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Food & Drink, Health

Well folks, it’s that time of the year again!

The Environmental Working Group aka The EWG came out with their 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce so go and grab your copy! What I love about this download is that it’s wallet sized! All you have to do us cut it out, fold it in half and then you can have the list in your wallet for easy access whenever you’re in the grocery store!
 
For those of you who haven’t heard, the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen are a combined list of the “dirtiest” and the “cleanest” produce in the US. When I say “dirty”, I don’t mean that literally.
 
The Dirty Dozen is a list of the 12 conventionally grown produce which are the most heavily pesticide laden. The Clean Fifteen is a list of the 15 conventionally grown produce that has been found to be pesticide free.
 

Changes from 2017

There have been a few minor changes from the 2017 list. For the dirty dozen, there are several shifts in terms of where the produce falls on the list. All the produce from 2017 is still there, just in a different order for numbers 5-12. For the clean fifteen, grapefruits have left the list and broccoli has made it onto the list and avocados have come out as #1 pesticide free. (1)
 

Why pesticides are dangerous

Pesticides are modern man-made chemicals and our bodies are not equipped to process and get rid of efficiently. This means that pesticides and their residues stay in our bodies and wreak havoc. Some mimic hormones in our bodies, these are called xenoestrogens, and they go around tricking our cells into thinking that it’s real estrogen, a natural hormone that our bodies make. (2)(3) Down the road this can lead to cancer, infertility and other autoimmune diseases. For you men out there, the xenoestrogens don’t just affect women, they can lead to lower sperm count and abnormal sperm. (4) Pesticides have also been linked to brain and nervous system damage, ALS anyone? (5) Suffice it to say, pesticides are dangerous for our health and longevity.
 

How the lists are made

The EWG compiles this list with the reports of the tests completed by the US Department of Agriculture. If you think simply washing the produce or peeling the skins off will take care of the pesticides, think again. The samples were tested with the produce in the state that they’re typically eaten. Fruits like blueberries and peaches were washed and bananas & avocados were peeled. This means that the pesticides & their residues were still there in the produce after it was prepared for eating. (1)
 

Why you should follow the EWG Shopper’s Guide

Disease rates have risen over the past decades and the way that our food is grown has changed as well. The best thing that you can do for yourself and your family is to reduce your exposure to pesticides as much as possible. Whenever you can, buy the Dirty Dozen organic and I would recommend always buying them organic. The Clean Fifteen can be bought conventionally. Anything not on either list is in the middle and the choice is yours to buy those as either organic or conventional.
 
As an easy guide, if the food is leafy, thin skinned or has a tendency to be eaten by insects and other critters then they are likely heavily sprayed with pesticides and you should buy them organic.
 
If you didn’t get it above, here’s the link to get your free copy of the EWG’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides on Produce. For more detailed information and a quick 2 minute video check out the EWG’s article about their Shopper’s Guide.

References
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Fitness, Health
Hello Dear Friends!

I hope everyone is having a beautiful new year! With every new year comes new year’s resolutions. One of my resolutions this year is to create a daily yoga practice. Whether I complete a 60 minute vinyasa class or a 20 minute restorative class, I want to incorporate yoga into my daily routine so it becomes a habit. I want this for myself because I want to improve my flexibility, strength, balance and all the things that a regular yoga practice can provide.

I hope you’ll join me in making yoga a regular part of your life. Below you’ll find 3 free online yoga challenges that you can use to kick-start the new year and get started on the right foot.

Research shows that it takes at least 21 straight days to turn something from a hobby into a habit. If you follow these challenges with me, you can create a yoga habit too!

Transform Your Life 30-Day Yoga Challenge – DoYogaWithMe

DoYogaWithMe.com is providing a free 30-Day Yoga Challenge. The challenge starts today, so get out your yoga mat and join me on the floor!
David Procyshyn, the creator of DoYogaWithMe.com, did is own 30-day yoga challenge way back when. He says it transformed his life. His goal is for this challenge to transform out lives as well.
All you have to do to is go to the page linked above. Classes will be posted to that page everyday. They provide 2 different videos: a beginner & intermediate series. So, even if you’ve been doing yoga for a few years you can still benefit from this challenge. The classes are designed to flow from one into the next. So, pick your poison stick with it for the long haul. If you come across a class that you absolutely love, you can purchase it for your yoga collection.
 

Yoga Body Bootcamp – TheJourneyJunkie

The Yoga Body Bootcamp by Allie from TheJourneyJunkie is a 7 day class aimed to reset & reconnect. The journey starts January 8th and it goes straight to you inbox.

Allie has quickly become my favorite YouTube Yogi. I love her 30 Pose Journey and her 5-Day Beginner Yoga Journey. She breaks down the yoga poses so you can follow along and make sure you’re doing them right! I think this is essential for beginners to prevent injury. She’s a huge proponent for props like yoga blocks & bolsters. If you’re a yoga newbie like me, I highly recommend browsing her blog, The Journey Junkie. It’s packed with a ton of great info for anyone who wants to learn more about yoga.

I had my first exposure to yoga and took my first yoga classes in high school, way back when. For some reason I just didn’t stick with it, even though I knew that I liked it. If I had continued my yoga journey I may have been able to do handstands by now. But, everything has a purpose, right? I may not have discovered Allie and all the other amazing yoga instructors sharing their love of yoga if I hadn’t wanted to re-incorporate it into my life today.

Wanderlust 21-Day Challenge – Wanderlust TV

Wanderlust TV is providing a 21-Day yoga challenge with Schuyler Grant, Wanderlust’s National Director of Yoga. This challenge begins on January 9th and all you have to do to join is sign-up on their website. The goal of the challenge is to allow you to master 60 yoga poses in just 3 weeks! Sounds like a great start for beginners and more experienced yogis alike. Once the challenge is over, you can purchase and keep the videos for your yoga library.

I can’t wait to get started! This is how I’m kicking off my yoga resolution for 2017. The 2nd week of January might be pretty tough since I’ll have 3 challenges going on at the same time but I’m excited about it! I really want to make yoga a part of my daily life and I can’t envision a better way of doing that than completing all three challenges at the same time!

Will you be joining me? Do you have daily yoga as one of your new year’s resolutions or did you add it to your list after reading this? I’d love to hear from you!

~ Dr. Gois
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Food & Drink, Health, Supplements
Probiotics have become really popular in health circles and the media for the past several years. I’m sure you know by now that probiotics are important for your health. According to The Joint FAO/World Health Organization, probiotics are “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” They are the “friendly” bacteria that can help correct imbalances in our digestive system. In fact, our digestive system is home to TRILLIONS of microbes that live with us in a symbiotic relationship.
I’m sharing 5 ways that you can get probiotics into your diet from everyday food & drink. If you’re healthy incorporating these into your diet regularly is all you need to keep your guy healthy. However, if you have any health conditions then this alone may not cut it. If that’s the case, see your naturopath or other health professional for specific recommendations.
You can make all of these, except the last one, at home. I recommend you give it a try at least once, not just to save money but so that you know exactly what goes into making it and whether or not you’re willing to buy it off the shelf. I myself have made a few of these at home except kimchi, which is next on my bucket list!

In no particular order, here are 5 ways to get your probiotics from every day food and drink:

Water Kefir

water kefir grains
I discovered this over a year ago now and I have been making my own at home for almost as long. This is really simple to make, it only takes a few minutes of care every few days and you’ll get a fizzy probiotic drink that you can flavor to your liking! The end result is also called “water kefir soda” because it can get that fizzy if you make it just right.
Water kefir is made with water kefir “grains” or “crystals”. It’s those white clusters in the picture above. You can even see a couple floating in the water due to the carbonation. These little guys are a symbiotic mix of yeast and good bacteria. They use sugar water and ferment the drink leaving good-for-you probiotics behind. If you’re lucky enough to live in a location where you can buy this on the shelves, give it a try and see how you like it. If you’re not that lucky you can purchase live grains online from reputable companies.
Tip: It’s important to make sure that you get “live” grains. Dehydrated grains take longer to produce and they likely won’t produce as well as living grains.

Kombucha

kombucha
Kombucha is another fermented drink that has gotten really popular over the past few years. I first discovered this as a student in naturopathic medical school. The first time I tasted it…let’s just say I didn’t like it, not one bit. I didn’t understand how anyone could drink the stuff! After a few years, I found some brands and flavors that I really liked and I grew to love the stuff.
Like water kefir, it’s fermented by a yeast/bacteria symbiotic mix called a Scoby. In the picture above you should be able to make it out at the top of the liquid (what wavy line). What makes it different is that kombucha is fermented from sweet tea while water kefir is made with sugar water. Another difference is that it’s filled with healthy enzymes and it doesn’t have as many probiotics as water kefir. So, if you’re looking for probiotics only, stick with water kefir, if you also want the health benefits of the enzymes in kombucha, then why not drink them both? It’s pretty simple to make. It just takes regular checking because it can go from a tasty drink to a sour vinegar pretty quickly.
Tip: It’s important to get a good quality, live kombucha scoby. Apparently, a kombucha scoby looks just like an apple cider vinegar scoby and some buyers have gotten the wrong product online. Reputable places will give you a nice big scoby w/ starter tea so you can get brewing right away.

Kimchi

kimchi side dish
This is a Korean staple and they eat it at every meal. It’s incorporated into different Korean dishes and it’s even eaten on it’s own with rice. Kimchi is fermented cabbage with a spicy seasoning. You can eat it fresh but as it ferments, that’s when you get the healthy probiotics. That’s also when the kimchi gets more sour. The older the kimchi is, the more sour it gets. In the past Koreans would make one batch that was large enough to last the entire year. Imagine how sour it became at the end of the supply?
Tip: There’s as many recipes for kimchi as there are chefs so it’s best to try different brands and recipes until you find the one that you like. I haven’t made this myself just yet but I do want to try it in the near future. When I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sauerkraut

sauerkraut
Lots of people love their sauerkraut, am I right? It’s a German staple that made it’s way across the Atlantic. Being Asian myself, I didn’t grow up eating sauerkraut and I never really developed a taste for it. However, it is filled with good probiotics so I think of it more as a supplement. It’s very simple to make; all you need is cabbage, salt and an airtight container.
Tip: Sauerkraut is available on the grocery shelf but that means it was pasteurized to kill bacteria. Sauerkraut in the refrigerated section likely still has all the good probiotics inside (but check the labels just to be sure).  If you’re just eating it for the flavor then keep on keepin’ on. But, what’s the point of eating it if you’re not going to get the good health benefits of the probiotics? A good reputable brand that I like is Bubbie’s which can be found in the refrigerated section of natural food grocery stores. They make it the old fashioned way with just cabbage and salt. Oh and they use artisan well water…doesn’t that sound delightful? There’s also many new fermented foods companies popping up so if you see other brands of ‘kraut in the refrigerated section, give them a try. It’s really simple to make your own batch from scratch. I actually have my first batch fermenting right now and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Yakult

This is the first probiotic drink that was made available to the masses. The exclusive strain they use Lactobacillus casei Shirota was discovered by Dr. Minoru Shirota a Japanese scientist. He started making and selling Yakult in 1935 and it’s still going strong. I loved to drink this as a child but I had no idea about the goodness of the probiotics inside. Back then you could only get this from Asian markets. Now, it’s available at a local grocery store near you! I was so pleasantly surprised when I found this in the dairy section of my local grocery store. I have no idea when that happened but it’s great! It just goes to show how popular probiotics have gotten in America. (Also, did you notice how far behind we are compared to Asia? 1935…seriously??) If you haven’t tried it before, you just might fall in love with it!
Tip: If you’re lactose intolerant then you might want to stay away from this one. If you can eat things like yogurt and ice cream you might be fine but be careful and pay attention to any symptoms that might crop up, just in case.

That wraps up my favorite sources for natural probiotics from regular foods and drinks. That’s the key to taking advantage of the health benefits, regular consumption. Heath benefits of probiotics can be strain specific. By eating a variety of different fermented foods, like I’ve listed here, you’re going to be consuming a variety of different probiotics as well, which will only be good for you in the long run.
Have you tried all of these? Which one is your favorite?

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Getting Healthy Series, Health
“GMO” is another hot buzzword in the wellness industry. In this article we’ll talk about what it really means and why it matters. If you’re already a big health & wellness buff, then this article is probably not for you. If you’re like the majority of America and you’re just starting to learn about all this, I hope this article can help you out. So, let’s get to it. 
 

GMO Defined

This acronym stands for Genetically Modified Organism. According to the Non GMO Project it applies to a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA (gene splicing) methods, gene modification or transgenic technology. It’s a relatively new science that creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial & viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
 

GMO Splicing

There are a few articles out there that claim GMO labeling is unnecessary because we have been doing it for thousands of years. It’s important to clarify that what these articles are touching on is hybridization not genetic modification.

In high school science we learned about Gregor Mendel. He is known as the “father of genetics” and he discovered hereditary traits through hybridizing flowers and plants in his monastery. Through controlled hybridization he discovered that certain traits are dominant while others are recessive. Is any of this ringing a bell?

Hybridization is when two of the same species are crossed and their offspring end up with different traits. Humans capitalized on traits they liked and would continue to hybridize or cross-breed members of the same species to come up with offspring that exhibited the traits they were after. This is how we’ve gotten all the different dog breeds that we have today.

Genetic modification is when organisms are modified on the DNA level with genes from outside their species or a distant relative. The outcomes of genetic modification would never occur in nature because different species cannot cross-breed successfully. In nature, mules are the perfect example of this. Mules are the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse and they are sterile. Because they are sterile and cannot reproduce, they are not a distinct species.

Foods have been genetically modified for various reasons such as herbicide protection, viral protection, to get bigger and to produce more volume of product, etc.

Here are a few examples of gene splicing in conventional foods:
  • Corn + DNA from soil bacteria immune to RoundUp herbicide & E.Coli = RoundUp Ready Corn
  • Strawberries + fish genes = protection from freezing
  • Dairy cows + genetically engineered hormone rBGH/rBST = increased milk production
 

Dangers of GMOs

The full impact and the dangers of GMOs are only recently coming to light. The true effects will be seen in the generations to come. In the meantime here’s some of the environmental effects that can be seen since the introduction of GMOs:
  • They are present in the majority of processed foods in the US (expect organic foods)
  • Superweeds and pesticide resistant insects are evolving out of control
  • Bees & monarch butterflies are dying in unprecedented rates
  • Pesticides are gradually killing soil microorganisms and crops are becoming reliant on fossil fuel fertilizers
  • etc.

GMO foods have been available in the market since the 1990’s, this technology is quite young and long-term negative effects on the population are still unclear. There have been NO long-term studies on the effects of GMOs in the US. Genetically modified foods are affecting us in ways that we cannot fathom. We are all genetically different and we all have different health concerns so while some people may be able to have healthy lives without being affected by GMOs, others are very sensitive and GMOs may be contributing detrimentally to their health.

According to WHO here are some concerns with the health affects of GMOs:
  • Allergy – developing allergic reactions to GMO foods
  • Gene transer – risk of the spliced genes being incorporated into the bacteria in our microflora
  • Outcrossing – through unintentional cross-pollination, the GMO products contaminating and then eliminating the natural Non-GMO plants, so that only the GMO version is left

The Non-GMO Project categorizes GMO foods into 3 levels: High, low and no risk. Take a look at their table to see which foods are high risk.

GMO Labels

The US does not currently require GMO foods to be labeled. That makes us the odd man out with 64 other nations requiring GMO labeling on foods. The image below from LabelGMOs.org shows which countries require GMO labeling and which do not.

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If you shop at health food stores or in the heath food isle of your local grocery store, I’m sure you’ve seen the label below.

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In order to use that label, the product needs to have less than 1% GMO ingredients. That means the product is 99% – 100% GMO free. If you see a product that is labeled organic but without the Non-GMO label, that’s alright too because certified organic products cannot include GMOs.

This article really is the tip of the iceberg in terms of GMO information. If I’ve been able to whet your appetite for more information there’s a great comprehensive ebook all about GMOs available for free: GMO Myths & Truths by EarthOpenSource. I’ll be honest with you, I just discovered this freebie while I was researching this article, so I haven’t been able to read it myself yet but I do want to get around to it in the future.


References

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Getting Healthy Series, Health
“Organic” is a hot buzzword in the wellness industry. But what does it really mean and why should it be important to you? If you’re already a big health & wellness buff, then this article is probably not for you. If you’re like the majority of America and you’re just starting to learn about all this, I hope this article can help you out. So, let’s get to it.

Organic Defined

Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines the term organic:
of food : grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals; not using artificial chemicals; of, relating to, or obtained from living things”
 
The key point here is “without the use of artificial chemicals.” The fact that organic foods have to be labeled tells us that everything conventionally grown uses chemicals. But it’s just on the outside, washing it will clean it right? The answer to that is: it depends. If you saw my last post about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, you know that different types of produce all have different pesticide levels.
 
So, why do we even have this term for food in the first place?
 
Back in the day, all foods: meat, produce & fruit were all produced naturally. Or in other words “organically”. Healthy crops and livestock are the bread & butter for famers and ranchers. If their crops or livestock were wiped out due to blight or disease, then so was the farmer’s livelihood. In order to protect that livelihood, farmers would adopt the latest technology and newest farming techniques to improve their production and the bottom line. Meaning pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and genetic modifying became the “norm”. These new-farming techniques produced bigger crops, bigger livestock and better looking produce. It’s a win-win, right? Wrong.
 
What they didn’t realize was that those chemicals, the pesticides, the hormones and the genetic modifying would affect humans in unpredictable ways. Over time, those chemicals build up in our bodies until on day our immune system is overloaded and we develop chronic diseases like cancer,  arthritis, fibromyalgia, allergies, so on and so forth. The foods we’re eating today are completely different than what our ancestors ate. On a genetic level, we’re not equipped to handle the chemicals and the genetic modifying. Only in recent years research is uncovering how much damage we’re truly doing to ourselves with these changes in the way we produce food.
 
If you’re just starting out on this journey, or you’re on a budget. Don’t fret. Overall, it’s much more important to fill up with veggies, greens, fruit and legumes than it is to buy everything organic. The phytonutrients in all the foods that are “good for us” are so powerfully protective that if you eat enough you’ll still be healthy. The problem (that we might tackle another day) is that in our Modern American Diet or Standard American Diet (MAD or SAD, for short) we’re not getting enough of the good stuff (nutrients) to prevent any of the bad stuff (disease).
 

Organic Labels

Picture this: you’re in your local health food store or in the natural foods section of your local grocery store and you’re browsing for organic foods. Does all the labeling and the packaging give you a headache? How you do know that what you’re getting is really what you want? Let’s take a look at the organic labeling system.
 
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I’m sure you’ve noticed that label up above, right? That’s the USDA Organic seal. Products with the USDA Organic seal must be 95%-100% organic. If less than 100%, the rest of the ingredients are not available organically but have been approved by the National Organic Program (NOP).
 
Products that are 70%-94% organic are allowed to read “Made With Organic Ingredients” on the package. They are not allowed to use the USDA Organic seal.
 
Products that are less than 70% organic can only list the organic ingredients in the information panel and they cannot use the USDA Organic seal.
 
So, if you want to be sure that what you’re buying is 100% organic, it has to say somewhere on the package 100% organic. It it doesn’t, it’s safe to assume that it’s not 100% organic. Look for something like the seal below:
 
01C6776A-76E1-4BBA-A7AC-5330B445C022
 
Organic Certification
I haven’t done a lot of research into organic certification, all I know is that it’s expensive. In order to be certified the farms and processors have to fulfill the following requirements:
  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food
Why are Organic Foods Expensive?
Organic foods take greater care to produce than conventionally grown foods. According to the USDA, organic methods “integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.” They’re also more expensive because getting certified is not cheap. If you’re shopping at a farmer’s market don’t be afraid to ask how they grow their crops. A lot of small scale farms that sell their products at farmer’s markets often grow their food organically but they can’t afford the certification. Keep supporting them and maybe one they they will be able to afford it!

So, I hope this article has helped you to better understand organic foods and labeling. Now, go to your local grocery store and get shopping!

References

  1. USDA: Substances for Organic Crop & Livestock Production
  2. USDA: Organic Agriculture
  3. USDA: Organic Livestock Practices
  4. USDA: Organic Production & Handling Standards
  5. USDA: Labeling Organic Products
  6. Organic.org Certified Organic Label Guide
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