Tag Archives: vegetables

Research: cheaper food means less nutrients

A few weeks ago, I shared a study that found nutrients in the U.S. food supply are declining. Which could explain why millions of Americans, who prefer to be thin, are overeating to get more nutrients.

Another study found that industrial farming techniques – including the use of petroleum-based fertilizer – reduces nutrient levels in food, while dramatically increasing yields. This means we have abundant cheap food with lowered nutrient levels:

This article summarizes three kinds of evidence pointing toward declines during the last 50 to 100 years in the concentration of some nutrients in vegetables and perhaps also in fruits. It has been noted since the 1940s that yield increases produced by fertilization, irrigation, and other environmental means tend to decrease the concentrations of minerals in plants.

Jarrell and Beverly (1981) reviewed the evidence for this well-known “dilution effect.” Although their review has been cited over 180 times (60 times from 2000 on), few mentions of the dilution effect contain a reference, suggesting that the effect is widely regarded as common knowledge.

Common among scientists perhaps, but the public is unaware. When I share this among friends and readers there is a strong disbelief, with the most common response being - food is cheaper. Yes it is, because it has been hollowed out like a pumpkin and there’s nothing left on the inside.

And that makes it a struggle to get the message out. How do I explain the dilution effect to a public obsessed with everything but this – from diet programs to food labels to coupon cutting that encourages cheaper food?

 

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Sharing my joy of visiting the farmers market

Through the crowds and into the market a world awaits me. Exotic fruits, luscious vegetables, and peculiar personalities. An uncharted world for one raised on the supermarkets of America. I learn simple things like knowing to smell a melon or mush a peach (but only on top). It is a food education and the market is the classroom.

I forget the real world and act like a kid. I squeeze and smell, question and query, fondle and forage. Nobody yells or gets angry, it’s what you’re supposed to do. The farmer smiles like a proud father just waiting to tell a story. All I have to do is ask the right question, or in most cases the dumb one. How do I eat this?

The answers are always unique and deep. How to pick, prepare, cook, cut, eat, and enjoy.

Every week is a surprise for what I will find. This time it was jalapeño peppers. I thought I knew about them, until I found the pepper farmer. He offers a colloquial description of each variety and I go with the ones that are semi-hot but not really.  At home I cautiously sample one and his description was precise.

This is my food life. A weekly adventure where I dive into the world of food. I become a curious kid encouraged to learn and ask questions. My teachers are the farmers and their friends and family who have devoted their lives to growing food. When I buy their wares I’m supporting that devotion. Something I never felt at the supermarket. This way of life fills my belly and my heart. I am a part of a community. I am connected to the land, to my neighbors, and eating like a king.

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The ‘dirty’ middle class

I propose a new way to think about the Great Recession in America. Instead of the middle class is dying, how about the dirty middle class is dying. The way of life where overconsumption and gas guzzling is more American than recycling or biking. If our energy supply can be both dirty and clean, why not our lifestyles?

Consider the average family spends 20% of their budget on transportation. That’s 10 weeks/year just to pay for car and gas. But what about the big gas guzzlers, the kind that cost $80 to fill-up. No one wants to pay $100 for gas but that is where we are headed. And yet there are plenty of them on the street. As those gas prices tick up I think they will slowly disappear and be replaced by bikes and EV’s.

Food is another area in slow decline. You might’ve heard that 69% of Americans are overweight or obese. That’s a lot of extra money spent on food, especially when times are tight. A new report shows our consumption of candy and processed foods has doubled in the last 30 years. What if a family were to save money by committing to healthy portion sizes, cutting out processed foods, and putting that savings towards college.

Last, think about the basic rule of disposable goods. They only work once and you have to buy more every week. Not only is this horrible for the environment but it costs a lot of money. Families could go broke following the jingles in commercials. And those who are pushing hard on – reduce, reuse, recycle – are again finding themselves with extra money to spend on family vacations.

After all, isn’t that what being in the middle class is about, family vacations? Being able to work, have fun, and save a little money for college or retirement. I thought so, but somehow that dream became owning an SUV, overeating, and buying something to throw out. But take solace in knowing that this dirty way of life is moving towards extinction. To be replaced by green families who ride bikes and have vegetable gardens.

It gives new meaning to the saying, there goes the neighborhood.

 

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Finding the best food – what do they really mean, organic, GMO, and seasonal?

There is a lot of confusion about healthy, high-quality food. Does organic mean high-quality? What does genetically modified (GMO) mean? What about fruits and vegetables in supermarkets?

The explanation starts with organic food. This is a farming method that focuses on the land, not food. Organic farming started in opposition to the use of chemical sprays, petroleum-based fertilizers and other harmful substances. That opposition continues to this day and is having a great impact on our land, waterways, and the health of farmers.

When it comes to food the great value is not in nutrition but avoiding health problems. Those with allergies have a hard time with the pesticides, bleaches, and other toxics used. Parents love it because they are concerned for their children’s health. Janitors love it because they get to use non-toxic cleaning supplies. I could go on and on, and this is what makes organic healthy, but it doesn’t mean much for nutritional value.

What does is the seed used to grow the fruits and vegetables. GMO seeds are modified to be low in nutrition. A great benefit for supermarkets because it allows food to stay on the shelf longer, look ripe earlier, and grow quicker. Not such a great benefit for us.

The opposite type of seed is an heirloom, which is used for high nutritional content. Some offer better flavor, others juicy cores, but all focus on the same thing – high quality. The side effect is that supermarkets won’t carry them because they don’t last as long as GMO.

Farmers markets do carry them, and are one of the few places to find them. These markets offer exceptional fruits and vegetables and are the best places to shop, hands down. Not only do they sell heirloom foods, but also seasonal items. Seasonal means grown with the right weather and harvested at their peak. It makes them amazing, gushing with juices, incredible flavors, and the most nutrient-dense food possible.

Seasonal organic heirloom fruits and vegetables are the kings and queens of the food world. They avoid the toxics found in non-organic foods and are not genetically modified to be low in nutrition, like GMO’s. This may sound like a lot to learn, but you can skip all that by switching over to farmers markets. Once there it’s not hard to find seasonal organic heirloom foods, they will be everywhere!

Good luck with your eating adventures.

 

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How Farmers Markets can give you a superior workout

Ok, you’re probably starting to think I’m crazy. First, I suggest you buy all your food at farmers markets. Then, I tell you it will improve your health and start talking about getting to know your baker and making winter stores. Now, I’m going to make the argument that it will give you a superior edge in your workouts.

The explanation is pretty simple. Most of us workout once-a-day (if that) while we eat three times-a-day. This means food has a greater impact on our bodies than any individual workout does. Or, put another way, a workout breaks down the muscles in the body and recovery requires high-quality food to rebuild.

Right now, the popular advice is to eat protein bars and protein shakes, hearty meals of protein and vegetables, and energy drinks with electrolytes and vitamins. None of which is based on a solid foundation of science or nutrition. It’s all marketing.

Let me repeat that, none of the health claims coming from these food manufacturers are true. Hard to believe, I know, but the following explanation, from the Harvard School of Public Health, will help out.

On protein:

Surprisingly little is known about protein and health. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of…about 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. Beyond that, there’s relatively little solid information on the ideal amount of protein in the diet, a healthy target for calories contributed by protein, or the best kinds of protein.

Harvard, a trusted name in medicine, is basically saying they have no idea. So how do food companies know the right amount? Aren’t we buying these products because of their health claims?

If you read the rest of the Harvard article it actually lays out the answers for you. Protein is a general term referring to the 20+ amino acids that our bodies need. These “building blocks” are found in all foods, with some containing more than others. Meats tend to contain all of them, a “complete package”, while beans, fruits, and vegetables contain varying amounts.

It goes on to recommend that we eat a diverse diet of high quality foods, while making sure to not over-indulge on meat. In this way, you guarantee yourself a diverse source for the 20 amino acids, as well as other nutrients and vitamins.

Which brings us back to that superior edge you can get in your workouts. If you can find high quality food and eat that three times-a-day then you will maximize the growth, health, and weight loss your body can attain from working out.

What is high quality food? It’s grass-fed beef, sustainable seafood, free-range chicken and pork. Vegetables and fruits that are ripe and in peak season form. Bread made from heirloom grains. Cheese and milk from grass-fed cows.

All things you will find at a farmers market. No need to read labels or learn about the differences among organic/local/grass-fed. Just visit your local market, build a relationship with the farmers there, and start making your post-workout meals from the food you buy.

I promise you will notice a marked increase in energy, weight loss, muscle gain, stamina, and more. You will be eating the finest food money can buy and sometimes you may even see restaurant chefs buying at the market too. They will be from those high-end restaurants searching out the highest quality food with you. There is a reason they are shopping there and when you start eating the food you will soon see why.

 

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It’s the peak of the season, have you started your Winter Stores?

Peak of the season means deals are everywhere at the farmers market. There is an abundance of fruits and vegetables and prices are dropping. You can get great deals on buckets and boxes of tomatoes and strawberries, watermelons, peaches, plums, cantaloupes, etc.

But, what to do with all of them?

The time-tested, ancient answer is to turn them into winter stores. Jam, can, and preserve. Or, if you prefer to be more modern, freeze them.

Freezing is my preferred method because it is so darn easy. The recipe is simple: cut it into squares, put it in container and freeze it. I’ve done this with anything you can imagine and everything has turned out fine.

The other option is to jam and preserve. This is an ancient method for the era before freezers. For most of us, freezer space is still limited and we have to preserve. This method allows food to last for months in a closet. 

My recommended recipe comes from Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which is also my recommended brand of pectin because it is sugar-free and preservative-free (uses honey). You can order it online or find it (or something similar) in your natural foods store.

Here is a link to the recipes.

Next, your probably wondering what to do with all this stuff. Here’s what I do.

First, cash in on the abundant tomatoes because there is so much to do with them. Over the next 12 months I make pizza, marinara sauce, salsa, and any number of soups, including plain-old tomato soup.

Second, I turn my fruit into amazing smoothies. Since I use the freezer method, I have a diverse assortment of fruit ready-cut into squares for smoothie-making.

How about you, do you have any special recipes for your winter stores?

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If you want to live a low-carbon lifestyle then winter stores is definitely the way to go. Not only is it an essential part of the all-farmers market diet, but it also reduces the need to buy high-mileage fruit in the winter. During those winter months, any fruit you buy most likely flew in on a plane from halfway around the world. You can avoid this problem by buying dirt-cheap now, saving it for the winter, and absolutely delighting in high-quality (guilt-free) watermelon, blueberry, or strawberry in the heart of February.