Aug
17
2019

How Healthy Is Food From The Supermarket?

I am asking the question here: “how healthy is food from the supermarket?” We tend to assume that food we buy at the supermarket would be safe to eat. Think again, because below I will explain why it is NOT safe.

The “dirty dozen”

You may or may not have heard about the “dirty dozen”. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that monitors fruit and vegetables for insecticide residues. For 2019 they have determined these unhealthy dozen of fruit and vegetables: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and peppers (hot and bell peppers). Yes, you counted right, this “dozen” actually consists of 13 items.

When I want to buy any of these fruit, I strictly get fruit and vegetables, which are organic. If this is not available in the regular supermarket, I go to the health food store and buy organic fruit and vegetables there. Local farmers’ markets also offer organically grown produce. Every year the EWG brings out an up-to-date list of the dirty dozen. If an item is not on this list, you can assume that it is safe to eat.

Sugar and too many starches are the next problem

How healthy is food from the supermarket? We said we wanted healthy food. Unfortunately ample consumption of sugar and starchy foods end up as belly fat and also as atheromatous deposits in the arteries. I do not eat bread unless it is 100% rye, but then only 1 or 2 slices occasionally. I do not eat potatoes, rice or pasta. Those who love pasta can eat the pasta-look-alike, called shirataki, which is made from the glucomannan root (also known as konjac root). The carbs here are bound to fiber, which digest a lot slower than regular pasta. So, this means that you are bypassing the section in the supermarket where they sell muffins, donuts etc.

Processed foods

In the center of the supermarket you find all kinds of processed foods. They are usually full of sugar, salt and unhealthy fats (hydrogenated fats). People who eat a lot of processed foods are more prone to get heart attacks, strokes and may even come down with cancer. It is not the kind of food that I want. Instead I like whole foods like organic apples, berries and raw or cooked vegetables.

Fish section

I like salmon, sole, cod, halibut, trout, mussels, shrimp and squid. But I am careful not to load up on the big predator fish like tuna. One has to be careful about methylmercury content in fish. I reviewed fish, mercury contamination and the benefits in this link.

As this link shows, there are low, medium and high methylmercury contaminated fish. The higher the fish is in the predator chain, the higher the methylmercury content. This is of particular concern for pregnant women as mercury is toxic for the fetal brain tissue. But they can consume low mercury fish and shellfish, like mackerel, herring, wild salmon, shrimps or clams. I figure, what’s good for women who are pregnant is good for other people. As a result, I limit my fish meals to the low methylmercury contaminated fish category.

How healthy is food from the supermarket – Meat section

Now your shopping trip becomes problematical. There has been news from the Word Health Organization at the end of 2015 that red meat and red meat products are class 1 carcinogens.

This would mean that you may come down with colorectal cancer, if you consume red meat and red meat products regularly. This is when I stopped eating red meat and red meat products like prosciutto. Unfortunately this warning includes pork, lamb and all sausages as well. In the meantime further research has shown that antibiotics that are fed to beef before they are slaughtered get into the meat and change the human bowel flora when red meat or red meat products are consumed.

Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO)

There is a change in bowel flora that causes chemical reactions in the gut with the consumption of beef and eggs. Beef contains carnitine, which can lead to the production of TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide).

Egg yolk contains choline, which also raises TMAO levels in the blood.

In the following study 113 healthy men and women consumed either a meat diet (beef), white meat diet or protein from non-meat sources. After one month the beef group had triple the amount of TMAO in their blood compared to the other two diets.

Interestingly, when the diets were switched the TMAO levels normalized again in the former beefeaters, when consuming white meat or protein from non-meat sources.

What meat am I shopping for?

I recommend not to eat beef more often than once per week and to eat only grass-fed beef. I eat organic chicken and ground turkey breast meat from health food stores (the turkeys are NOT fed antibiotics). Otherwise I eat seafood, cheese from non-recombinant growth hormone milk. This means that I only buy European import cheese or Canadian cheese. In the US you have to ask for organic milk and organic milk products.

The deep frozen section

I look for deep frozen vegetables, fruit, and fish as well as meats. As vegetables are quickly readied for the freezer, their vitamin content can be higher than that of a vegetable that has spent 8 days in transit from the field to the produce department. The deep frozen section also gives you access to a lot of variety. You’ll be able to enjoy some organic strawberries, even when they are not in season. Read the labels, as some fruit have been packaged with sugar syrup. Look for the varieties, where no sugar has been added. The frozen section also contains some highly processed items: deep-fried foods and dessert selections, which have nothing to do with health, so I avoid them.

Canned foods

Canned foods can be useful, as long as you are dealing with fruit that are canned in their juices and not in sugar syrup. The vegetables are less valuable in vitamins than their deep frozen counterparts. Watch out for varieties, where less salt is added. The label will tell you ”low sodium”. Also pay attention to the cans. Those that are not lined with BPH have a label that emphasizes this. You can avoid this by buying canned food in glass jars, such as tomato sauce.

Cosmetics

You will not have to navigate all the aisles, except for your cleaning products and your cosmetics. These have their own problems: lots of cosmetics contain Parabens. Leave them on the shelf, and be aware that some cleaning products can be hazardous too. Pick environmentally friendly, non-toxic products!

Staples you need

There are some staples, which you will also require: olive oil, some olives, almonds or macadamia nuts (preferably raw). The one cereal product, which is valuable will be coarse rolled oats and some pot barley. Both varieties carry a lot of fibre, which makes them very useful food staples. Avoid the “quick cooking” or “instant” oats. Due to the processing, the carbohydrates are absorbed a lot faster and consequently trigger a higher insulin response.

Drinks

You will wonder about drinks next. Having passed the colas, ginger ales and other sugar pops you may eye the diet drinks. Beware of drinks sweetened with aspartame. There is increasing evidence that phenylalanine (brand names: Aspartame, NutraSweet and Sweet’N Low) is not a “harmless” sweetener. Newer research has shown that it can cause gastroesophageal reflux (=GERD) and migraine headaches. Stevia, a sweetener from a South American plant, does not have harmful effects. Stevia is safe to use, as it does not cause an insulin response. You are best served with mineral water, purified drinking water, herb teas, tea or coffee. Fruit juices do have vitamins and minerals, but they are high in sugar causing an insulin release.

What is in fruit juices?

You would not really eat 3 large apples in one sitting? Probably not! So why insist on drinking 8 oz. of apple juice? You’ll ingest all the sugar and forgo the fibre! You also notice that a lot of fruit juices have been mixed with sugar, water, artificial flavor, some color, and as an apology some vitamin C has been added. They are appearing on the shelves as “a good source of vitamin C”. In reality we are dealing with flavoured, colorful sugar water. Use your own judgement, whether you want to spend your dollars on this selection!

Power bars, snacks

In the aisle adjacent to the pop you will very likely encounter a huge selection of convenience and snack foods. They have several things in common: you have met them on TV, some will be high in starches and fat (chips), others will be high in starches, sugar, and fat (cookies, donuts, cream pastries), and we are dealing with trans fats. Do take time to read the listed ingredients, and then decide, whether you and those who eat in your household deserve nutritional garbage. 

How Healthy Is Food From The Supermarket?

How Healthy Is Food From The Supermarket?

Conclusion

We have now completed our round trip in the supermarket. You may still be in mild shock, noticing that “healthy” foods are not the general rule on the shelves. When we buy vegetables and fruit we have to be aware of the “dirty dozen”, which is contaminated with insecticides. We will not buy anything on that list, but buy instead the organic version. You may have to go to the health food store to get these items. Red meat and red meat products produce carcinogens in the human gut. It seems to stem from antibiotics that are used in beef farms and chicken farms. With chicken I buy organic chicken. With beef you need to be more careful and reduce the consumption to once per week and eat only grass-fed beef.

It is tricky to buy healthy food from the supermarket

Much of the bakery section is useless. It consists of empty starch that is digested into sugar and leads to an insulin response. I avoid the processed food section, which contains unhealthy ingredients. Fish is great as long as it does not have too much methylmercury in it. Deep frozen foods may be useful.

Shopping for healthy foods from the supermarket has become more complicated than it was in the past. I only select healthy items and supplement the rest from the health food store. This way I get what I need and avoid the pitfalls of merchandise, which is not beneficial.

May
26
2019

The Foods That Are Killing Us

There is an article in a CNN report talking about the foods that are killing us. This review is based on an article in the Lancet. The Lancet study was based on a global review of eating habits in 195 countries. The question in the study was which of 15 food items caused the diseases that killed people. The answer was surprising. There are either omissions or unhealthy components of foods that kill us. Here is a list of 12 food groups that are problematical.

A dozen foods that were found to be problematical in the global review

  • Diet high in sodium (4 grams per day, which is 86% above the optimal level)
  • Low intake of whole grains (only 23% of optimal levels)
  • Low fruit intake
  • Diet high in trans fatty acids
  • Low omega-3 fatty acid diet (due to low intake of sea food)
  • Diet low in calcium
  • Diet low in fiber
  • High intake of sugar beverages or sugary foods (49 grams of sugar per day)
  • Processed meat intake too high (4 grams per day, 90% more than optimal)
  • Red meat consumption too high (27 grams per day, 18% higher than optimal)
  • Nut and seed intake too low (only consuming 12% of desired amount)
  • Diet low in milk (16% of desired amount)

Each of these components or several of them in combination create deficiencies in us or overburden us to the point where we can get sick and disabled.

Different countries have different eating habits

Globally there were 11 million deaths found in 2017 and 255 million years of disability because of various dietary inadequacies.

Here is the lineup of the leading causes of death:

  • cardiovascular disease with 10 million deaths and 207 million years of disability.
  • Cancers caused 913,090 deaths and 20 million years of disability.
  • Type 2 diabetes caused 338,714 deaths and 24 million years of disability.

This was broken down into statistics for each of the contributory countries. Here I am only citing some pertinent data that shows the importance of balanced meals for a healthy life expectancy.

Different death rates in various countries

There were big differences in terms of cardiovascular disease deaths according to various regions. Central Asia had the highest death rate with 613 deaths per 100,000 people per year. In contrast the high-income Asia Pacific group had only a cardiovascular death rate of 68 per 100,000 people per year.

Cancer deaths were highest in East Asia with 41 deaths per 100,000 people. The lowest cancer rate was found in North Africa and the Middle East with 9 deaths per 100,000 people.

Among the 20 most populous countries Egypt had the highest diet-related deaths, namely 552 deaths per 100,000 people. On the other hand Japan had the lowest of all diet related deaths with 97 deaths per 100,000 people. 

Some highlights how unhealthy foods kill us

Globally people only eat 12% of the desirable amount of nuts and seeds. They only drink 13% of what they should consume in terms of milk. People worldwide eat 23% of the desirable amount of whole grains.

Nuts and seeds contain mono- and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which lower your risk of getting heart attacks and strokes.

Milk is a good source of calcium, protein, minerals and vitamins. However, milk, yogurt or cheese should be consumed as low fat varieties. Alternatively people who do not consume milk should look for protein carriers such as soy milk or pea milk.

If you eat nuts and vegetables you can largely compensate for low milk consumption. If you don’t get enough whole grains, you are missing a whole lot of nutrients. This makes you more vulnerable of getting cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity.

Other unhealthy foods can kill us

The WHO has labelled red meat and processed meat as being carcinogenic

Studies clearly showed a higher than normal rate of colorectal cancer in those who consumed larger amounts of red meat and/or sausages.

Sugar overconsumption

Sugar overconsumption leads to a variety of conditions. Weight gain with the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes are common when you eat too much sugar. But even cancer like colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer is more common in people who overindulge in sugar or sugary drinks. Sugar consumption raises your triglyceride and LDL level. This will eventually lead to hardening of the arteries, heart attacks and strokes.

Gout develops with purine containing foods

Gout can be caused by consuming a lot of red meat combined with copious amounts of beer. This is how royalty in the Middle Ages suffered from gout attacks. Gout had the nickname of “Disease of the affluent.” Both beer and red meat contain a lot of purines, which the kidneys cannot handle. The uric acid crystals that precipitate around joints cause excruciating pains.

 What the global health study showed

Researchers of the global health study stated that improving the diet habits could potentially eliminate 1 in 5 deaths globally. Dietary risks for major diseases like heart attacks, strokes and cancer are independent from sex, age and socioeconomic status.

Three dietary factors stood out: too much salt, too little fruit and too little whole grain. These three items were responsible for 50% of diet-related deaths and 66% of “disability-adjusted life years”. The authors used this expression to describe how years of disability had their root in diet deficits (e.g. too little fruit) or overdoses of unhealthy food components (e.g. salt).

The leading dietary risk factors are too much salt, low whole grain, low fruit consumption, low vegetable intake and low omega-3 fatty acid consumption. On top of that come the previously established risks due to sugar overconsumption, excessive fat intake and consumption of red meat and processed meat.

Discussion of the meaning of these results

Deaths from heart attacks and strokes

We know for some time that high sugar and high starchy food intake cause elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL cholesterol. This leads to hardening of the arteries and eventually to strokes and heart attacks.

High sodium intake

Sodium intake of more than 2300 mg per day is considered high and can cause high blood pressure. heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms.

Eating not enough fruit

If you eat too little fruit, your system does not get enough vitamin C and other vitamins. Heart disease, cancer and anemia could develop from that.

Eating not enough vegetables

People who do not eat enough vegetables do not have enough antioxidants that protect them from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable chemicals that attack cells and DNA. Mutated cells can cause cancer. If you eat too little vegetables, you are at a higher risk of getting cancer. But there is another aspect of vegetables: phytonutrients protect from hardening of the arteries and blockages of heart and brain vessels. When someone does not eat enough vegetables, the risk for heart attacks and strokes is higher. Eating vegetables also protects you from diabetes and keeps the blood sugar more stable.

Not eating enough whole grain

Whole grain was identified as missing in a lot of people’s diet. When you incorporate whole grains into your food, you reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and obesity.

There are vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and lignans in whole grain. Other nutrients are beta-glucan, several phytochemicals, phytosterols, phytin, and sphingolipids. All of these are necessary to maintain good health.

Low omega-3 fatty acid consumption

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for healthy skin, brain development (neurodevelopment of children) and prevention of heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cancer because of their anti-inflammatory action and inhibition of cell growth factors. In one study rectal cancer showed a 21% reduction comparing the highest omega-3 fatty acid intake to the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Colon cancer showed no effect to omega-3 consumption, but breast cancer showed a reduction with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Researchers showed that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can slow down dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Protein deposits called amyloids were found less in the brain of patients with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation; in addition the brain volume was preserved more with the omega-3 supplement. Low omega-3 fatty acid consumption also has a detrimental effect on macular degeneration of the eyes and on joint pains of rheumatoid arthritis patients.

The Foods That Are Killing Us

The Foods That Are Killing Us

Conclusion

I have reviewed a global health study that described various risks that led to deaths from different diseases. It was noticeable that death and disability rates varied significantly according to different countries. The authors also looked into food habits and could pinpoint certain food deficiencies that caused diseases that prematurely disabled or killed people. I have described the various one-sided food habits that led to specific diseases.

What we should all learn from this complicated study is that we all can strive to eat more balanced meals. You want to eat a low sodium diet, eat enough fruit and vegetables, to which you add some nuts. Eat enough whole grains and add omega-3 fatty acids. This way the risk of getting cancer, cardiovascular diseases or other problems can be significantly reduced.

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Jul
29
2017

Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Some drink milk, others are lactose intolerant; this is the fact about drinking milk.

For a long time the dairy marketing board advertised with the slogan: “Got milk?”. But dairy milk consumption has declined over the past decades.

Why this is has been reviewed in this article. I like to review the problem of lactose intolerance, milk as a source of calcium to prevent osteoporosis and offer alternatives to milk consumption.

Lactose intolerance

Milk cows have been around in Europe for about 6000 years. But not everybody can tolerate milk products. Most of the Europeans, North Americans and Australians have adjusted the digestive enzymes in their duodenum to produce enzymes, called lactase that digest milk sugar (lactose) into glucose and galactose. But up to 75% of the world population (Africa, South America, Asia) is lactase deficient; they cannot tolerate dairy products. They get abdominal cramping, intestinal gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting from drinking a glass of dairy milk. This link explains why goat milk is better than cow’s milk for those who cannot tolerate cow’s milk.

It is also interesting that many people who are lactase deficient can tolerate cheeses, yogurt and other fermented milk products as the fermenting bacteria have digested the lactose.

Other problems with dairy products

Problems with mass production of dairy items are the following:

  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) are responsible for the majority of milk products on grocery market shelves. This means that the animals are fed unnatural corn, which leads to deficiencies and omega-6 fatty acids in the milk products.
  • Herds of animals receive antibiotics to prevent infections.
  • Farmers are administering bovine growth hormone (bST, bovine somatotropin) to stimulate more milk production. The antibiotics lead to superbugs in humans, the bST may be causing autoimmune diseases and breast cancer in humans. The healthiest milk is milk from grass-fed cows. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids. All of the milk products derived from this type of milk are also healthy.

Milk as a source of calcium

One key advertising slogan of the dairy industry used to be that milk would be such a good source of calcium, which would prevent osteoporosis. But milk also has a lot of animal protein in it, which acidifies blood. This means that the kidneys use calcium to neutralize acidic blood and excrete calcium. The net result is that there is more calcium leaving the body. Some of the calcium from the bone serves to keep the balance between acidity and alkalinity neutral.

This 12 year long Harvard Nurses’ Health Study involving 77, 761 women between the ages of 34 to 59 showed that a higher consumption of milk did not protect against hip and wrist fractures.

The myth that full fat milk causes heart attacks and strokes

There is another myth floating around, namely that full fat milk would be bad for the heart because of increased saturated fatty acids. But an Australian study showed that full fat milk is healthier for you than milk with less fat.

After 14.4 years of follow-up the group that consumed the most milk compared to the lowest fat intake group had a 69% lower death rate from cardiovascular disease!

A 2016 study showed that consumption of plain yogurt was associated with better health outcomes on the long term. Be more concerned about the sugar content than the fat content of yogurt!

Prevention of osteoporosis

For years numerous sources have indoctrinated us to accept a false concept. It is the concept of increasing milk consumption (“Got milk?”) for increased calcium intake and possible osteoporosis prevention. The sales mantra went like this: Milk-calcium-osteoporosis prevention. Now we know the real truth. Milk provides protein and calcium.  But  absorption of calcium is poor and the acidified blood is alkalinized through calcium from milk and from the bone leaking calcium into the blood and into the urine. The end result is a net loss of calcium from the bone, as it is more important to the body to keep the blood’s acid/base stable than to increase the calcium level in the bone. Sadly all the high consumers of milk from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study ended up having fractures from osteoporotic bones.

Prevention of osteoporosis requires intake of vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and calcium (supplement or diet) as I have reviewed in this blog. In addition regular exercise is also very beneficial as is bioidentical sex-hormone replacement. It is interesting that a large clinical trial that I mentioned in this blog showed after 7 years that there were 35% to 38% less fractures of the hip than in the placebo group. Vitamin K2 is essential to keep calcium in the bones and to keep calcium out of the blood vessel walls. Vitamin D3 is important for calcium absorption through the gut wall and to deposit calcium into bone. Without all of these ingredients it is not possible to prevent osteoporosis.

Alternatives to milk consumption

  1. One obvious step is to replace cow’s milk by goat milk. As you can see from this link, there are many advantages to goat milk. What I find important is the fact that those with lactase deficiency often can tolerate goat milk while they would otherwise react to cow’s milk. There are also many goat milk products like cheese and yogurt, all of which are very healthy. They do not contain any antibiotics or bovine growth hormone (bST), the use of which is confined to cows. Goat milk products are also an excellent source of protein.
  2. You can eat a more vegetable-based diet. A lot of vegetables and fruit have calcium and protein in them.
  3. You can consume almond milk instead of cow’s milk. The downside to know is the fact that almond milk is not a significant source of protein. It has the advantage of being slightly alkaline; this will ensure that the calcium absorbed in the gut will reach the bones as long as you also supplement with vitamin D3 and vitamin K2. The many “fake milk” products such as rice milk, coconut milk and hemp milk are also poor protein sources. The only product higher in protein is soymilk. But soy has its own problems: over 90 % of the crop in North America is genetically engineered, and soy is a known allergen. As of recent, another product based on pea protein is available, and the protein content is excellent, so it is worth looking for it (It is called “Ripple”).
Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Some Drink Milk, Others Are Lactose Intolerant

Conclusion

Drinking milk as a source of protein and calcium has become an obsession a few decades back. In the meantime it turned out that drinking milk tips the acid-base balance in the direction of acidity. This causes osteoporosis, as the kidneys excrete all of the calcium from milk that is absorbed. On top of that even more calcium is taken out from bones to recalibrate the acid-base balance.

Up to 75% of the world population is lactose intolerant. They get sick from drinking cow’s milk. But they usually tolerate goat milk quite well. Considering the fact that antibiotics are used in cow milk production and recombinant bovine growth hormone as well, I have joined the crowd that prefers goat milk instead of cow’s milk. I take the supplements I mentioned for bone maintenance (vitamin D3 and K2) and I get lots of calcium also from vegetables and salads. I have no lactose intolerance, but that’s my take on milk.

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