Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pesticides on Produce...taken from

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Toxic fruit and veggies?
  • Environmental group says "Dirty Dozen" of produce contains 47 to 67 pesticides per serving
  • Government says consuming pesticides in low amounts is not harmful
  • Studies have found association between pesticides and health problems
Is enough being done to protect us from chemicals that could harm us? Watch "Toxic America," a special two-night investigative report with Sanjay Gupta, M.D., June 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.
(CNN) -- If you're eating non-organic celery today, you may be ingesting 67 pesticides with it, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.
The group, a nonprofit focused on public health, scoured nearly 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine what fruits and vegetables we eat have the highest, and lowest, amounts of chemical residue.
Most alarming are the fruits and vegetables dubbed the "Dirty Dozen," which contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving. These foods are believed to be most susceptible because they have soft skin that tends to absorb more pesticides.
"It's critical people know what they are consuming," the Environmental Working Group's Amy Rosenthal said. "The list is based on pesticide tests conducted after the produce was washed with USDA high-power pressure water system. The numbers reflect the closest thing to what consumers are buying at the store."
The group suggests limiting consumption of pesticides by purchasing organic for the 12 fruits and vegetables.
"You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by up to 80 percent by buying the organic version of the Dirty Dozen," Rosenthal said.
The Dirty Dozen
Domestic blueberries
Sweet bell peppers
Spinach, kale and collard greens
Imported grapes
Not all non-organic fruits and vegetables have a high pesticide level. Some produce has a strong outer layer that provides a defense against pesticide contamination. The group found a number of non-organic fruits and vegetables dubbed the "Clean 15" that contained little to no pesticides.
The Clean 15
Sweet corn
Sweet peas
Kiwi fruit
Sweet potatoes
Sweet onions
What is a pesticide?
A pesticide is a mixture of chemical substances used on farms to destroy or prevent pests, diseases and weeds from affecting crops. According to the USDA, 45 percent of the world's crops are lost to damage or spoilage, so many farmers count on pesticides.
The Environmental Protection Agency, the FDA and the USDA work together to monitor and set limits as to how much pesticide can be used on farms and how much is safe to remain on the produce once it hits grocery store shelves.
"In setting the tolerance amount, the EPA must make a safety finding that the pesticide can be used with 'reasonable certainty of no harm.' The EPA ensures that the tolerance selected will be safe," according the EPA's website.
Although the President's Cancer Panel recently recommended that consumers eat produce without pesticides to reduce their risk of getting cancer and other diseases, the low levels of pesticides found on even the Dirty Dozen are government-approved amounts.
Can small amounts of pesticides hurt you?
The government says that consuming pesticides in low amounts doesn't harm you, but some studies show an association between pesticides and health problems such as cancer, attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and nervous system disorders and say exposure could weaken immune systems.
The Environmental Working Group acknowledges that data from long-term studies aren't available but warns consumers of the potential dangers.
"Pesticides are designed to kill things. Why wait for 20 years to discover they are bad for us?" Rosenthal said.
Some doctors warn that children's growing brains are the most vulnerable to pesticides in food.
"A kid's brain goes through extraordinary development, and if pesticides get into the brain, it can cause damage," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Can pesticides be washed away?
Not necessarily. The pesticide tests mentioned above were conducted after the food had been power-washed by the USDA. Also, although some pesticides are found on the surface of foods, other pesticides may be taken up through the roots and into the plant and cannot be removed.
"We've found that washing doesn't do much," Rosenthal said. "Peeling can help, although you have to take into account that the pesticides are in the water, so they can be inside the fruit because of the soil."
All fresh produce, whether it's grown with or without pesticides, should be washed with water to remove dirt and potentially harmful bacteria. And health experts agree that when it comes to the Dirty Dozen list, choose organic if it's available.
"To the extent you can afford to do so, [parents] should simply buy organic, because there have been some very good studies that shows people who eat mostly organic food reduce 95 percent of pesticides [in their body] in two weeks," Landrigan said.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fats...hard to live with them... hard to live without them

Fats, they are added to foods for flavor and taste. Some people eliminate them all together while others don't know where to draw the line. To tell you the truth, not all fats are created equal. First, let me explain the chemical composition of fats. Below you will see the general structure of fats (a glycerol backbone and 3 fatty acid chains attached...a little over your head at this point, lol).
Now here is how the structure plays into what fats are good and which ones are bad.

Saturated Fats:  As you can see in the structure above this fat is "saturated" because it has the maximum amount of hydrogens present on its fatty acid chains. This means that saturated fats are easy to pack in our bodies. This is why a diet high in saturated fats causes plaque buildup in blood vessels and causes all kinds of cardiovascular problems. These fats are found in solid form at room temperature and are found in butter, lard, deep-fry oils, shortening, and heavy cream. Basically saturated fats are found in dairy and animals. 

Trans Fats:  trans fats have gone under a chemical process known as hydrogenation which basically takes unsaturated fats (better for you) and converts them into saturated fats. These fats are then called trans fatty acids. Trans fats are even worse for you than saturated fats.  Trans fats are commonly added to boxed food, cookies, etc. to increase its shelf life. If you see "partially hydrogenated oil" then steer clear of this food.

Cholesterol: Our liver makes cholesterol so it is not needed in our diet. Cholesterol is found in animal products. For example an egg yolk contains about 200 mg of cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. LDL is the "bad cholesterol" and HDL is the "good cholesterol." By eating a lower fat diet and exercising you can help lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol. A simple blood test can determine your cholesterol levels in the blood. Cholesterol is important in the body but our body can make enough of it; try to aim to eat no more than 300 mg of cholesterol. 

Better for you Fats: 
Unsaturated Fats: these fats have double bonds in them and do not have the maximum amount of hydrogens possible. This means that they are liquid at room temperature. These fats are not as likely to block arteries. Unsaturated fats are found in most nuts, olive oil, canola oil, soybean oil, etc. These are healthier options compared to saturated and trans fats.

Essential Fatty Acids: I am sure you have all heard of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These are unsaturated fatty acids found in fish, some vegetable oils (soybean and canola), plants (flax), soybeans, etc. 

Fat is not always the enemy. Yes, it helps cushion our organs and give us insulation but too much fat can lead to excess weight, clogged arteries, cardiovascular problems, etc. In general fats have to be consumed in moderation of course. You should aim to make about 20-35% of your diet each day come from fats. Remember to choose healthier fat options as we discussed above. Stay away from trans and saturated fats as much as possible. Fats provide 9 kcal/gram so be careful not to overdue it!  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A great tool...My Pyramid

Every individuals diet plans are different. One eating plan cannot be applied in a cookie cutter fashion to everyone. A great website to utilize as a tool to personalize your eating plan is the My Pyramid website. I am sure we all learned about the food pyramid when we were in elementary school. However, several years ago the food pyramid was reconstructed to better illustrate the food groups. Take a chance to explore this website. You can learn about fruits, veggies, grains, and much more. Use it to make a meal plan that is best suited for your personal preferences. Happy planning! (Just click on the title of this post and it will take you straight to the website)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Portions, Portions, Portions!

Cravings! Yes, we all get them. It is very possible to eat the foods you enjoy by simply keeping in mind portion control. For example last week I went to an ice cream shop with some friends. I was amazed to see how large the bowls and cones were. All I wanted was a little ice cream. How was I expected to eat ice cream in a bowl that was bigger than my fist? Ice Cream cones can easily have 200+ calories. Then once you add the ice cream and possible toppings you can end up eating over 500 or even 1,000 calories. Yikes!! I decided to order a kids cup of a ice cream even though the guy at the counter looked at me with dismay. I ended up enjoying that cup of ice cream because it was the perfect size. I was able to treat myself with some ice cream without having to feel so guilty afterwards.

Texas portions sizes are getting out of control! I was in California over the summer and stopped by one of LA's famous gelato parlors. They had perfectly portioned ice cream cups. But overall, America really needs to get a handle on portion sizes! Haven't you noticed that restaurants and fast food stores have enormously large cups for soft drinks. That large coke could set you back about 310 calories.

So here is some help...Portion Control! Its about how much you eat of it that makes a big difference. When you can, try to get children's sizes. It really does make a difference. At the movies once, my sister just wanted a couple of sips of coke so she kindly asked the attendant. Surprisingly, the lady pulled out this tiny cup about 2.5 in. tall and gave her some coke. She got her soda fix without all the extra calories. Don't be afraid to ask for your cup to be filled halfway. I once asked the attendant at the movies to fill my icee cup only halfway because that is all I wanted. You have to really be conscious about how much of something you are eating or drinking. Most of the times we get stuck with this large drink or massive plate of food that we overeat just because we feel we are obliged to finish it. Eat until you are satisfied and save the rest for later. There is no race to finish your plate in one sitting.

So let's all try to be inclined with our stomachs so that we can actually enjoy the food we are eating and skip the guilt factor.