Can You Trust Your Doctor?

I believe in the goodness of people, so I believe your doctor probably has good intentions. Just like the generations of doctors before him or her. Just like the doctors a few decades ago, who told their patients that smoking cigarettes was perfectly safe, even good for your health. Those cigarette-prescribing doctors pointed their patients to the body of published “science” that supported the safety of smoking at the time.

Had you asked your OBGYN back in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, or 70s how to reduce your chance of miscarriage, your doctor would have told you to take diethylstilbestrol (DES) during your pregnancy, a drug that caused cancer in ten million daughters born to mothers who listened to their doctors. Doctors told their patients that DES was safe and the “science” said DES was safe; DES was recalled after 37 years on the market. 

Had you asked your doctor how to lose weight between 1973 and 1997, your doctor would have helpfully written you a prescription for Fen-Phen, a drug that caused massive heart attacks in patients for almost three decades. Fen-Phen remained on the market for 24 years before it was recalled. 

Had you asked your doctor how to lower your cholesterol in 2000, he would have prescribed Baycol, a drug whose side effects killed tens of thousands of people in just a few short years. Baycol was recalled only after 100,000 people were killed. 

Had you asked your doctor how to heal arthritis pain in the early 2000s, he would have prescribed Vioxx, a Merck drug. Vioxx was recalled after damaging the hearts and cardiovascular systems of more than 140,000 people. 

Had you complained of inflammation to your doctor in 2005, he would have prescribed Bextra, a Pfizer drug that caused heart attacks, strokes, and fatal skin conditions. After Bextra was recalled, Pfizer’s subsidiary admitted to “intent to defraud or mislead” with their promotion of the drug. 

Had you sought treatment for Type 2 diabetes in 2000, your doctor would have prescribed Rezulin, a drug that was found to increase hepatitis cases. When one doctor did voice concerns about Rezulin’s safety, the FDA fired him. The drug was only pulled after overwhelming evidence showed that it was dangerous–at a time that was already too late for many people who had been hurt by it.

Did you know that doctors used to prescribe tobacco cigarettes to prevent illness? Physicians played an integral role in the promotion of smoking. Those cigarette-promoting doctors were probably decent people who simply believed in the “science” of the time. Those doctors, with the best of intentions, believed they were helping their patients.

In the year 2016, if you take a healthy newborn to an American doctor, your doctor will recommend injecting your baby with 49 doses of vaccines containing a cocktail of known toxins, including aluminum, formaldehyde, MSG, aborted fetal cells, cow cells, chick embryo cells, monkey kidney cells, and some of today’s most common childhood allergens. Your doctor  might even mention the “science” that supports the safety of such a schedule, but the truth is that no prior generation has ever received this number of vaccines at such a young age. Zero long-term studies have examined the safety of the schedule. In the same way that we allowed cigarette manufacturers to fund and interpret the “science” of cigarette safety, our current system allows vaccine manufacturers to fund, oversee, and interpret the “science” of vaccine safety.

If you listen to your doctor and allow him to vaccinate your baby with a vaccine full of ingredients you haven’t researched, and then you call your doctor a few hours later because you’re concerned about your baby’s reaction, your doctor may tell you that nonstop crying, fevers, and even seizures requiring hospitalization are a normal response to those vaccines. This generation of American children is the first to experience a new “normal” when it comes to health: more autoimmune conditions than ever before, 1 in 42 boys diagnosed with autism, never-ending rashes, rampant obesity, incessant illnesses, and severe, lifelong allergies that many will never outgrow.

One day, with the 20/20 hindsight of history, we will look back on the vaccine debate in the United States and we will understand it more clearly. 

Until then, you can trust your doctor. But when you choose whether to trust your doctor without doing your own research, remember that your doctor, like millions of doctors throughout history, is only human.

ingredients_MMR_vaccine_CDC.png

ingredients_DTaP_vaccine_CDC.png

 

Sources here.

Source of vaccine ingredients: CDC.

 

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Big Fat Surprise: Eat Fat To Lose Weight

Back in 2006, my mother called me. She had news for me – big news. “Fat is a good thing,” she said. “If you want to lose weight, you need to eat more fat.” Acting on advice she had originally gleaned from a number of niche health blogs, including the Weston A. Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola, and ultimately confirmed through her own experience, she advised me to begin eating more healthy natural sources of fat. At first, I ignored her.

Like any good mother, she continued to pester me. She sent me e-mails: “All of your friends who eat low-fat diets should be worried about their hearts and their brains and their muscles and their reproductive organs,” she wrote. “This information won’t be mainstream for a few more years.” She sent me studies. She sent me articles.

Eventually, I found myself curious and I began to follow her advice. Over the course of several years, I lost weight so slowly that I barely noticed. What I did notice was that my energy levels and overall health improved. When I landed at a weight that was right for my body, I found that I was able to easily maintain the weight loss. I didn’t have to play games with myself. I didn’t have to pretend I was full when I wasn’t. I rarely thought about portion control. At restaurants, I usually finished my entire meal, while my girlfriends packaged up barely-nibbled dishes to take home. In fact, my metabolism increased so much that I noticed I could eat more than the vast majority of my friends.

Food was no longer a struggle. It was a daily pleasure. What had happened? I could eat whenever I was hungry and I almost always felt full after meals. I no longer had ravenous, obsessive cravings. If I wanted dessert, I ate dessert. I weighed less and I had more energy. I tried to exercise when I had time, but I didn’t adhere to a strict schedule. Girlfriends asked me, “What’s your secret? How do you eat so much?”

My diet looked something like this: Most mornings, I scrambled a couple of eggs and topped them with a few slices of melted cheese, an avocado, a chopped tomato, and salsa. (Colleagues were shocked by my breakfast: “You eat an omelet with cheese and an entire avocado every morning before work? But you’re so tiny!”) Instead of grabbing a “health” bar when I was on the go, I ate more nuts and cheese. At lunch and dinner, I ate more red meat and fish. I stopped buying non-fat and low-fat dairy products altogether, and replaced them with whole milk products. Soon I began to crave more fruits and vegetables, and so I ate more fruits and vegetables. I ate large green salads with chicken, cheese, nuts, avocados, and apples or organic strawberries. To cook, I used olive oil or butter – never vegetable oil. When I wanted to indulge, I made myself a heaping bowl of full-fat vanilla ice cream, typically topped with a banana, chopped dark chocolate, and peanut butter spooned out of the jar. Whenever possible, I avoided soy. I bought as much non-GMO, organic food as I could afford. I never consciously ate less bread, but soon I found that I went days at a time without eating bread; my body simply didn’t crave it.

“Eat more fat. Lose more weight.” It sounds like a gimmick, but it’s not.

It’s taken years for the mainstream media to catch on, but my mother was right. Almost a decade later, a number of publications are writing about it:

The Wall Street Journal | The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat And Heart Disease

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303678404579533760760481486

The New York Times | A Call For A Low-Carb Diet That Embraces Fat

The New York Times | Study Questions Fat And Heart Disease Link

The New York Times | Butter Is Back

NPR | Rethinking Fat: The Case For Adding Some Into Your Diet

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/03/31/295719579/rethinking-fat-the-case-for-adding-some-into-your-diet

NPR | Don’t Fear The Fat: Experts Question Saturated Fat Recommendations

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/03/17/290846811/dont-fear-the-fat-experts-question-saturated-fat-guidelines

NPR | The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean

TIME Magazine| Ending The War On Fat

Ending the War on Fat

Men’s Health | What If Bad Fat Is Actually Good For You?

http://www.menshealth.com/health/saturated-fat

The Greatist | Everyone Was Wrong: Saturated Fat Is Good For You

http://greatist.com/health/saturated-fat-healthy

Despite the overwhelming evidence that diets high in fat are healthy, not everyone is on board yet. Last year, The Atlantic summed up succinctly how public health reform works: “slowly, based on mounting scientific evidence, against constant and mounting headwinds of public ridicule and, much more important, industry lobbying and advertising.” As is usually the case when the medical establishment is wrong, positive change can take two to three decades–or even more–to take full root. Doctors and nutritionists often have trouble letting go of the facts they studied so hard during medical and graduate school. Today, some health advocates are still dangerously confused; these misinformed doctors and nutritionists erroneously promote low-fat dairy products. Many of these doctors believe their patients won’t be able to exercise “restraint” if they eat high-fat foods; what they don’t understand is that fat is satiating and when people eat healthy sources of fat, they tend to desire–and consume–less of everything.

Of course, the source of fat matters. A diet high in processed deli meats and sausages is not good for anyone. A diet high in McDonald’s burgers is not the same as a diet high grass-fed steak. Trans fats, which are found in donuts and processed foods, are not healthy; they are poisonous. But the evidence is in and the facts are simple: unsaturated fats–and yes, saturated fats, too–are good for you.

Make today the day you change. Stop playing games. Toss out the non-fat, the low-fat, the GMO soy. Learn about the sources of your food. Count ingredients, not calories.

Start enjoying your food–and your life.

What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Hormonal Contraceptives

WE_BirthControl

Much of the current research about the safety of hormonal contraceptives has been funded by the very pharmaceutical companies that stand to profit from the sale of birth control. Couple this with the political debates surrounding women’s reproduction—at a time when many feminists feel the pill is the answer to women’s liberation—and we have a nation of women in the dark about birth control.

Here are the facts: The pill works by stopping ovulation. When a woman swallows the hormones in birth control, her ovaries stop releasing eggs. This may sound minor, but the monthly release of that tiny egg is responsible for a number of important processes in a woman’s body. While it’s true that hormonal birth control can prevent pregnancy, do you know what else it does?

9 Facts You Need To Know About The Pill

  1. The hormones in the pill increase your risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, and liver cancer. If you have a family history of any of these diseases, you are especially at risk. There’s a reason why the World Health Organization classifies hormonal contraceptives—along with tobacco, asbestos, and radium—as carcinogens. According to BreastCancerFund.org, “Numerous studies have demonstrated an increased risk of breast cancer in women using oral contraceptives (Althuis, 2003; Dai, 2009; Delort, 2007; Kumle, 2002; Rosenberg, 2009). This is not surprising….” As one surgeon explained, the birth control pill is a ‘Molotov cocktail’ for breast cancer. The facts are frightening: “A 2006 Mayo Clinic meta-analysis concluded that breast cancer risk rises 50 percent for women taking oral contraceptives four or more years before a full-term pregnancy. In 2009, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that women starting the pill before 18 nearly quadruple their risk of triple negative breast cancer. Even more shocking, Swedish oncologist Hakan Olsson concluded that pill use before the age of 20 increases a young woman’s breast cancer risk by more than 1000 percent,” reported LifeSiteNews.

As one surgeon explained, the birth control pill is a ‘Molotov cocktail’ for breast cancer.

  1. The pill causes hair loss. According to the American Hair Loss Association, “The AHLA believes that it is imperative for all women, especially those who have a history of hair loss in their family, to be made aware of the potentially devastating effects of birth control pills on normal hair growth.” Of course, this is one of the side effects your doctor might mention after you experience it. If the possibility of losing your hair would be especially upsetting for you, that’s something to take into consideration before taking the pill.
  1. The pill increases your risk of developing osteoporosis. The correlation between oral contraceptives and brittle bones is so well-established that the New York Times mentions birth control as a known cause of osteoporosis in their basic overview of the disease. The New York Times goes on to recommend that “women who take birth control pills should be sure to get adequate calcium and vitamin D from diet or supplements.” But there’s just one problem with this recommendation…
  1. The pill depletes your body’s natural stores of vitamins and minerals. Studies confirm that women who take the pill have lower levels of B vitamins like folate, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), zinc, and iron. Regardless of how much you consume, birth control pills lower the levels of these nutrients in your body. Clinically, it can be nearly impossible to bring these vitamins up to ideal levels while taking the pill. In fact, this is one of many reasons why OBGYNS recommend that women wait several months to get pregnant after going off the pill—to give your body time to replenish those depleted stores and adequately nourish new life.

Clinically, it can be nearly impossible to bring vitamins up to ideal levels while taking the pill.

  1. The pill increases your risk of blood clots, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, and stroke. While your overall risk may be small, these side effects are deadly. Yet so many doctors write prescriptions for birth control without so much as mentioning these potential side effects to their patients. If you take birth control, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of a blood clot, heart attack, stroke, or pulmonary embolism. Men, is not wearing a condom really worth subjecting your girlfriends and wives to these life-threatening risks? 
  1. The pill increases the likelihood that you will experience anxiety and depression. When you alter a woman’s hormones, you alter her emotions. Here’s just a sampling of the mood-related side effects that women report after taking the pill: mood swings, anxiety, depression, and lowered libido. When woman are fertile, they are healthier, happier, and have a higher sex drive. (It’s all part of nature’s tricky little plan!) That’s why many women who take birth control, which destroys fertility, report a loss of interest in sex. Even worse, these mood-related issues don’t always disappear immediately after a woman stops taking the pill. It can take months to regulate your hormones again after birth control. This is the type of information that good doctors should share with their patients before they begin taking birth control.
  1. The pill destroys your natural ability to choose a genetically compatible mate. Did you know that beneath the scent of soap, shampoo, or cologne, every man has a natural scent that helps women subconsciously sniff out genetic compatibility? Call it nature’s way of ensuring healthy offspring. In our logic-based, online-dating-obsessed world, many women forget that the process of mate selection is, on some levels, instinctual—and for good reason. From a scientific perspective, the more gene variability between two partners, the healthier their offspring will be. Even better, you don’t have to think about this process; nature takes care of it for you. In a study that asked women to sniff the sweat of male strangers, women expressed strong preferences for the body odor of men with major histocompatibility (MHC) genes that differed from their own. However, this was not the case for women who were taking hormonal contraceptives; women on the pill were unable to identify their genetically-compatible mates. What this means is that women on the pill are, in theory, not attracted to the odor of genetically-compatible strangers, nor are they repulsed by the odor of male family members. Other studies have shown that women on the pill choose less masculine, more feminine mates. These findings have led some scientists to question whether hormonal birth control is impacting the health of future generations. Could women who choose their mates while taking birth control—even if they ultimately stop the pill to conceive a child—have babies with more birth defects, more childhood disorders, lower rates of immunity, and higher susceptibility to illness? And if you don’t find your partners’ natural scent attractive—but you don’t find this out until years into the relationship when you’re ready to conceive a child and stop taking the pill—could that impact whether you feel attracted to your partner for the long haul?

Women on the pill were unable to identify their genetically-compatible mates… These findings have led some scientists to question whether hormonal birth control is impacting the health of future generations. Could women who choose their mates while taking birth control—even if they ultimately stop the pill to conceive a child—have babies with more birth defects, more childhood disorders, lower rates of immunity, and higher susceptibility to illness?

  1. The pill robs you of your most attractive time of the month: ovulation. As if birth control wasn’t complicating your dating life enough already! When a woman ovulates—that is, the 24-48 hours during which her body releases an egg each month—she becomes more attractive to men. Her face appears more symmetrical and more feminine, her voice sounds more appealing, her pupils dilate, her waist-to-hip ration becomes more attractive, and her vaginal secretions change in taste and scent. Because the pill stops ovulation, the pill robs you of this time. What woman doesn’t want to have a few extra days of the month where she looks and feels her very best? A well-known study of strippers found that au natural strippers made significantly more money overall than their pill-popping sisters ($53 per hour vs. $37 per hour on average) and made twice as much money while ovulating ($70 per hour).

The sad truth is that for some women, taking the pill will mask fertility issues that could have been addressed at a younger age—if only the woman was not taking the pill and knew she was having symptoms… Other women will experience “post-pill amenorrhea,” the term doctors use to describe a lack of periods for 6 months or longer after stopping the pill. Doctors theorize that post-pill amenorrhea is caused by hormonal suppression of the pituitary gland, but it’s not fully understood why some women experience post-pill amenorrhea.

  1. The pill may impact your future fertility. Did you know that birth control can impair your future fertility? Even well-intentioned organizations that genuinely want to empower women through birth control hide this fact from women. Why? Perhaps they are concerned that women will forego birth control altogether and suffer an unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps they underestimate the number of intelligent, ambitious women who will ultimately want children in the future—even if they don’t right now. Fortunately, there are safe, effective alternatives to hormonal contraceptives and it’s your right to know your options. The sad truth is that for some women, taking the pill will mask fertility issues that could have been addressed at a younger age—if only the woman was not taking the pill and knew she was having symptoms. Unfortunately, many woman stop taking the pill when they want to conceive a child, and by then, it’s sometimes too late to address these issues. While many women will go on to have healthy babies after taking the pill, other women will experience “post-pill amenorrhea,” the term doctors use to describe a lack of periods for 6 months or longer after stopping the pill. Doctors theorize that post-pill amenorrhea is caused by hormonal suppression of the pituitary gland, but it’s not fully understood why some women experience post-pill amenorrhea. The first line of treatment is simply to wait for a “spontaneous” resumption of the menstrual cycle; however, this is dangerous, impractical advice for a woman in her late twenties or early thirties who wants to conceive. For these women, treatment usually involves the fertility drug Clomid, which may or may not work. Here’s what your doctor won’t tell you about birth control: If there’s a chance you may want children in the next few years, stop taking the pill now, track and learn about your cycle, and use a non-hormonal method of birth control for the interim.

Make the choice to take charge of your health. If you have a woman in your life whom you love, please keep her safe by sharing this article with her. There are safe, convenient alternatives to hormonal birth control, from condoms to the Fertility Awareness Method. Before making a decision about birth control, research your options and know the risks.

 

 

How Can You Improve Your Brown Bag Lunches?

brownbagOne of the realities of modern life is that our environment is different today. We eat more meals away from home and, when we do, the options available are less nutritious than ever. Maintaining good health may require more focus today than it was a hundred years ago, but it’s just as important as it always has been.

If your schedule requires you to consistently eat meals away from home, packing your lunch can go a long way towards your health and your budget. Remember, brown bag lunches are not just convenient for work and school. Having healthy snacks on hand is important while traveling, hiking, spending a day at the beach, or any other time you’re away from home for an extended period of time.

Finally, if you’re not already spending the day outdoors, be sure to take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while you’re eating your brown bag lunch. Find a patch of grass or a park bench and take a few minutes to reconnect with nature while you eat. Breakfast typically gets all the credit, but a healthy, relaxed lunch can do wonders for physical and mental health.

Want to help the environment while you’re at it? Forego the brown bags and use a re-usable lunch bag.

Whether you’re packing your own lunch or packing lunch for a spouse or child, you will find a few ideas below for fresh and nutritious meals on the go that don’t involve processed deli meat.

Sandwiches and Salads On-The-Go:

PBandJ

1. PB & J: There’s a reason the peanut butter and jelly sandwich has been around for generations. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich prepared on whole grain bread is easy to make and requires no refrigerator. If you’re ever bored with peanut butter and jelly, try changing things up with a PB-and-banana sandwich. Spread both slices of bread with peanut butter and then layer pieces of a banana on top of one piece of bread. Place the other piece of bread on top and you’ve got a PB-and-banana sandwich.

tuna22. TUNA SALAD SANDWICH: If you want a meatier sandwich, replace your cold cuts, which are packed with nitrates, with canned tuna and organic mayonnaise. Be sure to look for a BPO-free can and don’t forget to add a few leaves of Romaine lettuce, or even sliced avocado. While tuna is arguably healthier than cold cuts, be sure to limit your tuna salad sandwiches to once or twice per week due to mercury content. If you’re looking for a way to spice up your tuna, try mixing in chopped celery, chopped apples, or even chopped raisins.

glasscontainers3. LEFTOVERS: You’ll need to invest in some glass to-go containers for this, but it’s worth it. Never let your dinner leftovers go to waste again. Instead of storing leftovers in one large container, use several smaller lunch-sized containers. Washable, glass to-go containers will last for years and are much more cost-effective for the long haul than disposable containers. On your way out the door, grab a container from the fridge and toss into your bag. You may be surprised to find that many leftovers taste delicious without re-heating.

salad4. GREEN SALAD: If you’re eating at your desk, a salad may be easier to make than it sounds. If you’re able to leave a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of balsamic vinegar on your desk at work, you can have a healthy salad every day. The key is to avoid soft, wet ingredients. The night before, prepare your salad as you usually would except without the dressing. Start with lettuce or spinach leaves, and then add protein (grilled chicken, beans, hard-boiled egg, chopped nuts), produce (sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots work well), and cheese. Top with equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar when you’re ready to eat.

choppedcaprese5. CAPRESE SALAD: Bored of green leafy salads? Try a caprese salad instead. In a glass to-go container, layer slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. (Feeling ambitious? Try growing your own basil plants.) For a change, add pieces of avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and store in the fridge. Just before you’re ready to eat, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Snacks and Sides On-The-Go:

redapple1. FRUIT: Never pack a lunch without fruit. Depending on the season, you have a variety of options: a banana (slightly green/firm is best to withstand the pressure of packed lunches), a washed organic apple, an easy-to-peel tangelo, a bunch of organic grapes, washed organic berries, or sliced seasonal fruit in a glass to-go container. For a heartier mid-morning snack on the go, pair with a carton of yogurt topped with nuts.

cashews2. NUTS OR TRAIL MIX: From almonds to cashews, nuts provide a convenient mid-day boost of nutrition and energy like no other snack. Keep a bag of raw nuts in your desk drawer. Or add raisins and organic (or homemade) granola to create your own trail mix. Check the package and avoid nuts that have been roasted in oils; instead, opt for raw nuts. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios tend to pack the most nutrients. As with any food, the key is variety.

stringcheese3. STRING CHEESE: While it may not be as fresh as the rest of these suggestions, the convenience of organic string cheese can’t be beat. In case you’re curious what makes string cheese stringy, you can watch a news segment on the process here. In short, when you heat mozzarella cheese above 140 degrees and then cool it down, it becomes stringy. Paired with fruit, string cheese makes a perfect mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Even better, string cheese is always a child-pleaser!

celeryandpb4. VEGGIES AND DIP: Spoon a dollop of homemade vegetable dip into a glass jar and top with standing veggies. Carrots and celery sliced lengthwise work well. Organic peanut butter and celery is another combination to try. You may have to experiment a bit with jars and glass containers to find the right size container for this, but it’s worth it. This treat is also a great kid-friendly snack for road trips, too.
5. HOMEMADE BREAD: A loaf of banana bread baked over the weekend can turn into a treat for lunches all week. By baking something — as opposed to buying it — you have already won half the battle.  Be sure to check out our tips for healthier baking here. If you’ve never experimented with whole wheat flour before, banana bread is the perfect opportunity.

Have I forgotten any healthy lunch options? Please let me know by leaving a comment below!

Mindful Eating: Why Should You Eat Slowly?

We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare.  In Aesop’s famous fable, a hare ridicules a slow-paced tortoise, who challenges him to a race.  The hare soon tires and decides to nap mid-race.  When he awakens, the tortoise has already won.  Scholars have debated the meaning of the fable and struggled to find applications for the moral that it is better to be slow.  Even if you move like a hare in your daily life — hurrying to work, hurrying home, crossing errands off your to-do list — one time you should aim to be sloth-like is mealtime.

An article published in the New York Times yesterday, “Mindful Eating As Food For Thought,” by Jeff Gordinier, discusses the merits of eating mindfully.   The article focuses in particular on mindful eating’s roots in Buddhist tradition, but the concept of mindful eating is a practice across many religions and cultures.  Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have rituals involving prayer before, and in some cases during, mealtime — that is, waiting for everyone to be present, and taking a moment to offer appreciation.

Gordinier notes that the practice of mindful eating — which involves moment-by-moment awareness of the senses while eating — has “begun to seep into a secular arena, from the Harvard School of Public Health to the California campus of Google.” According to some experts, Gordinier writes, “eating slowly and genuinely relishing each bite… could be the remedy for a fast-paced Paula Deen Nation in which an endless parade of new diets never seems to slow a stampede toward obesity.”

I have always enjoyed long meals.  As a child, I lingered at the kitchen table after the meal was over and everyone was gone, and kept my mother company while she did the dishes.  (Try as she might, there was no convincing my brother and I to do the dishes, so she settled for entertainment: I chattered about my school day while she washed pots and pans.)  Although I have been called a slow eater, I have not always been a mindful eater.  When I began paying more attention to health, I began paying more attention to my food, and I became a mindful eater.

Mindful eating is not just for your mind; there are physical benefits, too.  Why should you eat mindfully?

1. Your body cannot immediately tell you if you’re full.  It takes about twenty minutes for your body to accurately determine how full you are.  This is one reason humans are able to engage in timed all-you-can-eat competitions — the pain of being too full doesn’t set in until after the fact.  What this means is that those first twenty minutes of eating are a sort of free-for-all when it comes to tracking hunger, which is not necessarily a good thing for your waistline.  You may be able to eat less and feel just as satisfied, but you won’t know unless you eat slowly.

2. Highly-processed foods are chemically designed to taste good for only the first couple of chews.  If you eat slowly, you will get more satisfaction from healthy, natural foods, and less satisfaction from processed foods.  You might not realize the level of forethought that goes into designing the number of milliseconds that a certain flavor lasts (or doesn’t last) in your mouth, but manufacturers like PepsiCo, General Mills, Nestle, and Kraft are extremely familiar with these decisions.  They hire teams of flavorists whose goal is to make artificial flavors last just long enough that they register as tasty, but not so long that you don’t swallow immediately and take another bite — and another, and another.   An apple tastes like an apple whether you chew that bite three times or ten times.  Not so with a bag of Cheetohs.  A Cheetoh may taste salty for the first few crunches, but if you savor that Cheetoh, you’ll be rewarded with flavorless mush.  Eating slowly teaches you to genuinely prefer the taste of natural foods.

3. Chewing your food well aids the digestive process.  Digestion begins in your mouth — both chemically and mechanically — when enzymes in your saliva break down the food as you chew.  Since the taste and smell of food also sends alerts to your body in preparation for digestion, chewing gives your body time to prepare for the process by relaxing the appropriate muscles.  The longer you chew, the more easily the food will pass through your digestive tract, and the less work your stomach has to do after you swallow.  Not chewing your food well enough can lead to incomplete digestion, which can lead to bacterial overgrowth in the colon, gas, and other problems.  How much is enough chewing? If you can tell what kind of food you’re eating from the texture of the food in your mouth (not from the taste), then keep chewing.

4. Conscious relaxation — including during a meal — decreases stress.  You probably already know that your mind and body are deeply interconnected, but did you know that stress can make you fat?  The hormone cortisol, which is produced during times of stress, is thought to contribute to weight gain.  In fact, cortisol seems directly correlated to weight gain in the abdominal region.  The good news is that many studies have found that relaxation results in a decrease of cortisol.  If you share your meals with others, you will have more time to talk and enjoy their company — another benefit, since social interaction makes people happier.  Take a break from the fast pace of life, and eat mindfully to benefit both your mind and body.

Buying Seasonal Produce: A Guide

Yesterday, following my own advice, I picked up two fruits that I don’t routinely buy.  The first was a bag of bright orange, organic Minneolas.  My second purchase was an Asian pear, an apple-shaped, light brown fruit.

Minneolas are a cross between grapefruits and tangerines, and look like an orange with a protruding nipple.  I ate one of the Minneolas as soon as I got home.  The Minneolas had a delightfully overpowering orange scent, and the fruit tasted absolutely delicious — flavorful and sweet.  With its soft tangerine-like flesh, it was also much easier to peel than a typical orange.  At some point I realized I have eaten Minneolas before, known by their more common name: tangelos.  They are also sometimes called honeybells.

Today, I sliced open the Asian pear.  It was crisp and juicy, with a grainy Jicama-like texture. Unfortunately, the taste was flat and bland.  I ate an Asian pear for the first time a couple years ago, during an October visit with a friend.  You might think it strange that I remember, but that Asian pear was pretty incredible. (It was also quite the memorable visit with my friend, a vegetarian visiting the South for the first time.)  We had sliced an enormous Asian pear and some cheese as a snack, and the flavor of the pear had been AMAZING!  That October pear had been much larger than the current small pear, and incomparably more flavorful.

Some quick research on seasonal produce turned up information I wish I’d had at the grocery store.  Minneolas are hitting their seasonal spike right now. They’re a winter fruit with their highest peak in January.  (Fun fact: Minneolas tend to have plentiful seasons every other year, so buy them up this year or you may be waiting until 2014 for the same quality!)  Asian pears — not to be confused with traditional pears — are long past their seasonal prime.  Unlike their traditional cousins, Asian pears are a summer fruit.  I must have had the fortune of catching a late bloomer that October, though there’s little hope of an Asian pear like that during January in the heart of winter.

Buying locally-grown produce is not always easy, especially for someone who lives in the Midwest and loves tropical fruits, like mangos and strawberries. According to this fascinating interactive map from Epicurious, the “growing season” in my state is currently dormant.  While I appreciate the merits of locally-grown, I’m not about to forego fresh fruit due to a dormant growing season.  Now buying produce in season — wherever it’s grown — is something I can do.  Why buy produce in season?  For quality, taste, and price.  If only grocery stores labeled seasonal fruits and vegetables!

Since most grocery stores don’t label their seasonal produce, print out this list of seasonal produce and take it with you.  Although the seasonal produce may vary depending where you live, I have compiled the list below to get you started, thanks to help from the blog Wisebread and the information available at FruitsInfo.com.

  • WINTER PRODUCE: DECEMBER, JANUARY, FEBRUARY

Fruits: oranges (traditional and mandarin), grapefruits, tangelos, tangerines, lemons, papayas, pomegranates, bananas, kumquats, persimmons, pears (traditional)

Veggiessweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, leeks

  • SPRING PRODUCE: MARCH, APRIL, MAY

Fruits: pineapples, mangos, apricots (spring/summer), cherries (spring/summer), blueberries, nectarines, currants, figs

Veggies: lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, artichokes, rhubarb, asparagus, spring peas, okra

  • SUMMER PRODUCE: JUNE, JULY, AUGUST

Fruits: apricots (spring/summer, cherries (spring/summer), strawberries, blueberries, peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi, raspberries, plums, blackberries, honeydew, Asian pears (summer/fall)

Veggies: lettuce, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, eggplant

  • AUTUMN PRODUCE: SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER, NOVEMBER

Fruits: Asian pears (summer/fall), grapes, cranberries, apples, pomegranates, oranges, tangerines, traditional pears (fall/winter)

Veggies: lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, winter squash, mushrooms (fall/winter)

Do you have a suggestion to improve this list?  Or know of a more complete list available online?  Please leave a comment to share.

Happy produce picking!

Your Health Resolutions

The New Year brings hope that the impossible can be made possible. I love to ring in the New Year and to feel the special anticipation of the unknown.  I have always been a future-oriented person. I’m all for miracles and surprises, taking steps two-at-a-time, and accomplishing the impossible.

Your health is a unique puzzle filled with unexpected challenges and solutions.  In our lifetimes, most of us will face an unexpected health crisis.  While we can’t control the events that come into our lives, we can control the arsenal of tools we have compiled to fight these battles.  Investing in your health now will provide you with the best chance of overcoming your future health battles.

Motivation is a wonderful thing, and I hope the new year lights a fire of positive change under you.  If you’re making resolutions this year, I’d like to share a piece of diet advice with you that my mother shared with me years ago: Only commit to New Years resolutions you plan to maintain your whole life.

When it comes to health, the tortoise wins the race.  We all know fad diets don’t work.  So why do millions of Americans embrace them with zeal each January?  Why are gyms crowded in January and empty by March?  Why do so many people fail to continue their New Year’s resolutions past the first month?

To help you maintain and achieve your New Year’s resolutions, here are a few more tips:

  • Don’t commit to the impossible.  Do challenge yourself – but make small, do-able goals. Do record or keep track of your successes and improvements.
  • Don’t eliminate all your favorite foods this year.  Do commit to eating consciously.  Do commit to learning how to make your favorite dish from scratch.
  • Don’t tell yourself you have to be a gym rat.  Do commit to learning a new sport or physical activity — something that pushes you slightly out of your comfort zone.
  • Perhaps most important: Don’t eliminate a behavior or habit without a back-up plan. As they say, you can’t stop bad habits – but you can replace them.  Do replace bad habits with some other behavior.  When you feel the urge to go back to the habit you would like to stop, occupy yourself with the new habit.

When designing your new year’s resolutions, know yourself.  I love Gretchin Rubin’s quiz “Are you a moderator or an abstainer?” published on her blog, The Happiness Project.

My New Year’s resolution?  To incorporate 20 minutes of physical exercise into my life 3 days a week.  Years ago, I used to run half marathons, but in my current life, exercise has become almost nonexistent.  Since the winter in my city will make it difficult to exercise outside, I’m going to learn new indoor exercises such as hand weight routines and floor exercises.

Wishing you all the best for 2012 and your New Year’s resolutions!

Please leave a comment below to share your health resolutions for the New Year.