Glyphosate in Cheerios and Oatmeal Causes Cancer, ADHD, and Autism

My husband and I have begun joking that oatmeal is a “tantrum starter.” No matter how we doctor that oatmeal to make it more filling (adding nuts, coconut oil, organic butter, fruit, organic yogurt, pumpkin puree, etc.), our children seem to have more tantrums on the mornings they eat oatmeal. Even after nights of good sleep and mornings that start out well, it seems like oatmeal can ruin everything. They struggle to follow directions, dress themselves, and brush their teeth. Then I noticed that I get body aches after eating Trader Joe’s gluten-free oatmeal. All arrows point to the oatmeal but until recently, we laughed at the possibility – how could our innocent oatmeal be causing these problems? Hasn’t oatmeal been around for centuries? Have you noticed any of these side effects after eating cereal or oatmeal?

While ceral and oatmeal have been dietary staples for generations, a new pesticide in them is wreaking havoc: glyphosate.

Recently, I was at Trader Joe’s when I heard a mother with a cart full of three kids announce loudly, “Put back the cereal — it causes cancer!” Her children sulked as she browsed the breakfast cereals.

“Are you talking about an ingredient?” I asked her.

“No, I’m talking about glyphosate,” she told me. “My children have a friend – a little kid – dying of cancer right now. And their uncle, too. And now we know that the Cheerios they both ate every day for breakfast caused their cancer.” She shook her head, disgusted. “Cheerios! Using a chemical that causes cancer! Can you believe it? And it’s in all these cereals.” She waved at the boxes lining the aisle.

I had heard about this before: General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, allows its cereal to be saturated with glyphosate – the toxic chemical in Round Up – far beyond levels considered safe by any scientists. Since learning about glyphosate, I hadn’t allowed my children to eat conventional wheat products – but, busied by the demands of mothering and life, I hadn’t researched glyphosate in several years. Over time, we had replaced wheat with oats and other grains.

Then it occurred to me: Could there be glyphosate be in the gluten-free oatmeal I was serving my kids?

That night, I researched glyphosate. Here’s what I found:

–          The use of glyphosate has increased exponentially in the past several years. It’s no longer just in wheat; glyphosate is now used in oats, corn, soy, potatoes, beets, almonds, sunflower seeds, canola, lentils, peas, and most grains.

–          The United States allows levels of glyphosate significantly higher than other countries.

–          Exposure to glyphosate can actually cause symptoms that mimic celiac disease, explaining the unusual rise in Americans who are now gluten intolerant.

–          Glyphosate has been strongly correlated with attention disorders like ADHD, autism, thyroid and hormonal dysfunction, infertility, birth defects, colitis, depression, diabetes, ALS, MS, brain cancer, breast cancer, other cancers, and more.

–          Due to aerial drift during spraying, glyphosate is now contaminating many American crops, even organic.

Since glyphosate is strongly correlated with ADHD, autism, and depression, it seems reasonable that the current levels in breakfast cereals and oatmeal could, at a minimum, cause tantrums and inability to focus. Have you noticed that your children have more tantrums after consuming non-organic cereal, oatmeal, and other products made with wheat, corn, soy, and other ingredients treated with glyphosate?

At our house, we’re trying something new: Can we have a breakfast free of glyphosate every day?

Eating breakfast in America without consuming glyphosate is surprisingly hard to do, considering that even chickens scratching in glyphosate-soaked American soil are laying eggs that test positive for glyphosate. But we’re trying. We’re starting the day with organic fruit, organic veggies, probiotics from kombucha or yogurt from grassfed cows (not GMO glyphosate-laced feed), and/or sauteed vegetables served with eggs from chickens who have been pastured and fed organic non GMO feed (conventional animal feed contains glyphosate).

What about you? What’s your favorite glyphosate-free breakfast? 


NYT Article: Reports Find Controversial Herbicide in Cheerios and Quaker Oats

Article: Many Surprising Foods Found To Contain Monsanto’s Deadly Poison

Study: Glyphosate Causes Adverse Neurologic and Neurobehavioral Developmental Effects In Children Born to Applicators

Expert: Glyphosate Linked To Chronic Illness, Infertility, and Birth Defects

NYT Article: Safety of Weed Killer Is Doubted

NYT Article: Monsanto Sued Over Glyphosate

Top 70 Crops Sprayed With Glyphosate

Eco Watch: 15 Health Problems Linked To Monsanto Round Up

Growers Sound Alarm Over Aerial Drift of Glyphosate and GMO Concerns

How To Choose Healthy Fish

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. With so many fish to choose from, how can you be sure you’re making a healthy choice? This helpful infographic makes the choice simpler. 

How To Choose Healthy Fish

Via. Click here to view larger image. 

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

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

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

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

TIME Magazine| Ending The War On Fat

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

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

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.

American Foods Banned In Other Countries


A comprehensive and well-researched article from EatLocalGrown outlines some foods to avoid–if you live in the United States. These 10 foods are banned in other countries:

  • Genetically engineered papaya banned in the European Union
  • Ractopamine-tained meat banned in Europe, Russia, and China
  • Arsenic-laced chicken banned in Europe
  • Bread made with poisonous potassium bromide banned in Europe, China, and Canada
  • Fat imitation Olestra/Olean banned in the UK and Canada
  • Preservatives BHA and BHT banned in Europe and Japan
  • Milk made with rBGH banned in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and Canada

This list offers 10 more reasons to buy organic, buy wild, buy local, read ingredients, and ignore package claims (and do your own research to take charge of your health!) Learn more about the Wellness and Equality health model here.

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Worse Than Sugar?

Photo: When Mary Poppins sang about a spoonful of sugar in 1964, most Americans had never even heard of high fructose corn syrup.

A study funded by the Corn Refiners Association and published online at The Atlantic today suggests that “High Fructose Corn Syrup Is No Worse Than Real Sugar.”

To sum up the study: Overweight and obese men and women between the ages of 25 and 60 were split into five groups and provided diets with varying levels of sucrose or  high fructose corn syrup (HFCS): 10% sucrose, 20% sucrose, 10% HFCS, 20% of HFCS, or a diet designed to maintain weight. The sucrose or HFCS was consumed as liquid. All groups were required to exercise.

The study sidesteps the toughest criticism of HFCS — that, calories aside, it is linked to obesity in those who consume it — and instead asks a simpler, less-incriminating question: Does high fructose corn syrup cause more weight gain than sugar when participants are already overweight and are not allowed to act on cravings or consume additional calories?

While it’s true that a calorie is equal to any other calorie when analyzed as a mathematical measurement of energy,  where health becomes more nuanced is when we realize that calories from different sources have different effects on the body. In a clinical atmosphere, when you control a person’s caloric intake completely, it’s not always possible to see those effects. If a member of the study was fiendishly craving chocolate chip cookies but was instead provided with a plate of broccoli, the study authors are essentially ignoring the shift in hormones and chemicals that has taken place in that participant’s body.

Weight loss frustrates doctors because it should be simple: fewer calories in, more calories out.  Clearly, it’s not so simple. Many studies contradict this one. A Princeton study found that rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar. A simple analysis of data shows us the relationship between HFCS and obesity: “The consumption of HFCS increased more than 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group,” according to an article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. During those same years, the percentage of obese adults doubled.

Could it be that the exponential increase of drinking sugar is to blame for obesity and not the sugar itself? Absolutely. But this doesn’t mean that HFCS is not to blame — HFCS is perfectly suited to liquid sugar consumption. Parents who eliminate HFCS from their diets and the diets of their children go a long way toward decreasing liquid sugar intake as well.

I’m disappointed by The Atlantic‘s one-sided regurgitation of the study, which seems to come straight from the marketing department of the Corn Refiners Association. To conclude his analysis, James Hamblin writes, “There’s no reason you should pay more or go out of your way for a food just because it’s made with ‘real sugar’ instead of HFCS. Which, to be clear, is also real sugar.” Hamblin ignores the fact that, even if this study were absolutely true, it has nothing to do with those who maintain a healthy weight. It’s interesting that the study only recruited men and women who were already very overweight or obese, which Hamblin never acknowledges in his conclusion.

A quantum leap in logic is made when Hamblin suggests that Americans — almost 70% of whom are overweight or obese — should not seek out food made with ‘real’ ingredients when food made with HFCS is available. Hamblin’s bias — or the bias of those providing him information — is clear in his use of quotation marks. Health writers sometimes use quotation marks around the word “sugar” as shorthand for “imitation sugar” since there is currently no one word to describe the newer “sugar” imitations created by food giants. Quotation marks around the word “sugar” help to differentiate between newer “sugars” and the table sugar Americans have known for decades.  Instead, Hamblin uses quotation marks around the word “real” and the phrase “real sugar.”  Real sugar is real sugar, no quotations necessary. Hamblin seems to have it backwards. Back in 1997, even the Corn Refiners Association freely admitted that HFCS and sugar are different products “in terms of their physical and functional characteristics.”

I could suggest a more productive study in which the Corn Refiners Association monitors both people who are obese and people of healthy weights, allowing them to eat whatever they typically eat, and then measuring the amount of sucrose and HFCS consumed by each of the groups.  But those studies have been done and the results are clear. I could ask questions about this study to shed more light on its outcome. For example:  After the study, which group gained weight back the fastest?

Instead, here’s a more important study that you can do on your own:  Eliminate HFCS from your diet for 3 weeks.  Have a craving for a sweet snack while you’re out and about?  Swing by the grocery story and pick up some strawberries.  Have a craving for chocolate chip cookies? Bake a batch with real sugar and butter. Like pancake syrup? Try out 100% maple syrup. Read every ingredient on every package you consume — no high fructose corn syrup.

Then answer this: Have your cravings for sugar increased or decreased? Have you lost or gained weight? Overall, how do you feel?

Theory is one thing and practice is another. The Corn Refiners Association study is caught up in theory while casting a blind eye toward the very serious obesity epidemic and how the day-to-day choices that Americans must make every day affect their health.

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


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

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


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

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


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


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!

Sodium: The Scapegoat

Cardiologists and chefs don’t always agree, so Michael Fenster, who is both a professional chef and an interventional cardiologist, offers a unique perspective in his article, “Don’t Hold The Salt: Attempts to Curb Sodium Intake Are Misguided,” published today on The Atlantic website.

Fenster’s article will likely prove controversial.  For years, salt has been the scapegoat of the American diet.  The FDA’s blame of salt for high blood pressure is like finding a correlation between wearing skydiving gear and falling to one’s death in a skydiving accident.  Sure, most people who die while skydiving are wearing skydiving gear; however, the act of wearing skydiving gear does not cause death.  While salt is found in most processed foods at extraordinarly high levels, abundant research shows that salt is not the culprit.  Salt is merely one ingredient in the chemical cocktail of processed foods, and processed foods are the problem.

It is an undisputed fact that the majority of Americans’ salt intake comes from processed foods and pre-prepared foods (think: Kraft, General Mills, McDonalds, and any restaurant chains where food is uniform at every location, not restaurants with actual chefs), not from table salt or home-cooked meals.  Perhaps because the FDA is well-connected to food manufacturers, the administration has generally avoided suggesting that overweight Americans eat less processed foods (such a simple recommendation!).  Instead, the FDA recommends that Americans eat more fruits and vegetables (a stance that is less upsetting to their food manufacturing friends).  In the interest of your health, you should consider the FDA primarily an undercover ally of food manufacturers, with a side interest in American health.  Indeed, almost every head of the FDA comes from a background in food manufacturing, or is highly connected within that world.

To start, a little history on salt:

The mineral salt (NaCl) is Planet Earth’s oldest food seasoning.  For thousands of years, salt has been and continues to be the safest, most natural method of food preservation.  Across diverse populations, salt consumption is surprisingly consistent, though rates of disease vary.  Over the past 50 years, salt consumption by Americans has remained roughly the same — about 3.7 grams of sodium per day, on average — according to the results of a 2010 Harvard study.  The same study noted that the rates of high blood pressure and heart disease in America have increased over the past 20 years, which perplexed the researchers.  A 2009 study conducted by UC Davis professor David McCarron analyzed the urine samples of more than 19,000 people in 33 countries over a 24 year period and found that individuals averaged about 3.72 grams of sodium per day.  A 12 year study conducted in Switzerland turned up a similar number — 3.68 grams of sodium per day.

Salt is a requirement of animal life.  Sodium deficiency or low levels of salt in the bloodstream, also known as hyponatremia results in neurological symptoms and organ failure in humans.  A 2010 article by Robert Schrier, “Does Asymptomatic Hyponatremia Exist?”  published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nature Reviews Nephrology found that even mild — and often undiagnosed — hyponatremia is associated with increased risk of bone fracture and bone disease.  A study of patients being treated for hip fracture found that these patients had a 67-fold higher risk of showing low blood levels of sodium.  Do low levels of sodium in the blood cause bone disease then?  We don’t know the answer for sure, since an association does not guarantee a causal relationship.

What we do know is that the levels of sodium found in your blood probably have little to do with how much salt you consume.  This is good news!  With appropriate amounts of water, your body will largely regulate your blood sodium levels on its own.   Full-blown hyponatremia is not typically caused by a lack of consumption of sodium since the mineral is so abundant and our bodies are such sophisticated regulators; hyponatremia is more commonly the result of complications from other ailments.  Just as hyponatremia is not caused by undersalting your food (though it can be caused by drinking too much water — generally only a problem for athletes and formula-fed infants), hypernatremia (that is, too much sodium in your blood) is not caused by oversalting your food.  If you try to prove me wrong by drinking excessive amounts of seawater, you will more likely make yourself sick before succeeding.

If our bodies are built to regulate salt intake, why all the hype about salt?

Good question.

Here’s why the FDA has been allowed to get away with using salt as a scapegoat:  because of the association between blood sodium and high blood pressure.   Since high blood pressure is associated with increased mortality, the medical industry has long hunted for a culprit, and ultimately settled on salt and cholesteral.  The reason for such a conclusion is that some studies have found increased salt intake can increase blood pressure.  (This finding is not surprising since many high-salt diets are the result of a diet of highly-processed foods).  Since it’s generally accepted that people with low-to-normal blood pressure have lower mortality rates than those with high blood preassure, the assumption is that a reduction in salt, and therefore a decrease in blood pressure, will translate to a decrease in mortality.

Unfortunately, the transitive property doesn’t seem to apply here.  Just as you won’t save any lives by telling skydivers to stop wearing skydiving gear, recommending against salt is no solution to the American health crisis.  In fact, dietary salt reduction does not lower mortality rates, and might even increase mortality rates.  Consider the evidence: A 2011 analysis of randomized clinical trials published in the American Journal of Hypertension explored the link between dietary salt reduction and mortality rates and found “no strong evidence of any effect of salt reduction [on] morbidity… and also showed no strong evidence of benefit.”  According to the analysis, “Salt restriction increased the risk of all-cause mortality in those with heart failure.”

Fenster references one study that finds the highest mortality rates among people with the lowest levels of sodium intake, and another that shows the safest range of salt intake lies somewhere between 2.3 and 7 grams of sodium intake per day — well within the natural regulations of your tastebuds!  The FDA’s current recommendation is 2.3 grams per day for healthy young adults and 1.5 grams per day for blacks, those with health problems, and older adults.

One of the only studies ever to suggest a relationship between salt consumption and increased illness and death was the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which found rates of illness and death related to salt intake increased only among the overweight.  (The study used “personal recall,” not urine samples, to estimate salt intake.)  In other words, the study found that if you eat too much salt and you’re overweight, you have increased risk of illness and death as compared with those who are not overweight.  Again, to use our skydiving analogy: If you wear skydiving gear and you go skydiving, you are more likely than someone who does not go skydiving to die in a sky-diving related accident.  Common sense tells us that the gear is irrelevant to this equation.

By choosing one component of processed foods to vilify (in this case, salt), the FDA gives food manufacturers an escape route.  Lawmakers want to pass laws that seem to support health — but they don’t want to lose the backing of powerful corporations.  Blaming salt is an excellent compromise for lawmakers and food manufacturers.  If such regulations limiting sodium become law, food manufacturers can simply pump their products full of artificial flavors and additives that mimic the taste of salt, label these Frankenfoods as “low sodium,” and voila — problem solved!  Whereas chefs who use real ingredients — including the age-old and time-tested seasoning of salt — will have much more trouble abiding by such regulations.

Another win for food manufacturers, and one more step in the wrong direction for American health.

The bottom line on salt?  Leave your food prep to nature and to human beings — not machines and scientists — and you should be just fine.

Photo Courtesy: Leigh Beisch for Sunset.

7 Foods So Unsafe Farmers and Doctors Won’t Eat Them

When experts (in this case, farmers and doctors) were asked what foods they consider unsafe, the top 7 winners spanned multiple food groups (produce, dairy, meat) and were mostly healthy, fresh foods.   For many people, making your own spaghetti and pasta sauces, buying unprocessed meats and preparing them at home, avoiding processed foods with high fructose corn syrup, eating fresh fish once in a while, and filling up on fruits and veggies is a HUGE step in the right direction.  But if you’re already doing these things, how can you take your health further?  Read below to find out how you can upgrade the foods you already thought were healthy.


In 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA a toxic substance.  Both Canada and the European Union have banned its use in infant bottles. Out of concern for public health, Japan replaced much of its BPA with alternatives. The United States has yet to catch up.  Resins containing bisphenol A (BPA) coat the inside of almost all food and beverage cans in the United States. BPA is also used in the manufacturing of our plastics.  Because BPA is known to be estrogenic (this is nothing new — scientists discovered BPA’s effects on the estrous systems of mammals in the 1930s), it is especially harmful to unborn children, infants, and young children whose estrous systems are not fully formed.  Even very low doses of BPA have been linked to increased obesity, neurological damage, hormone changes, thyroid disruption, breast and prostate cancer, and at least one study linked BPA to heritable genetic changes (yikes!).  This isn’t your great-grandmother’s autumnal canning tradition.  Whenever possible, choose fresh tomatoes or those that have been “canned” in glass jars. 

Want to take action without spending a penny?  Despite federal support of BPA, several states and cities are outlawing BPA in some products on their own, including Oregon, Washington, New York, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, and Chicago (as of July 2011).  Write to your representative or senator and ask what they’re doing to support anti-BPA legislation.

If cows are naturally designed to graze on grass, why are they fed corn, grain, and soy?  (A) It’s cheaper.  (B) Cattle fed on grain, corn, and soy fatten for slaughter exponentially faster.  (Just like humans.)  (C)  You could make an argument that Monsanto — widely considered the world’s most evil corporation — had a hand in manipulating farmers into using this crazy diet for cattle;  Monsanto just so happens to have a monopoly on corn and soy seeds in America.

If you are a meat-eater, one of the best things you can do for yourself is pay attention to the quality of the meat you’re eating.  Environmentalists and animal-rights groups have long advocated for the improved diets and treatment of animals.  Whether you’re an animal lover or not, the diet and treatment of the animals you eat significantly impacts your health.  Meat from grass-fed cows is leaner, higher in healthy fats, lower in bad fats, and has significantly more vitamins and minerals.  A study by Cornell University found that grain-fed cattle have as much as 80% less of the strain of e. coli responsible for food-born illness as compared with their grain-fed counterparts.  Furthermore, the e. coli that grass-fed cattle do have is unlikely to survive human stomach acid.   Clearly, there is some magic in feeding animals the diets they were meant to eat.  Trust nature.  If you buy or eat beef, be sure it’s grass-fed.

Want to take action but spend less?   Go meat-free several days a week — but don’t replace the meat with soy products like tofu.  Instead, opt for legumes, or dark leafy greens .


If you haven’t had the luxury of tasting organic made-at-home popcorn, you are missing out!  Make it a treat.  Top those organic kernels with real butter and salt.  If you prefer, you can use olive oil, salt, and other seasonings.  I promise you: Real popcorn tastes better.  And no matter how much butter, olive oil, and salt you add at home, you cannot possibly match the levels of fat and salt in store-bought microwave popcorn.

Not only is corn one of the most common genetically engineered organisms in the American diet (it’s right up there with soy — always buy organic corn and soy!), the even larger problem with microwave popcorn comes down, once again, to the packaging.  The chemically-saturated lining of the bag leeches onto the popcorn during the microwave process, coating the kernels before they make their way to your mouth.  That chemical cocktail includes perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a compound linked to infertility.  There is no debate about the danger here.  Food manufacturers know PFOA is extremely dangerous and many have voluntarily promised to phase out its use out by 2015.  But do you really trust the replacement they will come up with?  If food manufacturers’ track records are any indication, it will be worse than PFOA.  Make your own popcorn with organic corn kernels, not just because it’s fun and it tastes better, but becuase it’s dangerous not to. 

Good news:  If you buy organic corn kernels, olive oil, and salt in bulk, this probably won’t cost you much more anyway! 


I hate advising people against conventional fresh fruits and vegetables!  My concern is that instead of buying the organic alternative, you might become discouraged and skip buying produce altogether.  Please don’t.  Potatoes are one of the least expensive vegetables you can buy and splurging on organic potatoes is a prudent use of your pennies.  They are also an excellent replacement for grains, pastas, and breads.  Overall, I believe the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables outweigh the known risks of exposure to pesticide residues, but knowledge is power and you should be armed with information before putting anything in your body.

Here’s the scary truth about potatoes: Remember how when you were little, in elementary school, you would stick tooth picks in a potato and the potato would grow thick, foot-long green roots?  Try that today with conventional potatoes, and the results will most likely be a feeble reproduction.  Our fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides are stronger than ever, and potatoes are exposed to many chemicals, multiple times, to be sure they don’t sprout those unseemly roots.  They consistently rank on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen.”  Recent USDA tests have found more than 35 pesticides in conventional potatoes, including a dozen known carcinogens.  Take the lead from potato farmers: they have separate plots of land where they grow potatoes for themselves and their families.  Grow your own or buy organic potatoes.

Want to take action by spending less?   Choose conventional sweet potatoes instead.


You are what you eat and farmed salmon are fat, due to a diet of genetically-modified “soy, poultry litter, hydrolyzed chicken feathers… [contaminated with] carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides (like DDT),” according to doctor David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany.  Another reason to avoid farmed salmon: A year ago, AquaBounty Companies was awaiting approval from the FDA to begin selling its genetically modified salmon whose growth hormone never turns off (see photo at left), and it appears the FDA has granted that approval.  However, since there are no laws in the United States requiring the labeling of genetically engineered food, consumers may never know whether their salmon has been engineered to grow 30 times faster than its natural rate.  We were the first generation of humans to consume genetically modified fruits and veggies, but AquaBounty’s salmon is/will be the first genetically engineered animal ever eaten by humans.  This raises enormous health concerns since most studies of GMOs suggest that the ill effects are more pronounced in the second and third generations of GMO-consumers, meaning we simply haven’t had time to conduct thorough studies yet on humans.  Don’t want to be the FDA’s guinea pig?  Always check the label to be sure you are purchasing wild-caught salmon. 

Want to take action by spending less?   Buy frozen instead of fresh.


Once the FDA finally allowed dairy farmers and manufacturers who didn’t use rBGH to label their milk in 2008 (of course, only if they included the FDA-written statement ‘no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-supplemented and non-rBST supplemented cows’), consumer demand for rBGH-free milk skyrocketed!  Even Walmart sells hormone-free milk now.  rBGH and rBST — growth hormones fed to cows in America — are banned in most industrialized countries.  I will spare you the stomach-churning details of rBGH-produced milk (the cows have higher incidences of infected udders due to the increased milk production… you connect the dots), but rest assured, you don’t want to be drinking it.  (Once you’ve dropped milk produced with synthetic hormones, give synthetic hormones the boot altogether and consider alternatives to your synthetic-hormone birth control pill.) If you can afford it, buy organic milk.  

Can’t afford organic milk?  At a minimum, be sure you are buying rBGH-free and rBGS-free milk.


Another food that makes the Dirty Dozen!  Apples, unfortunately, top the Dirty Dozen list at #1.  These aren’t your grandma’s apples; the amount of pesticides in and on apples is increasing like crazy.  Experts believe that the huge increase is due to manufacturers spraying them with chemicals after the harvest (as well as before and during) to improve their shelf life so they still have that shiny-fresh look weeks after you buy them.  And you thought apples were just pretty young things forever naturally?  Nope.  Guess that’s something Hollywood and conventional apples have in common.  Fortunately, like potatoes, apples are one of the more affordable fruits. Let’s rewrite the old adage:  Spend more money on organic apples today, and keep your doctor’s bills at bay. 

Can’t afford organic fruits and veggies?   Choose conventional fruits and veggies that are thought to have the least amount of pesticide.  Veggies like onions, asparagus, and broccoli face fewer threats from pests, which lead to fewer pesticides.  Avocados, pineapples, kiwis, mangos, eggplants, and some melons are thought to have less pesticides due to their thick skins. 

You can find the original list here.

The bottom line?  Food, on its own, is not the culprit.  The way that food is grown and packaged creates the problem.


The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis in public health. Americans are more ill than they have ever been in history. Recent studies predict that by 2020, more than 80 percent of American men and more than 70 percent of American women will be overweight or obese. Not only are Americans as a population more ill than they have ever been, but the neediest among us are suffering most of all.

The disparity in health among social classes is growing rapidly. The gap in premature death rates between the poorest and richest Americans has almost doubled since 1980.  This disparity begins in the womb — low socioeconomic status is strongly linked to low birthweight — and the disadvantages continue throughout life. In 2009, 600,000 of Chicago’s 3 million residents lived in urban neighborhoods with limited or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Fortunately, new studies are pulling back the curtain on food deserts, and challenging the old assumption that poor people choose unhealthy food voluntarily.  In reality, they often do not have access to healthier options. In America today, the best predictor of health is social class.

Food is one part of the health equation, but it is only one part. Wellness is about more than diet and exercise. It’s about our daily patterns and activities. It’s about exposure to toxins and chemicals. It’s about education, and awareness.

WELLNESS & EQUALITY is a progressive health blog.  Health, at it’s core, is simple. Our modern world, however, is complex; simple, natural living has become nearly impossible without thoughtful effort. The goals of this blog are to bring awareness to contemporary health concerns, including health-related inequalities, and to encourage a conversation about how we can alter the fate of millions of Americans — including ourselves.