Even Though It’s Organic…

This week, I thought I’d share a quote by Michael Pollan. I love the message he conveys.  Let me know if you do too!

“Organic Oreos are not a health food. When Coca-Cola begins selling organic Coke, as it surely will, the company will have struck a blow for the environment perhaps, but not for our health. Most consumers automatically assume that the word “organic” is synomymous with health, but it makes no difference to your insulin metabolism if the high-fructose corn syrup in your soda is organic.”

–Michael Pollan

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

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Something’s Fishy Around Here…

One of my subscribers recently left me a comment asking about the difference between wild-caught and farm-raised seafood, and which type is a more healthful choice. After some research, I can definitely say that the answer is not black and white. Both sides have positive and negative effects on our environment, our freshwater and saltwater supply, and our bodies. There is no “right” answer to this question, but below you’ll find the main pros and cons to each.

Wild-Caught Seafood

Seafood originating from the “wild” obviously have larger habitats, automatically giving them more freedom to roam about as they please (That). Due to the fact that these fish must hunt for their own food, their diet doesn’t consist of artificial dyes, pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics that are generally found in farm-raised fish feed (That). From a nutritional standpoint, wild-caught fish tend to have higher doses of Omega 3 fatty acids per serving, and also less fat than their farm-raised counterparts (That). However, one of the main issues that many people have with the labeling of wild-caught seafood is that it leaves the consumer unsure as to how that particular fish was harvested. For example, some fishermen dynamite reefs or utilize drift nets to catch their fish, and these methods kill more than just the desired marine animal and also disrupt aquatic habitats. Wild-caught seafood typically have lower levels of PCBs, or Polychlorinated biphenyls (a man-made and possibly carcinogenic chemical) and the mercury levels range from relatively low to very high depending on the type of wild-caught fish.

Farm-Raised Seafood

This method was engineered as a result of people wanting year-round access to a greater amount of seafood, and voila, the man-made fishery was born. One could certainly compare these fish farms to the industrial feedlots that many cows are raised on today. Living conditions are cramped and uncomfortable, and often times, disease runs rampant. As a result, fish farmers depend on antibiotics to cope with the sicknesses. While farm-raised fish tend to have higher levels of PCBs, the amount of mercury these types of fish can accumulate remain unclear. If they are raised on sectioned off plots on the ocean, their mercury content is identical to their wild-caught relatives (That).

What To Do, What To Do…

Make it a goal to have seafood a couple of times a week, rather than everyday, to reduce the amount of toxins in your body. When purchasing seafood, be sure to ask your fishmonger where, when, and how the fish was harvested. If he or she can’t tell you, that particular type of fish probably isn’t the best choice. In addition, when browsing at a grocery store or dining out, be sure to look for seafood that have the Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC, Certified Sustainable Seafood label.

How to Lower the Amount of PCBs in Your Seafood, Regardless of How it Was Raised…

First, rely on grilling and broiling as cooking techniques. Using these methods gives the fat the chance to drain off of the seafood, while frying the fish gives the fat more of an opportunity for the chemicals to secure themselves in the body of the fish. Secondly, prior to cooking, be sure to slice off the skin, back fat, stomach fat, and internal organs from your piece of fish.

I hope that this helps! Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any additional questions!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Bullock, Tisha. Seedtime4harvest. N.P. 5 May 2012. Web. 23 July 2013.

MSC. Marine Stewardship Council. N.D. Web. 23 July 2013.

ThatOrganicGirl. N.P. 20 May 2012. Web. 23 July 2013. <http://www.thatorganicgirl.com/2012/05/farm-raised-vs-wild-caught-fish.html>

Cooked!

I know I rave about all of Michael Pollan’s books, and his new masterpiece, COOKED, is no exception. I just started reading it, and although I’m not a substantial way through yet, I’m already confident in the fact that it is going to be another insightful and engaging read. For me, what sets Pollan apart from a lot of other food authors is his willingness to submerse himself, literally, into his writings and document his own food experiences. Rather than presenting readers with just the facts, Pollan offers them his vivid memories from the adventures that he’s had not only in his own kitchen, but also in eateries, farms, and restaurants throughout the country. He’s always refreshingly honest about his successes and failures in the kitchen, and he challenges preconceived notions and opinions about health, wellness, and eating. I must say that COOKED doesn’t disappoint and encompasses all of the things that make Pollan a really gifted writer. Here, Pollan presents “A Natural History of Transformation” where he explores how the four classical elements have endured the test of time. The book is divided into four sections, as follows:

Part One: FIRE
Part Two: WATER
Part Three: AIR
Part Four: EARTH

Pollan takes on the role of a student in training as he ventures out to gain mastery of four different recipes that involve one of each of the classical elements. For example, he travels to a barbecue pit in North Carolina to acquire the necessary skills needed to manipulate fire, and a baker teaches him about the presence of air and how it can transform ordinary ingredients into a cohesive recipe. However, whatever Pollan is doing, he makes it clear that the act of cooking is what strengthens our roots culturally and reminds us of our connection to Nature.

While I was reading the Introduction in this book, one of the things that really grabbed me was how Pollan presented the origins of cooking. He referenced another book, CATCHING FIRE, written by Richard Wrangham, and in it he argues that cooking ingredients was what originally divided the human race from apes. The revelation of cooking truly humanized us as a species. In actuality, when you really think about it, this hypothesis has a lot of truth behind it. By cooking, we were able to evolve as a species because a digestible and energizing diet allowed for our average brain size to increase and our digestive tracts to decrease. This then allowed for us to evolve into a more complex species.

Indeed, Pollan advocates that cooking may be the single most critical step we can take to promote the healthfulness of our food system in this country. I hope that many of you will give this book a try and, as always, I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts about it!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

New Ideas for Your Breakfast Smoothie

During the summer months, when the scorching heat kicks in and the humidity and haze ensues, the desire to turn the oven or stove to preheat can quickly fade away.  In an instant, the breakfast options can dwindle.  Therefore, this week it’s all about creating the perfect “frozen” or “frosty” breakfast:  homemade smoothies.  Not only are they hearty, satisfying, and refreshing, they are also extremely versatile.  Below you’ll find tips, tricks, and suggestions for revamping your smoothie recipes:

1.  First we should talk about the logistics of the blender, as well as the four main components that a homemade smoothie consists of.  These individual components include: the base, the fruit, the veggies, and the blend-ins.  When preparing your smoothie, you always want to pour the liquid, or the thing that best represents a liquid, (like yogurt) into the blender first.  It’s a lot easier on the machine, and on the operator, because it eliminates the need for shaking the blender to free chunks of frozen fruit (or frozen veggies if you are going with a savory smoothie) from the blade.

2.  A lot of people put ice cubes in the blender to give their smoothie an extra “frosty” taste, but there are alternative methods to achieving the same chilled smoothie.  By using frozen fruit in place of ice, you’ll not only increase the nutritional value of the meal, but you’ll also have a “frozen” sensation on your hands.  Still can’t get past the ice cubes?  Try making coconut water ice cubes to inject a healthy dose of potassium, magnesium, and electrolytes into your breakfast.

3.  Never throw away bananas that are on their way out, instead, you can place them in the freezer for smoothies.  Just don’t forget to peel them and slice them before placing them into the freezer- there’s nothing worse than trying to remove the skin from a frozen banana!

4.  If you feel like the base you use for your smoothie is getting boring, and you find yourself always reaching for the same soy milk or Greek yogurt, a great way to switch things up is to use a nutrient dense tea.  For example, if you struggle with high blood pressure, green tea is a great smoothie base to help combat this issue.  In addition, ginger tea can help with arthritis, and rosemary tea can help decrease the symptoms associated with gallbladder.

5.   It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint the serving size for smoothies.  I know that I occasionally end up with a little bit extra that doesn’t quite fit into the glass.  One of the best ways to make the most of your leftover smoothie, especially in the summertime, is to make popsicles!  If you have Popsicle molds at home, simply pour the extra smoothie mixture into them and then enjoy!  However, if you don’t have any popsicle molds, paper cups and popsicle sticks will do the trick!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Whey, Whey Too Much Whey…

As promised, this week the discussion turns to all things Greek Yogurt: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  As you may already know, Greek style yogurt tastes different than its conventional counterpart in that it offers a tangier flavor and a thicker consistency in every bite.  This thicker consistency is the result of a process where manufacturers strain the yogurt, which leaves behind a runny substance known as acid whey (Elliott).  This byproduct, which is made up of yogurt cultures, protein, lactose, and water is just about as acidic as bananas, and has become a real threat to our ecosystems.  It is illegal to dump, and if it enters major waterways and interferes with other natural resources, it can eradicate species of animals and plants (Elliott).  However, at the same time, we see a steep rise in the amount of Greek yogurt being sold across the country, which poses a question to Greek yogurt manufacturers: Will this increase in sales (and acid whey) be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare (Elliott)?

I am of the opinion that Greek yogurt manufacturers see this conflict as both an opportunity and a potential catastrophe.  Currently, one of the most popular solutions for manufacturers is to “hire” farmers to take the acid whey away, and carry it back to their farms, where they can then use it in fertilizer and feed.   In addition, manufacturers are interested in not only getting rid of the excess whey, but also making money as they do it.  One idea that they’ve tossed around is extracting the protein from the acid whey, and then using the protein as an ingredient in baby formula.  The reason why this idea has never really come to fruition though is because they’re having a rather difficult time engineering a cost effective approach to extraction.  Another plan, which also resides on the more expensive side, includes converting the lactose in the byproduct into methane.  After this conversion, the methane could be used for energy and electricity (Elliott).

Manufacturers are trying to preserve their companies, while safely grappling with the environmental issues that arise because of their products.  Andrew Novakovic, Cornell University Professor of Agricultural Economics says “Food companies are acutely aware of the requirements that they have not only in a legal sense, but in a business sense.  If they are seen as careless on environmental issues, certainly careless on human health issues, their business is in peril. So this is not something a major company would take lightly in the least.”  Interestingly, the cheese industry faced a similar problem in the past with their own byproducts.  Novakovic speaks to this point as well, commenting “So this is a familiar problem.  It’s one that the industry is well able to deal with and deal with in a responsible manner.”  So there is hope for the future, as more ideas are being test driven and successfully executed.

Has anybody ever made their own Greek yogurt?  It’s something that I definitely want to try, and would be very interested in hearing any expertise or advice from someone who has!

Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Elliott, Justin. “Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side.” ModernFarmer. Modern Farmer Media. 2013. Web. 2 July 2013. <http://modernfarmer.com/2013/05/whey-too-much-greek-yogurts-dark-side/>

Haupt, Angela and Hiatt, Kurtis. Health.USNews. U.S.News & World Report LP. 2013. Web. 2 July 2013.