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Healthy You

Food Products

From the seed to table, how and where our food is grown, the chemicals that are applied, the way it is packaged, the distance it travels to our homes and how we prepare it are all essential to understanding how to make better choices for a healthier life.

Fruits/Vegetables

Farming today has drastically changed from the industry it once was. Instead of many small organic farms, there are fewer, larger industrial farms. These industrial farms use chemicals to help control their yield, such as pesticides which include insecticides, bactericide, fungicides and herbicides. Pesticides are used to kill a wide range of pests including: insects, fungi, bacteria and unwanted vegetation (weeds) that have the potential to be harmful to crops. What we as consumers should be worried about is not only the environmental effects, but also the negative human health impacts that these chemicals contribute to.

Pesticides

From the farm to your plate, what happens in between?

Ever wonder where you food comes from? Worried about pesticides? Today, America accounts for 25% of pesticide usage worldwide.

The Dirty Dozen  The Clean Fifteen
Peach Onion
Apple Avacado
Bell Pepper Sweet Corn
Celery Pineapple
Nectarine Mango
Strawberries Asparagus
Cherries Sweet Peas
Kale Kiwi
Lettuce Cabbage
Grapes (Imported)  Eggplant
Carrot Papaya
Pear Watermelon
Broccoli
Tomato
Sweet Potato

      

Source: EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides www.epa.gov/pesticides

Fish

The environmental toxins we are exposed to everyday are now polluting our water and air. Many of these contaminants do not readily break down and some can bioaccumulate, or build up in organisms as they move up the food chain. Small marine animals are exposed to toxins by different means, such as food intake, respiration and skin contact. These toxins can then build up in the smallest animals, which are then eaten by larger animals, and so on via the food chain. Eventually, the toxins are consumed by humans and the human accumulation begins. Some examples of environmental toxins that have bioaccumulated include:

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, humans have removed as much as 90% of predatory fish such as sharks, swordfish and cod due to overfishing. Visit the link below to find best fish choices for the northeast area. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/content/media/MBA_SeafoodWatch_NortheastGuide.pdf

Also visit the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences - NIH (www.niehs.nih.gov/)

What You Can Do – Refer to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide when selecting your fish and support sustainable fishing practices.

For further reading:

Fish intake, contaminants, and human health: evaluating the risks and the benefits. [Review] [207 refs][Erratum appears in JAMA. 2007 Feb 14;297(6):590]

 

Meat/Dairy Products

Concentrated Animal Feeding Opeations (CAFOs)

The production of dairy and meat products, like the production of all foods, has drastically changed over the past 100 years. Animals are being housed in confined spaces and in large numbers called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). CAFOs were first established as an efficient way to provide meat to the growing population. Unfortunately, it is now appreciated that housing animals in CAFOs causes detrimental effects to the animal’s health and because of the diminished nutritional content, the health of humans as well.

Because so many of these animals are in small confined spaces, there is an excess of manure, which can become a health risk both to the animals, plants, and even humans.

What You Can Do

Source: CAFOs in agriculture

Hormones/Antibiotics

In 1989, American meat was banned frm being sold in any country within Europe. Why did the Europeans take this stance?

America’s response? Unfair Trade Practices.

Thankfully, this news caught the attention of the American public and raised concern over the quality of our meat. What is the story? Dairy cows are now injected with a hormone, known as rBHT, rBGH or rBST, to increase milk production. Beef cows, chicken, and pigs are also injected with hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals to enrich the flavor and juiciness of the meat, promote growth/weight gain and to control conception.

What You Can Do

Gardening

Want access to an affordable, healthy and delicious way to eat? Start  your own garden!

Growing your own garden provides many benefits, including the following: improving the freshness of your food, reducing your shopping bill and benefiting the environment. Never gardened before? Visit Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine for tips at http://www.weekendgardener.net/vegetable-gardening-tips/starting-garden-050705.htm.

Packaging

The chemicals added during the production of our food is not the only problem. The packaging can supply additional contaminants and may be cause for concern as well. As an example, many canned foods such as vegetables, tomato paste and soup have an epoxy lining that may contain the chemical bisphenol-A or BPA, a known endocrine disruptor. BPA may also be found in reusable plastic bottles, canned foods and even metal cans that contain plastic linings. Some ways to avoid exposure to BPA include: using ceramic or glass when heating your food in the microwave, rinsing food items that are packaged in cans and purchasing BPA-free sport bottles and baby bottles.

What You Can Do to promote a “green" kitchen

 

Recommended Reading

by Marion Nestle

by Michael Moss

by Mark Bittman

by Michael Pollan

by Frances Moore Lappe

by Anna Lappe

by Raj Patel

by Tristram Stuart

by Michael Carolan

by Colin Sage

by Madeleine Pullman and Zhaohui Wu

 

 

Recommended Films

WHE’s Top 12 Food Ingredients to Avoid

Processed Food Can Contain Harmful Ingredients

Butylated Hydroxyanisole? Potassium Bromate? Processed food can contain many ingredients. Many of these ingredients serve a particular purpose, such as sweetening, preserving, and coloring food to perfection.  However, perfect food comes at a price, and not all of the ingredients that companies put into processed food are healthy for us to eat. There are hundreds of different ingredients, and not all are created equal. Some ingredients are not harmful to humans, others are okay in small quantities but dangerous in large amounts, and then there are others that we should try to avoid completely.Check out WHE's Top Ingredients to Limit here.

Some warning signs of harmful ingredients that consumers can look for while purchasing food are:

The following list highlights 12 processed food ingredients that consumers and eaters should avoid:

  1. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a compound that preserves fat and keeps them from going rancid. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers BHA to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” BHA can be replaced by safer alternatives such as vitamin E, or can be omitted from foods altogether.
  2. Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) is a chemical that boosts flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks. BVO leaves residues in body fat and the fat in brain, liver, and other organs. Animal studies show that BVO is transmitted via mother’s milk to infant. More studies are needed to better understand the risk of BVO in humans. Currently the chemical is banned in Europe.
  3. Aspartame and Acesulfame-Potassium (acesulfame-k) are both used in process foods as artificial sweeteners. Rat studies with Acesulfame-K suggest that the additive might cause cancer. In addition, acetoacetamide, a breakdown product of acesulfame-K, has been shown to affect the thyroid in rats, rabbits, and dogs. Aspartame has been shown to cause lymphomas, leukemias, breast, lung, and liver cancer in rats and/or mice.
  4. Caramel Coloring is used to add a tannish-yellow or dark coloring to foods and beverages. Caramel coloring is made by heating a sugar compound often together with ammonium compounds. When it is produced with ammonia, caramel coloring contains the contaminants 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole. These two contaminants cause cancer in rats and mice. Caramel coloring is listed as a carcinogen in California’s Proposition 65, which lists chemicals that pose a risk of cancer to at least 1 out of 100,000 people.
  5. Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite preserves, colors, and flavors cured meats and fish (bacon, ham, frankfurters, lunch meats, smoked fish, corned beef). These ingredients can combine with chemicals in stomach to form nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. Beware of “natural” meats which are marketed as “no added nitrates,” some of these products have been found to contain up to 10 times as much nitrate as conventional products.
  6. Olestra/Olean is an indigestible fat substitute found in some potato chips. This ingredient may provoke gastrointestinal distress and lead to loose stools, abdominal cramps and flatulence. Olestra inhibits the absorption of carotenoids (disease fighting substances that come from fruit and vegetables) and vitamins A, D, E, and K
  7. Bovine Growith Hormones (rBGH or rBST) are synthetic versions of bovine growth hormones that can be found in nonorganic dairy products. These ingredients could potentially mimic human hormones and lead to growth disorders in children and breast cancer in adults.
  8. Potassium Bromate is an oxidizing agent that chemically ages flour. This ingredient bleaches dough, enhances its elasticity, and makes a bread product that is soft, fluffy and unnaturally white. Potassium Bromate has been linked to thyroid and kidney cancer in animals. The use of this ingredient has declined over the past few years, but there are still some exceptions. Avoid bread and rolls containing this ingredient.
  9. Mycoprotein (Quorn) is a frozen meat substitute that is made from processed mold. The ingredient “can cause serious and even fatal allergic reactions” in humans. Adverse reactions can include “vomiting, diarrhea, hives and potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions.”
  10. Partially Hydrogenated Vegetables Oil (Trans Fat) and Inter-esterified Vegetables Oil are cheap, processed vegetable oils used in some stick margarines, crackers, fried restaurant foods, baked goods, icing, microwave popcorn and certain other processed foods. Trans fats promote heart disease and in 2004, the FDA concluded that “on a gram-for-gram basis, trans fat is even more harmful than saturated fat.”
  11. TBHQ (Tert-butylhydroquinone) is a preservative that prevents rancidity in fat. TBHQ can be found in vegetable oil, snack foods, cereals and other fat-containing foods. TBHQ has been shown to increase the incidence of tumors in rats.
  12. Artificial Colorings: BLUE 2; GREEN 3; ORANGE B; RED 3, YELLOW 5, YELLOW 6 are chemical compounds, some of which are derived from coal-tar or petroleum that do not occur in nature. These dyes have been linked to cancers and tumors in rats. Yellow 5 and yellow 6 may cause “allergy-like hypersensitivity reactions, primarily in aspirin-sensitive people, and triggers hyperactivity in some children.”

References:  Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) (2013). Chemical Cuisine: Your Guide to Food Additives. Retrieved from https//:www.NutritionAction.com.

WHE’s Top 12 Food Ingredients to Limit

Processed Food Can Contain Harmful Ingredients

Azodicarbonamide? Butulated Hydroxyanisole? Processed food can contain many ingredients. Many of these ingredients serve a particular purpose, such as sweetening, preserving, and coloring food to perfection.  However, perfect food comes at a price, and not all of the ingredients that companies put into processed food are healthy to eat. There are hundreds of different ingredients, and not all are created equal. Some ingredients are not harmful to humans, others are okay in small quantities but dangerous in large amounts, and then there are others that we should try to avoid completely. The following list contains ingredients that people should limit or eat with caution. Check out WHE’s Top 12 Food Ingredients to Avoid here.

Some warning signs of harmful ingredients that consumers can look for while purchasing food are:

The following list highlights 12 processed food ingredients that consumers and eaters should limit:

  1. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) is a preservative that prevents oils from going rancid. Residues of BHT occur in human fat. The preservative may increase the risk of cancer in various animal studies. “BHT is unnecessary or is easily replaced by safe substitutes.”
  2. Artificial Colorings: BLUE 2; CITRUS RED 2; RED 40 are chemical compounds, some of which are derived from coal-tar or petroleum that do not occur in nature. They are found in beverages, candy, baked goods, gelatin desserts and sausage. These dyes have been linked to allergy-like reactions.
  3. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and Sugar are both used in foods as sweeteners. Large amounts can “promote tooth decay as well as increase triglyceride (fat) levels in blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.” HFSC and sugar can also lead to more belly or liver fat, which in turn may affect hormone levels such as insulin, ghrelin, and leptin, thereby contributing to weight gain and obesity.
  4. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer used by restaurants and also by companies in processed foods such as soup, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees and restaurant foods. Some people may be sensitive to MSG and have an adverse reaction such as headache, nausea, weakness, and burning sensation in the back of neck and forearms, wheezing, changes in heart rate, and difficulty breathing.
  5. Salt (Sodium Chloride) preserves and/or flavors food. It can be found in most processed foods, cured meats, soup, snack chips, crackers and more. Diets high in sodium increase blood pressure in most people and can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
  6. Diacetyl is butter flavoring that can be found in butter (low levels) and butter-flavored popcorn, margarine, and butter-flavored cooking oils/sprays (higher levels). Long-term exposure to high levels of diacetyl “causes obstructive lung disease, which is potentially fatal.”
  7. Caffeine is a “stimulant that is one of two drugs that are present naturally in or added to widely consumed foods.” It can be found in coffee, tea, cocoa, energy drinks, chewing gum, waters and other products. It is mildly addictive and withdrawal systems include headaches, irritability and sleepiness. Caffeine is safe in small amounts. Large amounts of caffeine “increase the risk of miscarriages (and possibly birth defects) and inhibits fetal growth” so caffeine should be avoided by women who are pregnant or considering being pregnant.
  8. Sodium Benzoate (Benzoic Acid) is a preservative found in fruit juice, carbonated drinks, pickles and other foods. In some people, sodium benzoate may cause hives, asthma, or other allergic reactions. “Another problem occurs when sodium benzoate is used in beverages that also contain ascorbic acid (vitamin C). The two substances, in an acidic solution, can react together to form small amounts of benzene, a chemical that causes leukemia and other cancers.”                                     
  9. Stevia and Rebiana are natural, high-potency sweeteners used in diet beverages and other low-calorie foods. High doses fed to rats reduced sperm production and sometimes led to infertility. “Pregnant hamsters that has been fed large amounts of a derivative of stevioside called steviol had fewer and smaller offspring.” 
  10. Azodicarbonamide (ADC) is a chemical used in foamed plastics and can also be used to bleach flour. When bread containing ADC is baked, two potentially harmful chemicals may form. The first chemical is semicarbazide, “which caused cancers of the lung and blood vessels in mice.” The second chemical is urethane, which is a recognized carcinogen. 
  11. Sucralose (Splenda) is an artificial sweetener that can be found in no-sugar-added baked goods, frozen desserts, ice cream, soft drinks and as a tabletop sweetener. More studies are needed, but sucralose may cause leukemia, premature shrinkage of the thymus gland, and significantly reduce beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract of rats and mice.
  12. Artificial Flavorings can be found in soft drinks, candy, breakfast cereals, gelatin desserts, and many other foods.  Hundreds of chemicals may be used to mimic a natural flavor and many may be used in a single flavoring. Artificial (and natural) flavorings are considered trade-secrets and companies are not required to list the identities on food labels. Some people “may be sensitive to certain flavoring ingredients, such as MSG or HVP.”

 

 

 

References:  Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) (2013). Chemical Cuisine: Your Guide to Food Additives. Retrieved from https//:www. NutritionAction.com.