Practice safety when it comes to protecting yourself from the sun, and let the FDA know they need to study sunscreens further
Is that green lawn worth compromising the health of your family – furry, or otherwise?
BY LINDA BONVIE
Reaching the milestone age of 17 is a feat for any dog, but to do so with vitals such as heart, lungs, liver and kidneys in tip-top shape and a hearty appetite is a real achievement.
This is the case with my pup, Bumby. You could say he’s in amazingly good health for his age… except, that is, for his brain, which has been seriously damaged by repeated seizures. Bumby’s senior years certainly aren’t what they could have been.
Like his veterinarians (who have conducted numerous tests on him), you could label his seizures as “idiopathic,” another way of saying “for unknown reasons.” And that would be a valid diagnosis. But I have my own idea of what might have been the cause – Bumby’s frequent exposure to lawn chemicals, notably pesticides and herbicides.
These chemicals, by their very nature are meant to poison living things. Sure, the intended targets may be bugs or weeds, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be collateral damage. In fact, a quick look at some recent research tells us that this chemical arsenal we employ to keep our surroundings neat, green and insect-free is doing us much more harm than good.
And that’s especially true for the most vulnerable members of the family – kids and pets.
One especially frightening report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Environmental Health found that although “acute” (where you know fairly quickly that something is wrong) pesticide poisonings in children in the U.S. are relatively “uncommon,” constant low-level exposures (including from food) are not. And a “growing body of epidemiologic evidence” points to “associations between exposure to pesticides in young children and a range of diseases from childhood cancers to autism.”
Landmark research from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health discovered through pre-natal MRIs that when a fetus has been exposed to “low levels” of the commonly used pesticide chlorpyrifos, they observed “changes in brain structure.” (Although the EPA banned household uses of chlorpyrifos in 2001, it continues to be widely used on food crops, especially corn and other vegetables, fruit and nut trees, and can also be commercially applied on grass).
One of the central findings of these and numerous other studies is that exposure to such toxins can be very, very low – far below what the EPA considers to be “safe” – for harm to occur.
If you’re living in a condo, however, with most outdoor areas considered “common ground,” trying to tell such things to the powers that be will fall on deaf ears. “Just wait a few hours for it to dry and it’s safe,” is a common response. But that’s not exactly true, either.
Research by Purdue University scientists found that dogs were still excreting lawn chemicals in their urine a full 48 hours after grass areas they had walked on had been treated, and that exactly how long you need to wait before allowing your dog on sprayed grass “remains to be defined.”
Certainly, an acute poisoning makes it much easier to point to a specific cause. But as the AAP doctors reported, constant low-level pesticide exposure can do plenty of damage.
For Bumby, condo life meant a steady parade of gardeners armed with tanks of chemicals making sure that any dandelion daring to rear its golden head would soon wilt in a brown heap.
Of course not all the neighborhood dogs suffered from seizures (although a number of his canine pals developed cancer). But I believe that this ongoing chemical exposure (which can enter your home on shoes, and via “drift” through open windows) lowered Bumby’s seizure threshold enough that, despite being blessed with rather robust health, he reached a tipping point.
It seems, however, that no matter what news comes to light it will do little to damper the enthusiasm for spraying these poisons. On a trip to the Home Depot last summer I observed a towering display of on-sale Roundup (long known to be a carcinogen, and just recently found to up your cancer risk by more than 40 percent) being snapped up like a rare wine.
Now that Spring has arrived the TruGreen (formally ChemLawn!) trucks will be cruising around your neighborhood and putting brochures in your box. But if you really want to go green why not cancel the lawn or the stone spraying? Pick them, whack them, or just let them grow. Do it for your dog.
Bumby and I have since left the spray-happy condo life behind, but the damage was done.
He tries his best to stand tall on his short Bichon legs, but a lot of the time his head will tilt down and to the right and he’ll fall or start going in circles. He’s mostly or all blind, and either doesn’t care to hear what I have to say anymore or is deaf as well.
But every so often when someone visits he’ll wake up from a deep nap, point his nose upward and give his very best “woof, woof,” before nodding back to sleep.
Good boy, Bumby. Good boy.
Linda and Bill Bonvie are regular bloggers for Citizens for Health and the co-authors of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them.
For a long time the word “natural” was perhaps the most overhyped and ambiguous term to be used by the food industry. But it looks like that may be changing, despite the failure of the Food and Drug Administration to give it a clear-cut definition.
The latest indication of that is the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest against General Mills for misusing the term in describing its Nature Valley Granola Bars, Crispy Squares and Trail Mix Bars as “100 percent natural.” The company has now agreed to refrain from such terminology if those products contain such highly processed ingredients as high-fructose corn syrup, high-maltose corn syrup and dextrose monohydrate.
But there are still a few that might be regarded as misleading, as we noted last May in a blog prompted by another such settlement, in which Kellogg’s agreed to stop using such phrases as “all natural” and “nothing artificial” on various products in its Kashi and Bear Naked lines.
Read more at our sister site FoodIdentityTheft.com: http://foodidentitytheft.com/another-settlement-helps-curtail-bogus-natural-claims-but-a-few-still-remain/
The Pop Tart wouldn’t exactly qualify as the sort of thing the Kellogg brothers originally had in mind.
As the inventors of corn flakes, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his younger brother, W. K. Kellogg, both Seventh Day Adventists, were what some might consider “health nuts.” And, in fact, the Kellogg company web site now refers to the fact that W.K. who founded the original company back in 1906, was “motivated by a passion to help people improve their health.”
Of course, W.K. did add a little sugar to make those corn flakes more appealing, a decision thath didn’t sit too well with his older brother, the proprietor of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
Still, one can only wonder how either Kellogg would have reacted to the sight of supermarket shelves lined with Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, the “toaster pastries” sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which has been linked by various studies to obesity, diabetes and a host of other health problems. And that’s not to mention the artificial colors and other additives typically listed among their ingredients.
But wait — could it be that the ghostly echoes of the Kellogg brothers’ displeasure are being heard lately at company headquarters? Or is it just the disapproval of consumers who have been increasingly turned off by products containing the laboratory sweetener (such as the one we heard from who reported having complained to the company about the HFCS in those Pop Tarts)?
Whatever the motivation, it recently came to our attention that Kellogg’s is showing signs of having second thoughts about that particular ingredient. At least to the extent of marketing a couple “new” varieties of Pop Tarts – one being Oatmeal Delights, whose box boasts “No High Fructose Corn Syrup.” In fact, the positioning of that claim, just beneath the Pop Tarts logo, could even be interpreted to mean all the products in that category.
There’s also the claim posted on the company’s web site that yet another new product, Pop-Tarts Low-Fat Frosted Strawberry Toaster Pastries “contains no high fructose corn syrup” as well.
So could this mean that the folks at Kellogg’s are finally making a line of Pop Tarts that are more in keeping with the founders’ healthy intentions? Well, not quite.
Nearly all of the various types of Pop Tarts we examined at our local supermarket still contain HFCS, along with those artificial colors that have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. So much for the impression those “No High Fructose Corn Syrup” claims might give to a mom in a hurry that Pop Tarts can now be relied on to contain none of the unnatural sweetener.
Read more at our sister site, FoodIdentityTheft.com: http://foodidentitytheft.com/dont-be-fooled-by-those-no-hfcs-claims-on-new-pop-tarts/
We’ve talked about the risk posed to babies by the presence of whey protein concentrate, an “excitotoxin” containing free glutamic acid, in the “Good Start” products currently being marketed by Gerber as a preventive for childhood allergies (a claim now being disputed in a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission). In this one, we’d like to talk about two other problematic baby-food ingredients.
The first is hexane-extracted soy, which can be found in soy-based infant formulas.
Hexane is a neurotoxic, highly flammable, volatile chemical that is a byproduct of gasoline refining. It’s used in industrial glues and cleaning solutions. It can also be found in gasoline and numerous other consumer products, mostly adhesives, sealants and coatings, such as Rust-Oleum. But the most common use of hexane is as a solvent to extract the oils from nonorganic soy, canola and corn.
The Cornucopia Institute has been investigating hexane since its 2009 report, Behind the Bean was issued. It says that “nearly every major ingredient in conventional soy-based infant formula is hexane-extracted.”
We called two companies that make soy-based formulas, Abbot Laboratories, which makes Similac, and Mead Johnson, that makes Enfamil, to see what they had to say about the hexane-processed ingredients they use.
The Abbot specialist read from a prepared statement saying that many edible oils that have a “long history of safe use throughout the world (are) produced using the hexane extraction method,” and that the soy protein used in the company’s formulations are extracted this way, with “our suppliers’ standard practice” being to remove traces of hexane, adding that Abbot products have “been safely fed to millions of babies…and they have grown and developed normally.”
Mead Johnson told us that they had no information about hexane and soy; however a member of its product information department called back the next day, not about the soy, but to tell us its fatty acid additives DHA and ARA, are “purified” with hexane and that the “suppliers’ standard practice” is to remove all “detectable” traces of the chemical (the DHA and ARA are produced from laboratory-grown algae and fungus).
The Cornucopia Institute notes that “(t)he effects of consuming foods that contain hexane-extracted ingredients are . . .
Read more at our sister site, FoodIdentityTheft.com: http://foodidentitytheft.com/are-the-additives-in-these-formulas-really-suitable-for-babies/
The company is General Mills, which has come out with a TV commercial proclaiming that “What matters most should always come first – which is why we use whole grains in every General Mills Big G cereal and why we never use high fructose corn syrup.”
Apparently, they haven’t been listening to the mantra of the Corn Refiners Association, which is that companies need not bother removing HFCS from their products because most consumers really don’t care about the fact that it’s there. Or, perhaps we should add, was put there without anyone bothering to consult them – or without the benefit of research that has since linked it to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and a bunch of other health problems.
But the, the CRA has dismissed such studies, done by scientists at some of the country’s leading universities and medical facilities, as so much “false science” – just like it dismisses the concerns that an increasing number of parents have about the cumulative effects of HFCS in a wide range of products as hazardous to their children’s health.
The corn refiners claim that marketing surveys have confirmed their premise that the addition of HFCS in products is of no real interest to people who buy them. Well, here at Food Identity Theft, we’ve talked to many shoppers in the course of our research “in the field” (that is, in supermarket aisles). And the majority of those we speak with are quite concerned – and have told us they want no part of products containing HFCS.
Read more at Food Identity Theft: http://foodidentitytheft.com/more-and-more-no-hfcs-labels-prove-the-power-of-the-consumer/
When Chick-fil-A announced last week that it would be removing high fructose corn syrup from its sandwich buns and dressings, it obviously wasn’t listening to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA).
Who they were listening to was an increasingly irate group of consumers led by popular food blogger Vani Hari, who posted an article two years ago at her site, FoodBabe.com, called “Chick-fil-A or Chemical-fil-A?”
As Hari pointed out in the blog, the Chick-fil-A sandwich has a lot of ingredients, almost 100, most of which, she says, have “serious health consequences.” But out of that long list that includes monosodium glutamate, artificial flavorings and preservatives, the company chose to boot HFCS, something the CRA has been working hard to prevent.
Repackaging the hype
Big Corn has been traveling a long and lonely road since the FDA’s rejection last year of it big plan to sweeten up the name of HFCS to “corn sugar.” Dumping its consumer campaign, the trade group set about redirecting its HFCS pitch to a new target audience, the food industry.
And the CRA’s message to food and beverage manufacturers, grocery stores and chain restaurants is that consumers just don’t care about HFCS anymore, and that no one (with the exception of the CRA, of course) is really talking about it these days.
But industry is talking about HFCS – not how to use more of it, but how to reduce what’s currently being used in products. And to do that, it has had to employ some high tech concoctions that don’t have any taste of their own, but rather trick our brains into thinking we’re eating or drinking something that is, well, not really there.
I first told you about these ‘tongue-tampering’ ingredients last year and about the leader in the imaginary flavor world – Senomyx, a San Diego-based biotech company that has some close, big-buck ties to the soft drink industry, especially PepsiCo.
Imagining less HFCS
On the brink of regulatory approval in the U.S. is Senomyx’s sweet taste modifier “S617,” designed in the laboratory to trick the brain into thinking a soda with less HFCS still tastes just as sweet as before.
Senomyx CEO Kent Snyder was quoted in a trade pub earlier this year as saying that “(r)educing HFCS in these products…would be welcome by consumers and manufacturers.”
Or would it?
Since S617 is a top secret, proprietary, patented “discovery,” no one, food manufacturer or consumer alike, will be able to find out exactly what it is. Likely to be listed on ingredient labels under “flavoring,” the only thing you can uncover about it is that Senomyx scientists have “successfully cloned human taste receptors,” and that these flavor modifiers “bind to those receptors…to trigger a strong taste sensation.”
In a recent Advertising Age story about S617, Michael Jacobson, executive director of Science in the Public Interest, was quoted as saying that “if they cut the ‘sugar’ in half with this stuff, that’s huge,” and that one reason it could be considered ‘safe’ is because it would be used at such low levels.
Since Jacobson likely knows no more about what S617 actually is than the rest of us, I’d hardly call that “science.”
A much more logical statement on S617 comes from the Feingold Association of the United States. The group, a non-profit founded in 1976 by pediatrician Benjamin Feingold, that educates how diet can affect mood and behavior – especially for kids – has this to say about S617:
…when a chemical has a profound effect on how the body works (in this case, on how the taste buds work), it is considered a drug. A drug must undergo stringent regulations and testing, including discovery of side effects and interactions with drugs, for FDA approval – far beyond anything required for approval of a ‘favoring.’
We wish somebody, somewhere, would study the question of when does a flavoring become a drug?
Good question – but one that’s unlikely to be answered anytime soon, if at all. Meanwhile, S617 will likely hit the marketplace next year – yet another questionable ingredient being added to the witches brew of additives in so many products, this one for the purpose of reducing another that’s already known to be bad. A better idea seems to be to just get rid of the HFCS altogether — what Chich-fil-A is now doing in many of its menu items.
Want to know a simple way to get some of the most harmful and worrisome additives out of your diet – one that doesn’t require all that extra store time reading ingredient labels?
Simply reclaim your kitchen from the grip of Big Food.
Now before you dismiss this idea by saying you haven’t got the time, patience or ability to start actually cooking, we want you to just focus on three items that we eat and drink a lot of, and that also typically contain some of the worst of the worst when it comes to food additives. You can make these items yourself, in your very own kitchen, at a fraction of the cost of what you are paying for the “fake” varieties. And the best part is, it’s relatively easy to do.
We’re talking about:
- Soup: Canned, dried, frozen and packaged varieties (unless you’re only buying organic brands) are typically a hotbed of bad ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, including all the disguised forms of free glutamic acid, mechanically separated chicken and turkey, along with other stabilizers, gums, thickeners and other unnatural ingredients. Soup is one of the easiest foods you can make yourself — in your kitchen — without having a can that says “Campbell’s” on it anywhere near you.
- Bread: This is one of the simplest and least complicated foods in the world. Bread needs just four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. But you would never know that if you only saw packaged commercial varieties or refrigerated rolls, such as those offered by Pillsbury. True, making homemade bread was once a time-consuming and arduous activity. But since relatively inexpensive bread machines came on the market, it’s been streamlined to the point where you can easily do without those ersatz supermarket breads that are ingrained with ingredients not really fit for human consumption.
- Soda: There’s nothing essentially wrong with the idea of drinking soda — it’s just the hideous ingredients that the great majority of these beverages contain that have put them in such disrepute. Nearly all such products these days either contain obesity-promoting high fructose corn syrup or brain-zapping aspartame and other unhealthy synthetic sweeteners. But the good news is, you really don’t have to dispense with soda in order to banish those awful additives from your diet.
Now, here’s how to start taking back your “kitchen privileges”:
The slow cooker: This easy, practical means of cooking has been the butt of jokes for too long. Since the introduction of the Crock-Pot (a trademark of the Rival Company) back in 1970, slow cooking technology has expanded to include all kinds of possibilities. And the time has never been better to bring out whatever kind of slow cooking apparatus you might have from wherever you’ve been hiding it, dust it off and start enjoying some real food. If you don’t yet have one, there are dozens to choose from, ranging from cheap to pricey, with all sorts of extra-helpful features that make it really hard to rationalize buying any more of those pseudo soups laced with harmful additives and “flavor enhancers.”
The bread machine: This amazing device first debuted in Japan in the late 1980s, costing a small fortune at the time. While many people own a bread machine, far fewer get around to actually using it. Perhaps the idea of making bread seems complex or intimidating — but with a bread machine, it’s amazingly easy and dependable, and will fill the whole house with a wonderful bakery aroma. One tip from years of home bread-baking experience is to find a machine with two paddles. While these were once just available in expensive versions, mine was under $80 and makes excellent bread. The dual paddles allow for better kneading, plus the loaf pan is oblong rather than a tower shape, which gives you a more traditional loaf. Also, if you can’t wait the three-plus hours for you bread to be done, don’t be afraid to try the “quick bread” setting. The results are magically delicious in under two hours.
The SodaStream: This device offers an easy way to bring fizzy drinks back into your life without all the dangerous additives. One Food Identity Theft team member who recently got one reports that he is now “an instant fan.” You can control the level of carbonation from lightly fizzy to full-blown, volcanic bubbles and add the flavorings after the fizzing, which can be tailored to whatever you’re in the mood for. One of the best parts of making your own soda is being able to use sweeteners of your own choosing. Perhaps the most ideal is “simple syrup,” which is, in fact, quite simple to make by heating equal parts cane sugar and water until dissolved, then cooling to room temperature.
As Dr. Mark Hyman, best-selling author and founder of the Ultra Wellness Center, said in a recent blog: “One hundred years ago all we ate was local, organic food — grass-fed, real, whole food. There were no fast food restaurants, there was no junk food, there was no frozen food — there was just what your mother or grandmother made. Most meals were eaten at home. Now, one in five breakfasts is from McDonald’s and 50 percent of meals are eaten outside the home.”
While you might not be able to change the way today’s society eats, there’s a lot you can do to keep the processed food industry from dictating your personal choices in one of the most fundamental areas of your life — starting with some basic steps toward reclaiming your kitchen.
Natural fruit and honey syrups for making flavored sodas:
Using a bread machine for gluten-free and special allergy diets:
by Bill Bonvie
As the weather outside gets colder, there’s one type of “comfort food” that tends to be consumed in much greater quantities. I’m referring, of course, to soup. And there’s one company (an American institution, really) that, more than any other, has over the years come to be synonymous with soup — the one that made the word “Soup” its middle name way back in 1922. That would be the Campbell Soup Company, whose traditional red and white cans are considered so iconic that they became one of pop artist Andy Warhol’s best-known subjects back in the 1960s.
As one of the company’s classic commercial jingles once put it, “Have you had your soup today? Campbell’s, of course,” then went on to say, “Once a day, every day, you should have a bowl of Campbell’s Soup.”
But while Campbell’s remains the nation’s No. 1 seller of canned soups, its popularity has lately been somewhat dented. In fact, over the past decade, the company has reportedly lost about 13 percent of its market share — a trend attributed to the “millenial” generation’s having been largely turned off by its standard line of products. To get them back, Campbell’s recently began marketing a new line of “Go” soups in easy-to-open microwaveable plastic pouches with ingredients considered more appealing to a younger demographic.
Make no mistake, however — those long-familiar soup cans remain supermarket staples, and there are still many consumers who continue to take for granted that they contain some of the “healthiest” and highest quality ingredients on the market. And one can hardly blame them, considering that’s how these soups have been promoted throughout their history, from the early 20th Century ads that described them as “The Mainspring of Health,” “healthful, wholesome and absolutely dependable,” and “the standard of soup perfection” to the company’s current web site with its “Nutrition and Wellness” page offering a variety of “Healthy Eating Plans.”
Exposed throughout their lives to such messages, most shoppers have no reason to assume that these are anything but totally wholesome and beneficial products. That is, unless they bother to look at the actual ingredients those iconic cans contain.
Whatever blends of ingredients Campbell’s Soups may have used in an earlier era, you can be sure that they didn’t include some of the atrocious additives you’ll now find listed on their labels, where, incidentally, you’ll also occasionally find the same slogan used in that old commercial jingle, “Once a day — everyday.”
So we thought it might be helpful to put together a week-long “menu” of what such a recommendation would actually mean if you and your family were to take it literally:
Monday: How about starting the week with some Cream of Mushroom — the kind with “25 % less sodium.” A peek at the ingredients, however, tells you what the company would probably just as soon you didn’t know — that along with pure monosodium glutamate, it also contains soy protein concentrate and yeast extract, a trio of flavor enhancers of the kind often referred to as “excitotoxins” because of their ability to literally excite certain brain cells to death (especially in children), and which have been associated with a whole range of adverse effects, including aggressive behavior. Then again, you might prefer the Cream of Mushroom with roasted garlic, which in addition to those three aforementioned additives, features yet another excitotoxin, whey protein concentrate,and some partially hydrogenated soybean oil, a source of that artery-clogging trans fat that the Food and Drug Administration has now proposed phasing out of our diet.
Tuesday: What could be healthier than some Cream of Asparagus — with some more monosodium glutamate and soy protein concentrate thrown into the mix for good measure?
Wednesday: Sounds like a good day for some hearty Minestrone, in which you’ll find not only monosodium glutamate and yeast extract mixed in with the tomato puree, carrots, potatoes and other veggies, but some good old high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — that cheap laboratory sweetener that researchers have identified as a prime suspect in obesity, diabetes, and a host of other health problems.
Thursday: Let’s go with that old favorite, Chicken Noodle soup. Actually, there are a number of variations on this traditional theme available. For those on a reduced salt diet, for example, there’s the one with “25% less sodium,” which makes up for it with those three taste tricksters monosodium glutamate, yeast extract and soy protein isolate. Or, perhaps you might prefer the Healthy Request Chicken Noodle, whose lineup of ‘healthy ingredients’ include HFCS, soy protein isolate and yeast extract, as well as mechanically separated chicken, which here at Food Identity Theft we like to refer to as “chicken ooze”. There’s also one made especially for “Healthy Kids”, which includes that ever-present trio of brain-zapping flavor enhancers monosodium glutamate, yeast extract and soy protein isolate, in addition to some of that yummy “chicken ooze.”
Friday: Lentil soup, anyone? And what would it be without some more added monosodium glutamate, along with unspecified “flavoring” and “spice” that often are nothing more than excitotoxins under a generic alias?
Saturday: New England Clam Chowder is always an all-time favorite — especially with a ‘flavor boost’ from still more monosodium glutamate and a little yeast extract thrown in to the pot for good measure.
Sunday: A Campbell’s Soup week just wouldn’t be complete without some form of tomato soup, the “classic” version of which has high fructose corn syrup as its second ingredient right after tomato puree. You’ll also find HFCS in the “Healthy Request” version (“M’m! M’m good for your heart” — not!) and the Old Fashioned Tomato Rice variety (bet you didn’t know HFCS was used as an additive in the good old days). But just for a change, that would be a day off from monosodium glutamate.
By now, of course, you might feel a slight buzz in your brain from the constant diet of excitotoxins — as might your kid (which could well serve as an example of the more recent Campbell’s slogan, “It’s amazing what soup can do”). But don’t forget — this is something the folks at Campbell’s would like you to keep right on doing “once a day, every day.”
If, on the other hand, that doesn’t sound like such a great idea, despite all the health claims you’ve come to associate with Campbell’s Soup, you might just want to opt for soup without all those undesirable ingredients. If you don’t have time to throw together some homemade soup fixings in the crock pot (which isn’t all that difficult a thing to do), there are some genuinely healthy, ready-to-eat commercial alternatives available right in your supermarket, such as the organic varieties offered by Amy’s Kitchen, which include low-sodium versions (Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup, to cite just one example, is made from filtered water, organic lentils, organic celery, organic carrots, organic onions, organic potatoes, organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and 100% pure herbs and spices with “no hidden ingredients”).
That’s the kind of soup you really can have every day — without the risk of those additives making you nuts.
Thanksgiving offers a wonderful opportunity — not only to “gather together” with family members and friends from near and far for a traditional homemade feast, but in so doing, to reject today’s fraudulent food culture in favor of the kinds of things that Mother Nature intended to sustain us.
You might even say that there’s no better way to show how thankful we are for the ‘blessings of the harvest’ than to restore them to their proper place on our table. By that, I mean preparing and serving only the kinds of foods that are the ‘real deal’, rather than the adulterated, additive-laden, disease-promoting products that manufacturers have substituted for no other purpose than to minimize their costs and maximize their profits.
In an age when children have been encouraged by multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns to develop cravings for junk food and parents persuaded to serve nutrition-deficient, ready-made meals permeated with neurotoxic flavor enhancers and other synthetic ingredients that wreak havoc on health, Thanksgiving is an occasion for reintroducing to our families the simple delights of genuine food.
Take cranberry sauce, for example. Now, the cranberry is one of nature’s most healthful fruits — loaded with antioxidants, phyto-nutrients, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. Unfortunately, commercial food processors such as Ocean Spray have made it easy to serve canned varieties of cranberry sauce (either jellied or “whole berry”) that have been sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the laboratory concoction that studies have linked to our current epidemics of obesity and diabetes, as well as various other health problems.
But with just a little more effort than that required to open a can and coax the HFCS-sweetened blob out with a knife, you can make HFCS-free cranberry sauce all by yourself. Fresh cranberries, water and sugar cooked till the berries pop will thicken as it cools and taste amazing (see recipe measurements here. Note, this recipe calls for orange juice, but you can also substitute water using the same amount).
Even worse than the canned cranberry sauce are commercial variants on some of the other stuff traditionally served at Thanksgiving — like stuffing, for instance.
Two of the worst examples of this good side dish-turned bad are made by Kraft — Stove Top Turkey Stuffing and Stove Top Cornbread Stuffing. Both look like laboratory creations, having been laced not only with HFCS, but two other atrocious additives — partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil (a source of trans fats that ‘s now being officially phased out by the Food and Drug Administration as a cause of thousands of heart attacks every year) and hydrolyzed protein, a form of disguised MSG that can actually destroy certain brain cells — especially in children and the elderly.
Other brands of commercial stuffing mix, such as Arnold “Premium” Cornbread Stuffing and Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing, aren’t much better, despite the image of wholesomeness these brands have tried to cultivate. Both contain HFCS and that coronary artery disease-inducing partially hydrogenated oil.
Even if you have to make your stuffing from scratch (which is not all that complicated) there is absolutely no excuse to be using chemical concoctions like the ones mentioned above. Arrowhead Mills, for example, makes a ready-seasoned organic stuffing mix that’s just as easy to prepare as Stove Top.
Let’s talk turkey — the unadulterated kind
Then there’s the turkey itself, which can also contribute its own share of unhealthy ingredients to the mix. Watch out for any bird that is said to be “self basting,” deep basted,” or any similar claim. Also check the packaging for any added ingredients. You should be cooking a turkey, not conducting a lab experiment.
Of course, no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without the seasonal scrumptiousness of pumpkin pie for dessert. And your local supermarket can no doubt accommodate you with a choice of at least two or three brands, Marie Callender’s being a prime example. The problem is, Marie’s pumpkin pie comes with something besides pumpkin. It contains so much partially hydrogenated oil that it actually registers on the trans fat scale of the Nutrition Facts label. (Most products that harbor this artificially processed artery clogger are able to use a loophole in the law to falsely claim they contain contain “zero trans fat.”)
A far better idea is to bake your own pumpkin pie using ready-made canned pumpkin, adding your own ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, condensed milk and an additive-free pie shell (Arrowhead Mills makes a good one of those as well). You can also make your own pie shell from scratch, it’s much easier than you think. Just be sure to use graham cracker crumbs that have good ingredients, i.e., no partially hydrogenated oils, HFCS or artificial flavors or colors. The recipe is easy to find (also on every can of pumpkin), and easy to prepare. Just make sure you allow enough time to chill your creation in the fridge.
With just a little bit of extra effort, you’ll have a Thanksgiving table of which you can really be proud — one that’s free of the junk foods that the big food companies would like to have us think are traditional dishes and “original recipes.” And you can prove to your family and your guests that old-fashioned, genuinely ‘natural” food tastes even better than cheap, “convenient” imitations — and can make for a holiday feast that’s every bit as enjoyable as those pictured by Norman Rockwell.