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How Processed Foods Wreak Havoc on Your Health

Authors: Elaine Catherine R. Ferrer and Ronnie Cummins

It’s safe to say that most American consumers probably can’t recall the last time they ate a meal prepared entirely from wholesome, farm-to-table ingredients, without any canned or prepackaged products. That’s because most Americans today consume mostly processed foods—foods produced with pesticides, GMOs and synthetic chemicals, routinely laced with too much sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.

In fact, processed foods make up as much as 70 percent of people’s diets– meaning only 30 percent of what they consume consists of wholesome, natural, or organic foods!

But here’s the truth about processed foods: Long-term consumption of these “food products” spell bad news for your health.

Processed vs. ultra-processed: What’s the difference?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines “processed food” as any raw agricultural commodity that has been subjected to processing methods, including canning, cooking, dehydration, freezing or milling. This means that the only time a food can be classified as “fresh” is when you’ve taken it straight from the source (washing it is okay, and would not be classified as a form of processing) and eaten it. By this definition, most foods would be considered processed.

However, in layman’s terms, processed foods can refer to sodas, potato chips, candy, baked pastries with extended shelf life–basically, “convenient,” easy-to-eat products that have been altered through the addition of artificial or ingredients, synthetic flavorings, fillers and chemical or genetically engineered additives. But this type of description actually refers to “ultra-processed food.” Researchers from the University of São Paulo and Tufts University define “ultra-processed” as:

Formulations of several ingredients which, besides salt, sugar, oils, and fats, include food substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular, flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product.

But most people use the term “processed food” and “ultra-processed food” interchangeably when talking about these consumer products. Conventional processed foods today come in a variety of forms. These include:

• Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables
• Canned meats (luncheon meat and sausage, corned beef, and meatloaf)
• Breakfast foods, including cereals, oatmeal, energy bars
• Canned, bottled, or tetra-packed fruit juices, energy drinks, and soda
• Jarred baby foods and infant cereals
• Foods “fortified” with nutrients
• Ready to eat meals, microwave dinners
• Ramen noodles
• Pastries, including cookies, breads, frozen pizza, and pies
• Condiments, seasonings and marinades, salad dressing, and jams
• Yogurt and other commercially made fermented foods

The simplest way to determine if a food is processed is by looking at the ingredient list at the back of its packaging. The longer the ingredient list, the more processed a food is likely to be.

After more than 20 years of struggle by consumer activists and public interest groups such as the Organic Consumers Association, major food manufacturers are finally being forced to label GMO ingredients in processed foods sold in grocery stores. Because of this, many of them are starting to remove GMOs from their products, along with other artificial chemicals and additives.

KEEP READING ON THE ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION

Cowspiracy: Revelation or Cheap Trick?

Are environmentalists afraid of stepping in cow dung? The documentary film Cowspiracy contends that large environmental groups are turning a blind eye to the harmful effects cattle have on ecosystems and human health. Environmentalists bristle at the charge and point to work promoting vegan and vegetarian diets and campaigns against factory farms and other excesses of the animal agriculture industry. The film, which was backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, presents “a sensationalist conspiracy where none exists,” according to Greenpeace executive Robin Oakley.

However, a growing number of environmentalists are praising cows and claim they can be climate healers rather than the villains they are often made out to be. They contend that a cow’s methane-rich burps can be offset if cattle grazing patterns are carefully managed. The result, they say, can be pretty landscapes and healthy soil that stores both carbon and water. Is that just spin from cattle ranchers? Does Cowspiracy use green groups as a foil to make a sensational film to generate buzz? A conversation about the future of an American icon in the age of climate disruption.

This podcast features:

Kip Andersen, Founder, AUM Films and Media
Nicolette Hahn Niman, Author, Defending Beef
Jonathan Kaplan, Director, Food and Agriculture Program, Natural Resources Defense Council

This program was recorded in front of a live audience at the Commonwealth Club of California on April 12, 2016

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST ON CLIMATE ONE

Why Michael Pollan Swears by Cooking From Scratch

Author: Randy Hayes

In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan describes his personal journey of stepping away from processed and packaged foods toward cooking from scratch, and highlights the grievous consequences of industrial modernity in the daily arena of eating and drinking. Specialization, Pollan argues, “breeds helplessness, dependence, and ignorance and, eventually… undermines any sense of responsibility.” Cooked persuasively illuminates how the industrial mindset fosters the domination of nature and distorts public governance, and offers, instead, justification and guidance for a healthier way of eating and a richer life.

But is this a significant book for those dedicated to getting humanity in sync with nature’s ways? Speaking of the allure and benefit of cooking, Pollan explains, “Perhaps what most commends cooking to me is that it offers a powerful corrective to this way of being in the world—a corrective that is still available to all of us.” Is cooking then a vital ingredient for a socially just and ecologically sound society?

Pollan, a journalism professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been a prolific and effective messenger for food and sustainable agriculture issues, with such popular books as The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. People with such a wide platform have a vital role to play in broadening a movement beyond the choir. In this sense, Pollan has been an eloquent ally in the great transition to a better world.

Calls for meaningful action for social change too often become reduced to requesting yet another donation or letter to unresponsive politicians. Herein lies a role for cooking, “a magic that remains accessible to all of us, at home.” Cooking your own food builds self-reliance and community. It is an available tool for personal transformation and, by promoting an affiliation with nature, progressive environmental change. Ever stumble when trying to tell friends or colleagues what they can do to help save the day? By combining more local food and more time in the kitchen, one can wrest a modicum of societal control away from corporate executives to regular folks. This is at least part of the solution to confronting the contemporary social and ecological crisis.

KEEP READING ON ALTERNET

Move Over, Organic And Natural Foods. We Live In A Grassfed Era Now.

Author: Geoff Williams

Grass-fed is the new organic.

That is, just as the organic food industry took off, so, too have grass-fed-raised foods. It’s apparently at least a $2.5 billion industry, and growing, according to, well, the grassfed industry. Right now, as I write this, The 2016 Grassfed Exchange Conference is being held in Perry, Georgia — this is its eighth annual conference — and of course, there is an American Grassfed Association. In other words, there is some sort of grass-fed movement, and if you’re like me, you’ve noticed more and more restaurants touting its grass-fed beef, or groceries pushing its grass-fed dairy products. You can buy grass-fed eggs (which generally means that the chickens laying the eggs are free roaming and can eat grass if they want, but, sure, given chickens generally don’t eat grass), and, of course, there’s grass-fed milk, yogurt, butter… You can even buy grass-fed macaroni and cheese.

As with organic foods, grass-fed foods are also apparently the healthier way to go, and also like the word organic, not to mention, natural, there’s a lot of confusion over exactly what grassfed means.

So if you’re new to the grass-fed phenomenon, let’s walk through this…

First, the spelling. Is it grassfed, grass-fed or grass fed? You’ll see a variety of spellings everywhere, but I’m going to take a cue from the Associated Press’s articles and will go with the hyphenated version.

If you’re eating grass-fed beef or drinking grass-fed milk, what does that mean? The cow you’re dining on, or drinking from, had a diet of grass. After all, we may not like the stuff, but cows sure do, and if you’re going to think about where your hamburger or glass of milk was before it wound up in your meal, you’d probably prefer to picture a cow on a sloping grassy field chewing happily under a bright blue shy, rather than being in a small pen in some factory farm, being fed some formula to fatten them up.

KEEP READING ON FORBES

Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy

Author: Bonnie L. Grant

Prozac may not be the only way to get rid of your serious blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain and are without side effects and chemical dependency potential. Learn how to harness the natural antidepressant in soil and make yourself happier and healthier. Read on to see how dirt makes you happy.

Natural remedies have been around for untold centuries. These natural remedies included cures for almost any physical ailment as well as mental and emotional afflictions. Ancient healers may not have known why something worked but simply that it did. Modern scientists have unraveled the why of many medicinal plants and practices but only recently are they finding remedies that were previously unknown and yet, still a part of the natural life cycle. Soil microbes and human health now have a positive link which has been studied and found to be verifiable.

Soil Microbes and Human Health

Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.

Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.

KEEP READING ON GARDENING KNOW HOW

Factory Farm Meat: Why Vegetarians, Ranchers and Conscious Omnivores Need to Unite

For the first time since the advent of industrial agriculture, the federal government is considering advising Americans to eat “less red and processed meat.”

That advice is the outcome of studies conducted by an independent panel of “experts” which was asked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for recommended changes to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

The February 19 “eat less red and processed meat” pronouncement by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was reported widely in mainstream media. It set off a heated debate about whether or not consumers should eat meat, a debate that included the standard name-calling by factory farm front groups, including the Farm Bureau, denouncing consumers and environmentalists (and their alleged pawns on the DGAC) for being “anti-meat” and “anti-farmer.”

Unfortunately in its recommendations, the DGAC didn’t really come out and tell us the whole truth, which would go something like this: “Americans should eat less, or rather no red and processed meat from filthy, inhumane factory farms or feedlots, where the animals are cruelly crammed together and routinely fed a diet of herbicide-drenched, genetically engineered grains, supplemented by a witch’s brew of antibiotics, artificial hormones, steroids, blood, manure and slaughterhouse waste, contributing to a deadly public health epidemic of obesity, heart disease, cancer, antibiotic resistance, hormone disruption and food allergies.”

If the DGAC had really told us the truth about America’s red meat horror show (95 percent of our red meat comes from these Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs), we’d be having a conversation about how we can get rid of factory farms, instead of a rather abstract debate on the ethics of eating meat.

With a real debate we could conceivably start to change the self-destructive purchasing and eating habits (the average American carnivore consumes nine ounces or more of toxic CAFO meat and animal products daily) of most Americans. Instead we are having a slightly more high-volume replay of the same old debate, whereby vegetarians and vegans, constituting approximately 5 percent of the population, tell the other 95 percent, who are omnivores, to stop eating meat. Nothing much ever comes of that particular debate, which leaves thousands of hard-working, conscientious ranchers, and millions of health-, environment- and humane-minded omnivores, out of the conversation.

I say thousands of “hard-working, conscientious,” ranchers are being left out of the conversation because I know lots of them.

North American cattle ranchers, for the most part, have no love for Cargill, Tyson, Monsanto, JBS, Smithfield, Elanco (animal drugs) or McDonald’s. Most of these ranchers practice traditional animal husbandry, conscientiously taking care of their animals from birth. They graze their cattle free-range on grass, as nature intended, before they’re forced to sell these heretofore-healthy animals at rock-bottom prices to the monopolistic meat cartel.

Before these hapless creatures are dragged away to hell, to be fattened up on GMO grains and drugged up in America’s CAFOs, their meat is high in beneficial Omega 3 and conjugated linoleic acids (LA), and low in “bad” fats.

Unfortunately by the time their abused and contaminated carcasses arrive, all neatly packaged, at your local supermarket, restaurant or school cafeteria, the meat is low in Omega 3 and good “fats,” and routinely tainted by harmful bacteria, not to mention pesticide, steroid and antibiotic residues. What was once a healthy food has now become a literal poison that clogs up your veins, makes you fat, and heightens your risk of heart attack or cancer.

I mention millions of “health-, environment-, and humane-minded” consumers being left out of the “meat versus no meat” conversation because, as director of the two million-strong, Organic Consumers Association, I talk and exchange emails with conscious consumers every day.

No organic consumer, vegetarian or omnivore I’ve ever encountered consciously supports the cruelty of intensive confinement for farm animals. Nor do they support feeding herbivores genetically engineered, herbicide-drenched grains, mixed with slaughterhouse waste. No one supports dosing factory farmed animals with antibiotics and hormones that then end up in your kid’s hamburger at school (unless it’s organic or 100-percent grass-fed.)

No one in their right mind, or at least no one who has ever experienced a factory farm first-hand or even read a book or watched a video about what’s going on, supports CAFOs. That’s why corporate agribusiness is working overtime to pass state “Ag Gag” laws making it a crime to take photos of CAFOs. That’s why the beef cartel and Big Food spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to keep you in the dark about CAFOs, about whether or not your food contains genetically engineered ingredients, and about the country-of-origin of your food.

If CAFO meat and animal products had to be labeled (a proposition I support wholeheartedly), the entire factory farm industry would collapse. If CAFO meat had to be labeled, not only in grocery stores but also in restaurants,

McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and the rest would immediately be on the phone, contacting ranchers directly to buy their grass-fed, healthy, free- range beef.

Before we go any further, let’s identify the real culprits in this CAFO horror show.

Four multi-billion dollar transnational companies—Tyson JBS, Cargill and Smithfield—produce about 85 percent of the factory farm meat in the U.S., making it difficult for ranchers to sell their livestock to anyone but the Big Four. And of course these same Big Four companies, along with their front groups such as the North American Meat Institute, are lobbying the government to ditch the 2015 dietary guidelines to “eat less red and processed meat” recommendation because they understand what that recommendation will do to their bottom lines.

But what the Big Four fear even more is the thought of consumers waking up to the horrors of factory farms, and the filthy, contaminated meat that comes out of these animal prisons.

Fortunately, demand for healthier, sustainably raised grass-fed beef is growing rapidly. Here in Minneapolis-St. Paul where I spend a good part of the year, there are now over 100 restaurants that offer grass-fed beef on their menus. Local co-ops and natural food grocery stores are barely able to keep up with the increasing consumer demand.

But unfortunately 95 percent of beef today still comes from factory farms and feedlots. Meanwhile most of the 100-percent grass-fed meat sold at restaurants such as Chipotle or Carl’s Jr. (a popular chain on the West Coast) is imported from Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay and Argentina, rather than produced here in the US. Why? It’s not because consumers don’t want healthier, more humanely raised 100-percent grass fed beef. It’s because Cargill and Big Food have monopolized the market by brainwashing the public into believing that cheap CAFO meat is OK, while controlling nearly all of the meat processing plants in the country.

The time has come to shift the American diet away from unhealthy, inhumane, GMO factory farmed food. But as Kendra Kimbirauskas of the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) pointed out at her TEDx talk in New York City recently, we, conscious consumers and farmers, “need to get on common ground” and stop “in-fighting over whether to eat ethical meat, go meat-free, or advocate for bigger cages…” As Kimbirauskas emphasizes, we need to enlist environmentalists in our anti-CAFO campaigning as well.

“As long as animals are in factory farms, they are polluting our environment”… And, Kimbirauskas added, “Those most impacted by the problem (farmers and rural people adjacent to CAFOs) need to be most visible in the fight to change It.”

Meat (along with eggs and dairy products) from factory farms is literally killing people with diet-related diseases. Factory farms are a disaster, not only for the animals, but also for the communities where manure and chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollute the air, the soil, streams, lakes, rivers and drinking water.

Factory farms and the GMO farms that supply them with animal feed are a disaster for the climate as well, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases, including CO2, methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. The grasslands that support grass-fed beef, on the other hand, if grazed properly, sequester CO2 from the air and put it in the soil, while drastically reducing or eliminating altogether methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

It’s time to stop fighting among ourselves about whether or not to eat meat. Americans need to boycott all factory farmed meat and animal products. Period.

Beyond boycotting CAFO products, if consumers care about their health and the health of the planet, we need to reduce our consumption of sustainable grass-fed animal products to approximately three or four ounces a day (not nine ounces a day, the current average).

We are what we eat. We must get rid of factory farms and put the Earth’s billions of confined farm animals back outside on the land, grazing and foraging, where they belong.

***

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico-based affiliate, Via Organica.

What kind of chicken and eggs do you recommend?

Author: Amanda Blakenship

There is a belief among many people that we need conventional agriculture to feed the planet. I disagree completely. Corporate seed and chemical companies want us to believe in conventional agriculture so they can continue to profit off of hard working farmers. These unsustainable practices are harming people and the planet. My husband and I decided to put our background to good use by showing everyone that we can produce healthy foods using safe and sustainable agricultural practices. We are safely producing grains, hays, beef, chicken, turkey, duck, eggs, and lamb. We are benefiting the soils, animals, people and planet with our hands on management. By growing, harvesting, and milling our own feed we will be able to keep raising pastured soy and corn free poultry. In coming years we plan to add on-farm hatching and processing to further our independence. With customer support we will continue to expand our impact and help change the food system.

Utilizing holistic management and regenerative agriculture, our goal is to constantly improve the health of the soils as well as the diversity and abundance of life within those soils. The health of our soils, pastures, animals, and people are all interdependent. Our practices use far less fossil fuel than traditional agriculture and still produce at least an equal amount of food. Our regenerative agriculture practices include the use of no-till seeding, cover cropping, holistic planned multi-species animal grazing, pasture cropping, and composting. Our beloved animals help us sequester carbon and naturally fertilize our soils. Our soils also benefit from a healthy population of worms, bugs, fungi and other microorganisms that drive carbon sequestration. We never use any vaccines or antibiotics.

 KEEP READING ON NOURISHING OUR CHILDREN BLOG

The Power of… Corn

[ English | Español ]

Translation by: Eleanor D. Stevens

  • The nixtamalization of corn dough increases its calcium content and the bioavailability of Vitamin B3 and certain proteins.
  • Combining corn with legumes such as beans increases the quality of their proteins.
  •  Blue corn contains anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect our cells.

What is corn?

Corn (zea mays) is a member of the Gramineae family, along with wheat, rice, barley, rye, and oats. However, unlike these other grains, corn is not known to have any direct relatives among wild plants. It is thought that it was developed by domesticating teosintle, another Graminea similar to corn that grows naturally in Mexico and parts of Central America.

Corn is central to all Mesoamerican cultures. The Popul Vuh tell how “Quetzalcóatl went down to Mictlán, the land of the dead, and there he gathered bones from a man and a woman and took them to the goddess Coatlicue. She ground the bones with corn, and from this paste humans were made.”

In industrialized countries, corn is used primarily as feed for animals, raw material for processed foods and, recently, for the production of ethanol. On the other hand, in several Latin American countries and, increasingly, in African countries as well, a high percentage of the corn grown or imported is destined for human consumption.

Currently, corn is cultivated in Mexico in a wide range of climates, altitudes, humidity levels, and soils, using many different technologies. Corn is Mexico’s principal crop, occupying around one third of cultivated land. Every state in the country produces corn, although 64.5% of production is concentrated in Sinaloa, Jalisco, Michoacán, Mexico State, Chiapas, Guerrero, and Veracruz.

What nutrients does corn provide?

Corn, as a cereal, consists primarily of starches. When its hull is not removed, it is also an important source of fiber in our diet.

Its nutritional properties vary depending on its degree of maturity. For this reason, we will first discuss the nutrients in fresh corn and then those in corn dough.

Fresh corn

Fresh corn is considered a vegetable because of its higher water content in comparison to the dry kernel, which is ground into corn dough.

Fresh corn is rich in potassium and folic acid, and yellow corn in particular contains vitamin A.

Corn dough

Corn dough is typically prepared from dried corn kernels soaked in lime water and then ground. This process, known as nixtamalización, or nixtamalization (from the Náhuatl nixtli, ashes, and tamalli, dough) is indispensable for making tortillas and other dough-based products.

Nixtamalization softens the dough and simultaneously improves its nutritional value, adding calcium and facilitating digestion of essential amino acids which make up the corn’s protein. Tortillas are, therefore, a good source of calcium, in addition to the calcium we get from dairy products and some vegetables.

Blue corn has a particular advantage in nutritional terms because it contains anthocyanins, flavonoid compounds with antioxidant properties which protect our cells from oxidation and DNA mutations.

Many people associate tortillas with weight gain. However, it’s important to remember that tortillas only contribute to weight gain if they are consumed in excess.

A typical tortilla from a tortillería (neighborhood tortilla shop) weighs around 30 grams and provides some 65 kilocalories. If we eat two tortillas during a meal, along with a main dish and a side of vegetables, we will probably maintain energetic equilibrium. However, if we consume up to ten tortillas, equivalent to 650 kilocalories, we will probably exceed our daily calorie requirement, since this is a third of the recommended daily calorie intake for a young adult male.

Unlike flour tortillas, corn tortillas contain very little fat, unless they are fried.

How much does corn cost?

According to the Sistema Nacional de Información e Integración de Mercados (National Market Information and Integration System), one kilo of tortillas from a tortillería costs between 10 and 18 pesos, depending on the state in which it is purchased.

As a general rule, corn dough costs slightly less than tortillas.

What’s the best way to eat corn?

In Mexico there exist at least 600 ways to prepare corn for consumption, including: tortillas, tamales, corundas, sopes, huaraches, memelas, peneques, picadas, salbutes, panuchos, molotes, quesadillas, tostadas, tacos, tlacoyos, and other snacks.

Traditional pozole, whether green, red, or white is prepared from cacahuazintle corn kernels. Corn dough can also be made into small balls, which are added to soups, beans, and a variety of sauces such as mole de olla and Oaxacan yellow mole. Corn kernels are boiled and then ground to make drinks such as pozol, tejate, and atole. To prepare pinole, the kernels are first baked and then ground. And, when fermented, they are used to make alcoholic drinks like tesgüino.

Currently, many of the dishes made from corn dough are fried. However, Mesoamerican societies never used this culinary technique. We recommend frying as little as possible in order to enjoy the benefits of corn without adding high quantities of fat.

Because of the nutritional advantages it provides, we recommend eating blue corn rather than white or yellow corn whenever possible.

Why shouldn’t we grow genetically modified corn?

Clearly, in Mexico corn is precious.

The campaign “Sin Maíz no hay Paíz” (No Corn, no Country) summarizes briefly why we should not allow the cultivation of genetically modified corn in Mexico:

“Distributed throughout its national territory, Mexico has 59 corn species and thousands of sub-species which will be contaminated if genetically modified corn is sown in Mexico. Corn is Mexico’s inheritance, our sustenance, and the basis of our diet and our economy, and it is recognized as the heart of indigenous and campesino cultures. It is a fundamental staple of agriculture in the face of climate change and socioeconomic instability. It is our right and our obligation to keep corn a common good, free of genetic modifications.”

For her part, Cristina Barros, a specialist in Mexican cuisine, reminds us: “There are only two varieties [of genetically modified corn], one resistant to a plague that is almost nonexistent in Mexico, and the other resistant to herbicides, when in our milpas many of the “weeds” are quelites, squash, beans, chile, and other plants that are staples of our diet.”

Did you know?

Corn is present in the form of tortillas in the great majority of Mexican homes. On average, a family will consume 20 kg of white or yellow corn tortillas each month. It is present in homes of all social classes, although at the lowest socioeconomic level this food may constitute half of all calories consumed and a third of all protein.

_____________________________________

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CORN:

Sin Maiz No Hay Pais
Biodiversidad
Greenpeace Mexico

VIEW THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON EL PODER DEL CONSUMIDOR

The Healthiest Food Comes from Healthy Soils

Author: Dr. Mercola

Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, a pediatric neurologist in New York and an instructor at New York Medical College, had a frightening experience that is becoming all too common among parents today. After her son turned 1 year old, he began experiencing wheezing, rashes and signs of delayed cognitive development.

After visiting multiple doctors she found an allergist who uncovered her son’s severe allergy to soy. Returning her son to health meant removing soy foods from their diet, so she eliminated processed foods and set out to reconnect with nature.[1]

The journey led her to write the book “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids With Food Straight from Soil.” In it, she explores the intricate links between food and children’s health as well as why so many children are facing allergies.

Her research brought her back to healthy soil, and the dirt cure involves three strategies she believes may improve the health of today’s kids (and their parents):

1. Eating nutrient-dense food from healthy soil
2. Being exposed to certain microbes
3. Spending time outdoors in nature

The Healthiest Food Comes From Healthy Soil

There’s no question your health and that of your children is directly related to the quality of the food you eat. The quality of the food, in turn, is dependent on the health of the soil in which it is grown. Shetreat-Klein told The New York Times.[2]

“The organisms in soil have an impact on the health of our food. Part of what makes fruits and vegetables good for us is the phytonutrients in them — the things that make cranberries red or coffee bitter.

Phytonutrients are part of the plant’s immune systems. Organisms in the soil that we might think of as pests actually stimulate plants to make more phytonutrients.”

Many American diets are based on foods grown in mineral-depleted, unhealthy soils. This is certainly the case with genetically engineered (GE) processed foods and meat and dairy products from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

One of the more insidious aspects of the industrial food system is that, as soil becomes sicker and less able to perform its functions, farmers become increasingly dependent on the chemical technology industry — they become trapped.

The use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide) begins a downward spiral, making it necessary for farmers to use more and more herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers that kill soil microbes — especially if they’re using GE seeds.

Weeds and pests become resistant to glyphosate, so farmers must use more weed and insect killers. Crops become nutrient-deprived, so they’re forced to increase their use of synthetic fertilizers.

Weeds and bugs become superweeds and superbugs, and all the while the food becomes less and less nutritious. It’s a vicious cycle.

In her quest for healthier food, Shetreat-Klein began growing her own, frequenting farmer’s markets and even raising her own chickens, an impressive feat considering she lives in the Bronx, New York, but one she said wasn’t as difficult as she’d thought it would be.

Keep Reading on Mercola Health

How Forest Loss Is Leading To a Rise in Human Disease

Author: Jim Robbins

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that the felling of tropical forests creates optimal conditions for the spread of mosquito-borne scourges, including malaria and dengue. Primates and other animals are also spreading disease from cleared forests to people.

In Borneo, an island shared by Indonesia and Malaysia, some of the world’s oldest tropical forests are being cut down and replaced with oil palm plantations at a breakneck pace. Wiping forests high in biodiversity off the land for monoculture plantations causes numerous environmental problems, from the destruction of wildlife habitat to the rapid release of stored carbon, which contributes to global warming.

But deforestation is having another worrisome effect: an increase in the spread of life-threatening diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. For a host of ecological reasons, the loss of forest can act as an incubator for insect-borne and other infectious diseases that afflict humans. The most recent example came to light this month in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, with researchers documenting a steep rise in human malaria cases in a region of Malaysian Borneo undergoing rapid deforestation.

This form of the disease was once found mainly in primates called macaques, and scientists from the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene wondered why there was a sudden spike in human cases. Studying satellite maps of where forest was being cut down and where it was left standing, the researchers compared the patchwork to the locations of recent malaria outbreaks. They realized the primates were concentrating in the remaining fragments of forest habitat, possibly increasing disease transmission among their own populations. Then, as humans worked on the new palm plantations, near the recently created forest edges, mosquitoes that thrived in this new habitat carried the disease from macaques to people.

Keep Reading on Yale Environment 360