Federal food safety regulation a slippery slope: Part II- Small Local Farmers vs Large Agribusiness

One Size Fits all Regulation

More centralized power for food safety may sound great in a world where I can buy a food item with 100 ingredients, grown in 100 separate counties, states, and countries and that has been process in 100 different counties, states and countries.  But what if I want to buy an apple from the farmer down the street?  Should they be subject to the same rules and regulations as corporate factory farms that sell food items that end up in millions of products all over the world.

While we do need to stop large companies from carelessly contaminating our food, we also need to consider the dramatic difference in the types of farming that are done in America.  It is important to keep our food safe, especially when it passes through many hands.  But what if food just passes from one set of hands to the next.  Should both small, local farmers and larger corporate farmers be required to follow the same federal food safety regulations.

Current examples of large scale food safety regulation generally don’t do enough to protect us from pathogenic microbes from food mass produced on multimillion dollar corporate farm operations.  But these same regulations may be overkill for a small farmer who sells his produce locally.

“Raw” Pasteurized Almonds vs Raw Almonds

Almonds in the US are a great example of how large scale regulation in the end actually benefits large farmers by potentially destroying small farmers.

In the name of food safety, almonds sold in the US must be pasteurized.    All pasteurized almonds are cooked which can destroy beneficial properties or they are chemically processed using a probable human carcinogen.  After they go through either of these processes they are then labeled raw.  I guess one part of the pasteurized almond regulation that I don’t understand is that I thought the word raw meant not cooked or processed.  Who wants to live in a society where words lose all meaning?  Since only roadside stands are exempt from pasteurization, almost all US almond farmers are encouraged to lie by calling their almonds raw.

Not only do we have mandatory regulations creating less healthy almonds in the US but the pasteurization equipment is so expensive that it could easily bankrupt a small or medium sized farmer.  $1,000,000+ in pasteurization equipment either puts smaller farmers out of business or makes them subject to the larger almond farmers that can afford the equipment.  Sounds like a lose-lose situation for small and medium sized almond farmers.  This is a shame since small and medium sized farmers are our strongest hope for real healthy food in the future.

Rewarding the Culprit

All of this pasteurization regulation, that is putting stress on small almond farmers, is the result of 2 outbreaks of salmonella in North America.  The only outbreak that occurred in the US was from the largest supplier of pistachios and almonds in the world.  The ironic part of this story is requiring both small and large farmers to pasteurize their almonds actually help the companies that are having trouble with these outbreaks.  By putting a burden on the small and medium sized farmers that is similar to larger corporate farmers, you end up wiping out the competition for the large farmers, thereby opening us up to more safety issues in the future.

It sounds counter intuitive to say new safety regulations can increase safety issues in the future, but if new regulations wipe out small farmers that is exactly what we’ll get.  It will not be impossible for small farmers to keep up with regulations but it will mean they will have a harder time competing.  Eventually small farmers will not be able to keep up and will be forced out of business.

Who do You want in Charge of Your Food Safety

It is important to also remember that new regulations will just put a quality control person in charge of food safety.  This person can be so separated from the end consumer that their motivation will not necessarily be safety, but it will be to keep their job.  When the local farmer, who coaches the local little league team, is in charge of quality control of food safety there is more of a direct desire to see that food is safe for the end user.

Why Federal food safety regulation is a slippery slope: Part I- Safe Food vs. Healthy Food

The senate is trying to push through a bill that would increase the power of the FDA to be able to control food that is grown by farmers.  This food safety bill is in response to multiple food recalls on beef, eggs, and even spinach.  If you have seen news on any of these recalls you would probably not question the need for a federal food safety bill.  I would say there are 2 questions that need to asked before we would pass such sweeping legislation: 1) what affect does federal food safety regulation have on the health of our food and 2) what affect does federal food safety regulation have on the health of small, local farmers?

In part I of this blog series we will answer the question 1) what affect does federal food regulation have on the health of our food.

Does Safe Food= Compromised Freedom, Unhealthy Food

Judging on how food safety has been viewed so far in this country it seems the only safe food is food that has been stripped of anything that can sustain life.  It’s easy to keep food safe when you process the food so much that not even bugs will eat it.   I think if food safety people had their way we wouldn’t grow food in dirt anymore because it’s just too dirty.

I agree that the food landscape has changed dramatically in the last 100 years and needs new legislation to help deal with those changes.  But what about those farmers who grow food the way we did before the industrial revolution?  Should they be subject to the same laws as agribusiness, factory farming done by corporations?   As in other regulations that promote safety, will federal food safety regulation compromise our freedoms as Americans.  I am especially concerned about our freedom to have access to healthy foods.

Let’s take a look at one of the oldest food safety regulations and how it has affected health and the freedom to access healthy foods.

Pasteurized Milk as a Model

Originally used to kill off pathogenic microbes and extend shelf life; pasteurized milk is now consumed by almost every citizen in the US.  Only 150 years ago, everyone on the planet was drinking raw milk.  Today, if I want to get a glass of raw milk in Illinois; I need to own part of a cow or goat.  Neither grocer nor farmer can sell it to me.

Now, I do understand that we need regulation on pasteurized milk if we want people in the cities to have it, but what if I have a farmer friend next door.  Can’t I buy a gallon from him every week without risking him or myself with legal ramifications?  Today pasteurization of milk is so much the norm that few would question its “benefits” for society.  But can the pasteurization of milk have negative effects on health?

During pasteurization the bacteria in milk are destroyed, this includes the good bacteria that are beneficial for human health.  Based on how much milk we drink, milk could be one of the best sources of good bacteria, probiotics, in the diet.  We also are consuming less of other sources of good bacteria, such as raw foods and fermented foods.

Couple the disconnection with raw foods that we have as Americans with medications designed to destroy bacteria in the body, and we have opened ourselves up to a plethora of digestive health issue.  To top that off we add antibacterials to the food we eat and the water we drink.  The hope for healthy bacteria in the system is all but crushed, and now we face an era of poor digestion and immune health, both of which are improved by good bacteria.

We don’t think about it much now, but pasteurized milk is truly a case of both infringement on our freedom to have access to healthy food and a destruction of beneficial properties that make food healthy.  Now I can’t have access to milk with naturally occurring probiotics and I have to go to my local health food store and pay for probiotics.

We alter food so it doesn’t “kill” us or make us sick but we destroy its medicinal properties.  So much for let your food be your medicine.

Keeping Food Safety in Perspective

Speaking of medicine, did you know that pharmaceuticals that are taken as prescribed kill over 20x as many people as food-borne illness.  Over 100,000 people die every year due to properly taking their medication.  This doesn’t include medical errors or drug abuse, nor does it take into account the other side effects of medications.

We are more scared of healing foods than we are of deadly medicines.  We will destroy or remove beneficial portions of food that promote health for the sake of possible pathogens that are primarily an issue at large manufacturing facilities and factory style farms.  We are moving toward a model of replacing healthy food with safe food.  If a food loses its disease fighting properties is it safe?  If a food is “safe” according to food regulators does that mean it will help us fight disease?

So we remove or destroy the disease fighting properties of food and take deadly poisons for our medicine.  This all just seems a bit too ironic.

Dangerous Food Additives

I also find it ironic when we legally mandate that beneficial properties of food be destroyed but in the same system it is completely legal to add in dangerous chemicals to our food that increase our risk for disease.   Let’s take trans fat for an example.  We now know that this type of fat is the only one proven to increase heart disease, even though fat in general takes the blame.  Trans fat also has been shown to increase the incidence of  certain types of cancer.  The criminal act of adding trans fat to food goes unpunished while local and federal agents with guns drawn are stopping people from selling wholesome, raw milk.

Healthy and Safe Food

One important key to moving forward with safer foods should be to consider how a  food increases health and decreases the risk for disease.  Part of that equation is making sure food does not contain dangerous microbes.  But the food safety picture is incomplete if we are not taking into consideration the effects of food safety processing on the risk for disease and effects on overall health.  We are a very intelligent society.  You would think we could control the adulteration of food without limiting people’s freedom to access healthy food.

Be on the lookout for part II of this series when we talk about the effects of federal food safety regulations on small farmers.

How much does Marketing influence our Health?

A recent study about teens believing sports drinks are healthy really got me thinking. How much of our food choices are made because of clever marketing, especially marketing that would make us falsely believe something is healthy. And we are no different from teens.

It is surprising how much we take the food companies word for it. For example, I was reading a nutrition label for a multigrain cracker that was in our company’s break room. The first ingredient was whole wheat, which is a whole grain. A good start. But to find the next grain (not wheat) I had to skim to the fourth ingredient. To find the next real grain, not just a grain byproduct, I had to go 9 ingredients past the 2% or less ingredients. Literally they are sprinkling other grains over the top and claiming multigrain.

I wouldn’t have been so upset about the whole issue except they had this picture of a big wooden scoop with all these different grains pouring out of it. Great, now I’m all upset about it again. Give me just a second…

I guess it never ceases to amaze me to see all the tactics that are used to try and trick us into eating food that is not healthy, and by my personal standards, not even real food. These tactics are regularly being exposed, but before we figure out what tactics they are using they are already on to the next one. Some marketing tactics are here today and gone tomorrow, but some can linger on for years, even decades.

A great example is margarine. Most people can remember when margarine was not only promoted as healthier than butter, but they were so good at their message some people would have considered it a health food. Sometimes the issue is not only good marketing, but in this case the government backed the promotion of margarine. We now know that the partially hydrogenated oils that made up margarine are the most unhealthy oils you can put into your body. They are especially bad for heart disease, increasing bad cholesterol and decreasing good.

So if the junk food and fast food industries are pumping 10s of billions of dollars into marketing and sometimes getting government support to promote their unhealthy food than what are we to do? How can we possibly overcome such a huge deficit of misinformation. The answer is actually easier than you would think. We need to learn how to buy and eat real food.
The most basic step you can take is start reading labels. Stop believing the commercials and the marketing jargon on the front of the label. Go straight to the back of the label and read the ingredients. Avoid processed oils, grains, and sugars, as well as food additives and preservatives.
If you need a refresher on what real food is here is a fairly comprehensive list: beans (legumes), whole grains, nuts, seeds, whole fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy. If you spot one of these ingredients on your label than you have found something that contains real food. The question is how much of these real food ingredients are in there?

The only way to overcome false marketing is understand true ingredients. If you can’t understand the label, probably because the food companies don’t want you to, than you should just leave that food alone. Breaking free from sly marketing tactics will not happen overnight, but if you start to look to the source of truth- the ingredients label- than you are well on your way.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_103746.html

Whatever You Focus on Expands

As I continued to scour the news and research last week I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of negative news I saw about prescription medications.  I was highlighting many of the articles I found on twitter and when I looked back over the week I was surprised to see all the negative articles about prescription meds.  I even found that I was really having a negative spirit about the whole medical field the last couple of days.

I don’t want to become cynical so I had to check myself and see what do I really believe about health and where does the medical system fit.  Matt is always telling me that whatever we focus on expands.  The negative effects of medication had taken up much of my view over the last week.  It had started out as a head issue but it was starting to creep into my heart.  Since I need to guard my heart it was time to truly evaluate what I believe about the current medical system and where medications fit.

I have realized over the past couple years that I can’t blame the medical system for my bad health.  I have more recently come to believe that in the same turn I can’t ultimately trust them with my health.  We have built the medical system on capitalism and, for better or worse, it is designed to make money for the people that provide us with medical care.  Building a medical system on capitalism has its benefits like providing monetary motivation for advances in medicine.

But is this the right motivation when health is on the line.  Does the money influence advancement more than the motivation to see people healthier?  I’ve noticed that the money that goes into advertising prescription drugs has increased our focus on prescription drugs, and in turn this has expanded the view of these drugs in medicine.  At times it can seem like the only thing that gets attention in the medical field is medications.

I think this is why sometimes I focus so much on the side effects of medications, because at times these seem to be under-emphasized.  I guess just because meds have occupied almost the complete view of the medical system doesn’t mean I should let them expand to completely take over my view.  Especially as I think about the the role that drugs play in truly being healthier they should severely shrink in my view.

Well I guess until our country stops direct to consumer marketing of drugs and the saturation of the medical system by drug companies I will continue to keep people informed.  I will work this week on focusing on that which improves our health as opposed to that which is robbing our health.  After all, in my view I want health to expand and disease to shrink.

Prescription Fish Oil?

Matt walks in my office today and asks “Did you see the new commercial for the prescription fish oil.”  I had been on this companies website recently but until he came in I had forgotten all about it.  Our conversation got me thinking about the concept of a prescription fish oil.  For me it is a fairly mind-blowing concept.

So Why Prescription Fish Oil

You typically only see synthetic chemicals try to get approval as a prescription drug.  The main reason being that you can own a patent on a synthetic chemical.  It is expensive to get approval as a drug and you want to make sure you fully own the goods before spending all that money.   Your end product will have to be sold at astronomical margins to make back the original investment into the drug process.

For natural ingredients you can own the patent on processing but not on the ingredients.  That’s because you can’t patent something that is natural and already existed (that is of course unless you are Monsanto trying to get a monopoly on seed).  This is where it gets sticky.  If you don’t own the patent on the ingredient, other people can have that ingredient and boast similar properties to your now expensive raw material. 

This brings us back to our prescription fish oil.  Most of the research done on fish oil is for non pharmaceutical, regular old fish oil.  So if any one can sell fish oil and carry the same active ingredients as the ones found in the studies, then why all the work to become a pharmaceutical fish oil. 

Off-Label Prescriptions and Inflated Pricing

Two advantages I see for a company to do this: insurance coverage and doctor recommendations.  

When drugs are covered by pharmaceutical companies the real cost of the drug is hidden from most consumers.  I believe this is one reason why medical insurance rates and medical cost in general are through the roof.  We don’t pay when we get the prescription, but we pay plenty every month when we get our insurance bill.

The fact that it will be recommended by doctors could be a positive thing in some ways.  It is long past due for most doctors to recommend fish oil to their patients.  Only one problem here.  The prescription fish oil is only indicated for those with very high triglyceride levels.  That means most people that would benefit from fish oil aren’t really recommended to be prescribed this fish oil.

As a side note here I think there will be much confusion about when this fish oil should be prescribed.  Considering fish oil studies done on mood, brain function, healthy skin, joint health, and eye health did not use the prescription fish oil, it will be a stretch to recommend this form.  All of these uses would be considered off-label uses of the prescription fish oil.

Are There Any Advantages

So the last question you may have about prescription fish oil is the quality.  After all, purity and consistency are the main focus of most pharmaceutical companies.  The only problem here is when you are dealing with natural ingredients some of the procedures used to purify and concentrate may also destroy some of the beneficial properties.

Maybe I am just to grass roots or frugal but I am going to stick with good old health food store brands.  You can find a pure product without the pharmaceutical mark up.

You’ll Find This Ironic

One interesting final note.  The prescription fish oil Lovaza sold by GlaxoSmithKline was shown to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol 10%-46% from two separate studies.  The placebo group in both studies actually decreased LDL cholesterol.

PubMed Article

Another Twist in the Low Fat Low Carb Debate

For those of you invested in this long-standing debate there seems to be no end to the twists and turns. For those who have not been following the low fat/low carb debate it would be impossible to bring you up to speed, but let me give you a little history.

Low Fat
Over 50 years ago Dr. Pritikin suggests that a diet low in fat can help with weight management and also likely help with heart disease risk reduction. This fit nicely into the message that was being promoted during the time that fat was bad, especially saturated fat, and we should decrease levels at all cost. The food companies said, “why not” and began creating foods that were low in fat. To this day the grocery aisles are loaded with low-fat anything you can think of.

Low Carb
Not so long after came Dr. Atkins with the idea that a low carb diet will help people lose weight. People really missed their steak and eggs, so this diet had no problem coming to the forefront of diet trends. It wasn’t long until restaurants offered low carb menu items. So now we have access to low carb or low fat anything, but still today the CDC comes out with a report that says we are still gaining weight and there seems to be no end in sight.

A High Fat Diet Helps the Heart?
The one interesting twist in today’s research showed that the low carb, and therefore high fat, diet may actually have some benefits for heart health. The low carb diet shows significant benefits for increasing HDL cholesterol, which is the cholesterol that helps protect the heart. The effects seen on HDL cholesterol during a low carb diet are similar to that of a drug.

By this time you are completely confused, but let me try to bring some clarity to this picture. I will start with heart disease.

We reported in a recent blog about how red meat was not shown to increase risk of heart disease, whereas processed meat was shown to increase heart disease. We saw similar news launched this year about how saturated fat intake was not necessarily associated with increased risk for heart disease, whereas trans fats found in margarine were.

This shoots some big holes in the arguement that fat, especially saturated fat, increases heart disease risk. At the same time we find out that certain processed foods that are high in fat are likely to increased heart disease. So what we find is a high fat diet, sans the processed food, may actually benefit heart disease.

But Which Diet is Better for Weight Loss
As far as weight management, there does not seem to be a significant difference between the low fat or the low carb diet. The interesting point of both of these diets, and their founders, is that both highly advocate the eating of whole foods. If you read the initial works of both doctors you will find both diet plans are packed full with unprocessed, healthy whole foods. So is the fact that the diet is low fat or low carb have anything to do with it, I don’t think so. Does it have everything to do with eating whole foods… I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Resources:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/health/nutrition/04fat.html
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100802/ap_on_he_me/us_med_dueling_diets/print

A Synthetic Reality

This past week I was watching a reality TV show with high anticipation.  I normally don’t like reality TV but I knew one of the contestants.  I have previously viewed reality TV with a skeptical eye but what I learned this week has blown my previous conceptions of reality TV out of the water.

Since I was skeptical I was quickly turned off by what I saw on this “live” show.  It was hard to identify what it was about the show that made me think the reality was fabricated, but I got the impression that something was not right.  As the week progressed I heard bits and pieces of the story of what really happened from people who were there at the “live” show.  Everything I was hearing confirmed my initial thoughts about the show.

My wife was frustrated that I no longer wanted to watch the show because I really thought it was fake.  Even as she heard some of the stories from those that had been there, she was still interested in watching the show.  That was until someone shattered her perception of the show with one fact, the judges on the show received cue cards before the next act even took the stage.   This point was more shocking to her than when she heard that the judges were reading from a teleprompter.  When she watched one of the judges checkout a cue card to give the current performer a critique, she was disgusted.

How could they know how to critique a live act before they even watched them perform?  All of the details I continue to learn about the show reinforce for me that the producers are creating a synthetic reality.  They create stories that connect with our souls by taking parts of the most genuine pieces of our human nature, and everything we enjoy, and recreating it on stage.  Just like in a chemistry lab, different components are mixed together to give the desired outcome.  What you are left with looks and feels just like the real thing.

Now I am not against someone weaving a good tale when you know it is fiction.  I do take offense to someone who would decieve you into believing that what they created is something real.  Just as I was about to step off the roller-coaster of frustration I was experiencing about the show, I realized that the same exact thing was happening to our food.  It is hard to identify the issue by looking at the surface, but when you look behind the scenes it becomes obvious.

If you have a skeptical eye you may have already seen some subtle changes happening in our food, butter flavored food with no butter and guacamole with less than 2% avocado.  What can be seen on the surface only starts you down the rabbit hole of fake food, skepticism will only get you to part of the story.  To learn the full the full story you will need to dig, and dig deep.  Those creating this alternative reality are good at what they do.  They are working all the angles to give you a feel like you are experiencing the real thing, only to sell you a package with a false reality inside.  In some ways it is not unlike a good magic show.  You have to pay close attention to catch the trick and reveal the full reality of what you are actually seeing.

To overcome this false reality we will need to stop accepting foods “made with whole grain” and “made with extra virgin olive oil”, and actually start eating whole grains and extra virgin olive oil.  It takes just a little bit of training to start identifying the added colors that deceive the eye, added flavors that deceive the pallet, and marketing talk that convinces our minds that processed foods are beneficial for our bodies.

So as I need to step off of this roller-coaster for now, I leave you with one last question.  What is the next aspect of reality to be synthesized?  If we are not careful we will end up being offered something that tastes, looks, and feels like life…with only 1% real life added.

Breaking Free from Processed Food

Over the last couple months our company has given a lot of thought to our core beliefs and what are we trying to communicate.  An article that I found today really highlights what is at the core of what we try to represent as a company.

There is one fact I have known for a long time but have been unable to put it into words until now.  It is at the core of what we profess everyday as we talk in the office, meet in the conference rooms, and even think about when we are away from work.  As we observe a country who struggles with obesity, heart disease and cancer we have come to realize that food is not our problem but it is processed food that is the issue.

The article I saw today really puts a big exclamation point on that statement.  For half a century now we have been told that the consumption of red meat is one of the main culprit responsible for heart disease.  If there has been one nutritional fact we could stand, if all other food advice failed, we knew we could fall back on red meat as one of the causes of heart disease.

A group of researchers reviewed the literature to find out the relationship between meat and heart disease.  Their findings were published in the AHA journal in a  review that included 20 studies and over 1 million people.   After looking at all the data the research team found that when you separate the information on processed meat, like deli meat and hot dogs, out from information about meat with nothing added you find out some incredible information.  Red meat is not found to increase the risk of heart disease where processed meat was found to increase the risk of heart disease by a whopping 42%.

Since I am constantly looking over the research I am constantly presented with these two opposing facts, real food increases health and processed food destroys health.  Whether its nuts and beans decreasing heart disease or the “high carb” whole grains associated with a lower risk of diabetes it is always the same.  Eat real food and experience health, eat food imposters and suffer the consequences.

Even though disease management cost continue through the roof and the debilitation of disease is highly inconvenient, processed food will continue to be our cost effective and convenient choice.  If we continue to live for convenience today we will have to pay for it at some point.

Now I don’t want to minimize the struggle that we have today trying to break free from cheap and convenient processed food.  We all live in the same place and are face with the same tempation to choose the cheaper and more convenient choices.  We have to ask ourselves if I am saving time and money on food today, what I am saving it for?  Am I saving it for a time when my health has failed and I would pay anything and trade in my long, painful days to have my health back?

We want to be a company that is there with you on the journey to better health and help you to enjoy the adventure of rediscovering real food.  As we return to real food we will find that it offers a greater variety and tastes and experiences that we could never enjoy with heavily processed foods.

Resources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20479151

To Supplement or Not to Supplement

When Do We Need to Supplement?

“Should I be taking supplements or not?”  This question came up as I was talking with a friend.  They asked whether or not they should supplement whey protein in their health shake.  My typical answer to this is, “Only supplement when you don’t get enough of something or have an increased need for it.”

My personal opinion is that most of us get enough protein and this in not a necessary supplement.  On the other hand I know there is research to show that supplementing with whey protein can be beneficial.  Now, this blog post is not about whey protein but this conversation got me thinking.  Maybe it is beneficial to supplement whey protein because it completes an empty loop left by the heavy consumption of casein, the other main milk protein.

Just a little background:  whey protein is the by-product of cheese making.  The whey is removed and the casein is concentrated.  Considering cheese consumption has quadrupled in the last 6o years it got me thinking that maybe the imbalance that eating to much cheese may go beyond the excess it creates.  What about the imbalance that is created because of what is missing?

Why Do We Need to Supplement?

In my understanding, why we need supplementation is usually because we’ve removed something that was originally there to begin with.  Throw into the mix bad food choices, nutrient depleting farming methods, and increased toxicity…you get a fuller picture of why we need supplementation.

One problem I see with using supplementation as the fix for the removal of nutrients during food processing is that I don’t believe we have a full handle on all the things that are being removed.  The depth of what food has to offer is still being explored.  New nutrients like polyphenols, anthocynadins, and ellagic acid are just some of the beneficial chemicals that have been discovered in food in just the last few years.

To think that taking in isolated nutrients through supplements, and fully replace what we’re missing, is short-sighted.  Isolated nutrients are the beginnings of realizing what we are missing when we alter food from its original state.  Isolated nutrients may be just a start, but I think they are necessary to patch of some of the damage caused by the modern food system.

So to go back to my original thoughts about whey protein, I don’t think supplementing it will overcome our excessive consumption of cheese.  Our best bet it to consume far less cheese.

So what about the other supplements?  Should I take something to make up for what I do not get in my diet?

What Should I Be Supplementing?

I believe there are three main areas that Americans fall short on in their diets.  Then, they need supplements to compensate.  These areas are:  a multivitamin mineral, omega 3 fatty acids, and probiotic nutrients.

First and foremost, consider a good multivitamin mineral supplement.  It is best to get a whole food form with plenty of magnesium.

Secondly, I recommend a good omega 3 supplement. This fat is destroyed or removed from most processed foods because it is so volitile, or unstable.  Since it is unstable and breaks down easily during processing and preparation, I recommend you get flax oil from a good company that is kept in the fridge.  Even better yet buy some flax seeds and grind them yourself with a coffee grinder.  Add this to oatmeal, pancakes, over salad, or mix it right into dinner.  Add raw walnuts and extra virgin olive oil to your day and you have a good start to meeting this need.

Thirdly, I recommend a good probiotic supplement.  Since we’ve become a germaphobic society, we generally kill off good bacteria (probiotics) in food processing.  Pasteurization of milk is a good example of a source that would have supplied lots of good bacteria, but we destroy them during processing.  Add antibiotics to this equation, which kill good and bad bacteria, and now you have created an overwhelming need.  I think many people would benefit from daily probiotic supplementation.  Once you have a better balance of good bacteria you can probably go down to a one month supply every 3 months.

Supplementation should have a specific purpose.  If you are not aware of the reason why you take a supplement make sure to ask a qualified person for advice.  Dietary supplements can also help us regain and maintain our health.  Supplementation for medicinal purposes is way beyond the scope of this article.

Avocado, A Heart Healthy Fruit?

Photo by Michael Mark under Creative Commons License

 Avocado, a Heart Healthy Fruit?  

              Yes, avocado is considered a fruit. But, I am not going to write about whether it’s a fruit or a vegetable. It would be one boring blog. Instead, I’ll tell you about what I found out about avocados and their benefits for heart health. It’s an amazing fruit, really.  

  First encounter  

              Growing up in Europe, avocados were not as popular as on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, but my family would always buy them if available at a local super market. Avocados were in the fruit section, so I was always confused that it didn’t taste like fruits at all. Our family used avocados mostly in salads and that’s how I became a fan of their delicious taste. There are actually hundreds of different ways your can use avocado and if you don’t believe me, visit California or Texas. These two states are the biggest consumers of avocado in the US.    

  Fat, Cholesterol, and Confusion  

              But, not everyone was a fan of avocado. I remember a family friend who said that avocados are high in fat and that fat raises cholesterol. Certain unhealthy types of fat definitely don’t help cholesterol but, not all fat is bad. We need to differentiate fats here, for example, trans fat that you may find in greasy fries from your local joint is bad, but monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, in reasonable amounts, can actually help in lowering cholesterol.  

  Avocado for Heart Health  

              A study that was done in Australia shows that including avocados in one’s diet may help reduce cholesterol by 8 percent. This is better than just a low fat diet by itself. That same study showed that HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) increased by 15 percent in people who included avocados in their daily meals. Such benefits are caused by avocado’s healthy monounsaturated fat and Beta- Sitosterol. Beta- Sitosterol blocks LDL (bad cholesterol) from absorbing, resulting in lower cholesterol levels.  

              Amazingly, Australian study not only showed that avocados may help reduce cholesterol levels, but help with weight management as well. Eating half to a one and a half avocado per day for a month helped people to lose weight.  

  We’re Missing the Point  

              I was excited to find out that avocado fat is healthy and helps reduce cholesterol levels along with other benefits. Looks like our family friend didn’t know much about different types of fats and was misinformed. Knowing this kind of information may greatly benefit us in selecting the right foods for a healthier lifestyle. Many of us miss out on lots of great food that is available for us everyday, with plenty of benefits. So, next time you’re doing grocery shopping, put that avocado in your cart.