The “What” and “Why” of Organic Foods

Organic foods are those that have been grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.  Below are some basic points about Organic vs. Non-organic foods that you should know.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30  percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic.
  • Some research shows that pesticides can have many negative influences on health, including neurotoxicity, disruption of the endocrine system,  carcinogenicity and immune system suppression.
  • Pesticide exposure may also affect male reproductive function and has been linked to miscarriages in women.
  • On average, conventional produce has only 83 percent of the nutrients of organic produce. Studies have found much higher levels of nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and significantly less nitrates (a toxin) in organic crops.
  • Organic foods are free of genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Not a single human study has been done that shows that GM foods are safe, but many animal studies have shown that GM foods can be damaging to various organs and tissues. If you listen to some people funded by the food industry, GMO’s are completely safe and we have nothing to worry about. Look up the work of Jeffrey M Smith (Genetic Roulette or Seeds of Deception) and may think twice about eating GM foods. Also check out the video “The World According to Monsanto” on our YouTube Page.
  • Corn and soybeans make up the largest group of GM foods and 75% of processed foods contain genetically modified foods.

 

With all of this to think about, one key thing to keep in mind when it comes to making healthy food choices is this; Just because something is organic does not necessarily make it healthy. Since the organic food industry has exploded with new growth in the past five years, many food manufactures are taking this into account and creating organic versions of their products. Organic frosted flakes are still loaded with sugar and devoid of real nutrition, whether they are certified organic or not! If you consume them they are still going to have a negative impact on your health. Check out the shoppers guide to pesticides from the Environmental Working Group on www.ewg.org and make better, more informed decisions about nutrition.

Simple ways to “Detoxify your life”

You can improve your health by eliminating or reducing your exposure to many common chemicals which are found in many products you use everyday including soaps, shampoos, perfumes, and household cleaners. Here is a little information you can use to help you “detoxify your life”.

  • Cosmetics
    • Many of today’s make-ups, shampoos, and skin care products contain products which are known to contribute to health concerns including endocrine disruption, neurological problems, and even cancer.
    • Choose products which are free of parabens which can mimic the hormone estrogen in the body and have been linked in some studies to breast cancer.
    • Avoid phthalates, which some studies have linked to hormonal disruption in men, women, and infants
    • If a product has “fragrance’ listed on the ingredients, avoid it!
    • For a comprehensive look at the ingredients in your products you may use and for some healthier alternatives visit www.cosmeticdatabase.com.
  • Household cleaners
    • Many cleaning products including all purpose cleaners, antibacterial soaps, air fresheners, and carpet cleaners have numerous chemicals which can contain neurotoxins, allergens, endocrine disruptors, and lung irritants among others.
    • Remember that clean does not have a scent. If your product does use a scent, make sure it comes from a natural source like orange oil or lavender.
    • Find cleaning products which are healthier to you and the environment in the bookGreen Clean, The Environmentally Sound Guide to Cleaning your Home by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin.
  • Simple ways to help your body detoxify
    • Drink plenty of clean water (reverse osmosis or natural spring water)
    • Exercise! Sweating is a natural form of detoxification.
    • Use a dry sauna.
    • Eat foods that are correct for your metabolic type

Artificial Sweeteners. Not So Sweet to your Health

Artificial sweeteners are products that are not found in nature and are used to replace natural sweeteners like sugar and honey. Below are two of the most commonly used sweeteners by the food industry and some information on their potential health problems.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is an engineered  combination of fructose and glucose that acts differently  in the body than does fructose (fruit sugar) or sucrose (table sugar). HFCS  is the most   common sweetener used today and can be found not only in sodas but also in products that you might not expect it such as;

  • Breads and cereals (including some “healthy” brands),
  • Hamburgers and luncheon meats
  • Canned salmon
  • Medications

The fructose in HFCS is converted to fat more readily than any other type of sugar and is known to increase triglyceride levels. Unlike glucose, fructose does not raise blood insulin levels. This means that overconsumption of HFCS can lead to the body not receiving  important regulatory messages as to food intake and can lead to eating too many calories.

Aspartame (Nutrasweet or Equal)

This sweetener is found in many products including gums and many “no” or “low-calorie” drinks. It is completely metabolized by the body and many of its by-products, including methanol (wood alcohol) can cause complications.

Warnings about the toxicity of aspartame were issued in 1991 by the National Institute of Health which found 167 potential adverse effects. Again in 1994 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services detailed 88 documented symptoms of aspartame toxicity including headaches, memory loss, slurred speech and vision problems.

Ralph Walton, chairman of the Center for Behavioral Medicine at Northeastern Ohio   University  College of Medicine, performed a comparative survey of the conflicting    studies as to the dangers of aspartame and found that 83 separate experiments over two decades found significant adverse effects from the use of aspartame. Interestingly, many of the studies that  do not show adverse effects from aspartame are funded by the food  industry.

An American Cancer Association study tracking 8000 women for six years concluded, “amongst women who gained weight, artificial sweetener users gained more than those who did not use the products.” Researchers theorized that the synthetic chemicals affect hormone levels and may slow  metabolism and/or increase appetite.

Splenda (Sucralose)

One interesting and rather scary fact about Sucralose has to do with it’s discovery. Sucralose was discovered by accident in 1975 when a graduate student in a chemistry lab licked his finger while working to create new  insecticides!

Splenda is marketed as a natural product, yet it’s structure (three chlorine molecules added to a sugar molecule) is one that is never found in nature.

At least 15% of Splenda is not immediately excreted from your body in a timely manner. Some scientists are unsure of the exact long-term effects this may pose to the body.  According to Dr. James Bowen, a physician and    biochemist, any cholorocarbons (like those found in sucralose) that are not excreted from the body intact can cause immense damage to the process of human metabolism and even our internal organs including the liver.

In addition to Splenda, other artificial sweeteners to avoid include saccharin, cyclamate, acesulfame-K, and neotame. You can find these names by simply reading the ingredient lists of foods. A simple rule to follow is to avoid all products labeled as “no-sugar”, “zero-calorie”, or “no-calorie”  because these items will almost always contain artificial sweeteners. If you chew gum regularly, you should also check labels because the majority of gums on the market use artificial sweeteners, and many use a combination of a few different ones.

Some healthier alternatives include raw honey and Stevia, which is a sweetener that comes from the Stevia plant and has been used for years in Japan as a sweetener and until very recently was only allowed to be sold here as a “nutritional supplement”.

For more information on artificial sweeteners read Sweet Deception by Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Kendra Degen Pearsall or just do a quick search on the internet regarding these sweeteners and you will be amazed and should be a little concerned if you do use them, especially if you consume them every day.

Sleep and your Health

In a study published in the Lancet in 1999, researchers found that sleeping only a few hours a night (4 to 6 hours) can hinder metabolism and hormonal production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and much like the early stages of diabetes. Chronic sleep loss increases the risk of type 2  diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and even memory loss.

Other studies  have shown numerous connections between lack of sleep and  health problems including the following;

  • Disruption of hormones and proteins
  • Insufficient or irregular sleep raises the risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, and heart disease
  • A sleep deficit may put your body into a state of high alert, which increase levels of stress hormones like cortisol, and can drive up blood  pressure.
  • Melatonin levels are lowered with a lack of sleep. Melatonin is  important in the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythms and also has a role as a  pervasive and powerful antioxidant.
  • Even mild sleep deprivation (5-6 hours a night) disrupts the levels of the  hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite. Sleep-deprived people tend to have problems regulating their blood sugar, which can lead to sugar cravings which make proper weight regulation much more difficult.

In addition to the total hours of sleep, the timing of your sleep is also important. In response to light, our hormonal systems release stress/activating hormones with a peak around  mid-morning. As the day progresses, the levels of stress hormones decrease and the levels of growth and repair hormones increase. Between 10pm and 2am, physical repair of our bodies is taking place while psychogenic repair takes place between 2am and 6am. The longer we postpone sleep, our natural hormonal rhythms are disturbed and we  deprive the body of much needed physical repair.

Sleep is the most essential form of restoration and continually depriving your body of sleep can have profound negative consequences for your health. Make sure to get to bed before 10:30 pm and make sure to give your body a chance to “unwind” before bed time. For more sleep tips, check out our post on helpful sleep tips.

What do I eat before and after my workout?

A common question that many clients ask when it comes to nutrition is, “What should I eat before and after my workouts?” Nutrient timing is an important issue and can make a great impact on whether you are achieving your health and fitness goals. If you are always exercising on an empty stomach or going a few hours after a workout before you have a meal or a snack, you should try some of these tips to better fuel your workouts and help your body start building muscle.

When to Eat?

One major mistake that people make when it comes to eating around their workouts is not so much the food they eat but more often the timing of when they eat. The best time to eat before a workout can range between 60-120 minutes so try to vary your meal time before your workouts to see what works best for you.  Skipping a meal completely before a workout is a big mistake!

The post workout meal timing is extremely important and can determine your success when it comes to building muscle or even losing weight in a healthy and long term way. I have come across many exercisers who are under the false belief that eating immediately after their workout will ruin all the work they did during their walk, run, or weight lifting session. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Unless you plan on eating something loaded with sugar or devoid of nutrients, eating immediately after your workout is essential to give your body a chance to start repairing tissues and building muscle. Research on nutrient timing shows you have about a 45 minute window after a workout to start eating something so try to get something healthy into your system while your body is still sweating.

What to Eat?

Just like every meal you have throughout the day, both your pre and post workout meals should ideally contain some carbohydrates, protein and fat. For your meals before and immediately following your workout, increase the carbohydrate consumption by one serving (an extra serving of apple, pineapple, carrot, etc). This extra carbohydrates before your workout will give the body some extra “fuel.” Having some extra carbs immediately after your workout will help you start storing energy more quickly for your next workout and will also speed up the rate of protein synthesis (building muscle). Here are some options that will work for both your pre or post-workout meals

  • a pita pocket with hummus
  • whole grain bread with peanut butter and sliced apple
  • some yogurt with almonds or cashews and dried cranberries
  • turkey or chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, and mustard on whole grain bread and half a banana
  • shakes or smoothies are a great option for a post workout meal when they are made correctly (good quality whey protein, some fruit and low-fat milk or yogurt)

If you can time your workout to happen before your breakfast, lunch, or dinner that works great as long as you don’t wait too long to eat and you make sure it’s a healthy meal.