Sleep and diet are even more connected than previously believed, according to new study published in the recent issue of the journal Appetite.Read More:New Study Links Diet to Abnormal Sleep Patterns
Washington D.C. area neighborhoods considered “food deserts” will soon have access to fresh fruits and vegetables via a converted school bus “Mobile Market” courtesy of a local non-profit group comprised of nine restaurants. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s market on wheels will bring healthy food options to communities where a majority of the people living there are at or below the poverty line.Read More:Mobile Market to Hit D.C. ‘Food Deserts’ with Fresh Eats
Most Americans fall short on their daily fiber intake. My simple solution? Start with a hearty, fiber-rich breakfast.
A bowl of cracked wheat cereal contains approximately 140 calories and 5 grams of fiber. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill Cracked Wheat, an organic choice that can be found at most natural food stores. You can also add cracked wheat to recipes for muffins, breads and other organic baked goods.
Here’s an easy recipe to jumpstart your weekend.
Cracked Wheat Cereal
Makes 3–4 servings
1½ cups water
Recipe and photo courtesy of the Wheat Foods CouncilRead More:Cracked Wheat Cereal
Yesterday, I alerted you to a Dateline NBC report on the safety of bagged salads. (Please click here so you have the background information.)
Correspondent Lea Thompson pointed out that 6 million bags of salad are sold each day. Most of us believe they’re ready to eat, without having to wash the greens—especially if you buy them in an organic food store. But officials are concerned about lettuce safety, and it has little to do with the pesticides and fertilizers that worry organic consumers.
“Over the last five years or so, we have noticed a real increase in the number of [E. coli] outbreaks that were traced back to fresh produce,” Dr. Robert Brackett, the FDA’s head of food safety, told Thompson. There are many sources for potential infection: the fields in which lettuce is grown, the bathroom habits of workers who handle produce and conditions in processing/shipping plants. Chopped lettuce, in particular, may be more vulnerable to contamination because of the way it’s prepared for packaging.
Experts suspect E. coli outbreaks are most often the result of farm or creek water that has been contaminated with animal feces. According to Thompson, “scientists believe E. coli bacteria might have been absorbed by the lettuce plant’s root system. If that happens, washing the lettuce won’t do any good—the E. coli is already growing inside.”
The United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, not surprisingly, dismisses this as unproven speculation, pointing the finger instead at shippers and grocery store workers who handle bagged salad. (This would mean the outside of the bag was contaminated.) The CDC, however, found E. coli that matched the strain that sickened people inside a bag of salad. FDA officials believe growers need to take greater care and responsibility.
If you buy bagged salad, the FDA urges the following:
Photo courtesy of NBCRead More:Bagged Salad Risks: Part 2
Yesterday, I provided a super salad recipe for your Mother’s Day menu. But if you rely on bagged greens when preparing salads, you need to know about a report that recently aired on Dateline NBC.
Chief Consumer Correspondent Lea Thompson (left) revealed 26 people in three states became ill after eating bagged lettuce. Amber Brister, 11, was hospitalized with kidney failure, requiring dialysis and blood transfusions to clear toxins from her body and fight life-threatening infection.
The problem wasn’t limited to Amber, Thompson reported. A 54-year-old man in nearby Minneapolis was sick for several days before being rushed to his local hospital with excruciating pain and hemorrhaging from his colon. Within three days, 10 more cases were reported.
At this point, physicians suspected their patients’ problems were linked to contaminated food. Per protocol, they called in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for assistance. Experts suspected E. coli 0157:H7—a bacterium usually associated with eating undercooked ground beef.
The real culprit, however, was bagged salad—the No. 2 cause of E. coli-related foodborne illness. Infection presents with stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome—the condition that leads to kidney failure. According to MDH, patients typically become ill two to five days after eating contaminated food.
The CDC then issued a warning about bagged salad risks and a voluntary recall for specific brands. In the meantime, 26 people in three states had suffered lettuce-induced illness.
Now for the big question: Would eating organic lettuce have prevented this problem? Not necessarily. Tune in tomorrow for the reasons why you need to be careful with any bagged salad—organic or nonorganic.
Photo courtesy of NBCRead More:Are Bagged Salads Hazardous to Your Health?
The average American drives his car 8,322 miles each year, emitting 1.9 to 4.7 tons of carbon dioxide (depending on vehicle model and fuel efficiency). He also consumes 3,774 calories each day. (Yikes!) So, what do these statistics have in common?
Americans’ habits are hazardous to their health—and the planet’s, according to Drs. Gidon Eshel (right) and Pamela Martin of the University of Chicago. (See yesterday’s blog entry, Vegan Diet Is Earth-Friendly.)
In 2002, energy used for food production accounted for 17% of all fossil-fuel use in the United States, and the burning of these fossil fuels emitted three-quarters of a ton of carbon dioxide per person. This alone amounts to approximately one-third the average greenhouse-gas emissions of personal transportation. But livestock production and its animal waste also emit greenhouse gases not associated with fossil-fuel combustion—primarily methane and nitrous oxide.
“An example would be manure lagoons that are associated with large-scale pork production,” Dr. Eshel says. “Those emit a lot of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.”
While methane and nitrous oxide are relatively rare compared with carbon dioxide, they are, molecule for molecule, far more powerful greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. A single pound of methane, for example, has the same greenhouse effect as approximately 50 lbs. of carbon dioxide.
In their study published last month in Earth Interactions, Drs. Eshel and Martin compared the energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions underlying five diets: the average American, red meat, fish, poultry and vegetarian (including eggs and dairy)—each of which equaled 3,774 calories per day. The vegetarian diet turned out to be the most energy-efficient, followed by poultry and the average American diet. Fish and red meat virtually tied as the least efficient.
The impact of producing fish came as the study’s biggest surprise to Dr. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysical sciences.
“Fish can be from one extreme to the other,” she says. Sardines and anchovies flourish near coastal areas and can be harvested with minimal energy expenditure. But swordfish and other large predatory species required energy-intensive long-distance voyages.
As for red meat, “the adverse effects of dietary animal fat intake on cardiovascular diseases are by now well established,” the researchers write. “Similar effects are also seen when meat, rather than fat, intake is considered. To our knowledge, there is currently no credible evidence that plant-based diets actually undermine health; the balance of available evidence suggests that plant-based diets are at the very least just as safe as mixed ones, and most likely safer.”
Drs. Eshel and Martin now plan to examine the energy expenditures associated with small organic farms to see whether they offer a healthier planetary alternative to large agribusiness companies. They know a 5- to 10-acre plot on an organic farm typically provides enough vegetables to support 200–300 families—and “we’re starting to investigate whether you can downscale food production and be efficient that way,” Dr. Martin says.
Photo by Lloyd DeGraneRead More:The Energy-Efficient Vegetarian Diet
You’ve made a commitment to eating organic food, but how do you feel about giving up meat and eggs? It’s not only a health issue, according to researchers at the University of Chicago. A vegan diet is also much more beneficial for the planet, according to Drs. Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin (right).
The food you eat is just as important as the kind of car you drive, they contend, when it comes to creating greenhouse-gas emissions, which many scientists have linked to global warming. Their study appears in the April edition of Earth Interactions.
Both the burning of fossil fuels during food production and non-carbon dioxide emissions associated with livestock and animal waste contribute to the problem, they write. Compared to a vegetarian diet, the average American diet requires the production of an extra 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. Cutting down on just a few eggs or hamburgers each week, they say, is an easy way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
“We neither make a value judgment, nor do we make a categorical statement,” says Dr. Eshel, an assistant professor of physical oceanography and climate in the Department of Geophysical Sciences. “We say that however close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet. It doesn’t have to be all the way to the extreme end of vegan. If you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, you’ve already made a substantial difference.”
Tune in tomorrow for more information on the study’s findings.
Photo by Lloyd DeGraneRead More:Vegan Diet Is Earth-Friendly
You may have seen the commercials for The Learning Channel’s (TLC) heavily promoted new series, “Honey We’re Killing the Kids!” The 13-week show, which premieres Monday evening, is of special interest to readers dedicated to eating well and organic living: Thirteen families have children whose eating habits are out of control, with nonstop diets of junk food and oversized portions.
Hosted by Dr. Lisa Hark, a medical nutritionist and author of the new book, The Whole Grain Diet Miracle, the series offers a startling look at the causes of America’s childhood obesity epidemic, issuing a wake-up call for parents. Using state-of-the-art computer imaging, she gives them a frightening look at their children’s future faces. She then works with parents to change their ways and give their kids a healthy diet and active lifestyle. The family has three weeks to overhaul its bad habits under her direction, following her straightforward rules:
The series “taps into the family experience, capturing the emotionally charged moments that moms and dads across the country face every day as they juggle schedules and make critical parenting choices,” says TLC General Manager David Abraham. “Viewers will be captivated by each family’s struggles and challenges, but will also be armed with a wealth of easily incorporated information for better nutrition and exercise habits that can be used in their own lives.”
Tune in each week to see which families can correct their nutritional attitudes and habits.
Dr. Hark’s photo courtesy of TLC (Scott Gries/Getty Images)Read More:Honey, We’re Killing the Kids!
Here’s another reason to choose fresh, organic food: The number of overweight/obese children, adolescents and men increased significantly between 1999 and 2004, according to a study in the April 5 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Between 1980 and 2002, obesity prevalence doubled in adults 20 and older, and overweight prevalence tripled in children and adolescents ages 6 to 19.
Dr. Cynthia L. Ogden and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined national measurements of weight and height in 2003–2004 and compared the data with estimates from 1999–2000 and 2001–2002 to determine if the overweight trend is continuing. They found 17.1% of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 were overweight, and 32.2% of adults 20 and older were obese in 2003–2004. The prevalence of extreme obesity among adults was 4.8%. There was a significant increase in the prevalence of overweight in female children and adolescents (13.8% in 1999–2000 to 16% in 2003–2004). There was also an increase in the prevalence of overweight in male children and adolescents from 14% to 18.2%.
Among men, the prevalence of obesity increased significantly from 1999–2000 (27.5%) to 2003–2004 (31.1%). Among women, no significant increase in obesity was observed between 1999–2000 (33.4%) and 2003–2004 (33.2%). The prevalence of extreme obesity in 2003–2004 was 2.8% in men and 6.9% in women.
“These prevalence estimates, based on a 6-year period (1999–2004), suggest that the increases in body weight may be leveling off in women,” the authors write.Read More:The Latest Obesity Stats