Friday, March 30, 2012

The Protein Myth

Many people in our society believe that sources of protein can only come from meat. Very seldom is there a time when I go to the grocery store and someone makes a comment similar to, "Where is the meat?" I even once had a man stop me and tell me how I was going to die from eating so many fruits and vegetables. I couldn't believe it! Do people really think that eating so many fruits and veggies is bad?

I will admit, that eating a vegan diet can be hard. Not only because of the lack of choices at restaurants, fast food places, and even local stores, but because it really takes a lot of meal planning to make sure that you are getting the right nutrients every day. Some vegans and vegetarians go on eating like the majority of our population: Just eating whatever we want when we're hungry until we are absolutely stuffed and can't eat anymore. That provides the right nutrients, right? If you're not starving, then you must be healthy. False. Your body needs so many nutrients that not even the best meal planning vegan in the world could consume them in a day. Mostly because our fruits and vegetables today do not contain the vitamin and mineral content that they once did, mostly because of over-farming. Farming depleats the soil of nutrients that we need. Sure we could go eat some dirt, but its much more delicious in the form of a tomato.

One of the most common concern people have about vegans and vegetarians is that they do not consume enough protein. While this may be true for some, it is not a general statement. Protein comes in MANYother forms than meat and dairy. Before we discuss those, let's get into the different forms of protein that our bodies need.

Our bodies require 20 different amino acids to function. 11 of these amino acids are made in the body and the other nine we must consume. These amino acids are found in proteins. There are two types of food that contain these proteins. Those considered "complete" proteins and those considered "incomplete" proteins. Animal protein (meat, poultry, fish, milk, and eggs) are complete proteins and contain all nine essential amino acids. Plant proteins (except soy, which is a complete protein) contain MOST amino acids but are usually lacking in one or more. However, not all lack in the same acids. Two incomplete proteins, such as rice and beans, can be combined to form a complete protein that is the same as you would find in a steak. Its not a coincidence that rice and beans is a staple of many Hispanic cultures.

Now where can find earth-based foods that are high in protein? As stated above, all foods contain some protein. Those highest on the list are beans, seeds, lentils, nuts, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, artichokes, corn, peas, spinach, potatoes, apricots, prunes, currants, raisins, figs, dates, avocados, passion fruits, apples, blackberries, peaches, coconut, pineapple, tomatoes, pear, watermelon, banana, strawberries, oats, rice, soba noodles, quinoa, flour, and couscous. This is not a complete list, but just the highest vegetables, fruits, and grains. When you combine two or more of these foods, it becomes a complete protein and your body recognizes it exactly as it would any animal protein. So, if someone is vegan or vegetarian and eats many fruits and veggies and grains every day, it is quite unlikely that are not getting enough protein. They just have to be SMART about what they combine.

Many North Americans eat TOO MUCH protein. This causes your organs, especially your kidneys and liver, to work much harder, making you more susceptible to disease and obesity. Not only does our country suffer from a junk food epidemic, but it suffers from an overload of protein. The majority of Americans consume more protein than their bodies need. And much of this protein comes from meat. The problem with high meat diets, is that meats become rancid in our GI tract. Humans have long GI tracts and by the time that the meat has went through it all, it is rancid and has built up all throughout that tract with no way to be flushed out, UNLESS you have an incredibly high fiber diet (that can only come from an incredibly high plant based diet).

It is just as important to track your animal protein intake as it is to track how many calories you are getting each day from processed foods. I challenge you to DECREASE your animal protein intake and INCREASE your plant based protein. You will feel such a difference in your energy levels after only a few days! It makes a world of difference!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This is how they make "pink slime"

I'm sure many of you had been hearing about "pink slime" lately. McDonald's claims to have stopped using it in their beef products, but that does not mean that it is not present in our everyday lives. I came across an article from Yahoo and a video from Chef Jamie Oliver. In the video, he shows how this "pink slime" is made. I encourage you to watch it here. If this does not change your perspective on ground beef, I don't know what will.

Oliver suggests asking the butcher to make your ground beef right in front of you. I'm sure any butcher would hate to hear those words after he just finished making those other 50 packages of ground beef in the cooler, but as a butcher, he should have enough pride in his work to show you that what he is doing is wholesome and healthy for his customers. If he gets agitated, I would consider going elsewhere for my beef.

Oliver is also pushing for schools to remove "pink slime" products from schools, the chicken and beef varieties. He surely won't be able to do it alone and he will need to support of parents and communities to get healthy foods into school. Don't be afraid to ask your school where your kids' food is coming from and WHAT is it exactly?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Truth About Chemical Food Additives

We've all seen the names on the ingredients lists: calcium propionate, high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, monosodium glutamate. But what are they? How often do you look at the list of ingredients and actually know what most of them are. I was one to hardly ever look at labels, much less know what these additives were.

So I went to find out. I found ten of the most common food additives and then further researched them. What I found was actually quite scarey. Many of these chemicals are either not approved by the FDA or they are considered safe "when eaten in reasonably low levels." Now, you may think, "Okay, so that means that I'm not eating enough of them for it to be harmful."  That may be true for some, but for many in today's society with our modern diet, people are eating each of these additives in every meal. (Now, drinking the small levels of arsenic that are found in apple and grape juice may not seem harmful after one glass, but if you drink three glasses with every meal, it may begin to have an effect on your long term health.)

Just because these things are "considered 'safe'" by the FDA does not mean that they are not harmful. Your body does not know how to fully digest diecetyl, hydrogenated plant oils, or megnesium gluconate. When you eat these things your body recognizes them as foreign ingredients that can pose a risk. These chemicals are then stored in your fat cells far away from your organs so that they can't do any harm. (Ever wonder why you put weight on your tush and thighs first?) Part of the cleansing process includes ridding your body of these toxins, hence the term "detox."

Now, let's get into these chemicals. What are they for? What do they do? What are the harms?

1. Calcium Propianate
     Calcium propiante is a food preservative, meaning it is added to food to extend its shelf life. It is most commonly found in baked goods, meats, and dairy. (Yep, even that "fresh" meat at the grocery store has additives in it.) It is also added to the feed that is given to cattle in order to prevent fever. This additive has been classified as TOXIC by the Pesticide Action Network and when it was given to rats it produced reversible behavior (such as hyperactivity, etc) and irreversible brain damange. Sounds like just the thing I want...

2. Diacetyl
     This is the chemical that gives food its "buttery" flavor. It is very common in microwave popcorn and baked goods. Diacetyl is a biproduct of yeast fermentation, so really, its just a waste product that we have found new ways to use (just like those chicken nuggets you had for lunch). It is HAZARDOUS when it is heated and then consumed or inhaled. Yep, that buttery popcorn smell is hazardous to your health. It causes bronchiolitis obliterans, which is an irreversible lung disease in which the bronchioles in your lungs are compressed and damaged by fibrosis and inflammation. The symptoms of this can be very gradual and take years to appear. You may even think that it is asthma for quite some time.

3. High Fructose Corn Syrup
     Here we go again...The old good vs bad debate for high fructose corn syrup. I heard a commerical the other day in which they stated that your body does not know the difference between high fructose corn syrup and regular cane sugar. I thought to myself, "Well, no it wouldn't because both of these are sugars that our bodies cannot properly digest."
     It is used in everything from baked good and dairy to meat, soup, and condiments. It is MORE dangerous than cane sugar because it is a source of mercury. Although illegal, it is commonly added to honey in order to make the supply stretch farther. Before this syrup was mass produced, our bodies had little to no exposure to fructose sugar because it is only found naturally in honey, dates, raisins, grapes, and apples. This increase of fructose consumption can lead to health problems including metabolic syndrome, elevated triglyceride levels, hypertension, fatty liver disease, diabetes, and obesity. And, bad news for those who are already diabetic, it can cause insulin resistance.

4. Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
     Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is made by boiling cereals or legumes in hydrochloric acid and is used to enhance the flavors of food. (Yep, you read that correctly. The same acid that is classified as toxic, corrosive, and dangerous to the environment by the European Union is used in making your food. They also wash ground meats in this acid to kill bacteria.) The resulting glutamic acid is used as a flavor enhancer. It contains hidden MSG and promotes eating addictions, as the proteins themselves are highly addictive.

5. Hydrogenated Plant Oils
     This oil is most commonly found in margarines, commercial baked goods, and fast food. It is used to offset the flavor of foods after they have gone rancid. Hydrogenated plant oils cannot be properly digested by humans and are another toxin that get stored in your fat cells. (They are there to protect you, after all.) It increases your chances of breast and prostate cancer and also raises LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL (good cholesterol), which increases your risk of blood clots.

6. Magnesium Gluconate
     This additive is used to prevent caking in foods and is often added to supplements, milk and cream powders, processed cheese, fat spreads, processed fruit, canned vegetables, and bakery products. It is naturally found in some fruits, tea, honey, and wine. Magnesium gluconate is produced by fermenting glucose. While it is not considered hazardous to your health, some people may experience sensitivies to it with symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, upset stomach, rash, hives, difficulty breathing, and nausea.

7. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
     Ah, old MSG. Many associated MSG with Chinese food and soy sauce, which is not completely untrue. But, monosodium glutamate is found in many other items including meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, sauces, soups, and marinades. It is added to otherwise "pure" foods to enhance the flavor. The FDA considers it "safe" when eaten at low levels. How can it only be eaten at low levels in today's society when it is literally in just about EVERYTHING?! It's even being added to our meat that we generally considered untouched at the grocery butcher. MSG can cause headaches, flushing, sweating, facial pressure, numbness, heart palpitations, chest paint, nausea, and weakness. It is also linked to obesity and asthma. (And we wonder why our country has reached all time high obesity levels.) One thing that the FDA does not want you to know, is that they DO NOT regulate how much MSG can be added to your foods, which causes a major problem beacuse MSG is an addictive substance! (Once again, no wonder our country is becoming more overweight.)

8. Potassium Hydrogen Sulfite
     This additive is used a preservative, mostly in canned/preserved fruit and wines, as well as bleached flour. Potassium hydrogen sulfite has been linked to hyperactivity and asthma with long term exposure. These may not be lethal, and the additive has not been classified as deadly, but it is certainly not "good." Many people are highly sensitive and experience headaches or have breathing issues after they consume foods with this additive.

9. Propylene Glycol
     Propylene glycol is an additive that scared me the most when researching. Not only is it used as an additive to keep food moist, but it is also used in beauty products, hand sanitizer, antifreeze, photographic chemicals, tattoo ink, and much more. It is "generally recognized as safe" but can be incredibly irritating when inhaled, when consumed, and can cause adverse reactions when injected through an IV. (It is also added to some IV medications.) It greatly increases your risk of developing respiratory and immune disorders from 50-180% with regular consumption. (Again, this additive is in EVERY item that may need to be "kept moist" while on grocery shelves. Imagine how much of this you eat EVERY DAY!)

10. Polydimethylsiloxane
     This additive with a long name has NO FDA APPROVAL as "safe" to consume! It has only been approved for use in food plants for boiling water. (Therefore, little research has been done on this additive.) Polydimethylsiloxane is a silicone based chemical that is used as an anticaking/antifoaming agent and is found is almost everything including alcoholic beverages, fish and poultry batters, pasteurized fruits (canned/bottled), pasteurized vegetables and seaweeds, chewing gum, candy, diet foods, fat spreads, fermented products (fruits, vegetables, etc.), food supplements, frozen fruits and vegetables, desserts, imitation chocolate, jams and jellies, animal fats, milk and cream powders, pastas, soups, broth, vegetables spreads, and water based flavoured beverages. When this chemical is subjected to heat, it produces formaldehyde, which is also not approved by the FDA for consumption. (You really get a double-whammy with this additive.) There has not been much research done on the effects of consuming polydimethylsiloxane, but, when formaldehyde is consumed it acts as a carcinogen and can cause cancer.

I encourage you to do your own research on these and other food additives. While one additive alone may not seem dangerous, consuming MANY additives EVERY DAY through out your entire life can prove to be deadly. Like stated before, all of these additives are interpretted as toxic by your body. These toxins are then stored in your fat cells and after years of being stored can begin to cause problems from as small as nausea or heaches to something more severe such as cancer.

You can begin removing these toxins from your body by drinking lots of water, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and removing highly processed foods from your diet. Do it all in small steps and it won't seem so hard. We started by eating less red meat, fewer packaged foods, and making fresh juice everyday to get a major boost in vitamins and minerals. Our next step will be to cut out the rest of our overly processed foods such as lunch meats, bakery items, and fake cheese. We have also switched from cow's milk to almond milk. These small changes make a BIG difference!

Again, I encourage you and hope to influence you to question WHAT is in your food! Because chances are, it's not really food at all.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why?

Since the day Adam and I first met online, our relationship has been built on food. Our first conversations were about our favorite foods; we created recipes; we shared our favorite menu items. Our first date was initiated by having a mutual craving for Buffalo Wild Wings and ice cream. We pigged out on honey barbeque wings and buffalo chips, got lost, found a McDonalds for ice cream, got lost again, and finally found our way back to my apartment. Every after that revolved around eating out at our favorite places and concocting rich and heavy restaurant style recipes (like our bacon wrapped candied jalapeno poppers). Needless to say, I gained fifteen to twenty pounds in the next year. I had abandoned my healthy eating attempts and took up the convenience and joy of eating out.

We had known the dangers of the processed foods and chemicals that we were eating, but they were convenient in our busy lives. We were always tired or sick and never had much energy to get out and do the active things that we had wanted. But, we were on a budget, it was easy, and the things we loved were readily available at any restaurant.

In January of 2012, we watched two food documentaries: "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" and "Food Matters." Both of these explore the world of food and the effects that food has on the body, both good and bad. They really opened our eyes to what the food we were eating was doing to us. It was slowly killing us and had been since the day we were born. In "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead," two gentlemen cleanse their bodies by drinking only fresh homemade fruit and vegetable juices. (Many say that this is unhealthy, but I will explain why its not, and actually beneficial, in a later post about this film.)

"Food Matters" looks at the real power of food and how eating the best fresh raw foods can treat, cure, and prevent ANY disease and illness. Most diseases in western and developed countries are only epidemics in those countries, and the main cause is the diet. (I will also write a future post about this film.) The research shown in this documentary really opened our eyes to the difference that healthy eating can make: REVERSING diabetes, CURING cancer, even HEALING the common cold.

I really became curious as to what a juice cleanse and a plant based diet would do for my weight and acne. I've always been curious as to what my "natural" weight was, but dieting and exercise only did so much before I gave up. Adam was also curious about what it would do for his energy levels, and if he'd be able to gain any weight by having his fill of proper nutrients.

The next day, I went out and bought the book "The Raw Food Detox Diet" by Natalia Rose. She outlines the easiest ways to transition to a raw or mostly raw lifestyle diet. Finally what I had been looking for! An instruction manual with recipes on how to lose weight, lose the toxins, and lose the addiction to food additives, artificial sugars, and processed foods. (Believe it or not, these things are highly addictive, which is why so many Americans find it so hard to do! But this is just how the food companies want it.)

This blog will be an outlet for a number of things. We will share our experiences in this journey, as well as recipes if you'd like to try them out with us. We'll also be sharing our research, findings, and opinions on various documentaries, books, studies, and food itself. This is our journey to a healthy natural lifestyle and I hope that you will support us and share in our experiences!