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Healthy Eating


EWG New Report on Sugar in Children’s Cereals: One Serving Equal To Three Chips Ahoy Cookies

The Environmental Working Group’s newest report, Children’s Cereals: Sugar by the Pound, finds that very little has improved since 2011 – the last time the group did a survey of the cereal industry.

Honey Smacks 56% sugar content per box. Image from Kelloggstore.com.

As part of a larger study, the EWG again reviewed a smaller sample of 84 popular children’s cereals that had it originally evaluated in 2011 and found that while a handful of manufacturers lowered the sugar content of their cereals, “the vast majority are still too sweet to be healthy, averaging two teaspoons per serving.”

The new report did a comprehensive analysis of 1,556 cereals, including 181 marketed for children and found that “not one was free of added sugars.” In addition, the group found that, “On average, children’s cereals have more than 40 percent more sugar than adult cereals, and twice as much as oatmeal.”

Also among the concerning issues highlighted by the report were how these cereals were marketed to children, prominent nutritional claims, and the use of unrealistically small portion size measurements on nutritional labels.

The report found that for many cereals, a single serving size exceeded 60 percent of the daily amount of sugar suggested by health agencies and organizations, and “because the serving sizes on cereal labels are unrealistically small, many children eat multiple servings in a single siting.”

The EWG defined cereals marketed to children as those with cartoon characters on the boxes and found those were “the most heavily loaded with added sugar, making them a significant source of empty calories.”

The EWG illustrated this point by saying, “A child eating one serving per day of a children’s cereal containing the average amount of sugar would consume nearly 1,000 teaspoons of sugar in a year.”

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2014 Growing Green Awards Winners Honored For Holistic Food Production & Conversation

Winners in four categories have been selected for the 2014 Growing Green Awards, sponsored by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in cooperation with the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI).

This is the sixth year the awards have been held, honoring individuals pioneering innovations and education in sustainable food systems, as well as working toward policy changes and grassroots efforts in conservation.

The award categories were in: sustainable livestock production; regional food leadership; pollination protection; and sustainable food and farm education.

Peter Lehner, executive director of the NRDC, talked about the importance of highlighting innovators, including those focusing their efforts on changing the conventional agricultural system that he calls unhealthy, saying, “On conventional farms, crops and fields are doused with chemical pesticides and herbicides, many of which have been linked to cancer and other serious illnesses.”

Lehner talked more about the vicious cycle of chemical use in conventional agriculture, saying chemical fertilizers drain the soil of nutrients, which then requires the use of more chemicals, “leaving the soil dry and lifeless.”

Lehner also discussed the wider environmental impacts, explaining that, “Excess fertilizer washes off into the water supply, creating ‘dead zones’ in the oceans, and enters the atmosphere, where it is a powerful global warming pollutant.”  

Other areas of focus that were highlighted by the winners’ efforts were the effects of agricultural chemicals on pollinators like butterflies, and the consequences of chemical fertilizers and the overuse of antibiotics in livestock feed.

The 2014 Growing Green Award winners were:

Sustainable Livestock Producer Award Winner

Will Harris, White Oak Pastures Farm, (Bluffton, GA.)

Will Harris received the award for his organic and holistic approach to reinventing his family farm that his family has owned and operated for five generations. The farm humanely raises grass fed, pasture roaming, antibiotic free livestock including cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, turkeys, guinea fowl, and ducks.  The farm doesn’t use pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

This approach is a full reversal from the farm’s more conventional industrial methods practiced just over a decade ago. “What saved our farm was returning to the old holistic farming ways, the ways that my great-grandfather used,” said Harris.

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More Vitamin D In Your Diet Shown To Alleviate Asthma Symptoms, Say Multiple Studies

National Jewish Health, a nonprofit hospital specializing in respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders, has now completed several studies showing patients with low vitamin D as predisposed to developing asthma during infancy and childhood, and low vitamin D contributing to increased severity of asthma attacks.

In one study, NJH found that low vitamin D levels are associated with worse asthma symptoms and the requirement for more medication. Among the findings were that low levels of vitamin D were “associated with reduced lung function and less response to steroid medications.”

The researchers evaluated 54 adults with persistent asthma and “found that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with better lung function. In cells taken from the patients, higher levels of vitamin D were also associated with increased responsiveness to the steroid dexamethasone.”

In another NJH study, researchers found similar results for the effectiveness of corticosteroids. The researchers performed a series of laboratory experiments which “indicated vitamin D enhances the actions of corticosteroids.

“They cultured some immune cells with the corticosteroid dexamethasone alone and others with vitamin D first, then dexamethasone. The vitamin D significantly increased the effectiveness of dexamethasone. In one experiment vitamin D and dexamethasone together were more effective than 10 times as much dexamethasone alone.”

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Organic Produce From The U.S and Japan Now Has Equal Status With New Trade Agreement

If your New Year’s resolution was to start eating healthier, then a new agreement between the United States and Japan has just helped broaden your healthy eating options.

Image courtesy of mnn.com.

The trade agreement, which went into effect on the first of the year, gives equal exchange status for organic produce between both countries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said that the new agreement will streamline the trade process, reduce bureaucracy, and increase year-round access to more diverse organic produce for consumers in both countries.

The USDA said that prior to the equivalency agreement, organic farmers and businesses that wanted to sell products in either country had to obtain separate certifications to meet each country’s organic standards.

This typically meant two sets of fees, inspections, and paperwork. The new trade agreement reduces costs, providing more access for producers and more buying options for consumers.

The new equivalency agreement specifically relates to plant and fungi-based products. This agreement is only for products that were either produced within the U.S. or Japan, or products whose final processing or packaging occurred within either country.

For U.S. organic imports, the produce will be required to meet Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) for organic certification and meet all USDA organic labeling requirements (including compliant use of the USDA organic seal). Organic produce will also need to travel with a U.S. import certificate signed by a certified agent accredited by the USDA or Japanese government.

Likewise, for Japanese organic imports, the produce will need to be USDA organic certified and meet all Japanese organic labeling requirements (including compliant use of the JAS organic seal).

There are though some differences in this agreement. Non-JAS eligible products, such as meat, dairy, and alcoholic beverages that are certified organic by the USDA can still continue to enter the Japanese market as organic, but can’t use the JAS seal.

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Vitamin D Deficiency Linked With Growth of Uterine Fibroids, Cancers, and Neural Diseases

We all know that vitamin D is added to milk because it helps the body absorb and metabolize calcium for strong healthy bones, but a new study published this year from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has also found some important information specifically for women.

NIH researchers found that, “Women who had sufficient amounts of vitamin D were 32 percent less likely to develop fibroids than women with insufficient vitamin D.”

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors of the uterus. Fibroids often result in pain and bleeding in premenopausal women and are the leading cause of hysterectomy in the United States, according to the NIH.

Donna Baird, a researcher with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (part of NIH), led the study of 1,036 women, ages 35-49, living in the Washington, D.C. area from 1996 to 1999, which completed questionnaires on sun exposure, as well as received ultrasounds to check for fibroids, and gave blood samples to check vitamin D levels.

The body can make vitamin D when skin is exposed to the sun or get it from food and supplements. The study found that, “Those who reported spending more than one hour outside per day also had a decreased risk of fibroids.”

Baird said that, “It would be wonderful if something as simple and inexpensive as getting some natural sunshine on their skin each day could help women reduce their chances of getting fibroids, but though the findings are consistent with laboratory studies, more studies in women are needed.”

Baird is currently conducting a study in Detroit to see if the findings from the Washington, D.C. study can be replicated.

Besides sunlight, among the best sources of vitamin D come from foods. The NIH finds that:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are among the best sources.
  • Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks provide small amounts.
  • Mushrooms provide some vitamin D. In some mushrooms that are newly available in stores, the vitamin D content is being boosted by exposing these mushrooms to ultraviolet light.
  • Almost all of the U.S. milk supply is fortified with 400 IU vitamin D per quart, but foods made from milk like cheese and ice cream are usually not fortified.
  • Vitamin D is also added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, soy beverages. Check the labels.

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