Every day we read about which foods and supplements have the most antioxidants and how, if consumed, these exogenous
antioxidants may protect one from chronic diseases such as cancer. However, did you know that you already have a built-in endogenous
antioxidant system that is very efficient at ridding the body of free-radicals?
It comes to no surprise that this endogenous system cannot run properly without adequate nutrients. The following five foods are excellent plant sources of nutrients that help boost your body’s defense against free-radical damage to cells and tissues.
1. Bell Peppers
When I say vitamin C, you say…? No, not oranges! Bell peppers are rich in vitamin C. One serving contains approximately over 195% of your daily value. Vitamin C works in conjunction with vitamin E to regenerate glutathione, a molecule needed to rid the body of harmful free radicals. Take caution when cooking foods with vitamin C! Vitamin C is very heat sensitive and can easily be lost in the cooking process.
2. Sunflower SeedsSunflower seeds
, rich in vitamin E, offer a large nutrient punch in such a little package! Vitamin E partners up with vitamin C, as mentioned above, to help the body to replenish its glutathione stores. Glutathione is needed to quench free radicals, such as those that attack fatty acids, thus making them harmless to cells and tissues.
3. Pumpkin SeedsPumpkin seeds
are a good source of plant-derived zinc. Zinc can also be easily found in various animal products but animal products tend to also bring saturated fat to the table, which is important to limit. Zinc works alongside copper and manganese to rid the body of free radicals in the mitochondria
, or powerhouse of our cells, thus making energy production more efficient.
4. Sesame Seeds
Copper and zinc are the batman and robin of the free radical Gotham City and sesame seeds
are a great source of both. They work together to dispose of free radical crime that occurs on a daily basis in the body by combining with an enzyme called superoxide dismutase
. Superoxide dismutase, found in high concentrations in arteries, works with this dynamic duo to help protect cells lining blood vessel walls.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Carrots aren’t the only foods rich in vitamin A! The plant form of vitamin A, beta-carotene
, is found in abundance in sweet potatoes. Beta-carotene is used in the protection of the outer layer of cells thus keeping them intact. When the cell lining is kept safe and undamaged, cell contents are also protected and can continue to carry out daily functions. An important tip to remember is that beta-carotene is fat soluble meaning in order for your body to absorb and utilize it, it needs to be eaten with fat. My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is to roast them, drizzle them with melted virgin coconut oil
, and sprinkle them with salt.
Gropper SS, Smith JL, James GL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 5th ed. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 2009.
The World’s Healthiest Foods. http://whfoods.org/
. Accessed on March 11, 2013.
Recently, a thought-provoking question was posed in one of my classes, “How much calcium is too much?” This was an interesting question because I think it can be agreed upon across the board that calcium is a crucial nutrient to have in adequate amounts. Our bodies need calcium
for bone health, heart health as well as nerve and muscle function. But what is adequate? The recommended daily allowance of calcium
for adults ages 19-50 years is 1,000mg/day. What if one consumes more or less than that? And if so, in which form? Supplemental or through food?
These questions prove even more pertinent due to a recent longitudinal study
that was published in Sweden concerning calcium intake in relation to the risk of cardiovascular disease. Over an average of 19 years, the diets and calcium intakes of 61,433 Swedish women (born between 1914-1948) were assessed via questionnaire. Additionally, the causes of death, specifically cardiovascular disease, were documented. These data were then used to find a risk pattern. Could the amount of calcium consumed increase or decrease one’s risk for experiencing cardiovascular events? The results showed that calcium intake levels (supplement and dietary combined) of 1,400mg or greater had more than double the risk for cardiovascular disease than those who consumed 600-1,000mg/day. The author’s noted that the reason for this may be that calcium can increase proteins in the blood associated with cardiovascular disease. Moreover, other studies have found that the increased use of high dosages of supplemental calcium may raise calcium to dangerously high levels and put one at risk for kidney disease and high blood pressure.
I am a firm believer in the phrase, “food first
.” Always obtain nutrients from your diet before trying supplements. Not only will you be ingesting that target nutrient but you will also be ingesting many more nutrients in the process. For example, dried nettle leaves are rich in calcium. However, nettles are also rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, potassium and magnesium. Below is a table listing a selection of plant foods rich in calcium. Additionally, for other ideas of how to get more calcium in your diet via the use of herbs, I would recommend the High-Calcium Tea recipe from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health
(one of my favorite books!). I also listed herb companies that are well-known and trusted. Be healthy and enjoy! –A xo
Nettle leaves, dried (1 cup, infused
Collard Greens (1 cup, cooked)
Kale (1 cup, cooked)
Black-eyed Peas (1 cup, cooked)
Black Strap Molasses (1.5 tablespoons)
Almonds (1 ounce or about 24 almonds)
Another calcium-rich food list provided by Harvard University
My favorite trusted Herbalist Companies:
Michaelsson K, Melhus H, Lemming EW, Wolk A, Byhyberg L. Long term calcium intake and rates of all cause and cardiovascular mortality: community based prospective longitudinal cohort study. BMJ
. 2013; 346: f228. Published online 2013 February 12. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f228.
Gladstar R. Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing; 2008.
Sabate J. Vegetarian Nutrition: Series in Modern Nutrition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. 2001.
Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/
. Accessed February 24, 2013.
eScience News. Calcium Supplements: Too Much of a Good Thing? http://esciencenews.com/articles/2010/06/01/calcium.supplements.too.much.a.good.thing
. Accessed February 24, 2013.
Skip the Pie. Nutritional Info: Stinging Nettles, Blanched (Northern Plains Indians. http://skipthepie.org/ethnic-foods/stinging-nettles-blanched-northern-plains-indians/
. Accessed February 24, 2013.
When I say the phrase, “whole foods” what image appears in your mind? Aside from Whole Foods Markets
, most people may not be able to define this buzzword even though it is becoming more and more popular.
I define a whole food as a food that is minimally processed, unrefined or chemically untreated and that contains no artificial components or additives. Let’s take another approach. Take a look at your plate. Can you imagine your food or its ingredients growing in nature (think steamed sweet potatoes)? Or has it been processed to the extent that you have no idea where its ingredients came from or how it really even got to be on your plate (think Fruit Loops®)?
Eating a whole foods diet has numerous health benefits providing, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that may increase health and longevity. A whole foods diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes may help to prevent cancer and may be associated with a decreased risk for chronic disease and promotion of health. A puzzling question still remains. How can one eat a whole foods diet when dining out?
This is a significant national challenge. According to Fast Food or Fast Fat
and Eating out in America, 1987–2000
, Americans dine out on an average of three or more times per week. Food choices when dining out are usually high in calories and fat, which contribute to excessive energy intake. Higher frequency of meals eaten outside the home has been associated with higher risk for chronic disease. Moreover, restaurant foods may be highly processed thus containing excessive amounts of sodium, and limited amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Given the frequency of meals eaten out by Americans, it is useful to know which foods and cooking processes are healthier than others.
Another puzzling question arises. What does minimally processed mean? After much discussion in one of my nutrition classes, it was agreed upon that any form of cooking is considered processing. However, it was also agreed upon that some nutrients are better absorbed when a food is cooked, for example beta-carotene found in carrots. Some cooking methods are better than others and still maintain the integrity of the food. These can include steaming, roasting, broiling, grilling, boiling, and I would even consider lightly sautéing with a healthy oil (such as olive or virgin coconut oil) to be on the list versus deep frying. Additionally, which foods are healthier whole foods choices? Some examples to keep in mind when browsing through the menu would be to choose whole grain options such as brown rice versus white rice, lemon juice and olive oil instead of “lemon-buttery” sauces, and plain steamed veggies (you can then salt and pepper them yourself!) instead of battered and deep-fried veggies with some mysterious dipping sauce. And when in doubt, my advice is to always go back to the beautiful simplicity of the above question, “Can you imagine your food or its ingredients growing in nature?” –A xo Sources
Mayo Clinic. (2010). Nutrition Know-How: Why Whole Foods Count. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/health-tip/HT00599
Servan-Schreiber D. (2009). Anticancer: A New Way of Life. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
, 15(7), 805-806.
Boeing H, et al. (2012). Critical Review: Vegetables and Fruit in the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. European Journal of Nutrition
, 51(6), 637-663.
Bogue K. Fast Food or Fast Fat? http://ucsdnutritionlink.org/articles/archives/fastfood.pdf
Kant AK, & Graubard BI. (2004). Eating Out In America, 1987-2000: Trends and Nutritional Correlates. Preventative Medicine
, 38, 243-249.
Bezerra IN, Curinoni C, Sichieri R. (2012). Association Between Eating Out of Home and Body Weight. Nutrition Reviews
, 70(2), 65-79.
Fulkerson JA, et al. (2011). Away-From-Home Family Dinner Sources and Associations with Weight Status, Body Composition, and Related Biomarkers of Chronic Disease Among Adolescents and Their Parents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association
, 111(12), 1892-97.
Lemons are one of my favorite ingredients to use in my recipes. Just by browsing my site you can see I use them in everything savory and sweet. They do more than just add delicious flavor to our dishes. Lemons, along with other citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, mandarins and grapefruits possess molecules called terpenes
. Terpenes, and more specifically d-limonene, are major constituents of citrus oil and have many health benefits. D-limonene can be found both in the juice and peel of the fruit. Gastrointestinal Tract Protection
D-limonene is an excellent solvent of cholesterol, meaning that it can dissolve cholesterol-containing gallstones and has been used clinically for this purpose. In patients who underwent gallstone surgery, infusion of 20 mL d-limonene every other day dissolved gallstones that were overlooked during the surgical procedure. Due to its neutralizing effect, d-limonene supports healthy peristalsis
and can help to relieve heartburn by coating the stomach wall and protecting the mucosal lining from gastric acid exposure. In one study, participants who experienced heartburn or GERD
were given 1,000 mg d-limonene every day or every other day. On the second day of d-limonene treatment, 32% saw a significant relief in symptoms and by day 14, 89% experienced complete relief. Anticancer Benefits
D-limonene helps liver enzymes detoxify and metabolize carcinogens
into less toxic forms and thus may aid in preventing DNA
damage and cancer formation. Specifically as seen in gastric cancer, d-limonene inhibits tumor cell growth and can speed up the rate at which tumor cells die. In liver cancer, d-limonene inhibits cell replication and blocks oncogene
expression. The cause for this may be the fact that d-limonene can inhibit protein isoprenylation
. Prenylated proteins regulate cell growth, even in cancer cells. Therefore, when this mechanism is impaired by d-limonene it can result in the cancer cells inability to grow and differentiate.
Eating lemons has obvious health benefits. Why not try to incorporate them as much as possible into your diet. This week try Quick Kale & Lima Beans with Garlic Lemon Broth
or any of the below recipes to help get you started:
And remember, when life gives you lemons, it may not be such a bad thing. –A xo
Sun J. D-Limonene: Safety and Clinical Applications
. Alternative Medicine Review. 2007.
The next day was spent in two different parts of NYC: Little Italy and Rockefeller Center. Being Sicilian, my cousin and I are always drawn to Little Italy. A sense of comfort and home comes over me every time I visit. Of course, I had to eat at my favorite restaurant in Little Italy, DaNico Ristorante
, located on Mulberry Street.
All the servers speak Italian and therefore have charming accents to boot! Ok Ok, I’ll stop swooning and preface my experience by saying the service is beyond wonderful here. Whenever I visit DaNico's, I want for nothing. The staff is so kind, generous and very attentive. Their menu is delicious and authentic but being a pretty simple girl, my favorite dish to order is pasta marinara. Classic, simple, delicious.
Once we were finished eating and drinking a couple glasses of wine (hey, it was 5 o’clock somewhere!), we were ready for our check. However, the serving and kitchen staff had other plans for us. Out came complimentary dishes of fresh fruit and sweet fried dough. How incredibly generous!! But then again, that is the Italian way--to be generous and take joy in eating. I should know!! I named this website Mangia, Gioia! for a reason!!
After graciously thanking the wonderful staff, we were on our way. Rockefeller Center, here we come! Rockefeller center is one of my favorite spots in NYC and home to places like NBC Studios and the Radio City Music Hall.
It is pretty touristy, and although I consider myself a little more advanced than a tourist because of the way I frequent the city, I am still strangely drawn to this space especially during the holidays. The city is full of magic with twinkling lights being embraced by affectionate trees and giant ornaments that remind me of how, at this moment, I am a part of something bigger and amazing: Legendary New York City.
After getting our holiday fill of beautiful decorations, it was time to head back to our East Village apartment. However, since we were in NYC, my cousin wanted to celebrate my birthday a little early (personally, I thought we had celebrated enough for a lifetime of birthdays the night before but she insisted and who am I to argue!!?). In East Village, there is an Italian restaurant called John’s of 12th Street
with an entire vegan menu!
We were still in the mode of Italian cuisine so we stopped by for a vegan cannoli! Once again, I could not have asked for a more hospitable staff! Not only was the cannoli DELICIOUS (forgive me, I started eating it and then realized I hadn't taken a picture yet!!) but it was also on the house. And did I mention that the entire staff came out to sing me Happy Birthday??!
I felt so special and I could not have been happier. But hey, that is the New York City I know and love with surprises, generosity and great food around every corner. Mangia, Gioia! --A xo
After living in Seattle for the past year and a half, it took me a good minute to adjust to the fast pace of NYC. But soon enough, I was in the groove and enjoying its unique rhythm. I was staying in a little studio flat in East Village, one of the greatest parts of NYC in my opinion. I've heard people describe it as "trendy grunge." You would think this is an oxymoron until you have actually stayed in this part of the city. Old meets new when prewar buildings overlook modern sophisticated passersby.
My cousin, Rachel, from Philadelphia came to stay with me for the weekend and we had a huge craving for some authentic Vietnamese Pho. There were so many places to chose from, but we finally settled upon Pho 32 & Shabu
For an appetizer we had delicious veggie dumplings. And of course for the entre, Veggie Pho. Pho is a rice noodle soup that consists of a meat or veggie broth, chicken, beef, or tofu, and veggies such as cabbage and green onions. Also, it is traditional to add bean sprouts, jalapeno pepper slices, cilantro and fresh lime over top. I then like to add a bit of hoisin sauce and chili sauce to give it some spice. We were in heaven!!
Around every corner in East Village there are pubs, jazz clubs, restaurants, delis, shops, cafes and basically anything your heart desires. Since we had just eaten, we figured we would finish the saying and start drinking in order to be merry!! We stopped by Yaffa Cafe
, Coal Yard Bar
, Cafe Mogador
, Jules Jazz Bar
, Cafe Mocha
, The Burger Shop
(yummy Blueberry Beer and Sweet Potato Fries)...
...and last but not least we couldn't forget McSorley's Old Ale House
. Established in 1854, this place has bragging rights to being the oldest running bar in NYC...not to mention probably the funnest pub I have ever been to. If you want a place that is just rowdy enough, where people sing songs in unison and cheer when more beer comes to the table and where all the bartenders have sexy Irish accents--then this is the place for you.
One has two choices of ale: dark or light. Simple right? Love it. Since McSorley's was one of our last stops, it was especially important to keep things as simple as possible so that we could leave enough sober brain power to find our way home! We ordered two light ales and the bartender brought four overflowing mugs! We said, "Oh no, Sir! I don't think this is ours." In response to our naivete, the bartender grumbled at us, "Well, what did ye arrder (translation: order)?" We responded, " Two light ales." He looked at us, shook his head and explained in his charming accent, "That's what ye get, two ales come in farrrrs (translation: fours)." Apparently, each ale gets spread out over two mugs to make up for the head. We were all farrrrr that (no translation needed)!!
Although I have professed my undying love for NYC, a small part of me missed the beautiful nature that I have come to love as part of Seattle and my life. Just as I was feeling a little homesick, I turned the corner and...voila!! Problem solved.
Stay tuned for more fun and adventures in NYC in next week's mini-bites blog. Sending lots of love your way--Happy Holidays!! -A xo
Hello, friends! I am sitting at SeaTac Airport waiting for my red eye flight to NYC to depart. And of course, I couldn't forget to include all of my Mangia, Gioia friends!! Can't wait to share my adventures with you. Keep checking back in the next few weeks for pictures of my trip, food, and fun!!
First things first! Lucky me found a delicious veggie wrap to munch on while I wait for my plane. Also excited to read a non-academic book!!
There is nothing like spending the holidays in the city. The Christmas lights are so magical! I'm hoping for a little snow since we don't get much of that in Seattle! Keeping this short and sweet because I am famished and want to dig into this little slice of veggie heaven, I will say talk to you soon & safe travels to wherever you are going this holiday season!! xo -A
Happy Thursday, everyone! Today’s healthy mini-bites blog post is going to take an interesting detour! Not only will we talk nutrition and health but we have incredibly yummy products from Artisana Organic Foods
that we want to share! By the end of this post, you will be an expert on who Artisana is, what products they offer, health benefits of these products and easy delicious ways you can incorporate them into your meal planning.
In order for Mangia, Gioia!
to endorse a food product, it has to meet a series of standards. Is the product healthful and minimally processed? Does the company responsible for the product work sustainably and locally with farmers? Does the product taste amazingly delicious? Artisana Organic Foods
can answer an outstanding “yes!!” to all of these questions. Who Is Artisana Organic Foods? Artisana Organic Foods
is located in Oakland, CA and makes a series of certified organic raw and lightly roasted nut and seed butters, oils, superfoods and much more! They were founded in 2002 with the vision of creating healthful delicious products in ways that support the organic and living foods movement. Artisana works closely with sustainable farms to ensure their products work in cooperation with the earth and its delicate ecosystems.
Now The Fun Starts!
Nut butters are one of my absolute favorite foods and are so versatile. While writing this review, I was happily able to indulge in Artisana almond butter, walnut butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, pecan butter, cacao butter and coconut butter. I was in nut butter heaven! Snacking is a huge part of my daily routine and one of my staple snack ideas is sliced apples with nut butter. I couldn’t resist trying each and every flavor of nut butter with my apples. Below is a picture of creamy almond butter with apples, cinnamon and whole raw almonds.
Depending on the butter, I found each had a different consistency. Some were creamy upon opening, such as with the majority of the nut butters. Others, such as the coconut butter and cacao butter, I slightly warmed in a small pot until the consistency was buttery and smooth. The consistency really depends on the macronutrient make-up of the butter. While the nut butters have more unsaturated fats, the coconut butters possess healthy saturated fat, which makes them solid at room temperature.
These butters are not your regular run of the mill nut butters. Because they are raw and minimally processed, they retain a much more nutty flavor and texture. My favorites were the macadamia nut butter and coconut butter. They were unlike anything I’d ever tasted. The macadamia nut butter provided a rustic, earthy flavor as well as texture. Mouthfeel is a large component of eating. The fine nut granules blended perfectly with the thickness of the butter. The coconut butter was an intriguing combination of nuttiness with a hint of island paradise. Having no sugar added, both were slightly naturally sweet.
In my kitchen, I had the most fun with the coconut butter. Baking is an art all on its own, but when one decides to bake without gluten, dairy or eggs, one has her work cut out for her. And by “one” I mean me!! I found that coconut butter offered just the right textural component when making this week’s Gluten-Free Almond Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies
. When I melted coconut butter with virgin coconut oil, it formed a velvety mixture that worked well to moisten the oat flour. And voila!—delicious, gluten-free vegan cookies that retain their flavor, texture and structure.
Recent epidemiological and clinical studies have shown that frequent nut consumption is associated with favorable plasma lipid profiles (think HDL, LDL, etc.) and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and many other chronic diseases such as diabetes and insulin resistance. Nuts such as walnuts have an overall fat content of 60% or more! Recall, however, that plant fats are healthy for you
! The majority of this fat is in the form of mono/polyunsaturated fats as well as essential fatty acids such as omega 3s. Omega 3 fatty acids work to decrease inflammation in the body and thus may decrease the risk of chronic disease. Nut consumption has been shown to lower overall cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and vascular inflammation while improving circulation.
In 2007, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that approximately one in four adults were prediabetic and this number is on the rise. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is used by cells to take in glucose to use as energy. When cells are insulin resistant, glucose levels rise because it has nowhere to go! This increase in insulin and glucose can cause the storage of excess fat and inhibit muscle growth. Nuts are a great source of not only fat but also carbohydrates and protein. Eating carbohydrates along with a protein source helps the body to absorb glucose slower thus keeping insulin and glucose levels stable. This may help to decrease one’s risk of developing insulin resistance.
Nuts are rich in many vitamins such as vitamin E. Studies have suggested that sources of vitamin E, such as nuts, may help in decreasing free-radical damage in the body. Additionally, nuts contain minerals such as magnesium that is important for smooth muscle relaxation and calcium for bone health, heart muscle function and nerve transmission.
Virgin coconut products also provide numerous benefits. A review of diet and heart disease literature clearly indicates that coconut oil is likely to be a beneficial oil for prevention and treatment of heart disease. Further studies show that coconut oil lowers cholesterol by converting it to vitally necessary anti-aging hormones that are required to prevent not only heart disease but also obesity, cancer and other diseases.
Additionally, coconut oil stimulates thyroid function, the gland that monitors metabolism. Since coconut oil is nature’s richest source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs)
it has the ability to raise the body’s metabolism because MCTs are burned for energy. Where Can I Find Artisana Products?
Now that you are almost an Artisana expert, the last thing for you to do is try these products! Artisana Products are sold throughout the US, Canada and internationally. Check your local natural foods markets to see if they carry Artisana and if not, you can click here
for a list of online distributers. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Alasalvar C, Shahidi F. Tree Nuts: Composition, Phytochemicals and Health Effects
. Boca Raton: CRC Press ,Taylor & Francis Group, 2009. Nutraceutical Science and Technology.
de Roos N, Schouten E, Katan M. Consumption of a solid fat rich in lauric acid results in a more favorable serum lipid profile in healthy men and women than consumption of a solid fat rich in trans-fatty acids. J Nutr. 2001 Feb;131(2):242-5.
Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 5th Ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 2009.
Kaunitz, H. 1986. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) in aging and arteriosclerosis. J Environ Pathol Toxicol Oncol 6(3-4):115.
Marina AM, Man YB, Nazimah SA, Amin I. Antioxidant capacity and phenolic acids of virgin coconut oil. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009;60 Suppl 2:114-23.
Muller H, Lindman HS, Blomfeldt A, Seljeflot I, Pedersen JI. A Diet Rich in Coconut Oil Reduces Diurnal Postprandial Variations in Circulating Plasminogen Activator Antigen and Fasting Lipoprotein (a) Compared with a Diet Rich in Unsaturated Fat in Women. J Nutr. 2003.133:3422-3427.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/insulinresistance/
. Accessed November 29, 2012.
Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com
Nevin KG, Rajamohan T. Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. Clin Biochem. 37,2004;830-835).
St-Onge MP, Jones PJ. Physiological effects of medium-chain triglycerides: potential agents in the prevention of obesity. J Nutr. 2002 Mar;132(3):329-32.
Today I was sitting in the dining hall at my university eating marinated broccoli hearts and studying for upcoming exams. After I finished eating, I looked down at the compostable container that once held my delicious broccoli and noticed the infamous scarlet number seven (#7) branded onto the bottom of my saintly container! Number seven plastics have been known to contain trace amounts of Bisphenol A (BPA) a known endocrine disruptor. I felt confused, cheated, betrayed and a little…curious. It was time to do some research.
BPA is added to some plastics to promote food safety such as protective liners in metal cans and also to make plastic more shatter-proof like in bicycle helmets. Unless clearly stated by the manufacturer, any product made of hard, clear plastic most likely contains BPA. This can include #7 plastics. But does that include the compostable plastics? The biodegradable plastics? What is the difference? If these materials do indeed compost or biodegrade, does BPA biodegrade or does it stay in the soil? Can the plants we eat uptake BPA from the soil thereby transferring the demonized substance to our plates and subsequently our bodies?
The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through diet. BPA can leach into food if it is used in the packaging. Based on existing evidence, it has been concluded that BPA acts as an endocrine or hormonal disruptor. Additionally, it is believed that BPA may be associated with testicular cell tumors and induce chromosomal abnormalities in cells and tissues. Exposure to BPA early in life may predispose individuals to pre-neoplastic lesions of the mammary gland and prostate gland in adult life. Due to immature and delicate systems, infants and children are most vulnerable in terms of BPA toxicity. What is even more alarming is that BPA can be transferred to breast milk creating an additional mode of accidental consumption among infants.
One would think the answer to this dilemma would be biodegradable plastics. Companies claiming environmental stewardship tout biodegradable plastics as if they can perform ecological miracles short of parting the red sea. But how accurate are these claims?
Understandably, the main purpose of bioplastics is to replace plastic products made from fossil fuels such as petroleum, specifically polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Bioplastics are derived from renewable sources such as cornstarch or vegetable oil. Polyactic acid (PLA) is a well-known and widely used form of bioplastic, which is produced from glucose or essentially sugar. Although it takes less energy to create bioplastics in comparison to traditional plastics, the manufacturing of these materials frequently requires the use of petroleum as an energy source. Petroleum-based fuels are needed to power farm machinery in order to cultivate the crops needed for these bioplastics, to produce fertilizers/pesticides for these crops and ultimately to process the raw materials into bioplastic.
Bioplastics are often marketed as biodegradable or having the ability to be broken down by microorganisms in the soil, such as bacteria. However, the use of this terminology may be misleading. It may be true that these products contain biodegradable components but, depending on the type of bioplastic, this process may have to occur under specified conditions that exist only in a commercial facility. The rose-colored dream one has of burying a “biodegradable” cup in the backyard or composting it with food scraps because it will effortlessly decompose may unfortunately be nothing short of an illusion. These bioplastics may make sense in an area that provides a composting facility for its residents; however, if this is not available, it may be better to select an item made from a material that can actually be recycled. Additionally, these bioplastics labeled #7 cannot actually be recycled with traditional #7 plastics. Bioplastics are often categorized as #7 plastic because this label applies to anything that has a mixture of plastic resins.
The term bioplastics is basically an umbrella expression that can encompass compostable
plastics and biodegradable
plastics. Can’t these two words be used interchangeably? In order for a bioplastic to be called compostable
, three criteria need to be met. Firstly, it must biodegrade or break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass at the same rate as paper (this depends on the thickness of the material and composting conditions). Secondly, it must disintegrate meaning that the material is indistinguishable in the compost. Lastly, the breakdown of these materials does not produce any toxic material and the compost can support plant growth. As stated above, it depends on the product (thin bag versus thick cup) whether or not it will be able to break down in one’s home composting bin or commercial facility.
It is required that bioplastics labeled as biodegradable
degrade from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms over a period of time but
there is no requirement for leaving behind no toxic residue and there is no time stipulation for this biodegrading process to occur. In fact, most landfills lack key environmental conditions such as sunlight, moisture and exposure to enough oxygen in order for biodegradable products to even biodegrade. This may mean these products will remain in landfills thereby persisting in the environment.
Despite efforts to produce plastic alternatives, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, releases of BPA into the environment still exceed an alarming one million pounds per year. What does this mean for our soil and the plants we eat?
Studies have shown that because BPA displayed a strong binding affinity to the soil and a rapid dissipation rate, neither it nor its metabolites were detectable in soil analyses conducted 3 days post BPA-application. This suggests that microorganisms in the soil are capable of breaking down BPA. These results also indicate a low potential for ground water contamination. Although BPA is found at low levels in ground water and soil, it still persists because of its continual inputs. Interestingly, research has shown that plants do have the ability to uptake BPA from soil via their root systems. In a study conducted with tobacco seedlings, known BPA metabolites such as 4,4′-isopropylidenediphenol-O-β-D-glucopyranoside (BPAG) and other unknown BPA metabolites were found accumulated in the leaves four hours post-exposure to BPA. Specific metabolites of BPA, such as 4-methyl-2,4-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)pent-1-ene (MBP) are formed in the body and are thought to be more dangerous than BPA itself because of increased ability to bind to estrogen receptors. Moreover, in the body BPAG can revert to BPA. However, the health effects of consuming BPA metabolites such as BPAG found in plants is unknown.
Although BPA is ubiquitous in today’s society, there are precautions one can take to avoid exposure:
- Use natural containers for food such as glass, porcelain and stainless-steel
- Don’t microwave food in plastic containers no matter the resin identification number
- Avoid planting seedlings in plastic containers of any kind. Although some containers are BPA free, we are unaware of other toxins that may be present and taken up by the plants
- Buy fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned
One must note, although manufacturers may flaunt labels that claim to be BPA-free, these products may contain biodegradable plastic substitutes (BPS) that may have similar hormone-disrupting characteristics similar to BPA. BPS also shows a relative inability to biodegrade, which may mean that it will persist in the environment and upon absorption, remain in the body for a longer period of time.
Luckily, my compostable lunch container did not contain any BPA. However, I couldn’t help but think that I was eating my lunch out of a container that, relatively speaking, may be the lesser of two evils. –A xo Sources
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When one hears the word yeast, an ingredient that enables dough to rise may come to mind. But what if the word “nutritional” precedes it? Nutritional yeast may be a staple food in some kitchens and an unknown substance to others. This week’s mini-bites blog will help to explain what nutritional yeast is, how it benefits the body and how it can be used in the kitchen.
Yeasts are single-celled organisms that are members of the fungi family (as are mushrooms). In 1949, primary grown nutritional yeast was cultivated for its nutritive value. It is derived from strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae
grown on mixtures of beet and cane molasses. It is then fermented, harvested, washed, pasteurized and dried. This process, from start to finish, is what gives nutritional yeast its kokumi
Nutritional yeast contains both essential and non-essential amino acids
and therefore is considered a high-quality protein. Additionally, it is naturally high in B vitamins. B vitamins, such as thiamin, are needed to produce energy in the body. In 1975, Red Star
began to cultivate and manufacture a vegetarian formula, which contains vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and, thought by some, in algae
. The source of B12 in nutritional yeast is from natural fermentation, not a synthetic or animal source. This gives vegetarians/vegans an effective non-animal source of B12. Vitamin B12 is crucial for a healthy nervous system and red blood cell formation. Several essential minerals are also found in nutritional yeast such as selenium, chromium
, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium. Due to its rich nutritional content, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is thought to aid in glucose tolerance and increase HDL (healthy cholesterol) levels within the body.
Many confuse nutritional yeast with brewer’s yeast of Torula yeast. These yeasts have similar nutrient profiles but taste very different. While brewer’s and Torula yeast can be bitter, nutritional yeast possesses a toasted, nutty-cheddar cheesy flavor. Nutritional yeast is inactive and therefore cannot be used to leaven baking products. Moreover, it is gluten-free and Candida albicans negative.
Nutritional yeast should be kept in a cool, dry, air-tight container. It is important to keep in mind that some of the nutrients, as in any medium, can be affected by cooking. Niacin, biotin and vitamin B12 remain overall stable but vitamin B6 is heat, acidic and light sensitive. Thiamin remains stable in acidic environments but will decrease when in extremely low or high temperatures. Keeping it in an air-tight container is important because oxygen, even at low levels, can be destructive to folic acid.
Nutritional yeast can be used in many dishes to provide a cheesy flavor. Popularly, it has been used in sauces, gravies, soups, casseroles, burgers, etc. Here are some of Mangia Gioia’s favorite ways to use nutritional yeast:
If you are interested in trying nutritional yeast, it is easy to find in stores such as PCC Natural Markets
, Whole Foods Markets
and most other natural food stores. If you are at all curious, I highly recommend trying nutritional yeast and all the tasty health benefits it has to offer! –A xo
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