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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Q: Is Organic Healthier? A: No!

Local, organic and sustainable foods have skyrocketed in visibility and popularity over the last decade. Farmers markets and community supported agriculture have made vegetables vogue composting cool. To chefs and food lovers this earthy resurgence is a welcome gold mine of gastronomic possibilities. There is something inviting about eating what was in the ground only a few hours before. There is also something questionable about the characterization of certain aspects of the sustainable, organic foods movement.

 One of these questions is nutrition. Without a doubt fresh locally grown produce is unmatched in taste but is it really healthier than conventionally grown foods? Many organic farmers’ fervent claim is that what they grow is nutritionally superior to what is found in the local supermarket after a cross country ride from the farm.  Is it? Or is it a clever marketing ploy?

Obesity and a host of other diseases are blamed on foods devoid of nutrients. Yet are these issues truly caused by foods low in nutrients? Are we as a people lacking in these or other key nutrients? The answer to both is no. Some may be too fat but it not caused by a lack of vitamin C or iron. A recent article at Scientific American throws dirt on the organic is healthier claim.  

The nutrient density of our food supply is questioned by some in the business of nutrition and organic type farming. Yet a little observation will prove that theory false. For example diseases of nutrient deficiency such as rickets and kwashiorkor are unheard of in our country. Why is this? Because the foods we eat whether organic or conventional plentifully supply the nutrients we need for proper growth and development.

I whole heartedly support using foods grown in my own community. The flavors and uniqueness of such are fascinating. Moreover it serves to remind me of the garden my grandparents kept as I was growing up. I don’t however have an appetite for misinformation and to say that organic is healthier is cooking the facts.

That said go and enjoy all of the fresh local and organic food you want to. Just don’t think you live to 120 and die of nothing for doing it.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

What is so bad about Processed Foods?

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth” is a quote attributed to Vladimir Lenin leader of the Communist Party. Such might be the case when it comes to processed foods. In recent years as the sustainable food movement has gained steam processed foods and their manufacturers have gotten caught in the organic crosshairs. Processed foods they claim with all the hard to pronounce ingredients may be contributing to obesity, diabetes and a host of other health problems especially among children. Moreover they insist that processed food manufacturers have hooked all of us on unnatural non foods. On the other hand processed foods may not always be so bad!

A processed food can simply mean a food that has been cooked. If you peel and chop a few apples, combine them with sugar and other flavorings, top them with a pastry made with flour and butter and baking that concoction for an hour. This processed food is also known as the great American apple pie. Consider the ingredients it takes to make that pie from the sugar to the flour, butter and cinnamon. All of these staples of the kitchen are processed foods. Cinnamon is bark from a tree, flour is wheat that has been made into flour and butter is cream that has been churned. None of these ingredients in the natural state would ever be useful in making a pie. So some processed foods are very tasty.

A processed food can also refer to one that is preserved. During the rule of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago fish were preserved in salt and sent to the soldiers on the front lines. Without such preservation fish would have spoiled before reaching the front lines and history as we know it could be vastly different. The process of smoking and curing meats is done to preserve them from spoilage and has been done for centuries. I can even remember my own grandparents canning and freezing the produce from their garden in the summer to have in the winter months. Therefore the process of processing foods in neither new nor it is inherently harmful to health.

Sure there some foods in your pantry that have odd sounding or difficult to pronounce names but what if we dig a little deeper? Whey for example is a natural part of milk that is removed when that milk is turned into yogurt or cheese. Interestingly whey is sold as a health food supplement for muscle building. So as it turns out whey isn’t so scary after all.

Maybe you have eaten something with sodium alginate lately? According to some foodie fear mongers this ingredient is used to turn a non food into something semi edible. The fact is that sodium alginate is derived from seaweed which has been a staple in Asian cuisine for many years. In fact seaweed is touted bay many for its medicinal properties including lowering cholesterol.

Maybe the process we should be wary of is the thought process of the my way is the only way green foodies. Sure everyone ought to eat their fruits and vegetables but will a little cheese whiz and a few cheese puffs hurt? They haven’t hurt me!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Home Economics 101

Choosing to eat healthy does not have to break the bank. It does however mean breaking ties with fearmongers and myth makers.

Daily news stories would have us believe that we are in perilous economic times on par with the Great Depression. This may be the way to build television ratings or sell magazines but the fear mongering doesn’t always play out in real life. For example it has long been assumed that eating healthy is expensive even in a bustling economy but is it really true?
Bluntly put the answer is no eating healthy foods is no more costly than eating regular foods. In fact it usually cost less to eat healthy foods prepared at home than it does to eat out at restaurants. To analyze and prove this hypothesis some parameters need to be set.
First maintaining a healthy diet usually means preparing more foods at home from scratch and dining out less at restaurants. Next healthy foods must be examined in light of established standards. For example you may order a burger at a restaurant large enough to cover a trash can lid but a healthier portion of meat is much less. A standard serving of meat is 3-4 ounces which is usually half of what restaurants offer. Finally we should compare the cost of home prepared meals with prices charged in restaurants. With these guidelines let’s take a look at the cost per individual serving.
Our menu for this exercise will be roast chicken, herbed rice and wilted spinach. Let’s say that we found boneless and skinless chicken for sale at the local market for $4 per pound, one pound of rice for $.78 and a 10 ounce bag of washed baby spinach for $2.99. The chicken purchased at $4 per pound will cost $1 per four ounce portion; the rice will cost roughly $.20 per half cup serving and the spinach about $.50 per 4 ounce serving. We will add to this meal a wheat roll with butter at a cost of $.15 and add in an extra $.25 for seasonings and other items used in the cooking process. The total for this meal then comes to $2.10 which is probably about a penny per calorie.
Take this example and begin to plug in other items you like. For example if fresh tuna were purchased for $6 per pound the total meal cost would only increase by $.50 to $2.60 per portion. If a medium sized baked potato were put in place of the rice the difference in cost would likely be less than what could be found in an old pair of trousers. Even if the vegetable portion was increased to one whole cup or eight ounces the cost would only increase by 2 Pac Man games. All of this without mentioning the lower fat healthier meal that you get by cooking at home.
To be sure I am not against eating out in restaurants. Our area has many great eateries to choose from and I can be found in one most nights of the week. I am however against misinformation and the notion that eating healthy is expensive is simply not accurate. It may absolve one of guilt to say that when they are choking down an entire cheese and sausage pizza but even most of those cost at least $2 per slice. Do the math, when is the last time a family of four ate in a restaurant for less than $10?

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The drum beat sounding the march that everyone should be thin for better health is never ending. For decades now the mantra of maintaining a healthy body weight leads to better health has been the clarion call of health elitists. Yet statistics show that though we are getting fatter as a nation we are enjoying better health and longer lives than ever. What can we make of this dichotomy? Could it be that the weight loss mantra is meaningless?
Consider a few questions from the other perspective on the topics of skinny and healthy. First when is the last time we heard of someone in our country starving. Not just missing a meal or two but really on the verge of death from a lack of adequate nutrition? I contend that such is rare in our bountiful nation. The fact that we are obsessed with losing weight to achieve better health should be counted as a great blessing rather and a persistent plague. Billions of dollars are spent annually by thousands trying to get healthy when for all practical purposes they already are.
Next try and recall the latest news report on rampant vitamin deficiencies in America. Google all you want but you won’t find such a story because none exists. It has been over 70 years since there were issues on a large scale with lack of adequate vitamin and mineral intake in this country. Such problems were long ago solved with laws requiring the enrichment and fortification of the food supply with nutrients. Many of those strange sounding ingredients on a food label such as riboflavin and pyridoxine are simply the proper names of common vitamins and minerals. The idea that our food isn’t as nutritious as it used to be is flatly false.
Finally think about the last time you had trouble locating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean meats to eat. The short answer is that no one ever has real difficulty finding such foods. Those pesky health elitists would have us believe that many have trouble locating these foods relegating them to consume a steady diet of easily accessible junk food. The only junk is this theory is this theory. It may be accurate to theorize that a lot of people choose to eat junk foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables but certainly not due to availability.
The bottom line in this eating right and exercising are not a guarantee of good health. Not that they are inherently bad or wrong but why should anyone be guilted into doing them. Observation alone reveals that dieting has little if any long term benefits as most gain the weight back. Perhaps the health utopia that is being sought is just pie in the sky, pun intended!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Please Read This Post!

If you have not or have never read these words that are the cornerstone of our Nation then please read this post. May we ever have the resolve they had and never lose our way from the course they charted.

Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining, in the mean time, exposed to all the dangers of invasions from without and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
For imposing taxes on us without our consent;
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury;
For transporting us beyond seas, to be tried for pretended offenses;
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies;
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments;
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in our attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them, from time to time, of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity; and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.