Big food policy news this week, Warriors! The Farm Bill has been officially drafted and passed in the House yesterday. This $1 trillion dollar bill is influential to say the least, so take a look at the articles below to get caught up as it moves on to the Senate. In other news, we’ve got some good news about sunlight, and a surprisingly upbeat “Fast Food Frontlines” section, a slam on soda, a look into the water of West Virginia and what we half-heartedly promise will be the last lentil based recipe for a little while (lentils are just so good!). There’s some important stuff in our “GET INVOLVED” section too, so be sure to check it out and make your voice heard if you so choose. Have a healthy and happy weekend and we hope that you jump into February with inspiration and a fire in your belly to continue the fight for your—and others’—wellness.
Words to Live By
“But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach. Believe it.”
— Barack Obama
The Farm Bill Cometh
The wait is almost over. The Farm Bill now heads to the Senate. The bill brings general support from soy and grain interests, criticism from the meat industry (based on the bill’s support of a meat labeling program), cuts to food stamps (reducing aid by about $90/mo), elimination of direct payments (with a switch to a much more robust crop insurance program) and a number of other influential decisions about food and agriculture. The Farm Bill is updated every 5 years, so it will have a profound effect on the near future of our food system. We aren’t going to pretend that we read the 960-page bill, so we suggest that we all take some time to monitor its highpoints and controversies, and we’ll do our best here at WW to bring them to you via various news sources. For starters today, check out the NY Times article for an overview and the Farm Policy article for a deeper analysis.
“Fakethrough” Writing about GMOs
As Wellness Warriors, we attempt on this site to spread news from sources that we trust. When it comes to food and GMOs we know that there is a lot of conflicting “evidence” out there, some of it based on science and some of it based on special interests. This commentary by Dr. Jonathan Latham points out a few brazen examples of such “fakethrough” writing about what wonders GMOs may bring to the table, and reminds us that just because it is in print, doesn’t mean that it is the whole truth or much beyond simple boosterism about a product.
Swapping Sunlight for Statins
“Take two naps on a sunny beach and call me in the morning,” is not a phrase that we would expect to hear from doctors. A new study out of the University of Edinborough may prove this imaginary prescription to be viable. Subjects that were exposed to UVA radiation experienced blood pressure lower than their control counterparts. This is a small sample study, so it may not be widely applicable information until bigger studies are conducted, but it is certainly encouraging. Any prescription that lists “an awesome suntan” as a side-effect is alright in our book.
2,4 D is Not For Me
A few weeks ago, we learned about a new and scary GMO development from Dow AgroScience for corn and soy. They’ve found a way to make crops that are resistant to 2,4 D — a pesticide that is a derivative of “Agent Orange.” The congressional decision about approving the use of this technology is currently on the fast track and it could make its way through without being properly reviewed by the USDA. The public comment period ends February 24th, so this petition from MoveOn.org is another way to help prevent Dow from getting special treatment while the environment and human health suffer.
The Fast Food Frontline
Trans-fats Walk the Plank
How do you make the worst restaurant meal in America
healthier? Taking out the trans-fats is a good start. In some good news to report about the fast food industry, that’s exactly what Long John Silver’s is planning on doing. It’s great to see growing public awareness about health pushing fast food in a healthier direction. Obviously, the fast-food industry has a long way to go before we could call it a “healthy choice” ( see below for a very noble attempt!), but it is certainly a laudable first step for this fast-food seafood chain.
A Vending Machine for the Healthy
Amidst the neon lights of a Chicago food court shines an alternative that’s a pretty awesome solution to getting healthy food out in the world. Farmer’s Fridge is a refrigerated vending machine, partially made out of reclaimed materials, that offers fresh and “as local as possible veggies” in containers that can be returned to the machine to be recycled. This Modern Farmer article highlights this cool new business and shows us that innovating and rethinking old systems (in this case vending machines) can bring about some great changes for our health.
Diet Soda and Cancer: News Bubbles Up Once Again
A recent Consumer Reports study found that a few diet sodas contained higher than allowed amounts of the caramel coloring 4-Mel, a known carcinogen. First off, it may be shocking to know, if you didn’t already, that some sodas do, in fact, contain a carcinogen
, but if you are still enticed by it (we do admit that it is pretty darn tasty) then we can get a little more nuanced. 4-Mel is on a list, known as the Proposition 65 list (named after the California law) of carcinogens that are allowed in products but must be kept below certain amounts. In the case of the Consumer Reports study, multiple sodas exceeded that amount. Of course, the soda industry has all kinds of defensive rhetoric to refute the toxicity of 4-mel, but the FDA is currently considering revising its opinion that 4-Mel is safe. In the future, we may see more petitions for congress to ban 4-Mel
, but in the mean time, read these articles and make your own informed choice.
What We're Watching
Chipotle is Making Movie Magic
Chipotle (the restaurant chain featuring organic/grass-fed meats in their Mexican dishes) is trying to coin a new phrase in the marketing industry: “value integration.” To do this, it’s taking another leap by creating a four-part Hulu series promoting sustainable agriculture. Chipotle hopes to educate customers about the follies of meat treated with antibiotics, as well as over-processed foods in general, thus attracting diners to their “naturally raised” products. The production value looks amazing, and the storyline compelling, but can we trust what we see on TV? Chipotle has certainly been accused of greenwashing
and was even called out this summer when it considered selling antibiotic treated beef to save their bottom line
. And, yet, they are certainly making a strong effort, which is important. The bottom line: enjoy the trailer below, and even watch the whole series on Hulu with glee—all with the usual grain of salt.
What’s in the Water?
We’ve all been pretty shocked and scared about the Elk River chemical spill
that happened in West Virginia earlier this month. It reminds us that we need to be ever-watchful of harsh chemicals used by industry. Here comes more bad news: NPR explains that water treatment plants do NOT test for tens of thousands of chemicals. The cost of testing can be prohibitive, but as one interviewee remarks, “Don’t take the info that you are given at face value.” Just because something was tested, does not necessarily mean that it is free of toxicants.
If this issue intrigues you, then check out this follow up news from the Washington Post highlighting how little we know about the exposure effects of a very small fraction of the 80,000 catalogued chemicals in U.S. water supplies.
Squash and Lentils One More Time
Okay, we know that we’ve been hitting the lentil and squash recipes pretty hard, but we tried this one out earlier in the week and it was just too good to pass up. The balsamic vinegar and mustard add a tang to the sweet butternut squash and the Le Puy or Beluga lentils bring the whole thing down to earth for a surprisingly delicious complexity of flavors given the simple ingredients.
Photo credit: New York Times
Warm Lentil Salad With Balsamic Roast Squash
For the squash:
- 2 pounds kabocha or butternut squash, peeled and cut in small dice (about 3 cups peeled and diced, weighing 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds), or 1 large acorn squash, cut in half*
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (2 tablespoons if using acorn squash)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
*If using acorn squash, place in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes before cutting in half and seeding. It will be much easier to cut.
For the lentils:
- 1 cup black lentils (also known as beluga lentils), green Le Puy lentils, or a mixture, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 onion (intact)
- 1 quart water
- Salt to taste
For the salad:
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- 1/4 cup chopped or slivered flat leaf parsley
1. Combine the lentils, ginger, turmeric, onion, water, and salt to taste in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook at a moderate bubble until the lentils have softened and produced a flavorful broth, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the heat. Remove the onion and discard. Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the lentils.Meanwhile, cook potatoes: In a separate saucepan, cover potatoes with 1 to 2 inches cold water. Set timer for 15 minutes, then bring potatoes to a simmer. When the timer rings, they should be easily pierced with a toothpick or knife. Drain and keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. If using cut up squash, place in a bowl or directly on the baking sheet and toss with salt to taste, the balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread on the baking sheet in an even layer and make sure to tip all of the liquid remaining in the bowl over the squash. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes so that the squash browns evenly. The squash should be tender all the way through. Remove from the heat. If using acorn squash, spoon a tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar into both cavities, season with salt, brush with olive oil, and place cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until thoroughly tender. Remove from the heat and when cool enough to handle remove the skin and cut the squash into dice.
3. In a small bowl or measuring cup whisk together the vinegars, mustard, salt and pepper, olive oil, and walnut oil. Toss with the lentils and return to the saucepan. Add a few tablespoons of the lentil broth, stir in the parsley and heat through.
4. Place the squash in the middle of a wide bowl or serving platter, surround with the lentil salad and serve.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Advance preparation: The cooked lentils will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. Keep the broth in a jar and moisten if desired when you reheat. The squash will keep for 2 or 3 days. Reheat gently in a pan or in a medium-low oven.
Nutritional information per serving (4 servings): 381 calories; 18 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 4 grams polyunsaturated fat; 11 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 44 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams dietary fiber; 40 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 14 grams protein
Nutritional information per serving (6 servings): 254 calories; 12 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 3 grams polyunsaturated fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 29 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams dietary fiber; 27 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 10 grams protein