Please read George Lopez’s review of Michael Pollan’s lecture last night which I had the privilege of attending.  George Lopez is the Executive Director of Solar and Wind Living - home of the Solar  and Wind Expo. I know this is a food blog, but food and energy intersect more than we realize and that is something I hope to be expounding upon in the coming year.

Last night Elvia Thompson of Annapolis Green, Sharon New of Local Food Beat and I had the pleasure of attending the Baltimore Speakers Series hear Michael Pollan, the renowned and extremely popular food expert. He spent over an hour describing what is wrong with our food choices at the market in a way that only Pollan can. Afterward he answered questions from the audience. What a great speaker.

After being introduced, Mr. Pollan came out of the side entrance with about eight plastic bags full of (you guessed it) groceries; it was great showmanship. He had earlier in the day visited a local supermarket (I think he said it was Safeway — not that it matters since they are all mostly the same). He reached in the bags and proceeded to bring out boxes of processed this and processed that. He described in detail why each one of these products was sold and packaged as it was. He explained that the food industry has taken the wholesome goodness that Grandma used to make and transformed it into some unrecognizable thing while telling you that it’s good for you. When the food industry claims it has removed something conspicuously dubbed harmful for you (like sodium or saturated fat), it neglects to mention what it put in to replace it – often even worse for your health.

Now I realize that this is not a food website and we are mostly here for energy news, but something about the food industry resembles the energy industry so bear with me while I make this point.

Vegetables, fruit and animals are out there just going through life not bothering anyone, not telling you how much or what to eat. Grandma used to be the one in charge of this duty. But times have changed.

Now the food industry with its money, lobbyists and studies they commission, is attacking the food that Grandma used to give you. It makes claims that new processed food is better, cheaper and oh so convenient. The average shopper sees this and is sucked in. Plain and simple, the cards are stacked against the food consumer.

Along comes Uncle Sam, and he is wearing some bling-bling that he just got from the industry. So Uncle Sam, in his infinite wisdom, says that to feed more people we must subsidize many of the products the industry uses to make processed foods. This includes the ubiquitous corn and soy. Now the good foods (plain old meats, fruit and vegetables) are more expensive than the bad, processed foods on the shelves so the less fortunate are more prone to buying bad foods. One great example was a package of instant mashed potatoes that claimed that is was made with real potaoes. What could possibly be in that package? A little bit of potato and 37, yes 37, other, unpronounceable, ingredients. Buying a couple of good old russets from Idaho would be a lot cheaper. And your tax dollars go to this harmful cycle. Sound familiar? Oil and coal.

Now our government feels it needs to tax the bad foods to help curb their consumption because they are making us fat and unhealthy. An example is taxing sodas – which are made mainly of high fructose corn syrup. This to me sounds like insanity. Why would you tax something that you are already subsidizing? Why not just take away those subsidies? This way you take away money that can be used elsewhere, you curb consumption and you punish the offender.

Mr. Pollan made this great point last night and is the reason that I am writing about this. We have come to the fork in the road – in the food road and in the energy road. One road goes off a cliff and the other begins to restore order. If we do not repair and begin to reverse the effects of greed by industries such as food, coal, oil (and banks too, as long as we are on this) we’ll go off that cliff. Some might say we’re already dangling on the edge.

These industries need to be regulated by the people who consume the stuff: us. Political leaders are not doing the job and it’s up to us to make the changes necessary to restore sanity to our food system. The argument that we should be educated enough to make the right choice is no longer valid when industry marketing makes really difficult to stick to plain old good food at the market anymore.

So here’s the energy connection. Subsidizing dirty energy is as harmful as subsidizing food used to make unhealthy products. We should not be dealing with the environmental issues of the Keystone pipeline or the Gulf oil spill. We should instead be focusing on renewable energy. All of us, regardless of our political affiliation, should make our displeasure known in Washington.

Your political party or tendency to swing left or right has nothing to do with good healthy foods, clean and renewable energy. Politicians, fueled by wealthy supporters, have hijacked the discourse by making everything political.

If we take that fork in the road we are going to end up with something that we just may not recognize. Our grandparents had it right. Home cooked meals and electric cars! Now that’s freedom.

George Lopez

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 I read two things this past week that I thought were important enough to pass on.  First,  something I failed to write about in my post regarding fluoride  was why – if research confirms the dangers of fluoride – why do most American cities still have it in their water?  Well, my friend at National Fork also wrote a thorough article on flouride and I thought answered this question beautifully.  ”Unfortunately, while there are healthier ways to strengthen teeth, there may not be more profitable ways, at least not from the perspective of the chemical industry.  Fluoride chemicals are well-known bi-products of various industrial processes, including the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers.  The fertilizer industry is an outgrowth of the WWII chemical industry of the 1940′s, and disposal of fluoride waste chemicals has been a problem for these industries from the beginning.  Disposing of them in the drinking water, and convincing the population that the chemicals are “good for you,” may be less expensive than treating them to make them safe.  Don’t expect the media to alert people to the dangers of fluoride.  Large industry draws large profits from the disposal of fluoride chemicals via the drinking water.“  To read the full post, please go here.

The second item that really caught my attention this week was Cheeseslave’s post on the benefits of magnesium and now that she has been supplementing with adequate amounts of magnesium, she has found that she doesn’t need deodorant.  Please read her How I Quit Using Deodorant and What’s Wrong with Deodorant.  Further, post on Are You Suffering from Magnesium Deficiency really got me to thinking about minerals in general  in which I may be deficient.  I know, add it to the list for things to do in 2012!

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Did you know that most of the developed world including China, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Hungary, Japan and 97% of Western Europe has chosen fluoride-free water?  I personally use a fluoride-free toothpaste and at my  recent dental cleaning I received a very patronizing and disapproving look from my dental hygienist when I told her I didn’t believe in fluoride and I wanted a fluoride-free rinse.  She didn’t say a word when she informed me that not only did I not have any cavities, I didn’t even have any “watch-spots” and had barely any plaque.  And I had not had a professional cleaning in nearly eight months!  I did have an opportunity at that point to talk to my dentist about the benefits of a nutrient-dense/real food diet on teeth and gum health.  CDC studies show that 41% of teens may be experiencing fluoride overdose which can lead to permament health effects…most notably thyroid disease.  Those of you who have taken my Thyroid/Adrenal Education Class will already know the role that fluoride (and chlorine/chloride- also in the water) play in displacing iodine.  We need adequate amounts of iodine for proper thyroid health.  In fact, it has been estimated that total fluoride exposure in fluoridated communities may range from 1.6 to 6.6 mg/day.  To put this in proper perspective, a 1958 clinical study (yes, the evidence has been around that long) showed that with just 2.3 – 4.5 mg/day of fluoride, thyroid function was decreased (hypothyroid).  Is it no wonder then that Synthroid (a synthetic thyroid hormone) is the second most prescribed drug in America? 

To read more about all the possible sources of fluoride in your environment and diet, please read Cheeseslave’s Top Ten Dangers of Fluoride.  You can also print out the following flyer to take to your dentist and/or hand out to friends and families on the dangers of fluoride.

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Yesterday, Tuesday, November 15, 2011, the final version of  The Spending Bill was released and contained almost a complete reversal of what the USDA proposed earlier this year for new nutritional guidelines for school lunches.  Which means pizza is now a vegetable (think tomato paste). 

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Now I could care less what the USDA new “standards” for school lunches are because no matter what they propose, they are still going to be nutritionally deficient for growing children and continue to contribute to the increase of Type II diabetes in children.  In fact,  the primary mandate for USDA is to increase demand for US commodity agricultural products – it’s as simple as that.  The new “Dietary Guidelines” are a promotional tool and the new Choose My Plate “food pyramid” is nothing more than the results of congressional lobbying by the cheap grain and cereal-based food companies.  Case in point:   American Frozen Food Institute spent over $5 million convincing Congress to protect their $11 billion annual school lunch profits – and why frozen pizza is now a veggie.  As you know, this is the kind of corporate crony influence that thousands of Americans are protesting.  And so am I.  “Agribusiness is concentrated to a point that would make a Wall Street master of the universe blush,” Tom Philpott wrote in a recent article.

 The USDA doesn’t’ really want us to “eat less and move more.” They want us to “eat more and buy more.”

So chances are if you are a reader of this blog, you know that no amount of new guidelines the USDA puts forth will ever begin to address the real nutritional needs of our school children.   But I for one think it’s time to let Congress know that undo influence by corporate lobbying MUST END – no matter what the arena.

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Because I do advocate eating animal fats (and lots of them), I am often asked what I think about a plant-based diet alone.  I am not an advocate of a solely plant-based diet because I think we were made to consume meat.  The one caveat to that is I want the animal I eat to be allowed to be in its biological distinctiveness; i.e., a cow on a grass, a chicken grazing outdoors, a pig in oak trees.  My personal conviction is that I don’t eat meat from an animal whose biolology has been manipulated for profits. For example:  A confined chicken kept in light 24/7 so they continue to lay eggs or a dairy cow that is fed hormones so it can be milked 600 days straight and then die.  I want no part of that. But there are (now) hundreds of farmers who are committed to raising animals on pasture (grass fed), feeding them a diet that is appropriate to their kind, and killed humanely – and that is the kind of meat and dairy products I consume and purchase.

I am often asked a lot about the book The China Study in which the author, T. Colin Campbell, states: ”Eating foods that contain any cholesterol above 0 mg is unhealthy.”  If you know anything about brains and neurons, you should find that statement downright frightening.   Our brains are 25% cholesterol and 60% fat and our nervous system depends upon fat and cholesterol.  In fact, we can’t even make Vitamin D (which is a steroid hormone as well as a vitamin) nor can we make our sex hormones unless we have cholesterol.  (To read more about how cholesterol and your hormones and adrenal system all work together, read this .) 

In fact, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at 52,087 individuals between the ages of 20 and 74. After adjusting for factors like age, smoking and blood pressure, researchers found women with high cholesterol (more than 270 mg/dl) had a 28 percent lower mortality risk than women with low cholesterol (under 193 mg/dl). Risk for heart disease, cardiac arrest and stroke also declined as cholesterol levels rose.

Further, Researchers at Louisiana State University found that eating eggs for breakfast resulted in greater weight loss and better energy levels than eating two bagels, even though the number of calories was about the same.  And one more:  A prospective study from Australia, which looked at adults over a period of fifteen years, found that people who ate the most full-fat dairy products had a 69 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death than those who ate the least . 

So eat your butter. It will make you happy!

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George Lopez, the Executive Director of the Solar & Wind Expo blogged today regarding the interchange of energy and food.  He also mentioned Local Food Beat and I thought I would share his blog with my readers.

This was an interesting weekend because instead of focusing on energy I spent the weekend learning about food. Sharon New, a good friend of mine who runs the website Local Food Beat and is extremely knowledgeable about food, was kind enough to give me an enlightening lesson regarding healthy foods which was then followed by a hands-on tour of Whole Foods in Annapolis. The experience was an eye opener.

Part of the lesson included excerpts from Kevin Brown’s book The Liberation Diet. It was interesting to learn that Crisco was once a waste product of the cotton industry originally meant for use in the fabrication of candles by Procter & Gamble, but was then repackaged for the food industry when electricity and the light bulb became the norm. In his book,  Brown writes “You have to take an industrial waste product, or by-product or trash, something very worthless or inexpensive, call it a health food, put it in a nice package, and then attack the competition relentlessly. That’s the formula.”

I also had a chance to view these two documentaries, “King Corn” and “The Future of Food.” These fine productions demonstrate the stuff that is going on in the food industry. See these films and you will think twice about the foods that you put in your mouth.  (Local Food Beat:  View  a 24 minute video on Confined Area Feeding Operations of CAFO’s here.  It is also a link this homepage.)

This got me thinking about the energy industry. The packaging of by-products such as Crisco and other hydrogenated vegetable oils, or should we say corn oil, are very similar to what has been happening in the energy industry. How many by-products come from the oil and coal industry? Styrofoam comes to mind and plastics are a menace to our world; we all know that, but it is continuously packaged as a life enhancing product. Fleece for example is what happens to recycled water bottles after you discard them and I say discard instead of recycle because when we are done wearing fleece we throw it away and the cycle ends. Remember glass bottles, they were recycled forever. The list of oil by-products is long.

We as a society must take the necessary steps to reverse the course we have allowed our industries and government to take. Their strategy has been not to worry about the human cost, but to maximize profits. This has put all of us in a bad place –  we have become obese and unhealthy.  And if things get worse as they’ve been trending, where will we be in twenty years?

Every day we get closer to the point where we will have to grow our own food again and, fortunately, thanks to some forward looking job creators, we can now make our own energy. If we act together now we can make a better and healthier future.

The Solar & Wind Expo exists to make green a reality by matching home and business owners with producers, financiers, and top experts in the field of green and renewable technologies.  The next Expo is in Massachusetts November 4 – 6 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center located just west of Boston.

 

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Dear Local Food Beat Readers:  I am re-posting a wonderful blog by http://www.nationalfork.com/ on GMO’s. Be sure to subscribe so you can read any new posts/blogs.  And if you want to be proactive regarding GMO’s in our food, be sure to join Millions Against Monsanto  (or join them on Facebook).   Finally, I wrote about the possible long-term health effects of GMO’s here (Do You Value Your Liver and Kidneys?)

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What are genetically engineered (GE) foods, also called genetically modified organisms (GMO)?  They are species of animals or plants that have their DNA altered by laboratory processes in order to bring about desired characteristics like immunity to an insecticide or pesticide or ability to grow in certain climates.

What’s the problem, you ask?  It’s a really big problem for all things that eat.

The primary problem is that we don’t know what the effects of DNA alteration might be.  Beyond the desired trait, altering even a minute portion of a strand of DNA can have unanticipated consequences for the organism and its nutritional properties.  As an example, DNA alteration may cause organisms to manufacture toxic substances that render the previously nourishing food unhealthy.  We may lack the technology to detect such short-term or long-term changes or the effects that they may have.

 Science has conducted little real research on the safety of GMO foods, however, even if it had conducted thorough studies that prove GMO’s to be safe, such results would not be trustworthy.  Science is constantly evolving.  Science has a poor record of drawing correct conclusions on the first attempt.  Furthermore, modern science tends to be guided by the interests of industry–in this case the food industry.  Scientific conclusions claiming that GMO foods are safe are suspect at best.

 As we’ve discussed, our only reliable guide to foods that are nourishing is tradition–that collection of customs and habits that have been passed down through millenia or centuries and that have sustained countless generations of healthy people.  Obviously, alteration of the DNA of our food is foreign to any such tradition, therefore, we have to reject it.

 Monsanto Company is the corporation most directly responsible for development of GMO technology, and it has a large amount of control of our government’s activity in this area.  As a result, the federal government has given a green light to the introduction of GMO foods into our food supply, claiming that such foods require no regulation because they are substantially similar to non-GMO food. Furthermore, the existence of GMO ingredients in the foods that you consume need not be disclosed on food labels, making it extremely difficult for most consumers to avoid them. Nearly all processed foods in modern supermarkets contain ingredients that are GMO.

Putting the immediate health of individuals aside, the danger of GMO foods is the harm they might cause to the ecosystem.  Crop immunity to pesticides and herbicides leads farmers to release much more of such chemicals into the environment and into our food.  Furthermore, and most importantly, once GMO foods are introduced into the environment, the altered DNA will unavoidably and irreversibly propagate and become self-sustaining, even intermixing with non-GMO species.  The altered DNA is impossible to contain.  As examples, it is known that GMO salmon have escaped into the wild and have polluted wild salmon stocks, and pollan from GMO crops have polluted entire fields of non-GMO crops.

The Institute for Responsible Technology is an organization dedicated to educating people on the dangers of GMO technology and arming them with the knowledge to avoid GMO foods in their daily lives.  Click here to watch a very short video featuring Jeffrey Smith highlighting some of the issues surrounding GMO foods.  Mr. Smith is the head of the Institute for Responsible Technology and the author of the compelling book on GMO foods, Seeds of Deception.1

GMO technology is frightening, not only because GMO food may have damaging and immediate health consequences, not only because it lures farmers into releasing more chemicals into the environment, but because, unless stopped, it will eliminate the entire world’s food supply as we know it.  With time, all living things, including humans, will become to some extent genetically altered, including everything on which we depend for nourishment.  In the end, all living things that nature took a billion years to design will be replaced by a collection of manmade laboratory inventions.

Such is not a world in which I could live.

1  Seeds of Deception:  Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating, by Jeffrey M. Smith (2003).

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting Sara Edwards.  She and her mother came up to get a sample of zucchini patties at the Cooking Demo I was doing a few weeks ago and – well, we got to talking all about local food – in Spain.  Sara, a 20 year old senior studying Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Maryland (College Park) had just returned from a backpacking adventure in Spain where she lived with a family on their organic, sustainable farm in El Pardal.  I asked Sara to write about her thoughts on the importance of sustainable living and why eating local, healthful food is so important.  Below are her wonderful words of wisdom (emphasis are mine).

My desires for studying in Spain for a semester came from a variety of passions: to learn another language, soak up the culture and cuisine, and to experience what it would be like to become immersed in a truly sustainable lifestyle. The international non-profit organization known as WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) helped me pursue all of these goals by linking me with a small farm in the Sierra Mountains of Cazorla, Spain called El Pardal. The only tricky part was actually getting there…

 After hiking six long hours through the Sierras beautiful wilderness preserve, I finally arrived at my sustainable oasis for the next three weeks.  A warm welcome from the fellow WWOOFers, who were from every corner of the world, gave me a great sense of relief. And luckily, in accordance with my growling stomach, it was dinner time at the farm.  The menu for tonight was simple, local, and delicious– real food.  Following a quick blessing to remind us to respect where our food came from, I dove into the freshly picked wild herb salad, homemade bread and mayonnaise, along with asparagus from the garden.  Not only was eating fresh organic food from the farm a rewarding feeling, but after a few weeks I also began to look visibly healthier.  My time spent WWOOFing at El Pardal taught me that what you put into your body does truly make a difference.  How you feel, how you sleep, and how you look is dependent on what you fuel your body with.

Daily routine at the farm consisted of milking the goats, making yogurt, caring for the garden, collecting eggs, and other chores. Though this simple life has its routines, never did my daily tasks feel tedious.  Without commodities like a fridge, toilet, or even paper, my perception of what really is a ´need´ was challenged and changed.  The relationships I built over my three weeks at El Pardal, with the people, animals, and earth, gave me a new found appreciation for our fragile environment and the importance of the food we grow from it.

Sara is currently an Outdoor Trip Leader and Sustainability Intern, hoping to continue working with environmental issues after graduating next spring.  Email Sara at sedwards@umd.edu if you have any more questions about her adventures or about WWOOF.  Sara – courageous women like you give me hope for the future!!

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Last Wednesday, I was invited to attend the last of the Fresh Thoughts Sustainable Seafood Dining Series Dinners  at the National Aquarium in Washington DC featuring Chef Xavier DeShayes of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and Chef Susan Delbert of the National Press Club.  It was an outstanding evening of good food, conversation and education about the importance of eating legally caught (and local) seafood.  The hors d’ouevres included a raw oyster bar and clams and unbelievable local mini blue crab cakes made by Chef Delbert (I had way too many of those!).  The main course was, of course, Rockfish (line caught) with a local squash ratatouille.    The dessert….well, a picture is worth a thousand words on this.  We, as individual consumers, can support sustainable seafood choices which can make a difference in the fish populations and the overall health of our oceans.   One specific item we can do is to be able to spot when we think a restaurant may be serving illegal Rockfish.  Legally caught Rockfish will have tags and (most) chefs will usually retain the tags.  If they don’t have them it doesn’t mean they are illegal, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if only to raise awareness to the restaurant that at least one customer is aware and wanting to eat only legally caught Rockfish.  And remember the old adage if it’s too good to be true?  Well, it definitely applies to Rockfish prices.  If the price on that menu is the cheapest you’ve ever seen, watch out…it most likely will be illegally caught.  For more information on what other seafood should NOT be served, go here.  Visit www.seafoodwatch.org to obtain a  list of sensible seafood choices.  I keep a pocket shopping guide with me and often refer to it at restaurants if I’m not sure whether I should order the fish special or not.  As for local choices:  Two Oceans (Alaskan wild caught salmon, Rockfish); the Annapolis Seafood Market where you can purchase fresh and local caught Rockfish and crabmeat; contact victoryag.org Choptank Sweets or Circle C Oyster Ranchers Association for oysters; sustainably raised shrimp  visit Marvesta Farms Finally,

don’t forget about my Local Food Beat’s Local Food Resource List which lists a few more local seafood options.

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 Join The Power of Fitness  on Saturday, May 7th for a wellness and fitness event extravaganza to include, Zumba, kickboxing, yoga, free blood pressure readings, jewelry/art, chair massage, and food vendors will be offering fantastic food including vegetarian and gluten-free items.  Plus Local Food Beat will be there discussing the benefits of coconut oil!  This wonderful day of pampering is only $40 per person, or 2 for $70. Tickets available on  www.thepoweroffitness.com.  For questions, please call 410-573-9393. Severna Park Community Center, 623 Baltimore – Annapolis Blvd.  9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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