The USDA regulates these labels. So let's break it down so it makes sense to us.
Labels can be confusing so the best practice is to buy local when possible from a trusted source. This is a great time of year to visit the Farmers' Market and talk to your local farmers. Those who are are using sustainable farming methods are proud (and should be) of their practices and love to pass the info on!
So often we give little thought to the things that we drink. But the truth is, the things we drink can have a big impact on our health, for better or for worse. Sugary drinks, highly caffeinated drinks, over-consumption of alcohol, all can raise our risk of disease. We know water is necessary to maintain our health but sometimes we crave something with a little more taste. Herbal tea fits that bill. Not only can you customize your own blend to a taste you'll enjoy, but also you can choose herbs that are beneficial for different systems in the body. Bought in bulk, these herbs are affordable. Start small - buy small quantities until you find the ones that suit your taste buds. Then sip away during the warm months on some healthy, nutritional, herbal iced tea.
As hard as we may try to purchase quality foods, it may become confusing. Do we buy organic that has traveled thousands of miles or do we buy non-organic local? In a perfect world we would have access to local, organic foods but that is not always the case. One thing to consider is the list on ewg.com that lists the foods with the most/least pesticide exposure. You can also go to your local farmers' market and speak with the vendors about your concerns. While organic food is safer, it can lose a great deal of its nutrient value if it has traveled from afar. On the other hand, a food may be locally grown responsibly but cannot be technically considered organic due to USDA regulations. DO THE BEST YOU CAN!!!
Grocery shopping is hard enough to squeeze in without having to decipher the ingredients in the label. This should not only be an issue for those with food sensitivities but also for those who are committed to putting healthy nutrients into their bodies. For those dealing with celiac disease, alpha-gal, or diabetes, ingredients such as barley malt, pregelatinized starch, gelatin, and maltodextrin can be dangerous. These hard-to-pronounce ingredients are not only unfamiliar but inherent in highly processed foods which have been stripped of their nutrient value. Whole foods, prepared properly, will be a much healthier choice. And, you will know exactly what you've eaten!
Our bodies love water but not necessarily tap water! The Environmental Working Group has reported that there can be up to 300 chemicals and pollutants in our drinking water, including some well water. So, where do you start when considering a water filter? First, go to your water companies website and access their report for the level of contaminants in your drinking water. Once you are aware of what you are trying to filter out it can be easier.Taking your budget and volume of use into consideration, research distillation, reverse osmosis, pitchers with filters, or solid block carbon filters. All of these improve the water quality but here some cons:
Last month we talked about the effect microwave cooking can have on our health. This month I would like to address how it may or may not effect the quality of our food. Again, this is another subject that is controversial. Some claim that the loss of nutrients will occur if food is heated, microwave or otherwise. However, The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2003 reported that broccoli "zapped" in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants. Mineral levels remained intact. As for raw meat cooked in the microwave, this can expose us to risks of bacteria including salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. Microwaves heat unevenly and instructions on packages do not account for microwaves with different voltage, leaving portions of raw meat under cooked and containing dangerous bacteria. Given the potential danger of microwave cooking, I think we would be best served to give up "5 o'clock survival cooking." Why not treat our meals with the respect they deserve? We are great at creating seasonal traditions but not so good at daily traditions. Taking time to plan, create, and eat our meals is an invaluable tradition!
As with all things food related, the studies are confusing. Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic field (EMF) and are emitted when the oven is in use. The level of EMFs allowed to escape the unit is regulated by the FDA and considered to be a safe amount. However, some opponents of microwaves believe this level is significant enough to damage our health, especially to pregnant women, children, and those with compromised immune systems. All of that being said, we all have busy lives and sometimes microwaving is just a necessity. So how do we protect ourselves from the EMFs? Plan ahead and don't use them to defrost, don't stand in front of them when cooking, and use glass instead of plastics or paper containers that leach toxins, Stay tuned for more about microwave cooking and the effects is has on your food!
Both! So we have to consider why and when we drink it, what we add to it, and medical conditions. Coffee has been shown to have lots of benefits including reduced risk of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and colorectal cancer. But as with many things, there is a flip side. If you are drinking coffee to keep you going instead of getting the rest you need, you may end up burning out your adrenal glands. If you have a heart condition, anxiety, or are pregnant, coffee may not be good for you. If decaf is an option with these conditions, be sure it is naturally decaffeinated and the methylene chloride method is not used. Either way...don't mess up the benefits by loading it down with cream and sugar.
Calories in, calories out. We've all heard it. But the truth of the matter is, this isn't the way to manage our health. Focusing on the quality of our food has a much more positive impact. Our bodies use calories for different things such as metabolism, tissue repair, brain health, or to store as fat. Healthy foods balance our hormones which has a trickle-down effect and allows our body to self-regulate. So, pay more attention to the quality rather than quantity when choosing what you eat!
As with so many of our endeavors we don't realize how many pieces there are. Before we know it we're neglecting something that brings joy to us. So was the case with my blog. I enjoyed communicating little nuggets that could help people move forward in their journey to improve their health.
This also applies to your healthy lifestyle changes. We learn them, implement them, and then things come up that push them aside. So, like my blog, when we realize we've neglected something that gives us joy and positively impacts our lives, we simply start again.
I look forward to talking to y'all by resuming my blog the beginning of September! Until then, do the next right thing!!!
Janice Silk is a Nutrition Consultant that believes small changes can bring about big results.