To Buy Organic Or Not To – That Is The Question

Many people struggle with this question.  The case for buying Organic vegetables and fruits is that they are pesticide and GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) free. Why should we care about pesticides and GMO?  In his post titled How to Find the Healthiest Fare in Meat and Produce Aisles, Dr Mercola succinctly answers this question:

“Research has shown that pesticides and other agricultural chemicals are neurotoxins and can cause disruptions to your neurological system and your brain. The reason why neurotoxins still enjoy widespread use on our fresh food supply is really more about the bottom line for farming operations than it is about the science of human health.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. All of these toxins are permitted on conventional farms, and any number of them can end up on your plate when you purchase conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.

The increased use of genetically engineered Bt hybrid plants and soil insecticides also increases the chemical load in food — particularly processed foods.

These man-made neurotoxic chemicals can bioaccumulate in your body, as they resist breaking down in water and also accumulate and store in fat, where they can remain for long periods of time.

In short, this means your body has a very hard time getting rid of them once they enter your body.”

The case against buying organic is:

  • it is darn expensive (compared to conventional produce) and
  • some research, although controversial, shows that organic food is not any more nutritious than conventionally grown foods. A team of Stanford researchers concluded in an article in Annals of Internal Medicine  that:

“Published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. (Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria)”

A Happy Medium

Let’s face it, life is all about compromises.  And Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides us with a compromise for Organic vs. Conventional in their 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™.  According to this study:

“The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and choosing the least contaminated produce.”

12 Most Contaminated Fruits And Vegetables

Here are the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables per EWG that you are better off buying Organic:
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot peppers
  7. Nectarines – imported
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet bell peppers
  13. Kale / collard greens
  14. Summer squash

15 Least Contaminated Fruits And Vegetables

EWG also provides a list of 15 least contaminated produce:
  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Sweet Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangos
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet peas – frozen
  15. Sweet potatoes

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How Phytonutrients Help Build A Strong Immune System

phytonutrients help fight disease

Source: mattmangum

In my prior post about living longer by eating the right foods, I quoted:

“Natural foods are better than supplements because there are hundreds of phytonutrients in vegetables and fruits that companies and scientists haven’t discovered yet”

In this post I’ll peel the onion on why should we care about phytonutrients.

What are phytonutrients?

“Phyto” in Greek means plant.  Plants produce more than 25,000  organic compounds and chemicals called phytonutrients.  Their role is to protect plants from bugs, viruses, bacteria and other threats.  And they can help the human body as well.

Phytonutrients, unlike vitamins and minerals found in plant foods, are not needed to keep you alive.  However, they will help you build a strong immune system and prevent diseases.

How phytonutrients help build strong immune system?

According to USDA, phytonutrients:

  • serve as antioxidants
  • enhance immune response
  • enhance cell-to-cell communication
  • alter estrogen metabolism
  • convert to vitamin A 
  • cause cancer cells to die 
  • repair DNA damage caused by smoking and other toxic exposures
  • detoxify carcinogens 

What are some good sources of phytonutrients?

Top fruits include:  

  1. Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries
  2. Coconuts 
  3. Avocados 
  4. Watermelon
  5. Mangos
  6. Papaya 
  7. Pineapple 
  8. Kiwi 

Top vegetables include:

  1. Dark greens like spinach and kale
  2. Broccoli
  3. Brussels sprouts
  4. Beets
  5. Tomatoes
  6. Red pepper

Eat many colors

FInally, with phytonutrients, variety is key.  Try to eat 5 to 7 colored foods a day.  The darker and brighter the color, the healthier the fruit or vegetable is for you.


Would You Like To Live Longer?

Live Longer, healthy eating

Source: Marg

Recently KQED radio ran a ‘must listen’ 52 min interview titled How To Eat For A Longer Life with:

– two scientists from Buck Institute for Research on Aging and

– the author of “The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying, Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods

You can download the mp3 file of this show here.

Key highlights of this discussion include:

1. Timestamp 04:30 – Cheating Death By Eating Less: Diet restriction can extend life by couple of decades; When you eat less you get limited nutrients and consequently your body learns to adapt to this deficiency by developing stronger immune system.

2. Timestamp 05:40 – Opposite Of Atkins Diet Extends Life: Although high protein diets have short term benefits, low protein diets are far better in long run.

3. Timestamp 8:50 – Super 16 Foods: Foods like Asparagus, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Avocado, Basil, Mint, Blue & Dark Berries, Kale, Olive Oil, Sweet Potatoes and Wild Salmon build immunity, lower cholesterol, enhance memory, strengthen heart and reduce chances of developing diabetes.

4. Timestamp 22:10 – DESS: Diet, Exercise, Sleep, Stress Reduction are critical for optimal health.

5. Timestamp 25:40 – Eat Food From Plants, Not Food Made In Plants: Natural foods are better than supplements because there are hundreds of phytonutrients in vegetables and fruits that companies and scientists haven’t discovered yet.

6. Timestamp 28:25 – Cooked vs. Raw foods: Phytonutrients in vegetables like Kale and Broccoli are more bioavailable to our body when they are cooked lightly, so cooking is not harmful.

7. Timestamp 34:30 – Multiple Small vs. Few Larger Meals: Following Circadian Rythms i.e. keeping a routine is more important than number of meals; Breakfast is most important meal of the day; Also avoid eating at least 3 hours before going to bed.

8. Timestamp 47:00 – Impact of GMO Foods: Try to limit GMO foods as they have an effect on Gluten and Gliadin; GMO foods are partly responsible for the rise in Gluten allergies.

Great advice to not only help you live longer, but also significantly improve your health.

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7 Meal Planning and Menu Mailer Services Compared

Meal Planning, Menu Mailer, eating healthy, Websites Compared

Picture: Meal Planning by Pennyshima

What do you do for Meal Planning?  How do you decide what to cook?  Do you first come up with a Meal Plan for the week and then create a Grocery List?  Or do you first shop for groceries by buying the ingredients that your family likes, and then cook based on what you have in your pantry and refrigerator?

If you’re like our family, my guess is you’re somewhere in between the two approaches.  Although you might plan in advance for cooking a few meals for the week and buy the ingredients required for those meals, when you are at the grocery store, you still end up buying other ingredients.

Outsource Meal Planning?

Figuring out what to cook on a weekly basis can be daunting.  One way to solve this problem is to subscribe to one of the meal planning and menu mailer services.  These services send you weekly Meal Plans and Grocery Shopping Lists.  They cost between $5 – $10 per month.  Given that on an average about 1/3rd of all groceries we buy go to waste, spending $5 – $10 per month on a meal planning service could end up being a smart financial decision.

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food pyramid, food plate, dietary advice

Picture: Feelix

Since 1916, USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center) has been recommending dietary goals for the American people.  The most recent set of recommendations were released by the USDA in 2011.  However, USDA is not the only agency recommending dietary guidelines.  There are several other agencies and companies within and outside the US that make dietary recommendations.  These alternative guidelines can be very useful if you are considering trying non-American diets.

Here is a list of dietary guidelines starting with USDA’s recommendations.

1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 – USDA

choose my plate, dietary guidelines, food plate, USDA

Key recommendations include:  

″-  Control total calorie intake to manage body weight

 –  Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages

  –  Increase physical activity and reduce time spent in sedentary behaviors

  –  Maintain appropriate calorie balance during each stage of life″

  2. Healthy Eating Plate, 2011 – Harvard Medical School

healthy eating plate, harvard school of public health

Key recommendations include:

″-  Make half your meal vegetables and fruits; Go for variety

–  Choose whole grains whenever you can;  Limit refined grains like white rice and white bread, because the body rapidly turns them into blood sugar

–  Pick the healthiest sources of protein, such as fish, poultry, beans, and nuts; cut back on red meat; avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats

–  Healthy oils (like olive and canola oil) are good for you

–  Drink water, tea, or coffee; Milk and dairy are not must-have foods—limit them to 1-2 servings/day; Go easy on juice and Avoid sugary drinks.

–  Stay active![click to continue…]


Introduction: Healthy Eating made Simple and Efficient

With the New Year around the corner healthy eating is going to be on most of our New Year’s resolution lists.  But how many of us will be successful at consistently eating healthy in 2013?

Eating healthy is challenging

Let’s face it,  the process of getting healthy meals on our plates is not always easy.   When we cook at home, we face two big issues:

1. Cooking is time-consuming

cooking time consuming

In order to cook at home we have to plan, buy groceries from one or more grocery stores, prep, and cook.  This process takes time.

2. Cooking healthy is a complicated equation

cooking complex equation

USDA’s Food Plate recommends that we eat within a certain caloric range and ensure that our diet includes a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains and dairy.  These recommendations by themselves can be very complicated to put into practice.  However when you add other factors such as personal preferences (tastes, likes, dislikes), diets (Atkins, vegetarian, vegan) and other considerations (price, brand, local/organic, etc.), you end up with a highly complicated problem.

Unhealthy eating can cause serious problems

families eat porly have health problems

Families – especially with children – are constantly strapped for time.  We simply don’t have a lot of time to plan and cook healthy meals.  And even if we do, we end up getting overwhelmed with managing the complexity of eating healthy.  As a result of this we don’t always make the best food decisions.

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