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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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Let the EWG Seafood Calculator Determine the Best Seafood for You


circling school of fish

Most people know the health benefits from regularly including fish and other seafood in their diets; they provide us with the essential, long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. A third, short-chain form of Omega-3 is found in several plant seeds and nuts, but the forms found in seafood are proven to have more effective health benefits. On the other hand, there are opposite reports of the health risks associated with eating seafood due to an increase of toxic mercury levels in the world’s oceans. In fact, a recent study concluded that in “ocean waters shallower than about 100 meters… have tripled in mercury concentration since the Industrial Revolution.” Emissions from coal fired power plants, smelting, cement manufacturing and certain mining activities are only some of the industries contributing to a unnatural amount of airborne mercury, which is eventually deposited in water bodies around the world, infecting marine life. So while the Omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood are essential to our health, harmful levels of mercury could accompany them. Luckily, the cost – benefit analysis between these two traits in different species of fish has been spelled out in a quick and pleasing “seafood calculator” from Environmental Working Group. (more…)

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tomato Sushi? a tasty, vegan way to save bluefin tuna


Mediterranean bluefin tuna

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see sushi sold in your local grocery store. Sushi has been rising in popularity over the years, and alongside it, the demand for fish; in particular tuna. In Japan, the Bluefin tuna is considered to be the cream of the crop and the average price for one Bluefin in Japan’s main fish market, Tsukiji, can range from 2,000 to 20,000 dollars. With prices like, that it’s not hard to see how fishing is a multi-billion dollar industry. But unfortunately, these high prices have also led to excessive overfishing.

According to the Blue Ocean Institute Bluefin tuna has been exploited heavily science the 1970’s. And in 1996 the World Conservation Union listed the western populations of Atlantic Bluefin as critically endangered and the eastern population as endangered. With no end in sight to the demand, and no end to the exploitation, it’s only a matter of time before populations collapse.

tomato sushi

In response to a client’s challenge of creating vegetarian sushi, Master Chef James Corwell came up with the idea of Tomato Sushi. The San Francisco based chef and his chef-partner, Brian Doyle, created the company and product:  Tomato Sushi(more…)

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Eating Habits That Prevent Hair Loss


selfie man

The first sign of a poor diet when it comes to your appearance usually starts with your skin. In as little as one week of a bad diet, you may come up in spots as well as losing your usual vibrant colouring. Hair on the other hand can take a few months of a poor quality diet before you will start to notice a deficiency, although food isn’t the only thing playing a part in hair loss. Smoking and sleep deprivation are also key players when it comes to hair loss; another two areas which are also preventable. Sometimes, however, hair loss can be unavoidable, triggered by genetic and not lifestyle factors. Unfortunately in these instances costly surgery might be your only choice if you want to keep hold of your youthful looks and your flowing locks.

Consuming a balanced diet
Consuming a balanced and delicious diet may sound harder to maintain than it actually is. In order to follow a good diet to prevent hair loss, it is useful to know which foods provide the nutrients you need to sustain a healthy appearance.

Zinc
Zinc is one of the key drivers in maintaining healthy hair follicles. When your body is low on zinc your hair follicles will become weak and may even fall out. Some foods which contain zinc consist of red meats, nuts, spinach and cocoa.

Protein
As hair is made up of protein it is understandable why it is needed for healthy hair growth. Lean proteins such as fish, eggs, chicken and yogurt should all be consumed in moderation.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A promotes the growth of cells and tissue which includes your hair and scalp. This vitamin is fed into our body through animal and plant sources. Vegetables such as carrots, dark leafy greens such as Rocket or Kale and animal produce such as fish oil, liver and eggs all contain the much needed vitamin.

Vitamin C
The human body cannot store large amounts of Vitamin C at any one time so trying to overload with an intake of the vitamin won’t be beneficial for hair growth. To regularly include Vitamin C within your diet, make sure you eat fruit and vegetables such as oranges, melons, peppers and tomatoes, all of which are rich in the vitamin.

H20
We should all know by now that the recommended daily amount of water is at least 8 glasses a day. Hydration is one of the most important factors needed for healthy hair and good health in general. If you aren’t doing so already, make sure you get into the habit of drinking more water every day.

Start introducing these eating habits into your diet and see if you notice a difference in your appearance. Remember healthy hair isn’t as instant a result as healthier looking skin.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Virtual Water Dilemma: Act One – Food


fresh water with bubbles

What is virtual water?
In times of drought people try their best to not let the faucet run, take a shorter shower and water the gardens less. But these are all activities during which we can see how much water we are wasting, making saving it simpler; we just don’t use as much. But what most people don’t think about is virtual water. Virtual water is a term for all the water that goes into making an end product.

Perhaps the most common source of virtual water in our daily lives is the food we choose to eat. In fact more than 50 percent of our water footprint is derived by the food we consume. From growing, to transport, to processing and distributing all the food we eat comes to us at some virtual water cost. Even a simple task like deciding whether or not we want cheese on our hamburger can have an impact. After all it takes 700 gallons to make one pound of cheese.

cows look into camera

The cheeseburger 
Let’s break down that cheeseburger. For the bun – top and bottom – we’re looking at 22 gallons of water. Our meat patty is 616 gallons and if we want cheese on it we need to tack on an extra 56. If we’re feeling healthy and we want the veggies, lettuce costs 1.5 and tomato costs 3. But what is any burger without some fries, so that will be another 6. In the end the entire combo takes about 700 gallons to make. But why is it so water costly to make one cheeseburger? Because of all the other things that require water to put that burger on your tray. Plants and animals don’t just grow up overnight and from nothing. Plants have to be watered from seed to harvest. And animals need to be fed food that is first grown and then the animal itself consumes H2O. Keep in mind that the gallons needed may vary based on region, processing and treatment of the livestock.

water in fruit_1

The switch up
Knowing about the virtual water that goes into a product is the first step to making water-wise choices. There is no way to eliminate virtual water consumption all together but we can make eating choices that help lessen the blow.

  • Instead of beef have chicken – beef can require a staggering 2,500 to 5,000 gallons to produce – chicken, a more modest 815 gallons.
  • 8oz of coffee will cost 29 gallons so switch it to a tea which only uses 7.
  • For a sweet treat – 1 pound of chocolate costs a 2,847 gallons vs. a mango that requires 190.
  • Cut back on the butter. Butter which comes in at 2,044 gallons is something most of us can do with much less of.

No one is saying give up eating animal products altogether but because animal products are more costly, cutting back there will have the greatest impact. Also keep in mind that not all produce is created equal – some cost more than others but as producers they may still have the lowest impact.

Fresh water with bubbles photo via shutterstock.com

related: more food articles from The Alternative Consumer

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Green Diet


cows look into camera

Americans’ waistlines are expanding, grocery bills are spiraling, healthcare expenses are mounting and our consumption of corn, meat and processed sugar is skyrocketing. What’s a health conscious, environmentally-aware cheapskate to do? Here are few helpful ideas:

  • Grow your own. We’re talking about the stuff that goes into your belly not your peace pipe. A little raised garden in your backyard or on your patio or terrace can provide the fresh veggies and produce your body craves.
  • Forget the red meat. As crazy as it seems, Methane emissions from the cattle industry in the US outstrip those of the oil and gas industry. The global cattle industry is also one of the greatest causes of deforestation and erosion — as more and more old growth, carbon absorbing forests are cut and burned to create more grazing land. Red meat can also clog up your digestive system. A diet that features whole grains and veggies  can be easier on your system as well as the environment. (more…)
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Dandelions: From Domestic Difficulty to Divine Delicacy


dandelion fieldDandelions are the scourge of the modern landscape. In their quest to take over your lush green lawn, those cunning weeds have evolved sunny flowers and delicate puffballs that are irresistible to human children. Before you know it, your landscape is pockmarked with yellow blooms, gangly dandelion clocks and spiky weeds. You’re on your hands and knees in your yard trying to uproot them with dandelion forks, but for each dandelion plant you uproot, three more emerge.

What you may not know about those troublesome dandelions is that their flowers, leaves and roots are great sources of nutrition. For example, both ancient and modern health practitioners have speculated about possible health benefits of dandelion root tea. They’ve used the tea for supporting gastrointestinal health and to eliminate water weight.  In addition to brewing dandelion root tea, people also enjoy dandelion greens and petals in a variety of dishes. Take a look at a few ways to transform this garden pest into a gastronomical delight.

Dandelion Root Tea
dandelion root teaBefore making your own dandelion root tea, consider trying commercially prepared tea from a trusted resource. The tea may have a slight laxative effect, so you should drink it at night to avoid potential problems during the workday. If you like commercially prepared tea and you want to make your own, try this easy method from Laurie Neverman of “Common Sense Homesteading“:

  1. Assemble your ingredients. You’ll need an ounce of fresh dandelion root, or one-half ounce of dried dandelion root, per pint of hot water. Neverman suggests adding an equal part of burdock root to help the body detoxify.
  2. Pour the water into a non-reactive teakettle or saucepan. Avoid aluminum kettles, which may react with the root and affect the flavor.
  3. Add the dandelion root. Make sure not to chop or cut the root until just before you add it to the water. Waiting keeps vital nutrients from being lost before you make your tea.
  4. Bring the water and root to a simmer. Simmer the tea until it’s lost about one-fourth of its original volume.
  5. Strain the tea. Place a mesh strainer or a couple of layers of cheesecloth over the open top of serving teapot. Pour the tea from the kettle into the pot, and discard the spent dandelion roots.
  6. Serve the tea. You can store dandelion root tea for a short time in the refrigerator, but you should discard unused tea after three days.

Delicious Dandelion Eats
dandelion greensDandelion leaves and petals can be transformed into dinnertime delights. For example, Langdon Cook, author of the “Fat of the Land” blog and several books, suggests making dandelion tempura from flower heads:

  1. Heat the oil. Start by heating some vegetable oil until it’s bubbling.
  2. Mix the batter. While the oil heats, mix three-fourths cups of flour and one-fourth cup of corn starch in a small bowl. In a second bowl, combine a lightly beaten egg with one-half cup of ice-cold water. Then, combine the dry and wet ingredients, adding a bit of extra cold water if needed to give the batter a runny texture.
  3. Batter and fry the dandelion flowers. Roll rinsed dandelion flower heads in the runny batter, shake off the excess and drop the flowers into the hot oil. Remove them from the oil when they’re golden brown, and serve them with other lightly battered and fried vegetables such as zucchini and bell pepper.

You can also pick dandelion leaves, rinse them well and wilt them in a sauté pan. Heat the pan and briefly fry some bacon or pancetta until the fat renders out. Scoop out the meat and set it aside. Sauté the greens in the residual fat until they wilt. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper, add the meat back in and serve them in a bowl for a light summertime meal. Alternatively, add the wilted greens to soups or stir-fry dishes.

A Few Tips
Feel free to pick dandelions from your yard or gather them elsewhere, but avoid places where landscapers have sprayed weed killer. For example, never forage for dandelions near train tracks, interstate highways or telephone poles. Also, check the rules before foraging for dandelions in public parks. By following a few simple tips, you can transform dandelions from annoying weeds to fabulous food.

Dandelion field image by Vince Alongi on Flickr.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Big Food Companies Fighting GMO Labeling


green shopping cartThe battle over GMO labeling is just getting started. Everyone deserves to be able to make an informed choice on whether or not they want to ingest genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If you care about what’s in the food you and your family eat you should really be monitoring and supporting GMO labeling initiatives. Genetically modified crops and plants can contain herbicides, pesticides, PCB’s and all manner of potentially harmful toxins and chemicals that can have an adverse effect on not only those that consume them, but on the environment and other creatures, like honey bees.

Several states, like California (ironically) and Washington have seen big agribusiness lobbyists and their ad campaigns convince voters to act against their own self interest by voting to kill GMO labeling legislation. In New England, Connecticut and Maine have passed GMO labeling laws that will take effect if enough neighboring states join them, as the free thinkers in Vermont recently did.

Giant trade organizations like the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are also involved in efforts to squash GMO labeling and are planning to sue Vermont to overturn the state’s new GMO labeling law. GMA is also lobbying Congress in support of legislation that would overturn every state’s right to enact a GMO labeling law, while also legalizing the practice of labeling GMO foods “natural”. The mega-food companies are also buying up smaller organic food companies like Naked Juice, Cascadian Farms, Kashi, Honest Tea, Muir Glen, Odwalla, Kashi, Earthgrains, Santa Cruz and Green Mountain Coffee who are now contributing to the bottom line of the pro-GMO family.

usda organic non/gmo

Here’s a list of just some of the big processed food, biotech and agribusiness companies spending millions of dollars opposing GMO labeling in any form. Monsanto alone spent almost $5 million killing the Washington State GMO labeling legislation. Educated, conscious consumers should be taking these companies off their shopping lists and considering boycotting the companies that market and create food products laden with GMO’s. Agribusiness’s efforts to kill GMO labeling laws is an attack on our freedom of choice and consumer access to product information. Here are some of the big GMO backers :

The big anti-GMO labeling cash supporters:

  • Monsanto
  • DuPont
  • PepsiCo Inc.
  • Coca-Cola
  • Nestle USA
  • General Mills

The rest:

  • BASF Plant Science
  • Bayer CropScience
  • Campbell Soup Co.
  • Cargill and Co.
  • ConAgra Foods
  • Del Monte
  • Dole
  • Dow Agrosciences
  • Godiva
  • Hershey Company
  • Hormel Foods
  • Kellogg Co.
  • Kraft
  • Land O’ Lakes
  • Ocean Spray Cranberries
  • Sara Lee (Bimbo Bakeries)

Bottom line – consumers should be able to plainly see on a product’s label if it contains GMO ingredients – it’s called freedom of choice. For more info on the non-GMO movement and to find non-GMO verified food choices, visit the non-profit Non-GMO Project. You can also join the movement to boycott brands that oppose GMO labeling by visiting theboycottlist.org.

Remember, buying certified organic products is also a way to avoid ingesting GMO’s.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

honey bees aren’t the only ones stung by neonicotinoids


honey beeIt’s estimated that a full quarter of the food Americans consumes relies on pollination. Honey bees add more than 15 billion dollars in value to US agricultural crops, according to the White House and the EPA. Yet, here in the US, we continue to spray and insert harmful pesticides, primarily neonicotinoids, on and into, many of our crops and plants. Europe – which is usually ahead of the US on most green issues, including: plastic bags, recycling and food protections, has banned the pesticide.

The EU’s ban has drawn the usual scaremongering by the big agricultural establishment, who have taken the position that restrictions on the use of some pesticides and herbicides will make European farmers non-competitive with foreign competitors, just when they need to be increasing production to feed a growing world population. Nice try guys, but the oil industry model – economics always trumps the environment – is not going to work this time. Destroying the honey bee and pollinator population will have a far greater negative impact (we could lose 50% to 75% of our fruit and veggie production) than losses to pests and insect damage.

Additionally, if something has a negative impact on bees and little critters (birds may also be impacted), what is the potential for negative impact on humans, given long term high dosage exposure to chemicals like neonicotinoids? The chemical penetrates the leaves and is taken up by the plant’s vascular system, turning the plant poisonous to insects eating the leaves, pollen and nectar and if the plant’s seeds are soaked, or the soil is treated with the chemical, with the same result. (more…)

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