Are Organic Foods Healthier for You?

May 26, 2010 by Terri  
Filed under Holistic Nutrition

What makes a food product “organic?” Organic foods must meet certain standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, such as being produced without the use of hormones, herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics or fertilizers created with sewer waste or ingredients that aren’t natural.  This alone makes organic foods healthier for you; they have not been contaminated with potentially harmful chemicals during the processing of that item. However, while the USDA certifies organic foods, they don’t claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.

Animal products that are labeled as organic must come from animals that are only feed organic feed, without antibiotics or growth hormones. These animals must also be able to freely roam around outdoors,  rather than be constantly stuck in cages or pens.

One thing you may have noticed about organic foods is that they tend to cost more than conventionally grown foods.  The main reason for the higher prices is that regular food products that are not considered to be organic, are subsidized by the government, making them less expensive to produce and bring to market.  If the government subsidized organically grown foods, very likely the price would be about the same as conventionally grown food. In addition to not being subsidized, without all the commercial pesticides, farmers run a greater risk of losing part, or even all, of their crop.  Then there’s the matter of  not being able to use every acre to grow “cash crops” that bring the highest prices. Organic farmers use crop rotation to keep their soil healthy. So instead of planting crops on every acre every year, they rotate fields and plant “cover crops” that are plowed to improve the soil’s nutrients for the long term.

Organic Food Labeling

Some food products are labeled “100% Organic,” and some are just labeled as being “organic” (meaning they’re at least 95% organic).  Food products that are “made with organic ingredients” contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The organic seal can’t be used on packages that read “made with organic ingredients.”

You may see other terms on food labels, such as “all-natural,” “free-range” (you’ll see this on egg cartons) or “hormone-free.”  Don’t confuse terms like “all natural” with the term “organic.” Only those foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.

Green Tea May Protect Against Glaucoma

May 20, 2010 by Terri  
Filed under Holistic Nutrition

Green tea contains healthful substances that can penetrate eye tissues, raising the possibility that the tea may protect against glaucoma and other eye diseases.

Scientists have confirmed that the healthful substances found in green tea — renowned for their powerful antioxidant and disease-fighting properties — do penetrate into tissues of the eye. Their new report, the first documenting how the lens, retina, and other eye tissues absorb these substances, raises the possibility that green tea may protect against glaucoma and other common eye diseases. It appears in ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Chi Pui Pang and colleagues point out that so-called green tea “catechins” have been among a number of antioxidants thought capable of protecting the eye. Those include vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Until now, however, nobody knew if the catechins in green tea actually passed from the stomach and gastrointestinal tract into the tissues of the eye.

Pang and his colleagues resolved that uncertainty in experiments with laboratory rats that drank green tea. Analysis of eye tissues showed beyond a doubt that eye structures absorbed significant amounts of individual catechins. The retina, for example, absorbed the highest levels of gallocatechin, while the aqueous humor tended to absorb epigallocatechin. The effects of green tea catechins in reducing harmful oxidative stress in the eye lasted for up to 20 hours. “Our results indicate that green tea consumption could benefit the eye against oxidative stress,” the report concludes.

FULL TEXT ARTICLE
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/jf9032602

How to Brew Green Tea

Research suggests that brewing green tea a certain way can increase the antioxidant content.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE:
This pages focuses on brewing loose leaf green tea.

From Consumerism to Sustainability

May 17, 2010 by Terri  
Filed under Pastiche

Did anyone notice when luxury items became necessities?  One prime example is a cell phone.  I hate talking on cell phones and use mine only when absolutely necessary.  That equates to one or two calls a month; if that many.  My family and friends know that it’s an exercise in futility to try to reach me on my cell phone, unless it’s a matter of life and death.

Another example of what  was once a luxury item is Internet connection. It doesn’t seem that long ago when we thought having a dial-up internet connection was a luxury item.  Now high-speed internet connection/Wi-Fi is a necessity… as is processed convenient foods, disposable diapers, hair/clothes dryers, and for the vast majority of kids; iPod, iTouch, iTunes and now the iPad.  Consumerism has propelled us  from an iNeed culture to an iMustHave culture.

It’s been said that “comparison leads to unhappiness.”  If that’s true, then, for the most part, we will always be unhappy since there will always be some “New and Improved” item that we will want to have because someone else has it. And, being creatures of habit, this new thing will become a necessity in life.   Whether we can afford it or not, we will buy it (products, cars, homes with large mortgages, etc.).

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately; Sustainability.  Mostly because someone I’m very close to has been trying for the better part of a year now to convince me to relocate to an area of the country where the cost of living isn’t sky-high the way it is where I now live, and that I should get back to the basics in life.  He’s also of the mindset that no one should have to depend on getting their food from large grocery store chains, where food products are constantly being recalled due to contamination of some sort.  I believe he makes several valid points, yet I seem to be having a difficult time letting go of the lifestyle I’ve become used to — regardless of the fact that it’s creating unnecessary stress in my life.  But I’m working on it. Seriously working on it.

I came across an interesting Website this morning you may want to take a look at: State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures.  Their mission, as posted on their site, is: “Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.”  A core belief is that only way for  humanity to thrive long into the future is to orient our cultures on sustainability, not consumerism.

Why Brown Rice is Heart-Healthy

May 17, 2010 by Terri  
Filed under General Interest, Holistic Nutrition

Researchers report that brown rice is better than white rice when it comes to protecting you from high blood pressure and artherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The two kinds of rice that may reduce the risk of heart disease by interfering with a protein (angiotensin II) linked to these health conditions are brown and half-milled rice.

“Our research suggests that there is a potential ingredient in rice that may be a good starting point for looking into preventive medicine for cardiovascular diseases,” said researcher Satoru Eguchi, an associate professor of physiology at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

When brown rice is converted to white rice the heart-healthy layer of rice is stripped away.  However, this vital layer can be preserved in half-milled (Haigamai) and incompletely milled (Kinmemai) rice, which are popular in Japan.

The study is slated to be released at the Experimental Biology annual conference, April 24-28, in Anaheim, Calif.

Alternative Therapies Glossary

May 13, 2010 by Terri  
Filed under Glossary

Alternative Therapies include, but are not limited to:

Acupuncture (“AK-yoo-pungk-cher”) - A method of healing developed in China at least 2,000 years ago. Today, acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.

Aromatherapy (“ah-roam-uh-THER-ah-py”) - involves the use of essential oils (extracts or essences) from flowers, herbs, and trees to promote health and well-being. CAUTION: In their pure state, certain oils can cause irritation, toxic reaction, or skinburn. These oils call for careful and expert application.

Ayurveda (“ah-yur-VAY-dah”) - This system that has been practiced primarily in the Indian subcontinent for 5,000 years. Ayurveda includes diet and herbal remedies and emphasizes the use of body, mind, and spirit in disease prevention and treatment.

Bates Method - Relaxation exercises for eye disorders such as glaucoma, squint, and more. It was devised by William H. Bates.

Bio Cranial System - The Bio Cranial System addresses a person’s dysfunctions and their cranial (and therefore spinal) status, in order to restore maximum function to your whole system. It is probably the most holistic health care system in existence, in that it looks at the total person, and not diseases or disease names. (Read more here.)

Chiropractic (“kie-roh-PRAC-tic”) - Focuses on the relationship between bodily structure (primarily that of the spine) and function, and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health. Chiropractors use manipulative therapy as an integral treatment tool.

Dietary supplements - Congress defined the term “dietary supplement” in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. “A dietary supplement is a product (other than tobacco) taken by mouth that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. Dietary ingredients may include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, and metabolites. Dietary supplements come in many forms, including extracts, concentrates, tablets, capsules, gel caps, liquids, and powders”. They have special requirements for labeling. Under DSHEA, dietary supplements are considered foods, not drugs.

Environmental Therapies - Used in treating health conditions caused by environment such as allergies and eczema. Factors such as dust, molds, chemicals, and certain foods may cause allergic reactions that can dramatically influence your health ranging from asthma and hay fever to headaches and depression.

Gestalt Therapy - Developed by Fritz Perls, this humanistic approach to healing promotes personal growth through self-awareness. Well-known techniques include emphasizing the client’s self-awareness by making him or her speak continually in the present tense and in the first person. Useful in treating anxiety, behavioral problems, hyperactivity, and insomnia.

Homeopathic (“home-ee-oh-PATH-ic”) - In homeopathic medicine, there is a belief that “like cures like,” meaning that small, highly diluted quantities of medicinal substances are given to cure symptoms, when the same substances given at higher or more concentrated doses would actually cause those symptoms.

Hydrotherapy - The therapeutic use of water, ice, steam, and hot and cold temperatures to maintain and restore health. Good for labor pain and childbirth, muscle problems, rheumatism, stress and tension. Treatments include full body immersion, steam baths, saunas, sitz baths, and hot, and/or cold compresses. Hydortherapy has been used to treat disease and injury by many different cultures, including the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Hebrews, Hindus, Chinese, and Native Americans. Contrast therapies are those that alternative between hot and cold water in the same treatment.
CAUTIONS: Hyperthermia (a fever-induction therapy) can be hazardous for certain people and conditions, and should only be performed under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. Those who suffer from eczema and other skin conditions, or acute heart disease, should avoid neutral bathing (full immersion therapy that submerges the body up to the neck in water from 92 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or longer).

Naturopathic (“nay-chur-o-PATH-ic”) - Naturopathic medicine proposes that there is a healing power in the body that establishes, maintains, and restores health. Practitioners work with the patient with a goal of supporting this power, through treatments such as nutrition and lifestyle counseling, dietary supplements, medicinal plants, exercise, homeopathy, and treatments from traditional Chinese medicine.

Osteopathic (“ahs-tee-oh-PATH-ic”) - medicine is a form of conventional medicine that, in part, emphasizes diseases arising in the musculoskeletal system. There is an underlying belief that all of the body’s systems work together, and disturbances in one system may affect function elsewhere in the body. Some osteopathic physicians practice osteopathic manipulation, a full-body system of hands-on techniques to alleviate pain, restore function, and promote health and well-being.

Cranial Osteopathy - Specialist technique in which the bones of the skull are manipulated. Useful for childbirth pains, ADD, ADHD, learning difficulties, sinus conditions, TMJ and tinnitus.

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) - Adapted form of cranial osteopathy.

Qi gong (“chee-GUNG”) - a component of traditional Chinese medicine that combines movement, meditation, and regulation of breathing to enhance the flow of qi (an ancient term given to what is believed to be vital energy) in the body, improve blood circulation, and enhance immune function.

Shiatsu - Stimulating the vital points along the body’s meridians in order to encourage healing and maintaining good health.

Therapeutic Touch - is derived from an ancient technique called laying-on of hands. It is based on the premise that it is the healing force of the therapist (unlike Reiki) that affects the patient’s recovery; healing is promoted when the body’s energies are in balance; and, by passing their hands over the patient, healers can identify energy imbalances.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) - is the current name for an ancient system of health care from China. TCM is based on a concept of balanced qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, that is believed to flow throughout the body. Qi is proposed to regulate a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). Disease is proposed to result from the flow of qi being disrupted and yin and yang becoming imbalanced. Among the components of TCM are herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, meditation, acupuncture, and remedial massage.

Yoga - Spiritual and physical exercises to encourage health and well-being. Useful for conditions such as anxiety, arthritis, headache, migraine, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.