Category: Diet and Nutrition

Antibiotic Resistance: From Hospitals or Farms?

viewpoint article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) online this month reports that antibiotic resistant infections have become “a global crisis.” The article reports that drug-resistant infections cause approximately 23,000 deaths every year in the United States; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is found in half of isolates from US hospitals; and a deadly bacteria called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has mutated from just 1 to 44 different strains within the last 10 years.

Publication of this article coincides with a report released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). This report describes new attempts to combat antibiotic resistance, including the following: basic science research to better understand mutating bacteria, improvement in diagnostic tools to distinguish between bacterial and nonbacterial illness, development of new antibiotics, and possibilities for new vaccines.

All of these approaches focus on the role of human medicine in the cause and cure of antibiotic-resistant infections. But this approach overlooks the biggest player in antibiotic abuse: factory farms. Almost 4 times as many antibiotics are given to animals in the United States than are given to humans.(1) These antibiotics are used to promote growth of livestock and prevent disease among animals raised in confined and unsanitary conditions.

A report released by federal scientists in February 2013 showed that the majority of meat on supermarket shelves across the United States is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.(2) The Environmental Working Group then published an excellent summary and consumer meat-buying guide. The worst offender—ground turkey—contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81% of samples. 87% of all meat samples contained Enterococcus bacteria, which indicates fecal contamination. There is no question about this: factory-farmed meat is DIRTY.

The way this works is simple: antibiotics are unnecessarily given to livestock; bacteria become antibiotic-resistant; bacteria travel from farms to stores; and meat can cause untreatable illness.

Meats that are raised organically and without antibiotics are much less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant superbugs. If you choose to eat meat, purchasing meats that are sustainably raised will minimize your own exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and support a system of farming that will help solve the “global crisis” of antibiotic-resistance.

Visit the Environmental Working Group for their indispensible meat-buying guide.

 

1. Record High Antibiotic Sales for Meat and Poultry Production. The PEW Charitable Trust Web site. http://www.pewhealth.org/other-resource/record-high-antibiotic-sales-for-meat-and-poultry-production-85899449119. Accessed March 27, 2014.

2. FDA Announces Availability of the 2011 NARMS Retail Meat Annual Report. US Food and Drug Administration Web site. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm335102.htm. Accessed March 27, 2014.

 

Easy 3-Day Holiday Cleanse

This easy cleanse can be done between the parties, feasts, and treats that define the holiday season. The cleanse is based on fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and raw nuts – all prepared in a way to leave you feeling warm and nourished even on the coldest of winter days. Take a look at the menu plan below: you will have cooked fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch, and soup for dinner. I also like to call this the “soup and salad cleanse.” After three easy days, you will feel light, refreshed, and ready for the next holiday party!

Time of Day Food Options Cleansing Benefits*
Upon Waking Warm water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant to help neutralize toxins in the body.
Breakfast Steamed apples or pears and prunes. Top with cinnamon and raw walnuts or pecans. Prunes are high in fiber that feeds beneficial gut bacteria and prevents constipation. Prunes are also high in phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants.
Mid-morning Green tea or herbal tea with raw nuts and seeds Green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which increases the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the small intestine, liver, and lungs.Nuts and seeds are good sources of essential fatty acids, vitamin E, protein, and minerals. Nuts are an excellent source of arginine, an amino acid that plays an important role in detoxification. Nuts keep blood sugars balanced.
Lunch Mixed greens salad topped with chopped vegetables, your choice of beans, and sunflower seeds. Make a dressing with olive oil or flax oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mixed greens are high in chlorophyll and vitamin K. Bitter greens like dandelion stimulate digestion and may improve liver function.Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which protects against the toxic effects of cancer-causing chemicals.
Mid-afternoon Raw vegetables or fruit Fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber to promote elimination, potassium to balance electrolytes, and antioxidant vitamins to neutralize toxins.
Dinner Your choice of soup (see suggested recipes below). If choosing a bean or lentil soup, serve with a steamed vegetable. Lentils are a good source of protein, fiber, and trace minerals. They promote healthy elimination and good blood sugar balance.Vegetables in the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale) contain compounds that increase detoxification enzymes and exert antioxidant effects.
Evening Cup of herbal tea with optional piece of fresh fruit. Numerous herbal teas are available. Many are specifically formulated for detoxification. Choose one that you enjoy!

Suggested soup recipes:

Choose any soup recipe that fits your fancy, but I most highly recommend bean, lentil, or vegetable soups. If you feel best eating meat, you can certainly do a homemade chicken and vegetable soup or beef stew. Here are three of my favorites:

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Curried Lentil Soup with Carrots

White Bean and Kale Soup

 

*The information on cleansing benefits of the foods is taken from The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND and Joseph Pizzorno, ND.

Kale is for Kids!

I have kids. I know that they do not always eat exactly what I want them to eat. In fact, they rarely eat exactly what I want them to eat.

But I also know that the food that they eat matters. And some foods matter more than others. Green leafy vegetables fall into that category. A little bit of kale (or chard, collards, or spinach) packs an intense nutrition punch. It is worth a bit of persistence and creativity to turn these into foods that our kids will eat.

Before I get into the ways we can present kale to our kids, let’s take a quick look at what amazing nutrition just 1 cup of raw kale provides.

According to NutritionData.com, 1 cup of chopped raw kale provides more than 100% of our daily value of vitamin C, more than 200% of our daily value of vitamin A, and more than 600% of our daily value of vitamin K. It also provides at least 10 different minerals and all of the B vitamins. Kale provides all of these things in a mere 33 calories.

So how do we get our kids to eat kale? I know that every child is different. Some will eat sautéed kale with nothing more than a sprinkle of salt. Others will reject a meatball if they identify even a speck of green in it. Try what you think might work for your kids. And if it doesn’t work at first, try and try again. It will be worth the effort.

Let’s start with the smoothie. If your child will accept a green smoothie, just throw some kale into the blender with plain yogurt, ground flax seeds, a banana and some orange juice. This is sweet and yummy! If your child refuses a green drink, add enough cherries or mixed berries to turn the same drink pink. Smoothies are not only for breakfast, but also for a great afternoon snack.

Another popular snack is kale chips. While my son loves the ones that are deep-fried in peanut oil (served at The Kitchen Next Door in Boulder, CO), I prefer to dehydrate or bake them. Wash and chop the kale, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake at 325° for 15-20 minutes.

The frittata is another great presentation for kale. Finely chop the kale, sauté it with some onions and garlic, add some beaten eggs and cheese, and bake in an oven-safe pan. The frittata can be a great way to serve any number of vegetables, but spinach and kale are favorites in our family.

If you are looking to hide the kale, try adding a quarter cup of pureed kale to your favorite meatball or meatloaf recipe. Pureed greens can also be mixed into your favorite spaghetti sauce.

If all else fails, make cake! I have to give credit to Weelicious for this idea. The Lunches cookbook has a recipe for “spinach cake muffins.” I substitute kale for spinach and adjust the recipe to make it gluten-free. For my version of kale muffins, I blend (in a blender) 1 cup packed kale, ½ cup applesauce, 1 egg, 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil, 1/3 cup cane sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, and ½ tsp salt, and then mixed that with 1.5 cups of Pamela’s Pancake and Baking Mix. I bake in mini muffin tins at 350° for 12 minutes. The color is vibrant and the taste is great!

Once our kids are used to eating green, we can finely chop fresh kale and add it to salads, sandwiches, and soups. Ideally I want my kids to enjoy their greens the way I do: sautéed with olive oil, garlic, and salt. I continue to present this and some days they eat it. But until they will eat it every day, I will persevere in the creative presentation of one of the most nutritionally dense foods on our planet.

I hope that you will too!

Marshmallows and Early Childhood Education

I started my two boys at a new daycare center last week. Although the school does provide meals for the kids, I had secured a doctor’s note to allow me to bring all of their snacks and meals from home. My children and I eat gluten free and my oldest just tested to be allergic to corn and food dyes. With these food restrictions, I felt confident that my boys would be exempt from the majority of junk foods that may be presented in the classroom. I was apparently completely naive.

On the first day of class, as part of an activity to learn about mixing colors, my son was fed three jumbo marshmallows dipped in food coloring. This means that he was given the following ingredients:

 

  • Corn syrup
  • Sugar
  • Modified Corn Starch
  • Dextrose
  • Water
  • Gelatin
  • Artificial Flavor
  • Tetrasosodium pyrophosphate
  • FD&C Blue No. 1
  • FD&C Red No. 40
  • FD&C Yellow No. 5

If you would like to know about where these ingredients come from or their health effects, you should visit Center for Science in the Public Interest. They maintain a food additive database and also have app available called Chemical Cuisine.

On the second day of class, I had noticed on the class calendar that they would be celebrating an “un-birthday.” Preemptively, I packed a gluten-free cupcake in his lunch box in case the class would be having cake. That morning I had a more direct conversation with the teacher about the foods that my son needs to avoid. She seemed very accommodating and assured me that whenever they were going to have food in the classroom, I was welcome to bring a substitution.

At pick-up that afternoon, my son reported that he had been given “icing that he could have.” When I asked him what color it was, he said, “It was white so I could have it.” It turns out that what he was given to spread on his organic gluten-free cupcake was, in fact, Cool Whip®. This means that on day two he was given the following ingredients:

  • Water
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Skim milk
  • Light cream
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Natural and artificial flavor
  • Xanthan and guar gums
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Sorbitan monostearate
  • Beta carotene

On the third day of class, I asked to speak with the school director. I expressed my opinion that the use of sugar-laden junk food for classroom activities was not only unnecessary but also unacceptable. She graciously allowed me to say my piece. But in the end she made no gesture even to acknowledge the most simple of nutrition arguments: that sugar is bad for kids. Instead she explained that every family feels differently about these things and they will do their best to accommodate my needs. Again she resorted to the solution that I am always welcome to “bring in substitutions.” And exactly what substitutions would she suggest I bring in for marshmallows, food coloring, and Cool Whip®? I didn’t bother to ask.

As I walked out of the school that day, I saw a cart of animal cookies being rolled down the hallway for snack. I looked again at the weekly lunch menu posted by the door. The lunch was scheduled to be soup served with saltine crackers, a brownie, and milk. I walked out the door relieved that my boys each had a bag filled with nutritious food for their day.

But I also walked out deeply saddened by the food culture that has permeated all levels of our society down to the places where we care for, nurture, and educate our babies.

I knew that I was not going to change the environment of food at that daycare center. The director had made that more than clear. My remaining options were to either police the food allowed to touch my children’s lips on a daily basis or just get out.

I decided that my job as a mom trying to teach her children about nutrition would be much easier if that message were reinforced (or at least not contradicted) in the school.

So I spent the morning touring other childcare centers. Not a single one was free of all processed, GMO-laden, refined and sugary foods – not even the Montessori school with a tuition rate of $95 per child per day. Apparently the only way to keep your children away from these foods is to keep them at home.

But what fun is that?

In the end I found a center that seems to be much more in line with my  values. While they are not entirely junk-food-free, they are significantly more aware of the importance of nutrition and the value of teaching our children to eat right.

We will have a “first day of school take two” next week. I know that there will be ongoing discussion with my children and their schools about food and nutrition.

If you are a parent who also cares about what your children eat, please speak up! If we as parents stay silent on these issues, nothing will ever change.

My only hope now is that that the foods I see pass my little boys’ lips in the days, weeks, and months to come, have no resemblance to marshmallows, food colorings, or Cool Whip®.