Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ultra Pasteurization-- Why "Ultra"?

Pasteurization is the process of heating something to a certain temperature to kill micro-organisms and extend shelf life. Louis Pasteur, the French chemist and microbiologist, was responsible for developing this method in the late 1800's. This was an important breakthrough because it was the beginning of understanding bacteria and disease. At this time, there was a need for decreasing these harmful organisms, as food borne illness was rampant. One of the biggest reasons contributing to this widespread illness was filthy dairies. The idea of sanitation and germs being linked with disease was just beginning to be understood. Populations and food production were increasing and food was traveling farther to reach people. Pasteurization decreased the food borne illness and extended shelf life for food en route, but did nothing to motivate dairies to clean up and operate under more sanitary conditions. With the public feeling safe with their new "sterile" milk there was no push for changing farming practices. Bigger, faster production was the theme, and that continues today.

I could make a case for raw milk here and discuss eliminating the entire pasteurization process, but the pasteurization campaign has been so strong, raw milk is illegal in most states. The fact is that clean raw milk from disease free cows, processed in clean dairies is perfectly safe and very healthy. However, since most of the population buys pasteurized milk that's the topic I'll stick to.

As micro-organisms began to survive the pasteurization process and an even longer shelf life was desirable for farmers, the ultra pasteurization process (also known as UHT- ultra high temperatures) became commonplace. The process heats milk to a whopping 280 degrees at least. We must first understand that although killing harmful bacteria can be beneficial, pasteurizing in this way kills every micro-organism, even the helpful ones. As we saw in the early 1900's and today, with organisms surviving stronger antibiotics, the pasteurization process etc, the bugs continue to win. We continue to find ways to kill them instead of addressing the underlying problems and this viscous cycle continues.

Ultra pasteurized milk does not curdle, you can't make cheese or yogurt from it. It tastes....well...blah- sort of flat, cooked, almost stale. Go ahead, have a milk challenge (I dare you to add in raw milk to that taste test)!! Ultra pasteurization destroys more nutrients than the regular pasteurization process.

Here's the nitty-gritty health reasons--

~ Calcium: Phosphates are needed for calcium absorption in the body.
UHT destroys all phosphates.

~ UHT destroys lipase, an important enzyme used to help the body
break down and absorb fat soluble vitamins like A & D. (this is why
milk is fortified with Vit D)

~ Vitamins B6 and B12 are destroyed in this pasteurization process

~ UHT alters delicate animo acid configurations and changes the
balanced proteins making them react differently in the body.

~ Along with making absorption of vitamins and minerals difficult, UHT
milk is also deficient in vitamins. The process diminishes vitamins
A, D and C by upwards of 50%.

~ Destroying all bacteria disrupts the natural balance. The good
bacteria are there to help keep the bad bacteria in check. Small
amounts of "bad" bacteria are good for us. Destroying all bacteria
weakens our immunity and creates stronger next generation bugs--
because they do evolve.

~ When packaged under aseptic techniques UHT milk is stable at room
temperature for up to 6 months!!!! That doesn't seem right.
Are we creating milk Twinkies?

Ultra pasteurized milk is less healthy than pasteurized milk which is less healthy than raw milk.
This process give false security of "clean" milk allowing dirty farming practices to continue.

I say drink less milk and get your calcium from dark leafy greens!!!
But when choosing pasteurized milk, don't reach for the UHT/ultra pasteurized labeled milk!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Locavore Challenge

I admit... when I first heard the term "Locavore" years ago I thought, "Really? Do we need another name?" If you don't live in California you're probably still rolling your eyes at this term. We've had some time to adapt to it here, and I like it. I believe in it, and I am trying everyday to live it more and more. in 2006 a group of people in San Francisco decided to try to eat within 100 miles of the Bay Area and they called themselves 'Locavores'.

To eat and buy local is just plain smart.
*It means you keep money in your local community and support your local farmers.
*It means you care about the environment and would rather forgo grapes in January than contribute to all the fossil fuel used to bring them to you. Fuel from trucks, planes and ships. Energy used to refrigerate products for up to 2 weeks in transit. The environmental reason list goes on and on.
*It means you generally don't want to eat your produce with a side of chemicals . More local and small farms will grow organically. However, even if you aren't eating organic local food you are still decreasing your chemical intake since most fruit is picked unripe and chemical ripening agents are added later.
*It means your probably pretty healthy, eating foods with more nutrients, and eating what you're supposed to be eating in that particular season.
*It means you're thrifty since food at the peak of it's season is also less expensive.
*It means you savor food and appreciate flavor- conventional food can be stored for weeks in refrigerators before even reaching your store! All I have to say here is...tomatoes. If you've never eaten a freshly picked tomato, you must.
*It means you value open land spaces. Keeping farms open keeps land, pastures and farms in your local area from being developed. Take your kids to an operating farm....get back in touch with food and create this relationship for your children.

We have lost touch with food as a whole in this country. People are so accustomed to having any food they want at any given time many of us don't even know what is normally in season! Most people would associate watermelon and tomatoes with summer... but how many people know asparagus is April (with a very short harvest) or kale is sweetest in winter. Some of you do...most of the population does not. It makes sense that in autumn/winter the body needs more vitamins and nutrients for cold stress and illness that foods like root vegetables and squashes rich in vitamin A and C are at their peak. There is a reason for this! Shopping at your local farmers market and eating with the season benefits everyone.

The average conventional food item travels 1500 miles before reaching you. WHAT?
Here are two important facts:
***The average US wheat farmer receives about 6 cents of each dollar spent on the loaf of bread.
***Farmers markets enable farmers to keep 80-90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer. 1

Find a farmers market:

Stop buying heavily processed food. OK, if that's too much...reduce your consumption of these expensive, unhealthy convenience foods.

At the very least. Look to see where your food is coming from. Read the little stickers and signs "Product of..." In January I bet those grapes say "Chile". Cha-ching!!!!
You probably won't run out and declare yourself a Locavore today. That's ok-- just begin to become aware of where your food is coming from, the choices will follow. Trust me.

1. Pretty, Jules. "Some Benefits and Drawbacks of Local Food Systems." Briefing Note for TVU/Sustain AgriFood Network, November 2, 2001.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I don't care what they say--- A juice box is NOT a serving of fruit!!!!!

And neither are those fruit gummies, or fruit leather things!

Fruit juice is really just a concentrated form of sugar- fructose- that is metabolized by the liver. What most people fail to understand is that whole fruits and their desirable qualities, such as phytochemicals, flavonoids, carotenoids etc., need to be in the form of the whole fruit to produce these desirable effects in the body. The skin of the apple works synergistically with the apple flesh. The skin with all it's antioxidants and fiber content actually stabilizes blood sugar levels. Apple juice without it's peel is virtually a high sugar, high caloric drink with a bit of vitamin C. A whole apple is "health food", a glass of apple juice is not.
The pulp in an orange(the white fleshy part in between the sections of the orange) is where flavonoids are found. Studies are showing flavonoids to be anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-allergic and anti-microbial. Eat an orange...leave the stringy white part on.
I don't want to sound redundant so understand that this "fruit with skin benefit" theme continues for all fruit.

Some of the most beneficial skins??-- strawberries, apples, raisins, blueberries, apricots, raspberries, figs, grapes, pears, plums,'re getting the picture right?

For kids, juice should be a treat! Making it the sole source of hydration is a detriment to their health. This should be a super easy decision for adults to make- for themselves and their children. It's pretty easy to get kids to eat whole fruit, especially in summer. If you make it available, a perfectly ripe juicy nectarine will not be shunned. If water is what's available from an early age, water is what they will drink. It really is that easy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


You can go nuts trying to live an ultra green life. Depending on where you live, your desires, your knowledge (along with your quest for knowledge) it can simply get the best of you. It can become a full time job if you apply it to all areas of your life! It can be hard to speak about specific changes to someone who has no's like green kindergarten. If you overwhelm these people you either get blank stares or excuses such as "we don't have access to 'those stores' and my favorite, "I can't afford that type of food"-- spoken by the upper middle class citizen driving their Lexus.

So can go nuts greening up every little area of your life. We need to prioritize. That happens to be the answer to the "I can't afford it" excuse. Don't get me wrong-- it makes me angry that it generally costs more to eat wholesome, healthy food over McDonald's. It's sad. Truely poverty stricken families are just trying to meet their basic human needs of food and shelter- this is another conversation that gets my blood boiling...we'll save that for another time. The fact remains that most of you reading this are reading it on your laptop in front of your flat screen LCD TV. Eating chemical, hormone, antibiotic free food would just take re-prioritizing what is important to you and finding a way to afford it. We all did that in order to buy our flat screens, didn't we!?!? Here are some suggestions... skip a hair highlight or two, stop buying your kids so many toys, scale down your clothing budget, stop buying so many 'convenience foods' and processed crap your kids don't need and put the money toward hormone free meat! It can be done easily if it's something that is important to you. The more you do, the more you learn the more important it becomes. It's a vicious natural living cycle!
In keeping it simple here, I'll just address a few important food choices. This is pretty basic and easy to do....

* Start with organic dairy and meat.
Almost all industrial farmed cattle are injected with hormones and antibiotics (most of which are banned in Europe). Bottom line is you don't want carcinogens in your food. These hormones are stored in the fat of animals and providing a nicely concentrated hormone disrupting effect in your growing, developing child. The USDA says the residue in meat should be "less than one percent of the daily hormone production of children", but this same USDA has no testing in place to enforce this. These are the same hormones that many studies are now liking to breast cancer, ovarian cysts, early puberty, infertility among other concerns. Logic here...why would we think these added hormones are safe? Why would we think they have no affect? All hormones have an affect!!! It's a very balanced system, our endocrine system, why are we messing with it?
On an ethical note, dairy cows are some of the most inhumanely treated, tortured animals of the industrial farming community. Organic meat and dairy is an absolute for my family.

*Choose Organic for fruit and veggies most susceptible to high levels of chemical residue:
Strawberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, pears, tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, bell peppers, spinach, salad greens, rice, potatoes, green beans, cucumbers.

*Read ingredients!!!! Just say no to Red #3!
There are studies linking coloring additives to ADD/ADHD. They are in everything...even Yellow #5 is in Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo! Most are made from coal tar. What??? (Norway has banned these)
Look for these additives and stay away.
* Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
* Propyl Gallate
* Sodium nitrate/nitrate
* Sulfites
* FD&C Blue #1
* FD&C Blue #2
* FD&C Green #3
* FD&C Red #3 (Erythrosine)
* FD&C Yellow #5 (Tartrazine)
* FD&C Yellow #6
* Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
* Acesulfame-K

* As hard as it is....get as much (if not all) high fructose corn syrup out of your diet! Just because it says "fructose" in the name does not mean it is (or even similar to) the naturally occurring fructose sugar in fruit. It is a highly refined liquid made from corn starch. It has a long shelf life and it's cheap to make. The problem lies with the fact that it does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin which helps to signal the brain that you're full. It goes straight to the liver to be stored as fat and increase the production of triglycerides! You eat HFCS's, never feel full and increase your fat/triglycerides.... Wow, here you are big pharma- your silver platter- numerous chronic illnesses that HFCS have have a part in exacerbating!

Make these few steps a priority.