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Recently I transferred this blog from the now-defunct Vox.com. Unfortunately, the move didn’t go the least bit smooth and there are problems abound (and problems within problems, oh my!). I will need to edit each post to ensure that everything is how it was, and I still have other posts that need to be added in as well! Oh boy, this will take a while. Bear with me while I iron everything out!

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Lately in my newsletter I’ve been talking a lot about animal products and pastured meats and generally meat-eater kinda stuff. There’s a reason for this of course. A few reasons, actually. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I learned about the nutrient density in animal products and that there are many animal products that are actually incredibly nutrient dense. Butter, oysters, raw milk, grass fed beef, pastured chicken eggs, and yogurt all make the top 14 list. Butter is actually at the #1 spot and in the much-lauded book Nourishing Traditions there are a full 2 pages dedicated just to butter. Who would’ve ever thought, right?

I am on one hand baffled that I never knew that these foods were so nutrient rich until recently since I am always reading about something related to nutrition. On the other hand, I’m not so surprised when I look at the fact that 98% of the time when either people think about healthy, nutrient rich food or when nutritional professionals mention these foods, they’re talking about various vegetables and other plant foods. Don’t get me wrong, I was probably the only kid that really liked spinach and I like my miso soup with wakame (seaweed), but I’ve never been the type to put 2/3 of vegetables on my plate next to my main course (or make vegetables the main course!). This constant push for plant foods and my bioindividuality clashing against it really made me confused. I thought I had to accept this specific way (somehow) but then I found out that the truth had been held from me. When I learned more about animal products and nutrient density, I was amazed; astonished perhaps. After so many years studying nutrition, here finally was something I had never read before in the same sentence: animals product & nutrient dense.

I have known individuals who, in disgust of factory farming, have become vegetarian almost in protest of what is going on. I find myself doing something almost similar in a way. I am tired of how the full spectrum of food is ignored and most of the talk about healthy food is focused solely on plant foods. Due to this, I want to promote a better understanding of animal products and their relationship to positive health. So therefore, you’ll see more articles from me about animal products and how great they are.

Now, for a clarification. Despite my glowing promotion of animal products and pastured meats, don’t get confused and think that I am saying that this is the only way to good health. There is no such thing as a singular way to good health! Take a look at the cultural diets of various people around the world. There are people who eat lots of grains, and there are people who eat lots of meat, and likewise there are individuals that eat no meat (like Buddhist monks). There are many ways to good health, and they all involve eating fresh, local, whole foods.  Never forget that and don’t let anyone tell you any different.

The original recipe given for this is the lazy version and it simply can not compare in taste and nutrition to a more traditional way. First things first, you’ll want to make your own chicken broth, aka, a bone broth. See this month’s article and you’ll know how amazingly nutritious this dish will be. Paraphrased from Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s much-lauded book Nourishing Traditions, here is how you can make your own chicken bone broth:

1 whole pastured chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbone, and wings
(if you can’t find a pastured chicken at your local natural foods grocer, check farmers markets, or find out if there’s a local Weston A. Price Foundation chapter you can join)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar (I use coconut vinegar, but you can use white or cider vinegar)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

Break down the chicken and cut the chicken parts into several pieces. Place the chicken into a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar, and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour ( so the vinegar draw the nutrients out). Bring to a boil, and remove the white scum that rises to the top (generally, this scum contains impurities. This is a traditional method used when making broths). Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 6 to 24 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.

Now on to the soup itself!

You will want to have some asian noodles (I prefer Koyo round udon), a bunch of cilantro, fresh bunched spinach, and 6 inches or more of ginger (the original recipe calls for an inch, and even after using 6 inches, I still can’t taste the ginger in the soup. Experiment and let me know what you find). Add the cilantro and ginger to the stock and cook it with the rest of the vegetables.

Backtracking a bit now.. When you break down the chicken, cut off as much meat as you can. In addition to the drumsticks, wings, and breasts, there is also a part called the oysters which you will notice just past the drumstick and thigh; cut that small chunk out as well. Having made his dish dozens of times now, I have found some things out through trial and error. Firstly, you can save the breasts in a ziplock bag and put them in your fridge and freezer for another meal. I strongly suggest stripping the meat and skin off the bones of the drumsticks, oysters, and maybe the wings too (I find it to be too much of a pain to bother, so I just throw them into the pot with the rest of the items ).

If you aren’t totally grossed out by it, cut the bones in half, or in a few pieces (likewise, add in a head or feet if you’re brave enough; they’re filled with gelatin). The gelatin inside the bones is very important and very nutrient rich! Now, throw the bones and skin into the pot with the rest of the soaking ingredients. You don’t have to do all this, but in my experience, it’s a major pain to sift through the chicken later and take out very tiny bones and trying to find said tiny bones amongst the rest of the meat. If you’ve ever cooked a whole chicken in a crock pot, you will know what I am talking about. Likewise, the chicken will be tough if you cook it for 24 hours.

Let’s finish this fantastic dish! After the stock is done cooking, take out as much as you can of the chicken bits, bones, and veggies with a slotted spoon; if you have a garden, don’t throw this stuff out, use it for compost!! You will likely have to pour the stock through a strainer to get rid of what’s left. If you don’t have another pot to pour it into, then you can pour it into two or three large bowls.  For the chicken, you can either fry or roast the separate pieces or throw the pieces you want into some of the stock for 20 minutes or less.

Before the chicken pieces are done cooking, cook your noodles and prepare the spinach. If you don’t have two pots to cook the spinach and noodles at the same time, then cook the noodles first, distribute them evenly between two large bowls, and then cook the spinach (the broth will heat up the noodles if they get too cool). If you’ve never cooked whole leaf spinach that’s still attached to the root, simply cut the spinach maybe 3 inches from the bottom and then place it in boiling water. Submerge the spinach in the boiling water and let it sit in there for just a few minutes until all the leaves look slightly cooked and then strain and place it into the soup.

Finally, place the chicken pieces into the bowl and pour the hot soup stock over the noodles. I suggest topping this with a generous pat of pastured butter (the extra fat will help make this more filling and in general butter is incredibly nutrient dense) and some nama-shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce) to taste.  The original recipe calls for mushrooms, but I omit them since I find them to be revolting. If you’re a mushroom hater or just want to try something different, you can add in watercress or sprouts next to the spinach and chicken.

This should yield enough broth for 2 large bowls and a little extra if you’re lucky.

This soup is incredibly delicious, highly nutritious, and once you’re used to making it, you will want to make it all the time (this has become a weekly staple in my home, and I just love the aroma of the broth cooking). This dish is an absolute must try!

With weight loss, many people believe that all there is to it, is calories. Burn more, consume less; that is the most common advice one will hear. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. Weight loss is actually very complex and is dependent on a whole number of things: diet, exercise, metabolism, overall health, mental health, primary food, genetics, etc. One other factor is the health of the thyroid gland.

Although not often considered, the thyroid gland plays a significant role in regards to one’s weight. This has become more well known through Oprah’s woes with hyperthyroidism which she’s said has been the cause of her sudden weight gain.

Purpose of the thyroid

The thyroid produces its own hormones that do a number of jobs; one such job involves balancing the body’s metabolism. When the thyroid gland is out of whack, these processes get interrupted causing hypothyroid (an under-active thyroid) or hyperthyroid (an overactive thyroid).

When the body is suffering from an imbalanced thyroid, the proper mechanisms that tell the body about how to balance the metabolic rate are off. What this means, is that when you consume too much or too little, the body knows whether or not to increase or decrease the metabolism. This is a common problem with low-calorie diets: the lack of calories in the body tells it “Hey, there’s no food here folks! Time to take a break” and so then the metabolism slows down.

This period of metabolic sluggishness is what many dieters may be having difficulty with when they’re eating right and exercising but are still not losing any weight.

How to have a healthy thyroid

If you think that you are suffering from a thyroid disorder, there are a few nutritional steps you can easily take. The first thing you should do is avoid fluoride, since numerous studies have documented its negative effect on the thyroid. To do this, of course you will want a high-grade water filter (see my suggestions for water filters in my article on fluoride), and keep in mind that there are other food and environmental factors as well. The Fluoride Action Network cautions the usage of some toothpastes, processed cereals, juice, tea, wine, beer, teflon pans, and others.

If you’re worried about your thyroid, but you don’t want to give up some things like wine or tea, I suggest finding a certified organic brand that you like. Some plants (like tea, for example) will leech a lot of the minerals from the soil and so you’ll find that the fluoride levels for organic tea and non-organic tea differ greatly since the soil condition for the organic tea is much better.

The second thing you should avoid is non-fermented soy. Soy has become America’s new health food fad, and as a result, many people are stocking up on various products made from soy (especially soy milk); but the isoflavones in soy actually block the thyroid hormone. But soy isn’t all bad, stick to fermented soy products like miso and tempeh as they are much different than their unfermented relatives.

Thirdly, cruciferous vegetables can also cause thyroid woes since they contain goitrogens. This can seem rather strange at first since cruciferous vegetables are also the healthiest and most recommended. My suggestion would be to try to balance out the vegetables you are eating and don’t overload on one kind; most especially if you think you have problems with your thyroid. Also, keep in mind that cooking will help to inactivate the goitrogens in these vegetables; not completely, but it does help.

Lastly, you should de-stress! It goes without saying that stress really affects everything in our body negatively and that includes the thyroid.

There are of course ways to help the thyroid as well, once you’ve started to avoid the things that can harm it. The most common suggestion is the usage of seaweed; specifically, kelp. Sea vegetables contain an awesome amount of nutrients thanks to the environment they grow in. Kelp is very high in iodine which helps regulate the thyroid. Earl Mindell elaborates more in his book Vitamin Bible for the 21st Century:

This amazing seaweed contains more vitamins (especially Bs) and valuable minerals than any other food! Because of its natural iodine content, kelp has a normalizing effect on the thyroid gland. In other words, thin people with thyroid trouble can gain weight by using kelp, and obese people can lose weight with it. In fact, one of the most widespread fads for many years has been the kelp, lecithin, vinegar, and B6 diet. Kelp has also been used by homeopathic physicians in the treatment of obesity, poor digestion, flatulence, obstinate constipation, and to protect against effects of radiation. It is reported to be very beneficial to brain tissue, the membrane surrounding the brain, the sensory nerves, and the spinal cord.

You can get kelp in a few different forms; the most popular is that of kelp tablets, and another being kelp granules you can add to your food (which in my opinion doesn’t alter the taste any). Though when taking this as a supplement, it’s important to also take vitamin A as well. Burton Goldberg writes in Alternative Medicine:

Vitamin A facilitates the efficient absorption of nutrients by strengthening the lining of the digestive tract. Along with vitamins C and E, it bolsters the immune system and thus makes the body more resistant to infection from parasites and yeast overgrowth, two common causes of weight gain. Vitamin A is also necessary for the production of thyroxin, a thyroid hormone, and helps the thyroid to absorb iodine; a key nutrient. The healthy functioning of the thyroid is essential to maintaining metabolism and preventing the accumulation of body fat.

Sometimes people confuse the supplementing of iodine as a weight-loss tool. If your thyroid is balanced properly, then you will not experience weight loss. Beware of excess consumption of iodine; noted author Anne Marie Colbin writes in her book Food and Healing that considering that we are already ingesting large qualities of this mineral because of its presence in fertilizers and table salt, the situation (your iodine level) definitely bears watching. Due to this, I strongly suggest getting help from an accredited health professional to help ensure that you maintain healthy levels of iodine and do not damage the body further.

What comes to your mind when I suggest exercise? Going to the gym? Jogging around the neighbourhood? These both are great ways to exercise, but much like with diet, one size doesn’t fit all. I actually never run or jog for exercise. Not only do I find it incredibly monotonous, but I also have difficulties with joint pain due to my low-arch support. If you don’t enjoy the exercise you are doing, then what’s the point in doing it? What will be the likelihood that you will stick with it on a regular basis? This is a problem many of my clients have faced. Exercise has become a bland, almost black-and-white word where it only involves a select few activities. Due to this, I’d like to explore some other methods that aren’t always considered. This should help change the way you think about exercise!

Pilates & the Resistance Band

Pilates I remember first hearing about perhaps around 2000 or 2001. In Pilates there is a lot of focus on toning the body through what can be called core exercises. Expect to give your lower body a great workout! Pilates offers you a good workout and a new way to strengthen your body using easy methods that work great.

You’ve probably seen the resistance band in aerobics videos and other things, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t provide a good workout for your muscles. I’ve used the band before and it is fantastic to use in your strength training if you do multiple reps; you will really feel the burn in no time. Likewise, you can add it to your regular aerobic workout for great results.

Both Pilates and the band can be done at home through a video instruction if you’re short on cash (I’ve found both for cheap just by googling Pilates dvd or resistance band dvd) or don’t have a place near you that goes through either.

While still somewhat on topic, my alma mater, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition sells a great fitness DVD that runs through a number of aerobic exercises. Likewise, I found a nice routine for a total body workout using the resistance band thanks to About.com.

Martial Arts

There’s more to it than breaking things and giving muggers a flip over your back! Even if you’re intimidated by the intense self-defence demonstrations you always see, there are still sport arts that offer a great workout. Because finding a school for self defence can differ from finding one just for a good workout, I am only going to focus on the latter here.

Muay Thai (aka Thai Boxing)

Thailand’s national sport; I studied this art for 4 years at the renowned Princeton Academy of Martial Arts in New Jersey and it is one heck of a workout! Muay Thai will really push your endurance to the max and you’ll just keep pushing it a little farther when you train. If you’re already in at least somewhat decent shape, Muay Thai will definitely help you keep up the momentum and give you an amazing workout. In Muay Thai, you use your legs, knees, elbows, and fists; so this will work your entire body and will also toughen you up. Muay Thai may be a ring sport, but it’s also one of the only ones that will also keep you relatively safe on the streets as well.

Wushu

Wushu is like a Kung Fu ballet. Wushu is based off of a number of ancient Chinese Kung Fu arts, but unlike Kung Fu, it is not meant for self defence and you will not learn martial applications. In Wushu, you learn various routines – or forms – which look much like their Kung Fu cousins except they dip lower, jump higher, and are more acrobatic and stylish. Believe it or not, martial arts film star Jet Li has always studied wushu and does not practice Kung Fu.

Wushu is great because of the routines that one learns. When you’re not in class, you can easily practice these forms daily and it will give you a great cardio workout; especially when you do one form right after another. Wushu is fun, competitive (many schools participate in performance tournaments and it almost made it into the Olympics), and if you’re afraid of sparring like in Mauy Thai, this is a great alternative.

It’s important to note that in China, they call Kung Fu “wushu” since it literally means “martial art”. Therefore, some schools in America may call what they do Wushu, but it is really the self-defense oriented Kung Fu. If you’re uncertain as to which of these a school teaches, you can contact them and just ask if their Wushu is competitive, or for combat.

“Cardio Kickboxing”

Cardio Kickboxing is simply the movements of basic kickboxing (kicking, punching, and usually some bouncy footwork like in boxing) but run on a cardio program so that you’re guaranteed to sweat. Most people know that this is just for a workout, but I have seen people that thought that their Tae Bo made them a force of self defence. Much like Wushu, Cardio Kickboxing should not be misinterpreited as something that will teach you street defense. Yes, you’re better of with it than without, but it’s still nothing compared to the real thing.

Cardio Kickboxing is not a singularly defined program like others, so your experience may vary from place to place. Generally, expect lots of repetitive kicking, punching, and lots of moving. This certainly makes for a good workout. Due to its popularity and simplicity, Cardio Kickboxing is something you can even find follow-along DVDs to learn and practice with. This is good for the person with the erratic schedule that finds it hard to make time for a regular class each week. However, if you know what your schedule will be, I suggest taking this one in a class that meets regularly since that will help guarantee you stick with it.

Taiji

Taiji (which is the current way to romanize the Chinese word more commonly known as Tai Chi) can also be a good form of exercise despite its slow movements. Taiji is great for anyone with physical problems that need to take it slow which means it’s good for people of all ages and it’s also one of the least-intesive workouts you can get. Despite the slow movements, Taiji encourages you to get outside and move and that’s what’s important!

There are some nice bonuses as well: Taiji helps Diabetics with their blood sugar, and it’s good for self defence (yes really).

Wii

There are a lot of people that have already picked up on this one. The Nintendo Wii, with its motion-sensing controls, has spurred development of many fun casual games (like the included Wii Sports) as well as some fittness-based games as well (Wii Fit). It will run you around $250, but the cost is worth it when you consider how exercising can become lots of fun.

Geocaching

Geocaching is like a high-tech scavenger hunt where you have to find a cleverly hidden cache. Basically, all you need is a hand-held GPS and an internet connection, and you’re set to go! To Geocache, you go to a website like Geocaching.com where maintainers of a cache will post the coordinates and difficulty level of a caches and then you plug the coordinates into your GPS and you head out to find the cache. Caches are commonly in the woods where muggles – that is, non-geocachers – won’t find them, but really, I’ve found geocaches all over the place. The fun in it for me is the seeking (the GPS will lead you really close, but you still have to use your senses to find the cache), the thrill of successfully finding the cache, and discovering all the little parks, nature reserves, and wooded areas that are nearby that I just never knew about before. Geocaching is like hiking in way, but you’re actively looking for something. If all this sounds confusing, just watch this news clip to get an idea of what it’s like.

This sport is great because it gets you outside and it’s very addicting and plus, you can do it along side of many other outdoor activities. The cost of a GPS for geocaching can vary greatly depending on what your budget is like and how much you want to invest in this sport. Prices can range from $50 on up to $150 or more! Some models I would suggest price shopping for are: Garmin Gecko 201 and the Garmin eTrex series (Legend, H, Vista, Venture, etc.). Personally, I would shop around on Amazon.com for the model that you think will suit your fancy (and wallet) best and then price shop on sites like eBay and Google for the best deal if you’re in a pinch for cash.

Of course, I suggest that you also take the time to browse through the forums and all the information at geocaching.com; it’s an invaluable resource for beginners!

Bike/Skate

Some people still have a bike or a pair of rollerblades, and others haven’t owned either since they were in their late teens. If you still have one of these or you are warm to buying one, then this will present yet another great alternative form of exercise.

Rollerblading

Having skated regularly until my very late teens, I really recommend rollerblading over roller skating. I always remembered hearing how rollerblading was supposed to be harder but the instant I switched from roller skates to rollerblades, I thought the complete opposite. Regardless of your choice, skating provides for some fantastic cardiovascular exercise. Go outside, go to a rink, or find a meetup group nearby. Just be sure to keep it regular.

Biking

When I took a vacation down to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, my girlfriend and I rode bikes along a few different paths and it was so much fun! Biking is a very flexible form of exercise that is really only dependent on the weather (should you so choose to let that stop you, that is!). You can ride a bike on a trail in the woods, along a scenic route, or just around your neighborhood. Consider the places you go to in your car that you can try going to on a bike. This may be easier for some than it is for others depending on how bike-friendly your city is as well as the distance traveled to many of your destinations.

One thing to try, is combining Geocaching with your Biking. If you have a mountain bike or a bike that can deal okay along dirt trails, then give it a shot; on many geocache pages you will find indicators telling you that whether or not it’s bike friendly. If the technological easter-egg hunt of geocaching doesn’t excite you and your city is not bike friendly in the least and you’re not sure about any scenic routes, then go to your local park. You will almost certainly find that they have many wonderful bike paths for you to enjoy.

Hiking (or just trail walking)

I’m sure most people think of a heavy backpack, a walking stick, and a steep mountain trail when I say hiking. If that’s your thing, then that’s fantastic, but for most people it doesn’t have to be this. In the time I’ve spent geocaching, I’ve found some great little parks and wooded areas that I simply never knew about before. I am sure that there are a number of interesting and beautiful parks and forests near you if you just take the time to visit them. Why go for a walk in your neighbourhood when you can get some real enjoyment from walking through nature?

Herbology/Botany

Do you know what a plantago is? This herb is one you can find in your backyard and you should recognize it instantly after seeing a picture of it. The plantago actually helps with irritation from plants and insects if you just mash the leaves up a little and spread it on the irritated spot.

I recently watched an awesome 6-part series on the BBC called Grow Your Own Drugs (it’s not available on DVD unfortunately, but you can watch episodes from it on YouTube). What I found so amazing was the realization that all these plants around us serve great purposes and we don’t even realize it! Once you understand the healing potential so many of these plants carry, it really makes you start to wonder about all of them. I now ask myself “what’s this plant? what’s its use? What does echinacea or St. John’s Wort look like?”.

Some people may find this to be a real snoozer, but it’s sure sparked an amazing amount of interest in others. “Plant spotting” may not be the thing that you first think of when you get up in the morning, but at a minimum, why not add it to your other outdoor activities like hiking, geocaching, and biking? It will add an interesting and knowledgeable layer to your exercise and so you will be able to exercise your body and your brain at the same time.

One book that has been recommended to me that should help you with plant identification is Botany In A Day.

Yoga/Qigong

Most everyone is familiar with Yoga, and many people have tried it. Yoga is something that is great for everyone because it’s low impact, you take things slow, and it helps one gain flexibility and limberness that will last a lifetime if one keeps up with it.

Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is kinda like Yoga’s Chinese cousin, historically speaking. While some aspects of Qigong can feel similar to Yoga (like the 8 Pieces of Brocade) others differ and feel like something different (Wild Goose Qigong, Taiji Qigong, Taiji Ball Qigong, etc). The slower, more medatative forms of Qigong are fantastic for health, but their usefulness in regards to exercise for weight loss is perhaps questionable. If you’re interested in trying Qigong, see about finding a school near you and visit to see how much they move. Like Yoga, Qigong will provide life-long health benefits for those that stick with it.

And in the end..

The paramount thing here is to keep up with the exercise. I have constantly stressed that throughout this article. However, the idea is to enjoy your exercise; it should be fun and you should look forward to it each day. If an activity is fun and you enjoy it, then you don’t need any more motivation to stick with it.

If you plan on doing some heavy activity, I recommend consuming plenty of high quality healthy fats from either pastured animal products or coconut since these types of foods help to stabilize energy for extended periods of time and they will keep your appetite satisfied as well. Likewise, stay away from the sports drinks, and vitamin water. All you need is high quality (that’s the key word right there) water to keep you hydrated. One thing I always have with me is a Sport Berkey water bottle that will not only filter out all the nasty chemicals in tap water (except fluoride; you need an extra special filter for that one) but you can also take water from raw lakes and streams and the filter inside is powerful enough to clean it (in case you’re wondering, I have done this myself). This makes it perfect for any activity that will bring you to the wilderness.

Lastly, make good use of the internet when looking for trails. Over at Trail Link you can find a number of trails that are in your area. They list a range of activities and even include whether a trail is good for a wheel chair.

Recently, a popular article (The 10 Most Dangerous Foods) has gotten a lot of attention and is surrounded in controversy. As a health professional, most of it I was already familiar with, and some of it I had never heard of. Looking through the comments on the article, I found that a large number of people disagreed with the conclusions of this article for reasons that were not always articulately explained nor sourced with specific data showing how this is wrong.. Comment after comment mentioned how it’s stupid hippie lies and only stupid hippies think that GMO is bad (likewise, apparently anyone opposing GMO is a science-phobe (GMO = Genetically Modified Organism)) and there is absolutely no difference between organic and conventional foods except for the cost.

I must say that I was rather surprised and confused since in all the years I’ve spent studying health and nutrition, most all of these issues I’ve read about and understood as a basic (albeit inconvenient) truth. Well, I for one am never afraid of being proven wrong; I think that it’s paramount for everyone to be able to prove without a doubt that what they believe to be true isn’t an opinion but is indeed a verifiable fact. So, I decided to do some heavy fact checking.. After about 5 days of research, here’s all the evidence that this “lieing” “hippie crap” “science-phobia”-ridden article supposedly doesn’t have..

 

1. Farmed Salmon

The claim: Farmed Salmon contains high levels of mercury and PCB’s

The facts: The article in question links to this article from MSNBC: More pollutants in farmed salmon than wild; I am going to assume that there is no serious criticism of this claim… The solution? The Environmental Working Group suggests eating Wild Alaskan Salmon instead.

 

2. Conventionally Grown Bell Peppers

The claim: Conventional Bell Peppers contain a high amount of pesticides and should be avoided

The facts: Again, the article links to a report from the Environmental Working Group that discusses The Dirty Dozen. But one thing that the author is missing is a source for why organic sweet bell peppers are better. Let’s start with the fact that a 4-year study concluded that organic crops have more antioxidants and vitamin content. But it doesn’t stop there; the pesticides used on sweet bell peppers are indeed harmful. How do I come to this “hippie”, “anti-science”, “BS” conclusion? If you read the previous link, you will notice it mentions that:

The most dangerous chemicals used in farming such as organophosphates [pesticides] have been linked with a range of conditions such as cancer, decreasing male fertility, foetal abnormalities, chronic fatigue syndrome in children and Parkinson’s disease“.

So what proof is there that organophospahtes are in sweet bell peppers? Well right here we can see that they are sprayed with: acephate, bensulide, naled, dimethoate, endosulphane, and malathion.

 

3. Non-Organic Strawberries

The claim: Conventional Strawberries are irrigated with nutra-sweet water for an extra sweet taste and captan (a pesticide) gives them an extra red glow

The facts: This one is somewhat fuzzy; if the author knows something I do not, then I really do think they should have provided extra sources. Using a quick search, I couldn’t find any concrete information on the NutraSweet claim. The link provided on the article claims that the source is from a 1999 report from the Consumers Union (the people behind Consumer Reports). I couldn’t find any information concerning “strawberries” or “nutrasweet” dating before 2000, so I have contacted the Consumers Union for the official word (and I am now waiting for a reply).

Now what about the second claim concerning captan? If you really think it’s absurd that a chemical would be used to improve the look of the strawberries, then clearly you know very little about the food industry. When I looked up captan, sure enough it was there: it improves fruit finish by giving it a healthy, bright-colored appearance. Captan was supposed to have been phased out of general use as a pesticide in the US in 1989, but I have not found any information regarding its use and regulation in other countries. This is important to note since a great deal of produce comes from other countries since it’s simply cheaper that way.

4. Chilean Sea Bass

The claim: Chilean Sea Bass (aka Toothfish) contains excessively high levels of mercury

The facts: Really now, this is a surprise to some people? Seriously? Well, for the surprised, you can see that the Oceans Program of the Environmental Defense Fund has mentioned that this fish shouldn’t be consumed by adults no more than twice per month, and only once per month for children due to its high mercury content. So does that mean that mercury isn’t full of vitamin C after all? Yep, guess so according to the US Geological Survey.)

5. Non-Organic Peaches

The claim: Conventionally grown Peaches are sprayed heavily with pesticides; avoid them

The facts: The article links to the Organic Center, but I know that’s just not good enough for some folks. After all, they’re probably stupid hippies with an agenda……. maybe they even work for Al Qaeda! We don’t know, sadly. Thankfully though, there is the Environmental Working Group who can clearly tell you that peaches top the “dirty dozen”. What’s a little pesticides with your cereal? You’re welcome to sprinkle some of those delicious chemicals on your corn flakes, but the rest of us would much rather follow the information from the studies I posted in #2.

 

6. Genetically Modified Corn

The claim: Genetically Modified Corn is bad and so is GMO

The facts: Oh boy, here we go with the knee-jerk response of “It’s science phobia!!” and “GMO is natural!“. Sadly, some people don’t understand the difference between GMO and cross breeding. The article in question links to SeedsOfDeception.com which is a site that’s very critical of GMO. The area of the website in specific that is linked to offers a summary of a number of studies done on GMO foods published in the book Genetic Roulette.

Unfortunately, the studies given were not definitive enough for my liking (namely, not enough information for me to easily look up the original study so that way there is no question about the authenticity of these specific studies. My rule of thumb through all of this has been “if it can’t be found in a quick google search, then don’t bother“) . Here is an article written by the author of the books Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette; it is sourced with many studies and explains a lot of the problems with GMO foods as a whole. But I know that’s not objective enough for some skeptics. So considering that, here are some studies that deal with corn that I found myself:

The truth is that the issue of GMO is very huge and covers a range of issues. An entire book could be written on the known dangers that have been documented and the potential dangers that have not yet been fully studied.

I am only going to provide a few informative links that cover various issues. This is not meant to be definitive since the interest of this article is solely for determining factual accuracy of the current article in question. So the only thing I am trying to establish here is that “more research needs to be done concerning human consumption of genetically modified foods and there is valid criticism of them“:

7. Bluefin Tuna

The claim: Bluefin Tuna has high mercury content, so avoid eating it

The facts: Here we go again with mercury (which remember, doesn’t contain vitamin C and stuff)! Well, let’s go and check the scale I used previously. Survey says…. wow! Bluefin tuna has excessively high levels of mercury and PCB’s (more than Chilean sea bass) and it is suggested that only men eat ½ a serving of Bluefin Tuna a month at most. I know some people are already rolling their eyes at the suggestion to not eat some kinds of fish.. the bottom line is this: if you want to risk your good health with neurotoxins and industrial compounds, then go right ahead.. But it’s ideal to at least be informed of what you’re eating.

 

8. Industrially Farmed Chicken

The claim: Industrially Farmed Chicken contains controversial growth hormones and other problems

The facts: This is an issue that is usually controversial because of the argument of Free Range/Organic versus Conventional. Instead of arguing ethics here, the author speaks on the usage of growth hormones and antibiotics. The first thing mentioned is the debate over the instances of early puberty in schoolchildren and the notion that growth hormones from chickens are contributing to this. Stated very clearly is that there’s not enough evidence to determine this conclusively, and a link to a fact sheet from Cornell University is given. Seems clear enough to me..

The next part is just as straight forward: conventional chicken meat is dangerous. Studies from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy as well as the Sierra Club have shown that conventional meat from chickens is contaminated with arsenic and the over-usage of antibiotics has bred antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Houston, we have a problem!
9. Non-Organic Apples

The claim: Conventional apples have a heavy load of pesticides; avoid them

The facts:
Unfortunately, the original article cited names, but no links or anything. Really, this is very easy to figure out. In the EWG’s list of the top 12 produce items to avoid due to heavy usage of pesticides, apples show up right between Peaches (#1) and Sweet Bell Peppers (#3). On their website, the EWG had this to say:

Conventional apples are sprayed with 36 types of pesticides, and the EWG found that 91% of tested apples were contaminated. Even peeling a conventional apple won’t completely eliminate chemical residue, so it’s best to buy organic. The two types of fiber in apples–soluble and insoluble–can reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of hardening of the arteries, heart attack, and stroke. Apples also keep blood sugar levels stable, and can help prevent kidney stones. Bonus: You’ll find that organic apples taste sweeter than conventionally grown.

Now personally, I’m curious as to what kind of (if any) organophospahtes are used when spraying conventional apples since we’ve already established that the British Medical Association cautions that they are linked to a whole slew of problems (cancer, decreasing male fertility, foetal abnormalities, chronic fatigue syndrome in children and Parkinson’s disease). Checking a some-what official source, we can see that Phosmet, Azinphos-methyl, Chlorpyrifos, Diazinon, and Methidathion are all sprayed on apples.

10. Cattle Treated With rBGH

The claim: Cow’s milk containing rBGH does not break down and can lead to cancer

The facts:
This one caught some heavy criticism; considering that, I figured that perhaps the claims for this were not sourced. In actuality, most of it was sourced just fine so I must ponder as to what the controversy was over.. If you know anything about health, then you should know that here in the US, conventional milk contains rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone; which was actually renamed to recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST) because the public has responded negatively to the idea of hormones. It is marketed to farmers as Posilac) since it is used on many cows so they’ll produce more milk, faster.

It is true that the usage of rBGH is banned in the European Union, though the prime reason for this (as stated in the official document) is to prevent cows from getting mastitis (a condition where the cows’ udders become enflamed and puss-filled (an infection, basically)). Next, comes the question of what proof is there that rBGH boosts IGF-1 in the body as the author claims? The source I found that proves this is from a May 2006 study in The Journal of Reproductive Medicine by Dr. Gary Steinman that was featured in the New York Times later that month. An FDA study that was published in the journal Science in 1990 claimed that IGF-1 was broken down by the body’s stomach acids, however, that turns out not to be true as a 1995 study published in the Journal of Endocrinology found that:

“casein (a non-specific dietary protein) and to a lesser extent, BSA and lactoferrin, were effective in preserving IGF-I structural integrity and receptor binding activity in both stomach and duodenum fluids“.

What does that mean in plain English? Just like the article in question said: this hormone does not break down when humans consume milk from those cows. Now for the final question: what does that mean? It’s pretty straight forward, since a link is given to the Cancer Prevention Coalition which states that increased levels of IGF-1 will increase the risk of cancer.

What’s the solution then? Buy milk that’s labeled as “all natural”, “organic”, or “rBGH-free”. Currently, the FDA is resistant with the labeling of milk as rBGH and rBGH-free, so unless you buy from a local farm (which I personally suggest since you’re supporting the local community, getting a product that’s fresher, and often times cheaper) which labels their own milk as rBGH-free, it may be difficult to find an “rBGH-free” label on your regular store-bought milk.

A caution on all-natural and organic labels: the term “all natural” is not regulated and if a food company wishes, they can include all sorts of crap in their product and claim it’s “all natural”. Generally this can be combated by looking at the food label of the product you buy, but that’s not possible with milk. Organic, however, is a certified USDA standard that must be tested in order to be certified organic. The only exception to this rule, is the brand Horizon (and likewise, and brands by their sister company Aurora). Horizon uses legal loopholes to produce non-organic milk.

Conclusion

In my research, it really wasn’t that hard to find the data that supported the claims of the article in question. Honestly, most of the data was already presented in the article itself and all I did was expand on it in showing other studies and squashing long-held beliefs based mostly on ignorance. The only error I was able to find (if you can call it that) is verifiable proof that the Consumer’s Union stated in 1999 that conventional strawberries were sometimes irrigated with NutraSweet-laced water to make them sweeter. For anyone who is remotely familiar with typical food industry practices, this should be of little surprise. However, just because it’s highly plausible, does not mean it’s true and therefore, I can only wait for the Consumer’s Union to get back to me about this report.

Some have cited issues of affordability and even starvation as reasons why you shouldn’t be “picky” about food. This is a really poor straw-man argument. If someone can’t afford to buy organic for these 10 foods, then don’t. The article is not selling fear and paranoia as some so ignorantly charge; it’s all scientifically backed. The problem, is that most people have such a poor idea of what’s actually healthy and what isn’t, that they flock to whatever is labeled as sugar free, cholesterol free, fat free, low calorie, low carb assuming that that is the healthy option (when usually, it’s worse).

Probably the best book I have ever read on understanding nutrition is Joshua Rosenthal’s Integrative Nutrition since it’s a book that everyone can understand and doesn’t try to sell the reader any diet fad or specific dietary theory. Likewise, I suggest watching BBC 4’s 2-part TV documentary Supermarket Secrets (1, 2). I know some will have a knee-jerk reaction to this and bemoan “fear! paranoia!“; this isn’t about fear or paranoia, it’s actually about understanding that our food today is much different from how we often perceive it. If someone doesn’t want to eat healthy, that’s their decision and I’m not going to try to force them into anything different. I just want to make sure that people know what it is they’re eating. If we can’t have healthy food, then let’s at least have honest food.

 

UPDATE: I am forced to close comments, unfortunately, since this article is being attacked by SPAM bots on a daily basis.

 

 

 

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