Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

My Mom Made Me Fat

If it hadn’t been for the Big Macs that Joannie ate three times a week, she wouldn’t have gotten fat. But, if she hadn’t been exposed while in her mother’s womb to chemicals x, y and z, Joannie wouldn’t have had the propensity to get fat. And if Joannie’s mom had eaten more sensibly, both waistlines would be slimmer.First Lady Michelle Obama has, admirably, put her weight pun intended behind a campaign against obesity. But it’s a mistake to limit the remedy to better food and more exercise. Fat people most likely are programmed to become fat before taking their first sip of milk. The manmade chemicals we encounter every day are responsible for this reprogramming.Two of three U.S. adults are now classified as overweight. Type II diabetes has increased in like measure over the same decades, and so has heart disease. This is not a coincidence. These illnesses share common characteristics: they are triggered while in the womb by exposure to the same kinds of chemicals and the outcomes show up in adulthood. Scientists now call this pattern “the fetal origins of adult diseases.”The most likely culprits are chemicals now grouped together under the rubric “endocrine disrupters.” It’s been known for about two decades, though disputed by the manufacturers, that these chemicals alter the normal signaling pathways of hormones. They knock normal development off track. Bisphenol A BPA is right now the nation’s most celebrated endocrine disruptor.Pesticides are often endocrine disruptors. It’s just been discovered that a family of pesticides that’s among the most widely used in the world is connected to the three adult illnesses of obesity, Type II diabetes and heart disease. This is the family of organophosphates, concocted from petroleum with an addition of phosphoric acid.

When lab rats are exposed to these pesticides through the mothers’ diet, at a time in their development equivalent to a human baby’s second trimester in the womb, their metabolism changes in two ways: their cholesterol and triglycerides rise. These abnormal and lasting changes are exactly the major factors that predict and lead, later in life, to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular heart disease (specifically, atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty material collects along the arteries and hardens artery walls).

These changes in metabolism happen at low levels, within the levels we are uniformly exposed to, which the Environmental Protection Agency declares as “safe” but are evidently not.  The changes are the strongest when the mother rats are fed a high-fat diet.  Human babies may even be underweight at birth (and there’s an epidemic of underweight babies in the U.S.), but quickly become overweight

Humans run into these pesticides in our food and water.  Of course, children continue to be exposed once they are born and are in fact exposed more than adults because they eat and drink more in relation to their body weight and have a higher ratio of skin. The other groups of people exposed most to organophosphates and other pesticides are the same groups with the highest rates of obesity – people who live in run-down inner-city neighborhoods, the poor, and farmworkers.  Again, not a coincidence but a connection, a trigger.

Dr. Ted Slotkin of Duke University, the researcher responsible for these discoveries, found another compelling clue: exposure caused harm to the rodent’s brain, as well as its metabolism.  Once the exposed lab animal was born and started to eat at will, its consumption of a high-fat diet reduced the adverse symptoms in its brain.  As Dr. Slotkin muses, “If you’ve got neurofunctional deficits, and they can be offset by continually eating Big Macs, then you will naturally (but unconsciously) select that kind of food because it will make you feel better.”  Unfortunately, increased fat will further harm the animal’s, or human’s, metabolism.

What this means for you? Particularly while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, while nursing, and for your children: avoid pesticides, eat organic foods.

For information about endocrine disruptors, read the new booklet published by the nonprofit Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative.

via My Mom Made Me Fat | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda

I don’t mean to sound seditious here, but I have a very rebellious plan to combat the ills that many corporations are perpetrating in the name of fighting grime and germs. We’ll call it Operation Baking Soda.

My main gripe is about the environmental pollutants from cleaning agents and personal care products that we are washing down our drains and in to our water systems, resulting in situations like the chemical triclosan (a pesticide added to many products as an antibacterial agent) being found in dolphins.

So the simple plan is to encourage everyone to use baking soda in any of these 51 applications. Besides showing kindness to aquatic life, we can also protect ourselves from the array of toxins in household cleaning products. Conventional cleansers can expose us to multiple chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, and other documented health problems.

Baking soda also makes a perfect stand-in for many personal care products, which are adding their own twist to the toxic tangle of pollutants and personal health (mainly in the form of synthetic fragrance (and it’s almost all synthetic), sodium laurel sulfate, and parabens).

So exactly how does baking soda fit into my scheme to make the world a better place? Baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate,  helps regulate pH—keeping a substance neither too acidic nor too alkaline. When baking soda comes in contact with either an acidic or an alkaline substance, it’s natural effect is to neutralize that pH. Beyond that, baking soda has the ability to resist further changes in the pH balance, known as buffering. This dual capability of neutralizing and buffering allows baking soda to do things like neutralize acidic odors (like in the refrigerator) as well as maintain neutral pH (like in your laundry water, which helps boost your detergent’s power). It’s a simple reaction, but one that has far-reaching effects for a number of cleaning and deodorizing tasks. And so without further ado, I’ll remove my scientist cap, put on my rebellious housekeeper’s cap, and get this folk-wisdom revolution rolling…

Personal Care
Make Toothpaste
A paste made from baking soda and a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution can be used as an alternative to commercial non-fluoride toothpastes. (Or here’s a formula for a minty version.) You can also just dip your toothbrush with toothpaste into baking soda for an extra boost.

Freshen Your Mouth
Put one teaspoon in half a glass of water, swish, spit and rinse. Odors are neutralized, not just covered up.

Soak Oral Appliance
Soak oral appliances, like retainers, mouthpieces, and dentures in a solution of 2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in a glass or small bowl of warm water. The baking soda loosens food particles and neutralizes odors to keep appliances fresh. You can also brush appliances clean using baking soda.

Use as a Facial Scrub and Body Exfoliant
Give yourself an invigorating facial and body scrub. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub in a gentle circular motion to exfoliate the skin. Rinse clean. This is gentle enough for daily use. (For a stronger exfoliant, try one of these great 5 Homemade Sugar Scrubs.)

Skip Harsh Deodorant
Pat baking soda onto your underarms to neutralize body odor.

Use as an Antacid
Baking soda is a safe and effective antacid to relieve heartburn, sour stomach and/or acid indigestion. Refer to baking soda package for instructions.

Treat Insect Bites & Itchy Skin
For insect bites, make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply as a salve onto affected skin. To ease the itch, shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it into damp skin after bath or shower. For specific tips on bee stings, see Bee Stings: Prevention and Treatment.

Make a Hand Cleanser and Softener
Skip harsh soaps and gently scrub away ground-in dirt and neutralize odors on hands with a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, or 3 parts baking soda to gentle liquid hand soap. Then rinse clean. You can try this honey and cornmeal scrub for hands too.

Help Your Hair
Vinegar is amazing for your hair, but baking soda has its place in the shower too. Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda into your palm along with your favorite shampoo. Shampoo as usual and rinse thoroughly–baking soda helps remove the residue that styling products leave behind so your hair is cleaner and more manageable.

Clean Brushes and Combs
For lustrous hair with more shine, keep brushes and combs clean. Remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a small basin of warm water. Rinse and allow to dry.

Make a Bath Soak
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your bath to neutralize acids on the skin and help wash away oil and perspiration, and make your skin feel very soft. Epsom salts are pretty miraculous, read about the health benefits of epsom salt baths.

Soothe Your Feet
Dissolve 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a tub of warm water and soak feet. Gently scrub. You can also make a spa soak for your feet.

Cleaning
Make a Surface Soft Scrub
For safe, effective cleaning of bathroom tubs, tile and sinks–even fiberglass and glossy tiles–sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge and scrub as usual. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. For extra tough stains, make a paste with baking soda, course salt and liquid dish soap—let it sit then scour off.

Handwash Dishes and Pots & Pans
Add 2 heaping tablespoons baking soda (along with your regular dish detergent) to the dish water to help cut grease and foods left on dishes, pots and pans. For cooked-on foods, let them soak in the baking soda and detergent with water first, then use dry baking soda on a clean damp sponge or cloth as a scratchless scouring powder. Using a dishwasher? Use these energy saving tips.

Freshen Sponges
Soak stale-smelling sponges in a strong baking soda solution to get rid of the mess (4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water). For more thorough disinfecting, use the microwave.

Clean the Microwave
Baking soda on a clean damp sponge cleans gently inside and outside the microwave and never leaves a harsh chemical smell. Rinse well with water.

Polish Silver Flatware
Use a baking soda paste made with 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub onto the silver with a clean cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry for shining sterling and silver-plate serving pieces.

Clean Coffee and Tea Pots
Remove coffee and tea stains and eliminate bitter off-tastes by washing mugs and coffee makers in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. For stubborn stains, try soaking overnight in the baking soda solution and detergent or scrubbing with baking soda on a clean damp sponge.

Clean the Oven
Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with enough water that the baking soda is damp. Let set overnight, making sure the baking soda is damp before you go to bed. In the morning, simply scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum. Rinse.

Clean Floors
Remove dirt and grime (without unwanted scratch marks) from no wax and tile floors using 1/2 cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water–mop and rinse clean for a sparkling floor. For scuff marks, use baking soda on a clean damp sponge, then rinse. Read Natural Floor Cleaning for more tips on avoiding toxic floor cleaners.

Clean Furniture
You can make a homemade lemon furniture polish, or you can clean and remove marks (even crayon) from walls and painted furniture by applying baking soda to a damp sponge and rubbing lightly. Wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.

Clean Shower Curtains
Clean and deodorize your vinyl shower curtain by sprinkling baking soda directly on a clean damp sponge or brush. Scrub the shower curtain and rinse clean. Hang it up to dry.

Boost Your Liquid Laundry Detergent
Give your laundry a boost by adding ½ cup of baking soda to your laundry to make liquid detergent work harder. A better balance of pH in the wash gets clothes cleaner, fresher, and brighter.

Gently Clean Baby Clothes
Baby skin requires the most gentle of cleansers, which are increasingly available, but odor and stain fighters are often harsh. For tough stains add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your liquid laundry detergent, or a 1/2 cup in the rinse cycle for deodorization.

Clean Cloth Diapers
Dissolve ½ cup of baking soda in 2 quarts of water and soak diapers thoroughly.

Clean and Freshen Sports Gear
Use a baking soda solution (4 tablespoons Baking soda in 1 quart warm water) to clean and deodorize smelly sports equipment. Sprinkle baking soda into golf bags and gym bags to deodorize, clean golf irons (without scratching them!) with a baking soda paste (3 parts Baking sodato 1 part water) and a brush. Rinse thoroughly.

Remove Oil and Grease Stains
Use Baking soda to clean up light-duty oil and grease spills on your garage floor or in your driveway. Sprinkle baking soda on the spot and scrub with a wet brush.

Clean Batteries
Baking soda can be used to neutralize battery acid corrosion on cars, mowers, etc. because its a mild alkali. Be sure to disconnect the battery terminals before cleaning. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, apply with a damp cloth to scrub corrosion from the battery terminal. After cleaning and re-connecting the terminals, wipe them with petroleum jelly to prevent future corrosion. Please be careful when working around a battery–they contain a strong acid.

Clean Cars
Use baking soda to clean your car lights, chrome, windows, tires, vinyl seats and floor mats without worrying about unwanted scratch marks. Use a baking soda solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Apply with a sponge or soft cloth to remove road grime, tree sap, bugs, and tar. For stubborn stains use baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge or soft brush. Here’s how Sustainable Dave washes his car.

Deodorizing
Deodorize Your Refrigerator
Place an open box in the back of the fridge to neutralize odors.

Deodorize the Cutting Board
Sprinkle the cutting board with baking soda, scrub, rinse. For how to more thoroughly clean your cutting board, see How To Clean Your Cutting Boards.

Deodorize Trashcans
Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of your trashcan to keep stinky trash smells at bay.

Deodorize Recyclables
Sprinkle baking soda on top as you add to the container. Also, clean your recyclable container periodically by sprinkling baking soda on a damp sponge. Wipe clean and rinse. Learn about how to recycle everythin.

Deodorize Drains
To deodorize your sink and tub drains, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water–it will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain. (This a good way to dispose of baking soda that is being retired from your refrigerator.) Do you know what you’re not supposed to put down your drains?

Deodorize and Clean Dishwashers
Use Baking soda to deodorize before you run the dishwasher and then as a gentle cleanser in the wash cycle.

Deodorize Garbage Disposals
To deodorize your disposal, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing, pour baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water. Baking Soda will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain.

Deodorize Lunch Boxes
Between uses, place a spill-proof box of baking soda in everyone’s lunch box to absorb lingering odors. Read bout safe lunch boxes here.

Remove Odor From Carpets
Liberally sprinkle baking soda on the carpet. Let set overnight, or as long as possible (the longer it sets the better it works). Sweep up the larger amounts of baking soda, and vacuum up the rest. (Note that your vacuum cleaner bag will get full and heavy.)

Remove Odor From Vacuum Cleaners
By using the method above for carpets, you will also deodorize your vacuum cleaner.

Freshen Closets
Place a box on the shelf to keep the closet smelling fresh, then follow these tips to organize your closet in an eco-friendly way.

Deodorizing Cars
Odors settle into car upholstery and carpet, so each time you step in and sit down, they are released into the air all over again. Eliminate these odors by sprinkling baking soda directly on fabric car seats and carpets. Wait 15 minutes (or longer for strong odors) and vacuum up the baking soda.

Deodorize the Cat Box
Cover the bottom of the pan with baking soda, then fill as usual with litter. To freshen between changes, sprinkle baking soda on top of the litter after a thorough cleaning. You can also use green tea for this purpose!

Deodorize Pet Bedding
Eliminate odors from your pets bedding by sprinkling liberally with baking soda, wait 15 minutes (or longer for stronger odors), then vacuum up.

Deodorize Sneakers
Keep odors from spreading in smelly sneakers by shaking baking soda into them when not in use. Shake out before wearing. When they’re no longer wearable, make sure to  donate your old sneakers.

Freshen Linens
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle for fresher sheets and towels. You can also make homemade lavender linen water with this formula.

Deodorize Your Wash
Gym clothes of other odoriferous clothing can be neutralized with a ½ cup of baking soda in the rinse cycle.

Freshen Stuffed Animals
Keep favorite cuddly toys fresh with a dry shower of baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on and let it sit for 15 minutes before brushing off.

Miscellaneous
Camping Cure-all
Baking soda is a must-have for your next camping trip. Its a dish washer, pot scrubber, hand cleanser, deodorant, toothpaste,f ire extinguisher and many other uses.

Extinguish Fires
Baking soda can help in the initial handling of minor grease or electrical kitchen fires, because when baking soda is heated, it gives off carbon dioxide, which helps to smother the flames. For small cooking fires (frying pans, broilers, ovens, grills), turn off the gas or electricity if you can safely do so. Stand back and throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame to help put out the fire–and call the Fire Department just to be safe. (And, you should have a fire entinguisher on hand anyway, here’s why.

Septic Care
Regular use of baking soda in your drains can help keep your septic system flowing freely.  1 cup of baking soda per week will help maintain a favorable pH in your septic tank.

Fruit and Vegetable Scrub
Baking soda is the food safe way to clean dirt and residue off fresh fruit and vegetables. Just sprinkle a little on a clean damp sponge, scrub and rinse. Here’s another way to clean your vegetables as well.

OK, so there’s my 51suggestions (with a little help from the Arm & Hammond baking soda site, thank you). Do you have any tips or tricks that I missed, please share.

Related: 23 Ingenious Uses for Vinegar, 15 Brilliant Uses for Toothpaste, 14 Lovely Uses for Lemons

via 51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda Page 8 | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

Get Off Your Grass and Create an Edible Lawn

Americans currently spend more than thirty billion dollars, millions of gallons of gasoline, and countless hours to maintain the dream of the well kept thirty- one million acres of lawns. An estimated sixty-seven million pounds of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides are applied around homes and gardens yearly. Commercial areas such as parks, schools, playing fields, cemeteries, industrial, commercial and government landscapes, apply another 165 million pounds.

Lawn grasses are not native to the North American continent. A century ago, people would actually pull the grass out of their lawns to make room for the more useful weeds that were often incorporated into the family salad or herbal tea. It was the British aristocracy in the 1860’s and 70’s, to show off their affluence that encouraged the trend of weed-free lawns, indicating one had no need of the more common, yet useful plants. Homeowners were encouraged to cultivate lawns that would serve as examples to passersby. These types of lawns also lent themselves to the popular lawn sports, croquet and lawn tennis. From the 1880’s through 1920’s in America, front lawns ceased to produce fodder for animals, and garden space was less cultivated, promoting canned food as the “wholesome choice.” Cars replaced the family horse and chemical fertilizers replaced manure.

It has been estimated that about thirty percent of our Nation’s water supply goes to water lawns. In Dallas, Texas, watering lawns in the summer uses as much as sixty percent of the city water’s supply.

On weekends, we increase noise and gasoline consumption to mow down the grass we have worked so hard to grow. Lawn clippings are put into plastic bags and have been estimated to comprise between twenty to fifty percent of our country’s overcrowded landfills. Running a power mower for one half hour can produce as much smog as driving a car for 172 miles (E – The Environmental magazine, May/June 1992.) Bizarre customs, are they not?

The definition of a “good” lawn has come to mean, a plot of land growing a singular type of grass, kept mowed, maintaining a smooth even surface, uniform in color, with no intruding weeds. The United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Golf Association and The Garden Club of America have promoted this type of lawn. Lest a weed appear, it was to be destroyed at once. Manicured lawns have become an opportunity for rivalry between neighbors and an example of man’s domination over nature.

Pesticides are defined as any chemical designed to kill a living organism and can include herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and rodenticides. Pesticides enter the body via the lungs, mouth and skin. They are tracked into one’s home, and once inside can last for years. In a 1987 grant from the National Cancer Institute, it was revealed children were six times more likely to develop leukemia in households that used lawn pesticides. Children have faster metabolisms and more likely to be in the outdoors, and put their hands in their mouths, making them vulnerable.

The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and chemical sensitivities are also at risk to having their immune systems further disrupted by exposure to lawn chemicals. A 1991 report issued by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed that dogs, which lived where the lawn herbicide 2,4-D was applied more than four times yearly, were at a greater risk of developing canine malignant lymphoma.

Chemicals when sprayed, can drift to other neighbors, kill birds (who eat insects), and endanger precious water supplies. Pesticides can also reduce earthworm populations, which help aerate soil, by as much as ninety-nine percent, for up to twenty weeks. Many insects are beneficial in lawns. Ladybugs, preying mantises, and ground beetles all consume aphids, mites, mealy bugs, mosquito larvae and caterpillars. Honeybees provide valuable cross-pollination and without their help many fruits, vegetables and flowers would cease to exist. Substances designed to kill things are unlikely to be totally safe. Frolicking in one’s yard should not be a health risk to anyone.

What would happen if you stopped watering, fertilizing, pesticiding, and mowing your lawn? You would certainly have more free time. The grass would grow a bit higher or lower depending on weather conditions. And then the wild things, which are naturally adapted to be hardy, and require no special care, would grow. For two and a half years in the 1970’s, I lived in The Ozarks in a teepee, totally subsisting on all the wild edible fruits, roots, leaves and berries that was provided in the untamed wild. All without watering, fertilizing or spraying. It was a very healthy time.

We do not need to fear wild plants. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Dandelions look like rays of sunshine and have edible leaves and roots. The dreaded lambs quarter is really wild spinach and far more nutritious than its cultivated cousin. Malva and violet leaves are refreshing additions to the salad bowl. Even the prickly thistle can be dug up, its roots consumed, as Lewis and Clark once did when traveling. Purslane is one of the richest sources of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. One should focus more on our education of “weeds” and less on eradication. It has been said that the average American recognizes over a thousand logos and the products they correspond to, yet less than five plants in their area.

A few ideas on environmental lawns:

1. Compost. Use organic fertilizers such as manure, rock dust, and wood ash. Do a soil test and find out what your land requires.

2. Choose plants that tolerate dry conditions.

3. Learn to use wild plants that are low growing, not water demanding and might even provide salad fare or herbal teas. Turn your lawn into a wildflower sanctuary specializing in sunny well-drained dry areas. Consider buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) chickweed (Stellaria media), dwarf cinquefoil (Potentilla species), clover (Trifolium pratense or T. repens), English daisies (Bellis perennis), pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), penstemon (Penstemon species), pineapple weed (Matricaria matricarioides), plantain (Plantago major), pussy toes (Antennaria neglecta), scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetelosa), strawberries (Fragaria species), thyme (creeping, lemon and wooly) (Thymus species) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Periwinkle (Vinca species), speedwell (Veronica officinalis), uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and violet (Viola odorata), grow well in dry shade.

4. Mulch around plants, using grass clippings, shredded hardwood, dry leaves or wood chips to retain moisture.

5. Group together plants that require similar amounts of water. Use a drip system or soaker hose that waters a plant’s roots, rather than sprinkles the air. Frequent watering encourages shallow roots. Water in the early morning before the sun is hot, to give the plants more benefits. Watering during the heat of the day is wasteful, as the water quickly dries.

6. Collect water from washing vegetables. Recycle rainwater. An ancient Hindu proverb says, “If you have water to throw away, throw it on a plant.”

7. Don’t water, don’t fertilize and in many cases you won’t need to mow. Let the wild things grow and learn to use them. Learn to eat dandelion, malva, purslane and violet.

8. If you do mow, keep the mower’s height around three inches, or the highest setting. Have sharp blades. The taller the lawn, the more drought resistant it will be. Tall grass shades the soil and helps keep it moist.

9. Use a non-gasoline push mower. (Less noise and pollution). Leave clippings on the ground as mulch and fertilizer.

10. Use an organic landscape service. Find out what products they are using and tell them you want to look at the labels.

11. Boycott places of business that use lawn pesticides. Write them a letter and tell them why you are no longer giving them your business.

12. Those that live in condominiums and apartments can organize the neighborhood to create edible landscaping and community gardens. Let the maintenance managers know you would rather have a few weeds than be subjected to sprays.

A healthier environment begins with you. Businesses including parks, schools and industries need to set a better example and not buy into the harmful hype about a chemicalized lawn. Make all your actions conscious of conserving, nurturing and honoring the earth. Resist conformity and allow your ecological lawn to flourish, and flower, celebrating life and diversity!

via Get Off Your Grass and Create an Edible Lawn | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

Planting a Three sisters garden – corn, beans, and squash together

I love the idea of planting things together that actually benefit each other naturally. Let’s get back to some Native American traditions. They had it right the first time! 🙂

The Good Food Revolution

Industrialized food harms the earth and our bodies. Thankfully, there’s a wave of passionate innovators who are growing a healthier food culture, one radish at a time.

By Jake Miller

Food is love. The first time I ever heard that was when I asked my friend Jona what in the world he was thinking cooking for 100 hungry guests on his own wedding night. Jona bought heirloom tomatoes from his neighborhood farmers’ market and served a splash of rich golden squash soup in shot glasses hand-painted to match the bridal flowers. The vegetarian menu wowed even the most committed carnivores at the party, and each course served to tighten the bonds of our shared community.

It’s easy to believe that food is love when you’re enjoying a special meal for family and friends, or when you bite into a peach that’s still warm from the sun. But how do those words apply to a society where people eat meals alone in their cars, or where whole communities don’t have access to basic fresh produce, let alone a sun-warmed peach?

On a late summer afternoon last year, my two-and-a-half-year-old son and I went to one of our favorite spots, where a series of paths wind between woods and fields, around the old grounds of a defunct psychiatric hospital on the edge of Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood. Nowadays it’s home to the Boston Nature Center and the Clark Cooper Community Gardens, where gardeners from all walks of life share tips and talk about the weather, while naturalists watch wild turkeys patrol the edges of the plots. My gregarious son hails them all, saying hello to the growers, the butterflies, the turkeys, and the vegetables ripening on the vine. It’s a little bit of magic to see this slice of the world through his eyes, where everything here belongs together and has a role to play. The scenery is beautiful, but what’s even more inspiring are the people working and living together, growing healthy food and a strong community while revitalizing the environment.

Elsewhere in Mattapan—and throughout the city, the nation, and the world—the view is not always as lovely, with epidemics of malnutrition and obesity striking within the same communities, sometimes paradoxically within the same person. Many experts say that this growing crisis is due in large part to an industrial food system that pollutes the environment while propagating cheap, low-nutrition processed food. One out of every three children born in 2000 could develop diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control tells us, and obesity rates are rising. Today’s children may be the first generation of Americans to live shorter lives than their parents.

At its best, food is love; at its worst, it can be toxic—to our health, to the environment, and to our communities.

In response, a diverse food movement has arisen, with farmers, public health activists, social justice advocates, and people who love to eat well, all collaborating to create alternatives to the industrial food system. The real beauty of this movement is that none of its strands can exist in isolation. It’s a healthy, vibrant ecosystem—a community of innovators helping to grow a new sustainable food culture.

Here are five key players who embody the diverse ideals and approaches of this movement. They’re working in cities and out in the countryside, on the left and the right of the political spectrum, with gourmets and with communities that are struggling with hunger. Some of them came to the movement when they realized that food was a key component of social justice; others came to share their love of fresh healthy food when they realized that too few people had access to it. A sense of intention connects them all—a commitment to building a food system that promotes not just efficiency and profits, but health, community, environment, and ethics.

Frances Moore Lappé

Envisioning Abundance
In 1971, Frances Moore Lappé found herself poring over books and reports in the agricultural library at the University of California, Berkeley. She felt confused. In study after study, evidence showed there was more than enough food for the world to eat, yet policy makers and pundits were talking about famine and lack.

“I was this kid trying to figure out, ‘Why is there hunger in the world when there’s enough food to make us all chubby?’” she says.

She went on to write Diet for a Small Planet (1971), a three-million copy best-selling cookbook that provided delicious recipes and showed how adopting a diet based on grains and vegetables, and eating lower on the food chain, would allow everyone on earth to have enough food.

It wasn’t the details of the diet that were the key revelation, Lappé told me in a recent interview: it was the simple realization that scarcity is a state of mind.

“If we start with a sense of lack—lack of stuff and lack of goodness—we’ve bought this caricature of ourselves, this shriveled sense of ourselves, that all we can count on is greed,” Lappé says. But in the real world, we’re all much more than that. “Look at the behaviors and traits that have been hardwired into us. Cruelty? Selfishness? Yes, but also fairness, cooperation, and creativity.”

Breaking through this illusion of scarcity—the idea that we don’t have enough to eat or that we don’t have the power to change the world—has been the constant theme of her work (which includes 16 books and co-founding the anti-hunger think tank Food First). She’s as passionate about it as ever. In her latest book, Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad (2007), she says that under the wrong conditions—extreme concentrations of power, cultures of anonymity, and scapegoating—most of us will behave selfishly and cruelly.
The beauty of the food justice and sustainable food movements, she says, is that they create the opposite of these conditions, which allow our better selves to shine through. Social power is dispersed, anonymity is diminished by true community, and everyone has to shoulder some of the responsibility for the state of the world we live in. It’s easy to see how when we eat and garden together, shop at a farmers’ market, or become a member of a community-sponsored agricultural project, we don’t just build a healthier food system, we build a healthier democracy.

Since she started writing about food, Lappé says, things have gotten a lot worse, but also a lot better.

“We’re heading very rapidly in two directions. The dominant direction is horrific. We’ve turned food into a health hazard,” she says. “At the same time, much more than I ever could have imagined when I began, people are reclaiming their own food traditions, learning more about soil ecology. A recent study from the University of Michigan shows that if the whole world went organic we would increase food output and build a healthier environment.
“My hope is in the evidence, and the evidence is in,” says Lappé. “We have the power to make a better world.”

Makani Themba-Nixon
Seeds of Justice
“Food has always been at the heart of the struggle for social justice,” says Makani Themba-Nixon, a community health advocate. According to her, it’s all a question of “Who has access to land, to food?”

Often the answer comes down to race and wealth, Themba-Nixon says. That’s part of the reason the epidemics of childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have hit communities of color particularly hard, and that’s why it’s crucial to empower these communities to find appropriate, integrated local solutions.

Themba-Nixon is the executive director of Washington, DC–based Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE), a new nationwide initiative to support innovative solutions to the crisis. In its first round of funding in 2009, CCHE supported water activists in the Southwest, youth programs in Madison and New Orleans, and a program to introduce community vegetable gardens on a tribal nation’s ranch in Montana. Think of it as an innovation incubator, supporting creative strategies that other communities can learn from and build on.

As for childhood obesity, Themba-Nixon says, we won’t solve the problem without addressing the root causes—the land-use policies, predatory marketing, and underfunded public infrastructure that make it difficult for kids and families to make healthy choices in the first place. It’s easy to blame personal choice and individual character flaws for problems like obesity, which seem so private, but it’s not enough to simply ask individuals why they don’t take better care of themselves. We also have to ask, as communities and as a society, questions like, Is anyone selling fresh fruit and vegetables nearby? Are the streets and parks in the neighborhoods safe for children to play in? Is the soil in the neighborhood too contaminated for gardening? And what’s for lunch at school?

Part of Themba-Nixon’s inspiration in the fight for social justice is a love for healthy food that started in her own childhood.

“I was very fortunate to be raised by a mom who was into organic and growing your own before it was cool,” she says. “She was always baking things and sprouting things. It gave me a great appreciation for food, not just as fuel but as something sacred and alive.”

Joel Salatin
Caretaker of Creation
Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian conservative libertarian environmentalist and a “lunatic farmer.” He also calls himself a “caretaker of creation,” believing that his role as a farmer is to make the cattle, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and, most important of all, the grasses on his farm, happy, and then to stay as far out of the way as possible while nature produces abundant healthy food. He sells it all from his local food shed, to his neighbors, and to nearby restaurants.

“Pasture-based livestock and local food systems can feed the world and heal the land,” Salatin says. “These are not mutually exclusive.”

As proof, Salatin offers his own Polyface Farm, a family-owned, multi-generational 550-acre operation in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. He’s been so successful at proving his claim that he now devotes several months a year to writing and speaking about his message and methods.
Salatin believes that we were put here to nurture God’s creation, not to pillage it for maximum profit in the short term. The secret to the abundance of the farm is a carefully choreographed dance that mimics and enhances the natural food web of a grassland ecosystem. Salatin’s pigs, turkeys, and rabbits, as well as the farm’s 450 acres of woodland, all have their own dances to perform. Sunlight feeds a polyculture of grasses, cattle graze on that pasture (encouraging the grass to grow again), the cattle’s manure feeds the insects that feed the poultry, the chicken manure enriches the soil, and so on.

If the answer is as simple as letting nature work, why is our food system such a mess?

“First of all, as a culture we have been raised with a dominion mentality not balanced with a nurturing mentality,” Salatin says. “We have not had an environmental ethic, but rather an exploitation ethic. We ran through the environment much faster than we realized it was not limitless. Second, as a Western parts-oriented culture, we did not practice holism like Eastern cultures. While this made us technologically superior, we sacrificed social and environmental ethics.”

You don’t have to take his word for it, either. Salatin is so convinced of the virtue in his way of farming that his entire operation is open to the public—from the pigs aerating cow manure to the chickens and turkeys foraging in their mobile enclosures. And, as Salatin says, they’re not only producing delicious food for the local market, they’re healing the land. Since his family bought the farm in 1961, the Salatins have transformed their Shenandoah Valley home from an eroded shell of a farm into a treasury of living abundance.

“Awareness of our connection to our ecological umbilical brings decision-making integrity to our daily lives,” says Salatin. “And it allows us to participate in a cause far bigger than ourselves, with the joyful reality that we are creating the landscape our children will inherit, one bit at a time.”

Alice Waters
A Delicious Revolution
Every day, on her commute between her home and her world-famous restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, Alice Waters drives past the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. When she first began to notice the school around 15 years ago, it looked so poorly maintained—with raggedy overgrown lawns and broken windows—that she thought it might be abandoned. In fact, she writes in her recent book, Edible Schoolyard (2008), more than 1,000 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were studying there.

Waters is known for revolutionizing American cooking—bringing simple, exquisite flavors to life with fresh, local, sustainably produced ingredients—and helping to launch the Slow Food movement in the United States. But before she became a chef she had been a pre-school teacher at a local Montessori school and has always been a firm believer in the value of public schools. The sight of the King school on her daily commute was a sobering reminder of the harsh reality of public education for many of our underserved children. She decided to see if she could help change that reality.

In her first visit to the school, Waters outlined a wildly ambitious plan to completely overhaul the way the kids experienced food—growing their own in a garden, learning to cook it themselves, and sharing it with their classmates. Today the King school’s Edible Schoolyard is a prototype for a new kind of holistic healthy school lunch program. Kids learn to grow and cook their own food—and eat much healthier lunches, teachers incorporate the garden into their science, math, and humanities classes, and parents and neighbors build new relationships that strengthen the school and its community.

Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation has also helped launch a sister program in New Orleans, a sustainable food project at Yale University, and a network of school gardens and holistic culinary projects sprouting across the country.

In September 2009, the Greensboro Children’s Museum in North Carolina broke ground on a new garden, becoming the first children’s museum in the country to join the movement.

Each garden is created by the children to be a lovely place and to help make their school more beautiful. This isn’t a side effect of the project; it’s one of the main principles. “Beauty is a language,” Waters writes. “A beautifully prepared environment, where deliberate thought has gone into everything from the garden paths to the plates on the tables, communicates to children that we care about them.”

It’s all part of what Waters calls her “delicious revolution.” The secret is that the seemingly selfish act of wanting to eat delightful food is actually based on sharing and connecting: people cook together, eat together, and work together with their local farmers to build a healthy community.

Will Allen
Tilling the Inner City
When Will Allen bought Growing Power, a nursery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his plan was to start a small urban farm where he could grow produce for sale to the local community. That modest vision changed when a group of neighborhood kids asked him to show them how to grow their own food. What was meant to be a small for-profit business has grown into a nonprofit community food center, offering not just produce but the know-how to grow, process, market, and distribute sustainable healthy food. It’s one of the most influential forces in urban farming in the nation, if not the world.

Allen, a MacArthur Fellow and a former professional basketball player and marketing executive, has developed innovative holistic techniques for integrating fish farming into his plant-growing operation. Growing Power produces astonishing amounts of food and lush vermicompost in remarkably small spaces—25,000 plants, thousands of fish, plus laying hens, goats, rabbits, and turkeys, all on two acres of inner-city land. This oasis of fresh nutritious food lies in the heart of what Allen calls a “food desert,” but Growing Power’s message and methods are spreading far and wide, with spin-offs and partner projects around the nation and a new project launching through the Clinton Global Initiative to share the methodology in Africa.

Everything on the small city farm is integrated: The aquaponics tank not only grows fish, it also produces nutrient-rich water for the tomatoes and salad greens grown in the greenhouse. Allen’s beloved worms, which he proudly counts among his livestock, not only digest millions of pounds of food waste to produce nutrient-rich compost, they generate all the heat needed to keep the greenhouses warm and producing vegetables throughout a harsh Midwestern winter. But the soil and the food grown on the property aren’t an end in themselves; they’re the means—the groundwork upon which strong communities can come together to solve the profound problems of our food system.

“A lot of times I’ve heard, ‘Let’s go in—we have 200 vacant lots—bring some compost in and throw it down, and everyody’s going to run out of their houses and start farming,” Allen told a group of activists in Minneapolis earlier this year. “If you’re not able to engage the community, nothing else can really be sustained.”

Allen is working to overcome the all-too-common perception—especially among urban youth—that farm work must be cruel, grueling, or dirty. The 6’7″ force of nature who appears year round and all over the country in his trademark sleeveless hooded sweatshirt, has turned the gift for sales that he first exhibited at corporations like Kentucky Fried Chicken to promote something much more precious than the secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices: inspiration for a community of citizens to work together and take control of their own food system.

“I don’t build gardens with fences. Everybody’s talking about, ‘You gotta put up a fence to protect the garden.’ No. You have to engage the community,” Allen says.

He sees a future with 50 million new growers—not just full-scale farmers but families with rows of pots on their porches, students turning soil in schoolyards, neighbors sharing plots in community gardens. If it works, they won’t just be growing food. They’ll be growing stronger interdependent communities that rely on and nurture one another as surely as the tilapia and lake perch growing in Allen’s aquaponics tanks depend on the composting worms and floating watercress that complete their cycle of life.

Digital Digest
Learn more about these sustainable food projects and how you can get involved:

Rebel Tomato
No yard? No community gardens near you? No problem. Use this Web-based tool to start your own.

Edible Schoolyard
The digital home of the original Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA, with resources to help you start your own school garden project.

Ethicurean
The blog that pre-digests all the important food policy and sustainability issues for you.

Growing Power
Will Allen’s tips for growing worm compost, establishing an aquaponics greenhouse, or getting involved in the movement for sustainable community food systems.

Local Harvest
Learn more about Community Supported Agriculture, where consumers buy a share in a local farm’s production and get ultra-fresh food while providing farmers with better cash flow.

Polyface, Inc.
Get the lowdown on Joel Salatin’s model of pasture-based permaculture.

Slow Food USA
The United States branch of the international movement to support good, clean, and fair food and to preserve endangered culinary and cultural institutions in the face of fast food and fast life.

Small Planet Institute
Tools and tips for skillful engagement in democracy, including “food democracy,” from Frances Moore Lappé and daughter Anna Lappé.

The Ethical Diet
Changing the way you eat is a good start, but real change comes when we build communities that can support viable alternatives. Here are eight steps to help you expand the circle of good food in your life—beyond your plate and into your neighborhood:

• Start talking about food. Don’t stop.

• Learn where the food you already eat comes from.

• Ask at your local markets and restaurants if any of the food is locally or sustainably sourced—let them know that this is something that their customers value.

• Talk to producers at farmers’ markets to find out what the freshest and most delicious local foods are at the moment.

• Talk to your friends and family about your food traditions and values. An elaborate potluck feast—or a trip to gather you-pick strawberries—is a perfect opportunity for meaningful conversation.

• Grow something yourself and then eat it. You don’t need to launch a new community garden project to feel the power of connecting directly to the food chain. Plant a pot of basil on your porch and make one perfect batch of pesto, or capture some wild yeast and make an über-local batch of sourdough bread.

• Make eye contact with the people around you when you’re eating. At a harried family meal, this simple moment of connection can create a sense of calm. In a crowded café, it can help you build new friendships and expand your personal community.

• Add meaning to your meals by saying grace. You can thank God or simply take time to acknowledge the community of people, plants, and animals that worked together to provide your food. Infusing food with intention is also a great way to encourage yourself to eat healthier.

Learn about other sustainable food visionaries, print out tasty recipes, and more.

Jake Miller is a freelance writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. He has cultivated tomatoes in his window, basil on his porch, and worm compost under his desk.

Photo by Alamy / fotolia.com

Spring 2010

Yoga+ magazine

The Good Food Revolution

Top 15 Cleansing Foods

When it comes to cleansing your body of harmful toxins, food really is the best medicine. You’ll be amazed to learn that many of your favorite foods also cleanse the body’s detoxification organs like the liver, intestines, kidneys, and skin, preventing harmful toxic buildup. Help ward off the harmful effects of pollution, food additives, second-hand smoke, and other toxins with delicious fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, and beans.

Apples. Because apples are high in pectin, a type of fiber that binds to cholesterol and heavy metals in the body, they help eliminate toxic build up and to cleanse the intestines.

Avocados. We rarely think of avocados as a cleansing food but these nutritional powerhouses lower cholesterol and dilate blood vessels while blocking artery-destroying toxicity. Avocados contain a nutrient called glutathione, which blocks at least thirty different carcinogens while helping the liver detoxify synthetic chemicals.

Beets. Time to whip up some delicious borscht soup since its main ingredient, beets, contain a unique mixture of natural plant compounds that make them superb blood purifiers and liver cleansers.

Blueberries. Truly one of the most powerful healing foods, blueberries contain natural aspirin that helps lessen the tissue-damaging effects of chronic inflammation, while lessening pain. Blueberries also act as antibiotics by blocking bacteria in the urinary tract, thereby helping to prevent infections. They also have antiviral properties and help to block toxins from crossing the blood-brain barrier to gain access to the delicate brain.

Cabbage. Cabbage contains numerous anticancer and antioxidant compounds and helps the liver break down excess hormones. Cabbage also cleanses the digestive tract and neutralizes some of the damaging compounds found in cigarette smoke (and second-hand smoke). It also strengthens the liver’s ability to detoxify.

Celery and Celery Seeds. Celery and celery seeds are excellent blood cleansers and contain many different anti-cancer compounds that help detoxify cancer cells from the body. Celery seeds contain over twenty anti-inflammatory substances. It is particularly good for detoxifying substances found in cigarette smoke.

Cranberries. Cleanse your body from harmful bacteria and viruses that may be lingering in your urinary tract with cranberries since they contain antibiotic and antiviral substances.

Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil. Loaded with essential fatty acids, particularly the Omega-3s, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are essential for many cleansing functions throughout the body.

Garlic. Eat garlic to cleanse harmful bacteria, intestinal parasites and viruses from your body, especially from the blood and intestines. It also helps cleanse build-up from the arteries and has anti-cancer and antioxidant properties that help detoxify the body of harmful substances. Additionally, garlic assists with cleansing the respiratory tract by expelling mucous build-up in the lungs and sinuses. For the health benefits, choose only fresh garlic, not garlic powder, which has virtually none of the above properties.

Grapefruit. Add a ruby red grapefruit to your breakfast to benefit from pectin fiber that binds to cholesterol, thereby cleansing the blood. Pectin also binds to heavy metals and helps escort them out of the body. It also has antiviral compounds that cleanse harmful viruses out of the body. Grapefruit is an excellent intestinal and liver detoxifier.

Kale. Steam some kale to benefit from its powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant compounds that help cleanse the body of harmful substances. It is also high in fiber, which helps cleanse the intestinal tract. Like cabbage, kale helps neutralize compounds found in cigarette smoke and strengthens liver cleansing.

Legumes. Add a handful of cooked beans to your next meal since they loaded with fiber that helps lower cholesterol, cleanses the intestines, and regulates blood sugar levels. Legumes also help protect the body against cancer.

Lemons. Excellent liver detoxifiers, lemons contain high amounts of vitamin C, a vitamin needed by the body to make an important substance called glutathione. Glutathione helps the liver detoxify harmful chemicals. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (not the bottled variety) to pure water to support your cleansing efforts on a daily basis.

Seaweed. Seaweed could be the most underrated vegetable in the western world. Studies at McGill University in Montreal showed that seaweeds bind to radioactive waste in the body. Seaweed also binds to heavy metals to help eliminate them from the body. In addition, they are powerhouses of minerals and trace minerals.

Watercress. If you haven’t tried watercress add this delicious green to your next sandwich since it increases detoxification enzymes and acts on cancer cells in the body. In a study at the Norwich Food Research Centre in the United Kingdom, smokers who were given 170 grams of watercress per day eliminated higher than average amounts of carcinogens in their urine, thereby eliminating them from their body.

Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables assists with detoxifying harmful substances from your body. Who knew cleansing could taste so good?

Adapted with permission from: The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan by Michelle Schoffro Cook (John Wiley & Sons, 2006). Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook.

via Top 15 Cleansing Foods | Healthy and Green Living.

Indoor Gardening video

This video shows an example of a great way to grow food indoors.

Veggie Trader: A Craigslist for Local Produce

Selected from Green Options

How great would it be if there were want ads in your local newspaper or on Craigslist for organic fruits and vegetables, grown in your town, by your neighbors? A new website – Veggie Trader has sprung up that offers exactly such a service–a purchasing and bartering clearinghouse for locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Veggie Trader describes itself as the “place to trade, buy or sell local homegrown produce.” The idea is simple: you register on the website and then offer to purchase, sell, or trade any manner of surplus fruits or vegetables. If you have too many tomatoes and want to see if anyone nearby has a surplus of peaches or peppers, you can log on, run a search, and find out who in the neighborhood may be willing to exchange with you.

It’s a great way to offload additional produce and exchange it for something that you might be unable to grow in your own yard, but that another gardener may specialize in growing. It’s totally free to join, and costs nothing to post an offering, or place a wanted listing.

The website only started four months ago, and is definitely still in its infancy. Despite that, they have over 6,000 people signed up so far. The folks who have registered thus far are concentrated on the U.S. West Coast in California and Oregon, but since the website is still starting out, it could very well extend to your neighborhood. You can help make the website grow by registering and offering to buy, sell, or trade for whatever produce you have or may want.

Veggie Trader has ambitions to expand to include dairy, eggs, and meat, all items that are heavily regulated. The future may hold great things for Veggie Trader, only time will tell if the site can attract enough members to gain enough momentum to make a difference in the local food movement, but we’re certainly rooting for them.

via Veggie Trader: A Craigslist for Local Produce | Healthy and Green Living.

How to start a garden, save money, and eat fresh!

AARP the magazine featured a great article recently, detailing a full plan for a vegetable garden in your yard. I’ve been looking for something like this all summer! This year was too busy and I spent too much time away from home to start my organic vegetable garden, but I’m armed with all the information I need to get a great start on next year!

The article talks about specific plot sizes, how to prepare your soil, keep out greedy animals, what is will all cost and how much you can save on groceries.

The author also points out how a garden can be a teaching experience:

Most vegetables are annuals, planted anew each year, but I tuck in a few alpine strawberries, too. These tiny, exquisite plants bear fruit all season and remain in place from year to year, to our grandchildren’s delight. They head for the strawberry row the minute their parents pull up in the driveway. Our sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes are also kid magnets, and I like to think our small foragers are gleaning far more than a healthful snack. They’re learning that growing food brings joy, and that dividend is priceless.

I would add to that, not only does growing food bring joy (which it definately does) but also that it nurtures an understanding that the food you grow needs balanced care, sunlight, water, protection etc, just as people do. This lesson makes it easier to understand why it is unhealthy for people to eat and drink junk and fake foods, and to have respectful balanced care for their own bodies. What a great lesson to draw on, especially in the teen years!

Dirt Cheap Eats.