News Roundup: Tuesday 1.14.2014

Today’s “words to live by” quotation reminds us that staying connected to the natural world can help us stay active, search for inspiration, breathe, be happy and fulfill a host of other needs vital to maintaining a connection with our true selves. In today’s news roundup we detail ups, with news about calorie reductions in food products and an inspiring conversation between three famous food activist chefs.  The downs include news about the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s lobbying plans and the sugar lobby’s sway over Congress. Please note how we are now giving you ways to have your voice heard in our “GET INVOLVED!” sections. Please read on, Warriors, and heed John Burroughs’s reminder to stay grounded and stay connected. Have a safe and healthy week!

Words to Live By


"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter… to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring — these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”

—John Burroughs

Newest News


Another Sweet Deal for Big Sugar from Congress
As the new Farm Bill continues to be stymied  by various stakeholders, this December Washington Post article becomes all the more relevant. The U.S. sugar program allows sugar producers to keep prices artificially high so that they can boost their profits. Not surprisingly, their lobbyists are some of the most powerful in Washington. Read more about how your tax dollars are going into an industry that is over-sweetening our food supplies. For some uplifting news on the same topic, read about the new public interest group Action On Sugar, which is challenging global manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products.
Sugar protections prove easy to swallow for lawmakers across political spectrum via The Washington Post

 

GMA, GMO, GAB (Gimme A Break)!
Last week, Politico reported on a drafted letter from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents Big Food (think Coca-Cola, Cargill, and Kraft), urging congress to pass legislation to assure that there will not be mandatory GMO labeling. It seems that GMO labeling advocacy efforts have the GMA running scared, but the battle is far from over.
Leaked Document Reveals Big Food Lobby's Plans to Preempt State GMO Labeling via Center for Food Safety

 

GET INVOLVED! Speak Out On GMO Labeling
If you would like to see GMO labeling, or simply think that the GMA should not have sway over congress on this issue, visit  Food Democracy Now!to learn more. Follow their links, or simply sign their petition via the link below.
Stop Monsanto's Secret Plan to Kill GMO Labeling via Food Democracy Now!

 

Our Perceptions and Our Wellness Habits
We found interesting reports this week on the psychology of consumption, including how we perceive the sizes and shapes of food packaging and how portion sizes of healthy and unhealthy food influence consumer buying habits. How do our perceptions shape how we feel about exercise? This NY Times article covers a recently published study that used MRI brain scanning to track subjects’ responses to images of people doing physical activities. The results showed that there were some very clear differences in brain responses for people who were overweight and people who were lean. Questionnaires also revealed trends in psychological barriers to exercising. We are once again reminded that our minds are inextricably connected to our bodies and that our wellness depends on a holistic understanding of ourselves.
How Being Heavy or Lean Shapes Our View of Exercise via The NY TImes

 

GET INVOLVED! 2,4-D Resistant GMO Crops
Last week  we learned about Dow’s development of GMO corn and soy that is engineered to resist 2,4-D, a  pretty nasty herbicide that is related to “Agent Orange.” Abiding by federal law, the  EPA has completed an environmental impact assessment and it is now up for public review and comments.
View the EIA and comment via  this link to regulations.gov.
Sign a petition opposing congressional approval of the GMOs via Center for Food Safety

 

The Fast Food Frontline


Fewer Calories in Our Food System
A study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed that some big players in the food industry have made a concerted effort to reduce the amount of calories in their products. Efforts included creating low-calorie options, reducing the amount of calories in current products and reducing serving sizes. It is a laudable step in the right direction, but we have a long ways to go: The estimated caloric loss from our food system does not add up to much on a per capita basis.
 
Swine Sickness
Last week we learned that the beef industry has been hit hard by a number of factors that have increased prices. This week, it seems that the same fate may have befallen pork. A devastating pig virus has been wreaking havoc on the swine industry and will most likely increase the cost of pork for consumers.  Again, we are curious how these trends will affect human health. Will higher beef and pork prices lead to less consumption and a side benefit of better health? Will we see less bacon-flavored ice cream in 2014? We’ll have to wait and see.
Pig Virus Threatens to Bump Pork Costs via the Wall Street Journal

 

Fast Food vs. Fancy Food in Terms of Calories
It’s easy to point a finger at the fast food industry and criticize its calorie content, but there are probably many of us who don’t think about the nutrition facts of meals at upscale restaurants. If you are watching your caloric intake, it turns out that you should be keeping tabs on your dining-out calories. A study by the folks at Everyday Health shows that it is pretty easy to get up to 1,500 calories for a full meal at some high-end restaurants. So, next time you take a seat in an upscale establishment, you may want to consider the possible calories in your meal before indulging in a second helping of fois gras and ordering that chocolate mousse.
The Most Fattening Restaurant Food? It's NOT at McDonald's via Everyday Health

  

Prevention News


Organic's Still Good, but Beware
This is hugely disappointing, but knowledge is the first step toward action, so please read on. We are huge proponents of the organic movement here at WW, but eating organic doesn’t mean you can throw all of your food safety protocols out of the window. A recent Consumer Reports study showed that organic chicken meat is almost just as likely to have antibiotic resistant bacteria as conventional chicken. The reasons could be cross-contamination at the slaughterhouse and a tricky clause in the USDA certification requirements for chicken. Another report out of Canada found that some organic produce (most of it imported) contained residues of synthetic pesticides. The reasons here could be cross-contamination, pesticide drift, and water or soil pollution. Both cases are not arguments to scrap organics, but drive home the need to wash your produce and carefully handle your meat no matter how it was produced. 
Organic Chicken Carries Almost As Many Superbugs As Conventional via Mother Jones
Pesticide residue found on nearly half of organic produce via CBC News

  

What We're Watching


Great Minds Google+ Alike
Bob Ross, President and CEO of the California Endowment, hosted a Google+ Hangout with  Jamie Oliver, Alice Waters, and Chef Ann Cooper. Hear what these progressive chefs/pioneers have to say about food, education, our youth, and the sustainable food movement. You’ll be inspired!
 
Health Happens Here: Jamie Oliver's "Big Rig" Visits Sacramento via YouTube

 

Wonderful Listening


20 Years of NAFTA
Much of our produce covers hundreds if not thousands of food miles to get to the grocery store. The sustainable food movement hinges on buying locally. One of the reasons produce travels so many miles from farm to fork is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has its 20th anniversary this month. This NPR piece explores some of the ups and downs of NAFTA, and how it has affected our food system.
The Fruits Of Free Trade: How NAFTA Revamped The American Diet via NPR the Salt
 

Tasty


The Most Violet of all the Soups: Borscht
Arguably harder to pronounce than it is to make, this simple soup recipe can be a great warm winter treat and an excellent way to get away from roasting, pickling, or boiling this abundant and delicious root crop.  Beets are well known for their richness in nutrients; vitamins A, B, C, betacyanins, phosphorous, magnesium, etc., so not only is this soup delicious, it’s super healthy. 

Polish Borscht

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 leeks (or 1 medium onion)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 beets (medium sized), organic if you can (or 1 16oz can/jar)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp sugar
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

DIRECTIONS:

Clean the leeks, carrots, and celery, and chop. Sauté in your soup pot the vegetables in olive oil with the garlic just until fragrant. Scrub the beets and chop off both the ends. Do not peel. Add everything except the dill, lemon juice, horseradish and sour cream and bring to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes.  Scoop out the beets and peel. Using a blender, puree the beets and soup broth/vegetables or use an immersion blender. Put the smooth soup back into the pot and add remaining ingredients. Can be served hot or chilled.

Borscht the Purple Polish Soup: Can’t Beat Beets for Healthy Comfort Food via Natural News

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