10 Surprising Ways Food
Everyone knows that junk
food is bad for you. And we all know that eating more fruits, veggies
and whole grains is good for you. But there are many basic facts about
food choices that affect how we feel and how well we live that everyone
should know, but that few do.
Broadly speaking, our health culture is plagued by myths, falsehoods and
ignorance about the respective roles of genetics, food, exercise and
These gaps in our knowledge help explain why just about everyone is
unhealthy in one way or another, why so many people take frequent pain
relief and other drugs and why people can't bring themselves to eat
right or exercise.
So let's clear this up. Here are 10 surprising things you need to know
about the relationship between genetics, food, exercise and drugs.
1. Most common aches and pains are
caused by diet.
Sluggishness, fogginess, headaches, upset stomachs, indigestion and
general lethargy after eating heavy, processed and fat laden meals is
common, and even considered "normal." Constipation, sleeplessness,
irritability, fatigue -- all these symptoms and more are commonly
relieved by over-the-counter products. But they're all eliminated by
eating healthy foods instead of fatty, greasy, meaty foods,
empty-calorie foods and junk foods. My health counseling clients always
express astonishment at how good they feel after adopting healthy foods.
2. Most genetic diseases are
affected by diet.
Some people are genetically predisposed to some cancers, heart disease
or diabetes. But it's usually bad diet that "triggers" the genetic
predisposition to kick in and realize the disease itself. The most
obvious example is the genetic predisposition to alcoholism. You can't
be an alcoholic if you don't drink alcohol, no matter what your genes
are up to. Similarly, you're very unlikely to get heart disease or
cancer if you eat a healthy diet and avoid fatty or carcinogenic
foods. Gluten intolerance, which is associated with Celiac disease,
causes our immune system to react abnormally to gluten found in wheat
and other grains. This is considered a genetic disease, but carriers can
protect against it by eating a healthy diet and leading an active
3. Most contagious diseases are
affected by diet.
Recovery from any disease or bodily damage results from the body repairing
itself. Surgery, drugs and other interventions can merely assist the
body's recovery or reduce symptoms, but only the body can actually heal
itself. This healing system -- in fact a large number of interconnected
systems -- is called the immune system. Its capacity to heal is
affected directly by diet and lifestyle. So even contagious afflictions
like the common cold are made better or worse, longer or shorter by food choices.
4. Food quality affects allergies.
Allergies result from a very wide range of
factors. It's likely that
allergies arise from the quality of foods we eat combined with
other factors including poor nutrition and lifestyle habits and the
timing with which people are introduced to some foods. (For example, the
diet of a mother during pregnancy can affect later allergies in the
baby.) As the quality of foods has increasingly declined over the past
50 years, sensitivities and allergies have augmented. Food intolerances
and allergies can be triggered by lack of healthy and varied foods, lack
of sleep, pollution, over-the-counter
and prescription drugs -- even state of mind, stress and lack of
5. Prescription drugs can't make
In many circumstances, some prescription drugs can save your life, or
can make bad health manageable or tolerable. Some drugs can compensate
for something lacking in your genetic makeup. But the overwhelming
majority of drugs are prescribed to counter pain and discomfort or
prevent sickness and death, which often results from poor diet or lack
of exercise. And far too often the drugs taken to treat a condition
exacerbate the problem once the drugs are stopped, or they cause imbalances
or problems elsewhere, making the side
effects of drug treatments worse than the illness itself. In battling
health conditions, prevention is best. But once a condition develops,
getting to the root of it often begins and ends with food and
6. Diet-related illnesses take
unpredictable amounts of time to develop.
Over time, the cumulative effects of a poor diet can manifest as
diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimerís disease and cancer to name a few.
Most chronic illnesses are caused or triggered by poor diet and
unhealthy lifestyle. But what you really need to know is that these
diseases are almost always progressing long before any symptoms occur.
For example, young children who eat a lot of fast foods are likely to
already have advancing cardiovascular disease including atherosclerosis.
They already have the disease, even without the symptoms.
7. Good diet alone cannot make you
Many benefits of healthy foods occur in the body only in conjunction
with exercise, sunshine and other factors. One small example: You can
eat foods rich in calcium -- figs, beans, broccoli and collard greens --
but your body can't use that calcium unless Vitamin D is also present.
Vitamin D is manufactured as a response to exposure to sunlight. Plenty
of exercise is also vital in order to enjoy the full health benefits of
a healthy diet.
8. One problem with junk food is
that it displaces nutritional foods.
Good health requires that every calorie consumed has nutritional
benefit. Many are aware that the contents of junk food -- things like
trans fats, white sugar, artificial color, preservatives and others --
cause direct harm to the body. But those empty calories also "displace"
nutritional calories. Every 1,000 "empty" calories eaten means that
1,000 calories worth of nutritional food is not eaten. Taken to an
extreme, junk food gives you poison and malnutrition at the same time.
And many of the ill health effects of junk food results from nutritional
deficiencies, which leads to a weak immune system and, in turn, disease.
9. "Natural" does not mean
Many food companies like to use the word "natural" to sell their
products. It's a perfectly vague term, and in general tells you nothing
about how healthy something is. For example, sulfites, which occur
naturally during the fermentation of wine -- and which are used also as
food preservatives in dried fruits, juices, dairy products and many
other foods -- can be deadly to people
with Asthma. Natural, but potentially deadly.
10. Even fresh fruits and
vegetables can be "junk food"
We tend to think categorically about foods (meat vs. vegetables) rather
than qualitatively (conventional vs. organic). Most people don't realize
that industrial agriculture has radically transformed the quality of
produce. The corn and tomatoes and wheat used in conventional food
products bears little nutritional resemblance to the same foods eaten by your
parents and grandparents. Food scientists are constantly pushing the
boundaries of how foods are grown, using genetically modified seeds and
industrial fertilizers and pesticides in order to maximize yield --
always at the expense of food quality. That's why it's vital to buy
organic produce, and preferably from your local farmer's market.
In order to foster optimum health, it's essential to eat a variety of
healthy foods including fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole
grains, raw nuts and seeds and variety of beans. Avoid alcohol. If you
do drink, try to drink only red wine and never more than one glass per
week. Get plenty of rest and exercise daily. And eat foods as close as
possible to their natural state: whole, raw, naturally grown and free of pesticides. Given the
chance, the body cannot only do its job at keeping disease at bay, but
can even undo or reverse ailments caused by diet and lifestyle related
illnesses. Itís never too late to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle --
but the sooner you do it the better!
love to hear from you. Click here to send e-mail!
Keep getting this
newsletter. Place Vegetarian Organic Life on your whitelist.
I've been wanting new pans for probably two years now. I bought the 6
piece Le Creuset cookware set tonight (5 1/2 qt. round French oven, 2
1/4 qt. saucier pan, 10 1/4" square skillet grill, and 8 x 11 3/4"
roaster). I read the booklets that came with them and I read a little on
their website before buying. I know you have said you prefer the
enameled lined cast iron pans. Are there any TIPS you can share with me
so I will enjoy them and use them properly. I have never cooked with
enameled lined cast iron or regular cast iron before. Have you had any
chip? I hope I can learn some things so I use them right.
What are the safest utensils to use on the pans and yet safe for our
health. Wooden spoons? Bamboo ones ok? I see Le Creuset sells silicone
utensils - are those safe for our health? I've never bought any worried
they weren't good for our bodies.
I have five kids and I am worried about the scratchy lid. It goes right
around the enamel coating on the inside of the pan - won't it scratch
that enamel? My kids won't be careful putting on and taking off lids.
I also worry about our stove heating elements - although it says you can
use them on any heating type - I am worried the smooth "paint" for lack
of a better word will get scratched off by putting them on and off our
round old type of burner.
Do you hand wash or dishwasher your Le Creuset pans?
Is the enamel lining safe for our health? I couldn't find anything on
that while researching. I did see that Le Creuset had cadmium in the
outside coloring (I read that in their FAQ section on their website) -
what made me look is Emeril's line (by All Clad) enameled cast iron
stated 100% lead and cadmium free in an ad. Should I have purchased that
Are there any non-aluminum stainless steel pans out there? I see the
5-ply All Clad copper core pans consist of: stainless steel, aluminum,
copper, aluminum, stainless steel. So two layers of aluminum. At $900
per 10-piece set. I saw the Emeril line which is 3-ply and is stainless
steel, aluminum and copper but I couldn't find specifics on it while
researching on-line. At $189 per 10 piece set by All Clad. I want what
is healthy for my family and I want something that will last so I don't
have to go through all this researching again. :) Can you offer any
Paula from Guam
A: Congratulations on your new
Le Creuset enameled cast iron cookware costs a lot, but itís
the best in terms of craftsmanship and durability.
I've owned mine for years and use them every day. They have endured
abuse from friends and relatives unaware of proper care. Some used metal
utensils to scrape food out of them. Recently my mother washed a pot
with an abrasive scouring cleaning pad.
The good news is that despite the abuse, my pots are still in great
shape -- and so far have no chips. Although the vitreous enamel can chip
and become dull, it's durable. So don't worry about putting them on your
burners or having your kids chip them. Besides, even if they chip they
can still perform well. I would be more concerned about the kids
dropping them and hurting themselves if theyíre not careful handling the
lids, as they are heavy.
As a grizzled veteran using Le Creuset pots, Iím happy to share some
tips on how to properly care for your new cookware to make them last a
1. Don't stack them.
2. Never use metal utensils. Wooden and bamboo utensils work well.
Silicone rubber utensils are supposed to be safe -- they don't
react with, or leach
into, food, as theyíre chemically inert and
stable. They can be recycled but are not biodegradable.
3. If food sticks when cooking, add water, not oil, to unstuck the food.
4. Never use high heat. Although theyíre designed to withstand high
temperature on stovetop, broilers and up to 375įF in the oven, itís
best, healthiest and safest to cook over low to medium heat, both to
prevent food from burning and to retain more nutrients.
5. The cookware is supposed to be dishwasher safe. I prefer to
hand-wash, as soon as they have cooled down, to prevent food from
sticking. I had a small saucepan that my husband used to put in the
automatic dishwasher, and it got a little rusty around the edges.
6. Use only nylon or non-abrasive cleaning pads (no metallic or abrasive
pads) to wash them.
7. To wash pans or pots that have burnt food or food residues, boil
water in a tea kettle, then pour it in to cover the affected area. Let
it stand for 20 minutes. Wash and dry as usual.
8. Don't let the exposed metal parts on pot rims and lids stay wet.
9. Dry immediately after washing, and make sure they are fully dry
before putting lids back on and storing.
10. Don't immerse pots in
cold water when hot.
Enamel lining on the cookware is safe. Vitreous enamel is
perfectly non-reactive, clean and impermeable. That's why you can
marinate foods right in your pots and pans or store food in them after
cooking in the refrigerator.
Regarding cadmium: Yes, it's a known carcinogen and Le Creuset uses it.
But itís used only on the exterior of the pots for color (such as the
cherry, yellow or flame-colored ones) in a way that it will not react or
leach. The majority of the exterior colors they use are cadmium-free,
including chestnut, cobalt blue, dune, kiwi and Caribbean.
I know little about Emerilís line of enameled cast iron cookware by All
Clad. But I do know it's made in China (unlike other All Clad bonded
products). Health and safety standards are at best spotty in China, and
it's a good idea to err on the side of caution when buying
Chinese-made cookware and Chinese-produced foods. Le Creuset products,
on the other hand, are handcrafted in France and have been considered
the best quality for decades.
All Clad stainless steel products are high quality and made in the U.S.
The best stainless steel pots consist of bonded five-ply bottom layer
construction with copper cores and 18/10 stainless steel surfaces.
Unfortunately, they're expensive. Bottom layers that combine aluminum
and copper are safe for use, but not ideal in terms of heat
distribution. Bottom cores constructed of layers of all aluminum will
make heat conduction inferior to those made with all copper layers. Itís
also good to make sure that they are oven safe to at least 500F degrees.
2 ply is not great for heat conductivity but okay to use. As long as
they are polished with 18/10 stainless they wonít react with food.
WORDS OF WISDOM
To Give Is to Connect
ďGiving connects two people,
the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new
sense of belonging.Ē
-- Deepak Chopra
TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Your Wholesome Life
is free, but I make my living providing one-on-one
holistic health counseling, either in person or by
I invite you to
contact me and let me help you make the changes you've always
wanted to make, one step at a time. The first one-hour
consultation is absolutely free.
When it comes to overall health and happiness, itís all connected: your
food, your relationships, your lifestyle and you career. Let me help you find your solution.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
You Can't Eat Your
As I "speed walk" around
town every day, Iíve noticed that a few people grow their own veggies. A
few more people grow fruit trees, including avocado, lemon, orange,
mandarin, persimmon and pomegranate trees. But most homes have zero
fruit-bearing plants, and instead have lawns, hedges and other purely
Does this make sense? If you're going to grow plants, why not choose
plants that make food?
My sister- and brother-in-law (who both work full-time) converted their
front lawn into a beautiful and highly productive vegetable garden.
Their front and back yards also have trees, including an avocado tree, a
lemon tree, an apple tree and an orange tree. They fertilize their food
plants using compost fueled by discarded food. (And they keep bees!)
They've taken the space most people use to grow grass, and use it to
maintain a small food-producing farm!
I read an article recently about a nonprofit group called
Food not Lawns, based in Fort Collins, Colorado. The group
encourages the growing of food at home. Itís a brilliant concept, and
one that should be emulated in every town and every city where growing
food is possible.
I'm not much of a gardener. But a few months ago, I planted ten fruit
trees in my backyard, which to my delight survived the little care and
water they received while my husband and I
traveled through Greece. They
are already producing some oranges, lemons and limes and itís such a joy
to take it right off the trees. I canít wait to have enough to share
with others. And while the enjoyment of being able to walk a few steps
to eat fruit as fresh as it gets, right off your own trees, is vast, the
gratification going outside and see the trees we planted thrive with
life is a feeling that no words can describe.
There is no better time to become a little more self-sufficient as well
as environmentally and fiscally responsible. Why waste precious
resources like water on grass when you can use the same water to grow
And let's all advocate this concept broadly. Imagine if neighborhood
sidewalks had fruit trees. Imagine if children could just reach for an
orange, a mandarin or an apple as they walk home from school or play on
What better way to further
instill in each of us a sense of true community with our neighbors,
harmony with our environment and appreciation for the gifts of Mother
Grow food, not lawns! It's
the tasty, healthy alternative!
Stay motivated - Read health-related research
news, events and commentary every day. Check out Amira's
Vegetarian Organic Blog.
Amira's Online Stores
have two online stores where you can buy products that I personally
recommend or that carry the Vegetarian Organic Life, Vegetarian Organic
Blog or Your Wholesome Life branding.
Organic Store where you can find my favorite cookbooks (and
other books), kitchen tools, cookware, dry goods and even gifts and
Amira Store for
clothing and accessories!
ENJOY VEGETARIAN ORGANIC LIFE?
SHARE THE JOY - FORWARD TO A FRIEND!
VEGETARIAN ORGANIC RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Click on the picture for a closer look!
old and stale
cereal that comes in a box. For a healthy start to your day, nothing
like a wonderful bowl of delicious and easy to prepare muesli. Itís got
all the right ingredients to give you a powerful boost of energy along
with plenty of nourishment to last you for the day. My fresh raw cashew
milk goes particularly well with muesli. Add some fresh fruit such as
bananas or berries and youíll feel like when Popeye eats his spinach.
3 Ĺ cups rolled old fashioned whole-grain oats
Ĺ cup raisins
1 cup sulfur-free dried fruit bits (fig, apricot, prune, apple, pear,
cranberry, peach, dates)
ĺ cup ground flaxseeds
Ĺ cup raw walnuts (whole or chopped)
Ĺ cup raw almonds (whole or chopped)
2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
1 Ĺ teaspoons ground cinnamon
Homemade raw cashew milk (or organic almond or soy milk)
Fresh fruit (sliced banana, peaches, apples or blueberries)
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients well with a large fork.
Store in a large glass jar or bowl with lid. Keep refrigerated to last
for several weeks.
To serve, in a bowl, combine 1/2 cup of muesli with 1 cup of cashew milk
and top with 1 cup sliced fresh fruit or berries or a combination of
To make fresh cashew milk, in a blender, preferably a powerful blender
such as a Vitamix, add 1 cup of water, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8
teaspoon vanilla extract, to ľ cup of raw cashews. Blend at high speed
until completely smooth. Add 3 ice cubes and blend until smooth. As an
option, to slightly sweeten milk, 1/16 teaspoon sea salt and 3 drops
stevia extract or 1 teaspoon of raw agave nectar or brown rice syrup or
barley malt or maple syrup or local raw wild honey. Blend again at high
power for a few seconds. Drink up or add it to muesli, hot whole grain
cereal breakfast and your favorite smoothie.
HERE TO SUBSCRIBE
If you like
Organic Life, why not share the newsletter with a friend? Just
forward the newsletter and suggest that they subscribe.
Please send e-mail to
This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.
We respect your privacy and will never
sell or share your information with others except at your request.
Copyright© 2003 - 2009 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.