Pesticides Linked to Food Allergies

Though theories abound, it’s been tough to pinpoint exactly why food allergies have been on the rise.

Anecdotally, it seems every other mother I know has a child with severe food allergies, allergies neither I nor any of my classmates suffered during own childhoods.  And statistically, food allergies in general rose in the U.S. by 20% in just a decade leading up to 2007.

Pesticides

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised if pesticides in our drinking water cause health problems.

Why the rise?  A recent study from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology suggests it may be due to pesticides present in our tap water.

We all know pesticide residues stay on our food.  But they also get into our body by leaching from the soil into our drinking water.  And, in this recent study, places with higher levels of pesticides in their drinking water also saw a higher incidence of food allergies. Continue reading

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Weight and Running

I’d like to finish my post-marathon blogging series with a note on a topic that’s continued to garner much debate.

Can exercise help you lose or maintain weight?

Tom Holland Marathon Method

My new training regimen. Less running and more strength training means sloppier research on my part.

This may sound like an odd question, since for decades we’ve assumed the answer is “yes.”  But there’s been a flood of doubt lately that exercise has an impact on weight control, and some of the arguments against it are compelling, though they often contradict each other.

One argument I’ve found at times very convincing is Gary Taubes’.  Author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, Taubes has spent years digging through medical research on what he calls the “diseases of civilization”: ailments like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, certain cancers, arthritis and Alzheimer’s that by many measures have boomed in recent decades alongside national – and increasingly global – dietary and lifestyle changes. Continue reading

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Are Marathons Unhealthy?

My most recent marathon, in Philly earlier this month, raised a lot of questions for me regarding health and diet.  Are all those sports gels good for you?  Gatorade?  How about minimalist running shoes?  Are you better off in thick, cushy sneakers?

But a recent article in the Wall Street Journal article raised an entirely different question: Is distance running bad for you?

Runners World

The picture of poor health?

A pair of new studies announced within the past few weeks have shed some doubt on the long-term health benefits of distance running.  Running is healthy, these studies found, up to about 20 to 25 miles per week, and at speeds of less than 8 miles per hour.  Peak health (based on mortality rates) comes at between 10 to 15 miles of running per week, and at speeds of 10 to 11 miles per week.

That may sound like a lot of running, if you’re not a runner.  And even if you run periodically, an average of 10 to 15 miles a week may be more than you end up with over the course of a year. Continue reading

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Is a “Barefoot” Marathon a Good Idea?

I switched to a “barefoot” style of running earlier this year in anticipation for training for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon.

I’ve had knee problems in the past when training at high mileage for marathons and half marathons, and these had discouraged me from undertaking a training regimen with high enough weekly mileage to push my times back into personal record range.  Willing to try almost anything, and heartened by the “barefoot” running style’s throwback to the ways of early man (something I find works very well with choosing the right diet), I decided to give “barefoot” running a shot.

Hattori

Less shoe. More distance.

I say “barefoot” in quotes because it doesn’t actually involve running barefoot.  Instead, it involves the use of a minimalist, flat shoe that has virtually no padding and no decline from heel to toe, thereby forcing you to run in the style you’d run in if you weren’t wearing shoes at all.  This is the way, our argument goes, our ancestors ran before we invented the cushy sneaker; and it’s the way our bodies evolved to run.  It’s therefore supposed to be more natural and healthy. Continue reading

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Lessons from a Marathon

Though this blog is about organic food, organic food is about a lot more than organic food.

Going organic, in whole, in large part or even just a tiny bit, is about more than just a label on food packaging.  And it’s about more even than avoiding the of use of pesticides, antibiotics, genetically modified foods and petroleum-based fertilizers, as the organic label guarantees.  Choosing organic is about health, about the environment and about treating both your body and the world you live in in a way that makes for a sustainable, healthy way of living that we can enjoy for ourselves and pass on to our children.

Philly Marathon

The way my legs feel, this may not have been the “best time of my life.” But it was a beautiful event, and Philly’s fans were wonderful.

And while going organic is one step toward making for a healthier body and a healthier world, it’s only one step.  So I like to share here some of my readings and experiences in other areas of physical and environmental health.  And one event that’s helped me to learn more is training for, and running, this past Sunday’s Philadelphia marathon.

The marathon raises a number of health issues, many of which are dietary.  I’ll address these over the next few weeks in a series of posts.  Today, the first. Continue reading

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Is the Hostess Bankruptcy a Good Sign of the Times?

Hostess, which filed for bankruptcy back in January, planning merely to restructure its debt and continue as a leaner business, has announced that it now plans to liquidate instead.

This sounds like a good sign for the natural food industry, and for anyone in the food movement who favors a shift from chemical-laden, synthetic, heavily processed foods to whole, natural, un- or minimally-processed foods.  And I’m not talking about Schadenfreude: this could be taken as a sign that our country’s food preferences have shifted.  A company making highly processed, sugary, artificially-fatty products can’t stay in business anymore.

Twinkies

Relic of a foregone era? Not so sure.

But it’s not entirely clear that that’s what’s happening.  First of all, Hostess has filed bankruptcy before (in 2004), so this is not exactly new news.  Second, it seems that many of Hostess’s problems are company-specific, rather than market-specific or nation-specific.

They have labor issues.  The reason they’re liquidating now is that they still haven’t been able to reach agreement with workers in several of their business units to pare back costs sufficiently to allow them to operate profitably. Continue reading

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In Defense of Food

More than any other book people tell me they’re reading about food, Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food continues to pop up.

This makes me happy because it’s also the one book I’d recommend people read, if they could only read one book about food.  Not only is it a quick and easy read, but it presents the most simple, accurate and reliable dietary philosophy I’ve yet encountered.  Pollan summarizes this philosophy in the simple dictum, “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  His advice is simple, unbiased, easy to follow, and supported by reasonable argument.

In Defense of Food

All you need to know about food. (But I still can’t help suggesting some improvements.)

And yet, there’s a lot, even in this one dictum, that I disagree with.  Though “Eat food” (which I’ll explain shortly) is the heart of the book, and of my own dietary philosophy, I don’t agree with the two other exhortations in his byline.  I’d change “Not too much.  Mostly Plants” to “Properly raised.  Mostly raw.”

Why?  Let’s start with Pollan’s first recommendation, one I agree with strongly: “Eat food.”  When Pollan says “food,” he doesn’t mean everything we put in our mouths.  By food, he means foods with five of fewer ingredients, all of whose names you can pronounce.  Foods your grandmother would recognize.  Not foods processed, then reprocessed, then processed again, where the ingredient list bears no recognition to what humans have traditionally considered “food.” Continue reading

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