News Roundup: Thursday 1.16.2014

We strive to be as well as we can, and it seems that there are always obstacles. A lot of today’s posts reference the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a serious obstacle to global wellness. Warriors can persevere, however, and we are dedicated to working through these obstacles to ensure the health of ourselves and our planet. In other news...While you are contemplating your feelings about the TPP you may also want to read about how to slow down (with your food), think fast (well into your 80s), exercise with technology, train your back pain away, and cook with chard. For a little more inspiration, we found a great Skype call with Noam Chomsky and a hopeful article about activism and our food system. There’s a great world of opportunity out there, Warriors. Let’s get to work!

Words to Live By

“Life is not merely to be alive, but to be well.”

—Marcus Valerius Martial

Newest News

RoboWellness: A Little Look at Tech and Personal Health
Last week we referenced this article on fitness trackers, and it got us thinking about how technology is shaping the way we exercise and stay well. Relatively new to the market, the accelerometer technology inside these increasingly stylish bands (think Fitbit, Jawbone Up and Garmin Vivofit) is helping people stay fit and well. Read this review of the accuracy of these little machines, plus an assessment of what's to come, and (surprise) an anecdote about contact dermatitis (beware, this one has some pretty icky pictures of skin rashes). If “fitness jewelry” isn’t necessarily your speed, there are plenty of apps for your smartphone that can do the trick. Here’s a nice little article on fitness apps for the iphone users, and a thorough explanation of fitness apps for all types of smartphone platforms.  And finally, it seems that the world of gaming (ya know, the oft-criticized promoter of couchpotatoism) is even stepping up to the fitness plate pioneered by Wii with games that are oriented around getting people moving. There’s a plethora of technology out there to help keep us well, Warriors. Memories of the Jane Fonda workout VHS tapes are far behind us.


Slowing Things Down
Slow Food USA released their  2013 Almanac last week highlighting, in a very comprehensive fashion, all their efforts for the year. If you are not familiar with Slow Food’s work, this is an excellent way to catch up. Founded by Carlo Petrini, the Slow Food movement is all about eating in a healthy and sustainable way for yourself and the planet. You can understand, then, why we are excited to find this interview with Petrini in YES! Magazine this week. Get inspired by reading about how a protest against McDonald’s in Italy started an international movement to take back our food and our health.
Italy’s “Slow Food” Pioneer: How My Love for Food Ripened into a Life's Work via YES!


The Trans-Pacific Shhhhhhh. . . .
Have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? No? According to many news sources, that’s fine with some very big corporations. This proposed  (huge) trade deal between 17 countries and over 600 companies is one of the biggest international deals since NAFTA, and it could have very similar effects. Critics call it yet another way to increase the profits of big multinational corporations while having very little do with trade. We’re outraged and  we're not the only ones.   One of our health concerns here is that it could drastically increase the power that Big Food and Big Ag have over what comes in and out of our country and the power they have to make decisions over GMO (and other) food labeling.  But the concerns with this agreement go far beyond our personal health, and its very possible that it will get ”Fast Tracked" through congress through another concerning and somewhat sneaky process. Read more about it below and head to the “GET INVOLVED” section of today’s roundup to see what you can do to stop the TPP
Secret Trade Deal Spawns ‘We Will Not Obey’ Movement via Organic Consumers Association
Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Move Way Too Fast via Sustainable Business News


Get Involved!

Stop the TPP
Though its being kept under wraps, now that we are in the know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership we can speak our minds to Congress and get the word out. Click the link below to read even more about the dangers of the TPP and write a letter to your Senators and Representative. After that, spread the word through your network and lets try to stop this thing!


General Mills GMO Labeling
Last week we reported that some Cheerios will soon be made with no GMOs. A victory? The Organic Consumer Association (OCA)  begs to differ. Criticizing the General Mills (GM) announcement as a tactic to “water down” GMO labeling laws, the OCA points out the hypocrisy of this food giant. Read more and sign a petition to raise awareness about GM and GMOs.
Tell General Mills and Cheerios: Label GMOs! Better Yet, Go Organic! via Organic Consumers Association

If you’re still feeling fired up on the GMO issues, check out this other OCA petition in reference to the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s plan to limit the FDA’s ability to label GMOs.

Tell the FDA: No Watered-Down, Voluntary Federal GMO Labeling Rules! via Organic Consumers Association


The Fast Food Frontline

Its Working! One Ingredient at a Time
The news about the TPP can feel a bit overwhelming, but we should never underestimate our power. If you have signed a petition, written a comment, talked to a friend, or generally put up a stink about the strange and unhealthy ingredients in processed food, then you can pat yourself on the back. It’s working!  This Boston Globe article written back in December is a great reminder that what we do and what we say can have a powerful effect on our world. So, be inspired, Warriors. There’s a lot of work to be done, and we can do it!
The Average American Diet
Here’s a short little post from Marion Nestle’s blog about a USDA study comparing the USDA recommended diet to the actual diets of most Americans. You may not be too surprised to learn that we are overshooting the bad stuff and undershooting the good stuff. Though the USDA nutrition recommendations have been revamped since this 2006 study, and the new recommendations have received criticism, this chart is a good reminder for us all to watch our eating habits, lest we give in to our American tendencies.
What Are Americans Eating? via Food Politics


Prevention News

It’s Never Too Late to Learn
As we get older, our brains tend to naturally slow down, but a recent study shows that this may not need to be as severe as we think. In the largest study of its kind ever, researchers gave only 10 to 12 “brain training” classes to a large sample of older people (average age 74) and were able to see differences in these people up to 10 years later. Processing speed, memory and reasoning ability were significantly more effective than were the subjects’ untrained counterparts.
Brain training helped older adults stay sharp for years: study via Reuters Health


What We're Watching

Noam on the TPP
The ever erudite and fiery Noam Chomsky has most always had compelling things to say about injustice and the unfair rise of the powerful. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is no exception, and Mr. Chomsky pulls no punches. He jumps right into talk about the TPP’s “highly protectionist measures” designed to help multinational corporations, and how big trade agreements like this will only hurt growth in developing countries.
Noam Chomsky: Obama Trade Deal A 'Neoliberal Assault' To Further Corporate 'Domination via The Huffington Post


Wonderful Listening

Back to Exercise: Train to Claim Your Pain
Back pain affects a lot of us and many of us have gone to painkillers, steroids and surgeries. As our personal anecdotes may suggest, these treatments don’t always work. In fact, about 1 in 5 people who get back surgery end up having more surgery.  New research is showing that often back pain is caused by the nervous system and not the vertebrae and discs themselves. This NPR piece discusses ways in which people are training to “unlearn” their back pain, and in many cases making it easier to manage or go away entirely.
Pain In The Back? Exercise May Help You Learn Not To Feel It via NPR the Salt


Chard: It’s Not That Hard
In fact, it’s downright easy. Chard, a very close sibling of the beet (believe it or not), is known for its thick-yet-tender leaves, substantial texture. and, most of all, its beautiful colors. This stew is a great vegetarian way to eat loads of the stuff, with a generous help of leguminous protein to boot. The rich flavors of tomatoes, leafy greens, and beans should blend together beautifully. Topped with a poached egg it makes a hearty and healthy meal. 
Image Credit: Smitten Kitchen


Chard and White Bean Stew


  • 1 pound Swiss chard (can also swap kale, spinach or another green), ribs and stems removed and cleaned
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup (5 1/4 ounces) chopped carrots
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) chopped celery
  • 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) chopped shallots, about 4 medium
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 15-ounce cans (or about 3 3/4 cups) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups (or more to taste) vegetable broth
  • 1 cup pureed tomatoes (from a can/carton/your jarred summer supply)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • Toasted bread slices, poached eggs (tutorial), chopped herbs such as tarragon, parsley or chives or grated Parmesan or Romano to serve (optional)
After soup is cooked and blended Add:
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh dill (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ – 1 tsp horseradish to taste
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream


Bring medium pot of salted water to boil. Cook chard (or any heavier green; no need to precook baby spinach) for one minute, then drain and squeeze out as much extra water as possible. Coarsely chop chard.

Wipe out medium pot to dry it, and heat olive oil over medium. Add carrots, celery, shallots and garlic and saute for 15 minutes. Barber warns not to brown them but I didn’t mind a light golden color on them. Add wine (scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pot) and cook it until it reduced by three-fourths. Add beans, broth, tomatoes, a few pinches of salt, freshly ground black pepper, thyme and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add chard and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove thyme and bay leaf. Add more broth if you’d like a thinner stew and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Serve as is drizzled with sherry vinegar. Or you can ladle the stew over thick piece of toasted country bread or baguette that has been rubbed lightly with half a clove of garlic, top that with a poached egg and a few drops of sherry vinegar and/or some grated cheese.

Chard and White Bean Stew via Smitten Kitchen

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