Simple Precautions to Avoid E Coli
Twice a year or so a massive e coli outbreak affecting many states serves as a reminder we must divest ourselves as much as possible from industrialized food. It's a broken system that comes with a lot of convenience ... and a lot of problems.
E coli results when food comes into contact with fecal bacteria. E coli can make you very very sick. You know the symptoms: stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, sometimes life threatening complications.
Greens are a big offender—lettuce, spinach, romaine go through many touch points in their circuitous journey from farm to table. Boxing, shipping, storing, washing, chopping, packaging, often in bags that include other salad mixes from other farms. Any of these touch points could be the culprit of the contamination.
So how do you avoid it?
* Whenever possible get food from as close to the source as you can. Better yet, grow it yourself.
* Wash your hands, thoroughly and often, especially after using the bathroom, and contact with animals and babies.
* Cook meats thoroughly.
* Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices.
* Avoid ingesting water from lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
* Be careful in the kitchen. Thoroughly wash food preparation areas, counters, cutting boards, utensils after they touch raw meat.
* Wash greens well under running water, even if the package says the produce was prewashed.
* Avoid packaged greens.
* Pay attention to recalls.
For more on food safety, check in with foodsafety.gov, which combines information from the CDC, FDA and USDA.
Source: “How to avoid getting sick from E. coli,” by Melissa Breyer, May 1, 2018. https://www.treehugger.com/health/how-avoid-e-coli.html
Tea is Magical Juice
More than just a comfortable habit, science has shown that sipping tea throughout the day improves and prolongs creative performance.
A group of researchers from Peking University recently published a study called "Drinking tea improves the performance of divergent creativity" in the journal Food Quality and Preference.
The team arranged two experiments, each with a group of university students who were asked to drink either tea or water upon entering the facility, but did not know that drinking had anything to do with the experiments. In both experiments, the tea drinkers performed better than the water drinkers. To sum up the study, the researchers wrote: "It seems that drinking tea has a solid and consistent positive effect on all kinds of creativity. More importantly, the effect of tea on creativity appears to last for a long period of time."
This prolongation of creativity could be due to the presence of theanine, an ingredient in tea that "facilitates long-term sustained attentional processing rather than short-term moment-to-moment attentional processing."
Tea, said to be the most popular drink in the world, is known to be beneficial for many reasons, from enhancing calm to inducing a positive mood to improving digestion. So the idea of boosting creativity is not a huge stretch. It's just nice to know it's now official.
Nix Tea Bags
I was surprised to learn that tea bags contain up to 25% plastic, raising concerns about personal health as well as environmental consequences. Adding plastic to your body burden is something entirely within your control, and can have dire consequences as the synthetic chemicals build up in your body.
Tea bags are a relatively new phenomenon. They were invented during WW2 as a way to use up tea dust that developed when the weight of bags of tea sitting on loading docks waiting to be shipped crushed tea in the lower bags. What to do with the tea dust? Mix it with better grade tea and put it in a tea bag, then sell it as a cheaper grade tea.
Today, manufacturers add plastic polymers to seal and help bags keep their shape while steeping. Although the individual quantities are relatively small, the amount of plastic adds up to an enormous amount that is either contaminating food, compost, or simply going to the landfill.
Best advice is to rip open the used tea bags before composting the tea, and discard the bag. But this hardly addresses the problem. Personally, I don't like the idea of pouring boiling water over polyethylene and sipping the resulting beverage.
There is a convenient alternative: use loose leaf tea in a metal strainer. Not only is it greener, but it tastes far better.
Source: “Will you take plastic with your tea?” by Katherine Martinko. February 23, 2018. https://www.treehugger.com/green-home/do-you-take-plastic-your-tea.html
Drink Quality Coffee
Instant coffee can contain acrylamide, a chemical compound linked to cancer in animal studies. The chemical has also been found to cause nerve damage, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Research on the effects of acrylamide is still preliminary, but it has been confirmed that ground, filtered coffee contains smaller amounts of the chemical than instant coffee does. Besides, ground filtered coffee—especially when it comes from a quality source and is freshly roasted—just tastes better.
So, for your health, don’t drink instant coffee.
Avoid Washed, Precut Produce
We’ve gotten used to the convenience of mass-produced food – bagged salad and boxed salads, precut fruits and bullet-shaped carrots—but is it worth the risk? Precut produce has a larger carbon footprint, isn't necessarily cleaner, and is more expensive. More importantly from a personal point of view, it's not healthy, either.
"The problem arises from both handling and surface area; the more a food item is handled and processed, the more likely it is that the item will come into contact with germs," reported MORE magazine. "The more food is cut or sliced, the more surface area it has, meaning germs can cling to more places. Although the risk of contracting any foodborne illness is relatively small, pre-grated cheese, precut salad, and pre-chopped onions are all riskier than the whole, unadulterated versions of the same foods. The FDA recommends washing all precut and pre-bagged produce just as you would wash whole foods, so buying them preprepared doesn’t really save as much time as you’d think."
Best to buy unwashed, uncut produce in small amounts and eat it within three to four days to reduce the risk for listeria, a deadly bug that grows at refrigerator temps.
Don’t Waste Food.
Know How to Cook.
Food waste expert Jonathan Bloom argues that Americans need to stop relying on expiration dates and start using their senses. Expiration dates ore in part responsible for America’s huge food waste problem. We throw out nearly half of our food. It’s shameful waste.
Journalist Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Its Food, argues that until people start using their senses to detect whether or not food is still safe to eat, labels won’t make much difference. We should not rely on companies to tell us when to eat our food. We should determine that by how it looks, smells, or tastes.
The problem, Bloom says, is that we as a culture lack kitchen knowledge and confidence, therefore we don’t respect our food. Until we learn about foods’ natural life spans, how to store them, and how to detect wonkiness, we’ll continue to waste food.
My grandmother always ignored expiration dates. She taught me to cut blue mold off a block of cheese, to scoop out mold from a jar of jam or container of yogurt, to pick through a bunch of lettuce, taking out the mushy black leaves and using the rest. She used milk that had gone sour for baking, tossed limp spinach into soups, reconstituted soft celery in ice water, and cut the rotten spots out of peppers, cucumbers, apples, and oranges. Even meat that was starting to smell a bit, she’d slice up and fry in a hot pan. Maybe that was risky, but we never got sick.
It all comes down to learning how to cook. Cooking from scratch on a regular basis solves so many of today’s personal dietary, financial, environmental, and ethical dilemmas. Learn how to cook and you’ll never need to look at an expiration date again. You'll use your god-given senses, instead.
Source: Permission pending to excerpt from http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/expiry-dates-are-pointless-when-you-know-how-cook.html
How to Read Egg Labels
Egg labels are extremely confusing because there is little regulation or enforcement behind them. This allows producers to greenwash their products, portraying them as greener and more humane than they really are.
The most confusing label, one that doesn’t mean much at all, is “cage-free.” Cage-free doesn’t mean hens get to roam open-air pastures; in fact, their lives are still quite miserable. Cage-free simply means that the hens are not kept in battery cages, which allot a pitiful 67 square inches of space, little more than a sheet of paper, per bird. Cage-free birds are allowed to practice natural behaviors, such as spreading their wings, walking, and laying their eggs in a nest, but they are still confined to over-crowded industrial barns and do not have access to the outdoors.
Better terms to look for are “certified organic,” “free range” or “free roaming,” and “pasture raised.” All of these terms mean the chickens are uncaged, allowed to walk free and engage in natural behaviors, and have access to the outdoors.
Designations with no relevance to animal welfare include “vegetarian fed,” “natural,” “farm fresh,” “fertile,” “omega 3 enriched,” and “pasturized.” If possible, it’s best to source eggs from someone you know—a local farmer or farmers’ market. But be prepared to pay more—between 4 and 6 dollars per dozen.
Source: “Trader Joe’s is Sued for Deceptive Advertising on Egg Cartons.” Katherine Martinko, Treehugger, April 4, 2018.
Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Cancer
New research by a group of scientists at the Sorbonne in Paris reveals what many of us have likely assumed: Ultra-processed foods increase the risk of cancer. Researchers also looked to see whether there were increases in specific types of cancer and found a rise of 11% in breast cancer, although no significant upturn in colorectal or prostate cancer.
Researchers defined “ultra-processed” as those foods with five or more ingredients. Typical ultra-processed products include: carbonated drinks; packaged snacks; ice-cream, candies; mass-produced breads and buns; margarines and spreads; cookies, pastries, cakes, and cake mixes; breakfast cereals, cereal and energy bars; energy drinks; milk drinks, sweetened yogurts and fruit drinks; cocoa drinks; meat and chicken extracts and instant sauces; infant formulas; "health" and slimming products such as powdered or fortified meal and dish substitutes; and many ready-to-heat products including pre-prepared pies and pasta and pizza dishes; poultry and fish nuggets and sticks, sausages, burgers, hot dogs, and other reconstituted meat products, and powdered and packaged instant soups, noodles and desserts.
“We have to be cautious," the lead researcher stresses. "It is the first study. We should not be alarmist. These results need to be confirmed in other prospective studies.”
The most prudent thing to do is to opt for water, milk, and fruits instead of soft drinks, dairy drinks, and biscuits. Do not replace freshly prepared dishes with packaged snacks and soups, instant noodles, pre-prepared frozen dishes, sandwiches, cold cuts and sausages, industrialised sauces, and cake mixes.
Remember the golden rule: Always prefer natural or minimally processed foods and freshly made dishes and meals to ultra-processed products.
Source: “Ultra-processed food linked to cancer,” by Melissa Breyer, treehugger.com. https://www.treehugger.com/health/ultra-processed-foods-linked-cancer.html
Five Ways to Save on Organic
Organic food is generally more expensive than conventional, because of differences in production and handling, according to the Department of Agriculture. Still, it is possible to buy organic more cheaply. Here’s how:
(1) Buy organic when it matters. Opt for organic for fruits and veggies that have the highest pesticide residues. This includes green beans, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, tangerines, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. Buy organic meat and poultry that is grass-fed and raised without hormones and antibiotics.
(2) Compare prices. It’s possible to find organic products for the same prices as conventional ones, and occasionally for less. You just need to do your homework and compare prices.
(3) Seek out store brands. According to the market research firm Nielsen, a market basket of selected organic store-label products costs 10% less than the comparable brand-name versions.
(4) Look in the freezer case. Frozen organic vegetables may actually be cheaper than fresh, and the nutritional quality is similar.
(5) Check the weight. When organic produce is sold pre-packaged at a set price rather than by the pound, it’s worth taking the time to weigh a few packages. The amount in the package may exceed the weight listed.
So, make your food dollars go farther. Be smart when shopping for organic.
Source: Consumer Reports, February, 2018, page 27.
What’s The Best Way to
Now that we're well into apple season, you should know how to get rid of pesticide residues.
How do you wash your apples? Everyone has a favorite technique, from rinsing under a tap to rubbing vigorously with a cloth to soaking in a special cleaning solution. But which one of these is actually most effective at getting rid of pesticide residues? Scientists from the University of Massachusetts answered this question once and for all.
Researchers sprayed organic Gala apples with two pesticides commonly used in the apple industry, then let the apples sit for 24 hours before washing them in one of three different solutions -- a plain water solution, a bleach solution, and another water solution containing 1% soda. They found that baking soda was the best way to get rid of pesticides. Their recommended recipe is mixing 1 teaspoon baking soda in 2 cups of water, leaving the apples to soak for 15 minutes.
Worth noting is that this study only used two pesticides, whereas the apple industry has many more on its list of acceptable chemicals. Some of these penetrate deeply into the fruit, in which case you will not be able to remove them no matter how well you wash them. Peeling is another effective way to reduce pesticide exposure, but then you lose out on the fiber and vitamins in the skin. Buying organic is your best bet for reducing exposure to chemicals, although even organic apples can be sprayed with certain pesticides, usually natural ones, according to the National Pesticide Information Center.
Source: Excerpted from https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/whats-best-way-wash-apples.html
Choose the Right Grain
No doubt about it, for energy as well as for healthy digestion, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. What makes one breakfast healthier than another? Is oatmeal better for you than Cheerios? What about fiber, sugar, minerals? This article from The New York Times answers these questions. Read on.
Is Your Drinking Water is Safe?
In an analysis of tests conducted from 2010 to 2015, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found drinking water for more than 170 million Americans contains radioactive elements at levels that may increase the risk of cancer.
Radiation in tap water is a serious health threat, especially during pregnancy. But the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal limits for several types of radioactive elements in tap water are badly outdated.
Radiation in tap water isn't the only concern when it comes to drinking water. When I checked EWG's water database, I discovered that for the latest quarter assessed by the EPA, tap water provided by the water utility in my hometown of Des Moines was in violation of several federal health-based drinking water standards. Ten contaminants were detected above health guidelines, and 11 other contaminants were detected that are not required by law to be tested.
The good news is that a carbon filter can improve water quality of all of these contaminants. Carbon filters (either pitcher or tap-mounted) are affordable and reduce many common water contaminants. If your budget allows, install a reverse osmosis system to remove contaminants that carbon filters can't eliminate. Just remember to change the filters on time. Old filters can harbor bacteria and let contaminants through.
I have two whole house water filters on my house--one is carbon and one is reverse osmosis. I have the carbon filters changed annually and the reverse osmosis filter changed every five years. Iowa Soft Water installed the filters and maintains them for me.
Read EWG’s latest report and use their interactive map to see if your water system is affected. Go to ewg.org. While you’re at it, download EWG’s Guide to Safe Drinking Water.