As we head into the weekend, it may be a good time to reflect on the first week or so of the new year. How are you working to promote wellness in you and others around you? In your community and for the environment? To help you ponder, we’ve got some good news about veggies, ginger, meditation and maybe McDonald’s (are you as shocked to read that as we were to write that?!), as well as some concerning news about Dow, the soda industry, and our cultural icons. There are some other great tidbits here too, including a vegan stew recipe that is sure to warm you up. Have a safe and healthy weekend, Warriors!
Words to Live By
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Salute to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s fight against childhood obesity!
The news continues to pour out of RWJF and its Childhood Obesity
program. A quick visit to their website will leave you informed and enthused about the future of our nation’s fight against obesity. In the latest, we learn of Signs of Progress on Childhood Obesity and RWJF’s goal “...to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015 by improving access to affordable healthy foods and increasing opportunities for physical activity in schools and communities across the nation.” Yes, progress is being made! “This is the first time in decades that rates have dropped among young children from low-income families, who typically have higher rates of childhood obesity.”
Veggies: Raw v. Cooked
There is plenty of evidence that vegetables can help lower our blood pressure, but a group a scientists recently sought to find out if there was difference between raw and cooked veggies. The results of their study showed that while both raw and cooked veggies can help lower blood pressure, raw veggies can do so a little more effectively. Specifically, take a look at which veggies, raw and/or cooked, show strong correlations to lower blood pressure.
An Exercise in Stretching the Truth
How much physical activity did you do today? New research shows that the average person’s answer to that question may be a little inflated. According to this Norwegian study of adults who wore accelerometers for a week, self-reported activity was almost an hour off of what the motion recording device reported. It seems that we like to think that we did more than we actually did. Though this was done on a relatively small group of people in Norway, it reminds us that accurately keeping of our activity is sometimes harder than we think.
Dow Develops Strong Herbicide GMO Seeds, USDA Approves
Tom Philpott once again opens our eyes to a critical issue in agriculture and our food system. Weed resistance to herbicide has long been a problem of industrialized agriculture. Dow has recently developed a GMO seed that will be resistant to a much harsher type of pesticide, one that is a cousin of the fabled Agent Orange. Though this may be good for production, what will it do to human health and environment? Stay tuned, Warriors. There will be a 45-day public comment period for the USDA after January 10th and we will keep you posted.
The Fast Food Frontline
McDonald’s to Change its Beef?
Domino’s recently created a way to order pizza from your car by voice command
, so it is pretty easy to get wrapped up in the way fast food is destroying the world
, but there may be hope in some arenas. McDonald’s announced on Tuesday that it will start buying “verified sustainable” beef for its hamburgers by 2016. It looks like there is still a lot for the company to figure out and this could be a long and slow project, so we wouldn’t say that McDonald’s is fast on its way to becoming the new Greenpeace. Also, its worth mentioning that from a human health perspective, the switch to sustainable beef may do very little for the fast-food frequenter. However, this is yet another indicator that global trends are leaning more towards sustainability, which is nice to see.
“Water is the Enemy of Performance”
Big Food’s attempts to entice children and teens continues to be alarming. Gatorade, one of Pepsico’s many sugar loaded money makers, recently won an interactive advertising award for its game, starring Usain Bolt, in which drinking Gatorade makes him move faster and drinking water makes him move slower. Check out the video explaining the success of this marketing campaign
(the “Bolt!” video is the third one down). According to the video, ¾ of the players were 12-24, which was Gatorade’s key demographic. Its kind of amazing that the video is promoting this as a good thing.
Meditation: Good Stuff, but not a Cure-All
A recent meta-analysis of rigorous scientific studies on the benefits of meditation showed that while meditation can be helpful for relieving stress and anxiety, it is not a primary solution nor is it clinically proven to treat some other health problems. The study was designed to give doctors definitive information about meditation and followed a strict set of criteria as to what type of experiments were to be allowed into the final meta-analysis.
The Traffic-Light Diet
Highlight what is healthy and show what is not. That’s the underlying philosophy of a new approach to promoting healthy eating in cafeterias, and it is actually pretty successful. The idea is simple, label foods that you can eat all the time with a green dot, foods you can eat sometimes with a yellow dot and those that you should only eat on occasion with a red dot. It takes the guessing out of what is a “healthy” choice and makes it a little easier to not go crazy when all that food is laid out before you.
The Curative Powers of Ginger
Some recent studies are showing that ginger can relax bronchial muscles and help limit the symptoms of asthma. Ginger has long been used in traditional chinese medicine as a lung tonic, but appears that allopathic medicine is now beginning to embrace it as a viable option for bronchial health. The studies have not gone into full human trials, so there is no definitive science on it yet for medical application. It is clear, though that ginger certainly won’t hurt and we may see a lot more on its healing powers soon.
What We're Watching
The Soda of the Stars
To continue to highlight the manipulative world of over-sugared drinks (see the post about Gatorade above) we learned this week that rapper Macklemore, a recipient of numerous awards in 2013 as well as a Grammy nomination in 2014, has now started endorsing Dr. Pepper.
One of the disappointing ironies of this advertisement is that Macklemore built his career around an anti-consumerist, don’t-sell-out-to-the-man message. This Center for Science in the Public Interest video highlights the crazy world of celebrity soda endorsements and the power that these artists could have to change things for the better.
The Tooth About Our Ancestors
Last calendar year saw the continued popularization of the paleo diet
, which is centered around the assumption that the human body is better off eating a similar diet as our hunter and gatherer ancestors. Whether its philosophy is true or not, it turns out that this ancient diet may not have been as good for teeth as we previously thought. Newly found remains show that dental cavities, previously thought to have emerged as a result of agriculture, were prevalent long before human society’s heavy use of farmed grains. Though this has little to do with today’s paleo diet, it points out that without proper care, any diet can have undesired effects.
‘Tis the Season for Stew
With the cold snap still present in much of the U.S., our thoughts go to warm, nutrient rich stews. This particular recipe is vegan, as to include the widest array of eaters, but it wouldn’t be hard to switch the stock and add some grass-fed, open-range meat for those of you who are carnivorous. However, the most enticing thing about this recipe are the portobellos and the balsamic vinegar that give it a hearty and earthen flavor, so extra additions are certainly not needed.
Photo Credit: The Curvy Carrot
Vegetarian Vegetable Stew
YIELD: 6 servings
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: 40-50 min.
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour approximately
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 medium carrot, minced
- 1 medium stalk celery, minced
- 1 medium red onion, chopped medium
- 9 medium portobello mushrooms (about 1 and 1/4 pounds), stems discarded, caps halved and then sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 10 ounces white mushrooms, stems trimmed and mushrooms halved
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 and 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 large carrots (about one pound), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 medium red potatoes (about 1 and 1/2 pounds), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
2. Add the minced onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the red onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the portobello and button mushrooms, raise the heat to medium-high, and sauté until the liquid the release has been evaporated, about 10 minutes.
5. Add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme and cook for 30 seconds.
6. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pot.
7. Cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
8. Add the stock, salt, tomatoes, bay leaf, carrots, and potatoes, and bring to a boil.
9. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the carrots and potatoes are tender, about 35 minutes.
10. Mix the cornstarch and with water to form a smooth paste.
11. Stir the paste into the stew and cook until the liquid thickens, 1 to 2 minutes.
12. Turn off the heat, stir in the peas, cover, and let stand until the peas are hot, 3 to 4 minutes.
13. Stir in the parsley and balsamic vinegar, discard the bay leaf, and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.