Antibiotic Resistance: From Hospitals or Farms?

Antibiotic_resistant_bacteriaA 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.

Confined-animal-feeding-operationA 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. Accessed March 27, 2014.

2. FDA Announces Availability of the 2011 NARMS Retail Meat Annual Report. US Food and Drug Administration Web site. 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:

SAM_0720Choose 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. 

Trends of the American Diet: For Better or Worse?

Source Article: The Changing American Diet

Since 1970, the USDA has been monitoring dietary trends of Americans. They have the data complete with graphs to show the changing trends. A great summary of this data was published in the Nutrition Action Healthletter in September 2013.

With increasing rates of chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, it is reasonable to conclude that the changing trends of the American diet are not good ones. While we could argue whether any given trend is for better or worse, I would suggest that most are for the worst. Here are some highlights: caloric intake per day is 450 calories greater than it was in 1970 (2,535 vs. 2,075). The majority of these calories are coming from flour, cheese, oils, and sugar.

White and wheat flour outpace all other grains for current consumption. In fact the average American eats 109 pounds of flour per year, primarily from wheat. In 1970, this number was less than 80. Sugar consumption also remains high, at 78 pounds per person per year. As beef consumption has dropped, chicken consumption has climbed. Although we started eating more vegetables in 1980, that came to a rapid plateau. Both fruit and vegetable trends are virtually a flat line.

Dairy trends are curious. While whole milk consumption has dropped from 18 gallons per person in 1970 down to 4 gallons per person today, cheese consumption has filled that gap and then some. Cheese intake, in fact, is on an upward trajectory that does not appear to be leveling out. Yogurt consumption is also on a rapid rise. While yogurt is generally considered a healthy food, this is likely another source of added sugars in the American diet.

The trend that stands out as the most dismal is the category of fats. Total fat intake has climbed steadily since 1970. Over the last 10 years, the increase in fats has come entirely from “salad and cooking oils” while butter consumption has dropped. Salad and cooking oils are typically vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, canola, and cottonseed oils that have been chemically extracted, bleached, and deodorized. They provide too many omega-6 fatty acids and are sourced from GMO seeds.

Where have these trends landed us? Nearly 75% of adult Americans in 2010 were overweight or obese compared to less than 50% in 1970. Diabetes now affects nearly 7% of our population compared to less than 1% in 1958. The two leading causes of death in our country are cardiovascular disease and cancer.

We may all be better off if we returned to dietary trends that more closely resembled those of 1970 or before.


Kale is for Kids!

SAM_2845I 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, 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.

SAM_3012If 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!

Abundant Health in a Toxic World

I have recently written about food additives, genetically modified foods, and arsenic in rice. We live in a world where our oceans are contaminated with mercury and our fields are devoid of nutrients. It may seem that our future, and especially the future of our children, is bleak. I am here to tell you otherwise.

The first thing to recognize is that the human body is a miraculous organism. We are designed to survive and we are designed to thrive. Every second of every day, our cells are working to neutralize, transform, and eliminate toxicity. We have an army of enzymes distributed throughout the body, but concentrated in the liver, that recognizes and disposes of toxic compounds. we eat residues of pesticide on an apple, for example, enzymes rapidly convert the chemical into a form that our bodies can excrete (1). The water in that apple supports elimination through the urine, and the fiber in that apple carries away toxins in the stool. Either way, those pesticides end up being flushed.

To assure you of the speed at which our bodies can detoxify, let me give you an example. A 2006 study of 23 elementary school children substituted most conventional foods with organic foods for 5 consecutive days. Pesticide metabolites in their urine decreased to undetectable levels immediately and remained that way until conventional diets were reintroduced (2).

The second thing to understand is that the foods we eat can help our body’s innate wisdom to combat toxic exposure from the environment.

Imagine a scale with toxic foods or chemicals on one side and purifying foods or chemicals on the other. The secret to health is in weighing that scale more heavily on the purifying side. Foods that will tip the scale in our favor are those with the highest amount of antioxidants and other nutrients. Let me give you some examples:

  • Red grapes and blueberries contain compounds that support immune function (3).
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain compounds that promote detoxification and block cancer (4).
  • Pistachios increase antioxidant levels in our blood (5) and walnuts have anti-inflammatory effects (6).
  • Eggs from hens raised on pasture contain significant levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, beta-carotene, which are all poweful antioxidants (7).
  • Grass-fed beef is a rich source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may be one of our most potent cancer fighters (8).
  • Garlic contains organosulfur compounds, phenols, and selenium. All of these have anti-cancer effects (9).
  • Turmeric (a spice used in curry) contains high amounts of curcumin, which has been shown to block inflammation and cancer (9).

In addition to the above list of foods, most plant foods contain beneficial compounds called flavanoids. Flavanoids are the most abundant form of antioxidants in the diet. They come in many shapes, sizes, and complicated names. But as a group, they help the body to ward off cancer, heart disease, inflammation, and toxicity (10). Foods rich in flavanoids include (but are not limited to):

  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Plums
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Wine

And lastly, we cannot overlook the importance of green leafy vegetables. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a family physician and nutrition expert, has developed a rating scale for foods. He calls it the ANDI scale, which stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. It ranks foods according to nutrients per calorie, including vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (health-promoting compounds that are present in plant foods). The scale goes from 0-1,000, with 1,000 being the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. As you can see, the foods highest on the scale are all green leafy vegetables:


ANDI Score



Collard Greens


Mustard Greens




Swiss Chard


Bok Choy









Foods that I have listed in this article can be included every day for you and your family. It takes some creativity, some planning, and some willingness to try new things. I will most certainly make this the subject of future articles. But resources already abound to help you. Whole Foods Market, for example, has a wealth of nutrient-dense recipes online. If you have kids, can check out Weelicious.

I hope that you will take a moment to allow yourself to see the bounty of healing foods that nature has given to us. I also hope that you will consider the extraordinary ways in which our body knows how to use these foods to keep us well. When you understand this, the toxicity of our world becomes less daunting. We may live in a contaminated world with a contaminated food supply. But we have a choice. We are not doomed to have contaminated bodies. Weigh the scales in your favor and you will have a long abundant life.



1.      Committee on the Use of Third Party Toxicity Research with Human Research Participants Science, T., and Law Program, National Research Council. Intentional Human Dosing Studies for EPA Regulatory Purposes: Scientific and Ethical Issues (2004). In ed. The National Academies Press, p. 168-172.

2.      Lu, C., K. Toepel, R. Irish, R. A. Fenske, D. B. Barr, and R. Bravo. 2006. Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect 114: 260-263.

3.      University, O. S. 2013. Red grapes, blueberries may enhance immune function.

4.      de Figueiredo, S. M., S. A. Filho, J. A. Nogueira-Machado, and R. B. Caligiorne. 2013. The anti-oxidant properties of isothiocyanates: a review. Recent Pat Endocr Metab Immune Drug Discov 7: 213-225.

5.      Kay, C. D., S. K. Gebauer, S. G. West, and P. M. Kris-Etherton. 2010. Pistachios increase serum antioxidants and lower serum oxidized-LDL in hypercholesterolemic adults. J Nutr 140: 1093-1098.

6.      Chiang, Y. L., E. Haddad, S. Rajaram, D. Shavlik, and J. Sabate. 2012. The effect of dietary walnuts compared to fatty fish on eicosanoids, cytokines, soluble endothelial adhesion molecules and lymphocyte subsets: a randomized, controlled crossover trial. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 87: 111-117.

7.      Long, C., and T. Alterman. 2007. Meet real free-range eggs. Mother Earth News 4:

8.      Robinson, J. 2002. Pasture Perfect. Mother Earth News

9.      Cretu, E., A. Trifan, A. Vasincu, and A. Miron. 2012. Plant-derived anticancer agents – curcumin in cancer prevention and treatment. Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi 116: 1223-1229.

10.    Scalbert, A., and G. Williamson. 2000. Dietary intake and bioavailability of polyphenols. J Nutr 130: 2073S-2085S.

FDA Update: Arsenic in Rice

SAM_2853The News

On Friday, September 6, 2013, the FDA released results of arsenic contamination levels of rice and rice products from retail stores across the United States.

Combined with data collected in September 2012, this brings the total number of rice products tested by the FDA to 1300. Their results are comparable to those found by a Consumer’s Report investigation  in 2012.


Before I share any numbers with you, let me give you a frame of reference. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that there is no safe level of inorganic arsenic in our food and they have never established a permissible level. The EPA does, however, limit arsenic in drinking water to 10 parts per million. At that level, drinking one liter of water per day would expose a person to 10 mcg of inorganic arsenic. Let’s therefore assume that the federal government has established that it is safe to consume no more than 10 mcg of inorganic arsenic per day.

The Results

Every rice product tested contained some level of detectable arsenic.

The most recent update from the FDA reports that average levels of inorganic arsenic ranged from 2.6 to 7.2 mcg per serving in rice itself and 0.1 to 6.6 mcg per serving in rice products.  Brown rice and rice pasta were at the high end of the spectrum for each of these categories.

The Consumer’s Report data from 2012 showed that one serving of long grain brown rice from Whole Foods packed a whopping 7.4 to 8.4 mcg of arsenic. Barbara’s Organic Brown Rice Crisps had 5.9 to 6.7 mcg per serving. Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Pasta had 5.9 to 6.9 mcg.

The Source of Arsenic

Arsenic is a naturally occurring metal in the earth’s crust. But human activities such as burning fuel, mining, and agricultural practices have increased arsenic levels in the environment.

The United States is the world’s leading user of arsenic. Residues from decades of use of lead-arsenate pesticides linger in our soil today. One arsenical pesticide continues to be used on golf courses and roadsides. Arsenical drugs are fed to chickens to improve their pigmentation and their growth. Arsenic-laced poultry waste is then used to make fertilizer, which directly contaminates our crops.

Arsenic is a pollutant of our soil and water. Because rice is grown in water, it takes up more of this toxin than other grains or foods. The arsenic concentrates in the outer layer of the grain, which is why we see higher levels in brown than white rice.

Arsenic Toxicity

Inorganic arsenic is a carcinogen. It is known to cause bladder, lung, and skin cancer in humans, with the liver, kidney, and prostate now considered potential targets of arsenic-induced cancers. For those of you who want the details, see this article on chronic arsenic toxicity.

What to Do

Based on these results, Consumer Reports has issued recommendations to limit arsenic exposure. For adults they recommend consuming no more than either 2 servings of rice per week or 3 servings of rice pasta per week or one serving of rice crackers per day. Please follow this link to see a chart of their recommendations.

For ethnic groups whose traditional diets rely predominantly on rice, these recommendations can be extremely restrictive. For those of us who eat a gluten-free diet, they can be equally challenging.

Consumer Reports makes a few other recommendations for reducing arsenic exposure:

  • Check your water. If you have a municipal water supply, reports should be available annually.
  • Change the way you cook rice. Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking. Cook with a ratio of 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice and drain when it is finished. Research shows that this removes about 30% of the rice’s inorganic arsenic. But other nutrients will also be sacrificed to the cooking water and it is not known which variable has a more profound health impact over time.
  • Vary your diet. Wheat and oats have lower arsenic levels than rice. Quinoa, millet and amaranth have not been studied as much.

The Bigger Picture

Rice is not the only food that is contaminated by arsenic. A 2009-2010 study by the EPA estimated that rice contributes 17% of dietary inorganic arsenic with fruits and fruit juices providing 18% and vegetables at 24%.

This is not a “rice” issue. This is a “planet” issue. If we continue to pollute our earth with unnecessary chemicals such as arsenical pesticides and drugs for chickens, we will never again have a safe food supply.

In fact even organic farming practices cannot prevent arsenic from being soaked up by the plants. The arsenic is present in our environment so it is present in our foods and it is present in our bodies.

We could rapidly make ourselves sick with worry over these issues. Or we could accept the reality that our food supply is impure and do everything in our power to support our body’s resilience to thrive.

I prefer the second option. Load up on your fruits and veggies every day, choose the cleanest foods you can afford, and eat a wide variety of foods in moderation. This has always been and will always be the best that we can do.


Marshmallows and Early Childhood Education 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®.