Health & Beauty

07/06/2011

Scary Food Facts and Tricks to Stay Healthy

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Food Could the food in your fridge be the stuff of nightmares? If you’re not paying close attention to the products you buy—and consume—there’s a chance that you’re overlooking the ugly truth when it comes to your grocery store haul.

While spinach, egg and peanut butter contaminations have all made the headlines recently, there’s plenty more scary stuff that doesn’t make the network news cut. Take, for instance, insect parts and toxic chemicals, which is actually allowed in some foods—um, yuck.

To ensure that your next trip to the market is as green, clean and safe as possible, ShopSmart shares the following tips:

Bugs in your food – It’s simply not possible to grow, harvest, and process food without a few tiny creepy-crawlies hitchhiking along, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets tolerance levels for what are termed "naturally occurring defects." For example a 24-ounce container of cornmeal can have up to 13 insects, 745 insect fragments, and 27 rodent hairs.

If you discover unwanted visitors in a newly purchased product, return it to the store or the manufacturer for a refund. If you're not sure whether a food is infested, freeze it for four days or heat it in the oven at 140-degree for an hour to kill insects and eggs.

Consuming clones - The FDA does not require labeling on most products that contain genetically engineered plant material or on meat and milk from cloned animals. Genetically modified versions of corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton are widely sold in the U.S.

If you'd prefer to avoid milk and meat from cloned cows and genetically modified plant ingredients, buy organic. Unfortunately, there's no way to avoid consuming some genetically modified ingredients

Carnivore chicken - Livestock feed can include things like cow meat and bones, which might be fed to chickens, pigs, and even farmed fish. And cows might be fed processed feathers and waste from the floors of chicken coops. 

Look for beef or chicken certified organic by the USDA. Claims of "no additives," "no antibiotics," "no hormones," and "no steroids" are less reliable since they can't be verified.

Labels lie - Some labels can outsmart even careful shoppers. "Natural" products might contain high-fructose corn syrup; a food "made with" an ingredient often includes just a smidgen; and a "whole-grain" cereal could lack substantial fiber.

If you want the whole story, you still have to flip to the back label and scan the nutrition facts. Check not just the calories but also serving sizes. And scan the percent of daily values.

Fresh meat - Many supermarkets sell ground beef and steaks packaged with gas that keeps them looking fresh and red for a month or more, even if the meat has spoiled. In that process, used in factory-wrapped (or case-ready) meat, most of the oxygen in the package is replaced with other gases, including tiny amounts of carbon monoxide that react with pigment and keep the meat red.

Ask whether your grocer sells meat packed with carbon monoxide. For fruits, buy locally or at least what's in season. (Frozen fruits and veggies are a good option any time of year because they're usually flash frozen immediately after harvest.)

SOURCE ShopSmart Magazine

06/09/2011

How to Make Your Greens Even Healthier

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Produce It’s picnic season! When you’re packing up your bounty of healthy (and hopefully organic!) fruits and veggies for an afternoon snack or side dish, you’ll want to abide by these simple rules to avoid prevent eating contaminated food. It’s hard to believe, but Federal health officials estimate that nearly 48 million people are sickened by harmful germs each year!

Health eating starts at the supermarket. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends picking produce that isn’t bruised or damaged—and making sure that any pre-cut items (like lettuce or apple slices) are either refrigerated or on ice.

When you get home and into your own kitchen, take extra precautions by following the below rules.

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after touching produce
  • Cut away damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating
  • Gently rub produce while holding under running water (there’s no need to use soap or a produce wash)
  • Wash produce before you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable
  • Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present
  • Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage

Once you’ve sliced and diced, you’re all set to prepare your food. Stumped on healthy ideas? Scour your favorite cookbook for all-natural options or visit sites like the Food Network’s Healthy Eating recipe section or the Eating Well website.

(Source: FDA) Also, visit Earth Tones on Road & Travel Magazine.

06/08/2011

Safe and Sustainable Sunscreens

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Sunscreen Beachy vacations are a summertime must, and so is slathering up with sunscreen. We wanted to know which sunscreens work best, which are dangerous to our health, and what other options exist for protection agains harsh UVB and UVA rays.

In a recent Consumer Reports Health study, two products stood out among the rest—Target’s “Up & Up” Sport SPF-30 and Equate Baby SPF-50. Each of these provided excellent protection against UVB rays, and “very good” protection against UVA radiation, which can cause slightly more harm to our skin due to deeper-penetrating rays. In addition, they’re also both devoid of retinyl palmitate, a antioxidant that animal studies have linked to increased risk of skin cancer. (Yes, a sunscreen that could potentially lead to skin cancer!) The shocking truth is, most sunscreens contain this ingredient, along with others known to cause adverse health effects in animal studies, like oxybenzone, nanoscale zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

What a mouthful, huh?

Consumers, however, shouldn’t rule out natural sunscreens made by brands like Aveeno, California Baby, Soleo Organics and UV Natural, most of which can be picked up at your local drugstore.

In addition, there are extra steps that can minimize your exposure to the sun. Consider a broad-brimmed hat, tightly-woven clothing or an umbrella to stick in the sand. Better yet, pop a tent for adults or kids to crawl into when they need a break. Most importantly, if possible, avoid being outside during the mid-day hours, when the sun is directly overhead and its rays are the strongest. For more information, Consumer Reports Health.

Visit EWP Blogazine's partner, Earth Tones, for more eco-friendly tips.