For years, we’ve all been warned away from high-mercury fish because it might cause heart disease. Not so, according to two new large-scale studies just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, the Harvard researchers who did the study say pregnant women should still skip high-mercury fish like shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish, as the mercury in fish can affect the neurological development of a fetus.
Sleep Well, Eat Well
Trying to maintain a healthy weight? Make sure you get enough Zs. That’s because if you sleep less at night, you’re likely to eat more during the day. USA Today reports on Columbia University research that finds sleep-deprived people eat an average of 300 calories a day more than when they’re well rested. In the study, the sleep-deprived volunteers snoozed just four hours a night, compared to a control group that slept nine hours. Sleep-deprived women were particularly vulnerable to overeating, and tended to consume even more calories and fat than did sleepy men.
“Ice cream stood out as the preferred food during the sleep-deprived state,” lead author Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition medicine at Columbia, told USA Today.
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No More Cheap Food
Americans have enjoyed cheap food for a long, long time. The Los Angeles Times‘ P.J. Huffstutter explains why that party may be over. She reports that food prices have shot up in the last year and are likely to remain high, due to diminishing crop yields, a week U.S. dollar, unrest in the Middle East and natural disasters like last week’s devastating earthquake in Japan, floods in Australia (which wiped out much of that country’s wheat crop) and drought in China. All of this is heating up the debate between supporters of sustainable farming (check out the United Nations in its new agro-ecology report) and biotech.
Of course, one of the big misconceptions about organics is that it’s too expensive for shoppers on a tight budget. Watch Jennifer Grayson of The Red, White, and Green as she puts demonstrates how $33.40 average person on food stamps receives. Her tips are good for anyone on a tight budget and include:
Shop at the farmers’ market near closing time, when you can haggle better prices
We can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with our Colcannon Soup with Oven-Roasted Kale. All you need is a handful of fresh ingredients to turn out this pot-o’-gold-hued soup with a bright green cap of gold. Erin go Bragh!
Our weekly roundup of links to tasty headlines and other tidbits we think you’ll want to read…
Beyond BPA to…Cardboard?
You’re probably aware of concerns about BPA in plastic and other food packaging. The BBC reports on a new packaging concern: recycled cardboard, which contains mineral oil, a substance linked to cancer and other health problems. Mineral oil comes from newspapers, magazines and other printed materials that are recycled into packaging materials and leaches from the cardboard, even through inner bags, to food. Swiss health authorities, who conducted the research on mineral oil in food packaging, say eating a balanced diet minimizes your risk.
Using ingredients to their fullest is a key strategy of sustainable eating, so you can imagine why we love this New York Times story about creative ways to use leftover egg whites and yolks. I’d always thought egg-white omelets were on restaurant menus to satisfy health-conscious diners, but it turns out the whites-only offering is also away for a kitchen to use up product. It’s a strategy you can follow at home. Got extra yolks hanging around? Make carbonara or mayonnaise. Too many whites? Make meringues or frittata (use 2 egg whites for each whole egg).
“Natural” is a largely meaningless label on food packaging and, as a new report from The Organic & Non-GMO Report finds, can include genetically modified ingredients. Their survey of natural cereal manufacturers found “many breakfast cereals labeled natural are likely to contain ingredients from genetically modified corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets.”
Don’t want GMOs with your breakfast? Choose certified-organic and/or Non-GMO Project-certified products.
What’s one of the best steps you can take to for your health? Be kind to yourself, according to this New York Times Well blog post. Researchers say people who are “self-compassionate” tend to eat better than those who are hard on themselves.
School Farm Stand
We love this idea by the Parent Teacher Student Association at Golden Avenue Elementary School in Lemon Grove, Calif.: A weekly mini farmers’ market selling produce grown by local farmers. As Chris Huard reports on the Lemon Grove Patch, the program was launched in December to foster healthy eating habits in the community. It’s just one of two school-based farmers’ markets in the state.
To learn about another unique school program, check out Cheryl’s story about a Northern California mom who organized a garden at her kids’ school to supply a local food bank with fresh produce.
Revamp Your Relationship with Food!
We’re very excited about the relaunch of My Nourish Mentor, Lia’s 12-week, online coaching program for those who want hands-on strategies to foster a healthy relationship with food. Check out this video to learn more about how this life-changing program works.
Our weekly roundup of links to tasty headlines we think you’ll want to read…
Sustainable Seafood Victory
Casson Trenor of Greenpeace just announced some big news: Costco has finally agreed to remove a dozen red-list fish from its stores and implement more a responsible seafood policy.
In other seafood news, Chef Barton Seaver tells SustainableSeafood.com how he defines sustainability, including the importance of encouraging diners to eat lower on the marine food chain. (Our Curried Mussels are a delicious way to do just that!) Also check out National Geographic’s site The Ocean, which teaches consumers about the impact of seafood choices on the marine food chain.
Do Junk Food Taxes Work?
Municipalities all over the country have started to tax junk food in an effort to encourage healthier choices. Does that work? It might. Reuters Health reports on a new study in which college students were offered hypothetical lunch choices on a computer model. Each time, prices for burgers, chips and other goodies went up. Half the students were also shown caloric info for food. The results? As prices for junk rose, calorie counts for meals went down. Caloric info had less influence on the students’ food choices.
Joe Salatin on Small Farms
If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s books or seen “Food, Inc.” you know Joe Salatin of Polyface Farm. Hobby Farm magazine has a Q&A with the delightful advocate of sustainable agriculture. In it, he discusses how environmental efficiency is crucial to making a “farmette” economically viable. If you want to learn more about small-farm meat and poultry, check out Lia’s story about meat CSAs.
What if Michael Pollan is Wrong?
Zester Daily‘s opinion piece by Louise O. Fresco about Michael Pollan’s “misguided” message stirred up some, uh, controversy. Check it out, and add your 2 cents.
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Sustainable Aquaculture Standards
As we noted in last week’s story about the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, those guidelines hint at the need for environmentally sustainable food without specifying what they mean by “sustainable.” That’s why I was happy to see that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has a draft for sustainable marine aquaculture policies, which is currently open for public comment. “If done wisely, aquaculture can complement wild fisheries while contributing to healthy oceans and coastal economies,” says Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “As we rebuild wild fish populations, we recognize the world’s demand for safe, healthy seafood will continue to grow. Sustainable aquaculture increases our country’s food security.”
Better Fast Food?
Can a pair of former McDonalds execs and one of Oprah Winfrey’s favorite chefs build a healthier fast-food/casual-dining experience. The Los Angeles Times reports on Lyfe Kitchen (as in Love Your Food Everyday–ugh, hate the name…), which is slated to debut in Palo Alto, Calif., this summer. Fried food, butter, cream and high-fructose corn syrup are banned from the menu, which will feature specialties like Niman Ranch burgers and dairy-free desserts.
Lyfe’s team would do well to pay close attention to ingredient quality, especially in light of new NPD Group research into what consumers mean by “healthy” when they eat out. NPD’s latest survey finds diners are less concerned about calorie counts and more interested in high-quality fresh, natural and nutritious ingredients.
New Rating System
Whole Foods has partnered with the Global Animal Partnership to implement a 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating system for its meat, pork and poultry. The scale ranges from Step 1 (no crates, cages or crowding) to Step 5+ (pasture-raised with no physical alterations and entire life spent on the same farm).
While Whole Foods is doing its bit to raise animal welfare standards at the grocery store meat counter, Lia notes in her post this week, more CSAs are adding pasture-raised meat, poultry and eggs to their offerings. Both approaches make it easier than ever to choose sustainable meat.
In Case You Missed It…
Last Saturday, TEDx Manhattan’s event “Changing the Way We Eat” streamed lived and inspired lots of real-time conversation. Missed it? No worries. You can watch (or rewatch) it at your leisure and see for yourself what speakers like filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney (“Truck Farm” and “King Corn”), the Environmental Working Group’s Ken Cook, Laurie David, farmer-activist Karen Hudson, Chef Michel Nischan and others had to say.
Our weekly roundup of links to headlines we think you’ll want to read…
How Grass-Fed Beef Can Reduce Global Warming
We’ve talked about the nutritional and animal-welfare benefits of grass-fed beef and bison. Grass-fed meat may help the environment, too, according to the Union of Concern Scientists’ new report, “Raising the Steaks: Global Warming and Pasture-Raised Beef Production in the United States.” As the report notes, beef production generates about one-third of the United States’ global-warming emissions, including 18% of our methane emissions. The report illustrates the best practices to raise cattle while reducing emissions, such as the importance of nutrient-dense forage for grazing cattle.
Bittman on Dietary Guidelines
We reported on the recently (and finally) released 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In his opinion piece for The New York Times, Mark Bittman ponders why the guidelines dance around the more important–and simpler–message that could have a genuine impact on America’s health: Eat real food.
Like food writer Barry Estabrook (and Forrest Gump’s best friend, Bubba), I’m a sucker for shrimp. But as he notes in his Politics of the Plate blog, finding sustainably sourced shrimp can be tricky. That’s why he was so happy to discover sustainable British Columbia spot prawns. The only drawback: You’ll probably have to visit Canada to enjoy them, since the locals gobble most of the seasonal catch. Not a bad excuse to visit BC…that shrimp would be wonderful paired with a lovely Okanagan Valley wine!
More GE News
Last week, we reported on infighting among the organic community over the USDA’s decision to fully deregulate genetically engineered alfalfa while promoting the peaceful coexistence of organic and conventional (including GE) crops. As that hot debate continues in the the organic community, there’s been yet more news on GE topics. Last Friday, the USDA announced the partial deregulation of GE sugar beets, allowing farmers to plant that GE crop before the final Environmental Impact Statement is released in 2012. As Rodale reports, it’s a controversial move, to say the least. Meanwhile, Care2 reports that Mexico’s Interministerial Commission on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms has put planting of Monsanto’s GE corn on hold pending more tests. And Bill Marler’s blog Food Safety News reports on a pair of bipartisan congressional bills to ban GE salmon. Apparently not all American lawmakers share the current administration’s biotech-friendly stance.
What intrigues us in all of this is the USDA’s insistence that GE and organic crops can coexist. We’re working on a story examining what that entails and whether it’s a realistic–and practical–proposal.
That’s right–today marks the start of 4709 in the lunar Chinese calendar and the Year of the Rabbit. After the wild ride that was the Year of the Tiger, this year promises a chance to stop and catch your breath. Celebrate with good-luck foods like tangerines and oranges, which you can turn into a tasty–and festive–granita.
Where Shouldn‘t You Buy Seafood?
Sustainable seafood expert and author of Sustainable Sushi Casson Trenor reveals four places where you shouldn’t purchase seafood, starting with retail giant Costco. AlterNet
USDA, You Suck
Sheesh, we’re starting to sound like a broken record, yammering on about the USDA continuing to say it supports organics and sustainability. But in an actions-speak-louder-than-words move last week, the agency announced its decision to fully deregulate Monsanto’s Roundup-ready genetically engineered alfalfa. “After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. Guess that depends how you define “safe.” The Center for Food Safety notes widespread use of the GE alfalfa will increase herbicide use (and give rise to herbicide-resistant weeds) and potentially contaminate organic crops. And the Organic Consumers Association notes that in a case of very strange bedfellows, Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm have come out in support of USDA’s latest move with the caveat that the government fine Monsanto if (and when) organic crops are contaminated. We’ll see how that one nets out.
Hot on the heels of Wal-Mart’s healthy initiatives announcement last week, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) revealed their new front-of-package Nutrition Keys labeling program. The GMA claims the labels will make it clearer for consumers to know what’s in packaged food–calories, fat, sodium, sugars–and potentially highlight healthful aspects like fiber and potassium. In her Food Politics blog, however, Marion Nestle says the program is little more than the industry’s effort to preempt the front-of-package labeling standards being developed by the Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, she says, it has plenty of potential to confuse consumers even more.
USDA Fires Top Dog for Organics
The USDA has certainly paid lip service to organics, but as we’ve noted, agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack wants to have it both ways: support organics and conventional agriculture. Now the USDA has fired Mark D. Keating, an agricultural marketing specialist with the National Organic Program (NOP). Keating had been with the department for 20 years and was instrumental in developing the USDA’s organic standards. Jeff Desay reports on the implications of this move on AlterNet.
Where’s the Beef?
The Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that a California woman has filed a class-action suit against Taco Bell, claiming the ground beef used by the fast-food chain contains too little actual beef. She may not win, because Taco Bell itself calls the stuff “taco meat filling.” If you need a Taco Bell fix, try Cheryl’s Homemade Beef and Bean Burritos instead. They come together in no time, you’ll actually know what’s in them, and they taste a whole lot better!
Organic Milk Overcomes Climate Change
Climate change, well, changes the nature of your food. Researchers in the United Kingdom have found that milk produced during wet, cool summers tends to be much higher in saturated fat and lower in healthy fatty acids than milk produced during normal weather conditions. But Newcastle University scientists have found that’s not the case with organic milk, which has higher levels of beneficial fatty acids than conventionally produce milk regardless of the weather. The researchers also discovered that the nutritional quality of organic milk is far more consistent than conventional.
Eliminate Food Waste to Fight World Hunger
We talked about minimizing food waste as a smart 2011 resolution for the health of the planet (and your wallet!). But there’s another benefit, too: increasing food security. Worldwatch Institute’s new report, State of the World 2011: Innovations That Nourish the Planet, highlights the importance of preventing food waste in battle against world hunger. The report offers real-world examples of innovative programs from around the world, like women in The Gambia who formed a cooperative to ensure the sustainability of local oyster fisheries or Kenyan women who designed “vertical” gardens to grow food for residents of a Nairobi slum.
Failure to Fund the Food Safety Modernization Will Fail the World
We’ve noted that food safety is one of the big issues we’ll be following this year, and already the landmark Food Safety Modernization Act is threatened by lawmakers reluctant to appropriate funds to implement the law’s measures. We love this editorial in the journal Nature, which teases out the byzantine quality of food safety regulations in the United States. But failure to fund the act will have implications far beyond our borders. The British government think tank The Foresight Programme’s new report, The Future of Food and Farming, illustrates the need for a global food supply system to ensure safe, sustainable food for a world population that’s projected to reach 8-10 billion by 2050.