March 06, 2015

Is Your Fleece Poisoning Your Fish Dinner?

 

Micro-beads have been in the news lately as states move to ban them from body care products because they wind up in waterways, poisoning fish and contaminating ecosystem. Now, new research points to another unsuspecting culprit: micro-plastic fibers in clothing. 

According to the report, these tiny plastic fibers are coming off of clothing, like fleece, in washing machines and that water winds up in our waste streams, poisoning bodies of water.

“Every one of the 18 [fish] species we sampled showed some plastic and the majority of this was fibers,” Sherri Mason, professor of chemistry and environmental sciences program coordinator at the State University of New York at Fredonia told Civil Eats. Fish ingesting the plastic fibers in the Great Lakes include: brown trout, cisco–also known as “lake herring”–and perch

The fibers are made to resist degradation, “these fibers they do just that and persist in the environment, rather than degrading quickly as might bio-based fibers, like cotton or wool,” Civil Eats explains. “Fish then ingest the fibers when they feed. When we eat those fish, we’ll be eating those fibers, too.”

But it’s not just human health at risk of eating the plastic. Marine animals who inadvertently ingest the micro-fibers can experience endocrine disrupting effects that can interfere with reproduction. Plastics like this are also a threat because they can soak up other toxic chemicals, oils and heavy metals present in the water and deliver them straight into the fish, which also poses health risks to the humans eating the fish.

“In their research off the California coast, Rochman and her colleagues have found metals (including lead and cadmium, known neurotoxins) and flame retardants–polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)–that have been used widely in both hard plastics and upholstery foams and are known to be persistent pollutants,” Civil Eats explains. “They have also found polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), compounds associated with fossil fuels and a variety of adverse health effects, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The researchers have also found evidence that plastic debris is affecting endocrine hormone activity in fish.”

Micro-plastic is defined as anything 5 millimeters or less. You can help to reduce the impact of micro-plastics in the ocean by wearing clothes several times before washing, and investing in clothing made from natural fibers.

Image: Esther Cantero

March 05, 2015

Can Female Dairy Farms Save Our Milk?


There’s no question that the U.S. needs more young people to take up farming as a profession. Two-thirds of the nation’s farmers are at least 55 years old. And while urban farming, which attracts a number of young people, is taking off across the country, it’s not enough to meet our farming needs. Especially when it comes to dairy farmers.

According to Treehugger, the majority of young people taking up farming are going into vegetables or small livestock herds. “Dairy, by contrast, is a tougher industry to enter because of the greater land requirements and higher cost of equipment,”Treehugger explains. “Dairy drives 70 percent of the economy in Vermont, as well as many other parts of the northeastern U.S., but it’s not growing fast enough.”

Now, not only are efforts underway to attract more young people to small-scale dairy farming, but to attract women to the work as well. In a partnership with organic yogurt giant Stonyfield Farm, the National Young Farmers Coalition is working to bring more attention to female dairy farmers through its Bootstrap Blogger series.

Five young female dairy farmers write the blog series about their life as a dairy farmer, submitting one post per month for an entire year. On top of that, three of the female dairy farmers have also released companion videos, recently made public the National Young Farmers Coalition.

“These videos are particularly interesting because the world of U.S. farming has long been dominated by men, but these indomitable and impressive young women show that it doesn’t have to be that way,” Treehugger explains. “With perseverance, humor, and a great love for the land, these women are working hard to build viable, sustainable farms and preserve the future of U.S. dairy farming in the process.”

Check out the videos below.

Chaseholm Farm Creamery, Pine Plains, NY. Sarah Lyons Chase is a third-generation dairy farmer. [Video]

The Golden Yoke, St. Ignatius, MT, founded by Laura Ginsburg and Connie Surber. [Video]

Clover Mead Farm, Keeseville, NY. Run by Ashlee Kleinhammer. [Video]

 

 

February 27, 2015

What is A2 Milk and Should You Drink It?

California residents might soon be seeing a newcomer to their dairy case. It’s called A2 milk and it’s all the rage in Australia. The company is now hopeful that it can take up some retail space in U.S. stores, launching its unique milk product on California shelves this April.

But what is A2 milk, exactly? It sounds a lot more scientific than appetizing. But according to Food Navigator, it’s not all that high-tech after all. “Most dairy cows produce milk containing A1 and A2 beta casein, which form around 30% of the total protein in milk solids.”

It turns out that, at least according to the a2 Milk Company making this product, that the A1 beta casein is most responsible for the digestive issues common with milk sensitivities. So the theory is that a milk that only contains A2 beta caseins could be easier to digest. (Note: this does not include people with dairy allergies—all milk products should be avoided in that case.)

According to the a2 Milk Company, approximately 30 percent of cows exclusively produce A2 milk. A simple non-invasive genetic test allows the company to identify these cows in the herd so they can be isolated to produced the A2 milk.

The a2 Milk Company says there is science to back up its findings: “There are now more than 100 peer reviewed studies looking at A1 vs A2 and most show there are differences in response and that A1 is often the culprit behind digestive discomfort,” U.S. Nutrition Director Bonnie Johnson, RD, MS, told Food Navigator.

Already, the New Zealand-based company has taken up nearly ten percent of the fluid milk market share in Australia with its A2 milk, and it anticipates similar success in the U.S. market.

But should you buy it?

While A2 milk may be helpful for people suffering with dairy sensitivities, there’s one glaring problem with the product: it’s not organic. The slight relief you may experience from avoiding the A1 beta casein seems to be offset by all of the not-so-appetizing antibiotics, growth hormones, and GMOs fed to the conventional cows. So if dairy is a sometimes-issue for your health, maybe skip drinking milk on a daily basis altogether. But when you do want to consume dairy products, make sure they’re organic.

 

 

February 24, 2015

5 Best Post-Workout Foods for Optimal Recovery        

There’s not much to rival that glorious post workout feeling—you’re glowing from the inside out—pumped, strong, empowered. Sitting down to a meal can feel a little, well, unappetizing after a strenuous workout. There’s a good chance you won’t even be hungry. But here’s why you should workout and some of the best post-workout foods.

Ideally, you eat within 30-60 minutes of a strong workout. This is considered a recovery meal to help your muscles, bones, and joints replenish whatever’s been lost during your session. Of course you want protein to help do this, but you don’t need to sit down to a steak. In fact, the opposite may be just what you need. Do any of these post-workout foods surprise you?

  1. Leafy greens: Not only is protein found in many dark leafy greens, but these vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals and amino acids that can help the body to repair itself.
  2. Beans: You get a nice protein burst from any kind of bean, pea or lentil, but they also have something that steak doesn’t: healthy carbs. Not only that, but beans are a great source of fiber, too, which helps the body remove any toxins that may have been released during the workout.
  3. Fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, hemp seeds are all delicious and healthy plant sources of healthy fats which can help the body rebuild and repair quickly with the extra calories and easily absorbed good sources of fats.
  4. Whey: This super protein powder is something we know a thing or two about! But don’t take our word for it; there’s enough research out there to prove that a high-quality whey protein (grass-fed, organic) can be a real recovery food giving you the protein you need in a clean and delicious way. It’s a great option if a full-on meal seems out of the question after a workout. Sip on a whey smoothie instead!
  5. Whole grains: Oats, amaranth, quinoa, even brown rice, all contain healthy amino acids and protein that can assist in a workout recovery. Like beans, they are also excellent sources of fiber and healthy carbs to give your body the extra energy and recovery boost.

Image: Stacey Spensley 

February 20, 2015

Can We 'Save the Bros' with Organic Milk? Organic Valley Thinks So

We’re big fans of organic foods including organic dairy for a number of reasons from the better taste to the decreased impact on the environment, the animals and the farmers. But saving “bros?” 

Organic Valley, the leading brand of organic dairy products and largest organic farming co-op in the country, has released an incredibly funny but insightful video called “Save the Bros,” taking aim at muscleheads and their addiction to pasty, poor-tasting protein powders.

The spin is that these men are, perhaps naively, perhaps not, digging themselves into a ditch with those gnarly protein shakes, powders and drinks filled with synthetic ingredients, most notably, non-organic dairy products. There’s a belief that in order to bulk up and gain muscle, you’ve got to guzzle down these protein products that don’t taste good and that aren’t doing the planet any favors, either. 

But Organic Valley says that’s not the case. Enter Organic Fuel, the brand’s protein product that launched last summer, getting an overhaul in the new spot. The clever pitch suggests that not only will Organic Fuel help “bros” drop their powder addictions, but that it may also help them to take other healthy measures to improve their lives like meditating, yoga, buying organic fruits and vegetables, and relaxing hobbies like making pottery.

The humorous touch is nice, even if making fun of weightlifters is a little on the cruel side. But there is some important truth in the spot: organic is better. Enough studies now exist to corroborate that and we of course couldn’t agree more. So whether you use a whey or greens protein powder like we sell at The Organic Whey, or you opt for a pre-made like Organic Valley’s Organic Fuel, or a combination of both, adding organic to your diet is the ultimate healthy choice, whether you’re a bro or not.

February 17, 2015

Zero-Waste Lifestyle Blogger Proves Going Trashless is Possible

Trash is unavoidable, right? Not if you’re Lauren Singer, the 23-year-old zero-waste enthusiast who, over the last two years, has only produced about a mason jar’s worth of trash. In total. 

According to EcoWatch, Singer said she “felt like a hypocrite sitting in her environmental classes listening to professors talk about the ‘importance of living your values’ and it made her question her own environmental impact.”

Inspired by California’s Zero Waste Home, Singer made her own attempt to reduce trash significantly. Using her blog as a daily journal on her waste-making, or rather, lack thereof, Singer’s key to sustaining her zero-waste lifestyle relies on a commitment to avoiding products that inevitably create trash. That’s anything that can’t be recycled or composted or upcycled around her home.

 Instead, she makes many of her own products, including toothpaste and deodorant. 

Her lifestyle is a testament to the fact that sustainable living doesn’t have to be super challenging or mean you live a boring, sad life,” reports EcoWatch. “You don’t have to be a stereotype of anything to live a sustainable lifestyle. My style is the same. My taste is the same. I enjoy the same things. I just don’t make trash,” Singer told AOL.

And here’s another bonus to keeping trash out of the landfills: it’s not expensive, according to Singer. “It’s so funny how that narrative caught on that living sustainably is like a ‘rich white people thing,'” she said to AOL. “It’s not the case at all. I spend like $20 to $25 a week now on everything that I need from the farmer’s market.”

Now, Singer is taking her zero-waste lifestyle model to a new level with the launch of The Simply Co., which produces sustainable cleaning products for people who want to reduce but can’t make the same zero-waste commitment.

But Singer hopes that The Simply Co. can be a stepping stone for individuals eager to decrease their trash, “leading a zero waste lifestyle is simple, cost-effective, timely, fun and entirely possible for everyone and anyone,” she said on her blog. “If I can do it, anyone can!”

Image via Lauren Singer's website.

 

February 13, 2015

Another GMO Labeling Bill Introduced to Congress

The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act is the latest legislation to be introduced to Congress in favor of mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients.

Introduced by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the bill would charge the FDA with creating mandatory labeling guidelines for foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

“Consumers have a right to know what is in the foods they eat and parents have a right to know what they are feeding their families,” Boxer said in a statement.

“We cannot continue to keep Americans in the dark about the food they eat,” DeFazio said. “More than sixty other countries make it easy for consumers to choose. Why should the U.S. be any different?”

Currently, the U.S. has no federal regulations on labeling genetically modified foods. More than 60 countries around the world have bans or strict regulations in place on GMO crops and foods over human health and environmental concerns.

Introduced to the food supply in the last two decades, many scientists say there simply isn’t enough data on GMO foods to be certain they’re safe for human consumption. The environmental impacts have become serious concerns for pollinators including honeybees and monarch butterflies, two species that seem to be suffering as a direct result of herbicides and pesticides which are often applied to genetically modified crops.

“In 1992, FDA stated that it had no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding,” reports Food Safety News.

“FDA currently supports voluntary labeling in which food manufacturers indicate whether their products have or have not been developed through genetic engineering, ‘provided such labeling is truthful and not misleading.’ ”

“The public wants more information about the food they are buying and how it’s grown,” said chef Tom Colicchio, who joined the lawmakers and advocates from Just Label It, Food Policy Action, Environmental Working Group and Center for Food Safety at a press conference announcing the bill. “I applaud Sens. Boxer and Blumenthal and Rep. DeFazio for their leadership and urge their colleagues to join them in standing up for the 93 percent of Americans who want to know whether their food has been genetically modified.”

Several states have passed GMO labeling bills including Vermont, Maine and Connecticut.

Image: sampitech

February 10, 2015

How to Burn More Fat with HIIT Workouts

What was once perhaps a secret if not a totally undiscovered fitness gem, is now becoming the cutting edge fitness tool for how to burn more fat: HIIT workouts or high-intensity interval training.

You may have heard about the HIIT techniques but have yet to put them to the test. After all, HIIT sounds rather technical and, admittedly, for some of us more inclined to the lazy person’s workout (channel surfing uses muscles!), anything “high intensity” is aspirational at best. But, even for the laziest among us, here’s why considering a HIIT approach to fitness might make a whole lot of sense. 

HIIT’s short but intense workout bursts really help you to shed those calories. According to Shape Magazine, Tabata, a HIIT exercise program, burns 13.5 calories every minute! In a typical Tabata session, you would work at maximum intensity for 20 seconds (that’s it, right?) then 10 seconds for recovery. You do this eight times (four minutes) throughout the class.

The goal is to push everything you’ve got as hard as you can for the full 20 seconds, which, while it doesn’t sound that difficult, really can be. But then, just like that, the session is over, and the short rest period does indeed give you the strength to go at it again.

Of course, Tabata is just one method that incorporates HIIT into its workout. Clubs and gyms, as well as online videos, are making it easier than ever before to harness the fat-burning power of HIIT workouts. And once you get a taste of the benefits of HIIT workout routines, you might find yourself slightly addicted and unimpressed by paced workouts. Not that you should only do HIIT workouts to meet your fitness goals, but they can be really effective in taking your fitness goals to the next level. And who doesn’t want that?

Image: @N3T10

February 06, 2015

5 Species the Keystone XL Pipeline Could Make Disappear from Earth Forever

There’s no question that the Keystone XL pipeline is a huge source of controversy. The 1,700 mile-long pathway will cut through the pristine Canadian boreal forest through the U.S., crossing more than one thousand rivers, lakes and streams along with tens of thousands of acres of precious wetlands.

With more than 800,000 barrels of oil set to barrel through the pipeline on a daily basis, there are good reasons for concern. Any spills could devastate the air and water and the health of communities. An estimated 34,000 tons of oil are expected to be spilled annually.

But just building the pipeline is damaging enough. According to Jane Kirchner of the National Wildlife Federation , the health of several species of animals will be severely compromised by the pipeline.

1. The Northern Swift Fox

“Once considered abundant in the short grass prairies from central Alberta though the Great Plains to Texas, the swift fox was wiped out of 90 percent of its historical habitat by the latter half of the twentieth century,” Kirchner writes in One Green Planet. “Keystone XL would bring the world’s dirtiest oil right through the foxes’ remaining habitat. Dens crushed by pipeline construction and industrial roads carving up habitat—not to mention leaks or breaks in the massive Keystone XL pipeline — would put swift foxes in grave danger.”

“Thankfully, conservation efforts have helped swift foxes make a comeback. But with the looming threat of the massive Keystone XL pipeline, they are not out of the woods yet.”

2. Whooping Crane

According to Kirchner, the majestic whooping cranes would be facing death by electrocution from the 300 miles of power lines supporting the pipeline. Already, power lines are responsible for 40 percent of juvenile whooping crane deaths. “This is a big deal when you’re talking about a bird that has a population of about four hundred in the wild,” Kirchner writes.

3. Pallid Sturgeon

The rare pallid sturgeon is so protected that if you catch one while fishing, you must release it immediately. A beast of a fish, growing more than five feat and weighing in at 80-some pounds, the pallid sturgeon can live 100 years! But, says, Kirchner, the pipeline would roll right into the Missouri, Yellowstone, Platte and Niobrara rivers. If oil spills there, it could wipe out the grand fish for good.

4. Canada Lynx

According to Kirchner, researchers are already quite worried about the Canada Lynx. They fear that the development of the pipeline alone could force it into extinction because its habitat in the boreal forest will be too compromised.

5. Woodland Caribou

The pipeline construction could start a stopwatch on woodland caribou that expires in the next several decades. The boreal forest roamers are rapidly losing habitat to tar sand mining and any further losses could drive them to extinction in thirty years or less.

Image via U.S. Fish and Wildlife 

February 03, 2015

Excessive Vitamin Intake Unhealthy, Scientists Say

Opting for a vitamin-enriched sports drink, juice or energy bar might not be in your best interest, a recent study finds. 

According to the New York Times, many nutrition scientists say they are “concerned” over the added nutrients, even though they may be occurring in small amounts. That’s because most people are already getting nutrients in their diets through food. Combine a multivitamin to the equation, which millions of people take daily, and there may already be an excessive amount of nutrients in the diet. And that’s before adding enhanced foods.

“You have vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in foods, and then you have people taking supplements, and then you have all these fortified foods,” Mridul Datta, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition science at Purdue University told the Times. “It adds up to quite an excess. There’s the potential for people to get a lot more of these vitamins than they need.”

And according to research, notes the Times, “the average person is exposed to unusually high levels of vitamins and minerals. Already, more than half of all adults in the United States take a multivitamin or dietary supplement. Bread, milk and other foods are often fortified with folic acid, niacin and vitamins A and D.”

In a study published last summer, researchers concluded that many people are exceeding what the Institute of Medicine deems as “safe limits” of nutrients.

“Particularly concerning, experts say, is the explosion of beverages marketed specifically for their high levels of antioxidants, like Vitaminwater, POM Wonderful, Naked Juice and many others,” reports the Times. “The body requires antioxidants to neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and their DNA. But it also uses free radicals to fight off infections and cancer cells, experts say, and when antioxidants are present in excess, it can throw things out of balance.”

What’s perhaps most alarming about the fortified food and beverage market is that in most cases, the nutrients being added to foods are those that are already abundant in the diet—the ones we get the most of already on a healthy diet—like vitamin C and B vitamins.

While enriched foods might be appealing for a number of reasons, they’re also often more expensive than whole foods where vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are naturally occurring. So stick with a well-balanced diet rich in healthy fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans and grains, and organic meats and dairy products and skip the expensive vitamin waters. Your money can be better spent elsewhere!

Image via dpstyles

 

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