Tea Pee for Health

For the past eight years, Dan Buettner has led expeditions to regions he calls Blue Zones — places around the world where people are living measurably longer. Ikaria has the longest living people on earth. He tells us why. (His book is called The Blue Zones.)

Link: High Performance: Longevity, Blue Zones by Dan Buettner – National Geographic Adventure Magazine.

Experts find the world’s longest-living people in a remote mountain village on a tiny island in an exotic sea. They party hard, work into their hundreds, and still have sex into their 90s. But then the twist: Their secret isn’t red wine or yogurt or young lovers. The key ingredient to living and loving longer, it seems, is growing right in their gardens.

Ikarians have an afternoon habit of picking fistfuls of garden herbs and steeping them in boiled water for an evening beverage; at breakfast, they drink tea from other dried herbs.

All of these herbs have one thing in common: They are diuretics—they make you pee. In so doing, they help flush your body of natural waste products. (If you don’t urinate often enough, toxic compounds from your cells build up and cause damage over time.) But what we found more interesting—and more likely to explain Ikaría’s greater life expectancy—is that diuretics lower blood pressure in a way not unlike how letting water out of a balloon reduces pressure in the balloon. Diuretics cause the kidneys to remove sodium and water from the body, thereby alleviating pressure on the blood vessel walls. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, and—get this—dementia.
 
Some Ikarian herbs can be hard to find outside of Greece, but other healthy herbs are readily available in the U.S. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), nettle (Urtica), and birch (Betula) are among the most famous European diuretics. If these don’t sound appetizing, consider an ancient fallback. “Green tea is nature’s best beverage,” says Greg Plotnikoff, M.D., medical director at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis and a top expert on Eastern medicine. “Mint and rosemary teas are potentially powerful health-promoting medicines, but the best research surrounds green tea. It’s a diuretic and contains catechin, which can block cancer, prevent or delay diseases of aging, and prolong healthy lives.”
 
Wonder Weeds
Herbs with Rx Power

+WILD MINT (Mentha arvensis):
Good for: Gingivitis, flatulence, and ulcers.
Availability: Easy to grow in the U.S. and, like all of these herbs, available at health food stores.

+SPLEENWORT (Asplenium nidus):
Good for: Gallstones and bronchial problems.
Availability: Buy a bird’s-nest fern as a houseplant and steep the leaves for tea.

+ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis):
Good for: Liver ailments; helps stave off Alzheimer’s.
Availability: Thrives across the U.S. Brew the leaves for tea (smells like evergreen).

+PURPLE SAGE (Salvia purpurascens):
Good for: Stomach-aches; enhances memory function.
Availability: Common across the western U.S.

+GREEN TEA (Camellia sinensis):
Good for: Cancer prevention.
Availability: Camellia sinensis leaves are hard to grow outside of the tropics. Hit up Starbucks.

Watermelon Man

Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center, says eating watermelon has many beneficial health effects, including preventing erectile dysfunction.

More reasons to grow and enjoy watermelon.

Link: Watermelon May Have Viagra-effect.

…scientists say watermelon has ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido.

Dr. Bhimu Patil

“The more we study watermelons, the more we realize just how amazing a fruit it is in providing natural enhancers to the human body,” said Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center in College Station.

“We’ve always known that watermelon is good for you, but the list of its very important healthful benefits grows longer with each study.”

Beneficial ingredients in watermelon and other fruits and vegetables are known as phyto-nutrients, naturally occurring compounds that are bioactive, or able to react with the human body to trigger healthy reactions, Patil said.

In watermelons, these include lycopene, beta carotene and the rising star among its phyto-nutrients – citrulline – whose beneficial functions are now being unraveled. Among them is the ability to relax blood vessels, much like Viagra does.

Scientists know that when watermelon is consumed, citrulline is converted to arginine through certain enzymes. Arginine is an amino acid that works wonders on the heart and circulation system and maintains a good immune system, Patil said.

“The citrulline-arginine relationship helps heart health, the immune system and may prove to be very helpful for those who suffer from obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Patil. “Arginine boosts nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, the same basic effect that Viagra has, to treat erectile dysfunction and maybe even prevent it.”

While there are many psychological and physiological problems that can cause impotence, extra nitric oxide could help those who need increased blood flow, which would also help treat angina, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

“Watermelon may not be as organ specific as Viagra,” Patil said, “but it’s a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects.”

The benefits of watermelon don’t end there, he said. Arginine also helps the urea cycle by removing ammonia and other toxic compounds from our bodies.

Citrulline, the precursor to arginine, is found in higher concentrations in the rind of watermelons than the flesh. As the rind is not commonly eaten, two of Patil’s fellow scientists, drs. Steve King and Hae Jeen Bang, are working to breed new varieties with higher concentrations in the flesh.

In addition to the research by Texas A&M, watermelon’s phyto-nutrients are being studied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service in Lane, Oklahoma.

As an added bonus, these studies have also shown that deep red varieties of watermelon have displaced the tomato as the lycopene king, Patil said. Almost 92 percent of watermelon is water, but the remaining 8 percent is loaded with lycopene, an anti-oxidant that protects the human heart, prostate and skin health.

“Lycopene, which is also found in red grapefruit, was historically thought to exist only in tomatoes,” he said. “But now we know that it’s found in higher concentrations in red watermelon varieties.”

Water in the American Desert

Barbara Kingsolver, in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (page 4), wrote about living in Tucson, Arizona:

If it crosses your mind that water running through hundreds of miles of open ditch in a desert will evaporate and end up full of concentrated salts and muck, then let me tell you, that kind of negative thinking will never get you elected to public office in the state of Arizona. When this giant new tap turned on, developers drew up plans to roll pink stucco subdivisions across the desert in all directions. The rest of us were supposed to rejoice as the new flow rushed into our pipes, even as the city warned us that the water was kind of special. They said it was okay to drink, but don’t put it in an aquarium because it will kill the fish. She was describing life in Tucson, Arizona.

She and her family subsequently moved to a small farm in Virginia, where they started growing their own food and wrote a book about it.

The Secret of Great Smoothies

Blenderandsmoothie

I drink a lot of smoothies. Not long ago I started having a problem: my smoothies weren’t so smooth, especially since I quit adding tofu. (I’ve become suspious of soy since I learned about Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean seeds, which are engineered to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, enabling farmers to spray their fields with the herbicide without damaging their soybean crops. Also, there are several nutritional experts who insist that soy is bad for us.)

The secret to a creamy smoothie is xanthan gum. You don’t need much — a quarter teaspoon per 10 ounces of liquid.

Also, I highly recommend blueberries, for health reasons. Life Extension Magazine says:

A rich source of disease-fighting antioxidants, blueberries have demonstrated a remarkable ability to reverse the effects of aging on the brain, helping to restore memory and cognition to a more youthful state.

Blueberries also appear to help ward off deadly cancers, while protecting cells against damage incurred by diabetes. Blueberries may even help prevent bothersome urinary tract infections.

In short, incorporating these delicious, nutritious berries in your diet may provide a wealth of important health benefits.

I buy frozen blueberries and put about 25 – 50 in my smoothie before I blend. I like to include some flax seed powder and lecithin. Then I turn the blender on for about 30 seconds. Finally, I add a handful of almonds — I only blend for about 10 seconds so the almonds are not liquified (I like the crunch).

More posts about Monsanto:

Are you eating Monsanto’s genetically modified crops?

Monsanto’s Government Ties

Monsanto Backs Off Bio-Wheat

Shining a Light on Agribusiness and It’s Poster Child Monsanto

Monsanto Files Patent for the Pig

USDA Denies Request to Delay Almond Rule

This stinks like a dead skunk in the road. Big agriculture finds another way to bankrupt the small farmers (who can’t afford to comply). And it’s so politcally correct: "they are looking out for the consumer". If you want to see the background story, read this: I Love California Almonds, but…

Link: USDA Denies Request to Delay Almond Rule – washingtonpost.com

Almonds

A new rule requiring all California almonds to be pasteurized will go into effect Sept. 1, despite farmers’ requests to postpone the provision for six months, federal agricultural officials said.

The growers, represented by the California Almond Board, said they needed the extra time to get the necessary equipment and processes in place to avoid an interruption in the flow of nuts to market.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to implement the rule stemmed from salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004 that were traced to raw almonds.

Farmers’ worries about being able to meet the rule’s requirements, particularly when faced with an expected bumper crop of 1.33 billion pounds of almonds this year, were taken into consideration, but public health was the main concern, federal officials said.

"While we understand the Board’s concerns, USDA also wants to ensure that the quality and safety of almonds and almond products in the marketplace continue to improve," Robert Keeney, deputy administrator of the department’s fruit and vegetable programs, wrote in a letter to the Almond Board dated Thursday. "These goals require measures to help reduce the potential of a third salmonella outbreak linked to almonds."

Almond production in the United States has surged as the nut’s popularity increases among health-conscious consumers, and California has dominated world production. The state’s 6,000 almond farmers expect their crop to fetch $1.4 billion this year.

Followers of raw food diets and shoppers who prefer unprocessed, organic nuts protested the government’s original pasteurization decision and organized a national letter-writing campaign asking the USDA to reconsider.

The pasteurization process, also used to sterilize milk, juice and eggs, typically exposes the shelled and hulled nuts to a moist burst of steam, which heats their surface to about 200 degrees, killing any pathogens. An alternative sterilization process sends the almonds into a chamber where they’re sprayed with a gas.

The USDA advised the Almond Board that almonds may be treated by facilities with pasteurization processes that haven’t received the board’s final approval. This would ease some concerns growers had about not having adequate facilities to pasteurize the nuts in time to meet the deadline, board officials said.

"The USDA has been receptive to hearing the implementation concerns the industry has, which mostly revolved around logistics, and the USDA has pledged their assistance," said Richard Waycott, the board’s president and CEO.

Some industry representatives still opposed the move, saying there was little input from consumers, who might switch to imported raw almonds that don’t fall under the same regulations.

"The public had no opportunity to get involved in this process," said Will Fantle, research director at the Wisconsin-based farm policy group Cornucopia Institute.

I Love California Almonds, but…

Almonds

California-grown raw almonds may soon no longer be available. A new USDA mandate requires raw almonds to be sanitized through treatment processes that the industry generously describes as “pasteurization.” The rule requires “pasteurization” of almonds with a toxic fumigant or treatment with high-temperature heat.

Why is this an all or nothing ruling? Let the free market decide: farmers could specify whether or not their almonds were “pasteurized” on the packaging. This smells like influence by big agriculture and their lawyers.

The Cornucopia Institute is working with almond farmers and handlers, retailers, and farm and consumer groups for a full re-evaluation of the USDA’s plan. Click on the Save almonds campaign link for more background information and steps you can take to help out.

Link: The Cornucopia Institute » Blog Archive » USDA Plan to “Pasteurize” Almonds Has Consumers Going Nuts.

Small-scale farmers, retailers, and consumers are renewing their call to the USDA to reassess the plan to “pasteurize” all California almonds with a toxic fumigant or high-temperature sterilization process. All domestic almonds will be mandated to have the treatments by early next year. The plan was quietly developed by the USDA in response to outbreaks of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004 that were traced to raw almonds.

“The almond ‘pasteurization’ plan will have many harmful impacts on consumers and the agricultural community,” said Will Fantle, research director for The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group. “Only 18 public comments from the entire U.S.—and all from the almond industry insiders—were received on the proposal. The logic behind both the necessity and safety of the treatments processes has not been fully or adequately analyzed—as well as the economic costs to small-scale growers and the loss of consumer choices.”

Last Wednesday, the California Almond Board suddenly requested that USDA delay the treatment mandate until March, 2008—it had been scheduled to take effect on September 1. “We support this request for a delay,” said Fantle, “but a delay, due to the industry being unprepared, isn’t enough. The USDA must also re-open the rule for public review and comment so that those who have been shut out of the decision-making process can have input into any almond treatment plan.”

Although foodborne illnesses have garnered headlines in recent years, including contamination of California-grown spinach and lettuce, raw produce and nuts are not inherently risky foods. Contamination occurs when livestock manure or other fecal matter is inadvertently transferred to food through contaminated water, soil, or transportation and handling equipment. Raw foods can also be infected by poor employee hygiene and sanitation practices either on the farm or in processing facilities.

“All fresh foods carry some chance of risk,” notes Bruce Lampinen, a scientist at University of California, Davis, who studies almonds, “but there is no more risk now than there was thirty years ago.”

And the fear in the farming community is that this will competitively injure smaller sustainable and organic growers. “This will put American farmers at a distinct disadvantage in the U.S. and abroad,” says organic almond farmer Mark McAfee. Fumigated almonds are banned in the EU and many other countries. McAfee worries about the impact of the rule on his business. Seventy percent of California’s crop is exported.

Some companies that use California almonds are already investigating foreign sources for their needs. After buying almonds from local producers for over 25 years, Living Tree Community Foods, a Berkeley-based natural foods supplier, will soon begin buying almonds from Italy and Spain. Dr. Jesse Schwartz, the president of the specialty retailer, believes the rule, if implemented, will be a travesty for American agriculture. “California almonds are the heritage of the American people,” he says, “they are superior in every way.”

Jason Mahon owns Premier Organics, a company that produces raw almond butter in Oakland, CA. Mahon is also looking to foreign suppliers and believes the rule is an unnecessary “fear-based decision of the Almond Board, that is clearly trying to protect itself from bad press and lawsuits.”

The equipment to meet the new USDA mandate is very expensive, ranging from $500,000 to $2,500,000. Farms can outsource the pasteurization process, but Hendrik Feenstra, a small-scale handler of organic almonds, believes that to do so will still be prohibitively expensive for small-scale growers and handlers. “Because pasteurization companies often charge a flat rate no matter the quantity of almonds, it could be four or five times more expensive for small-scale almond producers to pasteurize almonds than it will be for industrial-scale producers,” Feenstra says. And modest-size marketers are concerned that increased transportation costs will also add to their burden

Organic farmers also question the science behind the rule. They believe that the sustainable farming methods they use, such as mowing and mulching, rather than controlling weeds by chemical herbicide applications, naturally prevent the spread of harmful bacteria more effectively than treatment after the fact. According to almond grower Glenn Anderson, “An organic farming system fosters biodiversity and creates an environment where Salmonella cannot survive. This rule ignores the root causes of food contamination—the unnatural, dangerous, and unsustainable farming practices on industrial farms.”

An important segment of the agricultural community feels that requiring small-scale and organic farms to comply with this rule is unwarranted and premature, as Salmonella outbreaks have only been traced to very large industrial farms, and there is currently no published research pinpointing the causes of the harmful bacteria. “With the costs involved, and the implications on trade, they are recklessly experimenting with the livelihood of farmers,” Fantle added.

Furthermore, there is a lack of evidence supporting the use of propylene oxide (PPO) and steam as the only effective treatments to reduce risk of Salmonella. The most common method of sterilizing almonds is by PPO fumigation, a genotoxic chemical recognized as a possible carcinogen that is banned in the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and most other countries. Many chemical-free and heat-free alternatives are being researched. “The Almond Board has not released any of the scientific research justifying their treatment choices,” asserts Eli Penberthy, a policy analyst at Cornucopia. “This rule should not be implemented until alternative technologies are thoroughly explored.”

The Cornucopia Institute also contends labeling treated almonds as “raw” is misleading and deceptive to consumers. “People choose to buy raw almonds for a variety of personal reasons, including health, nutrition, and even religious beliefs,” Cornucopia’s Fantle said. “This rule denies them the right to control their food choices by making informed decisions in the marketplace.”

In fact, some strict vegetarians who consume only raw foods rely on almonds to provide as much as 30% of their caloric intake, believing that they are a nutritionally superior alternative to meat in the diet. “Raw almonds are increasingly popular for their health benefits,” said Goldie Caughlan, the Nutrition Education Manager at Puget Community Cooperative in Seattle, who estimates that the co-op sells 28,000 pounds of raw almonds every year. She said customers are already confused and angered by the implications of the rule, and worries how it will affect sales.

Fantle charges that the rule could very well establish a precedent for more governmental control of fresh foods. Says Fantle, “If almonds require pasteurization, what foods will be next on the list of mandatory sterilization, heat treatment, and irradiation? Truly raw, untreated nuts, fruits, and vegetables might no longer be legally available in the marketplace.”

Public concern about the almond treatment plan has been growing. Over 1,000 comments opposing almond pasteurization have been submitted to the USDA since the plan was approved on March 31, and an online petition to stop the implementation of the rule has garnered over 15,000 signatures.

The only exemption to the almond treatment regulations will be an allowance for growers to sell truly raw almonds directly to the public from farmstead stands. Unfortunately, this will give only a limited number of consumers in specific areas of California, the only state in the nation that produces almonds, access to untreated nuts.

Diets based on raw foods are integral to some religious denominations, such as Seventh-Day Adventism, so the rule poses a threat not only to consumer choice, but to religious freedom as well.

Organic Food from China: Widespread Fraud

Buy your organic food from local sources whenever you can. Why? Read below.

Link: Organic, With Pesticides, BusinessWeek

…for years now, Chinese farmers have fed soaring global demand for organic foods. China’s organic exports totaled $350 million in 2005 (the most recent data available)—up from $150 million the previous year—according to China’s largest organic food certification agency. The country now represents 5% of global trade in such products, up to this level today from 1.2% in 2004. And that share is bound to grow as more land is converted to chemical-free farming. China now ranks third worldwide in organic farmland, after Australia and Argentina, up from 45th in 2000.

Organic produce from China isn’t turning up at supermarkets stateside just yet. Organic vegetables and fruits don’t travel well, so most of China’s organic produce is shipped to closer markets such as Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. But organic soybeans, rice, and other grains, along with frozen vegetables and fruit concentrate from China are all making their way into processed organic foods that wind up on store shelves in the U.S., food brokers say. U.S. government agencies don’t collect data on the value or country of origin of organic food imports.

In light of the recent toothpaste and medicine scandals, Americans might rightly wonder what passes for organic in China. While falsely labeled organic foods are a problem all over the world, in China the situation is murkier than just about anywhere. Not only are there two rival clean-food standards, Green Food and Organic Food, backed by different government ministries, there also 21 separate agencies that claim the right to certify food as organic.

Even some global heavyweights have been duped. Wal-Mart (WMT) began several years ago procuring organic produce from a large-scale "organic" farm near Beijing to sell in Supercenter branches around China. Last year, Wal-Mart had to pull the produce from its Chinese stores after a surprise inspection revealed that the supplier was selling vegetables treated with pesticides.

Still, some unscrupulous companies in China clearly have tried to con their way into the U.S. market. Haobao Certified Organic Farm cultivates vegetables and raises chicken, cows, and sheep on a small farm in Yunnan province. OFDC-certified Haobao supplies the Parkson and Trust-Mart supermarket chains in Kunming with organic vegetables and recently signed on to supply Wal-Mart supercenters.

Founder Ming Yi says he was once approached by a farm in northeastern China that exports vegetables to the U.S. under the Ministry of Agriculture-backed Green Food standard, which is less stringent than organic. The outfit wanted to buy 10 kilos of Haobao’s produce and submit it to the OFDC for inspection as if it were its own.

What’s in our Food?

A recent article in InvestorsInsight : What We Now Know by Shannara Johnson focused on food imported from China. If the honeybees in our country continue dying, we may become more dependent on imported food. Warning: Don’t read the excerpts below if you have a weak stomach or don’t know where your food comes from.

Link: InvestorsInsight : What We Now Know

…due to insufficient pollination of certain crops and vegetables, the U.S. might become more dependent on food imports from foreign countries, among them China.

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, exports from China to the United States already more than doubled from $1 billion in 2002 to almost $2.3 billion in 2006. Within the last decade, China has become the third-largest exporter of food–by value–to the U.S., shipping nearly five times as much as it did in 1996. The food categories showing the biggest growth are beverages, fish, nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables.

To us, that seems reason for concern, given the abysmal track record in food safety of the Chinese. Case in point: the latest scandal involving pet food containing tainted wheat gluten from China.

The culprit was melamine, a chemical made from coal, that reportedly led to severe illness in thousands of American pets. After the melamine incident spurred frantic investigations, the New York Times now claims that the contamination with that substance was actually no accident, but "business as usual" in China.

The Chinese seem to like cutting corners when it comes to food production… which makes us wonder if this practice may, at least partially, be responsible for China’s "everyday low prices" no other country can compete with.

In the same year, there was a public outcry in Japan when it turned out that part of the 653 tons of soy sauce imported from China in 2003 had been made not from soybeans, but from human hair.

"Human hair makes an alternative to soybeans because it contains the amino acids that give the sauce its flavor," stated the Japanese Mainichi Daily News matter-of-factly. "Chinese soy sauce manufacturers say they want to continue making human hair sauce because it’s much cheaper than using soybeans. But outrage caused the Chinese government to ban the process, although many unscrupulous soy makers continue prowling barbershops for their economic alternative."

In 2005, the Shanghai Star reported that "a survey conducted in the Shanghai local food market […] found that cuttlefish were soaked in Chinese calligraphy ink to improve coloring, eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim and big fish were stuffed with small dead fish to make them heavier and bigger."

Well, that was in China and Japan, you may say, how does that concern us? After all, the U.S. does have strict regulations for food imports, doesn’t it?

While it is true that U.S. food regulations are in place, their reinforcement is another matter entirely. The FDA is woefully understaffed, with only about 1,750 food inspectors at ports and domestic food-production plants.

Which doesn’t bode well for foreign imports–and the risk is only getting greater. For example, after reading the following, you might want to scrape chicken and shrimp off your menu.

Currently, the U.S. government is working on a new proposal that would allow chickens raised, slaughtered and cooked in China to be sold in the United States.

In China, livestock are often fed antibiotics banned by other countries to maximize output, states a May 9 article in the Boston Globe, and for economic reasons, many farmers raise both chicken and shrimp.

While U.S. poultry farms are mostly huge, standardized businesses, in China, "there are hundreds of thousands of these little farms," Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, told the Globe. "They have small ponds. And over the ponds […] they’ll have chicken cages. It might be like 20,000 chickens in cages. The chicken feces is what feeds the shrimp."

The result: "The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that up to 10 percent of shrimp imported from China contains salmonella […]. Even more worrisome are shrimp imported from China that contain antibiotics that no amount of cooking can neutralize."

By the way, unlike seafood, under current U.S. regulations store labels are not required to indicate the country of origin for poultry–so we’ll literally never know where our next meal comes from.

Yum! Irradiated Food

The FDA continues to take care of the big corporations and the lobbyists who take care of the FDA.

Link: OCA: Take Action

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed new federal regulations that will allow manufacturers and retailers to sell controversial irradiated foods without labeling them, as previously required by law. Consumers are justifiably wary of foods bombarded with nuclear waste or powerful x-rays or gamma rays–since irradiation destroys essential vitamins and nutrients, creates unique radiolytic chemical compounds never before consumed by humans, and generates carcinogenic byproducts such as formaldehyde and benzene. Although irradiation, except for spices, is banned in much of the world, and prohibited globally in organic production, U.S. corporate agribusiness and the meat industry desperately want to be able to secretly "nuke" foods in order to reduce the deadly bacterial contamination that is now routine in industrial agriculture and meat production.

The Organic Consumers Association and other public interest groups have repeatedly pointed out that the best way to reduce or eliminate America’s 78 million cases of food poisoning every year would be to clean up the nation’s filthy slaughterhouses and feedlots, stop contaminated runoff from intensive confinement feedlots from polluting adjacent farms (as in the recent spinach e-coli outbreak), and to stop feeding animals slaughterhouse waste and manure. Instead, FDA and corporate agribusiness have apparently decided, with the backing of the nuclear power and weapons industry, to take away consumers’ rights to know if their food has been irradiated or not.