REPORT:  earthworm vermicompost can replace destructive chemical fertilizers

Don’t Be Fooled: Cheap Fast Food Still Isn’t Healthy

2015 Dietary Guidelines; will it crumble under infrastructure pressure?

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curator:  Some may find many of the ‘15 guidelines a bit comical (of course eggs and less sugar are good for you), others are concerned that these latest recommendations perpetuate the falsehood that all food is treated/created equal and sourcing matters less than food group or category (i.e grass-fed meat).  When I say some people, and others – I of course am included in those buckets… But, these are steps in the right direction and positive discussions to begin change that will eventually be defined by consumer awareness. 

6 Highlights of the 2015 guidelines:

1. You can eat eggs. And shrimp. – fast curator fact – the closer you are to the origin of life (i.e. eggs, sprouted grains, proteins) the healthier the outcome for higher trophic levels.  For years, we’ve been told to be mindful of—and limit—how much cholesterol we get from our food. That meant items like eggs and shrimp felt taboo. The logic went like this: dietary cholesterol would raise blood cholesterol. Turns out there isn’t enough science to support that line of thinking.

2. Steer clear of too much sugar. This might not be news to you. And, in fact, we’ve written about the harms of eating too much added sugar here andhere. So it’s just awesome that our national diet advice is following suit and warning all Americans to limit their added sugar intake.

3. Cut out refined carbs. Also known as white carbs. This too might not be groundbreaking to you. The health benefits of whole grains are well documented. So let’s give the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) a pat on the back for identifying refined grains as “detrimental” to our health.

4. One diet doesn’t fit all. This is my favorite takeaway. To lower your risk of heart disease and of becoming overweight or obese, the draft guidelines don’t point us to one narrow diet or a combination of single nutrients. Instead they encourage a general healthy diet pattern. How you achieve this diet is up to you!

5. Consider the environmental impact of foods. Critics have attacked the DGAC’s move on this one, saying they are nutrition experts, not environmental experts. And while that criticism is fair, you cannot separate the topics of what to eat for your health and what to eat for the health of the planet. They need to be considered in conjunction. It’s refreshing to see the advisory committee take this on and encourage Americans to eat more plant-based foods as well as provide guidance on seafood choices, among other suggestions.

6. Pump up the produce! That’s right, we still need to eat more fruits and vegetables. And the draft Dietary Guidelines are really hitting that message hard. But here’s the good news: adding more produce to your diet makes it pretty likely that you’ll be getting key nutrients—like vitamins A and C, folate, magnesium, fiber and potassium—that the guidelines say most Americans fall short on.


more…   What should we eat to be healthy? That’s an important question, because, according to the recently releasedScientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, what we eat has a lot to do with how healthy we are. It’s as simple as that.

But on a national level, it becomes more challenging, especially when considering what the report refers to as the “two fundamental realities” that need to be kept in mind. 

The first is that about half of all American adults — 

117 million individuals — have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and that about two-thirds of U.S. adults — nearly 155 million individuals — are overweight or obese.

No question about it, those are daunting numbers.  The report points out that these unhealthy conditions have been “highly prevalent” for more than 20 years. Also, according to the report, eating unhealthy foods and consuming too many calories, coupled with too little physical activity, directly contributes to these preventable health problems.

The second “fundamental reality” is people can improve their health —

By making changes in their lives, among them eating healthier foods and getting more physical exercise.

In other words, for the most part, we, the consumers, are in the driver’s seat, and the dietary guidelines are there to serve as a road map. It’s all about helping to prevent a culinary crash that could ruin our health  — or kill us.

And, yes, food safety is part of this, especially when considering the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which, like the report, takes a preventive approach to safeguarding people’s health.

As for the role consumers play in food safety, a section of the report states that individual behaviors, along with sound government policies and responsible private-sector practices, are needed to reduce foodborne illnesses.

A quick background

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was jointly established by the secretaries of the US. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The committee was asked to examine the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, to see if there is new scientific evidence that can be used in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

The primary focus of these ongoing reports is to develop food-based recommendations for Americans 2 years old and older. Instead of being mere “dust collectors” to be put on a shelf and forgotten, the reports are used to help develop federal nutrition policy and a variety of programs, among them education, outreach, and food-assistance programs throughout the nation, including food stamps.

What we already know, or at least believe

For the most part, the evidence the committee examined reveals what many people already know, or at least believe to be true: A healthy diet is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, poultry, legumes and nuts; lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains (such as those used in cookies, snack crackers, cakes, and most breads).

But the report also shows “moderate to strong evidence” that higher intake of red and processed meats was identified as detrimental compared to lower intake, as is the case for higher consumption of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, as well as refined grains. That’s where some of the nation’s favorite foods — burgers, pizza, tacos, sandwiches, mixed dishes, desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages, all of which are mentioned in the report — come into the picture.

The report suggests that the composition of many of these food items could be improved in ways to increase consumption of vegetables, whole grains and other under-consumed food groups as well as to lower intake of sodium, saturated fat, added sugar, and refined grains. The report also noted that no matter where people are buying their food — whether in supermarkets, convenience stores, schools, or at the workplace — overall, the needs of a healthy diet for the U.S. population do not meet recommendations for vegetables, fruit, dairy or whole grains and exceed recommended amounts of sodium, saturated fat, refined grains, solid fats and added sugars.

Reading between the lines: The typical American diet is fraught with health risks.

Dirty mouth –  Chewing Gum Destroys Health (quality alternatives listed below)

Follow-up Report: How to Shut Down a Meat Research Center

Just label it!  Seriously, the consumer should be empowered to mediate!

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Can genetically modified crops grow in harmony with their non-GMO counterparts?

The debate between the pro-biotech and non-GMO camps increasingly looks more like scorched earth than common ground. Biotech seed makers like Monsanto Co. and Syngenta AG, along with farmer groups, argue that genetically modified crops are critical to feed a growing global population. Organic food companies and consumer groups charge that GMO crops promote a chemical-heavy approach to farming that’s harsh on land and animals and could contribute to human-health problems.

Anti-GMO, Biotech Factions Clash at Food Summit – is it for our benefit?

The increasingly polarized debate prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to convene Thursday a two-day summit on “agricultural coexistence” that seeks to mend some farmland fence-posts.

“The one thing I am really tired of is division,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, at the event at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. “This is about finding a path forward.”

But finding that path appeared difficult, with some speakers on both sides of the issue offering few signs of compromise.

“Organic is the future of American agriculture,” said Errol Schweizer, executive global grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market Inc. Organic crops are grown without GMO seeds.

“We’re not going to feed the world with organic foods,” said Dan Glickman, executive director of the Aspen Institute, a public policy think tank in Washington, and a former U.S. secretary of agriculture.

One thing both factions agree on: The discord costs money. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent advocating for and against state ballot initiatives and legislation requiring labels for foods made with GMOs.

Meanwhile, organic farmers spend thousands of dollars creating buffer zones in their fields to guard against the spread of neighbors’ GMO crop pollen and related pesticides, and setting up systems to ensure harvested grain doesn’t mix with GMO varieties, said Laura Batcha, chief executive of the Organic Trade Association, speaking at the event.

Biotech-crop advocates worry the debate over labeling and continued questions over the crops’ safety is slowing scientific advancements and new products that could help farmers raise hardier crops and produce more food, Mr. Glickman said. The Food and Drug Administration and many U.S. health and science groups say food made with the ingredients is safe.

Some farmers at the event said they took the intensified scrutiny of biotech crops personally.

“For retailers to talk about one production system over another as being the gold standard disparages the production system I use, and I don’t think that’s conducive to having a conversation about coexistence,” said Ron Moore, who grows soybeans, corn and alfalfa near Roseville, Ill., and serves as secretary of the American Soybean Association.

Farmers of all sorts need to acknowledge that “a significant percentage of our community wants to know whether or not they’re eating GMOs,” said Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain Co., a Cerro Gordo, Ill., company that specializes in marketing non-biotech crops.

Mr. Clarkson suggested labeling all foods that do not contain genetically engineered ingredients under a federal standard, though others in the non-GMO camp continued to argue for a federal rule requiring labels for food containing GMOs.

Some non-GMO farmers and food makers already feel they bear a greater economic burden than their biotech-using counterparts, however. Some farmers adjust their planting to help ensure non-GMO crop fields remain free of biotech plants, Ms. Batcha said, and Whole Foods’ Mr. Schweizer said his company had struggled to find enough crops to make organic products for its shelves.

“I actually am importing heirloom corn from Mexico,” Mr. Schweizer said. “It’s a huge issue.”

One place USDA officials sought common ground Thursday: the lunch menu. Attendees could choose from GMO-derived selections – grilled chicken breast, corn salsa and roasted sugar beets – as well as an organic menu including free-range chicken, wild rice pilaf and salad. The competing menu choices were served at separate tables.

Eyes on Maine – Northern Girl grows regional food production

Report: Agriculture in N.Y. is booming industry

The True Cost of Food Waste

James Beard awards – some New England flavor in 2015