My husband always gives me a hard time because I HATE promoting myself. I'll tell you all about my favorite book or movie, but will forget to tell you I just published a book myself. Well, that said, I did just publish a new book and I'll tell you, it's pretty awesome. I say that because it includes just about everything covered in this entire blog (over 200 posts) in a cohesive manner. It also has over 50 recipes from my absolute favorite meal planner, Jennifer Brewer, as well as a 30-day meal plan. It's everything I wished my first little book, The UnDiet, had been. You can preview the first 40 pages on my new website. For the next couple weeks we are having a promotion where we throw in shipping and tax for you and just charge the straight $14.95. Plus I'll sign it for you - which will be worth millions soon! Order it here.
The world needs a nutrition superhero, so why not me? I mean aren't obesity, diabetes, and cancer more of a threat than the Sandman or Joker? Let's see how much fun learning about nutrition can be-
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"The more time a nation devotes to food preparation in the home, the lower its rate of obesity. In fact, the amount of time spent cooking predicts obesity rates more reliably than female participation in the work force or income." (italics mine) -- Michael Pollan, The New York Times Magazine, Aug. 2, 2009.
If any of you had the chance to peruse this article by Michael Pollan, you would find it ironic how today Americans spend more time than ever watching cooking shows on T.V., yet spend less time than ever actually cooking (average time is 27 minutes in a day, less than half of what it was in the 1960's). Even though I don't have cable T.V., I am aware that not only do we have an entire channel devoted to cooking shows, but now "reality" cooking shows as well. In fact, we now have a Hollywood movie about a cooking personality (inspired by Julia Childs).
I was raised in what is now called a "second-wave" feminist household. My mother, influenced by Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, believed that cooking was somewhat beneath her - not to mention a pain in the keister. Although she also realized cooking was downright necessary if she wanted the family to eat healthfully and not blow wads of money. Because she worked, she shared this "chore" with my father 50%/50%, which worked pretty well. It also helped that my parents strongly disliked the taste of fast food.
I find that I often have the same feelings as my mother about cooking: it's time-consuming (factor in the meal-planning, grocery shopping and clean-up), and somewhat mindless. I mean, I have a Master's degree from a prestigious East Coast university - shouldn't I be using all that knowledge to earn more money and climb ladders?
Here's where my mom and I differ. I've learned that my attitude toward cooking - and all the work that entails - is ultimately a choice. I don't like being so busy that I can't think. Cooking doesn't have to be a chore, but rather an art that allows me to relax and focus on what's in my hands. And of course, having a background in nutrition is a strong reinforcement as to what happens when we don't cook. I don't judge my mother, as I am influenced by the foodie trends as much as she was by the currents of her time.
Cooking shouldn't be a spectator sport. Neither should it be a chore. We simply cannot live without healthy food, and apparently, there's no getting around it. So let's embrace the kitchen as a creative - and quite necessary - part of our home and life.
WOW. You guys are going to love this post - it's a crazy one, and I still can't believe this didn't make the nightly news.
I found this study (published in May 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, see here) that just happened to show exactly what I've been proclaiming about the dangers of supplements.
Here's what went down. This study had 40 men (some athletic, some not) exercise for an ongoing period of time and researchers check their insulin sensitivity (the opposite of insulin resistance). Studies show that our bodies become more sensitive, or receptive, to insulin when we exercise, which is one of the many reasons exercise is so important. Which is what researchers observed in this study in the men who did not take vitamin supplements.
That's right. Half of these men were given vitamin E and C supplements for the duration of the study, the other half took placebo, or "dummy pills". The men who took the supplements had no benefit (in insulin sensitivity) from the same amount of exercise as the men who did not take supplements.
Here's a quote straight from the author of the study: "these findings indicate that physical exercise induces several molecular regulators of insulin sensitivity irrespective of previous training status and that this induction is widely inhibited by antioxidant supplementation". (italics mine)
In other words, antioxidant supplements negate the beneficial effects of exercise when it comes to preventing or managing diabetes!
And if that weren't enough to warrant headlines, researchers also found that the supplements interfered with the body's natural ability to combat free radicals. Now, this is quite ironic, considering that antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C & E are renown for combating free radical damage. This is big news, because free radicals are what cause cancer, cell mutations and plaque that leads to heart disease.
But here's the deal: antioxidant nutrients that come from food DO fight free radicals. When those nutrients are found unnaturally in supplement form (isolated from the other nutrients and compounds in food) they don't. Worse yet, they interfere with our bodies own antioxidant-fighting molecules derived through exercise.
Neither of these findings are brand-spanking new in the scientific community. Supplements don't work like nutrients from food. They don't benefit us: they harm us. (See my past posts on this topic for more info.)
So why on earth are supplement companies making billions of dollars? I know, I know: fear. But don't you think our fear is misplaced? Instead of being afraid of not taking vitamins (and minerals), I think we need to have a healthy fear of the damage they cause. Call me crazy.
So in case you've missed the latest nutrition controversy this summer: a new study (actually a review of previous studies) produced by the Foods Standards Agency in London has concluded that organic foods are no more nutritious than conventional ones.
As you can guess, there has been quite a response by other researchers who find this conclusion preposterous. Here is part of a response by Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association:
"We are disappointed in the conclusions the researchers have reached. The review rejected almost all of the existing studies of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences. This was because these studies did not meet particular criteria fixed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which carried out the review.
"Although the researchers say that the differences between organic and non-organic food are not 'important', due to the relatively few studies, they report in their analysis that there are higher levels of beneficial nutrients in organic compared to non-organic foods. For example, the mean positive difference between the following nutrients, when comparing organic to non-organic food, was found in the FSA study to be:
- Protein 12.7%
- Beta-carotene 53.6%
- Flavonoids 38.4%
- Copper 8.3%
- Magnesium 7.1%
- Phosphorous 6%
- Potassium 2.5%
- Sodium 8.7%
- Sulphur 10.5%
- Zinc 11.3%
- Phenolic compounds 13.2%
Which begs the question, why did writers of this review conclude that organically grown foods are not superior?
In addition, a primary-research study (where researchers do the work themselves, as opposed to reviewing other researchers' studies) done just a year before by The Organic Center found that organically produced crops were significantly higher in antioxidants. In fact, they found "nutrient levels in organic food averaged 25% higher than in conventional food", leading these researchers to conclude that the consumption of organic produce adds enough nutrients to equal an additional serving of fruit or vegetables on an average day.
For those of us scrambling to get our five a day, this is good news. Better yet, it's quite credible if you read the meticulous study that it's derived from (read here).
There are, of course, other factors to consider when looking for the most nutrients, such as freshly-picked/harvested, seasonal and locally-grown produce. Which is why I am such a proponent of Farmer's Market's. But we need to be honest when analyzing organic foods. And honestly, it's worth it.
For more on this subject, please visit my new favorite nutrition/food blog: Summer Tomato.