considerably but still got the chocolate punch.

These are cloud-like chocolate pillows more than fudgey brownies but still very moist and rich; and the chocolate was spot on. The kids loved them and didn't miss the flour or sugar that was cut out.

Carrot Orange Morning Muffins

I try not to use flour or sugar too much in our lives but we make the exception for birthdays and for a breakfast treat once in a while. Today the little one requested muffins but I have been trying to add veggies to our morning routine so after reviewing several recipes I put together a breakfast muffin that was super moist, full of veggies, and very tasty.

You can see how moist these are above and how colorful with the green pumpkin seeds, orange carrot bits and brown juicy raisins. Since they are low in sugar, they'll be a good snack for the kid's lunch box too.

When I was preparing them I tried to keep the carrots a secret (they all say they hate carrots!) but they kept asking about what kind (I told them cinnamon was in them, that wasn't a good enough answer) so I fessed up. Of course they balked when they heard carrots. I got the puke face and delightful noises that go with that, lots of whining and well, I don't need to tell you. They smelled really good so we all agreed, ok maybe I forced them with all the patience in the world - we'll sit here all day, to taste it and surprisingly (to them and to my delight), they all loved them!

preheat oven to 350 F

2 large organic Eggs
2/3 cup melted organic Coconut Oil
2 teaspoons Vanilla (I use organic Nielsen Massey)
3/4 cup Sucanat (that's a natural sugar with more flavor - Sugar Cane Natural = SuCaNat)
2 teaspoons Zest from one organic orange or tangerine

3 cups grated organic Carrots (about 3/4 lb of carrots)
1 cup organic Raisins
1/2 cup organic Pumpkin Seeds
1/2 cup organic Coconut (not the sweetened coconut, just grated natural coconut)
1 shredded organic Apple

After that's all blended together add the dry to the mix:
2 cups whole wheat or wheat pastry organic flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon (a good quality cinnamon makes all the diff)
1/2 teaspoon salt

It will be a thick batter. Scoop with an ice cream scooper so the muffin tins are 3/4 full. Bake 25 (one batch took 23, another 25 - I made 24 muffins) minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

I was tempted to use applesauce in the recipe but didn't have any handy. Next time I may cut the oil but 1/3 and add 1/3 cup applesauce to it instead but these came out so moist and perfect, I may not change it at all.

We sprinkled a little powdered sugar over them and enjoyed them with breakfast.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Alphabet Soup: rBGH

When we have toddlers and start thinking about changing our eating habits, the first place most of us start is in the dairy section. And it's a good idea since our kids are gulping gallons of the stuff. On a conventional dairy farm, the cows are injected with rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormones) to keep them a pumpin'! Any nursin' mama can feel for these dairy cows and their discomfort of engorgement and the results including possible mastitis and infection. In addition, the conventional dairy farm houses packs them in to maximize profits. Many of the cows live their entire lives in small stalls. Living conditions like this are not conducive to good health and therefore they are routinely given antibiotics to combat disease which would grow rampant throughout the farm. Let's face it, unhealthy conditions cannot produce nutritious milk for our children.

rBGH shortens the (albeit not so pleasant) lives of the these cows by as much as thirteen years! These hormones can also cause reproductive problems including giving birth to deformed calves, digestive and gastrointestinal problems, and persistent sores on the cows. It is done purely for profit's sake. (picture courtesy Just Braise linked below under Resources)

Banned in Europe and Canada, the U.S. has decided to continue this harmful practice. Known as BGH, rBGH, BST, and rBST, this a Genetically Engineered (GMO) hormone that has been used since 1994. There have been no long term studies of the effects of this in our bodies or in our children; like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and GMO (genetically modified organisms), we are walking experiments. When we drink milk contaminated with rBGH, it is absorbed into our bloodstream where it can affect hormones in our body.

Milk from dairy cows pumped with rBGH contain very high levels of a natural growth factor quite similar to the natural growth factor in us humans. It is an insulin-like growth factor (IGF) so there is reason to believe that it does something to our bodies, especially to our growing children. It is a suspected cause in the early onset of puberty in our young girls. Increased levels of these hormones have been found in the blood of people with cancer. It is a suspected cause of cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate. Rick North, director of Oregon's safe food campaign for Physicians for Social Responsibility says, "We don't have 100% proof. But there is a lot of scientific data that gives us great cause for concern."

Important Points:
  • rBGH makes the cows sick, uncomfortable, and shortens their lives. Calves born to cows treated with the hormone have an increased chance of birth defects. The hormones make the cows make milk more than is normal causing engorgement and therefore constant milking. Engorgement causes mastitis which can lead to infection. The pus and bacteria from the mastitis can be found in the milk itself. Antibiotics (some illegal) used to treat the mastitis are also added to the mix and have been detected in the resulting milk.
  • Antibiotics are routinely used to keep the cows from getting sick in their tight living conditions in a conventional industrial farm.
  • rBGH is a GE (genetically engineered) hormone created by Monsanto; a cow cell is spliced with DNA from bacteria.
  • The milk from rBGH cows is chemically and nutritionally subpar when compared to milk from organic and grass-fed dairy. Conventional rBGH dairy has less protein and more saturated fat. Cows pumped with rBGH have an increased concentration of thyroid hormone enzyme thyorixin-5-monodeiodinase (long chain) and decrease of short chain fatty acids.
  • Cancer patients were found to have increased levels of IGF-1 hormone therefore rBGH is a suspected carcinogen. This growth hormone, which mocks the growth hormone of humans, is believed to be the the reason girls are developing earlier than years ago.
  • Canadian and European dairy products, including much beloved imported cheeses, do not contain rBGH as it has been banned.
Milk in the U.S. is treated with rBGH unless labeled rBGH-free or organic. Ben & Jerry's proudly uses milk that does not contain the growth hormone as depicted in the ad above.

Organic farms may not use rBGH, antibiotics, or genetically engineered grain to feed their cows. Almost all dairy cows are grain-fed for convenience. The organic dairy cows are fed grain or hay that has not been treated with herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizer.

Organic dairy farms must offer the cows an opportunity to roam. There are some farms, like Horizon, that push the bare minimum of organic standards and basically walk the cows out and around and back in the barn while other brands are more caring of the animals. Conventional farms are most assuredly using GMO grain since it is so widespread in the U.S. while organic farms can only use organic grains, but remember that cows are meant to eat grass not grain so grass-fed dairy is always the best choice.

Grass-fed animals are not crammed together since they need room to graze so routine antibiotics are not necessary.

Organic, rBGH-free, and grass-fed dairy products do tend to be more expensive. And it's understandable when you see how much less milk that cow creates as compared with the poor engorged cow. In addition think about how much more pasture each cow needs to graze as compared with the conventional industrial farm. The price can make it seem an unaffordable option, but if your family is like mine, they drink so much milk that I cannot afford not to make sure their bodies are not pumped up with hormones and antibiotics; their future health is at stake and this is a priority to me. Remember my rule of thumb is to change what your family consumes MOST to have the biggest impact on their health and future.

A Word about Pasteurization:
Years back pasteurization was necessary for sanitary reasons, but today we have indoor plumbing and clean living environments. Many organic brands go beyond regular pasteurization and are UHT, Ultra High Temperature Pasteurized to protect their more expensive milk with a longer shelf life. The high heat of the pasteurization process changes the composition of milk and how it is digested in our bodies. Pasteurization allows the casein (which may lead to lactose-intolerance: bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramps) to move into our blood stream.

Pasteurization of the milk kills valuable enzymes so many believe that Raw Milk, especially fermented (kefir, yogurt) raw dairy is really the best healthful food.

If you are interested, please contact:
Miller's Organic Farm
648 Mill Creek School Road
Bird In Hand, PA 17505
(717) 556-0672

Amos Miller offers raw cottage cheese, kefir, yogurt, cow's milk (whole, skim; in glass, in plastic), goat's milk, goat yogurt, buttermilk, cream cheese, whey, sour cream, cream, cheeses (cheddar, colby, jack; salted and unsalted), butter (salted, unsalted, cultured), and colostrum as well as breads, pickles and other items. The farm is organic. The cows are grass-fed and are fed a high forage diet; they are not fed any grain to ensure a higher quality, more nourishing, and better tasting product. Amos is a good person. You will enjoy speaking with him. Let him know that Annie sent you (I don't get a kickback or compensated for this, it's just so he knows how you found him.)

If you are in Miami, there is a Miami Raw Milk Coop that gets milk from Amos every couple weeks so you can save on shipping and this link offers more information on raw milk. You can also join them on facebook.

Dairy cows that are treated more naturally and humanely with a better quality of life in turn create a better quality, more nutritious and more delicious milk. No matter the choice you make for you and your family, it is clear, organic is much better than conventional, grass-fed is much better than grain-fed, and low to no pasteurization is much better than ultra high temperature.


Links for further information:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Alphabet Soup: GMO

Many of us don’t realize it, but we are eating and feeding our children foods that have been genetically engineered. Genetic modifications are quite different from selective plant breeding. Selective plant breeding (red in tomatoes, orange in carrots, seedless grapes and watermelons) promotes those characteristics that we find most appealing (and are easiest for transport in our food system, but that's another story.) Selective breeding has been done since the dawn of agriculture. Genetic engineering (GE) however is quite different, a recent and scientific process that alters the very genetic make-up of a plant by introducing new DNA into the nucleus. Genes from humans, bacteria, viruses, other plants, and even animals are spliced into the seed. This is the first time that science has been able to cross the species barrier. The effects of these changes have not been fully tested on our environment, nor on our health, and what little information does exist is dismal.

Animals fed GMO corn, for example, developed problems of their blood (leukemia), blood pressure, kidney, liver (including significant changes in kidney weight as well as lesions on the kidney and liver), allergies to infection, increased blood sugar levels, diseases, and yes, even cancer. These are not minor problems. These are toxic reactions to a poison. (Even if the same doesn't occur in humans, think of the repercussions of us eating the meat of animals that are fed the GMO corn and are therefore unhealthy animals!)

Corn and Soy are the top two genetically modified crops and are two of the largest crops. You can find corn and soy in practically every processed food. Chickens and cows are fed corn and soy on feedlots (another reason to choose only grass-fed meats and organic free range chicken and eggs) so the problem is multiplied down the food chain.

Graph shows geographic breakdown of GM corn 1999, European Commission on Agriculture

Then there is nature's way of cross-pollinating crops naturally and it becomes clear that our entire food line is in jeopardy. The real fear is that at some point, it will be difficult to find any corn and soy that is not genetically modified. When we think of how many products use corn as a base and then the animals that are regularly fed this, we can easily see how this is a huge experiment with our lives and the health of humans everywhere as well as our entire food system and future.

The goal of GMO crops is to make them less susceptible to pests, more resistant to drought and stronger overall. The actual result however, is quite different. These “Frankensteins” can now reproduce so "super weeds" are cropping up and, you guessed it, stronger pesticides are needed to get rid of those just as overuse of antibiotics has created stronger strains of disease in humans. That's even MORE chemicals and toxins forced into our environment and our food. Injecting foreign organisms into foods changes how our body will use it nutritionally (many crops now offer less protein, for example) and creates new allergies and toxins that must be fought off with additional chemicals and drugs.

A vicious cycle, (or is it a planned action for profit?), the companies who are sponsoring this research and use include pharmaceutical companies like the drug company that owns Monsanto which creates weed killer (and Nutrasweet), and corporations like Phillip Morris which owns Kraft Foods.

GE allows these big companies to control our food, the farmers, the pesticides, and the food chain itself.

Since the U.S. requires no special labeling when a product contains anything GMO, just as there is no requirement that a piece of meat be labeled “cloned” when it is of a cloned animal, unbeknownst to us, we are active participants in this huge experiment. European countries have restricted GM foods and require clear labeling, but the U.S. falls far behind in this and we are actively growing GMO foods.
"Seralini points out that these GM plants have far more herbicide residues in the edible portions and extensive toxicity tests must be performed. But the biotech industry claims that they could not afford to introduce GM crops if they had to pay for the tests normally required for pesticides in Europe. For GM crop approvals in the US, they spend even less. US authorities require only 30-day studies for the Bt [Bacillus thuringiensis is a natural soil bacterium injected into every cell rendering the plant itself an insecticide] plants and no safety tests whatsoever are required for herbicide tolerant varieties."*
GMO crops affect our environment, our animals, our body, and our future health, and our very survival since they have repercussions upon the very essence of our existence - food. Genetic modifications of our foods introduce new food allergens, potential antibiotic-resistant bacteria, changes in nutritional value, changes in the cattle and animals that eat them that we will then consume, changes in animals and life that consume them that we appreciate for beauty and life, and potential (as of yet unconfirmed since no real studies have been done on humans, well, except for unscientific one being done every day) the changes in our body when we eat them.

What can I do to protect myself and my family?

Understand that GE crops are primarily in soy and corn (at present) and make a conscious effort to steer clear of conventional soy and corn products as well as things that contain these in their ingredients list. Take the time to educate yourself on what ingredients mean. Be particularly cautious of ingredients that mean soy and corn including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, malt or malt syrup, msg, maltodextrin and dextrin, corn starch, mono- and diglycerides, confectioner's sugar, baking powder (which may contain corn starch), soy lecithin or lecithin, soy sauce, tempeh, miso, teriyaki, tofu, soy milk, textured vegetable protein, tamari or shoyu, soy and corn oils as well as nonstick sprays, and any other products containing soy and corn.

By definition, organic foods are not genetically altered. Choose organic whenever possible and particularly those things that your family eats most that contain any soy or corn in them.

Supporting organic farmers and not buying foods that are GMO is the best way to get rid of GE foods for good. Since this is profit driven, speaking with our wallets is louder than any letters. When we learn which foods are more likely GMO, we can let the scientists and big companies know that it's not okay with us by not purchasing their products.

Common Foods that are Genetically Modified:

  • Corn which is basically in every processed food in one way or another - most prepackaged convenience foods (frozen, dry goods, canned, refrigerated) contain corn hidden in the ingredients.
  • Tomatoes so that includes tomato sauce, ketchup
  • Soy Beans and products with Soy including Soy Lecithin (which is in practically every processed food and Soy Protein used heavily in Energy Bars)
  • Dairy - rBGH, also called rBST, is GE, another reason to only choose organic milk and cheese
  • Oils - especially Canola, Cottonseed, and Soy Oils (note: the ingredient "vegetable oil" is usually soybean, canola, cottonseed, corn oil or some combination, all of which are GMO unless organic or labeled non-GMO)
  • Potatoes, Sugar Beets, Alfalfa Sprouts, Papaya
  • Rice
  • Wheat so most conventional Baked Goods
  • Chocolate (other serious issues with chocolate include a high use of pesticides, clearing out of rain forest for more crops, pruning upper trees so no birds or animals can live there, and slave labor including using children!)
  • Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Farm Raised Fish - most are GMO corn and soy fed
  • Vitamins - and we thought we were doing good by taking them
    angers. In particular look for High Fructose Corn Syrup as an ingredient.
  • Baby Foods - especially when feeding babies with immature immune systems, do not subject them to GMO, it's worth the price to choose organic
  • Cotton - choose organic cotton whenever possible and that will impact the planet with many pounds less pesticides
  • and there is news that GM Coffee, Apples, Lettuce and Peanuts will soon be on the market too

  • Reduce your exposure to GM crops and help get them out of our food line by choosing to buy and consume products that are not genetically engineered by companies that refuse to use GMO. Look, I understand that some of these suggestions may sound impossible to you, we are each at different stages in learning and many of us have come to rely on convenience foods and don't know how to start. As a mom of four, I speak from experience that it is possible and it does get easier. Start somewhere to reduce your intake.

    • Organic over conventional when possible, especially for the top GMO items: Corn, Soy, Milk, Rice, Tomatoes.

    • Non-GMO ingredients in packaged foods over conventional foods: especially if they contain soy or corn and indeed most processed foods contain both or look for "organic" or "non-GMO" on the label

    • The The Non-GMO Shopping Guide to help you get started.
    • Whole real foods over processed foods: This one takes a commitment and some time but there is nothing more important than the food we eat. Cook more at home, pack lunches, use whole real foods (things with one ingredient or no more than 5) instead of packaged foods, create your own homemade convenience foods to help you - it's less costly to cook at home and it's much more nutritious and with practice so much more delicious and really not that hard. Recipes will be added to the site that I use to prepare quick, healthful, meals on a budget.

    • Grass-fed meats over grain-fed (especially over conventional grain-fed meats), rBGH-free or organic dairy (best is grass-fed dairy), organic free-range poultry and eggs
    Start by changing one thing at a time. Start with those things your family consumes most and you will have a big impact with a little change. It is possible. And you will be healthier and support a healthier planet for your trouble - it is worth it!

    Shoppers Guide to GM July 2003
    Genetically Modified Foods, Inc. Mercola
    Far Afield: Biotech Propaganda and the Truth The Green Guide, 1999
    GMO Food Contamination is Forever Organics Consumer Association, 2002
    Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops: Why We Need A Global Moratorium Motion Magazine, 1999
    GMO Crops Are An Accident Waiting to Happen Toronto Globe, 2001
    Superweeds are Sprouting in GMO Crops NY Times, 2003
    Genetically Modified Foods Update Organic Consumers Association BioDemocracy News July 2001
    Is Farm-Raised Salmon Bad For Your Health After All? - New report says it’s high in probable carcinogens November, 2003
    GM crops need more pesticide March 2003
    Drug Company Owns Monsanto and Their Weed Killer is What Funds GMO Crops NY Times, 2001
    Europeans More Resistant to Genetically Modified Foods April 2003
    Research Fuels Fear of Gene-Altered Fish, June 2004
    Genetically Modified Corn Study Reveals Health Damage & Cover Up*, Health Lies Exposed, 2005
    Food Safety, Risk & Technology of GMO Genetically Modified Foods, Food Science & Nutrition University of Minnesota
    The Dangers of Genetically Modified Food

    General Resources for information:
    Friends of Earth
    Genetic Engineering Action Network
    Green Peace
    Non-GMO Report
    Organic Consumers Association
    Pure Foods
    True Food Now
    The Campaign to label foods that are genetically engineered
    Non-GMO Project
    The World According to Monsanto
    Seeds of Deception
    Say No to GMO
    The Institute for Responsible Technology
    The Non-GMO Shopping Guide