Archive for November, 2008

Michael Pollan in Boise, Idaho – Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Although I don’t get asked as often as I should about who is one of my favorite authors and heroes, last evening I had the opportunity to see Michael Pollan speak at The Egyptian Theatre in downtown Boise, Idaho. Michael is a writer and activist about the subject of the food we eat and the environments from which our food originates. He has published numerous books, two of which include The Ominvoire’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and writes for The New York Times.

His speech was informative and entertaining as I expected. The use of humor was most appreciated as we heard him talk about the “mysterious” world of nutrition and food, and how our expectations and traditions about it have set the stage for the health condition of our current society. He talked about our obsession with “being healthy” while at the same time maintaining our status of being the “most unhealthy” nation on the globe. We also listened as he discussed briefly the history of the industrialized world and processed food, which began some 150 years ago – which has had a profound influence on the state of our declining health ever since.

We learned that in the 1970’s, food labels were required to carry the words “imitation” if the food was not actually real food. My how things have changed! Any glance at the list of ingredients on most food packages will confirm this theory. He kept the audience wanting to hear more, as well as relayed useful information from his research, travels, and experiences as he described to us what he uncovered when on the quest to discover where our food comes from.

During the lecture, the announcer informed the audience that we would have the chance to ask questions after Mr. Pollan was finished speaking. I was lucky to have my question selected among the ten or eleven others read out loud and answered: What would you say to school board officials and dietary supervisors to get them to listen when communities ask what important changes can be made to the school lunch program to make positive changes in our children’s health and academic performance?

His response to this question was encouraging and well articulated — schools need to integrate the teachings and curriculum of food into the school schedule, and should usher back into the classroom the lost art of training children how to cook. As well as cooking, children should also be engaged in hands-on activities with food in environments such as a school garden where they all work together and are responsible for planting, growing, and harvesting food.

He also addressed the change we have been working for with regard to the actual food children are being served in the school cafeteria and touched on what many districts have already done – implemented farm-to-school programs and included foods from local growers, removed the junk and garbage and replaced with real, whole foods. Mr. Pollan did add that the cost would certainly be an issue – and I respectfully disagree, as we have already been shown in the Two Angry Moms film how various school districts have made successful changes without raising the cost of meals. But the fact that he gave such a thoughtful answer to an issue that truly does affects everyone in our nation, with the supporting applause from the audience, told me that this problem is indeed something that is close to many people’s hearts and concerns. He made us feel that if we work together and continue to educate about issues in our food supply, eventually the consciousness of its significance will be something we can no longer ignore. We must step up and fight for the change we need and want, plain and simple.

It is inspiring to see an individual such as Mr. Pollan, who is clearly engaged and interested in an issue worth talking and doing something about, willing to put his research and word out for the public to evaluate. We need more people like him in the world. Keep up the good work, Michael!

For more information about teaching children about food in schools, visit Food In Schools.

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Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Do you tend to get sick a  lot during fall and winter months? Many people believe that merely washing your hands more often should do the trick to keep illnesses away. But actually, there are many other factors which come into play toward keeping healthy. Whether you are a person who tends to catch every cold or flu that comes along or just get sick once in awhie, here are some tips that really work for keeping away bacteria, illnesses, and viruses:

  • Avoid eating processed foods and refined sugars Fall and winter months are times when people tend to eat more sugary and processed foods due to holiday activities and gatherings. Sugar is a poison to your body and lowers immune system function. This includes foods such as crackers, chips, most breads, bagels, pastas, cookies, desserts, candy, juice, soda pop, and other related items. All of these items contribute to lowered immune system function and poor health. A good rule of thumb to follow – if it is not a whole food, avoid eating it regularly. Load up on real, raw, whole foods for snacks and meals alike.
  • Continue to eat plenty of organic, pesticide-free fresh fruits and vegetables — especially those in season in your local area. Vegetables and fruits are high in nutrients and antioxidants which help thwart the development of disease and illness.
  • Drink plenty of filtered water (mineral water is a plus) Keep a glass container with you throughout the day and sip frequently rather than trying to gulp down many ounces at a time spread farther apart. Avoid plastic containers, tap water, and bottled water. Tap water contains toxins and plastic contains pthalates – both of which supress immune system and health.
  • Make sure you are taking good-quality supplements to fill in the holes where your diet leaves off Whole-food based, organically produced vitamins and nutrients are the best variety. Don’t skimp on this important component of your health and purchase cheap varieties of these items. Ask a qualified health care practitioner to recommend something for your individual needs.
  • Eat real, fermented foods like home-made yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut If you do not want to make your own yogurt, Stonyfield Farm and Brown Cow (grass-fed!) whole milk yogurts are good store-bought brands. If you have a Whole Foods in your area, try TradersPoint Creamery yogurt – also grass-fed and absolutely delicious.
  • Be certain to take a good probiotic each day – especially if you are lacking fermented foods Good brands include Biotics ResearchNature’s Life liquid probiotics (great for kids), Bio Kult, and Prescript-Assist for especially low immune function.
  • Be certain to get enough fiber daily or take a good quality supplement from a whole food source It goes without saying to eat plenty of organic fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of whole, sprouted, and soaked grains. Good fiber supplement brands include Sonne’s, and Colon Plus by Biotics Research. Digestive enzymes are a plus as well as they provide digestive enzymes to make certain your food is properly digested and absorbed – this is especially true if you have weak digestion and need additional support (many people have poor digestive tract function from processed diets). A good brand is Digest Gold by Enzymedica. Remember — health begins and ends in the digestive tract; if you are not eating healthy foods, your health will suffer!
  • Be certain to obtain essential fatty acids in your diet and take fish oil daily (good source of Vitamin D) Eat grass-fed meats, pasture-raised eggs, raw dairy, and safe-source fish. Good supplement brands include SIBU, Carlson’s Fish Oil, and Green Pasture’s (fermented fish oil with real, grass-fed butter oil). Good sources of other EFAs include healthy oils like cold-pressed flax seed oil and coconut oil. A good brand is Udo’s Organic 3-6-9.  Read this FAQ about why people need good essential fatty acid support.
  • Use healthy oils and fats for consumption and cooking – real, organic butter (grass-fed and raw is a plus), extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oils, coconut oils, palm oil, and healthy animal fats from organic, grass-fed sources such as lard, tallow, and drippings from those same types of animal meats.
  • Watch intake of alcoholic beverages, which tend to increase during holiday months Drinking excess alcohol can have adverse affects on appetite, blood sugar, blood pressure and cardiovascular function, metabolic processes, and weight. If you are a binge drinker during special occasions, cut yourself off after two drinks and make certain you are eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water at the same time. Consider unpasteurized beer and wine.
  • Make sure you are getting adequate rest and not overextending yourself If necessary, say no to extra tasks that you know you really won’t have time or energy to accomplish. Stay home on a night where you might normally go out and rest, relax, catch up, and go to bed early. Go to bed by 10 p.m.
  • Set aside time for some regular exercise, preferably outdoors In the colder months people tend to go to health clubs more. Many more germs and toxins lurk indoors during colder months, so bundle up and go for a walk, hike, or bike ride. You’ll be pleased with how exhilarated you feel afterward. If you are a winter sport enthusiast, get out on the slopes and go skiing, snowshoeing, or snowboarding. If you are an equine enthusiast, make time to get out on your horse or a friend’s mount during weather that is not icy.
  • Set aside time for contemplation, stress reduction, and relaxation Whether that is a hot bath, a massage, tai chi, yoga, stretching, meditation or some other method you prefer, make sure you give yourself this time to recharge.
  • If you do get sick, load up on probiotics, vegetables, fruits, other raw foods, and everything else mentioned above Take time to pamper yourself (but not with toxic products that contain harmful chemicals – remember -read labels and if you cannot pronounce something or don’t know what it is, avoid!), rest, and put off things that aren’t necessary so you can get back to a state of health quicker and easier.
  • Avoid taking pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics These substances rarely help your body to heal sooner, are over-prescribed, and actually cause nutrient depletion and lowered immune system function by wiping out friendly bacteria that is vital to health. For information on nutrient depletion caused by drugs, read Supplement Your Prescription: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition by Dr. Hyla Cass, M.D.
  • If you cannot shake a cold, flu, or illness, consider visiting an alternative health care practitioner such as  a chiropractor, naturopathic physician, or other qualified individual These practitioners are often very successful in alleviating health issues and perform treatment based on the cause of the problem rather than just treating symptoms.

If you maintain a good schedule of eating healthy, avoiding processed foods and beverages, take proper supplementation, obtain moderate activity, exercise, rest, and relaxation, you will notice an enormous improvement in the way your health responds. You will have more energy, feel more productive, and avoid catching flus and colds.

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