Greenwashing

I recently learned about “greenwashing”.  This is a term used to describe when “green” marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that a product is environmentally friendly.  This includes baby care products, toys, construction materials, house wares and health and beauty products.

In a report put out by Terrachoice [1] in 2007, they found that out of 1,753 environmental claims that were recorded on 1,018 products that:

  • 11% committed the sin of vagueness
  • 26% committed the sin of no proof
  • 57% committed the sin of hidden trade-off

In a 2010 report put out by the same group found that only 4.5% of the over four thousand products evaluated were sinless.

In an effort to combat deceptive marketing, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revised the “Green Guides” in 2010.[2]  The Guides indicate how the Commission will apply FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices, to environmental marketing claims.

In the meantime, companies can get legitimate certification for their products using the following resources:

Green Seal: http://www.greenseal.org/

Ecologo: http://www.ecologo.org/en/

Fair Trade: http://www.fairtrade.net/

Green-e: http://www.green-e.org/

USDA Organic: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateA&navID=NationalOrganicProgram&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOPNationalOrganicProgramHome&acct=nop

Reference:

[1]  http://sinsofgreenwashing.org

[2]  http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/10/greenguide.shtm

Tasty Paleo Pancake Recipe

Last night Kathleen was flipping through our copy of The Primal Blueprint Cookbook and got rather excited about a number of delicious sounding recipes she found. She described one of them and quickly followed the description with “want me to make them tomorrow?”

It is listed in the book as Coconut Pancakes (page 194) and here’s how we made them this morning.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of water

Instructions

Combine the eggs, butter, coconut milk, honey, and vanilla. Mix well with a whisk. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredient mix. Stir until smooth. Add water until the mix as at a pancake batter like consistency.

In a well buttered pan or griddle, cook pancakes until browned on both sides (about 3 minutes a side).

Our Lessons

We cooked the pancakes on a non-stick griddle at 350 degrees, just like normal pancakes. We had used closer to a full cup of water, so the first few pancakes made a bit of a splatter when flipping them over. The solution turned out to be simple: let them cook for 4-5 minutes on the first side, rather than 3 minutes as suggested by the original recipe.

We ended up with 6 medium-large sized pancakes.

As a bonus, we added some dark chocolate chips to the batter for a little extra flavor.

The Verdict

We’ll definitely make these again. They’re not the same consistency as regular pancakes (the lack of gluten and wheat flour means they’ll break or crack more easily) but the taste was quite good, and they made for a filling breakfast. We can also imagine lots of variations on this recipe, adding in a bit of fruit or nuts (or coconut!) instead of chocolate chips in the batter.

While we’ve had the book quite a while, we’ve not really experimented with may of the recipes in it yet. This one may have opened our eyes a bit, so don’t be surprised if you see a few more here in the coming weeks.

Follow the Money

Some people, when confronted with the idea that a lot of nutrition research and recommendations are biased by industry, are rather skeptical. Surely our medical researchers are looking out for our best interests. They’re in the business because they care about making people healthy, right?

Well, maybe. I’m sure many of them have the best intentions. But who decides what research is actually published and publicized? The answers are often surprising–the same companies that benefit from the status quo: the sale and consumption of unnatural, unhealthy, processed foods.

One excellent example is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) and their well-meaning sounding web site eatright.org, which proclaims “Food and Nutrition Information You Can Trust.” It all looks good and sounds good, right? Go have a look. I’ll wait.

Ok, now that you’re back, did you happen to notice their Corporate Sponsors page? Of course not. It’s not featured in the navigation bar. It’s not highlighted at all on the site. Odd.

Well, as of this writing, the list contains big food names, such as:

  • Aramark
  • The Coca-Cola Company (seriously)
  • Hershey (I’m not making this up)
  • National Dairy Council
  • Abbott Nutrition
  • Cargill
  • General Mills
  • Kelloggs
  • Mars (check for youself)
  • Pepsico (uh huh)
  • Soyjoy
  • Truvia
  • Unilever

The great irony here, if you haven’t already figured it out, is that truly healthy people are likely to avoid the products that most of the companies spend millions trying to sell us–instead opting for real food.

And if you really think that the organizations that fund (or “sponsor”) nutrition research and education don’t have influence over what what research comes out and how the messages are spun, I have a bridge to sell you!

If you haven’t done so already, keep that list in mind and set aside a bit of time to watch the movie Food Inc. (one of our recommended movies). You might think about eatright.org a little differently after you do.

Sadly, it’s as much about politics and money as the presidential and congressional elections are. So when confronted with nutritional advice or a new study, take a minute to figure out who funded it and ask yourself what their agenda is likely to be. I think you’ll walk away with a more balanced view.

I’ll get into this topic a bit more in an upcoming book review–hopefully next week.

Weekly Links for January 27th, 2012

Just like last week, here’s a short list of interesting health and nutrition related links for your education, amusement, and reading pleasure.

  • CDC researchers say mothers should stop breastfeeding to boost ‘efficacy’ of vaccines was an odd headline that I stumbled across. The story itself is interesting, but even more so is reading the summary on PubMed. It turns out that women in India (and other places where they are more traditional diets) have breast milk that’s so good at fighting off foreign organisms, it rendered the vaccine less effective. I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing! Don’t we want kids with strong immune systems?!
  • Dr. Terry Wahls cured herself of MS using nutrition. Her TED Talk Minding Your Mitochondria explains how convention medicine failed her and she had to take matters into her own hand, ultimately reversing her condition by eating healthy food and avoiding the bad stuff. Oh, I should mention that she’s a doctor herself! 
  • Live and Health… No Excuses is a new heath blog recommended by a friend. Looks to be off to a great start and in a similar vein to what we do here.

As always, leave comment below if you have something to add.

Thanks fo reading!

Short Ribs with Ancho Chile Sauce Crock Pot Recipe

Yesterday we put some of our excellent grass-fed beef to use in the slow cooker, making a recipe from the Essentials of Slow Cooking (Williams-Sonoma). This cookbook has never disappointed us.

The recipe is really quite easy. You’ll need:

  • 2 ancho chiles, stems removed
  • 4 pounds of beef short ribs
  • salt and freshly ground peper
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (not the canola oil they call for)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper (we used orange–any color will do)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped

Boil a pot of water, add the ancho chiles, and remove from heat. Let them soak for 20 minutes.

Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Season the ribs with salt and pepper and cook them on both sides until browned (8-10 minutes). Transfer them to the crock pot, leaving the oil and butter in the pan.

Add remaining ingredients to the pan, stir frequently, and cook until the onions are soft (8-10 minutes or so). Then transfer pan contents and the chiles to a food processor or blender. Process or blend until you have a smooth sauce. You may need to add 1/4 cup of water or so.

Pour the sauce on top of the ribs in the slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

The meat literally fell of the ribs for us and the sauce was amazingly tasty. We’ll definitely make this again.

This is just one of the many crock pot recipes we’ve made from the book. Overall we’ve been very happy with the recipes and look forward to making more of them. I’d poste a picture, as you might imagine, the meal wasn’t visually appealing. But what it lacked in looks it made up for in flavor. :-)

Mood Disorders and the Food We Eat (part 2)

Are you stressed out?  If so, you are not alone.  A 2007, American Psychological Association study estimates that approximately 75% of Americans experience both physical and psychological symptoms of stress each month.

One reason for this stress epidemic is that our human adrenal system evolved based on the stressors of our ancestors such as hunting wild animals or protecting the tribe.  It is not adapted to deal effectively with the continuous, multiple stressors that we endure in modern life.  For example, modern stressors include frequent work pressures, traffic with commutes, and exposure to pollution. Upon the initial exposure to a stressor, our adrenal glands send out the hormone adrenaline.  The adrenaline surge alerts you to imminent danger and prepares you to fight or flee.  The release of cortisol follows and is longer acting.  It infuses you with strength, stamina and a sense of well-being.  However, chronic exposure to stressors wears out the adrenals and we loose our natural ability to deal with stress.

One of the biggest chronic stressors is the high sugar, low protein diet.  Within two days of changing my diet from the Standard American diet (SAD) to the primal diet, I felt more calm and a greater sense of well-being that I remembered feeling for a long time.  Now, when I feel stressed, I avoid high sugar, low protein foods (often referred to as comfort foods) and eat a steak with vegetables.  I notice that I recover from stress much more quickly.

Symptoms of adrenal overload include often feeling pressured, difficulty relaxing, getting upset easily, high sensitivity to noise or light, feeling weak at times, and a need for alcohol, food or drugs to relax. The Mood Cure by Julia Ross is an excellent book to learn more about recognizing and treating mood disorders with nutrition.  In addition to a high protein diet, she recommends GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) as a supplement for treating adrenal overload.  I’ve used this when going to the dentist (I’ve had several non-fun dental visits) and I notice that I do not clench my teeth during the visit nor do I have a sore jaw afterward.

Personally, I find that both the proper nutrition and mindfulness meditation to be great assets in coping with the stresses of modern life.  I’ll discuss my practice of meditation in future posts.

See also: Mood Disorders and The Food We Eat (part 1)

Mood Disorders and the Food We Eat (part 1)

It is estimated that 80% of the adults in the U.S. population suffer from a serotonin deficiency.[1] Serotonin deficiency symptoms can include depression, anxiety, insomnia, overeating, PMS, migraine, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), aggressive or violent tendencies, fibromyalgia, alcoholism, and bulimia. More subtle symptoms include frequent pessimistic thoughts, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, feelings of worry and anxiousness, irritability, moodiness, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) and difficulty getting to sleep.

Julia Ross, who has 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist, clinic director, and pioneer in the field of nutrition psychology, has witnessed firsthand the remarkable impact of nutrition (not drugs) for treating a number of mood disorders. In her book, The Mood Cure, she discusses how the key amino acid for producing serotonin, Tryptophan, is difficult to get in sufficient quantities from the foods we eat today. Specifically, feeding farm animals (chicken, cows, pigs and turkey) Tryptophan-low grains like corn instead of grass has led to these traditionally rich sources of Tryptophan to become deficient. A diet containing milk and cheese (locate at Real Milk), beef (from grass-fed cows), chicken, pork and eggs from pasture raised animals (locate at EatWild) is recommended to help reverse the serotonin deficiency. An amino acid supplement, such as HTP-5 or Tryptophan can also be used to help reverse the deficiency. (It is recommended to consult a nutritionist prior to using these supplements.)

In the course of writing this post, I tried using the USDA Nutrient Database to compare the amino acid content of grass-fed beef versus grain-fed beef. It is interesting to note that no nutritional information on amino acids was available. This is the same database that provided the amino acid content of mung beans and lettuce! This is a surprising omission for a food so important to health.

See also: Mood Disorders and The Food We Eat (part 2)

References:

[1] Kellerman, Gottfried, Ph.D., Prepublication research data on 2200 subjects and controls given urinary neurotransmitter level testing at Pharmasan Labs, Minneapolis, 1996-2002.

Healthy Tortilla Soup Recipe

One of our favorite ways to use our homemade chicken stock is to make Tortilla soup.

We use our 6 quart slow cooker (aka. crock pot) and put in all of the ingredients in the morning.  About 5pm to 6pm, it’s ready to eat.  We get roughly 6 to 8 heaping bowls worth.

Ingredients include:

  • 3 cups of homemade chicken stock
  • 2 14.5 oz. can of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 cups of hot salsa
  • 4 cups of cooked chicken
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 cup of cilantro
  • 8 oz. of Monterrey Jack cheese (we prefer raw)
  • blue tortilla chips
  • 1 or 2 fresh lemons

Add cooked chicken, garlic, stewed tomatoes, hot salsa, chicken broth, cumin to crock pot and cook covered on low for 8 hours or so.

Once ready, add to bowl.  Sprinkle cilantro, squeeze a half of a fresh lemon, crush up some tortilla chips and shred Monterrey Jack cheese to taste.

We used to make this recipe with store bought chicken stock.  It was good.  Now, with homemade stock…it is truly fantastic!

Take a look at the health benefits of stock at: Stock and Broth for Better Health

Stock and Broth for Better Health

In our journey to better nutrition, we’ve learned the value of making our own meat stocks.  In general, our bodies benefit from consuming the body parts of healthy animals.  In the making of chicken stock, we slow cook the bones, skin, and organs.  In turn, we get a stock containing:

  • minerals of bone, cartilage, collagen, marrow and other organs (such as liver and gizzards) and these minerals are easily assimilated by the body
  • proteinaceous gelatin which are hydrophillic colloids that attract digestive juices and aid in digestion.
  • cartilage.  A structural component of cartilage is chondroitin sulfate.  This is essential in maintaining the integrity of the extracellular matrix.  It has also been found to lower cholesterol and decrease the incidence of heart attacks
  • amino acids glycine and proline.  Glycine is important in the production of heme which carries the oxygen in our blood.  Glycine also supports glucogenesis which in turn supports digestion by enhancing gastric acid secretion and is also important for wound healing.  Finally, glycine supports detoxification of the liver.  Proline is vital to the structure of collagen and therefore our bones, skin, ligaments, tendons and cartilage.
  • red bone marrow.  It contains the precursors to red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets which our body converts to mature cells.

Historically, stocks have been used to treat a variety of aliments including (but not limited to) bone disorders, rheumatiod arthritis, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, flu and asthma.

In the past month we have been making chicken stock.  (Bones of one 4 to 5 lbs. chicken makes about 6 cups of stock.)  Our favorite stock based recipes include chicken tortilla soup and chicken black bean soup.  The taste of homemade stock is superior to that store-bought.  We’ll share these recipes with you soon.

A great site for further information on the health benefits of bone stock is from the Jade Institute.:

http://www.jadeinstitute.com/jade/bone-broth-health-building.php

(Thank you, Tina!)

Health Benefits of Sprouts

In our research on health and nutrition, we’ve found that sprouts are often featured as having high density nutrition that is easily digestible.  In the process of sprouting (or seed germination), the following processes occur:

  • Enzymes are produced that transform complex carbohydrates and proteins into easily digestible counterparts.
  • Mineral become chemically bounded to amino acids.  Minerals in this form are easily assimilated by the body.
  • Vitamin C, along with other vitamins, are produced in large quantities.  The table below shows that sprouted mung beans have three times more vitamin C than raw beans.  Sprouts also have more than one and half times the amount of vitamin C compared to green lettuce.
Food Vitamin C (Value per 100g)
Mung Beans, Sprouted 13.6 mg
Mung Beans, Raw 4.8 mg
Green Lettuce 9.2 mg

We’ve experimented with sprouting sunflower seeds, alfalfa seeds, chickpeas, and mung beans.  The easiest and most prolific are the mung beans and alfalfa sprouts.  Seeds started to sprout within 24 hours.

The process of sprouting is very easy.  Just soak in water in a glass jar for 12 to 24 hours (shorter times for smaller seeds such as alfalfa).  Make sure the top of the glass jar has a meshed opening to allow air to circulate and minimize visits from pets (like our kitties),  This can be cheese cloth or a sprouting strainer lid.  After that period of soaking, drain the water.  Rinse the seeds in cold water once in the morning and once at night.  Unlike the other sprouts, mung beans should be kept out of direct sunlight.

We’ve added these to salads, stir-frys and omelets.  We enjoy the fresh taste and crunchy texture.  We hope you enjoy these too.