Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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GMO Food – You Don’t Want to Eat It! August 1, 2009

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 8:17 am
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Do you know what GMO foods are?  GMO stands for “genetically modified organisms.”   They are genetically modified, scientifically created foods that are unnatural at their core.  You know, like where they alter the food at the DNA level to create a corn that manufactures its own pesticides….

Sounds odd, but actually, according to the FDA, 75 percent of processed food in the United States may contain GMOs.  Gee, that’s a lot.  And, you wouldn’t know it.  There are no labeling laws.  Unless your processed food is certified organic, it probably contains some GMO ingredients.  Another reason to skip those chips and cookies!

Should you care?  Yes!  There is very limited science being the safety of GMO.  What little there is was sponsored by GMO growers…. or raises some bright red flags.  That’s why 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, have significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs.  They are not considered safe.  Yet, in the US, it’s no big deal. 

Animals have to be forced fed to eat GMO.  Something about the food causes their instincts to reject it.  Nevertheless, animals have been force-fed the foods for scientific studies.  Here are some red flags from  “Just Say No to GMO” by Dr. Joseph Pizzorno:

• A preliminary study from the Russian National Academy of Sciences [found] that more than half the offspring of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks (compared to 9% from mothers fed natural soy).
• [An] estimated 10,000 sheep died in India within 5-7 days of grazing on GM cotton plants engineered to produce their own Bt-toxin pesticide.
• The only human GM feeding study ever published show[ed] that the foreign genes inserted into GM food cropscan transfer into the DNA of our gut bacteria. This study gives new meaning to the adage, “You are what you eat.” Long after those GM corn chips you munched are history, your intestinal flora may still be churning out the “Bt” pesticide GM corn plants have been engineered to produce.
 

What to do?  Here are some tips from Healthy Child Healthy World:

• Check food labels for soy-, corn- and cottonseed-based additives, most likely to be genetically engineered.
• Buy 100% certified organic especially for corn, soy, potato and animal products.
• Choose a wide variety of fresh, whole foods over processed foodsthat are likely to contain bioengineered additives. Check the PLU code on produce to identify if it’s genetically engineered. PLUs consist of 4 to 5 numbers (4 numbers = conventional produce, 5 numbers starting with 9 = organic produce, 5 numbers starting with 8 = genetically engineered produce).

• Look for the Non-GMO Project verified label (visit their website to find products they have tested).
• Buy locally grown produce from farmers’ markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms where you can talk to the producer.
• Prepare meals at home so you know exactly what you are eating.

 

But What about My Tuna Sandwich? May 7, 2009

Filed under: Breastfeeding,Healthy Living,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 3:04 pm
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Let’s face it, when most of us eat fish… it’s tuna from a can.  Since eating DHA-rich fish is so important for our health – especially if we’re pregnant, nursing or feeding a young child – a cursory reading of my last post may send you to the cupboard for some tuna.

STOP!  Did you know that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) strongly recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women and children under 5  “not eat albacore tuna at all, because a significant portion of albacore tuna has very high mercury levels.”  Basing their conclusions on the FDA’s own guidelines for what constitutes a safe amount of mercury, the EWG warns, “People eating this tuna will exceed safe exposure levels by a wide margin.”  And, what about light tuna?  We don’t know.  Light tuna contains less mercury, but no one (including the FDA) has determined what amount is safe for pregnant women.

You can get all the details at EWG’s Tuna Calculator.  The calculator will determine how much tuna you can safely eat, based on your weight, if you’re NOT pregnant, nursing or a child under 5.

P.S.  Need another reason to ditch the canned tuna?  It’s CANNED.  Canned foods are lined with BPA-tainted plastic.  Yup, virtually all of them!  Only a very, very few brands are starting to use non-BPA can linings, but they’re few and far between and very hard to find in your local store.

 

The Dish on Fish: Safe Sources of DHA without the Mercury May 5, 2009

Filed under: Breastfeeding,Healthy Living,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 8:23 pm
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Be sure to eat lots of fish… it’s the best, whole-food source of omega-3 fatty acids (like DHA).  DHA is essential for your baby’s developing brain (whether you’re pregnant, nursing or feeding a toddler) and essential for your psychiatric health. 

Don’t eat fish…it’s contaminated with mercury, a potent neurotoxin that’s especially dangerous for the young brain.  Plus, fish farming practices vary wildly, with some taking a serious toll on the environment.

So, what do you do?  We know that fish is good for us, but we don’t know what kind of fish to eat, how it was farmed/caught or how much is really safe to consume.  If you’re tempted to avoid fish altogether to save yourself the hassle, think again.  “Research coming out of the most recent American Dietetic Association Annual Conference reported on studies that revealed a “no sea food diet” during pregnancy resulted in children with low verbal IQ, low social development, and poor peer interactions. Women who were DHA deficient were found to be more anxious and distressed” (Fishing For Omega-3 Fatty Acids).

Fortunately, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” program produces a handy little pocket guide, filled with up-to-date info.  It’s even organized by region, so that it lists seafood commonly found in your area.  What are you waiting for? Print your free Seafood Watch Pocket Guide and start making smart choices for your family.  Be sure to note that choices marked with an asteric (*) are likely to be contaminated with mercury.  With plenty of other, safer options available – I say skip those altogether!

 

Organic: A Choice for our Children April 6, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living,Healthy Living — Rachel @ 7:54 pm
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What parent would turn down the chance to give a child delicious, healthy food that is convenient, a good money value, that the child loves – and then responds with a, “Thank you, Mommy, that was great! May I help clean up?”

In practice, though, many powerful forces determine our food choices. Our children have tasted artificially flavored, partially hydrogenated, day-glow snack foods and clamor for more. Our kids tell us that their friends’ “parents let them eat” the latest processed food fashion. Huge sums of money pay for artists, musicians, toy manufacturers, psychologists, and marketers to work together to carefully manipulate your child’s food preferences.

We’re busy and want something simple, quick, and preferably inexpensive. We return to the ruts of the unhealthy foods we ate ourselves as kids or that we know our own kids will like. We feel guilty because of our busy lifestyles and don’t want to say “no” to our kids – especially if it means yet another battle.

And the last straw – we hear conflicting information about what is healthy. High carb or low carb? Low fat is good for kids. Low fat is bad for kids. Sugar doesn’t affect behavior. Sugar causes ADHD . Aspartame is totally safe. Airplane pilots aren’t allowed to eat foods containing aspartame because it affects their judgment.

Phew! What’s a parent to do? Thankfully, making healthier food choices is simple and clear. Increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet makes the diet healthier. Especially in our antibiotic-flooded age, eating foods that contain live active cultures of beneficial bacteria makes our diet healthier. Decreasing artificial chemicals in the diet and the environment, makes us all healthier.

Nutrition is not an all-or-none activity. The goal is to keep making choices that make the diet a little better.

A Stitch in Time
DDT used in the United States before 1966 may have caused an epidemic of premature births that has only now been detected! According to a fascinating study published in the July 14, 2001 issue of The Lancet, scientists who studied stored cord blood samples from mothers who had delivered at that time found elevated levels of DDT breakdown products among the group who had premature deliveries or low birth weight infants. This would make DDT responsible for a host of medical problems and the deaths of many children – but the link wasn’t proven until more than 30 years later! DDT use in the United States was stopped in 1972 because it caused reproductive damage to birds (the bald eagle and brown pelican were nearly extinct), but DDT is still widely used in developing countries for insect control. I’m certain that the dangers of some chemicals in common use in the United States today will be proven in the future. I believe that toxic chemicals are one of the biggest health threats to our children. We may not prove the links until they are grown, but we must not wait until then to provide them with safe food, water, air, homes, and schools.

On a personal note, my wife has now recovered from a very malignant form of breast cancer. She has no family history of the disease, but toxic chemicals were used on her farm when she was a child.

What we now call ‘conventional farming’ is actually something very new. In the 20th century, our naïve optimism about science led to the over-exuberant use of antibiotics, infant formulas, surgery, pesticides, hormones, and fossil fuels. It’s time to bring this back into balance.

Organic food has long been the standard for human nutrition. In contrast, many chemicals and hormones introduced post World War II do not have proven long-term safety. Some of them may be fine. Time will tell. I prefer organic for children where there is a good choice.

An excerpt of an article written by Alan Greene, MD, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, Attending Pediatrician at Packard Children’s Hospital, and Senior Fellow at the University California San Francisco Center for the Health Professions. He is also founder of DrGreene.com and author of Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care.

Courtesy of Healthy Child Healthy World: a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit inspiring parents to protect young children from harmful chemicals.

 

Mercury, Fish and Pregnancy – The FDA Scandal December 18, 2008

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 4:21 pm
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Have you heard the latest sad story about corruption in the FDA?  Here’s an excerpt from the good folks at the Environmental Working Group:

On Friday, December 12, the Environmental Working Group made public internal government documents disclosing the Food and Drug Administration‘s secret plans to reverse federal warnings that pregnant women and children limit their fish intake to avoid mercury, a neurotoxin especially dangerous to the fetus and infants… The Washington Post broke the story, and other national stories followed.

Reaction from Capitol Hill was swift and sharp. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT., denounced the FDA: “Now, in the administration’s 11th hour, they are quietly trying to water down advisories for women and children about the dangers of mercury in fish, disregarding sound scienceon this issue. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin capable of impairing childhood development at very low levels.”

I read the full Washington Post story, and the whole situation is just sad.  The last thing that pregnant woman need is more ambiguity about what is or is not safe to consume while pregnant.  I absolutely agree that pregnant and nursing women (and young children – ok, all of us) should severely limit consumption of fish known to carry dangerous amounts of mercury.  In fact, after doing some research I didn’t eat tuna at all during those critical times.  And, now, I still don’t eat canned tuna because all tuna cans are lined with BPA-emitting plastic.  It’s just not worth a tuna sandwich!

It’s true that fish is a unique source of extremely important omega-3 fatty acids, which are rare in the average American diet.  These omega-3’s are important for brain growth.  BUT, you can provide these nutrients for your family with a high-quality fish oil supplement (we use Nordic Naturals), by eating wild-caught Alaskan salmon (which is unlikely to contain mercury) and by eating walnuts, another food packed with omega-3 fatty acids.

 

Simple Habits to Keep the Toxins out of your Food November 20, 2008

Filed under: Healthy Living,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 10:00 pm
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Choose organic, eat whole foods, avoid bad ingredients… but there’s more to the story.  What you do with your groceries in the kitchen can also contaminate your food.  And, I’m not talking about bacteria contamination.  We’re all pretty savvy about using different cutting boards for meat vs. vegetables.  Let’s talk about chemicals.

Get plastics out of the kitchen as much as possible.  Store food in glass.  Mix food in glass or stainless steel.  Don’t use cling wrap, which is made with PVC (type 3 BAD plastic).  When it’s not made with PVC, it’s not very clingy.  We’ll have to try to learn how to use wax paper and butcher paper again!

And, don’t cook in Teflon or non-stick coated cookware!  The verdict is in that PFOA (a chemical used to make Teflon and other non-stick surfaces) is a likely human carcinogen per the EPA.  When heated, particles are emitted and can cause eye and respiratory inflammation (not to mention kill your pet bird – I’m serious).  Safe cookware options include stainless steel, anodized aluminum, copper-coated, cast iron and enamel-coated iron, according to “Healthy Child, Healthy World.”  My in-laws recently purchased Green Pan non-stick cookware to replace their Teflon pans.  The non-stick inside of the pan is ceramic, and they seem to work very well. 

If you can’t change everything at once, just take small steps.  Next time you need some cling wrap, buy up some butcher paper.  Next time you throw out some nasty, stained Tupperware, buy some Pyrex glass storage containers!

Does it Matter?

People tend to wonder how much little changes like these really will make to their health.  The reality is we don’t know.  There is precious little research available about the cumulative effect of the countless chemical toxins (known to be carcinogenic and/or hormone-disrupting) in the modern American lifestyle.  But the lack of research isn’t very comforting, is it? And with the state of health in our country and the fact that our children face a statistical likelihood of living shorter lives than our own, it’s high time we take things seriously.   Even one carcinogen is too much in my opinion, even more so if you’re pregnant or feeding a little one!

 

Healthy Food Choices: Ingredients to Avoid November 17, 2008

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 6:04 pm
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Have you seen those commercials about high-fructose corn syrup?  The ones that actually imply that high-fructose corn syrup is just fine since it originates as corn!?!  The commercials would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that Americans are so confused about making healthy food choices that some may be won-over by the commercials. 

With all of the healthy eating diets and theories out there, it’s not hard to understand why we’re confused.  But, if you step back and look at the big picture, there is one over-riding principle when it comes to separating the junk from the nutrition: eat food that’s as close to it’s original form as possible. That is, eat corn, not high-fructose corn syrup. Nina Planck’s book Real Food: What to Eat and Why is my favorite food wisdom resource. Here’s a quick bit of advice for evaluating food options at the grocery store.

Ingredients to Avoid

  • Pesticides: Yup, if you buy conventional produce, you’ve got to realize the insect poison is on your menu.  These poisons are linked to asthma, luekemia and cancer.  Is it surprising that poisons wreak havac on little children’s bodies?
  • Preservatives:  If you buy more fresh, whole foods you’ll avoid preservatives naturally.  But, when buying prepared foods like breads avoid BHA and BHT.  Both have been linked to cancer.
  • Artificial Sweetners & Flavors: Artificial is not good.  Ever.  Big-business likes to come up with “new” sweetners such as Aspartame, Nutrasweet/Equal,  Saccharine/Sweet n’low, and Sucralose/Splenda.  Don’t be fooled.  Artificial sweetners usually turn out to be worse than normal sugar, once the lab studies catch up with production.
  • Corn Syrup/High-fructose Corn Syrup:  Yes, it comes from corn, but by the time they’ve processed it to this point, your body can’t digest it like a normal food.  Both have been linked to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.
  • Trans Fats/Partially Hydrogenated Oils:  Recently our society has officially “condemned” these ingredients, but they’re still in many processed foods in the grocery store.  They contribute to heart disease and high cholesterol.
  • Sodium Nitrates:  These are found in deli meats, hot dogs, sausage and bacon.  Sodium nitrates cause cancer.  Many nitrate-free products are available, when you’ve just got to have that deli sandwich.
  • MSG/Hydrolized Protein:  This is a cheap flavoring that’s been shown to directly attack neurons.   MSG can cause a range of responses from headaches to shortness of breath to a racing heart.
  •  Caffeine:  With a high/low rollercoaster effect much like sugar, it’s wise to avoid caffeine in chocolate and tea as possible.  Make sweets a “special treat”, not an everyday occurance.