Posts Tagged ‘organic’

Apples offer some surprising health benefits

Monday, August 1st, 2016

by Dianne Hyson, Ph.D., R.D.

Your mother was right. An apple a day may help keep you out of the doctor’s office, and scientists are just beginning to find out why. Plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients, or plant compounds, are packed into one baseball-sized piece of fruit.

Considerable research is currently centered on the role of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants, which are found in many fruits, red wine and tea. Antioxidants counteract chemicals in the blood that oxidize, or damage, certain molecules. Flavonoids are the most common group of phytonutrients in foods. Apples are particularly high in one of the flavonoids called quercetin, which has high antioxidant activity.

Exciting new research is showing that not only do apples and apple juice contain a variety of phytonutrients, but that making apples a regular part of the diet may translate into real health benefits. At UC Davis, they recently completed a 12-week study of 25 healthy men and women who added either 12 ounces of 100 percent apple juice or two apples into their daily diet without changing the rest of their diet or exercise levels. Half drank apple juice for six weeks while the other half ate apples. After six weeks, the subjects switched groups.

Before the study and at each six-week interval we measured something called “LDL oxidation lag time,” which provides an indication of how long it takes for cholesterol to oxidize when exposed to certain chemicals. When LDL or “bad” cholesterol is broken down in our bodies, it tends to accumulate along the walls of the coronary arteries and causes atherosclerosis. Hence, a longer lag time is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

The study showed clear beneficial effects after only six weeks of including apples in the diet. Study results were more dramatic in subjects drinking apple juice, showing a 20-percent increase in lag time after six weeks. Eating apples also showed potential health benefits, including reduced oxidation indicators and a 22-percent increase in dietary fiber. One study of 2,500 middle-aged men in Wales found that lung function improved in those who ate an apple a day.

Recent studies have demonstrated other diverse health benefits associated with eating apples. One study of 2,500 middle-aged men in Wales found that lung function improved in those who ate an apple a day. A study in Hawaii found that individuals who regularly incorporated apples, onions and white grapefruit (all foods high in flavonoids) into their diet cut their lung cancer risk in half. Another study of 9,208 Finnish men and women found that those who ate the most apples over a period of 28 years had the lowest risk for stroke.

Another interesting study looked at the effect of phytonutrients from apples on the growth of colon cancer and liver cancer cells in a test tube. They found that cancer cell growth was inhibited by phytonutrients from apples, with just two-thirds of a medium apple providing the same level of antioxidant activity as 1,500 mg of vitamin C. Since apples contain only about 12 mg of vitamin C, researchers attributed the combination of nutrients in apples as being key to their positive activity.

Apples are high in fiber and potassium, and contain no fat or salt. They are also an excellent source of boron, a trace mineral with largely unexplored health benefits. Preliminary studies indicate that boron may be helpful in retaining the beneficial health effects of estrogen during menopause.

Does this research show that we should load up on apples every day? No. But studies clearly indicate that consuming apples and apple juice as part of a healthy, varied diet can confer significant health advantages.

And by the way, when eating a fresh apple, don’t peel it first. Most of the fiber and antioxidants are in the peel.

Source: UC Davis Medical Center

From the EWG: Study Links Childhood Cancer and In-Home Pesticide Use

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

WASHINGTON – A new study by Harvard researchers provides disturbing evidence that children’s exposure to household insecticides is linked to higher risks of childhood leukemia and lymphoma, the most common cancers in children. The analysis also found an association between use of outdoor herbicides to lawns and gardens and higher risks of leukemia.

“It is very troubling, albeit not surprising, to see additional scientific evidence linking pesticide use to childhood cancer,” said Ken Cook, EWG president and co-founder. “The findings confirm parents’ worst fears that they could be unknowingly exposing their children to harmful chemicals that can lead to serious, even life-threatening, illnesses.”

“This study should remind us once again that we must protect our kids by curtailing our use of these toxic chemicals in and outside of the home,” Cook added.

The results from a meta-analysis, to be published in the journal Pediatrics in October, combined 16 studies reporting children’s exposure to pesticides used in and around the home. As the authors noted, children are more vulnerable to harmful pesticides because their bodies and immune systems are still developing. The researchers added that infants and toddlers are at especially high risk of exposure because they often play on pesticide-treated lawns or on carpets or floors where pesticide residues accumulate, and then put their hands and fingers in their mouths.

“Parents should consider the danger of pesticides in terms of the lethal toxicity of any products and the proximity to where your children play, eat, rest and sleep,” said Dr. Alex Lu, a Harvard Chan School of Public Health associate professor and senior author of the study. “This is also true for schools, playgrounds and sports fields.”

Lu added, “There is no justification for using chemical pesticides to maintain buildings, play areas or sport fields. There are plenty of non-chemical based treatments that will serve the purpose.”

EWG advises parents to stop using lawn and garden care, and to use indoor pesticides only as a last resort. See Healthy Child Healthy World’s greener tips on how to control indoor pests and how to protect your pets from fleas and ticks.

Another major source of children’s exposure to pesticides is food. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables often carry multiple pesticide residues even after they have been washed, and in some cases, peeled. That’s why EWG updates its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ every year in order to help shoppers figure out which are the “dirtiest,” or most contaminated, and which are the “cleanest,” or least contaminated. The guide encourages shoppers to opt for organic versions of the “dirtiest” fruits and vegetables.

As Lu explains in this video, switching to an organic diet can significantly lower a child’s exposure to pesticides.

The American Academy of Pediatrics cites EWG’s Shopper’s Guide as a reliable resource for parents looking to reduce their children’s exposures.

Source: EWG.org

7 Health Benefits of Drinking Organic Orange Juice

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

You grew up drinking orange juice every morning at breakfast, but did you ever ask why? What’s so special about orange juice that makes it a staple around the world?

There are so many health benefits to drinking organic orange juice that no one could possibly name all of them. With high concentrations of vitamin C and other nutrients that are not only healthful but necessary, the orange is a super-fruit that most of us take for granted. Even if you aren’t a fan of peeling and eating sticky, juicy oranges, you can still get many of the same benefits out of a glass for breakfast each morning. If you need an extra push to start putting a jug of orange juice in your cart as you pass by the organic section on your next grocery run, check out these seven reasons to not let another day go by without adding orange juice to your diet.

1. Healing Phytonutrients: Oranges have particularly high levels of certain phytonutrients that are thought to be helpful for reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure and balancing cholesterol! Adding a glass of organic orange juice per day to your diet can provide enough of these phytonutrients to contribute to an improvement in your overall health.

2. Daily Value of Vitamin C: We all know that we can’t function well without at least some vitamin C in our diets. It does everything from promoting strong and healthy bones and clear skin to strengthening your immune system to fight off infections and viruses. You could always take a supplement, but why do that when a delicious glass of organic orange juice provides more nutrients than vitamin C supplements with added health benefits?

3. Consuming Citrus Lowers Risk of Certain Diseases: Oranges contain many of the elements that are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cardiac arrhythmias, and some studies have even shown a slight reduction in the occurrence of many types of mouth, throat, esophageal, stomach and liver cancers in people who have a lot of citrus fruits in their diets.

4. Lower Cholesterol: Certain compounds in oranges are being studied as possible means to lower cholesterol. These compounds may interact in such a way with the body that they reduce its ability to produce LDL cholesterol. Lowered cholesterol then translates into a reduced risk for many types of health issues from heart disease to stroke.

5. Prevents Ulcers: Some studies have shown that people with a higher blood level of vitamin C are at less of a risk of developing peptic ulcers—a condition which can lead to stomach cancer. How do you get your vitamin C levels up? Orange juice, of course!

6. Prevents Kidney Stones: If you want to reduce your risk of developing calcium oxalate kidney stones, you may be pleasantly surprised to know that simply drinking a couple of glasses of orange juice or other citrus juice per day increases your citric acid excretion preventing kidney stones from forming.

7. Healthy Carbohydrates: For diabetics or those who are watching carb intake, you’ll be happy to know that you can still drink orange juice! Like any food, it’s important to be aware of how much you are drinking, but orange juice only has a glycemic index of 40. This means that, since it is under 55, you can drink orange juice in limited quantities to benefit from all of its nutrients—and great flavor—without having it spike your blood sugar or cause problems with weight gain.

Are you convinced? Whether you are simply looking for a healthy, nutritious alternative to a 500 calorie morning latte, or you are looking for natural ways to help reduce your risk of certain health problems, organic orange juice may be just what you need to add to your daily diet.

Kayla Matthews is a healthy living blogger with a passion for organic and natural foods. You can read all of her latest articles by following her on Google+ and Twitter.

Eating clean: Three tips for avoiding chemicals in your food

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

It seems like food is getting the blame as the cause of many illnesses and sickness these days. Although we have some of the best health and nutrition education in the world, we’re still addressing significant issues surrounding the American diet. To combat obesity, illness and other diseases, the USDA recommended in 2010 that Americans should fill “half the plate with fruits and veggies” at each meal. Yet, some of us find ourselves second-guessing what’s supposed to be a healthy no-brainer. Maybe it’s due to the fact that much of the U.S. fruit and vegetable supply has been sprayed with pesticides and chemicals that carry long-term health risks.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), many scientists and public health advocates believe that a number of increasingly common problems that afflict children, including autism, ADHD, low birth weight, early delivery, asthma, infertility, diabetes and cancer, are linked to exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides.

A recent study published by the Environmental Health Journal reports that cancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all children tested – 100% – for toxic exposure to arsenic, dieldrin, DDE, and dioxins. Based on the self-reported dietary data, the greatest exposure to pesticides from foods included in this analysis were tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, pears, green beans, celery and dairy.  What’s more, the study showed that pre-school age children had significantly higher estimated intakes of 6 of 11 compounds compared to school-age children.

So what are we to do when what we put on our family’s dinner plate is about as simple as navigating a minefield? We’re offering you  three dietary tips that greatly reduce your family’s exposure to chemicals in your food and will help you make informed food choices:

1. Choose organic for all your dairy, fresh fruit and veggies.

It’s an easy rule of thumb: if you’re eating the skin or peel of it, buy it organic. It’s that simple. This advice applies to many of the foods on the “Dirty Dozen: Foods You Should Always Buy Organic List,” including: apples, berries, peaches, tomatoes, grapes, squash, cucumbers, green beans, spinach and lettuce. Since the nutrient density of these foods is so high, why taint the health benefits by choosing ones sprayed with chemicals? Also, when it comes to dairy, what goes into the cow shows up in the milk. So, by choosing organic, you can rest assured that “organic cows” used for milking were fed a diet of grains and grasses that were grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

2. Consume less meat, dairy and fish.

The most Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are found in meat, dairy and fish. POPs are organic (carbon-based) chemicals — products and by-products of human industrial processes — that do not break down, either chemically or biologically, in the environment. They are persistent, meaning that they can be found in the environment for decades and even centuries.

Not only do POPs remain in the environment, they also have a tendency to accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals and humans and have been found in human breast tissue, fish, meat, and dairy products worldwide.

Exposure to POPs has been linked to many health problems, including birth defects, immune system disorders, reproductive health disorders, endocrine and nervous system abnormalities, and cancers. (Source: Healthy Child, Healthy World).

If you don’t want to eliminate these foods altogether, then remove the fat and skin as much as possible when you eat meat and fish since this is where the POPs concentrate. Also, avoid farmed salmon, as it tends to have some of the highest levels of POPs.

3. Lower your intake of processed carbohydrates.

Put away the potato chips. Throw out the cookies. You’ve heard it before: avoid high-carbohydrate processed foods. But do you know why? One partial reason is because those foods have a higher probability of containing “acrylamide.” According to the World Health Organization, “acrylamide is a chemical that is used to make polyacrylamide materials, as well as glues, paper and cosmetics. Acrylamide is also used in the construction of dam foundations and tunnels, and appears to be produced in some foods prepared at high temperatures. Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals. Also, certain doses of acrylamide are toxic to the nervous system of both animals and humans.”

So, that begs the question: why is a chemical that is used in construction of dam foundations and tunnels in our food?  The answer is that appears to be produced naturally in some foods that have been cooked or processed at high temperature and the levels appear to increase with the duration of heating. The highest levels found so far were in starchy foods (potato and cereal products).

(Source: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/chem/acrylamide_faqs/en/)

How can we feed the world—today and tomorrow?

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

The biggest players in the food industry—from pesticide pushers to fertilizer makers to food processors and manufacturers—spend billions of dollars every year not selling food, but selling the idea that we need their products to feed the world. But, do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?

Can sustainably grown food deliver the quantity and quality we need—today and in the future? This Food MythBusters film takes on these questions in under seven minutes.

From foodmyths.org:

Five Facts to Know about GMOs…and Five Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Exposure

Friday, August 17th, 2012

WHAT TO KNOW…

1. What is a GMO? GMOs (genetically modified organisms, also known as genetically engineered-GE) are altered at the molecular level through laboratory processes that take genes from one species and insert them into another to obtain desired traits.

2. Environmental concerns. GMOs may migrate and damage other farms and ecosystems. They have been known to cross-pollinate and contaminate non-GMO crops; once they get into the wild they cannot be recalled. Additionally, studies have shown GMO crops often use more pesticides than non-GMO crops.

3. Safety. The safety of GMOs for human consumption has not been assured. Several studies have affirmed that GMO crops have the potential to introduce new toxins or allergens into our food and environment. There are no mandatory human clinical trials for GMO crops, no requirement for long-term testing on animals, and limited testing requirements on allergenicity.

4. Presence. As much as 60-70% of processed foods available in U.S. grocery stores likely contain some GMOs. If you eat something with high fructose corn syrup, there’s a 90% likelihood that you are consuming GMOs.

5. Labeling. Most developed countries, including the 15 nations of the European Union, Japan, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and China, have mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.

5 Things You Can Do

WHAT TO DO…

1. Buy organic. The USDA’s official organic standards prohibit products that were grown and made with GMOs. Organic food and products are the best way to avoid GMOs.

2. If not organic, look for the Non-GMO Project label. If a product carries the Non-GMO Project Verified Label, it has been tested and found to have less than 0.9% GMO contamination.

3. Avoid foods that are most likely to be GMOs. There are nine GMO crops on the market today: corn, soybean, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, canola, Hawaiian papaya, yellow crookneck squash, and zucchini. Those crops often end up in the following foods when processed: corn syrup, corn starch, corn oil, beef, milk, chicken, farmed fish, soy lecithin, soy protein, vegetable oil, and cottonseed oil.

4. Write the FDA to demand labeling on all foods that contain GMOs. Politicians need to hear the message loud and clear: we all have a right to know what’s in our food. You can add your voice to the campaign by going to justlabelit.org

5. Educate your family and friends. Spread the word by telling people about the unknown and negative impacts of GMOs. (Do you know that the FDA is close to approving GE salmon, the world’s first genetically engineered animal?) Sign the petition to have your food labeled and then pass it on: justlabelit.org.


WHAT IS ORGANIC?

Organic food production methods promote biodiversity, the biological cycling of nutrients, and plant and animal health. Certified organic farmers may not use toxic synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and unnecessary hormones or antibiotics. Instead, they use practices that restore, maintain, and enhance soil and ecosystem health. GMOs, artificial ingredients, or trans fats may not be used.

Source: “LABEL IT NOW: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS,” by Gary Hirshberg, Dr. Chuck Benbrook, and Britt Lundgren and The Organic Center / Generations of Organic